Why settle for just one Hercules movie in a single year when you can have two? 2014 has now served up a pair of epics about the lion-strangling Greek hero — January’s The Legend of Hercules with Kellan Lutz, and Dwayne Johnson’s new Hercules, which opens in theaters today. The accidental doubling up is another examples of Hollywood’s serendipity/groupthink that gave us No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits in 2011, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman in 2012, and Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down in 2013.
But why is 2014 so primed for brawny mythological types? Chalk it up to a fondness for old-school escapism and beefy men in skimpy clothing, or the fact that 2010’s Clash of the Titans and 2012’s Wrath of the Titans made money.
But if you’re going to have two similar movies released so close together, you really ought to have a winner and a loser. So here’s a point-by-point comparison of this year’s Hercules movies, with the champion going on to live forever in Hollywood Elysium, and the loser doomed to Hades (where, The Rock’s Hercules suggests, “the fun people are”).
Who’s the better Hercules?
The Legend of Hercules
Kellan Lutz vs. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Let’s start with the $70-100 million question…but was there ever really a question to begin with? Twilight alum Kellan Lutz has an impressively square-shaped head and can flex a mean pectoral muscle, but he’s not what most would describe as a world class leading man. And while Hercules is a character who’s more prone to action than emotional complexity, he does require enough charisma to convincingly rally an army. Lutz can serve as an onscreen beefcake just fine, but he’s nowhere near the artist formerly known as The Rock, who, in Hercules, once again shows off his underappreciated skills as an awesome B-movie star.
Johnson’s a guy who can mutter a line like, “Look at me — do I look afraid?” with perfect gravitas while also showing a sense of humor. He commits to the material without looking ridiculous, and he’s able to insert a wink without ever coming across as feeling like he’s above the film he’s acting in. His Hercules is capable of showing moments of vulnerability and soulfulness, while also being able to throw a horse and to forehead punch someone to death.
Winner: Johnson (Hercules)
Who’s more shirtless?
The Legend of Hercules
Kellan Lutz vs. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Part II
While Johnson does eventually doff his armor (which comes with built in abs!) to reveal he’s this massive, veiny, upside-down Great Pyramid of muscle, Lutz commits to going topless and getting oiled up for what has to be at least 80% of The Legend of Hercules, and that’s the kind of initiative that has to be rewarded.
Winner: Lutz (The Legend of Hercules)
Which has the better use of mythology?
The Legend of Hercules
Daniel Giat, Giulio Steve, Renny Harlin, and Sean Hood vs. Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos, and Steve Moore
The Legend of Hercules writers Giat, Steve, Harlin, and Hood try for a more straightforward take on the hero’s origins, while attempting to smooth over its various problematic elements — so Hercules is fathered by an invisible Zeus, who makes the fully consenting Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) squirm with delight rather than get tricked by the god in the guise of her husband. Hera, who hates Hercules in the myths as yet more proof of her divine husband’s unfaithfulness, is also invisible and also gives her OK in this version.
On the other hand, Hercules, which is written by Condal and Spiliotopoulos, draws from a graphic novel by the late Steve Moore and is set in an ancient world without evident magic. Hercules has deliberately cultivated his own personal legend with the help of his storyteller nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). He may be strapping and an imposing fighter, but he also gets by with the help of his fellow mercenary friends, the Amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal); the seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane); the traumatized, silent Tydeus (Aksel Hennie); and sassypants knifeslinger Autolycus (Rufus Sewell). It’s an unusual enough take on the myths to make the story a little more unexpected.
Winner: Condal, Spiliotopoulos, and Moore (Hercules)
Which features the craziest sinister side character hair?
The Legend of Hercules
Joseph Fiennes vs. Johnathon Schaech
Fiennes sports a fantastic combination mullet-sausage curls look in Hercules, but he can’t measure up against Schaech’s cornrows-into-wrapped-ponytail in Legend.
Winner: Schaech (The Legend of Hercules)
Which is the better action movie?
The Legend of Hercules
Renny Harlin vs. Brett Ratner
The Legend of Hercules, directed by slowly fading studio-helmer Renny Harlin (of Deep Blue Sea and The Long Kiss Goodnight), goes for a 300-aping, speed-ramping style of action that looks curiously dated, if such a thing can be said of copying a movie from eight years ago. It also makes obvious concessions to the 3D in which it was shown in theaters that, on home video, looks a little weird.
Ratner may not be a standout filmmaker either (his X-Men: The Last Stand was a very frustrating installment in a mostly strong franchise), but he allows the grounded nature of the Hercules premise to translate to its action. Hercules looks like a very expensive episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, but that’s not such a bad thing. Its shield-and-spear battles are visually coherent. Johnson, wielding a club, is given fight choreography that befits someone who’s supposed to be improbably strong, and it’s entertaining to watch him muscle his way across a battlefield.
Winner: Ratner (Hercules)
Which has the least offensive roster of female characters?
The Legend of Hercules
Gaia Weiss and Roxanne McKee vs. Ingrid Bolsø Berdal and Rebecca Ferguson
Hercules’ story may not be one that lends itself well to female characters of any substance, but Hercules manages to acquit itself better by including an ass-kicking Amazon (Berdal) on its protagonist’s team as well as giving its queen character Ergenia (Ferguson) a smidgen of nuance. Noticing Ergenia’s prettiness is the closest Johnson’s character gets to having a love interest — he’s still getting over some personal trauma. The Legend of Hercules, on the other hand, makes romance more of a priority, but princess Hebe (Weiss) is mostly an ornamental trophy for Hercules and his brother to squabble over.
Winner: Berdal and Ferguson (Hercules)
Which features the most stable cleaning?
The Legend of Hercules
The Legend of Hercules vs. Hercules
Hercules famously killed the Nemean Lion, the Lernaean Hydra, and the Stymphalian Birds. He also famously cleaned the Augean stables, which were filled with immortal livestock and their immortal poop. Shockingly, neither The Legend of Hercules nor Hercules includes this riveting installment in their tales of adventure.
Winner: It’s a tie!
Despite being unceremoniously hidden from critics until the last minute, Hercules is a scruffily entertaining sword-and-sandles movie that people will eventually happily watch on basic cable while hungover some weekend a year or two from now. It’s also another reminder of Johnson’s reliable star wattage. He may not be playing a confirmed demi-god, but he’s consistently watchable in a way that sure looks like its own divine talent.
Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield deliver two very different interpretations of the same character. In fact, the easiest way to distinguish them is that the former is the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko 616 version, while the latter is the Brian Michael Bendis/Mark Bagley Ultimate version. Maguire’s Peter perfectly embody the bullied weakling turned superhero, but Garfield’s actually has an air of confidence about him before being bitten and getting superpowers doesn’t really result in any sort of major change in attitude. Overall, Maguire was far closer to the character best known to comic book readers, although he arguably failed to ever truly nail the intelligence of Peter as Garfield does. This makes it difficult to choose one over the other as both actors epitomize the character so perfectly in very different ways. Ultimately however, Garfield gives a better performance, but is not quite the better Peter Parker.
So, Tobey Maguire was the better Peter Parker, but Andrew Garfield is hands down the better Spider-Man. The fact that so much more of The Amazing Spider-Man puts the actor in the suit gives him a slight advantage from the off, but everything from the movements to the attitude and quips made by Garfield are the perfect representation of the character so beloved by fans. Both actors spend a lot of their respective final battles with their faces on display and are arguably equally as good in displaying the necessary emotion required by them. However, there is nothing in Spider-Man which comes close to the scenes such as the one in the sewer in which Spidey shoots webs in all directions in an effort to track down the Lizard. The practical and visual effect shots also play a massive role in bringing him to life like never before, but its Garfield who really makes this Spider-Man stand out.
WINNER:The Amazing Spider-Man
The redesign of the costume in The Amazing Spider-Man may have been a controversial topic with some comic book fans, but it still looks incredible on the big screen. The suit in Spider-Man looks as if it was taken straight from the pages of the comics (a rare treat, especially as most films completely redesign them during their journey to the big screen) but it looked very stiff and awkward at times, especially when it became clear that Tobey Maguire’s voice was dubbed over because he couldn’t talk with the mask on. Despite the fact that we see a zipper on the back and it often wrinkles and creases as he moves around, the suit in The Amazing Spider-Man pops off the screen and looks simply AMAZING both in the live-action and visual effects shots.
WINNER:The Amazing Spider-Man
For a 2002 film, the special effects in Spider-Man hold up very well, even a decade later. At the time however, it was top-notch, and managed to effectively and convincingly bring Spidey’s web-swinging to the big screen. However, the difference between the practical and visual effects were always blatantly obvious as the suit restricted movement and the stuntman who was swinging around in it looked clearly uncomfortable (it wasn’t hard to tell that he was on a wire either). Marc Webb’s reboot managed to find a far more natural looking blend of real and computer generated web-swinging, and although the latter still looks noticeably better, it’s generally much harder to notice the difference throughout the film. The movements are also far more realistic and much closer to what fans have seen in the comic books.
WINNER:The Amazing Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man best represents the web-swinging, but what about the rest of his powers? Spider-Man does a much better job at exploring Peter Parker’s new-found abilities, showcasing the fact that he is now much stronger, whereas Marc Webb’s movie assumes that fans will already know this. The same goes for Peter’s Spider-Sense. While Spider-Man makes a point of highlighting this power, the reboot once again assumes that the audience will know he has it and frustratingly only allows him to use it when it suits the story. Wall-crawling is wall-crawling, and there’s no complaints here with either. Regardless of the fact that the organic webbing in Sam Raimi’s film was a controversial decision with comic book readers, Peter’s powers were arguably portrayed and handled far better in that film for the most part.
UNCLE BEN’S DEATH
Both Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man feature a Peter Parker who doesn’t bother to stop a robber because the victim of the crime has somehow rubbed him up the wrong way. This ultimately results in his Uncle Ben being shot. Both films also feature a Peter has had an argument with his Uncle, resulting in him being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fact is that the similarities between both are so strong, it’s a little hard to distinguish them in order to pick a winner here. However, Spider-Man just beats The Amazing Spider-Man simply because of how much better the situation as a whole is handled. Whereas Ben’s death is partially his own fault for struggling with the robber in the reboot, Spider-Man made it so that the fault was entirely on Peter’s shoulders. Throw in the fact it culminated in a fantastic scene in a warehouse which saw Peter realise exactly that, and it’s clear which best sets the charater on the path to becoming a hero.
This is a tough one. Norman Osborn and Curt Connors are both very similar and very different. While their respective transformations are the results of experiments gone wrong, Connors is a far more sympathetic villain in comparison to Osborn (who is just a thoroughly nasty piece of work). Of course, their ultimate plans are equally as unconvincing in some respects – the Green Goblin wants to “rule the city” with Spider-Man, while the Lizard wants to turn everyone in New York into Lizard creatures immune to disease and disabilities – but there’s a very clear winner here. The Green Goblin is a truly evil villain who not only attempts to kill a group of children and Peter Parker’s aunt and girlfriend, but also beats him within an inch of his life in a brutal and fantastic final battle. Making Connors a sympathetic villain was the right choice for The Amazing Spider-Man, and despite the fact that The Lizard is a brilliant visual creation and how wonderfully their fight sequences are put together, he’s still not quite a match for the Green Goblin.
THE LOVE INTEREST
Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy. Most comic book fans are sure to have a favourite, but which of them made for the better love interest for Spider-Man? Well, while Mary Jane had a lot more screen time and was far better fleshed out as a character, Gwen made for a much better match for Peter and the relationship in The Amazing Spider-Man was far more convincing all in all. However, the decision to have Peter just reveal his identity to her so early on very nearly caused this to go the other way, but the broken promise at the end of the film is such a perfect set up for the Green Goblin (as if Peter going back on his promise to a dying Captain Stacy won’t come back to haunt him…) it makes for a far more interesting dynamic than the same old will they/won’t they story. Of course, a big part of this has to do with the performances, and the fact that Emma Stone is a far more likeable on-screen presence than Kirsten Dunst inevitably played a role in this decision.
WINNER:The Amazing Spider-Man
While Marc Webb scatters some great songs throughout The Amazing Spider-Man, James Horner’s score lacks the iconic theme song for Spider-Man we got in Sam Raimi’s 2002 movie by Danny Elfman. Horner doesn’t do a bad job by any means, but it’s unlikely that you’ll leave the theatre humming any particular piece of music from the film other than what we got from the likes of Coldplay. Like Superman and Batman, Spider-Man is a character who deserves to have a piece of music associated with him that truly resonates and will remind you of the character regardless of where or when you hear it. Unfortunately, that is where The Amazing Spider-Man is lacking and so Spider-Man wins this one.
THE FINAL SWING
There’s not a lot to say here as The Amazing Spider-Man easily comes out on top here. Spider-Man‘s final swing was undeniably impressive, but Marc Webb’s less staged and far more authentic looking style was well-suited to such a scene. The final shot of the movie is so iconic that it will leave comic book readers and fans of the character feeling utterly breathless with delight. The reboot is a visual spectacle from start to finish and the final swing is absolutely amazing (no pun intended) and solid evidence of why Marc Webb was always the right man for the job to bring Spidey back to the big screen.
WINNER:The Amazing Spider-Man
FINAL VERDICT: DRAW
Well, they both scored five each, but a draw seems appropriate in this instance. Both Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man get a lot right and wrong, but each serves as a fairly solid origin story for the character. While the reboot never quite tells “The Unknown Story” (a very interesting theory about that can be found HERE) it is a solid big screen outing for the Marvel superhero and there’s no getting around the fact that Marc Webb did a fantastic job. Sam Raimi also did an equally great job back when he introduced Spider-Man to moviegoers for the first time a decade ago. However, it doesn’t seem too unfair to say that we have yet to see THE perfect origin story on the big screen. There are plenty of other points which could have been included here (the wrestling match and how well New York City was portrayed for example) but the ten listed above still give us a pretty good idea of each of their strengths and weaknesses. Comparing them is far from essential and if you haven’t already – SERIOUSLY?! – then check them both out because you most definitely won’t regret it. Sound off with your thoughts on all of this and your own ideas in the usual place.
Many will be aware of the new Hollywood film which has been recently released entitled: ‘Dracula Untold’. It might not be well known that, supernatural powers aside, the tale of Dracula is actually based on a real person. Unfortunately however, this film is such a fictitious remake that it speaks volumes about the rise of Islamophobia as well as it does about the West’s attempts to seek to rewrite history by glamourising mass murders whilst peddling the fear of the ‘Muslim invaders’. What follows is a summarised account of the real, well-known history of Dracula.
Vlad Dracula was a three-time Voivode of Wallachia (modern day Romania), ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462, the period of the emergent Uthmani Khilafah, the Ottoman Caliphate, and its conquest of the Balkans. His father, Vlad II Dracul, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, which was founded to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe and was fashioned after the military orders of the Crusades requiring initiates to defend the Cross and fight the so-called “enemies of Christianity”, in particular the Muslim Ottoman Caliphate.
There was a time, when much of what is modern Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, the Balkans, the Crimea and almost all of southern Russia was ruled by Muslims. This was once part of the Muslim heartland of Islām, the Ottomon Empire and produced many great leaders and scholars. Today of course, the only majority Muslim community found in mainland Europe is in Bosnia, Kosovo and al-Baniya, Albania.
The Christian communities in Hungary and Wallachia wanted to fight against the Ottomans, however they were very weak and there was much disunity amongst them. In 1436, Vlad II Dracul ascended to the throne in Wallacia only to be dethroned by those loyal to the King in Hungary, János Hunyadi. Vlad II sought the help of the Ottoman Muslims who in turn sought payment of the Jiz’yah, a tax which non-Muslims pay to a Muslim ruler in return for their protection from outside nations. As part of this deal, Sultan Murad II asked that Vlad II send two of his four sons to Istanbul to be educated. Vlad II agreed and so he sent his two sons and he in turn was ascended to the throne again in Wallachia by the Ottomans.
The two sons who travelled back with the Muslims to Edirne were Vlad Dracula and his younger brother, Radu. Vlad is the one who we have now come to know as Dracula because the word Dracula means ‘son of Dracul’ which was the name of his father. The word ‘Dracula’ has of course since taken on a different meaning, being synonymous with a devilish evil, and we will see why this is.
Whilst under the tutelage of the Ottoman Muslims, the boys were provided with education including that of Islamic texts. Radu became Muslim and was a close friend with the young boy of the Sultan Murad II, Muḥammad (Mehmet II). Vlad however was rebellious and is recorded to have developed a well-known hatred for Muslims even though he too studied the Qur’ān, spoke Arabic, Persian, Turkish and of course Wallachian (Romanian).
In 1447 the King of Hungary attacked Wallachia and killed Vlad Dracula and Radu’s father and brothers. Given that Vlad’s father had paid the Jiz’yah, the Muslims defended them against the Hungarians and they installed Vlad Dracula in power.
In the meantime, Radu at the age of 22 became a leading Mujāhid (one who strives in the path of Allāh) within the Ottoman court and commanded the Janissaries (the foreign contingent of the army). He was sent by his good friend Muḥammad, who by this stage had become the Sultan at the age of 19, to subdue various rebellions such as that in Anatolia. Perhaps more importantly, he participated alongside Sultan Muḥammad in the Ottomon siege which eventually led to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Constantinople was the capital city for the Roman Byzantine Empire. Napoleon was quoted as once saying, “If the Earth were a single state, Constantinople would be its capital” . As for Sultan Muḥammad, he was from here on forever to be known as Muḥammad Fātiḥ (Muḥammad the Conqueror), and his new city was from here on forever to be referred to as Islambul, meaning the “City of Islām”. It should be noted that it was only during the secularisation process of Ataturk where it took on the name of ‘Istanbul’ which has no relevant meaning. Incidentally, there are coins in the British Museum from 1730 where the name of the city, Islambul is clearly imprinted . By conquering Constantinople, Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ had also fulfilled the blessed words of the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) who said concerning this event:
“Verily, Constantinople shall be conquered. Its commander shall be the best commander ever, and his army shall be the best army ever.”
With the fall of Constantinople, Pope Pius II called for crusade in 1459 against the Ottoman Muslims, at the Congress of Mantua. In this crusade, the main role was to be played by Matthias Corvinus, son of János Hunyadi, the King of Hungary. To this effect, Matthias Corvinus received from the Pope 40,000 golden coins, an amount that was thought to be enough to gather an army of 12,000 men and purchase 10 warships. In this context, Vlad Dracula allied himself with Matthias Corvinus, whose family it should be remembered killed his family, with the hope of keeping the Ottomans out of the country.
The Declaration of War
Later that year, Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ sent emissaries to Vlad in Wallachia to urge him to pay a delayed jiz’yah which Vlad Dracula had put off paying. Unknown to the Ottomans, Vlad Dracula had already allied himself with the Hungarians and joined the Pope’s call for a Crusade against them. Vlad Dracula met with the emissaries and said to them, “If you want to step inside of my port, you have to take off your turban and bow.” The Muslims responded that they would not remove their turban and “we only bow to Allāh”. So Vlad once again demanded, “Take it off” and again they refused. Vlad Dracula then told someone to come with some very big nails and hammers and he said, “If they refuse to remove it for me then they will never remove it again.” And he commanded that their turbans be nailed into their heads. Of course, this resulted in them being killed – this act was a declaration of war against the Muslims which Vlad Dracula had been spoiling for.
Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ sent the Bey of Nicopolis, Hamza Pasha to eliminate Vlad Dracula. Vlad Dracula however planned an ambush. Hamza Pasha, the Bey of Nicopolis, brought with him 10,000 cavalry and when passing through a narrow pass north of Giurgiu, Vlad Dracula launched a surprise attack. The Christians had the Muslims surrounded and defeated and almost all of them were caught and impaled, with Hamza Pasha impaled on the highest stake to show his rank. Impalement was Vlad Dracula’s preferred method of torture and execution and it was this which makes him stand out in being remembered as absolutely evil and barbaric. Impalement is the penetration of an organism by an object such as a stake, pole, spear or hook, by complete (or partial) perforation of the body, often the central body mass. What they would do is get a very long stick, make sharp one end and insert it through a person’s back passage, driving it through their body until it came out of their mouth. Often, the victims would be alive and this is how they would be killed. Then they would put this stick into the ground and impale others, putting them next to each other.
In the winter of 1462, Vlad Dracula crossed the Danube and devastated the entire Bulgarian land in the area between Serbia and the Black Sea. Disguising himself as Turkish, utilising the fluent Turkish he had learned whilst under the care of the Muslims, he infiltrated and destroyed Ottoman camps. In a letter to Corvinus of Hungary, he wrote:
“I have killed peasant men and women, old and young… We killed 23,884 Turks (Muslims) without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers… Thus, your highness, you must know that I have completely broken any peace with him (Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ).”
Vlad Dracula’s attack was celebrated by the then western Christendom; the Saxon cities of Transylvania, the Italian states and the Pope. A Venetian envoy, upon hearing about the news at the court of Corvinus, expressed great joy and said that the whole of Christianity should celebrate Vlad’s successful campaign. The Genoese from Caffa also thanked him.
In response to this, Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ raised an army of around 60,000 troops and 30,000 irregulars, and in spring of 1462 headed towards Wallachia. This army was under the Sultan’s commandership and in its ranks was his friend and brave Mujāhid, Radu. Vlad Dracula was unable to stop the Ottomans from crossing the Danube on June 4, 1462 and on entering Wallachia, they found that on one of the very long roads leading to the capital of this area were 20,000 Muslims impaled along the sides of these roads. Imagine this, we suffer today no doubt but incidents of such brute are very rare indeed. You can imagine how Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ felt to see even one Muslim killed which was too much to bare, but to mutilate their bodies after this was something, which was beyond acceptable.
Vlad Dracula constantly organised small attacks and ambushes on the Muslims and adopted what we would call today ‘Guerrilla warfare’. Pausing for a moment and thinking of the current state of the Muslim world, it is clear that it is now the Muslims who usually adopt guerrilla tactics in view of their weakness and inferior military might whereas Muslims were in the time of Muḥammad Fātiḥ, the superpower of the day.
The End Game
After some time, Radu, who remained faithful to Islām and the Sultan and spent his entire life on the frontlines of Jihād and battle in protection of the frontiers of the Ottoman Empire, was charged with the responsibility of pursuing his brother and thus showing the world that in Islām, brotherhood in faith is given priority over blood relations where they have an enmity towards the faith. Vlad Dracula was running out of funds and returned to Hungary to seek help from Corvinus, who instead of helping Vlad Dracula, imprisoned him as he was seen as a liability even for the Christians. In his absence, Radu defeated the remnants of Vlad Dracula’s army and became the ruler in Wallachia and he ruled from 1463-1473 when he died at the age of 40. Meanwhile, Vlad Dracula was released from prison and he returned to Wallachia once again and retook power in 1476 with Hungarian support. He immediately assembled an army and invaded Bosnia, slaughtering its Muslim population and impaling 8,000 on stakes in a forest of human bodies. Vlad Dracula had arisen from the darkness with the objective of eliminating Islām from the Balkans once and for all and installing Christianity. Sultan Muḥammad Fātiḥ invaded Wallachia and faced the forces of Vlad in Bucharest, Romania. Vlad’s army was overrun in a blitz and all were killed, including Vlad himself. His head was removed from his body and was taken back to Istanbul. They impaled his head and put it at the gates of Islambul where it stood for about 2 – 3 months to send a clear message to others. “If you want to be like this man, then dare wage war against us.”
When American journalist Paul Kemp takes a freelance job for a local newspaper in Puerto Rico during the 1950s, he realizes he must work to find the balance between island culture and the expatriates who live there. Based on an early novel by Hunter S. Thompson, Depp’s portrayal in the film adaptation engages all the treachery, rum and lush writing fans of the book can expect.
6. Cry Baby
Teen musical? Check! This 1990 American cult classic featured the likes of Iggy Pop, Amy Locane, Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, Kim McGuire, David Nelson, Susan Tyrrell and Patty Hearst.
5. Sleepy Hollow
The brainchild of Burton and Depp began on the set of Burton’s 1999 period horror film adaptation inspired by the 19th century short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In total, the two have partnered for six films. This May, Burton and Depp will drop Dark Shadows, rounding out the collaboration to a healthy seven films.
