Tuesday, 29 November 2011


It's nearly December which means it's nearly time to get the tree up, drink some mulled wine and watch some overgrown man-child in a silly green suit prance around New York with a great big smile on his face.  Yes this weekend I'll be watching Will Ferrell in John Favreau's Elf.  It's the film Ferrell will be remembered for.  Long after the Ron Burgundy quoters have moved on to the next comedy creation, Buddy the Elf will still be being watched by kids, families and Ferrell fans at Christmas time.  It's got charm, heart and a role that fits the innocence and immaturity inherent in Ferrell's persona.  So the romance with Zooey Deschanel is slightly icky and James Caan could have phoned this performance in from a yacht in the Caribbean and then turned up in the last reel cackling with a sack of money but it still never fails to get me in the mood for Christmas.

This December, I'm also going to make sure I get to watch Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, the Finnish film about an evil Santa being caught by a father and son and then wreaking havoc in the remote mountain community.  It sounds like a very fun, pretty silly mix of creepy fable and dark humour with just a dash of kids adventure story thrown in.  I've heard it compared to The Goonies which is a good enough reason for me to hunt this down.  It's meant to an Anti-Christmas horror but hopefully just not in any way as nasty as Billy Bob Thornton's wretched Bad Santa.

And it's really time I finally watched It's a Wonderful Life this year once and for all.  It's got the wonderful James Stewart and I feel like I know the film already from what I've heard, seen and read about it over the years.  If I'm not all Christmassed out by then, I might have to re-watch Scrooged as that's one I haven't seen for a very long time and quite frankly I miss Bill Murray. 

What will you be watching this Christmas?  Any recommendations?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Characters With Cameras

      Found footage from dead filmmakers, 'home' movies capturing domestic disturbances, documentary makers way out of their depth, crimes caught on CCTV  and helmet-mounted cameras on cops investigating a zombie outbreak.  

      There is a massive trend in horror to have characters in the films holding or in charge of setting up the cameras.  From Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project and Rec's documentary makers to the camcorder captured horrors of Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, horror characters are increasingly the 'makers' of the film the audience sees.

      As part of my PhD, I am exploring this horror trend.  Some people hate these films; their shaky camera, predictable endings, annoying repetition of conventional elements and characters that refuse to stop filming no matter what they are faced with.

      But many others (and just look at the box office figures of some) love these films.  Why?  Well that's what I'm trying to figure out.  

      Is it just the increased realism?  If so why is something 'captured on camera' more real than a traditional film?
      Is it a reflection of modern society and how so much of what we see is mediated by cameras?  
      Is it some kind of cathartic desire to see 'real' footage made by people so stunned by extraordinary events like the so many hours and hours of footage that were uploaded by amateurs after 9/11?  
      Do we identify more with characters if we see the whole film from their point of view?
      Is it more scary to see characters losing control behind the camera than in front of it?
      Is this trend a low-budget reaction to the 'show everything' gore-splashed higher budget trend in horror known as 'torture porn'; e.g. the Saw/Hostel franchises?
      Are audiences more willing to accept amateur camera work due to reality TV, mobile phone footage on the news, YouTube videos etc?

      There are numerous conventional elements to these films; the shaky handheld camera, poor visual/audio quality, the death of the protagonists, setting up the camera on a tripod to capture things that go bump in the night, using night vision or a light on the camera to see in the dark.  Some but not all include these conventions.  The camera is often visible (in mirrors, in the footage of another camera) and discussed by the characters.  They often question why the operator is still filming under the circumstances and so the camera is continually drawn to the viewer's attention.

      Here is a list of films that feature a camera supposedly being operated or that has been set up by a character within the world of the film.  The yellow highlighted films are ones I have yet to find/see and the green ones are sequels, remakes or ones that do not fit quite as easily into this trend of modern horror.

1.       Cannibal Holocaust (Deodato, 1980
2.       Man Bites Dog (Belvaux, Bonzel and Poelvoorde, 1992)
3.       The Last Broadcast (Avalos and Weiler, 1998)
4.       The Blair Witch Project (Myrick and Sanchez, 1999)
5.       August Underground (Vogel, 2001)
6.       My Little Eye (Evans, 2002)
7.       The Last Horror Movie (Richards, 2003)
8.       Zero Day (Coccio, 2003)
9.       Incident at Loch Ness (Penn, UK, 2004)
10.   The Magician (Ryan, 2005)
11.   Snuff Movie (Rose, 2005)
12.   Alone with Her (Nicholas, 2006)
13.   The Zombie Diaries (Bartlett and Gates, 2006)
14.   Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (Glosserman, 2006)
15.   S&man (Petty, 2006)
16.   Exhibit A (Dom Rotheroe, 2007)   
17.   Rec (Balaguero and Plaza, 2007)
18.   Diary of the Dead (Romero, 2007)
19.   Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2007)
20.   The Poughkeepsie Tapes (Dowdle, 2007)
21.   Welcome to the Jungle (Hensleigh, 2007)
22.   Home Movie (Christopher Denham, 2008)
23.   Quarantine (Dowdle, 2008)
24.   Cloverfield (Reeves, 2008)
25.   Resurrecting the Street Walker (Uyanik, 2009)
26.   Rec 2 (Balaguero and Plaza, 2009)
27.   Paranormal Entity (Van Dyke, 2009)
28.   Atrocious (Fernando Barreda Luna, 2010)
29.   The Last Exorcism (Stamm, 2010)
30.   Paranormal Activity 2 (Williams, 2010)
31.   TrollHunter (Ovredal, 2010)
32.   The Tapes (Lee Alliston, Scott Bates, 2011)
33.   Apollo 18 (Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, 2011)
34.   World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries (Bartlett and Gates, 2011)
35.   The Tunnel (Ledesma, 2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1735485/
36.   Hollow (Michael Axelgaard, 2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1869470/
37.   Paranormal Activity 3 (Henry Joost, Arial Schulman, 2011)

