Robert Pattinson and Daniel Radcliffe: indie darlings

So recently I watched The Rover starring Robert Pattinson. Then I caught the trailer for Daniel Radcliffe’s new film, the straight shot of demented madness that is Guns Akimbo, and it got me thinking… both these actors got their breaks in big franchise movies for children and teens (Radcliffe with Harry Potter and Pattinson with Twilight) and both, once free of those juggernauts, have spent the last eight years or so plying their trade in increasingly weird and wonderful films, about as far from the mainstream as you can get.

And that, in my book, has to be applauded.

I mean, I’m sure they’ve had many offers to return to big studio movies, yet they’ve stuck to their guns, akimbo… so to speak.

I guess my point with this piece is that I want to draw attention to them and give them some credit. Pattinson is arguably the better actor, but both have taken on some really interesting projects and really pushed themselves as actors, quietly rising up the ranks in my estimations. It’s as almost if the franchise movies that put them on the map is some kind of debt that they’re both working off.

So here’s to them. And to some of the films they’ve given us. Here are a few below.

Daniel Radcliffe

Is age 30 with 41 acting credits to his name. He’s played Allen Ginsberg, Igor, and a farting corpse. He’s tackled historical drama, fantasy, comedy, and demented action – his latest film sees him wake to find he has guns bolted to both his hands. It’s mad, unexpected, and delightfully weird.

The Woman In Black (2012)
Kill Your Darlings (2013)
Horns (2013)
Victor Frankenstein (2015)
Swiss Army Man (2016)
Now You See Me 2 (2016)
Imperium (2016)
Jungle (2017)
Beast of Burden (2018)
Guns Akimbo (2019)
Escape From Pretoria (2020)

Robert Pattinson

On the other hand, is a little older (33) and with a couple less acting credits (39), but has trod a similar path, albeit worked with more auteur directors: David Cronenberg (twice), James Gray, the Safdie brothers (who recently did Uncut Gems with Adam Sandler), Claire Denis and, this year, he’s in Christopher Nolan’s latest, Tenet.

Cosmopolis (2012)
The Rover (2014)
Maps To The Stars (2015)
The Lost City of Z (2016)
Good Time (2017)
High Life (2018)
The Lighthouse (2019)
Tenet (2020)
The Batman (2021)

Top 10 films about making films

I recently watched a film in which the plot revolved around, or at least touched on, the process of making a film. Which got me thinking about other films where this happens. Here are ten of my relatively recent favourites.

Their Finest (2016)

A rather sweet WWII-set flick which tells the story of the relationship between two screenwriters (Sam Claflin and Gemma Arterton) writing a screenplay for the Ministry of Information to boost troops’ morale. Also includes Bill Nighy doing Bill Nighy, which is always a good thing.

Tropic Thunder (2008)

In an attempt to make a war film more authentic a hapless director (Steve Coogan) drops his actors into the Vietnamese jungle. Trouble is, they end up in the middle of a real drug war. It takes some of the filmmakers (including Nick Nolte and Danny McBride) a while to realise what’s actually going on.

The Aviator (2004)

As part of the thread of this film, billionaire and aviation tycoon Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) is trying to make the film Hell’s Angels which, whilst it went on to be one of the highest grossing films of the silent era, it still lost money due to the inflated budget.

Get Shorty (1995)

Mobster (John Travolta) is sent to Hollywood to collect a debt from film producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). But upon pitching his life as a movie idea he finds being a gangster and a producer are not that different.

Saving Mr Banks (2013)

For a film about the making of Mary Poppins and the relationship between its author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), it’s incredibly sweet-natured. Particularly the scenes where they’re coming up with the songs.

Son of Rambow (2007)

School bad boy Lee Carter (Will Poulter) and Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) become friends, in sort of an odd couple way when they bond over a film they’re making for a competition. Their friendship gets tested when more kids join in and Lee feels cut out.

