Bang Bang You’re Dead 8/10
Bang Bang You’re Dead is a brilliantly crafted, realistic drama about high school bullying. Ben Foster delivers one of the best performances of his career as Trevor Adams. He is a young high school student with a bad reputation. He is constantly belittled and bullied by popular kids at his school. With the help of a teacher (played very well by Tom Cavanagh), Trevor attempts to fight back. This is the only “school shooting” or bullying film that I have ever seen that actually fully explores the topic. The actions are somewhat justified. Other than Bowling for Columbine this is the best school bullying film, fantastic work. “Bang Bang You’re Dead” is the title of a play that was performed in schools around the whole of America. It was used as an awareness to the severity of bullying and the effect it can have on those involved. The camera work, music and performances are wonderful.
Basketball Diaries 8/10
In 1995 the most authentic and raw portrayal of a drug addiction ever was depicted in a film called “The Basketball Diaries”. It’s just one of many drug theme films that have been made over the years. However, this is the only film to tackle it head on without the “hollywood aspect”. It’s just a downright gritty and realistic look at the effects on someone using hard drugs and becoming addicted to them. Jim Carroll wrote the original novel which was based on events from his own life. Leonardo Dicaprio blew everyone away at such a young age. He was able to carry this entire film with his own view of the characters actions and reasons for those actions. With a wonderful supporting cast and the most thought-provoking script of this subject matter, it will forever remain the most important drug film of our times.
15 years ago, comedy guru David Zucker released the smash hit sports comedy BASEketball. Trey Parker and Matt Stone played dimwitted best friends who invent a new sport, the hilarious performances make the film. With it’s “Dude Where’s My Car” style jokes and fantastic soundtrack you can’t help but acknowledge this super fun film. Yes I will admit it’s a guilty pleasure of mine but regardless it’s a really cool inventive game that they come up with. Reel Big Fish, a fantastic ska band also get some screen time with some of their great music. It’s just 90 minutes of the most fun you can have without taking your pants off!
Battle For Haditha 8/10
Nick Broomfield is a veteran of documentary style film making. His film “Battle For Haditha” is based on a true story about the investigation into a huge massacre of men, women and children in Iraq. They were allegedly shot by U.S marines in retaliation to a previous road side bombing that had killed American soldiers. This is such a powerful and incredibly sad story about war and it’s consequences. It’s shot documentary style but is still a conventional film. The performances are fantastic, these actors seem like they have studied the military ways for months in preparation for the film. Elliot Ruiz as Captain Ramirez steals the show with several very heavy emotional scenes. The film covers things like the state of mind and the attitude’s involved with being able to get yourself up and rowdy to fight in a war. It’s not a one-sided view of things at all, everybody involved in the story gets plenty of screen time. It looks at the situation from all points of view, it’s the best film I have seen of this nature. If you have a choice between this and “Apocalypse Now” choose this…
The Baytown Outlaws 8/10
First time filmmaker Barry Battles presents us his fantastic film The Baytown Outlaws. It’s about 3 redneck brothers on the run from the law. They choose to help a woman save her godson from his abusive stepfather. This choice leads to various oddball characters coming after the trio trying to kill them. A wonderful cast that includes the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Clayne Crawford, Andre Braugher and the stunning Eva Longoria. It has a sharp aesthetic look with some fantastic snappy editing and lots of great black comedy. Ultimately it’s an Action film though. You really get behind our protagonists even though you know they aren’t entirely good people. The various characters that chase the trio are wonderfully entertaining and you get that real southern vibe with the look of everything, the heat and the swamp it all looks great. The action sequences are what drive this film into a league of its own, it’s one of the best films of 2012.
Harold Ramis, director of the heartfelt comedy “Groundhog Day” was also responsible for one of the best films at the turn of the century “Bedazzled”. The cast includes Brendan Fraser in his career best form, Elizabeth Hurley and Frances O’Connor play the other main roles. The story follows hopeless nerd Elliot Richards who meets the devil played by Hurley. He is able to grant 7 wishes in exchange for his soul. What a wonderful concept for a comedy. Completely original screenplay that contains some great 90’s music. Each dream sequence scenario has its own style of humour. Fraser plays all 7 parts with equal enthusiasm and really shows us what he is able to do when given a good script. Liz dressing up as everything from teacher to cop to devil looks fantastic. She delivers her best performance too. It’s a feel good movie with a great message, easily one of the absolute best comedies of our time.
