“Off with their heads!” – The 10 Scariest Disney Villains

15 07 2016

For eight decades Disney has been bringing us some of the most memorable villains in the history of cinema. Dozens upon dozens of evil, wicked characters based on folklore, fables, fairy tales and historical fiction. Along with original characters and anthropomorphic antagonists there is a wide spectrum of bad eggs to discuss.

I’ve always favoured the more sinister baddies. I like my villains a little bit darker, a little bit more eccentrically twisted and a little bit scarier. Obviously this list is subjective, but there’s a couple of characters in here that genuinely did bother me as a child, hence their inclusion.

There’s been plenty of great foes and fiends over the years, but a lot of them have been either too foolish or too overly comical to be considered as frightening:

Without further ado, please enjoy my list of my top 10, scariest Disney villains.

10. Scar – The Lion King

Scar

Jeremy Irons smoothly sinister voice is now iconic in Hollywood, and combined with a devilishly sharp intellect and an almost psychopathic disregard for his own family, Scar is one of the most ruthless characters in the Disney back catalogue.

10. Scar

9. Queen Grimhilde – Snow White

Queen Grimhindle

The cold, vain, metamorphosing fruit enthusiast. I generally find the older Disney films have the creepiest villains. Perhaps it’s the limitations in animation of the time, or the classic design style that adds to the uncomfortably spine-chilling nature of the baddies. As both the ice-cold Queen and the deformed pensioner, Grimhilde is eerily business-like in her punishment of Snow White.

9. Queen Grimhilde

8. Lady Tremaine – Cinderella

Lady Tremaine

A very interesting antagonist. The sustained psychological torture of Cinderella differs from other Disney villains who rely on aggression, violence or mystical powers. She is just a very cruel and emotionally damaging old lady. Terrifying.

8. Lady Tremaine

7. Claude Frollo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame

frollo.png

Upon original release, Frollo didn’t really bother me too much as a nine year old. It’s only after re-visiting the film as an adult you get the full picture of his slimy creepiness. His, uncomfortable to watch, encounters with Esmeralda see him, groping, manhandling and sniffing her. There’s some seriously weird sexual predatory afoot, and for that reason, he makes the list.

7. Frollo

6. Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty

Malificent

Taken from one of my favourite Disney films of all time. I wore out my originally VHS copy as a child, and have since replaced it with the 50th Anniversary DVD. There’s a great many reasons I love it so much. Firstly Tchaikovsky’s soundtrack is wonderful. Secondly the look of the film is completely unique compared to anything that’s come and gone before it. In an effort to make the film stand out from Cinderella  a new production design was adopted featuring a much more Gothic approach, and one of the darkest villains in the Disney universe.

6. Malificent#

5. Queen of Hearts – Alice in Wonderland

Queen of Hearts

There’s not much in Alice in Wonderland that makes any sense, and it’s perhaps this unpredictable nature of the film and the characters that makes the Queen of Hearts really troubling. Emotionally she’s up and down, hot and cold, calm then raging, and with her casual approach to beheading civilians, she is one of the most psychopathic baddies out there.

5. Queen of Hearts

4. Cruella de Vil – 101 Dalmatians 

Cruella de vil

A downright lunatic, and generally one of the most grotesque antagonists to date. Her intrusive bullying and sister schemes make her presence alarming, and as a dog owner, she’s made the top five with a bullet.

4. Cruella

3. The Chernabog – Fantasia

Chenabog

The most abstract entry of the list. Whilst not too prominent in terms of screen time, you can’t get too much darker than the raw representation of pure evil. Tonally I’d say Fantasia was the darkest Disney film, and unless they draft in Darren Aronofsky to direct an animated feature, I can’t see them topping it….. That would be amazing by the way.

3. Chenabog gif

2. The Coachman – Pinocchio

Coachman 

Now, Pinocchio is unbelievably bizarre. There’s a myriad of horrible characters in there. The anthropomorphic fox and cat, Honest John and Gideon are weird enough living amoungst humans. The hideous puppet master Stromboli is majorly creepy, but the character that takes the biscuit for me if the Coachman. Leading the wayward boys to Pleasure Island he encourages them to indulge in lewd behaviour, whilst he sadistically assists in their transformation into donkeys. Mental.

2. Coach man gif

1. Ursula – The Little Mermaid

Ursula giant

One of the very few times in my film loving life that I had to actually stop  watching a film due to being scared. As a child Ursula was one of the most horrible creatures I’d ever encountered. She’s half octopus and can grown into a giant for Christ’s sake. It was up there with the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches in terms of sheer horror. Children should not be exposed to this.

1. Ursula gif

*Shudders*

 

 

 

 

 

 





From Metropolis to Brazil – My Top 20 Dystopian Films

5 07 2016

The sub-genre of science-fiction films involving a dystopian future, near future or an alternative present are some of my all time favourites. Often associated with paranoia, totalitarianism, government corruption, surveillance and mystery, the plots often jump time frames, contain twists or just generally have a cynical take on the state of the modern world.

Without further ado, here are my top 20 dystopian films:

20. Akira (1988)

Akira

I’m not really a fan of manga, however Akira seems to be one of the anime films that has crossed over into the (relative) mainstream. Due to it’s success and cult following, it’s often featured on fans and critics ‘greatest films of all time list’. Considering I’m not a fan of anime or manga, I have seen a fair bit in my time. This is by far my favourite and with a Hollywood remake currently in discussion it shows what a lasting legacy the film has had.

19. Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis

The oldest film to feature on my list and one of the finest examples of early German expressionist cinema. For the time, the visuals were stunningly unique, and in retrospect it’s considered to be highly influential in the science-fiction genre.

18. Watchmen (2009)

Watchmen-900x600

I didn’t warm to this film on first viewing. I thought it was overly long and lacking in any real substance. However after repeat viewings I have found more and more to enjoy about the film. The biggest criticism seemed to be it’s comparison to the beloved source material, Alan Moore’s original graphic novel. Admittedly, I’ve never read the graphic novel, but in terms of the film, it’s visually brilliant with some great performances across the board and it’s one of Zack Snyder’s best works to date.

17. Dark City (1998)

Dark City

A seriously great work from Egyptian director Alex Proyas. Generally overshadowed by other pictures in his back catalogue such as The Crow (due to it’s overwhelming cult following) or his more mainstream and accessible films such as I, Robot and Knowing. Despite this, Dark City is visually spectacular and the most “out-there” film he has made.

16. The Matrix (1999)

The-Matrix

Now a seminal work in the sci-fi genre. With innovative special effects, an intelligent script and iconic characters, the film had unlimited mainstream appeal. I think, in directorial terms, the Wachowskis have a very unique style about them and this is showcased brilliantly in The Matrix and it’s subsequent sequels.

