Monday, October 19, 2009

My 25 Favorite Move Scenes-- The Final Four!

This is it. The Final Four. The top movie scenes. Welcome to the end.

4. “He is Edmond Dantes” (V for Vendetta): Everyone needs to watch this movie. It’s the Wachowski Borthers’ (Matrix) finest work, Hugo Weaving’s acting is phenomenal, and the writing is absolutely top-notch. This final scene, examining the vengeful nature of its protagonist, has amazing cinematography, intelligent and gorgeous acting from Natalie Portman, and a great score that tastefully uses the 1812 Overture.

3. Opening Scene (Raiders of the Lost Ark): This is what every action movie wants to be, and it pulls out all the stops in the first five minutes. This sequence not only introduces you to the character of Indiana Jones, but it also gives you a good taste of where the movie is going. The moment with the boulder is pure movie magic, and cinema history.

2. Mount Doom (The Return of the King): This is the definition of pure, unadulterated EPIC. The score, by Howard Shore, is at its height for the trilogy, the acting (from Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, and a whole slew of others) reaches an emotional climax, and I believe it’s impossible to watch this sequence without your heart beating twice as fast.

And the number 1 moment is...
1. Oh Captain, My Captain (Dead Poets Society): This film has been seen by far too few people, but it should be seen by everyone in the world. This is Robin Williams’ best role in my opinion, and this final scene is done pitch-perfect. The scene ties in with earlier motifs established in the movie, ties up several emotional character-arcs, and has a great score. There is absolutely no way I can watch this scene without crying, and I am not the world’s biggest softie. Watch this movie. Watch it now. Then watch all of the others on this list.

So there it is. My top 25. Were there any I omitted? Do you think any scenes you remember were better than the ones I included? Feel free to comment below.

Coming Soon: The Maze Runner

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My 25 Favorite Movie Scenes, Part IV

The final four are coming soon, and here we go again!

9. The Really Big Spoiler Scene (The Empire Strikes Back): I’m not going to say anything about this one, but there’s no need. A plot twist this big and unexpected has ingrained itself into popular culture to the point of being a cliché.

8. Rescuing Buttercup (The Princess Bride): I love this movie. Everything about it is great. But this is my favorite sequence, as Westley deals with a master with the sword, a giant, and a cunning Sicilian. But it’s much more fun than all that.

7. I Don’t Think Now Is The Best Time (Pirates of the Caribbean-- At World’s End): The best wedding scene ever. Why can’t all wedding scenes be like this? Or like Maria’s wedding. For sheer fun value, alone with some of Hans Zimmer’s best music, this scene gets a spot.

6. Parade Scene-- Twist and Shout (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off): This. Is. The. Funniest. Most. Incredible. Scene. Ever. I could watch it every day for the rest of my life. Turns a parade into an epic comedic affair.

5. The Sound of Music (The Sound of Music): Beautiful scenery. Beautiful singing. This is a scene that sticks in viewers’ heads through the whole movie. Julie Andrews struck gold once again. The beginning of a tour-de-force that is truly fantastic.

Coming Soon: The Final Four, and several book reviews.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My 25 Favorite Movie Scenes, Part III

The list goes on, and the moments are getting more memorable.

14. Neo vs. Agent Smith (The Matrix): No, not any of the later standoffs with the Smith clones. This is the real deal, the reason people fell in love with these movies to begin with. There is a great use of bullet-time here, one where-- hey-- there are actual bullets being fired.

13. Final Scene (12 Angry Men): Henry Fonda is fantastic. I adore this movie. And the pivotal final moment is one where it is impossible to pull your eyes away from the screen.

12. Can-Can Fight (Stardust): Maybe I should just say “All of Stardust”. You really must watch this movie if you haven’t yet. And read the book, too. They’re both good. That aside, this is the best use of the Can-Can you’ll ever find in a movie, and the Robert DeNiro element is absolutely perfect.

11. Landing Sequence (Airplane!): If you haven’t watched this comedy goofball masterpiece, do so this instant. This is full of so many visual gags, but my favorite is the “just kidding” moment with the lights. Those who have seen it know what I mean.

10. Scar Story (The Dark Knight): Isn’t this just creepy? I mean, seriously. Heath Ledger was one of a kind, and his scenes are both immensely quotable and impossible not to watch. The depth with which he gets into his character proves he deserved his Oscar.
Coming Soon: More of the list.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My 25 Favorite Movie Scenes, Part II

The fun continues! On an aside, sometimes the moments are on there simply because of the way all of the elements come together. For example, if the music element hadn't been present in X3, then it wouldn't have been on the list.

19. Hobbiton (The Fellowship of the Ring): Wow, this is a moment where my mental picture of Tolkien’s words came alive on the screen. It was incredible, and it let me know right away these films would be incredible.

