Grosse Point Geek: The Top Ten Performances That Should Have Been Nominated For An Oscar But Weren’t…

Grosse Point Geek: The Top Ten Performances That Should Have Been Nominated For An Oscar But Weren’t…

Grosse Point Geek

I don’t like the Oscars much -the ceremony drags on for hours and is hideously boring,  and crammed with cringe worthy speeches (Gwynneth Paltrow and Tom Hanks being some of the worst offenders).  Every time the nominations are announced, someone that should have been a shoo in for a nod gets criminally snubbed (the list is endless) , plus invariably they don’t make sense.

Now not every actor can get a nomination for a good performance but there are some that have been so shockingly over looked by the academy  that it beggars belief. Therefore having given this a great deal of thought  i decided to  put together a list of actors that should have been nominated for Oscar but wernt – read on:

 * * * * * *

1. Film: Seven (1995)

Should have been nominated for: Best Actor (Brad Pitt).

So brutal in parts its almost a horror and featuring a twist ending that’s never been bettered, Seven will stand the test of time as the greatest serial killer film ever made. Unflinchingly dark, most of the praise went to David Fincher’s brilliant direction and the admittedly outstanding Morgan Freeman –  however its Pitt as the arrogant, idealistic Det. David Mills  that should have been far more recognized.

Best scene: Ably holding his own against Freeman (no easy feat) witness  his gut wrenching transformation in the films climax, from cocksure cop to utterly broken man when he realizes just exactly what’s in the box – outstanding.

  * * * * * *

2. Film: Man On Fire (2004)

Should have been nominated for: Best Actor-Denzel Washington.

Denzel Washington is just superb here, as suicidal bodyguard John Creasey in Tony Scott’s cracking action thriller.

Fast, furious and brutal, Man On Fire managed to be a blistering actioner and showcased a fantastic turn from Washington, who manages to pull off a very complex character whilst making him sympathetic even when he’s torturing half the criminals in Mexico.

Best Scene: A roll of duct tape, some eye wateringly placed placed explosive and a bent Mexican cop who desperately wishes “he had more time”.

  * * * * * *

3. Film: The Big Lebowski

Should have been nominated for: Best Supporting  Actor-John Turturro.

A film that flopped on release but has since  passed into legend as one of the funniest and most obscure comedies of all time. The Coen brothers masterpiece features an entire myriad of bonkers characters, from Jeff Bridges as the Dude to Tara Reid as porn star Bunny, all brilliant  – but none more so than John Turturro as the bowling ball licking, do-rag wearing pederast, Jesus Quintana.

Of all the directors in Hollywood, only the Coens could make sex offender seem funny, and every time i watch this film ive almost busted a gut laughing at Turturro’s manic performance. Greasy, foul mouthed, pretentious and strutting like a peacock, he’s only in three scenes – and he owns every one of them.

Best Scene: Threatening to shove a gun up John Goodman’s backside until the trigger goes “click”.

  * * * * * *

4. Film: True Romance

Should have been nominated for: Best Supporting Actor – Gary Oldman.

In the wake of Reservoir Dogs  – studios were in a feeding frenzy for any scripts written by Quentin Tarantino. One of which was True  Romance – funny, profane and very violent, its hard to decide which of its cast should have received the most praise. Christian Slater has never been better as the slightly unhinged Clarence, Dennis Hopper is wonderful as Slater’s doomed father, and Brad Pitt (again) is hilarious as the permanently stoned Floyd. However, its Blighty’s own Gary Oldman, appearing in just two scenes as psychopath pimp Drexl who steals the show. One eyed, horribly scarred, with bad teeth, greasy dreadlocks, he is evil incarnate, and Oldman is terrifying in the role  – bypassed by the Academy it took them until 2011  to finally reward him with a nomination  for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy  -how did it take them so long??.

Best Scene: The strip club confrontation- “it aint white boy day is it?”.

  * * * * * *

5. Film: Good Will Hunting

Should have been nominated for: Best Supporting actor – Ben Affleck.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck deservedly won Oscars for their self penned screenplay about a violently self destructive maths genius. Featuring some superb performances -Damon, Minnie Driver and Robin Williams all excel, but, in a career best performance, Affleck is just wonderful as Chucky, Will’s fiercely loyal, foul mouthed best friend. Getting all the best lines and being the only one who finally gets Will to realize just how much his genius is a gift from the gods, Affleck has never been better. Damon, Driver  and Williams were all nominated for their performances  – but if anyone deserved more recognition for their acting in this film it was Big Ben.

Best Scene: The building site lecture – where Chucky tells Will what the best part his day is – wonderful and more than a bit heart breaking to boot.

  * * * * * *

6. Film: Rocky Balboa (2006)

Should have been nominated for: Best Actor (Sylvester Stallone)

When it was announced that Rocky would be making a sixth bow on the big screen, the sound of collective groans was almost deafening. Its dreadful predecessor -Rocky V – had effectively killed the franchise, Stallone hadn’t had a hit in years and was stuck making some frankly godawful films (Avenging Angelo being a particular low point). So it was to everyone’s surprise that when Rocky Mark 6 came out, what was expected to be something of a joke turned out to be anything but.

Wisely going back to basics, Sly portrays Rocky as a sad,  heart broken widower (Adrian has died), desperate to connect with his yuppie son (Milo Ventimiglia) and pining for the glory days of his former life as a world class boxer. Its brilliant stuff – beautifully photographed, skilfully directed and superbly acted by Stallone, Ventimiglia and Burt Ward as Paulie.

With the obligatory training montage, a fantastic boxing match and the kind of jump for joy feel-good factor rarely seen in films today  -this was, without doubt, one of the best nights ive ever had at the cinema – lets just say that grown men were known to cry!

Best Scene – Rocky’s heart rending confession to Paulie how bitter he is about Adrian dying and his struggles with the “beast” inside him.

  * * * * * *

7. Film:  The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Should have been nominated for: Best Supporting Actor- Sean Astin

Ok ROTK deservedly won just about all its categories at the 2005 Oscars  – but, despite this the only actor to ever get a nomination was Ian Mckellan as Gandalf in The Fellowship of The Ring.

With its huge cast its very hard to say who  gives the best performance – the likes of Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood and Bernard Hill are all superb, but for me the standout was Sean Astin as Sam.

Now some American actors can do good British accents – but these are the types usually adopted in films like Shakespeare in Love and Gladiator.

Here, however, the very American Sean Astin did the impossible and pulled off an absolutely pitch perfect west country accent, and on top of that  turned in a frankly outstanding  performance that anchored the entire trilogy.

Best Scene: ROTK – Unable to go any further, and weighed down by the  ring, Frodo (Elijah Wood) collapses with exhaustion on the slopes of Mount Doom. Refusing to let him give up, Sam  gently tells Frodo about the wonders of the shire, then in one last gasp of strength, painfully hauls his beloved friend over his shoulder and makes his way up the mountain to destroy the one ring.

  * * * * * *

 8. Tombstone (1994)

Should have been nominated for: Best Supporting Actor: Val Kilmer.

In 1994 there were two adaptations of the story of Wyatt Earp.  Lawrence Kasdan and Kevin Costner’s version was a rather bloated and overlong affair, but George P Cosmato’s Tombstone was by far the clear winner.

Ok it isn’t Shakespeare, there are some gaping plot holes, some of the editing is a bit iffy and by all accounts it was a nightmare shoot ( original director Kevin Jarre got the boot early on).

Despite this, it’s a very entertaining  film. Kurt Russell is very good as Wyatt Earp , as are Michael Biehn and Powers Boothe as the main villains.

However its Kilmer that shines the most  as the Latin spewing,  tuberculosis ridden Doc Holliday. Stealing every scene he’s in and walking away with the entire film, this was the role that got Kilmer out from the shadow of Top Gun and showed him as an actor of real range and versatility. Criminally overlooked by the academy, its just a damn shame he never capitalised on his success here and unfortunately  is now to be found in various bargain basement DTV efforts.

Best Scene:  Ensconced in the local saloon and  drunk as a monkey, Holliday slurringly  trades insults (in Latin) with Michael Biehn’s Johnny Ringo, who then tries to get one over on him with a macho display of handgun twirling.  Not to be outdone, Holliday brings the house down by doing the exact same thing  – but with a whiskey cup. A cracking scene that perfectly sets up the story for the bullet riddled action to come.

