JOHN CARPENTER LOVEFEST

Why John Carpenter Is My Favorite Director

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The Maestro in Action

Many directors have a distinct style. When directors carve out their own niche, for the most part, the men behind the lens gain notoriety. Great examples of this are Martin Scorsese, with his quick cut, narrated crime capers. Quentin Tarantino, who uses dialogue and ultra-violence to give his stories life. There is also, my personal favorite director; John Carpenter. From the time I was a boy, there is something about Carpenter’s films that hook me. The ingredients he uses to cook up his films fit perfectly with my movie pallet. For this reason, I would like to tell you why John Carpenter is my favorite movie director.

Simplicity   There is one common thread through Carpenter’s work; survival. From Assault On Precinct 13 to Ghosts of Mars and everywhere in between, a fight for survival against an evil force is the main theme throughout. This makes for his films to be unsettling, intense, and simple. Babysitter versus madman, scientists versus alien, or truck driver pitted against evil sorcerer. You get the picture. A simple plot. Good versus evil. Everything right down to Michael Myers expressionless white mask is uncomplicated. This makes a plot like an escaped mental patient stalking babysitters in small town Illinois seem plausible, organic, and more terrifying; it could happen to anyone. Simple is good. Carpenter does it well.

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The Soundtracks   If you were to take away the haunting synth-based soundtrack from the previously mentioned Halloween, what are you left with? You have footage of a man walking around the dark with a knife. This is not nearly as effective as the same footage armed with the iconic theme of the film. Carpenter’s soundtrack scores and themes are very effect in drawing out the tension and action. The main title from his 1980 ghost story The Fog is my personal favorite. The music is creepy in all the right places. Carpenter still continues to tour, performing his vast collection of synthesizer music. His Anthology and Lost Theme albums are amazing.

The Villains   All great stories have a great protagonist. John Carpenter’s films have a wide arrange of monsters and bad guys. From a possessed 1957 Plymouth Fury named Christine, to a whole island filled with violent criminals in Escape From New York, Carpenter villains run the gamut. The Shape, also known as Michael Myers has even become a pop culture icon since he first appeared in 1978. Perhaps his best creature is the parasitic alien that jumps from host to host in The Thing. This is Carpenter’s best film, and it is party because the alien is convincing and pretty damn cool. A great movie monster goes a long way in telling a great story.

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They Live (1988)

The Anti-Hero   John Carpenter’s films also have another common theme; the anti-hero protagonist. Anti-hero, by definition, is “a central character in a story, movie, or drama, who lacks conventional heroic attributes. Carpenter’s heroes do not wear capes, drive fast cars, or fit into any typical hero mold. Look at these characters, for example. Snake Plisskin is a convicted bank robber who sent into a crime infested Manhattan to save the U.S. president. In Big Trouble in Little China, Jack Burton is hard-living truck driver who battles a sorcerer. For the Kurt Russel hat-trick, whiskey drinking anti-social helicopter pilot McReady battle the alien that invades his Alaskan science outpost in The Thing. Nada, the drifter in They Live and Dr. Loomis, Michael Myers psychiatrist are also examples of Carpenter’s unconventional good guys.

Genre Crossover   Blending genres is something that can make a compelling story. John Carpenter is the master of blending horror and science fiction together to make great cinema. Look at films like The Thing, They Live, and Village of the Damned. All great horror films with some science thrown in for good measure. His use of aliens and Martians is pretty much a Carpenter trademark. Humor is also something the director does well. It is usually subtle, but in a movie like Big Trouble, the laughs are right on the surface. Starman is a blend of sci-fi and romance. I think you get the point I am trying to make. The man is a damn good writer and filmmaker.

 

My Top Five John Carpenter Movies:

  1. The Thing
  2. Halloween
  3. Escape From New York
  4. The Fog
  5. They Live / Big Trouble In Little China

T.

