Thursday, July 26, 2012

Jofo @ The Movies: My Top Ten Favorite Movies


The people that know me very well know that when it comes to the movies I can be incredibly critical, I don't like wasting both money from my pocket, or time from my life to watch something that I find unenjoyable. And as a result I constantly hear statements like "but Joshua, don't you like ANYTHING"; OF COURSE there are several movies that I like, in fact it would take me an incredibly long time to list off all the movies I like. So to put an end to this belief in me not liking anything, this is my top ten favorite movies.

The only rule on this list is that every one of these films were released theatrically. There are several direct-to-video films I love (most particularly the DC animated films) but for now I'm just going to cover theatrical releases. But first here's a list of honorable mentions.

I love the music, I love the animation, but most of all I love what Disney intended to do with this film; provide "family friendly" entertainment that adults could also appreciate, while exposing children to great classical music. Its because of this film that I love classical music. However it misses making the top ten for a certain scene traumatizing me as a child...and if you've seen the movie you know which one I'm talking about.

This is one I can't really explain my love for given my innate cynicism. The acting is a bit campy from both Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie, but most of the puppet characters are all so endearing, the plot is good, and the soundtrack is especially memorable. All-in-all a great memory from my childhood

Amazing soundtrack, powerfully moving, and wonderfully acted. The reason it doesn't make the list is because its part of a trend I like to call "Oscar Gold" in which the entire movie exists for the purpose of winning an Oscar. But its still a very good movie and one that can actually make me cry.....which is very hard to do.

This movie is a love-letter to geek culture and I FRIGGIN LOVE IT! While the script isn't particularly strong Edgar Wright's wonderful direction makes this movie into a hilarious but awesome thrill-ride that should have gotten WAAYYYYY more attention than it did while in theaters.

Ever since I was ten years old, Harry Potter was a big part of my childhood as I loved the books and loved the movies. The reason why Harry Potter doesn't make the list is because I can't choose a favorite from the series, my favorite book was the Goblet of Fire, but I can't really choose a favorite movie. There are definitely weaker entries in the franchise, but this series was perhaps one of the most consistently good sagas in film history...maybe even more so than Star Wars (TROLOLOLOLOL) which makes it very hard to choose one particular movie.

And now without further delay, let us dive into my top ten personal favorite movies.


Horror today has devolved into little more than bloodbath films and even torture porn, with the popularity of films such as Saw and Hostel its clear to see that the genre's focus has been shifted from tension, and suspense to in-your-face jump scares and gorey deaths. With some exceptions like the recent Cabin in the Woods this pretty much sums up most of the genre today. But this film is the exact opposite, this movie while incredibly scary is... dare I say...FAMILY FRIENDLY!!! Okay not really, but its pretty clean for a horror film. Produced and written by Stephen Spielberg and made at the same time as E.T its clear that while E.T was Spielberg's dream of suburbia this was his nightmare.

Poltergeist was my introduction to horror as a kid, and aside from being scared witless by several of the film's iconic scenes I loved it. Underneath the mask of a haunted house flick Poltergeist is a film with a very strong root in the importance of family and love, this movie shows that a truly loving parent is willing to venture into the bowls of Hell itself to protect his/her children from being harmed.

Taking place in suburban California the average Freeling family is noticing some weird things happening in their house. Furniture is moving in improbable ways, glasses are breaking randomly, and their five year old daughter Carol-Anne is talking to the television late at night as if someone is communicating with her through the static. While initially disturbing, but harmless these unseen visitors take a turn for the malevolent when they attack the children late one night and abduct Carol Anne through a hole in her closet. Desperate to retrieve their daughter Diane and Steven Freeling hire a team of paranormal investigators to assist them as they try to discover where their daughter has been whisked away to before she joins her ghostly captors forever.

The acting in this movie is great, especially from the late Heather O'Rourke who played the part of Carol Anne Freeling; while to some she can come off as a little cutesy but I'd argue thats exactly how she is supposed to act; according to the film's mythos she is supposed to be like an angel and to be fair she acts just a like any five year old girl would. JoBeth Williams also turns in an awesome performance as the mother character Diana Freeling who is perhaps one of the greatest female horror heroes of all time; she boldly charges into any situation and will face any threat to protect her two children from the supernatural threat stalking them (Eat your heart out Ripley!). And whether you like her or not Zelda Rubenstein appears for her most memorable role in her career and does a pretty good job as the medium.

