Category: FILM BUFF

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Movie Review: Oblivion, 2013

Oblivion movie still of the Sky Tower
Oblivion movie still of the Sky Tower

What more can be said of Tom Cruise in sci-fi roles? He always seems to deliver, so I was expecting something a bit special when I sat down to watch Oblivion last week.

Things were looking good after half an hour; great sets, great scenery and great special effects. Cruise was, as usual, dry in his delivery of Jack’s lines and held my attention.

But then I noticed something odd; Andrea Risborough, as Jack’s girlfriend and teammate Victoria, was acting badly. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, she must be an android and this will all be explained properly later,’ but no, the further into the movie I got, the more it became apparent that Victoria was human, and therefore badly portrayed. I am not saying Risborough can’t act, but she must have been at least badly cast here. It makes all the scenes with Cruise wooden and the love-making scene was just embarrassing. Continue reading “Movie Review: Oblivion, 2013”

RESULTS: VOTE FOR YOUR MOVIE TURKEY!

Jupiter AscendingThe votes are in on your worst Movie Turkey!

It’s been an interesting vote. Obviously more people have seen Jupiter Ascending than I thought! And I am obviously not the only one who thinks The Hobbit Trilogy is bad. So here we go with the top 3:

Tying in 1st Place with 5 Votes: Jupiter Ascending

There is not a lot of trivia I can give about this film but here goes! The Wachowski siblings second film that Natalie Portman dropped out of, following Cloud Atlas (2012).

And also in 1st Place, with 5 Votes: The Hobbit Trilogy

Daniel Radcliffe, Shia LaBeouf, James McAvoy, Ethan Arkin and Tobey Maguire were considered for the role of Bilbo Baggins. However, Peter Jackson has said that his first choice was always Martin Freeman. Freeman was initially unable to accept the role, due to scheduling conflicts with Sherlock (2010), but Jackson reworked the entire shooting schedule for the Hobbit films to accommodate him.

The elk that Thranduil (Lee Pace) rides on is played by a horse, named Moose.

The first roar we hear from Smaug in the first scene of Smaug’s attack on Erebor is actually a sound-bite of the SFX Director’s 7 year old daughter “roaring”. It was manipulated and corrected to sound like a dragon and was put in the movie

Tying in 2nd Place, with 4 Votes: Basic Instinct 2

Robert Downey Jr. was set to star but had to drop out when he was charged with drug possession. Kurt Russell was attached at some point but bailed out because he felt uncomfortable with the nudity. Pierce Brosnan refused to play the male lead role because of distasteful elements. Bruce Greenwood was set to star but dropped out because he hadn’t been signed on yet and feared the actors strike. Benjamin Bratt was banned by Sharon Stone for not being a good actor.

Is notoriously known as being the first and so far only theatrically released followup to a box-office hit that did not even earn $10 million in the U.S. box-office.

And also in 2nd Place, with 4 Votes: Another 9 1/2 Weeks

I couldn’t find ANY trivia for this film so here is a 10-star review instead!

I think there’s two kind of males. One of them is the sexually overheated and uninhibited, first-sex-then-romance(or nothing) type, and the other one, who prefers the romantic involvement in its classic sense. First get to know, then trying to trust and to love. John Gray is the two kind in one. And Mickey Rourke makes a good job. This movie is not the rehearse of the first one, and OK, not as good too, but I think it shows the second kind of male. (9 out of 10) I would like to recommend The Casanova’s Return (1992). Alain Delon’s character shows great similarity to John Gray in Love in Paris.

I could go on and list the 2 films that tied for 3rd place, and the 2 films that tied for 4th place but honestly, I think I would lose the will to live.

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Stop Press!
I just heard that David Bowie died. I saw Bowie during his Glass Spider tour in Milton Keynes. It was a great concert. He was as cool and impressive as I had expected. I also listened to some of the material from his new album. “How on earth he manages to go on being that creative, I will never know!” I thought. He had so much more he could have done. His loss is a very sad one to the British and World music scene. RIP David Bowie.

It’s New Year: Vote for your Movie Turkey!

