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Archive for April, 2009

Road Movies

How do you write an article about road movies? Well to start with you make a list of the best or at least your favourite road movies. That was the first mistake I made I included every film I like that prominently features cars or journeys but are they truly road movies? I would suggest that there is a certain existentialism that separates a true road movie from a Roadtrip movie. Have I just invented a new sub-genre there separating road movies in half? Probably not lots of people have probably already devoted at lot more thought to the idea than me! There are three movies that nearly made it into this article Convoy and Fandango (the best roadtrip movie ever) that on the surface have all the elements of a road movie but that move away from the themes of the films I have picked, and stagecoachStagecoach, no cars, no roads but when you break it down it is a road movie. So I started again with a much smaller list. One thing that stands out is that they are all American, there have been a few good none American road movies but the all the iconic ones are American, there is almost an intrinsic link between the genre and the nation. As I said in my movie cars article a few weeks ago: “The early days and popularisation of cars and movies happened around the same time. For this reason the two have always been linked. That is why there is no surprise that America has been responsible for the biggest car culture and the biggest movie industry in the world”. So here it is, essential road movie viewing:

Easy Rider (1969) easyMade at the end of the sixties Easy Rider is about recapturing something that is gone or fast disappearing. Even the two main characters names Wyatt and Billy hark back to the old west. The film was made in a way that echoes the freedom that the characters strive for, this possible explains the gritty authentic feel of the movie. For example it has been reported that the stars were often drunk and/or stoned on set and during filming. The script was never completed and a lot of the movie was made up as they went along. Instead of hiring a crew they used friends, family and people they met while filming to hold the camera and appear as extras in the film. The best documented example of this is the rednecks in Louisiana that where used in the coffee shop scene. They were locals who were taunting the actors of a local theatre company who were auditioning for the parts. Dennis Hopper spotted them and hired them instead of the actors. The conclusions that can be drawn from the film are endless and personal to the viewer but I always come away from the film torn between two ideas, did they not find the freedom they where looking for or is that freedom just not as much fun as they thought it would be?

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) two1My all time favourite road movie. Two unnamed friends simply referred to as The Driver (James Taylor) and The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson) drive a stripped out 1955 Chevy hot rod. They cruise small towns in California and the southwest looking for other cars to race. Anyone who has seen The Fast and the Furious will probably remember Vin Diesel’s character saying he lives his life quarter of a mile at a time and that nothing else matters. This is the way The Driver and the Mechanic think but it means so much more coming from them, they don’t have to say it, they live it. Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker simply credited as The Girl (Laurie Bird) and get into a race with GTO (Warren Oates) a character that simply takes the name of the car he drives. The Driver and The Mechanic only communicate with each other about their car and the cars they are going to race, they have no need to say anything else to each other. GTO picks up hitchhikers telling each one a different story about who he is and what he is doing. These people are lost. Throughout the film as The Driver becomes more attached to the girl does he begin to find himself or does he become more detached. With the burning film at the end the film never truly ends just like the race. This truly is the existential road movie.

 Vanishing Point (1971)vanishWhilst Two Lane Blacktop is my favourite road movie Vanishing point has my favourite movie car: Kowalski (Barry Newman) is hired to deliver a white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T from Denver to San Francisco. He says that he needs to be in San Francisco by three PM the next day (fifteen hours) although it is never explained why. Along the way a blind DJ calling himself Super Soul calls Kowalski “the last American hero”. The rest of the film consists of car chases and flashbacks of Kowalski’s past life. The film is about freedom, the car and the road give this freedom but the police take it away. It is about the end of an era in the same way as Sam Peckinpah westerns are about an end of the west. The film is referred to in Death Proof both verbally and by the use of a white Challenger. It is easy to put a classic car in a film but you must remember the Challenger was new at the time the film was made. If you were making a film like this today is there a car half as cool as the Challenger in production at the moment? I doubt it! And a note to other film makers particularly the makers of the Fast and Furious, no Challengers were harmed in the final scene, instead the shell of a Camaro was used. There has been much debate about the ending the ambiguity of Kowalski’s actions, it is perfect.

