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Star Wars (1977)
Sci-fi landmark that changed Hollywood cinema forever
I wasn't around to see this in 1977 but it must have been quite something for audiences to witness at the time on the big screen. It's become so iconic and immersed in pop culture that it's sometimes hard to just focus and enjoy the movie itself and not see it as a part of a huge phenomenon.
All it's status and fan base aside, I try to do just that when I watch it and still enjoy it for what it is. For all it's imagination, the plot is nice and simple, basically a good guys VS bad guys western in space, leaving you to not think too hard about anything but just enjoy the many weird and wonderful locations and the characters.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is a farm boy who wants to leave his home and fight the dark imperial forces led by the sinister Darth Vader, and it isn't long before he's thrust into an adventure after he meets the ageing Obi Won Kenobi (Alec Guiness). Hamill does fine as Skywalker but he is outshone by the much more interesting Guiness, and Harrison Ford, in one of his earliest roles as cocky pilot Han Solo, who finds himself reluctantly embroiled in their mission. Ford not only gets to play the most likable character but he has the confidence and screen charisma to be much more memorable than the protagonist.
Even so, all the other characters are great too. The droids R2-D2, and C3P0, Han Solo's hairy sidekick - the Wookie, Chewbacca, and the feisty Princess Leia, (Carrie Fisher) who doesn't fit into the typical Hollywood damsel in distress category at the time.
Some of the dialogue may now seem a bit corny, and some of the acting mediocre but it doesn't matter because there's a light, campy tone to the movie anyway, so it doesn't ruin the enjoyment. In fact adds to it for me.
Lucas' genius was mixing Samurai and western elements with Sci-fi and using what he had with the budget to create a bizarre and memorable universe. Seen now, compared to the pace of modern Sci-fi movies, the movie's first half actually moves along quite slow, which is no bad thing in my view. It allows you to be pulled into it's world, and he cleverly uses the droid characters to take you on the journey, from the opening sequence right until the end. A revolutionary idea for the time. But then there's so many things about Star Wars that's revolutionary.
Lucas has since tinkered about with the original trilogy and has ruined the franchise for many not only by doing this but with his prequel trilogy too. In some ways I agree but it doesn't take anything away from what he achieved with this in 1977. A movie that opened up audiences' imaginations and still holds up as not just as an influential classic but an entertaining fantasy adventure in it's own right.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Classic action adventure that introduced the most famous treasure hunter.
Harrison Ford was pushed into Hollywood A-list and became a movie icon with his famous role here, as Indiana Jones. A University teacher of Archeology, and also a tough guy adventurer who risks his life in searches for ancient artifacts in dangerous jungles and deserts.
Director Steven Spielberg made this as an homage to the adventure serials of the 1930's/40's and it works superbly from start to finish.
The movie begins with one of the most iconic opening sequences of all time. It's action packed and exciting and tells you everything you need to know about Indiana Jones within moments, before the main plot kicks in, which focuses on Indy's quest to get hold of the mystical Ark of the covenant before the Nazi's do.
Despite been considered a classic action adventure, there's quite a few long sequences throughout where the action stops. But it never becomes dull because there's always something interesting happening or something visually stunning to look at. But when the action scenes arrive they are exciting and memorable, and are much better executed than any movie made nowadays that rely heavily on CGI. Just pure stunt work and real explosions, and the tone of the movie just has the right amount of seriousness and humour to it, which makes the plot and the action even better. The special effects still hold up after all these years and even if they do look a bit cartoon-like it actually adds to the movie because of it's intentional references to older Hollywood B-movies.
Ford really makes the movie but he has a fine cast to support him. Karen Allen as his love interest Marion, Paul Freeman as his rival Belloq, John Rhys-Davies as his friend Sallah, and of course who can forget one of the most menacing and creepiest villains to appear in a family movie, Ronald Lacey as a Nazi officer.
Everything about the movie is terrific. The cast, direction, cinematography, and last but not least John Williams' memorable score, which perfectly fits the protagonist and Spielberg's tongue in cheek tone.
Back to the Future Part III (1990)
A great end to a great trilogy.
The third and final part in the Sci-Fi Comedy trilogy picks up directly from the second movie with Marty stranded in 1955, after Doc was accidentally sent back to 1885. Instead of going back home to 1985, Marty decides to go back to the old West when he discovers Doc's fate in 1885 is that he will be shot dead by Biff Tannen's ruthless grandfather Buford "Mad Dog".
The second and third movies in the trilogy seem to divide opinion. Some prefer the more special effects and plot driven 2, and some prefer the more relaxed, character driven nature of this one. I personally love both and I'm glad they offer different things. As much as I like 2 for fully taking advantage of the Time Travel concept, I'm glad that the film-makers didn't try to go further with the special effects and ideas. The first movie despite it's premise was more about character and heart than it was action and special effects and it was good to see a return to that here.
