I Don’t Want You Guys Using Words Around Me That Have No Meaning

James Proclaims (6)

Image result for the fugitive

It’s a valid criticism of modern cinema that much of the current output comes in the form of sequels (and indeed prequels), or remakes/reboots of movies that already exist. Or multiple adaptations of the same novels. Or big screen reimaginings of much-loved TV series. The resurgence of the small screen, thanks in part to online platforms, has also seen a trend in the opposite direction – TV series are now being made that are re-imaginings of much-loved movies. There is, apparently, a dearth of new ideas. Or more likely there is a dearth of new ideas that anyone is prepared to take a financial risk on.

Then again, if it’s become more prolific in recent times, it’s clearly a practice that has been around for a while.

A lot of films I saw in my youth were big screen adaptations of older TV shows and, to be fair, done in the right way, the results can be some pretty decent movies.

1993’s The Fugitive is one such example.

Based on a 1960s TV series of the same name (that I have, admittedly never seen – although it was apparently pretty good) The Fugitive tells the tale of Dr Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) a man wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. Through a road traffic accident (that is admittedly quite convenient but fairly important to the narrative) he manages to escape the bus that is transporting him to death row. Once free he has to juggle the seemingly impossible task of proving his innocence while at the same time not getting caught. Pursuing him with a dogged determination is Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones – winning a whole raft of awards for his performance), a man who is rather less concerned with whether or not Kimble is guilty than with the fact that Kimble’s continuing freedom wounds his professional pride.

The plot holds few surprises, we know Kimble is innocent, we assume correctly that he’ll prove that innocence and the bad guy, when he is finally revealed, is pretty much the most obvious candidate. Were he wearing a T-shirt from the outset with the logo “I’m the bad guy” emblazoned across it, the revelation of his villainous status would hardly be any less of a bombshell.

It’s not the outcome that thrills but rather the journey it takes to get there. The pace and tension within the film is relentless. If there are plot holes and clichés running throughout the narrative it’s pretty hard to care. Add to the mix strong performances from both Ford and Jones and The Fugitive is a thriller that actually manages to thrill.

Whether it’s especially faithful to its source material seems irrelevant when the resulting movie is this good.

It’s a shame that can’t always be said of remakes, reboots and adaptations.

 

There’s Gum On My Seat… GUM!

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Image result for speed movie

1994’s Speed is often referred to as Die Hard on a Bus. Which is a little unfair. While many action flicks owe much to the mighty Die Hard I’m not sure Speed really does.

Unlike John McClane, Speed’s protagonist, Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves), spends very little of the movie fighting and killing bad guys. Indeed he only dispatches one bad guy. Because there is only the one.

And (this is hopefully not too much of a spoiler, although if it is then you really only have yourself to blame – you have had well over twenty years to watch the thing) he doesn’t see off that bad guy until the end of the film.

Instead, Traven spends most of the running time trying to foil the evil machinations of the aforementioned bad guy, machinations which mostly consist of trying to blow things up, mainly a bus, but also an elevator and an underground train.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of action, it’s just more ‘a bus travelling at high speed through places where it shouldn’t be travelling at high speed’ action, rather than ‘lots of shooting of terrorists’ action.

Directed by Jan de Bont (who went on to direct…er…nothing else good), Speed is aptly named. Admittedly the bus, which is the scene for much of the action, rarely travels much above 50mph, which is no doubt fast for a bus, particularly through heavy traffic, but not really all that fast in the greater scheme of things. The narrative, however, travels along at a breakneck pace.

The bad guy in question is Howard Payne (played ably by Dennis Hopper) and he’s as mad as a box of frogs. But, as we’re reminded multiple times during the movie, crazy doesn’t mean stupid. Indeed he is very much one step ahead of the authorities and the intrigue comes in part from Traven’s efforts to match wits with Payne. Mostly, though, it comes from a bus going too quickly.

Hopper and Reeves both perform admirably but arguably the standout performer is Sandra Bullock as Annie, the plucky student who ends up quite literally in the driving seat. This was very much a star-making turn for Bullock and deservedly so.

