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Archive for September, 2014

How I Became Obsessed With Film

When returning for a third appearance on The Matineecast, Ryan asks his guests about the moment they got serious about film, the film that turned a corner for them.  Whenever I hear that question I wonder how I would answer, I have been obsessed with films for as long as I can remember.  Watching copious amounts of videos as a kid, becoming a bit of a film snob as a student, and making over a hundred trips a year to the cinema for the past decade and a half. 

Star Wars (1977), The original Star Wars: episode IV; A New Hope; or just Star Wars, whatever you call it wasn’t the first film I saw, it was the first film I remember seeing.  The first time I saw it was on TV, we didn’t have a VCR at the time.  It is credited as changing the course of movie history (for good or bad depending on your point of view) but it also hooked me on movies forever.  The other film I remember seeing around the same time was Robin and Marian (1976).  I didn’t watch it again for about 25 years ago and it wasn’t as good as I remember it being but it encouraged me to lookout other Robin Hood films.  By the time Patrick Bergin’s Robin Hood disappeared into the shadow Kevin Costner’s and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991 I had seen the Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) countless times.adventuresofrobinhood

I have never been a fan of outright comedies but love films with lots of comedy, two early examples of this that I watched a lot as a kid and still enjoy now are Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and The Blues Brothers (1980).  A few years later came Ghostbusters (1984) and Back to the Future (1985).  This coincided with a time when we had a VCR and I started watching a lot of films relatively soon after release and not when they found their way to TV.  In a rare trip to the cinema I went to see Ghostbusters II (1989) on the strength of the original film, but I am getting ahead of myself.ghostbusters

Having seen the second and third Star Wars movies;  Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) by this time I would have watched anything in a similar vain.  One such film was Starcrash (1978), another film that I looked out more recently, although it has its low budget charms, it is a poor movie.  However my star wars obsession did result in watching Dune (1984).  I was around ten years old when I watched it and loved it.  It was also my first experience of being a film snob, as everyone I knew who had seen it at the time said they didn’t understand it.  A relatively straightforward story, I think people who claim it doesn’t make sense just got board and didn’t watch it.  At this point I had little knowledge or interest in who directed a film, David Lynch was possibly the first director that I began to look out films on the strength of who made it.  This resulted in me watching Blue Velvet (1986) at far too young an age.  I have since seen every Lynch film on or soon after release.Dune

The other director I looked out for by name was Alfred Hitchcock.  This began on Christmas eve in the early 80’s when I watched North by Northwest (1959).  It remains one of my favourite films.  Over the next few years by the time I was around 15 I had seen all of Hitchcock’s greatest hits: The 39 Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M for Murder  (1954), Rear Window  (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). I have since looked out many more of his films and think I have seen everything from 1935 on.North by Northwest

I saw a couple of James Bond Films in the early 80’s Live and Let Die (1973) and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).  Soon after that I saw From Russia With Love (1963), I was hooked and every time a Bond film came on TV I had to watch it. The first Bond films I saw on video and relatively soon after their initial release were Say Never Again and Octopussy (both 1983), both on the same day.  The first one I watched in a cinema was GoldenEye Pierce Brosnan’s first and only decent Bond movie.From Russia with Love

My introduction to horror came a few years later, I think it was 1986, when Channel 4 started a season of Hammer horror films.  The first week was a double bill, Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1986) and Frankenstein Created Woman (1967).  The season seemed to last about a year and covered many of the seminal Hammer movies.  I then started watching more and more horror movies, both contemporary and older movies.  The 80’s was a great time for horror, by the end of the decade I had seen: The Shining (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Evil Dead (1981) Scanners (1981), The Thing (1982), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Aliens (1986), Near Dark (1987), The Lost Boys (1987) and Hellraiser (1987).  But the horror movie that got to me most was Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973), a disturbing rather than scary movie, especially for a 12 year old.Dont-Look-Now

