PODCAST: Ep8 – Terminator 2 (1991)

In this episode Charlie and George travel back in time (but not naked, that’d be weird) to 1991 for the action sci-fi extravaganza that is T2: Judgement Day!

Whilst discussing the genius of James Cameron’s original vision and why it remains one of the best sequels ever made, they also take a closer look at Robert Patrick’s privates and remember a time when tie dyed t-shirts, mullets and Axel Rose were all considered acceptable.

Featuring monthly features like Coulda Woulda Shoulda and more behind the scenes trivia than you can shake a liquid metal fist at this is an episode that can’t be missed.

Copyright Notice: All copyright material remains the property of the original copyright holder and all clips and audio samples have been used only as a reference and as part of a review in line with Creative Commons FAIR USE policy.

Stream or download all of our podcast episodes directly from any of these sites below:

Extras

Would you like to know more?

No time to listen to the episode and enjoy a good read then be sure to check out George’s full Retro Review of T2: Judgement Day here!

RetroRamble 2017

Check out this episode on Libsyn!

REVIEW: Batman (1989)

In a nutshell: Billionaire Bruce Wayne spends his nights fighting crime disguised as the masked vigilante, Batman. As he tackles Gotham City’s crime and corruption, a new threat emerges in the form of psychotic criminal, The Joker.

No time to read the article? Listen or download the podcast episode here!

Reviewed by George McGhee

We are currently living in the “Superhero” Age of Cinema. This year alone (2017) features eight comic-book  blockbusters released in as many months with the same amount due next year. Whilst their source inspiration has been around since the 1930’s, the comic-book film genre never really took hold until the late 90’s, early noughties, with Blade (1998), X-Men (2000) and Spider-man (2002). The advance in CGI to fully realise these larger than life characters was one of the main reasons but for the studios, there’s the benefit of instant brand recognition, cross audience appeal and most importantly, merchandising opportunities.

Batman…begins

Key elements of what makes a successful superhero/comic-book film can be traced back to Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). The film took it’s sweet time getting to the big screen, especially being over ten years after DC Comics stable mate  Superman (1978) which gave birth to the genre. However as the studios discovered, you can’t paint Batman with the same brush as Superman, the characters and tone are very different (a reason why they frequently cross paths).

The biggest challenge was how to re-establish Batman as he was originally written; a dark, brooding vigilante.  Especially when he was best remembered very differently – a 1960’s icon,  the bright, camp and batshit crazy, Batman TV series with the legendary Adam West. The television series only ran for three years, but ran on regular repeat rotation around the world meaning it would remain in the public consciousness for decades.

Despite going through the hands of various established directors like Richard Donner, Joe Dante and Ivan Reitman, studio Warner Brothers took a big risk and eventually handed the keys to the Batcave to a young and emerging director, Tim Burton. Burton’s background was one of comedy (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice) but he had a keen eye for stylised visuals with a dark gothic quality – he would go on to be a key influence on Goth culture, effectively becoming “King of the Goths”, if you will.

“Wait till they get a load of me!”

Burton’s hiring was the first of many risks the film took, the look of the character was changed, the origin story was ditched and the casting of Michael Keaton as the lead had comic book nerds screaming in disbelief. The director of Pee Wee and the star of Mr Mom?! Fans assumed the film would be just as camp as Adam West and company – as such, over 50,000 fans petitioned to have Keaton removed, which in a pre-internet era, is a lot of dedicated fan-boys!

With such unknown qualities, Warners needed to find a name that brought respectability to the production, much like Superman casting Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando opposite an unknown Christopher Reeve. Jack Nicholson’s casting was top of the studio’s wish list for The Joker and they were willing to pay good money to get him – Nicholson’s pay packet is still legendary today.

Unfortunately, the spot on casting of The Joker wasn’t enough to quell the wave of negativity.  So Warners decided to release a teaser trailer made from rough assembly of footage, to put these fears to rest. Thankfully people went nuts for the trailer (this time, in a good way) queuing at cinemas just to see it. It changed the whole concept of what a trailer could be. The Batman hype machine had begun and would dominate the summer of 1989, with the Bat symbol plastered across billboards, cereal boxes, t-shirts and even neckties, paving the way for every blockbuster film since. As producer Michael Uslan put it simply.“The wheel had been reinvented”

With such development troubles and the marketing hype in overdrive, could the film live up to expectations? Fortunately for everyone involved, it was one of the most successful films of the year (just behind Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade) and the highest grossing DC film until The Dark Knight (2008).

