Panic Room (2002) - ***
I have to admit that I had somewhat low expectations of this movie. How much can you do with the premise? It seemed like it was going to be highly predictable. I was very pleasantly surprised at how well this movie was made. Director David Fincher brings us another good thriller in his usual stylistic manner. The actors turned in great performances especially Jodie Foster and Forest Whitaker...as well as the young Kristen Stewart. It all added up to a quality thriller that keeps you riveted.
Paper Moon (1973) - ***1/2
In recent years, there have been countless movies about conmen. And there have been plenty of movies about fathers in questionable occupations that are reunited with their daughters. But this movie's simplicity has them all beat. Maybe because Ryan and Tatum O'Neal are also real life father and daughter, it's easy to believe them in this movie. This was Tatum's first movie and she deservedly won the Oscar for it...the youngest person to win an Academy Award. Filmed in black & white, this film had a good look. Along with an appropriate soundtrack made it easy to believe it was back in the 1930's.
Rank: #7 in 1973
The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc) (1928) - ***1/2
I am very impressed with the excellence of this 75 year old film. It is very well directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and extremely well acted. Maria Falconetti, as Joan of Arc, was superb. This was a silent movie, but her expressions and haunting eyes speak volumes as she reacts to her inquisition. This film has holds up and is extremely powerful telling the story of the trial of Joan of Arc.
This film was thought lost as the original prints were burned in a fire. Fortunately for us, a great copy was found in a mental hospital in Norway in 1981. It was restored in 1985 and looks incredible for such an old movie. In 1988, Richard Einhorn, saw this movie and fell in love with it. He composed an excellent musical score, Voices of Light. He wrote it as a stand alone piece, but luckily we have the option of having it play along while watching the DVD. It perfectly accentuates the movie and makes it an even more powerful experience.
Rank: #1 in 1928, #1 in 1920s
Patriot Games (1992) - ***1/2
Harrison Ford is the perfect Jack Ryan.
He truly brought life to the character, having to protect his family from IRA terrorists after he pissed them off by spoiling their assassination attempt.
Rank: #3 in 1992
A Perfect World (1993) - ***
An average story made good by quality acting. Kevin Costner turned in one of his best performances. Just as his character would start to win you over because of his positive interactions with the boy, he'd do something awful and remind you that he's really a bad guy and that he'd taken the boy hostage. So even though he's a criminal, he's got a good side and obviously his bad upbringing took him down the wrong path in life. I thought TJ Lowther was also excellent as the boy and was very believable. On the other side is Clint Eastwood as the tough law man who cares more about catching his criminal than making his bosses happy. And last, but not least, Laura Dern was also very good as Clint's cohort in catching the bad guy. While Clint relies on his years of experience, she comes from the psychological side and what she's read in books. They often disagree, but there is a mutual respect between them even if they don't show it. There are enough light moments to keep this otherwise serious movie from being a turn off.
Rank: #6 Halloween Movie
The Pianist (2002) - ***1/2
Based on a true story, Roman Polanski brings us the incredible story of the survival of Wladyslaw Szpilman. Set in Warsaw, Poland during World War II, we follow the lead character through his harrowing experience. He is a Jewish Pianist who has to endure the agonizing attack and occupation of Germany on Warsaw. Most of us have heard the horror stories, but to see them with our own eyes is heart breaking. It's an incredible story of survival.
Rank: #2 in 2002, #4 in 2000s
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987) - ***
A very fun buddy movie starring Steve Martin and John Candy. The two are stuck trying to make it home in time for Thanksgiving. Everything imaginable and many things unimaginable happen to the pair on their journey. These comedians, two of the best in the 80s, have a really good chemistry in this film and I really enjoy their performances. They even manage to effectively include some serious moments. A good family fun holiday movie.
Rank: #5 Thanksgiving Movie
The Pleasure Garden (1925) - ***
The Pleasure Garden is the first film that Alfred Hitchcock directed to completion. It's a nice look into the earliest directorial thoughts and techniques of the master. Even in this earliest film, we can see signs of what would become some of his signature trademarks. I enjoyed some of the point of view shots early in the film with the blurred view of the man looking through his monocle as well as the gentleman looking through the binoculars at the show girls legs. There is also a spiral staircase in the opening of this movie. Not that it was used like the staircase in Vertigo, but it made me smile thinking of how important that would be in his later film. The story deals with the idea of infidelity.
