Monday, 28 May 2012

The List

1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 25th December
2. The Godfather (1972) 16th April
3. The Godfather: Part II (1974) 16th April
4. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) 22nd October
5. Pulp Fiction (1994) 15th October
6. 12 Angry Men (1957) 10th March
7. Schindler's List (1993) 10th April
8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 3rd December
9. Inception (2010) 23rd November
10. The Dark Knight (2008) 6th October
11. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 4th April
12. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 27th December
13. Seven Samurai (1954) 7th March
14. Fight Club (1999) 21st January
15. Goodfellas (1990) 31st March
16. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) 4th April
17. Casablanca (1942) 29th February
18. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 27th December
19. City of God (2002) 23rd December
20. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) 25th February
21. Rear Window (1954) 23rd January
22. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 8th August
23. The Matrix (1999) 10th November
24. Psycho (1960) 29th February
25. The Usual Suspects (1995) 21st March
26. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 23rd May
27. Se7en (1995) 11th February
28. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) 7th August
29. Memento (2000) 7th December
30. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) 27th December
31. Forrest Gump (1994) 11th November
32. Sunset Boulevard (1950) 15th November
33. Leon (1994) 9th August
34. Toy Story 3 (2010) 13th July
35. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) 18th January
36. Apocalypse Now (1979) 3rd April
37. Citizen Kane (1941) 8th December
38. American History X (1998) 23rd October
39. North by Northwest (1959) 9th November
40. American Beauty (1999) 28th December
41. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) 14th April
42. Taxi Driver (1976) 8th February
43. Saving Private Ryan (1998) 11th January
44. Alien (1979) 3rd March
45. Vertigo (1958) 28th May
46. Amelie (2001) 23rd December
47. Spirited Away (2001) 20th April
48. The Shining (1980)
49. Paths of Glory (1957)
50. City Lights (1931)
51. WALL•E (2008) 12th June
52. The Pianist (2002) 5th November
53. Double Indemnity (1944)
54. M (1931) 1st December
55. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
56. The Lives of Others (2006) 20th October
57. A Clockwork Orange (1971) 4th July
58. The Departed (2006) 13th July
59. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) 8th April 
60. Aliens (1986) 3rd March
61. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) 18th January
62. Requiem for a Dream (2000) 14th March
63. Das Boot (1981) 24th March
64. Modern Times (1936)
65. Reservoir Dogs (1992) 29th December
66. The Third Man (1949) 2nd January
67. Life Is Beautiful (1997) 25th April
68. L.A. Confidential (1997) 13th August
69. Chinatown (1974) 15th May
70. Back to the Future (1985) 5th November
71. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
72. The Prestige (2006) 15th June
73. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) 5th December
74. Cinema Paradiso (1988) 27th November
75. Raging Bull (1980) 14th March
76. The Green Mile (1999) 22nd February
77. Pan's Labyrinth (2006) 14th September
78. Once Upon a Time in America (1984) 12th April
79. Rashomon (1950) 26th February
80. Singin' in the Rain (1952) 31st March
81. Some Like It Hot (1959) 29th April
82. Amadeus (1984) 10th February
83. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 21st March
84. All About Eve (1950) 15th December
85. The Great Dictator (1940)
86. Bicycle Thieves (1948) 4th February
87. Full Metal Jacket (1987) 13th February
88. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 23rd May
89. Braveheart (1995) 24th October
90. The Apartment (1960) 18th March
91. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
92. Black Swan (2010) 10th April
93. Gladiator (2000) 17th December
94. Metropolis (1927)
95. Downfall (2004) 2nd July
96. Oldboy (2003) 2nd February
97. Unforgiven (1992) 19th November
98. Up (2009) 26th October
99. The Sting (1973) 14th April
100. Gran Torino (2008) 10th December

The list taken on the 9th of June 2011

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Black Swan

I thought watching this movie for a second time would be much easier, but truthfully the second viewing was perhaps more uncomfortable than watching the first time. This is the definition of a psychological thriller perhaps even more for the viewer than for Natalie Portman's character. 

The film leaves me somewhat undecided about it's merits. Films are generally supposed to be enjoyable affairs that allow the viewer to escape reality for a short-time, to be entertained and perhaps find some solace with the characters. If this is the case then Black Swan really does not merit it's placing anywhere near the Top100. 

