Category: 5 Favorites Redux

5 Favorites Redux #50: Favorite Horror Films, Part 2

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

This week, I continue my look into my favorite horror films of all time. The second part covers a cinematic period from 1978 through 1994. During these years, horror took a hard turn towards gory details. It also covered a period where not only did slashers rule the box office, but their excessive numbers of sequels did as well. Between Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street alone, 18 sequels were generated and that’s not including sequel-heavy series such as Child’s Play, Hellraiser, and Puppet Master.

Granted, some series like Scary Movie, Scream, Paranormal Activity, and Saw all emerged largely after this era, but it was this almost 20-year period that seemed to generate the most frequent and popular series.

In the midst of all of these sequels, some inventive horror films managed to get lost in the shuffle and never secured sequels. Some of them may not have even deserved them, but films like House, House II (which was a sequel in name only, not plot), April Fool’s Day, Creepshow, Prom Night, Return to Horror High, Deadtime Stories, and several other films gave this period not just a distinctive visceral appeal, but it generated some very lovely, cheesy horror films that may not have been great, but were certainly memorable.

Creepshow led the way in terms of launching a small number of anthology horror films, such as its sequel and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie as well as a few other small films, but it was also part of another string of successful horror films in this period, namely movies made from Stephen King books. Among the best were Carrie, Cujo, Salem’s Lot, Misery, Dolores Claiborne, and my person favorite of these films, The Shining. It and Misery both feature in my all-time best list this week, while Dolores Claiborne sits just on the other side of this list and will be highlighted next week. And while King’s adaptations weren’t always great (see Needful Things), they were incredibly popular. He also made a brief ’90s run of television miniseries, which aren’t included in this list, but It and The Shining might well have made the list if they were.

Before we dig into this week’s set of ten films, I’d like to highlight a group of pictures from this period that didn’t make the list, but deserve some measure of recognition.

When I put together my list, I may have haphazardly run through the list of films I’ve seen as it’s an extensive list, but I tried my best to highlight everything possible. Yet, as I started working on this week’s article and began discussing Stephen King adaptations, I realized that Carrie, which I mentioned above, didn’t get a write up anywhere and I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Brian De Palma’s superb film. The film’s two best performances were head-and-shoulders above the rest of the cast with Sissy Spacek as the psychokinetic teen picked on by her classmates and her demented hyper-religious mother played by Piper Laurie. They were rightfully nominated for Oscars for their performances with Laurie a better option to win than at least winner Beatrice Straight.

Last week, I highlighted the incredible sci-fi horror feature Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In 1978, a sort of remake of that film was made with Donald Sutherland in the lead role. Moving from a small town to a global landscape, the film ultimately was only barely inferior to that 1956 original.

If you were to compare the various franchises that dominated the 1980s, the Friday the 13th films would easily be the worst. Yet, if you look at the very first film, Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 original, you would ultimately find an inventive premise that belies expectations. Friday the 13th doesn’t hold a candle to the first films in the Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, but it’s a stellar opener with a fun twist and a solid score.

On a quality scale, April Fool’s Day has too many issues to be considered great. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun film to sit down and watch. This 1986 Fred Walton film boasted a cast of nobodies, much like many other horror films of the period. While some of them managed to go on to other acting jobs, including a few TV performers, only one of them could possibly lay claim to fame. Thomas F. Wilson, the villain Biff in the Back to the Future series, takes on a supporting role here as many do. What’s most enjoyable about this film is the twist ending. The lead up to it is most fascinating and marks one of the more inventive of the period. The reference to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was just an added bonus.

Considering the popularity of Anne Rice’s vampire literary universe, it’s surprising that the popular Interview with the Vampire from 1994 never managed to linger long enough to generate popular sequels. Perhaps it was stars Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, who had big careers around them or ahead of them, that didn’t want to continue. Regardless, this sudsy vampire drama did a lot of things incredibly well, but it’s biggest gift to cinema history was the boost it gave Kirsten Dunst’s career. Hers was one of the best young performances captured on film and while her career since has been a mixed bag, she’s more than proven herself to be an incredibly capable actress.

