Top 15 Jodie Foster Movies

 

Here’s another fine actress, that transitioned well from child star to great adult actress. A Disney player of the 70’s who managed to make intriguing and emotional role choices over the years and won an Academy award for her efforts. I loved her early Disney movies and respected her choices later on; easily as comfortable in a drama as a thriller or a comedy. Like all of my favorites, she’s versatile and adept at all genres. Here’s a list of my top 15 favorite Jodie Foster films:

15 – Taxi Driver (1976)

Jodie Foster has chosen some gritty roles over the years, not one to shy away from an uncomfortable role by any means. She seemed to do this early on in her career, trying as hard as possible to stretch herself as an actress, beyond her comfort zone. This is one of those roles. It’s interesting to me that she chose to do this role of a teenage prostitute in the midst of her popularity as a Disney star. Dangerous move, but one that ultimately proved to the Industry, at least, that she was an Academy Award caliber actress. I personally drift to her more funny or light-hearted movies, but there certainly is no denying her talent and ability to master any role and genre. This was her first nomination for an Oscar. Tough subject matter.

14 – One Little Indian (1973)

Now this Disney film was pretty neat because it’s the first time that James Garner and Jodie Foster would work together and when they worked together again it was over 20 years later, for Maverick (1994). Pretty typical fare overall, and similar to her other Disney work at this time, she was gearing up to be the star, even then you can see she was something more than a supporting actress.

13 – The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

I put this film on the list because I think it’s pretty scary, although I haven’t seen it in 20 years, it spooked me pretty bad. To be fair, in interviews, Jodie Foster usually refrains from saying which of her films are her least favorites, but she has let it slip that this movie isn’t one she is fond of, explaining, “When people are there to simply do a job they don’t have any passion for, those are nearly always bad films.” It was first top-billed lead role in a major motion picture for Jodie.  1976 was definitely her breakout year, although from the 5 movies she did that year I prefer the Disney film, Freaky Friday, the most.

12 – Inside Man (2006)

Jodie, being fluent in French, dubbed herself in the French version. Jodie filmed her part in three weeks, and it’s a very different part for her, but as always she’s very good. It’s a pretty fun heist movie and my favorite Spike Lee film. Denzel Washington and the cast was allowed to ad-lib at times, he just seemed especially adept at it. The scene in the coffee shop was improvised. On the DVD commentary, Spike states that when Denzel ad-libbed the line, “I’ll bet you can get a cab though,” he nearly ruined the take by laughing really loud.

11 – The Brave One (2007)

Interesting to note, Nicole Kidman was originally cast as Erica. Jodie would be cast when Nicole dropped the project. Jodie also took over Kidman’s role in Panic Room (2002). It was Jodie’s idea for Erica to record sounds of the city for her radio show. Foster walked for miles all around Manhattan with headphones on to prepare for the role. The movie is like the female version of Death Wish, with Jodie playing the Charles Bronson role.

10 – Flight Plan (2005)

Jodie Foster’s role was originally written for Sean Penn. The original character’s name of “Kyle” was even kept. Coincidentally, Penn’s role in The Game (1997) was originally intended for Jodie Foster. A bereaved woman and her daughter are flying home from Berlin to America. At 30,000 feet, the child vanishes, and nobody will admit she was ever on the plane. It’s Lady Vanishes, on a plane!

9 – The Accused (1988)

Probably the most brutal role for any actress ever. What she has to go through to even film this is unfathomable. The movie is based on a real-life gang rape that occurred on 6 March 1983 at Big Dan’s Bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The bar lost its liquor license the very next day. Upon seeing a pre-screening of the film, Jodie Foster thought her performance as Sarah Tobias was so awful that she immediately began preparing for and taking the GRE’s for graduate school. She was prepared to leave her film career behind and focus on academia…until she won the Academy Award for her performance.

8 – Stealing Home (1988)Stealing home jodie Foster

This is one of those rare movies that no one seems to know about, but that I love. I tell people about it all the time and convince them to watch it and they usually thank me for it later. Mark Harmon plays a washed-up baseball player who is called back home to handle the ashes of his childhood sweetheart/ first love (Jodie) who had committed suicide. As he searches for what to do with them, he remembers the past and the relationship they had. In doing so he finds himself again. This movie was reportedly based on the real-life experiences of its writers, former Second City troupe members and WKRP in Cincinnati writers Steven Kampmann and William Porter. The two lead actors (Jodie and Mark) never even have a scene together.

7 – Panic Room (2002)

Another one of her great thrillers. This one is top notch, great cast, great crew all around. A divorced woman and her diabetic daughter take refuge in their newly-purchased house’s safe room, when three men break-in, searching for a missing fortune. As I stated earlier, Nicole Kidman was originally cast in the role of Meg Altman. Then, only eighteen days into filming, Kidman had to leave the film as well, due to a recurring knee injury, suffered during the filming of Moulin Rouge! (2001). David Fincher suggested that the studio close the production and collect the insurance, but the studio decided to go on. Jodie Foster was offered the role. She was due to be the president of the Cannes Film Festival jury but withdrew to work with Fincher, with whom she was originally supposed to work on The Game (1997) in the role now played by Sean Penn. Foster had only nine days to prepare for the role. Kidman left a small mark in the film nevertheless, however, as the voice of the girlfriend of Foster’s husband in the movie, heard answering the phone when Foster’s character calls him in a desperate attempt for help.

6 – Sommersby (1993)

An example that she can do it all, this is a great romantic film. A farmer’s wife begins to suspect that the man in her bed is an impostor after he returns home from the Civil War, based on the French film, The Return of Martin Guerre. Steven Reuther, one of the producers behind the project commented about the casting of Gere and Foster: “A lot of people questioned us about this coupling. And it was a gamble, because there are the obvious romantic leading females, and Jodie really is not one of them. Also, I don’t think anyone had ever seen Jodie in a period costume. But once we got her in the period clothes and the hair, it was like, ‘How could there have been a question?’ I think that part of why she was attracted to the character was because it was something she had never done before.”