Third time around, Michael J.Fox and Christopher Lloyd are still on great form and playing off each other well. And it's good to see Marty and Doc interact with each other more here, the plot really gets to flesh out their friendship, and even Doc's character when he meets and falls in love with a schoolteacher (Mary Steenburgen).
The movie looks fantastic. Director Robert Zemeckis said he wanted to make a western and his affection for them is on full display. There's some desert scenery and photography here that was shot at Monument Valley which instantly reminds you of The Searchers. With Marty using Clint Eastwood as his alias and after the brief clip of Fistful Of Dollars in the second movie it's no surprise that the spaghetti westerns come in for the spoof treatment, but with Marty been a civilized "fish out of water" and Buford a nasty bully, the movie mainly pays homage to the classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. And just in case you don't get the instant reference Tannen even calls him dude. But despite all the amusing in-jokes and send-ups at play, the film thankfully still has it's own originality and carries that distinctive charm the previous BTTF movies had.
It's a good-natured sequel that builds up to an entertaining showdown in the street, and then a well staged sequence with a speeding train that's just as exciting as the climax of the first movie involving the clock tower.
I'm just glad they ended the series like this before the ideas became tired and repetitive. Many franchises are ruined by too many sequels and thankfully this wasn't one of them.
Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Fun, fast-paced sequel
Picking up right where the original movie left off, Robert Zemeckis' sequel to the 1985 hit is a blast from start to finish.
Considering the original was meant to be a stand alone movie and the ending where Marty and Doc flew off to the future was meant as a joke, the writers did wonders with the script here. They backed themselves into a corner where they were forced to start the movie in the future with Jennifer (now played by Elisabeth Shue) joining them but with a clever plot full of twists, it works perfectly.
Marty and Doc arrive in 2015 to try and prevent an event which threatens to destroy Marty's entire family's future and things look very different from 1985.
Rather than portraying a realistic version of what they predicted the future would be like, the writers and director wisely played it for laughs. That said it's amazing how many technological things in the movie have actually happened since it was made. The special effects, in particular the flying cars and hover boards still hold up well 25 years later.
The script plays around with it's ideas and makes some funny references to the first movie without looking tired, instead it's more like a wink to the audience that adds to the enjoyment.
The only time the movie really slows down is when it shows older Marty at home with his family but the point is to show the similarities between Marty's family and his own before he changed things for the better. Having been injured in a drag race, Marty is now just as much a loser as his dad was and his family are just as dysfunctional. It might seem like a bit of a pointless sequence on first viewing but it's setting up an important plot point for the third movie.
Once Marty and Doc have taken care of Marty's future family problem the main plot kicks in when Biff steals the Delorean to change history for the worst and this is where the movie really takes off. Marty and Doc's only hope to salvage everything is to get back to 1955, in order to save the future.
It's an original and entertaining scenario to see the events of the original movie from a different perspective, and amazingly it avoids becoming dull by doing so.
Fox and Lloyd once again show off great chemistry together and put a lot of energy into their roles. Fox is funny playing his older self, his son and even his daughter! And Thomas F.Wilson is even better than he was in the original. Now he's playing different ages and versions of Biff in different time lines, as well as the grandson Griff, and he pulls it off very well.
From 2015 to a nightmarish 1985 and all the way back to 1955, it's a fun, fast-paced sequel full of wit and imagination.
Back to the Future (1985)
Nearly 30 years on and it's still a terrific movie.
Michael J.Fox is perfectly cast as Marty Mcfly, a teenager who's family is dysfunctional to say the least. His mother Lorraine (Lea Thonpson) is an heavy drinker and his father George (Crispin Glover) is a complete loser who is still been stepped on by Biff Tannen (Thomas F.Wilson) the same guy who's been bullying him since high school. These things are the least of Marty's problems though when he is accidentally sent back to 1955 in his friend Doc Brown's (Christopher Lloyd) plutonium powered Delorean time machine, and jeopardises his own existence when he inadvertently interferes with his parents first meeting.
The movie is huge fun. The cast is great. Fox and Lloyd are superb in their roles, as are the rest of the cast, and the plot itself is storytelling at it's finest. Not one single wasted moment. Every moment advances plot and character. Throwaway lines or minor moments usually have an important part to play in the story later on.
It's hard to think of another movie that successfully blends so many genres together, if at all. Sci-fi, Comedy, Action, Romance, this has it all and it's great entertainment from start to finish.
Many things about the movie have become iconic, from the Delorean, the quotes, and of course, Fox performing Johnny B.Goode. It's full of wit and clever ideas, and has aged superbly like fine wine.
