SPOILER ALERT: This article is spoilt by a rather silly attitude and bad jokes
One of the major failings of modern British TV sketch comedies has been the over-reliance on reoccurring characters, and the simple repeated catchphrase to raise to laughs. It under estimates the viewer’s intelligence and stifles the writer’s ability to (or demonstrates the lack of the ability to) create new fresh and properly formed jokes and concepts time and time again.
Not that fully formed reoccurring characters and worlds cannot work in the sketch format – think Pete and Dud’s so-called Dagenham Dialogues. Works of genius and some of the most memorable and acclaimed British TV comedy ever.
With the imminent release of Star Trek Into Darkness, which has my excitement levels high enough to melt dilithium crystals, as well as the Stratford Upon Avon Picturehouse screening of Wrath of Khan just around the corner, it seemed the perfect time to revisit my old friends, the Star Trek movies, and to put them in some kind of order.
Generally it is assumed that the even numbered films are the best, but I have never held to this. Growing up with Star Trek, each film (and series, even some episodes) is particularly important to me. I’ll listen to the music from them to evoke certain moods, quote them and generally just enjoy their existence.
The most difficult one to include is JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, as it is so different from the others. I enjoyed it a great deal, certainly, but is it the Star Trek that I know and love? I really can’t decide.
Anyhow, here are my top five Star Trek films.
Wrath of Khan
An easy number one. With spectacular special effects, exciting action sequences and enough drama dripping from Shatner’s brow to dissolve lesser films. Spectacular music from James Horner (which he has never bested), grand themes and a superb performance from Montalban as the vengeance-fueled Khan set this as not only the best Star Trek film, but possibly the best science-fiction films and an excellent adventure.
Just watch it, ok?
The Undiscovered Country
The first Star Trek film I saw in the cinema! This is much darker in tone than its predecessors, and has some heavy political overtones, with the Federation and Klingons dancing around the idea of peace and friendship. Classic themes, and excellent action make it a very satisfying film. The dark, gothic score from Cliff Eidelman is also superb, and so different from any other Star Trek film. As with ‘Khan’, the space-ships feel big, they feel like battleships or submarines, and that gives the action some scale. General Chang (Christopher Plummer) is another excellent foil for Kirk, and spends much of the film quoting Shakespeare.
Plus, any film that starts with an exploding moon must be good.
The first film with the cast of The Next Generation is also their only one in my top five! As with the previous choices, the making of this film is in the enemy – the Borg – and in making this fight the grand theme. This time there is something of Moby Dick, with Patrick Stewart on absolute top form as Picard.
Top notch effects, great action and a wonderful score from Gerry Goldsmith make this a film that anyone can enjoy – not just Star Trek fans.
The Motion Picture
I don’t expect many others would include this in their top five lists. Possibly not even in their top ten! It is slow, and ponderous and light on action. However, I like it for all of those reasons. It is a big film, with big ideas. I love the long flight around the new Enterprise, with the wonderful theme playing. I love the weirdness of V’ger as a villain. I hate the uniforms.
Star Trek (JJ Abrams)
An exciting summer blockbuster, this earns its place by managing to relaunch a film series that I love, and to bring new people in to see Star Trek. Although lighter than the previous films, some of the tone of the very first Star Trek series has been captured, and this is good. I’m still not sure I can completely come to terms with a different cast, and various other changes. I certainly am not a fan of the new Enterprise (Geeky, I know, but hey – it’s my blog, after all!).
I am excited to see where the franchise will go now.
Following our refurbishment work, the Stratford Upon Avon Picturehouse is launching a new strand – Friday Late shows. A bit of an experiment, as we don’t have a history of cult late films, I really hope that these shows work. There will be some give-aways and fancy dress fun to go with them!
Here are our planned events. Click on the title for the booking link, or the Facebook tab to join our event page:
The cinema re-opens with shows of The Place Beyond The Pines, so the obvious first choice of a late show would be a Ryan Gosling film. I won’t lie, I didn’t really enjoy Drive. However, I know that I’m in the minority with this opinion, and that many, many people love the film. We’re having some twitter-fun in the lead up to this screening, so keep an eye on #GoslingonAvon on Twitter. Facebook
Culture Shock: ABC’S OF DEATH26.04.13
I’m really excited to see this one. It’s an anthology of 26 films from 26 horror directors, taking us through an alphabet of death. I’ve no doubt that some of the films are likely to be pretty awful, but then I also expect some of them to be truly amazing. I’ve been gradually running through the ABC’s on the Culture Shock Facebook page. Facebook
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN03.05.13
This would be the late show I’m most excited about playing! I’m quite the Star Trek fan, and yet I’ve never seen this film on the big screen! Everything about this film screams out to be watched in a cinema – the score, the effects, the acting… I really cannot wait.