I take you back 25 years to the early work’s of the wonderful Tim Burton. His film Beetlejuice stars Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder and Michael Keaton. Along with its wonderful ensemble cast it is truly a one of a kind. A crazy, zany original script from one of the best original filmmakers in Hollywood. Beetlejuice is played at absolute frenetic pace by Keaton, he looks fantastic and sounds horrible (haha). This film has a cult status about it probably due to its particular dark comedy and it’s odd-looking backdrops and strange set pieces. The performances are all solid, the score that made Burton one of the best is clearly evident too. If you like ghosts and exorcisms and really zany characters Beetlejuice is a must see and must own!
The Big Lebowski 8.5/10
Joel and Ethan Coen took the world by storm in 1998, with their amazingly clever and witty screenplay for the film The Big Lebowski. It tells the story of “Dude Lebowski” (played flawlessly by Jeff Bridges). Dude is mistaken for another Mr Lebowski, who is a millionaire businessman. Dude wants compensation for his ruined rug that was damaged when hired thugs came looking for him. He enlists his best friend Walter, a crass jew bowler (played perfectly by John Goodman), and their buddy Donny (Steve Buschemi). The film has a fantastic cast including the likes of Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Peter Stormare and John Turturro. This truly is one of a kind. It has a great mix of music, wonderful dark humour and great performances from everyone involved. The bowling scenes are really fun and the drug tripping scenes are crazy. This thing has Coen brothers all over it. It’s original, it’s witty and it’s clever. Other than the downfall of Vanilla Ice, it’s the best thing to come out of the 90’s!
The Blindside 8.5/10
The Blindside was at the top of the list for best films of 2009. It’s the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who went on to make it in the NFL as a first round draft pick. He was aided in achieving this with the help of a caring young mother and her family. This film has something in it for everyone. It’s not entirely a family drama nor is it a sport’s movie. It’s a movie about the true nature of human beings and what we are capable of doing against the most tremendous odds. Sandra Bullock delivers her best performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy mother of two living in a nice suburb with her husband and kids. She sees something in Michael and wants to guide him in the right direction. The film covers the importance of upbringing and family. The ugliness of racism is covered as well. It’s a film that has fantastic performances, a great message and shows the nature of some of the best people.
The Blood Diamond 8.5/10
Edward Zwick’s “The Blood Diamond” is absolutely mesmerizing. It tells the story of two men from different backgrounds. One a black fisherman living in one of the most dangerous parts of Africa. The other a white jewel smuggler from South Africa. The two team up to try to obtain the priceless diamond that several wealthy businessmen are after. This film has fantastic performances from Leonardo Dicaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly. It covers the Hutu and Tutsi people of Africa, and the gang related violence associated with drugs and weapons manufacturing and trading. At the same-time it’s a story of courage, hope and friendship. It’s wonderfully shot, beautifully scored and it stays with you long after the credits have rolled. It’s a tough watch but a very important and brilliant film.
Blood Simple 8.5/10
It should be no surprise that Joel and Ethan Coen appear in my top list again. This time with the 1984 Crime/Thriller “Blood Simple”. This is some of the earliest of The Coens work and also some of the best. It was one of the first modern crime/thriller’s surrounding affairs, private investigators and money. The film stars Frances McDormand, Jon Getz, Dan Hedaya and M Emmet Walsh as Loren Visser. The performances are really good. Walsh steals the show as the downright creepy, eerie Private Detective “Loren Visser”. It’s a slow building film with great nail-biting tension. The score and shooting style of the film are amazing, personal camera work, silhoutte style lighting and Polanski influenced sound effects. The last act of the film is particularly suspenseful and intense. For the most part it’s also very realistic. If not for a couple of dumb plot points and some information that gets left out, this would be about as good as you can get. Most definitely the best film of the genre for the 80’s.
