The Watchers

The Watchers

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Programme 13: American Pie Reunion, Lockout, Beauty And The Beast 3D and The Pirates!


Programme 13 is now available to view (click here to view on VideoMajic.tv)!

In this show, we take a look at bawdy comedy American Pie Reunion, action movie Lockout and family films The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! and Beauty & The Beast in 3D

In the news, we talk Iron Man 3 casting, Prometheus rating and a change in director for The Hunger Games sequel and more.

Podcasts can be found here and here.

Enjoy! 




Friday, 25 May 2012

Mini-Countdown: 5 Songs From The 1990s You Won't Believe Were Nominated For An Oscar!

Following on from my first mini-countdown of '80s music that was nominated for an Oscar, I thought it would be interesting to look at some '90s songs similarly honoured. All but one of these songs (the last one) makes me want to chop off my own ears in protest, so I apologise in advance if this quintet of songs isn't to your tastes.

'Blaze Of Glory' (1990)



From Young Guns II, this song was one of the five nominated at the 63rd Academy Awards. Jon Bon Jovi's music and lyrics were no competiton for the master that is Stephen Sondheim who took home the Oscar for 'Sooner Or Later' from Dick Tracy.


'(Everything I Do) I Do It For You' (1991) 


Not only did this remain at Number One in the UK Singles Chart for a frankly staggering sixteen weeks (to date still the longest consecutive run in British chart history), it also got nominated for an Oscar at the 64th Academy Awards. Bryan Adams would just have to be happy with ruling the British airwaves for four months as 'Beauty And The Beast' took the prize home instead. I was unable to embed a video of this song so, if you feel so inclined, please click the song title to hear it.

'Because You Loved Me' (1996)




Utterly sickly, utterly saccharine, this overblown confection from the fairly forgettable Up Close & Personal made up the numbers at the 69th Academy Awards, when 'You Must Love Me' from Evita won.

'How Do I Live' (1997)




 I didn't realise this uber-gloopy schmaltz-fest was on a film soundtrack; furthermore, I didn't realise that film was Con Air. Originally recorded by LeAnn Rimes (the version most people will know), it was actually performed by country star Trisha Yearwood for the movie. No matter who sung it; it didn't win. As with most things at the 70th Academy Awards, the Oscar went to Titanic (and 'My Heart Will Go On')

' I Don't Want To Miss A Thing' (1998)



Aerosmith's rock ballad for disaster movie Armageddon is a pretty decent song but it surprised me to see it among the list of nominations at the 71st Academy Awards. The third song on this list written by Diane Warren (a six-time Oscar nominee, but yet to win), it lost out to 'When You Believe' from The Prince Of Egypt.

There was another song that was nominated in the 1990s which absolutely knocked me sideways. But I'm gonna save that for the next mini-countdown which will feature five movies you won't believe were nominated for an Oscar.

Tez

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Rhys' Retro Collection #2: Broken Arrow and Cobra



BROKEN ARROW (1996)

Broken Arrow was written by Graham Yost (who wrote Speed) and directed by the then can-do-no-wrong John Woo. It’s 1996 and at that time John Travolta is in full come back mode. This film is a massive ‘I'm cool, I'm back’ statement from Travolta.

The film centres on the deliberate crash of a stealth bomber to steal nuclear weapons. Travolta plays the villainous traitor bomber pilot, while Christian Slater plays the hero pilot who is trying to stop him. Slater gives a very good go at playing the young hero – but I’m afraid to say I can see why Slater didn’t do much after this. He just doesn’t have what it takes to be a leading man. I would have liked to see someone else take on Travolta and make me believe they’re a worthy match.

