The Godfather – Do yourself a favor and just spend a date with all 3 parts to this epic masterpiece. You probably haven’t heard guys quote any movie more than “the Godfather”. Truthfully, it is as Tom Hanks once said “the I Ching for men”. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about. Truthfully, this really IS a masterpiece. There’s a world of film history, talent, and pinnacles right in each of these movies. Is it the best movie ever made? No, not really. But it is amazing and the story of the Family Corlleone sucks you right in! If you aren’t interested in at least the 1st one of these 3 legendary films, you might as well consider yourself “outside the norm” and 10 to 1 says if you bad-mouth this film ina bar, you’ll probably get your ass kicked.
The Maltese Falcon – Humphrey Bogart is the shit, and after seeing this movie, you may well agree. This is a classic! The dialogue is sharp and fast-paced, so hold on to your hats. How could any movie about a burglary be so damn compelling to watch? Once you’ve seen this film though, you may go back and revisit some of your previous “favorites”, only to discover the acting in these more contemporary films is absolutely shitty by comparison. If you dig on Sam Spade, consider yourself a classy dude – but one that don’t take lip from nobody!
High Plains Drifter – Of all the westerns ever made, Clint Eastwood reigns as the meanest-looking bad ass of them all. He’s tough, vicious-looking, and smoked really cool cheroots (FYI: that’s actually their technical name too). His hat was always something particular: it just doesn’t look like a cowboy hat. Add on a long duster that seems to hug to his frame, and he’s strikes a pose that is reminiscent of an Old West preacher and some kind of grim reaper. This film is one of Clint’s finest performances as the Stranger With No Name. [Guys: familiarize yourself with ALL those films. They include: Hang ‘Em High, A Fistfull of Dollars, High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider, and of course, the Unforgiven.] He will give you a very different version of the Angel of Death than anything you’ve ever seen. High Plains is a terrific movie if you’re in a pissy mood and you want to see what real revenge could look like. There is a killer moment in film history in this movie: outside of town, a sign naming the town is re-painted with its new name. Now THAT is beautiful!
Reservoir Dogs – If you haven’t already watched this movie, just go and do it. No, I’m serious. Are you stupid? This is the only film in which Quentin Tarantino doesn’t TRY to make “cool” into a movie. It just IS cool. The film features actor/comedian Steven Wright as a local radio station DJ whose voice helps to narrate this twisted tale of a diamond heist gone horribly wrong. I have never seen another movie to display “professional criminals” with such a sense of humor. You’ll be telling everybody the Bathroom Joke for 2 weeks thereafter. There’s a visceral reality to the movie, so I warn you: it is not for the faint of heart. Also, after seeing this movie, you will truly appreciate what a gunshot wound to the belly looks and must feel like.
Braveheart – Alright, before I tell you why YOU should see this movie, allow me to warn you: I’m of Irish descent , so I take this story very much to heart. That being said, you will have a fine appreciation for the carnage of “medieval” warfare after seeing this film. Historically speaking, it is going to always be blasted for its inaccuracies. Whenever you hear somebody say something like that, ask them if the were alive then. If they weren’t there, then they don’t know. It’s a MOVIE, not a history class. Appreciate it for what it is: entertainment. That being said, the film actually captures the core of the tale that was the life of Scottish patriot William Wallace. In a story that will pull at your soul, Mel Gibson delivers a fine performance as the title character. Okay, so we all know he’s Australian, but his accent isn’t bad at all as a Scottsman. The violence is brutal, the women are stunning, and Edward the Longshanks is possibly the most evil bastard you’ll ever see on film. The Battle of Sterling is incredible, and historically pretty accurate. The facts: the Scotts were outnumbered horribly, but somehow they routed the entire Northern English Army. That’s the truth. You may cry over this one; it’s THAT kind of ending.
