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Not just Walt Disney's masterpiece, but one of the greatest animated films of all time
After over seventy years, Walt Disney's Fantasia remains one of most shining examples of animation and music ever committed to film. A labor of love for the man behind Mickey Mouse, the movie is split into eight different segments with a noted piece of Western classical music (conducted by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra) serving as the backdrop for the story in each one.
Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor opens the film with abstract, expressionistic images that coincide with the music. There is no real story here; it's probably the most dream-like segment of the entire film.
Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite is given a new look in the movie; eschewing its traditional story for a ballet of nature as set to the tones of the Chinese Dance, Waltz of the Flowers, and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy among others.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas is by far the most recognizable and popular segment of the entire film. A showcase Mickey Mouse who plays the titular character that uses magic to bring a broomstick to life carry out his chores, with disastrous results.
Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring is visualized as the gradual transformation of Earth from an uninhabitable world of roiling seas and volcanoes to the age of the dinosaurs. An impressive showcase for special animated effects as well as the realistic appearance of the dinosaurs.
The Pastoral Symphony (Ludwig van Beethoven's 6th) is set against the backdrop of Mount Olympus and Ancient Greek mythology is utilized to tell the story. Centaurs, unicorns, Pegasus, Zeus, and other gods and creatures appear in the most fanciful and elegant segment of the film.
Coming from Amilcare Ponchielli's opera "La Gioconda", The Dance of the Hours is a ballet that progresses from day to night with ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators performing the act. The result is one of the best segments of the film.
The finale is the combination of Modeste Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and Franz Schubert's Ave Maria into one major segment showcasing the clash between good and evil. The talents of animator Vladimir (Bill) Tytla and famed illustrator Kay Nielsen take center stage.
Fantasia was, and still is, unlike any film ever made when it was first released, for the film was the first to utilize a stereophonic soundtrack to replicate to concert hall experience in theaters. Though time has dated it, Fantasia remains a captivating work where seeing it just once is not enough.
Jennifer's Body (2009)
She's the girl that guys would die for (literally)
Following the success of her Oscar win for sharp script for Juno, Diablo Cody penned this surprisingly well-done tale of horror mixed in with biting humor (no pun intended) and good dose of the chills. This movie gives a whole new meaning to the term "maneater".
High school can be a living hell for anyone. But you don't have to tell that to Needy Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried), because she's been though it and back. Her best friend Jennifer Check (Megan Fox, who has a field day in her characterization) has been possessed by a demon that makes her insanely hungry for human flesh following a botched satanic ritual by a rock band (led by a devilishly charismatic Adam Brody) who literally sold their souls for rock and roll. Now, the boys of Devil's Creek High start dropping dead, one by bloody one, as a result. With the dance coming up, can Needy stop her best friend before she and her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) become the next meal in Jennifer's carnivorous reign of terror?
It is by no means Oscar-caliber material, but it does have to offer some very good performances, hair raising and bone chilling moments (the "bloody smile", anyone?)and some witty one-liners ("Where's it at, Monistat?") that makes this one of the better horror hybrids to come out recently. One of the devilishly ingenious and original horror films that I've ever seen.
The Hunger (1983)
Starts off well, but falls apart
The Hunger is a marvel of a combination of atmospheric and Gothic horror in the style of Dracula.
The film starts off with an impressive sequence with David Bowie singing in a discotheque meshed with Susan Sarandon's study of sleep and longevity using monkeys. From there, Bowie and Catherine Denevue soon become involved in Sarandon's life in one way or the other.
It's an absorbing horror piece from Tony Scott (his directorial debut). However, the slow pacing does get under the skin of several movie fans (I'm one of those, despite the 7 star rating), while others might just fall in love with this film. Judge for yourself.
Thrilling Game of Cat & Mouse
The latter half of the 1970s saw the decline of the disaster film, but Roller-coaster is the shining light of the genre at that time. The main reason the film works is because it fuses the qualities of the thriller. Also, this was the very last movie Universal filmed in Sensurround.
The film opens with a roller-coaster being derailed by a bomb set off by a young terrorist (Timothy Bottoms, who's incredible). The park's safety inspector, Harry Calder (a great role for George Segal), is sent in to investigate the circumstances. He, along with government agent Richard Widmark, soon discovers that the attacks are part of the terrorist's scheme to cash in on the misfortunes of the "accidents". The trail takes them to Virginia and then back to California, where Bottoms has a huge surprise in store for those waiting to ride on the new roller-coaster at Six Flags. Can Segal and Widmark stop the terrorist before more innocent lives are lost?
Skillfully acted, directed, and shot; Roller-coaster is a plum in the 70's disaster genre. Despite it's low key status, this thriller is a gem waiting to be discovered. Only problem: Henry Fonda has almost nothing to do in Roller-coaster. With all the news about the war of terror today, this tale of terrorism from within still hits home even after 30 years.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
A Landmark Horror Film
Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of split personality has been filmed before in 1920 with John Barrymore and in 1941 with Spencer Tracy, but Rouben Mamoulian's expressionist 1931 version stands head and shoulders above the rest. First of all, you have Fredric March, whose tour-de-force performance as the good-natured Jekyll and the monstrous Hyde earned him the Best Actor Oscar. Second, the camera work by Karl Struss brilliantly captures the mood of the story. And lastly, the transformation sequences set an enormous precedent for the later monster movies. It all blends together to form one of most amazing horror movies of the 1930's. Even today, it still has the power to mesmerize and send chills down the spine of even the most hardened horror fan.
