Saturday, 16 January 2016

David Bowie 1947-2016 Thank You Starman


Its easy to jump on the bandwagon when a celebrity dies, by that I mean there seems to be a huge thing these days with social media, where everyone seems to comment on so and so this and so and so that and they probably never met them or knew them. This is no problem at all in this but there is some people out there whom don't understand that sometimes a celebrity can have an effect on someones life without anybody knowing with their power of their medium, like for instance Da Vinci still makes peoples heads turn with his paintings and they are from over 500 years ago and they still excite people and make people think, maybe its because I am a historian and I look at things like this. Now look at David Bowie, fashion icon, alien, rock star, singer, songwriter and film star, these are a few labels easily applied to Mr Bowie whom had his feet in many mediums and probably shaped many peoples lives with his music, films and fashion sense.

Many people would say I am too young to appreciate Bowie when he was at his best, I am 30, but here is how I discovered his music. I bought Queen greatest hits II on CD when I was about 14 or 15, everybody knew Bohemian Rhapsody and Radio Ga Ga no matter their age them videos were shown still in the 90s on TV and the songs still played on the radio. There was this one song I didn't really know it was called “Under Pressure” and it was Queen with David Bowie, now I knew who Bowie was from the film Labyrinth. The first time I heard this song I was hooked! The way Mercury and Bowie sang together was amazing. This instantly made me want to know Bowie more but been that age you didn't have ready income, I mean that queen CD was bought with birthday money. But unfortunately it went a few years because I forgot all about buying Cd's because I was hooked on video games and spent what money I got on them and just stayed at home playing them!!. At about 17/18 I was having the usual teenage troubles with myself, I was not the popular guy, girls wouldn't give me a chance etc, also I was going through the teenage years with out a male role model to look up to, I was brought up by just my mother, whom did an amazing job by the way!. So I was a very confused and bewildered teenager who just needed something to connect too and just spent all my time playing video games. I decided to listen to Cd's again and read more books too to find a real escape away from video games. I rediscovered my Queen greatest hits II and thanks to Under Pressure I went and bought my first Bowie CD, “The Greatest hits 1969-74”. The songs just opened my mind, the way Bowie wrote and sang his songs just got to me, songs like, Changes, All the Young Dudes, Space Oddity and Life on Mars just summed up my life perfectly. I could not believe I had missed out on all this great music!. My mum even bought me the Best of Bowie on DVD for Christmas in 2003 I think it was.


Bowie's music just made me feel better about myself, It changed me, the lyrics to Changes became some sort of personal anthem to myself, because I interpreted it as time is passing and it will change things and change you but don't let it take control and just be yourself!. So yes when Bowie died I did indeed jump on the bandwagon and yes I may of shed a tear or maybe a few more, because David Bowie's music helped me through some hard times and if it wasn't for his music keeping my head on and keeping me positive who knows what would of happened!. I didn't know Bowie but he was a big part of my life and when I heard he died from texts off my sister and girlfriend it was like a void had appeared inside of me, I had to put the News on just to see for myself and there it was my hero had indeed died. So I say this thank you David Bowie your music helped me and made me who I am today, I may not of known you personally but I knew your music and I feel a loss knowing the world is going on without you. Now you are that Starman waiting in the sky. Thank You!!!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Marvelous Marilyn: Some Like it Hot (1959)



The film is set in 1929 in prohibition Chicago. The opening scene helps put this point across with smugglers escaping the police. The plot of the film is thus, down on their luck musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon are at their wits end with what to do about making money. The two of them have borrowed money from every person they know they owe rent and have a way of wasting their money on the dogs!. They have even worse luck when one night on their way to a musician job they witness a mob assassination which is not good news for them because they get seen by the gangster whom does the killing so they both have to go on the run for their lives because they saw the whole thing and the mob boss wants them both dead.


The two decide to go on the run from Chicago and the chance comes up for them both to take a job on the other side of America which is perfect for them to get out of the city and far away as possible from the mob, but...... there is one slight catch... they have to pretend to be women so they can take the job. Now we enter one of the greatest comedy movies of all time, the scene of Jack and Tony walking down the train platform in tights and high heals all dressed up like women is pure gold. Been men these guys happen to glance a woman on her way to join the group with them she walks like “jello on springs” whom is this?, why none other than the blonde bombshell herself Marilyn Monroe.

