For me the rules of a great Festive Movie are quite simple : try and make the person who’s watching feel good, put a big Cheshire Cat smile on their face and spread that heartfelt message of love, hope and well wishes far & wide : each year around early December our home is full of Christmas Cheer and we love nothing more than to revisit some of our favorite movies : alternate festive treats such as Die Hard and Gremlins, classics of yesteryear such as The Goonies and Raiders but without question each and every year the Absolute Top Four always get a looking : Richard Donner’s magnificent Scrooged, Frank Capra’s emotionally acclaimed It’s a Wonderful Life, The Griswalds send me into hysterics in Christmas Vacation and Ron Howard magical family movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas : for me these movies embody everything that makes this time of year so special……. what’s you favorite festive movies?
Kirk Douglas was born on the 9th December 1916 in New York, he may no longer be with us but his work has brought so much joy to my screen over the years and will continue to do so : to name four of his best movies is near impossible as like most great actors he has numerous films to choose from dependent on the mood you find yourself in…. for example if your looking for a bit of fun the Douglas way then look no further than Tough Guys a 1986 gem that sees two gangsters released from prison into a world that has vastly changed since they were put away, Burt Lancaster and Eli Wallach share the screen in this sweet, emotional and hilarious turn by the maestro, or if your looking for something more sombre, a bit more dramatic then take a peek at the 1951 Billy Wilder movie Ace in the Hole, one of his very best and a good old fashioned nail biter, that sees Chuck Tatum a reporter who slows down a rescue attempt of a man trapped in a cave so his career can flourish, it’s one of my favorites and Kirk is dynamite but if you want a night in and your after excitement, gun fights and the old west then jump onboard The War Wagon that sees Kirk team up with John Wayne in one of my favorite guilty pleasure westerns directed by Burt Kennedy : so if over the next few weeks you find yourself looking for some movie inspiration, you fancy a revisit or maybe you’ve never seen the likes of Lust for Life, The Vikings or The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral well take it from me there’s a Kirk Douglas movie for each & every mood, let that chin dimple, enormous heart and big smile fill your screen, you’ll thank me later…..
One of my favorite Kirk Douglas quotes : I was not a tough guy. I just acted like one.
The story of social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane in 1930’s Hollywood : Fincher’s Old Hollywood treatment about the man who wrote Citizen Kane is sublime, it feels like it was shot in the 30s, the photography & detail is astounding, it’s black & white canvas beguiling & over time with multiple watches MANK will be regarded as one of his finest works : Gary Oldman throws everything into his portrayal of Herman J. Mankiewicz, the energy and passion he excudes is phenomenal, Lily Collins gives a scintillating display as Rita, Herman’s straight shooting secretary and Amanda Seyfried illuminates the screen with the beauty and wonder of the 30s with a humdinger of a turn as actress Marion Davies : the score by Reznor & Ross fits the picture’s showstopping era and Erik Messerschmidt photography gives authenticity to Fincher’s work that’s so believable that you feel you’ve been transported back in time : Mank has many wonderous scenes and not many better than Herman’s party crashing scene at Hearst Castle…. “hello everyone” he proclaims as he staggers around the long table drunk, slurring his words with an unamused Louis B. Mayer and William Randolph Hearst looking on, it’s one of those great movie scenes and Oldman nails it : I’ve been a long admirer of David Fincher, from his pop videos in the mid 80s to his varied film career, I just love the way as a filmmaker he can suck you into the time & place of one of his movies, with Zodiac it was the late 60s San Francisco, The Social Network was New York early 2000’s, the prison planet Fury 161 in Alien3 and with his latest Mank your thrust head first into the mid 30s Hollywood with it’s politics, studios, screen stars and egos filling your screen in wonderful monochrome, each scene more compelling and more facinating than the last, a truly wonderful picture by a filmmaker at the peak of his greatness ★★★★★
Elizabeth Taylor – seen here in 1963’s epic CLEOPATRA
The film follows an aspiring actress Mia played by the charming Emma Stone who falls in love with Sebastian an out of work Jazz Musician played by the accomplished Ryan Gosling – the film is set in LA and pays homage to the movies & music of a bygone age….
