Nightman’s Updated Top 17 Movies Of 1993!

17: Falling Down (US/France/UK) Joel Schumacher

Schumacher continued the 80s success of the likes of The Lost Boys and St Elmo’s Fire into the 90s, with Falling Down probably his best film of the decade. It reinvented Michael Douglas, casting him as a classic anti-hero and the sort of bloke we have all wished we would like to be at some point. Maybe that’s a tad too far, but which of us have not wanted to just say ‘fuck it’ and go on a rampage around the city? Schumacher nails the atmosphere of sweaty 90s LA, a boiling pot of race, pressure, and violence, and manages to make the film action packed, violent, funny, and smart all at once.

16: Mrs Doubtfire (US) Chris Columbus

It’s a family film with its fair share of risque humour thanks to a tour de force performance from Robin Williams. Not all of the jokes land, as it always the case when Williams was given free reign, but when there are so many and when they are delivered with such pace, you barely notice. It’s also another charming watch and kids and older members will find plenty to enjoy.

15: Schindler’s List (US) Steven Spielberg

A contender for the finest war movie ever made, and for the best movie of the decade, Schindler’s List is obviously an exhausting, difficult, but important watch. There are two must watches for everyone on my list today – both are by Spielberg, and this is one of them.

14: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (US) Lasse Hallstrom

Johnny Depp’s star was on the rise, and this was another notch on his bedpost. Lasse Hallstrom was looking for a US hit while Juliette Lewis was another hot property. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was not the sort of film which was ever going to be a hit, but even before it took on a cult status it was clear to any viewer that it was a powerful and humble and perfectly well made and well acted drama. Naturally it was the film which broke DiCaprio, his film stealing performance earning an Oscar nomination. People have maybe forgotten this one now, but with the star power involved its a hidden gem which will continue to be discovered.

13: Cliffhanger (US/France/Italy) Renny Harlin

Arnie had exploded into the new decade making sure that the 80s action hero still had a place in the new, more self aware era. His 90s exploits had not been successful so he found a new action vehicle with up and coming director Renny Harlin. It’s basically Die Hard on a mountain, but it has plenty of action, plenty of violence, a classic batch of hammy villains, and lots of one-liners – in short, everything you want in an action movie, with the added bonus of great scenery and spectacle.

12: Benny And Joon (US) Jeremiah S Chechik

Another offbeat character for Depp to tackle, this is the less mainstream version of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? It’s one of a select few romances or Rom Coms that I hold dear, and another film for people who have maybe forgotten what a great actor Depp is should check out.

11: Dazed And Confused (US) Richard Linklater

Linklater always makes watchable movies, regardless of genre, but his best movies are those which feel like a group of best mates hanging out – with Dazed And Confused being the prime example. Like the movie itself, you can stick it on and just chill. The various characters, the various groups all somehow feel like personal friends and Linklater has a way of making you feel like part of the gang, even as a guy from Northern Ireland who wasn’t alive in the time period predicted. You don’t even need the performances to be good – they are – but you do need the soundtrack and the setting to echo the vibe – it does.

10: The Vanishing (US) George Sluizer

Frequently named as one of the, if not worst, but least most unnecessary and least interesting remakes of all time, The Vanishing still remains for me a gripping and eerie watch. Sure, it’s not as powerful as the original but I saw this one first and those first impressions are hard to shake. Remember, this is a favourites list, not what I think is the best. What I still love about this remake is the cast – Bridges, Sutherland, Bullock, and Travis are all committed and Sluzier does a great job of maintaining the mystery and tension of the original. While the ending is a prime example of Americanisation, I don’t necessarily mind. Sure it would have been cool if they’d shot alternative endings or went with something similar to the original, but the original is still there to enjoy in all its bleak glory.

9: Carlito’s Way (US) Brian De Palma

Carlito’s Way is one of those latter day Mafia movies which was still flying the flag for the sort of violent stylized thriller which would become out of vogue once Pulp Fiction came along. It’s not as good as Goodfellas, and not as memorable as Scarface, but it’s just as engaging with the benefit of being more underseen – get ahead of your mates and stick this one on your movie night list once Lockdown is over and enjoy Pacino, Sean Penn and Leguizamo, acting to Eleven while De Palma cranks up the tension.

8: The Nightmare Before Christmas (US) Henry Selick

I’ve spoken about this movie plenty of times on other lists on this site; it’s great.

7: A Perfect World (US) Clint Eastwood

Clint had been directing for about 80 years by the time he made A Perfect World, and had been acting for roughly 300 years on top of that. His follow up to the universally acclaimed Unforgiven is a light crime drama which I prefer to his masterful Western. I’ve always suspected the light tone came from Kevin Costner’s involvement and that another actor may have brought a more cynical vibe, but Costner and Eastwood were a perfect match and foil for one another, and created one of the least seen finest movies of the 90s. Assuming most reading this list may not be familiar with this movie – it follows two escaped convicts in early 60s Texas who pick up a hostage in the form of a young Jehovah’s Witness boy completely innocent of the ways of the world. What begins is a road movie mixed with coming of age mixed with buddy comedy mixed with violent thriller as Costner learns responsibility from the boy and the boy learns right and wrong from the criminal, all while Texas Ranger Eastwood and criminologist Laura Dern chase them down. It’s an incredibly, unforgivingly (ha) underrated film with a terrific cast, nuanced, funny, touching, and never bogged down by its 2 hour plus running time.

6: Demolition Man (US) Marco Brambilla

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Stallone movies.

5: Last Action Hero (US) John McTiernan

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Arnie movies.

4: Body Snatchers (US) Abel Ferrara

It gets undue hate for not being as good as the 70s or 50s version. Don’t sleep on it. It’s in my favourite movies of the decade list… I think. If it’s not, it’s fantastically grim vision of the famous story with a more claustrophobic setting.

3: True Romance (US) Tony Scott

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

2: Tombstone (US) George P Cosmatos

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

1: Jurassic Park (US) Steven Spielberg

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1995!

Lordy lordy, this is going to be a long one (that’s what she said etc). 1995 is just one of those years, both formative and just simply a bad-ass year for movies. As usual, my list is eclectic with both critical darlings, commercial hits, and lesser known or foreign curios. Enjoy!

20: Braveheart (US) Mel Gibson

This was the biggie of 1995, and a bit of a surprise, lifting Mel Gibson into the pantheon of Great Directors and showcasing his skills as a leading man. It’s not my favourite Gibson movie but it’s a sublime achievement with great, epic action scenes and famous speeches.

19: Casino (US) Martin Scorsese

Casino always felt like a lesser Scorsese movie to me, the less popular younger brother to Goodfellas. As unfair as that is, I feel like it’s true. But it’s still Scorsese, and he’s still on fire, so there are very few other directors who can touch him when he’s delivering.

18: Casper (US) Brad Silberling

Casper is better than Casino! Well no, but I enjoy it more. It’s a great lead in to Horror for kids, it feels like a mini Tim Burton movie – with a little more darkness and satire this could have been a bona fide classic. It’s Christina Ricci, so I’m in regardless, but you also get Bill Pullman and Eric Idle for some reason.

17: Jumanji (US) Joe Johnston

Jumanji is that bona fide classic family movie blockbuster – the effects for the time were great, the idea was fun, and Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst are on top form. I’m not a Joe Johnston fan – three of his movies appear on my Least Favourites lists – but this is his finest moment, mixing the story, characters, and effects seamlessly. In truth, I was always a bigger fan of the Animated TV show, but the movie is a lot of fun.

16: Dangerous Minds (US) John N Smith

It’s a stereotype now – the teacher coming in to some tough inner-city school, and turning them around thanks to a passion for (literature/art/music/dance/anything) some subject. Variants of this had been going on for decades, but this really perfected the thing. It didn’t hurt that Gangsta’s Paradise was released alongside the movie and became a worldwide smash. Great cast, great energy, and while these types of movie feel a little White Saviour-ish, I can’t help but enjoy these types of film.

15: Strange Days (US) Kathryn Bigelow

Before Bigelow became a genuine A-Lister with The Hurt Locker, she was making much more interesting high (or low) concept movies like this. This was quite revelatory in 1995 and quite a lot of the ideas and technology displayed are in regular use today. Like Near Dark, this is a gorgeous night time shot movie, albeit this one is much more focused on the indoors rather than the outdoors. Out of all of the movies on my list, this is maybe the least seen (it was a massive bomb); it stars Ralph Fiennes as a former cop/now criminal in a futuristic end of the century LA who buys and sells people’s memories (there’s a device which can record these) and who gets pulled into a wider story of love, crime, and murder. Throw in an archetypal Juliette Lewis performance, Angela Bassett, Tom Sizemore, and the always great Michael Wincott, a great mid-nineties indie/rock/techno, and at the very least you have an interesting (if cold) movie well deserving of re-evaluation.

