Monday, 28 November 2011

CRAIG'S TOP 100 FILMS - 50-41

50#. BLACK SWAN (2010)

Director: Darren ARONOFSKY
Starring: Natalie PORTMAN, Vincent CASSALL, Mila KUNIS, Barbara HERSHEY

WHY?: Intense and twistfully-dark, Aronofsky's psychological thriller from last year may have looked like a film about dancing but ended up being one intense exhibition to watch. Upcoming ballerina Nina Sayers (Portman) has ambitions to dance and becomes determined to land the role of both the White Swan and the Black Swan in an upcoming version of Swan Lake. But her commitment to it leads to wild hallucinations suggesting that the role is taking over her and also leads to paranoia when she suspects a sexy rival ballerina (Kunis) is trying to take the part from her. Aronofsky has been renowned for his bizarre but fascinating films and delivers once again here with a masterful and manipulate film that deservedly led to Portman winning the Oscar for her suffer-able performance with hard work put into those dance scenes which themselves are a joy to watch but surreal moments in it too, lead to squeamish moments from this critic!

BEST SCENE: Tempted as I am to pick THAT lesbian sex scene, I feel the whole film circles around one majestic moment showing Nina's delusion about becoming the Swan in the climax to the Swan Lake finale. Her ending move to the dance leads to her magically changing into the Swan with stunning CGI making the 'transformation' look clinical. A thunderous applause moment from me!

 49#. DISTRICT 9 (2009)

Director: Neill BLOMKAMP
Starring: Sharlto COPLEY

WHY?: This supposed sci-fi dud turned out to be one of the most exciting (and bloody) thrill rides as an unknown director/leading actor on a low budget setting made it a cult hit. In Johannesburg, a giant spaceship lurks over the city leading to its alien species being kept in the slums by the government. But several years later, when the aliens (or prawns as they are sometimes referred to) outstay their welcome, they face eviction from their new homes by a government initiative led by naive Wickus (Copley) who whilst inside one of their homes ends up contacting a mysterious chemical substance which affects him later on as he faces a race against time to avoid turning into one of the aliens by seeking their help to avoid capture. Blomkamp did a terrific job working on a low production cost (though backed by Lord of the Rings's Peter Jackson) with a thriller that provides a lot of gore and action in a tough environment mixed in with the articulately CGI'd aliens.

BEST MOMENT: One of the coolest death scenes in film as Wickus faces having his alien arm chopped off by a group of henchman led by a notorious South African gangster. But enter the automatic robot machine which straight away inflicts fire on those henchman before launching a metal object into the villain's head and within a couple of seconds....SPLAT!


Director: Sergio LEONE

WHY?: A pinnacle film which helped revive the Western genre as a whole, Leone's sublime film delivers from many aspects including leading performer Eastwood, the intense fight scenes and that glorious musical score from Ennio Morricone. Mysterious cowboy Blondie (Eastwood) reluctantly joins forces with a cynical thieve named Tuco (Wallach) to tackle a third man, a cold-hearted killer Angel Eyes (Van Cleef) in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery though double-crossing becomes clear throughout. Stunningly shot with a great technical aspect to it, TGTBATU ticks all the right boxes as a western that is almost effective all round though some scenes in the story do drag a little bit. Nevertheless Eastwood made his character a film icon with so much ruggedness about the role with Van Cleef and Wallach just as effective in their supporting roles but production-wise, it's an all round achievement to marvel at, one of the ultimate epics.

BEST MOMENT: From the moment Morricone's Ecstasy of Gold starts playing when Tuco stumbles across the cemetery to the final showdown between the three men, it remains a proper Hollywood battle to watch with excellent editing and the long-range camera shots adding to the intensity of that climax.