4. Pirates of The Caribbean
All judgment aside, Johnny Depp made a character everyone loved. The first Pirates of the Caribbean film was a huge commercial success and pretty well-received by critics. Pirates became cool again because Johnny Depp created a bumbling, funny character based off of a real-life character (Keith Richards) that everyone could get along with. So despite any animosity you may still hold towards the now quadrilogy, admit it… He’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
3. Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
Hunter S. Tompson created Raoul Duke. Johnny Depp brought him life. The book’s tales of the psychedelic escapades of Duke and Dr. Gonzo pioneered gonzo journalism and brought explosive social reactions. The 1998 film was a box-office failure but became an American cult classic. Depp almost didn’t get the opportunity to play the role he’s made iconic, as Jack Nicholson, Dan Aykroyd and John Cusack were all considered for the part.
2. Edward Scissorhands
It’s a story of an uncommonly gentle man. The unfinished Edward is taken in by a suburban family. He subsequently falls in love with their teenage daughter. The seemingly rudimentary plot drives a powerful perspective on civilization’s corruption of innocence along with themes of isolation and self-discovery. Gothic archetypes and German expressionism line the floor for the iconic way-before-its-time 1990 American romantic fantasy film.
We’re not talking about Blow the film. We’re talking about Blow Johnny Depp. Despite the overall mild reception of the 2001 biopic, Depp took “Boston George” Jacob Jung and rang him through our emotions and our minds. He’s the king of destruction, a desperate, egotistic, fatally flawed human being who never gets a leg up, always lets someone down and cannot surpass his greed. Depp’s riviting performance makes his portrayal of Jung our favorite of all.
Every year has just one special day to honor the most special person in the world, her Birthday. Out of the 365 days all year, there is only one to officially celebrate, if you want to give her a gift that really makes her jaw drop without breaking the bank, here are four things you can do with her rather than get for her.
If you want to pass a few hours with her enjoying a good time, going to the movies is the option. Check out your closest cinema to see which movies they have. Also you can have a 3D experience, with an action movie or fantasy movie. Don’t forget to buy popcorn and candies at the concession stand to make for a complete movie experience.
If you want to give her a new experience, which mixes meditation and exercise, the best way to do it is taking a yoga class. Search your closest Yoga studios, and make time to meeting the staff and find out everything about the place, classes, and environment. If you like the salon you can ask for a private class or join in with a group. Also, some studios offer gift cards for a free class. You can buy her a sports outfit, and if you want to make it a daughter and mom experience you can have a class with her, so you can have a relax moment together.
Giving her a beauty day is the best way to make her feel more beautiful, she can have a hair treatment, color her hair, get a manicure and pedicure, even a new haircut. Search around you the closest salons. Usually they have pre designed packages with different beauty treatments; choose the best for your mom. Also you can give her a gift card, so she can use it when it’s convenient for her.
Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world, they give everything they have to be the best at it. And sometimes is time for them to take a break and relax. A Spa day can offer her the best options to completely relax and give her body the perfect treatments. From massages to body masks, you can schedule the perfect day for her. Don’t forget to check out the places, areas, treatments and opinions and reviews about the services from other customers, so you can choose the best one and be confident about your choice.
Video on demand is a new concept in India. While the concept was there for a long time it was not quite popular or practiced regularly. It is not quite popular in the Indian states that believe in having cable network connection. The piracy rate is quite high in India compared to many other countries in the world. With such a rate of piracy, it is always cheaper to buy a DVD from the nearby store than to rent a video. This will stay for a long time and you will not be time-bound to watch the movie or the video.
How Piracy Affects Video on Demand in India
As told earlier, the cost of a pirated DVD is lesser than the rent. People do rent video when it becomes impossible for them to reach the store. But that is not the scenario in India. While the government is having campaign against piracy and so does the film industry, general people are more concerned about the money rather than the long term impact. That is why piracy is a big problem in India and India VOD is a far cry for many people.
Why VOD In India Has A Future
With changing generation the concept of movie watching is changing too. Now, people are more interested in cinema rather than price. There are people who travel a lot and for them, it is not possible to go to the theatre to watch the movies. They are also not able to get pirated DVDs. At the same time many are joining the movement against piracy. This is why the india vod is getting popular. Though the price may be high, the picture quality is good. With good internet speed getting cheaper, it is not impossible for people to download the video at their convenience.
VOD is not limited to movies. It includes documentary and short films which are not available on DVD. These are some of the classic creation and people urge to watch those. Most of the movies are not available in DVDs as soon as they release. This is more appropriate for regional movies. At the same time there are many people who live far from India but want to see movies. Piracy often fails to generate quality and that can be a turn-off for the movie buffs. India is soon moving towards VOD and it is not far when
Last week Universal Home Entertainment unleashed the excellent Curse of Chucky, directed by series creator Don Mancini, on Blu-ray and DVD! The film is also included on Universal’s Chucky: The Complete Collection which collects ALL of the Chucky movies on Blu-ray. To celebrate I underwent a marathon screening of all the sequels in the franchise.
This, plus the fact that I watched the original Child’s Play again last month, puts me in a prime position to rank the films in order of my personal preference. So I figured I’d do so while they were still hot on my mind.
Head below for the 6 Chucky Movies Ranked From Worst To Best!!!
6: CHILD’S PLAY 3
It was surprising for me to learn that I didn’t outright dislike any of the movies, even though I could have resented them after 8 hours straight of viewing them. Child’s Play 3 is a decent film, just a little rushed. I love the idea of Chucky loading real bullets into the military school rifles before the war games. And Perry Reeves makes a strong debut as De Silva. One of the issues could be that the formula just wasn’t as fresh and some of the ideas are half baked (this installment hit theaters a mere 9 months after Child’s Play 2 was released). But the main problem with the film is that Tyler (pictured above) is without a doubt the dumbest and most irritating character in the Chucky-verse.
5: SEED OF CHUCKY
I know a lot of you guys hate this one, but I sort of dig its batsh*t crazy shenanigans. Billy Boyd (helped immensely by his accompanying puppet) is strangely compelling as Sh*tface/Glen/Glenda. That being said, the inside Hollywood jokes don’t really play and the narrative is somewhat lurching – which kind of diminishes the film’s replay value.
4: BRIDE OF CHUCKY
Fifteen years (Jesus) after its release, Bride Of Chucky remains a funny and highly entertaining installment in the franchise. It’s a film that is everything it set out to be, so it’s definitely a success on its own terms. And I totally get why its some people’s favorite. The fact that I’m ranking it in 4th place can be chalked up to the fact that I’m just not always in the mood for its jokey tone.
3: CURSE OF CHUCKY
This brand new “tonal reboot” has a lot going for it. It’s incredibly suspenseful (the chili scene) at times and it keeps even the most die-hard fans on their toes when it comes to anticipating how all of this ties into the narrative flow of the preceding 5 films. Fiona Dourif is great and Don Mancini’s direction is patient and assured. The limited location and deliberate pace might diminish replay value, but it’s a very satisfying entry and I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.
2: CHILD’S PLAY
I can already here you yelling at me. Look, I love this movie. It has so much going for it. But, as I stated in this controversial article, “[it has] the suspense, intensity and wit we associate with Chucky’s best moments, but the surrounding elements still aren’t fully nudged into the Chucky-verse. I’d argue that the series had yet to find its true identity and that ‘Child’s Play’ is peppered with slight tonal miscalculations that keep it from really coming into its own.”
1: CHILD’S PLAY 2
This thing just speeds along at such a great pace. The outshines the first film in that regard as well as in terms of tone. Again, I fully understand and respect why 99% of you like the first film more – I just gotta speak my own truth here. I’ll once again quote my Child’s Play 2 vs. Child’s Play 1 article when I say, “The film is brighter, more colorful and runs at a brisk pace. The initial kill, a technician being electrocuted during the process of restoring (reanimating) Chucky perfectly sets up the film’s mix of youthful whimsy and adult cynicism. [And] the film’s finale in the makeshift funhouse of the “Good Guy” assembly line embodies the success of the piece in a nutshell. It’s exploding with color and inventiveness. It’s violent and bloody, but playful. It has a nice sense of momentum and is able to oscillate between humor and menace in a deft manner. Thematically, it brings Chucky sort of full circle in his demise (at least in terms of his 2nd life as a doll). And it sums up how John Lafia’s Child’s Play 2 outshines the original Tom Holland film a bit – it manages to have its cake and eat it too. That’s what Chucky’s all about isn’t it?”
Dimension Films and Blumhouse Productions are joining forces to resurrect the Amityville Horror franchise, and they’ve attached one celebrated actress and one fast-rising ingénue to front their latest devilish incarnation.
Titled simply Amityville, the horror film will focus on a single mother who moves her three children into the haunted house with a bloody history. Bloody Disgusting confirms Franck Khalfoun, who helmed the polarizing Elijah Wood vehicle Maniac, will direct, and Jennifer Jason Leigh has signed on to play this menaced mother. The Wrap reports Disney kid Bella Thorne of Shake It Up! will co-star. Though her role has not been confirmed, we can assume from her age of just 16 that she’s been set to play one of Leigh’s onscreen offspring.
Previously, Amityville was being called The Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes, a title that played into the initial found footage concept. However, with horror fans becoming vocal about their growing frustration with that subgenre, the found footage angle has been scrapped. What’s unclear is how the newly released plotline of Amityville will tie into the previous logline IMDB has associated with The Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes. At the time of publishing, it reads:
An ambitious TV news intern leads a team of journalists, clergymen and paranormal researchers into an investigation of the most famous haunted house case in the world.
Daniel Farrands and Casey La Scala are credited as the screenwriters of both versions of this project, and will produce alongside Blumhouse founder, Jason Blum. Amityville née The Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes will be the twelfth in a long line of sequels and reboots, all inspired by the paranormal experiences the Lutz family claimed to have experiences in the winter of 1975.
According to George and Kathy Lutz and their three children, evil spirits plagued the house. Swarms of flies would appear. Unseen beings would reach out and touch them. Their daughter made friends with a pig-like demon called Jodie. A mysterious green ooze appeared on their walls. And George and Kathy complained of being physically assaulted by the supernatural. These claims have been called into question over the years, spurring investigative documentaries as well. But the premise of a house turning evil and spreading pain and violence like a virus never seems to get old. So, here we go again.
Amityville will hit theaters on January 2nd, 2015. In the meantime, look for Thorne in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day as well as the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore comedy Blended, the trailer of which suggests there are worse things than another Amityville Horror sequel.
I’m a previous member who hasn’t been on for a while. I’m back though with a new series called Superhero Showdown where we compare and contrast films to one another. For our first episode I’m tackling the most famous superhero of all. SUPERMAN. He has had many adaptations but today we’ll be looking at SUPERMAN- THE MOVE and the recently released MAN OF STEEL
Each category a movie wins, they are awarded a point. Winner of the STORY category is awarded three points. The overall winner is the one with the most points at the end. Pretty simple, right? Let’s begin.
I consider making a trailer an art form of sorts. With so many movies coming out it these days, it takes some encouragement to get us to see the movie in question. So what the hell, I’ll give a point for that.
Superman: The Movie had a great trailer. Accompanied by Brando’s haunting dialogue, sharp narration, and John Williams’ iconic score, it’s not hard to imagine how easily superhero fans got excited for this first super blockbuster film. The only real downside is that this qualifies as more of a teaser by today’s standards. It only really showed you the first act of the film with no footage from any other segment. Then again….with how much trailers spoil these days, that could be seen as a positive.
Zac Snyder on the other hand has made a couple stinker films but he has NEVER made a bad trailer. In fact, he’s got the art down to perfection. Man of Steel is no different. The trailer made the film look epic and accompanied by strong narration and Zimmer’s beating score, I’d put this up as one of the top trailers of last year.
Winner– Man of Steel
We go to see these films to witness our heroes brought to life and to see them on screen in-motion. It’s the actor who must take on the hefty challenge of appeasing the longtime fans.
This one isn’t that hard for me. Christopher Reeve has become the gold plate standard that all other Supermen are now held to. He set the bar, not with his physique but with his charm. He earns bonus points for portraying two characters in one film, as his Clark Kent and Superman are such different performances. Much of the 1978 Superman’s success is due to this actor’s charisma in the duel role.
Yet, I wouldn’t put Henry Cavill out in the pasture. He definitely looks the part more and is well build for the role. He also brings a Superman to the screen that edges closer to the mannerisms of the one from the comics. Yet his Clark Kent and Superman are pretty much the same person in this film (though we might see that change some in a sequel) and that takes out a bit of the fun. Henry Cavill might be the second best person to play the role, but Christopher Reeve is still to Superman what Sean Connery is to James Bond.
Winner– Superman: The Movie
One thing we comic book fanatics LOVE to do is nit pick every tiny detail on an adapted character, and who am I to refuse this tradition.
Though Reeve’s costume may be closer to the one from the comics, Man of Steel takes this one. Sure they forego the outwards underwear but the costume is well modernized for today’s audiences. It has good colors that work in both moody and bright settings; it has lot of texture, and my “Oh My” that long glamorous cape! Most of all though it is the large “S” symbol on the chest. That’s the standout feature. It’s well conceived to cover most of the chest, which draws the eye and makes it imposing. On the downside the lack of the underwear means there is no color to break up the blue. They try to add some silver in to compensate but many times that silver almost blends in and makes the blue look like a leotard.
Reeve’s suit has certainly become dated over the years. It’s bad enough that it looks like something bought out of a Halloween store but the bland color and lack of dimension is what really kills it. Points are given for being an almost direct translation from the comics, but in the end the steady progression of time has made it look less badass and more corny.
Winner– Man of Steel
This is tougher than you think. Sure by today’s standards Man of Steel easily wins, but when you consider that Superman: The Movie’s effects were breakthrough for its time; it makes it harder to choose.
Zac Snyder’s superman might be filmed with a bland dull grey color pallet, but it makes up for it with the stunning effects. The look of Krypton is fantastic and the computer made world and technology all look staggeringly real. In parts it’s too real for some—especially when you get into the 9/11 inspired imagery. Yet one thing you can always count on Zac Snyder for is making a beautiful film and that’s just what he did here.
Richard Donner on the other hand crafted an equally beautiful film for its time. In contrast it uses bright colors to bring out a sense of fantasy and a more lighthearted tone. His had a unique interpretation of Krypton, highlighting the use of crystals as an almost mythological form of technology. The destruction scene for the planet still looks great today. However a lot of the effects don’t stand up and even though I appreciate the simpler and pretty cinematography from Donner, this one has to go to Snyder if only for having the technology to really fully capture his vision. Winner– Man of Steel
Is this even a contest? Man of Steel by a landslide. Snyder’s film was packed full of action to a fault. On one hand he managed to capture the awesome powers of the Kryptonians. Super speed, strength, invulnerability, heat vision,…you got it all. And it looked great. Unfortunately it also had the downside of running too long with a lack of development. It started to feel like 40 minutes of people punching and tackling each other. To make matters worse, Superman never really needs to think to defeat his more skilled opponents, he just roars like a lion and PUNCHES HARDER. It’s a issue that comes from having a character with no power cap and can be as strong as the writers need him to be, whenever they want him to be.
Still there are some fantastic action moments such as the brawl at Smallville and the opening on Krypton. It’s in Metropolis where things get messy.
Richard Donner was far more restricted by the technology at the time. That might have factored into his decision to go for a more romantic storyline for Superman. There isn’t much crime fighting in his movie, mostly preventing disasters and saving people (something Man of Steel could have used more of). Some of these scenes still look great and others falter. In the end this still easily goes to Man of Steel for successfully portraying Superman’s powers and giving us some spectacular fight scenes.
Winner– Man of Steel
THE LOVE INTEREST/ FEMALE LEAD:
Let me start by saying I LOVE Amy Adams. She is a versatile actor that can play many different rolls convincingly, from a Disney princess in Enchanted to a foul-mouthed hardass in the Fighter. That’s why it grief’s me to say that I feel she was both miscast, underused, and poorly written for Man of Steel. Lois Lane should be the likable asshole. She is quick witted, smart and sexy. Adams got the sexy and asshole down, but we missed any sharp snarky comments from her or likability, really.
Worst yet, the scrip had no idea what to do with her and tried to hard to make her not just a damsel in distress. I loved the idea of her trying to track down a mystery hero, but as soon as she finds him it is all-downhill. She is tossed on a Krypton ship for a throwaway reason, goes commando with some help from Jor-El, and is put on a military airplane so she can…..push a button.
She lacks any real chemistry with Cavill and when you get to the kiss it feels false. Like it was an obligation, not really natural. I got flashbacks to the end kiss in Batman Begins. Adams Lois is dry and boring.
Margot Kidder isn’t a whole lot better. She get irritating at times but is saved by the chemistry that she shares with Reeve. When in scenes together they play off one another well and are enjoyable to watch. The fact that the film pushes a romantic storyline helps us to like her and forgive a lot of Kidder’s shortcomings. Kidder also has more success with Lois’ snarky attitude, even if she goes overboard at times. Neither is really the definitive Lois, but Kidder skims this one by Adams on account of her chemistry with Reeve.
Winner– Superman: The Movie
When you’ve got an acting legend like Marlon Brando on your cast call sheet, you’ve already won this. Bando is fantastic in the film and gives it some much-needed dramatic weight. Not only that but the Daily Planet really did have a fun community feel to it with Jackie Cooper as the cigar chewing Perry and the enthusiastic young photographer Jimmy Olsen standing by. Glenn Ford‘s role as the adoptive father, Jonathan, may have been brief but was memorable for his words of wisdom and a death even Superman couldn’t stop.
Man of Steel really lacked a strong supporting cast. Russell Crow played a strong Jor-El but doesn’t hold a candle to the gravitas Brando brought with him. Kevin Costner as Jonathan gave some great emotional moments, but his motivation didn’t always make sense and his death scene drew some laughs in my theater. As for the Daily Planet……The daily who? Laurence Fishburne is forgettable, most people still don’t know who that woman was supposed to be, and then there’s some asshole who hits on Lois but is never mentioned by name (except in credits). Besides that I don’t know who they are and I never really cared much about them in the climax. The actors were good and I can only hope they flush out these characters better in the sequel. Winner– Superman: The Movie
This is a very difficult one to judge because they are so different. Gene Hackman played a very offbeat Lex Luthor. He wasn’t much like his comic counterpart but every time he was on screen he chewed up the scene. He really was a source of a lot of the fun to Superman: The Movie, even if his nefarious scheme was ludicrous. Yet considering the campy nature of the 1978 film, it worked within the world they built.
Michael Shannon however, is one of my favorite actors working today. The role of Zod was made famous by Terrance Stamp, but Shannon brings enough new material that he equals that performance from 1980. He manages to find a way to make the war monger, violent, genocidal general somehow sympathetic and I loved that aspect with this new Zod. On the downside the character suffered from some poor writing choices that made his dialogue at times unbearable. Also his motivation at points is a little confusing and his arrival on earth comes with plot holes.
This is a tougher decision. Gene Hackman might have a silly scheme and is nothing like Lex Luthor, but he was a whole lot of fun to watch….. but at the same time Shannon brought a real threat with him.
Hans Zimmer originally did not want to score Man of Steel, claiming it would be a “thankless task”. Regrettably he was right. John Williams Superman theme is one of the most iconic scores ever written. That’s not to say Zimmer did a poor job. Man of Steel had a solid score that uniquely highlighted the use of percussion. If fit the tone of the film well, even if I can barely remember it or hum it.
Yet the John Williams score brought in that triumphant orchestration that has now become the norm for superhero films. He set the standard for music in the genre and not one kid in America pretends to be Superman without singing that theme. It is iconic to the character so much that people were a little disappointed that it didn’t show up in any form in Man of Steel. Many, such as myself, were hoping they might do what James Bond or the new Star Trek did and feature it credits only.
In the end the makers chose to leave it out, which isn’t a bad choice but it certainly is a theme that will be missed.
Winner– Superman: The Movie
So why is this worth three points and the other topics only one? Well because story is the most important element in a film. You can have horrible effect and a good story and have a good movie. It doesn’t always work the other way around.
Man of Steel with all its awesome effects and action had trouble with this area. The opening half uses a nonlinear timeline that throws off the pacing and makes it difficult to connect with any of the characters. Especially when some are dead one scene and alive the next. It can be a little jarring at times, even if it’s intention was to give the film a more unique origin narrative. The first half was the most interesting as it focused on Kent’s travels, powers and past. It suffered some bad dialogue and pushed the theme of “hope” too hard (it being mentioned every other line) but the ideas were solid. I liked the concept of trying to turn Superman into an enigma again. Then came the second half where all story went out the window for mindless action, which completely throws away the forced theme of hope and any character development. The fights dragged on so long as to become dull. It also suffers from a tone that might be too grim for a Superman film. Not only does it lack comedy but it lacks emotion of any kind (with exception to a few with young Clark). This leads to an empty vapid feeling that leaves the audience without a since of fun, wonderment, or even drama.
Superman: The Movie might fail as an action film, but that is never what the makers were trying to do. They were pushing the romance and comedy far stronger. This might have made for a less dramatic movie but it gave it a lot of heart. Like Man of Steel, the beginning is probably stronger with the third act being the weakest. The beginning origin is very well done and dramatically strong. The middle with Superman finding his place in the world is also fun but then the third act falls into mediocre effects and weak writing. Yes it is insanely corny and dated. Yes there is no real threat in it. Yes there is a lackluster daues ex machina at the end. But it is carried by the charisma of the cast and an attention to what made the character popular in the first place.
Winner– Superman: The Movie Superman: The Movie- 7.5 Man of Steel- 4.5
The Winner is Superman The Movie
In the end Superman is a fantastical and romantic figure and when you strip him of that in an attempt to make him mentally traumatized, you lose much of what made that character memorable in the first place. In the end as corny, dated, and silly as Superman: The Move is, it understood that and succeeded in capturing the magic of the character for many generations.
Watch the films back-to-back, and you may be surprised — and not only by the fact that they both make the same joke about ruining laundry by washing Spidey suits.
Both tackle some of the same subject matter — namely, how to go about protecting the person you love from the inherent dangers of being Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker sacrifices his own happiness and essentially becomes a monk to keep Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) safe, while Garfield’s Peter makes the opposite decision and gets Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) all up in his life, breaking a deathbed promise to her father.
So which sequel works better? Let’s run it down.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
1. Peter Parker
Here’s something we can finally admit, now that comic book movies are ubiquitous and we nerds are not terrified that they’re going to stop making them at any moment: Tobey Maguire was not the best Peter.
He nailed the awkward, put-upon nerd aspect pretty well, with enough quiet sweetness to make you care about him, but the character is supposed to have a quick wit. Maguire just has so many lingering silent stares and pregnant pauses that never come to term that you begin to wonder if he’s truly emoting or if he’s just incapable of having a normal conversation — and that makes it a lot harder to buy into how quickly he moves and reacts as Spider-Man.
Garfield is clearly more engaging and capable of banter, but his giant hairdo and model-good looks detract from that crucial nerd aspect. Even though his dialogue isn’t always great, at least it’s dialogue and not a frustratingly vacant gaze.
Edge: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
Ten years is an eon when it comes to CGI and special effects, and that means the old action sequences look a bit rough. In particular, the building-side fight over Aunt May in “Spider-Man 2” has a video-gamey feel to it, but it’s still cleverly structured enough to be entertaining. The train fight with Dr. Octopus still holds up really well, even if it ends with an unmasked Spidey in an over-the-top martyr sequence. Maguire’s Spidey took his mask off all the time, even in front of the bad guy, and it became a joke.
Today’s CGI means that Garfield’s hero can now move a lot more fluidly, which makes him feel more like, well, Spider-Man. None of the fights are particularly memorable, though, and there’s a borderline obnoxious amount of bullet time in “ASM2” (the electric handrail bit was kind of cool and kind of silly at the same time, but the fact that the new Spider-Man protected a kid from bullies and even walked him home after fixing his science project makes up for it). Garfield’s Spidey is just having more fun — maybe because his suit isn’t riding up in the crotch like Maguire’s.
3. Leading Ladies
In both movies, the leading ladies are struggling to deal with Peter Parker’s flaky shenanigans. Dunst’s M.J. has to deal with Peter hiding from her, then coming onto her like gangbusters once she’s engaged to someone else, only to run away again when she threatens to reciprocate.
Stone’s Gwen faces a boyfriend with an intermittent conscience and an unnerving stalker tendency that somehow blends Lloyd Dobler with Edward Cullen (maybe that’s just the hair). Gwen seems much more capable of kicking said shenanigans to the curb and moving on with her life, and her relationship with Peter feels more like an actual human relationship, even if it’s peppered with moments of forced cuteness and Important Dialogue.