Been a comedy about two men hiding from the mob dressed as women you know they are going to start feeling attracted to the beautiful women around them, as you would expect, they start feeling attracted to Marilyn Monroe (as we all would!). They have to keep telling them selves they are girls just so they dont fall for the other girls feminine wilds, but you cant stop nature. So how do you try and flirt with a beautiful woman when you are supposed to be a woman yourself?. Joe (Tony Curtis) comes up with this idea of pretending he is a English sea captain (he does his best Carry Grant impression). As you can imagine hilarity ensures with Joe not knowing what to wear and having to change back and forth between his two disguises, jumping into the bath while in one costume to hide the fact he is pretending to be to people, its the original Mrs Doubtfire!!.



Jack Lemon's character seems to enjoy been a woman a bit too much and even gets excited when a man falls for him it is absolutely hilarious to watch. Marilyn Monroe as Candy Cane does what Marilyn does best singing and dancing swinging her curves around and generally playing that character she is so good at, the beautiful and sort of simple soft spoken girl. Will the guys manage to keep up their apperence of been women while they also try to find love, while also trying to run from the mob?. I cannot spoil it for you but it is well worth a watch even today this film is held in high regard and is often named as one of the greatest comedy movies which I agree.

The film is directed by Billy Wilder whom was one of the best directors in the 40s/50s. Billy Wilder worked with Marilyn before this fim on The Seven Year Itch (1955). That film has Marilyn's most famous scene the air vent in the walkway up her skirt, need I say more. Their is only about 2 songs in this film because its not a musical just a comedy. Marilyn does sing one of her most famous songs in this film “I want to be loved by you”, she looks amazing when she sings it and does not leave much to the imagination in that dress!!. The costume design and set design is spot on totally showing the art deco era of the 1920s Jazz Age, probably because it was not that far away from the 20s in the 50s compared to now I can imagine it was easy to get hold of vintage cars etc.



The one thing that steals this film for me tho is Jack Lemon, you get the feeling the guy had a right blast filming this film. Jack Lemon's character like mentioned before seems to get into his female “role” a bit too well, he is just so funny to watch when he comes into the room when he is in “love and engaged” dancing with a pair of maracas, it is just genius, he even steals the end of the film with one of the funniest and possibly greatest movie endings around!. Another golden scene is Jack Lemon on his date dancing the tango and so on, it just has me in stitches. The film has aged well and I still enjoy it every time I watch it, but i can understand if its not to everyone's taste with it been an older film, but all 3 leads do so well especially Jack Lemon for me, if you want to start watching Marilyn Monroe films this is the one to start with I would say.




Sunday, 3 January 2016

Top 5 Jackie Chan Films (Hong Kong/China)


This list was quite the headache, because I am a huge Jackie Chan fan especially of his original Asian films. So I thought after my long, long, long hiatus I would come back with this. Enjoy and I appreciate comments and feedback.

5, New Police Story (2004) 

So the first pick on the list is this 2004 film. After a few years of doing mainly Hollywood films and not really enjoying making them, Jackie went back to Hong Kong to make this film which was a modern day retelling of his most famous film series "Police Story". The simple summary is thus, Chan's hard cop team, are all killed off in a mission to bring down some terrorists at the start and he then sets out on a revenge conquest with aide of a new partner played by Nic Tse. The film uses plenty of special effects and has plenty of action and fight scenes but the stunts which are great of courser, now rely on wire work which with Chan been 50 making this film you can forgive. One stand out scene is Chan catching a bus in a unusual way which we might discuss later is a staple of Police Story.

4, Drunken Master (1978) 
The plot of this film follows a young Jackie Chan playing Wong Fei-Hung. Wong is a bit of a jack the lad sort, he gets people into trouble, chats women up and so on. His father discovers this and decides to punish Wong for his menacing ways by making him train harder in martial arts. Jackie is trained by an old beggar whom happens to be a great martial arts master, but with a difference. This martial arts master is a master in the art of Drunken Kung Fu!! yep that is correct drunken kung fu!. 
What we get is the usual old school kung fu movie but with what must be Jackie Chan's first comedy kung fu film (well this and its brother film Snake in the Eagles shadow). The fighting in this film is just hilarious to watch seeing Jackie turn to drink to become a drunken fighter and with hilarious consequences!.

