The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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

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

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The Bourne Ultimatum

*review written in shaky-cam*

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

Pamela Landy

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

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

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

Mayhem ensues. Wash, rinse and repeat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bourne: Why are you helping me?

Nicki: It was difficult for me … with you.

They stare at each other silently for a long moment.

Nicki: You really don’t remember anything.

Bourne: No

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

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

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

Niall McArdle

http://www.ragingfluff.wordpress.com

The Third Man (1949) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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

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

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The Third Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rating: 9/10

Classic Film Scale Rating: 7/10

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

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide

Untouchable (2011) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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

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

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Untouchable (Cert 15)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A simply joyous and joyful experience.

Extras:
Deleted Scenes
Previews

Rating – ****

Man In Black

The Maltese Falcon (1941) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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

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

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The Maltese Falcon

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

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

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

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

Rating: 10/10

Classic Film Scale: 7/10

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide

The Deer Hunter (1978) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark Walker

Goodfellas (1990) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Avengers (2012) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict: 8/10

Chinatown (1974) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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

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

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

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CHINATOWN

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

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

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

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

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Rating:10/10

Classic Film Scale Rating: 8/10

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

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide

The Lion King (1994) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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

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

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

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The Lion King (1994)

Director: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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American Beauty (1999) 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 American Beauty, IMDB rank 51 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 American family. Such a mystery at times. This easily explains why films and television love to portray them in various ways. What we see in public, is usually just that, what we see.

The DreamWorks Pictures film “American Beauty”, seems to create a very dysfunctional family that aims to be perfect and outstanding to all those on the outside, but with more than just dramatic flare.

This drama stars Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”, “Horrible Bosses”), Annette Bening (“The Face of Love”, “Girl Most Likely”), Thora Birch (“Petunia”, “Pregnancy Pact”), Wes Bentley (“American Horror Story”, “Cesar Chavez”), Mena Suvari (“Chicago Fire”, “American Reunion”), Allison Janney (“Mom”, “Tammy”), and Chris Cooper (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, “August: Osage County”) and Peter Gallagher (” Covert Affairs”, “Whitney”).

The film was directed by Sam Mendes (“Skyfall”, “Away We Go”). It was written by Alan Ball (“True Blood”, “Towelhead”).

The film originally opened in theaters on Oct. 1, 1999 after a limited release on Sept. 8. The film would later go on to receive eight Academy Awards nominations; winning five including Best Picture, six Golden Globe award nominations; winning three including Best Picture-Drama, and four Screen Actors Guild nominations; winning three including Best Cast in a Motion Picture.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of dark humor. Most of what makes this film absolutely fun too watch, is how there’s a level of satire throughout. It’s not just from bits of dialogue but more importantly situations that occur. One situation later in the film is when Spacey’s character is just lounging at home and playing with a toy race car, when in walks Bening. She’s surprised and as they move into conversation, Spacey’s trying to seduce her. When it seems like things will succeed, she notices that he’s about to spill his beer on the nice couch of hers. Much like many of his actions in the film he turns into some sort of antagonistic person just to spite her.

There’s also a scene involving Bentley and Spacey that’s misinterpreted completely by Cooper’s very conservative father character. Cooper see’s his son, Bentley, over at Spacey’s and believes that there’s some sort of affair going on between them. While I’ll argue Cooper’s character brought this on himself, as he’s too strict and intrusive, it’s a pretty funny set up and speaks so well to his character.

The characters are all so fascinating because of who they are behind closed doors. Which, let’s face it, is pretty much what this film is representing. Incredibly flawed people, but wonderful when out in public. One scene that sent me into fits of laughter was when Bening was preparing herself to show a house, the ridiculous ritual she went through to psych herself up. Everything was so specifically planned and executed that it goes beyond that of a perfectionist. Later, after being unsuccessful, she’s slapping herself and crying for the failure she sees herself as. She’s a perfectionist and cherishes this kind of ideal family, where everything’s perfect, so it’s absolutely hilarious. Even Bening’s look for this character, is perfect! Everything is in place and impeccable, definitely that of a perfectionist. In its own way, this film is like a modern day version of “Ordinary People”, but without the huge and incredibly dramatic story.

While everyone really shined, it was Cooper, that stole the show. His conservative retired Marine Corps Colonel, even all these years later, was a far cry from anything I’d seen him play before. When he came on screen and continued to show his dominance over his family, which was evident from the way Janney’s character behaved, as well as Bentley’s, there was something of a pull towards his character. For a man you could spend much of the film disliking, there was still enough to make him somewhat vulnerable and remind you that he too is human.

One thing that I definitely noticed was the score created by Thomas Newman (“Get on Up”, “Saving Mr. Banks”). For films that aren’t action films it seems difficult to capture the feeling of a dramatic film or a comedy. Here, Newman managed to balance both. He created playful tunes and dramatic tones to fit the moment, which was usually brought on by something the character was doing or feeling. The score helped to make the film a bit more satirical at times and whimsical. Either being its own character or enhancing the different characters in the film.

Somehow, and this I find difficult to discuss most of the time, I love how brilliant the writing for this film is. The first moment I saw this film, and when I came back to it, I was hooked by all that was going on. The characters are each so different and well defined that it didn’t take much to decide how I should feel towards each one. One scene early on, that shows this is when the family is leaving the house and Bening and Birch are both impatient, but Spacey is going as fast as he can. Somehow it’s not enough. His briefcase falls open and that just manages to annoy both of them even more. Then you add in the general nature of the dialogue and you get so much clever, dark, and witty humor. It helps to define what stages they’re in in their lives and how they view each other. This writing makes for some pretty interesting situations throughout this film, that it’s hard to look away.

As a film lover I’m constantly aware of films from the past, especially those that earn widespread acclaim. However, there’s something that usually keeps me from seriously seeking out these films. Fortunately this film was just one of those films, otherwise, I don’t know if I could appreciate it for what it is and enjoy every aspect of the film. I can easily imagine missing so much of the humor or not being able to form my own thought on what I feel this film represents. Some things you can only appreciate when you’re older.

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American History X (1998) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Abbi of Where The Wild Things Are. She’s also reviewed Kill Bill: Vol 1& Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Thanks for the reviews, Abbi! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about American History X, IMDB rank 34 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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In probably his most celebrated role, Edward Norton plays Derek Vinyard, one of the leaders of a local White Supremacist group who is jailed after brutally murdering two African-American gang members attempting to steal his truck.

On the day of Derek’s release from prison, his younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong) is called to the principal’s (Avery Brooks) office after writing an essay on Mein Kampfand its influence on the civil rights movement. Principal Sweeny then sets Danny the task of writing a new essay explaining the events that led to his brother’s arrest and conviction.

As Danny simultaneously attempts to unpick his brother’s past and deal with the fact that Derek has come back changed, both Derek’s former associates and enemies close in with devastating consequences.

As much as American History X may outwardly seem like a study on racism, more than anything it is an exploration of feelings of powerlessness and how they lead to anger and ultimately hatred and destruction. Derek’s prejudice against anyone who isn’t a white protestant has little to do with the actual target of his hatred but rather a desire to belong to a movement where he feels empowered. The irony of Derek’s belief that people of other races and religions are inferior to him is that those he hates are driven by exactly the same feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness that he is and act out with similar impulses… and it’s all a distraction from the way corporate America oppresses its poor.

There isn’t anything particularly unique about this story of a confused young man learning the error of his ways and not wanting his brother to follow in his footsteps but there are a number of elements that elevate American History X above other similar films.

First is the non-linear story-telling. Director, Tony Kaye, slowly reveals what is not only behind Derek’s change of heart but also his original prejudices concurrent with his current post-release experiences with the past shown in black and white. It keeps the audience hooked in until the end wanting to understand who Derek really is. It also adds a level of drama and grittiness to Derek’s past, demonstrating how he sees the world in completely black and white terms. In the present day his experiences are in full colour, showing how his perception has changed. It’s a simple but effective device.

