3. Harry finds out his godfather is a murderer but when he meets him, it turns out that he’s quite a nice bloke really.
For those of you that don’t know, I am massive fan of the Harry Potter books. I’m not one of those wangs who queued up until midnight when they came out because they are the people who give great franchises like Harry Potter a bad name. I have however read all the books more times than I can count and they are definitely my favourite ever series. I love them.
The films on other hand, have left a lot to be desired. There have been some glaring faults in the film franchise; Emma Watson’s complete lack of acting ability, the terrible jokes, the ridiculous casting decisions (Trigger as Barty Crouch Snr), the use of the word “numpty”, or maybe just the fact that Voldemort is portrayed as the campest baddie ever. It’s not a nice thing to see something that you love be repeatedly gang raped and that is the way I have felt about nearly all of the Harry Potter films. I say nearly all because when I watched The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 just before Christmas, I was pleasantly surprised.
Some genius had finally realised that you can’t realistically fit the last Harry Potter book into one film because it would have to be longer than Ben-Hur. Finally justice was done to the original story and due to the more serious nature of the film there was a distinct lack of shit jokes. So for the first time in my life, I had high hopes going in to see a Harry Potter film. After all, to quote one of my wisest friends, “There’s nothing better, than a magical story”.
For those who haven’t seen or don’t remember the events that led up to this film, I’ll provide a bit of a run through.
Previously on Harry Potter:
1. Bald bloke tries to kill a baby and has a mare. That kid’s called Harry and he grows up in a cupboard with no mates but then some giant fella tells him he’s a wizard. Wizard school. Loads of Gingers! Unicorns. Chess. Face on back of a head!
2. Harry meets an elf who’s been stealing his post, then finds a diary, and then has a fight with a lizard!
4. There’s a big tournament and Harry wins it but one of his mates dies. It’s okay though because his mate is a vampire.
5. Helena Bonham Carter kills Gary Oldman. Crime of passion.
6. That bald bloke has come back and he’s causing all sorts of bother. Harry pulls his best mate’s sister and then his headmaster gets pushed off a tower by another teacher.
7 part 1. Harry’s on the run with his mates and that nob of an elf who was stealing his post gets stabbed in the gut.
And so it comes to 7 part 2.
Fortunately, Harry is not alone because he has loads of friends and a full-scale wizard battle kicks off. The special effects in this sequence are pretty impressive, particularly how they manage to make Harry’s bird look so average.
39. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (contains major spoilers but if you don’t know what happens already, you deserve it) – Directed in 2011 by David Yates.
The film begins exactly where the last one ended. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has just buried his little elf mate and is well annoyed so he goes and has a word with Griphook the goblin, played by the dwarf for all occasions, Warwick Davis. If you’re a fan of Willow, prepare to be horrified. Griphook is easily the most terrifying character in all of the Harry Potter films and you get the feeling that he’s going to be a bit of a shit as soon as he bears his pointy little teeth. Though he is a little wary, Harry decides to trust the sinister little bastard and they agree to rob a bank. Before they leave however, Harry has a look in on the wand-maker who he just rescued. John Hurt plays Mr. Ollivander and decides to reprise the exact voice he used for John Merrick. It turns out that Voldemort has badly tortured Ollivander into helping him become the most powerful wizard ever. After their meeting, Harry’s friend Ron (Rupert Grint) points out, “He seemed really upset.” prompting Harry to sharply reply with a cheeky smile, “Well, you know what they say. An elephant never forgets!”
And so, accompanied by his best buddies, Ron and Hermione (Emma “can’t act for shit” Watson), Harry and Griphook set off for Gringotts Bank. Since they are all fugitives, the group have to travel incognito. Hermione changes herself into Helena Bonham Carter and Ron straps on a dodgy beard in a feeble attempt to disguise himself as Tim Burton. Somehow, the plan works and they manage to infiltrate the lower regions of the bank and head for their desired vault. Unfortunately, on their way to the vault, they get soaked by some magic water which unveils their disguises. Now is probably the best opportunity you will ever have to get a good look at Emma Watson’s norks.
Although alarmed, our heroes still manage to rob the bank but just as they are about to escape Griphook shows his true colours. Not only does the little bugger run off with Harry’s favourite sword but he calls for his fellow goblins at the bank to have a right at the intruders. Completely surrounded, it seems that all hope of escape is lost until Hermione notices there is a dragon knocking about. Busting out perhaps her worst line of the film, Watson says something along the lines of, “I’ve got an idea but it’s completely bonkers!” and then jumps on the dragon’s back. Harry and Ron follow suit and the trio are soon crashing through the roof of the bank.
After the elation of successfully eluding capture once again, Harry is soon devastated to find that the only thing they managed to nick was a cup. His intention is to destroy the blasted item and put the whole fiasco behind him. However, the only place he can properly annihilate the cup is at his old school. Harry pushes the dragon a fiver and they manage to scrounge a lift to Hogwarts.
When the gang arrive back at Hogwarts, they receive a hero’s welcome from all their friend’s apart from one of their mates who asks why it has taken them so long to return, only for Ron to reply, “Shut up Seamus.” As celebrations die down, Harry explains that he needs to find something to destroy (direct quote), “This FUCKING cup!” However, with Harry being the wizarding public enemy number one, news soon spreads of his whereabouts and all hell breaks loose. It turns out the bald bloke also known as Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is up for having yet another go at killing Harry. Soon enough he rallies his private army of death eaters (baddies), to attack the school. Harry’s mentor, Professor McGonagall (played by the outstanding Maggie Smith) soon informs Harry that he is in grave danger in this pivotal sequence;
“Professor MC: You Know Who’s on his way, Harry!
Harry Potter: Who’s You Know Who?
Professor MC: You know…that camp bloke with alopecia.”
As the battle rages Harry mooches round trying to find something to destroy the cup but ends up trying to chat up a fit ghost. Meanwhile, Hermione and Ron start necking, causing fireworks to come out of his wand and blow up the cup. Job Done. However, it turns out while the trio have been dicking around blowing up silverware, loads of their friend’s have been killed in the battle.
Mightily peeved, Harry heads out to challenge his nemesis but takes an avada kedavra to the face for his troubles. You’d think at this point Harry would be well dead but that’s not exactly the case. After a bit of purgatory scene, Harry clocks a bald feotus under a bench and decides that this place isn’t for him. Upon waking, Harry decides the best thing to do is to play dead. This works for a bit until the fighting kicks off again. The final battle sequence includes Harry leaning in on Voldemort, decapitation and a bit of flying. Eventually Harry disarms the baldy git and finishes him off once and for all. After that it all goes dark until…19 Years Later.
A shocked gasp spreads around the whole of the cinema. Oh god! They’ve actually filmed that bit! This is probably the best part of all the Harry Potter films because it is so ridiculous. Harry and his pals are supposed to be approaching middle age at this part of the story, and the actors are well and truly made up to look the part. The result is awful, as the key to ageing each actor seems to be giving them shit facial and dark lines under their eyes. Draco takes the biscuit with a comedy beard to rival Van Pelt in Jumanji. The film closes with Harry giving his son, Albus Severus Potter (gay name), tips on how to pull a bog-standard ginger like his mum.
*New Rating system*
* BAG OF WANK
Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Part 2 has already shot to number 69 on IMDBs all-time greatest films, which is pretty good going since it has been out for less than a week. I am changing my marks out of 10 system to a 5-star system because it is easier. Personally, if the film is a stand alone I would give it 4 stars, which would mean that it is excellent but not a classic. I actually preferred the last film and if I was marking both parts together I would give it 5 stars *****, which means they are a classic as a whole.
I really enjoyed the final instalment but there were loads of bits that were supposed to be funny that were really dry. Somehow, I didn’t find Ron saying bloody for the millionth time particularly hilarious. On top of that there were loads of bits that were clearly trying to be serious but ended up being hilarious; Snape crying, Voldemort hugging Malfoy and the comedy facial hair at the end. In terms of performances, Emma Watson actually wasn’t that bad in this one. Radcliffe produced a standard passable performance and Rupert Grint was as usual on good form. However, everyone that I have spoke to (about 4 people) agrees that the real star of the film is Matthew Lewis, who plays Neville Longbottom. Finally after being rubbish comic relief for all these years, Lewis is given his time to shine and does a really good job of it. He’s not a particularly great actor, but he perfectly portrays the underdog and in a parallel to Sam Gamgee, becomes the real hero of the series.
Worst Character awards go to the bloke who is trying to look like Jack Sparrow and the nob who for some reason asks Voldemort if they should wait before launching into battle, in what is a completely puzzling addition.
The Best Dwarf award goes to Warwick Davis, who is properly good at being sinister as Griphook and then runs around like a headless chicken later on as Professor Flitwick.
Not sure when I’m going to do another review after this but probably before the end of the year if you’re lucky!