The film has the flair and style of a John Woo movie – stunning visual cues and themes are as ever used here – the director likes to set up characters with visual cues (i.e. introducing characters with music cues and slick visuals to demonstrate who they are; Travolta slow motion walks into frame while looking menacing – that sort of thing).  Which now I’m afraid to say is very dated – but the film came out in 1996, which is sixteen years ago! What is more worrying for me is the film is almost twenty years old and reminds me I’m mortal! Anyway, enough of me realising how old a tech VHS is, the film…

The plot is set in almost real time – you’re thrown from action scene to action scene chasing down Travolta before he can set off a nuke – very familiar stuff for action fans. Which in some ways makes it a little- dare I say- boring? When I watched this when I was younger I loved this film, but now it’s just a little dull and way too predictable! Don't get me wrong, I’m a Woo fan and the Travolta and Woo re-team a year later with Face/Off is superb and has stood the test of time! But this film just feels lacklustre now. I was disappointed with it and I’m afraid it hasn’t made it onto the re-buy on DVD list!

Rating: 2 out of 5


COBRA (1986)

Now this is an example of my guilty pleasures in movies – a 1980’s action movie starring Sylvester Stallone! When this film came out, it was a film based on the original script for Beverly Hills Cop. While Stallone was attached to star in that film, he worked on the script – when the studio decided his Beverly Hills Cop was not what they wanted, Stallone left the project – but took his screenplay with him, which then became Cobra! This is a prime example of a film in my old collection that I should hate, be ashamed of and downright say ‘by today’s standards etc etc’. However, I won’t.

Why? Because it’s dated, it’s badly plotted, badly acted and badly directed by George P. Cosmatos (who, a year previously, directed Stallone in Rambo: First Blood Part 2 to great success). So why does this film still make me smile? Because if you’re expecting anything else from a 80s action movie, you’re a moron! This does what it sets out to do: low on plot, high on action. Bad guy doing bad things, good guy takes him out! And there is nothing wrong with that.

Stallone plays the lead title role, a cop who specialises in chaos and taking on the jobs other cops don't want! (Love it – just cliché heaven). The film has everything you expect: an over the top villain, played hammily brillantly by Brian Thompson; a damsel in distress (played by the then Mrs. Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen), bad pun one-liners; a montage, and more deaths than there rightly should be. The film is awful – however quite simply it’s 'that bad, it’s good!' You can't help but smile while watching 80s Stallone. This film is worth a re-watch, but I feel I won’t rush to replace it on DVD even though I enjoyed it again.

Rating: 3 out 5

Rhys

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Tempest (2010)




The Tempest is one of my favourite pieces of literature and my favourite of Shakespeare's plays. So when I heard that there was to be a film adaptation of the play directed by Julie Taymor (Titus, Frida, Across The Universe), I was intrigued. Not least because Taymor would be changing the gender of the main protagonist- from the sorceror Prospero to the sorceress Prospera.


Apart from the switch in gender, the film follows the plot of Shakespeare's original: on the way back from the marriage of his daughter, Alonso (the King of Naples) and his entourage are caught in the titular tempest and are shipwrecked on a distant island. But this  was no act of nature; Prospera  has raised the storm deliberately. She and her daughter Miranda were stranded on the island when her brother Antonio (supported by Alonso) usurped her from the dukedom of Milan. For twelve years, Prospera has been exiled on the island and now has her chance for revenge... The play is such a wonderfully powerful piece, touching on themes of love and loss, revenge and sacrifice, redemption and restoration. With such a strong  base, you would think the success of the project would be virtually assured. Well, not quite. There are a few misgivings that I have regarding the film which stop it being, for me, truly great. 




Just in case you think one of those misgivings in the switch in gender, let me be clear: I don't have any problem with changing Prospero's gender, especially when you have as accomplished an actress as Helen Mirren in the role. Her Prospera is a volcano ready to erupt, full of simmering passion and righteous anger for her treatment (Taymor wisely explains in pretty decent pseudo-Shakespearean writing that Prospera became Duke of Milan once her husband died, was accused of witchcraft by Antonio and then banished). Prospera's journey throughout is powerful stuff and Mirren is just excellent. Her grasp of the Shakespearean language frankly puts some other performers to shame, especially with the two famous speeches ('Our revels now are ended' and 'Ye elves of hills').