“I want you to tell all your friends about me….”

There’s a lot of reasons why the film works, from great casting, fantastic production design and a snappy script to gets straight into the action. The opening fools you into thinking you’re watching the Bruce Wayne origin story, with the mugging/attack of parents and their young son. However then Batman glides onto the rooftops like an Angel of Death to scare the bejesus out of the two criminals. Within minutes, any images of Adam West’s dayglo Batman are safely banished.

From there, we get a brief introduction to all the main characters; reporters Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) and Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) on the case of Gotham’s six foot bat. The struggle between the Mayor’s office, featuring District Attorney Harvey Dent (Billy. Dee. Williams) and Commissioner Gordon (a bumbling Pat Hingle) and the city’s gangsters Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) and Jack Napier (Nicholson). These points are reinforced whilst at the charity ball held by the mysterious (or just plain weird) billionaire, Bruce Wayne.

This all sets up the origin of the villain, rather than the hero, who is fully formed but still a myth in Gotham. We quickly get to the first main action sequence at Axis Chemicals where a betrayed Napier and his goons are escaping the inept police, only to be picked off by one by one by Batman. Napier’s ego gets the better of him, and he ends up falling (or is he dropped? Discuss.) into a vat of chemicals to become the Clown Prince of Crime.

The film has a great sense of pace, despite juggling various subplots of romance, mystery, and terrorism amongst some well choreographed action where Batman gets to show off his wonderful toys, including a heavily armed but incredibly inaccurate Bat-plane, (aka The Batwing).

In true Burton fashion, the surreal climax is suitably gothic and over the top, with a battered Bat taking out goons (in the tallest cathedral you’ve ever seen) before the Joker can make his escape to…somewhere. It’s not exactly clear what Joker would do if his plan to kill most of Gotham succeeded – but let’s remember that he’s psychotic, so he may not have thought this through.

One weakness is the film is guilty of being the Jack/Joker show, with Nicholson gleefully devouring every scene he’s in – even when he’s the only character in a scene. That said, it’s a real shame he gets killed off, as he’s a such an important villain to Batman and part of the fun is their duality and seeing their ongoing encounters.

Love That Joker!

The Joker has never been a subtle character, he’s crazy, twisted, unpredictable but most of all, he needs to be funny and Nicholson delivers on all points. Whilst the film was deemed “dark” at the time, with hindsight The Joker is in danger of approaching Cesar Romero (the Joker in the 60’s show) levels of camp.  On balance, you could argue such theatricality adds more heft to Keaton’s brooding near silent take on Batman/Bruce Wayne.

Despite being far from anyone’s first choice, Keaton turns in a strong and nuanced performance as a man struggling with his past. Gone is the swaggering playboy that we’re familiar with. Keaton’s Wayne is a reclusive, aloof and introverted billionaire that people struggle to recognise. One of the reasons Burton wanted Keaton was his expressive eyes and intensity and it works, once he’s in the suit, it feels like a totally different character. His take on Bruce Wayne may stray from the character (sleeping like a bat, “You wanna get nuts?!”) but it’s role he would better define in the sequel, Batman Returns.

Danny Elfman delivers an iconic soundtrack that is only bettered than John Williams legendary work on Superman. Elfman’s operatic themes add extra credibility to this serious take on The Dark Knight would go on to influence the terrific Animated Series of the early nineties and sorely missed in the Schumacher sequels.

In classic 1980’s blockbuster fashion, the film also features a plethora of pop courtesy of Prince. The two big scenes of the Joker trashing the art gallery or the city parade climax that feature Prince songs are a lot of fun, but basically borderline music videos which really date the film (along with Keaton’s choice of turtleneck sweaters).

“Gentlemen! Let’s broaden our minds!”

The film has some fantastic (not to mention Oscar-winning) production design – Gotham City with it’s endless skyscrapers bathed in near permanent night and the now infamous Batmobile (a bugger to park, one imagines) all courtesy of the late Anton Furst. The choice to radically change Batman’s costume from blue and grey tights to black body armour is another bold (yet practical) choice that would go on to influence many other films including X-Men, Blade and arguably The Matrix.

Burton infuses the gothic sensibilities with a mix of 1950’s kitsch and eighties consumerism, a style he would go on to refine in his next film (arguably his best) Edward Scissorhands (1990) as well as many others throughout his career.

