Favorite older film discoveries in 2018

 

 

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Now that we are reaching the end of 2018, it’s that time of year I share my annual older film discoveries! Of the twenty films included here, seven are comedies while thrillers (3) are also well-represented. In terms of the age of the films, the 1980s reigns supreme with seven titles, followed by the 70s (4).

I’ll be looking to explore film noir in 2019 as there are plenty of classics to watch and my noir watchlist is becoming way too long! I jumped the gun and saw Kiss Me Deadly (1955) in December (see mini-review below).
Anyway, let’s get to it!

 

 

 

 

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A Matter of Life and Death (1946) (Powell & Pressburger)
*1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die*
I watched various scenes but not the entire film until 2018. I’m happy I finally did. The sets and visual side look fantastic (the record’s area in heaven, the stairway, inside the eye, the court room), and the story has charm. Very few women would allow you to kiss her after just 1 minute! But it’s a fantasy so I just ran with it. They don’t make movies like this anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) (Charles Crichton)
*1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die*
Better than I expected. Very entertaining UK classic with unpredictable developments. Not really a comedy as advertised but very good storytelling in the vein of a thriller which kept me glued to the screen until the end. It’s not a spoiler to say I kind of wanted the criminals to succeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sorcerer (1977) (William Friedkin)

I was confused by the opening 15 minutes, but once Roy Scheider is introduced the movie takes off. The last 2/3 is an edge of your set thriller, and on a technical level there’s some impressive cinematography and stunt work. I have no idea how the bridge scenes were filmed but it looks incredible. The cast consisted of anti-heroes, which may have been a reasons it failed at the box office. A misleading title and put out the same time as Stars Wars didn’t do Sorcerer any favors. The electronic score by Tangerine Dream is used sparingly, and adds suspense and danger.
The 1953 version The Wages of Fear (which I also loved) provides fuller characterization in the South American village, while the 1977 film is more intense and thrilling during the dangerous mountain journey.
Friedkin said in an interview he made the film partly to show ”the exploitation of the Latin American countries by big American corporations like United Crude and the oil companies that were exploiting the workers, when safety conditions meant nothing”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WarGames (1983) (John Badham)
Often listed as one of the best hacker films of all-time. Manages to hold the tension as a thriller. There have been cases of computer nerds breaking into big systems so within the realm of reality. Despite illegal actions, arguably you should thank them for exposing the fragility of the systems. David’s (Matthew Broderick) intentions are innocent and his discovery is accidental in trying to play games so you can’t really say he was attempting to do anyone harm. The overall story concept still holds up even though the technology has improved. However I very much doubt the obvious password of Joshua would have been used for such a hugely dangerous program. The film, like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terminator, warns against the rise of overconfident computers without a sense of human logic. About the absurdity of war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Smokey and the Bandit (1977) (Hal Needham)

Light-hearted action-comedy road movie which is actually pretty funny. Good chemistry between Burt Reynolds and Sally Field. Jackie Gleason is hilarious and steals the movie as the sheriff in pursuit. A memorable country music soundtrack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rumble Fish (1983) (Francis Ford Coppola)
An arthouse, black and white coming of age drama with its own distinct mood. I liked the philosophical musings sprinkled in. Powerful performances by young talents Matt Dillon, Diane Lane and Mickey Rourke. Features an interesting experimental score by Stewart Copeland, drummer of the musical group The Police, who used a Musync, a new device at the time. A box office disappointment but the film has aged well. An underappreciated Coppola gem which I could easily watch multiple times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Cousin Vinny (1992) (Jonathan Lynn)

Recommended by Alex Withrow, who wrote about the film here.
I pretty much guessed how the film would end, but a lot of fun getting to that point. Joe Pesci is on top form and really funny, especially in the scenes when he wears a red suit in court and is disturbed by noise at the hotel. I laughed out loud. An enjoyable comedy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To Be or Not to Be (1942) (Ernst Lubitsch)
*1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die*
A daring comedy considering was made during WW2. At times tonally inconsistent, but the interactions held my interest. The title is a reference to a famous quote from Hamlet, the line features prominently in the plot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (Nicholas Meyer)

