The true personification of the perfect movie and the one that defines the term EPIC - Ben-Hur is, and probably will be, the greatest film ever to come out of Hollywood
"Down Eros, Up Mars"
At a distinguished party in a handsome manor, Ben-Hur presents itself as a rich & important member. Finely detailed in an aquiline manner and topped with an impressive personality, many members think he must be some important official. What they don't know is that he is the owner of the manor himself, the one who invited them all to the party! I've always imagined Ben-Hur in that sense. An outstanding film that turns heads of many people but receives recognition from a certain few. Not to say Ben-Hur is under-rated, far from that. I just wish that more of the young generation of the now would see this film and not get repelled by its 3+ hour screen-time and movie content. It is such a classy, masterfully made film that it should be of no wonder when someone ranks it no. 1 in their list, like I have. Prior Ben-Hur I had seen countless of films and most were eligible for the number 1 position, but when I saw this film, it became immediately clear that it would hold the spot for a very, very long time. Why? Because it has a certain charm, a certain element that no other film quite has. I can't explain what that is but it is always present whenever I see this film, something I did not feel in other movies, believe me.
To the modern eye the film may seem kinda clunky and offish but if you take a closer look you will come to realize that every scene is very professional and thoughtfully made and every cast member seems alive, involved, energetic in every sense. Every detail has rich value, every major cast member acts as if it's their final movie, giving unmatched performances, and the music could very well be written by Apollo himself, a legendary achievement. How can a film like this ever be disliked or ranked lower than the others? It is filled with energy and has a really awesome cinematography that literally makes you one of the cast members because of its mastery.
The movie starts off showing the birth of Christ. Then we see two old friends, Messala and Judah Ben-Hur, re-uniting. The loyalty towards each other as well as tension and frustration is not lost to the audience. The different personalities and view points are brilliantly showcased in a small time frame. One thing leads to another and Messala condemns Ben-Hur, as well as his mother and sister. Ben-Hur finds himself below the deck as a rower, all dignity lost. Now, if you compare the galley sequence to modern day sequences, it seems very dog-tired and repetitive. But like I said before, everything seems convincing, realistic to the point you can actually feel the whip that comes down on them, the aching in their arms while they row, and all that. May sound cheesy but it is not. Every single person, major to extra, played their part brilliantly, most importantly Jack Hawkins, who introduces himself in a very memorable monologue (You have the spirit to fight back...) Then, after 10 things here & 10 things there, Ben-Hur finds himself in a chariot race, arguably the finest use of chariots, mass audience, music and entertainment. It is also one of the most violent moments in cinematic history, even if it doesn't seem much. The reason why the 9-minute chariot race is so well loved is not only because of the significance it holds in the film and to the character (the chariot race was to Ben-Hur what the arrows were to Odysseus), but also because of its one shocking scene where Charlton Heston almost broke his neck due to a timing error. But the brave Heston carried on, giving us one of the damn greatest 2-second moment in cinematic history. After when everything is said and all is done, Judah Ben-Hur witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and reunites with his family and his loved one. Such a brilliant end to a bona-fide film.
From the performances, every single cast, from the major to the 2-second extra, was great. The one thing I appreciated was not showing the face of Christ and the actor who portrayed him, Claude Heater, was actually good in his role, despite the fact we only see his hands and backside. But his lithe hand movements were enough. Charlton Heston, as always, stole the show by his amazing portrayal of Judah Ben-Hur and it was of no surprise when he won the Oscar. Granted, it may not be one of the perfect performances I've seen, I have seen better, but it certainly shows what great acting is all about. A performance not to be missed at all! Then we have Hugh Griffith as the charismatic, never-failing Shiek Ildrim, a performance which rightly won him the Best Supporting Actor. He not only provides detailed comic-relief but a great addition to the epic, and is introduced at the best possible time. Even though he never got the world-wide fame as Heston, Jack Hawkins will still remain as one of the best actors of yesteryear. Not only he had his well-known role in check, he also managed to upstage virtually everyone, even challenging Heston face-to-face. He embodied the true persona of a Roman. Then we have Stephen Boyd as Messala, the main antagonist of the film. An equally memorable performance as the others. If he had been given a little more screen-time, he would've been a very good contender for Best Supporting Actor. His death-scene performance is arguably one of the best. From the rest, Sam Jaffe, Haya Harareet, Finlay Currie, Frank Thring and Martha Scott were also great and unresting in their respective characters, each providing a humble contribution to the film and made good use of their screen time. Like I said before, virtually every cast member was truly amazing in their role and all were alive in some manner.
In conclusion, Ben-Hur is cinematic perfection (I just love that sentence!) It is everything what a big-scale film should be and is a classic example of how Hollywood used to survive back in the day without the use of CGI and exaggeration. Ben-Hur is more than Hollywood. It defines it.
I wanted to say something cheesy for this but I forgot...
What do you get when you mix a few oranges and a few great actors? You get The Godfather. The God among insects. The Lord of the flies. The king of kings. When Francis Ford Coppola took on this once-in-a-lifetime job, he knew exactly what he was getting into and delivered exactly what he promised. Considered as the greatest mob film ever made and subsequently the greatest film ever, one cannot fail to see why. The storyline is perfect, the performances are miles beyond and the mood, especially that, is perfectly captured and is actually more nittier & grittier than it is on the surface. Everything has been said about this film and my review would only seem another "been there, done that" but I'm still gonna ramble on. This is cinema at its summit. Such dignity, such power, such awesomeness, it can only be The Godfather and, to an even greater extend, Ben-Hur, the only film I consider better than this one. Surprised? Hate to tell you this but I'm kinda tired seeing The Godfather hog the No. 1 spotlight while Ben-Hur virtually gets ignored by the higher critics and almost every Listal member here. I personally think Ben-Hur is times better but that's just my personal opinion. So, this film is officially No. 2 in my book. HA! suck on that, wimps!
Overall, this is one of the few films you have to watch no matter what condition you're in. Sick in bed? I don't care. In a coma? I don't care. Stranded in the middle of the f*** desert? I friggin' don't care... WATCH!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Marlon Brando - Vito Corleone James Caan - Sonny Corleone Robert Duvall - Tom Hagen
Shawshank is to Hollywood what Mona Lisa is to art!
"Get busy living or get busy dying!"
The Shawshank Redemption has now become one of the only handful of films that no-one objects to when you rank it number one or somewhere in the top five or ahead of The Godfather. Go ahead, try it. Now, many directors have tackled Stephen King, and while many have had their arrows miss the target, others have hit the bullseye straight; And Frank Darabont is one of the latter, giving us the greatest silver-screen adaptation of a SK story. It is all things positive and the reason why it is such a great film because everyone involved were great. No actor was miscast, no dialogue was off the hook and no scene was pointless. It is so well a-made movie that it is a surprise it was an utter flop when it was released back in 1994. This is what's wrong with our people; too slow in appreciating a genius movie like Shawshank and a genius director like Darabont. The pace of the film was perfect. To me it felt like akin to talking a tour around your best friend's home, and then sitting back and witnessing the day-to-day life of his family, with your best friend being your personal narrator, bringing you the ins and outs and ups and downs of everything. Shawshank Redemption falls under the category which I've labeled it as unparalleled cinema which also includes films like Ben-Hur, Godfather, Nosferatu and the like. Also, it has my vote for the National Film Registry, which after all, is quite a big honor for the movie and everyone involved in it.
From the performances, everyone remembers Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding, who is now considered by many to be the greatest black character in a film. Even though he was active for some time, it was this film that propelled Freeman to stardom and to an iconic status as we know him today. His rich narrative voice made him a favourite among directors, commercials and Oscar ceremonies. And who can blame them? Joining him by his side is Tim Robbins as Andy Dufrense, the main hero. Some say he was quite detached in his role but I say different. He had a mature and sensible aura to him that gave his character a unique understanding. Oh, and also his smile, don't forget that. Robbins was very believable in his character and I consider it to be his best role to date, tied alongside with Mystic River. Equaling them both was James Whitmore as Brooks, hands down the best performance from the film. I've always enjoyed his roles and this is one of his top 3 best ever. His nine-minute narration sequence is not only heart-breaking on a realistic level, but damn well acted and narrated. In all respects, the single most greatest narration sequence ever in a film. From the villains, Bob Gunton as the corrupt Warden Norton was simply the tops. Strictly professional and none of the clicking tongue bullshit. A performance like this is rarely seen in other movies. Joining him is William Sadler as Capt. Heywood, the corrupt's corrupt. Another brilliant performance, although not to the level of the above mentioned, but still brilliant.
In conclusion, The Shawshank Redemption is a rare film. A once-in-every-three-decades-film. It commands your attention and makes you cry unashamedly, wince in pain and howl with happiness. Yes sir, this film will make you squeal just like Ned Beatty did in Deliverance but it will still make you feel like a mountain of a man by the end.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Morgan Freeman - Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding Tim Robbins - Andy Dufrense James Whitmore - Brooks Hatlen
After 11 years of waiting, Toy Story 3 was worth it. Every damn second of it. Rarely has a third installment been this great. The voice-overs, especially by Ned Beatty as Lotso and Bud Luckey as Chuckles, were just great. The animation this time around was very beautiful and was 10x better than the first two and the storyline was also great.
All in all, this one has a more deeper theme of friendship and acceptance and, even for a fantasy world, has a more realistic feel to it. If the ending or atleast the climax doesn't move you to tears then you're obviously not paying enough attention to the scene. Toy Story 3 by all accounts is better than the first two and out of all the pop-culture references, I liked the Cool Hand Luke one! You will understand once you watch it!
The most youngest and stylish superhero film as of yet.
"I can't feel my legs!"
X-Men: First Class was impressive. I really enjoyed it. This film is proof that superhero movies can survive the next decade. It was sleek, stylish, had a great cast and had an admirable attention to details. It's clear to see that this film is modern. It's new. It's for everyone. Gone are the old and mature atmosphere of the previous X-Men films. First Class is young and it knows it.
Once again I'm going to point out the fact that I'm no comic book fan so I found some scenes confusing, as well as the placements of some characters. Unlike most others, especially the previous X-Men films, this one requires a lot of back knowledge and information because I was lost most of the time. Even though the overall effect was very entertaining, it just wasn't that accessible.
From the performances, I thoroughly enjoyed James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr. Here I was thinking that no-one could replace Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in their iconic roles but these two proved me wrong. Both were indomitable, right from the start to the finish. Even though I liked the casting of -well-knowns and not-so-well-knowns in supporting roles, none of the characters were developed, and many don't rise up to the level they were supposed to. In short, under-developed characters, but good performances. Kevin Bacon was surprisingly awesome in his role as Sebastian Shaw. He tackled his character as if Shaw were an Austin Powers villain, or an Inspector Gadget one.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class, but it could've done times better in the character-development department because, honestly, many felt cardboardish and not strong enough.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: James McAvoy - Prof. X Michael Fassbender - Magneto
This is how a vehicular-combat game would look like as a movie
"That thing there is not Goose"
Living in a time where everyone is obsessed with zombies, disease, and everything that's closely related to post-apocalyptic doom, 1979's Mad Max hit like a cool air of an electric hand A/C. Just like how everyone seems to think that psychology in movies equal to copious amount of blood and numerous jump-scares, they also think that zombies and/or gangsters will be the post-apocalyptic world's only residents, with the occasional lone-guy or two. Although nothing has changed much from yesteryear's dystopic films and of the ones of the now, at-least the old ones had class. Though we do have some great modern examples - like The Road - almost all of them steer in the one direction, with little to offer, apart from the usual tough guy and attractive eye-candy. The old dystopic films, especially those of the 80's, had the propensity for being either brutally stark or brutally honest. Caricatures, they were not.
Mad Max is easily one of the finest examples of the genre, and of Australia Cinema as well. To the casual eye this film is straight-up vehicular porn. There are spectacular cars, even spectacular crashes, and orgasm-inducing engine sounds and unrelenting machismo. Only two types of people may be attracted to a film like this: the morally depressed, or the hormonally charged. As for me, I'm rather unsure, to tell you the truth.
The world of Mad Max is all but dead. Fearsome personas roam what is left of anything and terrorize what is left of anyone. Fuel has become a precious scarcity, and vehicles - any kind - have become the most prized commodity. No-one should be without one. I enjoyed how they made it less Western and more 16th Century expedition-style. I also enjoyed how the characters were unconventional, with none being too self-aware, and all being formidable in their own ways. It's clear to see they're inhabiting a world they realize is too corrupted and broken down without their help.
Unlike most others, bar Blade Runner, this film is also very masculine. It really is a man's world out there, and women and children are second-hand assets. I also enjoyed the fact that almost nothing was exaggerated and the spotlight - thankfully - did not dwell much on the emotional factor; because this film doesn't have any.
From the performances, Mel Gibson was awesome, though a little bit loose around the edges, and that's perfectly understandable. It's from the second film onward he becomes the iconic character as we know him today. Nevertheless, I enjoyed his performance and I likened it to a light-headed version of Rick Deckard. From the supporting, Hugh Keays-Byrne was quite unsettling as Toecutter, the antagonist. The villains of the series have always been brutal and creative, and Toecutter is the best example, though he always get over-shadowed by everyone's favorite, Humungus, from the second film. The rest of the cast were exceptionally brilliant, too.
In conclusion, Mad Max is a must watch. It's a film with little to no soul in it, even less sympathy, but a-lot of powerful moments and awesome vehicular scenes.
"Ah! The good cop, bad cop, routine?" - this semi-classic quote was uttered by The Joker in The Dark Knight in 2008. Jump back two years, and you have a full-classic comedy/drama that personifies greatly the above quote. A crime has occurred, and one cop from Quebec and one from Toronto are summoned to clean up the mess. David Bouchard is from Quebec, and is the the law-bender of the two. Early on we're shown the life of David - he lives with his deliciously hot ex-wife and daughter, and it is obvious that he's rarely at home. Martin Ward is from Toronto, and is the Mr. By-the-Books of the duo, so he naturally (for me) became the best character from the film. His family life is this - divorced, lives with his 15 yr. old son, and occasionally invites his incredibly sexy sister to live with him. In any other film, a showcase - or a montage - of one's family life, or just few minutes of it, would seem pointless or cliche. In this film it's important, because very early on it emphasizes the important distinction between this film and other buddy-cop ones. Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, Se7en and others pit together two polar opposite personalities against each other, generally for comedic effect. Bon Cop, Bad Cop is that, but this time the missing pieces of the puzzle are from the same jigsaw puzzle.
The two cops, tough in their own ways, likable in their own manners, have nothing in common, except maybe that they're both divorced and that they're cops. With rapid fire transiting from English to French, their conversations, normal or heated, clash like two sabres. By the end, they end up forming a solid, almost unique, friendship that hasn't been produced in any other film - or to my knowledge at least.
The performances were as electrifying as the film. Colm Feore plays Martin Ward, the number 1 protagonist. Though initially employing seriousness to his character, he does fall under the serio-comic banner, and that's a compliment. Martin acts as a safety catch to David's explosive handgun. Patrick Huard, who plays David Bouchard, also gives an unforgettable performance. Unlike other buddy-cop films where the main guys are the polar opposites, David and Martin are practically cut from the same rough clothe, although one is cut by a razor-blade. Lucie Laurier and Sarain Boylan, the better half's of the aforementioned males, were almost equally impressive in their roles, too. The other rest of the cast were quite memorable.
In conclusion, Bon Cop, Bad Cop is one of those hidden gems. I think it deserves much more praise than it does, because it's so well executed and brilliantly balanced in both the violence and the humour.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Colm Feore - Martin Ward Patrick Huard - David Bouchard
Two strangers meet on a train. What destines to become a small, unmemorable conversation, turns into a chilling, calculating plan about murders and private matters. With the theme of double-crossing in action, Strangers may very well be Alfred Hitchcock's most silently subtle and ambiguous film. The film's antagonist, Bruno S. Anthony, a shirker and a psychopath, meets, in what we assume as a chance upon, his favourite tennis player the protagonist, Guy Haines.Bruno, apparently read a lot about him, at first unsettles the celebrity, but kinda comforts him down by his smooth talks. The meeting is so smooth, so devoid of stuttering and awkward moments that one thinks Bruno had planned everything out, as noticed by his behaviour when he invites Guy to his private compartment. Though the theme of double-crossing is foremost, a hidden theme - undertone - simultaneously runs throughout, like two trains at a crossroads - homosexuality. Bruno gives us jabs at this theme when he sits too close to Guy, and when he stretches out when they're in his compartment. Also, when he kills Miriam - Guy's ex-wife - he doesn't do it just because he had made a deal with a reluctant Guy, but due to his affection and attraction to Guy. In short, Bruno killed her for him.
Unlike Hitchcock's other films, say Vertigo, Rear Window and Psycho, all of which require a peek into the sub-conscious and heavy rewinding, the metaphors / symbolism in this film is right out in the open, but because they're minimalistic in nature, one often misses it easily. The two most important being the opening shot of the railroad tracks - they criss-cross each other, foreshadowing the main theme of the film and of Bruno's devious plan. The other is the logo of the two crossed tennis rackets on Guy's cigarette lighter. Throughout the film, Bruno represents Guy's psyche. He's the personification of Guy's inner sub-conscious personality, although this not to be taken literally.
Strangers is loaded to the brim with legendary moments. When Bruno pursues after Miriam, the name on his boat reads Pluto - the god of the underworld in Greek mythology. Once Miriam and her boyfriends and Bruno enter the cave, Bruno's shadow seemingly 'eats' her alive; foreshadowing her death. Scary in its brilliance, mesmerizing in its execution. But perhaps the single most greatest moment is when Bruno strangles Miriam to death. The murder is reflected in her eye-glasses, which had fallen off in the strangulation. Also symbolic is the method of execution. Minutes prior to Miriam's death, Guy angrily shouts that he would love to strangle her. The very next shot sees Bruno's hands, a sign as to show that somehow these two men are seemingly connected; or at least one is.