Mary Jane is just mired in melancholia and listlessly preparing to enter a loveless marriage with an unsuspecting astronaut. When M.J. tries to take control of her destiny, she gets quickly smacked down by Dr. Octopus, and later has to ditch that perfectly nice guy at the altar.
When Gwen does the same, she saves the entire city and then gets killed. Both made a point of saying they knew the risks of dating Spider-Man and accepted them freely, but Gwen’s the one who croaks, while M.J. goes on to get really naggy in “Spider-Man 3.” Bottom line, though, is that Gwen saves the day, Oxford scientists are more interesting than New York actresses, and Stone is more fun to watch than Dunst.
Edge: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
4. Harry Osborn
Here’s where everything goes off the rails for this year’s movie.
James Franco had three movies with which to play the charming best friend of Peter Parker as he slowly unravels in the shadow of his father’s legacy and his fundamental misunderstanding of “The Bug”; in “Spider-Man 2,” you can believe his deterioration in the face of Peter trying to honor a promise to a dead villain.
Dane DeHaan, however, just radiates “creep,” and at no point do you ever believe he’s going to be anything but. His backstory with Peter is just crammed in, his character development is rushed, and it really feels like they’re just going through the motions and racing toward setting up sequels in the Marvel mold. The Green Goblin look is better than Willem Dafoe’s Mighy Morphin Power Rangers-like mask in the first “Spider-Man,” but that’s not saying much, and the whole transformation to full-on supervillain seems to exist only so that the Goblin is technically the one who kills Gwen as a proper nod to the comics. Even if it was supposed to be Norman and not Harry.
Edge: “Spider-Man 2”
5. The Villains
Raimi gave us Alfred Molina as the charming, benevolent Dr. Otto Octavius, whose dream of saving humanity backfires and causes a disturbingly intense reawakening as a villain with monster tentacles. Refreshingly, Doc Ock barely even cared about Spider-Man — he was just an obstacle, and later just a job… and he actually won. He defeated the superhero, dumped him off with Harry and went about his real work. Spidey didn’t even really win in the end — he just kind of let Good Otto beat Bad Otto.
On the other hand, Webb gives us Jamie Foxx as a Joel Schumacher Bat-villain calling himself Electro (seriously, he made electricity puns) and a complete waste of Paul Giamatti in a bit part as some jerk screaming every line at the top of his lungs in a Russian accent. Yes, he’s setting up the Rhino for whatever Sinister Six spinoff is in the pipeline, but seriously, can you remember any actual thing Giamatti said besides his new super-bad-guy name? And what is up with Dr. Kafka (Marton Csokas), the mad torture doc who was some unholy combination of Dr. Woodrue from “Batman & Robin” and Dr. Strangelove?
Edge: “Spider-Man 2”
6. Aunt May
Rosemary Harris had a lot to do — smacking Doc Ock with an umbrella, doing some precarious dangling, being shocked to the core by Peter’s confession that he’s responsible for Uncle Ben’s death, and even giving a big speech about the hero in all of us.
Sally Field is just fine, but she feels superfluous, and she gives up way too easily on catching Peter in weird situations. Seriously, why WAS Peter’s face so filthy? He wears a mask! That usually keeps dirt off your face, doesn’t it?
Edge: “Spider-Man 2”
7. The Plot
“Spider-Man 2” is, at heart, a quiet, sweet story about awkward people trying to figure out how far you can follow your heart and still be responsible. It is occasionally interrupted by fighting and yelling, but it pays a lot of loving homage to its source material and leaves you with a warm sort of “aw, shucks” feeling.
“Amazing Spider-Man 2” is much more concerned with what it’s setting up than with what it actually is, which results in a complete lack of focus and leaves you with an indifferent sort of “I want to see ‘Captain America 2’ again” feeling.
World-building for sequels is nice and all, but you have to make people care about what happens in that world. A Sinister Six movie sounds cool at first, until you realize it would focus on the worst things about this current movie. “ASM2” did have the stones to kill off a main character, but it somehow didn’t give enough weight to the moment. To be fair, it was kind of a no-win situation, since the most famous Gwen Stacy story was her last one. Thus, when she died, it was fully expected and lacked the impact or surprise it should have had, but if they hadn’t gone through with it, folks would’ve complained that they copped out.
Edge: “Spider-Man 2”
While there’s always the complaint that Maguire isn’t funny enough, Raimi makes up for it with things like that “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” sequence, Bruce Campbell, the elevator scene with Hal Sparks, and the guy who thinks he saw Spider-Man steal a bunch of pizzas. Not to mention the mighty tour de force that is J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson.
“ASM2” had a nice nod to the existence of JJJ, but his absence is very much felt, because aside from Garfield and Stone’s chemistry and some Good Time Spidey montages, it’s just too obvious that this film was manufactured on a franchise assembly line. It’s like an auto-tuned version of a Spider-Man movie.
Edge: “Spider-Man 2”
Overall, Raimi’s best superhero movie still takes the cake (as supported by its 5-2 edge here), while Webb’s effort just doesn’t do enough justice to the valiant efforts of its likable leads. We still haven’t gotten our perfect Peter Parker yet, but we’ll probably be waiting another 10 years before we can try again.
The difference you’ll find is while some are “clown” focused films, a few others just have a smaller scary clown moments.TV shows were left out, though I did note a few memorable moments in the special mentions (sometimes scarier than the films on this list)…enjoy!
01- Stephen King’s It (1990) (Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown)
Now here is a no brainer. Tim Curry was scary as the Devil in “Legend“, that freak in the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, and “especially” playing the role of “Pennywise the Clown”. I think placing Curry in any makeup simply is not a good thing for our fragile minds. HMM, maybe Curry should have been the new Freddy Krueger??? (or his sister “Penny Krueger” – sorry lame joke 😉
02- Amusement (2008)
Nothing amusing about one surreal clown creepster. In three tragic secrets, (stories) we get a small variety of subplots all involving the presence of clown horror. Amusement was a great film, one that I purchased right away upon viewing.If you’ve been putting this one off, don’t! It’s worthy of this list and for your DVD shelf.
03- Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
Campy, fun and they still look like Klowns you don’t want to wake up to. Regarded as a cult classic for campy clown films, you really can’t ignore this on as a mainstay repeat lister. For a clown film, it gets my vote for being most “80’s” of the group.
04- Clownhouse (1989)
“Just before Halloween, 3 young brothers alone in a big house are menaced by three escaped mental patients who have murdered some traveling circus clowns and taken their identities.”
Now “Clownhouse” wears a darker presentation than some of these others. The film was banned, then released, then not released, then released again. In the end, it takes its dark clowns pretty serious. If you can locate a copy………….worth a viewing! History aside, its still a pretty good film.
05- Blood Harvest (1987)
“In a small town, people are being murdered by having their throats cut.”
OK, weirdo Tiny Tim plays his 1 and only role of Mervo in this obsolete movie. Tiny really didn’t have much of a movie career…..and so he gives to the world a “creepy clown”. Ya I’m not sure what the public response was at the time but you can’t help but get a pit in your stomach on this one.
06- Poltergeist (1982)
Who can’t forget that scary clown doll creeping under the bed? This film damaged alot of youths who promptly discarded any clown toys in possession. I imagine, in Hell …clown dolls creep around on a daily basis. Time to start praying!
07- Carnival of Souls (1998)
Actor Comedian Larry Miller plays the role of Louis Seagram, a rapist and murderer. While I’ll admit this was a piss poor film or bears no resemblance to its 1962 horror film “Carnival of Souls”, Larry Miller comes across creepy as hell. Not so much in a fantastical way as others on this list but in a more sleezy molester kind of way. Miller should never be a clown!
08- Killjoy (2000)
This originally wasn’t going to be one of my choices, however with a franchise (3 films) behind the character, I think ol’ KillJoy has earned a place. What I’m calling the scary ghetto clown, Killjoy does have one set of creepy chompers on him. He might be a prankster, but he’s not someone you want to mess with none-the-less.
09- Zombieland (2009)
The film had nothing to do with clowns. Though there is that 1 confrontation when “zombie clown” comes after Jesse Eisenberg that stands out from this list as being a noted moment worth mention. Zombie Clowns are the worst type of clowns……..rrrrrrrrrr!
10- 100 Tears (2007) “Two journalists are on the trail of a demented serial killer who may be much closer than they think.”
You got to give this one a try if you are in the mood for just simply brutal clown violence. This one takes things to the extreme with lots of gut slicing chaos! It’s a frightening clown portrayal in a less fantasy based arena.
While this list was published quite awhile ago, it was the recent viewing of a new clown horror film that prompted me to instantly include its entry into our list. Without changing the original list itself, I would have to put new entry “All Hallows’ Eve” as the favorite over all (even giving Stephen King’s It” a run for its money
Release date: October 2nd, 2015. Cast: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Mark Gatiss.
Don’t let the great McAvoy’s top billing, or the title, fool you: Victor Frankenstein is actually told from the perspective of Igor, played the equally great Radcliffe. Post-Harry Potter, Radcliffe has worked diligently to distinguish himself from his child star persona, particularly in his horror film appearances. (See: The Woman in Black, and Alexandre Aja’s Horns.)
So when it comes to horror, Radcliffe is old hat, which means that as far as acting goes, Victor Frankenstein should be golden. McAvoy and Radcliffe are backed by a gifted supporting cast of Findlay (Downton Abbey), Scott, and Gatiss (both of Sherlock fame); it may not hurt that this new version of Mary Shelley’s literary masterwork is written by Chronicle scribe Max Landis and directed by Paul McGuigan, who has called the shots on four different episodes of Sherlock, including “The Great Game” and “The Hounds of Baskerville”. That’s an impressive pedigree for sure.
4. [REC] 4: Apocalypse
Release date: January 2nd, 2015. Cast: Manuela Velasco.
There’s a pattern emerging here, in which longstanding, well-received franchises put forth a new entry that tries to get back to said franchise’s roots. But where Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Insidious: Chapter 3 do so by injecting new talent, REC 4: Apocalypse does so by bringing the REC series’ original director (Jaume Balagueró) and star (Manuela Velasco) back into the fold.
The film marks the return of Ángela Vidal, six years after [REC] 2 and two after [REC] 3: Genesis, and puts her on a boat in the middle of the ocean, under quarantine, in the hopes of finally containing the virus she’s carrying. If you’ve seen the trailer, or if you’ve ever watched a horror movie, you can guess where this goes. Time to break out the assault rifles and fire axes.
Release date: November 27th, 2015. Cast: Allison Tolman, Emjay Anthony.
Horror has its fair share of Christmas themed flicks – Silent Night, Deadly Night, the Jack Frost movies, Rare Exports, Black Christmas – and too many others to count. But these films turn normally benign Christmas emblems into killers and fiends, whereas Michael Dougherty’s Krampus takes a creature from Alpine folklore and drops it into a modern monster movie framework.
Not to be confused with Anti-Claus, Kevin Smith’s follow up to Tusk, Krampus is the first film Dougherty has made since 2007’s cult hit Trick ‘r Treat.Better late than never, of course, but it’s hard to believe it’s taken him this long to get another movie through production. Regardless, Krampus – in which the titular demon punishes naughty people during the Yuletide – arrives just in time to celebrate the season. Here’s hoping it has the same delightfully twisted spirit as Trick ‘r Treat.
Horror is a great vehicle for allegory, and David Robert Michell’s It Follows – already acclaimed just on the strength of its festival circuit appearances – is poised to be the meta-textual horror movie of 2015. Here, Jay (The Guest‘s Maika Monroe) is doomed by a curse transferred to her through a seemingly innocent dalliance.
Trailers for It Follows suggest an atmospheric movie of ratcheting terror, but it’s that concept that makes the film read as compelling. Sex and horror have been intertwined throughout the genre’s history, and Mitchell capitalizes on that relationship by creating a creepy emblem for sexually transmitted disease and sexual trauma. It’s a clever way of exploring one of horror’s oldest tropes, and if the hype is right, It Follows could endup being 2015’s The Babadook, or at least its The Cabin in the Woods.
1. Crimson Peak
Release date: October 16th, 2015. Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain.
Any year where Guillermo del Toro releases a new horror movie is a year worth looking forward to; not that anyone should cast aspersions on the likes of Pacific Rim, but del Toro is at his best when he’s telling intimate, human stories against a horror backdrop, a’la The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.
So after dipping his toes in kaiju waters, Crimson Peak feels almost like a return to form for del Toro, who here tells the tale of a young woman (Wasikowska) who slowly develops misgivings about her charming husband (Hiddleston). Del Toro has kept relatively mum on the film’s details thus far, and even sneak peeks do little more than show off elements of design. But what design the film has! It looks gorgeous. Add in that cast, plus the fact that del Toro is back in his usual milieu, and it’s plain to see why Crimson Peak snagged our #1 spot.
Need your ghost story fix? Check. Looking for a fresh take or two on zombie cinema’s decaying husk? Check. How about a reinvention of a classic horror narrative, or bravura, indie-minded offerings? Check, check. From evil clowns, to wicked specters, to ravenous undead, to holiday-centric monsters – 2015 has all a horror fan could ask for and more. Don’t believe us? Read on to see our most anticipated horror movies of 2015:
Granted that the most recent Paranormal Activity movie – last January’s spin-off, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – made more of a splash at the box office than among viewers; granted that the story is running out of gas, perhaps a side effect of its extended duration. But maybe all the series needs to rediscover its trademarked low-fi vitality is fresh blood?
Enter long-time editor, first-time director Gregory Plotkin, who leads an untested cast of victims against Featherstone’s recurring villainy in Paranormal Acvitiy: The Ghost Dimension, ready to hit theaters after being held back from a 2014 release. The basics are familiar – family in a suburban house haunted by weird, inexplicable occurrences – but a fresh set of eyes could be just the thing to steer this ailing franchise back on the right track.
9. Amityville: The Awakening
Release date: TBD. Cast: Bella Thorne, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Cameron Monaghan, Kurtwood Smith.
Okay, yes, all recent updates on The Amityville Horror – from 2005’s Ryan Reynolds vehicle to a pair of DTV efforts – have been uninspiring at best. So why does the saga’s twelfth entry deserve special notice? Because it’s helmed by Franck Khalfoun, director of 2012’s excellent Maniac, a remake bolstered by an awesome visual style and a tremendous Elijah Wood performance.
If Khalfoun brings the same stylistic flair to Amityville: The Awakening that he did to Maniac, then his take on the formula – in which Jennifer Jason Leigh moves her unwitting kids into the Amityville house – should easily be worth a look.
Release date: TBD. Cast: N/A.
Beyond premise, there’s little known about Rob Zombie’s latest (crowdfunded!) screen endeavor. But that’s okay, because as premises go, this one is guaranteed to turn heads. Five people are forced to compete in a game (called 31), where the object is “kill or be killed.” They’re pitted against a gang of vile clowns known as “the heads” and given twelve hours to survive in a man-made abattoir called Murder World.
Boom. That’s it. The film currently lacks distribution, and the cast hasn’t been revealed (though IMDB lists both Sherri Moon Zombie and Bari Suzuki as principals). But Zombie has promised that 31 is his most brutal film yet, and with a synopsis that insane, horror fans are going to find a way to see this, regardless.
Speaking of great concepts, how about a zombie movie for kids? Or, more accurately, a zombie movie about kids who become infected with a virus and turn into bloodthirsty monsters. It’s teachers versus students, with Wood, Wilson, and Pil fighting for their lives against cannibalistic tykes. The National PTA ought to have a field day with that plot summary.
Seriously, though, how can a zombie aficionado resist? Zombie movies tend to lean on cliches more than most horror archetypes, but Cooties – which premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival but failed to find a 2014 release as planned – is a novel attempt at tinkering with tried and true elements of lore and coming up with gruesomely original entertainment.
6. Insidious: Chapter 3
Release date: June 5th, 2015. Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Stephanie Scott, Lin Shaye.
Like Paranormal Activity and The Amityville Horror, the Insidious series began taking a backward slide toward inferiority with 2013’s Insidious: Chapter 2. Cut to now and we’re staring down the barrel of Insidious: Chapter 3, the next installment in this eidolic chronicle, but without the benefit of having James Wan at the reins and Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson at the forefront of the cast.
Wisely, though, Insidious: Chapter 3 appears to realize that pushing ahead with a narrative that’s run its course is a recipe for stagnation. Thus, we’re taken back before the events of the first two films, as Mulroney struggles to protect his daughter from malevolent entities from the Further – with the help of horror icon Shaye and series writer Leigh Whannell, who steps into the director role for the first time in his career with this film.
2015 has a lot of good-looking movies to offer: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World… etc. But also some good-looking Horror movies too. So today i’m going to count down top 10 horror movies i can’t wait for in 2015!
Set around the Christmas holiday, a pagan demon punishes the wicked.
Horror and Comedy are two completly different genres, but that doesen’t mean they can’t work together. We had movies like Scary Movie and Haunted House and they were both hillarious so why wouldn’t this movie work? and also Krampus is a very interesting legend so i want to now how will they portray it on the big screen.
9. It Follows
For 19-year-old Jay (Monroe), the fall should be about school, boys and weekends at the lake. Yet, after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter she suddenly finds herself plagued by nightmarish visions; she can’t shake the sensation that someone, or something, is following her. As the threat closes in, Jay and her friends must somehow escape the horrors that are only a few steps behind.
This UK Horror movie follows Jay as she is stalked by a mysterious STD creature. This looks like one of those movies where after watching you will be paranoid for atleast month and that is a good thing. Concept for this movie seems original and this is the closest thing to SlenderMan movie so good enough for me.
8. The Lazarus Effect
The Lazarus Effect follows a group of researchers led by Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde,) who’ve achieved the unimaginable- bringing the dead back to life. After a successful, yet unsanctioned, trial on a newly deceased animal, the team is ready to unveil their breakthrough to the world. When the dean of their university learns of their underground experiments, their project is unexpectedly shut down and their materials confiscated.
Frank, Zoe and their team (Donald Glover, Sarah Bolger and Evan Peters) take matters into their own hands, launching a rogue attempt to recreate their experiment, during which things go terribly wrong and one of their own, Zoe, is horrifically killed. Fueled by terror and grief, Frank pushes them to do the unthinkable: attempt to resurrect their first human test subject.
Initially, the procedure appears a success, but the team soon realizes something is wrong with Zoe. As her strange new persona reveals itself, the team quickly becomes stuck in a gruesome reality. They are no longer faced with the question of whether they can bring someone back to life- but rather, the wrath of her return.
Possession movies are seriously over-used in today’s horror movies and that is a bad thing. But Lazarus Effect has a really interesting plot about people bringing the dead back to life, like Re-animator and Pet Sematary combined, so it gets points for that. And apart from that it has Donald Glover from Community! but he dies in the trailer :/ looks like new trend in horror movies is coming, black guy dying not only in movie but in the trailer too…
While video chatting one night, six high school friends receive a Skype message from a classmate who killed herself exactly one year ago. At first they think it’s a prank, but when the girl starts revealing the friends’ darkest secrets, they realize they are dealing with something from beyong this world, something that wants them dead. Told entirely from a young girl’s computer desktop, Cybernatural redefines “found footage” for a new generation of teens.
Well… no more Skype for me… Found Footage is such a HUGE trend in horror movies as we know them today and it is so over-used and cliche that it’s just so much boring. But this movie looks like it will create a new found footage trend and that is… well it will be good for about three movies and then it will get boring and cliche.
A loving father finds a clown suit for his son’s birthday party, only to realize the suit is part of an evil curse that turns its wearer into a killer.
If you have coulrophobia like i have well you will find this movie terrifying. Interesting fact is that this movie was inspired by a fake trailer posted on youtube and trailer is as equally scary as the real deal trailer. Clowns have been a big deal in horror since Stephen King’s IT and i can’t wait to see how much this movie will make me afraid of clown costumes too and not just people wearing them.
5. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
Not much is known about the sixth movie in the franchise but i definitely know i’m excited! A lot of people like to call this franchise dead-end after the first one and i disagree, this franchise sometimes is far-fetched but it still is very tense when night time comes because stuff is about to go down. But i kind of agree with people that sequels are far-fetched and full of jumpscares but they are still good (but i still haven’t seen the Marked Ones tho).
4. Amityville: The Awakening
Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a single mother who moves her three kids into the Amityville house.
Amityville murders is one of the creepiest real-life horror stories i have ever heard of and movies didn’t help either. Movie seems a little far-fetched but hey, what horror movie based on real life story isn’t. Overall movie seems interesting enough and i hope it doesn’t go too far-fetched.
Described as a revisionist take on the classic horror film in which a family struggling to make ends meet relocates to an outdated suburban home and is confronted by an angry spirit who kidnaps their youngest daughter and challenges them to band together to rescue her from the clutches of evil.
Poltergeist is a classic without a doubt and with that said, this movie looks good unlike some other horror movie remakes. The story isn’t changed that much, effects look awesome and that clown doll… still creepy. And the scene with hands inside TV is super freaky can’t wait to see what producers of Evil Dead and the Grudge have for us.
2. Insidious: Chapter 3
In Insidious: Chapter 3, a twisted new tale of terror begins for a teenage girl and her family, predating the haunting of the Lambert family in the earlier movies and revealing more mysteries of the otherworldly realm The Further.
To be honest i never saw any Insidious movies and i know i should. And i will, as soon as the third one comes i will have a little marathon and i’m super excited for that marathon! I heard this movies are super scary so after marathon i will probably regret having that marathon for about… one month.
1. Sinister 2
Which horror movie are you excited for in 2015? let me know in the comments below!
Directed by John R. Leonetti, Annabelle is a prequel/spin-off to last year’s horror movie hit The Conjuring, which was directed by James Wan. Leonetti and Wan have a long history of collaboration and Leonetti even worked as a cinematographer on The Conjuring, while Wan helped produce Annabelle. Unfortunately, the filmmaking duo was unable to replicate the positive critical reception that was given to The Conjuring and Annabelle currently only has a 31% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, in contrast to the 86% “Certified Fresh” rating that the critics awarded to The Conjuring.
However, regardless of what the critics may think, Annabelle will likely still frighten viewers due to the film’s title character, an insanely creepy-looking doll. It seems that even in bad horror films, the “evil doll” character remains an effective scare tactic for most people. One reason may be that many people have a memory (or a repressed memory) of a creepy doll that they saw as a child. If demonic dolls give you the heebie-jeebies, you may want to watch (or avoid) the following eight horror movies featuring some of the creepiest dolls ever portrayed onscreen.
Chucky in Child’s Play film series (1988-2013)
Introduced in the original Child’s Play movie in 1988, Chucky is a sneering red-haired doll that is possessed by the spirit of a deceased serial killer. Many of the films’ plots revolve around Chucky’s attempts to transfer his soul from the doll body into a living person. While several of the later sequels became campier as the series crossed over into the comedy-horror genre, Chucky remains one of the best known and creepiest dolls ever portrayed in a horror film.
Fats in Magic (1978)
This critically-acclaimed Richard Attenborough-directed horror film features a stellar cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, and Ed Lauter. In the film, Hopkins portrays a psychologically unstable ventriloquist who acts out as his darkest impulses through a creepy dummy he dubs “Fats.” The film received largely positive reviews when it was originally released and currently has an 83% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
Multiple dolls in Dolls (1987)
As the title suggests, this horror film features not just one, but dozens of insanely creepy dolls. In the film, a group of travelers are forced to take shelter at the home of a seemingly kind elderly couple. However, the gentle elderly couple turns out to actually be a pair of witches who happen to own a large collection of murderous dolls that come to life at night. In what might be the ultimate nightmare for people with a fear of creepy dolls, some of the characters in the film are actually transformed into dolls themselves.
Suzie in May (2002)
Like Magic, May features a psychologically disturbed character that imagines conversations with an inanimate doll. In this case, the disturbed character is a lonely veterinarian assistant portrayed by Angela Bettis, while the creepy doll is a crudely made figurine named Suzie that looks a little like a miniature female version of Halloween’s Michael Myers. However, Suzie isn’t the only unpleasant doll to make an appearance in this film. After several failed attempts to establish normal relationships with the people around her, May becomes completely unhinged and begins to assemble another doll, this time from human body parts.
