5 Phenomenal Movie Cemetery Scenes

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

It’s funny how I happened upon this week’s Phenomenal 5 list. I was in somewhat of a funk, unable to come up with a list that felt fresh. Well sometimes simply looking out your car window can offer up inspiration. Such was the case this week as I list 5 phenomenal movie cemetery scenes. I passed a cemetery and I instantly started thinking on the great movie scenes that have taken place in them. In fact it’s more than you might think. Obviously there are loads of horror films that are right at home in a graveyard. But I’ve also come up with great scenes from other genres. And to make the list more intriguing, I’ve chosen scenes that DO NOT feature a funeral (you’ll read about those in the near future). So considering the plethora of great movie cemetery scenes I would be dead wrong to call this the definitive list. But I feel perfectly comfortable calling these 5 movie cemetery scenes absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “THE THIRD MAN”

THIRDMAN

One of my all time favorite classic movies is 1949’s “The Third Man” from Carol Reed. In the film an American writer named Martins (Joseph Cotton) visits Vienna in the wake of World War 2 to find an old friend who has offered him a job. He finds out his friend has been killed in an accident but he begins to suspect murder. He befriends his buddy’s girlfriend named Anna but soon finds out that she and nearly everyone else he meets is involved in the mystery. I don’t want to spoil anything so lets just say the movie ends after a funeral. Now this isn’t a cheat because my scene of choice is the final shot of the movie. It’s a long shot of Anna walking towards the camera with Martins leaning on a cart waiting for her. She walks and walks, finally making it to us but continuing out out of the picture. Martins is left alone and the movie ends on that note. It’s the perfect ending.

#4 – “TERMINATOR 3”

TERM 3

How can I talk about cemetery scenes and not include the ridiculously over-the-top but ridiculously fun scene from “Terminator 3”? This franchise is known for its monster action sequences and this is one of the biggest. Thinking he is visiting his mother’s tomb, the Terminator reveals to John Connor that the casket is actually full of weapons. Arnie then busts out of the mausoleum with the casket full of weapons on his shoulder and a mini gun on his hip. He throws the casket into a hearse and then sprays every police car within 3 miles full of lead. But it doesn’t stop there. The evil terminator then appears and a crazy chase through the cemetery follows. A rocket launcher to her chest and a few broken tombstones later, and we get a wilder ending to what is a great cemetery scene.

#3 – “ARMY OF DARKNESS”

army-

Call it a sentimental choice but I just had to include the wacky cemetery sequence from “Army of Darkness”. You know the story, our “Evil Dead” hero Ash has been sucked back to the medieval past where and the Necronomicon holds the secrets to getting him back home. The problem is the Necronomicon is hidden deep within a spooky old cemetery. Ash makes his way to the center of the graveyard where three books await, two are traps and one is the real book. After a painful process of elimination, Ash finds the real book. All he has to do is say the phrase “Klaatu barada nikto” and he can safely remove it. Of course he completely botches it which triggers the rise of the army of darkness. It’s a hysterical cemetery scene from a great movie.

#2 – “NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD”

NIGHT LIVING

I hate to keep including this movie in my Phenomenal 5 lists, but I can’t help it. George Romero’s 1968 horror classic “Night of the Living Dead” is such a great movie. Just think, the entire zombie craze as we know it today started in a rural Pennsylvania cemetery during this film’s wonderful opening scene. Barbra and her jerk of a brother Johnny have been making the long trip to visit their father’s grave for several years. But this year it’s a little different. As Johnny is teasing Barbra about her uneasiness in the cemetery they notice a man stumbling their way. As he approaches them he attacks. Johnny fights with the man only to have his head slammed against a rock in the struggle. The man then chases Barbra out of the cemetery which launches this classic horror story.

#1 – “THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY”

GOOD BAD

Of all the Phenomenal 5 lists I’ve done none have had a more obvious #1 choice than this one. Sergio Leone had an unmatched knack for building up and executing great western showdowns. Perhaps his best takes place in his tasty 1966 spaghetti dish “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. In a scene destined to take place since the film’s brilliant opening, the good (Clint Eastwood), the bad (Lee Van Cleef), and the ugly (Eli Wallach) come together in a Mexican showdown at Sad Hill Cemetery. With buried gold at stake the three square off in a three-way duel not knowing who can trust who. Leone masterfully soaks the scene in tension with his camera and with Ennio Morricone’s glorious music. And even after the shootout, Leone gives us a classic finale that seals its place at the top of the list.