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5 Favorites Redux #50: Favorite Horror Films, Part 1

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Halloween is just over two weeks away and it falls on a Saturday night, a rare occurrence for the trick-or-treating holiday. The excitement over such an alignment is tempered by a pandemic that makes social interactions concerning and risky. As such, many kids (and probably college students) may struggle to enjoy this holiday, but it doesn’t have to be a total downer. There are plenty of horror films you can stream or rent or buy on DVD/Blu-ray. In honor of this extra creepy holiday, I want to take a special look at my favorite horror films. Over the next three weeks, we’ll look at some of my all-time faves, from the popular to the obscure. It was a tough trick to narrow these all down in only three weeks. Further, since this is 5 Favorites, I feel like a bit of a cheat, but there will ultimately be nothing but intervals of 5 at work here.

We start this off with ten films, mostly in black-and-white, that came to define several different eras of horror at the cinema. Early horror was more cerebral than visceral, which exemplifies the first half of today’s list of films. However, as the 1960s pressed on, things began shifting towards the gore quotient of modern horror films and will end at roughly the point where slasher films began taking over movieplexes.

Before moving on to the list, let’s look at four honorable mentions from this same period that were all stellar films, but which don’t quite fit what we think of as horror today. These are great films that were pulled from my list for one reason or another, but deserve some recognition.

Based on a novel by Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) tells the story of a healthy young man who hides a shocking secret. All the blemishes and blights of aging are transferred to a painting he keeps hidden in his home, allowing him to look perpetually hale and handsome. The character has been referenced countless times sense, but this film effortlessly presents the story with creative energy and a frightening color portrait inserted into the black-and-white framework of the film.

The Night of the Hunter (1955) was the only film celebrated actor Charles Laughton ever director and it’s a shame he never did more as this picture is one of the all-time greats. It’s a taut, tense thriller about an ex-convict who pursues his ex-partner’s widow in an effort to locate the spoils of a prior theft. Robert Mitchum as the “preacher” and Shelley Winters as the widow are absolutely brilliant while the film is a reminder of how musical cues, lighting, and editing can help raise tensions.

This honorable mention is a sci-fi thriller with horror elements titled Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) about an alien invasion where pods mature into exact duplicates of townsfolk, slowly killing and replacing everything with an alien doppelganger. It’s a great film that was equaled and perhaps even surpassed by its 1978 version, which will receive a mention of its own next week.

In Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), Bette Davis is a wealthy widow who asks her cousin Olivia de Havilland to help her convince the local highway commission not to demolish her home. Davis is subjected to several harrowing events that lead to her mental deterioration. Suspecting de Havilland, Davis struggles to prove the case and ultimately risks psychiatric confinement if she can’t uncover the truth. Well acted and directed, the film is an engaging psychological thriller.

Now that we’ve discussed those films, let’s take a look at this week’s ten offerings.
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5 Favorites Redux #49: Favorite Elle Fanning Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

This coming weekend, the latest film by Woody Allen makes its way onto the big screen. This is after being shelved some time as the #MeToo movement heated up and the original allegations by Allen’s ex-wife Mia Farrow that he sexually molested their adoptive daughter Dylan resurfaced. The merits of that case have been litigated regularly and everyone, whether they like to admit it or not, has taken sides. Regardless, it would be inappropriate at this time to highlight Allen’s best films. That said, I have no compunctions about discussing the career of A Rainy Day in New York‘s leading lady Elle Fanning.

Fanning is the younger sister of Dakota Fanning who came to prominence with her 2001 film I Am Sam opposite Sean Penn. Meanwhile, Elle, four years younger than her sister, debuted in the same film and while her sister made more popular films for much of her early career, Elle took on more esoteric and challenging roles, delivering some of the best juvenile performances ever caught on film. Looking over her list of performances, Elle eventually took on more broadly familiar roles, but it’s those smaller efforts that were ultimately more compelling. This week, I look at the younger Fanning’s career and her five best films and performances.

