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Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #64: Oldboy

One thing I have noticed from the few Korean films I have seen so far is that Korean cinema really doesn’t hold back. One of that country’s most critically acclaimed and commercially successful movie is Oldboy (2003), which has amazing performances, beautifully choreographed fight scenes and a story filled with many twists and turns. It also has plenty of scenes that will make you squirm whether because of graphic violence, very disturbing revelation, or because you prefer your calamari fried instead of alive.
This was one of the last movies I rented from a video store in the pre-Netflix days in early 2009. By then its reputation had grown in the west especially since on top of the many awards it had won it had also earned high praise from Quentin Tarantino who knows a thing or two about violent and entertaining movies. On paper Oldboy’s plot sounds like something right up his alley: a man is seemingly wronged by an adversary and that man then seeks bloody retribution. However while T…
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Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #263: Das Boot

Submarine movies are practically their own genre and Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot (1981) is without a doubt one of the best movies in this genre. As the story unfolds you feel the claustrophobia of the crew as they are tossed inside a giant can of sardine that is sinking deeper and deeper into the ocean, and you can practically smell the salt water leaking inside the boat. You also root for this crew despite the fact they are Germans manning a U-boat in World War II and are therefore working for the bad guys.
Petersen has supervised different versions of Das Boot and the one I saw was the 209-minute director’s cut. It definitely requires the viewer to take an afternoon and a whole bag of popcorn to see it in one sitting, but a longer version is definitely beneficial to truly be immersed in the experience. By going on a long journey with these characters you get to know them before they get inside their submarine, empathize with them when things start going wrong and hope some of them …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #65: Harold and Maude

I thoroughly enjoy cult movies as well as movies that colour outside the lines and Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude (1971) checks off those two boxes with a big fat checkmark. Like many cult movies it was a commercial failure when first released, which is not too surprising considering it is a comedy that deals with death, suicide and a romantic relationship between an 18-year-old man and a 79-year-old woman. Despite the grim subject matter it is an often funny, and yes, romantic movie.
Unlike cult films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show I don’t think there are any midnight showings of Harold and Maude so it took me a while to even hear about it. I first read about it in Empire magazine and the premise definitely struck me as unique. You can easily pitch a movie about superheroes, spies, or romance, but how do you sell a movie about a senior citizen who steals police motorcycles and a young man who fakes elaborate suicides? Thanks to good old Netflix I managed to finally see it a few year…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #30: Aliens

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a movie can change a person. For me that movie was James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), a movie that made an action icon out of Sigourney Weaver after pitting her against an army of nightmarish creatures and their giant queen. This movie came out the year I was born and while I was growing up it increased in popularity achieving classic stardom as a science fiction, action and horror film. Unfortunately while I was growing up I must admit I was scared of most movie monsters, to the point that just the trailer for an Alien movie would make me nervous. Then I saw Cameron’s film and went to the dark side of the moon.
Here’s the setting: it’s 2002 and my parents and I are living in Santiago, Chile. By then I haven’t seen any of the Alien films from beginning to end, but I have a general idea of what they do and how they tend to pop out of people’s chests. One evening I see that Aliens is about to start playing on a movie channel and I decide to take a chanc…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #316: Trainspotting

In the 1990s Hollywood directors were the kings of cinema, whether it was for big summer blockbusters or smaller independent films. Guys like James Cameron or Michael Bay would blow up the screens while Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino put the emphasis on snappy dialogue that created relatable characters for the moviegoers. Then in 1996, as if to scream “we can do this too,” Danny Boyle released Trainspotting in the United Kingdom.
Based on a novel by Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh, the movie took the world by storm despite having no explosions, a cast of actors who were relatively unknown and a budget that today could barely pay for the catering of a Transformers movie. Furthermore this is not the story of young people going to college to enter a life full of promise, but about young heroine addicts meandering through the streets of Edinburgh. Despite introducing these characters during an energetic montage set to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge in …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #66: Edward Scissorhands

One could make the argument that Edward Scissorhands (1990) is the ultimate Tim Burton movie. It is set in a pastel-coloured American suburb, it has a memorable score by composer Danny Elfman and it marked the first collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Furthermore it has a small key role for horror icon Vincent Price, whose movies Burton watched as a child. It is unconventional for sure, but like a lot of Burton’s work it has become iconic to the point of influencing pop culture.
I was very young when this movie came out in theatres and like most of Tim Burton’s movies it is in a bit of a grey area when it comes to age restriction. Batman Returns for instance is a comic book movie, but a comic book movie in which one villain is electrocuted to death and another spews black blood out of his mouth before dying. Edward Scissorhand is nowhere near as graphic, but it is probably still a good idea that I waited until I was in my teen years before watching it on TV.
I had only pa…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #364: Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers (1994) is not so much a movie as an American nightmare come to life. Loosely based on a story by Quentin Tarantino, starring some of the wildest actors in Hollywood at the time, and boasting a level of violence that unfortunately inspired copycat crimes, it is the textbook definition of controversial. In all fairness there are important messages amidst all the violent mayhem, but director Oliver Stone throws so much content at the screen that these messages can sometimes get lost in the carnage.
Even though the movie came out more than two decades ago it still has a legendary status, which I learned about while reading a chapter in a book about Tarantino’s career. The book, Quintessential Tarantino, contained a lot of interesting facts about the making of the movie and also spoiled the ending, but reading a few words that describe a killing spree is very different than seeing it portrayed on screen. A few years ago the director’s cut became available on Netflix, wh…