Movie Review – Sisters

What do you get when Leslie Knope and Liz Lemon throw the party to end all parties? Utter madness, as proven by Jason Moore’s Sisters.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury 

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are one of Hollywood’s funniest and most popular double acts, so it might come as a surprise that the duo have never shared the limelight on a film before now. They struck gold when hosting the Golden Globes, and are known the world over as the leading ladies on 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation respectively, but the chance to join forces on a major comedy film hasn’t come around – until now.

Said film is called Sisters, and it sees Fey and Poehler, who first met whilst working on the hugely popular US sketch show Saturday Night Live, convert their dynamite off-screen rapport into an infectious on-screen chemistry that you simply can’t manufacture. The BBF’s play Kate (Fey) and Maura (Poehler) Ellis, two siblings who are horrified to discover that their parents (played by James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) are selling the house they grew up in. Tasked with journeying down to Miami and removing their childhood trinkets, Kate and Maura decide to bid farewell to the family home by throwing one last major rager that’ll metaphorically, and literally, bring the house down.

With free-flowing dialogue and a script that draws life from improvisation, Sisters is a riotous film that bounces around and doesn’t withhold anything; Kate and Maura’s party soon escalates from swapping colonoscopy stories to unchecked, drug-fuelled mayhem. The snappy wordplay between the two sisters is the real highlight as Poehler and Fey exchange barbs and gags with one another as if no one is watching.

Like most parties, some of the more fervent guests overstay their welcome; Bobby Moynihan (another SNL cast member) plays Alex, a dorky classmate who mistakenly snorts something extremely potent and blunders about the house incoherently screaming about feeling his hair grow. The gag – and the party sequence as a whole – is funny at first, but as layer upon layer of madness is slathered on like a wobbly and unpredictable trifle, it does start to get a touch tiresome. At 118 minutes, Sisters does prolong the fun longer than most hit-it-and-quit-it comedies; some trimming here and there might’ve kept the action feeling punchy and concise.

Amongst the mayhem, director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) attempts to thread an emotional narrative involving Kate’s daughter Haley (Madison Davenport), but it sadly gets lost and largely ignored in favour of sillier, more superficial storytelling. The film does attempt to convey some kind of central moral, but you’d be forgiven for missing it.

Sisters is fundamentally just one big excuse for Poehler and Fey to let loose and toss everything they have into one huge melting pot of suburban stupidity; they throw a lot of stuff at walls and, for the most part, it sticks. An elongated length and muddled messaging are the only drawbacks on an otherwise unruly comedy from the two Hollywood heavyweights.

Sisters is available in Australian cinemas from January 7

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures 

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Part 2 – Golden Globe Nominations – Best Comedy or Musical

By Cherie Wheeler

Continuing with our coverage of the nominees for the 2015 Golden Globes, here’s a look at the five films that are in the running to win Best Picture in the Comedy or Musical category.

1. Birdman
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zack Galifianakis and Edward Norton
Release Date: January 15 2015
Other Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Score, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Actor Comedy or Musical (Michael Keaton) and Best Screenplay

Click image to view trailer

Similar to Richard Linklater, Alejandro Inarritu is one of the most unique and intriguing filmmakers of the twenty first century, and he is definitely Linklater’s most fierce competitor for the Best Director award. This Mexican film director has produced some awe-inspiring, and truly beautiful films over the years, including Babel (2006) and 21 Grams (2003), and Birdman is everything you could hope for and more from Inarritu.

In Birdman, Michael Keaton plays over the hill actor Riggan, who was once famous for his portrayal of an iconic superhero, and in a bid to reclaim his former glory, he agrees to take part in a Broadway production. Riggan turns out to be his own worst enemy, and his family struggle to support him in this last ditch attempt to make something of himself. It’s fantastic to see Keaton back on the silver screen doing what he does best, for the first time in a long time, and he is certainly the frontrunner for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical.

2. Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, F Murray Abraham and Jeff Goldblum
Release Date: Available now on DVD and Bluray
Other Nominations: Best Director, Best Actor Comedy or Musical (Ralph Fiennes), Best Screenplay

Click image below to view trailer

The Grand Budapest Hotel follows in the footsteps of all of Wes Anderson’s prior films, and exudes his trademark quirky style. The story revolves around the exploits of the hotel’s eccentric concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and his lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) after the death of one of their wealthiest patrons (Tilda Swinton).

Weird and wonderful films by Wes Anderson have previously garnered Academy Award nominations, including The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012), but astoundingly, this is the first time he has ever been recognised by the Globes. My fingers are crossed for Anderson to win Best Screenplay, but he may be knocked out by Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl. If anyone has a chance to defeat Michael Keaton for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, it is definitely Ralph Fiennes in his portrayal of the witty and sophisticated, yet slightly unhinged Gustave.

3. Into The Woods
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick and Emily Blunt
Release Date: January 08 2015
Other Nominations: Best Actress Comedy or Musical (Emily Blunt),Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep)

Click image below to view trailer

The latest of countless fairytales reimagined by Disney, Into The Woods sees Rob Marshall and Johnny Depp reunited after working together on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 2011. Marhsall has a short, but significant list of films to his name, including Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) and Chicago (2002), and I suppose Disney believed he would once again bring his magic to the screen when selecting him to direct Into The Woods.

A baker and his wife (Emily Blunt) must procure iconic, magical items from traditional fairytale stories, including Red Riding Hood, Jack & The Beanstalk, Cinderella and Rapunzel, in order to lift a curse cast upon them by an evil witch (Meryl Streep). You can almost always guarantee that whenever Meryl Streep completes a film that she will receive a nomination for her performance, and this is her 29th nomination for a Golden Globe.

The Best Supporting Actress category is quite weak this year with some questionable nominees including Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game and Emma Stone for Birdman, and unlike many of the other categories, there is a clear standout to take out this particular prize, which is Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. I sincerely doubt that Emily Blunt will win Best Actress Comedy or Musical as she is up against the likes of Amy Adams for Big Eyes, and Julianne Moore for Maps to the Stars.

