This page tracks the number of times I have enjoyed re-watching my movies with brief reviews which will not be as helpful if you have never seen the movies. This is a work in progress that when complete will hopefully show an interlinked web of people, places and themes that these movies share.
Wyatt Earp (1994) IMDb
This review refers to the 2-DVD extended edition of Wyatt Earp, a movie made with good intentions but which suffers from bad editing. At the beginning of the second DVD, there is a scene where the wives of the other Earp brothers try to convince Wyatt not to move to Tombstone; they like Dodge City. I cringe every time I watch this scene because it is so badly edited. This is a shame because Wyatt Earp is a beautifully shot movie with beautiful costumes and tells a great story. What is an even bigger shame is that the editor, Carol Littleton edited E.T. and many other Lawrence Kasdan (director) movies. Walter Murch said that whenever a movie doesn't feel quite right, and you can't quite figure out what's wrong, it's the always editing.
The Wild Bunch (1969) IMDb
AFI Rank: 80
Contemporary audiences watching Sam Pekinpah's, The Wild Bunch (which has a similar plot-line to Heat) for the first time, will not think anything of the cinematic techniques used in this movie. But, in 1969, the depiction of slow-motion violence was a first as was the realism of blood spurting from wounds. The movie is also notable for the most number of edits in a given period of time. I'm certain that the violence in this movie was an inspiration to some of Tarantino's cinematic style.
Uncle Buck (1989) IMDb
With one exception— Amy Madigan (who was otherwise perfect in Field of Dreams)— Uncle Buck is perfectly cast, especially John Candy as the irresponsible bachelor who reedems himself by the end of this light comedy. Everytime I watch this movie, I look forward to one scene in the Principal's office which always makes me laugh out loud. All the scenes with the two kids are also quite endearing.
From a production standpoint, the remarkable thing about this movie is that all the interiors were shot in sets built in a converted high-school gym. The sets are so perfectly dressed and lit that the transition from the outdoors locations to the indoor sets is seamless.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) IMDb
AFI Rank: 22The greatest science-fiction motion picture ever made. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel, The Sentinel, by Arthur C. Clarke, this movie has the most famous jump-cut in cinematic history. There are no special features on this DVD, but several books published on this subject are recommended reading for a behind-the-scenes view: 2001: Filming the Future and The Making of Kubrick's 2001. HAL's Legacy shows how the movie has inspired and changed the future. (c.f. my shrine). You get a better understanding of the movie if you read the novel. The actor that plays General Carnaby in Where Eagles Dare has a small role in this movie. A remake of 2001 would be futile because Kubrick's vision is so original, so pure, that any attempt would be derivative.
Apocalypse Now, Redux (1979) IMDbThe greatest aerial helicopter battle sequence ever filmed. The added scenes at the French plantation add a political flavour to the conflict and fore-shadow the Vietnam endgame. Ambiguous endings are preferable than "definite" endings it is better to leave the (intelligent) audience guessing (c.f. French Connection and the Director's Cut of Blade Runner). The first war movie to use rock-and-roll music as a backdrop (a guess). Robert Duvall also stars in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Conversation.
Barry Lyndon (1975) IMDbA box-office disappointment, Barry Lyndon, based on the novel by Thackeray, won 4 Oscars. It was shot entirely using natural light; the candlelight scene required new lenses and film to be designed by Kodak specifically for this movie. This movie followed 2001 and Kubrick repeats his innovation of using classical recordings for the soundtrack (Oscar winner), this time using music from the Baroque period. Nominated for Best Picture alongside Jaws and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (the winner, on my to-buy list). Ryan O'Neal also stars in A Bridge Too Far.
Blade Runner (1982) IMDbThe 1991 Director's Cut replaces the narrative explanation and the happy ending with a deeper question is Deckard a Replicant? Much of the conceptualization has come true 20 years later, however, the use of the 7 digit telephone number is a minor oversight. Morgan Paull, the actor that plays the bladerunner that is killed at the outset of the movie plays Patton's ADC who is killed at the outset of Patton.
A Bridge Too Far (1977) IMDbEnsemble cast war movie about the greatest airborne assault in military history based on the book by Cornelius Ryan; similar in scope to The Longest Day (Normandy invasion of France, also based on another Ryan book). What is remarkable is the portrayal of the generals who were sent into battle (esp. Roy Urquhart (a military consultant to the film), played by Sean Connery) cooly handling the utter disaster unfolding around them. Gene Hackman also stars in The Conversation; Michael Caine in The Eagle has Landed and Zulu.
Casablanca (1942) IMDb
AFI Rank: 2The movie with the most often quoted lines and the most famous final line in movie history. The 2-dvd special edition is excellent and is packed with extras: a commentary by Roger Ebert (not as excellent as his Citizen Kane commentary) and another commentary by a film historian (which I found boring and could not finish); the Looney Tunes parody, Carrotblanca; a couple of remakes (radio and television), and a gallery of original memos exchanged about the production, between the producers and the directors. Oscar for Best Picture, 1943. All the attempts at remaking this movie, in the hopes of capturing the magic, were abject failures.
Chinatown (1974) IMDb
AFI Rank: 19Chinatown, The Conversation and Godfather II (winner) were three of the five nominees in 1974 for Best Picture. A 1930's detective thriller with Jack Nicholson in the starring role directed by Roman Polanski. The DVD has excellent production values and has retrospective interviews with the director, producer and writer.
Citizen Kane (1941) IMDb
AFI Rank: 1Just buy this DVD if you already haven't. The movie is a masterpiece and the dvd has the best commentary ever (by Roger Ebert).
