Top Movies of the 1970’s

The 1970’s brought us some of the most influential films in cinema history, saw Francis Ford Coppola at his best, and had clear influences from the Vietnam War.  With powerhouses such as the Godfather parts 1 and 2, how do the finest films of the decade stand up against each other?

10.  Chinatown- The classic film noir that would go on to influence great films such as L.A. Confidential, Chinatown sees Jack Nicholson play a P.I. that gets in way over his head and stubbles entertainingly into a web of lies of deceit.

9.  Taxi Driver- The highlight from De Niro/Scorsese partnership depicting the life of the NY underground from the perspective of an ex-Vietnam war veteran turned cab driver. The depth in the portrayal of the chronically lonely man in a time filled with hardship is nearly unparalleled cinema.

8.  Annie Hall- Woody Allen broke down the barrier between audience and actor by having his character talk directly to the camera in this classic romance film that is often regarded as his finest work with solid acting, a great comedic script, and a best picture Oscar to top it all off.

7.  Jaws- This Spielberg classic remains one of the greats for its ability to be scary while staying away from classic horror clichés and providing us with depth-filled characters. Also, that soundtrack is iconic.

6.  Alien- The supreme suspense and an incredibly iconic moment with the alien popping out of the man’s chest are just two of things that make this movie stand out from the rest of the sci-fi/horror group. A platform for Sigourney Weaver as an actress to showcase her true talent, and the film that put Ridley Scott on the map.

5.  The Deer Hunter- Another Roman Polanski classic that uncompromisingly removes the glorified veil that cinema had placed on war by analyzing the connection between three friends pre, during, and post Vietnam war, with Russian roulette being one film’s primary foundations.

4.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest- A movie filled with great performances, primarily from Nicholson, that uses a bleak and dark environment to throw in dashes of humorous banter in an altogether engrossing character study.

3.  A Clockwork Orange- Stanley Kubrick at his most bizarre best in this film that is not only visually alluring and rich in a frenzied sort of way, but also provides as a interesting testament to the themes of freedom, youth, and anarchy.

2.  The Godfather (parts I and II)- Regarded by many as the best film of all time, the Godfather and its sequel both serve as brilliant testaments to the pursuit of the American dream while vividly recreating the engrossing world of mafia and setting new benchmarks for American cinema as a whole.

1.  Apocalypse Now- Haunting, chaotic, insane, and perfect in every aspect, Apocalypse Now takes cinema to new levels by using an influential time in American history to discuss various themes of insanity and desperation in uniquely visional manner.

Honorable Mentions: The Exorcist, French Connection, Star Wars: A New Hope, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Sting, Dirty Harry, All The President’s Men, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

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Dope Review

“Coming of age” films are always one of the more difficult genres of movie to make due to the inevitable fact that there will be at least one annoying cliché about growing up and being yourself. The worst movies are riddled with these overused clichés and are obnoxiously preachy on top of that as well. It seems that in the most recent years the best “coming of age” films have been independent films that typically move about in the film festival circuit. Joe, Mud, Kings of the Summer, The Spectacular Now, An Education, and Perks of Being a Wallflower are all among the best coming of age films to have been released in recent years and none of them, except for Perks of Being a Wallflower, were close to being a commercial success. It seems that the independent films are better at taking this tired and wary concept and putting a more original/unique twist to it. So the question remains: how does Dope stack up?

Just by watching the film, you can feel the sense of originality that the film possesses as it strolls about displaying this sort of modern, yet slightly retro, style that we don’t often see in movies these days. The movie’s style is a fun and exuberant feeling that isn’t typically associated with the setting that we find our main characters in. Giving the setting, you’d expect to see a similar style to that of “Straight Outta Compton,” the new N.W.A. movie coming out in August. Instead, we get a refreshingly new take on an environment that we think we understand solely through the messages portrayed in the media. The plot in and of itself is also relatively unique because I can’t think of the last time I saw a movie about a geeky black guy from a dangerous neighborhood who ends up having to become a drug dealer. We can all relate to Malcolm’s situation in some sort of way by reminiscing to a time when we were thrust into a strange, new environment and didn’t exactly know how to compose ourselves in the right manner. Malcolm serves as a brilliant metaphor for the innocence of youth and his actions brilliantly portray a unique passage of change into adulthood.

