S is for Smokey and the Bandit

So much choice for my choice of ‘S’ movie. Star Wars? Star Trek? Sneakers? Slither? Signs?

All good choices. But no. S is for… Smokey and the Bandit. Oh my.

1977. 6.8 stars. But! Nominated for an Oscar! Bet you didn’t know that, did you? It was also the second-highest grossing film of 1977, beaten only by a little film going by the name of Star Wars…

It was also one of Hitchcock’s guilty pleasures. And if it’s good enough for Alfred, it’s good enough for me.

Buford T. Justice: What we’re dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the law.

The plot. Big Enos Burdette & his son, Little Enos, bet Bo ‘Bandit’ Darville that he can’t drive from Atlanta, GA, to Texarkana TX, pick up 400 cases of Coors and drive them back to Atlanta in 28 hours. If he does, the Bandit gets eighty thousand dollars…

Hijinks ensue. Oh boy, do they ensue.

Bandit (Burt Reynolds, on fine form and with trousers which would give David Bowie’s Labyrinth strides a run for their money in the scene stealing department) teams up with his old buddy Cledus “Snowman” Snow (Jerry Reed, who sang the title song) to do the run – Bandit in a black Pontiac Trans Am which he’ll use to block for Snowman in his rig.

At 96 minutes, we’ve already established that it’s the perfect length for a film. Bandit and Snowman take the first 15 minutes to get to Texarkana, load up with Coors and turn for home. I’ll let Bandit tell you what the problem is…

Bandit: The problem is that Coors beer, you take that east of Texas and that’s bootleggin’

Shortly thereafter, Bandit runs into Carrie (Sally Field, mmm), a bride running away from her wedding. Her father-in-law-to-be is one Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), of Texas. And the sheriff wants the bride back.

Smokey and the Bandit is one long, beautiful chase movie through Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. The stunts are splendid, the banter between the Bandit, Snowman, Frog and Buford is wonderful. Buford’s son, Junior is as gloriously dim as a bag of spanners. The Trans Am roars along as only a Trans Am can.

Bandit inspired a whole raft of other movies and TV. Chase movies of the late seventies and early eighties are a favourite of mine – the Cannonball Run (also starring Mr Reynolds) is also splendid fun if you’re in the mood.

Now, if we’re being *really* picky, the drive from Atlanta to Texarkana isn’t the 900 miles that Bandit claims – it’s more like 670. Google Maps (bless ‘em), puts the drive time at just over ten hours, meaning they’d easily beat the 28-hour limit even driving at the speed limit.

Darn you, Google Maps, you spoiler of movies, you. :-)

That’s my guilty pleasure film (one of very very many). What’s yours?

 

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy
P is for Pitch Black
Q is for Quantum of Solace
R is for The Raid

juxtaposition

juxtapose

Interesting juxtaposition of tweets the other day – two oceans meeting and two clocks showing different times. There’s an idea for a story in there somewhere… what happens if you get betwixt the two?

R is for The Raid

Or, to give it its full title The Raid: Redemption. This Indonesian action movie burst onto the scene in 2011 from the Welsh director Gareth Evans (who also wrote the script) and starring Iko Uwais as Rama.

The plot, such as it is, is paper thin. A SWAT team invades an apartment building which is the safe house of a powerful drug lord Tama and his gang. Hijinks ensue. Lots of people come out of it very very badly.

I’d heard of this film a long time ago, but only recently got to see it. I’ve seen a huge range of action movies over the years and this seemed right up my street, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how utterly brilliant it is. The action scenes are exhausting to watch – it’s an hour and a half of pretty much non-stop action after the initial setup.

If you have any interest in action movies, I strongly urge you to seek this out. As with Oldboy, they’re talking about doing an american remake (Chris and Liam Hemsworth are reportedly being considered for the lead role). Don’t bother. Watch this instead and marvel at the sheer carnage. Glorious stuff. The action scenes are creative, original and intense. The film zips past, leaving you with your jaw on the floor and wanting more.

Luckily the sequel, The Raid: Berandal, is out at the cinemas now. I, for one, can’t wait.

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy
P is for Pitch Black
Q is for Quantum of Solace

Q is for Quantum of Solace

I’ve been looking forward to this for a while – I’ve always known that my Q film would be Quantum of Solace and I want to explain why it’s better than you think.

Clocking in at a paltry 6.7 stars on IMDb, QoS arrived in 2008, two years after Daniel Craig burst onto the scene in Casino Royale and redefined Bond for a new era. Marc Forster picks up directing duties from Martin Campbell and the story picks up directly from Casino Royale. Quantum features the shortest running time (at 106 minutes) of the EON Films Bond movies. Interestingly, Casino Royale is the longest, a minute longer than the third of Daniel Craig’s movies, Skyfall.

