David Fincher’s movies ranked from 1 to 9

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags on October 1, 2014 by Ross McG

Fight Club (1999) Edward Norton and Brad Pitt (Screengrab)

David Fincher’s new film, Gone Girl, an adaptation of the bestseller by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the script for the movie, is out this week.

In a few years, it will be interesting to see where Gone Girl sits in Fincher’s body of work. Because in his case, it takes a few years and plenty of sittings to digest his films.

Some of them – most notably Fight Club – have been famously written off on release, only for critics to change their minds further down the watching road.

Film critics, eh? They haven’t a bloody clue.

Bloody clues are what Fincher’s movies are all about, and Gone Girl is no different. But what is the director’s best work to date? Begin the countdown.

9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

David Fincher has not made a terrible film, so it seems a bit ridiculous to call one of them his worst, but what the hey: this is his worst film. Not a bad film to call your worst though, as Benjamin Button is a sweeping epic concerned with the intricacies of time and chance.

Brad Pitt gets progressively younger (hang on, that’s a film plot, not reality?) and keeps catching up with Cate Blanchett. It’s all very overwhelming in a good way and pleased the Academy no end – it’s just not very Fincher, and as a result, not Fincher at his finest.

The Best Bit: The car accident

8. Alien 3 (1992)

Fincher’s feelings on his first feature and the studio interference that came with it are well known, so it’s a minor miracle then that the final film turns out to be pretty decent. Not Alien or Aliens decent, but then it’s hard to top the best space horror and best space action ever made.

Fincher tried to do something a bit different with Alien 3, and while it’s muddled in parts, it does have the guy from the Tetley Tea adverts getting munched by an Xenomorph.

The Best Bit: ‘Let’s fight it!’

7. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

It was always going to be a bit difficult for Fincher to put his own stamp on such a well-known and well-read tale, but he takes a pretty good stab with his girl and her tattoo. His girl is Rooney Mara, who is fantastic, to the point where Daniel Craig’s sturdy straight man doesn’t make the same kind of impact as Michael Nyqvist in the original Swedish version of Stieg Larsson’s thriller novel.

The remake didn’t span any sequels despite making more than $200 million at the worldwide box office. Not sure how they could top that Enya scene anyway.

The Best Bit: The remarkable opening credits

6. Panic Room (2002)

Jodie Foster does tough matriarch in her sleep, but there is a lot more going on in Panic Room than meets the eye. Fincher points his camera through household appliances and covers every inch of the New York home that is his setting. It’s his Rear Window, and it’s pretty good, featuring an excellent performance from a pre-Twilighting Kristen Stewart.

The Best Bit: The North by Northwest riffing title sequence

5. The Game (1997)

If this was any other director’s movie, it would be Number One in their list – it’s a mark of Fincher’s quality that it features in the midway point of his canon. Michael Douglas specialises in playing dislikeable characters, so it’s a real treat to see his rich businessman put through the mill by his little brother Sean Penn. They make perfect feuding siblings and this is a perfect little mind-bending movie.

The Best Bit: The dinner with Conrad

4. Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club is one of those films that made you feel different about the world you lived in after you walked out of the cinema. Derided on release then later hailed as a masterpiece, the truth is somewhere near the second station.

Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter are perfectly cast as a love triangle with a difference in this bracing adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel. Fincher continually manages to take great literature and make it even better on the big screen.

The Best Bit: Meeting Tyler Durden

3. The Social Network (2010)

When this film was generating serious Oscar buzz after its release, all the talk was about Aaron Sorkin’s punchy script. Sorkin went on to win his Oscar, but Fincher lost out. He was in good company – Darren Aronofsky also failed to bag Best Director for Black Swan as The King’s Speech took the major gongs.

Sorkin deserved his win, but perhaps not all of the credit – writing the words on the page is one thing, cajoling your actors into saying them properly is another. And Fincher, a man fond of multiple takes, is one of the great cajolers.

The Social Network is almost an action film, so slick are its various sequences – the opening break-up in the bar… the night-time walk across campus… hacking the college computer system… it’s a breathless opening half hour or so in the fictional life of Facebook maker Mark Zuckerberg.

