I love big, bold, colourful feature film updates of vintage 1930’s pulp comic books or radio plays and Simon Wincer’s The Phantom is just an absolute blast of escapism that’ll put a smile on your face no matter what. These days Billy Zane has become kind of a forgotten comedic totem but people forget what genuine charisma and star power he once had, and he rocks it here as Kit Walker aka The Phantom, a jungle born superhero descended from a long line of Phantoms before him, thus creating the reputation of being immortal, at least in his enemy’s eyes. Clad in a swanky purple suit with dual colt pistols and joined by a horse and a trusty wolf named ‘Devil’ at his side, he’s probably one of the most aesthetic superheroes I’ve ever seen in a film and I wish this led to sequels. Here he must protect three sacred skulls with supernatural power from power mad, psychopathic NYC tycoon Xander Drax (Treat Williams), fighting side by side with intrepid reporter Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) through a series of exciting adventure set pieces in incredibly exotic, gorgeous locations around the world. Zane is terrific and gives The Phantom just the right mixture of cavalier attitude, genuine empathy and swashbuckling magnetism, plus he rocks that suit solidly, which given this suit, not all actors could do and be taken seriously at it. Williams is a hammy hoot as Drax but his thunder is ever so slightly stolen by two terrific secondary villains: James Remar as Quill, a sort of evil doppelgänger version of Indiana Jones and Catherine Zeta Jones as Sala, an impossibly bad tempered femme fatale who has the hots for the Phantom and goes through a hilariously conflicted meltdown mid-film. The supporting roster is excellent and includes Bill Smitrovitch, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Leon Russom, Jon Tenney, David Proval, John Capodice and the great Patrick McGoohan as the ghost of Phantom’s father who appears to him as voice of counsel and occasionally wingman. I thought this was just a brilliant good time, a solid, beautifully retro old school adventure flick and I was disappointed to read that it was a box office flop. It’s like the Lone Rangers, the Indiana Joenses, The Rocketeers, the Sky Captains, just this rollicking old world American pulp hero aesthetic that translates so well into action adventure in cinema. Oh and watch for a sly reference to William Friedkin’s Sorcerer. Great film.
The Cat In The Hat is one of those movies that probably shouldn’t have been made, but it did get made and, well, it just kind of sits there nursing incisively negative reviews, nonexistent box office attention and quietly fading into obscurity. The problem is simply that Dr. Seuss’s material is so singularly, specifically eccentric that any attempts to adapt it into a faithful and successful film fail by default, like trying to accurately describe a dream in non-abstract terms hours after you’ve woken from it. The vernacular, the drawings, the poetry, it’s just not made for cinema other than the incredibly literal animated shorts they did narrated by Boris Karloff (The Grinch has one that imparted eons more in like ten minutes than the feature length Jim Carrey version could). It’s like your Roald Dahls, your Maurice Sendaks, your E.B. Whites etc.. Big Hollywood can just never seem to nail the transition. Mike Meyers hasn’t had the best luck in character work outside Austin Powers and Wayne’s World and unfortunately he strikes out here, mugging, contorting, quipping, creeping, crawling as the famed feline home invader, to little effect. The fleeting, surreal whimsy of Seuss’s book is lost on a Fisher Price phantasmagoria of admittedly elaborate and impressive yet ultimately hollow and cornea splitting production design. Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin try their best as the two kids but just kind of come across as awkward in a story that’s reduced from a quick, lighthearted parable into a cacophonous jumble of hijinks that posses neither rhyme nor reason, dual qualities that were abundant in Seuss’s volumes. Alec Baldwin is there for some reason, debasing himself as an oafish slob. I’m only really reviewing this for Kelly Preston and she’s lovely as the kid’s mom, but not in it nearly enough and forced to share most of her scenes with the tone deaf, excruciating Sean Hayes. I don’t want to shred Dr. Seuss Hollywood adaptations too viciously because they don’t all miss the mark completely (check out The Lorax for one that’s actually half decent) but the magic from his books will never be recreated onscreen, it’s just not a tangible, realistic alchemy. And I gotta say, this one has to be bottom of the barrel in terms of them all, it’s an embarrassment to the book.