15. WALL-E (2008)

Wall-E_Cubecolors

A beautifully crafted animation from Pixar, littered with references to classic science fiction cinema. From the co-writer of the beloved Toy Story series, WALL-E is definitely one of Pixar’s finest features. The simplistic approach to the film was really refreshing to see, and a “kids” film that manages to be engaging, heart-warming, funny and thrilling without the use of any dialogue for the first 30 minutes is a massive achievement.

14. Total Recall (1990)

Total Recall

From Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, Total Recall is one of a number of films on this list based on the work of Philip K. Dick. Schwarzenegger became something of a legend in the science fiction genre throughout the 80’s and 90’s and Total Recall is the perfect blend of action, sci-fi and mystery.

13. The Running Man (1987)

the-running-man

Another Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic. Often overlooked in comparison to his bigger films of the time, but I have always championed The Running Man. Based on a novel by Stephen King, the “death games” element of the film along with classics such as Death Race 2000 perhaps served as influence to more contemporary works such as Battle Royale and the Hunger Games series.

12. Minority Report (2002)

minority-report

Another of Philip Dick’s stories, this time presented by director Steven Spielberg. An absolutely gripping sci-fi thriller with a great central concept. It’s one of Spielberg’s best films of the 00’s and definitely a highlight in Tom Cruise’s back catalogue.

11. Robocop (1987)

Robocop

A brutally violent action / sci-fi film from the late 80’s featuring Peter Weller’s most iconic performance. With 2 sequels and a remake produced in 2014, the character is legendary in the science fiction genre.

10. The Zero Theorem (2013)

The Zero Theorum

Terry Gilliam’s (not quite) sequel to Brazil. As one has come to expect from a Gilliam film, it’s uniquely stylish and mind-bendingly bonkers. I’m a big Gilliam fan, and whereas the film was met with lukewarm reviews, I enjoyed the film a lot more than most audiences and have found more and more to like about it after repeat viewings.

9. Blade Runner (1982)

5. Blade Runner

Be it the US theatrical release, the international theatrical release, the US broadcast version, the director’s cut of the final cut Blade Runner has been poked and tweaked and refined over the years. 2007’s Final Cut is supposedly the closest to the director’s vision and generally considered to be the definitive version. My first copy was The Directors Cut on VHS, so there’s a special place in my heart for that particular edit. Regardless, the film is an absolute classic in the genre and it’s with great trepidation that I await a new Blade Runner project that is scheduled for release next year.

8. Escape from New York (1981)

 9. Escape from New York

Kurt Russell’s first outing as the iconic Snake Plissken see’s him racing against time and battling against an assortment of  eccentric characters to rescue the President. Set in a future New York wasteland, the film is one of John Carpenter’s most memorable. The popularity of the central character and the concept lead to a sequel 15 years later, this time set in a future Los Angeles.

7. The City of Lost Children (1995)

8. The City of Lost Children

La cité des enfants perdus as it was originally titled in French is a fantasy / science fiction mind-funk from writer/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. In an effort to slow down his own aging process, a demented scientist kidnaps children to steal their dreams. Set in a surrealist society the film contains some really striking imagery and some inexplicable characters.

6. Brazil (1985)

6. Brazil

Terry Gilliam’s mid-80’s masterpiece. An Orwellian work of sublime proportions follows Johnathan Pryce’s Sam Lowry and explores his life, his work, his dreams and his fears. You could write an entire dissertation on the themes present in this film, so for now, I’ll say it’s inventive both visually and conceptually and it’s one of the best films of the decade.

5. Battle Royale (2000)

4. Battle Royale

A really sadistic thriller from director Kinji Fukasaku. Of all the “death games” films I’ve seen, this is by far the most brutal. In future Japan, the government kidnaps a class of students and forces them to kill each other for sport. Each given a survival kit consisting of a variety of weapons, anyone trying to escape the task gets executed via an exploding neck collar. Similarly, if there is more than one survivor left after the allocated game time, every contender’s collar explodes. A Simple concept, Brilliantly executed and my favourite Japanese film of all time.

4. A Scanner Darkly (2006)

3. Scanner Darkly

Richard Linklater’s  mid-00’s masterpiece. Using a Philip K. Dick source novel and rotoscope animation, Linklater creates a bizarre world, somewhere between dreams and reality. One of my favourite Keanu Reeves films and perhaps my favourite Linklater film, A Scanner Darkly is filled with mystery, drama, surrealism, intrigue and fine performances across the board.

3. The Terminator (1984)

7. Terminator

Generally Terminator 2: Judgement Day is hailed as Cameron’s masterpiece in the series, however I’ve always preferred the first film. It’s darker, it’s grittier, the effects are meatier and there’s more of a sustained sense of dread throughout. It’s one of the most perfect films in the history of science fiction cinema, and the fact it’s spawned 4 sequels, dozens of video games a live action 3D show at Universal Studios and endless amounts of merchandise shows how timeless the concept is.

2. 12 Monkeys (1995)

2. 12 Monkeys

One of Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt’s finest cinematic outings and one of the very best Terry Gilliam films ever made. Inspired by a French short film from 1962 called La Jetée, Twelve Monkeys is a neo-noir, sci-fi, thriller. After a deadly virus wipes out almost all of humanity, James Cole (Willis) is sent back in time to gather information before the attack. He is accidentally sent back to the wrong year and as a result is institutionalised with Doctor’s believing him to be insane.

1. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

1. A Clockwork Orange

One of my favourite films of all time, by one of my favourite director’s of all time. Stanley Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece was famously withdrawn from cinema’s and home release in Britain shortly after it’s release. Until Kubrick’s death in 1999, the film was notoriously difficult to get hold of. After his death of course, the film was instantly screened on Channel 4 and released on VHS in a remastered version. It’s an absolute work of art and one of the most weirdly wonderful films in the history of cinema.

 

 

 

 

 

 





Red Pills & Bus Thrills: The Keanu Reeves top 10

22 06 2016

A Scanner Darkly 1

I’m not entirely sure why I like Keanu Reeves so much. He’s often cited by critics and fans as a rather wooden actor and frequently appears in ‘bad acting’ or ‘worst actor’ lists. In terms of leading men in Hollywood he doesn’t have the flamboyance of Tom Cruise, the charm of George Clooney, the quirkiness of Johnny Depp, the explosiveness of Leonardo DiCaprio or the range of Christian Bale yet he has been at the forefront of some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of all time.

Alongside his big budget action / sci-fi works he’s had many roles in smaller, independently spirited productions and throughout a 30 year career has successfully spanned a number of genres.

I think my fondness for Keanu is down to my fondness for film in general. When I was growing up and first getting interested in the study of film, his work in the 1990’s was seminal watching. Even now, in retrospect, when I think of my favourite films within a certain genre, be it action, science fiction or horror, Keanu is frequently featured.

Granted he isn’t the finest actor to ever tread the boards, but he’s certainly not the worst. There would be dozens and dozens of Hollywood “heart throbs” that I would have standing trial for crimes against cinema before I’d even consider accusing Keanu of lacking conviction.