      If you know of any others please let me know as I am always on the look out for more.  If you have any thoughts about these films, please comment and let me know.  Love them or hate them, they don't seem to be slowing down production of this type of film so tell me why you think they are so popular.  What is it you hate about them?  What is it you love about them?

Monday, 21 November 2011

Battle Games of the Brave Trailers

Three trailers that have caught my eye this week but not always for the right reasons. 

Brave (Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, 2012)  It's got amazingly red redheads, brave warriors, big bears and stunning CGI scenery.  It looks like a nice bit of feminism (but y'know for kids) with a feisty princess voiced by Kelly Macdonald (still sounding distractingly like Diane from Trainspotting) and Billy Connolly's grand Scottish brogue used as a voiceover to kick things off.  Looks like it should have some good action, beautiful visuals and some silly but not particularly funny attempts at comedy for the under 10s.

 Battleship (Peter Berg, 2012) Liam Neeson giving another gruff grumpy performance.  This time he's a navy man up against alien spaceships that look and sound just a tad too much like Transformers for comfort.  Ho hum another day another alien invasion.  Looks like director Peter Berg has been sitting in Michael Bay's filmmaking classes with sweeping shots of naval fleets, half naked girls bent seductively over things and big ass explosions.  It's also based on a game and therefore is unlikely to be any good at all.  Shame, I like Neeson.

The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012) Except for the hints at romance creeping in (we don't need another Twilight!), this adaptation of a kids (?) book looks seriously promising.  Jennifer Lawrence can be captivating (see Winter's Bone) and the 1984 / Running Man / Battle Royale vibe looks if not terribly original, at least pretty exciting.  Might have to read the book before this hits cinemas.  Like Brave, it also features another kick-ass bow-and-arrow weilding heroine. 

And just in case you missed my post on Bellflower, here's the trailer again.  IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THIS YET, STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND WATCH IT NOW (please)!

Any of these taking your fancy?  If not check out some real reasons to start getting psyched for 2012.

Let me know what you think of the trailers above.  Especially Bellflower.  Seriously... watch that trailer!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

10 Blog posts I highly recommend

You have to start somewhere!  In honour of collecting my 30th follower, writing my 65th post and passing the 2100 page view mark, I want to share with you some very (and not so very) recent links from the wonderful film blogging community.  This is by no means everything I've been reading and there is a whole lot more great stuff out there but this is me sharing the love for ten posts I have really enjoyed and would like to recommend!

Join the Depp vs Pitt debate... Big Thoughts From a Small Mind

Check out a great essay on film piracy... Cinematic Paradox

One to relate to (about being a film buff)... A Life in Equinox

One to ponder about Human Centipede 2... A Lifetime in Dark Rooms

An amusing letter to the producers of the new Twilight mess... And So It Begins

Let Andy know what you think of this years Oscar short list for the documentary category... Andy Buckle's Film Emporium

This is why Andy Serkis should get an Oscar nomination... City Lights

A look at Apollo 18 and the found footage trend... Son of Celluloid

3 monster movies to look out for... To the Escape Hatch

Aziza bigs up Hard Candy... Aziza's Picks

Happy reading and please keep following, reading and commenting!  Special thanks to Big Thoughts from a Small  Mind who have twice put up links to my posts now and for giving me the idea to share the love in my own special way.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Best films of the 2000s

The new century began with a bang.  On September 11th 2001, the World Trade Centre literally exploded onto screens across the globe.  Hollywood failed to create anything as shocking, terrifying and unforgettable as witnessing the deaths of all those people on live TV.  Not to mention the years of war that followed, with American bombing campaigns, the hunt for Bin Laden and thousands more innocent lives destroyed in a misguided quest for justice/revenge/oil/power.

