5 Phenomenal Movie Storms

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Think about this, how many movies in some way, shape, or form use some type of storm in their story? I bet there are a lot more than you think. So just for fun I thought it would be cool to look five great movie storms. I’m going for variety here so there may be some you expect to see that didn’t make it. Still, I’m quite excited about these five movie storms and I have no problem calling them phenomenal.

#5 – “Hard Rain”

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In the cheesy but personal guilty pleasure “Hard Rain”, a small Indiana town is flooded during the midwest’s worst recorded rainstorm. Christian Slater is an armored truck driver tasked with getting the bank’s money out of the abandoned town. Little does he know that Morgan Freeman and his band of baddies have their eyes set on the loot. This starts a heated chase through flooded streets, flooded schools, flooded churches, you name it. The storms presence is there throughout the film and the filmmakers utilize it in some crafty and inventive ways. This isn’t the smartest of films but it is a lot of fun. It also features one of the most significant movie storms you’ll find. I just had to sneak it on this list.

#4 – “Take Shelter”

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In Jeff Nichols’ 2011 film “Take Shelter” Michael Shannon plays a man named Curtis who frequently experiences troubling dreams involving a massive approaching storm. This storm is unlike any of the others listed because it represents some important symbolism. These horrible visions impress upon him the need to spend what little savings he has to build a storm shelter for the tempest that’s on the way. There’s real danger approaching and Curtis must protect his family. But is the storm coming from the clouds or from him? Again, this isn’t a typical storm like the rest but it’s essential to this tremendous film.

#3 – “Shutter Island”

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In Martin Scorsese’s underappreciated gem “Shutter Island” there is a destructive storm that hits which changes the landscape of the island housing a hospital for the criminally insane. It also helps trigger several events which are key to this wonderful psychological thriller. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo play federal marshals investigating the disappearance of patient. While there the storm hits preventing them from returning to the mainland. During the chaos of the storm’s aftermath they are able to sneak in and investigate parts of the hospital they were previously not allowed to see. This provides some key pieces to this twisted puzzle.

#2 – “Portrait of Jennie”

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In the 1948 fantasy drama “Portrait of Jennie” the great and underrated Joseph Cotten plays a struggling painter who is hungry for inspiration. He finds it in a mysterious young girl named Jennie and I’ll leave it at that. In one scene the artist heads out to sea to find her but encounters a violent storm that smashes his boat on a rocky shore. What really makes this storm special are the tremendous ahead-of-its-time special effects. There are sweeping shots of almost mythical cloud formations and stunningly realistic scenes showing the storm tossing the boat around. We also get clever uses of color tints and sound. The amazing visuals won the Academy award that year and the storm plays a good part in this fantastic movie.

#1 – “Key Largo”

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Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston teamed up several times and one of their best collaborations was the 1948 classic “Key Largo”. Bogie arrives at a hotel in Key Largo, Florida and finds it occupied by a group of gangsters posing as fisherman. After a tropical storm hits he ends up trapped inside with the mob boss, his henchmen, and the owners. The storm is key to framing the narrative. It’s buildup, the moment it hits, and the aftermath all play big roles in the film. It’s ominous and menacing and it provides a perfect setting for this compelling story. I’m a huge Bogie fan and “Key Largo” is a favorite of mine.

So what do you think of my list? So many other great movie storms come to mind. “The Wizard of Oz”, “Cast Away” just to name a couple. I’d love to hear your thoughts or picks. Please share them in the comments section below.

5 PHENOMENAL MOVIE ROMANCES

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

Well this is the week where millions and millions of dollars will be spent on fresh roses, boxes of rich chocolates, sparkling diamond jewelry, and expensive fancy dinners all in the name of undying love. Ok, let me reword that. This Thursday is Valentines Day – a day where we guys had better have our wives or girlfriends something nice or the following few weeks will not be very pleasant! In the spirit of this wallet-crushing holiday I thought it would be good to focus this week’s Phenomenal 5 on love. So today I’m listing 5 Phenomenal Movie Romances. These are classic onscreen romances that are equally memorable and romantic. Now with so many big screen romances gracing cinema for all these years I would be a real goof to call this the definitive list. But I have no problems calling these five movie romances absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – Jack and Rose (“Titanic”)

TITANIC

While the first half of James Cameron’s epic sized blockbuster “Titanic” wasn’t nearly as good as the second half, it did set in motion a romance that gave the tearjerker finale some huge emotional pop. Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a poor drifter and Rose (Kate Winslet) is a member of the high society upper class. The two cross paths on the maiden voyage of the British luxury liner Titanic. Obviously they come from opposite ends of the social order but you know the old saying – “opposites attract” yadda yadda yadda. A deep and forbidden love develops between them and Rose’s family are none too happy about it. But all of that takes a back seat when the Titanic strikes an iceberg and begins to sink. At no time does their love shine brighter than in their struggle to survive and you can’t help but be moved by it.