What I do know about however is the careers of the director Edgar Wright and the star Michael Cera. Both have been parts of some of my favourite TV shows and films of all time. Wright is exceptional for directing Spaced, which is one of the best shows of all time and Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are also class films. Michael Cera was brilliant in Arrested Development and is the co-star of Superbad, which I believe to be one of the funniest films of all time. He exudes likeability and watching even one of his more mediocre or conceited films such as Paper Heart or Nick and Norah is still an engaging experience.
In fact, when I watched Scott Pilgrim it came at the end of a Cera-based weekend as I had viewed Youth in Revolt the previous evening. I was going to watch both of these films as a guilty pleasure and not bother reviewing but after the viewing I believed that it definitely deserved to be included in the challenge.
38. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Directed in 2010 by Edgar Wright.
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is dating a 17 year-old high school girl called Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). This fact is found generally reprehensible by everyone who knows Scott given that he’s a 22 year-old nerdy native of Toronto who doesn’t even have his own bed. Basically everyone knows that he is kidding himself because he is still feeling torn apart by the demise of his last major relationship. His bandmates remind him of this fact but he is a bit of a nob so he skates around the truth. Also the band is called Sex Bob-omb, which is pretty goddamn awesome.
After various successful dates with Knives, Scott begins dreaming about a roller-skating girl with pink hair. However whenever he tries to explain his dream, no-one is interested, especially his flatmate Wallace (Kieran Culkin). Who is this girl who appears in his dreams? This question is soon answered when Scott attends a party and sees a familiar pink-haired girl leaning against a wall.
Turns out the girl of his dreams is called Ramona Flowers. After unsuccessfully trying to chat Ramona up on a couple of occasions, Scott finally manages to get her to come to his battle of the bands gig. Unfortunately he has forgotten that Knives will also be at the event and he realises that he is in major shit if the pair start talking. He’s gonna look like a full-on wang if Ramona finds out that he hasn’t split up with Knives yet. Luckily a diversion is at hand as some Indian bloke called Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) busts through the ceiling and challenges Scott to a duel.
Though taken unawares, Scott manages to defeat Matthew and wins aload of coins for his troubles. A little confused, Scott asks Ramona to explain the situation. This may seem mental but it seems that Ramona has an extensive dating history and anyone who chooses to try and court her, has to battle her seven evil exes. Without realising the extent of the task, Scott signs up to being Ramona’s boyfriend. After winning the last fight he figures how hard can it be?
Turns out it’s well hard. Scott soon has to battle off a pro-skateboarder/movie star, a vegan with psychic powers, Anne from Arrested Development, a couple of kids who are like the Japanese equivalent to the Chemical Brothers and Jason Schwarzman. On top of that he has to deal with Wallace wanting to evict him, the obsessive stalkiness of Knives Chau and the return of his ex-girlfriend, Envy (Brie Larson). With the help of various video game references and some class music, will Scott Pilgrim be able to defeat the rest of the world just to be with the girl he loves?
Scott Pilgrim currently scores 7.8 on IMDB and doesn’t feature in the top 250. Neither does it feature in Empire’s 500 greatest films because the poll was taken a couple of years ago. However (according to Wikipedia) it has featured in various top ten lists for 2010 including most notably a number six spot in an Empire poll. I personally found it hilarious and award it a very deserved 9!
I found myself laughing out loud at loads thoughout the duration of this film. The chemistry between Cera and Culkin was particularly fantastic with Culkin pulling off a bit of a star turn as the promiscuous homosexual housemate, Wallace Wells. I liked the cynicism of each character towards Scott as well. He is essentially a dick who goes out with a high school girl and then cheats on her and everyone gives him an appropriate amount of beef. It is as though Scott’s beatings off the evil exes are deserved because of his treatment of girls in the past. He gets no sympathy from bandmates, his housemate or his sister and this just adds to the comedy as Scott gets more frustrated with the situation as the film progresses.
Cera plays the nobhead well but still makes the character endearing enough to keep following and rooting for. As for the evil exes, Chris Evans as the skateboarder-cum-filmstar is by far the best and that fight scene is hilarious. The vegan ex is a massive buzz as well because of his utter smugness (a trait that is quite common in vegans). The fight between the Sex Bob-omb and the Japanese djs seemed a bit rushed in and that was the only part of the film that seemed to skate over the narrative a bit. Apart from that, Jason Schwarzman was perfectly smarmy as the final boyfriend and head of the The League of Evil Exes.
Overall I think it is Edgar Wright’s best foray into cinema thus far and is well worth getting a copy when it goes cheap around Christmas!
Next up, All About Eve.
The last Billy Wilder film I watched was The Apartment and it made a massive impression on me, earning full marks. Therefore I’m hoping that the next film is similarly rewarding as it is an earlier effort that Wilder co-wrote with none other than Raymond Chandler - the man who wrote the original novel of The Long Goodbye, the film of which I gave full marks to as well. With all this class stuff interlinking, I am confident that the next film will be well worth the watch.
37. Double Indemnity (contains spoilers and terrible puns)
1944, directed by Billy Wilder
Fred MacMurray (the dick from The Apartment) stars as Walter Neff, a Los Angeles insurance salesman with a terrible tale of adultery, conspiracy and murder. The film begins with him arriving at his offices at the dead of night and beginning a dictaphone confession for his boss to discover the next morning. As Neff’s nefarious narrative commences, the film switches to flashback mode and the beginning of practically every scene is punctuated by his narration.
His story begins many moons ago with Neff making a house call to renew a customer called Mr Dietrichson’s automobile insurance. When Neff reaches the house he finds the man of the house is out, but his wife - a classic femme fatale named Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) - is more than willing to have a chinwag.
After some casual flirting, Phyllis begins questioning Neff on whether she would be able to take a life insurance policy out on her husband without him knowing. Neff is immediately wise to the woman’s game, as he knows that if you take a secret life insurance policy out on someone it is usually because you want them brown bread.
He tells Phyllis that she’s fit and by God doesn’t she know it, but he will not help dispose of her husband. Realising that she has been well and truly sussed, Phyllis resorts to begging: "Aww, come on." But it is to no avail. Neff leaves the household a little flustered but with his humanity intact.
However, the next time the couple meet it is a completely different story. Ever since their first encounter Phyllis has been on Neff’s mind like like a sexy tumour, seductively overpowering his sense of morality. Neff admits he is crazy about her and offers to assist her in killing off her hubby. This is music to Phyllis’ ears and she rewards Neff by flashing her knickers and assuring him, "There’s more where that came from."
After providing false papers, Neff convinces the husband to sign his life away in the belief that he is simply renewing his automobile insurance. With the documents in order, the devious deadly duo begin meeting up in secret to plan the murder. Neff explains that, according to the life insurance policy, if the victim dies under bizarre circumstances then the payout for the benefactor is doubled: the ‘double indemnity’ clause. Soon the pair are plotting an elaborate scheme to gain maximum profit from the death of Mr Dietrichson.
After an inspired brainstorming session, including such suggestions as having Mr Dietrichson "gored by a bull" and "shot out of a cannon", the pair finally agree on how to dispatch their victim: he will appear to have died by falling from a moving train. Though this is a little less extravagant than the other scenarios, apparently it pays back in big bucks.
Luckily Mr D is due to take a long train journey in the next couple of weeks. For Neff and Phyllis it is now a matter of patience and meticulous planning. Fortunately, Neff knows every trick in the game and arranges strong alibis for the couple.
With everything in place, you finally get to witness the deed being done to perfection. I won’t tell you what happens but it’s extremely engaging and involves cameos from Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito.
A few days later Neff’s boss, Barton Keyes (played by the excellent Edward G Robinson), begins his investigation into the claim. There is something about the situation that seems incredibly fishy to Keyes and it is giving him a terrible case of indigestion. Is it merely coincidence that a man who signed a life insurance policy only a month or so ago should die by falling from a moving train?
Keyes and the little man in his chest are not convinced. After confessing his suspicions to Neff, Keyes begins surveillance of Phyllis in the belief that she has been working with an accomplice. Sooner or later the man is going to have to turn up, and when he does Keyes will be ready with the handcuffs.
This news is extremely troubling to Neff. He is desperate to see his secret lover but is scared of spending the rest of his life behind bars. With his whole life falling apart around him, Neff gets the very last thing he needs: a massive guilt trip. Dietrichson’s daughter, Lola (Jean Heather), decides to make a visit to Neff’s office and confess her suspicions.
She reckons that Phyllis is something of a career killer and fears that she is not only responsible for the death of her father, but also her mother. Not only that, but she’s even been doing the dirty on her daughter-in-law by arranging secret liaisons with her boyfriend, Nino (Byron Barr).