On the technical side however this film is possibly one of the best movies ever made. It is incredibly uncomfortable watching someone have a breakdown in front of you in the space of two hours. Even on second viewing when you know what is going to happen there were times where not only did I avert my eyes but I actually left the room. This film is so powerful that it has to be including in this list. 

Portman to me is fantastic in the role. Her portrayal of the character is so believable that it is hard to remember at times that she is acting. From the timid and vapid character to begin with to the dauntless alter-ego of the black swan everything about her role is so beautifully created. 

This is not a movie I think I could watch a third time, but is certainly a movie you have to watch once, and maybe if you are brave a second time. 

Monday, 9 April 2012

Apocalypse Now

First up is a confession that I cheated here and watched the Redux version as opposed to the original, so my view may be slightly tainted by the additional footage - but I owned the Redux version so figured why not!

For the first two hours or so this movie is brilliant. From the opening scene with Martin Sheen struggling to adapt to life outside of the jungle to the murder on the Sampan, it shows everything you ever need to know about war (and not just in Vietnam) and explains the difficulties of it all so well.

The characters you meet throughout the movie are so incredibly real, that even when they are on screen for a short period of time you feel that you know exactly who they are and why they are the way there are. Duvall's portrayal of Kilgore in particular is just awesome: down to his lack of reaction to the dropping bombs and his refusal to give up on his lost surfboard, everything is taken into consideration.

Similarly the river travel scenes are beautifully constructed, showing perfectly well the fluctuating demands of the soldiers - massive periods of inactivity that are interjected with sudden demands that require instant alertness. Both the Sampan scene and the period just after they receive the mail are just brilliant.

You will probably notice however that I have only really complemented the first couple of hours (on the Redux version), and that is because I just don't get the Marlon Brando part of the movie.

When I read Heart of Darkness the character's backstory made sense, Kurtz had to be in that place and therefore his position as a demi-god to the natives made sense. In the film I just don't buy it. Yes Kurtz has gone rogue, and yes he may have disappeared into the wild, but why does he still continue to do battle in the way that he does? Why does he react to Willard the way that he does?

I just don't get it, which is a shame considering how good the film was up until that point.

This is a brilliant movie for at least the first two thirds and is then let down a little. Definitely worth watching for no other reason than you get to see exactly how a war movie should be made.

Singin in the Rain

The best thing about this year's challenge has been discovering some movie classics. I genuinely didn't think I was going to enjoy these films, worrying that they would pale in comparison to today's movies. What I suppose I had forgotten was that in the 1950s and 60s there was very little in the way of special effects, so what you could do is what you could get.

Singin' in the Rain entertains with a very simple story-line, great characters and some wonderful touches. Yes everyone remembers the film because of the scene with Gene Kelly tap-dancing down the street (perhaps more for the Morecambe and Wise version?) but the film is much more than that.

Perhaps my only slight criticism is just how long the songs and dances go on for, which is why this film has become such a success on the stage. For the movie however there are times where for me the musical elements are just ever so slightly too long and begin to make the story drag - I'm thinking particularly the scene where Don is getting elocution lessons, where the dance seems to go on forever!

However the humour is good, and I love the little touches that highlight the difficulties of those early talkie days and the power that the studios had over their actors. This is a great movie and definitely worthy of it's placing in this list.

Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back

I really wish I had been born when Star Wars was first released. It seems to be one of those movies that changed the way that the film industry worked and had a massive impact upon the directors that made the movies that defined my childhood. Which means that I don't really see the allure of the trilogy in the same way that perhaps someone born in the 60s and 70s would.

I can appreciate the groundbreaking use of technology and the attention to the detail in the aesthetics of the movie. The problem is that for me the story itself and the detail in the characterisation is nothing more than superficial. The prequel trilogy does go someway to explain most of what is going on, but those movies were twenty years later in being made and as such is not a defense for the first three films.

At times I'm caught trying to figure out whether these movies are supposed to be serious or humourous. Should I be looking for the moral message in the fight between good and evil, or look for meaning in the use of the force by the Jedis? Or should I be laughing along with the Muppet-aliens and the corny script?

The corniest part of the two movies under review here is definitely the final scene of the New Hope, where we see Han Solo and Luke Skywalker awarded medals for their service. The medal ceremony I can just about forgive, but the rousing soundtrack and cheesy smiles between the characters is just too much - particularly when R2D2 shuffles on - was there really any need?!?