 The Straight Story (1999) straight2A very different film to finish. A 73 year old man decides to travel from his home in Laurens Iowa to visit his sick brother in Mt. Zion, Wisconsin a journey of less than three hundred miles. Hardly the basis for an epic road movie. Based on a true story it follows Alvin Straight’s real life journey on a ride on lawn mower but in the hands of David Lynch things are never simple. Alvin’s journey is a journey through life, Lynch doesn’t settle for metaphors in films, the whole film is a metaphor. Even the people he meets along the way get older as the films progresses.  There is a shot that has been used countless times in road movies where all you see is a black road with the white lines passing by. Lynch himself used it at high speed in his previous film, Lost Highway. In The Straight Story it moves at the pace of Alvin on his mower. Richard Farnsworth was nominated for an Oscar for his towering performance but lost out to Kevin Spacey for American Beauty. But how much of his performance was acting? During filming the former stuntman had terminal cancer and chronic arthritis, his pain comes out in what was to be his last film.

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roadFor those who don’t know (shame on you!) On the Road is Jack Kerouac’s largely autobiographical novel based on various road trips around America in the late 40’s, the novel is set between 1947 and 1950.  It is regarded a seminal work of the Beat Generation and is infused with the jazz, drug, poetry and drink culture that so defined the movement.  It is full of rich and colourful characters many of them based on real people (including William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg).  Kerouac’s characters Sal Paradise (based on himself) and Dean Moriart (based on Neal Cassady) travel by any means necessary, sometimes hitching and others driving.  hudsonAlthough often short of money or even broke they sometimes travel in style, notable cars that appear in the book are a 1949 Hudson and a 1947 Cadillac limousine.  The Cadillac is shown little respect and is part of an amusing snippet of the book. 

  

The beat generation where outsiders in their generation, getting on the road was an expression of freedom in a way that it could never be in a modern global age.  It is possibly for this reason that the beat generation is so fashionable at the moment.  Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty probably exhibit far greater excess in there lifestyles than Kerouac and his contemporaries but are conforming to a norm not breaking new ground; is there anything they do that Courtney Love hasn’t been doing on and of for the past fifteen years?  Last year saw a BBC documentary fronted by comedian and On the Road Fan, Russell Brand (before Brand/Rossgate) retracing part of the journey travelled from Massachusetts to San Francisco.  The program is hardly enlightening and Brand has a compulsion to always be centre stage but it does have an interesting part about the original manuscript.  It was typed on scrollwhat Kerouac called “the scroll” a continuous sheet of paper measuring one hundreds and twenty-seven feet long.  It is typed single-spaced with no margins or paragraph or breaks of any kind.  The final published book is also one of TIME Magazine100 best English-language novels since1923 but a version based on the original scroll is also now available.  The scroll was purchases by the Indianapolis colts owner Jim Irsay a few years ago for nearly two and half million dollars, it has been on public display ever since (it even made it to my home city of Birmingham, England not Alabama! Last year although I didn’t get to see it as it had been moved on Ireland by the time I found out). 

 

The book has had a huge influence since its release just over 50 years ago and its fans include Bob Dylan who claimed it changed his life and the late Doors front man Jim Morrison.  But amazingly it has never been made into a feature film, until now!  That is the reason for my article now.  After years of rumours of a Gus Van Sant adaptation a film is finally in production.  Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries). Little information has been given about the production but it appears Jose River (who also scripted The Motorcycle Diaries) has provided the samscreenplay.  Sam Riley who was very impressive as the Joy Division singer Ian Curtis in Control is the only actor currently linked with the film but it hasn’t been announced the character he will play. It is has also been suggested to help capture the jazz era of the film it will be shot in black and white.  Whatever happens I hope this is one adaptation they don’t screw up but with Coppola and Salles it should be in good hands. 

 

The film is due for release in America towards the end of the year and although a UK date has not been announced it should be early next year.  Plenty of time for those who haven’t already to read the book.