In the years since it’s release, many people now see the definitive take on Batman as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Nolan does get a much better feel for Batman and the characters that surround him and I agree that The Dark Knight is a better film – however, Burton’s Batman is a lot more fun. What makes Batman so appealing is his flexibility, he can be camp, gothic or realistic, all have their strengths but the less said about the Joel Schumacher sequels, the better!

Ultimately, this film is a key chapter in Batman’s history and a defining film for Tim Burton who over the years following would deliver some of his best work, Edward Scissorhands , Batman Returns (1992) and Ed Wood (1994) . The film proved to the genre that you could be flexible with the source material as some things just don’t work on-screen. Along with Star Wars, it also changed the perception of what a blockbuster could be, how it could be merchandised, which changed the industry forever. Now, who’s up for a delicious bowl of Batman cereal?

Coulda woulda shoulda – Robin Williams was studio’s back up choice for The Joker, apparently he was used as bait to secure Nicholson.

MVP: All the bold choices lie with Tim Burton.

Alternate Title: Goth-man v Nicholson: Dawn of the Franchise

 

PODCAST – Episode 7 – BATMAN (1989)

This month George & Charlie revisit the event movie that kick started the comic-book genre – Batman (1989)

From the safety of our Batcave, we discuss a variety of pertinent to this late 80s classic. From the film’s lengthy pre-production challenges and the genius of Jack Nicholson, to Michael Keaton’s knitwear and the excesses of a Prince soundtrack. Along the way, we also touch on the Batman legacy across film, TV and games. From Adam West’s 1960’s Bright Knight to the recent Nolan and Snyder efforts to this year’s The Lego Batman Movie!

Stream or download all of our podcast episodes directly from any of these sites below:

Extras

Read George’s review here for more info.

Copyright Notice: All copyright material remains the property of the original copyright holder and all clips and audio samples have been used only as a reference and as part of a review in line with Creative Commons FAIR USE policy.

Credits:

REVIEW: White House Down vs. Olympus has Fallen (2013)

Due to their retro roots, George reviews the recent Die Hard rip offs, White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen. Are they guilty pleasures or crimes against the action genre? Read on to find out…

White House Down v.s. Olympus Has Fallen – Two Dragons?

There’s a recurring Hollywood phenomenon where, sometimes in the space of a few months. Two big pictures were released with near identical plots. In the 1990’s, this happened a lot. You may remember two disaster movies from 1997; Volcano and Dantes Peak. A year later we had Deep Impact, an asteroid movie that’s not as good and nowhere near as fun as Armageddon. We also had two animated films about an insecure ant who becomes a hero – Antz or A Bugs Life. A couple of years later, saw Mars set sci-fi Red Planet released in the same year as the similar, if slightly more intelligent Mission to Mars.

Due to the blatant similarities, on release naturally we’re inclined to make a decision on which of the two films is better. With hindsight, most of those films are pretty forgettable, with only Armageddon making a deep impact (ahem)… Mainly due to it being the noisiest and most ludicrous (back when Michael Bay was more “restrained”).

In 2013, the phenomenon made a comeback with two films tackling a terrorist attack on the White House –it appears that Hollywood felt enough time had elapsed since 9/11 to make light entertainment about terrorist attacks on American soil.

Who brought us these two action flics?

Olympus Has Fallen (for simplicity referred to as OHF) directed by Training Day and The Equalizer helmer Anton Fuqua and White House Down (WHD) from Roland Emmerich, a director famous for destroying American landmarks  (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, etc). 

Whilst the competing films usually share a familiar plot premise – volcanoes, asteroids and Mars landings, plucky bugs etc. These two films appear to share a sole film as inspiration – genre classic Die Hard (1988). Obviously there have been many attempts to copy the Die Hard formula over the years. As I discussed in my review of Air Force One the film had Harrison Ford’s President of the United States (POTUS) going all John McClane by deciding to tackle the terrorists mid-flight on his private 747.

However, in both these “Die Hard in The White House” movies, this time the POTUS is not the hero but instead paired with a John McClane clone. WHD has John Cale (Channing Tatum), a wannabe Secret Service agent. An underdog trying to earn his daughter’s respect and get his dream job of guarding the POTUS.

Are either a new take on a well-known genre?