The next most memorable moment, even for the day, is when the protagonist and the antagonist have a climatic showdown on a carousel that spins wildly out of control - a fitting metaphor for the two mens' "relationship". It is indeed one of the most tense, nail-biting sequences I've ever seen. One of the carnival workers manages to shut it down, and the carousel breaks down, resulting in the death of Bruno and the freedom of Guy.
From the performances, I'd initially found Farley Granger's acting rather questionable. I deduced his performance as reluctant, due to his simultaneous displaying of both fear and relief on his face. It was only when I read several analysis's over the internet did I realize I had read him wrong. In retrospect, I now think it is easily one of the best performances in an Alfred Hitchcock film, although still a long shot away from Cary Grant and James Stewart. He had in him human, slightly homosexual features, and I guess that was the whole point. Though somewhat mysterious at times, Granger was far away from being dark, and that was a good thing. Honestly speaking, he reminded me of Dorian Gray. On the other hand is Robert Walker as the former's doppelganger, Bruno S. Anthony. The acting can be said as a shadow version of Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter.Walker wasn't at all slow neither was he too attention-grabbing; he marched to his own pace, a master of his own screen-time. He had the confidence of a person who had everything planned out in his head.
In conclusion, Strangers on a Train is a brilliant film. Calling it any less would be a sure-fire insult. It's a must-watch.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Robert Walker - Bruno S. Anthony
So far this year, Rear Window is the first film I've given a full 10/10 rating. Even though my rating system may be nondescript among others, a sort of a wave in pitch darkness, to me it is the best realized. It's not too flashy, not too complicated; short, simple and to the very point. Now, Rear Window is an arrestingly fascinating film. The follows an invalid, a photographer, peeping into the windows of his neighbors. What starts off as an innocent time-pass graduates into an obsession, and finally to the point of insanity. It's one of those one-setting films and emphasizes a-lot on psychological under-and-over tones, with symbolism and metaphors. Jeff, the protagonist, sees through his window to the others' windows and observes their different lives, all the while ignoring his own. This is a metaphor for cinema / screen itself. Behind every window there's a story; behind every reel there's a story waiting to be seen. Jeff is not a character, but us, the audience. His "television" or "cinema" screen(s) is / are the windows, just as the movie is our window to a story. His expressions and actions mirror that of ours. The more the film progresses, the more his "glance" becomes ugly and one-minded. At the climax when Miss Lonelyhearts is contemplating suicide, Jeff nonchalantly ignores her and instead focuses solely on Mr. Thorwald; thus reducing Miss Lonelyhearts to a shadow, a blurry background. It pretty much correlates our determination to know the truth and not get distracted by anything else. To sum it all up, we're pretty much spying on a security guard by a CCTV camera who is in turn watching others by several CCTV cameras on several screens - at once!
Jeff and Lisa Fremont are the complete antithesis of Mrs. Thorwald and Mr. Thorwald - the two important pairs in the film. In the former, the male is an invalid - he is confined, for most of the film, in one corner, due to an accident that leaves his left leg severely fractured. In the case of the latter, Mrs. Thorwald is the invalid - always sick and always nagging. Simultaneously, Rear Window plays on the theme of masculinity and femininity, and how each is both vulnerable and immune.
All the windows, apart from Jeff's own, represent the screen in which you're watching the film in, be that the TV screen, your iPad, your Samsung Galaxy. As you see none of the characters interact with Jeff, and, almost consciously, never seem to gaze in his direction. It's as if Jeff's not there, just as you are not there. I mean, movie characters don't interact with the audience, do they? Jeff's obsession with his neighbors - "characters" - and his increasing distance with Lisa - "audience" - is pointed out several times in the film. It is not only when Lisa goes into the Thorwald residence does she receive care and love from Jeff, because as far as the movie is concerned, Lisa becomes a character, an object to care about. Till then she was only an embodiment of a female persona. Once she enters the window, she literally jumps into a "movie" - a metaphor - and this triggers a reaction from Jeff. When Lisa points out the late Mrs. Thorwald's ring to Jeff - who had spying, as before, with his camera lens - Mr. Thorwald, who was standing next to her, looks up and gazes at Jeff and realizes that someone had been watching him the whole time. When he looks up, he is searchingly, and almost cruelly, looking at us. He kinda breaks the fourth wall by hinting at our inhuman desire to see the murdered wife, so see our morbid wish come true. He cannot believe that, and he personifies the stunned face of the film.
Caught in the act, Jeff switches off all the lights in his apartment and waits in the shadows for Mr. Thorwald to appear. Here the roles have reversed. The character from the movie has come to reality and is demanding answers. From the point where Mr. Thorwald appears in the room to where he pushes Jeff out of the window, the "eye" of the audience, that is to say the person from which we're seeing the film through, shifts from Jeff to Mr. Thorwald. Now Jeff has become a part of the spectacle, a part of a place where only the inhabitants of it can see him. When he is pushed from his window, every resident appears before him, finally recognizing him as "one of their own". The frequent use of the flashbulb to blind Mr. Thorwald could be a metaphor to blind us from the real truth.
Since the windows and their inhabitants also act as metaphorical mirrors to Jeff and Lisa, it can be almost safe to assume that the supposed "happy ending montage" of all the inhabitants could serve as a symbolic future of Jeff and Lisa. When the sexy Miss Torso opens her door, in comes a boyish army soldier, her true love. He utters that he's hungry; just as how Jeff utters when Lisa is first introduced. Also, he's back from war, and very early in the film we get to see that Jeff has taken several war photographs. There could be something there. Miss Lonelyhearts finds love in the Music Man. This could stand in for the lost love and love right under the noses - both of which describe Jeff and Lisa. The newly-wed couple, shown as happy and loving, are displayed to be arguing and the wife is heard saying something her husband losing his job. Also notice that none of the residents seem to have kids; or at least no kids are shown in visible frames. The above two could very well be symbolic to the potential future of the pair; Jeff, having now two broken legs, could for all we know remain that way for the rest of his life, rendering him impotent - alluding to no kids - and could very well be jobless - alluding to the bickering new couple. Also, the ending is not as happy as it seems. Lisa is seen reading a foreign travel book, but as soon as Jeff falls asleep, she picks up a fashion magazine, hinting at dark corners.
Remember, this is a nutshell-analysis, and was written for the sake of something to write on this movie. You can easily find hundreds of in-depth movie and character analysis scattered all over the internet. But before you go on reading about them, watch the film at least once, whether you're able to pick up the subtle clues or not.
From the performances, Grace Kelley, James Stewart, and Thelma Ritter (as Stella, Jeff's nurse) were outstanding in their respective characters. There's really not too much to say here except that all three gave realistic, standing ovation performances. Raymond Burr, too, was equally imposing as Lars Thorwald.
In conclusion, Rear Window is easily one of the finest movies ever made, and hands-down one of the few contenders of the number 1 greatest film ever made. In my book the number 1 spot is filled, but I think this film can settle down nicely in the number 2 spot. Hmm, now where should I place The Godfather now?
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: James Stewart - Jeff Grace Kelley - Lisa Fremont Thelma Ritter - Stella Raymond Burr - Lars Thorwald
A film that opens with a Santa Claus and a white man giving chase to a black man deserves to be given credit. That aside, French Connection is a monumental achievement, regarding the realistic characters and the realism in the nature of the surroundings. It's a starkly tough film, harsh, and brutal. Most of the early 70's films emphasized on the realism, and this film is no different. All the crashes, the punches, the against-the-walls, the shouts, the inhaling of the cigarette, the pointing of a finger; all felt natural, all too real, almost a semi-documentary in itself.
The story is this that a French criminal is smuggling narcotics from France to the USA, and two cops, Popeye and Cloudy, must stop him from doing so, or catch him red-handed. The plot is nothing original, but the way the film snakes around it is energetic, angry, powerful, and top of all, impressive right down to boot. True, the film does take time to come to its pace, but it's only natural. Given how modern dramatic-action films tend to go off like an atom bomb right from the first minute, and how every cast - even the villains - are incredibly handsome looking, The French Connection plays out like a slow-defusing dynamite, and has characters that very well could be the cinematic equivalent of Marcus Fenix and his company; damn ugly, but damn professional - no shadow of a smile, no sly smirk to the camera. Check out Bill Hickman: aquiline professionalism that cannot be matched, especially by modern standards, no matter how hard they try. He also co-ordinated the legendary car chase. Check out his other works - Bullitt and The Seven-Ups.
From the performances, Gene Hackman was the top dog. What impressed me the most was his hand gestures. Strong, dominant, full of power. This one performance is strong proof of a dominating, angry screen presence. Roy Schneider, on the side as Cloudy, was akin to a medicine tablet to a sugar patient. Slow, subtle, but effective. Fernando Rey was equally amazing as Alain Charnier, as was Bill Hickman, who plays Bill Mulderig. But Hackman and Schneider had such a strong grip on their characters and on the film as a whole that no other actor, no matter how skilled, could come to their level.
In conclusion, The French Connection is solid brick of a film, as hard-hitting as a boxing glove filled with pebbles, as mighty as Duke's Mighty Boot!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Gene Hackman - Popeye Roy Schieder - Cloudy
The sole reason why Spider-Man 2 is much lauded over its predecessor is because it is more mature. Not because it had to be, but because it learned from its past silly mistakes. This one is mature, dramatic, symbolic, and has emphasis on the psychological aspects of it. Even though this flick is not without its silly little touches here and there, it behaves like a responsible elder sibling that makes its predecessor a Sunday morning cartoon. Spider-Man 2 is the best from the series, and arguably one of the finer examples in the superhero genre, but despite this, is also rejected by the more action-heavy. It's funny how they reject this installment but love the 3rd one which is, in my opinion, the least memorable in the series. It plays out like a wireless mouse soon to run out of batteries. Just like the previous entry, this too is quite self aware. The part where Peter Parker ditches his costume in a trash-can, everyone treats it as the end of Spider-Man. I mean, no one says "this must be a fake" or "it must be a prank by the local joker" or anything. It could be anyone's costume for all we know.
Spider-Man 2 has too much to offer than your regular superhero movies. I mean, this film was The Dark Knight before The Dark Knight. It's one of those "To be or not to be" movies where the protagonist / antagonist has to decide whether to live out the rest of their lives as a man or as a mask. Here we see Peter Parker get affected by the failing relationship between him and Mary Jane - well, practically with everyone - and this in turn affects his costumed second life, with his webbing running out and falling from buildings. Look at the scene where he tries to save a kid from a burning building. Even though he's a superhero, he has rejected the idea, hasn't allowed his alter-ego to surface in a long time, and because of this he's unable to break down the door and get affected by the flames. You are who you are as long as you think you are. Stop thinking, and you unbecome that person. Not that you become an entirely new person, you just unbecome that personality. It's like filling or emptying a glass of water. If you fill it, it unbecomes an empty glass, but a glass nonetheless - and vice versa. The same goes for Dr. Otto Octavious, who becomes Doc Ock, the new terror in town. His mask is a metaphorical one. Unlike Green Goblin in the previous film who can't seem to remember his maniacal phrase at times, Doc Ock has rejected his once civil and honest man lifestyle. When the webhead knocks some sense into him, Doc Ock goes back to himself - a sort of reverse of what happens with Peter Parker. Hence this is the reason why he says "I will not die a monster" before, well, dying.
Mary Jane Watson, as we get to know here, is a somewhat successful stage actress. She plays Cecily in the play The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. The use of this play, and the certain scenes we get to see from it, is somewhat symbolic, or a metaphor, to the main theme of the film; identity. In the play, Cecily is so fixated on the name Ernest that she doesn't seem to care whose face goes along with it; the man has to be named Ernest, that is all. Algeron, the dandy of the play, assumes that name and tries to woo her. Although he is successful, he gets caught - but Cecily forgives him anyway, for she has fallen in love with Algeron - even though she already had fallen in love with him, but through a fog. The ending of Spider-Man 2 is very much reminiscent of this, as Mary Jane finds out about Peter's both true self and of his secret identity, and seems to forgive him and wants to spend the rest of her life with him, come hell or high water... or Venom, Carnage, Mysterio, Sandman, Hob-Goblin, Black Cat, Rhino or any from spidey's colourful rogue gallery :)
The version I downloaded was 2.1. The ".1" means it's an extended version, with over 8 minutes of scenes cut from the sans ".1" version. Viewing this version is one of my most pleasurable experiences as a movie-goer. I recently saw the "Redux" version of Apocalypse Now, but this "2.1" beats the "Redux" by miles; not by the longevity, but by subtleness of it. The scene with Mary Jane and Peter Parker by the fence is further extended, giving us a deeper look inside the life of the latter. The scene is almost flawless. Tobey Maguire almost flawlessly captured the micro-expressions, making him more than flesh and bone. See, it's these little things that count. If that doesn't sound too grabbing, then at least you get to see J. Jonah Jameson pretending to be the wallcrawler in his office... with the costume on!
Alfred Molina, you will agree, gave one of the greatest performances in a superhero genre. Willem Dafoe was amazing in the predecessor, and Thomas Haden Church was muscular and strong in the successor, but both of them weren't 1/4 of Ock's tentacles. In my opinion, this is the greatest performance given in the superhero genre, villain or hero.
In conclusion, Spider-Man 2 is a damn great film, if you ask me. Beats the first one by miles. Also, it is one of the Big 4 of the superhero genre, alongside X-Men 2, The Dark Knight and Batman Returns.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Tobey Maguire - Peter Parker Alfred Molina - Dr. Otto Octavious
On YouTube one of my earliest, and currently most popular, video is a MTV parody of this film, starring Jack Black as the titular hero. Due to receiving comments on that video on a daily basis, and I'm inclined to reply to most of them, I see that video 3-4 times a day... or at least the first 20-30 seconds of it anyway. At one point, after thousand comments and two-thousand views later, I decided to download the film and watch it once and for all, so that the constant nagging feeling I get every-time I play that video goes away. Five minutes into the film and I realize that I last saw this film at the cinema back in 2002, when I was only 9 yrs. old. I'm now 19, and it has been a full decade since I last saw it. This time nostalgia came in full force, all stop signs removed.
Since this was the first superhero film I'd seen in my life, I have a soft spot for it in my heart, but you can't deny, it is rather silly. This film, unlike most others (especially Nolan'sBatman movies) is so self-aware, so fictional. I mean, a normal teenager turns into a superhero, a human spider no less, and every citizen of New York is completely OK with this? Everyone accepts this anomaly as if it's a normal occurrence? Last year we had a mosquito-man and the year before a woman who could turn into a tiger - and now we have Spider-Man. Yea sure, we're all fine with this. Superhero movies, to me, are serious psychology studies, because we're talking about a man and a mask here. One's real and the other's an alter ego. Enough time passes and they both get mixed up. Sure, you might say that Norman Osborne / Green Goblin kinda proves the above point in the film, but you will also notice they don't dwell on it. All they show is a man, already half-mad, descending into further madness. I mean, there's absolutely no psychological aspects to it. The closest we ever get to it is where Spider-Man has to either rescue Mary Jane or a tram car full of children. There's a sense of morality in it, but it's so thinly veiled, and it's further marred by the hilarious comments made by pedestrians - who throw fruits to Green Goblin. This film's great, but there's no wonder why its sequel is so widely appreciated, because there's heavy use of psychological themes in it, a great deal of morality and understanding.
From the performances, Tobey Maguire won and made the role his own. If you've ever played Spider-Man 2000 for the PS1, then you will notice a lot of similarities between the webhead that appears in that game and the wall-crawler in this film. This is meant as a compliment, as I really enjoyed it. I don't know if the crew did this intentionally. Anyway, I can't imagine anyone else replacing him, and yes I know that he already has been, but only name-wise, not face-or-voice-wise. Kirsten Dunst was attractive and convincing in her role as Mary Jane, but it's clear to see she wasn't polished enough. Neither was James Franco, who plays Harry Osborne. Although the trio were great as first-timers, they all come to their true pace and fully connect to each other and themselves in the sequels; so if either of them seems a little rough on the edges, forgive them, as they get loads better in the second one. Willem Dafoe was instantly grabbing and memorable in his role as Green Goblin. A crazy, scary, megalomaniacal performance that only gets memorable by each passing minute. Although of course he's no match for Alfred Molina in the sequel, it nevertheless was a damn near perfect performance. If there's one qualm I have regarding the character is his costume. He looked like a reject from a 90's Power Rangers TV show. It was so comical, it was an hindrance. A costumed character like that should be blown up 20 times larger and be fighting Godzilla or the Red Ranger, because that's who / what characters like these often fight.
In conclusion, Spider-Man is a great film, and is easily one of the better examples of the genre. If you end up enjoying this film and the semi-silliness it employs, it's only natural; but if you rank the sequel higher, that's perfectly natural, too!
... aaannnddd Geoffrey Rush is back. Honestly, for me the only reason to enjoy the series is Rush. His quite affable character, Hector Barbossa, is the main backbone of the series: maybe that's the reason why I didn't enjoy the second part, but the first one and this one. Also, his crazy, but solidly dignified, performance that outmatches almost everyone. Mind you, I said almost, and the barrier that prevents me from writing "all" is, as you all know, Johnny Depp and his wildly eccentric performance as Jack Sparrow. There's a "captain" there somewhere, but I can't find it. Now this is how a PotC film should be done, fun, exciting, funny, great battle scenes, and one tight story with brilliant script-writing. I kid you not, but this installment actually increased my vocabulary. Belligerent, homunculus and perfidious have all entered my vocabulary. Now I just need the right reason to use them. Also bosun, but I already knew that; this film confirmed the meaning for me.
