10. Rocky Balboa – 2006. Thirty-one years after the 1976 original classic, Sylvester Stallone comes back in style to create a perfect bookend to one of the great characters in America’s pop-culture. The film’s big highlights include Rocky’s speech to the boxing commission on the state of his boxing license and the montage training sequence featuring a 59-year-old Rocky Balboa which is priceless. I must admit I got chills watching it in a movie theater! Please Sly go out on a high note and keep your promise of no more Rocky movies! This is the way it should end.
9. School of Rock – 2003. Jack Black certainly made a strong impact throughout the decade and the one movie that fit him like a glove was School of Rock, a highly entertaining film that was to Black what “Animal House” was to John Belushi and what “Back to School” was to Rodney Dangerfield. A perfect fit to a comic actor’s talent. It’s one of those movies that you can’t help but watch with a grin from ear to ear. School of Rock is a pure pleasure.
8. Dawn of the Dead - Zack Snyder’s 2004 re-imagining of Romero’s classic doesn’t define the greatness of the original but it was quite good
and one of the very best horror efforts of the decade. While Sara Polley and Ving Rhames turned in solid performances, I thought actor Jake Weber gave the film a surprising heart. I find myself watching this move a few times a year.
7. Moulin Rouge - This 2001 romantic musical film by Baz Luhrmann is a wildly inventive concotion that entertains throughout. It tells the story of a British poet/writer, Christian (Ewan McGregor), who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, cabaret actress and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman). Not all of it works but what does (a majority of it) is tremendously entertaining and very original in its approach.
6. There Will be Blood – 2007. A totally compelling tale of obsession with Daniel Day Lewis giving perhaps the performance of the decade. While many actors get into a role, Lewis simply consumes the character of Daniel Plainview. A compelling and fascinating watch.
5. Unbreakable – 2000. I hate to call a movie ‘misunderstood’ but, in the case of Unbreakable, it’s quite appropriate. This is perhaps the greatest and most original superhero origin story ever put on film. The problem is that it was never marketed as a superhero film and that really perplexed many moviegoers upon initial release. Bruce Willis and Sam Jackson are in top form here and the score is just brilliant. M. Night Shylaman certainly had his mojo going strong when he made this. While underappreciated by the masses, many movie buffs regard it as a classic and I’m in that camp. “THEY CALL ME MR. GLASS”
4. Gran Torino – 2008. Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski character is truly memorable and should go down in movie lore the way John Wayne’s John Bernard Books character is remembered for his last film, “The Shootist”. There is certainly one major similarity between the two characters and that’s the way they chose to go out in both these film’s last act. As a lifelong Eastwod fan, it’s hard not to love this movie.
3. Million Dollar Baby – 2004. Clint Eastwood’s Oscar winning tragic tale about the bond between a veteran down and out trainer and an amateur female boxer looking to prove herself. Hilary Swank was born to play her role as Maggie Fitzgerald, a part that won her a second Academy award and Clint’s never been better! I saw this three times in the theater – I liked it that much.
2. Sicko – 2007. Easily one of the most important films of the decade, Michael Moore’s look at the U.S healthcare system is a fascinating and one film I can watch over and over again, and get something out of it each time. No matter what side of the aisle you are politically, this film deserves to be seen by everyone.
1. The Dark Knight – 2008. In my opinion Chris Nolan should have won the Oscar for best director as this was the best film of 2008 – period. It was a thoroughly compelling, brilliantly realized effort and pop art in its highest form. The late Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is nothing short of brilliant. While I can’t wait to see a further installment from director Nolan, it will be a mighty feat indeed if he can equal the greatness of this mov
When Avatar first hit screens at a Comic-Con sneak preview this past summer it took the wind out of my sails. I had been hearing about it for years and now it was considered just okay by most and disappointing by some. I thought WOW, James Cameron’s first movie in 14 years was just okay!!!!
When the first trailer hit the Internet, I finally had to admit it was a bit under-whelming after years of anticipation. The so-called critics then proclaimed this would be the last of the big budget movies because the nearly 400 million-dollar behemoth would never recover its costs. I began to resign myself to the fact that it would never live up to my great expectation and maybe I would wait on the DVD release.
Then it hit I-Max Theaters in all of its Cameron 3-D glory and the criticism disappeared with nearly 100 percent positive reviews pouring in. Getting a ticket to Avatar rivaled the most cherished sporting events.
Sold out theaters spelled big box office and, all of a sudden, the entertainment industry started discussing whether it could topple Dark Knight and The Return of the King but, of course, nobody would consider Titanic, sitting at the top with the ladder pulled up. Not until now anyway, as only James Cameron could topple himself at the box office making Avatar his new King of the World and the #1 biggest moneymaker in movie history.
