Friday, August 31, 2012

Bonus Post! 33 Questions

OK, so I was nominated for the Liebster award on the 22nd July (LifeVsFilm) which I had all filled out and then promptly deleted when I realised I had no time in my posting schedule to release it. Having been nominated twice more (Stills of My Life & Beauty etc....), I figured I'd just answer all 33 questions and be done with it. So, without further ado:

From Jay at Life vs. Film:
  1. At a movie theatre, what snacks do you buy? Or do you sneak them in? If money were no object, what would be your movie theatre snack of choice?
    More often than not I buy a drink. I don't really enjoy popcorn. If money were no object, I would have a waiter with a full blown three course meal consisting of tomato soup, lasagne and anything with chocolate. All separately, mind.
  2. What's the first movie that really scared you?
    Hide and Seek (starring Robert de Niro). Actually, there was a time in my youth where I would go and watch scary films to impress the ladies. There's nothing romantic about crapped pants though.
  3. The television show/book/graphic novel/other thing I would really love to see adapted to film is _______________________.
    Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - their series on Aloysius Pendergast. He is cool character with an awesome name.
  4. If you like horror movies, why do you like them? If not, why not?
    Hell, no. That said, The Trilogy of the Dead by George A. Romero is brilliant - although it has a certain element of comedy so I don't know whether it counts. The 5-star 500 has helped alleviate my fears though.
  5. If you could be any movie character, who would you be, and why?
    Difficult one. Neo from The Matrix. Or Morpheus. Being Lawrence 'Larry' Fishburne for a day would be amazing. He has to be the coolest man in Hollywood.
  6. Which movie character are you most like?
    Who knows. Winnie the Pooh? I like honey and not wearing trousers, so maybe.
  7. What is it about films that interests you? What got you started?
    The biggest thing that interests me is how so many amazing minds can come together to make something brilliant and how one person's vision can be realised in front of millions around the globe in a single moment.
  8. Why did you start blogging? What keeps you going?
    I originally started blogging to get my frustrations with the world down in writing. Now I blog because I love movies and want to share that with the world.
  9. What movie would you most like to see again for the first time with no prior knowledge?
    Shutter Island. Once you've seen it once you have a completely different outlook on it any subsequent times. That initial confusion and mystery would be great to relive.
  10. If you could have worked on any film in history, which would it be, and in what role?
    I would love to have worked alongside the genius of John Williams. I love the epic feeling that movie music brings and listen to it in the car sometimes. I wish my car was pulled into battle by unicorns.
  11. What song will play over the closing credits of your life?
    End Credits - Chase and Status feat. Plan B. Corny song title I know, but the lyrics are meaningful.
Thanks, Jay.

Next up, Stacey (my girlfriend, go visit her) at Stills of My Life:
  1. What's your favourite food?
    Everything. I'm a human vacuum cleaner when it comes to food. Just keep yellow food away from me - sweetcorn, bananas and custard are a big no-no. Especially if they're mixed together.
  2. What's at the top of your wishlist at the moment?
    My house, and therefore my home cinema, to be finished. I'm fed up of travelling back and forth to keep renovating.
  3. What's your favourite movie, and why?
    Based on the 500 I'm watching, I've loved Amelie, The Crucible and so many more. Just check out all my reviews! Before the 500 I would have said Shawshank, and I decided I've watched Grease the most so that has to be up there.
  4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
    Australia. I love the people, climate and the accent.
  5. If you had lots of money, what's the first thing you would spend it on?
    Films. If I had enough, I'd hire someone to make a movie for me.
  6. Where would you most like to go as a holiday destination?
    Norway. The northern lights and cruising up the West coast? Yes please. Not permanently though, it's far too cold.
  7. Do you have any celebrity crushes? Particularly embarrassing ones?
    Who doesn't? Stacey would be the first to inform you that Samantha Barks (who is appearing in the upcoming Les Miserables adaptation, having appeared on the stage) would be high up there. Embarrassing ones? Pauses to think. Not that I can think of. Everyone has different tastes anyway.
  8. If there was a film of your life, who would you want to play you?
    Larry (Lawrence Fishburne), Gary (Oldman) or Leo (Leonardo Di Caprio). They all are brilliant actors. None would suit me though. I'd be more of a Jesse Eisenberg kind of man.
  9. What's your favourite season, and why?
    Summer. It's warm. Although not in Britain.
  10. If you had to be an animal (real or mythical), what would you be?
    Phoenix. It has a cool name. Just say it out loud. Then, imagine a bird on fire soaring above your head as you trundle into battle clad from head to toe in armour, feeling the slight give of the moist ground beneath your leather boots. Did I mention that the enemy were orcs and ogres?
  11. If you could choose a sense to be heightened, which one would you choose?
    Hearing. Sight would be too one-directional. Hearing you would be able to figure out everything that is going on around you.
Thanks, Stace.