3, Miracles (1989)
This film is never really talked about in Jackie Chan film circles and I am not sure why. It happens to be one of Jackie Chan's personal favorites. Chan stars as a country bumpkin whom with his lack of city knowledge is cheated out of all his money when he sets foot in Hong Kong. Depressed and down his luck, he meets a poor woman selling flowers on the street. This flower seller urges Chan to buy a red rose, saying it will bring him luck. Chan buys the rose and soon after his luck totally changes. He becomes a mob leader but sets out to chnage the way the mob work and what they do and even tries to help a certain flower seller with her life.
With its 1920's setting and tale of morale and honesty this film is one of the best Chan films for me. The speeches he makes in this film to change the mob are great to watch and you feel like Chan is talking to the real Triad gangs out there in Hong Kong. The fight scenes are second to none also with Chan using all sorts of things at his disposal as ever.

2, Project A (1983)
Pirates rule the seas around Hong Kong in the late 19th century and its up to a coast guard police man played by Jackie Chan to stop them. Jackie Chan is not along in this film no sir he has the help of his two real life "Brothers" Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao in the mix too. This is easily my favorite film starring all 3 of the Dragon Brothers. The film has some of Jackie's most famous stunts like a bike chase through the streets of Hong Kong that was even copied in some way by Steven Spielberg in The Last Crusade's motor bike chase. 
But my favorite Jackie stunt happens to be in this film also which is the stunt drop off a clock tower, where Jackie lets go of a clock face to fall through two awnings to land slap bang on the floor. The first take has him land on his neck!!. He did this stunt as a nod to the great Harrold Lyold and his clock tower famous movie scene.


Okay we are here at the last hurdle, my pick of number one Jackie Chan film. It was hard picking films from such a huge career so I will give  honorable mentions to, Armour of God, Wheels on Meals, My Lucky Stars, Who Am I?, Snake in the Eagles Shadows and Drunken Master 2. But there can only be one pick for me....

1, Police Story (1985)
Oh yes, if you could only watch one Hong Kong movie of his I totally recommend this beauty. It has it all, the slapstick humor, the stunts, the action and the story to go with it.














Thursday, 14 August 2014

Movie Review: The Jazz Singer (1927)

Let me take you back to 1927. Cinema has taken off like nobody could imagine. The roaring 20's was in full flow, it was as F.Scott Fitzgerald called the Jazz age, and Cinema goers were treated to such fine films, like the comedies of Chaplin and Keaton, the action films of Fairbanks, European suspense cinema from such legends as Fritz Lang in Germany and a certain Alfred Hitchcock in Great Britain. Now all these films blew audiences away, they thought this was it the bees knees so to speak.

Enter Warner Brothers who wanted to do something a bit different. They wanted to release a film with Al Jolson in the lead. One thing tho Al Jolson was a singer..... cinema was silent.... but not for long the biggest and most important change to Cinema was about to begin the age of the.... 'Talkie'. WB had created a system called vitaphone. Vitaphone record the sound onto a disk (not yet on the film itself!). This disc was played along with the film in perfect unison instead of a pianist. This believe I or not was quite revolutionary, nobody had thought of this before, and it worked going on to be used for over 1,000 movies!.

Often hailed as the the first ever 'Talkie', and talked about in so many documentaries and books on movies and movie history. I was a bit shocked to find that its actually half silent and half talkie. But looking at it in context it was quite the achievement. The story revolves around a man who ran away from home as a boy, because he did not want to sing the religious songs his father wanted him to sing, his calling is 'Jazz'.

This happens to be Al Jolson of course. Now the story is told in the usual silent movie way scenes interspersed with cards of what the characters are saying and doing etc. But this was the shocker to come.... when Al gets on stage he talks and sings, not just that we can hear him!!. Now just imagine sat in a cinema in 1927, you only hear the sound of the piano been played by someone next to the screen, the movies are silent... but you have just witnessed history and in the words of Al ''You ain't heard nothing yet!''. I have posted a video from YouTube copyright of Warner Brothers at the bottom of this review of this classic moment.

