Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Staff Picks (Part Two)

Filmzilla has closed and with it, all the good times...

Somehow we'll soldier on... In lieu of the daily in-person experience you could have had in what is now a much lamented and by-gone era, I've decided to chronicle my Staff Picks wall for you as a sort of guide to some real good movies, or maybe just as a list of movies I happen to like a lot, or maybe you could say that this is really an ultimate (but not quite 100% complete) My Favorite Movies list, or... as the length of the list would coincidentally have it, you could simply call it:

Jon's Hot 100
(Part Two--Numbers 11 thru 20)

I posted Part One of this list here, so this is Part Two. Also, the only order these films appear in is alphabetical... Let's continue, shall we?

11. Archer

While this might be the first TV show appearing on this list, it certainly won't be the last. It won't be the last cartoon either. In a nutshell it goes like this, Sterling Archer is the best and most bad-ass Secret Agent around. He works for the Isis Agency... which is owned by his mother, who is probably drunk. They have a terrible relationship. And the place is staffed by idiots and perverts and morons. Including Archer himself. Especially Archer himself. In fact, he is the biggest jerk of all jerks. Usually they screw up everything and break stuff. It's the best. The show is top to bottom funny. It's been on for several seasons so far, four I think, and any one of them is a guaranteed good time. The writing is razor sharp and the cast is fantastic. Seriously. So funny. So wrong. So quotable. For those of you out there who eschews cartoons simply because they are cartoons, you are wrong. Start here.

12. Army of Darkness

"Are all men from the future loud-mouth braggarts?"
"Nope. Just me, baby. Just me."
This is probably one of the films on this list that could be considered to be a little obvious. But the truth is, it's also one of those films where you can't actually talk about movies fluently if you haven't seen it. Don't worry, though, it's totally worth the watch, because there aren't many films like this one. There's just so much to love going on here. This is the best Sam Raimi film, the most "Sam Raimi" Sam Raimi film. It's also the best Bruce Campbell performance. It's hilarious and squishy and oh so quotable. It's simply a classic. Others may quibble with some of that, but just keep in mind Rule #1: I'm always right. Anyway, this story of an average every day S-Mart employee getting sucked back in time to the Medieval Era by the power of the Necronomicon and then being forced to save the world from an army of monsters that is led by an evil undead version of himself in order to get back home again is a story we can all relate to I'm sure. There's nothing like it. Hail to the King, baby.

13. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Someday... someday this film will be recognized as the absolute masterpiece it is, but that day is not today. Most people either have difficulty with the film's deliberate pacing or they have zero idea it even exists. Often called "the film lover's film", the title will pretty much tell you what the film is about... but for those of you with a terrible short term memory, it's about the end of Jesse James' life and a young man named Robert Ford whose obsession turns to murder. Boasting an impressive cast, including Brad Pitt as Jesse James, the real gems are Casey Affleck as Robert Ford and Sam Rockwell as his brother Charley. They are phenomenal. Phenomenal. The part where Robert and Charley are doing a traveling stage show and Charley, consumed with loathing and guilt, gets more and more drunk and out-of-control with every performance is incredible. Just incredible. This is a fantastic film. I love it. I am in awe of it. Do not sit down to watch this film lightly, be ready.

14. Attack the Block

Attack the Block is an English film about a group of criminally-minded inner-city youth who must defend their tower block of apartments from an alien infestation. This is a film with a lot of pluses. It's a blast. It's funny. It's scary. It's gory. It's totally cool. It's a great example of a film doing something interesting and imaginative and sci-fi despite not having a massive budget. There's a couple of really good performances, especially the young lead, who I can only assume we'll see a lot more of in the future. And best of all, the script is a lot more clever than you would expect. There's a nice story of redemption and sacrifice and what it means to be a hero going on among all the funny/cool stuff. This is a really good little sci-fi monster film, seek it out.

15. Back to the Future

A true classic. A cultural icon. A pop culture allusion that is embedded into the very fabric of our society. A perfect action-comedy, one of the tightest scripts around. What else is there to say about this film? You know it. You love it. You should. But when was the last time you watched it? Rectify that, dude.