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Second is the powerful performances. Edward Norton manages to capture Derek’s power, charisma and confidence but as he enters the prison system and his vision of the world starts to unravel his mask begins to slip and he moves from being a character it is easy to revile to a nuanced sympathetic one. Furlong also gives what is probably the only decent performance of his career as a boy at a crossroads with the potential to build himself and new future that doesn’t include repeating his brother’s mistakes. They are ably supported bythe two men who have the most influence over Derek’s life. Stacy Keach as Cameron Alexander, the fascist leader who lets Derek do his dirty work while he keeps his own hands clean and Avery Brooks as the educator who ultimately believes that Derek is capable of more than his past actions. Guy Torry is also engaging, playing Lamont, a fellow convict who ultimately breaks Derek’s prejudices through friendship.

Thirdly, Derek is never portrayed as stupid. Although his beliefs are abhorrent and there is no way to justify them, it is easy to see how his arguments convince the disempowered around him as well as how he has convinced himself. And the fact that the gangs he directs the majority of his rage at are hardly innocents adds to the believability.

Finally the film does not shy away from showing brutality of its characters, refusing to shy away from who they really are, with one particularly horrific scene proving to be the one thing that everyone remembers turning away from. And this is equally matched by some of Derek’s experiences in prison.

While there is no question that American History X is a powerful, hard-hitting film with a strong and valuable message on occasion it’s a little over dramatic and at times it strays towards predictability. It’s definitely a worthy entry to the IMDB top 250 though and one I would highly recommend. 4/5

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Schindler’s List (1993) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of 501 Must See Movies Project . He also reviewed Amadeus HERE and Platoon HERE and A Beautiful Mind HERE and Braveheart HERE. Thanks for the reviews, John! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on Schindler’s List, IMDB rank 8 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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As World War II begins, the Nazis move Polish Jews into the Kraków Ghetto.  Businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a member of the Nazi Party, arrives in Krakow to make a fortune.  Bribing local German officials and making connections with the local Jewish black marketeers through Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), Schindler opens a factory producing enamel ware.  He hires numerous Jewish workers, who cost less than Polish workers, and saves those workers from being sent to concentration and extermination camps.

SS officer Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) arrives in Kraków to oversee the construction of the Płaszów concentration camp.  Once the camp is completed, he orders the ghetto be liquidated, killing many of the Jews in the process.  Schindler witnesses this from a distance, and shifts his priorities from making money to saving as many lives as possible.

This is Spielberg’s masterpiece.

There are very few films I’ve watched where I just have to sit and really let it soak in once the end credits roll.  Movies like this really put into perspective how pathetic and petty my “struggles” really are.  That’s been the case both times I’ve watched Schindler’s List.

Someone who makes a film about something as significant as the Holocaust has to be all in: directing, motivating performers, production, set design, etc.  Though the full scope of the Holocaust can’t be completely explored in one movie, Steven Spielberg has probably come the closest to accomplishing this.  Filming most of the movie in Poland instead of at a studio, using actors who work best in performing the complex emotions and actions of their characters are a couple of the things Spielberg nails spot on with Schindler’s List.

Stanley Kubrick was in production of his own Holocaust film, Aryan Papers, about the same time that Schindler’s List was released.  He abandoned it, though, in part because of the broad scope of the subject matter.  His critique centered on the fact that Schindler’s focuses on those who survived, a much smaller group compared to the more than 6 million who didn’t.

The black-and-white enhances the gravity of the subject matter.  The way Schindler’s List is filmed conveys the human element that a documentary can’t quite capture while still having that documentary-type feel.

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Liam Neeson gives one of the best performances of his career.  He handles the various emotional stages Schindler goes through authentically.  It’s interesting to see his transformation from a boozing, gambling, womanizing man living the highlife to a man hellbent on saving as many lives as he can.  Witnessing the ghetto liquidation and Goeth’s heartless treatment of the Jews forces Schindler to stop keeping everyone at arm’s length and really take stock in his main purpose.  Though he had done quite a few movies prior to Schindler’s List, he hadn’t had that one great breakout role.  As a result, his star power doesn’t overshadow his performance as could have happened had a more accomplished actor been chosen for this role.

Having already won an Oscar for his role in Gandhi, Ben Kingsley is a grounded, purposeful character with wisdom, insight, and perspective.  His nonverbal expressions provide a continuous reflection of Schindler’s character and his gradual transformation.  Stern acts as Schindler’s conscience to a certain extent.  He also offers perspective that Schindler has saved many lives when Schindler felt guilty for not sacrificing more to save more.

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Ralph Fiennes gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the heartless and cruel Amon Goeth.  His intimidation tactics with the Jewish prisoners works well in keeping them in line out of absolute fear.  He seems like the kind of person who keeps pushing to see just how much he can get away with.  It’s good, though, that he can be bribed and Schindler can help set some boundaries with his random and senseless killings.

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“Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”

The final scene where the real life Schindler Jews placing stones on Schindler’s grave was especially moving.  I can appreciate someone like Spielberg wanting to tell their story and show the lasting impact that Oskar Schindler had on those that he saved.  The epilogue serves as a time capsule that reaffirms that tangible human connection to those who lived and survived something as horrific as the Holocaust.

Having seen Schindler’s List twice now, I highly doubt I could sit through it again aside from watching it with someone else.  It’s one of those films that is so powerful and moving that it only needs to be watched once.  It is most definitely deserving of the 7 Academy Awards it earned in 1994, and remains timeless as it explored one of history’s darkest events.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. 

Vertigo (1958) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from James of Back To The Viewer. Thanks for the review, James! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Vertigo, IMDB rank 48 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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When I volunteered to take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo for ‘Cinema Parrot Disco’s ‘IMDB Top 250 Challenge’ I was hoping to have a better experience compared to my first viewing. I was willing to give it a second chance after my first experience consisted of yawns and animosity but it wasn’t to be. Usually one to see the good in almost everything I seriously struggled with this one but here goes.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of Alfred Hitchcock’s ability to navigate his way around the human psyche I’d like to start off by addressing the BFI’s decision to adorn Vertigo with top honours on the ’50 Greatest Films of All Time’ list in ‘Sight and Sound’ back in 2012. Sparking an incessant debate two camps emerged. Firstly, those who agreed with the decision, or were at least impartial. Secondly, those Kanites who, through an act of self-excommunication, refused to allow their holy grail in the form of one Citizen Kane to be associated with anything lower than top spot. Refusing to align with the critics’ choice a fierce debate ensued which thankfully has died down since. What worries me here is the day Vertigo falls from grace. Will it come quietly or will it put up a fight grappling with the bell tower banister drenched in sweat, fearful of the dizzying descent leaving in its wake a tainted throne for the successor? Naturally what Hitchcock’s Mystery Romance boils down to is not a detective story but an allegory of his own directorial style. Hardly a revelation in the film studies world but ever a significant point. However, little attention is paid to the subtleties that hide in plain sight. The past plays such an important role in Vertigo right up to the closing shots that it begs to wonder whether Hitchcock knew with some prescience of mind that his 45th feature was going to leave such a lasting and debatable impression on cinema culture.

On at least three occassions are the words ‘power’ and ‘freedom’ used in the same sentence. First by Gavin Elster when he recruits John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson to follow his wife, he mutters in reference to San Francisco’s colourful past “I’d liked to have lived here then. The colour and excitement…the power…the freedom.” But despite the colour Hitchcock employs, Vertigo makes for a dark mystery overtly presented in the second instance by the book shop owner and historian Pop Liebel. Also in reference to San Francisco’s past but specifically the dominant patriarchal society, “They had the power… and the freedom,” spoken as the room is gradually, masterfully consumed by darkness. Lastly, spoken by Scottie himself “the freedom and the power.” This last one has been sidetracked slightly through fear of revealing too much but the words stand alone and stand out, to me at least. Perhaps from my History education, or perhaps more likely from my curiosity. Why would Hitchcock make this point consistently throughout? Bringing it back to the earlier point that Vertigo is more about film direction then it could refer to the power and the freedom Directors enjoy in their choices and decisions. It’s no secret that Hitchcock had a very specific vision for his leading ladies and the efficacy with which he pulled it off is inarguably sublime, Kim Novak is just that.

