My Life In Film: Part 34

As the pumpkins begin to decompose, the sound of fireworks fill the air and thought, inevitably, turns to Christmas – wait! Back the sled up, its a little too early for that kind of talk (even for me!).  No, we have at least one more edition of My Life In Film… to take care of before the lights go up at Greenscreen Towers.  This time around, and I know I say this quite a lot, there are some absolute gems of movies to savour including two massive Oscar winners, a ground-breaking Disney classic and a couple of legendary comedies.  Grab yourself a blanket and warm yourself up by the glowing fire of Part 34…

 

LOCAL HERO (1983)

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I hate to admit that I was very late to the Local Hero party.  I’d heard so many great things about it but never got around to watching it.  Thankfully, I’ve rectified that and can honestly say it is one of the best British films.  It is a beautiful story about a man shedding his hi-tech skin in favour of the cool, serene surroundings of Scotland.  Writer/Director Bill Forsyth has created a truly memorable modern fable about finding peace in nature.  With a stunning cast including Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson, Peter Capaldi and Burt Lancaster, Local Hero is a must for any true movie fan.  It will warm your heart and calm your soul.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

SMALL SOLDIERS (1998)

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A toy company uses the latest military technology to ‘improve’ their product which enables these two sets of action figures (the Gorgonites and Commando Elite) to talk and think for themselves.  With the help of two kids – Gregory Smith and Kirsten Dunst – the Gorgonites must protect their home from the enemy.  Director Joe Dante brings his unique style to this wonderful family adventure which features some of the remaining cast of The Dirty Dozen adding their voices to the toys.  Its packed full of action, comedy and dazzling special effects and is a must watch!

WATCH IT FOR: “I’m pretty messed up”

 

MY FAIR LADY (1964)

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Already a smash-hit Broadway play, My Fair Lady was a cinema sensation.  Keeping original theatre lead Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins who makes a wager that he can take a Cockney flower girl, Eliza Dolittle (the mesmerising Audrey Hepburn) and transform her into a cultured member of high society.  Its a truly magnificent spectacle with some outstanding song and dance numbers matched with the sheer scale and look of the film that saw it scoop eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Harrison.  It is one of the most beloved Hollywood musicals and rightly so, for everything about it just shines and its a film that you’ll never forget.

WATCH IT FOR: Classic trailer

 

FLETCH (1985)

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In this comedy, Chevy Chase plays Irwin M. Fletcher, a newspaper reporter who is offered a large stash of money to help bump off a supposedly dying millionaire.  Fletch’s nose for a story gets him into trouble, though as he’s also working undercover to help expose a drug ring that may or may not have ties to this case.  Chase is perfectly cast as the reporter with the gift of the gab who has the ability to talk his way in and out of trouble while using a series of elaborate disguises.  Chase reprised his role a few years later in a less impressive sequel.

WATCH IT FOR: Autopsy Assistant!

 

A PERFECT WORLD (1993)

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Clint Eastwood directs and co-stars as a gruff Texas Ranger in pursuit of two recently escaped convicts, Butch (Kevin Costner) and Terry (Keith Szarabajka).  During their escape, the pair kidnap a young boy, Philip (TJ Lowther) and flee across country.  Eastwood’s Ranger is joined by criminologist Sally Gerber (Laura Dern) in the race to bring back their bounty.  Its a beautifully shot, engaging movie with a solid performance from young Lowther who manages to hold his own along with a very impressive Costner.  This is a film that sometimes gets overlooked by some of Eastwood’s other, more popular, movies but it really is worth seeking out.

WATCH IT FOR: Trick or Treat

 

MARS ATTACKS! (1996)

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This is one of those films that, on first viewing, I really didn’t enjoy at all.  At the time I thought it was a mess and I was confused by what it was supposed to be.  Its only on repeat viewings that I’ve come to appreciate the majesty of Tim Burton‘s manic alien invasion movie.  Its a huge movie, not just in scale but in the sheer size of cast.  You watch this film and forget just how many people are actually in it.  Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Michael J. Fox, Tom Jones, Martin Short, Pierce Brosnan and Rod Steiger to name just a few.  Its bizarre, colourful and, at times, really weird but that’s the kind of thing you expect from a Tim Burton movie, right?  Sure, its still a bit messy and confusing but, with older eyes, its a better watch than the first time around.

