May 30, 2012

Sorry Folks

For those of you who have been wondering why I stopped blogging.

There have been a lot of changes in my life, and the major one is my husband and I expecting a baby. We never stopped watching IMDb Top 250 movies, as a matter of fact we're done with the list. It was a great experience, and, without a doubt, changed my perception of movies and life in general.

Right now I feel that I have to focus on more important things. Sadly, I have only reviewed 27 per cent of the movies, and I do feel bad about it. However, I'd rather not do it at all, than do a bad job and review the movies just so that I can say that I've accomplished my goal.

May be one day I'll get back to it, but we all know that most likely I won't. So feel free to unfollow me, there will be no updates in the nearest future. And thanks to those who took their time to read and to comment!

August 28, 2011

# 194 Dial M for Murder (1954)

Dial M

Dial M for Murder is an adaptation of a stage thriller by an English playwright Frederick Knott. It's a story of a perfect murder. Ex-tennis star wants to inherit his wife's fortune, so he develops a carefully constructed plan and blackmails his old acquaintance from Cambridge into committing the murder. His intentions are justified by the fact that she is cheating on him.

For some weird reason, the people who make Russian translations of movies decided to change the title a little, so over here it is known as "In Case of a Murder Dial M", which makes absolutely no sense to me. But whatever, it doesn't have to do much with the movie itself.

I think the movie is one of Hitchcock's best, but I feel like I should be careful when talking about adapted screenplays, because unless you've seen/read the original work of art it's based on, you don't know if the credit should go to the director of the film or to the writer. I mean, of course, choosing the right book or play to adapt, and turning it into a great movie (or at least not messing it up too much) requires some talent, but I admire those who can turn an average work into a brilliant movie. I'm talking about films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (no offense, Fitzgerald's fans). So, the bottom line is that I've never seen Knott's play, and since the plot is what I loved most about Dial M for Murder, I'm not sure which one of the two creators I want to praise.

By the way, I was also surprised to find out that the movie was shot in 3D, which, as IMDb states, "explains the prevalence of low-angle shots with lamps and other objects between us and the cast members". See, I'm one of those ignorant young people who think that there was no 3D before Dinosaur Adventure for MS-DOS. I wonder if people watched it in one of those red and blue glasses.

Interesting fact: During the attack scene according to the script, Grace Kelly was to get out of bed, put her robe on, and answer the phone when it rang. Grace Kelly contended that no woman, being at home, would put a robe on to answer the phone. Alfred Hitchcock agreed, and so the scene was shot with her in her nightgown.
Favorite quote: C.A. Swan: What makes you think I'll agree?
Tony Wendice: For the same reason that a donkey with a stick behind him and a carrot in front always goes forwards and not backwards.

August 19, 2011

# 193 Ed Wood (1994)

Ed Wood

I took the longest break from blogging ever! First, my husband and I were moving to a new place, and we didn't have Internet access there for a while. Besides, we were too busy buying all the stuff we needed. By the time I realized that I haven't written a review in, like, forever, and that I have probably lost all of my followers (which didn't happen for unknown reason), it was really hard to get back on track, so I decided that I was on a summer break. We never stopped watching movies though, so now I have 17 movies to review! I'll try to catch up soon, so I'm sorry if some of my reviews seem too brief, I'll try to do the best I can.

So, Ed Wood. It's a life story of a filmmaker who is known for making spectacularly bad horror movies. It also talks about his cross-dressing habits and his friendship with his long-time idol Bela Lugosi. I try not to read anything about the movie I'm planning to watch, but in this case it was a mistake.

I had no idea who ed Wood was prior to seeing this film, so imagine my reaction when I was thinking that it was some made-up story. I couldn't help thinking "what type of a weirdo you have to be to come up with a plot like this!" I guess this fact messed up my perception of the movie.

Later, when I was reading Ed Wood's biography in Wikipedia, I realized that the movie was pretty accurate in depicting the details of his life, but when I was watching it, I totally hated it. Thinking back about it, I think it's funny how, while shooting a film, Ed Wood hardly ever ordered a retake, even when the scene turned out very bad. Now, every time we watch a lousy movie, especially if it's a horror movie, it makes us think of Ed Wood.

Interesting fact: This film cost more to produce than all of Edward D. Wood Jr.'s films put together.
Favorite quote: "Cut! That was perfect!"

April 25, 2011

# 192 Harvey (1950)


Harvey is a movie about an extremely nice middle-aged man, Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend happens to be a pooka. Now, what is a pooka? It's a "benign but mischievous creature from Celtic mythology" who is especially fond of social outcasts. In this story it appears as a 6 foot tall rabbit. Elwood drives his sister and his niece crazy by trying to introduce his friend to everybody around them, which makes people avoid their whole family.

At first I really had no idea what the movie was going to be like, for a while I even thought that it might be something like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I kept getting more and more captivated by the story, and I have to say that I really liked the comic side of the film, this comedy of errors, where one mistake leads to another, making things more and more complicated. The second part of the film is more of a drama, and I felt like the moral was a little too obvious, but still I liked how Harvey brought up the issue of prejudice, and people being unable to accept what's different from themselves.

The supporting character's acting was too theatrical, but Stewart did an amazing job, and the film's success, in my opinion, is entirely on his shoulders. The character himself is very memorable too, I enjoyed watching how he touched the lives of others, it's him who made the movie so good-natured. Besides, there are some great witty lines, my favorite is in the "favorite quote" section below. Harvery leaves a good aftertaste, and it's definitely worth watching.

