Pantheon (4.5 to 5 star)

Or alternatively, any movie that makes me glad that I am alive to enjoy it


This movie should have been here from the moment I saw it, but for some reason that I couldn’t express at the time, I left it off the list completely. I have now seen this movie over 5 times and for the first 4 viewings, it still teetered on the edge between being my all-time favorite and moving down completely in rank to the Nearly Perfect.

The reason is that there are two drifter characters in it that bothered me the first couple of times, and I think it was just their performances rather than the material that did it. I can now say that I have accepted them in some way and it no longer detracts from an otherwise very special movie. The movie hits so many emotional buttons for me, more with each viewing. The last time I watched it, the last 40 minutes was through the blur of tears. There is also a scene, that for any musician who appreciates the visual and audio synergy, will absolutely blow you away.


Isn’t it obvious? I can’t golf without one to twenty phrases popping up throughout the round. not many movies permeate their subject the way our culture has absorbed this movie. And why not? It is funny, entertaining and has a lot of life truths in it. I can’t say enough about this, so I’ll stop before I rant like a lunatic.





Aliens: Director’s Cut

OK, OK… I know what you are thinking, but before you judge me, I will say that the original Aliens cut is great, but doesn’t belong in the Pantheon, but the Director’s cut does. The reason is simple. I hated the Newt character and thought that is was a cheap attempt to throw urgency into the picture, but after seeing the Director’s cut, my view on Newt has changed. You get to see what happened to her and what the Colony looked like before the Aliens attacked.

Did you also know that Ripley and Hicks had a blossoming romance? Well, they cut it out. Why? I’ll never know. Is 18 minutes really all that long? Some of the scenes are altered significantly. For instance in the scene where the group is looking at the blueprints, it appears that Ripley is the brainchild behind everything, but in fact it is a nice collaboration between she and Hicks which culminates with “Outstanding, now all we need is a deck of cards.” That line is wasted on the original but so poignant on the Directors cut. Also lost because of this was an amazingly tense scene where these robot guns fire at the aliens. I won’t give it away because you have to see it.

The Princess Bride

A true work of art. Some unrivaled performances here. For instance, Carey Elwes has only parodied himself since this movie. Mandy Patinkin is memorable, Andre the Giant is perfectly cast and Chris Sarandon & Christopher Guest are wonderful. I can’t leave the house without Chrissi saying, “Bye boys, have fun storming the castle.” and it just never gets old. Perhaps my favorite part of this movie is when Fezzini and Wesley are having the battle of wits with the Iocane poison. Its almost like a Bugs Bunny scene in its cartoon-ish nature. One of the most solid movies from start to finish.



Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

When I first saw this in the theater, I didn’t fully appreciate how well this story would hold up as part of the trilogy. I was actually mad, mainly because I knew it was going to be about 6 years before they wrapped up the story. I have since altered my opinion and believe that it is truly a masterpiece and by far the best of the four movies out, to date. Not many films dare enough to give you quite the cliffhanger like this one does. Its bold, and as tidy as Star Wars turned out, this one is just as unraveled. Rumor has it that Episode II is going to be a lot like this one. Perhaps it will find a place in the Pantheon.



Raiders of the Lost Ark

This is the high-water mark and kind of storytelling that I have grown to expect from Stephen Spielberg. This movie has perfection in plot, action, special effects (for the time they were truly amazing) and great comedic timing to keep the story light. I’ll use the metaphor of skipping a stone successfully from one shore of a lake to another. The story hits the water and then bounces off and takes you where you need to go. I for one cannot skip stones for beans (even though my sidearm technique looks good) so I consider this one of the highest compliments that I can pay to a movie.



Rear Window

I wish I had seen this one in the theater and just missed the opportunity to go view it. Oh, I will see it on the big screen. I will. Hitchcock, Stewart and Kelly are craftsmen. I think the thing that really got me personally about this movie was that Chrissi and I were living in an apartment in Brookline that reminded me a lot of the setting of the film, right down to the heatwave and steaminess of that setting and how the place feels during that weather. When you go to bed, you can still hear sounds coming up and down the street. It kind of makes you feel like you are eavesdropping even when you are trying to get some peace and quiet. This movie captured the atmosphere perfectly and is a great suspenseful flick.



