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Archive for April, 2011

1911, journalist, novelist, socialite and adventurer Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin) is in Egypt searching for a Pharaoh’s mummified doctor that she hopes professor Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian) can resurrect, why? That will become clear later. Meanwhile back home in Paris the professor is practicing his skills by hatching a 136 million year old pterodactyl egg. After surviving a spectacular confrontation with rival “tomb-raider” Dieuleveult (an unrecognisable but brilliant Mathieu Amalric) Adèle returns home to find the pterodactyl wreaking havoc and the professor imprisoned. Our heroine must rescue the professor in order to complete her very personal mission.

Based on a mixture of two stories from the comic-book series by Jacques Tardi’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is the latest movie from French filmmaker Luc Besson. Comparisons to Indiana Jones and Lara Croft are inevitable and understandable, with the combination of action and fantasy the comparison is fair but only tells half the story. Adèle Blanc-Sec is a totally bonkers movie and is very French, these are good things if you were wondering! By Hollywood standards the CGI is a little ropy at times but this is easily forgotten amongst the stunning and sumptuous vision of early 20th century Paris created by director Luc Besson and long-time collaborators Production Designer Hugues Tissandier and Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast. When you look at his back catalogue (including: Subway, The Big Blue, Nikita, Leon, The Fifth Element, Joan of Arc, Angel-A and Arthur and the Invisibles) you can hardly say director Luc Besson has a stereotypical or definitive style, but this movie is a departure even for him! Looking more like a film made by Jean-Pierre Jeunet or Terry Gilliam.

Despite the absurdity of the plot and the characters, the cast play it straight, in what should be a bizarre train wreck of a movie but strangely and to Besson’s credit it really works. Resulting in a movie that is charming, fun and funny. The same is true of the character, Adèle Blanc-Sec; Dealing with shy would-be suitor Andrej Zborowski (Nicolas Giraud), hapless policeman Inspecteur Albert Caponi (Gilles Lellouche) and big-game hunter (Jean-Paul Rouve) with the same pout, Gallic Shrug and look of distain, Adèle comes across as adorable when she should really be annoying, this is largely thanks to the delightful Louise Bourgoin.

The film is not completely without flaw, at its heart is an often slapstick comedy of errors that could have been aimed squarely at children but it never feels like a kids film. This is emphasised by a brief glimpse of nudity that may have felt out of place or even gratuitous if not in a French film. The greatest success of the movie is the casting of Louise Bourgoin who is brilliant in the title role. I don’t think the film is strong enough to make her as iconic as Audrey Tautou’s Amélie or Anne Parillaud’s Nikita but it isn’t far off.

Not the best film I have seen this year but certainly the most fun and one I would like to see more of. Given the fact that the movie is already in profit before it is released in the lucrative North American Market suggests we may see more of Adèle Blanc-Sec.

Four Stars out of Five

★★★★

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Are American High Schools cooler than British ones? I grew up in England watching American movies and TV shows and rapidly came to the conclusion that they had a lot more fun in American schools than we where having. I know these films are all fiction or just taking the best elements and cramming them into ninety minutes but they where so much cooler than anything British producers could come up with!These films where all about Sex and drugs, the kids drove cool cars and the American drinking laws didn’t seem to stop them having massive parties. Looking back they weren’t having that much fun in Rebel Without a Cause and I am glad we never had anything like the “hazing” in Dazed and Confused but there are still some examples of high school movies that I look back on fondly. I am not talking about sports films or horror/slasher movies set in high school but films that are actually about the kids.