5 – Candleshoe (1977)

I love this movie, which is kind of an alternate telling of the story of Anastasia but with a treasure hunt mixed in. Helen Hayes and David Niven are just fantastic in it as well as Foster. It’s the last of three theatrical movies that actress Helen Hayes made for the Walt Disney Pictures studios during the 1970s. The earlier films were Herbie Rides Again (1974) and One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975). Screenwriter David Swift, who in the early 1960s directed Pollyanna (1960) and The Parent Trap (1961) for Walt Disney, developed this project for the company and was set to direct it. However, he felt Jodie Foster (then one of the most popular teenage actresses in the country) was all wrong for the part of Casey and stepped down. Boy, was he wrong, she is really great in this.

4 – Freaky Friday (1976)

The most popular of Jodie’s Walt Disney films, it’s a really fun movie and still holds up today, even with all the period clothes. The only time I can remember Jodie singing for a film, the title song “I’d Like to be You for a Day” is sung by Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. Both Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris were nominated for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy at the 1977 Golden Globes for this film. Technically, as they also played each other’s characters, they were both nominated for playing the same characters. Jodie Foster said of the film whilst doing press publicity for the picture around the time the movie first launched: “I think it’s important for my career that I make all different kinds of films. I’m proud that I made Freaky Friday. And I thought the idea was terrific. A lot of my friends think it’s my best picture. I really like working for Disney”.  The date of the “Freaky Friday” in the movie’s story-line was a Friday the 13th.

3 – Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This is the movie that comes up generally as the best of Jodie’s films, and I do love it, but it’s not my favorite. It is Jodie’s 2nd Academy Award win after The Accused. Anthony Hopkins won as well for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Jodie Foster claims that during the first meeting between Lecter and Starling, Anthony Hopkins’s mocking of her southern accent was improvised on the spot. Foster’s horrified reaction was genuine; she felt personally attacked. She later thanked Hopkins for generating such an honest reaction. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster only share four scenes throughout the course of the film. With 24 minutes and 52 seconds of screen time, Anthony Hopkins’s performance in this movie is the 2nd shortest to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, with David Niven in ‘Separate Tables‘ beating him at 23 minutes and 39 seconds. Clarice Starling was chosen by the American Film Institution as the sixth greatest film hero (out of fifty), the highest ranked female on the list; Hannibal Lecter was chosen as the #1 greatest film villain (also out of fifty).

2 – Maverick (1994)

This film is just really great fun. Not only does Jodie get to work with one of her favorite actors, Mel Gibson, but she was reunited with James Garner again after 20 years when working with him when she was a child. They all have some funny stuff in this. Jodie Foster’s character’s gracelessness in the film stems from the first scene she shot, when she waited for Mel Gibson to help her down from the stagecoach. Instead, he took her parasol and walked away. She tried to get down alone and flopped to the ground. Director Richard Donner liked it so much he kept the shot in the film, and staged more scenes of Foster stumbling, being dumped through windows, etc. In the stagecoach chase sequence, stuntman Mic Rodgers (doubling for Mel Gibson) had to go under the coach and get up at the back. This is a direct nod to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt’s similar stunt in Stagecoach (1939). By coincidence, second-unit director Terry Leonard, a former stuntman himself, performed this same stunt in the truck chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). I specifically talk about the stunt in the blog post, http://brothers-ink.com/2015/09/stagecoach-and-zorros-fighting-legion/ and again for the Indiana Jones stunt in the blog post http://brothers-ink.com/2015/12/stunt-team-for-raiders-of-the-lost-ark/

1 – Contact (1997)

This is one of the finest films, in what is a library of marvelous films by director Robert Zemeckis. It’s got one of the most remarkable tracking shots I’ve ever seen for any film. Ask my wife, I have literally watched and rewound this shot a hundred times trying to figure it out. Apparently, I learned later, this impossible shot, the long shot of Ellie as a child running up the stairs to get medicine, was actually filmed as a normal shot would have been and then flipped and placed in the mirror which, at the time of shooting was a blue screen placement in the cabinet. Any way you look at it, it’s a thing of beauty. Sorry, back to Jodie…Jodie Foster was interested in this movie as early as 1995. After initially deciding to drop out, her interest was resparked by a new revision of the script. Her character, Ellie is based partly on real radio astronomy pioneers and extra-terrestrial intelligence researchers. There’s also some Carl Sagan in her. He wanted a female hero to inspire girls to pursue science. Jodie really connected with that, being an academic herself. So much so that in 2011, Jodie was part of a group of private donors that saved SETI’s telescope array in California.

Top 15 Kurt Russell Movies

 

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 coming out soon, I thought it would be a good idea to list my favorite top 15 Kurt Russell movies. He’s definitely one of my favorite actors and has so many good roles over the years.

15 – Used Cars (1980)

Now leading up to the release of this film, Kurt Russell was a Disney name. My brother and I were 10 years old when this film was released and Kurt was our favorite Disney actor, so of course, my Mom took her twins to see Used Cars as soon as it came out…only to walk out of the theatre halfway through, shocked…she never realized it was rated R. Definitely not a Disney film. I have seen it since as an adult, and I can appreciate the film now, but back then, not so much. I am glad that he did this film early on as he had to break the Disney mold somehow, otherwise he would have never done some of his later great films as an adult.  This film was shot in and around Mesa and Scottsdale, Arizona, and we moved there when we turned 15 years later and recognized many of the locations. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. The movie is about the owner (Jack Warden) of a struggling used car lot, who is killed. His hot-shot car salesman (Kurt Russell), wanting to keep the car lot going and to save his job, steps in to save the property from falling into the hands of the owner’s ruthless brother and used-car rival.