Other performances are fairly strong; David Strathairn, Chris Cooper and Tom Conti are all eminently watchable (especially Conti as the garrulous old counsellor Gonzalo), whilst Alfred Molina is good as the drunken butler Stephano. Sadly, Russell Brand grates on me every time he's on screen as the court jester Trinculo and Reeve Carney, who plays Ferdinand, has rockstar looks but is utterly bland (not sure whether that's the role or the acting though). They also shamelessly rip a song from Twelfth Night- 'O Mistress Mine'- so that Carney (a rockstar) can get to sing.




Taymor's visual style is impressive, utilising the harsh backdrops of Hawaii and Lanai to good effect and sequences showing the magical apparatus in Prospera's cell (and the masque for the marriage) are excellent. However, there were a few moments which baffled me, mostly around the presentation of Ariel, the airy spirit who serves Prospera. Sadly, Ben Whishaw's decent performance was slightly spoiled by the fact that, to me, he looked like a ghost from a Japanese horror movie - bone-white skin, black hair, staring eyes- which undercut him slightly. However, there is a rather poignant moment towards the end when Ariel and Prospera share a scene (and it appears to be the only time Mirren and Whishaw were in the same room together). 


As a piece of film-making, it's assured if a little shaky in places. As an adaptation of Shakespeare, its success (or otherwise) will depend on how much importance you give to the re-gendering of Prospero. Like I said previously, it wasn't a huge issue for me and raised some interesting questions: is a mother's love different from that of a father's, for instance. As a curio, this is well worth seeing but by no means would I consider it the seminal version of the play.


Rating: 3 out of 5


Tez

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Rhys' Retro Collection #1: Bulletproof



This generation had their war – HD-DVD vs BLU-RAY (and we know who won that!)

Well, if you’re a child of the 80s, you will remember the first format war – VHS v BETAMAX.

VHS won – it was in every home, pub, school and oil rig! When I was a kid, it was a revolution that people take for granted now – recording TV! “You mean I can record TV and watch it again and again?” Never mind being able to own my favourite movies – I can record movies from TV and keep them (for a period allowed by copyright, of course!).

I remember my grandparents had a VHS recorder before us- we were poor (and yes they were not cheap back then!) I remember watching videos from the local rental shop at my grandparents – I got to see films like Tron, Gremlins, The Goonies and Robocop! But the film that got watched the most was Raiders Of The Lost Ark, which my Granddad had recorded for me off ITV! But what was even more of a revelation was what my granddad had done for his film-mad grandson. He had recorded the film and cut out the ad breaks with the mighty pause record feature! Now that's love!

For me, VHS was everything. It was my generation’s movie vinyl! By today’s standards, the quality of picture and sound were shocking at best. But that wasn’t the point. I could relive the movie magic – I could watch my favourite films again and again. More importantly, a movie buff obsession was born – “the collection”. We all have them – films racked up everywhere around the house on bookshelves. My spare room, the landing, most of the living room dedicated to this “collection”. To be honest, it would probably take me a year or more to watch every film I have – and don’t get me started on  the debate of whether to organise them alphabetically or by genre or...  But, none the less, we need that film in our collection.

And so, it’s 2012 and I have a cupboard full of VHS – films I’ve not seen in years and years, some I even forgot I had or films I forgot existed. My plan? Simple, I’m going to give my VHS collection away to my younger brother-in-law. But, before I do, I’m going to re-watch a lot of them and I’m going to share what I find – the good, the bad and the downright ugly!

It’s simple – In doing this, it will help me decide which films I have to replace on DVD/Blu-Ray and those I can happily never own again!

So first up!



