Friday, December 19, 2008

Greatest fight scenes

Just a quick mention of a great thread over on

Best fight scenes in a movie

a couple of my faves from the list

They Live:

No Retreat No Surrender 3

SPL ( a movie I was not familiar with.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ennio Morricone

Saw the legend that is Ennio Morricone last night in Belfast. Really incredible experience. We were very lucky and got seats in the very front row. not ten feet from the Maestro himself!

Like many people I primarily knew Ennio's contributions to Sergio Leone's Man With no Name trilogy' The title theme to The good the bad and the Ugly and The ecstasy of the gold from the same movie. I was also aware of his soundtrack to The Mission, but I hadn't seen that movie in years.

When we got the programme for the night I discovered he also did the composition for John Carpenters The Thing and for Brian DePalma's The Untouchables.

All of the above (barring music from The Thing) were played and in fact the Ecstasy of the gold was played twice.
Here's a a video of the song from a different concert. Same orchestra and incredible soprano ( Susanna Rigacci)

The choir was the Belfast Philharmonic Choir, The video cannot convey the experience of sitting there with a full orchestra and 100-120 person choir belting out Spaghetti western tunes when you're there in person.

As well as the Movie themes I recognised there were a couple of pieces that I had not previously known which were also excellent, one in particular which made full use of the choir is called Abolisson. It highlights the amazing talent this man has, the songs vary from beautiful and melancholy pieces through lighthearted xylophone-driven numbers to the raises-the-hair-on-the-back-of- your-neck majesty of On earth as it is in heaven from the mission.

It just leaves one thing to say...Bravo Maestro!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Empires 500 Movies

A rant if you will indulge me:

So Empire have compiled their readers top 500 films.
suffice to say the usual suspects dominate and everywhere I look I seem to find people bashing it as fanboyish nonsense. Fair enough, when it comes to subjective matters the wisdom of crowds is usually pretty skewed.

But as much as a lot of the empire list annoys me, the righteous 'my taste is so superior' backlash annoys me much further and in fact sends me rallying to wave my flag with the Empire hordes.

lets take a quick look at the alternative. The following is the top ten from the top 100 critics films in Sound and Vision ( a 'proper' movie review/criticism magazine).

1. Citizen Kane / Orson Welles
2. Vertigo / Alfred Hitchcock
3. The Rules of the Game / Jean Renoir
4. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II Francis Ford Coppola
5. Tokyo Story / Yazujiro Ozu
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey / Stanley Kubrick
7. Battleship Potemkin / Sergei Eisenstein
8. Sunrise / F.W. Murnau
9. 8 1/2 / Federico Fellini

I am depressed just looking at the titles, don't get me wrong I love some of these movies
(godfather and Vertigo are particular highlights) and I'm sure those I haven't seen
are very worthy (they are all on my list I believe).

The problem is where you gonna crack a smile, Only 2001 offers any serious escapism (that I know of) here
and for that, is it really better than the Empire Strikes back?
I know which one I'd rather watch.

p.s for what Its worth here was my submission (as far as I can recall, unfortunately
the original list is no longer available on the empire site. ) to the Empire List.

1. Princess Bride
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
3. Casablanca
4. Big Trouble in little china
5. Requiem for a Dream
6. Shawshank Redemption
7. Spider-man 2
8. Pans Labyrinth
9. Dragon: the bruce lee story
10.The Dark Knight

Yep I'm one of the people that bumped Dark knight into the top 15,
I stand by that I think its an great movie. I think I'd review it now
that other movies pop into my head ( no "once upon a time in the west",
"Army of Darkness" or "Hellboy", tough to call what I'd bump out)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Crystal Skull

First viewing last night and I'm happy with it. It was never going to live up to the hype but it gives it a good old fashioned try. Let me get the failings out of the way first...

(Some spoilers below).

prevalent Supernatural/superscience. In a break with tradition the Supernatural/superscience elements are present almost from the get go. The Arks power was not revealed till the raider denouement, The sankara stones only come to life at the very end, the Grail isn't seen till the last 10 minutes. Spalkos psychic powers are hinted at from the start, and by the halfway point we have seen the skull used and indeed It actively drives the plot along. Oh and there's a UFO.

Underused talent. Karen Allen is woefully underused , as is the excellent John Hurt ( reduced to a mumbling wreck for most of the movie). Ditto Jim Broadbent (although in fairness he gets as much screen time as Denholm Elliot did in Raiders).

Overused CGI. Granted its no phantom menace but there are a couple of places I think they used it where it wasn't need. I'm probably being a bit harsh here but those CGI prarie dogs didn't agree with me at all. If I can tell its CGI it shouldn't be there.

Dialogue. I though some of the dialogue was a little weak towards the end. Particularily in the aftermath of the ship 'taking off'.

Right with that out of the way, On to the Good Stuff.

Karen Allen, if nothing else for her reaction to the 'none of them were you' line, She has an amazing smile. The chemistry between them was great and the dialogue between them was nice and snappy.

Go Shia! Mutt Williams was an entirely acceptable new character to the indy universe. Yes him being Indys son looked terrifying on paper but they played it for laughs. Great to see the little references to the relationship between Indy and his dad in Crusade. The looks exchanged on the motorcycle to 'this is intolerable!'.

