Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for..........

Z is for..........Zombieland.

I'm not a big zombie fan. I know The Walking Dead is huge these days. I've done a couple drivebys, but I wasn't hooked.

I generally won't even bother with a zombie movie, but I did enjoy Zombieland quite a bit. I gave it a shot because I like the young actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin.

It wasn't the gore that won me over. There was plenty of that, but it was the sense of humor that got me. I'm probably reading way too much into a zombie movie, but I also thought I detected a little metaphor going on. The teenage experience as a postapocalyptic gauntlet of brain-eating zombies.

Or something like that.

Well folks, there you have it, the last post of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting. The feedback has been awesome and greatly appreciated. I was crazy busy with track this month, so I wasn't around as much as I would have liked. Again, thanks to everyone for making this challenge a rewarding experience.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for..........

Y is for..........Yoda.

I wouldn't call myself a full-fledged Star Wars geek, but there are tendencies. I can't tell you the names of all the creatures in the cantina scene or anything, but I will gladly proclaim my love for Yoda. 

I have a giant Yoda poster in my classroom. I tell my students that Yoda sees all and gladly informs me of any wrongdoing I might miss. I also have a few Yodas strategically placed around the class. One is a Yoda Magic 8 Ball, and every so often I'll let the kids ask Yoda some questions. I may or may not answer those questions in a lame Yoda voice. We have a few Yodas around the house as well, and I'm proud to say my daughters love the wise green one as much as I do.

George Lucas gave us two very different Yodas. The Yoda of the original trilogy is broken down, barely able to lift Luke's ship out of the swamp.

The Yoda in the prequel triology is an ass-kicking whirling dervish.

It was pretty cool to see Yoda bust out the light saber and mad fighting skills, but when push comes to shove, I have to go with the original Yoda.

A couple summers ago I discovered a new version of Yoda. Origami Yoda.

This Yoda plays a prominent role in Tom Angleberger's great book The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. The book is a sweet story about a socially awkward 6th grade boy (is there any other kind?) who dispenses middle school wisdom through a perfectly constructed origami Yoda. It's ideal for 3rd-6th graders, and their parents of course.

Angleberger has done a couple sequels, Darth Paper Strikes Back and The Secret of the Fortune Wookie. They're both awesome.

Original Yoda, prequel Yoda, and yes, even origami Yoda. What's not to love? 

Earlier in the Challenge I said The Dude from The Big Lebowski is my favorite movie character of all time. Yoda is probably a close second. I guess you could say Yoda is my favorite nonhuman movie character of all time.

Who's your favorite nonhuman movie character of all time? 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for..........

X is for..........Xtraterrestrial.

This is going to be a short post. I've been crazy busy getting ready for the city track meet this week. I had some posts done in advance, but alas, the Challenge has caught up to me.

So yeah, X is for Xtraterrestrials. A bit of a cop out, sure, but this is my 3rd A-Z, so I'm due for a wonky X.

These are my top 5 movies with Xtraterrestrials:

5) Alien
4) Super 8
3) E.T.
2) Starman
1) Signs

What's your favorite movie featuring Xtraterrestrials?

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for..........

W is for..........War.

There have been a lot of movies about war over the years. I always feel weird talking about war movies. It never feels right to say "I love that movie."

War is not a pleasant subject, and my appreciation for the best war films is different than any other genre. The best war movies shed a light or make a statement. They're usually hard to watch, but their greatness is undeniable. These are 5 of the very best:

5) Bridge on the River Kwai
4) Lawrence of Arabia
3) Full Metal Jacket
2) Saving Private Ryan
1) Glory

What do you think is the best war movie ever made?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for..........

V is for.......... Vision Quest.

Hollywood loves to crank out movies for the teen set. Most of them are crap of course, but a solid number are entertaining, and a rare few are even insightful. I dare say you can learn a lot about a person by their favorite teen flicks.

Every generation thinks their teen movies are the best, and I am definitely partial to the teen flicks of the 80s.

Vision Quest wasn't my favorite teen movie of the 80s, but I did love it. I mean, a gorgeous drifter moves in with a teenage boy and his dad and then falls in love with the kid? That was definitely a plot that worked for me.

