Top 10 Movies of 1994

Number 10.  –  Speed

An extortionist plants a bomb on a Los Angeles bus which will explode if its speed drops to less than 50 miles per hour. This thin synopsis perfectly represents the paper thin plot of Speed, which is a film a young Michael Bay must have been taking notes from back in 1994. All of his trademarks can be found here; the over saturated colour filters, dumb one liners, pointless slo-mo explosions and the way the camera endlessly circles our heroes as if the audience are mere satellites gazing up at the Olympian Gods of Hollywood. It’s a simple premise, designed purely to manufacture edge of the seat, base thrills and as such it works extremely well. Keanu makes a decent low brow action hero and is good as long as you don’t expect him to express emotion or act or anything. The biggest problem is that the opening scenes set around a highjacked elevator are much more interesting than the bus (an idea that is stretched beyond breaking point), mainly because of the presence of Jeff Daniels whose partnership with Reeves works really well. Shame he disappears half way through, then. Hopper’s merciless hamminess is also fun as the bad guy and there are plenty of shots of Sandra Bullock’s legs so it gets the job done in the cheap thrills stakes. Just don’t expect anything more.

Number 9.  –  True Lies

For an Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy film, this feels much more like the French thriller it’s based on and less like a cheesy, over-the-top slaughter. James Cameron wrote and directed this film, and he makes another blockbuster action film feel like legitimate entertainment. There’s a satiric intelligence and thoughtful touch to this film, and though filled with terrorism and political themes, it’s less about a secret agent and more about a marriage. The gimmick of the film is that mild mannered salesman Harry Tasker is secretly an agent for the United States’ government and hides it well from his wife and daughter. Most of the film follows this husband and wife around, as a series of misfortunate choices and misguided attempts at being truthful and/or provocative, keep the pair at odds. In a series of events that one would call morally questionable, Harry follows his wife as she tries to find a sense of danger in her life. This lends to the narrative of the terrorist leader launching an attack on the US for senseless violence overseas. Even though much of this revolves around some very farfetched ideas, and the antagonist is outrageous, it’s Cameron at his most divisive and calculated. He knows what feels right in an action film, and even tries his hand at comedy, and that isn’t always easy. Much of what makes this enjoyable solely lies in the performance of Jamie Lee Curtis, who is both right as the suburban mother and surveyor of action, and as the seductress. While Schwarzenegger does the job of action hero to credit as always that’s all that can be said. As always there isn’t much difference between this and any other Schwarzenegger performance, though he is perfect for this film, even if the role certainly calls for an American. Mostly it’s a film to watch and go agog at the timeless special effects and fight scenes, and even for a chuckle once in a while.

Number 8.  –  The Shawshank Redemption

It’s equally easy to forget how brutal the film is, particularly in its first 20 minutes. Shawshank’s reputation as a popular favourite might lead the uninitiated to thinking that it’s an uplifting, feel-good film – and it is true that these later moments are the ones which have most entered into popular consciousness. But any film about hope needs a source of despair to provide conflict, and Shawshank has more than enough violence and emotional trauma to justify its 15 certificate. As Mark Kermode famously remarked, there’s a whole lot of Shawshank before the Redemption. Even without its reputation, Shawshank remains the best adaptations of Stephen King’s work. Indeed, among King’s dramatic stories, it is outshone only by its successor The Green Mile. Frank Darabont has a greater understanding of King than almost any other filmmaker: he gets the tone spot on and recreates the period setting brilliantly with the help of Roger Deakins’ cinematography. Despite the much-parodied narration that punctuates the film, the drama unfolds naturally and believably throughout, with the characters always being at the forefront and naked exposition being kept to a bare minimum.

Number 7.  –  The Crow

Like The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Crow is remembered most for the passing of its star before being finished. Otherwise, this would only be remembered for being the great film that it is. The Crow is really cool movie visually and narratively. Brandon Lee gives a really good performance and sends his career, and life, out on a high note. But the movie is more than just Brandon Lee. Alex Proyas creates amazing atmosphere with his gothic images, and scenery. It’s easy to see why this has such a huge gothic following. The Crow deserves the huge following it has. It’s exciting, cool, and ultimately touching. There’s not too much that I can say about the film. It’s just sad that a lot of people only see this movie as, “The one with Brandon Lee.” It is truly much more than that, and it may never get the full credit it deserves. Without a doubt, this is a must watch. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are in for a treat. For some reason, I feel that this film had a huge influence on a lot of filmmakers. The scene where Eric walks into the crime meeting reminded me a lot of the scene in The Dark Knight where the Joker walks into the mob meeting. I’m not saying Nolan got the idea from this film, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did.

