Monday, 31 December 2012

Whisper of the Heart (1995) - ★★★½

Director: Yoshifumi Kondo
Writers: Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay), Aoi Hiiragi (comic)

Whisper of the Heart is a nice film by the brilliant company Studio Ghibli, who are famous for masterpieces such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. It is a drama  with a small amount of magic at its core, which is enough to sustain a movie for an hour and a half, but unfortunately it isn't enough for this film which is almost two hours long. At times it can be boring, and at others it can capture your heart and imagination.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Separation (2011) - ★★★★★

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Writers: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Payman Maadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi

This film is intense, mentally and emotionally. At first it almost begs you to pick a side by showing each characters personalities so effectively. By the end of the film, you're left debating whether there was a right or wrong side. It's one of the most thought provoking and brilliant modern films I've seen, and surely deserved to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards.


50/50 (2010)
12 Years a Slave (2013)
3 (2010)
300 (2006)
30 Days of Night (2007)
400 Blows, The (1959)
50/50 (2011)


Zeitgeist (2007) 
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)


Y Tu Mama Tambien! (2001)



Wake in Fright (1971)
Wall.E (2008)
Weekend (2011)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
West Side Story (1961) 
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013)
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Where East is East (1929)
Whiplash (2014)
Whisper of the Heart (1995)
The White Ribbon (2009)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
The Wind (1928)
The Witches (1990)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The Woman in Black (2012)
Wrath of the Titans (2012)
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Wrestlemania 29 (2013)


Vera Drake (2004) 
A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)


Under the Hawthorn Tree
Under the Hawthorn Tree (2010)
Up the Yangtze (2007)
Upstream Color (2013)
Urban Legend (1998)


Takami-kun, Series 1: Soshite harukaze ni sasayaite
Takami-kun, Series 2: Nijiiro no garasu (2009)
The Ten Commandments (1956)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The Thing (1984) 
The Thing (2011)
This Is the End (2013)
Three (2010)
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (2012)
Titanic (1997)
Touch of Evil (1958) 
Toy Story (1995)
Transamerica (2005)


Same Time Next Year (1978)
Sanctum (2011)
The Sapphires (2012)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Searchers, The (1956)
Secret Garden, The (1993)
A Separation (2011)
A Serbian Film (2010)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
A Shock to the System (1990)
Sicko (2007)
Sideways (2004)
The Silent House (2011) 
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
A Single Man (2009)
Sliding Doors (1998)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The Social Network (2011)
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Spider Baby (1968)
Spirited Away (2001) 
Spring Breakers (2013) 
The Star Chamber (1983)
Starman (1984)
The Station Agent (2003)
Stoker (2013)
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
The Sunshine Boys (1975)
Switchblade Romance (2003)


Raging Bull (1980)
Raise the Red Lantern (1991) 
Ratatouille (2007)
Rear Window (1954)
Red Cliff: Part One (2008)
Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker (1994)
The Red Shoes (1948)
Reservoir Dogs (1992) 
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Roger & Me (1989)


Quantum of Solace (2008)


Papillon (1973)
Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
The Past (2013)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Perfect Blue (1997)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Peter Pan (1953)
Pet Sematary (1989)
Philomena (2013)
A Place in the Sun (1951)
Places In The Heart (1984)
Pocahontas (1995)
Prestige, The (2006)
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Prisoners (2013)
Prometheus (2012)
Pygmalion (1938)


Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Oldboy (2003)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Ordinary People (1980) 
The Orphanage (2007)
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)


Napoleon (1995)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Noah (2014)
No Regret (2006)
The Notebook (2004)
Now, Voyager (1942)


Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
The Maddest Story Ever Told (1968)
Make Way For Tomorrow (1937)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Man in the Lighthouse (2007)
Marjoe (1972)
Master, The (2012)
Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (2003)
The Matrix (1999)
The Meaning of Life (1983)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Milk (2008)
Monty Python's 'Meaning of Life' (1983)
Millennium Actress (2001)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Moneyball (2011)
Monsters University (2013)
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Moulin Rouge (2001)
Mud (2013)
Mulan (1998)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
My Cousin Rachel (1952)


Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Lady in a Cage (1964)
Laputa, Castle in the Sky (1986)
Latter Days (2003)
Laura (1944)
Les Misérables (2012)
The Letter (1929)
A Letter to Momo (2011)
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Life of Pi (2012)
The Lion King (1994)
The Lion in Winter (1968)
The Little Mermaid (1989)
The Lives of Others (2006)
Longhorns (2011)
A Letter to Momo (2011)
The Lorax (2012)
Lore (2012)
Lost In Translation (2003) 
Lust, Caution (2007)


Key Largo
Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012)
Key Largo (1948)
The Kid with a Bike (2011)
The King's of Summer (2013)
The King's Speech (2010)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
The Kid with a Bike


Jackie Brown!
Jack and Jill (2012)
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)


Ikiru (1952)
The Impossible (2012)
In Bruges (2008)
Inception (2010)
The Incite Mill (2010)
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Intouchables (2011) 
The Invisible War (2012) 
The Iron Lady (2011)


The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950)
Happy Together (1997)
Heartbeats (2010)
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Her (2013)
Hercules (1997)
High Noon (1952)
High Tension (2003)
The Hobbit (2012)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Holy Motors (2012)
The Host (2013) 
House at the End of the Street (2012)
House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Howards End (1992)
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Hugo (2011)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
The Hunt (2012)


The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
Ghost World (2001)
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
Gladiator (2000) 
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988) 
Gravity (2013)
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Greek Pete (2009)
Green for Danger (1946)


The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
Fallen (1998)
The Family Nest (1979)
Farewell My Concubine (1993)
Fight Club (1999) 
Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
The Fluffer (2001)
Francis Ha (2013)
From Here To Eternity (1953)


Easy Virtue (1928)
Educating Rita (1983)
El Orfanato (2007)
Elysium (2013)
Empire of Passion (1978)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) 
Evil Dead (2013)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)


Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Dark Knight Rises, The (2012)
Dark Water (Japanese Original) (2002) 
Das Boot (1981)
Days of Heaven (1978)
Death on the Nile (1978)
Divergent (2014)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
Django Unchained (2012)
Don Jon (2013)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Dresser, The (1983)
Drive (2011)


Cabaret (1972)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Captains Courageous (1937)
Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
The Cardinal (1963)
The Cell (2000)
Chun Gwong Cha Sit (1997)
The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
Chicago (2002)
Chinatown (1974)
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
City Lights (1931)
City of God (2002)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Cloud Atlas (2012)
Come and See (1985)
The Conjuring (2013)
The Corporation (2003)
The Cove (2009)
The Crimson Rivers (2000) 




Babel (2006)
Bad Grandpa (2013)
Barton Fink (1991)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Beautiful Thing (1996)
Beauty and the Beast (1991) 
Bent (1997)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Blackfish (2013)
Blades of Blood (2010)
Blithe Spirit (1945)
Blood of the Beasts (1949)
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Brave (2012)
Bride of Chucky (1998)
Bridges of Madison Country (1995)
Brief Encounter (1945) 
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Brotherhood (2009)
Bungee Jumping of Their Own (2001)


Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Hobbit (2012) - ★★★★

Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: J.R.R. Tolkien (novel), Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro (screenplay)
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Sylvester McCoy

Wow. This movie absolutely blew me away. I must admit, I had my doubts after reading many negative reviews of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit.' There were some valid points made, but nothing could stop this from being the most entertaining film of the year. I myself have read the book. I don't believe the movie does it justice. It adds way too much into the simple story, trying to turn it into another Lord of the Rings film.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Night of the Hunter (1955) - ★★★★★

Director: Charles Laughton
Writers: Davis Grubb (novel), James Agee (screenplay)
Stars: Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish, Shelley Winters, Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce

This is one of the greatest movies of all time. I can't remember the last time I've seen a nailbiting film like Night of the Hunter. All I can say is that this is a thriller that rivals any of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces, for the acting, story, cinematography and memorable dialogue are absolutely outstanding.

John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl Harper's lives are turned upside down when their father was arrested for stealing $10,000. They are the only people who know what he did with the money. A man sharing a prison cell with the father, Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), learns that the money is hidden somewhere and hatches a scheme to get it after the father is hung. He is a sadistic man with a history of crime who will do anything to get that money, even kill.

