The DVD Forums Top 100 Films 2007 Part 02: 90-81

10 titles down and we’re already seeing the inclusion of contemporary films that brings in to question the filmic recollection of the good members of our sister site. Don’t get me wrong, I love Shaun of the Dead and Infernal Affairs as much as the next guy, but among the 100 greatest films of all time? Their inclusion has certainly caused me to raise a curious eyebrow – and I’m sure I’m not alone there. Let’s see if the next 10 gives us reason to raise the other one:

The Rock (1996, Michael Bay)
The Rock may be the closest Michael Bay has come to making a genuinely decent film. Certainly, it bears all his usual hallmarks, from the gung-ho, macho "men and guns" posturing to the hyperkinetic, at times incomprehensible, editing; and it's difficult to shake off the impression that the script (the work of more than half a dozen writers) was pieced together with sticky-tape, but in spite of its flaws, what shines through is a silly but thoroughly enjoyable summer blockbuster, augmented by impressive performances by Sean Connery and Ed Harris, the latter's character being given surprising depth for an action movie villain.

It's not rocket science, but it's put together in such a way as to get as much enjoyment as possible out of every situation in which the unlikely duo of Mason (Connery) and Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) find themselves in, pitting them against increasingly ludicrous obstacles and exploiting the opportunities for black humour (when Goodspeed asks Mason to do something about a dead enemy whose foot is still twitching, Mason blithely responds "Like what? Kill him again?"). The movie barrels from one outrageous action spectacle to another, and, while the plot really serves no purpose other than to justify the next explosion, enough work has gone into it to ensure that the key personalities are all suitably interesting. As a sort of geriatric James Bond, Connery gets all the best moments, delivering some deliciously barbed one-liners and proving that, even in old age, he still has what it takes to be an action hero, while Cage's dopey hang-dog expression is perfectly suited to the clumsy "lab rat" Goodspeed, who spends much of the film's duration staring wide-eyed at the carnage unfolding around him, before transforming into something of an unlikely hero for the climax. The pair share some excellent scenes together, with Connery's increasing exasperation at Cage's incompetence providing some of the best laughs.

With nary a dull moment in its two hours-plus running time, The Rock is what an action movie should be: loud, adrenaline-fuelled and with somewhat more than the bare essentials in terms of plotting. While there are better examples of the genre out there, few are this damned entertaining. - Michael Mackenzie

France Blu-ray Review (Michael Mackenzie)

Almost Famous (2000, Cameron Crowe)
Coming-of-age drama? Autobiography? Love story? Gloriously excessive tale of hard rock in the seventies? Family drama? Almost Famous is all of those things, a film in which one-time teenage rock writer Cameron Crowe brings a reprise of his own life to the screen with wife (and Heart guitarist) Nancy Wilson providing a note-perfect soundtrack. Crowe pays homage to mentor Lester Bangs, seventies hard rock and his own mother and scours rock's back pages for stories of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd. To this he adds the nagging voice of his mother, who warns William and his sister not to drift into an all-too-predictable teenage rebellion as well as a heartwarming romance between young William Miller and self-styled band-aide Penny Lane. Funny, charming and with as much strut as Heart's Magic Man, Almost Famous has but one's too short! Then, in a masterstroke that could only come with DVD, Crowe released the Bootleg Edition on DVD, taking an already great film and making it a near-perfect romantic comedy set in a world of red snappers, Les Pauls and the hammer of the gods, even getting his mother in for the commentary. - Eamonn McCusker

R1 DVD Review (Alexander Larman) | R1 Untitled Bootleg Cut DVD Review (Raphael Pour-Hashemi)

