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Archive for May, 2013

Any British film fan of a certain age will have fond memories of Moviedrome. For those who don’t, it was a film series shown on BBC2 between 1988 and 2000 dedicated to cult movies. More than just series of films, Moviedrome featured an introduction originally by director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, Walker) and later by Mark Cousins.

In the first two years, as an impressionable 12/13 year old I had my first experience of: The Wicker Man, Big Wednesday, The Last Picture Show, Barbarella, Johnny Guitar, The Parallax View, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Fly (1958), The Man Who Fell To Earth, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, D.O.A. (1950), The Thing From Another World, The Incredible Shrinking Man, THX 1138, Night of the Comet, The Big Carnival aka Ace in the Hole, Alphaville, Two-Lane Blacktop, Trancers, Five Easy Pieces, Sweet Smell of Success, Sunset Boulevard.moviedrome_web-large

Then in the third year something interesting happened. Alongside movies I had never seen – Yojimbo (my first Kurosawa movie), Something Wild, Carnival of Souls, Manhunter (the first and still the best Hannibal Lecktor movie), Badlands (my first Terrence Malick movie) and Performance – they started showing movies I had already seen and loved such as: Assault on Precinct 13, Brazil, Get Carter, The Terminator, An American Werewolf in London, The Beguiled, Rumble Fish and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Many of the films shown are well known if not that well seen. But then others really blindsided me: despite being 27 years old at the time, Sergio Corbucci’s spaghetti western Django had never been shown in UK cinema’s or on UK network television until its premier on Moviedrome in 1993.

 This continued into the fourth season with one of my all time favourite genre/B movies Mad Max II shared a double bill with Orson Welles’ bizarre documentary about fraud and fakery, F for Fake. It was around this time that they started showing more themed double bills including The Day of the Locust / The Big Knife, Alligator / Q – The Winged Serpent, Wise Blood / The Witchfinder General, but the one that stood out for me was the David Cronenberg double feature Dead Ringers and Rabid. To the best of my memory, this was the first time I had seen a Cronenberg movie, I quickly looked out all the other s and have been a fan ever since. The real appeal of the series isn’t just the movies I got to see, it was the introductions by Cox. A man passionate and knowledgeable about movies, particularly genre movies. This you must remember was at a time before the internet as we know it. A time when information about older movies wasn’t as freely available and copy of Halliwell’s Film Guide was as close to IMDB as existed at the time. Listening to Cox talk about Cronenberg’s body of work and in comparison to other horror directors and revelling in its wideness and the “vicious horror lurking behind the most mundane things” certainly gave me a greater understanding of what made certain horror movies disturbing.

Alex Cox’s final season of Moviedrome came in 1994 after a seventeen week run, many of them including double features, Cox ended with Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Aldrich’s seminal noir thriller adapted from Mickey Spillane’s novel of the same name. the movie features an interesting maguffin that Cox borrowed for his 1984 movie Repo Man. The interesting thing about the timing of this movie on Moviedrome, was that it was still fresh in my memory a few months later when I saw another movie that also borrowed the idea, Pulp Fiction. It was around this time that I started studying film at university as part of my degree course, many of the films on the watch list had been movidrome films.  The series seemed to have come to an end in 1994 but was resurrected in 1997 with Mark Cousins introducing and choosing the movies. His choices often seemed more recognisable or mainstream, or was it that I was so immersed in film by this time a had already come across them? None the less the choices were always interesting and as Cousins promised they were “movies you won’t forget”.Alex_Cox_Mark_Cousins_Mark_Ker_original (2)

Since its cancellation in 2000 there has not been anything like Moviedrome on British television. Nothing, including film courses at university has ever introduced me to such a breadth and depth of weird and wonderful movies. Mark Kermode has dabbled with the formula providing movie introductions on his blog and to Film4’s Extreme Cinema season, but this is far from the scope and impact of Moviedrome. All I can do is that Alex Cox, Mark Cousins and BBC2, and appeal to BBC or any other channel to do something similar.

You can see a list of all films shown on Moviedrome HERE

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Thanks for 2 million HitsWith my blog reaching a landmark two-millionth hit this week it seems like an ideal opportunity look back at what I have done so far and forward to where I am going. When I started the site back in 2009 I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. I had no agenda and no plan, I just wanted an outlet for my ramblings on film beyond bending the ears of my friends and family. My second post was actually a collection of paragraph reviews I had previously published on Flixster via facebook. By my second month I had started writing full reviews; in 2010 I wrote little other than reviews, reviewing every film I watched in the cinema (more than a hundred) that year. My most clicked on posts came from appearing on IMDB’s now defunct “hit list” and Word Press’ Freshly Pressed. The articles that have had the most visits via search engines have been about Robin Hood, The Cars from Death Proof and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman prior to the release of The Dark Knight Rises.

