The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zoo Movies ( #atozchallenge )

We Bought a Zoo
We Bought a Zoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The films that I'll be listing in my April postings may not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.

      I'll bet you thought I would have picked Zombie Movies for 'Z'.   That is a favorite genre, but it's too obvious.   So I decided to go with a tough one.  I couldn't think of many zoo movies and actually most of these just have zoo scenes.  Maybe you can think of a few others.
   
       This is what I've got:


20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)--This is one of my favorites from childhood.  An exploratory spacecraft to Venus returns to Earth with a special treat.  The cute little Venusian visitor turns into a big monster. The dinosaur-like creature is subdued and taken to the zoo in Rome to be studied.  The creature is not happy and creates havoc at the zoo before terrorizing the city of Rome.  Great stop motion animation by the legendary Ray Harryhausen.  

The Graduate (1967)-- To call this a zoo film is a stretch, but there is a brief funny scene at a zoo.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)--In this third entry of the original Planet of the Apes series, advanced apes from the future travel back in time to Earth in 1973.  They are captured by the humans and incarcerated in the Los Angeles Zoo.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)--There is a very funny zoo scene where the wolf turns back into naked man at the zoo.  This is one of the best werewolf films ever.

Batman Returns (1992)--The Penguin was raised by penguins at the Gotham City Zoo.  By the time he has become an adult, this Batman nemesis is still using the now abandoned zoo as part of his base of operations.

We Bought a Zoo (2011)--Now we're getting to a true zoo film.  This is a heart-warming story about a widower who buys a zoo and moves there with his kids. It's based on a true story.

Life of Pi (2012)--Without the zoo and the animals this story would not be.   While moving from India to Canada, zoo owning family perishes during a storm at sea with only survivors being one son and a tiger named Richard Parker.  An incredible film that is thoughtful and beautiful to behold.  

           Can you think of another zoo movie?   Did I miss any animated films about zoos?   What are your favorite animals to watch at the zoo? 


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Monday, April 29, 2013

Youth--Movies About Being Young / Coming of Age

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...
Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the trailer for the film The Wizard of Oz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The films that I'll be listing in my April postings may not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.

        This category is huge.  In fact it probably could cover more than one category, but being for the letter 'Y' I'll just say this micro-genre will be about being young--anything from childhood to teens.

         Some of my favorites may be yours too, but if I missed one of your favorites tell us about it in the comments:

Heidi (1937)--There are so many Shirley Temple films that I could put on this list, but I'll pick just one.  They used to show this on television every year when I was a kid and I never missed a showing.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) --Judy Garland was a teenager when she made the film that would become one of the most beloved of all time.  It's the story of a young Kansas girl who gets carried away by a tornado to the Magical Land of Oz where she meets a truly memorable array of characters.

The Exorcist (1973)--Innocent young girl becomes possessed by devil and priest is brought in to perform exorcism.  One of the scariest films ever.  This was a huge box-office hit and has continued to make money with releases and spin-offs.  Not for the kids or the highly sensitive.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)--One of best science fiction-fantasy stories about kids.  This film by Steven Spielberg is ideal family viewing.

The Goonies (1985)--The ultimate adventure with kids searching for a stash of pirate treasure.  A great film with an excellent cast.

 Stand By Me (1986)--Based on a Stephen King story, the film tells about a group of boys who trek along a railroad track to find the body of a missing boy who was struck by a train.  Funny and sad--one of the best coming of age stories.

Cinema Paradiso (1988)--Boy befriends projectionist in local theater and learns to love movies.

Home Alone (1990)--Kid accidentally gets left behind when the family goes on vacation leaving him to fend off bumbling burglars.  Funny film that spawned a series of sequels.

My Girl (1991)-- A sweet film about a girl who lives in a funeral parlor with her single father who is the mortician.  A story of death and first love.

Almost Famous (2000)-- Inspired by the real life story of rock journalist Cameron Crowe, this film tells the story of a 15 year old hired by Rolling Stone magazine to tour with a popular rock group  and write an article about it.

Juno (2007)-- Sixteen year old becomes pregnant and has to decide what to do about it.

        What other films about youth can you name?   Which on my list are your favorites?   Is there a youth movie that you particularly relate to in your life?

          Are you ready for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge Reflections Post?   Starts Friday May 3rd with the list open for a week.   For more information go to the A to Z Blog.


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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Xenophobia in Film ( #atozchallenge )

Cover of "Enemy Mine"
Cover of Enemy Mine

The films that I'll be listing in my April postings may not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.