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5 Favorites Redux Delayed

This week has been crazy busy. With a lack of inspiration for what to write about this week, I’ve chosen to skip the week and get back to it next week.

5 Favorites Redux #48: Favorite Julianne Moore Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

One of our greatest actresses, Julianne Moore has been working tirelessly since her small screen debut on soap opera The Edge of Night and her later more prominent run on As the World Turns as well as her big screen premiere in a small role in one segment of the Tales from the Darkside movie. The role that initially brought her the most attention was her supporting turn as porn matriarch Amber Waves in Boogie Nights, scoring her first Oscar nomination. From then on, she showed up in a number of celebrated roles over the years. I want to look at five of them. Children of Men didn’t give her much to do, so the film I’ve frequently covered gets shelved on this list with five other titles, largely seldom covered, in its place.

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5 Favorites Redux #47: Winger, Trejo, Coon, Jenkins, Messina

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

This week has an embarrassment of riches in terms of the actors with new films out. Debra Winger, Richard Jenkins, Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Danny Trejo, and Chris Messina have new movies coming out along with a handful of actors best known for their TV work. Jude Law works a lot and I suspect I will have an opportunity to tackle him in the future, but these others may not have as many frontline options in the future, so I thought I would pick out one film from each filmography to highlight.

Winger and Jenkins co-star as parents of the main character in this week’s Kajillionaire, director Miranda July’s latest film about a criminal family who begins to splinter when a newcomer is brought into the ranks. Coon stars alongside Law in The Nest as a couple in Sean Durkin’s film about an entrepreneur (Law) and his American family as they move into an isolated English manor. Trejo is an incredibly busy man who appears in numerous films each year, but this weekend’s release is THE PREY about a team of soldiers hunting Taliban in Afghanistan who are trapped in a cave where they are slowly picked off by a monster. Finally, Messina plays a beleaguered husband to Noomi Rapace as she kidnaps and tortures her German neighbor believing that he was responsible for heinous crimes against her during World War II.

Highlighting either the best work for the actor (Winger & Coon) or my favorite films featuring the actor (Jenkins, Trejo & Messina), these actors have appeared in some impressive efforts, but also a lot of terrible ones. After the break, a look at my favorite films for each actor.

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5 Favorites Redux #46: Favorite Romantic Comedies

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

The Broken Hearts Gallery is this coming weekend’s only wide release. The romantic comedy stars Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers) and Dacre Montgomery (Power Rangers (2017)) and is from first-time director/screenwriter Natalie Krinsky about an art gallery assistant (Viswanathan) who has collected souvenirs from every relationship she’s ever been in while a new flame yields promise for a longterm relationship.

The underlying story is inventive, but the film isn’t likely to take off at the box office. With the relative newness of its stars, there aren’t a lot of choices for a 5 Favorites article. So, I’m going a bit broader looking at my favorite romantic comedies.

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5 Favorites Redux #45: Favorite Michael Caine Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Michael Caine has earned six Oscar nominations in his career, winning the award twice. Outside of the 1990s, Caine has earned nominations in each of four decades, no small feat for an actor who got his acting debut as a boy in the TV movie Morning Departure. Since then, he’s starred in some stellar films and worked with numerous different directors. The first film I can remember seeing him in was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opposite Steve Martin. For younger audiences, he will forever be recognized for his supporting role in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of films based on the Batman comics (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises).

That trilogy was the first time he ever worked with Nolan as a director, but it’s a partnership that has persisted from Batman Begins straight through to his most recent effort, Tenet, which opens wide this coming weekend. Of the eight films he’s appeared in for Nolan, only his vocal work in Dunkirk sticks out as being a thoroughly minor effort. In celebration of an eight-decade-plus career, I’m looking at five of my favorite films featuring Caine.

