This is Madness

300: Rise of an Empire doesn’t really need to exist. Since 300 (SPOILER ALERT!) ends in the death of Leonidas and his Spartan army. It didn’t seem like a sequel was a possibility. Especially considering Zack Snyder was more focused on the DCEU at the time. Nevermind the fact that the graphic novel doesn’t have a continuation. Still, they found a way to make a sequel. 300: Rise of an Empire is actually based on an unpublished Frank Miller comic called Xerxes. The movie takes place before, during, and after the events of 300. From the perspective of the Athenians. Specifically their General Themistocles. 300: Rise of the Empire reveals the origin of “god-king” Xerxes, the warship Battle of Artemisium, and the Battle of Salamis after the fall of the Spartan army. It does capture the look and action for the most part, but without Snyder’s direction, it feels more like an imitation. You can tell by how overly gory it is compared to 300. The blue caped Athenians are also not nearly as interesting as the red caped Spartans. The only interesting character is the villainess Artemisia played by Eva Green. She’s a ruthless, beautiful, and somewhat sympathetic naval commander. As I explained previously, it can’t be a coincidence how similar her character is to her Sin City: A Dame to Kill For character. Aside from her, 300: Rise of an Empire just doesn’t work without the ferocity of Spartan warriors.

Themistocles fights off an army

Preceded by: 300

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This is Sparta!

300 ignited a once dying genre in a way that hadn’t been seen before. It’s as if the graphic novel it’s based on came to life right on the screen. I read the comic later on, and yes, it fully embodies the Frank Miller comic both visually and verbally. A feat that only the previously unknown Zack Snyder can pull off. By using a combination of beige filters, historically accurate props, and costumes. While adding his unique brand of super violent, super bloody, R rated slow motion fight scenes. 300 is set in 480 B.C. during the Persian war in the Battle of Thermopylae. Where King Leonidas leads an army of 300 spartan men against the Persian “god-king” Xerxes. A giant man covered in golden jewelry. As a king, Leonidas commands his army with fierce determination and often screams every word he says. Making Gerard Butler a perfect choice for the role. As most people know, 300 is the farthest thing from historical accuracy. Although I did learn about Sparta in social studies, and I can at least say that their birth, upbringing, fighting style, attack positions, and brutal way of life is accurate. All the monsters and goat men are just Zack Snyder nonsense. Even if they do add a bit of flourish to the movie. I said before that the movie is a very direct adaptation. The only thing they add is a subplot involving the Queen, since the comic is actually very short. 300 was such a big deal when it first came out. It spawned memes, spoofs, and dozens of imitators. There’s also a lot of women (and some men) who liked it because of all the ripped Spartan warriors. All of which make 300 an over-the-top pop culture epic. “This is Sparta!”

Leonidas engages in war

Followed by: 300: Rise of an Empire

You’re Killin’ Me Smalls

The Sandlot is my all time favorite baseball movie. As I’ve explained before, sports aren’t my thing. When I watch movies about them I usually like them for different reasons. The Sandlot is no exception. It’s mainly a movie about friends who hangout, play baseball, and other activities. I wasn’t too young when I watched it, but I got hooked right away. It even helped me understand baseball a little better. Since I can relate to new kid Scotty Smalls. A kid who has trouble fitting in (I do know who Babe Ruth is though). Until he meets the kids from his local sandlot. I also knew people like Benny and the rest of group (each with their own quirk). Kids who are very serious about baseball. But they do other things too. They have a sleepover, that ends in a discussion about “the Beast.” They go to a carnival where they eat chewing tobacco and get sick. They go to a local pool on a hot day. That’s where the famous “mouth to mouth” scene comes from. And finally, they try to get their ball back from the aforementioned “Beast.” A giant dog from over the fence that eats lost baseballs. This particular ball happens to be signed by Babe Ruth. This is my favorite part of the movie, because of how creative it is. It’s also worth mentioning James Earl Jones is in it (4 years after his role in Field of Dreams). The Sandlot is funny, quotable, and a perfect summer vacation movie. Happy Fourth of July!

