Thursday, 29 December 2011

Reservoir Dogs

I'm undecided over Tarantino. Some of his work is mesmerising, with quirky dialogue and a well thought out story-line. At other times however he just seems to throw in some extreme violence and a massive amount of blood and hope for the best.

In part I think Reservoir Dogs is closer to the latter than the former.

The premise of the movie is great, a bungled burglary and a question of who ratted them out. Along with that the cast is phenomenal - a who's who of who you would want to have as a series of bad-guys if you were ever to be making a heist movie. The problem is that it doesn't seem to go much beyond that.

There are a couple of brilliant scenes in the movie. The argument over Buscemi's character being called Mr Pink is well-placed and not over egged as it might be in some films. SImilarly the torture scene is disgustingly well done, and for once I admire Tarantino for holding the camera away from the actual gruesome task - something that I doubt he would do in a more recent film.

For me though I struggle beyond that - how do I identify with any of these characters? Who are they and why should I care? I want some character development. I want some depth beyond Michael Marsden is a psycho and Steve Buscemi is Steve Buscemi. This movie could have been one of the greatest movies ever made if Tarantino had given it some depth.

All in all, it is a typical Tarantino movie. Some smart dialogue, some great actors, a clever idea and a whole bag-load of violence... but it is by no means his best.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

American Beauty

I remember a few years ago coming across a song called "waiting for my real life to begin" and at the time it struck a chord with me. I had finished university, was living with my then girlfriend and was embarking on my career as a teacher, but I still had that nagging doubt that something was missing; I was waiting for something.

Four or five years on that feeling hasn't really disappeared, except now I own my own flat and I no longer have that (or any) girlfriend. On top of that my job isn't exactly the most enjoyable (although I have taken steps to remedy that) and I am still trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. In essence I am struggling with who exactly I am and who I want to be seen as.

Which for me is everything that American Beauty is all about. A mid-life crisis for Lester Burnham is waking up one day with the realisation that you have no idea who you are, and all of those childhood hopes and dreams have not come to fruition. Perhaps the most telling line in the film is when his daughter informs him that they haven't spoken for weeks and he hasn't realised. He is sleep-walking his way through life.

I think the film resonates with me because that is what I am petrified of happening - that one day I will wake up and be middle-aged without ever having done anything with my life.

American Beauty is a fantastically well made movie, with possibly some of the best acting in any of the films I have seen so far in this challenge. From Kevin Spacey down to Allison Janney, I don't think a single person plays their part anything but superbly.

Every single one of them to me outlines a different part of that struggle of who they want to be and how they want to be seen as - from Suvari as the teenager who wants to be anything but ordinary to Bening who wants the outwardly respectable marriage. Every single character in this film is struggling with the same thing, the lack of identity or at least the struggle with being the person you want to be.

This is a must-see movie, and is without a doubt one of my all time favourites.

Lord of the Rings trilogy

I've tried quite a few times to sit down and read one of Tolkien's novels, and every time I have failed. This is largely because it was in the pre-movie days, when I had simply no idea what this strange halfling actually was, thinking that I had stumbled into a stranger version of Watership Down. Since watching the films I keep meaning to go back, but there is something missing that makes me actually follow through with it.

One of my targets for this holiday was to watch all three films back-to-back, because truthfully I think that is the only way in which it is acceptable to watch them. Which in a sense is part of the problem, the films can only really be admired as part of the overall story (unless of course you are a huge fan that knows the story inside-out and back-to-front).

For me I really enjoy the second film, but it requires me to re-watch the first in order for it to make complete sense, to remind myself who everyone is (although I do treat Pip and Merry as the equivalent of Ant and Dec - who cares which one is which...) and what each one is doing or has done. Which means that whenever I want to watch Lord of the Rings I have to set myself a good ten hour window in which to watch them, or at the very least three consecutive evenings.

Part of what I like about the second movie is that it is the one where it has the most potential to stand on its own (bar the scene with Gandalf and the Balrog), with the best battle of the trilogy coming at the end of the movie. With the first it is just setting things up for the rest of the story, while the third has the rather cumbersome task of tying up lots of lose ends in a very extracted final 30mins (and yes I know it is longer in the book).

I think my problem is that I am just not a big enough fan of Fantasy, or Tolkien to admire these films as much as many people do. I don't think they are bad movies, but they aren't the sort of movie that I would just throw on of an evening; you really do have to take the time, pay attention throughout and probably watch all three in order to get the most out of them.

All in all, definitely all three deserve to be in this list, but for me they are perhaps slightly higher than the deserve to be, and are definitely in the wrong order!!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Shawshank Redemption

This is without a doubt one of my all time favourite movies, and I cannot find any fault with its placing at the top of the list. Everything about it is sublime.

What I am most annoyed about is that I don't remember my emotions or reactions when I first saw the movie over ten years ago. I don't remember what I was thinking as Red was sitting in his cell worrying about Andy, while Andy in turn sat in his holding a length of rope. I don't remember the feelings as the whole plot unravelled in the following scenes. This is a film that is sure to be magical when you first watch it - if only I could remember!!

Having said that I have now watched it about a dozen times, and each time I get that same warm fuzzy feeling inside. This is a film about hope, and is the perfect movie for when you are feeling in need of being cheered up.

The relationship between Andy and Red is wonderful to watch develop, and Freeman in particular should have won an Oscar for it (had this film not come out in the same year as Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction). There is nothing flashy or showy in the acting, there are no theatrics or prima-donnas it is all about the story and how normal people cope with extra-ordinary difficulties.

If you haven't seen this movie before then there is something wrong with you. Similarly if you can claim not to enjoy this then you must be dead inside. Without a doubt a Top100 film, and my picking for number 1.

Saturday, 24 December 2011


I'm not sure whether or not it was my mood last night, or whether following up City of God with Amelie was a bad decision, but I really didn't enjoy Amelie. I thought maybe after some rest today I would be able to write a more productive (and nice) review but it is still beyond me right now.

I don't hate the film, I just feel that there are better rom-com movies out there that I would prefer to watch. Yes it is different, and there are some very touching moments, but I think it was just a bit too surreal for me.

Friday, 23 December 2011

City of God

I wasn't really sure what to expect with City of God. I wasn't sure whether to expect a Hollywood-ised version of slum life, like Danny Boyle did with Slumdog Millionaire (read Q&A by Swarup to get the actual story). I wasn't sure whether we were going to get a Quentin Tarantino style shoot-em up, with some smart dialogue. I wasn't sure whether or not this would turn into a Brazilian version of Gran Torino.

What I got instead was a simply brilliant and beautiful tale.

