Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2012

“She stepped off the bus out into the city streets

Just a small town girl with her whole life packed

In a suitcase by her feet”

I tend to hate musicals but must admit I have a certain curiosity, all be it morbid, with Rock of Ages due out next month. It is clearly intentionally clichéd and cheesy, Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand look like they are having a lot of fun. The main reason for my interest, however is the music. There was a certain style of music, a sort of Pop Rock sometimes know as Glam Metal or Hair Metal that was very much of its time in the 1980s. As a child of the 70’s my musical taste was very much formed from in the mid 80’s. Although I have a wide and varied taste, I often dip into my old 80s rock. So here is my Rock of Ages inspired top ten hair metal tracks from the 80’s*.

Back In Black by AC/DC from Back in Black (1980)

Don’t Stop Believin by Journey from Escape (1981)

Runaway by Bon Jovi from Bon Jovi (1984)

Here I Go Again by Whitesnake from 1987 aka Whitesnake (1987)

Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses from Appetite for Destruction (1987)

Never Tear Us Apart by INXS from Kick (1987)

I Cry Myself to Sleep at Night by Romeo’s Daughter from Romeo’s Daughter (1988)

Fallen Angel by Poison from Open Up & Say… Ahh! (1988)

Janie’s Got A Gun by Aerosmith from Pump (1989)

Dr. Feelgood by Mötley Crüe from Dr. Feelgood (1989)

*this isn’t a list of my top ten 80’s records, but one that fit’s the genre, however I must admit I love them all! It is however worth mentioning that I have throw it together from memory with no research so have probably missed lots of great records.
Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Legend is a word that is used too lightly but with a career that has spanned eight decades and a Guinness World Record of 275 films, Knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009 and receiving the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011, it is a title that fits Christopher Lee very well. As I mentioned a couple of years ago I was introduced to Christopher Lee when I was about ten years old, I had no idea who he was. A few months later Channel 4 started showing a series of old Hammer Horror movies starting with Dracula: Prince of Darkness. This is when I first got interested in horror movies. So today, his 90th birthday here is the briefest overview of his movies.

In the mid 1940’s Lee joined the Rank Organisation and was given a seven-year contract (as was the norm of the day), during this period he made numerous movies. His first significant roles came a decade later when in 1957 he played the monster in Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein alongside Peter Cushing as Frankenstein. The following year Fisher made Dracula (1958), he cast Lee in his most iconic role Dracula and Cushing as Van Helsing. He reprised the role in sequels: Dracula Prince of Darkness in 1965, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969), Scars of Dracula (1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). Lee’s other work for Hammer included The Mummy (1959), Rasputin, the Mad Monk and the little known classic Taste of Fear (1961). Possibly his best Hammer movie and one of his (and my) personal favourites was the occult adventure/horror/thriller The Devil Rides Out (1967) based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley. He also appeared in two versions of the Jekyll and Hyde story The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) and I, Monster (1971) (only the former being made by Hammer).

Having already played Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) Lee went on to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962), and Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock’s smarter brother) in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). He played Holmes again in the TV movies: Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). A step-cousin of author Ian Fleming, he was rumoured to be in contention to play James Bond, he was offered the part of Dr. No in the movie of the same name (1962) but was vetoed by the movies producers. He did eventually play a Bond villain, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and was the best thing about the movie. As cinema, particularly horror cinema changed in the 1970’s the gothic horror he was most famous for became outdated he appeared to be moving with the times making one of his best horror films The Wicker Man (1973). Sadly the quality of his roles dried up with a lot of TV movies and lesser work in the decades that followed.

More recently his career has gone through a renaissance with a small part in Sleepy Hollow (1999) leading to further collaborations with Tim Burton: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Dark Shadows (2012). Following Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness who appeared in the original Star Wars (1977) Lee plays Sith Lord, Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). But his most notable role in recent years came in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A great fan of The Lord of the Rings Lee has stated that it was a life long dream to play Gandalf, the Peter Jackson film trilogy came too late for him to realise this ambition but he did get a significant part in the movies playing Saruman. Later this year he will be reprising the in the prequel film The Hobbit. Retuning to the studio that made his name Lee had a small part in the new Hammer movie The Resident (2011). More significantly for a actor who has made so many movies he appeared in Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema Hugo (2011).