  * * * * * *

9. In The Line Of Fire (1993)

Should have been nominated for: Best Actor: Clint Eastwood

For me Clint Eastwood is an actor that has just got better with everything film he appears in. Now everyone says that his greatest performance was in Unforgiven – and undoubtedly he thoroughly deserved a best actor nomination for his portrayal as the reformed outlaw and mass murderer William Munny.

In my opinion though, the film where he impressed the most was as the aging secret service agent Frank Horrigan in Wolfgang Peterson’s In The Line Of Fire.

Haunted by his past failure to save JFK  and desperate to stop John Malkovich’s chameleon alike assassin from killing the current president, Clint has never been better.  Deceptively introducing  Horrigan as a standard,  by the numbers tough guy,  Eastwood superbly reveals him as a heartbroken tortured man who just needs that one last chance to redeem himself.

Best Scene: After being told he’s off the President’s security detail, Frank recounts to fellow agent Lily Raines(Rene Russo) what happened on that fateful day in Dallas. This is, without doubt the best acting you will ever see from Eastwood – just incredible.

  * * * * * *

10. Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Should have been nominated for: Best actor: Bruce Willis

Recent efforts by Bruce Willis have been utter rubbish – Die Hard 5 and GI Joe 2 were terrible, plus he seems to be starring in more and more DTV films that never see the inside of a cinema.

However in 1996 he gave an absolutely amazing performance as unhinged convict James Cole in Terry Gilliam’s post apocalyptic time travel masterpiece.

Completely shedding his usual smirking tough guy image, Willis  effortlessly brings range, depth and subtlety to a highly complex and sympathetic character,– all qualities that he has rarely utilised in future roles he’s played.

Best Scene: In a touching moment, after kidnapping  psychiatrist Madeline Stowe, the injured Cole hears music on the radio for the first time and revels in its beauty.

 

Author: Will Strong 

 

Grosse Pointe Geek: Top Film Actors You Should Know But Can’t Place Them…

Grosse Pointe Geek: Top Film Actors You Should Know But Can’t Place Them…

Grosse Point Geek

You know how it goes – there you are, happily watching a film and up pops a familiar actor in some third or fourth supporting role. You’ve definitely seen him before, but no matter what you do, you absolutely cannot remember their name or what they’ve been in.

But fear not friends, where there’s a “Will” there is way – so I present to you the (unlikely to be) definitive list of the top 10 actors you should know but cant place the film you’ve seen them in:


* * * * * * 

MV5BMTkyODgyMzMzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjM3ODgxMTE@._V1_SY317_CR51,0,214,317_Cole Hauser.

Hauser (son of DTV “star” Wings) has been around for many years, debuting in School Ties (1992) (alongside Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) and putting in very good performances in the likes of Pitch Black,  2 Fast 2 Furious (as the main bad guy) and Good Will Hunting. Never really a headline star in his own right (he had a go with the very average Paparazzi in 2004) he’s  impressed in everything I’ve seen him in – and seems to be particularly good in villainous roles.

  • Most likely to be remembered for: The drug addicted mercenary Johns in Pitch Black (2000)
  • Last wide release: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)


* * * * * * 

MV5BMTQwNDk0NjU4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzIyMzYwOA@@._V1_SX214_CR0,0,214,317_Michael Biehn.

Brilliant in The Terminator, evil in Tombstone, heroic in Aliens and mad as cheese in The Abyss. Biehn was once touted as a major star, sadly some dodgy choices (The Seventh Sign, Navy SEALS to name but two) put the scuppers on that and he has mostly been in DTV nonsense like Omega Code 2 and flops such as Cherry Falls and Grindhouse. A genuinely very good actor  – he recently appeared in a smashing post apocalyptic thriller called The Divide, which I would highly recommend and is available now on DVD and Netflix.

  • Most Likely to be remembered for: Kyle Reece in James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984)
  • Last wide release: Grindhouse (2007) (The Sherriff in Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror)


* * * * * * 

MV5BMTE5MTIxNTM1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwOTMzNjc1._V1_SY317_CR3,0,214,317_ Peter Weller

Best known for playing the cop turned cyborg in Paul Verhoeven’s  Robocop (he was also in the godawful sequel), Weller has since made the odd cinematic outing with the likes of Screamers, Naked Lunch, Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite and most recently as the villainous Star Fleet Admiral Marcus in last years Star Trek: Into Darkness. The rest of his output has been DTV and its unlikely that he will ever be remembered for anything other than RoboCop – which is a real shame, as superb performances in the likes of TV’s 24 and the aforementioned Star Trek sequel showed him to be an actor of real range and versatility.

  • Most Likely to be remembered for: Alex Murphy in RoboCop(1987)
  • Last Wide Release: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

* * * * * * 

MV5BMTMyODQwNDgwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjgzNTg2Mw@@._V1_SY317_CR17,0,214,317_Jeff Fahey

A very prolific actor  – usually cast as the principal baddie, but far better in quiet supporting roles, Fahey made early impressions in Lawrence Kasdan’s  Silverado and Clint Eastwood’s White Hunter Black Heart.

His most famous role was as Jobe in the Lawnmower Man (1992), on the big screen he was the best thing in Grindhouse (alongside Michael Biehn -Planet Terror chapter) and had a role in 2010’s Machete, you may also have caught him in seasons 4,5 and 6 of Lost and Stephen King’s tv series -Under The Dome . Sadly, like Biehn, Fahey is damn good actor gone to waste in a lot of rubbish that got released straight to disc.

  • Most Likely to be remembered for: The Lawnmower Man (1992)
  • Last wide release: Machete (2010) playing ruthless businessman Booth.

* * * * * * 

 

MV5BMTY0NzAzMTEyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjYwMzYwNg@@._V1_SY317_CR2,0,214,317_ Ron Perlman

Usually to be found under a ton of make up in films like Hellboy 1 +2 , Quest for Fire and Star Trek Nemesis, Perlman regularly works with Guillermo Del Toro, is a big fan favourite and has been fantastic in everything I’ve seen him in – especially the currently very popular TV show -Sons of Anarchy as biker gang leader Clay Morrow, he was also in Blade 2 (as Reinhardt) and the rat eating  hunchback monk in the Name of The Rose.

If those don’t ring a bell then some of you may be old enough to remember him as Vincent in the soppy Beauty and Beast series that aired in the late 80’s and early 90’s – but don’t hold that against him.

  • Most likely to remembered for: Hellboy 1 and 2/Sons of Anarchy
  • Last wide release: Pacific Rim (2013)


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MV5BMTQ2MTk3OTgwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODE1OTIwMw@@._V1_SY317_CR7,0,214,317_Eric Roberts

Brother of Julia and Oscar nominee for Runaway Train (1985), able to do comedy, drama and action , he was the best thing about 1994’s The Specialist (as the thoroughly nasty son of Rod Steiger’s Miami drug king) put in a small but memorable performance as Gotham gangster Sal Maroni in The Dark Knight (2008) and was rather good as the main baddie in The Expendables (2010)

Roberts has appeared in vast amounts of films and has over fifty – (yes fifty!) –releases coming out  in 2014 alone.

  • Most Likely to remembered for: The Dark Knight and several appearances in Heroes
  • Last Wide Release: Lovelace (2014).


* * * * * * 

MV5BMTA0ODI1ODk4NzdeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDkwNjkzOTY@._V1._SX214_SY317_SY317_SX211_ Joel Edgerton

An extremely good Australian actor  – Edgerton first came to prominence as the young Owen Lars in Star Wars Episode 2: Attack Of The Clones, since then he was outstanding as the physics teacher turned cage fighter in Warrior (2011), was great in The Thing (also 2011) and appeared in last years The Great Gatsby remake alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. He also played the special forces leader in  Zero Dark Thirty and is soon to be seen as  Pharaoh in Ridley Scott’s Exodus. One to watch out for – and if you haven’t seen Warrior yet then you should be ashamed!

