John Carpenter pulls no punches. He is a director of horror, science-fiction, and cult hit movies. He is the master of it. There are no Academy Awards on his shelf, yet he boasts a string of extremely popular films that have made him one of the most successful directors of his generation. From classics like “Escape from New York” to “Starman,” Carpenter has been entertaining and frightening us for decades. Here is my list of Top 5 John Carpenter Movies.
5. They Live – Carpenter rarely does blatant social commentary but his low budget, alien-among-us opus, They Live oozes with it. Consumerism, apathy, alienation and some political satire. Yes, the film is cheesy at times and the make up is a joke. I think it actually adds to the appeal of the film. Carpenter is in complete control here and it shows. A great, long fight scene by the 2 main leads, Roddy Piper and Keith David, is incredible to watch. Possibly the longest fight scene ever filmed. A great sci-fi outing that never disappoints. Obey. Sleep. Consume.
4. The Fog – I really love this film. Carpenter’s follow up to Halloween cements his place among the upper tier of horror filmmakers. The Fog is first and foremost a dreamy, ghost story that is chock full of mood and menace. A scary campfire tale come to life. Dean Cundey’s photography is top notch as always and Carpenter’s score is intense and ethereal. Carpenter juggles multiple characters and tells a ghastly story about wronged pirates come back to to life to exact revenge. Great film. Just steer clear of the remake.
3. Big Trouble in Little China – Oh that Kurt Russell. He flexes his comedic muscles here as a heroic but bumbling truck driver who unwittingly stumbles upon an age-old Chinese feud. Full of great choreographed fight scenes (way before Crouching Tiger), this tribute to Kung-Fu films is amazing to watch because of Carpenter and Russell’s tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm. It has wizards, ghosts and creatures aplenty. Just plain fun. I have yet to meet someone who did not like this film.
2. Halloween – This film is a masterpiece. Halloween is an example of how to make a horror film right. Much has been said about this influential film that was shot for only $350,000. Cundey’s camera work, Carpenter’s music, and the great lead characters make his film vastly superior to it’s cheap knock-off peers. Yes, it is a slasher film but it is done with the utmost care, precision and love for the then young genre. We care for the characters and Carpenter carefully establishes that Micheal Myers is a force to be reckoned with. Insanely perfect all around, Halloween is a must see.
1. The Thing – Carpenter’s Citizen Kane. The Thing sports an all male cast finely tuned and lead by Carpenter’s frontman, the always capable Kurt Russell. This is a sci- fi whodunnit with paranoid flair. Everything here is masterfully done. The ensemble is flawless. Cundey’s camerawork is miraculous to watch. Carpenter’s direction is tight and precise. But it’s the suspense that Carpenter establishes and the make up FX by Rob Bottin that really shine here. The film plays out like some morbid, alien take of an Agatha Christie novel where we are witness to the characters beginning to fear and distrust each other. The blu-ray includes a fantastic commentary by Russell and Carpenter that is a fan favorite to this day. The Thing is a must own. It is my favorite Carpenter film. Enjoy.
Top 5 Technologies that Changed Movies Forever
What will Superman change in now that phonebooths are all gone?
5. The Cell Phone: This isn’t really a technology that was directly made for the cinema but it changed the way movies were written. No longer are characters tied to desks, telephone booths, or home phones. All conversations can take place anywhere at anytime and are untraceable. Stop and think about how many movies in the last 10-15 years could not have been made without a cell phone. Almost every modern crime, action, and horror film completely relies on them. Also, cell phones have to be accounted for somewhere in the story. A character will almost always show that they can’t retrieve signal on their cell phone, lose it, or damage it in order for the plot to progress where they are helpless and alone or the audience’s first question is, “Why don’t they just call for help on their cell phone?”
