Welcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast. This one is actually being published within a reasonable amount of time since the recording. Aren’t we spoiling you, eh!
Early this morning, podcast host Steve Norman took over the Failed Critics Twitter account (@FailedCritics) from around 9.30am for a very special tweet-a-thon. For almost 18 hours, Steve will live-tweet all eight Star Wars movies in sequential order, beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace…
This week’s episode of the Failed Critics Podcast features Callum Petch, returning for the first time in 2016, to join both Steve Norman and Owen Hughes for four new-release reviews.
With the latest entry in the Divergent Series franchise, it seemed almost impossible to record a show without Callum’s input on Allegiant – particularly after his last appearance on the pod the week after the previous instalment, Insurgent, came out! Continuing to play to Callum’s strengths this week, there are two new animated movies out. As if it wasn’t already well set up for him with a new Dreamworks Animation out, Kung Fu Panda 3, there’s also a new Disney film (Zootopia / Zootropolis / whichever it is wherever you’re from) which has already set the standard by which to judge all other movies this year – or, at least, that’s what Callum says.
As well as this, Steve and Callum have a chat about 2008’s monster-movie Cloverfield ahead of the upcoming 10 Cloverfield Lane, whilst Owen reminisces about the 90’s and watching cult comedy Beavis & Butt-Head Do America. In the news this week, we also take a look at the Indiana Jones 5 announcement, Han Solo casting news and the furore over Spider-Man’s cameo in the Civil War trailer.
Join us again next week for our 202nd episode. Yep. We’ve recorded 201 of these things so far. It’s as astonishing to us as I’m sure it is to you too.
My love affair with Star Wars began in 1997 when they were re-released in to cinemas for the 20th anniversary of A New Hope hitting the silver screen. I was 10 or 11 and had not seen them on television before – or at least not to my recollection.
Sure, I’d seen other big action films before. I had certainly seen Jaws and Jurassic Park – and I am sure that I had seen Apollo 13 too. All great, but nothing blew me away quite like Star Wars.
When ‘A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away’ hit the screen, followed by the fanfare, opening crawl and shots of spaceships in battle, I was overawed and in love straight away.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m no geek or nerd, and you won’t find me at Comic-Con or bidding on eBay for the mint condition collectable of ‘second alien from the right in the Mos Eisley Cantina’. But if there are two things I’m obsessed with, then it’s football and Star Wars. That’s in spite of the prequels trying to dampen my love for them.
So, when Disney bought the rights from George Lucas and announced a new trilogy plus spinoffs, bidding to build a Star Wars version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, my excitement was tempered by trepidation. Would this be another Gungan filled Phantom Menace, or a return to form?
I’m happy to say it was the latter; a fun film that just felt like Star Wars. There were no trade disputes or convoluted issues in the senate hall. It was fun, it was exciting, it was intriguing, it was emotional, it was laugh out loud funny and it was dark.
Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2D2, C3PO and The Millennium Falcon all return to the franchise along with a number of background and secondary characters, giving call backs to the original trilogy (not much, if anything, from the prequels found its way to this to this corner of the galaxy) making certain that you are in Star Wars territory.
In fact, Han and Chewie are their usual, roguish, all-action selves. You can’t help but love the pair and feel a twinge of joy and nostalgia most of the time that they are on the screen.
However, it’s the new cast members that steal the show. This was John Boyega and Daisy Ridley’s big screen debut – arguably Adam Driver’s as well – and they perform admirably. Certainly adapting to and growing into their roles, as the reluctant heroes Finn and Rey, and the villainous Kylo Ren.
Kylo Ren is dark. Really dark. Darker than the darkside dark; conflicted and irrational. You get this real sense of menace from him. Although Snokes (his ‘boss’) lacked that and one of the downsides was his CGI appearance – not to give too much away, as I’m sure there’s more to come.
The Tarkin, to Ren’s Vader, was played by Domhall Gleeson. A small role performed well – again, hopefully there’s more to come in subsequent films.
It was as though Ridley and Boyega had to come out of this on top. One minor gripe from me: Their thick British and American accents respectively did grate a little bit.
Other than that though, they were both excellent. Especially when you consider it was two relative unknowns taking over the reins in cinema’s biggest franchise. I’ve no doubt big things await the pair.
Finally, Oscar Isaac was great in the limited role he was given as an X-Wing pilot and modern-day Han Solo, Poe Dameron. Charming, funny and adventurous; it will be good to see an expanded role for the Resistance’s best pilot in future films.
The action was as you would expect: Fast paced and fun, with jokes aplenty (more than any of the originals). Whereas the comedy in the prequels fell flat, this hit all of the right notes. And, of course, John Williams scores the film perfectly.
JJ Abrams has proven that he was the right choice for director. He rebooted Star Trek well enough for the big screen – although Into Darkness had its problems – and was trusted with this. He put the right team around him and successfully pulled it off.
I’m sure the film has its faults. Maybe once I calm down I’ll notice them? Still, it was a joy to watch and left me with a smile on my face, but still wanting more.
It’s not the best Star Wars film, but it is better than any of the prequels by some way and I think it is as good as Return of the Jedi, if not better.
The name’s Critics. Failed Critics. Should you expect us to die during our James Bond special episode? No, you should expect us to talk!
And that’s exactly what we do for about 90 minutes, as hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by special guests Tony Black (from Pick A Flick) and Brian Plank. The main review this week is of course the latest adventures of Britain’s (worst kept) secret agent in SPECTRE. Sam Mendes is back in the director’s seat after his record breaking success with Skyfall, and Daniel Craig faces yet more peril with the rise of a shady organisation threatening the safety of the British people.
To tie into the release of SPECTRE, we have a miniature version of our Corridor of Praise episodes as we induct 007 himself. Starting with Ian Fleming’s original novels, right through to Daniel Craig emerging from the sea in Speedo swimming trunks, we cover the character’s history from beginning to the modern day.
There’s also time for us to squeeze in Owen’s review of the Columbo TV movie that Steve made him watch after last week’s quiz, before this weeks Bond-themed quiz takes place. We also react to a few news items that have crossed our paths over the last seven days, including: Indiana Jones 5 and potential re-casting issues; why the Steve Jobs movie is tanking in the US; and one of Hollywood’s Golden Age actresses, Maureen O’Hara, passing away.
Join us again next week where we’ll have more guests, more films and less Columbo.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
It’s fair to say that I’m a self-confessed action film nut. Give me a free 90 minutes and any Jean-Claude Van Damme movie and I’ll smile and say “thanks very much”. It may be no surprise to learn then that I am also a Stallone fan; and with that, a fan of the Expendables franchise. Simon West’s light-hearted but immensely fun sequel to the more serious original (which was written by, directed by and starred Sylvester Stallone) is one of my favourite modern popcorn munching action movies.
Thursday saw the release of the third entry into Sylvester Stallone’s modern action franchise, the succinctly named, The Expendables 3. Whilst overall it’s perhaps not as impressive – in terms of critical success and box office success – as either of his Rambo or Rocky films of decades past, they do feature an impressive cast of 80’s and 90’s heroes as long as the protruding big blue veins in his large muscular arms. Amongst whom returning to Stallone’s side as he stops the latest megalomaniac (an incredibly intense Mel Gibson), are familiar faces such as the arse-kicking Jason Statham, knife-sharpening giant Dolph Lundgren and cigar-chomping Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus, a load of other recognisable members such as Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Jet Li pop up here and there.