Read Full Post »

With all the buzz surrounding Skyfall I recently re-watched Casino Royale and enjoyed it so much I immediately watched Quantum of Solace. It was the first time I have seen the two movies back to back, I don’t know if it benefited from this or if it is just a better movie than I (and many others) have given it credit for, but something has caused me to re evaluate the underrated movie. While Ian Fleming’s books often followed on from each other, there has never before been a Bond movie that was a direct sequel.

Following Casino Royale was always a seemingly impossible task and just about any sequel would have suffered by comparison. It is easy to look back on Casino Royale as the benchmark for Bond, but back in 2006 it was a risky proposition. Daniel Craig wasn’t the first actor to take over the mantle of Bond, and it wasn’t the first time the character was taken in a new direction, but it was the first time the story had been completely rebooted. But it worked, what we got was a modern Bond, that fitted with the modern world, a post Jason Bourne world but who retained the characteristics of what had gone before in the previous movies, but more importantly the original books. It would have been very easy to walk away from the plot threads left by Casino Royale and create an entirely new movie, but that would have been a waste.

The Bond of Quantum of Solace is an emotionally broken man following the death of Vesper Lynd having made her a more sympathetic character than the one in the book. The Bond of the novels is a cold hard bastard, here we are seeing the creation of that character more like the Bond of You Only Live Twice (1964 novel) following the death of Bonds wife Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In his quest for revenge Bond forms an alliance with a similar goal Camille (Olga Kurylenko) whose quest for vengeance overlaps with his. Given the two characters and the place they find themselves in, there is a completely new dynamic to the Bond/“Bond Girl” relationship. This leaves Gemma Arterton’s Agent Fields (read the credits to discover her first name) to fulfil the more traditional Bond Girl role. It would be easy to dismiss her small role, but it is significant to the plot and has a telling nod to the earlier Bond films. The globetrotting nature of the movie is in line with what you would expect but is less important than it was in the earlier films. The problem with Bond in the modern day is how to work around the existence of modern communications technology, contrivances of the plot and the setting make great use of this and it really works. I would however say that this can not work every time and sooner or later it will have to find its place in the world again.

As movies become more bloated it was a brave decision to make a Bond movie lasting little more than a hundred minutes, but it really works. As a direct sequel Bond hit’s the ground running, or driving to be more precise. To the credit of the short running time and the tight concise plot the pre credit sequence is directly relevant to the plot (they aren’t always). Beginning where Casino Royale’s epilogue ended sees Bond’s Aston Martin is chassed along perilous mountain roads between Lake Como and Siena with Mr White (Jesper Christensen) locked in the boot. Many of the less positive reviews criticise the plot, this is unfair, the plot is sound if a little simple. Bent on revenge but also investigating the Quantum organisation (a modern day SPECTRE) Bond’s part in the plot works. The villains, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and General Medrano (Joaquín Cosio) are suitably menacing and loathsome and walk the fine line between caricatures and believable characters. Their intentions, the control of water supplies seems a little low key in comparison to megalomaniacs set on word domination or destruction but is actually both a most timely and realistic one. The one thing that seems to have been overlooked, it is possibly the best looking Bond film. The design and photography is nothing short of stunning, from the old DC-3 plane to the desert landscapes. They also make great use of the Palio di Siena horse race and a performance of Tosca on the floating opera stage at Bregenz, Austria. You don’t watch Bond for the production design but it certainly does no harm to the overall movie.

An underrated and under-appreciated movie that its detractors really should give a second chance. Like me I would recommend you watch it back to back with Casino Royale to best appreciate it in context.

Read Full Post »

Skyfall

Country?
England
Gun?
Shot
Agent?
Provocateur
Murder?
Employment
Skyfall?
[no reply]
Skyfall?
Done!