But the movies of the decade fought hard to divert, entertain and distract us from the sorry state of affairs outside the multiplexes.  Ok there was a lot of war on screen; from Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers to Jar Head, The Hurt Locker and Redacted.  Terrorism was tackled in The Sum of All Fears, Collateral Damage and within five years, even the events of 9/11  got taken on by Oliver Stone and Paul Greengrass.  But like the 90s, Hollywood thrived as did the lower budget indie sector as well as world cinema.  It was another very exciting decade in the movies.

Again, like with my best of the 90s list, I just don't have the self-discipline to keep this to a top 10.  So without further ado, here is my top 15 of the first decade of the 21st century:

15. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009) Fast, funny, exciting and moving, this South-African apartheid allegory uses science fiction conventions to tell its story of townships, segregation and xenophobia.  Sharlto Copley is a revelation as the man sent to evict the stranded-on-earth alien 'prawns' from their titular shanty town but who gets more than he bargained for from the aliens.  Mixing wonderful special effects with depressing real locations, the film shows what a modest budget and a great idea can become.

14. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benifit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006) Creating a ridiculous amount of law suits as the real people caught out by talented comedian Sacha Baron Cohen attempted to sue the filmmakers, this film is a tasteless but subversive look at America that demonstates SBC's fearlessness as a performer.  Not only is Borat himself a vile but hilarious comic creation, wait to you meet the ordinary Americans he encounters on his road trip.

13. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003) Opening with a gruelling close up on Uma Thurman's damaged face and closing on one hell of a twisted cliffhanger, the first part of Tarantino's martial arts epic is a belter.  Following The Bride on her quest for vengance, the film is a mash-up of styles from an anime section to black and white sections to split-screens.  Tarantino creates another classic soundtrack and the fight scenes are gory, vicious bloodbaths, outstandingly choreographed by the previously talky Tarantino.  Shame about Vol. 2 though.

12. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)  Simply the greatest comic book film ever made.  Heath Ledger nails the Joker, putting all memories of Nicholson to bed for good.  Director Nolan and his screenplay scribe brother turn a Batman film into a sprawling crime epic, with more in common with Michael Mann than Tim Burton.  Bale has annoyed many but his Bruce/Bat is dark, brutal and bordering on psychotic.  The film also deals with deeper, darker issues than any summer blockbuster dares with Batman resorting to some terrifying techniques in order to stop the terrorist threat posed by the Joker.

11. Saw (James Wan, 2004) Breeding a scary amount of gruesome torture porn imitators, the original in the now bloated franchise is a low budget horror masterpiece.  Occasional moments of dodgy acting aside, the premise is a killer.  Locked in a bathroom by a madman intent on pushing people to extremes, two men must decide their own fates with only a saw and a chain around their legs keeping them from freedom.  The twisty turny narrative grips throughout despite minimal sets and characters, the style is flashy and disturbing but its the final twist that shocks more than the graphic violence.

10. Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002)
Proving that a documentary could be just as entertaining (and fictional according to some) as a fiction film, Moore took aim at America's gun culture in this funny and powerful film.  Yes it meanders through other problems Moore has with his nation and perhaps there is far too much of Moore himself on screen, but the issues raised are valid and the execution is brilliant.  With real footage of the Columbine killings, interviews with survivors and celebrity appearances from Marilyn Manson, Matt Stone and Charlton Heston, BFC is a stirring look at a country with an addiction to guns but no easy answers.

9. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)  This is science fiction cinema at its gritty, bleak, dystopian best.  Full of contemporary relevance, set in a recognisably grim not-too-distant future England, the premise is that the human race is now infertile.  When the youngest human on the planet is killed, it seems all hope is lost.  Clive Owen plays Theo, a man who like so many others has lost hope for the human race, that is until he comes across a miraculously pregnant woman.  Outstanding performances from Owen, Michael Caine and Julianne Moore and fantastic cinematography from Cuaron and Emmanuel Lubezki (including some incredible long takes in a couple of thrilling action scenes) make this a classic science fiction thriller.

8. Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000)  Russell Crowe's finest film features bloody battles, epic CGI enhanced armies, ancient cities and a chance to be awestruck by the Colosseum as it was back in the days of the Roman Empire.  Crowe's Maximus is a general turned gladiator out for revenge on the man who killed not only his family but also the true emperor of Rome.  It's a classic tale of good vs evil with a great performance from Crowe and the under appreciated Djimon Hounsou.  Ridley Scott creates a grand old-fashioned swords-n-sandals epic that spawned many imitators (300, Troy etc) but was never beaten.

7. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)  Nolan's second entry on this list is a head-scratching noir thriller with an amnesiac protagonist played by Guy Pearce on the trail of the murderer of his wife.  The narrative plays out in reverse with Nolan choosing to cut the film in a way that reflects the state of mind of the main character.  Roughly ten minute segments are played out and then the audience is taken back to the preceding ten minutes.  Pearce nails the confusion and determination of the character but Carrie-Anne Moss is the real one to watch here with a performance that is as devastating as the ending.

