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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Must-See Movies

I've always considered myself a fair critic whether I'm trying a new restaurant, watching a movie, or hearing an album for the first time. Now that I have this blog for my creative output, I feel like it's time I start sharing my opinions and recommendations.

Sometimes, I'll mention a few albums worth listening to and buying or maybe a restaurant that I found particularly impressive. If I have a favorite vacation spot, or come across a new one, I'll share those as well.

This is the first posting of a series called "Must See", and the focus is movies.

Blow (2001)
Directed by Ted Demme
(Starring Johnny Depp, Ray Liotta, Penelope Cruz, Paul Reubens among others)

This movie is based on the real-life story of George Jung, Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder and the Medellín Cartel, involving the introduction of cocaine in the states. It follows George from childhood all the way to his capture (he remains in prison to this day). The movie hits on all nerves from start to finish, with laughable and sad moments interlaced.

On the "Infinifilm" DVD, there are several special features, including an interview between Director Ted Demme (who ironically died of a cocaine-related heart attack only a year later)
and George Jung himself which was filmed in prison. During the interview, George decribes his amazement in Depp's performance. While much of the story is very true to life, many of the names have been changed.

Personally, I think Depp deserved an Oscar nomination for this performance, whether he would have won or not. Ray Liotta gave a touching performance as George's father, who has to sit back and watch his son live on the wrong side of the law. Penelope Cruz plays a woman who George steals away from another man to become his wife. I have seen this film several times and it never gets boring or old to me. It remains one of my very favorite movies and I urge you to see it if you haven't already.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Directed by Frank Darabont
(Starring Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, others)

This film is based on the novella
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption written by famed horror novelist Stephen King, and follows Tim Robbins' character Andy Dufresne after he is convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover. In prison he becomes friends with Red, played by Morgan Freeman who earned an Oscar nomination for his role. Much of the film is narrated by Freeman himself, and his pace and tone provide remarkable feeling to each situation he describes. The movie spans 20 years of Andy's life in prison and while it has a very dark tone to it, the ultimate theme is hope. The casting was brilliant in this movie in terms of making the characters very believable. I just watched this movie yesterday and I love it just the same as I did the first time I saw it. This is another movie that I feel has potential to be on anyone's list of favorites.

The Green Mile (1999)

Directed by Frank Darabont
(Starring Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Barry Pepper, David Morse, others)

This is another film directed by Frank Daraont, this one adapted by him from the Stephen King novel The Green Mile. The film stars Tom Hanks as a prison guard during his time on Death Row. Michael Clarke Duncan plays a man brought to his prison after being convicted of murdering two small girls. Barry Pepper and David Morse play Hanks' associates as all witness some strange events after Duncan's character arrives. This film has a familiar tone to it, most likely due to both being directed by Darabont and possibly because they both take place in a prison. However, this film separates itself through an entirely different storyline and a more lighthearted presence overall. The film earned four Oscar nominations, among them Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Michael Clarke Duncan. I treasure this movie highly among my collection, and place it high on my list. I hope if you take the time to follow my recommendation of this movie, you'll enjoy it as much as I have.

**Duncan lost to Michael Caine for the Oscar and I could only think how hard it must've been for them to both have the same name since they'd hear "the award goes to Michael C-" and both of them would think they'd won.**

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Directed by Rob Zombie
(Starring Sid Haig, Sherri Moon, Bill Moseley, others)

These are the first two films directed by Rob Zombie, who was first known for his music that featured psychadelic creepshow-style videos such as "Dragula" and "Living Dead Girl". Before creating these two films, Rob was approached to write and direct the sequel to
The Crow but his script was rejected. Later he was hired to animate the psychadelic trip sequence in the animated feature film Beavis and Butt-head Do America, which showcased his talent and creative capabilities.

He got inspired to direct his own film and got to work on his first feature film as a director, "House of 1000 Corpses" which he also wrote. The film took over 12 million dollars at the box office and did very well in DVD sales. It wasn't long after the first film that buzz started for its sequel, "The Devil's Rejects", which ultimately improved upon the first film and took 16 million at the box office.

I felt the need to provide this information before I give my praise because these films got very little press. Also, being that they were directed by a former music persona and are cult horror favorites, they are not sought out by a large audience.

Personally, I love each of these films equally for different reasons. While watching the first film with director commentary on I was very impressed by Rob Zombie's approach to creating his first film. Additionally, he was determined to improve upon it and create a sequel that felt completely different and he greatly succeeded in doing so.

The first movie definitely has an amateur feel to it, but it is that feel which lends to its success. The story is quite ambitious, and the characters are as likable as they are horrifying.
The family in the film is reminiscent of that in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. People are lured to their home and hell is unleashed upon them. The family in this film is the Firefly family, including Otis and Baby as the major characters. After visiting Captain Spaulding at his Museum of Monsters and Madmen, four young adults wind up at the Firefly house and are involved in a series of horrific events. This movie is extremely graphic so do not dare watch it if you can't handle what you may see.

The sequel, The Devil's Rejects, picks up right where the first one ends and you can immediately see the difference in the filming style between the two films. I think Rob did a great job sealing up any loose ends or mistakes he may have made in making the first one. This movie is even more graphic than the first one so again I stress to be prepared. He definitely did his homework to improve upon his first movie, even as well-received as it was by viewers and critics alike. If you enjoyed the first movie, you'll love this one.
Keep an eye out for Rob Zombie's "Halloween" coming this fall!!

Old School
Wedding Crashers
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
The 40-Year Old Virgin

Since I've bunched these movies together, I won't give the Director/cast info that I did on the previous ones. These are pretty much my favorite comedy movies and I've watched each of them several times. It would take me far too long to provide the plots and cast for all of them so I'm leaving it up to you for that. Of course, you could just take my word for it and put these on your list for comedies to rent/buy. If you use an online service like Blockbuster Online or Netflix, add these to your queue immediately and you'll have a house filled with laughter for days to come.

Funnyman Will Ferrel stars in all but 2 of these movies (Dodgeball and Virgin) and if you ask me, he provides most of the best parts of those. Vince Vaughn appears in the first 3 on the list and is quickly becoming a favorite of mine with his quick-witted style of humor. If you watch Anchorman and just can't get enough of the cast, you'll be pleased to see many of them starring in The 40 Year Old Virgin. Personally, I would recommend buying them whether you rent them or not. You will eventually want to own them so save the money you'd waste on renting it.

That concludes this posting of my Must See series.
I hope that you will give these movies a chance if you haven't already.

**The links for movie titles and other information will take you to the Wikipedia site for that item that you clicked. For movies, be careful as there are sections that give "spoiler alerts" because the plot and several moments from the film are provided in detail so you won't want to read it before seeing the films.**

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