The premise of City of God is very simple - young people growing up in slums (or ghettos) across the world have few options to escape their dreadful existence. They can stay on at school, ignore all temptations and with a bit of luck find a job that will lead on to a better one, or they can get involved in gang culture. In City of God we see the difficulties of the former and the ease in which young people can fall into the latter.

The film is incredibly well shot, using a voice-over to narrate the overall story and to link individual smaller stories that contribute to the whole. Alongside that is a rather sparing use of violence to tell what is an incredibly violent tale - which all contributes to a very compelling story.

That is perhaps the best thing about the movie, it is compelling without being violent; it is moving without being overly saccharine; it is a genuine film about a very serious problem. After watching this I am going to be buying my own copy of the movie - definitely one to watch again.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


For the first time I made the dangerous choice of not writing this review immediately after I watched the movie. Which if last year is anything to go by then you are lucky to be getting a review at all! It is a bit like that phenomenon when the first cup or plate is not washed you can guarantee that it will be days before you wash any of your dishes... thank god for having a dishwasher!!

I love Rome. It is without a doubt one of my favourite cities in the world. The place is just magical. What I love most about it, is that unlike many other cities in the world, the history is incredibly important to it. Monuments to all the different eras that have had an impact on Rome's development are still in existence. In the UK you can pretty much guarantee that if these monuments were in a large city they would have been knocked down and some disgusting 1960s monstrosity would have been built over the top of it.

The Roman world is a fascinating era in history, particularly because there are so few accurate sources to say what actually happened. Most of the characters in Gladiator actually existed, with the exception of Maximus himself who is an amalgamation of several people. Yet what they do in the movie is merely a script-writers invention. Yes Commodus is regarded to be a weak leader, who had a love for gladiatorial battles - yet he was much more bloodthirsty than regarded. His sister Lucilla was involved in the period and made an attempt on Commodus' life which failed and resulted in her deportation to Capri where she was assassinated within a year.

So Gladiator the movie has some element of fact within it. But even if it didn't I still think it would be an awesome movie.

I couldn't disagree with Ebert more when he said the characterisation was vacant. Yes the actors could have done more with the characters than they did, but the subtlety actually works really well in this movie - a Heath Ledger Joker type villain would have detracted from the story-line. In fact from my perspective I think Joaquin Phoenix did a brilliant job as the weak and feeble Commodus, suffering constantly from paranoia and reacting accordingly. Russell Crowe plays a typical Russell Crowe character and there is sort of charisma surrounding him, which is exactly what the character needs.

Gladiator combines pretty much everything I love in a movie, a great setting, good acting, a story-line that sees someone lead a group to victory against a baddie... if only there was a place for Drew Barrymore in the film and it would be perfect!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

All About Eve

Today I spent the early afternoon trying to figure out what to buy people for Christmas. I'm not a huge fan of this time of year because I find it all quite false. We go out and buy ridiculous gifts for people of things that they don't need nor want. We all get together and pretend that we do actually like each other. We respond to everyone who sends us a Christmas card with one in return, even if we are in regular contact.

While hating everything, I do what I usually do at this time of year, I go wandering around the shops half looking for ideas the other half trying to work out what I would buy myself with the money I am going to spend on buying people gifts. Which means at some point in the day I will inevitable end up in a bookshop, where I will try and resist the temptation to buy myself anything - and today I succeeded... (or failed depending on which way you look at it!)

What always gets me about books today is that there seems to be a hell of a lot of copycat authors out there. Books that have the same basic premise of a story, or are set in a particular time period or place - and you can guarantee that they will all try and match the style of cover, hoping that you will accidentally pick up the wrong book. They even go as far to say things like "if you love Author X you will love this book that tells the same story, with the same sort of characters by this completely different and new author..." Is that really a good selling point?

Which in an incredibly roundabout way brings me onto the film All About Eve. Released in the same year as Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve has many of the same traits. Aging actress being threatened by younger talent or changing world and a slight critique of the industry itself. Which begs the question - why is it that we seem to have two very similar movies being released at the same time? Why is it that in all elements of life we seem to have fads?

What I think is better though is the storyline itself.Having said last week that the power-thirsty Citizen Kane was poorly done, we see in All About Eve a much better rendition of a Lady Macbeth character. Someone who is willing to do anything to get what she wants, to lie and cheat while all the time smiling demurely. Anne Baxter is not the strongest or best actress I have seen, but the character she portrays is sublime, and incredibly subtle until the big reveal towards the end. In fact I might have gone even further with it, and left it completely until the end, in an Agatha Christie style plot twist.

Having said all of that, I'm not sure that I enjoyed the movie enough to put it into my top100. It was alright, but I don't think it was anything particularly special.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Gran Torino

I'm really struggling to write this review. I'm struggling because every time I watch this movie I find myself a little choked up. I'm struggling because I'm not sure just exactly how I can explain my love for this movie.

One of my old flatmates used to complain because all of the movies I owned had a certain theme to them in her mind. I only seemed to watch triumphant movies, where after initial struggles the main character (or team in the case of sports movies) would come good. And to be fair to her, she was partly right.

I love watching movies where the faults and flaws of the individual end up getting resolved. To me it shows the idea that redemption is possible in everything. You can be a crotchety old man, with a racist mean streak, as Eastwood is in Gran Torino, yet still learn that not everyone is exactly who you think they are. People will always surprise you and many times do, or be, the exact opposite of what you expect.

I love the development of the characters in this movie. Everything is so simple, yet so incredibly believable - which is particularly remarkable when you consider that so few of these actors had been in a movie before this one. Eastwood is unbelievable - how he didn't get another Oscar nomination for this movie I will never ever understand.

His character here reminds me of Mr Fredricksen in Up, unable to cope with the difficulties of living in the modern world - or at least perceived that way by all around him. Everything seems to be different from what it was before, yet his life stays remarkably static. Yet it is entirely apt that he warms to the next door neighbours, particularly as they show respect for both themselves and for him.

Perhaps the only slight downfall in the movie is the nastiness of his own kids. I don't understand how any children brought up in the environment that Eastwood's character provided for them would end up the way they did. I just don't think their selfishness would fit with the way in which Eastwood would want them to be - perhaps if he had been absent from their lives then maybe, but in this movie it just doesn't quite fit.

All in all this is well inside my Top 10 movies of all time, and perhaps is even sniffing around the top spot. Beautifully made, beautifully told and beautifully acted.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Citizen Kane

I'm clearly not enough of a cinema buff.

I say that after having watched Citizen Kane this morning, and I am left feeling a bit meh, by the whole thing. I believe that it is one of those movies that if you have any aspirations to make it as a playwright, cameraman or director you must not only have seen it, but also view it as the best movie ever made. For me as a casual movie watcher I am just not convinced.