Joining them are a bunch of young whippersnappers (Glen Powell, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey and Victor Ortiz) whose careers are only just beginning. Whilst at the other end of the experience scale sees notable newcomers Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford and Kelsey Grammer join the crew. If nothing else, it shows how far the series has come when it can attract stars such as Gibson and Ford, as opposed to the early incarnations with the likes of Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke taking top billing.
However, a review of The Expendables 3 this is not. For that, check out Callum’s review from this weekend! Instead, I’m pitting the original Expendables cast against the latest big name additions. One film each, best of 5, let’s see who’s indispensable to the series and who is expendable.
1. Jason Statham vs Wesley Snipes – Crank vs Demolition Man
Often seen throughout this second sequel squaring up to each other with their knife skills (and knife puns) on display, they are arguably the two actors who have the most on-screen chemistry with our chief protagonist, ol’ Sly Stallone. But who has been in the best action movie? Crank is an exhilarating non-stop self-aware adrenaline-junkie of a movie. The entire cast appear to be pumping energy drinks directly into their bloodstream. None more so of course than The Stath, spending the duration of the movie keeping his adrenaline flowing in every possible way you can think of. But what about Snipes? Demolition Man, released at a transitional time for action movies from the over-the-top kill-em-all era of the 80’s to the smarter, cooler 90’s, is everything Expendables wants to homage. Snipes’ charisma may be mostly responsible for why this movie is still so enjoyable, but let’s face it, it’s no Crank.
Originals 1 – 0 Newcomers
To many, this won’t even be a debate. Arnie is arguably the greatest action hero we have ever seen. A genre is defined by his mere presence thanks to movies such as Terminator 2, True Lies, Total Recall and indeed the Vietnam jungle survivalist sci-fi horror, Predator. If the debate was “who is better in The Expendables 3“, then sugar-tits himself Mel Gibson would walk that contest. Unfortunately for the fresh-faced post-apocalyptic Australian Max, there is no comparison. Schwarzenegger can quite literally become an elected member of the Republican party and I’ll still turn up in the cinema to see whatever film he’s starring in these days. There’s still so much good will towards him thanks to films such as this all time classic of the genre. The man is a legend. Sorry, Mel.
Originals 2 – 0 Newcomers
3. Dolph Lundgren vs Antonio Banderas – Showdown in Little Tokyo vs Desperado
Yes, yes. OK. I am aware that Rocky IV is Dolph’s most iconic film and quite possibly his best – I won’t even entertain suggestions of Masters of the Universe or The Punisher. But we all know Rocky IV isn’t an action movie, don’t we. Never mind that, Showdown in Little Tokyo is massively underrated. Lundgren is as wooden as he ever was in these early roles of his, but there are some brilliant stunts, one liners and his final showdown lives up to expectations. Is it better than anything in Desperado? Well, no. That would be silly. Banderas is the epitome of cool in the film that really propelled him into the English-speaking public’s conscious. The direction from Robert Rodriguez is excessive, unrelenting and fantastic; Banderas is absolutely perfect as the sexy, dark and mysterious mariachi. Not only does he steal the show in the third act of The Expendables 3, he’s stealing a point for the newcomers.
Originals 2 – 1 Newcomers
4. Randy Couture vs Kelsey Grammer – Hijacked vs Transformers: Age of Extinction
Oh, boy. This is a close one for all the wrong reasons. Whilst you’d think the odds would be stacked against Grammer given the best action films he’s featured in outside of The Expendables 3 are directed by Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand) and Michael Bay (Trans4mers), it should be a cake-walk for his opposite number. But looking at the best films Couture has starred in, one appalling The Mummy spin-off (The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior) and a straight to video revenge movie where he’s out-shined by a 5 minute Vinnie Jones cameo (Hijacked), it’s not all that straight-forward. At least Grammer was entertaining in some rather average movies. The comeback is on!
5. Sylvester Stallone vs Harrison Ford – First Blood vs Raiders of the Lost Ark
Oh, boy. This is a close one for all the right reasons. Saving the best ’til last was meant to make this challenge easier. Instead what I’m looking at is two of Hollywood’s legends, famed more for what they bring to the screen besides what is traditionally considered “great acting”, both duking it out until the 12th round. They have a swagger, a deserved arrogance, something unquantifiable that makes them both the iconic and charismatic performers we know them as today. Comparing First Blood (the beginning of the Rambo franchise and an action movie with real emotional depth) with Raiders of the Lost Ark (the beginning of the Indiana Jones franchise and an action movie with sophistication and undeniable amusement) is just as tough. Of the two, just edging it for me would probably be First Blood. I make no apologies for this either. As good as Indy is, he’s stilla nerd isn’t he? Rambo is just.. better.
Originals 3 – 2 Newcomers
And that’s the end of that! It seems the newcomers made a valiant effort but it’s the originals that have come out on top. We can only hope that if Jackie Chan, Nic Cage, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kurt Russell and Vin Diesel turn up in The Expendables 4, things might go a bit differently in the rematch!
Do you agree? Are you outraged by this outcome? Leave a comment below and wind Owen up.
Not great, not bad, The Expendables III is diverting entertainment for the over-long run-time it lasts for.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
There is not a whole lot to say about The Expendables III. It is a film that does exactly what it says on the tin and nothing more. You want to see some over-the-hill action movie stars and some up-and-coming would-be action movie stars blow stuff up real good in the cinematic equivalent of being subjected to a straight shot of testosterone for two and a bit hours? Do you mind that being done in a competent and not exactly stellar fashion? Congratulations, this is your movie. It is utterly passable and diverting filmmaking that knows its limitations and, as a result, sticks solely to what it wants to do. I hesitate to say “its strengths” because, much like the last two, it’s still not great at what it does and is far too long (this one busts through the two hour mark by the time the credits are finished and does it ever feel like it at points), but it is decent fun, although less overtly silly than the last go-around (you decide whether that’s a good thing or not).
Honestly, there’s really not a whole lot to talk about here. If you’ve seen an Expendables film before, you know exactly what you’re signing up for. It’s another one of those, it’s a bit more serious than the last one but the overall pros and cons are the same. Stallone and Statham still have inexplicably amazing buddy chemistry together, so obviously they don’t spend nearly enough time together on screen. There’s still a perverse joy in seeing these aging action stars, and up-and-comers who often deserve budding action careers (Kellan Lutz is the real surprise standout of the younger cast, especially so given that The Legend Of Hercules is barely six months old), kicking ass and taking names, but the film is still too overstuffed and therefore many people (including, yes, perennial “fill-out-the-numbers” members Randy Couture and Terry Crews) don’t get their big moment, let alone a character to play. The final action scene, which spans pretty much the entire final half-hour, kicks all kinds of ass but the film seems permanently stuck in third gear for the rest of its run-time. There is a good sense of fun throughout the production, but it’s still overwhelmingly macho and the equivalent of watching a raging boner projected on a cinema screen for two hours which, depending on how willing you are to turn off your brain, may be off-putting (although, thankfully, it’s a dumb action film in 2014 that doesn’t sneak a whole bunch of disgusting racism and sexism past everyone under the guise of “we’re a big dumb action film, it’s not like anything uncouth that we do or say matters, right?”).