Delivering a complex performance to say the least as Madelaine, Gavin Elster’s wife to whom Scottie is assigned, Novak moves effortlessly between the lines of vulnerable alluring damsel to tragic innocent caught in a web of deceit. James Stewart puts in a solid performance as Scottie and with Hitchcock at the helm it would have been rude to expect anything less. Outside players such as Midge, Scottie’s adoring friend, can only watch helplessly as he falls deeper and deeper into a spiral of psychological acrophobia mixed with a healthy dose of curiosity, passion, and obsession.

The reason Scottie is hired to follow Madelaine on her day to day travels is revealed by Elster during their first conversation on the matter. Elster informs Scottie that Madelaine of late tends to leave this world for another, her eyes cloud over and she is somewhere else. Eventually coming to and having no recollection of her whereabouts. Enough to fuel Scottie’s intrigue he tentatively agrees to report on Madelaine’s activities. In a warped plot that seems as ludicrous to us as it does to Scottie Elster believes his wife has become possessed by the ghost of Carlotta Valdes. Tragically befalling to her own maddening sickness Valdes committed suicide at the age of 26. Madelaine is 26 hence Elster’s apprehension over her mysterious activity. However, the relationship between Carlotta and Madelaine forged by Hitchcock seems strained and forced whereas the symbolic relationship between Carlotta and Scottie burgeons throughout, initially unnoticed but retrospectively significant.

What Hitchcock has produced with Vertigo is a timeless tragedy perpetually spiraling, perplexing, and intriguing viewers. My first viewing of Vertigo was tainted by the anticipation of a gripping masterpiece. I left feeling a little unsatisfied and bemused, much like the original audiences upon its release way back in 1958. Despite what others have said in retrospect Vertigo will unfortunately never take the crown in my top 10 and the same can be said when put up against Hitchcock’s other features. North by Northwest and Rear Window do it for me, sorry Alfred. Given the resurgence of critical attention since its original re-evaluation in the 60s and even more so since 2012 with ‘Sight and Sound’s controversial decision my reaction to Vertigo remains unimpressed. It has some defining features, the iconic nightmare scene, psychedelic title sequence and the famous film making technique, dolly out-zoom in, but for all this auteuric style Hitchcock subdued his thrilling archetypes for the sake of a farfetched mystery that just doesn’t cut the mustard. Having said that I’m not one to discredit Hitchcock’s mastery behind the camera and these rare moments have warranted Vertigo a better rating than I care to get across in my review.

It was Worth my time to give Vertigo a second chance, and who knows perhaps with time it will grow on me. But that says it all really, if the greatest film of all time doesn’t do enough to impress me after two viewings then I’m going to need some of Scottie’s medicinal Brandy if it ever comes to a third.

Scarface (1983) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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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 has to say about Scarface, IMDB rank 130 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.

Top 11 Reasons Scarface Is Still A Badass Movie

I watched Brian DePalma’s 1983 classic hit, Scarface for T9M’s IMBD challenge weeks ago. I have been racking my brain about what I could talk about or say that hasn’t already been said a million times about this movie. I am sure almost every single person in the world out there has at least heard of it, seen a scene or two or at least knows the most infamous lines. Needless to say, putting words to paper has been proving difficult. I decided to take a different turn and let’s just say this, Scarface is a great movie; I love it to death and could watch it over and over again. Some might hate it, but I am fan.

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I figured I’d compile something telling you why this movie 31 years later is still freaking awesome and fun to watch. Here are my 11 top reasons why Scarface is still a bad ass movie.

  1. Tony Montana is one sick, crazy, bad ass gangster: Enough said, but really before there was a Tony Soprano type bad ass in films, there was Tony Montana. He was twisted, crazy and hell bent on success. I find it hard to even think about another character as bad as him. The way he dressed, his swagger, he was just an all around kick ass ruthless dude. If you told me that he hung out with the “most interesting guy in the world,” I would totally believe it.

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  1. Al Pacino. This movie would not be what it is had Pacino held back. To say that he pushed the envelope is putting it nicely; he went all out, acting grandiose, narcissistic and overly confident to the point that he could make people believe he was “someone’ when he was as he put it “a nobody.” This movie sealed Pacino as one of the great actors of our generation and without him, the character of Scarface would never have become as iconic as it is today.

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  1. The film depicts events that are based on history. For one the crisis that was going on in Cuba at the time was tumultuous and Miami in the early 80’s was a hot bed for cocaine usage. Combine that with the fact that Cuban refugees did not have much to their name in terms of money, this helped to create a group of people who were willing to do anything and everything for some cash flow. The distribution and selling of drugs offered refugees an opportunity to make money and something of themselves. The movie has been criticized for being too violent and too overt, but say what you will this time in history fueled events that were aptly depicted in the film, bloodshed and all.

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  1. It’s written by Oliver Stone. It is evident that Stone was growing his penchant for movies involving drugs, sex and violence. At the time Stone himself was battling cocaine addiction and I am sure this only helped in making the movie seem more realistic. The thirst for that white gold was evident throughout the entire film. He indefinitely put his stamp on the film, he melded politics with current events of the 80’s and was able to tell a story that truly unveiled the psychosis of someone intent on pursing and staying in power. Stone said “Luxury corrupts far more ruthlessly than war,” and this underlying story is what makes it such a good film.

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  1. Michelle Pfeiffer as Elvira Hancock. She was sexy, blond and cool, and has inspired numerous female characters. Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction is reminiscent of her, Jessica Chastain’s new character in A Most Violent Year looks like her spitting image and Rosalyn in American Hustle had a bit of Elvira in her. With an iconic bob and bombshell body, she wore those silky 80’s dresses with sass and sophistication. I always loved that she didn’t let Tony boss her around and she was a woman who spoke her mind.

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  1. The movie is not subtle. As I mentioned before when this movie first came out it was criticized for being too violent. People walked out of the theater, especially during that chainsaw scene. I am sure if this movie came out today, no one would bat an eye, but had DePalma not pushed the envelope the way he did, it may not have the place in history it does now. I believe that the violence shown helped to elevate this film’s cult status and I am sure inspired other directors as well, maybe even Stone!

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  1. The cinematography by John A. Alonzo. What Alonzo was able to create from an aesthetic viewpoint helps to make this an even more remarkable film. The color scheme of dark played against the bright colors of Miami created a film that paired visually perfect for the story that was playing out on the screen. What turned out in the end was a movie that looked like pop art at its finest.

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  1. The epitome of the American dream. The story of Tony Montana is proof that anything is possible in America. Only in the US, can a refugee who just stepped foot in America, with no money in his pockets, end up as one of the richest men. Tony had no usable skills, but what he had was the confidence to succeed. He worked his way from just a hired hand to the mob, all the way to becoming the main boss. But what is really at work in this film is showing the dark side of the dream.

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  1. The love story between Manny and Gina. There are not a lot of sweet moments in the film. Briefly we see Elvira and Tony fall in love, but maybe they just loved each other because they were high on coke. Tony’s BFF Manny though does fall head over heels for Gina, Tony’s little sister. That moment after Manny married Gina, he was so happy and in love. He was so ecstatic that he lost sight of reality and told Tony the truth. The corrupt love story is sad and endearing, but one that only furthered depicted the depths of Tony’s madness.

