Archive for October, 2013

sullivans travels poster“There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that’s all some people have?”

How can a comedy from more than seventy years ago still be relevant today? Two reasons, the world really hasn’t changed that much, and writer/director Preston Sturges’ script is unbelievably clever and an on the mark. A timeless satire and social comedy/commentary that is as much about life as it is about films and the movie business.

Film director John Lloyd Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is disillusioned and dissatisfied with the shallow, superficial and lightweight comedies that he has been making. Determined to make his masterpiece by adapting the (fictitious) social realist novel O Brother, Where Art Thou? (yes, this is where the Coen Brothers got the name from). Looking for inspiration and to help him understand the life he hit’s the roads and rails of America disguised as hobo. Along the way he meets “The Girl” (Veronica Lake) a young woman who has given up of her dream of making it in Hollywood.sullivans travels

The first and most comic part of the movie sees Sullivan attempting to escape the his studio minders and live like a hobo. A little like Bill Murray reliving the same in Groundhog Day Sullivan finds that despite his best efforts all roads lead back to Hollywood. The film makers and the studio executives find it as hard to charge the direction of their lives as the hobo’s they are impersonating. For all the wit of its clever, sophisticated dialogue the movie isn’t afraid to descend into slapstick from time to time and is all the better for it. The film is at its best when it introduces Veronica Lake as the unnamed girl. She is tough and streetwise but broken girl, broken by her failure to make it in Hollywood and like Sullivan looking for a way out of town. The two characters bounce off each other with a natural ease with real chemistry between the two actors.sullivan's travels veronica lake

SPOILER WARNING: To be honest, there is no big twist you will see the conclusion coming.  After been knocked unconscious and thrown into boxcar Sullivan finds himself sentenced to six years in a labour camp for assaulting a railroad worker. Through the one part of the plot that feels forced or contrived, everyone believes Sullivan to be dead. A classic case of be careful what you wish for, it isn’t until he truly hits rock bottom that Sullivan understands the value of his work and he finds a direction, but not the one he thought he was looking for. As he finally sees another side to life he still believes his destiny is to make O Brother, Where Art Thou? A social realist story in the vein of The Grapes of Wrath (1940). It isn’t until from the kindness of a local church that he and his fellow prisoners get to see a Disney Pluto cartoon. Not only does he find himself laughing at the lowest point of his life but he sees the escapist enjoyment in the faces of the rest of the audience. In other words: “There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that’s all some people have?”sullivans_travels

For all his ideals and big ideas Sullivan is a fool, blind to the importance of what he does and the effect has on audiences. His humility and humbleness are not the virtues they first appear to be. Where he thinks he understands ordinary people, his preconceptions separate him from them. It is no great surprise that during the recent economic downturn, cinema attendances went up just as they did during the depression. For a man at the top he needed to find bottom before he can understand this. Hollywood isn’t always great at turning the camera on itself but once in a while it gets it right, really right, and when it does it is something very special, that’s what Sullivan’s Travels is.


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Lou Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013)

Lou Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013)

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What will I be doing this Halloween? It won’t be trick or treating, in fact I have never been trick or treating in my life. Growing up Halloween was never really on my radar. I was aware of it but it wasn’t anything important. As I remember we grew pumpkins and made lanterns out of them one year (I think I was about eight). When I was a student there was usually something going on around Halloween, often involving lots of heavy metal music and dressing like a character from a horror movie. The most notable of these was when a couple of girls in the bar where I worked made me up to look like Eric Draven, it wasn’t difficult, I already had the hair. Fast forward a decade or so, and I have my own hallowed tradition, for the best part of a decade I have visited my local cinema at Halloween to watch a classic horror movie. Last year was Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining (1980) (on a side note, if as reported Stephen King doesn’t like the movie he is an idiot. I don’t care that it is different from his book, it is still a fantastic movie. Other opinions are available, they just happen to be wrong!). The other highlight was the first Hammer Dracula (released as Horror of Dracula in America to avoid confusion with the Universal Dracula) (1958 film) directed by Terence Fisher and starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.Dracula and The Shining