Interesting fact: Although James Stewart is 6'4", he refers to Harvey as being 6'3 1/2" tall in the film and looks up at him during the entire film. That's because this is Harvey's height in the original play by Mary Chase. In a 1990 interview, Stewart said that he had decided that for the film, Harvey was going to be 6'8'', so that he could indeed look up at him. At the suggestion of James Stewart, the director changed many shots to make them wider so that "Harvey" would be in the frame.

Favorite quote: Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

April 16, 2011

# 191 The Kid (1921)

The Kid

Today is 122 years since Charlie Chaplin was born (thanks to Google for the information), and here comes a very special review of his first feature-length film. The Kid tells us a story about the Tramp who finds an abandoned boy and raises him as his own. Years later, the authorities find out about it, and try to take the child away from the Tramp. At the same time, the mother of the boy, who had once left him, becomes a famous singer, and tries to find him.

This is a very good film, I wouldn't say that it's become my favorite out of all Chaplin's films, but definitely a classic. Almost every aspect of the film was perfect, but most of all I was amazed by Jackie Coogan's performance. I mean, the kid was only about six years old back then, and he managed to do a great job and express so much emotion and humor without the use of words.

There were a couple of things that made the movie less-than-perfect to me though. First of all, the dream sequence towards the end of the film, where the Tramp finds himself in heaven, surrounded by angels, was a little weird. Secondly, overall the movie was a bit too heavy on the sentimental side.

Nonetheless, the film is great. It becomes even more interesting once you know its background. So I recommend looking it up in Wikipedia, or even watching a movie called Chaplin, which is based on his autobiography, in order to get a deeper insight.

Interesting fact: Many Chaplin biographers have attributed the relationship portrayed in the film to have resulted from the death of Chaplin's firstborn infant son just before production began.

April 10, 2011

# 190 The Hustler (1961)


The Hustler centers on a pool player, "Fast" Eddie Felson, played by Paul Newman, and his struggle to make money by means of his talent. His main goal is to beat another outstanding player, Minnesota Fats. There is also a romantic plot line in the film. However, to me, the main interest of the movie was the relationship between Eddie and his manager Bert.

This happens a lot in sports or music industry: not-so-talented people take advantage of those who are particularly good at something, make them play by their rules, and, what's even worse, make them feel like they are nothing without their help. All of this has been talked about before, but this film is pretty good at showing how this actually happens.

I enjoy watching snooker a lot (I wonder how many of my followers have heard of it), which gives me a right to say that I can somewhat relate to cue sports, and although the rules and the ideology behind nine-ball is very different, it was still fun to watch, and I guess that's what made the movie worth it for me.

If it wasn't for my interest in cue sports though, most likely I would have found The Hustler very boring. To me it was just too slow, the romantic plot line was depressing, I couldn't think of a reason why those two people ended up being together. I guess their relationship was necessary in order to provide such a dramatic ending (which, by the way, was one of the strongest parts of the movie), but their romance left me emotionally distant. Not a bad movie overall, but I'd rather watch The Color of Money than this one again.

Interesting fact: In the first big game, Eddie uses massé to change the cue ball direction and pocket two balls on a single shot. In the final game of the movie, he does it again. This is actually the same shot filmed from different angles. Although the shot is impressive, it is very risky and would give Eddie no discernible advantage.
Favorite quote: "I lie. When I'm drunk I lie".

April 9, 2011

# 189 Le notti di Cabiria (1957)

Cabiria dance

Le notti di Cabiria, also known as Nights of Cabiria is a film directed by Fellini, which tells us a story about a prostitute from Rome who lives in her own little house, with water, electricity, bottled gas, and basically can take care of herself. She dreams of something good happening to her, a major life change, and all of a sudden she runs into a man who is generous, caring, and doesn't care about what she does for a living.

First of all, Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wife, does a great job playing the lead, and no other movie has ever made me sympathize with a hooker so much. She is really charismatic, and so easy to like, that I'm sure I was not the only one who wanted to forget about her occupation and see something good happen in her life. Without giving away the ending, I'm just gonna say that it's very dramatic, the final scene by the river had my heart beating really fast.

My favorite part of the film is when Cabiria meets a movie star who take her to his luxurious villa while trying to forget about the girlfriend he'd just broken up with, but ends up abandoning Cabiria when the girlfriend returns to make it up to him. That part of the movie reveals how fragile and vulnerable Cabiria is, it shows what she's really like. Of course she doesn't belong there, in that actor's world, but at the same time she doesn't belong in the prostitute world either.

When I reviewed 8½, one of my followers, Jump Raven, said that it was not the best movie to start watching Fellini with. Now I see that he was absolutely right. Nights of Cabiria was a totally different experience. It was easier to understand due to its linear structure, but at the same time it's very powerful on the emotional level. Highly recommended to everyone who hasn't seen it yet.

Interesting fact: According to Federico Fellini's assistant Dominique Delouche, actor 'Francois Perier' was hired so the film could get financing as a French co-production.
Favorite quote: "What are you saying? Marry me? What are you saying? Marry someone you've seen ten times. That's not how it's done. Really! Thank God I'm an honest woman.That's not how it's done. Excuse-me!"

March 31, 2011

# 188 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Piano scene

The Best Years of Our Lives is a post-war film about three servicemen who come home from the World War II and try to re-adjust to the society they used to be part of. All three of them come from different social classes: a banker, a soda jerk, and a football player, and they all find it hard to get on with their lives after the war.