 

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and ConfusedMy favourite high school movie came out the year I left school. Looking back you recognise half the cast and wonder how they got so many stars including: Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Parker Possey and yes that is Speedle from CSI (Rory Cochrane) playing Slater the school stoner! Then you remember they Dazed and Confused 2were virtually unknown at the time. The story takes place over the last day (and more importantly night) of school term in 1976. As with so many Richard Linklater films it was shot on location in Austin Texas a place that is becoming a hotbed for independent cinema. The film is set at the time the director would have been 16: although not as romanticized a view of the past as films like American Graffiti it does look back on the era with great fondness and fun. When watching the film you get the impression he did half the things the characters in the film did, and wishes he did some of the others!In 2004 ten years after the film came out three of Richard Linklater’s former classmates filed a lawsuit claiming he did not gain their permission to use their likenesses and surnames (Wooderson, Slater and Floyd) and now suffer from ridicule as a result of the film. From the opening bars of Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion you get a vibe for what the film will be like and know the soundtrack is going to be good, with highlights including War, Dazed and Confused carLynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple it captures the mood as well as the era of the film. This is also captured in the classic early 70’s cars driven by the kids most notably O’Bannion’s Plymouth Duster, Wooderson’s Chevy Chevelle SS and Pickford’s Pontiac GTO. The underlying theme of the film is best exemplified by Woodersons credo Just Keep Livin’

“Man, it’s the same bullshit they tried to pull in my day. If it ain’t that piece of paper, there’s some other choice they’re gonna try and make for you. You gotta do what Randall “Pink” Floyd wants to do, man. Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they’re gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N”

 

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast ClubA film that has become so ingrained in popular culture that it is referenced in countless films and TV programs. The story is so simple it’s amazing it got through a pitch; it must have been something like. “Five kids all representing a different stereotypes, meet in detention, they start of hating each other but become friends by the end”. It is one of those films that could have been so much different if the casting had been different. Widely regarded as the stand out performance of the film, Judd Nelson (in one of his three good film roles, the others being Phil Hicks in Fandango and Nick Peretti in New Jack City) nearly didn’t happen. First they tried to cast Nicolas cage but couldn’t afford his salary demand. Then cast Emilio Estervez in the part but couldn’t find anyone to play Andrew Clark so moved Estervez to that role replacing him with John Cusack (the only other person suggested who I can imagine in the role) before replacing him with Judd Nelson. He was then nearly sacked by director John Hughes because of his attitude and treatment of co-stars particularly Molly Ringwald, co-star Paul Gleason intervened claiming it was a misunderstanding and Nelson was simply staying in character off camera (he is known to be a method actor). There where also questions over Nelsons age, at 25 he was the oldest of the students in the film and played college graduates in two other films that year; St. Elmo’s Fire and Fandango. The film like so many of the directors other films is set in the fictional (no one told Jay and Silent Bob that!) suburb of Chicago; Shermer, Illinois and was shot on location in real schools. The interaction between the charters was probably helped as the film was shot in sequence having been rehearsed like a play. You leave the film wondering what will happen when the kids go back to school on Monday, will they still be friends, you just somehow know they are going to be okay. The balance between life affirming and rebellion is perfectly portrayed not just by the kids striving to be something else but the janitor who comes across as being a lot more intelligent than the hapless principal. 

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out, is that each one of us is: a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

 

Heathers

heathersWow is this film really 20 years old! Let’s start with the facts, anyone asking why I haven’t included Mean Girls, the simple answer is Mean Girls is a watered down imitation of Heathers and the Plastics are positively nice, friendly and liberal in comparison to the Heathers who are the most evil hateful clique in the history of high school movies. That is why the film is so good.Everyone who has ever been to school will have said they want to kill one of their classmates at some time.Most of us didn’t really mean it and the majority of those who did mean it had the sense not to do anything about it.Heathers is a great “what if” film.With the extremely black humour and high body count the events should not be taken literally in the way some of the other films should be, however the themes of alienation are a staple of the genre. A note on casting Brad Pitt was rejected for the role of JD as he was considered to nice for the role, if only they could have looked forward a few years to see Tyler Durden! Heather Graham and Jennifer Connelly both turned down roles in the film.So we ended up with a young heathers 2Winona Ryder in her biggest role to date and a 21 year old Christian Slater who had been appearing in films and TV since he was 7.Slater is suitably weird; he starts out as the mysterious kid in school but rapidly turns into a psycho.A perfect film for him as for years to come you never knew what to expect from him, it was around this time he developed his off screen persona as a Hollywood bad-boy.There is a great device in the film where Veronica has virtually the same conversation with her parents twice, it is then referenced in a later conversation, it says so much about teenagers relationships with their parents.The hippy teacher or guidance counsellor has become a recurring joke and cliché in American films and TV shows but it was still fresh back in the 80’s and is played to perfection by Penelope Milford.It is also great to look back on the dodgy 80’s hairstyles and clothes.On a sadder note, two of the films stars died prematurely: Kim Walker whose character says “Did you have a brain tumour for breakfast?” died of a brain tumour and Jeremy Applegate whose character prays he will never commit suicide at Heaters funeral later committed suicide with a shotgun. 

