Wednesday, September 22, 2010

170. 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys (1995)

Director: Terry Gilliam

Starring: Bruce Willis
Brad Pitt
Madeleine Stowe

IMDb Rating: 8.1
My Rating: 8

"There's no right. There's no wrong. There's only popular opinion."


The year is 2035. James Cole is an imprisoned convict who volunteers to go back in time to the year 1996 to gather information on a virus that wipes out five billion people. An error occurs and Cole is actually sent to 1990, six years prior to the virus' release. He is immediately locked up in a mental institution. Here he meets Dr. Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist who seems to be the only person who might listen to him. He also meets Jeffery Goines, a patient who is the son of a famous scientist.

What's so great about (insert name)?

Terry Gilliam's dark and often obscure style lends it's self perfectly to the virus ridden, post-apocalyptic" world. Due to this, 12 Monkeys has a rather realistic feel to it. Although time travel does not exist, all the gadgets from Gilliam's view of 2035 feel rather authentic. Also, most of the performances are excellent. The exceptional standout here is Brad Pitt as the clinically insane Jeffery Goines. His performance starts out to be rather humorous, but takes a dark turn by the film's conclusion.

Anything not so great?

It doesn't happen all off the time, but some of the time jumps are a little confusing. There are moments where you are not exactly sure if you are in 1990 or 1996. The few scenes in 2035 are simple to discern from the 90's scenes.

Best Scene

Jeffery showing Cole around the mental hospital might not seem like that relevant of a scene in the film. Although, I really feel it helped establish two of our main characters personalities.

Does 12 Monkeys belong in the 250?

It's is definitely one of the best science fiction films to come out of the 1990's, so I can understand why it's included in the list. I would put it in the two hundred and fifty films I have seen, but not as high as it is on this list.

Fun Fact

There is a story that before production began, Terry Gilliam gave Bruce Willis a list entitled "Things Bruce Willis Does When He Acts" with the footnote of the list saying, " please don't do any of the above in my movie." I wonder why they never made another film together?

Final Words

As stated in my previous post on Gilliam's film Brazil, other than the Monty Python's films, I don't particularly care for him as a director. 12 Monkeys is the main exception to that rule. It's pretty obvious that Gilliam did not write the script for this film, as it doesn't have any holes and doesn't confuse the dickens out of you. I think this film is an exceptional piece of fiction and Gilliam's style lends perfectly to the well structured story.

Monday, September 20, 2010

171. Night of the Hunter

Night of the Hunter (1955)

Director: Charles Laughton

Starring: Robert Mitchum
Shelley Winters
Lillian Gish

IMDb Rating: 8.1
My Rating: 8.5

"A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them."


Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is a vigilante of sorts, or at least by the way he sees. He marries and then murders widows for money, believing that by doing so, he is doing God's work. While in jail for auto theft, he tries to uncover the where abouts of $10,000 that only his cell mate Ben Harper knows where is hidden. When Powell discovers that Harper's daughter Pearl knows where the money is, he will stop at nothing to reclaim the cash.

What's so great about Night of the Hunter?

There are performances that stick out in my mind, few are as haunting as Robert Mitchum evil turn in Night of the Hunter. One of the better villains in film history in my opinion. Mitchum plays Powell with an aura of mystery that makes the character equal parts creepy and unpredictable. I've also actually read the novel the film is based on, and it's a pretty good adaptation of the story. The film really captures the darkness of the real life Harry Powers, who Powell is of course based upon, even though some of the facts were changed.

Anything not so great?

The film's performances are pretty solid all around, but I've actually never been much of a Shelley Winters fan. As in other films, I just found her to be irritating, rather than effective.

Best Scene

A late night shotgun stand-off with Powell and Pearl's eventual protector is the highlight of the film.

Does Night of the Hunter belong in the 250?

Yes indeed. Not only is it a fantastic piece of cinema, but it's influence can be seen in many of the best and edgiest directors working today. Most notably Martin Scorsese.

Final Words

Night of the Hunter will be receiving a high definition transfer form the Criterion Collection this coming fall, which I am ecstatic for. This film is one that I surely plan on going back and watching a few times more. Mitchum is simply incredible. Overall, I highly recommend this film if you enjoyed films like the earlier reviewed Shadow of a Doubt.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

172. Les Diabolique

Les Diabolique (1955)

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Starring: Simone Signoret
Vera Clouzot
Paul Meurisse

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 9

"I may be reactionary, but this is absolutely astounding - the legal wife consoling the mistress! No, no, and no!"


