More Films to See Before You Die: #94 Skyfall

20140717-151848-55128072.jpg

Skyfall (2012)

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem

Synopsis: When one MI6 hard disc with the identities of NATO’s agents is stolen, James Bond (Daniel Craig) chases the agent through Istanbul with the support of the local field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). M (Judi Dench) orders Eve to shoot the agent on the top of a train, but she misses the target and hits 007 that falls in a river and is presumed dead. When M’s computer is hacked, the MI6 building is blown-up and the agency moves to an ancient bunker that belonged to Churchill. Then, five MI6 agents have their identities exposed and three of them are executed and M has her authority and procedure questioned by her superior Gareth Mallory. Out of the blue, 007 reappears from the shadows and hunts down the responsible for the theft of the HD. He reaches Severine and uses her to find the responsible for the actions, the former top-notch MI6 agent named Silva (Javier Bardem), who had been betrayed by M and now is seeking out revenge against the veteran leader of the MI6.

Trivia: The passport used by Daniel Craig was not created by the props department, but an authentic document as issued by the British Home Office, according to producer Michael G. Wilson. Everything from the paper, print, photograph and jacket are entirely genuine on James Bond’s ‘official passport’. However, as a security measure, the passport is encoded with information that would instantly flag its improper use in any official transaction. The actual details shown on Bond’s passport in the film are as follows: Name = John Adam Bryce; Date of Birth = 16th December 1968; Sex = Male; Place of Birth = London; Date of Issue = 22nd June 2012; and Expiry Date = 22nd August 2029.

Why Should You Watch This? I really like what they have done with this newest incarnation of Bond. The series has a very real life feel to it making it less silly than the earlier Roger Moore movies and closer to the Sean Connery ones. Daniel Craig does an excellent Job in his third run as agent 007 and Javier Bardem does very well with another villain role. More on par with Casino Royale than Quantum of Solace in terms of quality with Sam Mendes doing a great job directing. Looking forward to the next Bond film next year.

Advertisements

More Films to See Before You Die: #95 Carlito’s Way

carlitos_way

Carlito’s Way (1993)

Director: Brian DePalma

Cast: Al Pacino, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo and Sean Penn

Synopsis: Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) is freed after serving 5 years of a 30 year sentence on a legal technicality exploited by his lawyer, Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn). Upon release from prison, Carlito decides to return to his old neighborhood of Spanish Harlem where, he reconnects with old associates. Carlito vows to be through with crime but is persuaded to accompany his cousin Guajiro to a drug deal at a bar. Guajiro is betrayed and killed and Carlito is forced to shoot his way out, he takes Guajiro’s money and uses it to buy into a nightclub. Carlito is approached by a young and ambitious gangster Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo) about a business partnership to which he quickly declines. He also reconnects with his old girlfriend Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) who he left behind when he went to prison. Carlito plans to save money in order to retire in the Caribbean with Gail. All of his plans are threatened when his lawyer gets in hot water with a powerful mobster client and asks for Carlito’s assistance.

Trivia: The exterior of the hospital where Carlito visits his bedridden attorney is the same one where Vito Corleone is taken in The Godfather (1972), also starring Al Pacino. Director Brian De Palma wanted to shoot the climax of the film at the World Trade Center in New York but it was the target of a bombing, and he had to shoot it in “another railway station again.” (De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) also featured a scene at a railway station.)

Why Should You Watch This?: Brian DePalma has made some great films my personal favourites are his mob films. My favourite being the Untouchables but what makes Carlito’s Way so special is how different it is from Scarface. Sean Penn is wonderfully slimey as Carlito’s attorney and Penelope Ann Miller has great chemistry with Pacino who anchors the film with yet another solid performance.

More Films to See Before You Die: #96 The Dark Crystal

th

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Directors: Jim Henson & Frank Oz

Cast: Jim Henson , Kathryn Mullen and Frank Oz

Synopsis: Another planet, another time. 1000 years ago the Dark Crystal was damaged by one of the Urskeks and an age of chaos began. Now the time of the great conjunction of the three suns is near. If the crystal is not healed now the control of the evil Skekses will last forever. Jen the last of the Gelflings nearly exterminated by monsters controlled by the Skekses starts his dangerous journey to find the missing shard of the crystal. While on his journey Jen meets another Gelfling, Kira who agrees to help Jen find the shard and heal the crystal. Hot on their trail is a banished skekses named Chamberlain who wishes to help the Gelflings in their quest. After Kira is kidnapped by the Skekses guards the Garthim Jen must find the courage to save both her and his world.