Let’s talk minor differences, then, eh? First, that 12a rating. It means there is no blood. That’s it. Literally the only things stopping this from being rated a 15 are the complete lack of blood and an excessively shaky camera whenever knives get involved (otherwise known as “Hunger Games-ing it”). Swears are thrown about frequently, hundreds of people are violently gunned down, bones are broken… you know, the usual, just now with 100% less CGI blood-squirts and only one deployment of the f-word. This is still not a film that is suitable for anybody under the age of 10 (stop using the cinema as a babysitter, random parents who brought their two young children into the screening with them), don’t panic. It’s still violent, still brutal, it’s just cagier about the details. Also, none of this spoils the last extended action sequence; despite taking place across a large space and multiple floors, it’s nearly always clear where everyone is in relation to what and to what they’re engaged in.
Elsewhere, I found the way the film treated the younger Expendables to be really refreshing. See, the plot kick-starts when a routine mission for Expendables Classic that has them assassinating Mel Gibson (there really is no point remembering these guys’ names, better to just come right out and call them by their actors’) goes south. Gibson puts Terry Crews in the hospital and causes Sylvester Stallone to have to face the reality that his current crew (also comprising Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren and a freshly-broken-out-of-jail Wesley Snipes) aren’t getting any younger and soon may end up in the ground. So he forcibly breaks up Expendables Classic and jets off with Kelsey Grammar to recruit Expendables Modern (Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey in the role of “Michelle Rodriguez Said ‘No’”) to try and take revenge on Gibson who, surprise, has a deep-forged connection to the Expendables crew. Oh, also, Antonio Banderas shows up as a mercenary cross between Charlie Chaplin and Doug from Up, and Harrison Ford is subbing for Bruce Wills and looking more interested and happy to be here than he has been in years.
What’s refreshing is that this “Damn these new kids, swanning in here trying to claim that our line of work is a young man’s game, now” plotline never actually demonises the new kids. Yes, they do get captured, necessitating a rescue and eventual team-up (which is not particularly a spoiler as a) all of the damn trailers have revealed this point and b) you saw this coming if you have seen almost quite literally any action film ever before), but that’s simply because Gibson is one step ahead of everyone, in typical movie bad guy fashion. Otherwise, the kids are shown to be exceedingly competent, their methods are proficient, their technology really useful, they get the job done. They even hold their own in the big chaotic finale without having to have their butts saved by the older guys. It’s a surprisingly embracing approach to this kind of plotline, one that’s often used simply to refute the young whippersnappers and remind everyone that the old guys are still relevant dammit (*coughcoughSkyfallcough*)! I mean, one may immediately want to retract this point due to the fact that none of the youngsters have a real character (Lutz apparently has a problem with authority, Powell is the tech guy who can climb stuff, Rousey is The Girl and derisively says “Men…” after every beatdown, and Ortiz… I’ll get back to you on that one) but I’d counter-argue that nobody in this franchise has a real character so it all shakes out.
Oh, and there’s also a really amazing dreadful one-liner near the end. Like, holy crap, is it hysterically terrible. It’s one of the best and worst lines I have ever heard. You have to hear this line, it is ridiculous. Not kidding, I burst out laughing at it, 100% unintentionally. We’re talking Mortal Kombat 4 levels of brilliantly bad, here.
Aaaand… yeah, that’s about it on my thoughts on The Expendables III. It’s another one. It drags too long in the middle, its final 30 minutes are the best kind of dumb popcorn fun, it’s lightweight, everyone seems to be having fun, there’s nothing particularly memorable, the dialogue still stinks to high heaven but in an endearing way. If you’re not sold on this franchise, this won’t change anything; if you are, this is another reliably decent way to spend two hours. I feel like I should be lauding it to high heaven for at least being a dumb action spectacle this Summer that’s actually good at what it does (heaven knows those keep getting rarer), but it’s still just a bit too forgettable for me to go overboard on the praising. It’s good at what it does, I had fun whilst it played. If what it does is what you want, go for it. If not, skip. Simple.
Of course, it does feature the image of a man entering the sixth storey of a bombed-out building by jumping a dirt bike up the tail of a destroyed airplane. Plus, that line. Holy crap, that line. So, there’s those.
Callum Petch is about to bloody this track up, everybody get back. Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!
A continuing series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema and choose their favourite films from each year of that decade. Matt Lambourne has lucked out with arguably the most entertaining, balls-to-the-wall decade of all. This week he takes us through his choices for 1983
Often disregarded by fans of the ‘Reeve Quadrilogy’, Superman III is in fact my favourite of the series. At the heart of the story is computer programmer, Gus (Richard Pryor) who is taken under the wing of Lex Luthor stand-in, Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) who is keen to utilise Gus’ more unscrupulous computer skills for financial world domination.
To do so, Gus hacks into a US weather satellite to create storms in Colombia to destroy their coffee crop, however this is thwarted by Superman early in proceedings. Webster, realising he must remove Superman from the equation, instructs Gus to create a synthetic Kryptonite using computer analysis of its core elements.
The movie deals with some darker themes not seen previously in the series. The synthetic Kyrptonite not only weakens Superman but, due to its corrupt Earthly ingredients, makes Superman become evil. Christopher Reeve is excellent at playing the ‘Dark Superman’ and the film features a particularly violent battle between the Dark Superman and Clark Kent who is attempting to break the harmful grip the Kryptonite has on our hero.
The film is most memorable for the climatic battle where the villains hide out in a base at the Grand Canyon, armed to the teeth with missile defenses and a powerful computer designed by Gus that has taken on a mind of its own. The machine takes captive one of the villains and forcibly entangles her in metal and wire creating a powerful cyborg adversary for Superman, a very graphic and shocking scene for a family movie and one that certainly leaves a lasting impression, even if she does look like a zombie Dot-Matrix from Spaceballs!
Pryor doesn’t get to unleash the more effective adult nature of his comedic genius, but he does provide suitable comic relief to the movie. Reeve shows some diversity in the role by being able to portray a sinister side to his nature as the Dark Superman in a very enjoyable performance. A much grittier rendition of the classic Superman adventure, this is a more than sufficient warm-up for the fanboys awaiting this summer’s ‘Man of Steel’.
Continuing with the theme of mis-use of computers, WarGames is a tale of a curious teenager whose skills in computing lead him into big, big trouble with the US government and the potential launch of World War III.
The main protagonist is David (Matthew Broderick), the one and only person who knew how use command-based operating systems to do anything remotely interesting back in the early 80’s. In fact he’s clearly a genius, as we see him hacking his high school network to alter his grades and book flights to Paris to show-off his skills to love-interest, Jennifer (Ally Sheedy).
Unfortunately David’s curiosity leads him to unwittingly dial into an anonymous computer offering him the opportunity to play games such as Black Jack and Poker, but David naturally is more interested in the option for ‘Global Thermonuclear War’ and assumes the role of the Soviet Union. After being summoned by his parents to do some chores he exits the game, however when he awakes the next day he is startled to see that the US military responding to an actual threat of nuclear attack from the USSR.
Where this film really shines, particularly in hindsight, is that it was way ahead of its time. The movie prominently features hacking, phreaking and dial-up remote access; all subject matters that few would have believed would have existed in 1983. I can imagine seeing WarGames as an 80’s kid it must have seemed incredibly far-fetched, yet time has proven that the techniques used in the movie were entirely legitimate and have become incredibly common-place.
