The 2016 Sammy Awards – Part 3

SammyAwardeagleBefore we get to the exciting conclusion of the 2016 Sammy Awards it must be noted that less than 24 hours after “journalist” Megyn Kelly was nominated & shared a victory for the DB Cooper Award it was announced that she is leaving Fox News and heading to NBC next summer. I’m not quite sure that qualifies as disappearing, but it’s not the promotion many might think it is. As always, if you haven’t caught up with Part 1 or Part 2 of the show please do so now. Trust me…you’ll be glad you did.

 

Alright, after a brief yet amusing anecdote from our host Steve Harvey, it is a sincere pleasure for The Sammys to welcome, sharveyvia satellite, the next First Lady of the United States. Please give a warm welcome to Melania Trump, who would like to say a few words.

 

melania2“Four score and seven years ago our fathers had a dream. An awesome dream. People in the park playing games in the dark. It was Saturday in the park. I think it was the Fourth of July. And today, my friends, I also have a dream. I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged only by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day we will live in a nation where people ask not what the country can do for you, but instead ask what you can do for your country. I have a dream that one day we will take not just one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind. Until that day comes, with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender. And when the end is near and we face the final curtain, we will be able to say that we did it our way. To be or not to be…that is the question. Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.”

 

 

crystal3Thank you Mrs. Trump. That was…interesting. And now, to present our next award, please welcome two of the biggest movie stars in the world. justin-timberlake-7592Well okay…we did contact some of the biggest movie stars in the world, but they all politely declined our invitation. So instead, please welcome two former hosts of this show…beloved actor & comedian Billy Crystal and talented singer & actor Justin Timberlake!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Favorite Movie

 

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Dedicated fans of the 2002 original will undoubtedly appreciate the sequel. I feel the same about both…charming, entertaining, yet ultimately prosaic. Watch out for young Elena Kampouris…she’s got star potential.

 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Andy Samberg takes his Sandler-esque sense of humor and applies it to a modern day Spinal Tap type of mockumentary. The story follows faux rapper Conner Friel’s rise as part of a boy band thru his evolution to solo artist Conner 4Real. He’s a big star after his debut album, but when a follow-up flops h-a-r-d his life hilariously implodes. There are a ton of cameos from folks like Simon Cowell, Emma Stone, Adam Levine, & Weird Al Yankovic, as well as supporting parts for a bunch of Samberg’s old SNL cronies. Appearances by Seal, Michael Bolton, & Martin Sheen are particularly amusing. The “songs” performed are predictably bad, and to be honest a bit too…colorful…for my taste, but I assume the target demographic will find them hysterically funny in the way that youngsters back in the day appreciated Spinal Tap classics like Sex Farm and Hell Hole. If you enjoy Samberg’s shtick and aren’t easily offended this is the movie for you.

 

Now You See Me 2

The 2013 original was a surprise hit. This sequel doesn’t quite measure up. Outlaw magicians The Four Horsemen return from exile to take down an evil tech guru, but the script is flipped on them as they are goaded into helping an allegedly deceased billionaire steal…something. I don’t know. The plot is too busy and the performances by a superb cast are overly cheeky. It’s entertaining until you pause for five seconds to ponder the implausibilities, and then the whole thing crumbles like a wet paper towel. I rather enjoyed the first film, and I hope the inevitable Part 3 is more crisply written & executed. As for this entry…let’s just be polite and call it acceptably entertaining.

 

Central Intelligence

I have stated repeatedly over the years that I don’t get the love for allegedly funny comedian Kevin Hart, but somehow I always seem to end up watching his movies, which have generally been…tolerable…fun. This is no exception. Hart stars as a former high school big man on campus that…two decades later…has settled into a humdrum middle class existence. The Rock plays the fat kid from high school that was bullied by all the jocks, with the exception of Hart, who befriended him. Nowadays Rock is a buff CIA agent. The juxtaposition is comical. At any rate, there’s something about secret codes, a rogue agent, an allegedly dead partner, etc. The details aren’t important. Our two leading men get caught up in the chaos and there is gunfire & explosions, the occasional lame joke, and a vague attempt at suspense. It’s the kind of film where the actors are engaging but someone should find the screenwriters and give them a stern scolding.

 

For the Love of Spock

Documentaries haven’t typically been nominated for these awards, but the older I get the more I enjoy a good documentary. This one concurrently explores the life of actor Leonard Nimoy and to a greater extent the history & influence of the beloved character he portrayed in the original Star Trek TV show and multiple feature films. It is directed by Nimoy’s son and features a plethora of interviews with Trek cast members old & new, family members, friends, & fans. It is sort of a love letter from a son to his father, but needs to be seen by anyone who considers themselves a Trekkie.

 

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Adam West & Burt Ward, who starred in the infamously campy Batman TV show in the 60’s, return to voice The Caped Crusader & The Boy Wonder in this animated throwback. The Dynamic Duo are faced with a team of their old enemies…Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, & Penguin…who are after some kind of duplicating device that will help them rule the world…or something to that effect. Batman & Robin even follow the baddies to outer space, and somehow Catwoman slips Batman something that makes him start acting way out of character, like a real jerk. He insults Aunt Harriet, fires Alfred, kicks Robin out of Wayne Manor, & takes over as police commissioner as well as mayor. Robin talks Catwoman into giving our favorite superhero the antidote and all’s well that ends well. If you’re a fan of the old television show you’ll enjoy this harmlessly fun movie. If you’ve never seen the show you probably wouldn’t understand.

 

The Secret Life of Pets

You’ve probably seen Toy Story. This is like that, only with animals instead of toys. That isn’t necessarily deleterious, just derivative. Entertaining, but unremarkable.

 

Star Trek: Beyond

This is the third adventure featuring the “new” crew of the Enterprise but the first without JJ Abrams at the helm…and it makes a difference. The new director’s previous work consists mainly of films in the Fast & Furious franchise, which may be viewed as a positive by some…but I’m guessing not many. The story has the Enterprise being attacked by what looks like a crapload of space knives then crash landing, scattering the crew on a hostile planet where the movie’s villain is after some kind of trinket that turns out to be a bio-weapon. Beyond is the cinematic equivalent of nachos & cheese…it tastes good in the moment, but five minutes after you’ve consumed it you have forgotten it and a couple of hours later you’re hungry again. I’ll probably “get it” more after repeat viewings, but the problem is that I really don’t feel a yearning to watch it again. Thus far this new Trek movie series has been better than the TNG films but not nearly as memorable as the six films starring the original crew. My expectations are always high with Trek, and while Beyond could certainly be worse it also could’ve been way better.

