The Graduate (1967) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Satu of Fairytale Pictures. Thanks for the review, Satu! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of The Graduate, IMDB rank 186 out of 250 (as of 01/01/13)…

There are another 15 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. The deadline is November 1st. The available films are:

Cool Hand Luke 1967
The Wrestler 2008
The Lives of Others 2006
The Sting 1973
Die Hard 1988
Léon 1994
The Hobbit 2012
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
Rain Man 1988
Taxi Driver 1976
Gone with the Wind 1939
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946
Before Sunrise 1995
Before Sunset 2004
Life Is Beautiful 1997

See the full Top 250 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 at the top of any of these guest reviews.

The Graduate (1967)
Directed by Mike Nichols
Written by Calder Willingham, Buck Henry (& Charles Webb (novel))
Starring Dustin Hoffman & Anne Bancroft

Synopsis: “A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.

It’s been a while since I saw The Graduate but I didn’t really like it. It bothers me that I don’t know what it is. A drama or a comedy? Is it supposed to be funny? Shocking? I don’t usually care that much but I just don’t get the hype of this film. It won an Oscar for the best directing. It was nominated in seven different categories and I have absolutely no idea why it won in that one? I know that Bonnie & Clyde that was multi-nominated that year too was much more interesting to watch.

The first thing that sticks out in The Graduate is lensing aka cinematography. It’s annoying as hell! Gosh. It drove me nuts. What are those freaking all-the-time weird shots? It feels so messy and to me it ruined most of the film. Then again, if the point was making life seem messy and pointless, it worked. And come to think of it now, it probably was the point if the viewer should feel like via main character? Huh. Kinda cool. But when watching, it didn’t work for me. The colour world was also ugly to my eye. Although, at the same time I can understand that it must have looked intriguing at the time. I especially hated that dolly shot in the end. Didn’t do good for our leading man. Ugh.

To my eyes, in this millennium, Dustin Hoffman looks way too old to be viewed as way too young compared to Anne Bancroft. And I don’t really like him anyway. I did like him in Rain Man and as Hook, I guess, but usually I find him like he would be good at playing vicious rodent and rodents are not cool. But I still guess he did nice job in this one. He felt bored and innocent at the same time. To me Anne Bancroft was even better at playing alcoholic house-wife. I don’t know, maybe it was somewhat easier to relate to her character, I would be bored out of my mind in a situation like that. In the end, it was very hard to like any of the characters in The Graduate. They’re not very likeable. That’s probably one of the main reasons why I didn’t enjoy the film that much. One needs to feel sympathetic.

My final grading is not that bad as I made it sound now but I’m still glad that The Graduate is not anymore in IMDb Top-250 like it was when this challenge was established. Maybe there are some people like me who think it is a bit over-appreciated.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

The Help (2011) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Natasha of Life Of This City Girl. Thanks for the review, Natasha! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of The Help, IMDB rank 234 out of 250…

There are another 15 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest 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 at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Movie Review: The Help (2011)

Plot: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

Rating: 8.5/10

Hey, T9M readers! I’m reviewing The Help here today, because when I saw it was on T9M’s remaining movies to review for her IMDb Top 250 challenge I greedily claimed it as my own, seeing my chance to finally watch it.

I was surprised. Not only is The Help a really good film, it is also right up my alley and has stayed with me since I saw it.

What works well for this film first and foremost is a fantastic cast. To name a few, but certainly not limited to, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Allison Janney to Anna Camp all came to life as some form of a Southern Belle working to adjust to changing times.

The Help focuses on a time in America when things were changing. Women were entering the workforce, they were suddenly allowed to have bigger dreams than being barefoot and pregnant, and alongside that liberation came a movement where people realized that black people also had rights. Shocking, I know. Idiots. That’s where Skeeter Phelan comes in – she’s recently graduated and in look of making a name for herself. She moves back to Jacksonville, her home town that has not progressed with racial equality at all, and starts working a dead end job writing housekeeping tips for the local newspaper. Skeeter seeks to find the nanny who raised her, a woman whose disappearance makes her very worried – this is the woman that truly raised her, not her scatterbrained and often mean spirited mother. This leads her to embark on a project that records the tales of the black women who raise white children while their own sit at home.

In a very idealistic fashion, The Help isn’t particularly violent. I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence at all. There is a time and place for it and only in certain films, and I get upset especially when it involves minorities being beaten down. Django Unchained is pretty much the threshold for me, and let me tell you, as much as I love Tarantino, that film was almost too much to watch. The Help tells and accurately depicts inequality without making it an unnecessary blood fest nor a pity party, and yet you walk away feeling definitely disgusted with white ancestry. I saw that a lot of people did feel that the movie fancily glosses over the atrocities that happened and I do agree on that point though.

I liked the most that there were some genuinely sweet white people that offset the heinous racists that were also depicted. Jessica Chastain plays the particularly kind Cecilia Foote, who has been shunned because she’s just a bit too attractive and fun loving for Hilly Holbrook, excellently brought to life by Bryce Dallas Howard. Hilly is racist and underhanded, using her status in town to control everything– social events, treatment of staff and generally just getting her way in everything. The good tries to offset the bad, but it is still so obvious about how unjust the system was – I recently saw that it was a time period where it was finally acknowledged that black people deserved rights, just not quite as many as white people. I’m not going to go all swearing about this, because I am guest blogging here, but you can please include a number of profanities to gather my opinion about this.

Most of all, the end impressed me – things do not end perfectly for Phelan. After successfully publishing her novel, Phelan is shunned by many in town, including her boyfriend, but since he was a pompous, primitive prick from the very start I’m not feeling that she’s missing out on something special. It shows that actions have consequences, even when the action was required and did something good.

