School of Rock

When wannabe rock star Dewey Finn (Jack Black) gets kicked out of his own band and his room-mate Ned Schneebly (Mike White) needs money for the rent, Dewey fakes his way into a substitute job at a local prep school, only to discover that the genius, upper class kids are also very adept at playing classical music. Dewey sees a chance to finally achieve his rock stardom dreams by moulding the kids into an awesome rock band.
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Top 10… Reasons Why I Love Demolition Man

The Top 10 lists are back! Apologies for the recent extended break I’ve unintentionally taken from posting anything, I was waiting for my housing situation to resolve itself but that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon, so I may as well get back to typing. Anyway, as I said, the Top 10 lists have returned, and this time with something a little different. Normally, I’d list of ten films, or scenes, or characters or whatever, but this week – and every so often after – I’m looking at just one film in particular, as a celebration for how much I love it. The prestigious honour of the first film goes to a movie I championed for the most recent Movie of the Month poll over at the Lamb. Due to it being so amazing, the film won with a landslide victory, and I was able to host an episode of the Lambcast on it, which can be listened to here.DemolitionMan14

So what is this film, I hear you ask? Well, it’s Demolition Man, the 1993 action/crime/sci-fi/comedy directed by Marco Brambilla, produced by Joel Silver and starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock. The basic premise sees Stallone’s sergeant John Spartan, a renegade cop in 1996’s burning L.A., track down Snipes’ Simon Phoenix, a psychopathic killer. During Phoenix’s arrest, Spartan is incorrectly blamed for the deaths of Phoenix’s hostages, and both men are sentenced to prison, but not just any incarceration. No, they are cryogenically frozen and mentally ‘reprogrammed’ to become better citizens, with the intention of thawing them out many years in the future. In 2032, Phoenix is thawed out for a parole hearing, but escapes the prison facility and goes on the run. The police force in the now-peaceful future utopia are ill-equipped to deal with Phoenix’s brand of mindless violence, and so Spartan is defrosted to help catch him.

So, without further ado, here’s my Top 10 reasons why I love Demolition Man: [Spoiler warning]
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The Holiday

Iris (Kate Winslet), a London-based journalist, has just had her heart destroyed by her colleague Jasper, who she has longed after for many years, but he’s just got engaged to someone else. Meanwhile Amanda (Cameron Diaz), the owner of a hugely successful L.A. movie trailer company, has just discovered her boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns) is cheating on her. Both women decide they need to get away from everything for a few weeks, so opt for a house swap, trading homes for a fortnight over the Christmas period. But when they had originally hoped to get away from love, they each end up finding it in the most unexpected of places.
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Unlisted: The Muppets

Celebrating the best film I’ve seen this week that’s not on the list, first up its The Muppets. I mentioned recently that I’ve not had a lot of dealings with the muppets in the past, and I now realise I’ve lived a previously unfulfilled life, devoid of a required amount of felt to maintain the desired level of happiness.
The cloth characters latest outing both improves upon and acknowledges those that have come before it (I’ve read that Muppets in Space and Muppet Treasure Island aren’t as good as The Muppet Movie or Muppet Christmas Carol, but I intend to find out soon) and like those other films the plot is kept nice and simple – Muppet superfan brothers Walter and Gary (co-writer and real-life Muppet super face Jason Segel) go on holiday to LA with Gary’s long term girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), where they discover that wealthy oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to buy and destroy the Muppet Theatre, giving the duo a few days to round up their disbanded heroes and raise $10 million. Just like its predecessors, the film is packed with mostly recognisable cameos, including Alan Arkin, Sarah Silverman and a very game Jack Black, and the soundtrack, including a moment where Chris Cooper quite unexpectedly raps (it’s not that bad actually) and the Oscar winning Man or Muppet is amazing, written by Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie, and I shall be purchasing it soon.
Improving upon the first movie by never spending too much time on one character, there are still a few flaws. Most irritatingly, a detail from the finale – Walter’s talent – is not mentioned throughout the entire film, and is pulled out of a hat at the end, and the first half, whilst good, is nowhere near as entertaining as the second, once the show the gang are putting on kicks off. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 10 years before the next Muppet film, though if we do I’m sure it will be worth it.
Choose film 9/10

 

King Kong (2005)

 A lot of people dislike Peter Jackson’s remake of 1933’s King Kong, made simply because the original is one of Jackson’s own favourite films, but once you get past the overlong New York-set character establishing and the woeful miscasting of Jack Black as movie producer Carl Denham, what’s left is an entertaining and well realised modern retelling of a well known story with a renowned ending known to all, whether they’ve seen the films or not. Aside from Black, it is this sense of inevitability that lets the film down. We all know going in that at some point a giant gorilla is going to capture, then fall for aspiring actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts, doing the best she can as essentially a scream on legs), before being captured himself, shipped to New York and thrown on stage as the latest attraction, ultimately forcing him to escape and take a fateful climb atop the Empire State Building, ultimately being killed not by machine gun-toting bi-planes, but by the bright, bloody blade of beauty. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the ending should have been changed, maybe with Kong swimming back to Skull Island with Ann perched on his head, or perhaps the NY locals gradually accepting Kong for who he is, eventually electing him mayor, paving the way for a comedy-heavy sequel, seeing Ann escorting Kong to various prestigious events, climaxing in an unveiling at the Smithsonian, where confronting a T-Rex skeleton brings back too many memories for the now refined ape, causing him to rip off his custom made tuxedo (with comically oversized and troublesome bowtie), break the skeletons jaw and finally settle down in an overgrown corner of Central Park, or in an enclosure at San Diego Zoo. No, the story was rightfully left intact, if a little extended in places, and mercifully the 1930s setting was also maintained, moving it all to the modern day could have ruined this movie.
As for Black, I’m not sure who could have replaced him as the egotistical, deceitful, driven moviemaker, but I think an older actor could have lent a little gravitas to the role, and since watching Midnight Run I’ve wanted to recast everyone with Charles Grodin, so I’m going to go with him.
The film doesn’t really get going until the approach to the island, with Jackson using some innovative effects and camerawork (the screaming rocks and the shot of Jamie Bell being flung around in the crow’s nest are particular highlights), but the best parts, in my opinion, involve the creatures of the island. Populated with dinosaurs, creepy-crawlies the size of caravans and creatures that are essentially giant penises with teeth and a penchant for human limbs, it’s not exactly an ideal holiday destination, but the respective battles and chases involving these beasties are the most entertaining and thrilling sequences in the film, the CGI is impeccable if a little soulless at times. Kong’s fight against three Tyrannosaurs over Ann is beautifully choreographed, and worth the three hour runtime alone.
There’s also some nice in-jokes (Denham can’t cast Fay Wray in his picture, as she’s shooting a rival film at RKO with Merian C. Cooper, that’ll be the original Kong then), and the interpretation of Kong is astounding, with Andy Serkis using his motion capture skills seen as Gollum to great effect, soon to be used again in Jackson and Spielberg’s Tintin, and the absurdly named Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Choose film 7/10