Trivia: Pre-production work revolved around Brian Froud’s designs without a finished script. When Froud originally presented Jim Henson with concept drawings for the crystal, Henson seemed totally perplexed. When Froud asked why, Henson said he had no idea what the designs were for. As it turned out, Froud had misunderstood Henson during early production conversations – Henson intended the film to be called “The Dark Chrysalis,” referring to the Skekses dominance over the world. Henson, however, loved the concept art and integrated the idea of the crystal into the storyline.

Why Should You Watch This?: I love Jim Henson’s work on the Muppet show and movies with the uniquely happy world he created. His and Frank Oz work on The Dark Crystal is such a refreshing change of form its hard to believe this is the same production team. The world they have created here is very dark and mysterious and will appeal to people of all ages. This is a good companion piece to The Labyrinth but unlike that film The Dark Crystal doesn’t have a single human appear in it a rarity for a live action film. This movie is a real treat to watch and come highly recommended.

More Films to See Before You Die: #97 Beverly Hills Cop

beverly-hills-cop

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Director: Martin Brest

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, John Berkoff and Ronny Cox

Synopsis: Detroit cop Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is delighted when he receives a surprise visit from his best friend Mikey Tandino, who lives in California. Not long after Mikey arrives in Detroit, he is killed, right in front of Axel’s apartment. Axel quickly takes a couple weeks vacation and heads to Beverly Hills, California. Axel visits his friend Jenny Summers (Lisa Eilbacher), who works in an art gallery and got Mikey the job. Jenny points Axel in the direction of her boss Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). When Axel starts to question Maitland about Mikey he is quickly ejected from the building and arrested. While in the Police Department he meets Taggart and Rosewood ( John Ashton and Judge Reinhold) who question Foley about his interest in Maitland. Their superior Lt. Bogomil (Ronny Cox) informs Foley that he has spoken to his superiors in Detroit and if he is investigating Mikey’s murder than he can find a new job. Now Foley must avoid Taggart and Rosewood as well as solve Mikey’s murder making this his toughest assignment yet.

Trivia: The movie was written for Sylvester Stallone, with the character of Michael Tandino being his brother, and Jenny Summers being his love interest. Two weeks before filming was to start, Stallone was suddenly out and Eddie Murphy was in, prompting massive rewrites. Bronson Pinchot got the accent and mannerisms for his character Serge from a crew member he worked with on a earlier project. Like his character, that crew member always said, “Don’t be stupid.”

Why Should You Watch This?: This is a hilarious movie with Eddie Murphy at the top of his game. The performance that Murphy gives in this film is proof of how talented an actor he can be given the right script. John Ashton and Judge Reinhold are wonderful in their supporting roles as Taggart and Rosewood. I enjoyed the second one wasn’t too impressed with the third but am still looking forward to the fourth one in 2016. Check this one out if you haven’t already it’s a lot of fun.

More Films to See Before You Die: #98 Legend

nYUm4fwzZt8Wh10IxGP02GCaWTb

Legend (1985)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, David Bennent and Tim Curry

Synopsis: The Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) is planning to end his isolation in the shadows by destroying the guardians of the Power of Light. Darkness instructs his goblin minions to kill the unicorns and bring him their horns so can be free to roam the world after it becomes an eternal night of cold darkness. Meanwhile, Princess Lili (Mia Sara) goes alone to the forest to meet her friend Jack (Tom Cruise), a forest dweller who teaches her the languages of animals before showing her the unicorns who have arrived to the forest. Against Jack’s pleas, Lili approaches the stallion before the unicorn is hit by a poisoned dart from Blix’s blowpipe. The unicorns bolt, and Lili makes light of Jack’s fears and sets him a challenge by throwing her ring into a pond, declaring she will marry whoever finds it. But as the stallion dies from the poison with the goblins taking his horn, the pond freezes over with Lili running off in terror before Jack manages to break free. Taking refuge in a frozen cottage, Lily hides when the goblins arrive and overhears how she “led the beasts to bay” as she follows them while vowing to make it right. The unicorn mare and Lily are kidnapped by Darkness in an attempt to make her his wife and banish the Power of Light forever. Now it is up to Jack and some new found friends led by the elf Gump (David Bennent) to free Lily and save the world from forever being engulfed by Darkness.

