Tuesday, 13 December 2011

CRAIG'S TOP 100 FILMS - 40-31

40#. THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985)


Director: John HUGHES
Starring: Judd NELSON, Emilio ESTEVEZ, Molly RINGWALD, Anthony Michael HALL, Ally SHEEDY, Paul Gleason

WHY?: One of the cult classics of the 80s, this film highlighted the concern for teenage insecurity and the fear of growing old though this only adds to the subtly of a sharp script and an excellent ensemble. A group of teenagers; rebellious Bender (Nelson), athletic Andrew (Estevez), socialite Claire (Ringwald), geek Brian (Hall) and outcast Allison (Sheedy) find themselves spending almost an entire Saturday serving detention for various crimes as ordered by strict principal Vernon (Gleason). However their differing personalities lead to many issues being brought up within them proving that they aren't just typical teenagers but that they have worries about how their futures will turn out. The five stars of the show rally together with humour and em-bitterness mixed into their performances and the film itself with the scorching soundtrack also adding to that 80s feel consistently directed by John Hughes.

BEST MOMENT: The group gathering around and discussing more of their issues which leads to plenty of tears and tantrums within each other before a couple of laughs ends a very well-written and beautifully constructed scene proving that Hughes could do drama as well as comedy immensely.



39#. PULP FICTION (1994)



Director: Quentin TARANTINO
Starring: John TRAVOLTA, Samuel L. JACKSON, Uma THURMAN, Bruce WILLIS

WHY?: Tarantino's cultural masterpiece is a film which many people have on their Top 10 lists and it's easy to see why. Split into three different acts we have inconsistent hit-men Vincent Vega (Travolta) and his partner in crime Jules (Jackson) pulling off a hit only to make a complete mess of their undercover partner, Vincent being involved in an even more awkward situation when he accidentally overdoses his boss's girlfriend (Thurman) during a 'date' and boxer Butch (Willis) trying to escape from his gangster boss only for the pair to be held captive by homosexual hill-billies. Zany, violent and crisply written, Tarantino followed on from his scorching debut film Reservoir Dogs ('92) with a bigger and more iconic contribution to cinema thanks to some dynamite quotes and memorable scenes. But all that wouldn't be achieved without the terrific ensemble with Travolta reviving his career and Jackson and Thurman offering their services to the mastery of Tarantino.

BEST SCENE: Quite a few candidates here given the popularity of this film, but for many lovers of great quotes, the scene where Jules quotes a passage from the bible and uses it as an excuse to unsettle his victims before he blazes them to death with gunfire. The Lord will not be messed with!



 38#. HIGH NOON (1952)


Director: Fred ZINNERMAN
Starring: Gary COOPER, Grace KELLY, Lloyd BRIDGES

WHY?: A politically influenced film, High Noon represents the theme of courage and honour in what is probably the defining Western film. Experienced US marshal Will Kane (Cooper) prepares to start a new life with beautiful bride Amy (Kelly) but things are complicated when a former enemy comes out of prison seeking revenge on him. But when seeking help from fellow deputies and the entire town, Kane finds himself standing alone in his fight against the enemy with the townspeople showing cowardice when refusing to help him. Clearly based on the Cold War fallout, Zinnerman was ridiculed by politicians for his attempt to black-mark their antics onto a Western but has since become admired by many for its contextual approach towards the events that were happening back in 1952. An Oscar-winning Cooper gives one of the great Hollywood hero performances showing dismay at his predicament yet a vow to overcome the odds leading to a thunderous showdown.

BEST MOMENT: The sublime build-up towards Kane's fight with Frank Miller as the various reactions of all the characters involved are conveyed with snappy editing showing just how desperate and nervy the situation is, one of cinema's great build-up moments.



