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 seventeenth update, a rundown of my next five movies watched for the project.
(You can find last week’s update here)
Hotel Rwanda (2004) – 8.2 No. 110
Hotel Rwanda is based on the true story of one man’s efforts to keep innocent people safe during the Rwandan genocide. Paul Rusesabagina was a hotel manager, and Hutu. His wife however was Tutsi. So when the Hutu extremists started to eradicate the Tutsi, Paul found himself right in the line of fire.
Don Cheadle plays Paul. He is the hotel manager at the Sabena Hotel, and he takes his job very seriously, working hard to keep VIP and political guests happy by day, and looking after his young family at night. When the conflict escalates, and turns into full scale civil war, Paul is forced to use all his negotiation skills and contacts to keep both his family, and his friends, neighbours and guests safe within the confines of the hotel.
Paul’s makeshift sanctuary is constantly under threat from Hutu soldiers, and the arriving UN peacekeeping troops are powerless to act as anything but a visual deterrent. Paul finds himself pushed from pillar to post as he tries to evade Hutu extremists, and forge a plan to get his family to safety.
Hotel Rwanda is very similar in theme to another film in the IMDb250, Schindler’s List. The more contemporary setting of this movie however makes it somehow more relatable. Having read and watched news of the conflict at the time, Hotel Rwanda is a fascinating insight into what really happened. The violence is frighteningly realistic. The performances, particularly from Cheadle and Nick Nolte as the leader of the UN forces are blistering. You genuinely feel the emotions of Paul as his life begins to fall apart, and an ordinary man is forced to step up, and become a reluctant hero. He isn’t an action man, but he does risk his life for the safety of not just his family, but also complete strangers.
An amazing film, and an important history lesson, Hotel Rwanda is justified in its inclusion in the list, and deserves to be seen by many more people.
Citizen Kane (1941) – 8.6 No. 34
Orson Welles was just 26 when he wrote, directed and acted the lead of Citizen Kane. It is to this day considered one of the greatest movies ever made, an astonishing feat for such a young filmmaker.
Charles Foster Kane was born to a poor family, but when his mother stumbles into ownership of a gold mine, he is sent away to be educated in order to carve out a better life. When he becomes old enough, he is awarded access to his inheritance. Kane goes into the newspaper business, with some radical plans to revolutionise The New York Enquirer. He soon rises to the top of the industry, but it isn’t enough. He then moves into politics, but on the verge of becoming Governor of New York, his first marriage ends in scandal, and he loses out in the election.
Kane then marries his mistress, but has grown an obsessive personality over the years. He forces her into a singing career she doesn’t want, and becomes a recluse. With his second marriage in tatters, the once great man dies alone. His last word, Rosebud, sparks off a mystery, as the press desperately try to to discover the meaning of his last thought.
Citizen Kane begins with the titular character’s death, and his life story is then told in flashback. An original concept at the time, and very well conceived it is too. The story of Kane, almost a cross between Michael Jackson and Howard Hughes, is brilliantly constructed and imaginatively plotted. The cinematography is fantastic, particular the many diverse uses of lighting effects, and an incredible deep focus shot at his childhood home. Welles’ performance is remarkably mature, just as his directing, as he plays a bright eyed, enthusiastic entrepreneur who slowly becomes an obsessive, embittered old man. Kane spends his whole life in search of something, never truly knowing what that thing is.
Watching Citizen Kane, it’s easy to see why it is so well thought of. A very well made film, particularly for the time, no top movies list is complete without it.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) – 8.1 No. 147
The Bourne films, based on a series of novels, have become increasingly popular over the years. The first was directed by Doug Liman, who then handed the reigns over to Paul Greengrass, who directed both the second film and the third, The Bourne Ultimatum.
Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still searching for the full truth about his previous life. He has started to remember some of his past, but wants the full story. A reporter for The Guardian has started an investigation into the CIA programme that Bourne was once a part of, writing several articles about Bourne himself. Bourne realises that the reporter can help him to find the answers he needs, and makes contact. Bourne is however only able to get limited information, which lead him to a CIA operative, the reporter’s source.
