It’s because of this that we at HeyUGuys (and in this case we is myself and Gary) have decided to set ourselves a project. To watch and review all 250 movies on the list. We’ve frozen the list as of January 1st of this year. It’s not as simple as it sounds, we are watching them all in one year, 125 each.
This is our 39th update, my next five films watched for the project. You can find last week’s update here.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – 8.7 No. 18
There was a lot that was fresh about the first Indiana Jones movie when it was first released. A white night in shades of grey in Harrison Ford’s rock ’em sock ’em archaeologist, the feisty female love interest, a winning mix of slapstick humour and thrilling action. In the intervening years, however, it has weathered a bit. Much of the action is a little too tame. The spirited Marion Ravenwood pales in comparison to modern day action heroines.
The finale, too, though showy and gruesome, is a little bit of an anti-climax after some of the action that has leads up to it. Class is class however, and it is the presence and great comedy timing of Ford that makes Raiders just as watchable as it was all those years ago. The hand of Lucas can be seen throughout, but there is enough darkness and intrigue to make up for the silliness that Lucas instills.
A bit tame in comparison to modern day action/adventure movies, but the original still holds enough charm, and one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history, to stake its place in the IMDb list.
Goodfellas (1990) – 8.7 No. 14
With Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese got the mix of old fashioned gangster story and more contemporary thriller almost perfect. What could have suffered from being a little slow, and a little dialogue heavy is brought to life by Scorsese’s snappy direction and editing. The manic scenes towards the end particularly, as Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill races around town trying to avoid the eye in the sky of the FBI are thrilling.
Liotta, of course, is the man who makes the movie. Alongside heavyweights like Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, who would both go on to far more successful careers, Liotta somehow shines. He shows a great amount of on-screen charisma, puts in a powerful performance, and his narration is surprisingly compelling.
It is performances as much as direction that make Goodfellas one of the best movies of all time. The story isn’t actually all that interesting, but the conviction of De Niro and Pesci, and a surprising amount of humour carry it through. A deserving listee, and a personal favourite to boot.
Casino (1995) – 8.0 No. 178
Where Scorsese scored with Goodfellas, the apparent attempt to recreate the chemistry fails spectacularly for me with Casino. With a story even less inherently interesting than Goodfellas, the directors mix of dynamic cinematography and snappy editing aren’t enough, and are not used frequently enough. What results is an overlong, and rather disjointed narrative as Robert De Niros Ace Rothstein makes his way (slowly) to the top of Las Vegas strip, only slide down the other slide at an even more meandering pace.
The performances by De Niro and Pesci are good, but they have far less to work with than in Goodfellas, or Raging Bull for that matter. Where Liotta’s narration genuinely aided the story in Goodfellas, De Niro and Pesci’s voiceovers are draining and tedious. Sharon Stone puts in a surprisingly great performance, but thanks to the mediocrity of the story, I found it difficult to care.
There are some great moments, and when Scorsese turns it on, his filmmaking is second to none. Unfortunately, i can’t help but feel that the great director became as bored as I did, and the movie as a whole fails to sparkle. Casino really has no place in the IMDb list, and I can’t help but think if it wasn’t for the name power of De Niro, Pesci and Scorsese, Casino wouldn’t enjoy anywhere near the reputation it currently does.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – 9.1 No. 1
Throughout the project i have marvelled at how some movies that are predicated on a great twist, whilst great upon first watch, suffer greatly when re-watched without the all-important element of surprise. Thankfully, Frank Darabont’s masterpiece is genuinely great long before that awe inspiring ending.
Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are the names over the door, but in actual fact, every performance is great, and it is the work of every single actor involved that makes this a perfect film. The story at its heart, that of hope and friendship, is deceptively simple, but it is the believability of the character’s actions and behaviour that make them so affecting. That ending, of course, is the icing on the cake, and neatly draws the narrative together for a truly heart warming finale.
It is hard to fully describe just what a joy it is to watch The Shawshank Redemption. In many ways, it can probably be considered a surprise that it tops the IMDb list. There are so many films with arguably a much bigger reputation, but Shawshank has very quietly become one of the greatest films ever made. It easily deserves its place on the list, and it is difficult to imagine another film that could ever hope to surpass it.
Taxi Driver (1976) – 8.5 No. 40
Its a bit like Scorsese week, and Taxi Driver is a prime example of why there are so many of his films in the upper reaches of the IMDb250 list. A chilling character study of a fairly average New Yorker, whose perception of the world around him drives him to mental instability.
Travis Bickle is an ex-marine, suffering from extreme insomnia. With nothing better to do, he takes a job as a cab driver, driving the worst streets of New York at the most ungodly of hours. The constant grime and sleaze that he exposes himself to on a nightly basis take their toll on his psyche. He looks to be trying to make the best of his life, but a bad break-up and an obsessive personality lead him to delusion.
Robert De Niro is brilliant as the psychologically damaged Bickle. His gradual descent into madness is frightening, and oh so compelling. The ambiguity of his motives is what makes Taxi Driver such a fascinating movie. In the end, when the situation reaches its tipping point, the violence is shocking, and shot completely without glamour. Bickle ends up as a hero of sorts, but if events had gone a different way he could well have been the most heinous of villains.
Scorsese shows some great cinematic techniques, and even this (relatively) early in his career shows a true greatness as a filmmaker. A masterpiece of cinema, Taxi Driver is at times difficult to watch, but it is even harder to turn away. Every bit as deserving of a place in the list as the likes of Citizen Kane az#nd The Seventh Seal, Taxi Driver is a true classic.
Come back next week for update 40. You can follow our progress at www.twitter.com/baz_mann and www.twitter.com/gary_phillips_