 37#. PSYCHO (1960)


Director: Alfred HITCHCOCK
Starring: Anthony PERKINS, Vera MILES, Janet LEIGH

WHY?: Another iconic film makes this section as Hitchcock's mesmerising classic proved legendary with its suspense and twists showcasing that cinema could never be the same again. Secretary Marion Crane (Leigh) goes on the run after stealing a large amount of cash from her employer's partner. But whilst driving through the highway, she pulls into a motel owned by suspicious looking Norman Bates (Perkins) and his 'mother' who hides away in their house. However when the 'mother' brutally kills Marion in the shower, Norman tries to cover up the murder but with Marion being missing, her sister (Miles) tries to find out where she is, leading to a shock reveal at the end. Shocking it really was as Hitchcock's mastery defined the film's reputation thanks no doubt to THAT shower scene (the music simply haunting) and the creepy performance from Perkins who gives one of my favourite villain roles with such a chilling last shot rounding off the terrifying experience. Scary stuff!

BEST MOMENT: Hmmm, I wonder what will win this....Ah, the scene where Marion decides to have a nice relaxing shower only for several seconds of screechy music and quick editing later, our heroine to end up dead on the bathroom floor, completely disturbing us with the realization that Hitch doesn't like his female characters....



 36#. HOME ALONE (1990)


Director: Chris COLUMBUS
Starring: Macauley CULKIN, Joe PESCI, Daniel STERN, Catherine O'HARA, John HEARD

WHY?: Hear me out, whilst this is no masterpiece compared to say Psycho, it is one of those humble Christmas films that keeps everyone entertained with its titular characters and slapstick moments. Youngster Kevin McCallister (Culkin) falls out with his family just before they prepare to spend Christmas in Paris and wishes that they disappear. However they forget him due to a massive rush with his concerned mother Kate (O'Hara) determined to get back home. But whilst Kevin enjoys the freedom of running around the house, and doing crazy things, he also has to defend his home when two bumbling burglars Harry (Pesci) and Marv (Stern) try to break into it. Easily a Christmas fixture for many, this family hit catapulted Culkin into the limelight as his Kevin shows no mercy towards his enemies with booby traps proving their downfall. The nostalgia kicks in when you find yourself remembering key quotes too, a true 90s film with a well-worked sequel for you filthy animals.

BEST MOMENT: As Marv and Harry try to get to Kevin on the landing, Marv grabs the kid's leg and tries to hold on. But Kevin's intervention pays off when he finds his older brother's pet spider lurking and places him on top of the bearded villain. Cue some loud screaming....



35#. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)


Director: Robert MULLIGAN
Starring: Gregory PECK, Mary BADHAM, Brock PETERS, Robert DUVALL

WHY?: A landmark film particularly in a crucial period in American society as this faithful adaptation of Harper Lee's beloved novel became a culturally celebrated film in its stance towards racism. In the Deep South; youngsters Jem (Alford)and Scout (Badham) try to get up to various antics but their gentlemanly father, lawyer Atticus Finch (a marvellous Peck) tries to teach them about morals in society just before he faces the tough task of defending a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. As the trial progress we know that the man is innocent but the racial bigotry of the townspeople leads to the wrong verdict proving the cruelty of a twisted world. Peck's incredible performance made us believe in Atticus as a father who cares for his children and as a humanitarian who tries to do the right thing despite being ridiculed by society. The youngsters also shine in a story of courage, hope and prejudice that changed the way we look at race.

BEST MOMENT: Probably Atticus's monologue speech to the jury about why Tom Robinson is innocent and that they must do the right thing, so much emotion and determination is put into that speech with everyone in the room knowing what is at stake here although all that talking fails to hit the spot in the next scene....


  
 34#. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008)


Director: Danny BOYLE
Starring: Dev PATEL, Frieda PINTO, Anil KAPOOR

WHY?: Energetic and vibrant, Boyle's Indian-based hit which swept the Oscars featured a heartfelt story told in three different time periods of one young man's dream of becoming rich and getting the girl he loves in a tough environment. When Mumbai boy Jamal Malick (Pinto) is accused of cheating on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, he reveals to the chief officer that he knew the answers to each question because of various situations in his life which had impacted on him and allowed him to answer the questions with ease. However he hopes that by appearing on the show, it will allow him to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart Latika (Pinto). A real crowd-pleaser for some, the traumas that Jamal goes through in order to win this competition and be with his true love are staggering, and his journey is just as extraordinary. Beautifully shot and edited with a real MTV style soundtrack crisply composed by A.R Rahman, this is one of Britain's best films of recent times.