 

Batman: The Killing Joke

2016 was a big year for The Caped Crusader and this may be the surprising best of what was offered. Based on a superb & highly regarded 1988 graphic novel that concurrently examines the origin story of The Joker and his plan to drive Commissioner Gordon insane by kidnapping both he & his daughter Barbara, aka Batgirl, there are some…additions…made to the story that weren’t a part of the novel, and while it upset some critics & hardcore Batfans I am not overly offended. The theme that “one bad day” is all that separates almost any of us from a completely different life is a weighty idea to ponder. I vaguely recall actor Kevin Conroy on defunct soap opera Search for Tomorrow in the 1980’s, but in the ensuing years he has voiced Batman in a plethora of animated films & TV shows. Right alongside him is Mark Hamill, who, of course, is better known as Luke Skywalker, but should probably be equally as appreciated for voicing The Joker in all of the same animated shows & movies. Just because this film is animated does not mean that it is for kids, but Batman aficionados will likely enjoy it.

 

Bad Moms

We’ve had Bad Santa, Bad Teacher, & Bad Grandpa. Now we have Bad Moms. The word “bad” in the title basically gives the main characters license to drink, curse, fornicate, & engage in other debauchery. The cast here, led by Mila Kunis & Kristen Bell, is charming and makes it work somehow. I have no children, but I was a kid once and didn’t realize the school PTA (controlled with an iron fist in this movie by super witchy Christina Applegate) could be so…authoritative. I had a difficult time buying into that concept being even remotely plausible. However I do get the prevailing theme that mothers bear a ton of pressure & responsibility, which is probably why I see so many women in their 30’s & 40’s on my Facebook feed posting about wine, ladies’ night, & the need to “get their drink on” like they’re back at the ol’ college sorority house. Look for a particularly humorous cameo from the normally detestable Martha Stewart.

 

Sully

On January 15, 2009 Captain Sully Sullenberger piloted a successful water landing of a US Airways passenger jet into New York’s Hudson River. 155 people were on board and all survived with only minor injuries. Captain Sullenberger became one of those temporary celebrities that dominates the water cooler conversation for a week or two and then fades away into the haze of history. The incomparable Tom Hanks portrays Sullenberger in this biopic, which examines the events surrounding the incident and the NTSB investigation that followed. It’s a solid film…not all that memorable or groundbreaking, but a story that needed to be told. What is successfully conveyed is the professionalism & skillful conduct under pressure of all involved…pilots, flight attendants, first responders, air traffic control, Coast Guard, etc. Hanks has the gravitas to make almost anything he is in better by his mere presence.

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy may recall that Luke Skywalker destroyed The Death Star in the first film, Episode IV: A New Hope. Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the weapon’s blueprint and why it had a fatal flaw that would ultimately lead to its destruction. There are brief appearances by a few familiar faces, but the cast is mostly made up of new characters that we never met in the original films…with good reason. This is a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon, better than 2/3 of the sequel trilogy (I rather enjoyed Revenge of the Sith) and, in my humble opinion, superior to last year’s much anticipated The Force Awakens.

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman thinks Superman is an out-of-control God-like figure who must be stopped. Superman thinks Batman is an out-of-control vigilante who must be stopped. They battle it out in a brawl that lasts longer than Ronda Rousey’s last two fights put together, but hey, both of their mothers are named Martha so they become pals. Lex Luthor is around to stir the pot and act like a neurotic sociopath who really needs to lay off the caffeine. Wonder Woman is present for no apparent reason other than to set up a Justice League movie. All the other usual suspects are involved as well…Lois Lane, Alfred Pennyworth, Perry White. It’s quite the obnoxious spectacle thanks to director Zach Snyder, whose style just doesn’t frost my cupcake. Having said that, as a longtime Batman fan I am all in on Ben Affleck’s performance as The Caped Crusader. It is my understanding that Snyder will not have his fingerprints on a future film focusing solely on Affleck’s version of The Dark Knight, and for that I am thankful. I am not a comic book film guy…I’ve not seen any of the recent Marvel “Universe” movies…so I didn’t have unrealistic expectations going into this thing. Those that are really into that whole deal probably either love or hate Dawn of Justice. I am somewhere in the middle…I don’t dislike it at all, but I don’t foresee many repeat viewings in my future unless it’s to figure out what the heck I saw the first time.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

For the Love of Spock. I have become very difficult to please when it comes to movies. I continue to lean toward comedy, but those tend to be rather vulgar & spocksophomoric these days. Action films have seemingly become even louder & more cerebrally vacant than ever before. Hollywood caters to the lowest common denominator, serving up the cinematic equivalent of soda pop & potato chips…empty calories with no nutritional value. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, so occasionally they give us a gem. Trekkies NEED to watch this film. I actually became a bit misty toward the end, which was completely unexpected. Yes the target audience is comparatively small. And there’s really nothing groundbreaking about the stories told. But that’s okay. FtLoS knows what it is. It has a very specific focus. 7 out of 10 people may have zero interest in watching it, but the three people who do will absolutely love it. Trek has been a part of the pop culture landscape for a half century, and there’s a reason for that. Part of that reason can be found right here.

 

 

 

tomi-lahrenTo present our final award of the evening please welcome a rising star in the news business. At only 24 years old she has grabbed the attention of political observers on both sides of the aisle with her hard hitting commentaries presented thru viral videos. Please give a rousing ovation to Tomi Lahren!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Biggest News Story

 

U.S. Presidential Election

We began 2016 with a crowded field of candidates vying for the Republican nomination. Conversely, the Democratic nomination was never in question, as Hillary Clinton was always The Chosen One despite token yet spirited opposition from socialist Bernie Sanders. By the end of the summer it became clear that it would be Donald Trump vs. Mrs. Clinton, and voters of all persuasions began pondering if this is really the best America can do. Trump’s participation in the process, once thought to be an amusing distraction, evolved into a serious candidacy despite the man’s plethora of foibles. Both sides underestimated the anger & disenchantment of America’s Heartland with a decade of growing racial tension, fragile foreign policy, fading military power, decreasing moral fiber, & amplified political correctness. Trump hit all the right notes despite his penchant for sticking his foot in his mouth. His biggest weakness was also his biggest strength. Meanwhile, HRC was a terribly unappealing candidate to most everyone outside of radical left wing strongholds in urban metropolises like New York City, Los Angeles, & Chicago. His bull in a china shop bravado against her unethical behavior & vaguely creepy demeanor was a disturbing yet entertaining battle royal. In the aftermath of a Trump victory leftists in the media & Hollywood have been throwing an endless temper tantrum, which probably foreshadows a really interesting four years.

 

Aleppo

Aleppo is a city in Syria. As a matter of fact it is one of the oldest cities in the world and is inhabited by both Christians & Muslims. A civil war has be ongoing in Syria for several years, and the city itself has seen intense fighting. I won’t pretend to know all the facts of what has happened there or the foreign policy implications, but it has been a topic of conversation here in America.

