Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Film Through the Ages III

Its time for another Film Through the Ages post, where I gather movie recommendations from bloggers from all around the blogosphere.  We try to cover each movie decade since the emergence of sound pictures, and recommend great films from a given year that we think you, as an avid blog reader and movie fan, should take some time to watch and increase your movie-viewing resume.

So if you’ve been looking to increase your film education by looking back into the distant or perhaps not-so-distant past of the movies, here are some great recommendations for you.


Chris from Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop

Monster movies were big business back in the relatively early days of cinema. There were a host
of classic monster movies made by Universal, but alongside that was the birth of ‘giant monster’
movies, or however you want to put it. King Kong, arguably the most famous movie monster in
history, was one of the first of its kind.

It was animated in stop-motion by Willis O’Brien, mentor to the renowned Ray Harryhausen, and
was one of the biggest films up to that point that had used employed the technique. The effect
has been refined a little since then and it does look a little dated, but it still remains effective three
quarters of a century later. As does its story.

The story of King Kong isn’t likely to be new to many, which is testament to its notoriety, either
through the original film or through its two remakes. It’s a story that shares much in common with
other monster films of the time such as Dracula and, in particular, Frankenstein in that the monster
is somewhat misunderstood and yearns for love. Despite the film’s ages, you can still sense the
creature’s emotion and longing and his female prisoner’s sympathy for him.

Simply put, without King Kong there may have been no Godzilla, no Mothra, no Cloverfield, and
probably no Power Rangers. Just think about that. In all seriousness, King King is nothing short of a
stone-cold classic. Younger audiences may balk at its effects nowadays, and they can watch Peter
Jackson’s remake instead, but in terms of legacy, it deserves a place among cinema’s finest.


Alyson from The Best Picture Project

The year: 1943.  The movie: Casablanca.

This film has long been considered a classic and essential for film lovers of all kinds.  Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, it tells a heart-tugging tale of love and sacrifice in a time of war.  Bogart plays Rick, a loner and owner of a busy bar in occupied Casablanca during World War II.  When his former lover walks into his bar with a rebellion leader, Victor Lazslo (Paul Henreid), Rick must choose to either take his girl back and give Lazslo up to the Nazis or sacrifice his love for her for a greater good.

Casablanca has been known as one of the most quoted movies ever.  “Play it Sam. Play As Time Goes By.” “Round up the usual suspects.” and “We’ll always have Paris.” are just a few of the film’s memorable lines.  In the AFI’s top 100 quotes, Casablanca holds the record at six different quotes from the film.  Even if you haven’t seen it yet, chances are you already know a line or two from Casablanca.

The bottom line is, at some point you have to see Casablanca to really be considered a film buff.  But don’t worry, it is a film that gets better every time you see it.  At least that’s how the experience has been for me.  I always discover a new detail or a deeper meaning with every viewing and if I ever catch it on TCM, I can never turn it off.

Okay, just one more quote: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”


Charles from Cinematic

Movie: Tokyo Story

I’ve rarely seen a film as personally moving as Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story.  By using the story of an elderly Japanese couple visiting their children, Ozu gives a harrowing look at post-war Japan.  The director brilliantly assesses the relationships, love, and grief of the characters as well as comment on the state of the nation.  Tokyo Story is a sad film, but Ozu never reverts to manipulation to get the audience’s tears.  It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest movies ever made.


Ian from IanTheCool’s Movie Reviews

In 1963 audiences were given what has been called “the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made”.  That movie was Charade, starring the overly charming Audrey Hepburn and one of the most charismatic actors of all-time Cary Grant.  Charade is a classic spy movie which is very much in the style of old Hollywood, in a time when old Hollywood was on the way out.  The movie focuses on witty dialogue and character relations much more than the action and suspense sequences we get in spy films today, which can be quite a nice change.  That’s not to say it doesn’t have the mystery and twists and turns of a traditional spy film, because it has those in spades.  Charade is one of those movies that takes its time with the pacing, but the great banter between the two leads and gradually building suspense is well worth it.


Dan from PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews

Conventional wisdom would suggest I name The Exorcist as the best film of 1973. Despite The Sting winning Best Picture, most film buffs acknowledge 73 as The Exorcist’s year. While my brain says it was the most technically impressive film from the year, my heart says Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets is the best film of 1973, and I always go with the heart. Mean Streets was Martin Scorsese’s first great film and to this day remains among his greatest. It’s a film with the energy of a youth unleashed, featuring quick cuts, exciting camera movements, and an awesome rock and roll soundtrack. An exciting fight scene in a pool hall utilizes these elements especially well. These would become classic Scorsese trademarks down the line, but were relatively new at the time. Great performances are also given by both Harvey Keitel as a Catholic struggling with his guilt and faith, and Robert De Niro as the wildly unpredictable Johnny Boy. The film also deals with some deep themes and works as both a gangster film, but even more so as a coming of age story. Mean Streets isn’t the most polished film from 1973, but it has a raw passion that can’t be captured simply with technical skill. Mean Streets: the first masterpiece from one of cinema’s greatest masters.


Michael from The Movie Vampire

Scarface (1983)
Brian De Palma’s Scarface is one of those movies that has become such a pop culture icon that it can easily turn off people who only know it from the stupidity that it’s inspired.  That’s unfortunate because it’s actually a very good movie.  The film is a remake of a 1932 Howard Hawks movie of the same name, and while that was a pretty good entry in the cannon of thirties gangster movies, it sort of blends in with other films of its time without really setting itself apart from the pack.  Brian De Palma’s Scarface, on the other hand, was incredibly fresh and unique when it hit cinema screens in 1983.