BEST MOMENT: A satisfying if gross moment as young Jamal battles his way out of an outdoor toilet by jumping onto the pile of human faeces before getting through a crowd of people in order to get his favourite hero's autograph still covered in the poo. Revolting but a delight when you see how happy he is after all that.



 33#. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)


Director: Victor FLEMING
Starring: Judy GARLAND, Margaret O'BRIEN

WHY?: A glorious and beloved masterpiece, the Wizard of Oz took us on a journey to great wonders and magical adventure situated in this celebrated musical. Dorothy Gale (Garland) and her pet dog Toto find themselves hiding in their home when a giant tornado sweeps up the building and ends up landing in the bright (and colourful) land of Oz. But after being threatened by the Wicked Witch of the West (O'Brien), Dorothy seeks to find the Emerald city where the wizard lives but comes across three companions along the way....Technically stunning and featuring some much-loved songs including Somewhere Over The Rainbow and If I Only Had A Brain, this film did define the perfect family experience with Garland excelling in her big screen debut and the other adored characters doing their bit to make this experience a pleasure to watch. There's no film like this one nowadays!

BEST MOMENT: Perhaps one of film's most famous scenes as Dorothy voices her desire to one day go over the Rainbow leading to the alluring and heartfelt tune, which is so much loved by many today and really showed what Garland was all about.


32#. SEABISCUIT (2003)



Director: Gary ROSS
Starring: Tobey MAGUIRE, Jeff BRIDGES, Chris COOPER, Elizabeth BANKS

WHY?: My fascination with sport films began with this wholesome tale of the unlikely success of one of America's greatest racehorses with three talented actors leading this sublime film. During the Great Depression, three men; jockey Red Pollard (Maguire), former car distributor Charles Howard (Bridges) and trainer Tom Smith (Cooper) work together to try make a rookie horse named Seabiscuit become a champion while at the same time lifting the spirits of themselves and the people of America. Uplifting it is, we feel for each of our three heroes and what they go through to get to where they are with the leads doing a considerable job though the horse (and William H. Macy) steals the show. The production all round is well decorated taking us back to the tough times of the Depression, with an arousing score and the horse racing scenes are expertly shot giving us an intimate look at what's it like in those races. Easily one of my favourite sports films with plenty to cheer by the end.

BEST MOMENT: The final race is typical of Hollywood standards as our heroic jockey struggles at the start of the crucial race, only for his friend and fellow jockey to give him some encouragement as Red manages to overcome his opponents and head towards the finishing line, as a relaxing closing shot....


 31#. IN THE LOOP (2009)


Director: Armando IANUCCI
Starring: Peter CAPALDI, Tom HOLLANDER, Chris ADDISON, James GANDOLFINI

WHY?: This film is not funny by slapstick but hilarious as a well written and slick comedy focusing on the troubles of government hypocrisy as seen in the original TV series The Thick Of It. Treasurer Simon Foster (Hollander) makes an ill-judged statement about war being foreseeable much to the anger of his spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (the superb Capaldi) who sends Foster to America to try and retract his statement. However it leads to a cluster of errors as American and British officials try to figure out who is leaking further information about war being inevitable. The genius of writer/director Iannucci presents the catalyst for this classy and upper-class film where the ensemble excels with sarcasm, buffoonish personalities and vicious dialogue (mostly from Tucker and his partner Jamie) adding to the fun and at times seriousness of political error. To some, Dr Strangelove is regarded as the best satirical comedy but In The Loop makes it look like Norbit in comparison!

BEST MOMENT: Too many classic quotes and moments but for a scene of great writing is Malcolm's argument with General Miller (Gandolfini) as Angry Scot vs. Soprano go head-to-head in one minute's worth of bitter and intimidating dialogue. Don't ever call Malcolm 'English' again....

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