For me the hype of the film is perhaps what gives it the reputation that it has, which I am not sure is completely justified. I think perhaps if I had seen this film back in the 40s and 50s I could be overawed by ingenuity of it all, but in today's world it is just a little bit dated.

The telling the story from different perspectives is an interesting touch, and is an idea that I could see working really, really well. The problem is that while the story itself is interesting, there are many people (including Shakespeare) who do the whole power hungry thing much, much better. I don't feel that having got to the end of the movie that I am really seeing the level that Kane would go to, to try and make himself happy.

Interesting movie, and yes it is a classic, but I think there are many better movies on this list.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Wanky, pretentious with a vacant story-line.

The idea of Memento is a clever one. Someone having short-term memory issues, who is trying to piece together what has happened based on an array of polaroid snaps, tattoos and scribbled notes, is a very thought provoking idea. And perhaps with a better story-line would work incredibly well. My problem with Memento is that once you get over the reverse narrative, you are left with a great actor telling a pretty ridiculous story-line.

My short term memory is pretty poor so I try to support myself with numerous lists. I always find that if I am trying to remember something that I need to write down in full what it is that I need to do, I can't get away with knots in handkerchiefs and such like. So why then if this character has no short-term memory at all he writes such bland and generic statements?! "Do not trust his lies..." what does that even mean?!!? If he wrote things out in full then there would be no problem... surely he must realise that?!!?

Yes the film is cleverly made, and Christopher Nolan is a genius. But one viewing (or maybe two at most) is enough to get everything you are going to get out of the film. It does leave me with a lot of unanswered questions, but there is almost no way that these questions are ever going to be answered by anyone.

My biggest issue is that I think Nolan is trying too hard to make a movie that everyone is going to talk about. The interest is not so much in entertaining but in showing how clever he is - which admittedly he is, but it is not enough for me. I demand to be entertained!!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I find some of the decisions as to what has made this list quite confusing. Yes I know it has been done by random people on IMDb (which is clearly going to be a certain type of person), but how is it possible that only one of the Python movies makes the Top100?!?!

As it is I love the Holy Grail.

It is probably one of the smartest scripts in the whole list, managing to have me giggling repeatedly over some of the worst insults known to man! At times it is perhaps too smart for its own good, particularly the part with the modern day police force - although that does give it quite a cheap and convenient ending. Alongside that however you have some completely random parts that are not even part of the story that are just brilliant - in one scene a man trying to catch fish with a stick!?!

It does make me wonder what would happen if they were to make that movie today. How much of it would be censored? How much money would be thrown at it, and would that then change the very essence of what makes the film so great? After all if you can afford horses would you have used coconuts?

If you haven't seen this movie then you really should if for no other reason than it has one of the greatest scenes ever:

The Dead Collector: Bring out yer dead.
[a man puts a body on the cart]
Large Man with Dead Body: Here's one.
The Dead Collector: That'll be ninepence.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: What?
Large Man with Dead Body: Nothing. There's your ninepence.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Large Man with Dead Body: Yes he is.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not.
The Dead Collector: He isn't.
Large Man with Dead Body: Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm getting better.
Large Man with Dead Body: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.
The Dead Collector: Well, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I don't want to go on the cart.
Large Man with Dead Body: Oh, don't be such a baby.
The Dead Collector: I can't take him.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I feel fine.
Large Man with Dead Body: Oh, do me a favor.
The Dead Collector: I can't.
Large Man with Dead Body: Well, can you hang around for a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
The Dead Collector: I promised I'd be at the Robinsons'. They've lost nine today.
Large Man with Dead Body: Well, when's your next round?
The Dead Collector: Thursday.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I think I'll go for a walk.
Large Man with Dead Body: You're not fooling anyone, you know. Isn't there anything you could do?
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I feel happy. I feel happy.
[the Dead Collector glances up and down the street furtively, then silences the Body with his a whack of his club]
Large Man with Dead Body: Ah, thank you very much.
The Dead Collector: Not at all. See you on Thursday.
Large Man with Dead Body: Right.

Random, bizarre, hysterical... and on that note I'm off to trawl for some more quotes...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

One flew over the cuckoo's nest

At school we have talked a lot about the idea of deviancy and normality, about what is quirky and what it means to conform. I don't ever remember coming to a conclusion about anything other than perhaps the idea that there must be something wrong mentally with someone when they decide to commit a murder. In discussions on racism the idea of conformity tends to be a really difficult concept for some young minds, yet they themselves are often the ones who wish to follow everyone else and not to stand too far out in a crowd.

So what does it mean to be a deviant? Why is we in society feel that it is okay to suggest that someone is not normal and perhaps needs their behaviours to be corrected? Why is it so difficult for some to accept the idea of mental health issues altogether? Or deal with the person suffering the illness as though they were either stupid or a leper?

For me One flew over a cuckoo's nest was an incredibly interesting concept. A man putting himself into a mental institution for the hope that he would receive an easier ride than what he would get in prison, yet discovers a world where those deemed mentally insane are looked after without any care for actually getting treated. The most revealing scene for me was when it was explained that of the 18 on the ward, perhaps only a third of them were committed with the rest being there voluntarily - why is rehabilitation not playing a larger role than institutionalising them?

The film is brilliant in so many aspects, the acting in particular is astounding - for me perhaps Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito are just awesome. Nicholson is perhaps a little too loose cannon for my liking, although I do like the idea that it may be more to do with trying to blur the boundaries between sane and insane (although I might be reading too much into that!).

I do however agree with Roger Ebert in that there are a couple of points in the film that just don't make sense to me. Why stage a prison break for all of the inmates when the basketball game shows just as much of the characterisation and changing expectations? As Ebert says, "it's an idealised fantasy in a world of realism" and to be it doesn't serve a good enough purpose.

The film is a great movie, it's not my favourite on the list but I can understand why it won Oscars right, left and centre (perhaps not for Nurse Ratched though) and it does definitely deserve to be in the Top100.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


I think I really do have something wrong with me when it comes to films made pre-1990. I automatically look at them and decide that I'm not going to like them, they will be dated and rather twee. Yet whenever I watch one I find that it is incredibly enjoyable. Now granted I may just be watching the better movies from that period, no real surprise there considering I am watching IMDB top 100, but there has so far yet to be a film from an older era that I have enjoyed.

In fact I could go even further and say that as far as most movies go, the pre-70s era are surely going to contain a lot better films as they have to spend more time developing characters and a story line and can't rely on CGI to keep people entertained. Yes we can have stunts and wonderful chase sequences but everything that you see in the movie has to have been able to have been done in real life - which obviously makes the film much more realistic, and in some cases perhaps makes the film a little bit more dramatic.