Clown doll in Poltergeist (1982)
While this Academy Award-nominated horror film features a number of disturbing elements, one of the most memorable scenes involved a nightmarish clown doll. After waking in the middle of the night and noticing that his clown doll has inexplicably vanished, Robbie (Oliver Robins) does what many children typically do and looks under his bed. Suddenly he is attacked by the clown doll that drags him under the bed and attempts to choke him to death. While the clown doll was not a major character in Poltergeist, it was especially scary due to its shrewd combination of two major horror film clichés: the creepy doll and the evil clown.
Multiple dolls in Puppet Master film series (1989-2012)
This long running horror film series features enough creepy dolls that it could have its own list. In the original film, a puppeteer makes the ill-fated decision to bring several puppets to life using ancient Egyptian magic. Of course, instead of bringing something like Kermit the Frog or some other loveable puppet to life, the puppeteer in this movie opted to animate puppets with sinister names like Blade, Pinhead, and Shredder Khan. Needless to say things do not go well for the humans that encounter these menacing marionettes.
Billy in Dead Silence (2007)
Director James Wan and cinematographer John R. Leonetti once again use a creepy doll to great effect in this violent horror movie about a murderous ventriloquist dummy. In the film, a ventriloquist named Mary Shaw is interred with her dolls after having her tongue cut out by a vengeful mob that suspected her of murdering a young boy. While there are dozens of eerie dolls that could give you nightmares in this film — including the requisite clown doll — the primary villain is a wide-eyed, ventriloquist dummy named Billy that has a nasty habit of ripping people’s tongues out.
Zuni hunting fetish doll in Trilogy of Terror aka Terror of the Doll (1975)
In this influential anthology horror telefilm, Amelia (Karen Black) purchases a demonic looking “Zuni hunting fetish doll” for her boyfriend’s birthday. Unfortunately, this creepy doll is more than just a wildly inappropriate birthday present, it’s also a miniature killer powered by the spirit of a murderous Zuni warrior that is only restrained by a gold chain wrapped around it. Naturally, it’s not long before the gold chain falls off and the little sharp-toothed doll is pursuing Amelia around her apartment, screaming like the Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil. While she finally manages to destroy the doll, events unexpectedly take a turn for the worse in an unforgettable twist ending.
Normally, horror-movie franchises decrease in quality over time. The first one is the best, the second one is okay, the third is barely tolerable and by the fourth you’re thinking it’s time to call it quits.
But the Paranormal Activity franchise is proving to be different. The original might still be the favorite, but after a weak follow-up, part three was pretty entertaining. And after a disappointing fourth installment, the new spin-off entry Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is getting mostly positive reviews.
Maybe this is just one of those series that alternates beween good and bad? We can’t go with the “odd-numbered installments are the good ones” sort of ruling, though, because The Marked Ones is really like part 4.5. There’s still an actual Paranormal Acitivity 5 out this fall.
It’s already a confusing chronology as far as numbered franchises go, too. Paranormal Activity 2 is technically a prequel, albeit one that also overlaps with the first movie. Paranormal Activity 3 was even more of a prequel, going back about 20 years in time. But then Paranormal Activity 4 finally gave us the true aftermath of the original.
If the new movie is indeed better than the last, that’s good news for those of us following along, even if we get a few bumps here and there. We can so far still depend on the series to scare us again and maybe keep the plot interesting, too.
As for which is truly the best, personally I favor Paranormal Activity 3 (also the most successful at the box office, worldwide). The original is a great setup with a number of very creepy and frightening moments, but it also feels like a cheaper, more amateur production. The third one is a rare worthwhile prequel that looks good as a nostalgic ’80s period piece and packs in plenty of good scares, too.
The indie film financed by Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures went on to produce six more films and it became the most financially successful horror franchise in film history. But were they all good movies?
Even coming from a fan the simple answer is no, they weren’t all good movies.
For this list we will reflect on all seven of the Saw films in terms of what went right and what went wrong and why they are where they are on the list. Oh yes, there will be spoilers.
07. Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010)
Let’s face it… Saw 3D (aka, Saw VII) was the absolute worst. This was the fourth film of the franchise absent of both Whannell and Wan and the third without director Darren Lynn Bousman.
The studios brought in screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton and they essentially took Saw fan fiction that had hit the internet way back in 2005-2006 and made that the ending of this mega franchise. They also felt the need to destroy longstanding character arcs for the sake of this ending and destroy the groundwork set by the previous films.
Saw 3D followed a Jigsaw survivor named Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) as he goes on his book tour accounting the events of his miraculous escape from the Jigsaw killer only to reveal later that he was a fraud and had faked his story to get famous. Strike #1
Not only do we have the Dagen scenario, but we are still following Detective Hoffman in his downward spiral of murder and throat stabs in his desire to kill Jill Tuck after she left him for dead in Saw VI. Strike #2
Strike # 3 is easy… Jill Tuck having the reverse bear trap placed on her. Not the re-visioned RBT, but the original that is iconic to the franchise as it was the device placed on Amanda (Shawnee Smith) and we never got to see it work. Other strikes included the horribly unnecessary 3D, the awkward pink hue of the blood, Chester Bennington’s cameo, the bullshit role given to Gabby West as a prize for winning the VH1 series Scream Queens, Dr. Gordon’s reveal, the film poster, and opening credits roll. There is literally nothing positive to say about this movie. Myself and just about every true Saw fan out there felt like we’d been slapped in the face.
06. Saw V (2008)
We can mark Saw V to plain irrelevance in the bigger scheme of things. It was the only film directed by former Saw production designer, David Hackl, and there is a reason for that. Saw V overall was fast-paced and offered no real relevance to the previous films or VI and VII, for that matter.
The fifth installment followed the “fatal five” group of victims trapped in a house maze and given the task to work together in order to survive. The plot was somewhat similar in principle to Saw II but not executed nearly as well. The characters bore no basic relevance to the plot other than a small arson tie into Obi from Saw II. It was just a bunch of random, annoying characters getting picked off one by one.
The subplot of Detective Hoffman finally being caught by Agent Peter Strahm was the only semi-interesting bit of material but even then it came down to the Hoffman “God complex” by allowing him to be everywhere at once and able to set everything up exactly how he wanted. Many people chalked it up to the whole mantra of John Kramer being able to predict people’s actions through human nature, but I didn’t buy it in this case because at this point in the timeline Hoffman was essentially working alone. It’s not believable in any way. Not to mention the fact that Strahm’s death was for nothing and Agent Erickson ate up the bread crumbs left by Hoffman to frame Strahm for the Jigsaw murders. I mean, really? Are you serious?
05. Saw IV (2007)
Saw IV was when the franchise went way downhill. While it’s not a complete loss it became apparent that those involved in this franchise for the first trilogy were just over it. This was the first Saw film to not be written by Leigh Whannell although it was still directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. However, Bousman has previously stated that he only directed Saw IV to get the financing from Lionsgate/Twisted Pictures for his rock opera, Repo! The Genetic Opera and that the film was rushed and wasn’t as good as it could have been. We noticed.
This time both John Kramer and Amanda are dead and we find Detective Rigg in his own Jigsaw game as he is confronted for his need to constantly save everyone, regardless of the danger it puts him or his crew in. We see into Rigg’s past as a patrol officer, but it was basically just his turn to have his own movie as we saw Detective Kerry, Detective Matthews, and Detectives Sing and Tapp all go by the wayside in the first trilogy (though Tapp does later resurface in the Saw video game).
We also find out that Detective Matthews has been alive since the end of Saw II, despite being presumed dead in Saw III, and it was the first time we see Detective Hoffman as the second direct accomplice to Jigsaw. This also introduced the new agent team of Peter Strahm and Lindsey Perez.
Saw IV probably gave us the most insight to John Kramer’s past with the flashbacks of him married to Jill Tuck and expecting a son, Gideon. Jill tragically miscarries the child and the event kickstarts John’s descent into becoming the Jigsaw killer, even prior to his cancer diagnosis. It also introduces what John actually did for a living, why he had all of these random buildings and warehouses at his disposal, and how he had such seemingly endless wealth.
04. Saw VI (2009)
Saw VI was definitely the best of the second trilogy and after lackluster attempts from Saw IV and V, it was a small but welcome gem in the pile of rocks. This time the director’s chair was given to former Saw editor, Kevin Greutert, and although the script still had Melton and Dunstan responsible it did manage to be a decent story with some good characters.
Saw VI picked up literally right where Saw V left off. Agent Strahm is dead and Hoffman is on his way to leading a stress free secret life as the Jigsaw killer. So he thought! Little did he know, Strahm’s partner Agent Perez didn’t die in Saw IV after all and she begins to unravel the mystery of who the post-Kramer killer is and all signs were pointing to Hoffman. However, this was the epitome of Hoffman’s mindless killing as he decides to kill Perez, Agent Erickson, and an innocent sound tech by setting them all on fire after he’s revealed.
What made Saw VI so great was the game subplot of William Easton, an insurance agent linked to John Kramer. The flashbacks involving William included him dealing with John during his cancer treatments. He basically refuses coverage beyond the basic chemotherapy seeing that John’s cancer was inoperable and terminal. William finds himself in a game involving his Umbrella Health colleagues and he is given the choices of who lives and dies based upon his life/death formula used for choosing coverage for patients. BUT PLOT TWIST… you basically find out William is a pawn for another game in the end. A woman and her teenage son are given William on a platter to decide if he deserves to die because he denied her husband’s coverage after he was diagnosed with heart disease. It is easily one of the deeper and more political plots of the franchise, but it was also very well thought out. The game was near flawless.
Aside from all of that, we saw a long-awaited cameo from Amanda as she is introduced as a patient of Jill’s drug rehab clinic as well as showing her pointing out the flaws in Hoffman’s trap setup. She’s also seen as the reason Jill and John’s son Gideon was a stillborn as she coerced Cecil to rob the clinic for methadone. It also gave proof, in my opinion, that Amanda was not the one setting up the traps to be fatal regardless but that Hoffman was and then framed Amanda for it.
03. Saw III (2006)
It’s difficult for me to actually pick a favorite between Saw III and Saw II, but for this I looked at which one is the most re-watchable for me and sadly that is Saw II. This was the last film of the franchise written by Leigh Whannell and was the second to be directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. It once again showcased Shawnee Smith as a main character, but this time it was in the full reveal of being a Jigsaw accomplice. An accomplice very loving and protective of her teacher. It also featured some of the more brutal traps out of all the films including a mock-crucifixion, ripping someone apart by their ribs, and freezing someone alive. I love Saw III and I truly think this is where the franchise should have ended.
Saw III brought us to John Kramer on his deathbed where Amanda was his primary caregiver and had been running his games for him. Brought in is a kidnapped brain surgeon, Lynn Denlon, who had previously seen John but was essentially no help to him. She is brought in to keep John alive by any means necessary until a game currently in motion is completed. To ensure she stays where she’s supposed to she is outfitted with a shotgun collar that’s wired to John’s heart rate. If he dies she is blown to bits, so the stakes from the beginning were pretty high.
The secondary plot featured a man named Jeff who was put through a maze where he encountered people attached to the death of his 8-year old son. Jeff had been consumed by vengeance and his rage that it was destroying himself and his family. The goal of his game was forgiveness and whether he could save the people who he felt had wronged him and his late son. In the end Jeff succumbed to his rage, only saved one person out of four, and PLOT TWIST… Lynn was Jeff’s wife. His rage and vengeance caused him to kill his wife because he couldn’t find it in himself to not leave John without slicing his throat open with a power saw. Remember when I said if John dies, Lynn dies?
Even with these two games in place, Amanda was probably the most important character in this film. She was seen in flashbacks to Saw II regarding Detective Matthews and a rather brutal confrontation between them brings it all to light. After it’s revealed in Saw II that she was framed for her drug charges that sent her to prison, she is the one who locks Matthews in the bathroom and leaves him for dead. After he escapes, she manages to trump him once more and it’s assumed she kills him. However, him being alive in Saw IV kind of ruined that theory. Aside from that, we see her involvement traced all the way back to the events of the first film with her helping John set up the bathroom game between Adam and Dr. Gordon.
The true beauty of Saw III was the relationship built between John and Amanda. In the first two Saw films, Amanda credits John with saving her life and we find out that by saving her he also had recruited her. Shawnee Smith and Tobin Bell spent almost all of pre-production hanging out to make the relationship between their characters believable and meaningful. When you get the major reveal of John testing Amanda in the end, you can see that his heart was breaking and he did want her to succeed. It’s probably the most heartbreaking moment of the franchise… especially as she reaches for him while gasping for her final breaths. You see what a damaged person she is and how much of a struggle her journey was.
02. Saw II (2005)
Like I said, this all came down to how re-watchable these are. Saw II was the direct sequel to Saw and was the second film co-written by Leigh Whannell. This served as Darren Lynn Bousman’s debut to the franchise where he brought to life a group of 8 people locked in a house infiltrated with a deadly nerve gas. The goal for the group was to search the house for traps so they could obtain the antidotes by winning the games.
You have to remember that this being the second film meant there wasn’t as much depth as the following films and the premise still was quite simple. The main thing that Saw II accomplished was something not many horror films do; it put us face to face with our villain for almost the entire duration. After receiving a tip, the police department along with Detectives Matthews, Kerry, and Rigg bust in on a location and find a feeble, middle-aged cancer patient. By confronting us head on we learn John’s predicament and why exactly he places his subjects in the tests.
After learning one victim in the house is Detective Eric Matthews’ son Daniel, John challenges Detective Matthews to sit out a time clock to find his son in a safe and secure state. This was a main test to continue to push Eric to the limit and test his patience as he has gotten in trouble due to his temper before. In the end, and after learning the victims in the house were all wrongfully imprisoned and framed by Eric, loses his cool and John willingly takes him to the location of the game where, PLOT TWIST, the game has already taken place hours before and the video feed played in John’s lair was not live. As Eric searches through the house, John’s soon to be revealed accomplice is waiting to trap him there.
The twist that Saw contained was not going to be beaten, but I thought even back in the day that Saw II did a decent job with delivering a lot of surprises. The main surprise being that Amanda was a Jigsaw accomplice and was placed in the house on purpose to ensure Daniel’s safety. I didn’t expect that one bit because they made it incredibly believable that she had just fallen off the wagon and had been captured by Jigsaw again. Supporting twists included the video feed not being live and Daniel being in a locked safe right next to his father the entire time.
As far as the traps go, this one also featured some of the most squeamish and brutal including Amanda being thrown into a pit of dirty hypodermic needles, an inescapable razor box, a venus fly trap mask full of nails, and the overall trap of being locked in a house full of nerve gas.
01. Saw (2004)
You can’t beat the original.
Saw brought us to a small underground bathroom where an oncology surgeon, Dr. Lawrence Gordon, and a photographer named Adam were chained by the ankle to pipes. The plot seems simple at first as you are led to believe they are just victims of a sick game played by a serial killer named Jigsaw. WRONG! As the plot goes on, you learn how Dr. Gordon and Adam are connected as well as what they’ve been hiding from each other.
The subplot surrounding Jigsaw introduced us to Dr. Gordon’s wife, Alison, and is daughter, Diana, as they are held captive by a hospital colleague named Zep. We’re also introduced to Detectives Tapp and Sing as they are seen investigating the serial murders of the Jigsaw killer so far and eventually brings us directly to a confrontation with Jigsaw himself.
Back in the bathroom, Adam and Dr. Gordon begin to discover more clues and information about the overall game and each other. The plot doesn’t take a major shift until a cell phone found in the wall rings when the clock runs out. The first of many twists comes when you find out that Zep had been mediating the bathroom game the entire time. The second big twist was finding out that Detective Tapp had gone crazy after Sing was killed and had been stalking Dr. Gordon convinced he was the Jigsaw killer. You don’t learn until the end that the robed killer confronted in the warehouse by Tapp and Sing was a cancer patient named John Kramer.
The final climax of the film remains to be the most tense, stressful moment in the entire franchise. After thinking his wife and daughter have been killed, Dr. Gordon decides to free himself by sawing off his foot and then shoots Adam in the shoulder with the one bullet found in a previous clue. Once Zep enters the room, he is jumped and killed by Adam and Dr. Gordon leaves Adam chained in the bathroom alone while he goes to find help. Adam makes the horrifying discovery that Zep was yet another pawn in a bigger game and the game of mediating the bathroom was actually one to give him the antidote to an injected poison. THEN THE TWIST NO ONE SAW COMING! No pun intended…
This whole time there was a dead man on the floor in between Adam and Dr. Gordon. Well, the guy wasn’t dead. As Zep’s tape recorder finishes, you see the “dead” man stand up next to Adam and in Adam’s horror, he is told the key to his shackle was in the bathtub. Little did Jigsaw know the key went down the drain along with all the water at the very beginning of the movie. This twist is easily one of the best in film history and no one knew it was coming. Anyone who says they guessed the guy on the floor was Jigsaw is lying. I remember seeing Saw in theaters and when John stands up off the floor there were some people who started screaming. To this day I can watch Saw and remember what it was like to see the twist unfold for the first time. I love watching it with people who have never seen it before so I can live the surprise vicariously through them.
The reason why the first film was never beaten isn’t just the concept. It was the simplicity and beauty that James Wan brought to the actual picture along with the way the script was shaped by Whannell. The twists were there and were unpredictable and there wasn’t a moment during the film where you felt bored or like you knew what was going to happen. There were moments in following films that I guessed almost exactly. The concept was new, fresh, and executed in a way that was never able to be fully recreated.
There aren’t many people who’ll own up to preferring a Hollywood remake of a foreign film, and usually with good reason. Anyone who sat through Diabolique waiting for the chills of Henri-George Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques was sorely disappointed. As for The Vanishing – given that the entire point of the original was its bring-you-out-in-hives-scary ending, for the remake to completely alter said ending was to render the entire film worthless.
But there’s one remake, based on an adored original, that I think outshines its source. Mine is not a popular view: in fact, when Gore Verbinski’s The Ring was released in 2002, the general critical reaction was a shrug of disdain at its attempt to replicate the shocks of the Japanese Ringu. Our own Peter Bradshaw called it “disappointing, losing most of the original’s flavour”. The New York Times called it “devoid of feeling”, the Village Voice said it was “like a Nine Inch Nails clip”, while Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt it “teeters right on the edge of the ridiculous”.
The difference, I think, is that Ringu is a shocking film, while The Ring is a horror film. Ringu seems almost like a David Lynch movie: a series of barely connected nightmares (though it’s a model of coherence compared to its sequel). Because Ringu seems almost unanchored in reality, I find it harder to be scared by it. There are moments of absolute shock – anyone who doesn’t jump out of their chair the first time they see its conclusion must have slush for blood – but I feel no sense of dread watching it. Just a mild irritation as I try to work out what the hell is going on.
The Ring, however, has me chilled from its beginning. There is an attempt at a plot in The Ring: one imagines that was a requirement of DreamWorks before they put the money up, because no big studio wants to send something absolutely incomprehensible out to the multiplexes. The plotting isn’t perfect – there are places you could drive a whole fleet of 18-wheelers through its holes – but one can follow it, which means the horror descends gradually and engulfs the viewer, rather than coming down like a tonne of bricks a handful of times before being lifted again. And The Ring has its creepy set pieces, too – the berserk horse on the car ferry is as unsettling and inexplicable as anything in the original.
Credit, too, to the director of photography, Bojan Bazelli, for The Ring looks stunning. The remake is set in Seattle, the famously rainy city in the Pacific northwest of the US (the region is home to one of the world’s two areas of temperate rainforest, the other being in New Zealand), and it rains for most of the picture. Bazelli films virtually all the daylight scenes with a green wash that makes what should feel healthy – the forest, and countryside of a region that isn’t far short of being heaven on Earth – feel sickly and fetid. The green seems to symbolise a catastrophic fertility, life cycles speeded up so fast that decay has supplanted growth as the central fact of existence. And when you realise what’s going into the water, you understand why the trees and leaves and grass can seem so malevolent.
Caveats? Of course I have some. The kid – the conduit for the nightmares, and the McGuffin to motivate Naomi Watts as the protagonist – is straight out of creepy child central casting. There’s no need for Watts to have a romantic relationship. And I never quite know whether to laugh or hide behind the sofa when Brian Cox starts piling up the electrical appliances in his bathroom as the film builds towards its denouement. But still I’m scared, and I never stop being scared for the duration.
The first cog of this franchise is “Annabelle,” a quickie spin-off/prequel that focuses it on the demonic doll from the first movie (this is the story that acts as an entry point to the wild and weird world of the ghost-hunting Warrens). Set a few years before the events of “The Conjuring,” it follows a young couple (played by Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) who first encounter the nasty plaything.
But does this live up to the lofty legacy of “The Conjuring”? Or does it fizzle before your very eyes, like a ghostly apparition? Read on to find out!
1. It’s Not Funny
This isn’t to say that every horror film should be funny. Sometimes deadly serious horror movies are the way to go (“The Conjuring” certainly didn’t have much in the way of laughs), but this is a horror movie about a possessed doll. Typically, that’s a premise that you can milk a few guffaws out of. But nope. “Annabelle” plays it completely straight, which is not only a drag to watch but seems sort of unrealistic (I know we’re dealing with a movie about a possessed doll but still. Something funny must have happened while this young couple was being terrorized. Right? Right?
2. It’s Not Scary
More damnably, “Annabelle” just isn’t scary. Again: this is OK. Most horror movies aren’t scary. But this is the follow-up to one of the scariest movies ever (or at least in recent memory). Sometimes the scares are played out in long, single takes. That’s admirable but again it never amounts to much. Quite frankly there’s not much difference to the way the scares are delivered here than in your run-of-the-mill “Paranormal Activity” sequel. Which is pretty sad.
3. The Connection to ‘The Conjuring’ Is Tenuous (At Best)
While Warner Bros. is really trying to stress how connected this movie is to the original “Conjuring,” the actually ties are tenuous (as best). “Annabelle” actually starts with a scene from “The Conjuring” – with the two young nurses telling the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) about the cursed doll that has been terrorizing them relentlessly. Then we flash back to see where that doll came from. Or something. The point is that there is actually very little connection with “The Conjuring” and, for all we know, the actual story of Annabelle, since it is based on a real doll that the Warrens had in their possession.
4. It Both Embraces and Ignores Its ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Ties
What’s so weird is that the movie clearly apes “Rosemary’s Baby” (the main character is called Mia and slowly goes mad inside a ’60s apartment building) but also denies those ties at the same time. Like why not really go for it? Have the character cut her hair short or invest in the other characters in the building. Unfortunately, just a cursory reference here and there is all “Annabelle” is good for.
5. The Political/Historical Commentary Could Have Been Better
Early in the movie, the couple watches a news report about the Manson family murders and there is a lot of talk about the fear that satanic cults are a very real problem. But then that is never really brought up again. There are some killers in the beginning of the movie who are attached to a cult but there’s not a lot of parallels drawn between that cult and the actual Manson murders and anything else ’60s-related (strained race relations, Vietnam, the feminist movement) is never even touched upon. Listen, all of that stuff is great, but we’ve got a killer doll to deal with here.
6. There’s Very Little Going On
Not only is “Annabelle” curiously lacking in the sociopolitical subtext arena, but there isn’t a lot going on inside the narrative, either. The husband is getting his medical degree so is away from the house a lot, leaving the poor wife to deal with all of the demonic goings-on. So, naturally, we assume that there is something going on with the husband, either that he’s a.) having an affair or b.) involved in the satanic cult that created this whole mess in the first place.
7. The Demon Is Lame
There’s a demon in this movie that looks like the all-black version of Hannibal from “Hannibal.” In short: we’ve seen it before and it isn’t scary enough to make the cut on an off season of “American Horror Story.” Try again, Hollywood creature creators!
8. The Photography Looks Cheap
“The Conjuring” is a gorgeous movie, so Warner Bros rightfully played John Leonetti, that film’s cinematographer, in the director’s chair for “Annabelle.” Unfortunately, “Annabelle” looks cheap and unconvincing, a digital movie that has less mood and texture than a Facebook photo album. There’s one shot, in particular, when Mia is in the elevator of their apartment building, that looks like it was shot with a GoPro camera.
9. The Last ‘Child’s Play’ Movie Is Way Better
“Curse of Chucky,” the last film in the “Child’s Play” franchise (it was included in the box set of all of the films that came out last Halloween) is way, way better than “Annabelle.” It’s similarly contained but much more stylish and scary. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a rent. It’s worth your time.
