Tag Archives: Samuel L. Jackson

The Set of 400: #4 – My Favorite $5 Milkshake

Today! Because personality goes a long way –

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino (x6)

Starring John Travolta (x3), Samuel L. Jackson (x13), Uma Thurman (x2), Bruce Willis (x6), Christopher Walken (x4), Harvey Keitel (x5), Eric Stoltz, Tim Roth (x2), Amanda Plummer (x2), Ving Rhames (x4), Frank Whaley (x3), Steve Buscemi (x5), Roseanna Arquette, Maria de Medeiros, Phil LaMarr, Angela Jones, Quentin Tarantino (x3), Julia Sweeney (x2), Kathy Griffin (x2), Paul Calderon (x2), Bronagh Gallagher, Peter Greene, Duane Whitaker

As I’ve stated numerous times, I didn’t really discover good movies existed until roughly 1992. Up until that point, what Leonard Maltin said was about the only barometer I had – we didn’t have Twitter reactions or Rotten Tomatoes, Cinemascore or IMDB rankings, Metacritic or the late, great Epinions. It was The Scranton Times movie reviews – culled from other newspapers, largely, as I recall, and Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, when I could remember to catch it. But come 1992, it appears my parents gave up on restricting us from R rated films, and by early 1993 I had subscribed to the magazine love of my life – Entertainment Weekly. No joke! It wasn’t the glossy, People-esque nonsense that appears on newsstands today! Or maybe it was, and I just wasn’t discerning. But these events coupled together quickly advanced movie appreciation for young Joey Joe Joseph. And the pinnacle of this was the glorious 1994 movie calendar – one of the best years in film history, featuring the most transformative film of the generation, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Anyone who lived through the era and doesn’t agree with the above statement is not to be trusted. Disregard their opinions at your leisure.

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The Set of 400: #31 – My Favorite Dog Painting (Modern)

Today! Because as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster –

Goodfellas (1990)

Directed by Martin Scorsese (x5)

Starring Ray Liotta (x3), Robert De Niro (x6), Joe Pesci (x3), Lorraine Bracco (x3), Paul Sorvino (x3), Frank Vincent, Mike Starr, Tony Darrow (x2), Frank Sivero, Chuck Low, Gina Mastrogiacomo, Catherine Scorsese, Samuel L. Jackson (x12), Suzanne Shepherd, Debi Mazar (x2), Michael Imperioli, Kevin Corrigan (x3), Tony Sirico (x2), Illeana Douglas (x2), Paul Herman, Tony Lip, Vincent Pastore, Tobin Bell (x2), Vito Antuofermo, Frank Albanese, Johnny Williams, Elaine Kagan, Beau Starr, Welker White, Henny Youngman (x2), Jerry Vale, Isiah Whitlock Jr. (x2)

In the annals of great Oscar crimes, people are quick to jump on 1998, as I guess they feel Shakespeare in Love too frothy and inconsequential to beat the likes of Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, and Terrence Malick’s epic comeback to prominence, The Thin Red Line. I’m sure I’ve brought up Saving Private Ryan before, so I won’t get back into that again. But I think there’s a case that can be made for Shakespeare in Love – maybe not in that deep a year, but in some year. However, the great Oscar robbery of the ’90s and of all times isn’t that – hell, I could come up with a bunch of years more egregious than ’98. No, the worst hit job ever done was Dances With Wolves somehow beating Goodfellas for Best Picture/Director in 1990.

This boring goddamn thing

You can say that maybe the Academy didn’t want to go with the violent gangster film – even though they’d handed Best Picture to both the Godfathers by this point – but then the option became the pastoral white savior Native American movie? You’re telling me they didn’t realize how rough they’d snubbed Martin Scorsese all those years and couldn’t recognize his (ever so slightly) waning greatness, and figure maybe it was time to reward him when a truly, truly great film came along, instead of waiting for the next convenient time, which wouldn’t arrive for over a decade and a half? Plus, what, they had to give Kevin Costner an Oscar?? The 1990 Academy Awards make no sense whatsoever, so stuff your Saving Private Ryan griping. That 45 great minutes wrapped around two hours of next to nothing isn’t in the same ballpark.