 

Hurricane Matthew

The first Level 5 hurricane to hit the United States since 2007 began near the end of September and caused destruction & chaos in Haiti, The Bahamas, & Cuba before hitting the coasts of Florida & the Carolinas in the second week of October, causing power outages and significant flooding.

 

Scalia’s Death

The Supreme Court lost its most ardent conservative voice in February with the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia at the age of 79. Scalia had been a strong defender of The Constitution since his appointment to The Court three decades earlier. His loss is so significant that a replacement has yet to be vetted & confirmed, although I expect that to change in the next few months.

 

Zika Virus

Every year or two another killer virus pops up that no one seems to know how to obliterate. Zika isn’t exactly new, having been around since the 50’s. However, in 2016 the virus spread from Africa to Asia to North & South America. It seemed to especially be a problem in Brazil, causing significant concern since that is where the Summer Olympics were being held. To my knowledge the mass hysteria was overblown and no Olympic athletes or fans were infected.

 

Orlando Mass Shooting

On June 12, 2016 yet another Muslim sympathizer decided to go nuts, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others inside a gay nightclub in Florida. I’m not really sure what to think or say about the whole thing except that evil exists in the world and it is tragic when innocent lives are lost for no good reason.

 

Samsung Recall

Samsung’s Galaxy Note has been a successful product for several years. However, in 2016 they began randomly catching fire & exploding. Obviously the product was recalled. Seriously folks…just get an iPhone. You won’t regret it.

 

Brexit

In June voters in the United Kingdom (a united nation comprised of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, & Northern Ireland) decided to leave the European Union. I am not familiar enough with European politics to understand all the hows & whys, and I have no idea whether or not this is a positive occurrence. As an American I do understand the value of freedom & independence, and I cannot imagine ever merging with Canada & Mexico to form some kind of supernation.

 

Tennessee Wildfires

In November the Smoky Mountain region of the United States battled wildfires that did significant damage to the cities of Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, home of the Dollywood amusement park. 14k people were forced to evacuate. 16k acres were affected. 14 people died and 134 people were injured. These were the deadliest wildfires in the eastern U.S. in nearly 70 years.

 

WV Floods

The southern half of my home state was hit hard by floods back in June. Ten inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours, resulting in atleast 23 deaths and the loss of hundreds of homes in four counties. 44 of our 55 counties were declared disaster areas.

 

Dallas Police Shootings

In early July five police officers were killed and nine others injured in Dallas, TX following a Black Lives Matter rally. To be fair it is said that the event itself was a peaceful protest. The officers present were tasked with keeping the crowd safe, and it is absolutely sickening that they lost their lives to a racist scumbag when they did nothing wrong.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

The Election. Let’s face it…the 2016 election dominated the news. Nearly every other story was dwarfed by it, and the candidates were asked to weigh in on other election-dayprominent events, making them tangentially tied to just about everything that happened in 2016. Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump were on our TVs, computer screens, & newspapers constantly. There was no escape. Even in the aftermath of the election the battle has waged on thanks to a complicit left wing news media and mindless celebrities that won’t let it die. And now we move to the next phase, which is a Trump Presidency, whether one likes it or not. I am inclined to believe that it is not the end of civilization as we know it. Though I am sure President Trump will make decisions that I won’t agree with, I also think he will surprise many folks with some positive choices & favorable results. We’d probably all be better off just ignoring the “mainstream” press & inane ramblings from Hollywood, although I know that is difficult. Let’s just see what happens. I think everything will be okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016

golf icon Arnold Palmer…astronaut & former U.S. Senator John Glenn…writer/director/actor/producer Garry Marshall (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Pretty Woman)…legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt…boxing legend Cassius Clay…authors Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird), WP Kinsella (Shoeless Joe), Alvin Toffler (Future Shock), Tim LaHaye (Left Behind), Richard Adams (Watership Down), & Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini)…rock icons Glenn Frey, Prince, & David Bowie…Agnes Nixon (creator of soap operas All My Children, Loving, & One Life to Live)…former NFL head coach (Philadelphia Eagles) & defensive coordinator (Chicago Bears) Buddy Ryan…former First Lady Nancy Reagan…Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia…Pulitzer prize winning playwright Edward Albee…former MLB player & broadcaster Joe Garagiola…comedians Garry Shandling & Bob Elliot…sportscasters John Saunders & Craig Sager…actresses Carrie Fisher (the Star Wars series, The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally), Debbie Reynolds (Singin’ in the Rain), Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch), Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker), Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond, Remington Steele, Christmas Vacation), Gloria DeHaven, Ann Morgan Guilbert (Grumpier Old Men, The Nanny), Zsa Zsa Gabor, Margaret Whitton (Major League), & Ronnie Claire Edwards (The Waltons)…Ray Tomlinson (inventor of e-mail)…physician Henry Heimlich (inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver)…writer/producer Earl Hamner Jr. (The Waltons, Falcon Crest, The Twilight Zone)…retired pro wrestlers Hayabusa, Lord James Blears, Joanie Laurer (aka Chyna), Balls Mahoney, Lord Littlebrook, Frenchy Martin, Blackjack Mulligan, Mr. Fuji, & “Iron” Mike Sharpe…journalist Morley Safer (60 Minutes)…televangelist Jan Crouch (TBN)…former NFL players/coaches Ted Marchibroda & Marion Campbell…Richard Trentladge (jingle writer for Oscar Meyer)…actors Abe Vigoda (The Godfather, Barney Miller), Alan Rickman (Die Hard, the Harry Potter series), Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein), Alan Thicke (Growing Pains), Bernard Fox (Bewitched, The Andy Griffith Show, Titanic), Kevin Meaney (Uncle Buck TV show), Fyvush Finkel (Picket Fences), Pat Harrington Jr. (One Day at a Time), Alexis Arquette (The Wedding Singer), Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams), Richard Libertini (Fletch, Awakenings, Lethal Weapon 4), Burt Kwouk (the Pink Panther films), Alan Young (Mister Ed), Kenny Baker (R2-D2 in Star Wars), Steven Hill (Law & Order), George Gaynes (Punky Brewster, Police Academy, General Hospital), Ron Lester (Varsity Blues), William Christopher (Father Mulcahey on MASH), Jack Riley (The Bob Newhart Show), Ron Glass (Barney Miller), Tony Burton (Rocky), George Kennedy (The Dirty Dozen, The Naked Gun, Dallas), Barry Jenner, Anthony Addabbo (Guiding Light), Larry Drake (L.A. Law), Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), Ken Howard (The White Shadow), Bill Nunn (Spider-Man, Sister Act, Do the Right Thing), William Schallert (The Andy Griffith Show, The Patty Duke Show), James Noble (Benson), Hugh O’Brien (The Shootist, Wyatt Earp), Joseph Mascolo (Days of Our Lives), David Huddleston (The Big Lebowski, Santa Claus: The Movie), Robert Vaughn (The Man From UNCLE), George S. Irving (voice of Heat Miser in The Year Without a Santa Claus), & Larkin Malloy (Guiding Light, The Edge of Night, All My Children)…troubled former NFL RB Lawrence Phillips…”journalist” Gwen Ifill…baseball Hall-of-Famer Monte Irvin…soap opera producer Claire Labine (General Hospital)…songwriters/musicians Frank Sinatra Jr., Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Merle Haggard, Paul Kantner (Jefferson Starship), Bobby Vee, Matt Roberts (Three Doors Down), Holly Dunn, Steve Young (Seven Bridges Road), Pete Fountain, Jimmie Van Zant, Leon Russell, Jack Hammer (Great Balls of Fire), Christina Grimmie, Rikki Martin, Buckwheat Zydeco, & Maurice White (Earth, Wind, & Fire)…MMA fighter Kimbo Slice…former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno…voice actor Joe Alaskey (succeeded Mel Blanc in performing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, & Tweety)…retired MLB players Tony Phillips & Milt Pappas…Oscar winning director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys)…wine maker Peter Mondavi…Cuban dictator Fidel Castro…New Orleans Saints DE Will Smith & NY Jets RB Joe McKnight…Sir George Martin (record producer for The Beatles)…former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres…sports journalist & tennis commentator Bud Collins…Jim Kimsey (co-founder of AOL)…NASCAR team owner Carl Haas…Rob Ford (former crackhead Mayor of Toronto)…WV radio personalities “Cadillac” Jim Stallings & Lacy Neff…EWTN founder Mother Angelica…former Duke University AD Tom Butters…retired NBA players Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, Brooks Thompson, & Sean Rooks…former Governor & Senator from Ohio George Voinovich…hockey Hall-of-Famer Gordie Howe…former MLB pitcher Ralph Branca (pitcher who gave up The Shot Heard ‘Round the World)…TV host Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille… Jim Delligatti (creator of the Big Mac)…retired NFL coach Dennis Green…television psychic Miss Cleo…retired boxers Bobby Chacon & Aaron Pryor…conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly…former NFL players Cary Blanchard, Dennis Byrd, Keion Carpenter, Quentin Groves, Rashaan Salaam, & Fulton Walker…political host/commentator John McLaughlin…MLB pitcher Jose Fernandez (Miami Marlins)…former NBC Chairman & CEO Grant Tinker…former Congressman & WV Secretary of State Ken Hechler…retired BYU football coach Lavell Edwards…Jeopardy champion Cindy Stowell

