Raiders of the Lost Ark

I think I may be approaching the 1001 Movies List (and the other lists I’m going through) from something of a skewed perspective, in that I may be crossing off a few too many of the “better” movies before I get to the ones I’m not looking forward to as much. Bearing in mind yesterday I reviewed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and today sees me tackling Raiders of the Lost Ark, I need to make sure I don’t eat all of my dessert before getting to the vegetables, as I also recently crossed off Back to the Future, Taxi Driver, RoboCop, To Kill A Mockingbird, Fargo and Boogie Nights as well. That being said, Bueller and Raiders made for a most enjoyable weekend of movie watching, with a little Jurassic Park: The Lost World thrown in for good measure (I’ll be writing something about that for French Toast Sunday this weekend, where we’re celebrating July with a month dedicated to Steven Spielberg, hence the Raiders viewing). Spielberg is one of my favourite directors, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise considering he’s the guy behind Jurassic Park, the greatest movie ever made, but now I get the chance to talk about another one of the masterpieces he brought into cinemas. Continue reading

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Top 10… Snakes

Last week was spiders, this week we celebrate that other great scary creature – snakes! I know I got some negative feedback from scaring people with the spider pictures – sorry Dylan, you big pansy – and that’s unlikely to change this week, especially because my girlfriend is frankly terrified of snakes, so sorry about that honey, but it is October, after all.promo189333424I’ve got no problem with snakes, but then again I’ve never actually encountered one that isn’t trapped in a perspex box, apart from the one an obnoxious twat was parading round a shopping centre near me recently, deliberately trying to scare people and using the snake as a clear replacement for the lack of any other reason people would have to notice or talk to him. But it would seem they show up an awful lot in films. This is probably because, similarly to spiders, they have completely the wrong number of legs for any normal animal, yet still manage to function effectively. How much fear do you think you’d strike into the heart of small children without any limbs? Not a great deal, probably, but that’s because you’d probably have an awful lot of trouble moving around unaided, whereas snakes get along just fine. It’s impressive, really.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????So, the obvious answer everyone’s shouting is Snakes On A Plane, to which I say yes, it’s a great film, but no, it’s not on the list, because of the same reason I ignored Eight Legged Freaks and Arachnophobia last week – it’s just lousy with snakes. There’s too many for any to stand out, so they all suffer because of it. And as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t quite bring myself to include Monty Python, nor did I allow  Lt. ‘Cobra’ Cobretti on, mainly because I haven’t seen Cobra. And I was tempted to include Mark Wahlberg’s appendage in Boogie Nights, but decided against it at the last minute. There is one questionable not-really-a-snake inclusion, but there’s no way he could be omitted. Anyway, enough preamble, here’s the list: Continue reading

Top 10… Most Annoying Film Characters

I’ve been having a hell of a week. If you ever start thinking about moving house, just don’t, it isn’t worth the hassle. I won’t get into the sources of my strife, but let’s just say I’ve been party to some intensely aggravating people these past few days, and so I’m attempting to alleviate my frustrations by thinking about the even more annoying people that are out there that I could have come across instead (or may yet do).tumblr_lcg89rivMX1qd7rsjSometimes characters are supposed to be annoying – you’re supposed to hate them for getting the hero’s girl, or to justify why the lead girl just punched the guy in the throat – but other times some characters are just completely misjudged in terms of how they’ll stack up against Wolverine scratching a chalkboard. Oh, and whilst making this list I found a lot of times I was just writing “The kid from such-and-such”, and “The kids from so-and-so”, so my list of annoying children in film is an entirely different one, that may well come up again sometime soon. To be honest, that one could be a top 100 list, probably. I’ve also tried to limit the entries to one-per-actor, as sometimes I find characters annoying purely because of who is playing them. And I’ve shied away from characters who are irritating because they’re such antagonistic dick heads.
idharveyHonourable mentions:
So it turns out I’m fairly easy to annoy, and therefore I’ve got a hefty list of Honourable Mentions. Firstly, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) is horrendously annoying in the first few Harry Potter films, before he worked out his face could pull expressions that weren’t ‘petrified grimace’. Marty Gilbert (Harvey Fierstein), Jeff Goldblum’s boss in Independence Day, is also very annoying, but this is mainly due to his unbearable grating voice, but fortunately he dies fairly early on, so there’s not too much of him to endure. Then there’s Hart Bochner’s Ellis from Die Hard, who I never want to stop punching, and Clifton James’ Sheriff Pepper from Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, somehow managing to be even more infuriating than Roger Moore’s Bond. Beth Grant’s character in Speed, Helen, the crazy woman who tries to jump off the bus, is also infuriating, but I’m going to give the award to Leah (Olivia Thirlby) from Juno, just for using such phrases as “Honest to blog.” They made me want to seriously harm that creature.juno Continue reading