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  1. The dialogue. This movie has some of the most iconic lines in it; the most famous would definitely have to be “Say hello to my little friend.” Many of the lines in the movie have even inspired many songs out there, especially in the rap genre, just listen to Notorious B.I.G’s the “Ten Crack Commandments,” and you will hear all of Tony’s drug dealing tips. The infamous line of “First you get the money, then you get the power” has also been used by too many rappers to even list. In Bruno Mars’ new song, Uptown Funk, the first line references Scarface, “That ice cold, Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold.” The fact that a few movie lines has spawned a generation of songs and phrases, only further enforces how bad ass this movie still is today.

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  1. The Pace. The pace of the film is almost as iconic as the movie itself. It is frenetic, fast moving and it never slows down from the very beginning to the end. This makes it such a fun and entertaining movie to watch, you almost feel as if you are on this wild ride with Tony, at points you want to get off, but he won’t let you. By the time you are done, you are exasperated from the craziness, yet you want more.

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IMDB Top 250 Guest Reviews – More Films Available

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The following films are now available if anyone else would like to do a guest review for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge:

– Life Is Beautiful 1997 (chosen)
– Into the Wild 2007
– Gone With The Wind 1939 (chosen)
– The Elephant Man 1980 (chosen)
– The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003
– The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001
– The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002
– Cool Hand Luke 1967
– The Pianist 2002 (chosen)
– All About Eve 1950 (chosen)

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I love the above Spirited Away image from artist Lauren Ashy at DeviantART. Check out the rest of her stuff HERE. 🙂

Forrest Gump (1994) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. She’s already reviewed The Godfather: Part I (HERE) and Part II (HERE) as well as The Departed (HERE) and The Green Mile (HERE) and Big Fish (HERE) and Snatch (HERE) and Dial M For Murder (HERE). Thanks once again for all the reviews, Zoe! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about Forrest Gump, IMDB rank 19 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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When Forrest Gump was still lingering on Miss Mutant’s IMDB Top 250 list of films that had yet to be picked, I thought it was a disgrace! I am a massive fan of Forrest Gump. As you (might) know, I watch it every year around Christmas time, and while I do not watch regular television, God forbid I sit down somewhere and Forrest is on, no matter where in the film. It means that I will be glued to my seat for the remainder of the film. I love it. Well, today I am going to talk about why I love Forrest Gump so much.

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“Do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?” – Jenny Curran

SYNOPSIS: A man with a low I.Q. has accomplished great things in his life and been present during significant historic events – in each case, far exceeding what anyone imagined he could do. Yet, despite all the things he has attained, his one true love eludes him. – via IMDB

I enjoy Hanks’s work, I really do. I think he is really good at what he does. His portrayal of Forrest is also one of my favourite roles of his of all time; he just nailed every aspect of Forrest. He is sweet, adorable; deeper than you would expect of him, loyal and pretty brave… or maybe that is just because stupid is as stupid does J Forrest is endearing, and had some wicked cool moments (the way he narrowed his eyes after insisting Jenny go home to Greenbow, Alabama, his overprotectiveness of Jenny, his love for his mom, his knowledge that he isn’t the brightest man in the world, his innocence, wonderful I tell you).

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The story set before you is a wonderful journey that you undertake with good old Forrest, Hanks truly making him shine, someone we can almost relate to. As fantastical as the tales are that he shares with us, he is so humble and plain and honest you cannot help but get roped into it all. Everything is possible when Forrest is around. Robin Wright’s depiction of Jenny was great, though she was not necessarily a likable character all the time, you could totally understand why Forrest would be in love with her. She was nice to him throughout, and understood he wasn’t always the sharpest tool of the shed, but loved him in her own way anyway.

I thought the friendship between Bubba and Forrest was awesome. They were so alike in so many ways, they did nothing but complement each other. Forrest Gump travels through some major conflicts in the United States, some big and iconic events, and somehow Forrest has a hand in them somewhere, or an appearance, and I enjoyed how they managed to pull it off, it was really nice. Also, the way Forrest seemed to have influenced many big things in history was exceptionally amusing for me too. Something that you also see a lot of in the film is assassinations – damn, America, you guys didn’t want a lot of people out there! I liked that it was so steeped in history, giving us markers throughout the film.

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Lieutenant Dan was also a character that grows on you, he is a bean son of a bitch, but he is pretty important to it all. There are also some truly heartrending moments throughout the film. Forrest Gump effortlessly manages to balance comedy and drama throughout the film, but when things get heavy, they get really heavy. I am just thinking of the things that Jenny in specific put Forrest through, and how that all worked out at the end. What a sweet, touching, amusing film!

Forrest Gump also had the best soundtrack, I absolutely adored it. Not to mention the fact that each and every song was used perfectly and fit for each and every scene, it stays with you. There are some tremendous songs on there, truly rounding out the flick superbly. I relish how infinitely quotable this movie is, and how it never gets old.

Wow, there is so much more to Forrest Gump than I can even mention, just know that it is a wonderful movie and a much watch. I know that there is (I simply cannot understand this) a pretty large group of haters out there over this, but even after all these years, I am still an admirer of it. That’s all I have to say about that.

Braveheart (1995) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of 501 Must See Movies Project . He also reviewed Amadeus HERE and Platoon HERE and A Beautiful Mind HERE. Thanks for the reviews, John! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on Braveheart, IMDB rank 83 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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“It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom.”

In 1280,  King Edward “Longshanks” (Patrick McGoohan) of England claims the vacant Scottish throne for himself following the death of the Scottish king.  He kills a lot of the Scottish nobility, luring them under the guise of peace.  In the ensuing battles, Malcolm Wallace, a commoner, and his oldest son John are also killed.  William Wallace (Gibson), Malcolm’s other son, goes away to Italy with his Uncle Argyle Wallace (Brian Cox).  Returning 20 years later, he meets back up with childhood friend Hamish (Brendan Gleeson) and Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack), a girl he has always been in love with.

Longshanks had issued a decree of “Prima Nocte” where English noblemen with land rights in Scotland can have sex with a new bride on her wedding night.  Wallace and Murron marry in secret to avoid this.  Some time later, Murron attacks an English soldier who tries to rape her, leading the local magistrate to tie her up and slit her throat.

Wrong move dude.

An enraged Wallace kills the local garrison, magistrate included, and declares that the Scottish people will no longer be ruled by the English.  His growing army takes the fight to the English, while Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFayden) acts as a go between for Wallace with the feuding Scottish nobles.

Historical inaccuracies aside, this is a pretty entertaining movie that offers a little bit for everyone.  It is primarily an epic, but it mixes in drama, action, comedy and romance and kept me engaged throughout the 177 minutes of running time.  I’ve seen this film plenty of times, and though it’s one I can quote extensively, I tried to come into it with a clean slate.

The countryside shots are magnificent, and James Horner write a dazzling soundtrack that complements the film’s cinematography.  The battle sequences were impressive given the scope and scale involved with each one.  Though mildly gory by my standards, this one had just enough blood and guts to be believable.  The only thing about the battle sequences for me was how long they lasted.  I feel like they could have been shortened up a bit while still getting the same message and point across.

Given the scope and massive undertaking Braveheart was, it’s not all that surprising that the next time Gibson directed a movie was nine years later with Passion of the Christ.

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“What will you do with that freedom?”

In addition to an impressive directing job, Mel Gibson’s acting was well done.  He balances the conflict with the Scottish nobles, the English, and his own internal driving force following the murder of his beloved Murron.  His character is macho, but also intelligent, sensible, and at times humorous.  It’s hard for me to criticize his performance.  I think the fact that he directed the film helped enhance his performance on-screen.

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“He fights for something that I never had.”

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“The trouble with Scotland is that it’s full of Scots.”

Both Angus MacFayden and Patrick McGoohan did great jobs as Robert the Bruce and King Edward I.  McGoohan’s villain is relentless, conniving, and to the point.  It was interesting to see how his character changed as time went by health-wise.  He’s a guy you just want to hate.

