820. A History of Violence (2005) Dir. David Cronenberg, 96 mins.
An adaptation of the 90s graphic novel of the same name, the film stars Viggo Mortensen as the owner of a small-town diner who is thrust into the spotlight after confronting and killing two robbers in self-defence, an action that has huge implications for both himself and his family. The maverick Cronenberg won’t please everyone with his heightened scenes of violence but the film is a potent and complex character study.
819. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) Dir. Jim Jarmusch, 116 mins.
Forest Whitaker stars in Jarmusch’s surreal crime drama as the mysterious “Ghost Dog”, a hitman in the employ of the Mafia who lives in an unidentified run down city. He is obsessed with following the ancient moral code of the samurai and when his low level crimes boss, who once saved his life, is threatened with execution by his superiors Ghost Dog jumps into action against his boss’s enemies. Maybe it’s ultimately style over substance, but the combination of shoot outs, melancholy and dark humour make it engrossing cinema.
818. Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy (2011) Dir. Tomas Alfredson, 127 mins.
Based on the classic 1974 novel of the same name, Alfredson’s visually stylish espionage thriller is set in London in the early 1970s and follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service. The outstanding Gary Oldman leads a high quality ensemble cast as John Le Carre’s British spy George Smiley, formerly disgraced, but brought back by MI-6 to lead the hunt. While some will dislike the slow pace and find the narrative structure difficult to follow, the film displays a brilliant sense of time and place that combined with the atmosphere of Cold War paranoia builds to a satisfying and compelling finale.
817. King Kong (2005) Dir. Peter Jackson, 187 mins.
Set in 1933, King Kong tells the story of an ambitious filmmaker who coerces his cast and the crew of a hired ship to travel to the mysterious Skull Island. There they encounter Kong, a legendary giant gorilla, whom they capture and take to New York City. Perhaps too long, but Peter Jackson’s affectionate remake of the 30s classic still has plenty to admire and enjoy. It’s not so much the huge and often excessive CGI action sequences that make the film but rather the charming and moving moments between Kong and Ann Darrow (Cate Blanchett), a struggling vaudeville actress who becomes the ‘beauty’ to Kong’s ‘beast.’ It ranked 450th on Empire magazine’s 2008 list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
816. Sophie’s Choice (1982) Dir. Alan J. Pakula, 150 mins.
Adapted from William Styron’s novel of the same name, Meryl Streep stars as Sophie, a Polish immigrant hiding a terrible secret. She shares a boarding house in Brooklyn with her tempestuous lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline in his feature film debut), and a young writer, Stingo (Peter MacNicol). While it’s long and tedious to some but beautiful and compelling to others, few could argue against Streep’s powerful performance.
815. Nebraska (2013) Dir. Alexander Payne, 115 mins.
The final project of Paramount Vantage, the ‘art house’ division of it’s parent company, the film follows an elderly and tempestuous Montana resident (Bruce Dern) and his son attempting to claim a million-dollar sweepstake prize on a long trip to Nebraska. Shot in black and white, Nebraska is an enchanting and melancholic road movie with moments of biting realism and beautiful visuals.
814. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) Dir. Michael Curtiz, William Keighley, 102 mins.
The film concerns a Saxon knight (Errol Flynn) who, in King Richard’s absence in the Holy Land during the Crusades, fights against injustice as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla band against Prince John and the Norman lords oppressing the Saxon commoners. A terrific rousing adventure movie from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
813. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985) Dir. Paul Schrader, 121 mins.
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, the film is based on the life and work of the self-destructive Japanese writer Yukio Mishima (Ken Ogata), and shows interweaving episodes from his life with dramatisations of segments from his books The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House, and Runaway Horses. Featuring a stunning score from Philip Glass, Schrader’s unconventional biopic is inventively plotted and visually arresting.
812. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) Dir. Werner Herzog, 107 mins.
The film is a remake of F. W. Murnau’s celebrated silent film adaptation of ‘Dracula’ from 1922. It follows the blood-sucking count (Klaus Kinski) as he takes over a small German village and then attempts to spread his influence and activities to the rest of the world. All that prevents Dracula from continuing his demonic practices is the self-sacrifice of Lucy Harker (Isabelle Adjani). Similar in style to Murnau, Herzog’s film language swings back and forth between documentary and dream like passages, between authenticity and surrealistic vision. Ultimately it’s the striking visual beauty and the dark creepy atmosphere that makes it a genre classic.
811. Central Station (1998) Dir. Walter Salles, 113 mins.
It tells the story of a nine year old orphan boy, Josue (Vinicius de Oliveira) and his friendship with a jaded middle-aged former school teacher, Dora (an Oscar nominated performance by Fernanda Montenegro). Salles delivers a beautiful haunting tale that never slips into cheap sentimentality and offers real insight into the human condition.
810. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) Dir. David Yates, 130 mins.
The eighth and final instalment of the massively successful Harry Potter franchise follows Harry’s continuing quest to find and destroy Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes in order to stop him once and for all. It’s a hugely entertaining and visually strong finale that may just be the best of the series and features a terrific ensemble cast, including Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort and Alan Rickman as the unfortunate but ultimately redeemed Professor Snape.
809. Stop Making Sense (1984) Dir. Jonathan Demme, 88 mins.
Bank rolled by Talking Heads themselves, Jonathan Demme’s concert film was shot over the course of three nights at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in December 1983, as the American rock band were touring to promote their new album ‘Speaking in Tongues.’ Notable as the first movie made using entirely digital audio techniques, it’s also been lauded for the brilliant direction, editing and the energy and general performance of the band.
808. The City of Lost Children (1995) Dir. Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 112 mins.
Jeunet’s steampunk fantasy is set in a futuristic city where a daemonic scientist named Krank kidnaps children to tap into their dreams in an effort to stop himself from ageing prematurely. An odd 90’s Gilliamesque film that should been seen for its brilliant and delightful visual inventiveness even if its interesting ideas are never fully developed.
807. Big Deal On Madonna Street (1958) Dir. Mario Monicelli, 106 mins.
Among the masterpieces of Italian cinema, Monicelli’s comic satire follows a group of small-time thieves and ne’er-do-wells who bungle a seemingly simple heist to burgle a state-run pawn shop in Rome. Spoofing Jules Dassin’s masterful Rififi, the film features a terrific pre La Dolce Vita & 8½ performance by Marcello Mastroianni.
806. Pastoral Hide and Seek (1974) Dir. Shuji Terayama, 104 mins.
A visionary masterpiece based on avant-garde director Shuji Terayama’s play about a young boys’ coming of age in a strange, carnivalesque village that becomes the recreation of a memory that the director has twenty years later. Arresting and spellbinding cinema from a very underrated film-maker.
805. Spider-man 2 (2004) Dir. Sam Raimi, 127 mins.
The second of Raimi’s trilogy (and probably the best) is set two years after the events of the first and finds Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) struggling to juggle college classes and his job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle with carrying out his duties as Spider-man. Meanwhile Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) becomes a diabolical villain after a failed experiment kills his wife and leaves him neurologically fused to mechanical tentacles. Spider-Man must stop him from successfully recreating the experiment, which threatens to destroy the city. Propelled by exciting action and with plenty of humour, Spider-Man 2 is smarter and darker than its predecessor.
804. The African Queen (1951) Dir. John Huston, 105 mins.
Huston had a flair for casting, particularly when he pitted Humphrey Bogart against Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen. Adapted from a novel by C.S. Forester, Bogart is on Oscar-winning form as Charlie Allnut, the slovenly, gin-swilling Canadian captain of a tramp steamer called the African Queen, which ships supplies to small East African villages during World War I. Hepburn plays Rose Sayer, the maiden-lady sister of a prim British Methodist missionary, Rev. Samuel Sayer (Robert Morley). When Germans invade and Samuel dies, Allnut offers to take Rose back to civilisation. Inspiring so many of the adventure films that have followed, The African Queen is hugely entertaining and features a wonderful chemistry between its two stars.
803. Inside Out (2015) Dir. Pete Docter, 94 mins.
More computer-animated success for Pixar. The film is set in the mind of a 11 year old girl named Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias), where five personified emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), try to lead her through life as she has to adjust to new surroundings after being uprooted from Minnesota to San Francisco because her father (Kyle MacLachlan) has a new job. Funny, moving and made with the consultation of numerous psychologists, Inside Out delivers a delightfully entertaining idea of the going-ons in a young girls head.
802. Husbands and Wives (1992) Dir. Woody Allen, 108 mins.
Released after Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s relationship had come to an end, Husbands and Wives was their final movie together. Filmed by Carlo Di Palma with a handheld camera and featuring documentary style one on ones with the characters, the film follows Gabe Roth (Allen) and his wife Judy (Farrow) who are taken aback by the casual announcement from their best friends, an upper-middle class Manhattan couple (the excellent Judy Davis and Sydney Pollack), that they are splitting up. Soon Gabe and Judy are analysing their own marriage. One of Allen’s best, it’s bleak but yet compelling.
801. Scorpio Rising (1964) Dir. Kenneth Anger, 28 mins.
Kenneth Anger returned to America after 15 years in Europe to make this underground cult classic about the rock and youth culture that had developed during his absence. The film, which features no dialogue, follows an army of gay Nazi bikers who experience pain and pleasure as sexual and sadistic symbols are intercut. With its soundtrack of 60s pop and powerful imagery the films still seems remarkably fresh.