       This has been my toughest micro-genre of all.  I know many other films related to xenophobia have been made, but I've either not seen them or I'm just not remembering what I have seen.  Let's get some help from you readers because I'm drawing a blank other than these few:

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)--I'm going to cheat on this one because I've never seen this film from beginning to end.  I've seen most of it in pieces here and there and I know what the film is about.  Since it fits into the category of distrusting foreigners I am including it in my list.  What I have seen is good enough to make me want to watch it like it should be watched.

Enemy Mine (1985)--In this sci-fi film human and alien who are intense enemies must learn to get over prejudice and work together in order to survive after they both crash their spacecraft on a hostile uncivilized planet.  

Far and Away (1992)--Irish immigrants arriving in 19th century America are not very well-liked by those long established in the U.S.  Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star in the immigrant roles.  An entertaining film of epic proportions.

Gangs of New York (2002)--More Irish hating during the mid-nineteenth century in one of the toughest neighborhoods in America's history--Five Points.  This is a big film with some powerhouse acting talent.  Good stuff, but rough.  

Gran Torino (2008)--Clint Eastwood plays a grumpy widowed war vet who is not happy about the Asians moving into the neighborhood.  Important lessons are learned by all.

District 9 (2009)--  Extraterrestrials stranded in South Africa are subjected to segregation and xenophobia by distrustful humans.  Fantastic science fiction with social relevance.

         Okay, help me with this one--can you name any films with xenophobia as a prominent theme?   Have you seen the ones I've named?   Are there any topics concerning xenophobia that you think should be covered in film?

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Writers in Movies

Cover of "The Shining [Blu-ray]"
Cover of The Shining [Blu-ray]
The films that I'll be listing in my April postings may not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.

        If writers write what they know then it makes sense that they might write about writers.  If that holds true then it makes sense that there would be a lot of films about writers since films are usually based on works by writers or are original screenplays written by writers.   Yes, this mini-genre of films is about writers.  And there are a whole lot of them.

         Here are some of my favorites:

8 1/2 (1963)--Okay, I know I already used this film in my post Movies about Making Movies, but that's how much I like this film.  This is one of my top ten films.  If you are a serious writer you should see this film and take it to heart.  A masterpiece of the genre of thinkers' films.  Forget this one if you're an action fan unless you're in the mood to just sit, listen, and learn.  I'll warn you that it's in Italian and you'll have to read the subtitles if you don't know the language.  I just can't rave enough about this film.  Oh, and did I say it's good?

The Shining (1980)-- Jack Nicholson stars as a writer who gets more than he bargains for when he secludes himself and his family so he can get some writing done.  Chalk up another hit for Stephen King.  One writer's nightmare is another writer's dream. A shot of Red Rum anybody?

Misery (1990)--Famous novelist crashes car and is rescued by his "number one fan".   Fans like this we don't need.   Stephen King strikes again.

Shadowlands (1993)-- Based on the true relationship between author C.S. Lewis and poet Joy Davidson, this one's a weeper.  Grab the popcorn and the Kleenex.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)-- A liberal dose of poetic license results in a lot of fun with one of the most famous writers of all time.  This film won a few awards as well.

Adaptation (2002)--Great cast of actors in a curious tale.  This is one of those films that I rewatched as soon as I had watched it the first time.  Great film.

Secret Window (2004)--Johnny Depp as a writer suffering from writer's block.  But it doesn't end there. Now he's being accused of plagiarism and it only gets worse.  Oh yeah, and Stephen King is in on this one too.

Sideways (2004)--If the writing career is not working, you can always go get drunk.  The focus of this film is wine, but it's really about a writer and writing.


Freedom Writers (2007)--Brand new idealistic English teacher gets assigned to tough class of inner city students.  She gets them involved in journaling and they in turn fall into the writing life.  Inspirational film about teaching and the power of words.


Midnight in Paris (2011) -- In one of the best films directed by Woody Allen, a writer vacationing in Paris time travels back to the 1920's and meets famous authors and others.   Doesn't matter if it's a dream, a fantasy, or what--it's fun.

       What are some of your favorite films about writers or writing?   If you like movies about writing, why is this?   Have you seen 8 1/2 yet?

Ready to do some more writing after the A to Z Challenge ends?    Join us for the A to Z Reflections post starting Friday May 3rd.   For more details be sure to visit the A to Z Blog

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Venice in Films (#atozchallenge)

Venice-11
Venice-11 (Photo credit: musical photo man)


The films that I'll be listing in my April postings may not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.


      One of the most romantic and picturesque filming locations is the city of Venice, Italy.  With the canals and the incredible architecture, you can't miss with adding this great eye candy to a film.  The charm and historical significance also creates a lure for those of us who like to see on film that which we might not see in real life.

