#77: Back to the Future Part III

“Go ahead, make my day.”

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Year: 1990
Genre: Comedy/Western/Sci-Fi

Back to the Future III is everything a family blockbuster should be. This comedy/sci-fi/western adventure is as funny as it is exciting. Not only is it the conclusion to one of the best film film trilogies of all time, it’s also a great blockbuster adventure in its own right rivalling the likes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

People tend to neglect Back to the Future III because it’s so different to its previous instalments, but that’s part of its charm. The first two pictures contain Clint Eastwood references and nods to the Western film genre. Finally, in the third picture, we’re dropped off in the old west for an old-school epic adventure in the past. What a feat to be able to take the trilogy in such a different direction yet tie all the stories up together so neatly! I will admit that the film isn’t quite as good as the other two but that’s through no fault of its own. It’s like comparing  anything to The Beatles, we still enjoy music from the many artists who followed them, but will there ever be a band quite like that ever again?

Chances are you’re looking for more films like The Avengers (2012), or Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) to satisfy your blockbuster sweet-tooth and you haven’t seen Back to the Future III in a dog’s age. Resurrect that sucker for the ultimate blockbuster experience. Hell, why don’t you go ahead and blow your own mind by watching the entire trilogy in one go? If once you weren’t fond of the third film maybe after watching all three at once you’ll have restored faith in the story.

I can’t rightly recommend Back to the Future III to anyone who hasn’t seen the first two films. Sure the film works as a stand alone adventure, but the plot and jokes have a far greater impact if you’ve seen the other instalments.

If you’re one of those cynics who believe themselves to be above commercial blockbusters then I double dare you to sit through Back to the Future III without grinning. If there’s any trace of humanity within you I swear that 10 minutes into the film you’ll surrender yourself to its glee.


#80: L.A. Confidential


So that’s what Hollywood money looks like!

Curtis Hanson
Year: 1997
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

L.A. Confidential is a neo-noir epic of police corruption and Hollywood scandal set in 1953. Crime, sex and glamour are shaken seamlessly together to form this cocktail of a mystery/thriller that you can’t afford to miss.
Don’t be fooled by the taste, this cocktail is strong. You will have to use a small part of your brain to process the somewhat complex and involved plot surrounding three LAPD officers delving into a realm of conspiracy.
The film is by no means slow though, and its glitzy setting, slick direction and hot performances are sure to keep you watching.

You may be put off by the presence of Russell Crowe in the featured screen shot, don’t be. Before Gladiator (2000) exploded his ego and exposed some of his yuckier flavours, Crowe was one of the juicier actors on the scene. L.A. Confidential sees him in one of the finest performances of his career as a thuggish officer who starts to realise that not everything is as it seems. Guy Pearce has the lead role of the ambitious by-the-book nerd who investigates bad smells because he’s the only one who cares to notice. This is also one of Mr. Pearce’s finer performances and the energy between him and Russell is dynamite. Our two Aussie stars are also joined by Kevin Spacey, at his suavest, Kim Basinger, in her Academy Award winning role, and Danny De Vito.

L.A. Confidential is a classy as fuck mystery/thriller with an apetising plot and a very delicious cast. If you don’t see this movie, I’d keep that shit “off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.”

#87: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

“Keanu tastes good!”

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Year: 1992
Genre: Horror

In 1992 Francis Ford Coppola brought us the definitive Dracula film in his luscious adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Bram Stoker’s Dracula truly captures, and even goes beyond, the horror and sensuality of the novel which previous adaptations barely touched on. The film exudes orgasmic production values, the best I’ve seen in a Gothic period film, earning Academy Awards for Costume Design, Make Up and Sound Effects Editing. In light of the current trend of new films celebrating old cinema with the likes of Hugo (2011) and The Artist (2011), it is interesting to note that Bram Stoker’s Dracula does the same thing, only better. Coppola reached deep into the ‘heart of darkness’ to realise this film as creatively as possible and what he found was a beautiful adaptation of a story, written and set in 1897, using only the film techniques of that period. There were no green screens or computer generated effects, all effects were achieved on set and in camera, the results will make your heart leap.

