Good things come in threes….?

Posted on January 23, 2012. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

On the 19th January 2012 this collection of typo ridden blether celebrated its third birthday.  The fact that I couldn’t write anything on the actual day is kind of a testament to how things have been going these past few months, but I also had an idea what I wanted to write about and needed to put some actual thought in to it.

The trilogy is a big deal in cinema. If you can get people hooked in enough from that first installment to wait a minimum of two more years to see the climax then you know you’re on to a good thing.  Or are you? The propensity for making sequels over the last decade or so has led to a few well loved films being stretched out over three parts that maybe weren’t intended at first inception.  It’s yet to be seen whether this blog is the series that can keep running or the plot that should have given up somewhere in the middle of part two, but in celebration of at least making the landmark, I bring you part three in cinema: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good

This is where the proper trilogies live.  The ones that had a big three part game plan and started setting up for it within the opening moments of part one.  The best trilogies though are the ones where you didn’t think it could get any better and then the finale knocks you sideways.  The Two Towers gave us one of the most epic on screen battles seen in Helm’s Deep, and then Return of the King came along with double whammy Pelennor fields and Cormallen and the whole concept of big screen battle changed.  And no matter what your persuasion is on Ewoks, you have to admit that Return of the Jedi is a fantastic movie.  What is quite unique for that film is that we’ve already had the big twist which is often the climax of the story, but now we get to see how our hero deals with it. It’s the what happens next that makes it interesting.  If you’re like me, you probably count that two sets of Star Wars films as two separate trilogies, in which case despite the collection of crap that went before and the impossible comparison to its big brothers, Revenge of the Sith is a pretty cool movie and definitely a fitting climax to the prequels.

It’s not just the big trilogies that fit here though.  Long running series  Indy and Die Hard both had very strong third parts following on from slightly weaker second helpings. (Let’s not talk about Indy 4)  And although a lot of people don’t realise it’s  a trilogy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a fantastic final showdown in the El Mariachi story.

The Bad

So. The bad.  This tends to be where we find the films that were probably never intended to run for so long.  Pirates of the Caribbean was a game changing movie which made a lot of people (especially me) very happy.  2 more films could only be a good thing right? Um….

The problem is, they didn’t think Pirates would work, so they threw everything they had at the first film.  It’s self contained, so trying to find things to stretch out for another 2  means it all gets a bit thin.  I by no means dislike At World’s End, but it’s not even close to the magic they had with the first film.  As much as I love Captain Jack, maybe you can have too much of a good thing.  Of course that didn’t stop them, and On Stranger Tides came along.  I still haven’t seen it (I’m scared to) but it’ll be a shame if an incredible orignal movie is tainted by weaker follow ups.

Which brings me on to: Matrix Revolutions.  For exactly the same reasons really. The Matrix is a work of art. It’s just brilliant. When they announced two more movies being made I was excited to see where they’d go with it, but quickly realised that there wasn’t really anywhere. There are some fantastic fight scenes in that film, but even they don’t have the impact of when Neo first stands up  and says “No.”  Not to mention the fact that I still don’t understand how Neo had powers out of the Matrix, whether or not he died at the end and what the hell Zion is going to do now.

In the comic book world, hitting the third part seems to be the cue for a reboot, with Spiderman 3 (The EMO years)  and X Men: The Last Stand springing to mind.  I like both of these films, but they are definitely not as strong as their earlier counterparts (or the later films in the case of X Men).  Often by part three of a series, we’re starting to run out of places to go, particularly if you brought out the big guns early, which leads to the common pitfalls.  More often than not you get too many heroes or too many villains; trying to compensate for a less exciting premise by bringing in lots of new characters which can lead to characters feeling underdeveloped.

In other cases though, it can just be that we’ve seen it all before.  As much as I love Jurassic Park, we probably didn’t need a third film about people getting eaten by dinosaurs, and fantastic though the first two Back To The Future films are, the third one does kind of go of the rails a bit (if you’ll excuse the train based pun)

The Ugly

I’m too nice to consign any of the above films to the “Ugly” pile, because even though they don’t live up to the expectations laid down by their predecessors, they do have some saving graces.  In fact, when it came to thinking of truly terrible part threes, the only one that came to mind was Shrek the Third. The less said about that the better.I’m sure you can fill me in on some terrible trilogies I’ve missed.

Coming soon…

It just so happens that it’s not just my little old blog that’s bringing out its third instalment this year.  Christopher Nolan is delivering the much anticipated Dark Knight Rises, which is set to be a blockbuster success and quite probably a fantastic movie.  We also have Sherlock Holmes 3 on the horizon, which is less of a dead cert, with a somewhat lukewarm reaction the sequel, but in my case that’s one part 3 I can’t wait to see.  And while we’re thinking about RDJ (cos I know you are) Iron Man 3 hits the screens in 2013, this time with Shane Black at the helm instead of Jon Favreau.  I really hope that works. Because I’m not sure how you do it without Favreau. And that is one series I really don’t want to see go out with a whimper.

