My Favourite Movies EVER Part 1

by GregFahlgren

A short list of some of my favourite movies and movie series.

Hi ho everyone! Haven’t done a favourites list in a little while, so I I wanted to start a new series on my favourite movies. Like my games lists, I’m going to try to do these five at a time, detailing the movies themselves and why I think they’re so awesome. Today I’m going to be featuring four classic series, and one awesome pirate movie that didn’t star Johnny Depp. So... LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!

Cutthroat Island

Pirates, Treasure, Sea Battles, Eels!

Going to start off with a movie that many of you might not even know about. Released in 1995, Cutthroat Island is most famous for being one of the biggest box office bombs in movie history. In the years since however, it has become a cult classic, as well as one of my favourite go-to movies when I need a pick me up.

Following the exploits of pirate Morgan Adams (Geena Davis) and her ragtag crew, Cutthroat Island takes place in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of piracy. Morgan seeks the treasure of Cutthroat Island, a lost bounty of gold that only her grandfather knew the location. Her grandfather had made a map, and then split it amongst his three sons, including Morgan’s father, Harry. The fourth brother however, the brutal Dog Brown (one of my all time favourite movie villains, played ever-so-sadistically by Frank Langella) kills one brother to get his piece of the map, killing Harry soon thereafter. Harry left Morgan his piece, and with it she takes his ship and his crew to find the third and beat Dog to Cutthroat, all the while being pursued by a corrupt British governer. Aided in her quest by Shaw (Matthew Modine), a thief and supposed former doctor, who to be blunt tries to scam her more than once.

The movie is full of amazing set piece action sequences, fun fights, including the most realistic ship to ship battle in movie history, and a lot of laughs in between. Davis has one of the best performances of her career, making us love the beautiful, dangerous and determined Morgan. Modine is great as well, Shaw a loveable character that somehow doesn’t end up getting shot several times throughout the film. The rest of the cast were dynamite, creating a rich, full story with several memorable characters.

Plain and simple, Cutthroat Island is a fun pirate movie of yesteryear, and one of the best the genre ever produced.

Jurassic Park

But Later There's Runing... and Screaming.

Jurassic Park, for everything else that it was, was a landmark film in CGI. Originally, the whole project was going to be done with Stop-Motion animation (look up the movie Jason and the Argonauts), but someone came to Spielberg and showed him what CGI could do. In a industry changing decision, Spielberg decided to go with the CGI instead of Stop-Motion. The result, was simply put one of the most visual stunning movies of its generation. The dinosaurs were so real and lifelike the reaction of Dr. Grant and Dr. Sadler were EXACTLY what the audience was thinking.

More than that, the story was a stark examination on science and the dangers of it. The line, “You spent all your time asking if you could, you never stopped to ask if you should,” perfectly describes the actions of Jurassic Park’s scientists and owners. Even so, the fact that Park’s shutdown was caused by an employee motivated by greed showed the failing of humans, even in the face of something spectacular. This movie was so good, that unfortunately for many, nothing would ever live up to.

The film’s sequel, The Lost World, was one of my first movie theatre experiences. Having not seen the first film other than the ending, it was a brand new experience for me to see dinosaurs walking around on the big screen like that. Taking place a few years after the first movie, The Lost World marks the return of Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) as he travels to another island, this one apparently the factory floor for the Park, to rescue his girlfriend, who has gone to study the animals (who by the way, really didn’t need any rescuing as she was quick to point out).

Meanwhile in the background, Hammond, our loveable Park owner from the first movie, has lost control of his company. His nephew (smarmy little bastard as I like to call him) took control, and is planning to use this island to harvest the dinonsaurs so he can open a NEW park on the mainland (because it worked out SO well the first time). Leading this hunting party is a former big game hunter Roland Tembo (played masterfully by Peter Posttlethwaite), a complicated character who’s only desire on the island is to hunt a T-Rex. This character ends up be one of my favourites, Roland’s slow development revealing him to a remorseful, somewhat sad man, who had become disillusioned with his trade a long time ago, using this hunt as one last moment of glory. Agree with him as a big game hunter or not, I sure as hell don’t, but the character was generally a good man that tried his best to lead his people to safety once things went to hell.

