Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My 101 Favorite Movies of All Time, 31-40

Some people say there are no good movies made anymore. This is hyperbole, of course, but it rings true because there is so much made we don't care for. Even some of the movies we enjoyed, we tell people about it saying, “It wasn't necessarily great, but it was good.”

For me, though, I only have to go back to 2015 because there were four movies that came out that year that make it onto my list: The Peanuts Movie [#19], Tomorrowland [#31], McFarland, USA [#92], and Star Wars: The Force Awakens [#95]. Conversely, 2016 produced only one movie that made it onto this list (you'll find out when I get to #15). Was 2016 a bad year for movies? No. There were a lot of movies I enjoyed last year, but only one I liked well enough to put on this list.

As I mentioned in the last blog of this type: your opinion may be different.

31. Tomorrowland
One of the best and most hopeful movies I have seen in years, and I've watched it over and over. The visuals are great, the score is catchy, and the denouement is a pretty good pattern for evangelism (look for the people with the spark). If you haven't seen this movie, go check it out.
I'd love to know how this movie went over in Paris.
Brad Bird turned down Star Wars VII so he could direct this movie. I will always wonder how much better SW7 could have been.

32. Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown
This is my favorite of the “old school Peanuts” movies. Yes, you wonder what sort of camp allows 8 years olds to raft by themselves down dangerous rivers, but once past that this is just a fun movie. As a kid, what bugged me about it is how everything gets blamed on Charlie Brown when things go wrong. But Snoopy always comes through.
This movie has the catchiest soundtrack of the Peanuts movies, too.

33. The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian
Yes, it departs from the text of the book in a couple large ways (that don't necessarily improve the movie [who thought they needed the failed castle raid?]), overall it's a good adaptation and a beautiful movie. As in the book, Reepicheep steals the show.
“This is Home” by Switchfoot is one of the best songs to ever appear in a movie, though I prefer the soundtrack CD version to the version that actually plays during the credits. “The Call” by Regina Spektor is another one of my favorite songs, making the soundtrack one of my favorite CDs (do I sense another list coming on?!?!).

34. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
In spite of what's going to appear on this list in slot #23, this movie was an excellent bookend to the original trilogy. I don't really care for Temple of Doom (don't even own it on DVD when I've got all the others and even The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles), so maybe I should view this as a great middle movie of the trilogy I like. I have used Indy's leap of faith as a sermon illustration more than once.
“He chose … poorly.”

35. North By Northwest
My favorite Hitchock movie. It's well known that both Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock wanted to make a Bond movie, but ultimately turned 007 down because they didn't want to commit to more than one movie. With that in mind, watch this movie and realize that they did make a spy movie. It's a travelogue, it has a super villain, and a beautiful but mysterious woman. But then, rather than being a British spy, the hero is thoroughly American and the final battle takes place on Mount Rushmore.
Still, it makes you wonder what a Hitchcock/Grant Bond movie would have been like, doesn't it?

36. The Spirit of St. Louis
Jimmy Stewart, an avid and accomplished pilot himself, lobbied for this part even though he was more than twenty years older that Linberg was when he made his flight. Part of what makes this movie so great—and so Jimmy—is that we all know how the story is going to come out but we're on the edge of our seats with anticipation anyway.
“The way you weld those sand-dabs, they're just awful!”

37. The Chronicles of Narnia – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
This movie really departs from the text, but I still enjoy it. The visuals are great, the acting is charming and, once again, a mouse named Reepicheep is the best part. Another enjoyable score, too.
Supposedly, the changes made in the movie—most especially the collection of the 7 swords—was added by the filmmakers because the original story was just a travelogue and they felt the Narnians needed a better reason to drive the story forward. IMHO it works OK, but it does make one wonder if the movie would have been better (and better received) if it had just stuck more closely to the book.

38. The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers
The middle part of a trilogy is often the hardest to achieve. It has to move the story forward, but it can't really wrap up the story. In fact, to keep the audience from getting bored with the series, you kind of need a cliff-hanger to keep people hooked. Yes, the battle at Helm's Deep is way longer in the movie than warranted by the book, but it's well done and great to watch.
“Those are the stories that mean something.”

39. Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home
The second-best Star Trek movie ever made, this one recaptured the spirit and feel of the original series (known as The Original Series to us serious fans), while also expanding on it. All of the main characters (except, maybe, Uhura and Sulu) are utilized to their fullness in service to a script with plot, humor and substance.
“He did a little too much LDS back in the 60s.”

40. Support Your Local Sheriff
The thing about a list like this is that every time I look at it, I move things around. (Except for the top 10, those have been pretty static since 2006 when the last movie to enter my top 10 was made [now you're wondering what that movie is, huh?) This movie could easily have been placed much higher on the list and I can't give you a good reason why it's not there today. A spoof, this movie tackles many of the old west tropes, but it's greatest asset is James Garner. With anyone else, this movie would have been thrown away and forgotten long ago, but he brings it to life as only he could.

Many people think of this movie as an extension of Garner's Maverick character, but it's not. The Bret Maverick of the TV show was, first and foremost, a coward, where as Jason McCullough is fearless and darn-near perfect. Garner's character of Latigo in Support Your Local Gunfighter is actually much closer to Maverick.

