Monthly Archives: May 2010

Greatest Fictional Film Heroes and Heroines

If you ask me, the word “hero” is tossed around too frequently. So much of the time people are deemed heroes for doing things that just seem like common sense and at other times people call other people “heroes” without knowing what these people may have done in their lives, if they’ve abused or murdered others or committed crimes. At the same time, many people go unrecognized for their heroic actions so I’ve decided to post a tribute to some of the best fictional film heroes of our time. I haven’t included characters based on real people and most of these heroes come from fantasy/sci-fi/action movies, so without further ado here are the heroes and heroines who you definitely want fighting on your side.

Heroes

10. James Bond

Is James Bond actually a hero? On the one hand I guess he has technically “saved the world” but on the other hand he’s a bit of a sexist pig. Nevertheless no one has made being an international super-spy look quite so cool. Sean Connery brought the man to life but I’m a big fan of Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the character.

9. Frodo Baggins

Though Frodo is just four feet tall he saved Middle Earth (though much of the credit has to go to Sam). He’s the underdog and proof that anyone can save the world.

8. Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne is cool because he has a dark past that he can’t remember and because must fight against those that created him in order to win back his freedom. He is also one bad-ass fighter!

7. Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker is kind of the textbook definition of a hero. He is called upon to fulfill a destiny and save the universe and succeeds with flying colors. Still though, he’s pretty awesome.

6. Superman

I know, for many of you Superman is THE superhero and I do like him but I just don’t find him as complex as other heroes. At the same time I like that he is a lonely alien fighting for a people whom he doesn’t even have to defend.

5. Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones is the reason dozens, if not hundreds of college students around the country are currently studying archeology. No one has ever made investigating ancient relics so fun and exciting.

4. Aragorn

Unlike Legolas, Aragorn ain’t a pretty boy but at the same time he isn’t completely unkempt like dwarf warrior Gimli. Aragorn is a scruffy, good-hearted yet tormented hero who fights for what’s right. He’s a bad-ass who never has to try to be cool, he just is.

Aragorn.jpg Aragorn image by Dai_Bev

3. Han Solo

Luke Skywalker may be responsible for bringing peace to the galaxy but it’s Han Solo who most young boys aspire to be like. It’s pretty amazing that Harrison Ford played both Indiana Jones and Han Solo and managed to make them both so bad-ass yet in different ways. Need proof Han Solo is one of the most perfect action heroes? Here it is:

2. Spider-Man

What makes Spider-Man so great is that his alter-ego Peter Parker is just a nerdy kid trying to make it in a big scary world, in other words he is just like the rest of us except for the fact that he can climb walls and shoot webs out of his wrists. Watch him in action here: (pardon for the Portuguese dubbing).

1. Batman

Batman’s true superpower is the fact that he’s super wealthy but he also cares about justice more than anything else. He is mysterious, has a dark past and is the ultimate anti-hero. He is just way too cool for school, as seen here:

Heroines

10. Evey Hammond is the protagonist of V for Vendetta, the 2005 film based on the graphic novel about a fascist dictatorial Great Britain of the future. Evey starts off as weak and naive but grows into a powerful young woman, ready to bring down the fascist state. Natalie Portman famously shaved her head for this role and has never looked more awesome.

9. Marge Gunderson

It’s hard to watch Fargo and not fall in love with Marge Gunderson. She has an uncompromising sense of justice but she’s also just so “awe shucks” adorable.

8. Yu Shu Lien

If you’ve seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon you’ll know not to ever get on Shu Lien’s bad side. She is so incredibly skilled in hand to hand combat and swordplay that she could cut your throat before you get the chance to say, “Ni hao.”

7. Storm

Storm is arguably the most powerful of all the mutants in X-Men, she can control the weather for Christ’s sake! Plus, no one else can make lightning quite so sexy.

6. Trinity

In my opinion Trinity is way cooler than Neo ever was in The Matrix. From the very first time you see her jump up in the air to kick a cop in the face, you know she is not a woman to mess with.

5. Barbarella

Barbarella is humanity’s only hope for peace in the galaxy. She fights hate with love and kicks major butt in as little clothing as possible. Regardless of what you think of her, she’s a film icon, played with wonderful camp by a young Jane Fonda.

