The Elephant Man (1980) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Tom of Digital Shortbread. Thanks for the review, Tom! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Elephant Man, IMDB rank 138 out of 250… (it was 116 when I started this project – it makes me mad when worthy films move down the list to make way for inferior films like Interstellar!)

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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IMDb Top 250 movie challenge: The Elephant Man (1980)

So there was this movie I needed to watch for this IMDb Top 250 movie challenge thing I was participating in. I’m using the past tense because this was something I had committed to about . . . a year and a half ago at this point. (Is that about right Mutey? Year and a half? or has it been longer?) The movie was David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and I finally managed to calm my ADHD down enough to where I could actually watch it. However, as I was cueing it up to watch my mind started being a bit of an ass, provoking me and stuff, telling me to flip to a different On-Demand channel, something that was playing a more recent movie.

“No!” I yelled back at it, out loud. Seated on a couch in the middle of a very quiet living room. All I had done over the last several months was learn to procrastinate better. Err, sorry, excuse me — blog about other movies that to me at the time seemed more urgent.* Finally I realized I could always procrastinate — yes, that ‘extremely-nonsensical-combination-of-letters-that-if-repeated-enough-over-a-short-span-of-time-makes-even-less-sense-but-somehow-if-you-only-say-it-once-you-know-exactly-what-it’s-referring-to’ word — later on anyway. I had to hit the play button now.

I was transported back to the late 1800s, and Victorian England, where traveling circuses were still all the rage and attracted (semi-) massive crowds. I think it’s only fair to assume those who did not turn out for these shows had some kind of moral compass that wasn’t shattered into shitty little useless bits. After a brief but trippy dream-like sequence, Lynch pans in on a striking man (Anthony Hopkins) moving through the crowds, trying to access a particular exhibit known only as ‘The Elephant Man.’ However a shift in the public perception of what these most bizarre and unholy of events actually represented — not curiosity, but cruelness — led to more than a few of the more obscure and unattractive exhibits being closed down by authorities. ‘The Elephant Man’ was one such exhibit.

Cut to a dank and depressingly dark alleyway somewhere in the London area, where once again Hopkins’ Dr. Frederick Treves is trying to get a glimpse of this elephant-like man. To do so, he must uncomfortably agree to some terms (mostly monetary . . . natch) set by the manager, a horrible man named Bytes (Freddie Jones). When he’s finally granted access Treves is so moved by what he sees that he asks if he may ‘study him’ back at the London Hospital, where Treves is a renowned practitioner of medicine. Or whatever fancy way 19th Century English people referred to medical-y people.

As Lynch’s often powerfully emotive work seeks to explore the relationship Dr. Treves formed with his patient, Joseph Merrick (a breathtakingly good John Hurt), during the time he stayed in this hospital, the narrative gets cozy in this facility, spending much of the remaining time concerned with the passage of time and how it can quite literally heal wounds. Unfortunately, the London Hospital had been deemed a facility fit only for those who could be cured of their ailment(s). Go figure, Victorian England. As if Joseph needed the added pressure of becoming an inconvenience to the bureaucracy. (Random bit of trivia: Joseph’s so commonly mistakenly referred to as John that he is actually ‘John’ in the movie as well, so for the purposes of this review I’ll stick with his movie name from here on out.)

The fabric of this narrative is weaved from a tough, humanistic cloth. The Elephant Man is an absorbing study of one of the most fundamental aspects of existence, the need and desire to fit in and belong to something. For the heavily disfigured John, it’s heartbreakingly sufficient for him to have his presence actually acknowledged by at least one person. Perhaps this explains why he opens up at all to the doctor who found him in the streets and why he said precious little to his circus manager/owner. John sees Dr. Treves as a paternal figure of sorts. At the very least, a reincarnation of his mother, of whom he carries around a picture in his pocket. Since early childhood, around the age of 10 when she passed away, John was always curious to know if she, too, would have rejected him like his father and his new wife had . . . or would she have accepted him for what and who he was?

The Elephant Man is powered by two tremendous performances from Hurt and Hopkins, the former being one of the strongest in all of cinematic history. (Certainly in my history of watching movies, which is like, so totally not a history at all . . . . . ) I feel pretty comfortable making that claim even when factoring in make-up effects that were ahead of their time, effects so convincing they inspired the Academy to introduce an award category the following year specifically for Make-Up Artistry.** Hurt, behind a mask that graphically depicts the brutality of random chance (a.k.a. the nature of genetics), is mesmerick (see what I did there? I spelled that word as if it were his last name as part of the . . . okay, yeah this is pointless information). But for cereals, you cannot turn away from this performance, not for a second. The man is utterly transfixing throughout, in ways that ingeniously distract from the grotesque physical appearance. Physically embodying the character was one step, but giving the man personality . . . that’s another challenge entirely. And yet, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for Hurt. He’s stoic yet nevertheless heartbroken by his past; grateful for Treves’ kindness yet still aware that not everyone can be like him. There’s an aura surrounding John that is wholly indebted to Hurt’s interpretation.

Obviously Hopkins is no slouch either. A complicated individual, Treves is first at odds with the hospital and its ‘curable patients’ policy. Over the months and years of John remaining under his care Treves makes more enemies than just Bytes, who reemerges infrequently throughout, eager to reclaim his prized possession any day. John’s life in the London Hospital begins in isolation, but as the doc makes leaps and bounds in progress with the patient, and the tenuous bond of trust they establish eventuates in John’s transfer to a more social area of the hospital, Treves must face up to the ethical consequences of using John as a pseudo-medical experiment. Hopkins is immensely likable as Dr. Treves, yet he’s perfectly imperfect. He doesn’t immediately question his approach with John, like how one of the first things he did with him was show him off to an auditorium packed with, yes, other medical-y people and laying claim to how this would be his most interesting patient yet. Instead, that question comes much later, after circumstances have changed dramatically. Yet, if we’re meant to feel ambivalent towards Treves, Hopkins does a damn fine job of convincing us of his better qualities.

This is of course not easy material to get through. If you have the patience to sit through some many trying scenes (I’m talking the kind that make you angry), then the upshot will be powerful, a potent reminder that people have an immense capacity for kindness in spite of all that has been shown here. Yet the treacherous scenes that come before are often punishment on the conscience; their bluntness at times visceral and greatly upsetting. Some parts are sickening, while others can be downright unwatchable. How can ignorance beget such monstrous behavior? The kind of freakishness that occurs naturally only in tents that capitalize on monsters. Lynch crafts a beautiful symmetry between John’s unfortunate looks and society’s collective hideousness.

The Elephant Man has been described as one of Lynch’s most accessible films. Structurally speaking it’s as straightforward as a . . . I don’t know, something that’s straightforward — a ruler, perhaps? No, a documentary. As straightforward as a documentary. I hesitate to make that comparison because it makes the film sound uninspired and possibly even lazy. Given the way The Elephant Man flows from one stage of life to the next, ducking and diving in and out of the various rooms that constituted John’s life the film does take on some of the evaluative properties of an in-depth documentary. Lynch didn’t have to concoct a timeline-distorting, reality-bending head trip to leave an impression here. He just needed to let the subject matter speak for itself.

*  just FYI Mutey, films like Mortdecai, The D-Train, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and what was your favorite film ever? oh yeah — Interstellar 😉 were reviewed before this was watched. Lol?

** slight correction: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created the new category for the following year’s ceremony, but only after they were pressured publicly to do so. When The Elephant Man failed to garner attention for its make-up effects, it was petitioned to have an honorary award bestowed upon it, even though the AMPAS refused. An American Werewolf in London was the first film that won the prize in the following year

THANK YOU to Mutey for your PATIENCE and your PERSEVERANCE and your HOSPITALITATITY for letting me post this review on your site, and so late! 🙂 The Elephant Man is incredible stuff, I recommend anyone who has not seen it give a look-see sometime. 

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The Seventh Seal (1957) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Chris of Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop. Thanks for the review, Chris! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Seventh Seal (Swedish: Det sjunde inseglet), IMDB rank 117 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Plot: A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.

A 1957 Swedish film about the ubiquity of death and the struggle of life sounds a bit like something you’d watch in film school or that hipsters would discuss over their kale lattes. It probably is both of those things, actually, but The Seventh Seal really is an interesting piece of cinema that’s worth a couple of hours of your time.

However, that does depend on what you want out of your films. If you want something light and fluffy to switch off to after a hard day at work then The Seventh Seal probably isn’t your best option in all honesty. But if you want something that’s going to make you consider deep metaphysical questions about life, death, religion and such then this could well float your boat.

There’s an incredible amount going on in The Seventh Seal, and it’s one of those films that you can take as much or as little away from it as you like. If you want to just see a knight travelling to his castle and meeting people along the way then you can do that, but if you want to see a man questioning the purpose of life in the face of death (or whatever else you want to read into it) then you can do that too.

For me, it’s a much richer film if you read into it a little. Granted, you could drive yourself crazy trying to work out absolutely everything, but just thinking a little deeper into its meanings is hugely rewarding. Some people like to do that with their films, some don’t. But this film gives back what you put into it.

Some of the film’s themes are abstract and hidden, whilst others are in reasonably plain sight. For me, the main theme of the film is a man questioning the existence of God, something which is quite openly discussed throughout the film. How can God exist when people are at war with each other and the Black Death is sweeping the country killing people? These are questions as old as the idea of God itself and questions that are still talked about today. For that reason it’s a film that although may look a little dated, still feels like it has resonance today.

Then there are plenty of other themes that run throughout such as the importance of family and friendship during hard times, ensuring you do good in life and lots of other deep shit. It really is a film you could analyse for years and still get news things from it each time.

The imagery in the film is some of the most iconic in cinema, and no doubt many of you will be familiar with the image of Max Von Sydow’s Antonius Block playing a game of chess with Death. The image of the danse macabre as Death leads away his victims is also incredibly iconic and powerful and helps turn the films into something much more deep and meaningful in its messages and metaphors.

The Seventh Seal simply isn’t a film that will appeal to everyone. It can be very slow moving at times, covers some pretty heavy themes and is just downright surreal and odd in parts. Definitely the kind of film my girlfriend would comment something along the lines of ‘what the fuck are you watching?!’ Don’t watch it if you’re looking for something to unwind and switch off to.

But I quite enjoyed it. I enjoyed thinking a little more into it and some of the cinematography is fantastic, so even if you don’t want to get all philosophical about it, there’s still plenty to enjoy. It’s probably not one I’d watch again in all honesty, but a good one to tick off the watch-list.

The Lord Of The Rings (Full Trilogy) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from James of Slate The Silver Screen. Thanks for the review, James! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Entire Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, IMDB ranks 9, 13 & 21 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

WARNING: SPOILERS

Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy is adapted from J.R.R. Tolkein’s incredible books. These films take you on an epic journey through the detailed and beautiful cinematic universe of Middle Earth and the arduous battle between good and evil., The films are widely regarded as one of the most critically and financially successful franchises of all time, spawning a highly divisive prequel trilogy (The Hobbit) that could never live up to the success of the original.

Wait…this is an exact description of Star Wars…You sure?…alright fine. Anyway!

So without further a do, here is a trailer for the LOTR trilogy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnf4h5HT4dc

FUN FACT: The word Frodo is said 116 times in the trilogy. This is a rate of 0.208 Frodo’s per minute.

BEFORE I START THIS, TRILOGY IS A DEFINITE MUST SEE!

The LOTR franchise is split into The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Towers and Return Of The King. I will not go into too much plot detail, as this is a review, not a PhD thesis.

Frodo (Elijah Wood), a young, inquisitive hobbit, comes into possession of a mysterious ring following the disappearance of his uncle, Bilbo (Tom Holms). Gandalf (Ian McKellan), an aging, powerful wizard discovers this is ‘’The One Ring’’ of power that belonged to the Dark Lord Sauron. Thus begins a chain reaction which sees Frodo on a quest to destroy the one true ring and save middle Earth…COME ON…THIS IS JUST STAR WARS SET IN THE MIDDLE AGES…THERE IS DEFINITELY SOME COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT GOING ON HERE…FINE…I’LL DROP IT

[SIGH]

Frodo, accompanied by Sam, his closest friend and gardener, sets off to meet Gandalf in the village of Bree so that he can get the ring somewhere safe. En route they bump into Merry and Pippin, while they’re stealing crops, who join them on their journey. Incidentally, Merry and Pip are the least qualified saviours in the history of everything…during the course of the trilogy they make blunders of such utter stupidity that I wonder how they made it this far in life. When they reach Bree Gandalf is not there and instead they find Stryder, a mysterious ranger, who helps them evade Sauron’s Black riders. Something they only had to do because Pip blew Frodo’s cover.

The group reach the Elven stronghold of Rivendell where they are reunited with Gandalf. Here a Fellowship is formed to aide Frodo in his quest. The Hobbits, Gandalf, Stryder (now called Aragorn), a bitter man called Boromir. And finally Legolas and Gimli, an elf and dwarf who are constantly bickering.

Plot wise that is about all you need to know. What follows in a 558-minute epic that takes you through highs, lows, battles, betrayal, love, immortality, obsession, mental illness and emotional connection. (By the way there is a 683 minute extended cut, which is also worth a watch).

The first instalment, The Fellowship, serves as an introduction to Middle Earth, its inhabitants, its history, the horrors of the previous war and the malevolence that once again threatens Middle Earth. At its core is the journey of our Hobbits and the bonds of the fellowship. The violence and hardships are personal, the losses are intimate and the battle is for the life of you and your friends. The film never drags and is a great first entry and, although not small by any stretch of the imagination, it is on a smaller scale than its sequels.