To see the movies that came in at 41-50, click here.
To see the whole list (so far) click here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

My 101 Favorite Movies of All Time, 41-50

Why do we like the movies we do? Substitute for the word “movies” in that last sentence with music, art, TV shows, books and it's still a pretty good question. And I don't think there's really an imperical answer. Oh, every discipline has its snobs, people who enjoy detailing that they like this movie because of it's pacing or that song because of it's intricate progressions, but the reality is: we like what we like because we like it. It reached us on some visceral level first, and then we decided we liked those other elements of it.

We've all seen a movie and told a friend about it, who went to see it and hated it. We've had a friend gush about a great new movie and have gone to see it ourselves and then wondered about our friend's taste in movies ever-after. Blatant grossness aside, we just like different things and—sometimes--we'll never understand each others' tastes.

41. The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey
While all three of the movies in this trilogy are improved in their extended editions, the theatrical version of this one stands up the best. A travelogue through Middle Earth, while getting the hobbit from here to there (which isn't really anywhere, yet), a much larger story is established and characters are introduced that will drive the story forward in subsequent chapters. I briefly thought about listing The Hobbit as one movie and Lord of the Rings as just one, but decided I do have a preference for them even while enjoying all 6.
I want to go to Hobbitton!!

42. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
A ground-breaking movie that melded cartoons ('toons) and live action people in a way never seen before on the big screen. What a lot of people forget, though, is that amongst all the spectacle and jokes there's actually a finely-crafted murder mystery.
And I still remember my niece Emily (probably 6 or 7 at the time) shouting out, “Look out Eddie!” as the weasels snuck up on the hero.

43. High Noon
It's been rumored that John Wayne turned down the lead in this movie because he didn't like the way the townspeople are portrayed. Maybe the Duke would have done a good job, but can you really picture anyone other than Gary Cooper playing Will Kane? No less than Tom Hanks says this is one of the greatest performances ever because in the last fifteen minutes of the film Coop only utters 7 words yet conveys so much with just his expressions. It's a silent film with sound.
I love the theme song (sung by Tex Ritter) but the downside is that it's running through my head for days after each viewing.

44. Muppet Christmas Carol
There have been many cinematic tellings of Charles Dickens' classic novel about a man who is shown “the true meaning of Christmas” but not only is this one of the most faithful to the actual book, it's also the funniest. OK, so they doubled the number of Marlys, still, it's a pretty close adaptation. Another movie my family quotes from—and not just at Christmas.
“It was the frog's idea.”

45. Star Wars – Attack of the Clones
Some of my fondest memories are of seeing this movie in the theater on opening day with my very young sons. (I have seen 7 of the 8 movies on opening day.) We loved the spectacle and we still do. What really bugs most of the haters of the prequels, I am convinced, is that George made the movie he wanted to make and not the movie they wanted him to make. Fans have taken such ownership of the franchise that they feel personally afronted when things don't go their way.
The battle in the arena is, for me, one of the seminal moments in Star Wars, if not all of cinema.

46. Flash Gordon (1980)
I love that this movie takes itself seriously while clearly being campy and giving the audience a wink now and then. The sets are over the top, the acting harkens back to the old serials, and—of course—there's that music. This movie would be nothing without Queen's music.
“Do you, Ming, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded queen until such time as you grow tired of her?”

47. The Lone Ranger (2012)
Yes, I know a lot of people didn't like this movie … but I also know I'm not alone in liking it. The score is fantastic, the vistas are grand, the action is superbly choreographed and the story is … exactly what the Lone Ranger is supposed to be about. Go back and watch the earlier iterations and see to what great lengths the Lone Ranger has always gone to avoid firing his gun fatally. He has always ridden for justice and not revenge.
And when I drive my car through Cimarron Canyon, NM, I'm taken back to the scenes that were filmed there.

48. Rear Window
My second-favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie (wait for #35 to see my favorite) and a tour de force for Jimmy Stewart. This movie is claustrophobic, voyeuristic and almost action-free (except for a few moments at the end) but Jimmy and Grace Kelly bask in a movie so taut it still makes me sweat.
Kids today (meaning anyone under 45) may be thoroughly confused as to why Jimmy has to keep loading bulbs into his camera.

49. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
It's silly, it was produced on a shoe-string budget, and there are plot holes large enough for a laden swallow to fly through, but it's one of the funniest movies of all time. There's barely a line in it I haven't quoted at some point in my life, and my family quotes it almost as much as I do.
Strange women lying in ponds and distributing swords didn't look like such a bad way of picking a leader when we were looking at Trump vs. Hillary, now did it?

50. Funny Farm
Most people don't even remember this little Chevy Chase gem but it's still one of my favorites. Maybe it's because I identify so closely with Chevy's protrayal of a failed author. Or maybe it's the witty writing set against some of the prettiest scenery on film. Whatever, I pull this one out every couple years and watch it, usually while doing work around the house for some reason.

“Just call me Mister Lamb Fries!!”

