“Must See” Movie Review: The Untouchables (1987)

The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palmo

Starring: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and Robert DeNiro

Academy Awards – Best Supporting Actor (Connery)

 

In Prohibition-era Chicago, no one has more power than Al Capone (DeNiro).  He has all of the city leaders and law enforcement under his thumb as he supplies liquor all over town.  To put a stop to Capone and his corruption, the Bureau of Prohibition places special agent Eliot Ness (Costner) in the Chicago Police Department.  Ness puts together his team, the titular ‘Untouchables’, which consist of an incorruptible Irish beat cop (Connery), an Italian American trainee (Andy Garcia) and an accountant (Charles Martin Smith).  Together the Untouchables wage war against Capone, who will stop at nothing to destroy his new rival.

 

While not DeNiro’s best role (he has almost a dozen films on the 501 list), it is fun to see him as a caricature of such a reviled historical figure.  Costner delivers a fine performance as the heroic lead, but it is Connery that steals the show on the side of the good guys.  He was rewarded with an Oscar statuette for Best Supporting Actor.  The Untouchables is certainly a film and well worth seeing, it is easily less remarkable than other gangster films on the list or more noteworthy films from filmographies of DeNiro and De Palmo.

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 87% (42 Reviews)

Total 501 Movies Seen – 166

Mystery & Thriller – 26/50

 

@D_C_Evans

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Must-See Movie Review: Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane (1941)

Director: Orson Welles

Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton and Dorothy Comingore

AFI Top 100: #1 (1998) #1 (2007)

Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay

Charles Foster Kane (Welles), a hugely wealthy media tycoon, dies alone in his private estate.  The last word uttered by Kane is “rosebud.”  After his death, the media seems to cover every aspect of his life, except why one of America’s most powerful men would say “rosebud” before passing away.  One reporter tries to discover the meaning behind Kane’s last words.  His investigation brings him face to face with the people who Kane was once close (including his former best friend, second wife and legal guardian).  The reporter is told the story of Kane’s life which took him from an impoverished youth to the heir to a fortune, to a newspaper entrepreneur, to Governor hopeful.

Citizen Kane is commonly considered to the one of, if not the, greatest films of all time.  The American Film Institute had Citizen Kane as number one on its list of 100 greatest American films in both its 1998 and 2007 editions.  The impact of the film is immeasurable.  Countless filmmakers site Welles masterpiece as an influence.  He introduced revolutionary cinematography techniques that are still employed today. 

Finally, 70 years after this film’s debut, I saw it for the first time.  Since viewing it, I’ve purchased already the Blu-ray (Black Friday at Best Buy for $11).  Very high praise.  Personally, it’s hard for me to say that Citizen Kane is superior to The Godfather or Casablanca (#2 and #3 on AFI top 100 list).  But, it’s certainly in their category and that is about as highly as you can speak of a film.

My Rating – 5 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (60 Reviews)

Total 501 Movies Seen – 165

Drama – 16/50

@D_C_Evans

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“Must-See” Movie Review: Memento (2001)

Memento (2001)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano

Leonardo Shelby (Pearce) is desperately searching for “John G”, a man who he believes raped and murdered his wife.   Making things more complicated is that in trying to prevent those crimes Leonard suffered brain damage which has taken away his ability to form new memories.  In an attempt to keep a certain level of order to his life he takes photos of the people he meets, keeps detailed notes and even goes as far as to tattoo vital information onto his body. 

As vital to this film as its plot is the way that the story is told.  Everything is laid out right at the beginning as we see a Polaroid fading from being developed to blank.  The scenes are played in reverse chronological order, so the movie starts with the conclusion.
Interlaced with the main narrative are a handful of black and white scenes in which Leonardo explains to an unidentified caller how he got anterograde amnesia.  The effect is absolutely enthralling.  I watched this film with my fiancée and I cannot think of another time I’ve watched a movie at home with someone else during which were as nearly captivated as she and I were watching Nolan’s masterpiece.  Most people seemed
to love Nolan’s most recent film Inception and for my money, Memento is 10 times better.

My Rating – 5 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 92% (154 Reviews)

Total 501 Movies Seen – 164

Mystery/Thriller – 25/50

@D_C_Evans (on twitter)

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“Must-See” Movie Review: Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunset (2004)

Director: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

Nine years ago, Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) spent one romantic evening together in Vienna.  They left without giving each other contact information and agreed to meet in six months.  In the time since, Jesse has written a novel aboutthat night which found its way to the Best Seller list.  He is wrapping up his book tour with one final stop in Paris.  To Jesse’s surprise, Celine shows up near the end and they leave together in the hopes of catching up before Jesse’s flight out of France.  Against the backdrop of Paris, Jesse and Celine reconnect.  It is revealed that Celine did not show up for their six month reunion because her grandmother died just before the scheduled date.  Jesse, however, did.  The missed connection had a major impact on both parties.  Jesse admits that despite marrying, he doesn’t know if he believes in romantic love anymore, admitting that he is only staying with his wife out of love for their son.  He goes onto to reveal that, to some degree, he wrote the book with the distant hope of finding Celine again.  Reading Jesse’s book reminded Celine of what might have been.  Their feelings resurface throughout the day as the conversation grows more intimate and as Jesse gets closer to missing his flight home.