 

 

 

2015

2015

college basketball player Lauren Hill…musician/songwriter Gary Richrath (REO Speedwagon)…actors Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek’s Mr. Spock), James Best (Dukes of Hazzard, The Andy Griffith Show), Christopher Lee (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Star Wars prequels), Robert Loggia (Scarface, Big), Al Molinaro (Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi), Wayne Rogers (MASH), Taylor Negron (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Punchline), Richard Dysart (L.A. Law), Windell Middlebrooks (Body of Proof, Miller High Life commercials), Martin Brooks (Dallas, The Six Million Dollar Man), Geoffrey Lewis (Every Which Way But Loose, Any Which Way You Can), Tony Longo, Patrick Macnee (The Avengers), Dean Jones (The Love Bug), David Canary (All My Children, Bonanza), Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia), Alex Rocco (The Godfather, Facts of Life), Marty Ingles, Nathaniel Marston (One Life to Live), Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough, Spaceballs), Roger Rees (Cheers, The West Wing)…legendary blues man BB King…Bobbi Kristina Brown (tragic daughter of Whitney Houston & Bobby Brown)…Oscar winning composer James Horner (Field of Dreams, Titanic, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Braveheart, Apollo 13, The Perfect Storm)…televangelist Rev. Robert Schuller…NFL Hall-of-Famers Chuck Bednarik, Frank Gifford, & Ken Stabler…Gary Dahl (inventor of the Pet Rock)…ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott…actresses Donna Douglas (Ellie Mae on The Beverly Hillbillies), Yvonne Craig (Batman, Star Trek), Maureen O’Hara (Miracle on 34th Street), Ellen Dow (The Wedding Singer), Grace Lee Whitney (Petty Officer Rand on Star Trek), Patricia Elliott (One Life to Live), Suzanne Crough (Tracy on The Partridge Family), Mary Ellen Trainor (Die Hard, the Lethal Weapon series), Ann Meara (Archie Bunker’s Place), Betsy Palmer (Friday the 13th), & Amanda Peterson (Can’t Buy Me Love, A Year in the Life)…Betty Willis (designer of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign)…former NBA coach Flip Saunders…horror writer & director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street)…infamous stripper Blaze Starr…former publisher & NY Mets owner Nelson Doubleday Jr….retired basketball players Moses Malone, “Hot Rod” Hundley, Roy Tarpley, Jerome Kersey, Meadowlark Lemon & Marques Haynes (Harlem Globetrotters), Darryl Dawkins, “Hot Rod” Williams, & Anthony Mason…Huntington, WV weatherman & TV personality Jule Huffman (aka Mr. Cartoon)…MLB Hall-of-Famers Yogi Berra & Ernie Banks…entrepreneur Lillian Vernon…former Governors Arch Moore Jr. (WV) & Mario Cuomo (NY)…retired NFL player & coach Allie Sherman…singers Andrae Crouch, Ben E. King (Stand By Me), Lesley Gore (It’s My Party), Little Jimmy Dickens, Jack Ely (Louie Louie as part of The Kingsmen), Percy Sledge (When A Man Loves A Woman), Jim Ed Brown, …Las Vegas entrepreneur Kirk Kerkorian…legendary college basketball coaches Jerry Tarkanian (UNLV), Guy Lewis (Houston), & Dean Smith (North Carolina)…authors Jackie Collins, E.L. Doctorow, & Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds)…pro wrestling legends Verne Gagne, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rogers, “The Nature Boy” Buddy Landell, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Nick Bockwinkel, & Larry Winters…journalist Bob Simon (60 Minutes)…Hall-of-Fame golfer Billy Casper…former U.S. Senator & actor Fred Thompson…screenwriter Melissa Matheson (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial)…Bud Paxson (founder of Home Shopping Network)…producers Jerry Weintraub (Ocean’s Eleven, Diner, The Karate Kid), Samuel Goldwyn Jr., & Harve Bennett (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan & four other Star Trek films, The MOD Squad, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman)…former MLB players Minnie Minoso, Dave Henderson, & Darryl Hamilton…TV announcer Gary Owens (Laugh-In, Space Ghost)…Ed Sabol (founder of NFL Films)…Gene Gene the Dancing Machine (The Gong Show)…former Speaker of the U.S. House Jim Wright…NASCAR announcer Steve Byrnes…Nobel Prize winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. (subject of A Beautiful Mind)…trailblazing golfer Calvin Peete…attorney & author (Helter Skelter) Vincent Bugliosi…former UNC basketball coach Bill Guthridge…retired NFL kicker Garo Yepremian…songstress Natalie Cole…former NASCAR driver & broadcaster Buddy Baker…retired NFL coach Lindy Infante (Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts)…former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger…rock musicians Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead) & Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots & Velvet Revolver)