To see what movies appear on my list in slots 51-60, click here.
To check out the whole list so far, scroll through here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Books, e-Books and Bookies

I still like real books. You know: the kind that are made out of paper, glued or stitched together, with a cover made out of stiff paper or cardboard surrounding.

I like those.

It doesn't even have to be a fancy hardback. There's something about reading from a paperback that takes me back to all the (relatively) cheap paperbacks I used to buy seemingly by the carton-load when I was in school. Star Trek, Louis L'Amour, fantasy, baseball biographies ... reading an old, standard-sized paperback with a few creases on the cover is like being that kid again.

I like e-books, too. I love that I can have several books on my Kindle and flip back and forth between them. I can stick it in a backpack and go hiking or a suitcase when I go on a trip and I've got Chesterton, Tolstoy, Dumas and Dostoyevski, Christie, L'Amour and me all quick to hand and it weighs about as much as a pencil. (And did I mention that so many of these great old authors have books for free on Kindle and Nook? There are so many great free books for my Kindle that I don't anticipate living long enough to ever have to buy a book again!)

I know people who love to be book snobs and smugly tell you about how they only read "real" (meaning, made from a dead tree) books. In every walk, there will always be people striving to find the silliest way possible to look down on others.

Still other people I know will read books on their phones--which I don't want to do, but more power to 'em. I just like to read.

And no, I don't actually have anything to say about bookies, except that their title implies I should be a lot more akin to them than I am.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My 101 Favorite Movies of All Time, 51-60

Just as it wasn't intentional that so many of the movies in the last list (61-70) were from Disney, I didn't set-out to make sure this list was made up of movies that were a part of a series, but 8 of the 10 are.

Nor does it say anything big that the only two movies that aren't part of a series are the two best of the ten.

51. UHF
It's one of the funniest movies ever made and so few people have ever seen it. Some because they never heard of it and othes because they thought it was just an extended “Weird Al” music video. While it does have one musical sequence, it's really an underdog story about how an average Joe with a Walter Mitty complex turns a bottom-of-the-dial local station into a channel we'd all want to watch.
Billy Barty as the camera man whose shots make everyone look ten feet tall is classic, as is the turn by a very young and pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards.

52. Galaxy Quest

Some have said this is the greatest spoof ever made (though, personally, I would say James Garner's “Support Your Local Sheriff” takes that honor [spoiler alert: it comes in at #40 on this list]). Riffing especially on the original “Star Trek” this Tim Allen vehicle also takes shots at tropes from many other sci-fi movies.
“Never give up! Never surrender!”

53. Star Wars – Return of the Jedi
Back in 1983, this was the movie, and it's still great. While some whiners complain about the Ewoks, let's remember that Lucas was making a] a family film and b] wanted the most unlikely, down-trodden, local warriors that could possibly be put on film. This movie wrapped up the “Star Wars” saga with a great, upbeat ending (that, when you think about it, has been totally negated by “The Force Awakens”) which is one of the reasons many people don't like it.
On YouTube you can find a video where-in all the space battle scenes of this movie have been stitched into one, 8-minute-plus cavalcade of explosions. It's fun to watch and—for a fan—a little tiring!

54. Star Wars – The Phantom Menace
What was the 6th-best “Star Wars” movie until “Rogue One” came out, this movie is way better than most people remember it to be. Taken in the context of the original-six, this movie is a table-setter for all that is to come. Yes, it changes some of our preconceived ideas about how the galaxy of SW worked, but it also brought us back to that galaxy in a spectacular and eye-opening way.
For those who complain that the dialogue in this and “Attack of the Clones” [#45] is clunky or “no one talks like that” remember: George wasn't writing about teenagers in California, it was supposed to sound other-worldly. For some people it works, for some it doesn't, but at least George was trying to be different (unlike “Force Awakens”, which was trying to be as familiar as possible).

55. National Treasure
How many of us went into this movie thinking, “The commercials look good but … Nicolas Cage? In a family film? Really?!?” only to discover that it was a wonderfully fun and inventive movie and Nic did a great job? No, there probably isn't a treasure trove under NYC, and maybe the Masons aren't really linear descendants of the Knights Templar, but I love the adventure of this movie and have watched it many times.
[For those of you who don't have this list memorized, “National Treasure 2” comes in at #97.]
The biggest mystery of this franchise, though, is why there was never a Part 3. Yes, it's possible they were out of ideas, but when has that ever stopped Hollywood?

56. Ghostbusters
If you look at the number of actual tickets sold, this is one of the most popular movies of all-time. (34th all-time when you count tickets sold and not just money made.) It's easy to see why: great script, hilarious performances from everyone involved (though Bill Murray is rightly remembered as the best of the brightest), and special effects that are still pretty good even 30+ years on.
Why people were surprised that the remake wasn't as good as the original I'll never know. The only time I can think of in movie history where the remake was better than the original was when Cecil B. DeMille remade his own movie, The Ten Commandments, from a silent film to a color and sound spectacular.

