F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 1986. A slightly baffling 7.9 stars on IMDb.

Another of John Hughes’ movies, coming after The Breakfast Club and cementing his place in my favourite directors list.

Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero.
~ Cameron

I love this film so much. I’m pretty sure my VHS copy was worn thin with constant replays. I could (and do) watch it again at the drop of a hat and still absolutely adore it, and can probably quote 90% of it verbatim.

As with all of John Hughes’s films, the characters are wonderful. Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) as Ferris’s buddy the world-weary teenager. Matthew Broderick as Ferris the smart-arse, wise-cracking kid who everyone should hate for being such a cocky little so-and-so, but who everyone loves. And of course the lovely Mia Sara as Sloane (who I must confess to a MAJOR crush on. Who didn’t?)

But all the others are brilliant too, from the utterly slimy, creepy Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones on top form) and Ferris’s sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey before she hit the big time with Dirty Dancing a year later), and even Charlie Sheen in a lovely little cameo.

It’s Matthew Broderick who steals the show as Ferris, of course. Frequently turning to camera to break the fourth wall, he takes us through his day off, from perusading his parents that he’s really sick:

The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom; I’m a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, uh… you get a nervous mother, you could wind up in a doctor’s office. That’s worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.

to persuading Cameron to let them borrow his father’s beloved 1961 Ferrari 250GT California. Less than a hundred were ever made, you know?
(The interior shots of the Ferrari were all done in a real 250 GT California, but all the others were replicas.)

Cameron: My father spent three years restoring this car. It is his love, it is his passion.
Ferris: It is his fault he didn’t lock the garage.

Hijinks, naturally, ensue as Ferris, Cameron and Sloane take to the streets of Chicago in Hughes’ homage to his favourite city, Chicago. The trio take in a ball game at Wrigley Field, have a fancy lunch, visit the Sears Tower, the Art Institute (a lovely scene where the three of them are engrossed in Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) and finish up with Ferris taking centre stage in a performance of Twist & Shout as part of a parade. Ferris and the gang return home, Bad Things happen to that beautiful car, Cameron stands up to his dad and we have a happy ending. All that is, apart from Ed. Poor Ed.

It’s utterly bonkers, but utterly wonderful. To paraphrase Ferris, I highly recommend picking it up.

Right, time for some trivia. Tom Skerrit (Dallas in Alien) and Paul Gleason (Mr Vernon from The Breakfast Club) were considered for the role of Ed Rooney – see? I told you I like to link these things up!

I’ll leave you with one final thought – something I came across recently deep in the murky depths of the interwebs. Could Ferris Bueller be a figment of Cameron’s imagination? This would turn Ferris Bueller into a Brat-pack version of Fight Club…

One day while he’s lying sick in bed, Cameron lets “Ferris” steal his father’s car and take the day off, and as Cameron wanders around the city, all of his interactions with Ferris and Sloane, and all the impossible hijinks, are all just played out in his head. This is part of the reason why the “three” characters can see so much of Chicago in less than one day — Cameron is alone, just imagining it all.

It isn’t until he destroys the front of the car in a fugue state does he finally get a grip and decide to confront his father, after which he imagines a final, impossible escape for Ferris and a storybook happy ending for Sloane (“He’s gonna marry me!”), the girl that Cameron knows he can never have.

Mind. Blown. I need to go rewatch the movie. And so do you. After all:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

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

E is for Empire Strikes Back

Of course it’s also just an excuse for me to ramble on (probably at some length) about Star Wars in general.

If you need a recap, here’s the original Star Wars trilogy in two minutes. And in Lego. Awesome.

We pause briefly to bring you the stats. Mmm, crunchy stats.

1980. To give it its full title, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back arrives. I’d seen Episode IV at the cinema three years ealier – school was closed due to heavy snow and my dad took me to the cinema to see a film which would shape my future film-watching forever. I’d never seen anything quite like it (to be fair, I was six). My life was taken over by the action figures, reading and re-reading the novelisation (this was before the days of VHS, remember), and pretending to be Luke Skywalker whenever possible. Three years later, Empire arrived and I was there.

Clocking it at 8.8 stars on IMDb, it won the Oscar for best sound, and a special achievement award for best visual effects. Number 12 in the IMDb Top 250,  six places ahead of Episode IV, and a full 66 places ahead of Return of the Jedi.  The three prequels (quite rightly) don’t even feature on that list.

It’s widely regarded as the best of the Star Wars movies and definitely the darkest.