For The Love Of Film is UTG’s newest creation from film nerd and lover of all movies Justin Proper. Sometimes you need some help to figure out how to enjoy movies, and we are here to help! No longer will you need to fear movie night because your friends have no taste in film. With this column you will be able to love even the worst gems to ever grace the silver screen.
Found footage horror movies are pretty hit or miss (mostly miss). For every Blair Witch there are five Quarantines. Ok, it really is more like for every Blair Witch there are twenty Quarantines but I like found footage movies, so I am a bit biased. Grave Encounters is definitely one of my favorite horror series of the last few years, despite the fact that the films are considered “bad” by most critics. Hopefully by the end of this column you will at least give it a chance, I think it is absolutely worth it.
Grave Encounters is about a ghost hunting show that shoots an episode in an abandoned insane asylum that is supposedly haunted. It starts slow but then ghosts happen and things get crazy. I mean really crazy. Because it is an insane asylum. Needless to say, things do not go well for the ghost hunting crew.
The second movie (Grave Encounters 2) starts out with people talking about the first movie. That is right, the sequel to Grave Encounters acknowledges that the first movie is just a movie. Or at least that is how it starts. The premise for the sequel is that a film student is convinced that the first movie was real, so he goes to the asylum to get proof. Believe it or not, but things also do not go well for him and his friends. Then things get even weirder. I cannot even begin to describe how off the wall things get, but the stuff that happens in the second film make the first film even better.
Why are these movies considered “bad”? Well, there are plenty of reasons. First of all, these movies are low budget. Like most low budget movies (especially of the horror genre) the Grave Encounters series has some very mediocre acting and cheap special effects. It is also not being revolutionary by having a found footage gimmick, this is becoming more and more common because it is a perfect format for low budget. The second movie in particular is plagued by these critiques because it seems like it is the same movie as the first on the surface.
I’m not alone in thinking these movies are great. Just check out this piece James Shotwell wrote on the second movie for our 31 Days Of Halloween. The found footage aspect of these films may not be original, but they are more than just a gimmick. In the first movie it is found footage because it is supposed to be like the ghost hunting tv shows, which are shot first person. The second movie is a documentary format, which is also shot in that style. In a sense it is still just a cheap way to get around the cheap budget, but at least they made the reasons behind it work really well.
The best part about the Grave Encounters series is the setting. The haunted insane asylum is one of the best haunted places I have ever seen in a movie. The desolate hallways are loaded with doors so the suspense is always building. You never know what could be waiting in the next room. Abandoned wheelchairs and gurneys litter the grounds and there is even some creepy bathtubs where a patient at the hospital supposedly slit her own wrists. The legend goes that a crazy doctor used to perform experiments and rituals on the patients which leaves behind spirits so tortured they have no choice but to terrorize anyone who comes to the place. Plus there is this super creepy tunnel under the building that you just know leads to awesome scares.
If you give both of the Grave Encounters movies a chance I think you will be surprised. They are not the most innovative movies, and certainly not the first to use a haunted asylum as their settings, but together they form a very interesting story that will keep you guessing until the end. Even then there is a good chance you will have more questions. Make sure you check them out, especially considering it is almost Halloween.
Before you cut the cord to your cable service, search the Web for free and legal sources of short films, network programs, documentaries and movie
options. When you watch a movie online, the site should not download the movie to your computer; it should stream the movie to your computer over the Internet. Before streaming a movie, check your Internet bandwidth by visiting an Internet speed-test site. Each movie site has different requirements, but if your Internet service provides at least 5 megabits per second, you should be able to watch movies online. Beware of streaming sites that offer new-release movies without charge, as these sites typically use pirated copies.
The Copyright Issue
Movies, like other creative works, belong to the person or company that owns the copyright. When you buy a movie on DVD, you buy its copyright license to view the movie in your home. Legal streaming sites that are licensed by movie copyright owners pay fees to stream movies across the Internet. A site that is not licensed to stream a movie or that downloads the movie to your computer is in violation of copyright law. While the idea of finding free movies online is appealing, major-release films generally require a fee or a subscription service to watch them unless the copyright holder has a site that streams the movie.
The Movie Search
To hunt for a specific movie, type its title into the Motion Picture Association of America’s Where to Watch website, which provides a list of licensed sites where you can watch the movie. While you can also do a search in your browser for “free movies online” you may end up at sites that are illegal, be sent to questionable third-party sites or land on a site that requires you to download the movie to your computer, a violation of copyright law if the movie still has a copyright.
Legal Streaming Sites
With the video-streaming options available online, you can find a site that works best for your computer and bandwidth. Select reputable sites include Hulu, Crackle, Vimeo, Internet Archive, PBS, IMDB and Top Documentary Films. Some sites, such as Hulu or Crackle, may include commercial breaks that you cannot skip. The commercials help support the site to keep it free. Other sites allow you to forgo the commercials for a monthly subscription fee.
Identifying Illegal Sites
Violating a copyright law is a serious offense, and unlicensed streaming sites violate these laws on a regular basis. You can identify an illegal site by several factors: a lot of pop-up ads, bad video quality, derogatory forum posts or comments on the site, a redirect to third-party site, ads with audio that play in the background while you watch the movie or advertising boxes that pop-up in the center of the player. Some sites require you to download portions of the movie by visiting one or multiple sites, which results in you having an illegal copy on your computer, a violation of federal law. Some of these sites use free movies as bait for you to click on their site, a link that initiates a hidden download of viruses or malware to your computer. Just avoid these sites altogether by using the MPAA Where to Watch site.
You can connect a streaming device to your TV to stream movies from the Internet, if you have a wireless modem or router. Such devices include Chromecast, Roku or the Google Nexus Player. Alternatively, most Blu-ray players now come preloaded with apps to access your favorite free licensed streaming sites or subscription streaming sites through your television instead of your computer.
The Internet’s accessibility, ubiquity and speed continues to skyrocket. As a result, savvy Internet users desire increasingly rich content, including multimedia audio and video. The popularity of online brands offering music and movie downloads, such as Youtube and iTunes, has many webmasters seeking a piece of the action.
Plan a model for your website by asking yourself important questions about its design and purpose. Do you want your site to cater to particular demographic and community, or will it be more general like Youtube? Do you want to host user-made videos and copyright-free music at your website, or do you plan to distribute copyrighted material in exchange for a fee? If you choose the latter, you’ll need to acquire the appropriate licenses and strike deals with content copyright holders.
Choose a web hosting company. This will allow your web site to have an online presence, complete with its own URL. Yahoo! Small Business offers web hosting packages for as little as $10 per month. This includes unlimited data transfer, disk space, audio and video galleries, and web design tools, all of which will be necessary for a movie and music download site.
Consider choosing an alternative, purpose-specific web hosting site, such as Fliggo. Fliggo is a free web hosting agency that will allow you to create a video hosting site without any technical knowledge of web design. At this time, Fliggo is free. Unfortunately, the level of customization involved with a method like this is rather limited, and you won’t be able to run a for-pay site. This will, however, allow you to test the Internet waters and find a market before taking the plunge with a custom site.
Hire a team of skilled individuals to help with the development and day-to-day operations of your website. You’ll need web designers, content creators, marketing experts, moderators and probably a legal specialist. Unless your consider yourself to be a “jack of all trades” with an unlimited amount of free time, starting a movie and music download site by yourself will be overwhelming.
Build an online community around your website. One of the biggest problems facing Internet startups is a lack of traffic. The Internet is flooded with music and movie download websites, and your site will need unique features, excellent design and interesting content in order to stand out. Find other websites catering to your chosen market and demographic, and purchase advertising.
There are dozens of websites that offer free movie trailers for download to personal computers or smart phones. Whether the film is brand new or a classic, you will be able to find its preview online. In order to download free movie trailers, all you have to do is point and click — most trailer sites use simple set-ups that make it easy to determine whether a trailer can be downloaded, or if it is only available for streaming.
Visit a movie’s official website. If the movie is a new release, you can do a search for the film, and the official site should be easy to find. For older movies, try visiting the official website of the production company that owns the rights to the film.
Click the link to download the movie’s trailer. Most trailers come in several resolutions; note that HD trailers can be large files that may take a few minutes to download if your Internet speed is slow.
Know that if you wish to later upload the trailer to a blog or other personal website, you must get permission from the production company. Although you are free to post links to streaming trailers, and are often allowed to embed videos from official sites, in most cases you cannot upload a copyrighted video to a personal site without permission.
Check out websites such as Crackle.com, Spike.com, TrailerAddict.com and ReelzChannel.com. These independent websites have good selections and allow downloads. You can search by title or genre.
Search the site of any online vendor that offers content for MP3 players or smart phones. For example, Apple’s official site includes a subsite for downloading free movie trailers to iTunes.
A number of websites offer movies for free download. However, this practice is against the law if done without permission. According to Intel.com, the Motion Picture Association of America is on the lookout for those who download copyrighted movies illegally without paying for them. For this reason, you should only download from legitimate websites. They may not have the latest blockbusters, but the movies are free. You can do a number of things to download these movies fast to your computer, legally.
Download Free Movies
Go to the website Eztakes.com and click the “Free Stuff” tab. When the page opens, click on “Free DVD downloads” and select a movie that you would like to download. Click the “Download” button underneath the movie thumbnail. Click the “Download” button under “Action” on the next page. You will need to register with the website to start the download. Simply provide your name, email address and password. Eztakes will send you an email containing the account activation link. When you click this link, the Eztakes webpage will open with the link to your movie download.
Go to the website Emol.org and select a category of free movies from the right side of the page, for instance, “Adventure”, “Comedy” or “Drama.” When you open a specific category, browse through the list of available movies and select the one you want to download. Next to the movie title, you will find the “Download” link. Click on it to start the download.
Go to the website PublicDomainTorrents.com and browse through the list of available movies you can download for free. Click on the movie title that you want to download. On the next page, scroll down and right-click the link “Click for Divx AVI.” This option is appropriate if you wish to watch the movie on the computer. If you want to watch it on an iPod or PDA, select the respective options. The movie will then start downloading to your PC.
Accelerate Download Speed
Get a faster Internet connection. Movies are large-sized files, which is why you need a connection with high download speed. To inquire about the connection, contact your Internet Service Provider.
Download and install a download accelerator/manager application such as Download Accelerator Plus or Free Download Manager. These applications are available for free on their websites. When you start downloading a particular movie, the download manager application which you installed will launch instantly and start downloading the movie. It allows you to optimize download speed by sucking the Internet bandwidth from other Internet-based applications, such as instant messengers.
Stop other online activities and applications while the movie is downloading to increase your download speed. Avoid watching online video clips or playing online games while the movie is downloading.
Several websites allow users to download movies for free on the Internet. Net Movie Downloads, Movie 6, Internet Movie Database and 80 Million Movies Online are among the most popular websites that you can access to download free movies. These types of websites provide trailers, reviews, actor and actress profiles, games and software that you can enjoy online or download as well. To gain access to the sites, you may have to register with the company and create a login and password. Most sites have a similar setup on how to download free movies.
Go to Movie6.net. Browse through the available movies for download on the right side of the screen under “Top Box Office Movies,” “Recent” or “Movies.” Click on the name of the movie you want to download.
Check to see if your computer already has Real Player. For computers with Microsoft Windows operating systems, go to “Start” and then click “All Programs.” Scroll down the drop-down box and search for a program titled “Real.” Click on the word until the field expands and you see “Real Player” to confirm that you have the full program on your computer.
Add Real Player to your computer if your computer does not currently have Real Player installed. Go to Real Player’s official website. Go to the upper right side of the screen under “Get Real Player Free” and click “Free Download.” If you want to download Real Player to your iPod or burn movies to a DVD, purchase a copy of Real Player Plus for a one-time fee.
Download the movie. Allow the computer to open a new screen. Go to upper-right corner of the newly opened screen titled “Real Player and Download Manager.” Click the icon with the hyperlink titled “Download video.”
Wait for the movie to download. Keep in mind that computers with larger amounts of available hard drive space will likely download movies quicker than computers with smaller amounts of available hard drive space. After the movie downloads, click on the link titled “Play.” The movie will begin to run with audio on your computer monitor.
The internet and the film industry have developed a mutually beneficial relationship. Particularly for independent filmmakers, the internet is a valuable resource for publicizing and distributing their work. Additionally, big-budget studio pictures create elaborate pages for major films to reach audiences online The money and time you’ll need for the project depends on if you want an “e-commercial” site (in order to sell the movie or other items) or a site strictly for content (availability, production elements).
How to Make Your Movie Website
Identify your target audience and narrow down domain names based on tone, scope, and specificity. If the website is dedicated to a single movie, try to work the title into the domain name. Choose a web host that has hosted other movie sites with something in common with yours, such as genre or style.
Build the technical side of your website with a website building program or by composing HTML or CSS code yourself. (If you feel uncomfortable working with either a program or code, solicit the help of a trained site-builder who can give your site a professional sheen.)
Create an opening (or splash) page to not only greet visitors but clearly express the purpose the film and website. Some dramatic image from the film can only help. This page should include tabs that lead to reviews from reputable sources, videos including interviews and trailers, and, if possible, theater listings.
Insert all the information a casual fan would want to know on tab pages. This would include a list of the cast and production crew (with names spelled correctly), a well-written and compelling description of the premise, a professionally edited trailer, a summary of festivals or other places the film has or will play and production information.
If your film has been rated, place it visibly, but not prominently, near the production information. If you get reviews, and they’re positive, post quotes from them, giving appropriate credit to the reviewer and a link if possible to the full review. If the film has been nominated for any awards, or won any, that information should be on your opening page.
Convert any recorded materials (commercials, interviews, etc.) into a smaller, compressed flash video that will be easier and more convenient for viewers to see. Ease and quality will be very important values to keep casual viewers at your site. Create a design for your flash video player that fits well with your project.
Upload your website with a file transfer protocol. Many web hosts offer this feature, but if they don’t you can download an FTP program yourself.
Determining if a free download movie website is a scam is essential in protecting personal information. Many sites falsely advertise free movie downloads to get consumers to access the site. It is only while accessing the site that you can determine if the website is legitimate. Downloading movies over the internet may be illegal. Be cautious of copyright infringement laws when seeking to download movies.
Access the website. If you experience pop-ups and excessive advertising, this is a sign that the site makes money based on the amount of people who visit. The services promised by the site may only be for the purpose of luring people to the site.
Select a movie from the menu. If the link takes you away from the site, the site is a scam.
Click on the link to download. If a page appears asking for credit card information, you will not be able to download the movie for free.
LAS VEGAS — Olivia Wilde is the rare actress who can accuse Jim Carrey of hair robbery.
The crime took place before shooting began last year on the magician comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Carrey was contemplating his edgy street magician character, Steve Gray, before a camera test when he noticed the long blond wig meant for Wilde, who plays an assistant to the title character (Steve Carell).
“Jim picked it up, put it on, and got an idea,” Wilde says. “Steve Gray was born. It gave him this Christ-like air. It was a metamorphosis that I assume happens to most actors behind closed doors.
Carrey’s character loves taking magic to extremes, from holding his urine for 12 days to sleeping on hot coals. Carrey himself has a penchant for absurdity — see 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective — that is immeasurable on a normal 1-to-10 scale.
“I think Jim starts at 11 and he takes it up to a 28,” Wilde says. “He has the whole Spinal Tap amp thing going.”
Carell, who produces and stars in the title role, says he suggested Carrey for the role as a lark. To his surprise, the actor came onboard and had the crew in hysterics, doing improv in his scenes.
“It’s amazing how fertile his mind is,” Carrell says. “it’s hard to not just be an audience member when you’re watching him work.”
Carrey (who was not available for an interview) agreed to go shirtless for the hot-coal stunt scene, but he asked director Don Scardino to delay it so he could get in better shape. Scardino was dubious but agreed to move the shoot.
Carrey worked out every day with trainer Paul Vincent and ate nothing at cast meals but “some nasty green slop,” Scardino says. “When he came back to do the shoot six weeks later, he had this incredible six-pack. He totally transformed his body.”
Carrey might be off the strict food and exercise regimen, but he is still lean, mean and looking for more comedy.
“He told me that making the movie made him appreciate how much he loves comedy, and he wants to get back to it,” Scardino says. “He never really left, but he’s been trying other things. I think after this we’ll see more comedy from him.”
Egypt has banned Christian Bale movie Exodus: Gods and Kings on the grounds of “historical inaccuracies”.
Ridley Scott’s epic, based on the Bible’s Book of Exodus, stars Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton as Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses.
But despite the Hollywood pulling power, the country’s censors were unimpressed with the film’s claim that an earthquake sparked the famous Parting of the Red Sea, rather than a divine miracle, and another suggesting that Jews built the Pyramids.
Christian Bale stars as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Exodus: Gods and Kings is also believed to have been banned in Morocco, with reports suggesting that officials chose to cancel screenings the day before the movie was due to premiere.
Agence France-Presse has speculated that Morocco does not want to screen the film because it is a largely Muslim country, and Muslims believe that Moses is prophet and hence should not be depicted on the big screen.
Scott angered film fans last month when he addressed the casting controversy over Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Responding to months of criticism over the movie’s apparent lack of ethnic diversity, the Gladiator director brushed off the outrage by insisting that, had white actors not filled most of the key roles, his epic would never have got off the ground
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” he told Variety.
“I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
Christian Bale stars as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings
The film grossed a relatively disappointing $24.5 million (£15.5 million) on its opening weekend after mixed reviews from critics.
Other recent biblical retellings have fared far better – from 2004’s The Passion of the Christ, which took $83.3 million (£52.9m) on its debut, to Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which earned $43.7 million (£27.7m).
A recurring theme with modern zombie films is not taking the zombie apocalypse all that seriously, which is exactly the charm of the Spanish-Cuban Juan of the Dead. After the undead outbreak, the chosen Juan decides to start up his own ethically unsound zombie-killing business with differing results. Equal parts slapstick comedy and political allegory, this is a smart and heartfelt effort, which isn’t too bad a result considering it’s viewed as the first Cuban zombie film ever made.
4. Dead Snow (2009)
Continuing the trend of smart, exciting foreign zombie moves comes Dead Snow, or Død Snø in its native Norwegian. When you combine Nazis, zombies and a dash of comedy for good measure, you will only ever been onto a winner and that’s exactly the case here. Dead Snow is smartly shot, fantastically paced and doesn’t fall into the same old tropes that hamper so many similar films.
3. The Battery (2012)
A film which I cannot espouse enough, The Battery appeared in a period of fantastical, ridiculous zombie movies to do something that so many simply fail to do: tell a story. As a low-budget affair, this allows first-time director Jeremy Gardner to explore the mental toil of a zombie apocalypse on two begrudging baseball players who were thrown together through necessity rather than choice when the world went to shit. Essential viewing.
2. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
It would almost be easier to just copy and paste a load of memorable quotes from Edgar Wright’s now famous romzomcom than to actually write anything about it. If you haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead yet, get your life together and turn on ITV2 right now because it will invariably be playing on there as we speak. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?
1. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
A film that I make an effort to watch at least once a year, Zack Snyder’s remake of the classic original is a breathless action film which only shares the location (a shopping mall) with its source material. It’s not the thinking man’s zombie movie, but I will be damned if it isn’t the most entertaining, set up perfectly by a relentless opening sequence.
If you love music and love stories, you should check out the 10 best duet acting scenes. While the movies not always romantic in nature, some of the strongest cinematic duets in history certainly are. Whether or not a duet that has a lot going on between the lines, these scenes capture the imagination and are a feast for the ears, too.
“Grease”- “You’re the One That I Want” is the expression of passionate, young love in the movie “Grease.” It’s the love song that teenage couple Danny and Sandy (played to perfection by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John) sing to one another after making themselves over to better fit into one another’s worlds. Travolta and Newton-John have such a strong chemistry that only enhances their loving performances in this scene.
“Rent”- “Light My Candle” is a powerful duet from the film version of “Rent.” It’s sung by Rosario Dawson (who plays Mimi) and Adam Pascal (who plays Roger), and it is at an important part in the story. The poignant song will probably be one that sticks with you.
“The Phantom of the Opera”- The Andrew Lloyd Webber play was expertly adapted to film in 2004. The mesmerizing duet by Christine and Raoul in “All I Ask of You” is well-directed, and the performances are strong. The ambiance throughout the film manages to capture what was originally written for the Broadway film.
“Moulin Rouge”- “Come What May” is the love theme from “Moulin Rouge.” Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor give earnest, heartfelt, and memorable performances. The scene is both somber and sweet. The musical was celebrated for its creative use of already popular songs of various genres and its high energy. This scene grounds the film and clarifies the strong love story between the two leads.
“Annie”- “I Don’t Need Anything But You” is an exuberant song of father-daughter love. It’s from the 1982 film version of the musical “Annie.” Annie and Daddy Warbucks celebrate that they have found each other and the innocent love they share in this fun tune. The performances of Aileen Quinn and Albert Finney make the song and dance scene unforgettable.
“Meet Me in St. Louis”- Screen legends Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien perform a winning duet with “Under the Bamboo Tree.” The duet performance is from the cinematic classic “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Margaret O’Brien plays the baby sister Tootie to Judy Garland’s Esther. This song is performed to guests at the party, and the two really do seem to be loving sisters, as Judy’s performance tenderly looks out for Margaret’s dancing.
“Xanadu”- Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton-John create pure movie magic with “Whenever You’re Away From Me.” The duet scene is from “Xanadu.” It features their characters of Kira, a muse who has come to earth, and musician Danny tap dancing and singing together. Newton-John took tap dancing lessons to prepare for the scene, and the natural affinity and mutual respect between the characters is clear, as is the faraway love that Danny has lost.
“Xanadu”-“0 Suddenly” is another strong duet from the movie “Xanadu.” The duet is unique, in that it features the vocals of Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard against the backdrop of a fantasy roller skating scene. While the movie is definitely 1980s fun to its core, the soundtrack has been a smash hit for decades.
“Hairspray”-The reprise of “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” is a duet scene performed by Michelle Pfeiffer and John Travolta. In the scene from the 2007 musical film version of “Hairspray,” Travolta is dressed as the female character of Edna. It’s an ultimately touching, yet fun, duet with strong acting and singing.
“The Wilde Girls”- “You Loved Me Into It” is a duet between two characters, a mother and daughter, who have finally come to understand one another. Del Shores directs a winning duet scene between real-life mother and daughter, Olivia Newton-John and Chloe Lattanzi, in “The Wilde Girls.” Both Newton-John and Lattanzi show off their beautiful and very different vocal styles, and their mutual admiration is evident in the performances given in this tender scene.
Consistency is perhaps the largest reason why the Lord of The Rings trilogy remains the greatest film trilogy today. With some other trilogies, the films would drop in quality by the end (the Matrix, the Godfather, Spiderman, and to some degree Star Wars), yet the Lord of the Rings has great directing, great acting, and great action up until the end. Some may actually say that the movies in the Lord of the Rings movies get better as the series goes on, becoming worthy of the many Oscars that it won.
This is the best trilogy because it told one epic story and was consistent. There are a lot of trilogies that peak at their second film but don’t quite live up to it in the third. But The Return of the King proved that it was possible to make a more awesome film than the previous two.
I think it is a widely most-shared opinion, that almost nothing can beat “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy. I also believe that this is one of the most rare cases when the films actually do justice to the original books and this is definitely a bonus. There are so many things I want to say, so many points of view I would love to express about this film trilogy but I know deep down that no matter what is said here, nothing can compare to the experience of watching all-three films-especially if doing that for the very first time. I suggest anyone who is yet to do it, DO IT! You have the faintest idea of what you are missing out!
-Plus, who can forget about this all-time record breaking, with all the 11 Oscars won by the third film (The Return Of The King), a fact that rendered the film alongside the only two other films to ever achieve such a record-number of Oscar winning: “Ben-Hur” and “Titanic”.-
Lord of the rings still the best
2. Star Wars
THE trilogy. Credit for establishing the formula for all trilogies that followed (establishing the world in a straightforward adventure, further developing the characters and going dark in the middle, rounding everything out by returning to the beginning in the finale). People always deduct point for Jedi (because of the Ewoks, I guess), but it’s a fantastic closing act. The opening act with Jabba, Leia’s slave outfit (I mean, come on), the speeder chase, that epic confrontation between Luke and the Emperor, the masterful triple-thread ending, and the ultimate redemption of Darth Vader. It’s the most moving and emotional installment of the series, and who doesn’t love to root for the underdogs of nature taking on and toppling the imperialistic oppressors (even if the underdogs are an army of teddy bears)?