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Warning contains plot spoilers

Don’t read this article if you intend to watch The Uninvited or A Tale of Two Sisters

Before going to see The Uninvited I had a quick look in my copy of Empire magazine (issue 239). It didn’t give it the greatest review but didn’t completely put me off. The problem was one little section that read “This slick remake of the Korean A Tale of Two Sisters”. Anyone who has seen the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) will know there is a fantastic twist in the plot. As there are a few small differences in the plot at the start of the film what I describe below relates to The Uninvited:

uninvitedbAnna (Emily Browning) returns home after ten months in a metal hospital following the death of her mother in a fire. She has no real memory of what happened other than dreams of that night that haunt her. On returning home she is greeted by he slightly older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) and her fathers new girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) who was her mothers former nurse. As Anna begins to see dead people who are trying to tell her something she realises the fire was not an accident and suspects Rachel the stepmother of killing her. A friend, Matt (Jesse Moss) is also killed whist on the way to meet Anna to tell her what happened the night her mom died.

two2With the help of Alex, Anna investigates Rachel on the internet and suspect her of killing a family ten years earlier. Alex ends up killing Rachel saving Anna from the stepmother who appears to have murderous intentions for the girls. Then we have the big reveal: Alex was killed in the same fire as the mother and all the things Alex has done including killing Rachel was actually done by Anna. This would have been a nice twist if not for the review telling me it is a remake of a film that had a very similar twist. Would I have spotted what was coming had it not been given away? We will never know, but one thing for sure I would have enjoyed the film more. As it was I spent the whole film watching for proof that Alex wasn’t there for example when she shouted at her farther who didn’t answer. I have to accept that this film is intended for people who haven’t seen the original so I possibly not the target audience.

uninvitedBeyond the problems caused by the review it probably isn’t a bad film although there is a difference in the plot in that it is implied that Rachel is innocent where as Uen-joo the stepmother played by Jung-ah Yum in the original was a wonderfully wicked character. It also makes the events more clearly psychological than supernatural taking away a lot of the ambiguity of the original film. The film also falls down a little with the fathers character been very weekly developed und underused. Had he has very little interaction with his Anna making him oblivious to the events until the very end. This was a lazy way of making the plot fit.

So that’s how the review ruined the film for me. If you have read this and now intend to watch the film I have ruined it for you. However I did warn you at the top!

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spyCasino Royale and Quantum of Solace make up a story ark that has at least one more film in it.  “The Quantum Trilogy” sounds good.  Any more than three films could be overkill but Daniel Craig has more than one more film in him so where does Bond go from here? The simple answer is they either need some stand alone stories or start a new story ark.  Even if they do have a new story ark I would suggest a stand alone film to break them up and have a great idea for it.  It will never be made so this is  little more than a bit of fun but if it does get made tell everyone you read about it here first.

spy2The idea is go back to original source material.  Having used little more than the title in the films Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me represent the largest un-filmed Ian Fleming stories remaining.  The Spy Who Loved could make a great Die Hard style film.  It was the tenth novel and fits in between Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service although it stands alone without any baggage from the other books, it acts as an interlude in what has become known as the “Blofeld Trilogy”.  Bond isn’t really the main character in the book.  It is told in the first person by a young woman called Vivienne Michel rather than the usual third-person narrative concentrating on Bond.  Fleming didn’t want the film to be made and only sold the rites to the title but far worse things have been produced in Flemming and Bonds names.  A film like this would divide opinions of Bond fans but could be a real chance to make a completely different film.  For those who haven’t read the books below is a breakdown of The Spy Who Loved Me and how it could be made into a film:

The book is split into three parts “Me”, “Them”, and “Him”.  Me deals with Vivienne’s back story and can be dropped for a film version.

The second part of the book “Them” would be truncated.  Vivian is working in a motel as she travels through America.  At the end of the season the manager leaves her in charge for the night until the owner comes to shut up for the winter.  Instead a pair of thugs arrive on behalf of the owner.  Their plan; to burn the motel down placing the blame on Vivienne who will die in the fire allowing the owner to claim on the insurance.

