Movies – an A-Z roundup

So, April is done. My movie A-Z is over. I had a lot of fun writing it (and watching the movies).

Our alphabetical journey through film took us from Alien (and its sequels) through to Zardoz (and *that* photo). Along the way we stopped off in the eighties for Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club. We dallied in old-school animation with Miyazaki and Howl’s Moving Castle before going more high-tech with Pixar’s Up and WALL-E and Jack Black’s turn as Po, the Kung Fu Panda. We caught fire with Katniss Everdeen in the second Hunger Games movie and talked Bond old and new – Connery’s Goldfinger (to counter his Zardoz), Brosnan’s GoldenEye and Daniel Craig’s Quantum of Solace – not as bad as people make out, especially if you consider it the second half of Casino Royale.

Brosnan also gave us The Thomas Crown Affair, whilst Casino Royale’s Mads Mikkelsen turned up again as the mute Viking warrior One-Eye in the acid trip that is Valhalla Rising.

We journeyed into space, firstly for the big budget blockbuster The Empire Strikes Back (a thinly-veiled cover for me to wax lyrical about Star Wars) to the smaller films: Pitch Black and Moon. We got to Moon from Labyrinth, featuring Moon’s director’s dad in some splendidly scene-stealing trousers.

Speaking of scene-stealing trousers, Burt Reynolds’ jeans in Smokey and the Bandit could give Jareth’s a run for their money any day of the week. Throw in Bob Peck’s thighs in Jurassic Park and you’ve got quite the party. Something you’d only see in a cheese-induced dream, which leads us nicely onto Inception.

Back to reality with a bump (and a claw hammer) for Oldboy and The Raid, two superb examples of their genre. The action turned more Hollywood for National Treasure (featuring GoldenEye’s Sean Bean) and Die Hard (which had the Breakfast Club’s Mister Vernon). See? I did try and link this lot together!

Some letters were harder than others. X was only ever going to be The X-Files or X-Men. This time it was the former. Next time, the latter?

We finished with some laughs, courtesy of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. And, of course, Mister Connery. That photo always raises a smile. Oh, go on then. Here it is again.

Zardoz

That was my A-Z. I know I missed out a ton of really great films, and had some brilliant suggestions along the way via Twitter and in the comments. I may turn this into a regular thing. What do you think?

Z is for Zardoz

From the very first moment I decided to make the A-Z challenge movie-related, I knew what my Z film would be.

Z is for Zardoz. 1974, and a mere 5.8 stars on IMDb.  John Boorman’s next movie from the utterly brilliant Deliverance.

I have no intention of reviewing this film. Never had. Instead, I shall present you with a photo.

 

One which, once seen, cannot be unseen.

 

You have been warned.

 

Still reading?

I present Sean Connery as Zed. Burt Reynolds was first in line for the role, but he was ill. Apparently. Either that, or he didn’t fancy the nappy and the ponytail…

Zardoz

 

My work here is done. Any day in which you can show *that* photo to someone who hasn’t seen it is a good day in my book. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed my movie A-Z. It’s been a lot of fun – I think I’ll throw more movie posts into the mix more often!

What’s been your favourite of my A-Z movies? What classics do you think I should have covered? I’m going to start a new series called ‘Films People Said I Really Ought To Watch’, so I’m taking suggestions…

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy
P is for Pitch Black
Q is for Quantum of Solace
R is for The Raid
S is for Smokey and the Bandit
T is for The Thomas Crown Affair
U is for Up
V is for Valhalla Rising
W is for WALL-E
X is for The X-Files
Y is for Young Frankenstein

Y is for Young Frankenstein

Mel Brooks on fine form.

Young Frankenstein scores a very healthy 8.1 stars on IMDb. 1974, and it was nominated for two Oscars – Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound – it lost out to The Godfather Part II for the former, and Earthquake for the latter (though The Conversation was also nominated in the Best Sound category – how that didn’t win I have no idea. It’s a superb film. Gene Hackman also puts in a cameo here as the blind man.)

Anyway. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) (“No, it’s pronounced “Fronkensteen“) inherits his great-grandfather’s castle in Transylvania. His grandfather being the famous Dr. Victor von Frankenstein, of course. Frederick decides to resume his grandfather’s experiments in re-animating the dead, with the help of Igor (Marty Feldman).

Hijinks and hilarity ensue. It’s a sheer delight, 106 minutes of Brooks at his best. Though that’s a close call with Blazing Saddles (which only scores 7.8 stars on IMDb, but did get nominated for three Oscars…)

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy
P is for Pitch Black
Q is for Quantum of Solace
R is for The Raid
S is for Smokey and the Bandit
T is for The Thomas Crown Affair
U is for Up
V is for Valhalla Rising
W is for WALL-E
X is for The X-Files

X is for The X-Files

The movie, that is.

1998 and a paltry 6.9 stars on IMDb.

Mulder: How many times have we been here before, Scully? Right here. So close to the truth and now with what we’ve seen and what we know to be right back at the beginning with nothing.

