15-21 June 2009

July 7 2009 at 5:16 pm (The list)

once_upon_a_time_in_americaOnce Upon a Time in America (1984)

Despite being famous for making Spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Leone’s masterpiece was this ultimate gangster flick – the last film he made before he died. The sprawling story of hoods Noodles and Max (powerfully played as adults by Robert De Niro and James Woods), from boyhood friendship to elderly rivalry, is as poignant as it is exciting. At almost four hours it’s a long watch – Warner Bros removed 90 minutes which was universally considered to be a massive mistake – but such is the quality of Leone’s skill in pacing that it’s never boring, and is full of great scenes from the funny (switching police chief Aiello’s newborn baby with a decoy) to the romantic (Noodles’ lifelong obsession with Deborah) to the frankly uncomfortably shocking (the rape scene is equally gasp-inducing and tear-jerking).

Rating: 5/5

Shame list total: 1,210

valkyrie-poster-cruiseValkyrie (2008)

The story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s audacious attempt on Hitler’s life is such a fascinating piece of 20th century history that it’s amazing that it hadn’t been tackled on screen before. Sadly, despite its great cast of British character actors (including Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy and the ever-brilliant Tom Wilkinson) and the star wattage of Tom Cruise, it’s more history textbook than tense re-enactment. Director Bryan Singer only occasionally manages to make the talky script more gripping than interesting, and so by the time the plot reaches boiling point, you’ll hardly care about the fate of the these brave men. Tom Cruise practices his quietly-spoken-defiance-through-gritted-teeth act as the leader of the rebellion, but the rest of the cast fill the shiny boots well. Despite its flaws, Valkyrie is at least an important film – as Eddie Izzard, who appears as General Erich Fellgiebel has remarked, it is the only film about World War II that British kids and German kids can watch together and root for the same people.

Rating: 3/5

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