I’m not normally one to get excited about trailers, and I very rarely write about them but as a fan of Bond movies I couldn’t help myself.

So what is Skyfall? Not a clue! What do we learn from the trailer? Not a lot! Ther is no sign of Albert Finney or Javier Bardem and only a brief glimpse of someone who could be Bérénice Marlohe. What we do get is this:

Bond is having some kind of evaluation we see (what appears to be) flashbacks of a mission. The evaluation is observed by M (Judi Dench) and Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) (who the hell is Mallory? I got the name from IMDB). Bond walks out and we get a series of brief images including a row of coffins draped in Union Flags, is this the result of the rumoured attack on MI6? Eve (Naomie Harris) shaves Bond with a straight razor in an intimate looking scene. Most of the shots are too brief that it is possible to make out what is going on without context, a terrorist attack? Then we see Bond and M (and Bond’s DB5) looking off into the distance in what looks like the Scottish Highlands. A burning building, Skyfall Manor? Then we get the killer line: “Some men are coming to kill us. We’re going to kill them first”.

Skyfall will be released in the UK on 26th October, mainland Europe 1st November and North America 6th November. We get it fist for once!

Read Full Post »

I have mentioned on many occasions the link between cinema and cars, but what is a car without a driver? Mel Gibson’s “man with no name” in How I Spent My Summer Vacation (aka Get the Gringo) is credited as Driver, but he is not the first or the best Driver; here are my top five characters called Driver (or The Driver):

FIVE: Driver (Dwayne Johnson) in Faster (2010): A throwback to both car and revenge movies from the 70’s. Dwayne Johnson is an archetypal antihero like Gator McKlusky in White Lightning. A man of few words, on a mission for revenge, the movie is far better than you would expect as its star, Johnson. Mostly likely to be seen driving: 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 

FOUR: The Driver, (Ryan O’Neal) in The Driver (1978): A minimalist classic about the best getaway driver in the business and the cop trying to catch him in the act. At its best in the chases and car related scenes notably the destruction of a Mercedes-Benz 280 S in a parking garage but not as cool or as slick as it thinks it is in the other scenes. It became the inspiration for many movies that followed as did Ryan O’Neal in the title role. Mostly likely to be seen driving: Anything with for wheels but notably: 1973 Chevrolet C-10 Pickup and 1977 Pontiac Firebird

THREE: The Driver (Clive Owen) in Ambush, Chosen, The Follow, Powder Keg, Star, Hostage, Beat the Devil, Ticker (2001-2002): Not actually a movie but well worth a place on the list. Along with Croupier (1998) this is where a lot of the Clive Owen for Bond talk came from. A series of web based BMW adverts with A list directors including: Tony Scott, John Woo, Guy Ritchie, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Kar Wai Wong, Ang Lee and John Frankenheimer. Aided by a supporting including Stellan Skarsgård, Gary Oldman, Danny Trejo and James Brown & Marilyn Manson (as themselves). With a great blend of action comedy and style they are that little bit more than just a series of car commercials. The idea is so good, so good that Luc Besson and Jason Statham took the idea and ran with it and thus, Frank Martin and the Transporter franchise began. Mostly likely to be seen driving: Various BMW’s from the early 2000’s

TWO: Driver (Ryan Gosling) in Drive (2011): When I first heard about Drive it was to be a Hugh Jackman action heist movie directed by Neil Marshall. While that could have been a great B movie, what we got from director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling was so much more. Reminiscent of Michael Mann’s underrated classic Thief (1981). Violent rather than action packed, but the real pleasure is the way it manages to be retro and completely up to date at the same time, it is the star making turn Gosling has been waiting for. Mostly likely to be seen driving: a stolen getaway car or 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu

ONE: The Driver (James Taylor) in Two-Lane Blacktop (1971): A very different movie than the others on the list, where the others include violent action movies, Two-Lane Blacktop is an existential road movie, it is THE existential road movie. A time-capsule of the pre-Interstate Highway era and a metaphor for disaffected youth in a time when a nation and the world as a whole had lost its way and lost its innocence. This is life after Wyatt tells Billy “We blew it” in Easy Rider. The characters don’t have names in the true sense, they don’t need names! G.T.O (Warren Oates) drives a GTO, The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson) looks after the car, The Girl (Laurie Bird) is the girl they pick up along the way, The Driver (James Taylor) is just that, the driver. Mostly likely to be seen driving: 1955 Chevrolet One-Fifty Two-Door Sedan

Read Full Post »

I miss Mel Gibson, when I say Mel Gibson, what I really mean Max Rockatansky and Martin Riggs. As a fan of his work I have always kind of hoped that his well published indiscretions are a symptom of his equally well published problems and not more deep-seated belief. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is his first movie playing his archetypical character for a long time, possibly since Payback (1999). This truly is a star vehicle, funded by Gibson, who produces and co wrote the movie. He also hand picked the director, Adrian Gruenberg (making his directorial debut) who had previously worked as assistant director on Apocalypto.

An American getaway driver (Mel Gibson) crashes into Mexico (literally) and is promptly arrested. In order to relive him of the proceeds of his crime (around $2million) the Mexican police dump him in an unusual jail. When he befriends a young boy with a unique value he is forced to think of more than just himself and his cash.

There is a scene towards the end of the movie where Gibson impersonates Clint Eastwood but long before that the film starts to resemble A Fistful of Dollars (1964)/Yojimbo (1961), I don’t think we ever learn what Gibson’s characters name is (from here on I will refer to him as Driver as he is credited on IMDB). The prison contains whole families and is run like a small town by a mob boss. There is even a wild west style shootout. Driver quickly learns who is in charge and what he needs to survive, all the time playing the angles to get out and get his money back. Although largely a likeable character Driver is at the end of the day a career criminal. Stealing from drug smuggling gangsters and helping others, he is given all the breaks when it comes to audience sympathy, not surprisingly when you consider Gibson is credited as both a writer and a producer.

Full of both the action and the dry whit you would expect from Martin Riggs, Gene Ryack and Porter, How I Spent My Summer Vacation is the story of man looking out for himself who finds a certain amount of redemption by thinking of others. Gibson’s own redemption can only be found in his personal life but attempting to get his career back on track and not disappearing to reclusive obscurity hints at a possible intention to do this. In the UK we get to see the movie on the big screen but in America it appears to have débuted on Video On Demand (under its original title Get the Gringo). This is a shame, while not a classic, it is good enough to deserve a theatrical release.

Read Full Post »

With the long awaited, Sam Mendes directed James Bond movie less than six months away the internet is awash with images from the new film. Some official, some blurry grainy unofficial set shots. Below are a few of them along with some random thoughts.

In an early scene in In Dr. No. (1962) James Bond (Sean Connery) is forced to hand his beloved Beretta M1934 in to be replaced by 7.65 mm Walther PPK (the scene is taken almost verbatim from Ian Fleming’s novel after a readers recommendation that the Walther was a more suitable weapon for Bond). Bond continued to use his trusty PPK until Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) when he first got his hands on the new Walther P99. Keen eyed viewers may have noticed that in Quantum of Solace (2008) Bond (Daniel Craig) had reverted to the PPK. This and other images show him using the iconic old gun again in Skyfall.

First seen in Goldfinger (1964) the Aston Martin DB5 has become one of the most recognisable cars in movie history. Bond drove it again in Thunderball (1965). It didn’t appear again until Golden Eye (1995), where it appears to have become Bonds personal car where it is involved in a great scene involving a race with a Ferrari 355. A DB5 also had a brief appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) but made a more significant appearance in Casino Royale when Bond won one in a poker game. This image shows it will appear in Skyfall, and from the grey overcast sky I am guessing Bond has shipped his prize from the Bahamas to the UK.

When it was announced that Naomie Harris would appear in Skyfall, early speculation had her playing Moneypenny, it has since been announced that her character is called Eve. Little is known about the character but the description of her as “a field agent” suggests she will be far more than just eye candy. Images of her firing guns back this up.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »