TBT – The Flint Street Nativity (1999)

TBT – The Flint Street Nativity (1999)

On Monday I admitted to acting quite like a child. It’s true. I still love all of the TV shows I grew up watching and the music I listened to as a teenager. I’m not sure that I’ll ever reach a point where I don’t need my parents to help me deal with banking and medical issues. A co-worker recently took the piss out of me when I admitted to owning my very own set of replica Pokemon gym badges. Apparently it makes me a little weird, childish and ridiculous. If you ask me it makes me super cool and someone to be jealous of. However, I can’t deny that I’m hardly the most comfortable of adults and, outside of my job, will do anything I can to pretend I’m still a kid. Who needs that shit? I’ll just stuff my fingers in my ears and pretend it’s not happening.

Let’s be honest though, it’s fun pretending to be a kid. There’s a reason we all get nostalgic about our preteen days. We weren’t jaded by the world and we hardly had anything to worry about. Revisiting those days would be glorious. It’s also wonderful seeing other people acting like children. What’s better than seeing someone who is normally so professional and uptight playing with a child’s toy?

The Flint Street Nativity was first broadcast on ITV way back in 1999 and since that day I’ve fucking loved it. The film features a cast of big-ish names in British comedy playing school children in the midst of putting on their Christmas nativity. Actors like Stephen Tompkinson, Mark Addy, Jane Horrocks and John Thomson revert to their youth in an oversized set before revamping themselves as their child’s parent. These brief end scenes give us a real glimpse into who the children are and how similar they are to their family.

The scenes of the actual nativity are fairly standard stuff and the script is littered with brief interludes of Christmas carols to get you into the spirit.  It’s the moments behind the scenes that really lift the whole thing though. Watching the children prepare to take to the stage and interact with each other is brilliant. We experience the usual stresses associated with any children’s performance and you’ll find it easily summons up all the memories you had as a child. It’s all here: the jealousy at not being cast as Mary; the power play between groups of friends; daring your classmates to break the rules; wanting to show off to Mum and Dad; and the desperate need to try to fit in with everyone else.

Watching it now the pop-culture and sports references are fairly dated but it still stands up. There are some hilarious moments as well as a great insight into the world of school plays. Tim Firth used stories told to him by friends and family who work in schools to create the narrative. It has obviously been exaggerated for comic effect but it still feels so fucking familiar. It’s fantastic. The script is constantly funny and the performances are great. Even though you know the tricks that have been employed to make these well-known faces seem smaller, you can easily find yourself believing that they are children making their stage debut.

This came out on television so fucking long ago that we had it recorded on VHS. That video had a lot of wear and tear. My sisters and I would watch it on repeat and then rewind our favourite bits until the ribbon was worn down. This didn’t make my list of essential Christmas viewing because I wasn’t sure it would really count. It’s a very niche selection that many people won’t have heard of. Whilst it found more fame as a stage production, I don’t think this version has ever been repeated on TV and can’t believe it’s been seen outside of the UK. However, I love watching this every year. It features a whole host of comic talent and manages to avoid the awful child actor issue that many school-based Christmas films fall fowl of.

TBT – Goldeneye (1995)

TBT – Goldeneye (1995)

On Monday I’m finally going to get to see Spectre. I know there have been a few dodgy reviews but I always love a Bond film. It comes back to those lazy weekends as a kid where I had nothing to do but watch Roger Moore on his hover-gondola. Younger me loved James Bond because it was silly and camp. Twenty years ago this week the James Bond franchise changed completely. Pierce Brosnan stepped into the role and helped create one of the best bond films of all fucking time. That’s quite a bold statement and part of me does worry my love of the game is clouding my judgement. However, there is no denying that Goldeneye took the womanising, drunk spy in a more modern direction. Without it we wouldn’t have ever met Daniel Craig’s brooding and parkour-ing 007.

If nothing else, Goldeneye starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the end credits role. We first see Bond as he traverses down a dam and uses a laser to cut his way in to a Russian munitions factory. Literally catching the enemy with their pants down, James reappears in a toilet cubical where he takes out a henchmen with as many raised eyebrows and sassy quips that you’d expect. This is Bond as you know him but just bigger.

