Films to See Before You Die: #6 Batman

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Batman (1989)

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Palance

Synopsis: The criminals of Gotham City are in a panic because of rumours of a 6-foot bat terrorizing the crooks and gangsters of the city. No one believes these rumours to be true except a reporter named Knox and photographer Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger) who has arrived in Gotham specifically to cover the giant bat story.  The new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams), is desperately trying to get crime boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance), brought up on numerous charges and incarcerated before the city’s 200th anniversary. The only thing linking Grissom to any kind of wrong doing are files at the Axis Chemical Plant, where he has his number one man Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) to destroy the files. Napier has been having an affair with Grissom’s girl making this the prime opportunity to set him up, Grissom sends members of the police force he has bought to go and kill Napier. Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) gets wind of this and heads to Axis Chemicals to stop Grissom’s men and apprehend Napier who is vital in pinning Grissom to these crimes. A gunfight ensues and Napier is confronted by the new protector of Gotham, Batman (Michael Keaton), who after a struggle accidentally drops Napier into a vat of toxic chemicals where he is presumed dead. Napier somehow survives but is horribly disfigured then goes to a surgeon who leaves him with a paleface and a permanent grin. He pays a visit to Grissom and kills him for setting him up and reveals himself to be The Joker. Now taking over all of Grissom’s operations the Joker does not let on that he is dead and begins killing anyone who won’t join him. Batman’s alter-ego Bruce Wayne begins to date Vale at the behest of Knox and Vake does a back ground check revealing that Bruce witnessed the murder of his parent’s at a very young age. When Vale becomes an object of the Joker’s affection Batman must save her and the city while confronting a demon from his past.

Trivia: Michael Keaton being cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman caused a controversy amongst comic book fans, with 50,000 protest letters sent to Warner Bros. offices. Bob Kane, Sam Hamm and Michael E. Uslan also heavily questioned the casting. When the production design team arrived at Pinewood Studios in England to build the sets, they discovered the atmosphere processor set from Aliens in one of the sound stages, with most of the Aliens’ nest and eggs still intact.

Why I think you should see this: I have been watching this movie since I was 3 definitely have seen it over 100 times and I have always loved Batman even before it was cool to like him. I have always enjoyed Tim Burton’s work but this is my favourite along with Batman Returns which makes the perfect companion piece don’t waste your time on the other 2 by Joel Schumacher they are just garbage. It is funny that people protested Michael Keaton as Batman and now I consider him to be the best Batman yet. Jack Nicholson is just amazing as the Joker and Kim Basinger is pretty great as Vicky Vale. This is a great film that launched the career of one of the most imaginative directors in film history so check it out sometime.

Films to See Before You Die: #19 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Director: Milos Forman

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif, Will Sampson

Synopsis: Randall Patrick “R.P.” McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), is a career criminal and in an attempt to avoid more prison time pleads insanity and is sent to a mental institution where he believes everything will be easier for him. Upon his arrival he meets Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), who is the head nurse and dictator of his ward. McMurphy and Ratched clash almost immediately when he will not adhere to her orders and he proves to be to much of a free spirit. He often encourages the other patients to think outside the box and that maybe they aren’t that crazy after all. He starts to take a liking to Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), a giant Native American who has been rendered mute, but it doesn’t take long for McMurphy to get him and the others out of their shells and enjoying life. His upbeat attitude is no match for Nurse Ratched’s icy demeanor with her shutting him down at every corner and eventually leading to him and others to receive shock therapy. The battle of wills comes to a crashing halt when Ratched bullies a younger patient with tragic results McMurphy loses it almost killing Ratched which forever alters his stay at the institution.

Trivia: Most of Jack Nicholson’s scene with Dean R. Brooks upon arriving at the hospital was improvised – including his slamming a stapler, asking about a fishing photo, and discussing his rape conviction; Brooks’s reactions were authentic. Director Milos Forman relied heavily on reaction shots to pull more characters into scenes. In some group therapy scenes, there were ten minutes of Jack Nicholson’s reactions filmed even if he had very little dialogue. The shot of Louise Fletcher looking icily at Nicholson after he returns from shock therapy was actually her irritated reaction to a piece of direction from Forman.