This is easily Robert Mitchum's greatest performance. I haven't seen a psycopath played this well since Anthony Perkin's in "Psycho." I will never in my life forget the monologue he uses to explain why he has the words 'love' and 'hate' tattooed on his left and right hand. "Yesiree! It's love that won! And old left hand hate is down for the count!" Somewhere in his gentle facade, you could catch glimpses of something evil behind his expression and eyes, which is a sure sign of magnificent acting.

Another perfect performance came from a star of the silent-era, the outstanding Lillian Gish. She played a woman who took in the two children and fought off the psychopathic Harry. There were some screws loose in her head too, but you could see that she was a kind-hearted woman. When Gish and Mitchum battled it out in some of the closing scenes, it was positively enthralling. In my opinion, both of them should have received the Oscars that year.

I cannot leave out praise for Billy Chapin, who played John, one of the most admirable and strongest children in movie history. He was intelligent, caring, and above all, the toughest character in the movie. Shelley Winters was also very good as the mother who gets taken in by the nice facade of Harry Powell. Her performance was powerful in its own right, showing vulnerability and madness in several scenes.

The cinematography throughout this film is some of the best I've seen in movies. I am apalled that Night of the Hunter is not as well known as a film such as Casablanca. Charles Laughton did an absolutely marvellous job piecing the film together. Some of the scenes in the film were extremely beautiful, such as the many scenes of the two children floating up the river in the boat. The music, particularly the psalms sung, were extremely haunting. In Harry Powell's mind, all of his actions were rationalized and right in the eyes of God, which shows how sometimes religion can be a very dangerous thing.

Almost everything about this movie is perfect. It is a classic gem that has been overlooked for many years. It has only recently been appreciated for the masterpiece that it is. If you're a fan of thrillers, this is the movie for you.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Blue Velvet (1986) - ★★★½

Director: David Lynch
Writers: David Lynch
Stars: Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern

"It's a strange world, isn't it," is the line that best describes Blue Velvet. What a strange imagination David Lynch must have to create the disturbing and intriguing world that is this film. It started with a severed ear in a field and turned into something much more interesting, and way more disturbing. If there is one fault that I can find with Blue Velvet, it would have to be that at times it can be too uncomfortable to watch, thus losing its entertainment factor. However, I can appreciate what is great about this film, which is just about everything.

Basically, the story is both a thriller and a mystery. When young Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) finds an ear in a field, he decides to investigate it with his love interest Sandy (Laura Dern). He is eventually led to the apartment of a mystifying singer named Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), who sings the song Blue Velvet everytime she performs. Things start getting stranger as the mystery unfurls, as gangster Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) joins the frame of the mystery. Throughout the film we see Jeffrey delve deeper into this dark world that people didn't know existed in their sleepy town.

This may sound strange, but for me the most enjoyable part of the movie was everytime the song Blue Velvet started playing. I loved Isabella's rendition of the beautiful song, and at times it heighted scenes into becoming masterpieces of cinema. We are basically seeing two worlds in this film: the world we think we know (which is suburban neighbourhood chit chat); and the darker side that hides in the shadows of the night (gangsters and people with mental issues). It's interesting because it shows that anything could be happening behind the closed doors of our neighbors, but we just don't know it.

Isabella Rossellini was the clear star of the film. She was absolutely magnificent as Dorothy, who is a deeply conflicted woman caught in the world of an insane gangster. I loved her performance, it's no surprise that this is one of the most memorable characters in movie history. The same goes for Dennis Hopper, who played one of the most insane, unique and downright disturbing gangsters I've ever seen. These two stole the film from the rest of the cast, which is to be expected with thier talent.

The crudeness of the film sets it apart from most, yet it takes away the enjoyment of watching it. Overall, that is Blue Velvet's downfall. There is nothing entertaining about seeing a woman being beaten and practically raped, even if it is to reinforce the sadistic characteristics of the 'bad guy.' I just feel like the messages could have been told in a more intelligent way. In the end, this film was rivetting and mystifying, making it highly enjoyable for the most part. I think it's a great film, but it isn't "amazing."

