Top 6 Film Scenes With Great Music

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Who hasn’t heard a great song or watched a brilliant scene and not felt something? I never understood people who said they “didn’t like music”. What? Who the hell doesn’t like music?  It’s one of our species’ oldest traditions. You feel that shit in your bones when it’s right. How does someone not like comedy movies? You hate laughter and happiness? You sick bastard.

At their essence these mediums exist to give their audience a reaction. It can be joy or sadness, discomfort or delight, fear or relief. When the reaction is strong enough scenes and songs can become unforgettable. This is part one of two. In part two I’ll talk about my top TV music moments. The following are some of my favorite film music moments in no particular order. Share your favorite scene in the comments if it’s not on the list!

Spoilers Below

Titanic

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The stage is set. Over a thousand people are about to die and it’s your job to keep them calm. The end draws near. You are about to try your chances at escaping but realize there is nowhere to escape to. If Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are screwed then you know you’re done too. The Titanic, the once unsinkable ship, is fucked. So what do you do? Play one last song as the ship sinks into the Atlantic. This scene is made all the more powerful by the fact that it really happened.

Wayne’s World

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Honestly, if you can watch the opening scene from Wayne’s World without nodding your head or feeling just a little bit better than you did before watching it you’re fucking dead inside. In less than 4 minutes they are able to establish an engaging world while giving you insight into the main characters goals and personalities. All while making you want nothing more than to be in the car rocking out with them.

The Last Samurai

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A fun evening out at Kabuki quickly takes a more violent turn. The drums keep us on edge as they ramp up and slow down along with the action. The Last Samurai isn’t everyone’s favorite but I honestly enjoyed this movie when I saw it in theaters. When Tom Cruise first came out in his samurai armor my cousin laughed out loud. Fair enough.

Interstellar

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I love this soundtrack. Hans Zimmer is god damned masterful. Receiving his messages after years on an alien planet Matthew McConaughey is overcome with emotion. The movie itself is plenty entertaining but the soundtrack is what hooks you in. It takes you on ride of ups and downs but each and every step of the way it wants you in it. Interstellar keeps you feeling. Even if that means being without music for a short time if it better serves the tone. Just do yourself a favor and listen to the songs for the movie on their own.

Children of Men

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Do yourself another favor and add Children of Men to your watch list if you haven’t seen it yet. Watch it again if you have. It’s a gorgeous film with cinematography that flows naturally effortlessly. 18 years ago the last baby was born. Infertility and instability have rocked the world. Also Charlie Hunnam has dreads. This is one my all time favorite scenes. Period.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

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I wanted to end on a more fun and less super dramatic moment for now. I’m a big fan of the Scott Pilgrim comics. I actually started reading them after watching the trailer for the movie and thinking it looked amazing. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is just a really fun movie. It’s visually stimulating, it’s funny, the music is great, and all those things truly work in unison. This scene sees Scott Pilgrim & Co. in a literal battle of the bands.

That’s all for now. More to come in like 8 months probably.

Back to the Future Day Q&A Panel With Cast and Crew in NYC

L-R: Guy, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, and Bob Gale
L-R: Guy, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, and Bob Gale

Tonight I was lucky enough to attend a special screening of Back to the Future II at AMC Loews Lincoln Square in NYC. Somehow, someway, VIP tickets fell from the heavens and into my hands… OK, so maybe it wasn’t that dramatic but I got some dope tickets either way.  Fourth row wasn’t too shabby.

Special Edition BTTF newspaper by USA TODAY
Special Edition BTTF newspaper by USA TODAY

Fans and onlookers gathered around the modified Delorean parked on the red carpet. Security guards in suits and earpieces, along with a fair share of NYPD, spotted the building’s exterior. The event itself seemed a little hectic. The Q&A was scheduled to start at 7:30 but didn’t get going till a bit after (about 8 or so).