  • Most likely to remembered for: Warrior, Star Wars Episodes 2 and 3.
  • Last Wide Release: The Great Gatsby

 * * * * * *

MV5BMTIxODE2MTgwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjYzNTky._V1_SY317_CR33,0,214,317_ Udo Kier

A veteran of over 200 films –  Kier is another fan favourite – especially amongst the horror crowd. An occasional collaborator with the legendarily awful Uwe Boll and controversial director Lars Von Trier, you will know him  as the head vampire in Blade (1998) the German scientist who makes Michael Clarke Duncan break down in tears in Armageddon (1998) and the head of a devil worshiping coven in End Of Days (1999).

Always good value , Kier brings quality to everything he appears in.

  • Most Likely to remembered for: End Of Days and Blade.
  • Last Wide Release: Nymphomaniac (2014)

 * * * * * *

MV5BMTYxNTA2MDExOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDE0MDAxMw@@._V1_SX214_CR0,0,214,317_
Brad Dourif

Another journeyman actor, Dourif has appeared in everything from One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest to Alien Resurrection.  Mostly seen in weirdo or creepy bad guy roles, he is the voice of the demonic doll Chucky in the Child’s Play franchise, played Grima Wormtongue in Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers and The Return Of The King, and made appearances in Dune, Priest and Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake.

For me, though his best part was as racist, wife beating deputy sheriff, Clinton Pell in Alan Parker’s superb Mississippi Burning (1988).

One of the best films of that year, and memorable for superb performances from Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, Dourif excels as the grinning, smug, murderous small town cop  – and I dare anyone not cheer when Hackman’s hard as nails FBI agent finally gives him his long overdue comeuppance near the films climax (“did you smile Pell?!!”).

  • Most likely to remembered for: The Two Towers and Return of The King (Extended Edition)
  • Last wide release: Priest (2011)

 

 * * * * * *

MV5BMTQzODk4MjU1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDYwNjQzMg@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_ Michael Shannon

An established stage and screen actor  – some will remember Shannon from early appearances in forgettable guff such as Bad Boys 2, Pearl Harbour and Kangaroo Jack.

However an electrifying performance in 2012’s The Iceman,  being one of the best things about last years Man Of Steel, and a series regular on Sky Atlantic’s Boardwalk Empire (as the slightly unhinged FBI agent turned bootlegger Nelson Van Alden)  have made Shannon one of the most respected and sought after performers working today. One of those guys who can bring quality to just about anything he appears in (even Pearl Harbour) it’s fair to say Shannon is an actor destined for even more great things to come.

  • Most likely to be remembered for: Man Of Steel (as General Zod) and Boardwalk Empire.
  • Last wide release: Man of Steel (2013)

 * * * * * *

 

So that’s it  – there are many more fine actors I could have mentioned  – however the list could go on forever – but if you can catch any of the above in the films I’ve mentioned they have been in then, you will know what I’m talking about  -in addition they can all be found on Wikipedia if you want to know more about their body of work.

As an aside – if you’ve watched an actor in a film that you know you have seen before but cant remember where and its keeping it you up all night in frustration  – just send a question in to me on my blog (Grosse Pointe Geek) at ALLTHINGSFILM and I’ll try and give you the answer.

 

Grosse Point Geek: The Top 10 Undeserved Hits

Grosse Point Geek: The Top 10 Undeserved Hits

Grosse Point Geek

There are many films I’ve  been disappointed in or been let down by in equal measure  – notable recent  criminals would be the likes of,Green Lantern, Indiana Jones 4,  After Earth and anything Michael Bay has directed.

However the problem with these and many others like them is that everyone knows they were rubbish, dismissed them out of hand and moved on to the next film.

However, there are some movies who craftily sneaked under the radar, got a pass from the critics and undeservedly made bucket loads of money at the box office. In the years to come some have even been lauded as classics, even making some people’s top ten best lists.

To say the least, this has absolutely made my blood boil, so as a large two fingered salute to all those films  that thought they could get away with it… and did – here is my list of  ten massive box office hits  that frankly should be ashamed of themselves for taking our money:

* * * * * *

1.XXX (2002)

Director: Rob Cohen

Starring Vin Diesel

Worldwide Box office: $277,488 million

After the twin successes of Pitch Black and The Fast and The Furious, Vin Diesel was on something of a roll. So someone thought it would be a good idea to reunite him with his FF director Rob Cohen and produce an action film that aimed to become a kind of anti James Bond type franchise. Putting it mildly, XXX is absolutely terrible. The script is appallingly bad, the plot contrived, the acting (especially by the generally good value Diesel) is about as wooden as it gets, Samuel L Jackson pops up in a role that is a stupid nod to 007’s M and don’t even start on the action scenes. Ah yes – the action scenes  – now don’t get me wrong, I like a good bit of escapism, but this was just ridiculous – Diesel’s deathly dull Xander Cage repeatedly manages to pull off impossible feats of derring do that even Einstein would be scratching his head at– example – pulling a jump over a 20 foot fence on a motorbike without so much as a ramp or bump in the road in sight – then doing it again in a later scene where he escapes (on another motorbike) from some Eastern European castle.  How the hell this made so much money is any ones guess  – a truly awful film that is oddly followed by a rather acceptable (non Diesel) sequel.

* * * * * *

2.Hancock (2008)

Combined Worldwide Box office

Director: Peter Berg

Starring: Will Smith

Worldwide Box Office: $624,386 million

Odd one this. A classic case  of a proper “ game of two halves” type of film. Starts out brilliantly  -with Smith as a real life but universally loathed, alcoholic superhero,  taken on by Jason Bateman’s ingenious publicity guru  to win back the hearts of his once adoring fans.  This should have been great, indeed its one standout scene where,   after a lot of coaching from Bateman, the recently sober Hancock flies in to stop a huge bank robbery, is an absolute standout, director Peter Berg, creates a fantastic build up, a smashing Superman-alike score and some great one liners from Smith. But sadly that’s it  – thereafter the film becomes a right let down, with Eddie Marsan’s rubbish villain, a disappointing plot reveal  and a climax overloaded with headache inducing CGI.  Despite the massive box office this never became a franchise  – shame really as they could have righted all the wrongs they did here in the sequel. 

* * * * * *

3.Pacific Rim (2013)

Director Guillermo Del Toro

Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba

Worldwide Box Office: $411,002 million

Now this should have worked – everything Guillermo Del Toro has directed (with the exception of Mimic) has been outstanding. His Blade 2 is one of the best sequels ever made, Hellboy and Hellboy 2 are fantastic and Pans Labyrinth is so good it defies belief. So, last summer, it was with great enthusiasm that I rushed  to my local multiplex to watch the highly talented Spaniard’s latest opus.

Unfortunately, I emerged 2 hours later with strained eyeballs, a banging headache and overcome with the kind of crashing disappointment only normally reserved for when England get dumped out of the World Cup.

Overloaded with CGI, thinly plotted, loud, over long, boring and peppered with the kind of cheesy one liners that would make even the writer of Pearl Harbour wince, Pacific Rim was, without doubt, the worst film of 2013.

Now if anyone else had directed this nonsense (i.e. Michael Bay) i would have simply forgotten it and moved on  – but the fact that it was written and  directed by a creative genius like GDT is totally and utterly unforgivable. He spends years on the Hobbit, then does a runner, wastes acres of time producing  a few sub par supernatural horror films (i.e. Mama) then chooses to make this pile of rubbish over his long cherished  adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness.  Madness indeed – here’s hoping the currently filming, GDT directed Crimson Peak is a vast improvement  – well at least he has Tom Hiddleston in the cast.

* * * * * *

4.Bad Boys 2 (2003)

Director Michael Bay

Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence

Worldwide Box Office: $273,339 million

Recently made famous again after being mentioned  in Edgar Wrights superb Hot Fuzz, this was the inevitable sequel  to the original 1995 box office smash. Full of cheeky one liners, explosions, car chases, gun fights and all the right kind of mayhem that that made the first film so enjoyable – Bad Boys 2 should have been pretty good mindless fun– for about an hour and a half – tops.

Sadly in a fit of wanton hubris,  producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay decided to release it with a running time of 148 minutes – yes you read that right –its nearly 2 and half hours long!