Why I think you should see this: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the quintessential Jack Nicholson film there is no comparison as to his best performance because it has always been R.P. McMurphy. Milos Forman won his first Best Director Oscar with what I believe to be his best film it is also not too much different than his other Oscar win for Amadeus about a brash young rebel who is basically killed by those who think they know better. That said Louise Fletcher is amazing as Nurse Ratched and Brad Dourif does a great job in his feature film debut. Look for very young Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito. This is a masterpiece and if you haven’t got around to seeing it check this one out you won’t be disappointed.

Films to See Before You Die: #28 Chinatown

chinatown

Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast : Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez

Synopsis: Jake “J.J.” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a private detective that specializes in marriage cases, he is hired one day by a woman calling herself Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband. Gittes realizes that her husband is in fact Hollis Mulwray the chief engineer of the Los Angeles water supply who also helped build the city water system. Jake finds Mulwray spending the day with a young girl where he proceeds to take many photos that are eventually picked up by the L.A. Times unbeknownst to Jake. A few days later Gittes is visited by another woman who is in fact the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) and she is planning to sue Gittes for defamation. Very upset with the turn of events Jake starts an investigation of his own into who set him up and a few days later Hollis Mulwray is found dead. His investigation puts him at odds with his old partner Escobar (Perry Lopez) from when he was a cop and leads him to the immensely rich and influential Noah Cross ( John Huston), who is also Evelyn’s father. While investigating Gittes stumbles upon massive corruption all relating to Hollis Mulwray and the city water supply.

Trivia: The scene where Roman Polanski slits Jack Nicholson’s nose was extremely complex to film, and the two men involved got so tired of explaining how it was done (by using a specially-constructed knife with a short hinge that would be safe as long as it was handled VERY carefully) that they began to claim Nicholson’s nose was actually cut. Because this film was the first of a planned trilogy, Jack Nicholson turned down all detective roles he was offered so that the only detective he played would be Jake Gittes.

Why I think you should see this: I just love Jack Nicholson films especially his run in the 1970’s that included The Last Detail and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest among others. Roman Polanski does an incredible job in his direction making a film that defines a genre years after that genre’s popularity had faded. It is really fun to see legendary director John Huston playing the sly Noah Cross and Faye Dunaway is remarkable as Evelyn. The movie really belongs to Jack though who shines in what might be his best role. Check this one out its a masterpiece.

Films to See Before You Die: #29 The Departed

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The Departed (2006)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson

Synopsis: In South Boston, the state police force is waging war on Irish-American organized crime leader Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), is recruited by an elite undercover task force led by Captain Queenan and Staff Sgt. Dignam (Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg), to infiltrate Costello’s gang. Costello has an ace up his sleeve in Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a hardened young criminal who has infiltrated the state police as an informer for the syndicate. Each man becomes deeply consumed by his double life, gathering information about the plans and counter-plans of the operations he is involved with. But when it becomes clear to both the mob and the police that there’s a mole in their midst. Billy and Colin are suddenly in danger of being caught and exposed to the enemy-and each must race to uncover the identity of the other man in time to save himself. It isn’t until both are cleared of suspicion and Sullivan is put in charge of finding the mole in the department that their lives truly begin to unravel.

Trivia: Leonardo DiCaprio was cast in the title role in The Good Shepherd, but he dropped out to play Billy Costigan in this movie. Matt Damon then took the role. Robert De Niro turned down the role of Queenan to appear in The Good Shepherd. This is the movie with the most uses of the word “fuck” and its derivatives (237) to win the Best Picture Oscar. Mark Wahlberg based his performance on the police officers who’d arrested him about two dozen times in his youth, and the reactions of his parents who had to come bail him out with their grocery money.