The movie does have some small faults, I will admit. First and foremost, there are a lot of separate plotlines that are stuffed into its modest runtime, so much so that it may seem like it doesn’t exactly know which is the right path to follow, leading it into a confusing circle where it ends up getting almost overwhelmed by itself. By the end, though, it does a good job of tying up all the important aspects of the story and stays true to its meaning and purpose. It’s incredibly ambitious in everything that happens, but then again so is the film’s main character, so it never feels like it’s out of place at all. Once the movie reaches its end, however, you realize that most of the seemingly excessive storylines were all necessary in order to help Malcolm go where he needed to be in order to realize who he truly was and wanted to become. There are a couple of other things I didn’t like about the plot, but they’re so minor that they are easily overshadowed by what the film does right.

Overall the film is always entertaining and overly charismatic in a way that makes it stand out from the rest of the crowd. Yes, there are a couple of cliché themes in it and a very obvious reference to Trayvon Martin, causing it to be slightly preachy for a split second, albeit timely in certain manner as well. The clichés aren’t so obnoxious that they drew attention away from what makes the movie great. Full of vibrant and tender emotion, Dope seems to get by just fine under the smart, and somewhat brash, direction of Famuyiwa. The ensemble cast was brilliant to watch and the film does a fantastic job of giving a raw and fresh depiction of the original viewpoint that is Malcolm’s life. It may not rank up with Perks of Being a Wallflower or Mud, but it still deserves to be included in the aforementioned list of the better “coming of age” films as of late.

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Dope (2015): 3/4 stars.

Top 10 Movies of the 1960’s

While I love writing reviews of films, I also enjoy making lists.  It gives me something to do in my free time in between watching new films.  I have decided that for my first set of lists, I am going to pick my top 10 favorite films for each decade starting from the 1960s and moving up until this current decade.  While some of my favorite films are from the 1940s and 1950s, I feel that I haven’t seen enough films from these decades to make a justifiable list just yet.  For my lists I will be taking into account plot, acting, directing, script, cinematography, influence, critical acclaim, and my own person feelings about the films.  So, without further adieu, here are my ten favorite films from the 1960s.

10.  The Sound of Music- A film that I think is one of the most overrated films in all of cinema history (alongside Gone With the Wind); however, it is impossible to deny this film’s ever-lasting longevity, brilliant art direction, and classic narrative.

9.  The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly- The best film in the Man with No Name Trilogy sees classic Clint Eastwood playing one of his most iconic roles that still to this day sets the standard for all spaghetti westerns (sorry Django).

8.  La Dolce Vita- My favorite film to come out of Italy (alongside the Bicycle Thieves), this high-flying, ironic look at life in Rome during the 1950s and 60s serves as a constant reminder and source of contemplation on what the real meaning of living “the good life” is.

7.  Lawrence of Arabia- A film, while four hours long, manages to keep the audience engaged at all times with brilliant acting, cinematography, and strong direction in this granddaddy of all modern epics.

6.  Bonnie and Clyde- A film whose influence is still seen today, Bonnie & Clyde is one of the golden gems from the beginning of the era of New Age cinema, and a movie that actually has an appreciation for the act of killing that most modern action films seem to lack.

5.  Goldfinger- Sean Connery’s best film as the iconic 007 agent James Bond, Goldfinger set the standard for the modern day blockbuster by combining smart storytelling with brilliant action sequences and memorable characters.  It serves as the ultimate influence to rest of the James Bond saga and many other spy films.