Going to touch briefly on the third film, Jurassic Park III, which to be blunt, I didn’t much care for. Not to say it was bad, and it was fun to see the return of Dr. Grant (Sam Neill), but I found the plot somewhat dull, the new characters irritating, and the fact that they introduced the Spinosaurus without much explanation. There were some good parts, the Bird Cage scene is still mind-blowing, but overall it just wasn’t as good a movie. The ending was especially lazy, and I still feel like it was a cop-out.

Next up was this year’s Jurassic World, which I got to see in theatres just a few short weeks ago. The movie came out to MASSIVE box office success, but received a lot of criticism from long time fans. Many complained that the Bryce Dallas Howard’s character Clair was weak, and that the overall plot was bad and that there were too many events that would “not have happened in reality.” I on the other hand loved the movie. People’s general criticisms fall flat with me, and I refuse to read articles telling me had bad the movie was. I thought Clair was a little annoying, but she was playing a business executive whose primary concern was making the Park profitable, and acted exactly how I would imagine people like that would. She could have been stronger (and change her shoes), but it’s a movie, and honestly, I thought she did a great job. Besides, she lured a T-Rex into a fight while wearing heels, that’s pretty badass to me. He co-star Chris Pratt was awesome once again, giving a strong performance along with the rest of the stellar cast. I didn’t much care for the two boys in the movie, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

Jurassic World had a TON of Easter Eggs in it, too many to list here, and had great action set-pieces and a fair amount of laughs thrown in. However, the thing I liked the most was that it still held many of the moral questions of the first film. Under pressure to produce new attractions, the park creates a new dinosaur, Indominus Rex, a dangerous hybrid of multiple species. However, when it gets out, questions start being asked, and that old line of “You never stopped to think if you should” rang true once again even if no one said it.

Overall, the Jurassic Park is a great bunch of movies, even if the third one is sub-par, and I am very excited to see where they take the series next.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Why is the Rum always gone?!

Another classic series, the franchise began when Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl burst onto the scene in 2003. Starring Johnny Depp, Lord of the Rings alumna Orlando Bloom, and a young, a still somewhat unknown Keira Knightley, and veteran actor Geoffrey Rush. The swash buckling story was a hit with audience, myself included, loving the movies fun and offbeat characters immensely. Johnny Deep as Captain Jack Sparrow nothing short of spectacular, while Bloom and Knightly did a great job playing the love struck idiots Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner. Geoffrey Rush was incredible as the tragic and evil pirate leader Barbosa, one of the most memorable film villains I can remember. The thing I loved about it most though was how it acknowledged how silly it was, something that too many movies refuse to do these days.

The second movie, Dead Man’s Chest, came out a few years later, bringing the characters back together to combat the East India Trading company, as well as the immortal and evil Davy Jones, Captain of the legendary Flying Dutchman. Jones, played by Bill Nighy, was simply mesmerising, the layered and thoughtful performance bringing a character that could have easily been taken as joke to become such a serious threat. The plot took a more personal route than the first film, bringing the characters low, each acting on his or hers own motivations. In the end, Dead Man’s Chest was a great follow up to Black Pearl, with amazing action sequences, the second best bar fight I’ve ever seen on film and one of Johnny Depp’s best performances. I maybe liked the first movie a little better, but the second was great in its own right, especially as it lead us to the climax of the trilogy.

The next year, the third and possibly final installment of the franchise was released, entitled At World’s End. This is my personal favourite of the series by far, the biggest, and most epic of the first three movies, telling a massive story and expanding the world of Pirates to something truly special. The plot, though immensely complicated, is an incredible journey filled with so many twists and turns it can be a bit jarring to keep track of everything. It also felt like a final installment, the characters each reaching turning points in their lives, driving them forward according to their character. It also featured some of the action sequences I’ve ever seen, the strangest wedding ceremony EVER, and some truly hilarious moments with Jack Sparrow. This movie could have ended the series easily, and I don’t think many people would have been that upset about it, including myself.

