“Two hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money… we’re gonna have to earn it.”

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Here it is, my favourite movie ever, of all time. thegoodthebadandtheugly

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; It’s the most beautifully bleak, humourous, well written, well directed film I’ve ever seen, a classic western that not only deals with the morality of the time, but also explores the American Civil War through a brilliant adventure story (the fact that Clint Eastwood plays one of the central characters helps an awful lot too).

The film was released in 1966, and directed by Sergio Leone, the Italian director who brought the world A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. Two films that changed the face of cinema forever, and the effects of which are still felt today in modern cinema. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the last film in the “Dollars” trilogy, but it is in fact a prequel to both the previous films, making For a Few Dollars More the last film in the Man With No Name’s timeline. By the time it was released, the previous two films had taken America by storm, and had changed the way westerns (and films in general) were written and filmed forever. Quentin Tarantino has stated on numerous occasions that this is his favourite film, and you can clearly see the influence of it upon his writing and directing style, which may be a reason as to why Tarantino is one of my favourite directors.

Ever since The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly was released, its influence upon popular culture and cinema has grown year after year, and whatever walk of life you may be from, you will have heard the title used as an idiom, or be aware that its theme song is the go-to western music, AY-YI-AHHH. As well as these influences, it’s now widely regarded to be one of the best films ever made and possibly the most iconic film of its genre, for its technical achievements, cinematic scope and great storytelling. The film is about three men and their journey across the west of America to find 200,000 dollars in gold buried in a graveyard (a hefty sum of money back then). The Ugly (portrayed by the superb method actor, Eli Wallach) is a criminal constantly hounded by bounty hunters, The Good (played by the tough but genial, laconic Clint Eastwood) is an opportunist who earns a living however he can, and The Bad (played by an unusually menacing Lee Van Cleef) is a viscous mercenary/gun for hire who, once he’s paid, always finishes the job. They fight their way across the war-torn landscape of America, suffering set-back after set-back, double-cross after double-cross, always motivated by the one thing they all have in common, greed. The Characters do actually have names, but they are always remember by the nicknames the title gives them, even though they can be very ironic in some cases…

The first thing that strikes you about this film is the bleak beauty of the landscape. It was actually filmed on the plains of Spain, but the dry, barren hills and deserts can easily convince you of an American setting. Leone doesn’t waste this picturesque landscape, he uses the wise open spaces to his full advantage, giving you a clear image of just how expansive and deserted these lands really are. My favourite scene for the landscape would have to be finale, where the rolling hills and coliseum-like set are almost always in frame, making you feel like you’re watching from a stadium seat, both in the dizzying heights of Wembley’s upper tiers and in the low, close-to-the-action courtside seats of a basketball game. This flowery description may sound like there’s too much distance between the viewer and the film, but these wide-angles are interlaced with shots so up close and personal that you can see every emotion of the characters in Eastwood’s squint, Van-Cleef’s shrewd leer, and Wallach’s panicked, wide-eyed stare.

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While you’re transfixed on the landscape for a lot of the film, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the main characters are incredibly engaging, and you find yourself even liking The Bad thanks to the great dialogue and acting (besides, who doesn’t like a good villain?). But it’s not just Lee Van Cleef’s portrayal of him that connects you to the character, it’s the fact that when you get to the base of it, all the characters are motivated by the same thing, greed. It’s just that their methods of reaching their goal are different. So when you look at the title again, it’s you can see that it’s not a definite statement about the characters’ morality, but a statement about how morality is viewed in that harsh, violent world. For example, in order to find information on the location of the money, The Bad visits a captured military fort crowded with wounded men from both sides of the war. He chats to one of the men charged with holding it, and, whether it’s through pity or simple business, leaves him a bottle of alcohol. This little gesture says a lot about the character, and you can see it in his eyes that he really does feel something when he sees all these young men bed ridden or missing limbs. That’s a key aspect of the film that draws me into it, everybody has a sense of humanity about them, and there are no two-dimensional characters here, my friends. Van-Cleef-Good-Ugly_l

The Ugly is a very ambiguous and complicated character, but easily one of the most likeable I’ve ever come across, mostly due to Eli Wallach’s brilliant acting. He has been forced to grow up in a harsh environment, pushed into crime by his surroundings and society- “Where we came from, if one did not want to die of poverty, one became a priest or a bandit! You chose your way, I chose mine. Mine was harder.” He truly regrets not being able to live a normal life, but he has embraced a life of crime as well as he can. There is a key difference between him and The Bad though, because while he does do awful things, and while he can’t be labelled as “good”, he isn’t a stranger to good deeds. He’s the ugly truth of that society, a man pressured into a life of crime in order to survive.

