Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Top 20 Movies Of All Time: 12 To 9

What follows is a list of what I think are the best films of all time. Now rating films is a very subjective thing, and I have by no means seen every film ever made, so some of the films that you may think are the best might not be on this list. Feel free to suggest something that I might have missed, and if I agree with you I will amend my list and give you credit for introducing me to a new awesome movie. Other then that, enjoy and feel free to comment about my choices. Due to laziness, I will be using the synopsis's from http://www.allmovie.com/, and then I will put in my two cents afterwards.

12. Casablanca

What It Is About - Casablanca is the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a world-weary ex-freedom fighter who runs a nightclub in Casablanca during the early part of WWII. Despite pressure from the local authorities, notably the crafty Capt. Renault (Claude Rains), Rick's café has become a haven for refugees looking to purchase illicit letters of transit which will allow them to escape to America. One day, to Rick's great surprise, he is approached by the famed rebel Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and his wife, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Rick's true love who deserted him when the Nazis invaded Paris. She still wants Victor to escape to America, but now that she's renewed her love for Rick, she wants to stay behind in Casablanca. "You must do the thinking for both of us," she says to Rick. He does, and his plan brings the story to its satisfyingly logical, if not entirely happy, conclusion.

Why It Makes The List - Casablanca is one of those movies that would not have been on this list if I made it a year ago. Not because it is not worthy, but because I had never watched it until 2010. I have been watching a lot of older movies lately that I have missed, and quite often some of the movies that are considered the greatest of all time end up being a disappointment to me, (I am looking at you 2001: A Space Oddesy) but this was not the case with Casablanca. It is just as cool and iconic as everybody says it is. The story is great, Humphrey Bogart is all together awesome in his acting and delivery, Claude Rains is incredibly likeable in a kinda villian sort of way, and Ingrid Bergman is simply stunning, being a picture of elegance and grace. Then you also have the great use of music, political overtones, unforgetable and incredibly quotable lines, and they get to stick it to the Nazis in the end, (I hate frickin Nazis) plus the ending is just great. All of these things add up to a movie that easily is amongst the greatest ever made, and thus it made my list.

11. Iron Giant

What It Is About - Set in 1957, The Iron Giant focuses on Hogarth (voice of Eli Marienthal), an imaginative nine-year-old boy who daydreams of alien invasions and doing battle with Communist agents. One day, Hogarth hears a local fisherman talk about something that surpasses anything he could dream up: a fifty-foot robot that fell from the sky. Needless to say, Hogarth's mom, Annie (voice of Jennifer Aniston) finds this a little hard to swallow, but when Hogarth finds the robot (voice of Vin Diesel) they quickly become friends, yet Hogarth knows that he has to hide the Iron Giant. Dean (voice of Harry Connick Jr.), a beatnik sculptor who also runs a junkyard, is "convinced" to help by hiding the robot with his salvage. A government agent named Kent Mansley (voice of Christopher McDonald) soon gets wind that there's a mechanical invader of unknown origins in the neighborhood and wants to wipe out the potential threat. However, the robot (which loves to eat metal and is learning to talk) turns out to be friendly, and the boy in turn tries to teach his new pal the ways of humans.

Why It Makes The List - Iron Giant is the one and only animated movie to make it on my list, and that is saying something, because I love animated movies. Yet as far as I am concerned, Iron Giant is the greatest animated movie ever made. Why you may ask? Well lets look at what it is not first before we get to what it is. It is not ground breaking in its storytelling, animation, editing, direction or voice work, it is not award winning, and it is not well known, so why the heck is it that I would consider it to be a good movie, no matter the best animated movie and amongst the best of all time? Well, what it is is an incredibly well told story that does not rely on new technology (like Pixar movies do, now before anyone jumps down my throat, I love Pixar movies, and they pretty much hold most of the animated spots if this was a top 10 animated movies of all time, but part of their greatness relys on their computer animation) or trick techniques like rotoscoping and it has no musical numbers where the people break out into song. It just plain and simple tells a really great story that has an overall message that can't be beat, "You choose who you are, not other people" (as for me and the Iron Giant, I can tell you this, we are not guns, Booya). The voice work is really solid, the animation is crisp and beautiful and it is directed in a straight forward no nonsense way, (Brad Bird, the director, also made The Incredibles, which is also one of the best animated movies). All in all, it is an old fashioned, well told, honest heart string pulling animated movie, that although I saw as an adult, made me feel like I was a kid again, and it always manages to make a tear come to my eye during the finale, and that is why it is on my list.