So, what am I going to see this year? Wes Craven’s seminal and influential horror A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). An ingenious and original riff on the American horror slasher film originated by Alfred Hitchcock with Psycho (1960) and perfected by John Carpenter in Halloween (1978). The notable thing I have to say I have never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street in a cinema and it has been about twenty years since I have seen it in any format.A Nightmare On Elm Street Poster

To give it my relationship to the movie a little context: I started watching Hammer Horror movies when I was bout eleven years old and then started watching other horror movies soon after. I first saw A Nightmare on Elm Street in the late 80’s when I was twelve or thirteen years old (thanks Mom for renting it for me). I then watched most of the rest of the movies as they came out but have never got around to seeing Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). To the best of my memory I have seen it a handful of times, the last in the early 90’s when it was shown uncut on TV (I think it was Channel 4). I remember talking about it at school the next day (a biology lesson as I remember it, with Matt, Matt and John). Having all seen the movie before, we all had the same initial reaction, “fucking hell was that Johnny Depp?” beyond that, as cynical teenagers we all thought the it was fun horror movie but not scary in the way we remembered it when we were kids.nightmare_on_elm_street_johnny_depp

Looking back at the movie now my thoughts are mixed with memories of watching the Nightmare on Elm Street films as a kid, and looking at their influence now. Horror has changed a lot in recent years, many of Craven’s seminal movie have been remade, rebooted or ripped off. He was at the forefront of the so called Meta-Horror that became prevalent in the 90’s with the Scream movies. It has been suggested that on a primal level there are only two fears that we are born with, the dark and loud noises, all other fears are developed along the way. Horror movies have always played on these fears, but with A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven took it a stage further, he took the fear from the real world into the dreams, the nightmares of the characters. And that’s the genius of the movie, Leatherface, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees all stalk the real world but Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) appears in your dreams, how can you outrun your own mind? Although groundbreaking and shocking in their day they suddenly looked quite mild in comparison to the nasty torture porn movies of the 00’s. There has been a trend more recently for more mainstream horror movies that rely on cheap jump-scares rather than tension and a sense of jeopardy. This makes me yearn more for the horror of the 70’s and 80’s like A Nightmare on Elm Street.

I look forward to seeing the movie on Thursday and hope it doesn’t disappoint me.

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Shortly after posting an article about a future James Bond I downloaded the latest episode of Film Don’t Hurt where Kai and Dylan talk about the Bond franchise. The thing I took away from the episode, other than a good laugh at Kai and Dylan’s lamentable knowledge of the subject, was the question “who is the American Bond?” The simple answer I don’t think there is one. Here are the possible contenders:

The Contenders:

Derek Flint: Appearing in two films; Our Man Flint (1966) and In Like Flint (1967) played by James Coburn. Flint was as much a parody of Bond as an attempt to make an American version of him. According to the audio commentary on the DVD (according to the trivia page on IMDB), Fox wanted to do another Flint movie but James Coburn turned them down. A clip from the second movie appears in the opening credits to The Fall Guy TV show (1981–1986).Derek Flint

Jason Bourne: First appearing in a TV movie, The Bourne Identity (1988) Played by Richard Chamberlain, Bourne is one of the few real contenders to be an American Bond. Loosely based on the Robert Ludlum novels of the same name and starring Matt Damon: The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) helped reinvent the genre and had a real influence on the rebooted Bond series. The Bourne Legacy (2012) tried to continue the series beyond Bourne introducing the character Aaron Cross played by Jeremy Renner, it didn’t really work. Its hard to say if the franchise has a future. Bourne’s story has been told, I would be happy if they leave the character alone.Film Title: The Bourne Ultimatum

Jack Ryan: The first screen incarnation of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October (1990). He made two further appearances in quick succession in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994) played by Harrison Ford in both. A decade later the character was rebooted in The Sum of All Fears (2002) Played by Ben Affleck. Later this year Chris Pine will take over the part in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2013). What does this prove? The character can be played by many actors just like Bond or they have never got it quite right since the first movie? With Kenneth Branagh directing and Branagh and Kevin Costner in the supporting cast tit looks like a series attempt to reboot the series.jack ryan

