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American History X (1998)
Dark, but very important
American History X is a truly, truly phenomenal movie. It centers around two brothers in the Vinyard family- Derek Vinyard, played by Oscar-nominated Edward Norton, and Danny Vinyard, by T-2 star Edward Furlong. The story is not light-hearted or humorous, but takes a dark and serious tone by showing us the consequences of bigotry and hatred in no-nonsense fashion.
The plot is divided into two segments; the Black and white sequences are scenes which were set in the past, mainly dealing with Derek's transformation into a strong supporter and eventual leader of White supremeism in America, his subsequent fall, and his experiences in prison which eventually force him to seriously re-think his actions and whether what he is doing is really worth it all; and whether they are justifiable in any way, shape or form. The coloured segments are set in the 'present day' so to speak; It is mostly about Derek's younger brother, Danny, who having been strongly influenced by his younger brother, is now taking the route that he did (obviously not aware of the consequences that would await him, which alas did for Derek), and an unexpected, valiant attempt by Derek to stop him going down that path, proclaiming he's had "enough of that".
It's non-linear storyline, obviously involving the black-and white as well as colour, is really fascinating and particularly effective in this circumstance. The acting is good, but really it's Edward Norton stealing the show- Surely his greatest performance, which is saying something for such a top-quality actor like Norton. It's almost as if he's playing two characters: One a tattoo- filled,brainwashed racist skinhead; the other a reformed character desperate to prevent a family member following the same troubled route. But most of all, it's the tale of how racism has such a powerful and dangerous effect on society. It's true in America as it is with many countries; It was true in 1998 as it is in 2014, as I speak. The message overall, that this movie conveys is loud and clear: RACISM IS WRONG.
It's gonna be painful to watch, and certainly not for children (some parts are REALLY disturbing, mind you), but for adults and perhaps even older teenagers, it will prove to be a thought- provoking, touching piece of work.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
A genuinely enjoyable movie!
I must admit I am not a big fan of Marvel films in general, but have to say that this film was very worth going to the cinema and watching. It blends exciting action-packed battle sequences with some brilliantly punctuated humour, making for an entertaining and edge-of-your-seat watch.
For those who are very much against comic book film adaptations, the story may seem very generic- it is, after all, a tale of stark good vs stark evil. However, all the main protagonists are given multiple dimensions to their character, and have layered out their backstories to give viewers a further understanding of the story. Along with that, there are so many hilarious scenes, that may not necessarily be crucial in terms of the storyline, but nevertheless give you another reason to enjoy it. I'm not going to divulge any of them for now, so that you can see them for yourself and laugh louder..
Maybe some detest blockbusters for their painfully one-dimensional plots and over-reliance on visual effects, but this one is certainly different, rest assured. I'm very sure that this film avoids those negative stereotypes and actually produces a story worth telling, along with top-notch comedic elements and, of course, brilliant special effects.
Don't be surprised to see this end up as one of the ten best films of the year.
Fight Club (1999)
It's still popular for a reason
Well, as I write, Fight Club is 10th on the top 250 list, sandwiched in between the third and first instalments of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy; so why the hell is it so popular? Is it really all that good?
Well, factors such as the carefree swearing, eerie soundtrack which perfectly punctuates the mood and tone, and top-notch performances by Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter and the mighty Brad Pitt certainly help. But most of all, it's an example shown on screen of how young people in the 90's were altering their lifestyles to match modern expectations, and about the consumerist culture was rapidly dominating society in that era. Along with that, both the characters of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt form a group called a fight Club; which as the title suggests, is a club for young men to fight all they want, but slowly evolves into something much bigger and darker.
Of course, nearly everyone knows there is a massive plot twist at the end; unsurprisingly I won't say anything about it. But after the entire plot unfolds, you will find that twist is one massive, massive shock that you wouldn't expect beforehand whatsoever. It may well leave you with more questions unanswered, but it's an enormously entertaining and thought-provoking film which should impress many.
Truly one of the greats
Widely seen as one of the best films from the 1970s and perhaps of all time, there are many reasons why it is truly a wonderful movie. There's Jack Nicholson at arguably his peak, which is never dull to see. There's a large male ensemble cast, apart from Nicholson, including Brad Dourif (nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscar for his role) and Danny DeVito. It's a film adaptation of a very highly acclaimed novel. But most of all, it's a film that brings a brilliantly balanced combination between a bleak and disheartening mood, yet also a equally inspiring message.
This inspiring message is about the wild, rebellious, devil-may-care Randall Patrick McMurphy (ie RP McMurphy), who, in 1962, is sent to a mental institution after he wanted to live a "relaxed" life, which he thinks he can find when compared to a normal prison, and proceeds to lock horns with the head nurse, Nurse Ratched, a domineering, authoritative figure in the institution, who uses subtle torture methods, such as unnecessary daily discussions to extort secrets from different members of the group, and awful-tasting medicine, to keep all patients firmly in her control. They eventually divulge into a battle of wits, which jolts Nurse Ratched off her comfort zone and puts her previously unchallenged iron fist in danger. McMurphy's boundless energy raises the moods of the other patients, teaching them to enjoy life a bit more and not permanently live in fear of the Nurse.