Remember how Captain Miller’s last words basically show how meaningless his life was and he only existed to teach Ryan a lesson? Remember that? Remember how you think the old guy at the beginning is Miller (because of the whole eye-jump though time) but it’s not Miller, because of how lazy the device was? Ugh, Saving Private Ryan, I swear to God

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The Set of 400: #38 – My Favorite Open Heart Cave Surgery

Today! Because that’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far –

Iron Man (2008)

Directed by Jon Favreau

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (x9), Gwyneth Paltrow (x5), Jeff Bridges (x3), Jon Favreau (x4), Terence Howard, Clark Gregg (x5), Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Paul Bettany (x3), Peter Billingsley (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x11), Tim Guinee

There aren’t a lot of years with multiple films still to come on this list, but 2008 leads the way so far as the top 38 are concerned. 1994 still has three – with the next one arriving on Wednesday – and has already seen seven films make it, but 2008 has four in this group starting today. More surprisingly, maybe, is that there have only been three up to this point – #204 Semi-Pro, #322 Role Models, and #352 Be Kind Rewind. Huh! Saving the best for later, I guess!

But man did I love the summer of 2008. I moved to Chicago at the end of May, living within walking distance of a movie theater for the first time in my life – Shoutout to the Webster Kerasotes! Changed hands but not forgotten! – reunited with the girlfriend after 21 months of long distance relationship-ing, reunited with my high school pal Dave, and basically dragged them to see everything that came out, multiple times. I’d like to say that this was just a hectic adjustment period where I overindulged in cinema-going, but no, this just showed me what my life would become here in the big town. Having moved twice since, I still have never been more than an eight minutes walk from a theater.

Can’t find a picture of the outside, and inside the Webster Kerasotes looks like every other theater ever

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The Set of 400: #52 – My Favorite Chester A. Arthur Shoutout

Today! Because his own wife wants nothing to do with him, and he’s about two steps shy of becoming a full-blown alcoholic –

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

Directed by John McTiernan (x3)

Starring Bruce Willis (x5), Samuel L. Jackson (x10), Jeremy Irons (x2), Larry Bryggman, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp (x4), Kevin Chamberlin, Sam Phillips, Stephen Pearlman, Aldis Hodge, Anthony Peck, Aasif Mandvi, Charles Dumas, Michael Cristofer, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney (x2)

There has been many a day where I find myself lost in a general reverie and the water jug riddle from Die Hard with a Vengeance occurs to me. You have an empty five gallon jug and an empty three gallon jug and a water fountain. You need to come up with exactly four gallons of water. How is this done? In the movie, they have to solve this or bombs explode, whereas I need to solve it because the exact path they take to figure it out in the film hasn’t immediately come to mind, and I want to get on with my day. I’ll figure it out eventually – it’s not really that complicated – but for some reason, a month or two later, this will all happen again.

They solve this riddle in like 14 seconds

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The Set of 400: #72 – My Favorite Movie Theater Inferno

Today! Because if I don’t pick up this phone right here, you may very well get all four, and if you get all four, you’ll end the war – tonight –

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino (x4)

Starring Brad Pitt (x3), Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz (x2), Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender (x2), Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl (x2), B.J. Novak, Mike Myers (x2), Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Jacky Ido, Omar Doom, Denis Menochet, Julie Dreyfus, Martin Wuttke, Lea Seydoux (x3), Samuel L. Jackson (x9)

Every Tarantino movie is an event, but Inglourious Basterds was something special. It was his first full length movie in five years – skipping the whole gimmicky Grindhouse thing, which was fine. I mean, come on, you don’t count Four Rooms when jumping from Pulp Fiction to Jackie Brown, do you? Of course not! So it had been since the second part of Kill Bill in 2004 – the rare Tarantino film that didn’t make this list – and this one was coming in a summer. How weird was that? Figure, Quentin hadn’t had a film with serious awards attention since ’94, so to take this movie out of the season for statues and drop it into August – that had to be something else, right? And man, it was.

Was it ever

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The Set of 400: #96 – My Favorite Alexandre Dumas Trivia

Today! Because the D is silent –

Django Unchained (2012)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino (x3)

Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio (x4), Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson (x8), Walton Goggins (x2), James Remar (x3), Dennis Christopher, Don Johnson, Franco Nero, Tom Wopat, Russ Tamblyn, Amber Tamblyn, Bruce Dern (x2), M.C. Gainey (x2), Jonah Hill (x6), Zoe Bell, Lee Horsley, Robert Carradine (x2), Ted Neeley, James Parks, Tom Savini, Quentin Tarantino (x2), Lewis Smith (x2), Daniele Watts, Gary Grubbs (x2), Don Stroud, Laura Cayouette, Dana Gourrier, Ato Essandoh, Escalante Lundy

Back-to-back Samuel L! And we’ve finally reached my second favorite film from the vaunted year of 2012. Ah, 2012! Mitt Romney lost and we as a people won – not just in politics but at the theaters, as we were treated to quite the mighty group of films. Nearly scaling the lot here was Quentin Tarantino’s hyper-violent rescue/revenge “southern” Django Unchained, his 7th full length movie and highest grossing one by a considerable margin (as of this writing, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is still some months away). He makes the strident case to not categorize this movie as a “western,” as it is set primarily in antebellum Texas, Tennessee, and Mississippi, but come on, call it what you like, this is as western as a non-western can be.

