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.

Guardians of the Galaxy: The most awesome mix

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 24, 2014 by Ross McG

guardiansgalaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is terrific. It’s probably the best comedy of the last five years. The fact that it’s set in space is almost an irrelevance.

But one of the big factor’s in the film’s success is its 1970s soundtrack – more specifically the central conceit built around a mix tape: to reveal any more than that might be a bit spoilery.

It’s safe to say though that central character Peter Quill/Star-Lord (played brilliantly by the brilliant Chris Pratt) has some excellent taste in music. Here are some of his choice tracks.

1. Cherry Bomb – The Runaways

What better way to soundtrack a ragtag gang of rowdy rebels – that’s the Guardians, by the way – than through the bubbling teen angst of The Runaways’ greatest song.

Band members Joan Jett and Cherie Currie were portrayed by Kirsten Stewart and Dakota Fanning in a biopic a few years ago – and they gave the song a good stab – while it has also been used in Richard Linklater’s cult classic Dazed and Confused.

Miley Cyrus has covered it. That’s how rebellious it is. ‘Hello Daddy.. hello Mom… I’m your ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-CHERRY BOMB!’

2. Come and Get Your Love – Redbone

Native American rockers Redbone’s biggest hit is the perfect feelgood way to signal that your space opera is going to be a little bit different to anything else seen – or heard – on the big screen.

3. Hooked on a Feeling – Blue Swede

Originally recorded in the late ’60s by BJ Thomas, famous for singing on Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, Hooked on a Feeling became a ’70s staple six years later when covered by Blue Swede – yes, they were from Sweden.

The song was all over the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy and makes its mark in the movie too, following stints in Reservoir Dogs and Ally McBeal, where it soundtracked that annoying dancing baby. If it’s good enough for David Hasselhoff though, it’s good enough for us.

4. Moonage Daydream – David Bowie

There is one song on the soundtrack that fits the movie’s space setting. And who better to put into orbit than Bowie? Bowie’s in spaaaaaace…

5. Escape (The Pina Colada song) – Rupert Holmes

Guardians of the Galaxy’s soundtrack may be fantastic, but calling it original is a bit of a stretch. Case in point: this song. The Pina Colada song has been in every movie ever made.

There is a simple reason for that: it has the power to instantly make an audience smile. Yes, even an audience subjected to watching The Sweetest Thing. It’s been in everything from Wanted to Shrek to The General’s Daughter.

It’s a song about a bored couple inadvertently answering their own dating ads in the paper, which you can either read as incredibly romantic or as incredibly creepy.

Either way, it might not have made it on to all those soundtracks if it had have went: ‘If you like Humphrey Bogart…’ as originally planned, until Holmes took the wise decision to stick the name of a cocktail in there instead.

6. I’m Not in Love – 10cc

Any superhero movie that has the balls to throw this song in there early is on to a winner. 10cc’s classic tune may have borrowed an intro from Hall & Oates, but from then on it just gets you right in your gut. The lyrics say big boys don’t cry, but it’s pretty hard not to when you’re saving the galaxy.

7. I Want You Back – The Jackson 5

Without giving anything away, the title of this song on the film’s soundtrack says it all. Bring on Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

From Mean Streets to 22 Jump Street… The top 10 streets in cinema

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags on June 6, 2014 by Ross McG

22jumpstreet

Fans of dumb action comedy get to pull into 22 Jump Street this week.

The sequel to the admittedly fun 21 Jump Street, a reboot of the old Richard Grieco TV cop show (yeah, some guy called Johnny Depp was in it too), sees lunkhead police officers Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, in the words of the immortal Ice Cube in the trailer…. ‘goin’ ta COLLEGE!’

But how does Jump Street compare to some of the better known avenues in cinema?

10. Street Fighter (1994)

Back in the early 90s, I remember reading an article in a video games magazine that said Tom Cruise would be playing Ryu and Dana Carvey (Garth from Wayne’s World) would be playing Ken in the upcoming Street Fighter movie. As Heath Ledger’s Joker might ask… what happened? I’ll tell you what happened: the worst video game movie adaptation ever. Yes, give me Super Mario Bros any day.

9. Green Street (2005)

Okay, so it’s got Elijah Wood beating people up in between West Ham United games, but Green Street isn’t quite as bad as it should have been. Conveniently titled Green Street Hooligans in the US (must be big business from would-be tough guys Googling ‘hooligans movies’), there are actually two sequels to this.

8. Street Kings (2008)

If you don’t buy Frodo acting tough, you may not be convinced by Keanu Reeves doing likewise in David Ayer’s underrated LA crime thriller

7. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

London’s most journalistic avenue – until all the newspapers moved out – was also famous for haircuts and pies. Nice to see Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton film though – would love to see those two collaborate again.

6. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

In the past two years, Jonah Hill has starred in three movies with ‘street’ in the title. And here he is in the most famous financial thoroughfare of them all. Wall Street guys are bad, Scorsese tells us. For four hours.

5. Mean Streets (1973)

Marty was on much firmer ground 40 years earlier, depicting the most Rolling Stoniest streets around.

4. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

Richard Attenborough and the little girl from Mrs Doubtfire bring some Christmas magic to this famous New York address.

3. Wall Street (1987)

The street that is paved with gold… and slimeballs with gigantic mobile phones. And smug Charlie Sheen. Anyone else rooting for Gekko?

