Archive for September, 2017

Some directors make a big noise about a new film.  As such even casual film fans can identify them as the director of certain films.  Doug Liman is not one of these directors, he is the quiet man who lets his films speak for themselves, that is why he is the director you didn’t know that you loved, many people wouldn’t recognise him as  the director of many of his biggest films.  Is this because he hasn’t made any good films?  Clearly not, he has made a few good films and three or four great ones. 

Doug Liman made his breakthrough with his second feature, the often imitated Swingers (1996).  Based on a script from first time writer Jon Favreau, it isn’t a perfect film, its far less polished than we have come to expect from Liman, but the shakyness adds to the charm.  It was also the breakthrough film for Favreau as an actor, and his co star Vince Vaughn. Swingers

Next up is my personal favourite of Liman’s movies, Go (1999).  Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Timothy Olyphant, William Fichtner, and Taye Diggs may now be household names, but back in 1999, they were all relatively unknown.  With three overlapping stories on the streets of LA, comparisons to Pulp Fiction were inevitable.  But this is a more down to earth, a realistic LA inhabited by people we all recognise, without the glow of Michael Mann or the pop culture cool of Quentin Tarantino.  Directed with fun and confidence it was one of the best films of a very strong year. Go

Everyone knows that Paul Greengrass is the brilliant auteur director behind the Bourne movies, many forget the first, and my favourite of the series The Bourne Identity (2002) was directed by Doug Liman.  Liman had to do all the heavy lifting to introduce and position the character, something he does with ease and confidence.   The casting of Matt Damon and Franka Potente was inspired and nothing short of perfect.  The action scenes were a revelation making it one of the most influential films of the genre since Die Hard. The Bourne Identity

A more lightweight take on the genre Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) may not be a masterpiece, but it is good fun and worth watching for the chemistry between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  Jumper (2008) is silly and disposable, but it’s good fun, and better than the book on which it is based.  The true life thriller Fair Game (2010) lacks the excitement and flair to make it a great film, but it is a good and underrated one with fantastic performances. Mr & Mrs Smith Jumper Fair Game

What is the best Sci-Fi movie of the decade?  That’s a question for another day but the conversation must include the sublime Edge of Tomorrow (2014).  The tricky time-loop story is handled with ease and invention.  The action is amazing.  But best of all, the cast led by Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt is fantastic.  Cruise has fun playing against type as an initially cowardly character.  Blunt is an unlikely but brilliant action star.  I am really looking forward to the recently confirmed sequel: Live Die Repeat and Repeat. Edge of Tomorrow

Currently on general release in the UK and due for a North American release next week, American Made (2017) reteams star Tom Cruise with Liman.  A sometimes comic take on the true story of Barry Seal, a pilot who simultaneously worked for the CIA and Pablo Escobar during the war on drugs of the 70’s and 80’s.  Not the best film from either director or star, but with the fun and charisma you expect from both.  I don’t expect to see it on many “best of” lists at the end of the year, but I do think most people who sees it to enjoy it. American Made

If I haven’t convinced you, go and watch: Go, The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow and you, like me will be looking out for Doug Liman’s next movie with a certain sense of excitement. 


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The occasional drinks in movies series returns after a five year absence:

Kingsman: The Golden Circle opened today to love it or hate it reviews.  In short if you like the first movie you will like this one, if you hated or didn’t see the first movie, you probably won’t see this one.  For me, it lacks the originality and some of the fun of the original movie, but is still enjoyable.  But we aren’t here to review the movie, we are here to talk about drinks in movies.

Thanks to Casino Royale (2006) everyone knows how to make James Bond’s martini, the Vesper:

“three measures of Gordon’s; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel.”bond with martini

But how does a Kingsman make a Martini? In the first film: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) Harry Hart aka Galahad (Colin Firth) tells Eggsy “Taron Egerton” that he will teach him how to make a martini properly.  We don’t see this lesson, but when Eggsy enters Valentine’s secret hiteout a waiter asks “Would sir care for a drink?”