WATCH IT FOR: “They blew up Congress!”

 

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)

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Prior to The Academy Awards introducing a Best Animated Feature category, this magical Disney film was the first fully animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture (losing out to Silence of the Lambs) and the first to win a Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy.  Its not hard to see why everyone took this film to their hearts.  Harking back to the classic Disney movies of the past, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a selfish prince, cursed to spend the rest of his life as a monster unless he can fall in love with a beautiful girl he has as a prisoner.  Full of wonderful animation, majestic songs and forging a path for some of the greatest Disney movies every made, this is a joyous adventure and one of my mum’s favourites!

WATCH IT FOR: Ballroom

 

THE ABYSS (1989)

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I’m usually hyper-critical of James Cameron films, the majority of which are absolute nonsense, but this sci-fi epic is one of the exceptions.  When Cameron gets it right, his vision is truly stunning.  A civilian diving team, lead by Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Cameron regular Michael Biehn, is enlisted to help the search for a missing nuclear submarine but find themselves fending off danger from an unlikely, alien species.  Featuring ground-breaking special effects and, quite often, fear-inducing underwater scenes, The Abyss is a slow-burner of a film.  More cerebral than most, yet still managing to bring enough scares and adventure to keep you watching.

WATCH IT FOR: “I think it likes you”

 

COPYCAT (1995)

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This tense, psychological thriller from director Jon Amiel pits agoraphobic psychiatrist Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver) and tough detective M. J. Monahan (Holly Hunter) against a dangerous serial killer who is copying the most notorious killers from the past. Weaver and Hunter are, as you’d expect, magnificent as are the rest of the supporting cast but, for me, the real stand-out performance here is Harry Connick Jr. as the antagonist of the piece.  His creepy and downright sadistic portrayal of serial killer Daryll Lee Cullum stays with you and proves to be a worthy opponent for the two leads.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965)

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Movies don’t come much more epic than this one from David Lean.  A stunningly beautiful romance starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie and set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution.  Lean’s films are always full of sweeping, majestic imagery and you are treated to some of the most iconic scenes here, courtesy of legendary cinematographer, Freddie Young.  Add to that the most luscious score from Maurice Jarre and you have a truly wonderful piece of cinema.  At over three hours, it is a long haul but you are carried away by the sheer brilliance of all involved.

WATCH IT FOR: Somewhere My Love

 

And there you have it, the thirty-fourth instalment of this epic odyssey of cinema.  I hope you liked it.  I think you’ll agree that, once again, it was quite eclectic and just goes to show my tastes in film is as varied as the Hollywood output itself.  Please feel free to get in touch if the mood takes you and let me know what you think.  The next time we meet we’ll be decking the halls with festive favourites!  Until then…

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“I could grow to love this place”

 

 

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Halloween Spooktacular III

Darkness falls across the land…it must be that time of year again where we delve deep into the murky waters of horror, chills and Halloween.  I’ve made it quite clear that I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies, I was a weedy kid who was scared of his own shadow so watching these things set my imagination running.  But I think that is part of the appeal.  We want to be scared.  We like to be scared.  Make sure you lock the doors, turn off the phone and, whatever you do, don’t go into the cellar…

 

CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)

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I remember seeing this when I was probably too young.  It scared the you-know-what out of me and, as such, I’ve not been able to watch it since.  But the memory of that fear has stayed with me.  Based on a Stephen King short story, Children of the Corn sees a young couple (Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton) trapped in a small town where a murderous cult full of kids, lead by charismatic leader Isaac (John Franklin) is killing all the adults. Eight sequels (yes, eight!) followed and, quite frankly, I’ve not seen any of them, the thought of this one loomed large enough for me to swerve any more.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

CHILD’S PLAY 2 (1990)

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I’ve always been a fan of the original Child’s Play movie even though (like most films of that nature) it scared me to death the first time I saw it (again, I was probably too young!).  So when they made a sequel I was happy to jump on board (having to wait until I was old enough to rent it out from the video shop!).  Alex Vincent returns as Andy, the reluctant hero from the first movie.  This time around, while his mother is in psychiatric care, he is placed into the care of a foster family.  Gerrit Graham and Jenny Agutter play the willing foster couple who also have Christine Elise‘s troubled Kyle under their roof.  Also, not far behind, is Chucky (once again voiced by the excellent Brad Dourif) who is hell bent on finishing what he started.  This film picks up the pace (and the body count) and lays the groundwork for the sequels that follow.