4. Pride
Director: Matthew Warchus
Starring: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West and Ben Schnetzer
Release Date: Available on DVD and Bluray soon
Other Nominations: N/A

Click image below to view trailer

The real surprise nomination at the Golden Globes this year is English comedy and true story Pride. The title suggests exactly what this film is about; a group of gay people wanting to shout about something. What the title doesn’t tell you, however, is that the shouting is not about anyone’s sexuality, but about solidarity. We thoroughly enjoyed this heart-warming film when it was released in Australian cinemas earlier this year in October, and we are touched that it managed to receive a nomination, but sadly, we doubt that it will take out the prize. The award for Best Comedy or Musical is really a race between Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

5. St Vincent
Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Bill Murray, Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy
Release Date: December 26 2014
Other Nominations: Best Actor Comedy or Musical (Bill Murray)

Click image below to view trailer

St Vincent is the feature film directorial debut of Theodore Melfi, so it is pretty impressive that he has managed to rustle up a Best Picture nomination. The film follows a little boy who is dealing with the recent divorce of his parents when he finds unlikely companionship in his antisocial, self-absorbed, and at times indecent neighbour; a war veteran by the name of Vincent (Bill Murray). This role is absolutely perfect for Murray, and is a nice way for him to end the year, after his disappointing performance in The Monuments Men back in March. Having said that, Ralph Fiennes and Michael Keaton are probably a little too strong for him to beat for the Best Actor Comedy or Musical award, and the other nominees, Joaquin Phoneix, and Christoph Waltz, finish off this really strong category.

As the Golden Globes split the feature film nominees into Drama and Comedy or Musical, it tends to allow for some fairly average films to sneak in and gain nominations, whilst other more deserving films are left out. I don’t believe that St Vincent, Pride or Into The Woods will be recognised by the Academy Awards in the Best Picture category, which allows for a maximum of ten films to be nominated. Instead I believe that other films that have been snubbed by the Globes, such as Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, will be nominated at the Oscars.

Golden Globe Nominations – Best Drama

By Cherie Wheeler

Get excited folks! It’s that time of year again; no, not Christmas, but the start of the Hollywood awards season. The nominees for the Golden Globes have just been announced, and in the usual fashion, many of the potential winners have not yet been released in Australian cinemas, but never fear! We have the lowdown on all the big releases for 2015 with an overview of the five films nominated for Best Drama, which will be the first in our awards season series. Stay tuned for our look at the nominees for Best Comedy or Musical.

1. Boyhood
Director:
Richard Linklater
Starring: Ellar Colltrane, Patricia Arquette & Ethan Hawke
Release Date: Available on DVD and Bluray soon
Other Nominations: Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette), Best Supporting Actor (Ethan Hawke) & Best Screenplay

Click image to view trailer

Since first breaking out into the film scene in the 1990s, US director Richard Linklater has proved  his genius as a filmmaker time and time again. From his concept of shooting a conversation between two characters in real time, and using this content to comprise three highly engaging feature length films (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset & Before Midnight), to producing a docudrama on one of the most bizarre and intriguing incidents to have ever occurred in Carthage, Texas, between an overly friendly mortician, and an embittered 80 year old widow (Bernie), Linklater always thinks outside the box, and Boyhood is no different.

Filmed over 12 years, as the title suggests, Boyhood chronicles the life of Mason (Ellar Colltrane) from age 5 to 18, and explores the various challenges, as well as the ordinary, everyday life moments that take place throughout the process of becoming an adult. It is the first film to ever use the same actor to play a character that literally grows up on the screen. Most directors would opt to cast a different actor to play the character at each life stage, or would digitally enhance, or alter an actor with hair and makeup to manufacture the aging process, but Linklater has kept the process organic, and for this, I believe Linklater will take home Best Director. The other major contender from Boyhood is Patricia Arquette, who has a very good chance of winning Best Supporting Actress, for her authentic performance as the mother of Mason.

2. Foxcatcher
Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffallo
Release Date: January 29 2015
Other Nominations: Best Actor In Drama (Steve Carrell) & Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo)

Click image to view trailer

Steve Carrell is mostly associated with comedies of varying success, from the US version of the TV Series The Office, to multiple crowd pleasing films, including Crazy Stupid Love (2011), The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). It was not until his performance as the gay, suicidal intellectual Frank Ginsberg in academy award winning film Little Miss Sunshine (2006) that we began to glimpse another side of him, and now his prowess as a dramatic actor is out to impress again in Foxcatcher.

Based on a true events, the story follows Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) who is invited by multimillionaire John Du Pont (Steve Carrell) to help form a team to train for the upcoming 1988 games in Seoul. Schultz snaps up the opportunity in hope that he will finally be able to step out of the shadow of his brother, fellow wrestler David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). An unlikely bond develops between the three, but this quickly descends into psychological warfare, as they each threaten to emotionally destroy one another in their quest for victory.

This film may be a groundbreaking milestone in Steve Carrell’s career, however, I am doubtful that he or Ruffalo will take out the top prize for either of their categories.

3. The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Charles Dance and Mark Strong
Release Date: January 01 2015
Other Nominations: Best Actor In Drama (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actress (Keira Knightley), Best Screenplay & Best Score

Click image to view trailer

In 2010 audiences began to notice this rather eccentric British actor with a long winded name that fails to roll easily off the tongue. He was the latest to reprise the role of Sherlock Holmes in the British television series Sherlock, and since then, Benedict Cumberbatch has risen to an unlikely stardom. There is something very likeable about him, from his awkward ways, and unusual appearance, to his endearing personality, and it seems many have developed an affection for him, making him the perfect actor to play Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.

During the second World War, the German military communicated to its troops via coded messages that were encrypted by a formula called Enigma. A group of English mathematicians were hired to find a way to decode these messages, and among them was the brilliant, but socially awkward Alan Turing, who is credited with the invention of the first computer. Turing clashes with his fellow mathematicians who fail to appreciate his ideas, or his prickly personality, until the freshly recruited, and sharply intelligent Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) manages to allay the tension between them. Without giving too much more away, this is a fascinating true story that has previously been covered up throughout history due to the need to protect sensitive information in relation to the war, therefore making this film a front runner for Best Screenplay. I’m also putting my money on Cumberbatch to take home Best Actor In Drama, as his portrayal of Turing is absolutely sensational.