Eggsy responds: “Martini. Gin, not vodka, obviously. Stirred for 10 seconds while glancing at an unopened bottle of vermouth. Thank you.kingsman martini

In the new film, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Harry mixes a very dry gin martini for himself and Eggsy:

He adds ice to a mixer, puts a splash of vermouth and stirs.  Tips the vermouth away and adds Berry Bros. & Rudd No. 3 London Dry Gin.  He stirs it slowly for about a minute and serves in two martini glasses without a garnish. no 3 gin

If you want to try a Kingsman martini No. 3 Gin is widely available.  Personally I like a variation on the Vesper:

Three parts Bombay Original London Dry Gin; one part Stolichnaya vodka and a small dash of Noilly Prat dry vermouth.  Shake or stir until very cold.  Works with a slice of lemon peel or a couple of pimento olives as a garnish. 

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Fandango Groovers Presents21st Century Grindhouse

When Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino announced their Grindhouse project, knowing me as “the film guy”, lots of people asked me to explain what Grindhouse was, I struggled. It’s not that I didn’t know what Grindhouse is/was, it was finding the language, relevance and context.  Within in a minute I said genre and exploitation, then had to explain both terms.  Tarantino and Rodriguez’s idea was to replicate and to pay homage to Grindhouse by recreating exploitation movies of the 60s and 70s then stripping them down to show in a double feature.  The films would be shown with fake trailers, previews of “coming attractions”. We never got to see the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse project in the UK.  After underperforming in other territories the films were split and shown individually with Death Proof hitting cinema screens a decade ago in September 2007.  Planet Terror followed in November. This is only half the reason for this post.  Not only is it a decade since Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, but we now have Grindhouse on TV.  Blood Drive is a totally bonkers TV show, set in a dystopian near-future, a cop and lollypop sucking bad girl are forced to work together in a death race driving cars that run on human blood.  Given all this exposure, things have moved on, and I think most people reading this will know what grind house is. For those that don’t, Rather than try and explain it it’s probably better to demonstrate. For my Grindhouse project imagine a week of double features; a week of movies edited down to somewhere around 60 to 80 minutes. As was the case back in the day with the real grind house the movies will be a mix of exploitation and more fanciful movies. The one catch, unlike reel grindhouse, they all must be good movies in their own right (in my opinion). I have also limited my choices to 21st century movies.

Before we start, coming attractions, the trailers to be shown before or between the movies

coming attractions 2

Monday: Women Kicking Ass – Haywire (2011) and Doomsday (2008)Tonight only Haywire and Doomsday

Exploitation films were big in the 60’s and particularly 70’s, the idea was to exploit current trends and zeitgeist to make financially successful movies.  Haywire fits the bill in a very 21st century way.  The story goes that Steven Soderbergh saw a Gina Carano MMA fight on TV and decided to write a movie for her.  At 93 minutes it is already very lean but could be trimmed to the required length with a slightly simplified plot.  It’s hard to believe Neil Marshall’s Doomsday is nearly two hours long as it zips by.  Cut the prologue and epilogue and concentrate on the best of the action and you have a dystopian action movie.

Tuesday: The Road – Highwaymen (2004) and Zombieland (2009)tonight only Highwaymen and Zombieland

At 80 minutes Robert Harmon’s criminally underrated Highwaymen already fits the time constraints, it’s just a little low key.  That, is why it needs to be paired with the pure fun of Ruben Fleischer Zombieland, a film so good that you wouldn’t want to trim it down to fit the grindhouse ethos, fortunately at 88 minutes you don’t have to do much cutting.

Wednesday: Girls with samurai swords – Kill Bill (2003 -2004) and Azumi (2003)Tonight only Kill Bill and Azumi

Quentin Tarantino’s true grindhouse movie could be Kill Bill.  When played back to back, the two movies run for over four hours, to make them into half of a grindhouse project you could take the best of the action scenes, most notably the epic showdown at house of blue leaves.  While I would never normally advocate dubbing films grindhouse and reading subtitles doesn’t go together.  For this reason, the story of a teenage assassin in feudal Japan from cult director Ryûhei Kitamura would need to be dubbed, not show in its original Japanese.  At over two house it needs to be cut in half.  most of this would be achieved by jumping in to the second act.

Thursday: TV Special – Blood Drive (2017) and Firefly (2002)Tonight only Blood Drive and Firefly

As we reach the halfway point of the week we go a little leftfield and pick two TV shows: The Grindhouse inspired TV show Blood Drive, coupled with Firefly, one of the best cult TV shows of the century.  At 45 minutes the first two episodes of blood drive could be trimmed to less than 80 minutes.  The first The F…ing Cop introduces the idea of the race, the second Welcome to Pixie Swallow is a total hoot.  Although there are some ongoing stories in Joss Whedon’s Firefly each episode is essentially individual, you could therefore show any of them, I would start at the beginning with The Train Job.