The boys from the sandlot

I Wish I knew How to Quit You

Brokeback Mountain should have won Best Picture instead of Crash. Honestly, which one of those movies are people gonna remember. When Brokeback Mountain first came out, people only knew it as “the gay cowboy movie.” That’s certainly how I knew the movie back in the day. Which is why I (and likely other straight men) avoided watching it. It took me awhile, but I finally decided I should just go ahead and watch it. Brokeback Mountain was the first movie Ang Lee directed after the mistake that was Hulk. Showing that he really should stick to what he knows. Even earning him a Best Director Oscar for his trouble. It’s about two men who are hired to herd sheep in the titular mountains. All their time spent together leads to a forbidden romance that nobody can know about, because it takes place in the south during the 60’s. The only thing I have a hard time getting past is the adultery. Both characters have wives and children that they leave to “go fishing.” Making their relationship more complex and eventually end in tragedy. Brokeback Mountain is filled with great performances from Heath Ledger (R.I.P.), Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and Anne Hathaway. It’s likely the main reason it didn’t win was because the Academy wasn’t ready to award a movie with a gay romance Best Picture. Even though their sexuality is a subject of debate. I probably won’t see it multiple times, but Brokeback Mountain is a very well made movie.

Ennis (right) comforts Jack (left)

I’m Walking Here!

Midnight Cowboy is the original gay cowboy movie. Even though the main character is neither gay nor a cowboy. He dresses like a cowboy, but this is the 60’s we’re talking about. So why is Midnight Cowboy remembered the way it is? Well Midnight Cowboy is about Joe Buck. A dishwasher who leaves Texas to become a hustler in New York. As he believes his looks will make him irresistible to women. Little does he know, the big city isn’t as forgiving as he thinks. Both Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman deliver award worthy performances which keep the movie from feeling too hard to watch. Hoffman plays a disabled con man named Rico “Ratso” Rizzo. He’s the one responsible for the movie’s most famous line “I’m walking here!” Which was entirely improvised. It’s one of the most famous quotes in movie history and a testament to Hoffman’s acting ability. His character is also the most tragic character I’ve ever seen him play. Let’s just say you won’t know how to feel by the end. Midnight Cowboy is most remembered for being the first (and only) X rated movie to win Best Picture. By today’s standards it would have been R, but all the references to homosexuality made it X. It may be bleak, but Midnight Cowboy is a landmark movie and the first truly shocking Best Picture winner.

“I’m walking here!”

See You on the Island

The Island is the last movie Michael Bay directed before he did nothing but direct Transformers movies. It’s also his last “original” movie too. Considering it’s sandwiched between Bad Boys II and Transformers, it’s easy to forget this movie even exists. Nobody really talks about it like his other movies. Which is a shame since The Island is actually not that horrible. I mean of course it’s filled with Bay cliches like explosions, cringy dialogue, and product placement. I thought the plot was actually pretty good. I first saw The Island in my Junior reading class. We were reading 1984 and since the movie was R rated, we watched The Island instead. Both having something to do with a lack of freedom in a futuristic world. Even though the trailer gives literally everything away about the movie, I’m still gonna say SPOILER ALERT! The Island takes place in the future year of 2019. People who don’t know they’re clones think they can win a chance to go to a paradise called “The Island.” Which is all a lie. Clones are unknowingly used to give rich people organs, babies, or whatever else they need to extend their lives. Since clones are the best match for a person’s DNA. So 2 clones set out on an on-the-run chase to find answers. The Island is probably similar to other science fiction stories, but I will say it’s worth checking out.

