Saturday, April 30, 2011

Month 3 - April 2011

Another month down and I now think I'll be finishing the 500 challenge by May/June 2013 if I carry on at the pace that I've set at the moment.

Once the challenge is complete, I was wondering what on earth to do afterwards. I could go out and get a life, enjoy the British sunshine (err...) or perhaps take another movie challenge! Obviously the latter sounded much more appealing so why not try another Empire challenge - their 500 greatest movies. As a result, I've added that as another page on the top - or you could access it by just clicking here. The movies that are being watched and reviewed in Meanwhile... and The Complete 500 are automatically being added onto it, so it is easy to follow the progress of that at the same time.

As for the current challenge, I've finished the first 50 (hurray!) and I'm already well stuck into the second 50. Currently it looks like an end date of around May 2013 assuming I keep on at the pace I'm going. So, another two years yet. Wow.

A quick thanks should go to you guys (again) as April's viewing figures trundled past March's on the 25th meaning that this month has been the best one yet. The viewing figures keep inspiring me on... so thanks!

Until next month....

Friday, April 29, 2011

054 - Ben-Hur (1959)

DVD Box
Ben-Hur is an epic biblical film based on the life of Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) between the birth and death of Jesus Christ.

Judah is a prince living in Jerusalem. When his childhood friend, Messala, arrives back from Rome to take over the province, he believes his people's luck with the Romans has changed and the cruelty bestowed upon them will be more lax.

Messala has other ideas and, after Judah fails to cooperate, Messala finds his excuse to arrest Judah - along with his sister and mother. Judah is sent to work as a slave rower on the galleons, while his sister and mother are sent into prison.

After 3 years on the galleon, Judah is freed after he saves the life of the Roman fleet commander. From there, he begins his quest back to Jerusalem to find his family and avenge his exile.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

053 - The Belles of St. Trinian's (1954)

DVD Box
The Belles of St. Trinian's is a English comedy about a bunch of boarding school girls turned bad.

The film is summed up in one scene:

The headmistress has called a staff meeting, informing the staff that they cannot be paid because she has bet all of the school funds on a horse. They are told that they have to retrieve the horse which has gone missing.

The said horse is in an upstairs dormitory as the 4th form try to find a way past the 6th form who have barricaded the door under the instruction of the headmistress's brother who has bet on another horse. He has brought in his mob who are helping to guard the 6th form from the teachers.

Meanwhile, the parents are arriving for parents evening an are guided away from the building by Flash, the alcohol trafficker and gambling aide who informs the parents - and the school inspector - that the guide's fire is not something to be missed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

052 - La Belle Et La Bête (1946)

DVD Box
La Belle Et La Bête tells the story of the famous French fairy tale The Beauty And The Beast.

In this remake of the classic fairy tale, Belle's father is a merchant whose ship has gone missing. As news of the wreckage starts to come through it seems that one crate may have survived. As he leaves to save his family from crippling debts he asks his daughters what they would like a present for his return. While Belle's sisters  ask for exotic animals, Belle settles for a simple rose.

Upon recovering his crate, he finds he does not have enough to pay his creditors and finds he has nothing left. He returns home and gets lost in a mysterious forest. There he finds a strange enchanted castle where he is able to stay and eat.

In the morning he leaves the castle, spotting a rose in the garden. Remembering what Belle asks, he picks the rose. The Beast appears and tells the merchant he must offer himself as prisoner of send one of his daughters in his place. The merchant returns home, and Belle takes his place.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

051 - Being John Malkovich (1999)

DVD Box
Being John Malkovich is the story of when a failing puppeteer stumbles across a portal into John Malkovich's mind.

Craig Schwartz's (John Cusack) puppeteering career is going nowhere fast, and when his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) suggests getting a job he reluctantly finds one as a filing clerk in a building with a mysterious half floor.

There he finds a portal into John Malkovich's head where he is able to see and feel everything that Malkovich does. His colleague, Maxine Lund (Catherine Keener), exploits the portal, charging $200 per entry.

Inevitably, Malkovich finds out about the portal, with bizarre consequences.

050 - Behind The Sun (2001)

DVD Box
Behind The Sun tells the story of a family's honour.

Tonio's family have been feuding with another family for generations. They fight over the land, and when one member of one family is killed, the other family seek revenge on the killer who in turns seek revenge on that killer. The next victim wears a black armband.

