MAD: Be Cool
Apr24

MAD: Be Cool

(2005 MGM/Watched on DVD) What were the issues with Get Shorty? 1. It treated its audience with respect and kept its dialogue smart. 2. It was R rated and everybody had a potty mouth. 3. It needed to be filled with references to trendy celebrities rather than classic Hollywood otherwise it would be in danger of not dating. 4. It needed to be crammed full of little meta nods and winks to itself (it especially needed to force in lengthy pauses after each clanger to allow the audience to guffaw). Also it needed celebrities playing themselves, celebrities like Aerosmith, those guys were huge in Wayne’s World 2 in 1993, twelve years ago, and even huger in 1976, twenty-nine years ago! The kids are gonna love this. Why, you couldn’t *move* for Aerosmith promotion in family movies during the 90s, and audiences will surely only welcome more. That was sarcasm, by the way. All of these weaknesses have been sewn onto the dismembered corpse of Get Shorty as it gets puppeteered into a copycat performance in a truly ghastly display. Side bar, I love me some Aerosmith. They were the sound of my 90s and I loved hearing them in Mrs Doubtfire, Ace Ventura, and seeing them directly referenced in Junior (by Danny Devito in fact, whose Martin Weir is the only briefly returning character in this barely-a-sequel) but Nine Lives was the call for their second renaissance to close out, and I Don’t Wanna Miss a thing was their victory lap. This movie was released in 2005, seven years after Bruce Willis prevented asteroid-based extinction. It’s kind of fun watching Steve Tyler talking about not appearing in movies with his band’s bookended headlining cameo in Wayne’s World 2 suddenly so firmly in your mind, it’s more fun watching Chili convince him that Sweet Emotion is about the sudden, inexplicable love he experienced for his baby girls, though of course the line “I can’t say baby where I’ll be in a year” takes on a whole new meaning if you examine this concept for more than three, convenient seconds. Uma Thurman plays a new character who fulfils the role of Gene Hackman, Cedric the Entertainer is in Delroy Lindo’s shoes, Harvey Keitel does NOT resume the role of a fictionalised version of himself glimpsed briefly playing Dennis Farina’s Ray Barboni at the end of Get Shorty, and instead plays a completely different guy who is a criminal *fulfilling* the role of Ray Barboni, in this retread, because otherwise it wouldn’t be confusing enough. The Rock is playing James Gandolfini’s role of sensitive heavy. Bless him, he’s trying, but he’s playing...

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Movie A Day: Now on Facebook
Apr22

Movie A Day: Now on Facebook

From now on I’ll be posting these to our Facebook page instead of the SOM website. It will help you guys to comment and share them around and hopefully get School of Movies more reach and traction that way. You can also pick up the first hundred MADs in Movie A Day Volume 1 on the Kindle store.    ...

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MAD: Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Apr21

MAD: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

(1982 Universal/Watched on DVD) The only instalment of the franchise to attempt to make it into something more than a series of barely connected stalk-and-slash escapades for Michael Myers, Season of the Witch (which takes place over a week and has no witches in it) occupies the far less predictable realm of the creepy hell-worshipping, somewhat-Celtic, robot businessman cult trying to eliminate the children of the world with an annoying marketing campaign, inexpensive Halloween masks, and a ridiculously late TV broadcast. In fact, saying it like that, this is the ONLY province of that particular combination, and goddamn if horror ain’t the perfect infinite series of Petri dishes for a potentially infinite combination of crazy ideas, very few of which ever see celluloid. We kind of got preoccupied with the idea of a slow man with pointy implements, showing teenagers a thing or two. The story runs thus: A doctor witnesses a crazed man ranting about the Halloween masks that all the kids are buying this year, made by Silver Shamrock. Said loon turns out to actually be onto something, and gets stalked by Matrix Agent types, one of whom finds him in hospital and kills him in a really gruesome fashion. Then another guy gets his whole head pulled off by two of them and the doc goes on the road to snoop around on the Shamrock premises. As it turns out their plan is to get all the kids to stay up to midnight and watch their broadcast, whereupon fucking cockroaches and SNAKES come out of the kid’s faces! Not kidding and it’s not done in a fun or funny way (frankly there are precious few ways committing child genocide would be), this is straight up bone-chilling in its purposefully weird, unsettling approach. Men and women get murdered in messy and horrible fashion, and not in that creepy working-out-your-mommy-issues ways. Often cutting away from the close-up whilst maintaining the panic and horror. And these agents are all robots, like prototype versions of Ash in Alien, coldly carrying out their duties without a flicker of humanity. And this all plays into the general coldness of proceedings, complete with its ghastly ending that refuses to put a nice, comforting cap on the story. It could be a parable about justified techno-fear joining forces with olde worlde wych curses, or the beginnings of ideas that would later lead to Carpenter’s They Live. Either way, it’s probably the best Halloween movie aside from the original and H20. The tag line on the box though is nonsensical: “The night nobody came home.” If they’re trick or treating at 9pm when this fatal...