In my early teens I got into action movies, most notably The Terminator (1984) and Die Hard.  The Terminator often unfairly overlooked in favour of its more flashy and expensive sequel.  It combines all the things I loved at the time; action, adventure, horror, sci-fi and a great story, an instant classic for me, it took a little longer for the establishment to agree with me.  It was around this time that I first saw Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).  I didn’t see the original Mad Max (1979) for a few years.  Watching them all again recently, all three films have aged really well.  I have mentioned in previous articles that until I went to university at the age of eighteen I had only seen seven films at the cinema. The seventh and final of those was Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).  My most anticipated film for many years prior to its release.  It didn’t disappoint.the terminator

My love of films had begun on television, as had my introduction to horror but in 1988 the breadth of my watching increased with BBC2’s Moviedrome.  Shown on a Sunday evening between1988 and 2000 Movidrome was a series of cult films introduced originally by director Alex Cox and later by Mark Cousins.  You can see my article about Moviedrome HERE and a list of all the films they showed HERE. In 1991 my movie landscape suddenly grew.  The previous year I had seen a review on TV of Nikita (1990) and was intrigued.  at the time I hardly ever went to the cinema, but even if I did, my chances of getting into an 18 certificate film weren’t great.  Video shops were less discerning I rented the Video the day it came out.  I believe it was the first foreign language movie I ever saw.  Dismissed at the time for style over substance now it has the recognition it deserves as a classic.nikita

As I read other peoples blogs or listen to their podcasts I hear of people deciding they should “make the effort” to watch older classic films.  I have never seen this as an effort, I have watched films of all ages for as long as I can remember.  My parents introduced me to many films at a young age, they include films by Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford as well as two of my all time favourite films: Some Like it Hot (1959) and Casablanca (1942).  From the age of around twelve I quite simply devoured movies discovering directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Akira Kurosawa, Sidney Lumet, John Huston and Sergio Leone.the searchers

When I went to university the age of eighteen not only did I study film, but I began watching films as they were intended, in the cinema.  I now visit the cinema more than 100 times every year.  In the last two weeks I have seen more films at the cinema than in the first eighteen years of my life.  So when did my film watching turn a corner?  When I first saw Star Wars or Nikita?  When I started watching films at the cinema, or about five years ago when I came to the conclusion that American Graffiti (1973) is George Lucas’ best film.  Probably all the above. 

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The New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, California is a world famous “revival houses”.  Its legend is helped by the fact it is owned by Quentin Tarantino.  He purchased the 1920’s building that includes the cinema in 2007 to save it from redevelopment but acted more as a landlord than proprietor, until now.  The director had always vowed to show double features in 35mm, but has now taken it a stage further and has taken over programming and will be showing double features from his own  35mm private collection.  I’m sure he will show some of his own movies from time to time, but what would he pair them with?  Here are my ideas:

Reservoir Dogs  (1992) and The Killing (1956)

Three films are often credited with influencing Reservoir Dogs: Ringo Lam’s City on Fire (1987) (undercover cop and the suits), Joseph Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) (the Mr [insert colour here] names) and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (the overall plot).  All great films but I am going with my favourite and possibly the least well know, The Killing.Reservoir Dogs  and The Killing

Pulp Fiction (1994) and Go (1999)

There are so many films I could pair with Pulp fiction, I am going with Doug Liman’s Go.  The narrative structure is different to the one used in Pulp Fiction but does use a group of intertwined stories in a similar way.  For all the films that have influenced Tarantino, it is nice to include a film that is most probably influenced by him.Pulp Fiction and Go

Jackie Brown (1997) and Nikita (1990)

The obvious choice, Out of Sight (1998), both are based on Elmore Leonard novels and even feature a shared character Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton).   However I am going for Nikita, a very different film but with a similar thread, both films are about woman who get drawn into worlds that they don’t want to be in.Jackie Brown and Nikita

