Shapstik’s Movie Clip of the Week: Batman (1989)

 “You understand that the nerves were completely severed, Mr. Napier”

With Heath Ledger’s fabulous portrayal of Batman’s infamous villain still so fresh in everyone’s mind, it is easy to forget just how good Jack Nicholson was at playing the Joker. The genuine balance of levity and pure malice that would flicker over his face really made the film what is was, and it was such a perfect fit alongside Keaton’s stoic Batman, whom I still feel is leagues better than Bale’s husky version.

I have chosen the transformation scene, when the joker first realises how scarred and disfigured he is. Burton absolutely nails the direction, hiding the truth from the viewer’s eyes, instead letting Nicholson’s hysterical reaction and the doctor’s fear tell the story. Watch out for the subtle changes in music that cram so much into such a short scene, which is such a pivotal but inevitable moment in the film.

Hope you enjoyed my clip of the week, feel free to browse some more!

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The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

“There’s no room for personal feelings in science.”

I decided to stick Val Guest’s 1955 classic on the other night as I recognised the ‘Quatermass’ part of the title from when I was younger. After a few minutes I quickly realised that what I had remembered was the 1967 TV series Quatermass and the Pit and that I had never seen The Quatermass Xperiment.  This turned out to be an added bonus, as the movie’s haunting imagery and genuine mystery made it both gripping and disturbing, an instant favourite overnight.

As a huge fan of fifties science-fiction, for its ground-breaking ideas and focus on cultural anxiety, I was soon pleased to discover that Guest’s film was as good as all the other classics such as Them!, War of the Worlds and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But the best thing about Quatermass is its ability to mix the horror genre so successfully into the narrative of fear in a pre-space-race era. The film put Hammer Horror studios on the map, as well as doing the TV series it was based on great justice, despite some big, perhaps incorrect, changes in script.

Before Russia launched Sputnik I and put a man into space, men were still speculating on the idea of space travel. Quatermass tackles the unknown dangers of going beyond our natural boundaries, giving the viewer a revealing insight into how far we have come in terms of space exploration in a short 60 years. The film starts with what it first assumed to be an alien spacecraft crashing into the atypical rural field, before it is soon unveiled that it is a man-made rocket, which was carrying three astronauts as part of an experiment by scientist Bernard Quatermass, played by Brian Donlevy. Richard Wordsworth plays the only ‘survivor’ Victor Carroon, whom appears out of the wreckage, dumb and in shock. Wordsworth is excellent as the zombie-like Victor, whose contorted face, portrays pain and confusion terrifically as he begins to mutate into something both horrifying and dangerous to the human race.

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What I loved most about this film, and the reason I enjoy all the fifties horror, is its relentless obsession with truth and facts. Even if these facts are now known to be false, it is the obsession with speculation and science that drove the passion and ambition of the time. In fifties science-fiction, it is the scientists themselves whom are the focal point of knowledge, it is they that move the narrative, fill in the gaps and unwrap the unknown. Professor Quatermass is no exception, as he attempts to unravel the mystery of his failed experiment and discover the answer that will prevent the outbreak of Carroon’s virus. The scene where they watch the found footage from the rocket is especially creepy, perhaps even ahead of its time in terms of style and cinematography. There is something very visual and raw about this film, which I enjoyed immensley, despite hiding under the covers for most of the film. Joking of course, sort of.

Shapstik Verdict: A fantastic film, which although slightly anti-climatic compared to its contemporaries, still manages to send a chill down the spine after all these years. A healthy mix of Hammer horror, classic sci-fi and remnants of detective stories from earlier in the century, Quatermass has plenty to offer, even in the short running time of 78 mins, almost unheard of in today’s film market. 8/10

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

“You Americans like to think of yourselves as direct. Perhaps you are just rude.”

Chris Pine becomes the fourth actor to bring to life Jack Ryan, Tom Clancy’s most famous character, in this year’s spy-action-thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Although often entertaining, director Kenneth Branagh and writer Adam Cozad fail to modernise the Ryan character through the awkward medium of present day-prequel. It is very apparent early on that unlike the other films in the Ryan series, Shadow Recruit  is not based on work by the late great action-thriller writer Tom Clancy. The movie is full of energy and boasts a strong cast, but it lacks any real sense of danger or mystery for the viewer to be pulled along by. In fact, there was definitely more than one moment where I felt bored, therefore failing as a thriller.

As the inaugural reboot pawn, Chris Pine plays a young Jack Ryan, as he moves his way through the early stages of the movie, making as many back story nods as he can, before finally ending up caught in a web of intrigue as a covert analyst, led by the heavily underused Kevin Costner.  The plot, which seems to have been constructed out of a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of American fear and paranoia, centres around the potential threat of an intentional crashing of the American economy, bringing about a second Great Depression. But considering the world is still living through financially uncertain times, it is hardly the most terrifying of prospects when most people’s memory of the Great Depression lies in history books and mobster movies.

