Posts Tagged ‘willow’

Whilst coming to the end of writing my first extensive look at why a certain “horror” franchise failed to produce quality films, I was made aware of a mini-craze amongst film reviewers on social media in which they reveal their favourite film from each year that they’ve been alive.

At first I had no interest in taking part, but then I thought that it might be fun to see what came out each year I was alive. One thing that I quickly realised that there are some years in which there were few standout films for me, 1990 and 2005 being particularly sparse, whereas I really struggled just to pick one from 1994 as as well as what I chose, there were so many entries that were not only great, but would top many top tens around the world.

So I was born in 1984 and will therefore start there. In the interest of fairness I am only going to consider films that were released at the cinema.

1984 – Ghostbusters
1985 – The Goonies
1986 – The Fly
1987 – Spaceballs
1988 – Willow
1989 – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
1990 – Night of the Living Dead
1991 – Terminator 2 : Judgement Day
1992 – A League of Their Own

1993 – Jurassic Park
1994 – The Shawshank Redemption
1995 – Mortal Kombat
1996 – Star Trek : First Contact
1997 – The Fifth Element
1998 – The Truman Show
1999 – Fight Club


2000 – American Psycho
2001 – The Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring
2002 – 28 Days Later
2003 – Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl
2004 – Troy
2005 – Land of the Dead
2006 – Lucky Number Slevin


2007 – No Country for Old Men
2008 – The Dark Knight
2009 – Star Trek
2010 – Scott Pilgrim vs the World
2011 – Moneyball
2012 – Avengers : Assemble
2013 – Rush

Then we come onto those that I’ve seen since I started reviewing films for this site. Click on the below links for the full run downs of the top tens from these years.
2014 – Nightcrawler
2015 – No Escape
2016 – Captain Fantastic
2017 – TBD

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There is an internal debate that I have had for several months and that it “what is the greatest decade for cinema” in terms of quantity of quality films, and after several months of debate, I have come to the conclusion that the best decade for cinema was the 1980s.

I got onto this debate again over the weekend as I went back to my hometown of Lincoln for a few days. It was the first time I’ve had two days in a row off from all jobs since April and as I turn 32 on September 12th, I decided to celebrate by going home, seeing family and friends, and whilst there I got my present from my parents, the ever reliable present that is money. I decided to invest it in some new Blu-Rays as I haven’t brought myself some for a while, infact it’s only one in since April, which is a low number for me.

After browsing HMV’s five Blu-Rays for £30 section, I came away with the following (I bought more than five);

  • Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • Weird Science
  • Gremlins
  • Krull
  • Some Like it Hot
  • Jane Got a Gun
  • The Gift

I only realised a few hours later that four of my choices were from the 1980s, and it got that debate starting again, and I still come to the conclusion that is the best decade for film. Whilst that is obviously down to personal taste and opinion, I have decided to justify my decision by writing an article about it.

Weird-Science

So many classics, and original films at that

Arguably no decade has more classics coming out of it than the 1980s. You’ve got genre defining classics in pretty much every single category, which isn’t something that you can say about most decades. Whilst the 1990s had some timeless films, such as “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Fight Club”, there weren’t that many films that you can look at and say that you’d still be watching them regularly 26 years after the decade ended.

To put this in some sort of context, here are some examples of genres and some of the classics (in my opinion) in that genre. Please note that if there is an asterix next to it, I haven’t actually seen the film and am going purely off it’s reputation.

Science Fiction : ET*, The Terminator, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Blade Runner*, Predator, The Abyss, Star Trek 2 : The Wrath of Khan and Aliens.

Horror : The Fly, The Thing, The Shining, Gremlins and The Evil Dead.

Comedy : Ghostbusters, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Weird Science, Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off*, The Blues Brothers*, Big, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Police Academy.

Adventure : Raiders of the Lost Ark, Willow, Krull, The Neverending Story and The Goonies.

War : Full Metal Jacket* and Platoon*.

Action : Die Hard and Top Gun.

Drama : Rain Man, Stand by Me, Gandhi and A Passage to India*.

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All of those were just of of the top of my head, I’m sure if I delved into it there would be more, but there just some of the classics that came from the 1980s, and in particular, original ideas. Again, without delving into it, there are only three sequels listed above (Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Wrath of Khan), and whilst there are a few remakes (The Fly and the Thing), the vast majority are original ideas and a lot of those films, for better or for worse, started franchises.

As time has gone on, original ideas have become few and far between in Hollywood, making most films predictable, especially in our current decade, in which it’s very hard to see a film that isn’t based on a book, another film, isn’t a reboot, remake or sequel, and is just an outright original idea.

Whilst the majority of films in earlier decades were obviously original, in my opinion no decade outside of the 1980s has produced as many original hits that people still watch and inspired as much.

Computer generated special effects were rare!

The 1980s was the last decade in which it was uncommon to see computer generated special effects in films. The vast majority of effects in the 1980s were practical, and because of this it often looked far more realistic.

For example, the only bit of CGI that I have been impressed with recently was in “The Jungle Book”, in which the animals looked exceptionally realistic, but that is definitely a rarity these days and to counter that, a few weeks later I watched “Gods of Egypt”, which I wouldn’t be surprised if it was all done on green-screens as everything looked ridiculously fake.

Practical effects work better for me because they just look more realistic. I’ll grant you that this isn’t always the case, such as the scene in “The Terminator” in which the Terminator is removing his faulty eye, but by in large it just looks better. One such direct example that I can use is the 1982 version of “The Thing” in comparison to it’s 2011 prequel.

On the image below you can see an image of the same character (please note for those that haven’t seen it, in the picture on the left the character is dead, or least so they think). On the left hand side is the character in the 1982 film and has been done entirely with practical effects, compared to the same character in the 2011 prequel, which was a 100% CGI character.


