Archive for January, 2018

The Post

Posted: January 31, 2018 in Movies
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As a kid I felt, with no hesitation, Steven Spielberg was synonyms with the magic of film. Why wouldn’t I? From Jaws, Jurassic Park and Indianna Jones he’s directed some of the most exciting and classic movies. As I grew up and he matured as a filmmaker we went different ways. Not to sound dramatic but it felt like a breakup. I wasn’t interested in the films he was making. The Post, which it was not my idea to go and see, is his latest and now I’m happy to say it feels like we’re back on speaking terms if not outright friendly once again.

The film is about the Washington Post paper. In the 1970’s the paper got hold of documents that shed an unfavourable light on the United States and it’s involement in the Vietnam War. The president himself gets involved and the paper is warned that if it publishes these documents there will be dire consequences. So does the paper risk publishing or do they tow the lie? The film is fact based so the answer is known but, if like me, you have limited knowledge of the time peroid and the case I won’t reveal what happens.

Describing my thoughts on this is going to be odd but stick with me. The Post is extremley talky. Writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer cram a lot of information into the narrative and that can’t have been easy. Also accounted for is the human element and dramatic arcs for the film’s main characters and the dilema’s they face. Half an hour into the film I told myself if my mum (that’s who i went with) suggested we leave I’m happy to go. However, just over an hour or so into it the film has you and it’s because of an excellent Meryl Streep’s portrayl of publisher Kay Graham. The moral issues faced by The Washington Post and it’s staff are vital enough on it’s own to warrant telling, that goes without saying, just maybe not in this style, so it falls then to Kay Graham’s battle to hook the audience.

Graham, as presented in the film, is a woman who fell into this role of power and has to dig deep within herself to make a choice that will ultimately go on to effect the powers of the press in the free world for decades. Had the film not used this angle I do not think it would have worked. The film may as well be a documentary otherwise, no offense to the writers, but for a chatty film such as this it felt like it was missing the beats, almost musical, that writers like Aaron Sorkin deploy to such great effect when presenting a dialogue driven movie.

Direction is as you would expect from the big S. What’s most impressive is how good the focus of the film is because the turn around on this was fast. It started shooting last year and was out by the end of the year (in America at least). That’s impressive. Spielberg manages to put some signature touches in here. Characters over lapping one another when talking or fumbling at crucial moments to create dramatic effect, one such scene has a reporter spilling quarters in abundance as he attempts to make a phone call that earned a groan from the screening I was at. But that’s typical Spielberg. As eye rolling as that stuff is it works to create that tension and hey it can happen in real life! The cast is solid across the board and with Tom Hanks, Carrie Coon (The Leftovers, Fargo) and Bob Odenkirk amongst others rounding it out you wouldn’t expect anything less.

Is The Post a “must see” film? That depends on you and your interest in the subject matter. I’m glad I saw it. It’s not a film I think you need to see on the big screen. I thought it was an informative film, that’s not terribly exciting or dramatic but one which covers important parts of American history which, in some ways, need to be looked at in today’s media climate. Freedom of the press should never be attacked and for that reason, amongst others, the film has a important message and at it’s heart a look at one woman’s courage when faced with potentially less than favourable consequences.

 

 

 

Demolition Man

Posted: January 29, 2018 in Movies
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Demolition Man is a loud, fun and action heavy 90’s movie starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock. Is it the most impressive action movie from the 1990’s? No it is not but I guarantte you will not be bored. This is a decent action romp with a likeable cast and a fun futuristic vibe. The trailers for this were so cool, I wished at the time I was old enough to go and see this but like with most movies of this kind during the early 90’s I had to wait till they hit VHS!

The film, this is funny now, opens in the not too distant future of 1996! L.A. has been left to the gangs and is a war zone. Criminal nutcase Simon Phoenix has hostages and it’s up to one man force of nature, cop, John Spartan to bring Phoenix in and save the hostages. Spartan, yes the films tongue is placed in it’s cheek throughout, is nick named the Demolition Man because he tears down anything and anyone that stands in the way of him and the bad guys. It’s brilliant. Sadly for Spartan his rescuse attempt goes bad and he and Phoenix are placed into cryosleep until the year 2032! Phoenix escapes and it’s up to Spartan and the ill prepared San Angeles P.D. to take Phoenix out.

