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Archive for October, 2017

Following my last post inspired by Stranger Things and featuring my favourite movies of 1984, here are my favourite albums of 1984.  The criteria, I only picked actual albums not compilations or best of albums.  And most importantly, I only picked albums that I own.

Bon JoviBon Jovi

Bon Jovi – Like most people, I didn’t go back to discover Bon Jovi’s debut album until two years later when Slippery When Wet was a huge hit.  Standout track: Runaway

Born In the U.S.A.  Born In the USA

Bruce Springsteen – You couldn’t turn on a radio in the mid 80’s without hearing a track from this album.  Seven of the twelve tracks were released as singles.  There isn’t a bad track on the album making it hard to pick out a standout track, the title track is one of the most recognisable records of all time, I would go for either: Glory Days or Dancing in the Dark.

Like a Virgin Like a Virgin

Madona – I haven’t listened to this album for over twenty years but had to include it as it was the first record I purchased on CD.  Standout track: Material Girl

Private DancerPrivate Dancer

Tina Turner – I recently picked this album up on vinyl from a charity shop, it still sounds great, Standout track: The title track, Private Dancer written by Mark Knopfler.

Purple RainPurple Rain

Prince – I didn’t like Prince or listen to this album until I saw the movie Purple Rain a couple of years later.  Standout Track: When Doves Cry.

RecklessReckless

Brian Adams – Another one I haven’t listened to for about twenty years, but earns it place because of the amount I played it back in the day.  Standout track: Run to You or Summer of 69.

Ride The LightningRide The Lightning

Metallica – I didn’t start listening to Metallica until their fourth album …And Justice for All in 1988,  by the time their massively popular self titled album came out in 1991 I had purchased the first three albums including the excellent Ride The Lightning.  Standout track: For Whom the Bell Tolls.

She’s So UnusualShe_s So Unusual

Cyndi Lauper – Fantastic debut album from Cyndi Lauper.  The first single Girls Just Want to Have Fun is probably the best know, but for me, the standout track is: Time After Time.

The Unforgettable FireThe Unforgettable Fire

U2 – Having made the debut in 1980 with Boy, this was U2’s fourth album and a slight change in style.  Standout track: Pride (In The Name Of Love).

Various PositionsVarious Positions

Leonard Cohen – Cohen’s seventh studio album, and a new direction with a modern synth sound and backing singer.  The most famous (and covered track) is Hallelujah, but for me the standout track is: Dance Me to the End of Love.

Bonus selection.  As I said I have not included any compilations or best of albums, but had to mention Dire Straits fantastic live album Alchemy and the standout track, having first appeared on the 1982 album Love over Gold, the epic: Telegraph RoadAlchemy

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The new season of Stranger things has hit Netflix.  It’s 1984 and the kids are dressing up as Ghostbusters for Halloween.  Then, there is a gratuitous shot of a cinema showing The Terminator, it seemed like a good time to look back at my favourite movies of 1984:stranger things season two

A Nightmare On Elm Street: Wes Craven’s horror thriller about serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams.A Nightmare On Elm Street

Beverly Hills Cop: Eddie Murphy’s best movie role. Culture clash action comedy about a Chicago cop to travels to Beverly Hills catch a killer. Beverly Hills Cop

Blood Simple: The Coen Brothers criminally under-seen debut about a rich man who hires a private investigator to kill his cheating wife and her lover (obviously things don’t go to plan). Blood Simple

Dune: David Lynch’s criminally underrated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s influential sci-fi novel. Dune

Ghostbusters: If I need to explain Ghostbusters, give up now!Ghostbusters

Repo Man: Alex Cox’s bizarre sci-fi fantasy about a punk who becomes a Repo Man.gnp-0428-dvd.jpg

Night of the Comet: Two valley girls, a trucker and a group of mad scientists are amongst a small group of survivors after a comet wipes out most of the population and turns the rest into zombies.night of the comet mac10

Streets of Fire: “A Rock & Roll Fable” Walter Hill wrote and directed the story of a mercenary who is hired to rescue his now famous ex-girlfriend who has been kidnapped by a motorcycle gang.Streets of Fire

The Company of Wolves: Neil Jordan’s Gothic horror fairy tale based on a story by Angela Carter.  A clever reworking of Little Red Riding Hood that is possibly a allegory on the end of innocence. The Company of Wolves

The Terminator: James Cameron’s seminal Tec-Noir, Cyberpunk thriller about a killer cyborg who travels back in time to change the future.