Kill Bill: Vol. 1  (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

I am not going to pair these films with anything , instead I am going to put them together the way they should have been originally, as one film.Kill Bill Vol 1 and Kill Bill Vol 2

Death Proof  (2007) and Doomsday (2008)

Death Proof started life out as part of the  Grindhouse project and therefore already has a paired film, Planet Terror.  My first thought for a paired film was the movie it most directly references Vanishing Point (1971), but I went a different way, of recent films Neil Marshall’s Doomsday is the film that best captures the exploitation cinema vibe that Tarantino was looking for in Grindhouse.Death Proof  and Doomsday

Inglourious Basterds  (2009) and Casablanca (1942)

I considered various movies: resistance films, Flame and Citron (2008) or Black Book (2006), WWII behind enemy lines story Saving Private Ryan (1998) or ludicrous comedy Tropic Thunder (2008), however I went with Casablanca (1942) for no particular reason, I could just see these very different WWII movies working together.Inglourious Basterds and Casablanca

Django Unchained (2012) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

The obvious choice Django (1966) (original Django, Franco Nero has a cameo in unchained) but when you strip away the themes of Django Unchained you are left with a buddy movie disguised as a western and the best buddy movie disguised as a western has to be Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.Django Unchained and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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When writing about a female led comic book/superhero movie I purposely missed out the X-Men.  The X-Women are so complicated they need their own article.  20th Century Fox currently hold the rights to the X-Men.  The film series so far consists of: X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), X-Men: First Class (2011), The Wolverine (2013) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).  The next film in the series will be X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) followed by an as yet untitled Wolverine sequel (2017).  There has also been a suggestion of a spin-off X-Force movie.

The problem is twofold, the X-Men exist as a group or team and work best as such.  The second problem, the X-Men haven’t always made best use of their female characters.  In the comic books Wolverine has been truly successful as a solo character and in turn is the only one to get a his own movie.  The one female character that could hold a film, Psylocke has never been properly introduced.  The most notable character that advances have been disappointed with is Storm/Ororo Munroe.  Many people blame Halle Berry for her performance, in reality it is more down to the writing.

Jean Grey / Phoenix (Famke Janssen) is better written for the screen but is used to the greatest effect when playing against Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.Jean Grey  Phoenix Famke Janssen

Marie / Rogue (Anna Paquin) has been used to less effect in each film until the most recent where she is reduced to a cameo.X-Men: Last Stand (2006) Anna Paquin as Marie/Rogue

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) Promoted from a cameo for to a leading role in Days of Future Past.Kitty Pryde Ellen Page

Raven Darkholme / Mystique could be the answer.  Always an interesting character in the first three movies  played by Rebecca Romijn, replaced by Jennifer Lawrence for the prequel movies, First Class and Days of Future Past, star power has been added to the mix.  I suggested the possibility of a Mystique movie five years ago.  I’m would have to be a different story to fit with the existing continuity but could still work.Raven Darkholme Mystique Rebecca Romijn Jennifer Lawrence

I mentioned about the idea of an X-Force movie, this could do two things.  Continue the old film series with some of the old characters alongside the First Class team.  It also gives the chance to introduce unused characters or reintroduced characters that were wasted in The Last Stand such as Psylocke.  Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock/Psylocke first appeared in Captain Britain, vol. 1 #8 in 1976 as a supporting character to her brother Brian Braddock Captain Britain.  Originally having precognitive abilities, then later revealed as a telepath, she also gained Jean Grey’s telekinesis ability.  She later transferred into the body of female Japanese mutant ninja Kwannon.  She gained Kwannon’s skills and elements of her personality.  The Character has a lot of millage and could introduced in her Japanese form with an origin story to follow using an English actress.Psylocke

I don’t see Fox rushing to join the race for a female comic book movie.  But like the idea of an X-Force movie.