The plot of Speed defies credibility at times (quite a lot of times actually) and the dialogue is as hackneyed and clichéd as many a bog-standard action flick but Speed is definitely a notch above others of the genre. The pace is relentless and there isn’t time to dwell on the bits that don’t make sense.

Far better to suspend all disbelief and just enjoy the ride.

Because it is indeed quite a ride.

 

Este Carne Es De Ratta

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After spending most of December writing reviews of Christmas(ish) films, I’ve decided that I should make the reviewing of movies a more regular feature on James Proclaims.

After all, there are films out there that don’t include even the vaguest of references to Christmas and they shouldn’t be precluded from featuring on this blog just because of one, admittedly careless, oversight.

However, I don’t really get much chance to go to the cinema these days, and when I do I find it a profoundly irritating and overpriced affair. I’d be ok with the cost of a ticket if it meant I got the whole screen to myself, but apparently other people are still permitted to come into the room. Given that most things are available to watch at home within a matter of months of their big screen run, and given that television sets are now quite big screens in their own right, I find the cost of the cinema utterly perplexing.

Obviously I still go for things like Star Wars, but mostly to stop people from ruining it for me. Which, to be fair, the latest installment almost did on its own. Although I did still quite like it I think. I’m not sure. I’ll need to see it another ten times before I’m absolutely certain.

Anyway, with my cinema aversion firmly established, it seems unlikely you’ll gain any insights into the latest releases here.

But I do have a fairly substantial collection of DVDs and currently subscribe to two different web-based providers of visual media.

So I can totally review old films.

Which is probably the most useful thing anyone ever did on any blog ever.

So, I shall be doing just that.

Be warned, however, that not everything in my DVD collection is of the highest quality, but they all have a special place in my heart.

So, without further ado, let us begin our cinematic odyssey.

Image result for demolition man

And what better place to start than 1993’s Demolition Man?

Probably quite few places actually.

Still Demolition Man is the film I’ve chosen to kick this all off with, because few films represent my cinematic choices as a teenager better than this one.

Unlike today, going to the cinema was one of my favourite activities when I was younger. Or more precisely when I was too young to pretend to be old enough to drink in the local hostelries (at least those prepared to turn a blind eye to underage alcohol consumption). It was more affordable for my younger self to access the big screen than it is for my current self. Although I only had pocket money to survive on, I also had no mortgage or bills to pay. Plus I was young enough to qualify for a discount on the entry fee but old enough to pretend that I was actually of a sufficient age see to certain films, despite often being a full year younger than the advertised age-restriction at the time of release. The same thrill I would later experience ordering low quality lager in disreputable public houses was definitely a factor in my willingness to flout British Film Board Certification guidelines and restrictions.

Often I’d just go and see whatever was on – there didn’t need to be a specific movie out to entice me to make the journey into the centre of Cardiff. It was a Saturday afternoon ritual for me and my friends. Meet up in the morning, jump on a train, wander round the shops for a bit, possibly purchase a CD and/or item of clothing from Top Man. Next we’d hit a fast food establishment and finally see whatever film was the least unappealing in the multiplex before heading home on the 17:21 train

But Demolition Man was different. This was a film we all wanted to see.

It was practically event cinema for a teenage boy that year.

Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes on the same screen?

How awesome is that?

Throw in a young Sandra Bullock who was more than easy on the eyes of a hormonal teenager and you had the recipe for cinematic gold.

But, I like to believe that my cinematic tastes have evolved over the years, so it was with some trepidation that I revisited the movie this week.

But actually Demolition Man is quite good. It’s not, you understand, a ‘must see’ movie. If you haven’t ever had the pleasure then you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’re not missing out on one of cinema’s hidden treasures.

But, as a way to pass a couple of hours, it more than suffices.

It is, for the most part, a fairly generic action movie not untypical of the early nineties.

But Stallone, Snipes and Bullock are all competent performers and make the most of the material they are given to work with. Throw in Dennis Leary and  Nigel Hawthorne and the cast is certainly not the worst ensemble that ever spent time together on screen.

