The Set of 400: #341 – My Favorite Glinda the Good Witch Impression

Today! Because it’s time to rock it from the Delta to the DMZ –

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Directed by Barry Levinson

Starring Robin Williams (x2), Forest Whitaker (x2), Bruno Kirby, Robert Wuhl, J.T. Walsh, Noble Willingham, Richard Portnow, Juney Smith, Richard Edson, Tung Thanh Tran

Robin Williams had made movies, and some good ones, before 1987, but it all completely changed with Good Morning, Vietnam. It’s as though there was no concrete idea how to harness his stand-up/Mork and Mindy comedy into a feature film, so no one really tried. Popeye has glimmers of it, with the ad-libs, while The World According to Garp showcases Williams serious acting ability. And then everything converged into this wild war comedy, grounded very definitely in reality.

For those of us who grew up with his later comedies, Good Morning, Vietnam can tend to feel like nothing particularly special. This was the Robin we knew from virtually everything that was to follow over the next two decades. The non-sequiturs! That stream-of-consciousness pile of voices and characters! The virtually non-stop jokes! Sure, after decades, that tends to get taken for granted as his particular style, but this was the beginning of that for most cinema audiences, plus it is housed in a very real war picture, while still managing to work, for the most part.

Seriously, every Robin Williams talk show appearance was basically this

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The Set of 400: #342 – My Favorite Nuclear Deterrent

Today! Because peace was never an option –

X-Men: First Class (2011)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon (x3), Rose Byrne, Oliver Platt, January Jones (x2), Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Lucas Till, Caleb Landry Jones, James Remar (x2), Don Creech, Ray Wise, Michael Ironside, Jason Beghe, Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Romijn, Rade Serbedzija, Glenn Morshower, Jason Flemyng

There was legitimate concern heading into the late ’00s that the mighty X-Men franchise was as good as dead. The Last Stand was pretty widely reviled among fans, and the Wolverine prequel wasn’t…good, so what sort of hope could there be? Even when this thing was announced, I don’t remember people being overly optimistic. What, no Storm? No Cyclops? Nightcrawler? Wolverine? Toad?! Concerns abounded.

But while none of these later prequel-centric cast X-films have been gigantic box office hits, this was crucial proof that they could work. The X-Men movies, even though they predated the MCU by many years, have never quite gotten their due – always overshadowed by the Raimi Spider-mans, the Nolan Batmans, and ultimately Iron Man and company. But overall this has to be considered the second most consistent comic book franchise ever, right? There have been, what, eleven movies so far, if you count the Deadpools, and eight of them are very good-to-great (depending on your opinion of Apocalypse, I guess) – that’s a pretty strong track record for a long-in-the-sabretooth series.

Oscar Isaac be damned, we’re still not generally happy with this movie, right?

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The Set of 400: #343 – My Favorite Sizzler Endorsement

Today! Because this is Ghana. You, my friend, are shooting for the Sudan –

White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

Directed by Ron Shelton

Starring Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson (x2), Rosie Perez, Kadeem Hardison, Tyra Ferrell, John Marshall Jones, Ernest Harden Jr., Alex Trebek, Donald Fullilove (x2)

The king of Costner-based sports comedy (Bull Durham, Tin Cup) Ron Shelton delivered one of the funniest basketball movies ever – nothing else immediately comes to mind…Space Jam? I’m not sure how popular this movie was in its day, but it was on HBO all the time, and at just the right time for this guy. There’s a reason 1992 is the most represented year on this list – so far, and in total – and that’s my exposure to it. Also, it was a legitimately great movie year, but a lot of middling movies are still finding their way onto this list in the early going.

Woody and Wesley are terrific together, and was there ever another great comedic performance from Rosie Perez? Sure, she’s solid in Do the Right Thing, and got nominated for an Oscar for Fearless (which I’ll go ahead and admit I’ve never seen), but this is her perfect all-time role here, as Billy’s trivia maven girlfriend, bound for Jeopardy and critical of his increasingly stupid choices. She knows six foods that start with the letter Q! Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #344 – My Favorite 3D Shark

Today! Because he’s in a ’46 Ford, we’re in a DeLorean – he’d rip through us like we were tin foil –

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis (x2)

Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd (x2), Lea Thompson (x2), Thomas F. Wilson, Elisabeth Shue, James Tolkan, Billy Zane, Charles Fleischer, Casey Siemaszko, Elijah Wood (x2), Flea, Joe Flaherty, Donald Fullilove, Mary Ellen Trainor (x2)

Ah, 1989! A transformative film year for young Joe, not so much due to Back to the Future Part II, but because its release finally prompted me to watch Back to the Future Part I. And, you know, Batman, Indiana Jones 3, Ghostbusters 2, and so on. As I didn’t have the luxury of great distance between the original and the sequel, these two movies fell into that aforementioned issue I had as a kid – where a movie and its sequel sort of blend together. It didn’t help that BttFII straight rehashes the original movie during its second half, so the sheer laziness of this move didn’t much bother me as a ten year old.