“People will look at the ashes of Westerburg and say, “Now there’s a school that self-destructed, not because society didn’t care, but because the school was society.” Now that’s deep.”

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris Bueller’s Day OffA film that appears in lists of best comedies and best high school movies; however you look at it this film is a classic! That’s why it is the second John Hughes film in the list. Ferris Beuller (Matthew Broderick) is a high school kid who has everything going for him.He is doing well at school, he is very popular, has a perfect girlfriend and doting parents but from time to time decides to take a day off to help him get through the monotony of school life. On this particular day he decides to bring along girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck). His intention to give Cameron something good to remember high school by. Cameron also has something else going for him, the keys to his dads Ferrari 250 GT Spyder Ferris Bueller’s Day Off FerrariCalifornia (sadly a replica, or possibly fortunately a replica considering its fate). The film is basically a cat and mouse chase between Ferris and his nemesis’ his sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) and Principal Rooney. Most of the action takes place out of school as the three friends have a day to remember in the city.Unlike the other films I have mentioned that gained cult status on TV and Video Ferris Bueller was a massive box office success taking over $70million making it one of the top 10 grossing films of the year.

 “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

Other recommended viewing:

Fast Times at Ridgemont High, early 80’s comedy with a young Sean Penn and written by Cameron Crowe.Say say anythingAnything, Cameron Crowe writes and directs this time, staring ever reliable John Cusack. Rebel Without A Cause, Nicolas Ray’s film is over fifty years old now but still good to watch, staring James Dean, Natalie Wood and a 1949 Mercury Coupe, also look out for a young Dennis Hopper who appeared in this and Giant with James Dean.  The Last Picture Show is Peter Bogdanovitch’s 1971 film set in a small Texas town in the 50’s, a wonderfully bleak film.  Rushmore is a curious little Wes Anderson film set in a private prep school, a fantastic cast including the geniuses that is Bill Murray.“Joel, you wanna know something? Every now and then say, “What the fuck.” “What the fuck” gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future.” The famous line from Risky Business an early Tom Cruise film that made him a star.Napoleon Dynamite is quirky comedy about a geeky high school loser. American Graffiti isn’t really a high school movie but well worth a viewing.  Then we have the crossover films that incorporate sci-fi or fantasy into the high school movie:  Donnie Darko is xdonnieone of the best films of recent years and made overnight stars of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, if you haven’t already seen it go for the theatrical version not the directors cut.  Back to the Future, one of the best trilogies ever but the 1985 original is by far the best of the three films.Not as good as back to the future but Francis Ford Coppola’s back in time high school movie Peggy Sue Got Married is also worth a look.

 

If you haven’t already seen them take a look at all these films. If you have they are all worth another viewing.