Tonio's family is now rather small following the death of his older brother. He now lives with just his young brother 'kid' and his parents. After he shoots the killer of his brother, he is told he has just 28 days to live; until the next full moon. The elder of the other family tells him this is very little time to achieve anything in his life.

After a chance visit from some lost travellers, 'kid' wants to see the circus. There Tonio finds his opportunity for love in the shape of Clara - a fire-breathing assistant. The film tells of Tonio's struggle to keep his family's honour or fight for his life - and love.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

From Russia With Love (1963)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
This film is not in the Empire 5-star 500.

From Russia With Love is James Bond's second MGM outing.

As with most of the Bond films, there is little lead-on from previous films, although the story does involve SPECTRE looking for some vengeance for the death of Dr. No in the previous film of the same name.

Along with vengeance, SPECTRE are looking to steal Lektor - a Russian coding device. They use Tatiana Romanova, a naïve Russian Government worker as obvious bait for Bond, combined with the coder as bait for the British Government.

Although both figure out that it is a trap, the reward seems like too good an opportunity to pass up, so Bond accepts the mission.

Films 051 - 060

Being John Malkovich (1999)
Here are the next 10 films in the Empire 500 5-star challenge:
  1. Being John Malkovich (1999)
  2. La Belle Et La Bête (1946)
  3. The Belles Of St. Trinians (1954)
  4. Ben-Hur (1959)
  5. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
  6. The Big Lebowski (1998)
  7. The Big Red One (1980)
  8. The Big Sleep (1946)
  9. Billy Elliot (2000)
  10. Black Narcissus (1947)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Another week (and a bit) another 10 films down. Despite a bit of a poor start - the films really livened up towards the end. The pick of that last bunch would have to be The Band's Visit - possibly because I was expecting something awful, but mostly because it was something a little different and quirky which I quite enjoyed.

As for this next bunch, I'm looking forward to La Belle Et La Bete, especially after watching Beauty And The Beast recently. I've seen part of Being John Malkovich in the past, and I've fully seen Billy Elliot, so both of those I know I'll enjoy. By the looks of it, this bunch are a 1940's revolution so let's see what that decade has to offer!

Until next time!

Friday, April 22, 2011

049 - Beauty And The Beast (1991)

DVD Box
Disney's Beauty And The Beast retells the story of the French fairy tale La Belle et La Bête.

Belle is the only daughter of an eccentric inventor, Maurice. She is the most beautiful girl in the town and is courted by local arrogant hunter, Gaston.

She ends up as prisoner in the castle owned by the beast, a prince who'd been punished for not appreciating that beauty is on the inside. There the beast must convince her this too in order to the break the spell and calls upon his enchanted servants to help him.

There Belle begins to understand about the beast, but can she break the enchantment before it's too late?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

048 - Battleship Potemkin (1925)

DVD Box
Battleship Potemkin is based on the revolution that happened on the boat of the same name in 1905.

The film opens with the Potemkin's sailors arguing with their superiors over some rotting meat. Gradually, as the mistreatment of the sailors escalates, a group of them are threatened with being shot. One crew member speaks out, sparking a rebellion on the ship. The superior officers are quickly overrun but the original sailor who spoke out is fatally wounded in the scuffle.

A smaller craft is manned along with the dead rebellion leader and lands at port Odessa. They are greeted by the Russian people with happiness that someone has spoken out against their oppression. Their glee turns to shock as the police arrive and shoot all those in the street.

Meanwhile, on the Potemkin, the crew members prepare for an onslaught from other frigates. They must choose whether to stand their ground or back down and concede the rebellion.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

047 - The Battle Of Algiers (1966)

DVD Box
The Battle Of Algiers is a dramatised documentary telling of the war in the Algerian capital between the French colonialists and the Arab insurgents.

It reconstructs the events that happened between 1954 and 1960, from the forming of the National Liberation Front (FLN) until the capture and killing of its final members.

As the film goes on, each side uses greater acts of violence, escalating from drive-by shootings to cafe bombings.

The French army struggle to convince the Algerian people that they are doing the best for them, and further struggle to find and capture the FLN because they are so loosely connected to one another.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

046 - Batman Begins (2005)

DVD Box
Batman Begins tells the story of where DC Comics hero Batman came from.