It has something for people of all ages, whether you're 5 or 85 it's a charming movie that has a lot to offer.
El Dorado (1967)
More than just a re-working of Rio Bravo, a classic in it's own right
Six years after the success of Rio Bravo, director Howard Hawks re-worked elements of the plot for another great western with The Duke. The comparisons between the two films are in inevitable but this doesn't actually start to even resemble the previous film until around the halfway mark and by then it's already pulled you into it's story and warmed you to it's characters that it doesn't matter anyway. Personally I love both films but if I was forced to choose I'd probably say this was the superior film. I felt that Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson were too lightweight in Rio Bravo, whereas Robert Mitchum and James Caan here are perfectly cast and bring more to the table. I also think it works better to have an actual sheriff be the drunk (in this case Robert Mitchum in the role) rather than a deputy, and to have his friends try and help him get back on his feet and regain his dignity and self respect. But it's just a matter of opinion.
Mitchum is fantastic in this as the drunken friend of gunslinger John Wayne. I'm not usually a fan of his but he really delivers the goods here. He's funny, pitiful and gutsy throughout. One of the best scenes shows him going into the saloon to get a bottle of whiskey and the townsfolk are laughing at him. It's a brilliant moment. He's been living in his own little bubble for months and it takes this for him to wake up and realise how far he's sunk. The way he walks out holding his bottle in such a pathetic manner and tries to keep it together when he sees his friend John Wayne looking at how terrible he looks, is a great piece of acting. Not a single word spoken from him. Equally good is the scene where he later goes back to the saloon and shows the bad guys and the residents he's still got what it takes. He really does put his own stamp all over this performance.
And The Duke is The Duke. What more has to be said. By this time these roles just fit him like a glove but he has a really good part here to sink his teeth into rather than just been the typical hero. Near the beginning of the film he shoots a teenage boy in self defence, which results in the boy killing himself. This is a great sequence, where Wayne shows off just in his expression how guilty he feels. It also gives him a personal reason to get involved in helping out the boy's family later on.In many ways this is a funnier film than Rio Bravo but at the same time it's also a darker film in other ways and this is one such moment. John Wayne been responsible for a boy's death is certainly not something that would happen often in his films.
James Caan plays a young cardsharp nicknamed Mississippi who befriends Wayne and Arthur Hunnicut plays Bull, an ex-Indian fighter turned deputy to Mitchum's sheriff. The film is really the Wayne and Mitchum show but these guys also have their moments and fit in nicely. The camaraderie between the four of them as they hole up in the sheriff's office, and their banter during the shootouts is consistently funny.
Charlene Holt and Michelle Carey are both suitably sexy and provide some eye candy to balance out the male dominant proceedings, and Christopher George makes a memorable villain has a gunslinger with a moral code which makes a refreshing change in a traditional western.
When it comes to the good guys vs bad guys, I think it works well if the good guys are outnumbered or are lacking in their skills to make them underdogs that you can really root for. Well in this case, these heroes are both outnumbered and lacking. J.P's struggling with his alcoholism, Bull is getting on in years, and Mississippi can't shoot straight. In fact his shooting's so bad he carries a shotgun instead of a pistol and then he's not much better. And Wayne suffers with periodic paralysis from a bullet that is lodged near his spine. So they have to make up for it with guts. Every time I watch this film I like it even more. They are just a great bunch of characters to hang out with.
Hawks certainly knew how to make a great western and here he delivers again. From the great opening theme song right through to the climax, this is a joy for it's entire 2 hour running time. Despite the similarities it doesn't belong in Rio Bravo's shadow in my view, it deserves to be regarded as classic in it's own right.
Rio Bravo (1959)
A truly great western from Howard Hawks
An absolute classic with The Duke playing to his strengths as the small town sheriff holding a murderer in his jail and keeping alert, waiting and watching for the murderer's brother and his men who are attempting to break him out. At his side are recovering alcoholic, Dude (Dean Martin), young gunslinger Colorado (Ricky Nelson) and cantankerous old cripple Stumpy (Walter Brennan) who doesn't leave the jail for the majority of the film.
This isn't so much about the plot as it is the characters, atmosphere and tension. The Duke is perfect as John T.Chance. His effortless star quality and laid back persona comes across great in every scene he's in. He's tough, brave and not scared of any man but introduce him to a woman and it's an whole other matter. When he meets sexy new woman in town (Angie Dickinson)he's shy and awkward and completely out of his comfort zone.
