A Jurassic Review

June 25, 2008

Jurassic Park was the first movie I saw in a sold out theater. The buzz around the opening was enormous. Dinosaurs! That look real!

And it was incredible. From the first notes of the score when the dinosaurs are first spotted to the climactic end, the movie set a new standard for special effects. Of course, most of the thanks goes to Stan Winston, who recently passed away but left an amazing legacy of an imagination running wild.

What set Jurassic Park apart from other movies was not just the effects, but the finely choreographed action sequences. Each one, starting with the attack in the thunderstorm, set themselves apart from the rest of the film and played out like individual short movies.

That style of filmmaking where a scene evolved into it’s own movie has now become a mainstream idea (see The Matrix: Reloaded or The Transporter).

The film was flooded with humor and fine performances, most notably Jeff Goldblum’s fine portrayal of a man expecting the worst..and usually getting it.

Still, the movie lost some of it’s hold for me. It’s still a great film, and a groundbreaking one at that. But it’s not one I’ll watch often or even have seen regularly since it’s release.

The Rundown:

Quotable: Yeah especially Goldblum and Samuel L. Jackson with his “Hold on to your butts.”

Defining Scene: Pick any scene with a velociraptor.

Remembered After Two Days: The special effects will keep this movie around for a long time. It’s a great adventure film with plenty of heart and comedy. But it’s not one of my favorites all-time.

Top 50 Rating: 50
Not a knock against a great film, but I know there are 49 better ones.

Next up: The Matrix


Must go faster!!!—-Jurassic Park Review

May 26, 2008

WOW! This movie still amazes me. I remember seeing this in theaters, and I remember being blown away. This was the first movie that just completely held me in awe. I think everyone has that first great movie experience, and for me it was Jurassic Park. I was 13 at the time, and I was just old enough to start really appreciating movies for more than just their popcorn-entertainment value. It was also the first movie that I saw after reading the book on which it’s based. The book was so awesome, I read it before and after seeing the movie.

This movie has it all. Story? You better believe it. Author Michael Crichton construed a well-thought-out story with enough science to make it plausible. An eccentric genius named John Hammond has created an amusement park on an island filled dinosaurs. Using cloning technology he extracted the dinosaur blood from the stomaches of mosquitoes whom were found trapped in fossilized amber. Now before he can get the insurance company to sign off on the park, he needs to get the endorsements of some dinosaur experts. One problem, Hammond’s competitors have a mole who plans to steal some embryos, and escape with the rest of the park’s crew during a hurricane evacuation. The mole shuts down the parks systems and takes off. Unfortunately for him, and many others, the dinos get out and run amok.

Characters/Acting? Absolutely. Sam Neill is wonderful as Dr. Grant, the dinosaur expert who is no fan of technology or kids, and is thrown into a chaotic situation where technology shuts down, and he is forced to protect Hammond’s grandkids as they make their way across the park. Laura Dern,as Dr. Satler, is very good as well as Neill’s co-worker, who is not just another damsel in distress. It was very refreshing to see a woman who could hold her own, and not need the man to come to her rescue every time. Richard Attenborough was the perfect choice for Hammond. Jeff Golblum (Dr. Ian Macolm), however, steals every scene he’s in (until the dinosaurs show up that is). He delivers some great lines, most of them to himself. The scene where he is sitting in the back of the truck and declares, “That’s an impact tremor. That’s what it is. I’m fairly alarmed here,” is only topped by his observation “That is one big pile of S___,” upon finding dino droppings. Sam Jackson, B.D. Wong, and Newman from Seinfeld round out some of the other characters.

The direction was incredible! But of course, you would expect nothing less from the great Steven Speilberg. He is the king of the chase scene and suspense. The scene with Dr. Grant and Tim climbing down the tree to avoid getting crushed by the car is masterful. And the scene where the raptors stalk the children in the kitchen is suspense at its best. I enjoyed how most of the most suspenseful scenes were filmed with the dinosaurs in the humans’ environment, instead of the other way around. A T-Rex in the foyer of a building, or a velociraptor with the glow of a computer on his devilish face, makes the tension so much more palpable.