I’m going way against the film critics on this one.  Of the 159 reviews collected by review
aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 95% were positive. That percentage is unfathomably high to me.   This is in all likelihood, the least cinematic film I’ve ever seen.  It is essentially two actors talking on a walk, then at a coffee shop, then in a park, on a boat, etc.  In that case, you’d expect the dialogue and emotion to be legendary.  Neither are.  The characters essentially talk about their lives since last meeting and their world views, goals, etc.  To me, Before Sunset would work better as a single vignette in a multi-story film.

My Rating – 0 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 95% (159 Reviews)

Total 501 Movies Seen – 163

Romance – 17/50

@D_C_Evans

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“Must-See” Movie Review: Scream (1996)

Scream (1996)

Director: Wes Craven

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette

As the year anniversary of her mother’s murder approaches, high school student Sidney Prescott (Campbell) becomes the target of the mysterious ‘Ghostface’ Killer.  This string of murders brings the national media to the small town of Woodsboro, including Gale Weathers (Cox) – a tabloid TV reporter who wrote a book about the trial covering Sidney’s
mother’s death.  Sidney survives an initial attack, but soon her friends become victims.

Scream earned a spot on the “501 Must-See” movie list thanks to its reinvention of the Slasher genre for the 1990s.  The director/writer duo of Craven and Kevin Williamson introduce a collection of characters who are completely aware of real world horror films (like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street) and openly analyze the clichés and rules of survival.  Scream works to counter the cliché and is a true mystery mixed with the violence and terror of the great Slasher films of yesteryear.  Scream easily outshines all of the similar movies that have come out since.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score –83% (59 Reviews)

Total 501 Movies Seen – 162

Science Fiction – 12/50

@D_C_Evans

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“Must See” Movie Review: Sleeper (1973)

Sleeper (1973)

Director: Woody Allen

Starring: Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

Miles Monroe (Allen) was a jazz musician and owner of a health food store in 1973.  It’s 200 years later and he has been cryogenically frozen since dying during a routine procedure.  Scientists working for anunderground movement opposed to America’s police state revive Miles, hoping to use him as a spy to shut down the mysterious ‘Aires Project’.

The authorities show up and arrest all of the scientists, but Miles manages to escape by disguising himself as a Robotic butler.  He is delivered to the house of socialite and poet Luna Schlosser (Keaton).  She decides to have her new robot’s head removed and replaced with something more ascetically pleasing.  Meanwhile, the government is searching for Miles – who they have dubbed an ‘alien.’  Miles reveals himself to Luna causing her to freak out and try to turn him over to the authorities.  But, when she sees the corruption in her government she begins to warm to him.  Shortly after Miles is captured and brainwashed and Luna joins the underground movement.  Eventually Luna and the underground save Miles and try to take down the Aires Project.

 

The original Sleeper tagline proclaims that, “Woody Allen takes a nostalgic look at the future.”  And, that’s exactly what it is.  Woody Allen wakes up in a future where they
laugh at the healthy food he requests as they’ve discovered that hot fudge sundaes
are a real health food and that smoking helps prolong life.  What makes Sleeper so outstanding is the humorous take it has when dealing with the both the 1970s present and the future.   Where (or rather when) Miles wakes up, technology is more advanced, but people (at least those that have been acclimated into society) seem to be more dim.   In
many ways, Sleeper seems to be Allen’s ode to Slapstick comedy.  Nearly every time
Miles finds himself nearly captured by the authorities he manages to escape in
a scene that is reminiscent of a Chaplin movie, complete with the old timey
music, lack of dialogue and physical humor.  This movie was placed in the Science Fiction genre, but thanks to Allen’s comedic genius could easily could have been considered a comedy.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (28 Reviews)

Total 501 Movies Seen – 161

Science Fiction – 24/50

@D_C_Evans

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501 Must-See Movies: Mystery & Thriller

“Mystery & Thriller” is my favorite genre from this list.  It seems that legendary directors, some of my favorites, are drawn to these types of films: Tarantino, Scorsese, Hitchcock
and Kubrick for example.  Below is the list of the films that I have seen so far, with some additional information about a few.

Now that I’ve given of rundown of all the films that I have seen to this point off the list, I will be starting on shorter more frequent posts as I cross new ones off the list.

Seen to date: 24 out of 50

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Director: John Huston

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Peter Lorre

AFI Top 100: #23 (1998) #31 (2007)

Private Detective Sam Spade (Bogart) gets immersed in a mystery when he begins to investigate the death of his partner.  Strange characters continue to appear as he gets more involved with the crime.  Each of these characters is hoping to get their hands on the mysterious Maltese Falcon statue.