Why I think you should see this: Martin Scorsese has continuously been making some of the best movies over the last 40 years and the Departed is no exception. There are no real standouts in the cast because this is a true ensemble film to its core but I have to say Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg delivered some pretty entertaining performances. While this is not Scorsese’s best films it has the distinction of being the only one he made thayt won him a Best Director Oscar. Check this one out its a real gritty cops and robbers film with an interesting twist.

Films to See Before You Die: #41 The Shining

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The Shining (1980)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd

Synopsis: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), has just been hired as the winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, where he and his family will be completely secluded for the entire winter season. Jack is told of the previous caretaker a seemingly normal man went insane from the seclusion and killed his family and then himself. Despite the gruesome history Jack takes the job anyways assuring the management that this won’t happen with him. Meanwhile at home his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) is watching their son Danny (Danny Lloyd), the young boy has an accident and a therapist is called. After this is sorted out the family head to the Overlook Hotel for the winter. When they arrive Wendy and Danny are shown around by Hotel cook Mr. Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), who is able to communicate with Danny through his mind calling a “Shining”. After being stuck inside the hotel for a couple of months Jack’s behaviour begins getting stranger and stranger until it becomes clear to Wendy that her and Danny are no longer safe in the hotel with Jack.

Trivia: Because Danny Lloyd was so young and since it was his first acting job, Stanley Kubrick was highly protective of the child. During the shooting of the movie, Lloyd was under the impression that the film he was making was a drama, not a horror movie. He only realized the truth seven years later, when, aged 13, he was shown a heavily edited version of the film. He didn’t see the uncut version of the film until he was 17 – eleven years after he’d made it.

Why I think you should see this: Jack Nicholson personifies crazy and this his most crazy role to date it is quite a site to behold. Stanley Kubrick did a great job making the Shining his own and also made one of the most frightening films ever. Danny Lloyd also did a pretty great job as the son in this film. I love watching this around Halloween and most other times too. Check this one out it’s a classic.

Chinatown: Blu-Ray Review

chinatown
Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez

Movie – 5/5: Jake “J.J.” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a private detective that specializes in marriage cases, he is hired one day by a woman calling herself Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband. Gittes realizes that her husband is in fact Hollis Mulwray the chief engineer of the Los Angeles water supply who also helped build the city water system. Jake finds Mulwray spending the day with a young girl where he proceeds to take many photos that are eventually picked up by the L.A. Times unbeknownst to Jake. A few days later Gittes is visited by another woman who is in fact the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) and she is planning to sue Gittes for defamation. Very upset with the turn of events Jake starts an investigation of his own into who set him up and a few days later Hollis Mulwray is found dead. His investigation puts him at odds with his old partner Escobar (Perry Lopez) from when he was a cop and leads him to the immensely rich and influential Noah Cross ( John Huston), who is also Evelyn’s father. While investigating Gittes stumbles upon massive corruption all relating to Hollis Mulwray and the city water supply.

Video – 4/5: Chinatown looks great on blu-ray and considering it is almost 40 years old it looks pretty magnificent. The colours are very rich and there is a strong amount of grain but it adds to the authenticity of the film. This is by far the best Chinatown has ever looked and in my opinion was how it was meant to be seen.

Audio – 4/5: The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack is very crisp and you can hear the voices of the characters much clearer than in the films DVD counterpart. Gunshots ring out with adequate authority, and water rushes with a fair sense of power. All in all a very strong audio presentation.

Overall Score and Recommendation – 4.5/5: Chinatown is one of the best film noire’s ever if not the best and it was able to do this almost 30 years after the genre was most popular. This is one of Jack Nicholson’s best performances and one of my favourites because he is much more restrained than he is in later films. Both Faye Dunaway and John Huston give powerhouse performances as father and daughter. This is Roman Polanski’s masterpiece as well as the last film he made in the U.S. before going into exile. The A/V presentation for the film is incredibly solid and there are more than enough extras for the average film buff. Overall this blu-ray release comes highly recommended.