This is one of the classic Trek films that stands out, and can be watched – and enjoyed – by anyone.
Expect a few more Star Trek posts over the coming weeks as I get my geek on…
And be sure to join us in the bar first! Facebook
More to come..?
If these three shows work, then undoubtedly there will be more cult late shows playing at the cinema, and I will make sure that they are interesting films, and that everyone has a fun night out!
25 years since The Princess Bride first graced our screens? Inconceivable!
Well actually, it’s true. This month marks the 25th anniversary of Rob Reiner’s delightfully silly fantastical adventure that brings us fencing, fighting, torture, death, true love, giants, and pirates, to name but a few.
And two decades on, the film has a devoted fan base and firm cult status. William Goldman’s screenplay, based closely on his book of the same name, is packed full of ridiculous one-liners, wit, wordplay and tomfoolery. But the nuances of the dialogue create a plot with far more depth and self-awareness than it might first appear. In fact, even though the characters are in danger of seeming parodical and underdeveloped at first glance, it soon becomes clear that this plot device is lavishly employed for comic effect. One character notes of our leading lady, “Your princess is a delightful creature. A little simple, perhaps. Her appeal is undeniable.”
Our heroes and our villains (because most of the characters can be divided as such) are from an era where swordplay was a gentleman’s sport and emotions superfluous. And so too is our elderly narrator, who frames the fairytale story in modern day as he reads it to his poorly grandson. The grandson is as dubious as anyone in the audience to begin, but finds himself drawn in as the love story gives way to adventure – everyone can agree that murder by pirates is good…
In turn Rob Reiner sets the action against often implausible backdrops. Are those rocks made of polystyrene? Has that boat been borrowed from the local AmDram society? And why can’t our heroine recognise her true love just because he’s wearing an eye mask? Especially when he’s using an accent as affected as Cary Elwes can carry off. Maybe we are in the imagination of the grandfather, or maybe the grandson. Wherever we are it is a land of pure fantasy, in which the plot races from one unlikely backdrop to the next, desperately chasing the shadow of a happy ending.
And there are no two characters chasing harder than Inigo Montoya and Fezzig, two mismatched hired assassins who fast become the real stars. Andre the Giant plays the role of Fezzik, a giant troubled by loneliness and drink, whilst master swordsman Inigo’s single ambition in life is to avenge his father’s death. Along the way they form a touching companionship bolstered by rhyming games and a faith in one another seemingly not shared by the rest of the world. Their unrivalled strength and sword skills may hold the key to good triumphing over evil, but it is the strength of their friendship that really wins the day.
And so for all its swashbuckling, fighting, trickery and adventure, what The Princess Bride boils down to in the end is a film about true friendship and true love. Because as Reiner and Goldman joyously remind us, all the plot twisting in the world cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.
The birth of the novel on which the film is based can be partially credited to author William Goldman’s daughters: when he asked them what they would want in a story, one replied “A princess!” and the other, “A bride!”
When William Goldman was first trying to get the movie made in the 1970s, an unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to play Fezzik. He was strongly considered because Goldman was unable to cast his first choice, André the Giant, but when it was ready to go into production, Schwarzenegger had become a huge star and was too expensive to hire. André was cast and the two big men had gone on to become friends.
Author of the original book, William Goldman, was on set during one of the flame burst scenes in the forest when Robin Wright’s dress caught fire and was so into the scene that he shouted, “Her dress is on fire!” ruining the take.
Cary Elwes was cast because he reminded Rob Reiner of swashbuckling actors Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn, both of whom had played Robin Hood. Elwes went on to spoof their performances in Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
Director Rob Reiner had auditioned over 500 women for the role of Buttercup, including Courtney Cox, Meg Ryan, Sean Young, Uma Thurman and Whoopie Goldberg. He ended up hiring Robin Wright Penn in her major film debut.
According to Mandy Patinkin the role of Inigo Montoya is his personal favourite over the course of his entire career.
Mandy Patinkin has said that his famous line “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” gets quoted back to him by at least two or three strangers every day of his life.
The film proved to be a cathartic experience for Mandy Patinkin, who revealed that acting out Inigo’s quest to avenge his father’s murder brought back memories of losing his own father to cancer in 1972. He said that when filming the scene when Inigo kills The Six-Fingered Man, he felt as though he had just “killed” the cancer that killed his father.
Rob Reiner once ran into notorious mobster John Gotti at a restaurant. To his surprise, as Reiner was leaving one of Gotti’s henchmen looked him in the eye and said “You killed my father. Prepare to Die” before going on to say that he loved the movie.
Rob Reiner left the set during Billy Crystal’s scenes because he would laugh so hard that he would be overcome with nausea. Furthermore, Mandy Patinkin claims that the only injury he sustained during filming was a bruised rib due to stifling his laughter during these scenes.