#4 – Jesse and Celine (“Before Sunrise” & “Before Sunset”)

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No list like this would be complete without including Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). These two young lovers first met on a train from Budapest to Vienna in “Before Sunrise”. Jesse convinces Celine to skip her connecting train to Paris and spend the night walking around Vienna with him. A romantic spark is lit and the two seem like true soul mates but at the end of the film they head their separate ways. They cross paths 10 years later in Paris in “Before Sunset” and their lives have taken on many new changes. But as they spend the day walking and talking we quickly learn that spark never went out. It’s such a wonderful but complicated romance and we’ll get to see them 10 years later in this year’s “Before Midnight”. I can’t wait.

#3 – Nathaniel and Cora (“The Last of the Mohicans”)

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Underneath the surface of frontier violence and costly war lies an incredible romance that plays a big part in “The Last of the Mohicans”. Cora (Madelenie Stowe) is an English woman who has arrived in the States during The French and Indian War. She’s rescued by Nathaniel (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his adopted father and brother after a Huron war party tries to kill her. Through Nathaniel she learns a different perspective of the war and how it effects the locals. Even more important to the story, the two develop a love for one another that carries them through blood, battlefields, and tragedy. The way this love story is told through this dangerous and violent environment is beautiful and “The Last of the Mohicans” remains one of my all time favorite films.

#2 – Scarlett and Rhett (“Gone with the Wind”)

GONE WITH THE WIND

There may not be a more difficult and sometimes volatile relationship in film than the one shared between Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Their fascinating romance takes place during the outbreak of the Civil War. Scarlett is a fiery but spoiled daughter of a plantation owner and Rhett is just the one to tame her…or is he? Rhett is a confident and brash fellow who makes a play for Scarlett. But he’s not her puppet which often times infuriates her. But through their on again/off again relationship there is evidence of a truly passionate love between them. These two take us on a roller coaster ride that’s anything but a soft and tender love story. But it’s without a doubt one of the most mesmerizing romances to ever grace the movies.

#1 – Rick and Ilsa (“Casablanca”)

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My favorite movie of all time also happens to feature what I think is the greatest romance in movie history. Humphrey Bogart plays Rick, a club owner in Casablanca during World War 2. His world is turned upside down when Ilsa (played by the stunningly beautiful Ingrid Bergman) reenters his life. We learn the two fell madly in love after first meeting in Paris but circumstances tore them apart. From the first moment their eyes meet again, we know that neither’s feelings have changed. But there are several obstacles keeping them from being together and watching what seems to be an ill-fated romance is simply great cinema. Bogart and Bergman have incredible chemistry and you never doubt their character’s love for each other. This is the quintessential romance in what’s a truly flawless movie.

So those are my five phenomenal movie romances. Now I want to hear your thoughts. What did I miss or where did I go wrong. Take time to comment and share you favorite movie romance.

MOVIE CONFESSIONS

Well Nostra over at My Filmviews is at it again. The master blogathoner has put together a little thing called “Movie Confessions”. It’s a chance for movie fans to come clean and answer a series of questions that expose some of their cinema shortcomings as well as their past cinema vices. So I thought I should get in on the action. Nostra has asked and here are my answers:

1. Which classic movie don’t you like/can’t enjoy and why?

There are several that could easily be mentioned here – “Easy Rider”, “Toy Story 3”, “Fight Club”. But the main movie that instantly came to mind was Stanly Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”. This is a movie that’s considered monumental for the science fiction genre but I thoroughly detest it, and I’m a huge sci-fi guy! I’ve tried on three different occasions to watch it all the way through and to see what all of the hype was about but I just can’t. Kubrick’s blabbering self-indulgence didn’t work for me at all and I don’t see myself trying to watch it again. I know most consider it a great film and it’s certainly garnered it’s share of accolades, but I promise you, it’ll never make my list of favorite movies.

