This film is not one I can watch over and over again like most of my other favorites. Why? Well, just see it and you might get some sense of that. It’s a hard movie to watch…violent, extreme, and scary in its realistic bloodiness. It is not the type of film that I think of putting in the DVD player on a cold night when I want to make myself feel better. This, of course, does not lessen its impact on me. The first time I saw this film, I was shocked and dazed…between the violence I had just witnessed and the remarkable film I just had seen, I didn’t know how to feel. Director extraordinaire Martin Scorsese does this a lot with his films…he wants the audience to go to such emotional extremes that when the film is over, all we feel is drained. Taxi Driver is really a film about a lost and wandering man who just wants to find where he belongs. This is a VERY basic premise on what is a complicated, stylized story with Robert De Niro playing one of the century’s most complex characters, Travis Bickle, best known for the line, “You talkin’ to me?” Bickle’s confusion and desire to change the world into his own bizarre vision is what drives the film. The second film from the working relationship of Scorsese/De Niro (the first being Mean Streets), Taxi Driver is a masterpiece of filmmaking and also an intense psychological study about the downfall of a man.

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People had been telling me to stay clear of this one but to my complete surprise (and to the surprise of those who warned me to stay away), I liked this one. I mean, it’s not something I think I would buy for my personal collection but I would definitely watch it again, mostly because so much happens in each frame I’m sure I missed a lot of action. Yes, it is violent, but like the Kill Bill movies, the violence seems “unreal.” The type of violence I just cannot stomach is “real” violence like Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart. I mean, those violent incidents happened (something quite similar if not what is actually on the screen). The violence in Sin City is unbelievable and so far-fetched though it’s still not “rehearsed” like one of my least favorite films of all time, A Clockwork Orange. In that Kubrick film, the violence is choreographed to music…almost like a ballet. I don’t mean that kind of “unreality” when talking about Sin City. It’s more like “comic” violence…which is not just a coincidence since this film is based on a series of graphic novels by Frank Miller (who also co-directed the film). OK—moving on from the violence…the structure of the film is unique. Three story lines all get their own screen time, only to merge in the end. The first story shows an aging, ill cop who needs to save one last victim from the clutches of a ruthless, evil criminal. The next story revolves Marv, a harsh, mean thug with a heavy heart of a hooker who died in his arms. (No, I’m not joking.) The final story deals with a good guy who’s trying to save the woman he loves from the bad guys, all while saving the world at the same time. Shot in black and white, this film is like a modern day film noir movie on speed. It’s faster and sharper than any classic noir but keeps that same “femme fatale” feeling of the films of the 1950s. Visually, this is a creative and stunning film…something you might not ever see again. Story-wise, it’s also sharp and innovative.

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When young rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) becomes involved in a case that requires the assistance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), she quickly finds herself in over her head. Clarice is assigned to the case of a serial murderer who calls himself Buffalo Bill. In order to track down Buffalo Bill, Clarice needs to talk with Dr. Lecter, a psychiatrist turned cannibal, who is serving a life sentence for his crimes. Dr. Lecter might hold the key in unlocking the identity of Buffalo Bill, but in exchange for information, Clarice has to give up some of her past secrets to him. The crimes and horror of this film are not what makes this a stellar movie, but rather it’s the intense psychological battle that is fought between Clarice and Dr. Lecter that adds to the perfect combination of fear and tension to this film. Ms. Foster’s performance as the inexperienced, innocent agent who is not emotionally ready to take on the evilness of Dr. Lecter is right on target. The audience can see the terror in her eyes as she does her best to stare down Dr. Lecter. Mr. Hopkins, though, steals the show with his cunning and tense portrayal of the intelligent, shrewd killer. Dr. Lecter plays a game with Clarice as he tries to weed secrets out of her. Both performances were honored with Academy Awards, and when you watch the film, you will most definitely see why. In addition to Academy Awards for acting, the film, directed by Jonathan Demme, won Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay (based on the novel by Thomas Harris).

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Can Cary Grant be a murderer? That is the question director Alfred Hitchcock attempts to answer in this film. Grant plays wandering playboy Johnny Aysgarth who catches the eye of rich, dull Lena, played in her Oscar-winning role by Joan Fontaine. The question that continually plagues the audience, and eventually Lena, is why did Johnny pick her. One of the more obvious reasons is her money, something which becomes almost a given after Johnny pawns some wedding gifts to gamble. The major flaw in this film is the end, but that is not the fault of Hitchcock nor the actors. Hitchcock wanted to remain faithful to the book this story is based on (Before the Fact by Francis Iles) and keep the dark ending, but his producers had trouble dealing with Cary Grant as a murderer. Even with that disappointing final scene, this is still a taut, tense thriller that will keep the audience guessing.

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When director Alfred Hitchcock shot Frenzy, he was in his early 70s and was at the end of a filmmaking career that began in the 1920s in England. After Hitchcock left Britain behind for a career in America (his first film in the U.S. was 1940’s Rebecca), he rarely looked back. Frenzy is a return to London, with the film shot there and starring an all-British cast. This movie does not boast any glitzy movie stars or any of the Hitchcock elegance of many of his previous films, but displays a rather dark, violent side unlike anything the director had shot before. The finished product results in a taut and intelligent thriller, one of the best of Hitchcock’s career and definitely the best of his later films. The movie begins with a body found, washed ashore in the Thames River. The corpse has a necktie around its neck, identifying the murder as another “necktie” serial killing. Through a series of twists and wrong turns, an innocent man is accused of the murders, which has been a common Hitchcock plot line over the course of his career (The Wrong Man and North by Northwest, in particular). The difference here is that early on in the film, the audience becomes privy to who is the guilty party and who is being framed. Knowing this before most of the cast, we are left squirming in our seats, waiting for the characters to catch up with what we already know. Also, unmasking the villain towards the beginning of the film allows the audience to focus less on plot and more on character and the cinematic style that makes Frenzy a magnificent thriller.

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