The second film, Two Towers, shifts away from Frodo and Sam and more towards the realms of men and Saruman’s fall from grace, the white wizard who Gandalf initially considered a friend. This film is really about redemption; the bonds of the fellowship following their breakdown, the waning strength of men and of those lost to evil. There are a myriad of new characters, however, the standout is Gollum, played by Andy Serkis using motion capture CGI. Gollum was once a hobbit who was corrupted by the ring and is obsessed with it. His ‘’precious’’ fills his every waking thought since he lost it to Bilbo Baggins (see prequel trilogy for clarification). He exhibits serious symptoms of a nearly dozen mental illnesses and disorders that I would not wish on my worst enemy. But grudgingly he develops a fragile relationship with Frodo and agrees to help him find his way into Mordor. Serkis is exceptional in every scene, he is nuanced, he is over the top and he is captivating. It truly is a remarkable performance!

Everything is bigger this time around. The battles, the castles, the enemies, the stakes. Sauron grows more powerful each day, and as such the second film should feel more charged and deadly. It all serves to increase the tension and completely draw you in.

The final instalment, Return Of The King, is the big finish. Everything is stepped up to another level. This time we are not fighting for our home or friends. This could be the end of everything and you can feel it through every second of the final confrontation with Sauron’s army.


You cannot discuss LOTR without discussing the visuals, it is basically a giant tourism piece for New Zealand, where it was filmed. The beautiful landscapes are combined with CGI and set pieces and in doing so become the most important character in the trilogy. The Shire is green and tranquil and captures the innocent, simple life of Hobbits. The grandiose pomposity of the Elves is captured by Rivendell. The realms of men are impressive and foreboding but have been neglected and miss repaired, much like the fading strength of men maligned at the beginning of the series. Then there is Mordor, explored deeply in the final film, a putrid landscape so foul and toxic that it could only breed pure evil. These backdrops are all encompassing, detailed and beautiful and draw you in. You become part of Middle Earth, this is a fight for your home and your people! Without this the series would have not been the success it is!

Furthermore, they provide the huge scale that makes the series so impressive. Even the first film, with its much smaller set pieces and action, takes you on a journey across half a world: the Shire, Bree, Weathertop, Rivendell, mines of Moria, Woods of Lothlorien, the woods of Parth Galen (the final action sequence is here)… This is a complete world of such magnitude and detail that it paved the way for modern cinematic franchises. Before this film no one even attempted something of this scale. The Marvel cinematic universe wouldn’t have been possible without LOTR blazing a trail.

But a series of pretty pictures do not a film make. The film needs heart, you need to care about the characters and believe their relationships. And you are not let down. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin, Frodo and Sam, provide the emotional core of the film as they go through hell and back. Their relationship is heart-warming and it is difficult to watch their burdens way heavy on it. Interestingly they haven’t delivered performances anywhere near this level since. Ian McKellan’s Gandalf is fantastic, his stage background was perfect to produce the gravitas and presence needed. He received the trilogy’s only acting Oscar nomination. Viggo Mortensen delivers a strong turn as Aragorn. And I’ve already mentioned Gollum.

However it is not all sunshine and rainbows; the rest of the cast do a great job but for the most part they are replaceable and not memorable of their own accord. The screenwriting and dialogue is generally great, but there are some scenes that come across as quite cliché. There also seems to be an undercurrent of sexual tension between Sam and Frodo, although I could be reading too much into this. There are lots of longing glances, intimate dialogue and a slow-mo scene towards the end where Frodo’s laughing turns into a deep, sensual stare as Sam enters the room.

Alas, with praise also comes criticism:

  • The female characters are strong, powerful and interesting but underused. Most of the time the women serve to propel their male counterparts forward in the plot. And they do not once interact with each other, although with this being a book adaptation maybe this wasn’t possible within the confines of the story. The exception maybe Eowyn but even she falls for Aragorn who cannot return her love.
  • The entire cast is white. I know this is a fictional place so we don’t have anything to base racial proportions on but that’s sort of my point. Would it have really mattered if some of the characters were played by non-white actors? No. This is less of a problem with the film itself than the industry as a whole but it is still worth mentioning.

The relationship between Legolas and Gimli is interesting as they overcome, generations of tension and animosity between their races to become close friends. This obviously has some current relevancy as we have a long way to go with racial equality. But again they are both white…so see above.

  • Even Nazgul, Sauron’s minions, whose only drive is their primal need to find the ring still fall victim to, ‘’Bad Guy Monologue-ing’’. We’ve all seen it. The good guy is done for all the bad guy has to do now is just get on with it. Instead he wastes just enough time explaining his plans that the good guy can escape. And while the Nazgul do not monologue they do waste time and get distracted. Or, more frustratingly, just aren’t very good at finding things. This happens at least 7 times during the trilogy.
  • Multiple endings! This has been the films biggest criticism. The final film takes about 40 minutes to end including: eagles, two weddings, book writing, narration, a whitewash reunion and a boat trip. There are at least five different places where the film could have feasibly ended without causing any problems.

There is no denying Tolkein’s genius but here are some of my issues!

  • THE FUCKING EAGLES. Whenever Tolkein ran out of ideas on how to solve a problem he just called in the eagles. Gandalf’s trapped. Eagles. Outnumbered in battle. Eagles. Frodo’s trapped. Eagles. The entire prequel Hobbit trilogy. Eagles. Why not just give them the bloody ring and let them fly to Mordor? It’d certainly be much quicker.

  • This one is more of a niggle. Dwarfes and Elves hate each other. SO why, in the name of all that is holy, is the password to get into Moria an Elvish word?
  • This series is black and white. Good vs Evil. The characters are either one or the other. I suppose it makes sense in this story but it does leave some of the characters a bit flat. I suppose everyone has the same enemy so maybe they put all other duplicitous plans on the back burner for now? I mean if you exclude Sauron the biggest dicks in the series are men. But even then that’s only because there are two evil men and the rest are good. The only character with any level of grey is Boromir, but his grey is negated by the fact that his actions are part of a misguided plan to do the right thing for his people by fighting the enemy with his own weapon.

All that being said, this series is not just an exceptional cinematic achievement but is an all-encompassing, engrossing and enjoyable watch. Do yourself a favour, set aside 9 hours and watch it!

VERDICT:

PS/ If you want to make a good movie, cast Sean Bean and then kill him. It just works…Patriot Games, Golden Eye, The Field, Game Of Thrones. It’s not worth the risk of letting him live, just ask Jupiter Ascending or The Silent Hill franchise! Although he does still die in some bad movies…trust Michael Bay to ruin a good thing!

PPS/ As a reward for reading all that here are some fun facts.

Number of times Legolas stands and stares at something : 7

Number of moments of intense sexual tension between Frodo and Sam: 9

Number of times you hear the ‘’Shire’’ music: 32 fucking times!

Anatomy Of A Murder (1959) IMDB Top 250 & Argumentative August Review 

I’ve done a review of courtroom crime drama classic Anatomy Of A Murder, starring James Stewart, for the Argumentative August Blogathon hosted by MovieRob & by Ryan of Ten Stars Or Less. AND… this doubles as one of my own reviews for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge! This movie was ranked 203 out of 250 when I started my project on 01/01/2013.

You can read my review HERE. Thanks for letting me take part, guys! 🙂

The Pianist (2002) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Natalie of Writer Loves Movies. Thanks for the review, Natalie! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about The Pianist, IMDB rank 49 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Arriving in cinemas just nine years after Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Roman Polanski’s Holocaust drama The Pianist had a lot to live up to.

Spielberg’s film is a sweeping historical epic but Polanski takes a different approach, narrowing his focus on Polish Jewish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody). The Pianist is based on Szpilman’s real life experiences during the German occupation of Poland and takes in the first days of the Warsaw ghetto, the ghetto uprising and the subsequent Warsaw uprising made by the wider Polish resistance against the Nazis in 1944. It’s powerful subject matter handled effectively by screenwriter Ronald Harwood (Australia, The Diving Bell & The Butterfly), who took home an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Where the plight of the Jewish people can be observed in the background of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List which is centred primarily on German industrialist Oskar Schindler and concentration camp commander Amon Goeth, Polanski’s The Pianist is told directly from a Jewish perspective. It’s a huge risk, but one that pays off, enabling Polanski to take us into the very centre of the Jewish ghetto.

Polanski excels in attention to detail. Szpilman’s family and friends are the film’s main emphasis but every aspect of The Pianist’s mise-en-scene delivers the ghetto’s difficult politics and its impact on the masses forced to live there. Emaciated people scrabble for crumbs of food and corpses lie in the street virtually unnoticed: death is a familiar sight. Remarkably, these abhorrent visual details echo those described by first-hand witnesses in Claude Lanzmann’s landmark holocaust documentary, Shoah.

The dividing ghetto wall is, itself, a recurring point of focus. Polanski’s stark camera lingers on it, giving us space to reflect on its significance. Within the wall’s confines the scenes are claustrophobic. Polanski makes frequent use of the ghetto crossing (the Warsaw ghetto was divided by a main German thoroughfare), as another strong visual indicator of the segregation. Waiting in line to cross from one half of the ghetto into the other, Jewish humiliation is compounded by Nazi goading and belittlement. Much of The Pianist is centred on these simple means of degradation, observed and endured by Szpilman whose entire family share a single caramel while awaiting deportation: a symbol of their rapidly encroaching hunger and malnutrition.

Clearance of the Warsaw ghetto (deportations to the Treblinka concentration camp of which the audience but not the film’s characters are well aware) marks a division in The Pianist. From here, the pace slows and the film’s focus shifts away from Jewish persecution to the impact of war on wider Poland. The ghetto uprising is viewed from the windows of a nearby apartment, shortly followed by the Warsaw uprising. This second half of Polanski’s film hones in on Wladyslaw Szpilman’s struggle to stay alive in the increasingly devastated country. Adrien Brody manages this portion of the film almost single-handedly, observing the crippling war while searching for food and shelter. Unsurprisingly, Brody took home an Oscar for his performance here, beating Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt) and Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs Of New York).

Why you should see it: Polanski’s The Pianist unites a muscular character study and compassionate portrayal of the human spirit with an intricate study of the politics of the Warsaw ghetto and the city’s wider uprising. While it lacks the historical scope of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, The Pianist offers audiences a more intimate viewing experience that should not be overlooked.

Requiem For A Dream (2000) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Darren of Movie Reviews 101. Thanks for the review, Darren! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Requiem For A Dream, IMDB rank 73 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Darren Aronofsky, Hubert Selby Jr (Screenplay) Hubert Selby Jr (Book)
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald, Louise Lasser

Plot: The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions become stronger.

Verdict: Incredible

Story: We start by seeing the dysfunctional relationship between Harry and his mother Sara by seeing him take her television which seems to be happening on a regular occasion. This happens to help fuel his drug habit, while they keep their relationship together. While the Sara gets a chance to be on her favourite show but is worried about her weight, Harry comes up with an idea to make money by selling more drugs and making a business with his best friend. While both are trying to deal with their addictions their lives take turns for the worse when they releases what is happening.
When I first watched this I was too young to understand what was really going on and never really appreciated it, but now I have re-watched I have to say this is an incredible story of how four people decent into the world of drug and addiction takes over their lives. I like the fact that there was no happy ending for these people because it shows the harsh reality of the drug user and how far they will go. Each of our four characters ends up going in a direction that is heart breaking for some and each ends up showing the real fear what could happen to them. This ends up being hard to watch but because of that we see the real truth behind the problems. (9/10)

Actor Review

Ellen Burstyn: Sara Goldfarb mother to Harry who spends her time watching television and when she gets a chance to be on her favourite show. She ends up taking pills to help her lose weight but in the end she becomes addicted to them causing much more serious issue to her health. Ellen is fantastic in her role and most of her part is just her in her own apartment dealing with the side effects of the drugs.(10/10)

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Jared Leto: Harry Goldfarb young stoner who dreams of making it big by selling drugs, while keeping his girlfriend happy and keeping his drug habit happy. He is a loyal family man who wants to look after his mother the best he can but when things go wrong in the business he takes a chance that will begin to ruin his life forever. Jared gives a great performance and you can clearly see he was ready for a chance to show even more skills in later projects. (9/10)

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Jennifer Connelly: Marion Silver against her parents who have given her everything, she wants to make an impact herself but doesn’t know where to start while her drug habit keeps everything in a dream stage. She enters into the world of selling herself to fix her habit and before long she ends up happy just having her fix. Jennifer gives a great performance that was risky too. (9/10)

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Marlon Wayans: Tyrone C Love Harry’s best friend who helps him come up with the plan to make money. He ends up being the one who gets into trouble and before long he pushes Harry to risk more. Marlon gives a great performance and it is refreshing to see him in a serious role after all the parody roles. (8/10)

Support Cast: Dealers, friends and doctors all play big parts in helping our characters fix their problems but it is the host of Sara show that ends up helping with her downfall.

Director Review: Darren Aronofsky – Brilliant direction from Darren showing that he was always going to go on to make bigger projects but would always struggle to beat this. (10/10)

Drama: Just showing the decent our four characters make during their drug problems is wonderfully put together and you actually start to feel for the characters by the end. (10/10)
Music: Lux Aeterna by Clint Mansell makes a haunting choice for music through the film always indicating something will be happening. (10/10)
Settings: Solid setting showing the busy lives but most of the film is set in apartments. (8/10)
Suggestion: Even though I am going to give this a really high rating I still think it won’t be a lot of people’s cup of tea, it does come off hard to watch and very much in your face. (Try It)

Best Part: Reality of the story.
Worst Part: It will be hard to watch.
Lessons Learned: Don’t do drugs, Jared Leto was always going to be a star.

