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Apocalypse Now (1979)
One of the best military movies ever made
Francis Ford Coppola was a director who could do no wrong in the '70's thanks to masterpieces like "The Godfather" parts I-II and "The Conversation" but this movie was very new territory for him as a director but not asa a screenwriter due to the fact that he co-wrote the Oscar winning screenplay for "Patton" and with this he succeeded in making one of the very best war movies of all time. The main character of the movie is an Army captain named Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) who is assigned on a classified mission by Gen.Corman (G.D. Spradlin) and Col. lucas (Harrison Ford) to kill Col. Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who is a renegade soldier who has gone completely insane due to the effects that war has had on him, and whose actions are described as "unsound". Willard has to go through extremely dangerous territory whether it's going through battles with the help of Lt. Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall), heading a long river with three other soldiers to help him get to the site of his mission, and finally being at the site of the mission which is a potential deathtrap. This movie isn't your traditional war movie because of the fact that there isn't a lot of battle scenes in it which isn't supposed to be the takeaway one gets from seeing a movie like this but the fact that that war is hell and damages a lot of people mentally. When Willard gets to Kurtz's house he meets a photojournalist (Dennis Hopper) who is totally afraid of Col. Kurtz and an old friend named Colby (Scott Glenn) who has become one of Kurtz's followers. The movie is a masterclass in how a movie should be made with a masterful screenplay, amazing Oscar winning cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, great performances throughout (especially by Sheen and Brando who deserved Oscar nominations for their work), and of course flawless execution and masterful direction by Coppola. This is one of the best military movies I've seen in a long time along with "The Deer Hunter", "Patton", "The Hurt Locker", "All Quiet on the Western Front", "Platoon", "Saving Private Ryan", "Twelve O'Clock High", "American Sniper", "Inglourious Basterds", and "The Longest Day" just to name some prime examples. This is the very best movie of 1979 and one that is sure to not be forgotten anytime soon, it is a true masterpiece.
Elmer Gantry (1960)
Burt Lancaster's most dynamic performance
It's said that the three topics that people should avoid at all costs in conversation are money, politics, and religion due to the amount of passion in people's beliefs in certain issues and that is especially true in this day in age, and the three topics along with sex are the themes explored in Richard Brooks's "Elmer Gantry" which is a scathing attack and commentary on religious fundamentalism. Burt Lancaster stars in the performance that won him his only Oscar as Gantry a fast-talking, hard-drinking and charming salesman who will do anything for money and one day sees flyers around town for Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons) a young woman with a huge following for revivalism whom Gantry falls in love with and does anything to convince her that he can preach the Gospel and get her even bigger crowds despite not being the truest believer, and at first Falconer's manager Bill Morgan (Dean Jagger) doesn't like Gantry due to the fact that he feels that Gantry is nothing but a fraud but develops a respect for him due to the big ambitions for the church such as going to Zenith. There is a local newspaper reporter who is covering all of this big action named Jim Lefferts (Arthur Kennedy) who is an agnostic and despises corrpution but admires Gantry for his strengths as a salesman but questions the credibility of both Gantry and Falconer as a religious duo. All the notoriety of the Gantry-Falconer duo comes to the attention of Gantry's lover who became a prostitute named Lulu Baines (Shirley Jones) who he sees when storming into a brothel and decrying prostitution as a shameful action until he sees her he tells his followers that it's their choice to be prostitutes and tells the police captain to get them out of town in 24 hours. Which is where Baines's jealousy steps in in which her plan is to lure Gantry to his apartment get him to kiss her and try to get Sister Falconer to break up with him which leads to the papers publishing the story and Gantry's downfall until she confesses that she framed him after seeing him get publicly humiliated in the church. Everything about the movie is great up until the ending which is totally unnecessary and stupid which won't be revealed here, the movie has strong performances throughout especially by Lancaster, Simmons, Kennedy, Jagger, and Jones thanks to strong direction and an Oscar winning screenplay by Richard Brooks. During the time the movie was being made not many studios were interested in making it due to the content of attacking religion being highly controversial at the time aslo in part due to biblical epics being churned out by Hollywood studios every year which took a lot of guts to get a movie like this to be made especially in a Christian society. This is a great movie but it isn't for everyone especially devout Christians becuase Lancaster wanted this movie to be an attack on the late Reverend Billy Graham, but the respectable thing the movie does is that it doesn't mock people for worshipping God in any church or place of worship.
Being There (1979)
A near masterpiece
Hal Ashby's "Being There" is one of the most complex dramatic comedies that I have seen since "The Apartment" and is one of the most well crafted and acted movies in the genre. Peter Sellers stars in one of his very best performances (and the one that nabbed him a final Oscar nomination) as Chance a gardener who is illiterate and loves to watch TV that lived and worked in the home of a rich old man named Chauncey Gardiner and his maid named Louise who brought him his meals on a daily basis and when the old man dies at the beginning of the movie she leaves and he is evicted by a pair of lawyers from the house and ends up drifting around the streets of Washington DC with some clothes and his handy remote so he can watch TV from anywhere only to get his leg smashed in between two cars and is found by a woman named Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine) who convinces him to come to their house for medical attention because a hospital would be too expensive despite never having been in a car before he agrees. When they get to the Rand household there is a funny scene in an elevator where Sellers is in an elevator with a security guard and says "I've never been in an elevator before" and asks is there is a TV in the elevator and naturally the guards answer is that there isn't one to begin with. Later that night after Chance is examined by the family doctor (Richard Dysart) he meets Eve's husband Ben (Melvyn Douglas) who is a rich old millionaire dying of cancer and during his final days grows to admire the simple minded gardener. During his stay at the Rand residence Chance's national profile grows with TV appearances, press interviews, state dinner attendances, and even meeting the President of the United States (Jack Warden) who believes that there should be more people like Chance in the United States Congress. The movie is far from perfect but has very few weaknesses (especially MacLaine's mastubation scene on the bear rug in Chance's bedroom) and a script by Jerzy Kosinski (who also wrote the book which I didn't read) which could have been tweaked just a little bit, but otherwise the film is perfect in terms of Asby's excellent direction and standout work from Sellers whose work is on par with Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump" and Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man", MacLaine, Douglas (who got his second Oscar for his performance), and Warden. This is one of the very best movies of its kind and is not to be missed by anyone, Period.