Unbelievably, it literally just goes on and on and on, throwing in tasteless jokes about rat sex and penile dysfunction,  its  gets more  headache inducingly loud with every butt numbing minute that passes.

To say I was insulted is an understatement  – there is just no earthy reason for a film called Bad Boys 2 to be this long  and this stupid,  safe to say  – I hated this movie and by all accounts the people who made it should be confined

to the ninth circle of hell as punishment.

 * * * * * *

5.Batman Forever (1995)

Director: Joel Shumacher

Starring Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones

Worldwide Box Office: $336,529

After Batman Returns (1991) director Tim Burton wisely handed over the reins to Joel Schumacher for this third entry in Warner’s first series of films featuring the Gotham City’s favourite son.

Forgoing his predecessors atmospherically dark style, Schumacher, in his wisdom, had the brilliant idea to bring in  loud neon colours, utterly  stupid villains and a very dull Val Kilmer as Batman.

Audiences, and critics alike,  not yet schooled in proper superhero films (done by talented directors like Chris Nolan and Joss Whedon)  – lapped it up in spades and turned this monstrosity into a sizable hit   – which was then followed up in 1997, by the staggeringly bad Schumacher helmed  fourth film in the Bat saga ,whose name I shall not utter here.

Just to prove my point  – watch it again (or rather don’t)and look on in horror at Tommy Lee Jones’   career worst performance as Two Face – screaming, shouting and gurning for all his worth,   Elliot Goldenthal’s appallinglypantomime score, the plot less “story” or worse still the lame “action” scenes that go nowhere and  smack of PG-13 baiting desperation.

To be honest – its my theory that due to the 4th film being so bad , Batman Forever has just been forgotten in the mists of time and thus dodged a bullet –how in the hell Warner’s got it so wrong for so long is a mystery that will never be solved –  just thank God and Mammon for Chris Nolan.

* * * * *

6.The Other Guys (2010)

Director: Adam McKay

Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg

Worldwide Box Office: $222,914 million

Another enormous hit, audiences flocked to see Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg “comically” bickering and prat falling  through a stupid plot that had something to do with Steve Coogan’s equally awful corporate baddie. It is a rarity that I feel the urge to turn off a film and chuck the  disc out the window  – but I came mighty close with this one. Many people will disagree with me here, as it was very popular with audiences  and fairly  well received by the critics. Possibly its because I generally don’t like comedies, maybe its because I have never liked Will Ferrell that much – or maybe its because a film that contains 2 hours worth of painfully  unfunny jokes plus The Rock and Samuel L Jackson leaping to their deaths for no apparent reason just doesn’t do it for me  – go figure.

* * * * * *

7. 2012 (2009)

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring John Cusack

Worldwide Box office: $769,679 million

Roland Emmerich like to destroy things  – he blew up  New York in Independence Day, froze half of America to death  in The Day After Tomorrow and bombed Washington in White House Down.

However with 2012 he went the whole hog by setting the entire earth on fire in a  blazing  orgy of CGI glory.

Now this film would have been just about forgivable had it not been for a few minor quibbles. Chiefly the fact that someone somewhere should have A. written a half decent, non vomit inducing script (“look, no pull ups Daddy!”) B. advised John Cusack to avoid being cast in this debacle as if his life depended on it and C. Informed dear old Roland that he was unashamedly and unapologetically ripping off the entire  movie going public by craftily remaking The Day After Tomorrow  and hoping to God that no one would notice. And to be fair he got away with it!!  This pile of cheese covered, plotless, over blown celluloid excrement made over three quarters of a billion dollars at the box office – and no one knows why!! – You couldn’t make it up.

 

* * * * * *

8. The Fifth Element (1997)

Director: Luc Besson

Starring Bruce Willis

Worldwide Box office: $263,920 million

I vividly remember being really excited about this one  – the trailer looked great, the reviews weren’t bad and it had been a big hit in the US. Since its release I’ve heard  all manner of people reminiscing on  what a great inventive film it was, how many awards it won, praising the wonderful set design etc etc. Pish I say! Had said adoring fans gone back for a second look they would have noticed a few gaping issues that would have most certainly put paid to their misguided adoration of this woeful piece of sci fi dreck.

For a start its tonally all wrong, in parts playing like a screwball comedy and injected with a streak of very unfunny humour. Now I like a laugh as much as the next geek, sci fi’s can of course be very humorous and clever with it (See Star Trek/ Star Wars etc) but not juvenile bordering on pantomime as seen here. Then there’s the plot –at its core it had potential – drawing inspiration from  Chariots Of The Gods, and featuring alien warriors, space battles and cool weaponry – its let down time and again  by the stupid humour, daft acting, Milla Jojovich babbling incoherent nonsense and Bruce Willis’s bland lead.

This isn’t the worst of it however  – indeed the mere thought of him chills me to the marrow and freezes the blood – that’s right folks, its the abomination that is Chris Tucker as intergalactic DJ Ruby Rhod. Blonde of wig, screechy of voice, killer of film and so achingly unfunny it hurts.  By far and away one of the worst movie sidekicks in living memory  – it was only until the lamentable Jar Jar  came along in Phantom Menace that Tucker’s unsurpassed screen atrocity could finally be forgotten. In short it was he who utterly ruined the Fifth Element  – one can only wonder wistfully how better it would have been had he not been in it. Luc Besson –go forth into the street and  hold your head in shame, Chris Tucker – just go forth into the street.

 * * * * * *

9. The Sixth Sense (1999)

Director: M Night Shyalaman

Starring Bruce Willis

World Wide Box Office: $672,806 million

*SPOILER ALERT!*

Now when I saw this film I simply could not fathom what all the fuss was about. It was a gigantic sleeper hit, everyone kept banging on how good the creepy plot was, and screaming from the rooftops about the  incredible twist ending. Not to take away anything from it –the Sixth Sense is a good film, well made, skilfully directed and superbly acted  – indeed I will applaud any director who can get a half decent performance from Bruce Willis.

But what frustrated me the most was two things .

Firstly the twist –  by now anyone who has seen the film (and there aren’t many that haven’t) the big reveal at the end  is that Willis’s character –Dr Malcolm Crowe  -is in fact dead and has been the whole way through. Ok fair enough, good twist, didn’t see it coming, nicely played Mr Shyalaman.  But a twist that resulted in nearly $700 million dollars of worldwide box office????!!!

Am I alone in thinking said twist  wasn’t THAT amazing?  The studio must have thought its dreams had come true  – cinema audiences really were utterly gullible and incredibly easily pleased! Beggars belief.

Finally  – and this is the one that gets me the most – is the quite staggering plot hole that not one person seems to have noticed. Namely the fact that, all the way through, whenever Haley Joel Osment’s character feels ghosts nearby or simply just sees them – he gets freezing cold and you can see his breath. So why the hell doesn’t this happen when he’s around Bruce Willis??? Who as we know from the film’s climax ,has been pushing up the daisies for the entire film! Frankly I blame George Lucas –that year audiences were probably so mind bogglingly traumatised by the cataclysmic let down that was The Phantom Menace, they just didn’t notice  and simply  bought any old story with a hint of shock value simply to numb the pain.

 * * * * * *

10. Braveheart (1995)

Director: Mel Gibson

Starring Mel Gibson

Worldwide box office: $210,409 million

When I first saw Braveheart I really liked it – fast, furious, at times funny and featuring two of the most realistic  battle scenes id ever seen. Audiences and critics loved it and as a  result it scored massive box office returns and – count em  –  ten academy awards – including best picture.

Over the course of the last few years I’ve probably re-watched Braveheart about eight times and as a result I have come to an  inescapable fact – chiefly that It’s the most hideously overrated and most undeserving best picture winner in the history of cinema .

The choice reasons for this are as follows:

Huge historical liberties.  To name four examples: A. the Scots didn’t wear kilts until 500 hundred years after the events of the film, B. Scottish warriors painting their faces with blue woad hadn’t been seen on a  battlefield for over a millennia, C. King Edward The Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) didn’t die until 2 years after Wallace was executed,  D. as for the laughable storyline of Wallace having an affair with Princess Isabella (the then Princess of Wales) and siring a Scottish heir to the English throne – in real life  they never even met, and  at the time of Wallace’s revolution, she was still safely ensconced in France!