The directing this time around was mature, the cinematography was apex. The sequence where Sparrow is in Davy Jones' Locker was mesmerizing in its quality, humorous in its sub-story. Those 5 minutes very well could be a short film on its own, a sort of a feature that precedes certain cartoons, like the one in A Bug's Life. Although I was quite disappointed that they didn't show any battle concerning Kraken, I was later on glad they didn't; given the many battles and fights that happen, any Kraken one would've lost its appeal and would've dragged on the already long screen-time. Amidst this, a small hindrance did rise by the usage of tried and tested jokes, but they made up for that by creating a rather formidable villain out of Lord Cutler Beckett and making Elizabeth Swann a warrior woman, a sort of Lucy Lawless of the high seas. Despite the fact that the light was cast more strongly on the love story between the two coffee-faced lovers, the overall effect was less slushy than what I was expecting. Not to say I didn't like it, but it was a good move, it was in league with the rest of the film, although the "do you love me" and the "wedding scene" on the ship near the climax did drag on quite a bit.
Going back to the humour, it waded on dangerous waters (man, I'm using a lot of puns nowadays) when Barbossa places a pair of metal balls in an awkward position that does not go amiss with Sparrow. A short thinly-veiled conversation ensues, which may not be deciphered by kids, but will make a lot aware adults raise their eye-brows. I mean, seriously? Was that really necessary? When will Disney cease its obsession with subliminal messages / themes I do not know.
From the performances, all the returning cast were as strong as ever, with Keira Knightley being the most impressive. I loved how she transited from a dependent to an independent woman, but there certainly was interdependence between her and several characters, namely Sparrow and Turner. Speaking of which, Orlando Bloom was actually better in this one than the first two, provided strong shoulders - especially near the end of the film. Bill Nighy once again was impressive, although I felt he was underused. Tom Hollander gave a rather strong performance. His character, Beckett, provided a good mix of a man torn between "business", "revenge" and "pleasure." In an inspiring cameo, Keith Richards dominated his 3 minutes of reel fame. Chow Yun-Fat, too, in his short screen-time was awesome. But a painfully under-developed script and short screen-time made his character, Sao Feng, somewhat unmemorable.
In conclusion, At World's End is an awesome film. The Maelstrom Battle? Arguably one of the greatest battle scenes in all of movie history.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Bill Nighy - Davy Jones
"I'm disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Means "no"."
Of course, the actual film doesn't start until Johnny Depp appears onscreen. The scenes prior to his introduction are warm-up exercises for the eyes in order to get ready for the real thing. PotC started building itself as a franchise at a time when several more accessible ones were starting up, namely Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and X-Men. Even though PotC had tough competition and employed a rather obscure premise - pirates - it nevertheless became one of the greatest franchises in movie history, securing its place as a "Great" in movies' long history. Imaginative, wildly energetic and lively spirited, Curse fully won me over by its inoffensive humour, great script, and an exciting story + memorable characters. Even though I caught up with this movie 10 years too late, I can't wait to see the sequels, hopefully somewhere within this year. As great and somewhat original it was though, Curse acted as a spiritual successor of The Princess Bride at times, especially at the dueling sequences, most notably during the Will Turner / Jack Sparrow duel in a smithy.
The story is nothing to sneeze at. It very well could be written by either Sid Meier - in the epic moments - or by Tim Schafer - in the funny moments - and in the case of the latter, it's not even surprising since the franchise was inspired by the Monkey Island series, one of the many games in which Schafer was involved one way or another. The overall effect is a guilt-free fun and exciting ride.
From the performances, Johnny Depp made the role his own. A classic mixture of serio-comic and drunken demeanor, Capt. Jack Sparrow is easily one of the greatest eccentric personalities ever to grace the silver screen. A bumbling group of rag-tag miscreants they may be, but Sparrow's loyal followers are among the best likable and quite charming characters ever, and almost every actor nailed their part, making their respective characters interesting instead of annoying. Keira Knightley truly is a delectable English rose, and now after watching her as Elizabeth Swann, all lingering doubts have been swiftly removed. Although not a major fan of his work, Orlando Bloom was decent enough to carry portions on his shoulders but not strong enough to carry it all the way. I mean, back in the day he was still an inexperienced actor, and it shows very well in many scenes. Thankfully, skilled actors were at hand to help him, and to prevent us from getting up from our seats too soon. Geoffrey Rush was simply the tops as Hector Barbossa, the charismatic and wildly entertaining antagonist. Man, if there's one reason to watch this film, it has to be Rush, as no other actor - bar Depp - who puts a lot of skill and fun in his character.Zoe Saldana, in her short role as Anamaria, was absolutely delicious. When she first appeared, I was really hoping for her to take the centre stage, but was quickly resigned to the fact that she's just a minor side character, nothing more. Shame, really... and too bad she doesn't appear in the sequels!
In conclusion, Curse of the Black Pearl is a solidly entertaining film that is surprisingly guilt-free. None of the cringes, no offensive material, but certainly a lot of laughter and duels!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Johnny Depp - Capt. Jack Sparrow Geoffrey Rush - Hector Barbossa
Arguably one of the greatest achievements in animation history, The Lion King is an epic on several levels. Disney was a mammoth in the 90's, churning out classics one after the other that are still enjoyed to this day. Sadly, from the 2000's to present day, Disney hasn't quite created an epic cartoon like Tarzan or Mulan yet, and that's a shame really, seeing as how Disney was the childhood to millions worldwide. Some might say that Pixar is now the new kid on the block, but you can't deny the fact that even Pixar is quickly losing its touch, although they indeed have created classics - Wall-E, Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. - that will be remembered for a long time but nowadays they're all about quantity and not quality.
Although the animation certainly was beautiful - the point is clearly made when very early in the movie a small montage of the Pridelands is shown - and was indeed enchanting in its colourful moments such as the "I Can't Wait To Be King" number and haunting in its monotonous, less-lively scenes such as the elephant graveyard and what becomes of the Pridelands under Scar's rule. Despite that, it still felt a little restrained. Also, the characters, while appearing onscreen, would slide in, as if being pushed from the behind and the side from where they're entering the screen from, left, right, or anywhere. Although it's just a minor thing, the fact that it was released in 1994 should not account for justifying this setback. Many cartoons, both of its time and before, were much more realistic, like 77's Rescuers or 89's Little Mermaid.
From the voice-overs, Matthew Broderick as the voice of Simba was instantly winning over, he bought a lot of, er, lionity? to his role. I can't think of any other voice replacing him. James Earle Jones was another strong actor in the film, voicing Mufasa. A strong, dominating voice that stays with you long after it has finished. Basically, no voice-over was bad, every v.o. was alive, energetic, convincing, and thoroughly winning over. A great achievement in both fields - animation and voice-over!
In conclusion, The Lion King is arguably one of Disney's strongest films. Too bad the sequels weren't as good as the original.
One of my personal favourite movies. Guaranteed to win anyone over!
"Hurt old man feeling"
Let it be known that The Karate Kid is one of my absolute favourite movies of all time. An instantly likable flick, it has a great cast, a story suitable for all ages, and one of the best relationships in movie history; not just between the the two main characters, but between the viewer and the film, too. There's no denying that, among others, magic and triumph-in-the-air movies were the most produced in the 80's. They had/have a timeless charm that was unique. Seriously, anyone tired of watching Back to the Future or the original Terminator?
The Karate Kid is a feelgood, loosely energetic, and highly entertaining film about a bullied kid who wants to learn karate as a means to defend himself. His caretaker in his new home, Mr. Miyagi proves more than a friendly person, more than a just a caretaker: he becomes an uncle-figure of sorts to young Daniel and ultimately becomes his karate master and helps him win the tournament. Although the film opens on a decent note, the first 15-20 minutes will leave you with mixed feelings, as the film doesn't come to its true pace. After when it crosses that mark, Karate Kid finds its pace, and without becoming too much of Rocky, continues peacefully in its own manner, almost like an original work. Although, yes, the film does become cheesy in the end - crane kick with a broken leg? Sure! - but that's all right, because it's an 80's flick, and cheesiness is all part of it. Watch Commando and you will understand!
Ralph Macchio plays Daniel, the protagonist. Macchio may be a name lost among young teenagers nowadays, me included (I only know him from this film and My Cousin Vinny), he nevertheless gave arguably one of the greatest performances in young adults history. He captured and expressed the smallest nuances of a hero whose soul has been dampened but never defeated. His nervous twitches, body language, muttering under the breath, everything was perfect, realistic. Check out the part when he and Mr. Miyagi are trying to catch a fly using chopsticks. I bet he forgot there were cameras on him. Noriyuki "Pat" Morita is another name lost among us but since Mr. Miyagi is a widely appreciated character and since his name often pops up in "great movie characters" list, Morita receives silent, dignified recognition from those who have time to give it. He easily gave a classic performance, making Mr. Miyagi an accessible and beloved character of modern times, and possibly of all times. Remember, when Mr. Miyagi speaks, we all listen. Elizabeth Shue was quite tasty in her role as Ali Mills but felt too one-dimensional, at least for a majority of the film. Another performance I enjoyed was by William Zabka as Johnny, the film's main antagonist. He gave a convincing performance without stressing too hard. Although never appearing onscreen without sporting a Draco Malfoy-esque smirk first and never having more than 5 lines in a row, he was one of the realistically written characters. The only qualm I have is of Randee Heller's character, Lucille - Daniel's mother. Her performance, although electric in the short screen-time she gets, was terribly underused. I would've loved to see more of her. Her character, unfortunately, doesn't rise up against the others, and was the most under-developed character that almost too quickly disappears into obscurity the more the film progresses.
In conclusion, The Karate Kid is a great film, a must watch for all ages. It is a timeless classic!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Ralph Macchio - Daniel Pat Morita - Mr. Miyagi William Zabka - Johnny
Brilliant humour and great action sequences! This is win!
"You had THE noodle dream"
4 years later, Panda is still an excellent achievement and still hilarious as on the first viewing. In an age where cartoons and thinly-veiled pop-culture references and predictable stereotypes go hand in hand, Panda was - and still is - a pleasant, welcome surprise. The opening short sequence is rich in animation and story-telling, borrowing heavily from Samurai Jack. A unique blend of humour and martial arts, Jack Black's winning voice-over makes you think that, seeing the success this film enjoyed and Brutal Legend, Black should collaborate again with Tim Schafer on a game based on this film. Seeing Schafer's past repertoire, I'm sure it will be of great success.
Both like and unlike others, Panda has a lot of charm, a host of incredibly likable and strong characters, amazing voice overs, and a great setup. The animation, particularly, won me over. It was energetic, every living thing felt alive, every inanimate object wonderful. Besides charm and humour, the other thing it showcases is the brilliant martial arts / fight sequences. For a cartoon, they're arguably the best, and rival some of the real film ones. And it's not surprising to see why as Jackie Chan was also featured in the cartoon - as the voice-over for Monkey, one of the Furious Five. Even though the action scenes were very fast and quite blurry, the overall effect was awesome!
In conclusion, I loved every bit of the cartoon. Kung Fu Panda, although didn't bring anything unique to the table, was freshly original and as bit hilarious as whatever your mind associates with that word. If it's pooping on each other and calling each other vulgar words, then no, Panda is not that. You need therapy!
A triumph of a boxing film that will make you go through all shades of emotion in existence!
"Mo Cuishle - My darling, my blood!"
Million Dollar Baby is a boxing film but it's not about the life inside the ring: that means it's not energetic. It's not about the life outside the ring: that means it's not dramatic. It's about journey, the road that connects these two worlds, the fine strip in which one comes alive that's between shadow and light. This film is unique in the respect that we get to see two relationships from two characters' point of view. One, a relationship between two generations and two; the tact passion for their mutual love for boxing. Frankie is a wounded man, a person broken by his past and present that continuously gets damaged by his uncertainty of the future. Maggie is almost Frankie's reflective, but with distinct differences: she's not much about the past or the future, but is focused straight on the present and, unlike others, is a wounded person in becoming. These factors start a solid relationship that may seem indifferent to the third party but is once-and-never for these two. We get to see the rise and fall of this connection through Scrap Dupris's point of view, who is at first a background enigma but becomes the solid voice of the film as time progresses.
Now the boxing: rarely has any other film portrayed a sport as a character in itself. For the characters in the film, boxing is not a sport, but rather a living entity they must visit on a timely basis. We almost never get to see the the boxing. By that I mean we hardly get to see what it represents in the ring, but rather the workings of it - what drives it, the fuel of the game. Approach it correctly and you may be rewarded in more ways than one. Disrespect it and you may lose more than just your reputation. In short, the film is fearless and afraid, simultaneously!
Hilary Swank gave just about the most dedicated, powerhouse performance in her career. She was absolutely stunning in her character, making her both a weak and strong person, an effect although many have achieved, but none so much in the sports genre. It surely is one of the electrifying performances from a female. Clint Eastwood once again was the show-stealer, once again showcasing us his great acting skills as well as superb directing. Morgan Freeman was great in his role, too, giving us another character we all love, and a narration that's difficult to outrank. The rest of the cast were great, too, with Jay Baruchel being the best from the minor. Although the character was very one shaded, Jay a lot of development and likable personality to him that will imprint upon your mind. Not exactly one of the greatest but not exactly forgettable either.
In conclusion, Million Dollar Baby is a much watch. It's much more than what it implies to be. It has personality and definite solid shape to it.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Hilary Swank - Maggie Fitzgerald Morgan Freeman - Scrap Iron Dupris
As sleek as a concept car and as energetic as a sports one!
"Live long and prosper!"
It's true that I ain't no Trekkie, and it's true I couldn't tell who's who in the universe, but since J.J. Abrams proved himself as a more accessible version of Joss Whedon, I didn't need to bother myself with extensive past knowledge. This is modern film done right. Those who grew up with the series or those who still hold the original series in high regard of everything else, I cannot say for sure how their feelings were, but for me, a true newbie, I was simply mind-blown; and it had almost nothing to do with the mythos of Star Trek. It was the execution style, the easy to follow storyline, the strong casting and brilliant script-writing that held my attention.
A sci-fi at heart with action as its soul and humour for brains, Star Trek is one of modern cinema's great "young" films - casting young actors who more or less fall somewhere near the late 20's/early 30's line, and are crafted specifically for modern audiences. Not films like the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street or Avatar or Cloverfield, but the ones although specifically and directly aimed for the modern audiences, can also be enjoyed by old-timers and the untargeted ones. This film has a sleek as a silver concept car look to it while adopting a shiny razor-edge atmosphere that gives a two-finger salute to "older", "humdrum" films like Indiana Jones and I Am Number Four and Hulk, just to name a few. Anyway, it is brilliantly crafted, has several rewindable moments, and although it does for a moment fall into a melee free-for-all mode with several predictable moments and a Spock-ception climax, it manages to end on a great note that altogether makes you wish the Star Wars prequels were more like this and less of the misshapen clay pieces they unfortunately became.
From the performances, Chris Pine totally won me over by his charismatic performance as Kirk. Although initially introduced to us as a reckless playboy, he almost quickly rejects the cliche path and becomes the main highlight of the film. Zachary Quinto, in an equally impressive performance as Spock, too won me over. Their chemistry was immaculate and their combined screen presence was at times mesmerizing and at times a ying-yang clash, like a space version of First Class's Magneto and Prof. X. From the supporting, everyone was highly charming, charismatic in their own ways and energetically spirited, with Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin and John Cho stealing the side spot-lights. Simon Pegg was a welcome surprise, adding a whole new crazy level of humour and personality to the film. Zoe Saldana made the best of her screen-time but seemed too confused to set on a specific path. As if she was unsure whether to transit from the previous attitude to another or to not. But still, this is one of her best screen roles to date. Chris Hemsworth, in his cameo at the beginning, was surprisingly full of personality and development. Not bad for a guy who only has 15 minutes of screen time. Eric Bana, although brilliant in his role as Nero, did not bring anything new or unique, but I still say this: Nero is definitely one of modern cinema's best acted villains, even if the character wasn't exactly original nor sympathetic, especially when his tragic past is revealed.
In conclusion, Star Trek is definitely one to watch. It's well written, well acted, has humour, has action, and should make for a perfect popcorn-and-soda night!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Chris Pine - Kirk Zachary Quinto - Spock
Letters From Iwo Jima is the companion film to Flags Of Our Fathers: while the latter showed the American side of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the former shows the Japanese side of the same war. Seeing the type of films he's been making for almost a decade tells me he might very well become the Stephen E. Ambrose of Hollywood. I saw Flags a long time ago, and have forgotten much about it, so I won't be doing any comparing between the two. Letters is an impressive film, beautifully executed, has emotional depth, and a different perspective on the battle. The Japanese are portrayed as honest, respectful, sensitive and overall tough, or at least some of them. Their sense of honor and loyalty is impressively detailed here. Unlike most others, who put the war in front and the soldiers in the back, Letters does the opposite. Instead of playing on the theme on how soldiers affect the war, it plays on how the war affects the soldiers. The film gets increasingly violent, with blood and gore you normally wouldn't expect to show up, despite the fact it's a war film. By the time the film ends, you will have new found respect for all the brave soldiers portrayed in the film who stood and fought till their last breath, and (probably) sympathize with those who couldn't.
In the performances, Ken Watanabe was absolutely fearless in his role as General Kuribayashi. A dedicative, almost flawless performance. He was indeed the heart and soul of the movie, provided strong shoulders and bought deep characterization to his role. Simply put, he was perfect. All the rest of the cast were equally superior, had their moments, and bought appropriate understanding and connection to the viewer.
In conclusion, Letters From Iwo Jima is an authentic, superb war film that touches on many topics. It can be said as a modern war masterpiece, and one of the damn greatest war films of all time!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Ken Watanabe - General Kuribayashi
The Rock is complete bad-ass. If this sentence reminded you of the wrestler, don't bother reading this review. Michael Bay has become synonymous with big-budgeted flicks with little to no soul to them nowadays. The Rock is as arthouse a film as one can get. This film is still to this day his most celebrated film, and his most critically acclaimed, and that's ironic seeing he is less known for his one sole hit and more for his string of misses, namely Armageddon, Pearl Harbour and the Transformers franchise, which were far more superior in the "financially acclaimed" and less in the "critically acclaimed."
