5 Phenomenal Michael Keaton Movies


Few actors have the wild-eyed charisma and off-beat charms possessed by screen vet Michael Keaton. His career took off in the early 1980’s, dried up in the late 1990’s, and got its second wind in 2014. I’ve always loved seeing Keaton on screen so what better actor to highlight in a new Phenomenal 5. Narrowing down his film roles to the five best was as tough as I expected, but those are the rules. So while I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, there’s no denying that these five Michael Keaton movies are nothing short of phenomenal.

#5 – “The Dream Team”


Ok, so you could call this a more sentimental choice but I absolutely love “The Dream Team” flaws and all. It’s a 1989 comedy about four mental patients loose in New York City after their field trip to Yankee Stadium goes bad. Keaton is great as the snarky and mischievous self-appointed leader of the patients as they set out to save their doctor/chaperone from some crooked cops. “The Dream Team” wasn’t a huge hit, but it was a great showcase for Keaton’s explosive personality.

#4 – “Beetlejuice”


If you could have seen the look on my children’s faces when I first told them about a movie called “Beetlejuice”. Tim Burton’s 1988 horror-comedy is just as wacky as its name suggests. And despite its fun and completely game cast, the film works so well because of Michael Keaton. This is one of those roles where you can’t imagine anyone else being able to pull it off. He’s utterly ridiculous, weirdly charming, and an absolute riot from the first moment he hits the screen.

#3 – “Spotlight”


Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” was my #1 movie of 2015 and it still stands as a powerful reminder of the importance of free, unbiased journalism. Michael Keaton plays the leader of a small team of investigative journalists working for the Boston Globe. The film follows the Spotlight team as they slowly uncover and ultimately blow the lid off of a massive wide-spread sex abuse scandal within the Catholic church. Keaton gives a perfectly calibrated dramatic turn as an editor fighting for his team’s right to publish their story regardless of the costs. A much different performance from the earlier two films on this list, but a pivotal one nonetheless.

#2 – “The Founder”


Easily the most underrated role on the list and arguably the most underrated role in his entire filmography. Michael Keaton’s starring work in “The Founder” went largely unseen by audiences and apparently by awards voters, but it’s easily one of his best. The film tells the story of Ray Kroc and how he created the multi-billion dollar fast food juggernaut McDonald’s. It’s a meaty role for Keaton, blending his skills with straight drama and dry humor. Chances are you missed this one when it came out in 2016. It’s definitely worth catching up to it.

#1 – “Batman” 


If for some reason you needed more evidence of Michael Keaton’s enormous range as an actor, I present to you 1989’s “Batman”. Yet another collaboration with Tim Burton that sees Keaton playing the Dark Knight before superhero movies were all the rage. I remember being a bit unsure about his casting, but that didn’t stop me from standing in line for over an hour anxiously awaiting an opening weekend viewing. And Keaton didn’t disappoint. “Batman” is very much a Tim Burton take on the Caped Crusader, but Keaton brings his own wit and charm. You never doubt him either as Bruce Wayne or the crime-fighting vigilante in a cape and a cowl. Jack Nicholson received most of the attention for his sparkling work as Joker, but Keaton proved to be crucial to the film’s massive success.

So those are my Michael Keaton movie picks. What say you? See something you agree or disagree with? Please let me know in the comments section below.

5 Phenomenal Movie Foot Chases

As an action movie fan I love a good chase regardless of the kind – motorcycle, car or even on foot. It may surprise you just how many great foot chases there have been in movie history. So I decided to give some love to five great movie foot chases. I left out a few that certainly deserve mention, but these five were musts. Now as usual, I wouldn’t dare call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 movie foot chases are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “Fast Five”

Vin Diesel star as Dominic Toretto in Universal Pictures' Fast Five.

The “Fast and Furious” series has made it’s reputation on fast rides and some ridiculously wild car chases. Who would have thought that one of the coolest scenes in 2011’s “Fast Five” would have been a foot chase? After meeting up at a safe house in Rio de Janeiro, Dom, Brian, and Mia find themselves boxed in by a crime lord’s armed thugs on one side and Special Agent Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his team on the other. The three groups take off on a foot chase through the cramped, densely populated, hillside streets, running through tight alleys and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. It’s a high-octane edge-of-your-seat sequence.

