September's Monthly Feature – Top Fives (Pt. 3 of 3)

Today, in our final day of the feature, the editorial staff of PJ will save the best for last as Michaelangelo McCullar, Danny Cox and I will join up with DVD Lounge czar Travis Leamons to tackle our own Top Fives. They may be responsible for maintaining the peace as well as day-to-day operations, but that doesn’t mean they get off easy.

Danny Cox, Popcorn Junkies News Editor / DVD Lounge Contributor:

Question #1 It is a well known fact amongst the staff that you have perhaps the largest DVD collection known to man. Name the five most important DVDs you own.

1. Superman Collection Without a doubt the ultimate collection of the Man Of Steel who I have had an obsession with as a small child had to be number one. Already had the first four films and Superman Returns on DVD but that didn’t stop me from grabbing this collection right away. Fourteen great looking discs contained in a sweet ass tin casing this is the premier set and the one I am most proud to own in my entire collection of around 1,400 DVDs.

2. Clue – $29.99 I paid for this thing and it is now in the dump bin at Wal-Mart, yet I would have paid even more for it if necessary. One of the all time best films imaginable with a cast that directors can only dream of. It has long been my favorite board game and was somehow turned into one kick ass feature with such fantastic lines as “Mrs. Peacock was A MAN?” How can you not like that?

3. The Real Ghostbusters Collection This is not really a collection but three separate DVDs, but might as well have come together. My favorite cartoon as a child and one I am still obsessed with today. The cartoons are funny, have great storylines, and are actually quite creepy at times. I’m still waiting for more to come out so my favorite episode “The Joke’s On Ray” to be released, but these will tide me over.

4. A Nightmare On Elm Street Box Set The very first box set I ever got and very fitting of my taste in films. The set itself isn’t much to gloat about because each DVD is packed in paper folding cases, but it is the outside that is fantastic. Both sides of the box have raised images of Krueger himself and the spine of each DVD goes together to make another cool image of him. Not to mention it comes with 3-D glasses for New Nightmare and some of the coolest extras ever thought of.

5. Mean Creek It is rather easy to get a hold of now and has been since I finally got a copy, but this DVD took me forever to get my mitts on. I went to twelve different stores (not including more then one Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc ) to finally get a hold of it. I hadn’t heard much about it, but really thought it sounded awesome so after not being able to find it, it became a quest and was so worth it.

Question #2 What are the best five action movie clichés?

1. The Never Empty Gun Sure it is quite possibly the oldest one in the book, but guns are never empty until the worst possible time. I’ve come to realize that if the film really sucks; I’ll end up counting shots during the gun battles and saying to myself “Should be out now!” It is most evident and most fun when someone has an old six-shooter revolver and a good nine shots come out. You just can’t beat cinematic realism like that I tell ya!

2. One-On-One Fighting In An 88 Vs. 1 Battle If all the attackers didn’t come one at a time at our hero, then fight scenes would be a helluva lot shorter, but still would love to see it happen one time. Our hero is surrounded by fifteen thugs and has the confidence of one hundred men combined. Then? The thugs attack all at once and the fight is over in a good ten seconds gold!

3. Shoot All You Want, You’ll Never Hit Em I love seeing our hero walk straight forward into gunfire and either never take a single hit or get hit in both arms, but keep trucking on. Kurt Russell in Tombstone does this in awesome fashion. My favorite though is when the bad guys shoot through long rows of glass as our hero runs away and glass breaks behind them. Why the bad guys never aim in front of the running hero and shoot towards them though is beyond me.

4. Miraculous Leaps And Bounds It is always possible to make unimaginable leaps over gaps or caverns that no human being could come close to ever making by legs, bike, or even bus. Yes, when that bus in Speed jumps that huge ass gap and “somehow” goes up!!! I realized then that Keanu could clear any obstacle except the one of being an enjoyable actor on screen.