List-o-rama: My Five Favorite Comedy Movies

Everybody loves a good comedy. People love to laugh, and if they don’t, well, that is just weird. The question is, what makes a good comedy? It starts with what type of comedy that one prefers. There are so many sub genres of comedy that there is something for everyone. There is dark comedy, slapstick, parody/spoof, dramedy, romcom, even horrorcomedy. No matter what the genre, funny is funny. I would like to share with you my five favorite comedies of all time, so far. These are the five films that I remember laughing at the hardest and longest. The one thing I think connects these movies is great writing. A lot of the funniest bits are subtle little scenes and jokes that you don’t even notice the first time you watch. If you have not seen any of the following films, please do so immediately. You will get some genuine laughs and entertainment out of them.

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5. Bad Santa (Directed by: Terry Zwigoff | Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lauren Graham, Tony Cox | 2003) Willie (Thornton) is a down on his luck, scumbag safecracker. Along with his pint-sized partner Marcus (Cox), they pose as mall Santa and elf just so they can case the place and rob them blind. Everything would go perfect if Willie wasn’t such a drunken screw-up. Along the way, a sweet kid named Thurman Murman (Brett Kelly), and an even sweeter love interest (Graham) complicate things even further. Billy Bob Thornton is perfect as the “Bad Santa”. His character is so low and disgusting that you can’t help but love him. Two late, great comedic legends also star. Bernie Mac and John Ritter play the mall employees who know that something is off with Willie and Marcus. This movie is gross, vulgar, offensive, and absolutely wonderful. Plus it’s also a Christmas movie, sort of.

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4. Revenge of the Nerds (Directed by: Jeff Kanew | Starring: Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Curtis Armstrong | 1984) A group of freshman nerds join a college fraternity and use their smarts to outwit the Alpha Beta fraternity of jocks and bullies. Lambda Lambda Lambda is led by Lewis (Carradine), and Gilbert (Edwards), and has a collection of bizarre geeks and loners. I probably watched Revenge of the Nerds fifty times as a kid. I recently watched it again, and it is still as funny now. Curtis Armstrong is classic as “Booger”. He is part of so many funny scenes that he steals the show. Released in 1984, Revenge of the Nerds still stands up to the majority of comedies that come out now. I have gotten rid of ninety nine percent of my VHS tapes, but I refuse to part with my copy of ROTN. It holds a lot of fond memories.

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3. What We Do In The Shadows (Directed by: Taika Waititi | Starring: Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Johnny Brugh | 2014) Shadows” is a mock documentary about four Vampires who share a flat in New Zealand. We follow their day-to-day lives, and discover that being a vampire is not as glamorous as it seems. The fellows deal with problems like in fighting, chores, love, death, and werewolves. And they do it all in hilarious fashion. The writing and acting is so clever and spot on that it is hard to not love these characters. Most people that I talk to have not heard of this film, which is a shame because it is damn funny. Director/actor Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) have a strong background in quirky comedy and this movie is the blueprint for quirky hilarity. If you are not familiar with it, look up What We Do In The Shadows. I promise you will laugh.

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2. Borat: Cultural Learnings Of American Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Directed by: Larry Charles | Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian | 2006) I have never laughed so hard at the cinema as I did when I went to see Borat. There are so many over the top, ridiculous scenes in this movie that it’s hard to pick the funniest. Sacha Cohen plays the title character, which is a “reporter” from Kazakhstan who comes to America to learn about its culture. The majority of the people in the film are not actors, and had no idea that they were being filmed for a motion picture. This results in genuine reactions to Borat’s actions. Because of Borat’s “ignorance”, he can get away with a lot of questionable things, and it is hilarious. Cohen also appeared on the talk show circuit, in character, to promote the film. I think to an extent, Borat had the same effect on the public that the Blair Witch Project had; a lot of people thought it was real. In addition to the movie being funny, it is also a commentary on the ignorance and intolerance of some people. But mostly it is just criminally hilarious.

