Battle Royale (ExpDl Top 100)

“Still have a few Top 100 updates hanging on, and just now getting around to ’em. Trying to knock these last ones out quickly cause my movie queue grew exponentially last week, as it always does after Black Friday. Pulled in just over 20 movies and TV shows including all of Breaking Bad and Twin Peaks. That’ll keep me busy for a while.

The first time I saw Battle Royale was only earlier this year. Most people who hear that respond with shock. Pretty much anyone I know who is familiar with this movie automatically assumed I knew this forwards and backwards. But it’s only with its association with the Hunger Games (more on that in a bit) that it finally got a US BluRay/DVD release. I think this is the only foreign flick on my list, or at least the only non-English one (if you ignore a good chunk of Basterds).

Why does my crowd associate me with this film? That would be the uber violent premise. Every year one class of middle school-ish kids is selected to particpate in the Battle Royale. They are dropped on a deserted island with minimal supplies and left to fight to the death until only one is left standing. It’s meant to be a metaphor on the corporate world, and how as soon as school’s out these kids are just dumped into the cuthtroat corporate world. Yes, the metaphor adds depth and a whole other level to this, but I’m just in it for the violence. Well, not just the violence. I love how dark this film is. It is one of the most messed up pieces of cinema, mostly due to the age of the characters. Funny how many of the darkest most disturbing films I’ve ever seen have ended up on this list.

And now, for an amusing antecdote. This summer, I was hanging out with a friend, and we decided to watch Battle Royale. There was beer. And pizza. And more beer. Somehow, this evolved into a drinking game: drink every time somebody dies. Well, um, there’s 40 kids in the class. And we were counting deaths in dream sequences and flashbacks as well. We each killed 4 beers in the 2 hours of screentime. I will say no more on the subject other than it ranks amongst the least smart things I’ve ever done that involves alcohol.

Back to why I love this movie. It goes beyond the kid on kid killing. There’s a twisted humor to it too. The training video is one of my favorite parts. I’ve seen enough violence films that I don’t disbelieve much of it, but the peppy announcer just blows my mind. Somehow, that’s the thing that shocks me. I also really like the idea of the mystery weapons. Each kid is given a bag with some basic provisions and one weapon/tool. Some luck out with axes and knives and such. Others not so much with binoculars or a potlid.

Something else that is fantastic about this film is that you get so many stories about the various characters. It takes a while to figure out who’s gonna be sticking around for the long haul, but in the mean time you’re made to care about so many of them. There’s the kids who band together, and the ones who fly solo. The ones that try to be peacable, and the ones that wildly attack. While the through plot is pretty simple, the character development around it is much more complex than you’d expect. Keep an eye out for Chiaki Kuriyama, but you prolly know her better as Gogo from Kill Bill. Also, when watching this, see if you can guess which character my previously mentioned movie buddy and I nicknamed Kim Kardashian. Of course, the K sisters wish they had a fraction of the badassitude that this babe has.

By now you’ve prolly picked up a bit on the Hunger Games vibe, huh? Well the fact that I mentioned it earlier prolly had your gears turning a bit. Supposedly Suzanne Collins wasn’t aware of this film (or its original book) when writing Hunger Games, but from the basic storyline you can easily see the parallels. Before you cry rip off, much of the details are different, and the themes are in completely separate ballparks as well. Not quite apples and oranges, but maybe oranges and tangerines? I don’t know fruit.”

Inglorious Basterds (ExpDl Top 100)

And then there’s Inglorious Basterds right behind it. This one I’ve talked about twice in recent months. It also appeared on the Tarantino/Rodriguez project, since QT wrote and directed it. Then we saw it again for Eli Roth and his role as the Bear Jew. It’s just such a clever and well executed film. The story is brilliant and unique with an impeccable cast. It’s got that great Tarantino mix of tough and gritty mixed with just enough levity and sarcasm. My kinda movie. Obviously.”

Wanted (ExpDl Top 100)

“I’ve been genuinely excited to watch Wanted again. It’s been too \m/ long. I’m not sure how it missed the list before, but I’m kinda glad for the excuse for another viewing.

As an action movie, this movie is brilliant, and tragically overlooked. It’s prolly overlooked because a lot of the details of the plot are kinda dumb. No, not kinda. Really \m/ dumb. I have so many issues with the idea of the target names being woven into the cloth. So many issues. But when you have what should have been such groundbreaking action sequences, details shouldn’t matter as much.

I guess for a lot of people, they couldn’t get past some of the cheesier aspects of the action. I’m talking about the curving bullets. Yeah, it’s a little tough to believe, but I think it worked in context. And it added something shiny and new. Combined with all of the slo-mo, it created some of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen. The technique wasn’t just used for action. There were some fun comedic gags that used it as well.