If you are looking for a film that accurately portrays inequality in the 1950’s, this probably isn’t for you. The Help is mostly feel good with some bad moments between, a very well-produced and acted out film for this. Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for this and it is well deserved – her sassy attitude is a scene stealer every single time. I’m likely to watch it again at some point, and am pretty glad that I took the time to watch this.

Thanks for having me lady!

Black Swan (2010) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Jia Wei of Film & Nuance. Thanks for the review, Jia Wei! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on Black Swan, IMDB rank 177 out of 250 on 01/01/13…

There are another 15 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest 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 at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Black Swan: Reveries and desires

Ask me to name a list of movies that have profoundly disturbed me for the longest time and you will find Black Swan gracing the very top; Oh you know because swans are graceful and all. Did you find that funny? Because that’s the only funny thing you’ll see from this review and from the movie. Darren Aronofsky’s dark reverie of a film proliferates ideas of duality, the yin-yang of human nature and it’s inherent dichotomies between good and evil. An opening shot of Black Swan is a memorable dance sequence involving Natalie Portman’ as she performs the Swan Lake where the princess Odette is cursed and transfigured into a swan by the devilish Rothbart. It is hauntingly choreographed by Aronofsky whose brilliance we see throughout the film. What’s particularly symbolic here is how the ‘swan’ persona, which becomes the crucial metaphor throughout the film, is at once both graceful and cursed; A little something to note when interpreting the film. Black Swan is like art that slowly unwraps itself with every deliberate attempt to shock and traumatize, revealing the tragic poise it so gracefully holds.

Aronofsky is definitely the artist who isn’t afraid to show. In fact, his philosophy here is that if he could expose everything, he would. Psychological elements flood the film till the point where truth and reality are bent to fit the style. Potraits would come alive (think sinister version of Harry Potter talking paintings) and mock Nina’s increasingly blurry perception. Hallucinations allow Aronofsky to feed the emotional conflict and mental delusions. Black Swan is not for the faint of heart because around every dark corner lie monsters of the mind.

Black Swan’s methods may be extremely explicit but it’s themes are cuttingly profound. Some call it a passionate melodrama which I think doesn’t do the film justice. Melodrama connotates dragging…the kind of dragging that irritates but sure perhaps it’s also artistic. I beg to differ. For as much as Black Swan has deliberated it’s hypnotic sequences and emotional conflicts, it has also haunted my senses and heightened my anticipation for the tension that would ensure. That alone is enough to dispel the idea that it’s a tedious and melodramatic affair. Yes, it’s hyperactive and yes it’s visually unrestrained but damn, it’s one hell of a movie.

In my view, Friedrich Nietzche’s book on philosophy titled ‘The Birth Of A Tragedy’ is somewhat linked to the film in the sense that Black Swan’s interpretation lie in the way that nature and tragedy are set up to be. To be fair, there will be endless interpretations of the film and mine is just one out of many. But I think that in order to fully appreciate the beauty in what Natalie Portman has portrayed in Nina is essential. It is only through her flaws that I also see her complete beauty and only through the film’s depressing moments do I appreciate the fixed balance dichotomy between light and darkness, desire and repression, id and ego. Black Swan’s entrancing dance sequences relates somewhat to Nietzsche’s notes on greek tragedy and music; Notice how the ballads in the film rise and fall periodically, with crescendos and dimineundos that mirror Nina’s oscillating state of mind. Natalie Portman and her double do well to convey the the polar opposites of effeminate grace and unbridled release that torment Nina during her performances. She battles not her inner demons but her conflicted nature. I read that Aronofsky had many takes and rehearsals for his dance sequences. It’s no wonder that he was able to surface the raging tempest of the mind so well. Everything from flawless acting to musical lyricism to contrasting imageries of black and white pour out in perfect yet painful harmony. As each dance progressively becomes more challenging and demanding, so too do the lines between the black and white swan.

What is more powerful than pleasing the audience? Shocking them. I’m inclined to name a few more films like Under the skin and Mulholland Drive. It might just be my taste but there’s no point shocking someone without telling them why. Though the abovementioned films have got me jumping right out of my seat, Black Swan does it with brutal simplicity. It’s not abstract which is why I like it so so much. You don’t spend time wrecking your head thinking why Nina did this or that and instead are left to mull over the lasting consequences of the character’s actions. Black Swan’s may range from being a psycho-sexual study to a director’s symphonic masterpiece, but in the end, it’s destructive melancholy is a psychedelic look at our unresolved natures.

P.S. This was my second best movie of 2010 behind Inception. The Social Network is third. And The King’s Speech is nowhere to be seen 😉

All About Eve (1950) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Diane of Tvor Travels. Thanks for the review, Diane! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thinks of All About Eve, IMDB rank 104 out of 250…

There are another 14 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest 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 at the top of any of these guest reviews.

All About Eve (1950)

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Writer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

All About Eve is one of my all time favourite movies. It has a feel of being one of those films that was adapted from a stage play, probably because it’s all about the theatre, the actors and the rivalries but it was in fact, based on a short story “The Wisdom of Eve” by Mary Orr. The script was written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

The basic premise of the movie is about an aging Broadway star, Margo Channing. She’s just turned 40, she’s a brilliant and talented actress, but the best roles are for the younger engenue and it’s getting more and more difficult for her to pass as one. Age and experience has a way of contributing a jaded attitude that does not work well with a role for a younger character, after all. Her lover is 8 years younger than her, and she’s feeling insecure about that, as well. Into the mix comes Eve Harrington, seemingly a star struck young woman who looks up to Margo and wants to be like her. In every way. She wants to be a famous actress and is determined to claw her way to the top using any scheming means necessary including seduction, subversive manipulation, and metaphorical back stabbing. Completing the main cast are Margo’s younger lover, Bill who is a director, her best friend, Karen, her friend’s husband, Lloyd, who writes the plays Margo has starred in.

