The best Christmas movie there has ever been (yes, I’ll fight you on it), and the quintessential action movie that every other is still trying to follow, was first screened in the UK thirty years ago today.
Hell, it is quite possibly the greatest movie of all time. In any genre. Full stop. I am of course, talking about Die Hard.
Three decades on, and its simple but effective premise has yet to be bettered. The sequels, er… try hard to recapture that initial glory, and the franchise occasionally even comes close to hitting that big screen G-spot with some of the set pieces that follow, but the original eighties classic stands alone – as tall and proud as the iconic Nakatomi Plaza itself.
Bruce Lee was a cinematic superhero – truly larger than life, which is ironic as he stood 5 foot 8 inches and weighed a mere 140 pounds. He only starred in four movies* before his premature death at the age of thirty-two, but he left behind a legacy that is as great today as it ever was. He is often referred to as the father of mixed martial arts, because what he was doing then – when nobody else was – is big business now.
Yeah, it’s true: I’ve got a bit of a man-crush.
My dad performed taekwondo to a very high standard for several years, and his fingerprints are all over the genesis of my enjoyment of Bruce Lee… although I never saw my dad bust out the nunchuks the way Lee does in Enter the Dragon.
The biggest problem with this movie (in fact, all of Lee’s movies) is that he never seems in any real danger of getting his ass kicked. Even if you suspend your disbelief, it’s hard to forget that he is far and away the best fighter on screen, and you know that the bad guy is going to need more than #spoiler#a removable claw-hand to take him down.
Lee died six days before the movie was released to the world, so he never saw it become the seminal piece that it is considered today. Enter the Dragon certainly benefits from its Hollywood production, and although in many ways his earlier Hong Kong movies are more brutal and graphic, as a total package it’s hard to deny Lee’s masterwork its place in history.
*Yes, for you aficionados out there, I said four movies. The abomination that is Game of Death doesn’t count… and you guys will know why.
About twenty years ago there was a seemingly endless festival of Clint Eastwood movies on TV – this was, of course, back when people still watched TV. It was during this time that I was introduced to a lot of his performances – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Bad joke, I know.
As director as well as lead actor, Bronco Billy is one of the handful of movies where Clint managed to shoehorn his long-time love interest Sondra Locke into the mix. She always felt surplus to requirements for me, and no matter what else she has done in her career, her legacy will always and only be as Clint Eastwood’s girl.
Bronco Billy is far from Clint’s most well known film, and I can name a dozen off the top of my head that are better, but it is somewhat of a forgotten minor gem in his vast catalogue. It’s a light comedy in which Clint riffs on his long-standing cowboy persona in an old-fashioned travelling circus, as the self-proclaimed ‘fastest gun in the West’.
Antoinette: Have you ever been married? Bronco Billy: Sure. A long time ago. Antoinette: Did you love her? Bronco Billy: With all my heart. Sometimes that just isn’t enough. Antoinette: What happened? Bronco Billy: I caught her in bed with my best friend. Antoinette: What did you do to him? Bronco Billy: I shot her. Antoinette: What! What about him? Bronco Billy: He was my best friend!
So, why do I remember fondly watching Bronco Billy from a run on television two decades ago? It’s a metaphor for where I was in my life: a simple movie that reminds me of a simpler time. And sometimes, the memory and the smile is enough.
I would never claim that Step Brothers is highbrow entertainment, because it’s most definitely not. In fact, it’s possibly one of the silliest movies you will ever see… but it’s also extremely funny, and a comedy that makes you laugh has done its job, regardless of where it finds its punchline.
Will Ferrell and John C Reilly play the titular forty-year-old step brothers who still live at home, which causes friction once their parents decide to tie the knot. Of course, they are only related by marriage, so there’s no logical reason why these two should look like each other. However, as they arrive together for a job interview as a toilet attendant wearing matching tuxedos, all while sharing that preternaturally goofy hairstyle… somehow everything falls into place and you buy in to this forced sibling rivalry.
Yes, Step Brothers is home to a number of cheap sex jokes, and yes, there is a lot of profanity, sometimes (it seems) just because bad words at inappropriate times are funny, so if that kind of thing offends you, you should probably give this one a miss, but it also has a surprisingly large heart at its core, as the two frenemies find a way to get along with each other. Thankfully there is no typically safe Hollywood ending, and the script maintains its bite right up until the credits roll.