At the Earth's Core
At the Earth’s Core

Okay all the nominations are in so its time to vote! Thank god there haven’t (so far) been any remakes of these movies!

The nominations are described in more detail 2 posts further down the page.

You have 6 votes per person. Please give 3 votes to your favourite (click the yellow ‘Vote’ button between each vote), 2 votes to your second favourite (click the yellow ‘Vote’ button between each vote) and 1 vote to your third favourite. Click ‘View Results’ if you want to see how the vote is going. Everyone should be able to vote, no matter what your browser.

Voting closes Sunday 10th January at midnight GMT.

It’s Christmas: Nominate your Movie Turkey!

At the Earth's Core
At the Earth’s Core

It wouldn’t be Christmas without turkey and if indigestion hasn’t already set in, maybe there’s space for a bit more? What is your top nomination for movie Turkeys? It doesn’t have to be a Christmas movie but just one so bad that you either reach for the remote or fall asleep.

How to spot a Turkey Movie

Turkey movies can be hard to pick out: you often don’t remember their names or who’s in them. But of course if its a sequel or a remake it has a very good chance of being a Turkey! Some movies are so bad they are actually fun and good for a few laughs. These aren’t those movies.

Here are some of mine. Add yours, either by commenting or on Facebook or Twitter.

  • Breakthrough – 1979: This sequel to the iconic Cross of Iron had nothing to recommend it except Richard Burton so drunk he had to be carried onto the set every day.
  • The Hobbit Trilogy – 2012/13/14: Sorry if I just made you choke on your chockies or turkey but, as a lifelong fan of Tolkien books, I think this trilogy lacks the quaint charm of the original or the grandeur of Lord of the Rings. The director tried to stretch and I am afraid he broke it. I reserve opinion on the dragon one because so far I haven’t seen it! Virgin Media doesn’t have it and it seems to have escaped schedulers on TV although the others haven’t!
  • At the Earth’s Core – 1976: This beauty stars Doug McClure (remember Trampas from The Virginian?) and Peter Cushing. Its kind of like Journey to the Centre of the Earth but with props you can throw together from scrap at a film studio. The beasts (whose name escapes me!) are just people dressed up and the WORST SPECIAL EFFECT I have ever seen. Watch out for Cy Grant (who did the voice for Captain Scarlet), the lovely Caroline Munro and a young Keith Baron. Oh and in case you are wondering, the film is so bad its almost good, but Cushing’s bumbling professor is just too over the top to get this film off the hook. In some scenes you can almost see McClure thinking, “Are they actually going to release this?”
  • Alexander – 2004: Colin Farrel stars as Alexander the Great. I think he must have resented doing this film because he actually exaggerates his own Irish accent and the film just becomes absurd! Truly un-watchable.
  • The Man with the Iron Fists – 2012: I can only think they got Russell Crowe to do this by promising to make The Water Diviner. It has Asian orgies (including Crowe going down on a few girls!!!), martial arts, a kind of Iron Man think going and just about everything else. I stuck with it but it was clear it was just a vehicle for the rapper who starred in it. Set in the mid 19th Century??? possibly??? when the baddies came on wearing Ray Bans I was shouting at the screen “Nooooooo!”
  • Babylon A.D. – 2008: Well, what can I say except that I fell asleep after half an hour. I wouldn’t include it but for the fact I woke half hour before the end and the end was as bad as the beginning. Just boring!
  • Reunion in France – 1942: This monstrosity stars John Wayne as US pilot shot down over France and trying to escape with the help of a bourgeois woman. Forgetting that Wayne was far too old to play a front line pilot by then (and probably too tall!), he doesn’t bother to act, the sets are probably cardboard and the plot would be more appropriate in an Abbott and Costello film! Why on earth Wayne’s characters have to give the lead female a male nickname I dunno, but it kind of makes me queasy in this case (Michelle becomes Mike!).
  • Living Free – 1972: This sequel to Born Free probably ended up in the bins of cinemas faster than any other movie in that decade. Watch it if you dare!
  • The Silver Chalice – 1954: Paul Newman’s first starring role. If you can get beyond the first ten minutes, please call us or a doctor; you need medical attention.
  • The Secret Invasion – 1954: I wish I could say this was Stewart Grainger’s last movie. That would at least offer him some excuse but it wasn’t. If you wanted to make a war movie on the tightest budget possible, this would be one way. The only props are a few sub-machine guns. Dire! Dire! Dire!
  • The Battle of the Last Panzer – 1969: My third war movie looks promising but isn’t.