To be honest, Vision Quest is really just an excuse to do a top 5 list. My top 5 80s teen movies:

5) Pretty in Pink
4) Vision Quest
3) Ferris Bueller's Day Off
2) The Breakfast Club
1) Say Anything

Got a favorite 80s teen flick? If you weren't a teen of the 80s, what's your favorite teen movie?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for..........

U is for...........Up.

The best animated movies work on multiple levels, and Up is both a fun movie for kids, and a deeply moving film for adults.

The best movies give you something to talk about, and I have had so many great conversations about Up with the girls. One day Scout asked me why Mr. Fredrickson used a walker in the beginning of the movie. This led to a discussion about symbolism. I didn't have to tell the girls why he used that walker. I asked a few questions and they were able to figure out that the walker was a symbol for giving up, and that by the end of the movie, Mr. Fredrickson didn't need that walker because he had decided to enjoy his life again.

Not bad for a cartoon.

What's your favorite animated movie?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for..........

T is for..........Tootsie.

My parents took me to a lot of movies growing up. My dad did all the action and sci-fi, and my mom did pretty much everything else. My parents' different tastes in movies gave me an appreciation for films of all types.

Earlier in the Challenge, I wrote about one of my favorite movie memories with my dad: the time we went to see Raiders.

One of my favorite movie memories with my mom is going to see Tootsie. My mom loves a good comedy, and Tootsie is a damn good one. My mom and I laughed a lot during Tootsie. Sharing laughter with someone is always a good thing. When it's your mom, it's a great thing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for..........

S is for..........Steven Spielberg.

I consider Steven Spielberg the greatest American director of all time. There are lots of other candidates of course: Ford, Huston, Allen, Scorsese. But for my money, and I've spent my fair share of it at the movies over the years, Spielberg is the best.

Just think about the diversity of the guy's films. It's hard to believe the same person made Jurassic Park and Schindler's List. The same guy made Jaws and Lincoln. The same guy made Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Color Purple. You get the point. Not many directors, if any, attempt such drastically different films.

Spielberg has directed 21 films, and had his hand in over 100 others. The thing that amazes me is that his productivity has never gotten in the way of qualtiy. I can't say I love every movie he's made, but there aren't many I didn't enjoy. These are my top 5 Speilberg movies:

5) Jurassic Park
4) Schinlder's List
3) The Color Purple
2) Saving Private Ryan
1) E.T.

How 'bout you, what's your favorite Speilberg movie?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for..........

R is for..........Rocky.

Rocky Balboa is one of the great characters in movie history. I'd say Stallone went off the rails after Rocky III, but whattayagonnado?

I never tried my hand at boxing, but I can't tell you how many times the phrase "Rocky comeback" was invoked on the fields and courts of my youth.

The first three Rocky movies are three of my favorite sports movies, so I thought I'd do a list of my favorite sports movies today.

5) Breaking Away
4) Field of Dreams
3) Chariots of Fire
2) Rocky
1) Hoosiers - my love of basketball was the difference. Sorry Rock.

What's your favorite sports movie?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for..........

Q is for..........Quentin.

Most people know Tarantino's back story. He was toiling away at a video store, compiling an encyclopedic knowledge of film. Then in 1992, Tarantino burst onto the Hollywood scene with Reservoir Dogs.

Two years later Tarantino made cinematic history with Pulp Fiction. Nonlinear story telling had never been done so well, or more importantly, so profitably. Pulp was a game changer for the movie business, and Tarantino has continued to make successful films that defy traditional Hollywood formulas. His combination of violence and dark humor may not be for everyone, but it's hard to deny the guy's talent.

Love him? hate him?
What's your favorite Tarantino movie?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for..........

P is for..........Pi Patel.

Life of Pi was my top movie of 2012. I love the book, and Ang Lee's adaptation was cinematic brilliance. Don't take my word for it, Lee won a little something called the Oscar for his directing. If you'e like me, it might stirke you as odd that the best director didn't direct the Oscar winner for Best Picture. Guess that's Hollywood for ya.

When we first meet Pi Patel he is a young boy trying to make sense of his world. He finds beauty and truth in religion, all of them, cobbling together his own unique spirituality. Pi is thrust into an epic journey, and I was so emotionally connected to this film that I felt like I was taking the journey with him.

Life of Pi was a real family event for me. It was great to watch the movie with my girls, my mom, and in-laws. We went to dinner after the movie, and we talked about Ang Lee's direction, about Richard Parker, about faith, about Pi Patel. It was one of the best movie experiences of my life.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for..........

