"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". It's wrong on so many levels. Nobody was desperate to see another Indy film, were they? The original trilogy is perfectly well contained, Indy rides off into the sunset at the end of "Last Crusade", and everyone is satisfied. Fast forward 20 years and Harry Ford hasn't had a hit movie in recent memory while Lucas and, to a lesser extent, Spielberg have set about defacing their former glories with "special" editions and prequels, so of course they were gonna go back and touch up Indy. It can't really be said better than this:
"Four Lions". I watched this on DVD the other day and it is easily the funniest film I have seen in years. It's like "Spinal Tap" for terrorists. Relentlessly hilarious and surprisingly profound and touching.
Has to be "Up". Deserving winner of best animated film and original score at this year's oscars. It's a film about an old fella who attaches balloons to his house and flies away on an adventure involving talking dogs, giant birds, airships and bi-planes. What more do you want?
That one "Pink Panther" film where Herbert Lom becomes like a Bond villain and has a giant death-ray and that. I think it's "...Strikes Again". It features some of the greatest slapstick sequences in cinema history: The bit by the pond at the beginning (KIILL YOOU!), Clouseau and Cato fighting in slo-mo, Clouseau's Wile e Coyote-esque attempts to break into a castle, the scene in the English stately home with the treadmill and the parallel bars and the gauntlet and the hand on fire and the vase, and the scene where Clouseau pretends to be a Dentist before getting him and Herbert Lom high on giggle-gas and falling down some stairs. It's funnier than it sounds.
"A Beautiful Mind". Mainly because it beat "Fellowship of the Ring" to best picture, but also because it is typical Oscar-bait, movie of the week bollocks which dilutes a complex man and his disorder into shitty visual tics and cod-thriller tropes. Russell Crowe is fine, but the film is sappy nonsense designed to make a difficult subject easily palatable for dim-bop audiences.
Special mentions: "Avatar", "Twilight", "Titanic", "Braveheart" and anything combining CG talking animals with live action.
"The Deer Hunter" SPOILERS: This film has a strange effect on me. It's one of the few films I have ever actually cried at. Many films have wet my eyes or coaxed a single tear down my cheek, but this is among the only ones to make me openly weep (Funnily enough, another one was "Bullet in the Head", which is basically the Hong Kong version of "Deer Hunter").
The ending of "The Deer Hunter" is profoundly sad on several levels, the simple loss of a friend, the futility of war, the irony of the final "God Bless America", but I think what really gets me is when DeNiro is trying to get through to Walken during the last Russian roulette game and starts talking about their shared memory of the trees on their hunting trips back home. The moment when Walken seems to remember and cracks a little smile before pulling the trigger anyway, and DeNiro's subsequent emotional implosion, breaks my heart everytime. "One shot..."
"Gothika", featuring Robert Downey Jr. RDJ shows up in this rank pseudo-psychological horror as little more than a red herring. I say that because when I was watching it, as soon as RDJ showed up, I was all like "he must he the bad guy, why else would you cast someone so awesome in a minor supporting role?" Turns out it was when RDJ was still in the wilderness, and it is just a minor supporting role. In a shit Halle Berry vehicle. Suppose he had to go there to get back.
"Heathers". Everyone hates high school, but it could be worse. What better way to illustrate that than with Michael Lehmann's junior "Fight Club", which teaches us that the cool guys are usually not as cool as they seem, popular people are just as screwed up as the rest of us, and even fat-girls need friends. Plus it features the repeated phrase "Teenage Suicide: DON'T DO IT!" It's like an educational video for troubled youth!
Comparing scars, talking about sharks and singing in "Jaws", with this as the centre-piece:
"Jaws" is an almost perfect film, and this is its best scene. Three characters representative of different aspects of masculinity: a man of action, a man of science and the hardworking family man, stuck on a boat together. What's gonna happen? They're gonna get pissed up, act daft, open up to one another and then sing a song!
The scene plays out like a three act short film and packs more character, drama, humour, emotion, intrigue and pure cinematic craft into about ten minutes than most films manage in a full runtime. This is what Spielberg used to do.