This film is nothing more or less than a standard, generic action film. All the signatures of one are present here, some being thinly characterized, others starkly presented. It has mindless destruction, some off-dialogue, and some moments of insanity, but despite this, The Rock is actually one of the more plausible action films I've seen with a damn engaging storyline and powerhouse performances by the lead trio. Since it's an American film, it also has a tiring pseudo-patriotic speech by the president that's less on the tears and more on the groans! These moments do little to no justice in the film, and only belong to the real world.
In the performances, this is the last time we get to see Sean Connery as a complete bad-ass character, in one of his strongest performances of his career. He completely owned the film, and his introduction is arguably one of the greatest in recent movie history: a huge, rusty and tough as nails prisoner with a grunge hairdo. Not bad for a guy who once introduced himself as "Bond. James Bond." Even though Mason lacks emotional depth, he is at home in the carnage and destruction, that makes his character look like a mustachoi'd, hair metaller version of the Terminator, or maybe a steampunk-era reject. Joining him is Nicolas Cage in one of his best roles to date, giving an entertaining performance. Just like the case with Mason, we almost never get to see Stanley's emotional side, but instead get to see all sides relating to carnage, violence, and swearing. The reason why I'm bringing this up is because they felt too one-sided at times, too restricted. But unlike other action movies which are completely mindless, this one had depth, had value. Ed Harris had integrity in his role as Gen. Hummel, the antagonist in the film. He had his character down pat.
As much as a high point the film was to many who were involved in it, it was also the last greatest effort for many. Michael Bay, for one, never directed a great film after this. Big on the money, yes, but low on the quality. this was Sean Connery's last greatest role before he retired - after a string of failures, that is. Same goes for Nicolas Cage, although he did have a string of hits, another Oscar nomination, and a great comeback in Kick-Ass, almost none matched up to this film and his 90's films in general.
In conclusion, The Rock is an awesome piece of work, has (almost) everything you could ask for, and should be right up your alley if you enjoy films like these.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Nicolas Cages - Stanley Goodspeed Sean Connery - John Patrick Mason Ed Harris - General Hummel
One of the quintessential action movies from the 90's!
"Put the bunny back in the box!"
Con-Air was, simply put, an awesome movie. I liked the premise, the convincing dialogues, the strong cast and the overall story-telling. There's nothing too flashy or gimmicky about it. You have give them props at their attempt at a quite-solid, quite-memorable action film. The film starts off with Cameron Poe enjoying a lovely moment with his wife that is quickly interpretated as "going to go bust" by our all too accustomed eye(s). After a drunken street brawl, which includes the death of the drunk, Cameron is sent to 7 years to jail. After a very bad 2 minute voiceover, and a montage / introduction of all the criminals that are to board the plane, the real film starts. Yes, when Cyrus takes over the plane, we know we're in for some memorable moments.
The majority of the charm lies in the characters. They're neither over or under developed, but appropriately done. They felt bad-ass, as tough as rusty nails, but there was not too much depth, but that's OK. The charm also comes from the theme. Man, it is one of the loudest, most awesome movie theme of all time.
In the performances, Nicolas Cage as Cameron Poe was both awesome and unhinged. In the 90's he was at his peak. Like him or hate him, he starred in some of the best movies, gave some of the best performances, and showcased his love for hair. Over here he sports long, mangly, Cobain-esque one. If you can look past his deadpan stare and utterly bad quotes, the performance is one of his top 10 best. The main show-stealer of course was John Malkovich, who had my attention by his performance as Cyrus, the main antagonist. His great line delivery and crazy control on his character did the trick. John Cusack was pretty cool in his role, too, but nothing too exceptional. He has done better. Steve Buscemi, it seemed, was everywhere in the 90's. So when I saw him appear in the last quarter, I wasn't the least bit surprised. Even though his screen-time was quite short, he managed to give a haunting, hypnotic, everlasting performance that showcases just how cool he is! The rest of the cast were just as cool, but a little more depth in them could've made most memorable.
In conclusion, Con Air is a bit like Predators on a plane, and is - alongside Speed - one of the quintessential action movies from the 90's.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: John Malkovich - Cyrus
One of Bollywood's best comedies with roundhouse performances
"Go bring your own body!"
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S has two of the most iconic, most likable characters in Bollywood history who aren't, thank goodness for that, chocolate heroes or intimidating villains. If I were to mash the above two, I would say that Munna and Circuit are intimidating heroes and no, even I don't know why I wrote that. Not only do they make an effectively comedic duo, but the Arshad Warsi / Sanjay Dutt pairing is the greatest in recent Bollywood history, but second only to the Shahrukh Khan / Kajol pairing if thought for all time. It's a comedy film; and a Bollywood one at that, so expect quite many implausibility and loop-holes. But these things are only noticed by viewers with the intention to criticize the film, you know, the haters. But since only few of them ever actually make it through the film, it's safe to say the others (like the guy reviewing this film) oversee these little problems and focus on the funny.
The story is this that Munna is a gangster, although he prefers to call himself "social worker". His modus operandi is that he kidnaps people, asks for ransom, and then promptly lets them go. All done comically of course. To the world he is a gangster, but to his parents he is a doctor. You see, he lied to his parents that he is a doctor, which of course he is not, and whenever they come down to visit him, he and his group of hoodlums quickly convert their base into a makeshift hospital, with Munna assuming the role of the doctor and his gang members becoming patients or other doctors / nurses. The premise seems achingly painful and/or boring on paper, but believe me it is 10x times funnier than the most recent funniest film you've seen, unless that happens to be Groundhog Day or any of Mel Brooks films: man, those films are hard to beat!
Performance-wise, Sanjay Dutt as Munna totally steals the show. He has always been one of my favourite Bollywood actors ever since I saw him in Hum Kisi Say Kum Nahin. He is at home at playing corrupt figures, police officers, or otherwise tough characters. A sort of Vinnie Jones of Bollywood. Sanjay Dutt is one of the relatively few actors who can blur, or vanish, the fine line between actor and character. Other notable mentions are Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman and Boman Irani, who appears in this film as the primary antagonist, Dr. J. Asthana. He is easily one of the finest actors of Bollywood, of this time and of all time. True, he ain't no Sanjeev Kumar, but since his characters have aggressive demeanors and large personalities, he doesn't need to be compared to other actors, since he marches to his own beat - or at least at times. He effectively transisted from normal to villain to normal again. Sunil Dutt, real life father of Sanjay, also provided a good enough screen presense. Arshad Warsi plays Circuit, the hero's sidekick and second icon. Comedy can be done by almost anyone but only a certain few can bring it to upper levels and actually make your sides ache with laughter. Paresh Rawal, Johnny Lever and Govinda exercise that in each and every of their films; Arshad Warsi does it in here, giving us moments that are worth rewinding.
In conclusion, if I were given a chance to recommend just few Bollywood films to someone, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S would certainly be one of them. It is a must watch!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Sanjay Dutt - Munna Boman Irani - Dr J. Asthana
In the wood known as Holly, the comedy genre has by far flirted with other genres the most. The word "comedy" has nowadays - or at least to me - become a very feared prefix; comedy-horror, comedy-drama, comedy-war etc... From the comedy field, I've found many to be worthless, not the least bit amusing, and downright either pretentious or ugly - with such examples like poking fun of someone "erratic", a religion, a nationality, an accent, or the dude who just walks teensy bit funny, resulting in 99% of unfunny gags, offensive moments and just downright stupidity. For the sake of this (argument?), I will rule out parody / spoof movies, so no Mel Brooks reference here. Or ZAZ. By comedy I'm taking examples from all decades. The old comedies may seem innocent, smart and witty, but there's a lot of (at least in some of them) offensive material going around. From the late 70's to mid-80's onward, the word comedy apparently means barfing in the other guy's meal, spitting at his face, yo mamma jokes, vulgar script with a mind of a zombie (so basically, mindless), and thinking that Ben Stiller or Adam Sandler can make a movie funny by just showing their faces - or in the case of the latter, dressing up as a woman. It's funny that a large number of members here like them for their serious, dramatic role(s). Something I think most of the world thinks, too. When will Hollywood wake up to this fact, I'll never know.
Anyway, why did I bring up this issue? Because Priscilla is sans all that. Priscilla is a great - no, scratch that - classic comedy-drama that excels in both of the fields either side of the hyphen, first making your eyes tear with laughter and then with (wo)manly emotional scenes, that will not necessarily make you cry a la Terms of Endearment mode but in a Dan in Real Life or Adaptation manner. Two drag queens and a transsexual (actors names in a moment) start their journey from Sydney to Alice Springs to do a show, only to get lost in the desert along the way. This is where their troubles start and where our laughter doesn't stop. Three neither larger or smaller than life characters spend the rest of the film - or at least the scenes in the desert and the hotel - bickering, arguing, drag-dancing, discussing ABBA, and swearing in such a fashion that puts Withnail & I and Goodfellas back by decades. The main story is simple and highly entertaining. The trio meet a host of equally colourful characters along the way and, whether they become friends or enemies, the trio blend in easily and constantly remind us of the fact that they indeed are the show-stealers of the film. Putting the positivity or the negativity of the characters (all of them) aside, I think the main spotlight of the film was not on the characters and how / who they were: I think it was on what and why they were like that. One is shown bored, one enthusiastic and one anxious. Instead of making them the butt of each and every joke, the script-writers made them tough and, to a certain-point level, quite affable and charming. The characters were full of individuality, invincibility and at the same time, vulnerability - akin to the major boss enemy at the end of a game or a level / stage. In conclusion, the story, the script, the set-up - everything was enjoyable and original. I've never laughed this hard at the pitch-perfect line delivery, the correct swear word(s) at the right moment, and the hilarious performances by the trio. And it's funny because I've never enjoyed films like these before. Ever.
Terence Stamp stole the spotlight. He stole each and every inch of it. To say he was out-staged or out-performed by any other would be akin to saying that N Dappy is better in fighting than Shang Tsung. He provided strong shoulders to the film. Also, his line delivery was pitch perfect. It was so perfect that even in the simplest of the words, he provided a lot of (reluctant) hilarity and strong soul to character. Hugo Weaving has, from the last 10 years, become a strong example of a great, flawless actor. Seeing him in the film that shot him to stardom was something exciting. He provided a lot of rib-tickling hilarity and open-mouthed dramatic turns that if you are a long time appreciator of his performances, will have you add another of his great performance in your mind, or if you not then will have you become an appreciator. He definitely was awesome in his role. Guy Pearce to me is one of the coolest actors in active right now. Cool through Memento and L.A. Confidential. His role as Adam/Felicia was the most energetic, full of lively enthusiasm and rich in presentation. Sort of like all clowns in a carnival combined in one energetic character. It's hard to accept the fact that both Weaving and Pearce went on to play serious, humour-less characters such as Agent Smith and Leonard Shelby, when both started out as just the opposite!
By the time the film ends, you will have want the Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n Roll archetype to be replaced by Tranny, Drags & ABBA.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Hugo Weaving - Anthony/Mitzi Terence Stamp - Bernie/Ralph Guy Pearce - Adam/Felicia
Even though it's not the case, Orphan to me seemed a very nice attempt at reviving the Hammer Horror banner. No other modern horror film has captivated me this strongly. It has almost become a ritual to cast a young / teen actress in either a high-school comedy or a horror film. Nearly every actress born in the late 80's / early-mid 90's has starred in the aforementioned genres, with only a relatively few coming out on top. Isabelle Fuhrman is one of the few. Prior this film, I always thought of Jodelle Ferland as the definitive modern young horror actress, due to her double role in Silent Hill. I guess she now has competition because Isabelle was truly frightening, convincing, and brilliant in her role as Esther, who, in a surprise twist, is not "little" as we're led to believe. Orphan has bought forward a great talent that - I hope - doesn't get tarnished and wasted by party-hopping and drug-pushing. Isabelle has now to me become the definitive face - alongside Jodelle - of modern horror movies which tend to have child stars in them. I wouldn't be surprised if she were to become a horror icon - either the actress or her character, doesn't matter.
Speaking of which, the utterly beautiful Vera Farmiga's - long lost sister of Madonna - character, Kate Coleman, has all the makings of a horror heroine. May not seem much in front of Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley, but she suffers more than both of them, and manages to make her character interesting and quite-sympathetic. As far as scream queens are concerned, Vera's 30 second scream in the disturbing opening alone should make her one. From the 2000's, Kate - alongside Amanda Young from SAW and Emily Rose from The Exorcism of Emily Rose - is the definitive scream queen.
Story-wise the film is gripping, but slips awkwardly out of control sometimes. Some scenes really give off the feeling as if they're trying to go too far to scare you; as if unsure whether to put psychological tension in front or full front violence. I really enjoyed the pacing of the film but they could've done less with the uneasy suspense and more with the actual thriller. Not that it matters much. The tension is high and quite unsettling, but falls into the cliche hole at the end. It had little fire to it, little flair. Had it been more of a boom, more dramatic, more edgier, it would've worked, but instead they tried to imitate Carrie's iconic ending moment.
Performance-wise, Vera Farmiga and Isabelle Fuhrman won me for all the right reasons. Their chemistry was very convincing, although not altogether real. Peter Sarsgaard has never really impressed me with his performances. But then again I haven't seen him in many movies. In here he was quite good in his role, with all the correct expressions and all, but hardly great or amazing. Jimmy Bennett still has a long time to make his name known in Hollywood, but he won't be doing that if he keeps playing annoying characters / giving annoying performances. This is the 3rd or the 4th time I've seen him do the above two. Jimmy, grow up, go star in a musical or something. Aryana Engineer was so cute in her role as Max, a deaf-mute, and reluctant assistant to Ester. She and Isabelle really made a good pairing, and I'm hoping to see them together in another film!
In conclusion, I really loved Orphan, its suspense, its vulnerability - especially from Kate's side - and its unpredictability - especially from Esther's side, and the climax. It's not a very tight film but I enjoyed it all the same!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Vera Farmiga - Kate Coleman Isabelle Fuhrman - Esther
Spy Kids is to little kids what James Bond is to hormone-filled young adults and what Jason Bourne is to serious one-minded teenagers. In compared to other directors, Robert Rodriguez falls a little short; stand-alone, and he takes the center stage. Rodriquez has always been influential, being at his peak in El Mariachi and Sin City. This film is just like the director; if compared to his other films, say Sin City, it doesn't amount to much, but as a stand-alone film, it is arguably one of the best children / family films ever. It has a goofy, quite-contrived, quite-implausible plot, crazy, colourful characters and promising new talents that has, sadly, gone to waste now.
Daryl Sabara and Alexa Vega were two of the most promising talents ever to grace the silver-screen. They play Juni Cortez and Carmen Cortez, respectively, and shared an almost impeccable chemistry. Performance-wise, both were great, likable, relatable, dedicated, and downright simple in their characters. No exaggeration, no nothing. Although there could be better candidates, I think we should just declare Carmen and Juni as the Tom & Jerry of the movie-sibling-world. Antonio Banderas is always a welcome in most cases and over here he is no exception. He managed to bring a certain serio-comic edge to his character that I last noted displayed by Robert Donat in The 39 Steps.Carla Gugino has always been one of my favourites, although mostly looks-wise than performance-wise, but she was good all the same. Tony Shalhoub was equally impressive, quite chameleon like, a surprising achievement seeing as he was sharing screen-time with Alan Cumming, a master of disguise himself. I personally believe that Alan should play Willy Wonka, with Tony at his side, because I enjoyed their duo. Robert Patrick and Danny Trejo, although different in their respective careers and status, belong in the "pack" of seriously cool actors who are damn underrated. Great performances or not, these actors are a welcome onscreen presence and they put the entertainment in entertainment.
In conclusion, Spy Kids is definitely going in my greatest movies list, a rather strange inclusion yes, but I like this flick that much. Give it a try, and try to avoid the sequels as much as you can, especially 3 and 4.
Disney should once again bring in Shelby Flint to sing in one of their features
"I'm lost at sea without a friend!"
It may not seem much, but The Rescuers is one of Disney's most haunting and depressing cartoons with a violent atmosphere. Little kids may laugh at the silly antics of the mice (such as when Bernard's tail gets stuck in the book, etc...) and may find the crocodiles "cool", but we, the adults, get to see much more than that. Although not in the strictest sense, The Rescuers is a scary cartoon. It opens up memorably with the song, Journey, which is sung by Shelby Flint in her effectively haunting, and angelic, voice. The tragic song + the violent sea montage sums up in 3 minutes the tone and nature of the film. The story is that Penny is taken in by Medusa and Scoops, two very terrible people, and make Penny retrieve a diamond from a difficult place. I don't know about you but to me it played out like a demented, even more darker version of Wind in the Willows and Mathilda, with all the sweetness taken out.
Upon getting Penny's cry for help, Bianca and Bernard set off to rescue her. These two very likable characters, although given enough time to display their likability, are not given enough time to develop personalities. Not to say I'm complaining or anything, just something they could've worked on. Medusa is one of Disney's most under-rated villains. I do believe she was modeled after Cruella De Ville because she bears many similarities to her; Quick-temper, one-minded behavior, low tolerance etc....
In conclusion, The Rescuers is arguably one of Disney's greatest efforts to date and one of their most (oddly) charming and beautiful. The story is simple, although quite r-rated, and the songs sung by Shelby Flint are one of the most haunting, yet so angelic.