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Ever since the explosion of comic book/superhero movies there has been calls for a female led movie.  At times it has looked like no studio would take the chance on such a project, but there could now be a race to see who gets there first.  There are three major players in comic book movies, the Disney owned Marvel Studios, DC/Warner Bros. and Sony who own the rights to Spider-Man (and many associated characters) thanks to license agreement between Marvel and Columbia (a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment).

Sony could be first out the blocks,  it appears Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been pushed back and will follow a Sinister Six movie in 2016 and an female led spin-off possibly in 2017.  Lisa Joy Nolan (Pushing Daisies, Burn Notice and the forthcoming  Westworld) has been hired to write but no announcement has been made about who the main character will be.  The most obvious options are Spider-Woman and Black Cat,  the latter being the frontrunner as her alter ego, Felicia Hardy (Felicity Jones) was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  I know nothing about the character, a little research tells me she was introduced in Amazing Spider-Man No. 194 (1979) and has been both an adversary and love interest of Peter Parker/Spider-Man.  I know about as much (or little) about Spider-Woman.  It appears several woman took the name, most notably Jessica Drew, Julia Carpenter and Mattie Franklin. originally introduced in Marvel Spotlight #32 (Feb. 1977) she went on to have her own self-titled series (1978 – 1983).Felicia Hardy Felicity Jones

DC have two options, Wonder Woman or Catwoman.  A Catwoman movie is unlikely at this time thanks to the last attempt, Catwoman (2004).  This leavers Wonder Woman.  First appearing in All Star Comics #8 in December 1941, Wonder Woman is an Amazon warrior princess, known in her homeland as Princess Diana of Themyscira, she uses the pseudonym Diana Prince.  She has a range of superhuman powers and an array of weapons as you would expect for a comic book hero.  Gal Gadot has been cast to play the part in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (set for release March 2016) with a possible  Wonder Woman and Justice League movie to follow, no dates announced.Gal Gadot Wonder Woman

Marvel already have their character but don’t seem to know what to do with her:  Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow made her first comic book appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 (April 1964).  She was introduced into the current Marvel film universe in Iron Man 2 (2010) played by Scarlett Johansson, also appearing in Avengers Assemble (2012) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and will appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).  Little more than window dressing in Iron Man 2, she and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) were the most interesting characters in Avengers Assemble and added a further dimension to the character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year.  Anyone concerned about the star power of Scarlett Johansson should take a look at the numbers for Luc Besson’s Lucy.Black Widow

Is it a question of who gets there first, or who gets it right?  The success of the rubbish Transformers: Age of Extinction and the failure of the excellent Edge of Tomorrow there is more to success than quality.  With budgets of up to $250million studios are more interested in fanatical success than art or critical acclaim. With this in mind, it isn’t a case of who has the best character, script or idea, but the one who thinks he can turn a profit.  It might be a case of wait and see what the competition do.

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Have we run out of ideas?  below are the Synopsis for three TV shows.

  1. “When a body is found on the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, right on the border, Danish inspector Martin Rohde and Swedish Saga Norén have to share jurisdiction and work together to find the killer.”Bron Broen
  2. “Two detectives work together to take down a serial killer operating on both sides of the Texas-Chihuahua border.”the brigde
  3. “Set primarily in Folkestone and Calais where detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann are called to investigate the death of a French politician. When a shocking discovery is made at the crime scene, the pair is forced into an uneasy partnership as they seek out a politically-motivated serial killer who draws them into his own personal agenda.”The Tunnel

Sound familurar, they are all based on the same story.  The first is the Danish/Swedish co production Broen (Danish) , Bron (Swedish) or, The Bridge in UK and US.  Created and written by Hans Rosenfeldt, The Bridge Scandinavian crime drama based on the premise of an unusual murder investigation.  The body is found on the half way point of the Øresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark, giving the two countries joint jurisdiction.  The interesting this about the show isn’t the plot or the premise, or the haunting opening music (Hollow Talk by the Copenhagen band Choir of Young Believers) but the characters.  Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) from the Sweden Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) from Demark.  Hugley different characters they make a surprisingly formidable team.  At first there appears to be something a little odd about Saga, her idiosyncrasies are never totally explained but most viewers have come to the conclusion that she has Asperger’s syndrome.Sofia Helin