The effects are great for the time as well and hold up decently today without coming off as campy. But the absolute best part of this movie is it's soundtrack. Jerry Goldsmith's score is nothing short of incredible, in fact half the movie's tension comes from the score. By combining sweet, ethereal melodies with the threatening booms of the approaching beast Goldsmith creates an unforgettably frightening atmosphere, but also a sense of childish innocence and wonder.

While its sequels never matched it in greatness Poltergeist remains to this day one of the most iconic horror movies of all time and it greatly pains me to hear of a potential remake. While this movie did scare me a lot as a child, I look upon it fondly as my introduction to the horror genre and as an example of how a horror movie can be great without any grisly deaths.


Ah Steve Martin.....WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU!!?? A former titan of comedy; Steve Martin is responsible for many enduring comedic quotes and quips that are still told to this day, in fact he was the "creator" of the "air quotes". Nowadays he's been in some pretty shoddy films such as Cheaper By the Dozen and (god forbid) Bringing Down the House. But in the late 70s to early 90s, nearly every film he was in was absolute comic GOLD! From masterpieces such as The Jerk and the remake of Father of the Bride Steve Martin could do no wrong, but my personal favorite is Steve Martin's modern day adaptation of Edmond Rostund's classic play Cyrano de Bergerac.

We meet C.D Bales; chief of the local fire department who is gifted in every way possible, except for his abnormally large nose which he is violently sensitive about. Through the wiles of hilarious fate he meets the beautiful astronomer Roxanne whom he almost immediately falls for. However he has competition when Roxanne falls for the new fireman in town Chris who contrary to C.D is all muscles and no brains. Unable to express his feelings to her he decides to assist Chris in wooing her by writing her poetry and expressing himself through Chris. In addition to this complicated love situation C.D. must also deal with his hilariously incompetant volunteer fire team before they end up burning the town down.

Steve Martin proves here that he is more than capable of dramatic acting and seemlessly incorparates his jokes and comedy without skipping a beat. My favorite scene in undoubtably the one in which C.D counters a heckler's joke about his nose with twenty much better nose jokes, not only because its taken directly from the play, but because in his own way Steve Martin channels Cyrano's refined but stinging wit. Everyone else does a really good job as well; the volunteer firemen are hilarious and very looney tunes-ish, Daryll Hannah is convincing in both beauty and intelligence as Roxanne, and Rick Rossovich is decent as the dumb pretty boy Chris.

Its exactly what a good comedy should be, perfectly balanced in intelluctual and physical humour with good acting and memorable characters. As a man who has given up on Comedy being a legitmate genre of film these day I pine for these types of comedies, and I certainly miss Steve Martin being cast in good movies and who knows, maybe someone will take a cue from films like Roxanne and bring back both intelligence and good acting in the film-making thus revitalizing the genre.

All you need to hear is those haunting two notes... and the terror immediately sinks in. This is the grandfather of the summer blockbuster and is also single handedly responsible for keeping many people off the beaches and out of the ocean to this day. Jaws is perhaps one of the most iconic films of all time with its many quotable lines, incredibly tense atmosphere, and of course, that musical score from John Williams. While most popular horror movies at the time used the supernatural to frighten the audience, this one used a more realistic threat, which made it all the more scarier.

I didn't see this movie until I was about ten years old and even then it worked its phobia inducing magic on me. I was terrified to even go close to ocean water out of fear that the shark would be coming for me with its grating doom music. That is the sign of a good horror movie if it can continue to haunt you even when the movie has ended.

Taking place in Amity Island somewhere in New England the town is being terrorized by an aggressive great white shark that immediately devours anything and anyone who enters its territory thus putting the town's tourism income in danger. After its first victim is found, the chief of police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) unsuccessfully tries to convince the Amity Island mayor to shut down the beaches for fear of the shark killing more people. His suspicions are confirmed though when a young boy is eaten as well and he enlists the help of marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and professional shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to track down and kill the shark before it claims anymore lives.