"How to Train Your Dragon". I was completely blindsided by this film, as the trailers made it look like a self-conscious, wise-cracking kids' comedy, filled with celebrity guest appearances and cutesy creatures. How surprised I was to find it a heartfelt, thrilling and amusing film. Most of the anachronistic wise-cracks that so niggled in the promos were notable by their absence, the celebrity voices were used sparingly and to great effect, and the film held some moments of true cinematic beauty in the flying scenes and the bond between a boy and his dragon.
"The Phantom Menace". The bizarre thing is that when I first saw the long-awaited "Star Wars" prequel, I actually quite enjoyed it. I remember saying at the time: "It wasn't perfect but, come on, it's "STAR WARS"! It was only later that the creeping rot of realisation seeped in and the novelty of having seen a new installment of the sci-fi fairytale wore off, leaving the cold reality of a film that is flat, dull, pompous, fun-free, terribly written, awfully acted and about as emotionally involving as watching a stranger play "Pokemon" on a DS. The subsequent two films were better, but they're still stinky arse-quack.
From about 0.59 to about 1.28 in this clip:
Perfect marriage of image and sound. Special mention for the climaxes of "Last of the Mohicans" and "28 Days Later".
This is a tough one. It's almost like asking "What's your favourite live-action movie?". It just leaves too much choice. I'm a big fan of "Wall*E" and "Up", pretty much anything by Hayao Miyazaki and most Studio Ghibli in general, "Plague Dogs" and "Watership Down", "Akira", some of the Disneys like "Lion King" or "Beauty and the Beast" (although "The Emperor's New Groove" is arguably the greatest Disney film), the list goes on. For the sake of this questionaire, however, I will make a choice.
I watched a film recently called "Millennium Actress", which was directed by a fella name Satoshi Kon. Read more about him here. In honour of Satoshi Kon, my favourite animated film right now is "Millennium Actress", which blew my mind, broke my heart and lifted my spirits all at once when I watched it for the first time the other week. If you haven't seen it, do. If you have, see it again and pour a 40 on the concrete for our absent homey.
"Duck Soup". This is the best Marx Bros film, as far as I'm concerned. There's no harp solos or any other cabaret stuff that sometimes bogs the Bros down, just grade-A clowning. They are all at the top of their game - riffing, pratfalling and pissing off all sorts of well-to-do types - and there are several indelible comedic images: All the brothers dressed as Groucho and the subsequent mirror-gag, the peanut cart routine, the bunker scene at the end, and one of my favourite visual gags in history: Groucho gets a massive vase stuck on his head and Harpo draws his face on the front. Simple genius. It helps that I was a fan of "Animaniacs" as a kid, too, I think.
"South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut". It could be argued that this is a spoof, but I think that the affection and understanding that Parker and Stone have for musicals is evident in the various numbers on display here. The perfect translation of TV show to cinema, the "South Park" movie goes bigger, more dramatic, more action-packed and more theatrical, and with song titles like "Uncle Fucka" you know it's got to be good.
I don't really get this as, if I like a movie, I don't feel guilty about it. Having said that, I watched "Barb Wire" the other night and felt a little guilty about the pleasure it gave me.
Nothing funny, I just admired the audacity with which the film targeted its audience. There's a "Star Wars"-style opening crawl, attempting to orient us in the world of the movie (a post-apocalyptic America in the grip of a civil war), and then we cut straight to Pamela Anderson dancing with her tits hanging out of a fetish outfit. Then people start throwing water on her. Then she has a go on a swing. While people throw water on her. They might as well have replaced the opening crawl with a title-card reading "This is a film about Pamela Anderson's tits."
Needless to say, I kept watching.
I suppose this has to be "Lord of the Rings", simply because there's no other series that covers as much ground, both literally and figuratively. By the end of "Return of the King", you feel like you've actually been on the journey with these characters (for better or worse), and each film is an emotional quest of its own, pursuing the ongoing arc of the story. It's just the most complete story ever told in three movies.
Special mentions: "Back to the Future", "Star Wars", "Indiana Jones(apart from the last one), "Toy Story".
