27 Years 27 Movies: The Greatest Films of All Time

AFI (the American Film Institute) recently updated their list of the 100 greatest movies of all time.

Not to be outdone, I present to you my list of the greatest films of all time.  You will notice their number one pick is absent from my list…however, there are some shared views.  During my first 27 years on this earth, I’ve watched a lot of films and loved many…but only a few make this list…

Please keep in mind, while I am very serious about many of the selections (the TOP TEN especially), many of the lower level selections are meant to be an amusing hodge-podge of sentimental favorites and off-the-wall films that you might not typically expect to find on such lists.

Without further adieu…David H. Schleicher presents his

27 Years 27 Movies: The Greatest Films of All Time: Continue reading

Reviewer Magazine Takes in The Thief Maker


The Thief Maker A Novel by D.H. Schleicher (iUniverse Press)

Review by Kent Manthie for Reviewer Magazine

It’s been said that the events of September 11, 2001 forever altered America in profound ways as well as the individual psyches of its people. Most Americans, but especially those who were directly affected, can chart their lives as “before 9/11” and “after 9/11”, using it as an ugly milestone to put other, tangential things in perspective.

Some people had their lives turned upside down and were forever altered by 9/11 and others who were thousands of miles away were also affected, those images having been seared onto the consciousness of millions of TV viewers.

Now that we’re a ‘safe’ distance from the actual event, six years on, there have been a couple movies, lots of non-fiction books, websites, tons of commemorative this and special issues of that as well as that horrible made-for-TV travesty last year, not to mention the legions of conspiracy buffs who’ve made their neuroses a cottage industry.

If anything positive emerged out of the mountain of dreck that 9/11 spawned it was the third novel by one D.H. Schleicher, entitled “The Thief Maker”, an inventive, stylistically nihilistic novel that uses the events of September 11, 2001 as a backdrop and even then in the latter half of the book. It’s only on the peripheries that the realities of that day interpolate, making bad situations worse or complicating matters further, but nonetheless it’s an essential element of the novel.

“The Thief Maker” jumps back and forth, from the mid-1980s to the 1990s, up to the present and even into the future – as far forward as 2008. It may sound confusing but when one is immersed in the novel it actually works quite well as a literary device.

Seemingly disparate sets of highly complex people are introduced and their character traits are developed in front of our eyes only to slowly morph into something unexpected; there’s a thread that connects these people, they all seem to be intertwined in this intricate web of humanity. The characters in the novel are all so vividly portrayed and developed so well that you come to not only visualize them in your head while reading the book but you begin to feel like you know them.

There is William Donovan, the con man whose past is never far behind him; Felice Morrison, the cold as ice lesbian psychiatrist who grows up to hate humanity and for whom love and hate are interchangeable, Frank Morrison’s a man with a secret past and a dark future. Looming above it all, haunting everyone in the story is the recently deceased Marie Gail, a hopeless young junkie with AIDS whose hate was so strong that it contaminated those around her. She died in a lonely, dark rage from the pneumonia not uncommon to those with AIDS. Marie left behind Rex, a young son who was initially taken away from Marie in her days of heroin addiction and general bad craziness, which leads us to the foster parents that take care of Rex for a few years until shortly before her death, Catherine and Rodames Fowler, two psychologists who are doing a long-term experiment with their deaf children in psycholinguistics and into which Rex had been enveloped. Marie had gotten clean and with Felice, her lover, won back custody of the boy and together they lived as much like a normal family as they could for the short time they had before Marie succumbed to her disease. Just before she died, Marie had asked Felice to take care of Rex, to raise him as if he was her own. Felice willingly accepts this responsibility and agrees to adopt him as a final act of love for Marie before she dies. This is all so complicated and I’m afraid there’s much more but instead, you’d better just read the book.

Towards the end all bets are off and suddenly the “post-9/11 world” has turned into Bedlam and realities are getting destroyed left and right; things aren’t as they seem, they never are. The climactic buildup is a shrieking anxious ride that gets thick with complexity and before you know it you’re being hit in the head with a dynamite denouement. I won’t spoil things by describing it any further, but let me just say that you’re in for some rollercoaster-style twists and turns.

You know, originally, I wasn’t really in the mood for having to read another book – I’m already juggling three books as it is and so, when they gave me “The Thief Maker” to review I didn’t look forward to reading it. I went into the book with an unenthusiastic drudgery and I wanted to hate the thing just for being made to read it. Nevertheless, I kept on and while I never thought Schleicher’s writing was without great style or that the clarity and precision wasn’t there I was just – oh, I don’t know…I mean, at first the book wasn’t what I’d call a “page-turner” but when I got to the midway point the excitement was turned up a couple notches and pretty soon I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. I can’t tell you exactly what sort of action makes it pick up because that would spoil much of the plot – I probably shouldn’t have even said that; therefore, you’d better just go buy the book to find out.