I can understand the cultural heritage, and the historical impact that this series of movies had on the industry, but for me it is a movie that appears in this list because of it's impact upon those who saw it when it was first released. This is one of those movies that you like because it reminds you of your youth which is why BMX Bandits will always trump Star Wars for me.

Definitely worth seeing if you haven't done so before, but don't expect the greatest movies ever made.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird

There are some books that just shouldn't be made into films. This is without a doubt one of them.

From start to finish this film makes a travesty of one of the best books ever written. The book provides suspense and drama with a beautiful well-paced story. The film tries to condense the story into two hours and in doing so misses almost everything that makes this story great.

There is no tension, or any real discovery by Jem and Scout, over the racial issues that exist in 1930s America. Boo Radley is just a bizarre character that has just been added on to make the book's ending make sense (although it fails at that!). While characters are never introduced nor developed.

Now yes I understand that this is supposed to be told from the perspective of a six year old child so I shouldn't expect a perfect story (unreliable narrator and all that crap). But I would really appreciate some development of Scout's character, some understanding of who she was and who she becomes. The book manages this well, the film is quite frankly pathetic in its attempts.

Gregory Peck is perhaps the only enjoyable part of this movie, and he was well deserving of his Oscar. Sadly for me it wasn't nearly enough to merit this movie being anywhere near a Top 100.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver has given me a great idea for a new challenge - the worst first dates ever. Now I am already fairly well versed on how to be pretty bad at the whole dating game, but the ingenuity of thinking that a porn movie was an acceptable option goes far beyond my own powers. Bravo that man. But can I top it?

Aside from all that Taxi Driver was a very interesting movie that depicts quite well the solitude and loneliness that can affect us all at some point in our life. As de Niro's character battles through life and tries to determine its purpose you get glimpses of the frustration of existence.

The whole thing climaxes in two great scenes, firstly as Bickle attempts to assassinate the Senator and then as he runs amok in the brothel. The level of violence would usually be too much for me, but in this film sits quite well - depicting the brutality and perhaps worhtlessness of life. What I struggle with though is why Scorcese felt the need to continue the film after the brothel scene - does it really add anything to the movie?

Robert de Niro is simply fantastic in this movie, and it is without a doubt one of the greatest acting roles ever delivered. He manages to portray a social outcast and misfit in such a way that you feel both sorry and appalled at him in fairly equal measure.

The film is definitely worth seeing for the acting alone, but for me the story-line could be a little better to live up to quite a clever portrayal of human suffering.


I think what stands out most for me when watching Se7en is the subtlety. There is no attempt to glamourise the violence, nor indeed horrify the watcher through the brutality of the deaths. What you see is what you get, and that is what makes this film so thrilling and shocking.

The power of the story is that it is not contrived. There are far better "cop films" out there, which play to the usual stereotypes and give you exactly what you expect - the "I'm too old for this shit" senior cop alongside the young rookie who shoots first asks questions later. What you get with Pitt and Freeman are two incredibly believable performances by two of the best actors in the business. Their relationship and how they go about their investigations just work so well together without falling into the same trap of every other cop movie.

What brings the film from being a good movie into being a truly great movie is the presence of the best actor of this generation as the villain of the piece. Kevin Spacey is just sublime. For the last twenty minutes of this movie watching Spacey and Pitt bounce of each other is just movie gold - even despite the fact that I knew what was coming next it is still heaping on the suspense while doing very little but talking.

To me what brings this movie into my Top 10 is perhaps one of the most mesmerising endings in a movie. Ever. I am so pleased that they chose to go with the version that they did - the alternatives would have brought this movie right back down to a stereotypical cop film - and the sheer ingenuity of it all is just brilliant.

This is an awesome movie, with some outstanding actors and a truly great storyline.

Full Metal Jacket

Okay so I fell behind a little in the updating of the blog and I have about 15 movies to review! Thankfully I made a few notes on each one, although truthfully I have no idea what some of them actually mean so this might be quite short!!

The opening to Full Metal Jacket is brilliant. In particular I loved the sadistic nature of the Drill Instructor and how he cajoles and tortures these young men into the soldiers he needs them to be. The problem being that some recruits are just not cut out for military life and we see a truly disturbing climax to training with the killing of Hartmann and the suicide of Pyle.

