Josh Brolin has been doing the interview circuit for what seems like an age since the release of Deadpool 2 earlier this year. And in pretty much every sit down with every reporter and journalist he’s taken part in, he’s been congratulated on his work on that movie and two others, Avengers: Infinity War, and Sicario 2: Soldado. And yes, that’s an impressive trio of movies to have released within a short space of time. Funny then, how no one has mentioned The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter (now showing on Netflix). Now why would that be exactly…?
Here in the UK, we have a cinema chain called Cineworld. They were the first to introduce a monthly subscription – called Unlimited – and the main attraction is that for a set price each month (currently from £17.90), you can see as many movies as you want and as many times as you want. This sounds like a great deal – and it is – but beneath the surface glamour of such an offer, there are a couple of restrictions that don’t seem to add up.
First, if you’re an Unlimited member, you can only make up to three online bookings at any one time. This seems counter-intuitive to what Unlimited is supposed to mean. Say you’re looking at the current listings. It’s a surprisingly good week at the cinema in the UK and there’s a bunch of movies you want to see. Being a major movie buff, you naturally want to see as many as possible, and using the kind of judicious organising that only the truly obsessive would spend time working out, you realise you can see four movies all on the same day (sure, you might end up going from one movie straight into the next with only a few minutes to spare but, hey, that’s all part of the fun). But thanks to the cap Cineworld have placed on online orders, you can only book three of them. To see the remaining movie, you’ll have to visit the cinema on the day and hope that a) the screening you need isn’t sold out, and b) if it isn’t, that you can get the seat that you want.
It doesn’t get any better at the cinema, either. Say you pick your day’s worth of movie watching and decide to just head on down to your local Cineworld, card in hand and with a serious desire to put a dent in their hot dog (or popcorn) and Pepsi Max supplies. You get to the counter and try to get tickets for each movie on your list there and then. Except you can’t. You can’t “buy” tickets in advance at the cinema, you have to “buy” each one before each separate screening. And nobody tells you why. Not even Cineworld on their website. The only way you can book in advance – drum roll, please – is online. And we know where that gets us. Now is that crazy, or is that crazy?
Membership or no membership, this is pretty poor in terms of customer service. And by extolling the virtues of a subscription deal that says as many movies as you want and as many times as you want, it seems that at the same time, Cineworld are content to put unnecessary obstacles in the way of their members actually getting to see the movies they want to see. And again, that’s just crazy.
With the recent death of Miloš Forman, this past weekend has been made even sadder by the passing of actor R. Lee Ermey, and director Vittorio Taviani.
R. Lee Ermey (24 March 1944 – 15 April 1987)
A character actor whose career blossomed thanks to his portrayal of Gny Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), Ermey was the epitome of the gruff, no-nonsense soldier he so often portrayed. He was also a much in demand voice actor, lending his easily recognisable tones to the likes of Starship Troopers: The Series (1999-2000), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2009-2011), and of course, the Toy Story trilogy. Ermey’s military background made him somewhat typecast, but he did have solid supporting roles in movies such as Fletch Lives (1989), Dead Man Walking (1995), and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). His signature role as Hartman, though – one of the few occasions where Kubrick allowed an actor to improvise his dialogue – will always be remembered for its vitriolic intensity, and some of the most inventive insults ever committed to screen: “Private Pyle, your ass looks like about a hundred and fifty pounds of chewed bubblegum!”
Vittorio Taviani (20 September 1929 – 15 April 1987)
With his brother, Paolo, Vittorio Taviani was repsonsible for some of the most impressive Italian movies of the last fifty years, including Under the Sign of Scorpio (1969), the Palme d’Or prize-winning Padre Padrone (1977), The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982), Good Morning, Babylon (1987), and Caesar Must Die (2012). Also a writer, a producer and an editor like his brother, Taviani favoured a poetic, visually arresting style that is both attractive to watch, and an often powerful backdrop for the stories he and his brother told. He began his career as a journalist, but switched to making movies in the Sixties, a decision that allowed him to express his own personal political beliefs through features such as A Man for Burning (1962) (which the brothers co-directed with Valentino Orsini). Inspired to make movies by a chance viewing of Roberto Rossellini’s Paisà (1946), Taviani and his brother have given us a wonderful selection of movies that explore human truths with honesty and sincerity, and which have held up a mirror to the irrepressible nature of Italian culture.
Kristina Anapau has been an actress since 1997, when she made her screen debut in Escape from Atlantis. Since then she’s appeared on stage, and continued to appear on screen in movies such as Black Swan (2010), and Cornered (2011). Kristina has worked steadily in television as well, bagging guest spots on shows such as CSI: NY and House, and a recurring role on True Blood. She is even more talented, having trained as a classical ballerina as a child, while also being a classically trained pianist. More recently, Kristina has had articles published in a variety of magazines including The Hollywood Film Journal. Her work on the Hawaii-based production, Kuleana (2017), prompted thedullwoodexperiment to interview her about the movie and filming it in the US state where she was born.
How did you come to be involved with Kuleana?
I met the director, Brian Kohne, back in 2011 at The Big Island Film Festival – his first feature won [the] Grand Jury Prize that year. He sent me an earlier version of the Kuleana script about a year later – every time he sent a new draft, I thought the script just couldn’t get any better, but it did. Every time. It was such a beautiful story, I knew I wanted to be a part of it right away.
How did you approach the character of Rose, and were there any particular challenges to playing the role?
I drew a lot from certain elements of myself in creating Rose – Brian and I spoke a lot about her before filming – [and] added layers upon layers. Rose was a pleasure to portray. I think the only challenge were the “fake” cigarettes I had to smoke all day in the scene at the police station. I swear there was something else in those cigarettes!
What was it like working with Brian Kohne?
Brian is so lovely to work with. He has a vision for exactly what he wants to see on screen and puts 200% into everything he does. His creative drive is infectious, and you can’t help but want to join in to help bring that vision to life.
The movie reflects on a turbulent time in Hawaiian history – how much were you aware of before coming on board?
This film was definitely an education for me in that regard! I’m not a Hawaiian history buff to say the least, and wasn’t born until about ten years later, so I learned a lot about the cultural upheaval of that time period during the making of this film.
How important is your Hawaiian heritage to you both personally and professionally?
I actually don’t have any Hawaiian heritage other than having been born there. My parents both came from the mainland U.S. shortly before meeting there in the 70’s – Anapau is my middle name. My real last name is Roper – British heritage on my Dad’s side and Swedish and German on my Mother’s. Although I just sent my 23andMe kit in, so ask me again in 6 weeks! Maybe I’ll discover a surprise in there!
How was it filming on Maui?
It’s always lovely to go home to Hawaii and Maui is an island I had never explored. A beautiful place to film!
What’s the vibe like in Hawaii in terms of the film industry there?
I haven’t actually spent too much time around the Hawaii film industry other than while making Kuleana and attending a few film fests throughout the years, but everyone seems very driven – very creative – I’m really hoping that Brian’s success with Kuleana will open the door for local filmmakers in a big way.
You were an executive producer on Kuleana – do you see yourself supporting other Hawaiian movies in a similar way in the future?
If the right project came along. Absolutely.
You were awarded a special No Ka Ai award at the 2011 Big Island Film Festival – how important was that to you?
It was a wonderful honor – it was such a special event to be a part of.
Away from acting, you’re a writer and a musician, and you trained to be a classical ballerina – do you have any other ambitions within the arts?
Just to write more!
Who has influenced you the most in terms of your career?
Linda P. Brown. In terms of my career. My life. Everything.
And finally, what’s next for Kristina Anapau?
Last year I co-created and produced a kids show with award-winning host and comic John Kerwin. It’s essentially The Tonight Show for kids – we have all the young stars of Disney, Nickelodeon, and everywhere else – kids in the audience – it’s a lot of fun. It has been airing nationwide on DirecTV, but [is] about to launch across a variety of big streaming platforms, so keep an eye out, we will be everywhere. Follow us on insta@johnkerwinkidsshow for all the latest! So, very busy with that – I have a few more projects in development as well. Writing and producing are my main focuses now.
Stèphane Audran (8 November 1932 – 27 March 2018)
The Sixties were a boom time for French actresses, and Stèphane Audran certainly made her mark on international cinema during that period. Success came quickly after she began acting in the mid-Fifties, appearing on stage and in an early short movie by Eric Rohmer. In 1957 she was introduced to the director who would do the most to shape her career, Claude Chabrol (and who she would marry in 1964). Early in her career, she often played the lively, vivacious friend of the female lead, but Chabrol saw another persona that could be used to greater effect: that of a glamourous yet detached sophisticate whose emotions ran deep. It was the role that Audran was seemingly born to play, and during her early collaborations with her future second husband (Jean-Louis Trintignant was her first), it was the kind of part that she returned to time and again, but she was always able to give each portrayal a different spin. By the end of the Sixties, Audran was an established star of French cinema and one of its finest ambassadors around the world.
It was the Seventies that really saw her career take off, with a string of impressive performances that garnered her a clutch of awards, and which cemented her reputation as one of the most intelligent actresses of her generation. Audran had never really had much confidence in her abilities when she started out, but the reception to performances such as the one she gave in Just Before Nightfall gave her the boost she needed. As the decade progressed she consolidated her position as one of France’s best actresses, and began appearing in English language movies, such as The Black Bird (1975) and Silver Bears (1978). Her marriage to Chabrol was beginning to suffer by then, and her portrayal of Isabelle Huppert’s working class mother in Violette Nozière aside (a role she thought she wasn’t right for, but which brought her a César Award for Best Supporting Actress), Audran began to suffer psychosomatic problems. Her career declined for a time, and though she continued working, and still on occasion with Chabrol himself, the Eighties weren’t as successful for her as the Seventies were.
But it was a movie made in 1987 and set in 19th century Denmark that cemented her reputation: Babette’s Feast. Beautifully crafted and with perhaps Audran’s finest performance at its centre, this was the movie that erased any doubts as to her skills as an actress. She continued to work steadily from then on, and even though she never again scaled the heights of the previous decades, she remained a consistently reliable actress whose performances were always carried off with honesty and sincerity. All of which was a far cry from her formative years when she was plagued by illness, and an over-protective mother who disapproved of her decision to become an actress. By her own admission her early roles weren’t very good, and she always attributed her success to Chabrol, but if she was his muse – and they did make twenty-four movies together – then we should all be grateful that he saw what a talented actress she could be, and made sure that we all found out.
1 – Good Time Girls (1960)
2 – Les biches (1968)
3 – The Unfaithful Wife (1969)
4 – Le Boucher (1970)
5 – Just Before Nightfall (1971)
6 – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
7 – Violette Nozière (1978)
8 – Coup de Torchon (1981)
9 – Thieves After Dark (1984)
10 – Babette’s Feast (1987)
Lewis Gilbert (6 March 1920 – 23 February 2018)
With his family’s music hall background (Gilbert first appeared on stage with them aged five), and a handful of movie roles as a child in the Thirties (mostly uncredited), it would have seemed appropriate for Lewis Gilbert to seek a career in front of the camera, but though Alexander Korda offered to send him to RADA, Gilbert elected to study direction instead. The first movie he worked on as an assistant? Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn (1939). Not a bad start, but with the onset of World War II, Gilbert joined the Royal Air Force’s film unit and worked on several wartime documentaries. Further experience came when he was seconded to the First Motion Picture Unit of the US Army Air Forces, where he was allowed to shoot much of the work assigned to American director William Keighley.
After the war, Gilbert continued to make documentaries, but it was in the Fifties that he began to make his mark as a director of features. Working for low-budget outfits such as Nettlefold Films, Gilbert honed his craft, and made a number of well received movies that brought him greater attention and the chance to work on a succession of true stories from the recent war. For a while, Gilbert was the go-to director for these kinds of movies, and between 1953 and 1962 he made half a dozen war-related movies, all of which increased his standing within the movie community, and allowed him to make a range of other movies during the same period that highlighted his versatility. But it was Alfie (1966) that really put him on the map, earning him his sole Academy Award nomination, and proving once and for all that his strongest suit was in relationship dramas.
Anyone following his career up until this point, would have been surprised when his next movie proved to be the fifth Bond movie, You Only Live Twice (1967). But Gilbert proved himself to be at home amidst all the over-sized sets and the absurdity of a Bond movie, and returned twice more to make The Spy Who Loved Me (1977 – terrific) and Moonraker (1979 – uh-oh). In between his first and second Bonds, Gilbert made a number of movies that didn’t fare so well with critics or audiences, and with some, like The Adventurers (1970), Gilbert would later claim that they shouldn’t have been made. But after his Roger Moore one-two at the end of the Seventies, the Eighties saw Gilbert make two bona fide British classics in Educating Rita (1983) and Shirley Valentine (1989). He made his last movie, the enjoyable but slight Before You Go in 2002, but at eighty-two, retirement wasn’t exactly a surprise.
If he had one regret, it was always that he was unable to direct Oliver! (1968), a movie he had developed with its composer, Lionel Bart, but which he was unable to make due to contractual obligations. Gilbert was a director who, Bond movies aside, always looked to the characters first, and it was this focus that allowed him to make so many wonderful movies over more than fifty years. He was honest about his work, and some of his collaborators, but always tried to do the best he could do with the material provided. He wasn’t an auteur in the accepted sense, but his ability to draw out excellent performances from his casts, and to move easily between comedy and drama – often in the same scene in a movie – was a constant throughout his career. And he was a realist. Of Alfie, he had this to say: “Paramount backed Alfie because it was going to be made for $500,000, normally the sort of money spent on executives’ cigar bills.”
1 – Time, Gentlemen, Please! (1952)
2 – Reach for the Sky (1956)
3 – The Admirable Crichton (1957)
4 – Carve Her Name With Pride (1958)
5 – Sink the Bismarck! (1960)
6 – Alfie (1966)
7 – You Only Live Twice (1967)
8 – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
9 – Educating Rita (1983)
10 – Shirley Valentine (1989)
D: Mark Hartley / 106m
With: Sam Firstenberg, Boaz Davidson, Mark Helfrich, John Thompson, Mark Rosenthal, Christopher Pearce, David Engelbach, Pieter Jan Brugge, Lance Hool, Frank Yablans, Rusty Lemorande, Avi Lerner, Stephen Tolkin
There’s a saying that if you remember the Sixties then you weren’t really there. In a similar fashion, if you remember the Eighties but never saw a Cannon movie then you’re not really a movie buff (though in reality you probably did but just didn’t realise it). Cannon, run by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, were the ne plus ultra of awful, low budget movies, often taking the most basic of ideas and using as little money as possible in order to get the finished product out there. Did they worry about the quality of the movies they produced? Most of the time, no. But they did know what they were doing, and between 1979 and 1994, Cannon Films released a succession of movies that played poorly in cinemas, were slammed by critics, but which were perfect for the home video market. Titles such as Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980), The Seven Magnificent Gladiators (1983), and The Naked Cage (1986) were all movies you’d normally cross the street to avoid, but thanks to Cannon’s continuous and unerring ability to make the worst movies possible, their output became the cinematic equivalent of a car wreck: you just had to see how bad they could be.
In Mark Hartley’s latest documentary to explore the wider reaches of low budget movie making – after Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008) and Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010) – the story of the Cannon Group and their feckless approach to movie making is given a thorough deconstruction thanks to the people who were there: the production executives, the screenwriters, the directors, and the stars. The very existence of Cannon Films, and the fact that it survived as long as it did as a producing entity is a testament to the stubbornness of Golan and the financial smarts of Globus. Their business model was simple: sell the distribution rights for one movie and use that money to make another. Occasionally they worked with some very well-known stars (Richard Chamberlain, Charles Bronson, even Katharine Hepburn), and gave some directors the chance to make movies they couldn’t make elsewhere (John Cassavetes, Jean-Luc Godard, Franco Zeffirelli). They were as much an enigma to themselves perhaps as they were to everyone else. For Golan and Globus it was all about being successful, and being seen to be successful. The movies? In the end, merely the tools to achieve that success.
Electric Boogaloo presents a fair and balanced overview of the life of Cannon, and the wider impact such a company had on Hollywood during the Eighties when their movies were being distributed by MGM. It also allows those who were involved with Cannon to air their views and opinions in a way that appears consistently derogatory (there are only so many ways you can say a Cannon movie is bad), but which also as the documentary progresses, reveals a common fondness for the so-called Go-Go Boys and the movies they made. There are plenty of humorous anecdotes to be had, and some stories would be hard to believe if they were about another studio or production company, but with Golan and Globus often unsure themselves as to what constituted a Cannon movie – they were both unaware that Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) was intended as a comedy – the stark reality of just how little they knew about what they were doing comes across as plainly as the awful special effects in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) (they wanted to match the quality of the first three movies, but on a fraction of the budget needed). Like many of the interviewees, you’ll be shaking your head at some of the revelations, and at the same time telling yourself, “it could only be them.”
Rating: 8/10 – plenty of clips and archival footage as well as a plethora of talking heads means Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films covers a lot of bases and does so with a great deal of affection and an earned respect; Golan and Globus may have given us some of the worst movies ever made, but there were times when their luck and their movie making acumen paid off in spades, though you have to admit that after ruining Superman on the big screen, thank [insert preferred deity here] they never got the chance to ruin Spider-Man as well.
Terence Marsh (14 November 1931 – 9 January 2018)
It’s easy to forget when watching a movie that what you’re actually looking at, the physical environment that the cast is working within, has either been designed or adapted to look how it does by the production designer, or art director as they’re otherwise known. A production designer works closely with a movie’s director to ensure that the visual look and style of a movie suits the material and communicates, where necessary, a mood or tone. It’s a challenging job, and Terence Marsh was one of the best in his particular corner of the movie industry.
Marsh began his career as a draughtsman at Pinewood Studios, where he worked uncredited on a number of movies including A Town Like Alice (1956) and The League of Gentlemen (1960). In the early Sixties he began to work as an assistant art director, and he gained his first on-screen credit for Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Three years later he had become a fully-fledged art director and won the first of two Academy Awards for his work on Doctor Zhivago (1965) (Marsh must have really impressed David Lean with his work). His second Academy Award came three years later with Oliver! (1968). For this, he oversaw the building of a London street that was carried out by around three hundred and fifty men and which included the laying of around ten thousand cobblestone slabs.
Marsh worked continuously from the Sixties onwards, and in a variety of genres, bringing his attention to detail and visual acuity to a number of movies that were improved just by his work on them. During his career he collaborated with the likes of Richard Attenborough, Sydney Pollack, Frank Darabont, Carol Reed, Gene Wilder, John McTiernan, Paul Verhoeven and Mel Brooks, and always did his best to match his vision of a movie to theirs. He remained at the top of his game even in the Nineties, whether it was through riding out in a Trident-class nuclear submarine for The Hunt for Red October (1990), or designing “Old Sparky” the electric chair for The Green Mile (1999). For his expertise and his apparently infallible skill in picking the right environment to suit the tone or the mood of a movie, or even just an individual scene, Marsh will be sorely missed.