"The Departed". Rarely does an ensemble reach such a uniformly high-octane and constant pitch. All of the mostly male cast essay their characters as a study in flawed ideals of masculinity. Nicholson is just Nicholson turned up to eleven, and Ray Winstone sounds like a cockney, but the strength of character cannot be denied. DiCaprio and Damon deliver arguably career-best turns, Baldwin steals scenes like a pro, Sheen radiates fatherly wisdom, Marky Mark owns the entire film, and Vera Farmiga turns the token trophy-woman role from potential cipher into a plausibly conflicted character.
Even the supporters have their moments to shine. Fat, shouty Anthony Anderson delivers a rare understated performance, the Scottish geezer gets some memorable scenes and lines, including the "You're a cop" game with Drake from Aliens, the dude who DiCaprio shoots in the leg is hilarious ("it fuckin hurts!"), and the sleazily hot red-head playing Nicholson's moll is a perfect foil for his raging machismo.
A rare cinematic occasion when everyone seems to he on the same page and not one performance is out of sync with the piece as a whole.
"Talladega Nights". Simply because I caught the end of this film the other night whilst at my parents' house, and my Dad's old-fashioned, disgusted reaction to this kiss was almost as funny as the film itself. Gonna try and get him to watch "Brokeback Mountain" next.
Guy and Girl from "Once". Two lost souls meet over a shared love of music and a broken vacuum cleaner. Their tentative relationship blossoms through performance, and there has never been such a subtly perfect cinematic depiction of the profound connection that can take place between people playing music together.
The gentle chemistry is probably boosted by the fact that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova were actually realising their feelings for each other behind the scenes. "Once" really is a sweet little film, filled with great music, lots of heart and good humour.
The one-taker in "Hard Boiled". Apparently somebody agrees with me, but he does insist on putting little captions on the screen, so just try and ignore them:
"You're the doc, Doc." from "Back to the Future". To be used when deferring responsibility or authority to another, in the same manner as "Whatever you say."
I'm ashamed to say I've never seen "Casablanca". I could tell you what happens and quote dialogue from it thanks to a million references elsewhere in popular culture,but I've never actually watched the film. I should probably get round to it, as I hear it's quite good.
"Society" SPOILERS: This is a creepily paranoid horror that goes absolutely nuts in the climax. It turns out that some dude from "Baywatch" was right to be paranoid as his family and neighbours are revealed to be some sort of weird amorphous monsters intent on raping/ingesting/absorbing him. Then it gets really strange.
Hans Gruber. Every hero is only as good as his villain, and John McClane has never been better than when up against the sharp-suited, businesslike calculations of Hans Gruber. Rickman kicks the arse out of this part, every bit the opposite of Willis' down and dirty fighter, and sets his stall out as the go-to guy for evil, yet believably human and strangely humourous characters that he will be playing for the next three decades.
"I am an EXCEPTIONAL thief, Mrs McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite."
"Avatar". I've written enough about it here and here, though.
There's a lot of these. Many of the films mentioned in a positive light on this questionnaire I will have seen at least ten times.
Or "Grave of the Fireflies". If you've seen it, you know which two deaths I mean. I have only seen this film once and, fantastic though it is, it's just too damn sad for me to get further than about fifteen minutes into it knowing how it turns out.
Special mentions: (SPOILERS) Spock in "Star Trek II", Hazel in "Watership Down" (both his death scenes kill me), Boromir in "Fellowship of the Ring", McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", Nicky in "The Deer Hunter".
You know the bit in "Reservoir Dogs" when Michael Madsen is dancing around and carving up the cop? Of course you do. When I first saw that scene, I found it excruciatingly uncomfortable. I could barely watch. I was begging along with the copper as Mr Blonde tipped petrol all over him and prepared to light him up. Judging from what I had just witnessed, and the fact that the film was banned in the UK for a while, I fully expected the worst to happen. I'd forgotten all about Tim Roth. I was out of my seat with my fist in the air when Orange emptied a clip into Blonde.
So there you go. A month's worth of my unconsidered opinions. If you managed to read all that. Well done. Have a sweet. You'll have to get it yourself, though.