Light cosplay of fans wearing the infamous red vest could be seen all around. Some of the more extreme fans were decked out in heavy cosplay of their favorite characters. I’m sure everyone was thrilled when leaving the theater and receiving a special edition of tomorrows USA Today. Don’t worry! You’ll be able to pick up a copy of your own tomorrow!

The Q&A was hosted by a guy from a company I don’t remember. Something with a “B”. Blasting, maybe? Sorry guy.

TRIPLE EDIT HAT TRICK:  Turns out the company is Blastr and the guy in question is self-described “Nerd Gone Pro”, Mr. Aaron Sagers. Thanks for being a good sport! Hire me for stuff. This concludes Editgate 2015.

Panelists consisted of Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, and Bob Gale. Please enjoy this almost full recording of the panel! I apologize for my lack of foresight but I didn’t start recording the Q&A session till about 5 minutes in.

EDIT: Sorry the initial upload wasn’t working! I re-uploaded the audio to my soundcloud. Please enjoy! Back to the Future Day – October 21, 2015 – Q&A Panel with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, and Bob Gale

DOUBLE EDIT: Apologies for giggling so loudly.

WARNING: The first 20 seconds I’m hitting the microphone while I’m moving the phone. Audio quality isn’t terrible but isn’t great either. Be aware there will be a few random pops from moving the phone and loud applause.

Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, and Bob Gale
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, and Bob Gale

It’s been quite a while since I watched Back to the Future II. Michael J. Fox is the brave and hot headed, Marty McFly. Christopher Lloyd as the lovable mad scientist, Dr. Emmett Brown. Lea Thompson as the queen of mommy issues, Lorraine Baines McFly. To be honest, I’ve never been the biggest Back to the Future fan.. After tonight I may be a convert.

Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe it was being surrounded by loving fans (shout out to the insanely excited guy behind me that quoted the whole movies). Maybe it was because I last saw it when I was 13. Whatever the reasons, I enjoyed Back to the Future II a hell of a lot more than I remember. Do yourself a favor and take a ride down memory lane for Back to the Future day!

Please check out The Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research and consider donating!

Beasts of No Nation (2015): No Glory in War

abraham-beasts-08192015Within Beasts of No Nation’s first hour I teared up three times and cried once. No punches are pulled in director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s brutal depiction of war as a child soldier. The film is an adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s novel of the same name. Forgive the cliched statement.. but Beasts of No Nation grabs you by the throat and does not let go.

Beasts of No Nation stars 14-year-old newcomer Abraham Attah as Agu. Attah was discovered cutting class and playing football(soccer) when he was approached to audition for the film. He plays a lovable kid from an unnamed West African nation that is devolving into civil war. Agu comes from a family much like any other. A loving mother and father, a big brother only concerned with his muscles and showing them to girls, and a grandpa that “has the lights on but no one is home”.

Attah’s performance is captivating to say the least. This kid deserves all the awards. Despite being a young and inexperienced actor; Attah commands your attention while sharing the screen with veteran actor Idris Elba. Elba plays a charismatic military leader known only as “Commandant”. He serves as a surrogate father figure that the young boys fear and admire. Elba has a strange talent for playing a cruel character and getting you to root for him regardless.

Abraham Attah as Agu on the right. Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye as Strika in the back.
Abraham Attah as Agu on the right. Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye as Strika to the left.

I must also applaud Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye as Strika. He becomes a friend to Agu soon after his transition into a child soldier. Quaye conveys so much emotion in the tiniest of moments without saying anything. His ability to convey so much through body language and facial expressions is something to be admired.

Beyond a wonderful cast, the film features beautiful visuals and audio. A scene featuring Agu’s first use of “brown-brown” stands out in particular. Brown-brown is a mixture of cocaine and smokeless gunpowder. It was reportedly given to child soldiers in West African conflicts. The colors and sounds of the film change to reflect Agu’s hallucinations in subtle yet visually stunning ways.

The film is worthy of praise in so many different categories but I found myself most impressed by their depiction of war’s brutality. It is common to see war movies that glorify the main characters on the right side of morality. It’s often depictions of the U.S. military as the conquering heroes or, oddly enough, as the underdogs.

