My Fave Five Films to Watch on the Fourth Of July

Happy Fourth of July! Today is the day when we American’s can drink and party all day while not in college and not be judged for it. Well, maybe we are but we’re too drunk to really care.  I enjoy shooting an obscene amount of fireworks in the evening, but during the day, besides a great cook-out, I like to celebrate the holiday by watching a movie or two (or three).  Let’s celebrate together and look at my five favorite moves to watch on the Fourth of July.

National Treasure movie poster5) National Treasure

Although National Treasure doesn’t take place during the Fourth of July, it is a fun celebration of US history.  While the whole “a secret society hid a treasure and it is up to one man to find it” plot has been done before, this film weaves true historical facts into its narrative.  I remember I convinced my high school American History teacher that this was a “historical” film and we watched it in class. Good times. Nicholas Cage doesn’t overact, like he usually tends to, and it was the first film where I saw Justin Bartha before he appears (too briefly) in the hilarious The Hangover.  One of my favorite school subjects was history so it’s fun for me to see history mixed with fiction. That’s also one reason why I like the Assassin’s Creed series so much.

4) The PatriotThe Patriot movie poster

I’m not sure if I can call The Patriot a guilty pleasure or not because honestly I’m not sure where this stands on the acceptance level. Wherever it lies, I enjoy this movie.  While it may take place during the American Revolutionary War, this film has gained some criticism for its historical inaccuracies.  The British are portrayed as cartoonishly villainous and the American heroes as victims. But honestly, what would you expect from an American blockbuster about the American Revolution?  This also holds a small place in my heart because it was one of (if not the) first R-rated movie I remember watching.

Live Free or Die Hard movie poster3) Live Free or Die Hard

Maybe it’s because I’m a programmer but I really enjoy this fourth film in the Die Hard franchise.  Die Hard With a Vengeance is amazing and Simon Gruber is a fantastic villain rivaling his brother, but Live Free or Die Hard is a different kind of adventure for John McClane than the other films in the series.  He faces an enemy he can’t necessarily beat simply by punching, which can be tough for an old cop, forcing him to accept help from a young computer hacker, played by Justin Long.  The plot, however outlandish it may be, rings true to how reliant our society is on technology and how susceptible our society becomes if a massive cyber attack were to occur.  Say what you will about it, this film has just as much action and explosions as the previous Die Hard movies, so it can’t be all that bad.

2) JawsJaws movie poster

Jaws is the film that is credited with creating the blockbuster.  Unsure of how well it would do in the theaters, Universal skipped releasing Jaws in smaller markets and released it nationwide instead.  The result was spectacular. It fared way better than Universal was expecting and was a hit with both audiences and critics and it’s not hard to see why.  This horror, directed by the young Steven Spielberg, does everything right.  The great soundtrack from John Williams perfectly sets the mood (like I also said in my Fave Five John Williams Movie Scores) and we don’t see the titular shark until the very end. Instead, now common horror techniques are used to build anticipation. There are few movies that rival Jaws in cinematic significance and cultural impact.

Independence Day movie poster1) Independence Day

Seriously, if you don’t watch a movie called Independence Day on Independence Day, what are you doing with your life? Independence Day is pure fun.  Jeff Goldblum plays Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith pulls out his normal bad-assery.  Bill Pullman gives an awesome speech as the President of the United States.  Let’s not forget that apparently the US are the ones responsible to come up with the plan to stop the aliens, because go America! And according to the president’s speech, our holiday of Independence Day is now the world’s holiday of Independence Day, because go America!  I have mixed feelings about the announced sequel but I try to stay optimistic about these things.  Roland Emmerich films can be hit or miss.  For me, Independence Day is a definite hit.

If you are interesting in participating in this years Christmas in July Blogathon, you can find all the details and information here.