This started the modern day trilogy trend that we are familiar with today. Yeah maybe someone will mention the Dollars Trilogy or something else that came before this, but please tell me a trilogy series that had the pop culture effect that this one had at the time. It still holds up well and I’m not acknowledging the prequel trilogy. This opinion is based solely on the original one.
The trilogy that defined trilogies! This whirlwind sci-fi adventure drama series was the most EPIC trilogy in the history of entertainment. First spot is well deserved.
Star Wars is the Best!
3. The Dark Knight Trilogy
The Dark Knight Trilogy is one of the strongest trilogies ever. Most trilogies have spoilers (Godfather Part I, Star wars VI, Jurrasic Park I, Matrix II and II). The Dark Knight Trilogy is strong all the way through ever film. Christopher Nolan is absolutely suburb in his writing and molding of his version of Batman. A modern masterpiece!
I was gping to vote for the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but as you can see the books are the trilogy, so all the director had to was to put them into movies, and Star wars either 4-6 or 1-3 there are some flaws that you realize over time. The Dark Knight trilogy had a lot of material to work with because of the comics, but they were well made and also there is consistency between them although the comics are a lot and disperse… It was a close call with “back to the future”, (althouugh the second movie of Bact to the future was the one that messed all).
I won’t put it as a great trilogy. ’cause the last film destroyed all the good memories that I had before seeing it. In my opinion “The Dark Knight Rises’ is one of the stupidest movies ever. It has more plot hole than the plot. But I know Nolan’s fan won’t wanna hear about it ’cause they are now just some brainwashed morons who will feed up anything that Nolan serves them.
Its Not Because He’s The Hero Gotham Needs Its Cause He’s The Hero Gotham Doesn’t. Deserve.M+15
This trilogy is amazing
4. Indiana Jones
Raiders of the Lost Ark. Temple of Doom. The Last Crusade.
No one can do Indiana Jones justice except for Harrison
Yes, there are only three of them.
Number 2 best trilogy!
5. Toy Story Trilogy
Toy Story is the best animated movie or movie series ever. I watched it when I was little and so will my children, then my grandchildren. This movie is classic and hilarious. There are people who don’t like Star Wars or the Batman trilogy, but everybody loves Toy Story.
This is hands down the greatest trilogy ever. Every single one is perfect. I mean perfect. 10/10. No flaws. This is where this is different from back to the future and indy and star wars (I could see an argument for LOTR). All three of those trilogies has at least one that’s not as strong as the rest, whereas toy story is phenomenal straight through… CASE CLOSED.
Based on the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu in which two American Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in enemy territory, Black Hawk Down follows the hour-long rescue mission that – thanks to some confusion and enemy ambushes – became an overnight siege. Director Ridley Scott’s recreation of the events gave audiences a front row seat to the intense and relentless firefights, and a heartwrenching look at the camaraderie among soldiers that kept the death from skyrocketing.
The battle may have made headlines at home, but Black Hawk Down showed that valour isn’t just something found in the history books, but every military engagement – and that hearing about combat and seeing it up close are two different things.
The drama that took place behind the camera of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is as well-known as that actually captured on film (star Martin Sheen’s heart attack , and Marlon Brando’s refusal to learn the script, for starters), but it’s the movie’s mission to find a renegade colonel in the midst of the Vietnam War that is most remembered. The film’s story isn’t based on any actual event at all, instead an updated version of Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel “Heart of Darkness.”
The Vietnam War serves merely as a backdrop for Coppola’s exploration of the horrors even ‘good’ people are capable of, and which war simply makes real. Despite the hurdles for director and cast, an unforgettable script, a star-studded roster of actors, and Coppola’s breathtaking direction ensured its legacy as not just a memorable war movie, but one of the greatest films ever made, period.
Since writer and director Oliver Stone actually served in the Vietnam War, Platoon is one war film that deserves to be singled out from the rest. Based on real battles and soldiers that Stone witnessed firsthand during his tour, the director’s commitment to realism meant putting his cast through actual military training, even launching surprise night time attacks – complete with staged explosions – to leave the performers as fatigued and weary as he had been during the war.
In the end, the film’s focus not on the entire war or its politics, but a single soldier’s coming-of-age and loss of innocence spoke to an entire generation, guaranteeing Platoon’s place among military dramas seeking realism over spectacle.
Full Metal Jacket
“Vietnam can kill me, but it can’t make me care.” The tagline for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket captures the attitude of this war story perfectly, following a platoon of United States Marines from basic training to the heat of battle overseas. Kubrick’s knack for disturbingly dark humor put the insanity of war in the spotlight, revealing how much damage war can inflict even on those who survive it.
As time passed, and the Vietnam War was viewed through a changing lens, the film’s idea that not every war is glorious – or even rational – was picked up by new generations, offering Full Metal Jacket as a counterpoint to every military film before or since.
Saving Private Ryan
A squad of soldiers heading through World War II-era France to find a single private – the titular Ryan – and send him home may sound like a small story, but Saving Private Ryan is a true epic in every sense of the word. Beginning with a monumental re-enactment of the Omaha Beach assault – using more than 1,000 extras to capture the scale and intensity of the D-Day invasion – the 27-minute long sequence was enough to make director Steven Spielberg’s efforts worthwhile.
What followed was a faithful tale of bravery and sacrifice that earned the movie 11 Oscar nominations and 5 wins, and almost immediately ranked it among the greatest war movies ever made. Re-defining the look of an entire global conflict for years to come, the impact of the film on modern cinema, action film-making, and even video games can never truly be quantified.
The most hated or most beloved day of the year, depending on your relationship status, is almost here. Valentine’s Day is that one day when couples celebrate how wonderful it is to be in love with each other, and single people share a collective “better luck next year” mentality.
Whether you’re finishing up a special night on the town or are simply curled up under a blanket home alone, you’ll need something to help you get through the night on TV. Why not turn to one of Netflix’s many romance movies this year? Sure, the popular streaming site has classics like “Annie Hall,” “Ghost,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and Sleepless In Seattle,” but it’s also got a number of hidden gems as well. Below are just some of the top choices to stream during the long Valentine’s Day weekend.
“Romeo + Juliet”
Admittedly this modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic love story is a bit on the nose, but it’s hard to argue against a young Leonardo DiCaprio professing his love in iambic pentameter. The special woman in your life will love the classic romance and the special man in your life will love John Leguizamo dancing and twirling his pistols. Although it takes place in the modern day, The Bard’s words remain unchanged.
“Fools Rush In”
Netflix already did us all a favor by reminding us of how great Matthew Perry is by making the entire “Friends” series available to stream at the beginning of January. In this film he co-stars alongside Selma Hayek as a successful architect who goes to Las Vegas and accidentally gets her pregnant. He’s got to make an honest woman out of her in a hurry but learns quickly that her rich cultural heritage might make that more difficult than it sounds.
Starring Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, this film is a romantic movie with a dark twist. It opens with Hough’s character having just committed some kind of bloody crime. With a new name and spunky new haircut, she goes on the run to a small town where she meets Duhamel’s character. The two fall in love just in time for her secret to bring their new life together crashing down around them.
“She’s All That”
This classic 90s romantic comedy set the stage for what became one of the bigger clichés in movie history. However, when you’re among the first and you do it well, you get a pass. Starring Freddie Prinze Jr. as the big shot on campus and Rachael Leigh Cook as the unpopular art student, the story shows that love can come from very unexpected places. Prinze’s character makes a bet to turn any random girl into the most popular and attractive girl on campus. It works, with fortunate side effects.
In this strange romantic comedy, Will Smith plays Alex Hitchens (get it?) who has a successful business helping unlucky guys snag the woman of their dreams. Men simply come to him and he coaches them through to the moment of their first kiss. However, he meets his match when Kevin James’ character proves to be a more difficult client than he’s encountered in the past. Add that to Eva Mendes undoing everything he knows about love and you’ve got yourself a hilarious movie.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in his screenwriting and directing debut about a young single Italian New Yorker who meets the girl of his dreams in the form of Scarlet Johansson. The only problem is that he might not be ready to give up his single lifestyle… particularly his online porn obsession. The two star in this coming of age love story as Gordon-Levitt’s character slowly realizes that love is better than anything that comes from a search engine.
“The Sweetest Thing”
This is the perfect movie if you’re home alone on Valentines Day, which is totally fine by the way. Cameron Diaz is a single woman living in San Francisco playing the dating game. However, when she starts to realize that actually finding someone to spend your life with is more fun than bouncing from relationship to relationship, she decides to chase after a man she met at a club who was at a bachelor party. After tracking him down to a small town just outside the city, she comes to find out the hard way that it was his bachelor party, and his wedding is mere hours away. This hilarious, and often raunchy, movie is the perfect tonic to give hope to the single people of the world.
OK, it might be slightly difficult to convince your significant other to get on board for a musical. However, once you clear that hurdle, “Rent” is a powerful movie for any romance lover. Set in New York’s Alphabet City in the 1990s, a group of close friends must navigate finding love and themselves in the midst of poverty and the AIDS crisis. The best part of the movie will be calling your loved one out for tapping his or her foot during “La Vie Boheme.”
This one should do it for you based on the cast alone. Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson and Ron Livingston star in this comedy about two co-workers at a brewing company who get along really well and are downright perfect for each other… except for the fact that they are each dating someone else. The story unfolds, as a lot of real-life love stories do, throughout a series of drunken nights of flirting and fun. Eventually the group has to either decide to stay with the people they’re with or go bold and take a risk on one another. It’s an office romance that could rival the likes of Jim and Pam on “The Office.”
“Stardust” is the story of a love struck boy played by Charlie Cox who must leave his quiet life and jump the wall to the other part of his world where magic and fantasy exist. Our hero chases a fallen star beyond the wall in the hopes of impressing the vapid object of his affection only to discover that the star is a beautiful woman. The two embark on a daring adventure to find true love and save the kingdom.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe boldly straddles sci-fi, comic-book action and fantasy – never more so than in the ‘Thor’ movies, with their Tolkein-influenced take on Norse mythology and outrageous ‘Flash Gordon’-style fetish costumes. ‘Thor’ is essentially a reboot of ‘Masters of the Universe’ – bulging hero heads to Earth to battle skeletal psychopath – but with better special effects and more nod-wink humour.
Magic moment: The glistening CG cityscape of Asgard could’ve come straight from a mid-70s Rick Wakeman LP cover.
11. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Writer-director Guillermo del Toro is the most original and uncompromising cinema fantasist of the modern era, and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is his most striking statement. This gruesome, disquieting coming-of-age story draws on ancient influences – the central thread of a young woman drawn into terrible, otherworldly danger goes right back to ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and beyond – and adds an unflinching depiction of the brutality of war.
Magic moment: Does any single image better encapsulate the darker side of fantasy than the hideous Pale Man, with eyes in the palms of his hands?
10. Orlando (1992)
Featuring a career-defining performance from Tilda Swinton, this Virginia Woolf adaptation from Sally Potter is a magical affair. Swinton plays Orlando, in turns a man and a woman, as s/he travels in half-century leaps from the Elizabethan court to the twentieth century, via the Civil War, early colonialism and more. It’s a sly, wise comment on things such as English history, sexuality and class, all of it wrapped in a beautiful, transporting fantasy.
Magic moment: When Orlando transforms again… and again… and again.
9. Labyrinth (1986)
If all you remember from ‘Muppet’ creator Jim Henson’s cult magical fantasy is Goblin King David Bowie and his terrifying codpiece, look again. This is a film bursting with ideas – philosophical, literary, mathematical, even spiritual – and the ornate, crumbling Labyrinth is a wholly unique imaginative landscape.
Magic moment: The mournfully psychedelic junkyard sequence strikes a jarring but memorable tone of doom amid all the furry, freaky goings-on.
8. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Ang Lee’s high-flying melodrama, a vivid reinvention of the wu-xia genre and one of only nine foreign-language movies to ever be nominated for Best Picture, is still an unimpeachably perfect combination of physical and emotional combat. The fight choreography has yet to be topped, and every balletic moment of soaring wire-fu reveals something about the character who’s swooping through the air.
This Magic Moment: The first fight scene along the rooftops in the middle of the night, as the drums pound away on Tan Dun’s score. Holy hell.
7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
A boatload of Oscars would arrive with the next film, ‘The Return of the King’, but here’s where Peter Jackson’s trilogy cohered as a triumph of cutting-edge technology and emotional impact. Andy Serkis’s Gollum – a fully fleshed digital creation – stole the show, yet this film also digs deep to depict the rallying redemption of King Théoden, from weeping at the grave of his son to leading the armies of Rohan into battle.
Magic moment: Gollum and Sméagol have a psychotic conversation and never once do you think about CGI.
6. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ may have won over the highbrow critics, but ‘Hellboy II’ is fantasy master Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece. Adapted from Mike Mignola’s comic books, this sequel to the patchily brilliant superhero adventure ‘Hellboy’ crams in all the psychotic fairies, marauding elves, fantastical landscapes and berserk action set-pieces you could possibly ask for, and adds a rich seam of hearty, self-satirising humour.
Magic moment: The hidden ‘troll market’ beneath the Brooklyn Bridge rivals the ‘Star Wars’ cantina in the monster-riot stakes.
5. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
In retelling Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ story with Johnny Depp as the unfinished creation with scissors for hands, Tim Burton created a modern day classic. It could all have turned out so differently if he’d gone with the studio’s choice of lead actor, Tom Cruise – who wanted the story to have a ‘happier ending’. Pah.
Magic moment: From his castle hideaway, Edward creates a Christmas snowstorm.
4. Excalibur (1981)
It’s the wellspring of modern fantasy, but cinema’s track record when it comes to the King Arthur legend is pitiful, whether it’s the dippy musical fantasia of ‘Camelot’ or the dour, would-be-realism of the Clive Owen ‘King Arthur’ (and don’t even get us started on Guy Ritchie’s impending reboot). The only film that truly captures the grandeur of Arthurian myth is John Boorman’s intermittently ridiculous but cumulatively breathtaking ‘Excalibur’, the grittiest, mistiest, earthiest British fantasy movie of them all.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The first two ‘Harry Potter’ movies were lifeless, slavishly recreating JK Rowling’s insanely popular novels and adding nothing but a slick Hollywood sheen. Enter Alfonso Cuaron, who adapted the third (and arguably weakest) of the books into a dizzying, visually sumptuous and only-just-family-friendly magical romp that’s also a subtle meditation on youth, ageing and the passage of time. The best kids’ movie of the 21st century? Probably.
Magic moment: The film’s quietest scene is also its most magical, as the kids hang out in the dorm room passing a bag of Bertie Bott’s beans and shooting the supernatural breeze.
2. Spirited Away (2001)
A high point not only of the consistently excellent output of Japan’s Studio Ghibli but of animation as a whole, this magical adventure turns the wanderings of a lonely ten-year-old girl into an updated ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, complete with nods to ancient folklore and modern ecological anxieties. It’s still the highest-grossing movie in Japanese history.
Magic moment: Parents are transformed into pigs, and our heroine is truly on her own.
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
With his grand, globe-conquering adaptation of JRR Tolkein’s genre-defining trilogy, Peter Jackson dragged fantasy into the digital age, managing beyond all the odds to make it at least semi-cool in the process.
It may lack the blood and thunder of later instalments, but for us the first ‘Rings’ film remains the best: it has the most direct narrative – a road movie, essentially, from the rustic middle-English hush of the Shire to the forbidding shores of the Anduin – and the sweetest character moments, from Bilbo’s sad departure to Boromir’s sacrificial end. And that’s the reason why Jackson’s ‘Rings’ movies work, and will continue to thrill moviegoers for generations to come: the characters are as important as the special effects. A simple tactic, perhaps, but a blindingly effective one.
Magic moment: The series’s greatest showdown, as Gandalf faces the fiery Balrog on the bridge of Khazad-Dum. ‘You! Shall! Not! Pass!’
A childhood favourite for many, this wonderfully charming, if not often clunky, ode to Jason, the Greek hero, and his quest for the Golden Fleece. It starred Todd Armstrong as Jason and was directed by Don Chaffey. One of the reasons that most of us remember this film is thanks to the stop-animation beasts of Ray Harryhausen, particularly the iconic fight between the Argonauts and the skeletons. Also, the depiction of Talos, the man of bronze, is just as well known as the skeletons and is just as dated as the acting… great fun.
300 – Zack Snyder 2006
Quite the different approach to the glorious Greeks, ‘300’ is based on the comic series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. And, boy, it sure was something. Everybody wanted to be or be with the guys that starred in the film, thanks to the Gladiator-esque they had carved themselves in preparation for the film. It wasn’t just the beauty of the boys that caught the attention of the masses, it was the stylized use of blood and gore that won crowds over too, something that those involved wanted to keep true to the original comics. It starred Gerard Butler, Lena Headley and David Wenham.
Clash of the Titans – Desmond Davis 1981 and Louis Leterrier 2010
Adapted from the myth of Perseus and his quest to save Princess Andromeda from the grip of Medusa and the Kraken, the 1981version starred big names of the day, including Harry Hamlin, Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom and Maggie Smith, as did the 2010 remake that basically had everyone in it… and was basically much more sexed up than the original. While the classic is remembered much more fondly, both of these films are epic, ridiculous and feature great special effects.
The Trojan Women – Michael Cacoyannis 1971
Adapted from Euripides 415BC written play of the same name, this Greek tragedy tells the enslavement faced by the women of Troy. It’s quite harrowing to watch, even still today and the cast really go full out in communicating the pain that these women felt. Directed by Michael Cacoyannis and starring Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Blessed, this is not an action packed Greek themed epic, but more so a painful commentary on the capture and subsequent slaughter of those that populated the Aegean island of Melos. Here the Greeks are the evil against the women of Troy.
Immortals – Tarsem Singh 2011
Before Superman there was Theseus, well, when we’re talking Henry Cavill that is, who was clearly test driving his super buff body in this Greek mythology tale of the Demigod and is loosely based on the Greek myths of Theseus and the Minotaur and the Titanomachy. Our hero is chosen by Zeus to lead the fight against King Hyperion, a man who is on the lookout for a weapon to destroy all humanity. With special effects galore, this is the perfect popcorn movie. Looks good, sounds good, does good.
Alexander – Oliver Stone 2004
Wigs galore for the guys, in this retelling of Alexander, the King of Macedonia’s, fight against the Persian Empire and, after doing so, goes further than any Westerner had ever gone and plans to attack India. The cast is incredible, with Colin Farrell, Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie to name but a few, and they were in the good hands of Oscar winning director Oliver Stone. Though this didn’t fair so well with the critics, the battles, the drama and the beauty of those starring in it, make this film one of our favourites.
Alexander the Great – 1956
Finishing off with this epic, starring Hollywood hunk Richard Burton and the gorgeous Claire Bloom in a story that follows the life of Alexander the Great and his plight against the Persian Empire. Though Oliver Stone’s 2004 film tells the same tale, this classic hasn’t really stood the test of time but it is one of the original Greek epics and is still a delight to watch. Robert Rossen directed the epic and did away with most of the obvious themes of sexuality that made the 2004 version so sexually charged, yet the pace and style of this film is charming and an absolute classic.
Medea – Pier Paolo Pasolini 1969
Italy’s iconic director Pasolini took Opera singer Maria Callas and starred her in his film that was inspired by the story of love, loss and the emotions of a woman scorned. Having fallen in love with Greek hero Jason, Medea has two sons by him but learns that the life she had planned for them both can never happen, due to his arranged marriage to marry the King’s daughter. At first she keeps her emotions under control before losing out to them and unleashing a firestorm on the king, bride and her love, Jason. Many claim that this is one of Pasolini’s greatest works.
Hercules Unchained – Pietro Francisci 1959
This Italian-French fantasy epic starring Steve Reeves torso and Sylva Koscina got cinema goers hot under the collar, and still does today. Here, Italian cinematographer Mario Bava, known for his work during the ‘golden age’ of Italian horror films, is praised for the way he helped capture this film… but let’s but him to one side and concentrate on the fact that this film starred bodybuilder/actor Steve Reeves in all his glory. This was his second and last time playing Hercules and the role of his character was influenced by both Greek myths and also the plays spawned by the lengends.
Troy – Wolfgang Petersen 2004
Famous for being one of the most expensive films of all time, this adaptation of Homer’s Greek epic was also one of the highest grossing films of its time. The story follows Achilles as he leads his Myrmidons along with the rest Greek army as they invade the historical city of Troy, lead by the world renown Trojan army of Hector. The ensemble cast is outstanding, featuring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Saffron Burrows, Sean Bean and Brian Cox. The music is by James Horner is just as mesmerizing and this film has gone on to become somewhat of a cult hit.
To extend your travels through the ancient world, here are some earlier high points of Hollywood’s trips back to the ages of cavemen and dinosaurs.
“Gertie The Dinosaur” (1914)
Dinosaurs and prehistoric life have inspired filmmakers since the very earliest days of the form, including this still-charming work by Winsor McCay, a simple animated short in which the title sauropod performs various tricks for our amusement, including dancing on command and drinking a whole lake in one gulp. Sure, it’s not much by today’s standards, but think of it as the prehistory of prehistory. (Watch it here.)
“The Lost World” (1925)
Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic novel about a South American plateau where dinosaurs never died out has been filmed many times, but the earliest and most influential was this silent version featuring effects work by Willis O’Brien, who would go on to create an even more enduring classic in “King Kong.” O’Brien’s creations are the real stars of the movie, but future Oscar winner Wallace Beery (for 1932’s “The Champ”) is also wonderful as the violently irascible Professor Challenger, the pompous head of the expedition to the plateau. (Watch it here.)
Walt Disney’s most ambitious movie includes a bravura segment, topped only by the unforgettable “Night On Bald Mountain” and “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequences, in which the evolution of life on Earth is gorgeously animated and set to the music of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite Of Spring.”
“One Million Years B.C.” (1966)
Throw your notions of historical accuracy out the window for this prehistoric adventure movie, which follows the travails of the Rock and Shell tribes in a world populated by killer dinosaurs (which actually died out 65 million years earlier) and a giant tarantula (which, of course, never existed). The real entertainment value here is provided by Ray Harryhausen’s classic stop-motion monster animation (including a climactic ceratosaur/triceratops fight), and of course the movie’s most well-remembered attraction, the sight of Raquel Welch in a fur bikini. Maybe historical accuracy’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) The brief first segment of Stanley Kubrick’s sprawling science-fiction epic, “The Dawn Of Man” tells the story of a small group of pre-human apes eking out a marginal existence on the African savannah. Life is difficult and brutal, and any moment could bring death from ravenous leopards or rival tribes. But one morning a mysterious black obelisk appears, bringing strange new ideas that will forever change the fate of the apes — and all their future descendants, namely us.
“Land of the Lost” (1974-76) Sid and Marty Krofft are fondly remembered by those who grew up in the 1970s for their cheesy, brightly colored and bizarrely psychedelic kids’ shows like “H.R. Pufnstuf” and “Lidsville.” But their most successful show, “Land of the Lost,” stayed away from the deliberate campiness in favor of a serious and surprisingly complex sci-fi storyline involving the Marshall family’s exile in a strange alternate dimension where dinosaurs roam.
“The Land That Time Forgot” (1975)
Like “Lost World,” this movie was also based on a classic Victorian sci-fi novel, though Edgar Rice Burroughs was definitely the era’s version of Dan Brown — action-packed and fun, but not exactly high art. The movie version moves the time period forward to 1916, but captures the spirit of the book very well, as a group of mistrustful Germans and British on a World War I U-boat stumble on a lost Antarctic island populated by reptilian relics of a lost age.
“Quest For Fire” (1981)
Learning to control fire was one of the key successes in humanity’s rise up the evolutionary ladder, and French director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s compelling and nearly dialogue-free story depicts a time when our mastery over fire was not yet complete. Three Cro-Magnon cavemen (including a perfectly cast Ron Perlman) must go in search of life-giving flame after their tribe’s fire is extinguished during a fight. Along the way, they meet a more advanced tribe, including a fetching cavewoman played by Rae Dawn Chong, who teach them not only how to make fire, but various other advances including, er, the missionary position. Annaud’s movie was ambitious if not always successful in sticking closely to then-current anthropology, with zoologist and author Desmond Morris providing a gestural language for the actors to use.
