Tag Archives: Films

The Little Prince: Worth a Watch (or Rewatch)

This is one of my rare time-sensitive posts, so bottom-line up front: if you want to watch The Little Prince on Netflix — and my premise is you should — it’s leaving on May 4th, so do it now!

Those of you who have read last year’s installment of my Favorite Films list already know I hold this film in high esteem, but I believe the 2015 film version of The Little Prince is one of the best animated films released in the past 10 years. And there have been some good animated films in the past decade.

And here’s the thing, due to a distribution kerfuffle, people here in the United States almost missed an opportunity to see it until Netflix stepped up — and we’re all better for it.

Many people may not realized just how many different adaptations of The Little Prince that have been made. It’s a story that touches all of us (assuming we’re not too much of the wrong kind of grown-up). And while some people of my generation may remember Stanley Donen’s musical version from the 70s (aka the one with Bob Fosse as the funkiest yet disturbing snake you ever saw), the story of The Little Prince is not, to my mind, a feature film length tale. Much like Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, it’s better as a compact and moving half-hour special — though look how thoroughly Hollywood has ignored that assessment.

So what I love is that the 2015 film version tells the original story, but wraps it in another story of The Aviator passing the story along to a little girl. The girl herself is being raised by a single mother who, while loving, has clearly been buffeted by events offscreen in ways far too many of us can imagine. And so she wants her daughter to be serious and “essential” to better survive this crazy thing called life.

What I love, and why I would urge all of you to give it a rewatch on Netflix, is how many lovely little notes are adding into this as the story unfolds. There’s great truth and depth beyond the dialogue that hearkens to Terry Gilliam’s ‘Trilogy of Imagination’ (Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of the Baron Munchhausen). In this way, I find the film to be great family viewing, because adults can get references and moments understandable only by experience, but it doesn’t make the tale too scary or dull for kids.

And for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, you will be treated to great voice work by Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Paul Giamatti, and more (the French version is similarly impressive from what I’m told for you French speakers). The score from Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey is exhilarating, and the mixture of computer animation and stop-motion animation just feels right.

At the end, you’ll find you’ve seen a film that clearly tackles themes of imagination and the human spirit, but softly meditates on how we face life and face death. And that’s no small feat to introduce to a child, or remember as a grown-up.

So I hope some of you make the time to watch it before it leaves Netflix and, yes, I am aware of DVD/Blu-Ray technology and already have my copy in preparation for its departure. But for those of you on the fence, you’re more likely to click over to Netflix than order a disc. So go ahead. Treat yourself to a little movie magic.

Wait! That Wasn’t the Last Starfighter After All

I’m pretty sure every film-loving kid grows up watches a series of thoroughly-enjoyable-yet-not-mind-blowing movies from their era that may not make all the “classics” lists, but age okay and hold onto that “that was solidly entertaining” air.

Some of this premise comes from watching many a film that my dad enjoyed growing up. And of course he treated us to the unequivocal classics of cinema both foreign and domestic, but he also made time to expose us to some other lesser known ones that, when he was our age, thought was a darn fine film.

Last month, I got to rewatch one of those films of my generation. I’m sure I’m not the only one who enjoyed The Last Starfighter when we first saw it in theaters, even if it wasn’t going to edge out the Star Wars trilogy or Star Trek II in our sci-fi ardor (note to younger folks: yes, there was only one Star Wars trilogy at the time).

Rewatching it reminded me both of the fun performances by veteran actors Robert Preston and Dan O’Herlihy, Lance Guest diving into two roles as our hero and Beta, and –waitaminute, blink and you’ll miss Gul Dukat! Plus, there’s an overall fun sense of adventure with the film… and they clearly wanted a sequel.

Do we get to see multiple Gunstars in action this time?

So imagine my surprise that, not a few days after I watched it, there’s word that they’re working on doing a sequel. Not a reboot, but a follow-up.

While I’m sad we won’t have Centauri (at least his original human face), I’m up for it So go ahead Hollywood Recyclotron: give us some video game infused nostalgia.

“Every [film] has to come to an end, sometime.”

I think L. Frank Baum (the source of the amended quotation above) would understand. Like books, songs, and many other an enjoyable thing: all things come to an end.

Thanks to one of my siblings, I have a glorious poster of assorted iconic film endings hanging in my house.

The sharp-eyed among you will note the cunningly-placed “author watermark.”

Who doesn’t love a really solid ending to a film? Whether it’s funny, poignant, thought-provoking, or applause-inducing, a satisfying ending is what so often makes a good movie great.

So I had to give Vulture’s recent roundup of “The 101 Greatest Endings in Movies History.”