Goldeneye’s plot involves a mysterious entity, Janus, taking control of a weapon that emits a deadly electromagnetic pulse onto any chosen target. In order to get to Janus, James must battle his deadly female sidekick, Xenia Onatopp, with thighs that are more than capable of crushing a man to death. Of course it’s not that simple: turns out the mission has a deeper personal meaning for James as a Russian Colonel who is mixed up in the scheme was responsible for killing a fellow agent 15 years earlier.

There are all the trappings of classic Bond here despite the fact that this is the first script written completely independently from Ian Fleming’s novels. The gadgets come into play in a timely fashion, the girls are still creepily obsessed with the creepy lothario, the baddies take part in an overly complicated plan, and plenty of people die. It’ll keep everyone who knows the formula happy enough. Just keep ticking off that checklist.

Goldeneye, however, appears to be in on the joke this time though. The whole affair is very tongue-in-cheek and every line is said with a knowing wink. The script is littered with subtle references to the Bond tropes that have become famous. The franchise helped Roger Ebert create the term Talking Killer but he is only visible here in a throwaway line about “proper sinister interrogation”. Goldeneye is aware of where it came from but it’s going to make damn sure you know it’s understands how silly things were getting.

So when Bond changed faces he also changed attitudes. Still the incessant womaniser but one with some amount of emotional depth. The scene where James and his latest squeeze have some quiet thinking time on a beach in the Carribbean is one of the cheesiest things you’ll ever see but it’s also not the kind of thing you’d see in pre-Bronhom Bond. He kills people for a living but don’t think for one second that he’s not fucking upset about it.

Our 1995 Bond also gets a bit more resistance from the female population. There have always been attempts to give James a strong female cohort but it wasn’t until Judi Dench stepped into the role of M that things got fucking serious. M wastes no time in telling Bond that exactly what she thinks of him and that his bullshit won’t wash with her. Judi Dench is by far the greatest fucking thing that happened to this franchise. I’m still recovering from her Skyfall departure.

M’s first encounter with Bond on screen shows her telling him he’s “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur”. That was becoming painfully clear by 1989’s Licence to Kill. Goldeneye went some way towards rebranding the man without losing any of what made him so compelling in the first place. I have no shame in admitting that Bronhom is my favourite Bond because he has the most fun with it. He knows what he has to do and just goes with it. I also have no trouble admitting that he’s nowhere near being the best.

Goldeneye is a great spectacle but it’s not necessarily a great film. It gives you everything you need from a spy film and all the traditions you need for a 007 film. The stunts are as spectacular as you’d want and the plot as outrageous as possible. This film holds an important place in James Bond history. And that’s not just because of the fucking awesome tank chase through St. Petersburg.

TBT – Space Jam (1996)

TBT – Space Jam (1996)

When it comes to these throwback Thursday posts, I like to try and tie in my nostalgic lookback to my Monday post. Sometimes this is nigh on impossible and I just pick something at random. Other times I’ll just make a really tenuous link and hope for the best. Then there are times like this: times when everything falls into fucking place. Monday saw me reviewing The Martian and discussing one man’s struggle in space. To go with it I chose a film about one man’s struggle with beings from space. It also happens to be the first film I saw multiple times at the cinema. I fucking loved it and I still do. Every time I watch it I feel like a kid again. Suffice it to say, this probably won’t be a very objective review… but considering Space Jam is fucking awesome it doesn’t really matter.

The other week at work we had a debate: did I prefer Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or Space Jam? It was a difficult question because my brain refuses to let me forget that Roger Rabbit is a much better film. The story, script, execution: it’s just better. However, my fucking heart just can’t deny how much I love Michael Jordan’s battle against basketball pro aliens. I mean that sentence alone should get you excited.

Space Jam was Warner Bros. attempt to revive their classic Looney Tunes characters whilst utilising Michael Jordan’s immense star quality. They weren’t that successful at carrying out their aim but they create on hell of a film. The story takes places straight after Jordan announced his first retirement from basketball and shows his attempt to break into baseball. Turns out the reason Jordan returned to the NBA was thanks to bugs bunny and co.