In this adaptation you will find the most interesting portrayal of the Count, both visually and characteristically. The chameleon himself, Gary Oldman, plays Dracula in one of his best performances of his career, and he wasn’t even NOMINATED for Best Actor at the Oscars that year. Oldman’s Dracula, whilst terrifying, is a tragic hero and much more sympathetic than his previous incarnations. Coppola added to Bram Stoker’s tale by weaving in a back story of the Count before he became undead. The back story sees Dracula as ‘Vlad the Impaler’, real-life ruler of Wallachia in the mid 1400’s from which the myth of Dracula was born, allowing us to identify with the character first as a man and providing us with the most engrossing Dracula origin story ever.
We all know that Dracula can appear in many forms and in Coppola’s film, thanks to the award winning make up and costume design and Oldman’s chameleon like features, we get the privilege of seeing such forms in all their horrifying glory. Shudder in the presence of the old Count, be seduced by young Dracula, bow before the notorious Vlad the Impaler, run from the ruthless man-wolf and die at the sight of the bat-like demon. Some of these descriptions may sound ridiculous, but Bram Stoker’s Dracula turns camp-horror into Gothic-art; it has to be seen to be believed.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is extremely erotic, as a vampire film should be. Aside from the lurid sexual imagery (i.e. naked vampire brides and wolf rape), the sexual tension brewing amongst the cast’s ensemble will put you on edge, in particular the chemistry between Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) and Mina Murray (Winona Ryder) is dynamite. Sex and Death have always gone together like Jack and Jill and this film ensures that they are kept together; beware, you may be excited by things you once thought repulsive.

While we’re talking ‘sexy’, I must acknowledge that in Bram Stoker’s Dracula you will be graced with the company of the hottest ensemble cast of the early 90’s…

As Dracula – Gary Oldman: Oldman enthusiasts would be fools to neglect one of his most iconic performances.
As Mina Murray/Harker – The beloved Winona Ryder: This is Winona in her prime. Here, she gets the opportunity to embark on a confronting and sensual character journey.
As the legendary Professor Van Helsing – Sir Anthony Hopkins: Hopkins uses his charisma and genius to make this character both loveable and ferocious.
As Jonathan Harker – Keanu Reeves: Reeves gets a fair bit of shit for his performance as an Englishman in this film. Keanu is one of the few actors who makes poor acting appealing and I believe that it is this quality that makes Keanu’s Harker one of the better portrayals of the character. Jonathan Harker is the naive, perfect and boring young hero and Keanu’s naive performance gives the character the cuteness and vulnerability we need to root for him.

Joining the four leads we have the spicy supporting cast of Richard E. Grant as the bumbling Dr. John Seward, Carey Elwes as Sir Arthur Holmwood, with Sadie Frost as the delicious Lucy Westenra and Tom fuckin’ Waits as Renfield!

I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The only reasons one may not want to see this film are you don’t like horror, you hate Gothic period films, and/or you hate movies…

I love this movie so much, it should be higher on this list! Well, it’s ON it; I hope that counts for something.

#92: Se7en

Everything’s fucked.

Director: David Fincher
Year: 1995
Genre: Thriller

7 reasons to watch this film…

1. It’s a Mystery/Thriller. There’s nothing like a great detective story involving serial killers.

2. It’s directed by David Fincher. Se7en is the first and best example of Fincher’s slick, gritty directorial style, if we ignore his debut effort, Alien 3. Most people prefer Fight Club, but I think, like many other films released in 1999, whilst it is a great film, it has dated. When Fight Club first came out in 1999, I would have said that it is the superior film to Se7en. However, when I watched it again 8 years later, I found that Jack’s “profound” narration came across as annoying and wanky, and Fincher’s CGI transitions had become rather tacky.
Se7en, on the other hand, an older film released in 1995, is not dated. In this one, Fincher did not rely as much on trippy transitions and CGI to express his directorial artistry – probably due to the more straight forward narrative and the fact that this was only his 2nd feature film.

3. The screenplay, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, is masterful. The plot is cleverly woven together in the most realistic way possible, especially considering its high concept. A film about a killer who kills 7 people, each one resembling one of the 7 deadly sins, could have easily turned into a cheap, gimmick-thriller like the Saw sequels (2004-2010), but Walker’s script uses naturalistic dialogue and focuses enough on tedious police procedures to be taken seriously.