14: In The Mouth Of Madness (US) John Carpenter

One of the last John Carpenter movies I ever got to because it’s so damn hard to find a physical copy of, In The Mouth Of Madness is one of the last great Carpenter movies. I don’t love it as much as some, but that may just be because I’m not as familiar with it. It’s unusual for Carpenter in that it’s not so straightforward – it’s a natural thematic successor to Prince Of Darkness and features a deliciously madcap Sam Neill performance as an Insurance Investigator sucked into, well, the mouth of madness. Charlton Heston pops up too. It’s very strange – there are good effects, good ideas, and Carpenter is as assured as ever, but it doesn’t always flow in a pleasing way (which may be deliberate) and the script feels lacking. But it’s still Carpenter doing Horror, and that will always be a good thing.

13: The Last Supper (US) Stacy Title

Most people have likely not seen or heard of this one, given that it is an India release with a religious sounding name. Plus, it’s a bit of a single location, very talky movie. It’s also smart, funny, and has a cool cast and even better cameos. It follows a dinner party with a group of liberal arts students whose night of privilege and culture is interrupted by the arrival of a Right Wing Desert Storm Vet with plenty of strong opinions. It amusingly breaks down barriers of class and stereotype and gets quite dark, while never losing its comedy core. Annabeth Gish and Cameron Diaz are the big names of the main players, but it’s Bill Paxton and Ron Perlman who steal the show.

12: Kids (US) Larry Clark

I don’t know many people who enjoy Kids or any of Larry Clark’s movies. I don’t know what it is – the faux realism, the dialogue, the Mean Streets style shooting, but there’s something so watchable about them to me. I appreciate that most people are going to be offended by them, and that many are going to find Kids problematic – as they should. It’s not an easy movie, dealing with a bunch of, well, scumbags, underage sex, drugs, abuse, AIDS, and other antics we don’t associate with people under 16. When’s it coming to Disney+?

11: Pocahontas (US) Disney

Pocahontas for me was a slight turning point for Disney, towards a downward turn. We’d had the second Golden Age with three legit bangers in a row. Pocahontas is not up to the same level as The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty And The Beast, but is at least the equal to The Little Mermaid. While it was a smash, that little dip in quality continued through the rest of the decade (outside of Pixar) and not really picking up again until Princess And The Frog and Tangled. Still, Pocahontas is light years ahead of most other animated movies and always charming even if it’s not one I revisit often.

10: Mortal Kombat (US) Paul W S Anderson

Do do- do do-do do-do do do do – MORTAL KOMBAT! I was obsessed with the games at the time, so an actual big budget martial arts movie on the big screen with people shooting fireballs and spears towards four armed monsters…what more could a twelve year old boy want? Plus, I was already the biggest Bruce Lee fan in the world. It’s not the best movie in the world, or of the year, but it’s such a lot of fun and remains one of the best videogame adaptations.

9: Now And Then (US) Lesli Linka Glatter

I never understood why this one isn’t as heralded as Stand By Me and other coming of age movies. This is a near perfect movie, with a terrific cast (the kids moreso than the adults), a great soundtrack, and a funny script. It’s gentle, heartwarming, and remains a neat little secret to whip out of the back-pocket every so often and show to someone who’s never heard of it. The film follows four long-term friends who meet up to support one of the group who is about to have her first baby. The group reminisce about their childhood in 1970, with the film flipping back between both eras as they talk about life from the perspective of coming in to adolescence and approaching middle age/middle adulthood. It’s great, it’s lovely, and it stars Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie O’Donnell, Rita Wilson, Gaby Hoffman, Thora Birch, Christina Ricci, the late Ashleigh Aston Moore, Cloris Leachman, Bonnie Hunt, Brendan Fraser, Janeane Garofalo, Devon Sawa, and Rumer Willis.

8: The Doom Generation (US/France) Gregg Araki

Now that I think about it, there’s quite a few movies on my list that many people won’t have seen or heard of. This is another example. Gregg Araki is a bit of a powerhouse in the Indie world, with The Doom Generation probably being my favourite movie of his. It’s one of those movies which gets thrown in with the post-Tarantino world thanks to a post-modern approach, lots of style, lots of violence, cool dialogue, foul language, gore, and bizarre bits and bops. Oh, and lots of sex. It follows two teenagers (Rose McGowan and James Duval) who are driving through the night and decide to pick up a drifter. There’s an accidental murder which leads to increasingly bizarre and violent encounters as the film turns into a road-movie-fever-dream-with-boobs. McGowan gives her best performance, Duval and Schaech are excellent, and there are plenty of weird cameos as every person in the film claims that McGowan’s character is some ex-girlfriend/wife/friend and it all ends in a massacre.

7: La Haine (France) Mathieu Kassovitz

Speaking of massacres, La Haine is a film constantly at boiling point, just waiting for something unspeakable and ferocious to happen. Another underseen classic, this is perhaps the one most deserving of an audience given its relevance, potency, and power, and simply because it is undeniably brilliant. A French film starring Vincent Cassel, Said Taghmaoui, and Hubert Kounde as three friends in an inner city crime-filled Parisian district who find a Police Officer’s gun in the aftermath of a riot in which a fourth friend was seriously injured. The three friends debate what they should do with the gun – one vows to kill a cop if the fourth friend dies, one disagrees, and one is a mediator. The three travel around the city talking, plotting, dealing with gangs and cops and the city is presented as a melting pot of violence ready to erupt at any moment. It’s super tense, shot in beautiful black and white, and features great performances across the board.

6: Die Hard With A Vengeance (US) John McTiernan

I’m getting to the point where these are the movies which probably made my favourites of the decade post. As I can’t recall which ones made it, I’m going to be brief on each of these – you should know them all anyway. This is the third Die Hard, the second best in the the series and almost on par with the original. It’s great, though the final act doesn’t live up to the rest.

5: Heat (US) Michael Mann

It’s Heat… it’s one of the best casts of all time, and with some terrific set pieces.

4: Mallrats (US) Kevin Smith

My favourite Kevin Smith movie, and a great, aimless hangout movie.

3: Desperado (US) Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez’s best movie. It’s perfect.

2: Goldeneye (UK) Martin Campbell

One of my favourite Bond movies, one of the best Bond movies.

1: Things To In Denver When You’re Dead (US) Gary Fleder

Another underseen classic, another fantastic cast, one of the finest movies of the decade.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1997!

Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection

Alien Resurrection

One of the big criticisms against Alien 3 was the lack of action. And horror. I mean, there was also a lack of direction, no memorable characters, and the overall story wasn’t very interesting – but it’s still a damn sight better than Resurrection. Resurrection should work – you have Joss Whedon writing – an upcoming star with a love for the genre and strong female characters, you have Jean Pierre Jeunet directing – a director with a distinct visual flair, you have a return to action, a great cast, and Ripley’s back! And swimming Aliens! But somehow everything that could go wrong, does. The story is a mess – the bad guys have somehow brought Ripley back from a lava-based death because that was the only way they could find and clone the Xenomorph, but there’s space pirates or something and Ripley is essentially de-humanized. Jeunet doesn’t do horror often, and his voice and eye and humour simply don’t work in this world with this script. He brings his usual pals who make up the bulk of the cast, leading to a mish mash of accents and faces who should be more memorable than the shaved-bald nobodies of part 3, but zero time is spent defining any of them. Similarly, the action feels like it was directed by someone more comfortable with corsets and wigs than plasma rifles and grenades. There’s precious little horror or threat or suspense, and the overall vibe feels more like Delicatessen. Swimming aliens are cool though.

Batman And Robin

Legitimately one of the worst films ever made. It’s basically Carry On Comic Book Heroes (or if the name of the film appeared in the film itself, it would be called Carry On Cum Ick Boob Herpes) such are the truly awful one liners. I mean, it’s clearly aping the 60s series, and possibly the original comics – but who has the time to read that shite – but that in no way makes a thing good. I’m here to see this product, and the product is vomit inducing. I don’t think I’ve cringed more in any other movie – I don’t think I cringed more watching this than this time I accidentally gave the tip of my shlong a paper cut. Clooney is… fine.. but why make the change from Val? Chris O Donnell is as suitably bland and forgettable as he was in the previous movie. The worst moments, sadly, come from Arnie and Uma – both dial their performances up to 69 – but there’s only so much they could do with material written by a 6 year old future sociopath. Does anyone even remember Alicia Silverstone being in this? It doesn’t look like any other Batman movie, which some see as cause for praise, but it’s hardly unique in that respect – the only thing unique about this movie is that it holds the spot for worst Batman movie.

