Blogathon

Brilliant…The Last of Sheila

Last_Of_Sheila_(movie)I’d forgotten the sheer brilliance of The Last of Sheila (1973). Or rather, I think when I watched it last, as an early teen, I didn’t appreciate it. Or maybe, it was just that on the Super 8 reels my parents used to own, the sound wasn’t clear and I missed half the dialogue. Irrelevant…what’s important is now…how excellent it is. And how wonderful it is to re-watch after soooo many years…and only remembering who did it at the moment the culprit is revealed (again).

The opening scene, set by that perfect, almost stereotypical mystery music, has Sheila running from a party to be hit (and run) by an out-of-control car not a few minutes later. Fast forward a year to 6 guests, invited by Clinton (Sheila’s husband, played by James Coburn), onto his yacht for a few days of time out and with a mystery game. These 6 guests were all present at the party the night Sheila was killed. And Clinton’s game isn’t really a game…it hits all too close with those supposedly random secrets he allocates to each person (at his insistence that it is just fun). When things go wrong, as they usually do, the whole thing unravels…or, comes together.

the-last-of-sheila1973-lobby-card-3I must say, to come up with such a clever story requires close on genius. Every action, every line of dialogue is critical to the story. You won’t notice many of the things on first viewing but on round two (or more), you’ll discover just how it all fits perfectly right in front of your eyes…with you barely noticing. Ultimately you’ll have it spelt out for you and you’ll go “ah, of course” or “duh, so obvious”. Followed by Clinton’s response to “I like any game where you don’t have to move” of “Well, you don’t have to for this one…if you’re smart enough”…little do you realise just how true it is. It is all right there in front of you…if you’re smart enough.

Now, I won’t go into many more details because this is one you just have to watch. At least twice. I’d hate to spoil anything upfront because anything I say will give it away.

Directed by Oscar nominee Herbert Ross, and written by Oscar winner Stephen Sondheim and nominee Anthony Perkins…the stars are of course James Coburn with Raquel Welch, James Mason, Ian McShane, Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon and Joan Hackett as his 6 suspects friends…well, probably not suspects as I think he knows all along who the killer is.

Here’s the trailer:

 

Enjoy!

And for some more mysteries…head on over to Pop Culture Reverie (here) for the Mystery Mania Blogathon.

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Northmen: A Viking Saga…a saga so bad that it’s not bad at all…

Northmen…yep, you read that right. What? Yes…many of you might think that it is such a saga to watch the first few minutes of this movie. I think it isn’t that bad. Don’t you have one of those movies that is actually not brilliant but somehow it just hits a spot…that weak spot?

Coming in at 34% Audience Score and no Tomatometer or Critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, it at least gets a 5.4/10 on IMDB. In my personal rating system…I’ll bump it up to 6.5, maybe even a 7.

Basically, we have a group of Vikings who get stranded on the South African Scottish coast, behind enemy lines, and need to make their way to the closest Viking settlement. However, they pick up a valuable hostage and so the chase begins by German/Swiss some mercenaries.

I mean, let’s be honest…the story isn’t that great but somehow I got smitten by Inghean (Charlie Murphy) jumping out her captive wagon to attack some brutish (not really) Vikings…lead by Asbjorn (Tom Hopper) who can’t even hide his smile in the serious moment. In general, the acting is quite stiff and sometimes the story not quite as smooth as it could be. But you know what? Who cares? If you can fill in the gaps yourself…the story half-way works.

Northmen3Conall (Ryan Kwanten) comes across uncomfortable in his role swinging some mean stick to take out a band of thugs. As for the enemies…boy does the Scottish King send one huge army and waste one massive amount of arrows on a few little Vikings. Somewhere along the line, Inghean and Asbjorn fall in love even though it is never properly shown (oh what a pity)…but, my romantic fix is fulfilled.

Northmen2So…is it bad? Yes. Is it good? Yes. I skip through parts of it but regularly find myself watching it. If only for the “You came back for me?” line by Inghean to Asbjorn. And that bit where she patches up his wounded arm with a herb that just happens to be growing at the exact spot where he crumbles in pain. And the cheesy (or offensive) compliment he makes her while waiting out the enemy.

Bring on the stunning, yet obviously South African (Cape Town) scenery pretending to be Scotland…and well…what more do I need to say?