The second part of the movie for me is less clear and I admit I got a little lost in what Kubrick is trying to show us here. It lacks any real message and seems to just be an excuse for showing some fighting and the usual collapse of discipline when the leaders get killed.

The brainwashing of the recruits and to an extent the futility of war expressed throughout the second half get this movie into the Top 100. After all for Vietnam who the individuals were and what they were fighting for were never really important - what mattered was that they were there.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Requiem for a Dream

Not only had I not heard of this movie before it arrived this morning, I knew nothing about it before I put on this evening, other than that the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly was in it.

I think this story would have worked exceptionally well in the book that it was taken from. Books have the ability to go slow and be beautifully written, but for me I'm never convinced that it can translate well into film. A passage of prose discussing the difficulties of addiction, solitude and the failure of dreams can be so much more expressive than what can be shown visually. Which straightaway for me meant that this film was always going to be a poor substitute for the novel.

As it is the acting is exceptional, all four of the main characters so much depth and range - who knew that was possible for a Wayan?!? On top of that the cinematography was sublime and really took you into the feelings, hopes and despairs of the characters in a way that dialogue simply couldn't.

But having said that I still think the film really struggled to get to grips with the story that it wanted to tell. For me I will take two things from the film.

Firstly, a wonderful scene between the mother and her son, where she expresses her isolation, boredom and neglect by all around her - why do I bother to make my bed in the morning, wash the dishes, etc. no one is ever going to see them because no one ever comes to visit. I find it haunting because I think that is so easy to get to that stage. The exchange between mother and son is so simple and so well crafted, but I'm not sure it really gets the right message to me about addiction.

Secondly, I think the way that we deal with people suffering from addictions is abhorrent. In fact I think the way we in society deal with anyone with a mental health difficult is much the same. Which again wasn't really what the final scenes of the film were supposed to show; the slip and slide into addiction and the consequences of it were overshadowed by an extraordinary lack of civility shown by those in society who were dealing with those who were addicted.

It is a very interesting movie, but I'm not sure it really does what it needs to make it into the Top 100 movies of all time. I'm going to read the book at some point, and hope that it is as good as I expect.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

12 Angry Men

I'm not sure why more movie-makers don't go for the simple story-line. Today in order for a movie to get the green light it seems to need so much money thrown at it, special effects or 3D as mandatory, a ridiculously high paid actor to play the lead irrespective of whether or not they are any good, and the prospect of at least one sequel and maybe a prequel. Oh and if there is any money left over maybe we can get a script-writer who can do more than trot out the same old tired cliches.

In 12 Angry Men you have a movie made in the way all movie's should be.

The story is more important than anything else, and yet the premise is so incredibly simple. When we ask a group of our peers to make a decision on the guilt or innocence of one of us, it really would be a fascinating experience to sit and observe them making their deliberations. In 12 Angry Men that is exactly what we get, but with a slight twist there needs to be an unanimous decision.

For just over an hour and half you are gripped. Yes it probably is a little obvious (and maybe a little contrived) but for the duration you are pulled along with some outstanding acting performances. How do you get consensus in a room of 12 people when you have a whole range of different views with each person carrying different personal baggage? At what point do you follow the crowd and at what point do you stand up for what you believe in?

I've been in those situations before when having a debate with someone who just won't accept anything other than their opinion, irrespective of logic and reason. It is incredibly frustrating. Yet what do you do when you need consensus? How do you go about convincing that person? What if there is more than one that needs convincing?

Henry Fonda manages to cajole and coax the other 11 jurors around to his way of thinking, which truthfully is never in doubt from the moment the movie starts. What is beautiful is the way in which he does that. This movie is one to watch and one to watch again...

I am truly gutted that this is the first time I have ever seen this movie. Where has it been my whole life??? When I reached the end I was sorely tempted to watch it all over again, and it is without a doubt one of my top ten movies of all time.


I usually don't have a problem with historical dramas that have very little basis in history. In this list alone I enjoy Gladiator and Braveheart in equal measure, while the war movies don't make me too irked at the fabricated American supremacy. Yet Amadeus from start to finish is just loathsome.

