Tag Archives: Blogathon

“The Mosquito Coast” (1986) – 5-Obstructions Blogathon

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Director: Peter Weir

Writers: Paul Theroux & Paul Schrader

Stars: Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and River Phoenix

Allie Fox (Harrison Ford) is an inventor, father, and husband.  His wife trusts him and his children revere him almost unto a god.  He is completely self-confident and truly believes he is always right.  Allie Fox is also disillusioned with America.

Fed up, he takes his family and whatever they can carry, and sails to Belize on a container ship.  On board they are joined by missionaries returning to their mission.  The self-reliant Fox clashing with Rev. Spellgood (Andre Gregory) immediately.  Once in port the families part ways; Fox hoping never to see Spellgood again.

In the city, one raucous night after many drinks and a long conversation with a drunk American, Fox purchases the village of Geronimo located upstream.  The next day the family charters a small river boat to ferry them to their new home.  Arriving to squalor the ever optimistic–delusional (?)–Allie Fox starts reshaping the village to his image.  But all is not paradise when ego & hubris prevail over the common good & decency.

Mosquito Coast is based on the Paul Theroux book of the same name.  The story is similar to Heart of Darkness in that the further upstream the family proceeds, the further into the heart of darkness Allie Fox will journey.  At its most basic, the story is a fall from grace.  A story of how pride and its sister, ego, can blind you.  This theme is also carried through the sub-plot of science (Allie Fox) versus religion (Rev. Spellgood).  Both men are in the jungle for the same reason, to improve the lives of those there; and both men succeed.  But both men fail to see the good of each other because of the ego of their personal beliefs.  You are either with them or against them.

The greatest strength of the film is the acting.  This is Harrison Ford’s best performance.  When we first meet Allie Fox we meet a jaded blowhard who has an opinion about everything.  A man with an edge but a man with a heart.  The Allie Fox at the end of the film is a man who has fallen over the edge; a dangerous man; a man capable of anything no matter the cost.  Ford deftly molds his character from driven father to abusive despot.  And through it all you always see the power of the character to command people’s attention and gain their control.  Helen Mirren, as Mother, holds her own against the supercharged Ford, though she has less to work with in terms of character development.  She is the loyal and trusting wife–loyal to a fault.  The sad truth of her character is that she always had the power to stop Allie but failed to act.  Even near the end when presented with the choice whether to turn back or continue upstream, she allows him to continue upstream.  It is only at the end when she finally sees what he has become that she says enough.  It is only because if Mirren’s performance do we believe this wallflower had the internal strength to make that decision.  You see fleeting moments in her eyes throughout the film where she knows they are making a bad choice and debates challenging him, but ultimately decides to have faith and trust him.

The quality of the child actors depends on the material they are given to work with.  Hilary and Rebecca Gordon as the Fox twins are non-existent in terms of character development, and are in the film only to add additional elements of danger to the family.  Jadrien Steele as Jerry Fox has more to do, and he carries the change well.  Jerry, like all the children admires his father.  Later, though, he is the first to hate him; so much so to even suggest abandoning him.  But, as a boy would, he in the end fears losing his father and is scared of life without him.  The change in his face when he watches his father in the beginning of the film to the end is all you have to see to know how much Allie Fox has fallen in his children’s eyes.

River Phoenix is the stand-out performance among the children, and is equal to Harrison Ford overall—though in a less showy role.  His Charlie Fox is a son who holds his father on a pedestal, but also a boy on the cusp of starting the journey into becoming a man.  He is eager to please his father as well as is in awe of him.  But as Allie goes though his journey so does Charlie.  As Allie becomes less and less about family, Charlie becomes more.  He rises to the occasion of becoming a surrogate father to his siblings and protector to his mother.  More importantly, Phoenix’s Charlie–and this has always been one of Phoenix’s greatest attributes as an actor–maintains his humanity and vulnerability while gaining an inner strength of character.

Charlie’s journey is made easier for us to witness because of the director, Peter Weir.  The film is figuratively shown through Charlie’s eyes and heard in his voice.  Narration, when used, is by Charlie.  How we perceive Allie Fox is how Charlie sees him.  And how we see the film is how Charlie remembers it.  The beginning of their journey is joyous and adventurous.  The end is dark and fearful.  At their most desperate, the voices of a choir sound as if angels are singing.

