45th Anniversary Review of The Godfather (1972)

by Nevin Hooper

TV- version

Hello, once again fans of classic films, and I am so, so happy to finally talk about this film. It is considered one of the best films of all time and is a perfect film about the struggles of family life, the Italian mob, and just a perfect film in general! So, here we go into one of the most celebrated films of all time, The Godfather!

If you are not familiar with my grading system it goes like this: I grade films on a scale from 0/10 (movies that are so horrible that they should have never been made) to an 11/10 (movies that are so good, so amazing, that you just can’t give the average 10/10 grade).

This magnificent film tells the story of the struggling Corleone Crime Family after its leader, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando, in one of his best roles), survives an assassination attempt from another family. Because of this, the new patriarch of the Family, the youngest son of Vito, Michael (Al Pacino, who gives by far his best performance), is determined to avenge his father. The rest of the film follows the near fall and hysteria of the Corleone Crime Family.

I will just go out and say that in my opinion, this is the best American film ever made. I have never seen a single movie throughout my entire movie-watching journey that I have found better than this one. Some may back down and not watch this film and it’s equally amazing sequel because of it’s length, but because of that, these people are missing a phenomenal film. Francis Ford Coppola’s direction is stunning, along with the brilliant Oscar-winning screenplay that so believably brings to life these characters. The cinematography is also excellent with interesting metaphorical imagery to express the difference between these people’s “normal” life and the crime business life in which they are forever entrapped. And I do believe that almost every single shot in this movie could be a perfect framed photograph. The performances in this movie by everyone are also perfect. Marlon Brando does an amazing job portraying the heartbroken Don, which garnered him a very worthy Best Actor Oscar. But, by far the best performance in this film, that I also think is still to this day the most Oscar-snubbed performance ever, is from Al Pacino. Sure, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this film, but why in the world did he not win it?! He deserved that Oscar so badly, but of course, he did not win it, and I have to deal with that. I mean, even in the second movie he gives a performance that some may argue is a better performance than what he does in the first one, and he still didn’t win Best Actor for that film either! Anyway, I just can’t talk about this film enough to tell you how great this movie is. It is a timeless masterpiece, and will forever be a cinematic masterpiece, and definitely deserves my highest grade of an 11/10.

10 Must Watch Christmas Movies for December

By Brandon Matzke and Nevin Hooper

It’s December! You know what that means… CHRISTMAS!!! I absolutely adore this holiday, and celebrate it proudly every year. Maybe too much. But I still love it. So, here’s a list of my (and Nevin’s) 10 favorite Christmas movies. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s perfectly fine. And these aren’t all good movies; I just did a search for Christmas films, and these are the ones I got. And I’m counting legitimate Christmas films, not the ones that just take place around the holidays (like Batman Returns or Love Actually). And, I’m listing these from least best to best. And I needed some help, so I brought fellow film critic Nevin Hooper into this (like how I did with our Halloween special). Now, let’s get this party started!

10. Elf (2003)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I’m not much of a Will Ferrell fan. I’ve only seen two of his movies that I’ve enjoyed. One of them was Talledega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby (which is a guilty pleasure), and the other is 2003’s Elf. It’s so rare that a film this bizarre manages to become such a classic. Elf follows Buddy (Will Ferrell in an amusingly cheery role): a human who was raised by elves (as in, Santa’s elves). One day, he discovers he is not actually an elf and that he’s a human. He journeys across the magical land of New York City to meet his dad and his human family. Turns out his dad is on the dreaded naughty list, and it’s up to him to redeem his dad. It’s a very weird film, but one that manages to always make me smile around this time of year.

9. Arthur Christmas (2011)

Review by Brandon Matzke

A modern holiday classic, Arthur Christmas, follows Arthur, the youngest son of the master spy known as Santa Claus. As in, the “ho ho ho” Santa. During one fateful Christmas, Arthur discovers a toy Santa forgot to deliver, and it’s up to him, an elf who mastered the art of wrapping, and a retired former Santa (it’s a job title in this world) to find the rightful owner of this gift and unite toy and child. This film really surprised me; it seemed really cheesy, and at times, it was, but for every cheesy moment there was a heartwarming and/or fun moment. The visuals are very appealing, the humor is surprisingly good, and the film just makes me feel like a kid again. I just recommend it.