The film M reminds me a lot of an Agatha Christie novel. Everything has to be built up and explained thoroughly to make sure that the audience knows exactly what is going on. We need to build the suspense as opposed to relying on cheap gimmicks or brutal murder scenes. Furthermore this is all in the days before a CSI-overloaded investigation - so how do you catch a criminal without any clues?

Within M there is no twist, that perhaps Christie would have gone for, simply because there is no need. Almost from the off we know "who-dunnit" and the suspense is in how the police, the public and the criminal underworld try to figure out what we already know.

There are some wonderful scenes building on suspicion. When we have no idea who then quite simply anyone can be it, and how the public become a vigilante mob when they are threatened in such a way. There is also an interesting scene towards the end once the murderer has been caught and is being tried, and it looks like he is almost able to convince the mob that he is unable to control himself - it begins to look like many are starting to emphasise before once again mob rule takes over.

All in all this is a good movie, and is a crime-thriller done particularly well.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A quarter of the way

I think I really need to stop pretending this is a year long challenge!! Heck I still have two (and a half) books to read from last years 50!!

After nearly six months I am a quarter of the way through, and I doubt that I will get to the end by June. I am however going to try my damnedest and get as close as possible to the target.

On a sidenote, I was having a look at the current Top100 on the IMDB list, and while there is a lot of movement up and down the list, there are only three new films coming onto the bottom (the third Star Wars, the Last Crusade and Princess Mononoke), replacing Black Swan, Up and Gran Torino. Not sure I agree about that though.

Cinema Paradiso

Nostalgia is a very interesting concept. I've spent quite a bit of time over the last few weeks and months thinking about the past, particularly as things in the present have become a little more testing of late. A few weeks ago I spent the weekend in Aberdeen with a few friends from university. We spent time reminiscing and I looked back pretty fondly of my time as a student, and in a way wished life was as good as it was then.

The problem with nostalgia though is that it requires you to ignore all of the difficulties. It requires you to wear a pair of rose tinted spectacles, and to only see the good in everything. Thinking back I do have some regrets of things that were missed of my time at uni, and part of me does wish to go back and do it all again.

Which brings me on to Cinema Paradiso. I knew nothing about this film before it appeared on this list, in fact I hadn't even heard of it. I was a little disappointed in the fact that I only got the theatrical version of the film and not the Directors cut, although on having read up on what was cut, I'm not so sure.

The film itself is very interesting, and I do love a bit of nostalgia - particularly for something with a bit of history in it. As I said previously in a post, I would loved to have been in 1920s/30s America, I think I may add 1950s Southern Italy to that category too. It's very weird, in that I don't think I want to live in a small town now, but all of my historical fantasies have me in a small community like the one portrayed in this film.

What I'm not so fixated on here is the storyline itself. I like some of the ideas, like the need to leave the town to follow your dreams, but I'm just not convinced that the dreams were ever developed before Salvatore left. I loved the relationship between Alfredo and Salvatore, particularly when Salvatore was a young boy. I just felt that overall the storyline was a bit weak for a film in the Top 100.

It is definitely worth watching, but at the moment I am undecided about its merits. Maybe after a few weeks of reminiscing I might be in a better position to decide!

Thursday, 24 November 2011


I think Inception is one of those films that you either love or you hate. I am very much in the former camp.

Alongside the Matrix I think it is genuinely one of the smartest movie ideas ever. The idea of going inside someone's dreams in order to see what their subconscious is saying, then try to make changes to it without them realising - simply ingenious. Obviously the reality of it is completely ridiculous, how in God's name could you ever invade someone's subconscious!?!?

I am still scratching my head over some parts of the movie. In fact there are new things that crop up every time I watch the movie that make no sense to me. I still have questions of how Cobb makes it back at the end, of how if there is no gravity that the lift plummets to the ground, and why no one tries to properly make out with Ellen Page!?! This time my question revolves around how Arthur knows exactly what he needs to do when they enter his subconscious, yet everyone else struggles to remember why they are there.

Having said that I do love a movie that makes you think. There are some movies out there (even one of my favourite movies, Usual Suspects) that you can only really watch once or twice, because once you know what happens in the end it loses its magic slightly. With Inception I genuinely think I could watch it a dozen times and still have questions about the film.

Christopher Nolan is an absolute genius. The cast is brilliant, and Ellen Page is totally underrated... Definitely one to watch.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


So another Western on the list, and another involving the simply sublime Clint Eastwood. Have I been converted to the joys of Westerns yet? Not even close...

I certainly prefer this film to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is surprising considering their positions on the list. What I am struggling with is an explanation of why I prefer Unforgiven.

I suppose part of it has to come down to the film containing two of my favourite actors, in Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman. If I ever get the opportunity to cast a villain in a movie it would without a doubt be Hackman, and if you need a trusty sidekick I can't look past Freeman.

In this movie however I don't think either of them are really at their best, and it is partly down to the fact that I don't think we really get to grips with why they are doing what they are doing. Why is it that Freeman decides to follow Eastwood? He seems happy in his life, he doesn't seem desirous of the money, and indeed seems to spend most of the initial meeting trying to persuade Eastwood not to go. Similarly we never really understand why Hackman is so against violence.

Reading reviews of the film you get the idea that it demonstrates the "darkness" of the genre, and the horrific-ness of Western killings. Sure I can see that, particularly Freeman and Eastwood's response when they kill the first cowboy, or the kid's response after killing the second. What I don't see is the depth of that feeling.

The final issue I have is in the rather bizarre role played by Richard Harris. Great actor, but why is he in this movie? What possible need is there for his character?? To me it seems rather superfluous.

So I'm still not a Western fan, the movie is good, acting is good, but it's not in my Top100.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sunset Boulevard

I've always thought that I would have loved to have been alive during the early nineteenth century, and that over any other period in history would have been the one for me. Over the last few months I think that is starting to change, and it is films like this that are making me think that sometime between the 1920s and 1940s would have been an absolute thrill - particularly in Hollywood.

The story itself is not the best, in fact I would say it is quite poor in comparison to others on this list, but the ideas are brilliant. The glitz and glamour, while subtly mocked in the movie, is still breathtaking and the more I read into the writing and production of the movie the more entranced by the whole thing I become.

Norma Desmond is a little too over the top to be comfortable, but it does fit in with what the movie is trying to achieve. A prima donna ex star falling but without any realisation that the world has left her behind, does require a certain ignorance and Swanson plays it well. Holden is the typical Hollywood masculine lead - irritating, but perhaps slightly better than how current Hollywood would portray him as.

