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Last night I was lucky enough to catch a preview of Shane Black’s The Nice Guys (2016).  As much a satire about modern society as glimpse of the past.  The film moves along at a great pace not giving you time to think too much about what is going on.  The chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling is fantastic but there is another more important angle to the movie, at times it is devastatingly funny, often because of Goslings physical, sometimes even slapstick comedy.  We shouldn’t be surprised by this given Black’s directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005).  Not a commercial success, but a cult classic and probably the film that begun Robert Downey Jr’s renascence. Before all that, Shane Black’s greatest claim to fame was as the writer of Lethal Weapon (1997) the film that reinvented at set the bar for buddy cop movies.  That the inspiration for this list of Buddy Cop Movies you may have overlooked, all released between Lethal Weapon and The Nice Guys,:theniceguys

Alien Nation (1988) – Probably the most surprising movie on the list.  A sci-fi movie about an alien civilization that has trying to integrate into human society. James Caan on excellent form plays a racist, xenophobic cop paired with the first alien detective.  As you would expect it is an allegory for race relations.  If you look beneath the prosthetics the alien cop, Det. Samuel ‘George’ Francisco is played by Mandy Patinkin best known as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride and Saul Berenson in homeland.Alien nation

Taxi (1998) – Comedy , crime movie about a cop who inlists the help of a taxi driver.  don’t be  confused by the terrible American remake.  This French modern classic is screwball delight.  Written by Luc Besson before his more famous and nasty recent films as a writer and/or produced.  The film works on some great set pieces and the chemistry between Samy Naceri and Frédéric Diefenthal. It also boasts an early performance from Marion Cotillard.  The first sequel is worth watching, subsequent films are not. taxi

Blitz (2011) – Cop, (Brant) An unlikely inclusion on the list.  British crime thriller, Jason Statham plays on cop on the hunt for a serial killer.  The buddy in question is played by Paddy Considine, an unlikely pairing as you would expect for the genre but one that makes the movie really work.  An excellent film that doesn’t always go in the direction you expect.  Lookout for Mark Rylance in a rare movie appearance.Blitz

Dredd (2012) – Karl Urban’s Judge Dredd puts right all the mistakes of Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 effort.  Rooky Judge Olivia Thirlby provides the buddy and is actually the heart of the film.  A great film that deserved a bigger audience.  The constraints on the plot by the limited environment of the apartment block really help the movie.  Comparisons to The Raid(2011) are inevitable but favourable for Dredd.Dred

Miami Vice (2006) – An ultra slick, ultra stylish film take on the 80’s TV show.  Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are on great form as Crockett and Tubbs.  Michael Mann crafted a film far better than it has ever given credit for, not a nostalgia trip based on the TV show or the high octane all action film the trailers promised, but an intelligent drama/thriller.Miami Vice

If you haven’t seen them recently, check out these five movies along with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the first two Lethal Weapon movies.  Also be sure to check out The Nice Guys when it is released next week. 

Last year I posted a clip from Casablanca asking the question if it is the perfect movie scene? 

At the time of posting I didn’t realise that the French actress, Madeleine Lebeau who plays a pivotal part in the scene that has become known as “duel of anthems” was Casablanca’s last surviving cast member.  I just learned of her passing at the age of 92 when my dad, who is also a big fan of the film emailed me a link to her obituary.

Its worth clicking the link to read the whole thing, this is one paragraph that stood out to me as it helps explain why the scene is so amazing: “Many cast members of Casablanca were refugees from Europe who had recently fled Nazi occupation. Madeleine Lebeau herself had left France for Hollywood with her then husband, Marcel Dalio, a French actor of Jewish origin, shortly before the Germans invaded Paris. During the filming of the “duel of anthems”, several of the actors were genuinely crying. “They brought to a dozen small roles in Casablanca,” wrote the film historian Aljean Harmetz “an understanding and a desperation that could never have come from Central Casting”.”