I thought D.H. Schleicher wonderfully captured a lot of nuances surrounding modern-day American living spot-on. He brings these characters to life; I found myself really identifying with characters; I really felt emotional about them, amazed by some and hating others, empathizing with some of them too and disgusted by others. Schleicher draws the reader into this smartly crafted parallel universe – one that is remarkably like our own world. The action takes place between Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and even [banjo music playing] takes a detour down to North Carolina for a spell.

It was hard to tell at first where the story was going to go; whether it’d be to a boring, clichéd neighborhood from which you’d want to exit ASAP or a fabulous world where you want to stay around as long as you can. The latter was the case for “The Thief Maker”; in fact, I purposely took my time reading this novel. I didn’t want to flip through this too quickly; it’s only 214 pages, easy to read, not at all verbally confusing or convoluted in its prose. Mystery man, Dave Schleicher, who graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in psychology in 2002, seems to have found his voice, developed a style of his own; it’s not an ostentatious one, though; the book reads quite easily, smoothly, not too rough or stilted, making the storyline roll along with no bumps or obstacles, no extraneous riff-raff built up throughout the paragraphs either, making the basic story stick out that much more. Schleicher’s currently living in Voorhees, New Jersey, where he takes time out to smell the roses between writing binges. He also keeps a pretty regular web log at https://davethenovelist.wordpress.com – check it out, there are plenty of things to read: reviews, opinion pieces and so on.

What with the hot season coming up, “The Thief Maker” would be a great addition to your summer reading list. Check out the publisher’s website:. http://www.iuniverse.com – KM.


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It Ain’t Over ’til the Last Soprano Sings

The fat lady has sung. 

Sunday, June 10th marks the final episode of one of the most celebrated shows in history, HBO’s The Sopranos.

The Sopranos

Hard to believe, it’s been close to a decade and 6 1/2 seasons since The Sopranos debuted and made HBO a perennial Emmy contender and the prime spot for appointment television.  Having been in college when it began, I didn’t settle in as a regular viewer until Season Three.  By this point, the show was already getting backlash from critics and viewers, but this is the season where I fell in love with the show.  I eventually caught the first two seasons on reruns, and they were truly some of the most expertly crafted, wonderfully scripted, and thoughtfully acted 24 hours of television ever produced.   As the show has progressed, it’s had its fair share of stale and boring episodes, but it’s always been reliable for a few good surprises (I still get emotional over Adriana’s demise) and tour-de-force acting (especially from Edie Falco as Tony’s long suffering wife, Carmella Soprano). Continue reading

A Review of Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

A Pirate’s Life for Me, 4 June 2007
David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Who would’ve thought that a Jerry Bruckheimer film production of a Walt Disney theme park ride would end up being the most consistently entertaining and subversive film franchise of recent memory? Director Gore Verbinski and the bloated cast headed up by a hilarious Johnny Depp are all back for the rollicking “closing” of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy.

Following the mantra of its predecessor (bigger, better, more), everything here attempts to one-up what has been seen before. With the exception of the sight gags (which are smaller and more plentiful in “At World’s End” but nothing like the mind-boggling giant wheel or log-rolling scenes from “Dead Man’s Chest”), everything else is more, more, more. There’s more characters (most notably Chow Yun Fat as the leader of a Singapore pirate gang), more plot (the double-crossings are so numerous as to make your head spin), more elaborate and wildly imaginative action set pieces and special effects (the boat flipping scene is especially good), more monkey and midget action, more jokes, more cameos (witness a seemingly un-made-up Keith Richards as Captain Teague), and most thankfully more macabre gallows humor and absurdity.

Gore Verbinski has become a master of the modern action-adventure movie, finely tuning his skills here to rival an early era Steven Spielberg in his sense of visual scope. With these three films he is now an expert in the cadence of integrating computer effects with massive live stunts across sprawling set pieces. He truly deserves accolades for managing to get every character in on the action in the dazzling climactic battle between the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman in the middle of a giant maelstrom. There’s also one amazing scene of the British Captain going down with his ship as it is cannon-balled into oblivion that in a more serious film would seem quite epic, but in the refreshing silliness of this series is just one more over-the-top element subverting the traditional tone of the Hollywood spectacle.

“At World’s End” provides more fun bang for your buck than any “third” in a series since “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” It made me feel like a kid again, but being so insanely indebted to the concept of “MORE” imagining the series continuing into a fourth installment would be truly gluttonous.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database


You can also see my reviews of the previous two films in this trilogy:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)


Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)


Home Movies Wrap Up Spring 2007

During some down time over the Memorial Day weekend I caught up with some interesting movies recently released on DVD.  Two (Little Children and The Good German) were based on novels, while the third (The Fountain) was apparently based on ideas found in the Bible, the Kabbalah, and Transcendental Meditation.

