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!”

 

 

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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!

Clue (1985).

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

 

 

My Life In Film: Part 31

After another, seemingly never ending, hiatus the movie juggernaut that is My Life In Film… returns to fill the void left by its television counterpart.  It truly feels like years since I last got to delve into the cinematic vaults to peruse those films that have helped shape me and have offered inspiration over the years.  Some are true classics, while others are probably seen as folly to include in such esteemed company.  What bonds them all is the enjoyment I have taken from each and every one.  We’ve got dinosaurs, cowboys and nuns, what more could you want out of life?

 

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006)

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One of the true joys in watching movies is seeing when a franchise, rather than follow in the tradition of diminishing returns, goes from strength to strength.  The Mission: Impossible franchise does just that.  Since the 1996 original, Tom Cruise has upped the collective game of each successive movie, defying death in breath-taking stunts along the way.  Personally, the only stumbling block it faced was in the second outing, but it soon picked up the pace with this instalment.  IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) comes up against a truly sadistic foe in the shape of Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s arms dealer Owen Davian.  As with every Impossible movie, some of the creative talent changes on each round.  Here we have Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Q and Simon Pegg joining Ving Rhames to assist Hunt’s mission while director J.J. Abrams injects some much needed vigour to proceedings and reinvigorates the franchise.  With the sixth instalment, Fallout, currently in cinemas, it seems unlikely to end its hugely successful run any time soon.

WATCH IT FOR: Bridge Attack!

 

SISTER ACT (1992)

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This smash-hit musical comedy sees Whoopi Goldberg play a Las Vegas nightclub singer who witnesses a mob hit and is placed under police protection in a strict nunnery.  This could very well have been a below average, straight-to-video affair but, in the hands of director Emile Ardolino and with a stellar cast that also includes Maggie Smith, Harvey Keitel and a scene-stealing Kathy Najimy, Sister Act proved to be a monster success.  The joy comes from Goldberg’s worldly-wise character being forced to adhere to strict rules and learning to grow in the process.  Add to this an array of fabulous musical numbers and a roster of wonderful supporting performances and you’ve got one of the funniest movies in recent years.  A somewhat lacklustre sequel in 1993 and a monumentally successful stage run followed but it will always be this film that steals the show.

WATCH IT FOR: Hail Holy Queen

 

PANIC ROOM (2002)

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Newly divorced Meg (Jodie Foster) moves into a new, four-storey house with her daughter, Sarah (Kristen Stewart).  The previous owner of the house, a reclusive millionaire, had installed a panic room to protect the occupants from intruders.  On the night they move in, Meg discovers that they have been broken into and promptly takes herself and Sarah off to the panic room for safety.  But what the robbers want is hidden in a locked safe in the panic room.  Director David Fincher really knows how to crank up the tension in this thriller that also co-stars Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam.  Its a battle of wits between Meg and the three intruders that lasts until the all-too-familiar crowd-pleasing finale.  Its still worth a look, though!

WATCH IT FOR: The panic room!

 

FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)

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A cautionary tale about infidelity told through the medium of a psychological thriller.  Michael Douglas plays happily married New York lawyer Dan Gallagher who, while his wife and daughter are away, has an affair with his colleague, Alex (Glenn Close).  This brief, one night stand soon turns ugly when it appears that Alex doesn’t want to let Dan go and will stop at nothing to get what she wants.  Its a film that has become so iconic and has infused the collective psyche with its story of a woman scorned and the lengths she’ll go to not be ignored.  Douglas and Close are electrifying in Adrian Lyne‘s thrilling drama that also sees Anne Archer as the put-upon wife and one, poor bunny!

WATCH IT FOR: “I’m not going to be ignored…”

 

SING STREET (2016)

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Here’s an absolutely joyous Irish film set in the early part of the eighties where music exploded onto the landscape.  Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) meets a girl who appears uninterested.  No worry, though, he’ll start a band to impress her.  Director John Carney (Once, Begin Again) has crafted a film with such joy and optimism that you almost forget how painful it was to be a kid growing up.  The whole cast are magnificent, even the older, supporting performers, and the whole film is sprinkled with drama, humour and some stonkingly brilliant songs.  If you only see one film from this list, let it be this one, it will change your life and lift your heart.

