War of the Worlds (US, 2005)

This was a surprise. Easily Spielberg’s best movie since Jaws; an absolutely fascinating take on post-Sept 11 America. The casting of Hollywood liberal icon Tim Robbins as a survivalist was inspired, suggesting all his ideas were bonkers. Cruise as ordinary bloke also works exceptionally well.

Often the camera focuses on Cruise desperately trying to protect his children whilst the conflagration occurs offscreen. There are some fantastic set pieces (the first appearance of the aliens) and the shooting of the frantic car drive is a technical tour de force (one take alternating with close ups from outside the car to long shots).

Combines the gripping narrative of a genre movie, brilliant direction and a thoughtful (and occasionally funny) take on a nation under seige. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407304/

The Untouchables (US, 1987)

Stands up pretty well but for what I felt was a fast-paced thriller when it came out seems, in places, somewhat laboured now (eg the capture of the booze on the bridge). However, the Potemkin steps sequences is excellent. (DVD, 3). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094226/

The Jacket (US-UK, 2005)

Good cast (Brits Adrien Brody, Daniel Craig and Keira Knightley all doing American accents) and starts interestingly with a narrative that leaves many questions hanging but as they approach being tied together I wondered what the point was. The problem with time travel films can be that we already know what’s going to happen hence narrative tension is diminished. Certainly the case here. (OAR). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0366627/

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (Korea, 2002)

Amazing film. Park’s got an eccentric eye with striking compositions and he’s happy to start a scene half way through and set up the gross-put and then leave it to the soundtrack. The term off beat is not intense enough; this film is shot in another key. (DVD, 2). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0310775/

D.O.A. (US, 1950)

Interesting noir; good use of location shooting (including LA’s Bradbury building that featured in Blade Runner) and the trademark labyrinthine plot. Some shoddy performances in the minor roles but Edmund O’Brien’s good in the lead. Spends a lot of time establishing him as an ordinary guy who gets more than what’s coming to him for straying into the big city (some embarrassing ‘whoopees’ on the soundtrack as he ogles women). Good B movie. (Cable). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042369/

Spiral (aka Rasen, Japan, 1998)

One of the sequels to Ring, based on Suzuki Koji’s novel; there was also a sequel to the film (Ring 2). This lacks Nakata Hideo’s skill in setting up a disturbing mise en scene and might be better thought of as an SF film. Indeed, I’m not sure I’d’ve followed it clearly if I’d not read the novel. Still, worth a look. (DVD). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0134928/

Amelie (France, 2001)

Struggle to understand why this weighs in at 29th in the IMDB all-time list; could it be punters where surprised to find that subtitled films could be light and fluffy? Whatever, this romantic comedy doesn’t really stand a second viewing, though Audrey Tatou, along with many of the shots, is a delight to look at (love it when she dissolves into water). (DVD, 2). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211915/

Play Misty for Me (US, 1971)

Prototype of the erotic thriller and interesting to see Clint Eastwood (in his directorial debut) being the victim of a female stalker. Stands up quite well (probably risque for the time) and a great, extended, of the Monterey jazz festival. (OAR, 2). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067588/

Ballet mechanique (France, 1924)

Another surrealist film but this one passes the ‘classic’ test of standing the ‘test of time’ (so classics = transcending (at least for a time) their social context?). The opening five minutes, in particularly, are great. Fabulous below the ballet dancer shot (really does disorientate) and I liked the animation too. Also has a great score by Antheuil. (DVD). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0014694/

Entr’acte (France, 1924)

A surrealist-dadaist film viewed on an appalling print. Of historical interest only, I think, to see how the mix of technical devices (eg slomo) was used to defamiliarise reality. (DVD). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0014872/