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And then we come to The Good. Good old Clint, returning for the third time as “The Man with No Name”, but this time he’s playing him from his origins, rather than during his travels. I think The Good would be best described as an opportunist, or a con-man. He doesn’t do anything to actively harm people, and the crimes he does choose to commit don’t result in innocent people being harmed, but he does frequently break the law for his own gain, which is usually to do with money. Like The Ugly, he’s somewhat forced to act outside of the law in order to survive, but he is definitely the most morally sound of the three, stopping for a few minutes to comfort a dying soldier while The Ugly runs ahead to the gold, for instance. As with most of Eastwood’s film characters, is hard not to like such a laid back, semi-decent guy, and when the climax arrives you find yourself rooting for him all the way (and what a climax it is… I don’t think I’ve ever felt so tense during a film). clint

As for the soundtrack… I don’t even have the words to describe how amazing it really is. Written by Ennio Morricone, one of the most respected composers of the 20th Century, it defies description. Instead, here’s a link to the most beautiful song you’ll ever have the pleasure of hearing, The Ecstacy of Gold.

Finally, I just want to mention the script. Apart from Tarantino’s movies, I don’t think I’ve seen a film where the dialogue is almost completely true to life. Everything the characters say feels completely natural and organic, it’s like you’re watching a conversation from the sidelines, with characters firing off quick one liners and making small-talk that is in fact heavily loaded with implications. The sheer amount of quotable lines that come from this film is enormous, and even the title is now an idiom in the English language. Perhaps the best thing about it is that there’s little to no exposition, and that can only be a good thing in my books. Everything you need to know about the characters’ actions and emotions can be seen, and doesn’t have to be explained in clumsy, clunky dialogue, which seems to be becoming more and more frequent in modern cinema, the only problem is that you have to actually watch the film.

Anyway, I could ramble on for a very long time about this film and the different reasons why it’s perfect to me in almost every way, but I don’t want to bore you too much (well, any more than I already have). I guess all I can say is that if there’s one film you should write down on a list of movies you want to see, it should be this one (and if you do watch it, I highly recommend the extended 3 hour edition, because it has a number of extra scenes that add even more to this already superb film), I literally cannot recommend it enough.

Thanks for reading, and if you have anything to say about this fanboy-ish post, please leave a comment!

-Lewis

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PO-TA-TOES. Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew

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imageHere it is, the penultimate film(s) in my Top Seven!

I hope the title gave you a good idea of what I’m going to be talking about in this article, and it definitely should ring a bell with anyone who’s seen these incredible films.

Yep, you got it.

‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy.

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The films of the classic, epic, fantastical creation by J. R. R. Tolkien that follow the quests of Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Gandalf and a host of other incredible characters as they attempt to destroy the One Ring and the Dark Lord Sauron.

First of all, before I dive in, you might be wondering why I used that particular quote as the title.

I honestly don’t know for certain, but if I had to think about it (and I guess I do), I’d say that it’s just a great piece of dialogue. It’s funny, it’s not a dramatic speech or an ominous warning of things to come, it’s just Sam being Sam. A clueless Hobbit explaining one of the simple passions he has in life (food) to someone who has literally been living in a cave for most of his own. I think that’s one of the great things about these films and the story of ‘The Lord of the Rings’. The characters never let the melodrama ruin their personalities; they keep making jokes, keep caring about each other, and they never give up hope, even when it looks like there’s no way out. And, to be honest, there is an awful lot of drama and pain in these films. Sometimes it looks so bleak for the characters that you’re not certain how they can possibly win the day. But win the day they do, and they succeed over and over again, despite losing friends and family.

