The IMDb250. A list of the top 250 films, as ranked by the users of the biggest movie Internet site on the web. It is based upon the ratings provided by the users of The Internet Movie Database, which number into the millions. As such, it’s a perfect representation of the opinions of the movie masses, and arguably the most comprehensive ranking system on the Internet.

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 1st January this year. It’s not as simple as it sounds, as we’ll be watching them in one year, 125 each.

This is our thirteenth update, a rundown of my next five movies watched for the project.

(You can find last week’s update here)

Gran Torino (2008) – 8.3 No. 84

Clint Eastwood has built up an enviable reputation over the last decade for being a darling of the Academy, with a couple of best director wins, several nominations, and numerous wins and nominations for best picture. That trend didn’t hold with Gran Torino however, a movie he both directed and starred in, with no nominations on this occasion. Eastwood has also garnered a bit of a reputation for being a very pedestrian, unspectacular director. Does this hold true in Gran Torino?

Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a grizzled veteran of the Korean War. His wife has recently passed away, but he stubbornly refuses to move out of his neighbourhood, despite his growing dissatisfaction with the way the neighbourhood is changing. There are gangs abound, and the white community is becoming a minority.

Kowalskisi’s bigotry means he doesn’t get on with his Hmong neighbours, but when a gang come to take their son away for a gang initiation, Kowalski becomes involved as it spills over onto his property. The family is grateful, and when it becomes apparent that the son had attempted to steal Kowalski’s prized Gran Torino as part of the gang initiation, he goes to work for the grumpy old man. They strike up a friendship, and as Kowalski becomes more involved with the family, and the son’s problems with his cousin’s gang, it becomes clear that violence is going to escalate. Kowalski isn’t the type to back down, and something has got to give.

Gran Torino plays out very much like a cross between the Karate Kid and Rumble in the Bronx. The story of Kowalski’s gradual softening towards his neighbours, becoming more accepting of their cultural differences is not an original one. His performance is characteristically great, though the part of a gruff old man isn’t really a great stretch for him. The movie is entertaining enough, with some nice moments between Kowalski and his neighbours, but the plot is predictable, and the ending could be considered a complete cop out.

Gran Torino isn’t a hard hitting drama, it isn’t a blistering action film, and at its inevitable and downbeat end, there is no real message that hasn’t been hammered home in cinema a thousand times before. A good film, but certainly not a great one, and for me not one deserving of a place in the top 250 films of all time.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) – 8.3 No. 87

Stanley Kubrick has done war before, as you can read in Gary’s look at Paths of Glory from week 6. This time, Kubrick takes a look at Vietnam, a hot topic for Hollywood in the seventies and eighties, in his own inimitable style.

We join a platoon of young soldiers as they start basic training. They are drilled by Sergeant Hartman. He is a hard taskmaster, he won’t take any crap from anyone, and he quickly wins the fear of the men. One young soldier however finds he is constantly letting his fellow soldiers down, and when the Sergeant declares that the rest of the regiment will be punished for his continuous failures, it inevitably ends in tears at bedtime.

We then join several of the members as they enter the field of battle. Mathew Modine’s Private Joker is stationed as a media correspondent for the war, but finds himself eager to get more involved in the fighting. With his smart mouth and pushy attitude, he soon gets his wish, joining up with an advanced unit as they make their way into Vietnam. Things turn heavy when the unit find themselves pinned down by an enemy sniper, and the men find they must pull together as their comrades are taken down one by one.

The training scenes are what i remember most about Full Metal Jacket, and they really are the core of the film. R Lee Ermey’s performance as the harsh, almost brutal taskmaster is excellent, and you get a real flavour of the methods used to prepare young soldiers for the hardness of war. Poor Private Pyle suffers the worst for it. The brutal beating he receives from his fellow recruits, including those he called friend, is really quite harrowing to watch, and his subsequent descent into an unhinged state is genuinely chilling. The second part of the movie, the squad’s battle with one lone female sniper, is brilliantly executed, and at once shows the great camaraderie that develops between men of very different backgrounds, and the difficulties faced by soldiers trying to advance through the narrow streets and derelict areas of close combat.

Unusually for a Kubrick film, there are some warm moments between the protagonists, and you are allowed to feel the humanity of even the harshest characters. Full Metal Jacket displays the insanity of war, and what it does to usually civil men perfectly. It also asks some hard questions over where tough love ends, and bullying and abuse of power begin. A fascinating film, one of Kubrick’s most accessible, and one that i go back to regularly, which certainly suggests its inclusion in the list is well justified.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – 8.3 No. 82

I haven’t seen a great deal of Humphrey Bogart’s films, so this project looks to be a great opportunity to change that. First up is John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, one of several films on the listing starring the popular actor. A shining example of forties film noir, it was nominated for several Oscars.

