Naming Queen songs in film… don’t stop me now

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Everyone loves a bit of Queen right? In tribute to their musical greatness I thought I’d highlight a few moments they’ve contributed to cinema.

Whether – like the first two in the list below – they were responsible for almost the film’s entire soundtrack, or one of their songs were used in a particular scene, a bit of Queen goes a long way.

Here are mine. Which would you pick as your favourite Queen song from film?

Flash Gordon ‘Birdmen, to me!’
Right Brian May, we need some epic guitar with an ominous keyboard drumming beneath for tension, scored to a scene of a lycra-clad guy with Prince Charming hair flying a spaceship into a laser-guarded fortress with Brian Blessed regularly screaming ‘Die!’. Got it? Good.


Highlander
‘Who wants to live forever’
Freddie Mercury’s vocal was never better than when crooning on this track penned by Brian May. Sad, poignant and beautiful. And almost balanced out Christopher Lambert’s and Sean Connery’s woeful attempts at accents. A standout scene.


Wayne’s World
‘Headbanging in the car’
Looking back, this film (and the sequel) were really just a series of set piece gags upon which to hang the plot. Here, in what could have been a humdrum extended title sequence at the start of the film, Wayne (Mike Myers) puts on a Queen tape to liven up the journey.


Shaun of the Dead
‘Jukebox zombie’
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and the gang crafted comedy gold with this entire film. One scene saw them trapped in the local pub, the Winchester, forced to administer a beating to a zombie barman, perfectly timed to ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. Tongue firmly in cheek? Check.

On my mind… Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy is the Godfather. Of what, I’m not sure. He probably is someone’s godfather thinking about it. Maybe he’s the Godfather of rather dry, distinctly witty and faintly amusing supporting roles in British comedies?

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Salting the Battlefield

As some of you may or may not know, William Francis Nighy is one cool cat. And in the last few years or so he’s got even more Bill Nighy-like. Concentrated Nighy you might say. It’s always a delight when he pops up on screen, seemingly playing the same role no matter the film. Maybe he just plays himself? Maybe that’s his charm?

Whatever… his appeal is there, however elusive. And to pay our respects (I know he’s not dead, but we can still pay our respects) here’s my selection of his best performances.

Cameron Foster – State of Play (2003)
Brilliant writing with a great cast which included John Simm and James McAvoy, this TV miniseries introduced a lot of people to his work and probably launched him onto the A-list.

Billy Mack – Love Actually (2003)
With such a big cast in this film each was left with little screen time, Nighy made his count with some tender scenes as an aging rocker in this Richard Curtis love-in.

Philip – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
It’s often hard to describe his style as an actor. So understated, almost like he’s barely doing anything – as demonstrated opposite Simon Pegg in this modern zom-com classic.

Davy Jones – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
No matter the actor, they all love a chance to play dress up and get big and silly. And if you’re going to be in a Pirates movie, go large. Nighy obliged bringing Davy Jones to life with aplomb.

Quentin – The Boat That Rocked (2009)
The sauve leader of a group of pirate radio DJs at sea, Nighy’s role is not a big one in this film, but he managed to steal all his scenes with a raised eyebrow or a twitch of a smile.

Dad – About Time (2013)
Apparently this film about family, friendship and making the most out of life was a wake-up call for Nighy. Whatever it was, it was another great collaboration with Richard Curtis.

Cliff – Pride (2014)
Playing a Welsh miner protesting the strikes in the ’80s, Nighy gave one of the most restrained performances in years and, in some ways, all the better for it. More of this please.

PRIDE

The pen is mightier than the sword

penbluePicture this: you’re in a fight, possibly to the death, and you’re on the brink of losing. You’re scrabbling around to find purchase on something, anything to give you an advantage. Your fingers grasp a thin object. Dimly, through the red mist, you realise the tides are turning, your luck is in; for you have come into your possession a weapon mightier than most in the world of movies: the humble pen.

Many a movie fight has conveniently been won this way. I suppose this is typical of the cinematic world because we all know, in real life, you can never find a bloody pen when you want one. And the chances of one finding your questing fingers during a fight are next to nil.

But then, maybe that’s why it works. Fate is a cruel mistress and likes to throw us a lifeline when we least expect it. Anyway, moving on. To celebrate the pen (and pencil), let’s look at movie scenes where this unassuming little object has briefly taken the limelight.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Guy flies through the window with a machine gun then comes at you with a knife, what do you do? Calmly grab a pen and dispatch him, that’s what. Jason Bourne, still absent memory, demonstrates how lethal a biro can really be. Pen vs. knife? The knife stood no chance.


