Not the 365 – Movie round up

We’ve gone a bit retro this week, digging back into our DVD’s and Blurays, so there’s a chance these will be familiar to you dear reader. First up is Phil’s choice….

Robocop 1987

Directed by the much revered Paul Verhoeven, it’s set in a dystopian future Detroit, on the brink of financial and social collapse. Due to these circumstances and the resulting rise in crime, the police force has been handed over to a private mega-corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). The movie starts out in the OCP boardroom, where the vice-president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) is demonstrating a large robot, the ED-209 a law enforcement droid, which is supposed to replace policemen. It malfunctions and exterminates a board member quite spectacularly. This allows an ambitious junior executive, Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) to push his own idea of Robocop to the Chairman – known as The Old Man (Daniel O’Herlihy), by-passing Dick Jones, who is none too pleased about that. Pretty sure everyone knows the story of how Sgt Murphy (Peter Weller) was horribly killed, converted into a programmed cyborg, and then regained his humanity whilst chasing down the bad guys. Edward Neumeier the writer, wanted to satirise the business culture of the 80’s, noting the aggressive American response to Japanese influences, and that a 17th century Japanese book – The Book of Five Rings- on effective killing was a big hit in Wall Street. The idea of Robocop came to him while he was learning film techniques on the set of Blade Runner, and his inspiration from mature comic books gave the story it’s platform.

The ED-209 made me laugh, especially when it fell over and squealed like a girl. Obviously a stop-motion model when it moved, it was the tech they had back then, and model makers are still making scale models of it in Model shows today, so it’s well loved. Weller got the part over other actors considered (Arnie and Rutger, Tom Berenger) as he was a smaller chap, had martial art skills and actually wanted the part to work with Verhoeven. He was the best choice in the end. The gory violence is so over the top it becomes funny, as it was intended to be by Neumeier and Verhoeven, but we never lose sight of the journey Murphy-Robocop-Murphy is on, and the scene where he visits the home he used to share with his wife and son, who have left, and remembers happy times, is so poignant.

Phil Rating:- a classic movie, an original story, there was nothing like it at the time. Great special effects and an exceptional robot in ED209. Top notch!

Fraggle Rating:- It was nearly as much fun watching Phil watch this than seeing it myself.


Backdraft 1991

Directed by Ron Howard, Backdraft tells the story of a Chicago fire department who are putting out the fires of a serial arsonist and focuses on two brothers, Lieutenant Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey (Kurt Russell) and Probationary Firefighter Brian McCaffrey (William Baldwin) and also Inspector Donald “Shadow” Rimgale, (Robert DeNiro) who is an arson investigator trying to track down the arsonist. The brothers are estranged, and there’s a fair bit of sibling rivallry going on, with both wanting to honour their Dad Captain Dennis McCaffrey (also Kurt, briefly) who died in a fire when they were little boys. Bull is separated from his wife Helen (Rebecca de Mornay) and Brian is picking up again with an ex girlfriend Jennifer Vaitkus, (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who also works for Alderman Marty Swayzak, (J.T.Walsh) who has supported fire department budget cuts for nefarious purposes. Scott Glenn plays the part of Senior Firefighter John “Axe” Adcox, who worked with the brother’s Dad, and is like an uncle to the brothers. Donald Sutherland has a small but effective part as Ronald Bartel, an imprisoned arsonist who set the fire that killed Dad McCaffrey. That’s it for spoilers just in case anyone hasn’t seen it!

Fraggle Rating:- I loved this movie back in the day, I have a thing for fires and explosions and this was full of them. The sound they give to the flames is amazing. The main actors went to Chicago’s fire training school to learn firefighting for real so they did look the part, but fire fighting professionals did note that how the fires depicted in the movie are not true to life as mostly you can’t see for smoke. But that’s fine by me, who wants to sit through 1 & 1/2 hours of watching smoke? The story is just another take on needy social services being cut by government departments resulting in a more dangerous and less effective service which then engenders an over the top revenge response, so nothing new there, but kudos though as they didn’t give it a Hollywood Happy Ending. The fires were brilliantly done, amazing! Did I say that already? 😊


Robocop 2 1990

Pfft. 🥴


The Magnificent Seven. 1960

No need for plot I think, we’ll go straight to the rating!