The third section starts with Bond’s arrival it time to prevent the thugs from raping Vivienne.  In typical Bond style he kills the bad guys and sleeps with the girl.  This part of the film would be extended to form the majority of the film.  Probably sixty minutes in a ninety-five minute film.  I would suggest a larger number of the thugs/gangsters would be needed for the idea to work. If more material is needed a final act could be tagged on where Mr. Sanguinetti the gangster owner of the motel tries to get revenge on Bond.  A note of trivia one of the thugs is called Sol “Horror” Horowitz and was the basis for Jaws who was one of the few elements to make it into the 1977 film of the same name.  It may need an extra act such as the Bahamas scenes in Casino Royale to make it work as a film.  For this to work it would need to fit around the original text and within the context of a Bond film, in other words, how Bond got the motel rather than how Vivian got there.

spy3A nice touch would also be to use an un-filmed short story as the pre-credit sequence the way they did in The Living Daylights (the opening sequence is based on a short story of the same name).  The one I would suggest is “From a View to a Kill” in which Bond investigates the murder of a motorcycle dispatch and the theft of his top-secret documents.  To do this he takes the place of a dispatch-rider, kills a would be assassin and tracks down their HQ.  This could be broken down to just the motorcycle action involving Bond and the Assassin.

Look out for a similar article based on Moonraker in future weeks.

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With Quantum of Solace recently coming out on DVD it is a good time to see how it compares to other follow-up Bond films.

noSean Connery started things off with Dr No.  A good solid film but the franchise was yet to be born and both Connery and the character russia1he played were still finding their feet.  He followed it up with From Russia with Love.  In my opinion the best bond film ever made and the only bond film that can truly stand up on its own away from the other Bond films.  This isn’t just a good bond film it is a bloody good film.

onNext came George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  Overall the film was a mess.  The story and the direction were good and it could have been a classic but Lazenby was wooden at best and there was absolutely no chemistry between him and Diana Rigg.  There was no second film for Lazenby instead Connery returned for his last (official) appearance as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever.  The weakest of Connery’s films only redeemed by a good car chase.

liveRoger Moore took over for the excellent Live and Let Die.  I don’t like Moore as Bond but have to admit this is a good film.  His follow up The Man with the Golden Gun goldenwasn’t particularly good despite having Christopher Lee putting in a great performance as the main villain Scaramanga.  Following this Moore made a further four appearances as Bond but only The Spy Who Loved Me was any good.

livingEnter Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights.  Dalton is probably the least liked killBond, this is a shame as I think he played the character closer to the Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels than anyone else.  Licence to Kill didn’t really work, the Bond as a rouge agent didn’t go down well but the film has actually dated quite well isn’t bad.  Look out for a young Benicio Del Toro. 

eye1Although not credited for it Pierce Brosnan’s rejuvenation of the franchise with GoldenEye was as important as Daniel Craig’s reinvention of it.  This is a great film that has all the necessary themes to be a classic bond film, I think it rankstomorrow in the top half dozen bond films ever made.  Unfortunately Tomorrow Never Dies wasn’t very good and each film Brosnan made after that got progressively worse.

casinoCasino Royale  reinvented the character with Daniel Craig.  Using an original Ian Fleming story that had never been filmed as an official Bond film.  We see a Bond who has just received his licence to kill and does not have so many ridicules gadgets.  Clearly the action and the filming style has been influenced by the Bourne quantum2films but that is no bad thing.  I still haven’t decided where this film ranks in my favourite Bond films but it may well be second only to From Russia with Love.  Quantum of Solace is a bit of an easy option as it is a direct sequel following on directly from Casino Royale.  This isn’t a bad thing as it turns out.  It also returns the film to the spirit of the books that although they had stand alone stories they do follow on from each other.

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Top tens are a very personal thing so I don’t expect  everyone to agree with me but if asked to compile a list of the top ten British films of all time I would like to think at least a few of my suggestions would be on there.  Seven of the ten films came out before I was born and the newest film on is over ten years old, is that a reflection on the state of British cinema or just my personal taste?  I couldn’t rank them in any order if I tried so here they are in chronological order:

 

The 39 Steps (1935):  John Buchan’s novel has been filmed many times 39but Alfred Hitchcock’s version remains by far the best.  It is also probably the best pre-Hollywood Hitchcock and explores themes of an innocent man on the run after being wrongly accused, a theme synonymous with Hitchcock and best known in North by Northwest.  The direction is well paced and there are some neat touches to in the photography.  Don’t be put off by the age, this is a great film. 

