18 February 2012

Undisputed: Movies I Can't Turn Off

I was lounging around today when I noticed that The Blues Brothers (1980) was on Vh1. Obviously, I needed to stop everything I was doing and watch the whole thing. There are a handful of other movies that do this to me. The films that you see on TV that causes the channel to freeze until it's over. These are unspeakably good films, a level of repeated entertainment that is unparalleled. Everyone has their own list, here's 10 of mine:

#10: Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Most likely found on: Comedy Central
Why?  This is an endlessly likeable Horror/Comedy that put Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright on the map. It's a film with enough callbacks, foreshadowing, and repeated human characters who show up later as zombies to be rewardingly re-watchable. In addition to plenty of gore and laughs, it also has a ton of heart. Comedy Central plays this bugger a lot on Sunday or Saturday afternoons, usually around Halloween or Flag Day, you know, the high holidays.

#9: Blue Streak (1999)
Most Likely found on:TBS
Why?  I'm not sure why but somehow I always find myself watching this flick late at night on TBS. It's undoubtedly Martin Lawrence's best film, and it contains a perfectly cast set of cops and robbers. Most of these films are notable for having much stronger endings than beginnings, because you'll catch them when they're halfway done and then watch to the end. Every good, memorable part of Blue Streak happens in the last twenty minutes, and the ending itself is the most quotable. It's an essential, come home from a bar - not ready for bed - turn something on and forget about it - style movie.

#8: Zombieland (2009)
Most Likely found on: F/X
Why? Another zombie comedy on this list, Zombieland just started playing on F/X and already it's tough to turn off. Another feature of these films is an addictive pace and run time. Zombieland flies through its two hours on TV with such excellent pacing that it's tough to find a moment to turn it off or change the channel. Right now it's riding the novelty of being a film that has been seen less often because it just made the TV Circuit, but its potential for being something I will see fifty more times is very strong. Just seeing that cameo come up over and over is excellent. It's a great Friday night flick to pump you up for the weekend.

#7: There Will Be Blood (2007)
Most Likely found on: AMC
Why? This is probably pretty personal to me. I can't get sick of this intricate character study. It's another film where the definitive scene is the very end, and jumping in wherever and waiting until that final bowling alley confrontation is incredibly rewarding. This is still an underseen film and because of that it hasn't really gained a classic status, but that's not if AMC has anything to say about it. This is often on sometimes in the middle of the week, with nice long meditative cinematic pauses to allow you to do just about anything else in the meantime.

#6: Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Most Likely found on: TNT
Why? All of the recent Ocean's movies are pretty ridiculous and re-watching this to try to figure out the plot and notice everything you're supposed to notice is essential. It is simultaneously a very digestible movie and a complex one, full of a dream team of actors, a classy veneer and mostly free of the snide that some of its successors were victims of. This flick's airtime ranges from the Saturday night family chill to the Sunday afternoon hangover time. Either way it works, and that's the real beauty of this movie.

#5: The Fifth Element (1997)
Most Likely found on: TNT
Why? This is one of the better sci-fi epics to not really spawn much of a franchise. Bruce Willis was perfect in his transition from Die Hard-style credible action hero to Live Free or Die Hard-style old and angry action hero. It's the kind of film that everyone can stop what they're doing and enjoy. It has a unique structure (the lead hero and lead villain never meet, nor know who the other is), and has a pacing to rival Zombieland, that is, things keep happening and flow consistently enough to trap a hapless viewer for the evening. This is usually in that late-afternoon/early evening dead zone that makes it a good Dinner movie to get any young person pumped for the evening's eccentricities. It also has a better ending than beginning, giving it the classic Movie on TV edge.

#4: The Blues Brothers (1980)
Most Likely found on:
Here we get to this post's inspiration.  This film works because every scene is a classic. It is a long film but almost every moment is legendary. The Penguin, Trips to the Mall, Ray Charles, Illinois Nazis, Sell me your children, Rawhide, Orange Whips, and the biggest car chase in movie history, plus more cameos than any movie ever, including people you did not know. There is more going on in this movie than is seemingly possible, and it all flows to a consistent, driving action - a mission from God. It harkens to a classic time of music as well as filmmaking, and remains the feel-good farewell to John Belushi. Who knows how this started as an SNL sketch. You'll find it just as it is today, those early afternoon slots that make it a lovely lunchtime thrill.

#3: JAWS (1975)
Most Likely found on:
Speaking of Spielberg, he could probably dominate this list himself. He has an ability to make blockbusters like this that are infuriously good, walking that line between art and spectacle. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Jurassic Park (1993), and Saving Private Ryan (1998) all come very close. JAWS is always a must-see, mostly because of how rare it's actually on TV. AMC will do the occasional "Crazy About JAWS" or whatever and run it around the summertime, but outside of that it's tough to catch. For that reason more than any other it's a must see. It also perfectly fits the bill for a film with a better second half than first, although it's a fine line here. The second half of JAWS is like an entirely different film, one that focuses on three men and a shark and carries a perfect pace with a continuous flow of classic moments. It's as if you want to wait until you see that one memorable scene, but there's no bad scenes in between the key moments. It's perfect for keeping viewers hooked on those weekday nights.

#2: Goodfellas (1990)
Most Likely found on:
This is another AMC staple, but I've watched it on channels as diverse as Vh1, Bravo, or CMT. Goodfellas is a hard movie to categorize. It's essentially just a bunch of stuff that happens over the course of thirty years in Henry Hill's life, but the acting and directing is so unrelentingly compelling that it forces viewers to stay hooked. It's another film filled with such a continuous string of classic moments that it's tough to say no to. It has the added bonus of featuring such outstanding acting from every single participant that it's a dream to watch. This film also comes on all the time, but it's more often a weeknight flick.

#1: Forrest Gump (1994)
Most Likely found on:
This is one of the few movies that I will watch five nights in a row when it's on (that happens). I believe some people think this may be an overrated film, but this isn't necessarily about the highest quality. It's about repeated watchability. Nothing beats Forrest Gump in that regard. There isn't a bad or slow part of this film and it's difficult to pick a scene to stop watching. It's a long film with many parts that don't necessarily correlate with each other. This may seem contrary to some other films that flow so nicely like Zombieland and The Fifth Element, but the key here is that you can jump in at any point and watch a scene essentially by itself and not be lost. It's the perfect flick to jump in on at any moment and ride out till its end.

Honourable Mention:
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Most Likely found on:
ABC Family
Since this flick just came on at this instant, in its perfect weekend afternoon-"Harry Potter Event" marathon that ABC Family loves to do for some reason, I needed to add it here. It really fits the criteria I've laid out here. It has a boring beginning, but after a successful mid-point climax, the final hour whizzes by with a time travel aspect that revives plenty of callbacks that reward a handful of mysteries that plague the first half. It also has some of the most charismatic actors of any Harry Potter film and despite plenty of conflict there's actually no central villain. At least, no character who remains a villain for the entire film. The conflict is more based on perceptions the characters have of each other, and the occasional werewolf. It's the deepest, most interesting Harry Potter film as well as the most beautiful to look at. Blame Alfonso Cuarón, but this is tough flick to turn off once you find it.

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