      Many films have been filmed with Venice as a backdrop.   Here are a few that I have enjoyed:

Death in Venice (1971)--One of my top 20 favorite films, this is Luchino Visconti's adaptation of the novel by Thomas Mann.  Visconti has modeled the main character on the composer Gustav Mahler and the lush soundtrack consists of Mahler's music.   This is an incredibly atmospheric film that contemplates the themes of beauty, artistic perfection, aging, and dying.  It's a poetic work that moves slowly in a way that makes it almost like watching a painting masterpiece come to life.   If you want action, forget this film--you probably will dislike it intensely.  Some of the best scenes of Venice in any film.

Moonraker (1979)-- A hallmark of the James Bond series is travel to world famous and exotic locations.  In this Roger Moore as Bond film, 007 makes a fun stop in Venice where he is pursued through the canals.

The Italian Job (2003)-- This remake features some fine action sequences in Venice including an exciting boat chase.

Casino Royale (2006)--In this version of a Jame Bond story where Daniel Craig assumes the lead role, the secret agent returns to Venice with a much different sort of scene concerning an old building.

       But meanwhile far across the ocean there is another Venice.  Many films have been shot in Venice, California. It's an interesting background for far different reasons than its more known Italian sister city.  It's also closer to the film studios so it's a convenient location to use.   For that reason there are probably far more U.S movies shot in Venice, California than in the other Venice.

       Here are some ones that stand out for me:

Fish Hooky (1933)-- When I used to see this Little Rascals short when I was a kid I had no idea where it was filmed, nor did I care.  But the first time I visited Venice Beach I thought of this old film.  I looked it up and sure enough--parts were filmed at Venice Beach.

Touch of Evil (1958)--When I first saw this Orson Welles classic I immediately thought, "That's not a town in Mexico, that's Venice!"  Yep, that's Venice in the opening scene.  Note that the street markings and signs are in English.  That little faux pas doesn't bother me though.   This is a great film.

Falling Down (1993)--This is one of my favorite all time films and I know I'm not alone on this (Stephen T McCarthy for one).  Everyone should see this film.  One angry man on foot across Los Angeles--destination: Venice.

The Little Rascals (1994)-- In this film homage, the updated Little Rascals return to Venice as a film location.  It's a fairly forgettable film, but I felt obligated to take my kids to see it when it first came out.  I loved taking my kids to the movies when they were little and this was a kid-friendly film.

American History X (1998)--Definitely not for the kids or anyone who might be particularly sensitive, this is a brutal film with a powerful message about hate and prejudice.  The story takes place in Venice, California and much of it is filmed there.

Skyline (2010)--I think this alien invasion film gets a generally bad rap from many quarters, but I liked it a good bit.  Portions were filmed in Venice.

         Any Venice films that you can think of?    Any thoughts on the ones that I've named here?   Have you been to Venice Beach, California?  





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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Utopian Movies ( #atozchallenge )


The films that I'll be listing in my April postings may not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.

      Somehow Utopia always sounds like it should be wonderful, but in literature and film it's never as good as it seems on the surface.  I guess that's why there's a story.  Humankind develops perfect society, but things are not really as good as it all appears or something goes drastically wrong.  

      Here are some of my favorite films based on Utopian societies:

Lost Horizon (1937)-- Planeload of Brits gets hijacked and crashes in the remote mountain area near the legendary Shangri-La.   You'd think they'd be happy in such a perfect world, but, no, they need to get back to their world.  There are consequences.

Logan's Run (1976)-- It's a perfect world until you turn 30 and then it's the end of the line folks.  Most citizens accept this fate, but a small group don't want to end things there.  Logan decides to become a "runner" and once away from Utopia he discovers that his fellow citizens have been fed a lie.  Now what to do?

The Mosquito Coast (1986)-- Harrison Ford stars as an idealistic inventor who moves his family to Belize to start a Utopian society.   For starters it's in the jungle.  What could possibly go wrong there?

Total Recall (1990)--In the future you can make all your dreams come true.  Or are those nightmares?


Pleasantville (1998)-- Things always seemed so perfect in some of those old TV shows from the 50's.  What would happen if you actually ended up in that imaginary TV world?

The Truman Show (1998)--Truman Burbank has been living in the perfect world since the day he was born. Then one morning he awakes to begin suspecting that perhaps all in his world is not as it seems.  How could life be so perfect?

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)--In the future, society will try to make life perfect in as many ways as it can.   This may include providing us with perfect children.   Of course we know that nothing in this world is perfect.

Minority Report (2002)--In a perfect future, crime will be eliminated.  Since we already know nothing in this world is perfect, something is bound to put a kink in the system when we try to make it so.  This is a sci-fi mystery thriller directed by Steven Spielberg and based on a story by Philip K. Dick.  Some cool futuristic world building in this film.