Mozart to me was a musical genius, and not the vaudeville type character that was portrayed in this movie. I see absolutely no reason why he needed to be played in that way whatsoever. It was cheap and tawdry, and did absolutely no justice to either Mozart or indeed Salieri.

I think part of the problem for me was that for the cinematic release too much was edited out to make the story make sense. For instance why did Constanze dislike Salieri in the penultimate scene of the movie? Apparently in the Director's cut that is explained, yet to me it was just another example of quite a weak storyline.

I could forgive the historical inaccuracies if the story-line made sense, but the supposed enmity between Salieri and Mozart (which is the whole point of the film) is in no way shape or form apparent. Or perhaps the director/script-writer is trying to suggest that Salieri is as bad at that as he is at composing?! If you want to make Salieri the boogeyman then the least he could do is do something horrific to merit it.

I was about to say something positive about the acting, and suggest that Abraham was probably deserving of his Oscar, however after trying to think about what it was he did well I am left stumped.

Overrated, ridiculous story-line that makes no sense and fails historically, how did this make it into the Top 100????

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Seven Samurai

What has become my regular Wednesday night activity (I've done it at least twice) of watching two movies back to back was very nearly ruined this evening, by firstly, a dodgy disc (curse you Tesco/lovefilm!) and then secondly, by my inability to stay awake.

What probably did not help matters was that the film I was left with was in Japanese with subtitles, and that it wouldn't play on my laptop - cue small screen and me having to lie down to see the screen (Maybe it is time I invested in a TV and DVD player)

I've become fascinated by Japanese history since making the decision to teach it for Advanced Higher History. The ritualistic elements and rigid caste structure that plague Japan through to the mid-nineteenth century (and perhaps beyond) are a wonder to behold, and always make me question why they managed to survive with little transgression. The Seven Samurai is another fabulous rendition of those very issues.

From start to finish we see the respective roles of farmer and samurai, the expectations thats society has of each, and perhaps even the personality that was allowed for both. The villagers feared what the samurai could/would do to them, while at the same time also recognised the necessity of those very same people. Similarly while initially reluctant the samurai sense their own duty towards protecting those villagers, and I think the closing dialogue shows that more than anything.

The battle scenes are wonderful, the characterisation is phenomenal (although I really wish I didn't find Japanese names so difficult to remember!) and the story-line itself is simple but very effective.

My one slight criticism is how annoying I find the villagers. Their incessant wailing and moaning is a little too much for me. While they very much would have been subservient to those above them in the chain, I sincerely doubt they would have been quite so pathetic. These people after all faced numerous bandit attacks and were required to do whatever was asked of them by those above without complaint.

Overall though I was genuinely pleased with the film, I just wish I was slightly more awake!

I am also aware that I have not updated this blog in weeks, and now have about ten reviews to catch up on... aren't you all so lucky?!!?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Bicycle Thieves

As I get further through this film challenge I am starting to notice a worrying trend about these films in that I just don't get why a lot of these films are so revered. Take this film as a perfect example, regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made by a variety of different people - including having a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

My issue with it is that it just seems too simplistic. While the story itself is very interesting there is no real depth to either it or the characterisation. Yes I can feel for the people living in post-war Italy (or indeed anywhere in Europe), in particular the poorest classes trying to rebuild their lives. But most of my acceptance and understanding of that fact comes from my own knowledge - very little if anything is added within the movie.

We see the dynamics of the father-son relationship, but we never really fully understand the difficulties the family are facing as a result of the poverty that lead to such excitement between the two when a job is found. When the bike is then lost we don't really see heartbreak or suffering more the idea that everyone will band together to help those in need.

While in no way would I ever want to suggest that a Will Smith movie is deserving of a place in the Top100 movies of all time, the portrayal of desperation, poverty and social dislocation in Pursuit of Happyness does all of these far better than the Bicycle Thieves. A film worth watching if only so that you can then explain to me what it is that I missed...

Thursday, 2 February 2012


This was the only film on the list that I had never come across before. Not only had I heard nothing about it, I didn't even know it existed. Parts of me kind of wish I could go back to that state...

I like subtlety in film, I like ingenuity and I like a film to be believable in its logic (not necessarily that the storyline must be plausible just logically possible!). Oldboy is certainly different and interesting, but on the other two it very much falls down.