#4 – “Point Break


In what was one part free-spirited surfer movie and one part gritty heist film, “Point Break” was a popular action romp from director Kathryn Bigelow. As Keanu Reeves’ undercover FBI agent gets close to arresting Patrick Swayze’s surfer bank robber the latter takes off on foot. Utah chases him into a neighborhood, over fences, through backyards and living rooms, and finally down a ravine where Reeves hurts his knee and Swayze gets away. It a furious chase with tight, close quarter camera work and even a touch of subtle humor.

#3 – “The Bourne Ultimatum


The third film of the Jason Bourne series featured the same intense, spy thriller action and around the world globetrotting that the series is known for. One of my favorite sequences is in Morocco. Bourne (Matt Damon) and his contact Nicky (Julia Stiles) is targeted by an asset sent to take them out. Nicky runs away, the assassin follows her, Bourne follows assassin. The three run through the crowded streets of Tangier and through a series of close, cramped houses before ending with the best fight scene of the entire series. It all comes together to make for one spectacular scene.

#2 – “Raising Arizona



Leave it to Joel and Ethen Coen to give us not only one of the best foot chases in movie history but by far the funniest. In 1987’s “Raising Arizona” Nicholas Cage’s H.I. McDunnough gives in to his addiction and holds up a convenient store while his wife and kid are in the car outside. Once she realizes what he’s doing, she drives off leaving him behind. With the police arriving and the store clerk pulling out a .44 magnum that would make Dirty Harry proud, H.I. takes off on foot, lunatic cops and rabid dogs hot on his heels. Through suburban backyards, living rooms, and supermarkets. H.I. runs into an assortment of funny characters and hilarious obstacles. It’s hard to beat.

#1 – “Casino Royale”

It was director Martin Campbell’s “Casino Royale” from 2006 that officially made me a James Bond fan. Daniel Craig’s 007 brought a gritty more realistic Bond to the big screen. and I absolutely loved it. It doesn’t take long for the action to crank up in “Casino Royale”. We see Bond in Madagascar where he has tracked down a wanted bomb manufacturer. When his partner botches the apprehension, the suspect takes off on foot with 007 right behind him. I recently rewatched this scene preparing for this list and it still blows my mind. The chase takes the two to a high-rise construction site. They leap up scaffolding, run along steel girders, and fight on sky-high cranes. Then the chase takes them back to the ground, through the busy streets and finally to the Nabutu Embassy where it has an explosive ending. Even though it’s close to 10 minutes long, this chase keeps you glued to the screen. It’s beautifully shot, masterfully edited, and it serves as a wonderful introduction to this new era of Bond.

There you have it – my 5 Phenomenal Movie Foot Chases. See something I missed? Disagree with any of my choices? Please take time to share your favorite movie foot chase below.

5 Phenomenal Movies You May Never Want to Watch a Second Time


Great movies come in all shapes and sizes. That’s a rather lame way of saying there are great movies from all genres. But great movies aren’t by necessity ones you watch over and over again. In fact some can be dark, disturbing, and difficult to sit through while still being truly wonderful films. Today’s Phenomenal 5 looks at five incredible movies you may never want to watch a second time. Now with so many to choose from I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these are truly phenomenal (even if you only see them once).

#5 – “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)


Mel Gibson’s passion project chronicling the final twelve hours in the life of Jesus polarized critics. Much of it came from Gibson’s unwillingness to compromise in depicting the graphically violent nature of Jesus’ scourging and crucifixion. The bloody brutality overwhelmed some and provided ammo for others looking for reasons to dismiss the film. But many were moved by the intensity of the realism despite it being excruciating to watch. And its impact and its message has stuck with a particular segment of cinema fans.

#4 – “Au Hasard Balthazar” (1966)


This 1966 classic from acclaimed French auteur Robert Bresson is as heart-crushing as it is brilliant. The movie follows a donkey named Balthazar who is passed from owner to owner, many of whom are cold, callous and abusive. Bresson’s movie is rich with symbolism but it’s the potency of his images that makes this such a difficult watch. The moments of compassion Balthazar experiences are few, but we cherish each one as a welcomed respite from the abject cruelty that defines most of his life. It all packs one massive emotional wallop.