1 – Doctor Zhivago (1965)
2 – Oliver! (1968)
3 – Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
4 – A Touch of Class (1973)
5 – The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)
6 – To Be or Not to Be (1983)
7 – The Hunt for Red October (1990)
8 – Basic Instinct (1992)
9 – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
10 – The Green Mile (1999)
Back on 12 December, I wrote a post that talked about my lack of enthusiasm for new movies. The post made it sound like I didn’t care for all new movies, when in fact I was voicing my dislike for the constant diet of mainstream, Hollywood produced movies we’re fed each year, and their repetitive nature. In recent weeks I’ve watched and reviewed the likes of Daddy’s Home Two and Flatliners, movies that reinforce the notion that their makers didn’t really care what they were doing, or even how their movies would be received as long as they made enough money at the box office. Call me cynical, but as I’ve said before on thedullwoodexperiment, the people that make these movies are all highly regarded and all highly talented, but they make the same mediocre/rubbish/moronic (I’m talking about you, Baywatch) movies over and over. And we all rush to see them. Now I’m not saying that movies should be boycotted per se, but if certain movies didn’t do well at the box office then perhaps the studios would take the hint and start making better movies (unlikely, I know, but hey, I have enough optimism for ten people some times).
Anyhoo, what this all means for thedullwoodexperiment is that from 1 January 2018, this blog will no longer provide full-length reviews of the majority of mainstream movies, those tentpole movies that seem able to disappoint us year after year, and which are still likely to do so in the next twelve months. I’ll still be watching them – I’m still a movie addict when all’s said and done – but any reviews will be relegated to each month’s Monthly Roundup. Part of my “issue” with these movies is that they are the ones that everybody will be talking about, and everyone will be posting reviews on them, and the big, unwieldy machine that keeps churning them out will continue to be fed no matter what my opinion is. And I’ve strayed a little from my original intention in setting up this blog, which was to bring non-mainstream movies to people’s attention. I do still do that, but not as often as I should be.
So, what does this mean for thedullwoodexperiment going forward? In terms of the reviews, not a lot. They’ll continue in the same format, but there will be more reviews of foreign movies, and older movies, and there’ll be a British Classics series. For One Week Only will return in the guise of weeks that focus on a particular genre, or star, or director, and in February Poster of the Week will take up permanent residence on a Tuesday. Following on from Mandrake the Magician (1939), there will be a new serial beginning in March, more Brief Words about various subjects as they crop up throughout the year, and more Catch Up movies too. There’s a lot more to come, but you’ll have to wait until later in the year to find out just what “a lot more” amounts to. Hopefully, those of you who are regular followers, or even those of you who just dip in and out of the site as it suits you, will enjoy the changes coming up, and continue on this incredible journey with me. With so many movies out there, it seems to me that broadening our horizons isn’t such a bad thing at all. So here’s to 2018, and discovering more wonderful movies together.
thedullwoodexperiment reached its fourth birthday on 30 October 2017, something that seemed unlikely when I first started this blog, as I couldn’t see myself generating enough content – and on a consistent basis – to keep this blog going. But I did, and I have, and I’m very, very proud of what I’ve achieved. I’ve tried some things that have worked (the reviews, 10 Reasons to Remember…), and I’ve tried some things that haven’t (For One Week Only, Happy Birthday). In recent months I’ve been restless and my focus has wavered a little, and although I’ve continued to write reviews and throw in some different posts from time to time, there have definitely been times when I’ve had to push myself in order to put together a post and get it published. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to work out what was bothering me: was it the movies I was watching, was it the style of the reviews, was it the format of the blog itself, or was it something entirely different that was waiting to jump out at me like the spectral hand in Poltergeist (1982)? I just didn’t know.
But then a strange thing happened yesterday while I was writing Trailers – Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018). I realised what was bothering me, and it was as obvious as the nose on Steve Martin’s face in Roxanne (1987): I just don’t want to focus so much on new movies anymore. As each year has passed since I started this blog I’ve become less and less excited by the majority of movies that seem to be churned out each year, and increasingly, I’ve wanted to ignore them as much as possible and not feed into the “system” that promotes them. Yesterday’s post – even though I was trying to voice my doubts about both movies – was just one more piece of free advertising for Disney/Marvel and Universal. And obviously, it doesn’t matter what I say about these movies, we’re all going to go and see them anyway (even me). So, what is a movie blogger to do when faced with the conundrum of what to do instead?
Honestly? I don’t know – just yet. But there are a few ideas buzzing around inside my head, some I think might work, others that definitely won’t. Working out which ones will be worth taking forward is what I plan to do over the next couple of weeks. Until then, the reviews will continue pretty much as before, with the odd post that’s different here and there, and at the very end of the month the much delayed 50 Movies to Look Forward to in 2018, Parts 1 and 2. I hope that the very good people who follow me or just dip in and out every now and again will bear with me while I make what I feel will be necessary changes to thedullwoodexperiment, and that they’ll continue to find posts that they like and enjoy, or even disagree with. Here’s to the future, or if you prefer, Star Trek’s Undiscovered Country. I can’t wait to see what’s out there.
Each year in October, the London Film Festival takes place, and each year I endeavour to see as many movies as I can within – usually – a five day period. And with each passing year it proves more and more difficult to decide what to see. Quite simply, there’s too much choice, so much so that it’s impossible to see every movie that is shown. This year, however, and thanks to a new job, my visit to the Festival has been reduced to the final two days, the 14th and 15th. Here is my itinerary for the next two days:
Saturday 14 October:
The Florida Project (2017) – Sean Baker’s follow up to Tangerine (2015) about a family living in the shadow of Disney World and struggling to make ends meet.
The Prince of Adventurers (1927) – a French production charting the life of Casanova with the Italian lover played by Russian émigré Ivan Mosjoukine.
The Cured (2017) – an Irish horror movie where a zombie outbreak has seen a cure found, but distrust of the once infected leads to social injustice and eventual martial interference.
Wrath of Silence (2017) – more international intrigue in this Chinese movie set in a small town where corruption is rife and a mute miner takes a violent stand against it.
Sunday 15 October:
You Were Never Really Here (2017) – Lynne Ramsay’s latest is a taut psychological thriller that promises a terrific performance from Joaquin Phoenix.
Thelma (2017) – a Norwegian thriller that’s also a mystery and a romantic drama, and the latest mainstream art movie from Joachim Trier.
The Endless (2017) – this is a dark, cult-like movie about a cult and two ex-members who begin to wonder/suspect that maybe there’s more to the cult’s beliefs than they ever considered.
The Summit (2017) – an Argentinian political thriller that places that country’s (fictional) President in a personal bind that could have far-reaching effects on his personal and professional lives.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing all of these movies – and reviewing them over the coming week. Being at the Festival and seeing a range of movies that are unlikely to be released in UK cinemas (and sometimes no matter how well received they are) is a massive bonus each year, and the BFI always manages to pull together an impressive programme of movies for everyone to enjoy. Away from the special gala showings and red carpet screenings, it’s often the less well known movies that have the most to offer, and not one of the movies that I’m planning to see lacks the ability to stand out from the crowd. I just can’t wait to get started!
Harry Dean Stanton (14 July 1926 – 15 September 2017)
For a long time he was just plain old Dean Stanton, appearing here and there in supporting roles in a gamut of movies and TV shows from 1954 (where for once he was Harry Stanton) through to 1971. During that time he was an Hysterical Patient in Psychiatric Ward in Voice in the Mirror (1958), Poetry-reciting Beatnik in The Man from the Diner’s Club (1963), and even Blind Dick in Ride in the Whirlwind (1966). He was the character actor who popped up seemingly everywhere, appeared in a few scenes, got himself noticed in an “oh it’s him” kind of way, and then vanished again only to repeat the same scenario in his next movie or TV episode. In the Fifties and Sixties there were lots of actors like Stanton making minor impressions on audiences, but Stanton stuck to it, and even if audiences weren’t always aware of who he was (aside from in an “oh it’s him” kind of way), the industry certainly did.
Stanton was a versatile actor whose career never really took off in the way that some of his contemporaries’ – such as Jack Nicholson – did. He never seemed to mind though and often took roles just because he liked them (he was a great advocate of the saying, there are no small parts, only small actors). But his career did take a huge leap forward in 1984 when he made two movies that sealed his fame as an actor forever. Alex Cox tapped him for the role of Bud in Repo Man, and Sam Shepard wrote the part of Travis Henderson for him in Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. The role of Travis, a lost soul trying to reunite with his family after having vanished years before, required Stanton to be still and silent for long stretches of the movie, but he used his weather-worn features and skill and experience to ensure the character retained a whole host of recognisable emotions and feelings. It was a performance that perfectly encapsulated his abilities as an actor, and should have allowed him to take on more leading roles, but again, he was happy with his choices, and his career continued to keep him busy.
Away from acting, Stanton was also an accomplished musician, appearing internationally as part of The Harry Dean Stanton Band, and garnering rave reviews for the band’s unique spin on mariachi music. He’s also one of the few actors to have an annual movie festival created to honour him; The Harry Dean Stanton Fest has been running since 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky (this year’s event runs 28-30 September). But perhaps the highest praise Stanton ever received was from critic Roger Ebert. Ebert stated that “no movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad.” And aside from Dream a Little Dream (1989), he was absolutely right.
1 – Straight Time (1978)
2 – Wise Blood (1979)
3 – Alien (1979)
4 – Escape from New York (1981)
5 – Repo Man (1984)
6 – Paris, Texas (1984)
7 – Wild at Heart (1990)
8 – The Mighty (1998)
9 – Sonny (2002)
10 – INLAND EMPIRE (2006)
Each year, we the movie-loving public look forward to seeing the latest blockbusters and focusing on what’s ahead in the coming year. We analyse trailers to the nth degree, guessing this and surmising that. Millions upon millions of words are used in an effort to promote, discuss and anticipate the latest high-profile releases, and come the end of the year, we do the same for those movies everyone feels will be awards contenders. But each year, there are other releases that are also worthy of our attention, movies that have already withstood the kind of extreme navel-gazing that the Internet thrives on. These are the re-releases, older movies that are maybe celebrating an anniversary, or have undergone a restoration. Whatever the reason, these re-releases are a chance for some audiences to revisit a movie on the big screen, or for others to see them on the big screen for the very first time. And either way, it’s definitely a good thing.
Here in the UK, we average around thirty to forty re-releases each year (most of which are sponsored and promoted by the British Film Institute). So far this year, we’ve been lucky enough to be able to see the following movies:
Trainspotting (1997), GoodFellas (1990), Ghost in the Shell (1995), Taxi Driver (1976), Multiple Maniacs (1971), Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), Mulholland Dr. (2001), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Manhattan (1979), La Strada (1954), The Graduate (1967), Victim (1961), Howards End (1992), Le doulos (1962), and Titanic (1997).
And we still have these great movies to look forward to:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) (in 3D), Belle de Jour (1967), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Young Frankenstein (1974), Blood Simple (1984), Hellraiser (1987), Sorcerer (1977), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Predator (1987), and The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992).
So, spare a thought for the sometimes unheralded and humble re-release, a movie that no one has to quibble about, and a movie that has earned its reputation already. Let’s keep them coming!
Another month, another batch of movies, and all ticked off my movie bucket list. I aimed for thirty-one and achieved twenty-nine, and found time for a bunch of others. As the Queen song asks, Was It All Worth It. And the answer is… yes, but with reservations. Catching up on movies that you’ve put off watching – sometimes for years – is all very well in terms of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, but when the majority prove that not watching them in the first place was a good decision, then maybe it’s not as good an idea as it seems. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the experience, and I now have a few more favourites going forward that I didn’t have before – step forward Enough Said, Porco Rosso, and Murder on a Sunday Morning – but the urge to get back to more recent movies has grown almost overwhelming.
That said, I did go to the cinema quite regularly in July and saw most of the new releases (reviews to follow), but as usual some were bad, some were okay, and some were good/very good. But it’s still the less multiplex-friendly movies that attract my attention, and I can’t wait to get back to watching movies that may not be seen by the majority of people, but which can often offer greater rewards than you might think. And every now and then I’ll still sneak in an older movie (maybe even a few bucket list movies) into the mix. With so many movies out there, why restrict ourselves to ones released just in the last twelve months?
George A. Romero (4 February 1940 – 16 July 2017)
Although best known for his series of zombie movies, George A. Romero’s desire to make movies came about when he saw The Red Shoes (1948), a movie so far removed from the genre that made him famous that it’s intriguing to wonder just where his career would have taken him if he’d followed in the footsteps of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and not fallen in with the low budget horror arena where he spent pretty much all his career. He was also a huge fan of The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), a movie he would rent on 16mm from the very same rental company that Martin Scorsese used.
But a career creating those kind of artistic endeavours wasn’t to be. Romero started out by making TV commercials and industrial training movies in and around his home town of Pittsburgh. In 1968, he and some friends all contributed $10,000 so he could make his first feature. The result was an unqualified success, and Night of the Living Dead became a movie that would influence an entire sub-genre of horror. From then on Romero was pigeon-holed as a horror director, and though he made a number of movies that didn’t involve zombies or extreme gore effects (usually courtesy of Tom Savini), Romero was always grateful that his first feature allowed him to have a movie making career.
Romero would return to zombies five more times in his career, and though the law of diminishing returns had set in by number five, Diary of the Dead (2007), there was still enough of Romero’s patented social commentary to make the last three in the series interesting to watch at the very least. But Romero’s work away from marauding members of the undead, often provided examples of the best that he could do. Martin (1978) is a creepy, unsettling modern vampire tale, with a great performance from John Amplas, and Knightriders (1981) is a counter-culture movie that features probably Romero’s best assembled cast, and a knowing, mordaunt sense of humour. He was capable of so much more but spent too much time developing projects that inevitably never got off the ground, such as a TV version of Stephen King’s The Stand, or movies such as Resident Evil (2002) where he was slated to direct. An affable, knowledgeable, and likeable figure within the industry, Romero will be missed for all the subtexts he put in his movies and for the way he made zombies “cool”.
1 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)
2 – Season of the Witch (1972)
3 – The Crazies (1973)
4 – Martin (1978)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Knightriders (1981)
7 – Creepshow (1982)
8 – Day of the Dead (1985)
9 – The Dark Half (1993)
10 – Bruiser (2000)
Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to watch all the movies you want to see (worse still, sometimes there aren’t enough days in the week). That means missing or putting off seeing some movies that you really want to see, but you just can’t find the time to watch them. Over time it’s like having a Bucket List of movies to catch up on, and the more time goes by the less eager you are to watch them. And after a bit more time goes by, those movies become the ones you know, in your heart of hearts, you’re probably never going to watch.
Some of these movies might be mainstream blockbusters, movies that have been hyped to the hills and it’s taken an incredible amount of will power to avoid. Some might be awards winners, movies that have attracted huge dollops of critical acclaim, and appear regularly on end of year top 10 lists. Some might be movies that have been on a must-see list at one time or another, but then have slipped off the list when the reviews came out and everybody said those movies were rubbish. And then there are the movies that everyone says you should watch – irrespective of how good they are – but which you put aside for exactly that same reason.
Like everyone else, I have such a Bucket List, and I add to it each and every year. Some of the movies I didn’t see in 2016: Warcraft: The Beginning, The BFG, War Dogs, The Neon Demon, and Paterson. Will I watch them eventually? I hope so, but I make no promises either. All of which leads me to July 2017, a month that will see me make a concerted effort to scratch thirty-one movies off my self-imposed Bucket List. Do I know which movies will be removed from the list? Uh-uh, not even in the slightest. Will it be fun to find out? Absolutely. Will they all prove to have been worth the wait? Now there’s a question…
Michael Nyqvist (8 November 1960 – 27 June 2017)
Although he was born in Sweden, Michael Nyqvist’s interest in acting began when he was a teenager living as an exchange student in Omaha, Nebraska. He made several stage appearances while he was a senior in high school, but on his return to Sweden he was accepted into ballet school; he gave it up though after a year. When he was twenty-four he was accepted into the Malmö Theatre Academy, and his career as an actor began in earnest. But for a long while he appeared solely on the stage before he made his first appearance on screen in a TV movie called Kamraterna (1982) (as The Model). However, it wasn’t until the mid-Nineties that Nyqvist began to get regular work as an on-screen actor, and it wasn’t until he appeared in Lukas Moodysson’s Together (2000) that he really made an impression on audiences and critics.
From then on, Nyqvist made a number of Swedish movies that traded on his ability to portray fierce yet vulnerable male characters, and with a great deal of sincerity and intelligence. But it was his role as the journalist Mikael Blomkvist in the Millennium Trilogy – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009), The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009), and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2009) – that brought him to the attention of international audiences, and in particular, Hollywood’s casting agents. Two years later and he was making his English language debut in the sadly less than enthralling Abduction (2011). From there he combined working in Hollywood with working in Sweden, and maintained an integrity in his work that guaranteed good performances, even if the material he was working with wasn’t quite up to the standard required. Regarded unfairly perhaps as a “serious” actor, Nyqvist was always able to find the light and shade in most of the characters he played, and he was always a magnetic presence when on screen. In short, he was one of that select band of actors who always improved a movie they appeared in, and you could count on him to deliver a thoughtful, considered performance whatever the genre. For that, he will be sorely missed, and even more so for dying at such a relatively young age.
1 – Together (2000)
2 – The Guy in the Grave Next Door (2002)
3 – As It Is in Heaven (2004)
4 – Suddenly (2006)
5 – The Black Pimpernel (2007)
6 – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
7 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
8 – My So-Called Father (2014)
9 – John Wick (2014)
10 – The Colony (2015)
Okay, it’s well and truly here, the 2017 Blockbuster Season, the time when the big studios release their tentpole summer movies in the hopes of bagging massive box office returns, and if they’re lucky, some long overdue critical approval. The movies that have been given the biggest push through trailers and promotional tie-ins and targeted social media outlets. The movies with the biggest budgets and the biggest stars. And the movies that roundly and soundly let us down. Each. And. Every. Year.
If you begin with Logan (released back in March), and if you treat it as a blockbuster, then the following movies all fall into the same category: big movies given big releases after big advertising spends have been pretty much exhausted. And those movies are: Kong: Skull Island, Beauty and the Beast, Power Rangers, Ghost in the Shell, The Fate of the Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Alien: Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Baywatch, Wonder Woman, and The Mummy. Not one of these movies is an original. They’re either a reboot, a remake or a sequel. Most of them have made a shed load of money already, and two of them have made over $1 billion. But can anyone say, hand on heart, that any of these movies have been so good that the anticipation built up by the studios was entirely justified? I don’t think so. To put it bluntly, none of them were that good.
So, still to come we have: Transformers: The Last Knight, Despicable Me 3, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, Cars 3, Dunkirk, The Dark Tower, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. More heavy doses of fantasy and action, and another round of movies that we’ll all hope will be better than we think they’ll be. But how is it that we always fall for this “false advertising”? How is it that we always fall for the same build-ups and the same claims that Movie X will be amazing/fantastic/mind-blowing/the best thing sliced bread? Are we that numb to the continual failings of the big studios to provide audiences with movies that they can actually engage with on an emotional and intellectual level? And can we not just say No to over-hyped movies and their dire content? The people that make these movies are all highly regarded and all highly talented, but they make the same mediocre/rubbish/moronic (I’m talking about you, Baywatch) movies over and over. And we all rush to see them (and before you say, “yes, and so do you”, my excuse is that I’ll watch anything – I’m a movie addict).
This is a concern that I’ve raised before on thedullwoodexperiment, and I have no doubt that I’ll be raising it again in the future (probably next year). But before I do, think about it like this: the big studios tell us that their summer blockbuster movies help subsidise the smaller, more intimate movies that they also make. But even with that, aren’t we entitled to spend our money on seeing a tentpole movie that really does move us – and not to ennui?