Instead of an adrenaline ride of great chases and political intrigue, we are put through a string of spy and even ‘Jack Ryan’ clichés, interspersed with Keira Knightley struggling with an American accent, Chris Pine running excitedly back and forth like he is on the bridge of the Enterprise and shots of Branagh looking very smug with himself as both director central villain. At no point did I feel like anyone was in danger (always a problem with stories where we know the character’s outcome) and Pine’s performance did not have the balance and professionalism that Ford and Baldwin had. It all creates an average affair that does not have the intelligent motives and intense storyline that makes Jack Ryan movies great.

Shapstik Verdict: Branagh has a record of making entertaining movies and his Jack Ryan origin story is no exception. But without the strength of a great story and a relatable threat behind it, Shadow Recruit is a rather pointless and forgettable affair that does not do the decent cast justice. 5/10

Shapstik’s Movie Clip of the Week: Good Will Hunting (1997)

“You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist?”

With the tragic news of Robin Williams’ death, the internet has been inundated with pictures and videos of some amazing and forgotten memories of the great actor’s best moments. The first that sprang to my mind was his role in Good Will Hunting as mentor to a very young Matt Damon.

I have chosen the bench scene, as it encapsulates a part of the Robin Williams’ acting persona that lies beneath all the brilliant jokes and smiles. We saw it in Dead Poet’s Society too, where he transcends mere understanding and shares your feelings, helps you to help yourself. He played the role to perfection, and Damon says nothing in the entire scene, as we the audience are pulled in by the late actor’s kind eyes and patient delivery.

A fantastic actor whom is already sorely missed. I hope that this clip acts as more than my tribute, and encourages a few people to go back through their movie collection and remind themselves why he was so loved and adored in the film and public eye.

 

Noah (2014)

“I have men at my back, and you stand alone and defy me?”

I have a confession to make. I have fallen a little bit in love with Darren Aronofsky’s opinion-splitting biblical story Noah. It is not like me either, as I try my best to be objective, and I know the film isn’t that great, as it has some questionable CGI considering the budget, a slightly laboured ending, and is clearly not at the same mind-bending level as Aronofsky’s previous work such as Black Swan, The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream. But despite this, I found the simple yet effective way that he has handled the topic to be endearing and intelligent, asking some very poignant questions regarding the story’s origins and humanity’s role on the earth along the way.

Perhaps my fondness originates from the way the film does not cover itself in religious adoration or advocation, which appealed to my cynical atheist side. Saying that, just because it avoided mentioning the G-word and instead referred to him as the “Creator”, does not mean it side-stepped any biblical connotations. If anything, the film very much focusses on the symbolism found in the original story and uses very human perspectives to create several interpretations of the Creators will. This makes, especially during the scenes in the ark, some really intense drama that I enjoyed immensely. Ray Winstone especially puts in a show-stealing performance as the descendant of Cain, with his adamant belief that the Creator’s will is for humans to have dominion over the Earth.

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I am not going to use this space to retell the plot of one of the most famous stories. But a word of warning: don’t assume that the film’s story and characters will all be recognisable to the average Joe with as much religious education as I have,  which boils down to a couple of weeks at Sunday school in 1985. For instance, Russell Crowe rubs shoulders with rock-creatures called The Watchers, fallen angels who have been cursed after trying to help humanity, which adds a great (if slightly resembling Bay’s transformers) fantasy edge to the film.

Finally, what I really liked about the movie, was that despite the symbolism, religious origins, and Noah’s belief that the Creator has tasked him with saving the innocent creatures, it is essentially only the decisions and actions of people who make the real difference. I feel this is the central point that the director attempts to portray, along with the way Aronofsky gels scientific progression with an archaic but important sense of perspective. An imperfect but impressionable movie, with a real sense of purpose, lending the viewer a fresh perspective on this famous tale.

Shapstik Verdict: I know there are a huge number that have not seen this yet for perhaps subjective reasons, and I don’t blame you. But the film uses some really inventive imagery and ideas, and if you simply treat it as a retelling of one of the most important stories ever written, then you can sit back and enjoy a dark and tense story that has, at its very heart, the fate of humanity. 7/10

 

Shapstik’s Movie Clip of the Week: A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

“You see, my mule don’t like people laughin’. Gets the crazy idea you’re laughin’ at him.”

The perennial spaghetti western, Fistful of Dollars is one of the greatest films of all time, and even though Charles Bronson was originally asked to be the ‘man with no name’, it was a young unknown actor by the name of Clint Eastwood, who mosied into town and set the stage alight with his trademark grimace and narrow stare.