There are apparently some William Shatner films, made in Europe in the early 70s, that are so bad they will never see the like of day. If anybody has seen one, let me know!

Hope this didn’t give you indigestion! Let me have your nominations by commenting. Nominations end 3 January. Then we vote!

Review: The Blue Max

The Blue Max - 1966
The Blue Max – 1966

The 1966 movie, The Blue Max, stands out in my mind as the only movie I can think of without a hero.

I watched The Blue Max last week (okay I admit it, I have it on DVD). I am a huge fan of aviation films and this one is all about a German Air Force pilot in World War I. Skip the bits about aircraft if that is not your thing but that’s not the main point of this review.

Briefly, Bruno Stachel is an infantry corporal in the trenches. From a working class background, he nevertheless longs for the noble arena if death in the skies and enlists for the German Air Force. He proves a talented pilot but his new squadron of officers, enlisted from the ruling classes, do not accept his ambitious ruthlessness. They have a strict code of conduct, which he breaks in many ways, including bedding the top scoring Willi’s aunt and lover, the Countess Kaeti. Willi’s nobility, until now, has extended to taking Stachel under his wing but now the gloves are off and the two duel for supremacy in the skies and in bed. Continue reading “Review: The Blue Max”

Poll: Which is the best Scifi Vehicle Ever?

Elevator vehicle under Fireflash from Thunderbirds
Elevator vehicle under Fireflash from Thunderbirds

Another great vote this week; which is the best scifi vehicle of all time?

The choice is HUGE but below are just a few suggestions to get you started. Please nominate your favourites by commenting here or tweet me @Lazlo_F or message me on Facebook. The nomination deadline will be 22 June at 5pm. Then we will vote!

Ein weiterer großer Stimme in dieser Woche; Welches ist das beste SciFi Fahrzeug aller Zeiten?

Die Auswahl ist riesig Gewinn Hier sind nur ein paar Vorschläge, um Ihnen den Einstieg. Bitte benennen Sie Ihre Favoriten von hier zu kommentieren oder tweet ich Lazlo_F gold Nachricht auf mich Facebook. Der Nominierungsfrist wird am 22. Juni 17.00 Uhr sein. Dann werden wir abstimmen! Continue reading “Poll: Which is the best Scifi Vehicle Ever?”

Should a hero be a Brando or a Martin Freeman?

Marlon Brando in The Young Lions
Marlon Brando in The Young Lions

Superhero or Everyman?

I woke up this morning wondering what to blog about and I decided the best post would be about the subject of my pondering at the moment; what makes a good hero?

Everyone (well, in the West anyway) will know who Marlon Brando is, possibly the greatest and certainly one of the greatest actors of all time. Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins in the recent Hobbit films.

I am as big a fan of Bilbo as anybody, and nobody can deny Bilbo is the hero of The Hobbit. What is more, he is an ‘everyman.’ What that means is that everyone can identify with his situation because he is just a normal guy. Brando, on the other hand, rarely plays normal guys; from The Wild One to Superman and Apocalypse Now, nearly all his characters are superhuman or out-and-out rebels; men on the edge of society. Continue reading “Should a hero be a Brando or a Martin Freeman?”

Poll Results: Which is the Best Robot in Scifi?

If you voted on the Best Robot in Scifi or are just passing by, below you will find the winner. Make sure to leave you comments; whether you agree or disagree.

