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Friday, February 28, 2014

The Airplane Movie Lists

Dan Here:
Time for another round of Best Of Lists.

In theaters nationwide today, is NON-STOP. An action thriller, it stars the great Liam Neeson, who is probably the second biggest action star on the planet after, yup, The Rock. Neeson plays an air marshal trying to protect the passengers from harm. However, this doesn't seem to be a traditional hijacking, we've got an unknown killer on-board and it all may be an elaborate frame-up job against our seemingly friendly air marshal. 

Definitely looks intriguing enough to rate among the best airplane movies of all-time. 
Check out Chris's positive review of NON-STOP here and also enjoy...

The Airplane Movie Lists

Dan's List

5. Airplane!

It came out in 1980 and defined the decade of goofball comedies to come. If there is a better spoof film than AIRPLANE! I still haven't seen it. The power combination of Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen and Robert Stack all playing against type is impossible to beat.

4. Air Force One

Harrison Ford can be my POTUS any day! He could have jumped in the escape pod, but instead he picks up a machine gun and starts wasting everyone in sight. This is what happens when you mess with a guy and his DVR'd (well at this point in time, VHS-taped) football game.

3. Con Air

When it comes to 90s action movies, this is one of the all-time greats. Over-the-top doesn't even begin to cover the characters and sequences that take place in this film. Every time the movie reaches a semi-logical end point they throw on another action extravaganza. Cameron Poe is one of Nic Cage's finest absurdly named characters

2. United 93

Probably the most gut-wrenching film I've ever seen. I could only watch it once and had nightmares for weeks after. It's a film that pushes the limits of cinema in both form and content and if you don't mind being emotionally wiped out it's an absolute must-watch.

1. Top Gun

I can't count how may times I've seen it, but I will tell you this: I still tear up every time I see that green water around Goose. I had to put TOP GUN atop this list as well as number one on a list of "All-Time Best Guy-Movies". It's the first film of The Streak, brought the term Wingman into the cultural lexicon and it launched Tom Cruise into the superstar stratosphere from which he will never come down. Cue the Berlin!

Honorable Mention:
Executive Decision- Seagal is dead within the first act. A risky choice, but it worked well.
Passenger 57- Snipes doin' work and definitely this first time I ever heard of an air marshal.
Memphis Belle- A who's who of late 80s and early 90s "that guy" guys. 
Amazing Stories "The Mission"- So what if it's not technically movie? This episode of the Steven Spielberg created and produced TV series, was shown on TV constantly and I've always loved it. It's got Kevin Costner, Kiefer Sutherland and it well worth tracking down on the interwebs.

Chris's List 

#5 - Independence Day and Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

I start with these two films because, while though the bulk of the action does not take place in a plane, the scenes that do are certainly among the most intrinsic to the story and some of my favorites in their respective movies.

In ID4, first we have Will Smith and Harry Connick Jr.’s Marine Corp. pilots in F/A-18 Hornets fighter jets battling aliens. Later, Smith teams with a new partner in Jeff Goldblum aboard the alien spacecraft to deliver the virus (UFOs count as planes, right?). Then finally, we get the all out attack on the big ship with crazy Randy Quaid and President Bill Pullman. Good stuff. 

Then in Dr. Strangelove, we get Slim Pickens and a young James Earl Jones in the B-52 Stratofortress bomber plane high above Russia preparing to drop “the big one.”

#4 - The Right Stuff

How can we make a list about planes without including this nostalgic ‘80s gem about the men who pushed aviation to its very limits in the early days? Based on the novel by Tom Wolfe, the film tracks famed military test pilots like Chuck Yeager, Gus Grissom, Alan Shepard, and John Glenn from the quest to break the sound barrier to outer space exploration.

#3 - Con Air

So great in all its ridiculousness. When a plane filled with bad guys like Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom, Diamond Dog, Johnny 23, Pinball, and The Marietta Mangler take over their transport plane, how could it not be? But Nicolas Cage’s “southern” accent still makes me cringe. 

#2 - Top Gun 

Maverick, Goose, and Iceman.
“Highway to the Danger Zone,” “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” and “Take My Breath Away.”
Leather jackets, aviator sunglasses, and motorcycles.
Young Meg Ryan, shirtless beach volleyball, and Anthony Edwards’ mustache.
Enough said. 

 #1 - The Aviator and Hell’s Angels  

Sure Scorsese’s film is biopic about the famed Howard Hughes, but as you can tell from the title, it focuses a whole lot on the eccentric billionaire’s fascination with airplanes of all shapes and sizes. Everything from his work on the 1930 film Hell’s Angels, to his purchase of Trans World Airlines, and ultimately, his work on the infamous "Spruce Goose." Lots of great plane scenes in the film, particular his daredevil shooting of Hell’s Angels, a huge Hollywood picture about WWI combat pilots. The film was an extremely impressive spectacle for the era - so I included it as well. 