6. 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002) Three words: running fucking zombies.  Versatile director Boyle bounced back from the hugely disappointing The Beach adaptation with this terrifying vision of the apocalypse.  Updating and injecting the zombie sub-genre with a shot of the 'rage virus', the film's 'Infected' are running, vomiting, savage creatures that would rip Romero's shuffling zombies to shreds.  And true to the genre's roots, the message that other humans are the real reasons to be worried when the monsters take over, remains intact.  The last act when our heroes reach the supposedly safe army base is bloody, brutal and scary stuff.

5. Panic Room (David Fincher, 2002)  Ok I'll admit it's probably ridiculous to have this slight, silly home-invasion thriller this high up on my list.  But Fincher ratchets up the tension to such levels, that it's difficult to stay perched on the edge of your seat during this tense urban nightmare.  Trapped in their panic room, Jodie Foster and pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart are terrorised by a trio of burglars intent on getting into the panic room to recover some loot.  The performances from Foster and Stewart are brilliant but Jarad Leto, Forest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakam are equally memorable as the criminals.  It uses it's minimal set and characters to its advantage with Fincher creating a claustrophobic playground for his camera and the cat-and-mouse antics of the characters.

4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003)  A rare book adaptation that is equal to the source material.  First time I read the books, I'll be honest, I found them a struggle.  Slow, strangely structured and stuffed with too many songs.  On the other hand the films nailed the pace but also the beauty of Middle Earth (with the fantastic casting of New Zealand), the horror of the orcs, the sadness of Smeagol and the epic battle scenes that rage for much of The Return of the King.  So many classic moments, great performances and stunning visuals, apart from the overdose on endings, these films are pretty much flawless fantasy epics.  Here's hoping The Hobbit can live up to the memory of this outstanding trilogy.

3. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)  Controversial, cathartic and crushing, this is the story of one of the many real-life tragedies that occurred on 9/11.  The fourth hijacked plane that crashed in a field was taken down by the terrorists when the passengers fought back.  Whether you believe this official version of events or not, you cannot deny the power of Greengrass's film.  Mounting the tension to unbearable levels using a real-time pace, the film explores the events of the day through those in the air on board United 93 but also allowing the viewer to see the confusion and panic unfolding on the ground at air traffic control, NORAD etc.  The last twenty minutes is incredibly difficult to watch with handheld camera adding to the realism, phone conversations scripted from the real thing but also an emotive score that cannot fail to move viewers.

2. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)  Another harrowing film, this time not based on real life but on a book.  Ellen Burstyn gives possibly the most moving performance ever committed to celluloid as a mother of a drug addict (Jarad Leto) who turns to diet pills to try and find happiness.  Stylishly directed by Aronofsky,  it captures the highs but mostly the sickening, soul-destroying lows of drug abuse as (SPOILER!!!) the four main characters descend into prostitution, prison, amputation and madness.  Scored by Clint Mansell, the music is as heart-wrenching as the editing and cinematography is dazzling.  This is one of the hardest films you will ever have to watch.  But you do HAVE to watch it.

1. City of God (Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund, 2002)  The best film of the 00's is hardly surprising, it's topped so many lists already.  It's another depressing film but less so than the previous two films on this list.  Set in the favelas of Brazil, it follows Rocket, a young man who dreams of becoming a photographer but has to deal with the day to day struggles that come with being a favela dweller.  Starting in the 80s then flashing back to the 60s, Rocket narrates the changes in his slum as drug lord Lil Ze takes over the business, turning the slums into a cocaine-riddled war zone during the 70s.  The style is manic with choppy editing, handheld camera, improvised dialiogue from an astounding cast of non-professionals and use of real locations.  But it's the characters, Rocket, Benny, Lil Ze, the 'runts' that stay with you long after the film has finished.  It's a difficult watch at times (witness a very small child being forced to shoot an even smaller child) and the end is both hopeful and pessimistic, but overall the film is a powerful peek inside a world you will unlikely ever experience.

What do you think?  What have I missed?  Why are my top three so depressing? 
What are your favourite?  Please comment if you read this... it's very nice to hear from you!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Why I love Sacha Baron Cohen

Borat, Bruno and Ali G.  Three genius comic creations, one actor.  Offensive and crude but often subversive in a way only a comedy genius can be, Sacha Baron Cohen is the Peter Sellers of our generation.  His characters are despicable stereotypes but their purpose is usually to bring out the prejudices, hatred and plain stupidity of average Joes.

Sexist, racist and homophobic; all appropriate words to descibe his comedy characters and jokes in his films often cover controversial subjects like incest, rape and people with disabilities (sometimes all in one joke).  But the real butt of the jokes are often the people he dupes into playing along with his absurd acts; the anti-Semites, the homophobes, but also, less effectively, the feminists and the poor people of a Romanian village who thought they were appearing in a documentary (actually the opening scene of Borat).

