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Over the last few years we have stopped buying so many discs due to domestic life (no space!) and Sky Movies.
If you are wondering why so much Horror - it is because it is the one genre we both enjoy equally and also the genre where even poor quality movies can be quite enjoyable.
We only go to the cinema occasionally so a lot of these are blind purchases - some we regret, some we don't....
Man on Fire (2004)
Great Revenge Flick!
Man On Fire is basically a revenge flick with a little redemption along the way.
Denzel Washington plays John Creasy an ex CIA man who has both lost his faith and become an alcoholic due to guilt about his past. Whilst visiting an old friend and colleague in Mexico (played brilliantly by Christopher Walken) he stumbles into a job of bodyguard to Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning) a young girl from a rich family of Mexico City.
What makes this movie work even more so than the interesting style of photography against a good soundtrack incorporating a great revenge style story is the chemistry between the two main stars Washington and Fanning. It is a joy to watch them during their scenes together and Fanning acts well beyond her years.
The film maybe too violent in some parts for many but if you don't mind this then give Man On Fire a go as it is a great piece of work.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
One Of The Best Movies Ever Made!
The Deer Hunter is one of the greatest movies ever made. Ironically when I first saw it I was not overly impressed, but for some reason watched it again. I ended up watching it many in times in a short period as I fell in love with the piece and still view the movie regularly.
The story is about three men from Pennsylvania who go to fight in the Vietnam War and who's lives are forever changed by their experience. Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage play the three friends Michael, Nick and Steven respectively. They are brilliantly supported by the likes of Meryl Streep and John Cazale (who was dying from bone cancer during the filming).
The movie is well known for the infamous Russian roulette scenes, in some ways too much as the film is so much more than that. The film is a film of two halves - one pre-Vietnam and one during/after Vietnam. The first half is an almost perfect study of real life, the characters seem so real you can believe it is a real community. This is due to both the excellent work of the actors and fine direction by Michael Cimino.
There are many great scenes of interaction between the characters simply living a "normal" life in their small American town. It is a stark contrast to the Vietnam part of the story and amazing performances by Walken and De Niro especially make you believe the change in them following their ordeal.
It is quite simply a classic and a permanent member of my top three films of all time.
Must See Movie!
Interestingly this is a remake of a TV movie by the same director made only 6 or 7 years previous. Although "LA Takedown" itself was a good movie this has the advantage of a bigger budget, stellar cast and being the film which first presents De Niro and Pacino on screen at the same time.
Although the De Niro/Pacino factor is something this movie is known for it is not all the movie is. In my opinion it is also one of the best films ever brought to the screen.
The amazing cast includes as already mentioned Al Pacino and Robert De Niro plus Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Wes Studi and Dennis Haysbert. Not only is the cast almost dream like on paper but also all put in great performances (in many cases personal bests).
Al Pacino plays Lt Vincent Hanna, an LA detective who is passionate about his work to the point he is unable to keep a satisfactory personal life running as well. His performance is very powerful and at times almost bordering on over the top but this fits the character well. De Niro arguably out does Pacino with his brilliantly understated performance as Hanna's nemesis - thief Neil McCauley. This is easily De Niro's best performance in years - the realism of his character is amazing. Kilmer plays Chris Shiherlis a member of McCauley's gang and gives a solid performance supporting the two key stars. As I say all the cast put in a great performance but it is worth mentioning Natalie Portman's early role as Hanna's troubled step daughter Lauren Gustafson, it shows why she has become such a big star since.
Director/writer Michael Mann shows this must truly have been a labour of love. Every detail from character development to photography and music is spot on. The film has the audacity to be one of the most well acted and written drama's and yet also include possibly the greatest shoot out scene ever seen.
If you watch just one cops and robbers movie in your time, make sure this is the one.
I think the first thing I need to mention are my preconceptions before first seeing this movie. I do this as I think your view of a movie can be affected by your preconceptions. For example I am sure I do not rate Gladiator as highly as it deserves due to the fact I caught it late on DVD after I had heard and read people raving on about how great it was, I was disappointed at least partially due to my expectations being overly high.
With Crash however although I did not catch it until after it had won the Oscar I was not convinced it was going to be a great movie as I was indifferent about the cast and on reading the cover I could see it looked like one of those movies which would either work or just be an incoherent mess. Besides "Gladiator" and "A Beautiful Mind" had won Oscars in recent years both of which I do not rate that highly! I was slightly worried by the opening scene, it features Cheadle (probably the actor involved I rated highest before seeing this movie) but seemed to contain awkward dialogue, was not particularly visually inspiring and bottom line just failed to grab me. However the scene was just a setup scene out of context as the movie quickly moves into the true first act set a day before within the time line of the story.
The story quickly progresses to show various characters from different walks of life within the city of Los Angeles living through the previous 24 hours. All of the stories involve the subject of racism and all end up being intermingled in the style of previous films such as the brilliant Magnolia.
The script is often funny whilst at other times heart breaking and even though it has the sense of being contrived with the aim of getting an emotional response from its viewers it can be forgiven for this because at the end of the day it does work.
