Posted in Movie Blog, tagged 12 Angry Men, Amour, Argo, Bank Holiday Monday, BBC Radio 2, Black Swan, Born to Run, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Cloud Atlas, Coldplay A Rush Of Blood To The Head, Dido No Angel, Drive, Duran Duran Rio, Eminem, Fleetwood Mac Rumours, foreign language movies, Future Classic Movies, Goodfellas, In the House, Inception, Keane Hopes & Fears, Led Zeppelin Untitled fourth album, Margin Call, Moonrise Kingdom, Pink Floyd The Dark Side Of The Moon, Queen A Night At The Opera, Rust and Bone, Skyfall, Star Wars, Stoker, The Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Godfather, The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, The Searchers, The Skin I Live In, Top 100 Favourite Albums, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Zero Dark Thirty on April 2, 2013 |
8 Comments »
I spent a large proportion of the past Bank Holiday Monday listening to a BBC Radio2 poll ranking their Top 100 Favourite Albums. Basically what they did was take their Top 100 Most Played Albums (limited to one per artist) and asked listeners to rank them. The results were often surprising with a top five consisting of:
- Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head
- Keane – Hopes & Fears
- Duran Duran – Rio
- Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (the only one a lot of people expected)
- Dido – No Angel
Ahead of what a lot of people expected including in the top five:
The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Queen – A Night At The Opera
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Led Zeppelin – Untitled fourth album
One of my thoughts were that different records live longer in the mind and memory, and possibly the heart than others. For example, I bought No Angel when it first came out (before the Eminem sample made it a hit), I listened to it a lot but haven’t listened to it in about five years. I first heard Rumours and Zeppelin’s fourth album when I was a kid and still listen to them all the time and see no reason why I won’t continue to for the foreseeable future. The conclusion, if they re-do this list in fifteen or twenty years time No Angel and A Rush Of Blood To The Head may not make the top 10 or even the top 100, but Rumours, The Dark Side Of The Moon, Sgt Pepper, Born to Run, Bridge Over Troubled Water and countless other classic albums will still be there.
This got me thinking about the current and recent movies that will be heralded as classics in the future and which will be forgotten. Skyfall will be watched a lot and may prove to be the best Bond ever but will be dismissed as just another Bond movie. The Dark Knight Rises will survive as part of, one of the best movie trilogies ever, but possibly the weakest link of the trilogy. The Artist may be considered a gimmick. Stoker, Cloud Atlas, We Need to Talk About Kevin and some great foreign language movies like Amour, Rust and Bone, The Skin I live In and In the House may be too obscure for the masses. Moonrise Kingdom is going to age well as is Argo so could be up there in popular opinion. I can’t make my mind up about Drive and Black Swan but hope I love them as much in years to come as I do now after two or three viewings and hope others feel the same about them. Margin Call and Zero Dark Thirty will possibly stand as testaments to the time but possibly not a time we will want to look back on too often or very fondly.
The conclusion, there hasn’t been a 12 Angry Men, The Godfather, Goodfellas or even Star Wars in recent years, the two closest are probably The Dark Knight and Inception. I’m not saying it is a bad time for film, in fact the opposite, while, the occasional all time classics seem a little few and far between the number of really good movies being made is greater than ever. I just long for a Citizen Kane, The Searchers or Casablanca, we are about due one. Or am I being cynical and some of the movies I have mentioned will find their way to the upper reaches of the IMDB top 250?