The movie starts with an awards ceremony where Eve Harrington is receiving the very prestigious Sarah Siddon’s award for Distinguished Achievement. We then backtrack. Eve Harrington shows up at the stage door one dark and rainy night. Karen invites her to meet her idol, Margo Channing, and Eve narrates her life story, a classic and a bit cheesy story of a poor farm girl who wanted to be an actress but has lived a boring and dull life until she discovered amateur dramatics and later, Margo Channing. She even tells them she married a war hero who was killed in action. It’s all very tragic. Just as Eve intended. Here we have a fabulous line from Birdie, Margo’s assistant and dresser. “What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snapping at her rear end!”

The action is narrated from various points of view through the course of the film. We start with sardonic theatre critic, Addison deWitt then move over to Karen when Eve is introduced. Margo takes over at the start of Eve being taken on as an assistant. It’s interesting, and it adds that little extra aspect to the characters and their reactions to Eve. Addison has the full measure of the diabolical Eve and manages to rein her in from her most destructive tendencies but Addison also likes to hitch his wagon to a winner and he can see the writing on the wall. Karen is naive and like most of the characters, believes Eve’s stories and explanations at first. Margo sees nothing but what Eve wants her to see, blinded by the young woman’s adoration of her at first until her jealousy and insecurity take hold.

We follow Eve as she insinuates herself into Margo’s life as she worms her way up the ladder to the boards of the stage, getting a chance as the understudy that makes her triumphant debut and a star is born. Lloyd becomes enchanted by Eve’s young talent. Bill becomes disenchanted by Margo’s jealousy. Eve plays them all like chess pieces. But Eve’s also going to have to watch her own back. Karma might be waiting in the wings.

The cast is superb, with Bette Davis taking the role of Margo and Anne Baxter as Eve. Gary Merrill plays Bill, Margo’s husband and was married to Bette Davis by the time the film was released in 1950. Addison deWitt is played by the wonderful George Sanders with Celeste Holm and Hugh Marlowe as Karen and Lloyd. The film is also noted for an early appearance by Marilyn Monroe in the famous scene that ends with the legendary Davis line “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”. In fact, this movie is full of superb dialogue.

The movie pokes holes in Broadway, the actors and the lifestyle and it shows a not-so-nice side of the business, where men can age and continue to get great parts, but women can’t. Things are getting a little better in that respect, but it’s not come along in leaps and bounds, either. The film was nominated for and won a lot of awards including the Oscar for Best Picture in a year where it competed with Sunset Boulevard, another really strong movie. Anne Baxter and Bette Davis were both nominated for Best Actress and neither won, probably splitting the vote.

I’m sure the character of Margo, very similar in age to Davis, exhibiting the fear, vulnerability and insecurities of an actress at that age and in that time period probably felt very familiar. She certainly made the character believable and played it very realistically. That’s what was so great about Bette Davis, she never backed down from a character, even if the character was unflattering or unlikeable. She would want the character to transcend the actress and that’s why she was one of the best of what she did. For me, this is Bette Davis at the very top of her game.

The Artist (2011) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Jia Wei of Film & Nuance. Thanks for the review, Jia Wei! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on The Artist, IMDB rank 193 out of 250 on 01/01/13…

There are another 14 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest 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 at the top of any of these guest reviews.

When I saw that CinemaParrotDisco‘s IMDB Top 250 challenge had The Artist up for grabs for reviewing , I signed up immediately. I’ve always wanted to watch the film and it was in my Blindspot list as well, so I figured, kill two birds with one stone eh? 🙂

The Artist is bravura in film-making. It is completely unapologetic. Instead of your mainstream film that champions a bonanza of eye-popping camera tricks and visual feasts, or prides itself as having dialogue that’s engaging and extensive, The Artist is a complete rejection of the big-screen movie formula. It dispels the notion that ‘effects’, or some other word suggesting the advent of modern film-making, is needed to produce a great film. In fact, it is in the very drastically different approach the film has taken that has led it to create new experiences for audiences; It has broken into the virgin land of pure emotional resonance. Indeed, it’s not the first silent and black and white film. But considering our current day and age, it has boldly relived a nostalgic era of the past and breathed new life into a picture that transcends accesorries: No colour, no sound and nothing to adulterate the experience. To use a cliche phrase on a wholly un-cliched film, The Artist is the embodiment of ‘less is more’. Director Michel Hazanavicius and actors Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo seemed stretched to their maximum potential to create raw tension from acting alone. And how fitting was it that the film was about the very struggle itself, the fight to hold on to the last vestiges of success, and the tragic tryings of a man who desperately held on to that which he gave him voice – Silence.

In all that forms The Artist, nothing can be said to be pretentious. We’ve seen too many pretentious films these past two years, the most notable of all is a fellow Oscar winner same-genre film Birdman. It features a ‘washed-up broadway actor’ trying hard to regain relevancy and salvage his ego. One cannot help but compare the two, and if you’ve put off seeing The Artist for some reason like I did until recently, I say wait no more! But enough about the one-take ‘much ado about nothing’ film and let’s talk about something truly revolutionary. Paying homage to both the black & white as well as the silent era of films in the past, The Artist could only have pulled its stunt off with the conviction and power in both Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo’s acting. The former plays a sort of celebrity figure in a dying age. Dujardin mixes just enough pomp and suave to foreshadow his later downfall. Bejo plays the vivacious and preppy up-and-coming rising star hoping to rise through the ranks. Their chemistry is unmistakable, and becomes a point of contention between destructive co-existence and fruitful romance.

