More Films to See Before You Die: #94 Skyfall

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Skyfall (2012)

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem

Synopsis: When one MI6 hard disc with the identities of NATO’s agents is stolen, James Bond (Daniel Craig) chases the agent through Istanbul with the support of the local field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). M (Judi Dench) orders Eve to shoot the agent on the top of a train, but she misses the target and hits 007 that falls in a river and is presumed dead. When M’s computer is hacked, the MI6 building is blown-up and the agency moves to an ancient bunker that belonged to Churchill. Then, five MI6 agents have their identities exposed and three of them are executed and M has her authority and procedure questioned by her superior Gareth Mallory. Out of the blue, 007 reappears from the shadows and hunts down the responsible for the theft of the HD. He reaches Severine and uses her to find the responsible for the actions, the former top-notch MI6 agent named Silva (Javier Bardem), who had been betrayed by M and now is seeking out revenge against the veteran leader of the MI6.

Trivia: The passport used by Daniel Craig was not created by the props department, but an authentic document as issued by the British Home Office, according to producer Michael G. Wilson. Everything from the paper, print, photograph and jacket are entirely genuine on James Bond’s ‘official passport’. However, as a security measure, the passport is encoded with information that would instantly flag its improper use in any official transaction. The actual details shown on Bond’s passport in the film are as follows: Name = John Adam Bryce; Date of Birth = 16th December 1968; Sex = Male; Place of Birth = London; Date of Issue = 22nd June 2012; and Expiry Date = 22nd August 2029.

Why Should You Watch This? I really like what they have done with this newest incarnation of Bond. The series has a very real life feel to it making it less silly than the earlier Roger Moore movies and closer to the Sean Connery ones. Daniel Craig does an excellent Job in his third run as agent 007 and Javier Bardem does very well with another villain role. More on par with Casino Royale than Quantum of Solace in terms of quality with Sam Mendes doing a great job directing. Looking forward to the next Bond film next year.

More Films to See Before You Die: #95 Carlito’s Way

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Carlito’s Way (1993)

Director: Brian DePalma

Cast: Al Pacino, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo and Sean Penn

Synopsis: Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) is freed after serving 5 years of a 30 year sentence on a legal technicality exploited by his lawyer, Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn). Upon release from prison, Carlito decides to return to his old neighborhood of Spanish Harlem where, he reconnects with old associates. Carlito vows to be through with crime but is persuaded to accompany his cousin Guajiro to a drug deal at a bar. Guajiro is betrayed and killed and Carlito is forced to shoot his way out, he takes Guajiro’s money and uses it to buy into a nightclub. Carlito is approached by a young and ambitious gangster Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo) about a business partnership to which he quickly declines. He also reconnects with his old girlfriend Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) who he left behind when he went to prison. Carlito plans to save money in order to retire in the Caribbean with Gail. All of his plans are threatened when his lawyer gets in hot water with a powerful mobster client and asks for Carlito’s assistance.

Trivia: The exterior of the hospital where Carlito visits his bedridden attorney is the same one where Vito Corleone is taken in The Godfather (1972), also starring Al Pacino. Director Brian De Palma wanted to shoot the climax of the film at the World Trade Center in New York but it was the target of a bombing, and he had to shoot it in “another railway station again.” (De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) also featured a scene at a railway station.)

Why Should You Watch This?: Brian DePalma has made some great films my personal favourites are his mob films. My favourite being the Untouchables but what makes Carlito’s Way so special is how different it is from Scarface. Sean Penn is wonderfully slimey as Carlito’s attorney and Penelope Ann Miller has great chemistry with Pacino who anchors the film with yet another solid performance.