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Hero
Apr21

Hero

In another commissioned show this week we cover the 2002 Chinese blockbuster from the director of The Great Wall. Loosely (and as we find out that means REALLY loosely) based on a real life assassination attempt on the first emperor of China, this is one of Jet Li’s most prestigious appearances. Featuring a trio of assassins played by Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and the amazing Donnie Yen, this blends serious, historical drama with stunningly photographed, excellently choreographed martial arts. It’s immense in scale, breathtaking in beauty and thought-provoking in story. It’s also one of the Zhang Ziyi trilogy of period-set martial arts spectaculars, the other two being House of Flying Daggers by the same director as Hero, Zhang Yimou, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon directed by Ang Li. All three are absolutely worth your viewing time, especially on blu ray. https://schoolofmovies.podbean.com/mf/download/8qiq7h/190_Hero.mp3Podcast: Play in new window |...

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MAD: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Apr20

MAD: Journey to the Center of the Earth

(2008 New Line/Watched on DVD) A boy and his uncle, and their Icelandic guide, inspired by the Jules Verne book, head to the core of the planet, where there are dinosaurs. There are movies shot in Post-Avatar 3D that are apparently quite impressive, there are movies shot regularly and then retrofitted to 3D, all reportedly bad… and then there are movies made which literally poke things into your face to make the 3D experience fun for kids, like a theme park show. And those films, when you watch them in 2D are out-RAGE-ously obnoxious! This movie is not challenging or exciting, but it did remind me that I miss seeing Brendan Fraser around. He’s had a lot of difficulties finding work, settling divorce and dealing with injuries since this film and frankly I’d be interested in seeing him return to the Mummy franchise, even just as an incredibly old Rick O’Connell. It’s shot with relatively early digital cameras and so everything feels more like a TV movie, actively defying the potentially cinematic. The separation between actors and their environment often feels like an impassable chasm. The stunts are all very green-screen and tame, not one of them feels dangerous, the practical work is minimal and shabby, the CG is abominable and never looks like it’s actually THERE, and the script is mediocre. It is not a great adventure, and Jules Verne deserves better, but will probably never get a really faithful adaptation on the big screen again, audiences have long since moved on. In spite of all this, it was still watchable and I quite like a few of the dramatic moments, especially the low point. What this suffers from most is underachieving due to lack of vision, overcompensated for wildly with crappy 3D. This was fifteen years after Jurassic Park and cost only $3 million less, which even adjusted for inflation means zero excuses. Don’t give these budgets to teams who are willing to let this level of filmmaking out the door. Stan Winston was still alive (just), and a bunch of other masters of their craft would have gladly tackled dinosaurs, carnivorous plants and dreadful, spindly killer-fish. Don’t give directing duties to the visual effects supervisor for Wild, Wild West, Eric Brevig, a man whose only other directed film would be Yogi Bear! I’d rather give it to an ACTUAL bear! That said, he did do sterling work on the original Total Recall, and this film more than quadrupled its budget, enough to get a sequel with The Rock, which I’m looking forward to seeing. But they ditched Brendan Fraser in the process, which must have...

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MAD: The Faculty
Apr19

MAD: The Faculty

(1999 Dimension/Watched on DVD) Strange things are happening with the teachers of an Ohio high school. Some of the students begin to cotton on to the horrifying truth. There is so much here that it would be a fine prospect for one of those new TV series that stretches a movie premise from twenty years ago into ten to thirty 45-minute episodes. It also most definitely will at some point be the subject of a full-length podcast from us. There are too many little details and too many great characters to do it justice here. What I will say is that a generation before the Power Rangers movie mined from The Breakfast Club for its character trope dynamics The Faculty had done the same, updating the Jock, the Brain, the Popular Girl, the Lonely Girl and the Criminal for the turn of the century. And this is a mucky, foul-mouthed, unpleasant, raw, dangerous, violent, oppressive vision of high school, a far cry from the Musical rendition that would Jazz-Hands its way onto the Disney Channel in seven short years. This learning institution, set in a town that prizes the football team above every other element of their children’s education sets out to show how twisted the priorities of humans are from Jump Street. I actually won’t spoil exactly what happens in this movie. It’s definitely worth seeing, it’s one of the least discussed Robert Rodriguez movies and it has some splendid creature effects, blending CG and practical in a way we don’t see often today. The core focus is on the pigeonholes each character has been slotted into by their peers, none of them are an entirely comfortable fit, and they isolate themselves further by acting out against expectation. This is all observed by the new girl, Marybeth, who lends a sweetness to the nastier events and hearkens back to an era before the ugliness of reality set into our entertainment and it became a more accurate reflection of the way we treat one another. Josh Hartnett in particular displays a laconic charm as contraband-peddling Zeke, allowing just enough little flashes of regret, pain or vulnerability to show after he smoothly acts like he doesn’t care what anyone says to him. Zeke alone is a sad and reflective fellow. I don’t get why of the two blokes in Pearl Harbor, Ben Affleck got the megastar career and he didn’t. Clea DuVall likewise displays a brooding spikiness, and a brittle, protective social mask. She should have played an X-Man. What holds it back from being better is that it’s a Dimension movie put into production right after Scream and indeed...