And finally….this summer we have Men In Black 3, which is a pretty good example of not knowing when to quit after a crappy sequel.  If in doubt, throw in some time travel. *sigh*

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I want to play too!

Posted on April 14, 2010. Filed under: Memes and Blogathons, Movies to see before you die, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

If you haven’t been paying attention, like me, you may have missed all the fun that’s been going on in the movie blogging world over the last week or so.

It all started with Andy over at Fandango Groovers, who thought it might be an idea to play Desert Island Discs with DVDs.  For those of you not from the UK, the game works like this: if you were stranded on an island for an indeterminate length of time, what 8 films would you take with you to keep you sane while you waited for the rescue boat?

You might have noticed that making decisions is not my strong point. Trying to list my favourite films is an impossible task as far as I’m concerned, so I’m taking a slightly different tack here. Yes, all the films I pick will be firm favourites, but, fickle as I am, I reckon if I was stuck on an island I’d need variety to keep me going.

Right, here goes.

My first choice isn’t going to shock anybody. I am, of course, going to pick a Lord of the Rings film. However, cruel fate means I can only pick one, and that’s a harder decision to make.  I get asked a lot which is my favourite of the trilogy and I honestly don’t have an answer. I have a particularly soft spot for Fellowship because when I first saw it I had no idea what Middle Earth was or how I would react to the film.  In this case though, I’m going to pick Return of the King, for two reasons.  First of all, value for money! It’s the longest (and if I  take the extended addition, it’s over 4 hours) so it would keep me more than occupied while I sat on my beach; and secondly, it’s got everything in there.  Almighty battle scenes, heartbreak and laughter. And of course, I’m never going to get tired of watching it over and over.

Onto number 2.  I’m going to need a guns-blazing action flick while I’m stranded and when it comes to action there’s only ever one real choice. Die Hard. Bruce Willis, British actors playing German terrorists, Enough C4 explosive to blow a hole in the world, what more could you ask for?

Round 3. This one has proved a popular choice, which I’m picking for much the same reasons as Ross McD.  This is a movie I can (and have) start watching again straight away as soon as it’s done.  It’s full of energy, colour, great music, humour and heart.  It’s a story about Truth, Freedom, Beauty and above all things Love. It’s Moulin Rouge.

Halfway through now, time for pick number 4.  At some point during my time in isolation I’m going to get a craving for some Disney magic.  It was a tough battle between this next film and Toy Story, but in the end I had to go for The Lion King. The score alone is enough to make me want to take it with me and it’s probably the last truly great Disney film before Pixar came along.

It’s getting a bit harder now.  I’m trying not to over think my choices and just go on instinct.

So pick number 5.  Well, I couldn’t have a list that didn’t have some Johnny Depp in now could I?  I’ve got to take Pirates of the Caribbean with me (the original and the best) if only to remind me that being stranded on a desert island might not be the end of the world. Unless the Rum is gone.

Time for a sweeping score, wide angle landscape shots and some patriotic passion. If only I was Scottish. Braveheart is my 6th choice mainly because I never seem to get around to watching it.  I love the film, but it does make me hate the English and try and claim a larger proportion of Celtic heritage than I’m due, but if I’m stuck on an island I might as well have something that reminds me of home (sort of)

Number 7 I think is going to have to be Billy Elliot. It’s my go to film when I’m feeling down.  Full of great British actors and even better British music, it’s a beautiful story that reminds you that even when things look hopeless they can still turn out OK.  Think that might come in handy.

Right. The last one. This is really tricky…

I think what this list is missing is a comic book movie, and if I’ve got to pick my favourite, I think it will have to be X2. Close run thing with Wolverine, but I think the former just has the edge.

And that’s it.  I think with those 8 to keep me company I’d be quite happy on my island for a while.

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The 12 films of Christmas, Part One:The Build Up

Posted on December 2, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Once again, I’m being entirely unoriginal here, but what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t have some kind of Christmas post on here?  Everyone has their Christmas traditions, and among mine are a certain set of films which absolutely must be watched before the big day.  Some start to get you in the mood in the early days of December, others are the full on Tinsel and Fairy lights, perfect for Christmas Eve.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my festive favourites, split into three groups depending on when I reckon is the best time to watch them, starting with the ones which aren’t necessarily all about Christmas, but have just enough jingle bells to remind you it’s getting close.

So it’s December. The shops have been playing carols since August but you’re still not quite there with the Christmas spirit yet.  Now is the time for the build up films, the ones that don’t hit you over the head with festive cheer, but start to remind you why it’s “the most wonderful time of the year.”

To start you off: The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I’m never quite sure when to watch this film.  Too Christmassy to watch at Halloween, a bit too cynical to watch at Christmas.  In the end I’ve decided it fits nicely into the end of November and beginning of December; the perfect film to remind you that the season has begun.

I’ve written about Nightmare before, but for those of you who don’t know it’s a cult classic Burton film telling the story of Jack Skellington the King of Halloween town.  By accident he stumbles into Christmasland, where “absolutely no one’s dead” leading him to try and recreate the magic back home.  Poor Jack gets it a bit wrong though, and it’s up to Frankenstein monster Sally to show him what Christmas is all about.