Believability: The reality that people will get that hooked on the drugs comes off real, but I think how far things go could be seen as too much. (5/10)
Chances of Tears: No (0/10)
Chances of Sequel: No
Post Credits Scene: No

Oscar Chances: Ellen Burstyn was nominated for best actress.
Box Office: $7.3 Million
Budget: $4.5 Million
Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes

Overall: In your face consequences of drugs

Rating 93%

The Truman Show (1998) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from David of That Moment In. Thanks for the review, David! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Truman Show, IMDB rank 215 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Director: Peter Weir
Writer: Andrew Niccol

Stars: Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney

These days, in most cities and towns, avoiding being filmed is next to impossible. We are so used to it now, that we rarely give it a second thought. CCTV cameras line every street, shop and restaurant recording us from every angle. We could probably make a movie about our lives just by going outside. For Truman Burbank though, someone already is.

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Chosen before he was even born, Truman (Jim Carrey) was selected as the first 24-hour-a-day star of a TV reality show, creatively named The Truman Show. The brainchild of eccentric film maker Christof (Ed Harris), the show is an international phenomenon and been on the air for 30 years, documenting every aspect of the man’s life. And what life he’s had. Or rather not had. Christof has carefully orchestrated the world Truman has been living in, guiding the young impressionable mind as a child to remain content with his neighborhood and fearful of the world beyond. That included “killing” his father in a boating accident, an incident so traumatic, Truman can’t go near the water. This is just one of many tricks employed against Truman to keep him where he is.

There are other things that stand out for us, but less so for a man who’s grown up in a sanitized, near perfectly planned environment, which is the greatest set in television history. Everyone in Seahaven (the community Truman lives in) is an actor and they are all in on the con. Truman is married to the wholesome Meryl (Laura Linney), who is eternally chirpy and always within reach of a product to suggest they try, making sure the label and name are clearly visible for the watching audience. This is one of the film’s major conceits, that Truman is the spectacle but we are the consumers.

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Like anyone, things nag at us, and for Truman it is the same. But lately, things have become increasingly curious. A large studio light falls from the sky and crashes on the road in front of Truman. It’s quickly covered up by a radio broadcast talking about an aircraft in trouble, which also help maintain the fear of flying already implanted in his mind (Travel agencies feature posters of airplanes being struck by massive bolts of lightning, claiming THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!). But not long after, while driving into work, the radio catches static and Truman hears the show’s crew tracking Truman’s movements as he approaches. Suspicious. But most troublesome for Truman is Lauren. Lauren, played by Sylvia in the film’s story and by Natascha McElhone in real life, is the love that he was denied. An extra on set, Lauren was never meant to be a regular. From the start, Meryl was cast as the love interest, but this is the thing about love, right? It doesn’t come from casting. It comes naturally, and Lauren overwhelms Truman. Sylvia, though is not happy about Truman’s life and is a member of the “Free Truman” movement which aims to stop the show and the cruelty of the lie. Christof has her removed from the set, forcing her and her “father” to tell Truman her family is moving to Fiji. Truman marries Meryl and life goes on, but secretly, he can’t stop thinking of his one true love. In one of the more revealing moments of the film, we watch as he hides away in the basement thumbing through magazines with pictures of women, cutting out a mouth here, some eyes there and so on. It seems arbitrary at first, and maybe even deviant for a short time until we see that Truman is actually trying to remember Lauren’s face, and is building her piece by piece with the parts of other women. It’s heartbreaking.

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This is the path Truman must take. He must discover his situation and then find a way to be free of it. Without that, the story has no meaning. But what’s impressive about this narrative is the way it makes the viewer consider the world beyond the one in the movie. What does it mean to be a star? Not long ago, it took a lot to be famous. Actors, musicians, politicians and criminals; these were the rare persons that found fame, for good or bad. These days, with reality TV, YouTube, the Internet and social networking, going “viral” and more can make anyone famous. Director Weir is keenly aware of this, and the enormous dome that houses Seahaven and Truman could easily be the metaphor of the fish bowl we all live in.

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That’s the thing about The Truman Show. It raises questions. But the film is a comedy at heart and has its objective to reach, so does not go to places that would make this a truly defining film. Take Meryl, for instance, as the girlfriend first and eventually the wife. How far does she, as a hired actress, go to play the part? Do she and Truman have sex? If so, is it broadcast? How private is Truman’s life? How much will a television audience want to see? Exploring these and more would have taken The Truman Show in a different direction, naturally, but since they are never addressed, it seems like a lost opportunity, and kind of a cheat.

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That is not to say the movie lacks depth, because that would be a mistake. Both Christof and Truman are exceptionally rich characters and Ed Harris and Jim Carrey are astounding in their roles. Christof in not a cold person, but the show is a product and the ratings are the heart. Without Truman, his world collapses, an empire he’s built for thirty years. Likewise, Truman is a child, no matter his age. His experiences are real to him, but they are aseptic, manufactured, free of conflict. There is a palpable father/son relationship in their design, but more like a god and that god’s subject just beginning to question its existence.

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Weir’s bigger message may be directed at the viewer, and one perhaps lost in the art of the film’s presentation. How closely do we really know our own world? How much do we take for granted? Life is a continuous stream of peripheral activity that goes invariably unchecked. How much of it should we question? Truman starts to see oddities, and because he doesn’t know anything but what he’s been presented, his questions are weak and with no frame of reference. Imagine that it began to rain only on you and nobody else. What do you think it could mean? A miracle perhaps? This is a dilemma Truman must face.

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And this is really all about him. Truman is a wonderful character. He’s honest, sensitive, inquisitive, and because we know his situation, he’s also sympathetic. We want to see him win. There is tremendous joy in watching his discovery. Throughout the movie, we see the audience of the show and given a glimpse into how Truman has impacted many personally. Some wear buttons and have posters that read, “How’s it going end?” We may think we get an answer to that question, when the time comes, but in truth, that answer is not so clear. Where is Truman now?

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Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Kelechi of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Thanks for the review, Kelechi! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, IMDB rank 37 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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“Hello?… Uh… Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can’t hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?… Oh-ho, that’s much better… yeah… huh… yes… Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri… Clear and plain and coming through fine… I’m coming through fine, too, eh?… Good, then… well, then, as you say, we’re both coming through fine… Good… Well, it’s good that you’re fine and… and I’m fine… I agree with you, it’s great to be fine… a-ha-ha-ha-ha… Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb… The *Bomb*, Dmitri… The *hydrogen* bomb!… Well now, what happened is… ahm… one of our base commanders, he had a sort of… well, he went a little funny in the head… you know… just a little… funny. And, ah… he went and did a silly thing… Well, I’ll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes… to attack your country… Ah… Well, let me finish, Dmitri… Let me finish, Dmitri… Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?… Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri?… Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello?… *Of course* I like to speak to you!” – President Murkin Muffley

Nominated for four Oscars at the 1965 Academy Awards, Dr. Strangelove is based on a fictional and calamitous series of events where an insane general sets in motion the path to a nuclear war.  Fighting to save the world from total annihilation, it is up to the President of the United States (Peter Sellers), other leaders and generals in the war room to save us all.

One thing I absolutely love about Dr. Strangelove is that it’s filmed in black and white.  If you’re watching this for the first time without reading the plot or having no knowledge of the film, on the surface you probably see this as a dark, tense documentary style film based on a very serious matter.  There’s nothing to hide in a black and white film – all the permutations are laid out on the screen.  However, there is one thing that sets it apart.  When you see the delightful Peter Sellers playing three distinctive yet memorable characters, your mind is put at ease.  What you have let yourself in for is 95 minutes worth of genius, satirical comedy.

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The greatest achievement in Dr. Strangelove is taking a familiar and fearful concept and turning it into a comedy that is both hilarious but also a social commentary on the real world.  It’s the biggest hurdle the film faces and in the wrong hands, Dr. Strangelove could have been remembered as something entirely different.  Originally it was meant to be a serious piece until director Stanley Kubrick and writer of the novel (which this film was based on) Peter George decided to change its tone.  What they delivered was a particular type of comedy.  This is not a slapstick comedy in the vein of Airplane or The Naked Gun.  The humour is more deadpan and cerebral as if every character totally and genuinely believes in what they’re saying and doing.  As the audience, this only increases the disbelief and the laughter we get from it.

The theme of the entire film is based on one principle – fear.  It’s the fear from the enemy.  It’s the fear from your closest friends and their actions.  It’s the fear of not fulfilling your duty and your job to the letter.  What sets off this chain of events belongs to one general – General Ripper (Sterling Hayden).

Ripper believes that politicians and leaders are incapable of handling war situations – too much talking and not enough affirmative action.  He’s a no-nonsense style general who would rather let his soldiers shoot first then ask questions later.  Through sheer paranoia based on the idea that the commies are going to take over our fluids (yes you read that correctly), he takes matters into his own hands and gives the order to a B-52 bomber to drop a nuclear bomb on the Russians.  Trust me, if you suddenly feel the urge to shake your head wondering how he came to this conclusion, you are not alone!

Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.” – General “Buck” Turgidson

Because Dr. Strangelove is set during the height of the Cold War doesn’t make it irrelevant.  I think there are plenty of lessons that Kubrick infuses which make the war room aspect easier to parody.  The whole idea of the film is designed to make you feel uncomfortable and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if scenarios like in Dr. Strangelove happened in real life.

It’s a scary notion seeing how easy it is to launch an attack on another country, with one man “pushing” the self-destruction button with such ease and no concern for anyone else.  It’s a scary notion knowing that all the failsafe plans to stop it, has an abundance of technical or procedural loopholes, which can’t be overturned.  It’s a scary notion how people of authority can react so stupidly, like Colonel Guano telling Mandrake that he would have to answer to Coca-Cola for shooting at the vending machine for change.  There are many more examples which I won’t spoil for you, but everything descends into madness all based on fine margins of political and diplomatic posturing.

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The film does have its tense moments with the paratroopers on board Major Kong’s B-52 plane as a case example.  They go through their manual checks before locating their target and dropping the bomb, all to the backdrop soundtrack of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”  This reinforces the scare factor of the film with precise attention to detail of the crew’s operations.  It reminds the audience the seriousness amongst the humorous stupidity.

Even the character names are interesting – General Jack D. Ripper aka Jack the Ripper.  Coincidence?  I think not, but these supposedly cool-headed individuals in the highest positions of power revert to uncontrollable eccentric behaviour.  Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove is a classic example.  His character is in the film for the briefest of moments but his impact is unforgettable, playing a former Nazi German scientist, most likely pardoned for his crimes but enthusiastically provides advice on eugenics to the President of the United States.  Turginson who rapidly inserts chewing gum into his mouth in every scene he’s in, is an animated individual. He’s always concerned about what the enemy is going to do in a particular scenario and his energy feeds into that paranoia.  It’s a brilliant performance by George C. Scott who is a standout alongside Peter Sellers.

Dr. Strangelove is a film hell bent on showing humanity at its lowest ebb.  Even when the world is at stake, common sense should prevail but the distrust and fear of the enemy is the real winner.  It’s filled with surreal moments such as the often-parodied scene where Major Kong rides the bomb as if he’s participating at a rodeo.  The ending with Vera Lynn singing while the world blows itself up is a bleak reminder of what the world could become and the whole absurdity of war.  Kubrick’s careful balance keeps the message on point yet at the same time the satirical jokes will live with you for years.

It’s safe to say, you will have a blast watching this!

Groundhog Day (1993) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Barry of The Filmnomore Movie Blog. Thanks for the review, Barry! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Groundhog Day, IMDB rank 178 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

**I have 1 remaining IMDB guest review to post but have a lot still outstanding. Let me know if you still wish to review the movie(s) you’ve signed up for. If not, I’ll add them back to the list of available films. Thanks!**

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I was delighted when I discovered I had been granted the rights to review this classic 90’s comedy. Groundhog Day stars Bill Murray as cynical local news weatherman Phil Connors who sees himself as the big fish in the little pond of Pittsburgh. He is on his way to endure the annual ritual that is Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where an oversized rodent (I’ve checked Groundhogs are rodents) predicts whether winter is coming to an end. Unfortunately Phil finds himself having to relive the same day over and over again.

The film sees Murray teaming up with his now dearly departed Ghostbusters (1984) co-star Harold Ramis who directed and co-wrote this feature. It’s amazing to look back at the writing career of Ramis whose credits include Caddyshack (1980), Stripes (1981), Analyze This (1999) and Bedazzled (2000) to name just four. Groundhog Day follows a classic rift of a character (Phil) going on a journey of self discovery that has been imposed upon him by a change in circumstances. He finds himself coming out the other side a better person and as with any fairy tale he has a princess to woo in the form of his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell).

Of course the journey to love and happiness is not a straight forward one and it is only when he learns the importance of being selfless that Phil is released from his nightmare and he can continue with his life. Within this age old tale of redemption is a story about dealing with loss. In Groundhog Day the loss is the life that he knew and the certainties this brought. During the film Murray’s character experiences denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. He acts out in various ways including the now classic sequence when he abducts the Groundhog himself, Punxsutawney Phil.

This film works for two main reasons. The first is that it has Bill Murray in his prime (I don’t get along with the reinvented dour-faced Murray) and playing a role tailored to his style of comedy. The second reason is the film uses a classic structure that we’ve all seen a thousand times before but keep lapping up. We all appear to be suckers for characters who find redemption (preferably in the arms of a new lover) and Groundhog Day delivers the feel good factor in spades.

I can’t really find much to criticise in this film beyond the slightly annoying Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) who is just that little bit over the top. Hell even MacDowell is tolerable. Groundhog Day doesn’t overwhelm me with emotion so I can’t give it that elusive fifth star but it is an all time comedy classic. My rating 4/5.

IMDB Top 250 Guest Reviews – Final Deadline & More Available Movies

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Hi all! 🙂 I now have a lot more films available for anyone interested in doing a guest review for my IMDB Top 250 Project. I’ll list those available at the end. But first, here are the ones still outstanding. You have until OCTOBER 1st 2015 to send me your review(s) so let me know ASAP if you no longer want your movie(s).