4.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid- A brilliant film spearheaded by the uncompromising chemistry of Redford and Newman, this buddy outlaw film epitomized the “bromance” and serves as the most entertaining movie to watch of this decade.

3.  To Kill A Mockingbird- Based off the classic novel of the same name, To Kill A Mockingbird does justice by the source material and tackles difficult themes, including racism, in this brilliant movie adaptation, led by a superb lead role by Gregory Peck.

2.  2001: A Space Odyssey- While confusing in terms of its message and potentially dull for the first half an hour for some people, Kubrick’s space epic discusses dynamic themes of evolution all the while combining brilliant tension and special effects into a film that actually achieves everything Interstellar hoped to.

1.  Psycho- This Hitchcockian classic set the bar for what horror movies could be in the 1960’s, and gave us one of the most iconic scenes of all time that still have some nervous about taking a shower. A classic twist for a classic film that still has a chill factor by today’s horror standards.  It’s the gold standard in a long list of great films for one of the most influential and iconic directors of all time.

Honorable Mentions include: The Graduate, My Fair Lady, Dr. Strangelove, Midnight Cowboy, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 8 ½, Dr. No, Cool Hand Luke, Night of the Living Dead, and The Birds

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In the next few days I will post my list for best movies of the 1970s.

Inside Out Review

Over the past few years, Pixar has seen a slight drop in the production quality of their films. “Brave” and “Monster’s University” were fine entries but they cannot compete with Pixar’s classics that they were churning out on an almost yearly basis during the late 90s and 2000s. Cars 2 was by far their worst film ever and the only one to garner majority negative reviews.   They were lacking the spark that we could see in Up, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story. There was a lot of pressure on Inside Out to the be the film that got Pixar back on track, and thankfully for the world’s most acclaimed animation production company, it did just that.

Inside Out is one of the most creative and inventive ideas I have seen in a movie and probably the most unique storyline that Pixar has created since the original Toy Story. Personifying the emotions in our heads as actual characters not only provides ingenuity but it also opens up the road for comedy success as well. What’s best about this plotline is that it could have been really complicated for younger children to understand, but Pixar handled it in such a way that it is comprehensible to any viewer not matter the age. I can see this movie being appreciated the most by children just going into the puberty stage of their lives because their emotions seem out of control, which exactly what happens in the film. The film is so inventive in the way it portrays the activities going on in the brain; when Joy and Sadness are removed from the “Headquarters” they find themselves lost in the deep depths of the brain where they encounter various lands and subjects such as Dream Productions Studios, the Imaginary friend, and the literal Train of Thought. It’s all just so intelligent. It contains all the typical Pixar graces of humor that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike; I was cracking up during many parts of the film. However, what Pixar are the masters of is being able to pull at our heartstrings without fully breaking them (the opening sequence in Up being a prime example). There are many times in this film when you are filled with sadness, but never too much that it makes the movie appear tragic. Pixar are the undisputed masters of this and they use it to full effect in Inside Out. The lessons taught in the end are also important because life is never just one emotion, each moment is filled with a combination of emotions/feelings and that’s how we get the best out of each memory.

As the same with every Pixar film, it is also beautifully animated with incredible production design and perfectly cast voice actors. It’s one of the most relatable Pixar films we have seen in a while and the entire movie just feels like a breath of fresh air. Inside Out appears to be the light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully with “Finding Dory” being the next Pixar film scheduled to be released, we will see a continuation in this trend of quality. It’s not one of the best Pixar films I’ve seen and does lack a certain feeling of magic that the very best contain. It doesn’t quite crack my big 6 for Pixar (Toy 1, 2, 3, Up, Wall-e and Finding Nemo), but it comes very close and is arguable the most important film to the company since their first entry with “Toy Story”. An overall solid entry for the animated universe of Pixar that has restored my faith, and hopefully the public’s, in their ability to continually set the benchmark for what can be achieved with animated storytelling.