Two women both work at a school for boys and both are romantically involved with the headmaster of the school. Christina is his wife, while Nicole is his mistress. Christina is well aware of her husband's infidelities. Michel treats both women awful, and the women have grown tired of his actions. Together the conspire to kill him and dump his body in the school's pool. When the murder is completed and body disposed of, Christina is riddled with anxiety. Soon the pool must be drained and the women find that their dear Michel's body is now missing.

What's so great about Les Diabolique?

Les Diabolique has a plot that just completely draws me in. The first time I read the synopsis of the film years ago, I was literally shaking in anticipation to see it. Often a movie will sound better than it actually turns out to be. Not so with this film. The plot and slowly unraveling execution is done absolutely perfectly. You truly feel along for the ride with the ladies. As far as thrillers go, this film ranks extremely high on my list. There are no loud noise "jump scares", which will completely turn me off from a film. This film relies on great story telling and legitimate scares to fright it's viewers.

Anything not so great?

The only downside to this film has nothing really to do with the movie. It's an old film, so I have never seen a good quality print of transfer of the film. Due to this, it can be difficult to follow as the sound and picture sometimes jumps and appears riddled with cracks. DO NOT let this deter you from seeing this film though.

Best Scene

To talk about the films best scene is to give away a huge fact of the film. I will just say the film's "bathtub scene" is on par with Alfred Hitchcock's famous "shower scene" from Psycho.

Does Les Diabolique belong in the 250?

Without a doubt. Not only is this one of the best thrillers I have seen, but it never loses it's appeal. I've seen this film a half dozen times and it is just as good each time that I see it.

Final Words

Being a fan of the work of director Alfred Hitchcock, it was his commentary on Les Diabolique that lead me to see the film. Hitchcock called this film one of his greatest influences when making Psycho, which is one of my all-time favorite films. While the influence is plainly seen, the two films plots are actually rather different. Overall, I find this film to be superb. If more thrillers were made like this film, I feel like the genre would gain some more credibility. This film comes very highly recommended!

173. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Director: Guy Richie

Starring: Jason Flemyng
Dexter Fletcher
Jason Statham
Nick Moran

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 8.5

"Err, bad breath, colorful language, feather duster... what do you think they're gonna be armed with? Guns, you tit!"


Four friends have gone 500,000 pounds in debt to gang boss Harry Lonsdale after a crooked game of cards. Harry says that he will take one finger at a time if they don't pay the money back within a week. The friends are at a loss at how to get the money, until they overhear their neighbors plan to rob some drug dealers. Together the friends devise a plan to get the money before their final "hand" is up.

What's so great about Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels?

There is a great deal to enjoy about Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Director Guy Richie thrives with these action-heist films, and this is by far his best effort. The action is fast paced and gritty. The different angles and point of views of the heist are outlined and orchestrated very well. With so many characters, a film like this could very easily become a mess. Not the case with this film. The writing is very witty, and what we are left with is a solid story with great laughs and superb action. From an entertainment aspect, you can't ask for much more in a film.

Anything not so great?

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but this mind as well be a foreign language film. They are in fact speaking English, but there is a ton of slang and at times the accents can be a little difficult to understand. I watch a lot of British films and even I had a little trouble. It never gets to a point where you are completely clueless to what they are saying, but there may be some phrases or words that you are left just guessing at.

Best Scene

Without giving anything away, the shoot out to the soundtrack of Zorba the Dancing Greek is classic. This one scene really sets the entire theme of the film, that being hilarious chaos.

Does Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels belong in the 250?

It might not be a positive yes, but I really have zero problem with this film being considered one of the top two hundred-fifty films.

Final Words

What really draws me to this film is how well it's written. Many films have tried this formula and have ultimately failed (see Smokin' Aces). When a film of this kind is done right, it really becomes a cross-over favorite of film aficionados and movie lovers alike. In my opinion, this is hands down Guy Richie's most complete film. If you enjoyed films like Pulp Fiction or fellow Brit Edgar Wright's homage action-comedy Hot Fuzz, you would greatly enjoy this film.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

174. The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride (1987)

Director : Rob Reiner

Starring: Cary Elwes
Robin Wright
Mandy Patinkin
Andre the Giant

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 7

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."