 

 

100 Favorite Movies…..24 & 25

Sequels, though not uncommon throughout the history of film, really hit their stride in the 1970’s with the success of follow-ups to movies like The Godfather & Jaws and the insatiable urge to turn huge profits into even more money. These days it seems like a sequel is oftentimes inevitable, regardless of whether or not the quality of the original deems it obligatory. It is a hit or miss proposition, but Hollywood appears to be creatively bankrupt to the point that more often than not the powers-that-be prefer to squeeze a few more dollars out a known entity rather than roll the dice on a new idea. Anyway, there are three types of sequels. Sometimes only one additional movie is made to tie up any loose ends from the first, or maybe it is just that the second film bombs so badly that no sane person would green light a third. Examples would be 48 Hours and Another 48 Hours, Analyze This and Analyze That, Fletch and Fletch Lives, Grumpy/Grumpier Old Men, Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2, Weekend at Bernies 1 & 2, & American Graffiti and More American Graffiti. A much more common modus operandi is the trilogy, which is of course three films. Everyone knows about trilogies. Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Back to the Future 1,2,&3, The Santa Clause 1,2,&3, and The Austin Powers Trilogy (International Man of Mystery, The Spy Who Shagged Me, & Goldmember) are among the best in my humble opinion. And then there is the ultimate in avarice and indolence, the series, which I define as four or more films. At some point these usually become a complete joke, which in turn leads to even more movies in an effort to somehow right the ship and recover some semblance of dignity. The four Batman movies from the late 80’s early 90’s (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin) suffered from an ever changing lineup of directors and leading men. The original Die Hard and the third entry, Die Hard With A Vengeance, were excellent, while Die Hard 2 was subpar and Live Free or Die Hard (the fourth film) was fun but forgettable. The Harry Potter series has thus far been pretty decent, but the movies aren’t nearly as good as the books. The Halloween series should have never made it past Halloween II. Parts 3-6 were horrible, H20 and Resurrection too little too late. And of course Rocky and its sequel were legendarily awesome but someone somewhere actually thought the four films that followed were a good idea (they weren’t). I won’t even get into the absurdity of horror franchises like the eleven Friday the 13th films or the eight Nightmare on Elm Street flicks.

At any rate, I go into all that as an explanation regarding my process when looking at these types of films and how I choose to fit my favorites into this Top 100. In a perfect world I would treat each the same, applying a set of rules that applied to all. But I have found this to be very difficult. If there are two films, maybe I like one and not the other (Caddyshack is appropriately celebrated…Caddyshack 2 not so much). Maybe I like both (Father of the Bride 1&2). I tend to keep trilogies together, as they generally have a “big picture” that is hard to ignore, regardless of whether their individual parts may vary in quality (Star Wars, Back to the Future). But even this isn’t always the case (Oceans’ Eleven and 13 are great…Ocean’s Twelve isn’t). Series are almost the opposite of a trilogy in that, generally, one must look at each individual piece and it is next to impossible to like all the parts (Star Trek) to the point that they can be viewed as a whole…but sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (Lethal Weapon). I felt it necessary to clarify my thoughts on these matters because I am aware of the inconsistencies inherent in the choices I have made.

Since today’s intro is longer than usual, and in an effort to stay within the confines of the theme, we will only look at the next two entries instead of five, as they are what inspired me to write this detailed preface in the first place.

 

 

 


25 The Lethal Weapon Series

It is pure coincidence that I happen to be writing about Lethal Weapon right when Mel Gibson is going through his latest public embarrassment. I have learned to separate my personal opinions about the lives of Hollywood stars from my enjoyment of their work. This became necessary over the years, as I am a hardcore conservative and the vast majority of folks we see on our televisions and on the big screen are so out of touch with average America’s principles that if I let it interfere with my entertainment I’d never have any fun. So anyway…there are four films in the Lethal Weapon canon, released between 1987 and 1998. The concept is your typical odd couple story, with Danny Glover playing Murtaugh, a curmudgeonly family man on the verge of retirement from the police force, and Gibson playing his new partner Riggs, a younger, crazier cop who has LWnothing to lose after the tragic death of his wife. Throughout the series we see the relationship between the two men grow, from distrust and antagonism to being best friends and brothers-in-arms. Each film provides a different big case for the duo to solve with the requisite bad guy steering some sort of nefarious plot. I am typically not a big fan of guns, car chases, and explosions simply because there are too many movies with only those things and no plot or character development. Lethal Weapon is an exception. Not only do we cheer for Riggs & Murtaugh, but throughout the series we get to know Roger’s wife and three kids, some supporting characters at the police department, a reformed whistleblower turned private investigator played by the always enjoyable Joe Pesci (introduced in Lethal Weapon 2 and present in the two films after), and a lady cop played by the lovely Renee Russo who flirts with Riggs in Part 3 and is having his baby in Part 4. The details of each caper aren’t really important. I even get the details of the various plots mixed up sometimes, forgetting which event happened in which movie. But it’s all good. Lethal Weapon is the rare action flick that also allows us to get to know our heroes and their loved ones, which is what separates it from the pack. Admittedly the first film is the best (it is even…if one is willing to really stretch the definition…a Christmas movie) and there has been much debate as to whether the fourth was one too many, but I prefer to look at the series as a whole because even the declining quality of the last two does not mean they were bad. Fans have been clamoring for a fifth installment for several years, but both stars have said no. I think it is likely that the franchise will be rebooted at some point, either as a total remake or with younger actors playing new characters who have some sort of minimal interaction with Riggs & Murtaugh to justify using the Lethal Weapon name. If/when that day comes I suppose I will check it out, but I can’t imagine it getting any better than the original.