Finally my sails were restored and I began my first of three attempts to see this movie. After avoiding yet another sold out line I purchased pre-paid tickets on the Internet. Now would it be worth the wait. I was among a party of four in a crowded no reserve screening room and, despite arriving 25 minutes early, we were still forced to sit on the second row and I began to think…No…I’ll never be able to take this movie in from these seats. Boy was I wrong – there are no bad seats. I was transported to Pandora as soon as the movie began and didn’t regain consciousness until the army of credits began rolling nearly 3 hours later. I felt I had experienced the actual Avatar transference and was now back in my box with my brain racing.
This experience immediately took me back 33 years to my first viewing of Star Wars. It was an event that changed everything I had ever seen at the movies. Cameron had given me a slight taste with both Aliens and Terminator 2, but Avatar was the complete 3-course meal.
This movie masterpiece has changed everything about movies and industry copycat productions are already underway. Sony announced a Spiderman reboot in glorious 3-D and I will always wonder if Spiderman would have been Avatar if the deal with Cameron hadn’t fallen through. Well I sure hope they use Cameron’s technology because this was 3-D as it has never been filmed before. Why? Because I never once thought about it.
3-D was just another character in the movie.
Cameron has given the motion picture industry the secret to overcoming DVD pirates and even the most sophisticated home theater systems – at least for now.
I couldn’t even imagine watching Avatar in 2-D at a theater, let alone a bootleg DVD or Internet copy. I can only surmise that the handful of critics who gave this a negative review saw it that way, because it would be a different movie.
The plot certainly borrows from Cameron’s own Aliens film, Giovanni Ribisi’s Parker Selfridge might as well have been Paul Reiser’s Carter Burke. Sigourney Weaver’s Grace Augustine is Ellen Ripley. Also think back to the climatic battle at the end of the film with Ripley in her Robot loader battling the Queen.
Cameron had to be thinking about a few of his other classic characters when developing this story, with Stephen Lang’s portrayal of Colonel Miles Quaritch having some real Terminator type qualities. As for Sam Worthington, he reminded me of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson from Titanic undergoing a transformation of character from the beginning to the end of the film.
Cameron’s plot relies heavily on our actual history as a brutal people that will do anything to get what we want. The symbolism of the white European coming to the New World to destroy a two thousand year old civilization who believed they were one with the land isn’t missed by me or, I hope, anyone else.
I was actually nodding my head in agreement when the references were made about humans already depleting Earth’s resources in just 150 years from now. Look what we have already done to our planet since the discovery of oil as a fuel at the turn of the 20th century.
Placing precious metals above our own humanity is an age-old story but Cameron gave it his own unique perspective. I loved this movie for transporting me to a place I have never been in films. This is the Star Wars of its generation and I’m sure millions of people will watch this film over and over again and I can’t wait for the sequel. I only hope Cameron doesn’t take another decade and a half to make it, even though it might just take that long if he’s going to try and top it. See this movie and revel in telling the next generation you witnessed the dawn of a new age of filmmaking.
As The Book of Eli (Denzel Washington) opens this weekend and The Road is on the way later this year, it appears that the end of the world continues to have a fascination with Hollywood filmmakers. Here’s a look at my top ten favorite films in this very interesting genre which I happen to be a big fan of.
10. MIRACLE MILE 1988- This one has a really great concept about a guy (Anthony Edwards) who picks up a ringing pay phone in the early morning hours and finds out that nuclear missiles could be on the way to Los Angeles in the next 70 minutes. This causes him to search frantically for a girl (Mare Winningham) he just met the morning before. This one is suspenseful with really good atmosphere. It also featured a really COOL soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. While not successful on its release, the film has built a following over the years and is a great watch on DVD. The film’s last 20 minutes are as gripping as a movie can be and truly justifies the end of the world concept.
9. TESTAMENT 1983- Jane Alexander (one of our greatest actresses) stars in this powerful film about a family who tries to survive a nuclear attack that has destroyed nearby San Francisco and most of the cities in the United States. Her family (who live in a small town outside of SF) and the town try and cope with the isolation from the outside world and radiation sickness while trying to get back some essence of normalcy. As the story proceeds most of the town succumbs to radiation sickness and the few survivors try to carry on the best they can. This is an end of the world film realistically told that pulls absolutely no punches. Be prepared to be emotionally drained after watching it.
8. THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS 1962- Post apocalyptic Sci- fi film about a meteor shower that not only renders the world’s population blind but causes plant life to uproot and kill most of the population of London where the story takes place. Howard Keel (Dallas) stars in the film as one of the few people left who can see. I first saw this movie when I was a kid on a local station’s Saturday afternoon broadcast and liked it immensely. There’s a scene at a train station that is really well staged and creepy with mass chaos ensuing because no one can see except the film’s hero and a little girl. It’s one of the film’s best sequences. There’s been talk of a remake for years but so far it’s never materialized. This is the type of film that they just don’t produce anymore.
7. DAY OF THE DEAD 1985- Romero’s third entry in his dead trilogy, DAY OF THE DEAD, was released to mixed/negative reviews as many complained the film, set mostly in an underground army base, was too slow, talky and depressing. Its main theme of scientists versus the military wasn’t nearly as epic as his much bigger in scope Dawn of the Dead, which sort of took fans by surprise. Over the years many have come to appreciate the film as a solid entry in his original trilogy and Romero himself regards it as his favorite. While Dawn remains my personal favorite, I’ve always liked Day a lot, and think it’s a fascinating film. Its has a very bleak vision with one over the top character in Capt Rhodes (Joe Pilato), but that’s offset by an exilarating last 20 minutes. It also features the best musical score of Romero’s end of the world zombie trilogy.
6. THE ROAD WARRIOR 1981- George Miller’s sequel to Mad Max (Mel Gibson) features the most astonishing stunt work ever put on film. In a pre-CGI era some of the stuff Miller puts on screen is truly amazing. This post apocalyptic story, which plays out like a wild over the top road movie, is both visionary and truly unique!
5. THE OMEGA MAN 1971- Charlton Heston stars in this second film version of the cult novel “I am Legend”. While not totally faithful to the source material, the film is compelling with Heston playing Robert Neville, the last man on earth after germ warfare has wiped out mankind. His death sequence at the hands of a sphere thrown by the movies villain, Matthias (Anthony Zerbe), near the film’s conclusion is an absolute classic. The musical score by composer Ron Grainer is totally unique and enjoyable. When watching the film carefully it’s interesting to see a few people in the background in some of the wide shots of Los Angeles despite the fact that the storyline had Heston as the only surviving person at that point in the story. The Omega Man is one of my all time favorites movies.
4. THE DAY AFTER 1985- Perhaps the most important Television film ever made. Jason Robards brought tremendous class to this project about the after effects of a nuclear explosion in Lawrence, Kansas. In its time, a true TV event! It’s also a great achievement by director Nicholas Meyer who had numerous disagreements with the network during the film’s editing process. I consider this film to be a classic and a must see for every thinking human being.
3. THE STAND 1993- Director Mick Garris did an amazing job adapting Stephen King’s epic novel into a miniseries that aired on ABC in 1993. It’s about a flu pandemic that wipes out most of the world’s population and was truly a landmark television achievement. King’s post apocalyptic tale works on many levels, but is ultimately a good versus evil story. Gary Sinese is terrific as Stu Redman, one of the survivors of a man-made super flu virus that wipes out most of mankind. Ruby Dee, playing Mother Abigail, a mysterious old woman who might be a servant of God, is nothing short of sensational in the best work of her career, and Jamey Sheridan as the villainous Randall Flagg is incredible. Great supporting work by Ray Walston, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer and Ossie Davis makes The Stand a must see film event. As post apocolyptic tales go, it doesn’t get much better than The Stand. I watch this at least once a year.
2. PLANET OF THE APES 1968- I can’t imagine any other actor playing Astronaut George Taylor than Charlton Heston as his screen presence really fit the bill with this role. Director Franklin J. Schaffner (Patton) clearly was a great storyteller and had tremendous patience in his filmmaking, something clearly lacking in many of today’s movie makers. While we may not understand that it’s an end of the world film until the last five minutes, those minutes are as powerful as any in movie history.
1. DAWN OF THE DEAD 1978- George Romero’s second Zombie outing works on so many levels. Part horror, part end of the world story, part social commentary and all GREATNESS! Besides The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dawn of the Dead is the most popular midnight movie of all time. Usually you don’t use the term movie magic when talking about the horror genre, but Romero clearly had some magic going on. Ultimatley it’s a bleak tale about human loneliness. Shot over the course of four months on a budget of less than $1,000,000., the film is considered by many, including myself, as the Gone with the Wind of the horror genre. Filmed mainly at the Monroeville mall in Pennsylvannia, Romero used the zombie setting to take a shot at America’s obsession with consumerism. Despite its modest budget, the film comes off as epic in scope. The cast, mostly unknowns including Ken Foree, David Emge, Scott Reiniger and Gaylen Ross, all worked well together, creating well-rounded and memorable characters despite a grueling filming schedule of overnight shooting. That was due to the availability of the Monroeville mall as it was open to the public during the day. The film’s concept of four people who hide out in a shopping mall during a massive zombie outbreak at the beginning stages of the end of the world, is one of pure fantasy that audiences really got involved in. Dawn became a mainstay of the midnight movie going experience and the film countinues to have legions of fans. There are three different versions of the film, available on the definitive ultimate special edition DVD – a must own for any collection.