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas

Review by Brandon Matzke

I honestly didn’t know if I could include this one, considering it’s extremely small runtime of 30 minutes. But, it does have a touching message about the real meaning of Christmas along with the signature Peanuts charm. And Charles Schultz’s animation has this strange quality that just adds to this film, even beating the recent Peanuts Movie (which is still a good movie by the way). If you’re feeling a little down around the holidays, this was a film made just for you.

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Review by Brandon Matzke

Honestly, this is more of a Halloween film. But it has Christmas right in the title! I’ve already discussed this film, so I’ll just use some quotes from my original review: “For one, I find it to be beautifully unique. I mean, it’s not everyday you see a movie where individual holidays have their own worlds. But it also has great animation, some brilliant music by the talented Danny Elfman, and a sweet and simple plot based on a poem written by Tim Burton. So, before you rant about seeing Jack Skellington at every Hot Topic (I mean, what is it with this film and Hot Topic?!), give the film a shot. You might be humming “This is Halloween” before you know it. 11/10.”- Top 5 Halloween Movies article.

6. Gremlins (1984)

Review by Brandon Matzke

Gremlins is a horror fan’s Christmas film. This film managed to earn the 1984 Saturn award for Best Horror film, beating out darker, grittier films like A Nightmare on Elm Street. And for good reason, too! This film is the reason why PG-13 exists; it pushed the boundaries so much that it (and the second Indiana Jones film) made a new rating. That’s not the only reason why this film works; it’s a brilliant dark comedy, blending horror and comedy seamlessly. The screenplay by Chris Columbus is weird and original, and also hilarious and scary. But without a doubt, the best part of this film is… the gremlins. Holy cow, these buggers are so much fun, whether they’re watching Snow White and singing along with it, or violently destroying the small town of Kingston Falls, they’re a blast to watch. Is this for everyone? No. But for the right audience, it’s a blast.

5. A Christmas Story (1983)

Review by Nevin Hooper

A cult classic. I am so surprised that Brandon has not seen this film yet, especially since it plays all day long every Christmas day. But, either way, I am reviewing it. All Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas is a “Red Rider air rifle.” After the constant excuse from everyone around him “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” Ralphie is still determined to have that rifle for Christmas, while still suffering through the random misadventures of his family and friends. This film is gut-bustingly hilarious. There are so many memorable lines and scenes, with the parents (especially from the father) and famous scenes including the scene where a kid gets his tongue stuck on a telephone pole and the teacher has to pull him off. But, Ralphie’s exotic visions about his yearning of the rifle is hilarious and totally make some of the greatest scenes of the film. This is a necessary watch around Christmas, and I highly recommend it.

4. Home Alone (1990)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I have very pleasant memories of this film: it was the first film I really begged to own (and I got a VHS of it for Christmas one year, which I still own), it was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and I always thought that Marv looked like my first grade teacher. I honestly don’t know why. But there was something I always watched this movie for: not the message of the importance of family, or watching an immature kid turn into a young adult; it was the VIOLENCE. For a film with a PG rating, this is a very violent film. Yeah, it’s played for laughs, but having a nail go through a guy’s foot?! That’s something that the guy from Saw would consider inhumane! But it’s so fun to watch that I honestly stopped caring about how violent it was. But I have to go back to this film: the score by John Williams makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the directing is actually pretty good for a “kid comedy”, and Macaulay Culkin as Kevin Mccallister has so much wit and charm that I honestly started rooting for this kid, even after watching his violent torture traps dismember the poor burglars who decided to rob his house. This is a family film with an edge, and earns my seal of approval. But seriously, those traps could kill someone!

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I usually can’t stand Chevy Chase. I don’t think he’s that funny, I usually find him annoying, but this one little film is the sole objection. This is a very unconventional film for the holidays: it’s about family, sure, but it also has a truly evil squirrel hiding in a Christmas tree, Chevy Chase nearly blinding his stuck-up neighbors with his magical Christmas light magic, and everything a comedy needs to be a classic. It’s basically an examination of a christmas gone wrong; the tree is too big to even fit in the house, the family hates each other, etc., but it’s always played for laughs. And let me tell you; those laughs are well earned. And Chevy Chase, while having his absolutely hysterical moments, also manages to play a convincing everyman with a chaotic life. This is not only one of my favorite Christmas films, but also one of my favorite comedies. And it’s one that I highly recommend.

