Showing posts with label 1981. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1981. Show all posts

Friday, 5 April 2013


Last night I was fortunate to take in a David Cronenberg double bill at the lavish Plaza Theatre in Stockport. The evening was run by the Grimm Up North people who put on an excellent show which attracted a decent crowd. The first film on the bill was Scanners, Cronenberg’s 1981 science fiction horror which was for him at the time, a fairly conventional film. Throughout North America there exist people who are ‘scanners’. Scanners are able to read people’s minds and move objects through telekinesis. Weapons manufacturer ConSec are attempting to use scanners as weapons but rogue scanner Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) halts the programme by killing ComSec’s scanners and forming his own group who wish to rise up and stamp their authority on ‘normal’ people. ComSec uncover Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) and train him to take down Revok.

I thought Scanners was great fun. The movie has a pretty decent story behind it and I was engaged by the espionage and war that the plot created. The central idea is interesting and manages to sustain the plot for over 100 minutes. There are conspiracies and twists which add to the excitement and occasional action sequences which gives you more bang for your buck. In addition to this there are a couple of well written characters although the acting is frankly dreadful. Lead Stephen Lack is quite literally laughably awful. I can’t remember seeing a central performance which was so wooden and cringe worthy. No one really shines although Michael Ironside isn’t terrible and Robert Silverman is actually quite good. He was the acting highlight in a film full of poor performances.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Evil Dead

I always seem to prefix horror movie reviews with the same statement and here it is. I don’t really like horror movies. I don’t like to be scared and horror movies scare me. Now that’s out of the way I can spring a little surprise and say that watching The Evil Dead was just about as much fun as I can remember having with a movie, possibly ever. It’s fantastically gory and over the top as well as being hilariously and outrageously funny to boot. I watched the movie for two reasons. The first was to try and expand my cinematic viewing (horror is the only genre I generally avoid) and the second was to make sure I saw the original before the remake Evil Dead hits cinemas next month. I’m really glad that I saw this terrific movie before the remake.

The story will sound very familiar as the concept has been copied hundreds of times over the last thirty years but basically five college students head to a cabin in he woods for a break and things start going bump in the night. Shortly after arriving they discover some creepy looking items in the cellar which include a tape recorder on which a scientist documents strange goings on in the woods. What follows is an hour of gory, gruesome and genuinely mirthful slayings as the kids battle the demonic forces that lurk in the woods.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Chariots of Fire

Winner of Best Picture at the 1981 Oscars, Chariots of Fire is set around the 1924 Paris Olympics and concerns two young British runners who are not only running for themselves and their country but for deeper, more personal reasons. Cambridge Undergraduate Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) has faced anti-Semitism throughout his life and wants to run and win to put that out of his mind and show he is not deterred by the hateful language and attention he receives. Scottish Christian Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) is devoutly religious and believes that his speed and determination is a sign from God that he should run. Both runners along with their friends Aubrey Montague (Nicholas Farrell) and Lord Andrew Lindsay (Nigel Havers) enter the Paris Olympics with dreams of winning gold.

Chariots of Fire, though now over thirty years old has recently returned to the spotlight thanks to the 2012 London Olympics. The film’s famous opening has been repeated over and over and was even used as the basis for a comedy skit by Rowan Atkinson during the Opening Ceremony. Vangelis’ famous score also featured during medal ceremonies. I’d never seen the film before today and although I think it was worth seeing, I certainly won’t be in a hurry to watch it again.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Time Bandits

Terry Gilliam’s 1981 fantasy film Time Bandits is about a young boy called Kevin (Craig Warnock) who is one night awakened by a gang of time travelling dwarfs who have stolen a map from ‘the Creator’ which they are using to steal treasure. Kevin joins the gang and travels to the middle ages and ancient Greece amongst other times and places and eventually ends up facing off against Evil (David Warner) in a battle of quite literally good vs. evil.

From what I’d read of the plot beforehand I was hoping for a kind of Goonies crossed with Brazil but what I got didn’t live up to either of those films. While Terry Gilliam’s directorial style is all over the film with lavish and unusual sets and costumes and his distinct animation, it lacked the humour of the Python films and the drama and intrigue of the likes of Brazil or 12 Monkeys. The film is obviously aimed at a younger audience than those films and perhaps a younger audience would have enjoyed it more than me.

Craig Warnock, playing the central character of Kevin was really annoying but I liked the gang of dwarfs. They each had their own little eccentricities and quirks and were sometimes amusing. John Cleese has an excellent cameo as Robin Hood in which he channels Prince Philip. His few minutes on screen were very funny. Sean Connery is another with a small cameo, playing King Agamemnon but a version of the King who has a passion for magic. He is fine, but like Cleese is under used. Co-writer Michael Palin has a couple of cameos and his small roles are the funniest of the film.

One of my main problems with the film is that it lacked the laughs you’d expect from a Palin-Gilliam co written piece. There is the odd subtle bit of humour laced here and there but they are few and far between. The film focuses too heavily on the adventure which isn’t actually that interesting. Maybe it isn’t meant to be that funny but I think the film would have been greatly improved had it been so.

There was one moment towards the end which I liked and thought was bold. This came when Kevin asks ‘the Creator’ why so many people had to die in order for him to carry out a little experiment. As an atheist, I liked this little question as it is something I personally would love to ask ‘the Creator’ did it exist. Why cause so much suffering when you don’t need to and can stop it? It’s a nice sly question which might have children watching asking their parents and priests the same thing.  

On the whole the film is fine but lacks excitement and humour. The sets and effects are superb and the cameos good. I just expected a lot more from Gilliam, who is a fantastic film maker.