The Mask (1994)
A hilarious superhero comedy
Jim Carrey is one of the most gifted comedic actors of all time with some really funny performances in movies like 'Liar Liar" and "Bruce Almighty" and this movie is no exception and is a perfect vehicle for his wild and manic screen persona. Carrey plays a bank clerk named Stanley Ipkiss who lives alone in his apartment with his little Jack Russell Terrier Milo who is probably one of the smartest and most clever dogs we'll ever see in the movies. One day on the job he is talking with his best friend Charlie (Richard Jeni) who also happens to be his co-worker when suddenly a blonde bombshell by the name of Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz in her debut movie role) who wants to make an account while flirting with Stanley at the same time but is really using the flirtation as a distraction because she's really there to retrieve information from the bank with a hidden camera in her purse and relay it to her boss/boyfriend Dorian Tyrell (Peter Greene) who is planning a robbery of the bank. Later that night Ipkiss is standing on the edge of a bridge and suddenly sees an odd looking mask with a bunch of garbage around it which makes it look like a person has risen from the water, and being the good samaritan that he is thinks someone is in trouble and tries to help only to realize that it's a bunch of garbage and takes the mask with him back to his apartment. He then tries on the mask and it makes him swirl like a tornado in the midwest around his apartment and the mask makes him do all sorts of crazy things throughout the movie, and Ipkiss is always questioned about the mask character by a reporter named Peggy (Amy Yasbeck) and a police Lieutenant named Kellaway (Peter Riegert) who is always on Ipkiss's tail. The movie is very funny and the special effects make the movie a whole lot funnier while aslo having very good action sequences, but the movie's real focus is the relationship between Carrey's and Diaz's characters with their excellent chemistry together. This movie makes me even more eager to see Jim Carrey in more dramatic parts after watching a movie that sometimes loses its footing a little but is injected with life everytime Carrey is in any scene in this movie.
An underrated masterwork
Ingmar Bergman's "Autumn Sonata" is one of the most underrated gems from any director that I've ever seen and is one of the most well acted movies that I've seen in recent years which makes me even more eager to dive into his work as a director after seeing this movie and his other masterpiece "The Seventh Seal". Ingrid Bergman stars in her final feature film role as well as the role that would get her a final Oscar nomination as Charlotte a successful concert pianist who goes to visit her daughter Eva (Liv Ullmann) and her husband Viktor (Halvar Björk) for a few days to spend time with them and her sister mentally disabled sister Helena (Lena Nyman). Then things start to unravel between Charlotte and Eva about Eva's feelings toward her mother for having neglected her for all those years and basically blames her for putting her and her father though hell because her mother chose to pursue a career instead of raising her daughter and being there for her husband, and it is the scenes that focus on this that make it one of the most well acted sequences in any movie period. This is the only movie that Ingmar Bergman and Ingrid Bergman ever worked on together which is kind of unfortunate because Ingrid Bergman would only live for another four years and die from breast cancer and Ingmar Bergman would continue directing feature films until "Fanny and Alexander" which many consider to be his swan song and then move into television films for the following twenty years afterward and retire completely from filmmaking and directing plays and died in 2007 at 89 years old. As for Ingrid Bergman's performance I think the Oscar nomination was well deserved and also that Liv Ullmann deserved a nomination for best supporting actress. Ingmar Bergman's direction along with Sven Nykvist's cinematography sets the stage without one error during the movies hour and a half runtime. This is on e of the finest foreign films I have ever seen and is one of 1978's very best films.
One of the best science fiction films this decade has to offer
Denis Villeneuve has proven himself as one of the great modern directors after movies like "Prisoners" along with this movie and others of his that I'm just flat out dying to see like "Sicario" and "Blade Runner: 2049" and on top of that this movie is one of 2016's very best. This is no ordinary movie about aliens where we learn to love them and want to be their friends such as in Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T." have shown us or a movie that makes us want to be scared to death of them like "Alien" or "Aliens" , but it is a movie that makes us uncertain and curious as to what they want to do to us and why they're here on Earth in the first place. The movie stars Amy Adams in a top notch performance that was unfortunately robbed of an Oscar nomination as Louise Banks a linguistics professor who along with the rest of the world learns that 12 mysterious alien ships have touched down on 12 different locations around the globe and is recruited by an Army Colonel (Forest Whitaker) to find out what their purpose is on this planet mainly because she has a top secret security clearance. She then is taken into a helicopter to go to the site where they will find the alien ship and on her team is a man named Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) who she develops a close relationship with on the mission. During the first scenes in the movie while I was waiting for the aliens to appear I felt the same feeling I had waiting for the shark in "Jaws" but only this movie isn't as suspenseful. Villeneuve is a director who really knows what he is doing behind the camera and really knows how to get strong performances from his actors whether it's Hugh Jackman in "Prisoners" or Amy Adams in this movie. The movie is one of the very best science fiction movies I have ever seen along with "Inception", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "ET", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "the "Star Wars" films and more. This is a movie that will stand the test of time over the next several decades and is truly a masterpiece.