It’s a story that has stood the test of time, from the original novels to the animated films in the seventies, from multiple radio plays to being mentioned in numerous Led Zeppelin songs. It’s a classic tale that’s inspired epic fiction and the genre of fantasy ever since its conception. So much so, that Peter Jackson was able to make it into three hugely successful films almost 50 years after the novels were published. This is a testament to the timeless nature of the story and its themes.

These are long films, there’s no denying that. And for a lot of people, long run-times can be a big turn-off when thinking about seeing a film. The thing is though, I’ve never heard anyone say that they don’t like the epic length of these films. It’s barely mentioned in a negative way if you’re talking about them, and if it is, it’s usually just a joke about the epic length, it’s never a point they use to discredit them. I think the reason for this is that A, they need to be that length in order to construct the whole story, and B, the writing, the pace, the story and the characters are never dull, and never tedious. In fact, I’d even argue that the theatrical releases should be longer, especially after watching the deleted scenes in the extended editions.

Enough gushing about the story and its epic length though, because that alone doesn’t make a great film(s).

I’m not exaggerating when I say that these films are spectacular visions, with CGI and real landscapes that are almost unparalleled in their scope and beauty. You really can believe that the characters are on a journey through a strange, but still familiar world, and there are no landscapes that appear ordinary or plain. I think majestic is the right word to describe the world of Middle-Earth, even the ash-grey and charred wastelands of Mordor.

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It’s not all about the spectacular views or the hugely impressive CGI battles and creatures (although their quality and quantity does help), at the very core of the films is characterisation and personality. You can really believe that these characters, whether they be Hobbits, Men, Elves, Dwarves or even Ents, are real, and that the pains and joys they feel are real too. This level of interaction with the characters is helped along by both the writing and the great performances of the actors. There isn’t a single person on the cast that lets the films down. They all stay true to the personality of the character they play (Although Faramir is slightly more of a dick in the films than the books), and this, combined with great dialogue, makes the story all the more accessible to the viewer.

My final point on these films, is about the direction and the respect I have for Peter Jackson (despite what he has done since with ‘The Hobbit’). Some of my favourite camera shots are from this trilogy, and the pacing of the fights and films as a whole is just as impeccable as the performances by the actors. The camera work really gives you a great impression of the scope and fantasy of Middle-Earth, something which hasn’t been matched since. Peter Jackson took a bit of a gamble by making these films. There were no guarantees that the public would connect with the story in the same way as they did with the novels all those years ago, and it was possible that something would be lost in the difficult transition from text to motion picture. But, despite the risks and the problem-filled production, he managed to create a fitting adaption of those brilliant novels, and made the world of Middle-Earth more accessible than it has ever been before.

I think this trilogy will be just as timeless as the novels it came from.

-Lewis

“You Know What They Say, Human See, Human Do”

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self portraitYou may, or may not, remember when I started a list of my seven favourite films. I began this endeavour at the start of October, and lost motivation after my fourth article…

However! I’m back in action now, and this is the fifth film on my list of movies (which are in no particular order, expect the last one which is, of course, my favourite). So I hope you enjoy the read, and all I can do is offer an apology for taking so long to get back to this series.

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

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Those of you who have read my review of ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ probably know that I have a lot of love for this franchise. But I’m not talking about the franchise as a whole this time, I’m talking about the original (and arguably the best) film that started it all.

‘The Planet of the Apes’ was based on the novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle, the same guy who wrote ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’. While the film shares the basic, genius premise of talking apes and the struggle of communication, it differs from the novel a fair bit. I’ve read the book and I’ve seen the film and I have to say… I think I prefer the film. This is a rarity for me, because I can never read enough books, and I almost always prefer the written story with all its intricate details and full characterisation. It’s common for a lot of that detail to be lost in the translation to the big screen. However, sometimes a film comes along that not only meets your expectations, but exceeds them. I’m not saying that the film of ‘The Planet of the Apes’ is a whole lot better, it’s just the one I prefer.

One reason for this is the changes in the plot. Tim Burton’s awful early 2000s remake follows the book’s plot a little more closely, but still differs a fair amount (not in a good way), and while it’s still a fairly strong plot with a twist at the end, the original film just can’t be beaten by book or remake. As I’ve said, it keeps the same basic premise, however, there are a lot of key changes. I won’t dive into these as, while it’s an old film, you may not have seen it yet. If you haven’t, then what the hell are you doing reading this article for? Go and watch it!