4. Selma
Director:
Ava Duvernay
Starring: David Oyelowo, Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, Oprah Winfrey, Carmen Ejogo and Martin Sheen
Release Date: February 2015
Other Nominations: Best Director, Best Actor In Drama (David Oyelowo), Best Original Song

Click image to view trailer
selma

Whenever an Australian film features Indigenous characters, it is almost guaranteed that it will receive high praise from critics, and that it will manage to find its way into almost every significant film festival. The same seems to occur in American films that explore racism and subjugation; from The Help (2011), to 12 Years A Slave (2014), these films always dominate the awards season, and Selma is yet another example of this.

To be honest, I am extremely tired of Hollywood privileging these films. Yes, slavery in America is a tragic and shameful part of history. Yes, it is disgusting that even today racism still exists in the United States. But if I have to see one more film about it, I might actually scream. The oppression of African Americans is not the only awful event to have ever happened in the history of the entire world.

Selma is named after the city in Alabama in which Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) led multiple, powerful civil rights marches that finally made people sit up and listen to what he had to say. It’s awesome to see a female director behind this film, and also up for a Best Director nomination, but I find it unlikely that she would win.

5. The Theory of Everything
Director: James Marsh
Starring: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones
Release Date: January 29 2015
Other Nominations: Best Actress In Drama (Felicity Jones), Best Actor In Drama (Eddie Redmayne) & Best Score

Click image to view trailer

If anyone has a chance of knocking Benedict Cumberbatch out of the way for Best Actor In Drama, its Eddie Redmayne in his performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. I’m so excited by the fact that two British actors are vying for the prize, and it will definitely be a close race, as both performances are quite similar in the portrayal of intellectual geniuses that each become undone by their own personal struggles, whether that be emotional or physical.

Unlike Cumberbatch, it seems as though Redmayne has blossomed out of nowhere. It wasn’t until his performance as the shy and innocent Colin Clark in My Week With Marilyn (2011) that he truly came onto the scene, and his only other major feature film credit is Les Miserables (2012).

This romantic drama explores the relationship between renowned physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Jane (Felicity Jones), and I believe that it has an excellent chance of winning Best Picture – Drama. It’s most fierce competitor would have to be Boyhood, and I think it will also come very close to taking out Best Score as well.

TropFest 2014: Top 5 Short Films

By Cherie Wheeler

Sydneysiders may have been ducking for cover amid thunderous storms at the outdoor screening of TropFest this past weekend, but in Perth, Western Australia, viewers were graced with a beautiful evening with mild conditions for viewing one of Australia’s most prestigious short film festivals.

Even though only one film from Western Australia managed to reach the finals, audiences in the West turned out to the Perth Cultural Centre, the Moonlight Cinemas, and an outdoor theatre in Midland to check out the sixteen short films vying for the title of winner of TropFest 2014.

Every year the festival follows a particular theme in which all of the entrants must utilise a “signature item” in some way. The entire narrative may be based around this item, or it may be incorporated into the film in a more subtle way, but this year, all of the films had to feature a mirror.

This year’s very deserving winner was the comical Granny Smith, directed by emerging filmmaker Julian Lucas, and overall, this year’s finalists were of a much higher caliber than the works selected in the 2013 competition.

As much as we would love to overview all sixteen films, we’ve decided to present you with our favourites from the night with a list of our top 5. So without any further ado, and in no particular order, here’s the best of TropFest 2014.

1. Evil Mexican Child
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Evil
Let’s be honest; with a title like this, how could this be anything but an awesome little film? Directed by regular TropFest finalist Michael Noonan, this short film follows a married couple who encounter an abandoned little boy wandering throughout the deserts of Mexico. The couple take the boy home with them, and discover his disturbing ability to turn his violent drawings into a reality.

I have no idea where this film was shot, but I was seriously impressed by the efforts made to create this world set in rural Mexico. The rustic production design is incredibly authentic, as is the flawless Spanish spoken by the actors. Conceptually, Evil Mexican Child seems like a standard horror film, but it is actually quite comical, in a dark and twisted sort of way.

 

2. Fixed
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Fixed
The lone WA finalist Fixed is a tale of childhood innocence in which a little girl becomes determined to get the family dog pregnant, despite her lack of expertise in this area. Starring Amara Harnisch, this short film is co-directed by Burleigh Smith and Codey Wilson.

This is such a simple concept that has been perfectly executed, and Harnisch delivers a very strong performance for such a young actress. Add in a cute dog, and some crude jokes, and you have a true crowd pleaser on your hands.

 

3. A Lady and A Robot
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Ladyrobot
In a behind the scenes preview package, director Toby Morris intimated his affection for British dramas set in the 19th century, and his passion for the era certainly comes across in this short film. As the title suggests, A Lady and A Robot revolves around the love story between an Aristocratic woman, and the family butler, who just happens to be a clumsy, rule abiding robot.

The script is exceptionally well written, particularly the dialogue, which remains true to the time in which the film is set, even though the relationship between the two main characters is utterly preposterous. Much like Evil Mexican Child, this film includes some remarkable production design work, and all of the performances are top notch as well.

 

4. Twisted
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Twisted
If Scott Pilgrim Vs The World involved characters battling one another with balloon animals, and other inflatable creations, then this is exactly what it would look like. In Stuart Bowen’s Twisted two guys fight for the heart of a pretty girl through an epic balloon making challenge.

It may be completely bizarre, but Twisted finds itself a place in my top five due to some very slick editing, and some mind blowing special effects. The balloon creations featured in this short film are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and the film transitions seamlessly between the construction of each new balloon artwork.

