The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford moves at a very slow pace (and I mean *very* slow), but it’s infinitely rewarding for those with the patience to see it through. This could very well be the most beautifully shot film I have come across in this year’s project. From Roger Deakins’ stunning cinematography to Nick Cave’s equally enchanting score, this is a monumental audio/visual experience. The cast is terrific as well, led by Brad Pitt as the outlaw Jesse James, and Casey Affleck as the weaselly Robert Ford (not to mention memorable supporting roles from Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner and Sam Rockwell, among others). This is a film that has grown on me the more I reflect upon it, and I can see why it has a loyal following to this day. 8/10
The Godfather: Part III 
It might have been unfair to watch The Godfather: Part III almost immediately after rewatching the first two films — because, honestly, what could compare to those two? — but it’s still obvious that the third entry has some pretty significant issues. While it was great to revisit Michael Corleone once again, it wasn’t so nice to see his two kids (played by Franc D’Ambrosio and Sofia Coppola), both now fully grown. Coppola has earned a poor reputation over the years for her role in this film, and she really is a huge detriment to every scene she appears in. I love Sofia’s work as a director, but she was way out of her element here. While some find the final scene of the film (which she is an integral part of) to be emotionally powerful, I had a hard time taking it seriously. I was also bothered by the lack of Robert Duvall, who was one of the highlights in the first two films. Having George Hamilton essentially take his place was a bit of a slap in the face. Having said that, the film does have some brilliant moments (such as the surprising helicopter attack), and the new characters played by Andy Garcia and Eli Wallach are great additions to the series, so not all is lost. It’s just that it could have been so much more. 6/10
Miller’s Crossing 
Miller’s Crossing is one of a few films from the Coen brothers that tends to get overlooked when discussing their vast filmography, and that’s a damn shame. This is a gangster film that relies heavily on two of my favorite cinematic interests: film noir and dark humor. The script is razor sharp with wisecracking dialogue (subtitles are a must if you want to keep up with it), and the film as a whole just oozes style. There is a stellar cast to back it up, led by Gabriel Byrne, Jon Polito, Marcia Gay Harden, and a scene-stealing John Turturro. The story, which is essentially a power struggle between two rival gangs, is complex with layers upon layers, and it’s a little difficult to keep up with. Having said that, this seems like the type of film that will only get better with each viewing. That’s exciting, considering how much I enjoyed my first one. 8/10
Pretty Woman 
You know, this wasn’t half bad. Pretty Woman is a fairly formulaic romantic comedy, but it makes for an entertaining, breezy watch. It’s hard to buy Julia Roberts as a hooker, but she makes it work with a fun performance. Richard Gere is an appropriate counterpart, effortlessly playing a condescending asshole (who, of course, falls in love eventually). It all makes for an absurd fairy tale, but it’s fine for what it is. 6/10
Thelma & Louise 
I’m always a sucker for a good road trip movie, and Thelma & Louise did a great job scratching that itch for me. I was surprised at how dark the film got in its first act, particularly the crime that forced the two women to go on the run. Once they hit the road after this, however, the film does become a bit of fun, and the friendship between the characters of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis is genuine. The supporting cast is great as well, with a young Brad Pitt and an absurd Michael McDonald standing out the most. I dug the film’s feminist point of view, and, of course, the ending is unforgettable. Another fine film from Ridley Scott. 8/10
There’s a reason why I saved this for the very last. I had been dreading having to endure that awful Aerosmith song one more time, and of course, watching Michael Bay films are always dicey propositions. Imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying the first act! The introductions to Bruce Willis and his zany group of employees (including Ben Affleck, Michael Clarke Duncan and Steve Buscemi) were very entertaining, and I felt like I was starting to get the appeal of the film. Unfortunately, it all derailed once the group actually went off into space. That’s when the film basically became a series of disasters happening over and over again — extending the film’s running time well past what it actually should have been. And naturally, it gets the predictable Hollywood ending with the trendy pop song playing over the credits. I probably could have avoided watching this, even considering its influence. 5/10
And that’s that! Stay tuned this week for my rankings of all 50 movies from the project.