Frightening; Somewhat of an Omen of Our Society Today
I had the opportunity of seeing this over the summer and believe me, this is an electrifying movie. With due respect to The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May, I think Seconds is director John Frankenheimer's masterpiece, bar none.
John Randolph plays a middle aged banker who feels that his lust for life has left him. Of course, he has a wife, a daughter, and a great job, but none of these things help to ease his pain. With some advice from his close friend (Murray Hamilton), he visits a mysterious organization called The Company, which can provide him with the chance of being young again. The salesman Mr. Ruby (the always invaluable Jeff Corey) goes over the basic details: Your body will be reformed and your identity will be new. Randolph accepts, and for the remainder of the film, he assumes the identity of Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson; his finest hour). Tony now has a new home, a new occupation (painter), and a new love interest (Salome Jens). Unfortunately, his new life takes a dark turn when he realizes that his new identity was taken from a person killed for his young look. Troubled, he decides to get his old body back, but what happens is truly terrifying...
When first released in 1966, it was dismissed by critics and flopped at the box office. Today, it has garnered much praise and is considered a classic of modern sci-fi. Great performances from Hudson, Randolph, Corey, and Will Geer are just part of the reasons for its popularity. James Wong Howe's Oscar-nominated camera-work gives a claustrophobic feeling and Jerry Goldsmith's score (perhaps his most frightening) enhances the dark tone. A must for any film buff.
The Swarm (1978)
Not as bad as people say it is
Saying that The Swarm is a disaster of a disaster movie would be a slap in the face to the 'Master of Disaster', Irwin Allen. True, is does seem a bit hokey in its approach of displaying the killer bees. However, it does play on the fear of bees (this film is DEFINITELY NOT for those who have the deathly fear of bees)rather well. It doesn't always work, but it's still pretty good. A true highlight is Jerry Goldsmith's score. You don't have to see the movie to hear his score. The score is truly one of his best, in my opinion. The cast reads like a Who's Who in cinema of the 60's and 70's. Out of the many seen in the movie, Richard Widmark, Katharine Ross, Michael Caine, and Henry Fonda truly stand out. By the way, this was Fred MacMurray's final film. Though mainly ignored when it debuted in 1978, it has now achieved somewhat of a cult status.
Mr. Brooks (2007)
The Perfect Man...The Perfect Killer
Mr. Brooks is a tense thriller with psychological undercurrents lying beneath the surface. Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) lives a seemingly normal life. He has a great family, a great business, and is a cornerstone in the Portland, OR community. But nothing is what it seems to be. After being named man of the year by the city, he goes out and shoots a couple in their house. He soon erases every trace of the crime and heads home. The next day, he is approached by a man (Dane Cook in an offbeat role) who has evidence of the crime but wants to learn how Earl kills his victims. At the same time, Earl is being tracked by Detective Atwood (Demi Moore), trying to unravel his puzzling murders. Each of their lives are affected in some way by murder. This film is one of the 'what if's of modern society. Costner shines as Mr. Brooks, bringing a sense of power, nobility, and evil. The only person who can outshine him is William Hurt, who gives a mesmerizing performance as Marshall, the man who drives Costner's impulse to kill. The subplots can be confusing at times, but they come into focus during the final 45 minutes of the film. It delivers suspense and tension in almost unbearable doses, and there is the ultimate plot twist at the end. If you're tired of all the sequels that seem to dominate the theaters and the over-hyped, then Mr. Brooks is the film for you. Be aware, though, as it may be confusing and complicated for some viewers.
The Out of Towners (1970)
When the Big Apple bites back...
In this excellent Neil Simon comedy, Jack Lemmon is up for a promotion at his company's (he specializes in plastic precision instruments) corporate office in New York City and he takes his wife Sandy Dennis along for a tour of the city. Right from the get-go, it becomes a living hell for the two. It all starts when NYC is fogged in and they have to fly to Boston. Second, they can't find their luggage. Then, they miss their train to New York. It only gets worse. They lose their hotel room, get mugged by a mysterious Graham Jarvis (as Murray), become captive of liquor store looters, get mugged yet again, Jack breaks his tooth on a Cracker Jack, he is accused of molesting a child, Sandy loses her wedding ring briefly, Lemmon has temporary hearing loss from an exploding gas main, and get caught in a anti-Communist riot. When it's all over, Jack gets the promotion but has to turn it down because he feels that the city life is too much for him and his wife. But one last disaster befalls the two one their flight home; their plane is hijacked.
In my opinion, this is Neil Simon's best after The Odd Couple. Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis are perfect as the hapless couple who experience nothing but trouble in their 24 hours in New York. there are some brilliant and funny line that have somewhat become part of us ("I'm suing all of them, I don't care if I'm in court all year."). Overall, it blends into a very funny movie. Also, keep an eye out of Anne Meara (Ben Stiller's mom) in a cameo role as a purse snatching victim.
Days of Heaven (1978)
A True Hollywood Classic
Days of Heaven is truly a groundbreaking motion picture which actually engages all the senses (except smell and taste of course). It is a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. Terrence Malick perfectly captured a bygone era in which a new world was emerging. The camera work on the film is just truly spectacular and one of the huge reasons to see the film. The stunning visuals are complemented with a haunting musical score by Ennio Morricone which only enhances the feeling of the film. Also, the performances of Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, and Sam Shepard were definitely Oscar deserving. In my opinion, it is probably one the best films to never win an Oscar for Best Picture. Most definitely a film you should see before you die.