There are several other fantastic cemetery scenes I hated to leave off. What are your favorites? Please take time to let me know what you agree or disagree with.

The Keith & the Movies Valhalla Induction

K&M VALHALLA

The Keith & the Movies Valhalla is a place of tribute for those movies that I hold in the highest regard. These are films that embody everything that is great about motion pictures. These are the best of the best ‚Äď movies that I truly love and that stand above the rest. There are many great movies that won‚Äôt find their way into these sacred halls. But here you will find those films that I believe personify brilliance in filmmaking, storytelling, and entertainment. These glorious 5 star accomplishments are worthy of special recognition as the very best. Ok, enough of the high drama! In other words, these are my favorite movies of all time, ok?

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ONCE UPON A TIMEONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) – I’ve always been picky when it comes to westerns. I grew up around them but I never latched onto them. That was before Sergio Leone showed me what a western could be. His monumental work “Once Upon a Time in the West” from 1968 is hands down my favorite western. Everything from Leone’s gritty signature style and brilliant camerawork to Ennio Morricone’s entrancing score works to perfection.

There are so many memorable scenes in “Once Upon a Time in the West”. From the masterfully conceived train station opening to the intense and anticipated final showdown, the film is filled with one fantastic scene after another. And of course how can I talk about this movie and not¬†mention the cast. A young Charles Bronson plays the mysterious stranger who everybody is trying to figure out. Jason Robards gives the best performance of his career as a scruffy bandit ringleader. Then there’s the breathtakingly beautiful Claudia Cardinale who holds her own with all the tough guys. But it’s Henry Fonda¬†who steals the movie as¬†one of the most detestable villains you’ll find. It’s a role unlike anything Fonda had played at the time which made his performance all the more spectacular.¬†If you haven’t seen this film you should. If you don’t like westerns, it doesn’t matter. A great movie is a great movie and this is a great movie.

“Once Upon a Time in the West” ¬†is the fifth inductee into the Keith & the Movies Valhalla. But there are more amazing movies to come in the near future so stay tuned. What are your thoughts on this¬†Sergio Leone¬†classic? Is it worth the accolades it‚Äôs received or is it an overrated picture? You now know my opinion. I’d love to hear yours. Take time to share your comments below.

“DJANGO UNCHAINED” – Breaking down the trailer…

Everyone has probably seen the new “Django Unchained” trailer that is¬†supposed to hit big screens in front of tomorrow’s “Prometheus”. It’s the new film from Quentin Tarantino that’s set to be released this Christmas. This is a highly anticipated trailer from a highly anticipated film. In fact it’s #8 on my “Most Anticipated Films of 2012” list. But I have to admit, I have¬†mixed feelings when it comes to Tarantino and I also had mixed feelings after seeing the trailer.

Some view¬†Tarantino as a visionary and a filmmaking genius. For me,¬†he has an undeniable style. His visual presentation is very impressive and the way he crafts his stories show off a slick and unique flare for storytelling. But while I think Tarantino is a solid director in terms of style, I’ve never seen him as the writing genius that others have. I think he is a case of style over substance. Now don’t misunderstand me. Not ever movie has to be thick with complexity. There’s nothing wrong with making simple but stylish films. Some have made the case for the underlying themes found in many of Tarantino’s pictures. Some I can see while others are a bit of a stretch. If their were more deeper meaning to his films, they didn’t connect with me. I tend to see his movies as hyper-violent exercises broken down¬†by clever and unique forms of storytelling. In other words, a simple story told with a slick visual style.

This brings me to “Django¬†Unchained”. I was really anxious to see this trailer for several reasons. First, I was interested to see how Tarantino would present the “old west”. Say what you will about him, but Tarantino is a film lover first so the fact that he would invest in creating a modern-day spaghetti western really appealed to me. That brings me to the second reason I was excited about this trailer (and film). I love the spaghetti western genre. Sergio Leone remains one of my favorite directors of all time and his spaghetti westerns remain my favorite westerns of all time. “A Fistful of Dollars”, “For a Few Dollars More”, “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly”, and “Once Upon a Time in the West” are¬†wonderful films and seeing Tarantino tip his hat to them is great.