We open with a wide shot, swooping across a lake to close in on Bond and his Aston Martin, Mr White in the boot, en-route from Lake Garda to Siena. The Aston roars as only an Aston can through the tunnel, bad guys in pursuit. The Aston (sadly) gets trashed, along with the bad guys. Bond takes White in to see M for a spot of interrogation and… things take a turn for the worse.

It’s an interesting film – Casino rebooted the Bond franchise in no uncertain terms, with nods to all the usual Bond tropes. Quantum is much leaner – Bond is on the hunt for the shadowy Quantum organisation who tried to assassinate M. The hunt leads from Italy to Austria where Bond interrupts the Quantum agents plotting during a spectacular performance of Tosca. Their fun spoiled, the Quantum gang make their escape, but not before a shootout through a restaurant – beautifully shot against the backdrop of Puccini’s music.

Bond has his passports and credit cards revoked when he refuses to come home. There’s a lovely little scene between him and a airline receptionist – one which Roger Moore’s hands would have been slightly louche and creepy, but Craig and the receptionist both know exactly what they’re doing and it’s perfectly judged.

Bond and Mathis head off to Bolivia to find out what Quantum are doing. There’s a fantastic scene on the plane where Mathis wakes to find Bond at the bar, drinking his signature martini – a Vesper.

[short interlude - Bond's 'Vesper' martini consists of three measures of Gordon's gin, one of vodka, a half a measure of Kina Lillet, shaken over ice, with a thin slice of lemon. I've had one - they are very *very* nice and very *very* strong. Bond at this point has had six. I'm amazed he was still upright. Interestingly, this is the first Bond you see even slightly drunk]

The story trundles along – There’s a plane chase (to go with the car chase, boat chase, and foot chase, to complete the set), we find out that Greene is trying to dam Bolivia’s supply of fresh water in order to create a monopoly. Back to La Paz and M and we find that Agent Fields has been murdered – drowned in crude oil by Greene (a neat but gruesome homage to Jill Masterson in Goldfinger). Bond escapes from M’s clutches and meets up with his old chum Felix Leiter, who tells him that Greene is meeting the Bolivian general at a hotel in the Atacama desert. Camille and Bond go out to the hotel (The set design of which is heavily reminiscent of Ken Adam’s work in some of the early Bond movies), Camille ending up killing the general to avenge her family, the hotel blows up (as all good Bond bad guy lairs do!) and Bond abandons Greene in the desert with nothing but a can of motor oil. It doesn’t end well.

Bond’s story finishes off in Kazan, Russia, where he finds Vesper Lynd’s former lover, Yusef, a member of Quantum who seduces women with valuable connections, as he had done with Vesper…

Bond finally has closure over the affair with Vesper and M reinstates him. Or tries to…

M: Bond, I need you back.
Bond: I never left.

Quantum certainly has its faults, and it’s definitely the weakest of the three Craig-era Bonds thus far. However, I’d argue that if you watch it directly after Casino Royale, it makes a *lot* more sense – in a way, Casino is in effect just the pre-title sequence to Quantum, admittedly a very long one! Quantum wraps up everything in Casino nicely (with the exception of Quantum, who could be the new SMERSH or SPECTRE in later movies), leaving the way open for Skyfall…

James Bond will return…

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy
P is for Pitch Black

P is for Pitch Black

Some of the letters of my A-Z movie challenge have been… tricky. Not so, P. The obvious choice would be The Princess Bride. With 8.2 stars and #176 on the IMDb Top 250, and clocking in at 98 minutes (more or less the perfect length for a movie) it’d be a safe choice.

But instead I’m going for Pitch Black. A paltry 7.1 stars on IMDb and running to 109 minutes, it should pale in comparison.

Don’t be afraid of the dark. Be afraid of what’s in the dark…

Pitch Black popped into view in 2000, seemingly out of nowhere. Costing only $23 million it launched Vin Diesel’s action hero career – previously he’d appeared in Saving Private Ryan and interestingly, provided the voice for Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant. Also starring Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser and Keith David, it was the appearance of Claudia Black which caught my eye at the time, being a big fan of Farscape. *fans self*

The plot is pretty simple stuff – criminal and All Round Bad Guy Richard B. Riddick (Diesel) is being transported to prison when the spaceship is damaged by some debris. It crash lands (rather spectacularly) on a desert (and apparently deserted) planet and Riddick escapes…

So far so good. Diesel’s Riddick is a completely wonderfully over-the-top ultimate bad guy. But you can’t help falling under his spell, the anti-hero who you’re rooting for from the off. The other characters are just tagging along in his wake. Diesel is utterly electric and steals every single scene he’s in.