Bogart plays Sam Spade, one half of a private detective agency. When his partner is shot whilst tailing someone for a client, the subject of his surveillance is the obvious suspect. That is until he turns up dead too. Their client then comes under the microscope, along with Spade himself. He questions her, and she reveals her story, but Spade is sure she isn’t telling him everything.

The plot thickens as more people become involved, and Spade learns the story of the titular Falcon, a supposedly solid gold, jewel encrusted statue. Spade and his client team up to try and get hold of the artefact, as the cool investigator becomes a target for gangsters, hit men and even the police.

Bogart is certainly cool, and plays the part of the cunning PI wonderfully, as Spade plays the various characters off against each other. The question of his motives carries throughout the movie. Is he just doing his job, helping a client, does he want the treasure for himself, or is it all really just a plan to extract vengeance? Bogart keeps us guessing all the way through, as the plot slowly unravels.

Suspense, a well weaved story line and some snappy dialogue make The Maltese Falcon a very enjoyable film. There are some clever twists, and the story is far from predictable. 82nd best film of all time? I wouldn’t go that far personally, there are some great thrillers out there that didn’t even make the list, and i can’t help thinking that it is the presence of Bogart as much as the film itself that has elevated this movie into the list. certainly worth a watch.

Glory (1989) – 7.9 No. 231 

I’d heard of Glory, but for some reason really didn’t know too much about it. I certainly hadn’t seen it, and i don’t remember much about its release. But looking through the cast list, with the likes of Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington alongside Mathew Broderick and Cary Elwes, i was curious to see what it was all about.

Set during the American Civil War, Glory is based on the true story of young Robert Gould Shaw, played by Mathew Broderick, a civil war soldier who becomes a Colonel when he agrees to lead the first unit of black soldiers for the Union. He takes the job seriously, as do the brave soldiers in training, but the whole exercise isn’t taken very seriously by the other white units, or the powers that be.

Shaw is a little naive, and unsure of how to approach the job. Naturally a very caring man, he allows some harsh treatment by one of his Seargants after being assured it is the best way. As he tries to get to know the soldiers, learning more about their different culture, and how to relate to them, he begins to mature into the role. He slowly wins the respect of the unit, by leading by example, sticking up for the men of his unit when they are given unequal supplies, and by showing his true faith in each and every one of his soldiers.

By the time the unit sees their first action, you are fully invested in them, really rooting for their success. As they show they have the ability to match and then surpass their white peers, the group begin to win the respect of those that looked upon them as servants. At the climax, as Shaw leads the suicide charge upon an enemy stronghold, it is genuinely affecting, with some genuinely emotional moments.

The performances by Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, who won the Oscar for best supporting actor, are incredible, to the point of making the young Broderick look even more out of his depth than his character feels. By the end, however, much like his alter ego, Broderick pulls it off, with Cary Elwes lending some surprisingly good support. The interactions between the soldiers, bantering and disagreeing with each other, questioning whether they are doing the right thing, are wonderfully written and performed. The action is blistering, giving a real sense of the ease with which a soldier can be killed, showing what a brutal war was fought between countrymen.

I was surprised at how great Glory was. Fantastic acting performances, powerful character moments, it is a fascinating account of how the actions of a few thousand brave black soldiers made such a difference to the way their people were perceived. You don’t read much about it now, but Glory tells an important story, is well written, and i’m glad it does have reputation enough to be included in the list. Very impressed.

Cool Hand Luke (1967) – 8.2 No. 125

Paul Newman was huge in the sixties and seventies, and well known for a host of iconic characters. Possibly his most well remembered, Cool Hand Luke is famous for that boiled egg scene. It is, however, about a lot more than that.

Luke is an ex-soldier, wandering aimlessly through life. On a particularly drunken night, he gets very boisterous and causes a large amount of damage to municipal property. He is caught, and taken to a harsh prison, where the convicts are taken out in chain gangs to work on the roads. The other inmates taunt Luke at first, but his smart mouth and bull-headed attitude soon make him the prison celebrity.

Luke talks back to the guards, and pushes himself to limits in games and bets in order to impress and entertrain the other criminals. This attitude is not appreciated by the wardens, and they systematically wear him down, working to break his spirit. Luke is tough, however, and despite days in the cookbox and other similar punishment, he still attempts to escape.

Newman has the perfect mix of cheeky smile, arrogance and charisma to make Luke a likable, and believable character. He carries the film through some of its slower moments effortlessly, and tackles the action and capers with great enthusiasm. Fantastic support is offered by George Kennedy as the prison alpha male who becomes Luke’s best friend. The gradual destruction of Luke’s spirit, and his defeated speech at the conclusion are brilliantly constructed.

An entertaining film, with a well drawn out message about obstinance, endurance and self destruction, Cool Hand Luke will remain a fondly remembered movie, with a much loved character, thanks to the never say die attitude of its protagonist, and the pitch perfect performance by its star.

You can find Gary’s next update next Monday, and i’ll see you here in two weeks time.

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