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I have nothing against the prequel at all. Whilst it’s nowhere near as good as the first film, it is a reasonable attempt, but the look of this character in particular just takes away any semblance of fear and danger. Whilst you never see the practical effects split-face character alive in the 1982 film, I would be far more terrified if that was coming towards me than the one on the right, and it’s all because the split-face on the right hand side looks fake as hell.

Everything just looked better in the 1980s and more lifeless, and seeing a character that I know is completely CGI personally takes me out of the film a lot, whereas practical effects characters just don’t have the same impact on me whatsoever.

Effects help story telling and if used right, they can be excellent. There are so few films these days that make non-human characters look realistic, whereas the 1980s managed it so well as it was a time when sixty or so years of research had been perfected, and it was only towards the end of the decade that computer generated effects started coming into effect, and what’s more, some of the creatures in the practical effects era were cute as hell, such as Falcor from “The Neverending Story”.

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Characters and story came first!

Following on from the above, one thing that a lot of modern day films often make a mistake on is trying to make their film look great, but completely forget about the characters and story. For example, when I first watched “Avatar” I was stunned by how visually brilliant the whole thing was, and it is stunning in Blu-Ray format, but once you take your eyes off of the look of the film, there just isn’t a lot of substance there. The characters are weak and the storyline is just a “meh” situation.

During the majority of the films in my earlier list, you get to know the characters exceptionally well because the story telling allows them to be. The focus was on great storytelling and not how it looked. For example, I only recently watched “Die Hard” for the first time and it worked on many levels, one of which was that it had a great antagonist (which is another film modern day films struggle with might I add). Even now, more than two weeks after watching it for just the one time, I can remember a lot about the characters, even the minor ones, and that’s what I want.

The central antagonist in “Die Hard”, Hans Gruber (played menacingly brilliantly by Alan Rickman), is a great antagonist because not only does he look like winning, but you learn a great deal about his character.

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The same can’t be said of a lot of modern day films. For example, I recently went to watch “Lights Out”, literally the day after I watched “Die Hard”, and yet I couldn’t tell you the name of a single character, it was that forgettable, and that’s not just a one off either. Horror films these days are so focused on things such as jump scares, they’ve taken their eyes off of what is most important, the characters. If I don’t care enough to remember the characters names, why should I care about the situation that they’re in.

For example, in the list above is my favourite horror film, “The Fly”. For those that haven’t seen it, watch it. Go and watch it now (well, after you’ve finished reading this). “The Fly” for me is everything that makes not only a great horror film, but a great film in general. I have already covered this film in my review for “The Fly”, but to sum it up the reason “The Fly” works so well is that whilst it only has three characters, you get to know them so well that you start caring about them as people, and you see where each is coming from.

Modern day films tend not to care about the characters, and are only concerned with the look. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that this isn’t the case for all films, but if we take arguably the most popular modern franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’ll notice that whilst they are fun, they all lack something that is so important to turning a good movie great, a captivating and believable antagonist. If you don’t think I’m being fair with that statement, take Loki and Zemo out of the franchise and name me one antagonist that looked like winning (Zemo won because he achieved his goal of splitting Steve and Tony).

Infact, I’m going to make a very, very bold statement here. In my opinion, there hasn’t been a single antagonist that you could classify as “timelessly brilliant” since Heath Ledger’s Joker in 2008’s “The Dark Knight”. In an already brilliant film, the Joker is arguably the best part, whereas I can’t think of a single film since that is not only brilliant (which is a small list in itself), but also contains an antagonist on a level that’s even close to that.

That’s not to say that you even necessarily need an antagonist in the film, afterall, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” doesn’t really have an antagonist, unless you count Ted’s Dad, but even then that’d be a push. Whilst having a bad guy (or girl) isn’t vital, it definitely helps, and modern day films fail miserably to give great antagonists,

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Great music!

I’m not going to spend too long on this point but how many films these days have theme tunes that you know as soon as you hear them? I’ve just looked through my entire Blu-Ray collection, about 25% of which are from this decade, and yet there isn’t one that I would look at and think “yeah, that has a theme tune I’ll remember in 26 years” (and just for clarification, I mean original songs, not popular songs just used as the main theme) and yet there are numerous films from the 1980s that you could play back now and most people would recognise them.

For an example of this, I’m just going to leave this here….

And finally, films that people still talk about!

Now, I’m not going to look at films from this decade for this one as it’d be harsh given that we’ve still got over three years of the tens left, but there is no decade which people refer to more than the eighties when talking about films.

For example, there are some decades with a lot of great films in them, and some of the biggest films of all time are from the early days of cinema, but no decade comes close to having as many pop-culture references like the 1980s.

 

There are so many quotable films that came from the eighties, and they have sunk deep into society. To end this article, here are a few quotes that are still used to this day, even if slightly twisted, that all came from films in the 1980s and I still hear on a semi regular basis in either real life, or modern films paying tribute to them.

“Here’s Johnny” (The Shining)

“No, I am your father” (The Empire Strikes Back)

“I’m too old for this shit” (Lethal Weapon)

“Phone home” (ET)

“Say hello to my little friend” (Scarface)

“Yippee-ki-yay” (Die Hard)

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick some ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum!” (They Live)

“Don’t cross the streams” (Ghostbusters)

“We came, we saw, we kicked it’s ass” (Ghostbusters)

“I’ll be back” (Terminator)

“If you build it, they will come” (Field of Dreams)

And with that, I bid you adieu.

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February 2nd 2015 – Pointless sequels and needless remakes – Remakes and sequels are now a common sight at a cinema, but that is not a good thing.

February 14th 2015 – Can Star Wars regain it’s force in Episode 7? – With Star Wars due to be released at the end of the year, can it regain what made the original trilogy so popular. Please note before reading this that I am not a fan of Star Wars.

March 5th 2015 – A genre that could learn from another – A look into how films based on computer games could improve by following the example of comic book based films.

