Monthly Archives: February 2014

#262 JFK

(1991, Oliver Stone)
“Telling the truth can be a scary thing sometimes”

Let’s talk conspiracy theories. Did you know we’re all secretly ruled by lizard men who staged 9/11 using holograms and faked the moon landing so that Buzz Aldrin could have a toy named after him 30 years later? Don’t you know that we’re all the pawns of an ongoing war between the Templars and the Assassins and that Obama has a gun that shoots tornadoes because…profit? God, sheeple, open your eyes!

No, not really, unless you believe some of the crackpots in certain corners of the Internet. But while many of those conspiracy theories are pretty nutty, one conspiracy continues to fascinate and baffle many, 50 years on – the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President Of The United States.

JFK is a movie that presents the conspiracy as being true. Following Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), a district attorney who is suspicious of the official story that Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) killed JFK (John F. Kennedy, archive footage) and sets out to discover what really happened. In the process, he uncovers a conspiracy involving the CIA and the mob and various other organisations who wanted Kennedy dead, putting him in the line of fire and putting strain on Garrison’s marriage.

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#261 Das Boot

(1981, Wolfgang Petersen)
“You have to have good men”

This won’t be the first time I’ve mentioned this, but I have a special disdain for World War II movies. There are so many of them on the Movies You Must See list, more of them continue to be made to this day, and more of them continue to be praised despite them all being largely the same. There’s only so much that can be said about that conflict, and yet everyone feels the need to say something about it in film-making for some reason.

But hey, this is from the German perspective, and is set entirely on a U-Boat in the midst of the conflict. This one at least does try to do something different, so maybe it won’t be that bad?

Das Boot tells the story of U-96, a submarine in the German army during WWII. Its captain (Jürgen Prochnow) is a world-weary, cynical man who clashes with his mostly young and rowdy crew. U-96 travels around Europe attempting to take out British forces and faces hardships along the way.

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#260 The Big Sleep

(1946, Howard Hawks)

“I don’t know yet what I’m going to tell them. It’ll be pretty close to the truth”

Humphrey Bogart was pretty much the star of film noir during the forties. Best known for his roles in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca (which will be appearing on here at a later date), he also famously played acclaimed mystery writer Raymond Chandler’s detective Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. I like me a good mystery thriller, so I should like this, right?

The Big Sleep sees Marlowe, a private investigator, being called to the offices of retired general General Sternwood (Charles Waldron). Someone is blackmailing his daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers), and he wants Marlowe to find out who, and find a way to resolve those debts. Meanwhile, Sternwood’s older daughter, Vivian (Lauren Bacall), informs Marlowe that her father’s real motive for contacting him is to find a missing friend of his. What follows is a twisted tale of twists and mysterious motives.

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#259 Peeping Tom

(1960, Michael Powell)

“Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? It’s fear”

We’ve talked about The Archers before. A British production duo consisting of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, with Powell doing the directing and Pressburger doing the production, and the two of them sharing writing duties. Their films were typically very stuffy British movies about things like ballet and nuns.

That was until Powell decided to go solo and make Peeping Tom, a movie about a serial killer. So a detective movie then? A Hitchcock-style thriller of mistaken identity? Well, not exactly. The serial killer is the protagonist, and this controversial choice caused the end of Powell’s directing career as a result of the backlash the movie received. Interesting. Let’s take a look.

Peeping Tom follows Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), an amateur filmmaker in the process of making his secret masterpiece, a film about death that captures the expressions of women about to be murdered in gruesome detail. And how does he achieve these shots? Why, he goes out and kills women using a sharpened tripod, of course! Meanwhile, his neighbour Helen (Anna Massey) takes an interest in him and attempts to befriend him, unaware of his psychotic nature.

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#258 Brief Encounter

(1946, David Lean)
“I’ve fallen in love…I didn’t think such violent things could happen to ordinary people.”

