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The Four Feathers (1939)
Superb, proud adventure story
One of those all time classic yarns, this is obviously a little dated (some of those captions are hilarious) but still has the power to move, and most of the attitudes still work. A fine cast of the cream of British thespianism run bravely around country houses and the sahara, being tremendously brave and upstanding and saving their friends whatever the cost. And all that. Magical. Hope the remake doesn't desecrate its memory too much.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Not as good as the old one
Lovely little thriller from Hitchcock, with lots of nice shenanigans surrounding a murdered spy, a kidnapped child, a nasty church, a foreign plot and some random taxidermists. Jimmy Stewart is as ever a great hero for Hitchcock, the story rips along to its cool climax at an embassy function, but it lacks the brooding menace of Hitchcock's black and white, low-budget original. Nevertheless yet another wonderful film from the great master's stable.
Awesome, with cheese
See the cute little furry things overcome the evil clunky soldiers! See Luke take on the evil Emperor while trying hide his funny looking face! Great finale to the series does overdo the cuteness factor a little, and features one of the cheesiest finales of all time, but nevertheless is gripping throughout, a real joy.
Die Hard (1988)
Original monster action spectacle
Wow what a whopper, this beast was an instant classic of monster proportions, and it's easy to tell why - Bruce Willis on top form, getting his vest filthy for the first time and pouring out those witty asides, Rickman scorching as the teutonic baddie in his tailored suit, the constant stream of banter keeping the less active moments racing and those action set-ups to die for. But this is far more than just some jokes and some explosions, the whole setup is a masterpiece of cunning simplicity, one man against them all, trapped with nowhere to run and nothing to do but fight for his life, using the high-tech tower as the ideal arena for Willis' particular flavour of wiseguy superhero, with every move carefully prepared for and in keeping with the overall picture. The characters are believable and even charming, the dialogue constantly snappy, the music perfect, and the attention to detail fantastic - every character is allowed a bit of interest to make them all memorable (perhaps they were thinking sequel even then?), there's so much little stuff going on, so many minor details of plot that all just keep on ticking along until their turn in the sun arrives, the logic always totally on the money with none of the gaping holes in reason that typify yer average cheapo actioner. A genuinely intelligent action blockbuster that really made an effort and pulled out all the stops to create a really top quality experience, deserving of all its success and two (almost as good) sequels. Movie magic.
Thoughtful, stylish old classic
This is the original Crouching Tiger, really opening up the minds of Western audiences to the delights of oriental movies, and it's still a bit of an eye-opener. The slightly surreal visuals, lots of symbolic-looking shots of masks lying cracked on the ground, sparsely shot courtroom scenes and that awesome rainfall around the storytellers, set you up for a mad story set in some woods on the road to Yamashina, where a group of mentalists have gone a bit mental and one of them ended up dead. The style of the storytelling, with all the flashbacks and restructured scenes, is really an essential part of the tale itself (based on a story by Akutagawa Ryunosuke, taken from his Rashomon collection) but Kurosawa can be credited with bringing a good few new ideas and crazy tricks to the cinema with this monster hit classic. The tiny cast all act out of their skins, especially the bandit Toyomaru, laughing like a crazed hyena all the way through, the ideas and sentiments expressed are fascinating and ultimately beautiful, and all it all it pretty much deserves its status as top classic Japanese thing. Great.
Top Secret! (1984)
This has got to be in the running for the most gag-packed film of all time, there seems to be something going on pretty much constantly, with no opportunity for a quick laugh overlooked. Though of course they can't all be classics, there's a pretty good strike rate and many of them are inspired, moments of sheer comic genius cropping up every four or five minutes. All this and a story and characters too - an awesome film that deserves far more fame and recognition.
Room at the Top (1959)
Gritty, somewhat dated class tale
A tough-talking kitchen sinker about a low-bred northerner with aspirations above his station, this is grim-up-north stuff about the working classes and how they shouldn't try to marry the bosses daughter. Very angry.
Raising Cain (1992)
Daft psycho/evil twin/mind game thriller
Perhaps I'm being a little hard on John Lithgow here, maybe I just can't see past his association with Third Rock from the Sun, but for me he just can't cut it in this role, a part which would have stretched the very greatest of actors. Perhaps no-one could really have pulled off the twists of character Lithgow has to deal with and not come across as hammy as Lithgow seems here. Maybe even the most electric performance from an Olivier on the top of his form would have been dragged down by the soap-opera style plotting and ludicrously simplistic psychology propping up a fairly, but not hugely interesting story. But then again, maybe it wouldn't have been worth the effort.
A lot of this film is just pure cheese, it's piled high with silly acting, stupid dialog and dumb characters. Lithgow at least tries hard enough, but he doesn't stand much chance in the face of a flood of cheesy plotlines recycled from soaps (check out the dying-wife-in-hospital scene, or any of the evil-twin moments, for examples) and pretty poor support - some of the characters seem barely able to keep a straight face as they deliver their admittedly stupid lines. At least it seems to make some sense by the end, having seemed hopelessly confused most of the way, and for that at least some credit is due.
Though normally I would count myself a De Palma fan (I even thought Bonfire... was quite watchable), I would have to class this as a bit of a turkey - for some discerning viewers it may even cross into so-bad-it's-good territory, but for me the few decent ideas on show disqualify it even from that, leaving it floating in the dreaded no-man's land of stupid, uninspiring and insipid. Pants.
The Producers (1967)
Classic, nearly unbeatable comic masterpiece
This will always be a personal favourite, right from those trendy sixties credits it just grabs me every time, there's just so much joy pouring out of every moment, especially the Wilder-Mostel thing, two top geniuses doing their stuff to full effect. Some of it has obviously dated a bit poorly, but it still has more than enough magic to captivate and inspire, an everlasting pleasure. The moment when Blum realises he can do whatever he wants and starts running around the fountain is to me one of the most beautiful and uplifting moments in cinema, and every second of Zero's performance is inspired brilliance. Dreamy.
Wooden but spectacular
Classic dumb Arnie actioner here, with all manner of awards due to the cast for managing to keep straight faces throughout. Arnie is a retired superman dragged back into fighting and army stuff for some reason or other, he picks up some nice lady who randomly starts firing bazookas all over the shop, goes and kills a few thousand baddies, rescues the princess, kills the evil honchos and heads home to live happily ever after. But who cares, this is about one man who never misses and never gets hit by the million bullets sprayed at him by hordes of baddy machine guns (maybe they sell defective ones to evil-looking people), sloggin his way through an awesome number of enemies, while slurring out one-liners of incredible wit and sophistication. Well, one-liners. Like watching an expert play a console shoot-em-up, big dumb fun.