Friday, 26 October 2007


Spider-Man 3 was a resounding box-office success which was even more profitable than the successful and critically-acclaimed Spider-Man 2. The success of this franchise is almost guaranteed courtesy of the Spider-Man brand name. So why does the writer/director (Sam Raimi) play it safe by supplying an ending that is clearly too long! Without fear of spoiling the plot, there is a moment when the leads are on a building with a sunset in the background - this would have been an apt time to finish the tale!

In a Hollywood system where studios' executives are so worried about losing money, it may be understandable for them to approach the safe route and produce a film that is formulaic so that they can make a profit in the first week of release. However,
Spider-Man 3 was such a highly-anticipated film that surely it's profits were assured. So the creators decision to be produce yet another predictable and over-long ending is truly baffling!

What is so annoying about Spider-Man 3 is that it is not a bad film. It is just that it could have been so much better. However, Spider-Man 3 is just another example of the powers-at-be in Hollywood being more worried about losing money and ever-more responsive to the reaction of test audiences rather than break the formula so to create an ending that makes the film a lot more memorable.

We have witnessed loads of these films which could have been better over the past ten or fifteen years or so. One notable example is the 2000 Steven Spielberg movie AI: Artificial Intelligence. This film is clearly 20 to 40 minutes overlong that even the die-hard Spielberg fans were looking at their watches before long. The critics were quick to seize on the over-sentimentalised and overlong ending. But what was really sickening about AI: Artificial Intelligence was that the film had begun so well and had the makings of being a modern classic. This was one of those films that the late great Stanley Kubrick wanted to be involved in. So what really is going on?

It is quite simple. The tail is wagging the dog and therefore the creative elements in Hollywood needs to stand up to be counted. I do not know how this is going to happen but as I have asked my film Studies students if they thought that Casablanca would have been as effective had Rick given a "hill of beans" or if they thought that Gone With The Wind would have been as memorable if Rhett Butler had given a damn. Such great endings do not always give the audiences what they really want but by doing just that they often make the movies into gems that will never be forgotten. So let's hope for better endings - and even I have clearly outstayed my welcome already!
Spider-Man 3 RATING: *

Thursday, 18 October 2007

'Ratatouille' is simply a delicious movie!

In the new animated Disney/Pixar film Ratatouille, Remy is an unusual rat. His father, brother and the other scavengers eat just about anything to survive but Remy is different. He has a gourmet sense of smell and prefers food that is refined and cultured. He has learned his specialised cooking skills by watching Auguste Gusteau's cookery television programme on the television at an old woman's house where his colony of rats live. After watching that his hero Gusteau has just died following the severe criticism of his restaurant by evil food critic Anton Ego, the colony of rats are found by the old woman, who then tries to shoot them. They escape but only to lose Remy on the way. Remy finds his way to Gusteau's restaurant in Paris and it is by the vision of Gusteau who inspires him to help a talentless rubbish cleaner Linguini, who has no cooking talents, to become a gourmet genius. However, the former sous-chef, Skinner is in charge and does not warm to Linguini and needless to say that the evil Anton Ego, whose reviews had destroyed Gusteau's life, is due for a re-visit in the near future.
Ratatouille is a wonderful return to form by Disney and Pixar. Written and directed by Brad Bird (of The Incredibles), the film is witty and stylish,which keeps the attention of the viewer throughout. The visuals are simply amazing and even the rats look cute, despite not looking that much different to real rats! The vocal performances are striking especially from Patton Oswald (Remy), Peter Sohn (Emile), Janane Garfalo (Colette), Ian Holm (Skinner), Brian Dennehy (Django), Brad Garrett (Auguste Gusteau) and Lou Romano (Alfredo Linguini). However it is Peter O'Toole's sinister performance as the creepy Anton Ego that is the scene stealer in the movie! The performances are a major ingredient in what is a meaty and spicy film that will swallow loads of awards - including Oscars! Enjoy! RATING ****

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


Ben-Hur (1959) has always been one of my two favourite films, along with Roman Holiday (1953), both of which were directed by veteran director William Wyler. The story is set in Judea during the time of Jesus Christ when the Roman Empire was in the ascendancy. The film focuses on Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), a Jewish nobleman who greets the arrival his old Roman childhood friend, Messala (Stephen Boyd) who is now in command of the local Roman garrison. Messala lets Judah know that more legions of Romans will be arriving in Judea very shortly but he promises Judah that he and his family will be saved.