Weir and Schrader, the screenwriter, also use dramatic irony to good effect.  The atheists inventor corrects the christian missionary on biblical scripture.  The scene when Rev. Spellgood visits Geronimo is a masterclass on the subject.  The man of God Rev. Spellgood on the river dock bids everyone a loud, “a very good morning to you.”  Mother Fox retorts with a whispered, “Oh God,” under her breath.  Spellgood approaches Allie Fox with a staff in hand as Moses freeing his people, but quotes Pharaoh instead.  Fox approaches Spellgood with a carpenters belt & hammer.  To Spellgood’s claim that he came because the Lord sent him, Allie replies, “the Lord doesn’t know this place exists,” that he in fact is the savior here.

Weir also fashions Allie Fox into Dr. Frankenstein.  His great invention—the machine that can make ice from fire—is his monster.  Allie speaks of it in the masculine, always “he”.  Its mechanisms his insides:  his lungs, spleen, intestines, etc.  When his monster comes to life Allie Fox is a proud father.  And when his monster is killed it dies in fire and with an actual roar.  Its death leaves disaster, death, and destruction.  Its death finally breaks Allie Fox; its death pushing him over the razor’s edge.

Ultimately, though, Rita Kempley from the Washington Post said it best, “Sooner or later a man of invention will pollute paradise, a grand contradiction that gives Mosquito its bite and Ford inspiration for his most complex portrayal to date. As a persona of epic polarities, he animates this muddled, metaphysical journey into the jungle.”  The journey is muddled.  There is a key moment where faith & trust in Allie Fox from his family is lost due to a lie.  The story then loses our faith & trust when it causes Allie’s family to lie to him.  Though you understand where they are coming from and can empathize with their decision, that decision allows Allie Fox to be able to live with his choices.

Grade = B+

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“Blue Jasmine” (2013) – Review – The 5 Obstructions Blogathon

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All taken lines are linked to the original review to give proper credit.

Why is it that movies with the worst people in them are often the most interesting?

Two sisters; one a blonde suffering from crippling depression and the other a brunette with a fatigued understanding of how to help her.  Right off the bat there’s a palpable Streetcar Named Desire vibe.  This film however exceeded my expectations tremendously and it weighed heavily on the acting.

Cate Blanchett can do no wrong.  The casting and performance of Sally Hawkins as the marvelous foil to Blanchett was a particular high point.  Alec Baldwin is very good at playing slick characters as he’s proven in other films.   Rounding out what is surely one of this year’s most intriguing casts are sand up comedians Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay, as well as HBO series regulars Michael Stuhlbarg and Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire).  That old Dice attitude is present, too, but it is subduedly measured. 

Allen directs tautly and dispassionately with less spontaneity or improvisation than in many of his past works.  In terms of narrative structure and plot progression, Blue Jasmine is also refreshingly unique.

In thinking about how I might objectively quantify a movie like Blue Jasmine — I’d probably give it something of an 8.4.

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy” (2012) – 5-Obstructions Review

Click on image to be taken to "Myfilmviews"-the originator of the Blogathon

Click on image to be taken to “Myfilmviews”-the originator of the Blogathon

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Director: Tomas Alfredson

Writers: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan

Stars: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberpatch, John Hurt

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a film based on a John le Carre novel of the same name. Instead of starting my review with my own synopsis I will present the description from Amazon. I do this not out of laziness, but out of the belief that you would need at least a Master’s in English Composition to successfully summarize the plot in one or two paragraphs. That being said, here you go: “The man he knew as ‘Control’ (John Hurt) is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley (Gary Oldman) isn’t quite ready for retirement-especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla-his Moscow Centre nemesis-and sets a trap to catch the traitor.” The story is set in the 70s during the Cold War and involves the British and Soviet Intelligence Agencies.

The film is impossibly slow and obtuse. A cold-war thriller has never been this dull. The story would lead you to believe the only spycraft that occurred during the 70s was the spies watching themselves within their own agency. These “spymasters” are more worried about their own pecking order within the organization then actually spying on the enemy. And when an enemy is finally revealed, their motivation, “the West has become so ugly,” is so ridiculous it is almost comical. The admittedly impressive cast of British thespians is brought low by the story.

Gary Oldman, normally a dynamic actor, walks like a zombie through the film. His one singular moment to shine, the scene in which he tells of his meeting with the present head of the KGB, allows a brief glimpse of the fine actor we know him to be. Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, and Colin Firth are fine given the material they had to work with. As for John Hurt and Mark Strong, John Hurt plays John Hurt and Mark Strong continues to prove he is the Ted McGinley of film.