Rachael Tyrell from Blade RunnerRachaell Tyrell from Blade Runner
Rachael Tyrell from Blade Runner

Results of Best Robot in Scifi poll

1. Rachael – Blade Runner (Movie Blade Runner) played by Sean Young

2. R2D2 – (Movie Star Wars), T000 – (Movie Terminator 2 – Judgement Day) played by Robert Patrick, Ash – (Movie Alien) played by Ian Holm and Roy Batty (Movie Blade Runner) Played by Rutger Hauer, all tie for second.

Interesting facts about Rachael’s part:

Grace Slick was suggested as an actress for the part as Rachael. Dick suggested that the novel’s subplot about Deckard being brought to a phony police station run by androids could be eliminated, and proposed a new scene which would show Deckard making love to Rachael inter-cut with Isidore trying to do the same with Pris and comically failing. He further suggested that Deckard’s estrangement from Rachael following their lovemaking could be shown to aid him in his mission to kill Pris (who, in the novel, looks identical to Rachael).

Rachael’s telephone number is 555-7583 (which seems to me  an awfully short number for the futuristic Los Angeles!)

At some point of the movie, each replicant has a red brightness in their eyes (Rachael in Deckard’s home, Pris in Sebastian’s). Deckard also has the shining in his eyes while talking to Rachael in his house. In July 2000, director Ridley Scott said that Deckard is, in fact, a replicant. Harrison Ford takes issue with this, however. “We had agreed that he definitely was not a replicant,” Ford said. Rutger Hauer’s autobiography expressed some disappointment with the same, because it reduced the final clash between Deckard and Batty from a symbolic “man vs. machine” battle to two replicants fighting.

What is your view? Is Deckard an android?

Interesting facts about R3D2’s part

In the first star Wars movie of 1977, Dan O’Bannon and John C Walsh animated the Death Star schematics seen on the computer screen as R2D2 searches the Death Star’s computer memory. They were influenced by similar sequences they produced for the film Dark Star (1974).

Industrial Automaton built R2D2 in the movie. Industrial Automaton also created the R4-P17 and R5-D4 droids.

Interesting facts about T1000’s part

Robert Patrick mimicked the head movements of the American bald eagle for his role as T-1000.

Interesting facts about Ash’s part

According to Ian Holm, Ash’s head contained spaghetti, cheap caviar and onion rings.

According to Holm, only he knew what would happen in the scene where the alien bursts out of his stomach. The other actors had not rehearsed this with him. The result was a very authentic scream from Lambert (played by Veronica Cartwright)

Interesting facts about Roy Batty’s part

Rutger Hauer came up with many inventive ideas for his characterization, like the moment where he grabs and fondles a dove. He also improvised the now-iconic line “All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in the rain”.

So what did you think about the results? Do you agree with them?

A bit of fun: My predictions for the future

This week: My Predictions the Future, Review of 1966 film Grand Prix and Progress on Short Stirling Replica project.

My Predictions the Future

JETs Fusion Reactor 007
JETs Fusion Reactor 007

And now for a bit of fun! Here are my predictions of what will happen (and what what won’t) during my lifetime. I am 51 now so let’s assume I will live another 30 years:

  1. A real Short Stirling wreck will be recovered and restored to museum standard, but I don’t think a real one will fly again. See further down the page for news on a real Stirling replica project.
  2. Fusion power will work but will not significantly affect energy prices yet
  3. Alexander the Great’s tomb will be found
  4. Whoever ordered John F Kennedy’s assassination will not be revealed and proven.
  5. NASA will not have sent a manned-mission to Mars yet

Now, what are yours?

First 5 commenters get a copy of any new eBook I publish in the next 12 months FREE! These are likely to be: a WWII/Aliens thriller, Iron III, Worlds Like Dust (book 1) and a literary fiction work.

 

Review of 1966 film Grand Prix

Saul Bass-1966 Grand Prix Title Sequence
Saul Bass-1966 Grand Prix Title Sequence

To mark death of James Garner, the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Grand Prix was shown on TV last week. If you love Formula One I am sure you will agree with me; what a film!