FAVORITE SCI-FI Movies by Chuck Curry
10. STARSHIP TROOPERS 1997- Although many refer to the film as Paul Verhoeven’s giant bug movie, the movie is actually a whole lot more. Mixing sharp social satire with well executed ultra-violent action sequences, this futuristic “anti-war” sci-fi action film is a winner and a really fun watch!
9. SOYLENT GREEN 1973- This detective story set in 2022 about a cop (Charlton Heston) who uncovers a horrible secret in a wildly overpopulated NYC is a fasinating look at a world in despair. Its themes of chronic unemployment and poverty continue to
be a timely warning. Edward G. Robinson’s classic death scene at a euthanasia center is one of its most memorable moments. Robinson died of cancer 12 days after filming was completed which makes that scene even more poignant.
8. BACK TO THE FUTURE 1985- This blockbuster film, which spawned two sequels, was 1985’s biggest hit. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd have great chemistry as high school student Marty McFly and Eccentric scientist Doc Brown who accidentally travel back in time altering Marty’s future existence. Thought provoking, funny and highly entertaining, this is what a summer blockbuster is all about! Many fans, including myself, wish Universal would release the footage of actor Eric Stoltz, who was originally cast as Marty. Reportedly he filmed half the movie but was fired after producer Steven Spielberg didn’t feel the film was working with him in the part.
7. E.T: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL 1987- Steven Spielberg’s magical film about a stranded alien who befriends a young boy is a classic in every sense. Henry Thomas (who beat out 300 other kids for the role) was terrific as 10-year-old Elliott who helps E.T on his quest to go home. The bond between the two is one of the most moving in the history of movies. If E.T‘s resurrection scene doesn’t put a lump in your throat, you simply don’t have a heart. This is Spielberg at his very best.
6. STAR WARS TRILOGY, Original 1977-1983- Landmark in every sense of the word. Hands down the best trilogy ever made, and YES George Lucas could do no wrong in a galaxy far far away. At least back then!
5. TERMINATOR 1984- It’s amazing that James Cameron, an unknown director at the time, filmed this Sci-fi action film for a mere $6,400,000. The film’s main theme of changing the future by altering the past is a great concept and its warning of the dangers in technology is certainly as relevant as it is thought provoking. The combination of Sci-fi and great action is a potent one!
4. THE OMEGA MAN 1973- The second film version of Richard Matheson’s popular novel “I am Legend” is my favorite of the three. Charlton Heston plays Robert Neville, one of a handful of human survivors after a biological war. Anthony Zerbe is terrific as the film’s protagonist, a mutant like survivor named Mathias, the leader of a deranged group known as “the family”. B-Movie fun at its best!
3. THE FLY 1986- David Cronenberg’s masterpiece about a scientist who accidentally fuses himself with a housefly during a teleportation experiment was one of the very best films of the 1980’s. Jeff Goldblum has never been better in this fascinating look into a life gone horribly wrong. Equal parts sci-fi, horror and tragic love story, this is a sad but fascinating tale. Goldblum certainly deserved an Oscar nomination for his work here.
2. PLANET OF THE APES ORIGINAL FRANCHISE 1968-1973- After watching all five films in the original series during the Fox Movie channel’s Apes marathon last month, I found myself hooked once again. This is as good as it gets when you’re talking science fiction. It’s really interesting how the writers were able to interconnect each installment and keep the series thought-provoking throughout. Although, Battle for the Planet of the Apes is by far the weakest in the series, I’m still amazed how bleak the second installment Beneath the Planet of the Apes is, as you rarely ever see both main stars killed off in any mainstream film. One of my all time favorite movie endings!
1. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS 1978- Phillip Kaufman’s remake of the 1956 classic about a group of people who discover that the population is being replaced by clones of emotionless aliens. As good as the original is, this is even better. The cast, lead by Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy, are all top notch. Kaufman paces the film (set in San Francisco) perfectly until its bleak and stunning ending. A truly great movie!