The only positives for the film are its music and set direction. The choice of songs and score works for the setting, and the same can be said for the art design. But alas, when the best thing that can be said for a film are its choice in music, then you have a poor film

Grade = D

P.S. My real grade for the film is an “A”. You can read the review here VMR’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

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Click on image to view trailer


NostalgiThon – “Pete’s Dragon” (1977)

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Click on banner to see other participants

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Director:  Don Chaffey

Writer:  Malcolm Marmorstein

Stars:  Sean Marshall, Helen Reddy, Jim Dale, Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, and Shelly Winters

Probably a little over a year ago we decided to watch old kids movies we liked while we where growing-up, but wondered what we would think of today.  For the most part it was not a found trip down memory lane.  I genuinely felt for my parents for having to sit through the Cat From Outer Space and Escape to Witch Mountain.  But an interesting thing happened with Pete’s Dragon.

Before I continue you need to know some information about me.  I was born in 1973 and I am gay, but do not have the stereotypical gay gene that makes me automatically love musicals and song & dance numbers.

That being said, an interesting thing started to happen as we watched the movie.  I started singing along to the songs and even anticipated lines of dialogue.  After mutual shocked looks at each other, very clear memories of me as a child came rushing into my head of listening to the album of Pete’s Dragon on a turntable with headphones on.  I was amazed by the memories, and that I completely forgot about them.  The other thing that threw me off was trying to figure out how old I was when I first watched the film.

My best guess is I watched somewhere between 1979-1982, putting me between 5-9 years old.  These would be the years where I would go to summer camp and once a week we would see afternoon screenings of children’s films.  I’m assuming it was probably in ’79 or ’80.  I have clear memories of watching Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen, and most definitely all the classic films from 1982.  In other words, my movie tastes where moving away from young kiddy fair and I would not have been hooked onto listening to the album.  And by the way, I mean the movie was on an album you could listen to–not just the soundtrack, but everything including dialogue.

But what about the movie itself?  Does it hold-up?  For the most part yes.  It’s aimed squarely at young kids, but it doesn’t bore the adults.  The songs are catching and stay in your head.  The acting is adequate.  The special effects fair surprisingly well.

As for the story, here is the plot summary from IMDb:

“A young troubled boy named Pete (Sean Marshall) and his guardian dragon Elliott elude the abusive Gogan family, who all use Pete as a slave instead of a loved child. When Pete can successfully run away from them with his dragon, he stumbles into the town of Passamaquaddy- an ocean front harbor town filled with superstitious fishermen, drunken hooligans and wary townsfolk. Pete’s arrival does not mix well with the citizens, as his dragon Elliott accidentally causes town rioting and gossip among the town drunks about the dragon. Expecting to be an outcast yet again, Pete is taken in by the kind Nora (Helen Reddy) who lives in a lighthouse with her father Lampy (Mickey Rooney). While Pete bonds with Nora and Lampy, the townsfolk have not lowered their guards and suspicions about the dragon. And when Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) arrives, a phony con artist posing as a doctor, he sees Elliott the Dragon as the ultimate profit to his fame. With Passamaquaddy filled with superstition, greed and lack of imagination, life will not be easy before the town can ever believe Pete’s dragon. Written by commanderblue

I can’t tell you this is a must watch as an essential childhood experience, but if it happens to be on TV one day give it a go.  You’ll have fun with Pete and his dragon Elliot.


My Movie Alphabet – Blogathon

Click on title to be taken to “My Movie Alphabet” Blogathon central.

“A”

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A defining film of both the science fiction and horror film.  Ridley Scott’s first sci-fi film established him as a visual force in filmmaking.  The film’s art direction and set design hold-up to this day.  When the Alien is finally revealed it is worth the wait.  The edge-of-your seat chaos of the siren & strobe self destruct sequence is matched with the equally tense quiet terror of the escape pod shuttle scene.

“B”

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Is there any more dreaded question from a child to a parent regarding a film than, “Mommy, what happened to Bambi’s Mother?”

“C”

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The brightest film-noir you will ever watch.  “My daughter, my sister, my daughter, my sister”.

“D”

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Quite possibly one of the best foreign films ever made.  There is no glory in this war or this crew.  You feel the claustrophobia of serving on a submarine and knowing that if your hull is breached you are dead.

“E”

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Because of how old I was when I first watched “E.T.”, no other film has given me such an emotional connection.

“F”

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When A Fish Called Wanda first came out I was fully discovering British humor.  Through my local PBS channel I fell in love with Benny HillFaulty Towers, and Are You Being Served?  At the local video store I discovered the Monty Python films.  And then Wanda came to a theatre near you.

“G”

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“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

Though Goodfellas and later The Sopranos present a more realistic and less glamorous life of the mafia, The Godfather is the reason why we all at some point wondered what it would be like if we were a gangster.