Next up, Kyra from Beauty etc....:
  1. What's your favourite TV show?
    I loved Lost when it was on. I love Family Guy too. I don't really watch too much TV, but I love game shows too. It boosts my self esteem, or something along those lines.
  2. Do you have any really annoying habits?
    Lazily ignoring the 24th question of any questionnaire.
  3. How many colours have you dyed your hair?
  4. Do/ did your parents/friends have any embarrassing nicknames for you?
    Basically anything that Stacey calls me. It's just not English.
  5. If you could keep one object (that is currently in your room) for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    I'm not really a very clingy person. I very quickly lose interest with everything.
  6. Do you have any collections, if so, what are they?
    Considering I'm watching 500 films and they all have to be on DVD... I guess you could say I have a collection of DVD storage units.
  7. Which meal would you say you are a pro at cooking?
    Microwave meals. Ding, meal is done.
  8. Whats the coolest thing you've been for Halloween?
    Me. I have never tricked nor treated anyone.
  9. If you worked for yourself and money was no object, what would you be doing?
    The easy answer would be to stop working if money was no object but I would get bored very quickly. As a result I'd just keep working but I'd choose my own working hours. At other times I'd trek off to see the world.
  10. Who is your favourite author and why?
    Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Terry Pratchett is a master of comedy and storytelling, while Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have invented one of the most intresting characters in literary history.
  11. What specialist subject would you choose on Mastermind?
    Vexillology or the study of Flags of the World. I can identify at least 150, and know such interesting facts such as "Paraguay is the only country with a double sided flag" and "Vexillology is the study of Flags of the World".
Thanks, Kyra.

Thanks guys for your interesting questions, and if you're reading this, thanks for getting to the bottom of the post!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

198 - The Great Escape (1963)

Captured airmen try to escape from a prisoner of war camp.

After countless escape attempts, several hundred Allied airmen are sent to a Luftwaffe-controlled prisoner of war camp that is deemed one of the most secure in the country. Each of the prisoners already has his role, from The Scrounger (James Garner) to The Forger (Donald Pleasence) and The Cooler King (Steve McQueen) to the Big X (Richard Attenborough) who controls all escape attempts.

While putting that many ingenious minds in one camp may mean fewer escapes in other camps, the prisoners are quick to hatch a plan to escape the inescapable.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

197 - Grease (1978)

Two summer lovers are surprised to find themselves in the same high school.

Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Dee (Olivia Newton John) find themselves at the end of summer with Sandy having to return to Australia while Danny must return to High School. When the new term comes around and Danny learns that Sandy is at the same school, he becomes a different person to be around.

The two of them are joined by Danny's greaser friends, The T-Birds, and Sandy's new friends, The Pink Ladies. Danny must change the way he acts in front of his friends if he is to land to the girl he loved over summer.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

196 - The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

A family is forced to move from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression.

Having just been released from prison, Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) returned home to Oklahoma to find his family's farm deserted. He is told by Muley (a family friend) that his family had been forced from their home by the deed holders of the land.

