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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…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #85: Blue Velvet

Exactly how do you describe a David Lynch movie? He is one of the few directors whose style is so distinctive that his last name has become an adjective. According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of Lynchian is: “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane found in the works of filmmaker David Lynch.” To see a prime example of that adjective film lovers need look no further than Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), which does indeed begin in the mundane before slowly sinking in macabre violence.
My first introduction to the world of David Lynch was through his ground breaking, but unfortunately interrupted, early 1990s TV series Twin Peaks. This was one of the first television shows to grab viewers with a series-long mystery: who killed Laura Palmer? A mix of soap opera, police procedural, and the supernatural, it is a unique show that showed the darkness hidden in suburbia and remains influential to this day. Featuring Kyle MacLachlan as an FBI investigator with a love for …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #86: Carrie

And you thought your prom night was bad. Had it happened in real life, the tale of Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) and what she did after a horrible prank during her big moment at her prom would have become an urban legend to scare high school students for generations. Fortunately it is only a work of fiction envisioned by horror master Stephen King and first brought to the big screen by Brian De Palma in 1976. It is an undoubtedly scary film, but also one that deals with important themes such as bullying, kindness, and acceptance.
This is one of those stories where I really did my homework. I have given myself the goal to read all of Stephen Kings’ oeuvre and Carrie is one of his earliest novels. In addition to seeing De Palma’s adaptation on Netflix have also seen the 2013 remake directed by Kimberly Peirce with Chloe Grace Moretz in the Carrie role. Both movies tell pretty much the same story with different budgets, but I must conclude the original is bleaker and much more in the horror…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #88: Ferris Bueller's Day Off

American high schools were fertile ground for John Hughes as a writer and director. They provided the setting for the classic The Breakfast Club (1985), which featured five typical characters from that world, and the following year Hughes struck gold again with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. That movie featured a character who is in a way the king of a Chicago high school and who is so confident he skilfully skips school with his best friend and girlfriend by his side. Ferris is a bit like James Bond for high school: girls want him and boys want to be him.
For many people this was a movie that defined their generation, especially if they saw it while still in high school. However since it came out the year I was born that was impossible for me. It’s a shame, because the high school movie that was the big hit during my formative years was American Pie (1999). Generation X people got to see Matthew Broderick sing Twist and Shout at a parade, while Millenials got to see Jason Biggs stuffing hi…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #90: When Harry Met Sally...

There is an age-old question regarding whether single men and women can be just friends. In real life the answer is obviously “yes,” but in movies and TV the answer always has to be that at some point two single characters will get attracted to each other and move beyond friendship. On TV I find this to be contrived and overused, but some movies can have a lot of fun with the concept, most notably Rob Reiner’s comedy classic When Harry Met Sally…(1989). It may not change your view on love and friendship, but it forever changed the meaning of the phrase “I’ll have what she’s having.”
On paper this film’s premise sounds like another rom-com, but seen by oneself during an evening of Netflix binging it does make you think about deep stuff like the long-term impact of your decisions on your life. A person you meet during a tense trip might turn up again sometime later down the road in the most unexpected ways. If there is one thing I believe in it is infinite possibilities, and Nora Ephron…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #91: Return of the Jedi

If you want someone to give you death stares, tell a die-hard Star Wars fan the original trilogy is not perfect. I am however going to take a risk and write that if there is one major flaw with Return of the Jedi (1983) is a lack of imagination when it comes to the central plot. After the good guys blow up the Death Star in the first movie, the bad guys are almost done building a brand new one, which of course needs to be destroyed again in more or less the same way. Richard Marquand may be directing this time, but it was still George Lucas writing. Plot hole aside, as a kid you can’t help but have fun as the good guys join forces with a tribe of living teddy bears to get the job done.
Like many people in their early 30s, I was introduced to the first Star Wars trilogy by my parents who had recorded the movies, commercials included, when they were showing one night on TV. Upon first viewing, a few things stick out in the mind of a young boy watching Return of the Jedi such as: Jaba the…