Skip to main content

Posts

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #77: Spartacus

Spartacus (1960) is an interesting movie in Stanley Kubrick's filmography because it doesn’t really feel like a Stanley Kubrick movie. I don’t exactly know why, but his signature style doesn’t seem to be present unlike in classics such as The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, or Dr. Strangelove. It does however feel like one of those big sword-and-sandals epics in which you have British thespians acting as Roman politicians with the occasional big battle sequence. In that respect it is spectacular and features Kirk Douglas at his best as the titular hero.
The story of the rebel slave Spartacus has inspired a bloody and sexy TV series (so far unseen by me, but I hear it’s great) and the story behind how it was made is one of those cases of life imitating art. The Bryan Cranston film Trumbo tells how screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted in Hollywood during the 1950s for his communist beliefs and had to rebel against the system by writing screenplays for cheap movies under a fake nam…
Recent posts

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #78: Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is that special kind of horror film that can get under your skin while spilling very little blood. It has no masked killer that jumps out of a corner, no monster chasing characters down dark corridors, and no armies of zombies lumbering the streets. Yet it is profoundly unsettling, not only because it deals with a satanic cult, but because the story’s protagonist and her unborn child are unwilling participants in that cult’s scheme.
Watching the film on Halloween two years ago it occurred to me this story is probably twice as scary for women. Having children is already a nerve-wracking prospect, but being tricked into having the devil’s spawn against your will: that is nightmarish on a whole other level. However director Roman Polanski takes his time in revealing the full extent of this nightmare, at times even suggesting all of the protagonist’s fears might just be paranoia. It takes a while for the full extent of the horror to be revealed, but it is worth the …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #79: The Thin Red Line

I once saw an interview in which Christopher Plummer said that what Terrence Malick needs is a writer. He was referring to his experience shooting The New World, which saw his role considerably reduced. The same happened to a much greater extent with Malick’s war movie The Thin Red Line (1998), which saw the screen time of many movie stars reduced to mere minutes amid a 170-minute running time. However you have to hand it to the guy: he knows how to make anything look beautiful, including the carnage of war.
Malick’s movie came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan, so I think that year I had my fill of ultra violent war films and was no too interested in seeing it. Sixteen years later I finally caught up to it on Netflix, but in hindsight the big screen might have been a better option since this is a very visual story. The plot is pretty loose, following one American soldier and sometimes some of his brothers in arms as they make their way through World War II in the Pacific theat…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #81: Batman Begins

It took the storytelling skills of British director Christopher Nolan to finally get Batman right. The 1960s TV show, starring the late great Adam West, had a lot of action, but was overly campy. The Tim Burton films felt very much like comic books come to life, but the villains stole the spotlight. Then there was Joel Schumacher who nearly killed the franchise by turning it into a live-action cartoon and by putting nipples on the suit. However with Batman Begins (2005) the spotlight was firmly placed on the character of Bruce Wayne as he becomes a vigilante, the villains were much less campy, and the action sequences seemed to be set in our world.
Like many people my expectations for Batman Begins were pretty low for what would be chronologically the fifth theatrical Batman movie. I had watched Batman Forever many times on VHS, but Batman & Robin, the last Schumacher entry, had left a very bad taste in my mouth. Going into theatres in Quebec City in the summer of 2005 all I knew w…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #82: The Great Escape

I love movies in which a team of talented individuals get together to achieve a common goal. Such examples include thieves trying to rob a casino, black ops soldiers trying to destroy enemy weapons, or Tom Cruise and company trying to break into CIA headquarters during an impossible mission. John Sturges’ The Great Escape (1963) stands out in this category because here the group in question is not trying to break into a place, but break out. Specifically they are a group of POWs trying to escape a massive Nazi prison camp in order to distract German troops while the Allies are getting ready to invade. The film may have its share of historical inaccuracies, but it is a historical piece of filmmaking since its cast is made up of some of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time.
Although it was released in the early 1960s The Great Escape has endured the test of time, first by becoming many grandfathers’ favourite movie, and then by influencing many filmmakers to come. Quentin Tarantin…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #83: Brazil

Dystopian movies from the 1980s are a funny thing since we now live in the future of those movies and if you look at the news for more than five minutes it will feel as though we are one bad day away from being into a dystopia. On the plus side, if it ends up looking like the dystopia portrayed in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) at least we will have lovely architecture to look at while the government is busy telling us how to think. This might not be a movie that will cheer you up, but the production design is amazing, the performances are great throughout, and you get to see Robert DeNiro play a maintenance man/freedom fighter.
I first saw Brazil as a Terry Gilliam double feature at the Universit√© de Sherbrooke’s movie club paired along with 12 Monkeys around ten years ago. Those two films are similar in that they both feature a rather dour future and, as with most Gilliam movies, incredibly intricate sets. However the dystopian future in Brazil is somewhat scarier than the disease-ra…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #84: L.A Confidential

Gangster films have many things in common, but gangster films set in sunny Los Angeles have a special flavour of their own. It doesn’t matter if the main characters are gun-totting criminals or crooked cops, if the setting is Tinseltown then celebrity culture will be a factor. In the Curtis Hanson directed L.A Confidential (1997) a cop moonlights as an advisor for a popular TV show about cops, a publisher of a tabloid magazine sets up celebrity arrests, and a pimp has a group of prostitutes surgically altered to look like Hollywood actresses. Throw in a femme fatale into the mix and you have one delicious piece of film noir.
If I recall well this was a movie I saw on HBO with my parents a few years after it came out while we were living in South America. The content matter was somewhat mature for my age at the time, but if anything I had more trouble following the storyline since this is an over two-hour movie with lots of characters, plot twists, and betrayals. Like The Dude said, the…