The Princess Bride is a fairytale in the grand tradition of fairytales. The central focus of the story lies on the rescue of the beautiful Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) from an arranged marriage to the evil Prince Humperdink. Buttercup is being pursued by her one true love Wesley (Cary Elwes), who was presumed dead at sea. Westley enlists the help of Inigo Montoya, a sword fighter seeking revenge for his father's death, and a lovable giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant) in his rescue mission.

What's so great about The Princess Bride?

The Princess Bride is a flat-out fun film to watch. It's easy to root for our hero Wesley, as he is charming and pretty funny. Our villain Prince Humperdink is as sinister as a family-friendly film's anti-hero can get. The best, and probably the most famous, performance of the film easily belongs to Mandy Patinkin, as Inigo Montoya. He plays his character with heart and flair. So overall, it's an enjoyable film to watch and it never really takes it's self too serious.

Anything not so great?

Don't get me wrong, The Princess Bride is a good film. There just isn't much substance to it. What you see is truly what you get. The plot has been delivered before, so while the movie is fun to watch, it's really nothing more than a live-action Disney fairytale.

Best Scene

See quote above.
Does The Princess Bride belong in the 250?

Not really. While it's a fun family film, it's unoriginal plot makes it's place in the 250 seems unjust. It seems to me that this film received a lot of votes based off of nostalgia and not content.

Final Words

I enjoyed The Princess Bride when I was a kid, and still have some laughs with it today. It's extremely quotable and is at it's core, a great movie to watch with the family. However, it's plot seems more affected by previous fairy tales and folklore than it's original. If you enjoyed The Adventures of Robin Hood or the recent Disney film Enchanted, you would greatly enjoy this film.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

175. The Incredibles

The Incredibles (2004)

Director : Brad Bird

With the Voices of: Craig T. Nelson
Holly Hunter
Jason Lee

IMDb Rating : 8

My Rating : 7.5

"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... ten minutes!"


Bob Park used to be one of the world's greatest superheroes, Mr. Incredible, that was until he was forced into "retirement". He now lives with his wife, who also used to be a superhero, and their three children in a common city suburb. Life is pretty mundane, that is until Bob receives a mysterious message about a top secret mission. This tempts him out of superhero hiding and back into action. When Bob's secret mission turns out to be a trap, the whole family must journey to save the man that they love.

What's so great about The Incredibles ?

Pixar has a way to bring a very realistic emotions to their animated films. In The Incredibles, they essentially give us a man struggling with the world around him. He is stuck in a job where his greatest skills are of no use. He struggles balancing his family's happiness with his own personal well being. While this might be normal theme for many live action films, this was basically uncharted territory for animation when The Incredibles was released. It's simple to relate to Bob's problems on a personal and emotional level. His problems are handled with the maturity and realism like any family drama. Don't get down on all the emotions though, this movie is still great fun. The underlying messages mentioned earlier are tied into a comedic and overall visually stunning presentation.

Anything not so great?

While the approach might be original, the actual story is far from that. The Incredibles greatly borrows from films like the James Bond series to parody. While they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it's also not very original. Still since it's animated, it gets away with these minor faults a little easier.

Best Scene

Dash's chase scene across the island brings to mind a similar scene in Return of the Jedi. The only difference being that the enemies chasing dash have vehicles, and well Dash has his left and right feet. The scene is equally thrilling and funny.

Does The Incredibles belong in the 250?

No. Now don't get me wrong, The Incredibles is an excellent time at the movies. However, it is essentially a spoof movie with a little added heart. We've seen the family dynamic approached like this in film, this film just has the luxury of animation to lean back on.

Final Words

I liked this film, much as I do your guilty pleasure summer blockbuster. Luckily though, there is more substance here than your typical Michael Bay action film. It ranks towards the bottom on my Pixar list, but in no way is that a bad thing. Pixar Studios continues to turn out excellent animated works that appeal to all ages, and The Incredibles is well an "incredible" example of that. This film does come recommended.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

176. The Wages of Fear

The Wages of Fear (1953)

Director : Henri-Georges Clouzot

Starring: Yves Montand
Charles Vanel
Folco Lulli
Peter van Eyck

IMDb Rating : 8
My Rating : 8.5

When I was a kid, I used to see men go off on this kind of job.... and not come back. When they did, they were wrecks. Their hair had turned white and their hands were shaking like palsy! You don't know what fear is. But you'll see. It's catching, it's catching like small pox! And once you get it, it's for life! So long, boys, and good luck."