Yep, the antics in WarGames would be an InfoSec worker’s worst nightmare. It’s easy to see how this has influenced films that have come after it, particular 1995’s ‘Hackers‘ and 2001’s Swordfish but it does so in such a manner that it will appeal to a family audience, not just those who are fascinated by the technology. Broderick presents the cool persona that he later repeats as Ferris Bueller and is a wholly likable lead for the film. How did someone with so much 80’s cool end up marrying SJP?
The film spawned a low-budget sequel, yet it’s the modern reboot continually hinted at that will garner the most interest in the legacy left by this excellent thriller.
Following along nicely from my 1980 movie of the year, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ROTJ is the final piece of the original trilogy, as the all-star cast return to stop the Empire’s construction of an all new Death Star.
Originally titled as ‘Revenge of the Jedi’ the film deals with much darker tone than the previous 2 movies. This is best illustrated by Mark Hammill, returning as the now fully trained and qualified Jedi, ‘Luke Skywalker’. He is entirely confident, almost somewhat arrogant in his abilities and manipulation of ‘The Force’.
His personality is somewhat chilled following his first encounter with Darth Vader; the loss of his hand and Vader’s revelation have removed some of the positive aura that surrounded the hero. He seems more steely, colder, calculating and I think this makes him a much more believable handler in the art of death than he has ever depicted at any point during the trilogy.
However, ‘Jedi’ is probably often most criticised for its use of (often annoyingly) peripheral characters, such as the Ewoks which was a clear warning shot from George Lucas for what we’d see in the modern prequel trilogy.
That said, all the ingredients that make the previous movies so successful feature again here. There are some more sinister cords in the score from John Williams, particularly whenever the Emperor is on screen, that are used to dramatic effect.
The action set-pieces are fantastic, the battle between the rebellion and Imperial forces on Endor is highly satisfying, particular when that Ewok is crying over his dead comrade!
Jedi wraps up the trilogy in fine fashion, it’s not the strongest part of the series but it does feature the most appealing incarnation of Luke Skywalker. However it is a great shame that Mark Hammill was never able to shrug off the shadow of this character for the rest of his career.
The inner circle behind Failed Critics are all too aware of my admiration for the direction of Paul Verhoeven. ‘The Fourth Man’ is Verhoeven’s final piece made for Dutch cinema before venturing off to Hollywood and my goodness it is some piece to sign off with.
The film starts off as it means to go on. The main protagonist, Gerard, awakes with his hands shaking due to the effects of his alcoholism. He stands up, wearing only a t-shirt to greet the audience to a full frontal male-nudity scene. You could be forgiven for thinking this is a little unnecessary and distasteful. It’s merely a means for Verhoeven to inform the audience of what they are letting themselves in for; a fully adult-orientated psychological experience.
This is why I love Verhoeven films, he makes films strictly for adults, there is rarely a silver lining or any inkling of morality in his movies. Gerard is an alcoholic, bi-sexual and a writer. Everywhere he goes he sees metaphors for death. He constantly battles against those which are meant for him and those that are meant for others but he struggles to interpret what he is seeing and what it truly means.
Gerard travels by train to host a lecture on his writing and meets a handsome young man at the station, whom he is instantly attracted to. He is frustrated at not being able to talk to this man as he watches him depart on a train to Cologne. Gerard travels to his destination where he meets the beautiful Christine, a widow who is a fan of his writing, and they spend the night together.
At Christine’s home, Gerard discovers a picture of Hermann, the man he saw at the train station, and realises he is Christine’s lover. He plots a means to bring the three of them together so he can seduce him for himself, but in doing so discovers that Christine is actually a three-time widow and that she is offing each of her husbands. Gerard struggles to find the meaning of the premonitions he has been seeing of late and how they relate to this bizarre love triangle and if it is he, or Hermann, who is intended to be Christine’s ‘Fourth Man’.
Jeroen Krabbé is sensational as Gerard, he is as charming and playful in character as he is sadistic and desperate for that which he desires. Renée Soutendijk plays the simply luscious Christine and I’m regretful to see that she has done little outside of Dutch Cinema, other than a little known Sci-Fi film ‘Eve of Destruction‘ which I remember seeing on Sky Movies a very very long time ago.
The film is classic Verhoeven and much of it is repackaged for Hollywood in 1992’s ‘Basic Instinct‘. It’s humorous, it’s intelligent, and sexy. Yet, its perverse undertones will seriously challenge the comfort zone of most mainstream cinema goers, this is very much one for the serious world cinema fan.
Speaking of which, the film ranks in Empire magazine’s top 100 films of World Cinema, and earned the 1983 International Critics’ Award at the Toronto Film Festival as well as the 1984 Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Foreign Language film.
I wanted so very badly to put this as my number 1 movie for 1983, however there is a very special film to top it… barely. The Fourth Man is a diamond of a movie that will sit anonymously on your DVD shelf, a dirty little secret for yourself to enjoy that has escaped the attention of the masses for 30 years. The fact it has done this makes it all the little bit more special.
I did say it would be a very special movie to top ‘The Fourth Man’, I do hope I did not disappoint. Brian De Palma’s Scarface is a remake of a 1932 gangster movie, re-badged and re-packaged for the 80’s in spectacular style.
It follows the exploits of Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a Cuban refugee who struggles to make a life for himself in America, cleaning restaurants and committing petty crime until his big mouth earns him the attention of some local big-time gangsters. From petty criminal to the king of the drug trade in Miami, Tony’s rise to the top is as violent and brash as it is meteoric, but it is only a matter of time before Tony’s greed and constant yearning for more power results in his undoing.
Beautifully shot with constant contrast between 80’s Neon and the bleak reality of life on the street and the criminal sub-culture, Scarface is not only highly decadent entertainment but it lives on with a strong legacy on modern pop-culture. This is most notably evident in the Urban/Rap music culture, whereby the movie is often used as a source of inspiration for those trying to escape their mundane lives, and often those seeking to ruin it.
Pacino is remarkable as Tony, the maniacal underdog that you know you shouldn’t root for, but cant help getting attached to. It is no doubt equal to his most famous role of Michael Corleone in its grandeur. It also features some excellent supporting roles from Michelle Pfeiffer and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio to provide some female balance to what is otherwise a very male dominated movie.
The film is primarily driven by male characteristics, love, lust, money, greed, power, betrayal, and they all feature in abundance. Scarface sets the template for the popular anti-hero and any crime epic that has followed it.
One of my very favourite films and featuring at a very respectable number 128 in the IMDB Top 250, Scarface is a must see for all film-fans, and my movie of 1983.
A continuing series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema and choose their favourite films from each year of that decade. Matt Lambourne has lucked out with arguably the most entertaining, balls-to-the-wall decade of all. This week he takes us through his choices for 1982.
Space Adventure Cobra is perhaps the oldest in a line of 80’s/90’s Anime that adorned my Video shelf as a teenager. Being released only a few years after the original Star Wars, it steals from the source material incessantly even beginning with a large Starship flyover, however it is far from a film for all the family.
The story follows Cobra, the most wanted man in the galaxy who is on a voyage to protect a beautiful female bounty-hunter whom is being hunted by the evil ‘Space Mafia Guild’. Cobra himself is the happy go lucky, overly confident macho hero who is very much Han Solo crossed with Mega Man, due to the ability to morph his left arm into a powerful Psycho Cannon.
