Directed by: John Badham
Starring: Ally Sheedy, Steve Guttenberg, Fisher Stevens, Austin Pendleton, G.W. Bailey
Tagline: Life is not a malfunction.
Best Quote: "I am thinking she is a virgin. Or at least she used to be."
Johnny 5 is, was and always will be one of my biggest heroes. I don't know what it is about him. He is experiencing the world through a four-day-old's eyes, yet his capacity to share his thoughts and his questions goes far beyond a screeching cry.
So it happens something like this. Newton Crosby has just designed an $11,000,000 robot, a near weapon of mass-destruction if you will. After demonstrating the robots' abilities, a mishap occurs. One of the robots gets struck by lightning, and starts to diverge from his program. He escapes into the city and runs into Stephanie, the most everyday girl you've ever known. But something weird is happening -- the robot is starting to show lifelike abilities such as imitation, seeing shapes in the clouds, dancing, cooking breakfast, and communicating on an emotional level. The "warmongers" are anxious to get their contraption back (too bad nobody cares about our troops that much, and they don't even make 1% of $11,000,000 in a year!) Newton Crosby is hardly swayed by Stephanie's insistence that his robot is "alive", he just wants it back. So who will get the robot first? Will Newton ever believe that his robot is actually alive? Short Circuit does remarkably well in displaying the true value of a life, no matter what its "vessel" might be. And there is a moment in this film that I can honestly say is the only time in my life I have ever clapped so hard that it hurt.
9.) The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Directed by: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Elden Henson, John Patrick Emidori
Tagline: Change one thing, change everything.
Best Quote: "You can't change who people are without changing who they were! You can't play God, son!"
I know you probably think I'm absolutely off my hinges on this one. But I'm not even kidding. A lot of critics derided this film 'cause of the presence of Ashton Kutcher, and all I can say is they should know, shouldn't they. Since they love his old stuff so much.
Blackouts could not possibly happen at a worse time than they do for Evan. Just when something incredible is about to happen, *poof*, he's out like a light. And so are we. The only thing we or Evan know is the aftermath. Fast forward to the present time. Evan decides to reunite with an old flame, Kayleigh, because he has recently discovered something. When he reads his old journals, he gains the ability not only to remember what was happening during those blackout periods he had as a kid, but -- get this -- to control himself during those moments. In the PAST. So needless to say, with the kind of screwed-up future he's living in, the notion is tempting. But it only leads to one complication after another as the future changes all around him. Kiddie porn, jail rape, and animal cruelty all come into the picture, but not to worry, they are all mostly implied. This film reminds me a lot of Donnie Darko. Which I have no idea why THAT movie isn't on this list as well. For the love of all that does not suck, do not doubt this picture because of Ashton Kutcher. He actually pulls off a dandy performance.
8.) Ghost (1990)
Directed by: Jerry Zucker
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Goldwyn
Tagline: You will believe.
Best Quote: "Just think of it this way. You'll go to Heaven."
Everything is going great for Sam and Molly until one night when he is brutally removed from this world. Molly is devastated, but unbeknownst to her, so is Sam... 'cause now he is wandering the streets in the form of a ghost. No one can see him, no one can hear him, and he's gathering a buttload of information about his murder that he can't tell anyone! Then, he runs into Oda May Brown, a spiritual advisor. As is often the case, she is a phony... but she is not as much of a phony as anyone thinks. When Sam starts haunting her, she has no choice but to do everything in her power to get the information over to Molly. It's a fascinating story of love, loss (duh), and believing in the unbelievable. The film doesn't attempt to shove any particular religious belief down your throat, it just says "This might be how it is." Whoopi Goldberg offers the movie a lighthearted, comedic side. She pretty well single-handedly saves the entire film from being a downright dreary approach to the subject. Although the ubiquitous Righteous Bros. tune, "Unchained Melody" might make a beautiful backdrop to an unexpectedly HOT scene (my God, those fingers), I still will always feel closer to the movie when I hear Swayze's song "She's Like The Wind".
7.) One Hour Photo (2002)
Directed by: Mark Romanek
Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Neilsen, Michael Vartan, Dylan Smith III
Tagline: There is nothing more dangerous than a familiar face.
Best Quote: "If these pictures have anything important to say to future generations, it's this -- I was here. I existed. I was young, I was happy, and someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture."