57. Soul Surfer

Another movie that slipped under a lot of viewers' radar, maybe because they thought it was “just a faith movie”. It is a Christian movie, and it does have a lot to say about faith, but it's also a really good movie. Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt do good jobs as the parents, but the film's brightest light is (understandably) AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton, a real-life surfer who lost an arm to a shark attack before becoming a chapionship surfer.
Carrie Underwood appears in this movie and proves that while being a great singer, as an actress, she's a great singer.

58. Captain America (Marvel)
I've enjoyed most of the Marvel movies, but this one is my favorite. I like the whole WW2 vibe as well as Captain America's character. (Not just that he's a good character, but that he has character.) Haley Atwell as Peggy Carter was a welcome breath of fresh air as she was neither a damsel in distress nor a sex-starved kitten.
There have been a lot of enjoyable super hero movies of late (most of the rest of the Marvel movies, DC's newest Superman and Batman), but after a while of cartoon violence, I kind of want one of the characters to say, “Wait! We're obviously not getting anywhere just punching each other endlessly. Why don't we just settle this with a nice game of Parchesee or something?”

59. The Hobbit – Desolation of Smaug (extended edition)
On this movie and the next one down, please take careful note that I am specifying the extended editions. The theatrical releases were OK—and it was good to see them on the big screen at least once—but, for this movie especially, the extended edition released on DVD and Blu-Ray is so much more rich and full (and closer to the book) as to almost be a completely different movie!
Now that we can sit down and watch the whole, 6-movie saga (extended editions all), I have come to have a much greater appreciation for The Hobbit Trilogy than I had at first. Now, I kind of wish Peter Jackson had made a 9-film edition of The Lord of the Rings.

60. The Hobbit – Battle of the Five Armies (extended edition)
The extended edition of this movie isn't as starkly (?) different from the theatrical edition as was “Smaug” but it's still better with the additional footage. Two things that really stand out for me is that the EE explains a] how the four dwarves got from the battle plain to Ravenhill and b] shows the dwarven funeral. A hundred other, smaller, touches make this movie a more worthy entrant in the saga than what we saw in the theater.

As good as the last song is (“The Last Farewell” by Billy Boyd), I still think there should have been at least one song during the final battle by The Eagles. If you don't know why, well, I can't imagine I could explain it to you without eye-rolls so severe I'd hurt myself.

To read the 61-70 section of the list, click here.
To see all of my list (published so far), click here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

My 101 Favorite Movies of All Time, 61-70

For those who are trying to keep score at home … I mentioned in an earlier post that Harrison Ford was in 8 movies on my list but that Jimmy Stewart was still my favorite actor. For statistics' sake, I should point out that Jimmy receives top billing on 7 movies on this list, whereas Ford only gets top billing on five.

And no, I didn't add in a weak Jimmy movie just to give him the lead. Jimmy doesn't really make bad movies, unless you count “Cheyenne Autumn”.

61. Aladdin (Disney)
Back before everyone went 3D, “Aladdin” made us sway and lurch in our seats by providing mind-blowing action in regular old 2D. Remember the magic carpet ride? And Robin Williams' Genie is still one of the best characters ever put on the screen.
My cat frequently gives us a look that conveys the idea, “Who disturbs my slumber?” quite well.

62. The Swiss Family Robinson (Disney)
There have been many retellings of this story (which, by the way, is NOT a Robert Louis Stevenson story), some closer to the book than this one (Richard Thomas did a quality mini-series based on the book), but this one for me is still the benchmark—not just for the story but for the whole “island-adventure-swashbuckling genre.
Though, how did the boys not realize that was a girl they were resucing!?!

63. The Rescuers
Back when animated movies were still being drawn, painted and rendered by hands—when computers were still garage-sized pieces of hardware—Disney was still turning out some excellent ink and paint. Though the backgrounds are sometimes static (compared to the studio's heyday of about a decade or two before), the paintings this movie is set against are evocative and beautiful.
As mentioned before, Bob Newhart was such an inspired choice for Bernard the heroic mouse.

64. A Boy Named Charlie Brown
One of the seminal moments of my childhood was seeing this on the big screen (at the imaginatively named “Cinema Theater” in Abilene, Texas). It was funny, it had all my favorite characters … and it was so wildly unfair! Charlie Brown makes it to the national finals and comes in second. Shouldn't that count for something?!?! And what sort of parent sends their small child to NYC and doesn't go along with him?
I've never understood the “common consensus” that says the (IMHO) trite music score of “Snoopy Comes Home” is better than the hippy folk stylings of Rod McKuen for this masterpiece.

65. Robin Hood – The Prince of Thieves
OK, not everyone likes this “California Robin”, but I still do. Robin Hood no longer wore tights, Maid Marion was not just a damsel in distress, and the sets and stunts were spectacular. The attention to detail is forgotten now, but I would argue that it set the table for great movies that followed like “Lord of the Rings”.
I once tried to pull a Robin Hood and jump out to catch a rope (as opposed to holding the rope then swinging out). My shoulders still hurt at the memory.

66. The Apple Dumpling Gang
A fun movie that, yes, is silly. The basic storyline is pretty simple: roguish gambler gets stuck with three little kids. That part of the story is serviceable and entertaining, but probably wouldn't be worth watching by itself. What sets this movie apart is the duo of Don Knotts and Tim Conway as two bumbling outlaws. The scene where they steal the ladder from the firehouse is almost worth the price of admission by itself.
The pairing worked so well that Disney brought them back later but, as funny as Don and Tim were, the movie around them isn't much (so it doesn't make this list).

