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Top 5 Biographical Films

August 24, 2011

Simply put, I am a fan of a well-made biographical film. It seems that they provide a sort of entertainment that isn’t necessarily available in a fictional film. I really can’t explain why this is, and it isn’t always necessarily the case – which is why I’ve decided to come up with a list of my top 5 biographical films.


5. Catch Me If You Can

Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks – what a captivating combination, and I believe they lived up to expectations with their film based on the life of Frank Abignale Jr, an incredibly successful (until the latter part of his “career”) conman. DiCaprio delivers a stellar performance as the swindler who undertakes several identities to obtain huge sums of money – and his performance is one that I believe allowed him to completely shed his “pretty-boy” stereotype once and for all.


4. Cinderella Man

Cinderella Man is a great film inspired by the life of heavyweight boxing champion, James J. Braddock. Ron Howard of such masterpieces as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and Frost vs. Nixon, directed this excellent film, and Russell Crowe continuing his run of successful films (The Insider, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander), gives a very moving performance as Braddock. Cinderella Man is a great film.


3. The Pianist

Roman Polanski created a heart wrenching, depressing film when he made The Pianist – yet he did it with what appeared to be such conviction that it can only be praised as an exceptional piece of work. It is an adaptation of an autobiography by the Polish musician, Władysław Szpilman. Adrien Brody gives a very moving performance as the lead role, and is the only actor in this list who won an Oscar for his respective film. This is a great piece of cinema.


2. The Aviator

When looking at his career, it appears Leonardo DiCaprio is as big of a fan of biographical films as myself (he also has another in production based on the life of J. Edgar Hoover coming out soon). This Martin Scorsese film is fascinating, in that it doesn’t necessarily have a flowing story line, but really only portrays significant events of Howard Hughes’ life – and the fact that Scorsese makes this film amazing speaks levels of genius to me. When thinking about this film, it’s crazy to think how many huge performers are in it, whether for a single scene, or all throughout. This film to me is a masterpiece.


1. Diving Bell and the Butterfly

There have been a few debates of the accuracy of this film, some stating it is 100% correct, and other’s stating it alters a few characters and events dramatically. Either way, it is a brilliant film. It follows the life of Jean-Dominique Bauby after he was left with “locked-in syndrome,” whereby he is paralysed from the neck down, with only the ability to blink his eyes. The way the director, Julian Schnabel handles the script and conveys what it could be like to be someone with this condition is remarkable, and for that reason alone, it could take the number one spot. But the film goes above and beyond with captivating performances, brilliant cinematography and a wonderfully written script. If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend it.


There is no shortage of biographical films, so I’m sure that many of you would have other films you’d include on this list. If so, let me know what you’d put in instead in the comment section below.

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Top 10 Animated Films

August 21, 2011

Warning: the following list has the potential to cause some heavy debate.

 

I think the greatest aspect of the animation realm is that it is possibly the closest thing to re-creating our imagination than anything else. The best part about a good animation is that it pulls it off in a way that seems so realistic, even when we know what we’re seeing isn’t real.

The beauty of animation is that it’s not limited to one genre and it reaches across all types of demographics, which is the reason I’ve given this post a warning disclaimer at the top. So many people watch animations; they’re all so different, and therefore people are going to have greatly varying opinions on which animations are the best.

I encourage this debate.

 

 

10. Howl’s Moving Castle

If you’ve heard of Hayao Miyazaki, and have watched any of his films, then you are most likely a fan. Howl’s Moving Castle is a brilliantly made hand-drawn animation that captures the fact that animated films are not limited to the country and language they are made in. The version of this film I watched had been dubbed in English, and the film is magnificent. I really do recommend watching this man’s films if you get the chance.


9. Shrek

DreamWorks did a great thing when they made Shrek. They used perhaps almost every classic fairytale character and brought them all together in this fairytale animation. Shrek is great for kids, and perhaps even better for adults. Its humour connects with all ages, and I believe this a sign of great writing. The producers showed audiences they weren’t a one trick pony with the sequel Shrek 2, which proved to be almost, if not as good as the first. They probably should have left it there, as Shrek the Third left viewers bitterly disappointed compared to the success of the first two. The fourth and final in the series was a good bookend to the series, but nothing could compare to the brilliance of the first 2 films in the Shrek series.