Blue Velvet 8.5/10
In 1986, David Lynch made the world look up and take notice when he released his film “Blue Velvet”. The film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Laura Dern and Dennis Hopper. With a mix of film noir/art house and suspense, it’s really in a league of its own. It can only be described as surrealism at it’s best. Wonderful lighting, great camera angles and a beautiful haunting score make this technically brilliant too. The screenplay is very well thought out. It’s a slow film that reveals itself layer by layer. What appears to be a straight forward crime story is anything but. The performances are commendable. Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth blows everyone else away. He plays the drug addicted and violent boyfriend of Rossellini’s character with absolute precision. He draws the audience in with every idiosyncrasy that his character possesses. By the end, everything is not at all straight forward or wrapped up. The film has a lot of room for interpretation and discussions. Love him or hate him, David Lynch is the master of his own fate and has a definitive style that is his and his only.
Boogie 3D 8/10
Boogie was not a film I would have expected to be in my top choices but it’s an absolute blast none the less. Based on a spanish comic book about a hired thug called “Boogie” who weaves his way through a corrupt city with no regard for anyone but himself. He meets Marcia who is on the run from some pretty bad guys. While protecting Marcia, Boogie starts to develop a softer side and ends up falling for her. This has such a unique style and feel about it, it’s entirely comic book/cartoon style with plenty of action, blood and gore. The humour in the voice over dialogue really shines through too. It’s just 80 minutes of great fun, I love it!
Love him or hate him Sacha Baron Cohen’s mockumentary “Borat” is one of the single most hilarious and politically incorrect films ever made. Following up from his hit film “Ali G”, Cohen delivers non stop clever and witty dialogue throughout this trip across the United States as a report from Kazakhstan. He really brings the character of Borat to life. The best thing about the film is that no one is ever singled out, everyone is made fun of. Any possible stereotype you can think of is covered throughout the film. I’m one of those people who don’t find to many comedy films all that consistent. However, I can safely say that “Borat” is one of a kind and an absolute must own for any comedy fan.
Boy In The Striped Pyjamas 9/10
In 2008, Mark Herman came on the scene with his adaption of John Boyne’s novel “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas”. The story is about a young boy and the friendship he forms with a jewish boy during World War 2. This is a unbelievable film with fantastic performances from Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis and of course Asa Butterfield. The rest of the young inexperienced cast are great too. It draws on every emotion and shows the unfair nature of being a child with no say or an understanding of why there is such hatred towards something or someone. It’s funny at times and it’s sad too but overall it’s just brilliant. The fact this film never won any awards for screenplay or acting is just a travesty, Hollywood screwed up big time that year. This is truly the best war/drama in a long time.
Boys Don’t Cry 8/10
In 1999, Kimberly Peirce’s “Boys Don’t Cry” gained critical acclaim. It depicted the true story of Brandon Teena, a transgendered teen who prefered to live life as a male identity even though she was actually born a female. With truly spectacular performances from Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny and Peter Sarsgaard and such a wonderfully adapted screen play, it’s no surprise this was highly praised. It’s shot with the appropriate amount of grit and also has some fantastic music. It’s even more powerful because it’s based on true events. It’s a story about learning to accept someone the way that they are, after all we are human beings made up of all the same parts. It’s very difficult to watch this in certain parts but it’s an important film and it’s told genuinely and honestly. Brilliant.
Brain Dead 8/10
Peter Jackson’s film from 1992 “Brain Dead” has pretty much been forgotten. In the wake of his Hollywood success people have forget about his roots and where he started. I’m not a big modern day Jackson fan but “Brain Dead” is truly one of a kind. Peter had a non-existent budget when he made this, yet somehow it delivers such entertainment value. It’s the most disgusting horror film of the last 30 years. Set in New Zealand, a young man’s mother is bitten by a rat-monkey, she gets sick and dies. Later she returns from the dead killing and eating just about everything in sight. This ridiculously over the top dark horror film is a blast. Some really funny stuff along with amazing practical blood and gore effects make this the biggest gross out film of the 90’s. It’s worth watching just for the lawnmower scene alone!