24  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I have to give a shout out to my friend The Owl for turning me into a Trekkie. I was somewhat familiar with Trek, but when we were in college he really made me appreciate how cool the concept was. This was right in the midst of the popularity of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the early 1990’s. I became a fan of that show first and then went back and got into the original series and the movies. I suppose that is sort of an odd, backward way of becoming a Trekkie, but that was my experience. There were six films made starring the original crew of The Enterprise we first met in the 1960’s television show (Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, Uhura, and Sulu). Three of those six appear in this list. The Wrath of Khan is almost unanimously the favorite amongst fans. 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture had k2 khanreunited the cast and fans were ecstatic after a ten year absence following the abrupt cancellation of the TV show. But let’s face it…The Motion Picture was not that great of a movie. The second installment rights the ship to say the least. From opening with the infamous no-win Kobayashi Maru test to the heartbreaking death of Spock, Wrath of Khan is a total immersion experience for Trekkies. In between those bookend events we get the antics of very pissed off supervillain Khan Noonien Singh who was cryogenically frozen in the 20th century, reanimated by Kirk and friends in an episode of the TV show, and banished to a desolate planet after he tried to stage a coup of the Enterprise. Khan and Kirk engage in a battle with distinct Moby Dick overtones when Khan tries to steal the technology for The Genesis Project, a terraforming device able to create new and inhabitable planets. Genesis is the brainchild of Kirk’s former lover and what turns out to be his heretofore unknown son. Wrath of Khan is not your typical action flick. There is a story, there are grand themes about vengeance and death, and there is some real depth and a range of emotions from the characters. There is even some humor provided by the always sardonic Dr. McCoy. Because The Motion Picture bombed the studio stepped in, removing Trek creator Gene Roddenberry from the helm of this movie and restricting the budget significantly. I am sure those were hotly debated controversies at the time, but no one can argue with the results.

And let me take this opportunity to say that I have seen the 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise and enjoyed it very much. Because of its newness it will not be making an appearance on this list, but I anticipate that it will likely make the cut in 5 or so years when I do this all again.

100 Favorite Movies…..41-45

At this point some patterns have started to develop. You will see my affections for certain types of films, certain actors, and particular film trilogies or series. I will do my best to not become repetitive in my comments, and apologize ahead of time if I do that anyway. In video stores they used to have a section of “If you liked this then check this out…”. I don’t really peruse video stores anymore. After all, with Netflix, DVR, Video On Demand, and Redbox who needs to pay Blockbuster $4/rental?? But if my dear readers have any suggestions based on the examples I write about here please don’t hesitate to let me know.


 

45 Sleepless In Seattle

I mentioned in a previous post that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan made three movies together. We’ve discussed You’ve Got Mail. Another was Joe Versus the Volcano, which is okay but not one of my favorites. The third Hanks/Ryan pairing is, in my opinion, the best and, with apologies to When Harry Met Sally (which we also looked at previously), the greatest romantic comedy of all time. Hanks plays a widower whose wife has just succumbed to cancer. That doesn’t seem like the basis for a romantic comedy, but we don’t get to see much of the sad stuff. What we see is Sam taking his young son and beginning a new life in Seattle. He eventually gets back into the dating scene, but his little boy isn’t satisfied with Dad’s taste in women, so he calls a nationwide radio talk show on Christmas Eve and tells the host his father needs a new wife. Sam is goaded into spilling his heart to an enraptured listening public who apparently have nothing better to do on Christmas Eve. Listening intently all the way on the other side of the country in Baltimore is Annie, played by Ryan. Annie is engaged to an allergy-ridden milquetoast that she doesn’t really love and easily becomes mesmerized…and a bit obsessed…by Sam’s story. She is among the thousands of women who send Sam letters, which he somewhat cynically yet logically dismisses. She even has a background check done on him and goes to Seattle only to chicken out when their eyes lock ever so briefly. In a nod to the 1957 Cary Grant classic An Affair to Remember, the little boy (posing as his father) writes Annie and asks her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. The little boy takes off for New York by himself unbeknownst to Dad, and Annie decides to throw caution to the wind and be there too. I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen the film (and if you haven’t shame on you), but suffice to say that the phrase “Shall we??” may be one of the best lines of dialogue ever. I need to point out that Rosie O’Donnell has a role as the perfunctory best friend, and I detest Rosie O’Donnell. That should tell you all you need to know – if I can get past Rosie’s unfortunate besmirching of this movie it must be pretty extraordinary.

 

44 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

We’ve established the fact…or atleast the commonly held opinion among Trekkies…that of the six films starring the original Enterprise crew the even-numbered ones are superior. This fourth installment is what I call “the one with the whales”. The crew travels back in time (and time travel is always cool) to 1980’s San Francisco to secure some humpback whales that will save Earth in the future. The details are too contrived to explain here, and they don’t really matter anyway. What matters is that the movie becomes a delightfully humorous fish-out-of water tale (pun unavoidable), with our heroes from the 23rd century trying to maneuver in the 20th. Spock and Kirk encounter an annoying punk rocker on a bus that refuses to turn down his music…Spock knocks him unconscious with the Vulcan nerve pinch. Spock doesn’t understand the concept of profanity but tries to fit it by using it…and fails miserably. Scotty tries to talk to a computer instead of using the keyboard. Kirk asks the crew to “remember where we parked” the Klingon Bird of Prey they’ve cloaked in an open field. Bones’ hilariously indignant take on “modern” medicine – “Dialysis?? What is this, the Dark Ages??”…” My God, man. Drilling holes in his head isn’t the answer!!”.  It’s a rather lighthearted Trek, and that’s okay. I suppose those that crave action, explosions, and battles to the death might not favor such a jocular story, and that is a perfectly understandable opinion. As for me, I feel it is a unique and memorable chapter in the Star Trek saga, and I will treasure it always.

 

43 Mrs. Doubtfire

I really like Robin Williams. I think he may be one of the two or three funniest men on the planet, and when he does dramatic roles he can be flat-out incredible. A few of his films are in this list and there are several more…Good Morning Vietnam, Aladdin, Good Will Hunting…that are more than fine but just not quite Top 100 worthy.  I do wonder about a lot of his choices in the 12 years since Good Will Hunting though. Patch Adams, Bicentennial Man, Death to Smoochy, Old Dogs…not a notable hit among them. But that’s a discussion for another time. Right now our topic of the moment is Mrs. Doubtfire, a very funny if a bit schmaltzy 1993 outing in which Williams dresses up as matronly old English nanny in order to spend time with his children, from whom his estranged wife is keeping him. Divorce and custody battles aren’t usually fodder for comedy, but somehow Mrs. Doubtfire pulls it off. The children are affable enough, and Sally Field is halfway sympathetic as a woman who has simply grown apart from her husband. But the heart & soul of the story is Williams in drag, a concept that is even funnier than it sounds. There is a scene near the end of the film where he is trying to have dinner in the same restaurant at the same time with his family as Mrs. Doubtfire and his boss as his normal male self. He almost pulls it off with impressive acumen, but unfortunately the boss is a drinker and he feels compelled to join in. Trying to lead a double life and keep up the ruse is difficult enough, but doing it while gooned on scotch proves to be too much. The hilarity that ensues before everything falls apart is more than enough to put a smile on one’s face though. The conclusion is a little sentimental, but I have to give the powers-that-be credit for not giving in to the temptation to go for the expected happy ending. This is one you can watch with the kids and not be embarrassed, and that is becoming something rare and valuable these days.

