5 Phenomenal Movies from 1986

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

It has been a while so today I’m continuing my look back at the movies from the 1980s. I grew up on these films and I’ve been making my way through them year by year. Today we stop in 1986 to look at five of the best films from that year. The mid-80s were loaded with fun movies that still stick with me today. 1986 was an interesting year. It brought unique comedies, great science fiction, corny but fun blockbusters, and much more. Now with so many great movies to choose from I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But I firmly believe that these five films from 1986 are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “Top Gun”

Top Gun

When it comes to big summer blockbusters built for the masses, “Top Gun” is the blueprint. It’s a bit corny in places and it’s full of lightheaded summer time fun. But it’s also a really good movie and one that I grew up loving as a kid. Tom Cruise found himself on nearly every teen girl’s wall and many of us guys loved the military fighter pilot aspect of it. The late Tony Scott gave us exciting action, cool and pretty people, a steamy romance, and a lot of fun. Throw in a great supporting cast and an awesome 80s soundtrack and you have a fantastic blockbuster that I still enjoy.

#4 – “Hoosiers”

HOOSIERS

Sports movies are notoriously hit or miss. Rarely does a sports film hit every mark and blow me away. “Hoosiers” was one of those rare treats. Led by a fantastic performance by Gene Hackman, “Hoosiers” tells the story of a former college coach who comes to the small town of Hickory, Indiana to take over their basketball program. He wades through small town politics, a nervous school system, and anxious parents to take the team to the Indiana state tournament. Everything in the film works from David Anspaugh’s direction to Angelo Pizzo’s script which deals as much in humanity as it does sports. I love this movie.

#3 – “Platoon”

Platoon

Amid the indulgences and occasional heavy-handedness, “Platoon” gave us arguably the most visceral Vietnam war film ever made. Director Oliver Stone received criticism aimed at his motivations behind making the movie. I wouldn’t completely discredit them knowing Stone’s history, but as an individual piece of cinema, “Platoon” is amazing. It puts so much focus on its characters led by pre-Tiger Blood Charlie Sheen. And then there is the great work from Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger. “Platoon” is a movie that stands proudly on a soapbox. But it’s also an addictive cinematic experience and I have to watch it anytime I come across it.

#2 – “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

FERRIS

One of the quirkiest and most infectious comedies to come out of the 80s was “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Written and directed by the late and great John Hughes, the film has a most unique sense of humor. Matthew Broderick’s Ferris Bueller character became a cultural phenomenon and I remember everyone talking about this film. Simply put, Ferris Bueller skips school on a beautiful spring day with his friend Cameron and girlfriend Sloane. But Principal Rooney (played by the hilarious Jeffrey Jones) is hot on his trail. This is such a 1980s movie but it’s remarkable how well it holds up today.

#1 – “Aliens”

ALIENS

Easily, without hesitation, and without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite movie from 1986 is James Cameron’s “Aliens”. Not only is it my favorite movie of that year, it’s one of my favorite science fiction films and one of my favorite sequels of all time. This modern classic mixes horror, sci-fi, and military action to give us an amazing follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 groundbreaker. Sigourney Weaver gives us one of the strongest female characters in movie history. There’s also a great supporting cast featuring the likes of Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton. The look of the film is amazing, the action is intense, and there are so many memorable lines and scenes. I absolutely love “Aliens”.

So there are my five phenomenal movies from 1986. Did you see something I missed? Is there one you disagree with? I’d love to hear your thoughts or your picks in the comments section below.

REVIEW: “ALIENS” (1986)

ALIENS

Personally, I don’t consider it a stretch to call Ridley Scott’s 1979 science fiction classic “Alien” a groundbreaking and incredibly influential film for the genre. It was a near perfect combination of horror and sci-fi which resulted in an intense and profoundly innovative thriller that still holds up today. Now when you have a movie so highly regarded, tackling a sequel is a pretty daunting task. You’re taking already great and established material and building on it while also creating a film that can stand on its own merit. Such was a the job facing James Cameron, writer and director of the 1986 sequel “Aliens”.

Cameron’s approach to the sequel centered around creating a story that captured both the horror and sci-fi elements that made the first film such a success and adding a militaristic action component to it. Much like Ridley Scott before him, Cameron is deliberate in setting up his story. “Aliens” starts with Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) being discovered by a salvage crew who come across her shuttle adrift in space. It turns out that she has been in stasis for over 50 years – since the horrible events on the Nostromo in the first film. She’s questioned by a group of executives behind the Nostromo’s mission who find her story questionable and her actions extreme.

