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My Favorite Movies

Here's a list of some of my favorite movies of all time, with a brief description/review for each, in case you're curious.
Note that, although Jacob's Ladder is at the top, and it's the title I usually cite when people ask me to name my number one top favorite movie of all time, the rest of these movies are not in any special order.
Jacob's Ladder | John Carpenter's The Thing | Alien | Aliens | 28 Days Later | Lost and Delirious | Dead Man
The Passion of Darkly Noon | Legend | Midnight Express | School of Rock | The Matrix | Master Killer | Jesus Christ Superstar

Title: Jacob's Ladder
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Year: 1990
Director: Adrian Lyne

Jacob's Ladder is a haunting cinematographic masterpiece that explores a Vietnam vet's psychological trauma years after returning home, as he seeks to understand the precise nature of the [quite literal] demons that are apparently stalking him. The frighteningly convincing special effects used for the demons, coupled with director Adrian Lyne's heavy, dreamy style instantly made this movie one of my faves.

Title: John Carpenter's The Thing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror/Thriller
Year: 1982
Director: John Carpenter

John Carpenter's version of The Thing is actually a new take on an old story that had been adapted into a movie once before (The Thing From Another World), and is thus proof that not all "remakes" are destined to failure. John Carpenter's version of the story is a psychological tour de force. The few inhabitants of a remote arctic base find themselves up against a formless genetic copycat, originally from outer space, and recently uncovered from the ice. The fact that it can nearly perfectly mimic its prey sets up an intense atmosphere of paranoia and suspense which permeates the film. Plus, the monster effects in this movie are simply unmatched.

Title: Alien
Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror/Thriller
Year: 1979
Director: Ridley Scott

When a deep space mining crew interrupts a distress signal and engages in the very first contact between humans and extraterrestrial life, they embark on a harrowing journey of terror that would become the epitome of sci-fi/horror. The small crew is trapped on a ship with an unknown deadly lifeform, that picks off the crew members one by one, building fear and panic with each attack. The extraterrestrial monster itself is one of the most horrific and inspired designs ever created (credit goes to H.R. Giger) - and though it's appearance and life cycle are well known in popular culture these days, that hardly diminishes its intrinsic terror. When I saw this movie as a kid, it gave me nightmares for years.

Title: Aliens
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi/Horror
Year: 1986
Director: James Cameron

Aliens is a premium example of a sequel done right. Though not necessarily surpassing it (though it depends on who you ask), Aliens manages to successfully expand on the original, and take the series in a slightly new direction, rather than repeating the formula, by focusing more on action, though without spoiling the necessary element of terror. Where Alien had one specimen wreaking havoc on a small crew inexperienced in combat, Aliens puts a crack team of space marines against a whole army of the deadly creatures - and their queen. The characters are very memorable, the dialogue is witty and endlessly quotable, and the returning heroine, Lt. Ellen Ripley - a mere survivor in the first film - becomes one of the all-time badass female protagonists in movie history.

Title: 28 Days Later
Genre: Zombie Horror
Year: 2002
Director: Danny Boyle

Not only did 28 Days Later reinvent the zombie horror subgenre, it's the movie that made me a horror fan. And what's more, it also introduced me to a whole new genre of music - post-rock, thanks to the perfect placement of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor song in the scene just after Jim wakes up in a hospital to learn that, as far as he can tell, the entire world has been wiped out while he was unconscious. Well, except for those bloodthirsty "zombies" scattered about the city, all of which are twenty times faster - *and* angrier - than your typical undead. This is an intense movie, and one of the best post-apocalyptic approaches I've yet seen in film. The sequel, 28 Weeks Later, is also not to be missed.

Title: Lost and Delirious
Genre: Romance/Drama
Year: 2001
Director: Lea Pool

Having lost her mother, a young girl on the verge of maturity is sent away to boarding school, where she befriends her two new roommates, who happen to be deeply in love with one another. But because their love is shunned by society, they are unfortunately destined for heartbreak. Lost and Delirious is a modern Shakespearean tragedy, which unashamedly celebrates the power of love - mad, passionate love, that crosses all boundaries. But love is a complicated thing, and it can destroy a person's life. This is the most beautiful, and most depressing, love story I've ever seen on film.