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So…that’s my bad entry into the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room. For more of these entries…head on over here.

 

My (slightly different) favourite meet-cutes…

…well, if you’re expecting the typical romance genre meet-cutes, sorry. Not going to happen. I have a weakness for romance in those movies deemed anything but romance (the main genre that is). Nothing better than watching two people fall in love when you don’t expect it on first viewing. So…without further ado…here are my personal favourites (in no particular order):

(Beware…spoilers…)

Centurion

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I absolutely love the interaction between Centurion Quintus Dias and Arianne during their first encounter:

“It’s ok. It’s ok”

pause

“We don’t want to hurt you”

“Who are you? What do you want here”

Little do they know at this stage that it is more than purely food and shelter and refuge from the Picts he will find.

The Last of the Mohicans

How could my favourite movie not make it onto this list? The moment Uncas and Alice meet…you can just see it in their look:

No words needed to express this scene. In fact, their relationship is almost entirely shown and not spoken.

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Cora and Hawkeye have their meet-cute somewhere too but they are just not the couple to show it.

Yellow Sky

I think this is deemed the meet-cute. Oh how I love the way “Stretch” and “Mike” meet and find their love:

“We’ve just come in across the sink. We need water…bad.”

“There’s a spring here. But you’ll never make it”

“You just point it out. We’ll make it”

MeetCuteYS2

Plunkett & Macleane

How could another of my favourites not make my list?

“You are not a gentleman.”

“I’m sorry?”

“No gentleman would stare at a lady like that in public.”

“I do beg your pardon. Captain James Macleane. At your service.”

“Oh, so you are a gentleman.”

“Yes?”

“What a shame.”

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But I consider the “real” meet-cute, during the highway robbery:

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Robin Hood

Ah, another one I just love, especially seeing the Marian is such a strong woman who holds her own against Robin. Here they meet for the first time:

“Girl.”

“Girl?”

Pause.

“Either you’re going blind. Or you’re looking for charity”

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So there you go…my favourite meet-cutes.

For some more post on this topic, head on over to Phyllis Loves Classic Movies for The First Annual Valentine’s Day “Meet-Cute” Blogathon. Happy reading.

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To Catch a Thief (1955)…

To_Catch_a_ThiefI’m really (gosh…I’m embarrassed to admit) a newbie when it comes to things Hitchcock, so, any excuse will do to increase my repertoire…this time…Grace Kelly. Ah, I absolutely love her performances. Hence To Catch a Thief for Maddy’s Blogathon.

She’s Frances, who, together with her rich widow mother, is holidaying on the French Riviera where a jewel thief is at work. Here too we find, supposedly “former” or “retired”, jewel thief John Robie aka The Cat (Cary Grant). Naturally, suspicion falls on him. Even his former gang believe he is back in full swing of things ruby and such. However, John really is “clean” and sets out to find out the copycat Cat (ha ha, that wasn’t intended). Along the way he, or is it the other way, Frances, fall(s) in love…with each other, of course. And…yes, the identity of the roof-top-sneaking-burglar is revealed.

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But, it isn’t only the actors that count here. The story is, as usual, so clever. Tied up with some great cinematography and a perfectly fitting score (I think there’s a distinctive sound to Hitchcock soundtracks), the resulting movie is worth a watch. Having a weakness for romance (in non-romance genre movies), I quite enjoyed this who-dunnit. Even though I started having my own suspicions as to who was who…

This was to be the last of Grace Kelly‘s movies with Hitchcock and sadly, one of the last few movies she made at all.

Now, I guess it is about time I tackle the famous Psycho or The Birds…I suspect there is no romance there…

Maddy, thanks for hosting this Blogathon (more entries here) and getting me to watch more of these wonderful oldies.

I still like Spellbound the best (here). My thoughts on Notorious can be found here. And I’ll always have a special place for Grace Kelly as Amy Fowler Kane in the brilliant High Noon (here).

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Fonda…the bad guy…

fondathon-2-text1Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), one of my favourite Westerns. And the perfect entry to focus on Henry Fonda for The Fondathon, hosted by Sat in your Lap.

Fonda is Frank. Totally ruthless. What more proof do you need when his “introductory” scene is one of gunning down a whole family…even the little boy frozen to the spot who you’d hope would be saved? But no…not Frank.