The key to enjoying the film is to expect something that’s far removed from The Godfather.  In fact, the film is in many ways meant to be the polar opposite of The Godfather, which was a moody crime film filled with conversations in dark offices.  Scarface is an over the top neon colored extravaganza which depicts the lives of criminals in a decadent 1980s way.  In fact, Scarface may have been one of the first films of the 80s to really depict it was the decade of excess that it would soon become.  The film is powered by a synth-heavy New Wave soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder and exists in the bright lights and sunshine of Miami, a location that would become iconic all over again a year later on Michael Mann’s T.V. series “Miami Vice,” which almost certainly took a great deal of inspiration from this film.

One could hardly think of a character further removed from the icy Michael Corleone than the hot headed Tony Montana, and the fact that Al Pacino was able to play both characters is a testament to how much range he could have.  For better or worse, there have been few characters since the death of John Wayne to have had a bigger influence on American masculinity and machismo than Tony Montanta.  We’ve all heard people do bad Tony Montana impressions, and I get how that can be a turnoff, but if anything that just shows how much of distinct and memorable character Pacino was able to create.  It’s Pacino’s wild line delivery more than anything which made lines like “Say hullo to my leetle friend” and “all I got in this world is my balls and my word, and I don’t break ‘em for no one” famous.

I get how it could be hard to remove Scarface from its legacy, but at the end of the day it is both an essential pop culture landmark and an extremely fun movie to watch.  Hate the film’s dumber fans if you must, but don’t take your distaste out on De Palma’s expertly made film.


Terrence from The Focused Filmographer

Twenty years ago, Steven Spielberg opened the gates to an amazing attraction park that many flooded the aisles of theaters to enter and enjoy. “Jurassic Park” -full of dinosaurs, danger and delight- became an instant classic due to Spielberg and the crew’s great work at translating the adventure from Michael Crichton’s book of the same name to the big screen.

I chose to spotlight Jurassic Park because, currently, this three-time academy award-winning film has now re-released in theaters and the adventure never looked better. An epic way to experience all of the fun, wonder and danger of Jurassic Park once again (or for the very first time) in 3D or in 2D. With visual and digital enhancements performed on the film, “Jurassic Park” is as sharp as the claws of a velociraptor. In a time during which multiple films receive the “re-release treatment,” “Jurassic Park” is definitely one that is worthy of both the opportunity and attention. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Samuel L. Jackson and more, the stars of “Jurassic Park” are joined by numerous memorable dinosaurs, heart-pounding scenes and screams, one-liners, and music composed by John Williams.

Watching “Jurassic Park” 20 years after its initial release definitely adds a bit of nostalgia watching the paleontologist and his team of companions explore the world created by an enthusiastic, and possibly borderline eccentric, investor and businessman. (Admittedly it is somewhat odd watching a movie in which people are not taking out their cellphones and iPads to take photos of the dinosaurs as we’d expect to see nowadays! And I like it.) The amazing and breathtaking experience of “Jurassic Park” brought to theaters once again is a treat that is multiplied by the additional dimension of 3D viewing -making the phrase “walking among the dinosaurs” even more accurate.

The nigh perfect blend of moments of laughter, fear, amazement, education, skepticism, curiosity and great music makes watching “Jurassic Park” an enjoyable and exciting adventure for all ages. Yes, you may own it but you must get your pass to this prehistoric park viewing on the big screen while it is still in theaters in 3D, and, when you go, you better “hold on to your butts!” In a year that gave us many excellent films such as Schindler’s List, The Fugitive, Mrs. Doubtfire and more, Jurassic Park is definitely a colossal one not to be missed.


Dan from Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews

Movie: 28 Days Later
2003 was a great year for movies, and some may even argue: one of the last “great years”. However, rather than going for the obvious choices by choosing what movies the Academy loved and practically drooled over that year, I’m going to go with a surprise and recommend a horror film. That’s right, the movie is 28 Days Later and the only reason I’m talking about it is not only because it’s one of the best horror movies of the past decade or so, but because it’s one of my favorite horror movies of all-time. This is also coming from a dude who doesn’t really give two licks about the horror genre because of the obvious conventions and cliches of it. However, Danny Boyle proved me wrong with this one.

28 Days Later is your typical zombie-apocalypse movie where a guy named Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma and walks the streets of London, only to find them deserted and destroyed in many ways. He has no clue what the hell is going on until he is picked up by some humans and realizes that he is living in a world that’s just been infected with a rage virus, making almost every person a zombie with a extra-quick running skills. Obviously Jim and his gang aren’t infected, but they eventually go out of their way to see if there are any more out there just like them: alive and kicking. What makes this movie so damn scary is the fact that it builds on it’s atmosphere the whole time. You really feel as if what you are watching on-screen, is exactly what our world would look like after an apocalypse. Also, top off of that, some freakishly-scary zombies that you can’t escape. They are fast, quick, and never-ending, which makes them even more scary. Basically, this movie never ceases to scare me no matter how many times I see it (10 times now), and it’s always a favorite of mine around Halloween or if I just feel like torturing my friends around me. Either way, it’s a perfect watch no matter what type of mood you’re in for. Just don’t expect to go to bed right as soon as it’s over.

And there we have it, another set of great movies throughout history for you all to check out for a first time or perhaps too revisit again.  See you next time!

6 Responses to “Film Through the Ages III”

  1. All great choices, in fact the only film listed that I haven’t seen is Charade.

  2. It looks like mine is in the form of a poem! Ha! Some really great choices here! Cheers Ian.

  3. Thanks for having me on! Some great choices here.

  4. […]  I wrote about Tokyo Story, which is my favorite foreign film.  Please check out Ian’s post and if you aren’t already follow his […]

  5. Great picks by everyone. Looks like I need to seek out Charade.

  6. I would have liked to have contributed one. 😦

    Mostly great films–honours going to Tokyo Story and King Kong.

    Great post!

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