The second is the American remake, also called The Bridge, made and broadcast by FX.  Set between El Paso and Juarez and taking the same idea of a body found between the two justifications.  Diane Kruger plays the US Detective Sonya Cross and Demián Bichir plays Mexican Detective Marco Ruiz. The Third description is for The Tunnel, a British/French co production.  This time the body is found, you guessed it, in the Channel Tunnel.  Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy play the English and French detectives respectively.

Although I have watched both seasons of the Scandinavian original, I haven’t seen either of the two remakes.  I have heard reasonable reports on them and am sure they are perfectly entertaining programs, as much as I like Diane Kruger, Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy I cannot imagine anyone other than Sofia Helin and Kim Bodniain the parts.  Like a cover version of a song you love, it may be okay but do you really need it?  but it goes further with a TV show.  A singer may bring something new to a song, but is a remake of TV show just a cynical attempt to cash in on a successful idea?  But what of my original question.  Have we run out of ideas?  Yes and No!  The original show demonstrates that there are still original ideas out there.  But cinemas are filled with sequels, reboots and English Language remakes of European and Asian films.  But Television is in danger of going the same way.  I don’t think we have run out of ideas, it is just that in this supposed golden age of television the stakes are so high many have lost their nerve and are afraid of the new and would rather embrace the familiar.  That is why as audiences we owe it to ourselves to support the best and the most original while ignoring the generic and unoriginal.  Kim Bodnia

I am looking forward to next year’s third season of Bron/Broen but will I watch either remake? Probably not.

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Two sequels, a threequel, a derivative rom-com and an even more derivative exorcism movie.  None of these films were terrible, but none were great,  however there are two gems that really were worth seeing. 

What If: A young man meets a woman at a party and is immediately attracted to her, already in a relationship she wants to be friends.  lightweight but enjoyable rom-com. Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan make a likeable couple but a lack of chemistry hampers the film.what-if-daniel-radcliffe

The Inbetweeners 2: More of the same as seen in the TV show and The Inbetweeners Movie (2011).  The action relocates to Australia, the jokes are more of the same but on the whole they work.the inbetweeners 2

The Expendables 3: The best and worst of the series depending on your point of view.  More than the first two films it recaptures the fun of 80’s action movies but also lack any teeth thanks to CGI and a 12A rating.  Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas are welcome additions to the cast.The Expendables 3

The Rover: Ten years after a little explained “collapse” a man sets out to recover his stolen car for reasons that become clear at the end.   More sombre and low key than Mad Max, the film it has been compared to.  Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson are both excellent.  Opinions will be divided on the ending, I thought it really worked and gave and overall meaning to the film.The Rover

Lucy: A young woman develops super powers when the packet of drugs in her stomach splits. The trailer makes it look like Limitless (2011) but its more ambitious and vastly different.  Far from perfect but interesting and fun.Lucy

Deliver Us From Evil: A tough New York cop and an unconventional priest investigate an unusual series of crimes.  The latest in a series of possession/exorcism movies, like so many of its predecessors it claims to be based on a true story.  It offers nothing new to the genre but is suitably dark and gloomy.Deliver Us From Evil

Sin City A Dame to Kill For:  The belated sequel to Sin City (2005).  Another group of stories from familiar and new characters.   Taken on its own merits, it isn’t much different to the original, but it isn’t new and original any more. Worth seeing for Eva Green who relishes the role of femme fatale.  Sin City A Dame to Kill For

The Rover is probably a better film but there is something about Lucy, Scarlett Johansson in another interesting role and Luc Besson back to his bonkers best, that is why it is my movie of the month.Lucy movie poster

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