Double Team

For those of you who, back in 1997, were wondering ‘wait, hasn’t Mr Don’t Give A Van Damme already made a film called Double Team?’ then I’m right there with you. But no, that was the vastly superior Double Impact, which featured Bolo Yeung and an eye-opening sex scene (not literally). No, Double Team is the one with Dennis Rodman, back when he had yellow hair, and back when Mickey Rourke was still a mess. The film is something to do with an ex-dude returning to shooty killy work when his old nemesis starts shooty killing, but the dude is married now and doesn’t want to deal with flambouyant NBA stars-turned actor-turned arms dealer-turned friend of North Korea – Dennis Rodman. There’s shooting and killing and babies and a tiger…. it’s not Tsui Hark’s finest hour, and that guy has some of the finest hours ever committed to action cinema.

Gattaca

Maybe it’s me, but I prefer my sci-fi movies to be more on the shooty, killy side of the moon. Sci movies which tend towards the thought-provoking or introspective or intellectual tend to not be my jam, unless they are singularly brilliant. This is singularly bland. I’m sure I’d probably enjoy it if I saw it again now, or enjoy it more than what I remember from my first and only viewing decades ago, but I have no desire to return to it.

Contact

Re-read my entry for Gattaca.

In & Out

In the VHS player once, then out and into the bin never to be mentioned again.

Mortal Kombat Annihilation

I was a big fan of the first Mortal Kombat movie. Not because it was amazing or anything, but because I was an obsessive fan of the games at the time, and because it made a decent fist at converting a videogame about muscle-bound freaks tearing each others’ arms off and ‘getting over here’, into a wholly entertaining 90 mins. The sequel, which I waited and waited for, comes with all the annoying cast changes you would expect and an even more overblown and silly plot. Worse, it takes its script from the Batman & Robin school of writing, with dialogue last seen scrawled in the bathroom stall of an Eastern European drug den. Even the fighting and introductions of fan favourite fighters is a complete let down. Lets hope the new movie lives up to the hype of the ridiculous trailer.

Mrs Brown

Maybe I now have an innate dislike of anything with ‘Mrs Brown’ in the title thanks to that awful sitcom, but this came first and is equally unwatchable. Lets go through the list of things Nightman cannot abide – Costume Drama? English? Quirky humour? The monarchy? This was going to be on my list before it was even released.

Bean

In a year of personal let downs, this was probably the most heinous. Mr Bean is one of my favourite TV shows of all time. I still watch every episode every year. Rowan Atkinson’s creation is comedy perfection. But like almost every attempt to bring a British comedy show to the big screen, the movie loses everything which made (makes) the show so wonderful. Gone are the set pieces, the humour is changed to cater to a more American audience – a bizarre change when the show is both Universal and timeless – and having Bean following a larger form plot, such as it is, simply isn’t as interesting as seeing him ramble aimlessly from scene to scene and mishap to mishap. Luckliy, the sequel is much better, but I think the day I saw this was the day my childhood died.

The Full Monty

Once again…. lets just go through the list. English? Quirky comedy? Basically a musical? As interesting as (some of) Britpop was in the 90s, the same cannot be said for the films of the era. An unbelievable success, in that I cannot believe anyone paid to see this.

Let us know in the comments what steamers I missed, or if you think I should re-evaluate any of my picks above!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Movies Of 1999!

We’re into a new (old) millennium in our trawl back through my yearly lists, and this time we’ve stumbled upon our first mega-list. Twenty movies! This might take a while…

20: The Sixth Sense (US) M Night Shyamalan

I get pissed off quite easily by hype, or by acclaim – or at least I used to. Maybe being such an outsider led me down the narrow vine-choked path of assuming that anything popular is crap. There is a lot of truth in that line of thinking, but it’s also misguided. In the end, you have to view things for yourself and be aware of your biases so that they don’t influence your opinion. In other words, it took me a while to come around to The Sixth Sense. Everyone loved it, from horror fans to serious critics – as a horror fan we tend to become sceptical when one of our dirty brethren becomes accepted by the establishment. I can’t say I ever fell truly into that category of fan, but I understand the sentiment – especially when so many wonderful horror films have been overlooked. I tend to feel like the movie isn’t as powerful with repeat viewings – most will say the opposite is true. Once the film has revealed its secrets, there isn’t a lot for me to enjoy here. Naturally the twist is one I guessed fairly early on, but with all round decent plotting, a heady atmosphere, and strong performances, it remains a seminal and entertaining horror movie.

19: Girl, Interrupted (US) James Mangold

It’s the film which catapulted Angelina Jolie into the A Listers, but I was always more invested in this because of Winona Ryder and Brittany Murphy. Mangold was fresh off Cop Land which was one of my favourites of 97 so I was keen to see what we could do with a mostly female cast. There are all round great performances here, a timely soundtrack, and even though it’s a period piece it feels very modern – there are problems here which society hasn’t adequately solved yet. It’s not a film I revisit often, over most of the others on this list, but it packed a punch first time round.

18: The Green Mile (US) Frank Darabont

It’s not every day that you take a Stephen King novel and adapt it into one of the most well-loved films of all time. Frank Darabont did it twice. While The Green Mile isn’t as acclaimed as Shawshank, it is an equally epic character journey set in a hopeless world and is one of those rare occasions where the director successfully understands the core of the King’s work and is able to translate it. It is a little more sentimental than his earlier feature, but lets not forget it’s a film about the rape and murder of two young girls and a man suffering the torment of life on Death Row. Similar to Shawshank we have a terrific cast knocking it out of the park, and a story which reminds you that sometimes there is light at the end of the tunnel.

17: Shiri (SK) Kang je Gyu

I can’t say for sure, but Shiri was the the first film I saw from South Korea that I understood was a South Korean film. Growing up, I knew my martial arts movies from China, my action movies from Hong Kong, and my horror movies from Japan – but South Korea was some other strange entity. Turns out they could do the aforementioned genres as well as anyone else. Shiri is a crime thriller which is likely the least seen movie on this list. It’s also a fish – which may be important. There is a fast pace with the stylish direction of much of 90s HK action – fans of those movies should be at home here – and while it does often feel like a homage, there’s enough cultural nuance to make it fresh, at least for someone like me.

The film starts out with a group of North Korean soldiers – best of the best types – who are sent to South Korea to commit acts of terror, espionage, and murder. We then follow the South Korean forces in charge of hunting down these spies, leading to plenty of gunplay and startling revelations. Those unfamiliar with SK Cinema will recognise a few of the performers – namely Yunjin Kim (Sun from Lost), and Song Kang-Ho (Parasite, Snowpiercer) so it is a good place to start if you’re interested in exploring movies from this region.

16: The Iron Giant (US) Brad Bird

In all honesty – The Iron Giant is a badly written story by Ted Hughes. Seriously, it does read like it was written by an illiterate child. Create to Brad Bird then for scrapping the bullshit and getting to the emotional core of the story – the fear and paranoia and friendship. WB really dropped the ball on this one, as it is easily one of the best animated movies of the decade, and if you want to go up against Disney you need to market correctly. No-one saw it at the time, but it has since gained a new audience and respect, and it’s every bit as essential at the best output of the year, animated or otherwise.

15: American Pie (US) Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz

I shouldn’t really like American Pie, but I suppose it is my Porkies. Or my Dazed And Confused. Every generation has their balls-out teen oriented movie which caters towards those of that age at that point in time, and that just happened to be me in 1999 or thereabouts. It’s the age old story of a bunch of horny teens trying to bust a nut before Prom, whether that be with a girlfriend, a model, a milf, or indeed – a pie. It’s somehow charming and helped launch a lot of careers, many of which didn’t go anywhere, and launched a franchise with rapidly diminished returns, and launched a series of clones none of which were very good. So it’s all the more remarkable that this one is still fairly funny and works as a snapshot of what teen life was like at the end of the 90s.

14: Existenz (Canada/UK/France) David Cronenberg

While David Cronenberg had continued to make interesting films through the 90s, I felt his movies, if not his subject matter, had become a little too…. tame? Mainstream? While the budgets were higher and I think he clearly grew as a Director, the films didn’t mean as much to me when compared with his 80s work. Existenz is a nice merging of his big ideas, his mainstream flirting, and his body horror, exploring humanity’s leap forwards into software, videogame technology, escapism, and reality. It’s like a pseudo-sequel to Videodrome and every bit as captivating, even as it keeps you at arm’s length. Suffering a little from going up alongside The Matrix, the film follows a game designer who is stalked by assassins in a world where two major competing companies look to design the most realistic virtual reality experience. As you would expect, there’s a lot of bizarre visuals and ‘nothing is at is seems’ shenanigans, but the stellar cast including Sarah Polley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Willem Defoe, Jude Law, and Ian Holm keep matters as grounded as is possible.