King Kong (2005)

Ambitious director Carl Denham (Jack Black) manages to persuade playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) and actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) to head to Skull Island to film his new flick. However it all goes awry when Kong kicks off, swipes Ann and heads off into the jungle.

Super 8 (2011)

A bunch of kids (including Elle Fanning) are making a zombie movie, when all of a sudden they witness a train crash. Turns out it was no accident, and a series of events and disappearances follow. It’s up to the kids and Deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) to discover the truth.

Cloverfield (2008)

A bunch of rich and attractive New York kids (including Lizzy Caplan and T.J. Miller) are having a party when a huge monster starts smashing up the city. They film their experience on a camera as they try and flee the city with their lives.

While We’re Young (2014)

Middle-aged filmmaker Josh Schrebnick (Ben Stiller) is stuck in a rut. Until a young, hip guy called Jamie (Adam Driver) turns up. He breathes new life into Josh’s film but then enjoys more success in weeks than Josh did in years. So, inevitably, sparks start to fly.

My favourite films from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s

Recently I got into a conversation with my partner about old films. Classic films. And it turns out I’ve not seen that many, so I can’t really call myself a cinephile. Because – and here’s where I ‘fess up – I’ve seen ALMOST NOTHING from before 1950. It’s an issue I’m – very slowly – trying to address.

But it did get me thinking about what I HAVE seen, and how the bulk of my cinematic knowledge starts in the 1970s.

So, here are some of my favourites from those three decades. What would you make your list?

1950s
Some Like It Hot (1959)
North by Northwest (1959)

1960s
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Mary Poppins (1964)
The Great Escape (1963)
Dr No (1962)
Barbarella (1968)

1970s
Star Wars (1977)
Alien (1979)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather: part two (1974)
Animal House (1978)
Serpico (1973)

Best films of 2016: my picks

To be fair I shouldn’t even write this post, I’ve seen a woefully low number of films this past year. So what I’ve done is split it (like last year) into favourites I’ve seen, those on my ‘to watch’ list and proper turkeys.

Enjoy.

FAVOURITES I’VE SEEN

Captain America: Civil War
Famed for their back and forth dialogue, the Russo brothers stepped up from TV to film effortlessly. It also bucked the trend of a smashy ending, which was welcome.
Deadpool
Despite the trailer ruining a lot of the jokes and the positive reviews threatening to put me off, it was still a fun blast and a breath of fresh air in the superhero genre.
Sing Street
As far as coming of age films go, this one is a treat. If you grew up in the ’80s, have been in any way part of a band or creative, this will resonate.
Rogue One
Gareth Edwards has come a long way since his debut Monsters. Here he expands the Star Wars universe in a satisfying way, giving us the familiar but twists and nice new touches.
Doctor Strange
Is it silly to doubt that Cumberbatch would be anything but good for Marvel? His performance was nigh on perfect and helped expand the MCU into new and exciting areas.
Creed
Seems young blood gives old a new lease of life from time to time. In this instance Stallone plays an aged Balboa, training Apollo Creed’s son in this surprisingly engaging story.
The Revenant
The making of this film has become almost as famous as the movie itself. With stories claiming DiCaprio went through utter hell and back to make it. It’s gruelling, but worth watching.
Spotlight
As this came right at the start of 2016 it almost slipped off my list. Not flashy nor showy, but a well-told tale making archive researching seem as engaging as it can.
High-Rise
I’m starting to think I can only take Ben Wheatley films in small doses. They’re way too stylised and I just don’t get them. That said, this film is insanity in a good way. And it’s Hiddleston as you’ve never seen him before. 