 

5. Granny Smith
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GrannySmith

Lucky last is the winner of TropFest 2014; Granny Smith starring Jack White, Sam Watkins and Steve Vizard. Everyone is guilty of chucking a sickie to avoid going to work, but Paul (White) takes this to a whole new level when he pretends that his grandmother has passed away, and invites his colleagues to the funeral of a complete stranger, all in the name of getting a few days off.

This is Australian humour at it’s very best, and there’s not really much more to say than that. I can pretty much guarantee that you will enjoy this film, and its relatable subject matter, and unlike the rather contrived comedy that won last year’s competition, Granny Smith is far more subtle in its bid for laughs.

Mike Nichols: A Tribute

By Chantal Victor

In honour of the late Mike Nichols, who passed away in November this year, we thought we would take a look at his outstanding influence in the film and theatre industry. Nichols is one of very few who has managed to claim the status of an EGOT; an individual who has received at least one award in each of the four entertainment awards (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). Nichols has an impressive awards list with a total of fourteen, one which was his Academy Award for directing The Graduate in 1967.

Based on the 1963 novel by Charles Webb, The Graduate follows young student Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) who is seduced by an older family friend, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) after returning home from finishing his degree. As the story unfolds, Benjamin tries to figure out his future in terms of his affair, and his career, whilst his parents question his lifestyle and his decisions. It’s a comedy and a drama that perfectly balances these two elements. The awkwardness between an older married woman, and a sexually inexperienced young man, makes for a quirky film to still be enjoyed almost fifty years later.

The director of photography Robert Surtees (Ben-Hur) said he had to do a lot more work than he had ever done for any one film before, and was allowed to experiment with different lenses and framing techniques when shooting The Graduate. This worked really well because it gave the film a fresh look, and lent itself rather generously to the film’s dramatic intentions, while the script stayed comedic.

Simon & Garfunkel songs are the main music influence, where The Sound of Silence sets the pace of the whole film, playing for lengthy periods at various times, just like that of California Dreamin in the Hong Kong film Chungking Express (1994). Paul Simon was contracted to write another 3 new songs for the film but only managed to create one. He was writing a song, not for the film, which was about Mrs. Roosevelt, which Nichols then said to Simon; it’s now about Mrs. Robinson, and made it part of the film. Nichols also took a big risk by casting Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man, Tootsie) as the lead role as in 1967 Hoffman was not the experienced actor that we all know him to be today; this was Hoffman’s first major part.

Mike Nichols was also the first to produce the Broadway musical Annie, based on the Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie. Nichols went along to win the Tony Award for Best Musical that year in 1977. Annie has since been a musical favourite, with several remakes produced for the theatre and on film around the world in the last 37 years. The latest film remake will be opening in Australia on December 18, and stars Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, and Quevenzhane Wallis as Annie.

These are only two examples of the many influences Mike Nichols has left us with in film and theatre. If I had to list them all you’d be reading for days. A great thank you goes to an amazing and inspirational man of his time.

Top 4 Tarantino Films

I must admit, I was more than a little apprehensive when it came to publishing this list due to the very noticeable absence of cult favourite Pulp Fiction from my top four; **cue screaming, yelling, and throwing of rotten vegetables**. Even though Pulp Fiction may be responsible for cementing Tarantino’s status as one of the most well-known auteurs in modern times, I honestly do not believe that it can be considered his best work.

I can certainly appreciate why Pulp Fiction is so popular; who doesn’t love watching Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta debate fast food? And Christopher Walken’s monologue on safeguarding a watch between his butt cheeks throughout the war never gets old, no matter how many times you hear it. The opening scene in which Pumpkin and Honey Bunny (aka Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) discuss the perks of robbing a restaurant is bloody excellent, but although the film contains lots of great individual elements, I personally don’t think the film as a whole is as strong as those I have listed in the top four below.

1. Reservoir Dogs. 1992.
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi & Chris Penn

Reservoir

At the dawn of the nineties, Quentin Tarantino was merely a passionate film fanatic working in a video store, until he penned his first feature film; True Romance. Tarantino sold this screenplay (which would later be directed by Tony Scott and released in 1993), and used the proceeds to fund his directorial debut Reservoir Dogs; a crime drama about the aftermath of a heist gone wrong.

This film is jam packed with stylistic choices that have gone on to be considered classic Tarantino techniques. The non-linear narrative, dialogue heavy scenes, innovative use of music (most notably the use of Stealers Wheel’s Stuck In The Middle With You during a scene where a policeman is tortured), and the inclusion of bloody violence throughout Reservoir Dogs is quintessential Quentin. This style has become his trademark, and it is present in almost all of his other works, including his CSI television special. Reservoir Dogs is one of my all time favourite films due to the calibre of the script, and the epic cast that fires on all cylinders.

2. Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2. 2003-4.
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Lucy Liu, Vivica A Fox and Michael Madsen
Kill Bill

In between takes on the set of Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman and Tarantino would engage in creative discussions in relation to a character they called “The Bride,” and this became the premise for the Kill Bill films.

This two part film is an action-packed, emotional rollercoaster that follows The Bride (Uma Thurman) on her “roaring rampage of revenge” against the man who attempted to murder her – yep, you guessed it – Bill (David Carradine), and his team of assassins, the Deadly Viper Squad. This fierce heroine goes to hell and back to fulfil her mission, and it is fantastic to see a female character display such emotional and physical strength whilst also maintaining her femininity.

What makes Kill Bill so effective is its ability to seamlessly switch between multiple genres; it goes from being a Samurai/Kung Fu film, then it has a moment in the style of film noir, then it goes on to be a Western for a bit, and at one point there is even a scene depicted in anime. On paper you would not think it would be possible to borrow from so many genres in just one film (well, technically two, but you know what I mean), and yet somehow Tarantino pulls it off. Everything in this film is heightened; from the music, to the direction, to the stylised violence, and I absolutely love every bit of it.

3. Death Proof. 2007.
Starring: Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Rose McGowan, Jordan Ladd and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
DeathP

Possibly one of the least talked about Tarantino films of all time, Death Proof revolves around two separate female friendship groups that each encounter ex Hollywood stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) who drives a purpose built stunt vehicle that he uses to murder pretty and unsuspecting girls, until one day, he meets his match.