The other nice touch in the movie is how many actors portray themselves - names that I have heard but never actually seen. The mocking of Hollywood is done in such a subtle way, that these people can play themselves without needing to resort to slapstick to get across the excessive extravagance of Hollywood. Swanson even manages to mock herself with various elements of her own past being brought into the movie.

The story is a little disappointing, but the acting, the ideas and the showing of a fantastic period of Hollywood history definitely make this worthy of its Top50 status.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Forrest Gump

I started watching this movie this evening because I was in the mood for a film that would make me laugh - I had, however, forgotten just how sad it actually is.

I always find it hard when books or films try to force their characters to become important people, to end up lucky and for everything to be great in the end, irrespective of what they are trying to do. Despite this happening throughout the movie, it is done in such an innocent way that you just can't fault it.

The blending of history and fiction is done remarkably well, and you can believe that someone like Forrest could end up having done all of those things without ever realising he has done them.

I like the movie's simplicity. I like how deep down in all of it, it is a love story, and perhaps a supporter of the idea of fate. For me it makes me sad, when I try and figure out what my fate is destined to be.

A great movie, with some great acting. Definitely Top100.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Matrix

Over the last couple of years I have had the unlucky job of teaching RME at school - not so much unlucky for me I suppose but unlucky for those who were on the receiving end of my ridiculously poor knowledge of anything religious. Moral education I can just about manage, as long as it was do the exact opposite of what I was doing... we'll see how they all get on. My favourite thing however were the discussions with one class in particular about why are we here, does god exist, do we have free will to do anything, etc, etc. The best discussion out of all of them was what was real...

Which brings me to the Matrix. I defy anyone to watch this film and not question whether or not it has a grain of truth within it. As mouse questions at one point in the film, how do we know what anything tastes like?? When we see a colour what does that colour actually look like to each individual person?

This film totally freaks me out, but it is genius.

I've been told there are Christian allegories to be made here, but as I stated above I am pretty useless at spotting anything remotely religious. It does raise some great questions about the purpose of life, and what it all means. How hard is it to imagine that we are currently all existing in some form of dream state? Hell most of us seem to believe in some form of mythical being as a reason for us being here, why can't that mythical being be our own imagination?

So far this is probably one of the smartest movies on the list. It makes you think, as well as being an action packed movie - who doesn't enjoy the shoot-out in the lobby?!

For me this is a great movie, and well deserving of its top 100 status.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

North by Northwest

Despite being a big fan of the movies I tend to stray away from the old classics. I'm not really sure why though. I mean it is not as though all of my favourite movies need the latest and greatest amount of special effects. I quite like movies that are clever, and manage to allow you to spend an hour or so totally engrossed in the story-line. To me movies are about escapism, and in the days before special effects surely they had to try much harder to get that.

So as one of the first proper old movies I have watched so far in this challenge, how did it fair?

Simply put this is a great movie.

The simplicity of the plot and the way it manages to pull you through the various twists and turns is brilliant. The arrogance of Cary Grant's character holds the whole thing together beautifully, and to me at least made the film even more believable - I could actually see this happening to him!!

What surprised me most of all though was just how racy the whole film was. The scene with Grant and Saint in the train carriage is much more explicit than I ever thought a 1950s film would be.

Clearly I have got it wrong... maybe it is time to watch more of these films?!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Back to the Future

Total coincidence, but the date that Marty goes back to is the 5th of November!! very spooky...

Anyway I couldn't quite end the evening having watched one of the saddest films on the list, particularly after such a long week. So I thought I would make it up by watching one of my favourite films from childhood. I think one of the weirdest things about it though is that I hardly remembered any of it!

As far as 'kids' films go this is one of the best.

Who hasn't dreamed of the idea of being able to travel back (or forward) in time - maybe not to nearly break your mother and father up before they have got together (although in my case I wouldn't be surprised if they would have been grateful for that!!) but certainly to just see what life was like.

The film itself is not the greatest film ever made, but I still love it. The perfect film to switch off too.

The Pianist

I'm not quite sure what possessed me to watch this film at the end of an incredibly long and difficult week. It's certainly not the most cheery on the list, or one where you can just switch off.

I had in fact forgotten just how emotional this film was, so much so that I regretted starting to watch it while my pizza was getting delivered - it really isn't the sort of film you can stuff your face during.

I've spent a fair bit of time over the last few months discussing the Holocaust, and I even went on a trip to Auschwitz back in September. Which makes this film all the more harder to watch, when you see where Szpilman could have ended up, and perhaps brings home exactly how hard life must have been for the Jewish Poles in 1940s.

The film is beautifully made. Polanski has made a film that has managed to stay away from the Hollywood cliches that have dogged many of the historical movies on this list, and indeed off this list. Perhaps my favourite thing about this movie is Adrien Brody, who is so unbelievably deserving of his Oscar - his portrayal of Szpilman is just captivating.

For me perhaps the only surprising thing with this film is that it doesn't break into the Top50, and perhaps more surprising has an Arnold Schwarzenegger film above it!?!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


So with about 20 million, squillion things that I need to do tonight I decided that it would be more productive to watch a children's movie for the second time in six months. A few caveats to that would be that I hadn't decided on the list last time I watched it and the other would be that lovefilm decided that this was the next DVD that I could watch. 

I should perhaps start by saying I don't hate the film. It is not my favourite pixar movie, which will always be Cars (closely followed by Toy Story), but it is certainly an enjoyable movie. 

As usual with Pixar it is their attention to detail that always impresses me. The ability to make you forget that you are watching an animated cartoon (obviously the flying house is a bit of a giveaway in this film), but their characterisation, facial expressions and even the way they have things move about the scene. 

I love the relationship between Mr Fredericksen and Russell, and the reluctance of a grumpy old man to become taken by the effervescent youthfulness of the young wilderness scout. Perhaps all the funnier for me knowing a couple of scouts who I imagine would be exactly like that! 

The film is slightly more poignant that the usual fair from Pixar, but at the same time the story is beautifully told. It certainly makes me think about the childhood dreams I had and why as yet I have not fulfilled them... although I am pretty sure diving into a swimming pool of money like Scrooge McDuck would hurt a hell of a lot! Still a boy can dream!!

Does Up deserve its top100 billing? No probably not. Certainly not while Toy Story is missing. But it is an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two when you should be working... 

Monday, 24 October 2011


I know as both a Unionist and a History teacher I am supposed to hate everything about the film Braveheart. Unfortunately I just can't do it. There is something in me that just warms to the idea of an underdog realising their dreams.

What I can't understand though is quite why Mel Gibson decided to tell the story in this way. I can forgive the Hollywoodising in the introduction of Sophie Marceau even though she didn't marry the future Edward II until 1308. I can forgive the Hollywoodising of the supposed relationship between Wallace and Bruce, even though there are no records of them ever meeting. I can even forgive the rather dramatic death of Wallace, from the point where he was betrayed by a senior noble to the Scotsman's new favourite catchphrase "FREEEEEEDDDDDOOOMMM".