One of the best aspects of the film is the fact that it was made in 1959, when men were supposed to be men, rough, tough and "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" but surprisingly the men here are portrayed as warm, flawed and vulnerable.It's way ahead of it's time in that respect. This is also a buddy film. The main characters have an underlining respect and affection for each other that is hardly ever spoken, it's shown purely through their expressions and actions. For instance the scene where Chance hands Dude his guns back that Dude had sold to buy booze and didn't even know Chance had, speaks volumes. As does the scene where Stumpy mistakes Dude for a villain and nearly kills him. Dude finally realises just how low he has sunk after getting cleaned up if his own friend didn't recognise him and Stumpy feels terrible and scared that he nearly killed him. There's so many great moments between the cast.
This isn't really a movie about holding a prisoner at all, that plot point is merely an excuse to show the loyalty and friendship between the characters. The cast is great and the chemistry between them is terrific. It's consistently humorous without coming across as forced and on many occasions even looks ad-libbed it's so natural. Even the moment when the guys lock themselves away in the jail and kick back for a sing along (minus the Duke) somehow works.The bad guys are out in the street, the sheriff and his men are locked up bored. What are you going to do? It's a fun scene that fits in nicely rather than jarring with the other events that play out. And a mention to the Mexican tune that occasionally plays throughout the film which is a great piece of music. The Duke seemed to have an habit of starring in westerns that were ahead of their time and before the spaghetti westerns came along, this Hollywood western already seemed to be showing off a spaghetti vibe with it's scenery and music. In fact it's the very music that inspired Sergio Leone for the type of sound he wanted from Ennio Morricone for A Fistful Of Dollars.
All in all, Rio Bravo is a fun movie and one of the all-time great westerns. A leisurely paced film with endearing characters, witty dialogue and well staged shootouts. They really don't make them like this anymore.
The War Wagon (1967)
The Duke recruits a rag tag team to rob a Wagon full of gold
To many westerns fans, John Wayne is the ultimate symbol of the silver screen cowboy, and in his long career he clocked up many classic westerns and some not so. He was also capable of shifting from serious westerns to much more humorous ones with ease. This is one that falls into the latter category. It's a fun film with a simple but engaging plot.
The movie begins with Wayne been released from prison after been framed by a ruthless miner played by Bruce Cabot, who has taken his land away and Wayne wants revenge by robbing him of his gold which is been transported in an armour plated horse carriage. He forms a mismatched group of desperadoes - Kirk Douglas (a gunslinging safe cracker), Howard Keel (a conniving Indian), an alcoholic explosives expert and a greedy "inside" man.
It's amusing to see Wayne on the wrong side of the law for a change and that's just one of the surprising aspects of the film. Another is the unexpected situations that occur now and again throughout the plot, most of which involves the wary relationship between Wayne and Douglas, which is ambiguous to say the least. You're never sure if they're going to stand by each other, con each other or shoot each other.
The star chemistry, amusing character interactions, wisecracking banter, and fun action (a bar room brawl been a particular hilarious highlight, which has everything but the kitchen sink thrown in) all combine nicely to make it an entertaining, tongue in cheek comedy caper and one of The Duke's overlooked westerns from the latter part of his career.
The Searchers (1956)
Possibly the greatest western ever put on celluloid. Visually stunning and multi-layered.
From the opening sequence of the camera shot of the opening of a door which introduces the viewer to a parched barren landscape, to the closing sequence where another door closes the story, this is cinematic perfection. John Wayne gives one of his finest performances amongst his 150 movie roles in director John Ford's landmark western. Wayne walks a fine line between good and bad, heroic and reckless, as Ethan Edwards, an embittered confederate soldier who returns home from years of fighting in the civil war. e is a burned out loner, full of pain and anger, which is only further fuelled by the brutal massacre of his family at the hands of a Comanche tribe.
Before the likes of The Man With No Name and Mad Max, Ethan Edwards was the ultimate symbol of an anti-hero. He is a dark and complex creation with inner demons. And yet he doesn't have one single scene of exposition where he talks about himself in any detail. He doesn't recount one painful experience in his life prior to returning home. He shows it purely through his expressions and attitude.
As the far as the plot of the film goes, it's practically paper thin but the characters and the themes are from simple. It's by far one of the most multi-layered films I've seen. The story is set over five years as Ethan sets off on a never-ending search to try and retrieve his kidnapped niece at the hands of the Comanches and take his revenge. Ethan's obsessive quest gradually becomes darker as he battles against the wilderness, hunger, thirst, heat, cold and last but not least his nephew Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) who joins him on the long trek.
One of the best aspects of the film is the relationship between these two characters, which in a way is the heart of the story. Martin is a quarter Comanche himself, so from the very beginning upon meeting him, Ethan has an instant dislike for the young man. Gradually as the pair travel together, their relationship is as hot and cold as the weather changes they face. It constantly changes between hatred, respect and affection as Ethan gradually finds some humanity throughout the journey.