I hope no one is frothing at the mouth or shrieking at their screen right now because I included such a little known Tarantino film in my top 4. Death Proof is a quiet achiever that will never reach the sort of fame that some of his other films enjoy, but nevertheless, it really does deserve to be on this list. It’s such a unique film, even for Tarantino, as it depicts women in a way that we have never really seen them on film before, or at least not in relatively mainstream cinema. There’s a crude reality to the characters that is both refreshing, and a little confronting at times, but the truth is, there are a lot of women like that out there. Overall the film is really just a bunch of girls sitting around talking before a final, wild car chase with Kurt Russell’s character, but in its simplicity it is brilliant, and very entertaining.

4. Django Unchained. 2012.
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L Jackson

Django

So this is the awkward moment where I admit that I was far more moved by Django Unchained than I was by this year’s Academy Award Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave

It’s the 19th century in the south of the USA, and Django (Jamie Foxx) is just another African American man living in slavery, until German bounty hunter Dr King Schulz (Christoph Waltz) frees him, and assists him to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) who has become imprisoned by plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

There is a harrowing scene in this film where Kerry Washington is whipped by white slave owners; she screams out in torment, and her flesh melts off her back as she is whipped over and over again… sound familiar? Almost the exact same scene takes place in 12 Years A Slave, except Lupita Nyong’o is the one under the whip, and no disrespect to Lupita, or to the film’s director, Steve McQueen, but I did not emotionally connect to 12 Years A Slave at all. On the other hand, I was horrified by a scene in Django where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character goads two slaves to fight one another to the death with nothing but their bare hands. I was shocked over and over again by similarly violent scenes throughout this film, whereas 12 Years A Slave failed to provoke anything from me, and this is partly why Django has found its way into my top four.

Christoph Waltz is outstanding as the eloquent and witty bounty hunter, DiCaprio is surprisingly good at being utterly detestable, and Samuel L Jackson is an absolute riot in this film, which manages to strike a perfect balance between its dramatic and affecting scenes, and those of tremendous comedic value.

Classic Review – Casablanca

This month we’ve decided to take a look back at one of the most iconic films of the 1940s, Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca.

Review by Cherie Wheeler

“Play it once Sam, for old time’s sake,” became an immortal phrase after it was spoken by Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 film Casablanca. The film as a whole has also endured time, and is as well known today as it was when it was first released more than 7 decades ago. This black and white World War II drama is considered one of the greatest films of all time alongside other classic titles such as Citizen Kane and Gone With The Wind. Its ground breaking screenplay, as well as its phenomenal direction from Michael Curtiz earned the film 3 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and also cemented its position as a significant milestone in the history of film.

Humphrey Bogart stars as Rick Blaine, the cynical owner of Rick’s Café Américain; a popular destination for those forced to remain in Morocco as a result of the war. Tensions rise when renowned fugitive and Czech Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) comes to town seeking passage to America, which is further complicated when he arrives with Rick’s ex lover, Isla Lund (Ingrid Bergman), in tow. German Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) becomes determined to prevent Laszlo from leaving the country, and although Rick insists he is neutral in all matters of war, he inevitably becomes caught between the opposing sides. Claude Rains also features in the film as Captain Louis Renault; a local, corrupt law official who frequents Rick’s establishment.

There is a universality to Casablanca that transcends time; most notably in the well developed, multi layered relationships between the characters, and also due to the fact that it was not only set during WWII, but was also written and shot during this time. Whilst this would have been interesting to watch at the time of its release, it continues to be fascinating to later audiences.

The outstanding script by Howard E Koch, Julius J Epstein and Phillip G Epstein is an adaptation of the stage play Everybody Comes To Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Allison. As the play was never produced, it is difficult to ascertain who is responsible for which stroke of genius, however, the screenwriters tend to get all the credit. The playwrights did contest their ownership of the work in the 1980s without success; however, Warner Brothers did allow them to stage the script for a limited season in the 1990s. Regardless of who is recognised as the creative owner of the script in the eyes of the law, all of these writers must be applauded for this screenplay. The dialogue is filled with many wonderfully witty lines, and is cleverly composed to contain multiple meanings. It manages to convey exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling, without stating it outright; the latter of which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

This masterful writing would have been wasted without the correct casting, but fortunately all of the performances are exceptional. Bogart is definitely the stand out, and even though he had been starring in a lot of films prior to 1942, he had not yet reached the pinnacle of his career, which arguably was kicked off by his role in Casablanca. Afterwards came a string of collaborations with his wife Lauren Bacall, such as To Have And Have Not, as well as his other hits including The African Queen. His appearance in Casablanca would have to be my favourite performance of his; he lives and breathes the character with such credibility, and he expresses the personality of the character with ease. Even when he is being pessimistic and a little antisocial, he is still likeable, and you are always on his side. Ingrid Bergman delivers a strong performance; however, she is slightly outshone by Bogart. Having said that I don’t think any other actresses of her vintage could have done justice to the role as she does. Claude Rains is just hilarious without even trying, like Bogart; it all comes so easily to him. All of the supporting cast members are equally convincing, and no matter how minor their role, none of them seem out of place.

Of course, who could forget the music in Casablanca, particularly Herman Hupfeld’s As Time Goes By, which has so much significance within the narrative. I adore this song, and its nostalgic, yet melancholic tones that perfectly sum up how the main characters remember their previous time together. Max Steiner, who also composed the music for Gone With The Wind a few years earlier, also does an excellent job with the orchestral score.

Overall, the direction by Michael Curtiz is probably the most superb element of all, as he is responsible for bringing all of the individual elements together to create the amazing package that is Casablanca. Prolific filmmaker from the 1920s-60s, William Wyler, was apparently the first choice for the directing position, and an obvious choice given the sorts of projects he usually led, including Wuthering Heights (1939) and Jezebel (1938), and then later Ben-Hur (1959) and Roman Holiday (1953), but Curtiz is without a doubt the right man for this film. He is literally the magical glue that holds Casablanca together and ensures that this film ranks 100% on the entertainment scale.