O is for..........Outsiders.

The Outsiders recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. I know this because I saw tweets from Emilio Estevez and Ralph Macchio congratulating S.E. Hinton. I thought it was pretty cool that those guys are still in touch with Hinton.

I did a post a while back about the best book/movie combos, and even though The Outsiders didn't make the top five, it was close.

I was in 8th grade when The Outsiders came out, and I had only recently read the book. I can vividly remember the night I went to the mall with a big group of friends to see the movie. It was a real event.

Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation was the launching pad for a number of big name actors: Swayze, Estevez, Dillion, Macchio, Howell, Lowe, and Cruise. I'd say all the guys were great, but my favorite was Dillion. His performance as Dallas was the real standout for me. I still bust out a "Let's do it for Johnny man," every now and then.

The Outsiders will always be special to me because it was the first time a book I love was made into a movie I love. How 'bout you? What was the first book you love that was made into a movie you love?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for...........Nemo.

N is for..........Nemo.

Finding Nemo was the first movie that Meg and I went to see with our oldest daughter. Our youngest was only 8 months old, so she hung out with my parents. Even though we weren't a full squad, Nemo was the first movie that Meg and I saw together as parents.

Call me a dork, but I saved the ticket stub.

The Rileys have watched Nemo many times over the years, and it never gets old. I still love everything I loved that first time in the theater: the colors, the characters, the music.

You may have heard that Pixar is making a sequel, Finding Dory. It will be hard to recapture the magic of Finding Nemo, but those Pixar people are geniuses. Whatever they come up with, the Rileys will be there.

What do you think, is Finding Dory a good idea?

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for..........

M is for..........Murderball.

Murderball is a 2005 documentary about the US wheelchair rugby team. The film follows the team as it prepares to play the rival Canadians in the 2004 Paralympics Games.

The movie highlights some of the individual stories of the quadriplegic athletes, and it's hard not to be inspired by these guys. My wife and I were particularly inspired by Mark Zupan. His positive attitude and lust for life make him the movie's star.

When things are tough, I often think of Zupan and these wheelchair athletes. It helps me reset my own attitude.

Murderball is the rare movie that can change lives. I can't recommend it enough.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for.........

L is for.........Lloyd.

Lloyd Dobler may be a fictional character, but I owe him one.

A young woman sat in the now deceased Uptown Bar and Grill in Minneapolis, sharing a drink with a friend on a cold winter night.

She had just met a guy, who the friend happened to know a little bit. The friend said the guy was "a real Lloyd Dobler."

That meant something to the young woman, something good.

Now I'm not saying my wife married me because a mutual friend of ours compared me to Lloyd Dobler.

But it sure didn't hurt.

Ever been compared to a character from a movie?

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for..........

K is for..........Karate Kid.

I was in limbo during the summer of 1984. My mom had taken a job in Green Bay, and as soon as our house in Appleton sold, we would be moving. It was only 30 miles, but at the time, it felt like we were moving to another continent.

There wasn't a lot of fanfare when The Karate Kid came out that June. I can still vividly remember the first time I heard about it. I was playing Dig Dug at Open Pantry. The kids next to me were playing Joust, and they were talking about this great movie they'd seen, The Karate Kid.

I'm not going to lie, I was obsessed with The Karate Kid that summer and fall. I'm not even sure how many times I saw it in the theater, but it was a lot. It got to the point where my friends started greeting me by asking when I was going to see it again. The Karate Kid wasn't just a movie for me, it was like a sign of things to come. I had no doubt in my mind that a bunch of thugs would routinely attack me upon my arrival in Green Bay. I wasn't very familiar with the demographics of Green Bay, but I was sure there had to be at least one old Japanese guy who could train me in martial arts. Thankfully, I fared a lot better than Daniel LaRusso when we finally moved. I know it sounds ridiculous, but The Karate Kid helped me make the transition, and for that, it remains one of my all-time favorites.

I've watched all the movies with the girls, well, the first three anyway, sorry Hilary Swank. I'm proud to say they love The Karate Kid as much as Dad. Not much makes me happier than watching the girls do the crane. Sharing The Karate Kid with the girls is one of those things that makes being a Dad special.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for..........

J is for..........Jack.

When you're the best at what you do, one name is enough my friends.

Love him or hate him, Jack Nicholson is arguably the greatest actor of all time.