The aesthetics of the movie certainly complement the era it’s trying to imitate, with vivid colour and a Vengelis-esque soundtrack, it may lack the polished animation that later Manga will trademark yet is still so easy on the eye.
Every Star Wars wannabe needs a bad guy and that comes in the form of the seemingly indestructible ‘Lord Necron’, who resembles more Dr. Doom (of the Marvel Universe) or perhaps even the camped up bling-bling diva that is Emperor Xerxes from ‘300’ more than the Sci-Fi baddie archetype Darth Vader.
The film is a charming love-story, brilliant sci-fi and hypnotic psychedelica all crammed into the right running time for easy viewing. The saga continued in a popular anime comic and has spawned a cult following. If a movie has ever paid a better tongue-in-cheek homage to classic sci-fi then I’d very much like to see it! Cobra provides a bite-sized action adventure that defies its age and leaves a lasting legacy that it is ‘Love’ not good, that will conquer all.
The 80’s did two types of movies better than any other decade, action movies and great comedies. Tootsie is a delightful example of taking a ridiculous concept, adding a great ensamble cast and making on screen hilarity ensue. The focus of the film is on Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) an actor who is a notoriously difficult to work with, as he struggles to line up his next big role. He takes matters into the extreme by creating a female counter-part, Dorothy Michaels to enable to find work. However he never banked upon falling in love with the lovely fresh faced Jessica Lange or the number of men who’d fall for his less than classical feminine character!
The cast really makes this movie so watchable. Aside from Lange and Hoffman, you have a typically funny supporting role from the legendary Bill Murray, a creepy TV actor has-been in George Gaynes (better known as Commandant Lassard in Police Academy) and a very early mini role for Geena Davis. Hoffman is quite brilliant as Dorothy, much more so than he is as Michael. His no nonsense approach to his professional and personal life which rendered him so unemployable as a male makes him a prime candidate for a full time soap opera role as powerful leading lady.
This allows him much closer access to Lange’s character who is a single mother being taken advantage of by the show’s creepy producer, she slowly gains a remarkable liking for the mysterious and refreshing hard-nosed approach of Dorothy, wishing she could emulate her. Dorothy begins to spend more time with Lange outside of work and there is a particularly disturbing heart to heart part way through the movie whereby you actually wonder if Lange’s character is falling in love with a transvestite, unbeknownst to her! It’s an awkwardness so convincing that it landed her the Oscar for Best Supporting actress!
It goes without saying that Hoffman really delivers when thrust into extreme roles, such as that he will later take up in Rain Man. This movie really sets a blue print for those that follow in the 90’s such as Mrs. Doubtfire, but even that does not match the innocence and delight of Tootsie, which was 1982’s 2nd highest grossing film behind E.T!
3. First Blood
It’s the movie that defined the action hero archetype. Sylvester Stallone is John Rambo, vagrant Vietnam veteran, passing through a sleepy mountain town that simply does not want him spoiling their idyllic scenery. He crosses the path of Teasle (Brian Dennehy), Sherriff of the town who makes it clear on no uncertain terms that he should leave town immediate and escorts him to the town borders. However when Rambo marches back the wrong way, he is taken into custody having committed no crime.
He eventually escapes into the wilderness and begins a one man guerrilla war against the inept local law enforcement. It likely encouraged a generation of youngsters to enter into their local woods planting booby-traps and getting gimped up in camouflage face-paint, or was that just me and my friends?
Unlike later Stallone action romps, the action here is subtle and realistic; it’s a stealth war against meandering nincompoops. It’s also one of the few movies where Stallone talks fairly eloquently, it would seem he perhaps dumbed himself down for many roles he played later.
Whilst the action is clever and satisfying, it poses a greater moral concern to the American viewing public as to how veterans are perceived upon leaving service, particularly those deployed to Vietnam. It demonstrates a common disregard for soldiers who served in a messy war, something that Hollywood was slow to highlight. Later efforts such as Born on The Forth of July picked up the mantle, though it is arguable that that ‘First Blood’ is more mainstream friendly, thus ramming home the undeniable truth to a wider audience.
The Rambo character does for the action-movie genre what Hoover did for Vacuum cleaners. It became the synonymous figure for the unstoppable one-man army genre that dominated the 80’s. It spawned 3 sequels, non of which live up to the original in my opinion, but First Blood was the movie that established Stallone beyond Rocky and saw his career go supernova!
2. Blade Runner
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
It was a difficult decision in regards to the positioning of my favourite two movies of 1982, both are worthy of the grandest title of them all. I think you’ll approve of my final choice, however there is much time to discuss the grandeur of my number two choice.
I was fortunate to only see Blade Runner for the first time in my twenties, a good 25 years after its release. I feel much of its subtle appeal and nuances would have passed me by at a younger age. Co-produced by Ridley Scott, Blade Runner is sci-fi indulged on the most epic of scales. From the monumental soundtrack by Vengelis, to its dark and wet Urban backdrops dashed in Neon lighting creating a Future Noir masterpiece. Blade Runner is easily one of the most visually impressive movies ever created.
The film follows Deckard (Harrison Ford) who is a Blade Runner, a group of specialist police assembled to hunt Replicants, which are near perfect human duplications with enhanced strength and tolerance to pain. He is assigned one last case to hunt down 4 recently escaped Replicants and ‘retire them’ before they cause havoc on the LA populous and ultimately meet their maker.
Ford puts in a great performance as the care-free and seemingly nonchalant Deckard, who shows no sympathy for those he is trying to hunt, or those whom his spiteful tongue might disturb, namely that of the seemingly emotionless Rachel (Sean Young) who is introduced to Deckard as test subject for Replicant interrogation, yet she is unaware that she is even a Replicant.
Lining up for the Replicants is Darryl Hannah and a career defining performance from Rutger Hauer, whose soliloquy as quoted at the beginning of this piece brings together a fitting finale that ties up many of the movies deeper residing themes, which can be easily lost when distracted purely by the visual brilliance of the film.
A particularly favourite piece of eye-candy during this film is the scene where Deckard shoots one of the escaped Replicants following a chase from a strip club, A a rather stunning young lady is fleeing her would-be assassin wearing nothing but spiked boots and a see-through PVC rainmack. The moment that she is shot in the back by Deckard as she crashes through several panes of glasses, all of which are illuminated by an abundance of neon is one of my all time favourite scenes for sheer visual impact.
The greatest gift the movie leaves for the viewer is that of an ending open to interpretation, is Deckard a Replicant or a human is ambiguous at best with strong cases for either. Fortunately this is one classic movie whose legacy has not been destroyed with a meaningless sequel meaning you can decipher the evidence and make your own conclusions.
It’s yet another IMDB Top 250 for Harrison Ford who was really at the top of his game during the few years either side of this movie, Blade Runner resides as a Science Fiction hall of famer and one of the best films ever made.
There are few movies that have stirred me as much as watching this movie for the first time. Directed by the mighty Richard Attenborough, the film follows the tribulations of Mohandas Gandhi, an English educated lawyer and Indian immigrate who is assigned to a practice in South Africa and is immediately subjugated to horrendous treatment due to his ethnicity. He leads a minor rebellion against the white British establishment, seeking equal rights for all races in South Africa and becomes a national hero back in India.