April 5th 2015 –  Top Twenty Films – Part 1 – A look into ten of my twenty favourite mainstream films. This half of the list contains a virus outbreak, a Spartan army, arguably Christian Bale’s greatest performance, a few classics from the 1980s and one film that contains arguably the best twist ever seen in a movie.

April 28th 2015 – My Top Twenty Films – Part 2 – Second half of my top twenty films of all time. This half of the list contains Brad Pitt aging backwards, a man turning into an insect, an entry from arguably the best franchise of more than five films in history, and a fantasy film from Ron Howard and George Lucas.

August 10th 2015 – The films of 2015 that I’m looking forward to

August 29th 2015 – Shawshank Redemption’s Andy is Guilty – A look into the character of Andy in “The Shawshank Redemption” and how everyone’s belief that he is innocent could infact be wrong.

September 6th 2015 – Why I won’t apologise for not liking your friend’s movie – I had negatively reviewed a film called “Teacher of the Year” before stepping away from my laptop for a few days. When I returned I had some very immature responses from the director’s friend and he didn’t like that I hadn’t praised the film. This was my response.

September 7th 2015 – Four underrated and underutilised actors – Mainstream movies are filled with actors who consistently put in poor performances, so I decided to take a brief look at four that I feel should be in the mainstream considerably more than that are.

January 19th 2016 – The acting gets nominated – Just before the Academy Awards in 2016, a race-row developed in Hollywood after no-one of a non-white origin was nominated for one of the big four individual awards. This was my take on the situation.

May 18th 2016 – The Bottom 5 so far – In May 2016 I realised that I was close on 200 reviews and articles on the site, so I decided to dedicate that post to listing the five worst films that I’ve reviewed so far.

August 2nd 2016 – Coming soon and looking good – A brief look at films that I am excited by.

September 4th 2016 – The 80s was the greatest decade – I look at why the 1980s is the greatest decade for films.

October 1st 2016 – A preview to the end of 2016 – At the end of each year I rank all of the mainstream films that I saw during the year, this was a preview.

March 17th 2017 – A film for every year – There was a social media thing going on amongst film reviewers in which they named their favourite film from each year that they have been alive. These were my choices.

March 19th 2017 – 85 reasons why the Resident Evil franchise sucked – The Resident Evil film franchise finally ended in 2017 and I took a look at why other than the first one, it was generally a poor franchise.

After finishing part one of my Top 20 films several weeks ago, I finally conclude it with Part 2. Included are some films that probably won’t surprise you as they feature in the top ten list of a lot of people’s favourite films, whereas there are one or two coming that I know you will look at and go “ay?”

By the way, clicking below will take you to our Facebook page. Feel free to like the page and you will get a notification in your newsfeed when a new review or article is published.

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Anyway, onto the list.

Star Trek20108900

Director : JJ Abrams

Cast : Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, John Cho,Simon Pegg and Chris Hemsworth

Star Trek, for me, is the best science fiction franchise set in space (and yes, I include Star Wars in that statement). I know a lot of people who read my site will probably have never watched an episode of any of the various series of Star Trek or the films, so many won’t appreciate why Star Trek is a great franchise. It’s one of the few franchises that covers so many facets of life, it can make you laugh, cry, get excited and on occasions, make you afraid. I say afraid because it makes you realise what might be out there and how easily it could overwhelm us.

Despite what I’ve just written, I had never seen an episode of the original series, only watching Next Generation, Deep Space Nine (which was plain awful) and Voyager, as well as the Next Generation based movies, but strangely I got exceptionally excited when I found out that this film would be coming out and I found myself standing at a cinema in May 2009 at just before midnight waiting to go in. At the time of writing, I have seen thirteen films twice at the cinema, but Star Trek is the ONLY film I have ever seen three times (to be fair I worked at a cinema at the time and got in for free).

In 2233 the USS Kelvin is investigating what appears to be a lightning storm in space. A humongous ship emerges from the storm and its captain, Nero (Bana), demands that the captain of the Kelvin goes over for negotiations. When the captain arrives and Nero realises that he has travelled to the past, he quickly kills the captain and launches an all out assault on the Kelvin. George Kirk (Hemsworth) successfully evacuates the ship as his wife enters labour, but he stays behind as he realises that the escape pods wouldn’t be given a chance unless he continues the fight. With every system except for the engines working, George sets a collision course and learns of his son’s birth just before impact. He and his wife debate the name and agree on James just as the Kelvin explodes on impact with the Narada.

22 years later a now grown up James Kirk (Pine) gets into a bar fight after an unsuccessful attempt to flirt with Uhura (Saldana) and her fellow Starfleet officers defend her. The fight is ended when Captain Pike (Greenwood) interrupts and tries to convince James to join Starfleet, giving his father as the perfect example of what could be achieved. Despite his reservations, James agrees to sign up and quickly becomes friends with Leonard McCoy (Urban). After three years at Starfleet Academy, Kirk is reprimanded when he cheats on a test designed by Commander Spock (Quinto) to test potential future captains.

Before the end of his trial, Starfleet receives a distress call from the Vulcan home world and all academy students are sent with ships to investigate. The Enterprise is slightly late due to Ensign Sulu (Cho) struggling to get the engines working, but when they arrive at Vulcan they are greeted with all of the other ships in the form of floating debris and when it clears, the crew lays eyes on the Narada. Nero orders the ship destroyed but stops when he realises it is the Enterprise. He invites Pike over to the Narada and extracts information about Earth’s defence network whilst he is there.

After unsuccessfully stopping Vulcan being destroyed, Kirk and Spock continue to fight about how the Enterprise should act, but with the Narada on the way to give Earth a similar fate to Vulcan, how much time can they waste?

