My Life In Film: Part 37

As the dust settles on The Academy Awards for another year, it’s time, once again, to take another trip into my cinematic archive.  I know I say this every time but this edition of My Life In Film… really is quite eclectic.  Disasters, epics, romance and yutes all convene to bring such varied movie treats.  So, without further ado, let’s get down to business…

 

MY GIRL (1991)

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After the huge global success of Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin was one of Hollywood’s hottest properties.  In the space of just a couple of years he made some of the biggest well-loved films including this one where he plays Thomas, best friend to Anna Chlumsky‘s Vada Sultenfuss, a bright, intelligent girl prone to being a hypochondriac.  When her mortician father, Harry (Dan Aykroyd) hires a new secretary in the form of Shelly (Jamie Lee Curtis) life in their small town will never be the same again.  The two young leads are superb as they navigate their tricky early adolescence in a film that could quite easily have turned into a sickly melodrama.  Be warned, though, there may be tears by the end.

WATCH IT FOR: She’s My Best Friend

 

THE FISHER KING (1991)

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Jeff Bridges plays Jack, a popular New York talk radio DJ who, during one of his shows raging against the rise of the Yuppie, inadvertently inspires a man to go on a rampage in a local bar. Feeling dreadful remorse for the incident, Jack descends into a spiral of drink and pity where he strikes up an unlikely friendship with Parry (Robin Williams), a former professor who became mentally unbalanced and homeless after witnessing his wife being gunned down in the bar attack.  Parry believes himself to be on an important quest to track down the Holy Grail, a quest that Jack finds himself assisting with as a way of seeking his own redemption.  Director Terry Gilliam brings his dazzling visual style to this modern fable and delights us with fine performances from the two leads as well as an Oscar-winning turn from Mercedes Ruehl as Jack’s girlfriend.

WATCH IT FOR: Grand Central Station

 

EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987)

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Based on the autobiographical novel by J.G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun is the story of Jim Graham (Christian Bale) who has his life turned upside down with the Japanese invasion of December 1941.  Living a privileged life, Jim soon finds himself separated from his parents, captured and interred in a concentration camp where he finds a new way of living and surviving.  Steven Spielberg has expertly crafted a stunning visual epic that takes a different look at the war and the people involved.  With a supporting cast that features the likes of John Malkovich, Nigel Havers, Leslie Phillips and Miranda Richardson, this is one of Spielberg’s more underappreciated films that, given the scale and depth of it, should really be given more love.

WATCH IT FOR: Cadillac Of The Sky

 

THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979)

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In this slice of seventies paranoia Jane Fonda plays Kimberly Wells, an opportunistic television reporter who stumbles across a huge cover-up at a nuclear power plant. While covering a story on the use of alternative energy sources at the plant Wells, and her cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) are witness to an accident.  Keen to publicise the incident, Wells and Adams come up against the full weight of corporate power in the shape of Richard Herd‘s Evan McCormack who wants to silence the whole thing.  With Jack Lemmon and Wilford Brimley as workers at the plant providing solid support, The China Syndrome is as bleak and relevant today as it was back then.

WATCH IT FORTrailer

 

AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973)

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It’s the end of summer, 1962 in a small town in Southern California.  A group of friends gather for one last night before they each head off to college.  Director George Lucas brings us a love letter to a golden age of Americana with drag racers, drive-ins and the end of the rock ‘n’ roll era.  Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams and a then unknown Harrison Ford remind us of a happier, more carefree time when the only problem a kid had was finding a way out of their dead-end town.  Add in to the mix a spectacular soundtrack of classic hits and you’ve got yourself a bona fide cult smash.

WATCH IT FOR: “Must Be Your Mama’s Car”

 

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972)

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In the 1970s there was a wave (pardon the pun!) of big budget epic disaster movies including this absolute classic.  Concerning the final voyage of a majestic cruise ship on New Year’s Eve that takes a different route thanks to an undersea earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure throws everything at you.  Of course, you’d expect nothing less from producer extraordinaire Irwin Allen.  A huge, all-star cast that includes Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Red Buttons, Ernest Borgnine and Roddy McDowall must battle against the elements as the ship is turned upside down in the middle of the ocean and the remaining passengers strive for power and survival.