 

8. The Incredibles

Pixar got onto a pretty incredible roll with the animated films they produced, and The Incredibles was part of that roll. Pixar did everything right in this movie, as they do in most, if not all of their animations. The character’s were hilarious, the style of animation suited the film’s themes brilliantly, and they did a fantastic job with a concept that is seen a fair bit, and therefore has the potential to bomb. Well played Pixar.

 

7. Tarzan

I recently saw this film on T.V. again and it occurred to me how great a movie it is. It has great characters, an awesome soundtrack by Phil Collins and a very touching story. This film may very well be the last of the classic traditionally animated Disney films.

 

6. Monster’s Inc

Monster’s Inc is another one of those brilliantly crafted Pixar animations. It’s wonderfully paced, has some huge laughs all throughout as well as a very moving finale. In case you didn’t know, there’s currently a sequel in production for release in 2013. As a result of the brilliance of Monster’s Inc, I will definitely be the first in line to watch this film at the cinema.

 

5. Finding Nemo

I cannot remember how many times I watched Finding Nemo when it was released. Sure, I was still young, but when you’re in 6th Grade you can still determine what’s a good film, and what isn’t – and Finding Nemo was, and still is one of the greatest animations. It definitely didn’t hurt that one of the film’s main locations was none other than Sydney, Australia, but it could’ve been Antarctica and it would still come in at no less than number 5 on my top 10 animations list.

 

4. The Lion King

Disney became known for producing classic animations with musical numbers in them, and The Lion King is nothing short of being one of these classics. It really is so tough trying to sum up why I think one of my childhood classics is so good, because there’s never just one reason why. Perhaps the standout feature of this film is the opening sequence, which I believe is one of the greatest opening sequences of all animated films – and there are some darn good ones out there. When a film can claim the title of ‘the greatest opening sequence,’ you know you’re in for an awesome film.

 

3. Aladdin

Robin William’s is the master of comedy, and he truly shines in this outstanding Disney Animation, Aladdin. Have you ever wondered why animated films now feature well-known actor’s voicing characters? Well, it all began with Robin Williams. Williams’ Genie character is just one of the many brilliant aspects of Aladdin – of which there are too many to list right here, but trust me, this is an exceptional film.

 

2. Beauty and the Beast

Who can beat the idea of human’s being transformed into different objects in a castle? This film is a wonderful underdog tale, and a film that can make a character as horrid and mean as the beast so likeable by the end is genius. There are so many wonderful aspects of this film, such as the depth and diversity in the many characters, the spectacular scenery or the fantastic musical numbers. What ever it might be, this film is of the highest quality.

 

1. Toy Story 1, 2 and 3

It is impossible to separate Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 from each other on this list. They are all as good as the other, and the fact that there are 3 of them makes life even better. Without the Toy Story films, my childhood, and even my adulthood (with the release of Toy Story 3), would not be the same, just a little worse – and that’s saying a lot. They are films full of huge laughs; great passion, brilliant story lines and perhaps the greatest aspect of all are the fantastic characters. These films (or at least the first 2) had me convinced that my toys were alive, and it made me super concerned about their safety and wellbeing. It takes a tremendous film to achieve a feat like that.




Let me assure you that this has been an outrageously hard list to conjure up, perhaps the hardest one to date. Do you agree or disagree with the films I’ve included in my list? Have your say in the comments’ section below.

Top 5 Most Confusing Films

August 17, 2011

Have you ever watched a movie where at the end of it you thought to yourself, “What the heck just happened?” I feel there’s a preconception with the word ‘confusing,’ in that it is generally related to something bad. When it comes to films, I do not necessarily think this is the case, in fact, most often I believe it’s the opposite. For a film to be confusing, it generally means it leaves you thinking long after you’ve left the cinema or pressed stop on the DVD remote. In my opinion, that is a real skill.

I must, of course, distinguish between a confusing film that makes you think, and a film that’s confusing just for the sake of it, the latter often being just a producer’s excuse for a poorly made film. Regardless, I’m sure you can all think of these types of films that either frustrate you, or amaze you. Here’s my top 5.