#3 – “Funny Games” (1997)


Michael Haneke has a reputation for pulling no punches in his movies. This sometimes makes for brutally uncomfortable yet deeply affecting cinema experiences. None of his movies personifies this more than “Funny Games”. In giving a stinging rebuke of violence in the media and our penchant for absorbing it, Haneke tells a story that is horrifying both narratively and visually. Many people were repulsed by the film and the graphic nature of its violence. I think it makes a powerful statement despite being one of the hardest films I’ve ever sat through.

#2 – “Amour” (2012)


It may surprise some that a movie titled “Love” would be so incredible difficult to watch. But Michael Haneke (yes, again) looks at love in its truest and rawest sense. “Amour” follows a loving elderly couple exquisitely played by legendary French stars Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant. The wife suffers a debilitating stroke and the husband is determined to care for her himself. By highlighting the daily routines, Haneke shows the deep commitment (aka the love) it takes to care for a ailing loved one. And as her condition worsens it becomes even harder to watch. Still, it so beautifully examines an element of true love that is rarely considered.

#1 – “Schindler’s List” (1993)


Steven Spielberg is credited with so many great films but none are quite like his historical masterpiece “Schindler’s List”. Holocaust movies are important and (as their subject matter dictates) they are naturally tough to watch. “Schindler’s List” more so due to Spielberg’s earnest and passionate desire to show the Nazi atrocities without taking shortcuts. The intensity of the Jewish roundups, the inexplicable horrors of the concentration camps, the heart-wrenching emotions of all those victimized. It is all depicted in vivid detail. I love “Schindler’s List”, but it leaves a mark on me every time I watch it.

So those are my choices of great movies that you may never want to watch a second time. What do you think? What would have made your list? Let me know in the comments below.

5 Phenomenal Movie Train Scenes


Trains. I mean who doesn’t like trains? Bullet trains, freight trains, model trains. How can you not like them? The movies have certainly had loads of fun with trains. For decades we’ve been give one great train scene after another. Today I’m looking at five of the very best to ever grace the big screen. Now obviously with so many to choose from (and there are TONS) I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. Still I have no problem calling these five movie train scenes absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “The Fugitive” (1993)


It pained me to leave movies like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “Before Sunrise”, and “Spider-Man 2” off this list. That should tell you how much I love the explosive train derailment scene in the 1993 thriller “The Fugitive”. Wrongly accused Harrison Ford is trying to escape from a crashed prison bus laying across railroad tracks. A train barrels towards him and slams into the bus just as Ford flies out of the window. The train derailment that follows is absolutely stunning.

#4 – “Skyfall” (2012)


There is no way to document all of the incredible over-the-top action scenes that have become staples of the James Bond franchise. And it just so happens there is one which is a perfect fit for this list. “Skyfall” opens with one of the coolest train scenes in movie history. 007 uses feet, fists, bullets and even a huge excavator as he fights a mercenary on top of a speeding train. Through tunnels and over a bridge, right up to its big splash finish.

#3 – “Mission: Impossible” (1996)


Without a doubt the signature scene in Brian De Palma’s “Mission: Impossible”comes at the very end. You know the one I’m talking about. Tom Cruise’s IMF agent Ethan Hunt atop a speeding bullet train on the heels of the mole (I won’t spoil who) who framed him for killing his team. Oh, and to make it even more electric, the mole plans to escape on a helicopter that’s tailing the train. I’ll leave it there but look it up if you haven’t seen it.

#2 – “The General” (1926)


Exactly which train scene do you pick out of the many featured in Buster Keaton’s silent classic “The General”? I mulled over several of the film’s great scenes before ultimately settling on one of Keaton’s most iconic movie moments. Some have called it the most expensive shot in silent movie history. A Union Army train makes an ill-advised attempt to cross a burning wooden bridge but plunges into the river as the cavalry watches from the bank. The set piece was incredible then and still is today. 