He’s got his orders. The family that he’s just disposed of…well, the land is in prime railway territory and business is business. Railroad baron business. Problem is…there is a young widow around. And she’s on her way to the exact piece of land. The killings are pinned on outlaw Cheyenne (Jason Robards) who befriends widow Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale). Together with Harmonica (Charles Bronson), he sets out to find the real killers. Of course, there’s more to this than meets the eye…Harmonica has his own motive…

Henry Fonda is just excellent. He has this perfectly calm coldness to him. Accentuated by the eyes. Especially in the close-ups. And there are plenty of those. Sergio Leone presents us with such wonderful visuals in this one. In fact, I believe those eyes are what the director really wanted to stand out. To be recognisable. As Fonda. From what I’ve read, Fonda arrived on set with a fake moustache and brown contact lenses…and that didn’t fly with Leone.

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“People scare better when they’re dyin'”…what a ruthless character. And once again…he’s so casual around the unexpected business events. Things he didn’t plan on. And Fonda is absolutely, totally convincing. The real, nasty bad guy.

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What I hadn’t realised until now (my lack of Henry Fonda knowledge) was that this role didn’t fit in with what he was typically cast as. He was always the good guy. And here’s something interesting I found on IMDB: Henry Fonda originally turned down the role of Frank. Director Sergio Leone flew to the United States and met with Fonda, who asked why he was wanted for the film. Leone replied, “Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera pans up to the gunman’s face and…it’s Henry Fonda” (until then, with one exception, Fonda had only been cast in “good guy” roles. Leone wanted the audience to be shocked).

But, not knowing this in the first place, I was still shocked at how ruthless a man can be. Fonda or not. I guess…at the end of the day, the actor totally managed to convince me . What sheer acting brilliance.

So, this being my first Fonda film, to me, he’ll always be the bad guy stereotype and I’ve yet to discover him as the nice guy. I’m sure I’ll be shocked…

For my other thoughts on this one…head on over here…here.

Now…head on over to Sat in your Lap for the other Fondathon entries here.

Before…Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight

Back in 1995 Before Sunrise totally passed me by. Never heard of it…therefore, never seen it.

But then, somewhere around 2004 (probably 2005/2006 by the time it was released down in the far southern hemisphere), I watched Before Sunset and really enjoyed it. It has Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy), who met 9 years earlier in Before Sunrise, meet again as Jesse promotes his latest book in Paris. They spend time together casually catching up about their lives as they became and slowly their encounter those years before comes to the surface again. I remember people commenting that this movie was boring but somehow I felt not. It was so real, a reflection of two people remembering, mulling over decisions made and the pathes taken. For me, the real-time story (Jesse has only an hour before he is due to catch a plane) adds to the realism.

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Naturally, I had to go find Before Sunrise. The story that started it all. How Jesse and Céline met in Vienna. How that wonderful night, that first encounter, inspired the bestselling book being promoted in 2004.

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And that was that for a while. I was satisfied how the two stories worked together.

Then, the 2013 Before Midnight came out. Once again Jesse and Céline and their current lives. 9 years after their second encounter, which was 9 years after their first encounter. While this one left me slightly despondent it still worked for me due to the elapsed years since the previous one and thus the contemplation around how time impacts relationships. The realism of it all.

before midnight

What makes this “Before trilogy” stand out is the approach in terms of the number of years that have passed both within (or should I say, between) the stories but also within the actual filming/release times. It adds a genuine touch. That we grow up or mature with the characters and the actors.

YearafterYear

But, I think this wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t have Richard Linklater writing and directing all three of them. And, we consistently have Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Céline. They also add their writing skills to Before Sunset and Before Midnight. So, from viewer to director to writer to actor to character…we’ve all grown together, we’ve all changed but our core is still the same.

If you would like something slightly different, something where you feel like you are accompanying a couple sharing their thoughts, something thought provoking, then give these three movies a go. In chronological order though.

Head on over to MovieMovieBlogBlog for the Year after Year Blogathon where the entries have to deal with a time span of at least one year.

 

Unexpectedly…great…

unexpected41Yes, so, well, isn’t it strange how the movies you nearly pass by often end up being in your favourites list? Not sure if it comes down to expectations…or, rather, the lack of expectations? Or, simply the nature of things? Whatever it boils down to, I guess, doesn’t really matter…what counts is that they become your own personal greats and unexpectedly so…thus making their way into Taking Up Room‘s The Unexpected Blogathon.

