Top 20 Movies in ranked order (with reviews)

We at Matt Lynn Digital created our listing of the Top 20 Movies on December 18. 2016. Here are those movies with the reviews we’ve made. Warm regards!

Vertigo 1
2001 Movie 1
Cuckoo's Nest 1
ET 1
Pulp Fiction 1
Do The Right Thing 1
The Princess Bride 1
Eternal Sunshine 1
Memento 1
In Bruges 1
Interstellar 1
Rocky 1
Matt – Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Remakes and Sequels in the Service of Story

Matt Lynn Digital recently reviewed the Disney animated movie Dumbo (1941). We did so anticipating the live action movie Dumbo (2019)‘s theatrical release in the United States on Friday, March 29th. Without making a fine distinction between remake and reboot, we at Matt Lynn Digital wanted to review why some remakes work well while also looking at why sequels, as a distinct thing from remakes, also are worth the time.

Remake - A Star is Born 1937,1954, 1976, & 2018(The movie A Star Is Born was first made in 1937 with remakes in 1954, 1976, and 2018).

Followers of the 2019 Academy Awards will recognize A Star is Born (2018) as a featured nominee for best movie. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga starred in the directorial debut for Cooper. Part of the success this movie enjoyed rested in starring a well known musician and actor (Cooper and Gaga) in featured roles executing their craft using contemporary film and musical take on a movie that had been made three times before. A Star Is Born (1976) with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, A Star Is Born (1954) with Judy Garland and James Mason, and A Star is Born (1937) with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March were others that succeeded with a similar compelling story.

Remake - The Wizard of Oz - The Wiz - 1937 & 1978(1939’s movie The Wizard of Oz was remade as The Wiz in 1978).

We at Matt Lynn Digital have ranked the movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) as the fourth best movie ever made. Starring Judy Garland and her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion singing and dancing in the service of an adventure of rural versus city, labor versus management, poor versus rich, the music enhanced the telling of a story that has endured for many years. The same themes with a Motown soundtrack and an African American cast including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor starred in The Wiz (1978). A powerful story serving powerful audiences are powerful reasons to remake a movie.

Remake - Annie - 1982, 1999, & 2014(1982’s musical movie Annie was remade in 1999 and 2014. All take inspiration from Little Orphan Annie of 1932).

The final look into remade movies includes the music filled song of looking towards tomorrow with family with Annie (1982). In reprising a heartwarming tale of the adventures of a young girl in finding her family, whereas The Wizard of Oz and The Wiz both reinforce getting back home, the original stars Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Aileen Quinn and others. Annie (1999) rebooted the franchise for television with Kathy Bates as a notable star. Annie (2014) offered an entertaining review of the movie with a more robust and contemporary telling of the underlying story with stars Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Cameron Diaz. The 1982 and 2014 movies experienced commercial success. Each of these movies trace back to the comedy and drama Little Orphan Annie (1932).

The notion of making sequels to movies often is more creatively deliberate. It’s goals are often are not to retell a story with a more modern take or for a more modern audience, as we explored with some examples above. Instead, sequels seek to extend a story or take themes explored within a story to something more robust or fanciful.

Sequel - The Godfather - 1972, 1974, & 1990(1972’s The Godfather experienced sequels in 1974 and 1990).

The Godfather (1972) joins with The Godfather: Part II (1974) and The Godfather: Part III (1990) to tell the trials and tribulations of an Italian American mafia family with the surname Corleone. The story tells of how Vito Corleone became a major American criminal, how he died, and then how his youngest son Michael Corleone succeeded him and then became corrupted. The first two movies often are considered superior to the third movie in the sequence. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, and Talia Shire are notable stars in these movies.

Sequel - The Dark Knight - 2005, 2008, & 2012(2005’s Batman Begins was followed by The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises in 2008 and 2012, respectively).

The Dark Knight Trilogy of movies collectively refers to Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Gary OldmanMorgan Freeman, and Heath Ledger are notable stars telling the background story of Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), his becoming a crime fighter, and some graphic crime and violence he fights while simultaneously fighting his own emotional baggage wrought by the death of his parents at the hand of violent crime. Christopher Nolan became a director of worldwide reputation thanks to these movies.

Sequel - Jaws - 1975, 1978, 1983, & 1987(The 1975 blockbuster movie Jaws was followed by sequels in 1978, 1983, and 1987).