14 – Elvis (1979)

Shot the year before by director, John Carpenter, Elvis would be the first pairing for the director and Kurt Russell. They would go on to make four more movies together. Kurt Russell made his initial film debut in It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) which starred Elvis Presley. According to Russell, Presley was 27 years old when he did “…World’s Fair” and Russell was 27 years old when he did this film.

13 – The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

This is part of the series of films Kurt Russell did for Walt Disney, playing a character named Dexter Riley, which my brother and I love. I’ll just mention this one as the first and best one, but they are all fun family films. They include Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), The Strongest Man in the World (1975), and we’ll throw in The Barefoot Executive (1971), because he pretty much plays the same character in that one too. Kurt Russell’s co-star in these was Joe Flynn, a very under-rated character actor that is hilarious in all of these movies. Joe Flynn played Dean Higgins of Medfield College, where student Dexter Riley goes to school. The name of the educational institution, “Medfield College” is also the setting featured in other Disney films such as this movie’s sequels Now You See Him, Now You Don’t and The Strongest Man in the World as well as the earlier The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and its sequel Son of Flubber (1963) where Professor Brainard (Fred MacMurray) teaches science.

Side note – these 4 films were written by Joseph McEveety, who also wrote Disney’s Superdad (1973), No Deposit, No Return (1976), and Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978). He’s the brother of directors Bernard McEveety and Vincent McEveety, who would go on to direct for Disney, the films; The Bears and I (1974), Napoleon and Samantha (1972), One Little Indian (1973), and Donovan’s Kid (1979) for Bernard and Menace on the Mountain (1970), The Million Dollar Duck (1971), The Biscuit Eater (1972), Charley and the Angel (1973), Superdad, The Castaway Cowboy (1974), The Strongest Man in the World, Treasure of Matecumbe (1976), Gus (1976), The Ghost of Cypress Swamp (1977), Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979), The Watcher in the Woods (1980) and Herbie Goes Bananas (1980) for Vincent. These 3 brothers were very effective at driving a lot of the Disney films in the 1970’s.

12 – The Art of the Steal (2013)

A little known film about Crunch Calhoun, a semi-reformed art thief, who agrees to get his old gang back together to pull off one last heist. Kurt Russell plays Crunch. This is a great heist film with some fun twists, written and directed by Jonathan Sobol. Cool cast includes Matt Dillion, who I think is an under-utilized actor. He should be in more movies than he is.

11 – Follow Me, Boys! (1966)

This is a fantastic movie and simply the best film ever done that features the Boy Scouts. It’s about Lem Siddons, who is part of a traveling band who has a dream of becoming a lawyer. Deciding to settle down, he finds a job as a stockboy in the general store of a small town. Trying to fit in, he volunteers to become scoutmaster of the newly formed Troop 1. Becoming more and more involved with the scout troop, he finds his plans to become a lawyer being put on the back burner, until he realizes that his life has been fulfilled helping the youth of the small town. Kurt Russell plays a boy that Lem reaches out to help and the main boy in the movie. It was Kurt’s first movie for Disney and it established him for the next 12 years in the studio. He would go on to star in 9 more Disney movies as well as numerous Disney TV shows.

10 – Breakdown (1997)

This movie was Taken, before Liam Neeson came around. Not really but technically the same story, but with his wife instead of daughter. Kurt Russell has starred with J.T. Walsh three times before, in Tequila Sunrise (1988), Backdraft (1991), and Executive Decision (1996). Kurt Russell has killed J.T. Walsh twice in a movie. In Tequila Sunrise he shoots him. In this film, he throws him off the bridge, and Amy puts the truck in neutral, causing the truck to land on him.

9 – Executive Decision (1996)

When terrorists seize control of an airliner, an intelligence analyst accompanies a commando unit for a midair boarding operation. The real surprise in this movie happens about 20 minutes into the film when Steven Seagal, who you think is going to be a major character, dies. It was the first time in a movie, where Steven Seagal’s character gets killed. It would happen again in Machete (2010). Kurt enjoyed the script as soon as he read it. He said later, “When I read Executive Decision, it was a real page-turner. I read scripts for the stories more than I do for the characters. I’ve read lots of characters I’d like to play, but I didn’t enjoy the movie itself that much. I liked the fun of Executive Decision, you know, I feel when an audience sees my name attached to a film, they think it’ll probably be a pretty good movie. The movies I do, if we make them well, will be fun to watch. They may not be the best movie of the year, and I may not be your favorite actor, but people come up to me all the time and say, “I like the movies you do”.

8 – Escape From New York (1981)

This movie has an incredibly unique premise; in 1997, when the U.S. president crashes into Manhattan, now a giant maximum security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in to rescue him. That man of course is Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell). He reprises the role again in Escape From LA, but that movie is really cheesy. I mostly like cheese, but that sequel is too much at times. Kurt Russell has stated that this (the first one) is his favorite of all his films, and Snake Plissken is his favorite of his characters. Snake Plissken’s eyepatch was suggested by Kurt. Clint Eastwood was considered for the role of Snake Plissken. Kurt based his performance on Eastwood, in his westerns. The line “I thought you were dead” was probably borrowed from Big Jake (1971). Every time John Wayne tells someone his name, the standard response is “I thought you were dead.” Which would mean that parts of this film were inspired by two legendary western stars, or their films; John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Snake, being based on Clint, has the added irony that Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef were in several “spaghetti westerns” together, who also stars in this movie.