I have chosen the “mule” scene, as it epitomises everything that is great about Sergio Leone’s western trilogy, and in terms of dialogue, is absolute gold. The now clichéd western moment, when seemingly outnumbered, the main character delivers the line that means “I’m taking you all on”. Not only this, but in the context of the film, the man with no name intentionally makes his mark on the town by proving his worth, making him a hired hand within moments. Ending the scene with his correction regarding funeral arrangements, Eastwood does it like no other, and delivers his lines impeccably for us western fans.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s clip, look out for the next one!

 

Shapstik’s Movie Clip of the Week: Philadelphia (1993)

 Can you hear the heartache in her voice? Can you feel it, Joe?

There are only a few films of Philadelphia’s ilk that will make it into my Movie Clip of the Week. This isn’t through lack of sentiment, but more through a personal enjoyment of the more sensationalist genres such as horror and sci-fi. But I have more than found a place this week for Jonathan Demme’s powerful and touching story of Andrew Beckett’s fight against both AIDS and his  former employee; Wyant Wheeler Hellerman Tetlow and Brown.

I have chosen the “La Mamma Morta” scene, as it is without doubt one of the most finely crafted and emotional moments in modern film history. The camera angles and changes in lighting reflect so much of the raw emotion eminating from Hanks’ performance, mixed so effectively with Washington’s understated performance as Joe Miller, a man to whom some of the prejudices regarding the infamous diesase ring most true.

The polar perspectives on life seen between Washington and Hanks characters is apparent immediately, as Washington glances impatiently at his watch, whilst Hanks savours and pauses over life, allowing it to wash over him. Depending on where you stand, you sway between the two characters, as even Miller, so difficult to read as he listens, is pulled into Beckett’s emotional narrative of the opera. Not just within this scene, but in the entire movie there  is a timeless lesson to be learnt, and I recommend grabbing a copy if it’s been a few years, or maybe never since you last saw this classic.

Thanks for watching, look out for next week’s, I’m always trying to get as many out as I can!

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

“I am Groot.”

James Gunn’s new Marvel movie has come storming its way into the Marvel consciousness, standing out from the crowd as a real break from the norm. More importantly, with its colourful and comic characters, it is a reminder that the most watchable super-hero movies have been those that don’t take themselves too seriously. Ultimately, the level of satisfaction you feel as you sit there at the end, only half reading the credits waiting for the next Marvel teaser, will depend on what you expect from what is essentially a comic, and I mean comic, science-fiction film.

Its entrance into Marvel movie lore is impeccably timed, as even the most hardened fan feels a little bit detached after the gloomy, borderline depressing recent Marvel sequels such as Thor: The Dark World and Winter Soldier. Not that either were bad, I for one just missed the magical, light and comical edge that the first decade of the 21st Century gave us. Guardians of the Galaxy fortunately, enters the fray with an array of gags and guns that will satisfy the teenager in us, as we all empathise and relate to the childhood-lost main character.

Christ Pratt plays Peter Quill, an immature but honourable rouge whom steals an orb in an ancient ruin, only to be caught up thereafter in a complicated plot involving everyone from a ‘hard on the outside – soft on the inside’ genetically engineered Racoon, to Thanos, the most powerful being in the universe. In fact, the movie handles the story really well, weaving interconnected characters with their own agendas, whilst leaving plenty of room for well timed jokes and light hearted nods to eighties cartoon memories.

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Joined by the endearing and lovely Zoe Soldana as Gomora, Groot the talking tree, and the “not as bad as you thought he was going to be” Dave Bautista, Quill and this bunch of anti-heroes battle to prevent the orb, which turns out to be more than that, falling into the wrong hands. Aside from the jokes, the action does not move any mountains in terms of thought, and many of the ideas are strewn together through decades of love for space bandits and alien galaxies. This is especially prevalent when the set pieces become wider in scope, and I couldn’t help but feel the movie’s far reaching plot brought it out of its comfort zone on several occasions.

You really need to take the movie with a massive pinch of galactic salt, or you will be missing out on a barrel of laughs. Personally, I can only credit the film so far, as I long for game changers, the real landmarks that seem to be rarer and rarer with every year that passes, as we cover similar ground in mainstream cinema. But with Guardians, director James Gunn has made sure there is still plenty of scope for using the newest talents and tech, to relive the sort of comic book science-fiction that has defined a generation.

Shapstik Verdict: A completely different, but intimately related Marvel instalment that has an infantile ambition at its heart. Standing on the precipice of overly cheesy, but never quite falling over the edge, Guardians of the Galaxy is a genuine gem in a fairly forgettable year so far in cinema. But if you are in the mood for something a little more solid, you may find the painfully predictable heroes and monologuing villains a little too much to swallow. 7/10