5. A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind is a wonderful film by Ron Howard, and Russell Crowe gives a fantastic performance as a brilliant but asocial mathematician. What starts as a seemingly standard drama, takes an extremely confusing turn of events partway through the film, no doubt causing many viewers to be confused for the majority of the rest of the film. This only adds to the excellence of the film, and proves there can be twists and turns in these types of dramas too.


4. Memento

Christopher Nolan (The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception) is the king of confusion of the best kind. His films are the definition of thought provoking, and almost every film of his that I’ve watched I’ve been thinking for days, even weeks later about every different aspect of the film. Not only is Nolan the king of thought provoking films, but he is also a master of time manipulation in his movies, as shown with his first fully funded film Memento. For those who haven’t seen it; this film progresses in reverse as a result of the lead character’s memory loss. No more needs to be said.


3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

This is another film that deals with memory loss, but rather with the concept of memory loss by choice. It is a brilliantly crafted film, and features the exceptional talents of Jim Carrey and the always-brilliant Kate Winslet – but that doesn’t make it an ‘easy-to-make-sense-of’ film. Brilliant nonetheless.


2. Persona

Perhaps not as well known as my other selections, is the 1966 film, Persona. This film is about a nurse and a mute patient, and how the nurse finds that her own personality becomes submerged into the patient’s persona. To give you an example of how confusing this film is; there is a scene in which the camera turns around to briefly focus on another cameraman on a crane – and apparently this was intentional. This is an extremely confusing film.


1. Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko has become a cult classic, mostly due to the extremely confusing nature of the film. There is honestly not much to say about this film, and I credit it’s confusing plot and ending as the reason for that. I recommend watching it, but know that this film comes up at number one on my top 5 confusing films.


I’d love to hear of your most confusing films, and whether or not you thought the film benefited from its confusion, or suffered as a result of its confusion.

Let us know in the comments below.

Top 5 Scariest Films

August 7, 2011

It’s common knowledge that I am a lover of scary films. It’s like going on a scary ride, you struggle with most of the ordeal, but when its over, you know it was well worth it. Unfortunately, horror films don’t have the same affect on me as they used to. Perhaps it faded with age, or maybe I watched so many I became desensitised to them. I hope, for the benefit of my sanity, that it’s the age option. Regardless, I can specifically remember several films that had a lasting impact on me due to being scared, and here is the top five that I came up with.


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

This film is a 1920’s masterpiece, and featured perhaps the very first twist ever seen in the history of cinema. Anyone knows that black and white makes even a comedy a little frightening, so when you combine black and white with a horror-thriller, you know you’re in for a treat.

Saw

Not only is this one of my favourite films, it’s also up there as one of the scariest I’ve watched. A film with very dark themes like this one is an easy way to setup a very scary environment for the viewer. A brilliant and thrilling film – perhaps not for the faint hearted.

Cabin Fever

Before Eli Roth brought you the messed up film Hostel and it’s sequel, he made this low budget horror, which proved to be a commercial hit. Basically a virus breaks loose amongst a group of friends who take up habitat in a remote shack in the middle of a forest, and as a result they became terribly disfigured. These images take a little while to be erased from your mind at the best of times, let alone after watching it on late night television with no else to keep you company after your brothers had already bailed.

House of Wax

As a lover of scary films, I am a little offended that the fairly abysmal House of Wax made the list, let alone in 2nd place. How is this so? Well, the way in which I watched this film is unique, in that I never watched the whole film in its entirety, just the scariest parts, as that was when I was called out to the room to watch along with a group of my brother’s mates. Hence, I remember nothing but frightening scenes from this movie and this one scene that has always stuck in my mind where a bloke suffering perhaps the worst fate I’ve ever seen for a character in a movie. I won’t give it away, but let me give you 3 words that will serve as a clue – Achilles, Thread, Wax. Have mercy!

Skeleton Key

When a film’s subject is based around supernatural themes such as ‘hoodoo’ or ‘voodoo,’ you know you’re in for a pretty scary film. Skeleton Key freaked my entire family out with it’s black and white flickering flash backs with some pretty disturbing images on screen. Not only is this a bloody scary film, it’s also brilliant; hence the honour of the number 1 position.