The film is full of Christmas spirit, but it’s also full of goblins and ghouls meaning it’s not the DVD you’ll be reaching for on Christmas Eve.  Whatever the time of year however, it’s a brilliant movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet and are still waiting to be caught up in the yuletide fun, this is definitely the place to start.

Die Hard (no, really)

You might be wondering what I’m getting at here, but I refer you to the quote: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.”  Any excuse to watch this wicked film is fine by me, and in my book a film which takes place on Christmas Eve is a Christmas film.  OK, so it might not exactly be brimming with the joys of the season, but at its heart it’s a film about a guy trying to get home to see his kids for Christmas.  There’s just the issue of a few German terrorists to get past first.  Not you’re typical seasonal fun granted, but a brilliant film in it’s own right with just enough holiday spirit to get you on your way.

Back to Burton for: Edward Scissorhands

It’s the story of where snow comes from. What could be more Christmassy than that?  The film documents roughly a year of Edward’s life, but the final showdown takes place at Christmas and it’s those scenes which stick in most people’s memories.  Another sensational film, this tells the tale of Edward; a boy made by an inventor who died before he could finish, leaving Edward alone in an empty mansion with metal shards instead of hands.  Both hilarious and tragic, Edward is a beautiful film with an equally gorgeous soundtrack that will start to stir up warm fuzzy feelings you never knew were there.

And finally, the first of the real Christmas films: Love Actually

Stop rolling your eyes like that.

For some reason a lot of people don’t like this film, but as far as I’m, concerned Richard Curtis can do no wrong, especially when you’re looking for some festive schmaltz.  This film was made for the build up, as that’s exactly what it’s about! Travelling from mid November to Christmas Eve, it juxtaposes the stories of a great ensemble cast, whose lives all intertwine as they try and make it to the big day.  Stand out performances include Emma Thompson’s perfectly British “Joni Mitchell” moment and, of course, Bill Nighy singing “Christmas is all around.”

If you’re looking for your Christmas spirit, look no further than Love Actually.  It’s got everything you need to get you in the mood, with enough different types of character to be sure of having someone there you identify with.  Of the four on this page, it’s the one film you can be absolutely certain I will watch before Christmas. It just has to be that way.

(Yes, it's blurry. But I couldn't resist a screenshot of that moment.)

Hope that starts to get you in the mood. Part two coming soon.

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Yipee ki-ay….

Posted on January 30, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

I’m a big fan of films involving guns and explosions and, having wathced Die Hard 3 last night, thought I’d give you a run down of the best action films out there.

In my opinion, the movie that defines the genre is Die Hard.  The original movie is a spectacular cocktail of explosions, one liners, german-speaking terrorists and profuse bleeding; what more can you ask for in an action film?  John McClane is probably the best action character ever, created out of a well established formula of maverick cop who doesn’t always obey the rules but gets the job done.  Die hard is so well made though, and the combination of Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman is perfect, making it the ultimate action comfort film (if such a thing exists).  Die hard also gave us the immortal line that I’m using as a title, and for that we are eternally greatful.

McClane

As for the Die Hard sequels, none of them stand up to the original, but Die Hard with a Vengeance (3) comes pretty close, aided by the work of Samuel L Jackson and the brilliant Jeremy Irons.  The two even numbered sequels are not quite up to standard, with Die Hard 2 being a favourite kicking post for critics, but the most recent 4.0 isn’t bad and does have some great moments.  The digital plot is just a bit flat, especially since the original is such a classic 80’s movie. McClane just wasn’t built for the digital age.

For me Die Hard is the ultimate action movie, but I know others would argue that Lethal Weapon is the author of the genre.  Having only seen the first installment once, I’m not quite qualified to put up a defence, but I’ll come back when I’ve watched it again.  What I do remember is that Lethal Weapon is that little bit darker than Die Hard, with an underlying suicide theme which is great for character development but makes it that little bit less fun than watching wise-cracking Willis running around a skyscraper bare foot.

Another contender for ultimate action movie is Speed, a movie in which Keanu Reeves actually acts (almost)!  Another great collection of explosions and unhinged psychopaths out for revenge, but this time set on a bus, Speed has some great movements; most famously that jump over the gap in the highway.  Reeves is good in the role, supported heavily by Jeff Daniels and Dennis Hopper.  The decision to carry Sandra Bullock’s character into a sequel, I think, was a bad one, especially since she’s pretty irritating in the original, but at least Speed 2 has Willem Defoe giving it his creepy best.

The score of Speed is also pretty great, but there is pure genius in the use of Beethoven’s 9th in Die Hard, which keeps coming back in inverted forms throughout the score.  A similar idea is used in Die Hard 3, unfortunately I can’t remember what the piece of music is called (please someone comment and help me ‘cos its maddening) but if you ever sang “the animals went in two by two” in primary school you’ll know the tune I’m on about!

All of the above are going into the movies to see before you die, but if you’ve only got time for one, go for Die Hard.

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