Considered the best of the Star Trek movies and the closest in spirit to the 1966-69 TV series. In the key moments, there’s a threat of danger for the crew. Controlling minds with the ear worms makes no sense though. The Genesis project and the aspect of playing God is an interesting idea, and Khan is a memorable villain. The ending involving Spock in a radiation chamber is iconic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Night of the Comet (1984) (Thom Eberhardt)
Arguably so-bad-it’s good. If you prefer your science fiction to take itself seriously, you might want to skip this one. A light-hearted, campy post-apocalyptic exploitation sci-fi with female protagonists. Considering the $700.000 budget, an impressive effort, especially the cinematography. The reddish/neon colors and abandoned locations are beautifully captured. The haircuts and music are very 80s. The soundtrack is good but not great, occasionally too overpowering by playing over dialogue. The ending is a bit foreseeable. Contains a few entertaining what-if situations in which the girls take advantage of opportunities. Odd how the two sisters only show grief very briefly and elect not to seek out survivors, but as I said earlier it’s not a serious work. The teenagers treat the end of the world as a playground of fun and you don’t blame them for wanting to enjoy themselves as it’s a way to cope with a harsh reality. And to be honest, the story is better off without getting bogged down in psychological trauma. I now have less respect for Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later which basically copies aspects from Night of the Comet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Midnight Express (1978) (Alan Parker)
I’ve always been a fan of the prison genre. I’m fascinated by the isolation and psychology of being locked up. I’d never watched this one, based on a true story, in which an American is imprisoned in a foreign country. Haven’t seen Brad Davis in other films, he’s believable as an American college student who experiences a life-changing sentence, I cared about his journey. Randy Quaid and John Hurt offer strong supporting work. Oliver Stone’s oscar-winning screenplay was criticized for having no sympathetic Turkish characters. Turkey was understandably mad at the filmmakers since tourism dropped significantly after the release of the movie. Giorgio Moroder’s original synth-based score also won an Oscar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fletch (1985) (Michael Ritchie)
Watched as I read Stranger Things Season 3 will be inspired by 1985’s Fletch.
I couldn’t help noticing a Beverly Hills Cop (1984) vibe, the soundtrack by Harold Faltermeyer, the story of an undercover investigator fooling others to get ahead, the humour and sarcasm. But even with these similarities, Chevy Chase is very witty. Far more quotable than today’s movies. While it isn’t laugh out loud funny there are still many mildly amusing moments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! 1(988) (David Zucker)
*1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die*
There are enough gags here for at least two movies. Sometimes juvenile, over the top, or resorting to bathroom humor. But never boring and has its moments such as the scene when she says ”I like cops”, or the misunderstanding about medication for Nordburg and subsequent insult of his wife. However, why exactly Queen Elisabeth was to be assassinated I never understood. Leslie Nielsen is on top form as the often inappropriate Frank Drebin and odd to see pre-scandal OJ Simpson in a supporting role as the bedridden injured cop.
The soundtrack includes two great songs, I love LA by Randy Newman and in the end credits I’m into Something Good by Herman’s Hermits.
I knew this movie (and its sequels) existed and just discovered is based on a (some say superior) 6 episode tv-show Police Squad! from 1982 which is a spoof of police procedurals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloodsport (1988)
Bloodsport (1988) (Newt Arnold)

Martial arts drama. Mostly clichéd, yet still drew me in with its energy and daft-but-fun storytelling. The fight sequences are well done even though Jean-Claude Van Damme’s acting is terrible in the scenes outside the ring. I’d never heard of a Kumite tournament or the name Frank Dux so I did learn a couple of things. Despite its 33% rotten tomatoes rating, an entertaining watch, which the 74% audience score indicates. The soundtrack is very 80s, but also inspiring, such as Fight to Survive by Stan Bush or the instrumental Triumph by Paul Hertzog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fucking Åmål (aka Show Me Love) (1998)  (Lukas Moodysson)
A 90s coming of age classic. Moodyson has earned a reputation as a Swedish John Hughes and this story about teenage angst and love is believable, sweet, and well told. The two leads shine in particular, the lonely Agnes and the popular Elin.
As with Moodyson’s Tillsammans (2000), the weakness is it fails to leave you with much conflict or food for thought. The ending is simplistic but in reality far from straightforward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cathy Come Home (1966) (Ken Loach)

Recommended by Alyson, who wrote about the film here. The difficulty and expense of finding a place to live for a young family certainly is still relevant, even today many adults in the UK have to live at home with their parents.
A sad situation for Cathy and Reg. Not enough homes and long waiting lists. Getting pregnant despite not being able to afford another kid. Calling attention to important issues, affecting, realistic and well acted. Definitely among Ken Loach’s better films With my own moving situation this year, I realized how lucky I am to find something available to live in! The story makes us grateful for what we have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) (Karel Reisz)
*1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die*
Great performance by Albert Finney as the angry young rebel, bored with his working class factory job, he lives for the excitement of the weekends, and doesn’t want to end up like his father in front of the TV. Considered one of the earliest and best kitchen sink dramas to come out of the British New Wave of social realism films in the 50s and 60s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Staircase (2005) (Jean-Xavier de Lestrade)