Top 10… Movie Franchises

I’ve recently gone on record about two movie franchises, Star Trek and The Fast & The Furious, one of which I greatly preferred to the other. This got me thinking, and was the inspiration for this week’s list, my Top 10 Movie Franchises. Now, as always I’ve set myself some limitations. Firstly, I must have seen every film within the franchise. This immediately rules out the likes of Die Hard (haven’t seen number 5), Alien/Predator (haven’t seen Predator 2, can’t remember Alien 3 or Resurrection), Bourne (Legacy), Hannibal (Rising) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake and New Nightmare). I also didn’t include the looser franchises that simply take place in the same universe, for example the Avengers film, Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse, George Romero’s Blank of the Dead series or the Muppets films. I also took into account every film within each franchise, so just because a film happened to feature some true classics, if there were some stinkers in there too then that didn’t help its case for inclusion. The franchise also had to have a minimum of four films, as I’ve made a list of my top trilogies before. So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 movie franchises:

Honourable Mentions
Final-Destination-5There’s a lot of franchises out there! Seriously, there’s tons, more than I’d heard of, and I was shocked to discover some of the more longer-lasting movie sagas. Did you know there’s 30 Django films? I knew there were a lot of Carry Ons, but I didn’t think it was as many as 31, which is also the same number of Barbie films in existence (I’m guessing this doesn’t include Hotel Terminus). I’m most blown away, however, by the fact that there’s a Chinese series known as Wong Fei Hung, which includes a staggering 89 movies. 89! That, my friends, is insane. Anyway, I’ve barely seen any of these films (Django Unchained, Carry On Doctor) so obviously these can’t be in my Top 10.
No, this week’s two honourable mentions are the Final Destination franchise, and Police Academy. They beat out stiff competition from the likes of Shrek, Home Alone, Pirates of the Caribbean, Saw and the National Lampoon’s Vacation series, but if I had to pick my favourites then these two are them. Final Destination is one of the few horror series I pay much attention too – I’ve only seen the original Halloween, and have yet to see any Friday the 13th films – and I think this is due to the initially original concept of people cheating death, and being hunted down one by one to fix reality. It’s such a brilliant idea, and it means there’s no iconic killer who’ll end up as a parody of himself by the fifth film. Part four is easily the worst in the series – the premonitions don’t make sense and there’s some truly terrible CGI – but all the rest are at least decent, with number 2 being my personal favourite. I had a screenshot from the death of Rory as my background for a little while after seeing that film.
Police-Academy-police-academy-27137923-1920-1080Police Academy is an entirely different yet still occasionally just as ridiculous franchise, following the antics of a police training school that’s just dropped any requirements for entrants, meaning anyone of any gender, race, weight and ability can sign up and be trained. Yes, the sequels got a bit terrible after Steve Guttenberg dropped out, and the less said about Mission to Moscow the better, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had with the earlier films, the first one is a true 80s classic.
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Top 10 Worst Movie Mothers

The movie of the week over at Film Vituperatum this week is Psycho, hence why I posted a review of it yesterday, and seeing as it is Mother’s Day this Sunday the two events seemed to coincide far too perfectly for me to not create a Top 10 list in celebration. I was a little unsure of which direction to take this in, but then I considered that the mother in Psycho probably wouldn’t have sat too well on a list of the all time greatest movie mothers, so forgive me but this is a more negative view of cinematic matriarchs. So here is my run down of the movie mothers that make me oh so very grateful for the one I ended up with, as opposed to any of these raving bags of lunacy.Now as it turned out Psycho‘s Mrs. Bates didn’t make an appearance on this list, as all she was really guilty of parenting-wise was maybe loving her son a little too much – something which a member of this list attempted to take a bit further. Also, any US readers who may have gotten terrified of the mention of it being Mother’s Day this Sunday should not be overly concerned; we celebrate it a couple of months earlier than you guys, so you’ve still got until May to buy those flowers. So, without further ado, here’s my list of mothers who would at best deserve a hastily purchased card from a petrol station, if that.