13: Ghost Dog (US/France/Germany/Japan) Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch has always been one of ‘those’ directors. People know him and either love or hate his work, but he does whatever the hell he wants. I think Ghost Dog is my favourite movie by him, and it may be his most accessible film. Essentially, Forest Whitaker is a hitman of the Leon variety – quiet, solitary, and lives by a code – specifically an ancient Samurai code and book called the Hagakure. He works for the Mafia but finds himself conflicted and hunted after a hit early in the movie. The film is him processing his thoughts and morals and methodically going about the business of killing, but it’s done in a fairly stylish way with an air of detached cool. It’s probably the first Jarmusch film I would recommend to newbs.

12: Music Of The Heart (US) Wes Craven

What the hell is this doing here? There’s no reason I should enjoy this, but I do. It’s the same old story you’ve seen before – a passionate teacher goes to a ‘dangerous’ school, and teaches them about art/music/life/literature/love instead of guns and drugs and sex. It’s that film, but for whatever reason I always enjoy these.

11: Office Space (US) Mike Judge

Mike Judge always makes watchable, addictive stuff. He has had a fairly sizeable influence on my life, or my entertainment preferences, with Beavis And Butthead and King Of The Hill being two of my favourite formative TV shows. It took me a while to get on board with his movie work, but they’re all gold. This is the most meme heavy work – there are images from this film I’d wager most people have seen without knowing the origin. Even twenty years on, the film is still the most accurate depiction of office life I’ve ever seen – nailing the dialogue, the malaise, and the characters to a T. All that would be great, but it’s stupidly funny too.

10: The Mummy (US) Stephen Sommers

The Mummy is just one of those pure popcorn entertainment films which ticks all my boxes for a good Cinema time. The effects were excellent at the time, the cast were great fun and you could tell they enjoyed every moment of making it, and it remains an excellent throwback to Indiana Jones escapades of my youth.

9: Fight Club (US/Germany) David Fincher

In all honesty, it took me a while to come around on Fight Club. It pissed me off that the film was revered so highly as this huge game-changing, life-changing thing, and it pissed me off that it seemed to be creating a cult of disciples too dim to realise that the very film they worshipped was mocking them. Taken purely on its own merits, it’s a dark and dirty treat which questions aspects of masculinity and 20th Century vice, and it’s shot with Fincher’s trademark gloom as if every camera is a recovering addict just emerging from a pit of toilet filth. Plenty of good performances abound, lots of one-liners – I just don’t buy the whole life-changing aspect.

8: Man On The Moon (US) Milos Forman

Growing up far from the US in a post 1970s world, I didn’t have any idea who Andy Kaufman was. Over time, as I got more into comedy and film, I learned about Taxi and heard Kaufman’s name, but I wasn’t aware he was such a big deal, and suh a fascinating character until this film was released. I was miffed that this flew so far under the radar at the time, and I tried telling people that it was Carrey’s best performance. It’s only in recent years that the film is now being re-evaluated, especially in the aftermath of that Jim Carrey Documentary. In any case, this is a comedy fan’s masterclass, a film with laughs, absurdity, and pathos in equal measure, with an Oscar worthy Carrey performance and great support.

7: Dogma (US) Kevin Smith

I’m not Catholic, but I did grow up never far from Church, Bible, Preacher, and Verse. If there’s any connective tissue between most religions of this world, it’s their attempts to make you feel inferior, guilty, and to keep you under control – like a virus, they do these things to give themselves meaning. Or do they make you a more positive, caring person? Bottom line – we’re all different, religious or not, dicks or not. Kevin Smith takes aim at, well, dogma, with his simple plot probing more questions than you would expect in a film which features a giant turd monster. The film follows Affleck and Damon as two Angels who find a loophole which allows them to get back into Heaven, having been expelled by The Lord. Unfortunately, we learn that if they succeed then that would prove that God is fallible, and the world, the universe would crumble and cease to exist. Along for the ride are plenty of View Askew familiars, Alan Rickman, Alanis Morissette, Chris Rock, Linda Fiorentino, and Salma Hayek in a bikini – which is of critical import. Like Smith’s best work, it’s funny, provocative, challenging, and stupid in equal measure.

6: End Of Days (US) Peter Hyams

1999 was a strange time. I was there to see it, to laugh at the paranoia, to get drunk at all the best parties, and to consume all of the cultural oddities from film to music which cropped up. Thankfully, humanity at large took it all in the best of spirits, whereas I feel like if 1999 was more like today’s culture – we’d all be fucked by Right Wing Crazed extremists preaching censorship and control, and using the End Of Days as another tool to make themselves the big boys of the yard. In 1999, we were all a little more innocent, hopeful, but that didn’t stop Arnie adorning a sidearm or two and going to war with Rapey little Gabey Byrne’s Satan. Byrne’s Satan is a lovely malevolent creature, fucking your wife right in front of you, then asking you to pay him for the pleasure, hunting for babies to munch on, and patting his lips with glee at carnage created or witnessed. The tail end of the 90s wasn’t the most impressive for Arnie – his star was on the wane and his political ambitions were at the fore – yet he still had enough clout to take on the Dark One and save us all from eternal damnation. Or allow us all to live long enough to see a different sort of demon expose the failings of humanity from atop perch bought with ignorance and hate.

5: Audition (Japan) Takashi Miike

Miike makes a dozen films each year, but perhaps none have had the impact of Audition, culturally and critically, and commercially. This is the Miike film that people who haven’t heard of the man know. This is also a film which can make a grown man wince and cry and look sidelong at the woman sitting beside him and wonder internally why she wears a wry smile during the film’s final ten minutes. It’s gloriously shot, a film of two halves tied together by two captivating leads and an unnerving sense of dread, of something being not quite right. It’s one of those films which makes Hollywood Only fans reconsider their short-sighted fandom and dare to peer beyond their sunny but bland shores.

4: South Park (US) Trey Parker

I watched this as a double header with American Pie at a friend’s 17th Birthday. Both accompanied each other well, but this got the most laughs, and the least uncomfortable boners. It’s one of the very few select instances of a TV show making a good movie. It’s not just good – it’s fantastic. Plus it does the near impossible, and makes a Musical…not shit. The songs are funny, you’ll laugh till your tears turn red, and you’ll wonder why the hell else other great shows can’t match the feat.

3: The Matrix (US/OZ) The Wachowski Brothers

If you were to choose maybe ten movies which defined the 90s, there’s a strong possibility that The Matrix would appear on that list. And on most people’s lists. It’s one of the most influential movies of the era, one of the most visually striking, but it’s also simply a fun and action packed ride, delivering blockbuster thrills, and engaging story, and plenty of dialogue which every dick has been misquoting or mismeme-ing since. It’s a pity the sequels were what they wore, but for a few years this was the peak and the future of action. It made or re-made stars of Keanu Reeves, Fisbourne, and Hugo Weaving, and made it cool (apparently) to strut around in long black coats and shades in the Summer Sun, or at pitch black night. I did this before it was cool, and when people began calling me Neo, I would state plainly that I was mimicking a Terminator – the philistines.

2: The Blair Witch Project (US) Daniel Myrick Eduardo Sanchez

Covered in my Top Movies Of The Decade, so check it out.

1: Bangkok Dangerous (Thailand) The Pang Brothers

Covered in my Top Movies Of The Decade, so check it out.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two

Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier (1972)

*Spoiler Alert – this post contains ludicrous generalizations

Americans. They love their guns and war. Obviously I’m painting with crude, broad strokes, but as a non-American, that is your stereotype. British people have weird teeth and may all be lair-dwelling super villains, Germans are efficient pool-side lounger-grabbers, the French are from France, The Irish are Drunk, people from the Middle East are terrorists, people from Africa are starving, and Americans are loud, overweight, obnoxious, gun-toting zealots. Stereotypes are bullshit, but sprinkled with nuggets of truth. Look at the way veterans of Vietnam were treated, especially those speaking up about the truth in this stunning documentary. Look at what is happening today, with warmongering and tweet-tiger-poking. History repeats itself, humanity loses, and the rich get to work on getting richer and making the rest of us forget.

In case you hadn’t yet surmised, the Winter Soldier I’m talking about today is not a Marvel action fest, but a timely documentary made numerous filmmakers and is based around the Winter Soldier War Crimes hearing of 1971 – something I had no clue existed prior to watching the film. The film interviews and documents testimony and eye witness accounts, from US soldiers mainly, of the terrible acts they saw committed in the name of their flag, their Country, their freedom, acts which are far and away from the regular horrors of war. We learn how many of the soldiers signed up or were conscripted under the old lie of fighting for freedom of good old Uncle Sam, white picket fences, Sunday baseball games, and all the other bullshit, but were not in any way prepared for the nature of combat physically or mentally, were trained to be blinded to the suffering of others, to follow orders without question even though the orders were clearly wrong, and were not made aware of little things such as the Geneva Convention. Basically, if your superior told you to crush a baby’s head under your boot, you were required to get stomping.