Liar Liar
(1997)

‘The colour of the pen that I hold in my hand is…ROYAL BLUE!’ Jim Carrey at his overacting best in the late ’90s, as a lawyer condemned to tell the truth as the result of a birthday wish made by his son. Silly, but entertaining stuff.

The Naked Gun (1988)

The Japanese fighting fish; beautiful, graceful and elegant. Quickly gets skewered with a rare Samurai pen by Lieutenant Frank Drebin, Police Squad! The pen in question being unbreakable, impervious to everything but water. Pure comedy gold.


Shaun of the Dead
(2004)

‘You’ve got red on you.’ Shaun’s pen leaks on his shirt early on in the film: a portent of things to come and an observant nod to the mindless and banal comments people say every day. Here’s a little compilation from the film. Ah, zombie-filled memories.

The Dark Knight (2008)

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t have my boy here pull your head off? ‘How about a magic trick?'” Quite simply one of the best character entrances to a film in recent years. Heath Ledger’s Joker took us all by surprise. He begins with a simple pencil…


Batman
(1989)

Another entry for the Joker, this time Jack Nicholson’s flamboyant portrayal. Here he sports a wonderful feather quill pen, used to chilling effect to spear someone in the throat. Was Heath Ledger’s version in The Dark Knight an update of this scene? Both dark and compelling with a macabre sense of humour.

The Faculty (1998)

Always considered this film, directed by Robert Rodriguez, a bit of a guilty pleasure. With slightly cringing lines like ‘Aliens are taking over the fucking school’ and Famke Janssen asking for something ‘cherry flavoured’. This pen-related scene sees Josh Hartnett’s character stab his teacher in the eye, then watch in horror as he visibly dissolves.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
(1989)

You’re Dr. Jones (Sean Connery) and you’re trapped in the body of a steel beast, otherwise known as a tank. You spot a chance to escape and end up grappling with the nearest Nazi soldier. Victory comes in the form of a squirting ink pen, leading your companion, Marcus Brody, to exclaim ‘The pen is mightier than the sword!

Goldeneye (1995)

Click, click, spin, click, spin, spin…BOOM! The old exploding pen trick. A classic Bond scene, building to an explosive finish. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond held captive, watching a programmer attempt to break a guidance code before Sean Bean’s bad guy rocket plummets back to earth. Little does he know he holds an explosive pen in his hand.

The World’s End and a marmalade sandwich

Just one Cornettoooo, give it to meeee! Is what I imagine fans have been singing outside Edgar Wright’s door for the last six years, demanding the final chapter of the Cornetto trilogy. God, has it been that long?

worlds-end-new-trailerWe had a mere three years between Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), yet it’s been twice that wait for the final instalment. Was it worth it? Largely…yes. I consider that a definitive answer. More than my usual balanced, sitting-on-the-fence reviews anyway. I’ll explain why but first, a quick run down of the plot.

Now, for those not in-the-know, me referring to The World’s End as the final of a trilogy can be somewhat confusing.

What links them?

Maybe unofficial trilogy is more accurate. Essentially, in-jokes, small telling references and the core team of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost. Plus the very British tone and setting of each film. Oh – and actual Cornettos. Other than that, you’ve got a zombie comedy (Shaun essentially coined the term ‘zom-com’), a playful poke at ’80s action buddy cop movies, and now a sort of warped, apocalyptic, alien sci-fi.

It all begins with Garry King (Pegg) at an AA meeting, recounting the best night of his life; a pub crawl round his home town during his teens with childhood pals. 12 pubs, 12 pints.worlds-end-set-photo However, they never finish the crawl. A plan forms. Reunite the old gang and finish what they started. The crawl begins innocently enough, however they quickly realise the sleepy town is not what it once was, having quite possibly been taken over by aliens…or robots. They can’t quite decide as they’re drunk.

The issue I have is I’m guilty of comparing this to their past work. Ultimately you should judge a film on its own merits. It should stand on its own two feet. Unless of course, it is part of a true trilogy. As this isn’t I feel slightly torn comparing it to Shaun and Hot Fuzz. The former a comedy classic, the latter not far behind and improving with every viewing. This outing is a familiar, yet noticeably different beast.