Upon this revelation, Neff realises that he has been well and truly used. Also, Keyes has seen Phyllis with the boy and is about to press charges. With his conscience well and truly banging the door down, Neff heads out to see Phyllis and finish the whole sordid scenario once and for all.
Double Indemnity currently scores an average 8.5 out of 10 on IMDB and is placed at number 53 in the top 250. Empire voters are a little less kind and it is considered in their poll the 133rd greatest film of all time. I think it is a great effort but not quite Wilder at his best. I award it an 8.
I’m not a particularly big fan of the noir genre. One thing that generally puts me off is the narration. Overall I don’t mind narration and believe it is often an entirely appropriate device within a film. However, when it is in old 40s noir it tends to be dead cheesy. Double Indemnity is not exactly an exception to this, but at least has the added context of the dictaphone confession rather than just the meandering thoughts of the protagonist.
At first I had trouble relating to MacMurray and Stanwyck, and found their relationship a little unbelievable. Neff seemed to go straight from being a bit suspicious of Phyllis to being madly in love with her. However, as the film went on and the nasty narrative unfolded, their complicated situation became completely engaging. The execution of the murder is an extremely interesting and tense sequence. I enjoyed the way Neff describes the crime and perfectly arranges his alibi to the minute detail.
The best thing about the film, however, is Edward G Robinson’s portrayal of Barton Keyes. He is quite brilliant in every scene - very funny at times, while at other moments deadly serious in his investigation. He’s essentially the real protagonist of the film and is extremely endearing in his role. The reason I gave the film an 8 is because although I found it a little bit farcical at the beginning, the narrative unfolds into a fascinating plot that had me engrossed right to the end.
Not Wilder’s best but for a genius that’s not exactly a bad thing. Get it watched!
Next up, Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Originally posted at 14:07 on 04/03/2011
Welcome to South Korea: home of Park Chan-Wook, Park Ji-Sung and Mike Park. Some people (me) might perhaps think of this place as a magical land where all the coolest hair in the world is crafted, but back in the early 1950s there was some major conflict going on with the communist North. But this is not a history lesson. If it were you would certainly fail your course. No, this is an introduction that hopefully sets an appropriate scene to the film MASH.
'MASH' is an acronym that means Mobile*Army*Surgical*Horses, and the film is about the horse surgeons appointed to an army infirmary to save the lives of American soldiers during the Korean War. Donald Sutherland stars as Hawkeye, a bad-ass surgeon who - along with his good friend Trapper (Elliot Gould) - tries to make the best out of the sorry situation.
36. MASH (For Mash Get Smash)
1970, directed by Robert Altman
The film begins with crack surgeons Hawkeye and Duke (Tom Skerritt) being are drafted into the understaffed MASH unit. However, it soon becomes apparent that although they are gifted doctors, they are also a pair of rule-breaking, nurse-wooing hooligans and a bad influence on the rest of the camp. This soon leads to friction with tent mate and fellow doctor Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) - a stuffy religious bloke who gets a bit shirty whenever the boys are drinking martinis and playing cock or ball.
After various clashes, the boys plead with the unit’s CO, Lt Colonel Henry Blake, to have Burns removed from the party tent. Fortunately the boss is a bit of a pushover - not only does he move Burns, but he puts in a request for a new surgeon to lift some of the workload.
A new man called Trapper (Elliot Gould) arrives in MASH and Hawkeye is over the moon. Not only is Trapper a top thoracic surgeon, but also carries a jar of olives to appropriately garnish the martinis. The pair soon become best friends and chief trouble causers in MASH, much to the dismay of Frank Burns.
When Burns has a go at an orderly for the death of a terminal patient, Trapper is severely unimpressed. After luring Burns into a secluded office he floors him with one punch. Unfortunately for Trapper at that very moment the new head nurse, Major Margaret Houlihan (Sally Kellerman), is taking a tour of the medical facilities and stumbles across the scene. With his top surgeon caught red-handed, Blake is forced to punish Trapper for his misconduct and delays the decision to promote Trapper to chief surgeon.
Looking for revenge, Burns teams up with Houlihan - the objective to implement a much stricter regime within the unit. Their first mission is to compose a scathing report on the party boys and have them transferred out of the camp. However, upon completion of the document the pair give in to their own repressed sexual urges and start going at it. Their antics are captured over the PA system for the whole camp to hear Houlihan begging of Burns, "Kiss my hot lips!"
Ashamed and embarrassed by this public humiliation, Burns lashes out at Hawkeye the following morning and is immediately transferred out of camp.
With Houlihan’s only ally gone, the camp becomes like a playground outside of surgery. But one man is not having quite as fun as the others. ‘Painless Pole’ Waldowski is convinced that after being unable to perform during an evening liaison with a nurse, he has developed latent homosexual tendencies. Distraught and fearing that his feelings are incurable, Waldowski plans to arrange his own suicide.
Never one to miss out on a prank, Hawkeye tells Waldowski of a little black capsule that results in a quick and painless death. After attending his last supper, Waldowski takes the capsule, but it is actually a sleeping pill. He is laid to rest in a private tent. During the night, Hawkeye convinces one of the nurses to join Waldowski in bed, which in turn reinstates his heterosexuality.
That last scene in particular marks out the somewhat episodic structure of the narrative and much of the rest follows the same tack. The film’s narrative seems to have no real direction, which is the whole point as it is a commentary on the futility of the real life conflict happening in Vietnam at the time.
To outline the rest of the episodes therefore would only serve to spoil the film. However I can tell you that it includes a spot of golf, nudity, a trip to Japan, a football game and, of course, many more martinis.
MASH currently scores an average 7.7 out of 10 on IMDB and does not feature in the top 250. However, it is considered the 54th greatest film of all time in a poll taken by the American Film Institute. Personally I thought it was ace and award it a big-ass 9.
Having not seen much of Robert Altman’s work I was mightily impressed with The Long Goodbye, so I did have fairly high hopes for MASH. Thankfully it did not let me down. Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould are dead good as the talented but mischievous surgeons and leaders of the camp.
I’ve not seen much of the young Donald Sutherland aside from Don’t Look Now but I liked the way he came across as so casual about everything. It was as though he was blagging his lines in half of the scenes and it was quite amusing. Robert Duvall and Sally Kellerman are equally as good as the frustrated antagonists and when they finally give in to their passions it is comedically perfect.
Another great thing about the film is the music. I liked the way much of the music was played over the PA system like at a holiday camp. The film’s theme ‘Suicide is Painless’ has been in my head loads as well and now features in one of my most used Spotify playlists. On top of that, the soundtrack included two renditions of Teruko Akatsuki’s ‘Tokyo Shoe Shine Boy’, a song that features on the end credits of the Akira DVD.
There were a couple of things that I found a bit iffy though. The bullying of Houlihan in the shower scene is a little objectionable and the football match goes on a bit too long. However, all in all I think it is a pretty brilliant and funny film with a superb cast and a class soundtrack, so you should get on play.com because the special edition is going for £3.59.
Next up, Double Indemnity
EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve gotten a bit behind with publishing these due to school work and such. There should be three going up tonight to catch up.
Originally posted at 16:34 on 04/03/2011
For those of you who read my review of Midnight Cowboy, you will already know that I think Dustin Hoffman is a great actor. The next film is considered perhaps his greatest performance, as he depicts a man suffering from autism. The film also stars that short bloke from Jerry Maguire. I am of course talking about Rain Man.
I’ve wanted to watch this film ever since that episode of The Simpsons where Homer is in a casino and ends up playing against Dustin Hoffman and they both start slapping their heads and going, "EAAAGH, EAAAGH!"
Aside from that I’m a big fan of the director Barry Levinson. Not only did he produce two of the best shows in the history of television – Homicide: Life on the Street and OZ – but he also directed Diner, which is one of my favourite films. On the other hand, he did direct a God-awful film called Toys, featuring Robin Williams at his most annoying and always popping up in the trailers of any 1990s VCR. Hopefully Rain Man is one of Levinson’s better efforts.
35. Rain Man (contains Tim Krisse)
1988, directed by Barry Levinson
Tom Cruise stars as Charlie Babbit - a self-centred yuppie car dealer, who having just secured a $75,000 Lamborghini deal in LA, is on his way to Palm Springs to celebrate with his girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino from Hot Shots… phwooaar!).
Unfortunately for the couple, their getaway is cut short by the news that Charlie’s dad has just died. Cue standard u-turn shot as Charlie and Susanna head to Cincinnati to settle his father’s estate. When questioned by Susanna about his father, Charlie explains that they have been estranged for years due to a ridiculously petty argument.
The story goes that when Charlie was in high school his father never showed any pride or interest in his son. Apparently Charlie wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack and only ever aced one exam. Pleased with his performance, young Charlie requested to borrow his dad’s car but was dismayed to find his father reluctant. Ignoring his father’s wishes, Charlie stole the car anyway and when his dad found out he called the police. Upon his eventual capture Charlie was locked up in jail and his dad left him there for a couple of days to teach him a lesson.