A big part of the fun factor of Demolition Man is the insane yet funny 2032 vision of the future. Instead of a war zone the fture is presented as this peaceful oasis. Money is no longer used, people are fined for cursing and violence is almost unheared off. Police officers don’t even know what a code 187 is! Once Phoenix is back out on the streets this paradise is turned into a battleground between himself and Spartan and the results are very entertaining. There’s some other stuff to the plot. A subplot involing a group of lower classes who dwell in the ruins of old L.A. underground and their struggle with the ideals imposed upon them by the upper classes comes into play. The issue with it is it sort of comes into play a bit too late into proceedings to have any real impact beyond the surface “Can’t we all just live and let live?” The same applies to the mention of Spartan potentially having an adult daughter out there someplace. It’s brought up but nothing comes of it.

Stallone and Snipes are brilliant. Both actors look like they had a ball making this and if that was the case it comes across on screen. Snipes gets to go NUTS and impresses with his real life martial arts abilities. He has a cool look too. While Demolition Man may not be a classic you won’t forget Simon Phoenix! Bullock, who I adore, is good but I found her character (Spartan’s new S.A.P.D. partner) a bit too on the nose when it came to her reactions regarding Spartan and his no shit 20th Century attitude. I guess that’s the point of her character though. The awesome Denis Leary also pops up as the leader of the ‘rebels’. Leary is great but sadly he’s not in the film as much as I would have liked.

For some reason I thought Demolition Man was directed by a famed 90’s action director. Let me put that another way. What I mean is that I know it wasn’t directed by a big name 90’s action movie director but it looks like it could have been. So I was surprised that director Marco Brambilla’s only other feature credit was Excess Baggage! That film was torn apart critically on release. I have not not see it so I can’t comment. Demolition Man, which hit screens in late 1993, is a fun action movie and I would have liked to have seen what else Brambilla could have delivered in the genre. From reading about the film online it seems that Warner Brothers heavily cut quite a lot from the film and that doesn’t surprise me. From what I could gather whole action scenes are missing from the film and Spartan’s daughter did in fact play a role and can be glimpsed in the film’s ending! Now that’s a shame, more so when you ask why on earth the original cut of the film was never released?

As it stands the film is loads of fun. It has a good pace, the direction is solid and the action is fun. Add in a likeable cast and some great set pieces and you got yourself a good action movie and one of my faves from Stallone and Snipes.

 

EarthBound

Posted: January 26, 2018 in Video Games
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EarthBound hit the Super Nintendo in 1995 (in North America) and to put it in simple terms it is a role playing game. You a fan of 90’s era Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest? Okay, well if you are, you will appreciate and probably end up loving this charming game. As a kid I had heard of EarthBound through Nintendo Magzine and such. It never got a PAL release, sadly, and although I had a NTSC converter for my SNES EarthBound passed me by. I came to the game late in it’s life. Thanks to the SNES Classic I got to experience it and it’s brilliant.

The game was designed by Shigesato Itoi. I didn’t know who he was before EarthBound but from what I can gather he is known for developing all of the games to date in this series. This game is in fact the second entry in what is known as the Mother series. Not that I feel you have to play the games in any order, from what I understand the sole cross over between them is the villian and other easter eggs. Don’t quote me on that mind! The game celebrates American culture in a cute way. Set in a world that mirrored the USA of the 90’s. An interesting take being that it’s America from the POV of an eastern developer who I guess had a fondness for western culture.

EarthBound’s plot is standard RPG stuff. Giygas, an evil force, begins to influence people and threaten the planet by potentially unleashing chaos. So it falls to four kids to come together, strangers to begin with, to bring down this corruption. The way the game is presented to the player is more unique than it’s story. For example during battles the player’s HP rolls down when dealt powerful blows. In other games that would mean defeat but in EarthBound, if you’re quick enough, you can bounce back from defeat if you heal your party quick enough. This lends battles a feeling of excitement! How you explore towns and (literally) go shopping for items feels funny because normally these games lean on the fantasy element. In EarthBound you need to go to an ATM machine to withdraw/deposit your cash! You shop in actual stores and shopping malls! It’s so cool and the ‘real world’ setting was, at that time, not as present as it is today in games.

