Touch of Evil (1958)

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A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town. (IMDb)
Brilliant cinematography and editing, from the opening 3 minute take (and many other mesmerizing tracking shots to follow) to the ingenious overlapping of scenes (a character in the background of one becomes the focus of the next) to the stark use of shadow and light. It’s got a solid noir plot, too, with a unique focus on the cops, not the crime, though here a white-washed lead role, a cringe-y damsel-in-distress, and some questionable performances from the supporting cast mar things a bit.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Psycho (1960)

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A Phoenix secretary steals $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother. (IMDb)
The fugitive first act offers solid suspense, but the film reaches another level of intrigue with Marion’s arrival at the isolated Bates Motel run by the charmingly chatty yet discomfortingly awkward and odd Norman (Perkins’ detailed portrayal is superb–see his nervous candy eating). With some disconcerting slow pans and zooms and a few unsettling edits (see the shower murder), Hitchcock adds just the right amount of flair to the perfectly paced mystery as it builds to its shocking conclusion.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

Vertigo (1958)

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A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend’s wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her. (IMDb)

What begins as an engaging but slow-paced (lots of long driving scenes) supernatural-tinged mystery comes to a tragic climax unexpectedly early, setting the stage for a uniquely extended and deliciously eerie epilogue dealing with the devilish psychological aftermath. The doppelganger intrigue could have been dragged out a little longer before the shocking twist reveal, but an excellent thread of torturous dramatic irony takes its place. A well-acted and surprisingly emotional thriller.

8/10 (Great)

Rear Window (1954)

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A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. (IMDb)
A unique isolated apartment setting, natural city soundscape, and cinematography firm in its limited “rear window” perspective aren’t enough to stir substantial interest during a slow first act, but when the note of intrigue strikes, they take on new brilliance, crafting a tight, authentic thriller with a mostly voice-less villain that gets you to spy and speculate right along with the great characters (the charming, restless Jeff and the refreshingly competent for the 50s Lisa and Stella).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

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In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society’s crime problem – but not all goes according to plan. (IMDb)
Alex: All at once a terrifying dystopian pirate, raping and pillaging with a song on his lips (I’ll never hear “Singin’ in the Rain” the same way again), and an amiable English lad. The film follows, as Kubrick mixes his visually searing scenes with the more mellow (see Alex’ prison admittance), all underneath an overwhelming classical soundtrack spiked by a sinister synth. Still within this emotional barrage is an intellectual commentary on free will and good and evil. A spectacle, to be sure.
9/10 (Amazing)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

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Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought. (IMDb)
Discounting the disappointingly cliche ending romances, this is teen drama at its most authentic, dispensing with plot contrivances in favour of a dialogue-driven stage-play-like script–expertly shot and acted–that oscillates between vicious conflict and heartwarming bonding. Splashes of goofy humour (see oddball Allison’s sandwich meat toss) and feel-good shenanigans (see the dance number, hallway run), along with surges of sentimentality (see John’s parent reenactment), are tastefully added.
8/10 (Great)

Raging Bull (1980)

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An emotionally self-destructive boxer’s journey through life, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring, destroys his life outside it. (IMDb)
The beautiful black and white gives this compelling character study-led by a dominating De Niro turn-a uniquely natural tone, making its drama all the more devastating, from the brutal boxing bouts (“You didn’t get me down, Ray”) to the dangerous domestic paranoia. A brilliant final act in which LaMotta’s underlying insecurity comes to the forefront (see the bookending green room clips, painful jail scene) mostly overshadows the at-times frustrating pacing (post-retirement came very suddenly).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

Twelve Monkeys (1995)

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In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet. (IMDb)
Aided by dizzying camerawork, brutal and bizarre visuals, a spine-chilling theme, and terrific turns from Willis (the troubled James) and Pitt (the manic Jeffrey), this thrilling concoction of psychological probing, surreal time-travel and future dystopia, and terrifying apocalypticism keeps you constantly on edge, never sure what’s real and what isn’t. Loaded with both red herrings and brilliant reveals (see the final rendition of the airport scene), this sci-fi would relish repeat viewings.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Goodfellas (1990)

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Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy. (IMDb)
Magnificent in its epic scope, as seen both in its decades-long timeline and its lengthy, immersive scenes, thoughtfully written with loads of dialogue that goes beyond just plot-driving, building instead an authentic, enveloping world that yanks you along with Liotta’s engaging lead to every boisterous dinner party, roadside grave-digging, and mistress’ apartment (the coke-fueled adventures near the end are particularly wild). Great music and cool audio scene overlaps are also notable here.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

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Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, two Americans searching for work in Mexico, convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains. (IMDb)
Flawless turns and a snappy script bring forth a captivating character dynamic: Three men down on their luck, brought into tenuous partnership by their common pursuit of gold. Howard foretells the greed and paranoia early on, and the plot doesn’t disappoint as it expertly builds the tension with calculated conversations (see the debate about dividing the wealth), heated stand-offs, and a suspicious 4th party. The bandit action interrupts the flow a bit, but it adds another element of excitement.
7.5/10 (Really Good)