There are other little pieces that add up to a great whole. The soundtrack is pretty working, especially Danny Elfman’s The Little Things. That is one that rarely gets skipped when it comes up on my ipod.

Such an incredible cast too. James McAvoy is wonderful, even if his American accent is a lil off. He is equally well at stressed out, anxiety ridden Wesley, and bad ass assassin Wesley. A lot of the marketing weight was put on Angelina Jolie’s shoulders, and yes, she’s fantastic and tough and sexy, but this is really about McAvoy. In case that all wasn’t enough for ya, Morgan Freeman is the man in charge. That should give ya some solid street cred, yeah?

I did read the graphic novel not too long ago. Not particularly memorable, although I do know that it was pretty different from the movie. The plot points of contention weren’t in the source material, so minus points there for Hollywood. Go figure.”

Rounders (ExpDl Top 100)

“Apparently I didn’t have enough Edward Norton movies on my favorites list. One more had to squeeze in.

I wrote this up already for the Edward Norton project. I swear, there’ll be a real new write up soon.

My God, how many times did we watch this on my hall freshman year? My roommate borrowed it like every other day, and I certainly got in a bunch of viewings too. There was a time when if you walked by the lounge, there was a good chance that this was the movie that was playing. This really makes the list for the nostalgia factor.

So why did this film strike us so hard? I just think the characters are completely compelling with an incredible cast. Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, Martin Landau, John Malkovich, Famke Janssen. All phenomenal. Gretchen Mol is the weak spot that leaves a lil to be desired, but I think it’s mostly an annoying character than a bad actress.

I love the dirty underground world they inhabit. Especially when you see them at Atlantic City or at the club that Janssen’s running. They have their own language and lifestyle and you just wanna be a part of it. They make you feel like you could be, even if you’ve never picked up a poker chip in your life. Like me.”

Raiders of the Lost Ark (ExpDl Top 100)

“Not sure how Indy managed to sneak his way onto this list. I do love this franchise quite a lot. I think it’s more the idea of Indy than anything else.

I recently went to the an all day marathon of all four movies. 9 hours in a movie theater. That’s a lot, even by my standards. Half of the place cleared out before the last movie, and I don’t so much blame them. I was just excited about actually being able to pay attention to the entire franchise since some details on the middle ones were a lil fuzzy for me.

Raiders is still my favorite. Really, its the entire opening sequence. The booby traps, the suspense, the intro to Indy and his quirks and methods. Brilliant. The rest of the film is pretty great too. I did write it up for the AFI Project but there isn’t a whole lot of detail.

Frankly, the pain meds I’m on right now for my knee are having a weird effect on me, a strange combination of some of it workign and some of it not. My head’s not in the game right now, so I’ll just leave this as is. I dont really think Indy needs much more justification to be on here, yeah?”

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (ExpDl Top 100)

“I’ll admit, the Terminator franchise isn’t one that crosses my mind often. Well sorta. There are other scifi movies that come to mind first when I think of that genre, or other action movies when that’s on my mind. But the warm fuzzies all come rushing back whenever I hear the score. Universal Studios Hollywood has a Terminator show that I’ve wandered into the past two years. I always kinda think “”eh, what the heck”” and then as soon as I hear that music, I’m lost in it.

Actually where this does cross my mind often is whenever Apple or Google or Facebook reveal yet another feature or addition to their mega empire. I keep wondering which is gonna go SkyNet on us. My money’s on Google.

While the whole franchise has a special place in my heart (the 3 pre-judgement day movies, the post apocalyptic one, and the tv series), it’s really T2 that I hail as a favorite. The first was a good set up, but Judgement Day is what really hit it home. The general consensus in Hollywood is that sequels suck as a rule. This is one of the few exceptions that is universally agreed upon.

For one, Sarah Connor works infinitely better as a bad ass babe. Sure, she could hold her own the first time around, but she toughened up into one of the last gals you’d ever wanna meet in a fight. Linda Hamilton plays her with such a strong combination of motherly love and determination for the world’s survival. I also much prefer Arnold playing for our team. Yeah he was one of the greatest robotic villains in movie-dom for the first movie, but bringing him to our side was brilliance. When you’re first watching, the change up in the game is a big surprise, and as it plays out, his relationship with John (especially seen thru Sarah’s eyes) is incredible. He too is the great protector, but they have such a buddy relationship that has led to some of cinema’s most iconic lines of dialog. I won’t even bother typing them out here. Besides, the liquid metal T-1000 is even scarier. The shape shifting thing gets me every time. *shudder*

I also adore young John Connor, played by Edward Furlong. Furlong actually has a few other appearances on my list, but this is his biggest claim to fame. He’s such a little tough guy, punk kid, but sometimes you can see thru that wall to see he’s just a vulnerable little boy in way over his head.