Nostra at myfilmviews rated this true crime documentary 10/10 in his review. That was the reason I watched.
Spoiler-free review.
True crime documentary.  New, surprising evidence is gradually revealed. Whether Michael Peterson was guilty of murdering his wife or she fell down the stairs kept the tension. An oft repeated contention (established early on) is there is too much blood for an accident, so could there be foul play of some kind? The audio of the 911 call is especially chilling (episode 5).
I had issues with the pacing of the first few episodes, but once the series reaches the suspenseful episodes 5-8 I was hooked. Interesting to see the arguments of the defense and prosecution, and eventual outcome. It’s good courtroom TV with the viewer in the same position as the jury, trying to work out if he was guilty or not from the evidence provided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) (Eric Idle, Gary Weis)
I’m a fan of Monty Python but for some reason I had never even heard of the Beatles mockumentary The Rutles. Eric Idle is co-writer and managed to secure a bigger budget by having it made in the US as a TV movie (instead of at the BBC). The funniest parts are Idle’s comments and scenes as a reporter, for example the opening monologue when he runs after the camera, the rats segment (7 minutes in), and when he talks about the burning of the albums at about the 37 min mark.
They managed to secure a bunch of celebrity interviews including Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, and George Harrison who play it straight faced and are all in on the joke. Even Harrison!
The tongue-in-cheek parody songs are done with great skill and have that unmistakable Beatles sound, even if the lyrics are not laugh out loud funny.  If you didn’t know otherwise you could take some of the music seriously. There’s also an accomplished animated sequence, created by the makers of the 1968 Yellow Submarine movie. Controversial to depict Yoko Ono as a Nazi and makes fun of the fab fours choice in women. A sequel exists called The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch (2002).
Favorite quotes: “Their first album was made in 20 minutes, their second took even longer” “who created a musical legend that will last a lunchtime”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kiss Me Deadly (1955) (Robert Aldrich)

*1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die*
Film noir. Mike is a tough guy in how he proactively goes after the truth and seeks answers. Not a typical hero, he has a shady job and doesn’t put up with crap from anyone. Women throw themselves at him, presumably because of his rugged looks. He is too curious though, getting mixed up in matters which are none of his business. The most memorable scene is the opening with the mysterious, out of breath Christina. I went into the film blind, and I’m pleased I did, as the 1001 book unfortunately spoils vital parts of the story. Don’t read that book before you see the films is my advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think. Any favorites? Have I encouraged you to watch a film? As always, comments are welcome

34 thoughts on “Favorite older film discoveries in 2018

  1. Ah, Sorcerer, The Rutles, Fletch, The Naked Gun, Rumble Fish, Smokey and the Bandit, A Matter of Life and Death, My Cousin Vinny, Bloodsport, The Wrath of KHAN!!!!, Wargames. You can’t go wrong with those films.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think I’ve left a few comments when you reviewed these films first time around – A great bunch of movies but A Matter of Life or Death is one I would like to rewatch soon. Played a part in the London 2012 Olympic Opening ceremony and one that holds a place in my heart. Will spill the beans as to why at some point!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Alyson: Thanks again for the Cathy Come Home tip. A Matter of Life and Death is the type of film that doesn’t get made anymore and has wonderful set pieces.I will look out for your post on the film.

      Like

  3. Top list there Chris. Loads of classics and some that are getting near the top of my “to watch soon” list. Saturday Night, Cathy Come Home. Hope to see them soon.
    I haven’t seen Midnight Express since my teens in the 80’s, it freak the bejesus out of me. Remember it being so dark and terrifyingly real. Really need to revisit it.
    Star Trek II is on my films to watch over xmas list. Haven’t seen it for a long time but still have fond memories of it. I’ve planned to watch the episode “Space Seed” before it when we are first introduced to Khan in the original series. It’s a great episode.
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0708447/

    Marisa Tomei NUFF SAID 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Wolfman: Thank you! I will keep an eye out for any overlaps we have film-wise. Midnight Express certainly hit me hard and I’m surprised took so long to finally watch as I enjoyed several other Alan Parker films.

      I knew the actor Ricardo Montalbán had been on the original Star Trek show, but I was too lazy to find out when, and now you cleared up for me which episode , so thanks for that. I hope you have a good time revisiting Khan over xmas. And yes, Marisa Tomei is cute 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. @dbmoviesblog: Thank you. If you love fantastic visuals, Powell & Pressburger’s filmography is worth looking into! I’ve watched about 4-5 of their films and all those I saw could be considered eye candy

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love some of these choices so much. In fact, I could write a couple of hundred words. I’ll just mention a couple.

    You should watch every Powell/Pressburger film you can, and it sounds like you have. (Black Narcissus? Have you seen that yet? If not–it’s a must for next year.)

