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Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #131: The Last of the Mohicans

Historical movies are often controversial because they tend to play fast and loose with the facts in order to prioritize spectacle for the sake of reaching mass audiences. I should know a lot more about the history behind Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans (1992) since it features the historical figure General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, a key figure in the history of Quebec City which I consider to be my home town. I don’t know if he is accurately portrayed, but the movie itself is an old-fashioned historical epic with romance, action and drama. Maybe I’ll read up on the history later.
The movie itself is based on a novel that was published in 1826 by American author James Fennimore Cooper. I read the book a few years ago, but mostly because there was a free version online and I was curious to read a novel that dealt with that period of history. It was definitely not a page-turner, which is something Mann and co-writer Christopher Crowe must have had in mind when they were adapting…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #56: Casino Royale

The James Bond series is without a doubt one of my favourite movie franchises. These movies are two hours of pure fun filled with globetrotting adventures, impossible spy gadgets, femmes fatales and over-the-top villains. You always know what you are going to get with a Bond movie and that has been working well for audiences for decades. Yet after decades the continuity was getting very muddled in a 2006 the guardians of the Bond franchises released Casino Royale, which boldly restarted the franchise at zero with not just a brand new Bond, but also a Bond on his first mission. A risky undertaking, but as with most Bond missions it was a success.
I had first discovered James Bond with Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as the world famous spy, and then dove into the franchise by watching every movie starring Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby and of course Sean Connery who launched the series in the first place. It is an interesting franchise in that it reflects the polit…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #461: Halloween

It’s taken me years, but I have finally watched John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), just mere weeks before actual Halloween. What’s more, we are about one week away from the release of the next entry in the franchise, which acts as a direct sequel to the original and ditches about 10 movies worth of convoluted continuity, so my timing is just about perfect. Overall impression of the original: it’s a pretty simple story, but I can see why it’s a horror classic because it is very well executed.
Even though I had never seen Halloween until yesterday it is one of those movies that you pretty much know the story without actually seeing it since it has become part of pop culture. Like with It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol in December, there are plenty of channels that are playing Halloween all day on October 31. There is also the fact there are a bunch of sequels to Carpenter’s original movie as well as a remake and a sequel to that remake. Of those I have seen Rob Zombie’s remake, …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #58: His Girl Friday

It can be a bit weird watching movies that were shot decades ago as well as movies in which the characters work in your own profession. With His Girl Friday (1940) I get a helping of both cases since a lot of this movie is set in a newspaper office close to 80 years ago. Some things portrayed in the movie have changed, some things have stayed the same, and as with most movies set in a certain workplace some things are down right inaccurate. However there’s no denying this remains a hugely entertaining story thanks to the rapid-fire dialogue, the film’s humour and the chemistry between the two leads.
I think I first saw His Girl Friday during a university course on classic movies, but I recently re-watched it to refresh my memory. Upon first viewing I was just a university student and now I have been working as a journalist for a few years. Since then the terms “fake news” and “alternative facts” have sadly become a part of the vernacular, and it was hard not to think of that while watc…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #59: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) is a very interesting entry in Steven Spielberg’s grandiose filmography. It was made a few years before E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, in which only one alien is stranded on Earth, and decades before War of the Worlds, in which the aliens come to our homes for conquering. It was also made at a time when he was single, which might explain why a character would decide to abandon his family in order to chase after visitors from another world. A married Spielberg with kids might have made a different movie.
In any case the final product is one of his most regarded films due to the iconic music by long-time collaborator John Williams and the stunning images courtesy of the late cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. I can’t remember exactly when I first saw Close Encounters from beginning to end (I have my limits) but I do know there is a ceiling lamp in my mom’s dinning room that awfully looks like the alien mothership. I also have John Williams’ score in my…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #61: The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects (1995) is a crime movie with a superb script, tightly directed action sequences, compelling performances and one of the great twists to come out of 1990s cinema. Unfortunately the people involved with the film now resemble the people they play in the movie in the sense that they have pretty spotty history.
You have Kevin Spacey, who has been accused by multiple men of sexual harassment and assault, and is now under investigation by Scotland Yard (https://bit.ly/2C77Yna). Then there is the director, Bryan Singer, who has been accused of sexual assault by a minor (https://bbc.in/2Prp7K8). You also have Stephen Baldwin, who has endorsed Donald Trump, a man who lest we forget, has also been accused of sexual misconduct (https://bit.ly/2BZn4Hc). The Usual Suspects indeed.
It is therefore awkward to praise this movie in a post #MeToo era, but to be fair the first time I watched this movie I had no idea these people were allegedly this disgusting. Like everyone else I just …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #62: The Graduate

