Category: The Greats

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Forms an Episodic Whole

Overview: Three men search for gold during the American Civil War. United Artists; 1966; Not Rated; 161 minutes. Keep it Simple: The key to greatness might be simplicity. A lot of the time the movies that fail to age well are the ones that we can’t sum up in a sentence. If a movie can be sold quickly with a tantalising premise, we’ll always watch it. For example, if someone tells you to watch a movie about the crew of a spaceship being hunted down by a monster, or a lone cop fighting terrorists in a skyscraper, or a...

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The Terminator

Overview: A humanoid, cybernetic robot goes back in time (to the year 1984) in order to win a war against humanity (in the year 2029), tasked with the single assignment of killing one young woman (Sarah Connor), the soon-to-be-mother of the future leader of the human resistance against the machines. 1984; Orion Pictures; Rated R; 107 minutes. He’ll Be Back: James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi action-blockbuster The Terminator still stands as one of the greatest genre releases of all time, standing alongside such thrilling, escapist serials as George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy, Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones franchise, and Ridley...

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PTA: Life & Liberty, Porn & Milkshakes

California seems to be both the birthplace and the final resting place of the American Dream. It is the metaphorical end of the earth, where all cross country road trips come to a halting close. It is a contradictory oasis of both natural beauty and physical artifice; a symbol of unlimited opportunity, and a destination set upon by dreamers and naïve kids, but also by those schemers and con men whose covert manipulation of the former appears seemingly endless in scope and respective ambition. Yet, once one reaches this beacon of idealism, where can one go? The sun and palms...

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The Look of Silence

Overview: Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion film to The Act of Killing follows the family of one of the victims of the genocide explored in that film. Drafthouse Films; 2015; Unrated; 103 Minutes Puzzle Pieces: Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2013 film The Act of Killing is a towering cinematic achievement, its calm demeanor belying a power and immediacy that almost demands to be labeled “important”. His follow-up, The Look of Silence, made me wonder how I ever appreciated Act of Killing alone. As its title suggests, the first film focused on killers, specifically a group of former thugs in Indonesia whose genocide of...

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The Godfather Part II

Overview:  The sequel to the original classic chronicles the descent of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and the ascent of his father, Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro). Paramount Pictures; 1974; Rated R; 200 Minutes. Calling The Godfather Part II one of the Greats is a bit of a moot point at this stage. I have yet to find anyone who wouldn’t agree that it’s brilliant, and if I did find someone who hated it, I would throw hot tea in his eyes. Why Is It So Good? Hard to say. Watching The Godfather Part II is like eating a sumptuous 12 course...

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Groundhog Day: What Do You Do With Forever?

Movies are about more than they are about. Obsessive fans and critics have applied several complex equations in attempt to determine how many days Phil Connors was stuck reliving February 2nd in the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day.  Educated estimates range from nine years (Wolf Gnards) to 34 years (WhatCulture.com). Danny Rubin’s initial script had Phil stuck in a single day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for 10,000 years. Had this detail not been changed, Groundhog Day would have been an unwatchable movie for some. Apeirophobia is the fear of infinity. For those who deal with it, this fear can manifest as...

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The Graduate

Overview: When a young man returns home after graduating college, he find himself avoiding the pressures and expectations of his family by embarking on an affair with an older woman only to later fall in love with her daughter.  1967, distributed by Embassy Films, rated PG, 105 minutes. Here’s To You:  Everyone knows the song, even those who haven’t seen Mike Nichols’ iconic coming of age story are familiar with its premise.  The late Mike Nichols put himself, and his star, Dustin Hoffman, on the map with a film that can feel both like a perfect snapshot reflection of its...

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The Dark Knight

Overview: Batman makes the biggest mistake of his career when he decides to take down the mob instead of The Joker. 2008; Warner Bros Pictures; PG-13; 152 minutes. Where Do We Begin? Batman Begins ends with Lieutenant Gordon anticipating the escalation of Gotham’s war on crime as Batman prepares for the ultimate thankless job. After that film ended, I wondered what sort of adventures Batman would have as he took on his most iconic villain (The card at the end of the previous film was the right type of fan service). But The Dark Knight is so much more...

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21 Grams

Overview: In Alejandro González Iñárritu’s second feature, three lives intertwine following a tragic car accident. Focus Features; 2003; Rated R; 124 Minutes. How much does life weigh? In his debut feature, Amores Perros (2000), Iñárritu explored the cruelty of love, the obliteration of hopes, dreams and ambitions. 21 Grams forms the second part of his ‘death trilogy’ and focuses on the corporeal separation and finality of physical death. Iñárritu gives us a dying heart patient, a grieving wife and a tormented lawbreaker, intertwining their lives so tightly they can hardly breathe. “They say we all lose 21 grams at the...