16. Battle Royale

If there's two things Japan fears, one is creepy little girls with their hair hanging in their faces. The other is inevitable change. This is personified for them by the mere existence of teenagers, so they make a lot of films where either teenagers kill them or they kill teenagers. This is an example of the latter. Lord of the Flies by way of Orwell and Reality TV, the idea is every year one class of students is chosen to participate in the Great Game--a big TV event--they are then taken somewhere remote and all the kids have to kill each other until there is only one left. It's bloody and brutal and rampant with allegory. You might recognize the story line. This came first. Plus, it's waaaaaaaaaaay better. And totally not set in a world that makes absolutely no sense. But I digress... Starring the always amazing "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, this film took years to make it's way across the Pacific to America. So when you check this film out (and you definitely should), please appreciate how easily you can find an available copy. It wasn't always like that.

17. Big Trouble in Little China

John Carpenter made a lot of films that drove me wild as a kid, so this film is just the first of many that will be appearing on this list. It is also maybe my favorite fantasy film ever. It's the story of one man--an every day American--a long haul trucker named Jack Burton, who steps up to save the day when a several thousand year old vampire demon steals his buddy's girlfriend in order to marry her, become corporeal, and then rule the world. Jack ain't gonna let that happen. It's silly and crazy and hilarious and way over-the-top. It's an homage to all those great old Kung-fu flicks without devolving into one big in-joke. It's wire-fu before that was even a thing in America. It's magic and monsters on the streets of Chinatown. Green flame! And it has THE WORST End Credit song ever written by a human being in the history of the world--worse than the Ladyhawke soundtrack even--that alone should make it worth the watch. Also, Kim Cattrall is in it.

18. Blade Runner

Here's another choice that may seem a little obvious, but what can I say? Some films are just too classic to ignore. It's just one of those films, like I said, you can't talk about movies fluently if you haven't seen it. And if you haven't seen it, you're missing out, because while it is the Father of a now familiar genre--and a revolutionary and singular vision--it's also a plain old good movie. Personally, I prefer the Ridley Scott approved Director's cut (That's with the narration taken out and the Unicorn put in), but watch whichever version you want. Based off the Philip K. Dick story "Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep", it's about a man named Deckard. He's a Blade Runner, tasked with hunting down illegal Replicants--robots so advanced they pass as human--and "retiring" them. (Psst... That means shoot them a whole bunch...) Despite it's day-after-tomorrow dark future setting, it is a classic noir tale in every way, lots of secrets, no one gets out clean. Highly imaginative. Packed with greatness. Seriously, this is one of the mandatory ones. Hurry up and see it.

19. The Blood of Heroes

Ah... I love this film. I just love it. Simply put: The Blood of Heroes is the best post-apocalyptic sports film ever made. What's that? Rollerball? Puh-lease... you suck. Anyway, a few of you more eagle-eye readers out there may begin to notice that there are a couple of films on this list with Rutget Hauer in the cast. To that I say: You're god damn right there is. That's a major reason to love this film. Another reason is the rest of the cast. Delroy Lindo? Joan Chen? Vincent D'onofrio? Whaaaat? That's insane. How did all these people get casted in a film that is basically the Road Warrior meets the Bad News Bears? How did a movie that is basically the Road Warrior meets the Bad News Bears get made in the first place? I don't know, but I love it. And here's the best part: There's an odd sophistication to the script, a very clever and very considered amount of world-building that the film just goes with. And it makes sense, in its way. Best of all, it infers that this story takes place in a much larger world, and it trusts the audience to be able keep up. Not many movies will be that ballsy with their big weird ideas. The fact that they don't spoon-feed you a ton of unnecessary background exposition, opting instead to place all the details smoothly within narrative context is actually kind of awesome and respectable. Well done, cast and crew, well done. This film is a total good time. It's worth the watch. Look for it on basic cable, because honestly, it may be harder to find readily elsewhere. Or come over to my house, because I own a copy, yeah... that's right...

20. Blood Simple

The Coen Brothers first film. A modern country noir. Atmosphere thick enough to cut with a knife. Great cast. There are few directorial debuts as distinctive and as amazing. There's not much I can add, except it's a great movie. Tense, is a word that comes to mind. It really is great. I realize people know about this movie, but I feel like they don't talk about it enough. It should be talked about more. You start. Find this film, watch it and talk it up a bit.

Well all righty then, that's Part Two. Keep an eye out, kids, because there is more to come.

Later gators,

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