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Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #30: Aliens

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a movie can change a person. For me that movie was James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), a movie that made an action icon out of Sigourney Weaver after pitting her against an army of nightmarish creatures and their giant queen. This movie came out the year I was born and while I was growing up it increased in popularity achieving classic stardom as a science fiction, action and horror film. Unfortunately while I was growing up I must admit I was scared of most movie monsters, to the point that just the trailer for an Alien movie would make me nervous. Then I saw Cameron’s film and went to the dark side of the moon.
Here’s the setting: it’s 2002 and my parents and I are living in Santiago, Chile. By then I haven’t seen any of the Alien films from beginning to end, but I have a general idea of what they do and how they tend to pop out of people’s chests. One evening I see that Aliens is about to start playing on a movie channel and I decide to take a chanc…
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Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #316: Trainspotting

In the 1990s Hollywood directors were the kings of cinema, whether it was for big summer blockbusters or smaller independent films. Guys like James Cameron or Michael Bay would blow up the screens while Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino put the emphasis on snappy dialogue that created relatable characters for the moviegoers. Then in 1996, as if to scream “we can do this too,” Danny Boyle released Trainspotting in the United Kingdom.
Based on a novel by Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh, the movie took the world by storm despite having no explosions, a cast of actors who were relatively unknown and a budget that today could barely pay for the catering of a Transformers movie. Furthermore this is not the story of young people going to college to enter a life full of promise, but about young heroine addicts meandering through the streets of Edinburgh. Despite introducing these characters during an energetic montage set to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge in …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #66: Edward Scissorhands

One could make the argument that Edward Scissorhands (1990) is the ultimate Tim Burton movie. It is set in a pastel-coloured American suburb, it has a memorable score by composer Danny Elfman and it marked the first collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Furthermore it has a small key role for horror icon Vincent Price, whose movies Burton watched as a child. It is unconventional for sure, but like a lot of Burton’s work it has become iconic to the point of influencing pop culture.
I was very young when this movie came out in theatres and like most of Tim Burton’s movies it is in a bit of a grey area when it comes to age restriction. Batman Returns for instance is a comic book movie, but a comic book movie in which one villain is electrocuted to death and another spews black blood out of his mouth before dying. Edward Scissorhand is nowhere near as graphic, but it is probably still a good idea that I waited until I was in my teen years before watching it on TV.
I had only pa…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #364: Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers (1994) is not so much a movie as an American nightmare come to life. Loosely based on a story by Quentin Tarantino, starring some of the wildest actors in Hollywood at the time, and boasting a level of violence that unfortunately inspired copycat crimes, it is the textbook definition of controversial. In all fairness there are important messages amidst all the violent mayhem, but director Oliver Stone throws so much content at the screen that these messages can sometimes get lost in the carnage.
Even though the movie came out more than two decades ago it still has a legendary status, which I learned about while reading a chapter in a book about Tarantino’s career. The book, Quintessential Tarantino, contained a lot of interesting facts about the making of the movie and also spoiled the ending, but reading a few words that describe a killing spree is very different than seeing it portrayed on screen. A few years ago the director’s cut became available on Netflix, wh…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #68: Annie Hall

Another year, another instance of reviewing a movie made by a director with a rather dubious personal history. Ever since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke out last year I realize there are plenty of movies on this Greatest Movies list whose crew includes directors, producers, writers or actors who have been accused of sexual misconduct/lewd behaviour/rape/being a complete scumbag. Woody Allen directed Annie Hall (1977), arguably one of his funniest movies of all times, but he was also accused of sexual abuse as far back as the early 90s and kept on working. I am a completionist and Annie Hall is next on my list, so I am going to have press on and try to look back at this movie by separating the artist from the work.
This is a little bit tricky with a Woody Allen movie since in most of his movies he likes to write, direct, and be in front of the camera in the lead role. In Annie Hall his character is comedian Alvy Singer, a prototypical New Yorker as in many of Allen’s movies. He is a…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #29: Die Hard

This year I have been going all over the place with this Greatest Movies List, sometimes reviewing the next movie on the list, sometimes reviewing one I saw a few weeks ago. Since I am playing fast and loose with the rules, and since this is the Holiday season, why not skip down the list to what is arguably one of the all time greatest Christmas movies, Die Hard (1988)? Some people like to spend the Christmas season watching an angel get its wings, some like to watch a millionaire learn the meaning of Christmas, I like to watch Alan Rickman read the words “Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho.”
After five movies I think even the most die-hard fans (wink) would agree this franchise has gone on for too long, but the first three movies are some of the best action movies of the 80s and 90s. I actually watched them out of order, starting with the second one, followed by the third and eventually making it to the one that started it all at Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve. Watching those movi…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #467: The Deer Hunter

Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978) is a prime example of how Christopher Walken is much more than a punch line. People often do impressions of him for his admittedly odd speech pattern, which sadly overshadows his great acting skills. In Cimino’s war film, the last he would direct before the financial disaster Heaven’s Gate, Walken plays a blue-collar worker in 1967 America who starts off as a happy young man only to be irrevocably transformed by the horrors of the Vietnam War. It is an amazing performance in a movie filled with some of the best actors of their generation also working at the top of their game.
I had wanted to see this movie for a long time since it appears on many Best Movies of All Times list and it has a rather infamous Russian roulette sequence that is so iconic it became the movie’s poster. However this is a three-hour movie so you really need to clear your schedule if you are planning on viewing it all in one sitting. Fortunately it became available on Netfli…