7 – Stargate (1994)

An interstellar teleportation device, found in Egypt, leads to a planet with humans resembling ancient Egyptians who worship the god Ra. In a magazine interview, James Spader said that he found the original screenplay “awful” but also that it was so bad it actually intrigued him. He then met with Roland Emmerich, was inspired by the director’s passion for the project, and decided to make the movie because he felt the energy and craziness of making such a film would translate into an exciting final film.

6 – Backdraft (1991)

Ron Howard directed film about two Chicago firefighter brothers, who don’t get along, who have to work together while a dangerous arsonist is on the loose. Kurt Russell, Kevin Casey, Scott Glenn, and William Baldwin did a lot of their own stunts, and the Stunt Coordinator Walter Scott was so impressed by their performances, that he credited them as stunt performers in the credits. William and Kurt went to a firefighter “boot camp” to learn the ropes. They even slept at a Chicago firehouse for about a month. Ron Howard described Kurt’s approach was “aggressive, but entertaining, and totally honest.” Kurt was originally considered for the lead role of Connor Macleod in Highlander (1986), which was written by the same writer of this film.

5 – Overboard (1997)

A cruel but beautiful heiress screws over a hired carpenter, who later is the first one to find her when she gets amnesia. Looking for a little revenge he convinces her that she’s his wife. Great romantic comedy by Garry Marshall and also starring Goldie Hawn, Kurt’s real life love. As of 2017, this is the third and last of three movies that real-life couple Goldie and Kurt appeared in together as co-stars. Their earlier collaborations were Swing Shift (1984) and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968). Looking back on the film, Garry Marshall thinks that it’s “still one of the funniest pictures I ever made,” he said later.

4 – Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

An All-American trucker, Jack Burton, gets dragged into a centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown. Kurt Russell confessed on the DVD commentary that he was afraid of starring in the movie, because he had made a string of movies that flopped at the box-office. When he asked John Carpenter about it, he told Kurt that it didn’t matter to him – he just wanted to make the movie with him. It did flop at the box office initially, but became a huge hit on video and DVD years later. Now it’s considered a cult classic. John and Kurt explain on the audio commentary that the first test screening was so overwhelmingly positive, that both of them expected it to be a big hit after they made it. However, 20th Century Fox put little into promoting the movie, and it ended up being a box-office bomb. According to John and Kurt in the DVD commentary, the story was originally written as a western, but Carpenter decided to set it during modern times. They even mention that instead of Jack Burton’s truck being stolen, it was originally his horse. Kurt Russell turned down the lead role of Connor MacLeod in Highlander to appear in this film. Both movies were made and released by 20th Century Fox. An interesting side note, in the scene where Kurt is attempting to infiltrate the brothel, he is wearing the same outfit that he wore in Used Cars.

3 – Tango and Cash (1989)

The original idea for this film was to get Rambo and the Terminator together for a buddy cop film. They couldn’t get Arnold Schwarzenegger back then so it became a Rambo and Snake Plissken film. Not really, but it had Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, two action stars in one movie. Kurt was originally considered and offered the role of Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon (1987), but he turned it down, and it went to Mel Gibson, with whom he worked on Tequila Sunrise. His character in this film is loosely based on Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon.

2 – The Thing (1982)

It’s no secret that I love this movie. I write about it in a blog post: http://brothers-ink.com/2016/02/the-thing/

It’s the finest horror film ever made and is about a research facility in Antarctica that comes across an alien force that can become anything it touches with 100% accuracy. The members must now find out who’s human and who’s not before it’s too late. John Carpenter has stated that of all his films, this is also his personal favorite. John Carpenter’s film is a much more faithful adaptation of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s original novella “Who Goes There?” than The Thing from Another World (1951). For example, the 1951 version introduced female characters including a “love interest” for the hero. This film, like the original story, has no roles for women. Also, the use of a hot needle, to check the blood of the characters to see if they were still human or not, was taken directly from the original novella, and was not used in the 1951 movie. When the crew are all discussing what the alien spacecraft might be, one of them explains it by saying “Chariots of the Gods.” This is a reference to the famous 1968 book by Swiss-German author Erich von Däniken entitled “Chariots of the Gods?” which hypothesized that many of the world’s great historical monuments, such as the Egyptian Pyramids, were built with the aid of technologies and religion provided by extra-terrestrial beings, who were treated as deities by ancient peoples.

1 – Tombstone (1993)

I mention this film as the top film for a list for Val Kilmer as well in a post from our blog: http://brothers-ink.com/2016/12/top-15-val-kilmer-movies/

It’s the best film you can find about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and the fight at the OK Corral. Unbelievable cast with Kurt, Val, Bill Paxton, Sam Elliott, Powers Booth, Stephen Lang, Thomas Haden Church, Dana Delaney, Charlton Heston, and Michael Biehn. In an interview with True West magazine in October 2006, Kurt admit that after original director Kevin Jarre was fired, he directed a majority of the picture. According to Russell, George P. Cosmatos served merely to make things run smoothly. Also, in the True West interview, Kurt stated that the film was nearly cast with Richard Gere as Wyatt Earp, and Willem Dafoe as Doc Holliday.

Top 15 Binge-Worthy One-Hour TV Shows

 

Looking for a good one-hour TV show to binge watch this coming weekend?  Look no further, here are my favorites:

15  Legion (2017)

On it’s first season on the FX Network, it’s just barely getting started, so it almost didn’t make my list, but the reason it did is because it’s a VERY strong beginning!  The real reason it is so good is because of Noah Hawley, who created the last 2 season of FX’s Fargo. He’s just brilliant.  It’s a Marvel Comics creation and the characters fill the same universe as the X-Men. The title of the show is based on David Haller’s (main character) code name in the X-Men Comics. David acquired the code name “Legion” due to having hundreds of multiple personalities each with his own mutant power. Essentially making him a one man army.