2. Die Hard (1988) (TV version)

Review by Brandon Matzke

Most of the films on this list are cheerful and happy. They make you feel warm inside, and get you in that perfect holiday mood. And then there’s Die Hard. Is this the most Christmas-y film ever made? No. This film and Christmas share as much in common as a paperclip and a beaver. But this is a great film to watch around this time of year. Taking place on Christmas Eve, Die Hard follows John McClane (Bruce Willis in an excellent role), a divorced man visiting his ex wife at a christmas party in the iconic Nakatomi tower. When things seem at their calmest, a break-in occurs, and it’s up to John McClane to stop a group of terrorists (lead by Hans Gruber, Alan Rickman in his most charismatic villain performance) from killing everyone in the building. This is a very well made action movie, and has some absolutely thrilling scenes. Bruce Willis gives a very likeable performance, and is so much fun to watch thanks to with his now-iconic one-liners and everyman charm. The characters are very memorable, and the film is a ton of fun to watch. I highly recommend it for action movie fans.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Review by Nevin Hooper

On its first initial release this film was not praised at all. But, over the years, it has gained a reputation by being one of the most influential Christmas films of all time. Starring James Stewart in one of his best roles, he plays the suicidal George Bailey who wishes that he was never born. Then an angel by the name of Clarence (Henry Travers) comes to show him that the world needs him and what the world would be like if he was never born. Not only is this a great Christmas movie, but this is a great film in general. The film has amazing acting and a phenomenal screenplay that deals with themes about one’s place in life and the importance of family and friends. The direction is also very exceptional and is helped by the excellent black and white cinematography. The story of this movie is just so phenomenal, it is original, imaginative, hopeful, sad, humorous, and very deep in themes that are important to us and the people around us. It’s a Wonderful Life is a great watch around Christmas and I very much hope you can watch it and enjoy it as much as I did.

30th Anniversary Review of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

by Nevin Hooper

TV version

Hello, once again, fans of classic cinema, and today, since it is nearing Thanksgiving, I thought, why not review one of the best Thanksgiving films of all time, John Hughes’ Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Since the film is nearing its thirtieth anniversary, it felt necessary to review it.

If you are new to my film reviews, I have a grading system that goes like this: I grade films on a scale of 0/10 (films that are so horrible that they should have never been made), to an 11/10 (films that are so fantastic, so amazing, that you just can’t give the average 10/10 grade). Now, onto the review!

Workaholic Neal Page (Steve Martin, in one of his best performances) is desperate to get home to his family for Thanksgiving, but his plane to Chicago gets rerouted to Kansas because of a monstrous snow storm. He meets up with the extremely talkative Del Griffith (John Candy, in another lovable performance, rest in peace), who offers to find a way to get him to Chicago in time to see his family, so they have to overcome their numerous problems with each other to get Neal back home.

John Hughes has always been a favorite director/screenwriter of mine. With some of my favorite films of his being The Breakfast Club (1985), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), I immediately raced to see this film and loved it. Hughes uses his brilliant writing skills to create a hilarious, yet at times extremely heartfelt, atmosphere with excellent dialogue and chemistry between Martin and Candy who give some of the best scenes in the entire movie.

Another thing that I appreciated was the music in the film. Some may like it, some may not, but I thought the music in the film was great for the mood and tone of the story. The only very minor negative that I see with this film, that doesn’t even affect my grade as it just bothered me a little bit, are a few times in the film where they have an argument and they threaten to separate, but then they stay together. Since this happened multiple times, I was like “Just stop arguing and make up your mind! Leave or stay, it’s your choice!” But, that is only very minor for me, so I still have to give this film an 11/10. It is a great film to watch around Thanksgiving.