Roger Moore (14 October 1927 – 23 May 2017)
Looking back over Roger Moore’s career, it’s tempting to wonder just how it would have continued if the role of a certain British spy hadn’t come along in 1972. Up until then, Moore’s movie career had been occasional and not very successful, with early try-outs with MGM and Warner Bros. doing little to further his career. As he said himself, “At MGM, RGM (Roger George Moore) was NBG (no bloody good).” In the early Sixties he made a couple of movies in Italy, but by then he’d already made important in-roads in the format that would stand him in good stead throughout the rest of the decade. Television gave Moore true recognition with featured roles in series such as Ivanhoe (1958-9), The Alaskans (1959-60), and Maverick (1959-61). But it was the role he played between 1962 and 1969, that of Leslie Charteris’s suave, sophisticated anti-hero, Simon Templar, in The Saint, that brought him international attention.
The early Seventies saw Moore team up with Tony Curtis for The Persuaders! (1971-72), and then Cubby Broccoli came calling with the offer to play James Bond. At this point, Moore’s career went into overdrive, and he became a worldwide star. His interpretation of Bond has had its detractors over the years, but there has always been the sense that the producers of the series adapted the role to suit Moore’s abilities rather than the other way round. He remained in the role for twelve years and made seven appearances, and though each entry was successful there was a recognisable falling off of quality, and sometimes, Moore looked tired. In between saving the world, Moore made a number of action movies during the Seventies that cemented his position as an international star and celebrity, and if some of those movies attracted controversy (such as the trio he made in South Africa), Moore stayed clear of all the fuss and bother and he remained popular in the eyes of the public.
Post-Bond, Moore’s movie career never maintained the heights he’d achieved throughout the Seventies and early Eighties, but by then he was in his sixties and it was perhaps inevitable that he would take on less work. The early Nineties saw him appear in a number of less than remarkable comedies, but he also began his tenure as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, work that was rewarded by his receiving a knighthood in 2003. In the last ten years his career had gravitated to voice roles, and he made increasingly fewer public appearances. Moore was a charming man with an awareness of his limitations as an actor, and he was always quick to agree when anyone brought this up. The British satirical show Spitting Image (1988-91) included Moore in their roster of recurring puppets. In it, the writers had Moore respond to a director’s call for “more emotion” by raising an eyebrow. Such was Moore’s lack of ego that he expanded on this, saying that as Bond he’d had three expressions: “right eyebrow raised, left eyebrow raised, and eyebrows crossed when grabbed by Jaws”. Just for his personality and his sense of fun alone he’ll be missed, but as an actor who never really took things too seriously but still managed to entertain millions of moviegoers, he’ll be missed even more.
1 – Gold of the Seven Saints (1961)
2 – The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)
3 – Live and Let Die (1973)
4 – Shout at the Devil (1976)
5 – Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976)
6 – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
7 – The Wild Geese (1978)
8 – The Sea Wolves (1980)
9 – The Cannonball Run (1981)
10 – For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Powers Boothe (1 June 1948 – 14 May 2017)
For the first ten years of his acting career, Powers Boothe was on stage appearing in a range of Shaespearean productions that included Troilus and Cressida to Henry IV, Part II to Richard III. Quite a difference in terms of his background as the youngest of three boys growing up on a ranch in Texas (he was also the first person in his family to go to university). Those early years helped Boothe hone his acting skills, and though he began his movie career with a bit part in The Goodbye Girl (1977), it was only three short years before he was impressing television audiences with his performance as the doomed cult leader in Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980). Boothe won an Emmy, and that auspicious portrayal heralded the arrival of a real talent.
During the Eighties Boothe consolidated his success with a variety of movie, television (particularly as Philip Marlowe) and stage roles that reaffirmed his skill as a performer, but as the decade progressed he appeared more and more as both a supporting actor, and as a villain as well. With his stern features, penetrating stare and sonorous voice, Boothe was equally suited to the various law enforcement roles he began playing as he got older, before moving on to senior politician roles such as Alexander Haig in Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995). He was able to inject a sense of gravitas to these roles that often helped tremendously when a movie was lacking in other areas, but a glance through his filmography shows that he didn’t make too many bad choices during his career, and he was able to work with directors of the calibre of John Boorman, Walter Hill and Robert Rodriguez.
From the late Nineties onwards, Boothe gravitated more and more towards television, and appeared in a number of well received shows including Attila the Hun, Deadwood, and 24. In recent years he also appeared in the likes of Nashville and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But whatever the format, Boothe was always an actor worth paying attention to, someone who could take a role and spin something unexpected out of it. And despite the often serious nature of the parts he played – he never did comedy – he could be relied on to appreciate the benefits of his profession: “Hell, I’ve played as many guys who get the girl as I have heavies. I’ve done love scenes with Jessica Lange and Jennifer Lopez, and I won’t kid you, they’re fun”.
1 – Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980)
2 – Southern Comfort (1981)
3 – The Emerald Forest (1985)
4 – Extreme Prejudice (1987)
5 – Into the Homeland (1987)
6 – By Dawn’s Early Light (1990)
7 – Tombstone (1993)
8 – Blue Sky (1994)
9 – U Turn (1997)
10 – Sin City (2005)
10 Best, Carrie (1976), Christine (1983), Frank Darabont, Literary adaptation, Misery, Movies, Novels, Pet Sematary, Rob Reiner, Stand by Me, Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King, The Dead Zone, The Green Mile, The Mist, The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining (1980)
Ah, Stephen King, a writer so prolific it was once said that he could publish his shopping list and someone would turn it into a movie. The years and the adaptations haven’t been excessively kind to the Maine-born writer; even the movies he himself wrote the scripts for have (mostly) turned out to be bad beyond belief. But with (nearly) every novel and short story being transferred to either the big screen or the small screen, inevitably some must be successful. Here are ten movie adaptations of his work that have bucked the trend and proven to be masterful examples of movies where the phrase, Based on a novel by Stephen King, isn’t something to be afraid of.
10 – Christine (1983)
John Carpenter’s adaptation of King’s 1983 novel began shooting just a few days after the book was published, and could have featured Scott Baio and Brooke Shields instead of Keith Gordon and Alexandra Paul – what a version that might have been. Poorly received on release, Christine has gone on to become something of an Eighties cult classic, and is still one of Carpenter’s better constructed movies. With songs such as Bad to the Bone and a well placed Keep A-Knockin’ included in the soundtrack to highlight the horror of a ’58 Plymouth Fury gone very, very bad, King’s ode to Fifties teen culture (despite being updated) still resonates thanks to Gordon’s accomplished performance as Arnie, Christine’s owner, and Carpenter’s professional approach to a job he “needed to do” for his career.
9 – The Dead Zone (1983)
As if one King adaptation by a proven horror movie director in 1983 wasn’t enough, the year also saw David Cronenberg take up the reins of The Dead Zone, a project that had stalled on several occasions before he came on board (Stanley Donen as director? Bill Murray [King’s first choice for Johnny Smith] as the star?). Rejecting a script by King as being “too brutal”, Cronenberg shaped the novel’s parallel story structure into a three-act play, and gave Christopher Walken the chance to shine in one of his most underrated roles to date. The opening and closing acts have their moments, but it’s the middle act, where Smith helps Tom Skerritt’s small-town sheriff track down a serial killer that impresses the most (and which may have put some people off using scissors for some time afterwards).
8 – Pet Sematary (1989)
A novel that King felt was “too disturbing” and which nearly didn’t get published, Pet Sematary should have been directed by George A. Romero, but a scheduling clash with Monkey Shines meant he had to pass on the project. Enter Mary Lambert, and a movie that “defied the critics and opened at blockbuster levels” was created. Retaining much of the novel’s harsh, nihilistic tone, the movie works on a primitive level, and in its increasingly nightmarish way, makes for uncomfortable viewing once Louis Creed’s young son Gage returns from the dead. Another adaptation that has grown in stature since its original release, this is unnerving stuff indeed, and much better than most mainstream critics of the time were willing to accept.
7 – The Green Mile (1999)
The longest movie adaptation of a King novel – at three hours and nine minutes – The Green Mile was a return to the prison milieu (albeit set in the Thirties) that director Frank Darabont had already visited with delayed success in 1994. An absorbing, intelligent, and often gripping drama with standout performances from one of the best ensemble casts ever assembled for a King adaptation, Darabont’s assured direction from his own screenplay fleshes out the characters, and ensures that what happens to each and every one of them (even Percy) is affecting. It also features one of the most horrific deaths ever seen in cinema history, as Michael Jeter’s mouse-loving Eduard Delacroix meets a grisly end in the electric chair. Its length, and its subject matter, has been known to deter viewers over the years, but this is one occasion where the material warrants it, and thanks to Darabont, the movie is all the better for it.
6 – The Mist (2007)
The third – and to date, final – adaptation by Frank Darabont of a King tale, The Mist was originally meant to be Darabont’s first crack at the author’s work, but another project came first. Ostensibly a creature feature, the movie is much more than that, and shows just how quickly humans can become monsters themselves given the right circumstances. A bleak, unremitting experience for the viewer unfamiliar with the source material, The Mist closes with one of the most unexpected, most harrowing, and most emotionally devastating final scenes in horror history. It’s like a punch to the gut, and although different to the ending of King’s novella, fits in with the tone and feel of the movie perfectly. Darabont prefers the black and white version, and he’s right to: the absence of colour makes The Mist even more disturbing to watch – and that’s saying something.
5 – Stand by Me (1986)
Based on the novella, The Body (1982), Stand by Me was a last-minute change of title for a movie adaptation that was originally meant to be directed by Adrian Lyne. Despite its good standing now, the movie wasn’t too well received on its release, but whatever your feelings about the story of four young friends who go off to see a dead body somewhere in the woods near their home, it’s their casting that makes it so special. Watching the movie and their performances, you can believe that Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, and Corey Feldman really are good friends, and that how they behave with each other really is as true to life as to make no odds. Eventual director Rob Reiner captures the novella’s poignancy and heartfelt sense of nostalgia with a great deal of sensitivity, and does full justice to one of King’s finer creations, Davie “Lard-Ass” Hogan.
4 – Carrie (1976)
King’s first novel was also the first of his ouevre to be turned into a movie, and as firsts go, Brian De Palma’s brash directorial style was a perfect fit for King’s tale of sexual repression, extreme religious fervour, and terrifying teen angst. Featuring Oscar-nominated performances (rare for a horror movie) from Sissy Spacek (as Carrie) and Piper Laurie (Carrie’s mother), the movie takes its time in setting up the prom sequence that is justifiably famous for its split-screen depiction, and also spends more time letting the audience get to know Carrie than would normally happen in a standard horror movie. A bravura turn from De Palma makes Carrie the kind of heightened horror that rarely succeeds on its own terms, and it features a last-minute jump scare that is the absolute gold standard of jump scares.
3 – Misery (1990)
Stephen King + Rob Reiner + William Goldman + Kathy Bates = the first (and so far only) Oscar-winning King adaptation. King’s claustrophobic novel about a writer trapped in a remote cabin by his “number one fan” (Bates, the Oscar winner), is dominated by the actress’s astute, mesmerising performance. Like all the best King adaptations there’s a standout moment – usually horrific – and this time it’s the infamous “hobbling” scene. Changed from the novel, where the writer has a foot amputated, and made even more uncomfortable for viewers by the knowledge of what’s going to happen, it’s this scene that sticks, rightly, in people’s minds. But Misery is more than just a thriller about obsession taken too far, it’s also about the will to survive, and the corrosive nature of fame and its attendant idolatry.
2 – The Shining (1980)
Back when it was announced that Stanley Kubrick would be directing a movie version of King’s hugely impressive third novel, it seemed like a match made in Heaven. And for many fans of the novel, it is, but King took umbrage with the movie, saying that Kubrick missed the point of what his novel was about. However you look at it, The Shining remains one of the most – if not the most – remarkable King adaptations ever produced. Kubrick’s studied, deliberately paced movie is packed full of memorable moments, from the lady in Room 237, the appearance of the Grady twins, the elevator gushing blood, the revelation of what Jack Torrance has been writing, that soundbite, the inventive use of Steadicam (then still in its relative infancy) as it follows Danny Torrance along seemingly endless hallways, and a final photographic image that challenges everything that’s gone before. King and Kubrick may have been at odds over the nature of evil, and its source, but Kubrick’s vision remains just as disturbing and palpably unnerving as it did when it was first released.
1 – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
If any moviemaker “gets” Stephen King then it’s Frank Darabont. The writer/director is on a winning streak of 3-0 in King adaptations – 4-0 if you count the short movie The Woman in the Room (1983) – and his finest moment (and King’s) is this redolent, beautifully realised ode to friendship and the will to survive (a common theme in King’s work). It seems impossible to believe that Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman weren’t the first choices for Andy and Red, but it’s true. What would The Shawshank Redemption have been like if Tom Cruise had played Andy, Harrison Ford had played Red – and Rob Reiner had directed? With all due respect to Messrs Cruise, Ford and Reiner, it probably wouldn’t be a version that sits at No. 1 on the IMDb Top 250 List (at time of writing). It’s yet another movie adaptation that plays to King’s strengths as a writer, with fully realised characters, an effective emotional undercurrent that makes Andy and Red’s friendship all the more credible, and a number of memorable moments that keep the narrative captivating from its opening story of murder all the way to Red’s arrival on a beautiful beach at the end. A movie that resonates more and more with each and every viewing, it’s the highpoint, the zenith, of King adaptations, and a tribute to Darabont, and Robbins, and Freeman, and everyone else involved in making what is easily the best prison movie ever.
Jonathan Demme (22 February 1944 – 26 April 2017)
Like many of his contemporaries, Jonathan Demme started his movie career working for Roger Corman. He wrote several screenplays, including The Hot Box (1972) and Caged Heat (1974 – which he also directed), and had several modest successes as a director in the mid-Seventies. He learned his craft well, and over the next decade Demme made a succession of well received movies as well as a string of music videos for bands such as Talking Heads and New Order (a group whose songs featured in pretty much all his movies from the Eighties onwards). Demme chose his projects carefully and as a result he wasn’t the most prolific of directors when it came to features, but he was a committed documentarian, making over a dozen during his career.
It was a certain Oscar-winning movie in 1991 that gave Demme his biggest exposure as a director, but though he could have used that success to helm any movie he wanted to, he continued to choose projects that most other directors would have passed on, from intimate documentary portrait Cousin Bobby (1992), to literary adaptation Beloved (1998), to the well intentioned but unsuccessful remake of Charade (1964), The Truth About Charlie (2002) (on the subject of remakes he never thought it was “sacrilegious to remake any movie”; for Demme it was “sacrilegious to make a bad movie”). He kept returning to music documentaries, and ventured into television, ensuring that he continued to have a varied, and sometimes eclectic career.
He was known primarily for his use of close-ups, for finding roles for his “stock company” (actors such as Charles Napier and Dean Stockwell), and for his work having had a profound influence on the writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson. If anything, Demme was a mercurial director who never quite received the acclaim that his body of work deserved, but for anyone who has followed his career since those heady days working for Roger Corman, he was an intelligent, perceptive director whose talent and skill behind the camera meant that whatever project he was working on, it would always be worth watching.
1 – Caged Heat (1974)
2 – Melvin and Howard (1980)
3 – Stop Making Sense (1984)
4 – Something Wild (1986)
5 – Swimming to Cambodia (1987)
6 – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
7 – Philadelphia (1993)
8 – Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006)
9 – Rachel Getting Married (2008)
10 – I’m Carolyn Parker (2011)
1976 wasn’t exactly a great year for the movies, and 1977 seemed content to follow in its footsteps. Aside from the movies listed below (and a certain movie set in a galaxy far, far away), 1977 was a year that disappointed more than it rewarded, and the massive forward strides that had been made in the first half of the decade in terms of storytelling, directing, and acting, were beginning to seem like a distant memory. What all the movies listed below have in common is a director at the helm with a clear vision of what the movie is about, and how that message is best relayed/imparted to the audience. Across a wide range of themes and subject matters, these movies have stood the test of time over the last forty years, and like all truly impressive movies, we’ll still be talking about them in another forty years’ time.
1) Eraserhead – A movie that could qualify as the dictionary definition of bizarre (and which Variety described as “a sickening bad-taste exercise”), Eraserhead is an unsettling, disturbing surrealist masterpiece. Deftly examining contrary notions of sexual disgust and longing, Lynch’s debut feature is visually arresting, but is more notable for its sound design, an aural landscape that permeates the movie and provides an unnerving backdrop for the events occurring on screen. For many, this is the highpoint of Lynch’s career, but if one thing about it is true, it’s that it’s a movie that’s never been replicated; nor is it ever likely to be.
2) That Obscure Object of Desire – Luis Buñuel’s last movie is a romantic drama set against the backdrop of a terrorist insurgency, and is famous for his use of two actresses – Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina – in the same role. It also contains Buñuel’s trademark surrealist humour, explorations of sexual frustration, a healthy dose of cynicism, and one of Fernando Rey’s most enjoyable performances. Regarded as a masterpiece by contemporary critics, That Obscure Object of Desire sees Buñuel having fun, and rewarding his fans with possibly the most relaxed and accessible movie of his entire career.
3) Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Justly famous for its stunning Devil’s Tower-set climax, Steven Spielberg’s ode to (peaceful) alien contact is big on awe and wonder, and forty years on, still retains an emotional wallop. Richard Dreyfus is a great choice for the movie’s everyman central character, and though the movie has been re-edited twice since its original release, it’s arguable that the 1977 version is still the best cut available. With that musical motif still oddly effective after all this time, and Spielberg managing to keep everything grounded, it’s an exciting, hugely entertaining slice of science fiction and a classic of the genre.
4) Annie Hall – It was nearly called Anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure), and could have been known as either It Had to Be Jew or Me and My Goy, but in the end, Woody Allen settled for the much simpler Annie Hall, and an Best Film Oscar winner was born. The movie that first saw Allen move away from making out and out comedies, and address more dramatic issues, it sees Allen’s Alvy “Max” Singer break the fourth wall on various occasions, and make a fashion icon (albeit briefly) out of Diane Keaton. Much like David Lynch and Eraserhead, there are those who feel that Annie Hall is Allen’s best movie… and you know what? It’s difficult to argue with them.
5) Julia – When Fred Zinnemann’s Nazi-era drama first appeared on our screens, its depiction of writer Lillian Hellman’s own pre-War experiences was quickly challenged by critics and those in the know. But though Hellman’s credibility may have been in question, what isn’t is the quality of the movie itself, from its star performances (Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda) to its impressive period settings, and its fascinating storyline (even if it is largely apocryphal). A movie that’s still ripe for discussion, the controversy that surrounds it makes it all the more intriguing to watch, and it sees Zinnemann on fine form, orchestrating the material with his usual aplomb.
6) 3 Women – Robert Altman was a mercurial director, with a tremendous faith in his own abilities, but even he may have been surprised that he got 3 Women made as easily as he did. Based on a dream Altman had and which he intended to make without a formal script, the movie’s psychological examination of the titular characters and the relationships they develop was greenlit on the back of Altman’s previous work. It’s a movie that can be described in many ways: absorbing, meticulous, grandiose, ambitious, funny, and more still, making it a movie that contains a number of wonderful surprises and is as fresh now as it was in 1977.
7) The American Friend – Wim Wenders’ atmospheric neo-noir thriller, adapted from the novel Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith, is at first glance, a movie that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but if you stick with it (or better still, see it a second time) then the cleverness of Wenders’ approach, along with Dennis Hopper’s accomplished performance as Tom Ripley, becomes immediately apparent. A tragic tale that is by turns gripping, stylish, and unapologetic in its nihilism, The American Friend coasts through the seedy underbelly of European criminal life with a dispassionate eye for its crueller details, and Wenders turns famous directors such as Samuel Fuller into on screen gangsters.