14  House of Cards (2013-Present)

This is widely considered to be one of the 1st shows that inspired the Binge-watch culture we enjoy today.  Thanks Netflix.  Netflix won the bidding war between the rest of the networks to produce the show because they committed to do two seasons directly. It’s about the Underwoods, a ruthless couple, working hard to attain and maintain the Oval Office. Director list in the first 3 seasons includes famous names such as David Fincher, Joel Schumacher, Jodie Foster and actress Robin Wright, who plays Claire Underwood.

13  Bosch (2014-Present)

Based on the Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch Detective novels by Michael Connelly, this series features the excellent Titus Welliver as Bosch. In the literary world, Bosch is the half brother of Michael (Mickey) Haller from The Lincoln Lawyer (2011). They have same father; also a lawyer named Michael Haller. Michael Jr is the legitimate son, while Harry Bosch is illegitimate. By the way, Michael Connelly is one of my all-time favorite writers. No one can put together a crime story as good as he can.

12  Dexter  (2006-2013)

Dexter Morgan is a Forensics Expert, but that’s what he seems to be, as that’s not what he really is. Dexter is a serial killer that hunts other serial killers. This series is also based on a popular book series, but my favorite thing about the series would have to be Dexter himself, Michael C. Hall.  He’s fantastic in this.

11  Boston Legal (2004-2008)

David E. Kelly’s best legal series. Features the classic law firm of Crane, Poole and Schmidt, with the fantastic William Shatner playing Denny Crane. The real brilliance comes in the form of James Spader as Alan Shore, who can fly through a 5 page closing monologue like a cheetah through a 30-yard dash!  Watching these two and a slew of the best character actors as guest stars on this show was a real pleasure!

10  Stranger Things (2016-Present)

In a small town where everyone knows everyone, a peculiar incident starts a chain of events that leads to the disappearance of a child – which begins to tear at the fabric of an otherwise peaceful community. Dark government agencies and seemingly malevolent supernatural forces converge on the town while a few locals begin to understand that there’s more going on than meets the eye. The Duffer Brothers originally wanted to make a remake of Stephen King’s It, but were turned down. The series’s logo resembles the font used on the covers for the original 1980s editions of Stephen King novels, notably Cujo and Christine. Of the many nods to Stephen King in this series, one of the most obvious is in episode 4 (“The Body”) when the kids travel a significant stretch along the railroad tracks. Much of the story in the film “Stand By Me” (and in the novella it is based on, titled “The Body”), includes kids traveling along railroad tracks.

9  Newsroom (2012-2014)

This show by Aaron Sorkin is just about the perfect 3 act season TV Show that you can find. It feels like the perfect beginning, middle and ending that could be possible.  I can’t recommend this series enough. Incredible cast all around. It’s about a newsroom, that undergoes some changes in its workings and morals as a new team is brought in, bringing unexpected results for its existing news anchor, played by Jeff Daniels.

8  Longmire  (2012-Present)

Walt Longmire is the dedicated and unflappable sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Widowed only a year, he is a man in psychic repair but buries his pain behind his brave face, unassuming grin and dry wit.  Great mystery show, based on another popular thriller series.  On its premiere in June 2012, the series became A&E TV’s most watched original series launch of all time with 4.1 million total viewers. Regardless of it’s great viewing numbers, A&E announced that they would only be concentrating on their own original series and cancelled the show after the third season. A few months later Netflix picked the show back up for its fourth and fifth seasons. Robert Taylor, who plays Walt, bases his performance of Walt Longmire largely on Indiana Jones and several of Clint Eastwood’s Western personas.

7  Prison Break (2005-2009) (2017)

Due to a political conspiracy, an innocent man is sent to death row and his only hope is his brother, who makes it his mission to deliberately get himself sent to the same prison in order to break the both of them out, from the inside. Great series, and it’s coming back for another season, after having been cancelled in 2009! I can’t wait! Paul Scheuring had said that the initial concept for the series (a man deliberately getting himself sent to prison in order to break out again) was suggested to him by a female colleague of his (Dawn Parouse). He thought it was a great idea, but was initially stumped as to why someone would embark on such a strange mission or how he could stretch the idea out long enough for a TV show. He later came up with the idea of the wrongfully accused brother, and the conspiracy subplot. He then started work on writing the pilot script for the show. Wentworth Miller was a last minute casting choice. He started filming about a week after auditioning/being cast.

6  Alias (2001-2006)

Sydney Bristow, Jennifer Garner, is an international spy recruited out of college and trained for espionage and self-defense. Created by the amazing JJ Abrams. Jennifer Garner and Victor Garber (Sydney’s Father) were the only two stars to appear in every episode. Right behind them is Ron Rifkin (Sydney’s Boss) who only missed 2 out of 105. For those of you that are Bradley Cooper fans, he’s prominently featured in 4 of the 5 seasons as Sydney’s best friend, Will Tippin.

5  Game of Thrones (2011-Present)

Nine noble families fight for control over the mythical lands of Westeros; A forgotten race returns after being dormant for thousands of years. Executive Producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said the production of the show is a massive undertaking. It lasts the entire year and they shoot the show like a ten-hour movie. Season 5 alone was shot in five countries, on 151 sets, for 240 days, having 166 cast members, over 1,000 crew members and over 5,000 extras. George R.R. Martin once cited The Golden Compass (2007), the failed film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel “Northern Lights”, as one of the reasons he wanted his books to be made as a television series rather than being turned into movies. George R.R. Martin has stated that the infamous “Red Wedding” was the hardest chapter for him to write in “A Storm of Swords.” He was so emotionally attached to the characters that he actually wrote the rest of the book first, then that chapter last. Executive Producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, upon reading it, declared it was one of the major reasons they decided to option the books for a TV series.