Because of that one particular incident, Charlie decided to cut all ties with his father for the rest of his life. This is a bit of a overreaction, but you soon learn that it’s not out of the ordinary for Charlie, who we soon learn is a fairly despicable human being.
So yeah, the will and all that business. Turns out that Charlie’s dad was not afraid to hold a grudge himself and he has bestowed his $3million estate to an undisclosed beneficiary. But he does leave his son the car that tore their relationship apart.
This is a slap in the face for Charlie who believes that he is entitled to his father’s fortune and he intends to find out exactly where Daddy Babbit invested his savings. After practically no detective work Charlie learns the address of the trustee in charge of the dough and upon arrival is very shocked to find a mental institution.
After speaking with the head honcho, Dr Bruner (Jerry Molen), Charlie is told that it was his father’s wish that the money be invested to help maintain and improve conditions at the hospital. Charlie is well annoyed. It is only when he finds some nutter in the seat of his new convertible that he learns the truth of his father’s motives.
The nutter in question is Raymond Babbit (Dustin Hoffman), Charlie’s secret older brother. He is also not a nutter but a man who suffering from autism, which makes him dead good at maths but well shit at explaining his workings. Apparently their father considered Raymond the much better son and was secretly paying to keep him in the care of the institution.
Putting two and two together Charlie gets five and decides that the only way to get his hands on some of his father’s estate is to kidnap Raymond. His theory is that if he initiates a custody lawsuit then he will be able to earn an out of court settlement for at least half of the money.
It is a short-sighted move and Charlie soon learns that life on the road with an autistic bloke is not easy. On their very first night together in a nearby hotel Raymond hears moaning and ends up walking in on Charlie and Susanna while they are bumping uglies. After watching Charlie get well irate at his brother, Susanna realises that she has involved herself in a very bizarre situation. She leaves Charlie, emphasising that he should sort his head out.
The next day things go from bad to worse as the brothers arrive at the airport to take a plane to LA. It turns out that Raymond Babbit is the most unwilling person to board a plane since Mr T. When Charlie tries to drag Raymond through to the final checkout he starts shouting and hitting himself on the side of the head. Unimpressed but also fearful of causing a scene, Charlie realises that the only way he is going to transport his brother to the city of angels is by road.
And so begins possibly the worst roadtrip ever. Much of this section of the narrative is Charlie being well frustrated by Raymond’s behaviour and constantly berating him, before coming to understand the condition a bit better and forming a loving relationship. Aww.
However, while the boys are on the road it turns out that Charlie’s Lamborghini deal has fallen through and with his other debts it looks like his professional life is in (for want of a better word) tatters. If he doesn’t recover the funds soon it looks like he will have to file for bankruptcy.
Luckily, while Raymond is being checked out by some smalltown doctor, Charlie learns that his brother has mega memory and maths skills that make Will Hunting look like Forrest Gump. There is only one thing for it: Charlie runs over to the nearest sofa and has right good jumping session. Oh, and the Babbits are hitting Las Vegas, baby! Charlie’s new plan is to use Raymond’s exceptional memory to count cards in order to recoup the money to keep Charlie’s business afloat.
Will Raymond and Charlie be able to successfully cheat in high security casinos? Will Charlie, having recklessly kidnapped and manipulated his brother, be able to justify a custody hearing in his favour? Is the plot to this film suggesting that autistic people have super powers? Are these constant rhetorical question endings beginning to irritate you?
Rain Man currently scores an average 8.0 out of 10 on IMDB and does not feature in the top 250. However it does feature in Empire’s greatest films at number 387. On top of that it won four Oscars including Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Director and Actor for Dustin Hoffman. Now the question I have to ask is: was 1988 a slow year for films?* For me, it deserves a 7.
It is exactly as I suspected. Dustin Hoffman is brilliant and Tom Cruise is the ultimate king of smarm. I suppose the saving grace of Cruise’s performance is that his character is meant to be overtly arrogant and selfish. He actually does quite a good job of playing the whiny weasel, but the character is so annoying that I actually kept saying things like, "Oh God, just deal with it!" and "He’s such a dick!"
Fortunately Nat fell asleep and was mercifully spared my constant huffing and puffing every time Charlie Babbit did or said something ridiculous. I suppose I really am incapable of detaching my hatred of Tom Cruise from any character that he depicts.
On the other hand Hoffman is once again on top form and his performance is definitely, definitely Oscar worthy. Definitely. His portrayal of Raymond Babbit is very believable (although I have never actually encountered anybody with autism, so I’m not sure exactly how much weight I can put in that statement) and very touching. I found myself feeling incredibly sorry for him being dragged out of his set schedule and having his condition constantly questioned by his revolting brother.
There were a couple of things that I felt were pretty weak about the film, the first being the relationship between Charlie and Susanna. He is massive dickhead with no redeeming features and she seems so nice, so I don’t get how she could have anything to do with him on the basis of his nastiness and manipulation of a clearly mentally ill person.
The other thing that I had trouble believing in was the complete u-turn in Charlie’s mindset when he suddenly decides he doesn’t even care that much about money anymore, and just wants to live with his brother. Though the character is portrayed as reckless and erratic, it is a bit of a stretch to expect the audience to believe that, now Charlie understands autism, he has become the picture of sincerity and a caring, decent human being.
Although I am slagging off the somewhat farcical nature of Cruise’s character, it is with a sense of retrospect (I watched the film about two weeks ago - I’ve just been too lazy to do a review). In fairness, at the time I did buy into the film and did become hooked by the end. It is a good film and well worth a watch, if only for another acting masterclass from Dustin Hoffman. However, if you want to see Levinson at his best then get yourself a copy of Diner because it is about a thousand times better.
*In answer to my own question: Akira (my absolute favourite film of all time), Die Hard, Beetlejuice, Big, Bloodsport, Grave of the Fireflies, Midnight Run, My Neighbour Totoro, The Land Before Time, The Naked Gun, Scrooged, Willow, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? were all released in 1988 and all better films than Rain Man.
Originally posted at 09:46 on 23/02/2011
My dad reckons that the next film is perhaps the most tearjerking film of all time. What you have to bear in mind is that Bernie C does not take this subject lightly. I’ve seen him watching To Kill A Mockingbird and It’s a Wonderful Life and he can get pretty damn emo.
I myself am no stranger to shedding tears when viewing an appropriately touching or sad film or television program. I am not ashamed to say I once openly sobbed when I thought Pikachu was going to leave Ash in the Pokémon episode where they found a colony of other Pikachus. Much to my dismay, Our Mike came in and heavily berated me for my moment of weakness.
Though I sort of regretted it at the time, I’ve come to realise that crying is cathartic and you generally feel better after such an emotional release. Anyway my point is that this film could be extremely sad, so if I break down mid-review then please kindly skip to the next paragraph and forget it ever happened.
34. Whistle Down The Wind (contains more northern colloquialisms than my reviews)
1961, directed by Bryan Forbes (and produced by Richard ‘John Hammond’ Attenborough!)
The film begins with three children following a suspicious looking man carrying a dirty old sack. When he reaches a reservoir he has a quick shufty to see whether anyone is watching and then chucks the sack in the water. With a proud smile the man mooches off and the children emerge from their hilly hiding place, rushing towards the soggy sack.
As the children retrieve the dirty old bag from the water it is revealed that the man has been trying to drown three adorable little kittens. What a bastard. Turns out that the family cat has birthed this litter but the children were forbidden to keep the kittens because they couldn’t afford to feed another three mouths on the family farm.
Selecting a kitten each, the children – Cathy (Hayley Mills aka that sinister kid from the original Parent Trap), Nan (Diane Holgate) and Charles (Alan Barnes) – hide the mogs within their coats and sneak them back into their father’s deserted barn. Fortunately the kitten drowner is not the children’s father, but merely a surly farmhand called Eddie (Norman Bird) who takes great pleasure in the torture of small animals. The Patriarch of the family is a much more likeable and decent chap called Mr Bostock (played by Bernard Hill).
After evading their father and Eddie, the kids finally lay the kittens down to rest in the hay and set about deciding the best way to look after their secret pets. Charles being the youngest and most naive offers that a lady told him Jesus would look after his kitten, which he has named Spider. Cathy, being a massive cow (considering she is about ten years older than her brother), immediately mocks Charles’ childish suggestion: "Don’t be such a prick, Our Charlie. Jesus is well dead."
Shocked and appalled, middle child Nan tells Cathy that she can’t go around saying things like that about The Good Lord. Realising her mistake, Cathy apologises but still has the audacity to stubbornly state, "Well I didn’t say anything that isn’t true."
Little does she know how much she is about to regret her smarmy outburst.