EarthBound looks fun and colourful but it has some deep themes and wants the player to think about life. The writing is quirky and at times a little nuts but it a good way. For example if you stop to talk to a dog on the street it tells you how great you are for taking the time to chat to a dog!? Brilliant! There’s certainly a healthy dose of weird in this game and things do go trippy. It’d be a crime to ruin some of those scenes though! Another ambitious thing this game did at the time was the open world design. There’s no load screens, you literally just travel continusely throughout your journey. For 1995 and the SNES this was incredible. Oh and the soundtrack is ace.

EarthBound is a game RPG fans should check out. I think. If you’re not into role playing games or ones which require a time investment then EarthBound probably won’t be your cup of tea. For me, well I’m delighted I got to play this (better late than never) and days after finishing it I’m still thinking about it. Great game, wonderful world and one I hope I can explore more of if it’s sequel ever gets a western release.

NOTE: When you finish the final boss in the game be aware you can freely explore. I didn’t know this. I don’t think you can save a end game state after defeating the boss so if you want the world to explore at your lesiure then make sure you got some free time to give to it once you finish the boss.

 

Total Recall

Posted: January 24, 2018 in Movies
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Total Recall is a wicked sci-fi/action flick from 1990. The film is directed by the awesome Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Starship Troopers) and is based (loosely) on the science fiction novel from famed author Phillip K. Dick. Total Recall stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as an average construction worker by the name of Douglas Quaid. Bored by his life, his job and the fact he lives on Earth he dreams of taking a vacation to Mars. Enter Recall, the company who guarantees that with the aid of their brain altering tech you can spend a vacation anywhere in the universe that’s better than the real thing, such is the quality of their memories!

So with no time to loose, and against the wishes of wife Lori (Sharon Stone) and friends from work, Quaid heads off to Recall. Only his trip does not go as planned. All hell breaks loose during the procedure. This guy’s brain already has a memory cap in place. His mind has been wiped! Who is he? Is Quaid’s life on Earth a lie? Why does everyone suddenly want him dead? The answers to the sudden erruption of mayhem and action lie on Mars and Quaid sets out to find the truth and kill anyone who gets in his way as only a 90’s action character knows how!

Just like Robocop and Starship Troopers, Total Recall has it’s tongue pressed firmly in it’s cheek. The action, like in Verhoeven’s other movies, is violent and bloody but there’s a constant thread of satire, perhaps more subtle than in Robocop or ‘Troopers, yet present all the same and it lends a sense of fun to the carnage. Fans of science fiction will certainly get a kick out of the twisty turny plot as Quaid ventures deeper and deeper into the mystery concerning his true identity and his links to Mars. The others characters that make up the movie are all excellent. Almost everyone kicks a big amount of arse in this movie and each with a distinct agenda. What is so great about that is the way in which, as a viewer, you’re never quite sure who can be trusted and who is in fact out to kill Quaid.

There’s a lot about this film I just flat out adore. Arnie is boss. This is easily one of his best films and it’s a pity he never worked with Verhoeven again because their styles go great together. Sharon Stone as Quaid’s wife Lori is boss. I love her in this. The women in this film get stuck into the action just as much as the guys. Rachel Ticotin as the mysterious Melina is just as great as Stone and the two actresses have a great scene together. Staying vague to avoid spoilers. Giving the film yet another stamp of excellence is the legend Michael Ironside as henchman Richter, now this guy despises Quaid, and his thirst to just destroy Quaid is one of the films highlights. Richter HATES our hero and it’s so fun seeing him come close to killing him again and again.

Total Recall has a boss original score that gives the movie a sense of identity and gets the blood pumping when the action is all kicking off. It’s an exciting film from start to finish and the great music plays an important role in that. The film looks great. The effects still hold up. You’ll watch this and think two things. How amazing it was what the filmmakers were able to acomplish with the use of practical effects and secondly, why the heck would any filmmaker choose to use CGI over practical effects work.

This movie is a true gem. When I was a kid I always asked myself why they never made this into a franchise but the beauty of the film is that it could never work as one. Not really. Then again I guess if you look at the film from another angle a sequel could have worked. Such is the skill of the work on display here from all involved. To say any more would possibly spoil one of the best parts about the whole film. Watch this movie.

