The DVD Forums Top 100 Films 2007 Part 05: 60-51

So Don’t Look Now, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Apocalypse Now are already gone, and Oldboy has been listed higher than the first two of those titles! Surely this must be a sign that the apocalypse is approaching! Still, it’s great to see The Conversation make our top100!

Forrest Gump (1994, Robert Zemeckis)
"Life is like a box of chocolates", seven words to strike fear in many film critics up and down the land, became an omnipresent catchphrase when Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks teamed up to create the juggernaut hit of 1994. Hanks plays Forrest, an unintelligent Alabama boy who defies the odds and stumbles through a series of adventures that make an indelible imprint on U.S pop-culture whilst also witnessing some of the pivotal moments that re-shaped American society.

Forrest Gump's inclusion in this Top100 is sure to baffle many film buffs. After all it is a very mawkish, emotionally manipulative drama which; when you sit and think about the political tone of the story, also plays out as a rather dubious right-wing advert for the Republican Party. And yet, it continues to remain immensely popular with many film fans. I think the answer is that watching Forrest Gump is like jacking up on pure unsaturated Americana for two and a half hours. Sumptuously shot by Don Burgess and inventively directed by Zemeckis, there are enough gags and "inspirational" peaks to keep the undiscerning cinemagoer gripped. Add to that Alan Silvestri's lavish score, combined with a musical roll call of some of the most iconic tracks from the 60s & 70s, and you've got a recipe to impress most mainstream audiences. – Matt Shingleton

R2 DVD Review (Raphael Pour-Hashemi)

Scarface (1983, Brian De Palma)
Hated by most critics in 1983 but lapped up by audiences, Brian De Palma's Scarface is one of the director's least personal but most enduringly popular films. It's not hard to see why; gorgeous visual style; pounding 80s synth scoring; endlessly quotable dialogue; blood-soaked set-pieces of deliriously over the top violence; and a cast of sleazeballs so vividly depicted that you can almost smell them through the screen. De Palma and his cinematographer John A. Alonzo turn their LA-shot Miami setting into a sun-drenched vision of hell in which the only snow that falls is the kind that blocks the nasal passages.

And even more than all that, it's got Al Pacino as Tony Montana, the Cuban refugee who becomes a big-shot and loses it all because of an unfortunate penchant for powdering his nose and lusting after his sister. Pacino plays Tony with all the stops out, beginning as an insolent young turk and ending as a jaded drug fiend who can still put out a few good tricks with a machine gun. It's an absolutely iconic performance and it hardly matters that Pacino has been much better elsewhere - he embodies Tony Montana with all the force of a tsunami. – Mike Sutton

R2 20th Anniversary SE DVD Review (Mike Sutton)

Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski)
There are relatively few films which deserve the accolade of 'masterpiece', but Chinatown is one of them. It recreates pre-war Los Angeles in obsessive detail, then tells a story of common greed and lust that reveals the dark heart of the city of the Angels. Few of the participants have bettered their work in this film and it is an achievement which is just as impressive twenty five years after its original release.

It could be said that Chinatown is a modern attempt at film noir, but there are many differences. For a start, the film is shot in a lush, dreamy colour unlike the harsh contrast black and white of the classic film noirs. It takes place among the rich and powerful rather than the down-at-heel. The hero is drawn to a dangerous, beautiful woman, but she turns out to be a tragic, noble character rather than a scheming ice-maiden. However, the tone of the film - poignant, ironic, sinister - is very much that of film noir, and the character of Gittes - basically good, but deeply flawed and entering a darkness he neither understands nor expects - is a familiar figure in the genre. More than noir, however, the film seems to belong to the seventies cycle of downbeat mysteries, where good men find themselves embroiled in the evil of powerful men, or omnipotent corporations. Chinatown is an interesting companion piece to The Conversation, Night Moves and The Parallax View, all superb meditations on the evil that people do.

Everything about this film seems to have been touched by genius. The performances are note-perfect, especially from Jack Nicholson and the seventy year old John Huston. Robert Towne's witty and clever screenplay is the work of several years' meditation, and considerable collaboration with Roman Polanski. The unforgettable ending was originally to have been a more conventional "Hollywood" happy-ever-after, but Polanski insisted that the film had to end in tragedy if it was to be true to its theme. Watching the film, it is clear that he was right. Roman Polanski shows here that he is one of the finest directors in the world, at least when on form. Every shot is carefully designed to further the plot in some respect, and despite the extensive running time, there is not a single moment that could be described as filler. – Mike Sutton

R1 DVD Review (Mike Sutton) | R1 SCE DVD Review (clydefro jones) | R2 DVD Review (Tim Lambert)

The Wild Bunch (1969, Sam Peckinpah)
Four men walk through an idyllic Mexican village and into a corrupt hellhole of a town. They face almost certain death but they go anyway; not for glory, not for riches but for the love of a friend. And in going, they suddenly march straight into myth, finally becoming the legendary heroes they always wanted to be.