I mean, really, considering it borrows half its title and many plot/character elements from Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 film Django, I suppose if we’re aggressively splitting hairs here this is some manner of American spaghetti western/southern. Hell, Franco Nero has a cameo in the film! It’s different enough that it ascribes no actual credit to Django, going so far as being classified an original-as-opposed-to-adapted screenplay, but still similar enough that if your video store has enough sections, classifying it might prove tricky. Anyway, it’s a western. Mostly. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #123 – My Favorite Nervous Jell-O

Today! Because you didn’t say the magic word –

Jurassic Park (1993)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x4)

Starring Sam Neill (x2), Laura Dern (x2), Jeff Goldblum (x5), Richard Attenborough (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x6), Wayne Knight (x3), BD Wong, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero (x2), Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Miguel Sandoval (x2), Richard Kiley (x2)

It’s no stretch to declare Jurassic Park the best dinosaur movie ever made, but I’ll go so far as to say it’s the only good dinosaur movie. It feels like it should be a more robust sub-genre of movies, right? Like, once the technology existed, why didn’t we get buried in stupid T-Rex films? But really, there isn’t much, and what there is isn’t great. They pop up as side characters in like King Kong, okay, but you wouldn’t classify that as a dinosaur movie, would you? You would?! Get the hell out of here!

And I’ll contend that none of the other Jurassic Park movies are anything compared to the original. Jurassic World is fun, but it’s a pretty straight rehash of the first film, not unlike The Force Awakens and A New Hope, really. Hollywood has us figured out, folks! We like the same things packaged in slightly different ways! Superhero movies, all these “live action” Disney remakes (that are really just animated in a different way), reboots, endless Fast and Furious sequels – we like comfortable, predictable, stakes-less excitement!

(Also, is everyone aware that there have been fourteen Land Before Time movies? That seems a touch excessive, no? I think I might have seen the first movie once, but I’m clearly way behind!)

Who’s up for marathoning this shit this weekend?

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The Set of 400: #131 – My Favorite Coughing Endorsement

Today! Because to her dumb country ass, Compton is Hollywood. Closest she’s ever been anyway –

Jackie Brown (1997)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino (x2)

Starring Pam Grier (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x5), Robert Forster (x2), Robert De Niro (x3), Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton (x7), Chris Tucker (x2), Michael Bowen (x2), Tiny Lister (x2), LisaGay Hamilton, Hattie Winston, Sid Haig

To say I had been looking forward to Jackie Brown is woefully understating the situation in late 1997. It had been three years – three long formative years – since Pulp Fiction came out, and my whole cinematic outlook had gone through aggressive changes. I mean, going from 15 to 18 years old is going to have its own inherent alterations in lifestyle and tastes, but as I’ve said before, most of my film watching preferences were psychically embedded during this period of time. And PF was as close as anything to the heart of this transformation, so Tarantino finally bringing us his third film was a cause for celebration. Hell, it was a landmark event. It was the goddamn moon landing.

Never mind it was the return of national treasure Pam Grier

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The Set of 400: #172 – My Favorite Tussle

Today! Because this is the dumbest fucking shakedown in the history of shakedowns –

Out of Sight (1998)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (x2)

Starring George Clooney (x3), Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames (x3), Don Cheadle (x3), Albert Brooks (x4), Dennis Farina, Nancy Allen (x2), Michael Keaton (x5), Steve Zahn, Catherine Keener (x3), Luis Guzman (x4), Connie Sawyer, James Black, Viola Davis, Paul Calderon, Samuel L. Jackson (x4), Isaiah Washington, Keith Loneker

All of the sleek cool on display in #249 Ocean’s Eleven is directly attributable to Soderbergh’s work on Out of Sight – one of the great unacknowledged sequels of all time. There is again a heist at the center of the film, but it unfolds in a completely different way. Where Ocean’s is pretty straightforward, with only some narrative somersaults at the end to heighten the impact of the caper itself, Out of Sight flips in and out of the linear tale, explaining the characters prior interactions in prison (virtually all the guys were in prison at some point), and how and why this grand Detroit house robbery came about.