Friday: Friday Night Action Fun – Atomic Blonde (2017) and John Wick (2014)Tonight only Atomic Blonde and John Wick

Two action movies that fit together perfectly and are closely linked.   The cold war, action, spy, thriller Atomic Blonde is David Leitch’s  first feature as director, he was previously the uncredited co-director of John Wick.  The revenge thriller about a legendry hit man who reluctantly comes out of retirement directed by David Leitch.  At five and ten minute short of two hours respectively, they would need some harsh trimming to fit the bill.

Saturday: History and Horror – Centurion (2010) and 28 Days Later… (2002)tonight only Centurion and 28 Days Later

I could have picked any or all of Neil Marshall’s movies for this list, Joining Doomsday from earlier in the week is one of his most under seen and underrated movies Centurion.  A chase movie with Michael Fassbender as part of splinter group of Roman soldiers chased by a killer as single minded as The Terminator, played by a devastatingly brilliant Olga Kurylenko.  If 28 Days Later… didn’t reinvent the zombie genre, it certainly rejuvenated it. Directed by Danny Boyle with a script by Alex Garland, it is a perfect horror movie.  Beyond the gore and the action it reminds us the people are more scary than the monsters.

Sunday: GrindhouseTonight only Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse

There is only one place to finish the week, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse screened as intended.

Now all I need is someone to fund and screen it.  Any takers? Thought not! It’s a fun idea though. 

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I have strange relationship with the writing of Stephen King.  I have always found his plots and world building to be really good, but don’t like his writing style.  This is why his stories can be so perfect for adaptation.  With The Dark Tower coming out last month and IT due out later this month, it seems like a good time to remember King is about more than horror and take a look back at my favourite big screen adaptations of his stories:

  1. The Shining (1980 – based on novel from 1977) – King famously doesn’t like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation, WHY? I first saw it when I was a kid and was understandably creeped out by it, as much by Jack Nicholson’s performance as by the movie itself.  A couple of years ago I got to see it at the cinema in a sold out Halloween screening, it was even better shared with an audience.the shining
  2. Stand by Me (1986 – based on the novella The Body from 1982) – The geniuses of Rob Reiner is the way he has always been able to convey nostalgia without sentimentality, Stand by Me is his masterpiece.  It also helps that the young cast are all brilliant.Stand by Me
  3. The Shawshank Redemption (1994 – based on the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from 1982) – #1 on the IMDb’s top 250 for as long as I can remember.  A totally faultless movie, with perfect acting and direction, it could easily have been higher on this list.The Shawshank Redemption
  4. The Mist (2007 – based on novella from 1980) – The second Frank Darabont movie to make my list.  A tense horror thriller that reminds us that humanity is more frightening than monsters.  An already great film is elevated by a perfect and devastating ending.  the mist
  5. Carrie (1976 – based on the novel from 1974) – There is something dark and seedy about Brian De Palma’s direction that is perfect for this story, as are the performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.Sissy Specek as Carrie
  6. The Dead Zone (1983 – based on the novel from 1979) – If you want a creepy and unnerving movie is there a better combination than David Cronenberg and Christopher Walken? Probably not.  Some of the political themes seem strangely relevant at the moment.   The Dead Zone
  7. Misery (1990 – based on the novel from 1987) – Rob Reiner again but with a very different film to Stand by Me.  You will remember the film for a couple of moments of real horror, but there are other things that make it great.  James Caan and Kathy Bates are both brilliant.  Reiner’s direction  manages to create an uneasy sense of dread without losing the ability to shock. Misery
  8. The Running Man (1987 – based on the novel from 1982) – I had the VHS of this when I was a kid, it was one of my most watched movies for a few years.  Successful on its original release but quickly dismissed as dumb action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In the light of reality TV, The Hunger Games, and the current political climate it’s time to re-evaluate.   The dialogue is clunky, but the story is good and the direction is solid.The Running Man
  9. Apt Pupil (1998 – based on the novella from 1982) – Three of the four stories that made up Different Seasons have been adapted into movies, this third movie isn’t as good as Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption but is still a compelling movie.  Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro are both brilliant. Apt Pupil
  10. Cat’s Eye (1985 – anthology horror film based on the short stories Quitters, Inc. from 1978 and The Ledge from 1976 and one written specifically for the film).  Anthology  of three short films linked by a cat.  The best of the three features James Woods as a man who wants to quit smoking. Cat's Eye