Many of the reasons why I love Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch are encapsulated in this climactic scene. It has a visionary quality which goes beyond filmmaking into something deeper and more fundamental. Scene after scene has a heady primal excitement, renewing and subverting Western cliches with abandon. The performers are iconic - Holden, Borgnine, Ryan, Jones, Oates, Johnson, O'Brien, Fernandez -and all of them are at their best, realising that this is no ordinary movie. Editing and cinematography are also from the top drawer. But Sam Peckinpah's direction is sheer genius. He directs like a man possessed, bubbling over with things to say and urged onwards by a primeval need to express them on film. If there's one movie which defines the sheer explosive joy of cinema for me, it's The Wild Bunch. – Mike Sutton

R1 SE DVD Review (Mike Sutton) | R2 DVD Review (Mike Sutton)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, Peter Jackson)
The dark lord Sauron and the Elven-smiths forged the Rings of Power and distributed them among the races of Middle Earth. One, the Ruling Ring that reigns over all the others, is lost, only, years later, to come into the possession of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Unable to destroy the ring, it passes to his nephew, Frodo to venture forth on a quest to throw the ring into the volcano that burns within Crack of Doom and, in doing so, destroying the evil within Mordor. But Sauron's strength is growing and he and his armies will stop at nothing to possess the ring once more.

The plot of The Lord of the Rings can be sketched out in a few lines. Reading the JRR Tolkien novel can occupy months. Even watching the shorter versions of the films can take nine hours out of your day but contrary to what is commonly written about epic films, the Lord of the Rings trilogy passes by so quickly that it might as well be coated in WD40. And, of the three, no film is as welcome as The Fellowship of the Ring, the only one of the trilogy that feels at all complete and which, due to the strength of the central story that presses on through set pieces, ensures that every minute moves swiftly. The Fellowship of the Ring is beautiful in its depiction of the environment - The Shire is an England on a warm summer's evening while Rivendell is lit up with sunlight, waterfalls and Renaissance architecture - but sinister and flickering with the shadowy Ring Wraiths in others. It positively sparkles on the screen. Knowing that two more were to come, the Oscars waited for The Return of the King to award Peter Jackson's films but this is the outstanding entry and rightly voted into this list. – Eamonn McCusker

Cinema Review (Raphael Pour-Hashemi) | R2 DVD Review (Eamonn McCusker) | R2 Special Extended Edition DVD Review (Chris Kaye)

Predator (1987, John McTiernan)
“Something is out there General, and it ain't no human.” - Dang right it aint!
John McTiernan’s certainly a popular fellow in our top 100, but it’s really no surprise. After all he’s made some of the greatest action movies of all time, least of all is this tense hybrid of action, horror and science fiction. Like Ridley Scott’s earlier Alien and indeed Cameron’s masterstroke of a sequel Aliens, Predator gets by through an effortless fusion of genres, witty writing and pioneering effects work, which forms the basis of our story involving an elite team of oily muscle men who are being systematically hunted down by an unknown alien species somewhere in the jungle.

Taking place entirely in a jungle leaves it with very few avenues to go, but McTiernan stages the action perfectly within the leafy environment, serving up superb tension, terrific action set-pieces and plenty of fun character interaction. Sure this rag-tag crew may be an entirely 2-dimensional affair, but they’re likeable and that’s all that matters, while in contrast the predator itself is a truly terrifying creation which has deservedly gone on to become an iconic cinematic monster. – Kevin Gilvear

R2 SE DVD Review (Kevin Gilvear)

Casino (1995, Martin Scorsese)
Martin Scorsese’s Casino is narrated by a man who is, to all intents and purposes, dead. Catapulted by a car bomb into a hell of neon emptiness, Ace Rothstein (De Niro), tells us his story; how he gained power and privilege and threw it all away by gambling on love, that terribly random emotion with odds that no-one can calculate. He tells his story through images so vivid they are almost tangible, but they amount to nothing but a string of regrets for moments which are hopelessly lost. Other voices intrude into Ace’s monologue and other perspectives give us a broader impression of fifteen-odd years in the life of Las Vegas, while Scorsese offers us a minutely detailed picture of the casino business. But at heart, Casino is the story of people beaten into submission by irretrievably lost time, and victims of emotions which they find impossible to control.