 

 

Brief Encounter (1945):  David Lean’s masterpiece based on a Noel briefCoward play from ten years earlier this film has been criticised as been dated, but that is why it is so good.  The film is so much of the era that I wonder if the spirit of the film could be captured today.  In makes me think how amazing Atonement (a good film in its own right) could have been if made by a director like David Lean had he been alive today.  As I mention at the end of this article I could have included another three David Lean films on the list. 

 

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949):  Simply the best comedy of all time kind(or at least on a par with Some Like it Hot).  The main character in the film is Louis (Dennis Price) who plots and executes the murder of eight relatives who stand between him and a Dukedom in revenge for the way the aristocratic family treated his late mother.  However the star of the film is Alec Guinness playing all eight family members.  There have been many suggestions of remakes but following the debacle that was The Ladykillers remake in 2004.

 

The Third Man (1949):  Set in Vienna just after the end of the second thirdworld war against a backdrop of Blck Market.  Everyone remembers the cuckoo-clock speech and the Anton Karas’ zither score but the film has so much more to offer.  Joseph Cotton and Orsen Welles are perfectly cast and Robert Krasker’s photography is amazing.  The story is beautifully paced and constructed under Carol Reeds direction (Stories of Orsen Welles taking over the direction have been refuted by all involved including Welles himself).  The word classic is an over used one but in this case it really is a classic.  Trivia note: Look out for appearances from Bernard Lee and Robert Brown both of whom went on to play M in James Bond Films. 

 

From Russia With Love (1963):  Surprised to see a Bond film in the top russiaten?  This is still the best Bond film ever made in my opinion and as an early one (second) it is able to exist without all the baggage that the latter films had to deal with therefore making it a great film on its own merits not just a great Bond film.  It is also one of the more faithful to the book but then it had great source material as it is also one of the best Ian Fleming Novels.  The gadgets are kept to a minimum and are believable, the supporting cast is excellent and the villains are memorable. 

 

Get Carter (1971): Bleak, brutal and sometimes violent.  A grown up getversion of the British gangster films we have been seeing over the last ten years.  The long tracking shots give a gritty realism and a near documentary feel to some of the film as does Michael Caine’s deadpan delivery.  When you look beyond the grim exteria it is actually quite a stylish film.  In 2004 Total Film selected it as the number one British movie of all time, this is a little genorouse but it is certainly worthy of a place in the top ten. 

 

 

Don’t Look Now (1973):  Short of a few jumps and shocks a film can never donttruly be scary but Don’t look now is a truly haunting film that disturbs you and stays with you for days.  I first say the film when I was about fifteen and have seen it many times since.  Although it never has that same impact a second time it still digs away into your mind.  It is as beautiful as it is grim and is all the better for the ambiguity in certain parts of the plot and the fact it doesn’t neatly tie up loose ends.  The chemistry between Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland is amazing.  Anyone who hasn’t seen it go and get a DVD copy, turn the lights out and sit back and enjoy it uninterrupted. 

 

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979): Pure comedy geniuses.  People life1often don’t look beyond the controversy to realise how incredibly clever and thought provoking this movie actually is, and incredibly funny at the same time.  Even as a fan of the TV series I can still say this is Monty Python’s finest hour.  The film is filled with quotable lines and is still funny after numerous viewings.  One of the taglines used to advertise it was “A motion picture destined to offend nearly two thirds of the civilized world. And severely annoy the other third”.  

 

The Long Good Friday (1980):  Gritty British gangster film that shows longLock Stock and the new generation how its done.  The style is probably more in keeping with the American black and white gangster movies than the new breed of the time like the Godfather, strangely this makes the film less dated than if it had been atypical 70s/80s movie.  The cast reads like a whose who of British talent from the time and even includes a future Bond and a future Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels star, I will let you work out who they are for yourselves.  I must admit I thought long and hard about the inclusion of this one as I haven’t seen the film for over ten years so I am assuming it will have the same impact it did when I have seen it in the past. 