You'll never know a more lonely fellow than Sy Parrish. His only contact with the outside world, aside from his television set, is his job as the guy behind the photo counter at the local Sav-Mart. Call it obsession, call it plain boredom, but Sy has developed a fascination with a certain customer of his, Nina Yorkin. Every picture that Nina has ever had developed at Sy's photo shop, Sy has made an extra copy for himself. Eriq La Salle, who also stars in the movie, says "This film explores what it means to be in such need of basic love, that you have to kidnap someone else's life just to make you feel whole and complete." I think that pretty much sums it up. But it's not so much about what happens in this movie as it is about what doesn't happen. 'Cause for some people in this world, that is the most interesting thing they have to talk about.
6.) Breakdown (1997)
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Kurt Russell, Kathleen Quinlan, J.T. Walsh, Jack Noseworthy, Rex Linn
Tagline: A cross country trip. An unexpected breakdown. The trap has been set.
Best Quote: "It's not what I want, it's what you want, how bad you want it. 'Cause it's gonna cost you. Can't show it to you right now, but it's about five-five, a hundred and fifteen pounds, three or four of that just pure t*t. Nice curly brown hair, upstairs and down. Interested?"
While moving across the country, Jeff and Amy discuss the trials of life. Just when you think things can't get any worse, the Jeep breaks down. To make matters worse still, Jeff and Amy have been taunted since the gas station stop, by a couple of guys in a pickup truck that they almost hit earlier. Fortunately, a semi shows up minutes later, and the driver takes a look. He seems nice enough, and he offers to take Amy to the next restaurant up the road so that she can call a tow truck. Jeff, still shaken, wants to stay with the Jeep. To make a long story short, he won't see his wife again for about an hour and a half, and this Breakdown is more than a vehicle breakdown, it's a mental one. Desolate atmosphere, slow pace, ambient music, and some interesting camera angles make this a complete masterpiece of a movie. Kurt Russell is amazing in this tortured role, without looking like he's constipated or anything. Also of interest is Jack Noseworthy, who looks to be half Bon-Jovi, half the buffed-up Christian Slater from hell. He delivers a great little performance. For my favorite character to be a bad guy, that's a rare thing. I don't know why we haven't seen more from this guy.
5.) Memento (2000)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie Anne-Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Tagline: Some memories are best forgotten.
Best Quote: "My wife deserves vengeance. Doesn't make any difference whether I know about it. Just because there are things I can't remember doesn't make my actions meaningless. The world doesn't just disappear when you close your eyes, does it?"
Leonard Shelby suffers from the unenviable affliction of short-term memory loss. This wouldn't be so bad, except that he got the disease from brain damage while trying to defend his wife when she was killed. So now, Leonard (or Lenny, as everyone calls him) spends his entire life living in hotel rooms, his cars, with friends, and just wandering around taking pictures to help him remember people, places, things, and what he has done. But here's the real kicker -- Memento plays its scenes out in reverse sequence, making it every bit as confusing for the audience as it must be for poor Lenny. You'll talk about this one for months, or even years. Joe Pantoliano has already established, at least for me anyway, his "defining" character -- Teddy.
4.) 12 Angry Men (1957)
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Joseph Sweeney, E.G. Marshall
Tagline: Life is in their hands -- Death is on their minds.
Best Quote: Juror #3: "You're talking about a matter of seconds, nobody can be that accurate."
Juror #8: "Well I think that testimony that can put a boy into the electric chair should be that accurate."
I'm no big fan of black & white movies. I'm even less of a fan of black and white characters, which is what saves this one. My high school Law teacher made us watch 12 Angry Men in '94, and it has been one of my favorite movies ever since. Behind all the hurling of insults and mudslinging (which, in itself, is quite hilarious to watch) is a very serious story about an 18-year old boy who is on trial for the stabbing of his father. It looks like it will be an open-and-shut case, until Juror #8 (Fonda) brings their wicked dream to a screeching halt with his vote of dissent. Not guilty. Reginald Rose took on a challenging job when writing this script, but I'd say he hit the nail right on the head. He knew what to leave in and what to leave out, how long to go between "breaks", and he offered a life to each and every single one of the jurors. By the film's end, one feels that he knows every man in the room and in some strange way, maybe even the kid. Doing the right thing is its own reward, and 12 Angry Men captures this feeling beautifully in its closing moments. P.S. Skip the remake.
3.) Back To The Future (1985)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Crispin Glover, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson
Tagline: Marty McFly's having the time of his life. The only question is -- what time is it?