Bold statement?

Check out the credentials:

The man has been nominated for acting awards in 5 decades. That's right, 5 decades, from the 60s to the 2000s. He hasn't been nominated yet this decade, but I'm not betting against the guy.

His 12 Oscar nominations make him the most nominated actor of all time.

His 3 wins are tied for the most all time.

So yeah, maybe ol' Jack spends more time at Lakers' games than he does on movie sets these days, but I have a feeling he's got some great work left in him. Looking back on an amazing career, these are my favorite Nicholson performances:

5) The Shining
4) Prizzi's Honor
3) A Few Good Men
2) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
1) About Schmidt

Love him? Hate him?

What's your favorite Nicholson performance?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for..........

I is for..........Indiana.

I remember the day I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time.

As soon as my dad got home that night, my brother and I were all over him to take us to see this new movie that everyone said was amazing.

My dad said we'd have to wait a week because things were kind of tight right now. My brother and I begged, like kids are supposed to, but the old man held firm.

Not to be denied, we broke open our piggy banks. When we poured those coins and crumpled bills on the family room floor, we knew we had him.

Dad told us to put our money back, he could probably scrape up enough to take us. Maybe even a little extra for some snacks.

Indiana Jones thrilled us that night, but for my brother and I, we got to go home with the real hero.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for..........

H is for..........Hobbits.

My dad loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Every time we came across one of the Rings movies on TV, Meg and I would joke that my dad was probably watching.

And more times than not, he was.

The man loved him some hobbits. He even told us one time that he'd like to be a hobbit. He figured the shire looked like the perfect place to live.

One of the last Christmas presents my siblings and I gave him was a boxed set of the Rings blu-rays, and the look on his face was priceless. The man was happy to have the shire and those hobbits at his beck and call, and on his prized flat screen, no less.

My dad's been gone a couple years now, but I still think of him every time I see one of the movies on TV.  I haven't seen The Hobbit yet, but Meg and I will watch it with the girls soon. I know it will make me think of my dad, so I know I'll love it.

Any movies remind you of loved ones?

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for..........

G is for..........Gangster.

Hollywood is fascinated with gangsters, and there have been a lot of great gangster movies over the years. I like a good gangster movie as much as the next guy, so today I'm going with my top 5 gangster movies.

Let me get one thing out of the way first. You will not be seeing The Godfather on my list. I hate to admit this, but I haven't actually watched it. I've seen so many bits and pieces, that I'm sure I've seen the whole thing. I certainly know a Godfather reference when I see one. But in my mind, you have to watch a movie from start to finish for an official viewing. Since I haven't done that, I can't include The Godfather on this list.

I know, pathetic. Feel free to ridicule me in the comments.

With that out of the way, here's the list:

5) State of Grace
4) A Bronx Tale
3) Eastern Promises
2) Goodfellas
1) Pulp Fiction

What's your favorite gangster movie?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for..........

F is for..........Footloose.

Definitely not the 2011 remake. I haven't seen it, and I have no intention of ever watching it.

Nope, it's the 1984 original for this guy.

I was in 9th grade when Footloose came out, and my parents had recently told me that we would be leaving Appleton and moving to Green Bay within the year.

I was devastated.

Now, I'm not saying I envisioned myself moving to Green Bay and having to fight for my right to dance, but I definitely connected with Kevin Bacon's Ren, the new guy in town trying to fit in. I will freely admit that I had every intention of being as cool as Kevin Bacon when I rolled into Green Bay.

I remember going to see Footloose a bunch of times with my friend, Tom Huettner. Tom's dad was a fairly strict religious kind of guy, and I think Tom related to that aspect of the movie. Of course, we both loved the music. I remember getting the soundtrack that Easter, along with MJ's Thriller. The Footloose soundtrack was kind of my personal soundtrack for a while.

This might sound ridiculous, but Footloose helped me deal with the move to Green Bay. And for that reason, I'll always love it.

Have any movies ever helped you with a tough time?

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for..........

E is for..........Elf.

I'm one of those people.

You know the type.

The kind of person who peppers conversation with movie quotes.

Who knows, you may even be one of those people yourself.

I'm proud to say that my daughters have become enthusiastic movie quoters. It's like some kind of movie-quoting gene has been successfully passed on to the next generation. My daughters first showed an affinity for the perfectly timed and placed movie quote with lines from Elf. And for that, Jon Favreau and Will Ferrell, I am eternally grateful. Elf is full of great lines, and you never know when one of the girls will bust one out.