Casino is a long film, rambling and a little too in love with its own style to become a perfect masterpiece like Scorsese's earlier Mean Streets. But it’s packed with exhilarating filmmaking and beautiful performances. Most of all, it’s Scorsese’s greatest excursion into the idea of filmmaking as an act of memory. Ace has nothing left at the end of the film and it becomes clear that the story we have just heard is his reconstruction of a world which is irrevocably broken. – Mike Sutton

R1 DVD Review (Mike Sutton) | R1 10th Anniversary Edition DVD Review (Mike Sutton)

Planet of the Apes (1968, Franklin J. Schaffner)
The most popular SF movie of 1968, a year when everyone was making SF movies, and the one which remains most purely enjoyable was Planet of the Apes, an intelligent and exciting film which demonstrated that even the most outlandish adventures in the genre were not necessarily just for kids. It can’t be emphasised enough how brilliantly, elegantly simple the concept of apes ruling humans is. A classic reversal, it offers up so many subtexts and ironies that it’s hard to know where to start. In showing us our society – or at least, our society in relatively primitive times – backwards, the film comments on many controversial themes – social exclusion, class conflict, slavery, evolution, religion and the right of science to interfere with what is seen as the natural order.

Writing and performances are of the highest quality with Charlton Heston doing some of his best work and a fine supporting cast making the most of the extraordinary make-up by John Chambers. For all the political and social subtexts, the film works primarily as one of the best SF adventure movies ever made and if you are willing to go along with it then it's a great ride. Not forgetting, of course, that twist ending which remains one of the signature moments of SF cinema. – Mike Sutton

R1 DVD Review (Mark Davis) | R1 35th Anniversary Edition DVD Review (Mike Sutton) | R2 DVD Review (Raphael Pour-Hashemi) | R2 SE DVD Review (Richard Booth)

Dirty Harry (1971, Don Siegel)
Is Dirty Harry a fascist work as the great doyen of film critics Pauline Kael claimed it was? Well, with all due deference to Ms.Kael, no it isn't. It's a brilliantly filmed thriller from Don Siegel, one of the greatest of all B-Movie directors here working on an A-movie and making the most of his chance to turn Clint Eastwood into a national monument. Eastwood's Harry Callahan was often seen as the hero cop, the guy who would do every dirty job and let his .44 Magnum do the talking. He storms through a city of light and space, cussing the lily-livered liberals as he stomps over the rights of criminals and brings 'em in alive or dead

But wait a moment. Bear in mind one very important thing. Don Siegel was a dedicated life-long liberal whose films delighted in throwing bones to every political persuasion. So yes, you can see Harry as the hero of the right. But take another look and you see a man on the edge of sanity, trying to hold himself together as he falls apart with self-hatred and loathing of everyone and everything. Watch his twisted glee as he tortures a suspect. Look at the end and note how he and the killer look just as crazed and tormented as each other; finally mirror images, their only difference being that Harry has a badge - and he throws that away at the end. This is not a simplistic film and Clint Eastwood's is not a straightforward performance. It may well be the most complex screen acting he's ever done - something which is, sadly, not repeated in the increasingly juvenile sequels. – Mike Sutton

R2 DVD Review (Mike Sutton) | R2 Dirty Harry Collection DVD Review (Raphael Pour-Hashemi)

Once Upon a Time in America (1984, Sergio Leone)
Sergio Leone's final film, Once Upon a Time in America is an evanescent dream of cinema, an epic journey into the past which is soaked in a mixture of sepia nostalgia and crimson gore. This enormous work is, simultaneously, a powerful crime story, an elegy for American genre cinema and a study of the havoc wreaked by time upon our intentions, our hopes and our dreams. It may be one of the best films ever made, it's certainly one of the most ambitious.

The fractured narrative traces the life of David "Noodles" Aaronson, a Jewish boy growing up in the gang-ridden New York of the 1920s and 1930s. He becomes a famous gangster then loses everything in mysterious circumstances, ending up with little but a gnawing sadness. The narrative jumps about in time, building up a patchwork of memories which come together in the final scenes. But the film is not only an experiment in narrative, it's also a cracking good gangster yarn with plenty of brutal violence and a tremendous sense of action and suspense. It looks magnificent, thanks to Tonino Delli Colli, and Ennio Morricone's rich music score captures every mood to perfection. As a farewell to cinema from one of the great Italian directors, it could hardly be more fitting. – Mike Sutton

R2 SE DVD Review (Mike Sutton)

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