5. Protected By A Thin Blanket Bombs, bullets, thrown axes, and any other weapon imaginable can be thwarted by whatever is around. Someone shooting at you and you’re 450 pounds? No matter, hide behind that skinny tree. Is there a bomb in the toilet you’re sitting on? It’s cool because you can throw a blanket around your back and Riggs can pull you into the nearby bathtub. Safe and sound!

Travis Leamons, Popcorn Junkies Contributor / DVD Lounge Editor in Chief:

Question #1 Which five actors will you pay to see no matter how bad the film appears to be?

Unlike many on the staff, I am in a fortunate position in that I don’t have to pay to see movies in the theaters. Yet, for this feature I’ll make an exception and act as if I did have to shill out 10 bucks a pop to see a favorite actor no matter how bad the film is. So let’s see how far I can stretch my wallet.

1. John Cusack -My first and second picks have the odd distinction of starring in a movie together called The Contract. It was rushed straight to video; knowing nothing about the film, except that it starred Cusack and Freeman, I watched it only because of them. While the movie did indeed suck, it was not enough of a black spot to make me want to damn both actors for all eternity. In fact, it only made me want to recall some of Cusack’s great body of work: Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, Say Anything , Grosse Pointe Blank, and most recently 1408. His look is mostly vanilla, but Cuasck has a knack for playing the underdog. He’ll also go against type like he did in Con Air. And when he’s paired with his sister Joan, chances are even better the movie will be a winner.

2. Morgan Freeman – One of my all-time favorite thespians. Considering how much I enjoy The Shawshank Redemption (it’s my #1 film of all time), Freeman gets a free pass in whatever he does. He has shone flashes of brilliance with his work in Se7en and Million Dollar Baby. He has carried pictures, just as he did in Kiss the Girls. Heck, he’s even played God. And I think it is his supporting work I most enjoy. Even when he’s paired with the likes of Jet Li and Josh Hartnett, Freeman can make anything better. (But he can’t always save a picture.)

3. Nicolas Cage – First making his big screen debut in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Cage then credited as Nicolas Coppola has tried his best to branch out without the help of the Coppola namesake. In the 1980’s he was most identified with Raising Arizona and Moonstruck. The early nineties was not too favorable, having starred in Amos & Andrew and Fire Birds (the first Nick Cage movie I saw in theaters). Since then I’ve seen no less than fifteen of his films in theaters. Some good (The Rock, Lord of War), others forgettable (The Family Man, Windtalkers, and especially The Wicker Man). I don’t know, there’s just something about Cage and his Everyman appearance. Maybe that’s why he is one of producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s favorite actors to work with. They have made four movies together, each one grossing over 100 million dollars domestically.

4. John C. McGinley – If you have ever seen the TV comedy Scrubs, then you are well aware of just who John C. McGinley is. As the loathsome, but oh so lovable Dr. Cox, his sly jabs at others around him is a feast for the ears. With the show’s success, and taking care of his son who has Down’s Syndrome, he was limited in doing films. When I saw the trailer for Are We Done Yet? I cringed at the realization it was a sequel to Are We There Yet? Then a gleam of hope: John C. McGinley is a small supporting performance. Well, that was all the motivation I needed. (Just like it was when I saw trailers to Wild Hogs and The Animal with Rob Schneider.)

5. Jason Statham – If ever there was an action star to make us remember the good ole days of cheesy action movies from the eighties. Having just finished an Entertainment Weekly article about the actor, it reaffirmed my reasoning of why he is a favorite of mine. He just has the look. From his debut in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to Crank, Statham has maintained a Steve McQueen type of cool even if the movies turn out to be crap. Having appeared in 13 different movies since 1999 14 if you count his few seconds of work in Michael Mann’s Collateral Statham has proven himself in supporting roles (The Italian Job) and as a headline (the Transporter films). Whether he continues the action route that is to be determined; all I know is that I’ll keep watching.