Ever since I first saw Ali G interviewing a brilliantly chosen range of the powerful, the political, the left wing, the right wing and more on the 11 O'Clock show on British TV, it was clear that SBC had a huge talent for creating characters and using them to draw out hilarious responses from people who should know better.  The Ali G movie then forgot about the use of real people and suffered hugely from glamorising Ali G's sexism and stupidity and revelling in his ridiculous world view.

However then came Borat and Bruno and director Larry Charles returned SBC to his TV roots by using a mockumentary approach that meant putting these crazy comic creations in the frame with an oddball bunch of 'ordinary' Americans.  The results are hilarious with SBC's dedicated performances (and staying in character in all promotional duties) being much funnier alongside the responses of shocked, gullible members of the public.

But the reason that SBC is on my mind today is the news that Tarantino has just bagged him for a role in Django Unchained.  This is one of my most anticipated movies of 2012 with a cast that is looking outstanding; Leo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Kurt Russell, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz and more.

Now SBC has had a few roles in movies where he has played a character not of his own creation.  Talladega Nights pitted him as a French race car driver against Will Ferrel's idiotic Ricky Bobby.  Tim Burton cast him as a rival barber to Depp's Sweeney Todd and Madagascar featured him as the voice of a singing lemur.  None of these let SBC off the leash to give us the kind of comic shocks that his self-made creations have however.

Nevertheless in under a month we will get to see SBC under Scorcese's dirction as a station inspector in Hugo.  From the trailer it looks like another reigned in performance and since this is a kids movie, it looks unlikely that this will be SBC off the chain.  But then in 2012, we will get SBC's latest creation in a re-team with director Larry Charles, The Dictator.  Based on a book apparently written about and by Saddam Hussein and featuring a great cast, this promises to be controversial shocking comedy at its best with SBC taking the title role in another of his fish-out-of-water comedies.  It's just a shame it's not using the mock-doc format again as it would be interesting to see how the people of America really react to this character.

Which now brings us back to Tarantino's latest, filming and hopefully released in 2012.  SBC will play a gambler and according to Empire Online, 'Tarantino specifically sought Cohen for the role'.  So it may be a minor role but if there is one modern comedy actor who can make an impression, it should be SBC.  Tarantino's scripting excellence coupled with SBC's perfect comic timing could equal something very special.

If all that doesn't excite you, then how about the news that SBC is about to take on his biggest and arguably most important role to date.  According to the BBC, SBC will be portraying the legendary singer and front man of Queen, Freddie Mercury.  No matter what you think of the comedy of Baron-Cohen, his performances while not perhaps subtle so far have been nothing short of amazing.  He immerses himself in a character and we all know that these comedy actors can often pull incredible dramatic performances out of the bag when given the opportunity.  SBC is charismatic (when in character) and can sing though I doubt they'll try and get him to compete with Mercury's own vocals.  If this project gets underway, I reckon we could be seeing SBC getting awards, maybe even an Oscar for this one.

What do you think?  Excited for SBC's future?  Wish he'd just disappear or get sued into bankruptcy?  Drop a comment and let me know!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Best films of the 1990s

Is this the greatest decade in cinema ever?  In my opinion, absolutely YES!  After giving some love to the 70s and 80s, it's time to turn to the final decade of the first century of cinema.  Now up until this point, I've been content to share the love for my top 10 films of the decades but for the 90s, it's a very different story. 

Perhaps as this was the decade of my teenage years, this is where I started to get serious about film.  Perhaps I've seen more 90s films than films produced in any other decade.  Or perhaps this is just the most exciting time for cinema that I can imagine.  The point is a top 10 would not do this decade justice.  So I've taken the easy way out.  Here's my top 30 of the 90s:

30. The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez, 1999) Redefined horror for the new century.  Forget killers in masks, pretty teens, and lashings of gore.  This went back to a low-budget, slow-build suspense and less-is-more approach to horror.  Built a brilliant backstory and did some convincing myth-making to complement the on-screen horror.

29. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998) Renewed the British obsession with cockney crime capers, inspired Tom Cruise to stand up and shout at the screen 'this film rocks' and became an effortlessly cool, consistently quotable, fun, funny and stylish comedy gangster classic.  Guy Ritchie has never topped it but came close with the similar but lesser Snatch.

28. Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994)  The best of the 'Die Hard on a...' action films that flooded into cinemas in the 90s.  Keanu Reeves vs Dennis Hopper in a lift then a bus then a train.  Introduced Sandra Bullock as one to watch in a film so high concept, it sounded ridiculous on paper.  A bus that can't drop below 50mph and the opening set-piece involving people trapped in a lift make this an edge-of-your-seat action classic.  Just don't mention the jumping bus bit.

27. Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)  The film that gave us Woody and Buzz, not to mention Sid the psycho kid next door and his bedroom full of monstrous creations.  Smart, funny and with incredible, groundbreaking  visuals, this should be the pinnacle of Pixar if they didn't just keep dazzling audiences with new films.  Full of memorable supporting characters, the toy soldiers and claw worshipping aliens deserve special mention.

26. The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998)  Proving Jim Carrey was more than just an OTT, gurning comedy star, this satire on the future of reality TV is remarkably prescient.  Ed Harris plays God to Carrey's boy in a bubble as the film takes humorous pot shots at product placement, big brother and fame and celebrity.  Carrey is brilliant at the comedy and the drama, Laura Linney great as his hysterical wife and the ending is heartbreaking and uplifting all in one.

25. The Crow (Alex Proyas, 1994) A film production that will be remembered at least for the accidental death of star Brandon Lee, this is a tragic tale of revenge with an excellent grungey soundtrack and a beautiful gothic creation of a city plagued by heinous criminals.  Violent but heartfelt and featuring a great performace from Michael Wincott as despicable villain Top Dollar, it's also got some fantastic action as Lee's indestructible Eric Draven takes on a room full of bad guys with guns.

24. Human Traffic (Justin Kerrigan, 1999)  Capturing the spirit and sounds of the 90s clubbing scene, this is a film full of creative visuals, quotable dialogue and a great cast of up and coming British stars.  Danny Dyer is cool as drug-dealing Moff, John Simm and Lorraine Pilkington have a touching relationship that includes one of my favourite screen kisses and the whole film totally rejects the 'drugs are bad' dogma of so many other films.  These characters get off their heads at the weekend to escape the monotony of their lives and in the words of Bill Hicks 'have a real good time'.

 23. Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990) The pinnacle of Burton's career and the best Depp/Burton collaboration that exists.  Lonely Edward gets brought down from his isolated castle to stay in suburbia.  Burton paints the ordinary people of the town as an odd, colourful bunch with no excitement in their lives.  The women in the film are crass stereotypes, but Depp's performance and the theme of getting below the surface of people to see their true colours elevates this to classic fairytale status.

22. Mallrats (Kevin Smith, 1995)  Forget Clerks, the critics, the box office, the film festivals, this is the film that got me into the work of director Kevin Smith.  Featuring one of the coolest and funniest characters and a career best performance from Jason Lee as slacker 'mallrat' Brodie, the film is filled with memorable characters and quotable dialogue.  Jay and Silent Bob steal scenes, as do Michael Rooker and Ben Affleck as the villains.  This is a pre-Judd Apatow romantic comedy that will make the guys in the audience laugh harder than the girls.

21. Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991) With this, Speed and The Matrix, Keanu looked like the king of action cinema in the 90s.  But this film belongs to the late Swayze.  His Bodhi is a surfing Yoda, a prototype Tyler Durden that robs banks to finance an endless summer of waves and freedom.  Bigelow directs some thrilling action scenes featuring skydiving, foot chases through suburbia and two men rolling around in the waves.  It's gayer than Top Gun and all the better for it.

20. American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999) Mendes' first film is beautiful, emotional and original.  Looking closer at the pain, repressed desires and sadness lurking beneath the surface of so many suburbanites, Alan Ball's script creates interesting, rounded characters that are understandable and often relatable.  Like so many other films in the 90s it shows that all is not well with the middle classes.

19. The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999) The last entry for Keanu on this list is a mind-bending action sci-fi extravaganza.  Comic book and manga inspired visuals, astonishing action set pieces and bullet-time photography made this a visual feast but the ideas behind the narrative posed interesting and intriguing philosophical questions that left audiences just as gobsmacked.  Shame the whole trilogy didn't live up to the promise of this first film but this is still a classic piece of science fiction cinema.

18. Scream (Wes Craven, 1996) Along with The Blair Witch Project, Scream redefined the horror movie in the 90s.  With a brilliant postmodern slasher film opening and a pretty shocking Drew Barrymore gutting, the film spills the blood of characters that know horror movie conventions and still can't outsmart/outrun a masked psycho with a knife.  The references come thick and fast in a knowing, winking at the audience horror slasher satire that succeeds at making the audience laugh and... yes, scream.

17. American History X (Tony Kaye, 1998) Heavy handed direction, editing and scoring make this film a perhaps overly stylised race drama, but the performances and killer ending are unforgettable.  Yes the black and white, excessive slow motion and OTT music can be a distraction, but the films best scenes tone it down and focus on tightly scripted dialogue and a brilliant, terrifying performace from an almost unrecognisable Norton.  Giving this much of a platform to a scarily articulate racist thug is a controversial and risky approach but the narrative makes it very clear that its message is one of love, not hate.

16. Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 1993) I'm ashamed to say that before this film, the Holocaust was an obscure piece of history to me.  Yes I knew 6 million people had been killed but that figure did not sink in until I saw Spielberg's masterpiece.  Beautiful black and white punctuated by devastating moments of colour, this film has some of the most shocking scenes in the history of cinema.  Ralph Fiennes is absolutely terrifying, Neeson and Kingsley superb but it's scenes like the liquidation of the ghettos, the burning of piles of bodies that still make me shake years after seeing the film.

15. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994) Surely the best prison drama ever made.  Spawning countless Morgan Freeman voiceovers and another fantastic Darabont-directed prison movie in The Green Mile, Shawshank is an emotional and unexpectedly feel-good piece of traditional storytelling and filmmaking.  The central relationship between Tim Robbins and Freeman is a joy to watch unfold and the ending is a classic twist; unforgettable and incredible but completely in tune with the rest of the films theme of hope in the face of adversity.

14. Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner, 1990) Along with Unforgiven, Costner's film redefined/killed the Western genre for good.  Perhaps it is over long and self-indulgent but so is Braveheart and at least this isn't directed by a loony.  Like Avatar, a white man goes to live with the natives/savages, this time on the frontier of the new America and finds their culture to be beautiful, inspiring and worth trying to save and fight for.  The final words that scroll onto the screen are devastating, reminding viewers of the truth of the story that has unfolded.

13. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)  A film that transports the viewer through recent American history from the 50s to the present, taking in the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war and AIDS as signs that the times are a-changing even as our hero stays his same simple self.  Some have criticised the percieved conservatism of the story; Gump does what he's told, fights for his country, doesn't question authority or experiment with the excesses of the drugs and sex of the 60s and 70s.  The love of his life Jenny does question, does rebel and does experiment and she pays for it.  But deep down this is a charming film with a sweet love story, great music, great performances and a real sense of America as a vibrant and dynamic country.

12. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993) I've got a soft spot for films set over a short space of time.  See also La Haine, Human Traffic and Mallrats on this list for other films set over 24 hours.  Like Mallrats, D&C contains Ben Affleck as another bullying bastard, but also delves into the lives of very ordinary teenagers out to have fun, chase the opposite sex and get high/drunk together.  The characters are well observed, the music gives a real sense of the time and place and the up and coming cast includes many now famous faces.  It's also a great coming-of-age story for the younger characters.

11. Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996) It looks like it's been directed by a hyperactive child with quick-cut editing, whip pans, crash zooms, and more colour than a box of crayons, but the MTV style is just what the classic tale needed to make it fresh and relevant to a modern audience.  I know Shakespeare purists will shake their head and tut but the guns, the sex and the tightly edited script, as well as the incredible soundtrack all add up to R+J being a supremely stunning assault on the senses.  DiCaprio and Danes also make a great screen couple with excellent performances and another of film's greatest kisses (in the elevator at the party).

10. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998) It's impossible to forget the first time you see the opening D-Day battle on the big screen with surround sound.  Forget Spielberg's other 90s classic Jurassic Park, it's his darker self that dominated the 90s with this and Schindler's List.  The action is incredible and though the based on a true story narrative meanders after the opening assault, it finds it's way again in time for another final battle that is incredibly emotional.  The visual style of the film is amazing and hugely influential; never has a war film felt so real.  Hanks gives possibly the finest performance of his career.

9. Goodfellas (Martin Scorcese, 1990)  I'll be honest I probably don't appreciate Scorcese as much as most.  But this film is near-perfect.  Liotta gives a career best performace and is surrounded with the brilliance of Pesci, De Niro and Sorvino.  It's a flashy film with a stunning tracking shot, cool freeze frames and a great soundtrack but it's the wonderful voiceover that guides the audience through this crime epic.  When Henry Hill (Liotta) gets too nose-deep into the cocaine, the film's style reflects the protagonist's state of mind and paranoia with wit and flair.  If there had to be just one, this is Scorcese's masterpiece.

8. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) Reservoir Dogs was just a starter for this main dish.  Opening with hip dialogue, another great freeze frame and great music over the credits, this is the film that brought non-linear narratives back into the mainstream for years to come.  Resurrecting the careers of many a Hollywood veteran (Travolta, Keitel, Willis) as well as giving Samuel L.Jackson the role that would cement him as the baddest motherf*cker in cinema, this is Tarantino at his coolest, funniest and most brilliant.

7. Boyz n the Hood (John Singleton, 1991)  With an incredibly low budget, director Singleton made this ghetto classic at the age of 23.  Superb performances from Cuba Gooding Jr and Ice Cube and a realism that comes from Singleton's own experiences poured into the script and filming on location in South Central make this an urgent and powerful film.  The message is hammered home in scenes with Laurence Fishburne as the only father and role model that the young characters have to look up to but the different paths taken by the young men in the story highlights the plight of young African Americans without resorting to negative stereotypes.

