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Archive for June, 2010

Did Their Love Last?

Before Sunrise (1995) saw Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) going their separate ways with plans to meet again in six months, but did they? Nine years later we found out what happened in Before Sunset (2004) but what would happen if the couples from 80’s movie had a sequel ten or more years later, would they still be together?

Blade Runner (1982): Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) falls in love with Rachael (Sean Young), one problem, she is a replicant, a biologically engineered humanoid with a predetermined lifespan, but how long is that lifespan, to add to this Deckard himself may be a replicant, how long will their lives last, how long will their love last, can they love?

Commando (1985): There is nothing like kidnapping for the basis of a lasting relationship, that what first brings John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong) together. The movie ends with them flying off into the sunset but what happened next?

Fandango (1985): At the end of Fandango Kenneth Waggener (Sam Robards) marries Debbie aka “The Girl” (Suzy Amis) his best friend’s ex. That has to be a bad start!

The Breakfast Club (1985): They say opposites attract but John Bender (Judd Nelson) and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) really were a mismatched couple, but would they last?

Back to the Future (1985): Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells & Elisabeth Shue in the sequels) have seen their future but will that help or hinder their relationship?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986): Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) has all the angles covered including the perfect girlfriend Sloane Peterson ( Mia Sara) but have they peaked too soon?

Top Gun (1986): The end of Top Gun saw Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) back at Top Gun where Charlie (Kelly McGillis) tracked him down to a bar containing a Righteous Brothers friendly jukebox. Did it last or did the homoerotic undercurrent break through and Maverick give in to his true feelings for Iceman (Val Kilmer)

The Lost Boys (1987): Michael (Jason Patric) chases Star (Jami Gertz) only to discover she is a vampire but it all works out in the end when he saves her from the vampires and restores her humanity, will her gratitude help or hinder their future relationship?

Near Dark (1987): A little like in Michael & Star in The Lost Boys Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) is so taken with vampire Mae (Jenny Wright) he risks everything to save her life and restore her humanity. What happened next?

Say Anything (1989): Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) got his dream girl Diane Court (Ione Skye), the last time we saw them they were flying off to England but where did they go from there?

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I was listening to Ross McD talk about the new Michael Winterbottom movie The Killer Inside Me. I was surprised to hear that it was the first Winterbottom movie Ross had seen, I was even more surprised when I looked him up and realised how prolific a director he is and how many of his movies I have seen including a couple I had forgotten were his movies. Michael Winterbottom movies have a certain style and tend to be inexplicably beautiful with a dream like quality, they also tend to feature Great acting and music, but most notably they are controversial. So here is the Groovers Guide to Michael Winterbottom:

Cracker (1993) (TV): Robbie Coltrane played the Fritz, a hard drinking, heavy smoking gambling forensic psychologist who was seminal in 90’s British TV. Created by Jimmy McGovern, the first two episodes were directed by Michael Winterbottom.

Butterfly Kiss (1995): A serial killer thriller, a British road movie and a lesbian drama all these things are true of Butterfly Kiss but none of the sum it up. Amanda Plummer at her mesmerising best as a psychopathic woman in search of her former lover.

Jude (1996): Thomas Hardy’s, Jude The Obscure was a grim and bleak piece of literature and actually turned out to be his final novel. The tragic story of a stonemason who is looking for a better life find his plans thwarted by a doomed relationship with his cousin. The movie is as bleak and grim as the novel it is based on but is made watchable by fantastic performances especially from a young Kate Winslet.  Well worth watching but don’t expect it to cheer you up!

Welcome to Sarajevo (1997): For a group of war correspondents Sarajevo is just the next in a long list of conflicts but for Michael Henderson (based on real life ITN journalist Michael Nicholson) things take a new turn when he gets emotionally involved with an orphanage. He smuggles a ten year old girl who he ultimately adopts to the UK. A thoughtful and powerful movie that is superbly acted.

Wonderland (1999):Not to be confused with the bio-pic of porn star John Holmes starring Val Kilmer (2003) with the same name, Wonderland combines elements of Italian neorealist and Cinéma vérité combined with a cleverly constructed story that inter-weaves four plotlines about three sisters. One of the sisters is played by the hugely underrated Gina McKee who is nothing short of sensational. As is so often the case with Michael Winterbottom’s movies it is it has an inexplicable beauty that is enhanced by the Michael Nyman’s score.

The Claim (2000): When I first saw There Will Be Blood I thought of The Claim, it is a stark and cold tale of pioneers and prospectors in 1840s California. A young prospector swaps his wife and baby daughter for a gold claim. Twenty years on he is the wealthy mayor of the town but the town is dying and needs the railway to come through the town to rejuvenate it. The visit of a surveyor from the railroad company coincides with the return to town of the mayor’s wife and now grown up daughter.  A grim, realistic and stripped down view of the old west as well as for a fantastic performance from Sarah Polley and a haunting musical score by Michael Nyman.