67. Charlie and the Angel
A movie even a lot of Disney fans have forgotten (not sure why so many Disney movies wound up clumped together in this 10), it's a great little fable about appreciating life. Fred MacMurray is a man who is so caught up in his store that he is letting life pass him by. But then, a friendly angel disobeys orders and, instead of killing Fred, gives him the chance to redeem his life. (I know it sounds like “It's a Wonderful Life”, but it's not.) Throw in boot-leggers, a couple good chase scenes, and what really amounts to an extended cameo by Kurt Russel and you have a great movie.
Harry Morgan makes a good angel and plays a mean tennis racket.

68. The Living Daylights
My favorite Bond movie, the labyrinthine plot of this one took me more than one viewing to figure out. As someone who actually read all of the Ian Flemming books before ever seeing a Bond movie, Timothy Dalton was closest to the character I pictured in my mind of all the actors who have played Bond. And for all of Bond's gadgets, the tuxedo that transforms into a shooting jacket may be my favorite. And the fight off the back of the airplane is one of my favorite action sequences in any movie.
It's too bad Dalton didn't get to make more than two Bond movies.

69. Return to Snowy River
Recapturing the magic of the first movie, this sequel may not improve on the story, but it does elaborate and tell us what has become of the characters we had fallen in love with. (Though, no knock against Brian Dennehy, but I wish Kirk Douglas would have reprised his role.) As previously mentioned, though, the thing that makes this movie better than the progenitor is the score. Bruce Rowland took his orginal themes and expanded on them in beautiful fashion.
If you watch this movie and don't get a little misty when Denny dies, well, you have no feelings at all.

70. The Far Country
Have anyone else star in this movie and it's just another OK western with good scenery. Put Jimmy Stewart in the saddle (or out of the saddle—true fans of this movie will know what I mean) and it becomes a classic. Stewart plays the toughest cowboy around, who would really rather not get involved in anyone else's troubles. But then, as they say in Casablanca, fate takes a hand.
It's funny that Jimmy Stewart is sometimes thought of as just playing nice guys—a la “Harvey”--so it almost seems jarring to see the character he plays here. But let's not forget he was a decorated war hero—in WW2, Korea and Vietnam!

To see movies 71-80, click here.

To see all of the list (so far) click here.

Monday, March 13, 2017

My 101 Favorite Movies of All Time, 71-80

This portion of the list contains a few movies that some will wonder why they are on a “Top 101” list. To this, I say: It's my list.

71. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The opening is a little slow but once this movie gets to the factory, it's fun, whimsical and just a little creepy. Gene Wilder steals the show with his benevolently deranged portrayal of the world's greatest chocolatier.
I remember seeing this movie at the great Paramount Theater in Abilene and being scared-to-death of the boat ride. And how come the river doesn't appear to be chocolate at the other end?

72. Edward Scissorhands
Director Tim Burton has made a lot of movies, some better than others, and I have always loved this particular film. Wild colors, bizarre sets, and a perfectly-strange performance from Johnny Depp. Oh, and did I mention the flawless score from former Oingo-Boingo frontman Danny Elfman? “Cookie Factory” is evocative of the scene it's attached to, and “Ice Dance” is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music.
I had to do some talking to get my wife to see this one when it first came out, but she was pleasantly surprised and will even watch it occasionally with me on DVD.

73. Dances with Wolves
I liked this movie better when it first came out. I still like it, but ever since I went to a museum on the Crow Creek Sioux reservation where I felt blamed for everything wrong in the Dakotas, some of the luster has worn off. The music is beautiful and Wind In His Hair will always be one of film's best characters (for all the awards this movie won, the fact that Rodney A. Grant wasn't awarded still bugs me).
The truth is, there probably were louts in the US Army—then and now—but I've come to object to the idea that the majority are/were that way.

74. The Final Countdown
The modern aircraft carrier Nimitz gets caught in some kind of storm that sends it back to December 6, 1941. Aboard is enough tech, armaments and savvy to destroy the Japanese attack force. Kirk Douglas, commander of the Nimitz, has to decide whether to obey his oath to protect the U.S., when to do so will change history. Martin Sheen plays a historian who isn't sure why he was invited on this cruise to begin with, but has a better idea than anyone else on board what the ramifications of their actions could be.
This is a guy's movie: battle, blood, and Katherine Ross in short white shorts.

75. The Fugitive
My favorite actor is easily Jimmy Stewart, but Harrison Ford shows up in 8 of the movies on this list (could have been 9, but I just don't care for Temple of Doom). In this one, Ford plays a skilled surgeon with a beard who, when falsely accused of killing his wife, shaves and becomes … Harrison Ford! From there, it's a cat and mouse game times two as Ford chases the man who killed his wife, and Tommy Lee Jones chases Ford.
It's been said that Tommy thought this movie was a career killer, right up until he won an Academy Award for his part in it.