BULLETPROOF (1996)

This film stars Damon Wayans (hot off his co-starring turn opposite Bruce Willis in The Last Boy Scout) and Adam Sandler. Sandler was very much on the beginning of his career – be it a quick rise after 1996. The film was produced from the Saturday Night Live world and the film feels it. This film is a prime example of  “I didn’t even know I owned it or it existed”!

The film itself is a buddy cop action movie. Sandler plays a common thief who is arrested by the undercover cop Wayans – they have to get across the country for Sandler to turn evidence against the villain – played by the great James Caan! A basic join-the-dots plot for a basic movie. The good parts of the film are it’s actually funny – it’s a performance by Sandler where he isn’t hamming it up overly. He plays a very likeable rogue on the screen and you genuinely find him funny in parts. Wayans, however, is not believable as the hard-ass cop – he’s just terrible in the role. You can’t help but feel the role should have gone to someone like Bruce Willis (which would have brought some action credibility to the film).

The film is rated 18- and by today’s standards this film would never have been an 18. It’s an 18 because they have deliberately made it excessively violent within the action scenes. People don’t just get shot- they get shot and large holes explode in them, blood gushes from large gaping wounds- very 1980s action movie style and surprising for a mid-90s film, and a little jarring when you have wise cracks and then really gory bullet holes in the next shot!

All in all, the film does what it sets out to do – to entertain. But it is obvious after one film into the action genre that Sandler has not returned – he’s just not convincing within the genre. Seeing Sandler holding a gun and trying to look mean and hard – well, it’s probably the funniest thing he’s ever done on film. Shame when it’s not supposed to be funny!

2 out of 5 stars

Rhys

Sunday, 13 May 2012

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)




Currently on tour around the country is a wonderful play called Bette And Joan, which shows the intense rivalry between screen greats Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as they filmed the 1962 classic horror-thriller What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? which was the only time the two screen legends worked together. Infamous for the backstage tricks the two actresses played on each other, the film is a brilliant, campy concoction, full of eminently quotable lines and brimful of great performances. 


The plot is straightforward: former child star 'Baby' Jane Hudson (Davis) and her actress sister Blanche (Crawford)  live together in a decaying Hollywood mansion. Blanche is wheelchair-bound after a drunken car accident seemingly caused by Jane  left her crippled. Jane is firmly in control and takes delight in mentally torturing Blanche, whilst planning a comeback of her own. Into the picture comes mamma's boy pianist Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono) who sees Jane's comeback as a way to make himself rich. But when Elvira the domestic help (Maidie Norman) starts to get too close to the dark truth of the Hudson house, Jane takes an extreme course of action which leads to tragedy...


The screenplay, adapted by Lukas Heller from the novel by Henry Farrell, seems to be a pretty straightforward potboiler. However, the spark and verve from the two performances by Davis and Crawford- along with assured direction from Robert Aldrich- really elevate this film from mediocre schlock to a campy cult classic- in no small part thanks to the utterly enjoyable over-the-top performance by Bette Davis.




I contend that Baby Jane Hudson is Davis' second best performance on film (her first being the exquisite Margo Channing in All About Eve). Jane is a slovenly, sarcastic, bitter and downright cruel character and Davis plays her to the hilt. Face slathered with thick make-up, she slouches round the house spitting barbs to her sainted sister. With Edwin, she is coquettish and flirty (a deeply discomfiting sight). But there are moments of genuine class too; rehearsing one of her childhood vaudeville numbers, she catches sight of herself, haggard and old, in the mirror and breaks down. It's a performance full of fire and it's an absolute crying shame she didn't get her third (or fourth) Oscar for this performance.


I've never much been a fan of Joan Crawford or her movies, but I have to admit she is a perfect foil for Davis' borderline-hysterical turn. She suffers like a true martyr in a series of bizarrely sumptuous nightgowns and takes the barbs and dead animals from Davis like a pro. Towards the end, there's a rather beautiful scene where Blanche makes a long-kept confession and Crawford does play the scene extremely well. The other main performance of the film is that of Victor Buono, an actor who would later go on to be perhaps best known for playing King Tut in the 1960s series of Batman. This was his first film role and garnered a Best Supporting Actor nod for his troubles. He took over the role from Peter Lawford and is wonderful as the scheming little milquetoast, unaware that this gig won't make him rich at all.




