Monthly Archives: August 2013

#214 The Lady Eve

(1941, Preston Sturges)

“I need him like the axe needs the turkey”

There is no shortage of romantic comedies from the 1940s, usually with a dashing male lead and a sharp-witted leading lady throwing quips at each other. The Lady Eve is another one of these movies, but is it enough of a standout effort to be considered a movie not to miss?

On a boat trip out of South America, con artist Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) sets out to fleece the naïve and rich Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), the heir to a major ale producer’s fortune and a snake-trainer in his spare time. However, following her efforts to jokingly seduce him into playing cards with her card-shark father (Charles Coburn), she ends up falling hard for Pike, prompting a series of misadventures.

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#213 Casino

(1995, Martin Scorsese)

“In Vegas, everybody’s gotta watch everybody else”

It’s about time a Martin Scorsese film turned up on this blog. As one of cinema’s most influential directors, it was pretty much inevitable he’d be in the 1001 Movies You Must See, and here he is. Of course, this isn’t the only film of his on the list, but it is the first one we’re taking a look at. Is Casino worth the hype Scorsese gets? Place your bets now!

Loosely based on a true story, Casino is about Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), the man who oversees the day-to-day operations of the mob-run Tangiers casino. The movie follows his time in this position, from the casino’s rise to its massive success to its ultimate crash and burn, with plenty of betrayal, murder and other excitement thrown in for good luck.

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#212 Gladiator

(2000, Ridley Scott)

“Are you not entertained?”

In the mid-nineties, there was a TV game show called Gladiators, where PE teachers would battle buffed-up actors in tights on bouncy castles while Ulrika Jonsson grinned at the camera. It was completely ridiculous and silly but it had a certain charm. Of course, it had little relevance to actual gladiators of the Roman Empire, who were often beating each other to a pulp with sharp things and trying to avoid being lion food.

Gladiator is much closer to this reality, although whether or not it’s any less ridiculous than the game show is a matter for debate.

Gladiator features Russell Crowe as Gluteus Maximus Maximus Decimus Meridius, a general in the Roman army, and fiercely loyal to the emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). Despite having a male heir, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), Aurelius wants to pass power down to Maximus so that he can return power to the Roman Senate. Commodus hears of this and kills his father, automatically claiming power and throwing Maximus into slavery. Maximus is forced to become a gladiator, and vows revenge on Commodus.

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#210 & #211 Nosferatu

(1922, F.W. Murnau & 1979, Werner Herzog)

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens

Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht

Nosferatu is possibly one of the most famous silent movies ever made, and a massive influence on horror films for years to come. Essentially a name-swapped unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu is one of the earliest vampire movies and certainly the most influential. But how many people are aware that it received a remake in 1979 by the equally German director Werner Herzog? Well, today we’re going to look at both and see how well they hold up.

Both films follow the story of Dracula to a tee, with a man named Jonathan Harker Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangeheim/Bruno Gans) receiving word that a man from Translyvania wishes to buy a property in their small town. He ventures to Transylvania, where he is met with fear from the villagers when he says he wishes to visit the mansion. At the mansion, he meets Count Dracula Orlok (Max Shreck/Klaus Kinsi), a strange-looking man who sleeps during the day and lives by night. However, once the deal is done, a reign of terror falls on our hero’s peaceful town when the curse of the vampire takes over.

Basically, exactly what you’d expect from a vampire movie that doesn’t involve teenagers and sparkling. Both are pretty standard stories and don’t really hold many surprises today. But they are mildly entertaining.

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#209 Woodstock

(1970, Michael Wadleigh)

“What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for four hundred thousand”

Round about this time 44 years ago, a bunch of hippies got together in a field and had a little gathering, where some people played music and a few million others watched. It wasn’t anything special, just Woodstock, one of the most influential and most successful music concerts of all time. Some guy also made some documentary about it. This is that documentary.

Woodstock documents the three day festival, bringing together vignettes of people involved in the festival, human interest pieces about the concert-goers and, of course, many music performances from the festival itself.