Legends of the Fall – Alright, these days I just can’t stand Brad Pitt. However, when this movie came out, I thought pretty highly of him. The cast is top shelf: Anthony Hopkins, Julia Ormond, Henry Thomas, and Aidan Quinn! The the tragic tale of this family will haunt you for awhile after seeing this movie. Pretty much, this is one of those sleeper hits that is targeted towards guys. If you want to be cynical about it, you could go so far as to say that this film treats women as window dressing. There are ups & downs to this story, and really it just doesn’t end – it punches you right in the chops one last time before it is over. It’s a Manly movie and I always give it high praise.
A River Runs Through It – Okay, if you are a Fly Fishermen and haven’t seen this film, you should go outside and play in traffic. My brother is obsessed with this movie and it is because of his love of Fly Fishing. The film carries some of the same power as “Legends of the Fall”, and (ironically) stars Brad Pitt. There’s a quiet grace to this film. It ranks as a pretty slow film and there really isn’t much in the way of action or excitement (at least “Legends” has this and then some). However, the film take syou back into the past, just a little, but enough to fill your mind with thoughts like “I wonder if life was like that for my grandfather”. There is amazing quality to this movie and – let’s face it – this was the film that pretty much ushered in the Sundance Film Festival. Incase you didn’t know, Robert Redford narrates this movie, and he also is a HUGE fan of Colorado & Utah. This film, its setting, and the timing of when it was released bring into sharp focus the reasoning behind Redford starting up an award ceremony in the middle of the picturesque setting of Sundance. You may even want to try to learn how to fly fish after seeing this.
The Usual Suspects – Without question, this is one of the coolest crime dramas you will ever see. Kevin Spacey took home his first Oscar for his infamous role, and the film also won for Best Original Screenplay. There’s a captivating use of fire and water in this film, a sub-theme that echoes throughout the story. Check out how bad ass Gabriel Byrne is in this. I guarantee you that Kevin Pollak has never been so scary, nor has Stephen Baldwin been so cool. Benecio Del Toro is a stitch and there are many, many cameos in the film by other great actors. The story is ultimately about revenge: this is what happens to snitches. Check out the DVD and watch the featurette on the pivotal character of Keyser Soze; it is worth the watch.
The Boondock Saints – This is probably the only film I have ever seen that always sucks me in. It doesn’t matter WHAT kind of mood I am in. By the end, I am grinning ear to ear. It is a beautiful story about 2 brothers that –through happenstance- wind up becoming legendary modern-day heroes. Shot on a really low-ass budget and on location in Boston, there’s no way anyone could convince me this wasn’t one of the coolest films ever created! Unfortunately, the director is a little TOO like some of the characters in the film…and spends more time behind bars than behind a camera. So, if you want to be absolutely blown away by a movie that cuts right to the quick of what most folks will say on the streets about crime and the appropriate punishments for them, check this movie out! You will be surprised by Willem Dafoe’s character, of that I am sure. He’s a great actor, but this may be one of his best performances ever! The Boston backdrop, the lovable Rocco (aka. The Funny Man), and the bartender with Turret’s Syndrome make this an undeniable love of mine. You REALLY should see the deleted scenes, if you can. If you can memorize that quote, “…count thyself amongst thine angels, O Lord”. Sit back with a Guinness (or 12), crank the volume, and enjoy! Slainte’!
The Shawshank Redemption – Stephen King never wrote the “right” ending to this short-story-turned-mega-hit. In King’s original short story (entitled “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”), the tale simply ends with Andy’s escape. However, the ending of the movie by Frank Darabont really captures more of the essence of the story itself. This is one of the very best movies you may ever see. Period, end of story. It’s moving and heartfelt, but it also has this really ugly backdrop that it is set against. Morgan Freeman’s narration of this movie truly gives it that warmth. I think all of us imagine that “Red” could be our friend too.