Director: Billy WILDER
Starring: Tyrone POWER, Marlene DIETRICH, Charles LAUGHTON

WHY?: Not many people are too aware of this hidden gem by Wilder but it benefits from a cracking script with top performers delivering it well and another classic twist that completely bamboozles you the minute it comes out. Unhealthy lawyer Sir Wilfrid (Laughton) returns from hospital to take on the case of an American man named Leonardo Vole (Power) who has been accused of murdering an older and wealthier woman. During the case, Wilfrid is left compromised when the accused's wife Christine (Dietrich) manipulates the situation by betraying her husband in court but Wilfrid refuses to back down and tries his up-most to prove that the defendant is innocent through heavy investigating. The main trio are superb in their roles particularly Laughton who benefits from the witty screenplay before him as a loud, brass lawyer dedicated to solving the truth but being left stumped in the film's jaw-dropping climax. A good old-fashioned crime film!

BEST MOMENT: THAT twist in the film's climax as the 'victorious' Wilfrid discovers that his exposure of Christine's lies was all a lie itself when she puts on a very strong Cockney accent revealing herself to being the source who provided him with the information to ridicule her in court, thus confirming that our defendant may be naughty after all....

 46#. CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981)

Director: Hugh HUDSON
Starring: Ben CROSS, Ian CHARLESON, Nigel HAVERS, Ian HOLM

WHY?: An unlikely Oscar-winning film (shot up the road from me), Chariots is one of those mesmerising films that represents the sports genre well with plenty of clich├ęs to it; true story, uplifting, sympathetic characters, etc. Prior to the 1924 Olympics, Jewish and Christian athletes Jon Abrahams (Cross) and Eric Liddell (Charleson) are both committed to their religions but realise that they must put those commitments aside in order to compete for glory. When they both qualify for the tournament those doubts return to haunt them but strong support from family and friends keeps them motivated as they bid to go the distance. Yes it all sounds sentimental. But that isn't the case as the film does a worthy job of keeping us on edge and wanting our heroes to succeed which would have been the reason for its Oscar notice. The race scenes are executed to perfection while Vangelis's scintillating musical score is simply inspiring, any wonder it's used in adverts and spoofs!

BEST MOMENT: The mood of the film is set up by the first look back on the athletic team practising their running on the beach where Vangelis's haunting score kicks in straight away, a perfect use of music to set the tone of a sports film classic similar to Rocky.

 45#. MISERY (1990)

Director: Rob REINER
Starring: James CAAN, Kathy BATES, Lauren BACALL

WHY?: Stephen King's passion for writing stirring books proved significant with Reiner's edgy adaptation of the acclaimed Misery novel. Writer Paul Shelton (Caan) has written a series of books based on a character called Misery but after deciding to kill her off, he gets caught up in a frantic snowstorm causing him to crash his car. However he gets rescued from the wreckage by a seemingly careful woman named Annie Wilkes (the superb Bates) who it turns out is a huge Misery fan. But whilst nursing him back to health at her house, she discovers his plans to kill off the character leading to a sudden change of personality in her as she becomes crazy and manipulative leaving Paul having to fight to survive. The terrifying performance of Bates boosts the film greatly with one of THE best villains on the big screen. Every-time we see her, we're left fearing what she'll do next as some of her actions go way overboard particularly for the scene which made my best moment....

BEST MOMENT: A real cringe-worthy moment for anyone whose squeamish towards broken bones in the scene where Annie discovers Paul's snooping around which leads to her making a rash decision that threatens to leaves him shattered (literally). Enter the hobbling and judging from my picture you'll know what happens next....

 44#. THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980)

Director: David LYNCH
Starring: Anthony HOPKINS, John HURT, Anne BANCROFT

WHY?: Haunting and heartbreaking, Lynch made a depressing but celebrated film with his adaptation of the story of one of Britain's most extraordinary cases of a deformed human being. In Victorian era England, surgeon Frederick Treves (Hopkins) rescues a heavily disfigured man named John Merrick (an unrecognisable Hurt) who is mistreated and viewed by the public as a monster. What Treves finds is despite Merrick's grotesque appearance is a person of intelligence and sensitivity who never shows viciousness to anyone but ends up surprising many people with his recites of poetry and a passion for classical music though fate threatens to derail his change in life. Whilst renowned for his dark and surreal films, Lynch's true masterpiece is this tear-jerking film which sometimes appalls us but mostly we sympathise and show support towards our flawed hero with the Victorian setting and dedicated performances leaving us to realise overall that the soul is at times breath-taking. 