Bruce’s character is almost more interesting as a character study than anyone else in Braveheart.  The internal struggle as he battles between what’s expected of him as a Scottish nobleman contrasted with what he believes is right is something I’ve always found intriguing.  Some of the best scenes of the film, in my opinion, take place with him talking with his father.

Stephen (David O’Hara) and Hamish are great supporting characters.  Though Stephen is mostly there for comic relief, he has a few moments of genuine and honest concern with some of the decisions William made.  It was also interesting in seeing Hamish as he fought alongside his dad, Campbell (James Cosmo), and how their relationship grew through the film.

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“Why do you help me?”
“Because of the way you are looking at me now.”

One thing that sets this movie apart from your run-of-the-mill epic is the underlying romantic influence on Wallace and his relationship with Murron and Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau).  William is the most vulnerable and realistic when he’s with each woman.  Though the romantic development at times seemed cliché, here it worked well and integrated into the story.

When one thinks of Braveheart: “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take OUR FREEDOM!” and “Every man dies, not every man really lives.” comes to mind.  It’s more than just the battles and bloodshed.  A king trying to hold on to power, a noble son struggling with what’s most important, and a reluctant warrior carrying the burdens of a nation while coping with the loss of virtually everyone close to him all flow together to create an entertaining film worthy of the Best Picture Academy Award.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

IMDB Top 250 Guest Reviews – Deadline Reminder

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Hi all! Thanks to everyone who replied when I set the deadline of April 1st (2015) for the remainder of the IMDB guest reviews. I’ve not heard from the below people so, if you’re one of those who chose these films, let me know if you still want to do these reviews otherwise I’ll put the movies back on the “Available” list on March 1st. I won’t be mad if you want to give up your movies – I’ve also been too busy to participate in various blogathons lately. 😦

(Don’t worry about it if you’ve picked a movie & don’t see yours on this list – get me the reviews whenever you have time as we talk regularly anyway) 🙂

Dr Strangelove
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

The Lord Of The Rings (entire trilogy)

Cool Hand Luke

The Pianist
Intouchables

The Wrestler

2001: A Space Odyssey

All About Eve

Groundhog Day

The below movies have not yet been chosen (or have been added back onto the “available” list) – let me know if you’re interested in doing one of these:

– Life Is Beautiful 1997
– Into the Wild 2007
– Gone With The Wind 1939
– The Elephant Man 1980
– The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003
– The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001
– The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002
– Cool Hand Luke 1967
– The Pianist 2002
– Intouchables 2011
– All About Eve 1950
– Groundhog Day 1993

Here’s another picture of Michael Fassbender in an Iron Maiden t-shirt. We’re clearly soulmates.

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Reservoir Dogs (1992) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Rob of MovieRob. He also reviewed Saving Private Ryan and The Manchurian Candidate and Pulp Fiction and Strangers On A Train. Thanks for all the reviews, Rob! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Reservoir Dogs, IMDB rank 70 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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Reservoir Dogs (1992) is the movie that made me fall in love with Quentin Tarantino’s film making style.

Most people didn’t hear about him until he made Pulp Fiction, but I somehow came across this movie when it was released on video in 1993.

Because it’s a low budget movie, Tarantino decided to save money on filming the actual heist portrayed in the movie, but rather used other moviemaking techniques to make us believe that we saw what happened during the heist despite having the movie begin during the aftermath.

The way he did this was to create a perfect mix of conversational dialogue and storytelling by the characters that we get such a complete picture in our minds of the event that creates the movie’s story without seeing one shot (from a camera or bullet) within the store.

On his script alone, Tarantino was able to gather such a talented cast who all agree to low salaries to be a part of this near-masterpiece.

Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen and Tarantino himself are all perfect in their roles and we get drawn in more and more as the movie moves along.
Being a fan of obscure movies let Tarantino “borrow” different elements from so many movies in order to create this film.

Among them, there are definitely blatant references to The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three (1974) and The Killing (1956)

This movie also has changed the way anyone will ever think of the song Stuck in the Middle With You

For a debut film, it quite amazing how great a movie Tarantino was able to construct.

Most people still think that Pulp Fiction is his best film, but this movie on a small budget is done so perfectly in a simple fashion that in my eyes, even the great Pulp Fiction can’t hold a candle to this excellent heist movie.

10/10

Memento (2000) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Damien of Flashback/Backslide. He also reviewed Sin City here. Thanks for the reviews, Damien! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Memento, IMDB rank 33 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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There’s an old thinking in American college football that a coach’s second or third year with a program will be their breakout year. In the first year the coach learns how to be a head coach and gets the major kinks out of their system. Many years into the position they can get bogged down by politics, conflicting lessons learned over overt time and often stuttering momentum that sends recruits to other programs. But in those early years the savvy and ambition of a young coach shines through without the growing pains of a newcomer or struggles of embattled veterans. A similar argument could be made in film directing. Directors learn the ropes with that first feature length film credit and discover their style before putting it to full use in their breakout second film. Tarantino with Pulp Fiction, Aranofsky with Requiem for a Dream and Christopher Nolan with Memento all fit this pattern with sophomore films that skyrocketed them to fame. With Memento, Nolan exercises the cinematic style and themes of identity and morality used in his debut film Following as well as the complicated storylines with converging timelines seen in later films like The PrestigeInception and The Dark Knight  trilogy.

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Memento stars Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential) as Leonard Shelby, a man who suffers from retrograde amnesia which leaves him unable to store new memories. His condition is the result of a head injury sustained while trying to save his wife from two attackers during a home assault. Leonard’s last memory is that of his wife dying next to him and the movie picks up in the middle of his quest for vengeance. With his amnesia, Leonard lives life in small vignettes, constantly forgetting recent events leaving him confused and easily manipulated. To compensate for this problem, inconvenient to anyone but especially to someone devoted to a life of vengeful investigation, he writes notes to himself and tattoos important details on his body. Watching Leonard employ his system for memory construction plays out somewhat like a superhero origin story as we watch a character devise creative ways to use a certain power, or in this case compensate for a certain loss.

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Leonard’s story is presented to us non-chronologically and the film hints at Nolan’s later penchant for overlapping and converging plotlines. Unlike most films with non-sequential or vignette-based timelines, Memento’s story is not a random shuffling of episodes but a reverse chronology, with each scene occurring prior to the last. While this reverse timeline moves backwards, a separate timeline, shot in black-and-white, proceeds forward and meets the other timeline at the end of the film to form a continuous story. But Memento‘s nonsequentiality is different from similar films not only in its sequence but in its relevance to the film. Most films with nonchronologic timelines are nonchronologic for artistic reasons and are structured in a way that creates a more compelling story. I’ve used Pulp Fiction before as an example of a movie that presents its episodes in a specific sequence to create tension, citing the scene when John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson enter the diner we already know Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer plan to rob. Knowing Roth and Plummer are present when the two gangsters enter for breakfast builds tension in a way that a straightforward chronological sequence might not. But Memento‘s presentation is an artifact of a mechanism within the film itself and not just Nolan’s artistic choice (although Nolan does craft the story in a way that makes this sequence feel organic). We are viewing the confusing world generated by Leonard’s condition.

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The plot’s structure is harbinger of Nolan’s later style. Like Following and later films, Memento incorporates elements of film noir to create a dark atmosphere in which its characters live. Memento is often included on lists of the top neo-noirs produced in the last twenty years and often beyond. The film makes use of many stylistic elements of noir including voice-overs by Leonard, countless reflections which show off Leonard’s tattoos (which are often written right-to-left) and other cinematographic techniques. But the story is also noir to the core. Leonard devotes his life to revenge and solving a mystery forgotten by the law. Along the way he encounters a femme fetale in Carrie Anne Moss as well as a double crossing clerk who we could imagine as a 1940’s bartender. Film noir plots often are described as fatalistic with outcomes the characters are helpless to alter. By the film’s end Memento‘s dark inevitability is apparent and we are left questioning the morality of everyone in the film, including our hero. Nolan would continue to use noir elements frequently in his career and doesn’t abandon the genre after crossing over into the land of massive Hollywood blockbusters. And while we eagerly await his next film Interstellar, it’s safe to say the momentum Nolan built in his second film won’t sputter anytime soon.