4. Princess Leia

Princess Leia was a princess but one who can kick major ass. She definitely held her own amongst the likes of Luke and Han Solo.

3. Dorothy

Little Dorothy is proof that you don’t need to be big and powerful to be strong. Watch this scene, in which she, unlike her male counterparts acts bravely in order to find out the truth.

2. The Bride (Beatrix Kiddo)

Quentin Tarantino loves to put strong women in his movies and his film with the strongest female characters of course is Kill Bill and the strongest woman in that is without a doubt The Bride. The Bride is relentless in her quest for revenge and is the epitome of a strong woman. Watch her paint a bloody trail of destruction here:

1. Ellen Ripley

Ellen Ripley of the Alien series is the ultimate hero. She is uncompromising in her beliefs in her quest for justice. Played spectacularly by Sigourney Weaver, Ripley will stand up to any man, woman or robot that stands in her way. She also turns evil aliens into jelly as well as any Smucker’s factory could. She is violent yet gentle, extraordinarily powerful but still sensitive and human. Here’s a tribute to the greatest alien fighter of all time.

Who are some of your favorite heroes? Who did I fail to recognize? Discuss!

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What Makes a Great Summer Movie?

For most of us in the U.S. we are either already on summer vacation or will be within the next month and with this shift in seasons comes the dreaded Summer Movie Season! Did you hear that? That’s the sound of 1,000 Criterion Collection fans screaming in agony at the prospects of another summer filled with stupid Hollywood blockbusters and unfunny star-driven comedies. I have to admit as a Criterion Collection fan, I actually really love Summer Movie Season. There is just something so great about going to a movie theatre on a hot, humid day and watching a mindless, action-packed extravaganza and feeling the adrenaline pumping through my body as I leave the theatre and walk out into the hot summer evening.

This summer I’m excited to see Prince of Persia, Toy Story 3, The Kids Are All Right, Inception and Salt but I have to ask, what makes a summer movie great? For me a summer movie can be totally ridiculous and laden with special effects as long as it is well executed. Summer movies are all about fantasy and if this fantastical vision is poorly executed, the movie is doomed to disappoint (see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). So here are my picks for the best summer movies of the last decade.

2009 – Star Trek

I would say Inglourious Basterds was the best film of the summer of 2009 but it came out at the very end of August and to me was too worthy of the title, it was perhaps the best film of the year not just the summer. Now on to Star Trek, this re-imagining of the original series was so fun and had such a great cast that I left the theatre wanting more. Critics and audiences both agreed that it was the most exciting film of the summer.

Runners up: The Hangover, Moon, District 9

2008 – The Dark Knight

Come on, what other movie from the summer of ’08 can even touch The Dark Knight? Not only was it thrilling and action packed, it was intelligent, which is an adjective that is rarely ever associated with summer blockbusters.

Runners up: Iron Man, Wall-E, Pineapple Express

2007 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix

Order of the Pheonix is one of the best novels in the Harry Potter series and it made for probably the best Potter film. New characters like the unimaginably annoying and wicked teacher Dolores Umbridge and the sexily evil Bellatrix Lestrange added much needed freshness to the series. The movie ends with an epic showdown between Harry and Voldemort, finally adding some much needed darkness and weight to the series.

Runners up: Knocked Up, Superbad, The Bourne Ultimatum

2006 – Little Miss Sunshine

This was a pretty weak summer for summer movies but luckily there was Little Miss Sunshine to save the day. The film isn’t an action-packed blockbuster or even a typical comedy but it is a variation on the road-trip movie, which is at its core a summer movie genre. Little Miss Sunshine proved that studios can release smart, darkly comedic movies in the summer.

Runners up: Cars, The Devil Wears Prada

2005 – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Unlike, 2006, 2005 had a very strong summer for movies. I pick Star Wars: Episode III ultimately because it was a very fun movie to watch and though it was nowhere near the quality of the 3 original Star Wars films it was exponentially better than the two other prequels. It brought the prequel trilogy to a satisfying end, despite the terrible dialogue and horrendous acting.

Runners up: Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wedding Crashers, The 40 Year Old Virgin

2004 – Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 is a perfect example of how you make a great comic book superhero movie. Building off of the first film, the second adds a compelling villain and makes the internal struggles of the characters as interesting as the external struggles of good vs. evil. Spider-Man 2 is like a perfectly made sundae, it just tastes so good.