I was about to exclaim, "Not another old movie!" when I saw what was next on the list, but as the movie progressed, I realized how interesting and warm-hearted it actually was. It's nothing overdramatic like Born on the Fourth of July or The Deer Hunter. I mean, those films have a point too, they show us, the people who have never been to war, what it was really like, and how much it messed up people's minds. But to those, who went through all of it themselves, I think The Best Years of Our Lives is the best film to watch because it shows how important it is to stay optimistic in any situation. It's so full of hope and encouragement, that I couldn't help enjoying it.

It's not all joyful though, it protrays many hardships demobilized soldiers go through, but in the end, there is a happy resolution for all problems. Not very realistic, some might say, and it may be true, but I think that's exactly what people needed right after the war, considering that the film came out in 1946, when almost every family could relate to it.

I felt like the ending was a little rushed. I'm talking about the wedding scene, where Fred and Peggy make up all of a sudden, and start discussing spending the rest of their lives together. To me the scene seemed really out of place, but I guess the screenwriter wanted to remove the uncertainty from their relationship. Anyway, this is the only flaw that I found, which makes The Best Years of Our Lives one of my favorite post-war movies.

Interesting fact: For his performance as Homer Parrish, Harold Russell became the only actor to win two Academy Awards for the same role.
Favorite quote: "I know what it is. How did I get these hooks and how do they work? That's what everybody says when they start off, "Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?" Well, I'll tell ya. I got sick and tired of that old pair of hands I had. You know, an awful lot of trouble washing them and manicuring my nails. So I traded them in for a pair of these latest models. They work by radar. Look".

March 27, 2011

# 187 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)


Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is a movie about a "city woman" who tempts a married farmer and convinces him to murder his wife, sell the farm and move to the city with her. The man invites his wife to go on a boat trip, and, as he is about to throw her overboard and make it look like an accident, the wife starts to understand what's going on, and the farmer realizes that he can't do it.

The movie didn't impress me that much. Actually, the only thing I found impressing was the score. The plot was banal, I can't see any of this happening in real life. I think much of it derived from Theodore Dreiser's American Tragedy, but the idea behind the movie is very shallow. I can understand how many couples go through problems, even infidelity, but still end up growing old happily together. But no woman in her right mind would ever make up with a husband who had plotted to murder her.

I believe that, if asked, a lot of people would say they love the movie for being technically perfect, and may be it is so, it's really hard for me to judge. I did, however, notice the heavy use of special effects, a good example of which you can see on the image I've chosen for this post. Without giving too much away, I'll say that the ending was a case of "be careful what you wish for". If you like classic silent films with fable morality, you might as well like this one, but to me it seemed too artificial, and lacked the complexity of real-life situations.

PS: May my followers forgive me for not posting as often as I used to. We're in the process of moving to a new place, so I don't have much free time. This is also the reason why I don't reply to some of the comments or read other people's blogs. I promise to catch up once everything is over though!

Interesting fact: F.W. Murnau hated using title cards in his films. Thus, in Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), the title cards become more and more infrequent as the film progresses and virtually non-existent by the end.

March 13, 2011

# 186 The Exorcist (1973)

Scary girl

The Exorcist tells a story of an actress, Chris, who starts to notice changes in the behavior of her daughter Regan. While the doctors try to find a medical explanation, it becomes clear that all of the occurrences, including levitation and a shaking bed, are of a paranormal nature. Chris finds a priest who also happens to be a psychiatrist, and, as the situation keeps getting worse, they decide to conduct exorcism.

Prior to seeing this movie, I'd heard at least two people say that The Exorcist is the scariest movie they've seen in their lives. Now I can't say the same thing about myself, but I can understand where they are coming from, especially since they got a chance to see it when it first came out. I saw a lot of 2000's movies that followed the same formula, so I had a pretty good idea of what might happen, and for this reason it didn't scare me too much (well may be just a little).

A little girl, with a screwed up face and abnormal strength, talking dirty and vomiting, what else is needed to scare the crap out of you? Unfortunately, this classic formula has been used so many times since then, that it became less frightening. Which, of course, doesn't make the original film bad, but in a way it distorted my perception of it. The flashes of the demon's face throughout the whole movie were great. I also like the idea that even the priests refuse to acknowledge that the girl is possessed. This is scary because they're supposed to know all about it, and if they're not sure, then there's probably nobody else who can help Regan?

I didn't understand what was going on in the subplot, the whole story about the archeologists finding a stone in Iraq and what it has to do with the main story. It felt like the two plots were supposed to be connected, but part of the movie got cut out, if I'm wrong or didn't understand something, let me know. Despite all the things I've mentioned here, that may make it seem like I didn't enjoy the film as much as I actually did, I think this movie really deserves it high rating because it defined the whole genre of "demonic child" movies.

Interesting fact: At one point the search for a young actress capable of playing Regan was so trying that William Friedkin claims he even considered auditioning adult dwarf actors.
Favorite quote: "If certain British doctors never asked "What is this fungus?" we wouldn't today have penicillin, correct?"

March 8, 2011

# 185 In Bruges (2008)


In Bruges is a dark comedy about two hitmen who have to lay low in the city of Bruges, Belgium, after one of them accidentally kills a young boy. Whereas Ken is enjoying the beautiful sights of a medieval city, Ray is devastated and haunted by guilt. Then he starts a romantic relationship with a local girl, and from then on things go as though the creators of the film drew their inspiration from a popular teen comedy EuroTrip.