Star Trek is one of the few films which I can just throw on and enjoy at any time of the year. It’s just fun and even if you’ve never seen the original television series, like myself, it brings you right into the lives of these characters and you can watch them grow, even in just this one movie. As I mentioned earlier, this is the only film I went to the cinema to watch three times and each time I got something new from it and I was never bored.

The cast does a superb job of playing these classic characters and make them their own. Pine brings a certain level of charm to the character of Kirk, Saldana brings her sex appeal to one of the few female characters in the Star Trek universe that wasn’t afraid to use her femininity to her advantage, Urban makes a brilliantly pessimistic Bones and in many ways Quinto manages to surpass his performances as Sylar in “Heroes”.

Whilst the action might be a bit predictable, Star Trek does what the franchise does best and that is making the antagonist more than one dimensional. For example, the aforementioned Star Wars’s main antagonist throughout the franchise is Darth Sidious, but he is exceptionally one dimensional. The main antagonist in Star Trek, Nero, is excellently developed and you feel sympathy for him, understanding why he is hell bent on revenge.

Finally, it gives me great pleasure to share it’s trailer with you. This is the best trailer I have ever seen. I love this trailer and it is definitely helped by the use of the song “Freedom Fights” by “Two Steps From Hell”.

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttonposter

Director : David Fincher

Cast : Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Jason Flemyng, Jared Harris and Tilda Swinton

I know that there will be a lot of people out there who will look at this and go “really?” I admit that this isn’t an obvious choice for what is a largely forgettable film, but for me it represents an important message and that is appreciate what you have before it’s too late.

Just after the finish of the first World War, Thomas Button (Flemyng) is excited due to the birth of his first son, but when he sees that the child is deformed he takes it to the nearest old people’s home, run by Queenie (Henson). After examination, the baby appears to have been born as an old man. Queenie and her partner name him Benjamin. Several years later Benjamin (Pitt) appears to be a man at the very end of his life. He is unable to walk and his frail frame means that no-one is expecting him to live long, however, one day a fellow resident notes that Benjamin seems to be getting more hair and taller.

Still in his aged youth, Benjamin meets Daisy (Elle Fanning – child, Blanchett – adult) and the two appear to have a good connection. As time goes on Benjamin continues to seemingly grow younger and when he reaches adulthood (age wise), he decides to go out and earn a living. He does this by signing up to a local fishing boat that is run by Mike (Harris). Harris also notes that Benjamin is getting younger but throws it away as his mind playing tricks on his after years of drinking.

After Mike is killed in a battle with a submarine in World War 2, Benjamin returns home and is re-united with the now adult Daisy. Daisy is attracted to Benjamin but he turns down her advances and she goes off to pursue her dreams of being a professional dancer. Several years later Daisy has an accident that rules her unable to dance, but in a reversal of circumstances, she now rejects Benjamin’s advances. Benjamin, now appearing to be middle-aged, starts dating before Daisy shows up and they finally start their relationship.

Despite everything appearing to be happy between them, Daisy is growing uneasy as her body continues to get older, made even uneasier by Benjamin’s continual age regression. Daisy eventually becomes pregnant, leading Benjamin to question whether he will actually be a good parent due to his continuing age regression. Despite Daisy’s insistence that he will be a great father, Benjamin leaves shortly after the birth and goes to explore the world, but when he returns will either be ready for it?

Some people mark the comparison between this and Forest Gump and wonder what the point of this film is, why we should care about Benjamin, I ask the same question with regards to Gump. Both are a life story about a man that has a varied experience, all intertwined with a relationship with a woman with various issues.

I’m not going to go into Benjamin Button as much as I do the other films that have appeared on this list, but the one thing I will say is that the message I mentioned earlier works so well. It makes you realise that time is fleeting and that you should make the most of friends and family whilst you can. In that sense it is an exceptionally sad film and you are with Benjamin throughout his entire life , you see those long term relationships develop, only for the characters then to die.

I also loved the realisation of the character when he is the physical age of late 30s/early 40s and Daisy’s pregnancy. Benjamin thinks he can’t be a proper father to the child because of his issue with aging and he leaves. He’s already in a stressful situation and doesn’t know if he will reach a certain physical age and his reverse aging would stop, or whether it will keep going, and the fear involved in that situation is well played out.

 

The Dark Knighthr_Posters_1

Director : Christopher Nolan

Cast : Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Eric Roberts

Currently ranked Number 4 in the IMDB Top 250, this is a film that needs little introduction, but I’ll give it one anyway. Despite my love for films, there was a time when I only went to the cinema once in an eleven month spell (at the time of writing I am currently on three months since I last went) and when I mentioned this during my interview at the cinema I used to work at, they guessed straight away that it was The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight is the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Batman trilogy and it turned a franchise that was dying into a film that everyone wanted to watch, even those that previously had no interest in any of the characters. Batman Begins did a great job but is nothing compared to it’s sequel, making it one of the few sequels that is actually better than the first film.

Shortly after stopping Dr Crane (Cillian Murphy) distributing his toxin from the first film, Bruce Wayne (Bale) needs to improve his methods and armour to continue fighting the mob. Despite his success, Batman is vilified by the authorities and described as a vigilante. Wayne knows however that he won’t be able to keep this fight up forever and still pictures a life after the city of Gotham no longer needs Batman.

His main hope falls with new district attorney, Harvey Dent (Eckhart). Dent is seen as a saving grace in the city and is loved by everyone who is law abiding, and to make things more interesting, he is dating Rachel (Gyllenhaal, who replaces Katie Holmes), Bruce’s love interest. Harvey manages to get virtually all of the mob sent to prison and Bruce sees him as his eventual replacement as the protector of the city.

Meanwhile, the mob don’t know how to proceed and enlist the help of a man simply called “The Joker” (Ledger). The Joker proves to be more than anyone can handle though due to his unpredictable and chaotic nature. This results in the deaths of many figures in both the mob world and the authorities, including the police commissioner and the judge that sent all of the mobsters down. Harvey Dent narrowly escapes an assassination attempt himself, but it isn’t long before “The Joker” does get his hands on Dent and that will have ramifications for everyone.