What I can't understand, and therefore as yet I am unable to forgive, is how you can have a Battle of Stirling Bridge, with no castle and, perhaps slightly more noticeable, no bridge.

Every time I get the pleasure of teaching the Scottish Wars of Independence at school, I am left baffled by Gibson's decision to leave out the bridge. The true story is the one that surely should be the Hollywoodised one? Arrogant Englishman try to cross a small bridge to defeat a peasant filled Scottish army and instead get annihilated - surely easy prey for a Hollywood director?

And once again I have got bogged down in the standard fare when someone in the know tries to explain William Wallace.

For me as a 12 year old boy living in England this film was brilliant. Not just for the atmosphere in the film, or the ability to slag off my new mates but for the fact that provided a gateway to discovering the true history of Scotland. I can't watch a movie any more without googling something at the end, be it the accuracy of the story or the name (and filmography) of one of the actors (usually the attractive actress...), and in Braveheart I discovered the joys of the real Wallace.

The film itself is triumphant, suspenseful and dramatic, even if it doesn't hold true it is still a great movie. I'm just not sure it is in Oscar winning territory though...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

American History X

This is the first film I have watched so far that would make it easily into my own Top 10 all time greatest movies, and in a way I am slightly surprised that it only made it to 38 in the IMDB list.

I often get asked by kids at school why people got taken in by the Nazi's. Why normal every day people didn't do anything to stop the persecution of Jews, or sometimes even got involved in it. I get asked why people were so racist towards black people in America pre-1960s. Or even simply why there is so much hate in the world today.

This film encapsulates how easy it is to follow, and how easy it is to follow hatred. When things go wrong in your world it is easy to look outwards for someone to blame, someone who can take that burden from you. Within the film the death of Derek's father, sees him disappear into a web of violence, hate and destruction. Perhaps what is more worrying is the ease in which his brother follows him into that world - without ever really stopping to think about what he is doing.

Ed Norton is one of my all time favourite actors and in this movie he is outstanding. In fact all of the actors here are brilliant. Elliot Gould's portrayal of one of the teachers is mesmerising, particularly his silent shock and lack of action with Norton's attack on his family - perhaps one of the clearest explanations of why little action is taken against a mob. I am also entranced by the performance of one of the black gang members at Danny's school, who (without spoiling the film for those who haven't seen it) gives a single look to the camera in one of the final scenes in the film that shows all the futility of hate, yet at the same time the lack of choice that many gang members feel.

All in all this is a brilliant movie.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

I don't really get Westerns. I don't understand in my simplistic world view as to why we should be supporting the "baddies" against the Law. I'm not someone who wants the baddie to win, unless it is against another badder baddie and they secretly all along are really on the good side.

Which is why I find this film a bit bizarre. I am meant to enjoy watching three bad guys relate to each other over trying to find stolen money. I perhaps am meant to identify with the "Good" in Clint Eastwood, who kills people and steals money, or identify with the "Bad" who does exactly the same (without any more sadism) or even identify with the "Ugly" who isn't particularly ugly...

I know I am supposed to recognise the futility of war as it plays out in the background to the main story - and I do. Which then would suggest that the main story of trust amongst people (and thieves) is then a better way to live our lives. Or maybe Leone is suggesting that it is all futile?

Either way I am just confused as to what Leone's message is to us - if indeed there is one.

What is good about this film is that the acting is very good. Wallach in particular as "Ugly" is brilliant, and anyone who can pull of a moustache like van Cleef as "Bad" deserves credit. The music as well is typical Morricone, and is brilliant at building the suspense. The ending too has the potential to be outstanding although I think it fell slightly short, particularly compared to other films on this list.

I suppose my final thought is a more spurious one, and is one that I can identify in many films and tv shows throughout the ages. If a gun in this film generally holds six bullets, why is it that no one ever seems to need to reload?!

By all means this is a good film. It is perhaps one of the better Westerns, although my knowledge is admittedly weak. I'm just not sure it merits its Top 5 placing.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Lives of Others

I really haven't been in the mood to watch this movie. I got it through the post about three weeks ago as my latest Lovefilm/Tesco offering, and I have found other things to do instead.

I'm not quite sure what it is about films in a foreign language, but they have a fairly negative reaction in me. That feeling is particularly strange because as yet I don't think I have seen a film in a foreign language that I thought was shit, yet every time I get offered such a movie a feeling of dread stirs up inside me.

Yet again I have been proven to be wrong about this.

Like many of the books I read last year the blurb seems to be written by either a complete moron or by someone who has never actually watched the film, and I think it was partly this that put me off watching the movie for so long. The blurb does the film no justice, it is quite simply one of the most beautiful films I have seen yet in this Top 100.

Yeah it does have quite a slow start, and it doesn't exactly hide what is going to happen in the end, but the way in which the film is constructed is just captivating. As the truth is revealed to Dreyman in the last 15 minutes you can't help but be caught in the emotion.

This is without a doubt one of the best films I have seen so far in this challenge, the story is beautiful, the acting is superb although what probably tops it all off is the soundtrack.

This is without a doubt a must see.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Pulp Fiction

There is something wrong with Quentin Tarantino. The guy is certifiable.

That may sound like a damning indictment of his work, but I am actually quite a big fan, and he is one of the few directors whose films I would actually look out for.

Pulp Fiction is made doubly better by the presence of both Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta, and (rather disappointingly) the smallest cameo ever of Steve Buscemi.

Tarantino's skill is in creating some very smart dialogue. For me however his real strength is in creating some very believable characters - which considering we are talking about gangsters in both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and the Bride in Kill Bill is no mean feat. I love the way in which he builds his characters, even bit part characters like the Zed and Maynard get some development.

For me this is a film that should be safely in the Top 100, and I think its spot a number 5 is probably fair. It's not a film that I could watch again and again but it is one that is eminently enjoyable every time I do.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Dark Knight

I've never been a comic book fan, at least not outside of the Beano. I do however have a massive love for superhero movies - unless M Night Shyamalan has had anything to do with them...

Nolan's Batman trilogy is up there with the best of them (although for comedic value Iron Man would probably take the plaudits).

The Dark Knight as the second installment is in a word Awesome.

From Heath Ledger's demonic and chaotic Joker, through Aaron Eckhardt's destroyed face the film is so well put together. Even Michael Caine manages to not annoy me as Alfred, and while disappointing that Katie Holmes didn't come back to play Rachel Maggie Gyllenhaal is a very suitable replacement.