Fantastic performances from the likes of Nicholson, Louise Fletcher and Dourif are driving forces in the movie, helping elevate it to such a high level. Intricate characterisation of supporting characters, such as patients Billy Bibbit, a stutterer (played by Dourif), Martini, a man suffering from intense delusion, and Cheswick, prone to childish bouts of temper, give depth to the story and is also an important way of linking the Nurse's importance to the plot. Milos Forman's exquisite direction offer some rays of light in the midst of a dark atmosphere- the rays of inspiration from Nicholson's brilliantly portrayed McMurphy, in his attempts to change the ward, and the dark, gloomy atmosphere from Fletcher's Nurse Ratched, with her iron fist on the ward and it's effects on other patients lives. These different factors, and other smaller ones, make this such an absorbing, entertaining and emotional watch.
In a nutshell, it's a gripping story of good vs bad during a critical period in America's history, whilst avoiding a one-dimensional point of view by making each character complex and interesting. It won the Big Five Academy Awards (one of three movies to do so, so far) and is now, as I write, 15th on IMDb's top 250 list, a particularly high ranking for an older film like this, so it clearly has a richly deserved reputation as a great, legendary movie. All in all, a powerful and phenomenal piece of work you will regret missing out on.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
What a realistic, gritty and captivating war film
Saving Private Ryan is a war film that introduces realistic war scenes very rarely seen in cinema, as well as raw emotion with the pain and horror that inevitably comes from fighting on the front. The opening 25-odd minutes of the film, which brutally depicts the Omaha beach landings, is probably my favourite, and in my opinion, most well-crafted segment ever. There's little surprise that that opening segment in the movie is one of the most talked-about and praised ever, since it's graphic violence, shaky camera movement and non-stop battle action really sucks you into D-Day, as if you were right there itself.
However, to downplay the rest of the film would be wrong. The search for Private James Ryan, and the experiences the group led by Captain John Miller, Tom Hanks' character, are fantastic to watch, and the other battles they need to slug they way through to get to him, and after that, are all extremely impressive too. Along the way, the themes of loyalty, courage and morality are brought to the fore during certain moments, adding more dimensions to this fantastically carved war film and making this a true classic. All the cast are excellent, but Tom Hanks is the one that really grabs the limelight, with his awesome portrayal of a principled and collected war Captain who must lead the men throughout different missions.
Spielberg is really at the top of his game here... why does this film have so many harsh critics? It might be highly glorifying the American military, but do you expect absolutely everything to be crammed into one film? This proves that this legendary director isn't limited to blockbusters, and can make extremely graphic scenes which enhance a story like this.
An absolute must see for everyone, it's already one of my all-time favourites.
This never gets old!
Disney has made many animated feature films, and there are still animated movies aplenty being made out there in modern times, but very few can eclipse the very first one of all, which is the story of a beautiful young princess called Snow White who is under the watch of the wicked Queen, who forces her as a maid in the house. This movie is now so highly rated and acclaimed that in 2007, the American Film Institute named this animated flick the 34th best American film of ALL TIME.
Even while watching it as a little kid, watching it again as a grown up teenager still brings back awesome memories, proving that the story, the characters and beautiful music is gripping and makes this a fascinating tale. Snow White herself is drawn so beautifully that you can't help but simply admire her, and the incredibly adorable voicing from Adriana Caselotti is a child's fascination. The Seven Dwarfs are very united and usually do things together- they live together, work together etc. But they are all different in personality and even in appearance. One example is Grumpy, who is for a while reluctant to accept Snow White and cold towards her, but is still one to play a part to rescue her from the Queen when danger arrives. They are the other backbone of the story, and are my personal favourite in this.
This one animated film has received a lot of praise and attention over the years, right up until now 3 quarters of a century later, because by 1937 standards this is just phenomenal. Kudos Walt Disney for having the far-sightedness and innovation to create this stupendous movie in Technicolor back then and making it fun and realistic. Even now, all children should watch this- perhaps even with their parents who will not mind it!
If you've got the chance to watch this- don't let it go
This isn't simply a childish,cheesy Disney animated tale, and most certainly it's not simply for kids- many adults and older teens love this movie too. It is a fantastic story about true love, courage and happiness, and deserves all the praise and critical acclaim that it's gotten.