Want to read more on the subject? Check out THIS ARTICLE that picks up the baton from where I left off.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Movie Blog, tagged Argo, Avatar, Barbarella, Battle Beyond the Stars, David Lynch, Dino De Laurentiis, Dune, Firefly, Flash Gordon, Frank Herbert, High Noon, James Cameron, James Horner, John Carter, John Sayles, Magnificent Seven, Outland, Queen, Return of the Jedi, Ridley Scott, Roger Corman, Sean Connery, Serenity, Seven Samurai, Space Cowboys, Star Trek, Star Trek First Contact, Star Wars, Star Wars Episode VII, Starcrash, The Black Hole, The Last Starfighter, The Undiscovered Country, The Wrath of Khan on December 25, 2012 |
2 Comments »
As I work on my inevitable list of best films of 2012 I started thinking about Argo. Not the Ben Affleck film that we saw, but the un-filmed Star Wars rip-off Sci-Fi movie that featured in it. For as long as I can remember Star Wars has been essential Christmas viewing, but why? Probably because as an action adventure fantasy film it is yet to be surpassed. It is often stated that Star Wars changed films for ever, it certainly built on the idea of the summer blockbuster that began with Jaws two years before. All this is most probably true, but surprisingly Star Wars has never inspired a successful and credible action adventure set within a alien universe. The greatest failing of most of them is an unnecessary attempt to ground the plot in the reality or to earth, this is true from The Last Starfighter (1984) through to Avatar (2009). It worked for Star Trek as the idea of humanity exploring space was central to the premise. After its cancellation in 1969, it gained cult status, around the time of Star Wars a plan to resurrect the television series as Star Trek: Phase II. It was a planned and quickly abandoned, ideas from the pilot were however saved and became Star Trek (1979). The highlights of the film series that followed are: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and the reboot Star Trek (2009).
The latest failed attempt of the genre was John Carter (2012) based on A Princess of Mars by (Tarzan author) Edgar Rice Burroughs. So uncomfortable in its own skin the producers dropped the Sci-Fi “of Mars” title from the movie shortly before it hit cinema screens. Telling the story of a civil war era gent who is transported to Mars that is going through its own Civil War. A lot of the story involves the fish out of water scenarios as Carter adapts to the culture of the society and then imports his own sensibility. Going back to the time of Star Wars, the biggest of the early attempts to cash in on the Star Wars was unsurprisingly by Disney. The Black Hole (1979) had a budget of around $20million, around double that of Star Wars but only grossed around the same as Star Wars took in its first weekend. There is a good reason, for all its technical accomplishments, the movie is just plain dull. I have seen it at least twice and remember very little about it. With a budget of around $4million Starcrash (1978) is certainly low budget but isn’t quite the Z Movie it is often claimed to be. Poorly acted with terrible effects and unintentionally funny moments it isn’t very good. However it does deserve a certain amount of praise as a low budget movie that has grander ambitions than many of its contempt competitors, it is also good silly fun at times.
The one success of the genre (artistically if not financially) was Flash Gordon (1980). The plot is a rehash of the original thirteen part film serial starring Buster Crabbe from 1936. One of the reasons the movie looks so good and worked so well is the retro design including long shiny almost phallic spaceships that were inspired by the original 1930’s comic books. The result is utter camp, the characters and the performances are totally bonkers and over the top in the vein of Barbarella (1968). All this was held together by a an equally camp and over the top score by Queen.
The story goes that David Lynch turned down Return of the Jedi instead opting to replace Ridley Scott as the director of Dune (1984). Unlike most people, I am glad he did. I first saw Dune on video in 1985 and loved it. A few years later I read the first three or four of Frank Herbert’s novels. It was the first David Lynch film I saw, I have seen and loved everything he has made since. The movie shares producer Dino De Laurentiis with Flash Gordon, that is where the similarity ends. While Flash Gordon is fun and camp, Dune is sombre serious but when you strip away all the religious symbolism, mythology and the ideas of loyalty and betrayal it is simply a story of trade and politics, possibly an allegory for the fight for the control of the worlds supply. The TV mini series is heralded as a superior adaptation, it may be but it is painfully dull, something the movie can not be accused of even in its three hour cut.
