Tag Archives: Favorite Movies Ever

The Set of 400: #249 – My Favorite Prison Tuxedo

Today! Because you can’t have six cards in a five card game –

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Starring George Clooney (x2), Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia (x2), Elliott Gould (x2), Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner (x3), Bernie Mac, Shaobo Qin, Eddie Jemison, Don Cheadle (x2), Topher Grace, Joshua Jackson (x2)

A remake so much better than the original that it’s almost unfair to mention its existence, 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven was the movie that I think everyone assumed Steven Soderbergh could make, but never would. Sure, Out of Sight hits largely the same tone, and with Clooney, too, but it isn’t quite the bustling movie star popcorn extravaganza that this film is. But while in some cases I’ve advocated that a filmmaker winning an Oscar was detrimental to society as a whole – Spielberg’s four year hiatus after Schindler’s List, James Cameron’s everything after Titanic, etc. – Soderbergh’s win for Traffic may have actually freed him up to make something more purely fun, purely Hollywood than we would’ve expected.

And boy did it deliver. Yes, the sequels were underwhelming and unnecessary, straight through to last year’s okay-if-beating-a-dead-mare Ocean’s 8, but the first movie is a dazzling gem of subterfuge and sleight of hand. From Danny Ocean’s first appearance, getting out of jail in a full on tuxedo, this movie is chocked full of style, attitude, and more than a little winking-at-itself humor that totally works. Sure, with a cast this large and accomplished, it’s bound to feel like some folks got a little wasted through lack of use, but they do manage to give everybody just enough character bits and snappy lines to satisfy – for the most part. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #250 – My Favorite Blind Forger

Today! Because I haven’t seen Berlin yet, from the ground or from the air, and I plan on doing both before the war is over –

The Great Escape (1963)

Directed by John Sturges

Starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence (x2), James Coburn (x2), James Donald, Gordon Jackson, John Leyton, David McCallum, Hannes Messemer, Angus Lennie, Nigel Stock, Robert Graf, Jud Taylor

Not to be confused with the Midwestern patio furniture chain of the same name, The Great Escape doesn’t offer much by way of spas and hot tubs, but it is lousy with tunnels! All of your tunnel needs in one epic, Nazi battling stop! Shop The Great Escape!

Prisoner of war camps are not overly fun settings for movies and TV shows. Sure, Hogan’s Heroes, but that’s a straight comedy inside one of the stranger concepts in sitcom history. The Great Escape, while hardly a laugher, does have a surprising number of light moments to sustain the huge run time, so if POW misery stretched across three hours of film was putting you off from watching, fear not! It rips right along, with a little bit of levity to aid the way, largely in the form of Steve McQueen’s Hilts, The Cooler King, often a diversion from the escape itself as he gets caught in his own botched attempts at going over the fence and sent to solitary confinement. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #251 – My Favorite One Cross Each

Today! Because he’s not the Messiah! He’s a very naughty boy –

Life of Brian (1979)

Directed by Terry Jones

Starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Sue Jones-Davies, Kenneth Colley, Spike Milligan

For the better part of my life, I swore I was more a Life of Brian Python fan than a Holy Grail one. And maybe coincidentally (but maybe not), for the better part of this same period of time, I considered myself somewhat more religious than I do now. I mean, I’m still kinda religious, in a very basic way, but not, like, going to church on Sunday and helping them fund the lawsuits. Still, I think when you’re more ingrained in the whole God culture, Life of Brian resonates in a wholly different way. Eight years of Catholic school, folks!

Nowadays, well – not to spoil it, but Holy Grail is a good distance down the road on this list, while Life of Brian is here. Not to take anything away from this movie – it’s still hilarious – but previously I regarded this movie as a brilliant, incendiary dismantling of organized religion and their somewhat ridiculous origin stories. In watching now, it doesn’t quite hit those notes as hard for me, and in comparison to the much more quotable and iconic Holy Grail, it pales a bit as a movie. Blow-for-blow it may be funnier, and has a far more satisfying ending, but doesn’t feel quite as earth shaking as it did when I was fifteen.

Still, that ending!

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The Set of 400: #252 – My Favorite Stealers Wheel Musical Number

Today! Because for all I know, you’re the rat –

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel (x2), Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Lawrence Tierney, Randy Brooks, Edward Bunker, Steven Wright, Kirk Baltz

And we finally get to some Tarantino! Reservoir Dogs was his first feature film, and the first one I saw, albeit when I was thirteen and obviously couldn’t know what was to come. Like everyone else, I thought it was pretty amazing, just super violent and complex with dazzlingly funny dialogue and terrific songs. This hyper-stylized, off-kilter attitude crime thriller managed to feel like something entirely new, while also firmly keeping a foot in the past history of the genre. It had flashbacks and flash forwards and characters lying to each other but where the audience already knew the truth, and that soundtrack! I had this tape in my old ’87 Firebird all the time when I was in college.