Runners up: Troy, Shrek 2, The Bourne Supremacy

2003 – The Matrix: Reloaded

Neither of the Matrix sequels could ever hold a candle to the brilliance of the original but The Matrix: Reloaded did deliver some amazing action scenes. Though it was less intelligent than the original, it still managed to be intriguing but let’s admit it, the real reason we watched it was for the eye-candy in the form of the fight scenes and in Monica Bellucci.

Runners up: X2: X-Men United, Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean

2002 – Minority Report

Minority Report is very well executed. It’s exciting, disturbing and pseudo-intelligent. Even if you don’t like Tom Cruise’s odd behavior this movie delivers a tasty piece of cold summer cherry pie.

Runners up: Spider-Man, Lilo & Stitch, Signs

2001 – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider is the perfect summer movie. Why? Because you don’t have to think, the plot is exciting yet incredibly simple and it stars Angelina Jolie. It’s fun and it’s dumb, what more could you want?

Runners up: Shrek, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, The Fast & The Furious, Jurassic Park III, The Others

2000 – Gladiator

I had no idea Gladiator came out in the summer (May 5) because to be honest it seemed too good to have come out in the season of sequels and prequels. It has the action of big summer movies but also the story and execution we are usually only used to during “Awards Season.” I think Gladiator is the perfect example that we need not wait to release all the good movies between September and January. Indeed this past year The Hurt Locker came out during the summer, so perhaps one day soon summer movie season will not be synonymous with bad movies, then again we still have Piranha 3-D and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore to look forward to this summer.

Runners up: X-Men, Chicken Run

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In Appreciation of LOST

I know, I know this is a film blog but I couldn’t help but break the rules and devote a post to the incredible television saga known as Lost. This Sunday the series ends and all (or at least a few) of our questions will be answered. Though Lost is clearly a TV show, it is very cinematic in quality. It is a show that like a film, has always had a beginning and end and each episode builds off the last one. Unlike shows like The Twilight Zone, one must view each episode in order to understand the overall plot line. Therefore it might not be too controversial to say that Lost is one of the longest movies ever made. Here are some of the reasons why Lost goes above and beyond the average TV show.

The Plot/ Writing

Even if you get frustrated by the show’s tendency to provide more questions than answers, even if you find the occasional cheesy line annoying, even if you know in the back of your mind that the entire plot of Lost is utterly ridiculous, it is hard not to stand in awe of the incredible job that writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have done. The shear number of ideas that the writers have come up with is amazing and if they somehow tie up the story lines in the series finale in an unexpected way I will be all the more impressed. No other show has used flashbacks, flash-forwards, flash-sideways and time travel in such an elegant way. There are so many fantastic quotes from the show and many well written scenes but this next one just seems so naturally written. The dialogue is just genuine and not forced.

The Acting

Lost has had one of the best casts ever on television. Not only are all of the actors in the very least adequate in their roles, the show has done a great job of casting a diverse ensemble cast. Main and prominent characters on the show have been Korean, Iraqi, African American, Hispanic, Japanese, Nigerian and Chinese. I’ve been so impressed with the growth of the actors, in particular Evangeline Lilly is so much better than she was in season 1. I think the two actors who have been the most consistently great though are Michael Emerson as Ben Linus and Terry O’Quinn as John Locke. Here are some of my favorite well-acted scenes from the series.

Jack and Locke (The Candidate)

Juliet and Ben (One of Us)

Sun (House of the Rising Sun)

Ben, Locke, Jacob (The Incident)

Jack, Kate, Hurley (The Candidate)

Richard (Ab Aeterno)

Jack and Locke (Exodus: Part 2)

Desmond and Penny (The Constant)

The Music

Lost might have the best score ever produced for a television show. I mean Michael Giacchino, the man behind the music has won an Oscar for Christ’s sake! What other show can say they have an Oscar-winning scorer working for them? What’s even better is that Giacchino keeps coming up with new, sublime theme music for each new season. There are so many great themes from the show but I’ll post one of my favorites, it’s called “Parting Words” which I believe was first used in the season 1 finale.

