Top 10… Danny Trejo Movies

Danny Trejo. Actor. Convicted felon. Rehabilitated drug addict. All-round badass. Look at him. I swear the man was born with a 70-year old face:machete_069
How has he not been in The Expendables yet? This guy has had one hell of a career. He started out in 1985 as a boxing prisoner in Runaway Train, during which he coached Eric Roberts for their boxing scene. From there, Trejo went on to play variations on the theme of Prisoner or Gang Member until he was cast by Robert Rodriguez, his second cousin (though they didn’t know it at the time) in Desperado. Trejo and Rodriguez have since had a fairly profitable partnership, working on at least 10 films together, though it’s only recently that Trejo has graduated to the starring role in Machete and Machete Kills. Speaking of which, I recently hosted an episode of the Lambcast devoted to Machete Kills, alongside Robert, Fredo, Will and Pat. The episode can be listened to here. Continue reading

Top 10… Remakes

More and more it seems there’s no original ideas in mainstream Hollywood, but it turns out that this has always been the case, and it just seems more prevalent now because there’s so many more films released each week, and less original stories to go around, so therefore there’s more rehashed versions of films gone by available to us on a weekly basis. 2012 saw three remakes in the Box Office Top 20 (The Amazing Spider-Man, Snow White and the Huntsman, Les Miserables), and this is far from new, hell, even The Wizard of Oz was a remake back in 1939 of three silent films that came before it (and a book, but everything’s a remake of a book these days). The thing is though… I don’t mind. I have no problem with modern film makers updating older films to introduce them to a wider audience – there have been several instances where a remake has inspired me to go back and see the original, and I’ve discovered a classic that I otherwise may have never found (Scarface springs to mind).

So what inspired this list? Well, The Film Vituperatum‘s movie of the week is The Adventures of Robin Hood, which whilst I haven’t seen it yet and therefore haven’t got around to reviewing, I am more than familiar with the story, mainly due to the various adaptations of it. If I had to guess, I’d say the story of Robin Hood is probably one of the top three most adapted tales in history, after A Christmas Carol and Alice in Wonderland, but my list of top 10 Robin Hood adaptations would see Kevin Costner taking third place behind John Cleese in Time Bandits and an animated fox, at which point the list would end because I haven’t seen any others, so instead I’m going to celebrate the greatest remakes that I’ve ever seen, regardless of whether I’ve watched the originals or not. Oh, and The Wizard of Oz didn’t make the list, because I’m fairly sure I’ve never seen it all the way through. The list also doesn’t include any English-language remakes of originally foreign works, because that would be another list entirely, and one I’ll save for another day – perhaps when Ringu is selected for movie of the week?

Heat

Most crime films tend to pick a side early on, focusing on a ‘means to an end’ band of criminals thieving because they have to, or a team of patriotic, all-American supercops able to match their never-ending machine gun clips with a limitless supply of one liners, but Michael Mann’s Heat, a remake of his own 1989 made for TV movie L.A. Takedown, takes a different path, giving Robert De Niro’s gang of seasoned thieved and Al Pacino’s police squad equal screen time, equal motivation and similar levels of compassion, so you get to decide who you want to win. Though the two main characters; De Niro’s master thief Neil McCauley and Pacino’s dogged detective Vincent Hanna are sworn enemies, they are still two sides of the same coin, separated by their own opinions of the law, but brought together by a deep mutual respect. Neither one is the villain of the film, there are more than enough scumbags among the supporting player to take that role, yet neither is necessarily the hero, although in the end it’s Pacino who grabs the most heroic moments.
Surrounded by an incredible ensemble cast (deep breath: Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Dennis Haysbert, Natalie Portman, Xander Berkeley, Hank Azaria, Jon Voight, Jeremy Piven, Mykelti Williamson, William Fichtner, Tom Noonan, Ted Levine, Ashley Judd), some perfectly choreographed set pieces (the opening truck heist and mid film bank robbery/street shootout) and ability to show the effect their chosen lifestyles has had on these characters and their personal lives, or lack thereof, this is a tremendous film, even if it does give in to the occasional cliché, but these can be forgiven for the fact that they use weapons that actually, from time to time, need reloading.
Choose film 9/10