Star Wars often plays like a western set in space. This is where the genre has found the most sucess. A film that took this idea a stage further was the Roger Corman produced Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) that took its plot from Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai. It has a certain degree of pedigree with a screenplay by John Sayles, a score composed by James Horner, and the special effects directed by a young James Cameron. A similar idea had been attempted in the “High Noon in space” Outland (1981) with Sean Connery in the Gary Cooper role. Not a classic, but far better than its reputation. The best space western is probably Serenity (2005) based on the too short-lived TV show Firefly (2002-2003). It is still rooted in the reality of humanity but unlike the movies that suffer for this, Serenity plays its hand perfectly.
The Star Wars prequels failed to live up to their billing, will the new Disney produced movies be more successful or will we have to wait for someone else to create a new Space Opera in a believable alien universe? Star Wars: Episode VII is expected in 2015.
Read Full Post »
“I’ve got a very bad feeling about this.” Han Solo, Star Wars (1977)
With the news that Disney is to acquired Lucasfilm for a reported $4billion and that a new Star Wars movie series is on the way speculation is mounting as to how it will work. The first thing that springs to mind is what is George Lucas thinking? I remember seeing an interview with him around the time of return of the Jedi where he suggested that he always saw the saga as nine films, three before and three after the original trilogy. Then around the time of Revenge of the Sith he had changed his mind saying that the saga had always been about the rise, fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker/ Darth Vader and that there was nowhere else for the story to go adding that he was too old to do it all again. Far be it from me to say that he has sold out or cashed in, but it does appear that that is what is happening. This in itself isn’t a problem providing it is done well. We have already seen with the prequels that George Lucas is capable of screwing up his own franchise an that other new talent can reinvent a previously stale one: J.J. Abrams with Star Trek springs to mind.
It has been suggested the first new film will be called Star Wars: Episode VII. This suggests following on from Return of the Jedi is what they have in mind. A setting around thirty years after Jedi would work both with the gap between episode III and IV and with the age of the original cast if they are to be used. A thirty year gap will also give the opportunity for Han and Leia to have kids who will now be in their twenties and can play a significant part in the story. Luke could have started to rebuild the Jedi finding and training new young gifted apprentices. A possible plot that could spring from this could involve an apprentice (or group of apprentices) exploring the dark side of the force creating a new threat. This could be attributed to Luke taking on and training multiple pupils instead of the traditional single master and pupil relationship. There have also been suggestions for a film set just after Jedi, this would be a bad idea as it would mean recasting the original characters or using some horrible CGI to make the old actors look young, does anyone remember Patrick Stewart at the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
This leads us onto other ideas, first the possibility of going years into the future; I have heard the name The New Jedi Order suggested. This would possibly amount to a reboot of the original idea set in the future with new characters. I personally favour a different option. Going back to an older time. I seem to remember Ben/Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Luke that the Jedi were guardians of the universe for a thousand generations. This gives us anything up to 50,000 years play with. Although I am more than familiar with the six existing movies, I have never read any of the spin-off literature or played any of the games relating to Star Wars. With this in mind two titles that I have heard mentioned are Dawn Of The Jedi and Knights of the Old Republic, I have no knowledge of their stories, but the titles sound good. It is conceivable that over time more than one of these ideas could be explored. The one I would most like to see would be the origin of the Jedi and the Sith set in an older simpler time. Were the Jedi formed to combat the dark side of the force or were the Sith an offshoot of the Jedi as some of the order were corrupted by the search for greater powers? Are the Jedi less honourable and good than we think? Were they an attempt by a government to control anybody who is different, anyone with special powers? All these ideas could be explored. However, if we are going to have original cast members in the movie they need to do it now, Mark Hamill is 61, Carrie Fisher is 56 and Harrison Ford is 70.
One thing they should look at in any new saga is a strong female character, possibly a leading Jedi or Sith. Although Natalie Portman’s Padmé had her moments, the prequels lacked anyone with the presence of Leia when they really should have had a stronger character. I’m sure there is a law somewhere in Hollywood stating that Jennifer Lawrence has to be at least “attached to” every new film so just give her lightsaber and see what happens! There has also been suggestion for some time of a TV show set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope featuring some of the secondary characters such as The Hut and fanboy favourite Boba Fett. There has to be some mileage in this as well as the X-Wing novel series that started with Rogue Squadron just after Return of the Jedi.