2. Which ten classic movies haven’t you seen yet?

Sigh. To my shame, I’ve yet to catch “Lawrence”

Gulp! This was the question that I feared the most (Nostra, how could you ask such a question?). Anyway, here it goes:

  1. Singin’ in the Rain” (Sorry, I HATE musicals)
  2. Lawrence of Arabia” (I’ve seen bits but not enough to say I’ve seen it)
  3. My Fair Lady” (Yes, another musical. I’m sorry, ok!)
  4. All the President’s Men” (This just never appealed to me. I know, no excuse.)
  5. West Side Story” (Sense a trend here?)
  6. East of Eden” (Dean’s first major role. Again, I have no excuse.)
  7. The Lion King” (I’m always slow to animated features. It’s to my shame.)
  8. Dr. Zhivago” (Incredibly popular yet I’ve never seen it.)
  9. A Streetcar Named Desire” (Another that I haven’t seen enough of to say I have.)
  10. Any of the “Harry Potter” films (It’s true…yes, it’s true.)

3. Have you ever sneaked into another movie at the cinema?

No. At least not to sit in and watch a full movie. Now I have walked into another room just to see what was happening on the screen. But I’ve never sneaked into a theater or another movie without paying. My hands are clean!

4. Which actor/actress do you think is overrated?

There are several actresses and actors that come to mind. Julia Roberts is certainly one. While she hasn’t been as big lately, she’s still considered a wonderful actress and honestly, I can’t see it. She’s a one-trick pony and so often her roles are just variations of the same performance. Jennifer Aniston is even more overrated. Sure she has the looks but at some point you have to be able to act. I think the roles she’s taking points to her serious lack of acting chops. But ahead of them both would be Angelina Jolie. Talk about someone getting roles for her looks alone (and now even her looks are long gone). She has flirted with decent performances but I’ve yet to see her do anything to warrant the attention she gets.

As far as actors go, Will Ferrell is popular and he seems to be a “love him or hate him” kinda guy. I’ve yet to see anything that earns him the praise he often gets. Worse than Ferrell is Seth Rogan. I know that since I don’t like raunchy comedies he naturally isn’t going to appeal to me, but does he really ever do anything else. Not only is he one-dimensional but I find him extremely annoying. But above all is Ashton Kutcher. Sure, I know he’s mainly reserved for TV these days but he still is a big attention-getter and people really like him. WHY? How does this guy have an acting career. I’ll never understand his popularity.

5. From which big director have you never seen any movie (and why)?

This one was really tough because I have seen films from most of the great directors. But one classic director that I have yet to see a film by is the Italian great Federico Fellini. He’s a highly accomplished and stylish film director and a winner of five Academy Awards. The sad part is that I have no good reason for not seeing any of his films, especially “8 1/2”, a movie that has been in my Netflix queue for months and months. I should have already watched some films made by this influential director.

6. Which movie do you love, but is generally hated?

Yes, I love “The Time Machine”. What of it?

One movie that comes to mind is “The Time Machine”. Now I’m not talking George Pal’s movie from 1960. I’m speaking of the 2002 film directed by Simon Wells and starring Guy Pearce. This adaptation from the H.G. Wells classic was generally panned by critics (its Rotten Tomatoes standing is an abysmal 29%) and by moviegoers alike, but I truly love the film. I whole-heartedly concede that the special effects in the second half of the film aren’t the best. But I still think Pearce was wonderful, the storytelling is strong, and it features a great score. And I still get a warm and almost misty feeling during the wonderful final scene. Yes, I know I’m one of the few, but I loved this version of “The Time Machine”.

7. Have you ever been “one of those annoying people” at the cinema?

I can honestly say no. My mom and dad began taking me to the theater at a very young age. They pretty much taught me early to be quiet, watch the movie, and not ruin it for others. That even stuck with me through my doofus teen years. And still to this day, I can’t stand people talking or being disruptive during a movie. It drives me crazy.

8. Did you ever watch a movie, which you knew in advance would be bad, just because of a specific actor/actress was in it? Which one and why?