Rain Man
The Sting & Die Hard
To Kill A Mockingbird
Leon
The Hobbit
Life Is Beautiful
Terminator 2
All About Eve
2001: A Space Odyssey
Black Swan
Cool Hand Luke
Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels
Taxi Driver

Here are all the films currently available. I’ll update this list on AUGUST 1st with any of the above that are given up:

The Wrestler
Network
The Graduate
Gone With The Wind

Also, I kept too many for myself so I’m adding these two back to the available list. I love these movies so do them justice! 😉

The Artist
The Lives Of Others

If you grab any of those available or have just recently signed up (as opposed to, like, signing up a year & a half ago… lol), your deadline is NOVEMBER 1st to get your review to me. I’m aware I gave everyone an April 1st deadline already but this time I REALLY mean it. I’ll put any that don’t meet the deadlines back on the list of available movies. I’m kicking ass! HA! (Not really – I’m a total wuss and if you have a really good excuse, I’m sure I’ll extend your deadline for another year & a half…). 😉

Thank you to everyone who has participated so far and an extra big thanks to the guest reviewers who have taken the time to reply to the people who comment on their post. I really appreciate that! 🙂

Good Will Hunting (1997) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews. Thanks for the review, Drew! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Good Will Hunting, IMDB rank 157 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

**I’ve received 2 remaining IMDB guest reviews to post but have a lot still outstanding. Let me know if you still wish to review the movie(s) you’ve signed up for. If not, I’ll add them back to the list of available films. Thanks!**

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Synopsis
Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a mathematical genius but has no direction in his life. He gets recognized by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard) who enlists help from psychologist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). With assistance from Sean, Will begins to get his life together.

Review
To be upfront, this was my first time watching Good Will Hunting. Shocking, I know. It was one of those movies that I kept hearing and hearing about but never really got around to watching. But thanks to the wonderful Ms. Mutant, I thought her IMDB blogathon would be the perfect time to check it out. And I must say, it is as every bit as wonderful as it was made out to be.

At the center of attention is the late Robin Williams. He is not the center of the movie but Sean Maguire is at the center of discussion whenever this film is brought up. Williams won an oscar for best supporting actor for his role and, boy, was it well deserved. Looking back Williams’ filmography, I haven’t seen many of his more serious roles. After watching this, I really need to change that. He hit with such an emotion I haven’t seen from him before. Just one more reminder how phenominal of an actor he was and his versatility to take on any role.

Matt Damon as the titular Will Hunting and Ben Affleck as his friend Chuckie Sullivan were great on screen together. It was easy to feel their connection and friendship. This even extended to the minor characters in the gang. Their camaraderie bleed through the screen and seemed so natural that I wouldn’t be surprised if they are all best friends off the screen.

For me, character-driven movies are always the hardest for me to review because with action flicks, comedy films, or horrors, there are other factors I can look at. But with dramas, it simply comes down to the actors. It’s the little moments they bring to life and make them feel genuine that make or break the film. When actors or actresses make you feel what they feel and seem so realistic and sincere, that is the sign of a great drama. Every single member of the cast manages to pour their heart and soul into the film and it is palpable. Add that to an excellent script from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and you have nothing short of success.

Good Will Hunting is a heartfelt film that manages to shine thanks to a well-penned script and great performances from Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck and the entire crew.

Rating
4/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Gus Van Sant – Director
Matt Damon – Writer
Ben Affleck – Writer
Danny Elfman – Composer

Matt Damon – Will Hunting
Robin Williams – Sean Maguire
Ben Affleck – Chuckie Sullivan
Stellan Skarsgard – Prof. Gerald Lambeau
Minnie Driver – Skylar
Casey Affleck – Morgan O’Mally
Cole Hauser – Billy McBride
John Mighton – Tom – Lambeau’s Teaching Assistant

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Kelechi of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Thanks for the review, Kelechi! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, IMDB rank 75 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

**I’ve received 3 remaining IMDB guest reviews to post but have a lot still outstanding. Let me know if you still wish to review the movie(s) you’ve signed up for. If not, I’ll add them back to the list of available films. Thanks!**

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How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! / The world forgetting, by the world forgot / Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! / Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.” – Mary

I have nothing but good memories about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  See what I did there?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is not your usual and conventional romantic film.  The ‘boy meets girl’ concept is a familiar and overused trope in the film world. But with the added sci-fi twist involving memories, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ignores the trend and takes the audience on a mind bending and surreal experience that is full of charm, wit and most importantly, sentiment.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as Joel and Clementine.  After spending two years together as a couple, the relationship turns sour. They undergo a procedure that erases their memories of each other.  Trouble is, as impulsive they were in committing themselves to the procedure, they rediscover what they had in the first place.

“Random thoughts for Valentine’s day, 2004. Today is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.” – Joel

The unique quirks in this film are displayed in its brilliant visual concept.  It taps into the surreal nature of the mind where it’s never consistent or logical.  Its visual complexity and how each scene transitions unto the next are handled seamlessly.  Most scenes don’t contain any CGI effects, just clever camera movements!  It may feel jarring at first but once your mind gets to grip with the concept, it’s a rewarding experience.

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There’s something very low key about the technology used in the film by Lacuna Inc.  2015 and swiping on everything that has a screen size over four inches has become the norm.  With its ease of use and simplicity, you can’t imagine how we coped before!  But for a film that came out in 2004, the technology is a little clunky with CRT monitors straight out of the 80s or 90s, a time capsule reminder of the evolving past we use to belong to…and it wasn’t that long ago!  It never looks sleek, state of the art or high tech – there are many functional parts in order to make it work and it does its job. The film doesn’t dwell on how the procedure works except for acknowledging that the effects are on par with a night of heavy drinking.  It gives us as the audience a basic understanding of what it does, mapping personal items with emotional connections, which form as part of the erasure development process.  Because of this, the essence of the business by Lacuna Inc. is small scale and experimental.  It’s not seen as a global attraction like something out of Total Recall with its tongue-in-cheek advertising.  In fact, it’s the opposite where the experience is a more personal and intimate, like visiting your local doctor.

While the film doesn’t explore in great detail about Lacuna’s operations, the film does raise some ethical questions. There’s never a feeling over who is held accountable for its practices.  The characters of Patrick (Elijah Wood), Stan (Mark Ruffalo) Mary (Kirsten Dunst) and Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) are quirky individuals who have used the memory erasure technology for their own gain and advantages.  A great example of this belongs with Patrick who steals Joel’s personal items to make a good impression with Clementine.  It completely backfires on him but what he essentially does is commit identity fraud.  The actual procedure happens at night in the comfort of your home while you’re asleep.  So is it right that the technicians raid your fridge or dance on your bed with great freedom while you’re undergoing your treatment?  You will wake up without any recognition that they were there the night before but there’s a certain level of trust to be had to accept the strange and intrusive circumstances.

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In essence it is a clandestine and artificial relationship of convenience.  Someone from your inner circle will be informed about the procedure and you (or them) are expected to live with that knowledge, such as Joel’s friends. While the Doctor or any of his team can preach about how wonderful the process is, the real issue is the aftercare.  At times there’s a lack of professionalism within the group and if they’re not accepting their responsibilities and the consequences from their actions, would you want to undergo an experiment like this?  I certainly wouldn’t.

Clementine: “You know me, I’m impulsive.”

Joel: “That’s what I love about you.”

However, the sci-fi element is secondary to the actual plot because its main focus is on Joel and Clementine.  When they are first introduced, they are complete opposites both in personality and character.

Joel acts more like an introvert.  He’s quiet and unadventurous.  He’s comfortable within his own head.  He’s clearly talented and likes to draw but otherwise his life is pretty mundane.  Clementine on the other hand is more of an extrovert – outspoken, forward and defiant.  It’s a relationship that probably shouldn’t work but their qualities make them attractive.  Clementine brings excitement for Joel, allowing him to do something out of his comfort zone.  Joel brings stability and reassurance, accepting Clementine’s personality for what it is without compromise.

The greatest strength of the film is that their relationship is presented as honest and real.  Nothing feels clichéd or predictable.  When their relationship does fall apart, you can’t help but go through the motions with them and the actual reason for the break up will seem silly as an outsider.

Cleverly, Joel’s erasure of his memory occurs backwards from the time of the break up, ending to where he met Clementine for the first time.  You see Joel’s world literally falling apart, a visual representation of the hurt and anger he was experiencing – a scene helped with brilliant visual effects.

But are all memories bad?  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind says no and over the course of the film, Joel changes his mind despite being physically powerless to do so.  With the help of Clementine (the dream version in his head) he runs and battles against the deletion by creating scenarios in his mind where the machine couldn’t find him.  On the flip side, the real Clementine who already had the procedure is not the vibrant, confident girl that you witnessed at the beginning of the film.  She’s lost, manic and feels disconnected.  Her new boyfriend Patrick might be saying all the right things to her but it fails to put her mind at ease.  Something is missing in her life but she can’t remember what.

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That’s what special about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Memories both good and bad can define a person.  It shapes your personality and character.  What this film has in abundance is the acknowledgement of sentiment, living and embracing your life.  The negative memories will hurt, as they should do but it portrays the positives ones as something you should hold onto and treasure.  It makes life worth living.

For Joel and Clementine, being together is what made them whole. The film does strike a chord even if this is not your type of movie.  There are plenty of identifiable and personal moments that you as the audience can relate to.  Lacuna Inc. may have perfected a procedure to erase your thoughts but there is no perfect formula for love and at times, it can’t be explained.  If your relationship is based on a lie (e.g. Patrick and Clementine), then the foundations will crumble.  What Joel and Clementine have is something magnetic that kept pulling them together in every bizarre situation without them realising it.  That is something that Lacuna Inc. didn’t count on.  They were so busy fulfilling a misguided duty that in the end it exposed their own hypocrisy and business practice.  To them everything was a quick fix without addressing the real problem.

“Come back and make up a good-bye at least. Let’s pretend we had one.” – Clementine

Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey are fantastic and once again it proves that Jim Carrey is a man of many talents.  He’s not limited to comedy and can do something dramatic.  For me, this is up there with his performance in The Truman Show.  It’s great to see him as an everyman character.  He’s famous for playing eccentric characters, but in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he underplays it.  He is often reacting to the dream scenarios around him rather than being the direct cause of it.  The technicians from Lacuna Inc. deliver the eccentricity and humorous nature of film.  Joel and Clementine deliver the heart.

Aided with a beautiful soundtrack by Jon Brion, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a deep and emotional exploration on the nature of relationships.  It breaks down each moment of Joel and Clementine’s relationship into sizable chunks because in the end, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  The ending is left up to the audience to interpret which can be viewed as optimistic or pessimistic but it’s a film worth watching again and again because of the underlying messages it conveys.  It’s a wonderful, unique and enjoyable movie.

Or as Joel would say, it’s nice.

Beauty And The Beast (1991) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Steven of Past, Present, Future In TV And Film. Thanks for the review, Steven! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Beauty And The Beast, IMDB rank 228 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Animated films. You grow up with them as kids, watch them over and over, and love them to pieces. Sadly, it seems, these films can lose whatever hold they had on you, and become a part of some time long ago, that the kids of today are only just discovering.

The Walt Disney Pictures film “Beauty and the Beast”, certainly reminded me why animated films, newer or classic, aren’t to be discarded once you reach a certain age.

This animated film features the voice talents of Paige O’Hara (“Enchanted”, “Disney Princess Party: Volume Two”), Robby Bensen (“MXP: Most Xtreme Primate”, “American Dreams”), Richard White (“House of Mouse”, “Great Performances”), Jerry Orbach (“Law & Order: Trial by Jury”, “Law & Order”), David Ogden Stiers (“Regular Show”, “Leverage”), Angela Lansbury (“Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011)”, “Heidi 4 Paws”), Bradley Pierce (“Up in Smoke”, “The LEGO Movie Videogame”), Rex Everhart (“Law & Order”, “Family Business”), and Jesse Corti (“Annie Sunbeam and Friends”, “Handy Manny”).

The film was directed by Gary Trousdale (“The Pig Who Cried Werewolf”, “Scared Shrekless (TV Short 2010)”) and Kirk Wise (“Spirited Away”, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”). It was written by Linda Woolverton (“Maleficent”, “Alice in Wonderland (2010)”).

The film originally opened on Nov. 22, 1991. It would go on to be nominated for 6 Academy Awards, winning two, four Golden Globe Awards, winning three, and nine Grammy Awards, winning five.

Originally I thought it was going to be difficult to find a copy of this film. The only one my family had, for the longest time, was on VHS, probably the original one bought when I was a kid back in the early ‘90s. I just dated myself. Ugh. Anyway, I didn’t give up. Thank God for both Netflix subscriptions, as the DVD one had the film! However, it wasn’t what I was accustomed to. Since I last saw this film, and I honestly have no idea when that was; for all I know, the last time was in the ‘90s. So, this version was one of the most recent updated versions of the film. I was okay with that, mainly as I’d only heard of the new musical number and hadn’t seen what the animation and coloring would look like in a restored or remastered version. I still got an incredible experience! It seriously makes me wonder why I don’t own this film myself.

The animation, which I immediately fixated on, was incredible! I’m not sure if it’s just because this film is 24 years old (and restored/updated), and the way things are animated is vastly different, but I felt like I was getting something different or special. I instantly fell in love with every aspect that went into bringing this world to life. The detail! The color! Spectacular! Watching these characters move and interact with other characters and the environment was something else. It could also just be telling, in that I don’t usually focus on the way an animated film looks. Certainly not to that level of detail and with the attention I afforded this film.