Witness accounts tell, in detail and often with fury and disbelief of Vietnamese children being shot to pieces just because they happened to be walking down the road, of hostages being taken just so they could be dropped out of helicopters for fun, of innocents being slaughtered indiscriminately for the crime of not being American, and so on. Most of the interviews are from soldiers only recently returned from the war, and filmed in black and white to give a news reel feel, but there are snippets of colour footage of troops in battle.

If you didn’t already have a ready made assumption about the recent history of US war, then you will after viewing this. Especially given what you may know about the continued treatment of ‘the enemy’ in subsequent wars – one only needs to see how prisoners – and often innocents – were treated post 9/11 in American camps to know that there is a deep, awful, and unavoidable history and systematic problem with savagery, with evil, within American society. At least where it concerns the Military, and those who sent men and women to war. It has been over a year since I first watched this film, and over 50 years since the US was arsing about needlessly in Vietnam – and yet very little has changed. People in power will abuse said power, people with guns will fire them at anyone and everyone as long as they don’t have the finger or the trigger turned inwards, and the media, the flag-wavers, the people at the top will turn a blind eye to it all. If you think you’re Country cares about you – you are wrong. If you think your Country cares about others – you are wrong. If you think your country cares about Veterans – you are wrong. Your Country simply wants all the toys, all the control, and wants to wave its dick around to show it’s the baddest motherfucker around. Wake up – for the good, honest Americans and people around the world, it’s only your voice and power which will make a change.

It’s no surprise then that Winter Solder was ignored upon release and that all mainstream stations refused to show it for decades. Can’t have people knowing we’re sending our boys away to kill actual boys and girls, then bringing them back more broken than ever with only a couple of badges and a pat on the back to keep them warm at night – because of course we’re not going to really look after them are we? Winter Soldier should be required viewing for everyone, or at least anyone with an interest in history, but especially for the flag-waving Right who may be faced with the sound of their own screams in their own echo chamber of bias, and the Left who need reminding that change is absolutely necessary, and for everyone else regardless of affinity who should know the extremes people will go to for the Stars and Stripes.

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2000!

It’s 2000! Sure it took until 2020 for The Great Plague to come and strike us all down, but for a while in 2000 people were freaking out. Also – there were movies. Here are some of my favourites. Brother was Takeshi Kitano testing his toes again in the US – it’s fun, mainstream. American Psycho is all chainsaws and suits and nudity. Amores Perros is another classic of South American cinema which still feels fresh, while Baise Moi has nothing ‘fresh’ about – it’s scary, filthy, and unmissable. Erin Brockovich is one of the rare Oscar bait movies which I enjoy. In The Mood For Love is trippy, sexy goodness. Memento is trippy trippy goodness. MI 2 is probably my favourite in the series, though everyone else says it is the weakest.

10: Almost Famous. (USA) Cameron Crowe.

Almost Famous dropped at the right time for people like me, of my generation. I was 16/17, ready to set off in the world and make an impact,brimming with dreams and wonder and a desire for experience. Plus I was already a big fan of a lot of the rock music of the 1960s and 70s. Almost Famous has that hopeful, free vibe flowing through – a great cast, terrific soundtrack, and hits my personal sweet spot as a coming of age story too following a kid trying to break into a world of writing, music, heroes, and rock and roll excess.

9: Gladiator (USA/UK). Ridley Scott.

Regular readers will already know this, but it’s worth calling out here for those of you who only read the list posts. From a very early age, I had an obsession with Greek and Roman myths and legends which eventually became intertwined with the genuine history of those countries. I studied Latin in school for 7 years, and part of my University Studies was in ‘Classics’ – the literature, language, and philosophy of Greece and Rome. My Latin class in School (there only was eight of us) actually went on a School trip to see Gladiator after the rave reviews one of my classmates was giving it. Aside from finally getting a decent version of the Trojan Epics, this is the best film someone like me could have hoped for. It’s an epic without all the faff which came later to the ‘genre’, a story of personal grief, struggle, and justice, a remarkable depiction of Rome with bloody battles and at least a couple of great leading performances. Super soundtrack too.

8: Best In Show (USA). Christopher Guest.

Just a quick update since I originally wrote this post – after the great Fred Willard sadly passed away. What a massive loss to the comedy world it is.

I went through a Christopher Guest phase in the early 2000s, repeatedly watching this, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting For Guffman while laughing my ass off and gobbling down illegitimate muffins. This one is a large step up in laughs from Waiting For Guffman and is just as strong a movie as This Is Spinal Tap. Set in the, already laughable, world of Dog Shows it follows various hopeful Dog Owners as they prepare their pooches, in often surreal situations, for a chance at stardom at the prestigious Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. All of the usual Guest favourites are out in force – Eugene Levy (who literally has two left feet), Catherine O’Hara (whose promiscuous past keeps catching up with her), Fred Willard (as the scene stealing over exuberant co-host of the event), and John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean (as the bitchy gay couple).

Like the best mockumentaries, this has a fair level of understanding of the subject matter meaning the satire and detail hit the mark more often than not. The cast are all comedy veterans and are both at ease and having great fun with the material, so it makes for comfortable viewing – there are no try-hards and the jokes range from dialogue based to slapstick, from visual to surreal, all with a light-hearted sprinkle of vignette silliness.

7: Dancer in The Dark (Denmark). Lars Von Trier

There’s a strong case for Dancer In The Dark being Von Trier’s best movie. It works on a number of levels, but most crucially it doesn’t feel like either exploitation or experimentation – it works as a brutal and downbeat drama with less of a focus on the director’s quirks and ego, and more on the character and plot. Bjork is spellbinding, the soundtrack features a few great songs, and the rest of the cast give notable performances. Is it manipulative? Sure – it’s a Lars Von Trier movie so that is part of the package, but it asks a lot of questions of the viewer and wrenches its answers unflinchingly.

6: Unbreakable (USA). M Night Shyamalan

Unbreakable remains Shyamalan’s best work – The Sixth Sense continues to get the plaudits, namely because it was first and people were so taken in by the twist, but Unbreakble is more accomplished in almost every level – a gloomy take on the comic book genre which you don’t even realize is a comic book movie until the final scenes, unless you’ve been paying attention closely or reading these spoilers.

5: Pitch Black (USA). David Twohy

I’m probably remembering this wrong, but I’m almost certain I saw the trailer for this a solid year before it was actually released. I remember catching the trailer and thinking ‘what the hell was that, that looked epic’. But nobody else mentioned it afterwards and I began to think it was all a dream. Then a year later it returned and I grabbed a couple of people and raced to the Cinema shouting ‘this is that trailer I told you all about’! What was even better was that Aeryn from Farscape was in it – of course nobody in the screening knew what the hell Farscape was and told me to shut the hell up. Plus you have Keith David in a legit big screen outing! But the film is all about Vin Diesel and his Riddick character – one that would become less interesting with each sequel, but here he has just the right amount of mystery to make him an enigma. Oh yes, it’s also set on a planet filled with near-unstoppable monsters in near-unstoppable numbers which only come out in the dark, and it just so happens that the planet is entering it’s ‘Winter’ Season when all light is extinguished. It was the best pure alien creature feature since Aliens. 

4: X-Men (USA). Bryan Singer

The only reason I really wanted to watch X-Men was because I loved the 90s cartoon. I’vev never been a big comic book fan and the comic movies I’ve enjoyed are few and far between, given how many there have been. When I like them, I love them and X-Men seemed more interesting given the cast and director. It was better than I expected and while it lacks much of an emotional core, it is more clever and socially relevant than whatever passes for superhero entertainment these days. Plus there’s a tonne of kick-ass action and the cast are committed.

3: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China/HK/Taiwan/USA). Ang Lee

By 2000, I was already well versed in Asian Cinema, particularly Kung fu movies. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Wuxia type movies, preferring realism in my tales of revenge. Ang Lee brought a heightened sense of realism to the genre, removing much of the magic but keeping the romance and string-work, bringing the beauty of the best of Hong Kong and Chinese Cinema in a more palatable way to Western audiences – without the flag waving patriotism in other words. Established stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat give a sense of familiarity and credibility, while Zhang Ziyi became a household name thanks to her blend of teeth shattering beauty and baddassery.

2: Final Destination (USA). James Wong

It’s in my best of the decade, so check for more info there.

1: Battle Royale (Japan). Kinji Fukasaku

It’s my favourite film of the decade. It’s also the best film since 2000.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two (including the winner)

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2002!

So I thought I had written this post and was ready to submit before the Least Favourites Of 2002. But I had not, so I’m blasting this one out quickly. Dog Soldiers is one of those rare good Werewolf movies, one which is filled with action, humour, and plenty of bloody violence. It also established Neil Marshall as a new and exciting director. Bubba Ho-Tep reminded horror fans that yes, Bruce Campbell was still alive and yes, Don Coscarelli was still making movies, and yes both were still capable of making a hit. It has cult written all over it, what with its unique cast and story by Joe Lansdale – an ancient Mummy attacks an old peoples’ home and only a pair of residents, who claim to be Elvis and JFK, can save the world. It never quite reaches the heights I hoped it would, but it’s still a fun, silly, and sometimes poignant ride.

