January 2008

RF’s Top 5 Movies on DVD Everyone Should Own

by Alan Rapp on January 31, 2008

in Essays 

We’re introducing a new feature today.  Every now and again the RF staff, with the help of some friends, will be giving short (but sweet) lists on all kinds of movie goodness (and badness).  Everybody’s got a DVD collection, though some are better than others.  But what are those handful of DVD’s everyone should have on their shelf?  I’m glad you asked!  Today, with the help of one of our Kansas City Film Critic pals, we’ll take a look and give you some recommendations for DVD’s everyone should own.

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A few notes about today’s list.  The list includes single movies (that’s why you won’t see the original Star Wars Trilogy showing up on my list) available on DVD.  These are not necessarily a list of our favorite films nor a list of what we believe to be the greatest films of all time.  This is a list of movies we just can’t seem to stop watching, and think you should be watching too!

Phil Boatwright is our guest-reviewer for today’s list.  Phil has been writing film reviews from a Christian perspective for thirteen years, and is a fellow member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle.  He is a syndicated film reviewer for such publications as The Christian Single, Living with Teenagers, St. Louis Metro Voice and other periodicals across the country.  You can currently read Phil’s reviews and articles here.

For simplicity, and to give you a wider sampling, we haven’t duplicated any film (for example two of Phil’s 5 could fit easily on my list).  All the films are arranged alphabetically below.  Enjoy!


 

Phil Boatwright’s Top 5

Casablanca I have always considered Citizen Kane the one flawless film, but after a recent viewing of Rick & Elsa’s great love story, I’ve capitulated – Casablanca truly reigns as the greatest motion picture of all time.  I cannot find a false or ineffective camera angle, line or performance in the entire production.  Love, honor and patriotism prevail.  It’s a film I never get tired of viewing.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World All-star cast includes Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney…oh, heck, it stars every major comic from the ‘30s to the ‘60s!  A non-stop laugh-a-thon as a group of motorists learn of a fortune buried 200 miles away.

The Magnificent Seven Derived from the Kurosawa “Eastern,” The Seven Samurai, about gunmen defending a poor Mexican village from bandits is perfectly cast, and contains great shootouts.  Elmer Bernstein’s music is outstanding.  (I’m actually getting a little tired of the film, but it’s taken me near eighty showings to do it.)

The Quiet Man Most film historians grudgingly accept John Wayne as one of the grandest personas ever to appear on celluloid.  Some even take umbrage to the pronouncement that he could not act.  From my research over the years, I’ve discovered John Wayne was John Wayne.  Bigger than life with a Mount Rushmore identity, Wayne was brave, tough, generous and patriotic, just like the man in played in a 150 movies.  Even political foes like Lauren Bacall and Kirk Douglas stand in awe of what he was and what he stood for.  True, no one has made more dreadful films (Rio Lobo, The Conqueror, Jet Pilot), but on the other hand, few have given us any more entertaining pictures than The Quiet Man.  In it Wayne is indomitable in dealing with Victor McLaglen, humorous with Barry Fitzgerald, and tender with one of the most beautiful women on the movie screen, Maureen O’Hara.  John Ford won a deserving Best Director Oscar for this production of a man returning to his roots and discovering that love with an Irish redhead can be as rocky and beautiful as Ireland itself.  A loving, sentimental look at the Ireland we all wish existed.  Great music, cinematography and story make this one of the Duke’s best.  Romance, humor and one of the longest fight scenes ever filmed!

Singin’ in the Rain There are some very funny lines and sequences in this movie, but it’s the dance numbers that truly stand out.  Donald O’Connor’s Make ‘Em Laugh does just that.  And I defy you to not feel the joy of found love as Gene Kelly does the classic title song.


 

Alan’s Top 5

2001: A Space Odyssey I needed a sci-fi flick and for reasons mentioned above took Star Wars out of the equation.  That left me with a quandary.  I also needed a Stanley Kubrick film (everybody should own at least one) and although this isn’t my favorite film of his it does fill both categories nicely.  It’s influence can still be felt today (remember 2006’s The Fountain, or the look of last year’s Sunshine), and it remains one of the most ambitious projects any director attempted.  This space opera of a black monolith, a crazy computer, and an ending I’m still not sure I completely understand, pushed the envelope in every way.  It’s one of the few films that you can watch over and over and leave with a slightly different experience each time.