Now, because I couldn’t make up my mind on which unexpectedly super movie to write about, I thought I’d just tell you about a three that immediately come to mind. Here they are in no particular order.

Vir Altyd (2016)

I’d done something we shouldn’t do…pre-judge. And I’d pre-judged South African movies. Until recently I only had some dodgy comedies to go on and that Oscar winner looked like it would hit home too hard, so I avoided it. I just couldn’t be convinced. Until, somehow I had Afrikaans movie Vir Altyd showing. And I totally fell in love. After getting used to the South African accents (I’m not used to hearing my own accent on the screen) I simply savoured every moment of this one.

We have Nina (DonnaLee Roberts) about to walk down the aisle on the day that her closest childhood friend Hugo (Ivan Botha) comes back to town for the first time in years. Circumstances on the wedding day (no, he has not come to break up the ceremony) have these two embark on an adventure which is absolutely delightful to watch.

vir-altyd

I can’t believe it took me so long to catch on to these Afrikaans movies. Didn’t expect to have this one amongst my favourites. With Pad na jou Hart, another teaming up of DonnaLee Roberts and Ivan Botha, close on its heels.

Centurion (2010)

2852-FINAL_CENTURION 70x100op 50 %.inddI clearly remember walking into the local Video Store (remember those?) to find something to watch. I had no idea what I was in the mood for. By this stage, however, the store owner had gotten to know me and pulled out Centurion. “No way” (or something along those lines) is what I told him. I didn’t feel like some random action movie. I can’t remember how but convince me he did (I do know he just checked it out for me at some point and told me to trust him)…I walked out the store with soon to be one of my favourites.

Centurion, yes, it is an action movie and a very simple one. A game of cat and mouse. A small band of survivors of Rome’s famous Ninth Legion find themselves on the run, behind enemy lines. But, the dynamics within the group fleeing for their lives together with those they encounter make this an interesting one.

Oh, and of course, being me, I just can’t resist that understated romance…*sigh*…I have a weakness for these romantic moments in “non-romantic” genre movies.

Michael Fassbender leads the flight to safety with Olga Kurylenko being one mean Pict (well, technically Roman) tracker who never once eases up on the relentless chase. We also have Dominic West, Imogen Poots, JJ Feild, Lee Ross, David Morrissey, Liam Cunningham, Noel Clarke and a whole lot more join in.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

This one utterly and truly blew me away on first viewing. Oh my! I was in this daze for days (ha ha – that wasn’t intended). I couldn’t function…all I had was “car” chases, dust, bizarre masks, blood bags, electric guitarists and such going round and round and round in my mind. It was like I’d stepped into another dimension. The night I’d watched it was totally sleepless…or, rather, it felt like I was awake but obviously not because I was in the Mad Max world. Basically, this one was such a warped, wonderful, weird visual trip that just couldn’t be switched off with the credits rolling. It had caught me so by surprise…it needed lots and lots of processing.

MadMaxPosterOnce again one I’d no intention at all, ever, EVER to watch it. I mean, “everyone” told me that the Mad Max movies were such a load of rubbish. Yet, as is human nature, the more I was told it was a waste of time, the more I was in some way intrigued. Especially given the fact that I’d never seen a Mad Max movie before. All I knew was one of the posters with Mel Gibson on it. That was it. One evening, I was like a kid…I’d just peek at the first few seconds…huh, fat chance…I watched the whole thing and could have gone for round two.

Hmmm, I’ve just realised that this is another “chase” movie with Furiosa (Charlize Theron), against the dictatorial system in a futuristic wasteland world, on the run with Max (Tom Hardy), just trying to stay out of the system he’s escaped from. Joining their cause in an attempt to restore humanity and order are Nicholas Hoult,  Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton  and with Hugh Keays-Byrne  leading the tyrannical world.

Thinking of it…I need another “Mad Max fix”…I know what I’m about to start watching again. And ooh, ooh, I believe there is a Chrome version – that must be absolutely gorgeous.

So, that’s it for now. The three movies amongst my favourites that totally unexpectedly ended up there.

Head on over to Taking up Room for more entries in her Blogathon.

And here are the trailers: