Posts Tagged ‘ten

16
Dec
08

Oh, the Dickens: Favorite Christmas Movies

“Christmas, Christmas time is here

Time for joy and time for cheer…”

Hills of snow. The jingling of sleigh bells. Fireplaces with stockings hanging from them. Whether or not you get the Norman Rockwell/ Courier and Ives Christmas so lauded in songs and movies, I do wish you the best and present to you

TEN FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIES

charliebrownchristmas1A Charlie Brown Christmas” – The Peanuts Gang sing Christmas carols while Charlie Brown, distraught with all the commercialism, tries to find the true meaning of Christmas. One of the best Charlie Brown TV specials and it endures to this day. Also, I think I grew up having the exact same tree Charlie Brown had for Christmas.

rudolphdvdRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Narrated by Sam the Snowman (Burl Ives), this is the story of how a misfit reindeer and his friends Hermey and Yukon Cornelius brave the snow and the Abominable Snowman in order to make it to the North Pole, where it’s fogged-in until Santa finds a use for Rudolph.

miracle_on_34th_streetMiracle on 34th Street” – No offense to Richard Attenborrough, but I prefer the original 1947 version. When a man takes over being a store Santa he’s a hit but when the store manager (Maureen O’Hara) finds that he BELIEVES he’s Kris Kringle, she has him committed. It’s up to a young lawyer (John Payne) to prove he’s the real thing.

its_a_wonderful_lifeIt’s a Wonderful Life” – George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is a bank manager a heartbeat away from losing the bank his father helped found. Contemplating suicide, Bailey is visited by an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) who shows him what the world would be like if he didn’t exist. “Look Daddy! Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!”

thegrinchHow the Grinch Stole Christmas” – Directed by Chuck Jones (the “Bugs Bunny” guy) and Bob Ogle, this is another TV staple that has stood the test of time. Based on the Dr. Seuss book, a grumpy recluse plans to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville. “You’re a mean one, Mister Grinch. You really are a heel…”

christmas-carolA Christmas Carol” – There are a few film adaptations of the Charles Dickens book as well as numerous TV versions. Choose whatever version you can find but I suggest the 1984 TV version with George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge. For those who don’t know, this is the story of an elderly miser who is visited by ghosts from the past, present, and future who warn him what will happen if he doesn’t change his ways. “God bless us, each and every one.”

muppet_christmas_carolThe Muppet Christmas Carol” – Mickey Mouse, the Flintstones, and Barbie have all done their version of the story, so why not the Muppets? The first Muppet movie following the passing of creator Jim Henson, Kermit the Frog (voiced by Steve Whitmire) plays Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine plays Ebenezer Scrooge. Trivia fact: Caine claims that this was one of his most memorable roles.

scroogedScrooged” – Bill Murray takes on the “Ebenezer Scrooge” role this time playing Frank Cross, a TV exec who doesn’t care about Christmas until he has to produce a TV version AND met by the ghosts of Christmas past (David Johansen) and Christmas Present (Carol Kane). Great movie. Lee Majors is hilarious in the trailer “The Day the Reindeer Died.”

christmas_vacation2National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” – The third of the Griswold vacation movies finds the family planning for Christmas, which leads to disastrous, yet funny, results. Inviting both sets of parents to the home Clark (Chevy Chase) becomes consumed with creating the perfect Christmas. Joining in the mayhem is his cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his family. Favorite scene: Clark “slicking up” the sled with some potent stuff before going bobsledding. Classic.

frostyfinal1Frosty the Snowman” – Jimmy Durante narrates this tale of a snowman who comes to life. Frosty (voiced by Jackie Vernon) is brought to life but must make his way to the North Pole before he melts. Following close behind is a magician who wants his hat back. This was the last movie for Jimmy Durante.


Honorable mentions:

christmas_storyA Christmas Story” – “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” All Ralphie wants for Christmas is an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Great movie, but after the 100th time it gets a little old. If you have NEVER seen, it, rent it immediately. Or, wait for TBS to show it for 24 hours straight.

nightmare_before_christmas“The Nightmare Before Christmas” – Tim Burton animated movie about Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown, who decides to kidnap Santa Claus and bring his version of “Christmas” to everyone, with comical/horrifying results.

prancer“Prancer” – A little girl named Jessica (Rebecca Harrell) finds a reindeer with a broken leg and believes that it’s one missing from Santa’s sleigh. Her father, an impoverished apple farmer, has other plans. For the record, my mom likes this one.

die_hard“Die Hard” – John McClane (Bruce Willis) is in Los Angeles to visit his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). Problem is she’s at an office Christmas party taken over by terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). McClane must battle them, and the police who believe he’s a lone vigilante, in order to save his wife and the others in the complex. It takes place during Christmas so it’s a Christmas movie, right?

Enjoy the Holidays, and see you at the movies.