The film is one of the most analysed in the history of cinema, with many different interpretations of the characters motivations and back stories. For instance at the beginning of the film, we know instantly that Ethan is in love with his brother's wife. But nothing is said, we can just tell from their actions and body language. But we don't know if anything has happened between them. That's one of the most impressive things about a film that's 57 years old. It is so subtle and achieves different meanings and interpretations on subsequent viewings.
It's easily one of the bleakest and most brutal westerns in terms of the events that occur throughout the story. And yet visually it's far from violent. Children are kidnapped, young women are raped and murdered, and men are shot and burned but hardly any of these despicable acts are actually shown. Ford proves that less is more. In 1957 because of the strict censorship, Ford obviously wouldn't have been allowed to show a lot of these moments but I have a feeling that even if the censors would have allowed it, he would still have filmed it in this way. Leaving the acts of violence to the viewer's imagination is much more powerful and unsettling.
Because of the dark themes of the story, Ford chose to balance the tone out with some humour. The sub-plot involves Martin's on/off relationship with a woman who is impatiently waiting for him to return home so that they can settle down together. Apart from providing some comedy, I think this situation is a nice parallel of Ethan and Martha's relationship, and contrast his present loneliness. The fact that Ethan has lost the love of his life and his inner turmoil may prevent him from having an happy future like Martin. Or if Martin loses his woman he may end up like Ethan. Forever an outsider. As the story goes on, Ethan finds some of his humanity, and it isn't portrayed in a typical Hollywood magical transformation. Instead it's a more real gradual progression, and by the end he isn't a completely different person, just a less angry one with a less prejudiced outlook on people. It's a great character arc.
Ford definitely created a classic here. It deserves it's status. The likes of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese cite it as one of the greatest films ever made and they're right. It's a visually stunning movie. The scenery is majestic. You could freeze frame many camera shots in the film and imagine it been a picture on your wall. The cinematography is so eye-catching and gorgeous. It's a masterpiece in film-making and storytelling, touching on a very dark subject matter that's wrapped up in visual beauty.
Birds of a Feather (1989)
I can't praise this enough. One of the greatest sitcoms ever.
I loved this show as a kid and now thanks to the fans and their petitions to have the DVD's released, I've had a chance to see it again in all it's glory and I still love it. Brilliant stuff.
Modern sitcoms just can't compare. Pauline Quirke,Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph were perfect as the three leads and the dialogue was top notch. The humour has not dated one bit, it still seems fresh, probably offensive to the over sensitive politically correct.
Some of the episodes are filled with non-stop funny lines, so much so I have to rewind it back sometimes to catch a line I've missed because I have been laughing so hard. The biggest compliment to the writers and the performers is how it stayed grounded in reality in many series. And this was right from the very first episode. It was never afraid to have long gaps without laughter or to become quite sad at times.
There's so many classic episodes and situations, that it's impossible to list them all. It was getting millions of viewers in the years it was on TV but it's kind of a forgotten show now which is sad, especially when the vastly overrated Only Fools and Horses gets continuous praise. This show is a gem that should be re-discovered. You'll fall in love with the characters, laugh with them and feel for them. Cheers to the writers and creators Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran for this gem. 10/10.
The Naughty Nineties (1945)
Contains more laugh out loud moments in 76 minutes than the 2 hour comedies nowadays.
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are in the 1890's on the showboat River Queen,which is run by Captain Jackson. For twenty years he's been putting on good,clean fun entertainment for people of all ages, and now a trio of cardsharps want to take it over, and big surprise, it's up to Bud and Lou to step in and save the day.
The truth is it's a very thin plot, but who cares, it's meant to be. Not many are watching the duo for plot. Abbott and Costello started out with their Vaudevlle acts on stage and this is basically an excuse just to put their style of comedy routines together into some kind of structure, and throw in whatever plot they can to try and link them together.
The film is full of laughs. Lou is in a marching band, and can't even see where he's going as he bangs the huge drum in front of him. He demolishes the set around Bud as he tries to perform, and tries his best to stop a baby from crying during his act. He tussles with a grizzly bear thinking it's Bud in disguise. He tries to sing higher and lower as he misinterprets Bud's orders directed at the set designers. He inadvertently bakes feathers into a cake, which causes the guests to cough them up. He keeps throwing a big fish into the river, in hopes of catching an even bigger one. He dreads tucking into the chef's catfish, believing that he's cooked the cats, and all these sight gags build up to the duo's chaotic, and zany defeating of the bad guys.
Throw in their famous routines of the switching the poisonous drink, the exchanging money, and the fantastic Who's On First? routine, which I would happily watch on a loop, and you have one of Abbott and Costello's most frenetic-paced, gag packed films. An absolute must for fans of the perfect straight man and buffoon, and maybe newcomers to their work too.