8) Opening Night – A movie that suffered at the hands of critics on its release, John Cassavetes’ excoriating look at a self-destructive actress (played convincingly by Gena Rowlands) is difficult, intense, emotionally exhausting, powerful, and an undeniable triumph. A movie that makes its audience think about what’s happening, and which doesn’t provide any easy answers, Opening Night sees Cassavetes at the height of his writing and directing powers.
9) Desperate Living – Welcome to Mortville, home of criminals, nudists and sexual deviants, and the evil Queen Carlotta (who else but Edith Massey?). Just from that sentence alone you’d know it was a John Waters movie, and even though there’s no Divine to increase the level of audacious trashiness (is that a phrase? It is now), this is still a terrific example of how wickedly inventive Waters could be on a tiny budget. And let’s be honest, who else could get the critics from Good Housekeeping to walk out after ten minutes?
10) The Last Wave – Amazingly, The Last Wave was never picked up for distribution in the US back in ’77, an oversight that seems absurd given the movie’s reputation since then. But Peter Weir’s elliptical, thought-provoking clash of cultures and belief systems does feature one of Richard Chamberlain’s finest performances (if not the finest), some startling imagery courtesy of DoP Russell Boyd, and a final image that can be taken either literally or figuratively – something which is left entirely to the viewer.
As the song has it, “And here we are again…” Another distinctly British affair that avoids the razzle-dazzle of Hollywood and settles for more of a kind of comfy armchair approach to awards ceremonies. Hosted once again by Stephen Fry at London’s Royal Albert Hall – and in the presence of royalty no less – the show opened, very strangely, with a routine from the Cirque du Soleil troupe (and complete with a moment where Meryl Streep couldn’t look). As the TV broadcast continued, Fry gave shoutouts to Emma Stone, Ken Loach, Amy Adams, Hugh Grant, Meryl Streep (mugged for a kiss by Fry), Michelle Williams, Casey Affleck, Emily Blunt, and Andrew Garfield, before the awards ceremony got under way properly.
Outstanding British Film
American Honey – Andrea Arnold, Lars Knudsen, Pouya Shahbazian, Jay Van Hoy
Denial – Mick Jackson, Gary Foster, Russ Krasnoff, David Hare
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – David Yates, David Heyman, Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling, Lionel Wigram
I, Daniel Blake – Ken Loach, Rebecca O’Brien, Paul Laverty
Notes on Blindness – Peter Middleton, James Spinney, Mike Brett, Jo-Jo Ellison, Steve Jamison
Under the Shadow – Babak Anvari, Emily Leo, Oliver Roskill, Lucan Toh
No surprise here, though it would have been nice to see American Honey win the award instead. Loach accepted and said it “was extraordinary”, and made a predictable anti-Government speech, and a plea for social equity. Presented by Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.
EE Rising Star Award
Laia Costa, Lucas Hedges, Tom Holland, Ruth Negga, Anya Taylor-Joy
A fairly open field yielded a fairly unsurprising result, but Holland gave a rambling yet sincere acceptance speech. Presented by Viola Davis.
Luke Davies – Lion
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Eric Heisserer – Arrival
Andrew Knight, Robert Schenkkan – Hacksaw Ridge
Theodore Melfi, Allison Schroeder – Hidden Figures
A surprise win for Davies who seemed unprepared as he gave a less than stellar speech. Presented by Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt.
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Hayley Squires – I, Daniel Blake
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
There really couldn’t be any other winner, and it was a win that was endorsed by the audience. Davis gave an impassioned speech about how unsung black lives do matter, and gave thanks to August Wilson and Denzel Washington. Presented by Hugh Grant (who revealed his previous life as an actress).
Finding Dory – Andrew Stanton
Kubo and the Two Strings – Travis Knight
Moana – Ron Clements, John Musker
Zootropolis – Byron Howard, Rich Moore
A great win for Kubo… and Laika Entertainment. Knight quoted several pop culture quotes, thanked his crew and what seemed like everyone else in the world – and called the BAFTA statuette a “cudgel”. Presented by Bryce Dallas Howard and Riz Ahmed.
Special Visual Effects
Arrival – Louis Morin
Doctor Strange – Richard Bluff, Stephane Ceretti, Paul Corbould, Jonathan Fawkner
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them – Tim Burke, Pablo Grillo, Christian Manz, David Watkins
The Jungle Book – Robert Legato, Dan Lemmon, Andrew R. Jones, Adam Valdez
Rogue One – Neil Corbould, Hal Hickel, Mohen Leo, John Knoll, Nigel Sumner
Not the best choice here – Doctor Strange really should have got the win – but at least the winners’ speeches were short and to the point. Presented by Daisy Ridley and Luke Evans.
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
The Girl With All the Gifts – Mike Carey (Writer), Camille Gatin (Producer)
The Hard Stop – George Amponsah (Writer/Director/Producer), Dionne Walker (Writer/Producer)
Notes on Blindness – Peter Middleton (Writer/Director/Producer), James Spinney (Writer/Director/Producer), Jo-Jo Ellison (Producer)
The Pass – John Donnelly (Writer), Ben A. Williams (Director)
Under the Shadow – Babak Anvari (Writer/Director), Emily Leo, Oliver Roskill, Lucan Toh (Producers)
Not an easy one to predict – though Notes on Blindness would have been an equally worthy winner – it’s great to see a low-budget horror movie win such a prestigious award. Presented by Jamie Dornan and Rafe Spall.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
Dev Patel – Lion
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
Another win for Lion came out of the blue, but Patel gave a short speech that was halting and yet sincere. Presented by Felicity Jones.
Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema (The Michael Balcon Award)
Awarded to Curzon, the cinema chain most known for bringing foreign movies to the UK, as well as creating the Artificial Eye DVD catalogue, and launching the Curzon Home Cinema streaming service in 2010. Accepted by Phillip Knatchbull, Curzon’s CEO, he gave a speech that referenced Brexit and the threat to the funding Curzon receives from the EU. Presented by Isabelle Huppert (the most promising newcomer of 1978).
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Paul Laverty – I, Daniel Blake
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water
The only choice and absolutely the right decision. Lonergan looked genuinely shocked by his win, and he thanked his cast in particular for the wonderful work they did. He also related a personal anecdote about his fifteen year old daughter – who’s attended five protest marches since Trump became President! Presented by Thandie Newton.
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nocturnal Animals
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
The only choice and absolutely the right decision (again). Affleck gave a beautifully poignant speech that revealed why he acts, and thanked Kenenth Lonergan for his “sublime script”. Presented by Penélope Cruz.
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Ken Loach – I, Daniel Blake
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
If you were watching the television broadcast, then this was the first time that La La Land won an award, and with Manchester by the Sea having won the previous two awards, it seemed more like a surprise than the odds-on favourite to win that was expected. Presented by Mark Rylance.
Amy Adams – Arrival
Emily Blunt – The Girl on the Train
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
And the late rush for La La Land continued. Stone was gracious in her speech and thanked almost everyone who worked on the movie. And then added a heartfelt coda about the state of the world today and the need for positivity. Presented by Eddie Redmayne.
Arrival – Dan Levine, Shawn Levy, David Linde, Aaron Ryder
I, Daniel Blake – Rebecca O’Brien
La La Land – Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt
Manchester by the Sea – Lauren Beck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Kimberly Steward,
Kevin J. Walsh
Moonlight – Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adele Romanski
The biggest non-surprise of the evening, La La Land‘s win capped off a great night for the movie, and reinforced the idea that a joyous movie can be just as important as some of the more “serious” or “downbeat” movies that generally win at awards ceremonies. Presented by Noomi Rapace and Tom Hiddleston.
The Fellowship Award
Awarded to Mel Brooks. Brooks was as funny as you’d expect, and quite humble in his speech, and told the audience how he felt that England wasn’t a foreign country, but just “a larger Brooklyn where they speak better”. Presented by Prince William, Simon Pegg and Nathan Lane.
The following awards weren’t shown during the broadcast:
Colleen Atwood – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Consolata Boyle – Florence Foster Jenkins
Madeline Fontaine – Jackie
Joanna Johnston – Allied
Mary Zophres – La La Land
Film Not in the English Language
Dheepan – Jacques Audiard, Pascal Caucheteux
Julieta – Pedro Almodóvar, Agustín Almodóvar
Mustang – Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Charles Gillibert
Son of Saul – László Nemes, Gábor Sipos
Toni Erdmann – Maren Ade, Janine Jackowski
Justin Hurwitz – La La Land
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Arrival
Abel Korzeniowski – Nocturnal Animals
Mica Levi – Jackie
Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka – Lion
13th – Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick, Howard Barish
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years – Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Scott Pascucci, Nigel Sinclair
The Eagle Huntress – Otto Bell, Stacey Reiss
Notes on Blindness – Peter Middleton, James Spinney
Weiner – Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Greig Fraser – Lion
Seamus McGarvey – Nocturnal Animals
Giles Nuttgens – Hell or High Water
Linus Sandgren – La La Land
Bradford Young – Arrival
Tom Cross – La La Land
John Gilbert – Hacksaw Ridge
Jennifer Lame – Manchester by the Sea
Joan Sobel – Nocturnal Animals
Joe Walker – Arrival
Doctor Strange – Charles Wood, John Bush
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock
Hail, Caesar! – Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh
La La Land – David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
Nocturnal Animals – Shane Valentino, Meg Everist
Make Up & Hair
Doctor Strange – Jeremy Woodhead
Florence Foster Jenkins – J. Roy Helland, Daniel Phillips
Hacksaw Ridge – Shane Thomas
Nocturnal Animals – Donald Mowat, Yolanda Toussieng
Rogue One – Amanda Knight, Neal Scanlan, Lisa Tomblin
Arrival – Sylvain Bellemare, Claude La Haye, Bernard Gariépy Strobl
Deepwater Horizon – Dror Mohar, Mike Prestwood Smith, Wylie Stateman, Renee Tondelli, David Wyman
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Niv Adiri, Glenn Freemantle, Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Ian Tapp
Hacksaw Ridge – Peter Grace, Robert Mackenzie, Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright
La La Land – Mildred Iatrou Morgan, Ai-Ling Lee, Steve A. Morrow, Andy Nelson
British Short Animation
The Alan Dimension – Jac Clinch, Jonathan Harbottle, Millie Marsh
A Love Story – Khaled Gad, Anushka Kishani Naanayakkara, Elena Ruscombe-King
Tough – Jennifer Zheng
British Short Film
Consumed – Richard John Seymour
Home – Shpat Deda, Afolabi Kuti, Daniel Mulloy, Scott O’Donnell
Mouth of Hell – Bart Gavigan, Samir Mehanovic, Ailie Smith, Michael Wilson
The Party – Farah Abushwesha, Emmet Fleming, Andrea Harkin, Conor MacNeill
Standby – Jack Hannon, Charlotte Regan
IN CONCLUSION: It was La La Land‘s night with five wins, a respectable haul from its eleven nominations, and good results for Manchester by the Sea and Lion (two apiece). Otherwise the awards were spread about evenly amongst the other nominees, but the oddest moment was Son of Saul winning Film Not in the English Language, odd in that the movie was released back in 2015, and it stopped Toni Erdmann from winning (as it should have done). The ceremony grew increasingly predictable as it headed for the finish line, but on the whole the categories and the range of the nominations made it more difficult to determine most of the eventual winners – something that’s unlikely to happen at the Oscars.
Action, Animation, Ariel Schulman, Auli'i Cravalho, Chester Morris, Chris Wedge, Chris Williams, D.J. Caruso, Dave Franco, David Yates, Disney, Don Hall, Donnie Yen, Dwayne Johnson, Eddie Redmayne, Emma Roberts, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, George Sherman, Gerry O'Hara, Guy Hamilton, Heart of a Dog, Henry Joost, Horror, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, Ian McShane, J.K. Rowling, January 2017, John Musker, Laurie Anderson, Lolabelle, Lucas Till, Moana, Monster Trucks, Monthly roundup, Movies, Nerve (2016), Oliver Reed, Rat terrier, Ray Enright, Reviews, Richard Conte, Ron Clements, Sean Patrick O'Reilly, The Party's Over, The Pleasure Girls, The Sixties, The Sleeping City, Tomorrow at Seven, Vin Diesel, xXx: Return of Xander Cage
Nerve (2016) / D: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman / 96m
Cast: Dave Franco, Emma Roberts, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Juliette Lewis, Kimiko Glenn, Marc John Jefferies, Colson Baker, Brian Marc
Rating: 6/10 – an online game of Truth or Dare quickly escalates into something more dangerous than expected when Vee (Roberts) decides to escape her comfort zone and take on the game’s challenges; less than subtle criticisms of the Internet and social media can’t hide the fact that this kind of scenario – teens (mostly) take risks to become “cool” in the eyes of the world – lacks immediacy and a real sense that its characters are in any actual danger, leaving Nerve to flirt with its ideas but never really take them out on a first date.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) / D: David Yates / 133m
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Alison Sudol, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Faith Wood-Blagrove, Jenn Murray, Jon Voight, Ronan Raftery, Josh Cowdery, Ron Perlman, Carmen Ejogo
Rating: 5/10 – in New York in 1926, young wizard, Newt Scamander (Redmayne), arrives with a case full of fantastic beasts (what else?) and finds himself in the midst of an evil plot to boost Warner Bros.’ take at the box office; despite being written by J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts... is littered with characters we never get to know, clumsy demarcations between the wizarding world and that of the Muggles (or No-Maj’s as they’re known here), features another tedious series of destruction-porn episodes, and fosters the overwhelming sense that, despite protestations to the contrary, this is a franchise cash-in and nothing more.
Moana (2016) / D: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams / 107m
Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk
Rating: 6/10 – when a curse threatens the island she lives on, chief’s daughter Moana (Cravalho) goes in search of the one person who can put things right: the cause of the curse, demi-god Maui (Johnson); following on from the delightful (and fresh) Zootopia (2016), it’s shocking to see just how lightweight Moana is in comparison, with little depth to the characters, and a plot so flimsy it’s almost see-through, all of which leaves the movie’s stunning animation as the only thing that makes an impact.
The Party’s Over (1965) / D: Guy Hamilton / 94m
Cast: Oliver Reed, Clifford David, Ann Lynn, Katherine Woodville, Louise Sorel, Mike Pratt, Maurice Browning, Jonathan Burn, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Annette Robertson, Alison Seebohm, Eddie Albert
Rating: 7/10 – an American businessman (David) comes to London to persuade his fiancée (Lynn) to return home and get married, but he finds himself battling against her friends (led by Reed’s anti-Establishment poser), and her sudden disappearance; seen today, The Party’s Over has all the hallmarks of a Sixties curio, but at the time it pushed quite a few boundaries, and fell foul of the British censors, forcing Hamilton to remove his name from the credits – but not before he’d made a fascinating and striking movie that’s only let down by a handful of weak performances and an ending that matches them.
The Sleeping City (1950) / D: George Sherman / 85m
Cast: Richard Conte, Coleen Gray, Richard Taber, John Alexander, Peggy Dow, Alex Nicol
Rating: 6/10 – the murder of a doctor at New York’s Bellevue Hospital prompts the police to place three undercover officers there in an attempt to flush out the killer; beginning with an awkward endorsement of the Bellevue staff by Conte (whose inability to read from cue cards is obvious), The Sleeping City soon settles into its film noir trappings but while it’s diverting enough, it doesn’t know what to do with Conte’s lead detective, or how to make its central plot more interesting than it is.
Heart of a Dog (2015) / D: Laurie Anderson / 75m
With: Laurie Anderson
Rating: 8/10 – a tone poem, an essay, a treatise on the unconditional love a dog has for its owner, and a wider examination of grief and loss allied to the events of 9/11 – this isn’t just about Laurie Anderson’s relationship with her beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle, but about the various ways that love and loss can affect us; at its core, Heart of a Dog is not a documentary, but a collage of distressed film stock, abstract sound and sound effects, Anderson’s performance persona, visual memories, heartfelt imagery and reminiscences, poetic reality, and Anderson’s own unique view of the world and the essential poetic nature of it all, all of which combines to provide the viewer with one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking movies of recent years.
Tomorrow at Seven (1933) / D: Ray Enright / 62m
Cast: Chester Morris, Vivienne Osborne, Frank McHugh, Allen Jenkins, Henry Stephenson, Grant Mitchell, Charles Middleton, Oscar Apfel, Virginia Howell
Rating: 7/10 – the Black Ace is a master criminal/murderer who predicts the time he’ll kill each of his victims, and he never fails, but crime writer Neil Broderick (Morris) is on his trail, and with the help of Black Ace expert, Thornton Drake (Stephenson), is determined to catch him; an old dark house mystery that features light relief (or major annoyance – take your pick) from the double act of McHugh and Jenkins as two of the stupidest cops on the force, Tomorrow at Seven does a good job of playing cat and mouse with the audience, but with so few suspects on display, the identity of the Black Ace is, sadly, all too obvious.
The Pleasure Girls (1965) / D: Gerry O’Hara / 88m
Cast: Ian McShane, Francesca Annis, Mark Eden, Klaus Kinski, Anneke Wills, Tony Tanner, Rosemary Nicols, Suzanna Leigh, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Carol Cleveland
Rating: 6/10 – Sally (Annis) comes to London to be a model, and soon falls in with a like-minded group of young women looking to find their way in the world – and have a lot of fun at the same time, even though it doesn’t always work out like that; though the focus is in on Sally, her friends, and the various relationships they form, The Pleasure Girls makes more of an impact thanks to its male cast, with McShane, Eden and Kinski (very good) all standing out thanks to strong characterisations and having less soap opera-style dialogue than that of the female cast, and O’Hara’s direction appearing to wander whenever two or more of the girls are on screen.
Monster Trucks (2016) / D: Chris Wedge / 105m
Cast: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Barry Pepper, Rob Lowe, Holt McCallany, Amy Ryan, Danny Glover, Frank Whaley
Rating: 7/10 – an oil-drilling operation leads to the release of three “monsters” that live deep underground, but while the oil company captures two of the creatures, the third ends up befriending high school senior, Tripp (Till), who in turn helps it to avoid being captured as well; an innocuous throwback to the kind of fantasy movies made for kids in the Eighties, Monster Trucks is a lot of fun if you let yourself just go with it, and though its message of tolerance and understanding of “foreigners” seems at odds with current notions of US nationalism, it’s still a message we can all stand to hear one more time.
Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) / D: Sean Patrick O’Reilly / 83m
Cast: Kiefer O’Reilly, Sean Patrick O’Reilly, Jane Curtin, Ron Perlman, Christopher Plummer, Alison Wandzura, Tyler Nicol, Doug Bradley
Rating: 5/10 – young Howard Lovecraft (Kiefer O’Reilly) finds himself transported to a strange kingdom of ice which is inhabited by equally strange creatures, and where he finds himself searching for both a way back, and a way to reassure his father (Nicol) (who’s locked up in an asylum) that his ravings about other worlds and said creatures are all true; a curious blend of children’s animation and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom is quite straightforward in its approach, but is let down by poor production values, an animation style that makes it look like a video game from the Nineties, and a script that juggles motivations and dialogue like a one-handed man in a chainsaw-catching competition.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017) / D: D.J. Caruso / 107m
Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Michael Bisping, Samuel L. Jackson
Rating: 4/10 – the world is in peril from yet another technological McGuffin, and it’s up to extreme sports enthusiast/secret agent Xander Cage (Diesel) to save the day; with Diesel unable to get The Last Witch Hunter (2015) off the ground as another franchise earner, it’s no surprise that he’s returned to a character he left behind fifteen years ago, but this is as uninspired and as predictable as you’d expect, and only Yen’s (always) impressive physicality makes any kind of an impact.