Bonus review this week! Yes, because today is Valentine’s Day, I’m doing a special romantic-themed review. Last year I went with an 80s romantic comedy, and this year I decided to go a little further back in time and review old British classic Brief Encounter, a romance about two people who have a…well, brief encounter and fall in love. Awwwww.

Problem is, both Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) and Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) are already married, and not to each other, which kind of throws a spanner in the works a little. Cue a turbulent affair and a tornado of feelings and emotions. So, not exactly the happiest romance movie ever then.

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#257 L’Argent

(1983, Robert Bresson)
“You have me on your conscience. You have to answer for that now.”

A little while ago, I reviewed a little-known movie called A Man Escaped from French director Robert Bresson. I surprisingly enjoyed it, expecting a drab musing on the Second World War and instead getting a suspenseful prison break movie where every scene was so dripping with tension I needed a towel afterwards.

As such, I was a little more interested in L’Argent (aka Money) than I initially would have been. This time I was expecting another tense thriller. Did Bresson still have it twenty years on, or was this all a big disappointment?

The plot covers a lot of ground. Two boys forge a 500-franc note, spend it at a shop, and then the shop owners try and pass it off onto a poor, unsuspecting maintenance man named Yvon. Yvon gets arrested, the shop’s assistant tries to rob his employers and the boys try and avoid being found out by parents and their school.

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#256 Safe

(1995, Todd Haynes)
“I know it’s not normal but I can’t help it”

I love movies about quirky subject matter, especially when the subject matter has a sense of mystery about it. I love movies that make me wonder what the hell is going on, that make me feel uneasy but I still love every minute of them. Safe is one of those movies.

Safe is about a housewife named Carol White (Julianne Moore), who one day starts to get mysteriously ill, suffering random nosebleeds and coughing fits. When her doctors find her strangely healthy despite this, she discovers that she may have a strange illness known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, which is seemingly set off by chemicals in everyday life.

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#255 Diner

(1982, Barry Levinson)

“Do you ever get the feeling that there’s something going on that we don’t know about?”

Remember those hazy days of June last year, when I reviewed American Graffiti? Remember when I watched the film in two sections because I found it so terminally dull to sit through in one sitting? Remember when I couldn’t figure out the menu for the Blu-Ray and how angry I felt at the film for being a self-indulgent exercise, simply existing so the director could relive his childhood?

You don’t remember any of that? Oh that’s right, you weren’t there outside of my review, so me merely regurgitating my experience and expecting you identify with it doesn’t really work, does it? Well, that was the problem with American Graffiti, and unfortunately it turns out that it wasn’t the only movie to suffer this problem. Enter Diner, Barry Levinson’s love letter to the late fifties.

Set in the last weeks of 1959 in Baltimore, Diner follows a group of friends in their early twenties as they hang out in a diner waiting for the wedding of Steve Guttenberg’s character. Meanwhile, Mickey Rourke does things, Daniel Stern has issues with his own wife and Kevin Bacon mopes around.

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#254 Paradise Now

(2005, Hany Abu-Assad)
“You cannot alter your fate. There is no other way. It’s God’s will.”

There are few political subjects as touchy as the Israeli-Palestine conflict, which has been raging for an exceptionally long time. I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know a lot about it, since much of the information about the conflict is confusing and it’s hard to know what’s what within the whole situation. So perhaps a movie from the Palestinian perspective might help. Enter Paradise Now, a movie about reluctant suicide bombers in the region.

This will be the second movie I’ve reviewed that focused on suicide bombers, and it’s probably equally as controversial as Four Lions, albeit for very different reasons. While Four Lions used suicide bombings as a framework for a modern caper comedy, Paradise Now is an attempt to show the human side of these attacks.

Since I’m not all that knowledgeable on the political situation that the film has spawned from, I’ll be focusing on the movie as a piece of drama rather than the political arguments it raises. This is going to be a tricky one.

The movie focuses on childhood friends Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman), who have been recruited by an unnamed terrorist group to perform suicide bombings in Israel. Over the next couple of days, they prepare for the attack, while a woman named Suha (Lubna Azabal) attempts to convince them to back out.

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