Inside Out (2015): 4/4 stars

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Pitch Perfect 2 Review

When the first Pitch Perfect film came out in theaters, I had heard about it and knew primarily what it was about, but I wasn’t overly interested in it. I didn’t bother seeing it until after it had come out on DVD and, much to my surprise, rather enjoyed it. It was unique in a sense that take it took a topic I had no interest in and made me, along with a decent amount of the general public, think it was actually rather cool. I get the sense that half of the a cappella groups at various universities don’t particularly like Pitch Perfect because people will always bring it up to them, but still they have to thank the movie in part for the spike in interest in their musical activity. The original was unique, quirky, and had strong musical performances with a larger amount of comedic moments than I would have anticipated.

Because Pitch Perfect was such a big success, it was only time until a second one was made (and rumors are a 3rd is to be put into production not long from now). The tough challenge that faces every sequel is it has to be similar in a way to the original so that you can draw in the audience that made the original so successful, but not too similar to the point where it’s essentially seeing the first movie again. That was the problem Taken 2 had; it was like watching the first one but without the famous Liam Neeson monologue. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was good because it was everything I loved about the original but added more depth the characters and presented new plotline aspects with the introduction of Hiccup’s mother. Pitch Perfect 2, on the other hand, falls under the same column as Taken 2. I was watching the movie and thinking to myself: so….is anything about this movie going to be different from the first one. The plot line is essentially the exact same formula that the first movie had. We don’t learn anything new about the characters that we didn’t already know from watching the first installment and much of it feels too forced, especially the comedy. It was significantly less funny than the first movie, and at times, I thought it was even quite racists and sexist in its attempts to be amusing. There were moments when the male a cappella commentator would drop a line that was just inappropriate and lacking in comedy altogether.

The way I see it, if you aren’t a pre-teen girl, there’s only three reasons to see this movie. The first, being the best part of the movie, is the rather sketchily organized “sing off” in the rich man’s house where the Green Bay Packers make an appearance. Clay Matthews was fantastic in that scene. The second reason is that the singing performances, the real cornerstone of the film, are still well done and very entertaining to watch. The last reason would be to have another hour and forty minutes of screen time with Anna Kendrick. I would a three-hour version of Pitch Perfect as long as it had her in it. So, all in all, there are a couple of moments that make it somewhat worthwhile, but in the end, it’s just everything you’d expect a Pitch Perfect sequel to be.

Pitch Perfect 2: 1.5/4 stars

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Mad Max: Fury Road

When every summer blockbuster season begins, I find myself immersed in a wave of trailers that feature spectacular effects and big name stars, but many a time, the movies spend too much of their money on the effects and not enough time on the story. The night before seeing Mad Max, I went to see the new installment of the Fast and Furious franchise (review pending), which while dominating in great effects and stunts lacked much in terms of narrative. After seeing the fully charged trailer for Mad Max, I expected it to be exactly the same, but was pleasantly surprised by the final product. While it’s narrative strengths are no where near the standard of say Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it still has enough depth to make the movie worth-while when the characters aren’t engulfed in a wave of horse-power driven madness. I have never seen any of the original films, limiting my ability to compare those to this new entry; however, I was still able to follow the storyline with ease, as it wasn’t overly complicated. There was a enough of a story to give purpose to the awe-inspiring actions sequences yet still be simple enough where we don’t have to spend too much time trying to figure out what is going on. The narrative is strong in a simplistic way, and gives us many reasons to like the characters and empathize with their given situation. George Miller creates this fantastic post-apocalyptic world in which the remaining human population has been reduced to basic animalistic instincts, primarily survival. The fantastic world and solid enough storyline are what give a backbone to the fantastic car chases that are the primary focus of the film.