My Fave Five John Williams Movie Scores

I have stressed in several of my reviews how much a great score can contribute to a film.  A great composer can take what they see on screen and translate that into music, amplifying the emotion or set the atmosphere.  Having been a musician myself, I have a deep appreciation for the time and effort that goes into music making.  As a result, I tend to really listen to a film’s score and get into the emotion of it (or try to anyway).  Whenever I go into a film and I see that John Williams is the composer, I know I’m in for a musical treat.  He is without a doubt my favorite film composer.  Williams knows his way around the heart of a film and can strengthen it like few other composers can.  He can capture strong and powerful or soft sweet and everything in between. He can create tension, making you scrunch in your seat, or alleviate it, and bring you closer to the characters.  Alright, enough about my musical man-crush, here are my five favorite John Williams movie scores.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movie poster5) Harry Potter 1 – 3

I was a part of the Harry Potter Generation.  It may not have been as big for me as it was for others, but I still really enjoyed the series, both the books and the films.  For the longest time, I never realized that Williams was the composer for the first three Harry Potter movies.  It wasn’t until it showed up on my film scores playlist on Pandora that I was like, “Holy smokes, no wonder I like it so much.”  Although the Harry Potter films may be one of Williams more recent scores, it has quickly become just as iconic as some of his previous scores.  I would say the Harry Potter theme has become almost as recognizable as any others on this list.

4) Jaws Jaws movie poster

Remember in the introduction when I mentioned a music can help set the atmosphere?  I was mostly referencing this movie when I said that.  Jaws is a good movie, but it is the score that makes it great.  It helps create a tension the film would otherwise lack.  The signature Duuuunnn duuunnn is enough to send a chill down anyone’s spine, even if they are nowhere near the water.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie poster3) Indiana Jones series

I couldn’t tell you what exactly draws me towards the music of the Indiana Jones series.  Every time I hear it, I want to jump on a horse and ride into some booby-trap infested temple.  Then I remember if that if I were to enter that kind of place I wouldn’t make it through like Indy, instead I would be like Satipo (Alfred Molina).  With each film in the original trilogy, the music gets better and better.  But none of it beats the Raiders March, the theme song that carries through all movies.

2) Jurassic Park  Jurassic Park movie poster

The score of Jurassic Park will always put me in a good mood, no matter how I’m feeling.  Few movie scores can really fill me with emotion the way this one does.  Every time I hear the Jurassic Park theme, I can’t help but think of the opening shot of the park itself with several dinosaur species roaming around the open field and getting a drink from the lake and the late Richard Attenborough saying “Welcome to Jurassic Park.”  It is so grandiose I am just filled with a strong sense of positive emotion almost instantaneously.

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope movie poster1) Star Wars Saga

Star Wars has had a huge impact in cinema.  I would say the original trilogy one of the reasons I am the cinefile I am today.  At the heart of all the films (including the next trilogy) is Williams’ score.  I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but every time I hear any piece of music from any of the Star Wars movies I get swept away.  The highlights for me are Duel of the Fates from The Phantom Menace and Battle of the Heroes from Revenge of the Sith.  Both songs completely capture the emotion of the lightsaber duels on screen and is the pinnacle of what the amazing John Williams is capable of.

Come back tomorrow for the Movie Quote of the Week and the answer to yesterday’s Movie Whose Line (which you can guess here).  What is your favorite John Williams film score?

Monday Movie Fun Fact – 8/25/14

Do you remember John Williams’ iconic Jaws them? Duuuunnn duuunnn. Duuunnn duuunnn. Duunn duunn. Duunn. Duunn duunn. Dun dun. Dun dun. Dun. (You know you sang it it your head).  Today, it’s arguably one of the most recognized and memorable pieces of film music (ranking #6 on AFI’s 25 Greatest Film Scores of All Time).  Steven Spielberg initially needed some convincing about how awesome it is.  Williams said in an interview that the first thing he demonstrated to Spielberg was the simple theme.  When he finished, “Spielberg laughed at first.”  After some playing around, Spielberg gave him the go ahead.  When the score was finished, “Steven loved it,” according to Williams.  It’s hard to image what would have happened to Jaws had Spielberg not enjoyed the score.


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Read John Williams’ full interview here.