4  Downton Abbey (2010-2015)

A chronicle of the lives of the British aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the early 20th Century. This show has a great cast. According to Julian Fellowes, the parts played by Hugh Bonneville, Brendan Coyle and Maggie Smith were written for the actors that played them. All the scenes shot in the servants quarters are shot on a soundstage as the actual quarters at Highclere Castle, the filming location for Downton Abbey, are badly damaged. The TV series was inspired by the movie Gosford Park (2001), also written by Julian Fellowes, where Maggie Smith, Jeremy Swift, and Richard E. Grant also appeared. Maggie Smith and Jeremy Swift have similar roles in both.

3  Daredevil (2015- Present)

Matt Murdock, with his other senses superhumanly enhanced, fights crime as a blind lawyer by day, and vigilante by night. WAY WAY WAY better than the Daredevil movie with Ben Affleck!  This show, along with other Netflix series Iron Fist (2017), Luke Cage (2016) and Jessica Jones (2015), exist in the same continuity with one another and within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  All of them are pretty good and worth binge-watching, but this one is by far the best. All of the four main characters will be coming together to make the series, The Defenders and aired on Netflix, hopefully in 2018. It’s also rumored that The Punisher will have his own Netflix series after having appeared in season 2 of Daredevil.

2  Fargo (2015-Present)

BEST series on TV right now. Great stuff.  Every season is a stand alone story set within the world of the Fargo movie by the Coen Brothers. Various chronicles of deception, intrigue and murder in and around frozen Minnesota. Yet all of these tales mysteriously lead back one way or another to Fargo, ND. There are some reoccurring characters, so far, at least in season 1 and 2. The second season is kind of a prequel to the first season. Expanding on the Solversons’ family and their story, and Molly Solverson is seen as a young girl.

1   Justified (2010-2015)

If you haven’t seen this show, you just haven’t seen what is quite possibly the best show of the last 10 years. Some guest actors have said that the working environment on the show was very different from other shows, because the writers were really open to suggestions from the cast, even while shooting scenes, to the point of stopping shooting for a while and sitting around to discuss the scene if there was room for improvement. Walton Goggins, who was born in Alabama and grew up in Georgia, originally declined the role of Boyd Crowder out of concern that the character would portray a negative stereotype of Southerners. He changed his mind and did the pilot as a favor to Timothy Olyphant, whom he knew through friends. It was supposed to be one episode only; Boyd originally died at the end of the pilot, as he did in the novel the show was based on. However, when the character scored well with test audiences, it was decided to reshoot the ending of the pilot to allow Boyd to return as a recurring character. It was this relationship throughout the series, between Boyd and the lead character Raylan Givens, that makes me love this series so much. The character Raylan Givens was created by novelist Elmore Leonard, and has appeared in two of his novels, “Pronto” (filmed as Pronto (1997)) and “Riding the Rap“. Givens also appeared in Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole“, which was the basis of the pilot episode of this series.

Top 15 Monster Movies

 

The new blockbuster movie season is almost upon us, so I’m going to take this opportunity to name and talk about my favorite top 15 monster movies over the past 100 years at the movies. Now, in the cases of series, or numerous remakes of the same monster, I’ve taken the liberty of just listing it once on the list with my favorite movie in that series and that film in essence, represents the monster. Also, if I felt that it was more of a horror film instead of a monster movie, because most can be both, I didn’t mention it on this list, although it could be one of my all time favorite movies.  The Thing comes to mind, I love that movie, but I consider it to be a horror film way more than it is a monster movie, so I didn’t include it on the list. A good way of thinking of this is if they could fall under the Universal Studios monsters group of movies.  They concentrate on adventure over horror. The best monster movies aren’t that scary at all, but truly fun and thrilling, although most will have some scary moments or moments that make you jump out of your skin.

15  I, Frankenstein (2014)

This was a very under-rated movie and one that seemed to get no marketing when it was released but actually was a rather good movie. My favorite so far of all the different Frankenstein movies that are out there. A big reason is Aaron Eckert, who plays the Frankenstein monster in this one. He’s great. It’s interesting to note, that in the original screenplay, “I, Frankenstein” and its hypothetical sequels were to take place in the same universe as the “Underworld” series (placed #14 on my list) which is from the same producers and shares actors Bill Nighy and Kevin Grevioux. Kate Beckinsale was rumored to be making a cameo as Selene. Ultimately none of these ideas were used. Since the movie didn’t make much money, it’s unlikely that any sequels will be made, making the matter moot, but boy this could have been cool.

14  Underworld (2003)

Would have to go with the first one in the series as the best one. I don’t think that’s always the case. Kate Beckinsale is the reason this series is worth watching. It’s also fun to see Vampires and Werewolves going full on war. The movie was initially pitched as “Romeo and Juliet for vampires and werewolves”. It’s interesting to see the prequel and sequels of the series, also to see how things began and finish. They have gone back and changed the original, however, as for the 2017 4K High Definition remaster of Underworld, the scene where Michael sees flashbacks into Lucian’s past/Sonya’s death was actually replaced with the 2009 scenes in Rise of the Lycans instead of the 2003 flashbacks.

13  Dracula Untold (2014)

Another version that didn’t seem to do well, or wasn’t marketed properly, but that I found to be much superior than any of it’s previous movies based on Dracula. Luke Evans plays Dracula in this version, and he’s very intense.  Dracula Untold was in production before Universal decided to build a cinematic universe. The producers caught wind of it just in time to independently add a present-day epilogue that Universal could use if they wanted to, but it was ultimately decided that Dracula Untold would not be the first entry in the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe. That first film of the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe is the new The Mummy film coming out in 2017, which features Tom Cruise in the starring role and also Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll to set up his stand alone film for the new Jekyll and Hyde remake.

