Author Archives: CZombie

Summer Movie Blog-a-thon: 1984

I was born in the year 1970, which means I was an active human presence on this planet through that entire decade. However, other than Star Wars, the better episodes of Doctor Who and a few fashion traumas, there isn’t a great deal I remember about the Seventies. So, when nostalgia comes calling for me, it comes bearing the stamp of the 1980s. And when my nostalgia turns to movies, one year stands out above the other nine: 1984.

What a year for the summer movie that was. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop, Star Trek III, The Terminator. Oh boy, oh boy, it was a feast of flavoursome seasonal celluloid. And the icing on the summer cake turned out to be a tasty confection called Ghostbusters. It was one of those mysterious and elusive creatures, the Sleeper Hit™, coming out of nowhere and stealing the summer.

I seem to remember spending the best part of the summer of ’84 standing outside the local 3-screen cinema. I was 14 years old, and beginning to gain more traction in that tug of war for more freedom with my parents, and going to the cinema was the activity of choice for a lot of us. Sure, you could hang out at the park, but the cinema was better. Well, it was to me, anyway. Come on, the cinema had movies. The park had grass and a fountain. It was a no-brainer. Yes, I was one of those peculiar teenage guys that sat in the darkened cinema, girlfriend at my side, with every intention of actually watching the movie. I did not go there to snog and cop a feel. That’s what the park was for. Okay, I may have made an exception with Out of Africa, but it was long and boring as a dog’s ass.

Spengler, Stantz, Venkman and Zeddemore - love those surnames.

So, yeah, Ghostbusters. Sorry, may have drifted from the point there. Nostalgia will do that to you. I remember the summer of ’84 was the summer of Ray Parker Jr. asking you who you were gonna call. And then telling you. Incessantly. I confess to you here and now and with no sense of shame…well, maybe a little, that I bought that damn record. Oh, give me a break, it was catchy. A lot of people bought it. And like a lot of people, Ghostbusters blew me away on that first viewing.  It was witty, original, the special effects were fantastic and I think even my girlfriend stopped wondering why I wasn’t trying to put a clumsy arm around her. Maybe we went to the park afterwards, I can’t remember.

With most movies which you saw for the first time all those years ago, you don’t really recall the event. You just know you saw them at the cinema. However, I can remember vividly watching Ghostbusters. We were sitting on the right hand side, near the back (but not right at the back, which was reserved for couples who should have been at the park). I remember the opening scene, the appearance of Slimer, and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man all from that particular angle. Isn’t that strange? I don’t recall what I was wearing but, this being 1984, that’s probably for the best.

So much better than watching a fountain in the park.

One more thing that I will always remember, with absolute fondness, is the Ghostbusters novelisation, by Larry Milne. I read a lot of novelisations back then, but this one was by far the best. It was written in the present tense, which was rare for that kind of book, and somehow this made it even funnier than the movie itself. It had such a dry humour to it. It could have been written by Bill Murray. I must have read that book three times, at least. When my girlfriend wasn’t around, of course.

Some films travel with you through time, always remaining in step with you, never triggering feelings of nostalgia. Ghostbusters will always be like an old song to me; a song that takes you back to your youth, and the summer you spent exploring new freedoms and discovering movies that you would love for life.

George Orwell was right about a lot of things, but for me 1984 was a great year.


Favourite Movie Scenes: Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Movie

Raiders of the Lost Ark is my all time favourite celluloid experience, bar none. There’s no other movie like it. Any collaboration between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had a high chance of providing something special, and although none of the sequels lived up to the magic of this first crack of the whip, Raiders was a shining nugget of movie gold. There are certainly other movies that have connected with me more on an emotional or intellectual level, but no film quite gives me the pure chills, the goosebumps, that I get from Raiders of the Lost Ark. No other movie so effortlessly reminds me why I love cinema quite like this one. And no scene is a better example of why than the opening scene.

The Scene

South America, 1936. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his companion Satipo (Alfred Molina) have located a remote, hidden temple. We’ve already had a taste of what kind of character this guy in the hat is after he’s seen off an armed traitor in his group, using just a bullwhip. Classy.

