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My Favorite Sequels of the Past 10 Years – Inspired by The Hangover Part III

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So I went to see The Hangover Part III last week as the fourth of my 10 movies that I want to see this movie season. (Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, The Hangover Part III, After Earth, The Internship, This Is The End, Man of Steel, World War Z, Grown Ups 2 and Pacific Rim) I went into the movie with tempered expectations as I had already heard some unflattering feedback from critics. However, I always temper my expectations for sequels because rarely are they as good or better than the original. In this instance, how many times can they wake up hungover and not remember what happened the night before? Seriously, how many times can they play out the plot of Alan drugging all of them which leads to a night of debauchery?

As always, I don’t want to give anything away, but this movie goes in a slightly different direction and is a solid sequel to the original Hangover. It’s not one of my favorite sequels of the past 10 years, but it had some funny moments none the less. The payoff comes at the end of the movie shortly into the credits. It’s not as good as the first one or even Hangover II, but you will get some laughs out of it. It was a 5 out of 10 for me.

As I was leaving the movie it got me to thinking, are sequels ever as good as the original movie? There are some that came up in recent memory, so I did a little investigating. You can find dozens of lists that cover the best sequels of all time and for the most part they all include the same movies. I never found a list for the past 10 years so I had to do a little more Research. One trend has emerged in the movie industry and that is to make sequels of big blockbusters, which for the most part over the past 10 years are sci-fi and superhero movies, hence the entries on my list of the top 6.

#6 X2: X-Men United

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I was never a comic book geek growing up. I know, that’s hard to believe. As a kid I never really knew much about the X-Men. In the 90’s they became more prevalent and when the original X-Men movie came out in 2001, I was definitely hooked. The original movie was solid, but it required a lot of explaining and back stories to establish the characters. The variety of characters was rather limited. When X2 came out in 2003, they opened up the comic books and brought out a lot more heroes and villains with powers ranging from Nightcrawler’s ability to teleport and Iceman’s ability to create a wall of ice in an instant. Contrary to popular belief, Rebecca Romijn’s power is not her ability to dress up in body paint, but instead her character Mystique is a shapeshifter. X-Men encompasses the dream of all 12 year old boys everywhere who wished they had superpowers of their own.

#5 Star Trek: Into Darkness

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I covered this movie in my last blog post, but I hope many of you have seen this one in theaters by now. I only wish I had seen it in IMAX 3D. Packed with action, a solid story line, and great character development with some side antics from supporting players. An overall enjoyable viewing.

#4 Star Wars Episode III

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Many Star Wars fans in their late 30’s and older don’t really appreciate the new Star Wars prequels because we were prejudiced by the memory of the impact that the original 3 movies had on us. Back in the early 80s, Star Wars was a cult. But back then, there really wasn’t much to compare it to. Nowadays, we have a dozen new sci-fi thillers coming out every year. So this particular sequel had a lot working against it before it even came out. For me, the struggle between Anakin and Obi-Wan goes down as one of the best good vs. evil stories in movie history. When Obi-Wan finally defeats Anakin, it gives birth to the whole original series and sets the stage for Luke’s coming of age Jedi story. It brings the whole series full circle. I’m a bit skeptical about the next trilogy that is in the works. Other than James Bond, I’m not familiar with any other 9 movie series.

#3 The Dark Knight Rises

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In 2005 the reboot of the Batman franchise began. Following the 90’s megaflops where 3 different actors played the title role (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney), it was hard to envision how they could save the reputation of DC’s dominant superhero. Little known Christian Bale took on the role of Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego and put his own twist on the dark but savvy hero. Every part of the story is about his ultimate struggle through life that stems from his parents being murdered when he was a young child. He was left a fortune and spent his life seeking revenge for those that killed them. Batman Begins provided a nice lead in to the transformation from Batman to the Dark Knight. The third movie in this trilogy, Dark Knight Rises provided a fitting end (?) to the personal struggles and relationship burdens that Bruce Wayne had carried with him for all these years. The graphics were spectacular, especially the football stadium scene. Bain was a worthy adversary, but the best part of the movie was the twist that revealed who the real villain was in one final fight scene. It is now rumored that there may be more movies to come featuring Chris Nolan’s creation, but it may not be Bale that dons the mask. There is an outside chance that Robin, portrayed and revealed in this move through the role of Blake played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, could become the new Caped Crusader in The Justice League which is scheduled to be released in 2015.