Lincoln Six Echo talks to Jordan Two Delta about the island

It’s a Science Experiment

Back to the Future Part III was shot back-to-back with Back to the Future Part II. Even though a sequel was never planned, Robert Zemeckis gave us 2 sequels for the price of one. Back to the Future Part III stands out because it’s technically a western. Which can be a little jarring for a trilogy mostly set in modern time periods, but you have to remember that this is a time travel series. They could very easily see the signing of the Declaration of Independence or witness the birth of Christ if they wanted to. Traveling to the old west makes sense since it’s when America was first formed. Back to the Future Part II ended with the DeLorean being struck by lightning with Doc inside it. The DeLorean vanished, but Doc was sent to 1885, leaving Marty with only one way to get back to the future. There was even a short teaser for the next movie at the end of it. As I’ve explained before, Back to the Future Part III was likely the first movie in the trilogy that I was aware of. My parents had it on VHS and I watched it after I watched the first movie. Needless to say I was hopelessly confused. I had no idea why Marty was still in 1955 or why there was a hoverboard in the movie. I know my parents meant well, but I’ll never do that again…

Marty encounters Indians

Back to the Future Part III picks up right where Back to the Future Part II left off. Marty now needs help from the 1955 Doc to find the DeLorean that’s been buried by Doc in 1885 so that Marty can go back to the future. That’s the plan, until Marty discovers that Doc was shot by an outlaw named Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (Biff’s descendant) back in 1885. Now the plan is to rescue Doc and bring him back to the future as well. So Marty travels to the year September 2, 1885. Where he sticks out even more with his colorful cowboy outfit and modern day mannerisms. He also runs into his great ancestors Seamus and Maggie McFly. Played by Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson once again in duel performances. Thomas F. Wilson is of course the one playing Mad Dog. Making this the only Back to the Future movie without Biff as the villain. Biff, Jennifer, and Marty’s family only make a very brief appearance at the end. Most of the action takes place in the old west. With Doc and Marty now dealing with the problem of getting the DeLorean to 88 miles per hour. Since gasoline isn’t on the market yet, the only solution is to have a locomotive push it, and to get the engine hot enough for it to go really fast. Meanwhile Doc has a love story of his own with a school teacher named Clara Clayton played by Mary Steenburgen. Who was meant to die in a ravine until Doc rescued her. As you can see, Back to the Future Part III shares a lot more similarities with the first movie. Which is what makes it a stronger sequel. They return to a focused story, the power of love theme, and a pressing need to get back to the future. Although every Back to the Future movie has moments that are imitated. Something they do on purpose because history repeats itself. There’s also things from the second movie that pay off in the third. Like Marty being called a chicken (yella in the third) or Doc wanting the DeLorean destroyed. Since time travel is too much of a burden. You might not know how to feel about Back to the Future Part III being set in the old west, but it’s one of the best sci-fi westerns there is. It brings the Back to the Future trilogy to a close in the best way possible way. “Your future is whatever you make of it.”

Doc and Marty pose for a photograph

Preceded by: Back to the Future Part II

I Need to Borrow Your Hoverboard

Back to the Future Part II is a sequel nobody thought they would ever get. Back to the Future ends with Marty reuniting with his girlfriend Jennifer, about to take his new truck to the lake. Until Doc interrupts them, claiming he needs to take them back to the future. Then it ends with the iconic shot of the DeLorean flying in the air and traveling in time. Robert Zemeckis never planned to make a sequel. Needless to say he was faced with many obstacles that made a sequel more difficult than it should have been. It might surprise you to know that Back to the Future Part II was actually the third movie I saw in the trilogy. My parents told me not to watch it, because they didn’t like the movie very much. So I saw it on the trilogy pack I mentioned and I guess I can see why. Back to the Future Part II is far different then the first and third movie. While they focused on the power of love, the sequel is more focused on adventure, and time travel hijinks. Three distinctly different timelines are visited. The future date of 2015, a dystopian 1985, and back to 1955 again. Making the movie feel sort of like a mixed bag. However in recent years, Back to the Future Part II has received a renewed interest, because the future is now the present…