WATCH IT FOR: “How’s it hanging?”

 

KNIGHT RIDER – “HALLOWEEN KNIGHT” (1984)

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American TV shows always love to make a Halloween special, often diverting from the usual format and storyline in order to give the audience a bit of a fright.  There are so many to choose from but I landed on this episode of Knight Rider, from the third series, that I don’t remember seeing before.  A woman is convinced she has witnessed a murder but all around her think she’s hallucinating.  In comes The Foundation and Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) to investigate the strange goings on.  With a few special effects and a visit to a familiar spooky house, this episode has all the hallmarks of a classic Halloween special.

WATCH IT FOR: “This place looks really familiar”

 

THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991)

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Big screen remakes of classic television programmes don’t always work.  There are some exceptions, however, like this retelling of the hit sixties show The Addams Family.  Director Barry Sonnenfeld manages to keep the feel of both the original show and cartoon strip while also updating the story for a modern era.  While the story and set design play a huge part, the great joy of this film is the casting.  Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston are simply perfect as Gomez and Morticia, their chemistry oozing off the screen as they declare their love (and hate) for each other.  Christina Ricci as Wednesday is just sublime while Christopher Lloyd‘s Uncle Fester is a joy to behold.  They may be creepy, kooky but they are altogether Spooktacular in this wonderful film.

WATCH IT FOR: Gomez loves Morticia

 

SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)

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Speaking of the sublime Christina Ricci, she pops up again here in this gloriously gothic horror from Tim BurtonJohnny Depp stars as Ichabod Crane who is sent to the town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of gruesome murders where each victim has been decapitated.  Talk around the town says the legendary headless horseman is responsible, but Crane, with his modern way of investigation, wants to believe otherwise.  Burton is a master at work here with fine attention to detail and glorious set design.  There are plenty of shocks and scares to keep even the most cynical of movie goers happy.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

THE OMEN (1976)

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This is one of those classic horror movies that I’ve only ever managed to watch once all the way through (you know, because I’m a wimp!).  Hollywood icon Gregory Peck stars alongside Lee Remick as Robert and Katherine Thorn whose infant son, Damien (Harvey Stephens) may or may not be the child of the devil.  Now located in London, strange events follow them around and, with the added warnings from a priest, the couple soon realise that all is not right.  There are some genuinely scary scenes in this film and director Richard Donner ramps up the threat level to fever pitch ensuring countless sleepless nights!

WATCH IT FOR: The priest’s demise

 

THE GOLDBERGS – “WHO ARE YOU GOING TO TELEPHONE?” (2013)

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I love The Goldbergs.  The show, set in the 80s, is full of pop culture references and memories and their special episodes, like this Ghostbusters-inspired one from the first series, is exactly why the show is so successful.  Adam (Sean Giambrone) has ditched Pops (George Segal) to go trick-or-treating with a cool new friend but things don’t go so well.  Meanwhile Barry (Troy Gentile), dressed as The Hulk, is intent on having a great time despite his mum, Beverly (Wendy McLendon-Covey) gatecrashing the party! Yes, its not scary but sometimes, Halloween doesn’t need to be.

WATCH IT FOR: Barry IS The Hulk!

 

THE WICKER MAN (1973)

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While this film may be more famous for is shocking denouement, the story as a whole is enough to send shivers down your spine.  Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) flies up to Summerisle, off the coast of Scotland, to investigate the disappearance of a young girl.  Once there, though, he finds that the locals have no recollection of the missing girl not to mention their strange, pagan customs.  Its the ultimate fish-out-of-water story wherein a normal, everyday policeman finds himself in a bizarre situation with an equally bizarre end.  Christopher Lee also stars as the charismatic Lord Summerisle in one of the creepiest films of all time.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

IT (2017)

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We end as we began with a Stephen King adaptation that exceeded all expectations and became one of the biggest box-office hits in recent years.  I featured the previous version of IT on last year’s Spooktacular and, for a long time, that was mine and everyone else’s definitive version of the story.  Until this came along.  Director Andy Muschietti has brought together a group of young actors, including Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis and Finn Wolfhard, to retell King’s classic story for a modern audience. But the real test of this film comes with the casting of Pennywise.  Tim Curry‘s innocent-until-gruesome clown pales into insignificance compared to that of Bill Skarsgard‘s portrayal.  Like the original, this movie is in two parts (Chapter 2 is set to be released in 2019) so you almost feel cheated by not having much of an ending, but the thrill is in the anticipation.  As a non-horror fan, I absolutely adore this version of IT and cannot wait to see how the second chapter unfolds.

WATCH IT FOR: “I don’t want to go missing”

 

There you go, another batch of chills to keep you company on this Halloween night.  There are plenty more I could have featured, but they’ll have to wait until next year! Until then, don’t have nightmares and beware the moon,lads…

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“We all float down here.  Yes we do!”

 

 

Trick or Treat

Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago for the spooky season.  I’ll admit that I’m not overly fond of it, there are many improvements I could make, but I thought I’d share it with you anyway because, you know, its Halloween…

 

Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat
The Bogeyman is coming to get you
Keep your wits keen
It’s Halloween
Don’t forget to look behind you

Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat
The witching season is here
Just be sure
You lock all the doors
There’s always something to fear

Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat
The night’s are getting dark
No place to run
No place to hide
As the Bogeyman makes his mark

Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat
Now you’re on your own
And so it must seem
That it was all a dream
As you move to pick up the phone

Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat
A voice whispers your name
You scream in fright
Its Halloween night
And you’ll never be the same

Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat
There’s no rhyme without reason
Better take care
And just beware
For this is Halloween season

 

My Life In Film: Part 33

Here we go again! Another batch of finely selected cinematic products that have brought joy to me over the years.  This time round we have a couple of stone cold classics, some Disney magic and a futuristic killing machine…

 

BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (1971)

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This wonderful family adventure follows in the great Disney tradition of mixing live-action and animation to bring a story of fantasy and magic.  Angela Lansbury stars as Miss Price, a witch in training who lives alone in a small English village.  Her life is turned upside down when she is forced to take in three evacuee children.  Together, they locate Miss Price’s teacher, Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson) and travel to the magical kingdom of Naboombu.  Its a gloriously entertaining film with some memorable musical moments as well as the delightful animated sequence and features a cameo from the late, great Bruce Forsyth.  What more could you want?

WATCH IT FOR: Portobello Road

 

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

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A cyborg is sent from the future to 1984 in order to kill a waitress whose unborn son will start a war against the machines.  At the same time, a soldier (Michael Biehn) from that war is also sent back in time but he’s there to protect her.  From director James Cameron, The Terminator sees Arnold Schwarzenegger in arguably his most iconic role as the killing machine sent to assassinate Linda Hamilton‘s character.  Its a film that spawned a hugely successful franchise that will see another entry follow in 2019.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

THE KARATE KID (1984)

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I remember the first time I saw this was at my auntie’s house.  I believe she was the first in our family to own a VHS player and we watched this (we also watched The Boys In Blue at her house for the first time!).  Its the story of Daniel (Ralph Macchio), a bullied teenager who is taught the skills of martial arts by the eccentric Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita).  The film has become one of those cult favourites and has entered into pop culture with Miyagi’s bizarre teaching methods so its no wonder that a number of sequels followed but this one, to me, will always be the best.

WATCH IT FOR: “Wax on, wax off”

 

NATIONAL TREASURE (2004)

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This cheesy adventure yarn can probably be considered as the curveball of this edition.  Nicolas Cage stars as historian Benjamin Franklin Gates who is just one of many treasure hunters in his family.  In order to find the legendary Templar Treasure before Sean Bean‘s band of mercenaries, he must first steal the Declaration of Independence.  Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Jon Turteltaub, National Treasure is a fun frolic where you don’t have to invest too much grey matter into watching it.  A sequel followed in 2007 which was pretty much the same format as this one.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961)

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You can’t get much more iconic a role than that of Holly Golightly and the performance of Audrey Hepburn.  In this romantic drama, Holly is a young socialite in New York who takes a fancy to the new man, Paul Varjak (George Peppard), who has just moved into her apartment building.  Its a film that has very little to do for its supporting players.  Tiffany’s is Hepburn’s movie and she steals every single scene and, quite rightly, became a style and cinema icon because of this role.  The only stumbling block I find watching it now is the painfully miscast Mickey Rooney as Mr Yunioshi, a part that would be ripped apart these days for ‘white-washing’.