To give context, the other Stephen King movies I have seen that didn’t make the list are:

Creepshow (1982 – five short films; based on the short stories Weeds from 1976, The Crate from 1979 three written for the film by King) – Christine (1983 – based on the novel from 1983) – Children of the Corn (1984 – based on the short story from 1977) –  Firestarter (1984 – based on the novel from 1980) – Silver Bullet (1985 – based on the novella Cycle of the Werewolf from 1983) –  Maximum Overdrive (1986 – Directed, very poorly by Stephen King, based on the short story Trucks from 1973) – Sleepwalkers (1992 – original screenplay) – The Dark Half (1993 – based on the novel from 1989) – Dolores Claiborne (1995 – based on the novel from 1992) – Dreamcatcher (2003 – based on the novel from 2001) –  Secret Window (2004 – based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden from 1990) – Carrie (2013 – Supposedly adaptation of the novel from 1974, but they clearly had one eye on the superior 1976 movie) – The Dark Tower (2017 loosely adapted from the novel series 1998 to 2012).

My most notable blind spot is The Green Mile (1999 based on the serial novel published in six parts in 1996) Directed by Frank Darabont who makes the list above twice. 

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August has been another stellar month, eight trips to the cinema, most have them have been good, I have enjoyed them all in some way.  Only one can be movie of the month, here are the contenders:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Two decades after The Fifth Element Luc Besson returns to space for a sci-fi adventure.  Adapted from Besson’s favourite comic strip Valerian can’t decide if it wants to be the camp fun of Flash Gordon, or something more nuanced.  Cara Delevingne should feel a little miffed as despite being the main character and best part of the film, her character  Laureline has had her name expunged from the comics original title.  The content of the film seems to divide opinion one thing that can’t be disputed is how fantastic it looks. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron proved with Æon Flux that she had a affinity for action, sadly the film wasn’t much good.  It wasn’t until Mad Max: Fury Road that she had a suitable vehicle for her talent.  Former stunt man/coordinator David Leitch, half the team behind John Wick has created the perfect movie for her talents.  Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, Theron gets to play a character somewhere between James Bond and John Wick.  There is a little more plot than the movie needs but the action is great and it looks amazing. Atomic Blonde

A Ghost Story – Director David Lowery reteams with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.  Not much happens, and it happens very slowly without much dialogue, what should be terrible and boring, is actually brilliant.   A Ghost Story

Overdrive – Low rent rip-off of The Fast and Furious franchise.  The multiple twists and tunes in the plot are clearly signposted and are unlikely to surprise anyone. There is some good action and the survival rate of the classic cars is better than the aforementioned automotive franchise. Overdrive

The Dark Tower – Having not read any of the Stephen King sauce material I didn’t know what to expect from this adaptation.  The narrative is a bit of a mess and lacks the epic feeling I was led to expect, but I actually enjoyed it.  Idris Elba is excellent, Matthew McConaughey shows moments of brilliance but on the whole his performance is as disjointed as the film.  Not a disaster, but it could have been better.The Dark Tower

Annabelle: Creation – Prequel to the spinoff of The Conjuring.  Well constructed horror that is as enjoyable as the Conjuring movies largely thanks to the right balance of creepy build-up and jump scares; not to mention a supremely creepy doll._T2A7437.dng

American Made – Based on the true story of Barry Seal, an airline pilot recruited by the CIA to take reconnaissance photos, he soon finds himself working for the Medellín Cartel.  Tom Cruise makes a charismatic star as ever. Directed with verve and style by Doug Liman, one of the most underrated directors working today. Domhnall Gleeson is wonderfully slimy.  American Made

Logan Lucky – Steven Soderbergh returns from retirement with a blue collar Ocean’s Eleven. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are great in the leads but the best performances come from Riley Keough and Daniel Craig.  Not the best that Soderbergh has to offer but still a really good and enjoyable film. Logan Lucky

Ever since seeing it I intended the movie of the month to be A Ghost Story, a movie that has haunted me (pun intended) for weeks.  However, as is so often the case, my movie of the month, is the one I most want to see again: Atomic Blonde.Atomic Blonde poster

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