So, have any of you guys seen this film? If so, what did you think of it, because, as you can tell, I loved this movie. Not my favorite Hughes film, but still pretty good. Tell me what you think in the comments, or what is your favorite film to watch around Thanksgiving. I will be back soon writing more reviews!

Titanic (1997)- 20th Anniversary Review

Nevin Hooper

Hello, fans of classic films! Today we are tackling a film that most of you will probably know: Titanic! The epic romance mixed with the historical epic disaster of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. And now you can go experience, or re-experience the film with its re-release in theaters for the film’s 20th anniversary!

If you are not familiar with my grading system, it works like this: I grade films on a scale from 0/10 (movies that are so horrible that they should have never been made), to an 11/10 (movies that are so phenomenal that you just can’t give the average 10/10 grade).

For those who have not seen this film, it follows young Rose (Kate Winslet, in a fantastic performance that earned her a nomination for Best Actress) as she boards the “ship of dreams,” as some people at the time called it, called the Titanic, for a trip to the Americas. Along with her comes the poor but adventurous, Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio, in his most beloved role), with goals of returning back home to America. On their trip, they fall for each other, and so starts their unlikely romance until the dreaded day that the colossal ship runs into an iceberg and starts to sink. This is when the film takes a huge turn from being a heartfelt romance, to an edge of your seat disaster flick.

Being one of three films to win the most Oscars a film has ever won (11 Oscars to be exact, including Best Picture), it is phenomenal.  It appeals to a wide audience, being both a romance and a fast paced thriller, which is astonishing and partly why I loved it. The chemistry between Jack and Rose is extremely believable, and the characters were so well developed that you wanted to see them both succeed once the ship started to fall apart around them.

The film looks amazing, the special effects, cinematography, masterful camerawork, and direction still hold up twenty years later. The set decoration is fantastic, and you truly feel that you are in the Titanic, which makes it an even more exciting film. The acting is great, especially from Kate Winslet in one of her best performances, along with DiCaprio, who is always amazing. Many of the supporting roles also deserve recognition, like Gloria Stuart who plays the old Rose and is the oldest person to be nominated for an Oscar. Billy Zane, I felt, did a great job too as a great antagonist. The whole film is a marvelous spectacle in modern filmmaking and I have to give it an 11/10.

What did you think of Titanic? Did you think it is one of your favorite movies (like how I personally think of it), or did you think it was too long and boring? Either way, tell me in the comments, and I will be back with more reviews of old films!

Hitchcock October Marathon- North by Northwest (1959)

 

by Nevin Hooper

Hello, fans of the world of classic movies! We are still nearing closer and closer to the frightening day of Halloween! The month of horrifying films and suspense films has encouraged me to continue reviewing films made by the Master of Suspense: Alfred Hitchcock. I have previously written reviews for Rear Window (1954), and Vertigo (1958), so now I am going to get into Hitchcock’s most entertaining film, North by Northwest!

Known as one of the most entertaining films of all time, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 Oscar-nominated adventure film, North by Northwest, tells the story of a man named Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant, in a great performance, who also became very good friends with the acclaimed Alfred Hitchcock) who is falsely accused of murdering someone, and is also accused of being some sort of spy. So, the government is after him since he supposedly killed this person, but this other society of people is after him because they think he is a spy, so they think he can ruin their society. Then this film turns into high speed adventure across the entire country, and Thornhill has no idea who to trust.

I adore this movie so much! It is easily one of the most rewatchable movies I have ever seen. It is so fun, entertaining, and suspenseful with Hitchcock’s famous moments of suspense and thrills. The screenplay is so well thought through and there are fantastic set pieces. The movie also features some of cinema’s most famous moments, such as Roger being chased by a crop duster. Furthermore, the climax is on top of the heads of the presidents on Mount Rushmore.

Hithcock’s sense of storytelling is phenomenal, and every scene mounts more and more suspense, which is another thing that I love about this movie. With Rear Window and Vertigo you had to wait until half an hour into the movie to get the story going (not that I minded, it was used amazingly to get you to know the characters), but this film immediately starts in the action. I don’t know what else to say about this movie. It’s so good. It’s amazing. I love it and I highly recommend it, and shall give it an 11/10.

Review- Amadeus (1984)

by Brandon Matzke

Rating: (theatrical) PG

Wow.