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Raise the Red Lantern (1991) - ★★★★★

Director: Yimou Zhang
Writers: Ni Zhen (screenplay), Su Tong (novel, "Wives and Concubines")
Stars: Li Gong, Saife He, Cuifen Cao, Lin Kong

Based on the novel "Wives and Concubines" by Su Tong, Raise the Red Lantern is an absolutely riveting film that delves into the world of four women married to the same man. This movie had me hooked from the very first scene and didn't let go. If you didn't know anything about the lives of concubines years ago in China, then this film will most likely clear up most questions. It displays the competitive, betraying, and luxurious world of four very interesting women.

When the fourth mistress (Li Gong) arrives, the lives of these women are changed forever. There is an immediate spark of competitiveness between herself and the third mistress (Saife He); a deceiving friendship with the second mistress (Cuifin Cao); and mutual disinterest with the first mistress. All of the scheming eventually leads to the true personalities of these characters being revealed, which turns out to be both shocking and fascinating.

I have to say that after seeing this film, Li Gong would have to be one of the greatest actresses I've ever seen, and my absolute favorite from Asia. Film after film she gives stunning performances with an array of different characters; her role as 'The Fourth Mistress' is no exception. Her monologue in the very first scene is such a masterpiece of acting and cinema. Throughout the film we see her fall, grow, evolve and descend. She is such a thrill to watch on screen.

The supporting actresses were terrific also, with Cuifin Cao playing a brilliantly intelligent 'Second Mistress.' Her character intrigued me greatly, for her motives, past, and cleverness was something I wished to explore further. The same goes with Saife He's 'Third Mistress,' who was a charismatic, attention seeking opera singer. One other performance I feel should not go unsung is Lin Kong's brilliant performance as the uneducated yet scheming servant to the Fourth Mistress. If anything, I felt most for her, which is an achievement that the other actresses did not evoke out of me as much.

It is important to note that the cinematography in this is breathtaking at points, then tedious in others. I can't stress enough how beautiful each shot of the mansion was, and how incredible the set and costume design was. However, there were so many establishing shots of the mansion, and the mistresses, where nothing happened. I think at least 15 minutes of the film must have been camera shots of the scenery, which to me felt unnecessary. It did manage to suck me into their world, where what happens outside of the walls is a mystery to the women and us all.

With that being said, Raise the Red Lantern is a masterpiece by Yimou Zhang. This movie invests you into the lives of these women, and provokes you to think of their motives, their past, their thoughts and their feelings. Every scene is a work of art in its way, and there is a great use of symbolism in many scenes. This film may bore some people, but for me, it was so interesting that I saw it twice in a row.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) - ★★★★★

Director: Rob Marshall
Writers: Robin Swicord (screenplay), Arthur Golden (novel)
Stars: Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh, Li Gong

I started watching this film with little knowledge on the life of a Japanese Geisha, and left in amazement at the skills they have and the lives they lead. This secret world has been opened up with this wonderful film that beautifully depicts the true story of one Japanese Geisha with blue eyes; the eyes of water.

Set in 1929, an impoverished nine-year-old girl named Chiyo is sold to a geisha house in Kyoto, where she undergoes cruel treatment from the owners and the head geisha Hatsumomo (Li Gong). Her stunning beauty attracts the vindictive jealousy of Hatsumomo, until she is taken under the wing of Hatsumomo's bitter rival, Mameha (Michelle Yeoh). Under her mentorship, Chiyo becomes the geisha named Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang), trained in all the artistic and social skills a geisha must master in order to survive in her society. As a renowned geisha she enters a society of wealth, privilege and war between herself and Hatsumomo. Not far in the future is World War II, where the world of geisha's are changed forever.

I had my reservations about the film being in the English language rather than Japanese because I felt that it would be less effective. One of the great things about Memoirs of a Geisha was that it felt authentically Japanese whilst being spoken in English. It submerges you in the world of these Geishas, where they must compete against each other in order to get customers and earn a living. It also shows the sad reality that many of these women were sold into the business and had to become Geishas to pay back the debt they owed to the people that bought them. It's a very education film that leaves you thinking.

