Posts Tagged ‘top

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.”

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16
Jul
08

Top Five Hackman Movies

Seguing from “hacking” movies here at the Film Guys Online / Chasfilm Productions Office of Cinematic Research we bring to you:

 

TOP FIVE HACKMAN MOVIES

 

Yes, we are celebrating the acting career and catalog of esteemed thespian Gene Hackman. Due to the vast amount of movies he’s been in, and the roles, it was difficult to bring it down to just five (much less ten or twenty). For you’re reading pleasure, here we go:

 

5. Superman (1978) – While Jack Nicholson and Gene Wilder were considered Hackman was the one to fill the role of Supe’s nemesis, the criminal mastermind Lex Luthor. Luthor’s plan: buy up worthless desert land and launch nuclear missiles at the San Andreas fault line, making Luthor’s land the New West Coast. On his side are girlfriend Eve Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine), bumbling sidekick Otis (Ned Beatty), and not just a pocket but a box full of Kryptonite. Trivia: Hackman refused to wear a “bald” skull cap, just increasing laughable wigs. He relented in the end and wore one for Luthor’s final scene.

 

 

 

4. Unforgiven (1992) – Hackman plays Little Bill Daggett, former gunfighter and current sheriff of the town of Big Whiskey. After a prostitute has her face cut-up and he fines the cowboy who did it seven horses (payable to the saloon owner/pimp), the other prostitutes in town gather together and look for someone who can come in and deliver justice. This comes in the form of William Munny (Clint Eastwood), former thief and murderer now reformed. Munny, his friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) and wannabe desperado The Schofield Kid (James Woolvett) head off to Big Whiskey for the reward and to find out what happened. Hackman delivers one of the film’s best lines: “I don’t deserve this… to die like this,” in which Munny replies, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” Trivia: The script for “Unforgiven” had been floating around Hollywood for two decades. Hackman had already read it and passed on it. Eastwood coaxed him into being in it.

 

3. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) – Hackman makes an appearance in this Wes Anderson movie about estranged patriarch Royal Tenenbaum who is trying to spend time with his family (former child prodigies) because he has a terminal illness. This movie was fun to watch because it appeared that Hackman himself was having fun. With a cast of Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwenyth Paltrow, Luke and Owen Wilson, how could it not be? This is one of the best Wes Anderson movies (next to “Life Aquatic”). Trivia: Wes Anderson wrote the part of Royal Tenenbaum with Hackman in mind.

 

2. The French Connection (1971) – In my Top Ten Favorite Movies of All Time, Hackman plays Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle. Along with partner Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) they make the biggest drug bust in NYC history -$32 million in heroin (a HUGE deal in the 1960’s). I can’t praise this movie enough. Whether it’s Hackman’s delivery of “Did you stop to pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?” or his “car vs. train chase,” you can’t miss this movie. Trivia: The real ‘Popeye’ Doyle was on the set and would often antagonize Hackman.

 

1. Crimson Tide (1995) – Hackman plays Captain Frank Ramsey of the USS Alabama (“Go Bama!”) who takes on new XO, Lt. Com. Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington). When the nuclear sub is called into deep waters it does a dance with a Russian Akula-class sub. Conflicted messages are obtained as to whether or not the sub should fire its nuclear missiles. Based on the film, “Run Silent Run Deep,” “Crimson Tide” is, in my opinion, a much better version of the story. I honestly thought there would’ve been a moment in the film where Hackman and Washington got into a fight. Trivia: Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, and Tommy Lee Jones all turned down the part Hackman played.

15
Jul
08

Top Five Hacking Movies

Another fun day here at the Film Guys Online / Chasfilm Productions Office of Cinematic Research. Since last week we tackled evil computers, this week we profile the other side of computer “evil”: hackers.

 

TOP FIVE COMPUTER HACKER MOVIES

 

Please note that this is just a list. Feel free to throw in comments on your faves, or the ones I may have overlooked.

 

5. Hackers (1995) – Why not begin with a movie simply called “Hackers?” Johnny Lee Miller is Dade Murphy, a kid caught hacking, sentenced to not being able to touch a computer until his 18th birthday. With newfound friends Kate Libby (Angelina Jolie) and Emmanuel Goldstein (Matthew Lillard) they come upon a plot to unleash a computer virus orchestrated by Eugene Belford (Fisher Stevens). They must evade the Secret Service and stop Belford from releasing the deadly virus. Overall, not too bad of a movie.