It is always disappointing when plaudits are thrown at actors or musicians that are sadly taken before their time. But in the case of Ledger the only sad thing is that he can only win one Oscar for this role, and it was very much earned. Not even Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs comes close to the sheer sadism that Ledger brings to the Joker.

Nolan's trilogy is far better than the Clooney, Keaton, Kilmer versions of the 90s, and I very much cannot wait for the Dark Knight Rises (and not just for Anne Hathaway in a cat suit...).

Pan's Labyrinth

Okay so this year seems to be going just as badly as last year in terms of my project! I am woefully far behind in watching films - although I am being a lot better about posting up reviews (even if this one is a month late!)

I suppose part of the reason it has taken me so long to write this is that I wasn't a huge fan of the film. Yes it was magical and mystical, and I think had the potential to be simply wonderful.

I suppose I didn't really appreciate how difficult Ofelia's life was that resulted in her over active imagination. If you compare with say Mathilda in Leon you get so much more of the backstory that helps you understand the character so much more.

I also had difficulties with the "pitchfork" ending, but I won't spoil it for anyone who does actually want to see it.

By all means it's worth seeing but it wouldn't make by top 100.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

LA Confidential

I have tried so many times to read a book by Ellroy. I borrow them from friends or family, I maybe read a page or two, get bogged down in a very gritty dark story and give up before moving onto something nice and Hollywood.

The reviews of the film almost all talk about the wonderful characterisation, and how well written and developed each of the characters are. I have a problem with this opinion in that for me I don't like the coldness of the characters and lack of empathy (possibly excluding Spacey's character) I have for them is not something I like in a movie.

I watch movies as an escape from reality, I want to laugh with the characters, cry with them, cheer them on to victory, etc. LA Confidential is very much an arty movie that was designed to win Oscars - although unfortunately was released the same year as Titanic and Good Will Hunting. The pretentiousness of the movie makes it very difficult to be watched lightly (or even repeatedly) and so despite owning this movie for ten years now, I have only maybe watched in twice.

I guess that all suggests that I don't really like the movie, but I do. I can appreciate arty movies, I just don't necessarily like them as much as others.

The casting in LA Confidential is outstanding, and while Russell Crowe disappointingly plays a rather straight character for once, the relationship between him and Guy Pearce is brilliant. The portrayal of two people who detest each other but gain a grudging respect is exceptionally believable - nowadays that wouldn't be so hard to believe about the two actors but when you consider this was their first big movie in the US it makes it somewhat more enjoyable.

The story itself is fairly typical of a cop movie - there isn't much difference from the Departed except for the lack of any non-cop villains. The 1950s backdrop however is what sets this movie apart from the Departed and to me at least would push it much higher up the list of Top 100.

Definitely worth seeing - just make sure you are giving it time and concentration.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


Something never sat right with me about Gary Oldman playing Sirius Black in the new Harry Potter movies. It worked very well for Prisoner of Azkhaban when he was supposed to be this incredibly shady character who may (or may not) be out to kill Harry. When he becomes a slightly fluffier godfather type figure it just doesn't seem right. Gary Oldman is at his best when playing a sick and sadistic character - as Stansfield in Leon he is just that.

If I was choosing a bad guy for a movie I think Gary Oldman would definitely be competing with Andy Garcia for the role. In choosing the other side Jean Reno would probably not lead the band of merry men, but he would most definitely be there; while who can look past Natalie Portman as the leading lady?!

Leon is a stonker of a movie, with a stupendous cast. Oldman's character is completely psychotic against the rather cool exterior of Leon himself - which I guess is the ironic part of the movie considering their respective occupations as policeman and hitman. For me what is a bit disappointing is that there are not more scenes with the two actors together - I guess that is partly to do with the fact that there probably isn't much to say to each other and neither seems the sort to ask first shoot later.

I'm having real trouble trying to classify this movie, it's not a classic, one-of-a-kind movie or a bog-standard thriller with the Hollywood-ending. It is something that is bizarrely a nice heart-warming tale about a man taking in a young dysfunctional girl and teaching her how to kill so that one day she may avenge her brother's killing... like I say, bizarre...

Anyway definitely one to watch and would easily make it into my Top 100 films of all time.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Raiders of the Lost Ark

I seem to be falling into the same trap this year as I did last year... all this free time over the summer should be spent making a big dent into the challenge. Instead I am woefully behind, and sadly not in blog posts but in actually watching the movies!!

With a quiet evening tonight I thought it was time to revisit good old Indiana Jones. Sadly it is only the first movie that has made the list, which for me is doubly sad as it is (of the original three) my least favourite of the trilogy. The Last Crusade is definitely the best of the three - largely due to Sean Connery, who for a while I was under the misapprehension that he was much closer in age to Harrison Ford than he actually is.

Anyway Raiders of the Lost Ark is a good movie, although I am a bit put out that is rated only a PG, some of the scenes are pretty gruesome - and thats not just the early 80s special effects. I am very much with Indy that there are one too many snakes around, and for that alone it deserves a much higher rating (and yes I am aware that being 28 there is no rating that would stop me from being able to watch the film!).

There is not much more I can really say about the movie. There definitely should be at least one Indy movie in the Top 100 (although this one wouldn't be my choice) and for a 1980s film the lead actress is surprisingly attractive!

It's a Wonderful Life

It’s sad to say but until yesterday I had never seen this movie; a Christmas staple that had somehow passed me by. I was therefore pretty happy that it had made the list (almost as happy as I was to have a disk from tesco film that wadn’t scratched to buggery!). 

I was slightly sceptical at the start... yes it was made in 1946, but why Capra thought the best way to depict angels talking was through the use of blinking stars (and galaxies) I am not quite sure. To me it was just a touch too corny, although I dread to think what Capra might have used if not for stars - I can just picture the costumes! Thankfully though the film got much better. 

The premise of the film is something that I think all of us ask ourselves in our lowest moments – would anything be different if I wasn’t here? At least I hope it is not just something that I ask myself... And I think the film demonstrates quite well the impact that one single person can have on all of those around him. Yes George Bailey is a little bit of a martyr, but I also know I would be much the same as him - my inability to say no has led me to continue doing a job that I resigned from last month! 

I also quite like the idea that everything that happens in life is tied to everything else - although if I am being slightly pedantic Harry Bailey would have been unlikely to have been goaded into sliding down the hill on a spade (how fun does that look!?!) by his brother if indeed his brother wasn't there! I like the idea of what goes around, comes around - with the simple message if you help others then they will hopefully help you when you need it. 

As always being a sucker for a happy ending, I very much enjoyed the film. 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Toy Story 3

I think as I get older I have become more sentimental, either that or kid's films are not quite as happy and joyous as I remember. Certainly Toy Story 3 tugs at the heart strings from beginning to end...

