Week 14 and another update from the IMDb250 project (Sorry it’s late). This week I got another chance to see one of the most incredible movies ever made in the Clyde Bruckman/Buster Keaton masterpiece ‘The General’ which I will talk more about later. I also watched the brilliant Finding Nemo from Pixar and another Charlie Chaplin masterpiece in Modern Times and in Witness for the Prosecution I had another first time movie from the genius that is Billy Wilder.

However these superb four films were let down by only the second film in the list so far for me that doesn’t quite deserve its place in the Top 250 list which was Tim Burton’s Big Fish that really underwhelmed although being a typical Burton visual feast.

It’s strange but not particularly surprising that the project has taken over my life, I’m watching on average 3/4 of a film a day for the project but also watching other films too and in total as of 28th April I’ve watched 119 films so far this year which is pretty crazy (although not as much as fellow HeyUGuys writer Craig, Check out his progress blog here) and I’m just loving seeing so many movies of such different variety with some easily good enough to join the IMDb250 best films of all time like Micmacs, Up in the Air, Kick Ass and dare I say Bad Lieutenant:Port of Call New Orleans that is just utter genius.

I’m hoping to reach 365 films this year and with my allotted 125 films for the project down to just 40 remaining films I’m contemplating whether to watch the remaining 125 films from our list or more suicidally watch the IMDb 100 WORST FILMS OF ALL TIME!!! which would be a greater challenge and a depressing look at the other side of the movie business. Write a comment below on what you think I should do…be kind.

On with this weeks reviews.

No.200 – Big Fish (2003) – Rating 8.0

Tim Burton’s Big Fish was probably the most disappointing film I’ve seen so far in the project, visually it’s at times stunning and from scene to scene Big Fish has some very enjoyable moments but overall it felt like a disjointed boring mess that did little more than slightly amuse me.

Big Fish is a father and son redemption story, with thirty something Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) a man who has grown tired of hearing his cheerful father Ed (Albert Finney) tell extravagant stories about his life. After man years Will feels he has never really gotten to know his real father, and with his dad’s life coming to a close Will attempts to find out who his dad really is apart from a consistent liar. However the more he digs, the less certain he becomes as the stories seem to be true no matter how ridiculous they are.

Big Fish is told in flashbacks with Ewan MacGregor playing the young Ed Bloom going through all kinds of crazy adventures with Giants, Large Fish, Circuses, Witches, magical towns and conjoined twins and these parts of the film are shown in the typical Burton style with wonderful colours, images and settings that are remarkable to watch but for me the whole thing just bored me senseless, Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for it after watching Avatar and Braveheart shortly before taking six or so hours out of my attention span that probably affected my enthusiasm for a Burton film (who’s not my favourite director I have to say) but I really do feel something is missing from Big Fish to make it a classic worthy of the list, the performances from the entire cast were good, although MacGregor’s accent did annoy at times, and I think it’s a film that will/has divided opinions and I can see why for it is an acquired taste and Big Fish definitely is not mine.

No.151 – Finding Nemo (2003) – Rating 8.1

100 minutes of shear bliss only let down by the choice of getting Robbie Williams to sing the closing song. Finding Nemo is Pixar’s most incredibly impressive animated film ever which I don’t think has been bettered to date. The underwater setting is stunning and so well realised that every time I watch it I always just immerse myself completely into the world and forget it’s a computer animated film and always have so much fun with it.

Finding Nemo has wonderful and truly memorable characters all beautifully brought to life by perfectly voiced actors in Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Stephen Root, Geoffrey Rush and many more spot on performances.

The story is incredibly emotional from its emotional sad start and its warm hearted conclusion that never fails to hit all my emotional buttons which is why I love it so much. When Marlin’s son, Nemo, is taken by a diver swimming the reefs, Marlin the clown fish sets off on an impossible journey to rescue him. Teaming up with Dory, a blue tang fish with hilarious short term memory loss, they set off through the oceans meeting a club of sharks, dodging jellyfish and hooking a ride with turtles. Meanwhile, unaware of his dad’s adventures, Nemo hatches a plan to escape from his new fish tank home along with his new and wonderful collection of tropical sea life friends.

Finding Nemo has everything you could want, it’s perfectly paced, exciting, very funny throughout and is a faultless piece of storytelling from director Andrew Stanton. Only Pixar can make them like this, well deserving of its place in the top 250 films of all time for all time.