Alright, maybe they didn't, but still I think the movie is absurd. First of all, since when romanticizing hitmen, and showing how vulnerable they can be is considered funny? The movie is trying to show us that they can be really nice people, with their own feelings, that they can be very sensitive, and as for their job, it's not even a flaw, it's just something they have to do for a living. And of course, when they kill people who didn't really "deserve it", they feel awful. May be I'm taking it too seriously, but as someone who studied criminology and criminal behavior, I can reassure you that professional killers never act the way it was portrayed in the movie. So what part of it was supposed to be funny?

Secondly, Collin Farrell's acting was also pretty annoying. I think that the role of a melancholic guy with this naive look and updrawn eyebrows doesn't fit him at all. And the ending was disastrous. What happened there reminded me of the Wayan's brothers' film Little Man where nobody was able to distinguish between a midget and a child (that movie's rating is 3.6).

As for the good side, Ralph Fiennes acting was alright, and some of his lines were indeed really funny. The film is pretty slow, and that helps create the atmosphere of living in a small town. Finally, the views of Bruges are very pretty. But other than that, I felt like In Bruges wasn't worth the time I wasted on it. But even if you don't agree with me, feel free to express your feelings in the comment form below.

Interesting fact: The film has a total of 4 actors who also appeared together in the Harry Potter series: Ralph Fiennes (Harry), who plays Lord Voldemort; Brendan Gleeson (Ken), who plays Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody; Clémence Poésy (Chloe), who plays Fleur Delacour; Ciarán Hinds (The Priest), who plays Aberforth Dumbledore.
Favorite quote: "An Uzi? I'm not from South Central Los Angeles. I didn't come here to shoot twenty black ten year olds in a drive-by. I want a normal gun for a normal person".

February 27, 2011

# 184 Children of Men (2006)


The Oscar race is almost over and I'm happy to announce that I've seen almost all of the major nominees (except for The King's Speech which I'm going to see in a couple of hours), which includes the contenders in the Best Motion Picture, Best Performances, Best Writing and Best Animated Feature Film categories. However I noticed having lost some of my followers, which is natural since I haven't had enough time for my reviews, but for those of you who have stayed around, I'll try to get back on track with blogging.

Children of Men is a sci-fi drama, set in the United Kingdom of 2027. It's about the world in which global infertility leads to societal failure, and people can no longer hope for a better future. Accidentally, the main character, Theo, finds out that there is a pregnant woman who happens to be a refugee, and he must find safe transit for her in order to save her and her baby.

First of all, I have to say that infertility as an idea for apocalypse is very interesting. While a lot of movies show the human race trying to avoid extinction by fighting natural disasters, Children of Men shows us what would happen if people didn't have to fight for their own lives, but at the same time had to face the fact that after their death, there will be no more mankind. I have to admit that the idea of leaving this world without leaving some kind of mark in it is pretty terrifying.

Another interesting issue this film brings up is illegal immigration. I loved how The Children of Men deals with it because it doesn't try to glorify the immigrants, but at the same time we see that to "mother nature" it doesn't matter what color of skin we have, which step of the social ladder we're on, and how well-educated we are. So to me the main idea behind this is that all humans should be treated as humans, even if for some reason you find their presence disturbing. This is a very deep movie, and, at times, very thrilling.

Interesting fact: When Theo is walking down the ramp on Battersea Power Station, a stenciled image of two policemen kissing can be seen on a wall. The image was created by "Banksy", a British "guerilla artist" who specializes in that kind of work. Other Banksy works appear in the film, including a stenciled image of a child looking down a shop.
Favorite quote: "Whiffet! I'm a virgin. Nah! Be great, though, wouldn't it? Fuck knows. I don't know half the wankers' names".

February 1, 2011

# 183 The Wild Bunch (1969)

So Wild

The Wild Bunch is about a group of aging outlaws who can no longer keep up with the changing modern world. The whole film we see one group of tough guys following another group of tough guys, and half of the time I couldn't even tell which group was on the screen at the moment.

I hate reviewing westerns because everyone else but me seems to like them. This one is not an exception. There were a couple of good things about it, one of them being Bo Hopkins' acting who played Crazy Lee. I also liked how it was revealed that Crazy Lee was Sykes' grandson. Another thing I would like to mention is that we get to see the gang members' memories a lot, so I guess we could say that the non-linear narration is used in this film, however, sometimes it was confusing.

Other than that I saw a lot of bloody violence and men striving to survive by any means. I don't even think that the idea of changes and people not being able to fit in in the new world was delivered that well. The question is, if I weren't so biased towards the genre, would I be able to appreciate it more? Probably not. Definitely not my type of movie.

The February is here, which means were getting closer to the Academy Awards. We're trying to see all of the films that have been nominated, but most of them haven't even come out here yet. Five out of ten nominees in "The Best Motion Picture" category come out in theaters in the second half of the month, and there are many more movies in other categories that we haven't seen yet. So February is going to be very busy, but I'll try to find some time for at least two more reviews this month.

Interesting fact: There were not enough uniforms for all of the stunt people and extras in the gun battle. If someone was filmed getting shot, the costume people would repair a uniform by washing off the fake blood, taping and painting over the bullet holes, drying the paint and sending either the same or a different performer out to get shot again.
Favorite quote: "What I like, and what I need, are two different things".

January 29, 2011

# 182 Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)


Judgment at Nuremberg is a courtroom drama about a military trial of four Nazi judges, which takes place three years after all the major Nazi leaders have been already tried. One of the defendants, Ernst Janning, is a very intelligent and likable man, and it's hard for the judge to understand how Janning could have supported Hitler's politics and passed sentences that resulted in genocide. The situation gets even more complicated by the beginning of the Cold war, and since the United States needs Germany's support, everybody understands that strict sentences may poison the atmosphere.

I started writing this review two days ago, and I wish I had a chance to finish it because January 27th was the Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the day of the Siege of Leningrad Lifiting during WWII, which is widely celebrated over here, so writing a review on that special day would be very significant. Unfortunately, the end of this week turned out very busy, but better late then never, so here's my review of Judgement at Nuremberg.

One of the reasons why I think this is a great movie is that it questions how the whole nation could have turned blind eyes to the Holocaust. But then it goes even further, and points out that all of this couldn't have happened without the support from other countries and political leaders. At the same time, just because the whole worlds is guilty for not trying to stand up against Hitler at the beginning of the Nazi regime, doesn't mean that a specific person shouldn't be held responsible for his or her own decisions.

We see what it takes to be a good judge, and how hard the decision-making process can be, how hard it is to pass a decision not influences by the politics, what other people think of the situation, or even your personal feelings. I liked the ending too, when the judge visits Janning in prison, but despite of all the things Janning says, the judge doesn't even try to make him feel better because he knows that the sentence was fair. Judgement at Nuremberg is a perfect courtroom drama, and it's hard for me to understand why it is so much lower on the list than 12 Angry Men.

Interesting fact: Marlon Brando wanted to play the role of Hans Rolfe, the German lawyer who defends the German judges. Brando, in a rare attempt to garner the part, actually approached Stanley Kramer about it. Although, Kramer and Abby Mann were very intrigued with the idea of having an actor of Brando's talent and stature in the role, both were so impressed with Maximilian Schell's portrayal of the same part in the original Playhouse 90 TV broadcast of "Judgment at Nurmemberg", that they had decided to stick with the relatively unknown Schell, who later won the Oscar for Best Actor for that role

Favorite quote: "Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he *loathed* the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and death of millions by the government of which he was a part".

January 15, 2011

# 181 Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Kind heart

Kind Hearts and Coronets is a British black comedy about a distant relative of a duke who is rejected by his family because his mother had run away with a lower-class opera singer. However he wants to inherit the title, and once he grows up he realizes that the only way he can achieve it is by murdering all the other heirs who are ahead of him in the line of succession. The Kind Hearts and Coronets title derives from Tennyson's poem Lady Clara Vere de Vere (1842): "Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood."

Lately I've realized that I've fallen in love with British films, especially comedies. This is one of the finest, most brilliant comedies I've seen in my life, and I never thought I'd say something like that about a movie made over sixty years ago. It also has the darkest humor, as we see a very likable and charming English gentleman having no problem with killing his whole family in order to regain what he believes is due to him. What makes this film special is that there's absolutely no slapstick humor, all the jokes are conveyed verbally, through dialogue or the main character's narration. Of course you could say the same thing about a few other films on IMDb's Top 250 list, but this was probably the only one that had me laughing out loud through most of it.

Alec Guinness played eight characters, and I didn't notice it, though one of the reasons is probably that I was paying attention to other things. Still that shows that he did a darn good job. To me the ending was sort of predictable, I don't mean it in a bad way, but I'm just saying I knew what was going to happen. But hey, this is not a thriller (at least that's not the main point), and for a comedy this movie has an incredibly twisted plot. So yes, this movie deserves to be on the list, as well as on the list of my personal favorites.

Interesting fact: An alternate ending was required for the US, where distributors balked at the film's ambiguous ending (The US Production Code at the time stipulated that crime could not be seen to pay). These extra ten seconds were not kept by Ealing but were unearthed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where they had been quietly filed away in a film storage facility.
Favorite quote: "It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms".

January 8, 2011

# 180 The Killing (1956)


The Killing is a film noir, directed by Stanley Kubrick. It's a story about a race track heist, committed by a man who, after spending five years in prison, decides not to aim low anymore and steal $2,000,000. He seems to have a good plan, the people he can rely on, and everything else he needs in order to achieve the goal, however, the more people involved in the scheme, the higher the chances of things going wrong.

What I like most of all about this film is how Kubrick takes each character and shows us his involvement in the scheme, then goes back and shows us what somebody else was doing at the same period of time. The narration, with the time of every step being announced helps build the tension, and to me sounds like somebody reading out a police report. By the way, the narration was added at the studio's insistence. Stanley Kubrick hated the idea and thus makes much of the information that the narrator provides false or mistaken.

I don't agree with the people who say that they liked the movie, but hated the ending. They say that with two million bucks he could have bought a better suitcase, but who knows, may be back then they didn't have too much of an assortment of suitcases, and it wasn't easy to find a good one, especially when you're running out of time. Besides, it was fun to watch all that money flying around.

Now I won't say that The Killing is brilliant because Stanley Kubrick is not my favorite director, but he was definitely very talented, whether I like what he was doing or not. He made this movie at a very young age, and it's not as weird as some of his later works, but still shows that he was already very skillful when he was working on it.