The Terminator

Other 1984 movies to check out: 1984, Tightrope, Paris Texas, Top Secret, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Romancing the Stone, The Bounty, The Killing Fields, Against all Odds, The Natural, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Purple Rain, This Is Spinal Tap.

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I subscribed to Netflix, predominantly for TV, namely the Marvel TV shows.  I have enjoyed them all, Jessica Jones being the best of them.  I have since mainly watched TV show, including: Breaking Bad, The OA, The Expanse , 13 Reasons Why, Hannibal, and Orphan Black (that I had started watching on the BBC).  I have recently also started watching Star Trek Discovery and Mindhunter, both of which are excellent from the couple of episodes I have seen. 

I have also watched several movies, mainly older ones that I have wanted to re-watch.  This is because I see most films that I want to see at the cinema.  Netfix (and Amazon Prime) can be useful for catching up on films that I missed at the cinema, and those that didn’t get a wide enough release to make in to a cinema near me.  And this is the problem.  With Netflix (and Amazon) getting more into the business of making movies are the chances of seeing some films on the big screen diminishing?  Is this a 21st century version of the vertical integration of Hollywood’s studio system? A system ended in 1948, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Paramount decision, aka the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948.  Not exactly but there are similarities.  I hope the industry can find a solution to the issue without the need for legislation, or one of the methods of screening suffering.mcu-netflix

The reason I have come to this conclusion; I have seen two films recently on Netfix that I would have liked to have seen on the big screen.  The first, Gerald’s Game is a Netfix Original, the second The Bad Batch skipped UK cinemas after Netflix acquired SVOD rights.

Gerald’s Game: Based on a Stephen King novel and directed by Mike Flanagan who had previously made the excellent Oculus.  Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood play a married couple who visit an isolated lake house in an attempt to rekindle their relationship.  Gerald (Greenwood) suffers a heart attack leaving Jessie (Gugino) handcuffed to the bed without the hope of rescue.  At times it goes where you expect it to, at others it will surprise you. Geralds Game

The Bad Batch: Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow-up to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.  A young woman (Suki Waterhouse) dropped inside a vast fenced-in wasteland, declared to be outside of the U.S. and thus, American laws no longer apply.  There she encounters many strange people, most notably a group of cannibals.  The movie drifts along with a strange dreamlike narrative occasionally finding its way back to a plot.  It has been compared to every near future or exploration movie you can think of, none of these are appropriate, although the look and tone sometimes make me think of Peter Watkins’ Punishment Park.the bad batch

I really enjoyed both movies but with one big reservation.  I really wanted to see them on the big screen, but for different reasons.  The Bad Batch is beautifully shot in a vast landscape that needs a big screen.  As a horror/thriller, Gerald’s Game has moments that are best enjoyed with an audience.  But my thoughts go deeper than this;  if Netflix are making movies, or buying distribution rights before they make it to the big screen, this is surely the start of a new era of filmmaking.  A two tier system where cinema can be the only loser, and if cinema is a loser, the ultimate loser is the audience.

It is clear that streaming is the future of the home cinema market.  I don’t have a problem with movies being released on VOD at the same time as at the cinema; letting people watch movies at home legally and cheaply is a good way to cut down on piracy, but not when it’s at the expense of cinema screenings.  Streaming needs to be an addition or alternative to cinema not a replacement. 