No.137 – The General (1926) – Rating 8.1

The General is one of the greatest movies ever made and contains some of the greatest scenes of all time, mainly due to Buster Keaton’s insane lack of safety for himself when performing stunts. Being 84 years old the film hasn’t aged well in looks and the repetitive piano soundtrack does grind a little as it plays on throughout but that takes nothing away from the enjoyment of seeing an actor in his prime putting on a show of the highest quality.
Set against a Civil War backdrop, The General follows steam engine engineer Johnnie Gray (Keaton) as he battles to reclaim his two great loves, his trusty train The General and his beautiful girl, Annabelle (Marion Mack). The General has been stolen by soldiers from the North, who hightail it back to the North sabotaging the track as they go to cut off the South’s supplies. Annabelle is on board at the time, and is kidnapped by the soldiers and so off goes Johnnie Gray in another train to get them both back.

What follows is a perfectly choreographed collection of action sequences, hilarious sight gags and seriously scary daredevil stunts (all performed by Keaton himself) that would defy all logical health & Safety rules in today’s films. Keaton uses the train as his apparatus to perform his comedy routines using almost every part of it in sight gags or physical stunts that are faultlessly timed and pulled off but never seem to far away from an deadly accident.

The General is more cinematic than anything Chaplin ever made but whether Keaton is funnier is hard to say as he only has one film on our list where as Chaplin has five so it’s hard to compare, but Buster Keaton does put on such a great show in the General that it would be hard to call who the king of silent comedy.

No.83 – Modern Times (1936) – Rating 8.3

So from one silent comedy great to another with Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.

Modern Times was Chaplin’s last silent film that brilliantly satirizes the depression era through his iconic Tramp’s disastrous encounters with the industrial age. Chaplin turns his nervous breakdown into hilarious comic set pieces as the constant procedure of tightening bolts on a conveyor production line becomes too much and he goes crazy being sacked in the process. From there the Tramp repeatedly ends up in jail for either stumbling accidentally into worker riots or appearing to lead a communist protest, which leads to a shocking moment in jail where he manages to quash a prison break while accidentally high on cocaine, seriously!

It’s when Chaplin meets the lovely Gamin(Paulette Goddard) that Chaplin’s life gets back on track as he falls in love, finds work again and then accidentally traps his boss in the gears of the machinery, which is the famous scene the film is known for, and then gets arrested again for accidentally hitting a policeman with a brick during a strike and ends back in jail, upon his release Gamin is a successful singer and together they team up perform a few routines and walk into the sunset. Lovely stuff.

Accompanied by another beautifully Chaplin composed score and wonderfully synchronized sound fx we get to witness what Chaplin is all about, the silent gift for physical comedy . In fact the only voices heard in the movie (except for Chaplin’s excellent hilarious gibberish song towards the end which shows that the tramp was capable of talking but that words were never the important part to his genius) all come from the factory’s futuristic TV Screen P.A.system or from a radio or record player and this was Chaplin’s final resistance from keeping the Tramp from ever talking in movies and we never saw the Tramp character again as Chaplin headed into the world of the sound era.

A brilliant film, not my favourite Chaplin movie as City Lights is easily superior in belly laughs but regardless Chaplin is easily the one of the finest Writer/Director/Actor/Comedian/Composers of all time.

No.153 – Witness For the Prosecution (1957) – Rating 8.1

Witness for the Prosecution is a highly enjoyable and brilliant adaptation of the hit Agatha Christie play that was adapted for the screen with the usual magic by one of my new favorite directors, Billy Wilder.

Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton) is a sick barrister who is told by his doctors and forced by his darned nurse Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester, Laughton’s real life wife) to retire from criminal cases. Things take a turn when his colleague Mayhew (Henry Daniell) arrives at his home with murder suspect Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power). Robarts cannot resist taking on one final case after hearing Vole’s story. Vole swears he is innocent, even though the evidence points toward his guilt especially when receiving a large inheritance from the murdered widow Emily Frenchand. To complicate matters Vole has no alibi except for his wife, Christine (the truly wonderful Marlene Dietrich) who instead goes and becomes a witness for the prosecution.

What follows is a wonderfully played out court drama with twists and turns a plenty with Dietrich putting in one of the most memorable female performances from the IMDb list so far as the vicious Christine. On top of this Laughton is so enjoyable and perfect as the barrister always trying to get a sneaky dip into his forbidden brandy and cigar collection from under the watchful eye of his nurse, the film can slow down to a trot and still be superbly entertaining with Laughton and Dietrich on such fine form.

There is no doubt Billy Wilder is one of the greatest, prolific and versatile writer/directors of all time and I’m so glad I’m getting a chance to see more of his films due to this project. There is something genuinely magical about his films that make them forever classics.

What I really loved was the announcement at the end credits to keep the surprise twist ending a secret to not ruin it for others which is a lovely touch. Court room drama’s don’t get much better than this, entertaining, well performed, superb script, excellent directing and wonderful twist ending make it fully deserving of its place on out top 250 films.

That concludes my five films. See you next week for Bazmann’s next five movies.

Don’t forget you can follow our progress at http://twitter.com/baz_mannand http://twitter.com/gary_phillips_