It still amazes me that Kevin McDonald’s How I Live Now didn’t endure to become a more widely known or appreciated film, because it’s one of my favourites and in my mind one of the strongest, most affecting pieces of work in recent decades. I guess it kind of comes across as this Young Adult Book adaptation if you check out the cover and trailer but the film therein is extremely honest, disarmingly disturbing and very, very brutally frank about how widespread disaster may hit any region and those who live within it. It’s not without poetry, authentic romance, beauty or hope though and there’s this beautiful, life affirming balance between light and dark that makes for the perfect mixture.
The always exceptional Saoirse Ronan stars as Daisy, an American girl who suffers from severe anxiety and feelings of alienation, sent overseas to rural UK to live with an aunt and a whole pile of cousins she’s never even met. Slowly, bit by bit she comes out of her shell and warms up to this family, especially local boy Eddie (George MacKay) who she begins to fall in love with. Gradually the place she’s in and the people she’s with start to feel like home… until something unspeakable happens. Hundreds of miles away in London, a nuclear bomb goes off, cataclysm sets in and oppressive foreign forces slowly invade across the land. Her Aunt is gone doing humanitarian crisis work and so herself and Eddie, the closest thing the family has to leaders, must embark on a cross country odyssey fraught with dread, misery, peril and bleakness everywhere they turn.
This film hits me hard because of how real the danger and horrific aspects feel, how potent and believable the acting and relationships are and how brisk yet dense, heavy yet wistful and dark yet light the story ultimately feels. This is not a children’s film and it is most definitely *not* one geared solely towards teenagers either, there’s scenes of abject horror (it’s got an R rating that it more than earns), children thrown into impossibly complex and harrowing situations beyond their comprehension and is steeped in the harsh reality that in life things can go horribly wrong and if you find something anywhere near a happy ending you’re incredibly lucky rather than owed one by a pandering narrative. Ronan and MacKay are incredibly heartfelt and genuine, their romance and resilience anchoring the whole family as well as the film. Few films with children and young adults in the forefront have the bravery and honesty to show that the world can be just as harsh to them as to any adult protagonist, and show in the same token how said youngsters can have a tremendous amount of survivalism, intuition, spirit and courage to overcome adversity and do the best in an unforgiving world. This film is light and dark to me; the womb-like, sun dappled meadows and rivers of the English countryside where these children play and begin to grow up and then the blackened, nuclear poisoned land they venture out into and must find their way back to the light from. Light and dark. The blossoming romance between Daisy and Eddie, a force of great light in the face of encroaching evil and callous destruction approaching them, and the decision to use that love as a weapon in order to get them through, no matter how it might change either of them. In this film, the light wins and I watch it whenever I need a reminder of that. Masterpiece.
I don’t know what I can say about Ennio Morricone that the maestro hasn’t already said with his unique, extraordinary and altogether legendary career in music composition, direction and innovation. He’s likely in my top five film composers of all time and the tactile, eccentric, melodious, often experimental and unmistakably singular presence he brought to the industry will never be forgotten. Ennio has passed this month but his work will live on immortal, and here are my personal top ten musical scores he crafted:
10. Wolfgang Petersen’s In The Line Of Fire
Tension and suspense are what this terrific assassination thriller is all about, and Ennio rises to the occasion for a nerve jangling yet quite beautiful piece of work. Favourite track: ‘Taking the bullet’, a propulsive entry that highlights secret service Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) and the penultimate beat of his character arc.
9. Phil Joanou’s State Of Grace
This gritty neo noir sees Irish mobsters clashing in 1990’s New York City and Morricone perfectly captures the moody, smoky street aesthetic while still heavily maintaining his melodic tendencies. Favourite track: Hell’s Kitchen, a mournful urban lullaby that highlights character and setting wonderfully.
8. Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollars More
The holy trinity of spaghetti westerns sees Ennio pack this middle chapter with iconic passages of his gorgeously eccentric, trademark composition. Favourite track: the main title, which makes full use of boings and twangs while that trademark whistle carries on in harmony.
7. Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars
The opener and introduction to Clint Eastwood’s legendary Man With No Name, with some of the Maestro’s most recognizable work. Favourite track: Finali, with fluttery flutes and whip cracks to prove once again that our man could sample any sound under the sun and integrate it seamlessly into his work.
6. Roland Joffé’s The Mission
A period piece sees Spanish priests protecting an indigenous village from Portuguese tyranny and Ennio composed an utterly holy piece of orchestral bliss that at times sounds like an angel’s choir and soars on high. Favourite track: ‘On Earth as it is in Heaven’, one of the most moving pieces he’s ever done.
5. Sergio Corbucci’s Navajo Joe
I’ll be honest I only watched this film once and it’s a decent if severely brutal and scrappy Burt Reynolds spaghetti vehicle. The main reason I’ve included it here is because Quentin Tarantino samples much of Ennio’s work on it for Kill Bill Volume 2, which to me is an iconic film. It’s epic, bold, bleeding heart melodrama put to music. Favourite track: The Confrontation, a war cry of a finale piece that plays during crucial scenes of both Joe and Bill.
4. Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
The big daddy of the Man With No Name trilogy and some of Morricone’s most prolific, well recognized work. Favourite track: The Ecstasy Of Gold, a lilting, airy composition that accents landscape and character awesomely.
3. John Carpenter’s The Thing
He goes frozen, paranoid, lonely and sketched out for this low key yet deeply unnerving piece. It’s like No Frills Ennio in the best way possible, a somewhat counterintuitive undertaking based on what he was known for, but one of the most effective, chilling horror film scores ever crafted. Favourite track: Humanity Part 2, a driving, propulsive examination of the inevitably creeping horror making itself known in the story.
2. Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West
This western epic has some of his most achingly beautiful work ever, from the melancholy main theme to the eerie Harmonica strains to the booming, impossibly epic final showdown. Favourite track: Farewell To Cheyanne, a resolute, hauntingly downbeat exodus piece for Jason Robards’s character that meanders along beautifully and always sticks in my memory when I revisit the film, which is oh so often.
1. Oliver Stone’s U Turn
I know, I know, what a choice for number one. This film means a lot to me though, it’s incredibly underrated as a breathtaking piece of avant-garde, cheerfully fatalistic noir nihilism. A sunny Arizona set neo-noir with heaps of both black comedy and deeply buried tragic pathos seems like a tall order for any composer, but Ennio could quite literally rise to any challenge. Portions of his work here are bonkers, playful, full of hyperactive zips, zooms, boings and twangs and later he brings a haunting, echoey resonance to the storied Arizona landscape and suggests layers beneath the initial set up that turn the film from surface level nihilism into something more deep, profound and thoughtful. It’s ironic that this is my favourite work he’s done because you can’t find this anywhere unless you watch the film, and I *literally* mean anywhere. YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, nada man, it’s like the ghost score that everyone forgot. Check the film out though because his work is beyond beautiful here and brings me to tears every time I view Stone’s unheralded masterpiece. Favourite track: ‘Grace’, an evocative, quietly unsettling yet gorgeous piece that echoes off the canyon walls and provides so much atmosphere you feel like you’re right there.