This horsepower driven madness, however, is what really makes the film soar. The action sequences are so well crafted and so beautifully shot that there are times when you are tricked into thinking: wait a minute…this might actually count as a chaotic work of art. The action scenes are so well formulated that they seem to serve a purpose other than pleasing the young fifteen year olds that managed to sneak their way into a showing. The characters themselves had interesting personalities enough to where they are more than just pawns on the screen driving the action stunts. It is fun to watch the characters interact, especially the emotionally charged Max (Tom Hardy) and the seemingly cool and collected Furiosa (Charlize Theoren). The cast was brilliantly selected and the score matches the movie perfectly, enhancing the action sequences, as all musical scores should. Having a slave strapped to a car blasting away at an electrical guitar with the sole purpose of providing an extra-layer of sound is pure brilliance. Mad Max is the best action film I have seen this year and possible one of the best since the turn of the century. It’s a barnstorming, gasoline driven, and artistic spectacle with heart and emotion that creates a truly satisfying movie experience. The only thing I think is missing would be an extra ten or fifteen minutes of background setting or narrative building since the film does only run for 120 minutes, a relatively short time for summer action films. While not required in this instance, it would give the film an additional layer that we can sink our teeth into.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 3.5/4 stars

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Jurassic World Review

When the original Jurassic Park film came out in 1993, it made large waves with the general public because it was the greatest advancement in CGI technology the world of cinema had seen since its conception. I remember seeing it when I was younger and thinking it was the coolest concept in the world: a live dinosaur theme park is every seven year olds dream come true. Unfortunately, my first viewing didn’t last long as I promptly turned the movie off when I was frightened by the famous T-rex scene, in which the dinosaur is looking through the windows of the car with the children inside. Even though it prevented me from finishing the film for years to come, those tense scenes are part of what makes the original so great; the balance between great story telling, effects, and suspenseful scenes is spot on in the first film. It is no surprise it has gone down as of the greatest films in movie history.

Sadly, the next two entries that followed were less than satisfactory, and were the main cause for my uncertainty going into Jurassic World. Despite my slightly negative predispositions, Jurassic World is the best sequel of the three. There are thrilling actions sequences, especially with the various battles between the dinosaurs. One of the dinosaur battle scenes even begs comparisons with the near perfect confrontation between King Kong and the Vastosaurus Rex in the Peter Jackson remake of the 1933 classic. The movie is entertaining throughout even if it is overwhelming in terms of the action sequences and peril. It doesn’t quite have the right balance as the original but still manages to be a worthwhile thriller.

Besides those strong positives, however, there are a few things wrong with the film. First and foremost, the script is absolutely terrible (probably because they spent all of the budget money on special effects rather than paying quality writers to produce a good story and strong dialogue). The first half an hour is very difficult to get through because all of it is just an irrelevant attempt to create any sort of emotional tie to the children visiting the park. For me, though, I couldn’t care less about the children because they weren’t likeable and we know nothing about them. Their storyline was there to allow us to believe that this movie did have a soul and wasn’t simply all action, but ultimately it failed. Still the worst part about this movie, which is a common problem with many summer blockbusters since the turn of the decade, is that the entire movie just reeks of box office ticket stubs. Everything about the film was made so that the movie studio could bring in half a billion dollars in profit. My biggest piece of evidence for this would be the casting of Chris Pratt. People will be angry at me for saying this but Chris Pratt is not a good actor; he is solid, but not in the upper levels of the acting world. He is a crowd pleaser, and people will go out to see the movie simply because he is in it. There is nothing wrong with him being in the film, but it is just another example of why the movie was simply made just to make money rather than have a legitimate substance to it. The original movie has a feeling of originality and soul that made it all the more worthwhile whereas Jurassic World ultimately lacks a soul and a sense of purpose that was present in the original. Again, very entertaining for much of the film, but too many problems for it to be one I would pay to watch again.
Jurassic World (2015): 2.5/4 stars

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Short Term 12

I’m going to start this review off by saying that I am truly disappointed in myself. Short Term 12 was released nearly two years ago, and it has taken me until June of 2015 to finally getting around to watching it. Naturally I had heard of it, but looking at the trailer I didn’t think it would be something that was for me; I could always think of a different movie that I wanted to watch more than it on any given day. Well they always say you learn something new every day, and today I learned that I am a massive idiot for not watching this movie sooner. My praises for this film could go on forever, but I’ll try to confine it to a few hundred words just for sanity’s sake.