The story takes a darker turn (sorry) as the planet’s three suns set and something comes out to feed.

Cue classic monster flick, very much following in the footsteps of Aliens – it’s a race to escape without being eaten.

Glorious fun. It’s spawned two sequels, the first of which I’ve seen (and urge you not to bother with) and the second of which  I haven’t (but have heard good things about).

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure
O is for Oldboy

O is for Oldboy

Oldboy.

Oldboy theatrical poster

We’re talking the original Korean version, of course. Apparently Spike Lee has remade it for the American market for some reason. I’m generally not a fan of remakes (with a few notable exceptions) especially where the original is as utterly stunning as Chan-wook Park’s 2003 movie is.

A very healthy 8.4 stars on IMDb, Oldboy comes in at #72 on the IMDb Top 250 and rightly so. Oldboy is the second instalment of The Vengeance Trilogy which starts with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and is followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I’ve not seen the other two films, but they’re now firmly on my List Of Films I Really Ought To Watch.

The story follows Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-sik), an ordinary guy who is kidnapped on the eve of his daughter’s birthday and held captive in solitary confinement for 15 years. One day he’s suddenly released with a wad of money and a cellphone. He sets out on a trail of vengeance to find his captor and work out why he’s been held for so long.

And what a tale it is. Park’s tale is an deep, complex exploration of revenge, responsibility and violence. It’s not an easy film to watch at times and will stay with you for a long, long time after it’s over. Very bad things happen to a lot of people (and an unfortunate octopus). The corridor fight scene is one of the best committed to film and is all the more impressive when you find out it was done in one take (albeit shot over the course of three days) and the use of a claw hammer for some… amateur dentistry is both chilling and brilliantly done. The violence in Oldboy is never gratuitous though, unlike a lot of western movies of the same ilk. It’s always there to drive the story onwards.

The story itself is beautifully told and unfolds bit by bit, rewarding the viewer with a pay-off which, in the words of a friend, leaves you in need of a good shudder.

It’s gripping, mesmerising, masterful stuff, if you’ve got the stomach for it. Highly recommended. Not for the faint-hearted or squeamish though.

I’d also like to recommend you listen to the Xanadu Cinema Pleasuredome podcast, specifically Episode 7: Women, Vengeance and Claw Hammers in which Windy & Melissa talk Korean movies with special guest Lex. It’s a joyful thing hearing movie geeks geek out about movies.

I’ll definitely be investigating more Korean cinema following Oldboy, and am open to suggestions…

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon
N is for National Treasure

N is for National Treasure

Someone mentioned that my A-Z was very… mainstream and family-friendly. Just wait until you get to O…

I don’t care – this is my A-Z! I got a bit carried away late last night and scheduled my O film for this morning. O is for ‘ooops’, it would seem, because I’ve missed out N! The alphabet is *hard*, man.

N then is for National Treasure. A pure ‘guilty pleasure’ film if ever there was one. That’s if you subscribe to the notion, of course. I *love* this film and every minute of its 131 minute running time. Yes, it’s long, but it’s a sheer joy from start to finish. 2004, a paltry 6.9 stars on IMDb, it spawned a sequel (Book of Secrets) which is fine, but the first one is where it’s at.

All his life Benjamin Gates has search for a treasure. No one believe to existed.
The greatest adventure history has ever revealed.
In order to break the code, one man will have to break all the rules.
The clues are right in front of your eyes.

Oh, this is *so* much fun. It knows *exactly* how silly it is, and plays it dead straight. The plot boils down to a standard follow the clues to find more clues to find the treasure, in the grand tradition of Indiana Jones. The parallels are writ large across the screen – imagine Indy in the 21st century and you’re not a million miles off. I’ve seen this film a dozen times, but would happily watch it now if it was on TV. I’ll even watch the last twenty minutes if it’s on. It’s pure saturday afternoon hokum of the highest variety.

The plot, if anyone cares:

Nic Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian searching for a lost treasure. There’s some gubbins about the Knights Templar and the American Freemasons who hid the treasure during the American Revolutionary War. Hijinks abound in good measure, and it turns out there’s a coded map on the back of the Declaration of Independence, which Gates and chums has to steal. Sean Bean turns up and tries to steal it too, and it’s a race to the finish.

It also stars stars Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha, and Christopher Plummer, all of whom are also enjoying themselves immensely. Some critics feel that the sheer implausibility of it all spoils the movie, but for me the complete bonkersness of it all just adds to the enjoyment. This is not a film you sit and ponder, or examine in depth. There are holes in the plot you could drive through. Instead, just strap yourself in, hand Nic the keys to the car and brace yourself. We’re going on an adventure!

previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park
K is for Kung Fu Panda
L is for Labyrinth
M is for Moon