Cool Hand Luke
Can a man eat fifty eggs in one hour? Probably not, but that was never going to stop Cool Hand Luke. He’s a man who wouldn’t be told what he could or couldn’t do. Academy Award nominated Paul Newman delivers a character that is part smirk, part smoulder and all American grit in this adaptation of Donn Pearce’s novel of the same name.
Running from the back breaking work of the chain gang, bucking against the system that put him there, Luke gets caught, beaten by the warden and thrown back to the feet of his fellow inmates.
“What we’ve got hear is failure to communicate”.
Anybody who grew up on Guns N’ Roses will remember that line from their track, Civil War. It’s an eerie moment as Luke is shackled and knocked down. I would argue it’s the most iconic in the entire movie. We know he’ll get back up. We know he’ll fight again. But that first time we see him hit the dirt gives us the measure of the man and the reactions from George Kennedy, Harry Dean Stanton and co. make it a difficult watch.
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster”.
Speaking of difficult watches. Has there ever been a tenser dinner table scene as when Joe Pesci’s Tommy sets upon Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill, and the laughter in the room disintegrates as the hot-tempered Tommy begins to lose his cool.
“What do you mean I’m funny”?
In a film fuelled by F-bombs and excessive violence this scene, shot by Scorsese with unusual restraint, knots up the tension in the pit of your stomach, creating one of the most iconic moments in gangster movie history.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…”
Whether it’s a misremembered Bogart quote, the heartache of THAT airfield ending or the bittersweet memory of hearing As Time Goes By, Casablanca is brimming with classic lines, powerful performances and sumptuous visuals.
Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) positively vibrate onscreen and as her plane flies away at the movie’s conclusion a forlorn Rick turns to Claude Rains’ Captain Renault as they’re walking off into the fog and says, “You know what Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.
The perfect ending to a near perfect movie.
“What’s in the box”?
The culmination of serial killer John Doe’s entire master plan rests with the contents of a box, delivered to Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) out in the middle of nowhere. With helicopters overhead and panic in the air, Kevin Spacey’s Doe calmly waits as first Somerset, and then Mills discover the packages grizzly contents. 21 years on and this moment is indelibly marked in my mind and I’ll forever be wary of Fed Ex and UPS parcels landing on my doorstep.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
For many, this is a tale of an English folk hero with an American accent who makes his way from the crusades back to Nottingham where he battles a tyrant, saves a maiden, gets blessed by Sean Connery and fades into the credits where we’re swept away by Bryan Adams.
For me… this movie is all about the late, great Alan Rickman. Camping it up like a pantomime villain, his Sheriff of Nottingham is superb. Sneering, dastardly and sporting a wickedly sexy beard, Rickman calmly runs a sword through his own cousin, Guy of Gisborne (Michael Wincott). As his fearful henchman look on he leans over the body of his dying subordinate, smiles and quips with a line that perfectly encapsulates everything that is so deliciously despicable about Rickman’s Sheriff.
“Well at least I didn’t use a spoon”!
From the creative forces of Joe Dante, Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg comes a very special Christmas Horror. One in which a cute and lovable Mogwai named Gizmo births a plague of vile, monstrous creatures that terrorise small-town America.
As a go-to movie of my childhood there are several scenes that stick in the mind. Phoebe Cates’ ghastly monologue about how she lost her father, the adorable moment Gizmo rides a toy car, the Gremlin hoard singing along to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ “Hi Ho” or even the phenomenally hummable themes for Gizmo and The Gremlin Rag by Jerry Goldsmith.
Most important of all are three simple rules passed down from Grandfather to Mr. Peltzer, from Mr. Peltzer to his son Billy.
“Keep him out of the light… don’t give him any water… never feed him after midnight”.
We’ve adopted these same rules for my sister’s boyfriend. Who says you can’t learn anything from the movies?
“… and all I could think was, you’re so cool”!
And all I could think was, Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue here is as classically quotable as it gets. Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater are hip, loved up and in desperately in trouble. Throw in a supporting cast featuring the likes of Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, James Gandolfini and Samuel L. Jackson and you’re pretty much somewhere in the realms of, “Greatest Cast of the 90s”.
Oh… and did I forget to mention the most iconic moment in the movie? Well… it’s probably because I couldn’t quote it without throwing a tenner in the swear jar first. It features mob boss Coccotti (Christopher motherflippin’ Walken) interrogating the fearless father of Slater’s Clarence (played by Dennis Hopper). These two screen legends manage to both chew up the scenery and verbally dance with one another in a way that still gives me chills.
“If there’s one thing this last week has taught me, it’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it”.
Max Max: Fury Road
In a year that gave us belated sequels to much larger and bigger budgeted franchises there was one film that stood out with its high octane, super charged, nitro-injected awesomeness.
From the flame thrower guitarist riding aboard the doof-wagon, to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, seemingly hewn from rock and raised in a fiery bit of kick-assery. From writer/ director George Miller’s rich mythology, retooled, repurposed and re-ignited, to the passing of the titular mantle to Tom Hardy, a man of few words but plenty of action.
Operatic, cacophonous and pulse pounding from start to finish; Fury Road is a mad race, a desperate escape and a chance of redemption for more than one.
Catching sight of his fellow War Boys in pursuit of Furiosa in the midst of a colossal sandstorm, a young and fevered Nux (Nicholas Hoult) marvels at the mayhem he’s racing toward.
“Oh what a day… what a lovely day”!
Mediocre this is not.
“There is no spoon”.
We’ve all been there. After following an Australian woman with a white rabbit tattoo and eventually opting to swallow a red jellybean, you wake up in slimy goo, get flushed down a giant pipe and rescued by Larry Fishburne and his crew on board the Nebuchadnezzar.
Bullet time, techno music, leather outfits, trench coats, old Nokia phones and “guns… lots of guns”. The Matrix remains one of the slickest films of all time and completely changed the game with regards to the action genre.
While the subway fight between Neo and Agent Smith drops jaws, and Trinity’s “Dodge this” as she finally outguns an Agent in the coolest way possible are both just shy of perfection, the lobby shootout as Neo and Trinity attempt to rescue Morpheus is a stylistic masterpiece. I’m not sure if it’s Propellerheads – Spybreak!, the gravity defying martial arts, super slo-mo or the wanton destruction but some beautiful alchemy from the Wachowski’s puts this scene at the tip-top of iconic moments in action movie history.
Full Metal Jacket
“Seven-six-two millimeter. Full metal jacket”.
Kubrick’s intensely “anti-war” war movie is notable for several landmark performances including Matthew Modine’s Private Joker and Gunnery Sergeant Hartman but the heart, soul and misery of war personified must be Vincent D’Onofrio’s turn as Private Pyle.
Despite his limited screen time, the very image of Pyle, seated and grinning at Joker as he starts his pained descent into the abyss is both utterly captivating and hauntingly horrific.
“This is my rifle, there are many like it but this one is mine…”
2001: A Space Odyssey
“My god… it’s full of stars”!
You’d be hard pressed to find a Kubrick film that didn’t feature at least half a dozen iconic moments. Not only is 2001 a masterful adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s original novel but also a work of art in its own right.
With no need to venture further than the film’s opening, we witness the dawn of man, right through to the far-flung future of 2001. As a statement of intent, Kubrick starts with powerful symbolism and possibly the most important footage of tapirs in human history.
Part 2 is here.
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