Lost following the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) goes on a mission of self-finding to seek the way to fight injustice in his city of Gotham. With help from a mysterious group called the Army Of Shadows, led by Henri Ducard (Liam Nieson), he becomes one of the most able ninja-style fighters in the world.

Upon returning to Gotham, Bruce meets up with his butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and Wayne Enterprise's gadget man Lucius (Morgan Freeman) to create his crime-fighting alter-ego Batman.

He then sets on a mission to remove petty crime from the streets with detective Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) before uncovering something altogether more sinister.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rumor Has It (2005)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
This film is not in the Empire 5-star 500.

Rumor Has It tells the story behind The Graduate. Told through the eyes of Sarah Huntinger (Jennifer Aniston), it tells of the moment that she realises she may be the daughter of the illegitimate affair between Elaine Robinson and Benjamin Braddock.

Sarah Huntinger thinks that she might not be her father's daughter. Sparked on by a rumour from her grandmother (Shirley McClaine) at her sister's (Mena Suvari) wedding, she sets off in pursuit of the man who she believes is her real father.

She leaves behind her fiancée - Jeff Daly (Mark Ruffalo) - as her quest takes her to the charming Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) who tells her he can't be her father because of a blunt testicular trauma suffered long before her birth.

She is taken by his charms and sleeps with him, causing her to further think about her relationship with Jeff. Jeff catches her kissing Beau and gives her an ultimatum; be serious about the engagement or lose him forever.

045 - The Band's Visit (2007)

DVD Box
The Band's Visit is a quirky comedy about what happens when a band from Egypt takes the wrong bus in Israel and ends up in a small village.

The Egyptian Police Force band is headed up by Tawfiq, a moody General. He constantly quashes any dreams of the members of his band including the aspirational Simon and the flirtatious Haled.

The find themselves taking the wrong bus to Beit Hatikva instead of a sound-alike city of Petah Tiqva. There they meet the owner - Dina - and customers of a small cafe. Having no other options the band have to stay the night in the little village, with a group of band members staying with a different person.

There they find out that music can unify two groups of people that to begin with seem like they have nothing in common.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

044 - Bambi (1942)

Bambi tells the story of the life of a deer. As Bambi travels from child- into adulthood, he must overcome the dangers that await him.

Bambi - the 'new prince' is born to the attention of all of the forest's animals. As he grows and develops his walk and speech, he is accompanied by his friends, Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk.

His mother introduces him to the dangers of the forest, including Man - the most feared creature. Bambi's development continues through the April showers and winter until he reaches adolescence the following year.

As man returns, Bambi must ensure his survival.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

043 - Badlands (1973)

DVD Box
Badlands, loosely based upon the Starkweather-Fugate murders,tells the story of 25-year-old Kit (Charlie Sheen), a failed garbage man and rancher, and 15-year-old Holly (Sissy Spacek), a student, as they try to run from the law following the murder of Holly's father at the hand of Kit.

While on the run Kit starts to become more trigger happy, killing more people as they stand in the way of his freedom. Meanwhile, Holly follows in naïve pursuit. As the murder count starts to increase so does Kit's notoriety.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Time For A Second Opinion

As I sat down yesterday, I looked over my Complete 5-star 500 list and admired how the reviewed list is starting to grow. I reminisced about some of the better films on the list and sought out those pesky films that irritated me. Out of Empire's list of 5-star films, while most have been some enjoyable, enlightening experiences, a few have been really difficult to sit through.

One such example is Apocalypse Now, a revered film amongst movie lovers everywhere. It currently sits alongside the best films on the Internet Movie Database, rated 8.6 out of 10 and ranked joint 26th best film ever - yet when I watched it I just couldn't get into it and awarded it just 3 out of 5 stars. Sure, it had its funny moments, but it was - in my opinion - just plain weird.

So why exactly do I find some of these films so bad when Empire - arguably one of the greatest film review team - and IMDb - the 40th most visited site in the world and renowned place to share opinion on films - award near-on perfect marks?

To start off with Empire, it is important to remember that they are a reviewing team. No doubt they have arguments in their offices over the mark that many films receive, and at the end of the day the final say goes to the guy that manages to write the review. If you happen to follow the links from my reviews to the Empire website, take a note of who writes the review. For those of you who like numbers, Kim Newman is the man who has reviewed the most 5-star films for Empire according to the magazine I am running my challenge from.