Oh yes! I am a HUGE Humphrey Bogart fan. I have the majority of his films in my collection and there were a lot of them. I have even some of his older low-budget pictures and movies where he played only a small part. Some were, to be honest, real stinkers but I not only watched them but added them to my Bogart collection. Yes, I’ve actually watched films such as “Isle of Fury” and “The Return of Doctor X” solely due to Bogart’s participation.

9. Did you ever not watch a specific movie because it had subtitles?

 I’m not going to say I never have, but as a big fan of foreign cinema, subtitles don’t bother me at all. In fact, I would rather there be subtitles that English voice-overs which do more to take away from the film than help it. So for me, subtitles are no problem at all.

10. Are there any movies in your collection that you have had for more than five years and never watched?

Hmmm, yes I have DVDs that I own and haven’t watched but they aren’t movies that I haven’t watched. These are DVDs of movies I have seen before but have never watched my copy. I’ve seen them but may have found them on DVD really cheap or they were given to me. But I don’t think I have a single movie that I haven’t at least seen.

11. Which are the worst movies in your collection and why do you still own them?

Yep, that’s “Van Helsing”!

I mentioned some of the earlier Bogart movies that are pretty terrible but I have them because they are Bogart films. But after briefly looking at my collection there were a handful of others that stood out. Movies like “The 13th Warrior” . I’ve watched it but never again. Then there is the Kevin Sorbo “Kull” movie. I’m not sure why I even bought it. Oh, and how about “Van Helsing” . Kate Beckinsale is in it so there’s the only reason for owning it….maybe.

12. Do you have any confessions about your movie watching setup at home?

I wouldn’t say there is anything I want to confess about it, but it works good for me. I have a 55-inch HD TV, a Playstation 3 for my Blu-Ray and DVD player, and Direct-TV’s HD package. That’s really it. It’s not the greatest setup but it certainly works for me.

13. Any other confessions you want to make?

Well, I’m definitely not the emotional type but good movies have a way of getting to me. If a film packs an emotional punch that’s well done, I’m certainly vulnerable to watery eyes. It may not be the most macho thing to announce, but it’s the truth.

And there it is. My movie confessions. If you’re interested in more information about Nostra’s blogathon, head over to his blog site My Filmviews . There you can find out how to participate and read the confessions of other movie-oholics like me.

5 PHENOMENAL MOVIE SCENES SET IN PARIS

Well, before I walk out of the door for our trip to Paris, France, I thought it would be cool to make my final pre-trip post tie in to our vacation. So how about we look at 5 phenomenal movie scenes set in Paris this week. Now there are some really great scenes that I left out but for good reason. I really wanted there to be variety in this list and I certainly think there is. I almost cheated simply because there are some scenes I HATE to leave out. But after much deliberating, here they are. Of course, as always this isn’t the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 movie scenes set in Paris are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – THE RUDE WAITER (“National Lampoon’s European Vacation”)

Ok, I freely admit that this isn’t a great film. In fact, a good argument could be made that the ending derails the entire picture. But I have to admit that I laughed a lot as the Griswold’s stumble their way through England, France, and Germany. But for me, the funniest moment is at a cafe near the Eiffel Tower where they encounter a rude but hilarious waiter. Clark’s horrible French mixed with the waiter’s condescending mockery is laugh out loud funny. This will never be considered a classic movie, but I do love this goofy scene.

#4 – CLOUSEAU’S STREET PATROL (“The Return of the Pink Panther”)

Sticking with comedies, how can you not love Peter Sellers as Jacques Clouseau in Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movies. I swear these are the rare comedies that I can watch anytime and still laugh even though I know the gags by heart. In this particular scene, Clouseau’s incompetence has resulted in his demotion to a beat cop. But always dedicated (and always the buffoon) he comes up on a blind accordion player playing on the street as his monkey collects money from pedestrians. A hilarious conversation follows as Clouseau pesters the man for not having the proper license. Meanwhile a real crime happens right behind him which, of course, he’s oblivious to. It’s vintage Sellers and a truly funny scene.

#3 – THE CAFE DREAM SCENE (“Inception”)

One of my favorite movies of the last several years is Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”. This particular scene is set in a quite neighborhood in Paris at a small corner cafe. Actually, to be perfectly honest, it’s not. It’s all a dream as Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) gives Ariadne (Ellen Page) her first lesson in shared dreaming. The scene starts as a cozy conversation set in an even cozier corner of Paris. But Ariadne begins to panic giving us one of the coolest special effects sequences of the entire movie. Shot on location in south Paris, the scene is visually stunning and beautifully crafted. It’s definitely not your traditional pick for a Paris movie scene but I love it.