    I love Night of the Comet so much. I have only a handful of Blu-rays, but I bought that one the moment I saw it.

    You should also track down as many of those ’50s Brit comedies as you can. Whiskey Galore!, The Man in the White Suit, Kind Hearts and Coronets, etc. They’re all a joy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @movieguysteve: Thanks for the suggestions

      I’ve watched most of the important Powell/Pressburger. Still left to see are Colonel Blimp and A Canterbury Tale

      Night of the Comet is trashy fun but with a good enough premise to make it interesting and entertaining. I’m sure the sky looks great on the blu-ray.

      I’ve got a few Ealing comedies on my list. Nice problem to have

      Like

  5. You got to see some great ones, there. The Naked Gun is one of my all-time faves. The correct answer to why is the queen to be assassinated is who cares? Just sit back and laugh your ass off. And The Wrath of Khan is still THE quintessential Star Trek movie. I personally need to see Sorcerer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Wendell: Thanks, yes I suppose at the end of the day the laughs are of higher importance than the motivations. I had to double check if was the same actor in Wrath of Khan and Naked Gun, Ricardo Montalbán’s appearance is so different despite both films from the 80s.
      I hope you enjoy Sorcerer, I loved it.

      Like

  6. Some damn good picks in your list! I might have to join you on your 2019 noir adventure, been looking for a good excuse to dive deeper into that genre. I’ll have to keep an eye out for your highlights on Letterboxd.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ‘Mob’ a good watch. The Eiffel Tower scene gets me every time (Have you seen’The Lady Killers’?). ‘Sorcerer’ another one i just caught a while ago (how did I miss this first time around?). ‘Sat/Sun’ great flick. Finney is just one of the best. I am working on putting out a list of Crime/Noir films in the future. I hit on a few of my favorites already. ‘Fish’ is a good one from Coppola’s bag.
    You hve nudged me towards the ‘Loach’ film. It’s been on my list. ‘Staircase’ is the new one for me. Will definitely search it out. Good stuff Chris.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @CBH: The Eiffel Tower part reminds me of a scene in 1985 Bond movie A View to a Kill, both great scenes.
      I’ll look out for your Crime/Noir post.
      Yes, I’ve watched The Ladykillers, good movie and funnier than The Lavender Hill Mob. I prefer the latter for the story.
      Cathy Come Home is an early Loach but top tier stuff despite being a made for tv film.
      The Staircase (2005) is hard to find on dvd, I happened to see it on YouTube but I don’t know if still there. Think it’s on Netflix!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. @Silver Screenings: Thanks for reading. Sorry for the late reply.

      “All You Need is Cash” was new to me as well. Seems to be a Pythonesque project that for some reason is not well-known

      Liked by 1 person

    1. @The Vern: Thanks and happy new year to you too! I’d be interested to hear what Danny Boyle had to say about Night of the Comet- must be an interview online somewhere

      Like

  8. I haven’t seen any of these except the last one, which I love. Are there any films you could recommend that are similar to that one??

    I really really need to get into the old classic noir films. I haven’t really seen any! =/ Not sure where to start to be honest

    Liked by 1 person

      1. thanks a bunch dude!!

        Also, recommended reviewing: Seconds. Don’t know why it popped into my head as I have no idea what noir is really, i think it was recommended to me at the same time as Kiss Me Deadly.

        Thanks for the link! I’ll have a look-see, really I should understand more about noir and have seen some of the classics

        Liked by 1 person

    1. @Jordan: You’re welcome!

      I remember liking Seconds (1966). Don’t know if it’s noir but it’s definitely a good movie. Been a long time so overdue a rewatch.

      I’m jealous of someone discovering the iconic noirs for the first time 🙂 Hope you find a few you enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A great list! I’ve seen a lot of them, Fletch and Sat/Sun are great just to name a couple. Matter of Life and Death is so gorgeous! I saw you comment that you need to see Colonel Blimp which I also love, hope you enjoy that. Since you liked To Be or Not to Be, you might try The Great Garrick, not political but another funny comedy about a troupe of actors and an epic prank.

    I haven’t seen Night of the Comet, or Wages of Fear (which has long been sitting here and on my watchlist!) or Sorcerer, now you have me bumping those up to check out.
    Have a great ’19 with many more discoveries!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. @Kristina: Thank you. I’ll get to Colonel Blimp this year as I found the dvd at bargain price at a supermarket of all places.
    Will look into The Great Garrick (which I’m unfamiliar with) . Thanks for the recommendation.

    I’ll keep an eye out for your thoughts on Wages of Fear /Sorcerer. Which ever you watch. Or maybe both 🙂

    Happy 2019 to you too!

    Like

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