And finally who could do justice to this most treasured franchise? Two names already working within the Disney family spring to mind: Joss Whedon and Bryan Singer.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Film Reviews, Groovers Video Vault, tagged Agatha Christie, Alien, And Then There Were None, Assault on Precinct 13, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, DVD, H.R. Giger, Halloween, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, James Cameron, John Hurt, Nostromo, Prometheus, Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver, space jockey, Star Wars, Ten Little Indians, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, VHS, Yaphet Kotto on June 17, 2012 |
1 Comment »
“In space no-one can hear you scream.”
In preparation/anticipation of the release of Prometheus a few weeks ago I watched the first two Alien movies again. I have the directors cut of Aliens, the first sequel directed by James Cameron on DVD however I only have an old VHS copy of Ridley Scott’s original film.
Commercial towing spaceship Nostromo is on route from Thedus to Earth with a cargo of twenty million tons of mineral ore and a refinery. Its crew of seven are in stasis until they are awoken when they pick up what they believe to be a distress beacon.
Looking back at Alien, aside from the grainy image of my old VHS copy, the most notable thing about the movie after all this time is not the suspense or the horror, it’s the characters. They are different characters with their own ideas, personality, prospective and their own agenda as you would expect of a the crew of a ship (in space or a regular ship in the real world). In many ways the most significant of these are Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) who give the movie a more relevant and political edge. Kane (John Hurt) has one of the most memorable scenes in film history but within the plot it is the only important thing he does. Ash (Ian Holm) comes to represent “the corporation” this is a defining element of the movie and one that has continued through all the sequels spiff offs and the new prequel Prometheus, it is also like Parker and Brett the thing that gives the movie edge and relevance beyond the genre. As captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) is an interesting character, he is more a company man than the rest of the crew but is still his own man never forgetting how far from home he is. Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) could have been there to just make up the numbers, but she does more than that, she helps give the movie balance and prospective. And finally the star, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). It seems hard to believe now but aside from a couple of bit parts Alien was her first movie. The casting was perfect, not only did it define her future career, but it helped elevate the movie beyond its genre origins.
On the surface it is a sci-fi movie but owing far more to the horror and thriller genres. Contemporary space movies of the day like Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) have a bright an hopeful outlook, Alien has more in common with John Carpenter movies Halloween (1978) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). The basic concept owes a debt to Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel “And Then There Were None” (originally published with a less politically correct title), itself being inspired by the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians. In comparison to the later films (including the Predator crossovers and the prequel Prometheus) it has a much smaller story and scope, this far from being a problem, it is actually a benefit. Its not that we don’t care where the “space jockey” or the Alien come from, it is that they are not relevant to the survival of the crew. We are focussed in on a very small part of a larger greater universe and know no more, or less than the characters in the film. It is this simplicity and intimacy that helps create a bond between character and viewer making us care what happens to them.
The effects should stand out in a film that is more than thirty years old, but they don’t. The models used to recreate the exteriors and the H.R. Giger designed “space jockey” are fantastic and a relief in this over CGI age. The interiors of the Nostromo look dated just like they do in Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and many Star Trek movies. The important thing though is the Alien also designed by Gieger, I have heard “man in rubber suit criticism”. This really isn’t fair, sticking with the first rule of monster movies, the alien spends most of its time in the shadows, when we do see it, it really stands up. The planet is a dark rain soaked inhospitable place that exists largely in shadow and half-light, the Nostromo is made up of dim corridors, this lends itself perfectly to the movie. The style of the lighter brighter Prometheus would not work in Alien.
Like no other sci-fi or horror movie before Alien redefined two genres and possibly invented there own genre. It has aged surprisingly well and could teach the makers of a few flabby overcomplicated movies a thing or two about suspense and atmosphere. The grainy VHS version seems somehow appropriate for a movie that I first saw on late night television in the 1980’s.
Read Full Post »