(For fans of Bad Taste and Adam, Chaplin)
Mel Gibson directed and starred in arguably the best film of 1995 “Braveheart”. The huge drama/biography about a Scottish commoner who begins a revolt and leads other Scots against the vicious English Hierarchy. I think this is one of Mel Gibson’s absolute best performances, the fact that he directs this as well is even more impressive. The battle scenes are epic and well choreographed. It’s very graphic nature is realistic but never relies on shock value to wow its audience. It’s a well written screenplay that oozes professionalism. As far as depicting the time period, it’s pretty close to a perfect film, it’s maybe a fraction to long thats is about the only criticism I have of it, it’s a must own!
(For fans of Centurion, Gladiator and King Arthur)
“Breathless” is a crime/drama independently released in 2012. The film stars Gina Gershon, Kelli Giddish and Ray Liotta. A texas housewife kills her husband after he has robbed a bank. With help from her friend, they attempt to hide the body from the local sheriff and get away with the money. I will be the first to admit I wouldn’t have ever expected this to be in my top films. However, it’s so well put together and well written with some great dark humour that I couldn’t help but commend it. This is very reminiscent of any one of the Coen Brothers films, that’s what I loved most about it. It has its own ideas but at the same time, If I didn’t know prior to watching, I would have sworn it was on of their films. There are solid performances along with some cool twists and turns. It’s also a one location, two camera’s type of film. These are the most clever types of films if they are done right. I’m not sure what’s with all the negativity about “Breathless”. I thought it was an underrated gem!
(For fans of Blood Simple, Fargo and Tape)
In 2010, Director Will Canon stormed out of the blocks with his fantastic Crime/Thriller film “Brotherhood”. A fictional story about a fraternity initiation prank gone horribly wrong leading to disastrous consequences. This one has a fantastic bunch of up and coming young actors including Jon Foster, Trevor Morgan, Lou Taylor Pucci and Arlen Escarpeta. All of the performances are great. The screenplay is clever, it’s fast paced and full of twists and turns, many of which you won’t see coming. It’s a film about actions and consequences and how one decision can change everything. It’s shot well and everyone does a fantastic job at remaining in a high emotional state for the entire running time. There is a lot to be learnt from this film and if not for its excessive swearing and a few minor plot issues it would have been flawless. Everyone I have ever recommended this too has loved it!! The end was very clever too.
This is Jim Sheridan’s version of the film “Brothers”, a 2009 remake of a 2004 european film. “Brothers” tells the story of Sam and Tommy, two brothers. Sam goes off to fight in the war while Tommy stays at home and looks after Sam’s wife Grace. Upon returning home and surviving a horrific ordeal, Sam loses his grip on reality and suspects his brother of cheating with his wife. What a fantastic emotional ride this film is. With a cast including Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Shepard you wouldn’t expect anything less than perfection, and boy do they deliver! The score is beautiful and haunting, the camera work is very raw and personal. The screenplay was wonderfully adapted with a few little changes from the original film. A few absolute powerhouse performances in a few important scenes, along with the sheer emotional ride the film takes you on, make this a truly brilliant lesson in quality filmmaking.
Larry Clark’s extremely controversial 2001 film “Bully” is next on my list of great films. The film is based on a true story about a group of dysfunctional youths who choose to murder one of their friends who was a tormented boy that bullied them. It’s a tricky thing when you make a film based on a true story. You need to stay true to the real events but at the same time get that connection with the audience in the way you tell the story. Bully is truly brilliant in all aspects. With mind-blowing performances from the late great Brad Renfro along with Nick Stahl who delivers his career best performance as Bobby Kent (the bully). Along with such great character actors like Michael Pitt, Daniel Franzese, Rachel Miner, Bijou Phillips, Kelli Garner and Leo Fitzpatrick, it’s a wonderful ensemble. Nobody steals the show from anyone here, everyone brings their A game. The film is shot really personally, it’s gritty, it’s rough and it’s graphic and so it should be. This thing really happened, it’s a very disturbing look at society and the youth of today. The direction we are heading with the lack of parenting is evident here. This should have never happened, but I’m sure glad the film did!