WATCH IT FOR: Moon River

 

ANIMAL HOUSE (1978)

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This classic comedy from the National Lampoon stable set the benchmark for every other college-based movie that followed.  You’ve got the nerds, the jocks, the preppies and the layabouts all striving for recognition and status.  At this one particular college, the Dean is determined to expel one fraternity but its members have other plans.  Directed by John Landis, co-written by Harold Ramis and starring John Belushi, Animal House is full of oddball characters, crazy situations and laugh-out-loud moments, not to mention early roles for Karen Allen and Kevin Bacon.

WATCH IT FOR: “I’m a zit!”

 

GENEVIEVE (1953)

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During the annual London to Brighton vintage car rally old friends Alan (John Gregson) and Ambrose (Kenneth More) decide to place a wager on which of their classic cars will make it back to London first.  What starts out in high spirits soon ends up revealing old rivalries and competitive streaks.  Genevieve is one of those wonderful British films that, even though it is well-loved and appreciated, doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves.  Its a slick, breezy comedy with outstanding performances from the four leads (including Dinah Sheridan and Kay Kendall) as well as the memorable score from Larry Adler.  If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favour and seek it out.

WATCH IT FOR: Friendly rivalry

 

JUMANJI (1995)

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Whilst playing a magical board game, two kids unwittingly release a man who has been trapped inside it for years.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t overly keen on Jumanji when it first came out.  Its taken me a good few years to revisit and reacquaint myself with the story and its characters and, recently, I’ve grown to love it.  Starring Robin Williams in one of his most-loved roles as Alan, the man released from the game after decades and featuring a young Kirsten Dunst, Jumanji is a great family movie with some wonderful scenes and special effects.

WATCH IT FOR: Stampede!

 

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)

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Rich girl Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) is about to get remarried but her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) and tabloid reporter Macaulay Connor (an Oscar-winning James Stewart) turn up and throw a collective spanner in the works.  This is one of those slick, fast-talking screwball comedies that Hollywood did so well in the forties with a cast to die for.  The film was remade as a musical, High Society, in 1956 which, while extremely satisfying to watch, isn’t a patch on this original.

WATCH IT FOR: “Are you still in love with her?”

 

THE MUPPETS (2011)

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Muppet movies had been in a bit of a decline until this one blew the previous made-for-television attempts out of the water.  The story sees Walter, a muppet adopted by a human family, and his brother Gary (Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the script) take a trip across country in order to get the original Muppets back together to foil the evil schemes of an oil baron, played by Chris Cooper.  This film harks back to the classic movies of the late seventies/early eighties with big song and dance numbers, star cameos and lots and lots of heart.  Amy Adams co-stars as Gary’s fiancée who always feels left out of the brothers’ relationship as well as some very familiar faces along the way.  It is, without doubt, one of my favourite Muppet movies.

WATCH IT FOR: Man or Muppet

 

And there you go, the thirty-third edition of My Life In Film… and what a collection of wonderful movies that is.  Quite eclectic this time around, don’t you think?  It pretty much sums up my taste in film, eclectic.  I love all genres.  If you like what you’ve seen here today, please feel free to get in touch.  You can leave me a message on here or come find me on Twitter @Shadow_Chaser – the next edition will be the “eagerly anticipated” Halloween Spooktacular III so, until then…

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“What’s that got to do with my knob?”

 

 

 

 

 

My Life In Film Special: Clue

 

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Communism Was Just A Red Herring

When I was in my mid-to-late-teens I spent countless hours browsing my local video rental shop, Jack Beanstalk Video, looking for the latest releases as well as any film that caught my eye.  I saw so many films during that period of my life, some of which have escaped my memory but there was one film that I rented more than all the others.  It’s a mystery comedy with an ensemble cast based on the board game, Cluedo (‘Clue’ to those of you in North America), and I couldn’t get enough of it.  I don’t remember the first time I watched it but I do know that I rented it dozens of times over the months.  Sometimes I would change things up and rent a different film but, most of the time, after browsing the shelves I would invariably return to Clue.

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Despite the personnel involved, including director Jonathan Lynn, the film wasn’t a great success on it’s initial release.  Some wouldn’t be surprised at this, but for me at that age I was amazed that it hadn’t been a bigger hit.  I couldn’t understand how nobody was talking about Clue in the same way they talked about Airplane! or any of the Monty Python movies.  I thought it was hilarious.  I still do.

