Movie Project #27: Top Gun [1986]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Top Gun [1986]

Top Gun [1986] 
Director: Tony Scott
Writers: Jim Cash & Jack Epps, Jr.
Country: USA
Genre: Action/Drama/Romance
Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards
Running Time: 110 minutes

It’s near impossible to watch Top Gun without thinking of the countless references and parodies it has spawned since its release. Between the running “Danger Zone” gags in Archer and Quentin Tarantino’s infamous homosexuality theory (not to mention Hot Shots!), there’s just no way Top Gun can be taken seriously. Of course, it helps that the film itself is a loud, brash “AMERICA FUCK YEAH!” Polaroid-taking, middle finger-waving, karaoke-singing cinematic spectacle.

Top Gun is about two things: fighter jets and “Maverick” Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise), a cocky navy pilot who is both reckless and dangerous (Danger Zone!) yet can manage to win people over just by flashing his blinding smile. Maverick and his best pal Goose (Anthony Edwards) are recruited to attend the Navy’s elite Fighter Weapons School (aka “Top Gun”) where the small group of students compete to be the best in the class. The top competition at the school is the smug and confident Iceman (Val Kilmer), who immediately butts heads with the loudmouthed Maverick. Their rivalry serves as the crux of the movie, with both men attempting to win the prestigious “best in class” award.

Top Gun [1986]

Along the way, Maverick falls in love with his school instructor, Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), deals with the tragic death of his best friend, and continuously gets reprimanded by his superiors. Yet even with so much going on, he never changes. There is a brief respite where he appears to gain some humility, but by the end of the film, he’s still the same reckless S-O-B he was at the beginning.

But who cares about what happens on the ground when we can watch high-class dogfighting in the air, right? Top Gun follows a distinct air-land-air-land-air formula, with the jet scenes full of exhilarating high-octane action. The combative flying is intense and often disorienting, but damn if Tony Scott doesn’t make it look good. It’s no wonder the Air Force enlistment rate went way up after this film’s release — Top Gun makes being a navy pilot look like the best thing in the world.

Top Gun [1986]

What’s most amusing when watching the film today is the clear gay subtext between the pilots. When Maverick and Iceman first meet in class, they can’t stop looking at each other. There is some serious sexual tension right there, moreso than that between Maverick and Charlie. The film overall is dripping in machismo and homoeroticism. There are several lines about “hard-ons” and “johnsons”, constant moments where the men are shirtless and/or in their underwear (while making it a point to talk very closely to each other), and of course, there’s the infamous volleyball scene. When you sit down and look out for these moments, the film gains an all-new perspective. I think Tarantino was onto something here.

And who could forget the classic soundtrack? I had to keep a running tally of which song was played more — “Danger Zone” or “Take My Breath Away“? The latter won, four times to three, though it is “Danger Zone” that is still stuck in my head to this day. These songs still resonate today, as evidenced by the crowd going nuts when producer Giorgio Moroder played both hits at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival.

With the adrenaline-pumping action scenes and Tom Cruise’s otherworldly charisma, it’s not hard to see why so many people flocked to the box office back in ’86. In many ways, Top Gun feels like the definitive ’80s popcorn flick — it’s not a very good movie, but it can be pretty damn entertaining.

6/10

Movie Project #26: Rudy [1993]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Rudy [1993]

Rudy [1993] 
Director: David Anspaugh
Writer: Angelo Pizzo
Country: USA
Genre: Biography/Drama/Sport
Starring: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
Running Time: 114 minutes

When it comes to inspirational films, Rudy has a surefire winning formula. It’s based on a true story, it involves a massive underdog, and it’s about someone who refuses to stop following his dreams. Football is at the heart of the story, but it’s the type of feel good flick that can appeal to anyone.

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Movie Project #25: Sideways [2004]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Sideways [2004]

Sideways [2004] 
Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne & Jim Tyler (screenplay), Rex Pickett (novel)
Country: USA
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
Running Time: 126 minutes

I’m not much of a wine drinker, so I never really had a burning desire to see Sideways, which I always thought of as “that wine movie.” Foolish me — I should know better than to doubt Alexander Payne. This is an intelligently-written and surprisingly funny film that works on multiple levels.

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Movie Project #24: Mystic River [2003]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Mystic River [2003]

Mystic River [2003] 
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Brian Helgeland (screenplay), Dennis Lehane (novel)
Country: USA
Genre: Crime/Drama/Mystery
Starring: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne
Running Time: 138 minutes

In Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-nominated drama, Mystic River, the gut-wrenching feeling of guilt hangs over the head of every major character, all because of one fateful day in Boston in the summer of 1975.

Three boys, no more than ten years old each, are playing street hockey when one of them notices a fresh batch of cement on the sidewalk. Naturally, they grab a stick and take turns writing their names in it. A man driving by notices this, stops his car and scolds the three boys. He flashes a badge and demands to give one of them a ride home to tell his mother what he was doing. Unfortunately, this man is no cop, and he abducts the poor boy as his friends watch him ride away. It isn’t until days later that the boy escapes his captors, his life forever scarred.