Still one of the best Horror Comedies.
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello at their peak team up with Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, Lon Chaney as The Wolf Man, and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's monster, in this hilarious and affectionate homage to Universal's golden age of Horror films. The film works brilliantly. The narrative, the production design, the atmospheric music, the mood, and of course the performances. Lugosi, Strange, and Chaney wisely play it straight, whilst Abbott and Costello do their act to perfection.
There's some surprisingly nice Horror sequences such as Frankenstein throwing a woman to her death through a window, and the monster later been burned to death. That sense of threat just makes the comedy work even better.
From the animated opening credits sequence right through until the finale,this is still one of the greatest Horror Comedies. The so-called Horror parodies of today should take note. Nothing made nowadays will match this Hoorror spoof. It provides laughs while respecting it's material.
The Hard Way (1991)
One of the best buddy comedies. Fox and Woods are magic together.
You often hear stories about actors spending some time with the actual people who do the job that they're going to be portraying on screen. If a movie star is going to play a cop in a role, they might ride around with the police for a few days to get a sense of their traits and experiences. Well this comedy takes that concept to the extreme and plays it purely for laughs.
Michael J.Fox plays an Hollywood,pampered movie star of Indiana Jones type action movies who is sick of been labelled as a family oriented actor and wants to play meatier roles. He plans on playing a cop in a gritty new film, and in order to do some research, he is teamed up with New York's angriest, most unsociable detective James Woods. But he's on the trail of a psychotic serial killer and doesn't intend to let Fox get in the way.
The plot isn't important here. It's the hilarious banter and excellent chemistry between the two lead stars that makes the film so much fun, while director John Badham milks the concept for all it's worth. He plays around with the cop movie conventions and bites the hand that feeds him with lots of swipes at Hollywood, before the likes of Last Action Hero, Showtime, and Hollywood Homicide got in on the act.
The production design is terrific throughout and is as good as you could hope for what is essentially just an action comedy. Badham clearly put a lot of thought into his locations. The New York city streets in the film are crowded, dirty, and gritty looking,to further contrast Fox's Beverley Hills lifestyle.
The stunts are impressive, and as the film goes on, the action sequences become more and more over the top, which suits the film because it puts Fox and Woods into situations similar to Fox's character's movies. The mayhem climaxes with a fun homage to North By Northwest. A great action comedy,and Fox and Woods set this apart from the usual buddy cop movies from the 80's and 90's. Loved it.
Casualties of War (1989)
The Theatrical cut is good but the extended cut is a masterpiece
I am not usually a fan of War films, but this is not a typical War film.It's not a grand-scale action movie with big battle scenes. It's a low-key Vietnam War drama about the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a Vietnamese girl at the hands of a group of US soldiers.
The film focuses on Michael J.Fox who plays Erikkson,a naïve soldier who has only been in Vietnam for three weeks. His Sergeant is played by Sean Penn,a tough,efficient soldier who is just about hanging onto his sanity amongst the chaos and destruction that's going on around him.
Whilst relaxing in a village,Meserve's closest friend,and radio operator,Brownie,is shot,and later dies. This is the point where Merserve starts to lose it. And when he and the rest of his men are refused entry into a brothel,he decides to kidnap a local village girl and use her as their sex slave.
Brian De Palma proves again what a masterful filmmaker he is,in scene after scene,shot after shot. The film is grim,and disturbing in many parts,but his style and cinematography is so good, it's difficult to look away from. This was a film that he'd been wanting to make for years,and you can tell when you watch the film that he was passionate about it,and wasn't just interested in showing sex,or violence for the sake of exploitation,or just to shock,which he has been accused of sometimes.For instance the rape sequence is brilliantly filmed. It goes without saying that rape scenes are always uncomfortable to watch, but the rape scene here is surprisingly the least graphic I've seen from a visual point of view. There's hardly any nudity,and there's no close-ups of the sex act. However, emotionally it is one of the most disturbing. Partly because there's such a long build up to it. As soon as the girl has been kidnapped, we know what her fate is going to be. Partly because it's a group of soldiers that are committing the act on her, and partly because De Palma films it in a way that puts the audience in Erikkson's place. While the rape goes on,he is helplessly on look out duty, and it's filmed from his point of view as he watches the soldiers from a distance in the hut, taking it in turns with the girl. We feel what Eriksson feels, horrified and angry. It's a disturbing yet stunning piece of filmmaking and Ennio Morricone's haunting music makes it even more effective. We don't see Erikkson again until the moment when Meserve approaches him,and then we finally get a close-up of his face. This is the moment where Erikkson has become demoralised.His face speaks volumes about what he's seen. The moment where the girl is killed is equally unsettling. Again, De Palma avoids sensational violence and shows the girl been stabbed in the distance behind Erikkson as he is taking out the Vietcong with his rifle and doesn't even notice what is going on behind him. The close-up of the girl been shot dead is shocking and filmed again from Erikkson's point of view, as he witnesses this tragedy whilst trying to prevent her death.