Based on the stage production of the same name, Amadeus could be the best film I have ever seen. I almost never say stuff like that. This masterpiece of cinema is a story about every theme imaginable: love, hate, pride, jealousy, obsession, appreciation, whatever you want; it’s in there. The film follows Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), a former musician sent to an insane asylum following an attempted suicide. He is soon visited by a priest to whom he confesses to “killing Mozart.” What starts out as a simple life story ends up as a tale of rivalry between the surprisingly immature, yet talented, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (played to perfection by Tom Hulce) and a musician slowly losing his sanity.

Positives
Where to start? Well, the visuals are fantastic. There isn’t any CGI, but this film needed none. The colors reflect the tone perfectly: the uplifting scenes are bright and vibrant, while the more dramatic moments are darker and dimly lit. The costumes and sets put me exactly in this era, and the music, OH THE MUSIC! It’s about Mozart, so of course it’s going to have an amazing soundtrack. And the acting? Purely phenomenal. There isn’t a single dull performance in the film. And the directing is phenomenal; there isn’t a single dull moment in the film. Despite being almost three hours long, I never found myself bored.

Negatives
What negatives? I couldn’t find a single one. Sure, the runtime of nearly three hours can turn off some viewers, but it never stopped me before.

Overall
I consider this film to be one of the best films ever made, and for good reason. I’m not even that big on music, and I still consider this to be a masterpiece. So, of course, I have to give it an 11/10. If I could give it higher, I would immediately. This may be my favorite film of all time, even beating out other classics including Forrest Gump, The Godfather, Drive, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, To Kill A Mockingbird, Fight Club, Alien, The Dark Knight, The Empire Strikes Back, Rocky, The Shawshank Redemption, Lord of The Rings: Return Of The King, and Back To The Future (all of which I highly recommend). But now I’m curious; since I reviewed my favorite film of all time, I want to know what your favorite movie is. Be sure to comment!

What the critics say:
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

IMDb: 8.3/10

Hitchcock October Marathon: Rear Window (1954)

by Nevin Hooper

Hello, once again fans of classic movies. It is now October- the month of horror movie, thriller, and other suspense films leading up to Halloween. So, since this month is full of movies of those genres, why not look over one of the best directors of all time, the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. For this series of reviews I will write four reviews of four of his movies in chronological order. I will start with Rear Window, followed by Vertigo (1958), then North by Northwest (1959), and finally The Birds (1963). So let’s start talking about one of my personal top five favorite films, Rear Window.

If you are not familiar with my grading system, it is simple. It goes from a 0/10 (movies that are so horrible that they should have never been made), to an 11/10 (movies that are so amazing, so fantastic, that you just can’t give the average 10/10 grade).

This Hitchcock masterpiece focuses on a man named L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries (James Stewart, in my personal favorite performance of his) who is a famous newspaper photographer. After breaking his leg in an accident, he is confined to a cast and wheelchair in his apartment. Since he has nothing else to do, he enjoys watching his neighbors outside of his window in his surrounding big apartment complex. One day he is certain that one of his neighbors has murdered someone, and with the help of his friend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and therapist Stella (Thelma Ritter), he goes against everybody’s judgment to figure out if the murder is just a hoax or a real threat.

This movie by far is the most suspensefully nerve wracking films I have ever seen in my entire life. I have never been so on the edge of my seat while watching this movie. The last thirty minutes in this film are probably Hitchcock’s most suspenseful scenes to date. The beauty of this film is you stay in one location throughout the entire runtime of the movie. The entire film never leaves the apartment, so you never see what is beyond it other than a few cars passing by in a little gap in between buildings. Since Jeffries is stuck with this limited view, he is entirely hopeless and the entire movie feels confined.

This is such a well done confined thriller. You are stuck in this one area. You can’t get out but you want to so badly. Yet you have to keep watching to know what happens next. Hitchcock did not get the title of the “Master of Suspense” for nothing. His direction, the editing, the gorgeous cinematography, and the performances give this film such a great enclosed atmosphere.

Like I said, this film is in my top five favorite movies (number three to be specific) and I highly recommend it, and shall gladly give it an 11/10.