76. Tron
Go back and watch this movie and at least two things will strike you: the prescient way it pictured and predicted the ubiquitous rise of computers, and just how '80s it is. To some people, it looks like camp, but it was actually the heigth of technology for it's day. It wasn't the success Disney had hoped it would be though, but it's legend and popularity grew as people began to realize just how spot-on it was.
What the heck were the grid bugs in the movie for, though?

77. Tron: Legacy
I prefer the soundtrack on this one to it's predecessor, and the special effects are better, but the story is just one notch below the original, IMHO. That and the actual character of “Tron” barely appears in the movie.
There was talk that, if this one had done better, they were going to turn around and make a part 3 within a couple years. As much as I like both Tron movies, I'm kind of glad that didn't happen. What I would like to see happen is for a part 3 to be made about thirty years after Legacy, just as it came 30 after the original. What will computers be like then, and how might another generation of Tron be called to fight?

78. Eight Men Out
The story of the eight Chicago White Sox, including the great Shoeless Joe Jackson, who were banned from baseball for life for throwing the 1919 World Series. A tightly woven movie, with a bunch of young actors who would go on to be big stars (like John Cusack, Charlie Sheen and Nancy Travis), this movie is like a punch in the gut with a baseball bat.You'll want to see it twice just to try and catch up with everything that's going on.
I got a free DVD of this movie a couple years ago for—I'm not kidding—sending in 5 proof of purchase seals from cereal boxes.

79. Ghostbusters II
Maybe it's not as good as the original, but it's still a fun movie. And it has almost as many quotable lines as the first one, but maybe that's the problem: some of them feel like they were written to be quotable rather than something that just came organically from the writing sessions or even ad-libbed while performing.
“Don't tell me, let me guess: all you can eat rib night at the Sizzler?”

80. The Hunt for Red October
After all his years of fighting Ruskies as James Bond, Sean Connery becomes one and commands an undetectable submarine. Realizing it could either end the Cold War or start World War 3, he decides the only course is to turn the sub over to the west. A great sub chase ensues, evocative of “Run Silent, Run Deep”, “Wrath of Kahn” and every other good submarine movie.

Most remarkable of all may be how good Alec Baldwin is in this movie.

To continue with my list, read about 81-90 here.
To see all of the list I have thus far published, click here.

Monday, March 6, 2017

My 101 Favorite Movies of All-Time, 81-90

As previously stated: I like to make lists. I have no idea why. I have previously posted a list of my favorite TV programs (though I only listed the top 20) which you can find here. Every now and then, I'll look at one of these lists and monkey with it a bit (“That movie has to go ahead of this one!”), but mostly they stay the same.

One thing about these lists, though, even though I am posting them on my blog, I have never been so arrogant as to think anyone else will care what I think.

81. Independence Day
This was a fun movie and I have yet to see the sequel, not because of anything I read about it but because the first movie didn't need a sequel. It tells a good story and it ends! There are movie series I enjoy, some of them appear on this list, but there's something to be said of a movie that tells its story and then stops.
Check out the DVD and watch the deleted scenes. I know I'm in the minority here, but I think Randy Quaid's deleted scene death was better than how they did it in the finished product.

82. The Man From Snowy River
This was the first movie from down under that most of us remember, and is probably still the best in many people's minds. Though I prefer the sequel myself, I admit that the sequel wouldn't exist or make sense without this one. And while both have wonderful soundtracks, it's the score for the second movie that gives it a leg up on this one in my mind/ear.
It was Jim Craig (every bit as much as Indiana Jones) who got me inspired to learn how to use a bullwhip.

83. Night at the Museum – Battle for the Smithsonian
If you look below, you'll notice that I listed this movie and it's predecessor together. I love them both. Ben Stiller and the whole cast—and, especially, the specil effects people—do a fantastic job both times out. This movie does what a good sequel is supposed to do: expand on the premier.
If I'm honest, though, I have to admit that the main thing that pushes this movie ahead of the first one is the presence of Amy Adams.

84. Night at the Museum
This is a hilarious, eye-popping movie, but it accidentally makes the opposite point from what I think the producers, writers, etc. were hoping to make: museums really are boring for kids. Sometimes, they're boring for adults, too. I think for those of us who like museums, it's because in our imaginations we can see the exhibits coming to life. Maybe these movies awakened that in some people for whom it had been dormant.
The third movie in the series was OK, and actually bookended the series quite well, but I didn't like it well enough to put it on this list.

85. You Can’t Take It With You
An early Frank Capra-Jimmy Stewart outing (with Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore), this is more of a straight-up comedy than we might have usually expected from that teaming. Jean Arthur is the proud daughter of a family of kooks who catches the eye of rich kid Jimmy Stewart. She wants him to fall in love with her—and he certainly has no objections to that idea—but she's afraid of how he will react, and how his stuffy parents will react, if they ever meet her nutty relations.
Jimmy has one of the all-time great pick-up lines when he tells Jean, “When I look at you, you're just so beautiful I think I'm going to throw up.”