Title: Dead Man
Genre: Drama/Western
Year: 1995
Director: Jim Jarmusch

Accompanied by a haunting soundtrack composed by Neil Young, in his distortion-heavy experimental mood, this movie embarks on a spiritual journey as a doomed man is led west by an Indian guide to meet his ultimate fate, with a group of bounty hunters trailing him. The adventure borders on the surreal, as the physical progress mirrors the spiritual progression towards the vast and infinite sea that lies beyond the shore between life and death.

Title: The Passion of Darkly Noon
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Fantasy
Year: 1995
Director: Philip Ridley

The Passion of Darkly Noon seems to be little known, but it is a very surreal and captivating film. A grown man, having lost his overbearing (and also fanatically religious) parents in an accident comes across a beautiful woman in the forest, whose beauty mesmerizes him. He is confused and gradually driven mad by his feelings of desire. Though madness is a relative term in this forest of strange wonders (and masked dangers).

Title: Legend
Genre: Fantasy
Year: 1985
Director: Ridley Scott

Legend is a true classic of the genre, but the reason I rate it so highly is that, more than any other fantasy film I have ever seen, Legend succeeds in creating a breathtaking atmosphere that truly feels out of this world. This is largely a result of Tangerine Dream's dreamy score (which is why I shun the restored classical score), but is also helped by the beautiful cinematography - especially the forest scenes, which truly come to life. As for the story itself, it is an ageless tale of romance, purity, loss of innocence, and good vs. evil.

Title: Midnight Express
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Year: 1978
Director: Alan Parker

Midnight Express is based on the true story of Billy Hayes, who ended up in a Turkish prison for attempting to smuggle drugs over the border, and found himself bearing the weight of an unjustly cruel term, as the result of being made an example of by the Turkish government (or at least that's how it happens in the movie). Faced with life in a foreign prison outside the reach of justice, Billy Hayes endures many years of physical and mental disintegration before finally making his daring and desperate escape to freedom. The ride is a very intense one.

Title: School of Rock
Genre: Comedy
Year: 2003
Director: Richard Linklater

Not being a huge fan of comedy, I was at first reluctant to watch a movie that "dumbed down" rock music for a group of pint-sized kids, particularly at the hands of Jack off-the-wall Black. However, I gave it a chance, and it impressed me beyond imagination. Jack Black is hilarious, the kids are all adorable, and the rock references are rich and satisfying. This is one of those movies I could just watch over and over again without taking a break.

Title: The Matrix
Genre: Sci-Fi
Year: 1999
Director: The Wachowski Brothers

It's hard to imagine there's anybody who doesn't already know about The Matrix (whether or not they've seen it - since, you know, nobody can be told what the Matrix is... XD), but it's a film that redefined the way we speculate about reality, dragging all sorts of obtuse philosophical quandaries into the realm of pop culture, while managing to maintain a kickass sense of style, *and* revolutionize computer graphics for its time. Well worthy of praise. As a note, some people are not so keen on the sequels, and this is understandable, however, I personally like to take the trilogy as a whole.

Title: Shaolin Master Killer (a.k.a. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin)
Genre: Martial Arts
Year: 1978
Director: Chia-Liang Liu

The truth is, I enjoy watching martial arts movies, but I haven't seen a whole lot of them. Still, Shaolin Master Killer stands out from the crowd. Any self-respecting martial arts flick has its share of kickass fight scenes, but what sets Master Killer apart is its focus on the training process. The bulk of the film, between the setup and the conclusion, follows our main character (played by Gordon Liu)'s efforts at mastering the 35 chambers of kung fu at the Shaolin temple - first training each part of his body, and then learning various weapons and fighting styles. By giving the moves this kind of contextual meaning and background, the fights are far more interesting and satisfying to the viewer. Even apart from that, it's an all around good film; and I've finally gotten my hands on the original language version!

Title: Jesus Christ Superstar
Genre: Musical
Year: 1973
Director: Norman Jewison

I'm not a fan of musicals. I don't like movies that periodically break out into ridiculous song and dance routines. However, Jesus Christ Superstar is a different kind of musical - actually more of a rock opera. The whole thing is music, and it's not crappy music, but good 70's rock-tinged music. As for the story, not only is it one of the biggest stories of all time (I mean, the crucifixion of Christ, come on), but this adaptation of the story has an approach that I really dig, even though I'm not a very religious person. I was singing this rock opera word for word, start to finish, back in the day, and it still comes back to me every now and again.

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