 

4. Sneakers (1992) – Robert Redford is Martin Bishop, a man with a hidden past who is now working as a “security specialist.” With help from his team of Dan Akyroyd, Sidney Poitier, River Phoenix, and David Straithairn, they recover a black box that has the possibility of decrypting every known code to man. On their trail are NSA agents led by James Earl Jones. With a top-notch cast, this “heist meets hacking” movie is worth checking out. (Watch for the scene where the guy sits on an actual Cray supercomputer.)

 

3. Enemy of the State (1998) – Will Smith is Robert Dean, a lawyer who accidentally receives evidence of a political assassination. On the run, he’s unmercifully being tracked by Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight) and his team of NSA agents that include Jack Black and Jamie Kennedy. His survival comes from teaming up with Bill (Gene Hackman), a guy who lives “off-the-radar” by being paranoid enough to cover his tracks. Mixing action, adventure, spying, espionage, paranoia, conspiracies, and computer hacking, Tony Scott delivers in this thriller. (Note: The film was “inspired” by the Hackman movie, “The Conversation.”)

 

2. Tron (1982) – A hacker (Jeff Bridges) is sucked into a video game world where the computer’s Master Control Program rules. He must fight to survive the sadistic games created by the MCP so he can get back to “reality” and stop the MCP from taking over the real world. Along the way he aids Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), a security program whose goal it is to stop the games and vanquish the MCP. Although a little dated for now, “Tron” was ahead of its time for computer graphics in 1982. And c’mon, the Light Cycles were cool.

 

1. WarGames (1983) – I can’t even begin to calculate how many times I’ve watched this movie. If you haven’t seen it, “WarGames,” is about David Lightman (Matthew Broderick), a kid who hacks into computers for fun (and to change the occasional bad grade). When he finds a “back door” into a military computer, he activates a program called Joshua which begins simulating World War III. Taking Jennifer Mack (Ally Sheedy) along for the ride he hunts down Joshua’s creator, reclusive scientist Stephen Falken (John Wood) in order to stop nuclear war with the Russians. Fun movie. Watch for Michael Madsen in the opening scene. Directed by John Badham, who also directed “Saturday Night Fever.”

11
Jul
08

Welcome to the Machine

“Welcome my son… welcome, to the Machine…” – Pink Floyd

 

This week at the Film Guys Online / Chasfilm Productions Office of Cinematic Research, we bow down to our Electronic Overlord, the Computer. Whether it’s PC or Mac, these business machines mean business. Let’s take a look at the

 

TOP 5 COMPUTERS TO FEAR

 

5. HAL 9000 (“2001: A Space Odyssey,” “2010”) – Short for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer, HAL could take you to the deepest depths of outer space and then have you sucked out the airlock. It’s all part of its master plan…

 

4. Colossus (“Colossus: The Forbin Project”) – I blame Forbin. Here a guy creates a supercomputer and it links to a Russian supercomputer called Guardian. And the supercomputers take over the world. Good job there, Forbie.

 

 

 

3. Master Control Program (“Tron”) – What can a computer bent on world-domination in the real world and sadistic slaughter of programs within the video game realm do if you piss it off? Suck you into the world it controls. Good luck, and don’t crash your Light Cycle into the wall. End of line.

 

2. Skynet (“Terminator,” “Terminator 2,” “Terminator 3”) – For those who don’t know the mythos, August 29, 1997 a computer called Skynet “woke up” and nuked civilization. What people were left went underground and the machines began taking over, finally creating a Terminator to destroy mankind and take out the leader, John Connor.

 

1. The Matrix (“The Matrix,” “Matrix Reloaded,” “Matrix Revolutions”) The most evil computer of all has already enslaved mankind, turning humans into “batteries” to continually power it. Neo, the One, is wakened from the world he was plugged into and must find a way for humanity to strike back.

26
Jun
08

Will you be my Prez? Top 5 Actors

Here at the Film Guys Online/ Chas film Productions Research Department, we have combed through the vast information available to us to present to you:

 

THE TOP 5 ACTORS TO PLAY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

 

Note: the following 5 actors are based on the amount of times that they have played the “character” of the President of the United States, not necessarily on acting ability, likeability, or popularity.