 

 

 

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America is the home of the high-school movie, it’s a genre that doesn’t work in Britain and Ireland, except when it works, it really works.  I have been lucky enough to catch a preview of Sing Street a couple of weeks before its general release.Sing-Street_poster

The downturn in the Irish economy in the mid 80’s hits a middle class family.  In a bid to save money, teenager Connor’s (excellent newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) dysfunctional parents (played by Aidan Gillen from Game of Thrones and Maria Doyle Kennedy from The Commitments and Orphan Black) move him from a fee paying school to a church run state comprehensive.  Connor quickly finds new direction as he forms a band.  His actions aren’t inspired by fame and fortune or even to escape his current existence, he does it for the noblest of reasons, to impress an unobtainable older girl (Lucy Boynton).Ferdia Walsh-Peelo sing street

Writer director John Carney has made his name in music based movies with Once (2007) and Begin Again (2013).  With more plot and a difficult to master teenage story, Sing Street is possibly his most ambitious film to date.   He pulls it off in the same way as he has before, he has crafted a film that is held together by great performances.  His young cast are largely unknown and are awkwardly realistic.  The music is also essential to the formula, mixing 80’s tunes with the bands original songs that perfectly imitate the era.  Never afraid to throw comedy and emotional moments in, it is probably Carney’s funniest film.  The music and the band are essential to the plot, but ultimately it isn’t about music, it is about people and about families.  It’s this grounding that makes it so  relatable.Lucy-Boynton-Sing-Street

There is nothing especially new or original about the film, in fact it ticks just about every cliché box, some of them twice over.  This really doesn’t matter, they beats of the movie may be clichéd but they are staples of the genre, signposts to viewers who are literate the genre.  The film isn’t afraid to remind us that it is borrowing from an American genre as characters in the film talk about the dance scene from Back to the Future.  But it is also grounded in its Irish setting, It shares very few plot points with The Commitments but we are still reminded of it from time to time in the actions and interactions of the characters.

Another fun and charming film from John Carney.

Nine movies, one was rubbish, four were okay, four are contenders for movie of the month:

Eddie the Eagle: Dexter Fletcher’s take on the true story of British ski jumper Eddie Edwards.  What could have been a joke is actually, warm funny and uplifting.Eddie the Eagle

The Huntsman: Winters War: Part sequel, part prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman (2012).  The cast including Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt deservers better.  The visuals are good, but the story is confused and falls flat.The Huntsman Winters War

Midnight special: Jeff Nichols moves into sci-fi with a film that manages to tip its hat at Spielberg without ever feeling like a pastiche. Like many of the best sci-fi it’s a film about people and relationships.Midnight special

The Man who Knew Infinity: True story of self taught mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.  Well acted by Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel but the story telling is a little pedestrian.The Man who Knew Infinity

Eye in the Sky: Thriller that explores the pitfalls and moral complexities of modern drone warfare.  Often tense, but not without comic moments.  A great film elevated by performances from Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman who are on top form.Eye in the Sky

Bastille Day:  Silly action thriller set in Paris.  It lacks the nastiness and xenophobia of many similar films.  It is also helped by the always watchable Idris Elba.Bastille Day

Louder than Bombs: Told in a mixture of present day and flashback, a man and his two sons deal with the death of his wife.  A mesmerising film thanks in no small part to a monumental performance by Isabelle Huppert.  A brilliant little film that deserves a bigger audience.Louder than Bombs

Miles Ahead: Don Cheadle writes, directs, produces and stars in this sort-of biopic of Miles Davis.  A hugely entertaining caper movie that gives a good backdrop to Davis’ music.  It however total fails as a biopic.  Cheadle is great, however it’s a film that would have been far more interesting if made 30-40 years ago with Davis playing himself.Miles Ahead

Captain America: Civil War: The collateral damage of their actions cause a showdown between super heroes.  Sound familiar?  The idea is largely the same as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  However, Civil War succeeds in just about every way that Dawn of Justice fails.  It is coherent and fun, it even manages to avoid the biggest failing of the MCU, an original final act, not a rehash of previous movies.Captain America Civil War

The month boils down to four real contenders: Eye in the Sky, Midnight special, Louder than Bombs and Captain America.  Louder than Bombs was probably my favourite and Midnight special will be held with the highest regard in future, but the movie of the month is Captain America: Civil War. Captain America Civil War poster

To be……….