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5 Favorites Redux #44: Favorite Marvel Movies

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

This weekend, New Mutants finally sees wide release after two years of delays thanks in large part to the Disney acquisition of Fox and the dismantling of everything that made the once-great studio what it was. Being unceremoniously dumped on the second weekend of national cinema re-openings, Disney definitely wants the film to fail. Regardless, this is one of my most anticipated films of the last few years, a picture that was supposed to continue down the R-rated route Fox had found success in with the Logan and two Deadpool movies.

With the final Fox-produced X-Men film finding release, I thought I would take a look back at everything that has been produced based on Marvel comics. Although the first film produced from a Marvel comic was 1944’s Captain America, which no one remembers, it wasn’t until Blade in 1998, X-Men in 2000, and Spider-Man in 2002 that the promise of Marvel properties was seen as a potentially fruitful one. The Marvel properties had been split between three separate studios with Fox owning the rights to the X-Men-related properties and the Fantastic Four comics, Sony having rights to the Spider-verse, and Disney owning just about everything else. Apart from a couple of films, I have seen everything Marvel-related since 2000, so I have no issue selecting the absolute best of the bunch.

Some of the titles I didn’t choose to highlight in detail are The Amazing Spider-Man, an attempt by Sony to reboot Spider-Man with the best rendition of the character portrayed by Andrew Garfield with Emma Stone sterling as Gwen Stacy. Guardians of the Galaxy was a fun and hilarious effort as was Deadpool. I might have also selected the original X-Men if the second film weren’t so much better, which also just barely fell outside the top 5 (I would rank X2: X-Men United as the seventh best Marvel film ever produced). The same is true of X-Men: First Class, which also rebooted the X-Men films, but was surpassed by the second film in that series, which did ultimately make my list. Additionally, Spider-Man 2 was better than Spider-Man and the former sits sixth on my list of favorite Marvel films. And then there were five. Here are my choices for the best Marvel films, two from Fox, two from Disney, and one from Sony.

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5 Favorites Redux #43: Films from Actors With Weekend Releases

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

This week, rather than highlight one specific actor with a film in release, I figured I’d pick up five actors with new movies coming out over the weekend. In Unhinged, Oscar winner Russell Crowe terrorizes a young woman who cuts him off in traffic as he harasses and pursues her on the roads. Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver leads the cast of Stage Mother, a film about a conservative mother discovering that her dead son has a drag bar that needs to be run. She is supported by Lucy Liu as her son’s best friend. Finally, we have Ethan Hawke starring in Tesla, a film about the legendary inventor and electrical engineer whose ideas were stolen and repurposed for profit by Thomas Edison, the well known patent thief of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Kyle McLachlan plays Edison.

These five actors while not having sufficient titles between them to make a full list in my opinion, each have at least one noteworthy film worth celebrating.

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5 Favorites Redux #42: Favorite Bruce Dern Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Having worked on several westerns and suspense thrillers in his early career throughout the 1960s and 1970s, his first Oscar nomination came for his supporting performance in 1978’s Coming Home, a Vietnam War era romantic drama where he plays the deployed husband of Jane Fonda’s character as she falls in love with a paraplegic played by Jon Voight.

At home in both drama and comedy, Dern worked under legendary directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Sydney Pollack, Roger Corman, Sam Peckinpah, and John Frankenheimer as well as modern icons who will be considered legends in cinema’s future (if they aren’t already) such as Quentin Tarantino and Alexander Payne, the latter of whom directed the film that brought him his second Oscar nomination: Nebraska.

This weekend, Dern plays a supporting role in Ravage, a film about a nature photographer who had suffered through a harrowing event that the police refuse to take seriously. The film has been up and down the release schedule with one source saying it opens this weekend and another saying it won’t open until May of next year. If it doesn’t release this weekend, that really isn’t a problem as it won’t change my decision to highlight his career and my favorite films of his below.
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5 Favorites Redux #41: Favorite Donald Sutherland Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

85-year-old actor Donald Sutherland has shown no sign of slowing down. Before we tell you about his latest role or my favorite films, let’s start at the beginning. Sutherland’s first credited screen role came in 1964 horror feature Castle of the Living Dead. He then went on to star in a handful of Hammer horror films before landing a role as Vernon Pinkley in The Dirty Dozen. From there, he went on to star in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, which elevated his career, leading to numerous important roles throughout the 1970s.