Essentially Stallone and Snipes play a nineties cop (John Spartan) and villain (Simon Phoenix) respectively from (the then slightly futuristic) year of 1996, who end up being cryogenically frozen (for reasons that are ridiculous but relatively coherent within the narrative) and waking up in 2032 where the peace-loving citizens are unable to deal with a criminal of Phoenix’s brutality. Apparently only Spartan can stop him.

I wouldn’t go so far as to claim there is much in the way of originality on offer, but at least there aren’t the kind of gaping plot holes that are more than commonplace for this kind of fare. Certainly within the film’s own, admittedly skewed logic, the story does make sense.

The dialogue is often clunky and there are plenty of the ‘witty one-liners’ that seemed to be the staple of action movies of the era. Most of them are harmless enough, although one does stand out as particularly strange. Spartan is in the process of beating up a man that turns out not even to be a bad guy and offers these words of wisdom shortly before pummelling him into submission:

“You’re going to regret this the rest of your life, both seconds of it!”

It’s problematic in that the ensuing fight takes longer than two seconds and the recipient of Spartan’s wrath doesn’t actually die. Also, as previously mentioned, he isn’t even a bad guy. So death threats seem a little out of place.

Where the movie really differs from others in the genre is in its humour. It is quite funny. Not pant-wettingly hilarious, but this is not a movie that takes itself too seriously. Some of the futuristic fads are so ridiculous as to be entirely plausible and the joke about the three seashells substituting for toilet paper still raises a smile.

Throw in some genuinely excellent action sequences, and Snipes playing the bad guy with a gleeful insanity that elevates him head and shoulders above many a nineties-era villain and Demolition Man is a far better movie than it really has any right to be.

 

The (Now Traditional) James Proclaims New Year’s Eve Review Of The Year That Was

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Well here we are again.

The end of another year.

A time, if ever there was one, for reflection.

Which is something I like to do here on James Proclaims. Now, I’m aware I won’t be the only person doing this today but, lest we forget, I also did it at the end of 2015 and 2016, so I’m quite the trailblazer in many ways.

So how does one review a year like 2017? A cold hard analysis of the facts and figures? A zeitgeisty nod to some of the trends that have taken the world by storm? Perhaps nostalgic reminiscences of some of the more iconic moments?

Or should I just make a load of stuff up?

After all, if 2017 was anything, it was the year of fake news and alternative facts.

And frankly, I can’t really remember that much about what actually happened. Maybe it’s the champagne I’ve been drinking since 7am this morning…

Only joking – that’s the first alternative fact for you.

Obviously, I haven’t been drinking champagne since 7am this morning.

Champagne is way too expensive.

I’ve been drinking a reasonably-priced prosecco.

But back to the matter at hand.

Which is 2017. And more specifically what happened in it.

There was the Oscar fiasco of course. You remember, back in February. It’s pretty hard to forget a mistake of that magnitude. I refer, of course, to the moment when my mate Oscar accidently put unleaded petrol in his new diesel car. Ok, chances are that you don’t recall that particular incident. Because you’ve never met my friend Oscar. Because I just made him up. Fake News! Ha!

Of course, there has been some real news. British politics is in the worst state it’s been in since…er…2016?

On the one hand we’re got a prime minister who basically took her ‘strong and stable’ majority, a political mandate that just might have been enough to steady the ship to guide us through the choppy waters of Brexit, and decided to gamble it on the basis that no-one would ever vote for Jezza Corbyn. And she was sort of right. But not right enough to prevent her from losing her majority and having to form a government with some scary people at the cost of a billion pounds. Well played Theresa.

On the other hand, the only viable alternative to Mrs May celebrated losing like he’d just won the lottery. And went on Gogglebox. And headlined(?) Glastonbury. Which is obviously what we want and need from a prime minister.

Still things could be worse.

We could have an egotistical megalomaniac in charge. And to be fair there’s no point in trying to make humorous observations about all the stuff The Donald has been up to. That’s a man who satirizes himself whenever he opens his mouth. Or uses Social Media.

And it would be funny if it wasn’t all so terrifying.

But it does take a very special effort to make Kim Jong-Un seem like the sane one.

There’s obviously been some good news this year. Harry got engaged to Megan. I mean I hear it’s good news. I’m relatively indifferent to it, seeing as I won’t be getting an invite to the wedding. But it would take a particularly churlish person to describe the forthcoming nuptials as bad news.