We pick up events three years after the first Death Star has been destroyed by Luke and his chums. The Empire is on the move and tracks the rebels down to the frozen world of Hoth. Luke wanders off to go become a Jedi in a swamp whilst the rest of the gang escape in the Millennium Falcon. Fun & hijinks ensue on an asteroid.

Sir, it’s quite possible this asteroid is not entirely stable.
~ C3PO

Han, Chewie, Leia and the ‘droids rock up at Cloud City, meet up with Han’s old buddy Lando Calrissian before things take a turn for the worse. Vader! Fett! Carbonite! Han and Leia share a moment

Leia: I love you.
Han: I know.

Smooth-talker, that Solo. Luke turns up just too late, ends up having an epic lightsaber duel with Darth, then…[spoilers]

I’ll talk about [spoilers] in a minute. If you’ve not seen the film by now (seriously, it’s been 34 years, what *have* you been doing with your time?) go watch it.

Actually, now is a perfect time to discuss running order. Before Episode I turned up in 1999, there was one way to watch Star Wars (albeit in various different incarnations – original, special editions etc). A New Hope > Empire > Jedi. Done, done and done.

Then Lucas decided he wasn’t finished and released Episodes I, II and III. We were left with a quandary. What’s the best order of watching the films?

Purists like myself argued that you watched A New Hope, Empire and then Jedi and tried very hard to ignore the prequels. If pressed, we’d grudgingly admit that if you *had* to, you’d go for release order, that is:

  • A New Hope
  • Empire
  • Jedi
  • Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Revenge of the Sith

Some would argue (they’d be wrong) that the best order was chronological order. Episodes 1 through 6, in that order.

The trouble with that is that it becomes an entirely different story.

Release order is Luke’s story, with the Anakin backstory. Chronological order is Anakin’s story all the way. It would rob you entirely of that moment in Empire where Darth Vader leans towards Luke and says:

Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Vader: No. *I* am your father.

WHAT? IS THIS TRUE? COULD IT BE? The audience were totally wrong-footed by this. Is it true? O.M.G. The cinema went bananas at that point.

If you go chronological, you’d be like ‘err, yeah. We totally knew that. Why is everyone looking so surprised?’

So, release order it is.

Or is it?

Let me introduce you to something I heard a while back called the Machete Order – the perfect way to enjoy the movies. Check out the link – it’s long but worth it. Before we get to that, there’s something called the Ernst Rister order.

In a nutshell, you put the prequels in to the middle:

  • A New Hope
  • Empire
  • Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • Jedi

This means the story is still Luke’s. We get the bit at the end of Empire where everything is totally bleak – Han’s frozen & dragged off to Jabba, Luke’s just found out that Vader is dear ol’ dad and we, the audience, are still looking at each other going OMG! WHAT? DID THAT JUST HAPPEN??

Then we cut back to Anakin’s backstory, where we find out how he ended up turning to the dark side, and we end up with the climactic Return of the Jedi. Happy ending, it’s all good.

But it’s not perfect. The Machete Order, however, is. Here we go:

  • A New Hope
  • Empire
  • Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • Jedi

See what he did there? No Phantom Menace. There are several good reasons. Over to Rod Hilton, originator of the Machete Order:

Every character established in Episode I is either killed or removed before it ends (Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, Chancellor Valorum), unimportant (Nute Gunray, Watto), or established better in a later episode (Mace Windu, Darth Sidious). Does it ever matter that Palpatine had an apprentice before Count Dooku? Nope, Darth Maul is killed by the end of Episode I and never referenced again. You may as well just start with the assumption that Dooku was the only apprentice. Does it ever matter that Obi-Wan was being trained by Qui-Gon? Nope, Obi-Wan is well into training Anakin at the start of Episode II, Qui-Gon is completely irrelevant.

Bonuses for this – virtually no Jar-Jar (huzzah!), no Jake Lloyd (sorry kid, you were terrible), you don’t get the slightly uncomfortable bit where Padme gets off with someone she met when he was ten – you just assume they knew each other as kids, none of that taxation of trade routes malarkey. Everything you need to know is set up better in Episode II. No more midichlorian nonsense. Obi Wan is always the master. Hayden Christiansen is always annoying, just like Luke was in the first movie.

You end up with two films setting up Luke, two setting up Anakin, then a nice rounded ending with Return of the Jedi.

Genius. Give it a try.

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

D is for Die Hard

Of course it is. Die Hard is, as everyone knows, the perfect Christmas movie. I don’t really want to go into the sequels (for once) – they’re fine and have their moments, but the first is quite definitely the best.