Whilst many of their contributors are well-regarded in the movie industry with many other articles about film, it is also important to remember that their target audience is other movie enthusiasts. Don't get me wrong - I love films - but equally I can only do my challenge part time with my other work commitments. In my reviews I try to write as a person whose only previous reviewing experience was as a 14-year-old submitting a C-grade Johnny English review as part of my coursework in education. As much as I'd like to, I've never sat down and had a cup of tea with Angelina followed by a quick game of croquet with Brad and the kids.

As for Internet Movie Database, I can only suggest that my opinion will occasionally differ from the masses. I try not to be overly influenced by other reviews and opinions - though to some extent everyone will be - and if my rating is drastically different from yours then perhaps we should be grateful we live in a world where we are able to offer the views. That said, I quite enjoy a good movie debate when someone expressed a different opinion on a review.

So thanks for visiting my alternative viewpoint. Please stay a while, read those reviews and tell me I'm wrong - I'd enjoy your second opinion.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

042 - Bad Timing (1980)

DVD Box
Bad Timing begins with Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell) being rushed to hospital following an overdose. Her psychologist lover, Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel), found her in that state and goes to the hospital where he is questioned by the police who suspect that she may be the victim of foul play on his behalf.

Half of the film is based around the current events, following the police questioning of Alex, while the other half studies the relationship that Alex and Milena had leading up to the overdose. Their background shows a very checkered path, so the police must deduce exactly what part, if any, the secluded professor played.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Source Code (2011)

Theatrical Poster
Source: IMP Awards
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakens on a train, seemingly in a daze. A fellow passenger, Christina Warren, begins to tell him what is going on in her life before a passing lady spills coffee onto his shoe. The conductor asks for his ticket and he is clueless until Christina gets the ticket from his shirt pocket. An image passes in front of the window, prompting Sean to go to the toilet to look in the mirror. The reflection is not of him so he checks his wallet to find that the man's identity is Sean Fentress. Christina walks in to find out what is wrong, and the train explodes.

This starting scene has been officially available online for a few weeks now, heightening the mystery behind Source Code.

The film continues with Colter's release from a computer program called Source Code, codenamed Beleaguered Castle. This becomes further complicated as the only thing Colter can remember prior to the train is being a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. He is told that he is running in the final 8 minutes of Sean Fentress' life - a victim from the Chicago train bombing. In order to prevent a further attack, Colter must find the explosives and identify the bomber. Meanwhile, Colter's interest heightens in his own life and how he came to be in the simulator with no other recollections.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Back To The Future: Part III (1990)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
The Back To The Future Trilogy concludes with a trip back to the Wild West.

Doc (Christopher Lloyd) is happily living as a blacksmith in 1885, where the fairy tale cowboys and indians roam. Marty (Michael J. Fox) receives Doc's letter saying not to come back for him as he is happy where he is but finds a tombstone which outlays Doc's date and cause of death and enlists the help of the 1955-Doc to go back and prevent Doc's death.

After arriving in 1885, Marty finds there is no fuel - a fueling station isn't due for another 50 years - to get the Delorian up to speed, so Doc and Marty must find a way to get the Delorian to 88mph using only rudimentary 19th Century technology in order to escape the past and return Back To The Future.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Back To The Future: Part II (1989)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia

Back To The Future Part II continues from where the first film left off. Doc (Christopher Lloyd) returns from the future in order to warn Marty (Michael J. Fox) that there is trouble ahead for him. They head off - with Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue) to the year 2015 and the time where skyways are common (err...).

The town square has been rebuilt complete with a futuristic theme - which is familiar but altogether different from the 1950's and 1980's scenes from the original film. The original's chase scene is recreated on hover boards as Marty once again tries to escape his nemesis Biff Tannen. Marty gets to see into his own future as he changes his son's future to prevent him from going to jail and ripping his family apart.

Biff's older self steals the Delorian and goes back to the past with an old sporting almanac to guarantee himself good fortune - thus changing his future. Doc and Marty realise the change after they return to 1985, and set about trying prevent Biff ever handing over the almanac.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

041 - Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans (2009)

DVD Box
Bad Lieutenant is, firstly and foremost, a very strange film. Nicolas Cage plays Terence McDonagh, a rogue detective who is more concerned with getting his next drug hit rather than solving crime. Somehow he has made it to the rank of Lieutenant, mostly by doing the right thing at the right time.