Rating: 8/10. Internet, if you’ll allow me to confess my true feelings I will say that while I appreciate Memento and all of the skill Nolan demonstrates in the film, I am not the movie’s biggest fan. I can’t quite place the reason. The timeline is fascinating, the storyline is compelling, the acting is superb and it is commonly cited as one of the best examples of neo-noir which is arguably my favorite genre. Everyone has a movie or two that they know they should love. Movies that satisfy every individual category in your movie-watching mind but don’t quite satisfy you overall. For me, Memento is “that” movie. I suspect the main reason is that by the time I actually got my hands on the movie I resented how much I was supposed to “love” it. Another serious possibility (and I’m only half-kidding) is that I may have been sick when I first saw the movie and now associate the movie with feeling ill. I remember the day that Michael Jackson died I was overcoming a bad bout of food poisoning and dealing with all of its… let’s just say symptoms. The likely culinary culprit was a bad fried-ham-and-cheese sandwich (before you question American diets I need to say that I ate the sandwich while living in Spain). I spent all day watching videos of Michael Jackson’s songs and interviews from his friends and family (between frequent trips to the bathroom). Now whenever I see ham and cheese I start to hear “Beat It” in my head and am suddenly overcome with the need to vomit. I’m praying no one plays “Billie Jean” when I’m at work. I’m not sure I could make it to the bathroom fast enough.

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide

Deadline For IMDB Guest Reviews & Some Remaining Films

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Hi everyone! Thank you once again for all the great guest reviews you’ve sent me for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge. I’m setting a deadline of APRIL 1st 2015 for the remaining reviews.

Okay – I’m not a hard ass & I hate deadlines. To those of you below who are in regular contact with me, you know you can ask for an extension & I’ll totally give you one. At least until the end of 2015 if I really like you… 😉 If you’ve changed your mind and want to give up your movie(s), just let me know. I promise I won’t be offended.

Here’s the list of who has chosen what (I’ve just copied my original post – I’m lazy!):

Niall:
The Bourne Ultimatum

Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop:
The Seventh Seal

Abbi:
American History X
Rain Man

Beer Movie:
The Avengers (I’d like to post this in April right before the new one comes out?) 🙂
The Truman Show

Brian:
The Sting
Die Hard

Cameron:
Black Swan

Cara:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Eric:
Léon
Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels

Confessions From A Geek Mind:
Dr. Strangelove
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

John Link Movies:
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (I’d like to post these in the same month as reviews for all The Hobbit movies – I’m hoping for September?)

Kieron:
Cool Hand Luke

Kim:
The Lion King
De Hobbit: Een onverwachte reis (The Hobbit) (I’d like to post this in September, hopefully, as part of a Tolkien Month?) 🙂

Elemental Reviews:
The Pianist
Intouchables

Popcorn Scorn:
The Wrestler

Satua:
Requiem for a Dream
Network

Scott:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (You can have a bit longer on this – I know you’re busy! I was hoping maybe end of June would be a good time to post this just before the next film comes out?) 🙂

Tom:
The Elephant Man
Gone with the Wind

Verbal Spew:
2001: A Space Odyssey

Zoe:
Shutter Island

Girls Do Film:
All About Eve

Kerry:
Groundhog Day (If you want to do this in time for the actual Groundhog Day February 2nd, I’ll post it on the day) 😉

Nostra:
Mystic River

Steven:
American Beauty
Beauty And The Beast

lukasfilm:
Taxi Driver


The Graduate

This is what I currently show as having not yet been chosen:

– Life Is Beautiful 1997
– Into the Wild 2007
– Good Will Hunting 1997
– The Deer Hunter 1978

I’d like to save these for anyone who’d like to join in who hasn’t already done a review (or has done only one or two) but the same deadline of April 1st will apply. Let me know if you’re interested in doing any of these.

I have IMDB guest reviews scheduled through the end of March currently so I’ll schedule the rest starting in April for every Tuesday in the order they’re received (with the occasional jiggle around when need be. hmm… that sounds dirty.).

Here’s Chris Hemsworth taking his shirt off. 🙂

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Gran Torino (2008) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Cindy. You can find her blog, Cindy Bruchman, HERE. She also reviewed Double Indemnity for this project. Thanks for the reviews, Cindy! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about Gran Torino, IMDB rank 125 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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Clint Eastwood directed, produced and starred in the 2008 film, Gran Torino. There’s much to say about this oxymoron of a character: scarred and sweet, rude and noble, cantankerous and romantic all wrapped up into a celluloid package and delivered by the scruffy, inaudible Clint Eastwood. It’s ranked high at #95 on the IMDB 250 film countdown. Should it be?

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Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski

This was a film that had my heart and my head fighting each other. Any plot with a dynamic character is preferable than a static one. Clint acted as an old ‘Dirty Harry’ with too many snarls and one-liners; I thought the script by Nick Schenk was a choppy mix of horrible, mediocre, and small beams of brilliant. Walt Kowalski I could relate to. I grew up listening to veterans of the Korean war talking like Walt Kowalski. Men back then were supposed to be hard, unsympathetic. You better know how to chase a skirt, drink beer, swing a hammer, and  shed no tear. That generation kept their yards immaculate, took care of everything they owned and threw nothing away. They would die for their family and country. Racial tags and slurs were common growing up as a kid.  Political Correctness hadn’t been suggested yet. Another way to put it, Walt Kowalski was Archie Bunker, and Archie was as common as apple pie, lemonade, and the American flag. Experiencing this, I didn’t have a problem with Walt Kowalski in the film. Clint Eastwood has played the same character for fifty years, so I wasn’t surprised he was, again, the hard shell with the soft middle.

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Walt reluctantly mentors Thao, who he nicknames Toad. Thao is played by actor Bee Vang. It was his first acting job, and you could tell. Unfortunately, Bee Vang was one of the worst actors in the cast along with the neophyte priest, Father Janovich. Anytime they conversed with Clint Eastwood, it was painful to watch. The script was terrible and their acting wooden and unbelievable. There was very little chemistry between Eastwood and the actors in the film except the bright spot, Sue, played by Ahney Her.

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Ahney Her had a great role in Sue. Her lame boyfriend, appearing briefly as pretty-boy Trey, was played by Clint’s son, Scott Eastwood. Another family member contributed to Eastwood’s film, Kyle Eastwood, who wrote the score. But back to Ahney. She delivered her lines with grace and energy which was sorely lacking in the other performances. Sue was the interpreter, the feminist, the “smart” Asian female who intercedes and befriends Walt Kowalski. It is only after she is attacked that the film becomes interesting. While Walt hacks up blood, the ending is clear, but the climax is nicely done.

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While it sounds like I disliked the film, I cried at the end, and still love the film despite its flaws. Perhaps because I understood what Clint Eastwood was trying to do.  Here was a film about the effect of the horrors of war. Walt Kowalski lived with the guilt of killing Korean soldiers. It haunted and jaded his entire life. Here, now, was Thao, who was Walt’s redemption. By sacrificing his life for Thao, he was able to come to peace with his past and give a life to Thao who would be free of the gang preditors. By vindicating Sue’s attack, Walt in one move saves the neighborhood, the family, and Thao and Sue. The irony in the film is wonderful. Walt Kowalski becomes more comfortable with the customs and food of the Hmong than his own family.  Walt had failed as a father to his two sons, unable to have a positive relationship with them or affirming their manhood. With Thao, Walt is able to teach him how to be a man (albeit in an old-school way) by teaching him how to repair, garden, build, and care for possessions. That’s what real men do. They care for their families and protect them.