Later she is visited by Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), a company representative who informs her that they had recently lost contact with a small colony on LV-426, the same planet where Ripley’s former crew had first came across the alien eggs. Burke asks Ripley to accompany him and a group of Colonial Marines to investigate. Ripley wants no part of going back but agrees after being reassured that the mission is to destroy the aliens and not study them. She sets out with Burke, the marines, and an android named Bishop (Lance Henriksen) to check out LV-426 and hopefully extinguish any threat they come across.

One interesting and recurring obstacle for Ripley is the constant disregard for her information and input. Planted right in the middle of a predominantly male environment, she constantly encounters skepticism and mockery. The corporate heads didn’t buy her story, Burke was skeptical of the severity of the threat, and the Marines laugh it off as a simple “bug hunt”. But Ripley not only turns out to be right, but she maintains the most calm and level-head of any of the group once the inevitable threat is realized. Through this, Cameron takes the tough survivor character from the first film and builds her into what I believe is one of the strongest female roles in cinema. Not only does Ripley adapt through physical toughness but you see a leadership that proves vital to their survival. But while she’s tough, I loved how we also see the gentleness and love she shows, especially after finding a young girl named Newt (Carrie Henn) alone in the ventilation systems of one of the colony office buildings. The two connect as Ripley takes on a mother-like role for a young girl who has seen horrors and lost everything.

The marines themselves cover all of the personality angles including the cigar-chomping Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews) the smart-aleck, wise-cracking Hudson (Bill Paxton), and the dependable, by-the-books Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn). We also get the tougher-than-all-the-guys Vazquez (Jenette Goldstein) and her heavy gunner partner Drake (Mark Rolston) and an inexperienced and sometimes incompetent Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) who was just assigned to be the squad’s field leader. We get some clichĂ©d but fun military banter between the soldiers during the first half of the film and later see them in full combat mode, fighting for survival. For the audience it really becomes one of those “let’s see who survives” stories. But it works so well because even though these are tough and resilient soldiers, they are humbled by the realization that they are overmatched. There are no Rambos in this bunch, only desperate people trying to survive. And when everything does hit the proverbial fan, they have to rely on a lot more than just strength and firepower to stay alive. That’s one reason Ripley is such a force in the movie.

Cameron is very clever in the way he sets up the tension. Again, much like Ridley Scott, for most of the film the true horror isn’t in what you see but what you think you are seeing. You get fleeting glances of the aliens – only enough to project images into your mind. In a sense, Cameron has the audience paste these brief images together in their minds to create what these deadly creatures look like. It isn’t until the very end that we get an unhindered look at them. I still remember the first time I saw the film. The brief camera shots of the creatures in motion really created a sense of tension and suspense. Of course now all movie fans know what the aliens look like thanks to the internet, comic books, sequels, etc. But the way Cameron never fully unveiled them in the film until the end was very effective.

The Oscar-winning special effects of “Aliens” were another major reason the movie works. The skilled crew use an amazing assortment of miniatures, trick cameras and lighting, carefully designed costumes, and a large number of puppeteers that contribute to a visual world that still looks impressive even in today’s fancy CGI-driven age. So many cool details add pop to the film such as the marines futuristic armor, weapons, and vehicles as well as their technologies and sciences. The effects most certainly stand out but they always stay consistent with the movie’s gritty, dark tone. The action sequences throw the soldiers and crew right into the darkness and the unknown. Much like us, they don’t know for sure what they’re fighting. The brief glimpses of the aliens through gun flashes, shoulder mounted flashlights, and dim emergency lighting makes the combat intensely fierce. Ray Lovejoy’s editing of the action scenes is phenomenal as is James Horner’s score. As a result, “Aliens” delivers two of the most pulse-pounding battle/escape sequences you’ll see.

Another major accomplishment for “Aliens” is the recognition it received from the motion picture community. The movie received 7 Academy Award nominations, none bigger that Sigourney Weaver for Best Actress. Of course she didn’t win but the fact that a science fiction/ horror film would received such recognition was a major step forward for the genre. But Weaver was also surrounded by an excellent cast. I loved Henriksen as Bishop, the company android. He’s a cryptic character in the sense that we know from the first film that androids aren’t without, shall I say, glitches. But Henriksen is a believable “artificial person” and we, like Ripley, just aren’t sure we can trust him. I also really liked Michael Biehn’s performance. He’s a tough but open-minded soldier and when the situation goes bad he steps up. Biehn doesn’t play him as a testosterone-driven macho type. He’s at times unsure and he understands what it will cost to get his people out alive.