He is badly in debt with a gambling addiction, his girlfriend (Eva Mendes) is a prostitute and his family are alcoholics. As he trawls through the film in a hallucinogenic state, he gradually tries to solve his many problems, while attempting to solve a mass murder case.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Films 041 - 050

Bad Lieutenant (2010)
Here are the next 10 films in the Empire 500 5-star challenge:
  1. Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans (2010)
  2. Bad Timing (1980)
  3. Badlands (1973)
  4. Bambi (1942)
  5. The Band's Visit (2007)
  6. Batman Begins (2005)
  7. The Battle Of Algiers (1966)
  8. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  9. Beauty And The Beast (1991)
  10. Behind The Sun (2001)
Batman Begins (2005)
So, I've finally hit the letter 'B'. Although 'A' took up the first 38 films, 'B' is actually longer, and I won't hit 'C' until the 81st film. Crazy.

Anyway, I should probably sum up the previous ten movies...  The Asphalt Jungle was an excellent film and Atonement will be joining Amelie and All About My Mother at the top of the pile in my opinion so far. Although there weren't any real turnips, a couple of slightly dragging films were there in the form of Ashes And Diamonds and Au Hasard Balthazar.

Still, I've seen a couple on the list to come - the Disney animations of Bambi and Beauty And The Beast so I know what to expect from those. As for the rest... Battleship Potemkin comes highly recommended from Matthew Hunt who ranks it amongst his 15 Essential Films, so no pressure there! Having looked at some of the other blurbs on the DVD boxes, there are some films with interesting themes.

At some point I may have to look at selling some of these DVDs before they end up taking over my house. As a result keep an eye out for future posts!

    Friday, April 08, 2011

    040 - Back To The Future (1985)

    DVD Box
    Back To The Future tells the story of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc. Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Doc has spent the last 30 years of his life devising a time machine based on the now famous flux capacitor (allegedly thought up during a Eureka moment in the bath). Having demonstrated his Delorian-based machine to Marty by using his dog, Doc is shot by Libyans who he'd previously stolen plutonium from. Marty makes a run for it in the Delorian and, having reached the famous 88mph, ends up 30 years in the past. With no fuel to return to the future.

    He hunts out Doc's past self in order to help him devise a plan to return Back To The Future.

    Thursday, April 07, 2011

    039 - Babe (1995)

    DVD Box
    Babe is the story from Dick King Smith's 1983 novel The Sheep-Pig. It follows the life of a little pig destined for big things.

    Babe - the pig in question - is the runt of his litter whose mother was taken to the slaughter house; "heaven, because every pig like it so much none has ever come back". As the runt, he was given away and used as a competition to guess the pig's weight in order to win him at a fête. Farmer Hoggett wins Babe and takes him back to the farm where he is raised by his female collie, Fly, much to the disgust of the male collie, Rex.

    Babe befriends Ferdinand, a duck who wishes to be a rooster (he wants to be useful in order to avoid his inevitable slaughter). They get into trouble and, in an Animal Farm-style meeting, it is decided that Babe may no longer see Ferdinand. Babe comforts Fly and is adopted as one of her own as her puppies are given away. As Babe continues to be raised by Fly he begins to adopt the collie way of life - earning his stripes as The Sheep-Pig.

    Wednesday, April 06, 2011

    038 - Avatar (2009)

    DVD Box
    Avatar is the story of a utopia called Pandora. Living on Pandora are a whole array of creatures joined together by a mystical electrical force that enables communication between all species in the world.

    The indigenous species on the planet are the Na'vi - a mysterious blue-skinned race who are able to harness the communication channels. They are able to 'link' with the other creatures which not only enables a greater understanding of the world but helps to keep the trust between their world.

    Meanwhile, humans have outgrown their planet - it is 'grey' - and they have come looking for the dubiously named element "Unobtanium". What the element does is actually not explained - though it is assumed that it is a super-fuel. The humans bring with them a range of machinery in order to help them obtain the element, including a large amount of firepower.

    Amongst the technology is the Avatar system. DNA is taken from the Na'vi and mixed with a human host. The creature created from this is then remotely controlled by said human.