Trivia: Filming stopped when the “007” soundstage burned to the ground. The remainder of the film was shot on hastily-constructed sets. The famous scene in which Princess Lily is taken to see and touches the Unicorns by Jack was actually filmed within the gardens of Pinewood Studos as at the time of filming, the vast Forest set had been destroyed by a fire.

Why Should You Watch This?: This is a wonderful film in the vein of the Grimm fairytales that are so popular and still being adapted to this day. What makes Legend so special is that this an original fairytale created from the mind of Ridley Scott. Like Blade Runner another Scott film the production was very troubled and it took them 3 years to complete the film which started production in 1982. Also like Blade Runner, the Director’s Cut is in my opinion superior to the Theatrical Cut. What makes Legend so special are amazing looking sets and the incredible job done with prosthetics which in a time before CGI make it that much more impressive. Tim Curry’s scenery chewing performance alone is worth the price of admission.

More Films to See Before You Die: #99 They Live

they-live-blu-ray2

They Live (1988)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster and Peter Jason

Synopsis: An unemployed drifter Nada (Roddy Piper) arrives in Los Angeles and finds a job at a construction site. While working construction he befriends fellow worker Frank (Keith David) who is a conformist and invites Nada to camp in the homeless settlement where he lives. Nada observes that there are odd disruptions on the television from a pirate transmission of a man that belongs to an underground movement and notes a strange moving of people in the church on the other side of the settlement. Nada sneaks around the church and finds a box with pairs of sunglasses. When he wears the glasses, he discovers that the human race is being dominated and subdued by subliminal messages and several persons are aliens indeed. Further, the elites are corroborating with the invaders, receiving financial support in return. Nada forces Frank to wear the sunglasses and together they seek other humans aware of the situation to organize a resistance against the powerful aliens from Andromeda and their associates.

Trivia: The fight between Nada and Frank was only supposed to last 20 seconds, but Piper and David decided to fight it out for real, only faking the hits to the face and groin. They rehearsed the fight for three weeks. Carpenter was so impressed he kept the 5 minute and 20 second scene intact.

Why Should You Watch This?: I am a huge fan of John Carpenter’s and own a number of his films. This particular entry into his canon is especially fun to watch. Roddy Piper gives a really solid performance as the rugged lead character and is convincing enough to make you wonder why the wrestler never had a more successful film career. This film also contains one of the funnier macho man one liners – “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum” which was ad-libbed by Roddy Piper. This is a very fun movie to watch and recommend it to anyone that like movies with an underlying conspiracy theory in their films.

More Films to See Before You Die: #100 Desperado

Desperado (1995)

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi and Joachim de Almeida

Synopsis: A man (Steve Buscemi) walks into a bar in Mexico and begins telling the bartender of how he witnessed a massacre at another bar by a Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) with a guitar case full of guns. The bartender doesn’t become interested in the mans story until he hears that the man was looking for Bucho (Joachim de Almeida) a local gangster and drug lord who is responsible for the death of his lover. It isn’t long before El Mariachi visits the bar looking for Bucho and all hell breaks loose. El is wounded in the battle and takes refuge with Carolina (Salma Hayek) the local bookstore owner. When El finds out that Carolina works as a courier for Bucho he uses this as a way to get closer to Bucho. This leads to a final confrontation with Bucho and a person from El’s past that he never would have expected.

Trivia: This film cost approximately $7 million to make, 1000 times the amount of money Rodriguez spent to make it’s predecessor El Mariachi (1992). For most of the killings they used a gun that essentially fired fake blood at the characters instead of squibs. This unfortunately created too realistic of an effect resulting in them having to edit out much of the deaths for the censors.

Why Should You Watch This?: I have always enjoyed Robert Rodriguez earlier films but mostly the ones that don’t cater to children. His adult oriented films are as entertaining and engaging as any other film makers. He is one of the few directors that can make style over substance work to his advantage. The “El Mariachi” trilogy is arguably his greatest accomplishment as a film maker and proves that you don’t need $100 million to make a really good looking film. Also this movie officially introduced Antonio Banderas as a viable and bankable movie star as well as Salma Hayek.

