50 Films in and 200 films to go!

So far so good with the IMDb250 project with little problem so far getting the films from the list and a whole lot of fun watching them. Barry has been making great use of his films recently by watching his movies in categories with the New Hollywood and War sections being brilliant to read.

It’s something I wish we planned at the start as putting the films in some sort of order or genre category would have made connecting the films really interesting but on the other hand watching such a random collection of films in a short space of time really is fascinating to experience different actors in different genre’s lead by different directors proving why they apparently deserve to be in the top 250 films of all time.

My next five films showcase the pleasure in my randomness of choice as I watched some brilliant examples of film making spanning 60 years from 1941 to 2001 and covering Sci-Fi, Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Film Noir and Ealing comedy genius. Again I had a virgin experience movie with Double Indemnity and a revisit, after many many years, to The Day the Earth Stood Still which I haven’t seen in so many years that I have completely forgotten almost everything about it and it was a real delight to see again. With the obvious 80’s delight of Back to the Future and the visual delight of Pixar’s Monsters Inc sandwiched either side of the quite stunning Kind Hearts and Coronets week 10 was definitely a highlight of the project so far.

No. 250 – The Day the Earth Stood Still – Rating 7.9

“Klaatu Barada Nikto” the famous words spoken by Klaatu to Helen to stop the robot Gort from destroying the Earth, it’s an iconic moment and one that has the world hanging in the balance.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic science fiction story that was so ambitious for its time it must have terrified audiences in the 1950’s which will likely now will be laughed at by a lot of today’s movie goers with its inevitably dated special effects but there is something magical about the film that sets it apart from all the other cheesy 50’s Sci-Fi films and it will always remain as one of the best ever.

The film is fundamentally an antiwar “we must all live in peace” story when a flying saucer lands in Washington DC and a humanoid alien that emerges is shot and wounded by a nervous soldier. A huge robo named Gort emerges and disintegrates guns and tanks, before being deactivated by the wounded alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie). The message delivered to the people of Earth is simple, stop your war and destruction or be destroyed by robots like Gort before the people of Earth destroy the the universe.

Klaatu disguises himself as a local to view the humans up close to see if they are worth saving and checks into a boarding home where he is befriended by young widow called Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her son Bobby. She learns Klaatu’s secret and helps him stay hidden hide the authorities after he comes up with a really impressive way to show the world he means business by neutralizing electric power all over the world (with some well thought out exceptions like hospitals and airplanes in flight) for 30 minutes.

Klaatu’s action is taken to be an act of war and he is hunted down and fatally shot which leads to Gort to prepare to attack the Earth and destroy it where Helen reaches the robot just in time speaking the words “Klaatu barada nikto” to stop him. It’s a wonderful conclusion to a brilliant film and although I’ve never seen the Keanu Reeves remake I doubt I’ll ever feel the need to as this has plenty to offer for all those not guided by the lure of colour films and huge CGI set pieces. Of course the special fx are shoddy at times like with Gorts metallic suit that creases at the joints when he moves but it adds a certain charm and Gort is clearly one of the most iconic and menacing Sci-fi characters of all time. The pacing of the film is fine and tackles issues of war nicely underlining points that are still relevant today with Michael Rennie really performing perfectly as the alien learning to give us humans a chance.

Wonderful movie and far more enjoyable than I remember.

No. 58 – Double Indemnity – 8.4

Another week, another Billy Wilder film as he makes his third appearance in three weeks in the project.

Double Indemnity is just a stunning piece of film making that completely embodies the phrase film noir. Brilliantly shot with moody shadows and dimly lit scenes it made me fall in love with Black & White film even more, it’s just a gorgeous cinematic experience.

The film starts off with Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) driving like a maniac to his insurance office bleeding from an apparent gun shot wound where he sets down to record his confession of the crime that lead to his current situation and so narrates the wonderful twisting tale that unfolds.

Walter Neff pays a visit rich LA house to renew a man’s automobile insurance. The husband, Mr Dietrichson, isn’t home so Neff plays his highly skilled insurance speech to the wife, Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyk). The two quickly engage in a less than subtle wordplay that’s flirty and wonderfully performed. She is not to be trusted, clearly.

A second visit to talk to Mr. Dietrichson reveals Phyllis’s real plan by subtly suggesting to Neff that they write up an accident policy on her husband without his knowledge. Neff takes the plan a step further and explains the Double Indemnity clause where the policy pays double when death involves unusual circumstances, such as falling from a train. The plan is on and Mr. Dietrichson is doomed and in pure wonderful film noir tradition, just about everyone else is too.

The morbid murder takes place as planned in a brilliantly played out scene and now the only banana skin to the scheme working is Neff’s boss Barton Keyes (the awesome Edward G. Robinson). Keyes has a reputation for sniffing out dodgy claims but Neff thinks he is too smart for the Keyes this time round. The problem for Neff is that Phyllis has plenty of hidden motives of her own which take the simple tale of murder into a twist after twist tale that gives the Usual Suspects a run for it’s money in complexity.

It’s a wonderful story and beautifully filmed by Billy Wilder. The performances, although rather dated in terms of dialogue, were sublime and the visual look of the film will stick with you forever. A brilliant film and another one that just has to be seen if you’ve never seen it before.