10. To Kill A Mockingbird

What It Is About - Set a small Alabama town in the 1930s, the story focuses on scrupulously honest, highly respected lawyer Atticus Finch, magnificently embodied by Gregory Peck. Finch puts his career on the line when he agrees to represent Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man accused of rape. The trial and the events surrounding it are seen through the eyes of Finch's six-year-old daughter Scout (Mary Badham). While Robinson's trial gives the film its momentum, there are plenty of anecdotal occurrences before and after the court date: Scout's ever-strengthening bond with older brother Jim (Philip Alford), her friendship with precocious young Dill Harris (a character based on Lee's childhood chum Truman Capote and played by John Megna), her father's no-nonsense reactions to such life-and-death crises as a rampaging mad dog, and especially Scout's reactions to, and relationship with, Boo Radley (Robert Duvall in his movie debut), the reclusive "village idiot" who turns out to be her salvation when she is attacked by a venomous bigot, all help to round out the story and give the characters more depth in the storytelling.

Why It Makes The List - This is another one like Casablanca, that would not have been on my list a year ago, but after finally seeing it last year, it easily made it. Now just as other highly regarded older films, I had my doubts going in, (in fact, I was kinda annoyed before I even put the dvd in the player, cause a quote on the case touted Atticus Finch as being one of the greatest heros in film history, and do you know what, they were right, I was shocked) but Harper Lee's story is just great, and Gregory Peck was astounding as Atticus Finch. He is the epitome of what a good man should be, he stands up for what he believes, is a great father that is loving yet disciplined, and has great skill in many areas yet never brags or boasts. All in all, Atticus Finch rocks. Then add to that a great story, nice performacnes from the kids in the movie and a morality tale about race relations and you have a movie that just left me thinking, "Now this is why the meduim of film was invented!" and thus, you find it here, on my list.

9. Jaws

What It Is About - Based on Peter Benchley's best-selling novel, Steven Spielberg's 1975 shark saga set the standard for the New Hollywood popcorn blockbuster while frightening millions of moviegoers out of the water. One early summer night on fictional Atlantic resort Amity Island, Chrissie decides to take a moonlight skinny dip while her friends party on the beach. Yanked suddenly below the ocean surface, she never returns. When pieces of her wash ashore, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) suspects the worst, but Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), mindful of the lucrative tourist trade and the approaching July 4th holiday, refuses to put the island on a business-killing shark alert. After the shark dines on a few more victims, the Mayor orders the local fishermen to catch the culprit. Satisfied with the shark they find, the greedy Mayor reopens the beaches, despite the warning from visiting ichthyologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) that the attacks were probably caused by a far more formidable Great White. One more fatality later, Brody and Hooper join forces with flinty old salt Quint (Robert Shaw), the only local fisherman willing to take on a Great White--especially since the price is right. The three ride off on Quint's boat "The Orca," soon coming face to teeth with the enemy.

Why It Makes The List - Jaws is a movie that equal parts terrified and mezmerized me when I watched it as a kid. It is scary, especially when it was made, but it also had a opposite effect with me then it did the general public. When Jaws was released, all of a sudden, sharks were enemy # 1 in the water. People started fishing them more and they were painted as villians pretty much around the world. But as for me, as scared as I was of Jaws, it also made me fall in love with sharks. Now, as for the film itself, it was pretty ground breaking for its effects and directing, doing things with props (I'm talking about the shark here) and water filming that was never seen before and has been copied countless times since. Then you have the acting. The cast does a great job, from the town residents, to the greedy mayor, and Mrs Brody, to the three main characters when they are on the boat together, (if I do ever end up owning a boat it will be called The Orca, hands down the most iconic boat in film history) their dynamic is incredible, and the "Comparing scars" speech about the sunken navy boat is one of the best of all time on film, (Robert Shaw's depiction of Quint is one of my favourite characters in film history). All these things and probably more that I am missing make Jaws one of the best movies, and that is why yada yada yada, you know the rest.

