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Paul Jensen

Silver Winners: 91-100

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GILDA (1946)4.5 stars

This classic starring Rita Hayworth is about as nasty as 40's film noir gets. She's phenomenal and the characters are all so cruel to one another. Love it! There's some pretty interesting subtext going on: post WWII with women in the workplace lead to battle of the sexes, feminism, paranoia of infidelity and even two gay male leads. All of which make this one incredibly rich film with plenty of plot twists and a femme fatale that has never been bettered.

 

Genre: Film Noir
Director: Charles Vidor

 

JURASSIC PARK (1993)4.5 stars

The definitive roller-coaster ride with truly groundbreaking FX. It may not hold the same sophistication and maturity as Jaws, but it more than makes up for it with memorable moments. There are countless iconic images throughout. It may be geared slightly towards kids but the end result is extremely tense with some terrifying set pieces. The T-Rex scene remains classic Hollywood filmmaking and the Raptors in the kitchen is unforgettable.

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Steven Spielberg

 


STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) 4.5 stars

The most emotionally engaging Star Trek movie. Nicholas Meyer knew how to capture the magic behind this series. Dynamite set pieces with wonderful characters. The real surprise is how well written it is. Death, aging and re-birth are the dominant themes here. From Kirk's initial words to Spock, "I thought you were dead," to his final words, "I feel young," there is a sweeping scope to the drama. Trekkies must have absolutely loved this entry - it has everything! It even includes the first ever CGI: the Genesis demonstration. In the end, this may very well be Star Trek's finest two hours on screen. (The director's cut adds a few extra minutes and fleshes out the characters).

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Nicholas Meyer

 

PSYCHO (1960)4.5 stars

The first modern horror film. Psycho wrote the textbook and we've been learning from it ever since (it's insane how many thrillers have borrowed from this masterpiece.) Bloch's novel nails the character of Norman Bates perfectly (based loosely on real-life serial killer Ed Gein) and Perkins performance steals the show. The re-occurring motif of mirrors, sets up not only the split personality, but also the dark side in each one of us. As Norman states, "we all go a little mad sometimes." Hitchock's mantra was, "we may not get caught for our crimes but we are all guilty of something." Psycho's cinematic brilliance epitomizes this. Also, huge kudos to Bernard Herrmann for the highly-influential all-strings score. Ultimately, Psycho changed the horror genre by transforming the traditional monster villain into the "boy next door." Hitchcock evoked the uncanny and made audiences terrified of ever taking a shower again. The horror escalates perfectly - from adultery to theft to murder to psychopathy. Gone are wholesome American family values, instead replaced by isolated and decaying dysfunctional families. 1960s, here we come!

 

Genre: Horror
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

 

PEEPING TOM (1960)4.5 stars

This disturbing character study destroyed Powell's career. It was way ahead of its time and makes a great companion piece to Hitchcock's films. In fact, cinematically speaking it's extremely sophisticated. Powell knew what he was doing and the film clearly took some big risks (especially in the UK). I also love both the leads - it's hard to take your eyes off them (no pun intended). The musical score, although startling, fits the scatterbrained quality of the protagonist. In the end, this forgotten gem is one of the first true cult classics.

 

Genre: Horror
Director: Michael Powell

 

THE HOBBIT (2012)4.5 stars

It felt like the fastest three hours I've ever spent in a movie theatre. THE HOBBIT is a wonderful addition to the Lord of the Rings series. It fits in perfectly and has plenty of references to the first trilogy that will appeal to the fans but is succinct enough so that it works entirely on its own. In its child-like sense of wonder and awe, it captures the spirit of the book. More than any previous Lord of the Rings film, The Hobbit feels more like a children's fantasy adventure. In the best way possible.

From Bilbo accepting the call to adventure, to the threat of being eaten by Trolls over a campfire, to witnessing Stone Giants in battle, to being captured by the Goblin King and his minions - everything has a mythical fairy-tale quality (even the creepy spiders crawling over the crazy wizard's home in the forest with his rabbit sled!) The casting of Martin Freeman is a perfect match. His humanistic portrayal of this little Hobbit keeps the audience emotionally connected. There are plenty of strong character moments, eloquently written, most of which involve Bilbo. Then of course, there's Gollum, applause-worthy from start to finish. Like the book, they genuinely make him terrifying. The game of riddles is again very child-like but dark and twisted as well. The moment of "pity" is powerfully effective. There are so many gratifying moments throughout; including Gandalf wielding more magical ability, the surprise return of four beloved characters from Lord of the Rings, the sweeping, thrilling and never-ending battle with the Goblins, the emotional pay-off of Bilbo's character arc, and the stirring and thankfully updated new score by Howard Shore. All such an accomplishment. Then there's the bit about the dragon...

There are even moments where The Hobbit transcends its story and reaches fantasy archetypes. The history of the dwarves both as a people, but also in Thorin's personal heroism, is the stuff of legends. The bravery of Bilbo being rewarded by the rescue of the Eagles is a majestic moment both as movie spectacle but also as character resurrection. Finally, the theme of finding a Home and re-gaining a place in the world - a source - is as timeless and symbolic as all great fantasy storytelling. Peter Jackson and his exemplary team have done it again. And so begins yet another magnificent trilogy. May Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth continue to inspire and move us for years to come. I can hardly wait for the next one.

 

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Peter Jackson

 

SOLARIS (2002)4.5 stars

True and serious sci-fi. Soderbergh makes an uncompromising and intellectually stimulating film. A rarity amidst today's blockbusters. I dare say it's superior to Tarkosky's earlier effort. Ultimately, it's Soderbergh's best film since his debut.

 

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Steven Soderbergh

 

 

PROMETHEUS (2012)4.5 stars

Easily Ridley Scott's best film since Blade Runner. It's a perfect blend of true sci-fi and true horror. They strike a perfect balance between homage to the original and expansion of the world. It's shocking how gruesome it gets and the ideas it touches upon are profound and epic. Any movie that opens with the birth of our species is far-reaching. The best Alien film since the original.

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Ridley Scott

 

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005)4.5 stars

Deceivingly simple. Cronenberg takes us on a brilliant exploration of America's obsession with violence. Taking every cliche and turning it on its ear. A film that only gets smarter with each viewing.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: David Cronenberg

 

 

 

HORSE THIEF (1986)4.5 stars

An innovative and touching homage to the Bicycle Thief. This Chinese film is entirely its own story, with exotic and affecting characters. Scorsese has said that this is the best film he saw in the 90's. The influence is clear in Kundun. Tian Zhuangzhuang became respected around the world with this original masterpiece.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Tian Zhuangzhuang

 

 

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