18. The Three Tasks (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade): Interweaving a slew of Biblical allusions with fantastic acting, suspense, and music (John Williams’ third movie on the list), this one is worth watching again and again for the editing as well. The only finale of the Indiana Jones movies that really worked for me.

17. Climax (Serenity): Firefly’s swan song was beautifully done by Joss Whedon. The action is great, and the fulfillment of several character arcs is great. And the shot with River at the end-- if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about-- is jaw-dropping.

16. Music of the Night (Phantom of the Opera): The music is breathtaking. Nuff said.

15. Maria’s Wedding (The Sound of Music): The perfect reprisal of the “How do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” blended with shots of a gorgeous cathedral make for a perfect moment of joy-- before the Nazis arrive.

Coming Soon: More of the list.

Just After Sunset

Stephen King is the master of the short story. (Well, so is Bradbury, but still). Just After Sunset is his newest collection, the last thing of his to be released before his next epic, Under the Dome, comes out on November 10. There are thirteen tales this time around (and what a perfect number), each one a gem in of itself.

I'll just highlight a few this time. There's "The Things They Left Behind", which is sad and moving and very well done. There's the last of his old short stories, "The Cat from Hell", and it's got some loely over-the-top beats. "The Gingerbread Girl" feels like a short reworking of Duma Key, but with a female protagonist and no eerie paintings. Actually, it bears pretty much no resemblance to Duma Key. "A Very Tight Place" goes for the gross-out factor, being the story of a man fighting for survival whilst in a Port-O-San. And "N." is King's creepy masterpiece of the bunch, the one which, like "1408" in Everything's Eventual, will haunt your memory long after it has ended.

But that's less than half of the stories presented. There's a lot of enjoyment to be had in the reading here. King continually shows he is the master, and we would all do well to read some of his short stories.

My rating: 10/10

Coming Soon: More on my Top 25 List.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My 25 Favorite Movie Scenes, Part I

I'm a big fan of movies. I just absolutely love them. And I would reccomend any of the movies on the list for the scenes I picked alone. So, while they may not be the best 25 movie scenes ever, they're my favorite movie scenes.

25. Falling With Style Reprise (Toy Story): I know this is a strange way to start this list off, but it’s true. The music is top-notch, the voice-acting is great, and there’s no way I can keep Pixar off this list. They’re geniuses.

24. Hollywood Finale (Blazing Saddles): And the great Mel Brooks, master of comedy, has made it onto the list. This one is a hoot, ripping the characters out of their time and straight into ours. Don’t miss the great pie fight and the Blazing Saddles premiere.

23. Hogwarts Unveiling (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone): While I am not always a fan of Chris Columbus’ films, this one strikes the perfect balance of music (by John Williams) and visuals. An unforgettable bit of movie magic-- pardon the pun.

22. Anakin/Obi-Wan Duel (Star Wars Episode III-- Revenge of the Sith): This climactic scene from everybody’s favorite series of oddly-named films is an absolute winner, with some of John Williams’ best scoring and one of the saga’s high emotional (and tragic) points.

21. Lucy at the Lamp Post (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe): This is a magical moment with amazing cinematography and authentic acting from Georgie Henley. Once again, the score helps sell this moment.

20. Wolverine and Jean/Phoenix (X-Men-- The Last Stand): I wouldn’t put this one on here, except for the score. The music here is some of the best-placed I’ve ever heard in a movie, and the emotions run high while the scene feels truly epic.

Coming Soon: Just After Sunset and the next five winners.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Leven Thumps and the Ruins of Alder

All things must come to an end. This has been the moral of my reading year as I've read the end of not one, not two, but ten series. That's right, ten. Too many to name. But they're all over now. It's odd, how there are so many that have ended. 2009 was a big year for the story. But the endings aren't finished yet. (No pun intended. Actually, I change my mind. Pun very much intended.) We still have Charlie Bone and the Red Knight, Peter and the Sword of Mercy (What? There's another one?), and any completed series I decide to go ahead and finish up this year. I've been reading from one emotional climax to another, and it's actually quite draining. The things I do for you readers, especially those of you who are kind enough to follow the blog.

On an entirely different note, here's Leven Thumps and the Ruins of Alder.

In the fifth and final volume of the epic saga of Leven Thumps, all of Foo is rushing madly to exit the realm of dreams while Leven is headed in the opposite direction. Fate snatches him to the island of Alder, where he is poised to pass or fail the final test. Meanwhile, in Reality, Ezra and Dennis are welcoming those flowing out of Foo— but only so they can selfishly conquer them and gain control of both realms. Phoebe is loose, and it takes Geth getting ahold of her to begin to balance the emotions and passions of all that is crumbling. And Winter? Well, Winter just might hold the answer to everything.