First I have to make issue with the fact that the third in the series makes the list but Toy Story the original and greatest Pixar film doesn't?!? Someone somewhere will have to explain that one to me, my only conclusion is that TS3 only came out last year and therefore over time it will disappear from the list.

I was one of those kids who imagined that my toys got out to play when I wasn't there, I never really played with them myself mind so I suppose it was only right that I imagined that they could play with themselves. So the concept of Toy Story was one that I immediately found solace in. Also being someone in touch with their sensitive side (aka a big jessie) the idea of giving things up, or putting them into storage I find very hard to do - hell my favourite teddy from childhood is sitting next to me as I write this, and is probably one of the few things I would run into a burning building for (my old flatmates were a bit upset at this fact...).

I really don't think TS3 is the best of the trilogy, its a good film, but is largely carried by the same idea from TS2 and the original Toy Story. TS3 doesn't do anything particularly special but I certainly found myself wondering how they were going to extricate themselves from the mess they got into. A good way to wile away an hour or two, but definitely not Top100 material...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Departed

And so it begins, have fallen behind again!! The last month or so has been pretty manic with finishing up another year at school and trying to throw everything together for next year. To top it all off I tried to sit down to watch the Departed a couple of nights ago and was presented with yet another dodgy disk from Tescofilm... I'm not exactly delirious about the service they are offering me right now. In fact I was very nearly ready to cancel my subscription tonight as my laptop starting churning when I put the disk but it was rescued by my old trusty portable DVD player - I knew that would come in handy some day!

Anyway the film...

It's not the first time I have seen the Departed, and I liked it when I first saw it. Second viewing is probably needed though. I'm not sure right now if it is worthy to be in the Top100, it's certainly a good movie but I'm not sure it is one that I would say you have to watch. The premise of two people undercover, one in the police and one in a criminal gang is pretty clever, but I'm not sure how well Scorsese pulls it off. I would have loved to have seen them make it a bit more of surprise as to who was who - but then as we have established already I am a sucker for twists and turns in a movie.

The cast however is truly fantastic, and DiCaprio and Damon play their respective rolls really, really well. The angst of DiCaprio as he forced to go undercover and take part in more and more violent acts is so incredibly believably. Nicholson's performance reminds me of Heath Ledger as the Joker - slightly manic and you have no real idea of what he is going to do next. I do struggle however to see Jed Bartlett, I mean Martin Sheen as anything other than in his West Wing role!

I suppose for me the real disappointment is the ending. I remember reading about when they ran out of money on the Italian Job they threw together a cliff-hangar in the truest sense of the word. In the Departed is seems like they ran out of money and thought I know what we can do, let's just kill as many characters as possible in the shortest amount of time. Oh and one of the bit part characters who we introduced earlier on will turn up and make it all fit together so that people won't be too confused... To me this puts it on a par with Vanilla Sky's random elevator scene where the guy explains to Tom Cruise's character what it has all been about, because we are just too lazy to try to explain it any other way...

Good film, great cast, ridiculous ending... worth watching, probably not Top 100 material

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Prestige

I was in sixth form when the Sixth Sense came out at the cinema, and unlike many of the people in my school I didn't go and see it the weekend it came out. That proved to be a big mistake when in the common room one afternoon and some loudmouth revealed the plot twist. When I went to see the movie that weekend I spent most of the time trying to work out if I would have been able to guess what was going to be revealed thus ruining the only good movie M Night Shyamalan has ever made... although that isn't really saying much...

I love movies with a twist, particularly one that is so unexpected (Usual Suspects and The Game spring to mind here), which is why I found the Prestige a little disappointing. I'm not saying all movies must have a twist for me to enjoy them, but if they do have a twist I want it to be something so surprising and unexpected that it leaves me with that sense of awe - and in the case of the Usual Suspects or The Game a desire to watch the movie again and again to see what cues I missed.

The Prestige tries to twist and turn its way through what I feel was a slightly disappointing storyline, where the only real dilemma I had was which character was the most annoying (Bale as a result of his accent). I hate sounding so big headed but the surprise twists weren't surprises to me; while I hadn't reached a firm conclusion all the "surprises" were thoughts that had already popped into my head as the story developed.

This film surprised me in being in the Top 100, even before I had seen it, and having watched it my opinion hasn't changed. If you want to see a movie like this then I would suggest watching the Illusionist instead - better story, better twist, only let down by a lack of either Piper Perabo or Scarlett Johansson...

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Reliant as I am on Tesco DVD rental, I take them as they arrive on my doorstep.

Which means rather unceremoniously the first film of the 100 is WALL-E... certainly not the one I would have imagined choosing to start the ball rolling!

I think this may actually be the saddest Disney film since Bambi, although is nowhere near the shear brutality of an American Tale - a film that traumatized me more as an 8 year old than my surreptitious viewing of Arachnaphobia, It or indeed Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting in Terminator 2... (unbelievably it is on this list - crazy people).

I think what makes this film work so well for me is that so much is left unsaid; the explanatory monologues that often plague Hollywood films, particularly those with unexpected twists, are unnecessary here. The problems in WALL-E's world are displayed for all to see, we don't need a news reporter or voiceover to explain what has happened and that is what is so stark about it all.

Yes it is a cartoon, but the parallels with our life of over consumption, monopolisation and living our life over the internet (Ed- yes I am aware of the hypocrisy as I type this on my mac, and then post it to facebook...) perhaps leave us with a warning for the future.

Oh and WALL-E and EVE are really cute together... God I hate being single!!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

A few explanations and clarifications

I debated quite long and hard over which top 100 list to go with, and it would seem that there are quite a few out there. In the end I plumped for the IMDB list, because it had a decent range of films both old and modern, was updated constantly and by people who I assume actually like films (although I know not why Inglorious Basterds is on there...)

I am conscious that I have seen about 40 of these films and I own about 20 of them, but the challenge is not so much to watch lots of new films, but to watch what are regarded as the best films. That and I don't think you can ever watch Shawshank Redemption too many times!

A new year... a new challenge!

So I may have failed miserably last year with the 50 books challenge, but as history tells us if at first you don't succeed then try and try again (unless of course it is Sky-diving...).

I did manage 45 of the 50 books last year and truthfully I am quite pleased with that, particularly as I never thought I would get close after getting stuck on Justfied Sinner back in September, October time. I still have Tolstoy and Dumas to read but I will get to them eventually, particularly with my new shiny Kindle...

So this year I want to set myself something just as self-improving, but perhaps a slightly easier goal to achieve in a year. To that end I have set myself the challenge to