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Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

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*batteries not included

Posted by Big Boo on October 11th, 2010

batteries not includedNo, the asterisk in the title isn’t a mistake, nor is the lack of capital letters, that really is the full title of this film from 1987. Dropping capital letters seems to be the in thing these days (particularly in company logos for some reason) but this film beat the trend by at least 20 years!

*batteries not included is a heart warming mix of two classic storylines, given a science fiction twist to make it all seem more believable. The first storyline is one beloved of Hollywood when making kids movies – I call it the Nasty Property Developer™ – you must have seen countless films (mostly second rate ones it has to be said) based on this premise. The Nasty Property Developer™ has bought all the land surrounding except that which the hero of the film owns, who is refusing to sell, so the NPD™ sends in a bunch of hired goons to force them out.

The second storyline is the classic fairytale The Elves and the Shoemaker, where a poor unfortunate is aided by magical creatures in their hour of need. I this particular case though, it’s little robotic spaceship thingies rather than elves.

In noting the above two story influences I’ve pretty much spelled out the plot of the movie without being at all specific, so I’ll fill in some of the details. The heroes of the piece are Frank and Faye Riley, who own an apartment building and restaurant in a run down part of New York. They are an elderly couple, Frank being a hard working sort whilst is wife Faye is going senile. The pair are played by husband and wife team Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, who also starred together in that other Eighties classic Cocoon.

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Super Mario Bros The Movie

Posted by Big Boo on September 15th, 2010

Super Mario Bros FilmIf it were not for this week being Super Mario week, this film would not otherwise have made it on to these pages, given that it was released in 1993.

In a similar way to how people generally remark that sequels to films are never as good as the original, there is a similar rule to films that are connected in some way to video games. Most generally tend to end up being classified as stinkers, and the Super Mario Bros film is normally looked on as a classic example of a bad videogame movie.

Looking at the evidence you have to agree, and even the actors who appeared in the film like to distance themselves from it. Bob Hoskins, who played Mario, has publicly stated that he sees this movie as being his biggest mistake of all time, and the late Dennis Hopper (who played King Koopa) wasn’t too fond of it either.

The strange thing about the film is that it has most of the main features of a Mario videogame, but they are all slightly wrong. King Koopa is a humanoid evolved from a dinosaur, rather than being a giant turtle. They chose to use Daisy (who was the damsel in distress from Donkey Kong) rather than Princess Peach as the love interest, and they made her fall in love with Luigi rather than Mario.

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Posted by Big Boo on September 8th, 2010

condormanI have to admit that my taste in films hasn’t really progressed that much from when I was a boy. Show me a film with an alien, a spaceship or a superhero and I’m hooked. Todays post is a film about one of the latter, a superhero. Well, a superhero of sorts anyway.

Condorman was a Walt Disney film release from 1981, which starred Michael Crawford (yes, the hapless Frank Spencer from the seventies sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em) as Woodrow Wilkins. When I first watched the film I half expected him to still have the slightly effeminate sounding voice, so was shocked to hear Frank Spencer talking with an American accent!

Woodrow, or Woody for short, is a comic book writer, but he works to a set of principals which mean he doesn’t include anything in any of his stories that couldn’t happen in the real world. Hence this is why the film opens with Woody plunging into the River Seine in Paris whilst attempting to fly with a gigantic set of wings strapped to his back.

Woody is in Paris visiting his friend Harry, who works for the CIA. Harry is ordered to find a US citizen to perform a document swap in Istanbul, and Woody is only to pleased to help out his friend. However, when he arrives in Istanbul the Russian citizen he is supposed to be swapping papers with turns out to be a Russian spy called Natalia.

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The Fly

Posted by Big Boo on June 25th, 2010

the flyHorror movies that use gory make-up to create their frights don’t seem to be very popular any more, with film companies preferring to go down the more psychological route to scare people. Back in the eighties though, such make-up techniques had just reached a point where it was possible to create very realistic looking results, so there were many films released during this period that used them extensively.

One of the best examples of this was 1986 film The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum as scientist Seth Brundle, and Geena Davis as journalist Veronica Quaife. The Fly was a remake of a 1958 film of the same name, and the two films share very similar storylines.

In the 1986 version, Seth Brundle has just invented a matter transporter device (very Star Trek!) consisting of two chambers call Telepods. Pop an inanimate object in one pod, and a flick of a switch disintegrates it in the first pod, and reassembles it in the second. Pop in a living thing though, and things go a bit awry, as a poor baboon finds out when it reappears inside out in the second pod during a test.

At a press party held by Bartok Science Industries, who fund the teleporter research, Seth meets Veronica. He convinces her to come and visit his lab for a demonstration, which is when we see the poor reversa-baboon event occur, but Seth convinces Veronica to help him out by documenting his work. This leads to the pair getting romantically involved.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Posted by Big Boo on May 12th, 2010

splashWith special effect technology beginning to come of age in the eighties (and with realistic computer generated images still some way off) a lot of films started to be made which used special effects to enable some more outlandish films to be made. A good example of this is Splash.