The words are Sorkin’s, but it’s Fincher’s film. And it’s a great one. A modern classic.

The Best Bit: Adding up the numbers

2. Se7en (1995)

The best of the Fincher/Pitt collaborations, a film that demonstrated Fincher was a serious moviemaking talent after cutting his teeth making videos for the likes of Madonna and The Rolling Stones.

Se7en doesn’t so much chew up the serial killer thriller blueprint and spit it out as staple it to a wall and torture it for 18 hours a day across the span of one year. It is relentless filmmaking that has yet to be equalled in its genre.

The Best Bit: One word. Not ‘box’. But ‘sloth’.

1. Zodiac (2007)

And so we get to the best David Fincher movie there’s been so far. And, of course, it’s the one that nobody wanted to see. It’s the only Fincher movie that didn’t make it to $100 million at the worldwide box office. But why is that?

The fact that it’s more than two-and-a-half hours long doesn’t help. The fact that there is no clear resolution at the end of that length was another bone of contention. The fact that it meanders and goes into alleyways with deads ends is another factor.

And yet… and yet… all those perceived negatives are what makes Zodiac Fincher’s best film. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr (and Brian Cox in one of the seven movies he happened to be making that week), it’s about a decades-long search for a killer that ultimately proves fruitless – the film should be long and meandering.

It is also Fincher’s love letter to San Francisco and the Bay Area he grew up in. As well as this, it’s a tribute to All The President’s Men, perhaps the greatest movie about journalism. Well, it and Fletch.

The Best Bit: The Transamerica Pyramid building gets built

Jaws, The Monkees and Happy Gilmore: Richard Kiel’s best movie moments

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags on September 11, 2014 by Ross McG

jawsrichardkiel

Richard Kiel, best known as the Bond villain Jaws, had died at the age of 74.

He will be remembered chiefly for sinking those steel teeth into anything that got in his way in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, giving Roger Moore’s 007 plenty to chew on.

Kiel made the most of his fame after his two James Bond adventures, riffing on his role as Jaws in a series of movies that followed.

Before Bond, he appeared in a number of US TV shows, including The Twilight Zone, Starsky & Hutch, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Lassie.

Whatever he cropped up in, Kiel made audiences bear their teeth as much as his most famous creation – he may not have been the greatest actor ever, but you just can’t help but smile when he appears on screen, whether he’s eating James Bond’s van or monkeying around with The Monkees. Here are some of those moments:

1. The Monkees (1967)

Who better to give The Band That Could Have Been Bigger Than The Beatles a good scare than Kiel?

Here he is in the 1967 episode, I Was A Teenage Monster. A more convincing Frankenstein’s monster than De Niro, we reckon.

2. The Longest Yard (1974)

Kiel may be the biggest bruiser in the prison playground for this American football movie with a twist, where inmates take on guards, but he isn’t the meanest. Here, he literally gets his nose bent out of shape.

3. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Can-opener? More like van-opener. Geddit? Kiel in the role that made him famous: Jaws.

4. Moonraker (1979)

Somewhere in the late 1970s, some execs gathered in a boardroom and one shouted: ‘You know what Jaws needs in the next Bond picture… a cable car fight! And a girlfriend!’

5. Cannonball Run II (1984)

Back in a movie with Burt Reynolds, Kiel and Jackie Chan feel the need for speed in the utterly crap yet utterly brilliant Cannonball Run sequel, finding time for a neat nod to James Bond’s submersible Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me.

6. Pale Rider (1985)

James Bond? Pah. Easy peasy. Clint Eastwood, on the other hand, now he’s tough. Even when he’s a preacher. Here, just like in The Longest Yard, Kiel takes a hefty hit to the nose, and then another blow to a region a little more painful.

7. Happy Gilmore (1996)

Richard Kiel… tormentor of James Bond… and Shooter McGavin.

8. Tangled (2010)

And finally, a role that sums up Kiel’s enduring movie persona – tough on the outside, a big softie on the inside. Here he plays Vladimir, a fairy-tale thug who likes collecting ceramic unicorns. Of course.