Today is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare (and possibly the 452nd anniversary of his birth).  It is amazing to think that his words are still spoken today, but when you hear them it soon becomes how they have stood the test of time.  I was going to write something to mark the day and was torn between an article on the best movies to take their plot from Shakespeare plays or best movies of his plays.  In the end I decided against either.  I hated Shakespeare at school! I couldn’t stand reading stupid old plays that I barely understood, they may as well have been in a foreign language.  It wasn’t until I went to university and a friend convinced me to watch a film of one of his plays, Henry V as I remember, that it clicked.  Plays are not to there to be read like a book, they are to be performed by actors.  That’s why I decided to post a few clips of performances of the Bards work.  I was planning to pick clips from different plays but couldn’t decide which version of his most famous Soliloquy so I decided to go with multiple versions of it.

I couldn’t find a version of Nicol Williamson from Tony Richardson’s adaptation, except bizarrely one dubbed into Russian.  I didn’t include that but did use Grigori Kozintsev’s Russian adaptation.  I haven’t seen any version for several years, from memory, the Kenneth Branagh version looks amazing and the Franco Zeffirelli/ Mel Gibson one is better than you would expect it to be.

It was a brave move for Marvel to reboot Daredevil as a TV show rather than a movie, but having just binge watched the second series it is increasingly looking like a good one.  A few years ago the idea of a studio relegating one of its major properties to the small screen would have been unthinkable.  The newly found status of TV helps but on its own isn’t enough for the gamble to pay off, the content has to be good too.  A point proven by the fact that I gave up on Gotham and The Arrow after a few episodes each and haven’t seen any of the other DC, TV shows. The ongoing sagas of comic books do lend themselves to TV but there is something else.  Daredevil is a better fit for TV than film.  Where The Avengers work on a global scale Daredevil and his alter ego, Matt Murdock are firmly rooted in their Hell’s Kitchen home.  This is problem that DC are going to have to contend with as they move Batman out of Gotham and  into the world of the Justice League.daredevil

With a far darker tone than Agents of Shield and Agent Carter the series exists on the edge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is the better for it.  The beauty of its execution, there is no need to see any other MCU property to make sense of it, and likewise, you don’t need to see it to complete the story told in the movies.  Like the rest of the universe the odds have gone up as time has gone on.  Although there hints a bigger story in season one, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) was largely a local villain.  Season two moves things onto a whole new level, introducing an outside threat.  It is however careful with its introduction of new characters.  Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung) and Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) are the most notable additions.elektra

We know that The Defenders is on its way, a new series where Daredevil will hook-up with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the yet to be introduced Iron Fist.  To its credit, Daredevil resists the temptation of introducing the new characters.  The only overlap being a cameo from Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) from Jessica Jones and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple who has appeared in both shows.  Elektra and The Punisher are better served than in any of their big screen outings with real motivations.  The plot is well served giving character arc’s for all the main protagonists, both new and old.  The new story both is tied up nicely and left open for future development.The Punisher

TV will never replace cinema for me and I still expect to see the bigger stories on the big screen but some stories belong on TV, and good TV is better than second rate movies. 

Video may have Killed the Radio Star, but the internet certainly killed the video shop!