Ladri di biciclette (1948)
A great movie
Vittorio De Sica's "Bicycle Thieves" is a movie with a simple storyline that takes you witness the lives of Italian working class people in the post WWII era through their eyes andin the hands of any lesser director it would not have stood the test of time as one of the best foreign films ever made over the years. The main character in the movie is a man named Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) who needs to find a job and then gets one but he needs a bicycle or else he can't get the job so he tells his wife Maria (Lianella Carell) about his situation and so she orders the bicycle for him and so the next morning wakes up takes his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) to the bus stop and then goes off to work. His job is as a poster hanger and not very long into his first day on the job his bicycle is stolen and has to run around the streets of Rome to find it with the help of his son. This is a masterful portrait of the common working class father who would go to great lengths just to have food on the table and an affordable place to live in for his wife and child as well as himself. Everything about this movie just plays it straight about working class life which is something that a lot of rich, snobbish elitists would never understand unless they experienced what working people go through on a daily basis at some point in their lives while most of the time they're pampered, spoiled, ungrateful brats that don't even care about the so called "little people" who helped to make them as rich as they are. I haven't seen that many foreign films in my life but I am convinced that this is among the very best that I've seen with very honest and raw performances throughout, an excellent screenplay by Cesare Zavattini, excellent black and white cinematography, and of course masterful direction by Vittorio De Sica. This is a truly great Italian movie and is one of 1948's very best films.
Paths of Glory (1957)
Another Kubrick masterpiece
Stanley Kubrick is one of the true masters of making movies with so many masterpieces to his name including "Spartacus", "Dr. Strangelove", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "The Shining", and 'Full Metal Jacket" this movie is a worthy addition to that resume for me and is the best war film that Kubrick ever directed. I haven't seen that many WWI movies in my life besides this movie and "All Quiet on the Western Front" which was from the German viewpoint, and the key difference with this movie in terms of the plot is that this movie presents the French point of view. Kirk Douglas stars in one of his finest performances as Colonel Dax a soldier who is in charge of group of soldiers tasked with the impossible task of taking the Ant Hill from the Germans and once he realizes the impossibility of the mission they're forced to retreat and General Paul Mireau (George Macready) the commanding officer present for the failed operation accuses Dax's battallion of cowardice in the face of the enemy and court martials them and only three soldiers can be tried and Dax himself volunteers to defend them in a trial rigged against them and are thus found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad. I had been dying to see for years and it really exceeded my expectations as to how great it was going to be because I went into this thinking it was going to be a war movie that just focuses on the fighting but this movie is more than just fighting and loyalty to one's country. When Kirk Douglas accepted the AFI lifetime achievement award in 1991 he said that he used to believe that movies should be merely entertaining and not have a message and that belief gradually changed as he got older and believes that movies should make statements in order for the betterment of mankind. The movie is a movie effectively hones its message of war being hell for the soldiers that fight in them andsometimes even in impossible odds get punished even though they were trying to serve their country which rarely happens in any country's military. The movie is one of the most well acted and well made anti-war statements ever put on film along with "Platoon" and "Saving Private Ryan" and is one of the very best movies of the late 1950'.
The Right Stuff (1983)
One of the best movies about space exploration I've seen in a long time
Philip Kaufman's "The Right Stuff" is a well crafted movie that tells the events in the 15 or so years that led up to the 1962 Freindship 7 mission which made John Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth and make him a household name and even more of a national hero in the process. The movie isn't just his story though, it opens with events set in the 1940's which lead up to how an Air Force test pilot named Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) managed to break the sound barrier, then from there we meet one of the seven astronauts named Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid) a man who considers himself the best pilot he or his wife had ever seen, then after Sputnik is launched in 1957 NASA is created and plans are made for the United States to beat the Russians in the space race. The rest of the seven include Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), Virgil "Gus" Grissom (Fred Ward), Deke Slayton (Scott Paulin), Wally Schirra (Lance Henriksen), Scott Carpenter (Charles Frank), and of course John Glenn (Ed Harris). Kaufman who also wrote the screenplay wisely goes into detail about the events that led to the creation of NASA and the events that led up to Glenn's heroic mission without leaving anything to chance even though he does glorify Yeager even more than the actual seven astronauts which is his only minor mistake that he makes. The movie is right up there with "Apollo 13", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Gravity" and "Interstellar" as one of the best movies about space that I've seen in a relatively long time. The movie is a visual achievement for its time, is very well crafted and acted with an excellent supporting cast (especially by the actresses that play the wives in the movie) , it also features brilliant editing, an awesome Oscar winning score by Bill Conti, and Oscar nominated cinematography by Caleb Deschanel which is nothing short of great. The movie is a perfect balance of drama and entertainment especially for the 1980's and is a great American movie.
City Lights (1931)
A Chaplin masterpiece
I haven't seen that many silent movies in my lifetime but I have seen enough to know that everytime I see a silent movie with Charlie Chaplin I always know that I'm going to be in for a lot of laughs along the way. The movie is part a long stretch of movies where Chaplin plays his beloved tramp character who doesn't go without his wild adventures in the city, but in this movie he meets and eventually falls in love with a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) who lives with her grandmother (Florence Lee) and their living situation isn't the best in the world by living in a crappy apartment. Meanwhile The Little Tramp meets a rich man (Harry Myers) who is trying to kill himself because he is all torn up over the end of his marriage and feels as if he has no more purpose in this world and ends up getting his life saved by Chaplin and to show his gratitude he wants to be friends for life with the Tramp. then there is a scene in the movie where the tramp is at the girl's house and they're just talking and he finds an eviction notice in the record player that her grandmother left in there so no one would know, opens the letter and reads it to the girl while breaking down in tears as he's reading it, he then cheers her up and offers to pay the rent but he does more than that by also paying for her to get an eye operation so that she can see. I have watched four Chaplin films so far with the other three being "The Kid" (1921), "The Gold Rush" (1925), and "Monsieur Verdoux" (1947) and with all of these films the one thing that each of them have in common is that they are all masterpieces. Chaplin along with Stanley Kubrick and Akira Kurosawa was a notorious perfectionist and settled for nothing but the best by any means necessary which a prime example would be when he fired the actress who played the blind girl in this movie only to hire her again. The movie has been remembered as a true classic and still holds up with cinephiles everywhere and filmmakers praising such as Orson Welles calling it his favorite movie of all time and Woody Allen saying that it's Chaplin's best movie. The best thing about Chaplin's movies is not only that he can make you laugh real hard every chance he gets but he can also balance that with brilliant dramatic elements which is what made the greatest filmmaker of the silent era.