The story is quite emotional... for the time, like I have mentioned the boy runs from home because his father is a Jewish cantor, whom does not approve of Jazz at all. The boy even leaves his mum behind (whom happens to believe in him), but we see him become The Jazz Singer, but he has to make some tough choices on the way.

Its the typical rebellion, chasing dreams against a fathers wishes, but a typical feel good movie. It is fairly average even for the time I think, but viewed as a piece of movie history, it is of great importance and worth a watch for Thayer alone. Al Jolson is pretty good in the movie too singing 'mammy' with his whole heart for his Mother who stood by him, he was certainly star and is cemented in movie history with this film. Cinema would never be the same again.



Sunday, 27 April 2014

Where have you been for 4 months?!?

Like some kind of Daniel Day-Lewis I have been hiding away from the world from the while, and neglecting this blog site, shame on me. So what have I been doing with my self you may ask. Well October 2013 was huge leap for me in my life.

I am quite an introvert and prefer my own company a lot but I also like to experience culture, history and art. Now there is one city that has bucket loads of all these things and that is Paris France. So I had a dilemma, I want to go to Paris but I want to do what I want to do, I bit the bullet and booked it on my own just for me. Needless to say I feel it was the greatest moment of life. Yes I went to Paris alone but, it was such an experience it woke something inside of me. The explorer was born so I set out to first go to all the cities in my own county of Yorkshire, Hull and Sheffield to name a few. Up next was a week off work where I spent 4 days in Edinburgh and then 3 days in Liverpool.

While in Edinburgh I explored the Scottish lowlands, even calling at the famous Roslyn Chapel, as seen in 'The Da Vinci Code'. Well nd truly aamazing I recommend it to all. I even bought by myself a tacky souvenir of Braveheart himself William Wallace. Needless to say my head has been elsewhere, but now I am back on solid ground planning my next trip to mainland Europe at the end of the year. Hopefully now I am back on terra firma, I will get back on with this blog and get some more movie things done. I am thinking of doing book reviews too. Just sick with me if you are still looking at this site, I have bought a new android Asus tablet, so hopefully I will be cracking on now because I have no computer now and iPhone is useless for this, but tablet proving good. Thanks all and I would love to hear from you all good or bad comments all welcome thanks.
James

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Movie Review: Down With Love (2003)

Yes I know this is a strange film for me to watch, but just hear me out me. 
 Down with Love (2003) Poster

  1. I adore Renee Zellweger if only she would marry me. 
  2. I'm a huge fan of Ewan McGregor. 
  3. David Hyde Pierce is in this film, he played my favourite television character of all time Niles Crane in Frasier. 

First lets go back to the 1960's of cinema. There was a huge genre of Romantic Comedies in this era of cinema. Two stars were at the appex of this genre, they were Rock Hudson and Dorris Day. This film happens to be set in the 1960's and sort of pays homage to these kind of Rom-Cons. Instead of Dorris and Rock Hudson we have Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. 

The story follows a best-selling female advice author who has all the answers until a sly journalist playboy starts asking the questions. She tells the woman of tv world to just eat chocolate, read and most of all "down with love" and make men do the house chores. Until she meets her match the journalist playboy played by McGregor. Lies and double identities follow in this perfect nod to them films of yesteryear. 

http://www.theage.com.au/ffxImage/urlpicture_id_1061529380325_2003/08/23/downwithlove,0.jpg The film looks exactly like a Hudson/Day film. It cleverly starts with the classic 20th Century Fox logo, as well as the CinemaScope logo. It's great to see studios look back at themselves with these nods, it's like warner Brothers still using "As Time goes by" from Casablanca at the start of their films, I loved seeing it. The outfits and hairstyles of Renee are just like the ones of Ms Day back in the day. This film also has the nasty looking moving scenery, in the car driving scenes, which to be honest I do like, they have a old school charm. One of the best bits for me in this film is the way they do the old telephone conversations from them films. We have the split screen during the conversation but thy put a modern day "not so innocent" twist on it, with various uses of body language on the phone interpreting a not very innocent thing, because of the way the cameras are angled. Yes it's not exactly brilliant I know but it was quite an amusing touch on the phone conversations from 60's Rom-Coms. They also include painted backdrops, which add to the feel of a film from the 60's or even television shows of that era.