Interesting fact: "Day of Violence" and "Bed of Fear" were both working titles for the film. Oh, and if anyone can explain the title to me, please comment.
Favorite quote: Johnny Clay: A friend of mine will be stopping by tomorrow to drop something off for me. He's a cop.
Joe: A cop? That's a funny kind of a friend.
Johnny Clay: Well, he's a funny kind of a cop.

January 5, 2011

# 179 Hotaru no haka (1988)


Hotaru no haka, also known as Grave of the Fireflies, is a film about a relationship between two orphaned siblings, a teenage boy named Seita, and his younger sister, Setsuko. The story takes place in Japan towards the end of the World War II. After their mother's death, they end up staying with their distant aunt, but as soon as they run out of food, she becomes resentful and tell them that they have outstayed their welcome. Seita and Setsuko decide to start living on their own in an abandoned bomb shelter.

I have to admit that I had never seen anime until I was in college. Everyone around me was going crazy about it, and out of curiousity, I asked a friend of mine if she could recommend me a film she liked, to get me introduced to the whole thing. So guess what, she said that Grave of the Fireflies was a must-see, and I followed her advice. I really enjoyed it the first time I watched it, not to the point of falling in love with the genre, but at least I learned that there was some good anime out there.

Having watched it again, I have to say I have pretty much the same impression.  The movie makes you feel hopeless, from the beginning of it you know that nothing good is going to happen, and no matter how hard Seita tries, no matter how much he loves his sister and sacrifices himself, he can't help her. This is a story that has probably happened to many families and still happens to this day. But despite all of this, there are still some moments when we see how beautiful this life can be, like when you see fireflies in the dark. It's a very strong anti-war movie, and even though I didn't learn anything new from it, and may be it wasn't as deep as I expected it to be, it's also very emotional and beautifully drawn. 

Interesting fact: NTV in Japan produced a live-action version of "Grave of the Fireflies" in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Like the animated version, the movie focuses on two siblings and their struggle to survive the final days of the war in Kobe, Japan. However, unlike the animated version, the movie tells the story from the point of view of their aunt, and it deals with the issue of how a wartime environment could change a kind woman into a cold-blooded demon.
Favorite quote: "September 21, 1945... that was the night I died".

December 19, 2010

# 178 The Incredibles (2004)


The Incredibles is a computer-animated film about a family of superheroes. The father (Mr. Incredible) and the mother (Elastigirl) used to be the best crime fighters in the city, but now, after a surge of lawsuits, they and their three children are forced to hide their abilities and live a normal life. One day Mr. Incredible, who cannot wait for get back into action, travels to a mysterious island for a top secret assignment.

The movie came out five years after Pixar's Toy Story 2 and a year after Finding Nemo, but to me it stands pretty much on the same level, so this time I will not agree with those who say that the studio outdoes itself with every movie it makes. It's true in most cases, but not this time because we see the same texture-less surfaces and characters that look like plastic dolls as we saw in previous Pixar's works.

Still it's a very good film that can be found interesting by both, kids and their parents. As a matter of fact it's good for all age groups because the main characters are: Dash, a kid who cares about nothing but fooling around; Violet, a shy teenage girl who is having her first crush; and a married couple who go through the same problems all couples go through. The relationships and the dialogues in this movie are pretty realistic for a cartoon.

The movie is very funny, the people who provide jokes for Pixar's films surely have a very good sense of humor. A lot of jokes revolve around getting older, losing shape, and going through a mid-life crisis. I felt like there was too much action towards the end of the film, and after a ten-minute action sequence I just start losing track of what's going on, but I know that this is common for all superhero flicks.

Interesting fact: In order to give Dash a realistic out-of-breath voice, Brad Bird made Spencer Fox run laps around the studio.
Favorite quote: "No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for... for ten minutes!"

December 16, 2010

# 177 The Princess Bride (1987)


The Princess Bride is a story presented as a book being read by a grandfather to his sick grandson. A young woman Buttercup accepts a proposal from a prince, despite the fact that she is still in love with a farm boy who tragically died at sea when seeking his fortune. Right before the wedding she is kidnapped by three outlaws who intend to instigate an international conflict. Soon they found out that they are being pursued by the same pirate who is believed to have killed Buttercup's lover.

I watched parts of the film when I was little, but wasn't mature enough to appreciate the satirical humor. This time I thought that it's a fun, easy-to-watch movie, but it didn't linger in my mind the next day. To me the biggest flaw is that Buttercup doesn't really have a personality, her character is too stereotypical. I'm not sure if it's the script, or may be it's just Robin Wright's acting. After all, movie requires more acting skills than a 1980s TV show (at the age of six, I loved Santa Barbara).

My favorite scene is when Westley defeats the outlaws who kidnapped Buttercup. There's some good action in it, it's witty, and just really really enjoyable. Another good one is when the magician is trying to bring "mostly dead" Westley back to life. Like I have already said, the movie is a fun ride, but at the same time not that funny. In a way it's a lot like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but to me it wasn't nearly as good.

Interesting fact: Mel Smith (The Albino) has confessed to never having watched his performance in this film due to the painful experience involved in filming the role. His character required him to wear coloured contact lenses and, unknown to Smith and the costume department at the time, he was actually allergic to the lens solution used. This meant that Smith was in constant pain and discomfort throughout filming; hence, he is reluctant to relive the memory.
Favorite quote: You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.