My love of movies wasn’t born in the cinema, I have mentioned more than one occasion on this site that I didn’t visit the cinema very often as a kid.  I grew up in the 80’s, so like so many of my generation I grew up with video, and I watched a hell of a lot of them.  Back in the 80’s video’s were very expensive to buy and weren’t available for purchase until years after cinema release.  When you could eventually buy a movie it would cost at least £9.99, that’s about £38 in today’s money when adjusted for inflation.  So the only option was to rent a video for £1 (nearly £4 adjusted for inflation).  The first film I remember watching was  Superman (1978).  After that my parents would bring films home from a mythical place called a video shop.  I am sure I must have had some input towards some of the films we watched but there was one time I remember picking a film myself. Possibly my first experience of choosing films myself, it came when our local newsagent stated having a small selection of films available to rent.  As a huge Star Wars fan the first film I remember choosing myself was Dune (1984).  Very different to Star Wars and my first experience of David Lynch, at the age of nine.  My entire family hated it.  I loved it, and still do to this day.superman

A few years later, we had moved house and had a video shop walking distance from home.   By the age of around the age of around twelve or thirteen, the owner of said establishment informed me I could have my own account and rent videos myself, I didn’t need my parents to do it for me.   He insisted I only took age appropriate films, but never thought to ask my age.  I went straight for the 15 certificate films.  I still needed my mom to rent 18 certificate films, things like Mad Max, The Terminator, and the better horror films for me.Mad Max (1979) 1

My obsession with video continued until I went to university and started visiting the cinema at least once a week.  I continued to rent videos from time to time after this.  By then the smaller independent shops had disappeared and been replaced by chains like Choices, Titles and Blockbuster, they too have also since vanished.   I still rent DVD’s from a well known mail order company, and also use their streaming service.  It isn’t the same as browsing the through the a video shop, looking at the covers, reading the blurb and picking a movie.   Sometimes picking a new release that I had heard Barry Norman talk about six months earlier at the time of the cinema release; other times going for an unseen classic or an older genre film that caught my eye.

Had I not been struck by the cover photo of Nikita I would never have seen the film (not the cover seen below that is an American one).  A film that proved my gateway into European and then world cinema.  I remember walking to the counter clutching the empty box hoping they didn’t ask me for ID, it was an 18 certificate film and I was two or three years too young to be renting it.  I got to the counter, the woman took the case from me and went to look for the tape.  She came back tape in hand and was about to put it in the case, and paused.  I was waiting for her to point out the 18 certificate.  Instead of asking for ID, she asked if I realised the film was subtitled.  I had no idea that the film was in French and that I would have to read subtitles, but still liked the look of it and replied, yes.  I think I said something about Luc Besson the director of The Big Blue and Subway, films I had never heard of but had read about in the blurb on the back of the box.  I walked out with the video and went home and watched it immediately.  I think I saw it another twice before returning the tape.nikita

That was twenty-five years ago and things have changed.  I watch two or more movies a week at the cinema (30 in the first three months of this year) and am convinced that it is and will remain the best way to see a film.  However, miss video shops.  You could argue that a video shop offered more choice than the cinema, but that argument falls flat with the various streaming services and readily available illegal streaming/downloads.  The quality argument goes out the window, with Smart HD TV’s  and superfast broadband, picture quality is much better than VHS ever was.  But that isn’t the  point.  Video shops are from a place in time that offered so much more than was available to us in a time of three TV channels.

Then we have the people who work in video shops.  By the time the big chains had taken over, they were staffed by spotty teens or middle aged women, all working part time and none having no knowledge or interest in the films.  But the independent shops were owned often and run by people with a knowledge and love of film, they could often recommend films and were always willing to reserve titles for regular customers.  If you happened to be a customer of a certain video store in Manhattan Beach, California you may have been served by Quentin Tarantino!  Like with so many people, it was a video shop owner that recommended The Thing and Blade Runner to me years before they gained their cult status, it was these people that made cult hits out of movies.

I probably have an overly romanticised memory of what video shops were, but they served me well in my formative years and I will always have fond memories of them.

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