This movie while incredibly thrilling has one thing that you wouldn't expect from most modern thrillers, and that is subtlety. The shark doesn't just burst out of the water in a crude jump-scare attempt, it stays hidden, off-camera and we see things from its point of view, we see it studying its prey, and then slowing advancing on it as it's theme builds and intensifies. In fact we don't even physically see the shark in full until near the very end in the final showdown and yet we still find ourselves terrified of it. While some can attribute this to the fact that the shark kept breaking down, it forced Spielberg to be creative in showing the shark attacks, opting for a more Hitchcock approach. This is something that thrillers and horror films today still do not get, not all scary scenes have to be jump scares. The acting in this movie is great of course, but Robert Shaw of course is the one you'll remember most as the half insane shark hunter Quint, the scene in which he recounts his experience in WWII is perhaps one of the most haunting monologues you will ever see in a film.

While the shark's few onscreen moments are a little hokey, its hard to deny the enduring nature of the terror from this film. Its not hard to see why Jaws is considered one of the greatest films of all time


For lack of a better word; this movie is BEAUTIFUL! While some may chastise me for loving what many consider to be a "girly film" what I see is an amazing adaptation of the Grimm brother's classic fairy tale. with its breathtakingly detailed animation, gorgeous score adapted from Tchaikovsky's ballet, and of course one of the most menacing animated villains of all time.

This movie alongside Fantasia is one that I attribute to me developing a love of classical music at an early age. As a child I was entranced by this movie's ethereal beauty to the point that even being a young boy I wouldn't deny my love it despite it not being a "boy" thing.

We all know the classic fairy tale. A princess is born, her parents invite everyone in the kingdom to her christening except for an evil fairy, said evil fairy curses the princess to die on her 16th birthday upon touching a spindle, a good fairy weakens the curse to just eternal sleep,16 years later the curse comes to fruition and the princess sleeps until a prince kisses her and breaks the spell (not so much kissing her as raping her in the original Grimms fairy tale,thus causing her to wake up with two children).

In this adaptation we mostly see things from the three good fairies point of view. Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip's roles are rather minor as compared to that of the three good fairies and Maleficent. In fact this has been a point of contingency for many people who fail to understand that this was the point of the film. Aurora   and Phillip are rather boring and uninteresting because they are not the main focus, its about the fairies' efforts to protect and save Aurora from the horrible fate that she has been cursed with.

This film provides probably one of the most satisfying artistic experiences one can obtain from an animated movie. The hand painted backgrounds are lush, gorgeous, and incredibly detailed, and the excellent music practically serves as a storyteller itself. The voice acting and singing is top notch with stars like former opera legend Mary Costa as the speaking and singing voice of Aurora, and of course the powerful booming voice of Eleanor Audley as the sorceress Maleficent. And finally the animation is fluid and very realistic, mostly because it was inspired by live action footage of the actors actually playing the characters on a set, which is a level of dedication and study practically lost in animation today. And lastly the climax of this movie is friggin amazing! The music, sound effects, and acting all make for an awesome final 15 minutes with the Prince's flight to the castle while dodging Maleficent's spells is nothing short of epic.

Is it a deep compelling story? Of course not, but it is indeed a prime example of the high quality art that Disney was capable of back when Walt was still alive. I definitely miss this style of animation and was very glad to see it briefly return with The Princess and The Frog a few years ago. Although with the popularity of  Tangled (which was very good by the way) it is highly unlikely that Disney will try this style again in upcoming years.


Yes another Disney movie. Unlike Sleeping Beauty though this movie had amazing animation AND an amazingly deep story. Based on Victor Hugo's original novel of the same name The Hunchback of Notre Dame is still seen as a rather unusual choice for Disney to adapt due to the incredibly dark nature of the book and its themes of lust, religion, and even racism. And this adaptation made good on these themes since even to this day it is considered one of the darkest films Disney has produced.

I remember going to see this movie when I was six years old and while I loved the songs, the underdog story and the animation I really didn't understand some of the deeper adult themes of the movie like why Frollo hated the gypsies, or why he wanted Esmerelda despite the fact that he hated her people. And after watching it with a more adult mind it made me love it even more as it was an animated film that is for adults as much as it is for children.