As Sam Spade, Bogart established his persona as a cold, tough guy with a sincere grin.  This is an outstanding example of the noir genre and established many of the genre’s most regarded trademarks.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (43 Reviews)

The Third Man (1949)

Director: Carol Reed

Starring: Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli and Orson Welles

Academy Awards: Best Cinematography (Black and White)

AFI Top 100: #57 (1998)

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (59 Reviews)

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Farley Granger, Ruth Roman and Robert Walker

Academy Awards: Best Cinematography (Black and White)

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 98% (41 Reviews)

The Killing (1956)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray and Vince Edwards

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 97% (31 Reviews)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Director: Arthur Penn

Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman

Academy Award Wins – Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography

AFI Top 100: #27 (1998) #42 (2007)

Clyde Barrown (Beatty) is a small time bank robber, just out of prison who convinces Bonnie Parker (Dunaway) to join him on a string of robberies that span the Midwest.
Headlines and bodies continue to pile up as they make their way across the country.

Some contend that Bonnie and Clyde was the unofficial start to Cinema’s silver age.  It is one of the truly iconic films of its era, no matter which era you might place it in. In 1967, this was one considered to be one of the most violent films ever made.  While the level of violence has certainly been surpassed, it managed a certain level of  subtly and humor that is rarely duplicated in as masterful of a fashion.  Also, Dunaway is outstanding as the bored small town girl, turned notorious criminal.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (46 Reviews)

Bullitt (1968)

Director: Peter Yates

Starring: Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn and Robert Duvall

Academy Awards: Best Film Editing

My Rating – 1.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 97% (33 Reviews)

The Italian Job (1969)

Director: Peter Collinson

Starring: Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill

My Rating – 2 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 84% (25 Reviews)

The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan

Academy Awards: Best Actor (Brando) and Best Picture

AFI Top 100: #3 (1998) #2 (2007)

Don Corleone (Brando) is the head of one the Corleone crime family and is in conflict with the other crime families who want to sell drugs.  An attempt on his life, brings his son Michael (Pacino) back into the family business.

The Godfather is one of the greatest films ever made.  The American Film Institute
would obviously agree with that statement as it had Coppola’s mafia classic in the top 3 of its greatest American Film list in both editions.  Brando’s portrayal of Don Corleone is one of those performances in which you wish he was on the screen constantly.  He was rewarded with an Academy Award for his work.

My Rating – 5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (73 Reviews)

Mean Streets (1973)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro

My Rating – 4  Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 98% (46 Reviews)

Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway

Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay

AFI Top 100: #19 (1998) #21 (2007)

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (48 Reviews)

The Conversation (1974)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale and Allen Garfield

Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Sound and Best Original
Screenplay

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 98% (43 Reviews)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Director: Sidney Lumet

Starring: Al Pacino, John Cazale and Charles Durning

Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 97% (36 Reviews)

Taxi Driver (1976)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodi Foster and Harvey Keitel

AFI Top 100: #47 (1998) #42 (1998)

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 98% (60 Reviews)

Scarface (1983)

Director: Brian De Palma

Starring: Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (53 Reviews)

Goodfellas (1990)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci

Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Pesci)

AFI Top 100: #94 (1998) #92 (2007)

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 97% (58 Reviews)

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Director: Joel Coen

Starring: Gabriel Byrne, John Turturro and Albert Finney

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 91% (54 Reviews)

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi

A group of hired criminals, known only to each other by color pseudonyms, clad in black suits and ties gather under LA crime boss, Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) for one big jewel heist.  The crime went awry when cops showed up and the survivors suspect that
one of their own ratted them out.

Another one of my absolute favorites that deserves more than 5 stars, Reservoir Dogs is an
unbelievably gripping film.  The dialogue seems authentic and the action is perfectly done.  Unlike a standard heist film, the actual robbery isn’t central to the film.  In
fact it is barely shown at all.  Most of the film takes place in the warehouse that they agreed to meet at and in flashbacks to the planning stages.  Some say Reservoir Dogs is the best
directorial debut since Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.  It established Tarantino as one of the truly unique voices in the American Film landscape.

My Rating – 5+ Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 96% (47 Reviews)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis

Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay

AFI Top 100: #95 (1998) #94 (2007)

My Rating – 5+ Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 94% (54 Reviews)

Leon (1994)

Director: Luc Besson

Starring: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and Natalie Portman

My Rating – 2 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 78% (41 Reviews)

Se7en (1995)

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 85% (53 Reviews)

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey and Kevin Pollak

Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor
(Spacey)

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (53 Reviews)

Fargo (1996)

Director: Joel Coen

Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi

Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress (McDormand)

AFI Top 100: #84 (1997)

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 94% (67 Reviews)

The Departed (2004)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson

Academy Awards: Best Director (Scorsese), Best Picture, Best Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 93% (227 Reviews)

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Director: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Matt Damon, Albert Finney and Julia Stiles

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 81% (188 Reviews)

@D_C_Evans

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