Upon returning to his home nation seeking peace and tranquillity he finds the problems of subjugation have not eluded him and the rape of his country’s resources prompt him to become the spearhead for India’s claim for independence from the British empire. This is accomplished using a innovative tactic of ‘peaceful rebellion’ or more accurately referred to as ‘non-cooperation.
Ben Kingsley is brilliantly cast as Gandhi and is entirely convincing in playing the hero of the movie, both in terms of aesthetic suitability and the humility he brings to the screen. It’s very difficult to take your eye off Kingsley during the whole film, it’s almost as if you’re watching the real Gandhi and it is truly a remarkable performance considering he’d done very little outside of TV roles at this point in his career.
It leaves a somewhat nasty taste in the mouth to see Kingsley selling himself short in movies such as 2012’s ‘The Dictator’ playing a somewhat stereotyped and foolish middle-eastern politician, it removes some shine from the legacy he build for himself in the Gandhi role and directly insults the magnitude of his performance. That said he deservedly bagged himself the 1983 Best Actor gong at the Oscars and the movie itself taking a tremendous haul of 7 further Oscars. It really is a heavyweight of a movie and is a must see for fan of history, particularly that of the civil-rights movement or the British Empire
In regards to the latter, it opens up some scar tissue and painful memories of how the British treated their colonial Empire. This is particularly emphasised in the excruciatingly merciless killing at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre where up to a 1000 men, women and children were trapped and shot by the British army during a peaceful protest. The movie closes out with the crushing division of Indian Territory following independence prompting the founding of Pakistan and the eventual assassination of Gandhi himself.
A lifetime of defiance in the name of justice, Gandhi established himself as one of the most important persons of the 20th Century and this movie more than does him worthy and is an incredible addition to the IMDB Top 250 and my best movie of 1982.
We’d like to welcome you all to the first ever Failed Critics Corridor of Praise induction. The C.O.P. has been set up to honour the work of those legends of the movie world who have either never sought the acceptance of the Academy, or who have been shunned by those bestowers of baubles.
In this podcast we are honouring the first recipient of our recorded adoration.
He has a career spanning six decades, and his films have grossed over $6b worldwide. At one point 4 of the top 6 grossing films of all time featured him, and in 1997 Empire magazine named him as their No.1 movie star of all time.
As well as the iconic roles he is known for, and that we will no doubt discuss shortly – he has appeared in films as diverse as What Lies Beneath, Working Girl, and The Fugitive Of course I am talking about the one, the only, Jack Ryan…Indiana Jones…Han Solo himself. Harrison Ford!
Also in this week’s podcast we review The Master, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Rise of the Guardians, Room 237, and Miracle on 34th Street.
A series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema and choose their favourite films from each year of that decade.
Matt Lambourne has lucked out with arguably the most entertaining, balls-to-the-wall decade of all. This week he takes us through his choices for 1981.
Every so often, a movie comes to the fore that is so inherently bad, that it ends up being brilliant. There are a few that I particularly enjoy as guilty pleasures, such as Streetfighter and perhaps more recently Iron Sky. However the original film from my childhood that falls into this category is ‘Condorman’.
The plot surrounds comic book writer, Woody (Michael Crawford), who insists that all his creations must be able to perform their talents in real-life before he commits them to paper. However he is struggling to legitimise his latest creation, a flying crime-fighter called Condorman – as depicted in the opening scene where he fails to fly with mechanical wings from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Hilarity prevails as Woody bumbles his way into the affairs of the CIA & KGB as he pushes the real-life boundaries of his Condorman creation too far, posing as the former’s newest top agent. The action is awkward, yet stupidly funny, imagine Jason Bourne played by Basil Fawlty and you have a good idea of where this ends up.
The movie is anything but cold-war espionage coolness personified; after all it is a Disney movie. However the cast somewhat legitimises the erratic nature of the subject matter with the late Oliver Reed playing the leading bad-guy as Krokov the KGB operative and the lovely Barbara Carrera (Never Say Never Again) as the film’s love interest. It also adds some entertaining action set-pieces and a very cool car-pursuit scene featuring a fleet of souped-up Porsche 911’s that even the Fast & The Furious would be envious. Condorman’s own vehicle would impress even Bruce Wayne!
It goes without saying that this film gets nowhere near the IMDB top 250, it even has a 25% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However it does hold a cult status amongst fans that keeps interest in the franchise alive and an updated version beckons as part of Disney’s new vision for the future. I personally, cannot wait!
Painted in the doldrums of a decaying future, revolutionists have hijacked Air Force One and crashed landed the jet into Manhattan Island. The island is now an impregnable fortress used to house all of America’s most dangerous criminals. The US authorities, unable to send in a mass force for fear of endangering the captive president’s life can only rely on one man.. Snake Plissken.
The role of Snake goes to Kurt Russell, who really shakes off his image as a pretty faced child actor as the down and dirty, super cool and unflappable ex-Special Forces operative. This movie is also a continuation of a mini love-affair between actor and the film’s director John Carpenter, the likes of which weren’t again seen until Tim Burton got his hands on Johnny Depp!
Escape from New York is all atmosphere. The film is shot entirely during the night time and danger lurks around every corner of the rotten Metropolis. It very much reminds me of the nihilist future as depicted in 1979’s ‘The Warriors’ and continued later this decade in ‘The Running Man’. The action is far from snappy, it’s somewhat clumsy and lacks finesse. But the slick nature of the characters, such as Isaac Hayes as the Prison Boss ‘The Duke’ allows you to really take in a rough 90min action ride.
Other notable performances come in the form of Western star Lee Van Cleef as the slimy police boss ‘Hauk’ and Adrienne Barbeau as the most distracting on screen cleavage for the whole year! It’s not hard to see why John Carpenter put a ring on it.
The Snake Plissken role sets a good model for movie anti-heroes, smooth lines, tough and fearless but ultimately doing bad things for good causes. The soundtrack adds to the dystopia portrayed nicely and encapsulates the period of time well.
The franchise spawned 2 sequels much further down the line, both with much bigger budgets, however Escape from New York delivers an unintended grittiness that can only be enforced by a lack of funds and ultimately delivers a much darker tone to the movie.
Thoroughly British in it’s almost slapstick delivery, ‘An American Werewolf in London’ has everything, from awkward and uneasy comedy to brutal gore-scenes for hardened fans of the genre.
The film follows David (David Naughton), an American tourist who survives a Wolf attack that kills his best friend. Oddly some of the films most curious moments come from scenes were his dead friend re-visits him as a Zombie to warn him of his impending transformation into a Werewolf and that the bloodline must end for his victims to rest in peace.
Naturally, David does not take heed of the warnings, unsure of if his friend’s visits are a figment of his imagination or indeed the truth. Eventually the beast is unleashed upon London town and makes for a wonderfully cold trail of death that is uncompromising in its lack of fan-fare.
The whole movie is shot on location in the UK and I most admit that I find that the UK movie industry just does these movies far better than our Hollywood counter-parts, see ‘28 Days Later’ as an example. There is something far more sinister about the Middlesex moors and the cold, wet alleys of London than the steamy neon nightlife of New York for example.