86. No Time for Sergeants
Andy Griffith burst onto the scene with his turn as country bumpkin Will Stockdale, new draftee into the Air Force. Think Gomer Pyle without the sophistication and savoir fare. Will is a hick, a hillbillie, and every other such term you can think of and he doesn't so much conquer the Air Force with his backwoods wisdom as make you wonder how the Air Force survived his tenure. Watch for a very young Don Knotts as the base's frustrated psychiatrist.
Andy had already made a name for himself on Broadway and in comedy clubs, but most of America had never heard of him until this movie.

87. Operation Petticoat
Cary Grant is the commander of a United States submarine in WWII that is beset by Murphy's Law at every turn. Mechanical difficulties, a pink paint job and, most worrisom of all, Tony Curtis as his X-O. When they end up having to ferry some stranded nurses, it's clear that there are some things naval regulations don't cover.
Gavin McLeod sure spent a lot of his screen career at sea, didn't he?

88. Unconquered
Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard star in this adventure story set against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War. The beautiful Paulette is an indentured servant who catches the eye of a wealthy American Captain (Cooper) who buys her freedom. Unfortunately, the unscrupulous slaver (like there's another kind) doesn't tell Paulette and she gets sold to someone else.
This movie looks great restored for DVD, but it makes me wish I could see it on a big screen in a theater.

89. Rustler’s Rhapsody
What if you took a cowboy from the Roy Rogers-Hopalong Cassidy era and dropped him in the middle of a spaghetti western from the early 1970s? This hilarious movie does just that, with Tom Beringer as “Rex O'Herlihan, the Singing Cowboy” and Andy Griffith as the villainous Colonel. The cameo by Patrick Wayne seals this as one of the best spoofs ever made.
“Is your school marm an attractive but strangely asexual young woman?”

90. You Only Live Twice
This is, for my money, the second-best Bond movie ever. Good story, excellent casting, and the arial shot of the fight on the docks is astounding just for the choreography is must have taken to pull an enormous scene like that together. And who wouldn't want a Little Nellie for their own?

On the down side: no amount of make-up makes Sean Connery a convincing asian.

To continue on my list and see movies 91-101, click here.
To see the whole list (as much as I have published so far) click here.

Cut-Off Point

What’s the cut-off point on false teaching?
Here’s what I mean: the Bible is clearly against false teachers. We’re supposed to warn then not have anything to do with them (see 2 Timothy 2, 2 Peter 2). We certainly shouldn’t let false teachers teach in our churches/assemblies/whatever (see esp. 2 John).
But where’s the cut-off on that?
Let’s say we have a man or woman over here who are clearly teaching several unbiblical things. Whether it’s universalism or legalism or that Jesus wasn’t really God (or wasn’t really man) and all their theology flows out from there, it’s fairly easy to look at this person and the fact that the body of their work runs directly counter to Scripture and say, “That guy’s a false teacher.” Even if he finds an acorn every now and then, it doesn’t make up for the sheer volume of bilge they espouse.
What if, though, it’s something that’s just misguided (even if they’re preaching their error) on one point? See, it seems like an easy question of what to do thanks to what Paul told Timothy: build up the people with the truth and warn the person speaking the falsehood. The hope, as I read it (combined with what James says in his chapter 5) is that this person will realize the error of their preaching, repent, and be saved.
What if they don’t? What if they preach sound doctrine on everything else but are recalcitrant in this one area? Is that person still a false teacher and someone to be shunned?
I know a guy who would say, yes. Unfortunately, he has become (in his own mind) such an expert barometer of what is true and what is false that he has rejected every church in Wichita Falls on the basis of false teachings and just sits at home on Sundays, studying the Bible with his wife. It’s only a matter of time before he stops worshiping with her, I’m sure.
The reality of the paragraph-before-last is that such a case is extremely rare and maybe non-existent. Like potato chips, we rarely stop at just one false teaching. The word and works of God are intertwined and, when we pull one thread loose, the whole fabric will eventually unravel. At the risk of overusing the metaphor, though, I don’t throw away a sweater because it has one tiny snag.
Neither am I saying I know of any perfect churches/assemblies/whatevers that teach perfect doctrine perfectly. But the ones that are worth anything do have a system in place to address snags as they come up (and they will [and they will come up again]).
Still, is there a cut-off point? A point beyond which we say, “This has moved from an error to an apostasy”? Will this point change, based on the situation, or is it a fixed point?
Just something I’m wondering about.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

My 101 Favorite Movies of All-Time, 91-101

I make lists. No, not for shopping. In the one area where I probably should make a list, I don't. Partly because I don't go shopping.

But anyway, I started making a list of my favorite movies several years ago. I don't say these are the best movies (OK, yes I do), but I do say these are my favorite movies. There may be better movies out there (there aren't), but these are my favorites.

So, on my list of the 101 Favorite Movies of All-Time, let's look at the bottom eleven.

91. Lost Horizon
Ronald Coleman turns in a tour de force and Frank Capra directs what is either one of the most hopeful or most disturbing movies ever made. Because if there really is a Shangri-La, it's not open to everyone. In fact, some people can't even find it if they go looking for it. The movie is a little slow in parts (especially if you watch the “complete” edition, which is only “as complete as we can find” in that some of the scenes contain audio and only still pictures because the visuals have been lost to time) but it's a fascinating epic in the truest sense of the word.
I think “Robert Conway Lives!” would be a good thing to spread about if I were into graffiti.