These familiar cartoon characters are threatened by a horde of tiny aliens intent on kidnapping the Looney Tunes and putting them centre stage in their galactic theme park. Apparently the only solution is to challenge their minute foe to a basketball match, despite the fact that non of them have any real experience of the sport. Fucking obvious. So when the little aliens steal the talent of some of basketballs big hitters and grow to be fucking huge the Tunes realise they’re pretty fucked.

That’s where Jordan comes in. Pulling the ex-star into their cartoon world, the Tunes persuade him to coach their team… with hilarious results. Really, you shouldn’t really give a shit about the plot because it’s clearly just the first way some executive thought up to mix together Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. It doesn’t really matter and it doesn’t really make sense. It’s fine though. That’s not what this film is about.

It’s about fun. Batshit crazy, basketball fun. Space Jam won’t appeal to Looney Tune purists. Certainly Looney Tunes veteran Chuck Jones was incredibly aggrieved by some of the sassy jokes and aspects of the plot. Yes, Warner Bros. attempted to modernise their old favourites somewhat. Of course they fucking did. Kids are what bring the money in. Space Jam still just a bright and crazy as always though. The spirit of the original remains there’s just more sexy female bunny love interests this time around.

And to his credit, Michael Jordan does a pretty good job at interacting with them. He plays down his role and never pretends to be the funny, cartoon guy. He plays it fairly straight and low-key. He’s obviously not the greatest actor but, for a basketball star, he plays against imaginary bunnies and ducks like a fucking pro. Then again, he is only being asked to play Michael Jordan. He should have that down.

The other human characters are hit and miss but there are some fantastic appearances from comic big-hitters Billy fucking Murray and Wayne Knight. Murray’s cameo in the film is both fucking amazing and totally fucking absurd. Still, it makes for a pretty great final act. That’s Space Jam in a nutshell: you’ll think it’s totally fucking crazy but absolutely love it despite yourself. Everything tells me that I should hate this film. It’s nonsensical, silly and totally focused on marketing. However, it’s such a fucking joy to watch.

TBT – Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

TBT – Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Despite spending my last post bemoaning the sudden influx of all things Christmas I’m about to embrace the season of goodwill to all men. You see there’s a secret clause (HA!) in my whole ‘no Christmas movies until December rule’. There is one film that combines the months of October and December in such a way that it’s totally okay to watch it any time during November. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas staple. Not watching it at least once would be like not having a fucking tree or a turkey. It’s also not directed by Tim Burton. I vividly remember during my undergraduate degree nearly getting into an argument about that very fact whilst on a bus. I’d just been to see Coraline with my flatmate and had to bite my tongue as someone behind my started telling his friends that the film, from the director of Nightmare, was such a typical Burton film. I was fucking livid because I’m something of a pretentious twat like that.

I’ve feel bad for Henry Selick. It’s absolutely shitty how often his works gets attributed to Tim Burton. I’ve always liked him more because of this fact. It’s the same way that I used to ‘support’ Ralf Schumacher and say that my favourite member of Boyzone was Mikey. I’m naturally drawn to someone who’s overlooked by everyone. It’ll be a younger twin thing: a psychologist would have a fucking field day with me.

However, there is no denying that, unlike Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas is such a Tim Burton film. It is, after all, based on an idea he had back in the early 80s. The film is weird and creepy. It takes inspiration from so many other people but manages to create something unusual and unique. It’s one of the most original and exciting Christmas films that has ever been made and its fucking ridiculous that Disney nearly didn’t let it get made.

The film introduces us to the residents of Halloween town and their ghoulish ways. The town hero, Jack Skellington, is celebrated by his fellow townspeople. Every year he helps create the spectacular Halloween celebrations but Jack is bored of his repetitive life. Thankfully he discovers Christmas town and his eyes are opened to a world of colour, candy and the Sandy Claws.

Getting back home, Jack tells the town all about this new holiday and starts planning his own Christmas party. Clearly things get a bit weird and scary: rather than treats the children are left tricks in their stockings. With Jack getting carried away playing Santa, it is left up to Sally, a rag-doll create by the local mad scientist, to stop Jack from fucking Christmas up for all the boys and girls.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a truly magnificent film and, at only 74 minutes, is the perfect length for the whole family. It has something to appeal to everyone and the stop motion animation is charming. The style changes to fit in with the various settings. It’s fucking beautiful film with influences from all over the worlds of art, film and literature.

