“Suspense, excitement, adventure - on every level!” December 23, 2006Posted by jackal in : Films , add a comment
I watched two of my favourite movies the other night. Gunga Din was first up, that wonderful, rip-roaring Hawksian adventure with Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in top form. I thought maybe I’d pen some thoughts on the film today. That was until I sat down to my second film.
For the first time in a few years, I watched Die Hard, a film that has been a Christmas tradition since I was perhaps 10 or 11. I’d given it a rest recently because, quite honestly, overfamiliarity breeds boredom. You can only watch even your favourite films so many times before you start to know the lines off by heart and think Christ, why bother watching it again? I could perform it as a one-man show by now.
Coming at Die Hard with a fresh mind was sheer joy from beginning to end: the utter brilliance of its construction and execution actually surprised me. Every little thing just frakking clicks. To quote from the Bible of Movie Truisms, Die Hard - the film that spawned a whole sub-genre - remains unquestionably the greatest action movie ever made.
Bruce - remember when he had hair? - gets the best-fitting role of his career as John McClane, and nails it perfectly; he’s completely convincing as the off-duty cop thrust into action at a moment’s notice, and the wry one-liners never threaten to break the realism of the action. Alan Rickman steals the show as Hans Gruber, the goddamn coolest bad guy ever. Rickman plays it beautifully, with Gruber an impeccably tailored oasis of calm, while around him events escalate from mayhem into utter chaos. It doesn’t hurt that he gets all the best lines, too: “Alas, your Mr Takagi did not see it that way, so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life …”
The story itself is beautifully simple and impeccably paced, balancing McClane’s tense battle within the building against the comic ineptitude of the cops and FBI outside. The action is fierce, bloody and believable. Remember the days when stunts were done without CGI? When fight scenes weren’t chopped up with a thousand frantic edits? When Hollywood had real action guys doing the business? Hey, they were good days. Bruce’s return for a fourth outing next year, Live Free or Die Hard, will be interesting to see. Will it be a long overdue return for The Proper Goddamn Action Movie, or merely a CGI-infested, watered-down popcorn movie for today’s teenage boys? Time will tell. One things for sure, though: with Sly Stallone riding a remarkable comeback with Rocky Balboa and the upcoming Rambo IV, there’s life in the old action heroes yet.
Happy 90th Birthday Kirk Douglas December 9, 2006Posted by jackal in : Films , add a comment
Nothing deeply intellectual or world-changing today (making a big change to my normal posts, I know ). I just wanted to mark the fact that one of my favourite actors, also one of the few true “Hollywood Legends” still living, Mr Kirk Douglas, turns 90 today.
Douglas was one of the first “old time” Hollywood stars I grew to like as a kid: his sqaure-jawed heroics in films like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Spartacus, The Heroes of Telemark, innumerable westerns and *cough* The Light at the Edge of the World (a guilty favourite) were right up my street. I’m pretty sure that Tough Guys was my first encounter with Douglas though: with he and off-screen pal Burt Lancaster cast as 70-something gangsters just released from prison, trying comically to adjust to 1980s life. I haven’t seen it in years, and don’t imagine it’s as good as my childhood memories, but I really should check it out again.
Later, of course, I discovered much more of Douglas’ career: his early performances in film noir classics like Out of the Past and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, melodramas like The Bad and the Beautiful or Two Weeks in Another Town, and even a fun late-career turn in Brian De Palma’s The Fury.
Next spring, TCM stateside is due to show a restored print of Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, hopefully indicating that a DVD release is on the cards. My New Year’s wish for 2007, though, is for Warner Bros to release Two Weeks in Another Town to DVD. The 1962 re-teaming of director Vincente Minnelli and star Douglas is one of my all-time favourites, and deserves so much more than the faded pan & scan TCM screenings which are its only outings at present.