I have enjoyed this series since it came out. I've always given it props for its creativity and Obert Skye's unique writing style (his use of bizarre examples that clue you in on his own unusual character). The whimsical nature of the writing provides an intriguing contrast to the epic concepts and story at hand. And here's something I hadn't fully grasped: Skye is a master at foreshadowing, giving us hints about the conclusion of his series before page one. I've had a great time reading this series, and I can't wait to get my hands on Skye's next project: Geth and the Return of the Lithens.

My rating: 10/10

Coming Soon: Confidential. Well, not really. But I don't feel like telling you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles Complete Serial review

Last year, I reviewed The Spiderwick Chronicles about the time the movie adaptation came out. I greatly enjoyed the serial, and I was happy to find Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, a three-part serial which is connected to the Spiderwick world and which is Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black's last foray into the world of the fae.

The Nixie's Song (1 of 3): The Spiderwick Chronicles leave the old-fashioned charm of New England far behind and head south for some fiendish faerie fun in the hot Florida sun. Eleven-year-old Nicholas Vargas only thinks his life has been turned upside down after his developer father remarries and moves his new wife and daughter into the soon-to-be completed Mangrove Hollow. But an "expedition" to a nearby lake turns up a little nixie with a giant problem - the huge, lumbering, fire-breathing variety - and it's up to Nick; his stepsister, Laurie; and his big brother, Julian (plus a familiar face from the original Spiderwick Chronicles) to figure out the best way to stop a host of rampaging giants before all of Florida goes up in smoke.

A Giant Problem (2 of 3): In the words of Nick Vargas: "Talk about out of the frying pan, into the fire! I was pretty sure that my freaky stepsister and that freaky field guide of hers would ruin my life. But now it looks like they're going to ruin all of Florida, too! Okay, maybe that's not fair. Maybe all these stupid giants would be waking up anyway, but if it wasn't for her and that book, I'd be home playing video games and this would be someone else's giant problem! "

The Wyrm King (3 of 3): In the final installment of Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, Nick and Laurie had thought they solved their giant problems when they drove all the giants into the sea. But now, the Grace kids have come back to tell them they may have more trouble coming their way!
It turns out the giants control the population of Hydra, a dragon like creature that is creating sinkholes all over Florida. But with the mermaids refusing to return the giants to the shore, the nixie's still missing and the threat of a destroyed Florida drawing closer, the kids have to take matters in their own hands. Will Nick and Laurie be able to stop the destruction they unwittingly caused? Can a new giant hunter help save the day? Can Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide help them out of this or are they on their own?

There's a lot of fun to be had in reading this serial. Like the original, it's fast-paced, imaginative, and always intriguing. The pencil sketches once again really bring out the images that are already put in your head by the writing. This one isn't quite as good as the first, and sometimes it feels even more rushed than the original, but it's still reccomended reading.

My rating: 9.5/10

Coming Soon: Leven Thumps and the Ruins of Alder, and those new reviews...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bran Hambric-- The Farfield Curse

I apologize in advance. This review was a long time coming. I would make this post for multiple books, but I believe Kaleb Nation's debut novel is worth its own post. Bran Hambric-- The Farfield Curse has garnered positive reviews from the likes of D.J. MacHale (PENDRAGON) and Kaza Kingsley (Erec Rex).

On the third night of the third month in 2003, fourteen-year-old Kaleb Nation suddenly imagined a boy and a banker on a roof, waiting for a burglar to come. From that original idea was born the story of Bran Hambric, a novel that would take most of Kaleb’s teenage years to write.

In a bustling metropolis where magic is outlawed, a six-year-old child is found inside a locked bank vault. A scrap of paper reveals his name: Bran Hambric. The child remembers nothing of his life before the vault. Only magic could have done this. But why would any mage risk breaking the law to place a child in a bank vault?

Eight years later the City of Dunce has forgotten about Bran. Even his foster parents don't seem to know he exists. But there are those who have been watching, biding their time, waiting to strike, people who know where Bran came from and why he was sent away. And they will do anything to get Bran back, dead or alive…

Welcome to a world unlike any other where the adventure of a lifetime is just beginning.

In the wake of Harry Potter, we are among a slew of writers being published who are perfectly happy to let their creativity run wild. There are gnomes, magicians, an evil being possessed by an unlikely person, a secret room in the back of a bookstore, and a city where magic is outlawed. Kaleb Nation has promised readers a fun adventure in an interesting world, and he delivers wonderfully. And this book just feels like the tip of the iceberg. There are forthcoming sequels, and I'm hoping for an even deeper look into the bizarre Dunceland. One minor complaint: I'd appreciate a little less screen time from the undesirable family Bran lives with. Their characters get a bit grating after a while.

My rating: 9/10. I am confident Kaleb Nation has a great career ahead of him.

Coming Soon: Leven Thumps and the Ruins of Alder, Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles (full serial review), and as I promised, the start of a new set of reviews.