Cabin In The Woods 9/10
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon collaborate again here with the spectacular horror film “The Cabin In The Woods”. A completely original take on The Cabin In The Woods element of the horror genre. This film turns everything completely on its head, it pays wonderful homage to everything we have ever seen in a horror film but manages to be completely original in its own storytelling. It’s not to be taken to seriously and or questioned to a ridiculous extent. It has fantastic Whedon humour throughout the entire thing. An attractive and solid cast of actors and actresses. Plenty of twists and turns to go along with the blood and gore. The final act of the film will kick you in the butt and it will take your brain a few minutes to comprehend what you have just seen! It’s clever, it’s funny and the last third is a bloodbath. It’s a brilliant film of the genre, anyone who calls themselves a horror fan couldn’t possibly dislike this, it’s the best thing I have seen in many years.
Cabin Fever 8/10
Eli Roth’s directorial debut “Cabin Fever” has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Is it the best film ever made? probably not, but it’s a damn fine first film from Roth. Back in 2002 nothing much had been done like this in modern filmmaking. Eli takes his love of films like Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the elements they possess and places them into his own little story. It’s about a group of college kids going to a cabin for the weekend. The group are being killed off by a flesh-eating bacteria. With a great young attractive cast and plenty of over the top humour and cheesy dialogue it’s exactly what you hope for. James DeBello and Giuseppe Andrews deliver the hilarious comedy aspect of the film. The karate busting kid was hilarious too! This is shot well and it sounds great. There is plenty of amazing practical blood and gore effects which always wins out over CGI. This is just great fun and Eli’s little cameo shows that he had a blast with this as much as I did!
Champions, The Mighty Ducks 8/10
It sounds kind of silly to put this Walt Disney film from 1992 “Champions” alongside some of the brilliant films over the years, but I’m still going too. “Champions” takes me back to my childhood and I definitely have a soft spot for it. I still think it’s a good fun screenplay with some good performances, I like Emilio Estevez a lot in this too. Everyone forgets that this boosted the career of Joshua Jackson (whom I also really like). It has that great 90’s vibe, with lots of cheesy dialogue and a predictable nature that these type of films have. I also played hockey for over 10 years and I think this film was what made me want to get involved in the sport, anyone who hasn’t seen this hasn’t lived!
Clint Eastwood’s wonderful film “The Changeling” is based on a true story. It’s about a grief striken mother that takes on the entire LAPD after he child goes missing. Her young son is replaced with a different boy and returned to her much to her displeasure. Angelina Jolie gives her greatest performance as Christine Collins. You can tell Jolie went to great lengths to research the real Collins and plays it as realistically as possible. Michael Kelly, John Malkovich and Jeffrey Donovan also give really solid performances. It is as authentic as they come, depicting the 20’s and 30’s with precision. Everything from the score to the costumes to the vehicles, everything looks stellar. With Eastwood behind the camera he has this ability to gauge the audience with such well developed characters. He gets us immersed in the story with absolute ease. Is there any wonder that this is a brilliant film and that Clint is close to the best in the business.
City Of God 8/10
A Portuguese film from 2002 called “City Of God” has to be in my top selection of films. It’s the story of two young boys growing up in the most violent neighbourhood in Rio De Janeiro. The two boys take different paths in life. One goes on to become a photographer and the other, one of the biggest drug dealers in Brazil. This film is the definition of heavy. It’s long, its harsh but it’s realistic in the most eye-opening ways. It’s hard to get an audience involved with such a heavy subject matter but this manages to be very thought-provoking. This makes me so grateful to live in the country that I do. These youths have no choice but to resort to dealing drugs and getting caught up in weapons dealing etc, its bred into them from such a young age. Violence is all they see, it’s all they know, take from others before they take from you. The performances are wonderful, the film looks dirty and gritty which is exactly how things would be. There is some hope in the story but ultimately it’s about the hand your dealt in life and some people never have a hope right from the start. The average life expectancy of a young male in Rio is 21. Think about that, watch the film.