Much like with the detail of the film, I was able to really focus on the music and lyrics. While in film, Alan Menken (“Galavant”, “Tangled”, “Enchanted”) may not have done much, he somehow delivered incredible, fun, and moving music. Lyricist, Howard Ashman (“The Little Mermaid”, “Little Shop of Horrors”), well, as we now know, wrote amazing songs. I don’t know how best to describe this. I can’t recall if I ever payed that much attention to the music and lyrics before, but this time around, I really, really did. Maybe more than need be, but because of this, I found the lyrics at times funny and highly enjoyable, plus, overall, brilliant! This really explains why, even though I haven’t seen this film much, little pieces of the songs go in and out of my memory, to the point where I must search YouTube for a clip with whatever song is stuck in my head. It also afforded me the chance to see why I love this film more than many of the other animated Disney musical films.

While I pretty much loved every song in this film, including the originally omitted “Human Again”, as well as the darker ones sung by Gaston and his friends, (seriously, listen to the lyrics), there’s only one that stands out the most. That being, “Be Our Guest”.

I think this is mainly because “Be Our Guest”, is so big! That’s the great thing about animation. You can do so much more than in live action. Okay, this may not be entirely true, but let’s just go with it here. Thanks. I love that they even had Belle do a tiny little dance towards the end of the song. I guess I remembered the number a bit differently and thought that this piece just meant something else. It certainly had me getting into the song and dance all that much more, as well as just smiling and laughing and enjoying every moment!!

After the song is over, Belle says, “I figured it out for myself”, for which she’s referring to recognizing that where she is, is an enchanted castle. I found it so fascinating that this very specific thing was mentioned. I don’t know why, but it just stood out for me. Guess it really shows how long ago it was I saw this and what I remember of it.

I don’t think it would be normal if I skipped over a chance to talk about the characters, even if they’re animated.

You always see or hear about surveys, or something, asking which Disney princess is your favorite or which one you are (something like that), and most people seem to have an answer. I usually dismissed this as some silly and obnoxious thing people did for reasons I’ll never understand. I still don’t think, after putting in five minutes of thought, I could tell you. Anyway, after having seen this film I must say that, and I mean this, that Belle is my favorite. I should now throw out that I find many of the Disney princesses annoying, as well as the films they’re featured in, so it makes it easier to pick Belle.

I think most of this love for her comes from the fact that she reads. If that sounds weird, let me add that I’m a big reader. My own personal library now partially lives under my bed, as well as the three other bookcases I have. This probably explains why, when Belle is shown the massive library the beast has, my first thought was, “I want that library!!! So many BOOKS!!!”

Moving on. Maybe this is just some quality I picked out of hers, like with Matilda, that actually carries little actual meaning towards character. I’m not sure. I will say too, that I like her for all the reasons everyone else does. She independent, kind, free spirit, blah blah blah. In the case of the film itself, a large portion goes to O’Hara who had, as I have remembered for so many years, a phenomenal singing voice and the right voice for the character. It’s what makes me love the songs Belle sings so much!

As I’m talking about Belle, I feel it a good time to mention one observation. I love how she just opens up to halfway through the book, but apparently, that’s really the beginning. I know some books have extra pages, that are truly useless, but with her book, that was something else. I think it was something like hundreds of pages before the story actually began. I guess that’s just 1991 for you.

The Beast was an incredibly likable, if not lovable, character. It all has to do with the fact that he’s a very emotional creature? being? thing? Whatever it is, the portrayal of emotions makes him very sympathetic. I was surprised by how quickly he made me feel bad for him. After he catches her in the west wing, he’s so saddened by his outburst. You can see it, and it hits, to me, quite strongly. A kid might not read too much beyond sadness, but I felt much more than I thought I could. You feel so bad for him. It’s so sad!! Fortunately, as is the point of the film, his feelings change and he becomes even more capable of loving, and by the end, you really side with him.

With this version, I loved and didn’t like it, only as it was sort of an awkward placement for a scene, that during “Human Again”, when Belle’s finishing reading “Romeo & Juliet”, you see the Beast just totally taken by the story. Giant paws holding up his head as he listens with attention you don’t really get to see in the rest of the film. This scene, made me so giddy, as you could really see him enjoying this time with Belle! I know there’s plenty of examples of their relationship growing, but somehow those don’t convey the same thing as this one scene does.

Lumier, well, he’s Lumier! I still love Lumier the most. Don’t get me wrong, the other characters are absolutely refreshing as well, but not like Lumier. I’m not entirely sure why, but every time I see Orbach on a “Law & Order” rerun as Lenny Briscoe, I think of Lumier!

And, this wouldn’t be a kids movie without violence! Even if it’s to protect someone from wild animals. Then, there’s the fact that in a kids movie, violence is apparently funny. I got a nice laugh on some of it. I do feel surprised, however, that the animators included such a graphic scene as the knife coming out of the beast. The scene then features a trickle of blood. Really it’s nothing any kid would obsess over, but somehow it just seems shocking. If that doesn’t indicate how long it’s been, I don’t know what will.

Lastly, and just because they’re extra observations, and I even made a note at the top of my page that says, “I’m over thinking most of this film”, I’m including some really random observations. Things which really just made this film a different, yet still enjoyable experience, overall.

– Apparently nobody knew of this prince living in a massive castle. How???
– But, the beast knew there was a village. Or did he just know because of Belle and her father?
– Oh, look! Lumier and Cogsworth sound French! Why are they the only ones?
– Belle has no friends, so she must talk to the chickens. Yeah, that makes sense.
– Everyone’s gotta have a sidekick!
– “How can you read this? There’s no pictures.”
“Well some people use their imaginations.”

Pretty much the sentiment of today’s youth and a lot of people in general. Or, maybe it’s just the people I know that don’t read. Sad on so many levels.

I may watch animated films every now and then, but seldom do I react the way I would if I were still a kid, or as others do when the little kid inside them comes out. Not since “The Lego Movie”, which wasn’t watched all that long ago, have I been so entertained by something animated. Perhaps this newfound love of this film, is telling me I need to revisit my childhood. Maybe I need to spend more time giving new animated films a chance, as I could be surprised by what I’m seeing. There’s a whole genre of film I feel that I’ve been missing for some time, that only now, seems to be acceptable for me to watch again. Animated films, they’re not just for kids.

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Niall of The Fluff Is Raging. Thanks so much for all the reviews, Niall! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Bourne Ultimatum, IMDB rank 182 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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The Bourne Ultimatum

*review written in shaky-cam*

“People, do you have any idea who you’re dealing with? This is Jason Bourne. You are nine hours behind the toughest target you have ever tracked.”

Pamela Landy

When I still watched TV the old-fashioned way, The Bourne movies seemed to be on all the time. They were on so much, in fact, that they began to blur for me and become one long, furiously-edited, shaky-cam mess of people speaking spy-jargon while looking at banks of computer screens, vicious hand-to-hand combat and incredible car crashes. Mostly, they provided a much-needed exciting jolt to the action genre.

There is a lot more to the Bourne movies than just action, of course, which is probably why they were so successful, touching as they do on ripped from the headlines topics like surveillance, rendition, sleeper agents, intelligence leaks, and torture. They are, in short, action movies for grown-ups and, if memory serves, they’re a lot better than the Robert Ludlum potboliers that are their source. They’re spy capers, but they are realistically grounded spy capers. After Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, the amount of eavesdropping going on in The Bourne Ultimatum is truly frightening.

To do justice to the third in the series, The Bourne Ultimatum, you really should watch the first two. A quick catch-up on The Bourne Identity: an unconscious man is rescued by fishermen in the Mediterranean. He has no idea who he is, nor why he has a microchip with a Swiss bank account number embedded in him. He heads to Europe to find out, meets a nice girl who helps him get to Paris, and then the baddies come after him.

Mayhem ensues. Wash, rinse and repeat.

The second film, The Bourne Supremacy, is both a retread and a continuation of the story, with Bourne cracking bones and crashing cars in Berlin and Moscow. The film has an added twist of vengeance – they kill his girlfriend, and we learn more about the secret government assassin programme, Treadstone.

You may recall that after a climactic car chase in Moscow, The Bourne Suprenacy ends with Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) in New York, speaking to Bourne on the phone, unaware he’s watching her from a rooftop. “Get some rest, Pam, you look tired.” The Bourne Ultimatum begins several weeks earlier, with Bourne still limping around Moscow, before stopping off in Berlin, London, Madrid and Tangiers. In real life Euro-railing is nowhere near as exciting as this.

The Bourne Ultimatum is a fitting end to the series. It’s a chickens coming home to roost story, as Bourne tries to find out who he really is and who started all this. I really don’t rate the follow-up The Bourne Legacy at all, and am dubious about the possibility of another Bourne film, even if it will reunite Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass.

Who started it all is Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney, seen in woozy flashbacks) as a psychiatrist who specialises in behaviour modification, and who erased the identity and personality of Capt. David Webb to create the hitman Jason Bourne as part of a secret project called Blackbriar. (except nobody would ever be so gauche to call him a hitman: in government-speak he is an asset – until, of course, he becomes a liability.) It’s inevitable that the two are going to end up in the same room together, so most of the film is about getting Bourne to New York.

Landy, meanwhile, is trying to help him, and playing office politics with a shadowy CIA operative Noah Vosen (David Strathairn). Their scenes together are every bit as thrilling as the chop-socky fighting stuff.

There are several exciting sequences including Bourne performing a brilliant piece of tradecraft in a crowded Waterloo Station; a rooftop chase in Tunis that ends with the most brutal fight in the entire trilogy; and a thrilling Manhattan car chase.

Okay, it’s still a big Hollywood movie, and even the smartest movie can have dumb moments. There are an awful lot of coincidences in The Bourne Ultimatum. It’s mighty convenient that the hunt for Bourne is actually a news item (would that really happen?) allowing for him to meet a Guardian journalist, Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) who provides some necessary exposition. Bourne finds a photo of Finney that accidentally falls out of a file.

And it really helps that Bourne`s old handler, Nicki Parsons (Julia Stiles) is now stationed in Madrid, where Bourne meets her at the CIA office. I`ve always liked Stiles as an actress, and she has never got the breakout role she deserves; she does very well in a small but important role. It’s heavily hinted that she’s in love with Bourne. There’s a moment in this film that a lesser movie would turn into a love scene, but the closest we get to romance is the following brief exchange:

Bourne: Why are you helping me?

Nicki: It was difficult for me … with you.

They stare at each other silently for a long moment.

Nicki: You really don’t remember anything.

Bourne: No

As for Damon, he’s great as always in the role. He looks weary and hollowed out, not the relatively spry youngster he was in the first film. He doesn’t smile once. He trained for months for the fight sequences, and he does look like he could handle himself in a scrap. The fights were choreographed by Jeff Imada.

Of course, one of the reasons why these films are so exciting is how they are shot and edited. An awful lot of information is crammed into two hours, and the film seldom stops for a breather. And it’s urged along by John Powell’s score. Even a mundane moment like Bourne picking the lock on a door is given urgency by how it’s filmed and edited (four shots in less than two seconds). There’s a fascinating interview with the film’s editor Christopher Rouse  here.

Spare a thought for Dan Bradley. He was the second unit director and stunt coordinator on the film, and many of the movie’s more memorable action moments are down to him, including the Tangiers rooftop chase and the Manhattan car chase.

Niall McArdle

http://www.ragingfluff.wordpress.com

The Third Man (1949) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Damien of Flashback/Backslide. Thanks for all the reviews, Damien! 🙂 Now let’s see what he thinks of The Third Man, IMDB rank 72 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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The Third Man

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Roger Ebert described film noir as the “most American film genre” but not all the Golden Age classics were American-made. British director Carol Reed created one of the most famous British noirs in 1949. The Third Man stars Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, two stars from Citizen Kane, and highlights some of the differences between British and American noirs. Using old noir guidelines as a map may lead you astray as the film follows its own course. Set in Allied-occupied Vienna, Cotten stars as Holly Martins, an American pulp fiction writer who travels to Vienna to work for his old friend Harry Lime. Soon Martins finds Lime was killed in an accident just a few days prior to his arrival and learns some unflattering facts about his friend. Sensing foul play, Martins begins an investigation along with Lime’s love interest Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli).

At the center of The Third Man‘s plot is a mystery and plot twist that feels very predictable, especially if you look at the roster of cast members before the film begins. But like many American noirs, the film centers on characters; the choices they make and their consequences. Martins struggles to reconcile memories of his friend with the Lime described by Major Calloway (Trevor Howard). Both Martins and Schmidt must choose to support Lime’s racket or aid Calloway’s efforts to undo Lime’s plots. The decisions ultimately feel inevitable but Cottens and Valli’s performances sell the character’s struggles.

Unlike the more detective-based American noirs, The Third Man does not involve on-screen characters outmaneuvering each other. The characters with all the answers to the film’s mystery are secondary with limited screen time, leaving the main cast confused and off-balance. This makes for a “softer” protagonist, more lost and confused than the hard-boiled leads of American films. What the film does have in common with other noir classics is the dark atmosphere and visual techniques of the genre. Dutch angles and harsh lighting are used throughout, almost too often. These techniques helps create uneasiness and tension but their use can feel artificial. At times we watch a character enter a cafe in a standard angle then take a seat at a booth. The camera adjusts to show the sitting character and suddenly a Dutch angle is used. Sudden shifts like this happen throughout and do more to draw attention to the camera-work than set a tone. To the film’s credit, these transitions may have been more novel in 1949, although some contemporary reviews chastised the dizzying views. Others were more appreciative. A New York Times review written in 1950 celebrated the camerawork:

For into this strangely off-beat story of a young American visitor’s attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery of a friend’s dubious “death” in Vienna’s streets, Mr. Reed has brilliantly packaged the whole bag of his cinematic tricks, his whole range of inventive genius for making the camera expound. His eminent gifts for compressing a wealth of suggestion in single shots, for building up agonized tension and popping surprises are fully exercised. His devilishly mischievous humor also runs lightly through the film, touching the darker depressions with little glints of the gay or macabre.

-Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, February 3, 1950.

I’m making a note to myself to include “glints of the gay or macabre” in a future review. Crowther goes on to compliment the film’s music which features a zither “pulsing” in the background. I must admit, the music of the film grew tiresome quickly. Again this may be due to my modern ears reacting against a 60-year-old stylistic choice but the repetitive score underpinning moments big and small added more distraction than suspense or melancholy.

Ultimately, my appreciation for the film is dulled by my more modern eyes and ears yet the film still tells a captivating story brought to life by effective acting. Watching Orson Welles in his earlier years is always a treat and his brief scenes alone make the film worth a view. The film’s finale in the sewers of Vienna are also particularly effective. Rewatching the film with an eye for camera technique and Reed’s style might make for a more worthwhile viewing.

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Rating: 9/10

Classic Film Scale Rating: 7/10

Bottomline: A well-crafted yet dated mystery, The Third Man‘s well-developed characters, “bag of [noir] cinematic tricks”, and elaborate sewer finale make the film worthy of the praise it has received over the decades.

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) IMDB Top 250 Review

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An IMDB review by me! Finally! I’ve been slacking…

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

IMDB Rank: 208 out of 250 (as of 01/01/2013)

Directed by John Ford

Starring:
John Wayne
James Stewart
Vera Miles
Lee Marvin
Edmond O’Brien
Woody Strode
Andy Devine
John Carradine
Lee Van Cleef

Running time: 123 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed.

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My Opinion:

It’s me! Reviewing a Top 250 film on my own blog! I’ve really neglected this Top 250 project while I’ve let all of you review them for me instead. I’ve reviewed all of the Studio Ghibli films in the Top 250 but, besides those, it looks like my last review was of Unforgiven last September. And here I am now with another damn Western (which I watched last September. I’m so behind!). I have to say that of the two things I was dreading in the Top 250, Westerns & war movies, I’m far preferring the war movies so far. (Once Upon A Time In The West was pretty awesome, though).

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So… John Wayne! This is the first & only John Wayne movie I’ve watched in my life. His movies were of such a different era that I really can’t relate to in any sort of way & I’ve never had any interest in exploring any of his films. I remember flipping through channels once as a teen & there was some John Wayne movie on where he was spanking a woman. Spanking?! Not in some weird, kinky, S&M way but I got the impression that she was maybe his wife & had disobeyed him or something so that was her punishment. (Okay – I can’t believe I just Googled “John Wayne Spanking” but I did & the movie was a year after this one & called McLintock!). Anyway, that sort of sexism just wouldn’t fly today so I can see why John Wayne films aren’t exactly popular amongst a new generation whereas the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns still are. They’re beautiful, sweeping epics (I assume – I’m basing this only on Once Upon A Time In The West) while John Wayne’s “spanking movie” feels like it’s from 50 years before West instead of just five. Having said that, though, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is pretty good & nothing like the very limited knowledge I have of other John Wayne films which had a very old look & feel. I think the fact that it was in black & white helped to keep it feeling less “dated” in an odd sort of way plus I think “serious drama” works much better in the Western genre than “silly spank comedy”. Also, what helped a lot for me was the fact that James Stewart was in this. I love Jimmy! That’s what convinced me to watch this one instead of putting it off (unfortunately, it’s no longer in the Top 250 like it was when I started this project).

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IMG_0372This is Liberty Valance. SPOILER: he gets shot…

I think this movie has a really good story & I liked the way it’s revealed in flashback as a small group of old friends gather for a funeral. James Stewart plays an educated lawyer & politician while John Wayne plays the rugged silent hero type but, hey – these are the exact kind of roles these two are known for & they’re perfect in this film. I’ll admit I got a little bored in the middle when the political stuff was going on (James Stewart running for some political something or other) but the scenes between Stewart & Wayne as well as the scenes involving the big baddie terrorizing the small community (Liberty Valance, played just right by Lee Marvin) were great. I also enjoyed the little bit of a love triangle between Stewart, Wayne & Vera Miles. So there are a lot of big stars in this one (including Lee Van Cleef although I can’t say I really remember him in it now – I don’t think it was a huge role). But my favorite actor in this (after Stewart) would be Woody Strode. He has a pretty big role as Wayne’s ranch hand & close friend. He was also in the incredible opening scene of Once Upon A Time In The West and has such a great look. I’d totally want to cast him in a movie if I ever made one (but he’s kind of not alive anymore). I looked him up & see that his last role was in that Sharon Stone/Leonardo DiCaprio Western The Quick And The Dead at the age of 80. Makes me want to watch that silly looking movie now – would be fun to see a young Leo again as well. Here’s Strode in this & West:

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Summary:

I know I don’t have much experience with Westerns but I can say that, as someone who isn’t a fan of the genre, I thought The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was pretty good. I really enjoyed the story plus the characters were very well-developed and you cared what was going to happen to them & to their close friendships. You love the goodies & hate the baddies in this one, which is really the point of all Westerns, isn’t it? It’s a shame this isn’t in the Top 250 anymore as young people keep voting in current shit like Interstellar, meaning all the older films are being overlooked and will now probably be totally ignored. This one is worth a watch if you like a decent good guy vs bad guy movie filled with revenge, love, loyalty and loss.

My Rating: 7/10

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Untouchable (2011) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from MIB of MIB’s Instant Headache. Thanks for the review, MIB! 🙂 Now let’s hear what he has to say about Untouchable (aka Intouchables), IMDB rank 64 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Untouchable (Cert 15)

1 Disc (Distributor: Entertainment in Video) Running Time: 112 minutes approx.
Paraplegic multi-millionaire Philippe (François Cluzet) and his secretary Margalie (Audrey Fleurot) are interviewing for the role of live in carer for Philippe. One particularly impatient potential candidate, Driss (Omar Sy), refuses to wait any longer and storms into the interview room, purely for Philippe to sign a letter saying he attended the interview so he can claim his benefits. Impressed by Driss’s no nonsense attitude, Philippe gives Driss a one month trial period, setting the pair on a journey that brings about great change for the both of them.

The story of contrasting cultures coming together has been told an immeasurable amount of times but this particular one (known as The Intouchables in its native France) is based on the real life relationship of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his caretaker Abdel Sellou, who make a cameo appearance during the end credits. Subject to some typical dramatic license it would be easy to dismiss this is another slice of schmaltzy audience manipulation but directors Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano have managed to eschew the easy route to deliver a genuinely charming and uplifting tale that possesses enough heart to belie its glossy veneer.

Contrary to what the plot may suggest, this is not a case of the two conflicting parties seeking to change or convert the other to their way of thinking. Yes it happens, of course it does, but much of it comes through osmosis or the awakening of latent instincts which makes for a refreshing change. Street wise, Senegalese immigrant Driss is hardly an Eliza Doolittle in the making while affluent and cultured Philippe has no intention of playing Professor Southgate (or Higgins for you My Fair Lady fans) either, even if this seems to be the direction the roles are heading.

The central theme is one of personal fulfilment and the search for a suitable replacement to the holes in one’s life. Paralysed from the neck down after a paragliding accident, widower Philippe supplants his former active lifestyle with art, music, opera and literature all from the comfort of his wheelchair. He has an adopted daughter Elisa (Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi), whom he ignores and as result she acts like a spoiled brat towards everyone. With previous carers lasting an average of two weeks Philippe makes a bet with Driss he won’t last (a theme that lasts throughout the film). Driss takes up the challenge and as expected the early going is not easy on both men.

When Philipe has a panic attack one night it is Driss’s simplistic approach to take him out for a night time walk (or push in this case) that proves to be a better tonic for Philippe than the usual kid gloves treatment he received previously. Whether smoking joints is also suitable remedy is a matter of opinion. Soon it is not just Philippe that feels the benefit of Driss’s unconventional behaviour – housekeeper Yvonne (Anne Le Ny) and Margalie soon warm to the ebullient newcomer, the latter the obligatory hard-to-get target for his libido.

Conversely, Driss begins to appreciate classical music and even takes up painting but his urban roots are still intact, just as Philippe’s breeding stays with him. In true dramatic fashion however the walls start to crumble when Driss’s cousin Adama (Cyril Mendy) shows up seeking refuge from a violent gang, and both parties are faced with a period of re-evaluation of their priorities.

There is no escaping the fact that the story follows the cultural/racial integration conventions right down the line but its strength and enjoyment lies in the central relationship, exceptionally essayed through the two outstanding performances of François Cluzet and Omar Sy. As the engine that drives this film, the development of this bond between this unoriginal yet still intriguing dichotomy is a gradual but perceptively told one, taking in both the funny and the tragic elements of the bumpy road they travel together.

One gets the impression that in the scenes where they joke around – at both their own expense and of those around them – that these scenes were improvised, such is the naturalness of their reactions and the warmth of their interplay. The shaving scene in particular highlights this perfectly.

Sy’s portrayal as the brash Driss may seem to be the more audience friendly of the pair, as if he is trying to appeal to the energetic Chris Rock/Eddie Murphy audience with his fast paced and loud delivery. Yet Sy manages to retain an earthiness to his character making him quite likeable in places. For Cluzet, being wheelchair bound for the majority of the film doesn’t limit the sheer class and gravitas he exudes in every scene, whether he is the uptight snob, the giggling joker, the upset father or the dignified art lover. The support cast are suitably adept in their roles, while it has to be said that it is refreshing to see Audrey Fleurot playing a much lighter version of her unscrupulous lawyer Josephine Karlsson in the TV series Spiral. She even smiles here!

While Untouchable cannot claim absolute originality in its plot, it can boast a touching and heart warming tale based on a genuine relationship that can be felt in every frame. A smooth mixture of light humour and poignant drama, it conveys a positive message of hope and goodwill to lift even the darkest of spirits without resorting to cheap sentimentality.

A simply joyous and joyful experience.

Extras:
Deleted Scenes
Previews

Rating – ****

Man In Black

The Maltese Falcon (1941) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Damien of Flashback/Backslide. Thanks for all the reviews, Damien! 🙂 Now let’s see what he thinks of The Maltese Falcon, IMDB rank 121 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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The Maltese Falcon

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Reviewing a classic like The Maltese Falcon reveals the absurdity of online film reviews. The endeavor asks us to focus our gaze on a film created before most of us were born, before many of our parents were born in fact, not to mention before countless cultural shifts, artistic fads and genrefication. And of course before the invention of the internet which allows vast hordes of people to weigh in on old classics. What I say here, positive or negative, will have little bearing on the fact that The Maltese Falcon is and always will be one of the greatest films ever made. But reviewing the greats, which is the spirit of the IMDB Challenge that inspired this review, provides the perspective needed to judge new releases.

And without a doubt, The Maltese Falcon is one of the greats; it is listed at #31 in the updated AFI Top 100 Films rankings (down from #23 on the original rankings), #6 on the AFI Top 10 Mystery films, and widely considered to be the first major film noir made. Five other noirs released between 1941 and 1954 would land on the AFI Top 100 rankings (See Footnote) but The Maltese Falcon helped open the doors for the genre and inspire later films. This is especially notable since films released at that time were generally more upbeat and include several classic musicals. To be sure, the genre’s momentum was already trending up by 1941. Just one year prior Strangers on the Third Floor and They Drive By Night hit theaters and showcased Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart respectively, both of whom star in The Maltese Falcon. What helps the film stand out from those predecessors is its early use of the so-called “hard-boiled detective” character already found in pulp magazines for years. Bogart’s portrayal of private investigator Sam Spade would become the standard for all noir leading men and helped propel his career forward after his breakout role in High Sierra, a film co-written by John Huston. Huston served as the writer/director of The Maltese Falcon and would team up with Bogart again in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and Key Largo (1948).

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Our film starts like many other noirs. Spade and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) are hired by the beautiful Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor) to find her missing sister who left home and traveled across the country with a suspicious character. Archer takes the case and by morning Spade finds himself in the center of two murder investigations and a decades-long search for a mysterious statue. As the story unfolds each character works to outmaneuver the others either by charm, violence or the occasional poisoning, all culminating in an extended confrontation by all involved. Unlike most modern films, the film revolves not around plot but character development. Each plot reveal deals more with unraveling the intentions of the characters than it does with propelling the film forward. This development is made possible by excellent acting, strong writing, and precise direction. As we’ve already learned, Bogart’s role not only pushed him to another level of notoriety but his wry smiles, misleading outbursts and redirections will become the stuff that noir dreams are made of. Spade’s ploys allow him to keep a seat at the table with other characters who inevitably hold more cards. Lorre provides the antithesis to Bogart’s slick Spade with awkward exchanges and ill-advised shows of force. Spade’s tactics are more in line with the shrewd Kasper Gutman, played by Syndey Greenstreet in his remarkable first role which earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 14th Academy Awards. It will come as no surprise at this point that Greenstreet would join Bogart and Lorre again on the cast of Casablanca. In an interesting film history side note, Mary Astor would be honored in those same 14th Academy Awards in which Greenstreet earned a nomination. Astor won the Best Supporting Actress award that year, not for The Maltese Falcon but for her work in the Edmund Goulding directed film The Great Lie. Goulding later directed the film noir classic Nightmare Alley in 1947. Looking back we remember Astor less for her award-winning work in The Great Lie than we do for her role in The Maltese Falcon. Just as Bogart’s work defined the film noir lead, Astor’s portrayal of Brigid O’Shaughnessy shaped the image of noir’s femme fatales, balancing cunning with feigned weakness.

