840. Carlito’s Way (1993) Dir. Brian De Palma, 141 mins.
The film stars Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante, a fictional Puerto Rican drug dealer, who after spending five years in prison (released early due to a technicality), vows to go straight and to retire to the Caribbean with his girlfriend. However, his criminal past proves difficult to escape, and he unwittingly ends up being dragged into the same activities that got him imprisoned in the first place. Masterful direction by De Palma and a fine performance by Pacino that is matched by Sean Penn as Carlito’s sleazy lawyer. Watch
839. Hacksaw Ridge (2016) Dir. Mel Gibson, 131 mins.
The film focuses on the extraordinary World War II experiences of Desmond Doss, an American pacifist combat medic and a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. During the Battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest of WWII, Doss saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun. While occasionally veering into melodrama, Gibson’s return to film making shows he can still create technically brilliant battle sequences. Watch
838. Performance (1970) Dir. Donald Cammell, Nicolas Roeg, 105 mins.
Acclaimed for its influential cinematic techniques, Performance stars James Fox as a violent and ambitious London gangster who, after carrying out an unordered killing, goes into hiding at the home of a reclusive rock star (Mick Jagger). A Weird and memorable psychological crime thriller that’s full of ideas and good performances. Watch
837. Jackie Brown (1997) Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 154 mins.
The film follows flight attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) who is busted for smuggling money for her arms dealer boss, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). Facing jail if she doesn’t cooperate with the cops or death if she does, Brown decides instead to double-cross both parties and make off with her boss’s money. While this adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1995 Rum Punch doesn’t reach the heights of Tarantino’s previous films it’s still enjoyable stuff and revitalised the careers of Grier and Robert Forster who plays her love interest. Watch
836. Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989) Steven Soderbergh, 100 mins.
Soderbergh’s feature debut tells the story of Ann (Andie MacDowell), the beautiful wife of an unpleasant lawyer, who has almost no interest in sex, while her husband is having an affair with her sister. The underlying problems of the couple’s relationship rise to the surface when the husband’s old college friend, Graham (James Spader), comes to stay. Graham, a troubled drifter, has decided that talking about sex is more fulfilling than actually having it and so videotapes Ann and her sister discussing their lives and sexuality. With a huge influence on independent cinema of the 1990s, Soderbergh, at just 26, delivers an intellectually mature and beautifully crafted film. Watch
835. Embrace of the Serpent (2015) Dir. Ciro Guerra, 125 mins.
Embrace of the Serpent features the encounter, apparent betrayal and finally life-affirming friendship between an Amazonian shaman (the last survivor of his people) and two foreign scientists. Strikingly original, Guerra’s gripping film is a brilliantly poetic fable that’s often breathtaking to behold. Watch
834. Forbidden Planet (1956) Dir. Fred M. Wilcox, 98 mins.
Seen as one of the great sci-fi’s of the 1950s, Forbidden Planet follows spacemen who travel to the distant planet of Altair IV to find out what happened to an earlier scientific expedition. On the planet they find only scientist (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter who live with obedient robot Robby. So what became of the rest of the scientists? An influential outer space adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest that is elevated by groundbreaking special effects and intelligent writing. Watch
833. Ghostbusters (1984) Dir. Ivan Reitman, 105 mins.
The film stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson as eccentric paranormal investigators who start a ghost-catching business in New York City. Successfully showcasing Murray’s hilarious brand of deadpan humour Ghostbusters is a hugely likeable supernatural comedy enhanced by great special effects. Watch
832. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) Dir. Woody Allen, 82 mins.
Woody Allen’s comic fantasy, set in a small town in the mid-1930s, follows waitress Cecelia (Mia Farrow) who is trapped in an abusive marriage and regularly seeks refuge in the local movie house. She becomes transfixed with a screwball comedy called The Purple Rose of Cairo and its lead character, archaeologist Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels). After Cecelia goes to watch the film many times, the character Tom, notices her and climbs out of the movie, much to the shock of the rest of the audience and the other characters on screen. Allen is at his most inventive with this weird and whimsical movie that is often unfairly overlooked in discussions about his best work.
831. Bigger Than Life (1956) Dir. Nicholas Ray, 95 mins.
The film follows a seriously ill school teacher and family man whose life spins out of control after he develops a dependency on cortisone that begins to affect his sanity. With the subject matter deemed controversial and the melodramatic scenes much maligned at the time of release, Bigger Than Life needed the support of French critics at the influential film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma to have it re-evaluated and eventually lauded as a classic.