What he does lack as a thespian, he makes up for in other ways. It’s hard to explain. He has a certain allure, a certain je ne sais quoi that, as a leading man, can carry and entire film.

I think, when you see the quality of films on this list, you’ll agree, that despite all reservations you may have about Keanu, he’s done some really impressive work.

10. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Dracula

The 1990’s was a good decade for vampires. Alongside classics such as Interview with the Vampire, From Dusk Till Dawn and Blade, there was Mel Brooks’ comedic spoof Dracula: Dead and Loving it, and on TV, the launch of the much loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

In terms of ridicule, this is generally the film that fans hold up as an example of Keanu’s limited acting ability. It’s the only occasion I can recall him attempting an unnatural accent. Admittedly it is a poor attempt at English. It’s by no means the worst I’ve ever heard though. I would refer you to Charlie Hunnam (a Geordie) attempting a cockney accent in Green Street. 

Keanu’s performance isn’t the best in the film but nevertheless it’s a very good looking film with some fine performances from the supporting heavyweight thesps. Director Francis Ford Coppola went off the rails a bit from the 1980’s onward, and considering he was responsible for The Godfather and Apocalypse Now he hasn’t half churned out some shite since then. Thankfully Bram Stoker’s Dracula is at the higher end of his back catalogue.

9. The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

Devils-Advocate

A mysterious thriller with nods towards the horror genre and a great pairing of Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. Keanu is frequently required to ‘hold his own’ alongside acclaimed actors, and with 8 Oscar nominations and 1 Win, they don’t come much more acclaimed than Pacino.

8. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure / Bogus Journey (1989 – 1991)

Bill and Ted

One of the most infamous comedy duos in the history of cinema. The Bill & Ted films managed to resonate with an audience so potently that they eventually achieved cult status. Blending humour with science fiction, they were original, intelligent and family-friendly. There have been internet rumours for a long while of a forthcoming third installment, and according to IMDb, Bill & Ted 3 has been ‘announced’.

The contrast in career paths between the two (at the time) relatively unknown leads is rather staggering. Within ten years Keanu Reeves had been propelled into super-stardom and established himself as a leading man in Hollywood, whereas Alex Winters was barely heard of again, doing occasional bit parts on TV. Who knows, maybe Bill & Ted 3 (if it ever happens) will stir up some new interest in the 50 year old actor.

7. Knock Knock (2015)

Knock Knock

Horror director Eli Roth’s latest is a very strange little film. After some pretty horrible reviews from fans and critics, the film currently holds an audience score of 4.9/10 on IMDb.com and a critic score of 33% (Rotten) on rottentomatoes.com . “An acquired taste” one might say.

I’ve never really been a fan of Eli Roth in the past, however I thought this was a very interesting piece of work. I’m a big fan of horror cinema and this had a lot of the integral elements I look for. Firstly, throughout the film I had no idea where it was going. The bizarre and offbeat nature of the story gives it a fair bit of edge that the more formulaic horror films often lack.

Secondly it was independently spirited. The budget was low and the supporting cast were relatively unknown. It was claustrophobic, due to small singular location it was filmed in. The camera work was rough and it was just that little bit more gritty, scruffy, scrungey and dishevelled than your standard A to B horror flick.

Thirdly, Keanu was given a lot more to do than I’m used to seeing. He was scared, mad, upset, vengeful, irate, caring and very shouty, and despite the reviews, I thought his acting was perfectly fine. Definitely the most underrated film on the list.

6. Constantine (2005)

Constantine

In it’s day Constantine was one of the finest comic book adaptations to date. The all-smoking, demon busting cynic with a minimalist approach to fashion is played brilliantly by Keanu.

The director Francis Lawrence was part of the generation of filmmakers that evolved from the music video circuit, and similarly to directors such as Spike Jonze, David Fincher and Michel Gondry, he made the transition brilliantly. With Constantine as his first feature, he went on to director I Am Legend and 3 of the Hunger Games films.

Also, for any critics of Reeves acting ability, this is the perfect film to watch, as anyone performing alongside Shia LaBeouf instantly starts to look as accomplished as Daniel Day Lewis.

5. Point Break (1991)

Point Break

One of the finest action films of the 1990’s and very fondly remembered in retrospect. It followed the winning action blockbuster formula to a tee. Since it’s release, the film has spawned a cult musical, Point Break Live! , has been referenced many times in pop culture, most notably in 2007’s Hot Fuzz and inspired a 2015 remake (that I will never watch).

4. The Matrix Series (1999 – 2003)

The-Matrix

I was never really wowed by The Matrix when it first came out. I was only 11 at the time of release and found that it didn’t really capture my imagination. I saw both of the sequels at the cinema and was very underwhelmed. Even in retrospect it’s quite evident that the sequels aren’t anywhere near as strong as the original, and since re-watching the first installment I now have a better understanding as to why the film got hailed in such high regard, and in terms of special effects and direction and why it’s culturally so important to the science fiction genre.

Even with the sequels flaws, the films aren’t completely without charm, but the original Matrix still holds up today, 17 years later, as a captivating watch.

3. A Scanner Darkly (2006)

A Scanner Darkly

I’m a huge fan of writer / director Richard Linklater’s films and this has always been one of my favourites. Filmed similarly to 2001’s Waking Life, in rotoscope animation, A Scanner Darkly is a science fiction drama based on the novel by Philip K. Dick.

Unlike more mainstream Dick film adaptations such as Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and The Adjustment Bureau, A Scanner Darkly is a lot less accessible for the general cinema going public. It’s been commented that it’s the most faithful adaptation of a Philip Dick novel to date and the hypnotic visuals Linklater adopts have been praised as engrossing.

I love this film. It’s my favourite of Keanu’s science fiction features and, on a good day, is my favourite of Richard Linklater’s back catalogue.

2. Speed (1994)

Speed

One of my favourite 90’s action films without a shadow of a doubt. A very simple concept, confined to a singular location, a great supporting cast and a tense soundtrack makes Speed a classic in the genre.

Considering the vast majority of the action takes place on a bog standard Los Angeles bus, the film is one of the most tense and gripping action films of the time. Cementing Keanu’s place in Hollywood as a bankable leading man, there isn’t a great deal of the film where he’s not on screen.

Speed’s quite unique within the genre as, for an action film, there isn’t a massive body count. There’s minimal gore and violence. Considering it takes place predominantly on the road, there isn’t a huge amount of car stunts, chases or crashes. There’s no sex or nudity and there’s no hand to hand combat. When James Bond is trying to dismantle the bomb at the end of Goldfinger whilst the clocks ticking down, Speed manages to take that style of momentary tension and sustain it for an entire film. Superb.