The Island (2005)-- A lot borrowed from Logan's Run with much the same story, but with better special effects and some great action sequences.   This film gets a lot of mixed reviews, but I liked it quite a bit.

Wall-E (2008)-- Things on Earth have not gone well in the future, but the humans who have managed to escape are living in a Utopian world inside a spacecraft.  With every need tended to by robots, the humans are living fat and happy--literally fat and happy because they know no other life.  This is an animated film from Pixar. 

         
Which of these films do you like?   Can you suggest other films based on Utopian society?   Would you like to live in a Utopian society?



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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Time Travel ( #atozchallenge )

Time Changer
Time Changer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The films that I'll be listing in my April postings will not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.

        I imagine a few of you probably figured I'd be going for the time travel genre for the letter T.   It's the obvious choice right?

Here are some of the ones I've enjoyed:

The Terminator (1984)--This film starts out a franchise which is outstanding all the way.  I love them all.  Smart scripts and great action.

Back to the Future (1985) --The whole series is great.  The first installment is a film that's fun and funny and highly imaginative.

Time Cop (1994) -- My wife loves this film and so do I.   We are big Jean-Claude Van Damme fans.

Time Changer (2002)--This low-budget film concerns a professor from the 1890's who travels forward to modern day Los Angeles.  Comic situations are blended with serious issues.   I appreciate what the filmmakers were trying to do here.

The Jacket (2005)--This is one of those films I need to watch again because I don't remember it much.  I recall liking it a great deal and I gave it the highest rating on Netflix.  Yeah, I need to see this again.

Deja Vu (2006) -- This is kind of a mind-bender with some interesting implications.  I liked it--with reservations.  It's a film that made me think.

Crusade: A March Through Time (2006)--Also known as Crusade in Jeans, in this film a teenage boy goes back in time to change the outcome of a soccer game where he has screwed up, but instead ends up about 800 years in the past where he joins up with the misguided members of the Children's Crusade.  I thought the issues of being sent back to that time were fairly well done.   Well, maybe not language wise, but that's often a problem in time travel films.

Timecrimes (2007)--This is a Spanish film that is available in a dubbed version that works very well as such.  A man who witnesses a crime goes back in time to prevent it and finds more complications than he expected.  This one may have you trying to figure out the conundrum presented.   I'd heard this was going to be made into a U.S. version in English but I'm still waiting.  

Source Code (2011) -- This is another film with enough twists to turn your brain into a pretzel.  Fun and action packed.

          Oh, I know I left out a bunch--talk to me.   Do you like my choices?    What do you think makes a time travel story work best?


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Monday, April 22, 2013

School Movies ( #atozchallenge )

Cover of "Blackboard Jungle"
Cover of Blackboard Jungle

The films that I'll be listing in my April postings may not necessarily be films that I'd call my favorite films, but they will be favorites in the genres I'll be naming.   The A to Z genres are very specific micro genres as opposed to the broader genres like action, romance, or comedy.

        This sub-genre is a biggie and I'll be leaving a ton off this list.  But you can add them in the comments and I'm sure you'll have a few favorites of your own.  These are mine:      

Blackboard Jungle (1955)--One of the first films with a rock and roll soundtrack, this feature addresses the problems of school violence in inner city schools.  A classic 1950's film.

Carrie (1976)--The girl in the title role gets bullied at school until she discovers her inner power to fight back.  The film that helped propel Stephen King into the public eye.

Grease (1978)--A popular Broadway musical becomes a classic film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.  Lots of good music, dancing, and fun depicts school days of  the 1950's.

Fame (1980)--This is a terrific film that follows a group of teens who are selected to attend a high school of the performance arts.  There are some excellent songs in this film, performed and danced by some very talented artists.

A Christmas Story (1983)--This time it's elementary school kids in the 1950's.  There aren't many who have not yet seen this holiday classic.  If you have you're sure to remember those hilarious scenes at school.

Pretty in Pink (1986)--This is a sweet high school days film where kids from the poor side of town prove their worth.

Election (1999)-- A film about high school politics.  It's kind of like the TV show Glee without singing.  In fact, I'd say Glee was very influenced by this film.

School of Rock (2003)--I'm a fan of Jack Black and this film is among his best. This is a feel good, have fun sort of film that most of the family can enjoy.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004) -- Nerdy Napoleon sets out to help his equally weird friend Pedro win the election for class president.  This film is nutty, outlandish, and downright silly.  I guess that why I like this film.

         Any favorites that you share with me?  What are some other films you would add to the list?   What have been some of the most accurate film depictions of school that you can remember?


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