5 Phenomenal Movie Helicopter Scenes

movie_theatre - Phenom 5As goofy as this probably sounds, I love a good helicopter scene. I know it’s weird but I’ve been amazed at some of the great moments in movies that involve helicopters. In fact, you can sometimes find fantastic helicopter scenes in movies that aren’t necessarily that good. In light of that I’ve decided we would have some fun in this week’s Phenomenal 5. I’ve picked out 5 outstanding helicopter movie scenes that range from iconic to absolutely insane. Now considering how often helicopters have made their ways into movies it would be silly to call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 helicopter scenes are certainly phenomenal.

#5 – “LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD”

DIE HARD

“Live Free or Die Hard”

I doubt anyone will ever call 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard” the best film of the “Die Hard” series. But while it didn’t live up to the previous three movies, it was a fun flick and considerably better than the more recent franchise killer. Perhaps the coolest scene in the movie involves an incredible helicopter sequence. On their way to FBI headquarters, John McClane and his witness are ambushed by an attack helicopter in downtown New York. They are eventually flushed out of a tunnel but McClane always leaves his mark. He not only escapes the tunnel but he launches his car into the hovering chopper. BOOM! Insanely over the top but also insanely awesome.

#4 – “RAMBO III”

Rambo III

“Rambo III”

It’s pretty safe to say that John Rambo loves helicopters. There are three or four great Rambo chopper scenes that could easily make this list. But I went with a wild and intense sequence from “Rambo III”. In this installment of the testosterone-driven Stallone franchise Rambo tackles the Soviet occupied Afghanistan. While at a village with some Afghan freedom fighters, two Russian attack choppers attack. Armed with rockets and machine guns, the choppers decimate the village and the people there. Rambo dodges explosions and bullets until he reaches a mounted machine gun on top of a hill. In typical Rambo fashion he swings the turret and starts firing on an approaching chopper. It blows to bits sending the other chopper packing. 80s cheese no doubt but I love it.

#3 – “THE DARK KNIGHT”

dark knight

“The Dark Knight”

For me, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is the best superhero movie ever made. A key ingredient to its tremendous success was the performance of Heath ledger as the Joker. The Joker’s advantage came from always being a step ahead of the Gotham Police. That was never more evident than in a scene where a police convoy is transporting Harvey Dent. Anticipating a police chopper escort, the Joker has his men fire cables from one high rise building to the other across the street. The chopper snags one of the cables which sends it careening into the side of the building and eventually crashing down in front of the convoy. It’s just one part of a truly incredible sequence.

#2 – “APOCALYPSE NOW”

APOC NOW

“Apocalypse Now”

I may not hold Francis Ford Coppola’s beloved 1979 war picture “Apocalypse Now” in as high regard as many do, but I do recognize some of the great moments it gives us. Maybe the most well known scene in the film comes after Martin Sheen runs into Robert Duvall’s wacky, surf-loving Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore. Kilgore leads his air calvary helicopter squadron in an attack on a Vietcong base based on nothing more than the fine surfing conditions in that area. The helicopter attack amid napalm drops and “Ride of the Valkyries” is for me the film’s most memorable scene. But it’s Coppola’s camera that makes it so good. His sweeping shots and perfectly framed chaos create one of the most visually stunning war sequences. This scene also leads to one of the most iconic film quotes in history – “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”. How could this scene not be on this list?

#1 – “28 WEEKS LATER”

28 weeks later

“28 Weeks Later”

Whenever I think of helicopter scenes in cinema my mind will always gravitate to the inventive, over-the-top, and down right nutty chopper sequence in “28 Weeks Later”. I won’t get into the whole “are the Rage virus victims zombies” debate, but they’re close enough for me. In the movies we’ve seen zombies killed in a variety of ways but never as they are here. I don’t want to spoil anything but let’s just say that our survivors are discovered hiding in the tall grass of a field by a huge ravenous group of snarling infected who instantly come running for them. But a friendly chopper steps in and boy does it take care of business. Pilot Harold Perrineau dips the nose of his helicopter to where his swirling blades are mere feet from the ground. You guessed it, he flies that thing right through the horde. Limbs fly, blood splatters, and heads roll in this graphic zombie/infected slaughter sequence. I still remember my first reaction when seeing it.