Although Suits won’t be the same.

On a personal note, 2017 was very much a year for me. It began for me on the 1st January, and it’ll end today.  I was definitely awake on most, if not all, of the 365 days it took to get to this point.

I’m not sure if it’s been a particularly good year or a particularly bad one really.

All in all, it’s mostly been a bit covfefe…

The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 24

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Image result for hans gruber meets john mcclane

It’s Christmas Eve, which is the day before Christmas Day and therefore the day on which one should open the final door of a standard Advent Calendar.

And The James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) Films is no exception to that rule, and so today we must bid adieu to my Christmas Countdown of festive films.

If you’ve missed the previous 23 posts then “welcome to the party pal”.

Also worry not.

Because today’s post features the only Christmas(ish) film that you really need to watch.

Which is 1988’s Die Hard.

Die Hard is definitely my favourite Christmas(ish) film.

Indeed it’s probably my favourite film ever that doesn’t have anything to do with George Lucas.

Die Hard begins with our hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) arriving in Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and kids. As his plane lands he is given some advice by a fellow passenger with regards to his antipathy towards flying.

According to this know-it-all, the key to surviving air travel is to take off your shoes and socks upon arrival at your destination and to walk around barefoot on the carpet making ‘fists with your toes’.

I saw this film for the first time in my early teens, just months before embarking upon my first ever flight. I held onto this advice and followed it to the letter when I had completed my journey. To what end I still don’t know – it’s not an unpleasant thing to do, but I can’t see that it serves any purpose.

I occasionally still indulge in the practice. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Alas the answer is all too clear. Armed men could invade the building I am in, taking everyone else hostage and leaving me alone to combat them. With bare feet. Which would definitely put me at a disadvantage I’d say.

Of course this is exactly what happens to poor McClane, shortly after being reunited with his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), at her place of work, the Nakatomi Plaza, thus highlighting the danger of accepting unsolicited advice from strangers on planes. It’s also an example of just how coherent the plot of Die Hard actually is. Seemingly throwaway moments come back to impact on the narrative all the way through the movie, be it the ‘fist with your toes’ advice ensuring McClane is vulnerable to broken glass later in the story or the seemingly irrelevant machinations of reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton) ultimately resulting in Holly being put in unnecessary danger and thus setting up the climax. Every moment in the film, however inconsequential, further develops the narrative in some way yet none of it feels artificial or particularly forced.

Strong though the storytelling is in Die Hard though, it is first and foremost an action film and on that score it never disappoints. It’s a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, with some superb set pieces. It’s fast-paced, dynamic and violent but nothing feels gratuitous and ultimately it all feeds into the narrative.

Willis, in his first action hero role, is superb. McClane is a man out of his depth, struggling to stay afloat against overwhelming odds but ultimately destined to succeed because of his resourcefulness, quick thinking and resolute refusal to actually die. The title of the movie is completely appropriate.

Of course he is still good in a fight, but not so good that you don’t feel he could lose at any point. One of Die Hard’s strengths is the vulnerability of its hero.

Good though Willis is however, the real standout performer is Alan Rickman. His character, Hans Gruber, is, quite possibly, the greatest screen villain of all time. He is the ultimate foil for McClane, cold, calculating and ruthless. His dispassionate execution of Holly’s boss, Takagi (James Shigeta) sets the tone and significantly elevates the implicit threat he poses to the rest of the hostages. But Gruber is a complex, nuanced character, and Rickman plays him with a wit and charm that makes us, almost, root for him. Ultimately we want McClane to prevail, but in an alternate reality, a version in which Gruber comes out on top might still be a great movie.