Set between the end of season 5 and the start of season 6 of the X-Files tv show, the movie was quite an event for a long-time fan such as myself. I’d followed the adventures of Mulder & Scully for years, eagerly discussing the previous night’s episode with friends at work.

The movie was good fun, though felt rather too much like an extended episode of the show. Mulder and Scully traded dialogue playfully. There was the usual gubbins about extraterrestrial plots and shadowy government conspiracies. Our heroes have been bumped from the X-Files and are investigating a bomb threat against a government building in Dallas. Mulder discovers the bomb in an adjoining building.

Mulder: Thirteen fifty-four. Thirteen fifty-two. Thirteen fifty. You see a pattern emerging here, Scully?

Hijinks ensue. There are swarms of bees, black helicopters, The Lone Gunmen (yay!) and, of course, our old chum, the Cigarette-Smoking Man. The X-Team turn up in Antarctica for reasons I’m not entirely clear on (it’s been a while since I watched it!) and in the end, there’s a hearing where they’re ignored (as per usual) and stuff gets covered up.

All in all, a big long episode. Which is what we wanted anyway. Wasn’t it?

X-Files reopened. Stop. Please advise. Stop

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy
P is for Pitch Black
Q is for Quantum of Solace
R is for The Raid
S is for Smokey and the Bandit
T is for The Thomas Crown Affair
U is for Up
V is for Valhalla Rising
W is for WALL-E

W is for WALL-E

Ah, WALL-E. One of Pixar’s finest. And that’s a pretty high bar, right there. 2008, 8.5 stars on IMDb, rocking in at #60 on the Top 250.

It won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but was also nominated for another five – the first time Pixar had been nominated for so many.

I’m pretty sure most people will have seen it and know the story. Humankind have abandoned Earth leaving a clean-up crew of robots to sort out their mess. Only WALL-E remains, dutifully stacking rubbish until one day another ship arrives and changes his life forever…

It’s a lovely film, full of wonderful moments. The interaction between WALL-E and EVE (co-designed by Apple’s Jonny Ive) is touching and conveyed beautifully without words.

Short review today. Just go watch it again. 🙂

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy
P is for Pitch Black
Q is for Quantum of Solace
R is for The Raid
S is for Smokey and the Bandit
T is for The Thomas Crown Affair
U is for Up
V is for Valhalla Rising

V is for Valhalla Rising

Valhalla Rising. 2009, 5.9 stars, 93 minutes.

1000 AD, for years, One Eye, a mute warrior of supernatural strength, has been held prisoner by the Norse chieftain Barde. Aided by Are, a boy slave, One Eye slays his captor and together he and Are escape, beginning a journey into the heart of darkness. On their flight, One Eye and Are board a Viking vessel, but the ship is soon engulfed by an endless fog that clears only as the crew sights an unknown land. As the new world reveals its secrets and the Vikings confront their terrible and bloody fate, One Eye discovers his true self.

I watched this one a little while back. It’s utterly bonkers and consists of an hour and a half of Mads Mikkelsen alternately staring gloomily off into the distance or unleashing terrrible amounts violence on others. He doesn’t utter a word throughout – there are only about 120 lines of dialogue in the whole film as it is. But he’s completely mesmerising to watch.

Nicolas Winding Refn (who also directed Drive) apparently conceived the film as some sort of acid trip – and it makes slightly more sense if you go into it knowing that. If you’re in the mood for a bunch of vikings doing unpleasant things to each other whilst Mads looks impassively over some impressive scenery (or sits in a boat in the fog), then this is the film for you…
previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy
P is for Pitch Black
Q is for Quantum of Solace
R is for The Raid
S is for Smokey and the Bandit
T is for The Thomas Crown Affair
U is for Up

U is for Up

Up.

2009, 8.3 stars and 96 minutes of glorious Pixar goodness.

Ellie: Charles Muntz, explorer. When I get big, I’m going where he’s going,

South America. It’s like America, but *south*.

It comes in at #113 on the IMDb Top 250, and won two Oscars – Best Original Score and Best Animated Feature. It was nominated for five though, including Best Picture (Pixar’s first nomination in that category) and only the second animated movie to be nominated for the big award (the first being Beauty and the Beast in 1991).

All in all, a great movie. The voice cast is superb (as expected from Pixar), the animation is flawless and the characterisation is second to none.

But for me, what absolutely sets this movie apart from the rest of Pixar’s output (and I say this as a *huge* Pixar fan) is the opening of the film. That first ten, eleven minutes when young Carl meets Ellie and we’re taken on a silent trip through their life is one of the finest love stories in film.

Bar none.

The rest of the movie is great, don’t get me wrong. Russell the Wilderness Explorer is brilliantly played. Old Carl is a grumpy old curmudgeon with a heart of gold. Muntz is suitably creepy and Dug the Dog (“Squirrel!”) cracks me up.

But it never again *quite* hits the glory of the first ten minutes…

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy
P is for Pitch Black
Q is for Quantum of Solace
R is for The Raid
S is for Smokey and the Bandit
T is for The Thomas Crown Affair