One of Nolan's greatest achievements
At this point in the century there is no question in anyone's minds that Christopher Nolan has proven himself to be one of the very best directors of his generation after directing great films like "Insomnia", "The Dark Knight" trilogy, "Inception" and "Interstellar", "Dunkirk" is a worthy addition to that already masterful resume. The movie is a departure for Nolan because with this movie he treaded into unmarked territory and proved he could direct a masterful WWII movie up there with "Saving Private Ryan", "The Longest Day", "Patton", and others as well as the best ever made but this movie tells the story of a key British event in that particular war. The film is based on the true story of how the German military surrounded the British, French, and Belgian militaries to the point where they had to be evacuated which amounted to a total of 400,000 people on the beaches in Dunkirk, even though people like me who are fascinated by history already knew how it unfolded somewhat Nolan and his frequent composer Hans Zimmer build up the tension and suspense quite nicely. The cast is filled with mostly unknown actors to show how young and inexperienced the soldiers were, but like any Nolan film it doesn't come without its big stars. Tom Hardy plays a British fighter pilot where most of his scenes are in a plane fighting the enemy, Kenneth Branagh plays a British Naval Commander who oversees the evacuations, recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance (who played the Russian spy Rudolf Abel in Steven Spielberg's "Bridge of Spies" a few years back) plays one of the civilians who helps in the evacuation process in getting all of the soldiers to safety, as well as frequent Nolan cohort Cillian Murphy who has a minor role a British soldier who is afraid of going back to battle because he fears for his life. Overall the movie is near perfect but the one problem I had was that the city of Dunkirk didn't even look like a war zone, and there wasn't enough extras to make it seem like there was 400,000 people on the beach, which are only extremely minor problems. The movie is one of the very best military movies that I've seen in a long time and of the very best of 2017.
Kurosawa shines again
This movie is the second movie directed by Akira Kurosawa that I've watched since watching "Rashomon" a few years back and while watching this movie I was not disappointed and it's another masterpiece that makes me even more eager to see his other highly acclaimed films like "Seven Samurai" (1954), "Ikiru" (1952), "Throne of Blood" (1957), "Ran" (1985), "The Hidden Fortress" (1958), "Red Beard" (1965), "The Bad Sleep Well" (1960), "Kagemusha" (1980)," High and Low" (1963), as well as the sequel to this film "Sanjuro" (1962). Toshiro Mifune stars in one of his strongest performances as Sanjuro a lone wolf samurai who comes into a small town in Japan in the mid 19th century to rid the town of two rival gangs by pitting them against each other and fighting them on his own, and thus inspired several westerns to follow mainly Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964). Akira Kurosawa was to Japanese samurai films what John Ford was to American westerns, and each of them were masters whose movies are still talked about among film lovers everywhere and for good reason and this movie is another masterpiece in the Kurosawa-Mifune collaboration which is one of the all time great actor-director partnerships in all of movie history. The swordfight scenes are excellently choreographed, and what really helps with the movie is how Kurosawa places the music to build the suspense leading up to the final fight in the end which reminds me of the final shootout in "High Noon" when Gary Cooper's Marshall Will Kane had to face off against a gang of outlaws on his own. Mifune was one of those actors in Japan who had as big of a screen presence as John Wayne did in America. Everything about this movie just strikes the right notes especially with the intelligent writing, great performances, Kurosawa's masterful direction, excellent cinematography, and an amazing score. This is a must see for all people who love film , action movie lovers, as well as people who are interested in Japanese culture, I promise you will not be disappointed.
One of Scorsese's finest crime dramas
Martin Scorsese is without a doubt one of the finest individuals to ever sit behind a movie camera having directed great films like "Raging Bull", "The Departed", "Goodfellas", "Gangs of New York", "Hugo", and "The Aviator" this movie is a welcomed addition to that already masterful resume for me. This movie is the ninth collaboration between Scorsese and his right hand man Robert De Niro and so far it's their most recent until their upcoming Netflix film "The Irishman" comes out later this year. De Niro stars as Sam "Ace" Rothstein who owns a casino in Las Vegas called the "Tangiers" and happens to be based on Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal who started out as a sports better in Chicago and the mob decides that he would be a potential asset to their income and decides to send him to Vegas to run a casino. Rothstein then moves down to Vegas to run the place and not long after his best friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) along with his brother Dominic (Philip Suriano), and his associate Frankie Marino (Frank Vincent) are sent by the mob bosses to make sure everything in the place runs smoothly. Rothstein's trusted manager is an older guy named Billy Sherbert (Don Rickles) who at his side at all times during working hours and also watches everything that goes on and makes sure nobody does anything wrong. Then one day while the casino is in operation Rothstein sees a blond haired woman who he instantly falls in love with named Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone) who is a hustler and former prostitute who has a pimp friend named Lester Diamond (James Woods) who she has known since they were kids and sometimes presents obstacles in her marriage to Rothstein. The movie's story is more than just the rise and fall of a mob family but also the downfall of one man's life, relationships, and wealth. Scorsese is a director who pays an immense attention to every little detail in his movies which makes it feel like you are there in the movie with his characters going through certain things in their lives, and in this case presents the excess that the characters live in perfectly proving that money can't make your life happy no matter how much you may have, and there are dire consequences with messing with a mobster's trust. This is one of the most violent gangster movies I've ever seen. Scorsese's direction is always in top form especially with this movie and his screenplay that he co-wrote with Nicholas Pileggi (who also co-wrote the screenplay for "Goodfellas" as well as the books that both films are based on.) Robert Richardson's cinematography is excellent same with the editor by Scorsese's longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker. The acting is also superb especially by Stone who nabbed an Oscar nomination for best actress who managed to get the movie its only nomination. But however my only problem with the movie is that it seemed a little bit on the long side for me which makes it seem a bit drawn out and at the same time is justified due to Scorsese's fast pacing and deep focus into Rothstein's personal life, and as a result is one of the best inside stories about a gangster I've ever seen along with "The Godfather" series, "Scarface", and "Goodfellas". The movie is one of the best of its kind and is a near masterpiece.