#2 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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After 2 years and over 8 hours of films, The Lord of the Rings trilogy came to a conclusion in 2003. Frodo and Sam’s journey from The Shire to Mordor would be completed when Frodo threw the ring into the center of Mount Doom along with Gollum. The cinematography was groundbreaking within the film industry and it was during this time that IMAX really hit its stride in theaters. It was this trilogy that made me a staunch IMAX enthusiast. The Return of the King went on to become one of three films to win a record 11 Oscars (Ben Hur, Titanic) including Best Picture and Best Visual Effects. The storyline is compelling but the visual effects and breadth of the characters are what give the film such broad and lasting appeal. I never get tired of watching this movie which is a key component to what makes a movie epic.

#1 The Dark Knight

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With all due respect to the five other movies on my list and those that I may have omitted, The Dark Knight remains one of the best movies (second only to The Avengers in superhero films) let alone sequels, that I have ever seen. It has all the grit and substance that The Dark Knight Rises has, but with the added impact of the Joker played by the late Heath Ledger. Ledger “created the most iconic villain Hollywood has ever seen”. Recently, a video has surfaced of an interview conducted with Heath’s father who discusses the diary Heath kept during the filming of this role which he became so intimately dedicated to that some fear it may have contributed to his untimely death during the post production editing phase of the movie. In some morbid fashion, the passing of Ledger may have contributed to the legendary status of his character leading him to posthumously win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. His spot on portrayal of a psychotic villain who is only out to wreak havoc on Gotham is eery. There are more stories that have surfaced regarding a warning Ledger received from Jack Nicholson on the danger of taking on such a mentally demanding role. Heath pulled I off flawlessly.

So this is my list. And for the record, Hangover III was not even in my top 20.

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My Top 10 Actors of the Last 20 Years – Inspired by The Great Gatsby

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This past week I went to see The Great Gatsby. This is the second movie in my 10 week run of new releases I plan to see. I won’t get into a review of the movie other than to say that it was decent, but Leonardo Dicaprio was excellent. It got me thinking about all the terrific roles he has had over the years which logically lead me to think if there have been others that would eclipse his run of classic characters.

The following is a list of my favorite 10 actors over the past 20 or so years. The criteria I used includes 1) Star power 2) Movie recognition 3) Breadth of characters 4) Overall likability. I want to be clear. These are my favorite actors and this should not be confused with any Oscar Award Winner list as you will see.

Honorable mentions: Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Russell Crowe, Kevin Bacon, Ben Affleck, Will Ferrell, and John Travolta.

#11 Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes
Given that Iron Man may be my favorite character of all time, I had to find room for him on this list. However, his portfolio of solid movies and characters is weak compared to the rest to crack my top 10. So I added #11….it’s my list and I can do what I want.

#10 Matt Damon – Rounders, Good Will Hunting, Oceans 11-13, Bourne Identity
One of my favorite movies is Rounders. Most poker players can recite dozens of lines and Damon nailed his scenes with John Malkovich though Ed Norton gave the movie some life. Throw in his versatility to pull off both action and comedy roles and you have a well rounded entertainer.

#9 Mark Wahlberg – Boogie Nights, Four Brothers, Invincible, The Fighter, Ted, Broken City, Pain and Gain
When Hollywood needs a thug from Boston, he’s the man. He’s not extremely versatile but the one thing he does well…he’s great at it. His more recent movies have made me appreciate him more now than years ago. His venture into comedy may pay off again as they will be shooting Ted 2 soon.

#8 Will Smith – Bad Boys, MIB, Independence Day, Ali, I Robot, Hitch, Fresh Prince
He’s the definition of consistency with a unique flare for combining comedy with action, but can take on the serious roles when needed. He’s great with one liners and has rolled out several big budget flicks through the years. He obviously recognizes the path to success through sequels with 3 more in the works now…I Robot 2, Hancock 2, and Bad Boys 3.