“Aliens” was an extremely ambitious sequel that took a pretty sacred first film and built upon it in the most satisfying way. It’s a fantastic sci-fi movie. It’s a fantastic action movie. It’s a fantastic horror movie. It blends all of these things together and creates what I consider to be one of best motion picture sequels of all time. With the exception of the stereotypical “we are soldiers” profanity, the dialogue is crisp. While some may describe the first half of the film as languid, I think the pacing is brilliantly deliberate. The special effects were astounding for its time and still hold up today. The acting from each character big or small is strong throughout the film. The direction, the score, the editing, and the sound design grab us and drag us into the unnerving world. It’s just a great movie. And while some may not respond to a handful of things that are connected to the decade the film was made in, “Aliens” is still one of my favorite movies of all time and while it is a sci-fi movie it’s also a great, great action picture.

VERDICT – 5 STARS

5 STARSs

5STAR K&M

5 PHENOMENAL MOVIE TOUGH GIRLS

There’s plenty of action pictures featuring movie tough guys. In fact, an entire action genre centered around muscle-bound movie tough guys in the 80’s and early 90’s. But we do a disservice if we fail to recognize that there have been some tough-as-nails women that can hold their own against any of the guys. So I thought it would be fun to give the ladies their due by listing 5 Phenomenal Movie Tough Girls. It may surprise you but there are a lot more tough girls to choose from than you might think. So after much deliberation here are my top five. As always, this isn’t the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 Movie Tough Girls are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – ALICE (“Resident Evil” Series)

While the movies are far from great, Milla Jovovich’s Alice has evolved into a very recognizable movie tough girl. Through several sequels she has punched, kicked, sliced, and shot her way through hordes of zombies and creatures. Jovovich has used shotguns, rocket launchers, swords, and special powers and she does it with the same sneering gravitas that many of the better male action stars used. Even though she doesn’t have the best material to work with, there’s just something too cool about watching Alice in action.

#4 – MALLORY KANE (“Haywire”)

Gina Carano blew me away with this year’s “Haywire”. She plays a government black ops agent who is double crossed and on the run. Director Steven Soderbergh puts Carano’s MMA background on display as she kicks butt from New York to Barcelona to Mexico. She has attitude to spare and her ability to fight is undeniable (just ask the likes of Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, and Antonio Banderas). If you doubt that Mallory Kane belongs on this list, check out “Haywire”. It just came out on DVD.

#3 – SARAH CONNOR (“Terminator 2: Judgement Day”)

In the first Terminator picture, Sarah Connor was your basic girl on the run from danger. Boy how things change in “Terminator 2”. Linda Hamilton bulks up and gives Sarah a harder edge and an almost militaristic personality. Knowing the war that’s coming, Sarah fights alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and more than holds her own. Whether it’s with her fists or with machine guns, she blasts away at anyone who gets in her way including the new T-1000 terminator. This new Sarah Connor certainly qualifies as a movie tough girl.

#2 – PRINCESS LEIA (“Star Wars” Series)

When watching the original “Star Wars”, it doesn’t take long to see that Princess Leia is as tough as they come. We see her open rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire and her unwillingness to compromise with them in the movie’s first scenes. It also doesn’t take Han and Luke long to see that she’s a no-nonsense woman who tells it like it is. She’s handy with the laser blaster and she doesn’t mind putting herself in danger. She plays an intricate role in saving Han’s life and it was Leia that kills Jabba the Hutt. Carrie Fisher’s Leia is as surly as any tough guy and she has the smarts to make things happen. Leia is the quintessential tough girl.

#1- ELLEN RIPLEY (“Alien” Series)

It’s been argued that Ellen Ripley is the best female movie character of all time. I don’t know about that but I do think she’s the toughest female character of all time. And regardless of what other role she may play, anytime I see Sigourney Weaver, I automatically think of Ellen Ripley. In the first Alien picture she was the only survivor of her ship’s crew and she single-handedly killed the alien. In the second film we see just how tough Ripley is. She uses grenades, flamethrowers, pulse rifles, and even a robotic crane to kill a load of aliens and even the queen. In the third film she even kills herself to keep the alien inside of her from getting out. Throughout the series Ripley encounters a variety of so-called tough guys. Isn’t it interesting that she is the one that actually survives. Sounds like she’s the one that’s truly tough.

There you have it. There were several others that I considered but these were the five that stood out the most. Do you agree or disagree with my list? Do you see someone who I left off? Who would you include on your list? Please take time to comment and share who is your favorite tough girl.