12 Godzilla (2014)

It’s pretty obvious by now that 2014 was a pretty good year for monster movies, you just may not have known it. It’s mainly because now technology has made it a lot easier to do special effects than ever before. The technology has finally caught up with the creative in this area. This is the latest Godzilla movie to come around and I like it because after the film gets rolling, Godzilla becomes somewhat of a hero in the film rather than the creature out to destroy everything that he was presented as at times. It’s also the first in a new set of films set in the same “universe”, the 2nd being Kong: Skull Island that just came out, the 3rd being Godzilla: King of Monsters set to be released in 2019 and the last being King Kong vs. Godzilla in 2020. On this film, according to Bryan Cranston, Gareth Edwards was inspired by the shark film Jaws (1975). “The film does not immediately show the beast, but rather build up to its appearance while still delivering an eerie and terrifying off-screen presence.” In homage to Jaws, the main protagonists have the name of Brody, after that film’s protagonist.

11  Deep Blue Sea (1999)

The sharks in this film do have a tendency to grow and shrink in size depending on where they are in the film, but if you can turn your brain off of that fact, this is a pretty cool movie.  Renny Harlin directed it and he has said that it was the hardest film he’s ever made. Samuel L. Jackson happily signed on for the film, as he had enjoyed his experience working with Renny Harlin on The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996).  Renny Harlin admitted that the idea of abruptly killing off Samuel L. Jackson’s character at two-thirds of the movie was borrowed from the similar fate of Tom Skerritt in Alien (1979). Both men were the natural leaders of their respective groups, leaving the remaining survivors in utter despair, and both were the best-known actor in the cast at the time, thereby making their premature demise extra shocking and unexpected. The impact of Jackson’s sudden death scene was intensified by making his preceding speech somewhat long and corny. After watching the scene with an audience for the first time, and hearing them scream in horror and fear, Harlin said that this scene paid off for the entire movie. Just a side-note, the three sharks in this movie are killed in the same ways as the three sharks in Jaws (1975), Jaws 2 (1978), and Jaws 3-D (1983): blown up, electrocuted, and incinerated respectively.

10  Deep Rising (1998)

DEEP RISING, Treat Williams

Now this film is the best in a series of films that are about creatures from the ocean like Leviathan, Virus, Deep Star Six and The Rift. This is actually a really great film, but no-one seems to know about it. Probably because of the lower budget. Originally, Harrison Ford turned down the role of Finnegan. The production’s budget was then downsized. Stephen Sommers, the writer-director, would become known for his monster movies, and this is one of his best. He would go on to direct The Mummy, Van Helsing and The Mummy Returns. Stephen began writing this script, then called “Tentacle”, when he worked at Hollywood Pictures in the mid-90s. Go out a rent this movie, it’s a blast.

9  Lake Placid (1999)

Another film that nobody knows about.  Seemed to go straight to video, but it’s a great movie. This one has a very strange pedigree as it was written by David E. Kelly famous for Law Firm TV Shows like Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, LA Law, Picket Fences and The Practice! Then it was directed by Steve Miner, famous for giving us the real Friday the 13th killer Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th part 3, as the first movie’s killer was his mother, Mrs Voorhees! This movie is funny but has plenty of scares to go around. It’s about a giant crocodile living in Lake Placid. The size of the crocodile in the movie is actually much larger than anything ever recorded in real life. The current largest crocodile in captivity (Guinness book of records, 2015) is 5.48 metres (about 18 ft), and although there are (unverified) reports of sightings over 20 feet in length, nothing is as large as the 30ft quoted in the movie.

8  The Fly (1986)

Now, for some reason a running theme in monster movies is the use of science to explain how a monster has been created or come about. This one has the best use of science (except for movie #2) to help build the tension for any of the monster movies. In a 1987 interview on Sinister Image (1987) Vincent Price revealed that when this remake was released, star Jeff Goldblum wrote him a letter saying, “I hope you like it as much as I liked yours.” Price was touched by the letter, he composed a reply and went to see the film, which he described as “wonderful right up to a certain point… it went a little too far.” David Cronenberg met with some opposition when he announced that he wanted to cast Jeff Goldblum in the lead role. The executive at Fox who was supervising the project felt that Goldblum was not a bankable star, and Chris Walas (Make-up) felt that his face would be difficult to work with for the make-up effects. Both, however, deferred to Cronenberg’s judgment. Cronenberg himself later had reservations when Goldblum suggested Geena Davis, his girlfriend at the time, for the other lead role, as he did not want to have to work with a real-life couple. Cronenberg was convinced after Davis’s first reading that she was right for the role. Producer Stuart Cornfeld suggested that they audition more actresses saying that it’s the “script that is brilliant”. Cornfeld relented after “nobody else even came close”. The famous tagline, “Be afraid, be very afraid!”, originated in this film as dialogue spoken by Geena Davis.

7  Tremors (1990)

If you’ve ever watched Dune and thought the best thing about it was the sand worms then this movie is for you. Writer S.S. Wilson said that he got the idea for the film while he was working for the US Navy in the California desert. While resting on a rock, he imagined what it might be like if something underground kept him from getting off the rock. Tremors was the first film directed by Ron Underwood, who would go on to direct City Slickers, Speechless, Mighty Joe Young, Heart and Souls, and tons of TV Shows.

6  Gremlins (1984)

Written by the amazing Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante, this was my favorite film from 1984, at the time, although since then Terminator, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Dreamscape, The Last Starfighter, Romancing the Stone, The Philadelphia Experiment, Top Secret!, All of Me, Runaway, Ghostbusters, and Beverly Hills Cop have since topped that movie in that year, for me. But at 14 years old, Gremlins was my favorite. But now that I look back, that may have been one of the most incredible years for films…I mean, wow, what a list of films all released in the same year. The set for Kingston Falls, the location this movie is set in, is the same one used for Back to the Future (1985). Both movies were filmed in the Universal Studios backlot, and you could see the set for many years afterward if you went on the Universal Studios Tram Tour. Steven Spielberg had a great working relationship with Chris Columbus on this film, and he produced the next two films Columbus scripted–The Goonies (1985), based on an idea Spielberg had, and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), which was Columbus’ idea. Altogether, three years was spent working on those three films.