The Dark Knight is one of the cleverest films that I’ve seen in a long time due to it’s numerous unique ideas and presentation style. The Batman franchise was dead and buried before the introduction of the more gritty and more realistic style. In the real world it isn’t the case where the “good” guy wins all of the time and the character of the Joker is the perfect example of this.

The Joker is the first antagonist that I have seen for a long time where you genuinely believe that he might win and <SPOILER ALERT FOR THE NEXT FEW LINES> he kind of does. Despite being caught, the Joker succeeds in achieving his goals of proving that anyone is corruptible, even someone who was as seemingly untouchable as Harvey Dent. The Joker is an excellent character because he is pure chaos theory, how can you possibly predict someone that claims not to have a plan?

His character works as a perfect antithesis to Dent’s seemingly incorruptible nature and even when <SPOILER> Batman does eventually capture the Joker, it doesn’t feel like he’s won because of how easily he proved his point and effectively taken everything from Bruce.

With a strong supporting cast and secondary characters that actually contribute to the storyline, this is one of the most well constructed comic book films of all time.

 

The Fifth Element60_26_1330910645_2_the-fifth-element-original

Director : Luc Beeson

Cast : Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman and Ian Holm

I remember first seeing the trailer for The Fifth Element back in the mid-late 90s and it was a trailer with no words in it. It didn’t tell you anything at all about the film and I remember absolutely hating the trailer. I had precisely no interest in watching it and if I’m honest, I can’t recall why I gave it a chance, but I am definitely glad I did.

Sci-fi is already a crowded genre anyway, even in mainstream cinema, but this has always stood out to be as one of the most enjoyable stand-alone films in the genre. It has near enough everything that you could want.

In 1914, a group of aliens arrive at an Egyptian temple to retrieve a weapon contained within a case. They promise to return it when the time is right so that the universe can fight off a great evil. Skip forward to 2263 and the aliens are returning to Earth, but they are intecepted and killed by a group of aliens known as the Mangalores, hired by Zorg (Oldman). The only thing that survives is a hand.

A group of scientists come into possession of the hand and recreate who it belonged to using rebuilding technology. After a lengthy process, the smoke clears to reveal a naked woman named Leeloo (Jovovich). Not speaking English, Leeloo panics and bursts through the wall and falls several thousand feet before crashing into the cab of Korban Dallas (Willis). After initially refusing, Korban decides to hide Leeloo.

Korban takes Leeloo to Father Vito Cornelius (Holm) and it emerges that Leeloo is infact the weapon that can be used to kill an evil force intent on killing the universe. To become the weapon though, Leeloo must find the four stones that were enclosed in a case with her during transport and after Korban’s former military colleagues rig a radio contest, they set out on a luxury cruise, the rumoured locations of the stones, but will Zorg get there first?

The Fifth Element is a strange film in many (good) ways and is certainly one of the more unique science fiction films that you’re likely to see. As I mention earlier it is everything that you could want in a movie as it has a vibrant environment, a decent storyline, comedy, action, adventure and romance. It could easily fit into so many genres that it is hard to pinpoint it down to a specific genre.

It is also unique in the sense that it is the only film that I can think of off of the top of my head where the protagonist and antagonist never actually meet. Oldman and Willis are never in the same room and don’t directly communicate in anyway. In the eighteen years since this film was released I don’t think I have seen another film that has a protagonist and antagonist that never meet.

Oldman in particular is exceptional in this film. His performance as Zorg is far different from anything you will have seen him as before, helped by the unusual appearance. I would classify the character of Zorg as a fun antagonist, he is one that you can actually enjoy watching and although the accent takes some getting used to, it’s hard to not relish Oldman’s performance as the charismatic sociopath.

Infact, my only negative in the entire film is the character of Ruby Rod, played by Chris Tucker. You know you when you get a character in a film and they are portrayed and written in such a way that you shudder every time they appear on screen, such as a Jar Jar Binks or any character portrayed by Dakota Fanning? Yeah, that’s what you get with this character. Fortunately he doesn’t appear until the second half of the film but if you haven’t seen this before then I would recommend bracing yourself.

Even though it is now 18 years old, The Fifth Element has aged exceptionally well and is one of the more graphically pleasing films of the 1990s, right from the futuristic look to Milla Jovovich’s bright orange hair.

 

The Flythe_fly___poster_remake_by_stevenandrew-d5hfzfh

Director : David Cronenberg

Cast : Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz

Dubbed one of the best ever remakes (and not the last one that will appear on this list), The Fly is an all time classic in the horror genre. If I had to rank all of these top 20 films in order of preference then The Fly would definitely be Top 5, possibly even number three.

Veronica (Davis) is attending an event run by Bartok Industries, hoping to find her next big story for her magazine. After almost giving up, she runs into Seth Brundle (Goldblum), a somewhat socially awkward, but rather brilliant scientist with some interesting ideas and theories. Goldblum reveals that Bartok let him do all of his work at home and he invites Veronica to view it. Veronica is intrigued enough to accept.

Once they arrive, Veronica is initially unimpressed until Brundle reveals three pods and that they are teleportation devices. Brundle proves this by teleporting various objects from one side of the room to another and Veronica agrees to cover his story. The only issue with Brundle’s technology is that is can’t transport living flesh. After several weeks of working on it, Brundle finally figures out what was missing and decides to send himself through as the test subject.

At first everything seems fine. Brundle and Veronica have started a sexual relationship and with a sudden burst of increased stamina, speed and strength, Brundle is convinced that the machine takes whatever is put in it and makes it better. However, after breaking a guy’s arm in an arm wrestling contest, Brundle goes home and notices physical changes, such as various patches of stiff hairs appearing on random locations on his body, acne breaking out, his finger nails coming off and his tooth coming out with practically no effort.