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was my first theatrical viewing in a while this past weekend and damn it’s great to be back in the cinema!!What impressed me most about the film (and trust me, there wasn’t a second I *wasnt* impressed) is that despite a generous two hour runtime and a steady, slow build to the bulk of the action/horror there’s never a moment that doesn’t feel taut, efficient and streamlined, even in scenes meant only to build character. The east coast town of Amity feels cozy, lived in and primed for summer as the film starts off, elegiac and wistful in that small town way that Spielberg seems to be so specific at nailing. The rest and relaxation is of course literally cut short by the arrival of a nasty great white shark with notions on gustation rather than relaxation for the duration of it’s summer, which it plans to spend devouring anyone who wades out too far from the shoreline and spewing their mangled remains all over the Cape Cod Coast. The holy trinity of shark hunting badasses slowly comes together in the form of jumpy local police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), wiry marine biologist Hooper and crusty old sea captain Quint (Robert Shaw). The film feels so damn organic from scene to scene, and the multiple nail biting shark attack sequences are laced together with genuinely touching moments of family life, charmingly benign comic relief and swashbuckling bravery in the face of both menace from the Great White and ineptitude from the dumb-tit town mayor (Murray Hamilton) and his increasingly ludicrous wardrobe. John Williams’s iconic score does it’s creepy, crawly trademark thing but also gets really classically orchestral in other sweeping vista scenes and even hits some delightfully quirky notes later on. The shark effects are never anything short of breathtaking from POV to real life footage to animatronic and whatever else Spielberg employed, I believed that thing was there for real. The three main performances are excellent with Shaw stealing the show as he often did in a playful, cantankerous and eventually quite touching portrayal of the ‘mad seaman hunter’ archetype. I especially loved a monologue he delivered with uncanny charisma about his character being aboard the ill fated USS Indianapolis back in the war, it’s a sobering (literally) piece of dialogue that simultaneously develops all three characters as one talks and two listen, strengthens their bond right before throwing them into dangerous waters and is my favourite scene of the film. I can’t think of much wrong with this picture, it’s one hundred percent effective summer blockbuster action/horror/adventure entertainment and I can see why it has become a solid gold classic. Excellent film.
Roger Ebert had this to say about Team America: World Police:
“I wasn’t offended by the movie’s content so much as by its nihilism. At a time when the world is in crisis and the country faces an important election, the response of Parker, Stone and company is to sneer at both sides — indeed, at anyone who takes the current world situation seriously. “
Like.. dude. That surprised and made me chuckle a lot considering the fact that ol’ Rog usually had a clear head for objectivity and was never ruffled so easily by such things. I think it flew over his head that that’s what Trey Parker and Matt Stone were aiming for this ballistic, balls out political satire and given their track record from South Park the decision to be utterly nihilistic about world issues should have come as no surprise. Satire *should* be nihilistic by default and leave the side-taking, agenda pushing to the Oscar bait dramas. Anyways, Team American remains one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen from several different perspectives. The choice to use creepy little bobblehead puppets is both a testament to vision and craft while also providing a baseline layer of simple hilarity just from watching these little bastards move around, hold guns, operate vehicles, shift pricelessly orchestrated facial expressions and.. uh.. engage in fearsomely sweaty puppet sex. Then there’s the ruthless, no prisoners taken attitude Parker and Stone have in sardonically crucifying every aspect of American culture, media, foreign relations and jingoistic, stars n’ stripes patriotism. On top of that there’s a brilliant sendup of mega budget, Jerry Bruckheimer produced action barnstormer flicks that is so dead on from everything to excessive destruction of world monuments to rousing Zimmer-esque music cues to explosive mayhem-for-mayhem’s-sake. They even decided to make the damn thing a fucking musical and I’d quote their pitch perfect tracks but folks you can already hear them bouncing around in your head. It’s a perfect package and is just simply geared to offend by design, which most seemed to take in stride and roll with (this film has an almost unanimously terrific reception). These days if something is deemed offensive people somehow want it gone, want it wiped off the cultural map, but guys here’s the thing with satire: if it’s offensive it needs a medal pinned to its jacket, not a scolding and swift trip to the corner. That’s. The. Point. Stone and Parker have always known this and have never pulled any punches, especially here. I think that if anything this film has gotten funnier in the decade plus since it came out in every way, but my favourite aspect has to be simply the way these puppets sound and interact, given the creator’s unmistakable vocals: from Tim Robbins and Martin Sheen growling “We’re guarddsss” to Kim Jong Il’s monumentally inaccurate Korean accent to mentally stunted Matt Damon reciting his own name to one of the best barroom monologues ever written to the maniacal terrorists yelling “Derka Derka” and all the little touches in between, this thing just soars.