No, AWIL does not over-complicate, it removes any unnecessary dramatics and creates frightening scenes of bloodlust, yet somehow you still feel charmed by our leading man. In a decade dominated by American Horror, this film collected an Oscar for it’s gruesome use of make-up and shows one of the most painful looking transformation scenes that I can recall. It’s very much a genre-defining classic and a must see for all horror fans.
It goes without saying that Raiders could easily have been my #1 pick for 1981. Harrison Ford became probably the biggest Box Office star over a 5-year period in which everything LucasArts and Steven Spielberg churned out turned to absolute gold.
Ford plays the whip-wielding Indiana Jones, archeological & occult expert who is sent on a mission to recover the lost Ark of the Covenant before it falls into the hands of Nazi Germany. I should not need to go into itty-bitty details about the plot; we’ve all seen at least one Indiana Jones movie. Partly this misses out on #1 movie for 1981 mostly because it’s not actually my favourite film from the original trilogy.
Alas, however Raiders is a magnificent piece of action-adventure cinema. Shot in many luscious and beautifully exotic locations, it’s oh so easy on the eye. Ford brings charisma to the Indiana Jones character in equal measure as he did Han Solo, perhaps even more so.
The film is renowned for some of its action set pieces, such as the rolling bolder booby trap during the opening sequence and the hilarious standoff between Indy and the Sword wielding Egyptian soldier. It’s a great story of exciting action, peril in abundance and a story of good vs. evil, as the Nazis are ever willing to take up the bad guy role.
The now famous John Williams assortment is the final piece of the jigsaw although he sadly lost out to Vangelis’ score for Chariots of Fire in the Oscar prizes. The movie however did collect 4 Oscars and cemented the credentials of Spielberg and Lucas, setting up a golden area for the two during the early 80’s, as well as spearheading Harrison Ford for a career beyond StarWars.
Raiders takes its place high amongst its peers on the IMDB top 100 as one of the most memorable and fun movies of the decade.
1. Das Boot
It goes without saying that ‘Das Boot’ is one of the toughest watches of any film I’ve ever happily enjoyed watching. For starters, I am reviewing the extended version of an already epically long movie, weighing in at over 3 hours which for any film is a tough ask! However being a sub-titled movie it requires a certain dedication that adds to the viewing experience as you are slowly sucked into the despair felt throughout the movie.
The movie follows a German U-Boat crew who depart on a mission to intercept Allied convoys across an already faltering and mis-directed Axis line of blockades in the Mid-Atlantic. As the film begins we find the fledgling crew celebrating in a debauched leaving party, seemingly unaware of the miserable existence that awaits them under the Ocean’s surface. However, Ship Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock (Jürgen Prochnow) is starkly aware of the dangers that await his inexperienced crew.
The movie quickly plunges from indulgence to desperation as our crew is continually faced with overwhelming odds against the Royal Navy and mis-direction from their superiors. Gradually the viewer is proverbially grabbed by the throat and dragged into a nerve-wracking journey of strained human relationships and the mental breakdown of a threat that you can often only hear, but rarely see.
Prochnow is superb as the battle-weary Captain and director Wolfgang Petersen makes so much from so little real-estate in the claustrophobic metal tube. This would be regarded as Petersen’s 1st great work and perhaps his best ever before eventually working on more mainstream titles such as The Neverending Story, Troy and The Perfect Storm.
However it really is ‘Das Boot’ that delivers his most heavyweight punch and sets the benchmark high for other great Submarine movies that followed, such as Hunt For Red October and K-19: The Widowmaker. The movie ends on the most sombre of moments. After suffering heavy damage and effectively been sunk, the crew manage to revive the crippled boat and reach sanctum at La Spezia port, only to be attacked and destroyed by an Allied Air-Raid as they leave the ship.
The credits roll as the Captain lives just long enough to watch his boat sink at port and keel over and die with the rest of his crew. Like any good war movie, Das Boot reminds you at all times during war just when you think there is light at the end of the tunnel, all hope is brutally snatched away.
Das Boot is not just a great Submarine movie, it’s a fantastic movie in it’s own right which rightfully takes it’s place amongst the IMDB Top 100 and is my movie of 1981.
A new series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema, choose their favourite films from each year of that decade, and discuss the legacy those years have left us.
Matt Lambourne has lucked out with arguably the most entertaining, balls-to-the-wall decade of all. This week he takes us through his choices for 1980.
Before Saving Private Ryan and all the other fair-weather bandwagon mid-90’s WWII movies, The Big Red One painted a somewhat mesmeric picture of War. Entirely unrelenting and brutally depicted, it lacks the polish and the set-play wow-factor of Private Ryan’s Omaha Beach assault, but lends far more to the viewer than a WWII highlight reel.
The story follows the Sergeant (Lee Marvin) and his patrol of 4 Horsemen (yet more comparison to Private Ryan) through a multitude of WWII theatres of war, which adds to the desperation felt during the film. Just as the protagonists survive one mission, they’re immediately sent to another and seemingly there is no light at the end of the tunnel for these men.
The film is crammed with snappy dialogue, much more than you see in many of the mid-90’s WWII efforts and life is expended with much more abandon, perhaps making it a somewhat messier depiction of the war than it’s more recent points of comparison but more than likely a more realistic one.
The movie is best summed up in a single scene, whereby the troupe liberates a Sicilian village being used as an Artillery battery by Axis forces. As the troops take downtime, a young girl presents the Sergeant with a florally decorated helmet and there is a brief moment of escape from the madness of war, however just as the Sergeant kisses the girl goodbye she is shot by an Axis sniper and dies in his arms. It’s fleeting moments of rest followed by wave and wave of cruelty.
Mark Hamill also stars in the 1st of 2 of my choices in 1980 as a hotshot yet gun-shy trooper, but ultimately he brings little other than the big name draw to this film, it’s Lee Marvin who steals the show here.
Not being afraid to pull any punches in my line-up I decided to think outside the box for my next choice. Taboo is a monumental piece of adult-cinema, not only for pushing the boundaries of taste in its subject matter, but it arguably was the debut of the now very mainstream ‘MILF’ genre.
The story revolves around Barbara (Kay Parker) whose husband walks out on her at the beginning of the movie for being too boring in bed. The plot explores her quest to become more sexualized and her attempts at dating other men, which fall spectacularly array as she refuses to sleep with them at the first date.
Eventually she is invited to an orgy, attends but does not participate but this seemingly unlocks Pandora’s box and she begins to have feelings for her son, Paul… and as the title would suggest, they cross the line during the movie (twice!).
Taboo is a delightful film in many senses, you feel equally as awkward enjoying it as the characters likely did in their self-indulgence. The beauty of the movie is the impending curiosity it enforces on the viewer, you really need to know if they can go through with it. It’s one of the first adult movies that couples would enjoy together in a theatre, almost breaching that mainstream line yet not quite relinquishing the shame factor.
If you’re looking for a movie to provide a lasting legacy, it affectively created a sub-genre and spawned 22 sequels, however none of them come close to the impact of the original on the industry.
Airplane is one of those special movies that has you smiling from ear to ear for the full duration. From the intro-scene with the Airplane tail-wing spoofing the Jaws shark fin, you get a good idea of what you’re in for, 80 minutes of silliness.
There is a love story at the heart of the movie, but generally speaking it plays almost zero significance, the title’s main protagonists have the least impact in terms of humour. That is saved for the brilliant Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges who serve up a tri-fector of witty jokes and clever innuendo.