No. 239 – Monsters Inc. – Rating 7.9

Almost all of Pixar’s films are in the IMDb Top 250 films and apart from Cars all have scored 90% or above on Rotten Tomatoes and there is no doubt they fully deserve to be here. Monsters Inc. is easily one of their most ambitious and imaginative films following on from Toy Story 2 and again setting the bench mark in story telling and stunning animation.

The story of Monsters Inc. is well known and it’s one that really captures the imagination as Monsters visit children’s bedrooms to scare the crap out of them and capture their screams as fuel to power their city, It’s such a wonderful concept and one that works brilliantly.

The characters are wonderfully varied with the leads of Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (perfectly voiced by Billy Crystal) that become instantly like-able and probably two of the best characters Pixar have created and the supporting characters of Boo, whose the adorable little girl that causes havoc in the world of monsters thats befriended by Sulley and Mike, is just wonderfully animated and realised. Randall Boggs (also brilliant voiced by Steve Buscemi) is the villain of the piece adding a superb menace to Sulley’s and Mike’s antics to keep Boo hidden. It’s when the heroes realise that children’s laughter actually provides more power that the story takes a brilliant twist as it heads into the final third with some jaw dropping animated sequences, especially the door chase sequence that always astounds in its complexity.

Another stunning Pixar film that has absolutely everything you could want from a film, It’s hilarious, moving, well told and it has plenty for both kids and adults and a voice cast that cannot be faulted. The monsters all have brilliantly varied personalities and the world they live in is just so immersing.

It’s funny, every time I watch one of the Pixar films it becomes my new favourite film from their collection no matter what order I watch them in, they all offer something new each time you see them and all have to be preceded by the Pixar short that comes with the film, this one being “For the Birds” that just gets you in the mood for the main feature. You can’t beat a Pixar experience.

No. 179 – Kind Hearts and Coronets – Rating 8.0

Alec Guiness was not even nominated for an Oscar for his multiple role turn in Kind Hearts and Coronets and it’s incredible he was overlooked as this for me is his finest performance and one that is equally comical as it is enjoyable as he plays all eight members of the doomed aristocratic D’Ascoyne family that’s murdered off one by one by the vengeful heir to the dukedom Louis Mazzini.

Mazzini (Dennis Price) seeks revenge due to the rejection of his mothers last wish to be buried in the D’Ascoynes family crypt upon her death. Plotting to seize the dukedom of the aristocratic D’Ascoyne family to gain this inheritance, Mazzini must first murder the line of eccentric relatives who stand between him and the title all brilliantly portrayed by Guinness and leading to one of the most delicious final twists in comedy history.

In his rise to the Dukedom, Louis gets involved with the two women in his life, one a woman he loves, the other with a woman he needs. Sibella (Joan Greenwood) is the daughter of the family where he boarded after his mother’s death who loves him but believes he has no prospects failing to believe his claims he’ll be Duke one day. The other woman, Edith (Valerie Hobson), is the widow of one of his victims and well-placed with money, position in society and a way to get to the final D’Ascoyne.

The story is told in flashback as Louis who is on the eve of his execution for a murder that was ironically a suicide, reads through his own memoirs and tells us the story of the murders. The film is beautifully designed and shot, the script witty and cynical and deliciously dark, Dennis Price is superb as the scheming murderer and the ways he kills his relations to reach Duke-hood is just fantastically dark and wonderfully British.

Alec Guiness does steal the film with his role of the eight D’Ascoyne’s but without the wonderful Price as the straight faced killer the film would never have worked as well as it did. Stunning stunning British Comedy which doesn’t come much darker or as enjoyable.

No. 80 – Back to the Future – Rating 8.3

“Thats the Power of Love”, Dam is there ever a song that oozes nostalgia and memories of a film it’s Huey Lewis and the News!

What more can be said about one of the greatest 80’s movies, one of the best family movies, one of the best Time Travelling films and one of the best Sci-Fi films ever made. It’s just so much fun from start to finish that I never bore of watching it.

Revisiting movies you loved as a kid can be a painful experience but every once in a while the nostalgia holds up. Back to the Future might just be the best example of childhood memories meeting your grown up expectations and after multiple viewings BTTF is just as fun as it ever was.

The spot-on casting of Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in arguably their finest roles to Alan Silvestri’s iconic score to the infinitely quotable script, everything just works to perfection and I doubt there is a film from the IMDb250 list I will enjoy more without needing to analyse or think about as much as BTTF.

The action is thrilling with the incredible and non-stop finale one of the finest conclusions of many a film or even the scene where Marty invents the skateboard with the BTTF theme blasting out as he tries to escape the wonderful bully Biff just smacks a huge smile on your face as you watch. The characters are all memorable, and the story is just about as perfect as it can get for an 80’s family adventure movie and it’s no wonder that Back to the Future is regarded as one of the finest 80’s movies of all time.

That’s the first 50 films done for the project, we hope your enjoying them as much as we are in watching them. Please keep following us on Twitter at and http://twitter.com/gary_phillips_