WATCH IT FOR: Drive It Like You Stole It

 

THE WILD BUNCH (1969)

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In this western, his love letter to a dying genre, director Sam Peckinpah brings to the screen one of his most bloodiest and acclaimed movies.  Ageing outlaw William Holden, along with his ‘Wild Bunch’ cohorts that includes Ernest Borgnine and Ben Johnson, decides to take on one last job to see out his days.  The way of the west is changing and men like them can either fade away or go out in a blaze of glory.  Famed for its brutal end shoot-out, The Wild Bunch is much more of a human drama as we witness these old cowboys coming to terms with their lot in life.  Holden is on blistering form, as are the rest of the cast – Warren Oates, Robert Ryan and Edmond O’Brien to name just a few, but it is Peckinpah who is the real hero here, a director so forward-thinking and so ahead of his time.

WATCH IT FOR: “Let’s go…”

 

ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING (1975)

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Here’s one of those films that always seemed to be shown on television during the school holidays.  Its a light Disney adventure involving spies, dinosaurs and nannies!  Lord Southmere (Derek Nimmo) escapes from China with an important microfilm but is captured by Chinese spies lead by Peter Ustinov‘s Hnup Wan.  Southmere manages to escape from his captors and eventually finds a safe place to hide the microfilm – inside the bones of a dinosaur at the National History Museum.  He then approaches his former nanny, Hettie (Helen Hayes) to retrieve the microfilm before the spies can get their hands on it.  What follows is a farcical race through the countryside with a stolen dinosaur skeleton, a bunch of renegade nannies and a host of familiar faces.  Its a bit of fun from an earlier, more innocent, age which accounts for the very non-PC portrayal of the Chinese.  But this is Disney doing what it did best, fun family entertainment.

WATCH IT FOR: Stealing the dinosaur

 

RED HEAT (1988)

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Arguably, the eighties saw the height of the buddy cop movie with various twists along the way, including this one from director Walter Hill.  Tough Russian policeman Ivan Danko (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent to Chicago on the trail of a Georgian drug lord who killed his partner.  On his arrival in the Windy City, Danko is partnered with tough, Chicago detective Art Ridzik (James Belushi) who has apprehended Danko’s drug lord.  What follows is your standard action fare with the pair not getting along at first only to find that they need to work together in order to bring the drug lord down.  Belushi and Schwarzenegger are a great pairing and can both handle the action and comedy in this blistering, knockout thriller.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

THE SANDLOT (1993)

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For a long time throughout the 80s and into the 90s, kids’ movies were pretty dire affairs that were just long versions of one joke.  But every so often a film comes along that grabs the audience’s attention and never lets go.  The Sandlot is that film.  Set in the summer of 1962, Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) is new to town and just wants to play baseball.  The neighbourhood baseball guru, Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) takes him under his wing and soon Scotty finds himself accepted by the local baseball buddies.  Its a wonderfully bright, funny and heart-warming coming-of-age film that you can enjoy even if you don’t know the first thing about baseball.  Its hard to believe that its now twenty-five years old now but it still feels fresh as the first time I saw it.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

TREMORS (1990)

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I’m not usually a fan of horror or even monster flicks but this one seemed to grab me like no other.  Residents of the small town of Depression find that there is something lurking under the ground and is killing anything that moves.  Local handymen Valentine (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) are desperate to leave town but are forced into helping out their neighbours in this fun homage to the classic B-movies of old.  Director Ron Underwood delivers the shock value as well as much needed humour while the rest of the cast, including Finn Carter, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire, seem to delight in this cult, schlock horror that has since spawned five sequels, a TV series and a forthcoming TV movie reboot with Bacon reprising his role.

WATCH IT FOR: Pole vault!

 

And we’re off and running! A brand new batch of movies to add to the ever-growing list that always amazes me just how eclectic my tastes are.  I don’t think you can truly enjoy cinema unless you embrace all genres, though and there are plenty to choose from in this list.  Part 32 promises to be just as varied with bona fide classics and blockbusting action to boot.  As ever, if you like what you’ve seen here please do feel free to get in touch in the usual way, I’d love to hear from you (yes, even if you hate it!).  Until the next time…

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“You’re killing me, Smalls!”