So there you have it. These are five phenomenal helicopter movie scenes that I love. But what about you? See something I missed? Please take time to share your favorites below.

REVIEW: “The Amazing Spider-Man”

It was 2007 when we last saw Spider-Man on the big screen in the underwhelming and over-blown “Spider-Man 3”. While nowhere near as good as the first two films, “Spider-Man 3” still earned close to $900 million at the box office. In light of that, plans for “Spider-Man 4” immediately took off. But the movie had several problems including creative differences between director Sam Raimi and Sony Pictures which resulted in his departure from the project. The decision was made to scrap “Spider-Man 4” and instead opt for a complete reboot of the popular Marvel Comics franchise. That meant good-bye to Tobey Maguire and hello to Andrew Garfield.

So that brings us to “The Amazing Spider-Man”. Marc Webb takes over the directing duties with James Vanderbilt handling the writing. Vanderbilt goes heavy into the origin of Spider-Man, this time with some new twists but also with the same basic premise. The film starts with Peter Parker’s (Garfield) parents being spooked after their home study is ransacked. In the study, Peter’s father retrieves some secret documents from their hiding place – obviously what the intruders were searching for – then along with Peter’s mother drops Peter off with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) before hurriedly leaving.

We then skip ahead several years. Peter is the quiet, nerdy teen interested in science, photography, and a beautiful fellow student named Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Peter finds out that his father had ties to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), an accomplished scientist working for Oscorp. Connors lost his right arm some time ago and thinks he’s found a solution to his handicap through his cross-species regeneration experiments. After slipping into Connors’ Oscorp lab, Peter begins snooping around and comes across an experiment involving – what else – genetically altered spiders. You know the story – he’s bit which leads to new powers and new responsibilities. Meanwhile events unfold that cause Connors to prematurely try out his regeneration formula on himself and, as I’m sure you guessed, it goes terribly wrong. It transforms him into a super strong, destructive, reptilian creature and Peter, now known as Spider-Man, is the only one who can stop him.

As I mentioned above, the movie spends a lot of time retelling the origin of Spider-Man. It’s certainly not a carbon copy of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man picture, in fact it seems to go to great lengths to distant itself from the original three movies. Several key parts of the origin differ greatly not only from the previous films but from the comic book source material as well. But originality isn’t a bad thing as long as the source material is respected and it certainly is here. But the film’s biggest problem is also tied into the decision to go heavy into the origin. While it is well written and stands strong on its own, I never could get over the feeling that it was just too soon for a reboot. Even with the fresh approach it still felt too familiar and at about the 1 hour 15 minute mark I was really ready for the story to move on.

But there are some things that “The Amazing Spider-Man” does better than the previous films. On thing is the relationship between Peter and Gwen. I really responded to their complicated romance and it felt more genuine and real than the Peter/Mary Jane relationship in the first movies ever did. Here it felt authentic and I bought into their emotions and affections. I also think more attention was given to fleshing it out whereas Peter and M.J. from the first films were built around a very simple blueprint and they stuck closely to it.

I also think Andrew Garfield was fantastic and his performance was head and shoulders above Tobey Maguire’s. He played the nerdy, reserved introvert very well and even after he gains his powers, Garfield never overplays his character. He throws out just enough witty banter with the criminals he’s putting away and I never doubted the genuineness of his scenes that required more raw emotion. A lot of that is due to Garfield but a lot is also due to how well Vanderbilt handles the character in his writing. I was also a big fan of Emma Stone’s performance. She’s grounded and believable and she sells her character very well. Sally Field and Martin Sheen are serviceable as Aunt May and Uncle Ben and Denis Leary makes for a pretty decent Captain Stacy, Gwen’s father. But the real stars are Garfield and Stone.