If you haven’t already guessed , I am a huge fan of Casablanca and it is one of my favourite films of all time. It has everything you could ever want from a film; tragedy, comedy, and twists and turns in the narrative that will suck you into the world of the film, and have you barracking for Rick and Isla to win out against the odds. A must watch for all; viewing Casablanca should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Top 5 Sean Penn Films

In celebration of Sean Penn’s 54th birthday this month, here’s a look back at his greatest films.

Sean Penn cemented himself as a household name very early on in his career in the 1980s, however, this was more on account of his marriage to Madonna, rather than this acting ability. Some of his early films include Taps (1981) and Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982), but he did not reach critical acclaim until the late nineties when he received his first academy award nomination for his role in Dead Man Walking (1996). The next decade saw Penn land multiple powerful roles that earned him further nominations as well as fame in his own right, separate to his now ex wife. Unlike other actors around his vintage,  such as Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone, he has never really been typecast, and he continues to bring all sorts of colourful characters to life. He has certainly had an eclectic career with performances in a variety of genres, and involvement in projects of varying success. He started to try his hand at directing in the 1990s, but never really received much recognition in this area until his 2007 film Into The Wild. Some of his more recent works, such as Gangster Squad (2013) have been a little disappointing, but hopefully he will redeem himself in The Gunman, in which he stars opposite Javier Bardem, Idris Elba and Ray Winstone. The Gunman is due to hit cinemas early next year.

 

Top 5 films in chronological order:
1. 2001. I Am Sam.
Directed by Jessie Nelson.
Starring Sean Penn, Dakota Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer

I AM SAM

It’s an obvious choice, but nevertheless I Am Sam certainly deserves to be in the top 5. Penn plays Sam Dawson, a man with a mental disability that has left him incapable of developing intelligence any higher than that of the average seven year old. When a homeless woman gives birth to his child, and abandons both him and their newly born daughter, Sam is forced to look after this baby as a single parent. So named Lucy after a Beatles’ song, Sam’s daughter (Dakota Fanning) struggles to grow up under his care, particularly when her mental capacity begins to outgrow his own. Eventually protective services become aware of the situation and step in, separating father and daughter. Cold and callous lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer) agrees to take on Sam’s case, at first only to prove to others that she is not completely heartless, but as she becomes further acquainted with Sam she becomes genuinely motivated to help him. Jessie Nelson’s direction is beautiful in the way she presents the world of the film through Sam’s perspective. Not only is the story incredibly moving, but the performances from both Penn and Fanning are also astonishingly good.

2. 2003. Mystic River
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden

MYSTIC RIVER

Chilling from start to finish, Mystic River explores how one tiny twist of fate can completely alter the course of a person’s life. The film opens in a neighbourhood street in Brooklyn in 1975 where three young boys are causing mischief, when a man claiming to be a police officer threatens to discipline them. Under the pretext of taking him home to his mother, the man convinces one of the boys to enter his car. For four days the boy is locked up and abused, and although he manages to escape, he is forever altered by this horrifying experience. This boy, Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) grows up to be a husband and a father estranged from his boyhood friends; Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), who is now an ex con and general store owner, and Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) who has gone on to be a police officer. The three of them still live in the same town in Boston, and whilst tragedy drew them apart as kids, it brings them together again all these years later, when someone close to them is mysteriously murdered.

3. 2003. 21 grams
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Starring Sean Penn, Naomi watts and Benecio Del Toro

21 GRAMS.png

In 21 Grams, screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga employs a truly innovative style of storytelling in which he presents the interconnected lives of 3 characters in non-linear fragments, hence leaving the viewer to piece the puzzle together, and independently learn how these characters became involved with one another. Sean Penn plays Paul Rivers, a mathematician with a fatal heart condition that has caused his health to significantly deteriorate. Through a series of unexpected events, his world becomes intertwined with married mother of two, Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts), as a result of the actions of Jack Jordan (Benecio Del Toro), an ex con turned born again Christian. The performances from all three of the main actors are outstanding, as is the shadowy and grainy handheld cinematography.

Special Mention:
The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004)
Sean Penn also shares the screen with Naomi Watts in The Assassination of Richard Nixon, which contrary to its title, is not actually a political thriller. Don Cheadle and Jack Thompson also feature in this poignant film about how the little people are top often downtrodden by the wealthy and powerful in America. Penn delivers a performance that will resonate with you long after the film has ended, but the film as a whole is not quite as strong as 21 Grams.

4. 2008. Milk.
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch

MILK

Many were surprised when Sean Penn took home the Oscar for his portrayal of homosexual politician Harvey Milk over that of Mickey Rourke for his role in The Wrestler, but nevertheless, Penn delivers once again in this biographical drama. In the 1970s Harvey Milk was a gay activist, who later became California’s first openly gay elected official. The film follows his struggles to stand up for gay rights during such a homophobic time period as well as his relationships with his followers and partners. This film will resonate with you long after it has ended, and will leave you horrified by how society behaved only a few short decades ago. Whilst a lot has changed since then, we certainly still have a long way to go.
5. 2011. This Must Be The Place.
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Starring Sean Penn and Frances McDormand

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE

Quirky and fabulous, This Must Be The Place revolves around retired rock star Cheyenne (Sean Penn) who is living his days out in Dublin, when he learns that his father, with whom he has been estranged for many years, is close to death. Cheyenne takes off to New York to reconcile with his father, but unfortunately he is too late. His trip is far from fruitless, however, as he learns how his father was mistreated by a particular SS Officer during his time at a camp in Auschwitz. Before returning home, Cheyenne makes it his mission to track down this officer, and find justice for his father. Penn is eerily convincing as Cheyenne, who is this bizarre blend of femininity and punk rock, and has a very interesting way of perceiving the world around him. He also has a knack for making profound, yet humorous statements, and the film as a whole is both an oddity and a hilarity that is most definitely worth watching.

