10 directors who have shaped my movie viewing tastes


Inspired by a recent post over at abbiobiston.com, I thought I’d sit down and list ten movie directors I either seek out without hesitation, or have made some of the most affecting and inspiring movies I’ve ever seen, shaping what kind of movie viewer I am today and creating experiences that have transcended basic entertainment to actually mean something to me as a person.

Quentin Tarantino

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As a reviewer, occasional-writer and movie fan, Quentin Tarantino ignited a spark inside me that has yet to go out.  When first seeing Pulp Fiction, I knew this was the sort of material I wanted to write about, and this continued with his script for Natural Born Killers and also his debut, Reservoir Dogs.  He was a rebel, he challenged people’s ideas of what violence was all about on screen, not there for just shock value but to make you feel something.  He managed to back this up with amazing dialogue writing skills and a keen eye for pop-culture and cinema history that has continued to this day.

David Cronenberg

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Horror for me was never just about hiding behind my cushion and trembling – horror for me was about the strange and surreal, the gruesome but in a way that made you ponder what it meant.  Croneberg has always been a master of this, of using body-horror to make you feel something you’ve never felt before, backed up by intelligent direction that more often than not has a lot of social commentary of the times we live in i.e. sexually transmitted infections with Shivers.  He has continued to shape his often controversial style into the modem gangster and crime genres to brilliant effect in movies like Eastern Promises.

Stephen Spielberg

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Probably the most famous director of all time who seems to barely put a foot wrong and can turn his hand to a wealth of different genres and subjects, from the industry defining Jaws and Jurassic Park to powerful masterpieces like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.  Assured, confident and always entertaining and thought-provoking, this maverick director continues to be a name to bet on even after almost 40 years in the business.  As long as we don’t mention the most recent Indiana Jones movie, Spielberg remains one of those names every movie fan will know and surely appreciate to some degree.

John Carpenter

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Fallen from grace he may be, but during the seventies and eighties, this guy made some of the coolest and most sort after movies I’d ever seen.  Who can argue the merits of Halloween, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China?  Although I can’t say I totally appreciate Escape From New York as much as others, I have a soft spot for lesser known efforts like Prince Of Darkness and In The Mouth Of Madness.  This guy knew how to create perfectly entertaining genre movies and although he hasn’t made much of note for years, that’s a hell of a back catalogue of classics.

David Fincher

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Although I think he’s become a bit relaxed in recent years, churning out fairly ‘safe’ movies, for the most part Fincher has still created some of the most stylish and intricately directed movies I’ve seen, namely the multi layered classics Fight Club, Seven and even Zodiac.  His directing style is crisp and beautiful even when it’s dealing with very dark subject matter, and his camera work and imagery have stayed with me long after the credits have rolled.  He’s a technical directing fan’s dream director, as for me I can appreciate every aspect of the setting, the camera work to the music and lighting.  Helps he can also pull out great performances from the likes of Brad Pitt and Jake Gyllenhaal to name but a few.

Stanley Kubrick

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With a fairly small catalogue of movies, this director like no other has made some of the masterpieces of my lifetime.  The Shining is still the best horror movie I’ve ever seen and probably the most perfectly directed, on a technical level movie I’ve seen also.  His strong visual skill at making every shot and every camera movement look so well executed has made movies even of lesser impact like Eyes Wide Shut a work of art.  He proved again and again that careful eye for detail, iconic performances can turn even a well worn subject like the Vietnam war into amazing cinema.  I haven’t seen everything he’s done, but of the movies I have, he keeps on amazing me, and is possibly the best director on this list.

Dario Argento

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Perhaps at his best during the seventies and eighties, but this often controversial director has gained a strong cult following over the years and remains one of the most stylish and genre-defining film-makers around.  At his best he can make gruesome murder look beautiful, and his frequent collaborations with the band Goblin and musician Claudio Simonetti has helped create a brand of effective Italian cinema that still stands the test of time.  Try watching Suspiria or Tenebrae without marvelling at the camera work, atmosphere or use of lighting and music.  Argento will always be the maestro when it comes to horror, even if his light has considerably faded over the years.

Martin Scorsese

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The Don.  How does this guy keep doing it?  To this day Scorsese still manages to amaze and impress.  He has crafted true classics such as Taxi Driver and Goodfellas and still manages to churn out quality movies like Shutter Island and The Wolf Of Wall Street.  It’s always exciting when I hear he’s making another movie and even diversions like Hugo retain that Scorsese eye for style and cinematic creativity I’ve grown to love about him.  He has a tendency to work with the same actors but also manages to bring out wildly different performances from them, that give each movie their own voice.  One of the best film makers of all time in my opinion.

