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”

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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!

 

My Life In Film: Christmas Special

Haul out the holly, put up the tree before my spirit falls again…yes, its that time of year again! The nights are drawing in, there’s a chill in the air and we can ‘officially’ watch our favourite festive treats (even though some of us probably watch them all through the year anyway!).  I’ve pulled a couple of classic crackers this year including a childhood favourite that never gets repeated! It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough and got down to business…

 

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (1965)

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I love a bit of Charlie Brown and this perennial festive treat is just the tonic for all those cynical types among you.  Feeling downhearted by the blatant commercialism he sees around him, Charlie Brown sets out to find the true meaning of Christmas.  He becomes the director of the school’s Christmas pageant but soon finds himself at a loss and turns to good friend, Linus, to show him the way.  Its a beautiful story without being overly sentimental (although, at Christmas, that usually works for me!) and deserves to be on everyone’s watchlist every single year.

WATCH IT FOR: The meaning of Christmas

 

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS (1991)

All I Want For Christmas

This story is almost as old as the story of Christmas itself.  A brother and sister attempt to bring their divorced parents back together for Christmas.  Ethan (Ethan Randall/Embry) and his younger sister, Hallie (Thora Birch) are intent on spending the holidays with both parents and their wealthy grandmother, Lillian (Lauren Bacall) but pretty much every scheme they come up with goes wrong.  Hallie even has a quiet word with a department store Santa (Leslie Nielsen) to try and fix things.  What follows is your usual mix of kid-friendly slapstick moments and heart-warming saccharine.  The film works, for me at least, due to the charm of the two young leads who carry the film off and make a few wishes come true in the process.

WATCH IT FOR: Visiting Santa again!

 

GET SANTA (2014)

Get Santa

Santa (Jim Broadbent) crashes his sleigh and finds himself on the run from the police.  Nine-year-old Tom (Kit Connor)  finds him in his shed and convinces his father, Steve (Rafe Spall) to help Santa find his way back home.  Along the way there are a myriad of incidents (including a spell in prison for the jolly, old fat man!) which keep the pace and steer the story away from being overly sweet and keeping it real.  Also featuring a stellar supporting cast that includes Joanna Scanlan, Jodie Whittaker and Stephen Graham, Get Santa is a worthy entry into the festive canon of film favourites.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer!

 

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (2011)

Arthur Christmas

Jim Broadbent plays Santa again in this wonderful animated film from the miracle makers at Aardman studios.  Santa’s clumsy son, Arthur (James McAvoy) joins forces with his grandfather, St Nick (Bill Nighy) to deliver a forgotten present to a little girl before Christmas morning dawns.  As you’d expect from Aardman, the animation is superb and the script is witty and full of heart and laughter.  Its the perfect family film to get yourself in the festive spirit.

WATCH IT FOR: Dash Away!

 

NOEL’S CHRISTMAS PRESENTS (BBC 1989-1999, SKY 2007-2012)

Noel's Christmas Presents

This was the ultimate feelgood television experience.  Long-standing BBC host Noel Edmonds would deliver once in a lifetime presents to the most deserving of people.  It was a must-watch on a Christmas Day and was one of the only times I ever saw my dad crying at the TV.  It often found recipients who were or had been extremely ill, pillars of the local community as well as those who were just deserving of something special.  I loved it.  I never missed it until Noel moved to Sky where I only caught it once or twice.  For me, though, Noel’s place was always at the BBC on Christmas Day.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode from Christmas Day 1995!

 

THE CHRISTMAS RACCOONS (1980)

The Christmas Raccoons

Its Christmas Eve and Forest Ranger Dan discovers someone is chopping down all the trees, including the home of three raccoons – Bert, Melissa and Ralph.  As he goes to investigate, his two children take advantage of a fallen tree and take it home to decorate for the holidays, not realising that it is the raccoons home.  Much like the series that followed, this festive special is all about protecting the environment while still being an entertainment for the whole family.  Sure, it gets a little schmaltzy but who doesn’t love a bit of that at Christmas?

WATCH IT FOR: Someone has uploaded the full thing to YouTube!