Comes in at #114 on the IMDb Top 250, and scores a very healthy 8.3 stars. Every one of them deserved. Die Hard is, from the opening scene to the very last, a joy to watch. Did you know it was nominated for four Oscars?

“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”
~ McClane

You know the story. World-weary New York cop John McClane turns up at his wife’s office christmas party when Alan Rickman turns up with a ropey German accent, some wonderfully mulleted friends and a whole host of explosives and weaponry. Hijinks ensue.

This is arguably the film that made Bruce Willis into the movie star we all know and love. Fresh from his role as the wisecracking David Addison in Moonlighting, Willis got $5 million for Die Hard, a huge sum of money for someone so new to the movie business.

Apparently Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Don Johnson, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Burt Reynolds and Stallone *all* turned it down. Fools. Though can you imagine Die Hard with Arnie? Clash of the accents… Interestingly it was also Alan Rickman’s first starring role, and look where *he* ended up! And, of course, it featured Paul Gleason who played Mister Vernon in The Breakfast Club.

I don’t just do these things randomly, you know? 🙂

It’s fair to say that Bruce earned his fee. Die Hard was hugely successful, spawning a number (some would argue too high a number) of sequels, becoming a money-making machine.

It’s a cracking film which, once it gets going, doesn’t let up. Bruce (and his vest) get shot at, blown up, chased, shot at some more, jump off an exploding building and even come up with his immortal catchphrase

“Yippee-ki-yay, motherf…”

I love it.

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire

C is for Catching Fire

Yes, I know it’s technically  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Shoot me.

As with yesterday’s Breakfast Club, Catching Fire gets a very respectable 7.9 stars on IMDb. Nominated for a Golden Globe (albeit only for Best Original Song).  At nearly two and half hours, it’s overlong (according to my perfect movie theory), but to be fair, the story trundles along nicely.

After the events of The Hunger Games, we catch up with Katniss and Peeta as they undertake the Victor’s Tour of the districts. Their… somewhat unusual win in the 74th Hunger Games has led to unrest and President Snow is keen to quash the imminent rebellion.

Cue the 75th Hunger Games and a twist on proceedings known as the Quarter Quell, in which Snow decides to hold a Hunger Games where previous winners will compete again… Ooh, you dastardly dastard, you.

I must confess that I’d not read the second book in the trilogy before seeing this movie. I read the first book some years ago and utterly lost myself in the story, devouring it almost in a single sitting. Not sure why I didn’t read the others (something shiny came up, no doubt), but I was keen to see what happened in the movie.

It’s more of the same, really. It takes an inordinately long time for President Snow (Donald Sutherland on splendid form) to decide that dear old Katniss needs to be brought to heel, so engages the talents of Plutarch Heavensbee (the late and much missed Philip Seymour Hoffman – more of him in later posts, no doubt) to concoct a devious scheme to see her off.

The leads crack on with the job in hand. J-Law is on fine form and is always eminently watchable, as are Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. Stanley Tucci positively glows as Caesar Flickerman – please please can we have a spin-off TV series of what he does between the annual Hunger Games? I would *love* to see that. Perhaps he and Effie (Elizabeth Banks almost as unrecognisable under almost as much makeup as Tucci) could co-host something?

Along with Tucci and Banks, I *loved* Amanda Plummer’s and Jeffrey Wright’s characters. At first glance, against the bigger and stronger teams, you think they’ll be the first to go. But they’ve got cunning and smarts on their side…

The story itself is fine, but for me the first is better. That said, there are weird things in both which have always bothered me about the actual Hunger Games themselves – why do the kids gang up together? There’s only ever going to be one winner, so surely it’s everyone for themselves. It kind of makes more sense in this one once we work out what the big plan is, I suppose. But in the first film there are bits where you’re just left wondering why on earth you’d go to sleep next to four or five other people who ultimately want to see you dead.

Towards the end I found myself paying more attention to Katniss’s quiver of arrows than the action. It seemed to magically refill itself on several occasions. Look! Attacked by monkeys! Arrows gone. Back on the beach five minutes later? All back. Fire some more, down to three. Five minutes later? All back. And the lightning striking the tree – big boom as the lightning strikes. But the tree is *way* over there. Sound travels slower so it should be lightning *then* the noise, surely?

I’m being overly picky, I know. The ending caught me entirely off-guard, having not read the books, and it’s always fun when that happens. I’m looking forward to Mockingjay, though heaved a sigh when I found out they’re splitting it into two movies.

Perhaps I should go read the books.