"Ian was walking pain", went a line describing the late Joy Division's singer. "His whole short life was black & white", went another. So it should be appropriate that Control was filmed in stark black & white, all the while giving us a pain-and-depression filled atmosphere and a superb performance by up-and-comer Sam Riley that was haunting and sublime. Taking the title from Joy Division's most iconic song, She's Lost Control, this film chronicles the very short life of Ian Curtis, - He suicided at the age of 23 - his drug addiction, his short-lived marriage, the forming of the band, the success, the inspiration, and finally, the death - All done in a hypnotizing fashion that, by the time the film ends, will have you become a fan of the band, or will make the already fans go back to their original albums, namely Unknown Pleasures. I found myself whisking straight to that album when it ended. Felt like listening to a voice of an old friend through a long-forgotten recorded tape / video.
The film opens memorably; It shows Ian just a few short seconds before his death, lamenting about his life. Then it flashbacks to 1973, starting the story proper and, in a way, a documentary of punk rock. We get a shot of his bedroom and are reminded of the fact that even iconic rock-stars (lame term but whatever) started out as nothing more than most of us are now; Posters of Bowie and Reed on the wall, a small plaque of sorts honoring Morrison and various other tidbits. This in a way was satisfying to watch. This created a Frodo scenario of sorts. A normal person starting his extraordinary adventure and becoming the well-known figure as we know him today. Sam Riley, from the word GO, had his role in complete check. It was a highly detailed performance with impressive attention to the subtlest of the movements. And I think he nailed the dead-fly dance. Every time he stood behind the mic, it was always a hypnotizing effect.
Story-wise and directing-wise the film is absolutely top-notch. Anton Cobijn has some seriously cool directing skills and he should direct more music-biographies, especially on 80's Rock bands, if can manage that.
Performance-wise, all of the main cast were amazing, with Sam Riley being the ultimate. Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis, Ian's wife, was awesome in her role. Since she was the only "big name" among the relatively unknown cast, she bought a lot of professionalism and integrity in her role. I also enjoyed Tony Krebbel as Rob Gretton, their manager. It was a great performance and fun to watch. Craig Parkinson as Tony Wilson wasn't bad either. It's too bad he wasn't given more screen-time as he definitely had me impressed by his short screen-time performance. All of the cast were top-notch in their respective roles from start to finish.
In all, Control is a cool film and should not be missed. Fan or no fan, you must watch it!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Sam Riley - Ian Curtis Samantha Morton - Debby Curtis Tony Krebbel - Rob Gretton
Late 80's to the mid-2000's. That's when Nicolas Cage was at his best. Not to say he has dwindled, but he now appears in unlikable mainstream movies and not the likable arthouse films like he used to. Adaptation is his third-to-last best contribution. To date it is his most likable, straight from the soul performance yet. He felt right at home and everything he did was right on the money. Regarding the film, I absolutely love narrative-driven movies with a-lot of focus on the character and his/her day-to-day routine. It gives off a nice touch, a nice reeling feeling. The film memorably opens up with Nic Cage narrating about himself. The film has barely progressed past the credits stage and you already have jumped into the mind of Charlie Kaufman - the character's name AND the screenwriter's name (Adaptation is a semi-biographical meta-film). This is different from other films as in you get to see the whole creation of the story. You actually get to see the legos being stacked up, and in my opinion, was better executed than Shadow of the Vampire, an almost similar film in the same vein but of a different genre.
Charlie Kaufman - the real one - has some really sharp writing skills and once again gave a film that is witty, humorous, intelligent and brilliantly, but not ostentatiously, presented. It is a quirky, sometimes sad, film with likable personalities and amazing pairings. Who could've thunk that Nic Cage could perform better alongside himself? Although not polar opposites, one was optimistic, soft, and the other was aggressive, insecure. Nic Cage and, er, Nice Cage pt. 2 ruled all the present tense moments, whereas Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper were the show-stealers in the past tense.
Story-wise, it was the tops. Every little twitch is perfectly detailed and every last wilting flower in the bogs felt right at home. Performance-wise, it was even better. Nic Cage attracts criticism just like a flower attracts a bee. This is one of the performances that even the most ardent of the haters softens down a little just enough to write a breezing compliment. Since I'm one of the few people who actually likes Nic Cage, I'm in total awe of his superb tackling. Meryl Streep not at all felt like a 50+ out in search for a "ghost". She reminded me of a 17 yr. old finding the true meaning behind love and/or experiencing it for the first time, because of her smooth gliding in her character. I believe her script was written on roller-skates. Chris Cooper was impressive in role as Laroche. His Award-winning performance kept you transfixed. At-least me if not you. Tilda Swinton, on the other hand, was absolute dynamite! Boy, she was so delicious in her short screen-time. Brian Cox is a prime example of an on/off relationship: Impressive in some, weak in some. Over here he is the former. I especially like characters who act as mentors, teachers, or otherwise disciplinary or academic personas. Brian Cox's portrayal of Robert McKee has now become one of my favourite on-screen "shouters."
In all, Adaptation is a fun, if slightly long, film that speaks more than it really should. Script-wise, this is Kaufman's second-best - first is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Nicolas Cage - Charlie / Donald Kaufman
This is a real life story. Nothing has moved me this strongly. Keep the tissues near you!
"How long will I be able to walk?"
My heart's broken. Throughout the film I had to fight back tears, no easy task. Even though the film finished 3 hours ago (time of writing this review), I'm still choking back tears and pulling myself together. It is based on true events. Aya Kito was diagnosed with spinocerebellar axatia at the age of 15. She lived, and fought, this incurable disease for 10 years, before finally succumbing to it at the age of 25. In that 10 years of suffering, she wrote a diary named 1 Litre no Namida, or 1 Litre of Tears, which was filled with all of her thoughts, emotions and day-to-day life happenings. Aya Kito's suffering, on paper, may seem painful but this film manages to make it excruciating, and preserves her memory in a very wonderful way. The tagline "Based on true events" is something we've all come to hate. No matter which decade the film was released, many of us, me included, avoid it like the plague because they are nothing more than marketing ploys and/or shams. This film, however, is none of that. It is a genuine film of undaunted courage and genuine free-flowing-tears sadness.
The film, within a two minutes, sums up the whole story for us. The pacing of the film is quite an issue. Some might say unconventional, some slow, but I say it honestly felt like a very long TV episode. But you know what? I'm glad they stuck with that slow pace because it breathed life in every minute. Remember, this is not a Hollywood film which pretends they are preserving a memory but in reality are thinking about the bling! bling! bling! Everything is beautifully laid out, and nondescript this film may be in front of other Asian films, the fact that it is full of heart and bravery cannot be denied.
1 Litre of Tears may not altogether make you throw your arms in the air and shout out that it is the greatest film ever made, but it might definitely make an impression on you, mostly by Asae Onishi's fearless, courageous performance that is bound to win hearts of viewers. Asae Onishi - who plays the lead role of Aya Kito - was the 3 D's: Delicate,Dedicated and Downright courageous. She so wonderfully, and flawlessly, glided to and fro in her role, almost like a ballerina on an expansive ice ring. Her beautiful looks and dimply smile, topped with an impressive A+ performance, is something I wouldn't mind seeing again. She bought heart, charisma, soul and realism to her character and made Aya Kito a person you once knew but lost track somewhere down the line. Innocently played, but ferociously delivered.
From the forty-five minute mark onward, the film kinda doubles on the tears and the inclusion of more disabled characters really gives you a big, and sympathetic, view on the disabled. Pity them, you don't. Admire them, you should. I noticed a pattern; The more the disease takes a toll, the more better Asae Onishi's performance gets. In the last 30-or-so minutes, her performance can be described as unbeatable in her own right. I mean, I have nothing but praise for her performance. The others were not bad, either. Unfortunately I cannot get a listing of the cast and the roles they played so I cannot mention them here, lest I mix them up. But they were all equally great, and likable, in their respective roles. Chemistry-wise, too, they were all superb.
In conclusion, 1 Litre of Tears is a film solely for the Kleenex audience. It is a courageous film that tugs at your heart-strings, and only the hardest of the the hearts can fail to be moved. Aya Kito may have cried a litre's worth of tears, but I must've cried a gallon's worth... or at-least my heart did, if not my eyes!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Asae Onishi - Aya Kito
How long will it be before they find Vincent on the train?
"Improvise. Adapt. Darwin. I Ching!"
Michael Mann's films are among the coolest films in Hollywood history. Take a look at Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Manhunter and Public Enemies. The last film may not be his best achievement, but it is cool nonetheless. The calm, cool attitude of Johnny Depp rivaled the likes of Neil MacCauley and Hawkeye. This film's antagonist, Vincent, is probably the greatest of Mann's characters. Masterminded by Stuart Beattie and brilliantly played Tom Cruise, Vincent is a character who you don't want in your backseat or next to you but cannot help but be fascinated by the things he does and says.
Onto the film: A Delorean may need 88mph (and 30 minutes) to show some serious shit, but Collateral does that within a-minute-and-a-half. You know things are gonna be awesome when Tom Cruise bumps into Jason Statham. The 5 second less-than-brief meeting tells us volumes about Cruise's character, and paves the road to which all the other players drive onto. The turns are not dangerous, just unexpecting. The film introduces us to the character, Max, an ordinary taxi driver with extraordinary dreams. When he drops Annie at her location, and after when she gives him her company card - actually a secret way to saying to him "call me" - Max enjoys a rare moment of "Ah! It's good to be alive". But that is quickly silenced when Vincent gets in his taxi and gives him $600 to drive him to five locations. From the first kill onwards a new level of cat-and-mouse game starts, with the cat controlling the mouse and keeping his cheese at bay. If the mouse fails to do his bidding, then he will never get the cheese... or see the sunrise.
Some of the moments are just top-notch with a heavy foreboding atmosphere covering it. When Max and Vincent meet Daniel Baker, the scene was so impressively done that it was the first of the many times you're transfixed to the screen. The action, the tense-factor and the polar-distant characters of Max and Vincent all get brightly highlighted within the next 1 hour, only losing focus for a short period of time. Vincent is a loose bull on the streets of Spain, or in this case L.A. When he looks at Max, who is the sort of the person who wouldn't even swat a fly, he sees a person wasting his life. Vincent sees the others as people who are always running, either from someone or something, while he considers himself as just a guy "with a job attached to", making him not only an effective killer but also who is human enough to understand the other but not human enough to understand himself. Max, on the other hand, is Max. An ordinary taxi-driver thrown into an extraordinary adventure. Also, who says the final girl cliche is limited to horror films only? The 5th and final victim happens to be Annie, and Max saves her - obviously. Max not only turns from an ordinary citizen to a saviour but also has an (spiritual? psychological?) awakening along the way.
Performance-wise, Tom Cruise's grip on his character was as fierce as an eagle on a fish. An aggressively precise performance with a cool, calculated voice. I can't imagine anyone else replacing him. Jamie Foxx was equally good, too. His character had depth, and Foxx impressively fleshed it out, but he didn't really seem connected to it - There was a loose wire somewhere. Not to say it wasn't a great performance, - the way he passed off himself as a normal person had me impressed - but he didn't really altogether connect between him and his character, or at least that's how it felt to me. Mark Ruffalo is an actor, who after watching him in 13 Going On 30, became one of my favourite on-screen figures, but I must say, what the hell happened here? The dude was acting like as if he was missing out his favourite show and wanting to go to the bathroom at the same time. He just mumbled his way to his death. Maybe it really wasn't a good time to do a Marlon Brando impression!
In all, Collateral is an intense-filled thriller with unexpecting turns and some great focus on the 2 lead characters. And is it me or did Vincent's death seem... emotional?!?! Am I losing my marbles?
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Tom Cruise - Vincent
Arguably one of the greatest cartoons ever made, Anastasia has a lot of heart and courage, as well as the usual silliness. If there's one thing I've learned in cartoons is that if you're having a good time, a dark shadow will quickly put an end to that happiness forever - or at-least until to the last 5 minutes of the cartoon where everything will turn out right once again. Same thing here: During a ball dance, Rasputin intervenes and places a curse that has the whole of the Romanov members killed except for one, Anastasia. She and her grandmamma are separated at the train station, a separation that lasts for 10 years. Did you see that guy on the train with grandmamma? He could see that the little girl could not reach her grandmamma and her could've helped her, but no! He didn't! If he had, there would've been no story. So basically, he is the real villain!
Moving on, Anastasia is then "resurrected" as street-smart lady and not very princess-like. One thing leads to another and she ends up in the company of two likable characters, Dmitri and Vlad, two con-men. When it comes to romance, cartoons all go in the same direction. This one went in that same direction, too, but on a different speed. It tried to fuse the romance seen in drama-movies into a cartoon world, and it excelled I must say. I enjoyed the connection between Dmitri and Anastasia (Anya), and the wise, affable Vlad and his voice-over by Kelsey Grammer. Bought a nice touch to an otherwise ordinary character. The rest of the film follows in an even pace and, unlike Pixar, who quip pop-culture references, and Disney, who, well, don't go beyond the screaming and no! no! no!, the script is believable. I'm not saying it was uber-realistic or anything, but for a cartoon world it was perfect. The animation was great, too. That was realistic, with all the movements and face expressions. All the long shots, especially the song scenes, were beautiful and enchanting, but not Disney-enchanting, but just.
However, I do have one complain, though: Rasputin. His sinister, dark and haunting quality - It just wasn't executed properly. I know, such a violent, serious, Pinhead-type character just wouldn't have worked in a cartoon that runs in this pace. Rasputin would've been a fish out of water, but I was really expecting to see some level of macabre or eerie. Instead, we get a buffoonish Captain Hook with a very long beard and body parts which fall off. It wasn't exactly 100% disappointing but it wasn't interesting either. I did end up enjoying Bartok, though!
From the voice-overs, all were great. Was it only me or did Meg Ryan sound somewhat like Mowgli from Jungle Book? No? Well, then I guess it was only me. John Cusack was good, too, but it was Kelsey Grammer who stole the show. Christopher Lloyd and Hank Azaria made a funny duo and provided quite-many interesting touches, especially Azaria.
In conclusion, Anastasia is a wonderful cartoon that is not as sentimental as Disney or quirky as Pixar. It is in-between and I would love to see Fox Animation Studios release another cartoon like this, not Titan A.E. A must-watch!
Isn't it weird that Wallace Shawn's character in this film is also named Wallace Shawn? heeheehee. Basically, My Dinner With Andre has no plot to speak of. It is Wallace having a dinner / conversation with Andre Gregory. They don't generally play themselves but something that can be said as a reel version of their real self. In the opening five minutes of the film, Shawn brings us to date why he is getting into that restaurant, telling us clearly in voice-over the uncertainty of what he is going to expect and the bitter, below-average life he is currently living. In short, Shawn is practically reading a page from his diary to his personal best friend - and that friend is you, the viewer. Which is appropriate since not many people let loose the secrets of the diary to a majority and this film doesn't have millions running behind it, so the viewer is one of the lucky few. Once inside the restaurant, Shawn orders a drink and waits for Andre to appear. After a few more minutes of insight-narration, Andre appears and they both sit at the table. Within a short time frame, Shawn - who has by that time bought us to date on him - starts bringing us to date on Andre; who he is, who he was, what's his job etc... It is only after when they put down the menu that Andre Gregory has all of your attention. Full 100% of it.
For the next 1 hour Andre talks, talks and talks. He talks about his extraordinary adventures, the spiritual, as well as psychological, experiences he had in the Norway woods, the Sahara desert and in his own home, the everyday life, the theatre, the films, the media, the existence of human being, and virtually everything mature, experienced men talk about. In-between of his talks, impressive beyond anything, he also expresses his dissatisfaction on certain things. In that 1 hour all doubt is erased from your mind and you fully accept, and grip on, to the fact that Andre is not a fabricated, manufactured character tinkered and oiled for the screen. He is authentic, and the character he builds for himself reminds us of the times when we had at least one friend who was like Andre. Let's face it, we were either the Shawn of the group or the Andre. I was the former, but I did have my latter moments.
Exactly one hour into the film, the focus of the talks shift from spiritual experiences to the heavy reality of the world, and how it is sinking in an abyss. Well, you know, the things dissatisfied men grump about. Both of them show conflicting attitudes, and Shawn is the "doubter" of the two, while Andre is the calmer, take-everything-into-point guy of the group and attentively listens to the other before giving an opinion or view-point himself. So basically, we get to know that Wallace is the sort of the guy who is trying to find happiness in the daily routine, trying to find life in whatever he does in his day-to-day life. He wants to enjoy the little things and contemplates on why would anyone would want to go on "top of the Mount Everest to feel alive when you can feel just as alive in a cigar store". What he means is that we're alive, but we're not aware of it. We think happiness, the moment of being really connected to the world, comes from doing extraordinary things, such as climbing Mount Everest. In short, Wallace is a simple guy who doesn't (or is not willing to) like extraordinarily big thinking, making him the sort of a guy who just wants to live, and not try to find out the logic or meaning behind each and every thing. Andre, on the other hand, after going through different stages to become "human" again, believes that a-lot can be achieved through almost nothing. He, like Wallace, treasures the little things but wants to experience, and store, the bigger things and literally wants to see a world inside the world we're living in, see through the glass, the inside of a brick, beneath the everyday surface. It is interesting to see two old friends, while agreeing on basic things, are different on the complicated stuff.
To bundle it all up, this is the other side of movies we almost never really get nowadays, or ever, for that matter. Had this film been made now - or by another director - then it would've been raped by flashbacks and that would've made this film just another film, just another brick in the wall. My Dinner With Andre is even less than minimalistic. It is almost nothing, but the style of execution is so brilliant, so hypnotizing, so real that it feels less a film and more a camera-recording you did in secret.
The ending is very moving. Even though these two are not connected, this film's ending reminded me of 12 Angry Men - we never really get to see the ending / verdict. It is all left ambiguous. Anyway, Wallace is seen riding home in a taxi and tells us that he knows every last detail of New York. His recounting of the last two memories remind us that no matter how expensive a camera or a cycle or a watch you get on your birthday, it will always be the badly drawn birthday card by a 6 year old child that will always grab you and move you. The big things complete the void in your room. The little things fill the void in your life!