24 Hour Party People (2002): The Manchester music scene from the mid seventies to the early 90’s told from the point of view of Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan). It’s not the most historically accurate movie but it doesn’t pretend to be and it really catches the vibe of the era of Factory Records, Joy Division/New Order, The Happy Mondays, The Hacienda and the birth of the UK rave scene. It is also often very funny.

Code 46 (2003): Blending film noir with dystopian sci-fi in the near future results in a superior thriller with a dream like quality a little like Gattaca. And that dream like quality is the crux of the movie, it could easily overshadow the plot and the characters if not for the charismatic and talented leads Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton. The film is too low-key to be truly memorable.

9 Songs (2004): Known for its use of gratuitous graphic sex and concert footage from the Brixton Academy. To put it bluntly the sex isn’t of gratuitous, it isn’t that graphic (porn is readily available if you want it and that’s a lot more graphic and by definition gratuitous) although it is real and not simulated. Some of the dialogue is improvised making it range from very real and engrossing and real to awkward and bad but on a whole it works. The concert footage is really good and the overall film is strangle poetic and beautiful. Its not a movie you will want to see over and over again but it is worth seeing.

The Killer Inside Me (2010): See my full review here.

 

A hugely prolific director, I haven’t seen the following of his movies:

  • The Shock Doctrine (2009)
  • Genova (2008)
  • A Mighty Heart (2007)
  • The Road to Guantanamo (2006)
  • A Cock and Bull Story (2005)
  • In This World (2002)
  • With or Without You (1999)
  • Go Now (1995)

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You may have seen this list before. I first published it a few weeks back on Movie Mobsters in response to Heather’s “Top Ten Action Stars”. As they were all male I thought I would take a look at the women of the genre. Not a huge surprise as when you think about it, it is difficult to come up with a credible female action star. I could only think of two: Cynthia Rothrock, who lets be honest her movies are crap and Michelle Yeoh who prior to Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 had mainly made Cantonese language movies that aren’t that well known in Europe and America. If I can quote Heather on the subject. “There were only a few women I could even consider. It was kind of sad. I would love for the day when action women become just as big as our action men! Let Tarantino make more movies like Kill Bill, James Cameron loves his leading ladies tough, and if we embrace the world of Joss Whedon that may start to happen though”. With this in mind I think we need to start with Cameron, Tarantino and Whedon:

Aliens (1986): The Alien movies are all very different but are all good in their own way because they are held together by one central thing, not the aliens but Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). You could take Ripley out of the Alien movies and put her is a different scenario and the character would still be great, but take Ripley out of Alien and it wouldn’t work just look at the rubbish AVP and its even worse sequel for proof. And for those that haven’t seen it with a great script, compelling characters, perfectly choreographed action, and no Smurfs it is probably James Cameron’s best movie.

Terminator 2 (1991): Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) was a waitress until a cyborg travelled back in time to try and kill her. This would send most people mad, judging from her predicament at the start of T2 that’s what most people thought had happened to Sarah Connor, how wrong they were. Galvanised by a will to protect her son and the future of mankind in the process Sarah Connor transformed into an action heroine. Taking the part seriously Linda Hamilton is leaner and more toned than in the first movie, or any other movie she has been in for that matter. Forget Arnold Schwarzenegger this is Linda Hamilton’s movie. If you put Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley up against each other in a ring I don’t know who would win but it would go the distance and it wouldn’t be pretty.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) Vol. 2 (2004): The vast majority and the best part of Kill Bill Volume One concatenates on the Showdown At The House Of Blue Leaves. With The Bride (Uma Thurman) travelling to Okinawa to obtain a sword and onto Tokyo for the House Of Blue Leaves. The Japanese parts of the movie could make an entire action movie in their own right. As we go into the second movie we get more back story and find out a little more about The Brides past as well as some more epic battles. But what elevates Kill Bill is that we aren’t just dealing with The Bride, we also get O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and most notably Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama). There are also several female members of the Crazy 88. With Kill Bill: Vol. 3 announced for 2014 there could me more to come, more flashbacks to her time with the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad would be good.

