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1 . Mulholland Drive (2001)
2 . Lost Highway (1997)
3 . Taxi Driver (1976)
4 . This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
5 . Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
6 . Psycho (1960)
7 . 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
8 . Boogie Nights (1997)
9 . The Swimmer (1968)
10 . The Wicker Man (1973)
11 . Memento (2000)
12 . Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) C'era una volta il West
13 . One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
14 . Ed Wood (1994)
15 . Reservoir Dogs (1992)
16 . The Elephant Man (1980)
17 . The Conversation (1974)
18 . Annie Hall (1977)
19 . The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo
20 . Sin City (2005)
21 . Rosemary's Baby (1968)
22 . The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo.
23 . 24 Hour Party People (2002)
24 . Suspiria (1977)
25 . Nuts in May (1976)
Der Teufel kam aus Akasava (1971)
Silly spy film that is worth seeing for Soledad Miranda
This spy film from prolific exploitation director Jess Franco is probably most notable for being the final film the gorgeous actress Soledad Miranda appeared in before her untimely and tragic death very soon afterwards. In this one she is a secret service agent who goes undercover as a go-go dancer in order to track down international criminals who stole a precious mineral that can turn base metals into gold and people into zombie-like creatures. It's a nonsense plot-line, although it's one of the more plot-driven films I have actually seen Franco attempt.
Its strengths lie in other areas, most notably Miranda, who is easily the best thing about this. Like in all the Franco films she starred in, she once again displays an effortless magnetism and sensuality. The very fact that she operates partially as a stripper of course plays up the latter aspect quite a bit but like her other appearances in erotic roles, it always feels somewhat classy with Soledad. Aside from her there is a regular gaggle of stock Euro actors who will be very familiar to anyone who has seen other Franco films from the period. Also in common with those films is the soundtrack of glorious kitsch groovetastic sounds. So essentially seek this out if you either (a) appreciate this very particular brand of retro lounge music or (b) like Soledad Miranda (who wouldn't?) or (c) must see all things Franco (in which case you're probably insane but in a good way). It's not as good as other Franco/Miranda collaborations such as Vampyros Lesbos or She Killed in Ecstasy but it still has enough about it to make it an entertaining watch.
Likable and breezy spy spoof
The heightened tensions of the cold war in the 1960's led to a craze for spy films. Some went for gritty realism like The Spy who came in from the Cold, while most went down the high glamour route typified by the James Bond series. Fathom is one of those latter efforts, even if strictly speaking the title character is not a bona fide spy. It also fitted into an even more specific sub-genre the spy spoof. It could probably best be compared to the previous year's Modesty Blaise, which had a similar light comical approach and also featured a female protagonist played by a luminous beauty, in that case Monica Vitti. For my money, Fathom is a superior film to that one and is, of course, pretty clearly a vehicle for the top sex symbol of the time, Raquel Welch. She had just come off the back of her iconic performance in One Million Years B.C. and it must've seemed like a pretty obvious idea to have her star as a sexy action girl in a spy flick. She is Fathom Harvill, a famous sky-diver who gets roped into the middle of a situation between intelligence agents and international thieves.
It's hard not to describe this movie without using the word 'breezy'. It's such a light hearted and playful romp. It's comic for much of the time, although there are also definite suspense moments too, including a memorable scene in a bull ring. But mainly it's a film that relies on sun-kissed locations and the undoubted sex appeal of its main star who cavorts about in bikinis and skimpy attire. The film pulls off the difficult stunt of being a little bit sensual while being completely family friendly. It maybe doesn't necessarily add up to a huge amount at the end of the day but I always find this film kind of fun and charming. The cast also includes several other interesting actors such as Anthony Franciosa, Clive Revill and, perhaps most unsurprisingly, 'The Good Life's' Richard Briers but at the end of the day this is Raquel Welch's film and she's a lot of fun to watch.
Un treno per Durango (1968)
Very average comic spaghetti western
Two rogues witness a train robbery carried out by Mexican revolutionaries. They try to offer their services to these men suggesting that they know how to break open a safe of money stolen in the raid, while at the same time they try to rescue a girl also abducted in the robbery.
A Train for Durango is a spaghetti western that also falls under that most uneven of sub-genres, namely the comedy western. I haven't seen too many of these that were worth a second look and to be honest this film is ultimately no different, even if it is a little better than most of its kind. It's still really actually quite unfunny which kind of is a problem, given that that is sort of one of its main ideas. But I would file it under forgettable as opposed to painful. The trio of main actors were pretty decent I have to say and it did in fact end on a pleasingly decent note. Actually, come to think of it, the ending was quite funny, despite what I said earlier. On the whole, it's one for spaghetti western fans mainly but it's strictly minor fare.
A good film, although I struggle to understand why it's regarded quite so highly
This wartime romance is one that seems to consistently be referred to as a classic and one of the best Hollywood films ever. Whenever I watch it though, I can never really work out why. It's a good film, no doubt, but I can never truly get to grips with why it is so beloved. Whereas, the previous year's Citizen Kane is one whose excellence is very obvious, Casablanca seems more like a very well made yet conventional bit of cinema. Not that this is a bad thing of course.