Or at-least that's my deduction of the ending, and the film as a whole!
A funny opening, an emotional middle, and a bloody ending - What more do you want?
"Hold me! I can't!"
The titular character resides in an old, decrepitude mansion that lies at the end of a cheery, colourful late 50's / early 60's-themed suburban. The residents are stereotypical, but interesting, and are largely female dominated, which was the usual norm. It also has a crazy, religious lady who is, of course, ignored by all. The main family, the protagonists, are a likable, comfortable, quite-dysfunctional family of four. Peg, - brilliantly and lovingly played by Dianne West - the matriarch of the family, is a door-to-door saleswoman who finds herself in the mansion where Edward lives, and after looking at his poor state, takes him under her wings. From here a classic modern fairy-tale snowballs, which ends on a dark tone, a transition I thoroughly enjoyed. The character of Edward was so perfectly created that it's no surprise how archetypal he became; He personified the monster of the darkness - although he is not - when he was shown for the first time in the mansion. When Peg brings him to her home, he personifies the spirit that roams about your home, a Djinn if you will, that comes in every shape, size & attitude you can imagine. The narrow hallways, the colourful atmosphere, the tall doors all increased Edwards haunting character, while the mansion made him feel at home. In short, since the majority of the film sets place in small suburban, and since all the residents are stereotypical - adults and kids - Edward is an old-wives tale come true.
All this makes Edward sound a villain, a feared monster, which he is not I can assure you that, you who hasn't still seen this film. He is a modern Frankenstein, a modern Joseph Merrick. A freak of nature, a.k.a not like you or I, who means good but ends up being misunderstood, thus causing an outrage among the people and the law. Tim Burton apparently knew all of this and made sure that we knew that he knew. What Burton did was he combined all the major factors of a fantasy tale and coated it with extra sugar. Don't be surprised if some things feel disillusioned, this is Burton's imagining of how a Disney cartoon would look like if they had the guts to show a little blood and a touch of darkness. Again, don't be surprised by the overly sympathetic (to some, just pathetic) portrayal of Edward, his relationship with Kim and of the film's ending. An average fairy-tale starts and ends like this, so why should this film be treated any different? Burton did indeed coat the story with sugar but also added a little bit of pepper to remind us that not every monster can truly be loved.
The score by Danny Elfman is his second-best, after Batman. It is dark, beautiful and something that can only and only belong in a Tim Burton flick.
From the performances, Johnny Depp was truly iconic in his role, and it would be his first collaboration with Tim Burton that would go on to last 8 films in a span of 20 years. He played Edward so understandably as if he was honoring an age old friend. Even though he has played more eccentric, more well-known characters - most notably Jack Sparrow - this character will always remain as his most best played. Dianne West, on the other hand, truly won me over by her portrayal of Peg. She made an everyday, I've-seen-this-in-every-other-movie character a very loving and wonderful character who has just become my favourite heroine. I do believe she should've been nominated for an Award. Alan Arkin was a good surprise. When did I last see him? Oh yes, Catch-22. Low-key film, but a fun performance. Over here he plays Bill, husband of Peg, an equally great performance and a likable character. Anthony Michael Hall never really made an impression on me and you can bet your boots I was relieved when his character was killed off. Burton doesn't like jocks, nor do I + his performance was just OK. The film's precious little item was Winona Ryder as Kim. When she is first introduced, there is a hint that she might fall under the cliche category but Burton gently picks her up and away from that place. The building of her character is slow but Ryder manages to achieve wonders in her slow pace, making Kim the Belle of this film. She had the potential of making her character times better, she really did, but Kim really wasn't written in an exaggerated sense so she wasn't given a large amount of elbow room to move about. In all, a very satisfactory performance!
In conclusion, I've come to acknowledge Edward Scissorhands as Tim Burton'smagnum opus. Even though Batman is Burton-esque, this film has what Batman was lacking in; Johnny Depp, and that in itself is saying something!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Johnny Depp - Edward Dianne West - Peg
Has an all-star small cast, but Jude Law will win you over!
"Good boy, Dex"
The correct title for the film should be Sky Captain & the World of where lipstick never runs out, heroes are heroes, villains are dead and where 1 minute equals to 5. Anyway, visual-wise it is impressive. It is set in an imaginary 1939 and has a pulpy feel to it. Sky Captain is a retro-future film, so that means a lot of CGI and Blue Screen was put into it, and while some age correctly, even impressively, there are some which don't, and Sky Captain is the latter. But that doesn't mean it wasn't an entertaining flick. It remained an impressive, authentic feature and really gave you that 30's feel and, believe it or not, is times better than Captain America: First Avenger, despite the fact that 7 years separate these two movies.
Just like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen gathered all famous literature characters and bought them to one universe, Sky Captain did the same with different genres. You get action, sci-fi, drama, romance, old Indy--style moments, Lone Ranger moments and several influences from cyberpunk and steampunk. It is not unusual if you're reminded of H.G. Welles, H.P. Lovecraft, Rocketeer, Star Wars, Star Trek, Iron Giant and even War of the Worlds and Bioshock. I'm sure you can add to the list but you can't deny the fact that Sky Captain is a fascinating film. The presentation is actually more believable than most of the sci-fi films of its time and of the past 5 years.
Changing tracks, story-wise the film was good. Nothing extraordinary, but it did have an interesting twist at the end, though. The script-writing was good, too. They managed to make authoritative dialogues authoritative and not circus-like or anything. Most of the time it was believable and it was also filled with quite-few pop-culture references; Who else loved the "Is it safe?" part?
Unfortunately, the bulb was flickering in the performance department. Jude Law is an actor who I see less but what I see I don't feel the urge to complain / rant. He has that cool-as-a-cucumber attitude to him and can play heroes almost flawlessly. He was great as usual but it was Gwyneth Paltrow that had me worried. As much as I like her, this was her most wooden, flat-as-a-hedgehog-run-over-by-a-Reliant performance she has ever given. Her line delivery was so off and so forced that it felt as if she were talking in a TV commercial. In short, this is how Megan Fox would've acted had she been in Sky Captain. Harsh? Yes! The truth? Unfortunately, also yes. Giovanni Ribisi was a good surprise, though. He is an actor to whom I never connected. Whenever I see him on-screen I go like, "Well, there's Giovanni. Now I'm gonna get distracted by another actor / actress", and 100% of the time I'm right. Not to say he is a bad actor, far from it, but he never really made a strong impression on me. Anyway, I liked his performance, it was in league with the film. If Paltrow was a missed arrow, then Angelina Jolie was a disaster, akin to someone who photobombs. Nobody likes a photobomber, they're highly unwelcome. Same case here. Jolie was almost a joke. She was totally mis-cast. Not one of my favourite performances from her I must say.
In conclusion, visual-wise the film is impressive, an achievement that will be called in as a great example in the near future. Performance-wise, however, not enough strong shoulders were bought in but it is still going in my greatest movies list despite the quite-bearable setbacks. It would be like chucking a Lamborghini because of a broken radio. Oh, no!
Surreal, absurd and no notion of rationality. Is it really silly or a parallel understanding of the world?
"It's rude to say things like that at the dinner table"
Luis Bunuel's films are among the most difficult to understand. Watch An Andalusian Dog, and if you manage to understand more than 2 minutes of it, then you have made it more than I ever could. Same goes for Belle De Jour, although it is pretty much straightforward - It is the ending that has left a-many baffled. This film, however, is beyond anything I've seen. The Phantom of Liberty is an absurd, but delicious surreal film that has amusing little scenes here and there. Characters are not given enough screen time to form a personality and associate themselves with the backdrop, and being a surreal film, many events are left unexplained and a large body of them cover taboo topics. Unusual traits for a movie, but then again Bunuel was no usual, everyday director. The scenes don't make sense, and instead of a cut-scene or fade away, the minor character of that said scene becomes the major character of the next scene with a little help from the major character from the previous scene. Sort of like the Hotswap feature from Battlefield; When you're thrown in battle, every soldier is just a soldier, but when you Hotswap to a certain soldier, he becomes something much more, he immediately becomes the main character, even though he is not. Same thing with this film. The scenes, like I said before, don't make sense but that's just the surface. I believe there to be rational explanations behind it and, whether it was his aim or not, satirical under-tones. The film opens with the French executing the Spanish and then raiding a church, where one of the best surreal scene happens. Then it cuts to a park where two girls are cycling. A man watches them with fascination, hinting at pedophilia, and proceeds to show them pictures, to which the audience thinks are dirty pictures. When they arrive home, and when the girl shows her parents the pictures, they turn to be picture postcards of buildings. Over here Bunuel plays with our fixed mindset that whatever a stranger shows to little girls / boys has to be pornographic. It kinda slaps us in the face, really. When the adults are shown to be quite turned-on - and turned-off - by the buildings, was Bunuel in any way hinting at object sexuality, a.k.a Objektophilia? Then whatever follows after that till the point where the husband meets the doctor, I'm afraid I could not make heads or tails out of it, but it remained a colourful watch.
Then we see the nurse, the minor character in the above mentioned scene, become the major character in this scene. She takes refuge in a motel from the storm. There she meets some monks (from the early church scene, perhaps?). When the nurse tells them of her father's sickness, they agree to pray for her father in her room. Time passes and the monks are shown, alongside the nurse and the motel manager, to be playing poker and drinking alcohol. Whatever point Bunuel wanted to make here I don't think I got it but I believe he was playing on the characteristics of motels, or small run-down hotels, but they're practically the same thing with little differences. These places are a great place to hide-out and unleash the dark, sexual side of your nature and it has an aggressive, sexual personality to it. Things are done almost freely there, as evidenced by the young man who brings his aunt for an incestuous relationship and the BDSM relationship between the businessman and his assistant.
The main highlight, and understanding, of the film lies in the police academy classroom with the professor talking about laws, morality, customs and taboo. I believe if the viewer can understand that scene or bring himself to connect 2 & 2 together, then I believe the viewer can make sense out of the film, tie all the knots. The professor uses an example of a dinner party which he attended with his wife. They sit around a dinner table but not on chairs, but rather toilets. They talk about defecation and any mention of food is considered rude or impolite. Then one of them retires to a little room to eat. In short, the rules and attitudes of a dinner table and bathroom have been switched. I guess if you look at it from the modern point of view, retiring to a little room to eat makes sense. When we eat, we retreat into a private box of our own and any disturbance comes off as irritating - of course this is all metamorphical. But when we're on the toilet, our mind wanders far off and starts wondering about the mysteries of life and/or the current situation of the world. I wish I could make my point a little clear but I think you get the picture.
Then the class is dismissed and we get a shot of a speeding driver, who is promptly given a ticket. It turns out he was on his way to visiting his doctor. The doctor says the driver has cancer and offers him a cigarette (did I notice sarcasm there?) and receives a slap on the face. The whole chapter concerning Mr. Legrande - the driver - is absurd at its best. But it is absurd in a reeling and positive manner that provokes a lot of WTF? moments and unintentional laughs. Once he reaches home, they receive a call from the school informing that their daughter is missing. They race to the school only to find that the daughter is sitting in the classroom, yet the adults act as if she's not there and report to the police, despite the fact they acknowledge her presence. The police-station scene is a riot. Like I said, absurd all right. I think what Bunuel did here was he switched the roles and bought everything - that would've been behind the curtains in other films - forward, and silly it may sound, it alluded to many real life situations. I can't exactly pinpoint it out but I guess I'll have to see the film again.
After this, we follow a man with a briefcase to the top of a building. The briefcase is opened and reveals a sniper, to which the man uses it to shoot random people on the streets. He is eventually caught and sentenced to death but leaves the courtroom as a hero, even signing autographs. There's no deciphering here. Personalities like him are recognized as heroes and or admirable figures in our twisted world of today, so I guess Bunuel saw it coming. Then the rest of the film follows in a psychological manner, and I only "understood" 1/5 of it, but I guess it might get cleared up in the second viewing. Or maybe not!
The ending of the film takes place in a zoo. Could the ending be the opening of the film? After all the shout that was heard at the end was also heard at the starting. The camera suddenly starts spinning in a blurry motion, making things confusing... also, what was the significance of the ostrich?
I believe the normal approach - the way you approach other "normal" films - should not be adopted here. If possible, try to find out the logic behind the scenes in as parallel-manner as possible, and try to understand it from a psychological and/or metamorphical view-point. Remember, this is a surreal film directed Luis Bunuel, and it is no easy to decipher than the Zodiac Killer's "farewell" note.
An excellent accomplishment, Wall-E is undeniably Pixar's strongest release to date, as well as the most adult and probably the most tear-jerking, although Monsters, Inc. is deserving of holding the top spot. Come on, who didn't choke up on the ending. Anyway, Wall-E is enjoyable by both adults and children. Children will be fascinated by the visuals - which were top-notch, by the way - and by the robot's, Wall-E, mannerisms and all the funny bits. Adults, however, get to see beyond more than just laughs, more than just a robot whose vocabulary is limited to just 5-6 words. We, the adults, get to see the destruction of our world, and the people, in a frank, straight-forward, and shocking it may sound, truthful way. The people in the film have become obese, bloated and lazy. They have long since given up walking and are 100% dependent on machines. They spend their waking moments eating, drinking, and staring at the screen in front of them, just like we all do, just like you're doing right now. They are so engrossed in it that they have lost all contact with the outside world and have become totally oblivious to both themselves and the vicinity; We have a pool? Even though Andrew Stanton and pretty much all the crew behind this film had only intended it to be a children's movie, it instead gave us a heavy presentation of our fast (or rapidly?) decaying world and how we have become dependent on machines and technology. Take a walk outside, go to a fair or someplace, and observe how many people are actually looking at the world around them. That's right, few to none, as all of their noses are stuck on their phones. And I'm saying this from experience. The life onboard the Axiom correctly matches our own here on how people have become stupid, totally reliant on technology and the media. Oh yes, don't forget the media. Everything, literally everything, has been replaced by screens, both onboard the Axiom and the real world. Wanna talk to the other guy? The screen is here. Wanna play golf? The screen is here. Wanna just sit and stare idly at something? Well, the screen is here! E-reading has taken over the traditional way of reading books, and that right there proves my point. I wish the underlying - and serious - themes of Wall-E wakes people up from their slumber and that somebody does something about it. Little kids may laugh at the film, but adults know better.
Anyway, as a cartoon, Wall-E is a masterpiece. Its main protagonist is by and far their most iconic creation to date. I think he should be a bigger household name than Buzz or Woody, Pixar's original heroes. Mute, or semi-mute, or in this case a robot, characters have a unique way of tugging at your heart-strings; They speak aloud with their expressions and/or whatever they can mumble through their limited vocabulary. We have countless movies about the last man left alone on earth and we all have cried one way or another, especially when we see his daily, lonely routine in a montage or when his only friend dies, namely I Am Legend, with Will Smith and his dog. Wall-E is about the last robot left alone on what has become of earth and finds love in EVE, a sleek robot sent to earth to bring back a life form, that is if there is any. The naming of that robot, EVE, is not a co-incidence. EVE and Wall-E reminded me of Adam & Eve, and the Axiom the Noah's Ark, although it really doesn't make any sense, but I don't know. When the human beings land on earth once again, bringing about the story of the first people on earth, descended from Paradise (Axiom to them was heaven). Oh, what the hey!
The sci-fi influences on Wall-E is unmissable. Trained eyes cannot fail to spot references to Terminator, Alien, Aliens, RoboCop, Star Trek, Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the most easiest to spot from them all. Auto, the rogue auto-pilot A.I. is designed on HAL 9000, not difficult to spot. They also play the theme from the film - quite shamelessly - when the captain starts to walk for the first time. Hell, they even have Sigourney Weaver in a voice role, so what does that tell you?
In conclusion, Wall-E is a beautiful cartoon with an amazing attention to detail. It shouldn't be approached for just entertainment, but with also a psychological understanding to it in mind. Try to take everything in a metamorphical sense and you will understand. If only we can be serious about this, we can save the world, and ourselves, from becoming what just saw.
Withnail & I was a delightful find. When the film reached the 10 minute mark, I knew what I just saw was just the beginning of what I would be seeing for the next 90 minutes. This is a rare film; It has little or no plot to it and has characters who have a flair for speaking with a poetic-nature and/or in structured sentences which more or less start with the word fuck! The film is about two desperate actors who go to the country-side to rejuvenate. Once they reach there, they find that whatever that had been growing in their sink, it is growing right in front of their door, and whatever the environment they left in the city-side, they found it in their ramshackled cabin. In short, life in the country-side was no worse than life in the city-side. A-lot of hilarity ensues, with tons of one-liners and eccentric characters. A situation like this can only be worked with in the comedy field. Any well-off director could've achieved it, so what makes it so special here? The reason is because Bruce Robinson pits two characters - Robinson based one on his friend and one on himself - who are not everyday people trying to be actors. They are trained actors trying to act like everyday people, and whether they fail or succeed in it, you can't deny the fact that both of them keep you in the laughs, or at-least bring you to the point where you're afraid of putting any liquid in your mouth lest you should spray it all over should a comical scene come up.
There comes a point in the film - varies from person to person - that the viewer, almost unconsciously, starts to identify himself with either Withnail or I - a.k.a Marwood. When one achieves in doing that, the rest of the film starts playing out as a film adaptation of that viewer's diary. Not that I felt like that for the whole film, but only in certain places, especially in the moments when they quarrel. I was the first letter of this sentence in real life - I think you can work that out.
The cinematography was great and the music was awesome, reflecting the culture and standard of the 60's. The pace of the film was also smooth, with a lot of funny characters weaving in and out. If Withnail and Marwood are two juvenile delinquents, then the film is their baggage carousel, with each entertaining the viewer with a slightly different approach than the other.