Ethan Hunt: Concentrating on the action side of the genre, Based on a 60’s TV show and spawning four movies to date: Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible II (2000), Mission: Impossible III (2006) and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) with a fifth on the way. The only problem, does Ethan Hunt have life beyond Tom Cruise? William Brandt played by Jeremy Renner has been suggested as a future replacement for Hunt. Hopefully this will work out better for him than Aaron Cross.Ethan Hunt

xXx: The first xXx Xander Cage appeared in xXx (2002) played by Vin Diesel. A movie that openly mocked Bond with the death of a dinner jacket wearing Bond like agent. Xander Cage was to be the secret agent of the new millennium. The character was quickly killed of and replaced with the next xXx Darius Stone played by Ice Cube in xXx: State of the Union (2005). This is more Bond like isn’t it? Well no. the films may be fun, but they are rubbish. Vin Diesel is rumoured to be reprising the role in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage some time in the next few years.Xander Cage

Jack Bauer: do we have to look to TV for an American Bond? Jack Bauer played by Kiefer Sutherland appeared in the TV show 24 between 2001 and 2010 and is set for a new show next year. How much of the appeal of the show is the format, how much is the character and how much the actor? I’m not sure the character will ever be rebooted or continue without Sutherland.Jack Bauer

The One Hit Wonders:

Mallory Kane: Haywire (2011) was a love it or hate it movie, I love it. Steven Soderbergh wrote the character for former cage fighter Gina Carano. I don’t expect there to be any more Mallory Kane movies and wouldn’t want there to be without Soderbergh . Reboot or recasting opertuinies are limited as Gina Carano really is irreplaceable.Mallory Kane

Harry Tasker: Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle True Lies (1994) was a remake of 1991 French film La Totale! It works largely because of its blend of action and comedy working in both genres. A sequel or a TV spin-off has often been suggested but never got off the ground. A TV spin-off with Eliza Dushku reprising her role as Dana Tasker could be fun, once commissioned, it would give fox the chance to do what they do best, cancel a promising show prematurely! Cynical, me?Harry Tasker

Remo Williams: Clearly intended as a franchise Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) starring Fred Ward in the title role didn’t get beyond the first movie.Remo Williams

The Ineligible:

John McClane, Indiana Jones and Harry Callahan are both too far from the spy world and to much associated with one actor to be realistically considered.


The notable thing about the longevity of the character is how it survived some ropy movies in the 70’s and 80’s and the death of the British film industry. Is the character that strong, or do we just not have anything else to fall back on? Probably a bit of both, we don’t have supper hero’s like Batman, Superman or Spider-Man. So who is the American Bond? There isn’t one. Some characters already have complete story arcs, others are too tied to one actor, and some are just dead in the water. But give them a chance, Bond has been with us on screen for half a centaury and in print for a decade longer than that. Give it another twenty or thirty years and we could be talking about Ryan, Bourne or Hunt in the same sentence as Bond. But maybe we are asking the wrong question, what we should be asking, “who is the British Batman/Superman/Spider-Man?” answer: James Bond.Daniel Craig

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Back in 210 when production of the as yet unnamed 23rd James Bond movie was indefinitely suspended due to MGM’s financial troubles, I speculated about the future of Daniel Craig as the worlds most famous secret agent. Remembering what had happened the last time there was a delay and Timothy Dalton walked away from the role, I feared the worst. I looked at who could replace Craig should he drop out. As it happened there was nothing to worry about. When the film now named Skyfall finally arrived at the back end of 2012 it turned out to be one of the best Bond films ever and my favourite film of the year. It has since been revealed that Craig will appear in two more Bond films, at least one of them reuniting him with Skyfall director Sam Mendes. It is believed that “Bond 24” as it will be know until a title is chosen with be released in November 2015, suggesting Craig’s final outing will be two or three years after that by which time he will be somewhere around 50 about the right time to hang up his Wallther PPK .james bond daniel craig

This leaves a problem with some of my other suggestions for the next bond. If Craig does fulfil his commitment for another two (five in total) Bond films it will be around 2020 before a replacement is needed, by which time some of my other suggestions will be too old. Idris Elba: already in his 40’s Elba will be the wrong side of 50. The long time favourite Clive Owen will be 50 next year so will be way too old, his chance realistically went when Craig was first cast.