The two men enter the temple…

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Why I Love It

The Idea

What an opening scene for a movie. What a way for a character to introduce himself. What a piece of pure, unpretentious, fluid cinema. There are few directors so adept at making the ridiculous seem plausible like Steven Spielberg, which is what made him the perfect choice to make Raiders of the Lost Ark. The idea was to bring back the old Saturday morning adventure serials, with their cliff-hanger endings and preposterous scrapes. In this, they succeeded and then some. The opening scene immediately drops us into Indiana’s life at its most exciting, almost as if we have just caught the end of last week’s episode.

The Icky Factor

Spielberg understands that as well as ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’, audiences also enjoy the odd ‘yuk!’ The Indiana Jones movies are crawling (literally) with moments such as these. Having already given us an army of tarantulas, we are then treated to the nasty fate of Dr Jones’ predecessor, Forrestal. He even makes squelchy noises as his decomposing head turns Indiana’s way. Yes!

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Walking the Traps

A bunch of faces which shoot poison darts? No problem. Just don’t tread on the darker, diamond shaped stones. This should seem like a breeze when you think about it, but thanks to Spielberg’s slow tracking shot along the wall of faces, and John William’s steadily building score, it seems more like the worst ever drink driving test.

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The Intimate Zoom

Having reached the Golden Idol, Indy stops for a moment. With Williams’ music reaching a crescendo, Spielberg takes time for a slow zoom onto the Archaeologist and his prize. For Indiana Jones at that moment, there is nothing in the world but he and the Idol. It’s the perfect little moment of character illustration. Then, we pull out again and it’s back to business. Gives me a shiver every time.

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Ford Falls Over

The boulder rolling down toward Jones has long since become an iconic image, but what I love about this part is the fact that, having done 10 takes of Harrison Ford outrunning the huge fibreglass ball, Spielberg kept the one take where Ford fell over. It gives the scene a little sprinkle of authenticity, and I’m sure the panic on Ford’s face is genuine.

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Trivia

There is a continuity error at the beginning of the scene. As Indiana Jones and Satipo enter the temple, they pass through a huge cobweb. When Jones leans downwards to walk through the web, there are spiders clearly visible on his back. Cut to a shot from behind the pair, and we can see that Indy’s back is now clear. Then Satipo notices spiders on Indy’s back! Magic South American disappearing tarantulas or Continuity Editor’s day off?

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It doesn’t matter, of course. One small continuity error can’t stop this being my favourite scene from my favourite movie. Long may it give me goosebumps and bring a cheesy smile to my face!


Top Ten: Female Movie Characters

Now, this really was a difficult one. I could have made this a top 50 and still struggled with who to include and who to leave out. Ah, the agony of choice. But, the fact that I have other things to do means I’ll just have to stop agonising and post the damn list.

Enjoy, and please feel free to add your own suggestions.

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Allison Reynolds – Ally Sheedy

The Breakfast Club

The basket case. Allison is moody, withdrawn, a compulsive liar and by far the most fun member of The Club. She has the fewest lines but says a thousand words with each scowl from her hair-covered eyes. Allison is the perfect teenage enigma; she wants to be found but there’s no way she’s going to make it easy for you. Fact: she looked better before Claire’s makeover.

Greatest moment: The Cap’n Crunch cereal sandwich followed by defiant chewing.

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Amélie Poulain – Audrey Tautou

Amelie

Everyone needs an Amélie in their life. The self-appointed guardian of the hopes and dreams of those around her, Amélie avoids her own life by repairing the lives of others. If you could get near her without her freaking out, hanging out with Amélie would be a blast. Shy, imaginative and unbelievably cute, there are few characters in the world of cinema that deserve their happy ending as much as she does.

Greatest moment: The garden gnomes.

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Dory – Ellen Degeneres

Finding Nemo

Okay, so she’s a fish but she’s a female character, isn’t she? And fish or not, Dory is just lovable. Yes, she’s absent-minded and she talks a little too much. In fact, she’s the kind of character who would probably drive you insane eventually, but contained within this hour and a half of Pixar magic, Dory is golden-hearted, wilfully optimistic and totally endearing. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Greatest moment: Speaking fluent whale.