Question #2 Not too many people know but you’ve been checking theatres for trailers for some time now. Name the five best trailers you’ve seen in the past five years.

1. Comedian (2002) – Of all the trailers listed here, this is the only one I did not see in theaters. However, the trailer is so good that it deserved to be included on this list. The star of Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, is nowhere to be found. And in similar fashion to his “show about nothing,” nothing is really gained from watching the trailer. The focus is an attempt to record that perfect voiceover to promote the film. One of the legendary movie trailer voices, Hal Douglas, is the butt of the joke, as he rambles nothing but clichés we’ve heard a zillion times before. With a great amount of self-effacing humor, the trailer is a hilarious lampoon on those mysterious voices that sell us on what to see in theaters.

2. Kung Fu Hustle (2005) – When I first saw the trailer to Kung Fu Hustle, I had no idea who Stephen Chow was. Which is to say I never saw Shaolin Soccer. But there’s just something that draws you in. At first it gives the impression of a Western, with a showdown about to take place. Then we get baddies dancing in unison, Tommy Guns, landlords slapping people around, not to mention certain sequences where it seems the choreography was done by the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. Oh, and to top everything off the action is set to The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz.”

3. Kill Bill Volume 1: Teaser (2003) – Again, this is another example where music plays a big part. Okay, the fact that most of the trailer is culled from the “House of Blue Leaves” fight sequence also helps. But Hotei Tomoyasu’s “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” is a perfect match when trying to convey the tone of the scene, maybe the entire picture.

4. Children of Men (2006) – This is a case of good marketing, bad timing. For Universal to unveil a feature film about an infertility epidemic on the same day many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus. Though the trailer is rich in its depiction of a world one generation from now a world where anarchy is a daily happening. Even with its dystopian overtones, what most stood out to me was the music sampled for the trailer. We get a sense of calmness with the London Symphony Orchestra’s symphonic interpretations of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” Then calm becomes frantic with some up-tempo flair. Finally, as the trailer nears the end, we hear the soothing voices of Sigur Ros (an Icelandic group) with “Hoppipolla” while Clive Owen and company make their way through the war-torn streets. A nice little contrast to end things on a high note.

5. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) – I know, you see The Devil Wears Prada and think, what’s this doing here? It’s quite simple, really. The trailer is basic in its attempt to lure you into the theater. It is not a montage of different scenes compacted together in a two-minute-and-thirty-second timeframe. There is no ominous voiceover by the likes of Don LaFontaine. All we get is a short scene that introduces us to Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a frumpy-clothed, frizzy-haired gal, and concludes with her first encounter with Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), her soon-to-be Witch of a Boss. The decision to focus only on this scene was a good one, as it truly encapsulates the same feeling Dorothy had in the land of Oz. Andy Sachs wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz, Popcorn Junkies Features & Reviews Editor / DVD Lounge Contributor:

Question #1 Which five films shaped you into the person you are today?

1. Pumping Iron – Weight-lifting has always been a hobby of mine since I was a kid. I got into heavily once I stopped playing organized sports, but what got me hooked was watching this documentary in junior high school on VHS. My father had always been trying to get me to hit the weights more and watching this film, which we rented, just kicked in. Seeing all these guys be able to lift weights that were seemingly impossible to me made me want to get in the weight room. To feel a muscle pump, as the blood flows through you, is something Arnold once described quite vulgarly and it’s the truth.

2. Clerks – This film influenced me in so many ways I’ve lost count, and it showed how you could be incredibly profane yet somehow manage to be profound in some way. When I was 16 this film had a different meaning than it did at 22 and a different one at 28. I think that’s a sign of its greatness; it’s still relevant well over a decade since it was initially released.