OHF has Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) a disgraced secret service agent who failed to save the first lady. Banning may not be a father, (he’s too busy being a goddamn patriotic hero) but acts a surrogate to the President’s son, so we’re covered on that front.

Tatum is tasked with protecting Jamie Foxx’s president, a younger spin on Obama; likeable, warm and witty. The film’s main strength is the odd couple/buddy cop rapport between Foxx and Tatum. Whilst Tatum could be accused of coasting on his trademark underdog charm, it’s a nice change of role for Foxx. I sometimes forget how versatile he can be. In just over a year, he had made Horrible Bosses (one the few highlights) Django Unchained and this.

In the other White House, Aaron Eckhart is playing the POTUS in a performance that’s a mix of square-jawed charm and earnestness, but it’s not a million miles away from his character Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight (2008), you know, before he goes mental and becomes Two-Face.

OHF aims to set up an interesting dynamic between the hero and the President – the fact the President’s only hope is the man who failed to save his wife. A good storyline that unfortunately never really plays out. It’s more of a plot device to keep Banning on the outside as an unknown quantity when it all kicks off. It doesn’t help for all the good acting chops Eckhart has, he spends most of the movie tied up on the floor of his bunker.

What to say about Gerard Butler? The Shouty Scot brings his usual macho mix of gruff authority and a dodgy American accent. Despite his shortcomings, Butler can be a convincing action hero and does a good swear, having one of the best one-liners in years, “Let’s play a game of Fuck Off, you go first”

How do the two films differ?

Both films feature dramatic opening attacks to seize the White House but it’s really OHF that registers with a gripping and brutal opening assault on Washington. Where Fuqua displays some, at times, uncomfortable scenes of collateral damage. I would argue that it’s the old school action violence that allows OHF to triumph over the outrageousness of WHD. Don’t get me wrong, OHF is completely over the top too, with John Wick (2014) levels of henchman fatalities. Butler stabs at least two bad guys in the head!

WHD, with it’s lack of bloodshed, is clearly going for the more family friendly/tween vibe. There’s even a sub-plot about Cale’s daughter’s vlog and how her YouTube videos help identify the terrorists and I’m like, not even joking. As previously mentioned, the film’s strength is the banter between the two leads. While it’s funny seeing the President struggling to handle a rocket launcher – a similar joke that was done a lot better almost 30 years previously in Commando where Arnie’s sidekick (Rae Dawn Chong) accidentally fires one backwards.

Unfortunately neither film is able to fully escape the shadow of Die Hard. They rely too much on plot beats established in the 1988 classic. In both films, we get to see the hero and villain trading wise-cracks over walkie-talkie and a final act involving a failed rescue attempt via helicopter.

Characters & Casting

WHD even has it’s mercenaries pushed through the Die Hard mould. Instead of intense henchman Karl, we get Jason Clarke’s disgraced Black Ops soldier. For the camp geeky tech guy like Theo, we get Jimmi Simpson in full Graham Norton mode. It’s clear they’re both working with limited material as they’re both capable of turning in better performances. Clarke is solid in Zero Dark Thirty and Dawn of the Planet of The Apes. Simpson was one of the standouts in the recent Westworld series .

However the films don’t just rip off Die Hard,  they even go as far as even borrowing from other Die Hard knock offs! From the war room scenes from Air Force One, where OHF wins points for using a near identical set to having Angela Bassett getting as close to Glenn Close as a gal can. WHD even features Air Force One (the plane) as a major plot development. However, when you see the plane is full of obvious cannon fodder, you know something is likely to go wrong.

WHD also borrows from The Rock with a supposedly tragic villain and his disgruntled mercenaries.  In it’s most ridiculous scene, goes as far as having Cale’s daughter heroically waving the American flag to warn off the impending air strike – urgh, I felt nauseous just writing that! Obviously harking back to Nic Cage and his green flares (NB. smoke beacons opposed to his choice of trousers) in The Rock.

Which film is better?

In the end, I found myself getting more annoyed with WHD, which feels like a poor man’s Die Hard 4.0 with it’s 12A (PG-13) levels of action violence. Emmerich’s films have always relied on spectacle, usually interspersed with some trite sentimentality from two-dimensional characters and this film is no different.

Whilst there’s less CGI destruction than usual and despite having twice the budget of its rival, there seems to be a lot of blue screen backgrounds (due to restrictions of filming on location) and the cartoon violence becomes laughable. My favourite being the car chase involving presidential support vehicles that come with retractable miniguns – you never know when they’ll come in handy.