1960! I saw this as a kid, and remember it so well! Which is bonkers as I have a really bad memory for movies, it’s why I can rewatch them and not realise I’ve already seen them. Regular readers will know I had to see this again after watching the (inferior) Magnificent Seven 2017 I did last time out. (review Here). It was a complete joy to see it again. All my ‘heart-throbs’ from back then in one place, Yul Bryner with that walk he did, Steve McQueen with those eyes, Charles Bronson with those lips, and James Coburn with that cool dude attitude. Sigh. Anyway, it’s held up well considering it’s 60 years old. Of course you couldn’t get away with any of it these days, ‘white saviours’, diminished lady rôles, and diversity issues such as a Mexican – Chico- played by the German Horst Bucholz, and a Mexican old man played by Russian Valadimir Sokoloff (great name) but back then they could and they did. Eli Wallach (another diversity issue) as the baddie bandido ripping off the fruits of the mexican villagers labours with his bunch of swarthy ne’er do wells. The script is hokey, the actors in lesser parts over doing it (as did ol’Horst), but seeing Bryner, McQueen, Coburn and Bronson doing their cool cowboy thing again, well, it was magnificent! 😊

Not the 365 ~ movie round up.

Mission Impossible III(2006) and Mission Impossible Fallout (2018)

We are currently doing (and re-doing some of) the Mission Impossible Movies, somewhat out of order but other than a few follow ons you can guess at, it doesn’t really matter in which order you watch them. I’m not going to do plots as I’m reasonably certain everyone knows from the TV series let alone the movie franchise, that Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, and his bunch of merry men and ladies form the IMF (Impossible Mission Force, and not the International Monetary Fund) are duty bound to save the world by wearing latex masks and doing death defying physical feats. We have only these two on DVD and BluRay, and whilst Fallout is superior in terms of film & sound quality and a more cohesive directing style (Christopher McQuarrie for Fallout and J.J.Abrams for III) the action is terrific in both movies. What is more interesting, at least to me, is that in watching ‘the making of’ special features on both of these, all the CGI we thought had been done, actually wasn’t, and whatever you think of Cruise’s acting abilities, his committment to keeping it real is 100%. There are reoccurring characters throughout the series, Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn starts out in III,as does Michelle Monoghan as Julia Meade-Hunt, Ethan’s wife and ex-wife to be) Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust an ex MI6 operative who started her run in Rogue Nation which we’ve yet to see. Special mention goes to Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell who has been in all the MI movies to date. If you like action movies the MI series should be up there near the top of your list purely for the amount of innovation and skill the crew and cast go through in order to bring the quite gob smacking set pieces to your screens. When Tom Cruise is dangling from a helicopter at a great height, he actually is. These movies are all the better for not using green screens, and nice that people still want to make actual movies and not rely on a computer program for the good bits.

Fraggle Rating : Top Notch action entertainment.


Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019)

I’ve seen all of Mr.Tarantino’s movies, with the exception of Django, and for me this is his finest and most nuanced piece of work. Set in Hollywood and L.A in 1969, it concerns a fading character actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and best pal Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate a changing film industry. At this point in time The Manson Family were living in an old movie lot called Spahn Ranch, and though the murder by them of Sharon Tate et all is not a thing in this movie, the fact that we meet Manson briefly, and his followers, puts that thought in the back of your head. I hadn’t read any reviews or spoilers before seeing this movie (though not sure how that happened!) so I’m not going to do too much of what happens as it was much the better for not knowing. Tarantino has beautifully recreated Hollywood in the late 60’s, the cars, the clothes, the scenery, all lovingly filmed, it is a feast of memorabilia for the eyes. A cornucopia of excellent actors have cameo’s, Michael Madsden, Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell being frequent collaborators on Tarantino movies, and Damien Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, have small parts which they nail. Tarantino has Rick Dalton living next door to Sharon Tate (a luminous Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) although Polanski is a bit part and her pal Jay Sebring (Emile Hersch) stays with her whilst Polanski is off directing a movie somewhere in Europe. Tarantino takes his time with his main characters, Dalton, Booth and Tate, and the actors give him great performances, with Pitt winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting actor, well deserved it was too. Special mention must go to Brandy the dog and really there shoud be an Academy Award section for mutts in movies, Brandy would be well up in the running! There are a lot of laughs along the way throughout the movie, and yes there is some Tarantinoesque violence but only at the end of the movie, and it’s a cathartic kind of violence that makes the world the movie is set in, a better place than it actually was.