Little Children

Acting Like Children…, 29 May 2007
David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Bored and lonely suburbanites (an always excellent Kate Winslet and a surprisingly good Patrick Wilson) start a steamy affair during a summer heat wave against the back drop of a convicted child molester moving into town in director Todd Field’s cold adaptation of novelist Tom Perrotta’s scathing indictment of middle class values. “Little Children” is a huge improvement over Todd Field’s ridiculously overrated directorial debut, “In the Bedroom.” Field’s arrogant, faux-artiste style of directing is far better suited for the dark humor and subdued satire running throughout this film.

Field can not be faulted for having a good eye behind the camera. He’s especially adept at filming quiet scenes of inanimate objects, like trees blowing in the wind against the pointed roofs of suburban households. However, when people enter his camera’s eye, his framing and treatment of them is cold and judgmental. You get the feeling he doesn’t really like any of his characters, and utilizing a sardonic, omniscient voice-over narration attests to his god-like detachment to the lives he is filming.

Superb acting from all involved keep the film watchable. Jennifer Connelly is again criminally underused but shockingly effective in one excellently staged dinner table scene where she suddenly realizes her husband (Wilson) might be more than just friends with their charming female dinner guest (Winslet).

Subplots and side characters over populate the film as it strains to take on the quality of a dense and probing novel. The distractions including a police football league and the disintegration of the recently released child molester range from inane to sickening. This sadly takes away from what is an otherwise engrossing, well acted, smartly scripted view of adultery. These subplots and the frustrating conclusion leave the viewer feeling hollow and angry at themselves for having been so amused by much of it. If Field would stop judging his characters and audience so harshly he might one day make a movie worth our time.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database


The Good German

Passable Entertainment for Classic Film Enthusiasts, 28 May 2007
David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Steven Soderberg attempts to re-imagine the iconic noir films of the 1940’s with “The Good German.” With the old fashioned music score from Thomas Newman and the evocative black-and-white cinematography, he scores in spades. Unfortunately there are some frustrating elements that keep the film from becoming a perfect send-up of those classics.

The acting from Clooney and Blanchett are spot on for the time period the film invokes. Blanchett has received some flack for her thick German accent, and Clooney ridiculed for being wooden, but the styles fit for what Soderbergh was after. Sadly, for the first twenty minutes of the film, Soderbergh allows Tobey Maguire (poorly cast here) to go gonzo in a vain attempt by the non-actor to show he can do more than stare vapidly at the camera or appear all smarmy and misty eyed.

Soderbergh also makes the mistake of utilizing two of the worst elements of films from that time period: unnecessary voice-overs and stock footage to explain plot points when the screenwriter ran out of ideas or the producers cut back on the budget. Oddly, he also infuses a very modern use of sex and violence (though very brief) and profanity (seemingly for comic relief).

Overall, despite some of the distractions, the plot is often engrossing, and as stylish throw-back entertainment designed for the pleasure of movie buffs longing for the days of WWII era noir, the film makes the grade.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database


The Fountain (Widescreen Edition)

Death is the Road to Awe, 28 May 2007
David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Writer/director Darren Aronofsky (“Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream”) starts his “Fountain” on uneven footing with a cumbersome mystical underpinning, but once you realize what the film is actually about, it works quite splendidly. Even during the more perplexing moments of cerebral and spiritual gobbily-gook, Aronofsky hooks you with the amazing visuals and beautiful transitions from scene to scene. Top notch acting and another great score from Clint Mansell keep “The Fountain” fluid and entertaining.

“The Fountain” tells the story of a brilliant neuroscientist (Hugh Jackman in a surprisingly heartfelt and brave performance) passionately working on experimental treatments in a race to save his wife (Rachel Weisz, luminously photographed here by her husband Aronofsky, though given a one-note character to work with as the goddess-incarnate) from an inoperable brain tumor. The film chronicles this man’s ascent into an elaborate fantasy world made up of his own desires to conquer death and his wife’s transcendent views of the universe as witnessed through her deathbed writing project dealing with the legend of the Tree of Life. The flights of fancy depicted are varying in their effectiveness. The Spanish Inquistion and Conquistidor episodes are breathtaking and full or rich, dark visuals and primordial themes on the nature of man. The transcendental meditation segments are quite banal, though end with a stunning visual flourish at the film’s climax.

Aronofsky doesn’t quite reach the profound revelations of Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (which truly relished in a realistic futurism built on man’s desire to create more perfect technology) or the true transcendence of Terrence Malick’s recent “The New World” (which miraculously depicted a true state of grace through its gritty grounding in realism). Aronofsky’s feelings on the circle of life and how in order to cheat death man must accept death are ultimately simplistic but endearing and ring true. Wrapping that noble truth in beautiful visual compositions, he stakes his claim as a true auteur.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database