“H”

Click on image to watch video clip tribute

Humphrey Bogart – Arguably one of the most underrated actors of all time and the first anti-hero.  If you look at four of his most famous roles–Rick (Casablanca), Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Charlie Allnut (The African Queen), and Queeg (The Caine Mutiny)–you will see each is unique and powerful and not stereotypical and one-note.  His enduring appeal is because he played the flawed and/or reluctant hero.  His characters grew as people and you felt for their story.

“I”

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“They call me Mr. Tibbs!”  Sidney Poiter and Rod Steiger at their best.  A film like this if it were made today would have come out five years after it was relevant.  In the Heat of the Night came out in the middle of the Civil Rights movement as the country was still tearing itself apart before Martin Luther King’s assassination.

“J”

Click on image to view 1973 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

John Ford – When asked what directors he favored, Orson Wells replied, “the old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford.”  To know why Wells said this watch The Grapes of WrathCheyenne AutumnHow Green Was My ValleyThe Quiet ManThe Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and most especially The Searchers.

“K”

Click on image to view “Khannnnn!” scene.

Khan – You ever wonder why Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan is still arguably the best Star Trek movie?  A very real enemy with very real motivation with an incredible performance by Ricardo Montalban.  Add a good story with great direction and the best performances given by all the regular players, and you have a film that has stood the test of time.

“L”

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Leach, Archibald – Archibald Leach mastered one role to perfection:  Cary Grant.  Probably no other classic Hollywood Star has worked with more famed directors and in more quality films than Cary Grant.  And no star ever walked away from the film business like he did, thereby leaving us a never-changing image of who he was.  Later in life when he forgot his ticket to a charity fundraiser, he explained his situation and said he was Cary Grant.  To wit, she replied “That’s impossible.  You don’t look like Cary Grant.”  Smiling he responded, “who does?” (Source of story is The Encyclopedia of Hollywood by Scott & Barbara Siegel)

“M”

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The best Harrison Ford film you have never watched with his best performance ever.

“N”

Click on image to view original 1922 trailer

Watch Nosferatu today and you will still be impressed with its story, effects, and principal performance.  If you had watched in 1922, then you would not have slept for days.

“O”

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The single greatest icon shattering moment in cinema history, in one of the best Westerns ever made, with one of the most evocative scores used in film.

“P”

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“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” – Inigo Montoya;”As you wish.” – Wesley; “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya; “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia”‘- but only slightly less well-known is this: ‘Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line’!” – Vizzini; “Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.” – Prince Humperdinck

“Q”

Click on image to view “Q” tribute.

“Now listen 007”

“R”

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My favorite Hitchcock film.  (with possibly the worst trailer I have ever watched)

“S”

Click on image to view compilation video

Love them or hate them, superhero movies are here to stay.

“T”

I spent many a Saturday afternoon watching old Tarzan films, but I’m sure those Saturday TV versions never aired the scene I linked to the image above.

“U”

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“You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I’m offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?” – That’s why Sean Connery resurrected his career and won an Academy Award.

“V”

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I don’t think anyone does court dramas better than Sidney Lumet.  The Verdict is Exhibit-B for my case.

“W”

Click on image to view teaser trailer

After the teaser trailer, my expectation for this film went through the roof, and Pixar delivered.  It is still my favorite Pixar film.

“X”

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The Gold Rush was Charlie Chaplin’s tenth feature as The Tramp and includes the famous dancing shoes with forks scene where he later eats the shoes.  It’s amazing that after playing The Tramp for so long, that Chaplin was still able to create a classic film and not allow the character to go stale.

“Y”

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One name:  Frau Blucher…(horses whining)

“Z”

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Zardoz gave us James Bond in a loin clothe, and Sean Connery wondering where he went wrong in his career.

Thank you to Myfilmviews for introducing me to this Blogathon


Versatile Blogger Award

Back on June 8th, 2012 storiesbywilliams nominated me for a The Versatile Blogger Award.  After which I thanked him and committed to having this post up by Friday.  Being that was in June and we are now in August, I failed miserably in that goal; for which I humbly apologize.

That being said, I now have to say seven things about myself:

  1. I proposed in Central Park with the amazingly romantic line of, “Let’s do it.”  To which the reply was, “What here?  In the Park?”  Which lead to my clarification, “No, let’s get married.”
  2. My favorite building is The Empire State Building.
  3. I am an Alpha Sigma Phi.
  4. I was at the first National Championship Game for the University of Miami in the Orange Bowl.
  5. The first comic book I ever purchased was X-Men:  Giant Size Annual that introduced the “new” X-Men including Storm, Wolverine, etc. to rescue the original X-Men including Iceman, Angel, etc..  It was a purely by luck purchase.  I still own it, but not in any form of mint condition.
  6. My first memories of movies at a theatre are always from a severe angle.  My father was a smoker, so when we went to the movies we always sat in the smoking sections at the extreme right or left seats.  This was in the day of Wometco 3 and Miracle 4, and the theatres were large.
  7. My High School graduation was at the Gusman Center, an old movie palace.  You can see the photos here:  Gusman

