Monday, 19 December 2011

CRAIG'S TOP 100 FILMS - 30-21


Director: Brian DEPALMA
Starring: Kevin COSTNER, Robert DE NIRO, Sean CONNERY

WHY?: Brian De Palma's masterful gangster flick captivates us straight away showing no mercy even to youngsters when a girl is blown up by a bomb left in a bar. In 1920's Chicago, federal officer Eliot Ness (Costner) struggles to try and land vicious mob boss Al Capone (De Niro) who is illegally selling liquor to the public but his misfortunes change when veteran cop Jim Malone (Connery) offers to help. He, Ness and two other men form as a group of mercenaries to try and stop Capone's tyranny from continuing as they stop deals and meetings from happening, with the gangster vowing his revenge. A riveting experience this film is, as we support Ness's determination to get one over Capone with Costner (surprisingly) shining in the lead role though it is the experience of Connery and De Niro who overshadow him. However the film is also built up immaculately by the valuable production design taking us back to that corrupted period in American history and some slick editing which culminates in my choice for best scene....

BEST MOMENT: One of my favourite action scenes; the infamous train station sequence as Ness tries to help a woman pull her baby's pram up a flight of stairs only to be rudely interrupted by a group of various men planning to bump him off. Cue a lot of gun fire, a pram falling down the stairs and classy slow-motion filming to make the scene more on edge. Genius.

29#. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)

Director: Billy WILDER
Starring: Tony CURTIS, Jack LEMMON, Marilyn MONROE

WHY?: Wacky and silly, this beloved hit from the late 1950's was the first major film to focus on transgender with men dressing up as women and became a renowned classic. Musicians Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) find themselves on the run after they witness the St Valentine's Day Massacre being performed by a group of gangsters. But at the same time, they need some cash and decide to try and pull off a farcical idea by dressing up as a pair of women and end up hitching a ride with other female musicians including sexy Sugar (Monroe) to sunny Miami where love and danger cause complications for the pair. Though I adore Mrs Doubtfire (1993), Some Like It Hot truly was the defining film of this theme with Curtis and Lemmon working superbly together to produce a hilarious double act with Monroe bubbling with beauty here. But it's the writing of Wilder which is the core of the film as the dialogue gives plenty of work for the main trio to do. And THAT last line really is the 'perfect' way to end a journey of such hilarity....

BEST SCENE: A classic example of jumping from scene-to-scene as the seductive Sugar tries to erase Jerry's fear of women by constantly kissing him on the lips while poor 'Josephine' finds 'herself' getting too committed to tango-dancing with veteran millionaire Osgood, the music is just so catchy!

 28#. MARY POPPINS (1964)

Director: Robert STEVENSON
Starring: Julie ANDREWS, Dick VAN DYKE, David TOMLINSON

WHY?: Granted I am charmed by childhood classics which is why Mary Poppins quite rightly belongs high on this list. The beloved musical became adored by generation after generation of families since its arrival in 1964 and there's no reason not to like it. Careless father George Banks (Tomlinson) tries to find a new nanny to look after his two children Jane and Michael and gets one in the shape of magical woman Mary Poppins (a flawless Andrews). Her extraordinary powers delight the children as she takes them on various adventures including an animated painting and the roofs of London with the assistance of chirpy sweeper Bert (Van Dyke) though there are also lessons to be learnt. From its majestic performance by Andrews (and the not so majestic accent from Van Dyke) to the stunning visual effects to the poignant family theme to the marvelous musical songs (Spoonful of Sugar, Feed the Birds, Go Fly A Kite), it really is a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious film to savour!

BEST MOMENT: Quite a few to pick here, but the entire animated segment was iconic in itself as Mary, Bert and the children jump into a painting and find themselves on a jolly holiday with Mary (one of the songs by the way!). To see live actors dancing and mixing in with animated penguins, foxes and horses is astounding for visual beauty and clearly has had an effect on many films since!