#7 Vince Vaughn – Old School, Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers, The Break Up, Couples Retreat
The guy just makes me laugh. He’s the guy everyone would want as a friend. His roles are not a big stretch, but he’s good at what he does. He can deliver one-liners that are quoted forever with the best of em. I can’t wait to see The Internship on June 7th.

#6 Jim Carrey – Ace Ventura, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Liar Liar, The Truman Show, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Bruce Almighty, Fun With Dick and Jane
There was a time not so long ago that Carrey was the hottest commodity in Hollywood. You might not know it these days, but in the late ’90s he was the putting out hit after hit. He’s the king of slapstick comedy and a chameleon when it comes to creating characters. Somewhere along the way he got too serious and he would have been higher on my list years ago, but he’s filming Dumb And Dumber Two soon and it should be another classic.

#5 Tom Cruise – A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, Mission Impossible, War of the Worlds, Oblivion
Admittedly, my inclusion of Cruise this high on my list is in partly due to his run of hits in the ’80s  that included Top Gun, Color of Money, Cocktail and Days of Thunder. He has been nominated for 3 Oscars but amazingly he has never won. He is the king of big budget films along with Kevin Costner who I couldn’t find room for on my list. At only 5’7″ he somehow is the go to leading man with an edge actor in the business, this according to IMDB. As crazy as he may be in real life, he is equally as cool in all of his roles.

#4 Adam Sandler – Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, Big Daddy, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Grown Ups
Like Jim Carrey, Sandler could do no wrong in the ’90s. So many memorable quotes from his movies that I still recite early 20 years later. He’s still producing hits and Grown Ups 2 will be one of the 2 best comedies this summer along with The Internship. I am not a fan of his serious roles and he should just stick to comedy. When he does, I am guaranteed to go see it.

#3 Tom Hanks – A League of Their Own, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Toy Story(s), Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, The Polar Express, The Da Vinci Code
A 5 time Oscar nominee and 2 time winner, he was just voted Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Person. I haven’t liked all his movies, see Cloud Atlas, but he has delivered several memorable roles and you almost always get your money’s worth. Unlike many of the others, Hanks makes you feel what his character is about. There are probably only 2 actors that could make me shed a tear if I did that sort of thing. Hanks and my #1 actor.

#2 Leonardo Dicaprio – Titanic, Man in the Iron Mask, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, Django Unchained, The Great Gatsby
He can play any role as a leading man, aside from comedy. He seems to be thriving on period pieces lately and crushing it. His last 2 movies were what put him this high. As Calvin Candie in Django, there is a scene where he cuts his hand and he rubs it on Django’s wife…the story behind it is that he really did cut his hand, it wasn’t scripted, and never missed a beat. His portrayal of Jay Gatsby is an instant classic. He has never won an Oscar but I think that could change this year. I can’t wait to see what epic movie comes next.

#1 Denzel Washington – Malcolm X, Philadelphia, Courage Under Fire, He Got Game, The Hurricane, Remember The Titans, Training Day, Out of Time, The Taking of Pelham 123, The Book of Eli, Unstoppable, Flight
The definition of a movie star, “Denzel” is synonymous with any reference to being a great actor. It seems like every movie he is in is worthy of an Oscar, of which he personally has 6 nominations and 2 wins. It seems that everyone wants Denzel to play them in the story of their life. For me, he is the most believable actor I have ever seen. Who else could pull off a whole movie on a subway only to follow it with another movie on a train? His inclusion of sports-themed movies is icing on the cake. If you don’t appreciate Denzel then you’re just un-American.

That’s my list. Feel free to agree, disagree and debate. We all have our favorites for various reasons, but the one thing these guys all have in common is they make me love movies even more.

Superhero Movies – Inspired by Iron Man 3

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Plain and simple, I love superhero movies!  Iron Man, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America…they’re all great.  Of course the best of them all is The Avengers.  There are only 3 movies I have gone to the theater to see twice…the Avengers was the last one.  The other two you ask…There’s Something About Mary and Avatar, both of which are in my top 10 movies of all time, but I digress.

