The clip below is from Nicholas Nickleby, the 2002 film adaptation of Charles Dickens' 1838 novel The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby. It stars a much less hairy Charlie Hunnam as the titular Nicholas, Christopher Plummer as his villainous uncle, and a veritable who's who of well-known British actors in the supporting roles. Particularly outstanding is the always great Juliet Stevenson as the creepy and sadistic Mrs. Squeers. In the scene below, Nathan Lane is Vincent Crummles, the flamboyant founder of the Crummles' theater troupe who employs Nicholas and Smike soon after they make their escape from the ghastly Dotheboys Hall.
The movie clip below is from the 1938 film Angels With Dirty Faces. James Cagney stars as Rocky Sullivan, a hardened criminal who has returned to his old neighbourhood after spending three years in prison for armed robbery. He's there to track down his former accomplice (played by Humphrey Bogart) who owes him $100,000. In this scene, Sullivan makes the acquaintance of the local gang of teenage petty thieves. They admire his hardcore reputation and he decides that this admiration can be harnessed for his own purposes, recruiting the boys for use in his renewed criminal activities. Sullivan's actions put him in direct conflict with his childhood friend Jerry Connolly, now the parish priest. Years before when they were kids, the two were caught in the act of robbing a railway car. The two boys ran; Connolly got away but Sullivan was nabbed by the police and sent to reform school. He went on to a life of crime while Connolly reformed himself and became a priest, determined to save other kids in the neighbourhood from becoming what Rocky is now. Despite their former friendship, he is determined to bring Sullivan down.
The following movie clip is from the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World which is adapted from the Jack Aubrey series of novels written by Patrick O'Brian. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it stars Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey, Captain of the HMS Surprise and details his attempts to track down and stop the French privateer ship Acheron. The Acheron is wreaking havoc plundering British ships and seems unstoppable, being heavily gunned and possessing a revolutionary reinforced hull which is nearly impervious to cannon fire. It ambushes the Surprise early in the film, causing massive damage to Aubrey's ship from which it barely escapes. Aubrey refuses to abandon the hunt, effecting repairs at sea and then giving pursuit. The French captain is, however, just as clever and experienced as "Lucky Jack" and the chase becomes a game of cat and mouse, the lines between the hunter and the hunted becoming blurred. Master and Commander is not just an excellent action movie, it also is an examination of character, courage, and honour and how these things are tested in times of war. In the scene below, Aubrey and his best friend and confidante, ship's Doctor Stephen Maturin, are in conflict over a punishment ordered by Jack on one of his men who was insubordinate to a superior officer. Maturin objects to the harshness of the sentence- flogging- for a relatively minor offence while Aubrey maintains that there is a need for strict discipline on board a naval vessel, especially in times of war.
The following clip is from a rather unlikely Christmas film: 3 Godfathers, the 1948 John Ford movie starring John Wayne, Harry Carey Jr., and Pedro Armendariz. In it, the three star as rustlers/robbers who, while on the run, come across a woman in an abandoned wagon who is about to give birth. They help her, but she dies soon after having a little boy whom she names after the three men. Her final request is that they will promise to care for the child, and the criminals give her their word. It's close to Christmas, and Harry Carey's character- William- who, despite his way of life, has a certain belief in God's will, compares their situation to the three wise men finding the baby Jesus. He convinces the other two that they need to make a dangerous trek across the desert to the town of New Jerusalem.
This is a dark scene from the 1951 version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol which stars Alistair Sim as cold-hearted miser Ebenezer Scrooge. In it, the Spirit of Christmas Present shows Scrooge two neglected waifs who represent "ignorance" and "want". A shaken Scrooge asks if there is no refuge for them and the Spirit replies by throwing the miser's own callous words about the poor back at him: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"
The following scenes are from the 2003 film Luther, in honour of Reformation Day. The first is of Martin Luthor nailing his 95 theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, effectively setting the Protestant cat amongst the Catholic pigeons and starting the Reformation:
The second is from the Diet of Worms, an imperial assembly of the Holy Roman Empire in 1521 before which Martin Luther was called to answer for his "heretical" teachings, so-called:
The scene below is from the Marx Brothers 1935 film A Night At The Opera, which has a plot too convoluted to explain in a few sentences but is really funny. This is partly because it was co-written by one of my favorites, George S. Kaufman, and partly because the Marx brothers are always amusing. In this scene they infiltrate the New York Opera and chaos ensues, only a bit of which is shown in this clip. Otis Driftwood (Groucho), called upon to open the opera with a few impromptu remarks, lets loose: "Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the street, drinking in the saloon, and necking in the parlor."