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club

A is for Alien

I realised immediately after posting the last post about the A to Z challenge that it’d be fun to do it on more of a theme. Movies sprung immediately to mind, and I set to with a notepad and pen making a list of all the movies I could talk about.

I’ve changed my mind about half of them already! Some are favourites, some are old, some new. A good mix, I think.

So. A is for Alien.

Though of course, it’s also for Aliens, Alien³ and Alien: Resurrection. More of which in due course, of course! Spoilers throughout, so if you’ve not seen the movies, look away…

First, some stats. Mmm, crunchy stats.

Alien (1979)
Comes in at #50 in the IMDb top 250 films, has a very creditable score of 8.3 stars and won the Oscar for best visual effects.

Aliens (1986)
#64 in the IMDb Top 250, 8.5 stars and won two Oscars (visual effects, again, and sound effects editing)

Alien³ (1992)
Not in the IMDb Top 250, only 6.4 stars, and only nominated for best visual effects Oscar (the award went to Death Becomes Her)

Alien: Resurrection (1997)
6.3 stars, no Oscar nominations. Enough said.

We start in 1979 with the release of the original, and some would say best, Alien.

The cast is pretty stellar, with Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto and Veronica Cartwright. It’s a great ensemble piece.

It’s essentially a haunted house, in space. The crew aboard the deep space towing vessel Nostromo is on its way home when they pick an SOS warning from a distant planet. They investigate, Bad Things happen and John Hurt ends up with some extremely unpleasant indigestion. It’s a wonderful film, dark, claustrophobic and very very scary. The acting is brilliant, and is one of my favourite films. Ever.

Interesting trivia: Apparently the blue lasers used in the scene with the alien eggs were borrowed from The Who, who were testing them out on the soundstage next door.

Next up is Aliens. Seven years later, and this time James Cameron takes over directing duties. It’s an entirely different style of film from the first. Whereas Alien was dark and claustrophobic and spooky, Aliens is a balls-to-the-wall out-and-out action flick. More cast, more plot, more aliens. Oh, so many more aliens…

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

The action has progressed – Ripley, sole survivor of the Nostromo, is picked up 57 years later in her escape pod. She discovers that humans have started to colonise LV-426, the planet on which her crew picked up the original Alien. But strangely, contact has been lost. Send in the Marines!

More Bad Things happen, obviously. Some serious weaponry is deployed, including the wonderful dropships, Vasquez and Drake’s smart guns, and, of course, the M41A pulse rifle. Ten millimetre with over-and-under thirty millimetre pump action grenade launcher.

It’s a fantastic action movie, and some would say that it’s one of the very few examples where the sequel is better than the original. It’s not, in my opinion – it’s a substantially different type of film, less of the shock value horror and more guns and explosions. The cast is wonderful, with major kudos going to Carrie Henn as Newt up against strong opposition from the increasingly fearsome Sigourney along with the duo of Michael Biehn’s world weary Hicks and Bill Paxton’s immortal Hudson. The word ‘fuck’ is used 25 times in the course of the movie, 18 of them uttered by Hudson!

Alien³ followed in 1992. It comes in for an awful lot of stick, but I’m really quite fond of it. It suffered enormously from the fact that it followed up two utterly brilliant (though completely different in tone) films. Alien³ changes up the tone again – this time Ripley ends up on a prison planet and bumps into the wonderful (and much missed) Brian Glover and the equally brilliant Charles Dance. Haircuts ensue, the alien rocks up and yet more Bad Things happen. David Fincher takes the helm and makes a pretty decent fist of it – he went on to direct Fight Club, Se7en and The Social Network. He disowned this film though, citing studio interference.

A much-maligned film – had it been a direct follow-up to Alien, it might have fared better. Not without it’s problems, but worth a watch.

Lastly (if we ignore the horrendous Aliens vs Predator series) we have Alien: Resurrection.

200 years later and Ripley’s back. And this time, she’s part Alien. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (of Amelie fame) takes over directing duties for this one. I’m a huge fan of his work, and will be talking about one of his other films, Micmacs, later in the A-Z (somewhere around the ‘M’ mark, I’d say). It also features some of my favourite actors – Dominique Pinon is always watchable, as is Ron Perlman, but I have to say that this film… struggles. Especially towards the end. It has moments which are really good, and others which are a bit ‘what on earth were you thinking/smoking?’.

Jeunet was given free reign to change the script (originallly written by none other than Joss Whedon) as he saw fit, and you get the distinct feeling that this film loses its way as a result. I’d love to have seen what Joss could have made of it…

So, that’s Alien.

B is for… Bond? The Breakfast Club? Bourne? You’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out!

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