Ben Hur – Arguably one of the greatest movies ever made, Ben Hur is brilliant all over. You can stand back and think “my God, they really made movies like this once upon a time?”. I mean seriously, people. This movie is beautifully shot for starters. Then there is an incredible score to accompany it – loud and powerful stuff! Then there’s Charleton Heston is his most magnificent role ever. He’s smooth, dignified, believable, and very realistic. He’s a flawed man, not some perfect fellow. He’s motives are a little less than savory towards the end of the film. And his opponent is just an absolute perfect portrait of how a young man can be molded by military and the political life. This film has so much going for it, it is absolutely no wonder it was a powerhouse at the Oscars. I watched this movie over this past Easter weekend. I hadn’t watched it in years. I had purchased the uber-edition on DVD and my goodness, is it ever worth it! It’s crammed with brilliant material, but if you are not into that kind of thing, no problem: just enjoy the movie! I do not profess a whole lot of love for the craziness that goes with religion, especially Christianity, but this film’s portrayal of Jesus is a masterstroke. It is both moving and simply done. I always feel moved when I watch this film. I think for me it has a lot to do with the mother & daughter. Juda Ben Hur is a great character to see come to life as interpreted by Heston. You’d swear that he was just born to play this role! Fellas, I shit you not, you watch this movie and you’ll be delighted that you did. Just go out and buy it. It’s one of my most recommended films EVER.
John Carpenter’s The Thing – This movie is sheer brilliance. When John Carpenter got his mitts on one of my first sci-fi loves (The Thing from Outer Space), I was worried. I felt as though he would destroy it. Me of little faith – shame on me! What Carpenter did was amp it up, heighten the paranoia, dial up the grotesque nature of the Thing, and cast a brilliant bunch of actors to carry out there roles. The soundtrack gets me every time I watch it. Kurt Russell was his favorite actor and for damn good reason! Macready is one of Russell’s most alluring roles. He’s like the cool bastard that believes in nothing but is truly a survivor. The tension holds through the entire film and as a backdrop, the Arctic Circle is completely unique. What guy doesn’t love a monster movie? Fellas: if you have never seen this, you are in for a treat. I always loved this story, but with a bunch of dudes and no women in this version of the tale, it was even more “realistic”. I positively LOVE the ending of this movie too.
Jaws – Every summer you should watch this movie. If you don’t know the glory that was in this, Spielberg’s 1st mega-hit, then you REALLY should watch it. First, this is most assuredly a HORROR movie. There’s a level of gore in this that you just don’t find anywhere else BUT a horror movie. Secondly, the story is based in part in truth. Benchley read a story about a Great White being caught off the New England coast somewhere. He thought it would be an interesting story if you had one of these eating machines move into a resort area. I am absolutely terrified of sharks as a direct result of this movie. Yep. Benchley’s tale still haunts me after more than 30 years. Thirdly, this is an amazing acting crew. Robert Shaw was the nastiest, meanest salty dog I ever saw – and still is. Richard Dreyfus is not a popular actor with me for the most part, but I really like him as Hooper. And Roy Scheider will always be Chief Brody to me. Brody is the heart of the movie. If you don’t like him and sympathize with him, you aren’t going to love this movie. Fourthly, there is John William’s score for this movie, which is perhaps the most enduring theme music of all time. EVERYBODY knows the Jaws theme! How he captured the essence of one of these monsters of the deep is beyond me. And lastly, there is Speilberg at the helm. Young and courageous, Steven Speilberg made a movie that goes down in the history books as the scariest and most realistic “fictional” tale ever filmed. It’s not real, but damn if he didn’t fool me. I know that Robert Shaw did not actually die while filming this movie, but I wondered about that for a long time. When Hooper is about to go into that sea in that stupid shark cage and says “I got no spit”, the gravity of the situation comes clear. Is Quint insane? Possibly. His death scene will live with me forever. I have seen something on film that will not leave my mind, ever. The sounds of his shoes on the watery deck, how it is shot, the high-pitched scream – sweet Jesus, it gives me chills just thinking about it! Never forget 1 very real fact about this movie: it was the very first block buster. In fact, it defined the term. “Gone With the Wind” had held the record for more than 2 decades. Along came “Jaws”, and it shattered the record. It played for most of a summer. If it was released today, it would own the Box Office record once more, no doubt.