With over seventy years spent appreciating The Maltese Falcon and the genre it helped prop up, it is odd to think that the film was nearly never produced. Huston was not the first director to adapt Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 detective novel. He wasn’t the second either. Two other adaptations had already been made, one in 1931 under the same name along with 1936’s Satan Met a Lady. Transitioning from Warner Brothers writer to Warner Brothers director, Huston chose Hammett’s novel for his directorial debut even with those two other adaptations. Huston believed he could properly bring the novel to the screen and improve on the poorly received predecessors. With hindsight we know Huston was correct and his meticulous direction not only surpassed the earlier films but was met with resounding applause. Accolades continue to be collected for the film, not the least of which is inclusion in the IMDB Top 250 challenged and the praise of internet bloggers.

Rating: 10/10

Classic Film Scale: 7/10

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Bottomline: The prototypical film noir classic featuring early roles by now legendary actors, The Maltese Falcon will continue to be remembered for many years to come. It seems a bit unfair to rank a classic film like The Maltese Falcon on the same scale as The Hunger Games and American Hustle so I’ll use a more appropriate scale with only the all-time greats earning a 10/10.

Footnote: The six films released between 1941 and 1954 which are generally considered examples of film noirs and earned a spot on the AFI Top 100 rankings are as follows: The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), A Place in the Sun (1951), The Third Man (1949), On the Waterfront (1954).

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide

The Deer Hunter (1978) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Mark of Marked Movies. Thanks for all the reviews, Mark! 🙂 Now let’s hear what he has to say about The Deer Hunter, IMDB rank 134 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Director: Michael Cimino.
Screenplay: Deric Washburn.
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Cazale, John Savage, George Dzundza, Chuck Aspegren, Rutanya Alda, Shirley Stoler, Pierre Segui, Joe Grifasi, Somsak Sengvilai.

Released in 1978, only three years after the official end of the Vietnam war, Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” seemed as if it may have been too soon for the American psyche. It was a surprising box-office hit but was also one of the most controversial, major theatrical releases about America’s involvement in the war. It went on to receive 9 Academy Award nominations (winning 5 – including Best Picture and Best Director). Despite this, the backlash was pretty vehement. It received criticism from the likes of Jane Fonda and John Wayne – who in his last public appearance had to present it with it’s Best Picture award even though he wasn’t fond of the film. These criticisms came in many forms but for as many critics as it had, there were also a great number who considered it to be another American classic.

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Michael (Robert DeNiro), Stevie (John Savage) and Nick (Christopher Walken) are among a group of friends who live and work in the steel mill town of Clairton, Pennsylvania. They spend their time getting drunk and going deer hunting before they are enlisted in the airborne infantry of Vietnam. What was once a slow-paced and fun-filled life is shoved into the stark reality of warfare and how their experiences change their lives forever.

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Clocking in at just over three hours, “The Deer Hunter” is a film of length. However, it’s one that never overstays it’s welcome as Cimino wisely works within a three act structure – book-ending the war with marriage and death. He may take his time and linger long on shots but it never gets boring. To view it as simply another Vietnam film is to entirely miss the point also. If it is to be viewed in any way, it should be as a commentary on American disillusionment and it’s loss of innocence at this time. It’s intention is not to focus on the war itself but on the aftermath and the impact war can have on the lives of ordinary working people. In fact, the scenes that take place in Vietnam only amount to a very small portion of the film, overall. Ultimately, it’s a character study that’s only heightened by the 50 minute wedding sequence at the beginning of the film. Many grumble about this being too indulgent but it’s integral that we get to know these characters in order to fully understand them. It’s during the wedding reception that they come across a Green Beret who has just finished his Tour of Duty; they buy him a drink and take offence when all he has to tell them about the war is… “Fuck it!“. This perfectly sums up the naïveté of these young men as they seem to have a romanticised idea of war and have absolutely no idea of what is to become them.

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Following this, a bunch of them go on a deer hunting trip where we again see the dynamic of the group and get to know each of them more personally. Suddenly, we are thrust into the chaos of Vietnam and it’s not before long that the films iconic and controversial Russian roulette scene takes place. This is a scene that has received much criticism in not only being claimed as inaccurate – as there was no evidence to suggest that any such atrocities took place during the conflict – but for being racist in it’s sadistic stereotype of the Viet Cong captors. These criticisms are justifiable to an extent but, personally, I think the critics have taken it far too literally. If viewed as a metaphor for the senselessness of war and the inhumanity of man during wartime struggles then it’s entirety fitting to the films themes and says more about an initiation into manhood. It was literally minutes before this powerful scene that DeNiro’s Michael and Walken’s Nick were discussing how a deer should be killed with “one shot” and now (ironically) they must face a similar fate. This game of chance is the catalyst that changes the dynamic of the three principle characters (the other being John Savage’s Stevie) and further adds to the character development that was so playfully and innocently displayed in the opening wedding sequence or the camaraderie of the deer hunt. It’s purpose is not to be racist but to capture the extreme pressure that soldiers face in conflict. In the film’s final act, some of them return home only to realise that they’re traumatised as they struggle to fit back into society. There have been claims that it doesn’t take an overly pro or anti stance towards the conflict but I struggle to see how. This was one was of the first films to challenge the perspective on Vietnam. The likes of Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” and Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” were praised for such honesty and I believe this deserves the same credibility.

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“The Deer Hunter” is, undoubtedly, epic filmmaking and despite your political interpretation, there’s no denying the power of it’s emotionally devastating narrative. It’s unlikely that Cimino will be able to deliver a work of this magnitude ever again. He tried (and many would say failed) in 1980 with “Heaven’s Gate” (bankrupting United Artists Studios in the process) but his scope and ambition here deserves the utmost respect. So too does the work of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond for his astounding ability to capture both the expansive landscapes of Pennsylvania and the war ravaged mountainous villages of Vietnam. The actors are also very strong and committed throughout. This would be the last performance of the great John Cazale – before his untimely death to cancer – and the first notable one from Meryl Streep, who brings a touching vulnerability to her supporting role. Walken (who won a Supporting Actor Oscar) is a marvel and deservedly made a name for himself in the process. As good as they are, though, it’s DeNiro who anchors the film in a enigmatic display of stoicism. Another deserved Oscar nomination came his way and even though this is a film that many omit from DeNiro’s plethora of magnificent performances throughout the 70’s and 80’s, it happens to be one of his strongest and most unsung. DeNiro apparently described his role as one of the most physical and exhausting that he’s ever done, and it’s easy to see why; the emotional, physical and mental abuse that he seems to be suffering is perfectly and gruellingly displayed onscreen.

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The 1970’s are well known for producing some of the finest experiences in cinema and “The Deer Hunter” can, proudly, consider itself one of them. It’s marvellously structured, harrowingly vivid and so grand and ambitious that it thoroughly deserves it’s epic status. Truly one of the best of it’s decade.

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Mark Walker

Goodfellas (1990) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of Written In Blood. Thanks for the review, John! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Goodfellas, IMDB rank 15 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

DISCLAIMER: I have to say that this is the first time “horse cock” has been mentioned in this way on CPD (or, at all). I’m going to get some weird Google search terms now. 😉 Now on to the review of fuckin’ Goodfellas…

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When I first volunteered to write a review of Goodfellas for the IMDb Top 250 challenge I began to wonder if I had bitten off more than I can chew. How do I approach a review of what is arguably the greatest Mob movie ever put to celluloid? Do I summon my inner Ebert and wax poetic in my praise? No. Why? Because it’s fuckin’ Goodfellas, that’s why.

Do I compare the movie to that other great Mob (read also as Mafia) movie, The Godfather? No. Why? Because it’s fuckin’ Goodfellas, that’s why. There’s no Don Corleone stroking a cat and handing out jobs and favors; there’s Paulie (a portly Paul Sorvino) holding court at a backyard cookout with a fat chunk of food in his hands giving the nod to his people as a sign of approval for whatever deal is going down at that particular moment.

There’s no big wedding with Italian songs and Sonny’s horse cock plowing Lucy upstairs in the closet. Granted, there’s a wedding and there are Italians and Sicilians and dancing and food; there’s just no horse cock-or horse’s head, for that matter-anywhere in sight. Why? Because it’s fuckin’ Goodfellas, that’s why. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Comparing Goodfellas to The Godfather is like comparing Elvis to the Beatles; they are the twin sons of different mothers. The Godfather is subtlety and the life of a Mafia family and the rise of its new Don, Michael Corleone.Goodfellas is Henry Hill and his life in the Mob (or as close as he can get to it as he is not “one hundred per cent Sicilian on his mother’s side and his heritage can’t be traced back to the old country”) and there is no guarantee that the particular moment that he is living and breathing will not be his last. If Goodfellas is even remotely about life in a Mafia family then that family is nothing but sharks. Why? Because it’s fuckin’ Goodfellas, that’s why.

With what is quite possibly the greatest opening line in cinematic history (“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”) Goodfellas begins to unravel the true story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his slow rise and hard fall in the life of a wiseguy. His journey is a violent one filled with angry fathers, towels wasted on gut-shot and bloody men, icepicks and bullets to the heads of unfortunate fools getting too close and fucking it all up; there’s Karen (Lorraine Bracco) his Jewish wife who enters into their marriage wide-eyed and innocent and transforms into a woman just as dirty as himself.

Along the way we meet Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) who loves to steal but is not above killing to protect his investments. Fuck with Jimmy and his haul and you may just find yourself frozen stiff in the back of a meat truck or right beside your wife in the front seat of your new Cadillac with bullets in both of your heads. Why? Because it’s fuckin’ Goodfellas, that’s why.

Then there is Tommy and let me begin by saying this: It is my opinion that for as long as he has a career in movies that Joe Pesci will never be given a role that is as great and-dare I say it-iconic as that of Tommy DeVito. Perhaps Pesci knew this; perhaps that is why he shines (not a good word to use in his presence, may I remind you) in every scene. If it’s not already then the, “How the fuck am I funny, what the fuck is so funny about me?” scene should be taught in film schools as a mandatory course in great acting and direction. Pesci earns his Best Supporting Actor Oscar in every scene that he is in.

Okay, so I’ve just looked over this and I don’t think that what I have written has been so much of a review as it has been a gushing letter to a movie that I have loved since I first saw it on VHS in 1991 and have watched more times than I can count in the past twenty-plus years. I also notice that I have failed to mention one name and I deserve to be whacked for not doing it sooner. Without Martin Scorsese there would be no Goodfellas. The man who makes the world’s greatest movies has shown his mastery of the Mob movie with films as diverse as Mean Streets and The Departed but it is here that his mastery is at the highest zenith of his career. It burns my balls knowing that Goodfellas lost out to Dances with Wolves for Best Picture and that Scorsese lost out to Kevin Costner as Best Director at the 1990 Academy Awards. To paraphrase a quote from Jay Leno: What the hell were they thinking?

So, this is my review cum love letter to Goodfellas and to Martin Scorsese for making it. I have put my entire heart into writing it as I knew that I would. Why? Do I even have to say it again?

The Avengers (2012) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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As we all anxiously await this Thursday’s (UK) release of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review of the first Avengers film comes from Tim of Beermovie.net. Thanks for the review, Tim! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Avengers (aka Avengers Assemble), IMDB rank 129 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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The Avengers is a huge film in every way – budget, hype, box office, you name it. Plenty of people were doubtful that Marvel could truly pull this off given how high they had raised expectations, even though they had already shown time and time again how good they were at exceeding them. Given the sequel is very close on the horizon, now is a good time to revisit one of the biggest films of all time.

From the very beginning, a portal being opened to another dimension and Loki popping out, it is clear that The Avengers is pretty grand big budget storytelling. The film invokes a little bit of classic Hollywood storytelling as it rounds up the squad, and introduces us to the new characters really succinctly. The introduction of Black Widow, totally schooling a bunch of inept mobsters, is particularly memorable. Unfortunately Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye really misses out on a proper introduction and his character really feels like a bit of an afterthought throughout the film. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk similarly feels a little short-changed in the intro stakes, but his position in the narrative means that the audience gets to know him a bit better as the film goes along, without ever totally satisfactorily setting up the mythology of the character. The first act of the film manages to function both as a fully formed introduction for viewers new to the MCU and as a charm-filled start for everyone else.

As good as the balance is between the characters, there is no doubting that Robert Downey Jr’s wisecracking Tony Stark occasionally overshadows the film. He is meant to be the funniest, smartest and most powerful of all the Avengers and that on occasions feels like a lessening of the others in the crew. Even more so than some characters getting shortchanged, this obsession with Downey’s Stark is the main aspect of the script that brings down the quality of the film as an ensemble story. It will be interesting to see how Marvel handle this in the forthcoming sequel, a couple of years removed from Iron Man 3 and with Downey Jr’s future in stand-alone films up in the air as far as I understand it.

There are plenty of reasons why Marvel has gotten this whole shared universe thing so right where basically everyone else has faltered in a big way. But casting is perhaps foremost amongst its successes. The choice of Loki for this film, could have been really ho-um, recycling a villain that had already been seen in a stand-alone film. However Hiddleston is so good in the role that you quickly forget you’ve seen him before and come to perceive him as a threat necessitating the entire crew coming together. There is also a pleasant uniqueness in the fact that Loki takes a much more psychological approach rather than simply a ‘raaargh I’m going to crush the world with my huge muscles’ style vibe. Similarly, Scarlett Johansson is perfect as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, capturing a lot of the great attitude that character has in the comics, without needing to delve into dense comic book history (now if only Marvel would get over their strange aversion to a Black Widow stand-alone film).

Plenty of (somewhat justified) criticism has been aimed at Marvel for the sameness of their third acts, so rewatching The Avengers it was nice to be reminded just how well they can pull it off. I noticed this a lot whilst re-watching the film for this review and it was a main reason why I actually enjoyed it more this time than when I saw it in cinemas. Part of what sets this third act apart from some of the others is that the script weaves in occasional pieces of wit and levity to balance out the vibe. Some charming moments break up the huge, long-running battle toward the end, not least of which is Hulk’s hilarious “puny god” interaction with Loki. It’s a hell of a sprawling, choreographed battle that seems to wheel across the whole city. And whilst it’s basically all CGI, it never feels too computerised or like one clump of pixels crashing into another clump of pixels.

