Movies, movies, movies!

Nurse Bob's film reviews

My DVD Shelf

rarely buy DVDs anymore as there are so many films I have yet to see.  But, for one reason or another, these movies/series appealed to me in such a way that I wanted them in my permanent collection. So now you know what Nurse Bob has sitting on the least the titles fit to print [wink!] TV shows, animated shorts, videos etc. are highlighted in blue.

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2001: A Space Odyssey (UK 1968): Kubrick blurs the line between technology and theology in this greatest of all sci-fi epics covering a million years of evolution and culminating in man’s “ultimate trip”. The plot may be somewhat facile but the film’s true genius lies in its presentation. The use of light and colour is incredible as is the futuristic hardware. A bold visionary departure from a genre of film which at that time was all but monopolized by mutant insects and big-breasted moon maidens. My sentimental favourite.

A Clockwork Orange (USA/UK 1971): It’s thugs, drugs and ultra-violence in Kubrick’s scathing sociopolitical satire set in a decaying near future England. Brilliantly done and the synthesized classical soundtrack is amazing.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (USA 1965): An animated holiday classic (I remember when it premiered). Of course I’m a big Peanuts fan to begin with.

After Life (Japan 1998): The souls of the newly departed gather in a rustic country boarding school on their way to the afterlife. Here they are given a deceptively simple task; choose the one moment in your life where you experienced true happiness. Koreeda’s mostly amateur cast deliver heartwarming performances in this gentle film that is both an affirmation of lives worth living and a love letter to the magic of cinema.

Airplane (USA 1980): Filled with stupid sight gags, dumb one-liners, and B-list celebrity cameos this juvenile parody of the “Airport” films is a riot from start to finish!

Alien (UK/USA 1979): One of the best sci-fi horror films ever made. I have the first four on DVD but the original is still the best.

Angels in America (USA 2003): HBO brings Tony Kushner’s epic play about life, love and politics in the time of AIDS to the small screen without sacrificing any of its impact. Excellent performances all around...Meryl Streep and Al Pacino are phenomenal.

Apocalypse Now (USA 1979): Coppola’s hallucinatory descent into madness is one of the defining films of the Viet Nam era. Brutal and uncompromising.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force (USA, Animated series): A milkshake, a side of fries, and a raw hamburger patty live together in a ramshackle house and....ummm.....I’m not sure what they do exactly. Very funny just the same!

Beavis and Butthead (USA, Animated series): Hilarious cartoon series about two perfect losers. Their send-ups of music videos are legendary.

Beavis and Butthead do America (USA 1996): The series was one of the best examples of subversive animation on television, and this feature-length film stays true to the original formula. Following these two grunting losers as they cross American in search of their missing television set had me doubled over laughing more than once. Funny funny shit.

Best of Bowie (music video anthology): I love Bowie and I love his music videos.

Blade Runner (USA 1982): The story of four renegade replicants (lab-produced humanoids) who return to Earth to confront their maker and the cop hired to track them down. One of the greatest sci-fi films ever made with its noirish vision of a dystopian Los Angeles and the lost souls who inhabit it.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan 2000): Beautiful tale of eternal love and devotion in a mythical China that never existed. The music is wonderful, the story engrossing, and the action sequences legendary.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (USA 1951): Another sci-fi classic about a well-meaning alien who comes to Earth in order to warn us of our impending destruction unless we can turn away from our warlike ways. Really fed into the cold war paranoia of the time.

Dreams (Japan 1990): This collection of short films, which Kurosawa claims are based on actual dreams he had, defies description. From the fanciful to the horrendous each episode is a gem unto itself. Think of it as a stroll through a cinematic art gallery.

The Elegant Universe (USA, documentary): An examination of cosmic “string theory” that is as well presented as it is fascinating.

The Exorcist (USA 1973): William Friedkin’s chilling tale of demonic possession in contemporary Georgetown has the look and feel of a waking nightmare. Great camerawork and an eerily evocative soundtrack. Copied by many, equaled by none.

Family Guy (USA, Animated series): Rude, crude and completely lacking any redeeming factors. One of the more brilliant animated comedies on TV. Kicks Southpark right out the door.