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), 40th Anniversary

Editor’s Note:  You can win a copy of the 40th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-Ray and several other great horror films in our #hAElloween contest here.  Overview: Tobe Hooper’s low-budget horror masterpiece about five road-tripping friends whose trip is interrupted by an encounter with a chainsaw wielding killer. Bryanston Pictures; 1974; Rated R; 83 Minutes Elements of Successful Horror: Start with a distinct killer.  Gunnar Hansen’s Leatherface is certainly that.  In forty years since his inception, sequels and reboots have etched the maniac’s likeness into the Mount Rushmore of movie killers (taking company with Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Jason...

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Shaun of the Dead

In 2004, I was 14 years old and had idea of what my own interests were. My family never took trips to the theater, and I didn’t have the means to go on my own, but shortly after Christmas, somehow, my brother convinced our dad to bring home a DVD. That’s the first time I remember watching Shaun of the Dead and the first time I connected with a film on a substantial level. I distinctly remember after the film had ended, it was as if someone had finally laid the foundation for my personality. I watched the film on repeat for the next few months. Like any teenager, I still wrestled with other facets of my identity, but one quality-of-self was a fixture from then on:  I loved film. And since Shaun of the Dead was the first film to teach me that I had that sort of passion within, it’s not just my favorite movie, but one of my favorite parts of myself. While layered and intelligent, Shaun of the Dead is not a film that demands heavy analysis or the application of advanced film theory (though I’m sure one could manage if one were so inclined). It’s the perfect film for a teenager to carry into adulthood without having to step away from that attachment.  There’s enough to enjoy here in straightforward homage and patiently crafted...

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Taxi Driver

Overview: An unhinged Vietnam veteran takes a job driving a cab at night through the streets of New York City, where he grows more violent and unstable as a result of the perceived human scum he encounters. Columbia Pictures; 1976; Rated R; 113 Minutes. God’s Lonely Man: This film is, at its core, about alienation. Vietnam established a dangerous reverberation in our culture that was reflected through much of 1970s cinema, in which violence was both the very thing that fractured the psyches of young American men, and yet, violence was also a means of trying to restore what had...

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Raiders of the Lost Ark

Overview: Archaeologist Indiana Jones races Nazis to discover the Ark of the Covenant. 1981; Lucasfilm/Paramount; Rated PG/PG-13; 115 Minutes Is There Such a Thing as A Perfect Movie? The short answer is no. The slightly less short answer is yes, and that movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Raiders has been a staple in the Fallon household for as long as I can remember. In terms of building cinematic obsession, for me, it’s up there with the Star Wars Trilogy (the first movie I saw on the cinema was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which my parents...

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Withnail And I

Overview: It’s 1969 and two, rarely sober, out of work actors take a holiday from their squalid Camden Town flat to a no less dilapidated cottage in Penrith, courtesy of eccentric Uncle Monty. 1987; Handmade Films; Rated 15; 107 minutes. Joining the cult: A smoke infused living room, dingy wallpaper, a sink overflowing with ‘matter’ and eggs deep frying in an inch of fat. Marwood (Paul McGann), the ‘I’ of the film’s title, looks up from a salacious newspaper, his face pale and eyes red with devastation from the night before. With this disgusting mise-en-scene, there’s little wonder that...

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The Exorcist

The following review of The Exorcist, written by Sean Fallon, first appeared on the wonderful film site Writer Loves Movies… An Homage To Our Love For Cinema, where film critic Natalie Stendall is hosting guest contributors in a search to determine why we love the movies we love.   — I love procedural movies. Anything that takes you through the nitty-gritty of a murder investigation or a well-planned heist is like catnip to me. A big reason why I love The Exorcist is because it isn’t the film that we think it is. People who have never watched it assume it’s a gory, jumpy, fast-paced horror film about a possessed girl doing crazy things for two hours. All of the marketing and all of the iconic images of the film focus upon Regan’s transformation from sweet little girl into foul-mouthed monster. If someone quotes a line from The Exorcist to you it will probably come from Regan (or it will simply be “The power of Christ compels you!”). In reality the movie is actually very slow and almost boring at times as it painstakingly shows, on one side, the agony of a mother helplessly watching her daughter succumb to some kind of illness/madness and on the other, the torments of a priest experiencing a crisis of faith following the death of his mother. The Exorcist was directed by William...

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