Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Favorite Films


The Godfather (1972)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Budget: $6M
Box Office: $133.7M
Popularly viewed as one of the best American films ever made, the multi-generational crime saga The Godfather is a touchstone of cinema: one of the most widely imitated, quoted, and lampooned movies of all time. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino star as Vito Corleone and his youngest son, Michael, respectively. It is the late 1940s in New York and Corleone is, in the parlance of organized crime, a "godfather" or "don," the head of a Mafia family. Michael, a free thinker who defied his father by enlisting in the Marines to fight in World War II, has returned a captain and a war hero. Having long ago rejected the family business, Michael shows up at the wedding of his sister, Connie (Talia Shire), with his non-Italian girlfriend, Kay (Diane Keaton), who learns for the first time about the family "business." Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Godfather was followed by a pair of sequels.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Director: Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam
Budget: $400,000
Box Office: $3.4M
From its opening multi-language titles (that sure looks like Swedish) to the closing arrest of the entire Dark Ages cast by modern-day bobbies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail helped to define "irreverence" and became an instant cult classic. This time the Pythonites savage the legend of King Arthur, juxtaposing some excellently selected exterior locations with an unending stream of anachronistic one-liners, non sequiturs, and slapstick set pieces. The Knights of the Round Table set off in search of the Holy Grail on foot, as their lackeys make clippety-clop sounds with coconut shells. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin collaborated on the script and assumed most of the onscreen roles, while Gilliam and Jones served as co-directors.

Caddyshack (1980)
Director: Harold Ramis
Budget: $6M
Box Office: $39.8M
An elite country club has to deal with a brash new member and a gopher intent on destroying their beloved golf course.

Airplane! (1980)
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Budget: $3.5M
Box Office: $83.5M
This spoof of the Airport series of disaster movies relies on ridiculous sight gags, groan-inducing dialogue, and deadpan acting -- a comedy style that would be imitated for the next 20 years. Airplane! pulls out all the clich├ęs as alcoholic pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays), who's developed a fear of flying due to wartime trauma, boards a jumbo jet in an attempt to woo back his stewardess girlfriend (Julie Hagerty). Leslie Nielsen portrays the plane's doctor, launching a new phase of the actor's career that carried him through the next two decades in several similarly comedic roles. The trio of directors Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, and David Zucker responsible for the film would eventually go on to solo careers, but not before making Top Secret! and Ruthless People.

Return of the Jedi (1983)
Director: Richard Marquand
Budget: $32.5M
Box Office: $252.6M
In the epic conclusion of the saga, the Empire prepares to crush the Rebellion with a more powerful Death Star while the Rebel fleet mounts a massive attack on the space station. Luke Skywalker confronts his father Darth Vader in a final climactic duel before the evil Emperor. In the last second, Vader makes a momentous choice: he destroys the Emperor and saves his son. The Empire is finally defeated, the Sith are destroyed, and Anakin Skywalker is thus redeemed. At long last, freedom is restored to the galaxy.

Back to the Future (1985)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Budget: $19M
Box Office: $210.6M
Beyond its dazzling special effects, the best element of Back to the Future is the performance of Michael J. Fox, who finds himself in the quagmire of surviving the white-bread 1950s with a hip 1980s mindset. Back to the Future cemented the box-office bankability of both Fox and the film's director, Robert Zemeckis, who went on to helm two equally exhilarating sequels.

Contact (1997)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Budget: $90M
Box Office: $100.9M
She's known it since she was a young girl, when she would magically connect with distant voices on her father's shortwave radio. She's known it since college, when she chose the search for intelligent extraterrestrial messages as her discipline. She's known it since she bargained for just hours a week of satellite time to sweep the heavens for evidence. And she knows it every time she stares at the countless stars dappling the infinite night sky... Something is out there.

The Truman Show (1998)
Director: Peter Weir
Budget: $60M
Box Office: $125.6M
Jim Carrey gives a remarkable performance as a man learning that his entire life in a storybook coastal village has been the subject of a live, 24-hour-a-day womb-to-tomb television drama.

The Matrix (1999)
Director: The Wachowski Brothers
Budget: $63M
Box Office: $171.5M
It's the year 1999, and computer jockey Thomas Anderson (hacker alias: Neo) works in a cubicle, manning a computer and doing a little hacking on the side. It's through this latter activity that Thomas makes the acquaintance of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who has some interesting news for Mr. Anderson -- none of what's going on around him is real. The year is actually closer to 2199, and it seems Thomas, like most people, is a victim of The Matrix, a massive artificial intelligence system that has tapped into people's minds and created the illusion of a real world, while using their brains and bodies for energy, tossing them away like spent batteries when they're through.

Gladiator (2000)
Director: Ridley Scott
Budget: $103M
Box Office: $187.7M
A man robbed of his name and his dignity strives to win them back, and gain the freedom of his people, in this epic historical drama. In the year 180, the death of emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) throws the Roman Empire into chaos. Determined to avenge himself against the man who took away his freedom and laid waste to his family, Maximus believes that he can use his fame and skill in the ring to avenge the loss of his family and former glory.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Director: Adam McKay
Budget: $26M
Box Office: $85.3M
Marking the directorial debut of Adam McKay, former head writer for Saturday Night Live and founder of the Upright Citizen's Brigade, Anchorman is set during the 1970s and stars Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, San Diego's top-rated news anchorman. The arrival of Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), an aspiring newswoman, is, in Ron's eyes, not the studio's most welcome addition. Anchorman was co-written by Ferrell, and features supporting performances from David Koechner, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Tara Subkoff, and Maya Rudolph.

The Dark Knight (2008)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Budget: $185M
Box Office: $533.3M
The sequel to Batman Begins finds the titular superhero coming face to face with his greatest nemesis -- the dreaded Joker. Christian Bale returns to the role of Batman, Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role of Rachel Dawes (played by Katie Holmes in Batman Begins), and Brokeback Mountain star Heath Ledger dons the ghoulishly gleeful Joker makeup previously worn by Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero. Just as it begins to appear as if Batman, Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) are making headway in their tireless battle against the criminal element, a maniacal, wisecracking fiend plunges the streets of Gotham City into complete chaos.

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