Films to See Before You Die: #1 The Godfather

The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton

Synopsis: In late summer 1945, guests are gathered for the wedding reception of Don Vito Corleone’s (Marlon Brando) daughter Connie (Talia Shire) and Carlo Rizzi. Don Corleone, the head of the Corleone Mafia family, is known to friends and associates as “Godfather.” He and Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), the Corleone family lawyer, are hearing requests for favors because, according to tradition, “no Sicilian can refuse a request on his daughter’s wedding day.” Meanwhile, the Don’s youngest son Michael (Al Pacino), a decorated Marine hero returning from World War II service, arrives at the wedding and tells his girlfriend Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) anecdotes about his family, informing her about his father’s criminal life. Michael reassures her that he is different from his family and doesn’t plan to join them in their criminal dealings. Also among the guests at the celebration is the famous singer Johnny Fontane, Corleone’s godson, who has come from Hollywood to petition Vito’s help in landing a movie role that will revitalize his flagging career. Jack Woltz , the head of the studio, denies Fontane the part which is a character much like Johnny himself, and which will make him an even bigger star, but Don Corleone explains to Johnny: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” After Tom returns from settling business with Woltz the family meets with Virgil Sollozzo, who is backed by the rival Tattaglia family. Sollozzo is trying to get the Corleone family into the drug trade so that he can use the Don’s connections in politics to traffic more drugs. The Don refuses him on the basis that if his politician friends knew he was dealing in drugs they would no longer help him. A few days later while waiting for his son Fredo to get the car the Don is gunned down in the street by Tattaglia’s men but somehow survives. Sollozzo in an attempt to frighten the family into doing what he wants kidnaps Tom and tells him that he has to broker a deal with the new first in command Vito’s hothead boy Sonny (James Caan) who is liable to do something stupid before talks can take place. A few days later Michael goes to the hospital to visit his father in the evening and finds that his security detail has been pulled off and in fear of an impending hit moves Vito into another room and stands guard outside the hospital. The police arrive there shortly with the Chief of Police trying to arrest Michael and when he questions whether he is a dirty cop is punched in the face by the Chief and has his jaw broke. Sonny is furious about this and now wants Sollozzo dead but with the Chief of Police as his personal bodyguard it makes it nearly impossible. Michael offers to kill them both because he is about to meet with Sollozzo and is the last person they would suspect. After Michael kills them both he is exiled to Corleone, Sicily where his father was originally from until the whole thing blows over. One of the many casualties of the mob wars is Sonny who is gunned down in broad daylight.  After the Don has recovered he brokers a deal with the other heads of the five families that establishes peace so that Michael can come home. With Michael back from Italy Vito passes on the torch to him and makes him head of the family and he stays on as consigliere so that he can teach Michael how to properly run the family. It isn’t until the Don dies that Michael makes a power play eliminating all competition and establishing a new Godfather in the Corleone family.

Trivia: The presence of oranges in the Godfather trilogy indicates that a death-related event will soon occur (even though production designer Dean Tavoularis claimed the oranges were simply used to brighten up the darkly shot film). In chronological order of such events:

  • Hagen and Woltz negotiate Johnny Fontane’s position at a table with a bowl of oranges on it, and later Woltz discovers his horse’s severed head
  • Don Corleone buys oranges right before he is shot
  • Sonny drives past an advertisement for Florida Oranges before he is assassinated
  • at the Mafioso summit, bowls of oranges are placed on the tables (specifically in front of those Dons who will be assassinated)
  • Michael eats an orange while discussing his plans with Hagen
  • before Don Corleone dies, he puts an orange peel in his mouth to playfully scare his grandson
  • Tessio, who is executed for attempting to betray Michael, plays with an orange at Connie’s wedding
  • and Carlo Rizzi, who wears an orange suit right before Sonny beats him up, causes Sonny’s death and is himself garrotted in retribution.
  • The only deaths in the film that don’t appear to have oranges foreshadowing them are the assassinations of Paulie, Sollozzo, McCluskey and Apollonia.

Why I think you should see this: This is my absolute favourite film and is also the best movie I have ever seen. I also love the whole series and suggest to anyone to check them all out. This series is Coppola’s masterpiece and also one of the most important films ever made. Marlon Brando is just amazing and if you can’t get enough of Vito check out Robert De Niro’s portrayal in Part II which makes them the only actors to win an academy award for the same character. Al Pacino is pretty great too but his character gets better as the movies progress as Michael is clearly the star of the series. James Caan is perfect as Sonny and John Cazale is amazing as the pathetic Fredo. One of the best performances in the series comes from Andy Garcia in Part III and while I know most people do not like the last movie I still think it is very good and still important to the series it just had the misfortune of coming out the same year as Goodfellas. This is my all time favourite so if you haven’t seen it rent the whole series one weekend you won’t be disappointed.