3. Rocky – I’ve never understood the backlash against this film. Maybe because it has Sylvester Stallone in it, as he’s made a series of awful films in the 30 years plus since this came out, or maybe it’s because of the sheer volume of sequels that were made but the original Rocky stands the test of time as one of the great films of our time. It’s about a guy who doesn’t want to be the best, or the biggest, or anything else. All Rocky Balboa wants to do is to go a whole fight the World Heavyweight Champion. What I drew out of this film, and it’s totally cliché to think and say, but 99% of life is just showing up and doing the best you can. Rocky knows he’s probably going to lose, but he doesn’t want to be humiliated. He just wants to last 15 rounds with the best boxer in the world. The scene that really inspires me is when Balboa just takes a beating from Creed and is knocked down. Everyone screams at him to stay down. A lot of people would, too. But he gets up before the ten-count and taunts the champion to keep bringing it. Apollo shakes his head in disbelief. No one can believe it, not even Apollo, but Rocky will not go quietly into the night. Against the best in the world and seemingly impossible odds Rocky won’t quit. He won’t give up. If you can’t be inspired by that, then you have no soul.

4. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – The best and most timely rule to live your life by comes from this film. “Be excellent to each other. And PARTY ON DUDES!”

5. A Few Good Men – It comes down to one single lesson, one aphorism as how to look at things. “It’s not what I know; it’s what I can prove.”

Question #2 You’ve said in the past that you’re a big fan of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and crime films starring both of them. Name the best five American crime films that don’t star either of them.

1. The Departed – Nearly everyone had this listed as the best of 2006, as did I, and the Academy rightly gave Scorsese his overdue Oscar for it. In less than a year I’ve watched this film a dozen times and it’s still as good as the first time.

2. Training Day – Sometimes a great leading man can make an even better villain. And who better than Denzel Washington to pull it off, as this is one of the most under-rated movies of this new millennium.

3. Collateral – Playing against type is sometimes glorious. And seeing Tom Cruise as a hit-man trying to pull off a job in one night, led around by a cab driver (Jamie Foxx), is worth the price of admission alone. Throw in the best director working and a simple yet complex story and you have a terrific thriller.

4. The Usual Suspects – Take five character actors, throw in a great script and top-notch direction and throw in a terrific curveball in the film’s final act and you have a great movie.

5. Reservoir Dogs – A group of guys who don’t know anything about one another except a code name each one is given. A shootout gone horribly wrong. An incredibly crass conversation about an 80s Madonna song. All that and some inspired directing from a new director led to one of the great crime films of the modern era and a different way of thinking about independent cinema.

Michaelangelo McCullar, Popcorn Junkies Editor in Chief:

Question #1 You’ve gone on record many a time stating you think Martin Scorsese is perhaps the best American director of his time. Name the top five films he’s done.

Well, let’s get it correct. I never said Scorsese was the best American director of his time. I said that he was the best American director of ALL time. Big distinction. But his top five flicks? Well…

1. Goodfellas – The single greatest gangster flick of all time. And no, how many times must I say it, The Godfather is not a gangster flick.

2. Raging Bull – Maybe the most brutal boxing flick ever, plus DeNiro’s single best acting role.

3. The Departed – Some may scream heresy, but this is simply Scorsese’s most watchable and accessible flick, and I think it may be the best remake ever.

4. The King of Comedy – Scorsese’s lost classic. This film is so brutally funny it hurts.

5. Casino – Man, oh man, the first half is some of the most riveting stuff ever put on screen. Too bad the second half is so bloated or this would be a real classic.

Question #2 Who are the best five actresses currently working over the age of 45?

1. Meryl Streep – Still kicking ass and taking names.

2. Judi Dench – From M to Queen Elizabeth, the Dame can take any flick in any time period and make it her own.

3. Glenn Close – Man, she’s so good she’s almost underrated. I think people forget just how incredible she can be.

4. Helen Mirren – Her Oscar for playing QE2 was richly deserved.

5. Joan Allen – Not only versatile and talented, but improbably she’s gotten hotter as she’s gotten older.

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