The story on-screen is a torrid tale of rivalry, but the backstage story is no less tantalising. Despite various protestations from both actresses, Davis and Crawford couldn't stand one another. Their professional rivalry stretched back to the start of their careers. They were roughly the same age (although Crawford was actually older) and were up for the same kind of parts. The rivalry really seemed to kick off when Davis made a crack that Crawford had slept with every male star on the MGM set apart from Lassie! It seemed unlikely that the two would ever work together, but the deal was struck and the two divas faced one another. 


The filming of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? was beset by little tricks played by the actresses on each other. Crawford was the widow of Alfred Steele, CEO of Pepsi-Cola, so Davis arranged to have a Coca-Cola machine installed on set. In a scene where Jane has to haul Blanche out of bed, Crawford wore a weighted belt and Davis subsequently strained her back when she lifted the near-lifeless Crawford. In a scene where Jane viciously attacks Blanche, kicking her repeatedly, Davis made contact with Crawford's head, resulting in a deep wound which required stitches. You could hardly imagine anything like this happening on a movie set these days.




When the film was released, it was a smash, grossing nine million dollars. It was nominated for five Oscars, winning for Best Costume Design. As such, another horror-thriller starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford was announced - Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte. However, due to either a craven act of cowardice on Crawford's part or Davis' manipulations being too much (depending on whose story you believe), Crawford withdrew from the picture and was replaced by Olivia de Havilland. 


What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? remains one of my favourite films of all time and is well worth a look. And if the film piques your interest about these two leading ladies and their feud (as well as the filming of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?) I would highly recommend Bette And Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine, which is an eminently well-researched and even-handed book about these two complex women.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Princess And The Frog (2009)


Ahead of Beauty And The Beast's cinematic re-issue in 3D (and 2D in selected cinemas), I thought I'd take a look at another Disney movie- to be honest, I wasn't chomping at the bit to see The Princess And The Frog at the cinema but, to my surprise, it is well worth a look.

Set in Jazz Age New Orleans, hard-working waitress Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) is striving to open her own restaurant against all the naysayers who don't believe she is capable of it. The whole town is awash with excitement as the handsome Prince Naveen of Maldonia (voiced by Bruno Campos) breezes into town. However, an encounter with the sinister voodoo man Doctor Facilier (voiced by Keith David) leaves Naveen in a bit of a state- he's been turned into a frog! He meets Tiana at a costume ball and, believing her to be a princess, asks for a kiss. However, this complicates matters even more... It's a sumptously styled film, full of Cajun style jazz and several impressive set-pieces of action. 

As is customary for a Disney film, there are some talking animals thrown in the mix- a jazz-loving alligator named Louis and a Cajun firefly named Ray. Kids will fall in love with both but crucially neither are unbearable from an adult point of view; Ray's 'relationship' with Evangeline is a rather touching addition. There's a lot of good humour and the script is quite tightly plotted- Tiana and Naveen's set-to's as Tiana learns to relax a little and Naveen realises his own worth away from his privileged lifestyle (think of it as a reverse Aladdin) are fun as Rose and Campos' vocal performances really spark off one another. The songs are woven in very nicely and they don't jar against the talking, which is a big plus in a musical. 

The scenes with Doctor Facilier and his 'friends on the other side' (basically nasty-looking voodoo sprites akin to the shadow creatures in Ghost) are quite freaky and younger kids may be a little scared of him; as is usual with Disney films, the good triumph and the bad are punished - Facilier's punishment is one of the nastier dispatches of a villain in the Disney canon but entirely fitting.

All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and consistently surprising movie. 