Later on when the younger children are tucked up in bed, Cathy sneaks over to the barn with the intention of reuniting the mother cat with her babies. But as she sneaks into the barn the cat detects an intruder and gives a great hiss. Next thing you know, Cathy is eye-to-eye with a bearded weirdo. Startled, the stranger takes one look at the girl, exclaims "Jesus Christ!", and then faints as Cathy runs out of the barn in some distress.
Could it be that Jesus himself has been sent to punish her for her earlier outburst? The answer to this question is: no, don’t be such a prick.
The man is actually a wanted felon who goes by the name of Blakey (Alan Bates). Due to his beard and faint resemblance to Christ, Cathy believes that he is in fact The Second Coming. When she informs Charles and Nan, they are over the moon because now they have someone to look after the kittens.
Soon the kids realise that Jesus may need looking after himself and they begin constantly going back and forth, stealing food from the farm to help out their own personal Jesus. Blakey is not sure why the kids are helping him but takes full advantage of their hospitality. On top of that he makes the children swear to keep his whereabouts a secret.
Unfortunately, Charles has a bit of a big mouth and ends up telling one of his friends and Blakey, and soon the story is passing through every playground in town that the Bostocks have got Jesus cooped up in their barn. With kids queueing up around the block to see him, Blakey gets well angry and strangles one of the cats.
It’s a pretty harsh punishment and Charles retaliates by telling his dad about the bloke in the barn: "He’s not Jesus, he’s a very naughty boy!"
Appalled by Blakey’s kitten killing, Mr Bostock informs the authorities and traps the man inside the barn. It’s a showdown! But you’ll have to actually sort your life out and watch the film to find out what happens.
Whistle Down The Wind currently scores an average of 7.7 out of 10 on IMDB, which leaves it outside of the top 250. I was also unable to find it in Empire’s 500 greatest films or the British Film Institute top 100. However, with a little bit of investigation, I found that it had ranked as the 79th greatest British film of all time in a list published in July 2010, as voted for by empireonline.co.uk users. So just in case anyone is like “why is he doing reviews of films that I haven’t even heard of?”, this film is considered great, so do one! Anyway, I award it 9 out of 10.
So the big question is: did it make me cry? You’re Goddamn right it did. The bit where little Charlie Bostock finds his dead mog is so gutting. When he looks up at the imposter Jesus with tears in his eyes and asks, "Why did you let my kitten die?" it is an utterly heartbreaking moment. If you don’t cry at this moment you basically don’t have a soul.
However, it does not hold a candle to the most tearjerking films I’ve ever experienced: It’s A Wonderful Life and Memories of Matsuko. So essentially I have to disagree with my dad, but then I reckon he must have some sort of built-in sentimentality towards films that are set in the Northern England of the 1960s.
The only thing that was a tiny bit annoying was the poshness of Hayley Mills’ depiction of Cathy Bostock. This film is set somewhere near Burnley and though she is having a good go at a northern accent, you can hear the RP pushing through during some of her lines. Mills is also constantly upstaged by the sheer brilliance of little Alan Barnes and Diane Holgate, who are as funny as they are adorable.
However, Mills’ accent is hardly a terrible crime to humanity like Dick Van Dyke’s in Mary Poppins, and her performance is still very strong so there isn’t too much to fault. There is a whiff of nepotism about the film since Mills’ mother, Mary Hayley Bell, wrote the original novel and screenplay.
Whistle Down The Wind is a great and very sad coming of age film and must have been a major influence on Victor Erice’s highly acclaimed 1973 film The Spirit of the Beehive, in which a young girl discovers a wounded rebel soldier in a deserted barn. Both films are pretty amazing so I suggest that you get your arses down to Fopp right now and pick them up. While you’re at it, buy Akira as well because you won’t regret it.
Originally posted at 16:14 on 21/02/2011
The name’s Cahill, Rob Cahill. Sorry.
Like every kid who ever owned a Nintendo 64, I am massively indebted to the James Bond franchise. In August of 1997 (thank you Wikipedia) the greatest shoot-em-up of all time, Goldeneye 007, was released marking the most vital moment in multi-playing history. If you’ve never sat around your living room with three of your finest friends trying to blow each other up with proximity mines you haven’t lived!
I spent many of my happiest hours running around Facility trying to find some armour while fending off a klobb-carrying maniac. It also remains the only ever first-person shooter game that I have ever completed. Not only did I love the game, I was a huge fan of the film. Having never really got into the whole 00Heaven ITV weekend screenings of James Bond films, Goldeneye was something of a revelation.
When Pierce Brosnan announced his retirement from playing Bond in 2004 many believed it to be the end of the franchise. Though Brosnan’s career as 007 started extremely well with Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, the last two films of his reign were pretty poor. Why do people not learn that if you get Madonna involved with any film it will turn out to be a huge bag of wank?
When Daniel Craig was announced as the next Bond I had not watched Road To Perdition and thus had no idea who he was. Personally I didn’t care either. After watching the first half of Die Another Day, I had resolved to avoid Bond films forever. However, Casino Royale arrived in 2006 to major critical acclaim and was supposed to be a bit more like the Bourne trilogy. Having not watched the any of the Bourne films I still didn’t care.
But the other week while looking through Empire’s 500 greatest films of all time, I was surprised to find that Casino Royale was placed at number 56. Therefore, I have decided to drop my embargo of Bond films. I owe it to the people who bother to vote in Empire polls and the creators of Goldeneye to give Casino Royale a chance.
33. Casino Royale (A dry Peroni, definitely not shaken)
2006, directed by Martin Campbell
The film starts right at the moment of Bond’s transformation into a double-0. In the interest of authenticity the opening sequence is filmed in black and white. Bond has been sent to kill a dodgy agent who has been doing the dirty on Queen and country.
As the goon in question arrives at his office Bond is waiting. Intercut with this scene is a fight in a public toilet where Bond is battering some hairy bloke. After the snide agent goads our man with insults about his lowly status, Bond explains that he is going to kill him like he did his contact. At this point you realise that the bloke Bond is fighting in the lavatory is the contact and this is quite a cool flashback. After dispatching the agent Bond does that whole shooting in a circle thing and the film really begins.
Cue the iconic theme… WHOA, HOLD YOUR HORSES WHAT IS THIS SHIT? Apparently the classic theme has been cut and instead replaced by some rubbish song called ‘You Know My Name’. The proper song only appears at the end to mark Bond’s full maturity. Balls. Nevermind - at least you can still watch the quite dull title animation.
Once the title sequence is over Bond appears to be in Madagascar looking to track down that bloke from Jump London. Apparently, every time the parkour king has got permission to jump about by a landmark, he’s actually been casing them out for the best places to plant bombs. When the free-runner gets wind that he is being watched by MI6 he pegs it.
Never one to refuse a challenge Bond sets chase. After climbing up and down cranes and loads of nifty stunts he finally corners his man. Unfortunately they appear to be in the Nambutu embassy, which is way out of Bond’s jurisdiction. Surrounded by armed forces, Bond knows that his only means of escape is to surrender his hostage.
However, Bond has a trick up his sleeve. After handing over the free-runner, Bond guns down his former hostage and then blows up half the building by shooting a conveniently placed oil barrel. Amidst all the carnage Bond manages to obtain the free-runner’s mobile before making his escape.
When he arrives back in England his boss, known only as M (or Judi Dench), is none-too-pleased with his behaviour. By blowing up an embassy Bond has broken all kinds of international peacekeeping laws. However before M has the chance to slap him upside the head, Bond is off again.
Turns out that the free-runner was receiving coded text messages from some bloke in the Bahamas called Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian). Being the impulsive spy that he is, Bond busts off to the Bahamas and reasons that the best way to find information about Dimitrios is to seduce his wife. Dimitrios wife, Solange (Caterina Murino - PHWOOAAR!), is not exactly difficult to find as she is the only person on the beach who is riding a horse. It also turns out that she is equally as easy to pull and Bond soon lures her into his bedroom.
Unfortunately before intercourse fully ensues, Solange receives a call from her husband who informs her that he will be in Miami for the evening. Having no further interest in the lady, Bond heads straight for Miami. When he reaches the airport he discovers that Dimitrios and his buddies have plans to blow up a jumbo jet. Luckily Bond has identified the bomber and goes about successfully foiling the plan. Cue runway chase scene and big explosions!
After stopping the terrorists, Bond has earned some major credibility back with M. Bond’s actions have resulted in a major loss of money for a banker called Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who now owes a lot of money to various terrorist organisations. Le Chiffre (which in English means “The Chiffer”) is a smarmy gambler with a scarred eye that weeps blood.
As a means of recouping the money, Le Chiffre creates a poker tournament in which a challenger has to put down $10million to enter. MI6 reasons that if they defeat Le Chiffre in this game of poker he will be completely bankrupt and have to surrender information in return for protection. And so M decides that Bond is the best man for the job and sends him in with support from a Treasury agent called Vesper (Eva Green).