Joel & Ethan Coen

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In recent years their brand of southern comedy and thrillers has felt a tad hit and miss, but when these sibling directors are on form, they can make some of the best movies you’ll ever see.  Comedies like The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona offer up laughs as well as style and assured direction along with iconic performances, and thrillers like Fargo and No Country For Old Men prove they can deliver tight, well executed stories that pack a punch.  They continue to be favourites at Oscar season and amongst a huge cult audience, and with a strong visual style and often award winning performances, their movies are hard to dismiss.

Park chan-Wook

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Another director who can explore very dark themes but make them beautiful with imaginative camera work, scene setting and particularly artistic shots.  His American debut Stoker is a perfect example of strong story, strong performances and beautiful, almost poetic direction.  His vengeance trilogy that incudes the cult classic Old Boy is powerful, gut-wrenching but extremely moving and artistic, blending classical music with striking story-telling and stunning cinematography.  Park chan-Wook’s the real deal if you can appreciate quality direction with a signature touch.

Terminator Genisys


Viewed – 02 July 2015  Cinema

I went into this with fairly low expectations.  Even though a Terminator film had never completely let me down, with the weakest entry being Terminator 3, much of the early word on this wasn’t good.  Add to this a trailer that seemed to show way too much … and I’ll admit I was nervous.

Terminator Genisys

Luckily then the final movie is anything but a let down.  Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), the hero of the original movie is shown being sent back in time to 1984 to protect a young Sarah Connor, a supposedly naive waitress who is about to be hunted by an unstoppable killing machine.  But twist alert!  When Kyle arrives in the past, Sarah is already prepped for his arrival, and has her own personal Terminator bodyguard.  You see, a new timeline has replaced what went before, and now the battle to destroy Skynet once and for all begins anew as our heroes embark on a time travelling quest that takes them to an alternate 2017 where Skynet is known as Genisys, a Windows-like operating system on the brink of going on-line.

T GenisysI appreciated this new spin on the Terminator lore, and it worked brilliantly with respectful nods to the previous movies, whilst adding plenty of it’s own ideas.  I loved getting to finally see the time machine used by Skynet to send the T-800 back, and nostalgia and some fan-service does this movie a real justice.  The cast including Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke, Die Hard 5’s Jai Courtney and Dawn of the Planet Of The Apes’ Jason Clarke all do a stellar job, and as a return to the franchise, ol’ Arnie is simply excellent – charismatic, funny and his aging status is well handled by the plot.  The action may not be quite as well done as Terminator 2 (it gets a bit mad) and the effects work, whilst decent hasn’t got that ground-breaking edge – but regardless this movie was exciting, imaginative and a lot of fun..  Emilia Clarke is perfectly cast as Sarah Connor, bestowing the character with just the right balance of vulnerability and ballsy attitude.  I also welcomed a small appearance by J.K. Simmons.  The new twists on the time lines also breathed life into a starting-to-get-tired concept, and overall for me … this was the best movie in the franchise since T2.

He said he’d be back, and oh boy is he back!

Verdict:  4 /5

Mad Max: Fury Road


Viewed – 04 June 2015  Cinema

I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the Mad Max series, other than a few memories of catching glimpses of the movies growing up (I’ll always remember the sight of a razor sharp boomerang being flung and slicing off someone’s fingers) and well, that Tina Turner song.  However I went into this fairly blind but knew I was getting a fairly high-octane post-apocalyptic action movie.  By high-octane however I wasn’t quite prepared for just how bat-shit crazy this film actually turned out to be.

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Everyone’s favourite chiselled hard man Brit actor Tom Hardy plays the wondering hero Max, who as we meet him gets captured by a vicious gang and taken to a settlement where a psychotic overlord keeps the peasants in line by restricting the water flow and well, doing unimaginable things to the women (a milking farm?).  That is until one of his best soldiers, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa steels a convoy vehicle and heads off into the wasteland, with some of the evil overlord’s finest women hidden inside.  Thus sets up the biggest chase in movie history as this guy send all hell after his women of which one is pregnant with his child.

MadMax-FuryRoad-ImmortanJoeThis is a wild and unrestrained viewing experience … from the get-go it’s full on, in your face, chaotic and pretty damn overwhelming.  I had a bit of a tough time holding on for the ride as we get speeded up editing that made me dizzy and more screams and nut jobs and cars exploding than I think I’ve ever seen before.  The sight of one vehicle with several nutty henchmen beating big base drums on the back, whilst on the front some metal god strums an electric guitar – and I knew I’d been transported to a world truly in the eye of a mad genius.  Director George Miller, who also made all the previous Mad Max films, is on blistering form and this is an intense explosion of energy and visual spectacle that rarely lets up.  Theron is very good as Furiosa with her cool look, complete with robotic arm and skull-cracking attitude – the whole movie centres around her plight and you do care for her and her entourage of pretty young things.  Of course we can’t conclude without talking about Tom Hardy’s Max, which he plays as the grizzled loner troubled by visions of his dead daughter, yet bar a bit of narration and a few words here and there, grunts his way though the whole movie – which makes him a bit sidelined, surprisingly.