Henry Selick has created a world that is totally unrecognisable and unusual but that is so easy to get lost in. It is a visual triumph that stands up a good twenty years after it was first created. There is a reason this film has become a centerpiece of Disney’s annual Christmas festivities. Selick takes the concept of a holiday with such traditional iconography and turns it round so it seems fresh. It’s fucking amazing.

Then you have the music. Burton’s regular collaborator, Danny Elfman, created 10 original songs for the film once Burton decided it should be a musical. Elfman has since said it was one of the easiest jobs he’s ever had and it certainly offers one of the best soundtracks of all time. The lyrics are funny and the orchestration is just perfect. Anyone who doesn’t spend October 31st singing ‘This is Halloween’ on repeat is just a freak as far as I’m concerned.

The Nightmare Before Christmas works so beautifully as a holiday film because it celebrates everything you love about both Halloween and Christmas without being par for the course. It stands out against all the other films portraying portly old men with rosy cheeks and a grandfatherly grin. It was a creative solution to an over-saturated market. It’s also one of the best advocates out there for the endless possibilities of stop-motion animation. It’s no wonder it’s so regularly voted as top Christmas film of all time.

TBT – An American Werewolf in London (1981)

TBT – An American Werewolf in London (1981)

mv5bzgnmywqzmgetndlhms00nzewltkzmditmdq4mjkymzrknjfixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi40._v1_It’s Halloween this week and, to be honest, I don’t really give a fuck about this holiday. I’ve never really got it. The whole sexy costumes thing just confuses me. My favourite Halloween costume to date was my first year of uni when I went as Christine the demon car from the Stephen King novel. It was amazing, even if I do say so myself. I made a license plate, wore furry dice and taped torches to my legs as headlights. Fucking amazing. Now I’m not saying I hate Halloween because of my leanings towards homemade costumes. It’s just that I lack the artistic skills to make it look like something that wasn’t made by a fucking child. I’m all for any excuse to go out drinking but I dislike having to jump through certain fancy dress hoops to get there. I’d rather stay home and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas on repeat.

After all, I’m not a massive lover of horror films. I don’t rush to see films that are desperate to make scare the bejesus out of me every 5 seconds, Making me jump out of my seat is just a waste of good popcorn. Anything that doesn’t have a sense of humour with it’s method of scaring an audience is just not on my radar. Although, as I’ve discussed before, I love a good silly horror. So much so that I reference An American Werewolf in London in everyday conversation way more than I think is necessary. I fucking love it. As a proud Yorkshire lass, that might have something to do with the fact that the film’s first act takes place in God’s own county.

John Landis’ 1981 comedy-horror introduces us to young Americans David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) as they embark on a backpacking tour of England. Stumbling across some creepy moors in the North, they find themselves taking refuge in The Slaughtered Lamb: a local pub for local people. After upsetting the pub’s patrons the pair soon become lost in the wilderness. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t end well. With Jack killed, supposedly by an escaped lunatic, David wakes up in a London hospital being nursed back to health by Alex (Jenny Agutter) and having crazy visions. Being visited by a quickly decomposing Jack, David discovers that he was bitten by a werewolf and will become an unstoppable monster at the next full moon. The only option, Jack reveals, is for his friend to kill himself.

So far, it sounds like a standard horror film but, thanks to John Landis’ script, American Werewolf is so much more. It’s fucking funny and takes shots at so many horror movie staples. He also lovingly takes the piss out of British customs. For such a simple narrative, the story manages to be fun. There are the usual Landis in-jokes and cameos to keep long-standing fans happy. The story is deceptively simple but is clever enough to have ensured the film has stood the test of time. There are moments when it starts to feel as though things are falling apart but there is something to endearing about the film. It’s easy to see why it became a cult classic.

Yes, this may not be the best film Landis has ever made. It’s no Blue Brothers but it’s still a film to get excited about. Even now, some 30 years later, the transformation scene is still fucking impressive. It’s both funny and disturbing in equal measure. Rick Baker’s effects throughout the film were outstanding at the time and, though they may seem rather quaint in this day and age, they are still fucking awesome. Watching the change in Dunne as his character becomes more and more haggard is a weird joy. It’s my second favourite part of the film: the best being the totally awkward and really fucking 80s sex scene between David and Alex. It’s a cold hard fact that Jenny Agutter was a fucking babe back in the day. She’s a stone cold fox but it’s one of the least tantalising things I’ve ever seen. We’ve seen it time and time again but sex was less sexy in the 80s. Still, it’s hard not to love Agutter as she runs through misty London trying to stop David. This film is worth a look for her alone.