2. Streets of Fire (1984)

A box office bomb but a cult classic, Walter Hill’s follow-up to 48 Hrs has Diane Lane singing in the brilliantly named Ellen Aim and the Attackers and Willem Dafoe playing the Green Goblin 18 years before he was actually asked to play the Green Goblin. Marvellous 80s fare.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Johnny Depp is back on another street! But this is the street where it all began – and ended – for him… Elm. Matching Hill’s strike rate of three ‘street’ movies (Depp pops up in the 21 Jump Street reboot) here in genuinely gruesome style, he offers proof that falling asleep in your bedroom is bad for you.

‘It’s beautiful, man!’ The many on-screen deaths of Tom Cruise

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags on May 28, 2014 by Ross McG

cruiseedge

I’ll be honest with you. I love his movies. I do. I’m a Tom Cruise fan. I celebrate the guy’s entire catalogue.

Even the movies where his character dies.

There’s this assumption that A-list movie stars won’t allow themselves to die on screen, but it’s a load of bunkum. Death is a good career move – just look at Leonardo DiCaprio, he dies in everything, from (400-year-old spoiler alert) Romeo + Juliet to (100-year-old spoiler alert) The Great Gatsby.

While Tom Cruise may not be able to match Leo’s death rate, his characters still have a slight tendency to kick the bucket. His new movie, however, Edge of Tomorrow, takes this to extremes – it’s Groundhog Day meets Source Code as The Cruiser’s character dies and dies again in order to learn from his mistakes and save the world.

But what about his previous on-screen demises? Here they are… and some of them might surprise you.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. WELL… D’UH.

1. Taps (1981)

Type in ‘Taps’ to Google these days and you get a lot of suggestions for bathroom furnishing, but back in the early ’80s it was the movie that give Cruise his big break and his first on-screen clogs-popping. He wasn’t the lead in this tale of military cadets striking back against the establishment, but his character’s death – shot down in a blaze of glory by tank fire – is still the film’s most memorable and quotable scene. Beautiful, man.

2. Far and Away (1992)

You have to wait more than a decade for Cruise to konk out a second time, in Ron Howard’s dreadful paen to Oirish immigration to the US of A. Far and Away is dreadful, and Cruise has a dreadful death scene, made all the more bloody dreadful because he comes back to life seconds after Nicole Kidman tells him she loved him all along. ‘You can be sure I won’t be dying twice,’ says Tom, leaving out a few ‘to be sure, to be sure’s, I’m sure. You can be sure I won’t be watching this dirge twice.

3. Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Neil Jordan’s adaptation of the bestselling novel by Anne ‘Tom Cruise is too short to play my vampire – oh no, hang on, he’s perfect’ Rice shows its age in parts these days, but it’s still a cracking watch, with a toothsome performance from Cruise, sinking his spiky gnashers into just the right amount of ham. Okay, so his Lestat isn’t technically vanquished in the movie, but he is bled dry after having his throat cut by Kirsten Dunst’s little vampire. And then he is set on fire. Mind you, Lestat is of course dead for the whole proceedings, being a bloody vampire and all.

4. Mission: Impossible II (2000)

Hang on! When does Tom Cruise die in the second Mission: Impossible movie? How come there’s two more movies with him in it after this? Good question, inner voice. Although it’s easy to forget that Ethan Hunt gets bumped off amongst all the misdirected Woo. Yes, yes, he’s not actually killed, but the guy wearing his face as a mask is, much to the chagrin of Dougray Scott, who should have been paying attention given there are exactly 19 face-changing scenes in this awful, awful, awful but intermittently awfully fun movie.

5. Vanilla Sky (2001)

Cameron Crowe’s pretty good and pretty mindbending remake of the superior Spanish flick, Abre los ojos, cast Cruise as multi-millionaire man-child David Aames, who is so busy spending all his dosh that he doesn’t notice that he is actually dead, having given himself a drugs overdose after a car crash and a bad time in a nightclub. That’s what happens when life is but a dream. The line, ‘Somebody died… it was me’, remains a great one.

SIDE NOTE: According to MovieBodyCounts.com, there are no fewer than 558 deaths in The Last Samurai (2003). Cruise’s character is not one of them. Un. Be. Liev. Able.

6. Collateral (2004)

Cruise stepped into the bad guy’s role for Michael Mann’s taxi-based LA thriller, and what happens to bad guys? That’s right: they croak it. The death of the bad guy in question, Vincent, is given extra poignancy by the fact that he foreshadowed his demise early in the action, talking about someone else who died on public transport while no one noticed. Like all cool bad guys, Vincent doesn’t die until about two minutes after he gets shot.

7. Mission: Impossible III (2006)

JJ Abrams is obviously a Far and Away fan. Yep, Cruise gets brought back to life by his female love interest again, this time after Philip Seymour Hoffman sets off a charge in his head. Nothing a good thump to the chest won’t fix.

8. Valkyrie (2008)

If you knew your Second World War history, you knew the ending to this one already. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is killed by a firing squad after his plot to kill Adolf Hitler doesn’t go according to plan.

9. Oblivion (2013)

Before he ‘dies like 200 times’ in Edge of Tomorrow, in the words of the film’s director, Doug Liman, Cruise got some sci-fi die-fi practice in during his last outing, Oblivion. It’s a visually stunning, beautifully scored piece of work, and while it pilfers from plenty of classics of the genre, it does so with a blatant abandon that is actually quite sweet. It’s definitely worth an extra watch or two, if only to figure out The Cruiser’s death pattern in it. For starters, it turns out he’s playing a clone, so his original is long dead. On top of that, the main Clone Cruise we follow during Oblivion blows himself up at the end of the film to save humanity. Or clone-anity. Or something. It sounds remarkably crap, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. It’s dead good. And Cruise is a dead good actor at dying on screen. He always has been. Apart from in Far and Away.

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