Spared no expense… Richard Attenborough’s best bits from Jurassic Park

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags , on August 26, 2014 by Ross McG

attenborough

Sadly, Sir Richard Attenborough is no longer with us.

Moviegoers of various ages will have different memories of ‘Dickie’, both of his work behind the camera on films like Oh! What a Lovely War, Gandhi, Cry Freedom, Chaplin and Shadowlands, and his performances in front of it in Brighton Rock, The Great Escape, 10 Rillington Place and Miracle on 34th Street.

But for many film fans, Attenborough will always be John Hammond, the man who brought dinosaurs back to life in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Jurassic Park.

In Michael Crichton’s novel, Hammond is a bit of a nasty piece of work, whose main incentive from recreating dinos is to make a bit of cash. He also meets a bit of a sticky end. But in the movie, because he is played by loveable Attenborough, Hammond is more of a misguided figure, albeit one still obsessed with money (‘Spared no expense!’).

In the film, Hammond is one of the survivors, and even pops up in the sequel to get the plot rolling. But it’s Attenborough’s performance in the first Jurassic Park movie that will long be remembered. Here are his best bits:

 

1. ‘We have a T-rex!’

2. ‘Dr Grant, my dear Dr Sattler… welcome… to Jurassic Park!’

3. ‘It was a Flea Circus, Petticoat Lane. Really quite wonderful. We had a wee trapeze, and a merry-go… carousel and a seesaw.’

4. ‘I really hate that man.’

5. ‘Condors! Condors are on the verge of extinction.’

6. ‘It ought to be me really going. Well, I’m a… and you’re a…’

7. ‘Spared no expense!’

From Mork to Peter Pan to Genie: The many funny faces of Robin Williams

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 12, 2014 by Ross McD

mrsdoubtfire

The world has been left stunned by the news that Robin Williams has died in an apparent suicide at the age of 63.

Although he was best known as a comedic actor, he took on a huge variation of roles during a career that lasted more than four decades, attracting three Academy Award nominations for best actor and winning one for best supporting actor, as well as bagging two Emmys, four Golden Globes and five Grammys.

Here are just some of his career highlights.

Mork and Mindy

The role that launched the man, the merchandise and – of course – the catchphrase, Willams’ break-out TV role saw him play the alien who comes to Earth in an egg, endearing audiences everywhere.

Mrs Doubtfire

Easily Williams’ most popular role, people forget how sinister this plot is on paper. Dude dresses up as an old woman to sneak into his ex-wife’s house. If it wasn’t a comedy, the story could easily serve as a thriller/horror. He even tries to murder Pierce Brosnan in it.

Aladdin

A career-best performance and he doesn’t even appear on screen. Genie could possibly be Disney’s greatest character, a unique slot in that he’s not the main hero or the villain. Bizarrely, Williams and Disney had a massive falling out over the film because they used him in more promotional material than he’d agreed. Friend Like Me and Prince Ali are far better songs than A Whole New World, too. Can your friends do this?

Good Morning, Vietnam

If ever there was a role written for Robin Williams, it was the war-time radio jock who pisses off his superiors but is popular with the troops. I say written, but he improvised most of the radio broadcast scenes. The role earned him his first ever best actor Oscar nomination, and the fact that he lost out to Michael Douglas in Wall Street is considered by some one of the Academy’s ‘wrong calls’.

The Fisher King

Earning him his third best actor nomination for playing a homeless man (he would lose out to Anthony Hopkins for Silence Of The Lambs), this film was the first time I was introduced to the concept of suicide as a child; I never would one day be writing about its star actually committing it.

The Birdcage

It must have been a coin-toss to see who got to play the super-effeminate, uber-gay drag queen. Nathan Lane called it right, and Robin Williams nobly reigned it in as the ‘straighter’ partner, allowing Lane to crank the gay up to 11.

Hook

There simply is not another actor in the world who could play the grown up Peter Pan. In this scene, he finally makes the leap from old fart Peter Banning to the Neverland Hero with three simple words: ‘substitute chemistry teacher’.