After a few hours of play Bond believes that he can tell when Le Chiffre is bluffing and during one hand he goes all-in with full confidence that he has defeated his opponent. However, Le Chiffre tricks Bond and as he collects his winnings informs him, "No Mr Bond, you can’t read my poker face."
With his place in the tournament lost Bond begs Vesper for $5 million for a re-buy, but she refuses on the grounds that he would just be further funding an international terrorist.
Bond is completely down in the dumps. Not only has he lost his stake, but Vesper appears to have lost interest in him. In a frustrated and reckless moment he decides that the best course of action is to stab Le Chiffre. He is stopped by a CIA operative called Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), who offers to give him his chips. Misreading the situation, Bond accepts but is then greatly disappointed to find that the American was only offering a bag of crisps. However, to make up for the misunderstanding, Felix buys Bond back into the game.
It is now or never, and Bond begins racking up winning hands like it’s nobody’s business. Having played everyone else out of the game and avoided various attempts on his life, it is the final showdown between Bond and The Chiffer. He’s only got this one shot, this one opportunity to seize everything he’s ever wanted. Will our hero keep his nerve? Mom’s spaghetti.
Casino Royale currently scores an average score of 8.0 out of 10 on IMDB and does not feature in the top 250. However, as I mentioned earlier it is highly rated by Empire readers and comes in at 56 in the greatest films of all time. I award it an 8.
Daniel Craig is a really good James Bond. He has dropped the cheesy lines and elaborate gadgets for full-on fist-fighting. Not that he isn’t still appropriately smarmy. He’s a pretty arrogant dick at times but this Bond has the guns to back up his shit chat. He was definitely a great choice for 007.
The film is certainly much better than the last few Brosnan efforts and the fight scenes and stunts were pretty spectacular, particularly the parkour chase sequence. I’m a big fan of Sébastien Foucan so whoever had the idea to include him in the production should be applauded.
Did I have any beef? Well yes, I definitely did. It was very, very long. I also had trouble following some of the scenes because I had no idea what Le Chiffre was saying. I also wasn’t entirely sure why they ended up playing poker. Some of the dialogue just moved so fast that I became distracted and lost the plot for a while.
I actually only fully got the film when I read the synopsis on Wikipedia. But that might be more down to my lack of concentration at the time than it being incomprehensible. It’s not exactly difficult to follow a Bond film once you work out who is good and who is bad. Muscly bloke in tux: good. Sinister scarred-eye bloke: bad.
Apart from that it’s a really good action film and very enjoyable viewing. The torture scene is brilliantly brutal and had me full-on wincing. However, I wouldn’t say that it is good enough to be placed as the 56th greatest film of all time. And I still think Goldeneye is by far the best Bond film!
Next up, Whistle Down The Wind
Originally posted at 10:37 on 14/02/2011
The next film is perhaps best known for being the first film to include a scene in which Al Pacino and Robert De Niro directly interact (the second being Righteous Kill, which nobody has ever watched because it’s supposed to be a stinker).
In the Pacino/De Niro argument I have always been pro-Pacino. The main reason for this is that Al Pacino is about thousand times cooler than De Niro. He’s also hilarious even if he doesn’t mean to be. With Pacino you feel like sometimes he is just blagging his way through films but in an effortlessly natural and brilliant way. I remember once reading an interview with Pacino (do not expect a reference - this was years ago) where he explained how with every film he does, he has to be re-taught how to load a handgun.
It’s not that I’m anti-De Niro. The man is a great actor. However, when I think of De Niro, I often get the feeling that he takes things a bit too seriously and every move his characters make seems to be meticulously planned. Though the final result is undoubtedly impressive, when I hear the stories about his method acting when playing Jake LaMotta I sometimes think that he should stop being such a try-hard. But that’s just me. And I don’t think anything should be taken away from the performances of either actor because they are both awesome.
32. Heat (Pacino vs De Niro: ROUND ONE… FIGHT!)
1995, directed by Michael Mann
Al Pacino is having a good day. Not only is he playing Vincent Hanna – the LAPD’s number one badass Lieutenant – but he is also buzzing over the fact that he’s regularly intercoursing with Natalie Portman’s mum (Diane Venora). Result. What or who could possibly ruin his day? Well it’s a bit unexpected, but apparently Val Kilmer.
Val plays Chris Shiherlis, a member of a classy crew of criminals led by a man called Neil McCauley (Bobby De Niro, aaaah). There’s certainly no Culkin about this McCauley. He is a proper cold bastard and is about to pull an elaborate armoured car heist in order to steal some bonds from a money launderer called Gus Van Sant.
Other notable members of the crew include Trejo (played by Hollywood’s go-to Mexican, Danny Trejo), Michael Cherrito (Tom Sizemore…?) and some mainhead called Waingro (Kevin Gage). Everything is going swimmingly on the job until Waingro (Kevin Gage) decides to shoot one of the officers guarding the van. This action is totally unnecessary. Now, in order to eliminate any witnesses, McCauley and his men are forced to execute the remaining two guards before they scarper.
Having successfully deserted the crime scene McCauley’s attention turns to Waingro, who he plans to kill on grounds of unprofessional conduct. In an act of vengeance, the crew take Waingro to a car park and give him a bit of a roughing up. However, just as McCauley is about to shoot the offender in the face, a cop car drives past and somehow Waingro manages to disappear without a trace.
It’s a little bit farcical since McCauley was standing right next to him about two seconds ago, but it can’t be helped so the crew decide to get on with a bit more robbing. They reason that Waingro is a massive tool and there is absolutely no way his escape will be intrinsic to the narrative - possibly even leading to their eventual downfall.
When Hanna reaches the crime scene he is impressed by the skill of the robbery but realises that the executions were definitely a moment of sloppiness. And so the great investigation begins. Hanna is able to track down McCauley’s whole crew, but with no proof he is unable to apprehend any of the men. They all have past misdemeanours but he is waiting to charge them with a grand theft he can link back to the original heist and subsequent murders.
Unaware they are under surveillance, McCauley and the lads decide to do a job on a precious metals depository. It’s stakeout time and Hanna calls on the help of his buddies Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez to keep watch on the depository. Unfortunately, as the operation is coming to a successful climax Estevez starts inexplicably quacking, which tips off McCauley’s gang. As each criminal exits the building, Hanna refuses to arrest them because the only charges he would be able to stick them with would be breaking and entering.
Now aware his team is under surveillance, McCauley hatches a plan to uncover the identities of the men following him. In a cunning ploy he manages to get photographs of his assailants and sends them off to his best man for some information. McCauley’s best man turns out to be Jon Voight, who is sporting a very dubious porno-tache.
When it is revealed that the lead investigator is Hanna, McCauley is not best pleased. Voight informs him that Hanna is like a Canadian Mountie, never stopping until he gets his man. Basically, Hanna is going Due South on this motherfucker. On the plus side, Voight also introduces McCauley to a beardy bloke who is looking to set up a bank job that would result in a $12million payout.
Even though they are under major surveillance, the team decide that pulling the bank job is well worth the risk. Chris needs the dough so he can move away and repair his rubbish marriage to Ashley Judd, who is cheating on him with Hank Azaria. On top of that, Trejo needs the money for a facelift so directors stop casting him as janitors and convicts with names such as ‘Crazy Mexican Guy’.
Hanna knows that McCauley is planning something huge and feels the only way to stop him is to invite him on a coffee date. While sipping away on their Kencos the two adversaries bare their souls and achieve a sense of mutual respect. Hanna explains that his third marriage is failing because his wife keeps going into his step-daughter’s room and watching her frig. In response McCauley explains that he has never been able to hold down a steady relationship with a woman because Joe Pesci keeps seducing them behind his back.
As the date comes to an end each man explains that they have nothing against the other but they will not hesitate to bring them down should they get in the way.
Much to Hanna’s dismay, about half an hour after the meeting, McCauley’s crew manage to shake off every single surveillance unit under Hanna’s command. At this point the Lieutenant loses his rag and goes mental for a bit before eventually realising that he is going to have to play a waiting game. Meanwhile, McCauley and his boys are preparing to pull off biggest bank job in history (don’t quote me on that). It’s all looking peachy for the dastardly deviants but they have overlooked one particular problem: Waingro… DUM DUM DURRRRRRRRRR!
Heat currently scores an average of 8.2 out of 10 on IMDB, placing it as the 121st best film of all time. It also comes in at a very impressive 38 in Empire’s greatest films of all time. I award it 8 out of 10.
It’s a really good film but I don’t think it deserves to be classed as 38th greatest film ever. It does have great moments but in between are quite a few scenes that just seemed dull. I really couldn’t care less about the Val Kilmer character and his marital problems. It was dull and if there is one thing that a three hour film doesn’t need, it is unnecessary filler.