December 12, 2010

# 176 The Night of the Hunter (1955)


The Night of The Hunter tells us a story about Harry Powell, a man who marries widows for money and kills them. While in jail, he finds out that his cellmate, Ben who is about to be hanged, had committed a robbery. After being released, Harry Powell decided to marry Ben's widow in order to find out where Ben had hid the stolen money before he was captured.

The interesting part of this film is that the main character is a religious fanatic. He did not only use people's faith to get them to do anything he wanted, but he actually believed that what he was doing was right. He also had his own weird principles I guess, for example, on their wedding night he tells Ben's widow that they will never have sex because it is sinful. I highly doubt he acted this way because he found her unattractive, I mean, after all the things he had done to find the money, sleeping with a woman he didn't like wouldn't be much of a problem.

The rest of the movie is a disaster. At first I thought that may be The Night of the Hunter is considered to be good because it was way ahead of its time back in 1955, but then in Wikipedia I read that it was not a success with either audiences or critics at its initial release, and Laughton never directed another film, nevertheless, the film has found a wider audience over the years.

This leaves me at loss. The beginning with the drifting heads is cheesy. All the women in the movie are absolutely dumb, what is up with their fanatic devotion to Powell? He's definitely not very slick, so why does he always come out on top? And whereas the first half of the plot was not that bad, and at times even thrilling, the second half, after the kids flee down the river turns into a social drama. And that's where the movie stopped making sense to me, and left me wondering why it had gained such widespread acclaim.

Interesting fact: So disappointed was he by the poor reception of this film on its initial release both critically and commercially, Charles Laughton vowed never to direct a film again, and he never did. The film he was planning to direct next was going to be a screen adaptation of "The Naked and the Dead.
Favorite quote: "Salvation is a last-minute business, boy".

December 4, 2010

# 175 Casino (1995)

De Niro and Stone

Casino is a story of two mobsters, Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro) and Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro (Pesci). It tells us about the mob involvement in the gambling industry in 1970s - 1980s. While Ace attempts a civilized lifestyle, Nicky, his childhood friend, doesn't want to give up his criminal life, getting even more violent, and ends up being banned from every casino.

It isn't original as it takes the formulas of  Goodfellas (# 14 on IMDb Top 250 list) and applies them to a very similar plot with the same actors. But you know, these formulas really work, because we see them over and over again, and they never fail to be interesting. In all of his criminal dramas Martin Scorsese shows us the details of different levels of organized crime. In this film the photography speaks for itself: most of it was shot in a shiny casino or an expensive hotel, so, of course, the main characters are the top-level criminals who run the whole city.

Despite of all the similarities, the movie still stands on its own. It was a little hard to follow, but I guess I can say this about most of Scorsese's movies. I've never been a fan of Robert De Niro, but in Casino he did an great job. Talking about his acting, I was really impressed by the scene where Ace is arguing with the senator after his license hearing was adjourned.

I really like how the director portrayed the character development, as well as the change in the relationship between Ace and Nicky. They've always been good friends, but now one of them is willing to change, and the other one is pulling him back. We see the tension between them grown, and, later on, it bursts into a conflict. Another tragic flaw was Ace falling in love with a "hustler" (Stone). At first I though this relationship would turn into some sort of "Scarface" drama, and he would lose interest in her as soon as they got married. But contrary to what I had expected, Ace turned out to be a very patient husband. His character is indeed very likable in this film.

Interesting fact: When released, Casino had the most uses of the word "fuck" (422) in a feature length film (2.4 times per minute on average).
Favorite quote: [a plane just landed on the golf course] The Feds were watching Nicky play golf for so long that they ran out of gas. Just what I needed, right in front of the control board.

November 28, 2010

# 174 Les diaboliques (1955)


Les diaboliques is a French suspense film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot (the same person that directed the film I reviewed in my previous post). The plot revolves around a boarding school headmaster, his wife, and his mistress. Both of the women are treated very badly by him, and when they realize that they can't take it anymore, they plot to kill him. They have planned what they believe to be a perfect murder, but everything goes the way they had planned.

The first two thirds of the movie feel like they have been heavily influenced by Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. The body disappears, which leaves the women confused, and causes them to think that someone else knows about their secret. The wife of the killed man keeps thinking that they are going to get caught, and wants to turn herself in to the police. And even though the director managed to make this part very intense, the idea itself is not new.

Towards the end of the film, the direction, in which the plot unfolds, changes dramatically. The suspense deepens. Some unexplainable things start to happen, and for a second I started to think that may be it was going to turn into some sort of a mystic horror movie, I really didn't know what to expect. I don't want to give it all away, but I just want to say that the ending exceeded all of my expectations. And I'm not only talking about the substantial part, but also the camera work, the lighting, the pacing, everything.

This movie contrasts Clouzot's previous film (The Wages of Fear) so much, that it's hard to believe both movies were directed by the same person. He was able to create so much suspense, without even using any background music, and, I hope that Hitchcock's fans will forgive me for this, but I found this movie even more thrilling than Psycho. Highly Recommended.

Interesting fact: The film is based on Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's novel "Celle qui n'était plus" (She Who Was No More). Alfred Hitchcock also attempted to buy the rights to this novel; Boileau and Narcejac subsequently wrote "D'Entre les Morts" (From Among the Dead) especially for Hitchcock, who filmed it as Vertigo (1958).
Favorite quote: "I may be reactionary, but this is absolutely astounding - the legal wife consoling the mistress! No, no, and no!"