TO WATCH LIST

Everybody Wants Some!!
Hell or High Water
Hail, Ceasar!
American Honey
Paterson
The Nice Guys
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Kubo and the Two Strings
Midnight Special
Sausage Party
Green Room
The Big Short
The Hateful Eight
The Girl With All The Gifts
Victoria
Arrival

PROPER TURKEYS
Maybe it’s mean calling these turkeys, but they failed to deliver on many levels, so they get what they deserve.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Hey guys, shall we have any humour in this film? No, let’s keep it as po-faced as possible. Shall we have a plot that makes sense? Nah, there’s no time. Shall we get the audience caring about the characters? Why bother, just smash stuff in the third act. Audiences like smashy, look at Transformers. ‘Nuff said.
Suicide Squad
Ok, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. This film could have been as edgy as Deadpool. Instead it’s got a dull as ditchwater plot where almost nothing happens. It’s got too many characters that serve almost no purpose (including the Joker) and I didn’t care about a single one of them. Not even the delectable Harley Quinn, there I said it.
Magnificent Seven
Now I didn’t see the original, but many people I know did. And most said this remake failed to get us caring about any of the characters whatsoever. Embarrassing, given the quality of the cast. For me, I went in cold as a newbie and thought much the same. Magnificent? Not by a long way.

30 best films from the ’80s

I heard somewhere once that our obsession with the 1980s has gone on longer than the decade itself. And with Back to the Future being in the news for reaching the ‘future’ date not too long ago (and, alarmingly, accurately predicting loads of inventions and tech we now take for granted), I thought it a good time to revisit 30 (don’t ask why I picked this number) of my favourite films from that decade.

Aliens (1986)
Written and directed by James Cameron (and building on the foundations laid by Ridley Scott in the first film) he took the franchise to chilling and thrilling new places.
Batman (1989)
Michael Keaton as Batman, Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Tim Burton directing. At the time, a bit of a risk. But one that paid off handsomely, critically and commercially.
Back to the Future (1985)
Famously, Robert Zemeckis, shot a lot of this film with Eric Stoltz as the lead. Only to feel he wasn’t right. So he recast Michael J. Fox and the rest is history. Or future.
Beetlejuice (1988)
Michael Keaton again. Wild, unhinged and brilliant, chasing Geena Davis and Alec Balwin around the place. Held together by the magic of Tim Burton.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Whilst Eddie Murphy made his screen debut a couple of years earlier, this is the film that made him and introduced his character of Axel Foley to the world.
Big (1988)
The whimsical nature and freedom of youth. In case you ever forget, Tom Hanks helps you to remember, dancing on a giant piano in this sweet-natured movie.
Die Hard (1988)
The great thing about the first film in this franchise is that John McClane, as a cop, was an average guy in the wrong place, not an action hero. That, and Alan Rickman.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
The original American PieFast Times introduced us to Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and also Phoebe Cates catching Judge Reinhold masturbating.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Stanley Kubrick set a benchmark when it came to Vietnam war movies with this entry, the story following Private ‘Joker’ as he witnesses a fellow recruit lose his mind.
Good morning, Vietnam (1987)
Blending comedy and poignant drama, Robin Williams made this film what it was, and rightly received critically acclaim for his affecting and committed performance.
Goonies (1985)
Sean Astin as Mikey (same as my name, a connection!), a story by Spielberg and a race to find treasure, this was the ultimate adventure film for kids. Endlessly watchable.
Gremlins (1984)
With a screenplay by Chris Columbus (now a talented director), an executive producer in Spielberg and Joe Dante at the helm, this was a monstrously delightful treat.
Ghostbusters (1984)
This film went on to be, commercially, the most successful comedy of the ’80s. And rightly so, it’s a classic. It also has Bill Murray at his odd and quirky best.
Highlander (1986)
With a Scot playing an Egyptian, a French actor playing a Scot and a soundtrack by Queen, there’s no way this should have worked. But it did. Instant cult classic.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Widely seen as the most violent Indy film in the trilogy and received mixed reviews on release; it’s since been seen in more positive light over the years. Good thing, too.
Labyrinth (1986)
You remind me of the babe.’ David Bowie in leather trousers singing his heart out. Honestly, do you need to know more? Odd, disturbing, yet kind of perfect.
Platoon (1986)
Oliver Stone at the top of his game directed this Vietnam film, winning an Academy Award for Best Picture in the process. A must-see for your Vietnam catalogue.
Raging Bull (1980)
Paul Schrader scripted this Martin Scorsese film with De Niro ‘going method‘ as boxer Jake LaMotta. De Niro won a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Nominated for nine Academy Awards at the time (it won five), Raiders is one of the highest grossing films of all time and just a thrilling adventure from start to finish.
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Undisputed heavyweight champ of the coming-of-age teen movie in the ’80s, without a doubt, was director John Hughes. This remains one of his sweetest stories.
Scarface (1983)
Written by Oliver Stone with Brian de Palma at the helm, this film divided people at the time for its violent excesses, but has since been come to be regarded as a classic.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Surprising to some perhaps, but this second instalment in the Star Wars saga wasn’t well received initially and has built over time. Now one of the best films of all time.
The Three Amigos (1986)
Loosely based, amazingly, on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film, Seven Samurai, this film didn’t make much commercially, or get great reviews. But I don’t care, it’s still great.
The Karate Kid (1984)
Following in the footsteps of Rocky, this film probably seemed light on the surface, but go watch it back again and again to see new things. It’s deeper than you think.
The Money Pit (1986)
In a remake of a 1948 Cary Grant film, Tom Hanks here proved his comedy chops in this silly, yet sweet flick which sees him crack up as his house slowly falls apart.
The Untouchables (1987)
Written by David Mamet with Brian de Palma directing and Ennio Morricone scoring, this film saw Sean Connery bag an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The Princess Bride (1987)
‘You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you.’ Shun this film at your peril, it’s so sweet, ridiculously silly and wonderful. With one of the best sword fights you’ll see in cinema.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Quite simply, John Hughes’ best film. The most well-observed coming-of-age teen movie you’ll ever see, and one of the best of the decade. Don’t you forget about it.
The Terminator (1984)
The film that launched director James Cameron’s career and cemented Schwarzenegger’s as an acting force to be reckoned with. It hasn’t aged either.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Directed by ’80s legend John Landis, this unholy mess of a movie is kind of part of its charm. I mean, imagine a John Belushi under control, why would you want that?