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I have just been to see Blade Runner 2049.  I’m pleased to report it doesn’t disappoint.  However, I don’t want to write about it, I think the less you know about the plot going in the better.  I knew nothing other than what’s in the trailer.  Instead I am going to talk about the film I am about to watch.  Strange Days.  While watching the original Blade Runner a few days ago I thought it was about time I watched Kathryn Bigelow’s take on the Tec-Noir thriller.  Having been met with mixed reviews on its original release (Roger Ebert is one of the few critics to praise it), and a poor box-office performance, the film isn’t that well know.  It has slowly found an audience on video and DVD, has recently had a shiny new Blu-ray release, but has never found the cult status of Blade Runner or The Terminator.  With themes that are sadly as relevant today as they were in the 90’s, it is a film that feels strangely modern. strange days poster

 

For those who haven’t seen it here is the obligatory spoiler free synopsis: Near future films are always flawed as they are out of date so quickly, that is the amazing thing about Strange Days, over twenty years have passed since it was made and nearly twenty since it was set but it isn’t dated. The main reason for this is that it isn’t a futuristic Sci-Fi spectacular, it is a contemporary noir thriller that uses its eve of the millennium setting as tool and not the crux of the story. It also helps that the SQUID device is a piece of technology that still does not exist but is could possibly exist in the near future. The mini disc recording devices look a little dated in an era of solid state storage, but they are a necessary MacGuffin.

kathryn-bigelow-strange-days

On the subject of the story it was written by James Cameron the ex-husband of director Kathryn Bigelow (1989-91), he also produced the movie. Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is a former cop now a dealer in “clips” illegal virtual reality playback that taps directly into the cerebral cortex.  Lenny refuses to deal in snuff clips, known as black jacks, In a self delusional belief that he has a sense of morality.  Like all good detective stories the narrative unfolds slowly revealing many layers, and our hero, or should I say antihero Lenny, is always half a step behind the viewer.  As new years eve approaches the LAPD are on high alert, the streets are like a powder keg following the shooting of Jeriko One (Glenn Plummer), a rapper who is outspoken on police brutality. Lenny doesn’t know what he is being dragged into when Iris (Brigitte Bako), a prostitute and friend of his comes to him for help suggesting his ex, Faith (Juliette Lewis) is also in danger.

ralph fiennes strange days

Throughout the movie Lenny is helped by Mace (Angela Bassett) a chauffeur and security expert that Lenny met whilst he was still a cop. Mace provides both the spirit and the soul of the movie and is also a moral compass for the unscrupulous Lenny. Explaining her aversion to clips Mace tells Lenny “Memories were made to fade Lenny, they’re designed that way for a reason”. Mace represents two of the main recurring themes you associate with James Cameron, in herself she is a strong female character, probably the strongest character in the movie both physically and morally. Together with Lenny, she/they represent the mankind’s struggle to find a balance with technology, the same theme that is more overtly explored in the Terminator movies. Given the way that the internet has taken off with you tube, facebook and even blogs like the one you are reading the theme of computer technology as drug is strangely prophetic.

angela bassett strange days

The visuals are truly stunning, shot mainly at night with LA looking like a neon lit ghetto. This is most evident in the seedy nightclubs and the new year street scenes. Showing what the characters see while using the wire technology allows Bigelow to take the point of view photography used in the foot chase scene in Point Break to a whole new leave with long single take scenes. It is all part of the frenetic nature of the movie that keeps you on edge.  As you would expect of a film that shares its name with a seminal album, music is very important to the film.  Real bands: Season to Risk, Testament and most notably Skunk Anansie are all seen performing in the film.  The most significant songs are grungy covers PJ Harvey’s  Hardly Wait and Rid of Me performed by Juliette Lewis.  Angela Bassett’s line “Right Here Right Now” was later sampled by Fatboy Slim for his single of the same name.