Meanwhile, an agent named Vosen, in charge of a new op named Blackbriar, is in pursuit of Bourne, and has also targeted the CIA source in order to silence him. Bourne follows the trail to the office of Vosen himself, and with a bit of help from the inside, is finally able to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
I’ve tried to summarize the plot as vaguely as possible for two reasons. One, because the storyline is so complicated, i don’t want to spoil it. And two, because the storyline is so complicated, that i couldn’t completely follow it. See, the problem is, i’ve seen the first two films just once each, and don’t really remember them. The Bourne Ultimatum is the third in the series, and doesn’t really work without a good recollection of the first two. Perhaps strange, then, that this is the only movie of the three in the list, surely a unique feat.
The action is blistering, particularly the extended chase scene at Waterloo station, and Greengrass’ trademark shaky cam gives it a real sense of authenticity and urgency. Aside from that, it’s difficult to evaluate the plot, and the outcome is that i need to go back and revisit the previous films. When i do, i’ll maybe revisit this film, and allow it the attention it deserves.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – 8.2 No. 129
During the Korean war, a platoon of American soldiers are brainwashed, and then allowed to return to their home soil as heroes. Years later, Capt Marco (Frank Sinatra), working as an intelligence officer, is suffering a constant recurring dream. He feels highly disturbed by this, and becomes suspicious about events that may have occurred during his time in Korea.
He then discovers another member of his team, Sgt Shaw, is suffering similar visions. As Marco starts to investigate, he stumbles across a conspiracy, and eventually learns that Shaw has been turned into a sleeper assassin, and is part of a plot to overthrow the US Government. Marco finds out how Shaw is triggered to act without memory of those actions, and uses this information to discover the full truth of the Manchurian Candidate.
A very dark, paranoid tale of a communist plot, and psychological warfare, The Manchurian Candidate is an intense film. The suspense is built well, and the story unfolds at a perfect pace, as we see Marco question his own sanity, and witness the manipulation of Sgt Shaw, completely unaware of his own actions, being used by people close to him. What is surprising here is the measured performance by Sinatra, not best known for his acting ability, and Angela Lansbury as Shaw’s scheming mother, playing completely against type, and doing a great job.
A well written film, with some very definite ideas about the cold war, and international espionage, The Manchrian Candidate is an interesting and thoughtful film, and a bit of a surprise entry into the IMDb list.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) – 7.9 No. 240
I’d heard of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but didn’t have a clue what it was about. I had a quick scan, and found it was based on a play, and involved two couples spending an evening together at home. ‘That sounds a bit dull’ i thought. How wrong i was…
Martha and George come home from a party, a little worse for alcohol. A middle aged couple, they are a bit snippy with each other, which can happen after a few drinks. Martha reveals that guests are due to arrive, a couple who are friends of her father. It’s quite late for guests, so this causes some further conflict.
The guests arrive, a younger couple named Nick and Honey, who have also had a few drinks. As the evening progresses, the conflict between Martha and George begins to make their guests uncomfortable, but as the alcohol flows, they get more mixed up in the bad feeling, and start to bicker between themselves, and with their hosts. As everyone becomes drunker, revelations come to light, and the situation moves from discomfort to something more, something sinister.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf starts off as an exploration of the awkwardness of having guests in your home, or being guests at someone else’s, and the evils of alcohol. It then takes that concept to the extreme. Martha and George have serious issues with each other, and the anger between them spills over, and manages to corrupt and destroy the seemingly healthy relationship between their young visitors. The scenes are intense, the performances blistering. Elizabeth Taylor is impressive as the wailing harpie Martha, who makes no attempt to hide her spiteful feelings towards her husband. George Segal and Sandy Dennis as Nick and Honey try their best to hold their own on screen, but it is Richard Burton’s performance as the simmering George that steals the movie. Alternately desperate, then steaming mad, he runs through the full range of emotions, and it is impossible to turn away from the car crash unfolding.
The slow burn of the story is expertly paced, the performances grand without ever going over the top, combining to make an incredible, mean spirited, and almost all too real story of how destructive relationships and alcohol can damage not just one, but four lives. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was certainly a surprise for me, and though enjoyed really isn’t the right word, it is a brilliantly constructed movie.
You can find Gary’s next update next Monday, and i’ll see you here in two weeks time.
Don’t forget, you can follow our progress on Twitter at and http://twitter.com/gary_phillips_.