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Ellen Ripley – Sigourney Weaver

Alien, Aliens, Alien3, Alien Resurrection

Quite possibly the toughest woman in the history of the universe, Ripley has watched a succession of men fall prey to the alien creature which then falls prey to her. Four times over. Not content with facing down the ‘perfect organism’, Ripley also busies herself tearing multi-national corporate power a new asshole. And she still finds time to satisfy her maternal instincts.

Greatest moment: Grabbing a power-loader and opening a can of whoop-ass on the Alien Queen.

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Laine Hanson – Joan Allen

The Contender

Senator Hanson is an example to all politicians. When her confirmation as Vice President is hampered by accusations of sexual indiscretion from an opponent, she chooses her principles of privacy and good politics over a defensive cry, refusing to deny or confirm the accusation in the face of overwhelming pressure to play the game. Hanson wins the day.

Greatest moment: Putting the President himself down when he asks her for the truth.

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Marge Gunderson – Frances McDormand

Fargo

Marge Gunderson is pure magic. At first glance she may come across as a simple, heavily pregnant, small-town policewoman but underneath that docile and well-mannered exterior are the instincts and tenacity of a bloodhound. Sharp as a razor, she sniffs out guilt with a mixture of amiable conversation and stern politeness. Underestimate Marge Gunderson at your peril.

Greatest moment: Telling off killer Gaear Grimsrud as he sits sulking in the back of her car.

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Marion Ravenwood – Karen Allen

Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

From the moment we meet her, running her own bar in Tibet, Marion is the only one keeping up with the Jones. Frankly, the adventuring archaeologist never stood a chance. Over the course of two movies she saves his life, machine guns a truck full of soldiers, survives a 50-foot plunge and the wrath of God, drives an armoured car off a cliff, has Jones’ son and then finally marries her man. You go, girl.

Greatest moment: The drinking contest.

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May Canady – Angela Bettis

May

She doesn’t mean to be weird, she just hasn’t had much practice socialising with anything other than the doll her mother gave her when she was a lonely child with a lazy eye. May tries hard to find a true friend, but makes all the wrong choices and it always ends badly. She doesn’t take the rejections very well. What was that her mother said? If you can’t find a friend, make one. Look on the bright side, at least May is creative.

Greatest moment: May gets dressed up for Halloween.

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Muriel Pritchett – Geena Davis

The Accidental Tourist

She’s a little eccentric and has a questionable sense of fashion, but Muriel Pritchett is the kind of woman who understands exactly what’s important in life. And she’ll always be there to remind you that you’re taking yours too seriously. Even it if it means following you halfway across the planet to do so. Also great with dogs.

Greatest moment: Condensing her entire outlook on life into the simple act of adding extra pickles to her Burger King Whopper.

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Sarah Connor – Linda Hamilton

Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day

From diner waitress to the saviour of mankind in two movies. Not too shabby. Okay, that’s via the psychiatric ward, but when you start spouting off about the time-travelling, killer robot that chased you through the 80s, you’re bound to get a negative reaction. Mind you, by the second movie, it’s a brave man who gives Sarah Connor a negative reaction to her face. Just look at her. Would you tell her she needs to lighten up a bit?

Greatest moment: Escaping the asylum.

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Top Five: Overlooked Movies

Have you ever felt like you are the only person who loves a particular movie, or indeed has even seen it? Yeah, me too. There are some films which you watch, adore and then wonder why no-one else is talking about them. Somehow, they slipped through the net and swam away unnoticed, barely causing a ripple in the water. Some receive critical applause and yet make no money at the box office, some receive neither critical applause or commercial return at all, and some simply don’t enter the annals of their genres with the amount of respect and recognition that you feel they deserved.

Here are the five movies which I feel deserved a far bigger fanfare than they were accorded. My overlooked gems. Feel free to add your own.