Performance-wise, both Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann were truly magnificent in their roles as Withnail and Marwood, respectively. Since the former is the main backbone of the film, it is of no wonder that he became the break-out character from the film, and Grant's highest career point till date. The character is neither likable nor unlikable. He is, in short, just like you, just like any other human being. He is flawed, he is angry, and he is desperate for big things. Marwood, on the other hand, is the thinker of the two, but in reality is in the same hole with Withnail. They both are in the same band, but they march to a different beat and think in a different tempo. Supporting them is Ralph Brown as Danny, who has had "more drugs than you've had hot dinners". Although he just appears in the beginning and at the end for a short period of time, his short appearance is enough to let you know he is the most social-conscious character, as well as being the most prophetic. His sentences may seem nonsensical and erratic but if you pay a littler close attention, you will realize that he actually makes sense. If he hasn't become a drug-character icon, then he should be. Then we have Richard Griffiths, as Uncle Monty, the hapless homosexual. Griffiths is a painfully under-rated actor I must say. He is one of my favourites, as he always plays his characters right. Not only was Monty a great addition to the film but was introduced in a time when the other two were quite wearing out their welcome, making all the moments which involve him among the funniest in the film. The rest of the side-cast were great, too.
In conclusion, black - and or idiosyncratic - comedy does come better than this, but as a starting point, start with Withnail & I. Nary an empty moment!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Richard Griffiths - Uncle Monty Richard E. Grant - Withnail Paul McGann - Marwood
Annie Wilkes - The 2nd best horror icon from the 90's
"I'm your number one fan!"
Since Misery was released in the 90's, it is, strictly speaking, not a horror film; It is a thriller film, the norm adopted in the 90's, but since the definition of horror reaches far and wide, Misery can now be said as one of the greatest horror films ever made and the 4th greatest movie adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Since it is also psychological, it almost literally compiles most of the average nightmares into one; Abandonment, waking up to a living nightmare, and sharing space with a total nutso. When you read the novel, which is brilliant as usual and very sarcastic at times, you will find that it is very complex, very cross-patterned, but when you see the film, it is very simple, very just-the-basics-please. Not that I'm complaining but actually complimenting on how Rob Reiner kept most of the book, deleted the complex parts, presented it as a simple movie, and succeeded in it.
It also has a distinct quality of making a villain out of something that usually never becomes one. The home of Annie Wilkes. The woman, well, we all know who she is. The home, however, is Annie Wilkes in an inanimate form. Warm and inviting on the outside but houses (literally) brutal going ons in the inside. It mocks Paul by the beautiful view of the outside but haunts him by the grim atmosphere of the room he is stuck in and by forbidding him to escape to freedom by its ominous nature. So basically, the heavenly abode of Wilkes and the hellish dwelling of Paul transforms itself to satisfy the former and taunt the latter. The cinematography in the parts where Paul wheels around the home was excellently done. First it shows us the (apparant) freedom, then it shows us the impossible obstacle one must go through if he is to achieve it. The music only made it memorable. A job well done, I must say!
Not only were Kathy Bates and James Caan convincing in their roles, but were also convincing to each other. Caan almost excellently passed off as a writer and Bates as a horror-of-personality character. All of their actions and words seemed convincing and the face Bates makes when she is breaking his Paul Sheldon's ankles is classic. If you freeze that frame, and the one where she is holding the knife in her hand, you've got another iconic image of horror.
Both of them - Kathy Bates and James Caan - were truly excellent in their roles, but since the former steals the show, the latter isn't really given much room to shine, but if you review the film in your head or re-visit it, then you will realize that she just could not have done it without him.
In conclusion, Rob Reiner has created an immortal horror classic, I think we can use that word now, and it is such a solid puncher that I doubt it will be forgotten that easily.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Kathy Bates - Annie Wilkes
Your favourite horror movie now with English accents and colour!
"It must be destroyed before it regains consciousness"
What can I say about this film? When I saw the trailer, I had gone and picked the most "tame" trailer which showed almost next to nothing. Not only was I disappointed but it killed off my mood, which was very high. Then, just yesterday I was reading a magazine and The Curse of Frankenstein was featured, alongside a few other Hammer masterpieces. Going against my better judgment, I decided to download it and watch it once and for all. It took all of 12 hours and it got me thinking, "Is it a sign? That I shouldn't watch it? Or is it to test my patience? Will the end result be good?" The answer is, of course, the latter. The opening score fired up my interest and by the time we meet a disheveled Peter Cushing, I was all-ears and all-eyes. Nothing, absolutely nothing distracted me for the next 83 minutes, a curiously short running time, don't you think?
I'm a relatively new-comer to the mind of Hammer. In fact, this is my first film, and I'm sure more will follow. I guess I've gotten into the pattern and style of Hammer; Rich colours, amazing music, a great cast, and beautiful (OK, busty) ladies. If you compare it to Universal's Frankenstein, - 1931 - then this film is Twilight to Lord of the Rings. It may sound harsh but that's how I saw it. I don't think a comparing is necessary as seeing how different approaches and styles were adopted by the two. The 1931 was sombre, dark, moody, while the 1957 was energetic, violent, stylish. The 1931 was built to shock - and possibly revolt - while the 1957 was done to amaze; or at least that's my deduction. Even though it doesn't stand up to the 1931, the key moments in this film, I believe, are the laboratory scenes. It looks nothing like a proper lab but since it has interesting sounds and colourful chemicals and a crazed character running back and forth, it immediately becomes more interesting than it should. For today's standards it may seem very tame, very outdated, but try to see it from the 1957 POV and it becomes probably the best thing you've seen on TV so far. The violence is also very outdated compared to today's standards where everyone is obsessed with showing eyes being ripped out. Speaking of which, the scene where Paul shoots Frankenstein - known only as the Creature - squarely in the eye is bound to send shivers down your spine and raise all of your hairs. It is gory and, of course, very artistic and immediately becomes the rewind that scene moment of the film. The other moment that challenges this one face to face has to be the part where Victor wipes the blood on his coat in an absent-minded manner, something I really wasn't expecting. It's funny how these little things, which amount to absolutely nothing in modern movies and other movies in general, suddenly become among the most goriest and violent things you've ever seen on-screen. How did they manage to achieve that effect I'll never know!
Anyway, from the performances, Peter Cushing, who plays Victor, is the true embodiment of the classic quote, "I'm NOT gonna be ignored." That's true, whenever he came onscreen, the others became almost obsolete and/or extras you normally wouldn't care about. He was so into his character that whatever he said, whatever he picked and whatever he threw, it was crystal-clear that it was not Peter Cushing who was doing it; It was Victor Frankenstein. An energetic performance that deserves to be included in (if there is such a thing) the great performances hall of fame. Robert Urguhart, who plays Paul Kremppe, was equally perfect. Although not as energetic, he marched to his own pace and performed brilliantly in that. Christopher Lee was by no means a scary presence than Boris Karloff in the 1931 film, it was almost as haunting and powerful as the 70's/80's horror icons. Since everything in this film was fast, Lee's portrayal of a stumbling, shuffling, and quite edgy, Frankenstein was superb in its own right. It was much more scarier, much more repellent. The ladies, however, were just OK, an eye candy, something the film could've survived without, like any Scarlett Johansson role; Doesn't amount to much but provides a-lot of eye candy.
In conclusion, this is one of the more better finds I've had this week and is a classic in my book. Apart from the 1931 cast, no other cast can best the above mentioned three in their respective roles. A film that will clearly surpass your expectations!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Peter Cushing - Victor Frankenstein Robert Urguhart - Paul Krempe Christopher Lee - The Creature
The most manliest film in the world, directed by the only director to have had 3 successful back-to-back outings, and lead by cinema's most quotable action hero. So, what do you get? You get Predator. The 80's, *sigh*, the best decade for action movies. Now it's all CGI. Back in the 80's, every director's aim was to create the best action film on the market, ranging from the all-too-realistic Rambo to the implausible - but enjoyable - Commando to the legendary Terminator. Fast-forward 20 years and we get directors trying to prove just how much they can make a film squeal like a pig by (mostly) pointless CGI, cliche moments and sub-par script, ranging from the Men in Black sequels to Transformers to Skyline to pretty much every blockbuster released in the past 5 or 6 years.
Predator's first greatest move was to call in Arnie to play Dutch, the main protagonist of the film. He was one of the best actors back in the day not (only) because he could undertake any action he was given; But because he, as an actor and as a character, was self-aware. Apart from the Terminator films, he knew his films were bordering on goofy and/or silly and having a serious character to go along with it would just not cut it. Predator - by definition - is a silly film and quite irrational at times and Arnie knew better to work his mouth rather than his muscles alone. His funny, and quite-iconic - (Get to the Choppa!) -, quotes and mannerisms were evident enough that he was playing a real person, if not 100% realistic, and not just another cinematic cliche, although he does fall into that pit by the time the films comes down to its last 10 minutes.
On paper, it seems like a one-minded film and, you better believe it, it is. It only focuses on the action part. When it is time for the suspense or who-was-it part, a couple of expendables cannot be trusted to act like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. So they yell fuck it and spit on the ground and come to an agreement that whatever it is "If it bleeds, we can kill it", and we're steered back to the action part; Not that we ever career away from it but it brings us back there 100%. We get a-lot of explosions, bullets that never seem to end and just plain loudness. That's just the first part. The second part, however, turns into a I Spit On Your Grave comical - but enjoyable - mess.
Anyway, the Predator - the character - is one of the all-time coolest characters that only gets better in the Alien vs. Predator crossovers. Everything about the character is memorable, especially his roar. And if you think that's a dorky looking mask, you don't know anything!
In conclusion, one of the greatest films ever made, yes, but not one of the finest and one can easily lose interest right after when Anna starts to speak English. I mean, from there, things kinda went soft. Predator is a fun film that promises action + violence and it gives. Give it a try, won't you?
None of the plastic action stuff. A real film with real action!
"Drew was shot! Drew was shot!"
The story is insanely simple: 4 men call it a weekend and go down Cahulawassee River to witness the beauty that is soon to be eradicated for themselves. It has the typical; An overly enthusiastic, 50/50 poetic guy, one 'normal' guy, one a pessimistic, mild guy and one who never shuts up, the vocal of the group - the comic relief, in short. If this were an action film then each of these guys would've stood out like a sore thumb and would've been overly stereotyped. Had it been comedy, their weaknesses would've been the butt of the joke and the seriousness a target of mockery. No matter what genre, these guys would've been "been there, done that". But since this is a thriller film and since it pits normal guys against extraordinary, and unpredictable, - otherwise realistic - situations and corners, each character feels right at home. Every character is realistic and relatable, if not 100% likable, and one can relate themselves to at least one character, depending on their personalities. Not only did John Boorman throw the characters in the right background, but he also chose the right cast. A cast so greatly chosen that I find it difficult to replace them with someone else. Take a look at Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty, both in their debuts. Both of their characters indeed suffered the usual cliche - The most vocal gets raped and the nice guy gets killed - but since this film had the most appropriate background for them, the point hit home. These things happen in real life and the bullies - in this case, the mountain men - usually go for the weak ones first, who in this case were Bobby and Drew.
Story-wise, Deliverance is a strongly scripted film and as brutal and hard-hitting as its dangerous waters and rocky terrains. Some films drag you headfirst into the action. Some take you by the hand and take sweet time in doing it. Deliverance, however, puts a hand around your shoulder, points into the distance and says, "Do you see that, my friend?" Nothing hidden, nothing subtle, everything is right in front you. And by that I mean the opening Banjo Duels scene. It may seem a sweet moment but it actually underlines, and foreshadows, everything that is to follow, namely unpredictability. Anyway, this is a brutal flick that requires all of your nerves to watch it and you will be amazed by the realistic approach of it that you can swear the people die for real. I really wasn't expecting this film to blow me away, but by the time it ended, I was left polarized and, frankly speaking, very disturbed.
Performance-wise, all 4 of them - Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox, Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds - were great and convincing in their roles, even if the last two did take time to catch up to the speed. The best from the bunch, however, was Ned Beatty as Bobby, the guy who gets raped. Fat guys in films always get the worst deal and/or are the most hilarious of the heroes. Bobby, however, is as realistic as they come. I really enjoyed his performance and it gets better after every 5 minutes.
In conclusion, Deliverance is a solid film and seriously not for the weak-hearted. I can assure you that there are no jump-scares or ultra-violence but the rape scene is bound to give you nightmares for a-many days.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Ned Beatty - Bobby Trippe
They say the irrationality and the implausibility of the Indiana Jones franchise is the secret of the series' success. That, and Harrison Ford. I agree. What this film offers is full-cut entertainment and adds more flavour to the popcorn that's sitting beside you. This film requires no thinking, no puzzle-shifting and absolutely no deciphering; just Indiana Jones braving danger and escaping without a scratch - and becoming an instant icon. I like the character, one of my favourites, but I just couldn't connect to the film and its logic. They contrived a world - a nonsensical one at that - and then threw a character in it who was almost as goofy and had him confront danger and then had him rescued at the last possible minute. I kinda feel sorry for the movie heroes as they're never really given a chance at true heroism, bar some, like Atticus Finch and Juror No. 8, but since they appear in non-action movies I will rule them out. Indiana Jones is a hero, and nothing excites the viewer than seeing his/her favourite hero just inches away from death and being rescued or running away from it at the last possible moment. That one moment gets secured in the viewer's mind and he happily applauds the scene and the awesomeness behind it and instantly becomes a fan. Selling such a nonsensical presentation like that is easy, anyone can do it - Come up with a story, an instantly recognizable hero and have him go through a series of traps / dangers that will portray him a hero but only just. I've done that several times in my short-stories / novels, too. But why are some films more watchable than others is because of style of execution. Some execute the cliche in a unique or different manner, while the others go for the same old, same old. The execution style in Raiders is the latter, and one great example is when Indy picks up a poisoned date and hurls it in the air as in to eat it before it is caught by Sallah. Indy never once does that before and after that scene and in any other film in the series for that matter. Either they had run out of ideas or were keen on arousing tension to the scene. Either way, it lowered the bar. That's just one example, and more of 'em come later in the film. I guess a man has to throw everything out of the window and just sit back and enjoy the film and if that's the case, then yes, Raiders is quite an enjoyable flick with a-many quotable lines and fun performances.
Take a look at John Rhys Davies, who plays Sallah, one of the most lovable and genuinely funny characters in movie history, and the second best from the Indiana Jones universe. His personality, loyalty to Indy - as well as his friendship - and his deep singing voice are all positive characteristics and an instantly likable figure on-screen. Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, is a much-adored character by many but only becomes a full-admired character when fans watch Willie Scott in the sequel. Even though I have no complain against Willie (*shocking*), I must admit, I was disappointed at how a helpless woman succeeded such a kick-ass girl. Ronald Lacey and Paul Freeman played their characters memorably, the former a villainous Major Toht and the latter Indy's-rival Belloq. Both were quite impressive in their roles and I wish the former had been given more screen-time. Apart from these, all the others were either fine or stiff - mostly the latter!
So, why am I adding a film to which I've done nothing but berate in my greatest movies list? If the above factors make the film, then I must say that its intended purpose has been fulfilled and delivers exactly that. I won't be adding the sequels, you can count on that! One is enough!
No naked Berry this time. Instead we get a full-clothed Barrie!
"But I'm not Peter Pan"
Marc Forster is one of the 4 directors who tackled Johnny Depp and survived. The other three are Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and Gore Verbinski. One first glance the film doesn't seem much, just another film. If you peek a little closer you will notice it is as entertaining as J.M. Barrie'sPeter Pan and although not as magical, still flows in the same vein. The cast is very well-chosen, wonderfully played, and the set intriguing. Marc Forster takes us behind the scenes on how J.M. Barrie got his inspiration for Peter Pan and his life-story, all wonderfully paced and warmly presented. The cinematography is not bad either, showing different levels of moods from different angles and highlighting the main focus of the scene, making it stand out so that the background, or side, activity becomes obsolete. The score by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek is equally enchanting. I wouldn't say this film will go on to become a cinema classic but to those who are currently in their teens and are watching it, it will be in, let's say, 20-30 years. It possesses a certain magical quality that I hope still remains when I'll re-visit it after many, many years.
From the performances, Johnny Depp has certainly been never like this in his career. Almost a vast majority of his characters are either loud, eccentric and colourful whereas this one is quiet, too human and a gentleman. Very interesting, really. It's one of the best performances by him. Then we have Davies boys: Freddie Highmore, Nick Roud, Joe Prospero and Luke Spill. All were wonderful in their roles but of course, Highmore was the best of the bunch, being more talented and more misty-eyed. Kate Winslet was also good but she has done far better roles than this. Seeing Radha Mitchell was a good surprise. She was good, too. Dustin Hoffman actually looks better and dignified with a beard. He should sport that often.
In all, Finding Neverland is a good watch but nowhere a classic in my eyes although the combined performances of Depp and Highmore might make you call this film just that.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Johnny Depp - J.M. Barrie
The Champ was a sad film. By sad I mean heart-breaking. By heart-breaking I mean in a beautiful way. And beautiful is the word that can be used to describe the performance of Ricky Schroder as T.J., in his debut. Children in movies always tug at your heart-strings but this one shamelessly pulls at it. Not only was it a beautiful performance but it made you wish that either you could go in the film or pull T.J. out to the real world just long enough so you can hug him. His crying scene at the end, widely considered as the most saddest scene in film history, is no bull. It is real and it makes you cry as if 10 onions are being peeled all around you. It is guaranteed to move even the hardest of hearts.