Beasts of No Nation shows the perspective of a true underdog. We experience life through the eyes of beasts-of-no-nation-2-720x405children struggling to survive the environment they are now a part of. We observe their most horrific acts, how they cope, and how they struggle with what they have done. The film is 2 hours and 17 minutes long but I would recommend giving yourself some time after to process.

Beasts of No Nation paints a visceral depiction of war. There are no “good” or “bad” guys. There are survivors and there are the dead. That is what it comes down to as the film taunts your sense of morality. Beasts ventures into the darkest recesses of humanity without regard for how uncomfortable it may make you.

For all these reasons I applaud Beasts of No Nation. It dares to show the true face of war. It illustrates the manipulation, propaganda, and primal emotions that are exploited to convince youth to go to war. The reality of wars futility and suffering are on full display. Fury is another film that recently touched on this but to a much smaller extent.

Idris Elba as Commandant
Idris Elba as Commandant

While watching Beasts it’s important to recognize the truth in its portrayal of war. Every brutal scene has likely happened somewhere in the world within the last week. I know this is hard for many to acknowledge but it’s important that we understand war for what it truly is and not for the fantasy its become.

Beasts of No Nation is a powerhouse of a film that will leave you feeling way more than you want to. Transitioning from happiness to sadness and back in a moment is commonplace. I encourage everyone to check it out on Netflix or their local theater if it’s playing nearby. Beasts of No Nation is one of those films you may not want to watch but you need to see. 5 out 5. Go see this film.

Please visit Child Soldiers International at http://www.child-soldiers.org
To learn more about real child-soldiers, please visit Child Soldiers International at http://www.child-soldiers.org

Skeleton Twins Review

The_Skeleton_Twins_posterSkeleton Twins: For when you want to feel emotionally confused. It stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as Maggie and Milo Dean, a pair of dysfunctional twins coping with childhood scars that continue to haunt them. Hader is a struggling actor living in L.A. and Wiig is a dental hygienist still living in their hometown in New York.

As children Maggie and Milo were seemingly inseparable but somewhere along the way they grew distant. Skeleton Twins is a heartfelt, at times frustrating, story of their reunion after a 10 year gap. Both of their characters can be wonderfully endearing. Bill Hader in particular really excels in his role as a gay man going through a recent breakup. His characters droll sense of humor seems to confuse or turn off those around him but it’s clear he has a big heart. It’s the “I got funny to cope with shit” story that I think many people are familiar with.

THE SKELETON TWINS, from left: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, 2014. ©Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection
THE SKELETON TWINS, from left: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, 2014. ©Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection

I feel conflicted about Wiig’s character. Though, that may just demonstrate how well she played her. Maggie is struggling to cope with the “perfect” life she has but never really planned on having. She’s married to, in her own words, a great guy played by Luke Wilson. Everything seems to be going well for them but she is clearly missing some kind of fulfillment.

The film explores childhood trauma as well as coming from a dysfunctional family. It opens with Wiig speculating to the audience that all their problems may have started with their father. The opening scene shows him as a faceless man behind a Dia de los Muertos skeleton mask. He is revisited throughout the film but always with an air of mystery about what happened. Their mother is briefly explored and played by Joanna Gleason.

Besides for a few lucky people, most families are familiar with loss, pain, or just bad shit happening to them. Then sometimes you encounter people who just never get a break. The families that have bad thing after bad thing follow them around forever. Skeleton Twins is the story of one of those families. At times it can be hard to root for the main characters. Yet, somehow I found myself still pulling for them by the end of the movie.

Skeleton Twins revisits some fears many of us shared while growing up. The fear of “peaking” in high film_skeletontwins-magschool and never reaching the potential you envisioned for yourself. The fear of being alone. The fear of pushing everyone away. The fear of being in your 30s(+/- accordingly) and still being lost and confused about your place in the world. The biggest strength to the film is that the characters are human. There is no pure “good” character to pull for. Everyone is damaged. Everyone has baggage. Everyone has a story. There’s bits and pieces of us all represented in this film.