John Goodman plays the ultra realistic director/production boss who shifts with the tides of cinema, at one point telling George Valentin(Jean Dujardin) quite directly, “The audience want’s fresh meat.” But let’s get real here, the other characters didn’t really leave us with anything. Jean and Berenice stole the show. Oh wait, I almost forgot George’s pet puppie. But we’ll get back to that later. Michel Hazanavicius’ directing is splendid. What I love so much about the film was its untainted portrayal of the ‘silent era’. Even in the most joyful moments, the quiet functioned to unsettle a little,then a little more until the internal struggle of the mind truly reared its ugly head. Indeed,silence does play around with how we feel. In the film’s happiest moments, the psychological effects of George’s nadir festers in subtlely. At the end, quite surprisingly, one of the film’s sweetest moments come when the end seemed doomed to the inevitable.

Ultimately, The Artist takes you through the bygone age, unearthing a richly depicted world of film-making in the silent era way back. You’ll find the silence a little puzzling at first, but when Jean begins to hear the sounds of his habitus but not the sound of his own voice, you will start to fully appreciate what the film is actually trying to say. It’s not simply a romance film of disconnected lovers . It’s not about a love-hate relationship with ego toying with the frailties of man. It is in fact about the value of a man in terms of the art he creates, and his horror and sadness at the cruel workings of time that slowly sweeps everything it once glorifies into memory. Dujardin’s performance is powerful in that he is able to show the artist that has come undone, and Hazanavicius masterfully creates humour and catharsis to salvage the nilhilism and devastation he has built up. Oh I almost forgot…the dog! Well actually other than being Jean’s best pal, this little guy actually represents both George and Peppy(Berenice Bejo); The dog’s loyalty mirrors George’s unflailing love for his art while also being a symbol of Peppy’s undying support for Jean. There’s so much to explore and interpret on your own, so go watch it if you haven’t because I’m sure it’ll touch you.

Partly a tribute to film of ages past and partly a romantic-comical film, The Artist is an ode to the psychology of the artist, craftsman and performer. It is an insightful look into the fine barometers by which these artists weigh their own worth and success, and the dysfunction when the world no longer shares the same sentiment. It is admirable but also tragic and Hazanivius shows how there can perhaps be a saving grace that transcends all the art and craft in the world. In a nerve-wrecking finish, The Artist offers us what we hope for. And although we can’t truly say that we’re certain of what lies ahead, we know for sure that love that is pure is love that can save us all.

Rating: 9/10

Images credited to La Petite Reine, ARP Sélection, Studio 37, La Class Americane,France 3 CinemaU Film, Jouror Productions, JD Prod, Warner Bros and The Weinstein Company

Catch Me If You Can (2002) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Satu of Fairytale Pictures. Thanks for the review, Satu! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of Catch Me If You Can, IMDB rank 240 out of 250…

There are another 16 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest 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 at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

I originally wrote this review/summary for my scriptwriting course, so there’s more plot details that I usually include but change is good, right? I also added some points. Hope you enjoy reading it. Spoilers ahead.

Sometimes it’s easier living the lie​​​​

Catch Me If You Can is a crime dramedy based on a biography of Frank Abagnale Jr., American con-man who succeeded in forging millions of dollars of fake checks while pretending to be a Pan-Am pilot, a doctor and a lawyer, all that before his 19th birthday. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg. It was released 2002 and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a main character Frank Abagnale Jr., Tom Hanks as a federal officer Hanratty chasing him and Christopher Walken is Frank Sr.

I saw Catch Me If You Can for the first time when it was released in Finland in 2003. I liked it back then and I liked it this time even more, probably because I paid more attention to the details of the film. Spielberg knows how to do details, his films are always looking and sounding great. The film is not overly emotional, so, even though I’m quite emotional person, I didn’t cry during the film. Mostly I guess I was exhilarated and afterwards relieved and in the end, disappointed, at least a bit. The main character is likeable and a con-man, so it’s easy to get excited for him and feel relieved after he manages his mischiefs. Disappointed-part is debatable.

(SPOILERS IN THIS PART) “Sometimes it’s easier living the lie”, says Hanratty at the end of the film. The phrase summarizes the film. Catch Me If You Can is a story of responsibility, growing up and bringing up. It’s a story of owning up. The film might be an adventure to viewer but it also makes you think what is justified in order to get around in one’s life. But in the end, I figure that Catch Me If You Can is a bit too much of a “lesson” about what kind of life you should live. And that is what let me down; the film ended up being one those familiar stories; bad childhood, rebelling child, moral aberrations and again, happily ever after. I kind of wished a bit more demanding ending, I guess.

Even though Spielberg has yet again a child as his lead, Catch Me If You Can is very stylish crime thriller. It has this adult feel and I believe children or even teens would be bored while watching it. The film must be PG because there’s basically no violence and very little of sex and nudity but the story and especially how it’s told tells that the target audience is civilized, smart adults who has taste and style. Catch Me If You Can has jamesbondish vibe to it without the sexual content. One of the Abagnale’s alter-ego is even named Mr. Fleming.

All of the actors are great; obviously. What else would you wait from DiCaprio, Hanks and Walken? Amy Adams also makes unforgettable role in the film as Abagnale’s love interest. That must have been one of the bigger roles in the beginning of her career. Catch Me If You Can got two Oscar nominations for Walken as Frank’s dad, deservedly so, he’s heartbreaking in a small kind of a way, and un-surprisingly to John Williams who smartly scored the film, I liked the music a lot. DiCaprio was also nominated for the Golden Globe. All in all, the film is good, solid 8/10 but it misses the last punch.