American Werewolf isn’t the most fleshed out film you’ll ever see nor is it the most intelligent. It sets up the plot and then rushes towards an end without any real closure. The love story has no real depth and the character’s are fairly underdeveloped. That being said, it’s still a fucking great film and one I will always watch. It’s a B movie that also manages to be technically amazing. Who could ask for more?

TBT – Back to the Future Part II

TBT – Back to the Future Part II

So, it’s official: the future is finally here. It’s taken 26 fucking years but we’ve finally gone back to the future. For those of you not in the loop, yesterday was the day Marty and Doc travel forward to in the sequel to the much loved Back to Future. October 21st 2015 was supposed to be a time of hoverboards, flying cars, self-tying shoes and self-drying clothes. There has been a lot written in the past few weeks about how accurate these predictions were. People are going fucking mental because a few conicidences have meant that some things are kind of similar to the vision of the future depicted on film. It’s really irritating. I mean let’s not forget how many of them have only come about because it was dreamt up in 1989. Even Robert Zemeckis thought the future scenes were fucking stupid. Regardless, Back to the Future day is a good excuse to revisit an important and well-loved franchise. The first film is a favourite of most people and the third is just a fucking awesome romp in the old West. But what of that tricky middle child?

Back to the Future Part II picks up exactly where the first one ends. Marty has returned to 1985 to find his life perfect. After being reunited with his girlfriend, Jennifer, good old Doc turns up to warn them that they must go to the future to save their son so it’s off to 2015. Marty Jr. is set to be goaded into taking part in a robbery thanks to Biff Tannen’s grandson, Griff. Marty poses as his son to prevent this and, after a future hoverboard chase reminiscent of the original film’s skateboard chase, manages to change the future.

However, their actions in 2015 have a horrific effect on life in 1985. Biff has become a wealthy tyrant who killed Marty’s father, married his mother and holds all of Hill Valley as hostage. The only way to stop him? Going back to 1955. The pair must revisit the events depicted in the first film in order to stop Biff gaining the information that makes him rich.

The plot is really just circumstantial here. Everything happens so Marty and the Doc can go to the future and return to the past. Aside from the many comical predictions made in the 2015 sequences, very little stands out during the first half of the film. It pushes the plot forward but is mainly just an excuse to introduce flying cars and have all the actors dress as older/younger/different gendered versions of themselves. Now I’m not against having your actors take part in a bit of healthy dress-up but the make-up is so fucking terrible that these elements stick out like a sore thumb.

It takes the first film’s credibility and takes a massive shit on it. Back to the Future Part II lacks much of what made the first film great. It lacks the original’s power and focus. There is so much going on  whilst, at the same time, fuck all is actually happening. The film attempts to monopolise on its predecessor success by revisiting certain key scenes and replaying them from a different perspective. It’s hard to deny that this is fun but only because you’re reminded of a much better film.

Quite simply, the problem arises because there is too much fucking Biff in this film. Now Biff was a great nemesis in the first film but there’s only so far his gurning, grunting and teeth grinding can get him. It gets tired very quickly and there’s no amount of old man make-up or meat-tenderiser-future-helmet that can prevent that. We needed more Marty and we definitely needed more Doc.

However, that’s not to say the film isn’t enjoyable. There’s something pleasant about the formulaic plot and the slapstick comedy that flourished in the original is still at play here. The problem is: Back to the Future Part II wanted to be a bigger and better film than it actually became. Rather than being a great film in it’s own right, the sequel has simply become a stepping stone between the first and the third.