Insomnia

Robin Williams a baddie?! Yup, and a pretty good one at that, as he’s chased across the eternal daylight of Alaska by Al Pacino in this Christopher Nolan thriller.

One Hour Photo

One of Williams’ best acting performances IMHO, he plays a super creepy photo developer obsessed with a family, yet you still sort of root for him.

Popeye

Yes! He played Popeye! Not a lot of people realise this! Yes, the film is crap, but Williams is oddly convincing as the spinach-munching sailor-man.

Good Will Hunting

BFFs Ben Affleck and Matt Damon may have gotten all the attention for writing (and winning an Oscar for) the film while prepubescent, but it was also the film that finally landed Williams his first and only statuette, for his best supporting turn.

Jumanji

The board game every kid wanted for Christmas in 1995. Williams should have kept the beard though. Yet another display of Williams’ knack for mixing pathos with comedy.

Dead Poets Society

A million films have done the ‘unusual teacher’ bit, but none came close to the ‘oh captain my captain’ Robin Williams version, which got him a best actor nod and helped multiply the film’s meagre $16million budget by 15 at the box office

What Dreams May Come

This brilliant and somewhat underrated film also deals with suicide – which suggests those that kill themselves go to hell – and I reckon will be a much sadder watch next time I see it now.

Robin Williams was in some awful, awful movies – that’s why he was so great

Posted in COMMENT with tags on August 12, 2014 by Ross McG

WhatDreamsMayCome

In the early 1990s, Channel 4 screened a short season of movies based around particular actors.

First up was Robert De Niro. Across five or six consecutive Sunday nights, the channel showcased some of Bobby’s greatest work. It started with the big guns, things like Goodfellas, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull and The Godfather Part II.

But later weeks weaved into movies such as The King Of Comedy and Jacknife – movies that may not have been easily accessed down at the video shop. The series was a simple but brilliant idea – it’s a wonder Film4 don’t really bother with it now.

As well as De Niro, there were a good run of Sunday nights dedicated to Robin Williams. It opened with Good Morning, Vietnam, quintessential Williams if you like, his motor-mouthing calling card. As a movie-watcher not yet in my teens, I found him mesmerising, a gag jukebox on legs.

I can’t remember the next movie in Channel 4’s series on Williams, but somewhere along the line they got to Popeye, Robert Altman’s disastrous live action version of the spinach-guzzling cartoon hero.

Even the 12-year-old me could tell this film was a mess. But that’s one of the reasons I loved Robin Williams – he did some awful films. But even the awful ones had moments from Williams which you could admire.

Jakob the Liar almost outdoes Life is Beautiful in the slippery slope of syrupy stakes. Look up ‘cloying sentimentality’ in the dictionary and you will find Patch Adams. And Happy Feet too.

He was in Nine Months and Licence to Wed. These are all bad movies, and yet Williams always managed at least one moment where he made you smile or made you laugh.

These sit at one end of the spectrum to Williams’ more celebrated selection – things like Mrs Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, Jumanji, Dead Poets Society – but it was his middle ground where the actor was really interesting.

Speaking of Williams and De Niro, their work together in Awakenings, in which Williams plays the straight role of doctor to De Niro’s hospital patient, is terrific. And it’s a underrated movie.

The World According to Garp out-Gumps Forrest Gump a good 12 years before Forrest Gump came along.

What Dreams May Come is about heaven and hell and co-stars Cuba Gooding Jr – so is in places as bad as it sounds – but it’s also a beautiful failed experiment in filmmaking.

Cadillac Man is imperfect but sweary fun, while Williams’ voice work as Batty in the unheralded Ferngully: The Last Rainforest is the perfect dry run for his performance as Genie in Aladdin later the same year.

Not every movie touched by Williams turned to gold, but they all had their golden moments. Because he was in them.

As Williams himself once said: ‘Even mistakes can be wonderful.’

