Sunday, July 1, 2012

What movies remind you of the Fourth of July?

As far as holidays go, the Fourth of July really doesn’t have a distinguished movie presence.

There are tons of patriotic films, don’t get me wrong, but very few of them actually play into the Fourth of July.

Most people think about barbecues, swimming pools and fireworks when they think about the Fourth of July.

I’m no different.

So, without further ado, the best movies to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday are:

5. Born on the Fourth of July – This is before people were freaked out by Tom Cruise and he was just considered a decent actor. ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ is probably Cruise’s best performance – long before he was jumping on couches and lambasting actresses for taking medication for depression. It’s the story of a paralyzed Vietnam War veteran that becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights advocate because he feels betrayed by the U.S. Government. The movie isn’t easy to watch. In fact, it’s brutal at times. There’s a truth in it that’s profound, though, and Cruise manages to deliver a knock-out performance. This isn’t a fluff movie – but if you’re in the mood for something that matters, this could be the film for you.

4. The Sandlot – If ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ is heavy, ‘The Sandlot’ is the opposite. This movie is all fluff and very little substance. It’s the story of Scotty Smalls, a youngster that moves to a new neighborhood and wants to learn to play baseball. This is essentially a kid movie, filled with kid adventures and a uproariously funny Fourth of July barbecue scene. This is just what the doctor ordered for the bored kids of today that might want to see a movie that’s not all about how many things you blow up or special effects.

3. The Patriot – This is before Mel Gibson became public enemy number one and was just considered a great actor. Yeah, he and Tom Cruise have a lot in common. ‘The Patriot’ is the story of Benjamin Martin, a colonialist that helps lead militia groups against the British during the Revolutionary War. Heath Ledger plays his son – an idealist that believes in the cause long before he understands the realities of war. Since it is history, we all know how it ends, but the journey there is a worthwhile one. While Gibson and Ledger are solid in their roles, and Tom Wilkinson and Chris Cooper are reliable as always, it’s Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy himself) that steals every scene. He’s that villain you love to hate. 

2. Jaws – Say what you want about today’s special effects, but the mechanical shark in 1975’s ‘Jaws’ is still terrifying. Not only does ‘Jaws’ succeed as a monster movie, though, it also succeeds as a drama about small town politics. Roy Scheider (may he rest in peace) shines as Officer Brody, an island police chief that is struggling with shutting down his town’s biggest source of revenue for the year – even though human life is at stake. Richard Dreyfuss is at his smarmy best as Hooper, the marine biologist that wants to study the shark. But Richard Shaw (may he rest in peace) steals the show as Quint, a grizzled boat captain that has his own haunting story. ‘Jaws’ is one of the few movies from the 1970s that still holds up today -- and it's the reason I still have qualms about getting in the ocean.

1. Independence Day – This is one of those movies that is infinitely re-watchable. In fact, I guess they’re re-releasing it in 3-D next year – which is an abomination in my book, but that’s a whole other diatribe. ‘Independence Day’ is an alien invasion movie that is packed with action, humor and Jeff Goldblum. The aliens, in this case, want to cause as much mayhem as possible in their initial strike. This is the movie that really made Will Smith a star – and Randy Quaid steals every scene he’s in as an alien abductee that’s looking for a little payback. It’s movie president Bill Pullman’s speech, though, that is the rousing center of 'Independence Day.' At the center of that speech, Pullman talks about pulling together as a country and defeating a common enemy. In this political climate, the sentiment behind the message is a welcome one.

Honorable mentions go to:

Top Gun – I don’t care what anyone says, Maverick and Goose are all kinds of awesome. The flight scenes still dazzle today, by the way.

Red Dawn – The remake of this – filmed partially in Mount Clemens – debuts later this year. The original, though, is cheesy, clichéd and riddled with plot holes. It’s still a fun ride, though.

The Shining – Ah, you’re wondering why I picked this film. Well, if you remember correctly, and only geeks like myself do, the final scene in ‘The Shining’ shows a picture of Jack at a party that is dated July 4, 1921. It must have been some party.

Wet Hot American Summer – As far as mindless fun goes, this one is pretty run-of-the-mill. It does inspire memories of summer folly though.

What do you think? What movies remind you of the Fourth of July?


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