The Princess Bride (1987)

Director: Rob Reiner Cast: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn

In present-day 1980s, when a boy is sick in bed his grandfather tells him the story of The Princess Bride, a tale set in the distant country of Florin. Buttercup is separated from her true love, Westley, and is forced to wed the sneaky Prince Humperdinck. However, Westley won’t rest until he’s got Buttercup back.

Although I’ve read the original book of The Princess Bride, by William Goldman, I’d just never got around to watching the film. I had heard mixed things about the film but as someone who has read the book, I think that definitely helped me to appreciate the film more as all the strange jokes and non-sensical moments make a lot more sense with the extra context that the book provides. My brother hates the film and hasn’t read the book, and I have a feeling he doesn’t like it because you can understand the jokes a bit more if you know the tone and style in which the book was originally written. It’s an obvious thing to say and this applies to most films, but I would certainly suggest reading the book first if you can.

The book and film are made to be a spoof of traditional romantic adventure stories, and I love the way all the sets and costumes look a bit crap because it adds to the fun in a very camp sort of way. If you don’t know it’s a spoof going in I think it would look like just a terribly made film, but with that in mind its general low-budgetness is all part of the joke. The script is very over-the-top but the actors get the delivery just right, in the sense that it’s not overtly comical but there’s a clear underlying sense that nothing is being taken very seriously.

The film is a cult classic from the golden-age of cinema, and I can see how a lot of people would have serious nostalgia for it. Although The Princess Bride pre-dates myself, it has a lot of actors in it that I recognise from other stuff I watched growing up and even now, so it does have that nostalgic value.

This is definitely a family film and is very easy to watch and chuckle at. Don’t expect anything ground-breaking or Oscar-worthy, but if you want a film that can guarantee satisfaction all round, The Princess Bride is a good shout.

4 stars

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Bladerunner 2049 (2017)

Director: Dennis Villeneuve Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright

Set 30 years after the original Bladerunner, Officer K is tasked with uncovering the mystery of a replicant that was able to give birth. His search uncovers some surprising clues and ultimately leads him to seek help from the retired bladerunner Deckard, who has been missing since the events of the previous film.

It’s safe to say- and I think plenty of people would agree- that this is the best film I’ve seen all year. As it’s a sequel I was understandably skeptical, however it really doesn’t feel like a sequel for the sake of a sequel (i.e. more money at the box office) but is simply a really solid film with a plot that pretty much stands on its own and is worthy of the hype by itself, and not because it’s attached to the original cult classic.

I went to see this in IMAX 3D and it was totally worth the exorbitant ticket price of £23 (ouch). I knew that I had wanted to see this in IMAX because the original is so well known for the visuals, and this one lives up to that- actually, I would say the visuals in Bladerunner 2049 are better thanks to improved technology today compared to the 1982 original. LA is suitably claustrophobic, and the deserted city where Deckard has been hiding is also done really well. You could happily watch this movie just for the cinematic experience alone, and it showcases perfectly what can be done with film from an artistic perspective.

Now, Bladerunner 2049 is a whopping 164 minutes long. However, I struggle to to think of a scene that wasn’t integral or relevant to the plot, and so the whole film absorbs your attention. It’s a slow burner for sure but it leaves the audience plenty of time to think about and ponder what’s going on. You get plenty of films nowadays that easily reach the two hour mark, but with this one I felt that it was made to be so long so that the viewer can really appreciate it as a film with a story to be told and considered, rather than just a blockbuster with action sequence after action sequence for modern audiences with short attention spans (The Avengers films spring to mind…). There are also a lot of characters, but again each one is important and adds something to the plot, even if it’s just to add characterisation for someone else. It’s refreshing to have a film made nowadays because someone truly wants to make a great film that can be appreciated as just that, not because they want easy money at the box office.

The one tiny, minuscule issue I did have was that the end kiiiiind of leaves it open for a sequel. Like I say, this is just a brilliant film on its own and it doesn’t need another one just for the sake of it. That said, this one is a sequel itself so by no means will another sequel be bad, but it’s been 35 years since the original so if another sequel were to come soon I wouldn’t be able to avoid the thought that they’re just cashing in on the success of Bladerunner 2049.

This is an excellent film and I absolutely recommend it to people who want something a bit different to the usual mindless blockbusters we get nowadays. Furthermore it’s just a beautiful film to look at, regardless of the plot. Fans of the original will obviously enjoy it, but I went with a friend who hadn’t seen it (and also isn’t really into sic-fi) and she loved it too. Basically, however you are, go and watch this film.

5 stars

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Director: Amy Heckerling Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Brain Backer, Robert Romanus, Phoebe Cates (and also Nicholas Cage for all of 5 seconds)

We follow the escapades of a group of high school students over the course of a year, including romance, jobs, studies and general teenagery-ness.

Fast Times is a bit of a cult classic, lesser known than some of the other 1980s high school student flicks, but feels like one of the more authentic or realistic ones. Indeed, the story is based on the experiences of film-maker Cameron Crowe, who spent a year undercover as a high school student and wrote a book on his experiences. The events feel a lot more like stuff that would actually happen to regular teenagers, rather than far-fetched hijinks, and I think it definitely adds to the enjoyability of the film if you can look back and reminisce on some of your own high school experiences.

Not all the stories are totally connected and the links between the characters or individual plots can be a bit tenuous, so from a standard film-viewing perspective it might seem a little unstructured or random. However, this also adds to the realism, so we can mostly forgive that. I would also warn that not all the scenes would probably get past a film classification board today, so might be a little odd for modern audiences (mainly the underage sex). It’s not one I’d watch with my parents…

This is definitely a must-see for 80s fans, especially as it’s up there in the genre of “golden-age” classics such as The Breakfast ClubBack to the Future or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s certainly not appropriate for younger audiences (I think it’s rated 18 here in the UK), but is a good dose of nostalgia for adults.

3 stars

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Full Metal Jacket

Director: Stanley Kubrick Cast: Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Ermey, Dorian Harwood, Arliss Howard, Kevyn Major Howard, Ed O’Ross

A group of young recruits scrape through a tough bootcamp before heading off to Vietnam to join the war. Stanley Kubrick adds his take on a brutal and traumatic war that has left its scar on the American national consciousness.

I find this period of history fascinating (the Cold War), and I loved Apocalypse Now. Plus I can’t recommend enough the last Kubrick film I watched, Dr Strangelove. However, Full Metal Jacket didn’t really grab me. The film kind of feels like it’s actually two different films stuck together: we start off following the new recruits at a training camp on American soil, which I thought was simply setting the scene- until we were an hour into the film and still there. Then they get shipped out to Vietnam and it becomes a film about the war. The two parts are obviously linked, but it feels like the film can’t really decide if it’s about the traumatic training process or the traumatic war (either way, traumatic is the key theme here).

Don’t get me wrong, both halves of the film are enjoyable (probably not the right word) to watch and Kubrick clearly makes his points about the military lifestyle and the pointlessness of the Vietnam War. However, while the training camp part has a storyline that progresses, the war half doesn’t really have much of a plot; stuff just kind of happens. Maybe that’s a point that Kubrick is trying to make- I just found that the film was a bit random from a viewer’s perspective.

The film is violent and distressing so certainly not for family viewing. As I say, I find this period of history interesting, and it is certainly a must-see for those who have enjoyed war films in the past and know that they enjoy the genre. However I tend to find that war movies don’t prove particularly popular with those who don’t have an active interest in the historical aspect in question, so it won’t be a winner for everyone. If you haven’t enjoyed war films particularly in the past, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one in order to change your mind.

3 stars