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.


Netflix V Cinema

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. 

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.


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. 

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

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. 

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. 

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.