10: City Of God (Brazil) Fernando Meirelles

I didn’t know much about South American cinema but by the time 2002 had rolled around I had expanded into modern Spanish territory and was beginning to pick up the odd cheap South American DVD wherever I could. City Of God came with a tonne of acclaim and by the time I saw it I understood why – I’ve never been a fan of conventional crime or gang based movies – British stuff particularly winds me up, but when the film has a fresh setting or a take I’m unfamiliar with then it’s all the more likely to win me over. Add to the fact that this doubles as a coming of age story and it has a foot and leg over most films in this genre. Meirelles hasn’t been able to replicate this for me, even with his later critical darlings, and he doesn’t make a lot of movies – but this is still an early 2000s classic.

9: Equilibrium (US) Kurt Wimmer

Speaking of people who don’t make a lot of movies, Kurt Wimmer bowed out after the disaster that was Ultraviolet. It’s a shame, because Equilibrium is probably the best of the post Matrix action movies before superheroes came and blandly stomped all over everything else. It’s stylish and detached and has a more interesting visual approach and message than something more popular like V For Vendetta has. Plus there’s a  lot of guns and Christian Bale.

8: Hero (China) Zhang Yimou

I had been a fan of Zhang Yimou for a while, but it wasn’t until Hero that he became a more familiar name in the West. Hero ticks plenty of boxes for me, and for being a worldwide hit – but maybe the most important and long-lasting factor is simply how beautiful, stunning it all is. In a time when much of Hollywood’s output could be bland visually, Hero was a revelation, bursting with colour and creativity. On top of that there are wonderfully choreographed fight scenes and a rousing score.

7: Infernal Affairs (HK) Andrew Lau/Alan Mak

I mentioned crime thrillers at the top – Infernal Affairs isn’t exactly outlandish or particularly unique – but it does have a twisting narrative and focus on character and world building without relying on the usual quirks and beats police procedural movies do. It’s also a who’s who of Hong Kong/Chinese cinema with many familiar faces putting out stellar work – Andy Lau and Tony Leung, along with Eric Tsang and Anthony Wong are the most notable figures. Even if you’ve seen The Departed, it’s worth going back to catch this.

6: The Pianist (France/Germany/Poland/UK) Roman Polanski

Say what you will about Polanski the person, there’s no doubting the power and skill possessed in his movies. The Pianist sees Adrian Brody as the title character as WWII erupts in Warsaw – his transformation over the years as the city becomes increasingly devastated, and his part in various uprising and survival attempts. There’s no obvious, visual, big bad to get behind here, only a city becoming a ruin and the exterior sights and sounds of war, Brody gives a once in a lifetime performance, and Polanski relays perhaps parts of his own childhood into scenes of sadness, degradation, and hope.

5: Dark Water (Japan) Hideo Nakata

I didn’t immediately love Dark Water – at least not in the same way I did Ringu. Although it feels inaccurate to use the term action packed when it comes to Dark Water, it definitely moves a notch or two faster than Nakata’s breakout masterpiece. It still has a greater focus on introspection and atmosphere than noisy jump-scares and it still has an abundance of creepy long-haired shenanigans, and it’s another movie based on a Koji Suziki piece – it should feel familiar to Ringu fans. Overall it’s a story of motherhood, guilt, protection, wrapped up in a supernatural mystery as a young mother and her child in the midst of a divorce move into a low rent apartment block with various… plumbing issues. It’s an unexpectedly moving story with a drip drip drip of scares before a brief flood towards the end. See, I can do cheap metaphors too!

4: The Eye (HK/Singapore) The Pang Brothers

The Pang Brothers, for a while, were among the most exciting filmmakers on the planet. I loved everything they did and this early foray into horror took the influence of Ringu and added(literal) explosive elements to make a more rollercoaster type horror movie. Scares come from any and all directions here, and the use of audio is second to none in setting up many of the film’s most tense moments. The film has some of my favourite scares to date and retains a creepy power even after all these years and viewings. For anyone not in the know – it’s a film about a young woman who has an eye operation to regain her sight. This being a horror movie, it’s more of an eye transplant.. and oh the things the previous owner must have seen. Blind from an early age, the operation is apparently successful as she begins to pick up shapes and objects -even if some are a little odd and disorienting. Dismissing these as a natural side effect, her sight soon returns, along with the bonus gift of being able to see ghosts. And the ghosts know she can see them. It’s a fun, B-movie idea explored before, but to the film’s credit it doubles down in the first half on the scares before delving into an interesting quest for the second half – it never feels boring or routine.

3: The Twilight Samurai (Japan) Yoji Yamada

I’ll be honest – in 2002 I was picking up any old Asian film which sounded like it might be interesting (which of course led to me seeing plenty of rubbish). I didn’t know who Yoji Yamada was back then, and I got this because it starred Hiroyuki Sanada and had a cool name. The Twilight Samurai may be ‘the best’ movie released in 2002. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, and absolutely should have won. Sanada is a poor Samurai working in a small town in, basically, an office job. Times are tough and the world seems to be moving ahead without him and his skills, yet his honour and family give him a sort of contentment. The opening of the movie sees the death of his wife, leaving him as the patriarch and matriarch of his household, much to the dismay of the townspeople. He does not have time for frivolities with his co-workers, instead spending his time looking after his daughters and elderly mother. It’s a very – pro traditional Japanese values type of film, one which honours the sacrifices made by the main character and treats him as the everyday hero he is. Don’t worry – there’s plenty of sword swinging too. Sanada deserved an Oscar nod here too.

2: 28 Days Later (UK) Danny Boyle

It’s 28 Days Later – of course it’s going to be here. It’s also in my Favourite movies of the decade post, so go read that.

1: Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (SK) Chan Wook Park

This brutal, gut-wrenching classic also made my Favourite movies of the decade post – so go read that.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: One (The Winner)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2004!

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This year was a whopper for seeing films which either pissed me off or let me down. SO much so that I have a few dishonourable mentions to get through first. Troy was the latest in the mini battle-epic trend which erupted in the wake of LOTR. It’s not a bad film by any means, but given that the books the movie is based on are the single greatest pieces of written art in history… it kind of deserved better. If you’re going to adapt The Illiad in a single film then you’re not going to get much better than this, but that’s precisely the problem – that book deserves a trilogy, connected to a trilogy for The Aeneid and The Odyssey. Do it like LOTR did things, and you’ll have some of the best movies ever made. The Notebook is one of those Nicholas Sparks things – you know, soppy romances for soppy humans – someone always has a rare disease, the characters are always cardboard cut outs – you know the deal. It’s the same as all the others. King Arthur is the movie I confuse Robin Hood with. Any of the Robin Hood’s actually. I think Keira Knightly was in this one. A classic story with an engaging mythology and room for plenty and ripe for a fitting adventure story boiled down to a Cockney night out.

Sideways takes a bunch of irritating twats you’d be praised for stabbing in real life, played by performers I don’t care about made by a Director who is yet to have made a single thing I’ve liked. Actually, Nebraska was fine. Casshern is a movie I used to make people watch just because how damn cool it looked back in the day. There wasn’t really anything like it. But it’s completely incomprehensible. It would be, presumably, like showing someone the sixth Harry Potter movie when they haven’t seen any of the others, or read the books, or speak English. I’m not sure whether it should be on my favourites list or this one. Alfie is a badly cast, ill-advised remake. The first worked because of 60s culture. The Noughties were a cultural void and London hasn’t been relevant in decades – moving the action to New York they should have just cast a native. Jude Law… Jude Law has looked human in precisely two movies, and ironically in one of those he was a vampire. The Wisdom Of Crocodiles and The Talented Mr Ripley. Every other movie who sort of looks like an emaciated squirrel. Izo was a Takashi Miike film I looked forward to – the synopsis of which (which may be the greatest of all time) is simply that a lethal killer goes back in time for the express purpose of killing, well, everyone. That’s the film. Like Casshern, I’m not sure if it should be on this list or on my actual favourites – it has a ridiculous cast, but there is almost no plot, the violence is over the top yet after a while it loses whatever made it amusing in the first place, it’s epic but way too long – all in all I was disappointed. Now lets move onto the top ten.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

This is the one which most people who watch movies, fancy themselves a critic, or pass by my blog will shout about. It has pedigree from top to bottom in the cast and the crew. The performances are really the only thing going for it in my mind, with people being ‘shocked’ Carrey could do serious stuff even though he already had. But it’s just another one of those manic pixie dream girl movies, with Kate Winslet not being best suited to such ideals. Michael Gondry’s visual style and general movies are not things I’m a big fan of and it all comes across as too cutesy and twee, no matter how much soap-lite tragedy is plastered all over it. Add in a Charlie Kaufman script, whose stuff always sounds more interesting to me than it ever ends up being, and who almost never makes me care about any of the characters and we have a film with a good idea which doesn’t scratch any of my itches. It’s Total Recall, but without the violence and with only two breasts.