The Conversation (1974) IMDbHow did he bug the boat? How did they bug his house? Did he find the bug? Did the filter-circuit change the nuance in the last statement? This movie asks more questions than answers them. Coppola had two movie nominated in the same year: The Conversation and Godfather II; either could have deservedly won for Best Picture. I would have to watch Godfather II again to decide. (The Godfather trilogy is available as a 4 DVD boxed set to-buy). Excellent production value on the DVD; commentary by Coppola (have not yet heard it).
The Eagle Has Landed (1976) IMDbBased on the eponymous novel by Jack Higgins, this movie is about an, "operation that could make the charge of the Light Brigade look like a sensible military exercise." This is a very entertaining movie that is marred by poor production qualities on the DVD: no subtitles, poor sound and a poor video transfer. The movie had excellent production values note the attention to detail in the drapery behind Himmler; note also one continuity error (blood on the uniform lapel) just after the dead bodies have been moved from the MTB to the truck. Directed by John Sturges, this movie has a similar pacing to A Bridge Too Far it begins with documentary footage and narration (as does The Right Stuff) and the mission begins after 26 minutes. It is unfortunate that Michael Caine and Anthony Quayle speak perfect U.K. English throughout the movie while the rest of the Germans speak accented English. Directed by John Sturges who did the Great Escape and The Magnificient Seven.
Finding Nemo (2003)An average computer-animated Pixar movie. Randy Newman who usually does the music for Pixar is replaced by the light-weight Thomas Newman (a relative?) Excellent under-water CGI. The first appearance of Bruce the Shark was a surprise! I'm not sure James L. Brooks was the best casting choice. Innovative commentary with the writers and director where behind-the-scenes footage is inter-cut with the movie at appropriate spots. Original aspect-ration and full-screen versions of the movie with plenty of forgettable extras on 2 DVDs.
Goodfellas (1990) IMDb
Directed by Martin Scorsese based on the book "Wiseguys". Excellent use of pop-tunes and narration taken verbatim from the book to enhance the experience. The Copacabana shot is one continuous steadicam shot accompanied by a song by the Ronettes. Excellent. Directory commentary would have been a bonus but Scorsese, like Speilberg, does no commentary on any of his movies. Double-sided DVD. The credits have a similar feel to those of Glengarry Glenross. This movie begins en media res-- in the middle. By some odd coincidence I decided to watch this movie late one night and after it finished at 2AM, I Googled for "Lufthansa+heist+jfk" and realized that it was the 35th anniversary of the robbery that very day (the day this review was written).
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) IMDbThe greatest Western movie with the greatest Western movie soundtrack ever written. (I don't understand the fuss some people make about "Unforgiven"; I don't even think it deserved an Oscar.) This is the final movie in the Sergio Leone "trilogy" that begin with "Fistful of Dollars" and "For a Few Dollars More". This movie is almost identical in structure to the latter movie. It follows the lives of three cowboys amidst the large backdrop of the U.S. Civil War. The screenplay is one of Quentin Tarantino's favourites (believe it or not, I have never seen a Quentin Tarantino film (2004 update: I have seen Kill Bill Vol. 1 and I love it!). Details to watch for: gallows in the POW camp; there is no dialog for the first 10:36 of the movie; in the opening scene, a coyote mimics the scream from the theme-song.
Heat (1995) IMDbThis is a re-make of the TV movie L.A. Takedown [IMDb] with a different ending. The interesting thing about this movie is that the two stars are rarely (if ever) seen on the screen together. In the scenes they are together, the actor playing De Niro is clearly a stand-in when seen from the back. The only time they may be on-screen together is when De Niro's character is pulled-over by Pacino's character. There are some great camera moves in this movie including the night helicopter footage and the crane-shot with Charlize Théron on the balcony tracking down to Kilmer's car, late in the film. Similar themes in The Wild Bunch. De Niro also stars in Ronin and nearly all Scorses pictures including Taxi Driver and Goodfellas. Pacino is also in Glengarry GlenRoss.
Henry V (1989) IMDbKenneth Branagh's directorial debut of Shakespeare's anti-war play. Excellent acting and production design with a present-day Chorus represented by Derek Jacobi. Since the movie is an adaptation of the play, the text is abriged and it is difficult to follow along with the text. Having English subtitles would have helped the viewer follow along with the text and would have made the spotty sound-recording tolerable. I am eagerly waiting for Branagh's "Hamlet", set in Czarist Russia, to be released on DVD.
Where Eagles Dare (1968) IMDbThis is another formula book/screenplay by Alistar Maclean (who also wrote Guns Of Navarone, which has identical plot lines). This is my favourite Maclean movie and quite possibly my most favourite war movie (despite the unbelievably preposterous plot which is riddled with plot holes). The Maclean formula is mostly: impregnable fortress which requires a commando team to be sent in; one of the team is not what he/she seems; rendezvous with female operatives already in place; betrayal in a public place; barricade a door before the getaway; mountain climbing; escape via water; good guys win-- amazingly, all these contrivances work perfectly to produce an entertaining movie. The winter landscape lends a lot of charm to this war movie unlike those that typically take place in hot deserts, humid jungles or small towns. Directed by Brian Hutton who later went on to direct Kelly's Heroes, also with Clint Eastwood. The music was also quite good-- a semi-memorable theme and a nice fugue in another theme. Extra features include a making-of featurette. Yakima Canutt, the famous stuntman was second unit director. See also the fan site.