-Chas

This was first published in Wiregrass Parenting magazine. Check it out at: www.wiregrassparenting.com

05
Aug
08

A Primer for the Indies: Ten Must Watch Independent Films

After a small break, the Film Guys Online / Chasfilm Productions Office of Cinematic Research brings you the

 

TOP TEN MUST WATCH INDEPENDENT FILMS

 

Note: This is a “primer” for watching indie movies. It was difficult coming up with the right ten, but it’s just my opinion, right?

 

10. “Sling Blade” (1996 ) – Billy Bob Thornton was just a supporting actor when he plucked his money down and came up with this tale of a mentally-challenged guy named Carl who is released from the mental hospital. Walking back to his hometown he befriends a kid and his mom, whom he tries protecting them from the mom’s boyfriend (Dwight Yoakum). Thornton was and probably is the first Billy Bob to win an Oscar for Best Screenplay.

 

9. “Reservoir Dogs” (1992 ) – Sure, he’s better known for “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill,” and “Jackie Brown,” but I still enjoy “Reservoir Dogs.” This film, based on the Honk Kong action flick “City on Fire,” is about a jewel heist gone wrong. Starring Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Tierney and even QT himself, this is arguably one of the best independent gangster movies. And once you’ve watched it, you’ll never think of the song “Stuck in the Middle with You,” in the same way again.

 

8. “Trainspotting” (1996 ) – Danny Boyle’s follow-up to “Shallow Grave” gave us this UK story of Scottish folk on the score for heroin and other drugs and how their lives turn upside down. It introduced those of us here, “across the pond,” to Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle. This movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Boyle would go on to direct “28 days later,” Ewan would become “Obi Wan Kenobi,” and Carlyle would be seen in another indie favorite, “The Full Monty.”

 

7. “Swingers” (1996 ) – “You’re money, baby.” Directed by Doug Liman and written by Jon Favreau, “Swingers” is a look at a group of wannabe actors trying to break into the Hollywood scene. The film ushered the above catchphrase into the culture’s vernacular and re-introduced swing dancing to the masses. Liman would go on to direct “Go,” and “The Bourne Identity,” Favreau would later direct, “Iron Man,” and Vince Vaughn would become a leading man in films such as “The Break-Up,” and “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”

 

6. “Boondock Saints” (1999 )– Once I bought this film on DVD, I loved it. “Boondock Saints” is about two brothers (played by Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) who become the “protectors” of their neighborhood as the Russian mob tries to slowly take it over. They are being tracked/ watched by effete FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe). The coolest part of the film is when Dafoe’s character actively “describes” how different events took place.

 

5. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004 ) – Ever have a girlfriend/ boyfriend that you wanted to erase from your memory? Check out this tale from director Michael Gondry about a guy (Jim Carrey) whose girlfriend (Kate Winslet) erases him from her memory. When he goes to do likewise, he finds that he’s made a mistake and tries to stop the erasure from completing. Also stars Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, and Tom Wilkinson. It won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.

 

4. “Brick” (2005 ) – “Lunch is a lot of things. Lunch is complicated.” Take Dashiell Hammett dialog and put it in a modern SoCal High School environment where Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is investigating the mess his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) has gotten into. Once she is found dead, Brendan is inside a maelstrom of drugs, thugs, and assorted low-lives. Hardboiled noir has never been better. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is best known for playing Tommy in “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

 

3. “Snatch” (2000 ) – A search for a caravan (trailer) leads to two unlicensed boxing promoters into a madcap tale involving a diamond as large as your fist, a compulsive gambler named Franky Four-Fingers (Benicio del Toro), a jeweler named Doug the Head, and a Pikey bare-knuckles boxing champ named Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt). Great editing, soundtrack, and comedy make this a must-see. This film propelled stars Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham.

 

2. “Gone Baby Gone” (2007 ) – Ben Affleck’s directorial debut of Dennis Lehane’s novel about a little girl missing from her crack-addict mother and the cover-up of the disappearance was nothing short of impressive. Of all the indie films of 2007, this was my favorite. Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, and John Ashton, this movie is worth it for the cast alone. Of note, Amy Ryan’s Boston accent was so convincing that a security guard kept her from entering the filming lot; a fellow actor had to let her in.

 

1. “Memento” (2000 ) – “Remember Sammy Jankis.” With these words tattooed on his skin, former insurance fraud investigator Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is on the hunt for his wife’s killer, one “John G.” Problem is, his memory only lasts for 15 minutes and he can’t create any new memories. His only kinship comes from “Teddy” (Joe Pantoliano) and “Natalie” (Carrie-Anne Moss), both Leonard has trouble trusting. Director Christopher Nolan’s indie opus cost $300,000 to make, and he raised the money while showing his film “The Following.” After “Memento,” Nolan signed a contract with Warner Bros. and has since directed, “Insomnia,” “Batman Begins,” “The Prestige,” and “The Dark Knight.”