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chuck-taylor-all-starHaving just seen Back to the future on TV, I was inspired to re-post this early article from when I first started blogging: Converse All-Stars, Chuck Taylor, Chucks, All-Stars; whatever you call them they are one of the most iconic items of footwear ever made. They have been around for ever, well since 1917 but that’s longer than most people on the planet so it may as well have been for ever! It is no surprise that they crop up in many films, if the film maker wants to get an authentic look or tell us something about the character a pair of Chucks covers a multitude of fashions and eras from athletes, musicians, school kids and police detectives they crop up all over the place, Even Harry Potter and Dr Who wear them. But once in a while they become part of the film and are more important than a finishing touch from the costume department.

blood-workIn the Clint Eastwood movie Blood Work a bloody Chuck Taylor footprint is left at a crime scene. This really narrows down who the killer is as it is such a rare shoe with around a billion pairs sold to date. Later in the film we are shown various shots of a pair of Chucks worn by someone in the crowd, is this the killer coming back to observe the investigation or just a coincidence?

one-night-at-mccoolsOne Night at McCools also uses the iconic tread pint in the plot. Matt Dillon’s character breaks into a house containing a dead body and incriminates himself by stepping in a pool of blood leaving you guessed it a Chuck footprint.

i-robot-shoeI-Robot is set in 2035, Det. Del Spooner (Will Smith) is suspicious of modern technology and is into retro things like Stevie Wonder music on his old HiFi and his vintage 2004 Chucks. The chosen shoe was a classic black and white hightop but with leather uppers, a model that went on sale in 2004, the year of the movie. Nice product placement by new owners Nike!

back-to-the-futureIn Back to the Future when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) ends up back in 1955 he has to change his clothes to fit the time. He ends up with a pair of Chucks and blue jeans that he could of worn back home in the 80’s or in the distant future like for example now! Look out for the skateboarding scenes for the best shots of the shoes.

sin-cityNot integral to the story but rarely have pair of Chucks looked as cool as when were worn by Dwight (Clive Owen) in Sin City. As the rest of the film is black and white (and I really mean bold, stark black & white, sin city chuck taylornot shades of grey) with the odd thing in bright vivid colour. One of these things is Dwight’s red Chucks. The cannibalistic killer Kevin (Elijah Wood) also has a pair but his are as monochrome as the film.

the-outsidersThe “greaser” look that is so important to the authentic feel of The Outsiders includes Levi jeans and jackets greased back hair and is completed by a pair of Chucks. C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez and Rob Lowe are all seen wearing them.

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The Silent House

Warning contains plot spoilers: don’t read this is you intend to see this movie.

The Silent House represents what is to the best of my knowledge the first Uruguayan movie I have ever seen, how was it as a debut from the South American country? Put simply disappointing!

Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) and his daughter Laura (Florencia Colucci) are employed by a friend (Abel Tripaldi) to undertake some work at a remote house before he sells it. Soon after arriving the pair go to bed but are immediately disturbed by strange noises. On investigating Wilson is attacked beginning a frantic hour for Laura who is trapped in the dimly lit house. Shot supposedly in a single shot but like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, there are edits, some more obvious than others.

The concept of the unreliable narrator is a well known and a well used one, this movie takes it a stage further and that, in conjunction with the single take concept/gimmick is the problem. The single take implies a certain honesty, even near documentary realism, the movie is after all inspired by real events. As we discover that what we have seen isn’t exactly what has happened the problems quickly become evident. This is exacerbated by the way the point of view of the camera appears at times to move from documentary observer to the point of view of one character or another. This wouldn’t matter in any other movie but it is distracting within the single take idea. Put simply the concept detracts from not enhances the movie.

The final reveal isn’t all that shocking and has been seen many times before and has been handled better, most notably in the French thriller Switchblade Romance (aka High Tension, original title Haute tension). As for the concept, it is a good one, it just doesn’t work for this movie and is poorly executed here. The creeping around in the dark thing has been done so many times recently but is surprisingly effective here although not up to the standard of the Spanish horror [Rec]. The opening scene feels drawn out and is further hindered by clunky dialogue. This is followed a further contrivance of the plot required to maintain the single take concept. The real problem with the execution of the plot is the final reel, there comes a point just before the reveal where Laura’s character becomes more relaxed in her surroundings this kills any tension in an instant killing the movie with it and helping to telegraph the supposed twist.