#1 – “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (2007)


The train robbery in Andrew Dominik’s brilliant “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is not only one of the best train sequences, but it’s one of my favorite scenes ever shot. The great cinematographer Roger Deakins is at his best in the buildup, capturing the dim glow from the bandits’ lanterns, the vibrations of the tracks, the headlight of the train penetrating the forest as it rounds a curve. And of course you get the robbery itself. Simply put, it is sublime filmmaking.

And those are my picks. There are so many great train scenes I hated to leave off. Now it’s your turn to help. Let me know what you think of my list and please share what would have made yours.

5 Phenomenal Quentin Tarantino Characters


One of my favorite podcasts Filmspotting recently did a segment highlighting their favorite Quentin Tarantino characters. Prior to the release of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” I had been working on a variation of that very idea, but their show caused me to rethink what I was doing. So I’ve dialed it back to a more traditional thing. Simply put, these are five of Tarantino’s best characters. As a filmmaker QT is known for creating many attention-getting personalities. In light of that I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these five Quentin Tarantino characters are nothing short of phenomenal.

#5 – Jackie Brown (“Jackie Brown”)


Tarantino has a history of reintroducing actors and actresses who stars may not shine as bright as they once did. One shining example is the casting of Pam Grier as the title character in his 1997 crime picture “Jackie Brown”. Jackie is a strong, street-smart woman making ends meet anyway she can. Grier pulls from her tough-as-nails 70’s blaxpoitation roles which were full of charisma and grit. Jackie is such an absorbing character.

#4 – Cliff Booth (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)


Brad Pitt has two list-worthy Tarantino characters to his credit. His brutal yet hilarious Aldo Raine from “Inglourious Basterds” would have this spot if not for Cliff Booth. Cliff is an easy-going, multi-layered character from Tarantino’s latest effort who has already drawn a wide range of interpretations (based on how you read the film’s many clues). Pitt absolutely shines as a late 1960’s stuntman plucked right out of a time capsule.

#3 – Jules Winfield (“Pulp Fiction”)


Samuel L. Jackson is clearly a Tarantino favorite. He has been in more of QT’s films than anyone else. It all started with “Pulp Fiction” and his endlessly quotable Jules Winfield. He’s a mob hitman with a penchant for pondering the meaning of life and enjoying a tasty burger. Much of Jackson’s well-known big screen personality is encapsulated in Jules who turns out to be more than a loud-mouth with a big gun and a nice Jheri curl.

#2 – The Bride (“Kill Bill”)


Throughout the two-movie tale of vengeance that is “Kill Bill” Uma Thurman’s Bride puts on several uniquely different faces. Surely the one that stands out most is the sword-wielding revenge-fueled assassin. But Tarantino gives her several more layers which make her a compelling character beyond the sheer physicality. But don’t get me wrong, watching her slice and dice is nothing short of exhilarating.

#1 – Colonel Hans Landa (“Inglourious Basterds”)


The opening sequence of Tarantino’s zany revisionist World War II tale “Inglourious Basterds” may be the filmmaker’s very best work. In the scene we are introduced to Nazi officer Hans Landa, a character with hints of absurdity but who can be utterly terrifying. He’s played by Christoph Waltz and lets just say there’s a good reason he won an Oscar for the performance. He’s a character brimming with menace and you can’t turn away from him.

And there is my list. What do you think? Agree or disagree with my picks? Please let me know what you think in the comments section below.

A Halloween Revisit: 5 Phenomenally Goofy Horror Movie Baddies

It’s Halloween so what better time to revisit an older Phenomenal 5 that’s all about the scares. We all know the Jasons and the Freddys of the genre. We are all familiar with Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy. These horror movie baddies have been carving their names into the minds of horror fans for decades. But not every horror movie terror is all that frightening. In fact, there are some that are just plain goofy. Today we’re looking at five of the silliest horror baddies to ever grace the genre. There are so many to choose from therefore I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But I think we can all agree that these are five phenomenally goofy horror Movie villains.