Tez

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Mini-Countdown: 5 Songs From The 1980s You Won't Believe Were Nominated For An Oscar!

Ah, the 1980s. Huge shoulder-pads, tight trousers and more hairspray than you could shake a stick at - and that was just some of the men! This was the decade that brought us such questionable musical 'talent' as Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers, Bucks Fizz and Glenn Medeiros. It also brought us this quintet of songs which were all nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song during the 1980s. All of these nominations came as a complete surprise to me. Maybe they will for you too.


1. 'For Your Eyes Only' (1981)





This is not the first James Bond theme song to get a Best Original Song Oscar nod- both 'Live And Let Die' and 'Nobody Does It Better' from The Spy Who Loved Me were also nominated (but didn't win)- but it did surprise me that Sheena Easton's rather insipid track got the nod at the 54th Annual Academy Awards in 1982. The theme tune from Arthur actually got the Oscar.




2. 'Eye Of The Tiger' (1982)





At the 55th Annual Academy Awards in 1983, Survivor's anthemic 'Eye Of The Tiger' from Rocky III was one of the five songs nominated. It was beaten to the Oscar by 'Up Where We Belong' from An Officer And A Gentlemen.




3. 'Ghostbusters' (1984)





If there's something strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call? Yep, Ray Parker Jr.'s theme song went up against songs from Footloose, The Woman In Red and Against All Odds at the 57th Annual Academy Awards in 1985. The Oscar actually went to 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' by Stevie Wonder from The Woman In Red.




4. 'Glory Of Love' (1986)





The fact that Peter Cetera's slushy quintessentially 80s power ballad was seen as worthy for an Oscar nomination at the 59th Annual Academy Awards in 1987 boggles the mind. Taken from The Karate Kid Part II, it was beaten to the Oscar by another slushy quintessentially 80s power ballad, 'Take My Breath Away' from Top Gun. But am I the only one to think that there's been an absolute robbery in the fact that 'Mean Green Mother From Outer Space' from Little Shop Of Horrors didn't win? No? Just me then...




5. 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' (1987)





No, I am not joking. This utterly cheesy rock ballad, which was the main theme to Mannequin, was one of the five songs nominated at the 60th Annual Academy Awards in 1988. Which means that Mannequin can officially be called an Oscar-nominated movie. What on Earth? It didn't win the Oscar - that went to '(I've Had) The Time Of My Life' from Dirty Dancing. Given the alternative winner, I don't know whether we've had a lucky escape or not.


And if you think some of these choices were odd, wait til you see some of the ones nominated in the 1990s...


Tez

The Watchers On GTFM Radio!



A few weeks ago, Rhys and I were interviewed by Ioan Dyer of GTFM Community Radio. Our interview is being broadcast today (Sunday May 6th) on Ioan's Film Show, which airs from 4pm to 5pm. It was a very interesting chat; Ioan definitely knows his stuff!


If you live in the Vale of Glamorgan or Rhondda Cynon Taff, you can listen to GTFM on 107.9 FM or you can listen live through their website here.


Tez

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Programme 12: Comic Book Movies Special (including Avengers Assemble review)


Programme 12 is our super-extended bumper Comic Book Movie special, in honour of the UK release of Avengers Assemble and is now available on VideoMajic!

It's fair to say that we were both downright excited about this, so much so that we went on opening night and even saw it in 3D. But did it live up to the anticipation? Find out our thoughts in the main review.

However, we also discuss our favourite and least favourite comic book movies and formulate the Watchers definitive best and worst comic book movie lists. Included in the discussions are such movies as The Dark Knight, Captain America: The First Avenger, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Catwoman but where were they placed?

There is also a brief discussion of upcoming comic book movies and some comic book movie news!

Please click here and here for podcast versions - podcast subscribers also get an exclusive bonus podcast where we discuss Avengers Assemble in full, geeky and (be warned) spoiler-y detail.