So there it is, comment or don't (don't seems to be the norm) and I will get 8 To 5 up next week, and check out numbers 20 To 17 and 16 To 13 if you missed them. Stay together in an orderly fashion internet people as we get nearer to the end of the list, and always bet on black, if you bet, if not, always support people who bet on black.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Choice, Fate And A Big ___* Stone Hand: A Theological Review of Hellboy

What is it that makes a man a man? Is it his origins, the way things start. Or is it something else, something harder to describe? Well, lets look at that and lots of more fun stuff as I review, Hellboy, and although it is based on a superhero comic book, about a demon, it has a lot more really great God stuff then you would think it would, so here we go.
Plot: In the 2nd world war, Hitler, in his goal of world domination, becomes obsessed with the occult and the possible power it could bring. With this he sends some soldiers and henchmen to an island in Scotland were some ruins exist in hope of opening a door through to another dimension where the gods of chaos live. The leaders of this expedition are Hitler’s lead assassin, (he looks a bit like a Nazi C-3PO, except this one likes to experiment on himself and is really good at killing people) and head occult advisor Grigori Rasputin, (yeah, that Rasputin, the one that is supposed to be dead long ago in Russia, it seems he doesn't die so easily).

So, just as the Nazis open the portal, Professor Broom from the BPRD and the American army show up, (The BPRD stands for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense in case you were wondering, it is an agency that wa founded for, “when things go bump in the night, they bump back” or in this case to stop the Nazi’s from destroying the world opening portals, which is just rude) and throw a monkey wrench into the works, (actually, it was a grenade, but a monkey and/or wrench would have probably worked too, those dang monkeys can destroy almost anything if you give them a wrench, or dynamite) and before the super ugly tentacle demony thing can “break on through to the other side”** they get the portal closed with Rasputin getting sucked in as it disappears. So yeah, suck on that Nazis, (I frickin’ hate Nazis, I have known some very nice German people over the years, so I have nothing against Germans, but Nazis, they just suck) but smart Professor Broom wants to make sure nothing else made it through so they have a quick look around and low and behold (I have never quite understood this expression, does it mean get on the ground and look up? Or look at the ground and see things? Beats me either way, but I keep using it anyway) they find the cutest little red monkey looking demon you ever did see, who just so happens to have one normal hand, and one that is really big and made of stone, (that gets explained later).

So, seeing as he is so cute, and they didn’t really want a baby demon running around loose, Professor Broom adopts him and the army unit nicknames him, “Hellboy”. Cut to 60 years later, and Rasputin is brought back by his Nazi girlfriend (Nazis, I frickin’ hate, ahh, wait a minute, I already ranted about them, ok, moving on) and just can’t wait to “bring the ruckus”***, and the first thing they want is, you guessed it, (if you haven’t guessed it yet I will give you time now …………………………………………… ………………… ….  did you get it yet, no, keep trying ………… ……………… ……………… Ok, times up, if you haven’t guessed it by now I will just tell you and we will just call you “Special” when referring to you in all future blogging sessions)
So they want Hellboy, who is now fully grown, (although he ages slowly so he still acts like a teenager even though he is 60 years old) loves kittens, shaves his horns down to try and look more human and is the governments #1 answer to all your bump in the night paranormal needs. He is now a member of the BPRD with his dad, along with a telepathic fishy guy named Abe Sapian (who was found in a secret room in a hospital the day Honest Abe Lincoln was killed, so they gave him his name, yep, makes sense to me too), and Liz Sherman, who is a pyrokinetic (that means she can start and control fires with her mind for all you non geeks out there) and also has an on again/off again relationship with Hellboy.
Together they are a secret team that stops all the bad stuff that us “normal” people have no clue is going on all around us.  As for the rest, let’s just say that lots of cool fighting and adventures happens as the bad guys try and use Hellboy to end the world and the good guys try and stop them. (Frickin’ Nazis)