The plot sees six strangers invited to an exclusive party at Hill House in 1950s New England.  Here, they are greeted by Wadsworth (Tim Curry), the butler and the maid, Yvette (Colleen Camp) and told to use only the pseudonyms provided.  Col. Mustard (Martin Mull), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan) and Mr. Green (Michael McKean) are soon joined by a seventh guest, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving) who, it is revealed, is blackmailing each of the guests and was the person responsible for the party.  Mr. Boddy has a plan, though.  He has brought gifts with him for each of the guests – a wrench, lead pipe, rope, dagger, gun and candlestick (the playing pieces from the board game) and suggests they kill Wadsworth, destroy the blackmail evidence and then leave.  What follows is what can only be described as classic farce as passers-by arrive at the house and the guests struggle to hide the mounting pile of dead bodies until the final act wherein everything is explained.  Sort of.

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Clue was the first time I became aware of the genius that is Tim Curry.  Some people would highlight his work in The Rocky Horror Picture Show but that film had passed me by and I hadn’t yet witnessed the scary delight of IT.  Curry jumped off the screen as Wadsworth, the butler who likes to keep everything tidy, with his boundless, energetic performance that I found so mesmerising.  This was also the first time I encountered most of the cast.  I had yet to be exposed to the delights of This Is Spinal Tap, Private Benjamin or Blazing Saddles and so was watching these actors with fresh eyes.  It didn’t take me long to seek out their back catalogue and marvel at Kahn as Lili von Shtupp, McKean as David St. Hubbins and Brennan as Capt. Doreen Lewis.

TM & Copyright © 2002 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

The whole film has a very theatrical feel to it with all the performances ramped up as if they were playing to a full house at the London Palladium.  I think this is what appealed to me.  It’s silly.  There are plenty of jokes to keep everyone happy, too.  The obvious one-liners and visual gags as well as the stuff you only see on repeated viewings.  It might not be as polished as most comedies of the time, I’d hate to think how it would play if it were, but that’s not why I love it.  Its the energy, the silliness and the almost slap-dash feel to the whole thing.

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Its a film that I always return to, no matter what my mood may be.  Each time I watch it I find something new or I find myself focussing on a different character.  I almost don’t want anyone else to discover this film as its so precious to me.  I used my hard-earned paper round money to rent this out every week, its mine.  But, of course, that’s not the case.  Just take a look around the internet and you’ll know this to be true.  Dozens of groups, costume parties, fan sites all dedicated to this little movie that flopped but has since become, for some people, a guilty pleasure.  I don’t feel an ounce of guilt towards it, though and neither should you!

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In the end, it doesn’t really matter about the plot holes or the (supposed) mistakes.  What matters is that it still brings a smile to my face and to the faces of millions of viewers around the world.

 

 

 

 

My Life In Film: Part 32

Just like another superhero movie you didn’t know you wanted, I bring you part thirty-two of this epic, movie odyssey.  It feels good to be back in my ‘home territory’ of film after all those TV shows took over for a while.  Mostly it is business as usual: blockbusters, classics and the odd curveball thrown in for good measure as well as a minor refurb of the homepage.  Hopefully you’ll stick around (if you have already, well done!) and spread the word but until then, we’ve got work to do…

 

THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (1986)

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There have been many versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic hero, Sherlock Holmes over the years but none quite like this.  Basil, the rodent hero of the title, joins forces with Dr Dawson to investigate the kidnapping of a toymaker which links to a plot against the crown.  It might not be to everyone’s taste as, sometimes, it comes across as a bit of a plod to watch but I think its a beautiful little film harking back to the golden age of the Disney animations.  Not to mention that it features the voice of Vincent Price!

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

WAYNE’S WORLD 2 (1993)

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As sequels go, Wayne’s World 2 doesn’t stray too far from the original.  It doesn’t need to.  The formula worked so well that only a few minor tweaks were made in order to keep it fresh – more gags, more guest stars and more spoofs and parodies.  Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) are still making their own TV show and, following a very vivid dream, Wayne gets the idea to put on a huge concert – Waynestock – where all the biggest bands will play.  Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Cassandra (Tia Carrere) is being wooed by her manager Bobby Cahn (Christopher Walken) for a new career in LA.  Can our intrepid duo put on the biggest rock gig the world has ever seen and still save the girl?  Wayne’s World 2 (and the original) is very much of its time but it still never fails to make me laugh each time I see it.