Max and Valerie, played by Billy Crystal and Carol Kane respectively, are named after author William Goldman’s parents, Max and Valerie.
Despite his character Fezzik’s near-superhuman strength, André the Giant had recently undergone back surgery which prevented him from lifting anything heavy. Robin Wright had to be attached to wires in the scene where Princess Buttercup jumps from the castle window into Fezzik’s arms because he couldn’t support her himself.
André the Giant had trouble walking up a hill on which they shot a scene, so he rented a small four-wheeler to help him. Having a go behind the wheel, Cary Elwes went over a rock, which got caught between his foot and the pedal, breaking his toe. The shoot could not be delayed, so in the film you can see him limping away when he’s running into the swamp.
When the weather was particularly cold, André the Giant would place his giant hand over Robin Wright’s head, covering it entirely and keeping her warm.
As André the Giant could not read, he had all of his lines recorded so that he could memorise them.
When filming the scene in which Count Rugen hits Westley over the head with the hilt of his sword, Cary Elwes told Christopher Guest to hit him for real. Guest hit him so hard that the production was shut-down for a day while Elwes went to the hospital.
Most of the movie was filmed on location in the UK. The castle used for the film was Haddon Hall, a fortified country house built by William the Conquerer in 1086 for his illegitimate son. The tapestries in the interiors are original, dating to the late medieval and renaissance periods.
A diminutive actor who portrayed one of the giant rats was arrested for speeding during production. He had to be bailed out of jail by the filmmakers so that his scene could be filmed.
Mel Smith has never watched his performance as The Albino due to the painful experience involved in filming the role. He was required to wear coloured contact lenses and, unknown to Smith and the costume department, he was allergic to the lens solution. Smith has been reluctant to relive the painful memory.
Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin performed all of their own sword-fighting after many hours of training. According to Rob Reiner, the only stunt performed by Patinkin’s stunt double was one flip during the ‘Chatty Duelists’ scene.
Although both Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin learned to fence expertly with their left and right hands, the scene in which they switch hands was actually shot on two mirrored sets so the image could be flipped, creating the illusion that they were equally dexterous with each hand.
During the fight between Count Rugen and Inigo, Christopher Guest got so into the scene that he started making sword noises with his mouth like a child play-fighting. Rob Reiner stopped the take and told him that this wouldn’t be necessary.
The Dread Pirate Roberts costume was modelled after that of Zorro only leaving out the cape as it was felt it was unnecessary.
The real “Dread Pirate Roberts”, who operated in the Caribbean in the early 18th century, is considered by many to have been the most successful pirate of all time.
The hat that Rob Reiner wore in This Is Spinal Tap can be seen in The Grandson’s bedroom; a request from the film’s composer Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
In early 2013, a man on a flight from Sydney to Australia was asked to remove a t-shirt which displayed Inigo Montoya’s famous line, since the other passengers (clearly not fans of the film) found the words “prepare to die” to be intimidating.
Count Rugen’s death in the original novel was more graphic. After telling the “son of a bitch” he wants his father back, Inigo proceeds to cut Rugen’s heart out, describing what he’s doing to Rugen, claiming that the count had figuratively done the same to him when he murdered his father years before (Inigo even tells Fezzik earlier on, “That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when Rugen slaughtered my father. The Man in Black makes it now.”) However, before Inigo finishes cutting out the Count’s heart, Rugen dies of fright.
After the last day of shooting some of the cast stayed around for up to five hours while every person, every grown-up and their family came by, waited in line like children at Disney Land to stand with André The Giant and have their photograph taken. He had his photograph taken with every single person that asked.
So much of this film is a joy because of the initial set-up. You probably know Peter Falk as “Columbo” but, for me, he will forever be the young and passionate lawyer he played in “Trials of O’Brien”. It ran on American TV from 1965-6 and it was one of those offbeat and glorious shows that grabbed my dad’s attention as much as it did mine.
Falk’s kindly grandfather starting to read the story to Fred “Wonder Years” Ward actually pulls you into the idea of magic. Falk had one of the loveliest voices and he could have read anything to me and I would have been happy.
So, you’re lulled into suspending disbelief, long before castles and princesses and wizards appear. Yes, Robin Wright has a luminous quality and great sparkle and Chris Sarandon is such a good bad guy. And Cary Elwes never had such a romantic and dreamy role!
The mixing of so many film standard ideas actually creates a brand new feeling and genre. You would have to be a hard-hearted giant in a distant and long-ago kingdom not to go a little weak at THAT kiss.
Rob Reiner may have majored in schmaltzy family feel-good for most of his career, but he pulls together every strand of positive warmth and beauty in his director’s bag of tricks to make this really work.
Every time I see it, I notice something different and original. The first few times, I didn’t even notice how great Wallace Shawn and Mel Smith are in this.
I have now seen it 11 times. And I look forward to the 12th viewing.