 

Trainspotting (1996): A film where everything works.  Danny Boyle has trainmade some great films but this and Slumdog Millionaire are probably the only two that are faultless and capture the imagination so perfectly.  Set in the late 80’s the film is the perfect mirror for the feel-good Britpop soaked mid 90’s.  Some people find the structure hard get to grips with but it just adds to the flavour of the film.  It is full of memorable scenes, I started listing them but there are far too many, just watch the film. 

 

So that’s my list of the best British films of all time.  The ones that nearly made it are:  Doctor Zhivago, in fact it would have been very easy to put Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai in as well but I decided to just go with one David Lean film although all of these could have had a place on the list. The Italian Job was also really hard to leave out.   It will be interesting to see how we look back on more recent films in a few years time and The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Slumdog Millionaire may appear in future.  There are also lots of films others would put amongst their favourites that aren’t on the list such as Withnail & I.

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My Movie Cars article has been getting more hits than the rest of my page put together so I thought it was time for the promised TV cars article.  There is no KITT from Knight Rider as once you take all the special effects away it is only a very unexciting 1982 Trans Am.  And there are no naff cars that made good by TV like Del Boys Reliant Regal.   Many people will also be surprised by the omission of the 1976 Ford Gran Torino from Starsky & Hutch but I just don’t like the look of the car.  If it had been a 1972 or older it would have been a different story.  I’m sure there is some I have missed that I will think of after I have posted but off the top of my head, there may be a few surprises:

The Dukes of Hazzard: 1969 Dodge Charger R/T.  I should really hate leethis program for what it did to countless Chargers (over 300 destroyed according to some reports) but the truth is it is the coolest car in TV history.  There is a charger painted up to look like it that I see driving around occasionally in the summer, it should be naff but I just want that car!  

The Prisoner: 1965 Lotus Seven.  Not used much in the program other karthan the opening sequence but still a really cool car.  Widely regarded as the most iconic sports cars of the 20th century and an evolution of the last Lotus 7 is still in production today built by Caterham.  Anyone doubting its pedigree take a look at the top gear power board.  The R500 version was quicker on the Top Gear track than a Bugatti Veyron.

Jericho: 1969 Plymouth Road Runner.Not that widely watched so you rrmay not know the plot.  There has been a nuclear terrorist attack and an EMP has destroyed anything with a microchip.  Modern cars and Ipods are useless so everyone is driving around in crappy old pickups and in the middle of this we have a classic Road Runner (or possibly a Satellite made to look like a Road Runner).  A cool car by any measure but made all the cooler by it surroundings.

Ashes to Ashes:  1983 Audi Quattro B2.  So the car came out a year b2after the program is set and it is a most unlikely police car but that doesn’t alter the fact this is a great car in an excellent program.  The unnecessary power slides around corners are direct from 70’s cop shows.  If there is a third incarnation of the series they will struggle to come up with a car to top the Quattro. 

Life: 1987 Buick Grand National.   For those who haven’t seen Life it is a lifeTV series about a cop who is wrongly convicted of murder.  Years later he is freed and is a millionaire following a large undisclosed compensation payout.  He is still working as a cop but can afford any car he likes.  After his beloved Bentley is destroyed he goes for a slightly unusual choice a Buick Grand National.  As is often the case with TV its is a look alike and is actually a Buick Regal but is still a great looking car especially considering it is an 80’s car not the best decade for classic cars especially in America! 

The Avengers: 1966 Lotus Elan S3 SE and various vintage bentleyBentley’s.  The cars in elanthe Avengers were designed to reflect the characters who drove them and they really couldn’t have done a better job.  Steed (Patrick MacNee) drove a vintage Bentley (changed from episode to episode but often a 3 litre or 4 ½ litre from the late 20’s).  Very old school and stylish like his trademark bowler hat and umbrella.  Emma Peel (Dianna Rigg) drove a sleek, sexy and sporty Lotus Elan.   Need I say more?

Magnum PI:  Ferrari 308 GTSi.  One of the most iconic if not the best ferrariFerrari’s ever.  As I remember they story the car belonged to a wealthy novelist called Robin Masters who as I recall never actually appeared in the program.  Magnum worked for masters in some way and in turn lived in his house and drove his car.  The series ran for eight years and they actually updated the car over time to keep up with the current model so a GTS, GTSi and GTSqv all appeared over time not that many people noticed.  Despite the cars changing a lot under the bonnet they where cosmetically similar.

