Friday, September 30, 2011

104 - The City of Lost Children (1995)

The City of Lost Children tells the story of a scientist, Krank, who steals children's dreams in order to slow his accelerated ageing process.

One, a dim-witted circus entertainer and former fisherman teams up with Miette, an abandoned orphan thief after One's adopted brother goes missing.

Their search takes them all over the streets, and occasionally under them as they discover that there is more to the Cyclops than meets the eye.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

103 - City Of God (2002)

City of God tells the story of one man's attempt to escape from the notorious streets of the City of God.

As Rocket grows up he is fortunate to be the brother of a gang member, for he surely would have been mugged and robbed otherwise. After his brother's gang is disbanded after a rushed heist, it becomes apparant that the balance of power is being shifted to a younger 'hood', Li'l Zé.

Forward ten years and Li'l Zé and his best friend - the coolest 'hood' in the City - Benny take over various drug outlets and begin a regime that is relatively peaceful because most of the residents live in fear. Meanwhile, Rocket is growing up relatively innocent but is frustrated at the lack of opportunities open to him as he struggles to fulfil his ambition to become a photographer.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

102 - City Lights (1931)

A tramp tries to become a suitor for a blind girl whose family is in financial trouble.

After the tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets a blind flower girl, he instantly falls in love. As he goes to spend the night sleeping rough at the docks he saves a drunken millionaire from committing suicide.

The millionaire thanks the tramp by offering him use of the car, and the tramp is able to become the young girl's benefactor. When the millionaire recovers from his drunkenness he denies all knowledge of the tramp forcing the tramp to find other means to keep his new love's family financially afloat.

Home Cinema Paradise

Recently I was lucky enough to travel to Hong Kong, which involved more than a few forays into their famous markets. On one of my trips I ran into a small technology stall selling everything from lava lamps to remote control helicopters and strobe lighting to speakers bursting with bass. What caught my eye though, was a mini-HD projector. My mind was awash with the possibilities of having up to 200" Blu-ray movies blasting against my wall as my windows begin to explode with the sheer number of decibels being produced by an equally impressive sound system.

The start of a home cinema dream

Projector bought and transported back halfway across the world, and the transition of my world from 22" flat screen to a seemingly infinite resolution began. I was initially preached to by the small Asian salesman on how the projector had its own in-built stereo speakers, but as my 2.1 speakers were moved into the auxiliary socket an immediate improvement on the audio output was produced.

The overloading of a poor wall socket didn't end there; after the Blu-ray player was duly added to the single HDMI input the Xbox was next to be transported away from the viewing wall - followed by the Homeplug Broadband adapter to keep my machine up to date. Alas, I ran into my first problem when there was simply nowhere to plug the Xbox in - on either the wall or projector! As I dug out an old iPod dock as well my imagination ran wild with plugging that into the speakers as well - two inputs for one output. I needed some wires.

Ahh, wires.

After a quick £42 trip to Amazon, the next few days brought a surge of parcels through the door. First up, the Belkin 8-socket surge protection remote control socket. Three thoughts on why I chose this: I refuse to blow up my house, I'm too lazy to turn it off at night and eight sockets run out fast on a home cinema. Following quickly behind this was a couple of extra HDMI cables along with a 3-way smart auto-switch adapter. For those of you who haven't tried this it's very effective. The auto-switching is so efficient in fact that technophobes may be advised to try this rather than using up all the HDMI sockets on their television sets.

Finally, a bit of an experiment but at £0.80 for a headphone splitter it was worth seeing if it could work the other way around. Speakers into one female jack, a male-male adapter for the iPod dock into the other and the final male connection for the projector and it turns out that yes, two inputs can output on the same speakers... and yes, simultaneously for mixing if you so desire.

It's a start, anyway.

The result? A 75" projected screen with full HD compatibility. Halo and Call of Duty look better than ever and the slightly underpowered 2.1 speakers cope well with the immersive sound. Blu-ray movies are equally impressive with Battle: LA's CGI looking immense. My only niggle is the tiny projector's over-imposing fan noise but this is easily overlooked during the higher volume moments in any game, movie or song.

From this experience of clobbering together bits of tech found around my house I can conclude that my hunger for creating a better home cinema is bigger than ever before. Imagine 7.1 speakers, a completely blacked-out room and a 200" projection - in full 3D, of course. First on the shopping list? A new wallet. This one has taken too much of a hammering already.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

101 - Citizen Kane (1941)

As Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) breathes his last breath he drops a snowglobe while uttering his final word - "rosebud".