WATCH IT FOR: The Ballroom Floods

 

MY COUSIN VINNY (1992)

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In this courtroom comedy from director Jonathan Lynn, Joe Pesci stars as Vincent LaGuardia Gambini, an inexperienced lawyer who has never been to trial, who is called upon to represent his cousin, Bill (Ralph Macchio) and Bill’s friend, Stan (Mitchell Whitfield) when they are arrested for murder in rural Alabama.  Vinny clashes with the locals as well as Judge Haller (the brilliant Fred Gwynne in his final screen role) as he desperately tries to get to the bottom of the case.  Aided by his brash girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito (an Oscar-winning Marisa Tomei), Vinny soon finds that he might need some help.

WATCH IT FOR: Two “Yutes”

 

GROSSE POINTE BLANK (1997)

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Martin Q. Blank (John Cusack), a freelance hitman who has recently developed a conscience, is advised to attend his high school reunion in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.  Coincidentally, he has been contracted to kill someone in this very suburb.  As he tries to justify not killing, he is pursued by the FBI, one assassin who wants to kill him and another assassin who wants to recruit him.  All the while trying to reconnect with the girlfriend he left behind.  It’s sharp, funny and has a brilliant soundtrack to boot.  This film (and, indeed Cusack) deserves more love and appreciation.  Get on it, people!

WATCH IT FOR: Work Less, Make More

 

THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS (1978)

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There may be some that would disagree with this particular version of John Buchan‘s classic novel being included, especially when Hitchcock‘s (perhaps) definitive version has already been featured.  I say to you, that I don’t care.  It’s my list and I do what I want!  That being said, it is far from being the best-loved of Richard Hannay’s adventure through wrongful arrest, murder, intrigue and espionage but I love it.  Robert Powell takes the reins as the hero fighting his way through the quagmire of lies and deception that takes him to the highlands of Scotland and ends with a spectacular denouement in London.  Featuring a veritable who’s who of British acting greats, this is great fun for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

WATCH IT FOR: Big Ben

 

ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)

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If you’re only going to play James Bond once, you might as well make it one of the best films in the franchise.  George Lazenby takes over the role in one of the most Bondian of Bond films as he travels to Switzerland to face off against Blofeld (Telly Savalas) one more time.  Going undercover, Bond discovers the real reason behind Blofeld’s allergy clinic high above the mountains and even falls in love with Tracy (Diana Rigg).  The action zips along and there are some spectacular set pieces but it is the romance between Bond and Tracy that really ignites this film.  A romance that, we know, is doomed but is, ultimately, worthwhile.  For whatever reasons Lazenby only made this one film, it remains a titan among the fold and still holds up today, fifty years on.

WATCH IT FOR: Blofeld

 

And that, as they say, is that.  Another fine batch of films for your viewing pleasure and, once again, quite eclectic.  I hope that this blog inspires you to seek out some of these films to watch, maybe for the first time or, perhaps, for the hundredth.  Whatever your feelings, I’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to get in touch and let me know what you think.  My door is always open.  Until the next time…

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“This never happened to the other fella”

 

 

 

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And The Oscar Goes To…

The Oscars are rarely without controversy and this year was no different.  From the proposed new ‘Favourite Film’ category, the appointment and subsequent departure of host Kevin Hart all the way through to the suggestion by The Academy that four of the awards would be presented during commercial breaks that was later rescinded, this year’s show seemed to be on a rocky road to nowhere.  Even without a main host for the first time in thirty years (Snow White, anyone?) and with a fierce intent to curb the running time, the show zipped along at a pace yet still managed to feel longer than it was.

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All eyes were on Hollywood for the 91st Academy Awards and, in particular, the opening of the show.  Traditionally we’d be treated to a funny monologue from that year’s host but, already, this year would be different.  Kevin Hart was no longer on board so the show’s producers took the decision to proceed host-less for the first time since Rain Man took home the big prize.  Speculation was rife as to how the show would run without a comedian to connect the dots but, from the moment the opening drums of Queen‘s “We Will Rock You” echoed throughout the auditorium, we knew we were in for something different.

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You could almost feel the sense of emergency in getting on with things as the guest presenters entered and exited the stage, barely pausing for breath.  As the night moved along and the awards were handed out, we were treated to a few surprises as Marvel’s Black Panther collected three awards along with Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma while some would argue that the biggest surprise came when Bohemian Rhapsody became the night’s biggest winner with four awards in total, including Rami Malek‘s Best Actor award for playing Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

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In what turned out to be a fairly evenly spread awards show, the biggest shock of the night came when Green Book was announced as the year’s Best Picture ahead of the favourite, Roma (although Alfonso Cuaron did win for directing).  On the plus side, though, there was a big win for Britain’s own National Treasure, Olivia Colman who took home the gong for Best Actress which turned out to be The Favourite‘s only win of the night.