The Cinematography

For a TV show, Lost has pretty amazing cinematography, especially considering that so much of the shooting takes place in the humid, mosquito filled Hawaiian forest. Here are some beautiful and memorable images from the last six seasons.

LockeOrange.jpg image by Hathery

So Sunday night, it all ends, 6 years of one of the most cinematic and exciting shows ever conceived. I hope this tribute has done the show justice. For all of you uber-fans out there, make sure to vote on the following poll!

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I’m Baaack (Summer Vacation Movies)

Hi everyone,

After a month off I am back to the blogosphere! I haven’t posted anything new lately because I have been busy with finals and other things in life. Anyway, I am now on summer break and have decided to dedicate a post to different vacation destinations. Even if you don’t have the cash or the means to go anywhere this summer, that doesn’t mean you can’t watch a movie that has the power to transport you to another place. So here are a few films that will bring you to that city or place you’ve always wanted to visit.

Hawaii – From Here to Eternity

You may know the image of a young, attractive couple kissing and caressing on a tropical beach but you probably don’t know the movie it comes from, From Here to Eternity. Following the lives of soldiers before and during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the films stars Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift and Deborah Kerr in three terrific roles. This movie will have you singing “Aloha ‘Oe” in no time. Here is that iconic beach scene:

New York City – Breakfast at Tiffany’s

There are so many incredible movies set in New York; Taxi Driver, Annie Hall, Rear Window, Home Alone 2 but most of them show a grittier version of New York, which is fine but doesn’t necessarily leave the viewer thinking, to quote Liz Lemon of 30 Rock, “I want to go to there.” Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the other hand shows the audience that New York can be the most exciting, fun and promising city on the planet. Need proof? Check out this scene:

Las Vegas – Ocean’s 11

Las Vegas is hedonism at its best and worst. It is a city seemingly void of culture and full of botoxed- bimbos, greasy mobsters and obese tourists. Ocean’s 11 is a film that luckily for us focuses on the more palatable sides of the town. It is a movie that shows us that taken in small doses, Vegas can be wildest ride of your life, plus no other movie has ever made stealing look so fun.

Paris – Breathless

You’ll fall in love with Paris and with this movie. Breathless takes a somewhat serious subject matter, sets it in Paris and through the whole French-nish of it all makes it light hearted, beautiful and as charming as its star Jean Seberg.

Rome – La Dolce Vita

Just one of Federico Fellini’s masterpieces, the gorgeously shot La Dolce Vita is practically an ode to Rome. It captures the timelessness of the city along with its mystery, its glamour and its allure, especially in this following scene:

Barcelona – Vicky Cristina Barcelona

At times Vicky Cristina Barcelona feels more like a travel ad than a movie with a functioning plot. It so beautifully captures the city that even  if you feel like the movie had no point you will seriously consider booking a flight to this Spanish city. Penelope Cruz is also absolutely fantastic in this film. Watch her and her co-stars explore the sights, sounds and flavors of this city in the following clip.

Japan – Lost in Translation

Though not exactly a love letter to Japan, Lost in Translation does show us the geographic beauty of the country, the unusual fun to be had there and the friendliness of its people, in addition to exploring its absurdities. After seeing the film, you too will consider booking a flight to Tokyo and getting lost.

India – The Darjeeling Limited

This film certainly glorifies and fetishizes India but it’s hard to criticize it when it is just so damn fun. This story of 3 brothers traveling through India, on the quest for spiritual enlightenment is beautifully shot and well acted. Does it turn a blind eye to the realities of daily Indian life? Perhaps but it will also transport you to a fantastic land of incredible tastes and vibrant sounds.

The Arabian Desert – Lawrence of Arabia

Okay, I’ll admit it, Lawrence of Arabia isn’t exactly a Travel Channel program. It explores the harshness of the desert, the clash between cultures and British imperialism. It also shows us the beauty of the desert and through its iconic score seduces us into a thrilling Arab world.

Latin America – The Motorcycle Diaries

Most people probably know this as the film about a young Che Guevera taking a road trip across Latin America but it also a film about travel itself. This beautifully shot film gives us spectacular views of the Latin American countryside as well as the wonder of its cities. The Motorcycle Diaries is a film that explores the transformative effect of travel and shows us that the more we know about the world, the more we learn about others and the injustices they face, the better we will become.

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