After a newspaper editor witnesses a standard obituary reel of the dead businessman's life he orders one of his journalists to investigate exactly what Kane meant with his dying word.

The journalist digs deep into Kane's life revealing a man who had it all and threw it all away.

Friday, September 16, 2011

AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (2007)

69 remaining
The American Film Institute produced a follow-up list to their 1998 list of films from the United States of America with the greatest social impact. There are a number of changes due to more films being released.
  1. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
  2. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
  3. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
  4. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
  5. Singin' in the Rain (Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, 1952)
  6. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming, George Cukor (uncredited), Sam Wood (uncredited), 1939)
  7. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
  8. Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
  9. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
  10. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
  11. ✓ see review ★★★★★ City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
  12. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
  13. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
  14. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
  15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  16. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
  17. ✓ see review ★★★★ The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
  18. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The General (Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman, 1927)
  19. On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)
  20. It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
  21. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
  22. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
  23. ✓ see review ★★★★ The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 1940)
  24. ✓ see review ★★★★★ E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
  25. To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962)
  26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)
  27. ✓ see review ★★★★★ High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)
  28. ✓ see review ★★★★★ All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
  29. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
  30. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
  31. The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)
  32. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
  33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975)
  34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1937)
  35. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
  36. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The Bridge On The River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)
  37. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
  38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948)
  39. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
  40. The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965)
  41. King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)
  42. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Bonnie And Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)
  43. Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969)
  44. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)
  45. Shane (George Stevens, 1953)
  46. It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934)
  47. A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951)
  48. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
  49. Intolerance (D. W. Griffith, 1916)
  50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)
  51. West Side Story (Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise, 1961)
  52. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
  53. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
  54. MASH (Robert Altman, 1970)
  55. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
  56. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
  57. Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976)
  58. ✓ see review ★★★★ The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
  59. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
  60. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
  61. Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941)
  62. American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973)
  63. Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972)
  64. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
  65. The African Queen (John Huston, 1951)
  66. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
  67. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols, 1966)
  68. Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992)
  69. Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, 1982)
  70. ✓ see review ★★★★ A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
  71. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)
  72. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
  73. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)
  74. The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
  75. In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967)
  76. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
  77. ✓ see review ★★★★ All The President's Men (Alan J. Pakula, 1976)
  78. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
  79. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
  80. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
  81. Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960)
  82. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F. W. Murnau, 1927)
  83. Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)
  84. Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969)
  85. A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, 1935)
  86. Platoon (Oliver Stone, 1986)
  87. 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957)
  88. ✓ see review ★★★★ Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
  89. The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999)
  90. Swing Time (George Stevens, 1936)
  91. Sophie's Choice (Alan J. Pakula, 1982)
  92. ✓ see review ★★★★ GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
  93. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971)
  94. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
  95. The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)
  96. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
  97. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
  98. Yankee Doodle Dandy (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
  99. Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)
  100. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Films 101 - 110

The next ten films in the Empire 500 5-star challenge are:
  1. Citizen Kane (1941)
  2. City Lights (1931)
  3. City Of God (2002)
  4. The City Of Lost Children (1995)
  5. Cleo From 5 To 7 (1962)
  6. Clerks (1994)
  7. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  8. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
  9. Cloverfield (2008)
  10. Come And See (1985)
Finally, as I've got around to reviewing Cinema Paradiso I can say goodbye to the first 100 films from the Empire 500 5-star films. A mixture of work, holiday, reading (Bourne Trilogy) and exercise have hampered my progress in the last couple of months leading to a distinct lack of effort to continue at the pace from the first 98 films!

As for the last ten films (which stretch back until the beginning of July!), with the exception of Chimes at Midnight, they were a thoroughly enjoyable bunch with Cinema Paradiso being the stand-out film.

The next 10 contain the film that often tops many people's all-time best movie list - Citizen Kane. I'm also looking forward to City Of God which I've seen in part on Film4 before I began the challenge and I always welcome another watch of one of my favourite experimental films - Cloverfield.

So, until next time!

100 - Cinema Paradiso (1988)

After receiving a phone call about the death of his former mentor from his mother who he hasn't seen in 30-years, Salvatore 'Totò' Di Vita looks back at his life growing up in a small Italian village.