Michael Fassbinder (1977): The German born Irish actor has been in hugely varied movie and TV roles. He is very at home in period settings as seen in a lot of his films including Inglourious Basterds and X-Men: First Class making him the perfect choice for a 50’s or 60’s set Bond. He will be in his early 40’s by the time “Bond 26” goes into production, just about the right age.Michael Fassbinder

Henry Cavill (1983): For so long the nearly man, Cavill was the first choice for McG’s Superman but lost out to Brandon Routh when Bryan Singer took over as director. He was the fans favourite to play Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter but lost out to Robert Pattinson. He was author Stephenie Meyer‘s choice to play Edward Cullen in Twilight, again missing out to Pattinson. He narrowly missed out to Daniel Craig to play Bond in Casino Royale. All these casting choices turned out to be right, he was too old to play Diggory and Cullen, too young for Bond and eventually got to play Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel that was better than Superman Returns. He will be about the right age to play Bond in 2020.Henry Cavill

Tom Hiddleston (1981): Having worked mainly in television for a decade I had never heard of Hiddleston until he played Loki in Thor then all of a sudden he was everywhere with War Horse, The Deep Blue Sea and a small but memorable performance as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. He will always be associated with Loki and this villainous typecasting could help bring the necessary cold edge to Bond. Again he will be about the right age to play the part.Tom Hiddleston

There are lots of other names mentioned who I can’t see as Bond for one reason or another: Tom Hardy (1977) is probably to visceral and brutal and would need to slim down from his Warrior/Bane bulk. Christian Bale (1974) probably brings too much baggage (Batman) and is at the upper end of the age range. I could have seen Guy Pearce (1967) as Bond a couple of years ago but think he will be too old by the time the part becomes free. Jon Hamm (1971) is probably the right age now making him too old when Craig steps down. I also can’t see an American Bond.

Then we come to the leftfield choice: Nicholas Hoult (1989) at 23 he is too young to play Bond now and will still be at the bottom end of the age range in 2020, however it could work. Bond movies have always moved with the times (although often behind the times) without any mention of a reboot until Casino Royale (2006). This is a perfect opportunity to not only reboot the series but to return to Ian Fleming’s eleven key novels (skipping the short story compilations and The Spy Who Loved Me (1962) whose format would need a lot of tweaking):

Nicholas Hoult

  • Casino Royale (1953)
  • Live and Let Die (1954)
  • Moonraker (1955)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1956)
  • From Russia, with Love (1957)
  • Dr. No (1958)
  • Goldfinger (1959)
  • Thunderball (1961)
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963)
  • You Only Live Twice (1964)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1965)

If they start with a young enough actor and make a film every couple of years we could see an actor grow into age in the part. Possibly taking certain books and playing with the order a little we could have rise, fall and rebirth of bond including a SMERSH trilogy and a Blofeld trilogy. The big question is when to set the stories. Although always assumed to be contemporary at the time they were written Fleming was always as vague about the passage of time as he was about the age of his hero. The two options are either present day or 1950’s. I would go with 1950’s partly for the look of the films but also to help keep the stories close to the source material without the distraction of modern technology.

In truth the next Bond will most likely be someone we have never considered or possibly somebody we have never heard of. Although aware of Daniel Craig before Casino Royale I have never considered him as a potential Bond. Whoever they choose, we have two more Craig outings to look forward to, we can only hope they are as good as Skyfall.

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Where were you in ‘62? This is the question George Lucas asked of us on the poster for American Graffiti in 1973. As previously mentioned American Graffiti is possibly George Lucas’ best film, but more importantly it’s the best example of a filmmakers nostalgic look at his teenage years. A decade later Kevin Reynolds had similar idea looking back to 1971 in Fandango (1985). But, a decade after that, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993) looked back nearly two decades to 1976. But if we go back to the 60’s and 70’s we may see the reason; John Milius’ classic surf movie Big Wednesday (1978) chronicles the lives of a group of friends against the backdrop of the Vietnam War (one day people will come to realise it is better than The Deer Hunter from the same year). And that may be the crux of it, the Vietnam War loomed large in the lives and minds of film makers in the 70’s.American-Graffiti-poster