Brundle begins to research what has happened and only then discovers that a fly had flown into the pod at the same time and the two were now merged at the genetic level. Further research shows that the merging at the genetic level means that Brundle is slowly becoming a human/fly hybrid and only has a certain about of time left before it’s too late to do anything.

Jeff Goldblum gives a career defining, tour-de-force esque performance as Seth Brundle and it is almost criminal that he wasn’t nominated for the Best Actor academy award that year. The academy rarely gives the horror genre any nominations but to say that Jeff Goldblum wasn’t worth a nomination, at the very least, is purely farcical.

Goldblum’s portrayal as Brundle, especially the character’s desperation towards the end, is one of the best performances in any film that I have ever seen. The character effectively goes through the stages of denial and you’re with him all of the way, you feel everything that the character feels, with the exceptional of a leg bursting through your stomach, and Cronenberg tells the story brilliantly.

Let’s not make any bones about it though, this is a sad film and never more so than the final scene when <SPOILER> Brundlefly is fused with the door to a telepod, crawls out of the other telepod and holds the shotgun to his head, and Veronica’s despair leads you think he will have to live the rest of his life in this miserable existence, only for Veronica to then pull the trick and put him out of his misery. It is a truly emotional scene.

I don’t often do this but here is the final scene just so you can see the level of emotion involved on so many levels. It includes the final transformation into a human/fly hybrid, Veronica’s fears as he tries to force her to fuse with him and the subsequent ending that I just mentioned.

The amazing part about the whole thing is that it’s a relatively simple film in terms of it’s set it. Although it’s not the only set, the vast majority of the film takes part in the apartment and this gives a greater inside into the mental descent of the character. When you first join him his apartment is ridiculously tidy, but as time goes on and his body transforms even more, tidiness goes out of the window.

It doesn’t go overly complicated like most horror films do these days and in many ways that it is why it works. It never tries to jump-scare you and there are no genuine scares through the entire film. The horror of it all is the situation that Brundle finds himself in and the emotional struggle of dealing with it all.

If I was to recommend one horror film to you then it would be this,

 

The Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring

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Director : Peter Jackson

Cast : Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen,  Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Bean, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving

Despite being a nerd, I am not going to lie, I’d never heard of Lord of the Rings before it came out in 2001, and to put that in some sort of context, I was 17 at the time. I had briefly heard of Gandalf in an episode of Friends, but it wasn’t put in any context and therefore I never made the connection until 2001.

Now, 14 years since the release of the initial film, the cultural impact of this franchise has been immense. It is one of the most successful franchises of all time, even taking into account the poor prequel trilogy (fancy that, a prequel trilogy being poor).

Gandalf (McKellan) arrives in the Shire to celebrate the birthday of his beloved friend, Bilbo (Holm). Upon meeting him he realises that Bilbo, despite being well into his hundreds, still looks like a man in middle age and this takes him by surprise. After an enjoyable party, Bilbo intends to disappear without trace due to his wanderlust, but he is stopped by Gandalf as he realises that Bilbo has something that he shouldn’t. After successfully convincing Bilbo to part with his ring, Gandalf discovers it is the ring of the long dead Sauron, an ancient enemy to the free people of the world.

Gandalf enlists the help of Frodo (Wood) and Sam (Astin) to take the ring to the town of Bree. Family members Merry (Monaghan) and Pippin (Boyd) join in but they soon find themselves being pursued by clocked men and they are only saved from certain death at the last minute by Aragorn (Mortensen), a man that they met at Bree after Gandalf failed to show up. Gandalf had been imprisoned by his senior wizard, Saruman (Lee), who has now joined Sauron’s ranks as he looks to take over Middle Earth again. Gandalf eventually escapes and meets the group at Rivendell.

After lengthy discussions about the fate of the ring, it is decided by Elrond (Weaving) that it can no longer stay in Rivendell. The plan is to take it to the volcano where it was initially forged and destroy it once and for all. Frodo volunteers to take the ring, eventually joined by his original group of Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf and Aragorn, as well as Boromir (Bean), Gimli (Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Bloom). The group is quickly dubbed the Fellowship of the Ring and sets out to destroy the ring, but they are quickly taught how difficult it will be to destroy it as they encounter trolls, ancient demons and a giant squid in a lake.

Out of all six of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films, this is comfortably my favourite as it puts into perspective just how large this world is that the characters are in. It encompasses so many different settings and environments that you are constantly in amazement of the scale of it. For example, it starts off in the relatively tranquil Shire, then moves onto the dangerous wild, the luxurious Rivendell, a mountain, a mine and a large wooded area, amongst others.

The reason I have chosen this over the others is that I didn’t actually enjoy Two Towers that much and whilst it’s good, I feel that Fellowship of the Ring is just a more enjoyable experience because it sets up the world so well. I know that three hours doesn’t sound like a short amount of time at all, but when you take into account the scope of it and that they don’t even arrive in Rivendell until after the hour mark, it makes you realise that they did well to fit the entire first book into such a short film, rather than the Battle of the Five Armies, in which they managed to drag five pages out for 2 and a half hours (and it showed).

Arguably my favourite section of the film comes from what is effectively just two pages in the book and that is when the wraiths are relentlessly pursuing Frodo. The description is so vivid in the book and draws you in, and Peter Jackson captures that seemingly effortless and you genuinely feel that the wraiths are unstoppable, an image that is ruined later on in the franchise when they are scared off by Gandalf shining a light in their face.

Whilst not my favourite fantasy/adventure film, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Fellowship of the Ring.

The Prestige

the-prestige.14577Director : Christopher Nolan

Cast : Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Andy Serkis, David Bowie, Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson

I’m not going to lie, this is only in the list as a filler really. Whilst it is a film that I really like, I have mentioned previously that I only had 17 or 18 of my Top 20 and used the other two spots as filler, and this is one of them.