Main Themes:
What a difference a father can make! - Some parents have perfect little children, some have kids that are great but kinda mischievous, (my two kids fit in this category God bless 'um) and then you have the kids that get into a fair bit of trouble that need some, or a lot of extra attention (at this point if you can't think of anyone you know who is like that, then it probably means that it is you, but don't worry, God loves you too) but in the case of  Professor Broom, he had a demon for a child, literally. So the question that is often asked about childrens behavior is, Nature VS Nurture. Do they act good and sweet because they are raised like that, or would they just be like that anyway, because it is who they are. Well, what if your son is a demon, and not just any demon, a prince of demons, (yep, Hellboy is actually royalty, he was born to rule over, well, everything, including earth) you would expect that they would turn out terrible, no matter how they were raised, right? So how come Hellboy spends most of his time, (when he is not drinking beer, eating nachos, trying to get Liz to take him back or playing with his kittens) fighting evil and saving the world? Well, cause that is what his dad taught him to do. There is a quote in a book that you may have heard of, it is called THE BIBLE. And in, THE BIBLE, there is a book called PROVERBS, which in chapter 22, verse 6 you will find these words of wisdom, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”. This is why Hellboy is who he is.  If Rasputin had gotten a hold of Hellboy as a baby, he most certainly would have ended up being the earth destroying demon prince that he was supposed to be, but because a decent, loving, God fearing, man became his father It changed everything. What a difference a father can make.
I know this is actually a poster for Hellboy 2, but it has a great shot of his hand, so just deal with it.
What is it that makes a man a man? – This is another major theme the comes up in Hellboy. When the cheif character in the story is not a man, but a demon, but he lives in the humans world and spends much of his time protecting them, it makes sense that he wants to be accepted by them. In Hellboy's case, his dream is that he could walk down the street like everybody else and not be called a freak, in all accounts, he wants to be a man. But he is not a man, at least, not in terms that most people would accept. Now Hellboys father knows this, yet, he also knows that being a man is more then just being human and reaching a certain age, but it is something that is much more then that, regardless of origin. Professor Broom says in the film when talking to a BPRD agent, “He was born a demon; we can't change that. But you will help him, in essence, to become a man.” and that is actualy a key point in the movie, because Hellboy is given a choice later to embrace his roots and end the world or side with his adopted world and save it, and this comes down to a choice, of being a man or a demon. As for his choice, lets just say there is a sequel, so you can probably figure out which one he chooses. 

Theological Discussion Points:
As with other TMR, (that is theological movie reviews for all those playing along at home, 3 points for you if you knew that already) I am just gonna throw out some key thoughts and let you smarter people see if there are any more that I missed. Feel free to let me know if you come up with anything and I could add it to the list and give you some cool interweb credit.

To start, I think one of the cool things is that Hellboy is changed and redeemed from a life of evil because of being adopted by a loving father. His life was changed for the better and put on a different path because of this. Well, so what you may ask? What is your point? Well, I can empathise with Hellboy because of this, becuase I was adopted and redeemed too. Now before people starting calling my parents saying, "I didn't know Peter was adopted?" (which would then cause my Mom to go into her, "10 pounds 2 ounces 30 plus hours of labor" spiel again , and nobody wants that) know that I am talking about a spiritual adoption. You see, all christians are not born that way, it is a choice, we have to accept Jesus, and in turn God adopts us as one of his own children, and when that happen, we are forever changed, just like Hellboy.

I call him Son
Another quick point dealing with the father and adoption thing, there is a point in the film when Rasputin confronts Professor Broom about Hellboy's name that he learn't from his master, saying, "He disclosed to me the child's true name. Would you like to know it?" to which Professor Broom replies, "I already know what to call him. I call him "son".". How cool is that, well, pretty cool, cause that is what God calls us, (well, if you are a girl he calls you daughter, but you get the idea) He knows who we are, cause we are his, and I am a big fan of being God's son, so yeah, Booya for that.

Oh Yeah, The Hand Of Doom, thats what this thing is.

Choice and fate And A Big ___* Stone Hand is the name of this post because this is a huge theologocial theme that is at the core of Hellboy. Do we have a choice in what we do, or are we all just prisoners of fate, and in Hellboys particular case, the world hangs in the balance. This is where the Big ___* Stone Hand comes into play. You see, as cool as Hellboys Big ___* Stone Hand is, it actually has a purpose, and a name, The Hand Of Doom, (that is not ominous at all). The Hand Of Doom is more then just a stylish appendage, it is actually a key. But a key to what you ask, (I know you actually didn't ask, but I just roll that way, or type that way, I guess) well, it seems the evil tentacle god thingys really want to come over for a visit, and they sent a big slab of marble over years ago with 2 large round indents in it, and it appears that is a door to their apartment complex, but it needs a key to open it, and that key is called, The Hand Of Doom****. So, Hellboy literally holds the fate of the world in his Big ___* Stone Hand, and although I have never held the fate of the entire world in my hand, (you probably never have either, but then again, I have no clue who is reading this, apparently I have readers in lots of places around the world, Germany, England, Netherlands, Canada, wait a minute, I live in Canada, so that is probably my mom, anyway, my point is some of you might have held the fate of all of us in your hands, but it is mostly unlikely, cause if you did you probably would be to busy to read my silly blog) but what I have, and everyone else in their grasp, is the ability to influence and change the direction of peoples lives, in particular those of teens and young people. I have seen first hand (pun not intended) how much power can reside in my hands, and how I use them can bring positive or negative impacts on this world. So I beleive we all have a hand of doom, (not necessarly a Big ___* Stone one, but you get the idea) and it is up to us on how we use it, now go save the world and remember to wash up before dinner.

