Risky Business (1983)

Director: Paul Brickman Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Bronson Pinchot, Curtis Armstrong, Joe Pantoliano

When his parents leave him home alone, high school student Joel takes his friend’s advice and decides to make the most of it. However, he gets into some trouble with a call girl and things start to spiral out of control.

So going in I thought this movie was a comedy- and to be fair, most things I’ve read say that it is. Over-confident teenager is left with the house to himself and gets into some silly japes with his friends, while managing to get everything back in order just in time for his parents get back. While that generally is the list of the film, it didn’t quite pan out how I’d imagined. The film starts off innocently enough- teenage boy doesn’t know how to make a microwave dinner, ho ho ho- but then all of a sudden he decides to invite a prostitute round like it’s no big deal- what?! Where did that come from?? Is that regular behaviour for high school students in America or something?! So yeah, that happens and then he gets “involved” with her and they end up running a brothel from his house.

The whole thing just felt totally unrealistic and, well, stupid. It escalates and gets kind of dark pretty suddenly and is just plain weird. I feel like it would have made more sense if it was more clearly defined as a comedy, but it’s really not and the fact that it’s so serious is a little disturbing. What certainly doesn’t help is the weird soundtrack, composed by Tangerine Dream- the ambience is more Bladerunner than Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. While it’s an 80s movie, it doesn’t really seem to fit with all those other Golden Age classics. Basically, it would sit better with me if it was just funnier.

Did I like this film? I mean, I sat through it and didn’t hate it, but I probably wouldn’t watch it again. In terms of the actual quality of the film-making, there’s not really much to complain about but the vibe feels off. There are some messages in there such as obsession with making money and moving from high school into the real world, but it’s not an enjoyable watch at times. It’s the movie that launched Tom Cruise but I prefer him in other stuff.

Risky Business isn’t family viewing and I wouldn’t want to watch it with my parents. I’m not sure I would go out of my way to recommend it to anyone I know, but if you’re intrigued I would say give it a go and see what you make of it.

2.5 stars


Gremlins (1984)

Director: Joe Dante Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCain

As a gift from his father for Christmas, Billy receives a “mogwai” called Gizmo as a new pet. He’s given three rules for looking after him: don’t let him out in sunlight, don’t let him near water and don’t give him any food after midnight. Of course, with Billy being a stupid boy he breaks the rules almost immediately, and chaos ensues.

Now, you may have noticed I’ve put this down as one of my Christmas Crackers. While I am 100% certain, no doubt in my mind, that Die Hard is a Christmas film, Gremlins falls into that same category of debate but is a little trickier. My usual two factors for deciding are 1) The setting of Christmas is vital to the plot; and 2) It contains Christmassy themes such as family, redemption and coming together. While I would say that Gremlins fulfils the first criteria (Billy receives Gizmo as a Christmas present, so Christmas provides key context to the plot) it doesn’t really contain any of the key Christmas themes. So it’s still up for debate but as it’s the Christmas season I’m feeling generous.

The film itself is a good caper, but it’s not really hugely gripping from beginning to end. The first half is good, with the mystery of the mogwai and finding out more about them, but once the mogwai have become “gremlins” the film is basically just scenes of the chaos they cause with a bunch of random characters coming in and out chasing after them. The final climax is over quickly and there’s not much suspense. So it starts well, but after a while I got a bit bored and I think it could have done with reaching the end quicker.

I’ve mentioned that the film doesn’t contain the classic Christmas themes of reconciliation or redemption. Billy is completely useless and he doesn’t seem to learn anything at all by the end. He’s terrible at looking after Gizmo- he forgets the rules straight away, and when Gizmo has water splashed over him and he starts writhing in agony, Billy just ignores him. He doesn’t manage to kill any of the gremlins by himself either- his mum kills loads and then he only manages it with the help of his love interest. Then at the end, he thinks he’s responsible enough to keep looking after Gizmo?! No lessons learnt or character improvement whatsoever. Billy, you’re just the worst.

What I did like was the mogwai/gremlins themselves. There’s something sinister about the puppets they use which is really effective (as they actually are pretty sinister- they actually kill a few people…), and I’m glad that this film came out before CGI as I don’t think CGI creatures would have had quite the same creepy effect. Overall I would say it’s a family film but certainly for small children it could be pretty scary.

From the 1980s Golden Age of cinema, this isn’t one of the best but is worth a watch. Gizmo is very cute (and marketable…) and it’s an interesting concept before the mayhem gets a bit over-the-top. I’m slightly leaning towards the side of not a Christmas film, but perhaps worth watching earlier on in the season before going full-on Christmas.

3 stars

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

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