BEST MOMENT: Really wanted to say John and Mrs Kendal's 'Romeo & Juliet scene' but for iconic moments in film, is the scene at the train station when our tortured hero is pursued by noisy spectators leading to a crowd-gathering showdown where John delivers THAT speech....

 43#. FINDING NEMO (2003)

Director: Andrew STANTON, Lee ULKRICH
Starring: Albert BROOKS, Ellen DEGENERES, Eric BANA, Geoffrey RUSH

WHY?: Another Pixar classic which is beautifully constructed and is still regarded as one of Disney's modern classics, Nemo is an adventurous 'tale' which delves into the hardships of family and determination to go far in rescuing a loved one. Protective clown-fish Marlin (Brooks) tries to ensure that his son Nemo isn't exposed to the dangers of the open water, but after a row, Nemo ends up being kidnapped by deep sea divers leading to his father making a frantic and dangerous quest across the Ocean to save him. Helping him on that journey is dopey but lovable blue fish Dory (DeGeneres). The stunning artwork for the Ocean scenes are welcoming and beautifully choreographed and the fish even look fantastic to watch while the casting of DeGeneres as Dory was inspired for a voice acting role with her and Brooks giving humourous chemistry to their two characters. A fishy tale which enchants and gives another example of Pixar's dominance over other CGI animated rivals.

BEST MOMENT: The shark encounter scene as Marlin and Dory spend time with vegetarian sharks only to then trigger their appetite for meat leading to a thrilling chase scene and ending up with plenty of bombs going off. Makes Jaws look rather feeble....

42#. FOUR LIONS (2010)

Director: Chris MORRIS
Starring: Riz AHMED, Kayvan NOVAK, Nigel LINDSAY

WHY?: Flattering to rank it above classics but Morris's Four Lions is a real comedy gem that offends but makes us laugh just as hard. A trio of terrorists; Muslims Omar (Ahmed) and Waj (Novak) and cockney Barry (Lindsay) work together to try and commit a terrorist attack somewhere in England but are compromised in their plans when two of them mess up in Pakistan but once they return, the group continue to plot their attack and end up in various antics including carrying bags of explosives and attaching bombs to crows before setting their sights on the London marathon. Crisply written with lots of hilarious dialogue and an underrated ensemble cast, the escapades of these bombers show that they are not the feared assassins of popular imagination, but absurd idiots who encourage laughter though by the end of the film we do sympathise with them in a way. Something you wouldn't expect to say after watching a film about terrorists!

BEST MOMENT: Musical inclusion superbly used here in the scene nearing towards the end where the group prepare for their ill-fated mission by playing sombre Muslim music but as the time goes forward, the sudden change to the banging tune of Dancing in the Moonlight shows how upbeat the three Pakistani's are much to Barry's chagrin....

 41#. THE FULL MONTY (1997)

Director: Peter CATTANEO
Starring: Robert CARLYLE, Mark ADDY, Tom WILKINSON, Paul BARBER, Steve HUISON, Hugo SPEER

WHY?: Another best of British comedy supplement as one of 1997's unlikeliest hits did its job with entertaining its audience despite its focus on unemployment and financial difficulty. Ex-workers Gaz (Carlyle) and Dave (Addy) struggle for work with Gaz trying to raise money to keep seeing his son Nathan. But when the bizarre opportunity of making cash by taking part in a one-off strip-show proves too much an offer to ignore, the pair secure help from snobbish Gerald (Wilkinson), Horse (Barber), suicidal Lomper (Huison) and closet gay Guy (Speer) to try and practise for the event but facing complications along the way. The story of six unattractive men trying to do something drastic became a box-office smash with the cast working wonders to commit to such risky roles but becoming likeable and by the end it leaves most female fans flustered at such a show. A sizzling soundtrack also becomes part of the film's legacy reviving such hits as You Sexy Thing. Sexy this film wasn't but miracles it pulled off with ease.

BEST MOMENT: The video clip above gives us one of my favourite comedy moments in film as the six men wait in the dole queue only to start pulling off moves when Hot Stuff comes on (famously parodied by Prince Charles too). Why can't dole queues be that entertaining in real life....


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