 

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)

A Christmas Story

All 9-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB Gun.  When he brings up the subject his mother tells him he’ll have his eye out.  This is one of those films that I’d heard about for years but never actually got around to watching until a couple of Christmases ago.  I was so glad I did as it is a joy from start to finish.  What makes it so is the combination of a brilliantly quirky script and an amazing performance from Billingsley as Ralphie.  There are so many wonderful, heartfelt moments in this film that you really have to see it for yourself to truly understand its magic.

WATCH IT FOR: Meeting Santa!

 

HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN – “WITH LOVE, THE CLAUS” (1987)

Highway to Heaven

If you like your Christmas treats with added sweetener then look no further than this diabetic coma-inducing festive episode from Highway to Heaven.  Jonathan (Michael Landon) and Mark (Victor French) have been assigned to stop a bickering divorced couple from using their young son as a pawn between them.  The pair also meet a department store Santa (Bill Erwin) who, disapproving of the store’s Christmas policies, gets himself arrested and needs Jonathan to defend him.  With more than a nod to Miracle on 34th Street, this is one of those episodes where you may need to cleanse yourself with some horror afterwards!

WATCH IT FOR: The full episode!

 

THE BOX OF DELIGHTS (1984)

Box of Delights

Based on the book by John Masefield, this classic children’s fantasy adventure was shown on the BBC in six parts.  It tells the story of Kay Harker (Devin Stanfield) who, while travelling home for Christmas on the train, encounters a mysterious, yet kindly old man (Patrick Troughton) who gives him the box of delights.  Full of wonder and festive magic, The Box of Delights is a programme that I remember watching at the time but have never seen since.  As far as I’m aware it hasn’t been repeated for a long time and I think that should be rectified.  The BBC did (and sometimes still does) this kind of show very well and its a testament to the quality that its still widely regarded and talked about over thirty years later.

WATCH IT FOR: Those opening titles! All six episodes are here on YouTube as well!

 

CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS (2004)

Christmas With The Kranks 2

When their daughter, Blair (Julie Gonzalo), joins the Peace Corps and heads off to Peru, Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) Krank decide to skip their usual Christmas festivities and take a luxury cruise much to the disgust of their friends and neighbours (including Dan Aykroyd).  However, their plans are put on hold when Blair unexpectedly returns home with the intention of showing her new fiancé the full Krank Christmas experience.  What you get with this film is a lot of good intention, mixed with a bit of slapstick comedy and topped off with a bit of saccharine.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it but for some it can be a little too clawing.

WATCH IT FOR: Hickory Honey Ham!

 

TRADING PLACES (1983)

Trading Places

Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Aykroyd appear again in this, our final festive offering this year.  Here, Aykroyd plays Louis Winthorpe III, a commodities broker at a respectable firm owned by brothers Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) Duke.  The brothers wager a bet over whether a person’s hereditary of social situation can lead to their success.  As part of the bet they arrange for Winthorpe to lose his high-paid job and switch places with mouthy down-and-out Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy).  Its a role reversal that sees Valentine assume Winthorpe’s life while Winthorpe himself is tossed out on to the street with only a friendly hooker (Curtis) to help him.  Its a classic comedy from director John Landis that isn’t your average Christmas movie but still has plenty of the festive spirit.

WATCH IT FOR: Bad Santa!

 

And there you have it – Christmas, done and dusted for another year!  Its really difficult (but fun) to pick out a selection of festive goodies for you to enjoy, there are so many out there to choose from.  Don’t worry, there’s enough for next year!  If you’ve enjoyed this countdown, please feel free to get in touch – maybe offer up your own Christmas favourites that may or may not have been included before.  In the meantime, here’s hoping you all have a merry and peaceful Christmas and here’s to 2019 being slightly better than this year!

merry christmas ya filthy animal images quotesgram.com

“This is Santa Claus, not Dear Abby”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

lawsonriegert

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)

small-soldiers-08-g

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)

My-Fair-Lady-trailer-still

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)

Fletch-1985-featured

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)

untitled

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)

mars-attacks_592x299-7

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”

 

 

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