However the series wasn’t done there. The fourth installment, On Stranger Tides, was released in 2011, and I have to admit, it was far better than I thought it would be. I like the movie, the action sequences great, the humour still there in spades, and the performances were on point. Johnny Depp will never cease to be entertaining as Jack Sparrow, but it was Penelope Cruz as his former lover Angelica that really stole the show for me, the best role I’ve seen Cruz in. Ian McShane entered the fray as wall as new villain Captain Blackbeard, his performance maybe not as classic as Nighy’s Jones, but still memorable enough to be a little sad when they killed him at the end (would have loved to have seen more). Despite all the good things, On Stranger Tides didn’t hold the same magic as the previous three films, the side characters not nearly as interesting, and the plot somewhat dry at times. However, it was still a fun movie, with plenty of room at the end for more adventures in the future.

A fifth and sixth film are apparently in production, and, I am optimistic that Johnny Depp and company will do a great job in continuing a wonderful franchise.

 

Back to the Future

Think Fourth Dimensionally!!

“When this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re going to see some serious shit!” The first of many, many classic lines in a classic franchise, Christopher Lloyd’s famous quote set the tone for one of film histories most beloved trilogies. Released back in the 80s, Back to the Future was watched so many times in my house growing up is a wonder my parents didn’t kill my brother and I for being able to quote the entire movie from start to finish. Michael J Fox as Marty McFly is one of the greatest heroes in science fiction history, and Christopher Lloyd’s portrayal as the eccentric time-travelling scientist Doc Brown was among my favourite performances ever.

The first movie, taking us back to the 50s, was such a great movie that it is difficult to put it into words. The story of Marty and Doc, desperately trying to get Marty back to the future... after making sure he doesn’t destroy his own timeline by making his mother fall in love him first (ew). The movie was such a blast, and so damn funny I have hard time not cracking up as I’m sitting here. The only problem I have is that we are just supposed to fully accept that this teenage kid is best friends with a crazy, estranged scientist with no explanation. Seriously, how do these two know each other? In any event, Back the Future was an awesome movie, and its sequels don’t fall far behind.

Following up the first movie’s success, Back to the Future Part II was released a few years later. This time heading into the future, we are treated to flying cars, hover boards, and kids wearing their pockets on the outside of their pants (really wish that had become a thing instead of the whole “wear your pants below your ass trend.”) The story, which takes us from the present, to the future, to an alternate present, and then back to the past, following Doc and Marty as they try to fix one mistake after another, realising that time travel might not be as great an idea as they thought it would. While not as good as the first one, Part II is still an awesome flick from start to finish, even if they STILL don’t explain how Marty and Doc knew each other.

The third film in the trilogy came out a few years later, Back to the Future Part III picking up where Part II left off. Taking Marty back in time to the Old West to save Doc, the third film was probably the most criticized, being called out for being too campy or unrealistic. My attitude is that it’s a movie about time travel; I’m not watching it for realism. The movie had quite a bit more life and death risk, the old west not the friendliest place in history, forcing Marty and Doc to be a little more careful in their goings on. It was also the first film where Doc finally got a love interest, played wonderful by the Mary Steenburgen. The train sequence at the end is still one of my favourite set pieces I’ve ever watched, right down to the hover board coming out for one last ride. The ending, which held a few wonderful messages about the future and life, Part III finished the classic trilogy in grand form, and remains to this day one of my favourite movies.

But still, how the hell are Marty and Doc friends?

 

The Dark Knight Trilogy

There's a storm coming Mr. Wayne...

Batman has been in film for over six decades, starting with serial produced in 1943. There have been many ups and downs to the Caped Crusader’s on screen adventures, ranging from goofy, campy, creepy, awesome, and downright sad. After the train wreck that was Batman & Robin, superheroes had effectively been killed, and many thought there was no way they could ever be resurrected. That changed when Blade (which I will get to in another blog post coming soon) became a sleeper hit, the little known film starting the slow and steady process of bringing the genre out of the gutter and back into prominence.