Fraggle Rating: I can’t recommend it highly enough.


The Magnificent Seven (2017)

If you are a film maker or a knowledgeable movie buff, you can call yourself a cineaste apparently, a term I learnt reading proper eminent movie critic’s blogs/reviews. I would imagine most cineastes would tell you the movie Seven Samurai (1954) directed by Akira Kurosawa, is on or near the top of their all time best movie lists, and didn’t or doesn’t need a remake. Luckily I’m not a cineaste just an enthusiastic punter, so I’ve not seen that epic movie, or laud it beyond any other. Also luckily John Sturges decided to take Seven Samurai and turn it into an epic Western, starring Yul Bryner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughan, Charles Bronson et al. Now THAT was a western that didn’t need remaking, and I will be re-watching it shortly, but today we have a remake of the remake directed by Antoin Fuqua, who was inspired by Shinobu Hashimoto’s writing- a frequent collaborator with Kurosawa. Denzil Washington has been in a couple of Fuqua movies, ‘Training Day’ and ‘The Equaliser’ remake, and takes the Yul Bryner type part in this version of the seven. I do like Washington in most things, and he does a steady job here. Chris Pratt was chosen for the Steve McQueen type character when Fuqua offered him the part he sang ‘Oh Shenandoah’ to the director who exclaimed ‘He’s it, he IS Steve McQueen’. Well that’s patently not the case as Mr. McQueen is pushing up daisies. He’s not in Steve McQueen’s league here, or anywhere else I suspect but he does a competant job and is the main ‘light relief’. Ethan Hawke takes a similar part to Robert Vaughan and he’s the standout for me in this movie. Fuqua was very politically correct by hiring a diverse cast, substituting the original Hilario (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos) with a young widow played with gusto by Haley Bennett. James Coburn’s part is taken by Byung-Hu Lee and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo takes over the Brad Dexter part. The only actor I did think a bit strange was Peter Sarsgaard  in the baddie rôle, he looked like he was high on some nefarious substance with rolling eyes all over the shop. The plot is very similar of course, but somehow the warmth and pathos of the original is lacking. The action sequences are well done, and no-one phones it in in the acting department, but there’s nothing new or innovative here and it just seems a bit pointless.

Fraggle Rating : a serviceable western, especially if you haven’t seen the original, but found I was haunted by the ghosts of Bryner, McQueen et al throughout, and that’s the one to go for.


Chernobyl 1986 (2021)

A while back we watched the excellent HBO 5 hour mini-series Chernobyl (2019) starring Jared Harris, covering the nuclear plant disaster and the political idiocy and tragic ramifications that followed. It covered the fallout of the events and the stories of its real heroes and victims in as faithful, informative and confrontational detail as the drama allowed. In answer to that the Russians have made their own movie about it, which has just turned up on Netflix and is a bit of a mixed bag really. The director Danila Kozlovskiy also is the main star, the fictional Alexy, who is a firefighter and has worked at the reactor. The movie starts out with him re uniting with an ex-girlfriend, Olga (Oksana Akinshina) and discovering he has a 10 year old son. Alexy comes across as a bit of a dick in truth, but very quickly we get into the explosion and Alexy becomes a bit of a reluctant hero. Somehow he manages to be at the scene of the reactor burn-out, then at the hospital, then in the evacuation of the nearby towns, then in the strategy meetings, and finally in the dramatic dive into the radioactive waters of the reactor to save the day. A fair amount of dramatic licence is used here, and the scale of the deaths, diseases and ruined towns which are to this day still radioactive to a dangerous degree, is barely touched upon. Surprisingly a few of the characters do blame the bureaucrats for the cutting of corners which compromised safety, but mostly the focus is on the heroics of the firefighters and Alexey himself. The movie does have it’s saving graces though, with Oksana Akinshina acting her socks off, and the scenes taking place in the reactor site are quite amazing, the soundtrack in particular is almost a character itself as you hear the groans and clangs of the collapsing structures and the wierd sounds that a nuclear fire makes.

Fraggle Rating: worth a watch for the Russian take on this and the brilliantly filmed radioactive underwater scenes and firefighting scenes. On Netflix where you can choose a horribly dubbed verson, or have it in Russian with subtitles, which is much better.