It must be said that Airplane stands the test of time. There are few movies that at 32 years old can still make me laugh as much as this. It’s a perfectly sized portion of laughter at just 80mins long, it’s over long before it could ever get dull and remains enjoyable time and time again.
If you like your jokes dead-pan, straight faced and somewhat ridiculous, this is a must-see for you!
I stumbled upon Shogun Assassin many years after it’s release. Back in the day I was a massive Hip-Hop fan and got my introduction to the movie via a number of cuts of the movie’s intro inserted into the GZA’s(Wu Tang Clan) 1995 album ‘Liquid Swords’.
It stirred enough of my curiosity to find the source and thus started a bit of a love-affair with modern Jidaigeki movies such as ‘Ninja Scroll’ and Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi. The movie even shares connections to the 60’s Zatoichi movie series with the lead actor Tomisaburo Wakayama whose brother produces the movie and was the original Zatoichi.
The movie follows the story of ‘Lone Wolf’ who is the head executioner for the paranoid Shogun who eventually orders his death. However they strike down his wife and thus begins a bloody rampage of revenge as the Lone Wolf and his son become vagabonds walking the plains of feudal Japan in search of the Shogun.
It’s easy to see why this movie is such an inspiration for the Samurai worship in Tarantino’s Kill Bill, the kill scenes are often unceremonious and death is handed out nonchalantly yet with elegance, it’s not killing for killing’s sake.
There is also purity to the Lone Wolf character that demands respect, this is best demonstrated in a very stirring scene in which the Lone Wolf saves a female Assassin from a burning boat and then proceeds to strip her against her will. Just when you think he will breach his code and rape the woman he draws her close to him and his son for the three to keep warm after jumping from the burning boat, it is a very powerful scene and reveals a human element aside from the killing-machine that Lone Wolf is portrayed.
Shogun Assassin could be considered a messy edit of 6 classic Japanese ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ movies, but I hold a special place for this movie amongst my collection, it’s one of few dubbed foreign movies I can tolerate. The dub somewhat adds to the reverence, it’s dramatic and offers something more to the grandiose nature of the entire movie.
If you enjoy movies with lots of blood, subtle swordplay and Japanese tradition, you’ll go absolutely crazy for Shogun Assassin.
The original Star Wars might have been the defining movie of a generation, but it’s this episode that cements the mythology of the Star Wars universe. I’m not actually a big ‘Star Wars’ fan and as blasphemous as this my sound, I actually saw ‘Empire’ before I saw ‘A New Hope’ as a child. I think with that, the original could never hold up to the special place that ‘Empire’ has in my heart.
TESB takes the winning formula of the original Star Wars and amplifies it, ten-fold! The action sequences are bigger, bolder and more flashy than anything in the original, the lightsabre fight scenes are much more dramatic and satisfying and there is a real sense of despair in the film as the Empire unleashes it’s full force on the tiny rebellion.
The film is of course responsible for one of the most iconic scenes of the 80’s, the Dark Vader revelation is cinematic gold, no matter how many times you see it, it always delivers impact. But it’s the character development in ‘Empire’ that makes utterly unforgettable. The love story between Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) provides entertainment throughout, the emerging power of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) demands more respect from the viewer than the somewhat wet characterisation in ‘A New Hope’.
However, it is Darth Vader (James Earl Jones/David Prose) that stands out as the iconic image of the movie, a much more menacing and darker figure than in the previous film, he solidifies himself as one of the all time great movie bad-guys!
The weekend of Speed’s home release (on VHS and Laserdisc concurrently, nostalgia fans!) my best friend and I watched it 12 times. We alternated that and lying on her bottom bunk, gazing up at the life sized Keanu Reeves poster she’d blu-tacked to the slats of her sister’s top bunk. I guess you could call it a sexual awakening. We’ve all had them. It’s just that, for some, puberty coincided with the release of a more critically acclaimed blockbuster. That said, even if you’re not invested in marrying the protagonist, Speed is a superb film. We didn’t just watch it to stare at Keanu’s face. We used to rewind and watch the bit where Dennis Hopper’s head gets knocked off by the subway sign on slow motion, cheering all the way.
I stand by Speed’s merits as a film, but it’s no doubt the circumstances through which I discovered it that will lead me to defend it to the end. We were on holiday in Florida around the time of The Lion King’s theatrical release. We didn’t get a chance to see it out there, being somewhat preoccupied by the International House of Pancakes, and a mild case of sun stroke. However my brother and I, obsessed with Aladdin and massively anticipating the next Disney animation, came home with a suitcase full of merchandise. Including a cassette tape of the soundtrack. When the film finally hit Leicester Odeon several months later, we queued around the block to attend the first showing, and proceeded to be the weird kids on the back row who somehow already knew all the words to every song in the film.
Circumstances and surroundings surely have some influence on your opinion of a film. It’s not everything, granted. The first time I saw Amelie was at Glastonbury 2002 in the ill-fated Cinema Field. After three failed attempts to start the film, the inflatable screen collapsed and they gave up. But the five minutes I saw (three times) were enough to send me home from the festival with the overwhelming urge to see the entire film. (That and a commitment to make it through the rest of my life without ever having to watch The Charlatans perform live again.) Nonetheless, it must have some bearing. The Natalie Portman stripathon Closer was bad, no doubt. But the fact that my friend and I & drifted into the cinema lobby afterwards half asleep and thoroughly depressed, only to find our husbands clutching each other and crying with joy having just seen Team America: World Police for the first time didn’t help its cause. Best Picture Oscars have probably been won and lost over less.
Here’s the thing: as I sat down to watch Star Wars for the first time, aged 31, after a long day and a couple of beers, I was expecting to be blown away. In reality I found the beginning kind of slow. I didn’t immediately warm to the R2-D2 / C-3PO double act the way I knew I was supposed to. (Frankly he just annoyed me, wheeling around making his indecipherable beeps, dragging his big plate hands along behind him.) Yes, Alec Guinness kicked ass. And Harrison Ford was suitably dreamy. But I wanted an action movie and I didn’t feel I was getting one. My biggest disappointment was Darth Vader. I thought he was supposed to be scary? Stood in the Situation Room doing his heavy breathing routine? Come on! He wouldn’t last five minutes under Jed Bartlet. And don’t even get me started on the fact that he’s voiced by Mufasa from The Lion King. The kindest, noblest lion that ever lived. If you want menacing, try getting Jeremy Irons to voice Vader. Perhaps I should have watched it that summer we went to Florida. The Star Wars ride was far and away the highlight of Universal Studios. If I’d watched it then, off the back of that excitement, aged 13, less cynical, my Star Wars story would probably be different.
I understand the cultural significance of Star Wars. The fact that, if it wasn’t for this film, I wouldn’t know and love the likes of Clerks, Se7en, or even Toy Story. I get that, and I’m grateful. I love the fact that it’s created a generation of passionate, geeky, often obsessive film fans. That my husband has to deliver a 20 minute diatribe on the original theatrical versus newer versions before he can even open the dvd case. But, just as you don’t get butterflies in your stomach as the title hits the screen on the last note of ‘Circle of Life’, or a ridiculous grin on your face when Jack Traven shouts ‘It’s cans! It’s ok, it’s cans!’, I don’t love Star Wars. Sorry.