Eventually he finds his family at his uncle's house which is also soon to be taken over by the deed holders. There they decide to act upon a leaflet declaring that there is much work as fruit pickers in California.

Along the way to California in their dilapidated truck, the family struggles against many setbacks that face them in the Great Depression.

Friday, August 24, 2012

195 - La Grande Illusion (1937)

Following the movements of a group of escapees in the First World War.

After their plane is shot down in the First World War, Captain de Boeldieu (played by Pierre Fresnay) and Lieutenant Maréchal (Jean Gabin) are sent to a concentration camp in Germany. Both come from different backgrounds - Boeldieu an aristocrat and Maréchal a working class man.

Their repeated escape attempts with fellow prisoner Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) mean they are sent on to a seemingly impenetrable camp run by aristocrat von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim).

There de Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with von Rauffenstein because of their shared backgrounds until a further escape attempt has tragic consequences for the pair.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Bourne Franchise

By now, Jason Bourne is almost as well known as James Bond or Mission Impossible's Ethan Hunt as a staple fictional spy character. He was created by Robert Ludlum in 1980, and first appeared in The Bourne Identity.

The Bourne Identity
Theatrical Poster
In Ludlum's novel, we are introduced to a mysterious character who was found alone at sea by a group of fishermen. He lost his memory in an unknown accident and appears to possess remarkable fighting and puzzle solving skills. Later, we find that the US Government has an international warrant out for his arrest.

Director Doug Liman secured the rights for The Bourne Identity after becoming a fan of the books once he'd read them in high school. He enlisted the help of Tony Gilroy for the screenwriting. In 2002, a year after Ludlum's death, it was released on the big screen with Matt Damon cast as Jason Bourne (aiding his rise to fame from The Man That Wrote Good Will Hunting and One Of The More Famous Ones From Ocean's Eleven).

The script for Identity was the film that was closest related to the books with an almost identical beginning. With the exclusion of Bourne's nemesis Carlos the Jackal from the big screen adaptations, the first Bourne film laid down the foundations for the series becoming more political and less about the man himself than the book counterparts.

Identity opened to positive reviews and it still holds a 7.9 rating on the Internet Movie Database. It made over $20,000,000 on release and a sequel was announced a year later as a result of further success - something that no-one on the first film had really anticipated.

The Bourne Supremacy
Theatrical Poster
Due to the disagreements that Liman had had with Universal executives through the making of Identity, Paul Greengrass was signed up to direct a sequel - entitled The Bourne Supremacy. Matt Damon reprised his role as Bourne.

Once again, Tony Gilroy handled the scriptwriting. The story continued with Bourne's reappearance from hiding after an attempt on his life - Eric Van Lustbader used a similar tactic when he revitalised the books in 2004. Other than that small connection (and the shared name), the book and film versions seemed to go their own separate ways.

The Bourne Supremacy was released in the middle of 2004, grossing a similar amount to the first film. It currently holds a 7.7 rating on the Internet Movie Database. Soon afterwards, The Bourne Ultimatum was announced.

The Bourne Ultimatum
Theatrical Poster
Despite the feeling that Supremacy had not got across the message that he had intended, Tony Gilroy penned a draft for The Bourne Ultimatum. Unlike the transition from Identity to Supremacy, the move to Ultimatum was more of a flow from its predecessor with Bourne already being active, rather than having to release him once again from a settled life.

Once again, Damon played Bourne, and Ultimatum saw more of the minor characters taking a bigger role. Julia Stiles as Bourne's informant in Treadstone, Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, the unconvinced CIA Deputy Director who is unsure whether to side with Bourne and David Strathairn as the CIA deputy director who acts as the main antagonist in the film. By offering these three more screen time, the series became far more politically oriented than anything James Bond or Mission Impossible offered.

On release in 2007, Ultimatum became a rare film where a sequel was considered better than any of its predecessors - it is currently rated 8.1 on the Internet Movie Database, and it was the only one of the original trilogy to earn a prestigious 5-star rating from Empire Magazine. It also grossed far more than Identity or Supremacy, earning nearly $70,000,000 in its opening weekend alone.