More Films to See Before You Die: #96 The Dark Crystal

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The Dark Crystal (1982)

Directors: Jim Henson & Frank Oz

Cast: Jim Henson , Kathryn Mullen and Frank Oz

Synopsis: Another planet, another time. 1000 years ago the Dark Crystal was damaged by one of the Urskeks and an age of chaos began. Now the time of the great conjunction of the three suns is near. If the crystal is not healed now the control of the evil Skekses will last forever. Jen the last of the Gelflings nearly exterminated by monsters controlled by the Skekses starts his dangerous journey to find the missing shard of the crystal. While on his journey Jen meets another Gelfling, Kira who agrees to help Jen find the shard and heal the crystal. Hot on their trail is a banished skekses named Chamberlain who wishes to help the Gelflings in their quest. After Kira is kidnapped by the Skekses guards the Garthim Jen must find the courage to save both her and his world.

Trivia: Pre-production work revolved around Brian Froud’s designs without a finished script. When Froud originally presented Jim Henson with concept drawings for the crystal, Henson seemed totally perplexed. When Froud asked why, Henson said he had no idea what the designs were for. As it turned out, Froud had misunderstood Henson during early production conversations – Henson intended the film to be called “The Dark Chrysalis,” referring to the Skekses dominance over the world. Henson, however, loved the concept art and integrated the idea of the crystal into the storyline.

Why Should You Watch This?: I love Jim Henson’s work on the Muppet show and movies with the uniquely happy world he created. His and Frank Oz work on The Dark Crystal is such a refreshing change of form its hard to believe this is the same production team. The world they have created here is very dark and mysterious and will appeal to people of all ages. This is a good companion piece to The Labyrinth but unlike that film The Dark Crystal doesn’t have a single human appear in it a rarity for a live action film. This movie is a real treat to watch and come highly recommended.

More Films to See Before You Die: #97 Beverly Hills Cop

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Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Director: Martin Brest

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, John Berkoff and Ronny Cox

Synopsis: Detroit cop Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is delighted when he receives a surprise visit from his best friend Mikey Tandino, who lives in California. Not long after Mikey arrives in Detroit, he is killed, right in front of Axel’s apartment. Axel quickly takes a couple weeks vacation and heads to Beverly Hills, California. Axel visits his friend Jenny Summers (Lisa Eilbacher), who works in an art gallery and got Mikey the job. Jenny points Axel in the direction of her boss Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). When Axel starts to question Maitland about Mikey he is quickly ejected from the building and arrested. While in the Police Department he meets Taggart and Rosewood ( John Ashton and Judge Reinhold) who question Foley about his interest in Maitland. Their superior Lt. Bogomil (Ronny Cox) informs Foley that he has spoken to his superiors in Detroit and if he is investigating Mikey’s murder than he can find a new job. Now Foley must avoid Taggart and Rosewood as well as solve Mikey’s murder making this his toughest assignment yet.

Trivia: The movie was written for Sylvester Stallone, with the character of Michael Tandino being his brother, and Jenny Summers being his love interest. Two weeks before filming was to start, Stallone was suddenly out and Eddie Murphy was in, prompting massive rewrites. Bronson Pinchot got the accent and mannerisms for his character Serge from a crew member he worked with on a earlier project. Like his character, that crew member always said, “Don’t be stupid.”

Why Should You Watch This?: This is a hilarious movie with Eddie Murphy at the top of his game. The performance that Murphy gives in this film is proof of how talented an actor he can be given the right script. John Ashton and Judge Reinhold are wonderful in their supporting roles as Taggart and Rosewood. I enjoyed the second one wasn’t too impressed with the third but am still looking forward to the fourth one in 2016. Check this one out if you haven’t already it’s a lot of fun.

