Twelve Monkeys

In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.

I love time travel films, but until I saw Twelve Monkeys, I had started to wonder if maybe I’d seen it done every way there is. There’s the childhood adventure of Back to the Future, the sci-fi confusion-fest of Donnie Darko, and the loopy cycle of time in Looper. But in Twelve Monkeys, there’s a bleak doom and gloom that I both love for being brand new to me, and hate for making me feel dirty inside. Continue reading “Twelve Monkeys”

Psycho

A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

For two consecutive Halloweens, I’ve watched a classic horror film that has become so ubiquitous in pop culture that its shocks, twists and scares surely shouldn’t surprise me. It came as no surprise when Jack Torrance went crazy and tried to kill his family. I knew from the opening titles that Norman Bates is dressing up as his mother and committing these murders. And yet Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Perkins make me doubt myself with every passing minute. Continue reading “Psycho”

Oldboy

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.

A month ago, I started this film. It was a hungover Sunday evening. Normally I’m smarter than to expect comfort from an unfamiliar film. If you’ve seen Oldboy, you’ll understand why I got all claustrophobic and anxious and had to turn it off. Continue reading “Oldboy”

Memento

A man creates a strange system to help him remember things; so he can hunt for the murderer of his wife without his short-term memory loss being an obstacle.

One of my favourite things about the way Nolan makes films is his often-jumpy, erratic editing that can take you from one place to another in an instant. I didn’t notice it until Inception, as it’s explained by DiCaprio’s character to Ellen Page as they have lunch together. “How do you think you got here?” It what makes the film troubling and mysterious long after it ends. I think Inception is the film Nolan will never top – the perfect vessel for his style, and certainly his masterpiece. But Memento, with a similarly stunted and severed narrative, serves as an excellent insight into the way Nolan continues to make films. Continue reading “Memento”

The Big Sleep

Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he’s seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love.

One of IMDb’s FAQs for The Big Sleep reads: “I’m hopelessly confused. Who killed whom and why?” I’ve no problem with films through which I have to be alert, but I certainly was hopelessly confused from the beginning – and I felt as though The Big Sleep didn’t want to give me a second chance to get on board. “Don’t get what’s going on? Tough shit – we ain’t waiting for you.” Continue reading “The Big Sleep”

A Wednesday

A retiring police officer reminisces about the most astounding day of his career, a case that was never filed but continues to haunt him in his memories – the case of a man and a Wednesday.

At #235 in the Top 250 is The Road. This is not the adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel starring Viggo Mortensen. Mistakes, nonetheless, do happen, which is why, as the credits of A Wednesday rolled, my first thought was, “Shit. I bought the wrong film.” Nope. As confirmed by IMDb, A Wednesday is one of the best films of all time. Why? I have no fucking idea. Continue reading “A Wednesday”

The Sixth Sense

A boy who communicates with spirits that don’t know they’re dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.

M. Night Shyamalan’s debut is an excellent one that I’ve seen a handful of times – the first, as a terrified eleven-year-old subsequently deprived of sleep. The Sixth Sense‘s most chilling moments have been seared into my memory – but today, they don’t stand up as particularly scary, and I find myself re-categorising the film in my own mental IMDb. Continue reading “The Sixth Sense”

The Prestige

Two stage magicians engage in competitive one-upmanship in an attempt to create the ultimate stage illusion.

To describe a film as “formulaic” would normally be considered a great insult – but I think The Prestige earns it. The film follows its very own formula, established by Michael Caine in the opening moments: act one is “The Pledge”, in which the magician, or film-maker, shows us something ordinary. The Prestige seems, at first, ordinary. An entertainment-industry rivalry-thriller. But, similar to the tricks within its fiction, The Prestige quickly shows us “The Turn”, and ultimately, “The Prestige”. And we’re left, much like a 19th century crowd at a magic show, reeling. Continue reading “The Prestige”

North by Northwest

A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.

And we’re back for another edition of “Tom Questions His Masculinity”, with your host: Cary Grant. This time, it’s not about drinking scotch or a deliberating monotone – this time, it’s about scathing witticisms in the face of life-threatening adversity, and going head to head with other men for the ultimate prize: Eva Marie Saint. Continue reading “North by Northwest”

Prisoners

When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts. But just how far will a desperate father go to protect his family?

Despite that synopsis, Prisoners barely has time to establish its whodunnit foundation before screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski pulls the old bait-and-switch. Any hope of finding the girls is dismissed by one character incredibly early on: “No-one took them. Nothing happened. They’re just gone.” And I breathed a sigh of relief, because Prisoners then became quite unlike its crime/mystery peers. Continue reading “Prisoners”