November 25, 2010

# 173 Le salaire de la peur (1953)


La salaire de la peur also known as The Wages of Fear is a film about men who are stuck in a South American village because buying a plane ticket is beyond their means. A US oil company dominates the village, and when one of its oil wells catches on fire, four men from the local community drive trucks full of nitroglycerine across miles of rocky mountains to the oil field in order to extinguish the fire.

The movie is 131 minutes long, and the first half of the movie nothing significant or even a little bit interesting happens. It's devoted to introducing the characters and showing their day-to-day routine, but I think that twenty minutes of this would be enough to understand what's going on, an hour was just too long for a set-up, I was sitting and wondering if anything was going to happen at all. The only reason I kept watching was knowing that later I would have to write a review.

In the second half of the film we see the obstacles the truck drivers have to face on their way to the oil field, and, what's even more important, we see a reversal in the roles of the main characters. The younger driver, Mario, who used to look up to his older companion Jo, has to take everything in his own hands because Jo turns from a macho into a coward in the face of real danger. I guess this character drama is the main point of the film, and it's pretty interesting to watch it develop, but I found the whole idea too simple.

Spoiler here. The only thing that I found really good in this movie is the scene where Jo dies. No matter how mad Mario was at him, he still shed tears when Jo was dying as if he was losing the best friend. It's interesting, that when his roommate's truck explodes, he doesn't look nearly as devastated. The ending is not bad, but it's predictable. I don't recommend this movie unless you're a fan of old French cinema.

Interesting fact: Henri-Georges Clouzot originally planned on shooting the film in Spain, but Yves Montand and his wife, Simone Signoret, refused to work in Spain as long as fascist dictator Francisco Franco was in power. Filming took place instead in the south of France, near Saint-Gilles, in the Camargue. The village seen in the film was built from scratch.
Favorite quote: "Those bums don't have any union, nor any families. And if they blow up, nobody'll come around bothering me for any contribution".

November 24, 2010

# 172 Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Mental hospital

Twelve Monkeys is a post apocalyptic drama about a convict who is sent back in time to 1990s in order to gather the information about the epidemic that wiped out 99 percent of human population. In "the past" he gets in trouble with the authorities, wanted for murder and kidnapping. He also refuses to go back to the future and falls in love with the woman he kidnapped.

When I first watched this movie, I was probably around twelve years old, and I found it weird and boring. After that I watched it a few more times, and I gradually grew to like it. The first thing that attracted me was Pitt's acting. To me this was the role that made me realize that he is more than just a pretty boy. I honestly don't think I've seen anybody do a better job portraying a psycho.

This film touches upon such issues as totalitarian society, both in the future, where the main character has to do everything he is told by a group of scientists, and in the past, when he gets locked up in a mental hospital. But this is not the main theme of the movie. Being very sympathetic to environmental concerns, I also find it interesting how the movie shows us that any idea can turn into a disaster in the hands of a madman.

My favorite part in this movie is when the main character starts doubting his own sanity. He'd rather believe that he has a multiple personality disorder, than that he comes from a world destructed by a lethal virus. He convinces himself that everything that happens in the future is nothing but hallucinations, and wants to be cured. My least favorite part is the sentimental stuff towards the end of the movie, but who knows, I might grow to like even that part next time I watch it.

Interesting fact: A tagline originally suggested for this film was; "The future is in the hands of a man who has none." This was considered to be a confusing tagline, as it made it sound as though he had no hands, as opposed to having no future.
Favorite quote: "There's no right, there's no wrong, there's only popular opinion".

November 21, 2010

# 171 Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

The gang

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is Guy Ritchie's feature film debut. It's about a guy who loses £500,000 to a powerful crime lord in a card game. He overhears his neighbors, who plan a heist on marijuana growers, and, in order to pay off his debt, he and his friends decide to rob them after they come back from their heist. "Lock, stock, and a barrel" is an English expression, which means basically the same as "the whole nine yards", which is a title of another well known movie.

If you watch the movie after seeing Snatch, like I did, you probably won't find anything new here. These two movies share the same ideas, themes, motifs, visual style, and some of the same actors. I've heard that some critics accused Ritchie for delivering two very similar movies, but of course, if there is anything to criticize for that reason, it's Snatch, since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels came out first.

I had difficulty understanding what was going on at first, because of all the characters we see on the screen, and it's hard to understand in which way they are connected before their plot lines intertwine. The movie is very well balanced between being humorous and serious at the same time. I got to laugh a lot because the characters were acting like complete idiots. There was also a good psychological scene in this film, I'm talking about the three card brag game scene.

Sting's appearance as the father of the main character was a nice surprise. Sting's wife Trudie Styler was an executive producer on the film, and the two later introduced director Ritchie to Madonna, whom he later married. So I think the film is good. It didn't blow my mind like Snatch did, but if I watched this one first, it probably would have had the same effect on me. And it's definitely a great movie for a director's debut.

Interesting fact: The movie is dedicated to Lenny McLean. He was a famous bare knuckle boxer before he became an actor. He was ill during filming with what he believed was the flu. After filming had ended he was hospitalized and initially told that he had pleurisy. However, tests revealed that he had lung cancer which had metastasized to his brain. McLean died of cancer exactly one month before the movie's debut in England.

Favorite quote: "Hatchet" Harry: You must be Eddie, J.D.'s son.
Eddie: Yeah. You must be Harry. Sorry, didn't know your father.
"Hatchet" Harry: Never mind son, you just might meet him if you carry on like that.