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.

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”)

BeforeSunset

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”)

MOHICANS

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”)

CASABLANCA

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.

THE THROWDOWN : Stallone vs. Schwarzenegger

Wednesday is Throwdown day at Keith & the Movies. It’s when we take two movie subjects, pit them against each other, and see who’s left standing. Each Wednesday we’ll look at actors, actresses, movies, genres, scenes, and more. I’ll make a case for each and then see how they stand up one-on-one. And it’s not just my opinion that counts. I’ll share my take and then open up the polls to you. Visit each week for a new Throwdown. Vote each week to decide the true winner!

*Last week Christian Bale (74%) manhandled Michael Keaton (26%) in a Batman battle to the death.*

This week it’s an action movie face-off between the two biggest names of the 80’s. The 80’s and early 90’s were the glory days of the action genre and no one was bigger than Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Forget the critical acclaim, the stuffy Academy Awards, and the overrated importance of good acting. These guys were all about biceps, blood, and bullets. Before they teamed up in the recent “The Expendables” movies, these two had a huge box office rivalry that lasted several years. Now it’s time to settle the big question. Which of these action movie icons is truly the best? Their guns are loaded, their knives are sharpened, and their muscles are flexed. But it’s your votes that will decide the outcome.

STALLONE vs. SCHWARZENEGGER

At 66-years old, Sly Stallone is still kicking bad guy’s butts on the big screen. But then again, he’s been doing it for almost 40 years. His career really took off in 1976 with “Rocky”. But it was “First Blood” and “Rambo: First Blood Part 2” that laid the foundation for what would become an amazing action movie career. He would go on to clean up a psycho cult in “Cobra”, team up with Kurt Russell in “Tango & Cash”, hang from mountain cliffs in “Cliffhanger”, battle baddies in the future with “Demolition Man” and “Judge Dredd”, and rescue survivors trapped in a collapsed tunnel in “Daylight”. He’s also made several more “Rocky” pictures and two more “Rambo” films. He has several new projects ahead but he’ll always be remembered for his incredible run that helped make the action genre so popular.

Arnold Schwarzenegger may have more memorable scenes and memorable one-liners than anyone in cinema history. He also has an action movie resume that’s as impressive as any you will see. This one-time Austrian bodybuilder made a name for himself in the early 80’s with his “Conan” films. But his career really took off when he traded his sword for a gun in the sci-fi classic “The Terminator”. He then cemented his one-man-army status in “Commando” and “Raw Deal”. He would battle an alien threat in the spectacular military sci-fi film “Predator”. He also ventured into the future with “The Running Man” and “Total Recall” before making what is one of the best sequels of all time, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”. He mad several more action films including “True Lies” and another successful “Terminator” flick. This 65-year old has no plans on slowing down and you’ll see him plenty in 2013.

So there’s a case for both. Now you decide who’s the winner. The action movie genre wouldn’t be what it is without the contributions of these two icons. So vote now. Who’s the heavier hitter, Arnie or Sly? You decide!

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 PHENOMENALLY OVERRATED MOVIES

I thought it might be fun to do a Phenomenal 5 that should surely spark discussion. I’m going to list five movies that I feel are incredibly overrated. Now I know there are many people who love the movies I’m listing and they have been defended as great films by many who are smarter than me. But for different reasons I didn’t find them to be the cinematic classics that they are heralded as. Some aren’t necessarily terrible movies. But none of these films worked for me. I actually found there to be more movies to consider than I thought there would be but I’m very comfortable with these five. As always I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But for me, there’s no denying that these are 5 phenomenally overrated films…or are they?

#5 – “TOY STORY 3” (2010)

I can’t think of another movie review that I have written that stirred more people up than my take on “Toy Story 3”. The movie was incredibly popular and it was a gold mine for Pixar. It not only won the Best Animated Feature Oscar but it was also nominated for Best Picture. What surprised me even more is that the film found it’s way on countless Critic’s Top 10 lists for the year 2010. My biggest beef with “Toy Story 3” is that it’s pretty run-of-the-mill. The film is bookended by an outstanding opening and a touching ending but it’s everything in between that stumbles. It’s a repetitive drag that’s really nothing more than a typical loud cartoon. The middle has some serious issues with tone and it could have easily been 15 minutes shorter. Now “Toy Story 3” isn’t a bad movie but it’s also not one that I feel deserved the accolades it received. It has it’s share of flaws and I certainly feel it’s overrated.