Available on eBay!

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The Set of 400: #253 – My Favorite Grocery Store Pickup Line

Today! Because I am the worst case scenario of Thomas Jefferson’s dream –

My Blue Heaven (1990)

Directed by Herbert Ross

Starring Steve Martin (x4), Rick Moranis, Carol Kane, Bill Irwin (x3), Joan Cusack, Melanie Mayron, William Hickey (x2), Daniel Stern, Ed Lauter, Colleen Camp, Deborah Rush, Jesse Bradford, Julie Bovasso, Gordon Currie, Carol Ann Susi, Ellen Albertini Dow (x3)

The third of the three comedies they’d appear in (if you don’t count Rick’s uncredited cameo in L.A. Story), My Blue Heaven makes the most out of teaming Martin and Moranis. Parenthood is more drama than comedy and Little Shop of Horrors only has them together briefly, but My Blue Heaven gives them a pair of conflicting, two-ish dimensional characters and let’s them run. Martin’s witness protected gangster Vinnie needs to stay out of trouble until the trial, and Moranis’s FBI agent Barney Coopersmith is tasked with handling him, to great comic effect.

While Moranis seems obviously suited for the nerdy G-man role, Martin as a slick Italian gangster doesn’t immediately sound right. In fact, Martin originally was supposed to play Barney, but after someone (Schwarzenegger? That can’t be right) dropped out, he switched roles and they brought in Moranis. Genius move! Both are playing extreme stereotyped versions of these parts – they weren’t aiming for a gritty mob film with comedic touches, it’s a wall-to-wall comedy – and their interplay, as well as their romantic entanglements, provide for a solidly underrated gem all around. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #254 – My Favorite Spinning Wheel

Today! Because I walked with you once upon a dream –

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Directed by Clyde Geronimi (x2)

Starring Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Taylor Holmes, Marvin Miller

The older films categorized as Disney Princess movies don’t have a lot of appeal for the young boys, I can tell you from experience. Snow White has those dwarfs, sure, but the rest of that thing is snoozeville. Cinderella is pure little girl fantasy – who is a young lad supposed to connect with there, Gus Gus?! I’m not saying all movies need to be aimed at all people, that’s obviously ridiculous, but I grew up with sisters, and got a steady diet of girl-centric entertainment, most of which I did not enjoy. Nowadays I might be able to find more fun in all those birds sewing dresses or whatever the hell goes on with Cinderelly, but back then, not so much.

Okay, Gus Gus is fine

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The Set of 400: #255 – My Favorite Flaming Wheelchair

Today! Because I am not a man. I began as one, but now I am becoming more than a man –

Red Dragon (2002)

Directed by Brett Ratner

Starring Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson (x2), Anthony Hopkins (x3), Harvey Keitel, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman (x3), Anthony Heald, Frankie Faison, Ken Leung, Bill Duke (x2), William Lucking (x3), Frank Whaley (x2), Mary Beth Hurt, Ellen Burstyn

First of all, let me just say SHUT UP. I know the later Hannibal Lecter movies are not exactly beloved by audiences at large. This especially seems to apply to Red Dragon, mainly because of Manhunter, I guess? And okay, I get that – it came out first by quite a bit, and is a solid movie, so if you saw it first and were bitter Brian Cox didn’t get cast in Silence in the Lambs or something, okay. You hang on to that bitterness.

But no one can convince me that Manhunter is actually a better movie. It didn’t have the built in obstacle of needing to overcome a director like Brett Ratner at the helm, I’ll give you that – Michael Mann is by-far the superior filmmaker – but I feel that Red Dragon improves upon the original with every single actor in the film. Again, this isn’t necessarily to slight Manhunter – it’s a fine movie – but this seems to be the main argument against this movie, and I think it is ludicrous beyond words. The only aspect that I might say the original handled better is Lecter himself – because that movie didn’t treat him like he was somehow the star. The Red Dragon story has very little to do with Lecter, and when the original was released – five years before Silence – no one would’ve been clamoring for it be about him. This movie, of course, was concocted as a way to keep making Anthony Hopkins/Hannibal films, giving it that lingering cash-grab feel that people couldn’t shake.

On the other hand, Manhunter did go with this choice

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