Man of the West (1958)
One of Anthony Mann's finest westerns
Together Anthony Mann and James Stewart made some of the best westerns of the 1950's of which also included classics like "Winchester '73" (1950) and "The Naked Spur" (1953) and his winning streak continued with this movie when it was released in 1958 and is right up there as one of the best ever made. The movie stars Gary Cooper as Link Jones a reformed outlaw who at the beginning of the movie is going to take a train to Fort Worth, Texas in order to hire a schoolteacher. While on the train he meets a very talkative man named Sam Beasley (Arthur O'Connell) and a young woman who happens to be a singer named Billie Ellis (Julie London), meanwhile the train abruptly stops and the male passengers on the train are asked to help loading up logs onto the train so that the train can be fueled for the rest of the way there which is apparently the right time for a train robbery to take place, the robbery fails and Jones, Beasley and Ellis are left behind and have to find shelter for the night. For shelter they arrive at an old wooden house with a barn where Link meets his long lost cousins Coaley (Jack Lord), Claude (John Dehner), Trout (Royal Dano), Ponch (Robert Wilke) as well as his uncle Dock (Lee J. Cobb) who make things bad from the start for them which lead to fights and shootouts all of which will not be spoiled. Mann was one of the true craftsmen of the western genre along with John Ford and Howard Hawks and he directs this movie with both strength and focus which is what made his westerns great in the first place. Cooper gives one of the finest performances as a man who wants to do the right thing, be left alone, go about his business and not hurt anyone. The western genre was also no new territory for Cooper who starred in classics like his second Oscar winning turn in "High Noon" (1952), aas well as co-starring with Burt Lancaster in "Vera Cruz" (1954). The movie is an example of western filmmaking at its finest with majestic color cinematography and well choreographed action sequences. It isn't a classic western for no reason and is one of the finest films of the 50's
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
One of the all time great gangster movies
Michael Curtiz was one of the most prolific directors of his time churning out multiple movies a year during the prime of his career and the year 1938 is a prime example of this where he directed 3 Oscar nominated films which were this gangster classic, "The Adventures of Robin Hood", and "Four Daughters", and out of all of them "The Adventures of Robin Hood" was the only one that took home any awards at all. The movie is truly one of the finest examples of a great gangster movie that you could get during the '30's and it isn't hard to see why after you're done watching it. James Cagney stars in one of his finest performances as Rocky Sullivan a man who has been a criminal ever since childhood rose up through the ranks of the mob while in prison into adulthood, and when he was a child used to steal things with his childhood friend Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien) who left the criminal life in order to become a priest in the local church. Sullivan then meets a girl named Laury Martin (Ann Sheridan) who he bullied when they were kids but have now become friends, and Jerry also teaches a group of kids on how to be a good Christian and a positive influence on society they end up idolizing Rocky to Jerry's dismay which leads him to believe that if they continue to worship him that they will end up lifelong criminals like his best friend, which leads him to make a hard decision on whether to stick with his friend or stick up for the lives of the kids and everyone in town even if it means getting the law involved. Sullivan also has allies in in town which include a corrupt lawyer (Humphrey Bogart) and his associate (George Bancroft) who act like they're friends but will do anything just to keep their jobs and stay out of trouble. The movie is right up there with "The Godfather" trilogy, "Goodfellas" (1990), "Scarface" (1983), "Gangs of New York" (2002), "White Heat" (1949), "The Untouchables" (1987), and "The Departed" (2006) as one of the best gangster movies of all time and if you see the movie it isn't very hard to see why.