This is also the first movie that had so many of the central characters done via computer animation. This was a breakthrough in cinema, one that has been copied for years. Although computer animation technology has since gotten more sophisticated, nothing, in my mind, has topped the sheer awesome feeling I experienced when the first dinosaurs burst on the scene.

Because I can watch this movie any time it airs, and the effect it had on me, I rate Jurassic Park Number 10 on my all-time list.



Hold On To Your Butts – Jurassic Park Preview

May 14, 2008


OK, so this one wasn’t one I expected to be watching for this, but Philip loves it for what it did to special effects and moviemaking in general. I can agree with that. I’ve only seen this a few times, but I’m never not awed by the look and feel of the island and its inhabitants.

What I really loved about this movie was the way each action sequence felt like a movie in itself. The setups, the pacing and the camera work all made these scenes into mini-movies. I don’t know of many movies since that have done action sequences so well.

However, this wasn’t a movie that came to mind when I thought Top 50. But I’ll go in with an open mind and we’ll see what happens.

Prediction: 44


Where’s my horse?—Once upon a time in the west Review

May 11, 2008

Once upon a time in the West is a story of the lives of many people whose lives intersect in a small town where a rail road is coming through. Charles Bronson is the drifter seeking revenge against Henry Fonda, in a rare villainous role. Fonda is trying to buy out the mail-order bride who arrived to find her family-to-be brutally murdered. Fonda wants to build a railroad, and he needs the land the lady inherits from her late husband. He hires some henchmen to convince her, and she hires some of her own to stand her ground.

Bronson is at his quiet best as the harmonica playing drifter. And Fonda is great as the vicious bad guy. It starts with a cool confrontation and ends with a satisfying showdown. The middle, although it drags a bit in places, is full of beautiful shots, and great dialogue.

While I enjoyed this film a lot, I don’t quite share Joe’s enthusiasm for it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie. I just enjoy other movies, including other westerns, more than this one. Overall, it is a great movie worth watching a few times. It was really cool to see perennial good guy Fonda as the villain. And there are some amazing quotes; from the “How can you trust a guy who wears suspenders and a belt. The man can’t even trust his own pants,” to the great opening exchange

Bronson: You brought three horses. Where’s my horse?

One of the three villains: Looks like we’re one horse short.

Bronson: No. You brought two too many.

Overall, and I’m sure I’m gonna hear from Joe about this, I rank it #40.

Stay tuned for our reviews of one of my all-time favorites, Jurassic Park.



Once Upon a Time in the West – Review

May 8, 2008

By Joe

Take the first eight minutes of any movie and put them up against that same time in Once Upon A Time in the West, and I guarantee the former won’t stand a chance.

From the creaking windmill to the buzz of the fly, the only plot thread pulling us along is the wonder of what’s coming. What is coming is the man with the harmonica.

This is by far one of the greatest movies ever put to film. It’s a story of greed, revenge, power, love and of course bullets. It’s a western that moves slowly at a calculated mosey with a hand on its holster, ready to draw.

And when it does draw, it’s an amazing sight. Witness the dirty, fast shootout to open the film or the savage killing of a family. No punches are pulled. It’s quick, painful, brutal.

But for all the violence, the movie has heart too. A criminal who is looking for a place in the world. A woman fighting for independence. A quiet man looking for revenge. Their stories cross back and forth like streets in an dying town. They know little about each other except that there will be bullets fired and blood spilled.

The Rundown:

Quotable: Easily. “How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can’t even trust his own pants.”

Defining Scene: The opening. It builds and builds until… 

Remembered After Two Days: From the famous lines (“Do you know anything about a guy going around playing the harmonica? He’s someone you’d remember. Instead of talking, he plays. And when he better play, he talks”) to the final shots, it’s a movie that’s hard to forget.

Top 50 Rating: 10.
It’s one of the best westerns ever and one of the best movies. Watch it and try to fight that urge to go buy a harmonica.