The clip below is from Baz Luhrmann's 1992 movie Strictly Ballroom. It is the first of his Red Curtain Trilogy which also includes Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge (2001). It was Luhrmann's first movie and was filmed in Australia using mostly unknown actors, and is actually my favourite of his films (I never made it all the way through his Great Gatsby). Some scenes- mostly the flashbacks- are done in a style which viewers will recognize as later being employed in Moulin Rouge. Strictly Ballroom takes place in the wacky world of competitive ballroom dancing, something Luhrmann knows a lot about since he used to compete in his youth. It is essentially a Cinderella-like story about Fran, a shy and awkward girl in the beginner class at a local dance studio who has a crush on Scott, the son of the studio owners. Scott is a gifted dancer but is tired of the restrictive rules of ballroom dancing, wanting to develop new routines and steps. When he uses some of his innovative steps in a competition, the crowd loves it but the judges are not amused and penalize him. Enraged at losing the competition due to his recklessness, his dance partner Liz quits which leaves Scott partner-less only a couple months before the Pan-Pacific Championship. His mother starts frantically auditioning partners for him, determined that he compete and win. Of course, no one thinks of Fran in relation to the Pan-Pacific until she summons the courage to tell Scott that she likes his new steps and asks him to teach them to her. He does so, mainly because he's furious with his parents and everyone else. To his surprise, Fran rises to the challenge and, through her family, he is introduced to a style of dance which has nothing in common with ballroom competition. Scott decides to compete in the Pan-Pacific with Fran and the dance they've developed just as his mother announces that she's found him the perfect new partner. After much drama, Scott and Fran make it to the dance floor only to have the scandalized heads of the dance federation literally pull the plug on them.
Strictly Ballroom is a whole lot of fun from beginning to end, with its eccentric characters, tacky dance outfits, tongue-in-cheek humour and over-the-top divas. Scott and Fran are a nice young couple whom it is easy to root for against the hidebound and often corrupt dance federation leaders. The supporting cast is delightful as well, providing much of the fun and silly humour to be found in the movie. All in all, Strictly Ballroom is a frothy and feel-good film, and a delightful way to spend an hour and a half.
The film clip below is from the 1940 movie Rebecca, which is a gothic tale of mystery, obsession, and possible murder. Joan Fontaine plays an inexperienced young woman who marries wealthy, brooding widower Maximilian de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Arriving at his huge estate called Manderley, she makes the acquaintance of the creepy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers who is obsessed with Maxim's late wife Rebecca. She keeps Rebecca's rooms like a museum- or shrine- and creepily caresses Rebecca's clothes, fantasizing about the past. All I can say is, if it was me, those clothes would all be in boxes on their way to the Salvation Army and that crazy chick would be out on her ear.
Galaxy Quest is the 1999 comedy which is a parody of science fiction TV shows (Star Trek). It stars Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Tony Shaloub, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell as the cast members of a long-cancelled space show entitled Galaxy Quest. It has become a cult classic and the actors find themselves typecast and, unable to get roles outside the genre, mostly getting by on what they make from public appearances and fan conventions. As it turns out the Thermians- an alien race- have been watching reruns of the show from afar and, having no concept of fiction, believe Galaxy Quest to be news reports. The Thermians are currently being hunted and eiminated by a group led by Sarris, a ruthless alien warlord; they decide to travel to earth and, using holographic projection to disguise themselves as human, convince the heroes of Galaxy Quest to save them from their enemy. The problem is, of course, that the Galaxy Quest crew are actually a bunch of washed-up, embittered actors who merely played heroes on TV. Galaxy Quest is a really fun- and funny- send up of science fiction and its fans and has been embraced as such by them. This is because, while it pokes fun at the genre and those who obsess over it, the film is never mean spirited about it. Galaxy Quest comes off not as malicious mockery, but as good natured ribbing, laughing with the fans, not at them.