gallery_movies-ghostbusters-1984-cast1. Ghostbusters (Directed by: Ivan Reitman | Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver | 1984) Not only a brilliant comedy, but maybe the perfect movie. For me, Ghostbusters is at the top of the heap. The movie is full of comedy brilliance; Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis all bring it. Throw in a pretty lady (Weaver), a city that never sleeps (New York City), and some pretty sweet special effects, and you get an instant classic. Bill Murray is wonderful as usual; delivering his trademark perfectly timed dry humor as Dr. Peter Venkman. The premise is ridiculous. A group of down on their luck scientists decides to use their knowledge of the supernatural to devise a way to capture ghosts and house them in nuclear containment storage boiler. Sounds legit right? Well when New York City starts to get overrun by all sorts of ghouls and specters, who you gonna call? You know the answer. Call me a Ghostbusters snob, but I think the 80’s cartoon sucks and the recent remake with the all female members also sucks. Call me old fashioned but maybe I’m just a Ghostbusters traditionalist.

T.

Some pretty cool posters.

As I browse the internet, I come across so pretty cool images. I am a fan of music gig posters, and minimalist movie posters. A lot of creativity inhabits the world, and cyberspace is the easiest way to get your art out to the masses. As I come across something I find pleasing to the eye, I save it. Here are some of the images I feel are very sharable. I have no idea who the artists are, and I can take no credit for any of these pieces. Whoever did these, please keep up the amazing work.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

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True Romance (1993)

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Lost Boys (1987)

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Blair Witch Project (1999)

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The Exorcist (1973)

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The Shining (1980)

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Goonies (1985)

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Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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Ghostbusters (1984)

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The Shining (1980)

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The VVitch (2016)

 

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Danzig/White Zombie/Kyuss Gig Poster

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Melvins Gig Poster

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Pallbearer Gig Poster

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Blondie Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

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The Sword Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

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Beastie Boys Gig Poster

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Pink Floyd Tour Poster

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David Bowie Gig Poster

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Pink Floyd Gig Poster

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The Sword/Pallbearer Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

T.

My Favorite Films of 1991

Ninety One was a good year at the cinema. Here is a run down of the five I enjoyed the most.

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5) Point Break (Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, starring Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey) I love a good heist movie, and this is one of my favorites. A young Keanu plays Johnny Utah, an FBI agent who goes under cover to infiltrate a band of rogue surfers who may also be bank robbers. Patrick Swayze plays the antagonist, but plays it really cool. Point Break has a really good cast: Gary Busey, Lori Petty, and John C. McGinley also star. It has a total 90’s feel, and even has a guest spot by members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This film is a good waste of a couple hours.

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4) Boyz n The Hood (Directed by John Singleton, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Lawrence Fishburne, Ice Cube) This inner-city drama is a sobering reminder that every action has a consequence. Boyz is a coming of age story about the struggles of growing up in a dangerous community, raised by single parents, and just trying to stay alive. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube are amazing as friends growing up in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles. The movie captures the racial and economical tension the city endured in the early 1990’s. A very serious tone and some gritty performances make this must watch.

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3) Cape Fear (Directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis) This beauty is Scorsese’s vision of the 1962 Cape Fear that starred Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. Both versions are based on the John D. MacDonald novel of the same name. I have watched the majority of Robert DeNiro’s films, and I have to say that his portrayal of ex-con Max Cady is in my opinion, his best. He plays a smart, cunning, intimidating, and savage man obsessed with getting “revenge” on his defense attorney, played by Nick Nolte. This is how a thriller should be made. DeNiro is far and away the best part of the film, and the Max Cady character should be considered one of the greatest movie villains of all time.