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Marty borrows a hoverboard

Back to the Future Part II picks up right where Back to the Future left off. Only the scene had to be reshot, because the actress playing Jennifer was replaced by Elizabeth Shue. The first problem with the movie is that some actors didn’t return for the sequels. I love Elizabeth Shue, but I much prefer the original actress. Crispin Glover was also replaced and his lack of presence is felt throughout. After Doc, Marty, and Jennifer go back to the future, they arrive at the date October 21, 2015. In a future that has flying cars, hoverboards, power laces, hydrating pizza, Jaws 19, video phones, scenery windows, self walking dog walkers, resizable jackets, the Cubs winning the World Series, and much much more. When this date became a reality everyone was hoping for this future. Surprisingly, some of it isn’t too far off. The Cubs win was only a year off and unnecessary sequels are a thing, but I’m sorry, these “hoverboards” are a ripoff. Like Doc said, something has to be done about Marty and Jennifer’s kids. Which involves a ripple effect that ruins the McFly family. Even though it doesn’t make much sense to change a future that hasn’t happened yet. One of the more memorable aspects of Back to the Future Part II is its use of duel performances. Michael J. Fox plays Marty, an older Marty, his son Marty Jr., and even his daughter Marlene. While Thomas F. Wilson plays Biff, an older Biff, and his grandson Griff. Speaking of Biff, he’s the biggest problem with the sequel. In the first movie Biff is just your average school bully. In the sequel Biff takes a 2015 sports almanac (that Marty was originally gonna use), steals the DeLorean, gives the almanac to his younger self, becomes a billionaire, murders George McFly, marries Lorraine (who he gave implants to), and rules a dystopian Hill Valley. As my parents told me before I watched it, there’s just too much Biff in the movie. So Doc and Marty now have to travel back to 1955 on the date Marty went back to the future, avoid being seen, and retrieve the almanac from Biff. I will give them props for recreating scenes from the first movie (especially without showing George’s face). Even if they are off a little with inflections and line delivery. In the end, Back to the Future Part II is a necessary piece of the puzzle. It may not know what to focus on, but at least it gave us a future worth hoping for.

Doc brings Marty and Jennifer back to the future

Preceded by: Back to the Future & Followed by: Back to the Future Part III

The Power of Love ⭐

Back to the Future is my all time favorite science fiction movie. Although it wasn’t always on my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list. I originally had a very different movie in its place. A movie I loved, but didn’t feel needed to be on my list. The only movie I could think of to put in its place was also my favorite 80’s movie. Which is of course Back to the Future, that I put in my number seven slot. How I discovered Back to the Future in the first place is a bit of an all over the place story. I’m fairly certain I discovered it was part of a trilogy before I could think it was just a standalone movie. My parents had the third movie on VHS and I was curious about it. So my mom told me about the first movie. Like most kids, I imagined it differently then what it actually was. I don’t know why, but I originally pictured it as some kind of mad scientist story. I finally saw Back to the Future when it came on TV and I watched it with my mom (which if you know the movie, can be a bit awkward) and brother. Taking no time at all, I became a huge fan of Back to the Future. Watching it anytime it came on and eventually buying a trilogy pack on DVD. Now its almost become an annual tradition for me to see the trilogy every year…

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Doc (left) and Marty (right) experience time travel

Back to the Future is all about time travel. It takes place in the year 1985, in the town Hill Valley, and follows the exploits of Marty McFly. A teenager who loves skateboarding, rock n’ roll music, and his girlfriend Jennifer. His family is a mess and his principal thinks he’s a slacker. With no explanation, Marty is friends with Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown. A scientist who works on all sorts of inventions. Like an atomatic dog feeder (for his dog Einstein) or an enormous amplifier, but his biggest accomplishment is inventing time travel. By inventing the Flux Capacitor (which makes time travel possible), loading plutonium to charge 1.21 gigawatts of energy, and making the time machine out of a DeLorean. “If you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Which makes the DeLorean the first ever time machine on wheels. After a deadly run in with terrorists, Marty unknowingly travels 30 years in the past to the date November 5, 1955. Where a young Doc and Marty need to figure out a way to get him back to the future. Unfortunately Marty runs into several snags that make it exceedingly difficult. Apart from sticking out like a sore thumb, Marty needs to bring the DeLorean to 1.21 gigawatts, and since plutonium is hard to come by, it requires a bolt of lightning. Which they know will arrive at a precise time when lighting hits their towns clock tower. As if that wasn’t hard enough, Marty’s biggest problem is with his parents. Who he accidentally prevented from meeting and falling in love with each other. Now Marty’s mother Lorraine has fallen in love with him and his father George is too much of a pushover to do anything about it. Meaning Marty can be erased from existence. The movie’s biggest antagonist would be the bully Biff. Who constantly bullies George and harrasses Lorraine. With Marty’s help, he can bring his parents together and travel back to the future all on the same night. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s my all time favorite science fiction movie…