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Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

Having written some of the sharpest and wittiest action movies of the last twenty-five years (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight), Shane Black finally got the director’s chair with Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer share a great comic chemistry as a petty thief mistaken for an actor and a gay Private Investigator, caught up together in the intrigues of a seedy Hollywood. The plot is a tightly woven web of insane circumstances, paying an almost sarcastic homage to classic Noir, right down to Downey Jr.’s self-aware narration and love of crime novels featuring a detective with the inspired name of Johnny Gossamer. Val Kilmer has never been funnier, Downey Jr. is at his world-weary best and Black’s dialogue is of the sparkling standard that Tarantino has wet dreams about. And as far as I can tell, no-one saw it.

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May

Little known writer/director Lucky McKee should have made his name with this psychological horror, his second movie. However, even more deserving of wider recognition was lead actress Angela Bettis. May, a lonely young woman traumatised by an isolated childhood and minor disfigurement, is desperate to connect with someone, anyone, but lacks the social skills necessary to do so. May is a misfit in the deepest sense of the word, unable to exercise the normal modes of interaction which bring the world closer. As she tries, and fails, to develop relationships with those around her she gradually unravels to heartbreaking and horrifying effect. This is the kind of movie that hinges on a single performance and Bettis is phenomenal. Whether May’s actions are clumsy, vindictive or ultimately deadly, Bettis never allows our sympathies to drift away. That she did not break out into greater success on the back of this performance is a tragedy.

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Shadow of the Vampire

There are probably as many vampire films as there are Westerns, so popular is the genre, but ask anyone to name their favourite vampire flick and it’s unlikely that Shadow of the Vampire will be among many lists. That’s too bad because it gave a tired genre just what it needed; something a little different. Shadow of the Vampire is based on the actual production of Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau’s 1922 adaptation of Dracula, with one fictional element; Max Shreck, the actor who portrayed Count Orlock, is a vampire in real life and director Murnau is the only member of the crew who knows it. Willem Dafoe has a ball as the bald, rat-like Shreck and John Malkovich is at his lunatic best as the tyrannical filmmaker, allowing the vampire to consume expendable crew members, and promising him the leading lady at the end of filming in return for his co-operation. You are left in no doubt as to who the real monster is.

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Veronica Guerin

Taking a break from producing big, dumb summer blockbusters, Jerry Bruckheimer got behind this true story of the Irish journalist murdered by drug dealers in 1996. Slated in some quarters on its release, and ultimately recouping just over half its budget, Veronica Guerin is still a deeply affecting piece of cinema. Cate Blanchett, in the titular role, and director Joel Schumacher, wisely avoid going the route of presenting Guerin as a two-dimensional ‘plucky’ heroine. Instead we see a whole person; an obstinate, driven, but morally laudable woman who pursues the truth even when it threatens her and her family’s safety. And yet, thanks to Blanchett’s usual great work, she remains noble, admirable and completely sympathetic. The performances from all concerned are first class, and it’s a credit to Schumacher that the final, tragic resolution loses none of its impact, despite the foreknowledge.

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Wonder Boys

Coming off the success and acclaim of L.A. Confidential, journeyman director Curtis Hanson’s next project was a fantastic adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel Wonder Boys. Charting one weekend in the complicated life of English Professor and novelist Grady Tripp, Hanson’s movie boasts a mouth-watering cast. Michael Douglas gives a career best performance as the pot smoking, crumpled writer, circumnavigating a multitude of woes in the midst of his faculty’s annual Wordfest convention. Tripp is juggling the exodus of his wife, the arrival of his editor (Robert Downey Jr.) who is keen to view the manuscript which Tripp cannot finish, the news that his girlfriend (Frances McDormand) is pregnant, the amorous attentions of one of his students (Katie Holmes) and the clingy depression of another (Tobey Maguire). Douglas is charming, witty and a lot of fun to be with, and so is Wonder Boys. A mystery, then, that the movie only managed a worldwide gross of two thirds its production budget.

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Free Inside! (via Blah!)

Free Inside! Today was my weekly grocery shopping expedition. I use the word expedition because that’s what it sometimes feels like when you don’t drive. Lugging three bags of groceries home is good exercise. Fascinating stuff, right? Don’t worry, I am working toward my topic. It was while I was standing there in Aisle 2, perusing the boxes of cereal, that I realised something astounding; not one brand of cereal was giving away free gifts inside the boxes. Wh … Read More

via Blah!