1. John Wick (2014)

John Wick

I had minimal expectations for this film prior to viewing. From the marketing campaign it appeared to be another mid-budget, straight to DVD styled, action B-Movie. Which in many ways, it is. However John Wick has so much flare and style about it that it raises it to a bar above it’s action film counterparts.

Firstly it looks wonderful. The colour pallet and the cinematography really give it it’s own distinctive look and feel. It appears other worldly, yet familiar. It’s vibrant, yet muted and as a directorial debut for Chad Stahelski and David Leitch is a very impressive first feature.

Secondly the action sequences are beautifully choreographed and orchestrated. It’s really refreshing for a director to hold off with the camera, and let the combat scenes play out organically, without too many cuts, close ups or edits. It’s no surprise that both directors have years of experience working  in the stunts and stunt choreography side of the film industry, as there is such a fluidity and smoothness to the extended fight scenes.

Thirdly, Keanu Reeves is really good in the lead role. After seeing the film, I can’t imagine anyone else being better cast as John Wick.

Finally, I’ve put this film as number one purely for the joyous ‘wow factor’ I felt after watching it. Going in with no expectations it was definitely one of the surprises of the cinematic year for me, and with a sequel in post-production I await John Wick 2 with bated breath.





There’s No Budget like Low Budget: The Bruce Campbell Top 10

18 05 2016

bruce

My first (knowing) exposure to the genius that is Bruce Campbell was somewhere around 1999 / 2000. As a young teenager, I was an avid VHS collector and renter. After acquiring a copy of 1992’s Army of Darkness, and knowing nothing of the film or the star, my mind was suitably blown. From there I got my hands on any Bruce Campbell video I could find, and over the years managed to fill in the blanks with the advent of DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming.

I’m something of a BC fanboy and he’s without doubt one of my favourite actors. Throughout his extensive career, he’s been something of a pioneer of B-Movies. The term ‘B-Movie’ isn’t  necessarily specific to the low budget, ridiculous sci-fi or horror films he’s been associated with. Any film outside the mainstream (often a supporting feature), with a smaller budget, a more conventional plot and generic conventions could fall under the ‘B’ umbrella. Generally produced by writers, directors and actors who are starting out, and learning the ropes in the film industry. Campbell has essentially built his career on these kind of films.

Occasionally flirting with the mainstream:

Bruce is more well known (within his cult following) for films such as these:

Outside of the film industry, Bruce is a best selling author:

Has had leading and recurring roles in dozens of TV shows:

Has had cameos in dozens and dozens of long running series. Frequently makes appearances at Comic-Con’s, Film Festivals, Horror Events, Book Signings and Fan Lead events:

Bruce-Campbell-Comic-Con

And as well as voice acting credits for a number of family animations:

He’s also been the voice of many popular video games:

In a career spanning five decades, he’s done it all. My fondness for Bruce spawns from his understanding of fandom and genre. He understands what he does and caters for his cult following magnificently. Often self-referential in his work, but never apologetic he embraces each project he’s involved in, be it box-office shattering superhero films or made for TV movies financed by the sci-fi channel. He understands the fan culture and he never fails to deliver.

With hundreds of acting credits, Bruce has also tried his hand at writing, directing and producing for film and TV, hence why this is a very hard top 10 to nail down. For the sake of variety, I have condensed his recurring roles in a film series as one entry on the list, and I have also expanded the selection slightly by including made for TV movies, as there are definitely a couple that warrant a mention.

Without further ado, please enjoy, my Bruce Campbell Top 10:

10. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Hudsucker

Through his connection with the Coen’s long time associate Sam Raimi, Bruce has appeared in a number of Coen Brothers films. As well as The Hudsucker Proxy, Campbell has worked with the Coens on Crimewave, Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers. Of all their productions involving BC, this is his finest role.

9. Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 (2002 – 2007)

Spider man 3

Appearing in each of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films as different characters, his roles may be brief but they are integral to the series. As Bruce touched on himself in an interview with Mark Kermode, he reiterates his significance within the franchise. In Spider-Man, as the wrestling ring announcer, he actually names Peter as Spider-Man for the first time, against Parker’s wishes of being referred to as ‘The Human Spider’. In Spider-Man 2 as a theatre usher he denies Peter entrance to Mary-Jane’s play after arriving late. And in Spider-Man as a snooty French waiter, he helps to ruin Peter’s planned proposal and publicly berates him. This means that Bruce Campbell is the only person who has successfully defeated Spider-Man every time he has come into contact with him.

8. In the Line of Duty: Blaze of Glory (1997)

in the line of duty

One of the ‘made for TV’ movies to make an appearance on the list. I came across Blaze of Glory (as it was released as in the UK) on VHS and had no idea it was a made for TV feature. Based on the true story of bank robbers Jill and Jeff Erickson, Bruce Campbell stars in this Bonnie and Clyde-esque crime / drama.

7. Alien Apocalypse (2005)

Alien Apocalypse

 

  An original film produced by the Sci-Fi network, Alien Apocalypse is an appallingly poor science fiction adventure film. With a similar set up to planet of the apes, astronaut Ivan (Campbell) returns from a mission to find that Earth has been taken over by aliens. The effects are terrible, the script is weak, the direction is poor, the performances are generally dyer and Bruce Campbell is amazing.

6. Escape from L.A. (1996)

Escape from LA

John Carpenter’s sequel to his cult 1981 sci-fi film Escape from New York. With a similar premise, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent by the government to a post-apocalyptice style American city to retrieve a device. Also mirroring the first film, Plissken has been injected with a virus that is timed to kill him unless he returns to the government for the cure. He meets a series of colourful characters along the way, and one of the most memorable is the deranged and psychotic Surgeon General of Beverly Hills played by Bruce Campbell.

5. My Name is Bruce (2007)

My Name is Bruce

Also directed by Mr Campbell, Bruce has to really stretch his acting skills in order to play a legendary B-Movie actor ‘Bruce Campbell’. After being mistaken for his character Ash in the Evil Dead series Bruce is forced into fighting a real monster (Guan Di) in the small town of Gold Lick, Oregon. The film is continuously referential to Bruce’s career and legacy, and Bruce plays an extremely comical exaggeration of himself. The film is integral viewing for any Campbell fanboy.

4. Maniac Cop, Maniac Cop 2 (1988 – 1990)

Maniac Cop

The Maniac Cop films are brilliant. They’re kind of like a less successful, smaller budget version of the Terminator films. There’s elements of horror and action with a supernatural twist, but ultimately, it’s a (seemingly) indestructible brick-shithouse going around killing people in nasty ways. The original film spawned two sequels, the first of which also featured Bruce Campbell, and according to IMDb there is a remake currently in-development for release in 2017.