Honorable Mention:
- Airplane!, of course
- Memphis Belle - A decent film, but as a kid, I saw the real Memphis Belle plane on display and it has always fascinated me, so the movie does too
- And while the movie as a whole is dreadful, the bombing scene from Pearl Harbor is actually pretty spectacular
- Though I have heard great things, I have never seen United 93 - and I don't think I ever will. Someone gave me a DVD of it years ago, but I couldn't bring myself to watch it. It just sat on my shelf haunting me until I gave it away.

Those are the lists!
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chris's Review: ‘Non-Stop’ is a solid, twisty action flick at 30,000 feet

In what has to be one of the most unlikely, but undeniably successful late career resurgences, Liam Neeson - the venerable, 61-year old Irish actor - is a bonafide, ass-kicking action superstar.

Initially gaining fame over two decades ago in mostly dramatic period pieces (Schindler’s List, Nell, Michael Collins), Neeson has defied expectations and re-invented the action movie genre for old guys with recent films like Taken (2008) and The Grey (2011). Neeson is able to pull this off because he makes it all believable (for the most part, at least).

His gravitas as an actor certainly helps, but the main thing is that he chooses these roles wisely - with a mixture of drama, action, and believability (the last of which can be a crucial element with action movies, especially with an older guy at the center). Take the similarly aged Bruce Willis for an example, is any really buying into or even enjoying the Die Hard series as he continues to age and the films grow more and more outrageous? With Neeson things are different - and as long as he keeps raking in the box office receipts, there will be more action movies featuring him.

Neeson’s latest is Non-Stop, in which he plays Bill Marks, an air marshal forced into action during a transatlantic flight. Once aboard, he receives a mysterious series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk every 20 minutes unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account. On top of that, the terrorist is framing him for the whole thing. Marks must simultaneously find the terrorist, save the passengers, and clear his name - all from 30,000 feet in the air.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chris's Review: 'RoboCop' is a rather lifeless, mostly forgettable remake that cant overcome its action movie programming

Remakes typically face an uphill battle, often intensified by the reverence still placed on the original. To say the least, it is a near impossible task to balance honoring the original, while also making something unique and its own entity. That is why so many remakes fail. (I will do my best not to labor on the fact that most remakes are unnecessary to begin with and almost always inferior products. No promises though).

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chris's Review Roundup (OCT - JAN)

When I am not posting articles here at North/South Film, I also cover film news and events in New Orleans for several different outlets, mainly After putting in my dues for a couple of years, I finally started getting invited to local press screenings and Hollywood studio-backed events.

Most of the movies I get to review are indie, foreign, and documentaries, but every now and then, I get to attend advanced screenings of the big-name films – and  I have posted those reviews on North/South (The Monuments Men, Lone Survivor, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, etc.).

But instead of double-posting all my reviews both here and there, I decided to do a monthly film review round-up with links to all my published reviews in one post. I have admittedly slacked off (and I know everyone has been waiting anxiously for some more of my reviews), so here is a new set, including a few Oscar nominated films worth checking out as well.

Lots of these movies are still in theaters or can be seen On Demand/DVD. So if you would like to read one, some, or all of them . . . check out the reviews after the jump (and thanks for reading!):

Friday, February 7, 2014

North/South Film Awards Part III

Time to talk about all the best (and worst) from movies in 2013.
We've divided our awards into three parts and have over thirty categories to cover.
Click To Read Part One
Click To Read Part Two

Now onto PART III, with the biggest categories for the best of the best. 
Winners In Bold

Best Supporting Actress

Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) - Best thing I've seen her do in years. She's still got it.
Scarlett Johansson (Her) - Never appeared on-screen, but stunning and smart nonetheless.
Eva Mendes (The Place Beyond The Pines) - Don't sleep on her abilities. Really diverse talents.
Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now) - Young, real and poised to breakout in a huge way.

Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) - A beautiful, heartbreaking performance.
June Squibb (Nebraska) - Another hilarious, scene-stealing role.
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) - A long overlooked actress that goes toe-to-toe with Blanchett.
Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color) - So tender and great in a movie hardly anyone saw.

Best Supporting Actor

Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners) - Subtle, dark and scary. Maybe his best performance to date.
Bradley Cooper (The Place Beyond The Pines) - His best performance of the year, by far.
Daniel Brühl  (Rush) - Funny, tragic and heroic. Powerful role that stood out in the film.
Jonah Hill (The Wolf Of Wall Street) - "Smoke crack with me bro" is an absolute classic.

Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) - Best evil/sad role since R. Fiennes in Schindler's List
James Franco (Spring Breakers) - Most scene-stealing performance of the year. Hilarious too.
Ben Foster (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) - One of the best/most consistent young actors.
(TIE) Daniel Brühl (Rush) - A surefire soon to be star.  
(TIE) Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street) - Who would have guessed this would ever happen? 

Best Actor

Joaquin Phoenix (Her) - You buy into the concept instantly due to his emotion.
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) - Newsflash: McConaughey is great in everything.
Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) - Flipping the switch from happy to disturbed is tough to do.
Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) - He still has a fastball that few can catch up to.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) - Much raw emotion in a brave, commanding performance.
Oscar Davis (Inside Llewyn Davis) - Overlooked because he is an unlikable character. So what?
Bruce Dern (Nebraska) - A humorously sad performance. 
Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) - The last 5 minutes is some of the best acting I've ever seen.