Miami Vice: 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 ‘Daytona Spyder’ & 1986 daytonaFerrari Testarossa.  The Ferrari Daytona is by far my favourite Ferrari ever, a truly stunning car.  Alas only a replica in Miami Vice.  Provided to help aid Sonny Crockett’s undercover personas it was always portrayed as if it were a real Ferrari to the characters in the program and to be honest it is a pretty good replica based on a Corvette.  There where two different versions of the car used and the front headlights didn’t look right on one of them but still a nice looking car.  Ferrari North America were a bit miffed testarossaat the attention the car was getting and decided to offer the producers a real Ferrari.  They opted for the flagship Testarossa.  The cars provided were black and actually first appeared used by a villain but were then painted white and used as Crockett’s car following the destruction of his Daytona courtesy of a Stinger missile. 

Nash Bridges: 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda.  Things are never what they seem on cudaTV, this is actually a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda and not a Hemi ‘Cuda but it looks the part despite the dodgy colour.  The story goes that Don Johnson wanted his car to be a 71 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible but they are so rare it would have cost somewhere in the region of a million dollars so they came up with six 1970 Barracuda convertibles and switched the grille and taillights to the 71 style and painted it up to say it was a HemiCuda. 

The Fall Guy: 1985 GMC K-1500 Sierra Grande Wideside.  When I falllook back now brown and gold is not a good colour for a truck but back in the early 80s I used to love the program and the truck.  It had all the stunts and jumps that they used to do in The Dukes of Hazzard.  It was also quite exotic for someone watching in England in the early 80’s.  I had seen Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s on the road but we didn’t really have big pick-up trucks in the UK back then.

A special mention for those who nearly made it.  Inspector Morse’s’ 1960 Jaguar Mk.II 2.4 Litre.  The 1966 Ford Mustang Fastback from Spencer for Hire, very reminiscent of Bullitt’s 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT.  The unusual Manta Montage from Hardcastle and McCormick.  And finally The A-Team who tried really hard with B.A.’s  1983 GMC Vandura G-1500 and Faceman’s 1984 Corvette.

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lom1When told not to go into a house like a bull in a china shop DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) bursts in and says.

“Good morning is this the china shop”

If anything sums up the character Gene Hunt this is it.  Gene Hunt is a sexist, homophobic, misogynist; despite this he is an amusing endearing and strangely likable character in an indefinable way.  He is the backbone of Ashes to Ashes and its predecessor Life on Mars.  Together they are probably the best new British TV series for years.

a2a1As I watch the first episode of the new series I wonder where does it go from here?  There can’t be any real surprises in the concept following the way Life on Mars concluded.  One has to assume this series will go in similar direction after wallowing in 80’s nostalgia for another seven weeks.  But who can complain at that?  Not me!  When we look back Gene Hunt started out life as support for Sam Tyler (John Simm) but when the second incarnation came along he became at least on an equal footing with his new co star Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes).

If it makes it to a third incarnation we move forward nine or ten years the way we moved from Life on Mars to Ashes to Ashes there are three problems:

  1. Gene Hunt will be approximately twenty years older than in Life on Mars and potentially too old for the program and the actor who plays him.
  2. As time goes on Gene’s character is slowly softening, at this rate he will be positively liberal by the 90’s.
  3. And that is the final problem.  Have things changed enough since the 90’s for the program to work and are the 90’s long enough ago to work from a nostalgia point of view?  probably not!

gh1The simple answer: Make Gene the main character in a new program and set it in the present day (2010 but the time it is made).  Gene will have come forward in time the same way Sam and Alex went back in time.  This will lend itself to endless cringe worthy fish out of water possibilities.  How Gene reacts to chavs is worth an episode on its own.

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eli

A few years ago I told anyone who would listen (and a few who wouldn’t) that Pan’s Labyrinth was by far the best film of the year.  We are now just over a third of the way through this year and have a new contender for film of the year.  In my estimation Let The Right One In has just overtaken Gran Torino and Slumdog Millionaire as the best film of what is shaping up to be a good year for the cinema.  Like Pan’s Labyrinth, Let The Right One In is a European film with subtitles and therefore will not get the audience it deserves.