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Mahershala Ali received his second award for Best Supporting Actor (he won in 2017 for Moonlight) for Green Book while Regina King took home Best Supporting Actress for If Beale Street Could Talk.  Among the other big winners was Spike Lee‘s first competitive Oscar (he received an honorary award in 2016) for Blackkklansman‘s adapted screenplay.  Lee triumphantly took to the stage, told the show in no uncertain terms not to mute his microphone and proceeded to deliver one of the most heartfelt and profound speeches of the night.

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Once again, history was made on a night that became all about coming together and sharing each other’s joy.  There is still a long way to go before true equality sets in but, for now, let’s just bathe in the joy of Richard E. Grant‘s Oscars journey, surely one of the standout stories of the year.

2019 ACADEMY AWARD WINNERS

BEST PICTURE – GREEN BOOK

BEST DIRECTOR – ALFONSO CUARON (ROMA)

BEST ACTOR – RAMI MALEK (BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY)

BEST ACTRESS – OLIVIA COLMAN (THE FAVOURITE)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – MAHERSHALA ALI (GREEN BOOK)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – REGINA KING (IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – NICK VALLELONGA, BRIAN CURRIE & PETER FARRELLY (GREEN BOOK)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – CHARLIE WACHTEL, DAVID RABINOWITZ, KEVIN WILMOTT & SPIKE LEE (BLACKKKLANSMAN)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE – ROMA (MEXICO)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – ALFONSO CUARON (ROMA)

BEST FILM EDITING – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – BLACK PANTHER

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – BLACK PANTHER

BEST MAKEUP & HAIR – VICE

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – LUDWIG GORANSSON (BLACK PANTHER)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – “SHALLOW” (A STAR IS BORN)

BEST SOUND MIXING – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

BEST SOUND EDITING – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – FIRST MAN

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – FREE SOLO

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – BAO

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – SKIN

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And The Nominees Are…

It’s that time of year again, kids!  Time to get your tuxedo dry-cleaned, stock up on munchies and try and stay awake.  Yes, it’s The 91st Academy Awards.  In recent years, the ceremony has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons with this year being no exception.  Following the appointment and later departure of the Academy’s compere of choice, Kevin Hart, it has been announced that, for the first time in thirty years, the show will go on without a host.  Add to that the controversy over the proposed new “Popular Film” category (which, thankfully, was ‘postponed’) and the news that four of the categories will have their winners announced during the ad breaks (a decision that has since been reversed), this year is already shaping up to be quite a story.  So, without further a do, here are my predictions for this year…

 

STEVE’S ‘SPOOK’ OSCAR PREDICTIONS 2019

BEST PICTUREROMA

BEST DIRECTOR – ALFONSO CUARON (ROMA)

BEST ACTOR – RAMI MALEK (BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY)

BEST ACTRESS – OLIVIA COLMAN (THE FAVOURITE) or GLENN CLOSE (THE WIFE)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – MAHERSALA ALI (GREEN BOOK)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – RACHEL WEISZ (THE FAVOURITE)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – THE FAVOURITE (DEBORAH DAVIS, TONY McNAMARA)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – BLACKKKLANSMAN (CHARLIE WATCHEL, DAVID RABINOWITZ, KEVIN WILMOTT, SPIKE LEE)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – ROMA (ALFONSO CUARON)

BEST FILM EDITING – BLACKKKLANSMAN (BARRY ALEXANDER BROWN)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – THE FAVOURITE (FIONA CROMBIE, ALICE FELTON)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – THE FAVOURITE (SANDY POWELL)

BEST MAKEUP/HAIRSTYLING – MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (JENNY SHIRCORE, MARC PILCHER, JESSICA BROOKS)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – BLACK PANTHER (LUDWIG GORANSSON)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – “SHALLOW” (A STAR IS BORN)

BEST SOUND MIXING – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (PAUL MASSEY, TIM CAVAGIN, JOHN CASALI)

BEST SOUND EDITING – A QUIET PLACE (ETHAN VAN DER RYN, ERIK AADAHL)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – READY PLAYER ONE (ROGER GUYETT, GRADY COFER, MATTHEW E. BUTLER, DAVID SHIRK)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – FREE SOLO