Holidays – we all like them, we all enjoy them (usually), and we all wish they could go on just that little bit longer. I went on holiday last Saturday (the 14th), to a lovely cottage near the North Norfolk coast that had a log fire, a pub within five minutes’ walking distance, and long, long, loooonnnnggg stretches of beach around fifteen minutes’ drive away. Perfect – right?
Well, almost. I should have checked before I got there, because when I arrived I discovered there was no Internet coverage at the cottage – no Internet coverage whatsoever. Now, this came as quite a blow, as you might imagine. How was I supposed to survive for a whole week without being able to watch the latest trailers (and discover that the second trailer for Logan tramples over all the good work that went into the first one)? How was I supposed to find out the latest movie news (like the Sundance Film Festival box office being cyber attacked)? And how was I going to find out if Split won the battle at the box office against xXx: Return of Xander Cage (it did)? All these issues and more ran through my head at the realisation that for a week – a whole week – I was going to have to remain in the dark about all these things.
But it wasn’t all bad. There were still movies to watch – lots of movies – and time to write reviews of some of those movies. So later tonight, there will be half a dozen reviews appearing on thedullwoodexperiment that were written over the last seven days, with two more appearing tomorrow. Obviously these should have appeared over the past week, but that wasn’t possible. I actually hate it when I don’t have the time or the opportunity to write a review or another post, and in that sense, this past week has been horrible. Not as horrible as witnessing Donald Trump become President of the United States, thankfully, but horrible enough. So, for me, a late New Year’s resolution will be this: no more holidays where I won’t have access to the Internet.
The career of John Joseph Travolta has had its fair share of ups and downs (though in recent years it’s consisted mostly of downs). Inhabiting the strange netherworld of DtV movies nowadays, Travolta seems to be flitting from one career-killing project to another with no apparent concern for his legacy as an actor (something that could be attributed to a lot of other actors as well – eh, Nicolas Cage?). But overall, Travolta has had a great career, and appeared in several modern classics over the years, and this is reflected in the movies that make up the list below. The most recent movie in the list may be from 2008, but a recent return to form in The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (2016) hopefully will see the tide turn. But if it doesn’t, we’ll still have all these great movies to remember him by.
10 – Broken Arrow (1996) – $150,270,147
John Woo + John Travolta + Christian Slater + more exploding helicopters than you can shake an AK-47 at = a hundred and eight minutes of loud, dumb, spectacular fun. Not the greatest of movies on Travolta’s CV, nevertheless Broken Arrow is hugely enjoyable in a crass, leave-your-brain-at-the-door kind of way, and should best be looked on as a guilty pleasure. It features Travolta hamming it up like crazy (and smoking in the most affected way ever seen on screen), and delivering one of action cinema’s most memorable lines (courtesy of Speed scribe Graham Yost): “Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?”
9 – Phenomenon (1996) – $152,036,382
In the year that also saw Travolta play an angel in Michael, Phenomenon gave us a chance to see him as, possibly, the recipient of a gift from God. Newly imbued with super-intelligence and telekinesis after seeing a bright light in the sky, Travolta’s ordinary Joe becomes an object of fascination, and notions of faith arise too. It’s an uneven movie, but Travolta is good in the central role of George, and if the whole thing falls apart by the end it’s not because of bad intentions, but purely because the script paints itself into a corner it can’t get out of.
8 – Hairspray (2007) – $202,548,575
John Waters + John Travolta in a female body suit + song and dance numbers = one of Travolta’s most enjoyable movies. He may not have been everyone’s first choice for Edna Turnblad, but Travolta gives one of his most relaxed and engaging performances alongside “hubbie” Christopher Walken. A movie bursting with energy and giddy vitality, Hairspray is still as vibrant today as it was ten years ago, and Travolta is a big part of why that’s the case, reminding us that he can still move it and groove it.
7 – Pulp Fiction (1994) – $213,928,762
Quentin Tarantino’s second movie has been pulled part, analysed from the first frame to the last, and generally obsessed over by critics and fans alike ever since its release. It’s simply an incredible breath of fresh cinematic air, and remains a true one of kind over twenty years later. It’s also the movie that brought Travolta back in out of the cold after a career slowdown that had left those same critics and fans wondering if he’d ever get his career back on track after a string of duds that included Two of a Kind (1983) and Chains of Gold (1991). In terms of his performance, it’s arguable that he’s never been better, and his scenes with Uma Thurman are as mesmerising now as they were back then.
6 – Saturday Night Fever (1977) – $237,113,184
The movie that brought Travolta everlasting fame, Saturday Night Fever is a gritty wish-fulfilment tale that’s become overshadowed by its soundtrack, but forty years on it still has a power and a coarse energy that keeps it feeling fresh and not just a time capsule look at an era now long gone. Travolta is so convincing as Tony Manero that you can’t imagine anyone else playing the role, and though it spawned a million and one parodies – the best being in Airplane! (1980) – that white suit and Travolta’s defiant strutting, both on and off the dancefloor, are still as iconic as ever.
5 – Face/Off (1997) – $245,676,146
John Woo given (nearly) free rein + John Travolta + Nicolas Cage + more mayhem and carnage than you can shake a church full of doves at = an even barmier and over the top movie than Broken Arrow. Face/Off is one of the maddest, strangest, but totally enjoyable action movies of the Nineties. Woo directs as if he doesn’t care how looney it all is, and Travolta – along with his future DtV compatriot Cage – goes along for the ride, hamming it up as much as he can and having a whale of a time. He’s out there, and he wants you to come with him… and how can you refuse?
4 – Wild Hogs (2007) – $253,625,427
At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “Wow! Really? Wild Hogs? Over two hundred and fifty million? How did that happen?” And on the surface, you’d be right, but dig a little deeper and the movie has some (well) hidden depths, as well as a quartet of hugely enjoyable performances, including Travolta as the de facto leader of the Hogs. It’s an undemanding movie, but Travolta is easy-going (even when playing uptight) and immensely likeable, and when his character gets easily flustered, it’s a sight to see – purely because it’s a trait he rarely gets to display elsewhere. One to file under Don’t Knock It If You Haven’t Seen It, and a lot funnier and warm-hearted than you’d expect.
3 – Look Who’s Talking (1989) – $296,999,813
The first of three – Travolta appears in all of them – Look Who’s Talking was a surprise box office success back in 1989, but though the basic premise is clever: baby expresses his thoughts and feelings as he would if he were an adult (and with Bruce Willis’s voice), the movie is genuinely funny, and has a lot of heart, making it easy to like. Travolta plays a more charming version of Tony Manero, and there’s a definite chemistry with Kirstie Alley that allows Travolta to show he can do a straightforward romantic role as well. Now if only they’d left things well alone and not made two more movies…
2 – Bolt (2008) – $309,979,994
To date, Bolt is Travolta’s second and last animated movie, after Our Friend, Martin (1999). Unfairly overlooked when it was first released, there’s a lot to be said for the first movie that John Lasseter oversaw upon jumping ship from Pixar to Disney, not the least of which is the unexpectedly inspired choice of Travolta as the title pooch. He’s clearly having fun with the role, and that comes across in his performance; which begs the question, why hasn’t he made more animated movies? Whatever the reason, Travolta is definitely one of the main reasons for the movie’s success, and his performance more than justifies the producers’ making him first choice for the role all along.
1 – Grease (1978) – $394,955,690
As the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) put it in Highlander (1986), “There can be only one”, and sure enough it had to be Grease. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, you have to admire the sheer exuberance and exhilaration of the dance sequences that make up most of Grease‘s allure, along with its way-too-catchy songs and endlessly quotable dialogue (“Let’s hear it for the toilet paper!”). As the belligerent/charming Danny Zuko, Travolta makes a virtue (of sorts) of thrusting his hips as often as he can in Olivia Newton-John’s direction, as well as looking out of his depth, and all with a virile swagger that recalls any number of teenagers from those Sixties beach movies. A great performance in a classic musical, pure and simple.
Animation can often provide a better, more enjoyable, and more memorable viewing experience than the majority – in fact, the vast majority – of live action movies. You could always count on Disney, and though they went through a creative rough patch during the Seventies and early Eighties, they bounced back and are now as strong a creative force as they’ve ever been (and perhaps more so). But in the last fifteen to twenty years the House of Mouse hasn’t had things all its own way. The arrival of animation studios from the likes of Dreamworks and Sony, as well as the emergence of Pixar, has brought animation into a new Golden Age, and so much so that animated movies are now some of the most consistently high-earning movies released each year. It shouldn’t be a surprise that two of this year’s animated releases have made over $1 billion at the international box office, or that the Top 5 in this list have all crossed that mark. So, here they are: the Top 10 animated movies at the international box office.
10 – Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) – $886,686,817
The third entry in the Ice Age series is also the one where the rot began to set in, but like the previous chapters before it, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was the animated box office champ for its year, and proof that its creators, Blue Sky Studios, knew they had a franchise that would keep on paying dividends. On its own, the movie is an uneven, less humorous entry than its predecessors, but it does feature a great vocal performance from Simon Pegg, and some suitably over-the-top visuals, making it a treat for younger viewers but not so much for anyone over the age of, say, fifteen.
9 – Shrek 2 (2004) – $919,838,758
It may be hard to believe now but Shrek (2001) wasn’t quite as good as most people’s memories will tell them. It was certainly a novel approach by Dreamworks, but what worked most was the inspired voice casting, and a level of disrespect for fairy tales that raised most of the laughs. But Shrek 2 is the series’ pinnacle, a movie that embraces all those old fairy tale tropes and extracts the humour from them rather than by trampling on them first. It also has a decent story, the welcome addition of Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots, and a sleeker, bolder visual style than its predecessor. Plus it deserves credit for keeping Eddie Murphy in the list of the Top 10 Actors at the Box Office.
8 – Finding Nemo (2003) – $940,335,536
One of Pixar’s most enduring and well-loved movies, Finding Nemo is an almost perfect blend of storytelling, visual design, voice acting, and direction. Only the rhythm and the pace of the movie’s middle section lets it down, but this is still head and shoulders above most of the movies on this list, and is a reminder that when Pixar get it right there’s no touching them. In its day a box office juggernaut, the movie has earned its place in cinema history and continues to delight successive generations of movie goers, a testament to its ingenuity and charm.
7 – The Lion King (1994) – $968,483,777
Although The Little Mermaid (1989) was the movie that showed Disney had turned the corner on the creative funk that had dogged them through the Seventies and early Eighties, it was The Lion King that really showed they were back on track. A perfect blend of traditional hand-drawn 2D animation with fleeting uses of rotoscoping, allied to one of the best musical soundtracks Disney have ever produced, and a story that was by turns, humorous, gripping, tragic, life-affirming, and satisfying, The Lion King is still the animated Disney movie that all the company’s successors have to live up to.
6 – Despicable Me 2 (2013) – $970,761,885
Buoyed by the success of the first Despicable Me (2010), Illumination Entertainment probably knew they had a surefire winner when they began making this sequel, and so it proved. Landing just shy of the $1 billion mark, it’s not the best of sequels – indeed, its storyline is possibly the weakest of all the movies on the list – but it does have those little yellow cash generators, the Minions, and an infectious visual style that you can’t help but smile at, even while you’re groaning at the jokes. With a third movie to come in 2017, the continuing success of the franchise seems assured, which can’t be a bad thing now that Disney has consumed Pixar.
5 – Zootopia (2016) – $1,023,761,003
This year’s surprise hit from Disney is possibly the House of Mouse’s finest hour, a whip-smart anthropomorphic comedy that has a strong storyline, subplots that enhance the main narrative, two wonderful performances from Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman, winning characters, and of course, Flash the sloth. A joy from start to finish, we can only hope that Disney doesn’t make any sequels, and that they allow this to stand alone as one of the best animated features of this or any year.
4 – Finding Dory (2016) – $1,027,190,583
Not as good as Finding Nemo, but more successful (go figure), Finding Dory benefitted from a built-in audience who have been waiting for a sequel ever since the first movie was released, and because it didn’t stray too far from the set up of the original. Pixar needed this to be a hit, and they got their wish, but with Cars 3 up next – not the most auspicious of sequels they could have decided to release – it may be a while before the company that revolutionised computer animated movies adds another of its features to the list.
3 – Toy Story 3 (2010) – $1,066,969,703
The ne plus ultra of animated movies – sorry, numbers one and two – Toy Story 3 is quite frankly, the best second sequel ever made. A bold gamble by Pixar to make a movie about the relinquishing of childhood, and to make the ending both sad and life-affirming at the same time, this shows Pixar in complete control of every aspect of the production and seemingly with ease, showing everybody else how it should be done. A perfect way to end a trilogy, and even though Toy Story 4 will be with us in 2019 (and which will answer the question, what happened to Bo Peep?), it’s got a long way to go before it’s as good as this entry in the series.
2 – Minions (2015) – $1,159,398,397
Minions‘ place at the number two spot just goes to show what can happen when a minor character (or in this case, characters) proves more entertaining than the main character. Gru was fun, but the Minions were endlessly funny and endlessly adorable. A spin-off movie of their own was always likely, and Illumination Entertainment came up with a great idea for their solo outing, a kind of potted history of the little yellow devils search for a villainous boss down the ages. It’s still not their best outing – that would be Despicable Me (2010) – but with no immediate plans for a sequel, there’s a good possibility that their position so close to the top won’t remain that way for very long.
1 – Frozen (2013) – $1,276,480,335
These days, Disney can do no wrong. In recent years they’ve released mega-successes at the box office, won Academy Awards, and thanks largely to the stewardship of John Lasseter, made successful animated movie after successful animated movie. Frozen is the studio’s most successful venture, a mighty crowd-pleaser that mixes great songs and inspired comedy, even if Sitron the horse is a dead ringer for Maximus from Tangled (2010). Inevitably, a sequel is in the works, but whether or not it will have the same emotional heft that Frozen has remains to be seen. And whether or not it has the ability to outdo its predecessor, well, only time and a billion pre-teen girls will decide.
As with the list of the Top 10 Actors at the Box Office 2016, this was meant to be posted back in September, but with some wholly expected box office successes this year it seemed prudent to wait to see if these successes had any effect on the list as a whole. As it turns out, there were quite a few changes to the list from last year, with only one actress not returning, and several of the other actresses on the list leap-frogging all over the place. So much so, in fact, that it’ll be even more interesting to see who’s on the list next year – and where.
NOTE: HGM stands for Highest Grossing Movie, and the figures represent the worldwide gross. And all figures are courtesy of boxofficemojo.com.
10 – Jennifer Lawrence / HGM: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $865,011,746
Replacing Sigourney Weaver on the list, Lawrence trades on her role as Katniss Everdeen to make the Top 10, but whether or not she stays here is another matter, as the likelihood of her making any more movies in her other franchise, the X-Men series, are dwindling thanks to the poor reception given to X-Men: Apocalypse (2016). With nothing too blockbuster-like on the horizon, expect Lawrence to be absent from the list come this time next year.
9 – Anne Hathaway / HGM: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – $1,084,939,099
The Christopher Nolan effect keeps Hathaway in ninth place, and while her return to the role of the White Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) has helped her cause, she may yet be a casualty come next year’s list, as the only potential money spinner ahead of her is the all-female Ocean’s Eleven reboot – and that’s not due until 2018.
8 – Sandra Bullock / HGM: Minions (2015) – $1,159,398,397
Down one place from last year, Bullock is becoming less and less of a presence on our screens, and right now, won’t be seen until 2018 with Anne Hathaway in the Ocean’s Eleven reboot. Potentially then, Bullock may drop down (or be completely out of) the list come 2017, but even if she is, chances are she won’t be in that position for long, though again, right now, nothing can be relied upon.
7 – Emma Watson / HGM: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) – $1,341,511,219
Down three places from last year’s number four, Watson’s post-Harry Potter career continues to be sporadic, yet interesting for the choices she’s made, but it’s clear that she’s unlikely to feature in another box office juggernaut like the Harry Potter franchise anytime soon. Whether or not she’ll maintain her position next year is uncertain at this point, but she should still be with us – somewhere on the list – but what is certain is that a return to the top five isn’t on the cards.
6 – Elizabeth Banks / HGM: Spider-Man 3 (2007) – $890,871,626
Firstly, an apology to Elizabeth Banks and any of her fans who felt that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) couldn’t be her HGM; you were absolutely right. Due to an oversight, and the way in which boxofficemojo.com only regards starring roles in their deliberations, Banks’ appearance as Miss Brant, J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary, wasn’t given its box office due in last year’s list, so it’s only right that amends are made here and now. And she’s moved up two places from last year’s number eight, which is like icing on the cake.
5 – Julia Roberts / HGM: Pretty Woman (1990) – $463,406,268
Another non-mover, Roberts’ HGM is the only movie on either list – Actor or Actress – that has a box office take of less than $500,000, proof that the actress has made some astute choices throughout her career, even if some of them recently have felt a little underwhelming – Secret in Their Eyes (2015) and Mother’s Day (2016) in particular. But she’ll remain on the list for a while to come it seems, though she only has next year’s Wonder wrapped and almost ready to go, which could mean a lower ranking come 2017’s list.
4 – Cate Blanchett / HGM: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – $1,119,929,521
Last year’s number two drops two places, but with outings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – and that darned Ocean’s Eleven reboot still to come, it’s likely that Blanchett will find herself climbing back up the list in the next couple of years. If she does she’ll be the first person on either list to reverse a downward trend… and you wouldn’t write off that possibility, now, would you?
3 – Helena Bonham Carter / HGM: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) – $1,341,511,219
The last non-mover on the list, Bonham Carter’s place is assured thanks to her roles in Cinderella (2015) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016). These should keep her in the top five for now, but where, say, Emma Watson’s place in the Top 10 seemed assured, Bonham Carter may find herself slipping down the list come next year, as the majority of her upcoming projects look unlikely to boost her box office returns.
2 – Cameron Diaz / HGM: Shrek 2 (2004) – $919,838,758
After two years at the top, Diaz drops to second place. With no projects in the works and her last movie having been Annie (2014), it’s likely that Diaz will find herself slipping even further down the list as time goes on and some of her fellow actresses align themselves with blockbusters and franchise money-grabbers. Of course, this isn’t Diaz’s fault, but it would be a shame if she decided to continue to cut back so drastically on acting as she seems to have done since 2014.
1 – Scarlett Johansson / HGM: The Avengers (2012) – $1,518,812,988
To borrow a line from Russell Mulcahy’s Highlander (1986): “There can be only one.” On the 2014 list, Johansson was in ninth place; last year she’d jumped to sixth. Now she’s sitting head and shoulders above everyone else in the top spot and all thanks to a certain black leather-clad assassin she’s played five times now. She’s unlikely to be dethroned anytime soon, but if she is it’s unlikely that it’ll be anyone on this current list (unless they can rack up an overall box office success that amounts to over $8.5 billion).
Welcome to this year’s look at the great and good amongst movie actors (for the actresses, click here), those stars who keep us coming back to the cinema time after time, and help put as many bums on seats as they possibly can. As with last year’s list, I was going to do this post back in September, but wanted to wait and see if there were any surprising outcomes at the 2016 box office that might lead to some major changes to last year’s list. As it turns out there wasn’t, though we have lost Gary Oldman from the list, but overall it seems as if this is a year for positions and box office returns to keep the rest of the Top 10 in a kind of holding pattern, even if there’s a bit of shoving and pushing when it comes to the actual rankings.