Damien Chazelle’s romantic musical LA LA LAND is everything I hoped for and so much more….
as I sat in the cinema mouth agape watching the words “Presented in CinemaScope” and the camera expertly panning over the cars of a packed LA freeway I quickly realized that I was in for a magical ride down the cinematic highway – a voice through a car’s open window started singing, her voice raw with emotion and suddenly without thinking I found myself tapping my feet to it’s catchy beat, chills started dancing across my spine, my face lit up at the explosion of color and what happened next was pretty special….
throughout it’s 2hrs I felt like I was transported back to Old Hollywood reminiscing of them musical stars of yesteryear, images flooding my mind of Fred, Ginger, Rooney & Garland all singing, dancing before me as I sat transfixed, seduced by LA LA LAND’s heart melting musical numbers, the films colorful sets and dreamy, infectious pairing of two of Hollywood’s brightest young stars in Gosling & Stone….
I have so many favorite scenes in the movie – the song & dance number at the Griffith Observatory, the lovely moment with Gosling’s Sebastian singing the beautiful “City of Stars” on the pier and that amusing moment at the party where Stone’s Mia asks a band to play the 80s track “I Ran” by one hit wonder band A Flock of Seagulls and then dances manically whilst lip syncing the lyrics – the performances by it’s cast and music by Justin Hurwitz is complete PERFECTION….
if 2014’s Whiplash that starred Miles Teller & J.K Simmons stunned you with it’s brilliance then Damien Chazelle’s LA LA LAND will overwhelm you, make you smile from ear to ear and allow you to dream that little bit longer – From it’s magical, entertaining & insanely eye popping opening number to it’s bitter sweet, emotionally draining finale LA LA LAND is cinema at it’s most potent, electrifying best…. ★★★★½
Top Right: 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery – Top Left: 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial with Steven Spielberg & Henry Thomas – Bottom Right: 1976’s Taxi Driver with Martin Scorsese, Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro – Bottom Left: filming 1939’s Gone with the Wind
Terribly Sad News – the beautiful actress Maureen O’Hara has died aged 95
Throughout the years their have been many great actresses that have graced our screens, but not too many had Maureen O’Hara’s screen presence, her beauty and undoubted acting chops, she was a great leading lady, starring alongside some of Hollywood’s finest including John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart and Tyrone Power – for me on film though she will always be that fiery beauty Mary Kate Danaher from John Ford’s classic movie The Quiet Man where she starred opposite her good friend John Wayne, they appeared in 5 movies together but this 50’s gem is not only their best collaboration but Maureen’s greatest movie role – the lights of the movie world have been dimmed today, as we say farewell to one heck of a movie star !!
In 1975 on June 20th the world of film was introduced to JAWS – based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name, this film was the first summer blockbuster – JAWS broke numerous box office records, won 3 Oscars and made it NOT safe to go into the water – Steven Spielberg’s movie is still regarded by many including myself as his best achievement behind the camera – even today 40 years after it’s release JAWS holds up well as a cinematic triumph, it still scares the daylights out of me, it’s acting by the main trio of actors is top notch and it’s simple yet terrifying John Williams score sends my body into a quivering goose bump sort of mess – so congrats Steven Spielberg and all involved in making JAWS one of the Best Movies I have seen in the last 40yrs !
One of cinemas finest filmmakers MIKE NICHOLS has died aged 83 – alongside his acclaimed stage career Mike Nichols work behind the movie camera include pictures such as The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Fortune, Carnal Knowledge, Silkwood, Heartburn, Wolf & Closer – he directed 17 different actors in Oscar-nominated roles and is one of 7 directors to win the Golden Globe, Director’s Guild, BAFTA, and Oscar for the same movie “The Graduate”
One of the last great actresses of the Golden Age LAUREN BACALL has died age 89 – a New York lass she made her name starring alongside some of Hollywood’s finest including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas and her beloved Humphrey Bogart – for a leading lady Lauren Bacall had the lot, during the 40s and 50s you would struggle to come up with another actress who electrified the screen as Bacall did – throughout her career she always managed to ignite a fierce chemistry with her many co-stars, her husky vocals and piercing blue & green cat like eye’s adding to her star quality and undoubted sex appeal – her break through movie To Have and Have Not in 44′ followed by Big Sleep, Dark Passage and Key Lago made her a Hollywood Star – for me looking back at Lauren Bacall’s career John Huston’s Key Largo and starring alongside John Wayne in The Shootist were easily my favorite two movies – Bacall will be missed no doubt but thanks to her body of work her beauty & talent will always be remembered….
Whenever I see a cool movie montage I get chills up and down my spine and wish the day was long enough to watch them all one after the other – this 2mins clip of the classic movies of yesteryear is not quite long enough but gives you a small taste of what MGM has given us all over the years, so many memories and so many wonderful pictures – take a look at the video below & whilst your enjoying the clip wish MGM a Happy 90th Birthday!!!