Dale:Hey, you awake? Brennan:Yeah. Dale:I just want you to know I hate you. And so does my dad. Brennan:Well that’s fine. Cause guess what? I hate you too. And this house sucks ass. Dale:Well the only reason you’re living here, is because me and my dad decided that your mom was really hot, and maybe we should just both bang her, and we’ll put up with the retard in the meantime. Brennan:Who’s the retard? Dale:You.
Look, I told you: it ain’t Shakespeare… but it is damn funny.
I’ve always been a fan of Michael J Fox, but even I can admit and accept that Teenwolf is not one of the greatest movies on his resume – hell, it wasn’t even the best thing he put out in 1985. It’s fun, and as entertainment Teenwolf is certainly harmless enough, but it gets by on its central performances rather than the tightness of its script and plot.
Pretty cute, right?
Fox plays Scott Howard, a teenager who finds himself showing signs of lycanthropy, while going through the usual issues that any other hormonal high school kid has to endure. James Hampton plays Scott’s father, in perhaps the cutest and least intimidating interpretation of a werewolf in the history of cinema.
The story – if you try to forget about the whole wolf thing – is fairly standard eighties comedy fare, but there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of my favourite feelgood movie moments were produced in that decade. Teenage boy has a crush on (blonde) teenage girl, but he is oblivious to the fact that other (brunette) teenage girl likes him. Spoilers: by the end of the movie, teenage boy swaps his desire for light to dark.
Scott:Stiles, I got something to tell you. It’s kind of hard, but… Stiles:Look, are you gonna tell me you’re a fag because if you’re gonna tell me you’re a fag, I don’t think I can handle it. Scott:I’m not a fag. I’m… a werewolf.
It’s hard to believe that back then, they got away with dialogue like this. These days, there would be an entire internet noticeboard devoted to shutting the movie down and firing everyone on staff, but in the eighties people were a little less serious about things like that.
There’s a school basketball story wrapped up in there as well, and a great supporting performance from Scott’s best friend, Stiles, but try not to take this too seriously and you’ll probably enjoy it for what it is.
This is a brutal movie, and it doesn’t apologise for it. Nor is there that saccharine sweet ending that you would expect from a Hollywood movie made in the last two decades. It’s a disturbing, intense, psychological thriller, that closes in a darker place than it began.
Ellen Page – one of my favourite actresses, in this, her first leading role – was only seventeen when Hard Candy was being filmed, and given the subject matter, that says a lot about her maturity and acting ability.
She shines here as a fourteen year old girl who spends time chatting online to a man she knows to be a paedophile, in order to give him what is coming his way. The script cleverly flips the obvious predator and prey scenario early on and calls for us, the viewer, to cheer for her as she stalks, corners, and brutalises him throughout the duration of the movie.
Hard Candy is tightly written and well acted, and there are no explosions or special effects to cause any undue distraction… and it also has something to say about society and where we are now. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s a cult movie that deserves to be seen – and appreciated – by many more people.
I have been a great fan of Laurel & Hardy for many years, and this feature is widely regarded as their finest effort. I have a few other suggestions for that spot, but it’s certainly a solid choice.
A long time ago I introduced one of my ex-girlfriends to Way Out West (and the comedy duo in general) and she memorably shrugged indifferently and said to me, “I’ve seen Steve Martin do that”, as if somehow Laurel & Hardy had travelled forward in time, watched a bunch of Martin’s movies and then gone back to film their interpretation in black and white. To this day I still don’t know if she was pulling my leg!
Eighty years after Way Out West, and there is still no double act that has the same chemistry or comic timing as the original masters of the art, and that perhaps says as much about Laurel & Hardy as performers as it does about the progress of cinema since they stopped making movies.
“Eat the hat.”
From the running gag of Stan using his thumb as a lighter, to the scene where he eats Ollie’s hat after losing a wager, to Ollie’s continual breaking of the fourth wall by looking into the camera in frustration at his partner, Way Out West is a classic of the genre that deserves its place in history.
I know it’s difficult for the current generation to go back and check out these old movies, but I rewatched this one last week, and if you approach it with an open mind, I think you’ll find that it holds up surprisingly well.
But do yourself a favour and watch it in the original black and white form – those colourised versions are (for the most part) cheap and tacky.