So what is my fascination with superhero movies?  I wish I had some profound answer that was both philosophical and meaningful in nature like “I’ve always dreamed of flying or having super strength”.  However, the reality is that they are just really cool.  The spectacular  animations, the special powers, the creative villains who always get an edge but ultimately in the end the superhero always prevails.  There’s something reassuring about that.  Sure I act like a 12 year old and get all giddy when they announce the next installment of the Marvel series or any superhero movie for that matter, but that’s me.  

I can remember being about 8 or 9 years old and using a towel or a yo-yo to move around the apartment like I was Spiderman.  I couldn’t move to the next spot unless I landed one end of the web on a doorknob or counter and pretend to swing to the next place.  I would challenge myself to move around the whole apartment.  The funny thing about it is, there weren’t any superhero movies out when I was 8 other than Superman.  No Batman movies were made and Spiderman was on Electric Company.  I can still remember going to my Memere’s apartment and watching TV on UHF.  I’m sure some readers have no idea what that is, but I digress once again.  I didn’t know who Thor or Captain America were but I had heard of them.  However, I had never heard of Iron Man.

Somewhere along the way I remember hearing the name Iron Man, but I never really knew much about him.  That is until the first Iron Man movie came out in 2008.  Admittedly, when I heard about it I thought they were referring to the Iron Giant.  By this time the first two Spiderman movies had come out, the first of 3 Dark Knight movies was out and the Incredible Hulk reboot was already out (the Ed Norton version).  Iron Man was the first of the Marvel Phase one movies to come out and I was amazed at how much I loved it.  He had abilities that I had only seen before in Superman.  He can fly, he has super strength with the suit, and he can shoot lasers.  But Iron Man had something Superman never had…style.

Clark Kent was nerdy and unassuming, lacked confidence and pined over a mediocre woman who was a smoker and talked like a sailor.  Tony Stark on the other hand is a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” as he so eloquently told Captain America.  What guy wouldn’t want to be Tony Stark?.  He’s MacGyver, Hugh Hefner, Bill Gates and Superman all wrapped up into one.  They couldn’t have picked a better actor to play the part than Robert Downey Jr.  He’s perfect.  He’s quick on his feet with a witty comment, his comedic timing is perfect and he makes for a dynamic Iron Man.  If I had any preconceived notions of what Iron Man was supposed to be, maybe I would feel differently.  But at this point, there can never be another Iron Man.  I don’t know if I can say that of Christopher Reeve and Superman.  Until this Iron Man series had come out, I was a Superman guy all the way..but I think I’ve crossed over now.  That being said, I can’t wait until The Man of Steel comes out in June.

So what about this Marvel Phase One I was talking about.  Well, you can watch a 3 minute video here that sums it all up.  In short, Marvel set out to introduce a handful of superheroes beginning with Iron Man, then The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America and finally it all culminated in The Avengers.  Without even knowing it, I was hooked on all of these and it all paid off in the end as The Avengers may be my most favorite movie of all time.  I’ll save my top ten list for another time.

What’s next you ask.  Well, Marvel has announced Phase Two of the series beginning with the release of Iron Man 3.  November 2013 Thor – The Dark World; April 2014 Captain America – The Winter Soldier; August 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy (various odd characters); and it ends with The Avengers 2 in April 2015.  I won’t ruin it for my readers by disclosing any spoilers from Iron Man 3 in case you haven’t seen it already.  However, if you have a chance to see it IMAX I strongly recommend it.  These movies are what IMAX was made for.

In any case, I hope that you’re like me and you can step out of your reality every once in a while and enjoy the fantasy that is a good superhero movie.  It’s OK if you own 2 Superman shirts, a Batman shirt and a Captain America shirt and wear them to the movies…your kids will only make fun of you for a little while…even though, I know they secretly love it.

For more information about upcoming movies and specifically superhero movies, here are two of my favorite sites to visit.

www.superherohype.com
www.comingsoon.net