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Archive for August 19th, 2014

Over the weekend I didn’t know what to say about the sad and untimely death of Robin Williams.  The TV schedule gave me a certain prospective when I watched Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) for the first time in twenty years.  It was the first Robin Williams film that I had seen when I was around twelve or thirteen years old, I have seen it a couple of times since but not for around twenty years.  I actually remember the movie best from the sound-bites that intersperse the soundtrack album.

Robin Williams Good Morning Vietnam

Robin Williams (1951–2014)

loosely based to a true story; Saigon in 1965, as the Vietnam War heats up DJ Adrian Cronauer ( Robin Williams) is drafted in to liven up Armed Forces Radio.  He quickly becomes a hit with the troops and his co workers but clashes with the Lieutenant and Sergeant Major (Bruno Kirby & J.T. Walsh).  The realities of the war soon become clear.

The film is very much as I remember it, filled with funny moments but with the sad and harsh realities of war. The thing I had forgotten, or more likely was unaware of at the time was what a good Vietnam movie it is, in fact it is amongst the best.  I didn’t see Apocalypse Now (1979) and Platoon (1986) until a couple of years after I had seen Good Morning, Vietnam, I would now say they are my three seminal Vietnam movies.  Fans of Robin Williams are often divided between is comic and dramatic roles (with or without facial hair!), Good Morning, Vietnam is the film that combines both sides of his ability.   We see the improvised comedy moments as well as pure acting performance.  Williams was nominated for an Oscar, the first of four nominations, he lost out to Michael Douglas for Wall Street, he finally won ten years later for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Good Will Hunting (1997).

Whatever happens now, I don’t expect to ever understand why Robin Williams took his own life, all I can do is enjoy his best films, and Good Morning, Vietnam is certainly one of his best films.

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The Machine posterI haven’t posted under the heading DVD Gems lately but the low budget (less than £1million) British Sci-Fi thriller, The Machine is a worthy addition to the series.

In the near future we are in a mist of a cold war between the west and China.  Working for the ministry of defence, Vincent (Toby Stephens) is the head boffin in a project to create super soldier.  He enlist the help of Ava (Caity Lotz) who has created AI that could be the final part of the jigsaw.  It soon becomes clear that everyone has their own agenda.The Machine Toby Stephens Caity Lotz

Comparisons to The Terminator (1984), Splice (2009) and Frankenstein are inevitable, however it probably has most in common with Bride of Frankenstein (1935), not least for Caity Lotz’s fantastic duel role reminiscent of Elsa Lanchester.  Like so many of the other similar themed films about creating artificial life the film asks all the morel and existential questions you would expect.  The fact so few of the questions are answered could be considered a weakness, it is actually the films greatest strength.   To ask the questions without answering them gives the film an extra dimension and treats the audience with a little more intelligence than you would expect.  It isn’t that there is any great an mysterious subtext of subplot, the film merely asks questions that it lets it audience answer.The Machine Caity Lotz

Written and directed by Caradog W. James with imagination and vigour.  The effects are simple but effective making good use of the small budget.  The direction and editing are taught keeping filling the 90 minute runtime with ease.  The film also has a great dark and brooding visual style that is perfect.  The cast is good particularly the charismatic Toby Stephens and Caity Lotz who shows great range.  The great shame is that a an interesting British film didn’t receive a wider release.  Like most people, I had to wait for the DVD release.The Machine

Don’t expect an all action film, or a thoughtful thriller, but the film has elements of both of these ideas, and that is why you should watch the film, ideas!  The film is full of ideas.  I will certainly be looking out for what Caradog W. James does next.

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