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Posts Tagged ‘Leon’

3 Days To Kill opened a couple of weeks ago to universal derision, it surprisingly isn’t that bad. With a script by Luc Besson and a plot featuring an aging CIA hit-man, comparisons with Taken are unavoidable. Kevin Costner does a good job with a flimsy and derivative story that loses its way in the middle. The action scenes and the family bonding both work on their own merits but the film fails to join the two elements together into a coherent movie. Not as nasty as Taken but also not as focused, it is worth seeing for any fans of either Costner or Besson, but we should expect so much more from Luc Besson.3 Days to Kill

Both as a director and writer/producer Besson has been responsible for some great films. Subway (1985) was the beginning of the style over substance tag (known as Cinéma du look movement ) that has followed Besson for his entire career, but with this much style how much substance do you need? Five years later came the film that introduced me to non English language cinema: Nikita (1990), I rented the VHS when I was 15 years old (I know it is an 18 and I was 15, but the video shop man didn’t notice or care!) about a year after its cinema release, I was drawn to the movie mainly because I liked the cover. Often criticised for lack of originality, Nikita has surely influenced more movies than it was influenced by. Anne Parillaud’s reluctant government assassin has spawned a Hollywood remake, two TV shows and countless imitators. Léon(aka The Professional) (1994) is widely regarded as Besson’s best film thanks to the just over-the-top enough turn by Gary Oldman and the sensational feature debut of 12-year-old Natalie Portman. It is also notable as Besson’s first film in English. Again in English, this time with an even less restrained Gary Oldman, The Fifth Element (1997) saw a new direction for Besson, a big budget Sci-Fi adventure. it has its problems but on the whole is a fun with some interesting ideas. Better know as a writer and producer in recent years, he is still able suprise as a director as he did with the bizarre but brilliant Angel-A (2005) and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010). Sadly less well know, possibly because they are in French, I would recommend both movies to anyone who hasn’t seen them.nikita

Probably the best know of his writer/producer movies is The Transporter (200, 2005, 2008), starring Jason Statham, they are exactly what you expect from Besson and Statham, slick, glossy, well made, dumb action. Also falling into that category but with more comedy is Taxi (1998) and its three sequels (2000, 2003, 2007). Also notable for early appearances from Marion Cotillard nearly a decade before La Vie en rose. I wouldn’t bother with parts 3 and four or the American remake (2004) but the first two films are great. There were three films released in the UK in 2006 to feature parkour: Breaking and Entering (2006), Casino Royale (2006) and District 13 (2004) (original title Banlieue 13, also known as District B 13). Only District 13 stars parkour founder David Belle. Belle and writer/producer returned for a sequel District 13: Ultimatum (2009) and Brick Mansions (2014), neither were as good as the exciting and innovative original film. Lockout (2012) is a B Sci-Fi starring Guy Pearce and go-to kidnap victim Maggie Grace. The story is derivative and the effects terrible, but the film itself is tremendous fun and really Enjoyable.Lockout

Working across multiple genres, Besson also wrote, produced and directed the Arthur and the Invisibles movies (2006, 2009, 2010), and the biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, The Lady (2011). I haven’t seen any of these films so can’t comment on them other than to say they were not well received critically. Returning to the director’s chair for his next film Lucy, set for release in August (in UK). Starring Scarlett Johansson in the title role it looks from the trailer like a riff on the ideas of Limitless. A return to large budget Sci-Fi and yet another film to feature a strong female lead, I am looking forward to it.the lady

All this producing isn’t an act of randomly placing his name on movies to help distribute them, in 1999 he founded the Paris based EuropaCorp, one of the few independent studios that both produces and distributes movies. As well as the films Besson has creative infuemce over, he has also produced Nil by Mouth (1997), directed by Gary Oldman; The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, by Tommy Lee Jones (2005) (and Tommy Lee Jones’ upcoming The Homesman) and Tell No One (2006), by Guillaume Canet. Three fantastic films that may not have been made if not for Besson and EuropaCorp. While I respect what Besson is doing with EuropaCorp, I would just like to see a few more great films directed by him and a few less mediocre ones written and, or produced by him.

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The Dark Knight Rises may turn out to be both the biggest and the best film of the year. Every movie fan with a virtual soapbox to stand on will review it in one way or another, I may do so myself some time in the future, but for now I will not. Instead I have decided to do something different. I am looking at the key players in the movie and picking out my favourite of their movies or performances excluding The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Christopher Nolan: The modern interpretation of the term masterpiece refers a pierce of art (in any medium) that is receives high critical praise and is often considered the pinnacle of the artists career. But the original, true meaning is very different. During the old European guild system, an apprentice wishing to graduate from a guild and become a master craftsman or member of their guild would have to produce a Masterpiece. If successful, the piece would be retained by the master or the guild. Using this theory, Following (1998) is Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. An ultra low budget mystery, crime, thriller with no star names. This led to him making Memento (2000), a simple revenge, thriller that is elevated to a superior mystery by the ingenious idea of telling the story backwards. Using the same criteria, it could be argued that Following was a practice run and Memento is the true masterpiece. Taken on its own merits Insomnia (2002) is a great movie, it just isn’t as good as the Norwegian original. It is a worthy and justified remake that is sympathetic to the story of the original but has its own individual touches. You know how movies come in two’s, this year there are two Snow White movies, a few years ago there were to giant asteroid movies, 2006 was the year of the Victorian stage magicians. Neil Burger’s The Illusionist was good, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige was much better. Legend has it that after The Dark Knight took a billion dollars Warner Bros let Nolan make any movie he liked. What he came up with was Inception (2010) a little art house movie disguised as a big budget studio blockbuster. Inception may well be his best (non Batman) film, but for introducing me and most of the rest of the world to his work I am declaring Memento to be both his masterpiece and finest hour for Christopher Nolan.