But then there is another issue. New Hollywood or the American New Wave of the 60’s and 70’s saw the ideas and ideals of the independent, European and Asian cinema. Possibly by the 90’s and certainly the 00’s the spirit of the New Wave was dead (thanks Michael Cimino!) and we had to look to burgeoning independent cinema to give us what we had seen from the studios in the past. But does it go deeper than that? In the time from when American Graffiti was set and when it was made, the world looked very different. The first US combat troops were sent to Vietnam and the ceasefire was signed. The Beatles released their first single conquered the world and split up. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. The Summer of Love was followed by Woodstock and culminated in The Altamont Speedway Free Festival. John Fitzgerald Kennedy had overseen a peaceful end to the Cuban missile crisis and possibly averted world war III, and was assassinated. The Apollo 11 program had put the first man on the moon.fandango

How has the world changed since 2003? The same wars are still going on that were a decade ago. Mobile phones got smaller and smaller, then started getting bigger and bigger. The airways are filled by boy bands manufactured by crappy TV shows. To quote Pete Townshend: “But the world looks just the same, And history ain’t changed” . to put it simply the world really hasn’t changed. We are seeing movies about the wars and conflicts in the middle east, and the infantile crisis, but these are contemporary social commentaries not nostalgic movies. It just leaves the question, will filmmakers in the 2020’s be making nostalgic movies about this decade?

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You’re NextThe ConjuringFrances HaThe Worlds EndOnly God ForgivesThe Lone RangerElysiumAbout TimeThe WolverineRush

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This months movies are made up of sports biography, B movie horror, dumb action and gritty thrillers. I enjoyed them all, even the ones I didn’t expect to.

Rush: The true story of the rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 season. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl are excellent as Hunt and Lauda. Ultimately it is a story about people not about racing making it suitable for audiences who are not F1 fans, the story is close enough to the real story to keep race fans happy.Rush

You’re Next: Having debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness program two years ago the low budget home invasion slasher movie finally makes it to UK and American cinemas. The direction isn’t great, a lot of the acting is poor and the dialogue is often terrible. Despite this, I really enjoyed it largely for a likeable performance from Sharni Vinson and a plot that has just enough twists and turns.You’re Next

Riddick: A series of plot contrivances put Vin Diesel’s Richard B. Riddick back in a situation reminiscent of his first outing in 2000’s Pitch Black. Not as good as Pitch Black but a vast improvement on The Chronicles of Riddick.Riddick 2013

White House Down: Die Hard in the West Wing part two. Fun and funny, very knowing and self aware it is considerably better than Olympus Has Fallen and A Good Day to Die Hard. Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and James Woods are all on greet form and clearly having fun, Maggie Gyllenhaal is grossly underused.White House Down

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: 1970’s Texas, an escaped convict heads home to see his wife and the daughter her has never met. The dreamlike narrative, long lingering visuals and muted tones have been compared to Terrance Malick, while less interesting than Badlands it is worth seeing for great performances from Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck and Ben Foster.Ain't Them Bodies Saints

The Call: Halle Berry plays a 911 operator and Abigail Breslin the kidnap victim she takes a call from. Silly, predictable and derivative thriller that is surprisingly enjoyable.The Call

Prisoners: Often stark and grim thriller about two abducted children from French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve making his English-language debut. The story cleverly manipulates the viewers and has an interesting and timely subtext. The all star cast (Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano) are all on great form. Too grey and grim to be completely enjoyable but certainly a compelling watch.Prisoners

Blue Jasmine: When her banker husband is revealed to be a crook, New York socialite Jasmine moves to San Francisco to live with her working class sister. Described by many as Woody Allen’s best movie in years, I’m not sure its better than Midnight in Paris, but its certainly good. Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins are both sensational. Anything less than a best actress and best supporting actress Oscar nomination would be a travesty.

Blue Jasmine

Runner Runner:Slick but lightweight crime thriller set against the backdrop of online gambling.  Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck are both good but Gemma Arterton isn’t given much to do.  Its predictable and cliched but worse than that, it is unoriginal (its basically a pale imitation of Gilda)  and has nothing of interest to say on the subject.Runner Runner

The Movie of the month is:Rush movie poster

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