Over the span of a few years in the mid 1980s, the American mass media suddenly became aware of the growing popularity of the fantasy genre, spurred by the debut of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game in the late 70s. While some conservative groups responded to this trend with alarm and hostility (as in the 1982 TV movie Mazes and Monsters or the notorious Christian fundamentalist pamphlet “Dark Dungeons“), the realization that nerds have money led many film and television producers to attempt to feed off the D&D frenzy. A Dungeons & Dragons animated series began airing in 1983, and major movie studios also turned to fantasy fare. Even Disney got into the act, releasing The Black Cauldron, an ultimately costly departure from their typical “family-friendly” subject matter, in 1985.
100 Film Favorites – #27: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
(Edgar Wright, 2010)
Okay…so, way back in Post #63, I emphatically declared Wreck-It Ralph to be the best video game movie ever. Well, it has some competition.
Based on the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World tells the story of a young Canadian musician living in a world very much like our own, but which just so happens to operate under video game rules. Scott (Michael Cera) is a 23-year old slacker, and the bassist of the excellently-named band Sex Bob-Omb. One day, Scott encounters Ramona Flowers, the “girl of his dreams” who has recently been running through his mind (literally: it’s explained that Ramona is able to traverse an interdimensional “subspace” which happens to pass through Scott’s subconscious – a handy ability in her job as a delivery girl for Amazon).
A word of preface: From 2010-2012, my fellow members of the William & Mary Wind Symphony elected me “Best Person to be Stranded With on a Desert Island” in three consecutive years of band superlatives. I’m not exactly sure why; perhaps I exude a mysterious air of crisis preparedness. But the fact remains – my peers apparently consider me well-qualified to comment on matters of desert island survival. So here goes.
Cast Away stars Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland, a Federal Express manager who travels the world, training international Fed Ex branches to run more efficiently and punctually. As such, he is driven by the clock at all times. “We cannot allow ourselves,” he tells a crowded Siberian mailroom, “to commit the sin of losing track of time.”
“I recall the time they found those fossilized mosquitoes,
And before long, they were cloning DNA…”
Today we plunge onward into the “roaring” 20s with probably the greatest “dinosaur movie” to date. In Jurassic Park, a genetic engineering firm led by eccentric billionaire John Hammond has succeeded in creating living dinosaurs, by extracting DNA from fossilized mosquitoes which once fed on the creatures. Hammond plans to showcase his dinosaurs at the titular Jurassic Park, a wildlife preserve located on an island off of Costa Rica. But when a velociraptor kills a park worker, Hammond’s investors grow wary. In order to assuage their fears that the park is unsafe, Hammond opts to bring in some experts to provide testimony in favor of the park’s opening.
At a dig in Montana, paleontologist Alan Grant is overseeing the excavation of a velociraptor skeleton. In some ways Grant is an avowed traditionalist (he has trouble operating machinery and regards dubiously a device which peers through the ground via sonar to reveal buried fossils without digging). But in one respect, Grant’s views are progressive: He believes that many dinosaurs were more closely related to modern day birds than to lizards. Continue reading →
I think I was in love with this movie from its opening instant. A shout of “Out there…” from Michael Crawford (the original Broadway “Phantom”) accompanies the sudden appearance of a spectacular stellar panorama. The song “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello, Dolly! plays as the camera zooms through space toward a curiously brownish Earth. Through a virtual crust of millions of satellites and assorted other space junk, we enter the atmosphere of Earth, which, to quote Dr. Seuss, has become “smoke-smuggered.” The world is desolate and covered with trash, and in many places pyramids composed of condensed garbage tower higher than the city skyscrapers. Continue reading →
100 Film Favorites – #31: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
(Jake Kasdan, 2007)
“Life’s a race, and I’m in it to win it. And I’ll walk as damn hard as I please.”
In recent years, it has often been said that the art of parody, at least in film, is dead. People frequently cite the films of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Date Movie, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, etc.) as evidence of the declining quality of film spoofs, with mere allusions to recent pop culture phenomena and “humorously” renamed characters taking the place of actual jokes, wit, or satire.
Most of these posts have started off with a plot summary, then followed up with some relevant historical factoids. Today, we’re shaking things up and beginning with the history lesson.
The character of Zorro first appeared in Johnston McCulley’s 1919 pulp serial The Curse of Capistrano. The story introduces many enduring elements of the Zorro legend: Don Diego de la Vega is a nobleman living in colonial California in the early 1800s, prior to Mexico’s independence from Spain. Growing disgusted by the mistreatment of the Mexican villagers at the hands of the Spanish aristocracy and other corrupt officials, Diego dons the guise of Zorro (Spanish for “fox”). In a black cape and mask, and armed with a rapier and whip, Zorro fights the oppression of the commoners. To mock his enemies, Zorro always leaves a calling card, by slashing a “Z” at the scene of his exploits with three quick swipes of his sword. And to effectively conceal his secret identity, Diego plays the part of a boring, selfish fop in “real life,” only showing his true passion and fighting prowess while in his Zorro persona. Continue reading →
Today’s pick is probably the highest-ranking instance of a film that I love, but pretty much everyone else hates. It’s the 1967 musical adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle series, about an eccentric veterinarian who can actually “Talk to the Animals.” The music was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, who would go on to score Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in 1971.
The film opens in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, a fictional village in mid-1800s England, with Matthew Muggs (Newley), an Irishman who peddles scrap meat as pet food, describing “My Friend, the Doctor.” Matthew is essentially the Nick Carraway to Doctor Dolittle’s Gatsby: fairly unremarkable, but useful as a “control” to the Doctor’s eccentricity. “My friend the Doctor says the world is full of fantasy,” says Matthew, “and who are you and I to disagree?” Continue reading →
100 Film Favorites – #34: Follow Me, Boys! / Mr. Holland’s Opus
(Norman Tokar, 1966 / Stephen Herek, 1995)
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Today we come to the Countdown’s one and only double feature. I know this technically pushes the grand total to 101 Film Favorites, but if it makes it easier for you, you can just think of today’s “bonus” film as making up for the handful of short films and TV specials that snuck in.
So why did I choose to highlight two films in the same post? Well, because I just couldn’t rank one over the other…because they’re essentially the same movie, thirty years apart. Both films feature a protagonist who begins the story as a youngish man of around 30. In Follow Me, Boys! it’s Lemuel “Lem” Siddons, a member of a traveling band who stops off in a small town one day, deciding it’s time to settle down and pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer. In Mr. Holland’s Opus, the role is played by titular character Glenn Holland, also a professional musician, who dreams of dedicating his time to composing orchestral music. Continue reading →
100 Film Favorites – #35: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
(Gore Verbinski, 2003)
Originally, I prefaced this entry with some information about how posts were going up daily over here on EarnThis, and that the new site offered “an improved, multimedia Brian Terrill Movie Night experience devoid of typos.” Hopefully that has proven true thus far, and will continue to do so.
Now on to the matter at hand. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, like the series it launched, takes place at some unspecified point in Pirate Times (sometime within the 17th and/or 18th centuries). While sailing across the Atlantic to Port Royal, Jamaica, a British crew rescues a boy from the flotsam of a shipwreck. Elizabeth Swann, the young daughter of Port Royal’s new governor, spies a mysterious gold coin hanging around the boy’s neck, and stashes it away. Continue reading →