I have seen the Prestige on precisely three occassions but when I was going through my DVD collection, out of those that weren’t in the definites, this was probably the film I enjoyed the most, hence it’s appearance.

Alfred Borden (Bale) and Robert Angier (Jackman) are good friends that share a mutual respect in their chosen field of magic. Both are highly talented and regarded as the best magicians in the world, however, their friendship ends when a trick involving Angier’s wife goes wrong and she drowns, with Angier blaming Borden for what had happened as he had tied the knot that she couldn’t escape from.

When Borden finds love and has a child, it angers Angier and he purposefully rigs a trick of Borden’s to backfire, costing him two fingers. In response, Borden sabotages on of Angier’s tricks, causing harm to an audience member and damaging his reputation. When he goes to retaliate at a show, Angier is left astounded by Borden’s new trick, The Transported Man. Borden enters a door at one end of the stage and exits another door at the other end instantaneously. Angier refuses the theory of it being a double due even the smallest details being exact.

Angier takes the trick and turns it into his own via the help of a doppelganger (also Jackman), but he has trouble keeping control of him due to his alcoholism. Despite it being a success, Angier is driven to the point of madness as he can never receive the applause of the audience, and his obsession with finding out how Borden did it without a double. He soon meets Tesla (Bowie) and the two work together to create “The Real Transported Man”, but to what lengths is he willing to go to prove himself the better man to Borden?

Out of all of the films in my Top 20, it’s safe to say that The Prestige has more twists and turns than any of the others, it is remarkably complex and you really have to pay attention for it all to make sense. Even at the when, when you think you’ve seen the major twist, along comes another one and that is one of the reasons I really like this film. It’s not until the credits start rolling that you can be entirely sure of how it is actually going to end.

When the final twist does come around, you realise just how intricut and clever the twist is. I’m not going to reveal what the twist is here but it works so well and the most impressive thing is that has been in your face from the beginning. It’s not like the twists of Fight Club or the Sixth Sense where you have to be paying a ridiculous amount of attention throughout to have honestly figured it out before it’s revealed, you have virtually no chance of figuring it out.

Ultimately The Prestige is a film about obsession and how it can drive you to do outrageous things, and the way that Angier’s character develops in that sense is very intriguing.

 

The Thing (1982)

89137898Director : John Carpenter

Cast :Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat and Keith David

Whilst The Fly regularly tops lists of the top 10 horror films of the 1980s, The Thing, which is also a remake, regularly finishes Number 2 and again, if I ranked all 20 of these films from 1 to 20, there is a very realistic chance that this would be Number 4.

This is the only film out of this list of 20 films that is actually older than I am, coming out two years before I was born, and despite it not really holding up that well, it still works remarkably well as a horror film because it gets the basics right. It doesn’t try the ridiculous scares today, doesn’t reveal who has been taken over by an alien before the rest of the characters find out and even the ending leaves you constantly guessing.

It appears to be a normal day at an American research station in Antartica until a dog approaches the site, pursued by a helicopter that is shooting at it. The group quickly kills the men in the helicopter and put the dog with it’s own dogs until they can figure out what happened.

The group, led by MacReady (Russell) decide to go to the local Norwegian camp to see what would provoke such a seemingly random attack on an animal. Once there they discover that the Norwegians had found alien life and they take the remains back to their own base.

At first everything seems fine but they soon find the original dog has transformed and is slowly killing the other dogs. Childs (David) kills the alien with a flamethrower and in the autopsy, Blair (Brimley) realises that the life form is able to create an exact copy of, and replace, a living creature perfectly. This is soon evident as the group soon finds Bennings trying to escape camp whilst partially transformed. At this point everyone in the group knows that any number of them could have been overtaken by the alien life form and paranoia sets in. How long can any of them survive before the life form catches up with them?

Even now, 33 years after the film was released, it is still not entirely clear at the end whether some characters were aliens or not. Whilst you could argue that this has been answered in the game, it has been confirmed as not being canon and that is a relief. The final scene, as in the very final scene, is precisely what a final scene should be in a horror film, leaving you doubting everything. You genuinely don’t know whether all the surviving characters are human, aliens or a mixture, and nor do the characters.

I mentioned it briefly in the introduction that it doesn’t reveal who is an alien until the rest of the characters find out and this works perfectly on so many levels. The film leads you down the path to believing that a character might be an alien before it turning out that they aren’t, and vice versa. In contrast to the prequel a few years ago, you don’t see outright that characters are human or alien until the film needs them to be. Whilst not an awful film, The Thing (prequel) loses this as it shows a few characters not necessarily getting infected, but in situations where infection would be virtually impossible, and in this sense it ruins it somewhat.

There is a genuine sense of isolation in this film due to not only the setting, but also the destruction of any means of getting off of the site. The characters are trapped there as going out into the ice wastelands of Antarctica with no method of communications or transport would effectively be suicide.

With an extremely effective, yet simplistic soundtrack, it’s hard not to get drawn into the atmosphere of the film.

 

Troydownload

Director : Wolfgang Peterson

Cast : Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson, Vincent Regan, Garrett Hedlund and Peter O’Toole

Troy is another one that I suspect a lot of you will look at and go “really?” I’ve mentioned a few times on this website that I love Greek mythology and if done right, they can be really epic. Whilst a lot of Greek mythology films these days are proving to be less than exciting, such as Wrath of the Titans, the sequel to 300 and several others, it is the ones that are faithful to their source material and don’t try and bombard you with CGI that catches you attention.

With a directors cut over well over 3 hours, this is the longest film by quite some way that features on this list, although I promise that my mini summary at the end won’t be.