All things considered it is a movie with some good ideas and inconsistent levels of quality in the execution, ultimately the concept and the story are fighting against each other to resulting in a film that nearly works.

Two Stars out of five  ★★★★★

And for those who aren’t familiar with the laws of foreign language horror movies, the American remake has already been made and played at Sundance earlier this year to similarly mixed reviews, it bizarrely stars Elizabeth (sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) Olsen.

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Inception, Toy Story 3, Winter’s Bone, Sex and the City 2, what was your favourite movie of 2010? That’s an easy question you probably know the answer without giving it a second thought. But what about your favourite from five years ago, or ten, or event the year you were born? Now that’s a little harder.

Following the unexpected popularity of the Desert Island DVDs blogathon I organised last year I am inviting fellow bloggers to tell us what their favourite movies are from each year of their life so far.  You can put as much or as little effort into you list as you wish. It could just be a list of movies, you may with to add a sentence or two about the movies or what they mean to you, you can brighten it up with images, posters or trailers. The choice is yours.

Publish the list on your own blog on Sunday 8th May and send me a link as early as you can (a week before would be ideal). I will be doing a central post with links to all participants and have a few follow-up posts planned. If you want some inspiration take a look at THIS.  I ran the idea past a few people last year, one of them Meradith from M Carter @ the Movies liked it so much she published it on her birthday (the idea started out as a idea for my own birthday).

If you wish to take part or if you have any questions email me at fandangogroovers@gmail.com or leave comment below.

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Sidney Lumet (1924–2011)

 

 

Sidney Lumet (1924–2011)

 

Just a couple of weeks after Elizabeth Taylor we have lost another Hollywood legend, this time one who made his name behind the camera, Sidney Lumet. Lumet made his way into film via television in the 50s making his feature film directorial debut in 1957 with an adaptation 12 Angry Men (adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose). An impressive debut that earned him the first of his four Best Director Oscar nominations, and still my favourite of his movies.

Despite being nominated a further three times as a director and once for adapted screenplay (Prince of the City (1981)) he sadly never won an Oscar: The Verdict lost to Richard Attenborough for Gandhi; Network to John G. Avildsen for Rocky; Dog Day Afternoon to Milos Forman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; 12 Angry Men to David Lean for The Bridge on the River Kwai. Some of those are more understandable than others, but that’s an argument for another day.

One thing I will always remember Lumet for is getting great (often career best) performances from his actors, for example: Paul Newman in The Verdict (1982), Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Serpico (1973), Sean Connery in The Hill (1965), Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker (1964) and the entire casts of Network (1976) and 12 Angry Men (1957). A point proven by the fact no fewer than seventeen actors have been nominated for acting Oscars in his movies: Katharine Hepburn, Rod Steiger, Al Pacino, Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Chris Sarandon, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Beatrice Straight, William Holden, Ned Beatty, Peter Firth, Richard Burton, Paul Newman, James Mason, Jane Fonda and River Phoenix. Four of them actually won, Bergman (Murder on the Orient Express), Dunaway, Finch and Straight all for Network

With over fourty movie credits to his name, Lumet moved back into TV with the short lived but acclaimed legal drama 100 Centre Street (2001–2002). What turned out to be his final film Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) is hugely underrated contained his trademark acting including a great performance from Marisa Tomei in her best role in years.

For those not familiar with his work, I recommend you start with . Still working into his 80’s he was a great director who will be sadly missed.

  

 

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Ambrosia Parsley from the band Shivaree

I have been sat alone, stranded on my desert island for some time now. I have watched all my movies and listened to my movie soundtrack CD and realised there is a glaring omission from my playlist. One of my favourite songs from recent years (1999 is recent for my tastes) Goodnight Moon By Shivaree appears on the Kill Bill soundtrack after playing over the closing credits Kill Bill: Volume 2. I know Shivaree aren’t the most well known band in the world so I found this for you:

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