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – LIFEBOAT

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM – LATE BEHAVIOUR

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – SKIN

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE – ROMA

 

As per usual, these predictions are based purely on my own thoughts, the runners and riders, the scoresheet from previous award ceremonies, my years of watching the show live every year and (in the case of Best Actress where I’ve sat on the fence) my hunches.  Also, once again, I’ve seen very few of the nominated films so, as in most things in life, this is purely guess work!  What are your thoughts?  Who do you think will take home the top prizes this year?  Who is missing from the nominations list? Let’s find out together on Sunday 24th February (it’ll be the early hours of Monday 25th here in the UK).  I’ll be tweeting along once more, high on coffee and biscuits and hoping the show doesn’t suck too much without a host!

The 91st Annual Academy Awards – Sunday, 24th February 2019

My Life In Film: Part 36

Welcome back to another eclectic mix of cinematic choices from yours truly. With 2019 now in full swing and everyone chatting about the awards season, its comforting to know that there’ll be no such talk around these parts. Not yet, anyway. There’s plenty of time for that sort of thing. In this fun-packed selection you’ll find more than your average amount of classic oldies as well as one very up-to-date, modern classic that dominated last year’s awards season…

 

TANGLED (2010)

In recent years, Disney have really been at the top of their game when it comes to animated movies. As with most of their classic films, Tangled is based on a famous fairy tale, in this case ‘Rapunzel’ by The Brothers Grimm. In it, Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) with her magically-long hair, has been locked in a tower, away from the outside world. That is, until runaway thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) stumbles upon her. Its full of all the magic and wonder you’d expect from the House of Mouse, including sublime animation, music and songs. Not to mention its a lot of fun to watch, too!

WATCH IT FOR: When Will My Life Begin?

 

THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017)

Here’s one of the more recent films in the whole countdown from master storyteller Guillermo Del Toro (The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy). It’s one of those films that I was a little wary of to begin with, having heard little snippets of the storyline, but I’m happy to say that, on viewing for the first time, it blew me away. This is a beautiful romantic fantasy in the style of Old Hollywood, with glorious set design, camera movement and a delicious score from Alexandre Desplat. Sally Hawkins gives a mesmerising performance as a lonely, mute janitor at a top secret research facility who forms an unique relationship with an unlikely partner. I implore you to watch this film, it is stunningly beautiful and gloriously rich in tone and emotion. You will not regret it, nor will you ever forget it.

WATCH IT FOR: Lab Encounter

 

TRUE LIES (1994)

Here’s another one of those films that I absolutely hated when I first saw it but have since warmed to. From director James Cameron comes this non-stop, all-out action yarn. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Harry Tasker, a no-nonsense secret agent who, while in the middle of tracking, finds out that his bored wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been seeing another man, namely Bill Paxton‘s slimy used car salesman. Soon both his worlds collide in what is, arguably, just a dumb action flick. There are elements to enjoy, though, as the couple navigate their marriage while being oblivious to what’s going on around them and the set-pieces are, as you’d expect from Cameron, epic!

WATCH IT FOR: Bathroom Fight

 

WILLOW (1988)

You can also add this film to the “I once hated it by now kinda like it” list. I watched it again recently for the first time in years and have a new found love for its charm. It’s a fantasy adventure with a story by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard. Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) a dwarf farmer and magician, sets out on a quest to protect a baby girl from an evil queen. Along the way he meets Madmartigen (Val Kilmer) and Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) who help him defeat the queen and her monsters. This is a good, old-fashioned adventure romp with exciting action sequences and a fair smattering of romance.

WATCH IT FOR: Snow Chase

 

MURDER SHE SAID (1961)

Here we have the first of four big-screen outings for Margaret Rutherford‘s version of Agatha Christie‘s Miss Marple. I’ve always loved these films as they were firm favourites of my mum so it was almost inevitable that at least one of them be included. Based on Christie’s “4.50 from Paddington”, Miss Marple reports witnessing a murder through the window of a passing train but is dismissed as just another doddery old woman. She begins her own investigation which finds her taking up service at Ackenthorpe House. While Christie wasn’t keen on the adaptation, the film scored big at the box office and cemented Rutherford as one of the greatest Miss Marples.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (1951)

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In this classic Ealing comedy, Alec Guinness plays a meek bank clerk, in charge of overseeing shipments of bullion, join forces with Stanley Holloway, Sid James and Alfie Bass to steal the gold bars and then smuggle them out of the country in the shape of miniature Eiffel Towers.  It is such a delightfully English comedy about ordinary people dreaming of an extraordinary life.  This should be on everyone’s watch list.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