Wally Pfister: Cinematographer/Director of Photography Wally Pfister started out as a cameraman for a Washington news service before being given his first break by Robert Altman. He then enrolled in American Film Institute where a film he worked on was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. Like so many great filmmakers, he received his first break as a Cinematographer from Roger Corman. Most of his notable works have been on Christopher Nolan films, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight finally winning for the movie that truly is his finest hour, Inception.

Christian Bale: Where do you start with Christian Bale? A child star in Empire of the Sun who found real fame in his late twenties. Noted for his extreme physical transformations for the movies The Machinist and Rescue Dawn, in I’m Not There, it is a tossup between him and Cate Blanchett as to who is the best “Dylan”. In 3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige, The Fighter, Public Enemies and Terminator Salvation he gives more subtle and low key performances than his co stars, it is therefore a surprise that his finest hour is probably his most showy and over the top performance, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Anne Hathaway: Many people know Anne Hathaway from her film début The Princess Diaries and can’t see beyond that. I first saw her in Havoc or Brokeback Mountain (saw them both around the same time) where despite all the praise going to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal I thought the best performances came her and Michelle Williams. I was impressed enough to go and see The Devil Wears Prada and enjoyed it, but her finest hour is Rachel Getting Married. A family drama about a young woman who is released from rehab to attend her sisters wedding. A truly an amazing performance, her character is ultimately a miserable, selfish, narcissistic bitch but she also comes across as vulnerable, funny and sometimes even likable. 

Tom Hardy: I have seen many movies featuring Hardy and remember a great buzz about him around the time of Star Trek: Nemesis, but to be honest I really didn’t take notice until Bronson. Since then he has been brilliant in everything I have seen him in. as for his finest hour, it could easily be Warrior where his performance is monumental or Inception where he offers some great comic relief within an ensemble, but it has to be Bronson. 

Gary Oldman: How do you pick the finest hour from the thirty year career of an actor as talented as Oldman? Far more varied than you would think Oldman is at his best when he is wild and out of control, look back at Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Stansfield in Leon and Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. That is why it may come as a surprise that his best performance may well be his most low key and economical performance, George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

Michael Caine: Gary Olman’s career may be long but Michael Caine has been around for ever, certainly since before I was born. Many of his most notable performances came in the mid/late 60’s and early 70’s and include: Alfie, Sleuth, Zulu, Get Carter and The Ipcress File. He reinvented himself in more comic roles in the 80’s such as: Educating Rita, Without a Clue and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Outside Christopher Nolan movies, the pick of his 21st century movies are The Quiet American, Children of Men and Harry Brown, but for his finest hour, you need to go back to the 60’s for his iconic performance as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.

Morgan Freeman: Freeman found fame relatively late in life. In his early fifties and after thirty years in the business, in a two year period he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bonfire of the Vanities. He makes a lot of movies, therefore there is a certain amount of crap in there too, but the highlights are very high, the include: Unforgiven, Se7en and Million Dollar Baby. His finest hour is probably The Shawshank Redemption. 

Marion Cotillard: A captivating actress who has been brilliant in every film I have ever seen her in. For many people she if best known for her Oscar winning portrayal of Edith Piaf in La vie en rose. Others will know her from her English language movies: Public Enemies, A Good Year, Big Fish and Nine. She was also memorable in Midnight in Paris and Inception. Although deep down I know her finest hour was as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, I still go back to where I first saw her, Lilly, the long suffering but high maintenance girlfriend in Taxi (and its first two sequels).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The former child actor found fame as a teenager in the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. his most notable movie appearances from this time is probably 10 Things I Hate About You. He went on to appear in: Havoc (along side future Dark Knight Rises co-star Anne Hathaway) and earned acclaim in Mysterious Skin Stop-Loss and The Lookout. In recent years he has impressed in 500 Days of Summer, 50/50 and Inception, but his finest hour is still the high school noir Brick. 

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I’m not sure the 90’s is the best decade for movies but it is certainly consistent! Without any padding to make up the numbers every year of the decade has at least five great films to be in contention.

1990: Nikita, Wild at Heart, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Miller’s Crossing, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

1991: Point Break, The Silence of the Lambs, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cape Fear, Delicatessen

1992: Reservoir Dogs, Unforgiven, Batman Returns, Army of Darkness, Hard Boiled 

1993: Army of Darkness, Three Colours: Blue, Schindler’s List, Dazed and Confused, True Romance

1994: Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Leon, Three Colours: Red, Ed Wood

1995: Heat, Se7en, Twelve Monkeys, Before Sunrise, The City of Lost Children

1996: Bound, Crash, The English Patient, Pusher, Romeo + Juliet

1997: L.A. Confidential, Jackie Brown, The Ice Storm (forget Wushu and gay cowboys, this is Ang Lee‘s best film), Cube, The Fifth Element

1998: Saving Private Ryan, Run Lola Run, Blade, The Big Lebowski, American History X

1999: Fight Club, The Matrix, Go, Eyes Wide Shut, The Straight Story

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