10. DAWN OF THE DEAD – 2004. Zach Snyder’s re-imagining of George Romero’s classic zombie epic uses the same premise, although the characters and much of the overall story are very different. Like Romero’s version, much of the action takes place at a shopping mall, although director Synder doesn’t use the setting as an extra character the way George did in the original. Instead he ratchets up the tension with fast moving zombies and exciting action set pieces. The film benefits greatly from a terrific cast which includes Sarah Polley, Jake Weber, Ving Rhames and Miki Pheiffer. It’s very well done, and it’s quickly become one of my all time favorites!
9. THE MIST – 2007. Frank Darabont’s (Shawshank Redemption) film version of the Stephen King novella plays like a two hour episode of the Twilight Zone. The story about a small town engulfed by a mysterious mist is a great metaphor about human nature. Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones and Marcia Gay Harden (terrific playing a religious fanatic) make for a solid cast. Its ending has gotten a mixed response, but it is one the viewer can’t forget! Personally, I admire director Darabont for having the guts to go with it! In time, The Mist will become a Classic!
8. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – 1974. One might assume by its premise that this film would be a total blood bath, but it’s actually not. It’s a frightening experience about a group of five Texas friends who, unfortunately, wander into the house of one of the great horror characters of all time in LEATHERFACE (Gunnar Hansen), plus his family of cannibals. The atmosphere in this film is intense to say the least, and most of the horror is perceived rather than actual! The story is loosely based on the murderer, Ed Gein, who also served as inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs. Amazingly the film was shot on a budget of $140,000 and grossed $30,859,000. It made a name for its director, Tobe Hooper. People never looked at a chainsaw the same way after this film came out!
7. EVIL DEAD 2 – 1981. Director Sam Raimi and CULT icon Bruce Campbell team up for this horror/comedy sequel that is a highly inventive piece of filmmaking. The movie features a great physical performance by Campbell, playing the character of Ash Williams, as he fights off zombies, evil spirits and even his own possessed hand! I got a chance to meet Campbell at a horror convention in NYC around 15 years ago and he actually did a backflip on a hard wooden floor for the audience that was there – a really nice guy!
6. FRIGHT NIGHT – 1985. This film makes my list because I think actor Chris Sarandon (Jerry Dandridge) plays as good a vampire as anyone in the history of movies. William Ragsdale does a great job as the lead character, Charlie Brewster, a young guy who discovers he lives next door to a vampire. Roddy McDowell co-stars in a memorable performance as washed up late night TV horror host, Peter Vincent, who goes along with Charlie on a fact finding mission for the money, only to be surprised that he’s actually telling the truth. I remember seeing Roddy McDowell at a horror convention as well and had him sign a still photo of his character in the film. He was a class act indeed and a real gentleman! Actor Stephen Geoffreys, who plays Ragsdale’s best friend Ed (Evil), is terrific in this film. This is a highly entertaining movie!
5. THE THING -1982. John Carpenter and Kurt Russell team up for the second time (the first being Escape from NY) for this remake of the 1951 classic The Thing from Another World, and make an even better movie. The story about a group of scientists in the Antarctic who come under siege by an alien organism has great atmosphere, and a feeling of bleakness that make this film a MUST watch for fans of this genre! The special effects pre-CGI by Stan Winston are astonishing!
The blood testing sequence is classic!
4. HALLOWEEN – 1978. John Carpenter made a name for himself with this critically acclaimed film shot on a mere $325,000 budget.The film went on to pull in $47,000,000 at the box-office, making it one of the biggest independent films ever produced! Jamie Lee Curtis, who played the character of Laurie Stode, was a solid lead and veteran actor, Donald Pleasence, added much class as child psychiatrist Dr Sam Loomis, a part he would play five times in the series. The musical score, composed by Carpenter himself, is classic! In an interesting footnote: Carpenter bought a William Shatner mask in a store, painted it white, and used it for the famous look of his villain Michael Myers, also known as the Shape! Nick Castle, who directed the film The Last Starfighter, played the role of Myers. The film’s sequel, HALLOWEEN 2, is a direct continuation that was criticized for its more graphic approach. Despite that criticism, I like the film a lot, and watch both films every Halloween!
3. NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST – 1984. Wes Craven reportedly came up with the concept for the film when he read a newspaper article about young man who claimed that someone was trying to kill him in his dreams and started to do whatever he could to stay awake. Unlike most of the sequels, which lighten up the Freddy Krueger character, this original film took him and its concept very seriously. Craven scored big time when he cast little known actor, ROBERT ENGLUND, in the role of the former child molester Freddy, who has come back to get revenge on the children of Elm St in their dreams. The movie was filmed for just $1,800,000 and grossed $25,000,000 at the U.S box-office. Countless sequels were produced, making the character of Freddy Krueger part of America’s pop culture. As far as horror goes this is one of the very best concepts ever in the genre.
2. DAWN OF THE DEAD – 1978, George Romero’s second Zombie outing is truly the Gone with the Wind of the genre as it works on so many levels. It’s 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.
1, THE EXORCIST-1973, I put this at number ONE because from an emotional standpoint, of all the horror films, I think this one had the biggest impact over any other in film history. I guess you can’t have a better match up than God versus the Devil and audiences were floored by this film version of the bestselling William Peter Blatty novel. A reported 30 young actress auditioned for the part of Reagan, the little girl who gets possessed in the story. The part went to Linda Blair, a role she will be known for until the end of time! Actor Jason Miller, in his first feature film, is terrific playing the role of the conflicted father Karris. The pea soup scene is one of the genres most memorable sequences! The film was nominated for Ten Oscars including best picture. It lost out to The Sting. As horror films go, there’s none better!
With Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps opening this weekend I thought I would do a retrospective of my all time favorite sequels.
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!
9. DIE HARD 2 – DIE HARDER – 1990. How could the same thing happen to the same guy twice? Well, it did in this very well done follow-up to perhaps the greatest pure action movie ever made. This time, Bruce Willis’s John McClane takes on terrorists at Dulles Airport outside of Washington D.C. Solid story, great action set pieces, a cool twist at the three quarter mark and solid direction from Renny Harlin make this film a big winner! Yippee Ki Yay…
8. LETHAL WEAPON 2 – 1989. Richard Donner’s follow-up to his terrific buddy cop film, Lethal Weapon. Part 2 is even better, mixing humor with realistic violence to create a flawless genre piece. Joe Pesci is a great addition as Leo Getz. His chemistry with Mel Gibson’s, Riggs, and Danny Glover’s, Murtaugh, is sensational. Actor Joss Ackland is a solid villain and his tag line “I have diplomatic immunity” is quite memorable.
7. ROAD WARRIOR – 1981. George Miller’s sequel to MAD MAX features some of the most jaw dropping stunts ever put on film. As action movies go, there aren’t many better!
6. ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES – 1971. A terrific Sci-Fi time travel film that takes the premise of the Original and reinvents it brilliantly. The film featured stellar performances by Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter, once again playing Chimpanzees Cornelius and Zira, who take on the same dilemma of the Taylor (Charlton Heston) character from the first entry in the series. Like other films in the franchise, Escape dealt with important issues like Race, Social Status, Animal Experimentation and Women’s Rights! A really smart, well done, movie!
5. THE DARK KNIGHT – 2008. Expanding on the terrific BATMAN BEGINS, director Chris Nolan upped the ante making everything a little bigger, a little more intense, and richer in scope. Heath Ledger’s JOKER will be part of movie lore till the end of time!
4. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – 1980. The very best of the STAR WARS films and also the greatest cliffhanger in movie history.
3. ALIENS – 1986. James Cameron took the horror concept of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN and created one of the greatest action movies ever made. Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley remains the very best female action hero ever and her character’s emotional bond with the little girl Newt (Carrie Henn – who is now a school teacher) is the film’s emotional core! It’s hard to believe this epic film was produced for just 18 million dollars.
2. DAWN OF THE DEAD – 1979. This film is regarded by many, including myself, as the GONE WITH THE WIND of the horror genre. George Romero’s follow-up to his landmark 1968 film, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, is an amazing achievement considering it was produced for roughly one million dollars. Shot mostly at the MONROEVILLE MALL in Pittsburgh, PA, the epic zombie action horror movie is a complete and totally satisfying experience. It was also one of the most popular MIDNIGHT movies ever! One of my all time favorites, I watch it two or three times a year!