3. Running Time (1997)

Running Time

Possibly the most obscure film on my list. I came across Running Time whilst at University and since then struggled to find it again. As far as I know, it’s not had a DVD release in the U.K. I had to order an imported copy from Germany to get hold of it. So when I say it’s low-budget, that would be an understatement. The film has a brilliant concept. It’s 70 minute ‘running time’ is filmed (supposedly) in real-time, in one continuous shot. The film starts when Campbell’s character Carl is picked up from jail after his release. He is immediately taken to conduct a bank robbery, which goes wrong and the film then follows him to a safe house. Whether the film is in fact filmed in one shot, without edits or not is irrelevant as it works really well regardless. It’s unique, it’s exciting and Bruce Campbell is brilliant in the lead role.

2. Bubba Ho-Tepp (2002)

Bubba Ho Tepp

A real fan favourite amoungst  the BC fraternity. The genius behind this work can be summed up simply with one sentence: Bruce Campbell plays an aging Elvis Presley and teamed with an elderly black man (claiming to be President JFK, who, surviving the assassination attempt, was dyed black and abandoned), fights a re-animated ancient Egyptian mummy.

1. Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness (1981 – 1992)

evil dead

It had to be. There was never any doubt. The infamous Evil Dead series are legendary in the horror genre. Sam Raimi’s masterful blend of comedy and horror has yet to be equaled. With Bruce heading the cast for each installment, his knack for physical comedy, rugged good looks and delivery of classic one liners has kept the films as cult favourites since their release. With remakes, video games, a spin off TV series, action figures, comic books, fan made sequels and an off Broadway musical inspired by the films, there’s no doubt that Evil Dead will continue to live on for a long long time.

 

 

 





Spiders, Ants, Mutants & Gods – My Top 10 Marvel Films

28 04 2016

With the release of the third installment in the Captain America franchise at the end of the week, the Marvel powerhouse will most probably continue to cement it’s reputation as the greatest cinematic, comic book authority. DC’s fate seems slightly up in the air at the moment after Batman vs. Superman generally underwhelmed both critics and audiences.

There’s been over 40 live action productions based on Marvel Comics, and with another dozen scheduled for release between now and 2019, they are more or less unstoppable at the box office. It took a while for the momentum to really get going with a few turkeys, box office bombs and a lack of consistency throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s. It wasn’t really until the end of the 00’s that the formula really began to gel. There’s a remarkable amount of diversity in the releases and a staggering range of quality.

From critical disasters and box office bombs:

To superb sequels:

To poor sequels:

To something for the kids:

To something for the grown ups:

Small budgets:

Big budgets:

Oscar winners/ nominees:

Razzie winners / nominees:

And a whole bunch of production companies trying to keep things in order.

Over the years Marvel films have had spectacular highs and colossal lows. Even attempting a top 10 makes my brain hurt, but I will give it my best shot. The first order of business is to address the elephant in the room, and to just get it out of the way early on.

deadpool-gallery-03-gallery-image

Deadpool does not feature in my top 10. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed with it as the rest of the world was. Don’t get me wrong, generally it was a very enjoyable comic book romp, but I didn’t feel it was anything spectacular or groundbreaking. I’m afraid the constant wisecracks and one liners from Ryan Reynolds did, after a while, begin to grate on me a bit. It was perfectly entertaining for the 1hr and 48 minutes that it was on, but I didn’t feel it was as cutting edge or as innovative as it’s being hailed as. I know, I’ll get lynched for this, but I felt the latest Fantastic Four film was more offbeat in terms of production. Granted what it attempted to do was a spectacular failure, but Deadpool is still definitely restricted by the Marvel franchise and and formula. Whereas it appears to be giving a middle finger to ‘the system’, it’s still very much bound by their rules, and there’s nothing that excess gore and foul language will be able to do about that.

Anywho, if I still have any readers left after that paragraph, here’s my top 10 live action Marvel films.

10. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man-vs.-Doctor-Octopus

Spider-Man has been a bit all over the place over the years. By Spider-Man 3 director Sam Raimi has completely lost the plot. It was a mess of a film. Similarly, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from 2014, sent the franchise to pot.

Spider-Man had one of the quickest turn around in superhero history. With only five years between Raimi’s trilogy and The Amazing Spider-Man reboot in 2012, Spidey will now be featured in the new Captain America film under Marvel Studios, played by a different actor. This new Spidey will be a separate entity from Columbia’s Spider-Man trilogy and 20th Century Fox’s Amazing Spider-Man series. Confused? Well to put it simply, Spider-Man is one of my favourite Marvel characters. Over the last couple of decades there’s been a number of films, some good and some bad. Spider-Man would be the high water mark for me, and Toby Maguire is still the definitive Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield (as much as I like him) was just a tad cool, witty and trendy for the role. I like my nerds as crippling socially awkward and anxious as possible.

9. Ant-Man (2015)

ant-man

I was extremely apprehensive before viewing Ant-Man. After keeping abreast of the original developments involving Edgar Wright directing the film and co-writing the script with Joe Cornish, I was very excited. When I learnt that Edgar Wright had left the project and the script was being re-written, alarm bells started ringing. I’m a big fan of Edgar Wright, so this seemed to be sacrilegious. His replacement, Peyton Reed was mainly known for directing mediocre comedies such as The Break Up, Bring it On and Yes Man. The alarm bells got louder and louder and, with re-writes and changes in personnel. Ant-Man began to sound like a doomed project.

I really enjoyed the finished product. After guffawing at the Thomas the Tank Engine scene in the trailer, the rest of the film did not disappoint. It’s nice when Marvel step aside from the heavyweight heroes and focus on the lesser known, smaller (in every sense of the word) films.

8. X-Men: First Class (2011)

X-Men-First-Class-Erik-in-a-Suit

X-Men is another series that’s been a bit shaky over the years.  With 7 X-Men features since 2000 and another 1 set for release later this year, the franchise dipped a bit in the middle. First Class was a “back to the drawing board” response to X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Both of which failed to impress fans and critics. Set in the 1960’s, the film is a period piece about the early life of Charles Xavier, Erik Lensherr and Raven (Mystique). With cameos and references to an eclectic mix of mutants in the Marvel back catalogue, First Class is 1 of my favourites in the series. I’m a big fan of director Matthew Vaughn, and I loved how stripped down and straight forward the story was. The series snowballed after the first release as things became, bigger, louder, sillier and more unnecessarily complicated. First Class took it back to its roots and gave a fascinating character study of two of the most famous protagonists and antagonists in the history of comic books.

7. X2 (2003)

x2-x-men-united

Bryan Singer. The instigator. Before his X-Men in 2000. There was nothing really. A couple of okay Batman films from the 80’s / 90’s. Couple of Superman’s in the 80’s and a few one offs here and there over the years. From the 21st century onward filmmakers finally had the relevant cinematic technology to bring to life some of the more fantastical heroes. Singer managed to do this brilliantly, and as well as great casting, great story telling and great visuals, Singer also managed to produce a superhero film that could be taken seriously. The sequel to X-Men required Singer to up the ante. So he did. After the first time I saw it, X2 became my favourite X-Men film and has retained that title ever since. The opening sequence featuring Nightcrawler breaching Presidential security is still one of the finest moments in the history of superhero films.

6. Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man

I class Iron Man as a surprise hit. There’s no denying it’s one of the finest comic book films ever made, but I’m not sure how it did it.  It was the first release from Marvel Studios and it set the ball rolling for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Released at a similar time to Spider-Man 3, The Dark Knight, X-Men Origins, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man for my money was up against it. Taking a comparatively lesser known superhero, a lead actor who had been off the boil for years and wasn’t anywhere near the A-List status that he’s at now, a director (Jon Favreau) who’s only sci-fi adventure film to date (Zathura) was a complete box office flop and a newly formed production company seemed to be rather risky indeed.

Al this aside, it’s just a ridiculously great movie, and it was overwhelmingly successful. Robert Downey Jr. is so engaging as Tony Stark. The story is exciting and comprehensible, the effects are great, the supporting cast are superb, the soundtrack kicks ass and when you hold it up against other Marvel releases of the time, it’s light years ahead of the game. It restored humor, wit and invention to the genre and catapulted Downey Jr and Favreau to super-stardom establishing them as major players in their respective fields.

5. Iron Man 3 

Iron man 3

Just nudging out Iron Man on the list Iron Man 3 tops if for me as the favourite in the series. After the disappointment of Iron Man 2, I didn’t particularly have high hopes for the third. After 6 MCU releases in 4 years culminating in 2012’s Avengers Assemble, things were getting very loud and noisy. With back to back features, all intertwining and playing off each other, the franchise needed to just calm down a little bit. So it did. Instead of cranking it to the next level and potentially imploding in on itself, Iron Man 3 takes a step back and is the most reflective Marvel film to date. It becomes more of a Tony Stark character piece as he tries to come to terms with the horrors of New York in The Avengers. Of course you have your whiz bang, smashy smashy segments as well, naturally. But Iron Man 3 is an extremely intelligent addition to the franchise, that displays another side of Tony. His vulnerable side.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians-of-the-galaxy-star-lord-drax

Again, when seeing the marketing for Guardians I was struggling to see how they would make it work. It’s the most full on science fiction film in the Marvel back catalogue. It seemed to be far removed from the other releases and didn’t appear to fit into the extended Universe as comfortably as the other Earth based features. Chris Pratt as the leading man, was not yet established as a major star. The writer / director James Gunn was most known for low budget indie horror / comedy films, and it was released within 12 months of The Wolverine, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Some seriously big sequels. I (along with the rest of the world) was completely charmed by it. It was like seeing Star Wars again but as an adult. It’s just a fabulous space romp, with brilliantly funny dialogue, great performances and characters and a completely offbeat 70’s pop soundtrack. The soundtrack definitely helps ground the film into some kind of reality you can relate to and I was amazed to find myself genuinely caring for an anthropomorphic raccoon and a walking tree-like-humanoid.

3. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Cap

I remember seeing the trailer for Captain America in the cinema, and my heart sinking. As an Englishman I didn’t feel I could stomach a flag-waving, pro-American, two hour rendition of Star Spangled Banner. I was rather ignorant to the character in general. Captain America had never really been in the British consciousness like Batman, Superman or Spider-Man etc. My assumptions were quickly banged to rights and upon my first viewing of the film, ‘Cap’ quickly became my favourite Avenger, my favourite Marvel film series and one of my favourite superheros to date. The film actually addresses my initial reservations and is self referential about the cheesy potential of the character. The film manages to be old fashioned and traditional whilst retaining a modern edge. It manages to be tongue-in-cheek and lighthearted towards the character without being apologetic.

In an era of dark, troubled and conflicted superheros it was so refreshing to see a hero that stands for nothing other than good. The main antagonists in the film, the Red Skull, are a fantastic nemesis and it was such a great black and white example of good vs. evil.

2. Avengers Assemble (2012)

avengers-dvd002

A perfect example of why Joss Whedon is “the man”. I’ve been a fan of Buffy and Angel for years. I love Firefly and Serenity, and even one of the greatest films ever made, Toy Story, has Joss Whedon’s DNA all over the screenplay. What he achieved with The Avengers was nothing short of miraculous. He took half a dozen larger than life characters, a ridiculous budget and made a Joss Whedon film. At no point does it feel like he’s had to compromise his vision, and the finished product is one of the finest Marvel films ever made. To be able to juggle that many main characters (who all need screen time), that many plot developments and keep everything tied together neatly to lead into the next installment of the franchise is not easy. But the film is hilarious, moving, action packed and most importantly, coherent. At no point does it feel overly long or dull and the flourishes of comedy “asides” are the funniest moments in a Marvel film to date.

The Hulk is another of my favourite comic book characters and finally, a cinematic Hulk has worked completely. I didn’t actually mind Ang Lee’s Hulk from 2003 or the Marvel Studios Incredible Hulk from 2008, perhaps because I have so much fondness for the character. The films just didn’t quite pull it off though. As part of an ensemble the Hulk character works unbelievably well. He has some of the most moving, most action packed and funniest moments in the entire film. I’m so glad they managed to crack it.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Cap 2

Similarly to Iron Man 3, Cap 2 took the series in a different direction. The majority of the drama plays out as a conspiracy thriller. With twists, turns and bursts of action, The Winter Solider really stands out from the other Marvel films as something different. Naturally they are obliged to have the big action set pieces, the special effects and the tie-ins with the franchise, but comparatively it’s such an intelligently done, slow burning drama. With fantastic character development for both Cap and Black Widow, it’s another brilliant example of the franchise slowing down a little bit and becoming a tad more reflective. I was curious to see how they would adapt the Cap story for the modern world, after the previous film being set in the 40’s, but any concerns I had about how they would do it were put to rest instantly.

Well, that hard to whittle the list down to a top 10.

Honorable mentions go out to X-men: Days of Future Past, Thor, The Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Wolverine that got ummed and arred over and were all up for consideration at some stage.

 

It’s clear to see (as my top 3 films all heavily feature Steve Rogers) that I am rather biased with my choices. Needless to say my anticipation for Civil War is grand and I am very much #TeamCap.

Take care.

 

 





By George! : 10 Cinematic Namesakes

23 04 2016

To celebrate St. George’s day, here’s 10 great cinematic Georges from both sides of the camera for your consideration.

10. George Wendt

Wednt

Infamous on the small screen for his role as Norm Peterson in Cheers, George Wendt has also been involved in dozens and dozens of films in both an acting and producing capacity. From dramas such as Guilty by Suspicion, Forever Young and King of the Ants to family comedies, Christmas flicks and Spice World: The Movie, George Wendt has done it all. Despite a career that has spanned 5 decades, he will always be known to me, and the majority of the world as….. Norm!