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MAD: The Lost World – Jurassic Park
Apr18

MAD: The Lost World – Jurassic Park

(1997 Universal/Watched on Blu Ray) I recently ran a poll on Twitter asking which of the three current Jurassic Park sequels you guys prefer. Jurassic World won, followed by this, and far behind both was III. I think, having rewatched this, and as stupid as so much of it is, that it edges out the Chris Pratt raptor extravaganza. Now bear in mind that the first film is up there, for me, as one of the greatest movies of all time, and all three sequels are at best an enjoyable way to waste two hours NOT watching Jurassic Park (a lot less than two hours in the case of the third film which is missing a whole third act). Fact is, The Lost World is the one that very deliberately tries to hit almost every beat of the original movie in a way that we actually believe feels authentic. Maybe it’s Spielberg, Williams and Crichton back together (who all bowed out after this) maybe it’s Jeff Goldblum managing some genuinely amusing retorts which evoke his sarcasm in the original (and Sam Neil being IN the third is by no means the match for that, as he has absolutely nothing to say or indeed feel). Dickie Attenborough is here for a bit, and his enthusiastic charm obscures his character’s obvious complete loss of marbles. Even Lex and Tim show up, though for less time than the accompanying Burger King commercial that ran before the movie and they had their college education paid for their minor trouble. And I say GOOD, on that front. Those kids were adorably annoying in JP1 and they deserve to have their lives set up neatly for all the vicarious dino-fleeing entertainment they gave us. The Rexes look great, the sound is great (even if the score is all over the place), there is still some splendid merging of practical and CG, not matched in the next two and Isla Sorna feels like a real place. But beyond that this film is totally bone-headed. It’s a horror movie for kids in which idiots blunder into territory they shouldn’t and agitate the hell out of the lethal nature at its core. There is almost no awe or respect paid, even by the “goodies”, for the amazing creatures that inhabit this sacred place. The hired goons of InGen could not give two shakes of a stegosaurus tail for anything they see. It’s almost like they’re actively *trying* to annoy us as an audience. We Hate Movies NAILED Pete Postlethwaite’s ludicrous character of Roland Tembo. He HAS to shoot a T Rex and it HAS to be a male,...

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MAD: Arthur
Apr17

MAD: Arthur

(2011 Warner Bros/Watched on DVD) I have definitely never liked Russell Brand. He’s a great big obnoxious, drunken prat with an undeserved fortune, flapping hands, annoying voice, shouting hilariously random things and shagging everything in a skirt. So it knocked me for six that I *immediately* liked him in this remake, perfectly cast as he is, and I found myself belly laughing through the first two acts and wiping away streams of tears in the third. Surprisingly faithful to the original, it’s exactly the same story with some neat gender flips; Geraldine McEwan playing his disapproving and distant mother (rather than father) and butler, Hobson (originally Sir John Gielgud) switched for Dame Helen Mirren as his scorchingly frosty nanny. What holds both of these films together is Hobson’s unyielding emotional investment in Arthur, in both cases withheld behind a suit of perfectly armoured dignity. She/He loves this wretched, foolish boy despite all of his mountainous shortcomings, and it is clearly a love born of long years of suffering in the position of someone who must undergo most of the annoying, trying, frustrating aspects of parenthood, picking up after this inebriated monster, without getting to enjoy that honour of being a literal parent. To that end what deep affection she/he harbours quietly, is hard earned. But that force drives this pair of movies. Nobody else who is supposed to care about him does; not his real mother/father, not his ghastly fiancée, and his father in law would gladly murder him in hot blood. Naomi, the woman he winds up besotted with, *would* be a manic pixie dream girl, only he’s slightly more manic and dreamy. Greta Gerwig takes over from the incandescent Minnelli here, and she manages to come off as human and natural, funny and charming. It makes her all the more endearing that she doesn’t care at all about money. She’s not his opposite, she’s just a more mature and experienced version of him. She has a very practical side and clearly tells him when he’s over the line, which is the bedrock of any good relationship. It’s quite lovely seeing them together. This is a story about a pathetic little twit who has dwelled for decades in a fluffy fantasy land of self indulgence, finally emerging into a softened version of the real world. It’s so much easier to take all of Arthur’s awful behaviour if you look at him as a child. He lacks that crucial development that would give him self-awareness. This is of course what we see him slowly, painfully learning over the course of the film. The first film made $95 million from...

