Movie night

First up, I’m horrified to realise that from my original list I omitted an absolute belter of a film. It’s number one here. Frankly the first ten weren’t necessarily my Top Ten, since the actual ranking of things like that is too subjective and changeable. So anyway, here’s ten more….

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark. The opening sequence, the way the Paramount logo morphs into an actual shot of a mountain. The hat, the whip. Nazis getting their faces melted off. Karen Allen. The truck chase. Shooting the sword guy. Faultless from start to finish.

2. Jurassic Park. I nearly put this in my Guilty Pleasures list but either way, it’s just more Spielberg gold. I can do without some of the schmaltzyness and it does look a tad dated here and there, but when it gets going, it’s marvellous. A little perturbed that our son’s nursery apparently let 3 year olds watch it one rainy afternoon mind you…

3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. OK, let’s get another Spielberg one of the way here. Some of the early scenes give a real sense of a building epic, but it becomes more of a personal journey with Richard Dreyfus’ character toward the end. The abduction sequence is terrifying, the final encounter is still exciting and kind of touching and the special effects still look good. I struggle to watch the mashed potato scene without thinking of the Homer Simpson version though.

4. Downfall. The story of the final days in Hitler’s bunker. You do get a sense of sympathy for some of the characters and the way everyone has been sucked into the madness. But only for a few, and not that much. More fascinating is the portrayal of the completeness of the dictators delusion and denial and the astonishing performance of Bruno Ganz in the lead role.

5. Hero. An amazing film on many levels. The aesthetics are extraordinary, the shifting and multi-layered story gripping, the action exceptional and the cast first rate. Epic.

6. Glengarry Glen Ross. CAST! Unimaginably good cast: Pacino, Spacey, Baldwin, Lemmon, Pryce, ‘Fuck you, that’s my name.’ A spin off character on the Simpsons. A phenomenally good film. ‘You see this watch?

7. Shaun of the Dead. Cornetto? Put Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright properly on the map after the stupendously good sitcom Spaced, from which a number of ideas are borrowed/expanded, not to mention cast members. A love letter to all manner of horror films and the extras and outtakes on the DVD are awesome.

8. The Thing. The John Carpenter one, with Kurt Russell. It’s a properly creepy, claustrophobic film with a mounting sense of isolation as everyone begins to realise that they really can trust no one. They also used a guy with no arms for one of the special effects scenes where a guy loses his arms. Keep your CGI.

9. Die Hard. Still a classic of the action genre, you cannot fail to enjoy a bit of John McClane. Well, possibly you can fail to enjoy the follow ups but the original is awesome. Proper blockbusting popcorn-munching, wisecracking, bad-guy shooting fun. And Alan Rickman nearly steals the show.

10. Goodfellas. There are plenty of mafia movies to choose from but I prefer this to The Godfather. There are some genuinely shocking moments of violence, and the central performances of Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro bristle with menace, but the sprawling story and the brilliant cast mean that you cannot take your eyes off this for a moment.

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Giving it away

Through Friday 19th and Saturday 20th October, my debut novel Gatecrasher is free to download to your kindle. Giving away a book that took the better part of 11 years to write. That seems almost like the actions of a man who lacks the faith in his work to ask people to part with their hard earned cash for it right?

Au contraire mon amis. Or is that mais amis? Lord only knows. The point is that I don’t think the book sucks and does not deserve paying for, but rather have a quiet confidence in it. I’ve read enough bad books to feel happy that this isn’t one, but a writer needs readers, and more importantly a writer needs a lot of readers that also think its good so that they a) come back for more and b) write some reviews and tell their friends.

For now, since there is nothing else to come back for yet (I’m working on it) then mostly it’s b.

I want you all to help yourselves to Gatecrasher, read it and then if you like it tell your friends you liked it and why. Then tell total strangers the same thing. (You needn’t just approach random people and beseech them to read it though don’t let me stop you). But reviews on your blogs, websites, Amazon especially, or even a nice quick tweet is all I ask in return.

It’s a little bit scary asking people to tell you what they think about the product of your long hard slog, but as Shakespeare said: “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

Guilty Pleasures

When my wife read my Movie Night post, she said, rather dismissively I must add, that it was a ‘Boy’s List’.

Fair enough, I don’t much care for chick flicks, rom coms and the like. I want, laughs, thrills, twists and some brain food from time to time. I believe some or all of those are represented in those first ten, and in my next there will be more.