I joke, please read this article.

It’s a science fiction classic, released in 1968 (the same year as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, making 1968 a great year for Sci-fi), and while some of the special effects are certainly dated due to its age, it’s very easy to look past this. In fact, the only effects that really look dated are the scenes in the spacecraft at the very start of the film, which are honestly only seen in the first ten minutes or so. Every other effect, costume, set and makeup (especially) are superb, and in fact the make-up artist, John Chambers, won an honorary Academy Award for his work on the film. From the beautifully barren landscapes of the “Forbidden Zone” to the rough, but intricate, cities of the apes, all the scene are iconic in their styles. One particular detail that has stuck with me all the years since I first saw this film is the appearance of the “Scarecrows”. They are some freaky set pieces.

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The acting in this film is equally impressive, and while some may laugh at Charlton Heston’s manly-man character and his (admittedly) slightly over-the-top acting, the film would not be the same without him. He is such a quotable, classic character, and the impact both his performance and the character has had on culture is huge. For example, without Heston and ‘The Planet of the Apes’ you almost certainly wouldn’t have one of the funniest comedic characters ever conceived-Zapp Brannnigan.

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Props also go to Roddy McDowall for his performance as Cornelius, and Maurice Evans as the cynical, and sarcastic Dr Zaius.

Not to get too pretentious here, but the film does have a poignant message at the heart of it, even if the punch is delivered by a shock twist. Heston’s character embarks on the mission to find life beyond Earth because he is tired of mankind and its faults, and he says that he wants to find a society or life that doesn’t get caught up in petty squabbles or seeks to oppress the individual. However, the society he and his companions stumble upon is the epitome of what he was seeking to escape. It’s also a fairly obvious commentary on animal treatment and hunting, with the roles of humans and apes reversed so dramatically.

Anyway, as I’ve said, it’s a sci-fi classic, a film that will last in memory long after it’s sequels and spin offs have faded in obscurity. The reason for this is that the script, the story and the portrayal of the characters are so timeless that generation after generation can appreciate the film despite the obvious ageing. That’s all I can really say about it, because, as with a lot of my favourite films, songs and albums, it has something about it I can’t really define that draws me to it. I highly recommend this film to you if you haven’t seen it, and if you have, watch it again! Time always lets you appreciate things from a new perspective.

-Lewis

“Open the pod bay doors please, HAL”

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self portraitI’m afraid procrastination got the better of me again (Damn you, laziness!), which is why this piece is a little late. But it’s also late for another reason; this is probably the hardest article I’ve ever had to write. Why? Well, let me tell you…

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Where do I even begin with this film? There’s nothing I can say that will convey how strange, beautiful and affecting this film can be. It’s also the most confusing and ambiguous piece of film I’ve ever seen, but still, I love it. It’s based on a short story by Arthur. C. Clarke called ‘The Sentinel’ and the script was written by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, the director. You hopefully know of Kubrick, he was, without a doubt, one of the finest directors in cinema. He directed films such as ‘Full Metal Jacket’, ‘The Shining’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ (A satirical black comedy about a nuclear crisis, which very nearly made it onto this list). So you can see from that list that he definitely made an impact on the industry, and created some of the most respected films ever made. However, for me, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is the cream of the crop. It’s an epic, science-fiction masterpiece that Steven Spielberg called his generation’s “big bang”, in terms of its innovative special effects and models.

Because I’m probably going to end up confusing both you and myself by trying to explain the premise of the film, I’m going to borrow this brief summary from IMDB.com-

“Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.”

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Fairly simple and concise, wouldn’t you agree? Now that you know the basic idea behind the film, I’m going to expand on it a little. It’s all about evolution, from man’s earliest days to man’s next step along the evolutionary chain. Along with this main theme the film explores philosophical areas such self-discovery, our place in the universe and the ethics of artificial intelligence (HAL is such a great character, and any fan of ‘Recess’ or ‘The Simpsons’ is bound to recognise him). It also examines physical issues and questions, like mankind’s journey out into the stars, the commercialisation of space travel, the colonisation of the moon, and a whole lot more. This film completely redefined the sci-fi genre, and continues to set the bar for films that fall into the same category (It looks like ‘Interstellar’ is going to attempt to follow in 2001’s footsteps). It is still praised for its attention to detail and scientific realism, which, for a film made in 1968, is incredible. When you watch this beast you’ll see a lot of amazing scientific ideas, but none of them are beyond real-life’s limitations.