#5 – THE GREEN GOBLIN SEMI-TRUCK (“Maximum Overdrive”)

“Maximum Overdrive” was an odd horror movie about machines coming to life after a comet passes by the earth. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? The machines, ranging from vending machines to automobiles, begin attacking people. At a North Carolina truck stop Emilio Estevez and a handful of survivors are trapped inside as a number of “living” semi-trucks circle the building. What’s even goofier is that they have a “leader” – a menacing black semi with a huge Green Goblin face mounted on its front. There’s a big final battle between the human survivors and the trucks (no, I’m not kidding) but ultimately it comes down to stopping the green-faced 18-wheeled evil. This film was based on a Stephen King short story and it marked King’s one and only foray into directing. I think it’s easy to see why.

#4 – KILLER CLOWNS (“Killer Klowns from Outer Space”)

Yes, this is a movie that’s just as goofy as it’s title. Now to be fair, “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” knows it’s idiotic and it does have a little fun with it. But it’s still a horror picture with antagonists that fit perfectly on this list. Do you need proof? Ok, how about this – an army of “Klowns” land on Earth in their circus tent-shaped space ship and begin killing the residents of a California town. We find out these Klowns (and yes they are actually clowns) are here to harvest us as a food source. But the town fights back and soon find the Klowns have one big weakness. Remember how zombies die with a bullet to the head? Well Killer Klowns can be killed by taking out their bright shiny noses. Shoot them in the nose and watch them spin like a top before blowing up into pieces. But it’s not a simple thing to do. They’re armed with everything from deadly ray guns to lethal balloon animals and acid pies. Now do you question their inclusion on this list? I thought not.

#3 – CHUCKY (The “Child’s Play” Series)

I still find it amazing that Chucky was actually part of a multi-film franchise. In case you don’t know, Chucky is a children’s doll possessed by a serial killer. Sounds like a completely rational idea for a horror villain, doesn’t it? Yet regardless of how preposterous it may sound, Chucky gained a strong cult following that resulted in several sequels. This foul-mouthed, murderous, red-haired doll kills indiscriminately and learns to enjoy his new “body”. He’s a tough cookie too. Chucky has been shot, burned, melted, blown up, decapitated, and cut into a million pieces. But despite all of the attempts he keeps coming back. And life has been good for Chucky. He’s met a female doll and married her. He’s even a proud father. Ok, I feel idiotic even typing that. It’s hard to believe that a corny concept like a killer “My Buddy” doll could have had such success. But if you doubt me keep in mind he was rebooted early this year.

#2 – KILLER TOMATOES (“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”)

It’s obvious that the creators of the 1978 horror film “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” intended to inject a lot of humor into their movie. I mean how could they avoid it with a title like this? If you think about it, how many ways can a tomato actually kill you? But don’t underestimate the proficiency of these vine-ripe terrors. The have many plump and juicy methods including devouring their prey and drowning their victims in tomato juice. Pretty scary stuff, huh? But like every ominous threat, these killers have a weakness. Their kryptonite isn’t a sharp knife or boiling water. No, it’s the song “Puberty Love”. Whenever they hear it they begin to shrink and are easily squashed. There have been three other “Killer Tomato” sequels but none have reached the B-movie cult status as the original. And let’s be honest, are there any other horror villains quite like them?

#1 – ZOMBIE ENTRAILS (“Dead Alive”)

If you haven’t seen Peter Jackson’s earlier film “Dead Alive” you’re probably trying to grasp the idea of zombie entrails. But yet it’s exactly what you think. “Dead Alive” is a nutty, off-the-wall gorefest that soaks the audience in blood and laughs. It takes the zombie and splatter films to new heights and I promise you it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. It all starts when nerdy Stewart’s mother is bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey that’s carrying a rare disease. It ends up turning her into a zombie and you know that there can never be just one. Soon things get way out of hand highlighted by zombified entrails that attack our hero Stewart. The entrails chase him, throw him, and strangle him and it takes his greatest innovation to survive. Sounds terrorizing doesn’t it? This film has been called by some the goriest movie of all time. It’s also very funny and how can you argue with the horror of zombie entrails?

There you have them – the goofiest of the horror villains. I can think of several others that could grace this list but I think these have earned their spots. So how about your choices? Who would you include on this goofy list?