Serenity (2005): Anyone who has seen the TV show Firefly will know that Zoë (Gina Torres) is a seriously tough character, while Nathan Fillion’s Mal has been described as a space cowboy Zoë is every inch an intergalactic Amazon but the real action heroine of this movie is River Tam (Summer Glau). With two great fight scenes where she takes on multiple adversaries and kicks their asses.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): Having seen and been a big fan of Ang Lee’s previous movies I really didn’t see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon coming. An epic martial arts movie that to date is the only martial arts movie to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Although Chow Yun-Fat gets top billing as Master Li Mu Bai the real stars of the movie are Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang. By the time the film was made Michelle Yeoh was probably the biggest female action star in the world, in her late thirties she had already made more than a dozen martial arts movies over a decade and a half and had even diversified by becoming a Bond girl. Ziyi Zhang on the other hand was only twenty and appearing in just her third movie, amazingly it was a her first action movie. The two share some pretty amazing sword fight scenes that helped bring Wushu to a wider western audience

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The Matrix (1999): In 1999 Carrie-Anne Moss was already thirty-two years old and I had never heard of her. In a youth obsessed industry her chances of becoming a star beyond the age of thirty where slim at best but then came the part of Trinity in The Matrix. With “Bullet Time” crane kick, the scorpion kick, running around the walls and most of all her PVC catsuit nobody was about to forget Carrie-Anne Moss or the character of Trinity. And that’s all in the first few minutes of the movie we still have the rescue of Morpheus with that consists of a gunfight that reinvented action movies. Then came two (rubbish) sequels where Trinity also had some great action scenes most memorably the freeway chase from Reloaded (the only thing worth watching in the movie).

Coffy (1973)/ Foxy Brown (1974): Okay so I’m cheating by picking two films but Coffy and Foxy Brown (both movie and character) are interchangeable and virtually indistinguishable. The movies are dated, clichéd and not especially well made or well acted but like their star Pam Grier they have a certain charisma and are always watchable. These are movies made at a time when a typical bond girl was the somewhat drippy Solitaire from Live and Let Die. Within the history of cinema it is hard to call these movies classics but they are classic examples of the Blaxploitation sub genre and as such an important part of cinema history. And where would Tarantino be without their influence? Pam Grier and the characters she played

Azumi (2003): I could have picked any number of Japanese movies from recent years but Azumi stands out for me. At just eighteen years old Japanese TV star Aya Ueto was cast against type as teenage assassin Azumi. Based on the manga series of the same name created by Yu Koyama, Azumi was directed by maverick filmmaker Ryûhei Kitamura. Azumi is an orphan who along with other orphans is trained to be an assassin from an early age. As they reach maturity the group faces a devastating final test before beginning their first mission. The fight scenes especially the sword fights are really well choreographed and the action kinetic. Like Summer Glau in Serenity the greatest appeal of Aya Ueto is that she does not look capable of the action/violence the movie has to offer.

Underworld (2003): Not a brilliant film but the an enjoyable one none the less mainly because character Selene (Kate Beckinsale) really does kick ass and she looks pretty incredible doing it. It is easy to dismiss a genre piece like this by saying the female character isn’t human therefore the regular rules don’t apply but Selene doesn’t take on weaker humans she goes after werewolves and other vampires. It isn’t just about physical ability, it is a moral question too, she goes against the hierarchy to do the right thing and did I mention incredible she looks whilst doing it!

Nikita (1990): There isn’t actually much action in Nikita but the action that is there is excellent as is Anne Parillaud in the title role. Forget the crap American remake The Assassin (aka Point of No Return) and go for the French original. Parillaud’s complex and often vulnerable character has become the blueprint for similar characters for twenty years. Through the character of Nikita the film also explores some interesting ideas surrounding morality and redemption but you can forget all that and just enjoy the movie as a visual treat.

How do you define an female action star? Its such varied subjective and personal thing, anyone who is wondering at the absence of the Tomb Raider movies, I left them off the list on account of it being crap! That brings me onto an addition to the list since it first appeared on Movie Mobsters:  When I first approached heather to publish on her blog in response to her article I only had nine women and couldn’t decide on the tenth. Heather suggested Rhona Mitra, I dismissed her as I didn’t think any of her movies were that good then I re-watched Doomsday and enjoyed it even more the second (and third time) around. Its dumb, but it is such good fun dumb that I can’t help loving it and Mitra really kicks ass as Eden Sinclair a sort of female Snake Plissken,see my full review here. And so my top ten becomes eleven!