830. Pi (1998) Dir. Darren Aronofsky, 84 mins.
A psychological thriller about a tortured and unemployed computer genius who encounters a mysterious number and finds himself the target of Wall Street agents bent on beating the stock market. A disturbing and audacious indie offering from Aronofsky that was made on a shoestring budget.
829. The Proposition (2005) Dir. John Hillcoat, 104 mins.
In 1880s rural Australia, a British lawman (Ray Winstone) offers criminal Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) a difficult choice. In order to save his younger brother from the gallows, Charlie must hunt down and kill his older brother (Danny Huston), a dangerous sociopath who is on the run from the law for rape and murder. A revisionist western that’s both brutal and beautiful and features memorable performances particularly from Pearce.
828. The Lost Weekend (1945) Dir. Billy Wilder, 101 mins.
Ray Milland stars as Don Birnam, a troubled New York novelist and alcoholic. Escaping from the apartment his worried brother has confined him to for the weekend, Don makes his way to his favourite tavern, where he knocks back drink after drink. It may now seem less impressive than at the time of release but The Lost Weekend is cleverly shot, intelligently written and with a strong lead performance from Milland.
827. Spartacus (1960) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 184 mins.
Kirk Douglas dominates Kubrick’s sword and sandal epic as the gladiator who defies an empire. Having worked with Kubrick on Paths of Glory, it was Douglas, also executive producer on Spartacus, who hired him to replace Anthony Mann after only the first week of shooting. The film was the most expensive made in the US up to that time, and the only one that Kubrick didn’t have complete artistic control over. However, despite some creative battles, he was still able to bring out his masterful cinematic techniques and intellectual ambitions within an industry framework.
826. Almost Famous (2000) Dir. Cameron Crowe, 162 mins.
Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film tells the fictional story of a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s (a former job of Crowe) who is touring with the fictitious rock band Stillwater, and trying to get his first cover story published. There’s some terrific off beat and charming moments, a wonderful soundtrack and a great ensemble cast, particularly Billy Crudup as the bands lead guitarist.
825. The Hateful Eight (2015) Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 176 mins.
Set some years after the American Civil War, the film follows eight travellers who seek refuge from a blizzard in a stagecoach stopover but are greeted by four strangers and realise that they may not reach their destination of Red Rock, Wyoming. Due to some uneven parts it’s perhaps a lesser work from Tarantino, but there is still much to admire about its aesthetic and narrative.
824. Goldfinger (1964) Dir. Guy Hamilton, 110 mins.
The quintessential Bond film follows Sean Connery’s 007 investigating gold smuggling by bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger and eventually uncovering his plans to contaminate the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox. The third entry in the series was a huge commercial success and features Shirley Bassey’s marvellous theme song and terrific action sequences.
823. The Great Beauty (2013) Dir. Paolo Sorrentino, 142 mins.
Journalist and ageing socialite Jep Gambardella (the marvellous Toni Servillo) has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. Since the legendary success of his one and only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city’s literary and social circles, but when his sixty-fifth birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself unexpectedly reflecting on his life. Sorrentino’s art film plays homage to the likes of Fellini and Antonioni and is poignant, sad and beautiful to behold. Was listed among the BBC’s 100 greatest films since 2000.
822. The Lobster (2015) Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, 118 mins.
Lanthimos’s strange but ambitious black comedy stars Colin Farrell as David who, having been dumped by his wife, must find a new romantic partner in 45 days or face the rules of a bizarre society and be turned into an animal of his choice and released into the woods. It’s narratively original, visually stunning and becomes a surprisingly moving love story.
821. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 119 mins.
Loosely based on the novel of the same name by British author Diane Wynne Jones, the story follows Sophie Hatter who is a responsible and beautiful girl who runs her late fathers hat shop in a fictional kingdom where both magic and early 20th century technology are prevalent. On her way to the bakery to visit her sister she encounters, by chance, a mysterious wizard named Howl and gets caught up in his resistance to fighting for the king in a war with another kingdom. Influenced by Miyazaki’s opposition to the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 the film is thematically different to the book and considers the destructiveness of war and the value of compassion. Although the narrative begins to lose focus by the second half this is still an imaginative fantasy that becomes more and more emotionally intense.
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