Beyond looking how families can hurt each other it also looks at how they can help with healing. It shows the love and compassion that can be offered by those that spent their entire lives with you. If you’re looking for continuous SNL styled laughs, this isn’t the film for you. If you’re looking for a dark comical exploration of how f’d up people can be, then look no further. 3.75 out of 5.

Godzilla Review (Originally written May 2014)

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I’ll admit, I jumped on the Godzilla bandwagon.  I jumped on it real fast.  From the moment I heard that monstrous roar I was drooling.

It’s now 2:45 in the morning and I’ve just arrived home from seeing the movie.  What. A. Movie.

Alas, I don’t mean that in a good way.  Considering it’s a two hour long movie called “Godzilla” I went in assume Godzilla would be the main character.  Nope. Instead, the movie follows the family hijinks of Heisenberg and Kickass. Err… I mean Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his son Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).  Kickass goes on adventures of having the shit kicked out of him but never seeming like he’s in actual danger.

There were multiple scenes in the movie where I’d start to get pumped up.  “This is it.” I found myself thinking.  The impending monster apocalypse has arrived and is about to start in all its glory.  HERE IT COMES! OH MAN! Cut to new scene.  Huh?  Wait.  Godzilla.  Come back to me you majestic gorilla-whale.   Nope, that’s all the Godzilla for now.  Let’s go back to those silly little humans and their silly little plans that make little to no sense. Dammit.

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Fuck.

I kept finding myself thinking about another giant monster film that came out somewhat recently.  Yup, you guess it, Pacific Rim.  Now Pacific Rim may not be the greatest movie ever but it gave you what you came for.  Giant monster vs giant robot fights. I want to see my baby Gojira murder the hell out of some MUTOs.

When the movie started to approach its climax, and the monster bash was clearly about to begin in earnest, I started paying attention to how long Godzilla was on screen.  Approximately 10-15 minutes.  Perhaps 20-30 minutes in the entire movie.  These aren’t 20 action packed minutes either.  Roughly half the time Godzilla is on screen we’re either following his movements as he’s submerged underwater or seeing a super close up.

Perhaps you can tell I’m a bit upset.  I REALLY wanted this movie to be great.  To show that Americans could do Godzilla right.  Maybe this film is proof that we cannot do any such thing.  We can make a crappy romance story/family drama that occasionally features a giant monster destroying shit.  That’s about it.

While this film isn’t as bad as the 1998 predecessor, it certainly drops the ball.  Most of my gripes (pretty much all of my gripes) come from the lack of Godzilla in a movie called Godzilla.  If this film was called “Immortal Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Lieutenant That Seems Really Well Versed In a Variety of Situations” it’d be a different  story.

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“You mean that’s all we see of Godzilla?”

Bryan Cranston, in his role of a distraught and grieving husband, is engaging and moving. Sadly, most of the other performances fall short. The only other human character I found myself enjoying was Dr. Ichiro Serizawa played by Ken Wantanabe AKA the actual Last Samurai. It seems like this genius scientist becomes increasingly dimwitted as the movie progresses. The writing for the female characters (Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, and Juliette Binoche) is practically nonexistent and mostly boils down to looks of shock. Godzilla has its flaws but the writing stands out as the biggest culprit.

I guess it all comes down to “Should I see this movie?”  It’s a tough call actually.  First you must ask yourself another question “Do I want to see this movie solely for Godzilla fucking shit up?”  If you answered yes to this question, you probably shouldn’t see this movie.  You will more than likely be disappointed.  The last 15-20 minutes are where the bulk of the action is found.  The other 100 minutes feel more like filler and a desperate attempt to make us care about people you don’t actually care about.  I give Godzilla 3 out of 5.  While not a bad movie in its own right, its biggest downfall is taking a beloved icon like Godzilla and essentially putting him in the background of his own movie.