 

#5 Ronny Cox – I remember when he played Andrew Bogomil in “Beverly Hills Cop 1 & 2,” as well as the a-hole head of CP in “RoboCop.” Oh yeah, and he was in “Total Recall.” Mr. Cox starts off the list by playing the Prez twice: he was President Tom Kimball in “Captain America” (1990) and President Jack Neil in “Murder at 1600” (1997).

 

 

#4 Gene Hackman – Gene is in my Top 20 Actors of All Time. Although I have not officially made that list, he’s a serious contender. Known for roles such as “Popeye” Doyle in “The French Connection,” and Capt. Ramsey in “Crimson Tide,” Hackman was the kinda guy that was unpredictable, which made watching him great. He’s another two President-er: he played ex-President Monroe Cole in “Welcome to Mooseport” (2004) and President Allen Richmond in “Absolute Power” (1997).

 

#3 Hal Holbrook – “Magnum Force,” “Capricorn One,” “The Fog,” “Creepshow,” and “The Firm,” are but a few of the titles under Holbrook’s belt. Currently, he played Walter Perkins in the indie film, “Into the Wild,” based on the book by Jon Krakaeur. Mr. Holbrook played President Adam Scott in “The Kidnapping of the President” (1980) and President Maxwell Monroe in “Under Siege” (TV movie, but I needed to round-out the list) (1986)

 

#2 Leslie Nielsen – Growing up with the humor of Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker it’s hard to imagine Leslie Nielsen as a serious actor. His most notable appearance was in “Forbidden Planet.” It was because of his foray into slapstick comedy that he played President Baxter Harris in “Scary Movie 3” (2003) and “Scary Movie 4” (2006). My favorite quote of his is still: “Nice beaver.” Gotta love the “Naked Gun” movies.

 

 

#1 Roy Scheider – Has there ever been a greater actor than Roy Scheider? Maybe, but I shall and will debate you until my last dying breath. Or until the pizza gets here. Either way, Scheider is, was, and has been my favorite actor of all time. It takes a lot to convince throngs of audiences that a mechanical killer shark is REAL, and he was just the person to pull it off. Roy is the King of Actors Playing the Prez, holding Three Occurrences: he was President Carlson in “Executive Target” (1997), President Robert Baker in “The Peacekeeper” (1997), and President Jack Cahill in “Chain of Command” (2000).

 

Did anyone notice that Scheider his “French Connection” co-star Hackman played El Presidente in the same year? 1997. And Scheider played the character twice. There ya go.

12
Jun
08

Top Five Movie Twists

WARNING: If you have not seen of the following movies, you might not wanna read any further. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

With the release of M. Night’s “The Happening,” most people are counting on his “one-trick pony” movie twist that is usually found at the end of the movie. In “Sixth Sense,” Bruce Willis was dead. “Untraceable” showed that Bruce Willis really was a superhero, and Samuel L. Jackson was his nemesis. And “Signs?” Well, apparently interstellar space travelers don’t hold up so well against Louisville Sluggers.

 

In honor more for the “movie twist” than Shamma-lamma-ding-dong (had to get that one in), here are five of my favorite movie twists:

 

“North by Northwest” (1959) – Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill, a New York ad exec who has a case of mistaken identity. It seems James Mason and Company think that he’s a spy named George Kaplan, which necessitates the need to kidnap, drug, and try to kill him. Throw in the mix a murder that Kaplan was credited with, the femme fatale Eva Marie Saint, and the fact that Grant goes from one side of the country to the other, eventually scaling down Mount Rushmore, and you’ve got one of the greatest spy (and Alfred Hitchcock) movies ever made. THE TWIST: George Kaplan is a fake CIA identity that does not exist.

 

“Session 9” (2001) – David Caruso plays Phil, a member of a HazMat clean-up crew. When the crew (led by Peter Mullan) get the contract to clean the abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital, things are going okay. For about a day. When Hank (Josh Lucas) disappears one night, things go to hell quickly. When Hank returns with a knife stuck inside his eye socket and repeating words, “What are you doing here?” you know that it could only get worse. However, the major star of the movie was the hospital itself. It’s something you have to see to believe… THE TWIST: Gordon (Mullan) kills everyone, supposedly being “possessed” by Simon.