1. THE GODFATHER 2 – 1974. Believe it or not, this was the first film to use the number 2 in its title. For me, it’s a tribute to great storytelling as Francis Ford Coppola was at the top of his game here, telling multiple stories with the film working as both a sequel, and a prequel. Robert DeNiro won the Oscar for best supporting actor with all of his dialogue spoken in Italian. The sequence at the senate commission hearings is one of the greatest scenes ever shot!
By: Contributing Editor, Michael Cooper
Seth Rogen, who seemed to be the worst choice to play a superhero since Tim Burton picked Michael Keaton, has followed in Keaton’s footsteps by pulling it off.
Rogen plays an irresponsible playboy living off daddy’s money until his father is killed and, all of a sudden, responsibility is dropped in his lap. Last year at Comic-Con, the new Black Beauty was unveiled and all of a sudden the greatly anticipated Green Hornet movie actually looked like it was finally going to be made. Next Month on July 22nd The Black Beauty will be on hand once again in San Diego, but this time on screen and in 3D!
With the release of the first screen trailer earlier this month (see below) The Green Hornet is really here. It certainly was a long strange journey; first in the hands of Kevin Smith, who dropped out saying he was in over his head, and then, as if Smith wasn’t a strange enough choice, comedian Seth Rogen suddenly enters the scene. He drops 40 pounds and announces that he is not only writing the Green Hornet but is actually going to play the lead!
Next we have Martial Arts expert Stephen Chow, the logical choice to play Kato, but when he isn’t allowed to direct he drops out. The next thing you know Taiwan pop star Jay Chau who, to the best of my knowledge has never swung a set of nunchucks in his life, is the new Kato.
To top it all off Michel Gondry, best known for a Levi Blue Jeans ad and writing the screenplay/directing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie I find close to unwatchable, is at the helm of the project
Did you know that the Green Hornet made his debut on radio way back in 1936? The creative team that, three years earlier, had introduced the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Fran Striker, and George W. Trendle, brought The Hornet and Kato to life. They linked the masks of both the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet by making newspaper publisher Britt Reid, the son of the Ranger’s nephew Dan Reid. WOW! How’s that for some strange continuity. Also, the original Black Beauty was a Pierce Arrow and Kato was Japanese.
Like so many other crime fighters on the radio, the Hornet made the transition to the movies in the 1940’s. Since it wasn’t politically correct to have a Japanese crime fighter, Kato quickly became a Korean from Chinese descent.
Picked to play Kato in the second of two movie serials was none other than Charlie Chan’s #1 son, Keye Luke, who later went on to fame as Master Po in Kung Fu and Mr. Wing in the Gremlins movies. Warren Hull was the Hornet and the radio sidekick’s secretary, Lenore Case, investigative reporter Mike Axford and Walter Brooke, the rock-solid District Attorney, also followed from Radio to the big screen.
The Hornet’s creators tried to follow the success of the Lone Ranger in the 1950’s to television but there were no takers. The 1960’s restored the Hornet’s heartbeat. The popularity of The Batman TV series in the 1966 sent ABC executives looking for another crimefighter in the Batman mode and new life was breathed into a forgotten character.
In 1966 Van Williams and Bruce Lee became the best known Green Hornet / Kato, but the ABC series died after just 26 episodes.
Van Williams continued to make public apperances as the Hornet and, with the success Bruce Lee was having, the show continued to run in syndication for the next 20 years. In Japan it became known as “The Kato Show”. Williams is the only surviving cast member and hopefully we’ll see a cameo in the movie.
The next sign of life for the franchise came in an homage from Quinton Tarrantino in 2003 with “Kill Bill.” The Japanese bad guys all wore Kato masks and the legendary Hornet theme music ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ was featured.
For the remainder of 2010 we’ll continue to get sneak peaks of The Green Hornet. It has now been pushed to a January 2011 release so the 3-D special effects can be perfected. I can’t wait to see it!
With my anticipation on the high side for the remake of “The Crazies” hitting theaters this weekend I thought I would revisit a look at my all time favorite B-Movies. I simply love these types of films.
I thought I would take a little time to talk about some of my favorite movies many might like to call guilty pleasures. While none of these ever had a chance to win any Oscars or get high critical marks, they are all cool films that I REALLY enjoy but fall into that B-movie category!