Wednt2

9. George Reeves

Reeves1

Despite his tragically short acting career Reeves starred in a great many films including Biblical epics, Westerns, comedies, musicals, dramas, war epics and timeless classics such as Gone with the Wind. He is perhaps best know for portraying Superman on television from 1952 – 1958, and the subsequent spin off films, Stamp Day for Superman and Superman and the Mole Men. In 2006 Ben Affleck portrayed Reeves in the biographical film Hollywoodland. 

Reeves

8. George Takei

Takei

With roles in major Hollywood productions such as Tom Hanks’s Larry Crowne and Disney’s Mulan, as well as six feature length Star Trek films, George Takei has been involved with hundreds of projects on film and television. As a notable gay-rights activist and Internet personality, George Takei is more popular than ever. Despite his vast and colourful career, he is perhaps immortalised as  Mr Sulu in the original Star Trek series and subsequent motion pictures.

Takei1

7. George Carlin

Carlin

Most noted for his stand-up comedy, George Carlin was also very active in the film business in his autumn years. Working with Disney and Pixar he lent his voice to the animated features Tarzan II and Cars. Working with writer / director Kevin Smith, he consecutively appeared in Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Jersey Girl. As well as featuring in the comedy films Scary Movie 3, Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, Carlin also narrated the American version of Thomas the Tank Engine for over 25 years.

Carlin2

6. George Lazenby

Lazenby

Australian born Lazenby will forever be remembered as the actor who replaced Sean Connery in the James Bond series. It’s now widely accepted that George Lazenby was the worst of the Bonds, and his one appearance in the role is often criticised or generally forgotten about. I’ve always liked Lazenby though and have never had any issue with his performance. The film itself, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is without doubt one of the best Bond films, and for my money Lazenby is a perfectly capable 007. He looks the part. He can throw a punch. He sounds like Bond and he’s a very engaging screen presence. The fact he only appeared in the series once is nothing to do with his acting ability, but more his off-screen recreations. Shortly after filming, Lazenby engrossed himself into the late 60s hippy culture of the time. He would turn up to film premiers bearded with long hair, and the producers thought his offscreen image and lifestyle was not in keeping with their requirements for a full time Bond.

Lazenby 2

5. George Martin

Martin

Sticking with the Bond theme brings us to the next George on the list. Known predominantly as the record producer who famously collaborated with the Beatles, George Martin has also been involved in many films as a composer, musical arranger and musical director. Working on the Beatles films A Hard Days Night, Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine Martin has written and produced film scores for a wide variety of movies such as Michael Caine’s Pulp and Roger Moore’s first Bond film Live and Let Die.

Martin2

4. George Harrison

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Sticking with the Beatles theme! George Harrison will always be known as ‘the quiet Beatle’, but his film credentials are very impressive. As well as composing the original score for Wonderwall George Harrison’s production company Handmade Films were responsible for over 20 productions in 10 years. Originally created to help fund Monty Python’s Life of Brian George’s company ran successfully for years and he has an executive producer credit on some seminal British comedies such as Time Bandits, The Life of Brian, Withnail & I and Nuns on the Run.

Life of Brian

3. George A. Romero

george-romero

Legendary horror writer / director George A. Romero completely pioneered the zombie genre with his 1968 release Night of the Living Dead. Years ahead of it’s time, the film is now regarded as a masterpiece of the genre. Going on to direct 5 sequels, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead, Romero has managed to stay relevant in the horror world and his original formula for zombie films has been repeated, remade, reinvented, parodied and referenced for over 50 years. Outside of Dead series, Romero has produced many other memorable works in the horror genre, such as The Crazies, Martin and Creepshow.

Romero2 

2. George Clooney

Clooney BW

Oscar winning actor / producer, George Clooney was propelled from TV stardom to global mega-stardom with lead roles in major Hollywood productions. As well as the box office shattering films such as Oceans 11 and Gravity, Clooney’s varied career has allowed him to take on roles in smaller productions with more acclaimed directors, as well as working with the Coen Brothers on 4 occasions he has also starred in films by Alexander Payne amd Wes Anderson. Behind the camera Clooney has directed 5 critically and financially successful films, as well as having production credits on dozens of pictures including the Oscar winning Argo. 

O Brother BW

1. George Lucas

Lucas

Now one of the biggest behemoth franchises in the history of cinema, Star Wars is as popular now as it was nearly 40 years ago. Going through many changes over the years in terms of directors, writers and producers the series has now been handed over to Disney and entrusted to writer / director J.J. Abrams. The fans have had a turbulent relationship with Lucas over the years, particularly in regards to the prequels, but without George Lucas’s writing, directing and production they would be no Star Wars and there would be no Indiana Jones. So that alone puts him in good stead to be one of the most influential figures in the history of cinema.

Lucas 2

Happy St. George’s Day!

 

 

 





Lock, Stock & 10 Jason Statham Films: The Stath’s Top 10

19 04 2016

Meg - Shark

There have been a surge of ridiculous man vs. animal films lately. Since 2006’s Snakes on a Plane, we have had: Dinoshark, the Sharknado series, Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD, Piranhaconda, Sharktapus, Dinocroc vs Supergator, Megapython vs Gatoroid and so on and so on and so on. It’s fair to say, this sort of thing has been done, to death.

Just when I thought, I’d grown bored of these films, articles start flying around the Internet about Meg, a forthcoming 2017 release, starring Jason Statham in fisty cuffs with a killer shark.

I’m a huge Jason Statham fan, and I don’t know why.

I studied film for years and have an appreciation for classic cinema, European films, critically acclaimed works, art house pieces, Asian horror, award winning movies and also Jason Statham. He’s completely unapologetic in all of his roles. He knows he’s making B-movies, nuts and bolts action films and nothing that requires him to turn up and be anything other than Jason Statham. Quite simply, he is brilliant at being Jason Statham.

Usually it’s in an actors twilight years that they settle into the B-movie circuit. Former huge stars churn out the “straight to DVD” or “straight to DVDesque” flicks such as:

With limited release, limited budget and limited appeal, these are the kind of film’s you’d generally see on DVD in a supermarket bargain bin for £3, six months after their release. Jason Statham has essentially built his career on these films. No matter what the genre:

Action

Safe

Comedy

Spy

Sci-Fi

Ghosts of Mars

Family

Gnomeo & Juliet

Thriller

Cellular

Or Fantasy

In the name of the king

Jason Statham plays Jason Statham. I’ve been a big fan of his since the early Guy Ritchie pictures, and the Stath top 10 is long overdue. Collateral gets an honorable mention as it’s a fantastic thriller directed by Michael Mann. However, Stath’s role wasn’t substantial enough for me to class it as a ‘Jason Statham’ movie. I’ve taken into account sequels and trilogies and for a bit of variety I’ve lumped all franchises into one place on the list……. I say variety……

10. Death Race (2008)

death

The Stath’s appeared in numerous remakes over the years. The Italian Job (2003), The Pink Panther (2006)  and Mean Machine (2001), a remake of 1974’s The Longest Yard. For me, by far his finest remake is 2008’s Death Race. Based on the original film Death Race 2000 from 1975, the Stath is forced to adopt the role of the mythical driver Frankenstein. General racing and death occurs. Whereas it’s no where near as seminal as the original in terms of  film history, it’s a perfectly enjoyable hour and 45 minutes from director Paul W.S.Anderson. Not to be confused with Oscar nominated director Paul Thomas Anderson.