OHF goes all guns blazing/knives stabbing to harken back the action thrillers of the 80s and 90’s that I enjoyed so much growing up. It’s far from perfect, it’s not even close to the other Die Hard rip offs I’ve mentioned but after a few beers, it fits the bill for mindless entertainment. It’s safe to say that Fuqua has more form than Emmerich in the action film arena, The Equalizer (2014) being an improvement and plays like an unofficial Jack Reacher film. Yes – much better than any of the Tom Cruise efforts.

Which film performed Better at the box office?

Looking at box office and critical reception, White House Down was deemed the loser in this film face off. Olympus Has Fallen with it’s relatively small budget, was more popular with audiences and the studio quickly churned out a sequel – London Has Fallen (2016).  Despite poor reviews and apparently being downright offensive, another sequel, Angel Has Fallen (2018), has also just been announced.  This time, Butler is taking on the terrorists mid-flight on Air Force One. Hang on, that sounds familiar…..

 

FUNNIES: What if The Avengers was made in the 1990’s

Gone are the days of the classic trailer with the growly voiceover man – something we miss here at Retro Ramble. What if such an approach was taken with the blockbusters of today? Well, look no further, as the good people at Vulture put together a trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron, complete with a mid-nineties, Bruckheimer-esque spin. Enjoy.

 

FUNNIES: Strike Force Eagle 3: The Reckoning

Whilst big names in the US, comedians Key & Peele aren’t that well known in the UK, which is a crime, as they’re hilarious.

strike-force-eagle-3_retroramble.blogTheir Comedy Central sketch show skews a variety of popular culture targets, often with polished production values (something many of our own UK shows struggle with) not to mention some very inspired make up efforts.

Whilst there are many sketches to choose from, the following sketch sends up many of the films we love on Retro Ramble.

Please enjoy Strike Force Eagle 3: The Reckoning!

Got your own favourite Key & Peele sketch, be sure to add in the comments below.

REVIEW: Starship Troopers (1997)

starship-troopers-retro-ramble-movie-review-podcast

1997 brought us so many entertaining films across a variety of genres, it’s really hard to pick a handful of films to focus on. As a fan of director Paul Verhoven, especially his previous sci-fi blockbusters Robocop (1987) and Total Recall (1990), one film that stands out for me is Starship Troopers.

No time to read the article?  Listen or Download the podcast episode here!

The Dutch director has a brave, devil may care attitude, and he injects these films with such energy and playfulness, many people forget the films also provide a subtle social commentary and intelligence missing from other films in the genre.

These films form an unofficial trilogy of sorts and their DNA is unmissable –  the heady mix of futuristic tech, cartoonish gore and black humour. In today’s formulaic movie landscape, these films would no doubt be shoehorned into the one thing that makes a studio executive drool – a shared universe!  Like Marvel but the Crazy Dutchman Cinematic Universe (CDCU) if you will.

“Would you like to know more?”

Starship Troopers reunites Verhoven with Robocop writer Ed Neumier and it shows – the satirical news snippets are a hilarious highlight and make it a spiritual sequel to Robocop. Writer and director rekindle their magic and take the po-faced 1950s novel by Robert A. Heinlein, strip it of its high tech Iron Man esque mech warrior warfare whilst keeping  the basic tale of teens becoming adults in a fascist future, that in today’s political climate seems scarily prescient.

Its a simple tale of a handsome boy, Johnny who’s in love with a girl, Carmen, so he signs up for military service to impress her/seal the deal. Johnny’s friend, girl next door Diz, is clearly also in love Johnny, so she follows him into military service. Then space bugs destroy the white-washed future Buenos Aires by hurling their spores through space (don’t worry about that too much) – forcing them into an intergalactic (planetary! – sorry, force of habit being a 90’s teen) war with some terrifying bugs, that come in all shapes and sizes. As I said, a simple tale.

“its a film about unrequited love, growing up, accepting responsibility, and perseverance. It’s just told across a backdrop of stylised sci-fi action with impressive special effects that still look passable today

On the surface, it’s like many a teen romance – its a film about unrequited love, growing up, accepting responsibility, and perseverance. It’s just told across a backdrop of stylised sci-fi action with some impressive special effects that still look passable today (courtesy of Jurassic Park’s Dino Supervisor – Phil “You only had one job” Tippett).