I love it every time.

Which movie do you quote most often?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for..........

D is for..........Dude.

If you stopped by yesterday, you know that I love the Coen brothers. How can I not love the guys who created the best movie character of all time?

Jeffrey Lebowski.


The Dude.

Not buying The Dude as the greatest movie character of all time? Well, obviously you're not a golfer.

My wife loves The Dude as much as I do, and we watch The Big Lebowski a few times a year. In between viewings, we quote The Dude all the time. It could be daily. Seriously. For instance, when holding a class of any kind, an activity that does indeed happen on a daily basis, one or both of us is likely to say, "careful, man, there's a beverage here." It never gets old.

I could go on and on, but perhaps The Stranger said it best.

"The Dude abides. I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals."

Who's your favorite movie character?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for..........

C is for..........Coen

I'm a huge fan of the Coen brothers. The first Coen brother movie I saw was Raising Arizona in 1987. I went with my friend Mike, and I remember thinking that I hadn't seen anything like it. My understanding of tone was certainly minimal at the time, but even I could tell the humor in Raising Arizona was something different. Little did I know, it was the beginning of a lifelong cinematic relationship.

I recently participated in Alex Cavanaugh's Top 10 Movie Countdown Blogfest. 2 Coen movies made my list, and two others were very close. I haven't loved all of their films, and there are a couple that fell completely flat for me, but when the Coens make a movie, I'm there.

Here are my top 5 from the brothers Coen:

5) O Brother, Where Art Thou?
4) No Country for Old Men
3) Fargo
2) Raising Arizona
1) The Big Lebowski

Love the Coens? Hate 'em? What's your favorite Coen brother movie?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for..........

B is for Bueller..........Bueller.

Maybe this is cheating, but I wrote this a couple years ago for A-Z. I was going to use Bridesmaids for B, but that voice just kept nagging at me, you know the one. Bueller..........Bueller..........Bueller. So I went back and took a look at what I'd done before and decided it still works.

The 80's gave us a lot of great teen movies, perhaps none better than Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In high school, a bunch of us would act out scenes from the movie at parties. Such was the pull of Ferris Bueller that this often made us the hit of said parties. It was a glorious time indeed.

I've always thought they should make a sequel. Ferris is producing a play on Broadway and Cameron is a banker on Wall Street. Ferris has to meet with an investor threatening to walk, but his marriage has just fallen apart and he can't handle the idea of groveling for money. He gets a message from Sloan, whose own marriage has recently imploded, on facebook that she's coming to the city and would love to get together. Cameron is working on a big project, but Ferris coerces him to ditch work. The three old buddies wander NYC, avoiding Ferris's investor, Cameron's boss, and possibly Sloan's ex. This is just a rough outline of course, but you can see the possibilities, can't you?

I saw this recut trailer for Ferris Bueller a while back, and it's kind of interesting. Imagine Ferris repackaged and marketed as an indie film, full of irony, angst, and epiphany. It makes me wonder if I missed some deeper meaning in the film.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for..........

First day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Here we go.

Before my first post, I would like to thank Arlee Bird for starting the A-Z Challenge. I have discovered so many great bloggers during the Challenge, and I'm looking forward to seeing what people come up with this year. A-Z is indeed a challenge, but it's a blast, and it's fun to see it grow every year. You done good Arlee.

A is for..........Aliens.

My dad was a huge Alien fan, so when Aliens came out in 1986, it was a big deal at the Riley house. I can vividly remember his excitement that Friday night. I can still hear him laughing when Ripley busted out, "Get away from her you bitch!" It was the kind of laugh you could hear over everyone else. At least that's how it was for me. I can hear it even now as I write, and it makes me smile.

Ellen Ripley is one of the great female characters in movie history, and I freely admit to having a teenage crush on Sigourney Weaver. A lot of the dialogue from Aliens, especially the banter between the soldiers, quickly became routine in my circle of friends. We were all particularly fond of asking, "how do I get out of this chicken shit outfit?" or insisting that someone "look into my eye," for dramatic effect.

Aliens is a perfect example of the kind of movie I'll be writing about this Challenge. A movie that reminds me of family and friends. Every time I watch it, the memories come flooding back.