For those reasons, the audience discovers they look beyond the gruff exterior of Walt and see the loyal, loving man at the same time Walt Kowalski looks beyond the Asian stereotype and sees his Hmong neighbors as people with similar values as his own. While the traditions and customs displayed in the film might be inaccurate at times, the purpose behind the film is why Gran Torino is ranked pretty high. Clint Eastwood attempts to reveal Universal Truths in his films, and I appreciate that.

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Oh, also the sweet, green 1972 Gran Torino. I want one of those!

The Apartment (1960) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Ruth of Flixchatter. She also did Mr Smith Goes To Washington for this project. Thanks for the reviews, Ruth! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about The Apartment, IMDB rank 96 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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I’ve always wondered why the movie was called The Apartment, but within a few minutes I found out why. I like the opening sequence with Jack Lemmon’s narration. He played the protagonist, C.C. Baxter, who works as an insurance agent for Consolidated Life, one of the top five companies in the country with 31,259 employees. He works on the 19th floor in this giant office with rows upon rows of desks. By the end of the day, Baxter is the only one left. No, not because he’s a workaholic or anything, but he can’t come home to his apartment whenever he likes because he lets the executives of the company use his apartment for trysts. I seriously don’t know how he gets ANY work done as every day he’s so busy booking up his executives’ dates at his apartment and make sure they dates don’t get mixed up. At first I feel bad for him, especially when he gets a call in the middle of the night and have to clear out for one of the execs’ booty call. But you know what, Baxter brought this upon himself, he’s doing this favors to the execs to move up quickly to the top.

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Though it’s obviously a major inconvenience for Baxter, he tolerates this whole charade because of his ambition. That is until he met this cute elevator girl Fran Kubelik. Shirley MacClaine is so cute here with her pixie haircut, this is the first time I saw her in her earlier films as the first movie I saw her in was Guarding Tess (1994) with Nic Cage. This is also the first time I saw Fred McMurray. He’s quite memorable here as the top exec who makes life complicated for Baxter. I’m not going to spoil it for you in case you have not seen the film, though the plot is not entirely unpredictable. What did surprise me was how dark the film got, especially in regards to MacClaine’s character. I think those who’ve seen this know what I’m talking about. Even the whole cheating execs thing is not exactly a wholesome subject matter. But of course, given this is set in the 60s, it’s still a very demure film nary of any risque scene.

At times the storyline reminds me a bit of Roman Holiday in that the protagonist was initially an ambitious go-getter, someone ruthless enough to get ahead in their career. But when they fall in love, their perspective completely changes. I love how Baxter becomes the sweetest, most caring man even after he realizes his chances to be with the girl he loves is slim to none. Jack Lemmon is absolutely endearing in the way he dotes on Fran, taking care of her when she needs it most.

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This film won five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing. Both Lemmon and MacClaine were nominated in the acting categories, too. I’d have been ok if Lemmon had won Best Actor but then again I don’t know who else was nominated that year. Baxter is the heart and soul of this film, and the transformation of his character as the film progresses is very believable.

I love so many things about this movie. The sharp script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, lovely music by Adolph Deutsch, and the perfect balance of drama and comedy. I love the hilarious way Baxter made spaghetti, straining the pasta through the grid of a tennis racket. It’s quite an iconic scene that’s cute and heartwarming.

Fran Kubelik: Whats a tennis racket doing in the kitchen?
C.C. Baxter: Tennis racket? Oh, I remember, I was cooking myself an Italian dinner.
[Fran looks confused]
C.C. Baxter: I use it to strain the spaghetti.

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Of course the performances are great all around, I quite like the chemistry between Lemmon and MacClaine, and it’s the kind of romance that’s rarely seen today as their love develops with barely any physical contact! There’s not even a single kissing scene between the two actors, but you definitely felt the connection between the them.

The ending is one of those that made me go up and cheer… especially when Baxter finally stands up for himself and decides to become a *human being* (or a mensch as his doctor neighbor told him to be it just the night before). It turns out having the career he’s always wanted is not all that’s cracked up to be, meanwhile Fran too has an epiphany moment of her own. The finale is definitely one of the most memorable New Year’s Eve moments in movies. I feel that this ending is pretty typical for rom-coms, complete with the girl running to catch the guy she *finally* realizes to be the love of her life + a bit of panic happening that she could be too late. Yet, it doesn’t feel clichéd or hackneyed here, and that’s the beauty of this movie.

I’m glad I finally caught The Apartment, it’s one I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Now that I’ve seen two Billy Wilder movies, I definitely see why people love his work so much. I look forward to catching up on more of his films in the future!

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A Beautiful Mind (2001) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of 501 Must See Movies Project . He also reviewed Amadeus HERE and Platoon HERE. Thanks for the reviews, John! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on A Beautiful Mind, IMDB rank 198 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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“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been.”

A Beautiful Mind explores the life of John Nash (Crowe), Nobel Prize winning mathematician.  Beginning with his graduate studies at Princeton, Nash discovers a new concept of governing dynamics, the Nash Equilibrium.  Following Princeton, Nash works at a research lab at MIT doing work for the Pentagon and teaching on the side.  He meets Alicia (Connelly), one of his students, and the two fall in love.  He is also approached by William Parcher (Harris) to do classified work in decoding a Soviet attack on America.

However, not everything is as it appears.

Based on the book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind is a film that balances a number of movie genres.  It’s got drama,mystery, romance, a little bit of comedy.  The various elements of the film make it insightful, suspenseful, and entertaining on a number of levels.

From a visual perspective, a lot goes on in A Beautiful Mind.  Some of the film’s early scenes, specifically at Princeton, have an older look to them.  I like when a director can add little elements like that.  It helps in contrasting the different time periods throughout the film.  They also do good with showing Nash’s perspective as he sees the various connections and patterns in the math.

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Though some of the character’s mannerisms were annoying to me, Russell Crowe does a great job of bringing John Nash to life.  I’m probably nitpicking more than anything else.  He does well with portraying the paranoid genius who was given “two helping of brain but only a half a helping of heart.”  The real life John Nash visited the set, and Crowe notices some of his tendencies, hand movements, and things of the sort, and incorporated them into his performance.

A Beautiful Mind was filmed almost entirely chronologically, and I think that helped Crowe’s performance as he became Nash and progressed naturally through the various stages of life portrayed in the film.

Jennifer Connelly, wow, what a performance is all I can say.  Even though she doesn’t command every scene she’s in, she gives a strong performance and more than holds her own.  From the beginning of their love story through the pain and anguish later on, her portrayal of Alicia Nash is believable and genuine.  As I’ve looked at some of the other people considered for her role and Crowe’s, I know Ron Howard made the right call with those two.

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Paul Bettany is an interesting character to say the least.  Having portrayed Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale, an entertaining role, Bettany demonstrated his ability to be a sort of classical funnyman in A Beautiful Mind.  Though a lot of his performance has the comedic undertone, he has nuggets of truth and deep insight throughout the film.  Ed Harris also gives a decent performance.  He excels in the serious no-nonsense roles like Parcher.  I don’t know if I would call him a typecast character, but his most memorable performances are ones like this one.

This is a film I’d recommend seeing twice before forming an opinion about it.  I saw this one twice in the theaters: the first time I hated it, the second time I loved it.  Knowing the major plot twist gives perspective and a different understanding to the first half of the film.   Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer created the world through Nash’s perspective, so the audience experiences the major twist at the same time Nash does.  I remember being very confused the first time I saw it, hence not liking it.

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“I need to believe, that something extraordinary is possible.”

It’s been probably about a decade since I’ve watched A Beautiful Mind.  Having a chance to re-visit it for me was enjoyable and a reminder of how great A Beautiful Mind is.  Russell Crowe brings John Nash’s story to life, has great on-screen chemistry with Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, and most importantly Jennifer Connelly.  Ron Howard has created a great film, one certainly deserving of the Best Picture Oscar.  See this one twice if you haven’t seen it yet.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Psycho (1960) 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. He also did Singin’ In The Rain. Thanks for the reviews, Kelechi! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Psycho, IMDB rank 29 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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****WARNING: SPOILERS****

IMDB Top 250 Guest Review – Psycho (1960)

If you’ve noticed the tagline on my blog banner then you can probably tell where I borrowed it!