CLOCKWISE (1986)

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Brian Stimpson (John Cleese) is an obsessively punctual headmaster at an English comprehensive school.  He sets out on a journey to the annual Headmaster’s Conference but time, and everything else, conspires against him.  This is one of those British films that has, sadly, been forgotten about which is a shame because it is actually pretty good. I have a memory of watching this at school during a Film Appreciation class and loving Cleese’s manic performance as the uptight headmaster.  It hasn’t been shown on TV for an absolute age which needs rectifying immediately.  If you can, seek this one out.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailers

 

THE COURT JESTER (1955)

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Here’s one of those great Hollywood musical fantasies that, while often gets neglected, is also fondly remembered.  The always utterly magnificent Danny Kaye stars as Hawkins, a hapless carnival performer who must masquerade as a court jester in order to overthrow a tyrannical ruler.  Whilst crossing swords with Basil Rathbone, he must also contend for the hearts of both Glynis Johns and Angela Lansbury in a fun, musical tongue-twisting comedy.

WATCH IT FOR: The Flagon With The Dragon

 

A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)

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Picture the scene.  I’m ten years old and at a schoolfriend’s birthday party that gets rained off (we were due to go to the local park) when we are suddenly whisked off to the cinema to watch the latest blockbuster.  That film was A View To A Kill and it was the first Bond film I saw on the big screen.  It has remained a firm favourite, even though it is one of the weakest of the franchise (you never forget your first love), despite Roger Moore being far too old (even at that point) to play the secret agent going up against the manic Christopher Walken and the even more manic Grace Jones.  But, in all honesty, none of that matters because, as a film fan and, more importantly, a James Bond fan, I love everything about it and always will.  

WATCH IT FOR: Dropping Out!

 

THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (1965)

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In this adventure drama, James Stewart is the pilot of a cargo plane that crashes in a sandstorm in the Sahara.  On the plane are less than a dozen men, including one (Hardy Kruger) who tells the other survivors that he is an airplane designer and that they can make a flyable craft from the wreckage.  Despite the inclusion of Richard Attenborough, George Kennedy and Peter Finch, the film underperformed at the box office but has since become one of those cult classics about fighting adversity, judgement and true grit.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

And there you have it, another batch of films bites the dust in this epic troll through my cinematic odyssey.  A couple of classics mixed with a modern fable all combine to show my varied taste (and that I’ll pretty much watch anything!).  If any of this has taken your fancy and you’d like to get in touch, please do, I’d love to hear from you.  In the meantime, I’ve got some Oscar predictions to make so, until the next time…

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“You contrived to introduce arsenic into my curry – which I find unforgivable, by the way”

 

 

 

My Life In Film: Part 35

Welcome back fellow movie fans to a brand new year of My Life In Film… posts. I hope your festive season went smoothly and without incident and that you are now ready to face 2019 with fresh and positive eyes. Or, failing that, stumble into the new year with the same old attitude you’ve always had…just like me! Anyway, Part 35 has arrived and, with it, a slew of classic films to savour. Without further a do, let’s get down to business…

 

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (1993)

This is one of those great family comedies that just doesn’t seem to get the love it truly deserves. Thomas Ian Nicholas plays Henry Rowengartner, who has always dreamt of playing professional baseball just like his late father. When he breaks his arm, he finds that, once the tendons have healed too tightly, he can throw pitches over 100mph! He’s soon drafted to play for the Chicago Cubs where he comes up against some strong opposition. While this film might not have been in the running for any major awards, it does have something that the majority of films don’t have – heart! The directorial debut of co-star Daniel Stern, Rookie of the Year is a great feel-good yarn full of hope and optimism, not to mention plenty of baseball action plus support from Gary Busey and John Candy!

WATCH IT FOR: The Have To

 

THE LION KING (1994)

With a brand new, live-action/CGI version on the way, what better time is there to revisit this classic, Disney original? Smashing all kinds of box office records on its release and scooping dozens of awards along the way, The Lion King is an outstanding achievement in cinema. The story of a young lion cub, Simba, who grows up believing he is responsible for his father’s death. Fleeing the pride, Simba goes on a journey to discover his place in the world and, along the way, makes friends and falls in love. With music by Hans Zimmer and songs by Tim Rice and Elton John, The Lion King proves that, while sometimes they falter, Disney quite often triumphs.