Do I agree with them all? No more than many of you probably agree with my 50 Favorite Films. But just as I take that exercise seriously (well, as seriously as one should), the team over at Vulture has clearly put a lot of thought into the piece — and their love of film from all over the globe and from all decades is on display.

It should go without saying that this list is chock full of spoilers. At least 101 of them and possibly more depending on your familiarity of the films on this list. And here’s the thing: there will be films on this list that you have not seen. I have seen literally over 10,000 films in my lifetime and there are films on this list that I have never checked out. Odds are you’re in the same boat.

If that’s the case, heed the words of Roy Scheider: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Go forth and enjoy some films with great endings.

Friday Movie Night: Cult Edition

What with my biennial Favorite Films sort, I have a soft spot for many an internet film list, especially when it’s clearly crafted with passion (as opposed to, say, the need to fill electronic print space on deadline).

So I was totally down with this list from the gang over at The Ringer detailing the top 50 cult films of all time.

Still from the wonderfully quirky UHF (Orion Pictures/Cinematographer: David Lewis)

Now, I would venture that the appear of cult films is often why they are not broadly popular: said films by definition have an unusual perspective. If they were foods, you’d take a bite and wonder what the heck you just tasted. And for some of these films, it’s a flavor profile and mouthfeel you just don’t like.

So don’t expect to love all the films in this list. I certainly don’t. But if this gives you something new to check out this weekend, well, that counts as a win.

Video

On-Screen Death: Championship Round

As some friends and fellow filmmakers know, I have offered to be the DC-area Sean Bean –the National Capital Area “kirareyaku,” so to speak– is he really the man (or woman) we’ve see die the most on screen?

Find out the answer in this video where film spoilers abound:

My 50 Favorite Films, 2020 Edition

It’s an even year, although the nicest thing you can say about 2020 is that it was odd. But, in any case, even years mean it’s time for my Favorite Films sort, something I have done offline for about 30 years and have done online for the past eight years. You can see my previous entries here (including how I do the sort by pairwise comparison).

You’ll have to read on to determine if The Godfather was deemed better or worse.

This year, the total of films sorted was a little over 400. Two years ago, it was around 570, but I was able to do a deeper culling as I added cards for the newly watched films for this year.

Just as with two years ago, there was some major shakeup in the top 10, along with 15 additions to the top 50 that were either new or sorted lower on a previous year. Some of the results are shocking. Why, Die Hard isn’t even my favorite Christmas film any more!

What?!? How does Smeerensburg replace Nakatomi Plaza?

Hush, you. One Christmas movie delivered because it clearly had correct postage.

Anyway, here are the ground rules:

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) The Hunt for Red October
49) Tangled
48) A Few Good Men
47) Casino Royale
46) The Court Jester
45) Koyaanisqatsi
44) Inception
43) Gattaca
42) Black Panther
41) Arrival
40) Hamilton
39) Big Fish
38) Ghostbusters
37) Das Boot
36) Amelie
35) The Godfather
34) Midnight Run
33) Minority Report
32) Never Cry Wolf
31) Breaker Morant
30) Rob Roy
29) The Godfather, Part II
28) The Count of Monte Cristo
27) North by Northwest
26) The Namesake
25) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
24) Schindler’s List
23) Citizen Kane
22) 2010
21) Children of Men
20) The Princess Bride
19) Singin’ in the Rain
18) Galaxy Quest
17) Once Upon a Time in the West
16) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
15) Guardians of the Galaxy
14) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
13) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
12) The Little Prince
11) Spotlight
10) Black Hawk Down
9) Field of Dreams
8) The Empire Strikes Back
7) Casablanca
6) The Lives of Others
5) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
4) Ran   
3) The Shawshank Redemption
2) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
1) Raiders of the Lost Ark   

And, as before, here are some…

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total Comedies: 7
  • Total Dramas: 30
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 27
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 23
  • Total Westerns: 1
  • Total War Movies: 13
  • Total Musicals: 4
  • Total Animated Films: 3
  • Total films with Liam Neeson: 2
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1992
  • Decade with the most favorites: 2000s (13 films), followed closely by the 1980s (12 films)
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Sense & Sensibility (1995)

All right, here’s some other thoughts…

What a lot of war

Okay, I guess it’s not the majority of films, but 13 is “nontrivial.” You pair that with all the dramas, and it does seem heavier. I’ve also noted that, in general, though I inhale TV shows these days — thanks to the omnipresent streaming services — really none of them are sitcoms. Evidently I get my comedy in the ‘quippiness’ inherent to many an action-adventure (the majority of the films in the 50).

Perhaps I should revisit a few more comedies for next time.

No Trek and Star Wars goes Rogue

In perhaps a strange turn of events, considering my epic Star Trek TV sorting earlier this year (whose sorting methodology I adapted from here) no Star Trek film is in the top 50.