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MAD: Arthur
Apr16

MAD: Arthur

(1981 Columbia/Watched on DVD) Drunk, rich buffoon grows up a bit. Arthur is a modern day prince, the heir to a great fortune just shy of a billion dollars, who despite his prospects, drinks his life away. He gets elbowed into a marriage proposal with a woman he doesn’t love at around the same time he meets Linda, played by Liza Minnelli, a kook who doesn’t give a flying toss for money, swatting away his offers of riches, even as her poor Dad hammers his head on the wall at these missed opportunities. I’d never seen this and didn’t know what to expect. I’ve always had a fondness for Dudley Moore, but his drunken giggling from second one was immediately irritating. It took me a while to start warming to the character, and as with a lot of Pixar characters that moment coincided with the reveal of his pain. This suddenly takes on a gravity when Sir John Gielgud, his rude, contemptuous butler shocks him with the revelation that *everybody* feels unloved, and that HE, in fact loves, and is very fond of his idiotic charge. For some reason this makes Arthur himself worth our giving a crap about him. Hobson’s intent to set the man up with someone who will take care of Arthur, when his recently discovered illness runs its course reminds me of John Hurt’s character of Broom in Hellboy. An old man who only wants to see his troubled son do alright. Arthur, when Hobson is gone, is a sad Tigger, bereft of bouncing, and the wedding ceremony designated to set his new potential wife up with a controlling share of the company surely has more attempted stabbing than the usual meringue dress affairs. But it ends with its heart in the right place and I was genuinely pleased to have taken this one in at last. The film has dated quite a bit, and contains some moments that are more cringe-worthy now than originally intended, but Moore is funny and grows on you over time. I decided to watch this in close conjunction with the remake, since they’re both new to me, one was clearly going to be more appealing than the...

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MAD: The Fate of the Furious
Apr15

MAD: The Fate of the Furious

(2017 Universal/Watched at the Cinema) NO MAJOR SPOILERS I couldn’t really be disappointed by this one. My hopes already weren’t up. The natural end point (being the final seconds of Furious 7) to the whole series has passed, by which I mean both in terms of real world events and the story which expressed that, and now we are in the realm of just carrying on, business as usual because it’s extremely lucrative. This isn’t me shitting on the film, I found it very enjoyable, and I am never the kind of person to say “Do we really need a [Insert name of sequel here]?”, but it felt like these guys have reached that point where they can rest and cede the floor to new blood for something different (which still has fast cars and girls’ asses). Not a reboot, but an expansion of the universe. However, part of the reason these films are so lucrative (notably, except for Tokyo Drift, the only film that tried to diverge) is the emotional investment people place in the characters, all of whom are pretty close to their actors. Which is why finding out that The Rock and Vin Diesel had a huge fight and then refused to act together is so goddamn crushing, and retrospectively will ruin subsequent viewings because I will always have it in my head that the Hobbs/Dom conflict was being built up and was then abandoned and never resolved. I will notice their awkward arrangement onscreen, always separated by phone calls, action sequences and body doubles. Having a fight is what families do, this particular fight ruined Christmas 2016 and that can’t be changed, no matter how much of a tight-lipped brave face the other actors put on things, even if they eventually do patch things up, which is again, what families are supposed to do. Now since I haven’t spoken with my father since 2009 I can attest that these rifts can last and last and eventually become far more comfortable than the constant clashing, so I sympathise, I really do. But if that’s the case, one of these guys needs to spin off, as Abed Nadir would say. I’ve been starring in my own show for eight years, he’s been headlining his, and I don’t think we need a crossover any time soon. Because if Furious 9 is this same “Letty, will you tell Hobbs to pass the syrup.” bullshit, then we are looking at a family pretending that everything is fine on at least two more holidays, and no matter how great the stunts are, when you’re basing your film around conflict and resolution,...

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