A comedy masterpiece
Ernst Lubitsch's "Ninotchka" has all of the elements needed for a flawless comedy and the most important ingredient of them all is skilled timing which is what this movie excels at the most, and for that it is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Greta Garbo stars in an Oscar nominated performance as Ninotchka a Russian envoy sent to Paris in order to find her fellow comrades Iranoff (Sig Ruman), Buljanoff (Felix Bressart), and Kopalski (Alexander Granach) to get updated on the progress on a sale for jewels that it turns out as soon as she gets there that the jewels have been confiscated by the government and they have to get them by legal means. During the timethat she's there she meets a playboy named Leon (Melvyn Douglas) who wants to show her around town and at the same time falls in love with her but she doesn't yet feel the same way because she is Russian and he is a rich man and thinks about him only in political terms but it takes time for them to gradually fall in love with each other, and when they do they can't stand to be away from each other. Lubitsch and his screenwriters Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder wisely focus on the romance between the two main characters because they knew that their relationship was what was going to be the magic of the movie and make it stand the test of time. The performances are solid especially by Garbo and Douglas (who deserved a best supporting actor Oscar nomination), the screenplay is brilliantly written, the cinematography by William H. Daniels in gorgeous black and white is masterful,the chemistry between Garbo and Douglas is rock solid, and Lubitsch's direction is superb. It's really no wonder why Billy Wilder had a sign on the desk in his office that asked the question "What would Lubitsch do?" after seeing this movie. This movie is right up there with "Some Like it Hot" (1959), and "Tootsie" (1982) as one of the all time great American comedies. This is one of 1939's very best films.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
The funniest western ever made
When it comes to movie spoofs there is no better person to do them than Mel Brooks and with this movie he truly struck gold. The movie's story is what you'd expect of a traditional western film only with elements of satire and slapstick in the way only a person like Mel Brooks can make it happen. The story of the movie has to do with a plan to build a railroad track that leads into a town called rock ridge which would anger the residents and drive them out. The plan is orchestrated by a corrupt politician who happens to be the Attorney General named Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) who wants to make that town as empty as possible and convinces the Governor (Mel Brooks) to appoint a black Sherriff named Bart (Cleavon Little) to maintain order in the town (which is the last thing that Lamarr wants) but also to anger all of the townsfolk and drive them away even faster. On his first day on the job the citizens of Rock Ridge are shocked to find that they have a black Sherriff which he takes with a calm attitude and thick skin, then he meets a drunken man in a prison cell named Jim (Gene Wilder) who used to be known as "The Waco Kid" back in the day and spends his time drinking. then Bart meets a German woman named Lili Von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn) who is hired by Lamarr to seduce him which she succeeds but then she becomes his friend and ally afterwards, which that happens ater an illiterate juggernaut called Mongo (Alex Karras) rides into town on an ox with orders to kill the sherriff and that plan failed while also becoming fond of the sherriff for single handedly defeating him. After all those plans fail Lamarr has no choice but to hire all kinds of criminals to get the people to leave town. The movie is laugh out loud hilarious from start to finish which is typical of Brooks films especially his directorial debut with "The Producers" (1967) which was also hilarious. This movie is a movie that totally cannot be made today because there is nobody that could get away with vulgar humor and make it funny at the same time the way Mel Brooks did.
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
One of the finest love stories ever made
"Doctor Zhivago" is one of the most beautifully filmed movies I've seen in a long time that is simply majestic to watch during its 3+ hour runtime and is worth every single minute thanks to its beauty. The movie is shot like Lean's previous film "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) as well as John Ford's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) where the scenes set in the present are at the beginning and the end with most of the scenes dominated by past flashbacks. The movie is set during the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and based on Boris Pasternak's novel of the same name and stars Omar Sharif as DR. Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago who after his mother died when he was just a little boy and is taken in by his mother's friends and lives with them and their daughter Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin) and then when he's grown up he goes to school to become a doctor and ends up marrying Tonya. The movie also focuses on a young 17 year old girl named Lara (Julie Christie) who hasa friend she calls "Pasha" (Tom Courtenay) who is 9 years older than she is, and becomes a communist with the Bolsheviks that at that period in time were hellbent on taking down the influence of the Czar and institute a new form of government which they believed would benefit working people. Despite this and the fact that Lara is also having an affair with a businessman named Victor Komarovsky (Rod Steiger) she wants to marry Pasha and spend the rest of her life with him, but that is not to be due to the fact that Pasha eventually joins the Red Army. The movie not only focuses on the lives of its characters and the inevitable romance in the movie between the two main characters in the story but it also focuses on the history that went with that time period. The movie is one of the best romantic epics that I've ever seen and is right on par with "Gone with the Wind" (1939) with its beauty and scope. Everything in this movie just clicks whether it's the excellent performances thorughout, the beautiful set design and costume design, Freddie Young's beautiful cinematography, David Lean's top notch direction, and even Robert Bolt's excellent screenplay. The movie isn't as captivating in its beauty as "Lawrence of Arabia" which captivated me from start to finish, bu tthe one problem I had with this movie was that in the last hour the movie got a little boring for me but then it kicked right back in to high gear by the end. I also forgot to mention that this movie also has a very good performance by frequent Lean cohort Alec Guinness as Yuri's older brother who also happens to be in the Red Army. The movie doesn't try to rush anything and is very delicate and fragile in its execution which makes the already perfect chemistry between Sharif and Christie in the movie all the more effective and real to the point where you actually believe that they're in love with each other and also to the point where it's hard to believe that this movie wasn't popular with critics at the time it was released. The movie went on to become David Lean's highest grossing film at the box office during his magnificent career and if you already watched the movie it isn't hard to see why. This is one of 1965's finest films.