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Movie Project #23: The Karate Kid [1984]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

The Karate Kid [1984]

The Karate Kid [1984]
Director: John G. Avildsen
Writer: Robert Mark Kamen
Country: USA
Genre: Action/Drama/Family
Starring: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue
Running Time: 126 minutes

The Karate Kid falls under the same category as previous project entry, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, in that I’m sure I saw at least a good chunk of the movie as a kid. Once again, I remembered a scene here or there (who can forget “wax on, wax off”?) but it was fascinating to sit down and watch it in its entirety as an adult.

While the fashion and spirit of the 1980s are running wild in the film, I’m happy to report that it still holds up quite well as a fun, inspirational movie.

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Movie Project #22: Stand By Me [1986]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Stand By Me [1986]

Stand By Me [1986]
Director: Rob Reiner
Writers: Stephen King (novel), Raynold Gideon (screenplay), Bruce A. Evans (screenplay)
Country: USA
Genre: Adventure/Drama
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell
Running Time: 89 minutes

Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, an adaptation of Stephen King’s novella The Body, is a favorite of many, but it took some time for me to warm up to to this coming-of-age tale.

Set in the 1950s, the film early on feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to provide that bubbly feeling of nostalgia. Songs such as “Rockin’ Robin” play in the background as our protagonists, a group of 12-13 year old boys, play cards, smoke cigarettes and mess around with guns. They represent a time since past, and Reiner does everything in his power to make us feel sentimental about this era. It’s all a bit much at first.

It was the kids that wound up winning me over on the film.

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Movie Project #21: Boyz n the Hood [1991]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Boyz n the Hood [1991]

Boyz n the Hood [1991]
Director: John Singleton
Writer: John Singleton
Country: USA
Genre: Crime/Drama
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube
Running Time: 112 minutes

Boyz n the Hood opens with a tragic statistic:

“One out of every twenty-one Black American males will be murdered in their lifetime. Most will die at the hands of another Black male.”

This statement proves to be ominous in John Singleton’s 1991 Oscar-nominated film, his very first as a director.

Set in the South Central LA neighborhood of Crenshaw, the film paints a vivid and very blunt portrait of inner city life. Drug abuse and violence are rampant, father figures are nowhere to be seen, and most disputes are solved with guns, not fists. This is the kind of place where you could walk to the corner store and not make it back alive.

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Movie Project #18 and #19: Big (1988) and When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Big (1988)
Big [1988, dir. Penny Marshall]
Big is a movie that could have only happened in the ’80s. The idea of a young boy wishing to become a grown up — and succeeding — is so ridiculous that it simply shouldn’t work (or make for a good film, anyway). Never doubt Tom Hanks, though. His performance as a grown up child is magical.

Going into the film, all I knew of was the iconic scene where Hanks and Robert Loggia play a giant piano at FAO Schwarz. While that is certainly a great bit, what surprised me was how genuinely funny Big is through its entirety. The humor is generally light-hearted, even as it dabbles in areas that are hardly appropriate (i.e. Hanks, technically a 12-year-old, hooking up with an adult Elizabeth Perkins), and I found myself laughing quite a bit (especially during the first trip to New York). The film is also heartwarming, and it absolutely nails that feeling of what it’s like to be a kid. And let’s face it — anyone who is even remotely still a kid at heart would kill for Hanks’s toy-testing job. 8/10


When Harry Met Sally... [1988]
When Harry Met Sally… [1989, dir. Rob Reiner]
Why is it so difficult to make an intelligent romantic comedy these days? When Harry Met Sally… sure makes it look easy. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan play two acquaintances who meet periodically over the years before finally forming a friendship when both are fresh off of breakups with their significant others. Harry (Crystal) doesn’t believe men and women can be friends without sex getting in the way. Sally disagrees, and this debate constantly lingers over them.

Nora Ephron’s sharp script is the biggest highlight, but Crystal and Ryan also happen to have some terrific chemistry. Crystal’s deadpan wit and Ryan’s bubbly personality play off each other wonderfully, and their gradually progressing relationship is entirely convincing. The film doesn’t rely on contrived tropes to tell the story — it all happens naturally. It’s just a good all-around film that both men and women can enjoy. 8/10

Movie Project #16: Unbreakable [2000]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Unbreakable [2000]

Unbreakable [2000] 
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Country: USA
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Sci-Fi
Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright, Spencer Treat Clark
Running Time: 106 minutes

Riding the wave of success from the massive box office hit, The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan immediately followed with Unbreakable, a superhero origin film that has become quite a cult favorite since. Many would argue that this is his best film, though that’s hardly a bold position given his recent output.

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Locke [2013] Movie Review

Locke [2013]

Locke [2013] 
Director: Steven Knight
Writer: Steven Knight
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson
Running Time: 85 minutes

Locke may be the greatest 85-minute vehicle advertisement ever made.

The entire film takes place inside the cozy confines of a BMW X5 SUV, and it proves to be the only source of comfort for Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) as his life begins to unravel over the course of a drive from Birmingham to London.

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