It does have a pretty impressive cast though, that is one thing for sure. Humphrey Bogart as the cynical Rick and Ingrid Bergman as the woman, Ilsa, who changes him make for a memorable screen couple; while the support cast is even better, with Claude Rains, Peter Lorre and Conrad Veidt all at the top of their games in this one. The North African setting provides a nice exotic feel, while the World War II backdrop ensures that there is a definite menace underpinning everything. But this film is probably most famous for its romance, with a final few scenes that have become incredibly famous, with lines of dialogue that have been repeated and misquoted ever since.
A very good film but I still don't really get the unadulterated love.
Total Recall (1990)
Entertainingly violent sci-fi actioner
Total Recall is a reminder of how big budget Hollywood action flicks used to be. Unlike nowadays, they went straight for an 18 certificate and made no attempt to make themselves available for a wide PG audience. This film typifies this approach with a huge amount of over-the-top violence. It was a style well suited to its director Paul Verhoeven who had already directed Robocop in a similar vein. Total Recall lacks the fun satirical element of that film and instead ramps up the action to very high-octane levels. It of course stars Arnold Schwarzenegger who at the time was on a run of highly entertaining action flicks. This one isn't the best of them for me but it still has enough about it to ensure it remains interesting.
It's based on a story by author Philip K. Dick whose work had been translated into the film Blade Runner earlier. Although I have never read the book that inspired Total Recall, I have heard that the movie only plays lip-service to it and it's a substantially different thing. This is hardly surprising news given the focus on action over ideas. Although, in fairness, the ideas presented are still quite good in places even if the story is somewhat too convoluted for its own good perhaps. I liked the set-design and look of the Martian settlement and the special effects remain very impressive throughout. While the excessive violence was somewhat entertaining it has to be said. On the whole this is pretty good fun.
Before I Go to Sleep (2014)
Interesting idea but ultimately mediocre
The premise of Before I Go to Sleep is quite a good one. A woman wakes up each day with no memory beyond her early twenties; soon she begins to realise that some dark secrets are being hidden from her. It's sort of in similar territory to Christopher Nolan's early neo-noir Memento (2000), which was also a mystery/thriller about a character with a short-term memory loss condition. Like that one, here one of the interesting angles is that the central character has no idea if their friends really are friends or actually enemies. It's true that several aspects of the storyline require you to stretch your belief somewhat; however, many thrillers are similar in this respect, so this wasn't such a deal-breaker for me. The problem I essentially had is that while the idea may be pretty intriguing, ultimately the pay-off is somewhat mediocre and conventional. Piece by piece the puzzle is slowly unravelled but it doesn't end up presenting us with a picture that is very inspired or interesting and you sort of ask yourself 'is that it?'
Intense and unrelenting TV drama
I remember back in the mid 80's when Threads came out. It was during the Cold War and to be perfectly honest most kids my age pretty much thought a nuclear conflict was a matter of when not if. It does seem quite incredible that that was such a common belief but it reflects how scary the stand-off between the USA and USSR actually was. Threads was shown on TV and I'm not actually that sure I in fact saw it at the time. But I saw at least part of it and it was grim stuff indeed. Taking into account the level of concern over nuclear war, it's hardly surprising that it made a massive impact and scared the hell out of the population. It was a product of the BBC and its title referred to the way that the threads of society are so finely held together and can be so easily destroyed in the event of a cataclysmic event. The event in this case is of course World War 3, or more specifically a speculative end of the Cold War stand-off by way of thermonuclear war. The way the film works is to immerse us in the people of the northern English city of Sheffield and look at the whole scenario from this perspective. This means that we learn about the international crises via snippets of info on TV or in newspaper headlines. It keeps the conflict in a very distant land, which in some ways adds to the horror about to come, as when it finally arrives it has an alien quality to it. It is devastating the sight of the distant mushroom cloud is truly unsettling and difficult to forget.
The film then looks at what it would be like to live in a post-apocalypse. It uses information gathered by scientists of the time as to numbers of casualties and the brutal effects of such an event. To that end we have burnt corpses, people eating raw sheep meat, rape, mutations, no electricity, no sanitation, no sunlight, diseases of many varieties, famine and the total destruction of culture. It implies that instant death is better than survival. The way the film presents all of this is amplified by the small-scale realism and the manner in which the pre-apocalypse section follows several characters and the small mundane details of their lives. This makes the events yet to come more brutal. The film also uses documentary techniques to hammer home the harsh truths, with a voice-over and screen text informing us of statistics and the various stages of the disaster. While the decision to use a cast of unknown actors only adds to the authentic feel. Its effect is horribly effective and is a film that should certainly still be periodically shown on national televisions of all nations with nuclear capabilities. It shows us that if we really want to go back to the medieval ages, nuclear war is a quick route to get there.