Classic Review – The Birds

In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller The Birds, sophisticated socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), takes a drive out to Bodega Bay; an isolated, coastal community, in order to deliver a couple of lovebirds to lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a tit for tat prank. Her silly little venture quickly turns sinister, however, when she is attacked by a seagull whilst delivering the lovebirds. This becomes the first attack of many in which huge flocks of various species of birds descend upon the people of the town, and proceed to scratch and bite them to death. At first there is a lot of cynicism surrounding the behaviour of the birds amongst the townspeople as no one can fathom why the birds would suddenly act in this manner, and therefore many believe that the attacks others speak of are simply an exaggeration. It is not until countless birds invade the central part of town, and commence to tear down buildings that there is widespread acceptance of the fact that there is a serious epidemic. Melanie and Mitch band together during this troubling time, and take refuge in the home of Mitch’s mother, Lydia Brennan (Jessica Tandy) with Mitch’s younger sister Cathy Brenner (Veronica Cartwright), but will they survive the bird attacks as they completely take over the entire bay?

When I watched The Birds for the very first time, I must admit that I was quite disappointed by its narrative, and could not understand how it managed to reach higher levels of fame than some of Hitchcock’s earlier films, such as Strangers On A Train (1951). After other later viewings, however, the penny started to drop, and I began to recognise the brilliance of this film.

Hitchock’s signature visual style is as alive as ever in this film with the inclusion of carefully composed shots of particular details that significantly impact the mood of the film as a whole. One shot which is particularly memorable is a close up of a wheel slowly turning as a car eases forward between a mass of birds that have entered a state of calm after a recent attack. In one shot Hitchcock is able to place the viewer on tenterhooks; prior to this scene it has demonstrated that the bird attacks come in cycles, thus as the car disturbs the presently tranquil birds, the likelihood of an attack increases dramatically, and the audience is left in anticipation.

It is visual storytelling techniques such as this which are predominantly responsible for creating the dark and suspenseful tone of the entire film. Unlike Psycho (1960), which relies heavily on music to thrill the audience, The Birds contains no musical score whatsoever. Additionally, whilst Psycho contains many tense opening scenes that gradually build to a crescendo in the third act, The Birds opts for a lighter start with comical interactions between Melanie and Mitch. It is not until the very first bird attack upon Melanie that this mood starts to take a dark turn. This shift in tone was the idea of screenwriter Evan Hunter who Hitchcock brought in to adapt the original source material; a novella of the same name written by Daphne Du Maurier. Whilst Hitchock has been inspired by Du Maurier’s work before with his 1940 film Rebecca, the only similarity between his film and her short story is the concept of bird attacks. Apparently Transformers director Michael Bay is set to produce a remake of The Birds in which more of an emphasis will be placed on Du Maurier’s original storyline. I cannot understand why any filmmaker would see the need to touch any of Hitchcock’s classic films, but that is another matter all together.

The Transformers films are renowned for impressive special effects and excessive action sequences, therefore with Michael Bay at the helm of this remake it is logical to expect an overload of CGI at the expense of other elements in the film. Interestingly, Hitchcock approached the source material in a similar way in the sense that he chose to emphasise the birds over the human characters. In a behind the scenes documentary Rod Taylor admits that he was originally concerned that the performances would be lost to the special effects, but then he eventually realised that this was thepoint of the film. Evan Hunter also makes a comment in this documentary that the film is more of a mood piece than a traditional narrative, and I think this is what put me off the film initially. The birds in the film don’t only take over Bodega Bay, they also take over the entire story, to the point where the relationships between the characters (which have been so well developed up until the commencement of the third act) tend to be forgotten, and there is a lack of closure at the end of the film. Sometimes a vague conclusion can be very effective; I thoroughly enjoyed this choice in Martin McDonagh’s 2008 film In Bruges, but I was left feeling a little unsatisfied at the end of The Birds.

Evan Hunter explains in the documentary that Hitchcock often explored the theme of a lack of appreciation for life, and that in The Birds it is not until the lives of the characters are significantly disrupted that they realise what they took for granted. I have also read that apparently Hitch chose not to superimpose the words “The End” over the final shot (as most films from that time did) as he wanted to put across the impression of never ending terror. Considering this, plus the idea of placing mood before narrative, the story structure makes a lot more sense, and although I would have preferred a stronger ending, I can certainly appreciate what Hitchcock was aiming to achieve.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the effect of compositing two images together via use of a blue screen was becoming more and more popular, but due to fairly primitive technology, the effect was far from perfect. Light would often reflect off the blue screen and onto the subject, creating a blue halo around the actors when the screen was replaced with a background image. Nowadays computer programs can overcome these sorts of flaws, and films rely heavily on such software for all sorts of special effects, but one has to remember that Hitchcock pulled off The Birds without any of this technology. At the time of making The Birds Disney had perfected a new technique for compositing images in which the foreground was lit with one type of light, and the background with another, which allows for the same effect as a blue screen, whilst avoiding the dreaded blue halo. Hitchock employed this method for all of the bird attack scenes, and even though to the eye of the modern viewer it is quite obvious when some scenes have been shot in this manner (particularly the scene where Melanie takes a dinghy across a lake to reach the Brenner house), one cannot deny how well this effect was executed. Apparently the film includes a total of 370 effects shots, and the last shot is a composite of 32 separately filmed elements, which given when this film was made, is truly astounding.

Even though the characters are placed second to these effects towards the end of the film, all of the actors deliver excellent performances throughout the entire duration of The Birds. Tippi Hedren was a model prior to bringing Melanie Daniels to life, and was discovered by Hitchcock through a particular beauty advertisement that used to air on television in between morning news programs. She certainly had one of the greatest acting coaches in Hitchcock, which would have assisted her performance immensely, but even so, Hedren deserves full credit for her impressive feature film debut. Her chemistry with Rod Taylor is fantastic to watch, as are her strained interactions with the legendary Jessica Tandy. Tandy is hands down the stand out performer in the film; her experience on both the stage and screen is evident in her presence in every scene, and her ability to convey so much through just a look.