5  King Kong (1933)

Now the new film, Kong: Skull Island is pretty fun stuff, but the original is just too iconic not be on the list. It is effectively the model for almost all of the monster movies that have followed since. The other King Kong movies are pretty great too, but the original is just one of those films, especially at the time, that people’s jaws just dropped and everyone went…wow. It’s amazing, back then and today. The project went through numerous title changes during production, including “The Beast” (original title of draft by Edgar Wallace in RKO files), “The Eighth Wonder”, “The Ape”, “King Ape” and “Kong”. Art drawn for the press book for the original release of the film was contributed by Keye Luke, who was a highly regarded illustrator before he became an actor and whose works have appeared in films themselves, such as The Shanghai Gesture (1941), and who acted in such classic films as the number 1 son of Charlie Chan in a slew of films and as the old Chinese shop owner in our #5 film, Gremlins.

4  The Mummy (1999)

Great remake, much better than the original, even though I love Boris Karloff. The remake is a great mix of monster movie and adventure movie…just brilliant. It was originally planned to open the film with the old black and white Universal logo that had been used at the beginning of The Mummy (1932) which would dissolve into the blazing desert sun. Would have given a really cool connection to the old style Universal monster movies. Brendan Fraser was cast due to the success of George of the Jungle (1997). Stephen Sommers also commented that he felt Fraser fit the Errol Flynn swashbuckling character he had envisioned perfectly. The actor understood that his character “doesn’t take himself too seriously, otherwise the audience can’t go on that journey with him”. Before Brendan Fraser, the role of Rick’ O’Connel was offered to Sylvester Stallone. That would have been a very different film. I’m glad that Stephen Sommers stuck to his vision of the film. Stephen Sommers described his vision of the film as “as a kind of Indiana Jones or Jason and the Argonauts (1963) with the mummy as the creature giving the hero a hard time”.

3  Aliens (1986)

This one almost didn’t make my list as it literally scared me half to death when I first saw it. It’s hard not to think of it as a horror film, but what James Cameron brought to this franchise is so good and so ground-breaking that it literally transcends many genres. Sigourney Weaver had initially been very hesitant to reprise her role as Ripley, especially because Cameron had cut the scene where Burke had brought Ripley the news of just missing the death of her character’s daughter (which Weaver felt would have completed the circle of the mother-daughter bond with Newt) she had rejected numerous offers from Fox Studios to do any sequels, fearing that her character would be poorly written, and a sub-par sequel could hurt the legacy of Alien (1979). However, she was so impressed by the high quality of James Cameron’s script – specifically, the strong focus on Ripley, the mother-daughter bond between her character and Newt, and the incredible precision with which Cameron wrote her character, that she finally agreed to do the film.

2  Jurassic Park (1993)

Harrison Ford was offered and turned down the role of Dr. Alan Grant, as he felt that the part just wasn’t right for him. After seeing the film, he says that he had made the right decision. James Cameron has stated that he wanted to make the film, but the rights were bought “a few hours” before he could interview with Crichton. Upon seeing Jurassic Park, Cameron realized that Spielberg was the better choice to direct it as his version would’ve been much more violent (“Aliens (1986) with dinosaurs”) which “wouldn’t have been fair” to children, who relate to dinosaurs. The special effects were directly influenced by Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Originally, Michael Crichton’s agents circulated the book to six studios and directors. Warner Brothers wanted it for Tim Burton to direct, while Columbia Pictures was planning it for Richard Donner. 20th Century Fox was also interested, and was intending the project for Joe Dante, while Universal Pictures wanted Steven Spielberg to direct. Crichton was reluctant to submit to a bidding war. He instructed his agents to put a set price on the film rights and he could decide who was more likely to actually get the film made. After interviewing all the prospective directors, he agreed to sell the rights to Universal and Steven Spielberg, who was already his first choice.

1  Jaws (1975)

Kind of fitting to me to have a Universal Studios film as my number 1 monster movie of all time, but probably not the one people would instantly think of as a Universal monster movie…Jaws. It  is, although one of the few that was a highlight on the Universal Studios Tram Tour, but not the reason why it’s number one on my list. It’s just a fantastic movie. Is it iconic that Steven Spielberg directed both of the top two films? It’s also interesting that each of these films were based on books, bought before the books were released into stores. Peter Benchley’s novel was first discovered in galley form at early 1973 by then Cosmopolitan Magazine editor and producer David Brown’s wife Helen Gurley Brown who was to be excerpting part of the novel to be published in an upcoming issue. Brown saw it by accident, having read it then a few days brought it to the attention of his partner Richard D. Zanuck, subsequently obtaining the rights to the book at the end of the year. Director Steven Spielberg said that when he first read the novel, he found himself rooting for the shark because the human characters were so unlikeable. There was a lot of sub plots in the book that was cut from the screenplay and even Peter Benchley eventually liked how cutting the subplots from the novel allowed for the characters to be fleshed out properly. Steven wanted the movie to be different. Because the film the director envisioned was so dissimilar to Peter Benchley’s novel, Steven Spielberg asked Richard Dreyfuss not to read it. Steven Spielberg always considered Jurassic Park a sequel to Jaws, but on land. People saw differences though, where the latter focused on character development as much as on its creature, while the former only used the dinosaurs to sell the film, and not the characters. As far as monsters go, the shark in Jaws is pretty scary, as it has kept whole generations from going into the ocean for decades. The shark was ranked the eighteenth greatest villain on the AFI’s list of 100 Heroes and Villains.