Network (1976) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

I’m starting up the IMDB Top 250 Guest Reviews again (link to list of available films below) & today’s review comes from Keith of Keith & The Movies. Thanks for the review, Keith! 🙂 Now let’s see what he thought of Network, IMDB rank 171 out of 250…

There are another 23 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest 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 at the top of any of these guest reviews.

***WARNING: SPOILERS***

“Network” is a film that I have probably seen if you piece together all of the portions I’ve watched over time. But it qualified as a Blind Spot because I had never sat down and watched it through. I never could put a finger on what kept me from investing the time to watch a film that many categorize as truly great. Upon watching it in its entirety, I was reminded what first drew me to the movie as well as what pushed me away.

For me “Network” is a mixed bag that is hard a narrow down or label. To call it messy would be an understatement, but there is a reason and motivation behind its messiness. “Network” seeks to push every button it can reach. It strives to be a full-blown outrageous satire, an insightful look behind the scenes, and a sermon on nearly every social or political concern of 1976. Director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky never allow their film to be pigeonholed but at the same time its constant shifts in tone and voice, specifically in the second half, do more to distract than enlighten.

The film begins by painting itself as a behind-the-scenes expose on a struggling television network. UBS makes the decision to fire their longtime evening news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) after a steady ratings decline. During one of his final broadcasts Beale threatens to kill himself on live television (an idea inspired by Christine Chubbuck’s on-air suicide in 1974). This infuriates the network heads who have him removed immediately.

Beale’s best friend and news division boss Max Schumacher (William Holden) allows him to appear one more time in order to bow out with dignity. Beale uses the opportunity to go on a mad rant which again angers his bosses but spikes the network ratings. Programming director and ruthless ratings hawk Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) convinces her boss Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) to exploit Beale’s obvious mental breakdown much to Max’s disapproval.

But “Network” then shoots off into a number of unusual directions including an ill-fated romance between Diana and Max. Diana is incapable of loving anything other than television ratings while Max flippantly and emotionlessly leaves his wife of 25 years Louise (earnestly played by Beatrice Straight who won an Oscar for her whopping 5 minutes of screen time). It is a weird side road that only plays out in spurts. There is a compelling current in each of their scenes yet we are never allowed the time to fully understand the relationship.

The film also branches off into a Patty Hearst-like side story complete with an urban leftist militant group directly patterned after the Symbionese Liberation Army. These scenes start off strong but intentionally grow more absurd. These things all clash together before culminating in an ending which is completely off the rails. Again, none of this is by accident. Lumet and Chayefsky have so much to say, so much to explore, and so many indictments. Some of it is chilling and prophetic while some gets lost in the melange of loud rants and pointed lectures. But somehow it is always compelling.

“Network” was a huge success in 1976 and was widely applauded by critics. It won a total of four Oscars (for Dunaway, Finch, Straight, and Chayefsky) and was nominated for six more. It is a film that does so many interesting things and it subverts nearly any expectation the audience may have going in. Yet despite its irreverent ambitions it is messy to a fault. The clashing between seriousness and satire is jolting and not always in an entertaining way. I also don’t think the film lives up to its own lofty feelings of self-importance. It ends up being an engaging but frustrating road full of many ups and some disappointing downs.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

My 2016 Blog Resolutions: Blind Spot Choices, IMDB Reviews & Taking It Easy 

Happy New Year, everyone! 🙂 I’ve already posted all my 2015 Top Ten Lists so here they are if you’re interested:

My Top Ten Movies Of 2015
My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2015
My Top Ten Books Read In 2015 (and mini-reviews)

(I have to say that this was by far the best year for movies since I started this blog. I hope 2016 is as good of a year for film!)

I was actually very eager to get 2015 over & done with and to move onto 2016. It’s ridiculous as January 1st is just another day like any other but, for whatever reason, we all think we’re going to actually change for the better each year. 😉 I like to think this actually works for some people and, this year, I have some pretty big resolutions that have nothing to do with the blog. So my biggest blog resolution is to, well, not spend so much time on it. To take it easy & not let a hobby that I really enjoy stress me out in any way. I’ll do what I can and skip what I can’t.

But I of course still want to keep up on my biggest hobby besides blogging, which is actually watching the movies that I blog about. So I’m adding just one new blogging project this year that I think should be fairly easily achievable (and, if I don’t manage to finish it by December 31st 2016, that’s life).

I’ve seen the Blind Spot Series being done on loads of blogs & keep saying every year that I should join in. Screw it – I’ve decided to do it. Basically, it appears that you choose 12 movies that you’ve always been meaning & wanting to watch but, for whatever reason, just never got around to them. Is that correct?

I have such a huge list of movies like that and, of course, a lot will eventually be done by me as part of my IMDB Top 250 Challenge anyway (more about that later). A lot of people seem to pick very “worthy” stuff but my list isn’t going to contain any Citizen Kane-type films since that’s all in the IMDB Top 250 so I’ll torture myself with those at some point. No – my 12 are movies that I actively want to watch, not ones I know I’ll have to force myself to watch. That’s been the case with most of the Top 250 films I’ve watched – I do love them once I’ve seen them but getting around to watching them is a damn chore.