TBT – Mamma Mia! (2008)

TBT – Mamma Mia! (2008)

I went to university in Lancaster with the Lake District basically on my doorstep. I love the Lakes and, as a steadfast Romanticist, should have spent every weekend exploring the part of the world beloved by William Wordsworth. As it happens, I only went there once because I was too fucking lazy and probably drunk. That one time I stayed one night at a campsite full of awful teenagers whilst sharing a three man tent with three of my flatmates. I got absolutely no sleep and, because I like in the UK, the second day was a complete fucking washout. Probably the reason I never ventured back that way. Anyway, the reason I bring it up now is because our trip’s soundtrack was provided by the big Hollywood sensation that I’m about to discuss. As the only person in the car who hated the film, I was forced to listen to the great Meryl Streep and the almighty Bronhom murder ABBA songs for hours on end. I think the fact that I’ve watched the film so many times since is more than enough evidence of Stokholm syndrome.

Mamma Mia! is the hit stage musical written by Catherine Johnson. It genuinely boggles my mind that a musical based around the musical stylings of ABBA has grossed over $2 billion worldwide since 1999. Who the fuck is so desperate to see this shit? People lap it up though, which is why the show made its way to the big screen back in 2008. Getting the inimitable Meryl Streep on board was a stroke of fucking genius and the film easily became the highest grossing musical of all time.

It’s fucking insane. The plot is at best irrelevant; at worst insultingly contrived. Donna (Meryl Streep) lived a wild youth and slept with so many men that she simply has no idea who fathered her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Although, actually there are only three real candidates and they’re played by the least likely musical stars ever. Pierce Brosnan plays Sam, Colin First is Harry, and Stellan Skarsgard is Bill. All three of these gentlemen had wild pasts with Donna but have set those lives aside.

For some fucking stupid reason, Sophie invites her three potential fathers to her wedding on the family’s Greek island and, for an even more ludicrous reason, they all fucking turn up. Sophie goes all Sherlock Holmes to try and work out who she shared DNA with but learns absolutely fuck all of any use. In the end she doesn’t even find out who the father is?! The entire narrative is fucking pointless!

Whilst this is happening, Donna and her old chums Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) are catching up on old times. Not only is this trio the least likely group of friends I’ve ever seen on film, they are highly irritating. Their entire purpose is to talk about their lost youth and lament they bad luck in love. Of course, by the end of the film all three desperate woman have been successfully paired off in a suitably dancey manner. This menopausal pursuit of love is the closest thing we have here to an actual purposeful plot. How fucking depressing is that?

Even more depressing when you consider all of these nonsense narrative strands are all crammed full of every ABBA song the writer could remember. I’m not saying that I mind the music so much: I mean there’s a time and a place for a good ABBA boogie. I just take umbrage with the shitty ways they’ve been shoehorned into the plot. It’s pathetic.

There’s just not much skill on show in the film. The writing is abysmal; the singing is either mediocre or laughably bad; the choreography is even worse than my Taylor Swift inspired awkward dance parties; and the love stories are anything but romantic. Before Mamma Mia, director Phyllida Lloyd was more used to directing stage productions and not Hollywood movies. She really does nothing inspiring with the material and offers very little to help her actors flourish.

There’s something so rage inducing about watching Meryl Streep flounder during the ‘The Winner Takes It All’ scene; I know she’s Meryl fucking Streep but at least help her out a little bit. She looks so lost that I sort of hate the fact she ended up in that position. Mamma Mia is, without a doubt, one of my least favourite film experiences. It’s a film that just gets everything so wrong, except the location. Although, to me, there’s something comforting about that. It’s nice to know that in an age of such great talent in this industry, there are still some people out there that are fucking it up.

TBT – Mr Mom (1983)

TBT – Mr Mom (1983)

Unfortunately, I’ve managed to contract the plague this week and have spent much of my day off feeling like shit and wallowing in self pity. Unable to focus on anything greater than trawling through Netflix looking for TBT ideas, I stumbled across some classic 1980s Michael Keaton. It should be well documented by now that I have a great love of Mr Keaton; particularly during the 80s. You know, when he was a young comic actor making slapstick comedies rather than depressing us with his attempts at feel-good Christmas films. The will 80s always be one of my favourite eras of cinema, despite the fact that most things look horribly dated by this point. This is mostly thanks to the time spent in my teenage years watching every John Hughes film I could and wishing I was Ally Sheedy. So it seems only natural that I’d love a film that combines the writing prowess of Hughes and the comic timing of Keaton. Right?