The story revolves around the deformed, but talented and kind bell-ringer of Notre Dame Quasimodo whom was adopted by the deeply religious and bigoted judge Claude Frollo after he murdered Quasimodo's mother on the steps of Notre Dame believing the bundle she was carrying to be stolen goods rather than a baby. Raised in isolation Quasimodo dreams of nothing more than being among the other Parisians, but is rather reluctant to do so due to Frollo's teaching of the cruelty of the world and its people. We also see the plight of the young Gypsy dancer Esmerelda whose people suffer at the hands of Frollo's bigoted campaign against her people and also has the misfortune of being lusted after by Frollo as well.

This movie like the many that came before it features simply amazing animation and artistry. Notre Dame looks incredible, the crowds look realistically massive, and each of our main characters are expertly animated. And the soundtrack can only be described as Alan Menken's best work, teaming with Stephen Schwartz this time due to the untimely death of Howard Ashman the two put together a soundtrack worthy of such a powerful movie, as well as creating perhaps one of the greatest villain songs ever (Hellfire).

While it does have some flaws (most notably the Gargoyle characters) its definitely my favorite Disney animated film, and of course one of my favorite movies of all time.


While earlier on in the list I said that I appreciated an under-relience on gore in horror movies, I have no qualm with it if it is used "effectively" like in this horror/whodunnit film.  While psychologically tense and forboding, this film manages to accomplish the one thing that many films from the time (including Jaws) failed, have its monster be incredibly scary both off-screen AND on-screen.

Our main character is known only as MacReady (Kurt Russell), a helicopter pilot for the American Research outpost in Antartica who is caught up in a series of horrifying events when a Norwegian pilot chases an Alaskan malamute dog into the American base and is killed after accidently wounding one of the scientists. Deciding to check in with the Norwegians, MacReady and Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) arrive at their basecamp to find the entire place destroyed, everyone dead, and a massive crater in the ice with a horribly disfigured inhuman corpse. And things then take a turn for the worst back at the American base when the dog is revealed to actually be a monster that can consume any organic being, and then imitate its appearance.

The best way to describe this movie is H.G. Wells meets Agatha Christie, with its sci-fi alien monster that has the power to become anyone it eats, attempting to consume everyone on base and escape into actual civilization. Given the nature of the creature's abilities every single one of these characters is a suspect in this very high stakes mystery of who is really the Thing and who truly remains to kill it before it succeeds in escaping. Because of this the level of paranoia is INTENSE in both the characters, and audience as the Thing could manifest its monstrous true form from any character, at any moment.

While the characters are not exactly well-developed and we learn little about them other than their last names, they are all somewhat likeable and we the audience genuinely want to see them come out of this ordeal okay. The acting is very believable as in any good mystery/whodunnit story because we see the levels of fear and distrust each of the characters have towards one other knowing that anyone of them could be the monster. And the music really solidifies the tense nature, once again proving just how much terror two notes can inspire.

While it was not well-recieved when it came out, it is definitely worth checking out for any Sci-fi, horror, or even mystery fan.



Oh yes, this actually got a theatrical release...right next to Batman Forever which means that it flew completely under the wire, and WOW did most people really go see the wrong Batman movie that year. Made and written from the same team as Batman: The Animated Series it has everything that made the Animated series great, and MORE!

Theres a new shadowy vigilante in town known only as the Phantasm, and he's cleaning up Gotham as brutally killing each of Gotham's major crime lords, and since he is a cloaked figure of mysterious origins, he is naturally mistaken for Batman whom everyone now believes has gone overboard in his crime-fighting efforts. And in addition to struggling with this issue Bruce now finds himself rekindling his relationship with an old flame named Andrea Beaumont, and is now finding that he now wants to retire the cape and cowl for a chance at a normal, happy life with Andrea.

For those who never read the comics, this is one of the few times that we see Bruce actually pining for normalacy, in addition to getting a clear picture of what happened, before Bruce took up the mantle as Batman. It takes full advantage of its PG rating and feature length to develope the characters even further than what they did in the Animated Series.