The cast is first rate across the board, but none more so than Jennifer Lopez as Marshal Karen Sisco, kidnapped while Clooney’s Jack breaks out of jail, plunging them both in the trunk of the getaway car, where the hot, sweaty romance begins to blossom. Ridiculous, right? But it totally works, in that marvelous Elmore Leonard way. I want to emphasize how good Lopez is here, because I don’t think she will ever really get the credit she deserves as an actress. As time went by, she did more and more romantic comedies and middling TV shows, but her career’s start – with Selena and Out of Sight and…Anaconda – signaled her as a major talent, capable of a lot more than she’s done. Sure, her music career always came first, and those Affleck films sure didn’t help things, but I always hoped she’d get back to some great character work. Not too late, JLo!

No reason to get blue about it!

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The Set of 400: #175 – My Favorite Heat Signature Battle

Today! Because I couldn’t just stand there and watch him shoot those people right in front of me. It was…rage –

Patriot Games (1992)

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Starring Harrison Ford (x3), Sean Bean, Patrick Bergin, Anne Archer, Thora Birch, Samuel L. Jackson (x3), J.E. Freeman (x2), Polly Walker, James Earl Jones (x4), James Fox, Richard Harris, Hugh Fraser, Ted Raimi (x2), Bob Gunton (x3), Jonathan Ryan, Alex Norton

There have been a bunch of Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan adaptations, but only one was released at the center of my film universe – 1992! And so, Patriot Games, the best and my favorite of the Jack Ryan movies I’ve seen (sorry, Sum of All Fears!)! It’s not as baggy as Clear and Present Danger and is more exciting than Sean Connery’s Russian sub commander in The Hunt For Red October. We only went and saw the Chris Pine Shadow Recruit (I think it was called?) thing because we were literally travelling to Moscow the following month, and thought it might be a good travelogue primer. It was not!

It’s a plenty scary work trip for everyone who goes!

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The Set of 400: #224 – My Favorite Black Sabbath T-Shirt

Today! Because that’s my secret, Captain – I’m always angry –

The Avengers (2012)

Directed by Joss Whedon

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (x7), Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth (x2), Mark Ruffalo (x4), Scarlett Johansson (x2), Jeremy Renner (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x2), Tom Hiddleston, Gwyneth Paltrow (x2), Paul Bettany (x2), Clark Gregg (x2), Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Powers Boothe (x2), Harry Dean Stanton (x2), James Eckhouse

Not to be confused with one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen (the 1998 adaptation of the ’60s spy TV show of the same name – list coming in 2023!), The Avengers was not positioned as the Biggest Comic Movie Ever when it was coming out in the summer of 2012. That was reserved for The Dark Knight Rises, releasing nearly three months later, the first sequel ever made to a film grossing over $500 million domestically. However we quickly realized the error of our thinking, as apparently people really did enjoy Captain America and Thor, despite their films having under-performed with the almighty dollar, and when coupled with the juggernaut of RDJ in the Iron Head, well – dough was going to rake down.

Excitement was at an all-time high

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The Set of 400: #332 – My Favorite Door Melting

Today! Because yud say boom de gasser, den crashin der bosses heyblibber, den banished –

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Directed by George Lucas

Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Brian Blessed, Terence Stamp, Ray Park, Warwick Davis, Pernella August, Samuel L. Jackson, Dominic West, Sofia Coppola, Keira Knightley, Greg Proops (x2), Oliver Ford Davies, Hugh Quarshie

Let me just start by saying SHUT UP. I know, I’m not exactly in the majority for my enjoyment of this film. And rest assured, I recognize the amount of ridiculous bullshit that’s in it. Why did I use a Jar Jar Binks quote at the top? Because I’m owning it, and I want you to know I’m not overlooking the crammed in nonsense that ruins this movie for people. And perhaps I’m projecting backward onto this film – because I largely haven’t enjoyed the Star Wars things that have come since 1999 – but I think this is a hugely underappreciated movie, with a lot to like. So just shut up.

Let focus on the big things – the lightsaber battle at the end is the best lightsaber fight in any Star Wars movie. Hell, it might be the best swordfight in the history of film. John Williams score for this movie is my favorite of the series. The pod racing scene stands up with any sequence in any Star Wars. Ewan McGregor was a terrific choice to carry the prequels, and is always excellent as Obi-Wan. Darth Maul is a terrifically cool villain. Mace Windu is pretty cool, too. Plus it cannot be overstated how eagerly anticipated this movie was in ’99, to the point that I can’t believe it could’ve been warmly accepted no matter how it turned out. Look at The Force Awakens – the only reason people fell all over themselves in love with that thing is because the prequels were so hated. The logic – let’s just straight remake A New Hope and pray no one notices – worked great, as things got so out of hand by Episode III that fans just wanted anything resembling the original movies, no matter how derivative.

Groan!

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