But it did set me to thinking, what of those rom-coms and chick flicks? I don’t dislike them all. There are a few that I won’t switch off when I see them on my TV. Some even that I will put on when scouring the Sky box.

So for reasons of balance, here are a few of those movies that I might otherwise turn my nose up at, but really, quite like.

1. Hugh Grant. His appearances on Leveson and Question Time elevated him in my humble opinion, but though it’s easy to dismiss him, one must admit that Four Weddings and a Funeral is a fine piece of work and Notting Hill better than it has any right to be. He’s basically the only redeeming feature of that Bridget Jones movie too. The first one, I haven’t seen the second.

2. Just Friends. I discovered this when my wife (then girlfriend) insisted on watching it one lazy Saturday morning. I tried to remain aloof and stuck my nose in a book but ended up watching. And really enjoying it. It looks ike they had fun making it, as the bloopers demonstrate.

3. The Benchwarmers. See above – trying to ignore a movie that I knew would suck, then watching it anyway. And laughing despite myself. I should know better.

4. Independence Day. What’s that? Massive alien invasion?Huge sfx budget? Jeff Goldblum? I’m IN!! OK, so it’s a shame that it kind of sucks a bit, there’s the dreadful American-President-Saves-World thing and the speech too, but there’s some rip-roaring action, exploding buildings and the bit at the start with the bass-rumble and the huge space ships disconnecting from the mother-ship which is actually very cool. And Jeff Goldblum.

5. The Break Up. Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan playing themselves. She’s cutesy, he’s blokeish. Meh. Sill though, anything with Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman in can’t be all bad right? The ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ scene is great, and if I could find a clip I’d link it.

Movie night

I have not actually counted but I’d hazard a guess that I own (and have owned but subsequently ebayed / charity shopped) as many movies as books. I tend to keep them in separate rooms though, just to avoid any upset or jealousy about which I spend most time with.

The VHS are all gone now, and many of the DVDs upgraded to Blu Rays and some movies I have owned on several formats. And so on occasion, when perusing the shelf for something to watch, thoughts turn to favourites. And lists. This is the first ten in no particular order.

1. Jaws. I love Jaws, it is a perfect movie. Perhaps driven by the well known mechanical problems with the big fake shark, Spielberg relies on other techniques to build the tension and the terror and it’s a masterclass in both. And the cast is exceptional too. All that, and Quint’s showstopping, scene-stealing monologue.

2. Anchorman. I like Will Ferrel a lot but there is often a feeling of diminishing returns from this high watermark. Nevertheless, there are few bad days or bad moods that cannot be turned round by this endlessly quotable classic. 60% of the time, it works… every time!

3. Life of Brian. Some of the finest comedy performers ever in one of the finest comedy performances ever. Pythons at the top of their game. Also amusing the reaction of people not actually getting the joke.

4. Aliens. Stop yer grinning’ and drop yer linen. So many sequels fail because they cannot live up to the standards set by the original. Cameron doesn’t even try to, and goes in a different direction, with deliriously entertaining results.

5. Dead Mans Shoes. Shane Meadows is your actual, proper genius and this is, for me, his stand out film, in part due to the phenomenal performance of Paddy Considine.

6. Bourne Identity. A game changer in the genre and responsible for the overhaul of the Bond franchise it is just a brilliantly paced and pitched action movie. And Matt Damon kicks any ass that needs kicking.

7. Bladerunner. Ridley Scott has made a lot of good movies, and this one seems to have been made several times. No matter how many iterations there are, whether you prefer the voice-over version or not, it has still not really been topped as a piece of sci-fi and still does not look dated all these years later. I’ve seen things you people would not believe.

8. Oldboy. First time I watched this movie, I was already blown away and then the final twist had me all hand-clasped-to-mouth in shock, which is really not a gesture I employ commonly. Features one of the best fight scenes ever. Ever.

9. Empire Strikes Back. We can safely ignore the prequels but this one of the proper Star Wars films edges it for me. Mostly because of the Hoth sequences but it feels the most accomplished and there are no ewoks.

10. Withnail and I. Richard E Grant is astonishingly good, the script is majestic and endlessly quotable and no matter how many times I watch it, it never gets less funny. Every British comedy made since must live in its shadow.

I will return to this topic, and soon. For now, if anyone wants to chip in with a top ten, or take issue with these, feel free.