The PoP! Stars narrow it down to the cream of the crop in categories ranging from (but not limited to) Comics, Movies, Toys and Geek Culture in general. This is the PoP! Top 6-Pack.
Love is in the air. Either that, or one of the PoP! Stars had burritos for dinner last night. I’m looking at you, Esbat! Regardless of what’s tickling your olfactory receptors, Valentine’s Day looms just around the corner and far be it from Panels on Pages to cower in the basement playing MMORPGs. No, we’re embracing the day and helping our fellow fanboys navigate a sea of sickeningly sweet celluloid in an attempt to find those few rare romances that transcend the genre and actually manage to be pretty damned good films.
This 1989 comedy by sensitive cool guy director Cameron Crowe takes a standard teen comedy archetype – misfit goes out with the most popular girl in school – and strips it of nearly all artifice and cliche. Crowe gives us an easily relatable lead with John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler, who pines after the brainy but beautiful Diane Court (Ione Skye) and runs afoul of her overprotective father, played flawlessly by Frasier‘s John Mahoney. The characters in this movie are refreshingly genuine and mostly devoid of the standard archetypes you find in most teen movies. Plus, like any Crowe movie, the soundtrack is awesome. How can you not listen to “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel and not think of Cusack hoisting his trusty boom box? This is definitely one of the few movies that rises from the trappings of the standard romantic comedy and emerges as a true classic.
As a guy, my biggest gripe with “chick flicks” is how damned predictable they are. It’s the phenomenon I refer to as “everyone’s cancer is cured and we learn that yes, unicorns really can cry rainbows.” Okay, it doesn’t just roll off the tongue, but you get it. The overly ridiculous happy ending where everything’s just perfect. Well, in Enchanted, that’s exactly what you get. But Enchanted turns the trope on its ear by literally being a storybook come to life. All of the warm fuzzies make perfect sense here. It’s this rationale that explains away the silliness of things like spontaneous choreographed dance numbers with total strangers or Patrick Dempsey’s hair. How does she know you love her? You’ll man up and watch an adorable romantic comedy with talking animals, that’s how. Besides, Amy Adams. I rest my case.
The Princess Bride
This is one of those rare films that works for nearly every demographic. Kids love its swashbuckling adventure, and adults love its wit and absurd humor. Like Fred Savage’s sick kid in the movie being told the story by his grandfather (played by the great Peter Falk), guys watching this for the first time may be turned off initially by the movie’s early mushiness but soon will wind up laughing and cheering along with their significant others. Wesley and Buttercup provide the obligatory romance, but the real draws of this movie are the myriad supporting characters, from Mandy Patinkin’s vengeful Inigo Montoya to Andre the Giant’s huge but loveable Fezzik to Christopher Guest’s menacing but cowardly Count Rugen. Add in several absurd but excellent scenes, such as Wesley’s battle of wits with Vezzini and Buttercup and Prince Humperdink’s attempted “Mawwage,” and you’ve got a fun evening for everyone.
Pssh. Swashbuckling. Sure, pirates are cool, but you know what’s even better? Knights! And LadyHawke is the story of one such knight, played perfectly by Rutger Hauer, engaged in a quest for his destiny. Said quest causes him to cross paths with Matthew Broderick’s cowardly cutpurse, Mouse, and hilarity ensues. It’s not all fun and games in this one though. In fact, LadyHawke‘s wry comedic strokes offset a grim tale of spurned suitors and starcrossed love. There’s plenty of action to go around, but the real story is in the heartbreak of Navarre and Isabeau’s time spent apart. I warn you, though, the soundtrack is naught but overly syntesized 80′s instrumentals; it’s woefully out of place, and the sole black mark on an otherwise flawlessly executed film.
There’s so much that needs to be said about Stardust, and so much that can’t be, without giving too much away. Did I call Navarre and Isabeau starcrossed lovers? Trust me, they can’t hold a Babylon Candle to Stardust‘s principals. But the supporting cast is where Stardust really shines. Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer (making a return to our countdown) quite deftly steal the show time and time again, but even some of the lesser-known castmates turn in fantastic performances you won’t likely soon forget. The movie is full of magic and romance, but guys – seriously, anyone who doesn’t laugh their ass off at least once (and you’ll know when once you get to the scene) may want to check their pulse. It’s not often Hollywood so perfectly captures lightning in a bottle – creating a movie as beautiful as it is touching as it is hysterical as it is exciting – but Stardust is certainly one of those times.
(500) Days of Summer
At first glance, this seems like your general run-of-the mill date movie, but by the end of the movie, you know you’ve just seen something special and profound. Told out of sequence, (500) Days of Summer recounts the end of a doomed relationship and gives clues as to why these two people just didn’t work out. It sounds like a complete bummer, but it’s actually kind of sweet in its own way, because while it ignores the “love conquers all” mantra of most rom-coms, it does not rule out the possibility of love and happiness with another person. Couples beware – this is a film that will make you want to take stock of your relationship to see if you two are really in it for the long haul. But if you’re in a perfectly happy relationship, it may just remind you of all the failed couplings that ultimately led you to the one. Also, unlike most films about relationships, it’s perfectly acceptable viewing if you’re getting over someone, as it reminds you that the breakup was probably for the best. A word to the wise, though – if you have been avoiding “the talk” with your sweetie, rent one of the other films on the list, and save (500) Days of Summer for “the one”.