Speaking of realism (Did you like that sweet segue?), the models and effects in this film are absolutely incredible. They’re so realistic they put most CGI effects to shame, even those used now! All this is achieved by attention to detail, realistic lighting, and amazing innovation by the artists. If the models of spacecraft and space-stations weren’t enough, the visuals of the galactic landscape and the emptiness of space are some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen in a film, and they too are as realistic as Sci-fi comes. The music is yet another highpoint for the film; Kubrick takes well-known classical pieces and pairs them with the incredible visuals. The scene where a shuttle docks with a space station to the soundtrack of Strauss’ ‘The Blue Danube Waltz’ is mesmerising. When I first saw it I thought that it really shouldn’t work, but it’s a great combination of the future and the past, creating something that’s very unique.

I’ve used the word “beauty” a few times in this short piece, and that’s because, plot and philosophical messages aside, that’s what Kubrick wanted to achieve with this film. He said this during a Playboy magazine interview in 1968, “[I] tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeon-holing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content … just as music does … You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning”. He definitely achieved his goal with this film. The music, the visuals, the search for meaning; they all combine to create a piece of art, and I love it.

Thanks for giving this a read, I know this is probably one of the more stuffy/pretentious pieces I’ve written, but it’s not my fault, I’m an English student. Seriously though, I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s long, it doesn’t have much dialogue in it, and it’s confusing as shit (The best way to appreciate it is to look up the book after you’ve seen it, it explains things a lot more), but it’s still an incredible movie.

-Lewis

“I’ve got a bad feelin’ about this”

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self portraitI’m gonna cheat a little for this one, but I hope you can forgive me; it’s for a very good reason.

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”

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The ‘Star Wars’ franchise played a huge part in my childhood, and I don’t think it’d be wrong to say that it’s the same for a lot of children around the world. If I think back to my earliest memories, ‘Star Wars IV: A New Hope’ is the film that dominates them, and so it was probably one of the first films I saw as a kid. I remember watching it with my cousin and playing with our ‘Star Wars’ figures at the same time, re-enacting scenes and making new ones. This love for the franchise continued well into my teens, and I still look back on it with fondness and nostalgia. I said that I’m going to cheat a little for this piece, and I guess I am in a way. I’m going to put the original trilogy in one of my favourite film slots.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, this is surely heresy!

I can’t do this!

Yes I can, and I’m going to.

The reason why is simple. I’ve loved ‘Star Wars’ since before I can remember, and over the years I’ve liked each of the films more than the others at different times. So while ‘Episode IV’ might have been my favourite when I was five, ‘Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’ might have been my favourite when I was eight years old, and so on. My favourite at the moment is probably ‘Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back’, and to be honest, it’s probably going to stay that way. But it’s never been a constant for me, it’s always in flux, and so I shall be posting all three as a collective.

‘Star Wars’ is the epitome of 70s Sci-fi, created and partially written by George Lucas, it still sets the bar for all space-faring sci-fi that has come after it. Its technical aspects, special effects, and costumes were perfection at that time, and while the plot may seem cheesy or a bit too black and white for some people, it’s still a great watch, for both adults and children. It’s the modern equivalent of a fairy tale or myth, like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ was for the previous generation. The only difference is that this one is set in a science fiction world, while the typical myth or fairytale is purely fantasy. You could argue that it’s as much a fantasy film as it is a Sci-fi one though. It definitely has aspects of both within it…

I’m sure most of you know the plot of ‘Star Wars’, or at least know the basics, but I’ll give you a run-down just in case. The original trilogy follows the story of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and his journey to become a Jedi Knight and bring balance to the force. Along with him are Princess Leia of Alderaan (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca, and his ever-faithful droids R2 D2 and C3PO. This group, along with the rest of the rebels, are the heroes and heroines of this story. And then you have the Empire, a galaxy-spanning domain ruled by The Emperor, a Sith Lord, and his apprentice, Darth Vader (Voiced by the impressive baritone of James Earl Jones). There is a constant war being waged between the two sides, with the overwhelmed rebellion seeking to restore peace and democracy to the galaxy.