#2 – THE OPENING MONTAGE (“Midnight in Paris”)

Many of my movie friends know that I LOVE “Midnight in Paris”. Originally I had several scenes from the film that could have made this list. It was incredibly hard to narrow it down to one scene from such a fantastic movie about a fantastic city. But after thinking about the film and thinking about Paris, how could I not choose the opening 4 minute montage? The opening introduces Paris as a major character by showing it’s history, charm, and beauty. We see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the cafes, and more. It starts in the morning, takes us through an afternoon rain shower, before showing us the city of lights at night all as “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” plays in the background. Could you find a better introduction to such a magnificent city.

#1 – WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS (“Casablanca”)

It’s fitting that the best Paris movie scene is also the most romantic movie scene of all time from my favorite movie of all time. Throughout the early parts of “Casablanca” it’s clear that Bogart’s Rick is a tough cookie. But his tough guy persona takes a big hit when he crosses paths with his old love Ilsa played by the gorgeous Ingrid Bergman. After the encounter, Rick drowns his sorrows while reflecting on memories of their romantic getaway to Paris. In the flashback we see the couple taking a drive down the Champs-Élysées. We see them enjoying a cruise on the Seine River. Then there’s the romantic night on the town topped by dancing and a kiss. It’s the perfect scene that not only gives us a look at their past relationship, but it also presents Paris as the link that will always connect them. I have no reservations about calling this the best movie scene set in Paris. “Here’s looking at you kid”.

And there they are? What are your thoughts on my picks. I know there are other great scenes that take place in the City of Lights. As my wife and I travel down the Seine River, please leave your comments and share your top 5 Paris movie scenes!

REVIEW: “The Maltese Falcon” (1941)

Classic Movie SpotlightMALTESEA good argument could be made that The Maltese Falcon is Humphrey Bogart’s best film. It’s a movie that seems to get better each time I watch it and has earned it’s recognition as a film noir classic. It’s also a film featuring two notable firsts. This was Sydney Greenstreet’s first feature film and it was John Huston’s directorial debut. Huston also wrote the story which is based on Dashiell Hammett’s novel of the same name. It’s said that Huston extensively planned everything in the script, even to the most minute detail. It certainly shows. The movie is smart, well written, and very well made.

Bogart plays Sam Spade, a San Francisco private investigator. He and his partner Miles Archer, played by Jerome Cowan, meet with an attractive new client, Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor), who hires them to help find her missing sister.  Archer volunteers to follow her as she meets with Floyd Thursby, an acquaintance of her sister. Later that night Spade receives a call that Archer has been murdered. Spade weaves through a barrage of lies and an assortment of shady characters to find that it all revolves around a priceless statuette of a bird covered in jewels.

Bogart wasn’t Huston’s first choice to play Sam Spade but after George Raft turned down the part Bogie was brought in. This was the beginning of a great friendship between Bogart and Huston that spawned many other wonderful films such as “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, “The African Queen”, and “Key Largo”. Bogart’s performance is simply brilliant and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Mary Astor gives a strong performance and sets the table for some of Bogart’s best lines in the film. Add Peter Lorre and Greenstreet and you have an incredible cast. Also keep an eye out for a cool cameo from Walter Huston, John Huston’s father.

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The film’s is also helped by some fine cinematography. The movie features some crafty camera work and low-level lighting which adds to the picture’s mood and tone. Cinematographer Arthur Edeson plays around with the angles and camera locations which give the movie a cool, slick look.  It’s such a technically sound and stylish movie and Huston’s accomplishment is really profound considering this was his first picture.

The Maltese Falcon epitomizes what high level filmmaking and cinema storytelling is all about. Bogart’s performance became the model for other film noir detective roles and the supporting cast is nothing short of brilliant. The movie was nominated for three Academy Awards but it’s contribution to filmmaking  can’t be measured by that alone. This is a motion picture classic and it should be considered mandatory viewing for any fan of film. If you haven’t seen The Maltese Falcon, it’s time to.

VERDICT – 5 STARS

5 STARSs

5STAR K&M