One of my New Year’s resolutions was to watch more films and whittle down my list of classic films I haven’t seen yet – so here are some mini-reviews of what I got through this month.
LA Confidential (1997)
Following a number of police officers working in 1950s Los Angeles, this film was a very good experience, though it’s difficult to pin down exactly why. I suppose it just gets all the elements right: the characters aren’t simplistic and play off each other very well, and there’s good action too. Los Angeles, with its combination of dangerous crime and Hollywood glitter, makes for a great environment for a story; and there’s constant conflict as the characters try to survive in a police force where it’s impossible to be totally straight and narrow. Rating: 4/5.
Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
Not an old classic, but it was recommended to me by my fellow blogger Ellemay. Like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, this is a Shakespeare adaptation set in the modern day, though still with the original dialogue. It’s directed by Joss Whedon, and features a number of actors he’s previously worked with: I recognised Agent Coulson from Agents of SHIELD and Simon from Firefly. The acting is generally fine, and the comedic scenes – e.g. when the other characters are staging conversations for Benedick and Beatrice to overhear – are set up very well; but the dialogue doesn’t fit the American accents as well as it did in Romeo + Juliet, which had better delivery and more style to go with it. Rating: 3.5/5.
Goodfellas tells the story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his life in organised crime, from his rise to his inevitable fall. The story does a good job of both keeping the audience aware why Henry enjoys the life of a gangster so much and doesn’t want to let it go, and also showing them just what a undesirable life it would be for most people, with brutal violence and its clear deteriorating effect on Henry himself. The editing in this film is particularly good: it’s very fast paced and never stays in one place for long. There’s also good cinematography, including one scene that follows Henry and his girlfriend going into a club that lasts for one very long and impressive shot. While I did enjoy this film, though, it was another one where I couldn’t quite see what makes it stand out and be considered one of the best films ever. Rating: 4/5.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1967)
Set during the American Civil War, this film follows three men of the Wild West – including Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name – as they race to get their hands on a hidden treasure. While Goodfellas is fast paced, this film takes its time with just about everything. The version I watched was almost three hours long and draws its scenes out as much as possible – but there’s hardly ever a point where you’re thinking, “Do something already!” The opening scenes are good examples: it opens with some bounty hunters turning up at a ghost town to ambush “The Ugly”, then “The Bad” turning up at someone’s home to interrogate him – there’s no dialogue at all in the first scene, and none for a good long while in the second, but the expressions and cinematography are so good that you can cut the tension with a knife. Again, there’s a good set of characters who play off each other well, and the action is suitably brutal and gritty. The music in this film is also fantastic, even if it doesn’t always seem to fit what’s happening at the time. Definitely my favourite of the classics I watched this month. Rating: 4.5/5.
And this weekend, I’ll be heading down to the cinema to finally watch Big Hero 6!