The film’s narrative plays out of order to provide a thrilling opening of a failed invasion on the planet  before probably introducing us to the film’s Beverly Hills 90210-eque leads. We are quickly transported to the Mobile Infantry’s training camps to provide a futuristic spin on the story staple often found in Vietnam films. We’re introduced to all the bug fodder, a literal game of lazer tag and some communal showing – because…shut up, it’s a Verhoven film, that’s why!

We get to see some great battle scenes, revealing a plethora of grotesque bugs that offer a variety of gory deaths – flying bugs that decapitate or giant tanker bugs that melt you alive (a nod back to Robocop, perhaps?) The film also manages to honour/homage Aliens and Zulu  – our heroes with all their military hardware – the giant machine guns and hand sized nukes, find themselves  completely out of their depth when faced with hordes of foreign savages who just keep coming.

starship-troopers_would-you-like-to-know-more-retroramble-blog

The film has a decent cast – mostly. Leads Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards bring beauty and soap opera quality acting that works amongst the ridiculousness of it all. Neil Patrick Harris displays some of that witty charm we’re now so familiar with, before going all serious psychic space Gestapo towards the end.

Clancy Brown and Dean Norris provide the gruff military authority in the training camp scenes that they’re both so good at (and have been typecast in).

Then there’s Michael Ironside – what a legend!  Ironside, the sneering sidekick and party pooper from Total Recall is perfectly cast in the grizzled war veteran come mentor role.

“Ironside brings a gravitas to the film that others cannot, I think very few people could deliver a line like “They’ve sucked his brains out!” with such conviction”

He’s the perfect citizen, a man who’s sacrificed his arm protecting the body politic and will gladly die for it, as long as it’s an honorable death. Ironside brings a gravitas to the film that others cannot, I think very few people could deliver a line like “They’ve sucked his brains out!” with such conviction. Like Air Force One (1997) and Gary Oldman, as soon as Ironside exits, the film seems to lose momentum – perhaps it’s because Rasczak is the only character we’re genuinely invested in.

starship-troopers-verhoeven-ironside-retro-ramble-blog

Ironside and Verhoven are such a good match, part of me thinks he should be digital inserted into Robocop as Clarence Boddicker – though that would mean losing the equally awesome Kurtwood Smith. One thing I love about these Verhoven films is the memorable character actors like Smith, Ronny Cox and Dean Norris in the supporting roles.

Troopers didn’t make a huge dent in the box office and I think a key reason is that some multiplex audiences took the film for it’s surface detail and completely missed the right wing political satire.

Most will probably consider this the weakest of the trilogy, lacking Robocop’s intelligence or the pace and thrills of Total Recall but there’s still a lot to enjoy, come for extreme violence, stay for the satire! Unsurprisingly there’s been recent news of a remake, despite the poor reception to both Robocop (2014) and Total Fuckall (2014). Verhoven, when questioned about it made a valid point “the studios always wanted not to have a layer of lightness, a layer of irony, sarcasm, satire.”

Adapting a straight faced adaptation of right wing sci fi allegory is hard work – watch Ender’s Game (2013) for further evidence. When viewing a fascist future through Verhoeven’s lens, it may be brutal, gory and sometimes scary, but hey, at least it’s fun.

  • MVP: There’s only one Michael Ironside!
  • Alternate Title: Sexy Space Nazis
  • Fun Fact: More ammunition was used in this film than in any previous movie.

starship-troopers-join-up-now-retro-ramble-blog-movie-review-podcast

Your opinion guarantees citizenship!

  • What are your thoughts on Verhoven’s sci-fi films?
  • Do you love Michael Ironside as much as we do?
  • Let us know in the comments!

TRAILERS: Starship Troopers (1997)

“Everyone fights, no one quits. If you don’t do your job I’ll shoot you myself.” (Michael Ironside)

Classic 90s action, with classic Paul Verhoeven at the helm, this is a very enjoyable space romp that takes a satirical look at a future where Earth is run by a totalitarian and facist regime and goes to war against an ugly planet, “a bug planet!”

The film has aged better than you might expect since they seem to have got the blend of prosthetics and CGI just right.

Would you like to know more?

Check out the full Retro Review and podcast on Starship Troopers here.

TRAILERS: Face/Off (1997)

A solid action film that takes you back to a time when studios took risks on action films that offered bigger actors, high concept plots and an exploding boat load of physical special effects.