Rubbish background extras  – rightly pointed out in a past issue of Empire – at the end of the film’s first major battle (Sterling), Gibson’s Wallace has just lopped off the head of one of the main English officers in charge and  the Scots are understandably triumphant after giving the English a severe kicking – but look carefully in the background  – laughably, several extras, who obviously haven’t heard “Cut!” are still really really badly pretending to fight each other!

Comedy wobbly Axe –At the films conclusion,  what remains of Wallace’s army gathers to pay homage to the English, then in a final act of defiance, Angus Macfayden’s Robert The Bruce says the immortal words “You have bled with Wallace – now bleed with me!”. Cue slo mo final shot of the Scots brandishing their weapons,  howling like banshees and charging at the opposition. Now this would have been a great ending – save for the fact that someone gave actor  Brendan Gleeson a massive rubber axe that wobbles horribly  every time his feet hit the ground – how the hell they missed that one in the editing suite is anyone’s guess!

Overacting: Funny how it won ten Oscars but didn’t garner one nomination for its actors. Probably because the entire cast  incessantly shout and rant, Gibson annoyingly rolls his r’s whenever he speaks and  everyone (Gibson included) seems to ham it up at any given opportunity. To be honest the only one that gets out unscathed is Patrick McGoohan  – who is genuinely terrifying as the thoroughly evil King Edward The Longshanks.

Another film that got away with murder– perhaps I’m being cynical  but maybe Mel’s recent legal issues and subsequent career nosedive is karma for undeservedly winning all those awards and making so much money off it.

 

That’s it then, rant over, remember its only my opinion and unlike Messer’s Gibson, Shyalaman and Emmerich, perhaps if I had the talent to make a successful film perhaps I should have done it by now – then again  – I did part with my hard earned money to watch all of the above so I reckon I’m entitled to have my say.

Will Strong

 

Will Strong

Grosse Point Geek: Top Ten Guilty Pleasures Films

Grosse Point Geek: Top Ten Guilty Pleasures Films

Grosse Point Geek

Its safe to say that I have watched a lot of movies, (I shudder to think of the time and money I’ve spent doing so!) – some great, some average and  some downright awful – however there are quite a few , that, despite  beingrather good (in my opinion), have ether by-passed a mass audience, are unjustly very unloved or have just been forgotten in the mists of time.

Now this is a rather personal list and doubtless many people (no names mentioned – Phil Hobden) will probably totally disagree with me on most if not all it, but it is submitted in the hope that said films will get another chance and be embraced by a hitherto untapped audience.  So here we go:

 

* * * * * * *

The Thirteenth Warrior (1999) Director: John McTiernan. Actors: Antonio Banderas, Omar Sharif.

Based on Michael Crichton’s  s novel The Eaters of The Dead –   this should have been huge  -previous adaptations of Crichton’s books such as  Jurassic Park and Disclosure had done bumper box office, plus it was directed by John McTiernan who helmed Die Hard and Predator. Infamously undergoing extensive reshoots and hugely over budgeted,  it belly flopped on release. Playing a bit like the Dirty Dozen with Vikings, It features cannibal cave men,  a rousing score by Jerry Goldsmith, , a fantastic mid section battle and a very exciting subterranean action sequence.  Extremely entertaining and well made its definitely  worth a look –check it out on DVD or Netflix.

   * * * * * * *

Predator 2 (1990) Director: Stephen Hopkins, Actors: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Bill Paxton.

A very  good follow up to the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger starring sci fi actioner, Predator 2 was seen by many as its (admittedly brilliant) predecessors poor relation. Not so I say  – Stephen Hopkins sweaty LA set sequel is

extremely well done,  profane, very exciting and hideously violent. Ok so Danny Glover is no match for Arnie and some of Bill Paxton’s acting is a laughably OTT, but it’s a hellava lot better than what we got with the sub standard, Robert Rodriguez produced  Predators in 2010.

   * * * * * * *

Event Horizon (1997) Director: Paul WS Anderson, Actors: Lawrence Fishburne. Sam Neill, Natasha Richardson.

Ok so not everyone likes Paul WS Anderson and the fan boys will never forgive him for Soldier (1998) but of all his films, this rather forgotten space ghost story is his best by far.

The camera work and SFX are  impressive,  its also well acted by all concerned – (Fishburne is excellent) plus Anderson successfully creates a very creepy atmosphere with chilling scenes of chaos, torture and body horror.  Unfairly seen as a kind of Alien/Hellraiser rip off,  it makes for a  cracking bit of entertainment – and is  a must see  for all serious sci fi film fans.

   * * * * * * *

Kiss Of The Dragon (2001) Director: Chris Nahan. Actors: Jet Li, Bridget Fonda.

Never held in the same regard as previous Jet Li outings -such as the awesome Fist of Legend , this Paris set actioner is nonetheless an over looked classic.

Basically If you haven’t seen it then shame on you – absolutely packed to the rafters with gun fights, fisticuffs, mind boggling stunt work  and featuring  a quite brilliant bad guy in the form of Tcheky Karyo’s odious Paris Police Chief, Kiss of The Dragon is an action film par excellence. Indeed for sheer wince inducing  joy  – check out the quite frankly insane hotel escape sequence and the final one man assault on the central Parisian police station which has to be seen to be believed. Shakespeare it aint  – but what a film!

   * * * * * * *

Ninja Assassin (2009) Director: James McTeigue. Actors: Rain, Sho Koshugi

Produced by none other than Joel Silver and the Washowski Brothers –  how on Earth this made it beyond direct–to-DVD obscurity is any ones guess. The cast is virtually unknown, the script isn’t exactly ripped from the pages of Charles Dickens and  the paper thin plot is just about as derivative as you can get. However despite all this, it works superbly.  The action scenes are surprisingly brutal and thrilling –in particular an extended chase sequence featuring ninjas, machine guns, throwing stars and a lot of blood is an absolute standout.

Don’t let the daft title put you off  – this is great stuff.

  * * * * * * *

Waterworld (1995) Director Kevin Reynolds. Actors: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper.

At the time this apocalyptic actioner was touted as one of the most expensive films ever made. Set in a world covered by oceans and featuring Kevin Costner as a mutated fish man, its troubled production was beset by disaster, huge cost over runs and a rather public falling out between director and star. Dubbed “Fishtar and “Kevin’s Gate”, it was slated on release ,took an awfully long time to make a profit and basically did a right number on Costner’s career. But if you can see past the silly dialogue and Hopper’s Captain Haddock style baddie, Waterworld is actually pretty damn good entertainment.

James Newton Howard’s music score is top notch, the action is exciting and well staged,  its superbly directed by Kevin Reynolds and the production values are all excellent. Much maligned and unfairly sneered at by many, this is a blockbuster that really deserves a second chance.

Unusual fact: amidst the chaos of the production a certain Joss Whedon was brought on board by the studio for script and story rewrites.

   * * * * * * *

D-Tox (2002) Director: Jim Gillespie. Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Polly Walker, Charles S Dutton.

Made at a time when Stallone couldn’t buy a hit movie to save his life, this $55 million flop about a serial killer hiding in a remote rehab clinic for cops, barely registered on release. Known as Eye See You in the US, it quickly exited theatres and in later years was disowned by its star.  Now with out doubt I am the only person on the planet that actually liked this film. Why? Well, for a start the cast, in particular Stallone, put in very good performances, its atmospheric, at times thrilling, well directed and has an interesting who dunnit story line that keeps you guessing till the end.

Yes its not the greatest movie ever made but I really enjoyed it – even if no body else did.

Still available on DVD – I would like to think im not the only person that is a fan of this one!

   * * * * * * *

Highlander 2 –The Renegade Version (1995) Director: Russell Mulcahy. Actors: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery.

Now bear with me on this one.

Released theatrically in 1991, produced by no less than eight studios, featuring terrible visual effects, an awful plot that that contradicts the original film, a gurning Michael Ironside, and editing that seems to have been done with a chainsaw – Highlander 2 is quite rightly seen as one of the worst sequels ever made. However – there is a  version that was put together in 1995 by the original producers and director Russell Mulcahy. Completely recut, with added scenes, new SFX  and a  rejigged story that dispenses with the Immortals as Aliens plot– Highlander 2 –The Renegade Version makes for an altogether far better film.