The premise of the movie is very clever, someone gets imprisoned as an act of revenge which in turn leads to the released prisoner seeking revenge on his jailer. Which sounds fairly straight-forward an idea that I couldn't possibly see as ingenious in any way shape or form. But it is the twists and turns on that story that make it so clever.

The prisoner is held captive for no reason, then released without any explanation. As the story unfolds the prisoner has to figure out who the mysterious man is and what he has done to deserve this revenge. Still fairly straightforward until we hit the big twist at the end, which personally is up there with the Usual Suspects and Seven as quite unexpected.

What doesn't really make sense to me though is the initial act that caused the imprisonment. I just don't buy the idea that someone would go to such lengths to seek revenge for such a minor indiscretion. A throwaway line to a friend about something you saw leads to you being imprisoned and your family killed?! It just doesn't make sense!

In terms of subtlety, I am not the most squeamish person in the world but there are parts of this movie that had me peaking at the screen through my hands. In Kill Bill the outlandish nature of the fighting was pretty damn funny, in Oldboy it just comes across as a bit over the top, without reaching the comic book level. Was it really necessary for the Director to show us that many teeth being pulled out of people's mouths?!!?

Overall, clever idea but I think I would liked to have seen it done slightly differently. Not sure it deserves its place in the Top100 but some quite clever parts just about redeems the movie.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Rear Window

I think what I am starting to like about older movies is that they keep things very simple. Today a modern director would some how manage to contrive to shoot Rear Window in five or six different locations across the world, with a huge array of both extras and special effects, costing millions. Yet what makes Hitchcock's movie so good is that everything is filmed from the same spot, which makes the film much more believable and therefore maintains the suspense right up until the end.

Like Jimmy Stewart I love watching (or should that be spying on) my neighbours. I don't watch them in a voyeuristic way, but I do find myself pondering about them, what they are doing and who they are as people as they move about their flats across the way. Sadly however I don't have a broken leg as an excuse!

The daily routine of others is quite comforting and incredibly disconcerting when the person you expect to see out your window or on your way to work doesn't appear. I think this is what draws me into the movie - I am effectively Jimmy Stewart. As he watches the world go on around him from his bedroom window you can't help but be drawn into his simple world. The lives of those people in the windows become your life as you wait to see what happens next for the musician, the newly weds and the lonely-hearted lady.

Rear Window is such a simple movie as both an idea and as a whole movie, and as a result it is brilliant. So far this is the only movie I have rented that I am definitely going to be buying for my own collection. Top100? More like Top10...

FIght Club

I'm just not convinced by Fight Club. The premise of the movie has so much promise, but I think it is a little too surreal and dark for me to find it that enjoyable. I think where I throw up some doubts is the fact that I love the opening premise and the twist at the end is pretty unexpected (at least on first viewing), but how they get from the opening to the end is just not good. It is superficial and vain, it is brutal and largely unnecessary. 

What I find quite difficult is that I am a massive fan of both Edward Norton and Brad Pitt as actors, and they do give brilliant performances. And yet it is not a film I particularly want to watch again and again. The first time you see it, it is a bit like the Sixth Sense where you a pulled in by the twist in the tale, the second you watch and see the obvious signs and pay more attention to what is in fact quite a weak storyline. 

The drudgery of life is something that I think all of us from time to time can relate to. The futility of parts of our job, coupled with the surprising lack of a social life can be hard to deal with, and is something that I think I do struggle with right now. I suppose where the difference between myself and Norton's character is the fact that I don't feel the need to fight or to ultimately blow up a load of buildings to deal with the anxiety. And I think that is the part of the film that is most confusing - the creation of a fight club isn't too far a step to take in your imagination, yet the move from fight club to a fascist terrorist organisation very much is. 

The film is rescued by an interesting twist, but for me the violence and the sadism are just too much on second viewing. 

Dr Strangelove

This film is definitely satire at its best. The fact that it is still applicable about the World today, 60 years after it was filmed says it all. 

Perhaps the most telling point of the whole film is with regards to the way that the unintended consequences of the attack order lead to such calamities. It is incredibly believable that one of the nuclear powers has a contingency plan that would result in a nuclear bomb being released that can't then be aborted, after all politicians tend not to think about the full consequences of their actions. Yes a final contingency might be necessary, but how can you guarantee that when the order is given will indeed be at the very end?

