2017 was a rather unusual year for movies. For one thing, there were more good movies released than in most other years; I almost made my top ten list a top *twenty* list. (I still did, sort of. Read on.) For another thing, half of the top ten list could easily have been filled by comic book movies; no fewer than three did make the final list. For another thing still, there were many good movies but not many great ones.
The much anticipated “Blade Runner” sequel was every bit as good as I hoped it would be and in some ways better, but then again, it clocked in at almost three hours and I know it didn’t need to be that long. “The Last Jedi,” the eighth film in the “Star Wars” saga – ninth if you include the stand-alone sorta-prequel “Rogue One,” featured more action and more characters than 2015’s disappointing “The Force Awakens,” but it also had sequences that went nowhere and plot holes that didn’t make much sense. “Dunkirk,” that sure-to-sweep-the-Oscars WWII epic from “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” director Christopher Nolan, had several moments of cinematic brilliance, but also bombastic sound mixing, bland casting, and unmemorable characters.
GringoPotpourri’s Top Ten Films of 2017:
Continue reading “Top Ten Films of 2017”
I love movies from all decades, and the fact that a movie was filmed in black-and-white is not enough to prevent me from seeing it. Those old Universal monster movies, starring Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, and others, are especially re-watchable. Favorites include “Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Mummy,” the latter of which is leagues better than this past summer’s Tom Cruise misfire of the same name. It wasn’t long ago that TCM aired the original “The Invisible Man,” starring Claude Rains as the title character. Phenomenal special effects during the moments when Rains removes the bandages over his now-transparent face, and I can only imagine how horrifying that must have been to see on screen in 1933.
Of course, “The Invisible Man” is tame by today’s standards. Few movies made before 1970 hold up today as viable horror movies, which makes it interesting that, when I published my first top ten list on this subject four years ago, I declared Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” released in 1960, to be the genre’s all-time best. I did make sure to include a couple of old movies in my latest top ten list, although the oldest one, 1973’s “The Wicker Man,” is still four decades “newer” than “The Invisible Man.” On a more contemporary note, one of the entries, “Get Out,” was released just seven months ago!
Enough explaining! Below is my latest list – the fourth in a series – of great horror movies, ten at a time:
Continue reading “Still Another Ten Great Horror Movies (#31-40)”
My early July post about the Top Ten Large European Cities, received larger-than-normal readership, and several engaging comments as well. I followed that with a second post, later the same month, detailing the Top Ten Mid-Sized European Cities. I thought I would conclude the series with today’s entry, focusing on smaller cities and towns (and a few villages as well, courtesy of #6 on the list).
There are many worthy contenders, particularly in England, Germany, and Italy. I tried to include a broader geographic sampling of countries, and to include more than just “day trip, tour bus” towns (although there are a few of those in here, such as #5 and #10). Many of these small cities and towns offer enough to merit several days of casual exploration, and they all contribute to some of my favorite European travel memories. A post for another day, perhaps?
Thanks for following this series. Here are my Top Ten Small European Cities and Towns:
Continue reading “Top Ten Small European Cities and Towns”
For a blog that is largely about travel, I have written surprisingly little about Europe. And yet, with the exception of a few Baltic and Balkan states, and such tiny, hard-to-reach republics as Andorra and San Marino, I’ve been almost everywhere on the continent. I have decided to share more stories from that corner of the globe.
In many ways, my favorite European cities are those places that are large enough to have decent nightlife and restaurants, a good network of hostels, and a few days’ worth of sightseeing…but not so big as to be overwhelming. Fewer than one million residents, let’s say. Not every city on the list below fits all of the aforementioned categories; Venice, for one, had just two hostels at the time of my visit, and the city went to bed early. Nuremberg, for that matter, had just one hostel. Of course, both cities had – have – restaurants and museums aplenty, and atmosphere to spare.
I look forward to continuing the series. Meanwhile, here are my Top Ten Mid-Sized European Cities:
Continue reading “Top Ten Mid-Sized European Cities”
It is mid-July as I write this, and summer is in full swing. What better author for summertime beach reading than Stephen King? The prolific Maine writer of more than 70 novels, hundreds of short stories, several screenplays, and even a few non-fiction pieces has no shortage of material from which to choose.
There are several different types of King books – genres within genres. Take his short stories. These range anywhere from 5 pages to 50, let’s say. Most are all-out horror, but not all have “horrifying” endings. Or novels. Some, like “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,” are just over 200 pages, while others – “The Stand: For the First Time Complete & Uncut” comes to mind – exceed the 1,000 page mark. Some, like “Pet Sematary,” are quick-turning and gory. Others, such as the terrific “11/22/63,” are dense and thought-provoking.
The list you are about to read includes a good variety of King works. His first published novel, “Carrie,” makes the cut, as does his most recent collection of short stories, “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.” The first volume of his massive “Dark Tower” mega-novel, “The Gunslinger,” is on here, as is his personal favorite piece of his own writing, “Lisey’s Story.” Of these, my favorites are listed in rank order, as decided by my admittedly-amateur entertainment critic-self.