The cast is brilliant in this film both leads just bounce off each other so great. Renee is just born to play a part like this, well and Bridget Jones of course. The way she talks and walks its like she sat and watched the old films and took it on with gusto. McGregor is believable as a playboy with his boyish looks, he pulls it off well. David Hyde is just his usual legendary self as seen in Frasier, using all his little ticks as seen in that show. Now this movie is not going to be everyone's cup of tea. But for people who just want a good laugh of a movie with some good nods to the past this is for you. Don't be expecting love and romance like films of today tho, this is an era of cinema where love meant just holding hands and kissing, no bedroom action like most films of today, very brave thing to do maybe release a film like this in the modern era (well ten years ago).

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Movie Review: The Deer Hunter (1978)

Very controversial movie that garnered Best Film, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor, at the Oscars.
The Deer Hunter (1978) Poster 
The film shows the effects of the Vietnam War on a little community in a Pennsylvania industrial town. The lives of the men in this town revolve around working in the steel mills. Three of these men we meet decide to enlist in the army for the war in Vietnam. One of the guys is getting married so they decide to throw the leaving party at the same time. After the wedding they go deer hunting to celebrate their last days before enlisting. What we see is some grueling scenes in Vietnam. These men we get to know like friends are really thrown into Hell with this war. Poor Stevie the newly wed ends up in a wheelchair, Nick (Christopher Walken) survives the ordeal but becomes so traumatized by what he has experienced and as for Mike (Robert De Niro) he learns that been the macho man is not the best way to be.

There is some real horrible scenes in this film, we see American POW's forced to play Russian Roulette against themselves, literally gambling with their lives and mental sanity. As much as they are controversial, I feel there is, a real over reliance on these scenes. Yes its harrowing and unsettling and sets things up for how these guys change but to do the same thing twice.. its a bit over the top to be honest. That been said the hunting scenes do sort of counter balance it. Michael Cimino looks like he is using the hunting scenes as a contrast to the war. They both involve guns but, the hunting they are free men killing for "sport" where as in the war they are trapped men fighting for their lives. Its like they are the "Deer" for the Asians in their "game", of Russian Roulette. There is no wonder Mr Cimino won best Director for this film. 
The whole cast is great. Robert De Niro as the lead is just at the top of his game coming off the back of the excellent Taxi Driver, and straight into this film, showcases how much of a great actor he is. The way he goes from been the happy go lucky guy to having the world and his friends on his shoulders, you can see and feel his pain. Meryl Streep, in one of her first few roles, easily shows the signs of the great actress she would later become, I mean she went straight into Kramer Vs Kramer after this film. The pain she shows when she is in love with Nick, even tho Mike loves her. One point we see Meryl Streep having to hide her tears because things didn't go the way she wanted, so underplayed to perfection. Of course the real stand out and deservedly winning that best supporting actor award at the oscars, is Christopher Walken. Wow. That is one word that sums up his performance. Seeing this man break and literally lose his mind is just sheer power on that screen. Especially more so in the last few scenes of the film. 

The cinematography is great in this film. The stand out pieces of photography has to be the hunting scenes. The big vistas and beautiful lakes and forests just caught so beautifully and nature lookin so innocent. Then we have the Vietnam scenes caught so violently and looking the polar opposite of the innocence of nature, it captures instead brutality, wonderfully done. Even the wedding at the beginning is shot beautifully, the look and style of the church, once again drafted in to help show the brutality of war look dark compared to the light at the beginning of the film.

Having the film for the first hour start as an introduction to these characters is another masterstroke by Cimino. We have the wedding and the hunting, it makes us draw into the lives of these characters and care about them, more than we normally would, when we see them in the war. Nicely Done. The films real theme is of friendship with the personal impact of war and its effects on us. This film packs such a dramatic punch to it that it will probably stay with you forever. Fully deserving of its awards and praise.