Conclusion: Well, that is all I got for now, so I will end with a quote from one of the characters from the film, take it away Meyers, "What makes a man a man? A friend of mine once wondered. Is it his origins? The way he comes to life? I don't think so. It's the choices he makes. Not how he starts things, but how he decides to end them."

*My wife told me I am not allowed to use the word that I want to here, so you feel free to put any word that fits and you are comfortable with and I will get to stay out of trouble.
**This phrase snuck in here cause I watched a documentary on The Doors called "When You're Strange" the other night narrated by Johnny Depp, it is pretty good, give it a chance if you into or interesting in the band.
***There is no reference to any rapper in this statement, I just liked the way it sounded, so if you are the rapper that came up with that phrase, sorry about not giving you a shout out.
**** I actually like the idea of the hand of doom alot, being that everyone basically has one, so I have been toying with the idea of getting it as a tattoo, but I am still on the fence about it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Top 20 Movies Of All Time: 16 To 13

What follows is a list of what I think are the best films of all time. Now rating films is a very subjective thing, and I have by no means seen every film ever made, so some of the films that you may think are the best might not be on this list. Feel free to suggest something that I might have missed, and if I agree with you I will amend my list and give you credit for introducing me to a new awesome movie. Other then that, enjoy and feel free to comment about my choices. Due to laziness, I will be using the synopsis's from http://www.allmovie.com/, and then I will put in my two cents afterwards.

16. Flag Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima Although these are techincally 2 seperate films, I am counting them as 2 parts of one whole in this case, for reasons mentioned below.
Flags Of Our Fathers

What It Is About - Flags Of Our Fathers concerns the lives of the men in the famous picture of soldiers raising the American flag over Iwo Jima during that historic WWII battle. Battle scenes are intercut with footage of three of the soldiers - played by Ryan Phillipe, Jesse Bradford, and Adam Beach -- who survived the battle going on a goodwill tour of the United States in order to sell war bonds. Many evenings they are forced to reenact their famous pose, something each of them finds more and more difficult to do as they suffer from survivor's guilt. Eastwood frames the story by having one of the men's grown son (Tom McCarthy) interview his father's old comrades in order to find out more about what happened to his father.

Letters From Iwo Jima

What It Is About - In 1945, World War II was in its last stages, and U.S. forces were planning to take on the Japanese on a small island known as Iwo Jima. While the island was mostly rock and volcanoes, it was of key strategic value and Japan's leaders saw the island as the final opportunity to prevent an Allied invasion. Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) was put in charge of the forces on Iwo Jima; Kuribayashi had spent time in the United States and was not eager to take on the American army, but he also understood his opponents in a way his superiors did not, and devised an unusual strategy of digging tunnels and deep foxholes that allowed his troops a tactical advantage over the invading soldiers. While Kuribayashi's strategy alienated some older officers, it impressed Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara), the son of a wealthy family who had also studied America firsthand as an athlete at the 1932 Olympics. As Kuribayashi and his men dig in for a battle they are not certain they can win -- and most have been told they will not survive -- their story is told both by watching their actions and through the letters they write home to their loved ones, letters that in many cases would not be delivered until long after they were dead. Among the soldiers manning Japan's last line of defense are Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a baker sent to Iwo Jima only days before his wife was to give birth; Shimizu (Ryo Kase), who was sent to Iwo Jima after washing out in the military police; and Lieutenant Ito (Shidou Nakamura), who has embraced the notion of "Death Before Surrender" with particular ferocity. Filmed in Japanese with a primarily Japanese cast, Letters From Iwo Jima was shot in tandem with Flags of Our Fathers, and the two films were released within two months of one another.