So with that, here are (still) another ten good Stephen King books:
Continue reading “(And Still Another) Ten Good Stephen King Books (#41-50)”
Europe has been on my mind lately. I haven’t visited the continent since 2012, so it could be that I simply miss the place. Or it could be that recent late night TV airings of Skyfall and Midnight in Paris have left me nostalgic for my wandering days.
I immediately started thinking of some favorite places in Europe. A few, like the Bernese Oberland of alpine Switzerland, are pleasantly rural. Most, however, are either specific sights in specific cities…or the cities themselves.
Europe is blessed with dozens of cities and towns worth visiting. I have decided to share my favorites with you in a series of top ten lists. I am dividing my rankings into three separate lists. First, large cities – cities with over 1,000,000 residents. Next, mid-sized cities – let’s say 50,000 – 1,000,000. Finally, small cities and towns – any community with fewer than 50,000 people.
Here are my Top Ten Large European Cities:
Continue reading “Top Ten Large European Cities”
Cuba has been in the news these past few days following an announcement from the Trump White House that U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba will be rolled back to pre-Obama levels. This saddens me, although I should clarify that Cuba was never fully open to Americans, anyway. For one thing, American credit and debit cards still do not work in Cuba. For another thing, travel requires a reciprocal visa and is supposed to fall into one of 12 categories (click here for more information, and check back often, as policies are subject to change).
This is all too bad. Cuba is not our enemy, and nor is its leader, Raúl Castro, who took over for his more notorious brother roughly ten years ago. But Raúl has promised to step down in 2018, so who knows what the future brings?
I love Cuba, and it takes at least two hands to count off the number of things I like about the country. Below, after much nostalgic deliberation, is my Cuba top ten:
Continue reading “Top Ten Cuba”
2017 is forecast to be a good year for Stephen King. Last month saw the release of his latest Castle Rock novella, “Gwendy’s Button Box,” co-written by Cemetery Dance magazine editor Richard Chizmar. The April posting of the latest “It Part One” theatrical trailer set an online record for the most views, and before the year is out the big screen will also see the release of the long-gestating “Dark Tower” movie. The trailer for that also looks great, albeit very, very different from the 4,000-page anthology. If that isn’t enough, later this year Spike TV will host a 10-episode mini-series remake of “The Mist.” Here, too, is the trailer for that. Enjoy!
As I sit here, about to read “The Stand” for the third time, I want to note that few authors merit a top ten list, let alone four top ten lists! But then, few authors have the cumulative body of work that Mr. King has, with roughly 75 novels, collections, collaborations, screenplays, and non-fiction pieces. There may be a few pieces of rotten meat in that literary smorgasbord, but the list you are about to read takes us to number 40 and the books on said list are still good, perhaps even great.
So with that, here are yet another ten good Stephen King books:
Continue reading “(Yet Another) Ten Good Stephen King Books (#31-40)”
Last year wasn’t a good year for movies. It seemed that every other weekend saw the release of a second-rate animated film, or of yet another superhero sequel. I still haven’t seen “Moana” (which, as it happens, garnered strong reviews) or “X-Men: Apocalypse” (which did not).
There were several bright spots, however. Most of them came late in the year, and by the usual troupe of go-to writers, actors, and directors. Robert Zemeckis teamed up with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard for “Allied,” a throwback to classics like “Casablanca.” (If only it was shot in black-and-white.) Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks worked together for the first time on “Sully,” one of the shorter – and better – movies of the year. Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington, Amy Adams, Jeff Bridges, Emma Stone, and Michael Keaton all showed up…some of them (the five-times-nominated Ms. Adams, for one) more than once!
Two trends revealed themselves as the nominations were announced: films starring minorities, and films based on actual events. “Hidden Figures” introduced us to the black women who worked, unheralded for many years, on NASA’s computing team, while “Loving” showed us what went down when a white man married to a black woman was told that he and his wife could not live in Virginia. Both movies took place in the same state, and around the same decade, and the events depicted in them really happened. Stylistically, however, they couldn’t be more different.
“Hidden Figures” and “Loving” each earned slots on my top ten list for the year. They are joined by eight other worthy films…three of which, like the two mentioned above, are based on actual events!
GringoPotpourri’s Top Ten Films of 2016:
Continue reading “Top Ten Films of 2016”
Winter came late to Tennessee this year. Although it is December, there are still leaves on the trees in my front yard. Two days of moderate rainfall hearkened the start of the cold season, and, wonder of wonders, aided in efforts to combat the nearby Gatlinburg fires.
But it has definitely turned cold. And speaking of fires, I wish I had a fireplace of my own to curl up in front of, perhaps with a glass of red wine in one hand and the dog by my side while we listen to some of my favorite holiday carols. And with that, I present, for the third year in a row, my ranking of ten (more) favorite Christmas songs.
Ten More Holiday Songs (with YouTube links):
Continue reading “Even More Great Holiday Songs (21-30)”