The acting throughout the film was just marvellous, with the accents sounding authentic for the most part. Li Gong as Hatsumomo was the standout of the film, who could stare daggers into Sayuri whilst still looking kind. Ziyi Zhang was great as the young and kind main character. Michelle Yeoh commanded the attention of the audience whenever she was on-screen. She did the same in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but this time as a graceful geisha rather than a martial arts expert.

From the very first scene I was sucked into the story of Sayuri. The story is told so well through the usage of astonishingly beautiful music and locations. It's no wonder that Memoirs of a Geisha won three Academy Awards including an Oscar for cinematography. At the centre of the film is a very sweet love story that does not overbear the many stories from other moments in her life. The love story has such great importance to the movie yet is only mentioned from time to time, which made it all the more effective.

I cannot say whether the film does the book justice. All I know is that if the book is much better than this adaptation, then that must be one hell of a book!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Skyfall (2012) - ★★★★

Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
Stars: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw

Skyfall lived up to its hype and ended up being one of the best Bond films of all time. It has a similar storyline, action sequences and characters to most Bond films, but somehow one-ups them by making them even more interesting and thrilling to see. This can be attributed to Javier Bardem's masterful performance as the latest Bond villain and Judi Dench being thrown into the thick of the action. If you are a Bond fan, this film shouldn't disappoint. 

This installment of the franchise sees Bond (Daniel Craig) travel to Bangkok, Macau and The Moors in England. His latest mission is to hunt down a man called Silva (Bardem), a former 'Double-0' and master computer hacker. He seeks revenge on M (Judi Dench) and intends to destroy her and her world for reasons I will not say. Many heartstopping action scenes later, they find themselves in a showdown at The Moors which sees Kincade (Albert Finney), an old friend of Bond, join the fight in saving M and killing Silva.

One of the greatest things about this film is that it brings back the character Q, the inventor from many of the old Bond films. This Q is played by young Ben Whishaw, who I see great potential in. The origin of Miss. Moneypenny (secretary to M) is also given in this film, which I found to be the cherry on the cake.

I will say that this film lacked a little when it came to the Bond girls. The two they had in the film were really good, but none of them had much of a spark or excitement that the previous Bond women had. Another letdown for me was that the excitement was not constant throughout, with some parts being quite tedious and slow.

With that being said, I still found this film highly entertaining. Judi Dench and Javier Bardem were outstanding in this film, and for me were the best part. Daniel Craig maintained his tough guy Bond persona which I liked. The story was interesting, the music was amazing, the cinematography was fantastic and overall this is a great film.

Ikiru (1952) - ★★★★★

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni
Stars: Takashi Shimura, Shin'ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka, Minoru Chiaki

I started watching this film having no idea what to expect, and left with a smile and a tear. Ikiru is undoubtedly one of the greatest movies of all time, for its story is enough to inspire someone to do something with their life. In this way it is one of the most powerful movies ever made.

It is a story about a man (Takashi Shimura) that has been working as a bureaucrat for over 30 years and has nothing to show for it. He learns he is dying of cancer and wants to live his life as much as he can, for he has less than a year to live. He is unable to talk with his family, so instead he spends time with a novelist (Haruo Tanaka) he met in a bar who shows him some of the joys in life. This, however, leaves him unfulfilled.

He then spends time with a young woman (Shin'ichi Himori) that he worked with, who was poor but full of life and energy. The joy she felt was infectious for him and she made him happy for a while, but he still felt unfulfilled. It suddenly occurs to him that he can make a difference through his job by rallying to fix a park for children, which ends up being his greatest achievement in life through bringing much joy and beauty into many lives.

Shimura's performance was nothing short of perfection. I would go as far as to say that it is one of the greatest performances of all time. The way his character developed throughout the film was so interesting, for he went from realizing that it's not what others can do for him, it's what he can do for others. That is when he found fulfillment; Nirvana even.

There were many great aspects of the film. It was absolutely joyful in parts, such as when he did many fun activities with the young woman. There were times that this film tore at my heart, solely because of the masterful acting by Shimura. In one scene he sang a song called Life Is Brief, which affected me in ways that no other movie scene ever has.

In the end, this is a film that has heart and soul in every scene. Kurosawa has put such love and emotion into Ikiru, producing what many call one of the greatest films ever made. There are a number of different lessons that can be learnt from watching this film, which is why Ikiru is a film that everyone should see.