Night and the City (1950)
A near masterpiece of the film noir genre
Jules Dassin's "Night and the City" was the last movie he made for Hollywood before becoming one of the infamous names in the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy era in American history but Dassin sure went out of Hollywood with a bang on this movie. The movie is based on Gerald Kersh's novel of the same name and stars Richard Widmark in one of his finest performances as Harry Fabian an American who is an ambitious scam artist who will do anything it takes to make it big time in London as a wrestling promoter. not only is Fabian an ambitious man with big dreams of his own but he also doesn't have that many people in his corner including his girlfriend Mary (Gene Tierney) who just wants to spend time and travel the world with him which is the direct oppposite o fhis innate desire just to be somebody. Fabian then befriends a legendary Greek wrestler named Gregorius (Stanislaus Zbyszko) and his protege Nikolas (Ken Richmond). Afterwards Fabian asks his friend Phil (Francis L. Sullivan) for an investment for his gym and become his business partner while his wife Helen (Googie Withers) wants to own a nightclub. But there are some more problems for Fabian with his business as Phil is no longer interested in their partnership and Gregorius's son Kristo (Herbert Lom) is very skeptical of Fabian's plans and knows his kind very well, and also tries to get a wrestler called "The Strangler" (Mike Mazurki) who happens to be a rival wrestler to Gregorius to get the two of them to fight each other. After that everything starts to unravel and the walls start to close in on Fabian which is all I'm going to say about the climax and the ending because those are crucial elements that must not be spoiled. The performances along with Dassin's direction are totally solid as well as the screenplay by Jo Eisinger. The movie isn't your traditional film noir that involves a private eye and a murder mystery which is always a good thing to always buck conventional trends with anything as long as you can make something good out of it, but the only problem I had was that it didn't floor me with suspense like other classics in the genre such as "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), "The Big Heat" (1953), "The Big Sleep" (1946), "Key Largo" (1948), or "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) among others. But the movie is one of the best movies that the noir genre has to offer and a movie that should not be missed by anyone who loves these kinds of movies.
Fort Apache (1948)
A true classic western
"Fort Apache" was the first film in John Ford's so-called "cavalry trilogy" and out of the two I watched (the other being "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon") this is probably the most entertaining, adventurous and dramatic of the two movies. the movie opens in a carriage where Army Lt. Col. Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda) and his daughter Philadelphia (Shirley Temple) are heading out west to take command of Fort Apache to and at the same time deal with the native Cochise tribe and train the new recruits for battle against them. After the Thursday's move into their living quarters we end up meeting Lt. col. Thursday's second in command Capt. Kirby York (John Wayne), and a love interest for Philadelphia Lt. Michael O'Rourke (John Agar) who also happens to have his father a Sergeant Major (Ward Bond) in the Army with him. It does take a little while for the action to come along in the movie because it focuses more on the training of new recruits and the romance between Philadelphia and Michael.After ther Army finds a reason to go after the Cochise Lt. Col. Thursday and Capt. York believe in different approaches to deal with the cochise tribe, which Thursday is just focused on the glory and the fighting due to his arrogance, while York has more common sense and wants to broker a peaceful solution with the natives. The battle sequences in this movie are nothing short of amazing, the performances especially by Wayne, Fonda, Temple, Bond, Agar, as well as Victor McLaglen are notable standouts as well as everyone else in the movie delivering very good work. This movie is one of the best westerns that John Wayne ever did throughout his prolific 50 year career along with "The Searchers" (1956), "Red River" (1948), "Rio Bravo" (1959), "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962),and "The Shootist" (1976) among others. Fonda delivers the strongest performance in the whole movie as a man who would to anything to win a battle and bask in the glory of it all no matter what it took, and Ford's direction is top notch as always without making one misstep during its 2 hour and 8 minute runtime. The movie is nothing short of a western masterwork and is one of 1948's finest films.
Only the Lonely (1991)
A well made romantic comedy
John Candy was without a doubt one of the most gifted comedic actors of his generation giving entertaining performances in movies like "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles", "Uncle Buck", and a few others but here in this movie he plays a romantic lead but not without some of his classic comedy trademarks that made him so loved in Hollywood in the first place. Candy plays Danny Muldoon a Chicago police officer who lives with his mother Rose (Maureen O'Hara) who is extremely protective of him and still treats him like a child instead of letting him make his own decisions in life. Every day for Danny is working his police job with his partner (Jim Belushi) and when the working day is done he and his mother go to the bar with some older friends of hers named Doyle (Milo O'Shea) and Spats (Bert Remsen), and then one of them dies which I will not reveal who. Then the scenes in the funeral parlor is where the movie really starts to get interesting as Danny sneaks behind to the back where he sees a beautiful young woman named Theresa (Ally Sheedy) who is a funeral makeup artist that is very shy when they first meet but gradually fall in love as the movie progresses. But there is only one stumbling block in their relationship which is his mother who literally embarrasses her on their first date because of her lack of a filter as well as the fact that Danny can't stop worrying about her because he's been living with her so long and always worries about her safety which causes her to leave him more than once and have an extremely complicate relationship and as with all romantic comedies and romance movies in general the guy always gets the girl in the end. The movie was written and directed by Chris Columbus who also directed the 90's comedy classics "Home Alone" (1990) and "Mrs. Doubtfire" (1993) and was produced by John Hughes who made some of the 80's finest comedies. The most important thing in any romantic movie is the chemistry between the two lovers which is completely nailed by Candy and Sheedy in this movie which really impressed me because Candy showed more sensitivity to himself as an actor that people really didn't get an extended glimpse of until this movie came out. The supporting performances are also stellar with Maureen O'Hara(in what would be her final feature film) really knocks it out of the park as a controlling mother, Kevin Dunn as Dann'y lawyer brother, as well as Anthony Quinn as their neighbor that happens to have a crush on O'Hara's character. The movie is a total gem for romance movies in general, and is very much worth your time if you haven't seen it yet
A very well made horror film
Scott Derrickson's "Sinister" is one of the best horror films I've seen in recent years and like "The Conjuring" that came out not long after this movie did it never let up for one second of its runtime, and is really worth your time if you're a fan of horror movies or not. The movie stars Ethan Hawke as Ellison Oswalt a crime novelist who moves with his wife (Juliet Rylance) and children to a new home only to find out that something isn't right after a bunch of old film reels are found in the attic, and a bunch of paranormal things happen with their children (Michael Hall D'Addario and Claire Foley) which leads to a series of events that make the movie even creepier and scarier as the film progresses. In the beginning of the movie when Ellison decides to movie into the house even the local sherriff (Fred Thompson) warns him not to move in and he doesn't listen which makes you ask questions as to what his motives were. Scott Derrickson does a very good directing job and did a very good job with co-writing the screenplay inot not making this movie rely on jump scares all the time like "It" (2017) did. Derrickson's other credits include "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" (2005) and "Doctor Strange" (2016) which is one of the best Marvel movies that I've ever seen. The performances are also very strong in the movie with Hawke's performance being the one that stood out to me the most while watching this movie. The movie is one of the best horror flicks I've seen that this century has to offer along with "The Conjuring" (2013) which I consider to be one of the finest horror films ever made. The supporting performances are very good, and the suspense that this movie builds makes you feel like you are watching evil unfold right in front of your very eyes, and is right up there with "The Conjuring" and "The Silence of the Lambs" as one of the creepiest horror films that I've ever seen.