Welcome to Short Term 12, where there’s happiness, sadness, and a curveball around every corner. Short term 12 is the story of Grace and Mason, a couple who are dating and both work together at a short term home establishment for under-privileged children who either have no parents, or whose parents are currently involved in extraordinary circumstances. From the get go, with the story that Mason tells about how he pooped his pants on the first day to watching a scrawny ginger child trying to escape the facility, I could tell I was in for an interesting ride filled with unique characters. The children and workers at Short Term 12 are some of the most original I’ve seen in a while and they nail every character’s personality to a T, each one having the ability to make you smile or make you cry at any given moment. The emotions in this film, however, are what truly make it a stand out experience from the rest. This is a movie that has the most realistic depiction of the complexities of human emotion, especially from a youth standpoint, that I have seen in the longest time (not counting Boyhood, obviously). It is so calm and relaxed in terms of it’s atmosphere for so much of the movie that you are very unprepared for the harsh moments of sadness that seem to come out of nowhere. One of the most powerful parts of the film emotionally, is when one of the male workers, Mason, is sitting with Marcus, a 17 year old African American youth, while Marcus raps to him some of the lyrics he has written that help him overcome his daily struggles and express his emotions. Half of the mainstream rappers in today’s music industry should take note of this lyrics because they’re better than any lyrics most of the professional artists have produced.

This movie is so raw in scope and emotion that it manages to uplift you one minute and break your heart the very next scene. It can drop one liners that will bring a smile to your face right before revealing a side comment that brings you back down to this harsh reality that most of the kids have to deal with each and every day. This movie not only stands as a testament to the struggles of the underprivileged youth in today’s American society, but also serves as the personification of a very real truth in the world: the truth that everyone has their own issues and struggles no matter how they display themselves on the outside. Life is never easy for anyone and the struggles of sharing inner turmoil is one of the most daunting obstacles facing young teens of today. It tackles the subject without being preachy in any way, but rather uses the camera to serve as a medium displaying the various roadblocks and triumphs of each of the movie’s main characters. It also reminds of us another truth: that grow up, no matter what your background, is always hard. I remember going through issues in high school where one day you’re on top of the world and the next day you feel like life can’t get any worse. This movie personifies that feeling in a way that feels so natural it just has to be real life. I watch this movie and think there’s no way what I’m seeing before my eyes isn’t real.

This movie is by no means an easy film to watch; it is tough viewing for probably ¾ of it’s run time. Thankfully though, the best thing about it is that it doesn’t quite rise to the level of “Blue Valentine” or “Black Swan” in levels of how difficult it is to watch, which means it can be viewed over and over again for years to come. And you can damn well bet that’s what I’ll be doing. This movie is one that I will be watching for years, even decades, to come.

Short Term 12 (2013): 4/4 stars

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About My Blog

Because it’s now the summer and I have ample amounts of free time on my hands, I’ve started that I am going to start writing my thoughts and opinions on the various movies I watch as well as how I feel about certain movies that have yet to come out.  I figured writing on a blog like this would be better than constantly pestering my friends, who quite frankly don’t care about movies as much as I do, each time I see a new film and want to talk about it.  If anyone actually bothers to read my reviews then feel free to post any comments that you want!  I love to have discussions about my views on movies and always want to hear what other people have to say as well.  Also if there’s any particular movie you want me to write about, then just let me know and I’ll get on that right away.  Hope everyone enjoys reading these, and if not it doesn’t matter because I’m going to enjoy writing nonetheless.