(For fans of City Of Men and I Want To Be A Soldier
In 2008, Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard presented us with one of the best monster movies ever made “Cloverfield”. Shot entirely from a handy-cam, found footage style. This survival flick puts us in the shoes of our group of characters trying to survive an attack in New York City. This is great thrill ride. The film had to be shot this way, if it was done “Hollywood” style, on a big epic scale it wouldn’t have worked anywhere near as well. The characters are all really likeable and you want them to survive, that was crucial for the story. Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J Miller and Michael Stahl-David make up our group. The details surrounding the attack are never fully revealed and I love that aspect. I was able to watch this film 2 or 3 times and get something new from it every time. The creature looks absolutely fantastic, it blends in really well. Completely CGI crafted creatures can look horrible but this one looks glorious and is gigantic. The twists and turns the story takes were really cool too. If not for some of the minor glitches in the plot and some details left untold this would have been even better. I love the ending and I’m really hoping for a sequel one of these days! This is one of the great monster movies of all time.
(For Fans of Godzilla and Pacific Rim)
1985 saw the film adaption of the popular board game “Cluedo”. I would have thought this would appear to be dated by now but it’s not. It holds up as one of the best crime/comedies of all time. Hilarious performances from all involved. No doubt Tim Curry as Wadsworth steals the show. His lines are delivered at break neck speed and with such precision and comedic timing, it’s brilliant. Michael Mckean, Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn and Eileen Brennan make up the rest of the cast. It’s a story about blackmail, deceit and murder. It’s not to be taken too seriously, it has a Peter Sellers film vibe about it. I thought the set design was fantastic, the film looks and sounds great and the humour is really witty and is quiet consistent. I would love to see this remade in the near future, I love it!
(For fans of Sleuth and Weekend At Bernies)
This is of course the Paul Haggis film “Crash” not David Cronenberg’s controversial film of the same name. I can’t get over the people who labelled this film overrated and uninspiring. First of all it’s a film that covers every human emotion. There is a lot to be learnt from this film. Some of the topics that are covered include race, religion, sex, loss and redemption. It’s nearly 10 years old, so back then nothing like this had been made. It’s formula of intersecting storylines hadn’t ever been done before. The cast alone is one of the best for any drama film that I’ve ever seen. It includes Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, Sandra Bullock, Michael Pena, Ryan Phillipe, Matt Dillon, Loretta Devine, Terrence Howard, Thandie Newton and the list goes on. Everyone pulls their weight and the performances alone, are reason enough to watch it. The score is hauntingly beautiful. Everyone is struggling with their own demons in this and it’s depicted perfectly throughout the acts of the film. I love this and there is something for everybody here.
(For fans of Crossing Over and 360)
Twin brothers, Paul and Ben China’s Crime/Suspense film “Crawl” is likely to be the only Australian film to ever appear in my top section of films. This fantastic intensely written Crime/Thriller that’s in the vein of Blood Simple is just a lesson in pure tension filmmaking. Drawing on inspirations from Polanski, The Coen Brothers and Hitchcock the China’s have created their own original low-budget film. With minimal set designs and locations and only 3 main characters, the brothers manage to deliver the best Aussie film I have ever seen. This has fantastic cinematography and sound effects, great pacing and a truly eerie score. If not for a couple of small loose plot issues this would be the definition of a perfect suspense film. If Hitchcock were alive today he would throw a nod the brothers way.
(For fans of Blood Simple and No Country For Old Men)
The Cure 8/10
1995 seemed to be a pretty good year for films. Peter Horton’s “The Cure” is no exception to that. It stars Brad Renfro and Joseph Mazzello who play two young boys that are neighbours who quickly develop a friendship. Dexter has the AIDS disease and despite warnings from his mother, neighbour Eric continues his friendship with Dexter. The two hear about a doctor who may have found the cure for aids, so the two boys head off down the river to New Orleans looking for answers. This is just a wonderful heartfelt story about friendship. It’s humourous and it’s also sad at times. Both boys deliver fantastic performances. There is some wonderful cinematography throughout the film too. Ultimately it shows the innocence of children and the fact that friendship is so important regardless of someones situation. It’s such a great little independent movie that should have received far more recognition than it ever did.
(For fans of Lorenzo’s Oil and My Sisters Keeper)