All The President’s Men Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, who have rarely been better, bring the true story of Watergate to the big screen.  The film is based off the book by Woodward and Bernstein which chronicled their investigation into the Watergate scandal and led to the eventual resignation of President Nixon.  From production, to acting, to directing, to storytelling, the film works on every conceivable level and presents an important message about journalism which only Good Night and Good Luck (30 years later!, read that review) has come close to.  The two-disc special edition includes featurettes on time period, the reporters, journalism, the impact of the film, the real life Deep Throat, and commentary from Redford.

Garden State This might seem to stand out against the other films on the list, but it’s meant to.  We all have movies like this in our collection.  Sure there are better films on the shelf but somehow this one keeps finding itself in the DVD player.  I’m a big fan of Zach Braff’s (who wrote and directed as well as starred in the film) off-beat love story, and have lost track of the number of times I’ve watched it.  This is the film which finally made me like Natalie Portman, and think maybe that Scrubs guy has something afterall (though everything he’s done since has made a strong argument for this being an anomoly rather than a breakthrough).  And that soundtrack!  Garden State is a supremely watchable, and enjoyable, film.  Check out the full review.

Rear Window James Stewart, Grace Kelly and Alfred Hitchcock.  What more could you possibly want.  This film has many imitators but no true successor.  For more on the beautifully remastered DVD read my full review.

The Third Man Orson Welles.  It was hard to choose a film for this list.  I also considered Citizen Kane and A Touch of Evil, but in the end chose this noir thriller about a fool (Joseph Cotten) who stumbles into murder and mayhem in post-WWII Vienna, and solves the murder of his friend Harry Lime (Welles).  Aside from having the best reveal of all time, and one of the greatest speeches (about cuckoo clocks, of all things) the film also sports one of the most unique film scores, and a style and atmosphere perfectly suited to the story.  The two-disc Criterion Edition is filled to the brim with extras and features including multiple audio commentaries, a Graham Green radio recording, documentaries, featurettes, and more.  Like all Criterion discs it’s a bit pricey ($39.99) and almost impossible to find on sale, anywhere, but this one is worth it.  There are few films as memorable, and fans of cinema could, and have, spent years dissecting the camera angles, the lighting, and Anton Karas and his zither.  Just how good is this film?  Both the AFI (American Film Institute) and the BFI (British Film Institute), both claiming ownership to it, rank it among the best films of all time!

Keanu Barrada Nicto, Dude!

by Alan Rapp on January 31, 2008

in Film News & Trailers

Well, it’s official.  December 12, 2008 is the proposed release date for the remake of one of science fiction’s greatest films.  The b&w 1951 film is an iconic message of peace and a stern warning at the growing escalation of violence around the world.  The much beloved film can be found at or near the top of countless Best Sci-fi Film lists.  But hey, this one’s got Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly and the director of Urban Legends: Final Cut!  Somebody shoot me. 

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
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Stephen Colbert SMASH!

by Alan Rapp on January 31, 2008

in Uncategorized

For those who missed Marvel Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada‘s appearance on The Colbert Report here’s a peek at what happened.  Stephen was visably saddened he hadn’t been chosen to be the new Captain America, but Quesada did inform Stephen his campaign for President inside the Marvel Universe is still going strong and mentioned a few possible running mates to consider.  Check out the larger version inside the Full Diagnosis.  Enjoy!

The Colbert Show
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No Country Picks Up Steam

by Alan Rapp on January 31, 2008

in Film News & Trailers

No Country for Old Men, after pulling in the best picture nod from the Broadcast Film Critics Assocation for Best Picture (and several nods from local critics groups) looks to now be the front-runner going into Oscar night.  No Country took home the Ensamble Award for Cast at the SAGs just days after grabbing the Director’s Guild Award. 