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#208 Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

(1969, George Roy Hill)

“You just keep thinking, Butch. That’s what you’re good at”

Ah, Westerns. We’ve touched on how little I like this genre. But hey, maybe Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid won’t be too bad. It’s not a John Wayne vehicle in which he drawls a lot. And it is a notable classic of the genre that kicked off a major cinema partnership between Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It’s a character piece. I generally like good character pieces. Surely I’ll like this? Let’s see.

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid is the apparently true story about two guys – Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) – who are famous bandits in the Old West. However, the times they are a-changin’ and the law is beginning to catch up with them. The movie deals with their attempts to evade the law and continue their thieving ways for as long as possible, even if it means fleeing to another country.

I would love to be able to say that Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid changed my opinion of Westerns and won me over and is a standout example of the genre and all of that wonderful stuff. I’d like to say that, but sadly it did little to win me over. I will admit that it’s probably among the best of its genre, but that’s because it was only mildly less boring than its peers. That’s the highest praise I can give this.

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#207 Funny Games

(1997, Michael Haneke)

“You’re on their side, aren’t you? So who will you bet with?”

Funny Games. Oh good, another comedy, and potentially one about a family sitting around and playing board games. Sounds like a lovely film. Wait, why’s that man being hit with a golf club? Why’s that woman being tied up with duct tape? Oh god, what is this film? What have I done? Seems that Funny Games is not a happy comedy about board games and is, in fact, a movie about pointless, unprovoked violence. Lovely!

So, we have a wealthy German family. The dad is Georg (Ulrich Muhe), the mum is Ana (Susanne Lothar) and they have a son called Georgy (Stefan Clapczynski). They’re on holiday in a really pretty lakehouse out in the countryside. They get visited by a young man called Jerry (Frank Giering), who says he’s a friend of their neighbour. After requesting some eggs and then causing havoc with them, his friend (Arno Frisch) arrives, and they reveal their names to really be Peter and Paul respectively. They’re also a little creepy, and things soon take a turn for the worse…

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#206 Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs

(1937, David Hand)

“Who’s the fairest of them all?”

It’s Disney again! This time, it’s the film that started it all. Movie #1 in the Disney Animated Canon. Walt Disney’s pet project designed to show the world that animation could be turned into full length features. But how well does it hold up today?

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs is based on the famous Grimm fairy tale. Every day, an evil queen (voiced by Lucille La Verne) asks her magic mirror “who is the fairest of them all?”, expecting the mirror to inform her that she is the fairest. She is content until the mirror one day says that a young maiden named Snow White (v/b Adriana Caselotti) is the fairest. In a fit of jealousy, the queen orders a huntsman to take Snow White into the woods and murder her. However, he can’t do it, and Snow White flees and takes refuge with a group of dwarves (note the spelling, Disney!), leading the queen to try and devise an even more gruesome fate for the girl.

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#205 Spellbound

(1945, Alfred Hitchcock)

“Women make the best psychoanalysts until they fall in love, then they make the best patients”

Alfred Hitchcock has an awful lot of movies on this list, as we’ve previously established. Here’s one of his lesser known movies, made a whole decade before some of his more well-known works. Does it hold up to the standards of Psycho and The Birds or is it an old shame for Ol’ Alfred?

In Spellbound, Ingrid Bergman stars as Dr Constance Petersen, a psychiatrist at Green Manors psychiatric hospital. The staff are awaiting the arrival of a new director, Dr Edwardes, to replace Dr Murchison, who is retiring. However, when he arrives (played by Gregory Peck), he turns out to be much younger than expected. He also starts acting strangely, especially when exposed to dark lines on a white backdrop, and eventually faints. It’s then discovered that he’s an imposter and the real Dr Edwardes is missing, and this strange man becomes the key suspect in his disappearance. However, Dr Petersen becomes fascinated by him, and is determined to uncover the mysteries in his mind, even while they’re pursued by the police.

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