 

42 Rear Window

Jimmy Stewart is my very favorite actor of all time, and his range of roles was wide…everything from an affable lunatic that talks to an imaginary rabbit to a few turns as a tough cowboy and seemingly every nuance in between. He starred in four movies directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and I can’t think of an odder couple. I’m not a big Hitchcock guy. I generally prefer to laugh and lean heavily toward lighter fare, so his brand of suspense or thriller or however you want to classify his films just don’t usually pique my interest. But when Stewart is involved all the sudden I tend to take a look. 1954’s Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s tamer offerings and deals with voyeurism taking a rather minimalist approach. Stewart plays a photographer who is housebound by a broken leg in the midst of a scorching hot summer. With nothing better to do (television was around, but I guess he’s not interested), Jeff spends his time checking up on the neighbors in his courtyard apartment complex with the aid of his binoculars. He has a girlfriend (played by Grace Kelly) and a home health nurse, but he still spends a good bit of time bored and alone. He can’t help but form opinions about his neighbors as he clandestinely peeks into their lives, and he even gives them nicknames like Miss Lonelyhearts and Miss Torso. One neighbor in particular grabs his attention, a man named Thorwald (played by the future Perry Mason, Raymond Burr). Jeff becomes convinced that Thorwald has murdered his wife and tries to persuade the girlfriend, the nurse, and a police buddy. They are dismissive at first, but eventually the girlfriend starts to believe Jeff is right and even starts nosing around since he can’t. Thorwald catches on to the fact that he is being watched, and the climax is a confrontation between the two men. By today’s standards the action is rather docile, and even in the world of Hitchcock it is somewhat unremarkable. But that is exactly what I like about it. It isn’t fancy or complex and doesn’t need to be. A good steak doesn’t need any kind of accompaniment to cover up the taste…its flavor is good enough to speak for itself. Rear Window is a well written story with good actors that takes a simple but appealing concept and turns it into a jolly good piece of entertainment.

 

41 Jerry Maguire

Unfortunately we live in a world where technology tends to shine a bright light on things that are none of our business and that we didn’t want to know in the first place. This type of “open book” situation is especially true of celebrities. No longer are they just actors and actresses playing roles on television or in movies. We know way too much about their personal life…all about their romances and sexual exploits, religious views, political affiliations, and opinions on everything from the environment & abortion to who they want to win the Super Bowl or World Series. This has been a legitimate issue for me, as so many Hollywood-ites are leftist, Godless, soul sucking ne’er-do-wells. It’s bad enough that  most of the “entertainment” produced nowadays is poorly written, dumbed down, sexually perverted, needlessly violent tripe…it is really frustrating when something decent comes about but stars some liberal America hating Jesus basher. What I finally had to do was learn to separate the two. I had to get to the point where I could admit that I liked a certain performer even if I disagree with their lifestyle. And so you will see movies on this list from the likes of Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, John Travolta, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Alec Baldwin. One of these assclowns is Tom Cruise, the king of some wackjob “religion” called Scientology. As a child of the 80’s I was a witness to the rise of Tom Cruise to superstardom, and I enjoyed most of his early films*- such as Taps, The Outsiders, Losin’ It, Cocktail, and of course Rain Man, Top Gun, & All the Right Moves. The past 10 years have been rather subpar though. Minority Report, Collateral, War of the Worlds, all those Mission: Impossible flicks?? I don’t think so. But back in 1996 Cruise got it exactly, 100%, so very right in what is at this point his last great movie.  Jerry Maguire is a sports agent who has an epiphany about the rampant dishonesty and slimeyness inherent in his job. He writes a missive about these feelings and hands it out. He gets fired. Oops. With no other choice he ventures out on his own, but none of his clients follow him…except one. That lone client is Arizona Cardinals’ wide receiver Rod Tidwell (in an Oscar winning performance by Cuba Gooding Jr.), an eccentric, cocky, dissatisfied talent who just wants someone to “show me the money”. Also along for the ride is a secretary from Jerry’s former agency who is inspired to follow him and develops an infatuation. Dorothy is a single Mom of an extremely cute little boy, and Jerry develops a relationship with them after his shallow girlfriend dumps him. Sports fans get a small glimpse into the underhanded world of agent-client relations as well as enjoy cameos by such luminaries as NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., quarterbacks Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, & Drew Bledsoe, sportscasters Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, & Mike Tirico, and real life sports agents Drew Rosenhaus & Leigh Steinberg. But the heart of the film is the romance between Jerry and Dorothy, a business arrangement that turns into something much deeper. 14 years later people still quote Jerry Maguire, and it’s delicate balance of comedy, drama, romance, and even a wee bit of action is a rare feat. It is sweet but not too sweet, cynical but not overly so. Writer-director Cameron Crowe, who also did Say Anything and Almost Famous, has a knack for making his characters very relatable and human. Jerry Maguire proves that a great movie doesn’t require guns ablazing, blood & guts, or special effects to be  truly special.

 

 

100 Favorite Movies…..51-55

Movies have the ability to transport us thru time, whether the plot involves time travel or not. This is done in two ways. First of all, the story itself can be set in a certain time period. There are films about virtually every notable age in history, from Biblical times thru colonial America and The Civil War to the 1950’s and even history that hasn’t happened yet, i.e. the future. Secondly, some films, whether intentionally or not, become iconic symbols of the era in which they were produced, eternally capturing a brief moment in time. Today’s group does a little of both of these things.

 


55 Saturday Night Fever

Disco may be dead, but Saturday Night Fever will live forever. For those too young too remember and for the benefit of all who have purposely blocked it from their mind, disco was a unique dance style music that dominated the mid to late 1970’s. It could conceivably be thought of as a forerunner to techno…a much cooler, less annoying predecessor. But disco encompassed much more than music. It was a lifestyle personified by fashion, rampant recreational drug use, dance clubs with mirror balls, and sexual indulgence. Fever mostly leaves the seedier aspects of the subculture alone and concentrates on the music, the dancing, and the fun. John Travolta, already famous as Vinnie Barberino on television’s Welcome Back Kotter, was vaulted into superstardom by playing Brooklyn dancer Tony Manero. The story concentrates on Tony’s home life and the classic struggle of one’s desire to escape bleak circumstances versus staying within the comfort zone of family and friends. Tony’s only escape is the local disco, where he is The Man. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, featuring several Bee Gees songs, is the best selling movie soundtrack of all time and is essential to the enjoyment of the movie. Fever has aged gracefully over the course of 30+ years, and I anticipate that folks will still be watching it three decades from now. I just hope no one gets the bright idea to do a remake starring Zac Efron or Freddie Prinze Jr.