Why It Makes The List - Just as Tombstone is the only western that made my list, Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima are the only World War II movies that are in my top 20. This may surprise people, as there are many great WWII movies that have been made over the years, so what makes these the best. Well, Clint Eastwood in his movie making brilliance, made two films at the same time, each dealing with the same battle from each sides perspective. Each film has incredible action and acting from amazing casts, but each is very much their own while still being part of a whole. Flags Of Our Fathers looks at the battle of Iwo Jima from the American side. It focuses on the story of the men who are in one of the most famous pictures taken in american war history, and how it caused their lives to be drastically changed for the better and for the worse, and what their country expected of them, because of it. Letters From Iwo Jima on the other hand looks at the Japanese side of the battle of Iwo Jima from a Generals perspective, and a few soldiers that are spread throughout the island. Eastwood chose to film most of the movie in black and white, which really helps get across the hopeless feeling that the Japanese soldiers must have felt, being torn between following orders, wanting to survive and fulfilling the honor code that many of them lived by. The dialogue in the movie for the most part was also in Japanese with subtitles, and it actually premiered in Japan before it did in America, which was an incredibly cool move on Eastwoods part. Ok, so that is all great, but you may be asking why is it on this list? Well, many of the war movies that I have seen deal with either one particular person or platoon, or are spread out over long periods of time, but this is not the case with these films. Both of these movies look at one battle, but they also cover personal, political and moral perspectives present in each country in such a way as to give a much greater understanding of what each side was actually going through. It puts this one battle, over the island of Iwo Jima, into a much clearer context , as to why it was so important in the grand scheme of this war and to each country in particular, yet, still has impact on the viewer on incredibly personal levels. Clint Eastwood has fashioned two movies that tell the same story through completely different eyes, yet stays true to both sides. I don't think this has ever been done before, and Clint Eastwood managed to do it brilliantly in two incredibly authentic looking, well made films, and that is why they made my list.

15. V For Vendetta

What It Is About - V for Vendetta takes place in an alternate vision of Britain in which a corrupt and abusive totalitarian government has risen to complete power. During a threatening run in with the secret police, an unassuming young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) is rescued by a vigilante named V (Hugo Weaving) -- a caped figure both articulate and skilled in combat. V embodies the principles of rebellion from an authoritarian state, donning a mask of vilified would-be terrorist of British history Guy Fawkes and leading a revolution sparked by assassination and destruction. Evey becomes his unlikely ally, newly aware of the cruelty of her own society and her role in it.

Why It Makes The List - Based on the Allan Moore comic book (although it is very different on certain key plot points), V For Vendetta is a movie that is all about truth and the power that one man can have when he decides to fully commit to an idea or ideal. It mixes politics, action, mystery, plot twists and the greatest speech of V words ever put on film. The acting is fantastic from an incredible cast, with Hugo Weaving giving his best performance to date and Natalie Portman is great and possibly the most attractive bald woman I have ever seen. V is a very multilayered character that would probably be considered a villain if he was in any other film, but that is only because he is uncompromising in his goals and direction with which they are carried out. V For Vendetta is a violent, fast paced, morality tale that looks at truth, justice, love, redemption and unity, all with a guy running around in a mask throwing daggers, how cool is that, and it is that, plus the fact that V For Vendetta looks incredible that it makes my list.

14. Spartacus
What It Is About - Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is a rebellious slave purchased by Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), owner of a school for gladiators. For the entertainment of corrupt Roman senator Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier), Batiatus' gladiators are to stage a fight to the death. On the night before the event, the enslaved trainees are "rewarded" with female companionship. Spartacus' companion for the evening is Varinia (Jean Simmons), a slave from Brittania. When Spartacus later learns that Varinia has been sold to Crassus, he leads 78 fellow gladiators in revolt. Word of the rebellion spreads like wildfire, and soon Spartacus' army numbers in the hundreds. Escaping to join his cause is Varinia, who has fallen in love with Spartacus, and another of Crassus' house slaves, the sensitive Antoninus (Tony Curtis). The revolt becomes the principal cog in the wheel of a political struggle between Crassus and a more temperate senator named Gracchus, while Spartacus just wants freedom for himself and his people.

Why It Makes The List - You don't get any more epic then Spartacus. This is a movie that pretty much defines, "HUGE" and "CLASSIC" more then any other that I can think of. It has an absolutely amazing performance from Kirk Douglas as a man that becomes a slave, then gladiator, then free man, then general, all the while just wanting to be free and be with the woman he loves. One of the most impressive things about Spartacus, when watching it now, is to see just how massive in scale it was. The amount of people it must have took both in front and behind the camera had to be staggering. Add to that the stunts that are done, especially the "flaming rolling pins of death", and the gladiator fights, it is just an undertaking that deserves recognition for all the other films that it inspired after it, some of which are on this list, and that is why I place it among the top 20 films of all time.

13. Inception
What It Is About - Visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight) writes and directs this psychological sci-fi action film about a thief who possesses the power to enter into the dreams of others. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) doesn't steal things, he steals ideas. By projecting himself deep into the subconscious of his targets, he can glean information that even the best computer hackers can't get to. In the world of corporate espionage, Cobb is the ultimate weapon. But even weapons have their weakness, and when Cobb loses everything, he's forced to embark on one final mission in a desperate quest for redemption. This time, Cobb won't be harvesting an idea, but sowing one. Should he and his team of specialists succeed, they will have discovered a new frontier in the art of psychic espionage. They've planned everything to perfection, and they have all the tools to get the job done. Their mission is complicated, however, the repeated appearnce of Cobbs dead wife keeps changing the variables and only through resolution will they stand any chance of achieving their goal.