And, I mean, they try to make it clever, showing the old scenes from new angles, with all new stakes and complications, but with a decidedly older face on Marty, and a completely different Jennifer. If you watch the first and second movies one after the other – and try to think of it as one movie – I think it actually makes for a cooler experience. If you allow yourself to ruminate on the fact that four years passed and this is what they came up with – not to mention the mind bending time travel convolutions and all that chalkboard explaining of things – you might not think back on II all that fondly.

Whatever you say, Doc!

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The Set of 400: #345 – My Favorite Bleached Charger

Today! Because let’s just say we’re doing it for an old pal from the Army –

White Christmas (1954)

Directed by Michael Curtiz

Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Dean Jagger, Mary Wickes, John Brascia, Anne Whitfield, George Chakiris, Barrie Chase, Sig Ruman, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer

My relationship with White Christmas has evolved quite a bit over the years. It went from a movie I barely noticed – that let’s put on a show musical was never my jam – to something periodically airing in the household, to a movie I watch every year in theaters because it is on a double bill with It’s a Wonderful Life, culminating with its place as (apparently) my favorite film from 1954.

Due to a one-off viewing of the George Bailey extravaganza in Tunkhannock, PA well predating the Music Box’s Christmas Spectacular, White Christmas will likely never jump into even a tie for the movie I’ve seen in a theater the most – but it is solidly in second. And this whole process has also proven it to be #1 in my heart from that calendar year, with only Seven Samurai to beat in ’54. Hell, it could be worse – 1955 and 1958 field no movies whatsoever (spoiler for years to come!). This is the first time we’ve had a movie on this list that can be awarded favorite of a particular year, and so –

Congratulations!

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The Set of 400: #346 – My Favorite Lewd Fowl

Today! Because if I had some place to go I certainly wouldn’t be in Cleve-land –

Howard the Duck (1986)

Directed by Willard Huyck

Starring Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins, Chip Zien, Holly Robinson, David Paymer (x2), Richard Kiley, Paul Guilfoyle, Dominique Davalos, Tommy Swerdlow, Miguel Sandoval

I am fully aware of how terrible a movie this is, thank you very much. And while I do have an unnatural affinity for bad films, not too many actually wound up on this list. The Room, the apex of modern awful cinema, lurked around the long list and kept angling to knock Rocky IV out of #400th, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The circumstances needed to enjoy that movie are so specific that I felt they removed it from competition – has to be with a crowd, should be at midnight, I have to be at least four cocktails to the worse. So no, Howard the Duck isn’t just some guilty pleasure, cheeky, oh look how cute he thinks it’s funny to include lousy movies thing. I genuinely enjoy this pile of merde de canard.

Still, even though it doesn’t appear on the list, The Room‘s Greek God Greg Sestero does feature prominently in one of my favorite pictures ever

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The Set of 400: #347 – My Favorite Tattoo Clues

Today! Because we all lie to ourselves to be happy –

Memento (2000)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Stephen Tobolowsky (x3), Thomas Lennon (x2), Mark Boone Junior, Callum Keith Rennie, Jorja Fox

A singularly great film, Memento bestowed on the world the inestimable gift of Christopher Nolan – the closest thing to Spielberg since Spielberg, but operating with a decidedly adult bent in his giant feature films. From its twisty, complex screenplay to the wildly inventive, imaginative direction, to the whole story unfolding with increased tension suspense backwards through the plot – there really has never been anything else quite like it. As much as I might enjoy some other Nolan films more, and think one or two to be legitimately better, he is unlikely to make anything more technically impressive than Memento. Okay, Dunkirk is pretty stunning as well. Nolan is a master of the first order, is what I’m saying.

Saving Private Ryan wishes it was Dunkirk

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