The Graduate (1967) is a very interesting movie to revisit in this day and age. It is still funny, sexy and thought provoking, but you have to wonder if it could be made today. Many young men can probably still identify with the main character’s feelings of confusion as he embarks on a new chapter in his life, however his love life is rather problematic. I think it’s fair to say if the gender roles were reversed this would be a completely different movie.
However the movie Mike Nichols did end up directing is considered a classic by many people. I agree with this because in my opinion a movie becomes a classic when it is repeatedly referenced in popular culture. For one thing it helped popularize the Simon & Garfunkel song Mrs. Robinson, which itself ended up in the Forrest Gump soundtrack decades later. The movie also has its fair share of iconic scenes that were parodied throughout the years in movies like Wayne’s World and even an episode of Animaniacs. Then of course there is t…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #227: Léon

Now this is a tough movie to review in the post #MeToo era. Luc Besson’s Léon (1994) is a terrific action movie that launched Natalie Portman’s career, introduced French actor Jean Reno to American audiences and gave us another great villain performance from Gary Oldman. The problem is it suggests at times a romantic relationship between an underage girl and a grown man, which was apparently based on Besson’s relationship with his first wife who was 15 when they began dating. Making matters much, much worse, this year Besson has been accused of rape, sexual assault, harassment and workplace abuse (https://bit.ly/2JHi5he).
I still want to get through this list of greatest films, and then possibly move on to another one, so I can’t just strike off a movie because one person who helped get it to the screen has been accused of a crime. Sadly, that would mean I would have to take at least 100 out of 500 movies off the list. Alfred Hitchcock alone would negate a bunch of movies, if only for…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #63: Sunset Boulevard

Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) is a true piece of cinema history. For one thing it is classic film noir, a genre rarely seen nowadays, and for another the cast if filled with actors and key players from a bygone era. It also helps that the plot is highly memorable to the point that 50 years later it has been parodied or referenced by shows such as Twin Peaks and even Tiny Toon Adventures. That’s a sign of cultural significance as far as I am concerned.
The ideal place to watch this movie would be in a classroom on cinema history, and if I recall well that is exactly what I did around nine years ago in Vancouver. The course was Hollywood cinema 1930-1960, a perfect time frame for Sunset Boulevard since it features cameos by Buster Keaton and other actors of the silent films that ran in the 1930s, and iconic director Cecil B. DeMille, who is responsible for a few classics himself. The movie’s lead female character is movie star from the bygone era of the silent films, but her tr…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #261: Roman Holiday

One of the biggest pop culture events of 2018 so far has been the marriage of American actress Meghan Markle to Prince Harry of the British royal family. From what I casually glimpsed on the news (and on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver) it looked like a beautiful ceremony, but one has to wonder if Meghan Markle really knows what she has gotten herself into. Given the scrutiny the royal family lives under, years from now the new duchess may want to do what Audrey Hepburn’s fictional princess does in the William Wyler classic Roman Holiday (1953) and run away for a day.
When I found this movie on Netflix I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was for various reasons. For one it allows you to visit all of the tourist hotspots in Rome without having to get on airplane. Then there is the historical significance of this being Audrey Hepburn’s breakout role. I also liked the movie’s reminder that royals are, yes, just like us. Sure their jobs are outdated and some would argue useless, b…

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…

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 …