Honourable mention

Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
On the surface, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) doesn’t seem to be too bad of a mother. She doesn’t do much wrong other than get herself kidnapped and wear the same forced, frozen smile on her face for the entirety of this intolerable movie. In fact, she’s done a fairly reasonable job of raising a son almost single-handedly, whilst maintaining a career along the way. Yes, that son has turned out to be Shia LaBeouf pretending to be Marlon Brando, but it could have been worse. Shia LaBeouf pretending to be Shia LaBeouf, for example. No, Marion’s crime is in denying her child, Mutt Williams, of the knowledge of his father’s true identity, that of [REALLY OBVIOUS SPOILER] Indiana Jones. What boy growing up wouldn’t want Indy to be his father? He’s possibly the coolest man in existence, and even with the lack of stability and large periods of time spent travelling the globe in search of historic artifacts and sexy historians, he’d still have been one hell of a father figure to look up to for any growing boy. Plus, she let her son go around with the nickname Mutt.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Yep, the questionably necessary fourth Indiana Jones instalment is on the List. And if anyone has any problem with that (like me, for example) then the only place to point the finger of blame is at the public, as the List it appears on is the one voted for by Empire readers. Granted, the film came out in 2008, the year the poll was taken, so many readers who may have only ever seen 10 films would have been forced to put it in their top 10. This also explains the inclusion of Transformers and Juno on the same list, and it’s pretty much assured that if the poll were taken again, these films would be unlikely to retain their positions. But the important thing is that the film is on there, and I had to watch it.

When I first saw the film in the cinema, on the weekend it was released, I didn’t actually think it was that terrible. Hell, if anything I enjoyed it, and left the theatre happy and fulfilled. Granted, it was certainly no Raiders of the Lost Ark, or even The Last Crusade, but it was a damn sight more fun than The Temple of Doom. I was somewhat shocked to discover that these feelings were not necessarily shared by the rest of the world, but now, after a couple more viewings, I have realised my mistake.
For me, the film has four main problems, all of which I’m sure have been covered many times before, but not by me. Firstly, the movie seems to be completely devoid of a strong narrative path. It’s more like a bunch of scenes that the writers thought would look cool, all strung together without really flowing into one another. On their own, or within a more cohesive plot, some of them would work fine. Case in point: the opening, in which Indy (Harrison Ford) and his ally Mac (Ray Winstone) are taken to the warehouse at the end of Raiders in search of a sporadically magnetic alien skull, is in itself a pretty entertaining scene, and a great way to start off the film. The use of Indiana’s instantly recognisable profile (when he’s wearing the hat, anyway) is well implemented, and the eventual chase through the warehouse is frenetic and action-packed, even if Ford no longer looks like he’s quite as capable of offing army thugs as he used to be. After this scene, we go straight into the now infamous fridge-nuke catastrophe, a scene which has no place in any film, let alone directly after a really fun, if a little silly, opening action sequence. This problem occurs again later, when some pages from a low-budget 80s B-movie are accidentally stapled in, when out hero finds himself in quicksand, a genre staple that I’m fairly sure has been made illegal.

