Young Frankenstein

Ashamed of his family history, Fredrick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder, and it’s pronounced Fronk-un-steen) attempts to distance himself from the work of his infamous grandfather, but finds the pull too great when he inherits the family estate in Transylvania and discovers his ancestor might have been onto something. With the help of his sporadically hunchbacked assistant Igor (Marty Feldman), the voluptuous Inga (Teri Garr) and terrifying housekeeper Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman), young Frankenstein attempts to recreate his grandfather’s work, re-animating a gigantic corpse (Peter Boyle).
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The Conversation

In San Francisco, profession surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is working on his latest assignment, recording a discussion between a man and a woman in a busy courtyard. Having successfully recorded their conversation, Harry begins to grow suspicious that passing on the recordings to his employer may result in some dire consequences for those involved, as happened to Harry on another job sometime ago, which directly caused the murders of three people.
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Vote for me on the Lamb Character Actor Draft!

I recently appeared on another episode of the Lambcast, this time discussing character actors along with Dan Heaton of Public Transportation Snob, Nick Powell of The Cinematic Katzenjammer and Dylan Fields of Man I Love Films. We each picked a dream roster of North American character actors to populate a mythical film, selecting from various age groups, and with an In Memoriam round, and you can go vote on who selected the best lineup here:


Obviously the choice is easy, as my list is comprised of such greats as Ernest Borgnine, Gene Hackman, Sam Elliott, James Woods, Yaphet Kotto, Stanley Tucci, John Hawkes, Christopher McDonald and Giovanni Ribisi. There isn’t a weak link amongst them, and if you look at the films these guys have made between them you get some terrific performances. Here’s a quick five from each actor, to really showcase the power of this cast: Continue reading

Superman The Movie

On the planet Krypton, the elders have disrupted the planet’s core and caused it to begin to erupt. Everyone on the planet is doomed, except for a small, barely explained plot contrivance that allows one newborn baby to be launched in a pod and sent to another planet that will be hospitable to him, but where the atmosphere and density are different enough to provide him with extraordinary powers. Krypton explodes, but the baby arrives safely on Earth, where he lives his life as a loner, the last of his kind… wait a minute, didn’t I write this the other week? Hmmmm. Anyway, Kal-El…Earth…Smallville…the Kents…Metropolis…Lois Lane…Daily Planet…Kryptonite…Laser vision…flying…Superman.1025_clark2 Continue reading

Top 5… Film-makers I’d like to come out of retirement

This weekend is my parents’ joint retirement party (it’s a barbecue, so please could everybody hope for at least dry weather), so this week I’m taking a look at those makers of films that have decided not to make them any more, and which ones should come back and improve modern films.

5. Peter O’Toole
Even though O’Toole only announced his retirement three days ago, and he turns 80 in a month’s time, I’m still including him on this list purely because I couldn’t think of a fifth film-maker I’d like to come out of retirement. Yes, there are many who I would have liked to have come out of retirement some time ago, but to demand they do so now would be cruel in some states (85-year old Sidney Poitier) and downright impossible in others (Peter Falk). So I’m sorry Pete, but if you fancy having another pop at this acting lark, you’re more than welcome. O’Toole is of course most famous for playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia and Prometheus, but I know him better as the soon departed king in Stardust, King Priam in Troy and as the creaking critic Anton Ego in Ratatouille. He does have the perfect voice for playing Disney bad guys or strict authoritarian elders, and vocal work can’t be that taxing, so I feel the door should be left open, just in case he fancies another Pixar cameo.
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The first part of my double bill of Clint-Eastwood-directing-himself-and-Morgan-Freeman-in-a-supporting-role sees the American icon define the genre that not only made him the prolific star he is, but that he has almost singlehandedly kept alive since it’s surge in popularity in the 60s and 70s; the western.
Unforgiven sees Eastwood as William Munny, a former hardened killer reformed by the love of a good women and the birth of his two children. With his wife dead and their herd of pigs stricken with fever, Munny accepts the offer from young upstart The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) to kill two ruffians who cut up a whore after she laughed at one of them having a small penis. They team up with Munny’s former partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) and head out to the town of Big Whiskey, lorded over by Gene Hackman’s occasionally violent ‘Little’ Bill Daggett, where other hired killers, including Richard Harris’ English Bob, are also heading to claim the bounty.
Eastwood’s Munny isn’t your typical western hero. In fact, no character in this can ever be truly classed as heroic. Munny has what could politely be called a sordid past, and his desperation to honour his late wife by not succumbing to his younger urges is evident. A self proclaimed no good son of a bitch, Munny is a shadow of his former self, unable to shoot straight or even mount a horse. Freeman’s Ned has a woman at home, yet has no qualms about visiting the whorehouse in town, Schofield has his own secrets and Bob is an outright liar, gambler and killer. At times it seems that Little Bill, supposedly the villain of the piece, is possibly the most moral character here, opting not to kill the prostitute abusers in favour of fining them horses instead, with the sins he commits in the present are nothing compared to those done by Munny in the past, and his intentions are only to keep his town free from guns and violence, except from his own. I found it odd though that nothing was made of Freeman’s race, as he and his partner are the only non-white characters in the film, yet there are no even passing references when the townsfolk describe him. I’ve just realised I’m annoyed that Morgan Freeman wasn’t racially abused in a film.
The script, which did the rounds in Hollywood for 20 years before Eastwood picked it up, is pocked with sharp humour and great lines (“If I see you again, I’m just gonna start shooting and consider it self defence.”) and works not just as a study and disassembly of the westerns that came before it, but as a damn good, prime example of one itself. Harris’ English Bob has his own biographer (Saul Rubinek), whose role is to take Bob’s stories and lyricise them a little; in essence creating the cowboy myths and legends that make up the staples of the genre. It’s a film about shattered dreams and fallen heroes – the actors as much as the characters – as it’s not often you see Eastwood rolling around in pig shit, Morgan Freeman asking someone if they sleep with prostitutes or just use their hand or Lex Luthor beating the crap out of Dumbledore. It’s clear that Munny could quite easily be any one of Eastwood’s previous stoic, bitter, hard as nails cowboys who’d let themselves go for a few years.
The film deals with the seriousness of death and murder, with no post-kill smart alec quips. One characters defiant “I’ll see you in Hell, Willaim Munny,” is met only with a considered, matter of fact “Yeah.” It’s almost as prolific as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Once Upon A Time in the West, and definitely ranks in the top 5 westerns.
Choose film 9/10

The French Connection

The French Connection started an obsession of Hollywood’s with gritty cop thrillers continued with Serpico and Dirty Harry (both arguably owing their places upon the list to the French Connection). Deciding to portray more than just car chases and shoot-outs, instead including the mind-numbing mundanity of spending hours listening at a wire tap, staking out a suspect’s house and dismantling an entire car to its base components, as well as the gritty violence almost required to make an arrest distances this far from more modern-day blockbuster police movies such as Bad Boys or SWAT. It’s a wonder we’re not shown policemen filling out a mountain of paperwork. Not to say that the shoot-outs and car chases in the French Connection aren’t incredible, with the chase against a criminal-carrying overground train being both the highlight of the film and possibly the greatest car chase in movie history.
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