Posts Tagged ‘Ridley Scott’

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Top 50 Films of the Decade: Pt. 2 (40-31)

December 27, 2009

The next ten in the list of the films I thoroughly enjoyed this past decade.

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40. CORALINE (2008) – An intricate stop-motion animated film that is dark, sly and astounding. A modern-day Grimm fairy tale filled with eccentric characters and a plucky young heroine. Just thinking about how many puppets it took to create the jumping mice circus blows me away.

39. AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000) – Christian Bale once again plays it to the hilt as the narcissistic serial killer, Patrick Bateman, whose paranoia starts to damage his mannered calm. Coming so soon after Fight Club may have diminished the film’s 3rd Act twist, but it doesn’t keep this film from having an impact. Who can forget the scene where he prepares to dismember a victim to Huey Lewis and the News, or his obsession over a rival’s business card?

38. THE WRESTLER (2008) – The most amazing special effect in this film is Mickey Rourke’s beefy body. His casting comes with an eerie resonance since it’s about a past-his-prime performer trying to stay relevant. I can overlook Rachel Evan Wood’s thankless underwritten role mainly because of his astounding and heartbreaking performance. His self-punishment is intense, visceral and compounded by his desire to relive the glory of his younger days. Devastating.

37. BRICK (2005) – Rian Johnson’s first film is dense with vernacular and mannered camera work that recalls the Coen Brothers earliest films. This is the kind of movie my film school would have frowned upon but that’s not the only reason why I hold it in such high regard. Joseph Gordon Levitt sheds his goofy tv persona to become a film actor.

36. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006) – Breathtaking single-take action sequences punctuate Alfonso Cuaron’s distopian view of the near-future where infertility has numbered the days of humanity — until Clive Owen’s character is tasked to care for the last pregnant woman. Nearly perfect until the last shot hits the nail on the head to bluntly, it’s still a thrilling film to watch.

35. MATCH POINT (2005) – Woody Allen finds a new muse (Scarlett Johanssan) and films in a different country (England) and creates a controlled, suspenseful, thriller that actually has you rooting for Jonathan Rhys-Meyers despite his infidelity and manipulative nature. It’s the least Woody Allen film that still deals with Woody Allen themes. With this one film he almost manages to make me forgive him for dreck like Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

34. SEXY BEAST (2001) – Speaking of astounding performances, I must be a sucker for ham because Ben Kingsley turns it upside down as the sociopathic gangster Don Logan. This film defies the “one more heist” gangster genre and presents a middle-aged man past his prime and willing to do what it takes to maintain his retired lifestyle.

33. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: DIRECTOR’S CUT (2005) – Ridley Scott’s misunderstood epic was neutered for its theatrical release. Thank god for DVD — many scenes fleshing out characters and a very important suplot involving Eva Green and her son are restored, explaining her diminished presence in the third act. Far more satisfying than Gladiator.

32. HEIST (2001) – No one does sleight of hand better than Mamet, and this is his most accomplished film to date. Still mannered and obsessed with creating its own vernacular, and yet it still manages to elevate the con genre. “Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it ‘Money’!”

31. IRON MAN (2008) – This was a surprise and a joy to watch. Jon Favreau takes the Batman Begins approach and gets beneath the armor to give us Tony Stark, played with utter command and dashing derring-do by Robert Downey Jr. One of the best casting choices alongside Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. And while the movie’s third act grinds down into good-guy/bad-guy rock ’em sock ’em CGI robot clash, it’s still one of the best super-hero movies ever.

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“Ever Been Dragged to the Sidewalk and Beaten Until You PISSED BLOOD!?”

October 1, 2008

MATCHSTICK MEN
d. Ridley Scott

Not the kind of film you would usually associate with Ridley Scott, Matchstick Men tells the story of a con man, Roy (played by Nicolas Cage), whose life changes when his estranged daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman), enters his life. On the surface it sounds like many other movies of its ilk, but what differentiates this from the run-of-the-mill genre pic is the wonderful relationship that develops between the father and the daughter, as well as the strange character traits Roy exhibits.

Roy is an anal-compulsive, constantly cleaning his apartment and opening and shutting doors a total of three times; he is also a catalogue of facial tics and vocal spasms. Nic Cage gives a surprisingly engaging performance reminiscent of the more colorful characters from the start of his career; and while most would consider it too mannered or over-the-top, Nic makes us sympathize with him especially when he becomes desperate as his condition worsens (look to the scene towards the end when he skips the line to convince pharmacists to give him his medication). Also giving a winning performance is Alison Lohman as his daughter. Usually when a character like Angela enters the movie, she runs the risk of becoming a bit of a Scrappy-Doo — an irritating sidekick to the protagonist; however, this is not the case. Finally, Sam Rockwell also turns in a great performance as Frank, Roy’s partner in con.

While the twist towards the end is telegraphed early (having become used to the con genre (see Mamet)), the journey there is very enjoyable. It’s interesting that the con genre is usually about the figurative parent/child, or teacher/student, relationship and here it is realized literally (mostly). When Nic breaks down after the big twist, especially when he confronts Angela’s mother, it is quite something to behold; Nic really sells the betrayal.

At the end I wanted Roy to be angry and take revenge, but the ending as it is makes sense. There is forgiveness and enlightenment when he confronts his daughter, and in the last shot, Roy gets redemption.

In any case, I was surprised and pleased that this movie won me over. I found it funny and refreshing. It’s certainly one of Nic’s best films in ages, and I will keep my eye out on Alison’s career.

Three out of Five Stars.

Next up should be the George Clooney vehicle Leatherheads.