Ok so, its still not a patch on the original, the plot continues to confuse and some of the effects are still iffy  –I cant guarantee you will like it – but for the sake of curiosity its very much worth a look.

Definitely available on Region 1 DVD and probably R2 if you look online.

  * * * * * * *

 The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) Director: David Twohy. Actors: Vin Diesel, Colm Feore.

Yes, you read it right – I’ve included one of the most universally derided Sci Fi films in history on this list! –and dammit – I’m not ashamed to say that I really liked it!

Frankly I don’t see what all the fuss was about. I always thought Twohy and Diesel showed a lot of imagination by expanding the Riddick character, plus Its got great action and inventive SFX  – though granted some of it is a bit odd  -in particular Judy Dench’s casting as a sort of weird translucent alien, plus some of the dialogue is unintentionally funny (witness the clunker that is Big Vin’s line: “it’s a long time since I’ve smelt beautiful”) but despite all that, I have a real soft spot for this one and I would certainly recommend the recently released 3rd chapter in the series – simply called  Riddick (now out on DVD and Blu Ray -see review section).

 

Alien vs Predator (2004) and  AVP: Requiem (2007) Directors: Paul WS Anderson (AVP1), The Brothers Strause (AVP2). Actors: Colin Salmon, Lance Henriksen, Sanaa Lathan, etc.

Universally panned by the critics and  generally unloved by fans of both the comics and the Alien/Predator franchises -these two are, by far, my ultimate guilty movie pleasures. As a big fan of the AVP comics and novels, I was actually very happy with both these films. The Chariots of The Gods plot in the first one is fantastic – especially the flashback scenes  showing the Predators being worshiped as deities by ancient humans, and the brief shots of the Predator home planet in the sequel are equally well handled. The action in both is also very good and at times really exciting – in particular the final showdown in AVP1 between the “Scar” Predator, Sanaa Lathan’s heroine and the Alien Queen is a standout, as is the last 20 minutes of AVP2, which is by turns bullet riddled and blood soaked in equal measures.

Yes, I admit that they are both a bit daft, the scripts are woefully bad, the “PredAlien” monster in AVP2 is very poor, and neither film is a patch on the other entries in the franchise, namely, Alien, Aliens and Predator.

Despite all this though, they are never less than entertaining and most of all  very well made.

  * * * * * * *

So there we are – my top ten guilty film pleasures. As mentioned this list will probably be laughed at by many and doubtless has shot down any credibility I had as film fan – however I care not a jot.

In my opinion the worst films are those with huge budgets, big name directors and stars, then turn out to be totally and utterly dreadful . Recent sinners would be the likes of Transformers 2 and 3, Ghost Rider 2, Roland Emmerich’s 2012 and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim. God-awful movies that were  loud, unoriginal, badly written and worst of all – boring as hell.

Whilst the 10/11 films listed above have numerous faults, and have received some kind of kicking from ether critics or fans (in most cases both) –they were at least all well made and damned  entertaining .

The above movies are generally available on dvd and can be probably be found dirt cheap on Amazon and in HMV. 

Grosse Point Geek: My Favourite Star Trek Movie…

Grosse Point Geek: My Favourite Star Trek Movie…

Grosse Point Geek

You have to hand it to Star Trek ,spanning 4 decades, 6 TV series, 14 films, countless books and tons of merchandise, its one of the longest and most successful sci fi franchises in history.  Now I adore Star Trek  -not as much as Star Wars mind –but I have enough knowledge of its universe to know a Dilithium chamber when I see one,  tell the difference between a Romulan and a Cardassian, and why its always a good idea to eject the warp core if you want to make a speedy escape from certain death.

Ok the hard-core fans are a bit weird . Strange sorts who mostly live with their mums and have little or no knowledge of the fairer sex. I speak from experience here, having  once worked as a barman at a Star Trek convention in Cardiff when I was  student. The vision of a grown man  strutting around dressed as TNG’s Commander William Riker  –silly walk, beard and all – will never leave me. Nor indeed will the enormously pretentious conversation I had with one of the event’s organisers – a rather odd little person with a limp, who loftily seemed know most of the principal Star Trek actors on a personal level – even going so far as to comment with smug authority on the current rude health of (the now deceased) Deforest Kelly and annoyingly referring to him simply as “D”.

Anyway I’m getting off the point – namely the reason for writing this article. As mentioned there are 12  Trek films, 6 with the original cast, 4 featuring the  Next Generation characters, the JJ Abram’s directed  2009 reboot and its  rather splendid sequel (Into Darkness) that was released last year.

Now not all of them were that good  – 1979’s ‘The Motion Picture’ was very inventive but deathly boring, the Shatner directed ‘Final Frontier’ was hampered by shoddy effects and a reliance on very silly humour (contrary to popular belief it wasn’t all The Shat’s fault  -read Wikipedia for more). As for the  TNG movies, whilst not bad in parts, they were never really that memorable, culminating in 2002’s rather poor ‘Star Trek Nemesis’ which effectively killed the franchise for nigh on 7 years.

As for the better entries  -most people cite ‘The Wrath Of Khan’, the aforementioned 2009 reboot or the very good 4th feature –  ‘The Voyage Home’ . All great films – especially ‘Wrath’ which is a absolute classic and JJ’s brilliant reboot, which  mercifully tore up the rule book and turned out to be the best blockbuster released that year.

However, my all time favorite will  always be the quite superb Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country (1991).  A film that, despite being a sizable critical and commercial success , seems to have almost  become the forgotten Trek.

Its plot centres around the Klingons, who have become desperate to broker a peace with the Federation after an environmental disaster on their home world  threatens their very existence. Acting as a sort of galactic olive branch, the Enterprise and its crew (led by a very sceptical Kirk) are dispatched  to agree a deal that will end years of hostility and potentially result in the dismantling of the neutral zone.

Naturally it all goes pear shaped. After a particularly frosty first meeting, all hell breaks loose when the Enterprise seemingly fires on the Klingon ship, and their  High Chancellor (David Warner) is brutally murdered. Of course the finger of suspicion  points  firmly at Kirk and McCoy, who are duly arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment on the Rura Pente penal asteroid .

Back on the Enterprise, and smelling a rat, Spock, Chekov, Scotty et al, ignore orders from Starfleet, then set about attempting to uncover a huge conspiracy and save civilisation as we know it. After the disaster that was The Final Frontier, Paramount wisely went back to basics,  hiring Wrath of Khan director Nicolas Meyer, and adapting a story by Leonard Nimoy.

Well written, action packed, sharply edited and brimming with top notch SFX, there really isn’t much wrong with this film.

Managing to be funny without being silly and incredibly for a Sci Fi,  intelligently addressing issues of ingrained prejudice and immovable racism – even at one point riffing on Stanley Kramer’s 1967 classic ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’.

Acting wise its superb. William Shatner brings a hitherto unseen darker edge to the usually unflappable Kirk – still grieving after the loss of his son and unable to stem his hatred of the Klingons, referring to them as nothing more than animals who deserve their fate. Leonard Nimoy as Spock has never been better, refreshingly showing him as no longer a complete stickler for logic and embracing much more of his repressed human half than we have seen before.

The other original cast members have their moments to shine too – be it George Takei as Sulu -heroically arriving in the nick of time on the USS Excelsior, James Doohan’s Scotty ranting about the impossibility of a  Klingon Warbird  firing when cloaked, or Deforest Kelly delivering the mother all one liners whilst trying to hotwire a  photon torpedo – to wit:

  • Klingon General Chang : “I am constant as the northern star!”
  • McCoy (muttering under his breath) “Id give real money if he’d shut up”

New additions the cast are equally impressive  – Kim Cattrall is great fun as a sort of Vulcan Dr Watson to Spock’s pointy eared Holmes, plus the excellent Kurtwood Smith pops up in an extended cameo as the president of Starfleet.  Best of all however, is the great Christopher Plummer as Chang, the chief Klingon baddie.

