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.
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Top 5… Boating Disaster Movies

I’m off on a cruise tomorrow – only a short one, a family trip to celebrate my Dad’s retirement earlier this year – but as I am something of a level 5 pessimist/worst case scenario anticipator, all I can think about is all the films I’ve seen where unexpecting people come a cropper aboard some vessel or another. So what better way to rationalise my fears than by making a list of the five best films involving boating disasters of some kind or other.
5. The Perfect Storm
Go back and watch this film, and you’ll be shocked at how starry the cast has become. Alongside George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg as the New England fisherman captain and his friend caught in the mother of all storms, there’s John C. Reilly, William Fichtner and John Hawkes amongst the crew, and Karen Allen, Diane Lane, Bob Gunton, Christopher McDonald, Michael Ironside and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio waiting back home, fearfully watching the news reports and expecting the worst. Though the once-stellar special effects may now look a little dated, just watch Die Another Day directly afterwards to remind yourself of just how bad those waves could have been.
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A Night to Remember

You’re probably wondering how long it’s going to take me, in this review, to mention a certain other film from 1997, directed by James Cameron, that follows a similar plot to this film, and I’ll tell you that it’ll take exactly 48 words for me to mention Titanic. If you’ve never seen A Night to Remember, but are a fan of Titanic (as indeed you should be, for it is a much better film than it’s cool to admit), then you need to start paying more credit towards Night‘s director Roy Ward Baker, for it is from his 1958 picture that Cameron stole most of his film.

Now I’m not saying Cameron stole everything, for if there’s one thing Night is missing, it’s main characters to follow through the events. Instead we follow various groups of people – Second Officer Lightoller (Kenneth More), some steerage passengers, a young 1st class couple (Honor Blackman!) – throughout the night of April 14th, 1912. This lack of focusing on a few people leaves you caring for the characters less, in the same way you didn’t care that much when Fabrizzio got hit with the funnel, here its no bother when the same fate is met by other people we’ve been following. This gives Night a more procedural, re-enactment-like tone, not helped by the generally unmoving performances that leave you cold and distant.Had I never seen Titanic, chances are I’d have been far more impressed with this film, but the remake (that’s essentially what it is) has shown that almost every shot can be composed and recorded at least a little better. The fact that it was made almost 40 years later helped drastically, as the technology did not yet exist to encompass the full scope of Cameron’s vision, but the fact that it does now has left Night a little obsolete.

I found myself mentally checking off every scene that Cameron stole – the steerage dance number, lavish 1st class dining scene, the soot-caked stokers escaping the closing doors in the engine rooms, playing football with ice on the deck, the dining cart gently rolling down an increasingly listing dining room, the steward appalled at the passengers damaging White Star Line property, the musicians disbanding then reforming to play as the boat sinks. The drunken chef even looks the same, and the shot of Murdoch turning his head away in shame, unable to stand watching the boat sink from his wrongfully claimed lifeboat seat is identical! I understand that a lot of these scenes help to set the atmosphere aboard the boat and couldn’t really be avoided, but Cameron should either have admitted he was remaking, paid some form of acknowledgement to the previous film, or at least changed the shot compositions. Mr. Andrews, the boat’s designer, even at one point gives a young couple – who may as well be called Jack and Rose – details on how to survive whilst he’s stood next to the clock on the mantelpiece, and the ‘unsinkable’ Molly Brown, here played by Tucker McGuire but more famously by Kathy Bates in Titanic, vehemently demands that her lifeboat turn around to help drowning survivors.

Based on the book by Walter Lord, and using the real-life experiences of survivors, the film paints an effective picture of the differences between the classes – made particularly clear when some steerage passengers attempt to flee the waters, but recoil in shock at the extent of the upper class facilities. After some initial scene-setting and the launch of the boat, we pick up the action on the night of the 14th, as the supposedly unsinkable liner receives warnings of ice in the area. As opposed to after 90 minutes, the immortal line of “Iceberg, dead ahead” is heard after just half an hour. After the boat has struck and a 300-foot long gash has been haphazardly carved into the hull, events play out largely in real time, and a great deal of time is spent on the engine rooms and the crew’s efforts to contact the nearest boats, of which the Carpathia, a good 58 miles and 4 hours away, is the only one to respond. There are some nice examples of the typical British stiff upper lip – a man putting on a brave face as he waves goodbye to the wife and children he knows he’ll never see again – but there are all in all far too many scenes of the crew trying to convince disbelieving passengers of the seriousness of the situation, to the point where I got so annoyed with some of the passengers that I hoped they’d stay on the boat and attempt to sit it out.

Whilst occasionally moving – the lifeboats forced to listen to the screams of the drowning – there is little reason to watch this now Titanic has made it redundant. In it’s day it was probably a much better film, but alas now it has been surpassed.Choose life 7/10

Most anticipated films of 2012

2011 is drawing to a close, and let’s be honest, it hasn’t been a terrific year for film, but worry not, in just over a week a new year will be upon us, and its already looking like a cinematic doozy. Here’s my pick of what’s likely to be saucering my eyes next year:
The Avengers
Marvel’s dream team of superheroes line up to face a world threatening attack, as well as each other, in Joss Whedon’s epic ultimate crossover.

Titanic

Now bear with me here, but I do actually really like Titanic. This may all stem from a fascination with the tragedy as a child, but its also in part due to James Cameron’s direction of a film too easily written off as a soppy romance that just happens to be set aboard the most famous nautical disaster of all time, other than Speed 2: Cruise Control. What Cameron does is take 1958s A Night to Remember, the foremost Titanic film pre-1997, and add characters you genuinely care about; DiCaprio’s steerage class ragamuffin and Winslet’s pressured poor little rich girl, as well as a sense of spectacle unavailable to film makers in the pre-CGI movie making era. There is a clear divide in the film – and eventually in the ship too – around the half way mark, once the inevitable iceberg has viciously assaulted the great ship and departed without exchanging insurance details, where the gender that the film panders to switches. Initially, the tale of an across-the-tracks romance between the leads and comparisons of their expertly realised respective classes, culminating in a steamy encounter in a car in storage is squarely aimed at the female half of the audience, but as soon as the Atlantic ocean decides it wants to come aboard and everything starts taking place on an ever increasing incline, the ensuing carnage, death and destruction should appeal to any man with a penchant for disaster movies.
Weaving fact (Kathy Bates’ ‘unsinkable’ Molly Brown) with fiction (Apparently one reason the iceberg wasn’t spotted until it was too late was due to Jack and Rose sharing a passionate snog on deck) it isn’t difficult to understand why this was the Biggest Film of All Time™ until Jimbo’s latest azure-tinged epic.
Negative points? At 3 hours it’s a bit of a trek, and the multiple villains (there’s at least four, not counting the iceberg) are all a bit too one-note to be believable, even though one, Jonathan Hyde’s weaselly marketing man Bruce Ismay, is based on a real person. There are also a few too many shout-at-the –screen moments of stupidity on behalf of the leads escape attempts – surely Rose would have realised Jack would have a better chance of survival on his own, if she has got on a lifeboat. That being said, there isn’t enough to detract from the quality of the film, with the characters and story never being overshadowed by the stellar effects work.
Choose film 8/10