Why It Makes The List - Inception is one of those movies that as I sat watching it in the theater, just made me freak out by it sheer awesomeness. It has pretty much everything you could want in a big budget movie. It has great acting, an amazing cast, an original premise, mind bending special effects which help to further the story instead of overwhealm it (Total props go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the running around the hallways, cause that was just incredible) little touches of humor, and some great action set pieces that just put a smile on my face. Add to that the emotional rollercoaster ride that the journey that Cobb goes on to try and forgive himself for his wifes death and get back to his children and you have a movie that left me feeling as giddy as a little kid and fulfilled as an all growed up adult. Top all that off with the direction of my favourite and best director working right now, Christopher Nolan, and you have my number 13 movie, of my best movies of all time (Just a little note in case my friend Mike B. is reading this, I know you think Inception is overrated, and I am ok with that, I still value your opinion, even if it is that some of the movies that I love suck.)

So there are the next 4, let me know what you think, and look for numbers 12 To 9 to be up next week, and check out 20 To 17 if you missed it. Until then, may your internet never be down, and the corners of your mouth always be up. Stay toasty, or some other word that works better for you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Good Movies Teens Will Like: Forever Strong

One of the reasons I started this blog was to let youth and youth leaders know about some of the good and clean movies that I have seen that they might have missed, (well, that is one of the reasons my friend Ken told me to start it for anyway) so with that thought, here is my first suggestion.
What It Is About - Forever Strong is a movie about two things, Rugby, and Redemption. The main story is about a young and spoiled high school rugby player named Rick Penning. Rick has everything a young man could want, (well, almost everything, mor
e on that in a moment) he lives in a huge home, has a beautiful girlfriend, drives a red sports car, is good looking (he even has a beauty mark), athletic and is the star of his high-school rugby team, in fact, the only thing Rick doesn't have is the love and respect of his father (who just also happens to be his coach) or any kind of feeling of contentment about who he is. This leads Rick to play dirty, show off, and being the alpha male amongst his friends, do such fun things as drinking and driving. Now it is just such a time, that Rick and his team mates are celebrating after a loss to their hated rivals Highland, (yeah, makes no sense to me either, they lose but party like they won) that Rick and his girl go out driving after the party is over and Rick, being inebriated (that is a fancy word for being drunk, I thought I would just show off my skills as a word writer guy) that he crashes his car, injuring his girlfriend and get sentenced to teen jail (they don't really call it teen jail in the movie, it is called Wasach Juvenile Detention Center, but that is what it is, none the less). Ok, now Rick lives in Arizona, and Jail is in Utah, which is about 650 miles apart, (I actually map quested it incase you were wondering how I knew that) so he is kinda far from home, but more important, Utah is also the home of the Highland rugby team, and that changes everything, but more on that later.

So, Rick is stuck in teen jail, he still
has to go to school, but also group sessions where he has to talk about his feelings (which he is a huge fan of), and when he does bad stuff (like pick fights, or kicking peoples chairs out right before they sit down in them, you know, all those kind of shenanigans) he gets to clean the toilets, and the toilets start to get very clean, if you know what mean (if you don't know what I mean then just pretend you do, it will be better for both of us). So, it is at this point the head of Wasach (who used to have hairy feet and carried his best friend up a mountain once) decides to call his old rugby coach to see if he can help Rick get a better attitude and possibly get out of teen jail sooner for good behavior.
So Rick reluctantly decides to play for Highland, and now for some background info on Highland, oh, and I forgot to mention it up until this point, but this is actually based on a true story. So, Highland rugby team is pretty much a legend, they're the winningest team in American high school history. They have had the same head coach, Larry Gelwix, since the team began (over 40 years ago), and he has a very particular way of coaching. Larry Gelwix (that's the coaches name for those playing along at home) doesn't yell and bark orders at his players, instead he does everything he can to make them better, in rugby and in life (I will give you two quotes from Gelwix here so you can see what I mean, "I don't build championship teams, I build championship boys." and "I want you to be forever strong on the field, so that you will be forever strong off the field." see what I mean, it is more then just a game to Coach Gelwix). If you want to be on the Highland rugby team you are expected to meet some pretty high standards. You must be honest, hard working, do no drugs, alcohol and stay out of trouble in school and also with girls. Rick initially laughs about these rules, calling the team a bunch of
choir boys, but this slowly starts to change. The team also does a lot of running (and I mean a lot of running, I never would have been able to make the team, cause running seems to be one of those things you actually have to do to be good at, and let's just say, well, I am not a runner, I am more a stroller, not the kids kind with wheels mind you, that would just be silly) and then when they are done running, they do things like free yard work and landscaping for the local hospital, and then when they are done that, they go up to the 6th floor and read and play games with the sick kids. Rick does not like this, but the more he is with the team, the more he is affected by them, and from there let's just say the movie flows and by the end, Rick's a better person and has a better relationship with his father, plus you get to see some cool rugby and funny scenes along the way.