Number 6.  –  Leon: The Professional

Revenge is a tough game, even for a Professional. Excellent Film! The performance delivered by then twelve-year old Natalie Portman as Mathilda is nothing short of brilliant. Her ability to relate to others with body movement and facial gestures is matched by few, she really brings raw emotion and believability to a difficult role. Mathilda and Léon are unexpectedly thrown together, but learn to value life from their chance encounter, and how valuable a friendship can be. The Professional is what movie-making is all about. Without the overuse of special effects, a large shooting location, or a commercially star studded cast, we are given all that could possibly be asked for in a movie. Portman, Oldman, and Reno, along with Danny Aiello as the hit-contractor Tony remind us that there is no substitute for great acting. There are elements of comedy, drama, and action, and great original music by Eric Serra adds to the energy the film already encapsulates. The most impressive thing about the movie is its story which is basic but is maximized by all the other elements which go into the making of the movie. What’s most impressive about the film is Besson’s assured hand and his ability in framing a scene; seemingly insignificant details play a massive part in the sheer beauty of this film while the dynamic music score by Eric Serra is a perfect accompaniment for Besson’s sumptuous attention to detail and deliberate approach. Action movies rarely have such style but this is one that starts and ends with a bang and delivers a warm and affecting emotional core in-between. Simply put, an intense and impressive movie.

Number 5.  –  Forrest Gump

Epic in scope and triumphant in spirit, Forrest Gump is a larger-than-life piece of film-making, that revolves around the eventful and remarkable life of a mentally, and for some time physically challenged man, who looks at the world through very unique and innocent eyes, as he becomes part of some of the key events that shaped America as a nation. Famous historical figures like Elvis, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and John Lennon, are just some of the people that he encounters on his grand and amazing journey. Forrest Gump is a masterpiece! Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) has lived his life being completely oblivious to the amazing and historical things that happen to him. He has met Elvis, met the president, become a pro football star, gone to the Vietnam war, and much more, but all his life all he could think about was the love of his life Jenny (Robin Wright Penn). Jenny is sweet girl but has lived her life trying to cover it up with sex and drugs, but never the less has always been best friends with Forrest and never stopped believing his a wonderful man. Forrest Gump may not be a smart man, but you don’t have to be smart to be a great man Hanks is perfect and deserved the Oscar. The story is so sweet and god its hard not to love this movie. The ending is so nice and passionate that i love it. One of the greatest movies ever. A movie about love, loss, war and human behavior. About discovering your inner potential and overcoming your limitations, even when everything seems against you and abscent of hope. For within Forrest Gump dwells a ray of pure inspiration, with the message that life is what you make of it. We may not all come to shake hands with the President or amount to champions in ping-pong, but we all possess the power to make the best of what we have. Timeless, magical, moving and uplifting, this movie is a celebration of all that and more!

Number 4.  –  Dumb and Dumber

Dumb & Dumber is the classic Farrelly Brothers film. If you have to see one fil by them, make it Dumb& Dumber. This is one of the funniest comedies that I have seen, and is one of my favorite too. Granted it’s not everyones cup of tea, but to those who love Jim Carrey, especially his early work, then Dumb & Dum,ber remains one film that is probably his best. The idea is simple, and Jeff Daniels & Jim Carrey deliver great comedic performances. Dumb & Dumber is still funny after all these years and is for me, a comedy classic. The film reminds me how Jim Carrey was funny back in the day, while nowadays he’s making nothing but trash. Dumb & Dumber is a terrific hilarious film that you can watch with your friends and have great movie night. Sure the film is very stupid, but thats the whole idea of the film. Don’t go watching this and expect something smartly crafted like The Shawshank Redemption, because you won’t find it here. For what it is, Dumb & Dumber is a well crafted comedy with great gags going for it and if you’re looking for something memorable and funny, then you should give this film a viewing. This is one of Carrey’s best comedic performances, and it reminds that he was once funny. The Farrelly Brothers have crafted a great comedy with Dumb & Dumber, but to really dig its humour you have to open up your sense of humour a bit as some of the gags here to fully enjoy this movie. As for me, I watched this movie so many times and unlike all the other comedy movies out there, this one still makes me laugh.