WATCH IT FOR: Stampede

 

THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE (1993)

Another directorial debut here, this time from action movie hero Mel Gibson. This tender drama sees Gibson cast himself in the lead role as Justin McLeod, a troubled teacher who befriends an equally troubled young boy, Chuck (an excellent Nick Stahl) and nurtures his potential to follow his dreams. McLeod, disfigured from an automobile accident in which another young boy was killed and for which he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, faces hostility from the locals when Chuck befriends him. Its a brave choice to make a film that is so against type but it works, mostly due to Gibson’s then ability to strike gold with almost everything he touched. You should really seek it out if you haven’t already.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

SPIES LIKE US (1985)

Emmit Fitz-Hume (Chevy Chase) and Austin Milbarge (Dan Aykroyd) are two low-level government types who are chosen by the CIA for a top secret mission. They believe they are being employed as spies but, in reality and due to their incompetence, they are sent in as decoys. It is one of those really (really) silly films that you either get or you don’t. Chase and Aykroyd are, as you’d expect, just on top form as their 80s personas and, with direction from John Landis, Spies Like Us is all about the escapism!

WATCH IT FOR: Training!

 

48 HRS. (1982)

Here’s another one of those classic 80s actions flicks that pairs two unlikely stars together to form an explosive partnership. In this case we see Nick Nolte‘s gruff, veteran cop Jack Cates forced to buddy-up with Eddie Murphy‘s convict, Reggie Hammond as they go on the hunt for a killer. Director Walter Hill keeps all fires burning in this loud, action-packed comedy thriller. While some of the language used may offend some, it certainly didn’t deter from producing a sequel eight years later. Its dated, for sure, but it still packs a punch.

WATCH IT FOR: I Hate Rednecks

 

THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991)

Another unlikely buddy partnership here with this action thriller from director Tony Scott and writer Shane Black. Joe Hallenback (Bruce Willis) is a down and out private detective who teams up with down and out ex-quarterback Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) to investigate corrupt politicians and a crooked football team owner. As you’d expect from Scott and Black, the action and dialogue comes thick and fast and the chemistry between Willis and Wayans jumps off the screen. Its an underappreciated action flick that, I feel, deserves more attention.

WATCH IT FOR: Fifth Street Shootout

 

COOL RUNNINGS (1993)

The much-missed John Candy stars here, in one of his final movies, as Irving Blitzer, a disgraced bobsleigh coach who gets a second chance to prove himself when the son of a friend comes to him with a crazy idea. Derice Bannock (Leon) is disqualified from the Olympics and turns to Irving to help coach him and his friends to become a great bobsleigh team. Based on the true story of a team from Jamaica hitting the icy slopes of Calgary, Cool Runnings hits all the marks as a triumph over adversity and human redemption story. And with Candy on board, you can bet there are plenty of laughs, too!

WATCH IT FOR: First Training

 

LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)

In an edition that has already featured a couple of debuts, it seems fitting that this, the first appearance of Roger Moore as James Bond, should also be included. For the eight movie in the franchise, and following the departures of both Sean Connery (twice) and George Lazenby, the producers turned to Roger Moore to bring an altogether different approach to the role. With several agents dying, 007 is sent to New Orleans where he comes up against a powerful drug baron (Yaphet Kotto), a sexy tarot card reader (Jane Seymour) and some dangerous sidekicks (Geoffrey Holder, Julius Harris). Out of all of Moore’s Bond films, this is, perhaps, the darker and most loved. Here on in, the tone gets lighter, the tongue sits firmly in the cheek and Moore’s eyebrows raise the bar.

WATCH IT FOR: Meeting Mr Big

 

TIMECOP (1994)

Jean-Claude Van Damme takes centre stage in this slice of sci-fi nonsense from director Peter Hyams. JCVD plays Max Walker, security officer for an agency that regulates time travel. He comes up against Ron Silver‘s shady politician who has some sinister plans for the time technology. This is one of those films that I absolutely hated when I first saw it but have since grown to love it for all its faults.

WATCH IT FOR: A suitably cheesy trailer!

 

TOUGH GUYS (1986)

Here’s a treat for you. Two legends of the golden age of Hollywood together again. Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster play elderly gangsters who, after being released from prison, find that they no longer fit in and so decide to show the world just what they’re made of. Its been a while since I saw this film so I can only go off what my memory tells me but I seem to recall really enjoying seeing these two old guys butting heads and taking no guff from anyone. Reportedly, the pair didn’t speak to each other on set but you can’t tell.