The films are essentially about the constant battle between good and evil, both within a person and on a much larger scale. Along with this deeper meaning there are countless action-packed battles, romantic encounters, and a glamorisation of space travel, which result in a nicely balanced set of films. They aren’t pretentious or too philosphical in any shape or form, and they most certainly aren’t just eye candy either. For me, the original trilogy is far superior to the prequels, since they don’t feel a need to dumb everything down, nor introduce a character purely for “comic relief” (you know who I’m talking about), although the Ewoks are cutting it fine.

Also, another point, lightsabers are frickin’ cool as shit, which is the only excuse anyone needs to love these films. Who didn’t want to be a Jedi when they were a kid? In fact, who doesn’t even when they’ve grown up? It’s such a cool concept that it’s hard to resist any kind of love for it. They’re essentially samurai warriors in space with mystical powers and laser swords. Again, you can’t say that that’s not cool.

So there you go, ‘Star Wars’ is on my list because it was a huge influence on my childhood and my love for the sci-fi genre. It’s also simply a great franchise, with a rich story and memorable characters who you’ll remember for a long time after you stop watching them every other day.

What?

I can’t have been the only kid who did that!

-Lewis

We’re On a mission from god

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                             Here we go, film number two in my top seven movies of all timeself portrait (In no particular order), ‘The Blues Brothers’.

Elwood: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Jake: “Hit it.”

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This is, without a doubt, my favourite comedy of all time, and it just so happens to also be a musical about some of my favourite music, which really is convenient, huh?

The Blues Brothers is the story of two brothers, Elwood and Jake Blues, who are trying to save the orphanage they grew up in by raising $5000 dollars to pay its taxes. In order to do this, they’re putting the band back together for one last gig (This film arguably started that cliché). Hilarity and music ensue, which prove to be a winning combination in this case. Dan Aykroyd, the comic genius who co-wrote and co-starred in the film explained the plot as such, “It’s the story of two hoodlums who want to go straight and get redeemed. But they just don’t have it together, and they keep getting into bigger and bigger trouble.”

The idea of ‘The Blues Brothers’ came from a double act that Belushi and Aykroyd used to perform for their friends and at small venues. It didn’t appear in the public eye, however, until it was used as a sketch on Saturday Night Live, where they performed a version of “Soul Man” as the two over-the-top brothers, Jake and Elwood. This small but popular sketch spawned a star-studded film that is now considered a classic around the world, despite having a reputation for being a flop at the box office.

John Belushi called it a “tribute to black American music”, and it definitely fits that description. It has a host of songs from genres like soul, the blues, country, rock ‘n’ roll, and latin music. This huge variety of music is all contributed by famous artists and bands, with a lot of them appearing to perform their own pieces as integral characters. The Blues Brothers themselves perform blues and soul hits like “Everybody Needs Somebody”, and “Sweet Home Chicago”. However, occasionally they’ll bring out other famous tunes that you’re bound to recognise. Most of the country music appears in a particular scene that provides laugh after laugh. This film is packed with famous faces from both the music and film industries, including James Brown, Carrie Fisher, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and a whole lot more. It’s this casual insertion of celebrities and living legends that help make the film what it is. Throughout it, there’s this sense that all the crazy events and ridiculous characters are completely normal things to happen in everyday life. No one reacts to these incredible circumstances at all; it’s all background noise to them.

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Most scenes in this film provide at least one snicker and others will make you cry with laughter (at least I do, anyway). But the thing is, even though all the comedy is outrageous, bordering on the surreal; the characters react to everything with complete dead-pan expressions. So it’s quite often difficult to tell whether to laugh or not at points, since the characters don’t react to the situations at all. I’ll say this though, when I first watched it I didn’t laugh a lot, I just loved the music and the characters. However, once I saw it for the second time it got a whole lot funnier, and every time after that it’s only increased in its hilarity and genius.

This movie has become ingrained within popular culture, with many clichés and tropes having been created in these 148 minutes (extended) of pure comedy gold. And I can guarantee that if you haven’t seen it, when you do watch it you’ll recognise a lot of scenes just from the parodies and references that other shows and films have made towards it. Any fans of the kids show ‘Drake and Josh’ or ‘Family Guy’ will, without a doubt, be able to recall scenes about the film. (On a side note, the episode of ‘Drake and Josh’ when they performed in a talent show as a Blues Brothers tribute band is still the best tribute I’ve seen).

So yeah, if you like feel-good music, great comedy, and action-packed car chases, you’ll love this film. If you don’t quite get it on the first viewing (like I didn’t), watch it again and it’ll be even better than the first time. If you like it then it’s also worth picking up “The Definitive Blues Brothers Collection” CD, it’s a great album of their live music.

-Lewis

“Are You Gonna Bark All Day, Little Doggie? Or Are You Gonna Bite?”

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self portraitI’ve decided to try another one of those ‘Lewis’ Favourites’ things again, and this time it’s going to be a series of my 7 favourite films in no particular order over the span of 14 days. So buckle up, this is gonna be a bumpy, boring ride.

“Let’s go to work.”

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Five career criminals, one undercover cop, and a failed jewelry heist. Although it’s a fairly straightforward plot with only one really big twist, what results from this situation is a storm of violence, paranoia and witty, hilarious dialogue that all combine to create one of the best films ever written, acted or directed.

Hang on a second though, because I think I’m getting ahead of myself. As Mr. Wolf (Harvey Keitel) in ‘Pulp Fiction’ puts it, “Well, let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet”.

Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ was released in 1992 and filmed with a budget of $1.2 million (It would’ve been $30,000 had Harvey Keitel not joined the project and added the extra funds). It grossed nearly $3 million overall, a tremendous feat for an independent film at that time. After the initial success in the theatres, it was shown at the Sundance film festival, where it received fairly positive reviews, but was criticised for its short length and high levels of brutal violence. It wasn’t until ‘Pulp Fiction’ was released in 1994 that the film really came into the public eye, and received a boost in popularity. Interestingly, it was more popular in Britain than America.

‘Reservoir Dogs’ might not be his most refined piece, and for a lot of people it can’t compare its bigger, more impressive brother, ‘Pulp Fiction’.  However, it’s definitely my personal favourite of his films. As for the acting of Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi and the rest of its ensemble cast, they deliver on every aspect of the larger-than-life characters they play. Especially Buscemi, his portrayal of the easily agitated but “professional” Mr. Pink is a particular highlight in the midst of the other big stars. Madsen’s role of the psychotic Mr. Blonde is a close second, mind. Also, let’s not forget about the soundtrack either, because it’s perhaps one of the most well thought out selections of popular music ever used in a film.  Mr Blonde’s (Madsen) infamous scene is a particularly disturbing contrast to its soundtrack of Stealers Wheel’s ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’.

It’s a very claustrophobic film, with the majority of scenes being shot inside a disused warehouse that the criminals have chosen as their rendezvous. A lot of people blame this on the fact that they had a limited budget, but Tarantino’s decision not to include the heist in the film was (apparently) due to the fact that the film isn’t solely about the heist, it’s about the characters and the situation they have to deal with. This claustrophobic atmosphere increases the pressure and tension in the film to amounts that put way too much strain on the human system. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion (Sorry for the cliché), but it’s not because it’s a bad film, it’s because you can see something terrible coming in the story and you can’t do anything about it.

mr white and mr pink

I mentioned earlier that the characters in the film were larger-than-life. I say this because they are always over the top in their violence, in their schoolyard banter, tough guy attitudes and their confidence. But none of this ever feels forced, it feels like this is the way life is when you watch it, and to be honest, the immature, tough guy banter is something that you’ll see in any secondary school. These lines can be absolutely hilarious too, which might be because all my good friends back at school spoke like that at one time or another.That’s what these characters are, psychopathic school kids (as juxtaposed as those ideas are), despite Mr. White’s assurances that only Mr. Blonde falls into that category, and the foreshadowing remark, “You can’t work with a psychopath, you never know what those sick assholes are gonna do next”.

To sum up, ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is a tightly packed, violent, funny crime drama that forces you to look on as everything goes wrong for the colour-coded characters. I won’t give too much away if you haven’t seen it (And I hope I haven’t spoiled anything already… I don’t think I have anyway), but the ending is about as tense as an ending can get, even if you do know what happens. So watch it, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

-Lewis