Monty Python and The Holy Grail

I don’t think that I ever get tired of this movie and I never stop quoting “I’m not quite dead.” The scene where the two sentries at the castle are arguing with each other about the air speed velocity of a swallow, which seems extraneous at the time, only to be pulled back out at the Bridge of Death is classic. My only problem the first time I watched this was that I didn’t see the subplot of the investigators following the clues, so the arrest scene really got my goat, the first time. But now I find that to be one of he funniest endings of any movie.



The Matrix

Its not often that a sci-fi action thriller makes you think about it for hours after (aside from some obvious ones). I must have spent days thinking about this one and ultimately had to go back for a second and third helping. It also became my first DVD owned movie. Hugo Weaving’s is really my favorite character in the entire movie, though it is only because of the range that his acting has shown (from his Priscilla character to this one, wow). Keanu Reeves is probably the weakest part of this movie, though I still enjoy most of his performance, and he really took the action scenes to task. The story is just gripping, I don’t know how else to describe it. Oddly enough after watching this movie for the 80th time, I am bothered by one special effect only. It it the first scene when Moss’ character makes the giant leap through the window. As cool as it is, I can see the overlay on the matte, so it removes invisibility of the special effect and that is all I see in that stunt. Not a large enough drawback to remove this from the pantheon.

The Crow

What can I say? It was a brilliant performance from Brandon Lee, and amazing story, weighs heavily on the “moody” scale, which for me gives a movie a focus and purpose (contrasted with Spawn which was an even moodier story in the comic, but a kid’s story in the theater). Everything in this movie is perfect, right down to the music (many songs were written specifically for the story, which I prefer over finding pre-written songs, though this is a double edged sword. For instance, some of the songs on The Lost Boys soundtrack really stink because they are too narrowly scoped for the movie, but when it is done well (Boogie Nights, Pulp Fiction, you can really tell). Is my love of this movie only because of the tragedy and apparent mystic qualities that people attribute to him? If so, then I would also appreciate Showdown in Little Tokyo, but I don’t. You can see a progression in his acting talent (as well as his choice of projects), from Showdown, through Rapid Fire and finally The Crow. Would this movie have made him a star? Absolutely. One of my favorites.


I saw this movie in the summer of 1985 as a second feature in a Cape Cod drive-in theater. The Fly was the big movie and this one was the one that everybody just hung around for after. I remember in between the movies, we were playing Frisbee and even as the movie started, nobody had any intention of settling back in and watching it. After about a minute of the initial sword fight, the entire parking lot was silent and everybody jostled back for the best position to watch the movie. It captivated everybody who was in the lot. I will never forget that moment. I know that this movie got mixed reviews, but it just can’t be beat.



Fight Club

OK, I know that anyone who has yet to see this movie will scratch their head and say, “Have you lost your marbles?” I would say that too if I just went by the advertisements. They didn’t do the movie any justice. This movie is one of the most intelligent, sarcastically humorous (my humor to a tee), “in your face”, and clever movies that I have ever seen. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt have such chemistry together. Anyone who thinks that Pitt is just a pretty boy, should look at this movie (or 12 Monkeys or True Romance) to see that he has a lot of talent and does those little things that take years for actors to learn in order to give his characters depth. You may not like the fighting scenes, but bear in mind that if you decide not to watch this movie because you think that it is a movie about fighting, you will miss 90% of what the film is trying to convey. The movie is about changing your view on life, and although the main character has some radical changes, it really is clever in how it mocks how most people live. “We are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”

Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2

Whether volume 1 or 2 is better to me feels like trying to figure out which section of an orange you like the best. For me each has its very own texture, but they really work together and yet stand on their own, when bringing the story to completion. A quick warning, volume 1 is about as gory as a movie can get. I found it amazing to see as the movie progresses how a samurai sword moves from the brutal weapon, due to the clean cuts, to an elegant and noble one. Its difficult to portray inanimate objects as well as the actors, and this movie really did both well. There is not one moment that I don’t like in this movie, even though I am uneasy the entire time watching it.

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