So here are My 12 Blind Spot Choices For 2016, most of which are pretty highly regarded but not necessarily “worthy classics”:

True Romance

THX 1138

El Topo

Natural Born Killers

Battle Royale

Akira

Summer Wars

An Education

The City Of Lost Children

Magic

Phenomena

Eyes Without A Face

My main reasoning for choosing most of these? I went through the big “Watchlist” I have and tried to choose things that I already own (I’m broke!). The only two that I don’t have are the last two so, if I find that I really can’t afford to buy them, these are some alternates (and a good start to Blind Spot 2017, I guess!):

Play Misty For Me
Zodiac
The Raid
Running On Empty
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
House (Hausu) (1977)
Tetsuo
Solaris (1972)

Now, moving onto my IMDB thing…

It’s been three years now since I started my IMDB Top 250 Project on 01/01/13. As there have been many changes to the list since then, I’ve decided to finally work off of an updated 01/01/16 version (see “additions” at the bottom of THIS PAGE – there are 34 new movies that have been added to the Top 250).

As always, this is mainly a project for me to complete (I’m reviewing the movies I’ve never seen plus some favorites). If you really want to do a guest review, the available films that I don’t plan to do myself are below. If you sign up, you have one month to get your review to me before it goes back on the Available list below. I won’t be keeping close track of who signs up for what – I’ll just add the movies to the “Selected” section.

I hope no one takes this the wrong way but I need to start fresh. A lot of these films were signed up for a long time ago but I can no longer keep track of who said which ones they’d do, especially as several have changed hands more than once. If you are one of the people who signed up for one of these, let me know if you DO still want to join in. Thanks everybody! 🙂

AVAILABLE TO BE REVIEWED:

Cool Hand Luke 1967
The Wrestler 2008
The Lives of Others 2006
The Sting 1973
Die Hard 1988
Léon 1994
The Hobbit 2012
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
Rain Man 1988
Taxi Driver 1976
Gone with the Wind 1939
NEW ADDITIONS AS OF 2016:
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946
Before Sunrise 1995
Before Sunset 2004
Life Is Beautiful 1997

**Selected for now**
Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels 1998 (Tom)
To Kill a Mockingbird 1962 (Tom)
2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 (Drew)

Depending on the response, I may give up some of my favorites I’d kept for myself to do (Jaws, Blade Runner, Indiana Jones, etc etc).

I hope you all have a wonderful 2016! It’s great to still see everyone who has stuck around in the three years I’ve been doing this blogging thing but I hope that you’re all happy outside of this online thing as well. If you need to take a break from this, take a break. It’s something you can always come back to now & then.

Besides the IMDB thing, I have three other ongoing projects that I’m not going to rush in any way as I know I can do them if and when I feel like it. These personal projects are to watch all of John Carpenter’s films, all the Studio Ghibli films, and most of Akira Kurosawa’s films. I’ve done well on Studio Ghibli so far (you can see all my existing reviews HERE) and I’m happy to say that, so far, I’ve watched two films in 2016: Ghibli’s Whisper Of The Heart and Kurosawa’s Ikiru (also a new entry into the Top 250). So I’m not giving up on movie blogging just yet! But, damn – now I guess I have to do the hard part of actually reviewing those two… Ha!

For now, though, I’m taking a break from posting anything for the next week. Or two. 🙂

Into The Wild (2007) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Melissa of Snap Crackle Watch!. Thanks for the review, Melissa! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of Into The Wild, IMDB rank 161 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.

Into the Wild (2007)

Directed by Sean Penn

Written by Sean Penn

Into the Wild (2007), written and directed by Sean Penn, adapted from the book by the same name by Jon Krakauer is a perspective into the life of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch). The young man who went into the wilderness of Alaska in search of himself and to shed his city life and roots.

Many people who live privileged lives, ones that are untouched by grief, poverty, never know the reality of struggling day by day. I believe that what McCandless sought was that feeling and that experience of the unknown. When a young person grows up stressed and under pressure by daily life, they don’t know how they will make it another day. All they know is that they have to and one day there may be a better day for them. But growing up he never really had to face any of those moments.

It was only till he got older that he would see that his family was nothing near perfect and that the challenges he put on himself would prove to be a dangerous route. This is one of those stories that touches the viewer to the bone, it’s emotional, exciting and makes you wonder what kind of person what put themselves through this journey.

Abandoning a trust fund, his car, and any material possessions other than those he could carry on his back, McCandless sets out on a passage to reach the Stampede Trail in Alaska. He doesn’t contact his parents, Walt (William Hurt) and Billie MCandless (Marcia Gay Harden), nor does he even contact his sister Carine (Jena Malone) who he was close with growing up. We only see his family in flashbacks, as the movie hints at his past, we see that his parents did not live that idyllic life that maybe he thought existed, but instead had a lot of deep secrets that the family kept hidden.

Throughout his journey, McCandless meets various people on the road. They teach him lessons about life and about forging relationships. Through them he begins to see that there are so many different varied people out there in the world. With traveling hippies Jan (Catherine Keener) and Rainey (Brian H. Dierker) he learns about marriage and what it takes to keep that spirit alive. He works with Wayne (Vince Vaughn) for a while, who he observes as a friendly farmer who gives him a chance to work and earn some money.

Later on he meets Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook) the two enter into an endearing relationship, he teaches him how to do leatherwork and ends up giving him his old camping supplies. It was as if the older man could see himself maybe in McCandless or maybe he enjoyed hearing his idealistic visions about his upcoming adventure. Regardless, he touched everyone he met as much as he appreciated them.

Once McCandless enters into the wilderness, he finds an old school bus that he sets up camp in, it becomes his home in the end. We see his adventures take off, running through the woods and streams, and even killing a moose. It’s as if he envisioned himself as a romanticized version of Jack London himself, getting into adventures and journaling them as an idealistic writer. Everything changes for him in Alaska and his life is turned upside down. The choices he made carry them with him till the end and we see them play out in front of us.