After meeting Judah's mother (Martha Scott) and sister (Mary O'Donnell) at the house of Hur, Messala's real intentions become known. He tries to force Judah to name any Jewish "troublemakers" to him so that they will be punished. Judah angrily refuses Messala's request and after an angry exchange of words, Messala gives Judah a straight forward ultimatum that he is either FOR him or AGAINST him. Judah's response is "if that is the choice, then I am AGAINST YOU!" Messala leaves Judah's house in disgust.

Later Judah and his sister overlooks the welcoming parade for the new Roman governor from the rooftop of their house but a broken brick becomes dislodged and falls off, barely missing the governor. Despite knowing that Judah and his mother and sister are innocent, Messala decides to arrest them anyway. Judah's family are a powerful Jewish family and Messala uses this moment to make an example of them. He sends Judah's mother and sister to prison and sends Judah to the galleys, without even a trial. Judah does get a chance to make one promise to Messala just before he is dragged away by the Roman soldiers: "God grant me vengence that you will live when I return!" The adventure for justice begins....
Ben-Hur was an exceptionally expensive production made for a then-unheard figure of $15 million. The production required 200 sets scattered over 340 acres (or 1.4 km²).
The original silent version of Ben-Hur was made in 1925 on an expensive budget and was a huge gamble for the new MGM studios but the final result was a critical and commercial success. Once again, the 1959 version was a huge gamble made by MGM to save itself from bankruptcy which did pay off, earning a then-huge figure of $75 million. However, the producer of the movie, Sam Zimbalist, suffered a fatal heart attack during production which many colleagues believe was due to the stresses of making such a hugely important picture.
The film delivers. It is a visually a gigantic epic, filmed in a process called MGM Camera 65, with an aspect ratio of 2.76:1 which is one of the widest prints ever made. The width is almost three times its height. The amazing music opus by Hungarian-born film composer Miklós Rózsa is truly epic and the overall production is amazing to behold. Although the set pieces such as the sea battle are well-staged, it is the memorable chariot race that is the highlight of the film. The chariot race took over three months to complete, using 8000 extras on the largest film set ever built. Although filmed in the days long before computer generated images, the chariot race is still extremely enjoyable and even by today's standards, it is considered by most critics as one of the most exciting action sequences ever filmed.
Charlton Heston is convincing as the downtrodden Judah Ben-Hur and deservedly won an Academy Award for this performance. Irish actor Stephen Boyd plays the evil Messala with a perfect measure of venom and camp that suits the character. He was awarded the Golden Globe that year. The other actors such as Jack Hawkins (Quintus Arrius), Hugh Griffith (Sheik Illderim), Haya Harareet (Esther), Sam Jaffe (Simonides) and Finlay Currie (Balthasar) provide sensitive performances. The screenplay is credited as written by Karl Tunberg, but it seems certain that he had written the original draft before it was re-written by Gore Vidal and Christopher Fry. This was a contentious point but Charlton Heston paid tribute to Fry's contribution during his Best Actor Academy Award acceptance speech.

Ben-Hur was expertly directed by William Wyler and co-directed by Andrew Marton who played an enormous part in the filming of the amazing chariot race. The film went on to win eleven Oscars including Best Picture, a record that was only equalled recently by 'Titanic' (1997) and 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003).

is without question the film in which other epics are measured by. It is not without flaws but they are really so few. In the recent four-disc DVD edition there is a unique documentary included entitled 'Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema' with current filmmakers such as Ridley Scott and George Lucas discusses the importance and influence of the film.

In regards to me, I remember watching Ben-Hur all those years back at the old Scala Cinema in Letterkenny. I was taken away by the experience and I have not recovered since. I love Ben-Hur so much and along with Roman Holiday, this is my favourite moment in film history! I have seen the film so many times already but I look forward to watching it again and again! RATING *****

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Wendie's favourite films - for the moment!!!!!