Largely, The World’s End feels more epic in scope, the characters more layered and complex, and Wright’s direction feels more assured and technically accomplished (he’s clearly learnt how to direct good fight scenes from Scott Pilgrim). 48-the-worlds-end-filmAn interesting twist has Frost playing against type as the straight one for much of the film, as lawyer Andrew Knightley. Pegg’s Gary King is the loose, cavalier wildcard – brilliantly described by one reviewer as a cross between Neo and David Brent. As Mark Kermode says, ‘Damn, I wish I’d said that first!’

If you were to judge this as the final part of a trilogy, I’d say you can see clear progression. Shaun felt like a youthful, exuberant romp with zombies as a backdrop. Hot Fuzz offered a little more of the same, yet felt a shade more developed in terms of storytelling, comedy and action set pieces. The natural, easy chemistry between Pegg and Frost has also grown. The World’s End feels like the natural conclusion – easily the most grown up of the three. A comedy, but with more to say and more complex yet subtle ways of saying it.

That’s not to say it’s not free flowing and a barrel of laughs. Pegg and Frost – in some ways – feel like they picked up where they left off in Hot Fuzz and, whilst (sort of) new additions (Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike) all get some juicy lines to sink their teeth into, it is and always will be the Pegg and Frost show – and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Oh, and the title of this piece refers to a redhead flanked by two blondes. If you’ve not seen the film yet, pay close attention to the fate of the marmalade/redhead, administered with gusto by Frost’s character. Gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘Until death do us part.’

On that note…the-worlds-end1

Behold! Cinema’s best movie bromances

Romances are ok, but in all honesty they’re for girls aren’t they? Far better to go for a good bromance, there’s nothing fluffy or lightweight there. Male bonding, get in!

Often a good bromance is deeply rooted in a dramatic situation or blossoms in the face of adversity – it’s a complex relationship with meat on the bones. With that in mind, I’d like to celebrate a few of the best out there. Remember, it’s like they say in Top Gun, ‘…after the taste of success, one of life’s little joys…is the boys!’

Riggs-And-MurtaughLethal Weapon films (1987-1998) – Riggs and Murtaugh
Did they coin the term ‘buddy cop movie’? Unlikely. But they did make a strong claim for the best set of films to wear that tag with pride. The bond between Mel Gibson’s Riggs and Danny Glover’s Murtaugh was a joy to watch throughout.

Bad Boys (1995) – Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey
Will Smith at the height of his powers riffing off Martin Lawrence. Even Michael Bay couldn’t spoil the love shining through, loosely hidden beneath bitching and practical jokes. ‘Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do!

Swingers-Jon-Favreau-Vince-VaughnSwingers (1996) – Mike and Trent
You’re money and you don’t even know it.‘ Trent (Vince Vaughn) spends the majority of the film boosting Mike’s (Jon Favreau) self-confidence following a breakup, proving that – ultimately – it’s your mates that help you through.

Jerry Maguire (1996) – Rod Tidwell and Jerry Maguire
There’s countless scenes to pick – the whole movie is pure bromance. Ok, there’s a bit of romance in there, I’ll give you that. But for every romance scene with Zellweger’s Dorothy, Cuba Gooding’s Tidwell gets a bromance scene to match.

shaun of the dead ed shaunShaun of the Dead (2004) – Shaun and Ed
Hot Fuzz (2007) – Nicholas and Danny
To be honest you could take any of the films that feature Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, such is the real life friendship these two have it shines through, lending itself perfectly to characters they play. You could watch them hang out all day.

Starsky & Hutch (2004) – David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson
Ben Stiller’s buttoned-down Starsky and Owen Wilson’s cavalier Hutch – a perfect mismatch with bromance in abundance. Wished they’d done a follow up in some ways. Here’s the knife-throwing scene to bring back happy memories.

superbadbromanceSuperbad (2007) – Seth and Evan
Two rising stars at the time – Jonah Hill and Michael Cera – gave their characters such sweetness and depth. You really felt for them, particularly at a tender moment near the end where they’re parting company and moving on with their lives.

Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson
Guy Ritchie struck gold bagging Downey Jr for the lead with the dependable Jude Law as the trusty Watson. An enticing cocktail of razor-sharp wit and action followed and a new buddy action franchise was born.

2009_the_damned_united_018The Damned United (2009) – Brian Clough and Peter Taylor
Acting giants Michael Sheen and Tim Spall play Clough and Taylor and both put in brilliant performances, as you’d expect. You think maybe they’re not that close, till they fall out and reunite in a touching scene.

End of Watch (2012) – Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala
Made all the more poignant and heartfelt by the way Gyllenhaal and Pena built the bond between their characters with every scene. Just two LA beat cops who are brothers in all but blood. You’re right there with them to the bitter end.