Coming Home (1978)
Strong acting underpins this early Vietnam War movie
Coming Home was one of the films from the first wave of Vietnam War movies. Like The Deer Hunter, also from the same year, it deals with the effects the war had on the people back home in America, both ex-soldiers and wives. It examines the psychological fallout. It's in essence about a love triangle a woman, her husband who has gone to the war and a physically damaged soldier who has returned. These personal relationships add a considerable layer of complexity to the anti-war themes directly levelled at the Vietnam situation. So the movie is a quite detailed set of motivations and impulses from a group of damaged individuals. One man is physically crippled, the other mentally broken, while the woman in the middle is lost. The primary reason that it all works so well is on account of towering performances from the three leads, namely Bruce Dern, Jane Fonda and Jon Voight. All three are extremely good and drive the dramatics. The style of the movie is very loose in terms of both dialogue and also camera-work. It lends a sense of realism that works in its favour and keeps the feel very personal.
Its director Hal Ashby made a series of highly impressive films throughout the 70's and this is simply another example. The anti-war message is certainly quite clearly given, culminating in a scene where Voight delivers an impassioned speech to a group of high school students about his feelings about his participation in the war; it's a powerhouse moment. It seems that many people don't like the ending very much though, particularly where Dern's character kills himself by swimming out into the ocean. I myself thought it powerful and one that isn't as morally weak as some others believe, after all Dern's suicide doesn't simply resolve the love triangle problem for the other two characters but it also would leave them with a considerable amount of guilt due to their actions contributing to this action. It's an intense but strong ending in my view. Also of note is a particularly strong soundtrack of 60's rock songs, including the very rare use of original Beatles recordings on a film score.
A very impressive Canadian backwoods thriller
The Creeper, or Rituals as it's more commonly known, is a very good Canadian backwoods thriller. It's about five doctors who go on a camping trip in a remote woodland area; very quickly they become prey to an unseen murderous presence. For some reason, this film isn't particularly well-known. It's difficult to understand why because this is a very well directed and acted affair, with a good amount of effective suspense maintained throughout. The film it is most often compared to is, unsurprisingly, Deliverance. Both films share the basic idea of a group of city men coming unstuck in the back of beyond. But Rituals a more horror-orientated, as it has an unseen villain whom we witness stalking his victims from various POV shots. Furthermore, the men are picked off one by one in a variety of macabre ways, including a scene where the unfortunate men awake to discover one of their friend's decapitated head's stuck on a pole in the ground. Nevertheless, I wouldn't quite put this into the slasher bracket but its story definitely pushes into the realms of horror with this focus on the stalker and the succession of nasty murders. Interestingly the killer does remain unseen until the end, except for a creepy shot of him seen from afar atop a hill watching. His presence is continually felt throughout though as he leaves little mementos along the way such as military medals and x-rays, both of which serve as clues as to his motivations. Keeping the maniac off screen is particularly effective here though, as when we do see him in the explosive finale it's pretty haunting stuff to say the least.
There is a welcome realism to proceedings on account of the very good acting. Of particular note is Hal Holbrook and Lawrence Dane, the latter of whom was the producer too and would go on to star in another classic Canadian horror film, Scanners. The characterisations of the men in general are well done and it was very interesting to see that one of these middle-aged men was portrayed as an openly gay character in a commendably matter-of-fact fashion; it's rare enough today for this to ever happen, never mind back in the 70's and it is worthy of some praise for this alone. In a general sense, this production is worthy of a great deal of respect. It's tense, well-acted and surprising. An unheralded gem.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Genuinely terrifying film made on a micro-budget
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Paranormal Activity is that it was made for only $15,000. This is truly about as low budget as you can get, it's nothing basically. When watching it, while it was obvious it was very lo-fi, I would never for a second have though it could have been made for so very little. The main reason being was that it was so incredibly effective. I'm fairly jaded in terms of horror movies, in that I have seen loads and don't get scared by hardly any these days. This movie actually genuinely rattled me. Whenever I saw that timer slow down on the video camera in the middle of the night I was immediately on edge. When it comes to gut reactions such as this it isn't always easy to say why they happen but this movie touched a nerve that is for sure. One reason I am sure was that it used its low-budget to its advantage and made the events caught on home video seem like the kind you could relate to; the banality of the day scenes added a definite reality that drew you into the situation much more than if the film had the distancing effect of cinematic gloss. The effect was one famously used by The Blair Witch Project (which incidentally cost four times more to make) but for my money Paranormal Activity is the better movie, in that its characters are easier to empathise with and their situation is easier to relate to, after all everyone experiences the atmosphere of a darkened house on a nightly basis.
There doesn't seem to be a lot of reason to say very much more about this one, as it has already garnered a huge number of IMDb reviews already. But suffice to say, I would consider this to be a perfect illustration of how to make a very successful movie with very little money. It takes considerable skill to do so and the people involved in this nailed it. And thankfully the distributer DreamWorks did not go with their original idea of immediately remaking it and only releasing the original version as a DVD extra! Thankfully test screenings indicated that this micro-budgeted film was really getting to people in a way that would be simply hard to recreate with all the money Hollywood could provide.