Hamming it up for all he’s worth and sporting an eye patch that’s looks like its been nailed to his head, Plummer is by turns  hilariously bitchy and horribly pretentious(“you’ve never experienced Shakespeare until its been heard in the original Klingon”) .  One particular standout scene has him endlessly quoting Shakespeare whilst engaging in a huge space battle with the Enterprise (“our rebels now are ended Kirk!”). Now God only knows how an actor of his stature was persuaded to appear in Star Trek  –but all credit to him- he’s that good he almost steals the entire show.

Its also the overriding plus of this film that its just so much damn good fun. Whereas previous entries were sometimes a bit serious or played too much for  laughs, this manages to remain just on the right side of funny, whilst successfully keeping the integrity of the original series. Its also seriously exciting  – the final 15 minutes are jam packed with action – the aforementioned climactic space battle is just brilliant, and just when you’ve caught your breath there’s a thrilling final dash to stop a deadly assassin from offing the Federation President and the new Klingon High Chancellor.

Now upon reading all of the above you could all be forgiven in thinking that I’m an utterly sad geek who seems to view Star Trek as far more important than classics such as the Godfather or The Shawshank Redemption.

On this you would be wrong.  I am of course fully aware that Trek can be a bit daft, is a very acquired taste and most certainly not for everyone. However, the fact is, that no matter what the genre, I love any film that strives to be entertaining, well made and intelligent, then goes ahead and hugely succeeds in being all three. The Undiscovered Country does this in spades and if you haven’t seen it already, then wait no more  -stop what you are doing, raid your money boxes and boldly go to the nearest high street dvd retailer you can find– I promise you wont be sorry.

In summary – a cracking slice of Sci Fi brilliance, that rightly  deserves to come out from the long shadow of the awesome Wrath Of Khan, and go down as the best of all the 12 Star Trek feature films.

May it live long and prosper.

 

Author: Will Strong 

 

Pacific Rim: Uprising – Motion Picture Maniac

Pacific Rim: Uprising – Motion Picture Maniac

Motion Picture Maniac

I like Steven S. DeKnight as a creative force, Spartacus is one of my favourite TV shows of all time; I enjoyed the first Pacific Rim for what it was, a self aware excuse to put giant robots and giant monsters onto the big screen, it was stupid and had bits here and there that were straight up garbage but almost in a deliberate, fun way. For that, I was looking forward to Pacific Rim: Uprising, the trailers didn’t promise the same style or sense of scale as the first but seemed to showcase some new ideas and still maintained a sense of dumb fun; which is what I wanted. So is Pacific Rim 2 a good film? That’s honestly a tough question to answer.

Set ten years after the events of the first film, Idris Elba’s character’s son, played by John Boyega, is determined to deface his father’s heroic legacy and live a life of care free partying, stealing old jaeger parts and generally getting into trouble. One day, a misadventure lands him in police custody and he is offered a choice by a familiar face from the first movie, go to prison or join the jaeger program for new recruits in case the kaiju ever want to make a return; which of course they do, this is a Pacific Rim movie!

There are things I like about this movie and things I don’t, along with a bunch of other stuff I have no idea how to feel about. The Pacific Rim movies do not have depth or subtext on their minds and neither should they, the steam they run on is the concept: big robots fight big monsters, boom! This film doesn’t make the mistake of trying to be about some kind of real world issue and forget what it should be (if you’ll forgive the smack of my own pretentiousness there: “ooh, that’s not how the film should be, ooh”) it knows its audience and has a good grip on why it could have an excuse to exist.

The CGI is ok, not as good as the first but it’s fine, the sets are pretty good, the designs of things are interesting, the action scenes are cool and fun to watch; the image of a jaeger upper cutting another jaeger causing it to scrape up a building before gravity does what it would do with something that size and weight is a very satisfying spectacle. That’s what the film has going for it the most, instances of cool looking stuff that appeals to one’s child at heart, the new jaeger weapons, the image of three Kaiju’s channelling Devastator and combining into one even bigger beast; is offering up childhood dreams which is all good and fine.

Unfortunately, the action scenes are surprisingly few and far between, it’s actually quite a while before the kaiju show up so we’re left to fend for ourselves with the characters – in a big dumb action film that sets out to be dumb, we’re expected to care about the characters; always a good sign. John Boyega is a likeable enough screen presence and propels his character out of annoying territory and makes him tolerable but that’s about the extent of that, Scott Eastwood has nothing to him, this girl who teams up with Boyega is a little irritating with all of her wide eyed “aww-ing” at all of her surroundings and they try something with Charlie Day’s character which makes sense in theory and I want to like it but I’m not really sure it worked as well as it should have.

A character from the first film is killed off way too quickly and without much of a lasting impact, the whole ten year gap thing doesn’t make much sense regarding another character’s age and one can’t shake the feeling of discomfort when it becomes clear the jaegers are causing more damage than the kaiju’s. If I’m giving this film a 5, it’s because the bad stuff didn’t really annoy me that much, it all just stuck out enough for me to notice, like how the cinematography is rather bland and uninteresting when we follow the humans but becomes footage from a whole different movie when the big boys kick into gear, hardly a problem big enough to dwarf the super kaiju but noticeable enough to take into account.

I get what the film is going for by trying its hand at comedy relief, being aware of what it is and all, but the jokes never really got more than a slight chuckle from me sometimes and other times just fell flat on it’s face which is a shame, a film like this could do with a sense of humour; just a good one. So those are my thoughts, when the action happens it’s fun and entertaining to a certain extent but when it isn’t being big and action-y it’s rather stale, over-edited without grace or style and without much point to care, though this didn’t tick me off as much as some other films like Transformers and whatnot; I admired the effort.

I think kids will love it and they’re really the ones it’s meant for, not some jaded 20-something who thinks a real kaiju invasion would be just the kick in the arse the world deserves at the moment if it doesn’t buck up its ideas. The film isn’t bad; it has bits and pieces I liked but also a lot of not so good bits that were disappointing, would I watch it again? Maybe, I dunno, we’ll see, but for now; go enter at your own risk and see for yourself.

Proud Mary – Motion Picture Maniac

Proud Mary – Motion Picture Maniac

Motion Picture Maniac

The opening credit sequence of Proud Mary gave me the impression that it would be a more action oriented version of Jackie Brown, with text directly from the Blaxploitation films of the 70’s and completely contradicting the cheap televisual look of the trailer; I actually thought it might be worth a damn for a minute or two. Oh how wrong I was, immediately after the credit sequence ceases the film plunges straight down hill into the territory of, you guessed it, the cheap and televisual.

Why was this movie made? There’s not one single original bone in its body, the actors don’t sound like they particularly care for the material, often coming comically close to mumbling, the cinematography is basic and style-less and the editing is horrendous; in one scene it darts around from face to face with such clumsy ferocity I had to shut my eyes before they strained and another in which a cut was so abrupt it killed the momentum of the characters’ movement stone dead. My point? I couldn’t find any artistic fingerprints, despite moments of potential like the opening credits, the rest just feels passionless, bored with itself and therefor boring for me; even with an 89-minute runtime.

Mary is an assassin, she kills a target, leaving the target’s son an orphan, she feels guilty, follows him around, saves him from a mobster, takes him in and later on there’s some shooting. Forget the 70’s, this film feels like one of those straight to VHS knock-offs of 70’s movies that came out in the 90’s, back then it would have had a male lead like Arnold or Sly but that’s pretty much what it is. I must have checked my watch every ten minutes or so because I was just so bored out of my skull, its runtime is very modest but seemed to drag on for an eternity; it’s just one been-there-done-that after another like a montage of the oldest action movie clichés, some ancient, some more modern but old and tired nevertheless.

I’m running out of things to talk about here, Proud Mary is so lacking in intrigue, inside or out, that I barely have a thing to say about it, it’s cheap looking, boing, clichéd and nobody involved in it’s making seemed to give a shit. Danny Glover is in it and he’s a nice screen presence I guess, there are a few gunshots at the end that could have been fun if they were in a better movie I suppose but that’s it for the good, everything else is dull to the point of non-existence. I think it’s safe to say I hated this film, what it tries – it gets wrong, anything else it doesn’t even bother, “anything else” of course referring to things like originality and artistic integrity; I mean is that too much to ask for? You’re filmmakers – FILM MAKE!