By about my 4th time, I appreciated Peter Cook’s clergyman much more. And I really wished that Mandy Patinkin had had more of these Inigo roles because he’s just so good.
And the fabulous and funny Carol Kane? And Billy Crystal? And the utterly individual Christopher Guest? There is more talent and love in this movie than there is in most stories put together.
Adrian Biddle did the blissful cinematography and Mark Knopfler’s music is superb, even if you hate Dire Straits.
But, for me, this is Peter Falk’s picture and all the gentle poking fun at the conventions of swashbucklers, fairy tales and wizards works because of his voice.
Now, when I reread William Goldman’s book, I hear Peter Falk.
Happy 25th Birthday, Princess Bride! Please, sir, may we have some more?
The Princess Bride is one of the all-time great family films. I grew up with it, and have enjoyed watching it regularly since childhood. The writing is so superb that it not only stands up to repeated viewings, but actually gets better with age.
Now – and I appreciate this will be a shock to many – the film is 25 years old. Inconceivable!
The film is getting a timely release on Blu-ray, and to celebrate TomJupiter will be dedicating several posts, reviews and features to the film this week, with our friends and guests providing some fantastic content for us to enjoy!
The Anniversary edition is available on Blu-ray now.
Nomad Cinema is a wandering pop-up cinema, and they’ve put together a some great screenings at Hyde Park in September. Here’s a quick rundown.
FRIDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER KOYAANISQATSI (U)
‘Until now, you’ve never really seen the world you live in’ the trailer tells us. Koyaanisqatsi is a doc without narration, but with a definite narrative theme. With shots of great forests and waterfalls moving to cities and Human construction, there is a definite environmental theme going on here. A little investigation (ok, a trip to IMDB) finds that Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi Indian term for ‘life out of balance’. The score is by Philip Glass, so you KNOW it’s going to be intense.
SATURDAY 15TH SEPTEMBER ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD (U)
A Werner Herzog documentary. That’s all you need to know before you go and book your ticket. In this film, he visits Antarctica. He is there to look at the great landscapes and nature, yes, but also to meet the people who have found themselves there, who have sought to live a the end of the world.
SUNDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT (12A)
The most recent of the three films, Nostalgia for the Light had its UK release just this year – and it is an amazing film. I reviewed it not long ago. There are three stories here, all linked by the Atacama desert in Chile, which is the driest place on Earth.
I really highly recommend that you see this film, and that you see it on a big screen, as it is really very beautiful.
Just a quick heads up for a great film tonight, with a sci-fi twist.
Shadow Makers is a 1989 film which dramatises the events leading up to and including the creation and detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb in New Mexico. Written by Bruce Robinson (WITHNAIL AND I) and starring Paul Newman, Dwight Schultz, and John Cussack, SHADOW MAKERS is a fascinating insight into the Manhattan Project.
Following the film, the astronomers from the Royal Observatory Greenwich will take you through the science fact of what often seems like science fiction. How much of the film is true to life? What is the power output of a typical fission bomb? Can we harness nuclear power safely? Find out after the screening.
Join the debate on Twitter at @GreenwichSciFi, and keep an eye out for future SCIENCE FICTION? screenings.
“a three day fiesta of live music, contemporary, award winning films including features, documentaries, sci- fi classics, shorts and animations, alongside exhibitions, food – and wrestling!”
Blimey! You can imagine what caught my eye – ‘sci-fi classics’. So let us take a little peek and see what we can see.
Also, I checked and you can take beer into the screen with you. It may be needed. The festival is taking place at Richmix. There is much more to the festival than just the films listed below… I’ll try to post more over the coming week.
Santo vs. the Martian Invasion
Santo was a real wrestler, who had a film career that would make Hulk Hogan blush – 60 films! The majority of them sound like silly fun, but this is perhaps the best known so hopefully also the most fun. The wrestler thwarts a Martian invasion of Earth. By wrestling them.
If only Curiosity rover had a wrestling mask…
Here’s the booking info and, because you need to see it, the trailer.
The Aztec Mummy vs the Human Robot
Okay, so let us say you’re a mad scientist. And there’s some amazing Aztec treasure that you want to get your hands on but the snag is that it is guarded by a Mummy. What do you do? You build a robot, of course!
This will be a film that requires some imagination to watch. It could be saying a great deal about Mexico’s clash of ancient and modern cultures, or it could be simple B-movie fun. Either way, entertainment is sure to be found. Booking info
The Ship of Monsters
So…. Venus is populated entirely by beautiful women and, apparently, they need men. There are also monsters involved, somehow. Look, just watch the random clip I found – and understand why this is a must-see film! Booking info.
The Planet of the Female Invaders
Darn those sexy interstellar space vixens – they will keep invading! Another great B-movie romp with dodgy effects and science that will melt your brain. Booking info.