Trek films 2, 4, 6, and 8 are all in the sort and “Wrath of Khan” has been in the Favorite 50 frequently. I guess the familiar is no longer the favorite.

Similarly, The Empire Strikes Back, perhaps always in my favorite list, has retired to a lower place behind young upstart Rogue One.

As with other longstanding films on the list, I guess the personal resonance only goes so far and I’m ready for new things, which may explain why…

Hamilton did have the votes

Because I maintained a strict personal blackout on the play, I didn’t know most of the details or any of the music about Hamilton (musicals not being my thing anyway, despite working on dozens of them in a former life). And then it came to Disney+ and blew us all away.

But Hamilton was a damn fine musical and if “concert films” like The Last Waltz and Woodstock are eligible for the sort (which they are), then Hamilton certainly was. And I watched it several more times after my wife and my initial watch just to be sure. I wasn’t going to throw away its shot.

Besides Hamilton and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being brand new entries to the sort that also got in the top 50, I also noticed the average age of the top 50 went from ‘1986’ in the 2018 sort to ‘1992’ now. I suspect that average will continue to rise in 2022.

As with the comedies, should I delve into the deeper trove of classic films? Maybe.

No Christmas in the Favorite 50

There’s always a few films that are undoubtedly favorites that, nevertheless, fail to break the top 50 — and that seems frequently the case with both spy-fi and holiday films.

While a Bond film actually broke into the top 50 this year (Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale), Die Hard, which supplanted the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street as my favorite Christmas film, was itself supplanted.

The interloper, Klaus, narrowly missed out by coming in at #54, so perhaps it’ll get in next time, as The Little Prince did this time. Die Hard is still in the overall 100 at #80. You really should check out Klaus though. It’s delightful.


So there you have it. Another sort in an altogether too long two year interval, this year being at least 14 years long. Here’s hoping there’s more joy in 2022, and if I’ve inspired anyone to check out some films, my job here is done.

Double Dose of Trailers of Fall Sci-Fi

Fresh off of “Star Trek Day,” there’s a new trailer for season three of Star Trek: Discovery.

Plus, some of us have been waiting for the Dune trailer longer than the Bene Gesserit have been planning for the Kwisatz Haderach.

We must not fear.

Video

Chris Hadfield finds your lack of Hard Sci-Fi Disturbing

I’ve really enjoyed Chris Hadfield letting us know about the realities of space exploration, from his space-based cover of Bowie to his book to his counsel on dealing with the pandemic.

So, I was happy to check out what his thoughts were on some of my favorite “hard sci-fi” films were and– oh, it’s like comparing notes with my dad, the physicist and history buff…

The Chess Game has Ended: R.I.P. Max von Sydow

A towering presence in cinema –literal and figurative– had died. Max von Sydow, an actor we’ve seen on screens since the 1950s, has died at the age of 90.

You can read (and listen) to accounts in the BBC, Variety, and NPR among many others.

What struck many of us moviegoers was the wide range of parts he would play… and could play with such quiet conviction. Here is a man who played the Son of God as well as the Eternal Adversary. But whether as tormentor or tormented, he would bring a bit of gravitas to whatever work he was in, even if the work was more than a little cartoony (I’m looking at you, Ming).

You never ask why Max von Sydow is in a film, but you may ask, “How much?”

His unequivocally prolific body of work means that audiences will find him in dozens of films for decades to come — and personally, that has always been a delight. Especially for some of his later work, where he moved from leading man to supporting character, his presence wasn’t always announced, so I adored his appearance in Intacto and wished for a few more scenes of him in Star Wars, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

It’s hard to wrap your head around him being gone.

As some have noted, he’s been a presence in our cinema lives for so long, it’s hard to imagine him not popping up again in this TV show or that movie, whether to be chilling or entertaining, but always affecting.

It’s been one amazing chess game, sir. Well played.

Get Ready for the Magical Space Wizard Finale!

(Well, at least for this particular 9-part saga).

It’s not a far, far away premise that more than a few offices are down a worker or three starting their holiday vacation early to catch a matinee of Episode IX… or sleeping in since they caught a midnight showing.

Roughly 42 years ago, the original Star Wars was probably the first film I saw in the theater. My dad talked to a co-worker about why it had the PG rating and was told about the relatively innocuous sci-fi action and violence… but there was this scene with two burnt bodies (aka the “Luke learns he can’t go home” scene). So, conscientious father that he was, he decided to go and see it first.

I believe we all saw it the next day.

I won’t be able to race out and see the film today, but I absolutely will see it before year’s end — and hopefully before too many spoilers filter through. If this means for you, like me, you need to be a bit more cautious venturing online in the interim, let the trailer below give you something to whet your Star Wars appetite in the meantime.