Forbidden Planet (USA 1956): Based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and featuring one of the most recognized robots in filmdom, this early sci-fi effort is a retro classic.

Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law (USA, Animated series): More animated silliness from Comedy Central. All those old familiar Hanna/Barbara cartoon characters come back in slightly different roles....they’re all in need of a good attorney. Seeing the gang from Scooby Doo up on drug charges was priceless.

The Hours (USA 2002): Jumping back and forth across 80 years and 2 continents this beautifully realized triptych follows the lives of three women as they come to terms with madness, loneliness and death. Based loosely on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway and featuring magnificent performances from the three leads, including Nicole Kidman as the author herself. Haunting.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (USA 1966): Another animated holiday classic. Jim Carrey should be shot for what he did.

Jaws (USA 1975): Another sentimental favourite. I saw this shark tale a whopping 12 times when it first came out...a personal record second only to 2001 (30+ times).

Jesus Christ Superstar (USA 1973): The big screen religious rock opera that had every good Catholic boy snapping his fingers and humming. Quite striking in its day, especially the use of on-site Israeli locations. The music is wonderful.

Koyaanisqatsi (USA 1982): Godfrey Reggio presents us with a non-stop collage of images set to a minimalist Phillip Glass score in this highly stylized meditation on the effects of runaway technology on all aspects of human society. Natural formations give way to man-made constructs, cityscapes begin to resemble computer chip diagrams and humans huddle around the glass and steel hives they've created. Painstakingly done and exhilarating to watch.

Legend (USA 1985): Ridley Scott creates an amazingly gothic fairy tale world in this story of light versus darkness. Unicorns and fairies, dwarves and demons all come to life with an eclectic musical score by Tangerine Dream.

Lilies (Canada 1996): An elderly bishop is held prisoner in a maximum security penitentiary and forced to watch as the inmates perform a most unusual play for his benefit. Its mixture of harsh reality and the fantastic make this a very moving theatrical experience.

The Lion in Winter (UK 1968): O’Toole and Hepburn burn up the screen in this historical chamber piece chronicling the tempestuous relationships between Henry II, his wife Eleanor, and their three power-hungry sons in medieval England. Forget historical accuracy, this is a high-brow soap opera with a fiendishly clever script and played with great zeal.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (UK 2005): Even though the book is far superior I still found this film entertaining enough, though dummied down a bit in order to appeal to a wider audience. What can I say, it was on sale.
he Lord of the Rings Trilogy (USA/NZ 2001-03): Peter Jackson brings Middle Earth to life in all its mythic glory. Each installment is an instant classic.

Maborosi (Japan 1995): When her husband commits suicide for no apparent reason a young woman is left feeling bewildered and guilty. It’s not until a local matchmaker pairs her up with a kindly widower living in a faraway village that she is able to heal her emotional scars. A softly nuanced meditative film that is a pure joy to watch. One of my all-time favourites.

Magnolia (USA 1999): Wonderful ensemble piece set in southern California centering on a loosely related group of people searching for some degree of solace...from the dying man and his estranged son to the embittered former child star. Gimmicky at times but played out with a sincere heart. Great use of cinematic hyperbole...bring your umbrella!

The Man who Fell to Earth (UK 1976): Bowie was made for the part of Thomas Newton, a painfully naive Martian who comes to Earth in search of water for his dying planet and instead falls prey to addiction and exploitation. Artsy, enigmatic, and surreal.

The Martian Chronicles (USA 1980): The special effects are hopelessly primitive but this TV adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic stories about the colonization of Mars is so well written I’m willing to forgive.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (UK 1975): Not so much a movie as a series of sketches loosely strung together. Some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever absolute comedy classic. Ni!

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (UK television): Television will never see their likes again.

Monty Python’s Meaning of Life (UK 1983): More sketches, more mayhem, and a funny visit from Death himself. Pure joy!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (USA TV): A man and his two robot companions orbit the earth in a ramshackle space station where they spend their days ripping apart really bad movies with snide comments and well-placed jeers. You can even see their silhouettes between you and the film, as if you were sitting a few rows behind them. Absolutely brilliant....I have the entire series on DVD.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (USA 1996): The MST3K gang take on This Island Earth in their only full-feature theatrical release...and there are no survivors. Funny as all hell!