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2) Silence of the Lambs (Directed by Jonathan Demme, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Ted Levine) Silence of the Lambs was released on Valentine’s Day in 1991. That would have been a hell of a date. Based on the Thomas Harris novel, this almost flawless film is an example of all aspects of a movie coming together brilliantly. Besides the 1986 film Manhunter, Silence of the Lambs was the first mainstream introduction to Dr. Hannibal Lector. I don’t think I need to tell you what he is about. Sir Anthony Hopkins nails the character, and gives us the chills with his portrayal. Jodie Foster is amazing as the naïve rookie FBI agent assigned to interview Lector. The character of Jame Gumb (aka Buffalo Bill) is a turbo creep, and created many moments that are still relevant in pop culture. This film spawned a bunch of prequel/sequels, and a television, show which deserved a much better fate than it received. From top to bottom, Silence of the Lambs is about as much bang for your buck you can get out of a film.

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1) The Doors (Directed by Oliver Stone, starring Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachalin) The Doors movie is not the best movie on this list, but it is my favorite. Around this time in my life, I was obsessed with Jim Morrison. The music, the lifestyle, the debauchery, it all spoke to me. This film basically put all the things that I imagined into something that I could visualize. My friend Brian (also a huge Doors fan) and I probably watched the VHS every weekend for months. It was a ritual. It was a time and a place in my life that I enjoyed. Val Kilmer was the perfect choice to play Morrison. He looked and sounded so much like the “Lizard King”, that he did the majority of the singing in the film. Director Oliver Stone is a master at capturing a certain time period, and the 60’s come to life in this movie. The Doors is also a tribute to Jim and Pamela Courson’s devotion to each other, even as dysfunctional as their relationship was. That is my kind of love story. This is my favorite movie of 1991, as well as my favorite music biography turned film. It showcased the defiance of a tortured artist, which is the way I thought I felt as a 16 year old dumb kid.

T.

List-O-rama: My favorite films of 1989

LIST O RAMA 2

My 5 Favorite Films of 1989

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“This town needs an enema!”

Batman (Directed by Tim Burton | starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson) The first true comic book blockbuster, Batman still holds up today. I am not entirely sure on the exact number of times I saw the movie upon it’s release, but it is the most I’ve gone to see one movie in the cinema. With a flawless portrayal of the Joker by Nicholson, Batman is super stylish and one of my all-time favorites.

 

 

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“Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn

Major League (Directed by David S. Ward | starring Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger) This movie is number 2, next to Slap Shot, as best sports comedy of all-time. A great cast and clever writing make this story of the downtrodden Cleveland Indians baseball clubs worst to first comeback story very enjoyable. It is very much an updated version of the Bad News Bears. This is a love story intended for every viewer who is a diehard fan of their home town team, even if the suck terribly.

 

 

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Marty’s get rich quick scheme backfires.

Back to the Future II (Directed by Robert Zemeckis | starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd) The second of the time travel trilogy, this film is the glue that holds it together. I am not saying I don’t love the other two films, but Back to the Future II has a certain charm. The writing and references to the future are clever, and Biff Tannen is one of the all-time villains. Even though the Cubs did not win the World Series in 2015 like the film boldly predicted, it is still a hell of a time waster.

 

 

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The Stones have nothing on the Stallyns!

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Directed by Stephen Herek | starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter) In 1989, a gift was given to the world, and that gift was Keanu Reeves. This comedy features such names as Napoleon, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Genghis Khan, and George Carlin as Rufus. Bill and Ted travel time in a phone booth. Sound familiar? This excellent adventure features one of film’s greatest fictional bands; Wyld Stallyns. Good, mindless fun. You’d have to be a medieval dickweed not to enjoy and appreciate this history lesson.

 

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A hellacious cat named Church. Poetic.

Pet Sematary (Directed by Mary Lambert | starring Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynn) This film is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. In my opinion, this is the best of King’s work turned movie. I saw this one at a drive-inn double feature and it scared to crap out of me. Pet Sematary still has an unsettling effect on me. This film features a ghost, reanimation of dead things, a demonic house cat named Church, and a toddler on the loose with a scalpel.

 

 

 

T.