More Films to See Before You Die: #98 Legend

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Legend (1985)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, David Bennent and Tim Curry

Synopsis: The Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) is planning to end his isolation in the shadows by destroying the guardians of the Power of Light. Darkness instructs his goblin minions to kill the unicorns and bring him their horns so can be free to roam the world after it becomes an eternal night of cold darkness. Meanwhile, Princess Lili (Mia Sara) goes alone to the forest to meet her friend Jack (Tom Cruise), a forest dweller who teaches her the languages of animals before showing her the unicorns who have arrived to the forest. Against Jack’s pleas, Lili approaches the stallion before the unicorn is hit by a poisoned dart from Blix’s blowpipe. The unicorns bolt, and Lili makes light of Jack’s fears and sets him a challenge by throwing her ring into a pond, declaring she will marry whoever finds it. But as the stallion dies from the poison with the goblins taking his horn, the pond freezes over with Lili running off in terror before Jack manages to break free. Taking refuge in a frozen cottage, Lily hides when the goblins arrive and overhears how she “led the beasts to bay” as she follows them while vowing to make it right. The unicorn mare and Lily are kidnapped by Darkness in an attempt to make her his wife and banish the Power of Light forever. Now it is up to Jack and some new found friends led by the elf Gump (David Bennent) to free Lily and save the world from forever being engulfed by Darkness.

Trivia: Filming stopped when the “007″ soundstage burned to the ground. The remainder of the film was shot on hastily-constructed sets. The famous scene in which Princess Lily is taken to see and touches the Unicorns by Jack was actually filmed within the gardens of Pinewood Studos as at the time of filming, the vast Forest set had been destroyed by a fire.

Why Should You Watch This?: This is a wonderful film in the vein of the Grimm fairytales that are so popular and still being adapted to this day. What makes Legend so special is that this an original fairytale created from the mind of Ridley Scott. Like Blade Runner another Scott film the production was very troubled and it took them 3 years to complete the film which started production in 1982. Also like Blade Runner, the Director’s Cut is in my opinion superior to the Theatrical Cut. What makes Legend so special are amazing looking sets and the incredible job done with prosthetics which in a time before CGI make it that much more impressive. Tim Curry’s scenery chewing performance alone is worth the price of admission.

More Films to See Before You Die: #99 They Live

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They Live (1988)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster and Peter Jason

Synopsis: An unemployed drifter Nada (Roddy Piper) arrives in Los Angeles and finds a job at a construction site. While working construction he befriends fellow worker Frank (Keith David) who is a conformist and invites Nada to camp in the homeless settlement where he lives. Nada observes that there are odd disruptions on the television from a pirate transmission of a man that belongs to an underground movement and notes a strange moving of people in the church on the other side of the settlement. Nada sneaks around the church and finds a box with pairs of sunglasses. When he wears the glasses, he discovers that the human race is being dominated and subdued by subliminal messages and several persons are aliens indeed. Further, the elites are corroborating with the invaders, receiving financial support in return. Nada forces Frank to wear the sunglasses and together they seek other humans aware of the situation to organize a resistance against the powerful aliens from Andromeda and their associates.

Trivia: The fight between Nada and Frank was only supposed to last 20 seconds, but Piper and David decided to fight it out for real, only faking the hits to the face and groin. They rehearsed the fight for three weeks. Carpenter was so impressed he kept the 5 minute and 20 second scene intact.

Why Should You Watch This?: I am a huge fan of John Carpenter’s and own a number of his films. This particular entry into his canon is especially fun to watch. Roddy Piper gives a really solid performance as the rugged lead character and is convincing enough to make you wonder why the wrestler never had a more successful film career. This film also contains one of the funnier macho man one liners – “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum” which was ad-libbed by Roddy Piper. This is a very fun movie to watch and recommend it to anyone that like movies with an underlying conspiracy theory in their films.

More Films to See Before You Die: #100 Desperado

Desperado (1995)

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi and Joachim de Almeida

Synopsis: A man (Steve Buscemi) walks into a bar in Mexico and begins telling the bartender of how he witnessed a massacre at another bar by a Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) with a guitar case full of guns. The bartender doesn’t become interested in the mans story until he hears that the man was looking for Bucho (Joachim de Almeida) a local gangster and drug lord who is responsible for the death of his lover. It isn’t long before El Mariachi visits the bar looking for Bucho and all hell breaks loose. El is wounded in the battle and takes refuge with Carolina (Salma Hayek) the local bookstore owner. When El finds out that Carolina works as a courier for Bucho he uses this as a way to get closer to Bucho. This leads to a final confrontation with Bucho and a person from El’s past that he never would have expected.