The Bourne Legacy
Theatrical Poster
Despite the rumour mill going into overdrive regarding a fourth film (will Greengrass direct? Will Damon star? Will it feature Bourne at all?), it was three years after Ultimatum when it was finally announced to the world. Despite taking the Bourne name that Van Lustbader had penned for the fourth book in the series, it was announced that The Bourne Legacy was the first film in the series to not contain the series' protagonist - instead focusing on a flash sideways to the bigger picture.

On announcement of the film, it was also confirmed that Gilroy would be writing the script and also directing. Jeremy Renner (another actor on the rise following his success as Hawkeye in Thor/The Avengers) was cast to play Aaron Cross, an agent similar to those we are introduced to in Bourne who is also trying to find out exactly what "the programme" is.

Alongside Renner was Edward Norton (also following his superhero journey as The Hulk) as the political motivation and Rachel Weisz (far more famous for her older films such as The Mummy) as the scientist who is a long way out of her depth.

As a result of the flash sideways storyline, the film recycled footage from its predecessors. It also had the effect of enhancing the Bourne universe to show the bigger picture going on away from Bourne's scenes in the original trilogy. This storyline is perhaps the biggest differential from the book series which continues to feature Bourne in his struggle.

Legacy was released in August 2012,  amassing a little over half of that of Ultimatum in its opening weekend. It currently holds a 7.2 rating on the Internet Movie Database, the lowest of the series, and the critical response echoed this with a few outlets enjoying the varied storyline while others were very critical.

But where now for the Bourne franchise? Undoubtedly there is more scope to expand the Aaron Cross, and Matt Damon hasn't explicitly ruled out a return for Jason Bourne. Perhaps we will enjoy their inevitable meeting in the not too distant future.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
An agent must try to survive when his program is shut down.

As the events of the previous Bourne movies unfold, Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) calls upon the help of Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to help keep the research garnered from Treadstone a secret. A result of this is to destroy everything connected with Treadstone and including all agents involved with Treadstone's sister project, Operation Outcome.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is one such agent, and narrowly avoids being killed  on a snowy Alaskan mountain. After finding himself low on life-saving drugs he then decides to hunt down those responsible.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

194 - The Gospel According To St. Matthew (1964)

Blu-ray Box
The birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.

Born in a stable to a virgin mother and a carpenter father, Jesus Christ (Enrique Irazoqui) - the self proclaimed Son of God - travels the world spreading the word of God before dying a martyr.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

193 - GoodFellas (1990)

Following the rise of three men in the mob.

Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) - a small time gangster - has the backing of one of the most respected big fish in the gang community. As a result he is able to work his way up through the mob as he organises various robberies.

When he gets wind of a plan to rob a large bank, he invites his two friends Tommy (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy (Robert de Niro) along. After the robbery they start to become increasingly paranoid, killing off anyone who dares to make a mistake.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

192 - Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939)

A teacher looks back on his life.

After spending more than 60 years at Brookfield Public School, Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat) reflects on his time at the school.

He remembers his nervous first day at a teacher, and how he gradually rose up the ranks at the school. He also remembers his late wife and how she gave him the confidence to handle his pupils in a manner that meant he could earn their friendship.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

191 - Good Will Hunting (1997)

A gifted janitor needs direction.

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a janitor at MIT and has a gift for being able to decipher the most difficult of mathematics challenges. A lecturer at the University, Prof. Gerald Lambeau (Stellen Skarsgård), notices Will's talent and tries to mould Will into the ideal pupil.