4. Panaglide: I’m sure some of you are saying, “What the hell is Panaglide?” Well, Panaglide was a steadicam that attached by harness to a cinematographer to allow them to have isolation between the movement of the camera and the movement of the operator. This allowed them to get shots that were previously considered impossible. In the past, sets had to be created to allow for fluid movement of the camera and space for dolly tracking and cranes so that it wasn’t done handheld with the “shaky cam” effect. Panaglide solved that problem by creating smooth motion with one operator in cramped spaces. A great example of Panaglide is the opening sequence of the horror classic “Halloween”. The technology allowed the Director of Photography (Dean Cundey) to smoothly move from outside the house, inside and through it, have a murder scene, and then exit the house in one continuous shot in cramped space on location without dolly track on a very limited budget. Remember that great shot in Goodfellas where we are introduced to all the mob characters in one shot? Panaglide. Remember that great shot in Boogie Nights at the pool party that kept going for almost three minutes and underwater? Panaglide. It changed how films were made forever.
3. Surround Sound: I remember like it was yesterday the first movie I heard in full Dolby Digital surround sound. It was the terrific film Star Trek: First Contact. I was sitting in the theater and the moment the opening credits started I got goosebumps. The theater was completely alive with sound coming from all directions with crystal clear clarity. Unlike the days of stereo, when a spaceship flew by it felt like it went right over your head and through the theater. It immersed you in the experience of the story in a more complete way. Surround sound also changed the way directors and sound engineers created their movies. Effects and sounds had to be thought of in a 360 degree environment where the audience was just as invested with their ears as their eyes.
2. CGI: Love it or hate it, CGI changed movies forever. A lot of movies in the past were considered unfilmable. The ideas of large creatures, otherworldly locations, or sheer volume of fictional characters on screen at one time required such a huge financial commitment from film financers that many scripts were thrown away. CGI changed all that. For example, Steven Spielberg has said that without CGI, he would have never made Jurassic Park. After George Lucas saw what the technology could do, he decided it was time to start making new Star Wars films. And, James Cameron sat on his Avatar film for years because he knew that he needed CGI in order to achieve his vision. The technology had an even greater effect on the world of animation. The majority of films today are made through the process of computer animation. Pixar, Dreamworks, and Sony are just 3 of the many studios that are computer generated only. It has resulted in billions of dollars of revenue and been a driving force for creative flexibility.
1. Home Video: There is no single technology other than film itself that has changed cinema more than the ability for us to have movie playback in our home. It has gone through several advancements over the years: Beta to VHS to laserdisc to DVD to blu-ray and streaming. But, no matter the method of playback, the technology created new businesses through the home video rental market, movie collectors to buy and own their favorite films, and opened up a second way to get revenue for studios besides box office numbers. But, the most important thing it gave us by far is for us as film lovers to see movies we never got to see before. In the past, films would get re-released in theaters for short periods of time so that we could see films that we missed during their initial theatrical run. But, you would never know which films would come back and for how long. Today, we are so lucky to be able to see almost any film we want through services like Blockbuster, Netflix, Cable on-demand, or streaming boxes like Apple TV. It’s a great age to live in if you’re a film buff and it’s the most important technology added to movies ever!
Posted in Commentary, Entertainment, Entertainment News, Movie review, Movies, News, Uncategorized
Tagged Academy Awards, action, adventure, animation, bad movie, Bill Murray, Black Swan, blu-ray, camera, Camp, Cell phone, CGI, Cinema, Classic movie, comedy, comic book, comic book movie, comic books, commentary, crime, Director, drama, Dramas Based on Real Life, entertainment, entertainment news, Film, film making, film school, Foreign Films, Ghostbusters 3, Ghostbusters III, Harrison Ford, Home Video, horror, Inception, Jaws, movie, Movie Camp, movie news, movie review, Movie reviews, movies, murder, mystery, panaglide, review, sci-fi, science fiction, special effects, Star Wars, Surround Sound, suspense, technology, The Movie Brothers, thriller, Zombieland, Zombieland 2