The Chronicles Of Riddick

I saw Pitch Black on release night and loved it. As a big Farscape fan at the time, it was cool to see Claudia Black on the big screen, and as a sci-fi horror dude it was great seeing a new voice hitting the scene. It seemed like a cult hit in the waiting and felt like it would make the careers of several of those involved. While it didn’t quite turn out that way, it still led to a couple of belated sequels. This first sequel, is a turd. The first film was simplicity tied up in a complex world. Alien feels complex when it is simply a story of cat and mouse – Pitch Black works so well because it played the same trick. The Chronicles Of Riddick adds layer upon layer of new faces, mythology, and useless plot, and in the end it feels less like a film, more like a visual glossary for study purposes.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Back when the first Resident Evil was released, I was a fan of the games. RE 2 was my favourite and while the first movie was ultimately a let down and only related to the games in the most surface way, I was still keen to see more. That has always been my history with the movie series to be honest – thinking that maybe they’ll get it right with the next one. Apocalypse is the worst of the bunch, largely due to the terrible, truly awful, direction by Alexander Witt. It’s an ugly, ugly film, the action is distorted to be unrecognizable, and the story – not that it matters much – descends so far into convoluted guff that the series never recovered. At least the later films had fun buying into how ridiculous it all was. Uwe Boll wishes he made a film this bad.

Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason

As if the first one was bad enough, shit enabling, fake plastic people trip-trapping from one quirky mishap to the next, we knew there would have to be a sequel. It’s more of the same really, but even more predictable. More worthless characters, terrible dialogue straight from the quill of a Carrie Bradshaw fan-fiction wannabee, and poncey hair whose sole purpose seems to be to encourage terror attacks on London.

Closer

Billed as a return to form for Mike Nichols, it certainly seemed that way when he brought together a decent cast and garnered positive reviews. When I first heard about it I was more interested in the Natalie Portman pole-dancing stuff. Alas, when I got around to seeing it there was little of the spark of Nichols’ earlier work. Instead we got a cold, grey, depressing look at relationships in the 21st Century where no-one is ever happy and everyone wants to be somebody else, but fails to say anything insightful about such a state of existence. The only notable point worth bringing up with regards to the script is the amount of swearing as it seeks to rival motherfucking Goodfellas, but the characters are faux-articulate walking lungs, mindlessly wandering through life just like a used condom traverses a swamp.

Blade Trinity

Also known as Blade: Ryan Reynolds Is A Twat.

9 Songs

There were some positive movements in British music in the early Noughties. None of those are used in this turd. Modern Britain’s answer to, well Confessions Of A Window Cleaner, it’s a series of kind of explicit sex scenes between two of the least screen-friendly performers you’d want to see getting their kit off and having their respective parts sucked. It’s empty and vapid and without merit as a narrative, the music is shit, and you can’t even wank to it because everyone is so ugly.

Ab-Normal Beauty

Ever since first catching Bangkok Dangerous and proclaiming it as one of the greatest films of all time, I’ve tried to catch everything the Pang Brothers have made – together or on their own. That has led me to crap like this – another good idea let down by too much plot, too many misguided attempts at artistry, and by making little sense. This one is about a conflicted, complex woman who becomes obsessed with death after seeing and photographing a car crash. It makes the list because not a lot happens, it’s difficult to find any point to it all, and it’s such a letdown when we know what the brothers are capable of.

Survive Style + 5

Did I get this free on Amazon? I think I did, otherwise I’d be horrified that I paid for it. In fact I’ve probably reviewed here on the blog. I know a lot of the Japanese stuff I watch is incomprehensible without actually being Japanese (I’m speaking from a cultural standpoint), but this is on another level – as well as simply being crap. Going back to it, it has its moments – the great Tadanobu Asano features in one segment, his is probably the most interesting one as he repeatedly kills his wife only for her to keep coming back. The stories loosely intertwine but it’s messy and manic, and beyond scratching that itch for some offbeat Japanese weirdness, it doesn’t offer much.

Let us know in the comments which movies would make your list!

The Stuff

The Stuff is another one of those movies which was just out of my reach in childhood. I was born in 1983, so many of the classic VHS titles of the 80s were familiar to me, but I couldn’t get near them until the DVD boom or today’s streaming. Thanks to a bunch of older friends and relatives, and older siblings of my friends, and thanks to be frequent jaunts into the video stores in my town, there was always a list of titles floating around my head as movies I absolutely had to see at all costs. In many cases these were movies which those acquaintances spoke of in hushed tones – everything from Basic Instinct to Evil Dead.  In mot cases it was the VHS artwork which caught my eye and solidified the movie’s position in my hallowed list. The Stuff had a great cover – some dude’s melting face, writhing in agony and despair as some sort of white gunk spilled from his empty eye sockets and mouth. Surely it was the greatest film of all time?

The Stuff  isn’t the greatest film ever made, but it is one of Larry Cohen’s best. Before I knew who he was, and before I’d seen The Stuff I was already familiar with his work. Q The Winged Serpent was a personal favourite of my youth and Return To Salem’s Lot was a curious sequel. Once I became more savvy towards film it became obvious that Cohen was somewhat of a political filmmaker – his often not too subtle satire veiled under the shlock of the time and other B Movie delights. The Stuff is no different, a clear attack on big business, advertising, consumerism, and the herd mentality of created needs and addiction. Surprisingly, it’s not the goriest film in the world – The Stuff (is it wrong that it looks delicious and I want to try it?) does frequently spurt from people but more often than not you simply see it slushing and slithering around like a gelatinous mass or worm, as it does a Body Snatchers number on whoever tastes it. Interestingly, Cohen would go on to write the story for Abel Ferrara’s 90s Body Snatchers movie.

So if it’s not overly gory, and if it has all this overt political stuff in its plot, why should the less discerning Horror viewer want to watch? Well, because Michael Moriarty. Here he is at his most smug, smarmy best – all Wall Street suits and ties, a walking ballbag of quips and testosterone who doesn’t appear to have thrown a punch in his life yet is just as efficient in a fight to the death as James Bond. His character is hired by a bunch of unsavoury Ice Cream moguls, seriously, to investigate the makers of The Stuff and find out what it is to either shut it down or share a slice of the pie. As he investigates he learns a lot more and finds his dubious allegiances tested. Along the way he meets a kid escaping from his Stuff-obsessed family, a hot executive, an old friend/rival, and a gun totin ex-military maniac. It’s like The A-Team, but weird. It’s also quite funny, and all the more amusing in retrospect thanks to the effects and how advertising works today.

As much as 80s Satires go, The Stuff is right up there with the most outlandish but effective. Cohen always makes an interesting movie and Moriarty always does whatever the hell he wants. Don’t go in, like 8 year old me did, expecting a bloody, scary, melt-fest. Go in expecting a few chuckles and some charming nostalgia and weirdness, and it gets the job done.

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2005!

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So 2005 is another one of those years where I forgot a bunch of movies I love and didn’t include them in my original list – silly boy. I’m going to update it to 11 – adding a new film which should have knocked Land Of The Dead off the list first time round. The order doesn’t really matter anyway. In my almosts, I’m adding a few of the great films I forgot about too,

Corpse Bride is that rare ‘modern’ Tim Burton movie which reminds us that he can be a great filmmaker when he’s doing his own thing. It’s just creepy enough to make the kids snuggle up to you on the sofa, but not scary enough to give them nightmares. It has the Tim Burton look and style, and is enjoyable for the whole family. The Devil’s Rejects is also fun for the whole family, if your family are inbred murderers of the Texan variety. It’s probably still Rob Zombie’s most enjoyable movie and the distilled prime example of everything he is as a filmmaker – that Southern vibe, that 70s grindhouse look and style, sadistic characters, sick humour, and lashings of violence. It’s a sequel to House Of A Thousand Corpses – but you don’t really need to have seen it first, though it’s good too. A History Of Violence is Cronenberg, so it should be one any film fan’s list regardless. It takes him in a fresh new direction from his body horror roots, acting more like a twisting drama filled with secrets. Viggo Mortensen firmly leaves Aragorn behind with a chilling performance in this one, and everybody else is good.

Serenity was Joss Whedon’s first bash at big screen stardom, a fan-pleasing coda to the short-running Firefly. I’m not as huge a fan of the show as most, but the film is a fun watch. Election is Johnnie To’s finest work, almost up there with Infernal Affairs but focuses more on the criminal underbelly than twists and double-crosses. It’s another must watch once you get into Hong Kong cinema.