 

Girl, Interrupted

Posted: January 22, 2018 in Movies
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Before James Mangold hooked up with Marvel VIP Wolvierine, with The Wolverine and Logan, he was known more for his directorial work on dramas. Girl, Interrupted (based on the excellent memoir by Susanna Kaysen) hit cinemas in 1999 and takes a honest look at mental illness and women. In the late 1960’s Kaysen (played by Winona Ryder) spent 18 months in a mental institution and the film follows her time spent there, her battles and those she met during her stay. This is one of Mangold’s best films.

At this stage in her career Winona Ryder was already an established name thanks to starring roles in films like Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Heathers and Alien: Resurrection. Getting this movie made was a labour of love for the actress, who was taken by Kaysen’s memoir, and that care taken in bringing Kaysen’s story to the screen is evident in the movie.

The film, arguably, features the role that would make a then up and coming Angelina Jolie a star. Winning the actress an Oscar for her role as fellow patient Lisa, who strikes up a bond with Ryder’s Kaysen. The film features several excellent character actors – Brittany Murphy, Elisabeth Moss, Jared Leto, Angela Bettis – who would go on to have solid careers in both film and televison, as well as acting veterans Whoopi Goldberg and Vanessa Redgrave in strong supporting roles.

Mental illness in any form is horrendous. It effects peoples lives in ways that prevent them carrying out the simple task of simply living day to day. If not treated the strain of mental illness can take it’s toll and the effects can be tragic. The film does not gloss over these darker themes and in that way it presents a compelling snap shot of one young woman’s battle and how it effects her, and to a lesser degree (the film primeraly focuses on Kaysen and her fellow patients) those around her. At times the film is funny (yet never at the expense of anyones illness), always compelling and quite tragic. One scene in particular is so bleak and ultimatley heartbreaking. Don’t be fooled by the high production value that went into the shooting of the film to make it look great because when it gets down to it the film doesn’t pull any punches.

Mangold directs with an eye for the 1960’s setting, lending the film a filter that, while not evoking old Hollywood, certainly seems to be accurate in capturing the feel and look of the late 1960’s. Although the film deals with serious issues the film is shot in such a way that, at times, it’s quite beatilful to look at. A lot of that has to do with the time period the film is set in and the care taken in recreating it.

Although the film is Ryder’s labour of love it was Jolie who got a lot of attention, which was warranted, with her excellent performence as Lisa. Jolie’s performence is a powerhouse. She’s like a force of nature in this movie, yet for that to work as well as it does it had to rely on Ryder’s equally great turn as Kaysen. Make no mistake it’s Ryders performence which holds the entire film together and carries it. All of the cast do excellent work.

Girl, Interrupted is not just a great film it’s an important movie that take a stance on mental illness by presenting one woman’s story of it to the viewer. The film doesn’t take sides. Why would it? One thing I would have liked to have seen explored more, which the film hints at, is if Kaysen was even sick to begin with or was she simply a young woman crying out for help in a time period where people just didn’t know how to react to that? If you happen to like the film as much as me then I urge you to check out Kaysen’s memoir. It’s an excellent book and, unlike the film, it offers an epilogue of sorts that sheds some light on what happened to Kaysen after her stay in hospital as well as some of her fellow patients. I never really understood why the film chose to not include that.

 

The new Tomb Raider trailer has arrived!

Posted: January 19, 2018 in Movies
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90’s video game icon Lara Croft is making her return to the big screen later this year with the reboot of Tomb Raider. The new film is based on Lara’s more recent games which were celebrated for taking a more grounded and darker approach to Lara Croft’s adventures.

Look. I’ll be honest. I think the new Tomb Raider games, gameplay wise, are two of the most impressive games in the series. But the rebooted Lara is, I’m sorry, a bore compared to the more fun and wise cracking heroine we got in the 90’s and the 00’s. This new film stars Alicia Vikander and it seems like she has gone all in on the role and that can only be applauded! Also cool is the fact that while this new Lara is taking her cue from the more recent games it looks like Vikander’s take on the role will retain some of the fun and wise crakcs from old school Lara.

The chances of this being good are 50/50. The film has a good director in the form of Roar Uthaug (seriously watch The Wave) but that’s no guarantee of success. Nor is the great cast, led by Vikander, that includes the likes of Walton Goggins, Dominic West and Kristin Scott Thomas. These trailers aren’t showing anything of note that I haven’t already experienced in the game the film is based on. While the action looks decent the plot looks like it’s a bit by the numbers. Hopefully there’s a lot more to the film (there won’t be haha) and the trailers are keeping all the fantastic stuff back.