For me a major revelation was Matt Dillon, he is one of those actors I had not seen much of before for whatever reason and he shone for me in a truly first class believable performance.
I won't spoil the plot for those who are yet to see the movie but the road accident scene involving him and Newton is plain awesome and I love the interaction between them in the car and the way although his prejudices are wrong they do not in themselves define him as a bad person - just a messed up one.
The film is not without its critics and many think it is Hollywood dribble with no clear or relevant message. I believe it shows none of us to be without prejudice of some form or another even if this is sometimes hardly a conscious thing.
Cold Creek Manor (2003)
OK but not that good
OK we've all seen this type of film before, family leave problems and life in the city for a new start in the country only to find far greater and real problems than those they left behind.
Unfortunately it's just not done particularly well in this movie. It starts well and gives the impression it will lead into some kind of haunted mansion movie once the family arrive at their new home. However, what happens is far less exciting.
Quaid gives another solid but unremarkable performance, Dorff is passable but his character never seems as threatening as he should be, Lewis plays the kind of role she seems to fit like a glove. The one thing I realised from this film is Sharon Stone has no impact or presence on the screen at all, I mean she had an impact on me when I was 15 and first saw Basic Instinct, but hey. She is one of the few actresses I would actually advise to only accept films with nudity scenes involved.
The direction is only apt, you feel there is meant to be some kind of attraction or sexual tension between Dorff's and Stone's character but whether due to the fault of the Director or actors it does not work at all. It is also at times very predictable, which is not a good factor for a thriller.
The film does have it's redeeming features, it does at least keep you interested enough to follow through to the climax just to see what happens. It is one though you will not be revisiting soon again.
Fantastic Rock Opera!
I first saw this movie a few years back whilst going through my Uncle's collection of records, tapes and videos etc. To be fair I was fairly sceptical about the prospect of spending at Saturday night drinking and watching a musical film involving "The Who" (a band I had obviously heard of, but not actually really listened too) with my Uncle. However my Uncle has great taste in music and has introduced me to many great bands and albums over the years, especially 60's rock music.
I think my initial reaction to the film was it had some great scenes, mixing fantastic music with iconic imagery, some very interesting cast members, and a very strange dark humour throughout most of it.
The scenes which I were first really drawn to were 1951/what about the boy? (whether Oliver Reed can sing or not without severe editing, he fits his part perfectly and both he and Ann-Margaret shine during this scene), Acid Queen (an amazing performance by Tina Turner) and Amazing Journey.
Due to enjoying these songs/scenes so much I revisited the film a few times and then really found the true depth of the movie. The songs are top notch, with the above mentioned and others such as Christmas, Pinball Wizard, I'm Free, Sally Simpson and Listening To You amongst the best. Every scene is almost mesmerising in it's own way (apart from Eyesight to the blind, although I love Eric Clapton, I just do not enjoy this part at all).
I had been looking for this on DVD for sometime, and in the meantime had purchased the original CD (interesting how some songs are better on the CD whilst others translate better in the movie) as a substitute. I was of course extremely pleased at the recent 2 Disc Collectors Edition release and did not hesitate to make my purchase.
OK, the story is not your run of the mill, easy to understand type and I think it is open to all kinds of interpretations, the main thing is the movie is a visual and musical feast almost like an extended ultra good pop video.
A classic movie, with a totally original concept
When I first heard about this movie I hired it on DVD not really knowing quite what to expect. The first scene (or is that last?!) shows a man being killed by a gun but filmed in reverse. Thankfully the rest of the film is not people walking around in reverse etc but carefully layered scenes, each new one set chronologically before the previous.
This opens up endless possibilities of twists, turns and humour, which Christopher Nolan takes full advantage of. Guy Pearce is at his absolute best playing Leonard Shelby, the man who cannot make new memories due to an injury sustained whilst himself and his wife were attacked. He therefore has an uphill task finding the true murderer of his dead wife which he has now set as his only goal in life.
Matrix stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano give excellent support in this gripping and original tale which may take at least a couple of viewings to completely get your head round.
The great concept, acting, score and of course editing make this an unmissable thriller.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
The most poetic depiction of life and war on film
This film is one of those greats which can absorb you entirely if you let it. As with many of my favourite films of all time I was not too impressed on first viewing. This was probably due to my expectations being different to the type of film it is. It has a fantastic ensemble of cast including Jim Caviezel on top form, the brilliant Nick Nolte, Sean Penn and a best to date outing for Ben Chaplin. Woody Harrelson, John Travolta and George Clooney make cameo appearances.
The photography in this picture is amongst the most beautiful and artistic ever to be seen, the stark contrast between nature's beauty and the evil of war is thought provoking. The voice over, fantastic soundtrack and abstract scenes add to make this film an amazing experience. The scene when the marines storm the Japanese camp is a monumental one showing the true terror of war, this one scene is worth more than the whole of "Saving Private Ryan".
Well that is my view, if you have not seen this film then make sure you do. If you've seen it once and were not too impressed, give it another go like I did, you may be surprised.