11. Noroi (Japan) Koji Shiraishi

Found footage and creepy Japanese long-haired shenanigans – that’s possibly a hard-sell. I know plenty of horror fans who dislike one or both of those sub-genres but usually I persuade them to watch by saying that while found-footage it isn’t run around the woods nausea inducing, and while there are long-haired shenanigans they are not of the Ringu or Ju-On variety. On top of that, the director had a history within the found footage genre to the extent that by the time he made Noroi he was savvy enough to deliver the unexpected, and he would go on to make the notoriously nasty Grotesque. 

Noroi follows a film-maker and documentary expert on the paranormal who is working on his latest show – investigating a curse and a number of people who claim to be embroiled in different types of paranormal activity. We see his capturing of these incidents and over time the word, or name ‘Kagutaba’ comes up repeatedly. Without getting into spoilers, the stories are somehow connected and a sordid history of abortions, theft, murder and all sorts of goodness oozes out. It’s a film which doesn’t go near jump-scares or obvious answers but instead succeeds because it’s so unnerving and goes places where few films dare to tread. It’s also one where you need to watch all the way to the end for some mid-credits extras. If you want a J-Horror film which doesn’t fit the mold and which hardly anyone knows of, you can’t do much better than Noroi. 

10: Land Of The Dead (US) George A Romero

Back to our original Top Ten – I was as hyped as anyone when it was announced that Romero was returning to the genre he created, decades after. So it’s not as good as his first three Dead movies, but it’s still a fun ride, and it’s still political. Moving the action to a more familiar location (of sorts) it’s set in the present day in a world which has learned to survive alongside the walking dead. Quite understandably, the wealthy are still safe from most of the problems the rest of the world face, living in skyscrapers while everyone else slums it on the streets, protected by the military, the average gun-toting civvy, and by a convenient river acting as a moat. Dennis Hopper is one such rich guy, hamming it up in one of his most amusing final roles, while John Leguizamo and Simon Baker play two soldiers who make dangerous journeys in a Mad Max style souped up vehicle for medical supplies and more. Leguizamo shines as the opposing force to Hopper’s white politician and there are a slew of in-jokes and cameos to enjoy. Mostly it’s an excuse to give Romero a big budget and let a master do what he pleases. In the wake of The Walking Dead it does feel a little like 1 series of that show condensed into a single movie, but it’s also a thank you to the fans.

9: Hostel (US) Eli Roth

I feel very much that this is the one film most likely to drop off my list when I get around to seeing more movies from this year. Eli Roth is always hit and miss for me – his humour is usually very misjudged though generally the ideas are sound. Hostel is notorious as a standard bearer for torture porn – an excuse to cut up nameless nobodies for our entertainment. There’s  much to be said in support and opposition to that statement, the obvious political asides being as simple as using the template as a satire on US Imperialism and as an extreme reaction to the torture tactics used by terrorists, military, and government alike. While I won’t say Hostel is clever, I will say it’s not as dumb as most people think. It’s just a bloody good time which takes mainstream US brutality to new levels as it follows a group of Millennial backpackers who are captured in Europe and find themselves as unwilling guinea pigs in some sort of Millionaire-led murder business. Basically, if you have enough money, you can pay to hurt and kill another human in whatever way you please – with our protagonists being the victims. There’s plenty of blood and to Roth’s credit the first half of the movie is spent trying to get to know these people. There’s not a lot to know about them, but at least they’re not standard slasher fodder.

8: A Bittersweet Life (SK) Kim Jee Woon

A Bittersweet Life is another prime example of the sort of boundary pushing film Hollywood used to make but seems to have given up on in lieu of treading increasingly safe and tame waters. The plot of the film itself is safe, tame – a hitman is employed by his boss to kill the boss’s cheating girlfriend, and he refuses. Stuff happens. What raises it is the fact that Kim Jee Woon directs – expanding upon his eye for detail and grim truths as exemplified in his previous film A Tale Of Two Sisters. He has found a niche in capturing breathtakingly beautiful shots against horrifying or violent backdrops and situations, and he rarely cares for conventions. Throw in Lee Byung-hun as the hitman with a change of heart who keeps everything grounded. Like any number of South Korean movies from this period – it’s a must-see.

7: Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (SK) Chan Wook Park

The final entry in Park’s esteemed trilogy is maybe the weakest, probably my least favourite, but still head and shoulders over 90% of what was released this year. It may be the most accomplished and beautiful of the bunch. Like the first two films it is presented as a straightforwards revenge story, but as revenge is never clean there are plenty of twists and complexities. It follows a woman (Lee Young-ae) as a woman just released from prison for a murder she didn’t commit, and her quest to hunt down the real perp. Starting out as a seemingly reformed model prisoner due to newfound spirituality, we slide down her rabbit hole and are dragged along another characteristically grim tale. As with the above entry – this one demands your attention.

6: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (US) Shane Black

Without knowing it for much of my life, Shane Black had been one of my favourite people for most of my life. Predator has been an all time favourite of mine for as long as I can remember but in my younger days, while I knew the character names, I really only remembered Arnie’s name when it came to the cast. Later he would three further all time favourites – The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, and Last Action Hero. It wasn’t until I started to think about how movies were made and who made them that I began to connect the dots. Of course by that point he had dropped off the face of the planet, seemingly to never return. Then  it was announced he would be directing his first film – this is the result. There’s no way I wasn’t going to at least enjoy this, but it’s a typically incisive, funny, violent story with the usual macho leanings upgraded for a new decade. It’s great to see Val Kilmer back on screen, it was a launch pad for Downey Jr to get back on track. It’s more of a Noir than anything he had done till that point, but his trademark writing keeps it unique as 100% Black.

5: The Descent (UK) Neil Marshall

Neil Marshall had gained my attention a few years earlier with his debut Dog Soldiers – an adventurous werewolf movie with more comparisons to Aliens than any Universal classic. The Descent drops much of the fun of that movie, dispenses with the more macho influences, and instead gives us one of the most tense, atmospheric, and claustrophobic movies in recent years. It’s the best of a spate of similar sounding movies from the period which saw a group of travelers going into some sort of underground world and meeting with various mishaps. Where this one differs is with its reliance on character and emotion – yes it’s a film about being trapped underground, yes it’s a film about the monstrous creatures which you may find once trapped, but it’s also a film about grief and guilt, about escape and resilience, about friendship and loss. Marshall also wisely makes the first half of the movie simply about these women, their fears and motivations, and their struggles to keep it together once they head into hell. It’s a shock then when the first creature does appear, and the film takes on a new edge. My only complaint remains that the cast are too similar in features which can make distinguishing them in the gloom problematic first time around.

4: The 40 Year Old Virgin (US) Judd Apatow

Much of the comedies which have been successful this decade and up till present day haven’t worked for me, either descending or focusing on bro-bullshit or because the dialogue is delivered in this faux unscripted manner. Or simply because they’re not very funny. Judd Apatow sometimes strikes the right balance between juvenile humour and honesty, a blend smoothed out by likable performers and a solid script. The 40 Year Old Virgin is probably my favourite of his movies with plenty of zingers and a more refined Carrell who doesn’t need to do his whole straight man-The Office-shouty shtick. For the most part. Of course the usual Apatow pals show up in supporting roles but the clincher is having Catherine Keener as the object of Carrell’s affections.

3: Revenge Of The Sith (US) George Lucas

For a while it seemed like this was the end – the culmination of Lucas’s grand plan. Since then Disney has released another 15 Star Wars movies and has plans for another 83. Per year. Jokes! Revenge Of The Sith, is easily the best of the prequels. It’s not without its faults, with Padme being reduced to a birth vessel and the whole not being as emotionally powerful as it should have been. I think that’s more of a fault with how the trilogy was laid out, with casting from the outset, and an overburdened script that was never set up to allow us to scream, cheer, and cry. But still, it has some of the best action of the whole series, it does feel like the collapse of good and the success of evil, and Ian McDiarmud deserved an Oscar nomination at the very least for his performance.

2: Sin City (US) Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino

The benchmark for visually unique and authentic comic book movies, Sin City nails the tone, look, and dialogue of Miller’s series – a collage of disturbing and violent and sexually charged intersecting stories which truly does feel like flicking through the ragged pages of a seedy comic you picked up on a whim for a few bucks before the last metro home. Rodriquez and Tarantino both do their thang and pull together a terrific ensemble, including such repulsive and creepy creations as whatever the hell Elijah Wood and Nick Stahl are supposed to be. It’s a mixture of pulp, thriller, action, with obvious twisted noir principles, swept along with a cool, detached pace.

1: Batman Begins (US/UK) Christopher Nolan

It’s in my Top Movies Of The Decade post, so if you want to read my thoughts, go check it.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None

Let us know your picks in the comments!