Some parts of the film are a little strange - particularly the pilot riding the nuclear weapon into the target - and perhaps the simplicity of the impending disaster maybe needs a little more suspense or a little more depth to really take you through the whole film. All in all though a worthwhile movie and probably meritorious of its position in the Top100. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I watched this film a few years ago on a plane somewhere, and I made the mistake of not watching it at the beginning of the flight and had the age old problem of missing the last ten minutes or so of the film, which is perhaps one of the few times you are begging the pilot to take a little longer to get wherever it is you are going.

I like the film a lot. I think the premise of it is something that is very unique, and has been filmed pretty well. What I like about it is the idea of memories, and how important they are to us, even if they are things that we want to forget. All things that happen to us in life have an impact upon us and we should cherish them because if we forget them then we may end up making the same mistakes over and over.

I don't quite understand the necessity of the plot involving the workers of Lacuna Inc, other than it perhaps highlights more succinctly that in destroying memories you end up making very similar decisions - although for me this is best left as a subtlety surrounding the main story. SImilarly the role Kirsten Dunst's character plays is important in the big reveal, but for me is probably unnecessary in telling the tale - including perhaps the idea that the big reveal is redundant?

Overall, worth watching if only for seeing Kate Winslet playing a more flamboyant character than Jim Carrey (that guy really can act!).

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Saving Private Ryan

I am a huge fan of Band of Brothers, the TV series that went alongside this film. The story-line and acting within it is simply outstanding, while the ninth episode still manages to bring a tear to my eye, despite having now watched it over a dozen times.

Where Band of Brothers works, I'm just not convinced that Saving Private Ryan does the same.

I understand the limitations of the movie format; a director has 2-3 hours to get you to identify with the characters, to feel sympathy or revulsion for them, to introduce the story and conclude it satisfactorily. In a TV series you have time to develop multiple story-arcs and properly understand who each of the characters are as well as what makes them tick. With Saving Private Ryan, I never fully get who the characters are, or why they are acting the way they do.

I don't think the film is helped by the opening sequence. Yes it shows revulsion at the war, but does it really show who the characters are? Does it help us understand why Tom Hanks character then does what he does when they go looking for Ryan? I just don't really get it I'm afraid.

One of the things that I found very interesting is that in training for the film the group of rescuers all trained together, but they kept Matt Damon separate so that when they meet him in the film then there will already be a level of resentment towards him. Did it work? Not to the casual viewer. In fact the scene where they first meet Private Ryan is rather lacklustre and neither infuriates nor surprises.

The film is correctly lauded for its portrayal of war. War is never glorious and often times those who are fighting get killed, irrespective of whether they are nice people or potential stars of later biopic movies. To paraphrase Tom Hanks in the movie, war often requires normal people to do things that changes them to an extent that they may not be recognised by those at home.

In particular Jeremy Davies, playing the interpreter, is commended for his reaction to the fighting - breaking down as the final battle commences. It was beautifully acted, but to me seemed to come a little out of left field. He was certainly the most inexperienced of the soldiers, and certainly the only one who had yet been jaded by war or had lost his moral compass. Yet the idea of the complete breakdown probably required a bit more background to really make it make sense.

Having said all of that, I do like the movie. The realism of war is good, the acting is strong although the story is a little weak which holds them back a little. Overall if you haven't seen it, then you should watch it, but then go and watch it done properly in Band of Brothers!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Third Man

I put off writing this the other day because I needed time to think about the movie. Truthfully I still need time to think about it, and perhaps someone to explain to me why this is regarded as one of the top 100 movies.

People talk about the Third Man as though it is a masterpiece in suspense, something that will leave you guessing and questioning throughout the movie. I'm not saying there was no suspense, but it was hardly the edge of the seat thriller that I would expect from the greatest of its kind - heck I think Finding Nemo had more suspense in it!

The film is fairly straight forward. A guy arrives in post-WWII Vienna to find the person who invited him there to be dead. He spends the rest of the movie trying to find out what happened to him against the wishes of everyone else, and on top of that he falls in love with his friends girl (although she does not reciprocate). There are a couple of twists along the way, but I don't think I feel enough for the characters to care what happens to them.

Which means after two Orson Welles movies I have yet to find one that makes me say wow. In fact for both of them I have found them a little bit disappointing. As I said last time maybe I am just not enough of a cinema buff to appreciate his talents.