Best Actress

Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) - Even for her, this was impressive. 
Sandra Bullock (Gravity) - Don't let her performance get lost in the spectacle, truly great.
Cate Blanchett  (Blue Jasmine) - Anywhere you go, I'll follow you down . . .
Amy Adams (American Hustle) - Respected it much more the second time. Best in show.

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) - Best actress in the biz in her best role yet.
Sandra Bullock (Gravity) - Almost went with her for the win, certainly better than The Blind Side.
Brie Larson (Short Term 12) - Another great performance from a movie hardly anyone saw.
Jule Deply (Before Midnight) - More strong work in her third go-round with the character.

Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) - A masterpiece. Filmmaking at the highest level, done perfectly.
Spike Jonze (Her) - Original, moving and all too realistic. Will watch at least a dozen more times.
Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) - Great use of film structure to aid the story. 
John Wells (August: Osage County) - Taking a play to film is never easy and this was masterful.

Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) - No director blends visual art and filmmaking like him.
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) - A fantastically imaginative filmmaker with bold, game-changing vision.
Spike Jonze (Her) - A much more mature work from one of my favorite directors.
Joel & Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis) - Why was this so overlooked by the Oscars? Crazy.

Best Film

North's Top 5:
Gravity - Watch or read anything you can find on the making of this film. A real achievement.
Prisoners - It makes your skin crawl, but sometimes you want that from a film.
Star Trek Into Darkness - Two more hours with this awesome Enterprise crew was a lot of fun.
Ender's Game - I think this will have a big life on DVD. It's a must watch for all ages.
August: Osage County - Absolutely captivating from the word go. Sad lives made for great art.

South's Top 5:
12 Years a Slave - Maybe the best film I have seen in quite a while, yet never want to see again. 
Inside Llewyn Davis - Yet another example of why the Coen Bros. are my favorite directors. 
Short Term 12 - A beautiful and touching film. What true indie cinema is strives to be. 
The Place Beyond the Pines - A forgotten, but great film with such a grand scope. 
Her - A movie I like even more the more I think about it.

Best Film Of 2014 You Haven't Seen Yet

X-Men: Days Of Future Past - I loved X-Men: First Class and think it is the best film in the franchise. By all accounts, D.O.F.P. is going to be even more epic: time jumps, historical tie-ins, multiple versions of characters, 25 foot tall Sentinels and much more. 

Inherent Vice - This upcoming movie has got it all: great book from a literary giant (Thomas Pynchon), one of the best directors working today (Paul Thomas Anderson), and a phenomenal cast (check it out here).

Worst Film Of 2014 You Haven't Seen Yet

Hercules- The Rock, I mean Dwayne Johnson is The Scorpion King, I mean Hercules. And he's strong and I bet he fights some guys. I laugh every time I think about how much money he makes a year. Has to be the 2nd greatest wrestling to movies crossover. The first being No Holds Barred.

A near impossible category to predict, but Hercules will likely be pretty terrible, mainly because it is directed by Brett Ratner. But 300: Rise of an Empire looks even worse and pointless (and I hated the first one, so...)

I am also going to go on record as saying Guardians of the Galaxy already looks like a disappointment. Certainly not the worst movie of the year, but still not very good - especially given Marvel's track record.
(Dan's Note: Blasphemy! Guardians is going to be so dope. Can't wait!)

Best Film Since 2012

Silver Linings Playbook - Jennifer Lawrence earned the Academy Award.  I thought this film was powerful, poignant and really just got better as it went along. Full thoughts from myself and our hero, Roger Ebert can be read here.

I thought this year was a fantastic year for film (the best since 2007). Last year, I loved Silver Linings Playbook as well, and also Beasts of Southern Wild. But there were a few films film this year that were even better, namely 12 Years a Slave and Inside Llewlyn Davis.

Thank You For Reading Part III
Click To Read Part One
Click To Read Part Two

Follow Us On Twitter For Daily Movie News and Links: @NorthSouthFilm

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chris's Review: ‘Monuments Men’ - A fascinating story packaged in a disappointingly average movie

The Monuments Men, the new film from director-star George Clooney, was originally slated to open in December – right in the thick of award season. And it is easy to see why that release date was chosen, namely the high filmmaker and cast pedigree, plus the Oscar-friendly plotline.

But as things often do in Hollywood, the release date was abruptly pushed back to a less crowded early February. Everyone involved claimed the reason for the shift was because Clooney needed more time to tinker with the film. Now you can believe that (which is a certainly plausible situation) or you can be more skeptical and think that maybe the movie just was not up to snuff for the big award season push. Well after seeing the film, it would be easy to say either reason (if not both) could be the culprit.  

That is not too say it is bad, but rather, it is just not good as you want it to be or that it should be. The Monuments Men is a fascinating story disappointingly packaged in a mostly average movie. It is still a good time – sure. And with a cast and story like that, how could it not be at least on some level?