Films to See Before You Die: #2 Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel and Bruce Willis

Synopsis: Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) are hit men in the employ of Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and have come to retrieve a valuable belonging of Wallace’s from a group of would-be crooks. Marsellus is leaving town that evening and Vincent is to take Marsellus’s wife, Mia (Uma Thurman), out for dinner to keep her entertained. Rumors abound that Marsellus gravely wounded another associate who he believed had been improperly friendly with Mia, so Vincent is nervous. Before picking Mia up, he visits his drug dealer and buys some high-quality heroin. Mia enters herself and Vincent in a dance contest. They dance the twist and win an award. After dinner, they return to the Wallaces’ home. Vincent goes to the bathroom to talk himself out of making a pass at Mia. Meanwhile, she discovers the baggie of heroin in his coat pocket and, assuming it’s cocaine, snorts some. She immediately passes out and begins to foam at the mouth. Panicked, Vincent takes the dying Mia to Lance’s where they argue about what to do with her. Following Lance’s advice, Vincent is able to revive her with a shot of adrenaline administered straight to the heart. Vincent takes Mia home. They agree not to tell Marsellus what happened since both of them would get in trouble. Marsellus Wallace pays boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) to throw his next fight. Instead of throwing the match, he fights so viciously that he kills his opponent. He took Marsellus’ money and bet it on himself; his winnings will amount to a small fortune. While packing the next morning, however, Fabienne reveals that she forgot the gold watch, the belonging Butch cherishes above all others. After a savage outburst in which he wrecks the motel room, Butch takes Fabienne’s car to get the watch, parking a few blocks away and walking across a field to his apartment as a precaution. He enters without incident and finds his wristwatch in the bedroom. He realizes he’s not alone in the apartment when he notices a gun in the kitchen. Catching Vincent off guard as he emerges from the bathroom, Butch kills him with his own gun. Leaving the apartment with his watch, Butch encounters Marsellus crossing the street. He tries to run Marsellus over with his car but only wounds him and is hit by another car himself. Marsellus chases Butch into a pawn shop. There, the owner Maynard overpowers them. Marsellus and Butch wake up in the basement of the pawn shop, bound and gagged. Three days earlier, flashing back in time to just after Vincent and Jules finish killing Brett for stealing Marsellus’ prized possession, a gang member they had not known about bursts out of the bathroom and empties his gun point blank at them. However, all of the bullets miss Vincent and Jules, hitting the wall behind them, so they kill the gang member. Jules is certain this is a miracle but Vincent dismisses the idea. They leave with Marvin, Marsellus’ inside man in the gang. In the car, Vincent asks Marvin if he believes in miracles, but accidentally shoots him in the head and kills him. The inside of the car is now covered in blood and brain matter. Jules drives to the house of his only friend in the Valley, a former colleague named Jimmie. Jimmie lets them hide the car but angrily tells them that they have to get rid of the body within an hour — before his wife Bonnie comes home from her night shift at a hospital. Jules calls Marsellus at his home to explain their predicament. Marsellus then calls Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel), a suave and professional criminal and gambler who solves problems. Wolf arrives at Jimmie’s house and tells Vincent and Jules how to clean up the car and themselves — they have to strip out of their business suits and wear Jimmie’s spare T-shirts and shorts. The Wolf then helps them dispose of the car and body at a junkyard belonging to a discreet friend named Monster Joe.

Trivia: Daniel Day-Lewis wanted the role of Vincent Vega, but Quentin Tarantino turned him down in favor of John Travolta. Mia Wallace’s comment “An Elvis man should love this” is a reference to an earlier cut scene where Mia claims that everyone can be classified as either an “Elvis” (Elvis Presley) person or a “Beatles” (The Beatles) person. She bets Vincent that he is an “Elvis”, and he confirms it. It is widely believed that Butch is responsible for keying Vincent’s car.

Why I think you should see this: I am a huge Tarantino fan and there is no contest Pulp Fiction is his crowning achievement and in my opinion is the best movie of 1994. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are electric as the two hitmen but I have to say my favourite story is the gold watch because of how odd the whole scene is and appropriately followed by the Twilight Zone theme. I love this movie because it defies the classic linear structure set out by almost every film before it and the film actually makes the viewer connect the dots and try and figure what happens first. This is one of the best movies ever made so if you haven’t seen it rent it asap.