Splash was directed by Ron Howard and was the first picture released by the then new Touchstone Pictures. It starred Daryl Hannah as a mermaid named Madison (that’s where the special effects come in), and Tom Hanks as the human Allen Bauer, who falls in love with her. As a child Allen fell into the sea, and was rescued by the young Madison. Later in life fate calls him to need to be rescued again, and Madison comes to his aid again.

Allen is besotted with Madison, and it appears she must be keen on him too, for after finding that Allen has dropped his wallet, she tries to return it to him in New York City. How does she do this, considering she is water bound? Well, once her fish-like tail dries out enough it magically transforms into a pair of human legs.

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Howard The Duck

Posted by Big Boo on February 5th, 2010

howard the duckIn the first half of the eighties it seemed George Lucas could do no wrong. With the original Star Wars trilogy completed he was on top of the world. In 1984 he brought us Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and his crown started to perhaps look a little tarnished, but we forgave him because we all loved Indy.

Get to 1986 though, and the first signs of him going perhaps a bit la-la came along, with the release of Howard the Duck (also known as Howard A New Breed Of Hero). Film critics were boggling as to how George Lucas would even dare to put his name to this film, which bombed at the box office and is often cited as being one of the worst films made.

But what do film critics know? They thought Hudson Hawk was bad (I liked it, Bruce!) and anyway, George has done far worse in the meantime by introducing us to the oh-so-annoying Jar Jar Binks.

Personally I quite liked Howard the Duck, although admittedly I was a young teenager at the time I saw it, and I think this is the age group that will appreciate the film most, as despite featuring a duck as the main character it is perhaps not all that child friendly, and because it features a duck as the main character most adults would think it childish.

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2010 – The Year We Make Contact

Posted by Big Boo on January 6th, 2010

2010-odyssey-2What more fitting a way of starting off my posts for 2010 than with a bit on the film and book 2010! Both book and film arrived in 1984, when the year 2010 seemed like ages away. However, unlike some of the wilder predictions of other pieces of science fiction, 2010 probably isn’t that far off the mark. Sure, we don’t have sentient computers or manned space ships orbiting Jupiter, but I don’t think we’re actually that far off from these achievements.

2010 is of course the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was written by Arthur C. Clarke back in 1968. The film of 2001 was released in the same year and was directed by Stanley Kubrick, and has gone on to be one of those classic critically acclaimed films that are considered by many to be a must see. The film is probably best known for having relatively little dialogue although two lines in particular are oft quoted, these being “Open the pod bay doors, HAL” and “My God, it’s full of stars”.

The storyline of 2001 sees the crew of the space ship Discovery One, which is orbiting Jupiter (originally Saturn in the novel), get bumped off by the ship’s computer HAL 9000 as it decides it doesn’t want to die (i.e. be switched off). Astronaut Dave Bowman manages to survive, although only because he is sucked into a mysterious and huge black monolith which is in orbit around the planet.

2010 picks up the story with the Odyssey Two being sent to Jupiter to try and discover what went wrong with HAL. When they get there they find that HAL is the least of their worries, as hundreds of monoliths appear on Jupiter, increasing the planets mass so that it will implode and turn into a star. This process is being controlled by a group of aliens who wish to study and promote life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

It has been a good many years since I saw 2010, so my memories of it are hazy, but having done a little research into the plot for the purposes of writing this post I’m actually quite interested in seeing it again. I would say I’d read the novel too, but I never seem to quite find the time to read books any more, which is a bit of a shame.

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Beverly Hills Cop

Posted by Big Boo on October 28th, 2009

beverly hills copWhilst channel hopping the other night I came across Beverly Hills Cop being shown for the umpteenth time, but I was soon hooked and wondering why I had not covered this major film of the eighties before now.

I’m sure the film needs no introduction to you, but in brief it follows Detroit police detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) who comes to Beverly Hills to look into the death of his friend Mikey, as he believes he was murdered. Fast mouthed Axel causes mayhem for the Beverly Hills police department, in particular detectives Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), who end up getting unwillingly drawn into his investigation.

Of course, Axel’s hunch about Mikey was right, and leads him to art dealer Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff) who turns out to be using his position as a respected business man to smuggle drugs.

Beverly Hills Cop was released in 1984, but by the time it made it on to UK television (a process which took far longer back then than it does today) it had become one of those films that were talked about at school as a must see. If you hadn’t seen it then you could find yourself ostracised by your mates for being uncool!

One problem with Beverly Hills Cop being show on British TV was the amount of swearing it contained (mostly courtesy of Murphy). This led to what I like to call the “specially ruined for television” version of Beverly Hills Cop, where Murphy’s profanities were dubbed over with other words, making him sound pretty ridiculous, it has to be said.

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