Tomb Raider hits screens in March.

Live Free or Die Hard

Posted: January 17, 2018 in Movies
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Die Hard 4 or Live Free or Die Hard if you like, was, when it was announced, one of my most anticipated movies to get a green light. I couldn’t believe it. John McLane was coming back. It was going to be amazing. Die Hard and Die Hard With a Vengeance are two of my favorutie action movies and I just had this feeling that Live Free or Die Hard would be up there with those two movies. I couldn’t wait guys.

It was 2007. The cast was getting mad hype, with the likes of Timothy Olyphant (Justified, Scream 2, Go) and Maggie Q (Mission Impossible 3) on board as the baddies and (then) up and coming Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Final Destination 3, 10 Cloverfield Lane) on board as McLane’s daughter Lucy! Then the director got announced. Len Wiseman. Who at that point had directed Underworld and it’s sequel. My expectations got into check REAL fast. I was nervous. Thankfully, while not a patch on the first three, Live Free or Die Hard ended up being a decent, if not great, addition to the series.

This fourth ‘bad day’ for John McLane (a wiser yet still ass kicking Bruce Willis) has the NYC cop take a young hacker (Justin Long) under his protection. McLane has to escort the guy to Washington as he’s the sole surviour in relation to a cyber terrorist plot that could bring the whole of the United States back to the stone age. Everything is online now right? So what if there was no banking? No emergency servies? No contact? The plot is quite good. This was the 00’s guys. Cyber stuff was a hot topic and the movie rode that and was able to build a movie around a topical issue at that time, and still today, relating to the implications of online terrorisim.

Wiseman does good work too on the action side, with several big action scenes scattered throughout the film’s running time. Sometimes the action get’s ridiculous. Jet plane. That’s all I’m saying. No need for that. The smaller, more confined action stuff is well done here so I don’t know what the heck they were thinking when someone suggested bringing a fighter jet into the mix.

The film looks good, but the pace is off. Most of the Die Hard movies are two hour flicks but this one feels like it is. I think there’s an even stronger, say, 98 minute action movie somehwere in Live Free or Die Hard. There’s this scene where Long’s character and McLane have to steal a car right? It’s beyond silly and just had me asking “What where they thinking and why is that here?” There’s a few scenes like that I’d have just cut. Also, sorry to sound like I’m throwing shade, but I did not care for Justin Long’s hacker character. He’s a good actor but the character, at least in my opinion, isn’t likeable and you’re stuck with him right the way through. Thankfully Willis is great, Winstead leaves you wishing Lucy was dad’s partner this time out instead of the hacker and Maggie Q’s villian gets an outstanding showdown with McLane.

All in all Live Free or Die Hard isn’t bad. It could have been but it’s not. It just managed, for me, to pull off that Die Hard style and I own it along with the other three. I’d throw it just slightly under Die Hard 2, with the first and third some way above.

 

 

Pretty Woman

Posted: January 15, 2018 in Movies
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If, like me, you were a kid in the 80’s/90’s then Julia Roberts was a part of your childhood. During the 90’s Roberts was known for a string of hit roles. The likes of Flatliners, Sleeping With The Enemy, Dying Young, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Notting Hill establishing the actress as a Hollywood star. But it would be the 1990 hit Pretty Woman, directed by Garry Marshall, that shot Roberts and her career into the big time.

Set in and around Hollywood the film sees Roberts take on the role of working girl Vivian, who after a chance enocunter with billionare Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), finds herself swept away into an alien world of wealth and the upper class. Edward is a complicated man. Vivian is a free spirit and tells it like it is. He comes from a world of coorperate take overs and billion dollar deals and she sleeps with guys for money. Barely making enough to pay the rent week to week. Yet they have a connection that goes beyond thier business arrangement (Edward hires her for the week for business engagements) and it isn’t long before they fall for one another. Will love conquer all or will their two very different worlds tear them apart?