WATCH IT FOR: “I had the same dream”

 

SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)

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Down on his luck screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) chances upon the home of faded silent movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson).  An oddly compelling relationship forms between the pair as Desmond, still believing her star will shine again, employs Gillis to rework her comeback script.  Gillis essentially becomes her live-in lover while trying to protect her from herself and finding himself falling for a young, aspiring writer.  This Billy Wilder classic is full of snappy dialogue, jealousy, redemption and, for the time, a very unique way to tell the story.  Holden is solid as the desperate writer but it is Swanson, portraying the faded movie icon, who dazzles and who was unlucky to miss out on Oscar glory for her performance.  If you’ve never seen, treat yourself, it is a spellbinding masterpiece.

WATCH IT FOR: “We had faces”

 

THE ITALIAN JOB (1969)

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This classic caper movie isn’t one to tax your brain.  Its pure popcorn entertainment from start to finish.  Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) is newly released from prison but it isn’t long before he’s called upon for “one last job”.  This job, though, is a big one.  Stealing a shipment of gold from under the noses of the Italians, in broad daylight, in Turin.  The film is, perhaps, best known for its use of three Mini Cooper cars, in a patriotic red, white and blue, the starry cast and for Caine’s iconic line about blowing doors off.  Its a fun, entertaining ride that keeps up the pace right until that ending!

WATCH IT FOR: The chase!

 

SUPERMAN II (1980)

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Superman II continues where its hugely successful predecessor left off with the super villains – General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O’Halloran) are released from The Phantom Zone by a nuclear blast.  The find their way to earth where they soon begin a reign of terror in order to rule the planet.  Superman (Christopher Reeve) is soon on hand, though, in between romancing Lois Lane (the late Margot Kidder) and thwarting the plans of Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman).  It is regarded as the better of the four movies with Stamp’s performance standing out as one of cinema’s greatest villains.

WATCH IT FOR: General Zod vs The Army!

 

DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989)

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Cinema has long been fascinated with stories about inspirational teachers.  In this drama from director Peter Weir, we have one of the best in the shape of Robin Williams‘ English teacher, John Keating.  At an illustrious prep school, Keating’s methods of teaching are maverick, to say the least, but they appear to inspire his class of students in search of guidance.  Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Josh Charles are among the cast of aspiring students who take notice of Keating and, ultimately, stand up for themselves and their beliefs.  It is a stunningly beautiful film with Williams giving one of his finest dramatic performances.

WATCH IT FOR: Carpe Diem

 

THE 39 STEPS (1935)

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From the novel by John Buchan and the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, this classic spy thriller will have you on the edge of your seat.  Robert Donat is Buchan’s hero Richard Hannay who, while visiting London, gets embroiled in a mystery that sees him run for his life across the country.  Hitchcock cranks up the suspense and drama to full tilt in this outstanding British noir (by far the best adaptation of the story) where Donat, in particular, shines as the put-upon hero.

WATCH IT FOR: Train escape

 

ROAD TO PERDITION (2002)

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Director Sam Mendes‘ follow-up to his mega-hit American Beauty is a dark, brooding crime thriller based on a graphic novel.  Tom Hanks plays a hitman who is forced to go on the run with his family after his son, played by Tyler Hoechlin, witnesses one of his father’s hits.  Its a solid tale of loyalty and relationships told through the lens of master cinematographer Conrad Hall.  With an amazing supporting cast that includes Daniel Craig, Jude Law and Paul Newman in one of his last screen appearances, Road to Perdition might not be to everyone’s taste but with performances and direction like this, it is hard to beat.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)

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I remember reading Harper Lee‘s magnificent novel when I was at school and then, when I discovered there was a film already made I just had to seek it out.  To Kill A Mockingbird tells the story of Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), a lawyer in the deep south during the depression, who defends a black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a man accused of raping a white woman.  The story is told through the eyes of Finch’s two children, Jem (Phillip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham) and how the prejudice in their town affects them.  Its a truly magnificent movie with Peck giving one of his very best performances and featuring an early appearance from Robert Duvall as Boo Radley.  This is definitely one you need to see at least once in your life.