I wasn’t particularly convinced by the relationship between De Niro and Amy Brenneman (so much so that I omitted it from my synopsis). Though it was essential in showing how very complex (yawn) De Niro’s character was, they lacked chemistry.
So what did I like about Heat? It’s got some awesome action scenes! The armoured car robbery sequence is utterly engrossing and has a really good shootout sequence. Aside from the action, Pacino is just great. He’s cynical and at times hilarious. His failing relationship with Diane Venora is far more interesting than the personal problems of his adversary. Natalie Portman is also really good as the depressed step-daughter constantly let down by her real father.
As for the notorious coffee scene between Pacino and De Niro, believe the hype! It is played to perfection and is easily the most engaging part of the film. I suppose what is best about it is that neither attempts a move towards hamminess or tries to show off their whole range in one scene. They both play it very cool and remain true to the nature of their characters. De Niro is appropriately menacing but Pacino simply shows no fear. It is a fair stand-off between two of the finest actors ever.
So who won Pacino vs De Niro? For me, Pacino. However, in the interest of fairness, he had the better character - affording him the opportunity to be well funny while shaking up criminals but maintaining an appropriate level of seriousness during arguments with his wife. Also, De Niro’s character got a bit silly when he started developing a conscience. This made him less interesting. I suppose the idea was that by depicting McCauley as an okay guy outside of his life of crime, the audience would be unsure for whom to root. However, I much preferred De Niro’s frosty side at the start of the film and did not warm to his complicated side.
Anyway, the film is well worth a watch because there are some truly great moments. However, if you want to watch a film where Val Kilmer is better than both Pacino and De Niro in Heat, get yourself a copy of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Next up, Casino Royale (with cheese)
Originally posted at 13:55 on 14/02/2011
I think we can all agree that Mel Gibson is a proper dickhead. In the past few years he’s proved himself not only to be a religious nut but also a massive racist. The man is a moron, and on top of that What Women Want is wank. It’s weird really because in the nineties he was a part of the Hollywood elite and was very highly regarded by both Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover.
At the peak of his powers, Gibson made Braveheart - an epic about Scottish warriors fighting for their independence. A lot of people regard this film as a classic, so it’s only fair to have a look and see if it’s any good. Anyway, there’s nothing in the rulebook that says you can’t be talented just because you’re evil. Look at Leni Riefenstahl and Voldemort.
31. Braveheart (starring Gordon Strachan!)
1995, directed by Mel Gibson
The film is set back in medieval times when the English ruled Scotland. The Scottish people aren’t particularly happy about this because the English treat them like dogs, resulting in constant rebellion. In order to solve problems with the Scottish, King Edward Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) passes a law that states all newly wed Scottish brides must spend their first night of marriage with an Englishman. For some reason this massively exacerbates the situation and Scotsmen are beginning to lose their rags left, right and centre.
The latest Scotch egg to crack is a bloke called William Wallace (Gibbo) of the Ku Klux Klan. Having just married a lovely young lady named Murron (Catherine McCormack), Willy must be vigilant in order to prevent her being inseminated by foreign bodies. When a seedy English soldier tries to have his way with Murron, Willy goes apeshit.
In blatant defiance of his occupiers he batters the dirty bugger involved and frees his wife before escaping to meet back up with her on the highlands. Unfortunately, while Willy skillfully eludes capture without too much trouble, Murron is a little less lucky. As she tries to escape, she takes the wooden end of a spear to the chops, and for good measure her throat is slit as an example to anyone who breaks the law.
If you thought Willy was angry before, then in the words of Randy Bachman, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Willy recruits his best friend Brendan Gleeson and every other strong male in his clan to overthrow the English forces in the area. The Scots use their wits and kill every Englishman in town. When word gets round that Willy has stood up to the occupiers, every oppressed man in Scotland wants to join him in battle against the bastard English.
Meanwhile back in England, Longshanks is not a happy bunny. Not only is he having problems with the rebel warriors in Scotland, but he is becoming increasingly fed up with his son, Prince Edward. Having forced him to wed a sexy French princess (Sophie Marceau), the king is a little bit annoyed to find that Edward has made no effort to consummate the marriage. Rumour is that Edward bats for the other team, or - to put it simply - is a raving gay.
Ashamed with his son and angry about the steadily growing rebellion in Scotland, Longshanks gets a bit testy and throws Edward’s boyfriend out of a window. This proves suitably cathartic and the king gets back to fighting with Wallace’s army.
But does William Wallace actually have a real army? It seems that his legend has grown much larger than his actual manpower. Though he is knighted by the noble clans of Scotland, they refuse to support him in his plans to invade England. There is only one man who seems to understand Willy’s need for freedom and his name is Robert Poulsen – better known as Robert The Bruce (Angus MacFayden). Bobby B has promised Willy that he will try to create as much support for him as he can. Willy needs the strength of every noble clan if he is to finally achieve Scottish independence.
Though Robert is interested in what Willy is offering, he first consults with a leper who turns out to be his dad. The noble leper tells Robert that he’s all about Scottish independence but he also warns his son to watch his back - Robert The Bruce is the next rightful king of Scotland, not William Wallace. Bob completely misconstrues this advice and resolves to get all of the major clans to turn against Wallace on the battlefield. Cue massive battle scene.
"William Wallace is seven feet tall!"
Well no, in fact, he’s not. He’s actually a beefy Aussie bloke in a wig.
"But that’s beyond the point," shouts Willy as he tries to explain to the army he has just met that defeating the English is the only way to claim back their rightful “FREEDERM”.
The Scottish people have terrible skin afflictions (just look at Robert The Bruce’s dad) and Freederm is the only brand that successfully combats their spot-prone skin. Unfortunately Willy is unaware that he about to be massively betrayed and his rousing speech means nothing.
When Willy calls his Scottish brothers to arms they retreat instead, having made deals with Longshanks. Willy and Gleeson are left holding their cocks in what appears to be a very sticky situation. Should the rebels fight honourably and be massacred, or submit any chance they ever have of retrieving their Freederm?
Braveheart currently scores an average of 8.3 out of 10 and is placed at number 90 in IMDB’s top 250. It also ranks in at 320 in Empire’s 500 greatest films. I award it an epic 8.
Basically it’s pretty class. It’s a shame Gibson is such a nutter because Braveheart is proof that he is capable of making a dead good epic film. The battle scenes in this film are great and include some top notch dismembering, beheading and full-on stabbing. Though I dislike Gibson, I can’t fault the spirit of Braveheart.
I particularly liked the sense of camaraderie between the Scottish warriors because they were just well mental. If Brendan Gleeson wasn’t sparking out Mel Gibson, then some Irish bloke was laughing hysterically and talking to God. It sounds weird but it’s good fun!
Braveheart is a properly rousing film and I was really rooting for the Scots to get their freedom. Another great thing about it are the very poor attempts at the Scottish accent. Normally, bad accents can be a bit tiresome but everyone in this film sounds so ridiculous it adds a bit of comedy value rather than becoming an annoyance.
However, there are a few things that did peeve me. An obvious bone of contention is the film’s historical inaccuracy. Pedantic critics might look upon some of the more exaggerated moments and characters negatively, but I don’t think that would be particularly fair. Gladiator, Spartacus and Inglorious Basterds are three excellent examples of why blurring fact and fiction is not necessarily a bad thing.
The main thing that annoyed me about Braveheart was how much of a wetwipe Robert The Bruce was. You knew he was going to be a bit of a shit from the outset because people with goaties generally are, but his betrayal of William was dead shitty. I was a bit gutted that he ended up being the man to unite the clans against the English.
As with all of Gibson’s directorial efforts there is also a fair bit of religious symbolism that is a bit off-putting. The torture scene is very ‘Wallace = Jesus’ and the men left fighting at the end a bit apostolic. I’m surprised that Gibson didn’t make his character rise from the dead at the end. The king is hardly condemned when he chucks the prince’s boyfriend out of the window, and the prince is portrayed as a weak and cowardly man without any redeeming features. It is basically implied that because he is gay, he would make a rubbish king.
So yeah, there are dubious undertones to the story but it’s still pretty class. The cinematography is stunning as well, with each scene perfectly complimented by some great looking hills and stuff. Much better than when I went to Scotland as a child anyway - the main highlight was some fat girl having a go at me and our Mike because we were on the only roundabout in a playground: "Get off it ya wee arseholes!"
Next up, Heat. But not until later because I’m off to throw a haggis on the barbie!
Originally posted at 15:33 on 13/02/2011
The next film is responsible for the hit and miss careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. When I say hit and miss I place Damon as much more on the hit side, with Affleck picking up most of the misses. Those who have seen Daredevil or Pearl Harbor will get what I mean.