Fargo (1996, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
Although the Coen Brothers had amassed an army of fans and critical praise by the mid 90s, they had always been criminally ignored by the American Academy. That all changed in 1996 when their frosty hit crime thriller Fargo earned seven nominations and brought home two of those little gold statues. Using the barren snow strewn landscapes of North Dakota and Minnesota as its backdrop, Fargo tells the story of Jerry Lundegaard (William H Macy), a browbeaten used car salesman whose dodgy dealings have placed him in serious debt. Desperate to extort money out of his rich, tight-fisted father-in-law, Jerry hires two hardened criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife and hold her to ransom. His plan goes smoothly, until the bungling crime duo have a run in with a local highwaymen that escalates into a triple homicide. Investigating the murders is pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), whose simple easy going demeanour hides a fiercely keen detective mind. Fargo contains all the elements that make a Coen Brothers film so special: An intelligent, ironic narrative, quirky supporting characters, operatic violence, and wonderfully idiomatic dialogue. Add to that the unassuming charm of Marge Gunderson and the understated, naturalistic approach to the story, and you have one of the Coen Brothers’ most accessible films. It’s certainly one of their most popular! - Matt Shingleton

R2 SE DVD Review (Raphael Pour-Hashemi) | R2 SE DVD Review (Richard Booth)

Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)
Whoever’s job it is at Studio Ghibli to talk Hayao Miyazaki out of retirement did us all a great favour with the curtain call that was Spirited Away. A surprisingly dark fairytale of a young girl lost with her parents, and in peril in a world of witches, monsters and giant babies. Ghibli's trademark dual commitment to drama and animation means that it wasn't only the kids who wanted to see this film. Viewers of any age can appreciate its mature sensibility and revel in the escapism as they marvel at the magnificent creatures on show. The comparison with Walt Disney is clearly easy to make but the important thing to say with Miyazaki is that we are lucky to have had him, and Spirited Away confirmed this to everyone who went to see it. The most popular film of perhaps the greatest animator who ever lived. - John White

Cinema Review (Bex) | R2Jpn DVD Review (Dave Foster)

In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar Wai)
An exquisite gem of a film, In the Mood for Love was indeed crafted as if it were a precious stone, the director Wong Kar-wai constantly reshooting and cutting away superfluous scenes until he found the emotional heart of the story in its truest form. There is very little that is left in the way of drama, the story revolving rather around the attraction that develops between a man and a woman who, married to other partners, are unable to express their true feelings for each other. As the title implicitly implies, In the Mood for Love locates itself entirely within a mood, revelling in all the emotions of love – attraction, flirtation, anticipation and ultimately loss, disappointment and heartbreak. The evocative music score and Christopher Doyle’s deeply saturated colour cinematography further externalize the intangible and inexpressible, the 1960s Hong Kong locations taking on a heightened, illusory quality that perfectly matches the emotional content. Nothing less than a masterpiece. - Noel Megahey

R0HK Review (Michael Brooke) | R2Fr DVD Review (Dave Foster)

Trainspotting (1996, Danny Boyle)
The two biggest British hits immediately prior to Trainspotting were Four Weddings and A Funeral and Sense and Sensibility, Tory films if ever you saw them. A lot of the hype surrounding Danny Boyle's film came from the fact it was released when it was. Just as the country prepared to throw off the shackles of eighteen years of grey staid Conservatism with the youthful New Labour, so Trainspotting promised to be the vanguard of a brash new vibrant era of British filmmaking. The two were linked in the minds of the media who conjured up the “Cool Britannia” tag, but whereas the sheen soon fell from the new government, Trainspotting really did revitalise the industry, making the names of both its producing team and stars. And, looked back on now, it still holds up as a bravura, breathtaking piece of filmmaking, at once moving, thought-provoking, iconic (was there any Halls of Residence in the country that did not have that poster hung on its walls?) and also far funnier than Four Weddings. Its stars went on to become, among other things, a Jedi Knight and a Bond villain, but to this day the most exciting move any of them made in their careers was to choose Trainspotting. - James Gray

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Steven Spielberg)
The shark was sinking, as was the ship that was making do for the Orca. So too, it seemed, was the production. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind is Spielberg remembering his making of Jaws and finding a voice for his belief in himself through Roy Neary. Neary, an ordinary joe sees what he can only describe as an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) while on an call one night. Neary falls into an obsession over the UFO, dreaming about the Devil's Tower in Wyoming, a place he's never visited. He takes to visiting fantasists and conspiracy theorists. His sons sit at the dinner table weeping as Neary sculpts the Devil's Tower out of mashed potato. Then comes the revelation. An alien ship that lands at the Devil's Tower that is a cathedral of light, of technology and of sound. It is beautiful. It is inspiring. With a H-E-L-L-O spelled out in music, we make first contact with a benign alien species. So vindicated is Neary that it is the audience that could weep for him now. - Eamonn McCusker