NOTE: HGM stands for Highest Grossing Movie, and the figures represent the worldwide gross. And all figures are courtesy of boxofficemojo.com.
10 – Michael Caine / HGM: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – $1,084,939,099
Down one place from last year’s number nine, Caine holds onto his place in the list thanks to his involvement in the Dark Knight trilogy. That those movies did so well at the box office is a testament to the visionary talents of Christopher Nolan, but the role of Alfred has probably never been portrayed as effectively as Caine did it. It was doubtful he’d remain on the list this year, but he’s held on. Again, though, it’s still unlikely he’ll be here this time next year.
9 – Johnny Depp / HGM: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) – $1,066,179,725
Also down one place from last year, Depp has the potential to be higher up the list next year if the latest, potentially overblown Captain Jack Sparrow-fest, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, is successful enough. If not, Depp will still be on the list in 2017, and again probably higher up, thanks to his involvement in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise.
8 – Anthony Daniels / HGM: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – $2,068,223,624
This year’s newbie, Daniels has made it into the Top 10 by virtue of appearing as C-3PO in every one of the Star Wars movies so far – and not to mention the same role in The Lego Movie (2014) – so his inclusion could be construed as “just waiting to happen”. With two more movies to come in the third trilogy, Daniels’ place on the list is assured for some time to come, and he has the potential to be much higher in the list come 2018.
7 – Tom Cruise / HGM: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) – $694,713,380
Down one from last year, Cruise’s HGM has made the least amount of money of all the movies on the list, but thanks to his solid, dependable presence at the box office, he retains his mid-place ranking. His upcoming movies include Universal’s update of The Mummy (2017), and at some stage, Top Gun 2. Whether these will be enough to keep him on the list remains to be seen, but if you want to make a wager on who’ll be gone this time next year, the Cruiser isn’t such a bad outside bet.
6 – Eddie Murphy / HGM: Shrek 2 (2004) – $919,838,758
Another drop of one place, this time for possibly the least likely actor to be included in the list, and to remain in roughly the same position for three years running now. Murphy’s continued presence seems to be in spite of his recent movie choices – which have been so few as to mean just one movie in particular, Mr. Church (2016) – but if it gives thedullwoodexperiment another excuse to include a picture of Donkey then that’s absolutely fine.
5 – Robert Downey Jr / HGM: The Avengers (2012) – $1,518,812,988
Downey Jr continues to ascend the list, moving up two places from last year’s number seven (and which was three places up from his spot in the 2014 list), and does so thanks to his co-starring role in Captain America: Civil War (2016). With at least two more Marvel appearances to come, as well as a third Sherlock Holmes movie in 2018, the acting capstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is definitely here to stay.
4 – Morgan Freeman / HGM: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – $1,084,939,099
Down one place from last year, Freeman remains in the top five thanks to Christopher Nolan and the Dark Knight trilogy. Amazingly, the likes of Momentum (2015) and the ill-advised remake of Ben-Hur (2016), haven’t seriously damaged his chances of staying on the list, and it’s entirely probable that come next year he’ll still be placed around the midway mark.
3 – Tom Hanks / HGM: Toy Story 3 (2010) – $1,066,969,703
Slipping down another place after being in 2014’s top slot, Hanks is still an actor whose presence on the list is almost required. But the Toy Story sequel is still in the works, though not due until 2019, and after next year’s The Circle, Hanks has nothing else lined up. That can’t possibly stay the same, but even if it does, Hanks is unlikely to ever drop so far down the list that he’ll drop out altogether.
2 – Samuel L. Jackson / HGM: The Avengers (2012) – $1,518, 812,988
A brief stay at the top for Jackson, but as with anyone in the top three, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Like Downey Jr, he’s got more Marvel time coming up, and he’s still landing roles in box office successes such as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ($259,862,899 and counting), so it’s not just the MCU that’s keeping him here. But once Avengers: Infinity War (2018) is released, expect him to reclaim his place at the top of the list…
1 – Harrison Ford / HGM: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – $2,068,223,624
…because Harrison Ford can’t make any more Star Wars movies. The seventh outing for the Force and all its adherents has, unsurprisingly, pushed Ford up three places from number four and into the top spot before you can shout, “Look out, Han, he’s got a lightsabre!” But while it’s likely that Samuel L. Jackson will supersede him at some point (though probably not until 2018), it’s good to see the top spot change hands again, and to see franchise veteran Ford sitting (fairly) pretty on top.
Andrzej Wajda (6 March 1926 – 9 October 2016)
The most prominent movie maker to come out of Poland, Andrzej Wajda was also a director with a strong European sensibility, even as he was chronicling the turbulent political times he lived in. His father was killed in the Katyn Massacre in 1940 (an event Wajda would revisit in 2007), but he survived along with his mother and brother. After the war he went to Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts, and then in the early Fifties the Łódź Film School, where he was an apprentice to the director Aleksander Ford. He made his first movie, A Generation in 1955; it was also the first in a trilogy of movies that would take an anti-war stance then unpopular in Poland itself, which was still under Soviet rule.
He worked in the theatre as well, but focused more and more on movie making. His work gained international recognition – Kanal (1956) shared the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1957 with Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal – and he was able to explore more of the topics that interested him, as in Lotna (1959), a tribute to the Polish Cavalry that his father had been a part of. Throughout the Sixties he made movies that were more and more allegorical and symbolic, and his reputation increased accordingly. He was most successful in the Seventies, making a string of films that cemented his position as the foremost Polish movie maker of his generation.
In the Eighties he continued to make movies but more and more of his time was taken up with supporting Lech Wałęsa’s Solidarity movement. This involvement angered the Polish government to such an extent that it forced the closure of Wajda’s production company. Undeterred, Wajda continued to make the movies he wanted to make, and his career continued to go from strength to strength. In 1990 he was honoured by the European Film Awards with a Lifetime Achievement award (only the third director to have the honour, after Fellini and Bergman). Wajda won numerous other awards during his lifetime, and he was a tireless innovator who held a light up to the social and political upheavals and troubles that were occuring in his beloved Poland. His movies had a rigid formalism to them that was always undermined (and deliberately so) by Wajda’s own innate sympathy for humanity. He was a passionate, discerning movie maker who could make audiences laugh, cry, be angry or sad, but never bored or uninvolved.
1 – A Generation (1955)
2 – Kanal (1957)
3 – Ashes and Diamonds (1958)
4 – The Birch Wood (1970)
5 – The Promised Land (1975)
6 – Man of Marble (1977)
7 – Man of Iron (1981)
8 – Danton (1983)
9 – Korczak (1990)
10 – Katyn (2007)
You can say what you like about the quality of Hammer’s horror output between 1957 and 1976 (and you could say quite a lot), but where they did excel was in the luridness of their promotional materials, and particularly their posters. Their series of Dracula-based movies are a great case in point, with their exaggerated declarations of terror, vivid colour schemes, damsels in partially-dressed distress, and arresting depictions of violence. Back in the late Fifties and on through to the early Seventies, Hammer mastered the art of the exploitation poster (and in time the art of the exploitation movie), but rarely as effectively as they did with their Frankenstein and Dracula movies. Here, in the second of a two-part Poster(s) of the Week, are the terribly sensational posters used to advertise a series of movies that got worse and worse the longer the series continued. What’s interesting is the way in which the posters mirrored the lacklustre content and declining success of the series, with the later entries being represented by posters that are nowhere near as eye-catching as their predecessors. Nowadays though, and despite Hammer’s recent resurgence, these movies are still the focus of much nostalgia and appreciation. And the same can be said for their posters.
You can say what you like about the quality of Hammer’s horror output between 1957 and 1976 (and you could say quite a lot), but where they did excel was in the luridness of their promotional materials, and particularly their posters. Their series of Frankenstein-based movies are a great case in point, with their exaggerated declarations of terror, vivid colour schemes, damsels in partially-dressed distress, and arresting depictions of violence. Back in the late Fifties and on through to the early Seventies, Hammer mastered the art of the exploitation poster (and in time the art of the exploitation movie), but rarely as effectively as they did with their Frankenstein and Dracula movies. Here, in the first of a two-part Poster(s) of the Week, are the terribly sensational posters used to advertise a series of movies that got worse and worse the longer the series continued. What’s interesting is the way in which the posters mirrored the lacklustre content and declining success of the series, with the later entries being represented by posters that are nowhere near as eye-catching as their predecessors. Nowadays though, and despite Hammer’s recent resurgence, these movies are still the focus of much nostalgia and appreciation. And the same can be said for their posters.
Next time: Hammer Studios Part 2: Dracula
When I posted “Meh” Movies and Me on 8 September, that was meant to be that. I had a list of movies going forward that I planned to watch and review, and none of them were big-budget, “event” movies made with conspicuous excess and an unhealthy reliance on CGI (well, all except The Legend of Tarzan). The first movie on the list was Black Tar Road (2016), and that was meant to be followed – today – by Zoom (2015), and then I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016). But instead of watching either movie I re-watched an old favourite, To Be or Not to Be (1942), and episode six of Jessica Jones (what can I say? I lag behind when it comes to TV series’). Why did I watch these instead? That’s a fair question, and the answer is simple, albeit in two parts.
Firstly, I wondered if I’d over-reacted. After all, I’d had a bad run, three movies in a row that had earned themselves 3/10 because they were basically rubbish. They were movies that really should have been vetoed at the idea stage. But they were made, they attracted well-known names to them, and they were all heavily promoted as if they were must-see movies. Now I like Jason Statham, and I like Idris Elba, and I like… Rose Byrne, and if they all appeared in the same movie together I would probably make a point of seeing it as soon as possible. But instead they made a trio of movies that were as soul-destroying as watching that last Rolo get away from you (apologies to anyone outside of Britain who doesn’t get that last analogy/joke). They made a trio of movies that they should have known – from day one – were going to be bad. Actually, not just bad, but appalling. I’m all for actors being employed and able to pay their bills each month, but can their mortgage really mean more than their self-esteem – or their reputation?
And so, the more I thought about it, the more I decided that, no, I hadn’t over-reacted. I’d been right, right to challenge the status quo, and right to call out anyone who makes a movie with the knowledge that it’s going to suck; and especially if they use millions and millions of dollars to make it. But after watching and reviewing Black Tar Road (and on the whole, liking it quite a bit), I realised that I needed a bit of a cooling off period. I needed to watch something that would remind me that mainstream movies can be entertaining, that they can have well-constructed and thought out scripts, that the cast can take those scripts and use them to create wonderful, memorable characters, and that directors can be bold and decisive and in tune with the material and above all, take risks. And so, To Be or Not to Be, which has all of those things. And Jessica Jones, which has them too, but in a different way.
But I said the answer was in two parts, didn’t I? Well, the second part is a little less obvious. When you’ve seen as many movies as I have – 14,432 and counting as of today – then you get a little set in your ways and your opinions. Not about whether or not a movie is an appalling piece of crap and doesn’t deserve to see the light of day – that’s a constant that should never be discouraged. No, it’s when you’re five or ten minutes into a movie and you know exactly how it’s going to end (and how it’s going to get there), and what’s going to happen to the characters. There are signs everywhere and most of them aren’t very subtle, which is why some movies feel like ninety minutes or more of déjà vu. Black Tar Road is such a movie, and though I liked it, it has a predictable nature to it that is as off-putting (to me) as watching a movie where you’re led by the hand from scene to scene.
One of the great things about To Be or Not to Be is that even if you watch it more than once, it retains a freshness and an easy charm that’s never diminished. This is due to the quality applied to the material in every department. And Jessica Jones, while conforming to many of the expectations of contemporary television, regularly and repeatedly tries to subvert those expectations in order to keep its audience engaged and coming back for more. With this in mind, shouldn’t movies be doing the same? Shouldn’t they be trying to subvert our expectations? I think they should be, but maybe I’m in a minority. Maybe everyone else is happy with the status quo and watching movies that continually fail to meet the demands of modern audiences. And maybe that’s what today’s movie makers are counting on: that we just don’t care enough to complain, or change our viewing habits for the better.
And that really is that.
Gene Wilder (11 June 1933 – 29 August 2016)
Often wild of eye and generous of grin (and self-confessed Jewish-Buddhist-Atheist), Gene Wilder was an actor who was recruited into comedy by Mel Brooks – and thank Mel for that! It could all have been so different, though. Wilder’s career began in the late Fifties. He trained with Uta Hagen at the HB Studio before being accepted into the Actors’ Studio and taking private classes with Lee Strasberg. In the early to mid-Sixties, Wilder began to make a name for himself in various stage productions, until a production of Mother Courage and Her Children introduced him to Anne Bancroft, who in turn introduced him to her husband, Mel Brooks.
Having regarded himself as a serious, dramatic actor, Wilder acclimated quickly to comedy, and this despite making his feature debut in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Aside from a handful of TV movies, Wilder didn’t stray from comedy for the rest of his career. But in doing so he provided us with so many wonderful, comic performances that if there had been any more diversions from comedy, it would have seemed like a betrayal.
He was well-known for his work with Brooks (five movies), and Richard Pryor (four movies). These collaborations cemented his fame and fortune, and brought him critical as well as commercial success. During the Seventies, Wilder made a string of movies that traded well on his ability to portray an unhinged loon with complete credibility. No matter what the scenario, Wilder’s high-pitched, hysterical expressions of incredulity were always funny to watch, even with repeated viewings.
Following his retirement from movies in 2003, Wilder decided to concentrate on writing, publishing a memoir as well as several novels and a collection of short stories. His philosophy was simple: “I’d rather be at home with my wife. I can write, take a break, come out, have a glass of tea, give my wife a kiss, and go back in and write some more. It’s not so bad. I am really lucky.” And so are we, to have such an enduring legacy of movies to enjoy for generations to come.
1 – The Producers (1967)
2 – Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (1970)
3 – Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
4 – Blazing Saddles (1974)
5 – Young Frankenstein (1974)
6 – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)
7 – Silver Streak (1976)
8 – Stir Crazy (1980)
9 – The Woman in Red (1984)
10 – See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)
Action, Biopic, Ethan Hawke, Hands of Stone, In a Valley of Violence, Movies, Previews, Ray Arcel, Robert De Niro, Roberto Duran, Sequel, Ti West, Trailers, Vin Diesel, Western, xXx: Return of Xander Cage
In the trailer for xXx: Return of Xander Cage, one thing stands out: that pretty much all the action beats we see, involve, or are performed by, everyone with the exception of Vin Diesel (aside from one leg swipe and an elbow to the neck). So straight away this seems less of a movie about the return of Xander Cage, and more of a movie where the star of the Fast & Furious franchise reinvigorates another, minor franchise by inserting his character into a storyline Cage didn’t originally feature in. If that’s so, then Diesel and director D.J. Caruso have an uphill battle on their hands to make Cage a still-relevant action hero at a time when Jason Bourne is back on our screens, and the best action movies are being made by a little outfit called Marvel. But if this really is a brand new outing designed and written specifically for Cage, and is intended to restart the franchise with Diesel firmly in place this time, then on first glance, it’s not looking too good. And it’ll be interesting to see where Tony Jaa fits into the scrapping order (first Paul Walker, now Diesel – who’s next? Michelle Rodriguez?). Let’s hope the two have a thumping good fight scene together, and one that doesn’t rely on the kind of editing that makes you wonder if their stunt doubles should be sharing top billing.
Real violence is on display in Hands of Stone, the story of boxer Roberto Durán’s rise from the poverty-stricken streets of Guarare in Panama, to glory in the ring, and two historic fights with Sugar Ray Leonard. The trailer makes it look as if Durán’s story is being told from the perspective of legendary trainer Ray Arcel, so it may be that the movie carries a degree of objectivity in its approach, and isn’t out to simply lionise Durán’s achievements. The boxer had his demons, and though the trailer touches on these, it’s hard to tell how much time will be spent on the man outside the ring instead of or rather than, the man inside it. Ramirez seems an obvious choice to play Durán (and he may be hoping to erase moviegoers’ memories of his performance in the Point Break remake), but he’s not an actor who’s really proven himself to date. De Niro has proven himself (many times) but the trailer doesn’t make it look as if he’s really trying, so let’s hope he’s more engaged than he’s been in recent years. And let’s hope the fight sequences are more Raging Bull (1980) than Grudge Match (2013).
Ti West is an indie movie maker in the best sense: he writes and directs his own movies, and he has a intriguing visual style that means you’re never sure where he’s going to take you next. Sometimes, as in The Sacrament (2013), he can surprise you just by getting the camera to turn a corner; other times, as in The Innkeepers (2011), he can surprise you by not surprising you (you’ll have to see the movie to know what that’s like). In a Valley of Violence has been on West’s to-do list for some time, and now that the first trailer is here we can see that it’s been well worth the wait. There are few trailers that can adequately instill a sense of foreboding from its assembly of clips, but this is one of those trailers. The lone stranger in town isn’t exactly a new twist on the Western genre, but under West’s stewardship, this looks like meaty, thrilling stuff indeed. With a great cast that includes Ethan Hawke, John Travolta (let’s hope it’s the kind of role he can do real justice to), James Ransone, Karen Gillan and indie favourite Larry Fessenden, this should be a rousing treat come the end of the year.
In 1996, the Holocaust denier David Irving sued the historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel in the English courts over remarks she had made about him in her book, Denying the Holocaust: the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. With the burden of proof planted firmly in Lipstadt’s corner, she had to prove to a libel court that Irving’s claim that the Holocaust didn’t happen, was false. Now this trial is being brought to the screen with a script by David Hare, and a cast that has more than a little experience in bringing heavyweight drama to the fore. Weisz is a great choice to play Lipstadt (though she has replaced Hilary Swank in the role), and Spall looks both banal and creepy as Irving. With its terrible historical background, Denial looks like it has the potential to be a thought-provoking, morally complex thriller that examines one of the more darker, and disturbing assertions made about the Holocaust in the last thirty years.
If you’re John Lasseter, you’ve got to be feeling pretty satisfied with yourself and the state of play at Disney at the moment. Two out of the three last Disney animated releases have taken over a billion dollars at the international box office, and just in the last few days, the latest movie from Pixar, Finding Dory (2016), has broken all kinds of box office records including the largest opening weekend for an animated feature. Pretty sweet indeed. This must make the next Disney animated release another cause for (probable) celebration. However, this first teaser trailer for Moana doesn’t give anything away, and aside from some beautifully realised sea-faring animation, and a rather scrawny looking chicken as comic relief, there’s nothing to get excited about. Let’s hope Moana‘s first full trailer gives us something more to look forward to.
Mike Flanagan is a name that most mainstream movie goers will be unfamiliar with, but if you’re a fan of horror movies and have been paying attention in recent years then you’ll know that he’s made a handful of features that have tried (and sometimes succeeded) in doing something a little bit different with the genre. Absentia (2011) was a quietly unnerving experience, while Oculus (2013), even though it didn’t work completely, was a stylish and clever exercise in combining two linear narratives to heighten suspense. With Before I Wake, the signs are that Flanagan has found a story that will play to his visual strengths as well as his ability to craft unsettling experiences out of everyday occurrences. And for anyone who thinks the child actor has a familiar face, it’s Jacob Tremblay, from Room (2015).