The Piano (Australia/NZ 1993): Jane Campion’s masterpiece about a mute Scottish woman married off to a wealthy settler in 1850s New Zealand. Gorgeously filmed and intensely moving.

Pink Flamingos (USA 1972): John Waters’ famous no-budget freak show featuring a 300 lb. transvestite (Divine, living up to her name) vying for the title of “Filthiest Person Alive” against a badly coiffed couple who impregnate hapless hitchhikers in order to sell the babies to lesbian couples. Tastelessness made flesh.

Poltergeist (USA 1982): Like an unholy hybrid of Walt Disney and H. P. Lovecraft, this silly little take on a haunted house theme is still fun to watch and manages to give you a few jolts along the way.

The Poseidon Adventure (USA 1972): The grandaddy of disaster films! This story of a motley group of survivors trying to find their way out of an overturned luxury cruise ship is very well done with its elaborate sets and crisp direction. Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine are pretty hunky too.

Powaqqatsi (USA 1988): Godfrey Reggio’s follow-up to the vastly superior Koyaanisqatsi. Again we are presented with a barrage of images meant to trace the effects of technology on developing nations. Some of the pictures are lovely and the music appropriately grandiose but I can’t help feeling a disappointing sense of deja vu.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (UK 1975): Let’s do the Time Warp agaaaain...!

Romeo and Juliet (UK 1968): Zeffirelli’s production of the tragic love story is the best Shakespearean film adaptation I’ve ever seen. Lush and romantic, with a gorgeous soundtrack that can still bring a tear to my eye.

Rosemary’s Baby (USA 1968): Wonderful example of contemporary horror set in 60s New York. When Rosemary begins to suspect her unborn child is being threatened by a coven of modern witches she goes to drastic lengths to protect it. With its chic fashions and dreamlike cinematography this is one of Polanski’s best films.

Sealab 2021 (USA, Animated series): Based on an old 70s cartoon series but totally ripped apart for a new generation. A group of oddballs inhabit an undersea complex and do weird things. That’s all I can say.

Southpark: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (USA 1999): Due to its pretentious libertarian sermonizing I lost my taste for the series long ago. But this wonderfully offensive feature-length cartoon still rocks.

Spirited Away (Japan 2001): Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece about a sullen young girl who suddenly finds herself in a supernatural Club Med filled with spirits and monsters and saddled with the responsibility of rescuing her parents who have been turned into pigs. Novel approach to the rites of adolescence.

Star Trek: The Original Series (USA 1960’s) and the first six Star Trek movies (USA various): A bit of television history and a sentimental indulgence. So I’m a geek, get over it.

Star Wars Trilogy (USA 1977-83): George Lucas has crafted the greatest space opera of all time. I remember when these first came out and the intervening years have not dimmed the wonder one bit.

The Ten Commandments (USA 1956): Perfect blend of high camp and religious pageantry featuring Charlton “Cold Dead Hands” Heston in his most famous role. Great fun!

The Thing (USA 1982): John Carpenter stays faithful to the original story of a group of Antarctic scientists battling a malevolent alien that has the ability to mimic any life form it comes in contact with. Scary stuff with loads of gross special effects.

THX 1138 (USA 1971): A fine early effort from George Lucas about a nameless drone in a future totalitarian America who rebels against the rigid society that oppresses him. Great editing and use of minimalist sets.

Titan A.E. (USA 2000): Great bit of old fashioned animation about a young boy who holds the future of mankind in his hand...literally.

Walking with Dinosaurs/Chased by Dinosaurs/Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (BBC Various): Using fantastic CGI effects this series takes you on a safari through various eras in Earth’s history....from the seas of the Cretaceous period to the last ice age. Absolutely mesmerizing, like watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom or The Crocodile Hunter only with dinosaurs and wooly mammoths.

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (UK 1973): I am a diehard Bowie fan and this documentary of his final concert with the Spiders is pure heaven. The glam costumes rock and the music is timeless.