The second problem, and this is a big one, is Shia LaBoeuf. The man is a scourge to cinema. Every film he touches becomes a travesty. Seriously, look down the guy’s resume and you’ll find some of the worst reviewed films of the past few years: the Transformers sequels, Charlie’s Angels 2, Dumb and Dumberer. If he’s the sidekick or plays only a small part in the film, he’s the worst character or in the worst part (I, Robot, Constantine, Bobby) and yet, he still makes movies. In fact, he’s soon to appear in Lawless, in which I can only imagine Tom Hardy will overshadow him in every way possible as the two play brothers. Honestly, the film is going to put LaBeouf up against Gary Oldman! Though I sincerely hope that Shia’s performance in Lawless blows me away, insomuch as he wins an academy award for it, I highly doubt this will be the case, and it may even ruin that film, that I’m otherwise looking forward to, for me. In Crystal Skull, LaBeouf plays Mutt Williams. If you’re a fan of the Indy franchise, it should come as no surprise that (SPOILER) Mutt is Indy’s son, mainly because Indiana is famously named after his own father’s dog, and Mutt is of course another term for a canine. From his costume, it’s clear LaBeouf is foolishly attempting to emulate Marlon Brando from The Wild One, which he pulls off to absolutely no effect, and if anything it’s a reminder of just how terrible LaBeouf is. The fact that there were rumours suggesting this film would see the handing over of the reigns from Ford to LaBeouf to continue the saga still give me nightmares to this day. I’m almost tempted to announce Mutt as being more annoying than Short Round. Almost.

The Mutt/Indy connection brings me on to my third issue. Crystal Skull tries far too hard to be a member of the Indiana Jones family. I’ve got nothing against a sequel making subtle references to it’s predecessors, offering knowing nods and winks to fans, but here there is far too much time spent to this effect. Whilst Karen Allen, returning as Raiders’ love interest Marion Ravenwood, Mutt’s mother, is a nice touch and offers a believable romance with Indy that you are willing to at times root for, there were all too many moments and scenes that felt like the film-makers were just trying too hard to make it an Indy film. Unfortunately, they only succeeded in making it seem more like the parodies of the Indiana films that filled the gap during it’s 21-year hiatus. This felt far more like National Treasure 3 or The Mummy 4 than an Indy film.
Finally, there’s just too many characters and subplots fighting for screen time. Jim Broadbent filled in for the sadly departed Denholm Elliot as Indy’s fellow university staff member, and John Hurt was a nice inclusion as a crazy old former colleague, but both felt very sidelined, as did Ray Winstone, who should have been pretty integral to the plot. Sadly, they, and Cate Blanchett’s questionably accented Ukrainian skull-hunter were at times almost forgotten in favour of Jones’ relationships with Marion and Mutt.
There were ways that the film could have been fixed. Raiders and Crusade proved that Indy doesn’t need a sidekick, and Temple proved that he shouldn’t have one, so nixing Mutt is pretty much a given. At least 2 scenes should have been cut, as the film feels like it runs at half an hour longer than it’s two hour runtime. I’d suggest the fridge and the diner scene with Mutt. Keep Marion, but make her be in love with John Hurt’s Oxley or Winstone’s Mac, to give Indy a bit of rivalry, and change that goddamn ending. About five minutes before the end of the film, when I first saw it in cinemas I burst out with raucous laughter at how ridiculous the climax was, and this time around it felt even more ludicrous.All that being said, it’s not exactly a horrible film, there are some entertaining sequences – I really enjoyed the jungle-set car chase, up until Mutt starts swinging with the CGI monkeys for no reason whatsoever – and it’s always thrilling to see Harrison Ford wearing a fedora, even if its not the only thing looking a bit dusty these days. I always used to defend the film for being good, just not when compared to the rest of the franchise, but I now know that even if you take it on it’s own, it still really isn’t worth it.

Choose life 5/10

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Within the Indiana Jones saga, each of the films has a specific role. Raiders is the leader, the well rounded, talented, good looking jock that everyone likes, admires and wants to be friends with. Crusade is the jokester, a tad immature, but loyal and loveable nonetheless. Skull is the one no-one wants to admit is in the gang, the sci-fi nerd with the stupid theories that tags along despite being the butt of all the jokes. And Temple takes life a bit more seriously, is a bit more intense, or so I’ve always remembered. When I’ve thought of it, I tend to remember the dark, mythological plot, involving sacred stones, voodoo, mass child kidnapping and slavery, yet upon rewatching I picked up on the lighter notes, the offsetting of this darkness with two of the series’ more comic (and irritating) supporting characters, various light-hearted moments (generally involving elephants) and a physics/logic defying rollercoaster minecart ride.
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