‘American’… what?!

I blame American Sniper. (Damn you Bradley Cooper.) Maybe this film was the final straw. To explain: over the last few years (or even the last few decades) there’s been a regular slew of films that start with the word ‘American’. Is it a sure fire way to gets bums (at least, American ones) on seats? Or does it simply sound cooler to have that word at the start of a film’s title? I mean, c’mon… French Sniper, British Sniper, German Sniper – they just don’t inspire, do they?

Maybe it’s just simpler.

American Sniper. You know what you’re going to get. Job done. Whatever the reason, here are my top 5 (in order) that proudly wear that word loud and proud for all to see.

american-beauty-digital-painting-gabriel-t-toro
Photo courtest of http://gabrielttoroart.com

1. American Beauty (1999)
The debut of Sam Mendes as a director and the introduction (largely) of Kevin Spacey to the moviegoing public. Getting close to two decades old, the film still stands up perfectly today and is immensely watchable. No scene is wasted, every line loaded with meaning. A modern classic which reminds us of all the beauty in the world.

2. American Psycho (2000)
Upon hearing the part of Patrick Bateman had gone to Ewan Mcgregor, Christian Bale allegedly called him and argued (convincingly) that he’d be better for the part. And he really was. Played as a dark comedy, the world was finally introduced to the twisted, mad intensity of the man that would be responsible (along with Nolan) for reinventing Batman.

3. American History X (1998)
Yet another introduction (in a way) to a manly, pumped up and thoroughly volatile Ed Norton. As a modern-day Lieutenant in a right wing neo-Nazi gang, the arc Norton’s character goes through is hugely affecting. A riveting and towering performance that commands your attention in a film which deals with some big and complex issues.