Although action is very much the main ingredient to the film, there are plenty of laughs to be had, The dialogue is sharp, and both Willis and Rickman have some great one liners but there are plenty of other fun, seemingly innocuous, moments dotted throughout the film, some more explicit than others. For example, during an ill-fated rescue attempt, which has some of the most dramatic scenes and stunning visual effects, scenes where we see both Gruber’s utter ruthlessness and sadistic nature and McClane’s resourcefulness and desperation to preserve life, during these tense and significant scenes we also see a member of the SWAT team accidently prick himself on a bush. It’s a throwaway moment that you could easily miss but catch it and it lightens the mood and reminds you not to take things too seriously – it is just a film after all. Moments after that we catch one of the bad guys, a man who is playing a pivotal role in the ongoing stand-off with the police, deliberate over whether or not to steal a chocolate bar from the concession stand he is using for cover. That he ultimately succumbs and we catch him munching on a Nestle Crunch in a later scene is just another reason to love this movie.

There are, to be fair, bits about Die Hard  that could be better. Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) is a huge part of the story, his dialogue with McClane adds a warmth and humanity to the narrative that is often absent from action movies. However, the clichéd backstory about his own personal tragedy is unnecessary and his redemption, which ultimately involves him shooting and killing a man, albeit a very bad man, is a bit unsettling really.

It could also be argued that the authorities in general, and in particular Deputy Chief Dwayne T. Robinson (Paul Gleason) and the FBI Agents Johnson and Johnson (Robert Davi and Grant L Bush) are just a bit too stupid to be plausible. I’d argue, however, that in a world where far too many people are promoted to their own level of incompetence, Dwayne T. Robinson is unfortunately all too credible as a character, but more to the point, the relative stupidity of the police is fine because Die Hard is a work of fiction and best enjoyed as pure escapism. Take Die Hard too seriously and there are all kinds of holes to find in the plot, but everything makes sense within the reality of the movie, and that’s all you can ever truly ask of any action flick.

There’s a nice interchange between Holly and Hans during the film’s climax. Realising that Gruber’s objective all along was to steal a fortune in bearer bonds Holly snipes “After all your posturing, all your speeches, you’re nothing but a common thief”. Gruber’s rebuttal is swift, “I’m an exceptional thief, Mrs McClane, and since I’m moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.”

And to be fair, if, in spite of everything, Die Hard is just another action movie, it is an exceptional action movie.

Score For Christmasishness

4t

I love this film so I’m inclined to be generous, but actually it really is quite Christmassy. I suppose McClane could be flying in to visit his family for any major holiday, but Christmas does seem like the most appropriate. The office gathering which permits the bad guys to seize the building relatively unchallenged makes the most sense as a Christmas party, and the festive season does explain the slow response of the emergency services to the hostage situation.

Also, unlike a lot of action movies with a festive backdrop, Die Hard  never really forgets that it’s Christmas and takes every opportunity to remind you of the fact. A good example if this is demonstrated through McClane’s macabre humour – he sends a message to Hans by dressing up a recently dispatched henchman in a Santa Hat and writing a bloody but festive message on the sweater of the deceased mercenary. “Now I have a machine gun – Ho Ho Ho” has inspired a multitude of ‘alternative’ Christmas jumpers…

There are other Christmassy moments throughout the movie, not least McClane’s creative use of Christmas gift wrap to conceal a firearm at the denouement,  but my favourite is when Gruber reassures one of his minions that his plan is going to work in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

“It’s Christmas Theo,” he grins confidently, “it’s a time for miracles.”

You probably could enjoy Die Hard at any time of year, but you shouldn’t. It’s definitely a Christmas(ish) film.

 

And that’s it for this year’s James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) movies. I’ll no doubt be writing a few festive posts over the next week of so, as I tend to do at this time of year, and then it’ll be back to normal in 2018, whatever ‘normal’ is. Although I have enjoyed doing the film reviews, so that might be something I do again in the future. I’ll definitely be doing another Christmas(ish) film themed Advent calendar next year – I’ve already identified more than enough films that I didn’t manage to get to this year, including the excellent-but-not-quite-as-good-as-the-original follow-up to Die Hard, which is also a Christmas themed festival of mindless action.

 

The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 23

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Image result for brazil terry gilliam

As we open door 23 of The James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) films it’s definitely time to get in the party mood and what better film to emphasise that spirit than 1985’s Brazil?

Conjuring up images of carnivals, samba and beaches, Brazil is…erm…nothing to do with any of that.

Described by star Jonathan Pryce as “half a dream and half a nightmare”, it’s definitely not about the eighth largest economy in the world.