10. MALONE 1987- After being the biggest box-office star for five years running, BURT REYNOLD’s career started to fade with one box-office bomb after another but, for some reason, I always found Malone to be a lot of fun. Reynolds stars as a CIA operative who gets stuck in a small town after his car breaks down and winds up helping a father and his daughter (Cynthia Gibb) from a no good town bigwig (Cliff Robertson) who wants to steal their land. Reynold’s toupee was one of his worst, but the film is fun if you’re into revenge dramas. The movies tag line was “He didn’t start the fight but he’ll sure as hell finish it.”
9. FOOD OF THE GODS 1976 - Went to see this on a Saturday afternoon thirty-two years ago at the now long closed Mayfair Theater in Brooklyn NY and loved it. Marjoe Gortner ( Earthquake) stars in the film about a group of people under siege by giant rats and insects after an experimental food makes them grow hundreds of times their normal size. No doubt it’s cheesy but it’s also effective and a lot of fun. Gortner makes for a pretty good hero! Not available on DVD only VHS.
8. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 1985 - If you like zombie movies (and who doesn’t) this is a MUST see! Director Dan O’ Bannon pays homage to George Romero with this totally inspired horror comedy that is well known for the lines “MORE BRAINS” and “SEND MORE COPS.” Actors James Karen and Thom Mathews are both terrific, supplying the film with its comic relief. A must watch for Halloween week!
7. 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 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 always liked it immensely. There’s a scene at a train station where mass chaos ensues because no one can see except the film’s hero and a little girl that is really well staged and creepy. 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.
6. 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.
5. NIGHT OF THE COMET 1984 - I remember seeing this film as part of a double feature at the Kingsway theater in Brooklyn NY having no idea what the film was about. This is yet another end-of-the-world low budget film that centers its storyline on two Southern California valley girls played by CATHERINE MARY STEWART AND MARY MARONEY who must deal with life after a comet wipes out most of the earth’s population. The scene in the shopping mall when the song “Girls just want to have fun” is playing is an absolute BLAST! To this day I always thought Catherine Mary Stewart was one of the very best looking and appealing women I’ve ever seen on screen! I never understood why she didn’t have a big career!
4. THE BLOB 1958 - This was one of my favorite films when I was a boy – I would watch it every time it came on TV. STEVE MCQUEEN, billed as Steven, was a solid center in his first movie playing a teen who meets up with a Jell-O like substance from outer space, which is eating his fellow townsfolk. 50 years after its release this movie holds up beautifully, as it captured a time and place that really makes this material work! A true CULT classic!
3. DEATH WISH 3 1985 - The third entry in the CHARLES BRONSON vigilante series is so wildly over the top that it plays out more like a cartoon than anything based in reality but, as B-films go, it’s terrific entertainment if you leave your brain at the door. I loved Bronson’s Paul Kersey character and director Michael Winner has a blast with this installment. The story’s setting takes the action back to New York in a run down ultra violent neighborhood where Bronson’s Kersey mows down so many baddies that it has to be seen to be believed. Actor Gavin O’Herlihy is terrific as the story’s villain. Bronson stated he would never do another Death Wish film after this because he felt director Winner went overboard with the violence but he ended up doing two more! Believe it or not, Bronson was 63 years old when he did this movie – amazing!
2. ROADHOUSE 1989 - Critics weren’t kind when it was originally released, but this film has had a long life as a fan favorite. I saw it three times in a theater the same week it came out. PATRICK SWAYZE was in top form as Dalton, a professional bouncer, hired to clean up the Double Deuce bar in Jasper Missouri which has been over taken by a group of thugs on orders from the town’s criminal kingpin, Brad Wesley; a role played with relish by Ben Gazzara. Sam Elliott practically steals the film as Swayze’s aging mentor. Notice that this Joel Silver produced movie uses the same musical score as Die Hard during its fight scenes.
1. THE OMEGA MAN 1971 - I always loved Charlton Heston and I love this movie which was the second film version of I am Legend. While not totally faithful to the novel, 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. It’s one of my all time favorites.
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!
While many movie posters these days have been reduced to nothing more than a giant star head shot I must say this new poster to Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland is quite striking. The film, starring Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, hits theaters March 5, 2010.