    Following the death of his twin brother, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) - a paraplegic former marine - is sent out to continue his work in the Avatar system. As the Avatars become involved deeper in Na'vi culture, Jake must decide whether to protect the species he begins to love or to obey his superior human officers and take the unobtanium by force.

    Tuesday, April 05, 2011

    037 - Audition (1999)

    DVD Box
    During a moment of lust, men can be blinded into making the wrong choices. Audition plays on this theme in the extreme manner that only Japanese film can achieve.

    Aoyama's wife died a few years ago and he has only just been able to face up to that fact. In that time he has brought up his son alone and created himself a thriving business.

    Despite his successes he has grown lonely and decides that it would be a good time to try and find himself a new wife - preferably someone who has created their own career. His co-worker suggests that a good plan would be to hold an audition for an unlikely play featuring a ballerina.

    As the actresses' resumes are sent in he finds that one strikes him more than the others. During Asami's interview, Aoyama is unable to help himself as he blurts out favourable questions. They later meet up for lunch where Aoyama tries to find out more about Asami's mysterious past. Despite getting little information, and despite warnings from his colleague, he continues to become more fascinated.

    Before they make love, Asami makes sure that Aoyama wants just her - a quality that she is obsessed with. As the film slips into the surreal, Asami finds photos of Aoyama's dead wife on the sideboard - with horrific consequences.

    036 - Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

    DVD Box
    Au Hasard Balthazar tells the story of a donkey - Balthazar - and his struggles through life. Shortly after birth he is adopted by a farmer and his family, and is played with by the children and their friends.

    As the children grow up, Balthazar becomes more of a handicap on the family, as the rest of France adopts more motor vehicles the donkey becomes outdated and makes it seem like the farmer is living in the past.

    So begins the rest of Balthazar's life - he is passed between various different owners, each exploiting him for work whether it be for good or for bad. Balthazar's treatment varies between each owner but no matter what happens he soldiers on regardless.

    Meanwhile, Balthazar's owner - Marie - suffers a similar fate. Exploited by her sadistic boyfriend, she shuns the affection of her boyhood love in search for someone who will take care of her. Her naivety leads her to believe her beatings happen for good, and she feels powerless to stop them.

    Having A Laugh

    Having been through the list of 500, I noticed that there are only a few comedies on the list. They are renowned for having us in hysterics in the back of the cinema, for being the instant hit over the Christmas break and for those dirty moments as a teenager growing up - but why is it that comedies can't seem to strike the funny bone in the movie reviewing world?

    Throughout the world, society's sense of humour changes. In the United Kingdom, we're renowned for being very dry and sarcastic and thus it is black comedies that find their way into the living room - In Bruges or Dr. Strangelove are such examples. While slow, subtle humour is lost on other nations, the English persist in finding the droll moments in otherwise dull movies. Across the Atlantic, however, is the world of Jackass where falling over is deemed to be amusing. That's not to say that there is some crossover - Britain has Dirty Sanchez, while the US has Airplane!. While both are good at what they do, they're just not quite up to the standard of their counterparts.

    Charlie Chaplin set the bar for silent comedy
    Image Source: Wikipedia
    Much of this variation in comedic taste is left over from the silent movie days. While the American Hollywood scene was lapping up the silent slapstick of Charlie Chaplin, us Brits were trying to figure out which way round the film goes in the camera. By the time Britain figured out how a falling piano had any comedic value, the outbreak of the Second World War called for the purpose of film was to have political propaganda imprinted onto it in order to keep the hopes of the armies alive. On that subject, Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of these created during the war years.

    In 1932 sound film output finally overtook silent film output. As a result, in the years after the Second World War silent film all but vanished. This gave producers another medium in which to engage their audience. Along with this, the first televisions were beginning to become commercially available, allowing cinematic productions to reach a far wider audience - which resulted in for more experimental comedy. This also meant a decline for feature length comedy as regularly broadcast situation comedies (sitcoms) began their rise directly into the homes.

    Nowadays, full length feature comedies are hard to come by. Often they are parodies of other movies or genres - such as Date Movie or Meet The Spartans - and because of their farcical nature often miss out on the strength of storyline that other films show and are ridiculed as a result. This isn't to say that they don't appeal to some cinema-goers, but moreover the film reviewers tend to have a target audience of more regular movie watchers - who will often have previously appreciated the film that is being spoofed.