Face/Off was one of the first films we decided to review it here on Retro Ramble for a number of reasons.

Not only is it a film we grew up on and have watched a fair few times since, it really was a big deal when it came out, being billed as the best thing since Die Hard.

If you’ve not watched it, and like a good action flick, then its definitely a must see.

For those of you who’ve seen it before, especially if its been a while you’ll be surprised just how more amusing this film’s plot has got with time and we would urge you to dust off the DVD and check it out again for yourselves.

 

Is this John Woo’s best action film?

Which is your favourite scene of Travolta turning his acting up to hammie/camp factor 11?

Who’s film is this really Travolta’s or Cage’s?

Let us know in the comments below.

 

REVIEW: Air Force One (1997)

retroramble.blog_still-of-harrison-ford-and-gary-oldman-in-air-force-one-large-picture

RetroRamble’s George McGhee gives a more in depth look at Air Force One in terms of how it stacks up today.

No time to read the article?  Listen or Download the podcast episode here!

Following the success of Die Hard in 1988, Hollywood tried to recreate that high concept/ elevator pitch “It’s Die Hard in a …” which was pitched one man against the odds (usually of the international terrorist variety) in a confined environment.

Some were successful at copying the template but for every Under Siege there’s a Sudden Death.

Air Force One was one of the last from this phase, two years after Die Hard with a Vengeance, ironically ditching the confined one man army template it had created and one year after fellow air-bound thriller Executive Decision.

I realise there was a bit of resurgence recently with the competing Die Hard…In The White House with White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen – I haven’t seen either, so can’t comment.

So why pick Air Force One? Why does it work?

Well it’s  a combination of great casting, solid direction and some brassy patriotism. Sure, there’s been plenty of films about the POTUS, (real and fictional) but how many of them kill a man with their bare hands and are Harrison Ford?!

air force one family_retroramble.blog

The script has some very cheesy and simplified moments but Wolfgang Peterson is a competent director and he has form delivering tension in a confined space – check out the excellent U-Boat thriller, Das Boot for proof. The snappy script allows Peterson to open with a gripping marine mission, show and tell us what’s special about Air Force One, (the plane is capable of withstanding an action film), it’s passengers and the kind of President James Marshall is.  He’s bloody everything!  He knows everyone’s name, he’s a family man, a loving husband,he drinks beer and loves football. God bless America!

All this establishes the personal stakes at hand, which is the underlying concept – would a world leader sacrifice their political stance if their family and friends were under threat? An intriguing question, especially when the world leader in question can handle machine gun and fly a plane. This military background is neatly provided by a military general on hand in the control room, I like to call him, General Exposition.

Another reason this film holds up is it’s casting – what a support cast! Dean Stockwell (channeling Dick Dastardly) William H Macy at the start of his career and the always dependable Glenn Close the Vice President.

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Trivia: Glenn Close provided her own wig for the movie.

Close does the best she can, staring intensely at a conference phone for the duration of her screentime. It’s good to see a strong female role that isn’t cannon fodder or a damsel in distress – though she does get a bit stressed by the end of it.

Who’s getting Glenn sweaty? Blighty’s very own Gary Oldman, giving us more of  the unhinged menace he delivered in Leon, whilst chewing on a thick Russian accent.

Unfortunately the film slightly loses it’s way once Oldman is thrown off Ford’s plane and the plane changes it’s flightpath to borrow liberally from Top Gun and then Airport 77 before literally crashing into the sea, in a flurry of Playstation 2 level pixels.

Yes, it’s cheesy, unbelievable and gung-ho but Ford still sells in the emotional punch, you really believe this man would sacrifice his beliefs for his family. “I’ll do it, just don’t hurt my family!” Anyone else delivering that line would probably be laughable – except for Kevin Costner, who almost got the role before Ford.

Could this movie be made today? After September 11th? Not likely. With Donald Trump about to move into the Oval Office, it’s highly unlikely he’d be facing Russian terrorists – more likely some angry middle-class Americans…

MVP: Despite the strong cast, this is Ford’s movie.

ALTERNATE TITLE: Get Off My Plane!

FUN FACT: Donald Trump used the theme for his presidential campaign trail….and was politely told to stop using it by Jerry Goldsmith’s Estate.

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What’s your favourite Die Hard in a…. film?

Let us know in the comments!

George McGhee, Retro Ramble 2017