Number 3.  –  Clerks

Shot in black and white on a meager budget of $27,000, this is one of the best ‘a day in the life of’ or ‘slice of life’ films ever, and a quintessential part of 90s independent cinema, and the start of the remarkable career of writer/director/actor Kevin Smith. Indie movies are spectacular for being deep and relatable that created new stars and successful directors from low budget filmmaking. The simple plot follows two slackers in their early 20s who spend the day at their minimum wage jobs (a convenience store and an adjacent video store) dealing with a cadre of colorful customers and loiterers, chatting about pop culture, and riffing on their jobs, people (especially customers they dislike), and their own lackluster lives. The optimist in me would say that this adds to the charm, especially since I’m a fan of Gen X, slacker-related stuff, and dig on early 90s style and aesthetics. As a first feature, and given the limitations (mostly budgetary), I’d say Smith was pretty successful at making the most of what he had, despite the fact that some of the film is pretty rough around the edges, and a tad aimless and meandering once in a while.  Its lack of quality is mostly its strong point, along with extremely sharp and witty dialogue. It’s not for everybody, but it’s one of my favorites.

Number 2.  –  The Lion King

This is the peak of the Disney Renaissance in terms of box office, commercial success, and critical success.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the for the past sixteen years you know what this movie’s about. Everyone knows the plot of “The Lion King.” The story centers around a young lion named Simba who aspires to be king of the animal kingdom some day just like his father, Mufasa. But when Simba’s uncle Scar becomes jealous of Mufasa he deliberately throws him off a cliff into a stampede and kills him. Simba is ashamed because he thinks the death of Mufasa os his fault and is told by his Uncle Scar to “run away and never return.” To me, the heart of “The Lion King” is after Simba leaves the gorge and goes into an exotic jungle to meet his pals to be, Timon and Pumbaa. From the time when there’s hilarious, introductory voice-over work from Nathan Lane to the point when the three characters are singing “Hakuna Matata,” dancing, and having fun is an example of when true Disney magic is put up on screen. It’s one of those rare moments you’ll find in a movie. It’s something that sticks with you for a long, long time. It isn’t necessarily the storytelling, animation, or music, but all of those things put together in which make that scene put a look of happiness on every audience member’s face. This movie is such a classic. Everything from its beautiful animation, memorable music, to its bold method of storytelling that flows perfectly so that children and adults can, not just sit through the film, but also be fully submersed in its narrative. It’s lovable characters make the movie a Disney classic, not to mention a classic in all of film history.  To this day, it shines with the perfect blend mature thematic elements, laugh out loud humor, and Disney magic.

Number 1.  –  Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction is Tarantino’s one perfect movie. It works on all levels; a mob movie, a dark comedy and even a character study of people related to the mob. Sam Jackson and John Travolta are almost the best thing about the movie, but they are beaten by the amazing script and direction that leads them. The script is most definitely one of the best ever written and the direction is wonderfully stylized. The movie has so much more depth than other Tarantino movies. You look at other Tarantino movies have humanity and depth under well-written dialogue and violence and they certainly have humanity and depth, just not nearly as much as Pulp Fiction. Uma Thurman really shows her acting chops here. No one else could play her as well as she did. Harvey Keitel’s character, while brief, is played very well and is a very calm and cool and definitely gives one of his better performances here. Bruce Willis never really gives a performance different from another (except maybe John McClane) but it works here. Tim Roth gives a good performance that you can tell he was having fun with and Amanda Plummer gives a performance that is some pretty fun over-acting and you can tell she was having fun with it. Ving Rhames gives a performance different from the other performances he’s given. He ranges from calm, cool and knowing what he’s doing to I’m going to kill this motherfucker if it’s the last thing I do. Christopher Walken proves that he can act and be serious and not some over-the-top guy here and he does a great job at it, even if it’s one brief scene. Quentin Tarantino, the guy behind the writing and directing of this movie also gives a great performance. I’ve seen interviews of him and acts exactly like he does in those interviews, making his performance more great.

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