Great Set Pieces. The Bike chase (particularily when Indy fights his way through a car..) is really well filmed, the camerawork screams Spielberg. The Jungle chase is excellent too with lots of leaping from vehicle to vehicle and interactions going on.

Great CGI. Along with the bad there was the good, the Nuclear explosion was great, as were the ants and the fairly subtle CGI used during the Jungle chase ( I knew it was there but I couldn't see the seams) .

Indy still kicks ass , the punches still have that satisfying THWAP sound ( IIRC that was created by someone beating a pile of wet leather!) and he can still pull off the stunts convincingly. his two slugfests with the big russian (while not quite as epic as his punch outs with Pat Roach) were pretty satisfying.


All in all it checks all the boxes:
Hat Fedora and whip, creepy crawlies, Booby traps, a mystical McGuffin, Bad Guys defeated by their own greed, losing the hat and getting it back , breakneck chase scenes, fist fights, Quotable lines, A snake and a love interest.

Long live Indy!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"besides, You know what a careful guy I am"

So its not far away now.. Thursday night I'll be seeing Crystal Skull*. Been trying to keep the expectations to a reasonable level to avoid a repeat of the spider-man fiasco. However walking past the Irish premiere in the savoy today and confirming my tickets are booked has kind of set me off a bit. I'm off to think calm thoughts!

*think thats what I've decided on calling it rather than Kingdom. guess time will tell whether I chose wisely or not ;)

Friday, May 09, 2008

161: Forrest Gump

Well it only took me fourteen years (isn't that absolutely terrifying, it seems like only yesterday) but I finally got around to watching this.

As the inexplicably talented Forrest bumbles his way through an astounding array of historic events and places, he touches the lives of many, inadvertently teaching them life lessons (or in some cases, making them a fortune). Its pretty much exactly what I expected, a very sentimental moral tale. Forrest as a character starts out with the odds against him having an IQ of 75 and a twisted spine, But he makes it through the difficulties he encounters by living according to the aphorisms his mom taught him as a child. Indeed he seems barely seems aware of the trials he is is put through. Tom hanks Oscar win is well deserved, its a great physical performance as well as his subtle conveyance of emotions.

The movie is well paced , and it needs to be due to the sheer number and variety of Forrests experiences that we see. College football hero, Vietnam veteran, ping pong champion and long distance walker as well as several encounters with US presidents ( scenes which unfortunately have dated badly). In the course of these there is some really beautiful cinematography and effects. For me the best 'act' is the one set around the Vietnam war, we are introduced to Gary Sinise's character ('Lieutenant Dan') and some of the best effects,scenery and humour in the movie.

William Goldman raves about Robin Wright Penn in this movie , I thought she was passable and would in fact rate Gary Sinise's performance over hers. And as a character shes a pain in the ass, putting our poor Forrest through hell when in fact he's the best thing that ever happened to her (then again, guess it wouldn't have been much of a movie if they got together from the start).

In summary I'd have to say Gump is Sentimental,Soppy,Predictable and Silly and I really liked it. The humour and hints at independent movie style save it from being the big Hollywood schmaltz it could have been. If only they had gone a little further
it could have been great.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

160: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Had this sitting on my shelf for ages and just hadn't gotten round to watching it.
Having read William Goldmans Adventures in the screen trade, I knew a couple of things going in , I knew it had comic elements and I knew that Paul Newman and Robert Redford have a great chemistry in it. Oh and I knew how it ended, Impossible to avoid really its of those iconic scenes that is referenced and parodied a lot.

I think maybe if I hadn't known all of those things beforehand I would have enjoyed it better.I'm jumping ahead somewhat. First things first, the opening credits reveal the music was composed by Burt Bacharach, a slight jump from the Sergio Leone soundtracks I'm used to in westerns. It gives it an anachronistic feel which is interesting but I'm not a big fan of that kind of music, so call that a point against..

The first few scenes are typical western style (poker, gunplay,a train robbery ) setting up the characters (Butch is the brains and Sundance is the hotshot gunslinger ) and establish that they are already notorious.
There are a couple of great moments, most of them from the brilliant dialogue. But there are some points where interest starts to wane. That awful 'raindrops keep falling on my head' scene. And too many drawn out shots where nothing actually happens.

However from the second train robbery , the film really finds its feed. The pair are pursued by a seemingly unstoppable and completely anonymous posse. The pursuit is very well shot and The banter between butch and sundance losses its joking nonchalance as they realise they are in trouble -"Who are these guys?"

The plot changes direction again they flee to Bolivia to avoid their pursuers for good, Taking Eta ,Sundances girl,with them. There's an odd and to my mind unnecessarily long photomontage bridging the two halves of the movie showing their
journey south. There are more great comic moments when they realise they don't speak the language, not knowing how to say 'This is a robbery' in their new home. Theres a great scene where Eta and Sundance are gleefully shown into the safe in a bank by the manager which is played with no dialogue, just backing music, that is worthy of mention.
The Actress playing Eta is overshadowed by Newman and Redford but she plays the part adequately.

In the end the pair draw too much attention to themselves and find themselves
hunted down. And we all know how it ends.