#4 – “ANNIE HALL” (1977)

I have heard “Annie Hall” called the greatest romantic comedy of all time. I can’t say I agree. This much-loved film won several Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture for Woody Allen. It’s also heralded as the 35th Greatest Movie of All Time by the American Film Institute (taken for what it’s worth). Now don’t misunderstand me, I did find “Annie Hall” to be funny in places. But I also found it to be repetitive and eventually a tad boring. It sometimes comes across as a standup comedy routine that uses the same material but presents it in slightly different ways. I can appreciate Allen’s wit but here he milks that cow dry. “Annie Hall” certainly isn’t terrible but I have a hard time calling it one of the best of all time. In fact, for me it’s not even close.

#3 – “EASY RIDER” (1969)

“Easy Rider” is considered a landmark counterculture movie and it ushered in a new style and method of filmmaking. It received several Oscar nominations and even today it’s listed as The American Film Institute’s 84th greatest movie of all time. Well, I have to disagree. Not only did I find “Easy Rider” flat and muddled but also annoying at times. It’s the hippie movement’s self-portrait that features more pot smoking and free spirit babbling than entertainment and enjoyment. Jack Nicholson is fun to watch and there is some good camera work and locations. But to be honest, I never connected with “Easy Rider”. It feels dated and features one of the most annoying movie scenes I have ever seen (the drug trip in cemetery). I know many love this movie. I’m not one of them.

#2 – “APOCALYPSE NOW” (1979)

I don’t have room to list all of the accolades, honors, and positive reviews that Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” has received. It was nominated for around 8 Academy Awards winning two. It hauled in three Golden Globe Awards and sits at #28 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list. Almost every prominent film critic has praised the movie. Roger Ebert even goes as far as to call it “one of the greatest of all films”. For me, “Apocalypse Now” is a mixed bag. It’s starts off well enough before really getting good when Robert Duvall hits the screen. The Air Calvary helicopter attack while “Ride of the Valkyries” blares from loud speakers is fantastic and Duvall’s nuttiness is a blast. But the movie flies off the rails with one of the most off-the-wall and numbing endings you’ll find. Look, I understand Coppola is saying a lot under the surface, but at some point I want to be entertained when watching a film. The hallucinogenic jungle cult, severed heads, and philosophical mumblings made “Apocalypse Now” a difficult movie for me to finish. I know that the film broke new ground in terms of filmmaking. It also tries to be too clever for it’s own good.

#1 – “AVATAR” (2009)

James Cameron’s box office juggernaut “Avatar” was an unequivocal critical and commercial success. It was nominated for 9 Academy Awards and at the time became the highest grossing movie of all time. Even fellow filmmakers like Steve Spielberg praised the movie comparing it to “Star Wars”. Through all the hype, I sat stunned at all of the obvious flaws that were overlooked and the passes that the movie was given for it’s shortcomings. To start out let me give it a little credit. Technically, “Avatar” is a stunner. It was the first movie to really show 3D as a powerful cinematic storytelling device. The motion capture technology was marvelous and the CGI action sequences were unlike anything I had seen before. But for me that’s all “Avatar” offers. First there’s nothing all that original about the story. It’s basically a sci-fi “Dances with Wolves”. It’s completely predictable and you know exactly how things are going to play out in the first 15 minutes. Then there’s the script. It features some of the silliest, cheesiest  lines particularly from the poorly portrayed military and the evil corporate head. Stephen Lang is laughably bad as the stereotypical soldier gone bad in what may be the worst performance of the decade. The movie also bludgeon’s the audience to death with Cameron’s forced environmental and political preachiness. He slams the military. He slams big corporations. He force feeds us his concepts of planet worship. And all of it is incredibly heavy-handed. Yes, “Avatar” is a technical milestone but you must have a good story to match. Instead, “Avatar” has a crappy story covered with a shiny coat of paint. That’s not enough for me.

So there you have them. 5 movies that have received plenty of praise but that I feel are overrated. I’m sure many disagree with my takes on these films. Please leave you comments about these movies or other popular films that you feel are overrated.