It is, instead, a very British film, albeit a strange dystopian version of Britishness.

It is also a very ‘Terry Gilliam’ film.

It’s 1984, but with a somewhat less efficient, more bureaucratic regime than Orwell’s authoritarian ‘Ingsoc’.

It’s satirical, nonsensical and madly brilliant.

There’s a strong cast including Robert DeNiro, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Ian Richardson and Peter Vaughan. However it’s Pryce who takes the leading role and it’s hard to imagine how anyone else could. Understated, subtle and sincere in the face of the absurd, Pryce’s ‘Sam Lowry’ is an everyman who dreams of escaping a bureaucratic world that seems excessively preoccupied with ducts.

It’s not easy to summarise exactly what Brazil is ‘about’ – that DeNiro’s character is a maverick swashbuckling ‘heating engineer’ probably tells you all you need know about quite how strange a world it is that Gilliam has constructed.

Brazil is, almost certainly, not for everyone.

But if you enjoy a touch of the surreal with a satirical nod to the ridiculousness of societal bureaucracy and commercialism then it could well be for you.

Score For Christmasishness.

5t

It’s certainly not a ‘traditional’ Christmas film, but there’s no denying that the movie does take place during the festive season. There are Christmas decorations everywhere and depictions of Santa Claus are a regular occurence  – one of my favourite bits of the movie is when Father Christmas asks a little girl what she would like for Christmas and she replies “my own credit card.” It’s a throwaway moment that neatly encapsulates the satire.

Few films capture the cynical crass commercialism of the modern world quite as well as Brazil, and it’s probably no coincidence that Gilliam opted for a festive setting to drive the message home.

Definitely a Christmas(ish) film in my book.

 

The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 22

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Door 22 of The James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) Films and we’re almost at the end.

By which I mean the end of the Advent Calendar, not the ‘End of Days’.

But today’s film does have an apocalyptic feel to it nonetheless.

For it is none other than Terry Gilliam’s 1995 noirish, sci-fi, time-travel flick 12 Monkeys. Starring Bruce Willis as James Cole, a convict from a post-apocalyptic future (2035) who is sent back in time (to the nineties) to gather information for humanity’s future salvation. Or is he James Cole, a man with mental health problems actually from the nineties who has, through his illness, constructed a post-apocalyptic fantasy?

There’s certainly some ambiguity at the beginning of the movie, not least because the scenes set in the nineties are played with relative sincerity, whereas the future feels a bit more…er…Gilliamesque.

Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) is the psychiatrist who tries to help Cole regain his sanity only to find herself questioning just how mad he really is.

There’s no questioning the sanity of fellow psychiatric patient Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) though. He’s properly mad. Pitt delivers a performance that is completely unhinged and rightfully earned himself a Golden Globe (and Oscar nomination) for his efforts.

12 Monkeys is an intriguing examination of the notions of reality and memory. It’s also an exploration of the concept of fate and the predetermination of events.

Although I missed most of that when the movie came out because I was a stupid teenager who required nothing more from cinema than mindless action.

And, to be fair, the film works pretty well on that level too.

Score For Christmasishness

2t

In truth, not much of the film is actually set at Christmas time, but the pivotal event that leads to humanity’s doom does take place during late December. In an early scene set in the future we see Cole in an abandoned dilapidated department store, with some sorry looking Christmas decorations that have clearly seen better days. Towards the denouement of the movie we see the same store, pre-apocalypse, and full of festive cheer.

In truth, it’s not the most Christmassy of films, but there’s enough Christmasishness towards the end of the movie, particularly when juxtaposed with the opening scenes, to make the forthcoming tragedy seem all the more poignant.

 

The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 21

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Door 21 of The James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) Films and conspiracy theories abound as Will Smith unexpectedly finds himself to be an Enemy Of The State.

Cos it turns out that, apparently, the National Security Agency don’t like not getting their own way, and will happily murder people who don’t agree with them.

Which is a worrying thing if you live in the US, I’d imagine.

Although this was back in 1999. I’m sure they’ve cleaned up their act by now. And there’s not really any need for conspiracy theories these days if you’re American. You know your government’s out to get you. They’re pretty open about it.