P.T Anderson = There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

P.W.S. Anderson = Mortal Kombat, AVP: Alien vs Predator, Resident Evil: Retribution 

If you want awards heavy modern masterpieces, P.T.A. If you want CGI heavy schlock, P.W.S.A. Both fine directors in their chosen fields.

9. Hummingbird (2013)

Hummingbird

Or Redemption as it’s known in some territories, including the U.S. That’s when you know you’ve got a B-Movie on your hands. Repackaged with a different title, superb. It’ll probably be re-released with another different title in 10 years time, when one of the bit-part actors featured has sprung to stardom, with his or her face on the cover. Nevertheless, it’s a cracking little B-Movie. Jason Statham plays a drunk, homeless ex forces veteran who steals the identity of a high end photographer and poses as his boyfriend whilst squatting in his flat. He befriends a nun whilst gradually working his way up as a member of the Triads. He then exploits his position with the Chinese mafia to avenge the murder of his homeless friend Isabel. Now THAT is a B-Movie.

8. The Expendables Series (2010 – 2014)

The Expendables

The “let’s get the band back together” action medley featuring an ensemble of former “biggest action stars in the world”, mixed with today’s ‘ard men. The first film was surprisingly a huge box office success, bringing in nearly 300 hundred million on a modest budget, and spawning two sequels. It’s a sort of more explodey, shooty version of The A-Team where the cast mutually back slap each other, are self referential about their careers and talk about how old they now are. All of the films are extremely watchable, and almost force you to have upwards of seven beers per viewing.

7. Blitz (2011)

Blitz

Not as “full throttle” as some of Statham’s similar work and sits more comfortably in the ‘thriller’ half of the Venn diagram as apposed to ‘action’. Blitz has heavier elements of intrigue and drama and is slightly darker in tone. The Stath plays a “hard as nails” copper who is in pursuit of a serial killer targeting police officers. As well as a (literally) solid lead performance from JS, the film really benefits from an absolutely stellar supporting cast, which features Paddy Considine, Aidan Gillen, David Morrissey and Mark Rylance. Arguably the most accomplished supporting cast that Statham has ever worked with.

6. Revolver (2005)

Revolver

Definitely the most diverse film on the list, Revolver seemed to completely divide critics and audiences upon release. A more or less unanimous panning of the film by critics lead to it bombing at the box office, and since then it hasn’t really picked up too much momentum on TV or DVD. I remember seeing it when it was first released in cinemas back in 2005. Granted I was only 18 at the time and slightly naive in the area of film criticism, but I loved it. Upon repeat viewings in my later years, I have gradually seem more and more of the points critics were making. For example, the unnecessarily overly complex / pretentious themes, plots and motifs, written by someone who appears completely ill-educated on the subject he’s discussing. Regardless, I do like the film, and I particularly like Jason Statham in it. If you can remove yourself (like I can) from the convoluted waffle that weighs it down, you’ll find some great performances, fabulous cinematography with incredibly innovative uses of colour palettes and an alluring original score.

11 years later and it seems that the initial scathing, venomous feelings towards the film have died down slightly. Still not quite hitting the mark with critics, Revolver currently holds an average user rating of 6.5/10 on IMDB and 3.3/5 on Rotten Tomatoes, so you can’t say fairer than that. I’ve never really considered Revolver to be a cult film until writing this post. But with its jaded history, its limited appeal and its uniqueness, it ticks all the boxes for me.

5. Crank (2006) / Crank: High Voltage (2009)

Crank

Crank is like Speed except the bus is Jason Statham. In order to stay alive he must keep his adrenaline constantly flowing. He does this by taking drugs, getting into fights and indulging in mass amounts of aggressive rumpy pumpy with his missus. The Cranks are completely shameless in their exploitative nature, and similarly to Statham’s character are filmed in a furious kind of manner. The direction and editing reminded me of a 2002 film called Spun, about a speed-freak on a drugs binge. The whole thing has almost punk film-making aesthetics, and is like a thrash metal music video that got out of hand.

4. The Bank Job (2008)

The Bank Job

A period piece set in 1970’s London is based on the true story of the Baker Street robbery of 1971. As opposed to Statham’s collaboration’s with Guy Ritchie, The Bank Job is more of a throwback to the classic British crime films of the 60’s / 70’s. In terms of the heist element of narrative the obvious comparison would be the original Italian Job. With precise attention to period detail, a fascinating insight into the actual events of the Baker Street robbery and a captivating cast, the film was a critical and commercial success.

3. The Transporter Series (2002 – 2009)

The Transporter

The French action series written and produced by Luc Besson helped catapult the Stath to B-List stardom. Quite remarkably successful, the series is still going strong, with a 4th addition to the film franchise released last year, and a spin off TV series that has been running since 2012. I first saw The Transporter shortly after it’s VHS release. I remember the tag line being: “The film xXx wishes it was”. Referring to the Vin Diesel action film released the same year. Despite The Transporter having less than half the budget of xXx it is definitely the superior work. It’s slicker, the action sequences are meatier, it’s funnier, it has a better story and Jason Statham plays a much better character and is a much more engaging on screen presence. Both his subsequent two films are very enjoyable, if not slightly ludicrous, and the underlying homoerotic nature of the films is to be applauded. Throughout the trilogy we see him shirtless, greased up in oil whilst grappling with other butch men and by the third film he is literally forced to perform an on screen striptease. And why not? Superb.

2. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Lock-Stock-and-Two-Smoking-Barrels

Guy Ritchie’s first feature length film and Jason Statham’s first acting role was the vehicle that propelled them both into stardom. Jason’s street vending monologue opens the film and sets the tone brilliantly. Ritchie’s choppy direction, pop soundtrack and ability to merge memorable dialogue with comedy and violence set his up as the U.K.’s answer to Tarantino. Alongside Snatch and RocknRolla, Lock Stock is the pièce de résistance in Guy’s trilogy of “guns and geezers” movies.

1. Snatch. (2000)

Snatch

Of the two, and despite their blatant similarities, I’ve generally favoured Lock Stock as a film. However, as this blog post is about Jason Statham films, Snatch is without doubt the superior Statham performance. Promoted from his role in Lock Stock as part of the large ensemble cast, Statham leads the pack in Snatch. and holds his own against Hollywood heavyweights Brad Pitt, Benicio  Del Toro and Dennis Farina.

 

 

 

 

   








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