Anton Yelchin (11 March 1989 – 19 June 2016)
Russian-born, but brought up in the US from the age of six months, Anton Yelchin eschewed his family’s sporting background (by his own admission, he “sucked” as an athlete) to become an actor. It was a wise move. From his first appearance in an episode of ER in 2000, Yelchin grew in stature with each passing year, gaining more and more attention, both with critics and audiences alike, until his name in a cast list was something to watch out for. In recent years he’s appeared in indie dramas, mega-budget sci-fi franchise reboots, and even voiced the role of Clumsy Smurf in a handful of Smurf outings (how’s that for versatility?). He was a distinctive actor with a distinctive voice and a rangy physicality that made him move in an equally distinctive yet unpredictable way, and he was one of the best performers of his generation. His death has come at a time when five of his movies have yet to be released, including Star Trek: Beyond, due later this summer. That we won’t be able to watch him grow any more as an actor, and provide us with even more emotionally astute and dazzling performances is a terrible shame, but we do have a body of work that will remain as rewarding as it’s ever been, and which will remain a testament to Yelchin’s skill as an entertainer.
1 – Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
2 – Alpha Dog (2006)
3 – Charlie Bartlett (2007)
4 – Star Trek (2009)
5 – Like Crazy (2011)
6 – Odd Thomas (2013)
7 – Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
8 – 5 to 7 (2014)
9 – Burying the Ex (2014)
10 – Green Room (2015)
Barton Fink, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dazed and Confused, Dialogue, Election, Finding Nemo, Movies, Quotes, Superman II, The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), The Player, The Shawshank Redemption, The Thing (1982)
Following on from My Top 10 Movie Quotes, and Second Cousin of My Top 10 Movie Quotes, here are ten more quotes from various movies, some funny, some moderately profound, some iconic, and a couple that are just plain weird and wonderful. Feel free to let me know if you have any of your own favourites – who knows, they might appear in a future post.
1 – “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
2 – “Can we talk about something other than Hollywood for a change? We’re educated people.” – Griffin Mill, The Player (1992)
3 – “Mine.” – Seagulls, Finding Nemo (2003)
4 – “Civilization, and syphilization, have advanced together.” – Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
5 – “Kneel before Zod.” – General Zod, Superman II (1980)
6 – “Thirty-five is an attractive age. London is full of women of the highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.” – Lady Bracknell, The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
7 – “I pulled off early today. Took your advice, went to a doctor about this ear. He says ‘You have an ear infection, ten dollars please’. So I says ‘I told you I had an ear infection, you give me ten dollars!’ Well that started an argument.” – Charlie Meadows, Barton Fink (1991)
8 – “George Washington was in a cult, and the cult was into aliens, man.” – Slater, Dazed and Confused (1993)
9 – “Dear God, I know I don’t believe in you, but since I’ll be starting Catholic school soon, I thought I should at least practice.” – Tammy Metzler, Election (1999)
10 – “I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I’d rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!” – Garry, The Thing (1982)
Carey Mulligan (28 May 1985 -)
It’s hard to believe but Carey Mulligan has been gracing our screens for just eleven years since her debut as Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice (2005). Since then she’s appeared in a number of high profile, and high quality movies that have earned critical approval – both for the movies themselves and for Mulligan’s performances – and she’s earned a reputation as one of today’s most intelligent and captivating actresses. She’s adept at playing strong-willed heroines such as Bathsheba Everdene in Far from the Madding Crowd (2015), and was en pointe as the vivacious and mysterious Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013). Some people may still only know her as the potential Time Lord companion, Sally Sparrow, in an episode of Doctor Who back in 2007, but that’s just another indication of how much of an impact she can have when given the right role. Here are five other performances that show off Mulligan’s skills as an actress, and five movies where her appearance has benefitted them greatly.
Never Let Me Go (2010) – Character: Kathy H
In this adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s prize-winning novel, Mulligan is one of a group of friends whose lives aren’t quite what they seem, and who go on the run when they discover just what it is they’ve been “chosen” for. Mulligan got the role of Kathy after the producers spent quite some time trying to find an actress suitable for the role, but this is one of her best performances: honest, insightful, and haunting. The movie may have divided critics and audiences alike, but the effectiveness of Mulligan’s portrayal is one of the few things in the movie that can’t be denied.
An Education (2009) – Character: Jenny Mellor
Another adaptation, this time of the memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber, An Education sees Mulligan playing sixteen year old Jenny, a bright, intelligent schoolgirl who finds herself seduced by Peter Sarsgaard’s charming con man. It’s a coming of age tale that sees Mulligan display a range of feelings and emotions that engender a tremendous amount of sympathy for the character, especially when the extent of her naïve behaviour has unfortunate consequences. Mulligan was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal (but didn’t win), and won a BAFTA instead; not bad for what was only her second, proper lead role.
Shame (2011) – Character: Sissy Sullivan
In Steve McQueen’s powerful drama, Mulligan is the troubled, disturbed sister of Michael Fassbender’s sex addict, a role she invests with such an intense, emotionally charged air of futility that it’s hard to look away when she’s on screen. It’s a raw, unflinching performance, one that matches Fassbender’s own for the depths to which she takes the character, and there’s a fearlessness that is astonishing to watch. It’s a testament to Mulligan’s immersive portrayal that she is never less than credible from beginning to end. And she has a great singing voice too.
The Greatest (2009) – Character: Rose
2009 was Mulligan’s breakout year, with An Education and this emotionally adroit drama about a family trying to deal with the unexpected death of their son, helping to put Mulligan “on the map”. While parents Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan come to terms with their loss, they also find themselves dealing with Mulligan’s character, who turns up on their doorstep and tells them that she’s pregnant with their son’s child. The movie’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and is a little uneven in places, but Mulligan’s fragile, emotionally uncertain Rose is the strong focus that ties all the elements together into a (mostly) satisfying whole.
Drive (2011) – Character: Irene
In Nicolas Winding Refn’s hard-boiled, occasionally wince-inducing crime drama, Mulligan is the love interest for Ryan Gosling’s taciturn stunt car (and sometime getaway) driver. But this being a Refn movie, the term “love interest” isn’t as generic as it sounds, as Mulligan makes Irene more than just a predictable foil for the “hero”, and helps make the audience root for their relationship. Mulligan portrays Irene as good-natured and helpless – on the surface – but there’s an underlying steeliness that Gosling’s driver responds to, and Mulligan accentuates the character’s dual nature without being obvious about it – and that’s an achievement all by itself.
120fps, Alicia Vikander, Ang Lee, Assassin, Ben Affleck, Derek Cianfrance, Drama, Forensic accountant, Gavin O'Connor, Joe Alwyn, Literary adaptation, Michael Fassbender, Movies, Parenthood, Previews, Rachel Weisz, Thriller, Trailers, Vin Diesel, Warfare, Western Australia
NOTE: The current For One Week Only is taking a well-deserved break after its Disney sequel marathon yesterday; it’ll be back tomorrow.
Once he’s reprised his role as Batman in Suicide Squad, Ben Affleck will next be seen in this odd thriller about a maths savant who works as a forensic accountant by day and is a hired assassin by night (of course). Working for the bad guys works out okay, but when Affleck’s character, Christian Wolff, takes on a legitimate client, things take a more deadly turn. It doesn’t help that Christian is also being pursued by the Treasury Department (led by J.K. Simmons). Whether or not this will be any good is open to conjecture, but Warner Bros. have put back its original release date from 29 January to 14 October, suggesting that there’s not the complete confidence in it that you might expect. It does have a great cast, with Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal and John Lithgow in support, and director Gavin O’Connor did a good job in taking over on Jane Got a Gun (2015), so this does have bags of promise at least. Perhaps a bit of finger-crossing is in order, then.
An adaptation of the novel by Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk has a lot to recommend it. It’s the first feature from Ang Lee since Life of Pi (2012), it has a supporting turn from Vin Diesel which should remind people that away from muscle cars and a certain genetically-enhanced murderer he’s a much better actor than he’s given credit for, and has been filmed in 4K, 3D and 120fps. Early footage shown at the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas last month was greeted with the kind of superlatives that make this a shoo-in at next year’s round of awards ceremonies. Away from the technical side though, this looks to be an emotional and compelling look at the differences between the realities of war and perceptions reached at home, and features a break-out performance from newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.
Another literary adaptation, this time from the novel by M.L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans is the latest from director Derek Cianfrance, who gave us Blue Valentine (2010) and The Place Beyond the Pines (2012). It’s a heartfelt tale of impassioned romance, parental loss, uncontrollable grief, and a gift from the sea that brings with it a painful moral dilemma. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander are the couple making a difficult choice in the midst of overwhelming grief, while Rachel Weisz is the widow whose recent loss threatens their regained happiness. The movie looks beautiful thanks to Justin Kurzel’s go-to cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (he also shot the first series of True Detective), and the period settings – post-World War I Western Australia – appear to have been lovingly recreated. If everything turns out as hoped, then this too will be sparring for awards come the beginning of 2017.
Australia, Bad Moms, Barack Obama, Barry Crump, Comedy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Julian Dennison, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Literary adaptation, Michelle Obama, Mila Kunis, Movies, Previews, Richard Tanne, Sam Neill, Southside With You, Taika Waititi, Trailers, True story
In Southside With You, writer/director Richard Tanne invites us to witness a very special first date: the one between Michelle Robinson (played by Tika Sumpter) and Barack Obama (played by Parker Sawyers). Taking place in the summer of 1989, it’s an epic date, taking in far more than the average dinner and a show, and the movie pitches this event at the level of an above average romantic comedy – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sawyers looks particularly convincing as Obama, his tone of voice and physicality so reminiscent of a certain modern day President that it’s sometimes spooky to see, while Sumpter is equally convincing as the self-assured Michelle. The movie does look like it might be a little too “cute” in places, but there’s enough deprecating humour here to offset any charges that the movie is being overly winsome.
When your latest comedy stars Mila Kunis as an overworked, worn out, under-appreciated mom who decides to go on a bender in order to feel better about herself and her life, you’d better make sure that such a set up is at least halfway credible (Kunis as a mom is a bit of a stretch all by itself). Sadly, the trailer for Bad Moms – Kunis is joined by Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn to make up the titular trio – doesn’t give the potential viewer any such assurance. There are definitely laughs to be had but writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have too much of a patchy track record – 21 & Over (2013), The Hangover (2009), and er, Four Christmases (2008) – to instil any confidence that we haven’t already seen the best bits from the movie in the trailer – and if that’s the case then the movie, and we the audience, are in a lot of trouble.
Playing like the surreal second cousin to Up (2009), Hunt for the Wilderpeople sees Julian Dennison’s troublesome youngster, Ricky Baker, the focus of a manhunt when he goes missing with his foster uncle Hector (played by Sam Neill). Adapted by writer/director Taika Waititi from the novel by Barry Crump, this is the kind of quirky, offbeat movie that offers a surfeit of genuine laughs to complement the heartfelt drama on display elsewhere. Having co-created the sublime What We Do in the Shadows (2014), Waititi is on his own here, but from the looks of the trailer has done a fantastic job in creating the kind of strange, off-kilter world that allows Ricky and Hector to bond without anyone voicing concerns about the difference in their ages or Hector’s less than friendly demeanour.
With 2016 already a third of the way gone (where does the time go?), it’s time to take a look at the movies that have raked in the cash across the globe in the first four months. There are some surprising entries, and the top spot is held by a movie which may well breach the billion mark by the year’s end – which will be an amazing achievement and completely unexpected. Half are sequels, one is a remake, which leaves just four movies that are original – if that isn’t a sad reflection on the make up of movies released so far this year then nothing will be. All have made over $150m at the international box office, but whether they’ll still be in the Top 10 at year’s end (or even in another four months) remains to be seen. So here they are: the movies we’ve gone out of our way to see at the box office, whether we live in Hollywood or Hunan Province. See how many you can guess in advance.
NOTE: All figures are courtesy of the good folks at boxofficemojo.com.
10 – London Has Fallen – $191,295,451
London Has Fallen seems to have made its money off the back of a residual fondness for its US based predecessor. That a movie as poorly constructed and flaky as this can make as much money as it has is both worrying and oddly comforting – worrying because audiences will flock to a movie even when it’s clearly a case of stupid is as stupid does, and oddly comforting because there’s always room for movies that wear their stupidity like a badge of honour.
9 – The Monkey King 2 – $193,677,158
The second sequel on the list was released back in February and shows just how important the international markets, and particularly China, are now when determining the box office success of foreign language movies. The Monkey King 2 tanked in the US, earning only $709,982, but its performance overseas is a salutary reminder that Hollywood can’t have it all – and that’s a good thing.
8 – Captain America: Civil War – $261,600,000
Captain America: Civil War doesn’t open in the US until tomorrow – what’s the betting it’s as successful on its home turf as it has been abroad? (Don’t bother to answer that.) Marvel have another potential billion dollar movie on their hands, and if it can rake this much in in just one week then the sky’s the limit. It’s also proved itself as yet another critic-proof behemoth; a good job then that it’s as good as everyone hoped.
7 – Monster Hunt – $385,274,702
The second foreign language movie on the list, Monster Hunt‘s total haul is yet another snub to the US market, which allowed it to play for just one week back in January and make a massive $32,766. It may not be the best example of Chinese fantasy movie making, but international audiences have taken it to their hearts, and in the end that’s all that matters.
6 – Kung Fu Panda 3 – $508,538,424
And now we reach the big guns. A massive leap in ticket sales takes us to the third outing for lovable Po, irascible Master Shifu, and the Famous Five. Well on the way to emulating both its predecessors’ haul of over $600m, Kung Fu Panda 3 is the latest in a series that has quietly earned its success without appearing to do too much in the process. Both sequels have built on what’s gone before, and this instalment is a testament to the way in which a simple formula can be enriched and expanded and keep drawing audiences back.
5 – The Mermaid (Mei ren yu) – $552,521,248
The third (and final) foreign language movie on the list, Stephen Chow’s fantasy drama is yet further proof that the US box office, once regarded as the main arbiter of a movie’s success, doesn’t occupy that role as comprehensively as it used to. In comparison with The Monkey King 2 and Monster Hunt, The Mermaid performed respectably in the US, earning $3,232,685, which makes its international haul all the more impressive. Perhaps there’ll come a time when foreign language movies will bypass the US box office altogether; after all, how much profit can they be making in such a suffocating market?
4 – The Jungle Book – $725,233,678
With brand-name recognition and an impressive promotional push by the House of Mouse, The Jungle Book was always going to be on this list somewhere, but for a movie that was only released over a few weeks ago it’s put an equally impressive number of bums on seats in a relatively short space of time. Will it break the billion dollar mark? Possibly, but the point here is that the movie is a triumph of expectation and promotion that has performed exceptionally well around the world, and without really bringing anything special to its audiences.
3 – Deadpool – $761,707,675
Deadpool has proved to be a runaway, unabashed success story at the box office, and all despite its raunchy, coarse, crude, hyper-violent excesses (or is it because of all those things?). It’s great to see such an unapologetically adult movie do so well, and find itself outperforming so many family friendly (and demographically targeted) movies. With this amount of money taken at the box office, there should be no excuse for the sequel to be anything other than as raunchy etc as its forebear.
2 – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – $864,255,044
It had to be near the top, what with the high levels of fanboy expectation and the overwhelming promotional barrage we were subjected to from the moment the movie was announced. But with the movie itself proving less than stellar, this is the perfect example of a movie earning a shed load of money while not actually offering an experience that justifies people shelling out for it in the first place. Go figure!
1 – Zootopia – $933,713,976
If you said to yourself at the beginning of this post, I bet Zootopia is the number one movie, then give yourself a pat on the back (you sly old fox you). A complete surprise that it’s unlikely Disney themselves could have predicted, this reaffirms the notion that a genuinely good movie will win out if given the chance. That audiences have taken to Zootopia so completely and unreservedly is another positive that shouldn’t be ignored, and of all the movies released so far in 2016, its success should be celebrated for what it is: truly deserved.
Rebecca Hall (3 May 1982 -)
With her tall, slim frame and features that can appear both angled and smooth, Rebecca Hall – daughter of renowned English theatre director Sir Peter Hall – has made a career out of playing strong-willed yet vulnerable women, and in a variety of genres. She made her debut in the TV series The Camomile Lawn (1992), but it wasn’t until 2006 that she made her debut on the big screen in Starter for 10. Since then she’s worked solidly, releasing two or three movies each year, and working with directors of the calibre of Christopher Nolan, Ron Howard, Patrice Leconte, and Woody Allen. She’s often a reassuring presence in her movies, providing audiences with a sympathetic character to relate to and root for. She once said that she “always look[s] for contradiction in a character”, and this shows in her choice of roles over the years, even in something as unsuccessful as Lay the Favorite (2012). Later this year she can be seen in Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, yet another high-profile movie that sits comfortably within the mix of Hollywood and indie movies that make up her career so far. Before then, it’s worth checking out the five movies listed below, all of which feature Hall giving strong, impressive performances.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) – Character: Vicky
In Woody Allen’s romantic comedy/drama, Hall is the practical friend to Scarlett Johansson’s more extrovert Cristina, but while she appears to be more strait-laced in comparison, it’s Vicky that falls for Javier Bardem’s lusty artist, Juan Antonio. Hall gives a layered, intelligent performance that allows the audience to believe that Vicky could be so certain about her future, and yet so unsure once she meets Juan Antonio, and the feelings of confusion and remorse she exhibits in the wake of their affair. Juggling these feelings with the need to appear satisfied and content with her recent marriage, Hall ensures Vicky is a recognisable and understandable character, and one that you feel you could probably get to know very well in real life.
A Promise (2013) – Character: Charlotte “Lotte” Hoffmeister
A period drama set in Germany in 1912 – and directed by Patrice Leconte – A Promise features Hall as the young wife of an aging tycoon (played by Alan Rickman) who falls in love with an engineer (played by Richard Madden) who works for her husband. It’s a tale of unrequited love on both sides, adapted from a novel by Stefan Zweig, and features a beautifully constructed and affecting performance from Hall that is a pleasure to watch. As Lotte struggles against her ingrained sense of duty, Hall shows the personal sacrifice she has to make in order to retain her own sense of self-worth, until circumstances (namely, World War I) intrude and make her efforts seem ill-advised.
Frost/Nixon (2008) – Character: Caroline Cushing
As the new girlfriend of David Frost (played by Michael Sheen), Hall’s character finds herself involved in the tense run-up to Frost’s televised interviews with disgraced US President Richard Nixon (played by Frank Langella). (In reality, Cushing and Frost had been together for five years at this point.) Hall has a supporting role here, and isn’t on screen for much of the movie’s running time, but when she is she still grabs the viewer’s attention, and there’s an obvious chemistry between Hall and Sheen that adds to the dynamic of Cushing and Frost’s relationship.
Everything Must Go (2010) – Character: Samantha
Although Everything Must Go is very much Will Ferrell’s movie, Hall once again shows she can match anyone when it comes to giving a natural, honest performance, and she does so here effortlessly, playing a pregnant, put-upon neighbour who does her best to help Ferrell’s depressed, alcoholic ex-salesman get over the loss of his job and his wife, and despite having enough problems of her own. It’s a surprisingly substantial role, and Hall teases out every nuance and shading of the character, making Samantha a much more rounded (and grounded) person than may be expected, and entirely sympathetic to boot.