The third and final section of the film focuses on Erikkson's attempts to bring his comrades to justice. This was a part of the film that I felt lacked something in the theatrical version but now thanks to the extended cut, I think it's just as powerful as the events leading up to it. There's only 6 minutes of extra footage but it adds to it. There's a scene where Erikkson is interrogated by two Military agents that was missing before. It's a great scene because it now explains how the investigation began after Erikkson's Captain and Lieutenant tried to dismiss it. Again, De Palma films the interview well with one long tracking shot.And the courtroom scene is brilliant too. While each of the four guilty soldiers are been prosecuted,we are not shown anybody else in the room,we just see each of the soldiers and hear the voices of the lawyers. It's also one of the most shocking moments because it's the moment when these criminals are shown in all their glory. Obviously you never forget that they are soldiers during the events leading up to their trial, but all through the kidnapping they are rough and dirty unshaven.Here they are clean and shaved, dressed in their formal uniform and wearing their medals but it doesn't change the fact that they are rapists and murderers. The extra scene here shows Erikkson been cross-examined. It further drives home the point that even though Erikkson didn't take part in the incident, he failed to save her, and he feels as guilty as if he did take part in it and it will ultimately haunt him for the rest of his life.
Michael J.fox doesn't belong in a serious War film but he's perfectly cast here. His youthful looks work for the part of the innocent, naive young soldier ,and his short stature works for the "ordinary,everyday man" caught up in an unthinkable situation. His acting his outstanding throughout. He does have a few bits of clunky dialogue,but it's not his fault,it's the writer David Rabe who actually served in Vietnam, trying to get some moral points across. Fox handles it well. But it's mainly his subtlety I was impressed with throughout. His expressions speak volumes. I've never been a fan of Sean Penn. I've always found him to be an overrated,scenery-chewing actor and I still feel he's the same here. But I think it kind of works this time because of the extremes of the situation his character is in.
This is a thought-provoking, powerful piece of cinema that shows the best and worst traits of human behaviour. It's a difficult film to watch at times but I've seen it many times because of the performances and film-making. It's a masterpiece.
Doc Hollywood (1991)
Wow! A Romantic Comedy that I actually like
I've never been a fan of Romantic Comedies but this is in another league altogether. The plot, characters, quirky humour and of course Michael J.Fox set it apart from other films of a similar type.
Fox plays arrogant, money obsessed ER doctor Ben Stone, who finds himself stranded in a small rural town after he accidentally crashes into the local Judge's fence. He is sentenced to 36 hours community service at the local practice and it isn't long before he meets sexy ambulance driver Vialula (Lou) played by Julie Warner, and gradually he starts to realise that love, friends, and community spirit are more important than the material things in life.
It's an highly enjoyable feel-good film that's sweet and humorous without been sugary or over the top. The plot is nice and simple and basically depends on Fox's charisma and likability to hold it together, which he's more than capable of doing, and he's surrounded by a great bunch of co-stars for support.
Warner in particular is great and makes a great love interest for him. She's sexy and feisty, and they both make their characters' interaction and gradual relationship believable. And the scene where they dance to Patsy Cline's Crazy is touching. It's an heart-warming and funny film.
The Frighteners (1996)
A roller-coaster ride of comedy, thrills, and special effects. My favourite Peter Jackson movie.
Michael J.Fox (in what sadly became his last live-action movie role) is on fine form as troubled con-man, Frank Bannister who has the ability to see ghosts, and uses his unique gift to make money in the small town of Fairwater. He has his ghost "colleagues" haunt the houses of the residents and then offers his services to evict the spooks. It's the perfect scam until more and more healthy people start turning up dead, seemingly from heart attacks, and Frank soon realises that he must use his gift to stop a genuine evil spirit.
Starting out like an all-out fantasy comedy, the film brilliantly switches tone around the halfway mark and becomes darker and more violent but director Peter Jackson never stops supplying the laughs either. The twisty plot takes in a host of unforgettable and quirky characters along for the ride. Trini Alvarado plays Lucy, probably the most normal character as a woman who loses her husband and finds herself becoming more involved with Frank and the strange goings on.