R2 CE DVD Review (Raphael Pour-Hashemi) | UK 30th Anniversary UE Blu-ray Review (Dave Foster)

Schindler's List (1993, Steven Spielberg)
Rather unfortunately, but perhaps inevitably considering the sensitive nature of its subject matter, Schindler’s List is one of those films that is regarded as a sacred text and any criticism of it on any level is regarded as practically blasphemy. It has to be said however the consensus is not unanimous that Spielberg’s approach, with its glossy cinematography, emotional manipulation, his red-coat stylistic trickery and even the focus of the film being centred on a non-Jewish saviour, best serves the truth of the horror of the Nazi concentration camps. Make no mistake however, watching Schindler’s List remains a truly visceral experience and should leave no viewer unmoved. With Spielberg’s high-profile involvement, the film was able to reach a larger audience than many better and more sobering documentaries about the Holocaust, and reignite awareness of the event that, with fewer survivors every year remaining to testify to its horror, was in danger of being forgotten. Having watched it once you may not ever feel the need to watch it again, but for all its flaws and manipulation, Schindler’s List ensures that you don’t ever forget the depths to which humanity once descended. - Noel Megahey

R2 DVD Review (Mark Boydell)

Magnolia (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson)
Paul Thomas Anderson burst onto the scene with Boogie Nights in 1997; not his first film, but certainly the one which made his reputation as a potential Altman for the Millennium. The appearance of Magnolia two years later seemed to confirm this. It's the kind of film that no-one was supposed to be making any more; a sprawling, character-driven talk/think-piece that delights in long takes, avant-garde techniques and moments of outright surrealism. It's all about the screwed-up lives of a small group of people - the problems range from incest to terminal illness through alcoholism and just plain loneliness - and how this group becomes connected over the course of a hectic day in Los Angeles. Sometimes the connections are obvious but occasionally it's a case of blink-and-you'll-miss-it. The film asks us to consider whether there is such a thing as coincidence or whether everything in the world is somehow linked together. Such metaphysical concerns were surprisingly big in the Hollywood of 1999 - thanks to The Matrix and Fight Club - and the film was remarkably successful at the box office, aided perhaps by the large cast headed by Tom Cruise but more memorably including Philip Baker Hall, Jason Robards - who has a death-bed monologue which is almost perversely long - Melora Walters and the remarkable John C. Reilly. Some moments from the film have become legendary, none more so than the extraordinarily daring decision to include a song - Wise Up by Aimee Mann - which is sung, one line at a time, by each character in turn. - Mike Sutton

R1 DVD Review (Steve Wilkinson)

Battle Royale (2000, Kinji Fukasaku)
The joy of a Kinji Fukasaku film is the breakneck speed and the often wanton need to cram action and drama into the running time. Other directors are more tasteful but few are as effective with hammering home a central idea when they are on-song. And in Battle Royale, Fukasaku is seriously on-song. His world is one where adults have blamed the youth for all of their problems and visit retribution on one badly behaved class of schoolchildren every year in a bloody game of dog eat dog. Fukasaku made this survivalist point in many of his films as he was motivated by the post war anger against an establishment that sent young men off to die. Nonetheless in Battle Royale he was at his most successful in making that conflict real outside of the usual setting of soldiers or gangsters. With a trademark turn from Takeshi Kitano as the sick teacher avenging himself against his class, Fukasaku’s tale is stripped of civilisation and filled with rebellion. Grandiose, bloody, and shocking, Battle Royale cracks along at breakneck pace for two hours barely drawing breath between its allegories and bullets. A truly remarkable, polemic action movie. - John White

Cinema Review (Mark Boydell) | R3HK DVD Review (Colin Polonowski)

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