juliette lewis strange days

The movie conveys a sense of despair and paranoia, Fiennes’ twitchy nervous performance is perfect for this vibe, while every leading man of the time was considered for the part, it’s hard to imagine anyone else as Lenny Nero. Fiennes manages to walk the fine line of his anti-hero character balancing the sleazy loser with the lovable rouge whose heart may just be in the right place. Made just four years after the infamous Rodney King beating and three years after the subsequent Los Angeles Riots. What we are dealing with is flawed characters living broken likes, a grim reflection of society looking for direction.  I have got this far without talking about villains and antagonists, its not that the film doesn’t have them, or that they aren’t any good.  Quite the opposite, there are plenty of characters to boo, his and loath, but they aren’t really the villains, they are desperate characters in a broken society.  Society is the villain.  At the time Kathryn Bigelow said “If you hold a mirror up to society, and you don’t like what you see, you can’t fault the mirror. It’s a mirror”. The characters of the movie represent society as whole and for the movie to work as much as the villains have to be exposed Lenny has to find redemption. His first step on this path to redemption is the leap of faith he takes in Mace and the similar show of faith from Mace in trusting a man she has no reason to trust.  While Blade Runner asks big existentialist questions, Strange Days is more concerned with more gritty and immediate questions of morality, how we live, not why!

strange days

It takes immense nerve to make a film that starts by depicting corrupt cops and a racially aggravated murder, and culminating in a black women being beaten by riot cops on an LA street just a few years after Rodney King.  It takes immense skill as a director to not only get away with it but make a profound statement from it.   The film ends with the coming of the new millennium and with it a hint of hope and optimism.  Hope and optimism that is sadly lacking, hope and optimism that we need to rediscover. 

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Eight really good movies in September, but which will be movie of the month?

Detroit: Based on a disputed true story of an incident during the 1967 Detroit riots.  A tense drama that at times plays like a horror, at others like a legal drama.  Only a director with the skill of Kathryn Bigelow could have pulled it off.  John Boyega and Algee Smith are both excellent, Will Poulter is sensational. Detroit

Patti Cake$: The feature debut for director Geremy Jasper tells the story of a white female rapper.  Told with right amount of humour and humility, the film is warm and funny.  Danielle Macdonald is excellent in her first significant role. Patti Cake$

Wind River: An FBI agent is sent to investigate when the body of a young Native American woman is found.  She is a assisted by the reservation sheriff and a tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are both perfectly cast.  Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan and forming a loose “frontier trilogy” with Hell or High Water and Sicario that he also wrote.Wind River

Gods Own Country: Lazily compared to Brokeback Mountain, it is actually a better film than Ang Lee’s multi Oscar winner.  A young Yorkshire farmer is struggling to find his place in life, spending his evenings drinking and having casual sex.  He finds purpose and a possibility of happiness when they employ a Romanian migrant worker for the season.  Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu are good as the young leads, Ian Hart is the standout as the farther. Gods Own Country

mother!: Lower case m and followed by an exclamation mark, even the title of Darren Aronofsky’s parable is stylised.   Possibly the most divisive movie of the year, everyone who sees it seems to have strong feelings about it, personally, I loved it! The film is laden with subtext that could be read two or three different was, it’s a shame  that Aronofsky and star Jennifer Lawrence (who by the way is fantastic) feel the need to explain the film in interviews. mother

Kingsman: The Golden Circle: A far-fetched theatrical plot, gentleman spy and a colourful megalomaniac villain; Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, and as spoiled by the trailer and posters, Colin Firth are back for more of the same.  It lacks the originality of the original but retains the politically incorrect fun.  Julianne Moore is great and is clearly having a blast as the villain.Kingsman the Golden Circle

IT: Having passed the half billion dollar mark, the adaptation of Stephen Kings novel his officially the most successful horror film of all time.  Criticised by some for its lack of scary moments, it plays as more a disturbing undercurrent and forgoes cheep scares.  The young cast are all fantastic. IT

Borg vs McEnroe: True story of the rivalry between the top two tennis players of the era told against the backdrop of the 1980 Wimbledon tournament, particularly the epic final.  Well told story with Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf both excellent in the title roles. Borg vs McEnroe

One film stands out as being the most enjoyable, the one that lingers most in the mind, and the one I most want to see again.  Movie of the month is:Wind River poster

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