Yes the words “we all go a little geek sometimes” is a play on words from Norman Bates’s famous line from Psycho and honestly, Psycho is one of my favourite horror movies.

Psycho tells the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), an office worker who is fed up with the way life has treated her. She regularly meets up with her lover Sam (John Gavin) during her lunch breaks and would love to move forward with him. However there is a catch. Sam is a divorcee and has to pay alimony money. He cannot afford to move on and provide a decent way of living for Marion. In an opportunistic move to start a new life, Marion decides to steal $40,000 from her employer who entrusted her to pay into the bank. On the run as a thief she decides to get out of town and head to California where Sam is located. After a long drive she pulls into The Bates Motel, which is managed by a quiet young man called Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his controlling mother. As the hours tick by, Marion suddenly becomes a first hand witness to Norman’s deep dark secret.

“I think I must have one of those faces you can’t help believing.” – Norman Bates

To start off, I guess you need to ask is why Psycho has lasted over the years. Why is it considered Hitchcock’s greatest film and why is it one of the best horror films ever?

Modern horror films rely on gore to surprise the audience, using endless clichés that has been repeated a thousand times before. They almost become comedic because of this exposure. Psycho differs purely because it is (pardon the phrase) a psychological approach to the horror genre.

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Psycho doesn’t rely on a creature/monster/a guy with some deformity or mask who lusts for revenge on the people around him. On the surface, Norman Bates is just an ordinary, everyday man. He has that innocent and charming face, an all American type hero that would happily help you with anything (which is how Anthony Perkins got the part). He’s unsuspecting. Norman Bates is that friend you knew from school, a work colleague or that person you bumped into at a shop. In essence, these key attributes play an essential and powerful role in the ending and ultimate reveal of Norman’s secret.

What separates Norman from the sane folk in the world is his mental psychology. Norman is an expert in duality (trying very hard not to spoil this!) His life is completely dominated by his mother in every aspect yet plays the dutiful son responsible for her well being. At times he reacts fearfully or angrily based on what his mother would think or behave. He can be defensive about his mother because the outside world doesn’t understand their relationship. When Marion turns up at the Motel, psychological jealously ensues with Norman being attracted by Marion and his mother being very disapproving. In the extremity of it all with its steady build-up of clues and uncertainty, it eventually leads to shocking and murderous intentions as demonstrated in the famous shower scene where Marion Crane is brutally stabbed to death by Norman’s mother.

Psycho illustrates within each frame of film how dangerous, twisted and scary the human condition can be. You can never truly know what someone is thinking (unless you’re a psychic). By making this point it’s central theme, it makes the audience uneasy, questioning and self-doubting. Without you realising it, it creates an aura of unpredictability in the human behaviour that Norman Bates (with his poster boy charm) embodies. His devilish smile at the end of the film is a great example of that distorted duality which he accepts and embraces.

Oh, we can see each other. We can even have dinner but respectably in my house with my mother’s picture on the mantel and my sister helping me broil a big steak for three.” – Marion Crane

In reality, Psycho is two stories for the price of one. What often gets remembered and talked about is the second half because of how disturbing it is. However, it is the first half of the film that importantly sets the second half of the movie in motion.

In some parallel universe, Marion Crane would never have met Norman Bates. She would have kept on driving and probably made it to California with her lover, $40,000 richer as well.

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Marion (like Norman) goes through a psychological change but of a different kind. Her backstory is not heavily dwelled on. She’s not perfect but she is a decent woman seeking to better her frustrated life. Sensing the perfect opportunity to change her fortunes, she becomes a thief, stealing money from her employment. It’s clearly her first offence – she acts nervously and cautiously around a car salesman and a policeman, desperately hoping not to get caught. When she does feel she’s out of the woods, she begins to smile, enjoying the thrill and a clear satisfaction that her plan is coming to fruition.

It is only when she turns up at Bates Motel that her euphoria rapidly changes.

Whether it’s female intuition or just a natural conscious within her, her small talk with Norman Bates becomes revealing. She begins to notice the strangeness behind the false façade of his personality – his mother, taxidermy as a hobby, twelve rooms with twelve vacancies etc. You could probably hint at Marion beginning to feel a little uncomfortable and it is through this self-doubting exchange that she develops a conscience. She begins re-evaluating her decision, calculating how much she spent from the stolen money. She may have flushed the calculations down the toilet but it was her way of recognising and apologising for her mistake. She then takes a shower to “wash away” her sins.

In the end, despite the change of heart she still gets punished – stabbed to death by mother.

Some could argue that Marion got her comeuppance. If she didn’t steal the money she wouldn’t have found herself in a vulnerable position. But then again – did she really deserve that? Was her crime fiendishly bad in comparison to what Norman Bates was doing?

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This build-up is crucial to how the second act of the film plays out. Marion (just like Norman) is an everyday person – a beautiful and attractive woman who made a mistake. We quell our thoughts of criminality by our own sense of morality and conscience (unless you’re playing Grand Theft Auto) but Marion decides to act on them. Her sudden and dramatic death after she tried to correct a wrong comes out of the blue. The shower scene highlighted how exposed Marion was, powerless and defenceless to stop the assault. In Bernard Herrmann’s dramatic score, each sharp-pitched string note represented the sound of the knife sinking deeper and deeper into Marion’s skin, prolonging the agony the longer it went on. It wouldn’t have the same memorable impact if the entire scene was silent, something that Hitchcock originally intended. The rest of the film takes a dramatic and sinister tone as the audience slowly begins to uncover the dark undertones of Norman’s personality, with Sam and Marion’s sister leading the enquiry.

Janet Leigh was a popular actress in her heyday so to see her killed off halfway through a film was a bold move. Usually when a star headlines a film, they stick through to the end. Again this provides further evidence of Hitchcock’s mantra with Psycho – no one is truly safe.

The two stories are beautifully woven together. At first they appear random but the criminal undertones and characteristics are present with Marion and Norman. Unfortunately for Marion, she met someone far more devious and dangerous than herself.

There’s an old saying, “First customer of the day is always the trouble!”” – California Charlie

Another cool benefit to Hitchcock’s directorial work on Psycho is the low budget feel of the movie. It’s a cinema release yet feels like a TV special. Everything about Psycho feels intimate, drawing the audience closer to the story and the clues. Filming in black and white made Psycho visually engaging. Colour would have been distracting; black and white maintained the mystery, hiding the truth in plain sight and keeping character motivations ambiguous. It was also a clear nod to Hitchcock’s favourite film at that time – Les Diaboliques (1955). Psycho represents Hitchcock at his best, utilising his skills and knowledge from his TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and bringing them to the big screen.

Hitchcock also created hype with Psycho aiming to create illusion and surprise. Audience members were refused entry to the cinema to see the film if they turned up late. It’s essentially the director punishing you for your time-keeping skills but also giving you a fair opportunity to watch his film without guessing or questioning the context by watching it as it was intended – from A to B. Even the original 1960 trailer ran over six minutes which was completely unheard of as Hitchcock wanders through the set teasing the plot like a crime scene detective.

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Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho will always be fondly remembered as one of the best horror films because the film exploits the psychological fear within it. The events that occur in Psycho are believable and real and could happen to anyone. That fear is scarier if you knew that madness was happening on your doorstep instead of some grotesque monster suspiciously lurking around the neighbourhood. It’s a fear we choose not to entertain too much as it’s easier to believe in supernatural characters that defy logic such as Freddy Kruger or Pennywise the clown.

Nevertheless, those characters had an inspiration and Norman Bates leads the way for that realistic portrayal of fear.

As Norman would say – we all go a little mad sometimes.