Dwayne Johnson is everywhere these days since his beautifully rendered CGI debut as the scorpion king way back when, but he’s just Dwayne Johnson now, without a Rock in sight in those above title credits. The Rundown, however, is an old enough film to to still feature his initial credit of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and has to be my favourite feature film he has ever headlined, giving him an unbelievably fun, quite likeable character to play in his very own Indiana Jones movie that while I sometimes wish would have lead to a franchise, I also concede that half the film’s irresistible appeal is in its singularity: it’s there for a blast of a ninety minute slot and then runs off into the jungle again without overstaying it’s welcome.
Dwayne The Rock is Beck here, an infamous Miami bounty hunter with the discretion and decorum to call himself a ‘retrieval expert’, which sounds more palatable. He’s no less ruthless and efficient than your garden variety street bounty hunter though, as we see in a brutal opening brawl where he kicks the absolute fuck out of the entire Miami Dolphins starting lineup in a nightclub. After this fitting introduction, Beck is sent to the jungles of South America by his asshole mobster handler (a scene stealing Bill Lucking) to ‘retrieve’ the man’s wayward son, played by Sean William Scott in a performance so energetic that squirrels would have a tough time catching up. The lush Hawaiian scenery where they chose to film is a huge plus as Beck navigates a sweaty, corruption laced frontier town under the iron fisted, maniacal rule of tyrannical despot Hatcher, played by Christopher Walken in a performance so ‘out there’ that… well I can’t even compare it to an animal like Scott’s because Chris’s brand of energy is something all it’s own. Rock, Scott and local bar owner Rosario Dawson are forced to band together with the locals and take down Hatcher plus his army of bad dudes in a race to find some mysterious artifact (gato!) worth untold fortunes.
This is helmed by Peter Berg who, especially these days, has quite a knack for making action films about as fun as they can be, even within the constraints of a PG-13 rating found here. Beck’s mantra is to not use guns and he keeps this up as long as reason allows, but when there’s a literal western showdown he’s forced to take up arms and when he does… man the camera can barely keep up with the fluid choreography as otherworldly Scottish bush pilot Ewen Bremner eerily recites Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle into that goodnight’ in the background with his indecipherable brogue like some demented Greek/Scottish chorus. Walken is an unbalanced, raving whack-job as Hatcher, it’s one of his most playful, exuberant villain turns in an extensive rogues gallery and he makes the most out of his screen time like a dog off the chain. This is just such a fun flick, not a serious bone in its body, a bawdy jungle romp with machete wielding mercenaries, horny baboons, indigenous Kung fu warriors, kinetically shot action set pieces, gorgeous scenery, buckets of deliciously lowbrow comedy, a blink and you’ll miss it Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo and more. Always a rocking great time.
Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World is a damn near perfect film but it’s a far cry from the kind of thing he was often starring in during the early and mid portions of his career. This is the story of Texas Ranger Red Garnett (Eastwood) and his multi-state pursuit of escaped convict Butch Haynes (Kevin Costner), who has kidnapped a young boy (T.J. Lowther in one of the finest child actor performances I’ve seen) That description might make the film come across as a breathless thriller, machismo soaked Mano a Mano or souped up car chase picture but none of the above are the case. What Eastwood brings us instead is a quiet, sad, eccentric, painfully realistic and meandering rumination on human nature, the corrosive dynamics of the US law enforcement and justice systems and the downward spiral of lost souls subjected to terrible foster care, abuse and neglect. It *is* a chase picture of sorts but no one is in a huge hurry to get anywhere, least of all Red who literally follows Butch around in a confiscated Winnebago, eating tater tots with an idealistic criminologist played by the wonderful Laura Dern. Butch is a hardened criminal but made that way but his experience of the world around him and not an evil man as we see juxtaposition between him and his fellow escapee Terry (Keith Szarabajka, terrifying) who is genuinely a sadistic individual. Red has dealt with Butch years before and thinks that they can both draw on this past experience to resolve the situation with a modicum less of violence than needed, but the many factors involved make this difficult and complex. Eastwood is terrific as Red, a laconic, pragmatic and quietly soulful gunslinger who would rather talk things out than use cast iron brutality against anyone but knows full well that with a child in the crossfire it will almost certainly escalate past words. This may be Costner’s finest performance to date as Butch, he loads his portrayal with uncannily calibrated complexity and long buried trauma that bubbles out when triggered in emotionally devastating outbursts that showcase true intuition and organic cultivation of his craft. Watch as Butch observes a kindly farmer they’re staying with scold his son with violence and see how quick Costner goes from a low simmer to full on destructive hysteria as the childhood memories roil up inside him. Eastwood populates his cast with a well varied range of faces including Bruce McGill, Ray McKinnon, Leo Burmester, Bradley Whitford, Jennifer Griffin and more. This might be the most overlooked film in his career and I can understand that as it’s difficult, unconventional and forces you to see human beings in a series of violent events free from the sensationalistic, predestined grooves of action or thriller genres but just as they are in the real world: complicated, tough to understand, arbitrarily instigated and put to rest and, just like the world we live in itself, eternally ponderous and bereft of cathartic, tuck-you-in-at-night conflict resolution. One of the best film of the century.
I remember the summer of 2005 so clearly: I had just gotten back from a month of summer camp, I had seasons tickets to PlayLand and the big movie event of the summer for me was Michael Bay’s The Island, which was released this week of that year and will always hold a special place in my heart as a formative, nostalgic and utterly ‘summer’ filmgoing experience of my childhood. Reworking a classic ‘clones on the run’ motif and injecting it with his trademark dose of spectacular visual effects and action filmmaking, Bay tells an exciting, thought provoking, rousing and propulsive science fiction saga of clones Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johannsson) on the run from the only life they’ve ever known inside a giant utopian society where they are told their one purpose is to go to the fabled ‘Island,’ when in reality the truth is of course far more sinister and morally egregious. They are pursued by conflicted Black Ops mercenary Laurent (Djimon Hounsou, haunted, badass charisma on a terrific low burn) at the behest of pseudoscience guru Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean with quiet malevolence on full blast), an amoral bastard with a bad case of God Complex. Their journey takes them from this holographic underground hive out into the California desert and eventually to a stunning, stylized Los Angeles of the future where they learn the truth about themselves, the state of the world and make attempts to rescue the multitude of clones still stuck in the facility daw away. Bay has his troupe of actors and we see wonderful supporting work from a scrappy Steve Buscemi, Kim Coates, Ethan Phillips, Shawnee Smith, Chris Ellis, Max Baker, Glenn Morshower, Tom Everett and heartbreaking Michael Clarke Duncan as an ill fated clone. One of my favourite aspects is a thundering, soul stirring original score composed by Steve Jablonsky that crescendos in a finale suite reaching heights of emotional overflow and adrenal stimulation I didn’t think possible in the medium of film fused with music until then. I couldn’t care less what you think of Bay or his work, he’s one of the most influential and treasured filmmakers for me, for growing up watching films with my family and exploring what could be done in the realms of action/science fiction storytelling. The Island is an extraordinary piece, one of my most cherished ‘summer at the movies’ memories and one hell of a damn fine film.
Joel Schumacher was so much more than “the guy who made colourful 90’s Batman flicks.” He himself has said he never meant to be pigeonholed as a superhero guy and if you look at his legendary, prolific career you will see an incredible variety of work including war films, romantic comedy/dramas, musicals, buddy cop flicks, courtroom dramas, suspense thrillers, splatter horror, biopics and more. He was one of the most versatile, dynamic personalities ever to grace the director’s chair and put out superb content in Hollywood. Here are my top ten favourites films of his!