WATCH IT FOR: Foiling A Bank Robbery

 

And there you have it. Another ten films to add to the ever-growing list. A nice little collection, even if I do say so myself. Congratulations if you spotted the Bruce McGill connections as well. If you like what you see here, please do feel free to get in touch, comments are always welcome! Until the next time…

“He always did have an inflated opinion of himself”

My Life In Film Special: Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter was already a literary phenomenon when, in 1999, she sold the rights to Warner Bros. to adapt her books into films.  Once the films were announced, there followed a media frenzy about the casting of the young leads. After months of searching, Daniel Radcliffe was cast as Harry, the boy who lived.  Soon after Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were discovered to play Hermione and Ron respectively.  Over the course of ten years, four directors and a slew of familiar acting faces, the Harry Potter films have grossed millions of dollars worldwide and have become some of the best-loved family movies of all time.  Instead of choosing which of the eight films I should include in my list I decided to focus one edition of My Life In Film… to the franchise which is where you find yourself right now!

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE (2001)

HP1 Stone

An orphaned boy, living with his cruel aunt and uncle, discovers that he is a wizard and is soon enrolled at the prestigious Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he learns about his family as well as the dark secrets of the wizarding world. Aided by his new friends Ron and Hermione, Harry goes in search of the fabled Philosopher’s Stone which is concealed somewhere on the school grounds. With an outstanding supporting cast of famous faces including Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane, this first movie (renamed Sorcerer’s Stone for the US market) manages to keep some of the magic of the source novel but sometimes loses itself in the special effects and inexperienced leads.

The task of helming the first movie fell to Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire) with legendary composer John Williams providing the magical score and Harry’s iconic theme.  While the film often comes across as laboured and cheesy, it does well to lay the foundations for the sequels.

WATCH IT FOR: “Fame isn’t everything”

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (2002)

HP2 Chamber

As soon as production was finished on the first film, director Chris Columbus was hired to return for Chamber of Secrets.  Radcliffe, Watson and Grint returned as Harry, Hermione and Ron as well as most of the original cast including Richard Harris, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw and Tom Felton.  As Harry and his friends begin their second year at Hogwart’s, it emerges that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened and an unseen force is leaving staff and pupils petrified in its wake.  Joining the cast is Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart, the new Professor of the Dark Arts as well as fan-favourite Dobby, the House Elf.

With Columbus back behind the camera the feel of the film is pretty much the same as the first.  It becomes clear that as the books got darker in tone so too must the films.  Columbus had originally been wanted to direct the whole series but after Chamber he felt burned out and stepped down from directing duties.  What followed was, perhaps, the franchise’s greatest trick…

WATCH IT FOR: Cornish Pixies!

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004)

HP3 Azkaban

Following the departure of Chris Columbus, the franchise was in need of some new blood.  That came in the shape of Alfonso Cuaron, in a move that reignited the films and brought a much-needed darker tone to proceedings.  In Harry’s third year at Hogwarts, he not only has to contend with a new Defence of the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), but also learns that one of Voldemort’s trusted aides, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison and is on his way to find Harry.  To compound things further, a group of ethereal creatures called Dementors have been put in place to guard the school gates.  As viewers, we also had to get used to seeing Michael Gambon replace the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore.

Taking the decision to hire a new director was, perhaps, the defining moment for the franchise.  Had Columbus gone on to make the remaining films, I fear they wouldn’t have had quite as big an impact.  Switching things up with fresh minds and vision has, ultimately, paved the way for the future of the franchise and, more importantly, turned them from kids’ movies into something entirely different.

WATCH IT FOR: Dementor on the train

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005)

HP4 Goblet

A new year for Harry means another new director for the franchise, this time around its the turn of Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) to take the helm.  Harry finds himself caught up in competing in the Triwizard Tournament, a magical contest featuring rival schools where contestants face three exceedingly difficult tasks.  Alongside this tournament, Harry is also experiencing recurring nightmares as well as preparing for the Yule Ball.

While not as dark in nature as Azkaban, Goblet of Fire does feature some impressive moments, including the arrival of Brendan Gleeson‘s Mad-Eye Moody, yet somehow lacks from the inevitable decision to cut massive chunks from the source novel.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (2007)

HP5 Phoenix

Harry’s life is getting increasingly difficult as the majority of pupils and parents don’t believe him when he tells them Voldemort is back.  To make matters worse, the Ministry has appointed yet another Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher – Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) – and it looks like she has her sights firmly set on destroying Harry’s reputation.  Add to this a series of strange dreams that he can’t decipher and ever growing feelings towards Cho Chang, Harry has his work cut out for him.