As a child, Totò is obsessed with his local cinema, 'Cinema Paradiso', and often watches the censorship by the church of anything sexual in film - to the extent of kissing. After losing his father in the war, he forms a bond with Alfredo, the projectionist, who reluctantly allows Totò to go behind the scenes where he finds the censored film.

Totò is exposed to the dangers of early film including its flammability after his sister inadvertently sets alight Totò's secret stash of censored film. This danger is revealed on a grander scale as Alfredo is unable to prevent the cinema burning down a short while later, changing both his and Totò's lives for good.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

099 - Chinatown (1974)

After private investigator Jake 'JJ' Gittes is signed up to investigate an infidelity he finds that corruption leads deeper as he is transported into an underworld of corruption that will do anything to prevent him finding out the truth.

Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is tricked into revealing a marital affair by an impersonator of the wife of a high profile figure in the largest Los Angeles water supply company. When the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) comes forward to reveal herself, Mr. Mulwray is soon found dead, drowned in the very water that he supplies.

Gittes decides to continue his investigation in order to repair his damaged reputation and stumbles across decades-old secrets that threaten to destroy the whole city... before the final showdown in a murky Chinatown.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

098 - Chimes At Midnight (1965)

Chimes At Midnight is an amalgamation of four of Shakespeare's plays - Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, and Richard III - from the perspective of Falstaff, an otherwise minor character in the plays.

In Shakespeare's plays, Sir John Falstaff (Orson Welles) is Prince Hal's - later Henry V - friend and drinking buddy. The story focuses on the differing role that Falstaff has as he begins to find himself out of favour as Prince Hal's responsibilities start to become greater.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

100 Films, 10,000 Page Views

Yep, that's a lot of films.
After over a whole month out working, having a holiday and watching so many other films, it's been a long time coming - but finally I plucked up the courage to watch what I thought would be "some rubbish subtitled Italian film" - Cinema Paradiso. Boy was I wrong.

Enough about that though for the review will reveal more. Over the past 7 months I have committed to watching the 500 Empire 5-star rated movies, and I've finally reached that milestone first hundred (or a meagre 20% for those statisticians amongst you).

To me, the first 10 was going to be challenge enough and 100 is far more than I thought I'd ever get to, but thanks to this blog and the support - and welcome criticism in some reviews - of a network of other movie-goers out there I have finally achieved something. Well, part of something anyway - at this rate I'm not due to finish the 500 until 2013, sigh.

I never set out to preach about which films were best in some fanatical eyes, only to make a point to prove to myself that I could do it. With over 10,000 total page views now though, it seems like I might have to get a little more preachy. Sorry.

Here's to the next hundred... and let's hope the next one doesn't take a month.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Shutter Island (2010)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia

It's 1954 and Detective Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient from an island prison housing the criminally insane.

As Daniels begins to spot potential leads through the hospital employees, he is introduced to the mysterious Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) who refuses to reveal staff records in order to aid with the investigation.

Daniels continues to be haunted by his own flashbacks to a moment in the Second World War where he is infiltrating a Prisoner of War camp and punishing the guards and is constantly guided by his dead wife during the investigation.

He begins to wonder whether they are all interlinked and whether there is something far more sinister going on.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
The socially inept 18-year-olds Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Jay (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison) have just escaped the clutches of Mr Gilbert (Greg Davies) and managed to finish their second year of sixth form with the dignities - almost - intact.

Following on from the finale of the TV Series, Simon finally has the girl of his dreams, Carli D'Amato (Emily Head), but when she dumps him he decides to ask the advice of his friends who promptly explain that the only solution would be a lads holiday to the Greek resort of Malia.

Despite Simon's pining for Carli, the group find their perfect girls and resort to their bad traditional attempts to seduce them, including, but not limited to, ultra-modern dancing, skinny dipping and drowning 9-year-old children.

Sanctum (2011)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia

Sanctum tells the story of a flash storm that threatens the life of a group of cave divers after causing severe flooding.

Josh McGuire (Rhys Wakefield), son of renowned cave-diver Frank (Richard Roxburgh), reluctantly leads a bank-roller and his girlfriend down to the bottom of a cave where his father eagerly waits to show his latest findings in an area called Devil's Restriction. Upon entering the deep camp disaster strikes as Frank is blamed for being unable to save colleague Judes (Allison Cratchley) from drowning which opens up the fragile relationship with his son.

A storm brings further tragedy as the cave begins to flood leaving the expedition with little option but to swim down into uncharted caves after finding their way back is blocked by torrential waves.