“The Clan Of The Cave Bear” (1986)
Based on the novel by Jean M. Auel, this Stone Age drama stars Daryl Hannah as Ayla, a blond Cro-Magnon orphaned as a girl and raised by a small tribe of Neanderthals in ancient France. She struggles not only to survive, but to earn the respect of her adopted clan, which views her with suspicion and fear. Though well-meaning, director Michael Chapman’s shallow, slow-moving movie is ultimately a pale, derivative shadow of “2001” and “Quest For Fire,” though fans of the book shouldn’t miss it.
“Jurassic Park” (1993)
If there’s one movie on this list you already know, it’s certainly this one. But Steven Spielberg’s action-adventure about genetically reconstituted dinosaurs and the havoc they cause on a doomed theme-park island deserves praise for basing its giant lizards’ behavior on actual science, though it makes a few elisions in the name of better storytelling. It also deserves praise for the sequence where the tyrannosaur breaks through the fence and attacks the helpless cars, which is just plain awesome moviemaking.
“Walking With Cavemen” (2003)
The advent of computer animation has revolutionized the level of realism available to animators, and the BBC has capitalized on this with the ongoing “Walking With…” series, a set of smart, informative and amazingly lifelike documentaries that brings dozens of species back from extinction, from 8-foot sea scorpions to 100-ton brachiosaurs to the ape-descended creatures who would eventually become humans. “Walking With Cavemen” covers four branches of our hairy ancestry, from the monkeylike Australopithecus to the great Ice Age mammoth hunters.
It’s the oldest film on this list and the only silent film. Released in 1928, The Passion of Joan of Arc depicts the trial and execution of France’s most famous martyr, Jeanne d’Arc, better known as Joan of Arc: the brave woman who led the French armies to victory during the Hundred Years’ War, only to have been captured and executed by her British (and some French) enemies a year later for crimes of heresy. But it isn’t just the compelling story, that makes this movie a favorite among critics like the New York Times’ A.O. Scott. It’s mostly the lead actress’ performance that pulls you into this film. Maria Falconetti’s vividly expressive portrayal of Joan’s suffering, fear and sadness, like Scott notes, “makes you feel like you know her” even if you don’t really understand (or believe) how Joan can be so sure that God spoke to her. Even in short clips, Falconetti’s face is haunting and the fear Joan feels is palpable. It’s a silent film, but it doesn’t need the sound of the actors’ voices to tell its story, or to make you feel something as strongly as Joan feels about God.—Anita George
9. GoodFellas (1990)
It’s not your typical shoot-em-up gangster flick. The charm of GoodFellas is in the details. The carefully chosen close-ups. The nuances in each of the characters’ personalities. No one in the film has a two-dimensional, flat persona. Even the scenes that involve murder and violence, though they are grotesque and can turn your stomach, they still aren’t flatly black-and-white. Because then one of the guys cracks a joke and weirdly, somehow in that moment, you can still laugh. Suddenly, those situations are grayer now, and suddenly you realize you still see these guys as fellow humans, even though the things they do are monstrous. All of these small details come together, and somehow they humanize the gory story of Henry Hill and his fellow made men. It’s a biopic that immerses you into Hill’s life and makes it hard for you to distance yourself from him and his friends. It’s special because this biopic chose to make the protagonist and the villain the same guy and, through very small details, kind of convinces you to like him anyway.—Anita George
8. La Vie en Rose (2007)
An icon in France, the story of singer Édith Piaf, could have been filmed as just another stereotypical musician biopic or episode of Vh1’s Behind the Music. In fact, her life had all the hallmarks of the troubled, yet incredibly talented musicians that are often the subjects of such movies and documentaries. But it was actress Marion Cotillard’s stunningly moving performance as Piaf that really allowed La Vie en Rose to stand out among other musician biopics. Cotillard’s Oscar-winning performance really captured that charismatic soulfulness that Piaf had as a performer.—Anita George
7. The King’s Speech (2010)
It’s a biopic that covers a very specific part of King George VI’s life: the time period in which he learns to cope with a speech impediment in order to ultimately lead his country through World War II, and does so with the help of a speech therapist named Lionel Logue. While a masterful performance by Colin Firth and the film’s compelling writing undoubtedly led to The King’s Speech winning three Oscars, there’s something else that makes this such an amazing film to watch, and that’s the story itself. It’s a different kind of King’s tale. Instead of a just a movie about a king gloriously leading his countrymen to victory, it’s about a would-be king struggling to find his voice and the courage within himself to lead his people through one of the toughest times they’ve ever had to face. King George VI’s story is about the inner turmoil and struggle it took to reach a place of victory, not the victory itself; which makes the story a bit more relatable, which in turn makes it even more meaningful.—Anita George
6. Malcolm X (1992)
“Ya been took! Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!” When director Spike Lee introduced us to Detroit Red, he reminded the world of a specific time in American history more readily forgotten by some than others. Based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Lee (in typical fashion, with a brilliant score and with the grand influence of French cinema throughout) brought us the story of a troubled boy who could have easily become any unknown black man in the ‘60s—who indeed, almost did until he committed his life to Allah and The Nation of Islam. Denzel Washington perfectly, eerily embodied the role of the young Detroit Red who would become Malcolm X. As a team, Lee and Washington (along with Angela Bassett as Betty Shabazz) created the perfect biopic, where all that we assumed about an icon was troubled or complicated by this new translation of his life.—Shannon Houston
5. My Left Foot (1989)
It’s the story of Christy Brown, an Irish painter and writer who was born with severe cerebral palsy. The title of the film comes from the title of Brown’s autobiography on which the movie is based and refers to the only part of Brown’s body he was able to completely control even with cerebral palsy. Daniel Day Lewis’ and Brenda Fricker’s brilliantly artful performances as the unforgettable Christy Brown and Brown’s mother, respectively, are no doubt, the main reasons you should watch this movie. In fact, the interactions between Brown and his mother in the movie are some of the best, most moving scenes My Left Foot has to offer.—Anita George
The fine line between genius and insanity is the subject of this big-budget costume drama that proved just how hip classical musicians can be. Milos Foreman tickles the vulgar underbelly of the sublime and the result is Thomas Hulce’s braying, chittering laugh as the wild-child prodigy, Wolfgang Mozart. F. Murray Abraham’s portrayal of Antonio Salieri’s descent into madness fueled by jealousy is the perfect foil. Lust, envy, greed—all of the deadly sins are here, set to some of the greatest music ever written. —Joan Radell
3. Gandhi (1982)
Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi is often described as a huge, sweeping epic about the man that lead India to its independence from Great Britain in 1947. And it is. A little over three hours long, the film chronicles not Gandhi’s entire life, but his journey towards non-violence as a form of protest which in turn allows him to gain equal rights for Indians in South Africa and the eventual independence of India from Britain. Everything about this film works wonderfully together: there’s an all-star cast (Ben Kingsley, Daniel Day-Lewis, Candace Bergen and Martin Sheen, to name a few), the film itself is beautifully shot and makes good use of India’s natural beauty and the film’s music has the notable distinction of being composed by none other than Ravi Shankar. And so it should come as no surprise that in the year following its release, that Gandhi won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Writing and Best Actor in a Leading Role.—Anita George
2. Raging Bull
The best film of the 1980s contains one of the all-time-great feats of directing and one of the all-time-great feats of screen acting. The status that Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull has achieved in the years since its release is completely earned. Watching it is a fully felt experience. Over the years, much has been made of the weight Robert De Niro gained while filming Raging Bull to authentically capture the physical transformation of boxer Jake LaMotta. While it’s a great symbol of his commitment, the pounds don’t begin to explain the depths of the character portrait he and Martin Scorsese created. The film looks unforgivingly at a fragile, insecure man who communicates his need for love with jealousy, anger and violence. Scorsese’s shots convey the overly suspicious workings of LaMotta’s head, then back out to coldly observe the horrific violence that ensues. Then there are the boxing scenes. Scorsese deserves endless praise for finding such lively, inventive ways to capture the experience inside the ring. But what’s really amazing is that he goes beyond a great sports scene. Each fight serves as a window into LaMotta’s soul. The camera movement, the quick edits, the sudden shifts in speed all reflect his mental state, his need to damage himself or cause damage to others. Such expressive, visceral filmmaking has rarely been equaled.—Michael Burgin
1. Schindler’s List (1993)
It’d be hard to find a more inspiring, moving story to tell than that of Oskar Schindler. And before seeing this film, I assumed that Steven Spielberg was exactly the wrong person to tell it. But all thanks be to the movie gods that I wasn’t a studio head in the ‘90s, because Spielberg produced what was simply one of the most ambitious, wise, and moving motion pictures of our lifetime. The acting is superb—a career-making role for big lumbering Liam Neeson, so carefree and cocky at the beginning, so and concerned and determined in the middle, and so noble and humble at the end of the film. Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley are perfect in supporting roles. A host of unknowns give everything in their one moment on the screen. John Williams’s haunting score and Janusz Kaminski’s breathtaking black-and-white cinematography sparkle. But the script—oh, Steven Zaillian’s majestic script is the biggest star. He manages to take a Holocaust tale and turn it into a story of triumph, the story of how much one man can do, and the regret we’ll each someday have that we didn’t do much, much more. Oskar’s “I could have gotten more out” speech is almost too much to bear.—Michael Dunaway
Though it seems like biographical films or “biopics” are a recent trend with every semi-famous celebrity getting an on-screen adaptation, biopics have actually been around a long time. Both filmmakers and audiences share a fascination with recreations of the past exploring those who came before us, whether they’re vilified or admired. Mostly, it’s curiosity that drives our desire to watch these movies and answer the question, “Well, why did he/she choose to lead their life this way?”
Regular fiction or fantasy movies allow us to escape our reality. Biopics allow us to face our (sometimes common) pasts. They allow us to celebrate and rediscover each other as human beings.
In honor of today’s release of Jobs, the Steve Jobs biopic, we’ve put together our list of the 20 best biopics of all time.
20. Capote (2004)
In the same manner that In Cold Blood depicted the pristine scenes of Holcomb, Kansas, and the two men who disturbed them with a quadruple murder, Seymour Hoffman offered a precise-yet-chilling depiction of the man who helped found New Journalism. In turn, his performance burst apart Capote’s carefully crafted narrative to show just how haunted the writer himself had become.—Christina Lee
19. Brian’s Song (1971)
Yes, it’s a TV movie and yes, it was part of something called ABC’s Movie of the Week. But that doesn’t mean it ended up overly sentimental and schmaltzy. In fact, this movie’s notorious tear-jerker qualities, particularly among men, actually stems from the fact that the deep friendship between the eponymous Brian Piccolo and Gayle Sayers is so well portrayed. And the friendship between the two football players and teammates for the Chicago Bears, was depicted in Brian’s Song in a way that shied away from setting an overly maudlin and emotional tone, even though one of the guys meets a tragic end. James Caan (Piccolo) and Billy Dee Williams (Sayers), like the football duo in real life, acted like real bros: You knew that they cared about each other, but there was never a shortage of insult humor and other jokes when they were around. Also, as it’s been said all over the internet: If you don’t cry during or after Billy Dee William’s/Gayle Sayers’ acceptance speech scene, you’re dead inside.—Anita George
18. The Elephant Man (1980)
David Lynch melds history and art in the true story of severely disfigured John Merrick, known as “The Elephant Man,” and his physician Frederick Treves. Abandoned by his parents and exhibited as a side-show freak, Treves rescues Merrick from squalor, educates him, and allows him to become the toast of London. Filmed in black and white, the film is a triumph of cinematography as well as prosthetic makeup design. By film’s end, we feel Merrick’s exhaustion and depression as he gently slips away, reminding us that there are many kinds of exploitation.—Joan Radell
17. The Social Network (2010)
It can be difficult to show the human side of technology, to go beyond the Nasdaq and the cold, hard metal and glass of today’s gadgets. But Fincher’s The Social Network accomplishes exactly that. The movie deftly brings forth raw emotion of all kinds: betrayal, anger, loneliness, jealousy. As the The Social Network chronicles the rise of social media, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, it also shows us the initial fall of the founder’s own social life starting with the break-up of his romantic relationship with Erica Albright and ending with the sad end to his friendship with co-founder Eduardo Saverin. It’s interesting that, according to this movie’s depiction of Zuckerberg, that the founder of Facebook, the person who essentially revolutionized human social interaction as we know it, seemed to have his own trouble connecting with others in his personal life. And therein lies the humanity amongst all of the algorithms. And with Sorkin’s trademark quick-witted writing and Jesse Eisenberg’s compelling portrayal of the iconic social media founder it is no wonder this biopic received a total of eight Academy Award nominations and won three of them: Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score.—Anita George
16. The Last Emperor (1987)
The last emperor of China, Puyi, spends his youth and young-adulthood in unparalleled luxury, is imprisoned by the Red Army, and becomes a gardener under Mao’s regime in a dazzling epic by director Bernardo Bertolucci. The photography is breathtaking, the subject is exotic and intriguing, and the history lesson is subtle as this film comes full circle, beginning and ending at the Forbidden City.—Joan Radell
15. American Splendor (2003)
Harvey Pekar’s “American Splendor” books are fascinating in that Pekar believed that even the most mundane and seemingly uncomplicated lives were worth documenting. American Splendor does a great job of showcasing that theory by using real footage of Pekar, fictionalized versions and even the comic version to create a cohesive whole that documents a fascinating, albeit ordinary life.—Ross Bonaime
14. Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
Sissy Spacek ages from 14 to 45 in her career-defining role as Loretta Webb Lynn, the dirt-poor kid from Butcher Holler, Kentucky, who would become the First Lady of Country Music. This unapologetic film is almost a drama, almost a biography and almost a musical. Highlights are vocals by Spacek as Lynn and Beverly d’Angelo as Patsy Cline. Rock legend Levon Helm and folk music icon Phyllis Boyens (in her first and only credited film role) simply become Loretta’s parents Tom and Clary Webb. Coal Miner’s Daughter is all about perfection of performance, and set an incredibly high bar for musical biopics to come.—Joan Radell
13. Frida (2002)
Inventive in its portrayal of the famous painter’s life, Frida even manages to free itself from the normal bounds of realism that most biopics adhere to. This is evident in how the movie even incorporates Kahlo’s vivid artist’s imagination into the depiction of the events of her life. Scene transitions are often still paintings come to life and Frida’s daydreams, however grandiose or fanciful they may be are played out in front of us alongside her real experiences. Through these fantasy-riddled moments and Salma Hayek’s moving performance as Kahlo, you really get a vivid sense of who Kahlo was as a woman. Kahlo’s life was the stuff of legend, but Hayek’s performance shows you the very human and flawed world behind all of that.—Anita George
12. The Aviator (2004)
With Howard Hughes’ larger than life personality and those action-packed scenes of him flying (and crashing) planes, it’s hard not to first think of the famous businessman and aviator as a sort of superhero: a man capable of almost any feat, of withstanding any sort of struggle. But a movie that only captures that side of Hughes’ life would be an incomplete one. A hollow one. What makes The Aviator one of the greatest biopics of all time is that it shows Hughes’ vulnerabilities as well, most notably of which was his battle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Hughes at his lowest, during Hughes’ anxiety-ridden spirals is far more compelling and suspenseful than the Beverly Hills plane crash scene itself.—Anita George
11. Walk the Line (2005)
Before Joaquin Phoenix took a couple of years off from conventional acting roles for Casey Affleck’s I’m Still Here, he gave one of his most memorable performances as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. The film tells the story of The Man in Black’s early career and his relationship with June Carter, portrayed by Reese Witherspoon who received an Academy Award for her performance.—Wyndham Wyeth
This frenetic, computerized gorefest bludgeons and butchers history, recasting the ancient Battle of Thermopylae fought between the mighty Persian Empire and an army of Greeks into a crude and uncomfortably racist romp. Sure, director Zach Snyder can justifiably say his movie is based on the Frank Miller comic book, not Herodotus or Xenophon, but tell that to the generation of American kids who’ll now forever associate Persians with hapless, degenerate sissy men.
The film makes the heroic Spartans — whose digitally enhanced abs ripple in the Hellenic half-light — into champions of freedom and democracy. This when Sparta was in reality one of the least free city-states in all of Greece and notorious for its exploitation and mistreatment of a vast population of slaves, known as Helots. Helot uprisings were a common feature of Spartan history. As for the Persians, 300 makes them out to be swarthy, spineless dissemblers. Their emperor is more campy circus freak than towering monarch; their habits are debauched and debasing. They seem to be able to defeat the noble, muscular Greeks only through deceitful schemes. Of course, this characterization is absurd. Generations of Persian rulers governed over a sprawling, cosmopolitan empire, which included many Greek cities. Some historians argue the Persian campaigns in the Greek peninsula were tantamount to that of a powerful state trying to subdue some rowdy hill-dwelling outliers — an exaggeration too, perhaps, but nowhere near as grotesque as the falsehoods given garish life by 300.
Who knows that captain Jack Sparrow in the the popular film series “Pirates of the Caribbean” was based on a real Muslim pirate! Here are some details about the real captain’s life.
His real name was Jack Ward and he was also known as Jack Birdy. He was born in the United Kingdom. He was on a run after he and his crew converted to Islam in the late 16th century. He fled to Tunisia where he obsessed with little birds during his time there and the locals would call him Jack Asfour, asfour is the opposite of sparrow in Arabic, and that’s the reason why he was called Jack Sparrow.
After he had converted to Islam, his name became Yusuf Reis. He was married to another renegade from Christendom who converted to Islam as well. She was called Jessimina the Sicilian.
Captain Jack Birdy was known as a great drunkard, but he stopped drinking alcohol when he converted to Islam. He played a vital role in rescuing thousands of Spanish Jews and Muslims fleeing their expulsion from their lands in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The real life of Captain Birdy or Yusuf Reis had several Hollywood movies’ worth of adventure. It would be amazing if someone were to bring his real, non-fiction story to the big screen.
I recently watched the movie Anonymous, a historical thriller with an intellectual twist. The premise is that Shakespeare’s plays may not have been written by Shakespeare at all, but by a contemporary, the Earl of Oxford, and that Shakespeare was an illiterate drunk, a liar, and a murderer. The movie makes clever use of Shakespeare’s works and motifs, as well the historical details of Elizabethan London, to craft a smart and suspenseful tale about the man we think we know as William Shakespeare.
Historians have long since debunked the Earl of Oxford theory (he would had to have written A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he was nine), so the film is really just a clever piece of historically inspired fiction. Which is perhaps not surprising, given that the film was directed by Roland Emmerich, known for popcorn films such as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow,White House Down, and Independence Day. From the perspective of Emmerich’s past work, Anonymous is some very high-brow filmmaking.
Nevertheless, critics panned Anonymous. Not because it was poorly made: it might be one of Emmerich’s best films. (It certainly gives me hope for his slow-gestating Foundation trilogy, if that project ever sees the light of day.) The reason people hated the movie is that it seemed truthful, when in fact it was not. Lying about history is something of a crime in our culture, one that irks no group so much as it does the scholars—and there are more scholars of Shakespeare than of any other storyteller in memory. So despite its good intentions, Anyonymous sank on account of tarnishing the Bard’s good name.
The entire episode reminded me of another controversy: the one surrounding the 1995 movie Braveheart. If you haven’t seen this historical epic, you have not lived; please go and watch it right now. Mel Gibson’s Braveheart tells the story of Scotland’s great hero William Wallace, a rebel who raised a homegrown army to challenge the tyrannical British crown, and who sacrificed everything he loved in the name of freedom. The movie was a tour de force at the box office, going on to win five Oscars (including the award for Best Picture), and remains one of the most beloved historical films of all time.
Braveheart is an excellent movie. My six elements of a story world are met in spades: fascinating world (13th century Britain); compelling characters (Wallace, Longshanks, Robert the Bruce); gripping plot (he woos a Princess?!); resonant themes (“Freeeeeedoooooom!”); top-notch execution (the Academy awards); and the whole project had X-factor/originality, perhaps due to writer Randall Wallace’s personal connection to the material. Braveheart still stands as the definitive Hollywood film about Scottish history—you could argue that its influence is hinted at, as kind of an echo, in the very title of Brave, Pixar’s 2012 animated film set in a similar historical version of Scotland.
My own relationship with Braveheart could be called love at first sight. In part, that’s because I never saw the proverbial bride until the wedding; while Paramount was running trailers in theaters across the country, I was busy graduating from high school. There were finals to pass, speeches to write, friends to say goodbye to—so when I walked into the movie theater that fine June evening, I sort of figured Braveheart would be a movie about the world’s first cardiac surgeon.
After forty-five minutes of William Wallace leading the lovely Murron into secret forest clearings, I changed my mind: clearly this was a classical romance. Only once the local magistrate sliced her throat did I figure out that these Scots were going to war—and from there forward the movie had me by the bollocks. Three hours later, I left the theater in tears of grief; two months later, Mel Gibson’s blue-painted face hung over my bed; and eighteen years later, I’m still writing about it. To this day, I don’t watch many previews, because I love walking into a good film that I know nothing about.
But what I didn’t know in 1995 was that a controversy was brewing over this film. You see, for all its sweeping depictions of medieval Britain, it turns out the film was wildly inaccurate. Dates were wrong. Events were fabricated. Characters were presented out of context. And the kilts. Don’t get the experts started about the kilts. As recently as 2009, The Times of London called Braveheart “the second-most inaccurate historical film of all time.” It even beat out 10,000 BC (which, like Anonymous, was directed by Roland Emmerich).
Now, what does this mean for my teenage love affair with Braveheart? Did Hollywood pull the wool over my naïve young eyes? If I’d known about the historical mistakes in advance—if some caring history teacher had pulled me aside and given me a dire warning about my weekend plans—would I have avoided this three-hour cinematic lie?
The answer is no, and here’s why.
Great stories are about worlds, characters, events, and themes. They’re about reversals and betrayals, mistakes and redemptions. Great stories touch our hearts and stir our souls, and they reveal deep truths about human life. What great stories are not about—and never have been about—is facts.
Stories do, of course, contain facts. Star Wars, for instance, owes its existence to certain facts of astrophysics (e.g., planets exist), but is otherwise fiction. Harry Potter draws its humor from certain facts of British life, but there is in truth no Hogwarts. (I think.) Even so-called historical films are actually just a blend of fact and fiction: James Cameron very faithfully recreated the Titanic for his eponymous blockbuster, but the story of Jack and Rose is a fib; and while Schindler’s List is grounded in the facts of the holocaust, much of the story was made up for cinematic purposes. That is not a Hollywood conspiracy; it’s just the nature of storytelling.
Where we get confused is in understanding the nature of history. History is not a thing of facts and dates. (Sorry every history teacher I ever had.) Knowing certain historical facts can be helpful, but what matters is understanding the essence of our past. We talk about learning history so that history doesn’t repeat, but this is not a function of names and places. It’s about understanding trends and currents in the flow of time. I’ve always felt the best history teachers are ones who are great storytellers.
This brings us to another idea, which is the grey line between history and mythology. History is often written by the victors and/or the historians, and no matter how “accurate” they might try to be, they’re only capturing one perspective on a given period or event. History starts to become mythology as soon as the ink is put on the page—names and dates might be accurate, but what really happened, and how it happened, and what it meant, are an interpretation. (Julius Caesar might be a historial figure, but he is also a myth. How else could Dante have put Brutus and Cassius in the mouths of Satan?)
So while scholars are free to rigorously debate the details of Scottish independence—not to mention the questionable authorship of Troilus and Cressida—I think the true significance of the two Williams has to do with their place as mythical figures. These men became legends. The details of their lives are not so important as the virtues for which their names became known. Any story that brings attention to their tales is just another piece of the mythology.
So despite the controversy over Braveheart, I still believe it’s one of the greatest films ever made. The story is deeply moving, powerfully told, and I don’t give two mirrors on a leather shoe if the kilts are from the wrong time period. Similarly, I really liked Anonymous, and it doesn’t bother me that the events didn’t actually happen. Both the facts and the lies about Shakespeare’s life added to my enjoyment of Shakespeare’s legend.
Because in the end, what we remember are stories, tales, legends, and myths—the intangible essence that makes history meaningful. Serious scholars might find that frustrating, but that’s how storytelling has always worked. Historical films often don’t mesh with historical fact. But it’s okay. As long as it’s a good story well told, the experience still matters. In fact, it might even be myth in the making.