92. McFarland USA
A little-noticed movie from 2015 starring Kevin Costner (as Kevin Costner), this is a true story about an almost-disgraced coach who finds redemption in a small, California agriculture town by teaching hard-working teenage boys how to run cross-country. I know that description doesn't sound very interesting, and it was probably a hard movie to make a trailer for, but it really is one of the best movies you've probably never seen.
Costner makes the line, “That's not Danny Diaz!” resound in such a way that I want a reason to use it in every day life.

93. Bullitt
By modern standards, this action movie is not all that action-packed … which shows just how stupid modern standards have become. Steve McQueen plays a San Francisco cop on a race against time in a really cool car in what has to have been the inspiration for “The Rockford Files” on many levels. With anyone else starring, this movie would probably not be remembered by anyone—even those in it.
I once drove by a shop window that had an actual replica of the Bullitt car. Why I didn't stop and get my picture taken with it I don't know.

94. Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown
I'm a HUGE Peanuts fan, as you will no doubt notice later on in this list. Even with my biases, this is a great movie, and something of a departure from all other Peanuts movies that had come before. Part travel-logue, part mystery, it's a great story about old regrets and recapturing the past. Snoopy, of course, steals the show, but the House of the Bad Neighbor kind of creeped me out as a kid.
It's kind of hard to watch this movie, nay impossible, without at least once asking oneself a question along the lines of, “Who lets their grammar school aged children go as foreign exchange students to France with only a beagle to look after them?!?!”

95. Star Wars – The Force Awakens
I am also a rabid Star Wars fan and I enjoyed this movie, but it's definitely the weakest of the 8 that have been made (as of this writing), just barely coming in ahead of those made-for-TV Ewok movies. The special effects are incredible, in fact all of the visuals are beautiful, but—as is his wont—Jar Jar Abrams just created an inferior tribute to a much better movie (see movie number 3 on this list when I get around to it). Basically, The Force Awakens is the most slickly-produced fan-film ever made.
Maybe when The Last Jedi comes out, it'll make TFA a better movie.

96. Bee Movie

Jerry Seinfeld pitched and created a fun little movie about an unlikely friendship between a bee and a human. Maybe there's even a hidden meta message about mankind dealing with our environment … just kidding: it's not hidden so much as front and center.
Chris Rock's mosquito lawyer steals the show.

97. National Treasure 2
This is a wonderfully fun movie, but the final solution is too much like the first one for me to rank it any higher. Nicolas Cage does a wonderful job—in fact, everyone in this movie is great—but there is an overwhelming sense of “I've seen this before.” Many people have marveled that this lucrative franchise didn't produce more entries, but maybe the producers had that rarest of all producer traits: the ability to acknowledge that they have nothing else to say.
The “balancing on the giant table rock” scene suffered from being way too much like the “balancing on the giant table rock” scene Indiana Jones did that same year.

98. The Man Who Knew Too Much
What do you get when you combine Jimmy Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock? Two movies on this list! (They actually made 4 together, but as interesting as The Rope is for it all appearing to be done in one take, the movie itself is kind of boring [IMHO] and while I like Vertigo it's never been one of my favorites). Anyway, this movie plays to a crescendo (if you've seen the movie you'll see what I just did there) that still gets me on edge even though I have seen it many times.
Warning, Doris Day's singing is going to be stuck in your head for days after you watch this movie.

99. Meet John Doe
Another Frank Capra movie, this time starring Gary Cooper (who, legend says never worked on-screen with his best friend Jimmy Stewart because they were deemed to be too much alike). When hotshot reporter Barbara Stanwick is about to be fired she publishes an interview with a man who is going to commit suicide on Christmas Eve to protest man's inhumanity to man. When the publisher decides to keep her on as a writer so she can do a series of interviews with her John Doe, she suddenly has to find someone to be John Doe. Someone honest, down-home and—you guessed it—a lot like Gary Cooper.
Stanwick's speech about why Gary shouldn't kill himself may be one of the best presentations of the gospel message ever committed to celuloid.

100. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Gary Cooper and Frank Capra again. This time, Gary Cooper goes against type and plays an honest, down-home type of a guy whose sudden inheritance propels him into the upper eschelons of society. Certain other people, who were hoping to inherit the money themselves, try to get Gary declared mentally incompetent based on the fact that he's clearly a hick.
She may not have been the prettiest or most glamorous movie star ever, but any sane humanoid male will fall in love with Jean Arthur during this movie.

101. Rescuers Down Under
For some reason, this was one of Disney's biggest animated flops. It's a fun movie, though! The animation is incredible (the flying scenes were some of the first uses of computer animation used in a big screen feature and they still hold up well today), the story is solid, and you just can't beat Bob Newhart's voice work as Bernard (Eva Gabor turns in a great performance, too).

I even have the comic book adaptation of this movie and, if I could remember where I keep it, I'd go read it right now.

To continue on up the list and read about movies 81-90, go here.
To see the whole list, at least as much as I have published so far, click here.