Pretty Woman is looked on as a classic. I can remember everyone (mostly female) going nuts for the movie when it came out, esphecially when it hit home video. I used to watch it a lot when I was younger. It’s a fairytale though. Not to be a cynic but it’s totally unrealistic. Which is fine, nothing wrong with that but I only recently found out the film was meant to be a darker look at class and drugs. That doesn’t surprise me cause I found myself thinking the film would be more interesting if it took a more complex look at this pairs relationship and it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

The film we have is fine. It has heart, it has that Hollywood feel and some stand out scenes – the snotty saless assistant on Rodeo Drive, the kind hearted hotel manager who shows Vivian how to fit in and Vivian’s revenge on the rude sales assistant – and great chemeistry between the two leads.

Gary Marshall does a good job directing. The pace and feel of the film is energetic despite the scale being low key. Not much happens in the film, beyond the inital meeting, a few shopping trips and work engagements Vivian tags along too. In fact Vivian and Edward don’t even really have any big arguments, save for one, but compared to most romantic movies it’s all played with a sense of realisim? Yeah, I guess, in that aspect the film isn’t like a fairytale after all. Vivian and Edward talk, no real screaming matches or dramatic rows and it makes them more likeable because neither one comes off looking like a drama queen. Save for Edward being quite condersending at times which annoyed me.

In some ways Pretty Woman would reignite the rom-com/romance genre (which had fallen in populairty at the time) big time throughout the 90’s and into the 00’s. The impact of Pretty Woman was big and should not be overlooked. It’s a film that makes you come away from it feeling happy and hopeful. Then you feel mad at yourself a little for applying the films logic to reality as it’s just not what happens in real life! Taken as a Disney movie for adults though Pretty Woman is pretty good!

 

 

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Die Hard: With a Vengeance, AKA my favourite Die Hard, hit cinema screens in August of good old ’95. That was a boss year. We got some crakcing films that year such as From Dusk till Dawn and Bad Boys. I was twelve that summer. I wasn’t old enough to go see Die Hard: With a Vengeance. Instead I had to wait for it to come out on VHS! (no DVD’s or Blu Ray’s back then folks). I’d always loved Die Hard. It didn’t matter that I was too young to appreciate the films fully.

I got the movie and it became one of my all time faves. It’s no wonder why because not only is it a better movie than Die Hard 2, I think so anway, it sees the return of original Die Hard director John McTiernan and the addition of not only a fresh setting (NEW YORK CITY!! McLane’s home turf!) but the added bonus of Samuel L. Jackson as – not a fan of white people – yet beyond likeable Zeus Carver.

The plot of the third Die Hard is less bloated than in the second film. Much more like the original and it works in the film’s favour. McClane becomes the target of a madman, known only as Simon (to begin with!), who wants McClane to participate in a game of Simon Says. Failure to do so results in chaos, see Simon has placed countless bombs around New York and if McClane doesn’t do what Simon says then it’s BOOM! Harlem electrician Zeus (Jackson) becomes an unwilling player and along with McClane the duo team up and set out to save New York. There’s a bit more to the plot but you know I hate those spoilers, chances being slim you haven’t seen the movie, still I’d rather not give anything away.

A big reason the film is boss is the chemestry between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. Their characters initially don’t get along. Hell, Zeus has no problems saying what’s on his mind and more times than not he’s right and the sole voice of reason. It’s for that reason their need to work together and see beyond race and personality clashes is vital not just for the sake of the film but so they can stop Simon. Any you know what? It’s great seeing a different POV in a movie like this. I do feel it has some stuff to say about race, rightly so and in a sad way stuff that is still relavent in America today. The fact mainstream action movies today don’t touch that sort of thing lends only more weight to Die Hard: With a Vengeance.

The film delivers on the action. If we’re talking Die Hard/Die Hard 2 levels of gunplay, well, you won’t get that here. It’s more a series of race against time situations, with the occassional burst of shoot outs, fights and car chases. More than enough to keep any action fan satisfied. The cast, beyond Willis and Jackson, are all boss. Colleen Camp and Graham Greene as McLane’s fellow officers get a decent amount to do as the whole squad is dragged into Simon’s deadly game. Speaking of Simon, the big bad, Brit actor Jeremy Irons is fantastic in the role. ALMOST as good as the great Alan Rickman in the first movie.