There’s an awkwardly racist trope that exists in Hollywood films, and it goes something like this. Usually, to make a film marketable you put a superstar name in the title – so far, so good. Most of these names – Will Smith notwithstanding – are white, which makes for its own problem. Yet when the film requires the main character to explore a foreign culture, a whole other can of worms is opened up. Because apparently, by Hollywood logic, all white people need to comprehensively trump everybody from a culture at their own game is a couple of months and a redemptive arc.
Case in point, The Last Samurai. I actually really liked this film, but in my eyes, it’s just a little discomforting if you read into it. We’re introduced to Tom Cruise’s character – who time is not called Jack and arrogant beyond belief – a traumatised hero of the Indian Wars who’s a massively unstable raging alcoholic. Said character finds solace in the teachings of the samurai, taking up with the wife of the man he dishonourably killed while fighting them. Apparently, this wreck of a man can take up the samurai code and trump most – if not all – practitioners within a matter of months, even if they’ve been practicing their entire lives.
The fact that most of his training revolves around him being beaten with kendo sticks makes this all the more insane, and racist to boot. It’s not that this is a racist film – the undertones of modern Japan vs. traditional Japan are very well explored and Ken Watanabe’s Katsumoto is extremely intriguing. It’s just that the role of Nathan Algeren is so strangely racist, with his very existence implying that a novice white guy able to trump hardened samurai pretty darn quickly. Whoever you cast in the part, they’re going to suffer as a result. That’s a shame, because Cruise actually does well with what he’s been given here.
The desperate flaw of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe, was its aim to transform a much cherished legend into a real historical drama. The story of this heroic English medieval outlaw has lingered for centuries and has been told in countless formats, including TV series, a 1973 Disney film and the cult-favorite Mel Brooks parody, Men in Tights. Scott’s version loads up the tale with history, or what it claims is the real “untold” story of Robin Hood.
It rightly pours cold water on the myth of the benign crusading King Richard the Lionheart — a key ally to Robin in earlier renditions of the tale — and depicts the monarch instead as a bloodthirsty gold digger. He gets killed off early in the film, but the clever revisionism ends there. What follows is a misguided mess that muddles the story with an overexaggerated French conspiracy and a tiresome earnestness about liberty and the rights of a king’s subjects. More than just being historically inaccurate, Robin Hood saps the joy out of the Robin Hood legend, which, after all, is a trickster tale of a rogue in the woods stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. None of this is evident in Scott’s fable, played out with a hulky, dour Crowe plodding on a beach, bellowing at enemies that didn’t really exist.
Possibly the biggest example of rubbishing ethnicities for the purpose of sticking in marquee names, Prince of Persia came out in 2010 to lukewarm reviews, with the major criticism being that Jake Gyllenhaal is in no way Persian. Seemingly, the only preparation he took for the part was beefing up and getting a tan, which probably made it worse. He doesn’t bother with an accent, and being fair, neither does his Gemma Arteton-played love interest.
Now, of course, this hasn’t stopped casting directors before or since. Yet it just seemed as if it was a truly disrespectful phone-in from the film’s star name, especially when compared to the rest of the cast. For example, nationality chameleons Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina are similarly non-Persian but manage to convince quite well in their roles, as befitting their statuses as actors. But when the beam on which the mighty edifice rests can’t convince at all in the role, perhaps a rethink is called for.
Maybe if they had cast a Persian in the lead role, the controversy which dogged this film wouldn’t have been nearly so acute. Of course, you might counter that there aren’t enough well-known Persian-American actors out there and they might be walking a political tightrope bearing in mind America’s animosity with Iran, and these are both very real grievances. Yet all this begs the question – if the producers knew they were going to run into this minefield, shouldn’t they have thought differently about which gaming franchise to adapt?
Francis Marion was the lead character in early drafts of the movie script, but because to avoid some controversy and to allow for more dramatic storytelling, the fictional character of Benjamin Martin was introduced.
Francis Marion was a known Indian fighter from the French and Indian War, however his most famous brush with Indians was leading his 30-man scouting party into a known Indian ambush to clear the way for the main force. Only ten men including himself survived. It was a massacre, but not of Indians.
Francis Marion was known as the “Swamp Fox” and operated in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. His base of operations was Snow’s Island, which was located in the middle of the South Carolina swamps, not unlike how Benjamin Martin operated from the old Spanish mission located in the swamp. But unlike Martin, Marion was childless and did not even marry until after the war.
General Charles Cornwallis sent Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton (inspiration for Colonel Tavington) after Marion. Tarleton was unable to capture Marion, just as Tavington was unable to capture Martin in the movie. Martin was already actively raiding on his own when Maj. General Nathanael Greene arrived in the South in 1781. After Greene’s arrival, Marion began to coordinate his efforts with the Continentaly Army general’s strategy for retaking the South.
There are some who say they have evidence that Marion mistreated his slaves through beatings and rape. PatriotResource.com has found no sources that indicate this, but these comments were made in several articles criticizing the accuracy of the film even as far as back as when the film was in the earliest stages of preproduction. Such comments, though not backed up by any credible sources, helped prompt the producers to drop Marion as the lead character in favor of a composite fictional character.
Critics have called alien epic Avatar a version of Dances With Wolves because it’s about a white guy going native and becoming a great leader. But Avatar is just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy. Spoilers…
Whether Avatar is racist is a matter for debate. Regardless of where you come down on that question, it’s undeniable that the film – like alien apartheid flick District 9, released earlier this year – is emphatically a fantasy about race. Specifically, it’s a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people. Avatar and scifi films like it give us the opportunity to answer the question: What do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity?
Avatar imaginatively revisits the crime scene of white America’s foundational act of genocide, in which entire native tribes and civilizations were wiped out by European immigrants to the American continent. In the film, a group of soldiers and scientists have set up shop on the verdant moon Pandora, whose landscapes look like a cross between Northern California’s redwood cathedrals and Brazil’s tropical rainforest. The moon’s inhabitants, the Na’vi, are blue, catlike versions of native people: They wear feathers in their hair, worship nature gods, paint their faces for war, use bows and arrows, and live in tribes. Watching the movie, there is really no mistake that these are alien versions of stereotypical native peoples that we’ve seen in Hollywood movies for decades.
And Pandora is clearly supposed to be the rich, beautiful land America could still be if white people hadn’t paved it over with concrete and strip malls. In Avatar, our white hero Jake Sully (sully – get it?) explains that Earth is basically a war-torn wasteland with no greenery or natural resources left. The humans started to colonize Pandora in order to mine a mineral called unobtainium that can serve as a mega-energy source. But a few of these humans don’t want to crush the natives with tanks and bombs, so they wire their brains into the bodies of Na’vi avatars and try to win the natives’ trust. Jake is one of the team of avatar pilots, and he discovers to his surprise that he loves his life as a Na’vi warrior far more than he ever did his life as a human marine.
Jake is so enchanted that he gives up on carrying out his mission, which is to persuade the Na’vi to relocate from their “home tree,” where the humans want to mine the unobtanium. Instead, he focuses on becoming a great warrior who rides giant birds and falls in love with the chief’s daughter. When the inevitable happens and the marines arrive to burn down the Na’vi’s home tree, Jake switches sides. With the help of a few human renegades, he maintains a link with his avatar body in order to lead the Na’vi against the human invaders. Not only has he been assimilated into the native people’s culture, but he has become their leader.
This is a classic scenario you’ve seen in non-scifi epics from Dances With Wolves to The Last Samurai, where a white guy manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of people of color and eventually becomes its most awesome member. But it’s also, as I indicated earlier, very similar in some ways to District 9. In that film, our (anti)hero Wikus is trying to relocate a shantytown of aliens to a region far outside Johannesburg. When he’s accidentally squirted with fluid from an alien technology, he begins turning into one of the aliens against his will. Deformed and cast out of human society, Wikus reluctantly helps one of the aliens to launch their stalled ship and seek help from their home planet.
If we think of Avatar and its ilk as white fantasies about race, what kinds of patterns do we see emerging in these fantasies?
In both Avatar and District 9, humans are the cause of alien oppression and distress. Then, a white man who was one of the oppressors switches sides at the last minute, assimilating into the alien culture and becoming its savior. This is also the basic story of Dune, where a member of the white royalty flees his posh palace on the planet Dune to become leader of the worm-riding native Fremen (the worm-riding rite of passage has an analog in Avatar, where Jake proves his manhood by riding a giant bird). An interesting tweak on this story can be seen in 1980s flick Enemy Mine, where a white man (Dennis Quaid) and the alien he’s been battling (Louis Gossett Jr.) are stranded on a hostile planet together for years. Eventually they become best friends, and when the alien dies, the human raises the alien’s child as his own. When humans arrive on the planet and try to enslave the alien child, he lays down his life to rescue it. His loyalties to an alien have become stronger than to his own species.
These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color – their cultures, their habitats, and their populations. The whites realize this when they begin to assimilate into the “alien” cultures and see things from a new perspective. To purge their overwhelming sense of guilt, they switch sides, become “race traitors,” and fight against their old comrades. But then they go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed. This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It’s not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it’s not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It’s a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.
Think of it this way. Avatar is a fantasy about ceasing to be white, giving up the old human meatsack to join the blue people, but never losing white privilege. Jake never really knows what it’s like to be a Na’vi because he always has the option to switch back into human mode. Interestingly, Wikus in District 9 learns a very different lesson. He’s becoming alien and he can’t go back. He has no other choice but to live in the slums and eat catfood. And guess what? He really hates it. He helps his alien buddy to escape Earth solely because he’s hoping the guy will come back in a few years with a “cure” for his alienness. When whites fantasize about becoming other races, it’s only fun if they can blithely ignore the fundamental experience of being an oppressed racial group. Which is that you are oppressed, and nobody will let you be a leader of anything.
This is not a message anybody wants to hear, least of all the white people who are creating and consuming these fantasies. Afro-Canadian scifi writer Nalo Hopkinson recently told the Boston Globe:
In the US, to talk about race is to be seen as racist. You become the problem because you bring up the problem. So you find people who are hesitant to talk about it.
She adds that the main mythic story you find in science fiction, generally written by whites, “is going to a foreign culture and colonizing it.”
Sure, Avatar goes a little bit beyond the basic colonizing story. We are told in no uncertain terms that it’s wrong to colonize the lands of native people. Our hero chooses to join the Na’vi rather than abide the racist culture of his own people. But it is nevertheless a story that revisits the same old tropes of colonization. Whites still get to be leaders of the natives – just in a kinder, gentler way than they would have in an old Flash Gordon flick or in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars novels.
When will whites stop making these movies and start thinking about race in a new way?
Due to première later this month, the film will not show in Qatar, Bahrain or the United Arab Emirates and several other countries are expected to follow suit.
But it appears that America’s devout Christians are also annoyed about the portrayal of the antediluvian patriarch, claiming after test screenings that director Darren Aronofsky had made him ‘too dark’.
The criticisms come as of the world’s most respected Islamic institutions issued a fatwa against the Hollywood epic because it ‘contradicts the teachings of Islam’.
Islam forbids representing holy figures in art, instead using conceptual line patterns and lettering to adorn the walls of mosques.
A whole chapter of the Koran is devoted to Noah, who legend tells built an ark which saved himself, his family and many pairs of animals from a great flood.
He also features prominently in the Biblical book of Genesis and is revered by Christians and Jews.
The fatwa – a ruling or injunction under the laws of Islam – was made by the influential Al-Azhar institution in Egypt’s capital Cairo, a centre of Sunni Islam thought which was founded in around AD970 and includes a university and a mosque.
‘Al-Azhar… renews its objection to any act depicting the messengers and prophets of God and the companions of the Prophet (Mohammad), peace be upon him,’ it announced in a statement.
The fatwa added that the depictions ‘provoke the feelings of believers… and are forbidden in Islam and a clear violation of Islamic law’.
The film also stars Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson and will premiere in the U.S. on March 28.
Depictions of the Prophet Mohammad in European and North American media have repeatedly sparked deadly protests in Islamic countries over the last decade, fanning cultural tensions with the West.
The worst riots were triggered after the Prophet Mohammad was depicted in a Danish newspaper in 2006. It sparked protests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia in which at least 50 people died.
A spokesman for Paramount Pictures said: ‘Censors for Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) officially confirmed this week that the film will not release in their countries.
‘The official statement they offered in confirming this news is because “it contradicts the teachings of Islam”,’ the representative said, adding the studio expected a similar ban in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait.
Perhaps wisely the filming took place nowhere near the Middle East, instead being carried out in New York State and in Southern Iceland.
Harry Potter star Emma Watson plays the adopted daughter of the prophet, while screen legend Anthony Hopkins stars as his sagely grandfather.
Jennifer Connelly will play Naameh, Noah’s wife. She won an Oscar for best supporting actress for her appearance alongside Crowe in A Beautiful Mind (2001).
The title role was reportedly offered to Michael Fassbender and Christian Bale – both of whom declined.
Jerry A. Johnson, president of a conservative National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) group, said last month he wanted to ‘make sure everyone who sees this impactful film knows this is an imaginative interpretation of Scripture, and not literal.’
Paramount responded by agreeing to issue a disclaimer on advertising for the film.
‘While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide,’ it reads.
OTHER CONTROVERSIAL FILMS ABOUT RELIGION
1) Life of Brian – The Monty Python film enraged Christians with its irreverent take on the Jesus story satirised through an account of a fictional contemporary called Brian.
2) Dogma – Mallrats director Kevin Smith received death threats after he turned his sharp humour on the Catholic church with this film, which was met by organised protests in some countries.
3) Innocence of Muslims – This inflammatory YouTube video, which sparked outrage in the Islamic world, was packed with incendiary anti-Muslim content. It was removed from YouTube this month after an actor duped by the film’s producer took Google to court.
The film is not the first to stoke controversy among Muslims.
Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, showing Jesus’s crucifixion, was widely screened in the Arab World despite objections by Muslim clerics.
A 2012, an amateur Youtube video deriding the Prophet Mohammad which was produced in California stoked protests throughout the region, and may have contributed to a deadly militant raid in Libya which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other American staff.
People were surprised to see Tom Hanks play a morally grey character in ‘Road to Perdition,’ so it was downright shocking to see him play a moustache-twirling cartoonish villain in ‘The Ladykillers.’ Although often seen as the nadir of the Coen brothers’ otherwise remarkable career, the film itself isn’t bad, thanks in part to Hanks’ insane, bonkers and hilarious performance. He slips into the Coen’s strange, blackly comic aesthetic effortlessly, always on the verge of being a total ham but offering just enough restraint to avoid being a total caricature. The initial fun of the film is watching good ‘ol Tom Hanks play a criminal who plans to murder an innocent old woman, but you soon lose yourself in the performance, forget that this is Hanks and simply enjoy the craziness.
4. ‘Cloud Atlas’
‘Cloud Atlas’ is one of the most ambitious films ever made, with every single frame of the movie attempting to do something that we’ve never seen before. That ambition extends to the performances, where major movie stars like Tom Hanks are tasked with throwing shame and fear to the wind. In the film’s time-jumping plot, Hanks plays a con-artist doctor, a sleazy hotel clerk, a dweeby scientist, a cockney criminal and a post-apocalyptic tribesman, representing one of the craziest tasks ever set before an actor. Not every performance works, but Hanks gives each of them his all, resulting in a series of performances that showcase his range and bravery like few have ever before. “Risky” looks really good on Mr. Hanks. We hope he’ll take more chances like this very soon.
It’s become a bit of a joke these days that actors will seek out roles where they get to play people who die of tragic illnesses in order to win awards, so it’s remarkable just how powerful Tom Hanks’ role in ‘Philadelphia’ remains today. Since the shock of seeing a beloved movie star playing a gay AIDS victim has passed, modern viewers are left with one of the most raw performances of Hanks’ career. There’s no major hook to ‘Philadelphia,’ no action and surprisingly little theatrics — it’s just Hanks, bringing humanity to a character who the other people in the film view as less than human. The battle for equal rights for gays and lesbians is still ongoing, but Hanks and ‘Philadelphia’ are a reminder of how far we have come.
Since Tom Hanks eventually became an Oscar-winning prestige actor, his earlier comedic work often gets dismissed entirely. But it would be foolish to ignore ‘Big,’ which was Hanks’ launching pad into real stardom for good reason. It’s easy to imagine the premise (young boy finds himself in the body of a grown man) being unrepentantly creepy with almost any other actor, but Hanks seems to know what makes kids tick. He never reduces his performance to childish antics. Instead, he manages to capture the fear and curiosity of childhood, finding the pain that comes with growing up and letting it make sense on a drastically reduced timeframe. It helps that ‘Big’ is also a really funny and sweet movie, but Hanks is the reason is has a soul.
1. ‘Cast Away’
If you want to test the mettle of an actor, give them a monologue and put them on a stage, alone. If you want to test the mettle of Tom Hanks, put him a desert island and only give him a volley ball to talk to for two hours. ‘Cast Away’ is a fairly straightforward tale of survival on a desert island, but it’s anchored by a remarkable performance that proves that Hanks is one of the few actors who can captivate an audience without help from anyone else. Watching Hanks wander around a deserted island trying to fish and make fire is, somehow, one of the most compelling things you’ll ever see. Chalk it up to his inherent likability or chalk it up to the fact that few actors can command the sympathy of an audience with so much subtle power as Hanks. Either way, it’s an astonishing performance.
Black had had a couple of minor roles before this – including a part in Bob Roberts, marking the first in his long-running collaboration with Tim Robbins – but his biggest early role, by far, came as the hissable school bully bad guy in this ultra-cheap and quite, quite awful sequel.
Best moment: When Black gets beaten up by the kid from Free Willy at the end, complete with comedy ‘boing!’ sound effects – you know, the ones that Spielberg almost used in the opening battle of Saving Private Ryan.
Does he sing? Nope – though we’d love to hear his take on Limahl’s theme song from the original.
None more Black? A raised eyebrow here, a wicked sneer there, but otherwise Black – perhaps mindful that this was his first real big gig – plays it disappointingly straight with very few glimpses of his trademark whirling dervish style.
In honor of Adam Sandler starring in the new film Blended this weekend I have put together the Top 10 Best Adam Sandler Movies of all time. From the more down to earth film like Funny People all the way to Billy Madison. What is your Favorite Adam Sandler Movie?
50 First Dates – 44% – This 2004 comedy reunites Sandler with his Wedding Singer costar Drew Barrymore Its funny, romantic and once again shows why Barrymore and Sandler make a great comedic team.
Reign Over Me – 64% – This is just one of a few dramatic roles Sandler has taken, and it’s a damn shame because he does have some serious acting chops. Sandler plays a grief-stricken man who lost his wife and children in the 9/11 attack. Its one of the few times Sandler has received acclaim for his dramatic skills.
Billy Madison – 46% – Watching Billy Madison is like watching a 90 minute great Saturday Night Live sketch. It became Adam Sandler’s big-screen breakthrough and launched Sandler to bigger and sometimes better things.
The Wedding Singer – 67% – Although Extremely Corny, of all the romantic comedy plots featured in Sandler’s films this is the best and most charming. It’s not a comedy masterpiece It’s simple in design and funny in execution it gave Sandler a chance to go for more than just the easy laughs.
Happy Gilmore – 60% – 1996 romantic comedy had Sandler plays a rejected hockey player who becomes a golfer in order to save his grandmother’s house, Happy Gilmore has stood the test of time and is easily one of Sandler best quoted movies.
Spanglish – 53% – This film is a mixture of comedy and drama This film allows Adam Sandler to have creative license. His performance in Spanglish was a huge change from his other movies. In this film, he surprised everyone and made everyone aware of his acting ability.
Hotel Transylvania – 45% – A film that both adults and children can enjoy, Adam Sandler plays Dracula as an aging father dealing with his daughter growing up. He gives Dracula a charm that allows you to sympatiza and root for.
Big Daddy – 40% – From a character standpoint this is probably Sandler’s best comedy. It’s also pretty damn heartwarming with a feel good ending. Rarely do you find yourself rooting for anyone in a Sandler comedy
Funny People – 68% In large part to the director and co-stars Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann this comedy is a lot more structured then other Sandler films
The Waterboy – 35% – Sandler played the endearing waterboy for a college football team who discovers his incredible tackling ability and becomes a member of the team. It is completely ridiculous but it remains as one of Sandler’s most memorable, quotable, and defining comedies
With Bernie, Black joins the pantheon of maddeningly annoying actors who stop being annoying – even if only for one film
I also know people who dislike Mickey Rourke enormously, but have felt morally bound to concede he was fabulous in The Wrestler. (These tend to be people who never saw him in Diner, the film that seemed to presage a brilliant career which never materialised.) The same thing has happened over the years – both to me and to close friends – with Matthew Broderick (generally horrible, but wonderful in Election), Reese Witherspoon (too perky for words, but superb in Legally Blonde and Election) and Jennifer Aniston (usually quite awful, but endearing and funny in Office Space).
This situation is sometimes referred to as the When Harry Met Sally Moment. This occurs when, due to a weird confluence of circumstances – Rob Reiner’s directing, Nora Ephron’s clever screenplay, the aurora borealis being in the seventh house of Atreus – maddeningly annoying actors like Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal stop being annoying. If only for one film.
I experienced this moment recently when I saw Richard Linklater’s Bernie. Linklater has made several excellent films (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset), several interesting and adventurous films (A Scanner Darkly, Fast Food Nation), and has had one huge commercial success, School of Rock. This is the film in which Jack Black plays a musician masquerading as a substitute teacher who introduces a bunch of prep school kids to the concept that with rock’n’roll, all things are possible. A lot of people liked the film, but I wasn’t one of them, primarily because I hate films about prep school kids, but mostly because I don’t like Jack Black. At least not as a leading man. Yes, I enjoyed his cameo as a freelance gun designer in The Jackal and I enjoyed his turn as the acerbic record store employee in High Fidelity, but everything he has been in since leaves me cold. Including Tropic Thunder.
I can’t stand Black’s hipster vibe, his mannerisms, his dependence on exactly 1.8 facial expressions – the pouty frown and the deep smirk – but, mostly, I can’t stand an actor who defines himself as a countercultural free spirit and then goes out and makes generic slop like Year One, The Holiday, Gulliver’s Travels, and The Big Year. In this, he is following a trail blazed by John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and many, many other comics who started out as forces for good before going over to the dark side. Something Sasha Baron Cohen appears to be doing even as we speak.
This is what makes seeing Bernie so problematic. Bernie, loosely based on the real-life story of a beloved Texas mortician who murders an elderly widow he has taken up with, but who then continues to be admired by many local townspeople, stars Jack Black. And for once, he does not merely phone it in. Black rises to the occasion. Black is actually quite good. Not as good as Matthew McConaughey, who steals the show with his performance as an egotistical district attorney with hilarious eyeglasses and absurd hair, but still pretty good. In the best performance he has ever given, Black is extremely persuasive – even lovable – as an undertaker so revered that not even cold-blooded murder can sway his neighbours’ attitude toward him. (Well, at least not all of them; in real life, some locals are pretty upset about the use of an elderly woman’s murder as comic material.)
It is the first time Black does not rely on his tired old routine to get his point across. Instead, his sweet, restrained performance wins the audience’s hearts. I never thought I would say this, but it’s true: Jack Black has made a truly excellent film.
It is famously said that a monkey put in front of a typewriter for a million years will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare. Something like this obtains in the movie industry. If Adam Sandler is handed enough scripts, the law of averages states that he will eventually make a movie in which he does not simply play a moron (The Wedding Singer), and, may, in the fullness of time, even make another Punch-Drunk Love. That’s not to say the actor has permanently turned a corner professionally, and will henceforth make movies aimed at audiences that have actually finished primary school. But, much like John Wayne in Fort Apache and The Quiet Man and True Grit and a few others – much like Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan – Sandler and Black occasionally force people who despise them to admit that, at least on these occasions, they did a good job. Other people, that is. I hated Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan.
Films like Bernie and Funny People force grumpy old men, naysayers and spoilsports to confront the timeless question: will wonders never cease? The answer is yes, wonders will cease. Kristen Stewart – who always seems a bit low on energy, as if she stayed up way past midnight poring over acting manuals – may make a few good films over the course of her career, but only if she gets lots of help from Charlize Theron and Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen and even the guy from Thor. Still, it could happen. If Jack Black can make a film in which he ditches the schtick and actually reaches through the screen to the audience’s hearts, there is still hope for people like Chris Rock and Paris Hilton. Not much. But some.