Mr Mom is one of those films that really hasn’t stood the test of time. It stands out against the kind of film that John Hughes has become so well known for. It is the kind of shitty half-baked concept you’d expect to see in a run-of-the-mill sitcom: man gets laid off from his job and is forced to stay at home with the kids whilst his wife returns to work in his place. All those classic gender stereotypes are present and correct as Jack Butler (Keaton) must get his head around laundry, shopping and housekeeping. Oh, men!

All the while his wife, Caroline (Terri Garr) must head to the cutthroat world of advertising with little expertise and no real qualifications for the job. All it takes for her to succeed and get an instant promotion is a pretty face and a housewife’s knowledge of the world. If jobs were that easy to get in the 80s I don’t see what everyone was always fucking whining about.

Of course, despite it’s overplayed and dreary concept, there could have been a lot of comic potential, especially with a leading man such as Keaton, in Mr Mom‘s set-up. Instead of all the naturally funny home-based capers that could have be relied on to raise a smile, Hughes instead goes down the zany route. We have a group of repair men and women who turn up at various points, Jack’s amorous neighbour, Caroline’s lusty boss, a psycho vacuum cleaner and the househusband’s soap opera fantasies. It just seems too desperate to bring the funny.

There is too much going on that distracts from Keaton himself. Despite a host of problems, Keaton’s performance is strong and, had he been given stronger material, this could have been another 1980s comedy classic. Instead, the script just clutches at straws and relies on big visual gags or wacky throwaway gags that go nowhere in particular.

There are plenty of things to enjoy about Mr Mom but, when you consider who wrote it, there can be no denying that it could have been better. There are some good performances but the material is just kind of underwhelming. In terms of entertainment it’s fine but nothing to get worked up about. According to its Wikipedia page, Mr Mom is now considered one of the best films of 1983. Well, if that’s the case, 1983 was obviously a fucking shitty year for film.

TBT – What Maisie Knew (2013)

TBT – What Maisie Knew (2013)

Recently one of my closest work friends left the business and I was put in charge of his leaving collection. This is mostly down to the fact that I’m fucking awesome at buying people presents. I’d love to be modest here but it’s the cold hard truth that I always find the perfect gift for any occasion. It’s a blessing and a curse. Once again, when the time came to present him with my offerings it went down incredibly well. Considering that much of our interaction at work came down to quoting Alan Partridge I knew what I had to do. Amongst other random shit, I managed to track down an Alan Partridge blazer badge, Alan’s big plate, some Kiss My Face brand soap and a chocolate orange with superficial damage to the box. Turns out there’s a lot of great shit out there for any fan of Steve Coogan’s most successful character.

The big curse of creating a character like Alan Partridge is that trying to do anything else is always going to be tricky. I admit that whenever I see Steve Coogan’s name associated with a film I always get a bit suspicious. I loved The Trip as much as the next person but I’m always disappointed when there’s a lack of Partridge-esque behaviour. Especially when he’s trying really hard to be a serious actor. There was nothing wrong with him in Philomenabut it just felt weird that he wasn’t being silly.
I also find it questionable when he’s cast as a Casanova because I just can’t see him as desirable. In the 2013 adaptation ofHenry James’ What Maisie Knew, Coogan plays a failing art dealer who marries his much younger nanny after his first marriage breaks down. Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s adaptation transports the novel to modern day New York City. Beale’s ex-wife is the dramatic and narcissistic rock star Susanna (Julianna Moore) and, as they take solace during their impending divorce, both neglect their young daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile). The story focuses on Maisie and her struggle to create some kind of family base.
What Maisie Knewis made thanks to it’s young star. The camera focuses on Maisie for the most of the narrative and Aprile is outstanding in the role. Maisie, at only 6 years old, is already world-weary thanks to her self-centred parents who treat her as something to hold over their ex. The film doesn’t quite get into the lessons Maisie learns about love and family in as much detail as the novel but it does paint a truthful and often uncomfortable portrait of modern family life.
With her parents ignoring her, it is down to Maisie’s new step-parents to take control of her well-being. Beale and Susanna both marry young and kind people (Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Venderham) who love Maisie more than her biological family ever have. Skarsgård in particular has awesome chemistry with Aprile. In one sequence where Maisie and Lincoln, a bartender, have fun in the city I swear my uterus exploded it was so fucking adorable.
What Maisie Knewis an acidic portrait of a bitter divorce and modern life. It’s not quite as dark and bleak as the novel but it does well in it’s updated setting. The characters, whilst over-the-top and often grating, work perfectly within James’ original idea. There are some fantastic performances but many of the adult actors get lost within their one-note performance. Julianne Moore is a whirlwind but never really gets beyond the dysfunctional and egotistical rock star. It’s a disappointing turn from such a wonderful performance; though still not as shitty as The Lost World.