Please, do not be shy; let me know what films have scared you the most in the comment section below, and if you’re game enough to watch the films on my list, I’ll certainly be more than happy to watch the films you find the scariest.

Top 5 Live Action Musical Films

June 14, 2011

I have a bad feeling that the era of consistently good live action musicals is potentially over. Yes we see the occasional pretty good musical these days (and I emphasise pretty) but even they are really just exceptions to what is probably a waning genre of what used to be successful films.

I think potentially due to my mother’s great interest in musicals is how I’ve developed an interest in them. She watched them for entertainment, I watched them due to fact my legs hadn’t yet been trained how to move on their own yet. And here we are, 2 decades later and I’m writing a list on my favourite live action musical films. Enjoy!


Willa Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Gene Wilder = Legend. He is this movie. Without him, I believe it wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable as it is today. His unique spin on the character of Willa Wonka made the whole film seem somewhat plausible. Even if Roald Dahl disowned this film, I will never!


Moulin Rouge!

Moulin Rouge! is one of the exceptions to the more modern film musicals that occasionally pop up. This is Baz Luhrmann’s greatest film so far, and it’s no surprise why. This film is far beyond the norm in regards to filmmaking, and the risks Luhrmann takes are extremely successful. And how about Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman and the pipes they have? Sweet.


Oliver!

This film is another childhood classic for me. An awesome adaptation of a Broadway musical, not only does this film have awesome songs, it also has a sweet storyline.

 

Mary Poppins

A child cannot go through childhood without watching this film. Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke have brilliant chemistry and put on memorable performances in this adaptation of the Mary Poppins book series by P. L. Travers. A must watch if you haven’t seen this yet.

 

West Side Story

A classic film that is not only number one on my list, but is arguably the most critically acclaimed also, winning a total of ten academy awards at the 1962 Oscars. Whilst this film is an exceptional update to the classic Romeo and Juliet storyline, the main feature is the songs and choreography. A fitting number one to this list.



Now not everyone is a fan of live-action musicals, but perhaps there are a few of you who are. Let me know your favourite musicals in the comment box below.

Top 10 Chick Flicks

June 12, 2011

Well, what do I have to say? There’s a time in every man’s life where we must release the pride, and admit to not only watching our fair share of chick flicks, but enjoying them too. Admit it fellas, we all like a good chick flick, and I emphasise good, cause we don’t just like any. But here’s my top 10 list of Chick Flicks.

10. Mean Girls

I’m not too ashamed to admit this movie thoroughly entertains me. I mean, one of the funniest ladies still working today wrote it, Tina Fey, and she sure knows how to write a decent, and entertaining chick flick.

9. A Walk to Remember

This film is the definition of chick flick. Regardless, I have found it to be a well-made film, and it therefore earns a place in the top 10.

8.Four Weddings and a Funeral

Rowan Atkinson is the standout in his few scenes in this movie, but there’s a pretty decent storyline to follow, and it’s pretty funny too.

 

7. Jerry Maguire

A great movie of its own accord – therefore making it one of the better quality films in the ‘chick flick’ genre. Tom Cruise delivers a fine performance in this film although is overshadowed by the great Cuba Gooding Jr. The quality of this film is also reflected in its numerous award nominations and wins it recevied.

 

6. The Holiday

I have a feeling that not so many of you will agree with me on this one, but believe it or not, I enjoy this film every time I watch it, and I’ve seen it quite a few times. You either love him or hate him, and I am a big fan of Jack Black’s. And I believe he performs exceptionally in this film. Not to mention one of the great actresses of our time, Kate Winslet, momentarily taking her eyes off Oscar gold to go romantic comedy for a change. Good stuff!

 

5. 10 Things I Hate About You

Heath mate, you are a legend. This was his shot to stardom, and out of all the chick flicks he could’ve chosen, he definitely chose the right one.

4. The Wedding Singer

I enjoy Adam Sandler’s romantic comedies, and The Wedding Singer is no exception. Similarly to 50 First Dates, Sandler and Drew Barrymore play off each other brilliantly, and it provides some super entertainment. This, in my books, makes for a great chick flick.