It's about the story of two sisters, Elsa and Anna living in a fictional land of Arenelle, where their parents are the king and queen of the land. When they were little, Elsa, the older one, accidentally inflicted her own special powers onto her younger sister, harming her and almost threatening her life. Thus, it was decided that Elsa wear special gloves to prevent any damage, and even worse, lock herself in her massive room forever. The relationship between both of them is then sadly cut off. When the king and queen are tragically killed in a shipwreck, Elsa succeeds them as the heir to the throne, but during a party she reveals them to everyone, forcing her to leave. There, it is when her courageous and loving sister goes on a journey to find Elsa, and bring her back to Arenelle.
The music in general is catchy, and in terms of songs they have some real gems, including what is probably the most iconic movie song in the 21st century, "Let it Go". It will bring back great memories for those who remember "You've got a friend in me" and etc. This movie has romance, as you will see, but the themes go much deeper than that- it is discovering who truly cares for you, bravery, and what true love is. The dedication in Anna to find her sister is truly heartwarming, making you really fond of this character.
This is a great Disney feature- definitely worthy of competing with some of the classics in years gone by. After watching, you'll find that you are singing to yourself non-stop, and your heart touched by a heartwarming tale!
Taxi Driver (1976)
Surely Scorsese's finest.... this is how a movie should be made.
Taxi Driver is the story of Travis Bickle, a lonely man who is seeking company and happiness as he battles insomnia by working as a cab driver during the night shift. Travis witnesses the lawlessness and prostitution running rampant in a bustilng New York City, as he drives by the nighttime streets every day, and is annoyed, wanting to do something about it rather than let the situation be. He happens to meet a young child prostitute (Jodie Foster), and tries to help her rather than take advantage of her status as a prostitute.
Travis is portrayed perfectly by that man, Robert De Niro- you can sense the inner frustration in him, and the sheer desire to be somebody. he is a lonely man, but a lonely man with a mission- as well as some mental problems. And my word, Scorsese has got it totally right with his direction. He created an environment which smacked of lawlessness through the eyes of this man, and the situations that bring him to what he does eventually.
There is some violence in the film ( I can't ruin the story though!), but none of it will be particularly scary for those over 15. Rather, it's an impeccable story told in an exquisite manner, with some morals behind the tale. Highly recommended for everyone- a truly awesome vigilante movie.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Funny, full of profanity, overall fairly good.... though not quite Scorsese's greatest
The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, a wall street broker who eventually rose to high prominence over there, and lived a very immoral life full of drugs, hot young women and money laundering. He is portrayed well by DiCaprio in this film.
This movie is quite funny, with many humorous moments/dialogues that happen, and it does give you a true insight into the life of Jordan Belfort- being a chick magnet, cheating money out of others despite his jaw-dropping wealth, his unhealthy obsession with alcohol and drugs etc. It also shows how and why he got to this stage, and the consequences of it.
The film is 3 hours long, so it is quite lengthy, but it doesn't become boring as Scorsese can keep the story going by revealing more of his indiscretions and what happens to him. The funny moments do urge you to continue watching the show, and I'm sure the profanity is bound to attract attention from viewers. Its very extortionate amount of non child-friendly content, with the moral ambiguity, constant swearing (broke the record for the most number of F-bombs in a Hollywood motion picture), use of drugs, nude scenes etc. may become distasteful for some watchers, and can make the movie a bit vague at times, but if you are certain you can handle it, by all means watch it- it's not a waste of 3 hours. I must stress, if you're any younger than me (i'm 15) avoid it for now.
It isn't the greatest movie ever, and Scorsese has done better, but it's an interesting tale of a man working on the world's biggest financial district, his fascinating yet intensely dislikable attitude, and his influence on his friends (such as Donny, played by Jonah Hill), told in a darkly humorous way.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Some top-drawer acting in a meaningful movie
The best part about Dallas Buyers Club are the truly fantastic performances of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, making themselves so real as their characters. The film itself is not perfect... it goes slightly sleezy at certain moments, I'll be honest, but the film has a very important message: That people with HIV/AIDS must be cared for and can never be discriminated against, and that bigotry is never a good thing.
McConaughey may never give a performance as outstanding as this in his entire career- he was Ron Woodroof (who by the way really did exist), as a stereotypical redneck, who lives hard, by drinking, swearing, even taking drugs- and unexpectedly receives HIV/AIDS. He refuses to accept the fact, thinking only homosexuals would ever have them, but realises that he does eventually. He then tries to think of a way to get drugs from across the border in Mexico, but that would be illegal according to the law, as these drugs to treat AIDS were not ready yet.
Along the way of his treatment, he meets Rayon, a transsexual woman, who he is initially hostile to, but slowly forms a friendship with him. This character is portrayed by arguably an even more incredible performance, by Jared Leto. The persona, character and behaviour is very truthfully played out by Leto, leading you to sometimes sympathise with Rayon. These two actors truly shone in this film.
Not the most perfect film, but still worth two hours of your time watching I would say. Above all, the topic it deals with is serious and real.