What also makes this superior to the rest of the franchise is that given when it was made, it still fits in with the original Judgement Day timeline. Playing with time travel is tricky, and difficult to avoid glaring butterfly effect plotholes. T2 worked within the originally set parameters and made it work. Fulfill the past, not change it. Well maybe we don’t have that concept down perfectly, but it’s good enough.”

21 Jump Street (ExpDl Top 100)

“Another cheater entry. I already wrote up 21 Jump Street back when I saw it in the theater earlier this year. I just thought it was \m/ brilliant. Details are in that post.

The reason it made my list is because I’m always searching for that perfectly blended action comedy, and 21 Jump Street his the combo incredibly well. A lil harder on the comedy side, but the best gags are all in reference to the action. Fave scenes include the one where Nick Offerman pokes fun at the remake-ness of the film (“”The people behind this lack creativity and they’ve run out of ideas….””) to the 37 Jump Street line. It also has one of the greatest car chases sequences I have ever seen.

Again, go back to my original post for more love. I ain’t gonna retype it all”

Black Swan (ExpDl Top 100)

“There isn’t really a lot to say about Black Swan that I didnt say before when I first watched this movie. Every so often I’ll say that a movie is perfect for me. Usually it’s something that mixes action and comedy well (ie, Zombieland). But I dont think I’ve ever meant it as much as I do when I refer to Black Swan.

I love love love dark and messed up movies. We know this. It is by no means new information. But usually dark movies cover dark subject matter that I’m not necessarily tied to: serial killers, drug addicts, psycopaths. I may not be any of those things. What I am is a dancer. Have been since I was three, and it’s one of my biggest passions. I’ve actually been going so crazy the past two months that I haven’t been able to dance at all with my whole knee thing going on. So yes, Black Swan is a perfect movie for me.

I hit on all the specifics before, so there isn’t really much point in repeating myself. I’m really just happy to have an excuse to rewatch this film yet again.”

Final Destination (ExpDl Top 100)

“What’s your favorite scary movie? Well, it depends on how you want to define scary movie. My favorite horror franchise is a toss up between Final Destination and Scream. If we’re sticking to the slasher subgenre, it’s Scream. I love how it’s a sorta parody of the genre, while still being a part of the genre itself. But in the end, I had to go with Final Destination.

As a franchise, I feel tht it did stay pretty strong throughout. Yes, it had a few questionable entries, but it didn’t decline as steadily or steeply as Scream. The first FD is brilliant. It’s the right combo of campy and scary. It’s dark and twisted, but a lil tongue-in-cheek and entertainly over the top. The second film continued that grave and austere vibe. The third and fourth did go a bit downhill, too much on the camp and too ridiculous, even for its predecessors. But then the fifth one, just when all hope had been lost, was incredible. It hit the balance even better. Was just as dark as the first two, but just as fun as the last two. That was all well and good, but the twist at the end. Whoa. Beyond perfection. Did not see it coming, and it was a great way to tie everything in. That restored my faith, and that’s why Final Destination (mostly the first one, but as a representation of all of them) is on my list.

Two things that really stick out to me about these films. One is that the death scenes are really creative. In the early movies they’re incredibly creepy and suspenseful. By the later ones, they’re more ridiculous, but that’s the charm. Half of the fun in watching is seeing how they’re gonna die, and the build up gets milked like crazy. However, what really strikes me most about these movies is that the concept scares the \m/ outta me.

I don’t typically get scared with horror movies, usually because I can see a way out. Slasher movie? Um, run from the guy with the knife, and not to the upstairs bathroom. Shark in the water? Stay outta the water. Supernatural being haunting your house? Right. But here, you’re running from death itself. When it’s your turn, there is no escape. Even if you’re lucky enough to get skipped, it comes back around. Sometimes our victims think they’ve found a loophole, but by the end (or the next movie) they’re still wiped out.

The first time I ever saw this movie, it was about two weeks before getting on a plane to fly aross the country for a class trip. I obsessively checked the latch on my tray table to make sure it didn’t break off. To this day, I still check it as soon as I sit down. God only knows what I’d do if it ever broke on me. On that same trip, after being edgy about the plane ride, the toilet in one of our hotel rooms overflowed. The water appeared to chase us around the bathroom.

I love the original cast so much too. Devon Sawa had been one of my biggest crushes in junior high,a nd this was one of the first times I saw him all growed up. I still adore the boy. He’s why I started watching Nikita. This was also during the Dawson’s Creek heyday, so it was a big deal seeing Kerr Smith. Roswell was also just starting up, so Brendan Fehr had a small role. You also got Seann William Scott before he was too typecast as Stiffler. And look, a pre-Heroes, pre-blonde Ali Larter!

Say what you will about these films being too silly or cheesey. That’s what I love about them.”