Iron Man 3 (2013) – Character: Maya Hansen
Hall once said, “One of the great things about the ‘Iron Man‘ franchise is that they employ fascinating actors who don’t necessarily do action movies.” Well, Hall is certainly a fascinating actor, and as the geneticist whose work ultimately is used for immoral and illegal purposes by Guy Pearce’s chief villain, she adds another string to her bow by appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She still gives her role due sincerity, and makes Hansen as credible as any other character she’s played. It’s a tribute to Hall that she doesn’t look or feel out of place in an Iron Man movie; a shame then that her character probably won’t be returning any time soon.
Netflix adds another movie to its distribution roster with the latest from Ricky Gervais, a satirical look at at a journalist (played by Eric Bana) and his sound man (Gervais) who find themselves covering a civil war in Ecuador… from the safety of an apartment in New York. Adapted by Gervais from the 2009 French comedy Envoyés très spéciaux, the movie had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be released worldwide on 29 April, but from the trailer it’s hard to tell if the movie is going to be as funny or as satirical as Gervais intended, and largely because the trailer’s pretty much a laugh-free zone. Gervais’s big screen projects haven’t exactly set the box office on fire in the past, and advance word isn’t very positive, so it’s likely that Special Correspondents will disappear just as “effectively” as Bana and Gervais’ characters do in the movie.
The true story of Ray Kroc’s acquistion of the McDonalds chain over the course of the late Fifties/early Sixties, The Founder looks to be a pull-no-punches examination of how Kroc outmanoeuvred the McDonald brothers (played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch), and gained control of what has become one of the world’s largest and most successful franchises. As Kroc, Michael Keaton has landed yet another role likely to reward him with a slew of awards nominations, while the recreation of the period looks to be spot on. This has the potential to be an unexpected hit at the box office, partly due to the nostalgia on offer, and partly because in the current US social and political climate, a tale of how the American dream was usurped and bent to someone else’s needs seems all too relevant.
Tough and moody, with a brutal streak running through it a mile wide, Mel Gibson’s latest foray in front of the cameras sees him playing an ex-con who’s forced to protect his estranged daughter (played by Erin Moriarty) from the drug dealers bent on killing her. Blood Father has an exploitation movie vibe to it, allied to strong visuals, as well as a pleasing sense that Gibson is playing a role more attuned to his work in the first two Lethal Weapon movies rather than the cartoon-oriented variations of the third and fourth. With an intriguing supporting cast on board – William H. Macy, Diego Luna, Elisabeth Röhm, Dale Dickey – this latest from the director of Mesrine Parts 1 & 2 (2008) could be another redeeming feature in Gibson’s post-meltdown career.
Guy Hamilton (16 September 1922 – 20 April 2016)
Like so many of his contemporaries, Guy Hamilton got into movie making in the wake of World War II. He started off as an assistant director on They Made Me a Criminal (1947) and continued in that role for the next five years, honing his craft working with directors such as Carol Reed and John Huston. In 1952 he took the plunge into direction with The Ringer, a low-key thriller starring Herbert Lom and Donald Wolfit. He continued to work steadily through the Fifties until he got the call to work on a spy movie called Goldfinger (1964). It was to be the first of four Bond outings that Hamilton would direct – the others were Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) – but it was also the first to fully establish the Bond template. The gritty seriousness of the first two movies was replaced with a more carefree, fantasy-lite approach that has been the hallmark of the series up until the arrival of Daniel Craig.
Goldfinger‘s success allowed Hamilton to make the movies he wanted to make, but his career was always sporadic, with periods where he seemed semi-retired. Late on he flirted with Agatha Christie, but by the mid-Eighties his career was winding down, and he made his last movie, the rarely seen Try This One for Size, in 1989. Hamilton was an urbane, intelligent movie director who was able to adapt his directorial style to the material at hand, getting the most out of it, and rarely failing to entertain the audience. And in relation to James Bond, he once made this very perceptive (at the time) comment: “One of the rules with the Bond pictures is that you’re not allowed to have a leading lady who can act – because we can’t afford them….If ever we were to have a real leading lady, the next time around we’d have to find another one. And in no time at all we’d have to have, oh, Jane Fonda for $2 million and up.”
1 – The Intruder (1953)
2 – An Inspector Calls (1954)
3 – The Colditz Story (1955)
4 – The Devil’s Disciple (1959)
5 – Goldfinger (1964)
6 – Funeral in Berlin (1966)
7 – Battle of Britain (1969)
8 – Live and Let Die (1973)
9 – Evil Under the Sun (1982)
10 – Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins… (1985)
Sean Bean (17 April 1959 -)
An actor with a wider range than most people give him credit for, Sean Bean is also one of the most consistently reliable actors working today. He may be well known for his more villainous roles – which, admittedly, he’s very good at playing – but since playing Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), his career has become more varied and (no doubt for him as well as us) more rewarding. His tough, uncompromising demeanour belies a man who listens to classical music when he’s preparing for a scene, and who is still a fervent supporter of Sheffield United football club. He made his feature debut in Winter Flight (1984), and since then has amassed over a hundred credits in both the movies and on TV, including appearances in Lady Chatterley (1993), the Sharpe series of TV movies, and more recently, season one of Game of Thrones (2011). On the big screen he’s a familiar face who brings a certain degree of gravelly sincerity to his roles. Here then are five Sean Bean movies that feature some of his more under-appreciated portrayals… and where his character doesn’t get killed.
Tom & Thomas (2002) – Character: Paul Sheppard
A rarely seen children’s movie, Tom & Thomas sees Bean play the adoptive father of one of a set of twin boys (both played by Aaron Johnson, now better known as Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Once they meet, the other twin’s involvement with a group of child smugglers sets the pair off on a great adventure. It’s an enjoyable, unassuming movie, and it’s good to see Bean making the most of such a different role from the ones he’d been used to up until then.
Anna Karenina (1997) – Character: Count Alexei Kirillovitch Vronsky
Unfairly dismissed by critics upon release, Bernard Rose’s Russian-shot (and badly cut by the studio) version of Anna Karenina certainly has its problems in the script department, but remains a beautifully realised production of Tolstoy’s classic novel, with superb use of music by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. Bean is a convincing, dashing Vronsky, and his scenes with Sophie Marceau are impeccable for the way in which both actors portray the overwhelming passion their characters feel for each other.
North Country (2005) – Character: Kyle Dodge
Bean takes a supporting role in another movie that broadens his career CV, playing the good friend of Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) who brings a class action suit for sexual harassment against the owners of an iron mine. Based on a true story, Niki Caro’s movie is eloquent, passionate, and inspiring, and Bean fits in well as one of the few men in Josey’s life who aren’t either sexist scumbags or manipulative, uncaring “primitives”.
Far North (2007) – Character: Loki
In this strange and haunting tale set in the arctic tundra, Bean plays a man whose sudden interjection into the lives of a mother and daughter leads to both unexpected passion and forecasted tragedy. Kapadia’s last feature until this year’s Ali and Nino, Far North is a tough, uncompromising movie made against some stunning backdrops and giving Bean the chance to reveal a less macho side to his acting.
The Field (1990) – Character: Tadgh McCabe
Although it was a commercial failure, The Field still has a good reputation amongst movie lovers, thanks in the main to Richard Harris’s performance as Bull McCabe, but there are other positives as well, such as Bean’s stalwart turn as Bull’s son. It’s a powerful portrayal of a son unwilling (or unable) to meet his father’s expectations of him. It’s a movie where tragedy is just waiting to happen, and where pride is the instigator of that tragedy, and in the hands of writer/director Jim Sheridan, packs such an emotional punch you’ll be bruised for days after seeing it.
1976 was a slightly odd year for movies. There were enough instant classics to help compile this list, but it wasn’t a banner year, and it passed by without too much yelling from the rooftops about this movie or that movie. After the excellent year that was 1975 (itself following on from an even more impressive 1974), 1976 was a year where the movies that were released seemed a little below par. It was almost as if movie makers around the globe – with the exception of those mentioned below – were off their game, or that there weren’t enough original ideas going around for anyone to get a hold of and make something of them. But the ten movies listed here were successful, and fully deserving of all the accolades and critical acclaim (if not the box office success that some missed out on) that came their way. It’s a tribute to the movies themselves, and to their makers, that we’re still talking about them today.
1) Rocky – It was the movie that made Sylvester Stallone a star, and introduced us to a character who has endured several sequels, and in 2015, enjoyed something of a renaissance. Rocky Balboa is a terrific creation, and Stallone understood him completely, bringing a degree of gravitas to the role that is still effective when viewed forty years on. Future incarnations may have tarnished Stallone’s original interpretation, but the movie itself is a wonderful tribute to the idea that even the most average of people can achieve greatness if they work hard enough and believe in themselves.
2) Taxi Driver – Known more for its “You talkin’ to me?” moment than anything else these days, Martin Scorsese’s harsh, uncompromising look at one man’s mental deterioration in the face of overwhelming moral and political corruption is one of the most jarring and breathtaking movies ever made. There’s a crude energy to the movie that makes De Niro’s incredible performance all the more uncompromising, but while he’s the movie’s central focus, let’s not forget the superb supporting performances from the likes of Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster, and Albert Brooks, and .
3) In the Realm of the Senses – More controversy, as Japanese director Nagisa Ôshima explores the true story of Sada Abe, whose affair with her master became all-consuming, and which led to a terrible act of violence. The controversy here was the explicit sex performed by actors Tatsuya Fuji (the master) and Eiko Matsuda (Abe), but this isn’t an erotic movie by any standards, thanks to an exemplary script by Ôshima that focuses on the couple’s relationship and the overwhelming emotions that developed as a result of their affair. That said, the movie does have its lurid moments, but these are offset by Ôshima’s refusal to judge either character, and thanks to two very committed performances by Fuji and Matsuda.
4) Network – The movie that saw Peter Finch win a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal of a newsreader who famously declares that he’s “mad as hell, and [he’s] not going to take this anymore”, Network is much more than a glimpse into one man’s mental unravelling, but a stinging satire on the nature of news gathering and the lengths some organisations will go to in exploiting their staff for financial gain. Packed with enough cynicism to stop a herd of charging elephants, Paddy Chayefsky’s script (also an Oscar winner) is one of the most intelligent, gripping and perceptive ever written, and Sidney Lumet’s direction teases out every nuance.
5) All the President’s Men – William Goldman is the scribe responsible for the saying, “In Hollywood, nobody knows anything”. But in adapting Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s riveting account of Richard Nixon’s fall from grace through the Watergate affair, Goldman shows he knows exactly what he’s doing, and the result is a political thriller that grabs its audience from the beginning and doesn’t let go for the next two and a quarter hours. Even though we all know the outcome, and from this point in time the depth of Nixon’s involvement, it’s still an incredible journey that the movie takes us on. The only question that remains unanswered is why Bernstein has a bicycle wheel at the side of his desk all the time.
6) 1900 – Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic, five hours plus look at the social and political upheaval in early 20th century Italy that saw fascism give way to communism, and as seen through the eyes of two friends – Gérard Depardieu, Robert De Niro – from opposite sides of the class divide. Beautifully shot by Vittorio Storraro and spanning over forty years, Bertolucci’s confidence in the material and his cast provides the viewer with some of the most breathtaking moments in world cinema (or just cinema as a whole). Unfairly mistreated since its release – several edited versions have been more available than the original cut – this is richly rewarding and a movie that never fails to excite, stimulate and inspire.
7) Robin and Marian – A somewhat dour but compelling addition to the Robin Hood myth sees Sean Connery’s older, wiser Robin returning from the Crusades to woo Audrey Hepburn’s Maid Marian one last time. It’s a bittersweet affair, a jaded yet moving romance set against the backdrop of Robin’s desire to retire the legend that’s built up around him, but which no one wants to see come to an end. It’s another movie that’s been beautifully shot, this time by David Watkin, and features an eloquent score by John Barry that is actually one of his very best, and for those patient enough to wait for it, features one of the best sword fights ever committed to the big screen.
8) The Killing of a Chinese Bookie – The kind of indie crime drama that no one makes anymore, John Cassavetes’ superb examination of an inveterate gambler’s addiction getting him into serious trouble with the Mob is a masterclass in dramatic tension. As the gambler in question, Ben Gazzara gives a career best performance, but this is Cassavetes’ movie through and through, as he explores notions of masculinity and pride through the actions of one of life’s continual losers, and structures the movie in such a way that you’re never sure if everything is happening for real or in some fever dream that Gazzara’s character is having.
9) Fellini’s Casanova – Only Fellini could have made a movie about the world’s most famous seducer of women and made it equally about the era that defined him, a time of opulence and unfettered greed. Against this backdrop, Fellini paints a compelling portrait of a Renaissance man who doesn’t fit in unless he’s bedding women as a way of warding off his own lack of self-confidence, and to maintain his “reputation”. Fellini directs in a fantastical, scattershot, self-aggrandising manner that reflects the material, and as the grand seducer, Donald Sutherland gives one of his best performances. Unfairly dismissed by US critics on release, this is now regarded as one of the best of Fellini’s later works, and deserves to be more widely available as well.
10) Kings of the Road – With standout performances from Rüdiger Vogler and Hanns Zischler as the two men who decide to travel together around Germany, Wim Wenders’ melancholic musings on loneliness and acceptance, combined with a visual austerity to match their emotional obduracy, is one of the finest German made movies of the Seventies. A road trip that also acts as an exploration of a country still coming to terms with the Second World War, this is a movie that has a surprising amount of heart beneath its drab exterior, and despite its length (nearly three hours) compels the viewer to see how it all works out.
Andy Mikita, Australia, Comedy, Cricket, Crime, Death of a Gentleman, Deathgasm, Devil worship, Disaster, Documentary, Drama, Ed Cowan, Edgar Ramirez, Ericson Core, Extreme Sports, FBI, Fred Durst, Horror, Ice Hockey, India, James Blake, Jarrod Kimber, Jason Bourque, Jeremy Sisto, Johnny Blank, Luke Bracey, Michael Shanks, Michelle MacLaren, Milo Cawthorne, Movies, Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story, Murder, Paul Johansson, Point Break (2015), Population / 436, Ray Winstone, Religion, Remake, Reviews, Robbery, Rockwell Falls, Sam Collins, Sci-fi, Sebastian Spence, Sports, Stonados, SyFy, Test match cricket, Twenty 20, Water spouts
Deathgasm (2015) / D: Jason Lei Howden / 86m
Cast: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Delaney Tabron, Stephen Ure, Andrew Laing, Colin Moy, Jodie Rimmer
Rating: 7/10 – when a teenage wannabe death metal band come into possession of sheet music that, when played, summons a demon called the Blind One, it’s up to them to stop both a zombie outbreak and the Blind One from destroying the world; raucous, rough around the edges, and with a liberal approach to gore, Deathgasm is a good-natured horror comedy that stumbles on occasion but, luckily, never loses sight of its simple brief: to be loud, dumb and lots of fun.
Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story (2013) / D: Andy Mikita / 87m
Cast: Michael Shanks, Kathleen Robertson, Dylan Playfair, Andrew Herr, Emma Grabinsky, Martin Cummins, Andrew Kavadas, Teach Grant, Ali Tataryn, Lochlyn Munro, Tom Anniko, Donnelly Rhodes, Erik J. Berg
Rating: 6/10 – the true story of ice hockey legend Gordie Howe who, after retiring in 1971, came back two years later and played not only with his two sons but in a new league altogether – and maintained his winning ways; looking like a strange hybrid of TV movie and abandoned big screen project, Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story does its best to avoid being a formulaic biopic, but is let down by the episodic nature of the script and a tendency to raise issues but not always follow them through.
Point Break (2015) / D: Ericson Core / 114m
Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone, Teresa Palmer, Matias Varela, Clemens Schick, Tobias Santelmann, Delroy Lindo, Max Thieriot, Nikolai Kinski
Rating: 4/10 – ex-extreme sportsman Johnny Utah joins the FBI and is given the opportunity to infiltrate a group of extreme sports fanatics who may or may not be responsible for a string of daring robberies; pretty to look at and featuring some great extreme sports sequences, Point Break is nonetheless a pointless remake with poor performances from all concerned, a woeful script, and lacks the edge Kathryn Bigelow brought to the original, leaving the viewer to wonder – yet again – why Hollywood insists on making so many dreadful remakes.
Stonados (2013) / D: Jason Bourque / 88m
Cast: Paul Johansson, Sebastian Spence, Miranda Frigon, Jessica McLeod, Dylan Schmid, William B. Davis, Grace Wolf, Thea Gill
Rating: 3/10 – off the coast of Boston, freak water spouts appear and hurl large stone chunks in all directions, putting everyone in danger and hoping they don’t hit land and become… stonados!; made in the same year as Sharknado, this tries to take itself seriously, but without a sense of its own absurdity it stutters from one poorly staged “stonado” sequence to another while – ironically – being unable to shrug off a whole raft of ineffective, embarrassing performances.
Population / 436 (2006) / D: Michelle MacLaren / 88m
Cast: Jeremy Sisto, Fred Durst, Charlotte Sullivan, Peter Outerbridge, David Fox, Monica Parker, Frank Adamson, R.H. Thomson, Reva Timbers
Rating: 6/10 – a census taker (Sisto) comes to the small town of Rockwell Falls and begins to suspect a terrible conspiracy, one that keeps the town’s population fixed at the same number; an uneasy, paranoid thriller with horror overtones, Population 436 features a good performance from Sisto and a well maintained sense of dread, but is held back from being entirely convincing by some awkward soap opera moments and a mangled reason for the town keeping its numbers to 436.
Death of a Gentleman (2015) / D: Sam Collins, Jarrod Kimber, Johnny Blank / 99m
With: Sam Collins, Jarrod Kimber, Ed Cowan, Giles Clarke, Narayanaswami Srinivasan, Lalit Modi, Gideon Haigh, Mark Nicholas, Chris Gayle
Rating: 8/10 – journalists Collins and Kimber set out to make a movie about their love of cricket and the challenges it faces, both commercially and culturally, and discover a scandal that threatens an end to test match cricket; not just for fans of “the gentleman’s game”, Death of a Gentleman is a quietly impressive documentary that sneaks up on the viewer and exposes the level of corruption at the very top of the game, revealing as it does the way in which the sport is being held to ransom by Srinivasan and a handful of others.
Patty Duke (14 December 1946 – 29 March 2016)
An actress who had more success in television than in the movies, Patty Duke was nevertheless a dependable star who rarely subjected an audience to a poor performance. When she was in her teens she appeared in the Broadway production of The Miracle Worker (1959-61), playing Helen Keller, and when it was adapted for the screen in 1962 there was no question as to who should play the role of Helen; it had to be Patty. She won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role, and she was able to use that win to transfer to the small screen and her own show (imaginatively titled The Patty Duke Show). Success followed for a third time, and occasional excursions into movies aside, she continued to fare well in TV, including a remake of The Miracle Worker (1979) in which she then played Annie Sullivan; for that portrayal she won an Emmy. In the Eighties she was diagnosed with manic depression, but it didn’t stop her from continuing to give good performances and adding a touch of class to the projects she took on, even if they were largely guest spots on TV shows or TV movies (and where she was usually billed as Patty Duke Astin). She was an instinctive actress, unafraid to give of herself when a role required it, and though she may not be regarded as an A-lister, she did more than enough to earn the respect and admiration of her peers, as well as fans around the world.
1 – The Miracle Worker (1962)
2 – Billie (1965)
3 – Valley of the Dolls (1967)
4 – Me, Natalie (1969)
5 – You’ll Like My Mother (1972)
6 – Deadly Harvest (1972)
7 – Killer on Board (1977)
8 – The Miracle Worker (1979)
9 – The Violation of Sarah McDavid (1981)
10 – Call Me Anna (1990)