Why Teens Would Like It - Forever Strong is your typical sports movie, but that is a good thing. It has lots of cool rugby scenes, believable characters that you become invested in and is also very funny. The characters might come off as stereotypical to some, but pretty much every teen I have ever shown it to has come away liking it. Saying that, I have shown this movie to teens on two separate occasions, once to my small group (I lead the grade 10/11 guys small group at my church, so big shout out to my boys) and I did a movie night at my church for teens (both guys and girls attended) and both times it was a big hit. In fact, a couple of my guys have borrowed my copy of it (as of right now you can still get it on DVD at blockbuster in their used section for about $6 in case you wanted to go get a copy for yourself or your dog, cause dogs like movies too) and if DVD's could be worn out they might of done it (as far as I know, Brian had it for a couple weeks and watched it 13 times, Connor had it for 3 days and watched it 6 times and I am not sure how long Jon AKA "Snowflake" had it, but I think he said he watched it 3 times) so I think it is safe to say they liked it. All in all this is a movie that is just pretty likable and although I don't really know anything about rugby, I still was able to enjoy it.

Why Leaders Will Like It - Forever Strong is at it's core a tale of redemption. Although it starts out showing teens drinking, with Rick being the leader of the pack, by the end of the movie teen drinking is shown to be stupid, with Rick turning down beer and then having to fight cause they won't leave him alone about it. Other then the drinking, Forever Strong shows how coaching, athletics and teamwork can help shape young people into a better version of themselves (in the movie they refer to this as "dig down deep and first stringing the real Rick Penning" which happens by the end of the movie when Rick is not a different person, but a better Rick then he was before). For much of the movie it looks at doing the right thing, and telling the truth, even when that will bring about a consequence, quoting Coach Gelwix "Good decisions don't make life easy, but they do make it easier.". Throughout Rick finally starts to learn from his mistakes and brings about change, which is a great lesson for teens and adults to learn alike. The other reason leaders will like Forever Strong is it is a very clean movie. It has no sex, very little bad language and what is said is mild, drug and alcohol use is shown and then condemned as being stupid and the team upholds a high moral principle. All in all, Forever Strong is an awesome movie to show teens.
Ok, there is nothing overly blatant in Forever Strong, (which means no one pulls out a bible and starts beating Jesus into anything that moves) but it is obvious that Larry Gelwix has a faith and that impacts the way he lives his life and coaches his team (it is never mentioned in the movie what in particular Gelwix's faith is, but after doing some checking it appears, unless wikipedia is lying to me (which has happened before) that Larry Gelwix is a Mormon, which I kinda figured since the movie is set in Utah and that is Mormon central and all, but this is never stressed in the movie). This is shown most at one point in the movie, Rick finally opens up to coach Gelwix when he is asked to be a team captain, saying, "I don't get it, you know
exactly why I am here and you still act like you care. I'm just a no good spy who cheap shotted your star player last year!" to which Gelwix replies, "First of all, I attribute that cheap shot to your coach and not you, and second let's focus on where you could end up, not where you were or are. And, God doesn't make a no good anything.". That is really the only time I can think of that God is really mentioned in the film, although the team is shown praying before one of the games. What you do get to see is a positive role model in Coach Gelwix and much of that is due to his faith, so it is more about doing then talking in Forever Strong, but since this is all based on a real guy and his team, the doing has obviously worked for the last 40 years, so I don't see any reason that he would change that now.

So to sum it all up, if you are looking for a clean sports movie that is acted well and is
funny to boot, then give Forever Strong a chance, at the very least the worst that could happen is you will be more confused about rugby then before you started, and that is not all that bad of a thing. So game on people, scrum away, and may the oddly shaped football be with you.