New York City itself is another reason I love this film so much. I think it was awesome that we got to see McLane at home. No Holly or kids to distract him. It’s like here is John McLane the man, the cop and the mess. Because the man is a mess when the film kicks off. This is not the hero of Die Hard or the excessive wise cracker from Die Hard 2. He’s a guy who is well beyond his fifteen minutes of fame and is barely holding onto his job. A pitty none of the later films in the series thought to take a as interesting look/approach to McClane because as a character he’s just as much a reason the films are are so great as the action or plots.

For me this franchise is like this – Die Hard, Die Hard 2 and Die Hard With a Vengeance. Yeah, I know there’s two more after this third movie but those first three feel like a complete trilogy. Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die Hard will always be “the other two” in my eyes. I don’t even dislike them. I think Die Hard 4 is pretty good! Just neither of them beat this and in that respect you have to wonder “Why bother?”. Die Hard With a Vengeance is a boss action movie and that’s all I have to say about it.

 

Batman Returns

Posted: January 10, 2018 in Movies
Tags: ,

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Aw man. Batman Returns, now this one, is my favourite Batman movie. When it came out in 1992 my excitment was off the charts. 1989’s Batman had cemented the iconic DC hero as the comic book icon of the decade. Anticipation for Michael Keaton’s return to the role, Tim Burton once again directing and the new additions of Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and The Penguin (Danny DeVito) was at an all time high. In the lead up to the film’s release Batman was all over posters and TV. Batman Returns was the first comic book movie I saw at the cinema and the fact that it’s a great movie has only helped to imprint the film in my mind as one of the genre’s best.

The Burton Batman movies and subsquesent sequels always had the fact they fcoused on the villians more than the hero throw at them. It’s true. Tim Burton always seemed to be more interested in the dark and twisted rogues that surrounded Batman than the man himself and this sequel is no exception. Batman features throughout, make no mistake, yet the focus of the movie and arguably it’s ‘new leads’ are Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and DeVito’s Penguin and both actors are excellent in their roles.

King of Cool Christopher Walken (True Romance) makes a big impact as the true villain of the movie Max Shreck. This guy puts a heavy empthasis on the dime and to hell with whoever stands in his way. Shrek’s interactions with Penguin being just some of the films many highlights. The plot, in simple terms, sees the villians team up to frame the Bat and turn Gotham against him. Ideally eradicating Batman and leaving the city wide open for thier own criminal desires. A scaled down plot, than more modern audiences are used to, but one which works brilliantly. Batman’s worse fears being to become what he despises and the horror he feels at thinking that’s how his city sees him is as impactful as any world ending event.

Yet Burton, nor the film, is in no big rush to get to the main plot. As I said the film loves it’s villians and so we spend a lot of time with Catwoman and Penguin as both adjust to their Gotham debuts and each one sets out to make their mark on the city. For me I loved it. Catwoman/Selina Kyle is a damaged and twisted figure but never a victim and her sly sense of humour makes this films version – dare I say it – more engaging than her comic counterpart. The same can be said of DeVito and Penguin. It’s clear he’s the less sympathetic of the two leads yet his arc is not without it’s own tragic origins.

Batman Returns is an important legacy component of the DC hero in other areas. For one the look of the film and Gotham would go on to play a massive influence in  Batman: The Animated Series. As would the excellent score from Danny Elfman. Batman has never sounded more iconic and needed as when Elfman’s tremendous theme is signaling his arrivial on the streets of Gotham City.

The action is well shot and staged, again not as loud and as big as what those who saw 2017’s Justice League may expect, but by no means less impactful. It works because it stays true to the foundations of the films plot and it’s characters. Seeing Batman and Catwoman face off amongst the rooftops of Gotham City is boss. Like a living comic. The final confrontation(s) are just as pulp/comic book like yet filled with real stakes.

The film has one of the all time best final shots of a comic book movie too. Oh when ____ rose my face must have looked like I had a coat hanger in my mouth. I was that happy and it still gets me now every time all these years later. If only Burton, Keaton and those lucky enough to live through the movie could have returned for one more go around I can say without hesitation THAT trilogy would have been MY treasured Batman trilogy. I’ll get to Nolan’s someday. I love them, but not without seeing flaws, at times they feel almost like apolegectic comic adaptations. Not so with Batman and Batman Returns, and hey two great movies is better than one great movie so I’m just glad Keaton and Burton managed to make two flicks together.