The special effects are quite good particularly during the huge, action-packed finale. The spider-influenced fight choreography is a lot of fun and there are several cool tricks used to give Spider-Man’s New York City swinging a different look than in the previous movies. As far as the Lizard goes, he’s a little of a mixed bag. There are times, especially during the fight sequences, when he looks very good. I also remember a specific scene where the Lizard looks awesome as he was walking around in a ripped Connors lab coat. But there are also a few scenes where the CGI was very noticeable and regardless of the attempts at motion capture, it still looked a little unrealistic. But as a whole the visuals are very good. They’re not overused and for the most part they capture exactly what you would want from a Spider-Man picture.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” can’t quite escape the fact that it just feels too soon to be offering up a rebooted Spider-Man series. In light of that, the first half of the film can drag and it seems a little wasted. The movie definitely creates its own unique beginning but the thrust of the origin is nothing all that new. That aside, Garfield is a big improvement as Spider-Man and his character is one I can really invest in. Now with the origin out of the way, I’m anxious to see where the series goes next. If they’re able to keep their components in place and avoid the trappings of “Spider-Man 3”, we could be in for a real treat.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

“THE WAY” – 4 STARS

Emilio Estevez was a household name during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. He starred in several popular films such as “The Breakfast Club”, “Young Guns”, and “The Mighty Ducks”. After seemingly disappearing from the business, Estevez turned up behind the camera with “The Way”. He wrote, produced, and directed the film starring his real-life father Martin Sheen. “The Way” isn’t Estevez’s first foray into writing and directing. His first attempt was with 1986’s forgettable “Wisdom”. He later directed 2006’s slightly better “Bobby”. This time Estevez creates a simple but much stronger and more genuine film that I really enjoyed.

“The Way” is a reference to the Camino de Santiago, a spiritual and historical pilgrimage also known as “The Way of St. James”. It’s a long, arduous journey starting in France and ending at the Cathedrel of Santiago de Compostela in the small town of Galicia in northwest Spain. Thousands of individuals travel the Camino’s different routes each with their own personal and/or spiritual purposes. In the movie “The Way”, the Camino provides the main setting for this touching story of reconciliation and personal transformation.

Martin Sheen plays Thomas Avery, an Optometrist with a successful professional life but a troubled family life. Since the death of his wife several years ago, his relationship with his son Daniel (played by Estevez) has soured. While out on the golf course with friends, Thomas recieves a call notifying him that Daniel was killed during a storm in the Pyrenees mountains. Thomas flies to France to identify and bring back Daniel’s body. While there he discovers that Daniel was killed while walking the Camino de Santiago. Struggling to handle not only the death of his son but the strained relationship they shared, Thomas has the body cremated then takes Daniel’s gear and sets off on the Camino in hopes of finishing the journey for his son.

Estevez’s story could have easily evolved into a mushy, run-of-the-mill road picture but it never does. Sure it’s easy to predict and nothing happens that will catch you by surprise. But it’s a very sincere and sensitive film that doesn’t get caught up in overwrought sentimentality. Thomas’ journey feels authentic and personal and I couldn’t help but wonder if the real-life father-son connection had something to do with it. Along the way Thomas runs into several other pilgrims including Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), a Dutchman taking the journey to lose weight for his brother’s wedding, Jack (James Nesbitt) and Irish writer struggling with writer’s block, and Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a Canadian who wants to quit smoking. Much like Thomas, each of these characters have more going on under the surface and each find themselves effected in different ways by their pilgrimage.

“The Way” also looks fantastic. Estevez took great effort to portray the Camino de Santiago reverently and authentically. The beautiful scenery and the quaintness of the small Spanish towns fills the movie with life and ambience. Also the ability to capture details of the pilgrimage does just as much to contribute to the atmosphere. Estevez proves to have a good eye and I was surprised at how well he handled the camera. It may not be the most polished example of filmmaking but I was impressed.

As I mentioned, “The Way” is a simple and straightforward story. It’s fairly predictable and it’s only real surprise is in how effective the movie is. It’s a heart-felt and inspirational film and even when the story meanders in the middle, I never felt uninterested or disconnected. It doesn’t shy away from it’s spiritual nature but it doesn’t bludgeon you to death with it either. “The Way” may not work for some people but I was moved by it despite it’s few shortcomings. One thing the movie stresses – the journey is often times more important than the destination and it left me wishing I could take a month off and make my own way to Galicia.