As we all know the cast of Batman The Animated series were the best incarnations of the characters in film history, and this movie has the two powerhouses who to this day are still voicing the characters. Kevin Conroy's portrayal of Batman is PERFECT, he handles the voice transition from everyman Bruce Wayne to the intimidating Batman perfectly without sounding the least bit silly (unlike certain recent live-action actors). And Mark Hamill's Joker...need I say ANYTHING about this performance, say what you want about Jack Nicholson or even Heath Ledger, this guy NAILS IT PERFECTLY! Even to this day whenever I read Joker's dialogue in the comics its this voice that I hear.

The animation is perfect, the music is perfect, the cast is BEYOND perfect, in short, its the best theatrically released Batman film...PERIOD!


Is it possible to even dislike this movie?! Everything about it is just so perfect! Its a good family flick, it has great songs, an engaging plot, BEAUTIFUL cinematography, and great acting. This movie is so iconic, and so beloved by the world that even if you have never seen this movie, you probably still know several songs and quotes from it just from being slightly involved in pop culture.

For the two of you who don't know, the story follows Maria (Julie Andrews) a sister in a small Austrian convent whose lust for life makes her stand out amongst her sisters as a kind of odd-ball. Deciding its for the best, the reverand mother sends Maria to be a governess to the widowed Captain Von Trapp's (Christopher Plummer) seven children. But even there her free-spirited personality clashes with the strict, harsh nature of the Captain as she attempts to bring life back into the dull existance of the household.

Being the first non-animated musical that I ever saw as a child, I simply fell in love with it as a child, and to this day my opinion of it has not dwindled even the slightest. In fact I can say that my love of this movie has only increased with time as I am old enough to recogonize and appreciate things like cinematography and acting now. From that first sweeping opening shot of the mountains of Austria I am immediately drawn into the beauty of this movie, and cannot take my eyes off it until the credits roll.

The music in this movie is FANTASTIC! As I said before, even if you've never seen this movie, you know its songs. With songs like A Few of My Favorite Things, The Sound of Music, and the always classic Do Re Mi it truly is hard to pick the most iconic song in its score. The cinematography is also amazing, with its sweeping shots of the Austrian landscape, and beautiful sets, there is plenty to satisfy the audience visually. Julie Andrews delivers an amazing performance as always (and its a crying shame that she lost her singing voice), Christopher Plummer turns in an amazing performance as well despite not really singing, and the children are surprisingly good as well.

Basically its a timeless classic that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age!


This is movie is without a doubt, probably one of the most revolutionary films from its time, as well as a delicious blend of a Film Noir style plot and wacky, saturday morning cartoon fun! Although not really for young kids this movie is still to this day one of the best live-action films that incorporates animated characters and backgrounds. In short...its a combination of two mediums that I simply ADORE!

Its the Forties and apparantly both humans and cartoon characters (known as Toons) coexist and work together in the film industry. Eddie Valiant is a private eye with a particular dislike for Toons due to a tragedy in which a Toon murdered his brother, he accepts a job to spy on the wife of famed cartoon star Roger Rabbit, and discovers her playing patty-cake with the well-beloved owner of Toon-Town Marvin Acme. Upon hearing this, Roger flies through the window in a rage as Eddie goes home to drink himself to sleep. After waking the next day it seems that Marvin Acme is dead at the hands of a Toon, immediately drawing the blame to Roger. However something is screwy in LA and its up to Eddie to prove Roger's innocence and save him from a grisly fate at the hands of Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd).

Although the plot is relatively predictable, it still has several genuinely interesting characters, such as Eddie, Judge Doom and even Roger's mysterious wife Jessica (AKA the most beautiful piece of animation ever drawn). The banter between Eddie and Roger is hilarious, as are all of Eddie's interaction with the various Toons, including a few familiar faces like Daffy Duck, Droopy Dog, and there is even one scene in which we finally see Bugs Bunny, and Mickey Mouse on-screen together...that is instantly mind blowing and squee-worthy.

The animation is flawlessly integrated into the live-action world with little to no awkward moments. These animated characters simply feel as real as their human counterparts, and their interaction is still something to behold. This movie was so ahead of its time that it barely even feels dated, yes I know that animation and live-action were able to be integrated long before this movie, but never before and never has it been done as well as in this movie.

I highly recommend the movie to anyone who loves and appreciates all aspects of film and cinema, including animation. This is my absolute favorite movie and it is highly unlikely that anything will ever be replacing it.

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