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Best Westerns IV: Seraphim Falls

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Pierce Brosnan in a western? Are you kidding? In Seraphim Falls, he's nothing like his charming Remington Steele or 007 personae. In fact, he's believable as a craggy former army captain on the run from a man determined to catch him at all costs. Liam Neeson plays his tormentor, and Angelica Huston makes an enigmatic cameo appearance, and why not? Her grandfather made a great cameo in another great western, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Seraphim Falls is a sort of "To build a Fire" meets "Mantracker," and that's just the beginning of the movie. Add the pacing of "Dead Man" and the humor of Leone, and that's the essence of this story of the folly of revenge.

Armageddin' outta here

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Okay I know, I know---this is a cheesy title but it was just too much fun to resist. So lets take a look at end of the world movies and see if they can give us ideas on how fast we need to run, how long we have to tread water, what SPF sunscreen we need to use---or any other hints on how to survive when IT (whatever IT is) happens. Maniaical birds, the sun behaving badly, alien intervention, plagues, ecological disaster, war, using the planet as a giant garbage dump- just a few of the scenarios these movies address.

The Birds from Hitchcock---end of the world you ask? Well yes, actually. Without giving away any more than the title already does, these birds are quietly scary. Watch for the scene with the crows at the playground--- it is amazing.

Knowing---I can run hot and cold on Nic Cage, but this is one of his better. See Mels earlier post Nicolas Cage Reconsidered for more Nic. Watch this movie then ask yourself- if it were you, would you rather know or not?

12 Monkeys---also a repeat recommendation---from the Space-Time Continuum post. Only at the time of that post, we didn't yet have it at CPL. Now it is on order and I am delighted---I love this movie. Bruce Willis is very good and this is my favorite Brad Pitt role---one for which he got a nod from Oscar, but not a win (Kevin Spacey took it that year for the Usual Suspects). I think it should have gone to Brad.

The Day the Earth Stood Still--- the original from 1961. Although we also have the 2008 remake with Keanu Reeves, the Michael Renee is far superior.

2012- the complete and utter destruction of absolutely everything! Impressive, if not always believable F/X.

Sunshine---from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slum-Dog Millionaire). This should appeal to real hard core science fiction fans. And brainiacs- the film's science adviser was a particle physicist from CERN (Conseil Europeen Pour le Recherche Nucleaire [European Laboratory for Particle Physics]). He probably knows what he's talking about. I liked it a lot, even if I didn't understand all the science!

Of course there is always Schwarzengger's Terminator series (we have all 4---I only like 1 & 2), Gibson's Mad Max (dystopia populated by humanganoids), and Will Smith in I am Legend (very good).

And just to lighten things up a whole lot, try Wall-E from Disney. And invite the kids to join you- and also for the original Day the Earth Stood Still, but none of the others.

Great Escapes

by Melanie Kolbeins - 0 Comment(s)

Of course you can not do any such list without having the quintessential Great Escape from 1963. It is the incredible true story of the mass escape of 76 Allied POWs from Stalag Luft III in March of 1944. This has a huge all-star cast, featuring many of the heavy hitters of the day--- Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn (incidentially McQueen, Bronson and Coburn appeared together in the Magnificent Seven, one of my favorite westerns). This movie appears fairly regularly on television (actually they both do), but if you missed it, or just want to revisit it, now is the time. It is a great story.

Rescue Dawn from 2006. This film tells the real-life story of U.S. fighter pilot Dieter Dengler, a German-American shot down and captured in Laos during the Vietnam War. He was the only known POW to escape from a Laos prison. It features Christian Bale (Batman Begins) as Dengler. Bale looks rail thin here, but not as bad as in The Machinist, a role for which he lost an astonishing 63 pounds. Bale, an actor known for fully embracing his characters (as witnessed by what he regularly puts his body through) does in fact, eat those maggots.

Papillon from 1973 again with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman as inmates of the notorious Devil's Island in French Guiana circa 1930's. This movie was incredibly popular at the time of its release, and being a period piece actually stands up well. Ocassionally a little campy, it still tells a remarkable tale of hardship, endurance and ultimate triumph.

The Killing Fields--- Covering the U.S. pullout from Vietnam in 1975, this is the story of two men---a New York Times correspondent and his Cambodian friend and translator Dith Pran. The reporter coerces his friend to remain behind in order to keep filing news reports. As Saigon falls the correspondent is released, but Pran is captured by the dreaded Khmer Rouge. The rest of the film details Pran's harrowing experiences at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and his attempt to escape. This is an excellent movie but has very graphic scenes of violence.

These first four are all movies based on real life events. For some good fictional 'triumph over adversity' stories, try Cast Away with Tom Hanks from 2000---the plane crash is amazing, as is the self dentistry!

Or how about the popular television series Prison Break from 2005.

Want to get your head bent? Try any or all of the 17 near psychedelic episodes of The Prisoner from 1967. Not into the 60's groove? How about Alexander Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo--- we have two versions---French with Gerard Depardieu and the quite stylish 2003 with Guy Pearce and Jim Caviezel---who is currently starring on tv in a remake of----The Prisoner.