Whilst I personally prefer Psycho and Strangers On A Train to The Birds, I still find this film to be utterly breathtaking, and am blown away by the fact that Hitchcock achieved this feat with such limited technology. Although perhaps not as horrific as it would have been when it was first released in 1963 (as audiences have become more exposed to violence and bloodshed in horror films), The Birds remains a chilling film that will certainly make you flinch the next time you hear a crow caw.

Top 5 Stanley Kubrick Films

In celebration of what would have been Stanley Kubrick’s 86th birthday this month, here’s a look back at his greatest films…

Between 1953 and 1999 the late Stanley Kubrick may have only directed thirteen feature films, but despite his short list of credits, he is easily one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. From the controversial subject matter he brought to the screen, to his pioneering work in cinematography, Kubrick made a significant impact on the film industry during his time. His directorial debut came in the form of the gritty war film Fear and Desire, which became the first of many films he produced around this topic (Paths of Glory – 1957, Full Metal Jacket – 1987). Kubrick may have had a fascination with war, but he certainly did not limit himself to this area; exploring multiple genres from science fiction in his late 1960s hit 2001: A Space Odyssey, to the epic, action blockbuster in Spartacus (1960). Paradoxically, though each of his films are very different in terms of content, they are all very similar in style. Long, flowing tracking shots, prominent music tracks, and slow paced, dialogue heavy scenes are present in almost all of his films.

Although originally from the US, Kubrick lived out most of his days in England, and shot several of his films there. Apparently he claimed to have felt safer in Britain after he received multiple death threats following the release of his highly confronting cult film A Clockwork Orange (1971) He may have shot his films in Britain, but he still often set them in America, and he would have parts of the US recreated with painstaking accuracy on sound stages. Kubrick was also known for forcing his actors to perform an absurd number of takes of each scene in order to make them forget about the camera, and consequently behave in a more natural way. It is said that he would often tinker with films that he had completed decades earlier, and sadly these perfectionist tendencies became his undoing. He died of a heart attack in 1999 whilst obsessing over the details of his final film Eyes Wide Shut.

Top 5 Stanley Kubrick films (in chronological order):

Lolita. 1962
Starring:
Sue Lyon, James Mason, Shelley Winters and Peter Sellers

Lolita

Based on the controversial novel by Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita revolves around Professor Humbert (James Mason) and his obsession with Lolita (Sue Lyon); the fourteen year old daughter of motel owner Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters). Humbert goes to extreme lengths to become close to Lolita, and even goes as far as marrying Charlotte; a neurotic widow who has developed a crush of her own on Humbert. At first Lolita finds Humbert’s affections toward her to be most amusing, but when he starts to play the overprotective, paranoid father, whilst simultaneously lusting after her, she begins to recognise that their relationship is terribly unhealthy. In the meantime, famous author Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers) seems to always be inexplicably lingering nearby, and you are left wondering what role he plays in the entire disturbing affair. In this two and a half hour long film Kubrick manages to take a rather nauseating concept, and turn it into a comical ride that is most entertaining.

2. Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb. 1964
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden

Dr Strangelove

Dr Strangelove is the second collaboration between Peter Sellers and Stanley Kubrick, in which Sellers brings to life three of the main characters. He stars as English army captain Lionel Mandrake, US President Merkin Muffley, and also scientist / former Nazi Dr Strangelove, who are all thrown into a state of disarray following the actions of the utterly insane General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden). Ripper suffers from a paranoid delusion in which he believes he and his fellow Americans must launch a preemptive strike against Russia in order to suppress an outbreak of communism. Little does he know that the Russians have been building a doomsday machine that could be triggered by this attack and could potentially wipe out the world’s population. Dr Strangelove is an absolute riot from start to finish and makes just the right amount of mockery of the leaders of the free world.

3. A Clockwork Orange. 1971
Starring: Malcolm Macdowell

Clockwork Orange

In a futuristic version of Britain, Alex DeLarge (Malcolm Macdowell) is a wildly violent teenager who leads a gang of miscreants that spend their time breaking into the homes of innocent people in order to rape women and cause general havoc. When his friends question his leadership of the group, Alex is forced to make a demonstration of power, but his efforts backfire, and he is betrayed by his gang. Alex winds up in prison for his crimes, and faces a very lengthy sentence, until he learns of a program that claims to alter the minds of the worst offenders. He is accepted into this program as one of the first test subjects, and is forced to undergo treatment that will change his attitudes toward sex and violence, but can Alex ever truly be reformed? This film was shocking when it was first released in the 1970s and even today it continues to confront modern audiences.

4. The Shining. 1980
Starring: Jack Nicholson

Shining

When Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) accepts the position of caretaker at a hotel located in the middle of nowhere, he believes he and his family will spend a few peaceful months maintaining the premises whilst it is closed for the off season. At first living alone in an enormous hotel has its expected perks, but before long cabin fever begins to set in. All Jack wants to do is use the time at the hotel to complete his novel, but he becomes increasingly distracted by his son’s newly discovered abilities. His son has developed “the shining”; a psychic ability that causes him to see gruesome visions of a family that was murdered at the hotel. As these visions start to haunt Jack as well, what is real versus imagined becomes unclear, and Jack begins to lose his sanity piece by piece. This thrilling film owes a lot to its score, which is able to induce terror in the audience even when the most benign events are taking place on the screen.


5. Full Metal Jacket. 1987
Starring: Vincent D’Onofrio, Matthew Modine, R Lee Emrey

FMJ

Kubrick’s second last film expresses how men are mentally affected by war through a narrative told in two parts. The first half revolves around the training of a group of soldiers who are preparing to fight in the Vietnam War. During the brutal trainking program Private Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio), a feeble, overweight draftee is emotionally tortured by a psychotic and overbearing commanding officer. The second half follows Pyle’s fellow recruit, Private JT “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine), in his role as a war correspondent on the front lines. Joker bridges the two parts of the film together as a supporter of Pyle in the first half, then taking centre stage as the protagonist in the second half. I am personally a much bigger fan of the first half in which the torment inflicted upon Pyle causes him to lose his humanity.

 

Special Mentions:

2001: A Space Odyssey. 1968.

Barry Lyndon. 1975.