John Astin, Chi Mcbride, and Jim Fyfe are hilarious as Frank's ghost pals who reluctantly help him out. Most of the film's funniest scenes feature these three characters and Frank's interactions with them. Peter Dobson as Lucy's dead husband Ray also adds a lot of fun into the proceedings. His banter with Fox is brilliant, especially in the scene where he goes to his own funeral. And last but not least is Jeffrey Combs' character, FBI agent Milton Dammers who is one of the weirdest lawmen in movie history. A deeply disturbed individual who has been undercover over the years so many times in different cults, without any therapy, that he has become insane himself.
I've always loved this film and thought it was underrated and now I've seen the director's cut I enjoy it even more. This version of the film makes the events and characters much more clearer. The mix of genres and the performances combine to fantastic effect. A top-notch black comedy thriller.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Overlong, dull, and pretentious. So bad it almost ruins Batman Begins
Jeez,where to start.Well first off I have to say that Batman Begins is not only my favourite Batman film but one of my favourite comic-book movies period.It was so good I was really looking forward to seeing this.Batman Begins looked and felt like a comic-book world, but it also had a dark tone to it and great acting which set it apart from the others.Now where did this go wrong. Well right from the beginning in all honesty.Just purely because as soon as the movie opens,you can tell that the director Chris Nolan has used a real city to stand as Gotham.In this case Chicago.Straight away you could see that it wasn't the same world as the previous film.The opening bank heist involving The Joker was good but it just looked like a scene from any crime thriller.This is supposed to be a Batman movie.For some bizarre reason the director thought he would make the tone very serious.Ridiculously serious.Now I never liked the camp tone of Tim Burton's movies,I much preferred the approach that Begins took but that film never forgot it was a comic-book.This does.It plays it so serious it just becomes ridiculous.Fair enough make the world plausible but at the end of the day it's still a story about a guy who dresses up as a Bat,in cooperation with the police and takes on strange criminals.This ain't Shakespeare for Christ sake.
In a way the film is just as amusing as Joel Schumacher's efforts because it is so overtly serious that you can't help find it funny.So many ridiculous things happen,and because it tries it's best to be a crime thriller,these things stand out.And somehow Batman ends up becoming a supporting player in his own film.Something the director said Burton had got wrong and he would never do.Yeah right.
It somehow manages to be overlong in length but too short in many scenes.It just keeps cutting back and forth between characters and sub-plots and mini sub-plots it becomes annoying.It just seems like a bunch of ideas thrown together without any logic.And Harvey Dent's sudden character change is laughable and Joker's anti-climatic end very frustrating.
Here's the parts in the film that really annoyed the hell out of me.
The Joker pulls up at the side of a police vehicle and starts shooting but the cops make no effort to shoot back and just carry on cruising along at the same speed.What the hell.
Batman saves Rachel from falling off a building after The Joker crashes a party and the scene just ends.Seriously.This is a sadistic,psychotic killer we are talking about,are we really just supposed to believe that he would walk out and leave.
Batman refuses to kill people but has no problem riding along on the Batpod blowing cars up to move out of his way.How would he know he's not going to kill someone doing that.
And the main part that bugged me is in a sequence where Batman using some gadgetry flips over a truck with The Joker in and he emerges from the wreck conscious and unscathed.And yet immediately after,Batman somehow gets knocked out by coming off his Batpod which slowly he grinds to a halt.I was like WTF.I thought he was just pretending it was so stupid.
The film doesn't have many redeeming merits at all and almost undid the achievement that Begins made.But not quite because that is still a great Batman film,unlike this wannabe crime drama with Batman and The Joker.
A generous 6/10.
Why can't they make comedies like this anymore!
Greedy tells the simple story of a family who desperately crave their Uncle's (Kirk Douglas) massive fortune.From that simple premise,the script writers and the actors deliver one of the funniest comedies I've ever seen.The Mcteague family,which includes the late Phil Hartman,Ed Begley'JR and Bob Balaban,are one of the most believable families ever committed to celluloid.Let's face it a lot of us hate our families.We hate having family get together's,we sometimes get jealous of each other and try to outdo each other,well that's the kind of family we're talking about.The scenes where the relatives trade insults with each other are hysterical.Michael J.Fox plays another nephew of Joe and gives a typically naturally funny performance.He and Douglas don't share the screen until about half an hour into it,but when they do get together,their sparky banter is consistently funny.
I wish they would make more comedies like this nowadays.Most mainstream comedies now seem to be filled with stupid,over the top characters with beyond ridiculous situations.Most of the comedy in this is in the dialogue,although there are some hilarious physical moments but they're never stupid,just laugh out loud funny.The premise is slightly believable because I believe that we all have what it takes to become very greedy individuals,even if we might not like to admit it.Hell,we might not even notice it.
Greedy easily ranks as one of my favourite comedies and is a laugh riot from start to finish.And has their ever been a sexier woman on screen than Olivia D,Abo in this movie?