 

“Dark City” (1998) – Rufus Sewell wakes up and remembers… nothing. He doesn’t know his name and he receives a mysterious phone call from Dr. Schreber (Keifer Sutherland) saying that he’s in danger and has got to leave his apartment. Sewell eventually finds that his name is John and he’s on the run from cops who think he murdered some prostitutes, his girlfriend who cheated on him, and a group of alien beings that control the city by making everyone sleep while they make “adjustments,” led by Richard O’Brien. And it’s nighttime. All the time. THE TWIST: The entire city is floating out in space.

 

“The Usual Suspects” (1995) – Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) is the only criminal left after a boat heist that went wrong. Verbal was one of five criminals hired to payback their dues. As he narrates the tale to Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri), he mentions the name Keyser Soze. The tale weaves and wraps around this mysterious figure, who is all but a myth. “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.” THE TWIST: Kevin Spacey IS Keyser Soze.

 

“Cube” (1997) – Independent sci-fi fare about a group of people who wake in a room. They’re trapped in a gigantic object that rotates around, opening new rooms and closing others, as well as opening to room that have wire that can cut through you, fire, poison gas, etc. No one knows who built it, no one knows who runs it, but everyone is trying to find a way out. One of the best mystery/sci-fi movies of the Nineties. THE TWIST: The only person to make it out is the person who can’t say anything (he’s mentally handicapped).

10
Jun
08

Queen at the Movies (a Top 5 list)

The British rock band Queen, lead by late singer Freddie Mercury, contributed some of the most popular and memorable music to the world from the 1970’s to the 1990’s. Whether you were at a sports game and heard “We Will Rock You,” or “Another One Bites the Dust,” or sat through “Highlander” (which they soundtracked), Queen’s presence in pop culture has been widely acknowledged. Today, I list the Top Five Uses of Queen Music in the Movies:

 

“Blades of Glory” (2007) – Will Ferrell and Jon Heder are ice skaters who hatch a plan to resurrect their careers by joining up for a “couples” ice skating event. While you know this is a Will Ferrell movie (and that he’s gonna find a way to win) the actual surprise (or maybe not) was their choice for the music to skate to: Queen’s “Flash” theme (for the movie “Flash Gordon”). The bass drum and piano chord opening made the entire scene worth it.

 

“Shaun of the Dead” (2004) – When Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his friends are holed-up in the Winchester Bar, Shaun finds that not only does he have to fight off the undead outside, but the bar’s owners are undead and they’re inside. The jukebox kicks on and begins playing Queen’s, “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and Shaun and friends are beating the male owner of the Winchester on the head with sticks and shovels, while his girlfriend and mom sit on the side bopping along to the music. “Kill the Queen!” “What?!?” “The jukebox!” Good double-entendre there.

 

“Grosse Pointe Blank” (1997) – Martin Blank (John Cusack) returns to his hometown from a 10-year sojourn and is sent to kill the father of his love interest (Minnie Driver), as well as watching out for a hitman sent to kill him, Federal Agents, and rival hitman Dan Akyroyd. In one scene he attends his 10-year high school reunion and is talking with a former classmate who introduces him to her kid. Martin stares at the kid, possibly pondering the miracle of life. Enter Queen’s “Under Pressure.”

 

“Iron Eagle” (1986) – When Col. Ted Masters (Tim Thomerson) is caught and taken hostage in the Middle East, it’s up to his son Doug (Jason Gedrick) and friend Chappy Sinclair (Louis Gossett, Jr.) to hack into computers, scramble some jets, and complete a covert rescue mission. And when you’re blowing up bad guys and their equipment, you may find yourself kicking-on your cassette player and dispensing justice via Queen’s “One Vision.” Just maybe.

 

“Wayne’s World” (1992) – It’s just another day in the life of Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and pal Garth Algar (Dana Carvey). When they go to pick some friends of their up, what music is better to blast in the Mirthmobile than Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody?” A huge song in the UK upon its original release, the song did moderately okay in the United States. With its use in “Wayne’s World,” the song’s re-release shot it to #1 on the Billboard Charts. “Magnifi-co-oh-oh-oh…”