Weekend Retrospective - Back in Black

PERFECT SCORE: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)

'Good morning, Dr. Silberman... how's the knee?'

It's a big cliché but it is really hard to imagine a time when computer effects were so primitive that film makers couldn't just do anything they felt like. Someone would have an idea they wanted to see on screen, and more than one approach could be considered. Throw in some puppets, a bit of animation, a couple of miniatures. It's all part of a bag of tricks. Even Jurassic Park, lauded for its computer advances was planned as a feature that would use stop motion as well as the big practical creations. It could have been the swan song for Ray Harryhausen's style of movie monsters, or even boosted the popularity of those classic techniques. But there was a new deal breaker on the horizon. Shows like Insektors and ReBoot began to use computer animation and it gained traction even before Pixar broke new ground with Toy Story. All it would take was one idea to make it a big deal for live action films.

 

Weekend Retrospective - Bullet Ballet

PERFECT SCORE: HARD BOILED (1992)

"John Woo is..."
"...God"

These words appear on a series of title cards that are show in a trailer for this Hong King cinema classic. The press quote they've chosen to splice into the footage sums up the madness that is Hard Boiled, a crime thriller created by a master at the height of his powers. It's also described as 'gob smacking mayhem' and 'more exciting than a dozen Die Hards'. All of this hyperbole seems ridiculous but it's a pretty apt description of the story's content, an exaggerated and often excessive exercise in explosive action.

After setting the stage with the previous action greats A Better Tomorrow and The Killer, John Woo returned to the heroic bloodshed genre he helped create to give us his magnum opus. It would be the perfect distillation of everything that had come before, showcasing his fascination with meticulously staged gun battles and brotherhood themed tales. Ideas of loyalty and corruption would be explored one more time, while giving the forces of law and order a chance to be the heroes.


Weekend Retrospective - This Time It's War

PERFECT SCORE: ALIENS (1986)

'These people are DEAD Burke! Don't you have any idea what you have done here?!! Well, I'm gonna make sure they nail you right to the wall for this! You're not gonna sleaze your way out of this one!! Right to the wall!'

The behind the scenes history of the sequel to Alien being made sounds like a horror story all by itself. People from either side of the Atlantic fighting over things like work schedules and tea breaks while filming in England sounds like a nightmare. It's the sort of thing that should never happen, but the culture clash and lack of respect from the crew for the film makers set on doing a sequel to Ridley's 1979 classic created a lot of problems. It's been said they refused to even watch a private screening of The Terminator to see they weren't being pushed around by a complete hack.

On top of that there was also friction between two Jims Cameron and Horner as deadlines to finish the music approached. The original DOP was fired because he refused to light the set the way the director had envisioned. James Remar was let go because of drug problems. So it has to be asked, is this a true story of art through adversity? Perhaps, but luckily all the stress paid off. Much like the first two Terminator films, I have often had trouble deciding which is the better movie. They're all fantastic in different ways but let's explore why this particular sequel works so well.


Weekend Retrospective - State of the Art Bang-Bang

PERFECT SCORE: ROBOCOP (1987)

"Thank you for your co-operation. Good-night."

Aside from being one of my all time science fiction favourites, RoboCop is a film which contains so many things to enjoy. It's a story that goes beyond just being a blend of futuristic ideas and contemporary 80s culture satire. It's a film that has it all. It has the biggest squibs, and the biggest guns. It has the best mens' room scene. It's got a frequently horrifying mixture of grim, nasty violence, and offers a particularly bleak and cynical look at privatisation and greedy ambition. But at the same time it manages to be consistently funny. It's frequently excessive from the amount of blood to the over acting, but these ingredients are perfect in portraying a world full of, well excess. A film about a cyborg that fights crime is a recipe for some of the most trashy kinds of cinema, however the whole thing is crafted in such a way that all the moving parts are engineered to be exactly right, from the script, the performances, and the robot effects.


Review Roundup - Father and Son

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL.2 (2017)

With the exception of The Winter Soldier, the ever expanding Marvel franchise hasn't had a great track record with those tricky follow ups. Because of the nature of this universe it doesn't generally have that typically bigger and better first sequel (and inevitably disappointing third entry) that other distinct trilogies usual manage - these are all pre-planned as a single behemoth. Or so they say. Which means that they usually focus on sequel hooks and cameos to tie things into upcoming releases. However here James Gunn has apparently been left to his own devices, to write characters that are allowed to develop and expand as they face more personal challenges instead of simply fighting against bigger, louder problems. Of course the galaxy itself is still under threat, and there are plenty of eye melting visual effects sequences - but how these two elements combine to form the difficult second album is worth looking into.


Scorecard

APRIL


FILM OF THE MONTH: Duel ☆☆☆☆ 
A Shot in the Dark ☆☆☆☆
First Blood ☆☆☆☆
The Prodigal Son ☆☆☆☆
Time Bandits ☆☆☆☆
Nikita ☆☆☆☆
Paths of Glory ☆☆☆☆
Planet of the Apes ☆☆☆☆
Goodfellas ☆☆☆☆
Slither ☆☆☆☆

Retrospective - What awful people

PERFECT SCORE - TIME BANDITS (1981)

'Heroes? What do they know about a day's work?' 

Terry Gilliam's body of work has always contained a certain amount of abstract, eccentric, and utterly absurd things and nonsense; whether it's tales of piracy and banking in The Crimson Permanent Assurance, or the time travelling nightmare future of 12 Monkeys. But one feature stands out above his other successes, defying classification as either a simple children's adventure or just another series of bizarre Monty Python sketches. It's a richly detailed, layered story, filled with amazing visuals and memorable characters, as well of lots of rather silly jokes and dialogue. The plastic clad henchmen and eerie set pieces are all present and correct, but it's a film which grows beyond the sum of its parts to become truly one of a kind.