Penn captures the essence of adventure and defeat in this film. It is obvious that he put his heart and soul into the film, as it took two years to make. The soundtrack by Eddie Veder goes perfectly with the sentiments of the film and makes you feel that foreboding loneliness with each scene.

Hirsch was amazing and deserved every accolade for his portrayal of McCandless. This definitely solidified him as a great actor; he carried the entire movie on his back.

I absolutely loved this movie, I enjoy movies that make me think about life and allow me to be introspective. McCandless isn’t shown as a martyr, which I think is important, instead he was simply a young man who wanted to have his own adventures and make something of his life on his own terms, nothing more than that. Overall great film, it is one I could re-watch and probably still garner some nugget of wisdom from each time.

}}Melissa

Mystic River (2003) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Khalid of The Blazing Reel. Thanks for the review, Khalid! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Mystic River, IMDB rank 239 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.

Very few people in Hollywood have had a career quite like that of Clint Eastwood. In a career that’s spanned over forty years, ol’ Clint has done it all; he’s starred in some of the greatest movies to come out during this time-period, played some of the most memorable on-screen characters, heck, the guy is basically the poster boy for badassery. He’s also one of the few actors who’ve made even better directors. But of all the Unforgivens and Million Dollar Babies, there’s one film that’s for me, stands out as the crowning achievement on his truly stellar career. That film is of course Mystic River.

Mystic River The Blazing Reel Top 25 Movies of All Time Sean Penn Clint Eastwood Kevin Bacon Tim Robbins

When the daughter of ex-con Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn) is murdered, two of his childhood friends from the neighborhood are involved. Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins), a blue-collar worker, was the last person to see her alive, while Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), a homicide detective, is heading up the case. As Sean proceeds with his investigation, Jimmy conducts one of his own through neighborhood contacts, soon Jimmy and Sean both start to suspect their old pal, Dave, who lives a quiet life with his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) but harbors some disturbing secrets.

Dark, ominous and brooding to a fault, Mystic River is quite simply one of the greatest dramas to ever hit the screen. It’s a film that got unfairly swept under the rug when out came out twelve years ago mainly because of the buzz surrounding its two Oscar competitors, Return of the King and Lost in Translation. But while they were both great films, it’s Mystic River that stands out as the most emotionally resonant of the three.

Benefitting from some truly magnificent work by Clint Eastwood, screenwriter Brian Helgeland and an ensemble cast, firing on all cylinders, Mystic River had my attention from the very first scene and proceeded to engage me even more. Brian Helgeland ‘s brilliant script, adapted from the book by Dennis Lehane never loses focus of a story that may seem pretty conventional on paper, rather keeps surprising us with twists and turns that enhance the drama only more.

Mystic River Tim Robbins

And you can’t ask for a better display of acting than the one you get from this film and Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, both of whom seem to lose themselves in their roles, carry the movie with their mesmerising, Oscar winning performances. Many people were shocked when Penn beat out Bill Murray at the Oscars that year but while it’s debatable which performance of the two was better, no one can say that his performance wasn’t worthy of merit because as Jimmy Markum, Penn gives a complex, riveting and groundbreaking performance and despite that Tim Robbins -who’s equally brilliant, if not more- is able to steal so many scenes from him in his haunting turn as Dave Boyle.

Not to forget, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden who provide great support as well. But ultimately though, it’s the film’s powerful emotional core that makes it such an unforgettable experience and the reason why I keep revisiting after all these years. The film has a very unique moral conscience and an exceedingly dense plot that sets it apart from most dramas and its stark depiction of tragedy and loss is perhaps one of the most compelling ones ever put on film.

All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from S.G. Liput of Rhyme And Reason. Thanks for the review, S.G.! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about All Quiet On The Western Front, IMDB rank 231 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.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

A simple pair of boots am I,
Inanimate no more.
I’ve watched my many owners die
Engaging in this war.

I marched with them to battle,
Felt them proudly standing tall.
I sensed their spirits rattle,
And I felt their bodies fall.

I started out so polished
On the feet of fearless men,
But as nerves were demolished,
I was passed along again.

I’m now as bruised and battered
As the broken troops I wear.
They ask if all this mattered,
But the answer I can’t bear.
_______________

Rating: Not Rated (should be PG)

I’m very particular about old movies. Some are undeniably classics, like Gone with the Wind or It’s a Wonderful Life, but others are so highly acclaimed that, when I finally see them, I just don’t understand their appeal. “Classics” like The Philadelphia Story and The Third Man puzzle me because something prevents them from reaching the potential that supporters like the AFI claim they reach, whether it be the music or the stilted dialogue or the overacting that is given a pass simply because it’s a classic. It’s not often that I see an old black-and-white film that I can admire along with all the die-hard critics and pronounce a timeless work of art. All Quiet on the Western Front is such a film, and it won the 1930 equivalent of Best Picture and Best Director (the aptly named Lewis Milestone).

War has always been one of mankind’s most unfortunate trends, but World War I has always struck me as one of the worst, a conflict with no good or evil side, no goal, no motive except mounting European tension and entangling alliances. In addition, both sides were introducing new forms of warfare, and inventions like mustard gas and modern trench warfare made the battlefields a uniquely deplorable hell. All Quiet ably captures the horror and dread of a war no one really wanted to fight.