 

54 Swingers

1996’s Swingers is set in modern day, but it has a distinctly 60’s vibe with a nod to pre-WW2 swing era. I am a huge fan of all things Vegas, and it plays a significant part in this film, even though the majority of the action does take place in Los Angeles. When you combine a 60’s vibe with Vegas that automatically brings to mind The Rat Pack, of which I am also a big fan. The convergence of all these things were no doubt intentional by the filmmakers, and it works. Vince Vaughn, in only his second notable film (he previously had small role in Rudy), burst onto the scene and a decade and a half later is still riding high. Vaughn plays a fast talking charmer whose quest becomes helping his best friend, played by Jon Favreau (who wrote the screenplay), get over an ex-girlfriend. The two men take a road trip from L.A. to Vegas, but that doesn’t help. Back home several other buddies jump into the fray as they go club hopping and do some male bonding. Ultimately the best friend gets his head out of his tookas and asks out a lovely young lady played by Heather Graham. Swingers is one of those movies that either you get or you don’t, you either like it or think it’s kind of stupid. I get it and I like it. The combination of vibe, outstanding cast, witty and memorable writing, and very cool soundtrack melds together to form an undeniably distinctive and non-formulaic experience.

 

 

53 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Space… the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its mission – to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life & new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. And so was the concept of one of the most successful yet shortest lived television shows of all time. Airing on NBC in the late 60’s, it was cancelled after only three seasons. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, and hindsight tells us that the decision to cancel Star Trek was quite possibly one of the dumbest decisions in entertainment history. At any rate, in addition to 4 other TV series based on the Trek universe, the original crew of the starship Enterprise would fly again in 6 feature films from 1979 to 1991. Trekkies will tell you that the even numbered films in that series are the best, while the odd numbered ones are somewhat lackluster. I concur with that opinion, and so you will see “the three evens” on this list. We begin with the final ride for Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones, Sulu, Uhura, Scotty, and Chekov in 1991’s The Undiscovered Country. The plot involves The Federation and The Klingons attempting to make peace, with that effort being thwarted when the Klingon chancellor is assassinated. There seems to be thinly veiled references to The Cold War, with The Federation representing America and The Klingons standing in for Russia. One could analyze and pick apart the sociological foundation of the script and the political motivation of the powers-that-be, and if that frosts your cupcake then by all means go for it. Personally, I just enjoy the Shakespearean zeitgeist created by the best Trek villain not named Khan…Christopher Plummer’s sublime Chang, as well as the comfortable and oftentimes humorous interactions between the crew. They knew it was their last film together, and the actors gave 100%. Bones McCoy is one of the crustiest yet funniest characters in movie history, and Spock’s reactions are subtly humorous more often than might be intended. The original crew is gone now, some of them (Scotty, Bones) dead in real life. 2009’s reboot of Star Trek exceeded expectations and if that group achieves a fraction of the success of its predecessors the movie going public will be the real winners.

 

52 Die Hard With A Vengeance

This is one example I use to prove my hypothesis that in movie trilogies the first one is great, the second one a disappointment, and the third rebounds to quite good. There are exceptions, and when additional movies get made the whole balance of the equation gets thrown off, but generally…trust me…if a sequel has disappointed you just wait for film number three and you will likely be pleased. The original Die Hard came out in 1988 and dealt with one man taking on a group of terrorists in a high rise office building on Christmas Eve. We’ll examine it closer much later in this list. Die Hard II was the inevitable and rushed 1990 sequel that took the action to a hijacked plane and airport. We will not be speaking of it in this list. Not that it’s a horrible movie…just forgettable and not worth one’s time. However, the third time is a charm and five years later they got it right with a movie almost as good as the first. This time Bruce Willis’ detective John McClain is lured into a cat & mouse game all across New York City, trying to find a bomb while being fed clues by the bad guy played by Jeremy Irons. McClain’s sidekick this time is played by Samuel L. Jackson, a significant upgrade from the Dad from Family Matters and the bare assed fat police officer from NYPD Blue. I think that is what clinches it for me. Jackson’s presence elevates the film in a way that was absolutely necessary for the legitimacy of the franchise as a whole. Taking the action out of a confined space and using the entire city of New York as a backdrop was a crucial change as well. Vengeance feels fresh and can be enjoyed by folks who have never seen the first two films. It stands alone as a well written, well acted piece of entertainment rather than just rehashing things we have already seen. In 2007 a fourth film was made called Live Free or Die Hard. It uses a theme of cyber terrorism and technology. I’ve seen it a couple times and it’s okay, but it sort of felt like it was too late, that too much time had passed and that sometimes one should just leave well enough alone and know when to stop.

 

51 Father of the Bride I & II

Yes, I know…I am cheating. Here’s the deal. I did not have enough slots to include both of these films in the Top 100. I did not want to leave out any others that I had chosen. So then it became a question of which of these two did I like better. Upon pondering that question I came to the conclusion that they really are one movie split into two parts, and I couldn’t bear to eliminate either. So call it a tie if you wish, but I maintain that this is a case where, unlike most sequel situations, the story here flows like one film and therefore will be awarded this spot. Anyway…Father of the Bride is a 1991 Steve Martin remake of a 1950 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy. Father of the Bride II is a sequel to the 1991 film and a remake of a 1951 film called Father’s Little Dividend, itself a sequel to the 1950 film. Confused yet?? No worries…just forget about the 50’s flicks – the remakes are actually better, which is rare. The remakes star Steve Martin as the Dad and Diane Keaton as his wife. The extremely lovely Kimberly Williams made her film debut in Father of the Bride, and nearly 20 years later she’s still gorgeous and is now married to country singer Brad Paisley. In Father of the Bride the daughter returns home from a summer trip to Europe with big news…she fell in love with a fellow American and they’re getting hitched. Dad freaks out. Mom decides they need a wedding planner, which brings the hilarious Martin Short into the fold. Dad then really freaks out. Eventually all’s well that ends well, but the ride sure is fun. Then in the sequel both Mom and the daughter end up pregnant. Dad does a double freak out. They find a way to bring Martin Short back (to plan the baby shower and convert a bedroom into a nursery). All’s well that ends well again. These movies are pretty simple. There are no car chases, no explosions, no gunfights. There isn’t even any notable salty language or nudity. It’s all  very sweet and easy to watch. Watching these movies is like sitting on the front porch with a glass of iced tea and a gentle breeze, and that’s why I like them. Action can be good sometimes, as can drama. I am a big fan of comedy, but even then sometimes one doesn’t want to spend two hours doubled over in laughter. Sometimes one just wants to sit back, relax, and watch some old fashioned folksy, homespun, inoffensive, warm & fuzzy entertainment…the kind of lighthearted fun that’ll cure a bad mood and make one’s life a little brighter for a few hours. The Father of the Bride films more than deliver that. They put a smile on my face every time I see them, and that’s something we all could use more of in our lives.