Phoenix marks the beginning of the end, if you will, with David Yates taking the helm.  Yates will stay behind the camera for the remainder of the series and, second only to the decision to introduce new directors from the third film, this is one of the highlights of the franchise.  Yates manages to weave the story into a thrilling adventure while maintaining the desperate situation Harry finds himself in.

WATCH IT FOR: I Must Not Tell Lies

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (2009)

HP6 Prince

The sixth year at Hogwarts gets increasingly difficult for our students as Voldemort and his followers become more active both in and out of the wizarding world.  Meanwhile, there is a new Potions master in the form of Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) fresh out of retirement and Harry discovers a book that leads him to uncover more about Voldemort’s past.

As the franchise hurtles towards its thrilling finale, this entry features some thrilling sequences including a breath-taking opening scene.  Among the action there is also time for romance as well as some terrible heartache.  Half-Blood Prince fleshes out the story and sets everything up nicely for what is to follow…

WATCH IT FOR: A Dark Memory

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 (2010)

HP7 Hallows1

The epic conclusion to the novels deserves a suitably epic finale on the screen, too.  What better way to do this than to split the final book into two movies?  What happens here is that we are guaranteed as much content from the source material as possible.  Voldemort, now stronger than ever, has taken over control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts.  Harry, Ron and Hermione work together to finish what Dumbledore started but, with hope fading fast, they must execute their plan to perfection!

The decision to split the finale into two parts not only maintains the momentum of the franchise but also provides us with, perhaps, the most accomplished two films of the series.  Once again, Yates creates some magnificent set-pieces and the special effects are second to none but its the performances of the main trio that really stands out in these two films.  Radcliffe, Grint and Watson have really grown and matured as actors since their first appearance and they really get to flex their acting muscles here.

WATCH IT FOR: I Thought You Had A Plan

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (2011)

HP7 Hallows2

Harry, Ron and Hermione continue their epic quest to find the items that will, inevitably, lead towards the downfall of Voldemort.  But, as the battle rages and Voldemort discovers their mission, the three find themselves fighting for their lives and the lives of all those they love.

As finales go, Deathly Hallows (both parts) is right up there with the best.  Thrilling adventure mixed with desperate emotion and humour combine to provide a franchise that, like most, had stumbling blocks but in the end proved to be a winning formula.

WATCH IT FOR: You And Whose Army?

You’ll never be able to please everyone but I think this sits as the perfect conclusion to Harry’s story.  The growth in character and performance from all involved, especially the three leads, has been impressive but its the decisions of the producers that have to be applauded.  Choosing to switch things up with different directors, composers and the way they expertly navigated through a series of supporting cast changes is, ultimately, where this franchise succeeds.  Not forgetting, of course, the superb source material and passion from everyone involved that oozed off the screen.

Even though Harry’s story has ended, J.K. Rowling hasn’t left the wizarding world behind with the Fantastic Beasts films making just as much noise at the box office and the Warner Bros. Studio Tour doing great business, it seems our appetite for all things magic isn’t about to fade.  Whether you like the books and films or not, you can’t deny the impact the boy wizard has had on the literary world and silver screen.  And, making stars out of everyone involved, the legacy of Harry Potter will be alive and well for many years to come.

 

 

Jingle Balls!

A little something I wrote back in 2001 during a lunch break at work.  Sometimes, inspiration just hits me and everything is there.  It helps that the tune of Jingle Bells is so familiar!  Hope you like it…

 

JINGLE BALLS!

Christmas ties, hot mince pies
Turkey every day
Chestnut smells and jingle bells
And snow on Christmas Day

Christmas trees, holly wreaths
Santa’s on his way
Blocks of chocs and novelty socks
And snow on Christmas Day

Fighting through the crowds
Ten bags on both your arms
Shouting out aloud
“Christmas does me harm!”
Wish I was at home
In my nice, warm bed
I’ll skip Christmas time this year
Do something else instead

Going home on my own
Can’t stand this greedy rush
Grab the wine and whisky, too
And get myself some hush

Nice and calm, peace and quiet
The pain has gone away
There’s some justice after all
It rained on Christmas Day!