It is difficult to overestimate how big an achievement The Avengers is. Not all of that is restricted to the film. Much of it relates to how expertly Marvel crafted their cinematic universe in a way that has ‘inspired’ so many inept imitators that I’m pretty sure none of us ever want to hear the phrase “cinematic universe” ever again. But this film is an exceptional payoff and it both wraps Phase 1 up beautifully and feels like it was something too big for one of the earlier standalone films to handle.

Verdict: 8/10

Grave Of The Fireflies (1988) Review

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Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)
Hotaru no haka
Japanese: 火垂るの墓

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 104 as of 01/01/2013

Directed by Isao Takahata

Based on Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka

Starring Voice Actors:
Tsutomu Tatsumi
Ayano Shiraishi
Yoshiko Shinohara
Akemi Yamaguchi

(English dub voice cast: Adam Gibbs, Emily Neves, Shelley Calene-Black, Marcy Bannor)

Running time: 89 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in the city of Kobe, Japan, the film tells the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, and their desperate struggle to survive during the final months of the Second World War.

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My Opinion:

Version watched: Japanese with English subtitles

Okay – here we are with the movie that got second place when I asked you all to vote for which movie I should review next (Spirited Away won – I reviewed that HERE yesterday). Knowing I would be spending January reviewing a bunch of Studio Ghibli films, I actually watched Grave Of The Fireflies late on New Year’s Eve. Do I know how to party or WHAT?!

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And… then I never reviewed it. What can I say about Grave Of The Fireflies that hasn’t been said already? It’s already widely known that it’s one of the saddest & most heartbreaking movies you can watch. I love Studio Ghibli so I knew the time had finally come for me to watch it if I was going to dedicate a bunch of my time to eventually reviewing every Ghibli film on my blog. But I’ve never been one to want to watch a sad movie – I watch movies for their escapism, not to be reminded that humanity sucks. So I had a little bit to drink as it was New Year’s Eve, put on Grave Of The Fireflies, then distracted myself by chatting with a friend through most of it in order to make it a little more bearable (thanks to that person!). It still wasn’t an easy watch although it’s a beautiful film.

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I was happy that Grave Of The Fireflies wasn’t at all political (in my opinion). I wouldn’t even say it’s exactly anti-war – it simply tells the story in a very matter-of-fact manner of a young boy & his little sister in the final months of World War II. I’ve looked but I’m not sure of the ages of the brother & sister – I think she’s around 4 & he’s maybe 14? There are a few times throughout the movie where you start to feel a little frustrated with the brother seeming to not always know the best way to take care of his little sister until you then remember that he’s just a child himself and how difficult it would be to try to survive on your own in a war torn country. These kids have nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help – all they have is each other and the boy does everything he can to take care of his little sister.

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Grave Of The Fireflies is one of those movies that I think everyone should watch at least once (kind of like Schindler’s List – you need to watch it but maybe don’t watch them both on the same night!). There’s just nothing I hate more than seeing little kids suffer, though, and it’s very hard to watch this little girl go through Hell while always maintaining her innocence and joy at life’s little pleasures (like a couple of fruit drop candies or some fireflies) in a way that only the very young can manage. I recommend this to everyone, not just fans of Studio Ghibli as it’s quite unlike the other Ghiblis anyway, but you’ll need to be in the right frame of mind.

My Rating: 8/10

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Spirited Away (2001) Review

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Spirited Away (2001)
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Japanese:
千と千尋の神隠し

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 43 as of 01/01/2013

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Rumi Hiiragi
Miyu Irino
Mari Natsuki
Takeshi Naito
Yasuko Sawaguchi
Tsunehiko Kamijō
Takehiko Ono
Bunta Sugawara

(English dub voice cast: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Susan Egan, Paul Eiding, John Ratzenberger)

Running time: 124 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the middle of her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into beasts.

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My Opinion:

Version watched: Japanese with English subtitles

I know the people who’ve been with me a while will know that I’ve become a pretty big Studio Ghibli fan in the couple of years that I’ve run this blog. Back in January, I started reviewing as many of these films as I could (you can find the links to all the reviews HERE) but they didn’t get a lot of attention & I wondered if Studio Ghibli was as popular amongst movie bloggers as I’d thought. So when I asked in this poll HERE which movies I should review next of all the ones I watched but never got around to, I was surprised that Spirited Away & Grave Of The Fireflies were the two winners by quite a lot of votes. I know it’s weird that I’ve put off reviewing two of Ghibli’s biggest films but I wasn’t sure what to say about either of them. Fireflies because, well… what can be said about that? 😦 And Spirited Away because I KNOW it’s the favorite Ghibli for a lot of people (and the most highly regarded – it won an Oscar for best animated film & is the highest rated Ghibli in the IMDB Top 250 at number 34 currently) but it’s just never quite connected with me in the same way the other films have.

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Spirited Away was actually the very first Ghibli I saw back in 2001 (I think – whenever it was first shown in UK cinemas). I don’t recommend it as your introduction to Studio Ghibli as it’s far more “out there” than most the others. Unless you like “weird”… However, I do recommend it if you’re already a fan of the studio and I can see now why it’s so popular even if it’s not my very favorite. I finally re-watched this again in January to see if my opinion would be different all these years later & I can say that I definitely appreciated it a lot more now that I’ve seen so many other Ghibli films. It’s basically just a coming of age story (Ghibli style – with pigs, witches, Susuwatari soot sprites like in My Neighbor Totoro, dragons, and really large babies) & has a good, strong lead female as is often the case with these movies. I think it may be so popular as it’s from 2001 so a lot of you younger bloggers will have been just the right sort of age for it when it came out (I’m guessing it’s a popular one with those who were preteen girls at the time especially). You’ll either absolutely love this one for its weirdness or you’ll be turned off if that’s not your type of thing but it’s certainly another Miyazaki masterpiece and I want to love it as much as I do Totoro or Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind… I really did try to on the re-watch!

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Spirited Away is sort of a Japanese Alice In Wonderland. If you like that, you may also appreciate Spirited Away. It certainly has the magical quality & beauty that most the Ghibli films possess (more so, really – it may be the second biggest feast for your eyes after Howl’s Moving Castle). I do think I made a mistake putting it below Howl’s Moving Castle in my Top TenHowl’s is very pretty but the story is overcomplicated while Spirited Away has a much stronger and more straightforward story & themes.

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With most Ghibli films, there’s usually a small character that I really latch onto. With Princess Mononoke, it was the Kodama. With Castle In The Sky, it was the Laputan robots. With My Neighbor Totoro, it was of course Totoro. While Spirited Away has very rich characters, I didn’t end up loving any of the lesser characters. No-Face was pretty cool, I suppose, but oh so strange. The girl (Chihiro), as I said, is another great female Ghibli character which is a huge part of the reason why I’m such a big fan of the Ghibli films. This is another movie I want my kid to see someday BUT I myself wouldn’t recommend it to those under probably about 10 or 11. For the very young, the witch is too scary as is the entire, cruel spirit world that Chihiro finds herself trapped in plus it’s just far too odd & the themes would be lost on the young. More than anything, they just wouldn’t appreciate this one until they were a little older so I think it’s probably best to wait before introducing them to this one.

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Summary:

I’m really glad I re-watched this one again after watching more Studio Ghibli films. I wish I could love it in the same way others do and in the same way I love some of the other Ghibli films but I certainly appreciate Spirited Away and think it’s deserving of all the praise & recognition it has received. I’d certainly watch it once (or twice) again and know it’s one that would grow on me. Spirited Away should be seen by all film lovers but I’d recommend testing out a couple other Studio Ghibli films first before delving into this one if you’re new to them.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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Chinatown (1974) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Damien of Flashback/Backslide. He also reviewed Sin City here & Memento here. Thanks for the reviews, Damien! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Chinatown, IMDB rank 78 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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CHINATOWN

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Any tour through the film noir landscape will likely stop for a visit with Roman Polansky’s Chinatown. Released in 1974, the film is held up as the quintessential neo-noir, that new batch of films debuting from the 1960’s and onwards which lifted traits from film noir’s Golden Age but branded the genre with elements not seen in the post-war period. Touring through The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Big Sleep (1946) reveals the habits of those first noirs, filled with tough-guy detectives and Humphrey Bogart’s cold stares and wry smiles. Chinatown uses the mold of these early films then breaks it, adding in elements not fitted for screens twenty years earlier.

Jack Nicholson stars as Jake Gittes, a private investigator in 1937 Los Angeles. Like Spade and Marlowe, Gittes isn’t picky with clients he takes but the weight of the job and the secrets he’s uncovered appear to be more a burden for him than they did for Bogart. The film’s complicated story begins with what appears to be a simple mystery. After dismissing one client, a tired Gittes reenters his office to find a stoic woman sitting across the room. She calls on his services because she believes her husband is seeing another woman. Gittes hears the complaint, sighs then sarcastically responds “No…Really?” By this point he must have seen dozens of these cases and is not eager to jump into another. Gittes quickly disregards her worries: “Mrs. Mulwray do your love your husband? Then go home and forget everything. I’m sure that he loves you too. Do you know the expresion ‘let sleeping dogs lie’? You’re…better off not knowing” But soon he finds the adulterer in question is Hollis Mulwray, an influential Los Angeles city planner. Realizing the money to be made, Gittes signs on and is plunged into a complicated mystery involving nearly a dozen instigators.

Chinatown establishes its film noir chops early and often. Stereotyped film noir elements are found throughout; smoking with exceptionaly long cigarette stems, venetian blinds (Gittes mentions Venetian blinds in the first spoken line), characteristic fashion (namely overly-fancy hats), stereotyped camera angles and the use mirrors and reflections including an interesting reflection off a camera lens showing us Gittes and his point of view simultaneously. Jack Nicholson plays a sadder, more defeated version of Sam Spade. Faye Dunaway, gives an incredible performance as his femme fatale, bringing to life the desperate Evelyn Mulwray. John Huston, legendary director of noir classics like The Maltese Falcon and Key Largo is cast as one of the central characters and gives one of the film’s most memorable performances.

The mystery at the center of Chinatown turns out to be far more complicated than that in The Maltese Falcon or The Third Man and with more sinister dealings at the core. Debuting in 1974 likely factors into the plot. By then audience members would expect a more mysterious mystery and would tolerate more sex and violence along the way. From the very beginning sex is front and center as the opening frames show close-ups of photographs taken of a sex scene. Gittes famously has his nose cut during the film, leaving Jack Nicholson’s bandaged face on most stills. Between those opening frames, a sliced nose, rape and incest, much of the content here wouldn’t have passed censors twenty years earlier.

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Rating:10/10

Classic Film Scale Rating: 8/10

Bottomline: A worthy flag-bearer for the neo-noir genre, Chinatown takes all the best elements of the Golden Age noirs and even improves on the classics.

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide

The Lion King (1994) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Kim of Tranquil Dreams. Thanks for the review, Kim! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about The Lion King, IMDB rank 79 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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The Lion King (1994)

Director: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

Cast (Voice): Matthew Broderick, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Ernie Sabella, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaume, Moira Kelly

Young Simba’s destiny is to one day take his father’s place on Pride Rock as King. Not really understanding the full responsibilities of it, he runs around heading into certain troubles. Luckily his father Mufasa is always there for him. When his father dies trying to save him, his Uncle Scar scares him into running away from his past. Its there he learns from a meerkat Timon and warthog called Pumbaa to live life with no worries. Thats until the past catches up with him and he learns about the maltreatment of Pride Rock after Scar has become King. Its his choice whether to go back to face his past, assume his place and save Pride Rock or continue hiding from it.

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I’m a huge fan of Disney animations. MEGA fan! I own a whole lot of the movies and I schedule in when the vault releases are so that I can get the movies when they come out. I haven’t seen all the Disney classics but I’ve seen a good bunch of them. The Lion King was one that came out when I was 8. Its one of the memorable animations that linger on in your mind even if I never owned a copy of my own. To say the least, there isn’t a time when The Lion King would pop up in my head and the word masterpiece doesn’t pop up.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for this review, I probably wouldn’t have gone back to watch it quite so soon. Its not because I don’t love it because I’m sure I do. I guess there’s always a worry that some movies are only good because of nostalgia. The Lion King is definitely not one of those. Sure, there’s nostalgia but The Lion King is a movie experience with a beautiful story full of a roller coaster of emotions.

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The animation itself is mesmerizing with all its sharp colors, stellar landscapes and pretty animals. Its full of catchy songs that will stick in your head for a long time. Trust me, I haven’t seen this in at least 15 years and I knew the words to most of these songs. The whole African beat and chant with Circle of Life with the fun-filled music like I Just Wanna Be King and Hakuna Matata makes this absolutely unforgettable.

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Aside from that, the voice cast is fantastic. You watch them as they bring life to each of the characters. The young and playful Simba, stern and responsible Zazu, brave father figure Mufasa, sly Scar and the hysterical yet stupid hyenas. Of course we can’t forget the inspiring yet slightly weird Rafiki and the hilarious duo, Timon and Pumbaa. Other than how well the actual animation is done, the voice cast is a big contributing factor and The Lion King has got that down as well. Its with this same cast that can make the audiences connect with these animated characters. That is exactly how The Lion King can bring on the feelings of being happy and free then sad and disappointed whenever the story shifted into a different scene.

The Lion King is beautifully animated, has catchy songs and is filled with talented voice performances bringing life to memorable characters. However, the story itself not only brings on a span of different emotions but also some valuable lessons about being responsible and not running away from your past among the many many other themes. The Lion King is definitely a must-watch and a masterpiece in the Disney collection that will give its audience an unforgettable movie experience.

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