One of the greatest gangster movies ever made
Brian De Palma is arguably one of the greatest filmmakers of the last 50 years with classic films such as "Carrie" (1976) and "The Untouchables" (1987) to his name with this movie he has made his masterpiece and one of the finest movies about the mob ever put on film along with "The Godfather" (1972), "The Godfather Part II" (1974), and "Goodfellas" (1990), but unlike those movies it doesn't touch on the Italian mafia. Al Pacino stars in perhaps the finest and most manic performance as Tony Montana a Cuban exile who ends up in Miami and is desperate to find a way to make a living in America by any means necessary with his best friends Manny (Steven Bauer), Chi Chi (Angel Salazar), and Angel (Pepe Serna) in a refugee camp and as a result becomes a part of the mob. in order to make money and survive. Montana then meets a drug dealer named Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) who gave them green cards and a pardon for a murder they committed in Cuba. Then Montana becomes friends with another drug dealer named Omar Suarez (F. Murray Abraham), and falls in love with Frank's wife Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer). This movie focuses so much more than Montana's life of drugs and crime it also focuses on his family relationships with his mother and his sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) disgusted at the fact that he lives a life of crime, and is really a study on Montana's character but mostly doesn't portray him in the best way throughout the movie. The performances in the movie are rock solid with Pacino and Pfeiffer being the biggest standouts, and De Palma's direction is top notch with a very masterfully written screenplay by Oliver Stone. The movie is a remake of Howard Hawks' 1932 gangster film of the same name with Paul Muni in the lead role which I still have yet to see. This is a must see film for anyone that calls themselves a film buff and is a masterpiece of the crime genre.
The Revenant (2015)
DiCaprio steals the show
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's "The Revenant" is without a doubt one of the most beautifully filmed movies I've ever seen and is also one of the most violent, it isn't a perfect but it has enough qualities in it that make it as good as it is. Leonardo DiCaprio won a long awaited best actor Oscar three years ago for his excellent performance as Hugh Glass a frontiersman and fur trapper on an expedition in the extremely cold wilderness in the early 1820's and his group of other trappers includes John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), as well as Captain Andrew Henry (Dohmnall Gleeson) among others. After we get to know the characters a little bit we see Glass in the woods by himself hunting for animals and finds a bear that ends up mauling him to the point where he's so badly beaten up that he nearly dies and is left for dead by his own fellow trappers. After Glass wakes up and discovers this he sets out for revenge against those who betrayed him. Leonardo DiCaprio gives the finest performance I've ever seen from him in a movie for a role which he went all out in preparation for and totally deserved that Oscar for, Tom Hardy is also very good here and got a well deserved best supporting actor nomination as a result. The acting is strong, the direction is very good, and the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is nothing short of breathtaking. The only thing I would say about this movie that I had a problem with was that at points in the film it seemed a little drawn out with DiCaprio's mission to seek revenge on those who left him for dead but it is also understandable because it's his movie. The movie was actually filmed in the harsh weather conditions that are actually seen throughout its over two and a half hour runtime. Iñárritu is without a doubt one of the best directors of the last twenty years and part of the great Hollywood trio of Mexican filmmakers along with Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro, and so far out of the three films I've seen that Iñárritu directed not one was bad. This is one of 2015's very best films.
Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)
A bitter disappointment
I am a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock's movies and before watching this movie I was hoping that this was going to be something good which it did start out that way and during the course of its ninety nine minutes gets gradually worse and more predictable. Julia Roberts stars as Laura a young woman who is seemingly in a good relationship with her husband Martin (Patrick Bergin) but within the first few minutes of the movie we end up learning that things aren't at all what they seem to be at first glance and also that Martin is very controlling as well as physically, verbally, and psychologically abusive towards her and is very obsessed over the littlest things imaginable. One night Laura and her husband decide to go boating in the ocean in a thunderstorm and she ends up faking her own death and then moving to Iowa, changing her identity and moving on with her life. After she moves into her new house in Iowa she meets and falls in love with a drama teacher named Ben (Kevin Anderson), but during each of the times they meet he senses that she's hiding something and so it takes some time for her to tell him everything that happened to her. Then Martin somehow discovers that she's still alive and goes to great lengths to find her. The movie does have good things about it like the opening scenes as well as the scenes between her and Ben and their growing affection between one another. The problems with this movie truly outweighed the positives for me with this movie because I really wanted to like this movie but found myself getting more and more disappointed towards the end. The movie was directed by Joseph Ruben with a screenplay by Ronald Bass (who co-wrote the screenplay for "Rain Man") which really disappointed me even more because the moments which were supposed to strike tension just didn't work at all thanks to the abysmal screenplay. Julia Roberts is usually a good actress but I get the sense that she tried the best she could with this material but was limited by the script, and with Bergin I had the impression that he was trying too hard to be a manipulative sociopath. In the end the movie is a total failure because of its truly major shortcomings.