Will is forced to attend Lambeau's lectures and attend sessions with psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) as part of his reform having been caught fighting. Will pushes back against the system that abandoned him as a child, but Sean doesn't want to give up so easily.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Films 191 - 200

The next ten films in the Empire 500 5-star challenge are:
  1. Good Will Hunting (1997)
  2. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
  3. GoodFellas (1990)
  4. The Gospel According To St. Matthew (1964)
  5. La Grande Illusion (1937)
  6. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  7. Grease (1978)
  8. The Great Escape (1963)
  9. Great Expectations (1946)
  10. Groundhog Day (1993)

Wow, it's been a long time coming. There was a lot of films watched since the previous 'next ten films' post. In addition to all the franchises mentioned, I've also ensured that all the films have been watched, along with a summary of the series at the end. I had to find room for the Marvel/DC face-off in the middle of July too with Spider-Man and Batman.

There were a lot of highlights over the last six weeks. I love The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, so for the first film to be on the list it was a treat. For me, they weren't five star films because of how and where they ended, but I still enjoyed the story. Of course, The Godfather & Part II and Gone with the Wind are instant classics.

For me, the most disappointing were The Gold Rush and Ghostbusters. The Gold Rush because after praising old films a few weeks ago on my hijack of Arlee Bird's blog, it just didn't live up to my high expectations. As for Ghostbusters, well with all the hype I guess I just expected far too much. It was funny, but I just didn't really see the point.

As for the next ten, well I must confess I've already watched some of them and have reviews scheduled (see below!), but for the purposes of this I'll pretend that I haven't! I'm looking forward to Good Will Hunting because it has Robin Williams in it (one of my favourite actors). Following the crime in the last ten, GoodFellas should be a hoot too. Although it's not the oldest on the list, I hope that Grapes of Wrath can restore my faith in the pre-Second-World-War era, coming with high recommendations from my Grandfather.

Also, let's not forget the fourth Bourne film. Although Matt Damon won't be included, I don't doubt that the film will follow its predecessor's greatness. A review for that will be out later this month, along with a summary of the Bourne franchise, including Robert Ludlum's books.

Finally, I've switched to scheduling posts for every other day. I found that posting every day was just too much work, but I watch too many films to not post regularly! It also enables me to work on those posts that aren't review-related nice and early. Work on this post began in early July so that I'm not too bogged down in the future.

So until next time!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Dollars Trilogy (Sergio Leone)

The Dollars Trilogy is a group of three films by director Sergio Leone - A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. It is often heralded for the birth of the Spaghetti Western, redefining the ageing Western genre and merging it with an Italian influence (such Westerns would also include Spanish influence). As a result, The Dollars Trilogy is often referred to as The Spaghetti Western Trilogy as Sergio Leone's films are by far the most well known.

Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name
'The Good'
Source: Wikipedia
In actual fact, European 'Spaghetti' Westerns had been around since the beginning of cinema, and typically featured a low budget combined with a completely different view on the traditional American Western. Because of their small funding, they relied on a small profit to create the next film, and the market was very saturated.

An upstart called Sergio Leone fancied a piece of the market and, having previously worked as an assistant on the Italian drama Bicycle Thieves, he penned A Fistful Of Dollars. The story is often compared to Yojimbo, a Japanese story about one man setting crime lords off against each other for his financial reward (Leone later faced a legal challenge from Yojimbo's director for his efforts).

Nowadays, Clint Eastwood would be seen as a coup for the upstart Leone but back in 1964, however, Eastwood had only a handful of minor films and a series of Rawhide to show for his brief acting career. Despite his co-star on Rawhide being offered the job before him (and rejecting it), Eastwood was hired for filming in a remote region of Spain in 1963.

Lee van Cleef as The Man In Black
'The Bad'

Despite very much being Sergio Leone's film, Clint Eastwood was instrumental in creating his character including the design of the clothing and his quirks. It was agreed that Eastwood's character would never be referred to by name and only became known as "Joe". He would later go on to be referred to as The Man With No Name - the protagonist anti-hero central to all of the trilogy.

A Fistful of Dollars was released in 1964 to huge critical acclaim throughout Europe but it would take another three years for the film to reach the other side of the Atlantic. In the USA it was greeted with surprise from officials for the violent content and a prologue was filmed in order to justify Joe's actions.