The other thing I didn’t realise when I started blogging is that it isn’t a solo pursuit. It is very much a community. As well as collectives like The LAMB many blogers read, comment on and even provide content for other blogs. I certainly read many other movie blogs (see the side bar of this site for the “Blogroll” of sites I read) at the expense of printed media. Many bloggers have joined forces to create bigger better sites. While I have resisted this and stuck with a solo project, I have provided content for other sites and organised a few blogathons; winning LAMMY for best blogathon three times. I have also appeared on The Matineecast and MILFCAST pod-casts.

Where am I going? The simple answer, just like the day I started, I don’t know. I still have no agenda or plan. Forgoing any format or deadline I am still happy to post when I have time and about what I feel like talking about. The important thing for me has always been that I write about what I want to write about and hope that people want to read it. As there has never been a commercial element to the site I have never felt the need or desire to chased extra traffic. I been asked about the possibility of buying my domain name and start accepting advertising, but I like the idea that as long as Word Press exists my innate ramblings.

All that leaves me to do is thank those who have helped, supported or simply read Fandango Groovers Movie Blog in that past four and bit years.

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Groovers Video VaultWith Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to the surprisingly good reboot opening this weekend it seemed like a good time to look back at an older Star Trek movie. And as I own the movie on VHS it is also joins my ongoing video vault feature. It is often argued that The Wrath Of Khan is the best of the original movies, it probably is but I cant help enjoying The Undisclosed Country.Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country

The Enterprise is no longer the gleaming new flagship of the federation, like its crew, it is old and ready to be superseded. The Next Generation TV show had already been running for four years by this time. Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are sent on a peace mission to escort the Klingon Chancellor to negotiations on Earth. When the Chancellor is murdered Kirk and McCoy are arrested and put on trial. They have to escape, find the real killers and prevent the new president of the Federation from being assassinated at the conference. Put simply all in a days work for Kirk, Spock and the rest of the old regulars.Kim Cattrall Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country

Filled with comedy moments and references to the previous movie and TV show, it is a fitting final mission for the Enterprise’s original crew. The real appeal of the movie is a simple but effective conspiracy plot making the movie a perfect blend of whodunit and action adventure. The story is credited to Leonard Nimoy who also executive produces and reprises his role as Spock. After the dreadful Star Trek V: The Final Frontier directing duties are taken away from William Shatner in favour of Nicholas Meyer whose previous credits include Wrath Of Khan. The plot feels very much of the time, made in the late 80’s / early 90’s with an ecological disaster providing the catalyst for the plot and the Klingons empire in crisis shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is also full of timeless ideals and themes as you would expect for anything carrying Gene Roddenberry’s name. All the familiar old faces return and are joined by some new ones. Look out for a supporting performances from Kim Cattrall, Iman and Michael Dorn (Worf in The Next Generation) as well as a cameo from Star Trek fan Christian Slater (his mother, Mary Jo Slater was the movies Casting Director).Christopher Plummer Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country

As the final outing for the original crew, The Undiscovered Country is an apt title. As explained in the movie dialogue is a reference to the future from the “To be, or not to be” speech from Hamlet (translated from the original Klingon. We aren’t just looking back at the history of the franchise but forwards to its future and the message of the movie is very much about putting aside differences to help make the best future possible. As mentioned this is a movie made at the beginning of the final decade of the 20th century. A centenary that saw two world wars and humanity found many new ways of destroying itself. The literary references don’t end there with Shakespeare, there are also mentions for Milton and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (an ancestor of Spock). A lot of the Shakespeare quotes come from Christopher Plummer who is clearly having a great time a superbly villainous Klingon, but they are at their most poignant when spoken by Kirk who actual has a small character arc within the movie as he finds a little humility. Possibly not the best Star Trek movie, but it is up there with the best and it is certainly one of the most fun.