That being said, the trailer left me feeling mixed. Now let me preface this by saying that I know you don’t judge a movie by a trailer. Just look at the first trailer for “The Avengers”. It was slow and pretty lifeless yet the movie was a fun action romp that I loved. But there were things¬†with the¬†“Django Unchained” trailer¬†that really left me scratching my head. One key issue I had was¬†the jarring shift in tone after Django¬†is, well, unchained. The James Brown music kicks in which I thought was a little self-indulgent. The movie¬†seemed to be¬†flaunting it’s cleverness and style at the¬†cost of setting the mood and tone. I was also surprised at some of the cheesy lines that, again, seems more aimed at a comedy that a spaghetti western. On the flip side, the production value looks fantastic and it doesn’t look as if Tarantino is going to shy away from the grit you’ll find in many of the great spaghetti westerns. Then there’s the fun assortment of characters. Let’s take a look at the big three:

DJANGO Р(Jaime Foxx)

My biggest question mark for this entire production was the casting of Jaime Foxx. It’s said that originally Will Smith was sought after for the¬†part but I’m not sure he would be a big step-up from Foxx¬†for this type of role. Foxx¬†is a decent enough actor. I liked him in “Ray” but not as much as most people. I actually thought he was better in “Collateral Damage” and in his sketch comedy work on the TV show “In Living Color”. There are elements to each of these past performances in the “Django¬†Unchained” trailer. But the trailer did nothing to really sell me on Foxx¬†as a genuine western buttkicker. At times it seemed like he was doing straight parody¬†and it didn’t really¬†work for me.¬†Can Foxx handle this role remains the biggest question for me moving ahead.

 DR. KING SCHULTZ Р(Christoph Waltz)

I love Christoph Waltz. He was the very best thing about Tarantino’s last film “Inglourious¬†Basterds”. So naturally I was drawn to the idea of him playing a German bounty hunter in the wild west. Waltz seems to have a wide range and I have no doubt he will be able to handle this material. He looks right at home with the Schultz character and even¬†with his exposition-heavy contribution to the trailer, I found myself drawn to him. Unfortunately he looks to be softer and friendlier than I hope he turns out to be and he features a gun draw so slow that he would never live through a Sergio Leone duel. But Schultz looks to be an intriguing character and it’s still unclear whether he’s to be trusted or not.

CALVIN CANDIE Р(Leonardo DiCaprio)

Talk about an actor that has really shown a range. DiCaprio has proven to be more than capable of handling a wide assortment of roles and he certainly was an interesting choice to play the evil plantation owner Calvin Candie. The first thing we quickly notice is that DiCaprio is having tons of fun with this role. He clearly has a ruthless side but there is a suave and sophisticated charm about him as well. In the trailer DiCaprio shows us a character that seems completely self-absorbed but yet mesmerizing. Plus he has the best line of the entire trailer: “Gentlemen, you had my curiosity, but¬†now you have my attention”. Of all that I saw in this trailer, DiCaprio’s character and performance excited me the most.

So there’s a few thought’s on the trailer so many are talking about. Have you seen the “Django Unchained” trailer yet? What were your thoughts?

5 Phenomenal Movie Nicknames

There are so many cool and fun things about movies. One of those things is the cool assortment of characters that filmmakers introduce us to. I’ve been thinking about some of these great movie characters lately. As I was thinking on them, I started noticing the many nicknames that characters have had. I thought it would be fun to do a Phenomenal 5 on movie character’s nicknames. The one’s I chose range from funny to cool to down right iconic. Now as always I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 movie nicknames are simply phenomenal.

#5 – BLONDIE

Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach share some fantastic and memorable moments in Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. The three title characters are trying to beat¬†each other¬†to a chest of buried Confederate¬†gold. They scratch, fight, and shoot their way through deserts, civil war battlegrounds, and cemeteries. The movie is actually full of nicknames but none stand out more than the name Tucco (Wallach) gives Eastwood’s character. “Blondie” is funny in that it doesn’t exactly fit a tough-as-nails gunfighter. But it works so well especially in the classic final scene. How can you not love it?

#4 – SHAMPOO DOUGLAS

Before things really get serious in Jeff Nichols’ “Shotgun Stories”, we are introduced to the key characters through some genuinely fun scenes. While “Shampoo” Douglas (G. Alan Wilkins) isn’t one of the main characters, he cracked me up from the first time I saw him and in almost every scene afterwards. He’s¬†part small town redneck, part dense-as fog airhead and you can’t help but laugh at him, the way he talks, and¬†the interesting predicament he finds himself in. Then there’s his nickname. What’s so great about it is that he hardly looks like someone who has used much shampoo. But yet somehow the goofy nickname is a perfect match for this goofy character.

#3 – HARMONICA

Yet another Sergio Leone classic, “Once Upon a Time in the West” may be my favorite western of all time. It features some incredible direction from Leone and a fantastic cast of characters. We meet one of those characters in the brilliant opening scene at the train station. Charles Bronson plays the mysterious gunfighter who makes his presence immediately known. Aside from his quick draw, he stands out for the haunting tune he plays on his harmonica. It clearly has meaning and we see that later in the film. But it’s the on-the-run bandit played by Jason Robards who gives him the simple but perfect nickname “Harmonica”. He’s such a great character and every time someone mentions the harmonica I think of him.

#2 – WILLIAM “BILL THE BUTCHER” CUTTING

Daniel Day-Lewis’ award winning performance in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” is memorable for many reasons. Day-Lewis gives the character the same intensity and energy that he always does. He creates¬†a scary and brutal gang leader who also has one of the more interesting nicknames. The name William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting is both funny and intimidating. The fact that his last name is Cutting is pretty funny in itself. But it’s his¬†fondness and skill with knives that really give the nickname it’s pop. We see that he not only knows how to butcher meat, but he’s not afraid to use his knives on his enemies. He’s a great movie character with a movie nickname that really sticks out.

#1 – INDIANA JONES

How can any other nickname top Indiana Jones? Harrison Ford’s iconic action movie character is not only one of the most entertaining movie characters but he’s also known by everyone. We first saw Indiana in 1981 with the classic “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. It was followed by two fun sequels and more recently a pretty bad one. But Indiana’s icon status will never die. It’s a strange and unusual nickname but it’s one that after all these years feels perfect. I mean can you imagine him being called anything else? He may have taken the name from the family dog, but whenever I hear the name Indiana Jones, I’ll always think of the tough and cool archeologist that I grew up wanting to be. Without a doubt, Indiana Jones is the best movie nickname.

There they are. See a movie nickname you disagree with? What are some of your favorite movie nicknames?

REVIEW: “Yojimbo”

Classic Movie SpotlightYojiMboAkira Kurosawa’s 1961 classic Yojimbo is a Japanese samurai film that’s not only beautifully hypnotic entertainment but is a master’s class on camera work and film making. Kurosawa creates a gritty and audacious period picture that manages to mix action with small bits of dark comedy while constantly showing off his technical savvy.

Yojimbo was heavily influenced by American westerns from the Japanese village’s dusty, deserted main street to the face-offs reminiscent of classic western one-on-one gun duels. Even more interesting is that it went on to be the inspiration for other westerns including Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, which is almost a scene by scene replication instead of a remake. Both films tell the story of a mysterious stranger who enters a small town ran by two brutal, warring gangs. Instead of heeding the advice of a local resident, the stranger sees there’s money to be made in the village by playing both sides. Even Clint Eastwood’s Fistful character seems specifically patterned after Yojimbo’s samurai all the way down to his constant beard scratching.

Toshiro¬†Mifune¬†gives an impeccable performance as the solemn wandering samurai. He and Kurosawa collaborated for 16 films with Kurosawa once saying of Mifune¬†¬†‚ÄĚI am proud of nothing I have done other than with him‚ÄĚ. Their creative chemistry is evident in Yojimbo with Kurosawa really focusing on Mifune‚Äôs strength of¬†communication through expressions and mannerisms. This is a strong performance.

Yojimbo looks and sounds amazing. Masaru Sato’s magnetic score starts with the opening credits and resonates throughout the picture. The cinematography is fascinating with some cleverly staged camera angles, near perfect camera movement, and beautiful wide-framed shots. The story is pretty basic but very efficient with the exception of a few too many conversations over sake at the restaurant. Yet it’s never boring and more often times mesmerizing.

Yojimbo earns it’s recognition as a classic. With each viewing I gain a better appreciation for the movie and for Kurosawa’s brilliant vision. It’s easy to see why another great director like Sergio Leone would be inspired by Yojimbo. It’s a true motion picture  accomplishment and you don’t have to be a cinephile to appreciate it. If you haven’t seen it, make time to. Then follow it up by watching A Fistful of Dollars. You’ll not only see a great film but also appreciate it’s influence.

VERDICT – 5 STARS

5 STARSs

5STAR K&M