Following the somewhat surprise success of A Fistful Of Dollars, Sergio Leone turned his mind to creating a second film. It is worth noting that Leone never intended to create a trilogy, but wanted to continue developing separate films. He was thoroughly aware that Eastwood was the outstanding on screen star and knew he had to secure his signature for a second film and it was Eastwood's character that the film studios managed to link to each film so that they could be marketed together.

Eli Wallach as Tuco
'The Ugly'
Source: Notes of a film fanatic
Also drafted in to A Fistful Of Dollars was Lee van Cleef (following Eastwood's Rawhide co-star rejection again) as Eastwood's on-screen bounty rival and Gian Maria Volonté as the bank-robbing Indio.

For A Few Dollars More was released in Europe a year after its predecessor and, due to the delay on A Fistful of Dollars, four months after its predecessor in the United States. Once again, it was critically acclaimed and the arrival of Lee van Cleef was a welcome addition.

Now that he had two outstanding films under his belt, Leone began to be approached by studios in America for a third instalment. United Artists managed to persuade him to direct the third film - albeit this time with a far higher budget that the other two Dollars films.

Once again, Eastwood and van Cleef were signed up as "The Good" and "The Bad" - neither character had a name and were referred to as Blondie and Angel Eyes respectively. Eli Wallach was also signed as the third member of the gang, Tuco "The Ugly".

The name of the film (and thus the characters alternative names) was not thought up until halfway through production, with United Artists hoping for a nod to The Man With No Name. Leone, meanwhile, was working under the name The Two Magnificent Tramps - referring to Blondie and Tuco's financial deal. Eventually, Luciano Vincenzoni, the film's screenwriter, mentioned The Good, The Ugly, The Bad - a concept which Leone loved.

Once again, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly was released a year after its predecessor in Europe and a few months later than For A Few Dollars More in the United States. Initially it was ridiculed for being overly violent and was generally not received very well. Views have changed over time (especially in regards to violence), and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly now regularly features in top movie lists worldwide.

As for the main people connected with the films, Eli Wallach moved into minor roles which he still fulfills to this day (he is currently 96 years old!). Lee van Cleef also went back into obscurity - although his life changed so that he became well known for the number of spaghetti westerns he was cast in. A year after his trilogy, Sergio Leone was asked to direct Once Upon A Time In The West for Paramount Pictures. He later returned with Once Upon A Time In America but other than that he also moved into general obscurity.

As for Clint Eastwood? Let's just say he made a few dollars more.

Monday, August 06, 2012

190 - The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)

The Man With No Name hunts for $200,000 with double competition.

After cutting short a bounty hunting scam, The Man With No Name 'The Good' (Clint Eastwood) - this time called Blondie - leaves Tuco 'The Ugly' (Eli Wallach) for dead in the harsh desert. However when both men learn a different piece of information leading to a $200,000 treasure, they are forced to work together again for the money.

On their journey they are both hampered and aided by a third party - Sentenza 'The Bad' (Lee van Cleef) - who also wants his share of the reward. The whole story takes place against the background of the American civil war.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

For A Few Dollars More (1965)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
The Man With No Name meets the Man in Black to fight for a bounty killing.

While The Man In Black (Lee Van Cleef) is out hunting for a $1,000 bounty killing, The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) is searching for his $2,000 bounty suspect. They both return to collect their reward, and end up taking on a new job - chasing the most ruthless gangster in the West.

Indio (Gian Maria Volonté) is wanted for numerous bank robberies along with a string of other violence charges, and this has lead to a bounty of $10,000 being put over his head. Unbeknownst to him, two experienced bounty killers after him, but Indio has a plan to rob the most secure bank in El Paso.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

189 - Gone With The Wind (1939)

A woman fawns over a married man during the American Civil War.

Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) wishes she could be with Ashley (Leslie Howard), but learns that he is to marry his cousin, Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). The American Civil War hits soon after and Ashley is sent to war while Scarlett looks after Melanie.

During the War, Scarlett continues several love affairs with various men to keep her beloved home, Tara, safe. All the while though she pines for the one man she can't have.