After years of war, the Greek countries of Sparta and Troy have finally negotiated peace, so solidify that, princes Hector (Bana) and his brother, Paris (Bloom) have travelled to Sparta. Whilst Hector is everything that a prince should be, Paris falls in love with Helen (Kruger), a woman who just happens to be the wife of the Spartan King, Menelaus (Gleeson). When Menelaus realises that Helen has left with Paris, he pleads with his megalomaniac brother, Agamemnon (Cox) to go to war with him.

Agamemnon’s army sails to Troy and contained within is Achilles (Pitt), widely believed to be the greatest warrior in the world and a man obsessed with being remembered for all of eternity. Whilst he officially fights under the flag of Agamemnon, Achilles shares none of his desires and he is only there to make his name legend.

Outside of the gates of Troy, Paris accepts Menelaus’ challenge for a one on one fight, a fight that the latter dominates. Just as Menelaus is about to strike the final blow, Hector saves his brother and kills Menelaus, sending Agamemnon into a rage and he sends his armies hurtling towards the Trojans. The Trojans make exceptionally light work of Agamemnon’s men before Odysseus (Bean) convinces him to retreat. As time goes on it becomes evident that despite travelling in great numbers, Agamemnon’s army are no match for the Trojans, but an early morning attack results in an unexpected death that will change the course of the war.

Now again, I know that some of you will be puzzled as to why I actually like Troy and for me it is simple, it doesn’t hold back. Too many films, especially ones that only get a 15 rating in the UK, try and hold back, but this definitely doesn’t as it is full of blood spurting out all over the place, realistic tactics from that time period and the way that the soldiers treat the women towards the end are just a few examples of this.

With one of the best ensemble casts that you will see, with the majority having established careers long before this came along, it’s hard not to enjoy this because it is acted exceptionally well, especially Brad Pitt in the role of Achilles. Brad Pitt has featured several times on this list and he revels in the role of the great anti-hero, a man who will happily desecrate a temple and kill all of it’s priests, but then show mercy towards Priam, the ruler of Troy when he comes begging for his son.

Even though the run time for the directors cut is a huge 196 minutes, you never really feel like you’ve been sat there for that long as it is well paced and the battles, whilst not exactly long, keep you drawn into the action and it is hard to take your eyes away. It sticks to historical accuracy pretty well, even to the point where it’s annoying, in other words the woman screaming like a beached whale when there is a funeral.

Out of all of the Greek mythology films, if you’re looking for the most accurate then I would recommend this.

 

 

Willowdownload (1)

Director : Ron Howard

Cast : Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Gavan O’Herlihy, Jean Marsh and Pat Roach

During my section on Fight Club in Part 1, I mentioned that my favourite movie was a contest between that and another film, and now we finally arrive at that film.

I can’t recall the first time I ever watched Willow. It is one of those films that has always been there and for a long time it was my undisputed number one, a country mile ahead of everything else, and to this day I still hold it in such esteem. Whilst I was never into George Lucas’ Star Wars, I couldn’t get enough of his and Ron Howard’s tale of hope, courage and defying the odds.

When Bavmorda (Marsh) hears that there is a prophecy of a baby being born that will end her reign of terror, she imprisions all the pregnant women in the land until the baby is born. When the baby is eventually born, a nursewife manages to smuggle it out of the dungeon and she lays it on a bed of weeds before sending it down river. When it eventually settles on a bank it is discovered by two children from a Nelwyn village.

The Nelwyns are a race of dwarves (for lack of better words) and the children are those of Willow (Davis), a pig farmer. Not knowing what to do with a daikini (humans) baby, Willow takes it to the local council and it is agreed that a group of them will take the baby to the nearest daikini crossroads and give it to the first person they see. Upon arriving they meet an imprisoned Madmartigan (Kilmer), a self-proclaimed greatest swordsman that ever lived.

Willow delays giving the baby to Madmaritgan as he doesn’t trust a man who is in prison but anyone else that passes isn’t interested. Willow gives the baby to Madmartigan but he loses her. Willow retrieves her after it emerges the kidnappers worked for Cherlindrea (Maria Holvoe). She tells Willow of the prophecy and that the baby, named Elora Danan, must be taken to Fin Raziel (Hayes), but it’s never that easy, is it?

I will admit that I don’t watch Willow often. infact I very rarely watch it. I think the last time I watched it from start to finish was about 3 years ago when the Blu Ray came out to celebrate the 25th anniversary. But for me you don’t have to watch your favourite films on a regular basis. If you can not watch them for ages and still love them then it show what a good film it is. For example, in my review of films in 2014, I lauded Nightcrawler, saying it was a perfect 10/10 and it even made it into the Top 20 list, but I’ve actually only ever watched it twice. For me Willow is one of those films that you can just sit back and truly enjoy, going on a great adventure.

It is one of the few films in the world that has pretty much everything in it. There’s romance between Madmartigan and Sorsha, there’s science fiction, adventure, action, horror (the Eborsisk and the army being turned into pigs, for example), there’s comedy and even a bit of mystery. There isn’t a single traditional genre that this film wouldn’t fit into and the best part is that for the most part, it hasn’t aged at all. This is partly down to the lack of CGI, which given that it was released in 1988 is not surprising. Near enough every effect, other than the odd one here and there, is practical, and therefore it looks a hell of a lot better.

Willow is a heartwarming story of a family man who just gets pulled into a world that he knew little about before and the bond he develops with everyone around him is wonderful to watch. Warwick Davis’ performance is charming and memorable. At the time he was only 18 years old and yet pulled off such a magical and believeable performance as a man with children who are at least four or five. He is joined by Val Kilmer. Kilmer is nearly perfect in this film as the antihero who becomes an outright hero towards the end, and his journey from a prisoner to what he ends up is absorbing.

I can’t speak highly enough of Willow and I would gladly watch it over any of Lucas’ other films.

Also, you may notice that I have included the trailer for the Blu Ray rather than the original and the reason is that it’s just a better trailer.