3. Love Actually

Richard Curtis wrote some great films prior to making his directorial debut in 2003 with a not so little known rom-com known as Love Actually. Often star-studded films become all about the stars, and lose the story, yet Curtis proves that this isn’t always the case with this popular chick flick.

2. The Notebook

Well, what can I say, it pulls out all the clichés in the book, but it does it in such a unique way. Ironic huh? But still, whilst this film is labelled as a chick flick, it feels so much more than that in its own right.

 

1. The Princess Bride

Not only is the film the greatest chick flick of all time, it’s actually one of my favourite films period. Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant are legendary in this film, as are the rest of the cast. The brilliant story and the music intertwined with the sword fights = mind blowing. An extremely comfortable number one in this list.

Okay, pride back in, no more talking about chick flicks. It’s your turn. What are your favourite chick flicks of all time?

Insidious Film Review by Sam

May 22, 2011

I have always struggled to distinguish between the genres of horror and thriller. When someone asks me to tell him or her if a particular film is a thriller or horror, I am never quite sure what answer to give. Well, what does the dictionary say?

The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines the word horror as a “painful feeling of loathing and fear” and thriller as “exciting or sensational,” which therefore leads me to, well not much of a conclusion.

I guess, perhaps, a film can be both ‘thriller’ and ‘horror’. To me, when I think of thriller, I think of jumpy scenes and twists, whereas horror seems like it’s more of the gory stuff.

Why am I trying to define horror and thriller films, I hear you ask? Well, quite plainly it’s because I’m trying to decide what sort of film Insidious was. Which leads me to my first film review of the year (I know, that’s horrendous it has taken this long).

Insidious Film Poster

I’d like to say I’m a follower of both James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s career, mainly because I absolutely loved their first feature film (you may have heard of it, it’s a little film called SAW), and because, like me, they’re both Aussies. So needless to say, I was anticipating Insidious quite a bit.

Let me highlight what I did and didn’t like about it.

Firstly, similarly to SAW, it had a tight budget of around $1 million, but unlike SAW, I could tell. It may have been their intention, but it just felt a like it struggled on some of the technical aspects. For example, whilst for the most part the cinematography was quite good, I just felt there was a lack of quality to the image – it just didn’t have that cinematic feel like most films do. Secondly, it felt to me as if there were a lot of missing elements, the most obvious were some sound effects. Perhaps they ran too tightly to the budget and so they had to skip out on a few elements, or maybe it was an intentional choice made by the director, but I found this to be somewhat distracting.

I thought the director; James Wan handled the content of this film brilliantly. His work on this film was extremely unique and there were so many exceptional stylistic elements that I found fascinating. Wan did succeed in achieving the ‘old-style,’ classic thriller he was going for, and I think it takes huge talent to pull off what he did.

On another note, the story could have been a bit better. Now, in saying this, I realise I should have known full well that this was going to be a supernatural film, but I felt it just went a little too far. The entire build up during the first half of this film was good, although it did at times feel like a professionally filmed version of Paranormal Activity. Additionally, as the film progressed I felt that rather than leaving things to the imagination of the audience, the filmmaker’s became too blatant with what they showed.

The highlight of the film was the comic relief that came in the form of the screenwriter Leigh Whannell and fellow Aussie actor, Angus Sampson. Whilst displaying great performances, they also provided many laughs, and I was thrilled with their inclusion in the film.

The ending was quite good also. Whilst the film didn’t do the full 180-degree twist as SAW did (which was a little disappointing that it didn’t), it did have this extra element, which gave the film a thrilling finish; so props to the writers for that.

Whilst I am aware that the filmmakers are trying to escape from the identity that SAW has given them, I believe that they should remain on the path of ‘plausible’ films, rather than supernatural thrillers. I believe they succeeded extremely well at pulling of a classic supernatural thriller film (which seems to be a tough thing to do these days), but I just feel that there’s just more scope for them outside of this supernatural genre.

Nonetheless, it was a successful supernatural thriller, but due to the fact I am not a huge fan of this genre, I give it 3 film reels out of 5.

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