Monday, May 19, 2008

Dust Forms Words 100 Must-See Movies: 71 to 80

71: Om Shanti Om (2007)
It's hard to be more Bollywood than Om Shanti Om. Not only is it the highest grossing Hindi film of all time, but it features no less than 32 A-list Bollywood stars together in one movie. Om Shanti Om is like two movies back to back. The first act is a romantic tragedy in which Shahrukh Khan plays a bumblingly loveable would-be actor who falls for a glamorous Bollywood diva. The second act sees Khan reincarnated as a wealthy but brilliant playboy who is driven by visions of his past life to wreak revenge upon an evil film producer.

The narrative is littered with Bollywood parodies and in-jokes which are likely to be mostly lost on Western audiences, but the humour and enthusiasm shine through regardless. More importantly, the plot is solid and exceedingly well told, built around a showstopping performance from Khan. Each and every musical number is catchy, dynamic and perfectly choreographed, both complementing and advancing the plot. If you're new to Bollywood, then Om Shanti Om is what the fuss is all about, and if you somehow get a chance to see it on the big screen then you should quietly murder your own family in order to do so.

72: The Ring (2002)
People regularly try and tell me that the Japanese Ringu is better than the Western remake. With all due respect, I just don't know how they could possibly think that. It has everything that worked in the original, with the added benefits of Gore Verbinski's stunning direction and Naomi Watts' incredible perfomance in the lead role.

The movie relates the tale of a cursed video that sentences its viewers to seven days of horror followed by death. Despite its horror origins, this is a beautiful film. It's filled with stark and powerful images, not the least of which is the footage comprising the cursed video itself. Other memorable shots include the "burning tree", and the death of the mad horse. Not only is this an eye-wideningly well made film, but it single-handedly reshaped Western horror for the 21st century by exposing audiences to the bleak and inexplicable Japanese explorations of the genre.

73: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Often seen as "the British answer to Pulp Fiction", Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is an ensemble-cast crime film written and directed by Guy Ritchie, a man probably now more famous for being married to Madonna.

Along with Snatch, also by Ritchie, Lock Stock is responsible for triggering a short-lived revival of the British crime sub-genre. Featuring great performances from Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham, Lock Stock is an enjoyable tightly paced ride through London's underworld driven mostly by clever dialogue and a labrynthine plot.

74: Ghostbusters (1984)
Sci-fi comedy isn't always something that works particularly well, but one of the reasons people keep trying is just how entertaining it can be when done right. Ghostbusters is the gold standard in the genre; a fantastic cast, strong writing, unique ideas and a solid plot come together to form a timelessly enjoyable film.

Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis play three parapsychology professors who go into business as "ghost busters", claiming to detect and trap "spectral entities" with the aid of their custom technology. Initially regarded as a laughing stock, the three become uniquely placed to save reality when New York is threatened by the invasion of the Sumerian god Gozer. If the three main Ghostbusters aren't enough to sell you on the film, then try memorable supporting performances by Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver, or fantastic set pieces including the capture of the green ghost Slimer or the battle against the giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

75: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Western buddy film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid follows two turn-of-the-century bandits through the tail end of their career. After a failed bank robbery, Butch (played by Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) become the target of a determined manhunt by lawman Joe Lefours; the film follows them as they take to the road, leaving a string of robberies in their wake.

Much like The Sting, the core of the movie is the on-screen chemistry of Newman and Redford, and the light-hearted and frequently funny dialogue between them. Although based on real events, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is unapologetic in romanticising its subject matter, which ultimately results in its memorable and often-parodied final scene.

76: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
This is the greatest jailbreak movie of all time. Tim Robbins stars as a man unjustly sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in Shawshank Prison. Morgan Freeman plays a fellow lifer with a heart of gold, and doubles as the film's narrator. The story tells of Robbins' heartbreaking experiences in prison and his decades-in-the-making escape plan.

This is the signature performance of both Freeman and Robbins; their ability to command the audience's attention is the fuel that keeps the film moving. It's based on a Stephen King novella, and directed by Frank Darabont, a man who's made his career out of adapting King to the big screen (other Darabont films include The Green Mile and The Mist). The Shawshank Redemption is cleverly and sensitively made, and hugely powerful and moving.

77: Paprika (2006)
Where Perfect Blue was a plot-focused murder mystery, Paprika is a film which wilfully ignores story and structure in order to present a beautifully psychedelic visual odyssey. Like Perfect Blue, Paprika comes from director Satoshi Kon. The narrative of Paprika focuses on a new psychiatric therapy that treats patients by allowing the therapist to directly enter the patient's dreams. However, soon after its development signs are revealed that patients' dreams are merging into a single nightmare, into which is sucked protagonist Atsuko Chiba and her dream-state alter-ego Paprika.

The movie looks and sounds astonishing, particularly the opening sequences. At times it feels more like an extended music video than a story. Despite all that, the movie remains satisfying from beginning to end and is a generally uplifting experience.

78: 12 Monkeys (1995)
Terry Gilliam's time-travelling end-of-the-world story 12 Monkeys has the unfortunate curse of being middle child in a decade of exemplary science fiction. While not forgotten by audiences, its unique charm often suffers for being released so close to classics like Dark City, Cube and The Matrix. In a world ravaged by the aftermath of a terrible plague, Bruce Willis plays a prisoner who "volunteers" to take part in a dangerous experiment: to travel back in time to 1996 and identify the source of the plague that destroyed mankind. However, when he goes off course and lands in 1990 instead of 1996, he is committed to a psychiatric institution where he begins to doubt that the future he came from ever really existed.

A great performance by Brad Pitt makes up for a decidedly lackluster one by Madeleine Stowe. Paul Buckmaster's catchy off-beat theme music helps set the tone of the movie as it examines questions of sanity, memory and predestination.

79: The Princess Bride (1987)
Rob Reiner's comedic fairytale The Princess Bride ranks next to (or just below) The Labyrinth as the finest fantasy movie of the 80s, and until the release of The Lord of the Rings had a strong claim as the finest fantasy ever made. Telling an unlikely tale of romance, kidnapping and revenge, it succeeded in winning over audiences of all ages, despite returning only a modest profit at the box office.

The outrageous narrative is carried by the charisma of all of the leads, with Robert Wright Penn in the title role as Buttercup, Cary Elwes as her lost love Westley, and supporting parts from Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant and Billy Crystal. The excellent script has led to The Princess Bride being a regularly-quoted pop-culture icon.

80: Rocky (1976)
If a court were ever to put Sylvester Stallone's career on trial, Rocky would be the star witness for the defence. Stallone plays a third-rate amateur boxer who gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance when he is picked to fight in a promotional match against the heavweight boxing champion.

As well as starring, Stallone is also the man behind the script, and its lack of polish works to its advantage in making the characters seem like real, fallible people. That feeling of flawed humanity is what makes the film exceptional, continuing into the complex figure of Rocky's trainer Micky, and the movie's ending, which is far from typical Hollywood fare. Regardless of the experiences you may have had with other Stallone films, Rocky is something special.


Phrancq said...

Om Shanti Om was rather good. Still, Shah Rukh Kahn is no Vijay. No Vijay at all...

Greg Tannahill said...

You say a true thing, my friend.

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