When a South American oil well catches fire, the American owned Southern Oil Company hires four men to drive nitroglycerin to extinguish the flames. The journey to the fires is far and across mountains and very rocky terrain, which proves extremely dangerous considering the cargo that they are carrying.

What's so great about The Wages of Fear?

The Wages of Fear obviously has an edge of your seat subject matter, but it's not just the thrills that make this movie great. It's really a character study of the four men who face death at pretty much every corner. How they deal with that stress gives an extra dimension to this film, and is truly what sets it apart from other "disaster" type films.

Anything not so great?

I am going to catch some grief for this, but the ending felt like they just didn't know how to end it. I understand that it's very symbolic, but a better ending could have been created for a film that is nothing short of a success up to that point.

Best Scene

With a construction barricade blocking part of the road, they are forced to turn around on a platform that sits high above a valley below. It's completely nerve racking, but you cannot take your eyes off the screen.

Does The Wages of Fear belong in The 250?

Yes. It's thrilling moments perfectly contrast the moments of drama. That balance, along with very solid performances from Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli, and Peter van Eyck insure it's place in The 250 is well deserved.

Final Words

I genuinely liked this film. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot gives us a film that is all together entertaining and well made. If you choose to see this film, which I think you really should, don't be deterred by the beginning. They do take a little time to set up the characters, which is really beneficial once we have the same four guys for an hour and a half. Overall, The Wages of Fear is not to be missed.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

177. Kind Hearts and Coronets

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Director : Robert Hamer
Starring : Dennis Price
Alec Guiness

IMDb Rating : 8
My Rating : 8.5

"I made an oath that I would revenge the wrongs her family had done her. It was no more than a piece of youthful bravado, but was one of those acorns from which great oaks are destined to grow. Even then I went so far as to examine the family tree and prune it to just the living members. But what could I do to hurt them? What could I take from them, except, perhaps, their lives."


Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) is the son of woman disowned by her family for marrying outside of their approved status. When her dying wish to be buried in the family tomb is not granted, Louis seeks out revenge on the eight living members of the D'Ascoyne family (each played by Alec Guinness). He plans to murder them all, and assume the title of D'Ascoyne Dukedom of Chalfont.

What's so great about Kind Hearts and Coronets?

In the grand tradition of dark comedies, Kind Hearts is one of the finest I have seen. Each of murders proves to be unique, with great twists and turns coming through out the film. It would be a shame not to mention Alec Guiness' excellent series of performances, as he is really where this film shines. He plays every character whether it be man, woman, young, or old absolutely perfectly.
Anything not so great?

It's not an absolutely perfect film by any means, but I can't pick out a thing wrong with this film. Although, Alec Guiness playing multiple roles could have influenced a few Eddie Murphy movies.

Best Scene

An exploding shed over tea and biscuits had me roaring with laughter.

Does Kind Hearts and Coronets belong in the 250?

Without a doubt. There are not many comedies finer than this film.

Final Words

I am a fan of British humor, so this film really appealed to me. It's subtle, but often quite hilarious. I am also a great fan of vengeance films, and while calling this film a "vengeance film" might be a stretch. It's is obvious that theme is present. Overall, Kind Hearts and Coronets is a really fun time that definitely should not be missed.

178. Casino

Casino (1995)

Director : Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro
Joe Pesci
Sharon Stone

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 7.5

"I think in all fairness, I should explain to you exactly what it is that I do. For instance tomorrow morning I'll get up nice and early, take a walk down over to the bank and... walk in and see and, uh... if you don't have my money for me, I'll crack your [bleep] head wide-open in front of everyone in the bank. And just about the time that I'm comin' out of jail, hopefully, you'll be coming out of your coma. And guess what? I'll split your [bleep] head open again. Cause I'm [bleep] stupid. I don't give a [bleep] about jail. That's my business. That's what i do."


Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is one of the best gambling handicappers around. So good in fact that he is called upon to oversee operations at Tangiers in Las Vegas. Sam attempts to run the casino legitimately as possible and live a normal life with his wife and daughter, although his ties to the Mob are deep. When Sam's childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) comes to Vegas to assist him at the casino, Sam starts to see his life crumbling around him.

What's so great about Casino?

Casino is a great example of a director and his actors working in their element. Director Martin Scorsese excels with the "organized crime" genre, especially when you have gangster film professionals like Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in front of the camera. Also, the look of "Old Vegas" feels truly authentic. Gone are the family friendly areas on the strip. This is the true adult playground in the twilight of it's existence.

Anything not so great?

