Tag Archives: movies

Monday Movie Mentions #9…

Step Brothers (2008)

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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.

Monday Movie Mentions #8…

Teenwolf (1985)

189.1I’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.

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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.

Monday Movie Mentions #7…

Hard Candy (2005)

fw8pthimThis 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.

Monday Movie Mentions #6…

Way Out West (1937)

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The classic title card.

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.

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“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.

Monday Movie Mentions #5…

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

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Falkor – the cutest dragon in cinema.

I was never a great fan of fluffy fantasy movies, not then and not now, but this was different, although perhaps more importantly, I was different. It was probably the first movie in the genre that I really had an affection for.

Cinema was a lot more innocent in the early eighties, and The NeverEnding Story, which came out in 1984, was a product of that time. It was a golden period for my memories, and like a lot of families then, we had a library of movies that had been recorded onto video (back in the dark VHS days) and I probably wore the tracking out on this one more than any other.

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To avoid awkwardness, the Empress at a more appropriate age.

The fantastical plot appealed to me at the time. Bastian, running away from some school bullies, opens a mysterious and ancient book (in an even more mysterious bookstore) and, well… falls into the world created within. Who amongst us hasn’t wanted to do that at one time or another?

But it was the characters that made this adventure so enjoyable – from Falkor, the least frightening dragon in the history of everything, to the similarly soft Rock Biter, it was all very muppet-like. It was unashamedly a movie for kids.

And yes, just in case you bump into my sister, I’ll have to admit that I did fancy the Childlike Empress, the Queen of Fantasia, played by Tami Stronach… but even though she was just a little girl at the time, I was three years younger than her, so I should get a pass on that.

Typical – I always have liked older women.

Monday Movie Mentions #4…

Eddie and the Cruisers II (1989)

All right, this may be an an obscure one. I’ve never been able to discuss this movie with anyone outside my own family because nobody else seems to have seen it.

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My dad was a singer – in much the same way that I’m a writer – and he loved this movie along with the prequel. The first one from 1983 is good, but the sequel, released six years later, speaks to me a little more. Neither are critical darlings, but both are cult favourites.

The arching narrative of the two films tells the story of legendary musician Eddie Wilson, who fakes his death in a car crash once his band makes it big in the sixties. Nobody sees or hears of him for twenty years, until he is discovered rekindling his love for the music in a seedy Canadian bar.

Rick: You said, “Play more intense!”
Eddie: Louder ain’t more intense.
Rick: Then what is? What is more intense?
Eddie: I was in the desert once, out in the middle of nowhere, absolutely nowhere. Just me, the sand and silence. But if you know what to listen for, it ain’t silent out there. I heard a music out there I never heard before. In the silence. That’s what I’m after, kid. That’s intense. You dig down deep and touch something like that, people are gonna listen. They’ll listen to you because you got something to say! Not just something to show. You understand?
Rick: Yeah, I think I know what you’re talking about.

The performances are not great, and there are elements of it that expose it as a low budget excursion, but Michael Pare is perfect in the central role, bringing an intensity and grit to his character that succeeds in elevating everyone else around him.

The soundtrack for both movies is performed by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band, and it is fantastic. Video footage even exists of me and my sister in the late nineties lip-synching to this song – complete with me pretending to rock out on my electric guitar, and my sister playing a broom-saxophone.

Good times!

Monday Movie Mentions #3…

When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

When I still lived at home in my early twenties, I changed the outgoing message on our answerphone to the infamous orgasm scene from this movie – you know, this one…

All these years later I still find it funny, even though my mum doesn’t seem to share the joke, especially as her mother had called from Australia one day and swiftly hung up because she thought she was… well, interrupting something.

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The morning after the night before…

But this movie is more than just a trailer for Meg Ryan’s two minute fake-out. If I’m asked to name my favourite romantic comedy, this is invariably the movie I offer up. It’s a genre traditionally aimed at females and is often loaded with sentimentality and somewhat safe humour.

While it’s fair to say that rom-coms have somewhat saturated the market in recent years, When Harry Met Sally… still feels fresh nearly thirty years on. Released in 1989, the movie manages to swerve the syrup and (for the most part) avoid the potholes of the genre.

Harry: Had my dream again where I’m making love, and the Olympic judges are watching. I’d nailed the compulsories, so this is it, the finals. I got a 9.8 from the Canadians, a perfect 10 from the Americans, and my mother, disguised as an East German judge, gave me a 5.6. Must have been the dismount.

Sure, everyone lives happily ever after by the time the credits roll, but the journey to get there feels real and earned, thanks to its biting and pointed social commentary – usually pitched perfectly by Billy Crystal.