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1970 Dodge Challenger: The most directly referenced car in the movie. Not only is it the same make and model in the same colour, but Kim (Tracie Thoms) and Zoe (Zoë Bell) describe it as a “Vanishing Point car”dodge challenger Death Proof and vanishing point

1969 Dodge Charger: Stuntman Mike’s (Kurt Russell ) Charger appears to reference two movies. It has the same license number as the ’69 Charger in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (938 DAN) and looks just like the Charger involved in a classic car chase with Bullitt’s Mustang.Dodge Charger

1972 Mustang: the Mustang is full of references including to his own movies. The has a colour scheme reminiscent of the outfit worn by The Bride (Uma Thurman) in Kill Bill (itself a reference to Bruce Lee) and the Kawasaki motorcycle she rides. The livery is also similar to the 1972 Ford Granada Coupé (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a Mustang) in Alexandre Aja’s French horror/thriller Haute Tension (Switchblade Romance in the UK). It is very similar to the 1971 Mustang to Eleanor from the original Gone in 60 Seconds (and not the remake Gone in Sixty Seconds as Kim reminds us “NOT that Angelina Jolie Bullshit”). If you look closely at the rear of the car it says “Lil’ Pussy Wagon” referencing the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill.1972 Mustang death proof

1971 Chevrolet Nova: Unlike the other cars in the movie, Stuntman Mike’s Chevy Nova doesn’t appear to be a direct reference to any movie, but look a little deeper and there are lots of references. It shares a licence plate with Bullitt’s Mustang (JJZ 109). The Duck hood ornament (also used later in the movie on the Charger) is copy of the one seen on the Rubber Duck’s Mack truck in Convoy (1978). A more tenuses link is the primer grey paintjob, a possible reference to the 1955 Chevrolet One-Fifty from Two-Lane Blacktop (1971).1971 Chevrolet Nova Death Proof

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Jack the Giant Slayer: The latest cynical attempt to craft a knowing, fun and funny film suitable for all the family from a fairytale. Like most of the previous attempts it is okay attempt, reasonable funny and entertaining but without anything original or exceptional.Jack the Giant Slayer

Dark Skies: Sci-Fi horror about a suburban family that will be very familiar to anyone who has seen any of the Paranormal Activity movies. Not bad but probably one to wait for the DVD or stream.Dark Skies

Spring Breakers: Satire or exploitation? Four young female college students looking for “a break from reality” head to Florida for spring break, there they meet Alien, a drug dealer, rapper and wanabee gangster. Depending on your point of view they get more than they expected and all they ever wanted. Not as hollow and meaningless as some would have you believe but not as edgy or subversive as the filmmakers would like you to think.spring-breakers-640x426

Papadopoulos & Sons: British comedy about a self made millionaire who loses everything and is forced to reopen the family fish and chip shop with his estranged older brother. Lightweight but well-meaning and enjoyable.Papadopoulos & Sons

Oblivion: Set in a dystopian future on an abandoned earth. It has its problems but it looks great and there is enough going on to entertain. Forget the anti Tom Cruise backlash he is actually perfect for the role although totally overshadowed by the mesmerising brilliant Andrea Riseborough who steals the film despite having a relatively small part.oblivion-andrea-riseborough

The Place Beyond the Pines: Splint into three distinct sections. As a whole the film is really good but its lasting impression suffers as each section is a little weaker than the one before. Taken on its own merits the contrivances of the plot are a problem but they rely on coincidence far less outlandish than many Shakespearian tragedy.The Place Beyond the Pines

Olympus Has Fallen: Basically its Die Hard in the White House. It has its problems chef amongst them is not casting an everyman in the lead. That and totally steeling its plot from Die Hard.Olympus Has Fallen aaron eckhart and gerard butler

Evil Dead: It doesn’t know if it wants to be a remake, a rebook, a reimagining or a sequel to the horror classic. It lacks the humour and the originality of the original on a positive note it does still manage to be repugnant and repulsive.Evil Dead

Iron Man 3: The perfect steppingstone between the first and forthcoming second Avengers movie. It ticks all the boxes and avoids all the pitfalls of Iron Man 2. I doesn’t quite live up to the first Iron Man and could do with having about ten minutes trimmed from the running time, mostly in the final act.Iron Man 3

I’m So Excited: Following The Skin I Live In was always going to be an impossible task, that’s why Pedro Almodóvar did the right thing by turning to a lightweight farce, or did he? While on the surface the movie is a silly and irrelevant comedy, not far below the surface is a cutting political allegory. Far from the directors best but still worth seeing.I’m So Excited

The Look Of Love: You never know what to expect from Michael Winterbottom and this biopic of Paul Raymond doesn’t disappoint. It starts well but losses its way towards the end. The casting is perfect, particularly Steve Coogan as Raymond.The Look Of Love

Iron Man 3 is probably the best film of the month, Oblivion was certainly the most pleasantly surprising but the movie of the month has to go to the one that is being talked about most and will probably have the most lasting impact. Surprisingly, the movie of the month is:spring-breakers-posters-slicespring-breakers

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