Director: John HUGHES
Starring: Matthew BRODERICK, Alan BUCK, Mia SARA, Jennifer GREY, Jeffrey JONES

WHY?: This film made every school kid want to bunk off school and it's no wonder it's regarded as a cult classic. Deceitful Ferris Bueller (Broderick) fakes illness in order to spend the day getting up to mischief in Chicago with his best friend Cameron (Buck) and girlfriend Sloane (Sara). However his headmaster Mr Rooney (Jones) becomes suspicious about Ferris's illness and decides to do some detective work leading to humiliation for him while Ferris and friends enjoy different antics such as eating in a posh restaurant, watching a baseball game and visiting an Art Museum. John Hughes was always associated with the 80s as a writer/director and this is one of his best films and maybe one of the most entertaining of the decade. Broderick's rise to stardom was confirmed with his cheeky performance here as Ferris is rooted by us from start to finish and it also has its iconic moments (the music, the sports car, a great cameo by Mr Sheen) which Family Guy seems to like anyway. All together now; Bueller....Bueller?

BEST MOMENT: For fans of the Beatles, one of my favourite musical scenes as Ferris grabs a microphone and stands on a float bellowing out 'Twist and Shout' with hundreds of people singing and dancing along to it (yes even his dad who is unaware that it is his son performing it!). A really satisfying moment from film that makes even the glummest person smile!


Director: Gary TROUSDALE & Kirk WISE
Starring: Paige O'HARA, Roddy BENSON, Richard WHITE, Angela LANSBURY

WHY?: Disney really did have an impact on my childhood with such wonderful animated films, and the delightful classic Beauty and the Beast is up there with the best of my films. When a selfish prince (Benson) is transformed into a scary-looking beast, he is told that he will only turn human again if he finds his true love before a rose loses its petals. That chance comes when a keen book reader named Belle (O'Hara) tracks down her father who is kept in the castle. The beast agrees a deal to let him go on the condition she stays but despite initial fear between the two, they slowly grow to care for each other leading to potential love. The charming Oscar-winning hit (the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture) has everything from stunning artwork to popular characters like Lumiere and Gaston (a devious Disney villain) and an admiring soundtrack with beloved songs from Be Our Guest to the heart-rendering Beauty and the Beast. Twenty years on and it still looks and sounds as magnificent as when I watched it as a child.

BEST MOMENT: A truly remarkable achievement in Disney history as Belle and a handsome looking Beast prepare for their romantic dance supported in the singing departments by Mrs Potts's beautiful rendition of Beauty and the Beast. Everything in that scene including the artwork and the choreography of the dance is sublime even for a children's film!


Director: Steven SPIELBERG

WHY?: Mr Spielberg created some of my favourite films and it's no surprise that his heart-wrenching war epic makes it this high on my list. After a ferocious opening segment of overcoming the D-Day landings on Normandy Beach, Capt. John Miller (Hanks) is given the tough task of tracking down a soldier named Ryan (Damon) whose three brothers have been killed in action. He and his platoon face the dreaded ordeal of trekking through war-torn France trying to find their man but face many dangers along the way. Gripping, violent and emotional, I'm just talking about THAT opening segment with so much blood and guts mixed into it. The rest of the film is still as genuine and constructed with such tenacity by Spielberg and his team with Hanks giving a worthy performance of leadership with the supporting cast also excelling. It's brutal portrayal of World War II is as harshly honest and as realistic as you can get and like with Schindler's List, Spielberg made that terrible period in history look so grim and horrific.

BEST MOMENT: Well it has to be THAT opening sequence which gives an action-packed and vicious account of what every soldier on D-Day went through as they fought to overcome the gunfire heading their way. For 25-30 minutes, we are left speechless by the mass horror of war realistically shown on screen from every gunshot wound to the faces of those unfortunate to be fighting.

 24#. 12 ANGRY MEN (1957)

Director: Sidney LUMET
Starring: Henry FONDA, Lee J COBB, Martin BASLAM, Jack WARDEN

WHY?: Twelve men in one condensed room doesn't sound exciting for a film not too far off my Top 20 but when it features exceptional performances from all the men and a sizzling script, you're in for a real surprise. A young Puerto-rican boy is accused of murdering his father and it is up to twelve jurors to discuss whether he is guilty or not. Whilst eleven of them think he is, one does not as Juror 8 (Fonda) gives his theories about why the boy may be innocent and one by one each juror is won over by his story. The intensity of the crime is the factor for why this film is so on edge as the solid Fonda decides to complicate this simple verdict and try to unwind many ideas that could actually prove the boy's innocence. Cobb was the real standout of the support cast, barking at Fonda with such bitterness though everyone in that room contributes their own acting style to the story. Lumet creates a claustrophobic film that re-evaluates the law system and gets plenty of strong characterisation from his excellent ensemble.