Since Monday’s post was geared towards movie reviews, I focused these nominations on different types of blogs:

  1. advandstudio A great place to discover designers, architects, photographers, and other creative types.
  2. Raising My Rainbow An inspiring blog about a Mother and her family, and the challenges of raising a gender nonconforming child.
  3. polentical “progressive politics and regressive entertainment. like peanut and butter.”  Also, Matt is a Howard Stern fan.
  4. Fed and Fit  I have never discovered so many great recipes–now I can make Kale Chips, and for that I am thankful
  5. barbraelka Photographer transformed to art.
  6. Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations A collection of great Sci-Fi book reviews and classic Sci-Fi book covers.
  7. Trevor Saylor Photographer with a great eye for shooting candids, spaces, and other things, as well as creating photos with great composition.
  8. BONUS:  ReWriteDr He hasn’t been posting lately, but if you need a professional critique of your script he is your man.

Thanks again to storiesbywilliamsand I still haven’t gotten you that picture of the Moebius Galactus’ Ship.


Movie Questionnaire – Blogathon

Cinematic Reviews created this Movie Questionnaire as a Blogathon; I found the above image (feel free to grab it).  So here are my answers:

  1. What’s your favorite movie?  I typically like listing a top ten.  But if forced to give one answer, then my go to response is E.T..  I have never felt so emotional watching any film as I did  E.T..  I was nine when it first came out in the theatre–just the right age.  I have only watched it twice since, neither time with the same impact and both times in my thirties.  I’m older and more cynical.  But I still remember fondly how I felt that summer of 1982.
  2. Least favorite movie?  Who knows; I’ve seen some bad ones.  I’ll answer most disappointing:  Some Like It Hot.
  3. Name one movie you loved upon initial viewing but eventually grew to hate (or vice-versa).  I can’t think of any I loved but then hated.  Films that I initially disliked and grew to love include Silence of the Lambs (watched it initially with too high of an expectation) and Hero.
  4. Name your biggest “guilty pleasure” film.  Hudson Hawk.  For a complete list check out my earlier post:  What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?
  5. Favorite quote from a favorite actor/actress (must be a line from a movie)?  “I know”  Harrison Ford, Empire Strikes Back
  6. Favorite quote from a favorite actor/actress (must NOT be a line from a movie)? “I don’t do stunts – I do running, jumping and falling down. After 25 years I know exactly what I’m doing.” Harrison Ford
  7. Three favorite movie scenes?  Baptism/Murders in The GodfatherStar Wars opening shots between the Rebel Corvette and Imperial Star Destroyer; and The Flight of the Valkyries helicopter attack in Apocalypse Now.
  8. Four films that should NOT have won Best Picture?  The King’s Speech, Chariots of Fire, The Departed, Shakespeare in Love
  9. Top five of the year (currently)?  Chronicle, Moonrise Kingdom, First Position, The Dark Knight Rises, Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy
  10. Bottom three of the year (currently)?  The Diary of Preston Plummer, I can’t think of two other bad films.  But I will list two that did not meet my expectations:  Prometheus and The Avengers
  11. What film gets your vote for the worst or most pointless remake?  Psycho by Gus van Sant.  The point of a remake is to bring something up to date, or introduce a point-of-view not in the original.  Van Sant made a shot by shot recreation of the original; the only difference being color.  Why bother?
  12. Is there any film you think is actually desperate for a remake?  Because of the painfully dated dream sequence, Rosemary’s Baby.
  13. Name your three favorite film heroes.  Indiana Jones, The Architect (Henry Fonda-12 Angry Men), and John McClane
  14. Name your three favorite film villains.  Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Hans Gruber, Frank (Henry Ford-Once Upon A Time in The West)
  15. Best sequel?  Empire Strikes Back – in the end, the only reason why we hold the whole Star Wars franchise in such high regard.
  16. Worst sequel?  Though technically a Prequel, The Phantom Menace.  If we stick strictly to sequels, then Highlander 2.
  17. Best trilogy?  Indiana Jones.
  18. Worst trilogy?  Tie:  Star Wars Prequels and Transformers
  19. What’s your favorite word to use in a movie review (if your film blog does not feature reviews, substitute “review” with “-related post”?)  Initially, I used “great” way too much.
  20. Anything else?  Most underrated actors:  Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, John Wayne.