 

bookLet The Right One In or Låt den rätte komma in, to give it it’s original Swedish title is a vampire movie written by John Ajvide Lindqvist based on his own 2004 novel.  Set in the concrete jungle of Blackeberg, a suburb to Stockholm in the early 80’s (complete with dodgy cloths).  Eli (Lina Leandersson) is a vampire, she appears to be twelve years old but as she says she has been twelve for a long time.  She moves into the apartment next to Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) a meek and hapless 12-year-old boy who is being bullied by a group of his classmates.  As the film progresses Eli’s relationship develops with Oskar but we are never sure if she is looking for a friend, a companion/boyfriend, a minion or a meal.  The story develops along the lines you would expect with a few surprises including the fantastic and now famous/infamous swimming pool scene.  

 

oskThe grim and gritty feel give the film a sense of realism despite the supernatural subject matter.  The title (abbreviated to Let Me In, in some countries) refers to the aspect of the vampire myth that says a vampire can not cross a threshold without being invited.  Early vampire films used minions to let the vampires in where more recent films have dropped that part of the myth.  This film takes it a step further and shows what happens when a vampire comes in uninvited.  It isn’t pretty but it is effective!  The photography is very simple and effective using mainly fixed cameras and no noticeable steadicam instead opting for simple pan and dolly tracking very reminiscent of earlier film makers like John Ford and moving away from more recent frantic handheld camera work.  The lighting is moody and atmospheric and with the help of the stark snow covered landscapes gives an almost gothic aesthetic to suburbia.  Comparisons have been made to last years Twilight that uses vampire mythology in a teenage romance.  Let The Right One In is a far more edgy film that although not particularly violent or gory is brutal in places.  There is a certain amount of ambiguity of the androgynous young cast and the morals of their actions.  This may be a film about kids but it certainly isn’t a film for kids.   

 

hang1The US rights to the book have been sold and Cloverfield director Matt Reeves of is set to make the American version.  It won’t be as quick as Quarantine that was released in the UK about six months after the Spanish original [Rec] but expect the Americanised version soon.  It will however be a little different as they have gone back to the source and are adapting the book from scratch rather than remaking the film.  I don’t have high hopes for the Hollywood version but even if its good I would encourage any movie fan to go and see the original.  A modern classic that would have been a fitting end to my vampire article last month had I seen it a little sooner.

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The Rhythm Section.

It was announced back in the summer of 2005 that New Line Cinema had hired author Mark Burnell to write a screenplay based on his 1999 novel The Rhythm Section. The Rhythm Section was the first of a planed series of six books (four have been published to date) featuring the character Stephanie Patrick who has been described as a female Jason Bourne. Internet rumours at the time had suggested Bourne co-star Franka Potente for the lead role. As we are nearly four years on and there have been no further announcements it doesn’t look like the film will be made anytime soon so it is probably a good time to look back at the book. 

rhythm2Following the death of her family in a plane crash the heroine Stephanie Patrick is on the edge, she has developed a drug and drink problem and is working as a Soho prostitute. Her descent into self destruction is halted by a journalist who has discovered the crash that killed her family was caused by a bomb. What follows is a story of Stephanie’s search for the truth, for retribution and more than anything to find herself. This is a story about identity. She soon realises that she has moved too far from the person she was before the tragedy to ever be that person again, she could never be the person she would have been if it had never happened so she has to invent herself. This isn’t easy when she has so many aliases and plays so many different parts. She starts as Lisa, the “chemical blonde” prostitute but also becomes: Marina Gaudenzi, a Swiss businesswoman, Susan Branch, an American student Elizabeth Shepherd, an English management consultant and the most compelling alias the deadly and brutal Petra Reuter, German anarchist, mercenary and terrorist. As Stephanie gets involved with a mysterious government agency she becomes more embroiled in a terrorist plot that has frightening similarities to the September 11th terrorist attacks (the book was published two years before the attacks).

The book is out of print but there are usually cheep second hand copies available from Amazon.

Other books in the series

Chameleon.

Gemini (AKA Zoo Station)

The Third Woman 

 

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