(1989) D: James Cameron; Starring Ed Harris, Mary Elizabth Mastrantonnio.
James Cameron’s underwater epic melds special effects with amazing cinematography underwater and inside tight quarters. Ed Harris carries this film with his usual strength. But this film is nearly ruined by an ending that feels forced and flat.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Michael Biehn’s character gets bitten on the arm in every James Cameron film he’s in—see The Terminator and Aliens.
(1999) D: Andy & Larry Wachowski. Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving.
Concept, effects, art direction, cinematography, editing…..this film truly is in a class by itself and the film community will look back and recognize The Matrix as the film that changed all the rules.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Both Ewan McGregor and Will Smith were offered the role of Neo but turned it down.
(2009) D: Duncan Jones. Starring Sam Rockwell.
A real gem. Sam Rockwell’s finest performance. Just a truly entertaining film, from start to finish.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Shot during a writer’s strike, which had caused most other productions at London’s Shepperton studios to shut down, director Duncan Jones says he got a number of top-class effects people on the crew because of the lull.
STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE
(1977) D: George Lucas. Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford.
Watching it today, you are struck both by its amateurishness and its ahead-of-its-time raw genius. Remember when filmmakers actually had imaginations?
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: George Lucas insisted that he have merchandising rights to the film. Studio executives, seeing little if any profit from such merchandise, gave him the rights for free. Star Wars related merchandise has since generated many millions of dollars in sales, allowing Lucas to make movies completely independent of the studio system he decried. Merchandising rights are now a major part of any film contract.
STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
(1980) D: Irvin Kershner. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams.
Often called the darkest of the three original Star Wars films, this one is not my favorite, but will always stand on my list because it is, after all, Star Wars.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Having Han Solo frozen in carbonite was (at least in part) due to the fact that they were not sure that Harrison Ford would return for a third film. When the original Star Wars (1977) was made Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were signed for a three picture deal, but Harrison Ford refused.
STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – THE RETURN OF THE JEDI
(1983) D: Richard Marquand. Starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams.
My favorite of the Star Wars films—except for those darn Ewoks.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: According to the documentary “Empire of Dreams”, Steven Spielberg was George Lucas’s first choice to direct, but Spielberg had to decline because he is a member of the Directors’ Guild (Lucas dropped his Guild membership over disagreements about Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)). As a result, Lucas hired the relatively unknown (and at the time non-union) Welsh director Richard Marquand.
(1984) D: James Cameron. Starring Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn.
Futuristic action suspense at its early-80s best, before digital effects made everything so much easier. And hey, remember, it’s not about the acting or the dialogue. It’s about the concept.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice is used in exactly 16 lines, with 17 sentences spoken.
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY
(1991) D: James Cameron. Starring Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong.
Linda Hamilton gives the one memorable performance of her career, and what a performance it is. Of course, maybe it’s just the arms I’m remembering. Oh, and the action sequences in this one are kick-ass.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: First movie in history to cost $100 million.
(1990) D: Paul Verhoeven. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone.
Futuristic non-stop action with a great concept.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The film was inspired by a Philip K. Dick short story called “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”
(2000) D: Bryan Singer. Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Bruce Davison.
X2 (2003) D: Bryan Singer. Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Bruce Davison, James Marsden, Alan Cumming, Bryan Cox.
It’s hard to tell these two apart, but why would you want to? The X-Men series are by far my favorite comic-books-come-to-life movies, with well-rounded and likeable characters, some of the best actors in the world, phenomenal effects, a top-notch director, and an imaginative concept.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Bruce Davison was the first actor to be cast.