    Borat - Overly Offensive?
    Other comedies can be hit and miss depending on if their target audience matches that of the film reviewer. For example, Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat could be seen by many to be severely offensive to Kazakhstan and its people, it could equally be seen as a film that redefined the boundaries that film could go to in order to portray something funny for a certain audience. Personally, I'm sitting on the fence on that point.

    When creating comedy, directors tend to focus too highly on making the audience laugh rather than keeping a storyline flowing. As a result, this splits modern comedy into three categories: those that make the audience laugh while keeping a strong storyline throughout and remembering to tie up the loose ends; those that have the audience in stitches while forgetting about the storyline and; those that try way too hard to be funny, forget the storyline and end up being categorised as a contender for the worst film... ever.

    Occasionally of course there will be an original comedy that impresses more than you'd expect - and, more often than not, their money-grabbing sequels will fall into the latter category, having failed to expand on any of the innovative ideas from the original film - for example, Scary Movie.

    Ultimately, most films will fall into the middle category, not being able to live up to some of the epic films that are being produced in modern cinema. This results in a number of 4-star films. Of course, rom-coms will still be available and amusing for those soppy romantic weekends, but this, I'm afraid, is not in the realm of the 5-star reviewer.

    Unfortunately these films still need a strong storyline to appeal to their critics and it seems that comedy directors have forgotten about the most important thing - laughing about laughing matters... matters.

    Monday, April 04, 2011

    Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

    Before Eddie Murphy sold himself out to be the family-friendly modern actor in such awful movies as Norbit, he used to be rather good.

    In Beverly Hills Cop, he plays Detective Axel Foley who is trying to track down the murderers of his friend Mikey - who had stolen some rather dodgy bonds. The chase leads him from his hometown of Detroit into Beverly Hills.

    As he isn't licensed to carry out the investigation himself, he must overcome the attentions of the slightly dim, but 'by-the-book', officers in the shape of Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Aston). As Axel starts his investigation by asking his friend Jenny some questions, it seems that her boss, , at the art gallery may not be the clean businessman his image suggests.

    Sunday, April 03, 2011

    035 - Atonement (2007)

    DVD Box
    Atonement tells the story of a love lost. Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) is part of the upper echelons of society in pre-Second World War England. She lives with her sister, Briony, and mother. They are being visited by their relatives from the North - two twins and their 15-year-old sister, Lola. Cecilia's parents are kind to their servants, and paid for the son of one of their servants - Robbie (James McAvoy) - to go to college, where he now wishes to go on to be a doctor.

    A chance sighting by Briony of a sexually charged meeting between Cecilia and Robbie leads to a chain of events that will change all of their lives.

    Firstly, as Robbie and Cecilia flirt, they break a valuable vase. Robbie types various drafts of apology, one of which includes an explicit declaration of love. He mistakenly picks this up by mistake and asks Briony to deliver it. Briony reads the letter, and immediately believes Robbie to be a pervert. She passes the letter on to Cecilia, which is the catalyst for an encounter in the library between Robbie and Cecilia which is witnessed by Briony, reinforcing her view of the situation.

    Later, the restless twins run away leading the family - including Cecilia's brother Leon and his friend Paul - into the extensive family gardens to look for them. Briony witnesses Lola being raped by a figure, and immediately concludes that it must be Robbie. Once Robbie returns, having found the twins, he is arrested and sent to prison.

    The story follows with both himself and Cecilia longing for a reunification of their love.

    Friday, April 01, 2011

    034 - Atlantic City (1981)

    DVD Box
    Atlantic City tells the story of Lou (Burt Lancaster) who - in his younger days - used to be a big shot in Atlantic City. Recently Lou has followed the course of the now run down city, getting older and forgetting to move with the times.

    This all changes with the arrival of Dave, the estranged husband of Sallie (Susan Sarandon), a girl with high aspirations of being Monaco's first dealer and who also lives across the hall from Lou. Dave brings with him stolen drugs and a way to make money.

    Dave persuades Lou to sell the drugs but before he can return the money, Dave is killed by mobsters who are hunting their lost drugs. Lou uses the money to propel him to his big-shot days when he used to have respect.