I first saw Garner in The Great Escape and The Rockford Files. I always found him likable although not an incredibly deep acting talent. Time has proved his ability to choose great projects to be a talent in itself. The earliest films I have seen him in are Sayonara (1957) with Marlon Brando and The Children’s Hour (1961) with Audrey Hepburn. He always seems to pick the right project and did a stirling job (if you will allow the pun) in The Great Escape. He is almost always the likable rogue with a warm smile. Only in Grand Prix does he play the anti-hero. His thoughtful acting will be missed.

Back to Grand Prix. It opens with a Saul Bass (one of the two best title sequence writers ever) intro that rivals anything else. We hear the roar of the Grand Prix engines, watch the exhausts vibrate and mechanics tightening bolts to the stirring march that accompanies the film.

Then there is a long in-car sequence, interspersed with track-side camera footage of a race at Monaco, in which Garner as the selfish and ambitious American driver, Pete Aron seems to force a BRM driver off the track and they both end up in the sea, losing Aron his drive for the rest of the year.

In fact, he defends his actions and we see that other drivers like and trust him enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, so we do too. Yves Montand is the romantic lead in the film and fights for the love of Eva Maria Saint, winning her but at a huge cost.

There are bad crashes, as there were then, deaths and fights back to drive again but in the end it comes down to the last race of the year and four drivers who can win. It’s nail-biting stuff.

What I love about the film, apart from the beautiful photography and choreography of the driving shots, is that the film doesn’t pull any punches and dips right into the politics of Formula One which we still see today. I must mention here that Grand Prix races existed before there was a Formula One World Championship. In those days, not all races contributed to the World Championship. But the Formula (Formula One being the fuel quality) is the same.

As for the politics, the Ferrari demagogue uses the driver’s wives and girlfriends as levers to put pressure on the drivers and even delivers cars too late for them to be properly prepared for the race. I sometimes wonder if second driver’s cars these days are tampered with in the same way.

Frankenheimer has put together some cinematic poetry here; there is a beautiful sequence with no location sound but only a beautiful, classical arrangement of the theme (with harpsichord if my hears serve me well). The cars are mirrored, multiplied and dance across the screen like ballerinas. It is half way between Swan Lake and the lovely sequence of William Walton in Battle of Britain.

One should note of course, that not all was as it seemed in this film. The drivers all had to drive their own cars and had intensive lessons before shooting began. Formula One cars were felt to be too fast and dangerous so Formula Three cars were dressed up to look like Formula One cars for the in-car sequences. Some of the drivers were too scared to use real Formula Three cars so the director had them towed around the circuits behind a Ford Gt 40. Garner did all his own driving (except perhaps the most difficult scenes) and was so taken with racing that he commenced his own racing career shortly after and did quite well.

Possibly the best sequence is shot at full speed in the last race of the season at Monza. The director chose to use the old banked curves, even though they had not been used for the real Formula One for a few years. It’s dramatic and documents what racing used to be like. It all adds to the feeling of a documentary and one in which Frankenheimer was trying to capture the true spirit of the old racing before it began to change. I am glad it is a lot safer now but you have to admire the courage of the drivers racing those tiny cars without roll bars, proper helmets or proper fire-proof suits.

Another thing I really like about the film is the lack of special effects. There is a lovely sequence when James Garner is talking to Pat (Jessica Walter), one of the other driver’s wives, in his new Ford Mustang. It must be one of the few such scenes where you can tell that the driver really is driving the car, and flat out at that, while performing a long dialogue in the car. Nice one Jim!

So, I may have rose-tinted glasses about the 1960s but, if you love car racing, give this old classic a go. Here is the title sequence:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RILdsjeL_4

Short Stirling Restoration

Short stirling
Short stirling

For those who have been following my updates on the project to build a replica Short Stirling, the first British 4-engined bomber built during World War II and the only major British type to have no survivor, here is a brief update:

Recently, I came across a video on youtube purporting to show a newly discovered Short Stirling wreck near the French coast. I told John who heads the replica construction project and contacted the powers that be to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, the news isn’t good. Here is John’s reply to recent message from me, asking how things were going:

“Not much I’m afraid, the group were helpful but French law precludes recovery of any parts from the site unfortunately”

You can read and see more about the project progress here.