But back in 1999, you didn’t expect government agencies to be going around killing their own people.

And if they were going to do that, you’d hope they’d make the effort to ensure that no ornithologists were filming them by accident.

Fortunately for the plot, in 1999 technology was not quite as advanced as it is today. So when the unfortunate bird watcher, Daniel Zavitz (Jason Lee) finds the footage he’s mistakenly filmed, he’s forced to copy it onto a disk, which takes a long time, instead of just uploading it to social media where it can be shared instantly with millions of people, exposing the bad guys and probably not resulting in Gary Busey’s son trying to kill him.

Instead, he’s forced to hide the disk in a portable gaming device (remember those? Before phones did everything?) and hide it in his old college friend’s bag when he runs into him in a lingerie shop.

Thus is it that Robert Clayton Dean (Smith) finds his world is turned upside down and he is forced to go on the run.

From his own government.

Who prove surprisingly inept at tracking him down.

Enemy Of The State is utter nonsense of course, but it’s thoroughly engaging nonsense.

Smith plays the same character he plays in most of his films. I’m not complaining, he plays it very well. Gene Hackman appears about halfway through the action and the film is decidedly better for his arrival. Jon Voight is the bad guy and his understated performance adds an air of credibility to the madness.

Enemy Of The State is very much of its genre. If you like a fast-paced action film which doesn’t expect too much of its audience then it delivers pretty much exactly that. Tony Scott is the director and this is pretty typical of his oeuvre.

It doesn’t offer anything hugely original but it’s no less enjoyable for that.

Score For Christmasishness

3t

Like many of the films I’ve included in this month of movie merriment, it’s set around Christmas time.

Indeed it’s when Robert is Christmas shopping for his wife that he happens upon the lingerie store and inadvertently gets caught up in the action.

But, although there are decorations in the background for most of the film and we hear the odd snippet of Christmas carol singing in the distance, I’m not sure the Christmas setting adds much to the plot.

Nonetheless Christmas is there for all to see. Even the bad guy has decorations up in his office.

It’s a stretch to call this a Christmas movie, but it is definitely a bit Christmassy at times.

 

The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 20

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Image result for rambo first blood

We’re finally into the twenties of December and Christmas is starting to feel very imminent indeed.

Today is the last day I’ll do any work for the remainder of 2017.

To be honest, I deserve a rest. It’s been a tough few months all told.

Maybe I’ll treat myself to a mini-break.

I’ve heard good things about this place called Hope. Apparently it’s dubbed as ‘The Gateway to Holidayland’ which sounds like just the ticket. It’s just a quiet little town, some might say it’s boring but that’s way the locals like it.

Although the locals aren’t so keen on vagrants, even if those vagrants are decorated war heroes.

At least, that’s certainly the experience that poor John Rambo had, back in 1982. It’s all documented in the movie First Blood, the cinematic debut of Sylvester Stallone’s ‘other’ iconic role. First Blood is easily the best of the Rambo films.

That is partly because the others are all quite bad (although generally bad in an ‘I still quite like them’ kind of way).

But First Blood really is pretty good. It’s not just a mindless action film with lots of death and destruction. In fact, unless I’m very much mistaken, only one character actually dies, and that death is fairly important in the progression of the plot.

FIrst Blood deals with prejudice, trauma, loss, identity and bullying and, to some extent, could be regarded as a thought-provoking and challenging movie

But, although it isn’t just a mindless action film, it absolutely can be enjoyed as a mindless action film.

Mindless action is, ultimately, where the movie excels. Much of the story is preposterous, but Stallone convinces as a haunted and broken man who doesn’t want to hurt people, but is really good at hurting people who repeatedly insist on trying to shoot him.

First Blood is definitely worth a watch, even if you choose to ignore the subsequent Rambo movies.

Score For Christmasishness

1t

This is another one where the Christmasishness could pass you by if you weren’t paying attention. It doesn’t really feel like it’s a Christmas movie, but there’s no denying that there are Christmas decorations in the background of most of the indoor scenes.

They add very little to the viewing experience and it might as well not be Christmas as far as the narrative is concerned.

But it is nice to catch sight of a Christmas tree every now and then.