Trivia: This film cost approximately $7 million to make, 1000 times the amount of money Rodriguez spent to make it’s predecessor El Mariachi (1992). For most of the killings they used a gun that essentially fired fake blood at the characters instead of squibs. This unfortunately created too realistic of an effect resulting in them having to edit out much of the deaths for the censors.

Why Should You Watch This?: I have always enjoyed Robert Rodriguez earlier films but mostly the ones that don’t cater to children. His adult oriented films are as entertaining and engaging as any other film makers. He is one of the few directors that can make style over substance work to his advantage. The “El Mariachi” trilogy is arguably his greatest accomplishment as a film maker and proves that you don’t need $100 million to make a really good looking film. Also this movie officially introduced Antonio Banderas as a viable and bankable movie star as well as Salma Hayek.

Predator

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Predator (1987)

Director: John McTiernan

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carilla and Kevin Peter Hall

Synopsis: An elite team of Commandos headed by Major Dutch Schafer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are hired by an old teammate of Dutch’s, Dillon (Carl Weathers) to rescue a Cabinet Minister whose helicopter has crashed in South America. Once in the jungle the team realizes that there is something much more sinister with them than just an army of Guerrilla soldiers. After a while they begin to realize their Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) is not from this world and is picking them off one by one. Now Dutch and Dillon with the help of the remaining team members and Anna (Elpidia Carillo), a local rebel, to try and kill the Predator before it kill them.

Trivia: An attempt was made to get shots of the Predator swinging from tree to tree using a monkey in a red special-effects suit. However, the monkey kept removing the suit and the idea was abandoned. The original “Hunter” model was a large creature with a long neck, a head shaped like a dog and one big eye in the middle. This can be seen on the camouflage demo’s on the DVD. It was only when Stan Winston moved in that the complete design of the now “Predator” changed, along with the title.

How scary is this really?: Predator is not very scary anymore after the hundredth viewing but when I was a kid this scared the crap out of me. This is the best non Terminator film that Arnie did and it is still a great sci-fi film. Kevin Peter Hall is amazing as the Predator and remains to his day he best actor to don the Predator costume. This is another good October film to watch and a great guy’s movie.

The Thing

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The Thing (1982)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Richard Masur

Synopsis: An American scientific expedition to the frozen wastes of the Antarctic is interrupted by a group of seemingly mad Norwegians pursuing and shooting a dog. The helicopter pursuing the dog explodes, eventually leaving no explanation for the chase. They decide to go to the Norwegian camp to see what is going on over there, they send the camp doctor and helicopter pilot R.J. Macready (Kurt Russell). They find that the camp has been mostly destroyed and all of the other inhabitants are dead in quite a gruesome fashion, they also find a strange burned mash up of two men. They arrive with the specimen and they start to do an autopsy. That evening the dog begins to act strangely and then mutates into an alien creature that starts to consume the other dogs, they quickly learn that this thing is afraid of fire. They realize that this thing is able to perfectly copy the person or animal it consumes and looks to be setting its sights to other parts of Earth. In order to stop this thing they must all work together to stop it before it is able to escape.

Trivia: The Norwegian dog in the film was named Jed. He was a half wolf/half husky breed. Jed was an excellent animal actor, never looking at the camera, the dolly or the crew members. Jed, however, is NOT the dog seen in the beginning chase scene, where the Norwegian is trying shoot him. Per Carpenter’s commentary, this was another dog painted to look like Jed. This film is considered a benchmark in the field of special makeup effects. These effects were created by Rob Bottin, who was only 22 when he started the project.

How scary is this really?: This movie pretty scary and is incredibly freaky. This is my favourite John Carpenter film and it is also his best collaboration with Kurt Russell. The visual effects are amazing in this film setting the standard for new generation monster films. This is a great film to watch in October or in the middle of a snow storm.