Affleck is something of an enigma. I like him in Kevin Smith films but that is usually because he is playing a bit of a dick. I think that’s the main problem with Mr Affleck - he naturally comes across as a massive dickhead. Also his well publicised personal life seems to have completely overwhelmed any previous credibility he may have earned.
However, he appears to be rebuilding his reputation with his recent film, The Town, which is earning widespread critical acclaim. I haven’t seen it so can’t really pass judgement, but it got four stars in the Metro so it’s probably alright. The thing is, I couldn’t be bothered going to see it at the pictures and it’s mainly because Affleck seems like a nob.
Though I have little time for Affeck, I do like Matt Damon. It took me a while to warm to him but he was really good in The Departed and Dogma. On top of that he guest-starred in 30 Rock and Entourage, so he’s certainly doing something right. The problem for Damon is that he’ll always have the stigma of Team America to deal with and people will be saying his name in a retarded fashion for the rest of his life. Damon and Affleck have great onscreen chemistry in Dogma so hopefully Good Will Hunting won’t be the overrated bag of wank I’ve always had it marked down as. Oh shit! And it’s got that fella out of Jumanji in it!
30. Good Will Hunting (does not contain any good will or hunting)
1997, directed by Gus Van Sant
Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) – chief mathlete of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – has begun the new term by setting his students a mind-bendingly difficult equation to solve:
What is the square root of 81?
The first person to solve the sum will receive a once-in-a-lifetime, all expenses paid trip to Disneyland. Confident that his students will fail dismally, Gerald is surprised to find that the very next day his puzzle has been deciphered by a mystery mathematician. When the prof holds a special conference in order to reveal the identity of the genius and present them with their prize it seems that none of his students are willing to take the credit.
Is the secret sage afraid to be unmasked because they cheated, or was it a lucky fluke? Gerald certainly thinks so, but either way the gauntlet has been well thrown down. The only way to prove they are dealing with a bona-fide brainbox is to set another question:
What is 2+2+2+3-7+25-8+110?
That should do the trick, thinks the smug professor - even Vorderman would have trouble with that! Unfortunately, just as soon as the challenge is posted, Gerald is horrified to find some moronic janitor scribbling all over his whiteboard. Gerald shouts at the vandal, who scarpers leaving behind his mop and bucket.
Enraged, Gerald looks up at his board expecting find a drawing of the male member or some crass insult like ‘J-Lo is a fat bitch!’ However he is surprised to find that the young man he chased away has correctly answered his formidable equation.
The janitor in question is a bright young lad called Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon). Will is dead smart but he’s got major issues that stem from him being an orphan. As a child he was constantly being transferred to different foster homes because he kept playing The Bourne Identity and kicking the shit out of the other kids.
It was a desperately depressing upbringing, until one day when he met a lad called The Artful Dodger. Will and Dodge did a bit of nicking for Alec Guinness but they got caught the law and banged up in a juvenile detention center. Unfortunately, Dodge got bummed in borstal and ended up slitting his wrists – an event made all the more tragic because while dying he tried to call for help but no-one believed him. Will was utterly devastated by the death of his friend and he took up reading to take his mind of things.
When Will got out of borstal he moved into an orphanage where he would often fight with kids who tried to steal his toys. One day, a young boy nursing a bloody nose approached him by the water fountain. Will was just readying himself for a fight until he saw that the boy was holding the Action Man toy that the other kids had stolen from him. “My name is Ben Affleck.”
It was love at first sight.
Having grown up together, Will and Ben now spend most of their time cruising the mean streets of Boston - drinking copious amounts of beer and fighting with local louts. One such fracas leads to Will getting a bit carried away and nutting a police officer. Assaulting a member of the police department is a very serious offence and Will is looking at major time in the slammer.
It is at this point that the professor steps in to lend a helping hand. Gerald is highly intrigued by Will’s intelligence and negotiates a deal with the judge. Will os to be freed from jail on the condition that he attends special mathlete sessions with the professor and meets with a psychiatrist once a week.
Will is fine with the maths - in fact he quite enjoys doing sums - but he is offended by the very notion that his sanity is in question. He is also intensely private and is dubious at the idea of confessing the most personal and intimate details of his life to some stranger. Every shrink that Gerald calls upon seems to throw in the towel after one session and it is beginning to become a bit of a problem for the professor. When Dr Melfi emerges from the office, pulling her hair out and screaming, it is the last straw for Gerald. He knows there’s only one thing to do… IT’S TIME TO BRING IN THE BIG GUNS!
As he arrives at his next therapy session, Will is surprised to be presented with a beardy weirdo who yells at the top of his voice, "GOOOOOOD MOOOOOOOOOOOOORNING WILL HUNTING!"
Taken aback by this overtly enthusiastic greeting, Will needs a moment to recover his faculties before realising that a man named Sean Maguire (Robin ‘Mork and Mindy’ Williams) is introducing himself. Before Will can get a word in edgeways, Maguire goes off on one tellling some anecdote about how he looks 50 but is actually 5 and that he sometimes dresses up as a woman when he wants to see his kids. Will’s usual technique of manipulating his psychiatrist has gone out the window and he realises that Maguire isn’t your easily offended closet homosexual - this shrink is nutcase!
Surprisingly, Maguire’s constant impressions and stories about real life begin to interest Will and the pair take a shine to each other. Will has finally found a father figure and he begins sharing secrets that he has only ever told to Ben Affleck. Things are also looking up in Will’s personal life as he finds himself attracting the attention of a sexy English siren named Skylar (Minnie Driver). Impressed by his ability to outwit the mentally retarded Cyril O’Reilly from Oz, Skylar gives Will her number and they end up bumping uglies on a regular basis.
Gerald is happy that Will’s personal life and genius are simultaneously flourishing and he takes the opportunity to ask his best student what the secret is behind his mad maths skillz. In a moment of weakness, Will reveals that during his long stint in borstal he had a mentor who taught him everything there is to know about adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing and adding again: "His name was… El Nombre."
This is the moment that Gerald has been waiting for, and without a moment’s hesitation he rushes from his office mumbling something along the lines of, "My old Nemesis!"
Without Gerald’s support, Will’s life starts falling apart. The professor had set Will up with a load of job interviews but didn’t leave the addresses. On top of that Skylar tells Will that she is moving to California to try and make it big with her band, The Lords of The Underworld, and she expects Will to follow her dream. When Will refuses she leaves him, but not before telling him that John Cusack was a much better lay.
A broken man, Will goes to see Sean who simply tells him "it’s not your fault" about ten times in various comedic accents. This seems to do the trick and they have a bit of a cry and a hug. Though a suitably touching moment, it doesn’t alter the fact that Will’s future still hangs in the balance.
Will Gerald return from his hunt in time for Will’s big job interviews? Will Will have the will to change his mind and catch up with Skylar in California? And who is this mysterious El Nombre character who has been writing numbers in the desert sand? One thing’s for sure: no-one cares about what happens to Ben Affleck.
Good Will Hunting currently holds onto the 193rd spot in IMDB’s top 250 with an average score of 8.0 of 10. I couldn’t be bothered trying to find it in Empire’s 500 greatest films but I’m sure it probably features somewhere. Anyway I think it’s ace and award it a 9.
The best thing about this film by an absolute country mile is Robin Williams. I’m generally a bit iffy with him because, though he is amazing as The Genie, his films are often layered with sickening levels of sentimentality. Given that fact, he is perfectly cast as an alcoholic widower who wants to help the protagonist experience the real meaning of life: love.
So far, so schmaltz. But the thing is, I really bought it. Williams plays the character with so much conviction and just seems like the most decent and caring guy. The speech by the pond is probably one of the best monologues in cinematic history and it is pretty Goddamn beautiful.
That’s another thing. The script is wordier than a season of The West Wing. Affleck and Damon had really done their research into all these clever topics that I didn’t understand and it even had a big dollop of politics thrown in for good measure. To be honest, at times some of the dialogue went completely over my head.
In terms of acting, Damon excels as the lead and is extremely likeable, even if the character is deep down a bit of a woe-is-me type. The support cast is great as well. Stellan Skarsgård is a beast, and Minnie Driver is sweet, funny and brilliant in all the right measures (although you do think that she would never get with Matt Damon while he’s rocking those Bury curtains).
I was tempted to award a 10 but there was something that seemed very 9ish about the film. When I think about it, the Boston accents are a little dodgy from time to time, but they are hardly Dick Van Dyke major point-deduction-worthy. When trying to explain why I wasn’t sure about giving the film full marks to my flatmate Nat, he offered a possible reason says a lot about his state of mind: "You don’t get to see Minnie Driver’s tits."
Well, that clears my conscience.
Tomorrow: gonna try and get a couple in, the first of which will be Braveheart
P.S. There will be a special prize for the first person to provide me with every single film/television reference included in this review.