Gringo – Motion Picture Maniac

Gringo – Motion Picture Maniac

Motion Picture Maniac

I’m confused, is Gringo supposed to be a comedy or not? The trailer is full on comedy, but if experience has taught me anything regarding films like The Village, Inglourious Basterds and Inherent Vice, you can’t even trust trailers to get the genre right so let’s not hold that against the film, the film contains, what feel like they’re supposed to be anyway, “jokes”, but then there are long stretches in which there are no jokes to be found. Lines and deliveries in the trailer that came off as funny are much more serious and sometimes even downright sinister in the actual movie but, you know what, enough about the trailer, let’s judge the movie on its own terms… I still don’t know what it’s supposed to be because it doesn’t even seem like the movie knows what it’s supposed to be, tonally and narratively; Gringo is an almost good mess.

David Oyelowo plays a loveable loser businessman who is sent to Mexico by corrupt bosses Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron only to get caught up with drug lords, smugglers, mercenaries, death faking, car chases and a hundred and one subplots that seem only to serve the purpose of… actually I have no idea what purpose they serve. One subplot concerns Amanda Seyfried and her drug smuggling boyfriend who wants to get a hold of some of the bad company’s new medical marijuana without her knowledge and it all amounts to NOTHING!

The movie is directed by Edgerton’s brother, Nash, who has some experience in directing before this, that I hear turned out quite well, but juggling different tones does not seem to be his forte. But I don’t think it’s all his fault, guy needs to work on his directorial comedic timing, good luck next time, the real source of issue is the script, not the slick and sometimes downright handsome cinematography, not the cast, in fact I loved the cast, it’s the story and the way the script structures it.

When you boil the film down to its premise, it becomes even more of a mess because everything that happens leading up to the story finally kicking into gear feels like desperate contrivance, like they started with the premise but had zero idea how to actually get there and so you’re left with an overstuffed opening act that would be fine if it lead to satisfying development but I really don’t think it does. There’s a bit of perspective jumping that doesn’t lead to incoherence but I still found myself wondering why it was structured that way, I wouldn’t complain if I didn’t think it was messy and it’s the kind of messy that makes me think the script was rushed to the finish line and never given a second thought.

Gringo isn’t a bad film, I’m very split, it’s well shot, Nash can clearly handle all things technical and the actors are all great but I found it very slow, inconsistent and overstuffed, the script is such a mess and the tone so flip-floppy I was just scratching my head the entire time trying to get some kind of grip or define it in some why. I think it’s worth a look because all of my complaints are subjective to my point of view and I know some people who do like it so, hey, don’t take my word for it, give a shot, maybe you’ll feel differently.

Game Night – Motion Picture Maniac

Game Night – Motion Picture Maniac

Motion Picture Maniac

If ever there was such a thing as destiny, Game Night, at some point, was surely headed for disaster, on paper there is absolutely nothing special or unique about it’s material in any way, shape or form; even now I cannot bring myself to ignore the fact that it is, overall, nothing more than the latest cash-grab comedy plopped out by the studio machine every time they’re too disinterested to make something truly worth a damn. But the planets aligned on a blue moon on this one because Game Night has been elevated from the cheap schlock it could have been because someone, somewhere, got the brainy idea to actually direct it, to put in a bit of artistic effort to hopefully make a… you know, good movie!

The plot goes Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play a married couple who love competitive games, board games, party games, video games, quizzes, the lot, and every week they host a game night at their house with their friends. One night, Bateman’s successful douche of a brother, played by Kyle Chandler, opts for a more unique game night experience whereupon he is kidnapped and the others must follow the clues to track him down; completely unaware of whether or not the kidnapping was real or part of the game.

That sounds pretty dumb and, to be fair – it is dumb, but I’m always ready to forgive a comedy movie any misgivings if it is able to do one simple thing, oh whatever could that be? Ah yes, make me laugh, and Game Night did that many times. I think the reason it really worked was down to the fact that everyone with a creative hand in principal photography and post production actually cared about what they were doing, the cast all have great chemistry with each other and part of the fun is riding along with them, it was fun going on this trip with these characters because the actors gave a crap.

But the kicker that really does it for me is the direction, when the movie begins it doesn’t appear to be anything special but it wasn’t long before I started noticing little flares scattered about the place, every now and then there would be an interesting camera angle or placement and there are a handful of wide shots that have been focused to make the surrounding area look like board game bits and pieces. It doesn’t have that god-awful cheap look every straight up comedy has nowadays and I really appreciated the consideration for filmmaking here, to the point where I’m actually pretty glad these guys are now directing flashpoint, I’d say they’re a good choice.

So there, Game Night is insubstantial and silly but it’s funny, well directed and well acted, I’m actually surprised this comedy the studio probably didn’t really care about that much contains proper filmmaking. There’s an action scene presented as a single long take that doesn’t look like a number smaller takes CGI’d together, the cinematography is creative and I’m just really happy this wasn’t ugly to look at, there’s been too much of that over the years, bravo to these filmmakers and actors for putting in the punch and making a very fun little romp.

Grosse Point Geek – Ready Player One

Grosse Point Geek – Ready Player One

Grosse Point Geek The Blogs

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

 

Principal Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance

 

Plot Summary

The Year is 2044, to escape their humdrum, poverty stricken lives, the Earth’s population spends most of its time in a VR world known as The OASIS. Here you can be anybody and do anything – fight in huge battle – check, take part in a high speed car race – you got it, fly to another planet – no problem.  So when its eccentric creator (Mark Rylance) dies, he leaves behind a series of near impossible challenges with the promise of nothing less than ownership of OASIS to whoever solves all of them. Enter young Wade Watts (Sheridan) who joins forces with a group of revolutionaries led by Olivia Cooke’s Art3mis, in a quest to win the biggest competition of all time

 

Nutshell Review

The Good: Theres lots to love here  –  visually its stunning, the OASIS is a feast for the eyes, full of clever Easter Eggs that any dedicated film geek worth his salt will absolutely adore  – the Delorean from Back To The Future, the pulse rifles from Aliens, KIng Kong, Freddy Krueger, Chucky, the glave from Krull  – even the Charm of Making from Excalibur gets thrown in.  The acting is also very good  – Sheridan and Cooke make for engaging leads, Mendelsohn is his usual evil self as the principal baddie and naturally Mark Rylance puts in another brilliant, faultless performance that  proves yet again that he is one of the greatest actors working today.

 

The bad: One could easily accuse Spielberg of some very lazy film making here –  movies set in the future featuring an abundance of virtual reality worlds have been done so many times before in the likes of The Matrix, Tron, Lawnmower Man and Inception that means none of what happens in Ready Player One comes across as particularly original or ground breaking. Not only that but i found it very hard to root for any of the characters,  yes i’ll admit that the principal  cast are very good in their respective roles but unfortunately the characters they play are too thinly drawn and are desperately lacking in much needed depth and back story.

Finally, and most disappointing of all are the somewhat dull action set pieces, which on the whole were more than a bit generic and  certainly not what one would expect from  Steven Spielberg –  who, lets face it , does have a well deserved reputation as being one of the greatest action directors that has ever lived

 

Review Summary: Without doubt Ready Player One is a pretty good film, with a great cast who act their socks off, impressive visuals, and lots of cool classic film references, plus it stands head and shoulders above recent dross like Transformers 5 and Pacific Rim 2. However considering that its directed by Steven Spielberg, one has to say that pretty good just aint good enough. In my humble opinion he has completely lost his touch when it comes to directing big budget blockbusters – which has been all too painfully evident in the likes of The Lost World, Minority Report, War Of The Worlds and especially Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. One can only hope that he regains some of his mojo when we finally get to see the recently announced fifth chapter in the Indiana Jones  franchise – one can only hope.

So in summary  i would recommend seeing  Ready Player One, certainly its worth a trip to the multiplex as that’s where it deserves to be seen –  just don’t go expecting vintage Spielberg.

 

Best Scene: Every one featuring Mark Rylance.

 

Worth Paying to see at the cinema?: Yes

 

Worth buying on Blu Ray/DVD?: Probably – but personally i wouldn’t rush out to buy it at full price

 

See this if you are a film buff and liked: Tron, The Lawnmower Man, Inception

 

Author: Will Strong aka Grosse Point Geek