The film begins with a patriotic professor urging his students to join the war effort, filling their heads with dreams of heroism and duty, and despite initial hesitation, they take his advice and run with it. It doesn’t take long for their unrealistic bubbles to be popped, not by the enemy, but by the rigors of military life. A former friend promoted over them revels in his superiority and shows them all that war is no time for buddies. Then comes the real introduction to war, the hunger of poorly supplied countrymen, the unnerving wait as explosions around them tax their nerves, the terror and fury and guilt of killing and being killed, things that demagogue recruiter never told them about.

While most of the recruits lack enough character to be distinguishable, Paul Bäumer (Lew Ayres) is the main character we follow. His are the goodbyes and the rude awakenings. His are the friendships made with his comrades, such as the food rustler “Kat” Katczinsky (Louis Wolheim). His are the moral struggles and the starkest disillusionment. Yet Paul serves not just as one character, but as the embodiment of an entire generation, “a generation of men, who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war,” as the opening title card knowingly states. By himself, Ayres sometimes drifts into that dated acting standard of old movies, but with others, he and all the actors perform their roles with earnest dedication and credibility.

Despite its age, this pre-Code film effectively recreates the intensity of battle, in both its morbid anticipation and its on-field brutality. While most of it is bloodless, there was at least one brief but rather shocking scene, in which an exploding bomb leaves only a man’s severed hands clinging to barbed wire. The traditional shooting and charging of war are contrasted with more artistic sequences, such as following a pair of unlucky boots from one ill-fated owner to the next. And though its black-and-white cinematography dates it somewhat, there are certain scenes, especially toward the end, that are just as effective as if they had been filmed with modern-day techniques.

All Quiet on the Western Front is among the best war films I’ve seen, though some scenes away from the front drag a bit, such as Paul’s tryst with a French woman. Not many English films focus on the losing side of the conflict; Joyeux Noel did in part, but All Quiet centers on the Germans exclusively, from the cynical veterans to the out-of-touch generals. In doing so, it presents a sweeping picture of World War I in all its futility and weariness, an indictment of both that struggle and all political excuses for bloodshed.

Best line: (Paul) “Up at the front you’re alive or you’re dead, and that’s all. You can’t fool anybody about that very long. And up there we know we’re lost and done for, whether we’re dead or alive. Three years we’ve had of it, four years! And every day a year, and every night a century! And our bodies are earth, and our thoughts are clay, and we sleep and eat with death! And we’re done for because you can’t live that way and keep anything inside you!”

Rating: List-Worthy

© 2015 S. G. Liput

Shutter Island (2010) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. Thanks so much for all the reviews, Zoe! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thinks of Shutter Island, IMDB rank 235 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.

shutter island poster

Sanity’s not a choice, Marshall. You can’t just choose to get over it.” Dr John Crawley

SYNOPSIS: A U.S Marshal investigates the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane. – via IMDB

Yes! You better believe it! I am back again, I just cannot resist this IMDB Top 250 challenge at all, and I just want to thank the lovely Miss Mutant for allowing me to submit so many reviews to her site for it. Well, we all know what goes here, so now we will move on to the movie reviewing bit itself – I am talking Shutter Island today.

Now, I know there are a few people that are not overly enamoured with this endeavour by the dream team that is Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio (super cough directed at you, Eric). But you know what? I guess we will leave this at each to their own.

shutter island the island

I have read Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name, and I loved that, too. Lehane is a gifted writer and I have enjoyed all his work so far. Granted, I read the book after the movie, but I would like to mention that it is one hell of a loyal and great adaption of the book. Shutter Island was a trip to take; it was just wonderful for me. It was suspenseful, very well acted and I loved the cast. The CGI may not have been perfect, but that was really peripheral for me in all honesty. I have always said that I can deal with crappy effects provided that the story is gripping and captivating. Now, these effects were by no long shot dreadful, but they were quite a way from being on the level of something like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The score for this was loud and in your face, building suspense, though at times I even thought that it was a little excessive (yes, defender of the film that I am and all). Most people complain about how heavy and loud it is in the beginning, but I thought that it served its purpose perfectly there – it was going out of its way to make you feel uncomfortable and jangle your nerves.

I did not see that plot twist coming really; I was more interested in experiencing what was going down as it was without thinking too far forward. That is usually unlike me, I call these things rather quickly, and I know a lot of other people did call it early for this movie, but still. Maybe it is because the first time I watched this I was distracted with other things I was doing at the time, either way, it was a really pleasant surprise for me. Now, let’s talk about the performances. We all know that I am extremely taken with the super-talented Leonardo DiCaprio, and what he did in Shutter Island was no exception to his wonderful repertoire of roles. He came in as US Marshal Teddy Daniels and just… worked that role. He was angry, upset, driven by his work though definitely had some undertow of grief due to the loss of his family and a side project he was working. Mark Ruffalo complemented him fantastically as Chuck Aule, the two working back and forth, engaging and entertaining. DiCaprio came in and lent credence to Teddy, giving us some intense flashbacks of the things that he has seen in the past, the places he has gone.

shutter island sick world

The flashbacks are broken apart by the main story, which is also broken by the flashbacks. They come together so well, and give the movie a cool way of storytelling. The partnership between Teddy and Chuck was something different. Suspect, trusting, devolving into the mad crusade that Teddy is so preoccupied with… it is presented as a locked box mystery, but that in itself is such a side measure to the real issue at hand: Teddy and Shutter Island.

shutter island which would be worse

Martin Scorsese might not have delivered his finest work with Shutter Island, but he did deliver a solid adaptation of Lehane’s novel as well as a highly entertaining and undervalued film exploring the lengths that the mind will go to in order to protect itself. I find it to be a extremely enjoyable watch and something I will always recommend to people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iaYLCiq5RM

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.

imdb top 250 logo

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. 

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!

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