Jill (Carmelita Geraghty) is an aspiring dancer who gets engaged to Hugh (John Stuart) who has to leave for work overseas. Patsy (Virginia Valli), who has helped Jill get her start, starts to worry about Jill keeping her promise to wait for Hugh. Jill's career is taking off and she begins to fool around with other guys. Patsy marries Levett (Miles Mander), Hugh's friend who also goes overseas to work with Hugh. Unlike Jill, Patsy remains true to her husband, thinking only of being with him. She receives a letter that her husband has taken ill and scrapes up the money to go be with her husband in his time of need. When she arrives, she finds that he has taken to drinking and island women. That's when the trouble ensues.
I enjoyed Hitch's first film. It's a little slow starting, but picks up pace as it goes along. I liked seeing Cuddles, the dog, thrown in for a little comic relief to contrast the seriousness of the film, which of course is another of Hitchcock's trademarks. There was also a nice, subtle score by Lee Erwin, that fits the film well.
Rank: #2 in 1925
Pool Sharks (1915)
This is W.C. Fields' first movie. It's an 11 minutes short silent film that tells the story of two rivals vying for the affection of a girl. After some physical comedy that we'd later see the Three Stooges use (like grabbing the person's nose with one hand and smacking it off with the other), the two decide on a game of pool to settle the score. We get an amusing display of early special effects that is used to manipulate the pool balls in a humorous fashion. And speaking of humorous fashion, Fields has a very bizarre mustache. This is a fun little silent film, featuring a young and slimmer Fields.
Rank: #1 Short Film in 1915, #1 Short Film in 1910s
The Poseidon Adventure (1972) - ***
A solid disaster movie set upon an ocean liner that capsizes on New Year's Eve. One of the better films in the disaster genre that set the pace for many lesser films to follow in it's wake. One of the things that sets this movie apart is it's all-star ensemble cast who played their characters well. This movie may make you re-think that luxury cruise you were planning.
Rank: #5 New Year's Eve Movie
Presumed Innocent (1990) - ***1/2
One of the best modern who-dunnit courtroom dramas. Harrison Ford plays a prosecuting attorney who ends up on trial for murder.
Rank: #4 in 1990
Primal Fear (1996) - ***
A good courtroom drama and Edward Norton's first film. He turns in a good performance. I'm not too big of a Richard Gere fan, but he didn't bring it down too much.
Rank: #10 in 1996
The Program (1993) - ***
It's a little hard to believe that so many of the problems associated with a big college football program could actually happen to one school in one year. That aside, I think it is a good look into what it's like into the life of college football. Though the characters are very stereotypical, I thought the actors did a fine job in their roles and made the movie believable enough to keep the story interesting.
Pulp Fiction (1994) - ****
I've seen this movie several times, but it had been a couple years before today. Not only does this movie stand the test of time for me, but I think I appreciate it even more now and have bumped it up to 4 stars, which ranks it my number one movie since Boyz N the Hood in 1991. This movies strength is it's rich characters and the dialogue they share, which are a trademark of the writer/director Quentin Tarantino. It's non-linear format and style have often since been copied, but never duplicated. Unlike some of the other 4 star movies on my list, I can't recommend this movie to everyone as it has rather some unpleasant scenes. The actors all play their characters perfectly and bring Tarantino's movie to life, making even some unbelievable situations seem like they really are happening. The soundtrack is filled with excellent music which fits the scenes well.
Rank: #1 in 1994, #2 in 1990s, 4 Star Movie
Punch-Drunk Love (2002) - **1/2
Based on the critical acclaim it has received, I had high hopes for this movie. Unfortunately, I was let down. I guess it's supposed to be sort of a romantic comedy, but I didn't think it was funny at all and the romance was a little too unbelievable for me. Emily Watson's character was the most normal character in the movie and I couldn't understand what she would see in Adam Sandler's character. He was a little too strange for my taste, and that's saying a lot for him. I guess I can take him as a funny weirdo, but not a serious one. The whole part of the movie dealing with the phone sex service gone wrong seemed lame to me. And though I liked the part about the Healthy Choice airline miles, it didn't really seem to go anywhere. I was expecting a better story from Paul Thomas Anderson. His last film, Magnolia, was one of my favorites from the 90s, but Punch-Drunk Love left me flat.