WATCH IT FOR: The children save Atticus

 

DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE (1995)

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John McClane (Bruce Willis) is about to have a very bad day in this third instalment of the hugely successful Die Hard franchise.  Fresh from defeating terrorists in a high-rise and an airport, McClane is targeted by a German terrorist calling himself Simon (played with delicious pantomime villainy by Jeremy Irons) and threatening to blow up half the buildings in New York.  With Samuel L. Jackson‘s Harlem shopkeeper, Zeus, inadvertently drawn into the game the stage is set for one of the biggest action films of the nineties.  Original director John McTiernan is back behind the camera for this thrill ride that doesn’t stop from the explosive opener right through to the action-packed denouement.  Yippee-ki-yay, indeed!

WATCH IT FOR: “You are about to have a very bad day”

 

And there you have it, another batch of classic movies that I’ve enjoyed over the years.  Another fine mix, even if I do say so myself and there’ll be plenty more where that came from as I put the finishing touches to Part 33.  As ever, if you like what you’ve seen here today, please do feel free to get in touch and let me know.  Until the next time…

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“Alright Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”

 

 

 

Burt Reynolds 1936-2018

At one point in his career, Burt Reynolds was the biggest box-office star in the world.  He carved out his name throughout the 1970s and 1980s as a leading man and sex symbol with movies such as Deliverance, The Mean Machine and Smokey And The Bandit.

 

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With his original aspirations of being an American Football star crushed by injury, Burt Reynolds dropped out of college and moved to New York with thoughts of becoming an actor.  Beginning in summer stock theatre, Reynolds met Joanne Woodward who helped him get an agent before getting work on Broadway.  After receiving good reviews, he took acting lessons and soon got to work with Charlton Heston.  He was given an audition for a part in the movie Sayonara but the film’s director, Joshua Logan, refused to give him the role as he “looked too much like Marlon Brando“.  Logan advised him to get himself to Hollywood but Reynolds didn’t feel confident enough so he ended up taking on a variety of jobs before being offered “$150 to jump through a window on live television”.

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After appearing in various television series and low-budget films, Reynolds landed the part that made his name.  Deliverance saw Reynolds play tough guy Lewis Medlock for director John Boorman alongside Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox.  The four men take a canoe ride down a river in remote wilderness where they encounter local men who subject them to a terrifying nightmare.  The film became one of the highest-grossing movies of 1972 and cemented Reynolds as a genuine movie star.

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His popularity continued with the films Shamus (1973), Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex * But Were Afraid To Ask (1972), The Mean Machine (1974) and Gator (1976).  At around this time his good friend, and former stuntman, Hal Needham approached him with a script.  The film, a road movie, would turn out to be another landmark in Reynolds’ career, Smokey and the Bandit.  The film spawned two sequels and dozens of trucking movies.  Reynolds continued his box-office domination with Hooper (1978), The Cannonball Run (1981), The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (1982) and co-starring with fellow box-office goliath Clint Eastwood in City Heat (1984).

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Subsequent movies failed to bother the box-office and Reynolds soon found his star on the wane.  Most of the films he appeared in during the late 1980s were forgettable and he was soon welcomed back to his old friend, television, where he starred in two very successful shows.  B.L. Stryker saw Reynolds play a carefree private detective in Florida while Evening Shade harked back to his early life as he portrayed a former football player who returns to his hometown to coach the high school team.  The show ran for four series and earned Reynolds and Emmy award.

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Reynolds soon found himself back on the big screen but the roles were not grabbing anyone’s attention (don’t get me started on Cop and a Half!).  He enjoyed a mini renaissance thanks to a part in the woeful Striptease (1996) and a majestic performance in Boogie Nights (1997), the latter of which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.  Thanks to this performance, Reynolds garnered a new generation of fans and he continued to make movies well into the new century including Mystery, Alaska (1999) and Driven (2001).
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He received critical acclaim once more for The Last Movie Star in 2017 and had recently signed up for a role in the latest Quentin Tarantino epic Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.  The news of his death today at the age of 82 has brought to an end a truly unique career in film.  He was one of the mavericks of the business, never bowing down to trends and always forging his own path whether the outcome was successful or not.  Reynolds, it seemed, enjoyed the hell out of making movies and that’s what came across on screen.

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Burt Reynolds 1936 – 2018