The Delorean travels in time

Back to the Future is not just a great science fiction film. It’s a great teen movie, 80’s movie, time travel movie, and even comedy movie. Back to the Future is the kind of movie everybody loves no matter what. I can watch it several times and always be on the edge of my seat hoping Marty makes it to the future. Michael J. Fox is truly the only actor who can pull off Marty McFly. It’s a good thing Eric Stoltz, the original actor cast, didn’t continue to play him. I’m sure he would have been ok, but Michael J. Fox was born to play Marty. Just like Christopher Lloyd was born to play Doc Brown. His wide eyed eccentricities make Doc one of the most beloved movie scientists of all time. Back to the Future takes full advantage of its time travel aspect. The 50’s is the perfect time for a teenager from the 80’s to travel to. Since teen culture was at the forefront of both. All the time period jokes are hilarious. Weather Marty is inventing a skateboard or giving Chuck Berry inspiration for “Johnny B. Goode.” There’s also a lot of information and small details that pay off nicely. But it’s Robert Zemeckis sense of wonder and enjoyment that makes Back to the Future particularly easy to watch. Can you believe several film studios rejected it? Some studios thought it wasn’t edgy enough. Since so many 80’s teen movies were R rated at the time. They wanted it to be more risqué. While Disney ironically thought it was too risqué already. Since the movie involves a mother falling in love with her son. It’s a little creepy, but it’s not like Lorraine knows Marty is her son. It’s actually more funny than anything. Back to the Future is filled with iconic moments. The first time you see the DeLorean is like being a kid again. Of course it helped boost car sales. Anytime the DeLorean travels in time is epic. By flashing beams of light, disappearing, and leaving a trail of burning tire tracks. There’s also anything involving the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance. George punching out Biff always gives me chills, Marty playing “Johnny B. Goode” is timeless, and his parents kiss is perfect. In the end, Back to the Future is relatable to anyone, because our parents are more like us then we realize. When Marty travels back to the future, he also ends up making Doc’s, his parent’s, and his sibling’s lives better. By giving them exactly what they needed. All it took was time travel and the power of love.

Marty plays Johnny B. Goode

Followed by: Back to the Future Part II

House Arrest

Disturbia came right at the height of Shia Labeouf’s career. Making the movie stand out as one of his more noteworthy roles. In case it wasn’t a little obvious, Disturbia is inspired by Rear Window. It’s not a remake, because it takes place in modern day suburbia, has a young cast, and plays out more as a horror movie then a mystery movie. But that didn’t keep the movie from being sued for copyright infringement. Disturbia is about a teenager named Kale under house arrest for attacking his teacher (because he brought up his dad who recently died in a car accident). If he tries to leave his property, he gets thrown in jail. The only thing he can do is hang out with his friend, try to kill time, and of course watch people with a pair of binoculars. That’s how he meets the new girl on his block. Together they eventually suspect that one of their neighbors is actually a serial killer. That’s why Disturbia feels more like a horror movie. Since it is set in modern day, they do make use of modern technology like video cameras and phones. The only reason Kale doesn’t just play video games or watch TV is because his mom took away those privileges. Disturbia is surprisingly entertaining and suspenseful. I guess it pays to make a Hitchcock remake without actually using the name.

Kale looks out the window