The whole film, however, is a good example of mixed feelings. Sure, it is very warmly directed and evenly paced but is abrupt and rocky in some places; As if like a nice evening daily walk on the beach constantly interrupted by flying footballs. Just like an old man walking down the beach reflecting his times of sorrow, or anything that would drive him to tears, The Champ mostly focuses on that part. The emotional impact of the film is so powerful that every-time a sad scene comes up, the tears literally come in droves, and by the time the end comes up, you're probably drowning in your own-made pool of tears, or if you're watching with someone else, their's, too. Because of this heavy one-sided presentation, the building of the character is left out in the open and the main cast, bar Schroder, feels isolated and although not detached, but in a quite-different pace than the film, usually slow. Despite these setbacks, the film has an antique feel and one of the best father-son relationships in movie history; The movie equivalent of Chicken Soup For the Soul series.
Remember what I said about Jon Voight in my Mission Impossible review? I still stand by it, although not as aggressively as before, but I still stand by it. I enjoyed his chemistry with Ricky and their onscreen father-son relationship but it was his sans-T.J. moments that had me worried; He was too restricted, too puppet-like, as if several people were shouting at him off-screen to go here or go there or do this or do that. Anyway, his performance, to me, is 50-50. In some cases very good, in others very restricted. Then we have Faye Dunaway. I've heard many go like, "Dude, what does the world see in her?" Tsk, tsk, you plastic teenagers living in a plastic world run by wax models, Faye Dunaway was, and is, one of the only few candidates who actually fits the phrase "Ssssmokiinngg". Sure, in this film she is not as fiery as she was in Bonnie & Clyde or as hubris-filled in Chinatown or, should I dare say it, in her female Captain Spaulding phase in Mommie Dearest but boy oh boy, she will still expand your lower garments and have you re-arrange your position for a better expansion (hee-hee. sorry!) Her performance was also very bittersweet but since she ain't no cock-a-doodie (I'm currently reading Misery) actress, it was more "Chinatown" and less "Mommie Dearest". The rest of the cast were pretty OK, some very stereotypical, some very hard to place.
Anyway, I don't exactly love the film but the relationship in this flick is so great and the emotional impact is so titanic that it forced me to add it in my greatest movies list. OK, OK, I'm doing it, just don't punch me in the face.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Ricky Schroder - T.J. Jon Voight - Billy Flynn
Had Mel Brooks not directed High Anxiety then this would've been his greatest directed flick. Unfortunately, Frankenstein will forever be no. 2 to Anxiety in my book. If you look at the poster, it gives off the feeling of a cheap porno mess. If you look at the title, it sounds like as if a 9 yr. old juvenile delinquent stumbles upon the legendary lair of Victor Frankenstein, or something similar, and becomes a child prodigy, with a lot of mayhem and chaos stemming from his work, or rather failures. Well, that's what the title "promised" me and, boy O boy, how wrong I was proven just by 5 minutes into the film. As soon as Gene Wilder started talking, it was clear to me that he was the perfect choice and that he would keep me laughing throughout the whole film, which he did, and when he was joined by Teri Garr and Marty Feldman, the laughs doubled, tripled even.
Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder's writing was so sharp that it was clear they were trying to make the horror into funny, and funny into rolling-on-floor-laughing funny. And it stops there. It doesn't even attempt to go beyond that point, beyond where you might roll your eyes instead of your whole body and mutter to yourself, "Man, that wasn't funny at all. One of the other factors is the stability of the film and how it excelled in covering up itself as a 30's horror. Man, methinks this is one of the best love-letter ever given to the yesteryear cinema by one of the best geniuses. A laboratory, long accepted as the *true* place for mayhem, has now become in this film a place for comedy, iconic horror tropes such as lightning and spooky sounds are now used for comedic purposes, and sidekicks are no longer only faithful but achingly funny, too, something Brooks later revisited in High Anxiety with Brophy.
The film starts off in a mixed-feelings manner but quickly gains its pace when the medical student stands up and asks the question the second time. From there you know it will be worth every minute. But, however, they indeed wobble, if for a short period, during the whole Frankenstein meeting the little girl part. That didn't seem like a scene connected to the film. But for the second time they recover themselves immediately after when they follow it up with the scene involving Frankenstein and The Blind Man. Not only was it utterly hilarious but also one of Brooks's greatest genius moments. Oh, and let's not forget Gene Hackman's on-the-spot improv line "I was gonna make espresso."
Performances by everyone were great and everyone left you impressed one way or another. Even though the main spotlight is shone upon Gene Wilder all the supporting cast make excellent use of what little ray of light that comes upon them, creating rewind-that-scene moments and distinct characters.
In conclusion, this may probably be the last film I would add of Mel Brooks, the other three were Spaceballs, Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety, but that doesn't mean I will stop re-watching them. His humour I can relate and love going back to. Granted, there are some moments which are expected and quite-dragging but since it was directed and (mostly) written by Brooks, the style of execution keeps you from hitting the pause button and calling it quits - something you might have done had it been directed by someone else.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Gene Wilder - Dr. Frederick Frankenstein
This is one vision of dystopia I wish doesn't come true!
"Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it?"
If you manage to round up every Ridley Scott fan and present them all of his movies and ask them to single out his best work, they will narrow it down to two: Alien and Blade Runner. Then, even though they won't be told to do this, they will form two groups and will call themselves Team Alien and Team Blade Runner, and only then we will be able to identify Ridley'smagnum opus. You will also notice a tall, scrawny guy standing under the Team Blade Runner banner. Yup, that's me. I think this film is his magnum opus, and one of the greatest achievements in movie-making. What hasn't it got? A solid cast, a beautiful score by Vangelis and superb directing.
OK, I'm gonna go graphic and colourful on this: The story weaves around the never-ending rainy city like a snake, which is handled by a deranged poet of sorts. It almost has a Disney Prince quality to it but the darkness and the moody atmosphere keeps it from going down that road. Vangelis's beautiful, striking score feels like as if the film is feeding you some surreal, goodness-knows-what pills and every-time his score, or part of it, comes up, the awesomeness of the film doubles. Since the film has excelled in passing itself off as neo-noir, it can be said as the true heir to the 40's neo-noirs. Blade Runner is technically a book in movie form. Every camera change is akin to turning a page in a book, and the anticipation one feels while reading a book can feel it in this film, a rare feeling I must say. Some of the scenes and the way they are shot are so gorgeous that you can't help but imprint that scene in your mind so you can review it over and over again. Take a look when Deckard hunts down and shoots Zhora; the setting, the mood, the kill, everything is so prophetic, in a sense, and the music plays like muses mourning her death and at the same time mocking the logic behind the moment. Another moment is when Batty hoists Deckard up on the roof and goes into his soliloquy mode; not only it is haunting and mesmerizing but is also a great testament on how powerfully emotional and grabbing screen moments can get. It is only the ending that has baffled many viewers and, frankly speaking, me, too. It has also raised a haunting, and much beloved, question of all time: Is Rick Deckard a Replicant? My two-cents are unfortunately not worth their price, so I won't even try.
The more I see this film the more I'm reminded of the fact that this film reminds me so much of Velvet Underground's debut album and Jim Morrison's poetic lyrics. This is something that can be declared off as silly but that's just me... I guess. Anyone else got that feeling? Or similar to it?
From the performances, all the actors were brilliant and their characters were very well written. The one, however, impressed me the most was Harrison Ford as the protagonist Rick Deckard. By that time he had established himself as a leading icon through his roles as Han Solo and Indiana Jones in two of the biggest movies ever made. Since I'm often reluctant to march to the same beat the whole damn world is stomping to, I will say that I found him more relatable and human in this film than the other two, and his performance amazing. Even though I like Solo and Indy, they came off as irritating adult-pricks running across in a world that can be categorized as irrational or nonsensical. Not this one, though. Rick Deckard was in a world that can be categorized as "Our world within 100 years" or in other words, realistic, through the attitudes and behaviours. Deckard had more character, more depth, more human factor in it, not some one-liner one-second comic relief guy. Harrison Ford's approach to his character may seem lazy at first but he makes it simple for us to enjoy yet complex enough to leave you scratching your head. This is one film he should be remembered for, not the other two, in my opinion. The reason why I'm praising his performance above all his others is because he bought a certain degree of realism to Deckard and perfectly mirrored the image of the world around him into his character. A great achievement I must say, totally great. From the supporting, Joe Turkel was also convincing in his role as Eldon Tyrell. I like actors who are able to express through hand movements or have great flow in them. Turkel displays it here. Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty was equally hypnotizing. I'm not usually a fan of tragic villains / heroes but Hauer bought a depth of understanding to him, making him a favourite for many viewers worldwide. The rest of the cast were good, too, but hardly to the above casts' level.
The one thing that prevents me from calling it perfect is (it is rather silly) because it is cyberpunk, and I'm not too keen on cyberpunk. I'm more of a steampunk fan. Yea, that's one -punk I can relate to. Cyberpunk doesn't really cut the mustard with me, it just skims over. Steampunk is more dignified, more adventure-esque and more thrilling to watch. Had this film been steampunk it would've been time better. Come to think of it, why can't they remake it as one? (If you want to throw tomatoes, please warn me first)
In conclusion, one of the greatest films ever made and a must watch. Blade Runner was one of 80's greatest moments!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Harrison Ford - Rick Deckard Rutger Hauer - Roy Batty
Two-minutes into this film and you have already fallen in love. When the film ends, the feeling is akin to waving your bestest friend goodbye at the train station, with the tears and handkerchiefs and all. It is timeless, one of the many films which constantly changes the batteries in its watch. It never once ages, nomadder how many times you watch it, it just never does. It doesn't feel like you're watching a film but rather listening to a family member, or a wise person recounting his story to you. You can feel the love, anger, sadness, happiness and whatnot and it actually makes you part of it, as if you're but one of its extras.
However, the film is today widely unappreciated by youngsters solely on the grounds that it beat Citizen Kane to the Best Picture Award back in 1942. Oh you balled-up teenagers, doesn't it clearly show which film was more appreciated back then? Anyway, I don't know why do you make a big issue out of this when you yourself yell about that Academy's don't prove the worth of a film. Citizen Kane did not win; does that make it a less valuable, or less important, film? Well, I don't see you shouting otherwise. So... there! How Green Was My Valley is highly recommended and a nice, warm, family-friendly film doesn't get any better than this.
John Ford was one of those greatest directors of yesteryears who was often competed against and used to secure a fairly good position, in the top 5 probably. Granted, he is not in my top 5 but remains one of my favourites, mostly by through this film. The directing is warm and smooth, like someone laying a blanket over you when you're sleeping, or adjusting your pillow for a better ease of rest. He knew his way around the story and showed us not only what he wanted to see but things we wouldn't have seen had another director taken over. The great directing, coupled up with the enchanting music and perfect narrating by Irving Pichel make up 80% of the success of the movie.
Performance-wise, the remaining 20%, every major cast were great. Take a look at Sarah Allgood and Donald Crisp, who also won the Academy Award. Their performances are convincing, easy to watch and easy to relate to + their chemistry is quite-impeccable. Loved every second of their screentime. Then we have Roddy McDowell in one of his well-known screen-roles, as Huw Morgan. A great performance, in fact one of the best I've seen. Following them is Walter Pidgeon, one of the best old cinema actors, as Mr. Gruffydd. It may not be a performance worthy of a standing ovation, but it is worth noticing all the same.
In conclusion, How Green Was My Valley is a very pleasing and heart-warming film that will make you wanna re-visit it again just to experience that feeling all over again. A must-watch!
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Donald Crisp - Gwilym Morgan Sarah Allgood - Beth Morgan
McCarthy made the characters memorable on paper. The Coen brothers made them icons in reel.
"I told you "call it"
There is this saying "All roads lead to Rome". That line, however, can be re-phrased as, for this film, "All roads lead to death". The less you know about something or someone, it might kill you. The more you know about something or someone, it might kill you. The world in this film is dominated by a nihilistic madman, a weary, weather-worn sheriff, and a man who stumbled in the wrong frame, thus leading the film into a gritty, violent and unpredictable game of cat 'n mouse. More like T. Rex and sheep. The main themes in the film, there are two, are uncertaincy and paranoia. And these two are highlighted by the repeated uses of coin-toss, motels, doors, and money, the main reason for both.
The Coen brothers handled this film so perfectly that I was left mightily impressed, even though I favour There Will Be Blood more, this films' most strongest rival back in 2008. I guess I'm gonna get into the Prestige/Illusionist argument here. Both films are impressive but Blood had a much better sense of character and surrounding in it, whereas No Country was more interested in the suspense and unforgiving nature of Chigurh. Not to say this film was flawed, just that Blood was better, that's all.
Anyway, the Coen brothers have given us a 20th Century Jason Voorhees with a heart of The Terminator in Anton Chigurh, one of the only few characters who was amazing both in paper and on reel. Chigurh is the de facto ruler of the world he is thrown in and the Coen brothers wasted no time in letting that fact be known. The people in the movie fear Chigurh; What the viewer fears most is his captive bolt pistol, the coolest weapon to be shown on-screen since the Auto 9 in RoboCop. Man, you don't wanna be in the receiving end of it, believe me. The weapon, probably, to strike fear even in statues in the night when its bullet goes sizzling past by. Anton Chigurh is not only cinema's most creepiest villain, but also one of modern cinema's most feared and most relentless. He kills just like a heart beats; it is his only way to pass the time when he is awake. I bet when he is taking his 40 winks he's probably killing sheep in his dream, or goats in his nightmares. Javier Bardem played him to perfection, to the absolute zenith. With the creepy hairstyle, unique weapon of choice and his oddly good looks (yes, he is good looking, thank you very much), he made Chigurh an iconic character of modern times that will go on to become of all time in a few years. A humourless character in a humourless world. What else do you want?
Josh Brolin was convincing in his role, too, but he couldn't reach to the level of Bardem, no matter how hard he tried, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless. Tommy Lee Jones is a prime example of a love/hate relationship. I like him in some, dislike him in others. This film is the former. I feel like this is what he is cut out for and nothing else. He nailed the Southern accent in this one, something he has done in several other movies. I believe he should just play sheriffs from now on. With Southern accents, of course. Then we have Kelly MacDonald, who was a good eye candy but her performance is nothing to ignore; she is actually better in this than all the other roles she has done. Woody Harrelson is always a welcome. He is one of the only few actors to have achieved the "Dude, you should never leave the screen, even for a second" status. His short appearance, which ends in a memorable death scene, not only puts a smile on your face but makes you go like "Yo bitches! I just saw another Woody Harrelson movie... now I gotta see more", and this is why I'm downloading Zombieland next.
In conclusion, No Country For Old Men is a ferociously violent film that focuses solely on the dark side of action and none of the light side; the one-liners, one-second comic relief and all that.
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Javier Bardem - Anton Chigurh Kelly MacDonal - Carla Jean Moss Tommy Lee Jones - Sheriff Ed Tom Bell Woody Harrelson - Carson Wells Josh Brolin - Llewelyn Moss
Post-Apocalyptic doesn't come any harsher or brutal than this.
"If anyone touches you, I will kill them!"
The Road is what you get when you mix Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Stalker and I Am Legend. It is one of the most harshest movies I've ever seen. The bitterness, coldness, reluctance and lack of soul in the environment is so real that it makes it your actual surroundings and pricks at you from all sides. Most films are about a dysfunctional family in a once-perfect world, but this one is about a once-perfect family in a world that has grown tired to continue. It has given up. What you have is what you have, you won't be getting any more, and that is why The Road is the greatest dystopic post-apocalyptic film ever made, if not for all time, then of the decade (2000-2010). It has all the familiar touches of dystopia and adds its own touches: this is a world where running, cannibalism and ammunition are the only ways to survive and where seeking refuge in a house is the most dangerous mistake. It is also where death is most discussed about over the dinner table, and not how was the day at the office or when is the next dentist appointment due. The full frontal, sharp-as-tacks depiction of how our world can become is not only scary but a living nightmare. It's like as if the fog of Silent Hill took over and personified everyone's innermost desires / secrets / fears and spread it over the world like a blanket.
The direction was awesome, as it showed you exactly what you wanted to see and was quite artistic. It felt like as if it was running on the same vein as the cinematography in Stalker. Anyway, John Hillcoat has created such a great film and calling it a "masterpiece" or "classic" would be too hasty, as it was just released 3 years ago, but I have a feeling these 2 terms will be undeniably used to describe this film. It is a also a good testament on how great films can be with a simple storyline and how memorable it can be if executed brilliantly.
From the performances, Viggo Mortensen was the heart and soul of the movie, but it was Kodi Smit-McPhee who actually "carried the fire". He was a warm and welcome find in my sporadic new-actors hunt. His innocent quality and behaviour proved just the thing in a world cancered with cruelty and harshness. Not only I thoroughly enjoyed his performance but he was so 100% convincing in his role that my heart went out to him. His crying, the look of fear on his face, the amazing chemistry he shared with Viggo, everything was so real that he became less a character and more a real person, a friend, at each passing second. Such a wonderful performance like this can hardly be duplicated, by him or anyone else. Now I'm gonna keep an eye out for him in Let Me In. From the supporting, Charlize Theron ain't no-one to sneeze at. She makes all her short screen-times her own. She leaves no elbow room for others and was equally brilliant as the other two. Robert Duvall, on the other hand, was a welcome surprise. Since it had been a long time that I'd seen any Duvall film, his short appearance was quite memorable in its own right.
In conclusion, a memorable film with memorable moments and memorable acting. It has a lot of emotional value than 10 films combined and a lot thought-provoking scenes that will make you ask yourself; What would I do?
1001 Performances to See Before Retiring: Viggo Mortensen - Man Kodi Smit-McPhee - Boy
Happy Vader's rating:
Hello fellow Listal friends!
I tried ranking them in order but found that too difficult to do so. I've made a sister list, 500 Music, and that was easy to do whereas movies was hard and therefore they're not ranked in any order. Totally random BUT, before we get all excited, I would always rank Ben-Hur numero uno nomadder what! I guess you can say from No. 2 onwards it's all random!