What is a Hero?—High Noon Review

May 2, 2008

What is a hero? Well, this question is perfectly answered in one of the greatest, if not the greatest, westerns ever. Gary Cooper’s Will Kane is, in my opinion, the greatest hero ever to grace the silver screen. What is a hero? A hero is not someone who acts out of the absence of fear. A hero is one who acts because it is necessary, regardless of how scared he or she may be. This is perfectly portrayed by Cooper.

The synopsis is this. Kane is retiring as town Marshall, and marrying a young Quaker wife. At approximately 10:30 in the morning, immediately following his wedding, Kane learns that Frank Miller, a violent man he sent to prison, has been pardoned and is returning to town on the noon train. Miller had vowed his revenge, and, with his associates waiting at the station, it seems he is coming to exact it.

Kane’s first reaction is to heed his new pacifist bride’s warnings and leave town. But he soon realizes that with the new Marshall still days away, no one is there to defend the town. So he decides to stay and gather up some deputies to thwart Miller and his men. This proves easier said than done. Everyone is so scared of Miller, that no one wants to help. Kane, however is determined to remain loyal to those who refuse to do so for him.

There are some very powerful scenes throughout this movie. One is Kane’s lonely walk down empty streets as townsfolk avoid him in their homes. Another is his reaction to one man’s refusal to help in particular. When news of Miller’s impending arrival came, one citizen had vowed to help Kane, and promised to meet him at the office after Kane had gotten some more help. When he returns and finds Kane alone loading his guns, he backs out. The look on Cooper’s face says it all. The relief of seeing his friend come back gives way to sadness and disappointment, which then gives way to acceptance and determination. All these emotions are wordlessly displayed on his face in a matter of about five seconds, and this is acting at its best. His line “Go on home to your kids,” is both heart-breaking and uplifting. You see a man who realizes he must face evil alone and accepts it.

This movie did three things that I really liked, that were not all that common at the time. First, it was shot in black-and-white, when most movies had gone on to color. I believe this decision was necessary to make the movie as good as it was. Color would have taken away from the sense of impending dread. Next, it was told in real time, more or less. We get to experience the same amount of time that Kane does, as he marches on to his inevitable showdown. Third, there were two very powerful female roles. This is still rare in westerns today. Grace Kelley, in her breakout role as Kane’s wife, and Katy Jurado, in a tour-de-force role as a landowner with “history” with nearly every man in town, deliver amazing performances. Their best scene is their only one together, when they debate the merits of Kane’s actions, and the duties of Kelley as his wife in this moment.

The final showdown is masterfully shot, as is the whole movie. High Noon went on to win 4 Oscars; Editing, Score, Song, and a well-deserved Best Actor for Cooper. It was also nominated for Picture, but I guess it’s hard to win when you’re up against a movie entitled The Greatest Show on Earth.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone, regardless of your feelings on westerns. You will not be disappointed.

I place this movie at Number 20 on my all-time list.



So Many Movies

April 30, 2008


I wasn’t ready for this. I can name 50 great movies, but all the movies I’ve ever seen? I didn’t realize exactly how tough this venture would be until last weekend. My wife and I were watching Groundhog Day on television and she turned to me and said, “This will be on your list, right?”

Of course. But then I wondered about other movies, those that I loved but I hadn’t seen in a few years. Glengary GlenRoss…definitely. Heat…of course. What about the Bourne movies? Do all three make it? That’s three spots gone right there. Same for the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Suddenly the list was filling up faster than I had time to even watch the movies.

I have to put Caddyshack on the list, but should it really be there? What about The Sting? Or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Both are classics. Terminator 2…a great movie, but is it on the list? Same with Aliens (Hint: yes on the latter).

The more I thought about it, the more I realized in the coming weeks and months we’ll be making some very tough decisions. I think now this whole Top 50 journey just got a bit more rocky. Speaking of which, Rocky has to be on the list…

I’ll be back Friday with my preview of Once Upon A Time in the West.