The thing that separates Casino from other films of it's kind, it the lack of a genuine feeling of love between De Niro and Sharon Stone. I never really feel sympathy for Sharon Stone's character, as I feel she is just along for the ride. She was a hustler, got pregnant, and their marriage was a result of that. So when she goes all batty, it's more laughable than emotionally affecting. Her turn in the film would have been stronger had there been something real between the two.

Best Scene

Without giving anything away, a cornfield and baseball bats.

Does Casino belong in the 250?

There are films that were left off the 250 that I do feel were better than Casino. While it is good, it's inclusion in the 250 seems to be riding on the coat tails of Scorsese and De Niro.

Final Words

While Casino is a good film, it's not on par with Scorsese's other gangster films like Goodfellas or The Departed. Don't get me wrong, I like this film. I would probably watch it again, but even I give it a little more credit than it probably deserves. Overall, Casino is a good film, but there are other films of it's kind I would seek out before this one.

Friday, September 10, 2010

179. Children of Men

Children of Men (2006)

Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Starring: Clive Owen
Julianne Moore
Michael Caine

IMDb Rating: 8

My Rating: 9

I can't really remember when I last had any hope, and certainly can't remember when anyone else did either. Because really, since women stopped being able to have babies, what's left to live for."


The year is 2027. Our world has been destroyed by war, women are unable to have children, and even the wealthy countries' economies that haven't crumbled are grizzled versions of their former selves. The center of the film's story follows Theo Faron (Clive Owen) and his ex-wife Julian's (Juliane Moore) journey to safely transport a girl, who is the first to become pregnant in eighteen years, to safety.

What's so great about Children of Men?

With the exception of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, which actually serves as a good companion piece to this film, no vision of the world's future on film has ever seemed as realistically grim. The film is paced absolutely perfectly, with the action and scenes of dialogue in perfect balance. As an ensemble, the cast excels as well.

Anything not so great?

There isn't one thing I would change about this film, including the often criticized ending.

Best Scene

There is a scene where Theo and company are being chased by gun toting motor bikers while in an SUV. A great deal happens in this scene and it leaves you barely having a chance to catch your breath.

Does Children of Men belong in The 250?

As one of the best films of the last decade, I believe it's inclusion in The 250 is well deserved.

Final Words

Children of Men is a film that I enjoy equally every time that I see it, as each time I grasp something new. It is a dark film, but never achieves that level of depression that makes some similar films almost unbearable. The film is also clear of cliches, which gives you a fresh and unpredictable viewing experience. If you enjoyed films like the earlier mentioned Blade Runner or even last year's The Road, Children of Men is a film not to be missed.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

180. The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch (1969)

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Starring: William Holden
Robert Ryan
Ernest Borgnine

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 8.5

"We've got to start thinking beyond our guns. Those days are closin' fast."


In what may be considered one of the "last great westerns", The Wild Bunch is the story of a posse headed up by Pike Bishop (William Holden) who have just failed in their supposed last great score. The bunch flee south to Mexico with their surviving members to hideout. Deke Thorton (Robert Ryan), the man hired to stop the outlaws, is released from prison to track them down. Thorton is promised a full pardon for his crimes if he tracks them down. While the basic plot isn't extremely original, the focus of this film really lies on a group of guys attempting to make their way in an ever-changing world, the only way they know how.

What's so great about The Wild Bunch?

What The Wild Bunch succeeds in doing is taking a genre and lifestyle we are familiar with, the wild west, and place it in a world where it is ultimately set up for failure. The addition of automatic machine guns and automobiles put the horse and rifle gang at a serious disadvantage in the beginning of the twentieth century. This refreshing take on the western genre ultimately serves as a last hurrah, as well as reminds us how great the wild west can be. The brutal violence of this film is presented in a non-gratuitous way that really adds to the realism and grit of this film.

Anything not so great?

While you can say that the film is original and refreshing, the group of corrupt Mexican military officials are portrayed rather stereotypically.

Best Scene

The opening "last score" scene not only sets the tone for the film, but is also extremely exciting to watch.

Does The Wild Bunch belong in the 250?

Yes. The Wild Bunch is one of the best films of all time within it's genre.

Final Words

I really enjoyed this film. Before I started this project, I was not a huge fan of the western genre. Films like The Wild Bunch and High Noon (to be reviewed later in the project) have really brought out a love of westerns. The gritty tone of the film sets a standard for films before and after it to be judged. This film comes highly recommended.