4. American Pie (1999)
I remember explaining this film to my parents. ‘Well, there’s a guy that has sex with an apple pie, it’s full of crude humour yet…. you have to watch it.’ They were skeptical, but watched anyway. My poor description failed to explain that it was a warm, incredibly well-observed, coming-of-age tale about four very likeable lads. Sadly, the magic was never captured again with the franchise that followed.

5. American Hustle (2013)
Bit of a guilty pleasure this one, featuring both Bale and Cooper (again). It will be interesting to see if this movie stands up over time. Ultimately it’s a fairly shallow tale, but a fabulously looking one with an impressive cast. Worth your time for Bale’s combover and beer belly and all the huge hair and power dresses. As well as Bale, both Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were also on fine form.

americanhustle-bathroom

Who loves a good chant?

rufio__oPtWhether it’s for comedy purposes or to build the tension in a thriller or horror, a nice memorable phrase repeated over and over has a certain unrelenting quality to it – something is going to happen and chances are it won’t be good for the person on the receiving end. Here are some of my favourites:

Warriors… come out to play!
Picture the scene in this 1979 cult classic, The Warriors: framed for the murder of Cyrus (the most powerful gang leader in New York) the Warriors battle it across the city to get back to their home turf on Coney island. Only to find their bitter rival, Luther – leader of the Rogues and the man who actually killed Cyrus – blocking their path and demanding a fight. Director Walter Hill masterfully cranks up the tension with Luther creepily tapping bottles together and chanting in a bizarre and deranged manner.


Rufio versus Pan

What’s the best way to make an entrance at the end of the ’80s/early ’90s? On a skateboard of course. Then onto a trapeze and into a backflip. Then draw a sword. Who wouldn’t want to be leader of the Lost Boys? Growing up, Spielberg’s Hook in 1991 was a treat and Rufio was super cool – every young lad wanted to be him. In these scenes Rufio makes his entrance and taunts Pan (Robin Williams), then loses to him in a battle of words; a point where Peter begins to believe and the Lost Boys switch their allegiance.


The greater good

Mmmm, a murderous cult. What we learn in this scene is that killing is ok if it’s for ‘the greater good’ and said in chanted unison. Here Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) faces off against the town’s village council in Hot Fuzz (2007), having worked out that they’d been behind a slew of killings… all in the name of ‘the greater good’. Creepy, yet brilliantly funny.


Frank the tank

‘You know it! When it hits your lips!’ When Old School was released in 2003 it was a bit of a sleeper hit. The modern brat pack of Vince Vaughn and co were just getting going, but one man stood out beyond all others. Will Ferrell aka Frank the tank. Gaining his name downing beer at a frat party. Reminds me of that alcholic’s phrase, ‘one is too many, two is not enough.’


Kali Ma

Growing up most of us remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (great title); specifically the moment Indy witnesses human sacrifice with a guy getting his heart torn out. Quite horrific to watch as a kid, but mesmerising. Here’s an idea… Chant ‘kali ma’ in a creepy way whilst moving your hand towards a friend’s chest and see if they freak out.


Give him fur black as black

Hocus Pocus in 1993 was – and still is I guess – a bit of a guilty pleasure, with Bette Midler on fine form as the head of a coven of witches (one of which included a young Sarah Jessica Parker). In this scene early in the film she turns a young chap into a black cat with a nice little, suitably witch-y chant. ‘Give him fur black as black just, like, this.’


Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice

‘Jump in the line, rock your body on time. Ok, I believe you!’ There’s so many great scenes, songs and dialogue from this film. From the possessed dinner party chanting and singing ‘Day-O’ dance to the aforementioned ‘Shake Senora’ calypso finish, it’s movie gold. Beetlejuice is also let out to play by saying his name three times. Go on, try it.


You shall not pass

Not sure if this counts as chanting, more booming. But it’s Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf against a Balrog, c’mon! I think just before his immortal line there’s a chant. I mean, I wouldn’t mess with someone that says they’re the servant of the secret fire, would you?