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LAMB Members will know will know that Desert Island DVD’s was awarded the 2010 LAMMY for Best Blog-a-thon/Meme. Thanks to everyone who voted and more importantly thanks to all the bloggers who contributed to Desert Island DVD’s making it possible:

 101 Goals in 1001 Days 7 Dollar Popcorn Andrew at the Cinema  Anomalous Material Blog Cabins Cinema Romantico Cinemascream Cut the Crap Movie Reviews The Dark of the Matinee  Detailed Criticisms  Elizabethan Theatre  The Film Cynics  Film Forager  Four of Them  FlixChatter  Go,See,Talk!  Invasion of The B-Movies  Lets Go To The Movies The List  M. Carter at The Movies  Movie News First  the mOvie blog  The Movie Encyclopedia  Movie Mobsters  The Movie Viewing Girl Paragraph Film Reviews Phil on Film  Ramblings of a Recessionista  Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob  Ross v Ross  Wild Celtic  You Talking to Me?  Novroz’ Favorite Things He Shot Syrus Filmplicity  The Stories That Really Mattered Life of a Cinephile and Bibliophile Sundryandco Common Sense Movie Reviews

Finally well done to the other nominees, check out their posts: 23 Days of Kurosawa on A Life in Equinox: A Movie Lover’s Journal; 10 Movie Facts About Me (Meme) from He Shot Syrus; Ladies of the 80s Tournament on Blog Cabins.

 

 

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Black Death

Fourteenth century England is suffering under the deadly shadow of an outbreak of plague. A small group of mercenaries in the employ of the church are sent to a village that is seemingly immune to the Black Death to discover if their immunity is satanic in origin. The leader of the group, a knight named Ulric (Sean Bean) employs a young monk, Osmond (Eddie Redmayne) as a guide to help find the remote village but Osmond has his own secrets.

The biggest problem with the movie is a lack of focus and pace. The initial build-up is good and the later stages including the revel and epilogue are also good but the middle section all feels a little lightweight and pointless. The group take far too long to get to the village, this is clearly padding as they didn’t have enough story once they got there. On the subject of focus there really isn’t a clear protagonist or antagonist resulting in a lack of connection with the movie or its characters.

Directed by Christopher Smith who impressed last year with the horror/thriller Triangle. He handles a lot of the movie quite well particularly the deeper more thoughtful elements but is let down by poor action. Despite a good twist the movie really struggles to find any real meaning. As a concept the week script can’t decide if it wants to be Witchfinder General or The Wicker Man. A German/British co production the film was shot on location in Germany and fails to look much like England.

The most recognisable actor in the movie is Sean Bean whose character could have been the focus the movie needed but he doesn’t have the presence, charisma or acting ability to pull it off. Eddie Redmayne as Osmund has the more interesting part and does more with it but again isn’t able to carry the movie. The Dutch actress Carice van Houten (from the 2006 film Black Book) does lend a little class to the proceedings. Tim McInnerny’s presence is a little distracting as it is hard to see him as anything other than Captain Darling or Lord Percy from Blackadder.

On the whole the movie is actually more enjoyable than I have probably made it sound. There are lots of good things about the movie but as a whole it fails to gel together. Better casting and just a little more thought about the plot could have made a world of difference. The two stars I have given it could so easily have been three or four. Alternatively it could have forgone any pretensions and admitted it is a dumb movie but been the best and most fun dumb movie like Centurion.

Two Stars out of Five

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A few months ago I speculated on who will be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the American version of Stieg Larsson’s hugely successful Novel. Whist Ellen Page would still be my choice for the part of Lisbeth Salander, Carey Mulligan appears to be the frontrunner, Kristen Stewart’s name still keeps coming up as well. The latest rumour for the part of Mikael Blomkvist is current James Bond, Daniel Craig. The other names that keep cropping up are Johnny Depp, George Clooney and Viggo Mortensen.

Daniel Craig: I hadn’t considered him for the part but the more I think about it I think he would do a pretty good job.

Johnny Depp: I would give anything with him in it a chance but I really don’t think he would be right for this movie.

George Clooney: A great actor and possibly the closest thing we have to an old fashioned movie star at the moment. I’m not convinced by him as Blomkvist.

Brad Pitt: I think he has ruled himself out now. Probably for the best, again he is the wrong man for this movie.

Viggo Mortensen: Probably my first choice. A great actor who can bring the necessary depth to the part.

Whoever is cast we will have to wait two years for the movie, in the meantime the second in original Swedish adaptation of the “Millennium Trilogy” The Girl Who Played With Fire will be released in the UK on August 27th 2010 and here is the new UK poster.

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This months sub genre/category was chosen by Meredith from M. Carter at the Movies she is joined by three Bloggers she hand picked and our host Heather. So I can now hand you over to Meredith for the second Groovers & Mobsters Present:

Horace Walpole had an enduring observation about the world, calling it “a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Who says it can’t be both at once? Certainly not the writers, directors, producers and stars of films that fall into the grimace-with-laughter dark comedy genre. From the emotionally violent to the downright macabre, dark comedies buff a funny and acidic sheen on the devastating realities of everyday life. Click here to discover how the chosen movies accomplishes this. And check out the Bloggers who made it possible.

If you would like to take part in a future Groovers & Mobsters Present: send me an email at fandangogroovers@gmail.com.

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