Best Quote: "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."
I know, I can be such a sell-out, but dog-gone it, this movie rocks. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Marty McFly is living pretty close to a destitute life -- his parents are miserable, his Dad is bullied around at work, he himself can't find acceptance anywhere else but at the hand of his girlfriend Jennifer. Then one day, he meets his friend Emmett Brown (a.k.a. Doc) in the parking lot of Twin Pines Mall at 1:30 in the morning. An accident occurs, catapulting his asss back in time to 1955 with no way to get back. The real kicker of the movie is when his own mother starts to fall for HIM instead of his father. So now, not only has Marty got to get his mother and father to hook up (or else he won't even EXIST) but they're going to have to fall in love for a different reason than her feeling sorry for him, since Marty inadvertently intercepted that little facet of his density... I mean, destiny.
Every character in this movie is classic -- Doc Brown as the eccentric scientist with a few screws loose, Marty as the almost punkrocker and just all around frustrated teenager, Lorraine as the soft spoken mother of Marty who has a real guy-chasing streak about her, and of course, George McFly, the man who has to learn to stand up for himself. I don't want to spoil too much (like you actually haven't seen this one), but the "fist shot" is one of the strongest moments I've ever seen in a movie.
2.) Frequency (2000)
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Mitchell, Andre Braugher, Shawn Doyle
Tagline: What if?
Best Quote: "Nothing wrong with old age, Frank, as long as you get there."
Ladies and gentlemen, meet John Sullivan. He lives all alone in 1999, and his life has gone to sh!t. His girlfriend is walking out, his work is suffering, and those cigarettes have got him right where they want him.
Then one fateful night, Johnny makes contact via ham radio with a strange old firefighter, who turns out to be his father, 30 years in the past. As it turns out, his father (in the past) is only days away from dying in a fire, an event that John has had to live with for the last three decades. The question is obvious -- can he stop it? And if he does, is that the end? This film bounces back and forth between scenes from 1969 and scenes from 1999 in the blink (or the spin) of an eye. And yet you always know where you are, because the colors tell you. (1969 has a strong presence of yellow, while 1999 has a strong presence of blue.) If you like to cry at happy endings, then say your prayers 'cause this one will blow you away.
1.) Groundhog Day (1993)
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott
Tagline: He's having the worst day of his life. Over, and over, and over.
Best Quote: "Once again, the eyes of the nation turn to this... tiiiny village in weth-tern Pentsyl-vaaania, blaaah blablaaaaah blablah. There is no way... that this winter.. is EVER going to end. Not as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don't see any other way out of it. He has to be stopped... and I have to stop him."
Groundhog Day is truly THE most bizarre and brilliant film ever to hit the screen. It's not here to tell us about our reality, make us question ourselves, or dazzle us with CGI. It's a plain and simple movie about a man who gets stuck. Phil Connors is a newsman with high aspirations, and he's just starting to get to that point in his life where he realizes what a wasted life it has been. Travelling out to Punxatawney to do "The Groundhog Festival" for the fourth year straight, Phil is in dire need of a midlife crisis, or something. When the weather forces Phil and the gang to stay an extra day, Phil slumps into his hotel bed, only to wake up the next morning to the same song on the radio as the day before. Slowly but surely, Phil's denial is negated beautifully, until he finally realizes that it's true -- it is Groundhog Day again. And he is the only one who realizes it. How many times can it keep happening? As Cash inThe Family Man might say, "As long as it takes."
Although the concept is simple and doesn't allow for any real plot progression, the idea plays out brilliantly. You wouldn't believe how many different situations can come of a man being stuck living the same day over and over again, especially when he is still able to remember all he has learned from its repeated occurrences. Bill Murray displays genuine growth as a character, while also facing torrential mood swings and constant rejection because of the reputation into which he has invested himself all this time up until now. This makes it especially difficult for him to pursue a relationship with his fellow newslady Rita when he has to wake up every single day having reverted back to the grumpy old narcissistic bastard that everyone has taken him to be. Some might say it can't happen in a single day, but you just never know. I am led to believe that if there is a God, then His power undoubtedly comes from being able to transcend time. Phil says it himself, "Maybe the real God uses tricks, or maybe He's just been around so long, He knows everything."
And that about wraps things up here.
I kindly thank you for joining me on this strange and wonderful journey, and I hope that you'll still be around when I decide to undertake the task of Top 100 Love Songs!