 

The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 19

James Proclaims (6)

Image result for rocky iv

It’s day 19 of the James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) Films. Days 17 and 18 featured Eyes Wide Shut and Prometheus and both of those films required us to use our intellects.

So today I think we could all do with a rest.

We could do without the burden of thinking.

It would be nice if we could switch our brains off completely.

And what better film to help us to do that than 1985’s Rocky IV?

Because they don’t come much dumber than the fourth installment of the Rocky franchise.

Lest we forget, the original 1976 Rocky film was a properly good film. It won actual Oscars and everything.

And if the next two sequels weren’t quite as good, they were still definitely not bad.

But Rocky IV is not a good film.

Well not objectively anyway.

But if you happened to be a kid in the 80s and Rocky IV happened to be the movie that introduced you to the franchise, you might feel differently.

And I happened to be such a kid.

So I quite like Rocky IV but purely for reasons of nostalgia.

Maybe it’s something about Dolph Lundgren.

After all I’m reasonably fond of 1987’s Masters Of The Universe which is essentially a bad adaptation of what was already quite a bad cartoon that was only really created to sell lots of action figures. I had quite a lot of those action figures and I loved the original He-Man cartoon, and I remember being massively disappointed by the film when it first came out because it was, quite literally, nothing like the cartoon. In any way shape or form. But over the years I’ve found I’ve come to love the Masters Of The Universe film quite a lot.

Even though it is obviously an awful film.

And the same is definitely true of Rocky IV.

In fact I think Rocky IV does genuinely fall into the category of ‘so bad it’s good.’

The plot is so ridiculous that you have to give up picking holes in it fairly early on.

That’s when the movie can even be bothered to have a plot. There is a five minute segment in the middle of the film which is, essentially, a music video showing random clips from the previous Rocky films, mixed in with earlier scenes from the actual  film you’re watching. Scenes that you’ve literally only just seen.

Given that, by the time the credits roll, the film comes in at around 82 minutes, that is quite a percentage of the movie to give up to such a montage.

And that’s probably one of the best bits of the whole film.

But the writing’s on the wall much earlier. Basically it all falls apart when the robot enters the picture. And I am talking an actual robot here – that wasn’t a metaphor for Dolph Lundgren’s acting.

Why is there a robot in Rocky IV?

I’m not actually sure.

But there is.

The film follows the usual underdog premise that worked so well in the first three films.

Except, of course, Rocky was actually an underdog in the first two installments. And despite being World Heavyweight Champion by the third film, his subsequent underdog status is explained quite well. Basically he gets complacent, gets beaten by Mr T, and then stops being complacent and beats Mr T.

But there’s no good reason for him to be considered an underdog in this film.

Sure, Lundgren’s ‘Ivan Drago’ is clearly a big fella and he does destroy Rocky’s nemesis-turned-friend, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in a fight that results in Creed’s untimely death. But it is clearly explained that Creed hasn’t boxed professionally for five years and also didn’t really train properly for the fight.

Rocky is the reigning heavyweight champion of the world and trains like a beast for the fight. So he’s obviously got to be considered the favourite.

And without wishing to spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, he does win.

And makes huge strides towards ending the Cold War in the process.

Well done Rocky.

But Drago was the underdog.

Score For Christmasishness

1t

I had completely forgotten that Rocky IV was set at Christmas. But it is.

The final fight takes place on Christmas Day, for some ill-explained reason.

That said it really isn’t all that Christmassy a film. There is a lot of snow during the obligatory training montage, but he is in Russia, where I understand it snows a fair bit.

We do catch a glimpse of a Christmas tree when Rocky is taping up his hands prior to the final fight.

And from then on the only Christmas references are when we have shots of Rocky’s really annoying son watching the fight on TV at home, with his even more annoying robot, who by this stage in the film is dressed as Santa Claus (I kid you not!).

I have no idea why there was any need for there to be any link at all to Christmas, but then I don’t understand much at all about some of the choices that were made in the creation of this film.

It’s hardly a Christmas classic, and truthfully it’s best avoided at all times of year.

Unless, like me, you fell victim to its dubious charms a long time ago.