BEST MOMENT: Just towards the end when it seems that Juror 8's case for the boy's innocence is looking inconclusive, Juror 9 comes up with his own theory about one of the witnesses wearing glasses which could have an effect on the verdict. The twists and turns in this film are handled with precision which is what you expect for a crime film!

 23#. JAWS (1975)

Director: Steven SPIELBERG
Starring: Roy SCHEIDER, Richard DREYFUSS, Robert SHAW

WHY?: Spielberg's visionary mind was established by his iconic first mainstream film, the suspenseful Jaws which redefined the term 'blockbuster' when it was released in 1975. When a young woman is find mutilated by a shark, police chief Brody (Scheider) seeks to stop the Fourth of July celebrations from happening but the major says no. But when the shark kills a few more people, Brody teams up with expert Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss) and boatsman Quint (Shaw) to try and capture the carnivorous beast only to realise just how big and dangerous it really is. This landmark film put loads of people off going into the water just like Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) put people off going into the shower. Once John Williams's haunting theme kicks in, we know we're in for a shuddering experience as Spielberg launched himself into the public eye with his monster hit and while the main acting trio work well, it's the shark which steals the show and still terrifies audiences to this very day. Du duh, du duh....

BEST MOMENT: The final ten minutes is nail-biting as the ship gets bundled over by Jaws, with one of the men horrifically killed by the shark but also gives one of the others the chance for a bad-ass moment in film, as he grabs a sniper, aims it as a gas cylinder inside the beast's mouth and fires....

22#. CASABLANCA (1942)

Director: Michael CURTIZ
Starring: Humphrey BOGART, Ingrid BERGMAN, Paul HENREID, Claude RAINS

WHY?: One of Hollywood's most celebrated films was released in a traumatic period in world history but on screen, it inspired many and is still regarded as one of the greatest in film. In war-torn Casablanca, uptight bar owner Rick Blaine (Bogart) is stunned to see his former lover Elsa (Bergman) turn up at his bar with her current lover Victor Laslow (Henreid). They seek his help to try and escape from the country before German officers get to them but Rick's bitterness over the way his relationship with Elsa threatens to stop them. However she tries to reason with him leading to a spark occurring between the pair once again. Timeless and easily quotable, Casablanca has one of the best love stories in film (take that Twilight!) and a emotionally charged final five minutes to boot. Bogart carries the film with strength and character though the underrated Rains is just as good with his devious Louis character. Impeccable from start-to-finish, it was the start of a beautiful friendship for me and this film.

BEST MOMENT: As with Jaws, probably the final few minutes of this masterpiece, as Rick decides to let Elsa leave with Victor, such chemistry between the pair, before the plane leaves. Rick and Louis then walk across the airport with one of cinema's classic last lines uttered as the screen fades to The End. Classic Hollywood at its best!

 21#. SCARFACE (1983)

Director: Brian DEPALMA
Starring: Al PACINO, Michelle PFIEFFER, Steven BAUER, Robert LOGGIA

WHY?: This was VERY close to the Top 20, but it just falls short (sorry Vee). DePalma's iconic film went from critical disappointment in '82 to gangster classic in the space of almost 30 years thanks to its dark characters and some real catchy lines. Cuban immigrant Tony Montana (Pacino) tries to make his way in crime-ridden Miami and gets his opportunity by working for mob boss Frank Lopez (Loggia) through the emerging cocaine empire. However when power and greed get to him, he finds himself top dog of the Miami crime world only to face losing his new power as rival crime bosses threaten to bring him down leading to a breathtaking finale involving guns and kick-ass quotes. For me, this is Pacino's best performance, an impeccable accent combined with his robust gangster skills makes him a celebrated character who also happens to say my favourite quote in film. The music, the cast, the violence, etc, it's another film that represented the politics and law of the 80s in all its gritty and corrupted glory. As a critic I always tell the truth. Even when I lie....

BEST MOMENT: Judging from my choice of video above, there was never another option here. Trying to defend himself from a gang of gun-welding assassins, Tony pulls out all the firepower he can as they prepare to confront him. Finally he unleashes his little friend! Pow! The ultimate film moment!


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