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012

TOP 10 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2012

2011 gave us some memorable movies but overall it wasn’t the best year for film lovers. But fear not, 2012 seems to have a fantastic lineup of potentially great films. The year’s lineup is loaded with big-budget sequels, action-packed ensembles, trilogy finales, historical dramas, and much more. Here are my Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012:

#10 – “THE BOURNE LEGACY”

The fourth installment of the popular Bourne series brings with it some major changes. Tony Gilroy directs but the biggest draw for me is the addition of Jeremy Renner in the lead role. Renner plays Aaron Cross and is joined by fellow cast members Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn, and Oscar Isaac. I’m a huge Renner fan and if anyone can capture the intensity of a Jason Bourne styled character, it will be him.

#9 – “THE GREAT GATSBY”

There have been several adaptations of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. 2012’s big screen version brings a strong cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, and Tobey Maquire. It’s set for a December 25th release which often times indicates that the film is aimed at awards season. Here’s hoping that this classic story gets a classic treatment in 2012.

#8 – “DJANGO UNCHAINED”

Speaking of stellar casts, how can you not be excited about a film that features the talents of Jaime Fox, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Don Johnson? Quentin Tarantino writes and directs this film described as a spaghetti western but I’m sure with a Tarantino twist. With Tarantino you never know what to expect but it’s always new, fresh, and unlike anything you have seen before.

#7 – “PROMETHEUS”

If you enjoyed the “Alien” pictures (particularly the first two), then you have to be excited about Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”. While it’s said to definitely be connected to the “Alien” movies, “Prometheus” is essentially its own story and as a Ridley Scott fan, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us. Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce, and Charlize Theron only make the prospects sweeter. The teaser trailer looks moody, mysterious, and downright creepy. I can’t wait.

#6 – “THE AVENGERS”

I’m a long time comic book reader and super-hero fan so Marvel’s “The Avengers” certainly is on my radar. I’ve had loads of fun with the movies focused on the individual heroes and now we get them all together in what could be a really, really good film or a cluttered mess. I’m optimistic especially considering that Marvel has had this in the works well before the individual films were made. That bigger vision could equal one fun summer popcorn flick. Downey, Jr., Evans, Johansson, Hiddleston, Ruffalo, Jackson, Hemsworth, and Renner provide plenty of acting muscle to pull this thing off.

#5 – “THE HOBBIT”

2012 also gives us the first part of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit”. As a huge fan of what he did with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, I have full confidence that he will give us another exciting experience in Middle-Earth. Many actors reprise their roles including Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, and Andy Serkis. I fully expect this to be another rousing visual accomplishment and Jackson’s familiarity with the material will be evident. Set for a December release, what a way to end the year!

#4 – “SKYFALL”

I have never been the biggest James Bond fan but that all changed when Daniel Craig took over the role in “Casino Royale”. “Skyfall” is Craig’s third film as 007 and the first since 2008. Adding to the excitement is the casting of Javier Bardem as Bond’s main antagonist. Craig’s Bond has passed over the overtly cheesy dialogue and suave sophistication and replaced it with a tougher, grittier Bond that’s more grounded in reality. I’ve loved his first two films and can’t wait for “Skyfall“.

#3 – “THE WETTEST COUNTY”

The Wettest County” is a film that excites me on the sheer strength of its cast and it’s depression-era setting. It instantly makes my list just for starring personal favorites of mine Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, and Gary Oldman plus 2011 breakout actress Jessica Chastain. Australian John Hillcoat, also known for 2009’s “The Road”, directs the Nick Cave screenplay. This film has flown under most people’s radar but I see it as loaded with potential and featuring some brilliant talent. “The Wettest County” hits select theaters in August.

#2 – “LINCOLN”

Some have mentioned having “Spielberg Fatigue” but I can’t say that fits me. But to be honest Steven Spielberg isn’t the reason I’m excited about 2012’s “Lincoln”. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most gifted actors in film and his last work in 2007’s “There Will Be Blood” was one of the single best performances I have ever seen. Needless to say I can’t wait to see him portray Abraham Lincoln. A fantastic supporting cast has been placed around him featuring Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, and more. If Spielberg keeps himself under control, this could turn out to be a true motion picture classic.

#1 – “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES”

Christopher Nolan has made super-hero movies into more than just summer popcorn pictures. His brilliant “The Dark Knight” wasn’t just a comic book movie. It was a dark and complex film featuring perfect direction, great performances, and impeccable sound and visuals. Nolan’s trilogy comes to an end with “The Dark Knight Rises” and everything points to this being another amazing picture. Joining the cast for the final installment are Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Returning is Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman. Nolan is one of the top directors in Hollywood and there is no reason to think he’s not going to finish his Batman run with a phenomenal final chapter.

Agree or disagree? Maybe there’s a movie you’re looking forward to seeing that didn’t make my list. Leave your comments below and share what you think of the 2012 movie releases.