10. The Client (1994)
This John Grisham hybrid of courtroom drama and suspense thriller sees Tommy Lee Jones as an intense DA using an underage murder witness as leverage in a huge mob trial, while the crime syndicate tries to snuff him. It’s slick, high powered stuff with terrific performances all round and plenty of wicked suspense.
9. Blood Creek aka Town Creek (2009)
Chances are you’ve never even heard of this one but it’s such a loopy hidden horror gem. Michael Fassbender plays an evil, whack job Nazi with occult fascination who zombifies himself using evil magic spells and awakens a century later when two small town brothers (Dominic Purcell and Henry Cavill) must do battle with him. There’s buckets of blood n’ gore, a nice grinding low budget aesthetic, bone armour, stunning black & white flashbacks, folk horror, Lovecraftian vibes and more. It’s tough to find but more than worth seeking out.
8. Phone Booth (2002)
One of the original claustrophobic chamber piece thrillers, a moral ad executive Colin Farrell finds himself trapped under sniper fire by an unhinged maniac (Kiefer Sutherland, mostly heard, briefly scene, supremely scary) and forced through a gauntlet of psychological terror as a hostage negotiator (Forest Whitaker) tried to deescalate the situation. It’s a slick, unnerving thriller that’s shot with momentum and spacial dynamics with a very strong central performance from Farrell.
7. Batman & Robin (1997)
Much maligned and infamously cheesy, this is actually a ton of fun and showcases Joel’s uncanny knack for baroque, neon, unbelievably eclectic production design. Sure it’s silly as all hell and the batsuit has nipples but the sheer level of artistry put into set, costumes and scenery is something otherworldly you behold. Give this another chance.
6. Veronica Guerin (2003)
This heartbreaking true story sees a superb Cate Blanchett portray Irish investigative journalist Guerin, who doggedly tried to expose and take down a dangerous interconnected drug empire during the 90’s. It’s dramatically rich, straightforward and has one of the most emotionally affecting endings I’ve seen to any film.
5. Falling Down (1993)
Michael Douglas has had enough and isn’t going to take it anymore as one lone businessman who takes on all the injustices and pet peeves he finds along his journey through one simmering hot Los Angeles day while a cop with a hunch (Robert Duvall) hunts him down. This is a brutal character study, scathing social satire, dry black comedy and unique oddball of a film that has since become a huge cult classic and is Douglas’s personal favourite in his career.
4. 8MM (1999)
A tough, ruthless film to sit through, Nic Cage plays a private investigator who journeys down a rabbit hole of sexual depravity and scum to ascertain the authenticity of a spooky alleged snuff film found in some old dead guy’s attic. This is a rough, fucked up film but it’s also a rich, jet black thriller with excellent supporting work from Joaquin Phoenix, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald and James Gandolfini.
3. A Time To Kill (1996)
Powerful, star studded, thought provoking and humanitarian, this is another Grisham adaptation revolving around the trial of a black man (Samuel L. Jackson) in the south on trial for murdering his daughters rapists, defended by a white lawyer (Matthew McConaughey). It’s a difficult exploration of racial tensions that covers a broad spectrum of the community and ultimately feels like a battle for the region’s soul.
2. Batman Forever (1995)
This one is also highly undervalued, a colour shocked, garish homage to Batman of the 60’s with over the top villains, a surreal Gotham City straight from someone’s dreamscape and that epic, neon production design. This is a special film for me, it’s the first Batman movie I ever saw and one of those films I saw at such a young age that it’s images and impressions are imprinted onto my psyche in that otherworldly way you absorb art at a super young age, the age of absorption that cultivates the very best nostalgia years later.
1. The Phantom Of The Opera (2004)
This grand scale, rococo version of the broadway musical is a lush, passionate, sumptuous and beyond beautiful piece that I probably saw in theatres with my mom like eight times. It launched the careers of both Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum who are electrifying as The Phantom and Christine. One of the best film musicals ever produced and an all timer for me.