The movie’s unrelenting pace and intensity did get a bit much, and the story failed to bring anything to the concept that we haven’t seen many times before.  So see this if you want to be shaken in your seat from a roller-coaster of excitement.  See it for some stunning visual spectacle.  Maybe not so much for everything else.  Welcome to the apocalypse.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Scenes that make the movie


I’ve been thinking about this idea for a post.  Ten memorable scenes from some of my favourite movies of all time, or simply great moments that make a particular movie going experience stick in my head.  This may become a continuing series as I recall other great moments…but for now, here are ten stand out moments from great movies:  Minor spoilers.

Akira

Teddy bears & hallucinations.

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As a telepathic Kaneda post-brush with an infected child of the Akira experiment, recovers in hospital, he begins to experience terrifying hallucinations where teddy bears and toys comes to life as his powers start to manifest in horrifying ways.  One of the defining moments of this complex and ground-breaking Anime.

An America Werewolf In London

Stick to the road

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Two back packers after stumbling into local watering hole The Slaughtered Lamb are ushered back out into the night, with simply the warning of ‘stay on the road, keep clear of the moores’ – which they subsequently ignore and are soon stalked by a blood thirsty werewolf in John Landis’ still superb 1984 horror classic.

Blue Velvet

In Dreams

Blue Dean

Amateur detective Kyle MacLachlan gets a little too close to nut-job mobster Dennis Hopper who takes him for a visit to his cross-dressing neighbourhood friend Dean Stockwell, who lip-syncs to Roy Orbinson’s timeless classic in possibly one of David Lynch’s most freaky and brilliant scenes.

Boogie Nights

Disco montage

Boogie Nights

As former nobody Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) rises to infamy in the seventies porn movie industry, we are treated to this fabulous disco montage, cut seamlessly with various shots of Dirk ‘in action’ or receiving awards and culminating in a wonderfully choreographed dance number with fellow stars Reed Rothchild (John C Reilly) and Roller-girl (Heather Graham).

Eyes Wide Shut

The secret sex party

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Only in a Stanley Kubrick movie can a high society sex orgy come across as creepy and surreal.  The master film maker in probably his most misunderstood work, presents the viewer with a secret society that Tom Cruise manages to sneak inside of and witness the debauchery of most-likely high profile dignitaries with various high class call girls.  All to a haunting, incredibly eerie score.

Goodfellas

Paranoia, drugs and guns

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In the final act of the movie an increasingly paranoid Ray Liotta, struggles to juggle family responsibilities with fencing guns for Robert DeNiro and avoiding what he thinks is an FBI helicopter during the day from hell.  Expertly edited for maximum tension and intensity by the grand master Martin Scorsese.

Monsters Inc.

A chase through the doors

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After discovering the main villain’s evil scheme, Billy Crystal’s motor-mouthed Mike and John Goodman’s lovable Sully are chased by Steve Buscemi’s dastardly Randall into the inner workings of the Monsters Inc. facility and through a plethora of doors into the human world.  Exciting, inventive and visually stunning.

Pulp Fiction

Jack Rabbit Slims

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In a mob movie with pop-culture quoting wise guys and a soundtrack to die for, who’d have thought one of the best scenes would be a night out between John Travolta’s mob hitman and gangsters-mol Uma Thurman?  Culminating in the world famous Twist Contest.  Sharp dialogue, a highly memorable setting, and an after-math that segway’s into probably the other best scene in this movie.

Saving Private Ryan

Omaha Beach Landing

After visiting the final resting place of hundreds of soldiers, an elderly veteran recalls his experience with tears in his eyes – switch to the shocking beach onslaught in Omaha in 1944 as thousands of troops fight against impossible odds.  A stunning opening to one of the greatest WWII movies ever made, with star (Tom Hanks) and director (Steven Spielberg) on blistering form.

Trainspotting

Clubbing to Blondie.

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Taking a break from ripping people off and doing drugs, Ewan McGregor’s Renton finds himself on a night out with friends, hitting the clubs and listening to Heaven 17 and Blondie (or Sleeper doing a marvellous version of Atomic), where he meets Diane (Kelly MacDonald) and leads to a montage of sex, alcohol and pulse-pounding music in Danny Boyle’s break-out gem.

Do you agree with my list?  Have favourite scenes of your own?  Leave your comments below or link to your own lists…