4. The Opening Credits. Se7en boasts one of the best opening title sequences in cinema history, up there with Superman (1978), Vertigo (1958), and Watchmen (2009). Constructed by this generation’s Saul Bass, Kyle Cooper, Se7en‘s title sequence is made up of original footage specifically shot for the sequence. The sequence takes us into the mind of the serial killer by presenting us with close ups of his hands preparing various messages for his crime scenes. The actual credit titles were etched into the film itself by Cooper, providing an iconic gritty font and effect that will not age due to it being organic as opposed to computer generated. This sequence also marks the beginning of Fincher’s love affair with Trent Reznor as the accompanying music is none other than Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer’. Some may think that there is nothing more dated than the 90’s industrial aesthetic, and I would agree most of the time, but when Fincher and Reznor work together, it’s magic.

5. The cast. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are equally compelling as the typical detective duo of the young ambitious rookie (Detective David Mills) and the wise old veteran awaiting retirement (Detective Lt. William Somerset). Pitt has always been a great actor, but as most of his films over the last decade have been either quirky or arthouse, it is often difficult to relate to his characters. Se7en gives us Pitt in perhaps his most three-dimensional, sympathetic, human role. A true landmark in his career and a must-see for any of his fans. Se7en also presents us with Morgan Freeman in his last great role before he went on to play various caricatures of himself. Whilst Freeman playing a wise old detective is a cliche in itself, Detective Somerset is a true, flawed and relatable human being, and not some “Magical Negro”, eg. The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Unforgiven (1992). The killer, John Doe, gives a truly unforgettable performance. If you have not seen the film, I hope you have not had the casting choice of the villain ruined for you. To reveal his identity now would would be a sin.

6. Gruesome! For those gore hounds out there, there are plenty of fucked up corpses and inventive murders – ‘7 different ways to showcase a corpse’. We only ever, really, see the aftermath of the murders, but it adds to the mystery and probably creates even more disturbing images in your mind as you visualise how the bodies ended up in the state they are in.


#91: Edward Scissorhands

Welcome to a world of pure imagination…

Director: Tim Burton
Year: 1990
Genre: Fantasy

If you have not seen a Tim Burton film, or if you have been dispirited by his later works, watch Edward Scissorhands. Burton’s signature film is a modern fairy tale and a cinema classic.

Edward Scissorhands can be described as Frankenstein for a contemporary audience. The Victorian setting we are used to seeing in Mary Shelley’s story is swapped for modern day suburbia. Instead of a reanimated man made up of dead body parts, we have an emo with scissors for hands. Thematically, Frankenstein explores the consequences of ‘playing god’, whereas Burton’s film is more concerned with how the individual fits into society. The combination of familiar storytelling and modern themes makes this film universal, that is, anyone and everyone can enjoy this movie, unless you’re too cool for school.

There are obvious reasons to watch/appreciate Edward Scissorhands, such as Burton’s astounding visual style, young Johnny Depp, young Winona Ryder, and SCISSOR-HANDS; but what makes this film so special is that it’s timeless. A timeless movie pretty much stands the test of time, usually due to avoiding current issues or settings which may date depending on the world’s progress. The timelessness of this film can be boiled down to three crucial factors… 1. There is no CGI, most of what you see in the frame was physically there on set, which means that visually the film will not age due to the limitations of special effects. 2. It is emotionally engaging thanks to a universal story, interesting characters and a simple plot. 3. IT IS ORIGINAL. Unlike Burton’s later works, Edward Scissorhands is not a remake and remarkably it’s not even a book adaptation. Of course it has its similarities to other old horror stories but most good stories thrive on putting unique spins on old yarns. Burton created an iconic character, beautifully portrayed by Depp, and an unforgettable world; a colourful neighbourhood and its disturbingly identical houses contrasted by a Gothic mansion and its fantastical garden.

If you haven’t seen Edward Scissorhands, chances are you’ll like it, even if you’re not into fantasy. There are no big sweaty men on quests to find a magic relic before evil takes a giant shit on them. If you’re looking for action and adventure, I’m afraid you’ll be gravely disappointed. But if you wanna laugh, if you wanna cry and if you wanna meet an emo who never whinges, open your heart to Edward Scissorhands.