The movie Jaws (1975) led to three sequels, namely Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983), and Jaws: The Revenge (1987). The first movie launched the career of director Steven Spielberg, who directed only the first movie. Roy Scheider starred in the first two movies, as did Murray Hamilton, and Lorraine Gary. Other notable stars in the original were Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. The notion for all four movies was to extend the suspenseful interplay between unsuspecting folks on the beach, a hungry great white shark, and the engaging conflict the allows the audience to question who is the predator and who is the prey. Each movie in the series had a different director. Both the quality and originality of the series suffered from one movie to the next in this series, which is to say that this series demonstrates cases where sequels failed in the mission to extend the story into new and original places.

In walking through some notable remakes and movie sequels, my aim was to begin a dialogue for where one or the other is appropriate. Especially with some examples of  sequels, we are aiming to stake more ground for where sequels are not appropriate. For example, two sequels for Batman Begins seem justified, and a second sequel for The Godfather seems unwarranted. Multiple follow-ups for Jaws seem clearly unnecessary. The remakes of films largely seem justifiable reaches into new territory. What do you think?

Matt – Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Erik Larson and ‘The Devil in the White City’

Erik Larson offered us an intertwined narrative of the Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, the architect of the exposition Daniel Hudson Burnham, and the infamy of a contemporaneous serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett (aka Dr. Henry Howard Holmes) in his 2003 book The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.

devil white city 2 - erik larson(Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City).

The two biggest stories of The Devil in the White City included were the fact of the world’s fair in Chicago, Illinois as well as the contemporaneous operation of a serial killer in the same region. The era of the exposition story began following the American Civil War, in the aftermath of Reconstruction Era yet before the before the economic Panic of 1893 began to capture its legs.

devil white city 3 - daniel hudson burnham(Daniel Hudson Burnham).

The awarding of the 1893 was decided largely by the United States Congress around 1891. Other cities in the running for the Columbian Exposition included New York City, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis. After a series of votes by Congress that ultimately witnessed the serious contention being between Chicago and New York City, the Midwestern city won the prize. Daniel Hudson Burnham ultimately was named the chief architect for the exposition.

devil white city 4 - dr. henry howard holmes (herbert webster mudgett)(Herman Webster Mudgett (aka Dr. Henry Howard Holmes)).

Before getting too far into that story and the telling of how Burnham became the architect, we did learn about his schooling and his architectural business partner, John Wellborn Root. We also learned of the background of one Herman Webster Mudgett, a confidence man who we first learn could not pass pharmacy school. Mudgett, who we later learn is skilled at forming fictitious individuals, supporting documentation, and the gaining of trust from bankers, employees, and ladies in Chicago, both established and new to the city. One of Mudgett‘s prominent aliases was as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes.

devil white city 5 - chicago's world's columbian exposition of 1893(Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893).

The larger story introduced us through Burnham and Mudgett was the planning and growth of the notion of city from a largely agrarian background. Both shared a certain degree of ambition pointed in different directions. Burnham wanted to grow something that surpassed The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889). The Paris Exposition drew magnificent crowds and demonstrated the new fangled Eiffel Tower, which stands today. The Chicago Expostion’s answer to this was the first ever Ferris Wheel.

devil white city 6 - ferris wheel(The Ferris Wheel).

George W. Ferris invented the Ferris Wheel, which took the principle of two concentric circles with a load of passenger-carrying vehicles between them to new heights. Placed on the midway of the fair, the notion of a midway with a Ferris Wheel (or Eiffel Tower) at one extreme became the standard of Amusement Parks, Theme Parks, and carnivals that would follow in the next century. The father of Roy Disney and Walt Disney, Elias Disney, helped build Chicago’s Columbian Exposition.

devil white city 7 - ferris wheel(The Ferris Wheel).

While much of the effort of building the grounds of the exposition were experiencing their starts, stops, and complications, we witnessed Herman Webster Mudgett use less than ethical means to acquire a pharmacy from a widow. We saw the explanation of her disappearance fabricated by Mudgett. Other ladies and children would disappear at the hands of Mudgett, with little in the way of suspicion being cast his way in terms of suspicion until such time as the life insurance companies pressed their cases. Herman Webster Mudgett used his falsely made wealth to build a death house that led multiple murders at his, Mudgett‘s, hands.

devil white city 8 - the palace of fine arts - now the museum of science and industry(The Palace of Fine Arts – now The Museum of Science and Industry).

The official opening of the Columbian Exposition occurred in the fall of 1892, to coincide with the actual date of Christopher Columbus‘ arrival in the new world. The actual event ran from May through October of 1893. The exposition included many temporary built in an ornate Neoclassical style and painted white. It was the white painting at the fair site that led to the Exposition being called the White City.

devil white city 9 - the grand basin(The Grand Basin).