I have known my dear friend Wendie from Arizona for almost 7 years now and I still haven't got the slightest clue about what films she likes! So her comments will be news to me!
Well, I've been thinking of my top 10 movies all week; and I am not that good at performing this task because I keep changing my favorite movies. I like:
1. The Crow with Brandon Lee
2. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (A stupid, cheesy flick that made me afraid of clowns as a child, but always brings a smile to my face.)
3. Knocked Up (I've seen this one 3 times in the theatres. I just bought the dvd, and the deleted scenes are hilarious!)
4. American Beauty (I hated this movie the first time I watched it. The ending is quite beautiful.)
5. Sideways (b/c I've always appreciated real-life situations, although too depressing for some)
6?. There's some romantic wine movies out there, but I've forgotten the titles.
7. Waking Life (b/c it's deeply philosophical and intellectual)
8. Boondock Saints (b/c it's awesome!)
9. Amelie (b/c it's sweet)
10. What the Bleep do we Know? (intellectual)
11. Harry Potter (Who doesn't like HP?)

Monday, 8 October 2007

Another enjoyable trip on the River Thames!

This is me on the river Thames in August with the famous landmark called "Monument" standing right behind me! Monument was built to commemorate the great fire of London and it is a 61-metre (202-foot) tall stone Roman doric column, near to the northern end of London Bridge. It is located at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, from where the Great Fire of London started in 1666. The guide on the tour mentioned film references on this boat trip including where Michael Caine worked (real name Maurice Micklewhite) in Billingsgate Fish Market before he became a world famous actor.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

My two favourite films of all time to be reviewed shortly!

My two favourite films of all time are 'Ben-Hur' (1959) and 'Roman Holiday' (1953). I remember watching 'Ben-Hur' on the big screen during it's last run before it was shown on television and I loved watching it so much. I still do. I remember watching 'Roman Holiday' on TV on a Sunday night when I was a young boy and then on January 1988. To think that on September of that year I was so lucky to have met the lead actress, Audrey Hepburn. I have so many reasons to love these wonderful films and I can not wait to share them with you in the very near future.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The star alongside my logo

The actress shown alongside my "Classic Cinema" logo is the beautiful Irish-American star from the 1940's, Gene Tierney (1920 - 1991). Best remembered for her performance in the title role of 'Laura' (1944), Tierney had starred some other classic films such as 'Heaven Can Wait' (1943) and 'The Ghost and Mrs. Muir' (1947), my favourite film of hers. Suffering from depression and mental health problems for most of her adult life, Tierney died in 1991 of emphysema just before her 71st birthday. Gene Tierney is one of my favourite actresses who was stylish, talented and truly special.


'Red River' (1948) is an acclaimed western, directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift and Walter Brennan. It tells the story of Thomas Dunson who wants to start up a cattle ranch in Texas. Along with his trail hand Groot (Walter Brennan), he leaves the wagon train and his girlfriend (Coleen Gray) behind to go it alone but later he learns that they have been killed by Indians. He continues to pursue his ambition and comes across a young orphan boy called Matthew Garth whom he takes under his wing. Fourteen years later, Dunson, Groot and Garth (played as an adult by Montgomery Clift) lead a massive herd hundreds of miles north to Missouri. However stubborn Dunson's leadership is becoming tyrannical and it it beginning to affect the men. How long can they hold out against Dunson?

This is probably the best western made during the 1940's and certainly one of the most entertaining westerns ever made. Wayne is very convincing as the increasingly tyrannical Dunson but his star performance is matched by the newcomer Clift. There is a lot more than just the splendid performances though. There is the picturesque cinematography by Russell Harlan and the memorable music score by Dimitri Tiomkin. However the star of this film is the legendary director Howard Hawks who has created a genuine masterpiece and a must-see experience. RATING ***** (watched by Suky on 25/9 and by me on 25.12.2006)

How well will 'The Wolf of Wall Street' do at this weekend at the Oscars?

How well will 'The Wolf of Wall Street' do at this weekend at the Oscars? Brilliantly written by Terence Winter ("The Sopranos&...