One of the movies that helped kick this revolution into high gear was 2005’s Batman Begins. Helmed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as Batman, Batman Begins was an instant success, drawing critical acclaim and becoming box office sensation. Going back to the beginning, Nolan took us through the journey that led Bruce Wayne to becoming the Dark Knight, before detailing his early battles with Gotham’s criminal underbelly, drawing on the classic graphic novel Batman Year One, as well as Birth of the Demon. The main villains were famed mob boss Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, followed by the creepy, unnerving Scarecrow, and finally, the charming and stately R’as Al Ghul (played by the incomparable Liam Neeson). Also starring Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, and Sir Michael Cain as loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth, the cast put on a hell of show that made us believe in Batman again. Begins was a great kick-starter to the trilogy, full of thrills, laughs, and no short amount of Batman awesomeness. The line from Gordon at the end of the film was so perfect, especially now since superhero movies have taken over the box office, “You know, you really started something.” Yes he did James, yes he did.

Nolan followed up on Batman Begins three years later with the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight. Following the events of the first film, Gotham is a very different place, things going better for once. That was until the mysterious Joker showed up with most bone-chilling evil laugh I’ve ever heard. What followed was a mind-fuck, the most trippy, intense two hours in film history. Heath Ledger (RIP), the heavily criticised casting choice for the role, threw himself into the role as the maniacal Joker, Batman’s greatest nemesis and the greatest comic book villain of all time. Ledge’s performance was the single greatest portrayal of a villain ever in cinema, even winning him an Oscar (posthumously). Drawing on the classic Batman story The Long Halloween, this movie is astounding to watch, every time I do forcing me to watch in amazement as the tragic story unfolds. So many high points, so many great performances, superb writing  couple with jaw-dropping action, The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. If there had never been a sequel, it wouldn’t have mattered. This was as perfect a Batman film as you could ever ask for.

However, there was indeed a sequel, released in 2012 entitled The Dark Knight Rises. This movie had a hard road to production, Heath Ledger’s death throwing much of the story out the window. At first it was thought that Robin Williams would be brought in as the Riddler (that would have been awesome by the way), however was Bane, played by Tom Hardy, that became the films intimidating villain. It was a brilliant move, the strategic, brutal, and powerful Bane the polar opposite of the chaotic and unnerving Joker. Tom Hardy did a phenomenal job with the role, bringing out a terrifying and mesmerizing version of the character in a call back to the villains origins, breaking Batman more completely than the Joker ever could. Also featuring Anne Hathaway excelling in the role of Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, and Joseph Gordon Levitt as a not-so-subtle homage to Robin, the movie was by far the biggest of the three, as well as the most personal. From start to finish, it was nothing short of spectacular. The fight with Bane in the sewers is my favourite fight scene EVER in a movie, being so realistic and brutal that I don’t think it can ever be matched. The action sequences were masterful, the final countdown one of the most heart-pounding sequences in movie history, and underlying theme of Bruce’s death wish wrenching at the heart-strings, especially when Alfred tries to talk him out of this mad fight, not understanding that nothing he could do would ever stop Bruce from being who he is. Even more than that, The Dark Knight Rises drew on elements from some of Batman’s biggest stories. The Dark Knight Returns, Knightfall, and No Man’s Land were all obvious influences, as well as some of the older Ra’s and Talia Al Ghul stories of the years gone by. The Dark Knight Rises was a triumph, the perfect end to the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a perfect trilogy in movies.

 

Conclusion

Well, that’s it for today. I’ll be back with more lists of games, movies, tv shows, scores and more as the weeks move on. Until next time, happy watching!

PS, below are the Batman stories I've listed. Worth checking out!

Updated: 01/04/2016, GregFahlgren
 
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GregFahlgren on 08/04/2015

Exactly! First saw when I was a kid, later as a teenager, then bought the DVD. It's a fun movie, with an AMAZING soundtrack.

dustytoes on 08/04/2015

I enjoy all these movies too, but I have never seen Cutthroat Island. I may give it a try. What's not to like about pirates?

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