Both Michael Clayton and Juno seem to be lossing steam (and my favorite film of the year – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street didn’t get a nomination despite pulling in the Golden Globe for Best Picture Musical or Comedy).  It seems the only question will be if the least of the nominees (Atonement) given its recent win at the Golden Globes, or the dark horse There Will Be Blood, which aside from the performance of its lead has been largerly ignored, can turn this back into a race.

No Country for Old Men
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RazorFine Presents – Thanos

by Alan Rapp on January 30, 2008

in Comics

Welcome to yet another issue of RazorFine Presents Comic Spotlight as we take a look at comic heroes, villains, and everything in between.  This week, for the first time, we shine the comic spotlight on a villain.  Created in the early 1970’s by Jim Starlin, Thanos of Titan, an Eternal with almost unlimited intellect and power, would threaten the universe for decades on a mission to serve and win the heart of his mistress, Death.

Thanos

Name: Thanos

1st Appearance: Iron Man issue #55 (1973)

Final Appearance: Dies (again) in Annihilation issue #4

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“From knowledge springs power, just as weakness stems from Ignorance.”

Thanos, in many ways, is one of the most tragic characters in the history of the Marvel Universe.  Born on Titan to a race of Eternals, Thanos would grow into a bitter and power-hungry young man.  Early on Thanos became infatuated with Death and a desire to earn her pleasure and respect; Thanos pledged his life to her cause.

From the nuclear bombing of his own homeworld, to the murder and dissection of his mother, to his attempt to destroy all life in the cosmos, Thanos is consumed by a desire to prove himself in the eyes of Death.  First using the Cosmic Cube, and later the Infinity Gems, Thanos would be thwarted time and again by the like of Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock, who would turn the Mad Titan to stone and free the universe from his wrath, for the time being.

Thanos would be resurrected by Death in The Silver Surfer to be her new champion, and become a thorn in the side of the Sentinel of the Spaceways.  Once again he acquired all of the Infinity Gems in the short two-part mini-series Thanos Quest and combined their power to reach a level of omnipotence in The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series.  His godhood however was short-lived and Thanos would retreat into seclusion

Over the next several years Thanos would appear throughout the Marvel Universe sometimes as hero, sometimes a villain, but always with an agenda all his own.  Finally Thanos allied himself with Annihilus during the Annihilation mini-series for the simple curiosity of wondering what effect his destructive force will have on the universe.  Eventually Thanos would have enough and turn on Annihilus, however he would be killed by Drax the Destroyer who has hunted the Titan for years.  But don’t mourn too deeply for him; in death Thanos would be granted his fondest wish and become the consort of Mistress Death.

Thanos is a mix of power, science, and mysticism.  Imbued with keen intellect, super-human strength, enhanced reflexes and endurance, and near invulnerability, Thanos was a serious threat to whoever stood in the way of his latest scheme.  His acceptance of both magic and science allowed him to combine the two to enhance his natural abilities, to teleport of long distances, and to travel through time and alternate dimensions.  Thanos would also appear on the short-lived Silver Surfer cartoon in “The End of Eternity” (a three-parter featuring the death of, well, everything) and the series final episode “Soul Hunter.”

I’m a fan of the character, in fact I will admit to owning a little Thanos Infinity Gauntlet action figure.  With the exception of Green Lantern, one thing Marvel does consistently better than DC is the cosmic high-minded and far-reaching adventure.  Thanos is is a big piece of that legacy from his early years battling Captain Marvel to his “final” moments in Annihilation.  In fact he is so important and influential Marvel Comics Online voted him #1 on their list of Marvel’s Greatest Cosmic Characters, beating out characters like The Silver Surfer, Nova, Captain Marvel, and Galactus.

For those interested reading some of the Mad Titan’s adventures I would recommend The Infinity Gauntlet trade paperback (the sequels aren’t as good, but are worth a look), and the Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos trade paperback featuring his return from the dead in the early 1990’s.  There are also several good Internet sites dedicated to the anti-hero including Thanos: The Mad Titan.