After his Golden Globe-nominated performance in Ordinary People, his ability to draw top tier scripts faded and outside of the occasional film like A Dry White Season, he didn’t have a major starring role until his supporting turn in Oliver Stone’s JFK. From there, he’s had a fairly solid career ever since.

Sutherland co-stars in this weekend’s release The Burnt Orange Heresy as a celebrated painter who becomes the subject of a high-stakes art theft. Of the myriad films I’ve seen of Sutherland’s, I chose the following five to highlight, not because they were his best performances (some could argue for Klute or a number of other films), but because they were films that stayed with me longer.

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5 Favorites Redux #40: Favorite Clive Owen Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

English actor Clive Owen spent most of the 1990s as a regular figure on stage and television in the United Kingdom. Although his first Hollywood feature came in 1996, it wasn’t until the early 2000s, that he became more familiar to American and worldwide audiences with appearances in Gosford Park and The Bourne Identity. From there, his star rose briefly with an Oscar-nominated supporting role in 2004’s Closer and a leading turn in Children of Men before blending back into the background with minor roles and films that hardly played to his strengths.

This coming weekend, Owen has a supporting role in The Informer, a film with a release date that keeps shifting, not just because of the pandemic. In recognition of his career, I chose five of my favorite films that he’s been in.

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5 Favorites Redux #39: Favorite Community Alumni Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

For five seasons, Dan Harmon’s Community entertained and delighted audiences (who could find it on television as NBC kept changing its mind on the show’s prospects). It was one of the best written comedies of recent memory. This week, two alums from the show, Alison Brie and Danny Pudi, have new releases coming out. Brie co-stars in The Rental, Dave Franco’s directorial debut, as part of two couples who rent a large house for a weekend getaway and find their lives in danger. Pudi co-stars in Babysplitters, a comedy about two couples who decide to have a baby together so that each person can enjoy their anticipated favorite aspects of raising a child and let others take care of the more difficult aspects.

Having such a rare opportunity to see what the series regulars have been up to since the show’s cancellation, I thought I would look back at the best films from the cast of Community. I looked at the resumes of Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Pudi, Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover, Chevvy Chase, Ken Jeong, and Jim Rash. While many of them have extensive television credits, only one of them (Chase) has made a successful career on the big screen. Still, I managed to cobble together enough to highlight five films. Four of the actors, Brie, Glover, Jeong, and Chase, had lead or small parts in their films that I’ve chosen to highlight. The other five either had nothing worth mentioning (Jacobs) or had bit parts in the rest. Ultimately, I eliminated McHale in his feature debut in Spider-Man 2, Pudi in his bit part in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Brown in Dreamgirls where she played a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it secretary. The final selection was from Rash who played a bit part in a film that deserves more attention than the other three, which is why I chose that picture. Here’s my list.

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5 Favorites Redux #38: Favorite Udo Kier Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

German character actor Udo Kier has appeared in over 100 films since his first appearance as a young boy in the short film Road to Saint Tropez. Since then, he’s appeared in films by some of the most prominent directors in world cinema, including films by Gus Van Zant, Lars von Trier, Werner Herzog, Dario Argento, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder to name a few. With such a prolific resume, it’s easy to find great films to highlight in a series like this.

And why exactly have I chosen Kier? He has a role in this coming weekend’s release of The Painted Bird. The five I ultimately selected are an eclectic bunch with a surprising three titles from von Trier, with roles spanning multiple genres and in both small and bit parts. Regardless, his impressive filmography bears examination and these are the titles I’ve selected. As an added bit of trivia, the seventy-five-year-old Kier was finally invited to join the Academy this year, 54 years after his cinematic debut.

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