She-Thor: Why Thor was the Avenger who had to change sex

Posted in NEWS with tags , , on August 6, 2014 by Ross McD

 Lady ThorSo they drew names out of a hat, and Thor was the unlucky Avenger that has to undergo a sex change just to appease the girls. Will changing the gender of a superhero really make girls more interested in him/her/it? Comic book fans are comic book fans, they like good characters because they are good characters, not because of their chromosome sets. Also, I’m pretty sure the only reason female non-comic book fans go to see a film like The Avengers is because of Chris Hemsworth. 

Either way, it was bound to be the tall blonde with the big breasts that took the sex change hit for the team; the others simply would not have worked, and here’s why: Continue reading

The best orgasm scenes in movies

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags , , on July 31, 2014 by Ross McG

whenharry

Today is National Orgasm Day. Of course it is. It’s right up there with St Patrick’s Day and No Pants Day as one of the worst holidays ever.

What’s that? It isn’t a holiday? We don’t get the day off? Screw that. Uh… precisely.

Some people think cinema was invented (by Steven Spielberg or James Cameron – I always forget which one it was) to show us the beauty and sadness of life, to take us to new worlds, to fire our imagination. Rubbish.

Movies came, ahem, along to do one thing: depict lots of actors and actresses showing us their O face.

In honour of National Orgasm Day then, here are the best and worst orgasm scenes in cinema.

THE WORST:

Okay, let’s start with the drivel before we get on to the good, uh, stuff. And with most lists of terrible things, it begins with The Ugly Truth. Take it away Katherine Heigl… and take away my ability to forget about this awful, awful movie.

Don’t worry, we’re only going to subject you to one more bad orgasm scene. Amy Adams is a terrific actress. But she has one major blot in her copybook: Cruel Intentions 2: Cruels Control. Okay, so I made the ‘Cruels Control’ bit up, but it’s still terrible. And it has a terrible orgasm scene, in which Adams teaches her protégé the correct way to ride (sorry!) a horse.

 

AND NOW THE BEST ORGASM SCENES:

10. American Pie (1999)

The original has been so undermined by its 200 terrible sequels and spin-offs that it’s easy to forget just how good – and sweetly innocent – the first American Pie movie is – like The Inbetweeners for US yoofs before The Inbetweeners existed. Its signature scene shows just how good an actor Jason Biggs is – he only ever needs two takes.

 

9. Barbarella (1968)

Jane Fonda proves that machine is no match for woman in this quite literally steamy scene from the 60s sci-fi classic.

 

8. Bruce Almighty (2003)

If you woke up one day and realised you were God, wouldn’t you give your girlfriend an orgasm through a wall just by moving your hands? Seems only polite. Jennifer Aniston obviously took some notes from her former flatmate Courtney Cox when it comes (sorry! Again!) to carnal pleasures. Ugh.. I used the word ‘carnal’ – gross.

 

7. There’s Something About Mary (1998)

Yes there is, and there’s something hanging from Ben Stiller’s ear that he’s not aware of. As if women actually use hair gel…

 

6. Private Parts (1997)

The movie of shock jock Howard Stern’s life isn’t really that shocking, but it does contain a pretty memorable on-air-radio/at-home-with-vibrating-speaker orgasm scene. Couldn’t do that these days with Spotify.

 

5. Pleasantville (1998)

You probably know Joan Allen best for chasing Jason Bourne, but here she makes a splash in more ways than one during a bath in Gary Ross’s underrated comedy drama. This orgasm is so good it turns black-and-white into colour, a feat previously achieved only by The Wizard of Oz. No magic wand jokes!

 

4. Amélie (2001)

Audrey Tautou pervs over Paris. ‘Quinze!’ Brilliant.

 

3. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

If only more Oscars were handed out for performances in comedies. Kevin Kline is brilliant as crazy Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, even when he’s having sex. Don’t call him Stupid.

 

2. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)

Not a real orgasm, but a great one, as Romy (Mira Sorvino) does some amateur acting to procure a car. ‘Oh Rrrrrrramone… You are Columbus and I am America – discover me!’ Talking dirty has never sounded so funny.

 

1. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

YES! YES! YES! More orgasm fakery now, and who other than Meg Ryan could top this list? Sally Albright is the one person you don’t want to be sat near in a restaurant… or maybe you do? We’ll have what she’s having.

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