What Maisie Knewis beautifully shot and handled with great care by McGehee and Siegel. It often verges on the edge of, and occasionally well into, cloying sentiment. It is a successful adaptation that flourishes in its new setting. However, no matter how cute its lead actor may be, there is no escaping the sense that something was missing. That it just wasn’t as great as it could have been. 
TBT – Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

TBT – Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

Everywhere I look it seems as though people are getting engaged. Apparently, we live in an age where women of all ages and marital statuses have a fucking Pinterest wedding board. Am I missing something? I don’t see the fuss. I’m sure when I was younger I did the whole pretend wedding thing but now I just think it’s a little bit unnecessary. A lot of money for one day? My heart-rate has gone up just fucking thinking about it. I must be one of a minority that sees Don’t Tell the Bride as the preferable way to organise your big day. No shopping for flowers, venues or the dress: fucking ideal. Hell, I’ll wear PJs if need be. 

Of course stereotypically, as a girl, I should be dreaming about weddings. There is still the overriding idea that the female of the species are obssessed with parading their love in front of family and friends by taking a fucking walk. Obviously, the film industry hasn’t helped matters with its endless supply of bridezillas telling men that all women go insane during wedding planning. I mean just look at Kate fucking Hudson giving her gender a bad reputation in the shitty and desperate “comedy” Bride Wars.

Then you have the crazy singletons who are so fucking desperate to get hitched that they make up fiances in their head and try on wedding dresses for their fake big day. When it comes to gender politics, weddings in films really aren’t helping our cause. Of course, one of the more memorable of these women is Muriel Heslop from P.J Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding. It was the role that threw Toni Collette into the spotlight and added to the stream of quirky but dark comedies that Australia was producing in the 80s and 90s. 

Muriel is a 22 year old school-drop out who’s only claim to fame in a secretarial degree her father had to bribe someone for. She is looked down on by her ‘friends’ who eventually just admit enough is enough and drop her entirely. Feeling pathetic and alone, Muriel follows the girls on their Hibiscus Island holiday after stealing her family’s wealth. Thankfully, she meets another ex-schoolmate Rhonda Epinstalk (Rachel Griffiths) and the pair form an alliance against Muriel’s bitchy old friends.

The two bond over their love of ABBA and manage to win the island resort’s talent competition by dressing up as Agnetha and Anni Frid and miming the words to Waterloo. Unable to face her father’s disappointment and anger, Muriel follows Rhonda to Sydney and reinvents herself. A whole new world of work, friendship and dating is opened up to her and her dream wedding looks possible for the first time ever.

Although, the film is far from a feel-good story about a girl who leaves her sleepy town and finds herself and love along the way. Muriel comes from a family of losers and layabouts. She and her siblings are constantly berated by their father. He is a philanderer and psychologically abuses his family thanks to his regrets about not winning an election years before.

Muriel has come to hate herself and lies to everyone she meets so she can become the person she feels she should be. She is a deeply unhappy person who pins her future happiness on having the perfect wedding. However, deep down, Muriel is just a lost young woman who is trying to survive in a harsh society. The film may derive humour from her missteps but Hogan has a great deal of affection for his misfit protagonist.

Muriel’s Wedding is at times funny, heartfelt and hopeful; the rest of the time it is merciless, depressing and uncomfortable. There is a certain amount of jarring between the two extremes but Hogan manages to hold the reins and finds a pretty good balance. The film isn’t always successful and has enough missteps to keep up with its heroine. However, there is the ocassional glimmer of brilliance within the broad comedy and harsh social critique. Thanks to a winning turn from Toni Collette, Muriel’s Wedding does turn out to be a memory you’ll treasure forever.