L. Frank Baum, writer of The Wizard of Oz book, was said to have been inspired by the grandeur of Chicago Exposition when creating his series of books. The use of Westinghouse alternating current incandescent light bulbs was proven at the fair. Shredded Wheat as a product was introduced at the fair.

devil white city 10 - the court of honor(The Court of Honor).

Herman Webster Mudgett would be caught and found guilty of some of his crimes after having taken at least two of his victims to the Columbian Exposition. Daniel Hudson Burnham helped plan the cities of Cleveland, San Francisco, and Manilla before having influence upon the ribbon of lakefront parks and the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue within Chicago. Burnham Park became a thing after the exposition, in part to honor the architect. Modern day Solider Field and the Field Museum are located within that park. The Palace of Fine Arts became the modern day Museum of Science and Industry.

The narrative style of The Devil in White City made for the telling of non-fiction in a means familiar to fiction readers. The stories were compelling, if not falling into the macabre when discussing the Murder Castle of Herman Webster Mudgett and such. Erik Larson depicted two of Mudgett‘s murders following research at libraries. I enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to those interested both in true crime as well as tales of the Chicago Exposition. My grade is 4.0-stars on a scale of 1-to-5 stars.

Matt – Saturday, January 19, 2019

Top 20 Movie “The Wizard of Oz”

Top 20 Movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) ranks 4th in Matt Lynn Digital’s Top 20 Movies in ranked order listing. Winning two Academy Awards, the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow was a big part of the success enjoyed by The Wizard of Oz.

In the 78-years since the film’s release has done nothing to diminish how technically ahead of its time The Wizard of Oz really was. The storyline includes period specific tropes about economics, guilds, the influence available for the strong over the weak that certain plot holes deservedly ought to be overlooked. For example, that the good witch of the North, Glinda (played by Billie Burke) lets Dorothy Gale (played by Judy Garland) and risk the lives of her friends, dog, and self against a witch to prove there is “no place like home” seems harsh, even by the era of that time.

EF80F1FC-19D2-44C9-8640-91A76EA86C28(Glinda, left, and Dorothy Gale)

The comaraderie of the principle characters, moving between black-and-white and color, and the duplication of characters between the dream world of Oz and the real world of Kansas was an intriguing and satisfying narrative technique. Given that the mind, heart, and confidence of Dorothy herself was the biggest concern at stake for the story and the characters, that the story moralizes to a place of emphasizing the stabilizing force of family is one many still appreciate. That this review is shared at a time many have celebrated Hanukkah or will be observing Christmas is no coincidence, for I value the ties of family.

26282A5B-CCD5-4F94-A904-F81BBF5934DD(From left are Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, and John Joseph Haley as the Tin Man. These four, with Dorothy’s dog Toto, pursued a life-or-death scenario during the movie’s dream sequence).

The tension experienced by Dorothy’s close friends and family in the movie was largely a reaction to the Wicked Witch of the West. Margaret Hamilton plays the witch and dies with a dynamic soliloquy in her own castle by Dorothy’s doing.

0BB23B12-A052-4C7D-8DA5-DD9A780DD17B(The taunting that the Wicked Witch of the West hurled at the Munchkins, the Scarecrow, and especially at Dorothy were considered and consistent. “Surrender Dorothy” and the laughter in the face of Auntie Em within the castle carried emotional weight that I found compelling.)

The fake ‘wizard’ that was pitted against Dorothy Gale at the end of The Wizard of Oz. He proved himself befuddled and mismatched against the witch in his territory.

8C2BA5CC-235B-438E-B41F-A2EB575B855C(Frank Morgan played the wizard in The Wizard of Oz. The wizard was neither gracious nor helpful to the group following the witch yet out for his own gain. While ostensibly true to who he was, that the Wizard is of such a character further calls into question her social experiment with Dorothy. More clearly stated, why were so many adults behaving badly?)

Despite the obstacles, Dorothy Gale finally does make it home to her precious Auntie Em.

B196AFD7-A24B-442F-ADE2-BD1299EF36E9(Clara Blandick as Auntie Em as an image in a crystal ball).

The Wizard of Oz is ranked 4th on our listing of movies. The message about getting home is a strong one. The adventure, singing, and dancing are entertaining. The technology was years ahead of its time. I recommend that you see it soon.

Matt – Sunday, December 24, 2017.