6. Seven (David Fincher, 1995)  Featuring Kevin Spacey as the deluded but genius killer, Brad Pitt as a cocky young cop and Morgan Freeman as the wise old detective, Seven is breathtaking.  This trio, along with director Fincher and scriptwriter Andrew Kevin Walker are responsible for one of the most unrelentingly dark and disturbing serial killer thrillers of all time.  Forget The Silence of the Lambs, Spacey is ten times the psycho Lecter/Hopkins is.  The cinematography, the mise-en-scene and the brooding soundtrack kicked off by Nine Inch Nails over the opening credits blends together to create an unsettling film that may brighten visually at the end but darkens thematically as it draws to its grim, bleak, pessimistic conclusion.

5. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996) Another great soundtrack, another director (like Tarantino) inspired by the French New Wave directors and another film about drugs.  Boyle showed early promise with Shallow Grave, but blew minds with this mixture of surreal visuals (toilet diving, overdose burials), pumping sounds and creative cinematography and editing.  Yes the cast look a bit too cool (starting a panic about heroin chic) but the performances are faultless.  Renton, Spud and Begbie are unforgettable characters and the film takes an unflinching look at the ups and downs of heroin addiction in an honest, fun and incredibly stylish way.

4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (James Cameron, 1991) Sorry to bang on about it again but this is the best sequel ever.  Taking the template of the first film with a killer and a protector sent from the future, this sequel ups the stakes by having both killer and protector being robot terminators, throwing in a young boy that needs protecting and making the T-1000 a worthy antagonist to Schwarzenegger's born-again hero.  The truck vs bike chase is a classic action scene but with so many set-pieces to choose from, this film has it's pedal to the metal virtually from the start and rarely lets off.  The story is genius and the special effects are still brilliant.

3. Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)  I admit it's got faults; the script has moments of weakness and as a result DiCaprio isn't at his best consistently.  But Kate Winslet plays Rose as a sympathetic but strong victim of circumstances seemingly beyond her control and Zane is a great (almost sympathetic) villain.  Never mind that though.  The huge set, the use of minatures and CGI all blend seamlessly together to re-create a wonder of human invention, the luxury liner herself.  Cameron's real footage of the ship at the bottom of the ocean is haunting and sobering compared with the hysterical, unbearably tense and brilliantly crafted last hour of the ships maiden voyage (and the film) as Titanic sank.  It's the details that I love.  Yes Cameron shoehorned in a pair of fictional star crossed lovers for the audience to care about but so much of this film is actually filled with  historically accurate detail that needs to be relished on repeat viewings such as the inclusion of Molly Brown's attempts to get the lifeboats to return, Guggenheim getting dressed in his best for the sinking, the baker being the last one into the water.  The scale of the tragedy is ably highlighted by the scale of the production that re-creates it.

2. La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995) So relevant and insightful, the French cabinet had a special screening, this is a masterful first film made on a meagre budget, shot in black and white and filled with creativity and righteous anger.  It's been called anti-police, but it's more pro-youth.  The central trio of characters, Said, Hubert and Vinz wander the streets of their estate aimlessly.  But on this day Vinz has found a gun in the preceding night's riots.  Wanting to get revenge for the police brutality that is a part of their daily existence, Vinz insists he's going to kill a cop.  Following the youths over 24 hours, the film stylishly shows the boredom of their lives with long flowing tracking shots, explosive editing and incredibly realistic performances from the leads.  Yes it's subtitled, slow-paced and yes it's in black and white.  But this film will grab you and leave you shaken with its brilliant open ending that suggests the troubles it addresses are far from over.

1. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999) No surprise here as I've already stated my undying love for this film before.  So good I had to see it three times in the cinema, this film is too perfect to sum up here.  Rarely can a film change your life but this is a film that I can honestly say did.  Introducing me at age 18 to completely different ways of thinking than I had ever contemplated, Tyler Durden made quite an impression.  With his Marxist, anarchist, fascist, anti-society, anti-capitalist speeches, Pitt's performance and Jim Uhls' script (from Chuck Palahniuk's book) shook me to my core.  I didn't go out and start a fight club, I didn't blow up any credit card companies and I didn't give away all my savings and go and live in a deteriorating house on an industrial estate but I did start to think a little differently.  And I did let go of the steering wheel on the way home from the cinema (though evidently not for long enough).  However it's not just the script and the ideas that make this the best film of the 90s.  It's the pre-millenial angst, the foreshadowing of 9/11 and the contemporary relevance in the wake of the Columbine killings.  It's the style with Fincher showing his true genius at handling the technology of cinema.  It's the black as ink comedy.  And it's Helenha Bonham Carter as Marla.  It's all these things that make Fight Club absoultely impossible to not talk about.

Honourable mentions must go to a couple of films that I love but didn't quite make it.  Toy Soldiers (Die Hard in a boarding school!) and Robin Hood: Prince of Theives (Costner's mullet and accent won't stop me loving this).

If you haven't seen any of these, I insist you must!  What are you waiting for?  What's your favourite movies of the 90s?  Any I've missed on this list?  Am I wrong or is this the greatest decade in cinema history?