100 Word Review – Network (1976)

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

When an ageing news anchor (Peter Finch) announces his suicide live on air, TV execs (Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall) look to exploit the spike in ratings.

Directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon), this film won 4 Oscars including both Best Actor and Best Actress, and was nominated for a further 6.

Dark, cynical and provocative, it is a magnificent example of the power of filmmaking, successfully hitting a little too close to home no matter what decade you’re watching it in. Currently #181 on IMDb’s Top 250.

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100 Word Review – Red Army (2014)

The power of sports in politics. 

This brilliantly constructed documentary tells the story of the Red Army hockey team which was the pride of the Soviet Union. Told through the eyes of the players it offers unparalleled insight into the role the team played in the Russian propaganda machine.

Directed by Gabe Polsky, it has already picked up awards at AFI Fest, Chicago and Zurich. It is full of  archive footage as well as interviews with the people involved. It’s a truly compelling piece of history, complete with spies and scandals, that will keep even the least sports-orientated viewer captivated.

100 Word Review – Theatre Of Blood (1973)

Vincent Price at his most dastardly and most dramatic.  

A Shakespearean actor (Price) plagued by negative reviews fakes his own death and takes revenge on those who refused him critical acclaim, choosing methods written by the bard himself.

As the name suggests, be prepared for a gore fest that only the 1970s could produce. It brings together melodrama and absurdity that is absolutely thrilling to witness. The question moves from being is what is he doing, to exactly how graphically are they going to show it extremely quickly.

In this film, there is no such thing as a pleasant death.

100 Word Review – The Addams Family (1991)

Margaret: Where’s your costume?

Wednesday: This is my costume. I’m a homicidal maniac. They look just like everybody else.

Adapted from The New Yorker satirical comic strip of the 1940s and the TV series of the 1960s and 1970s, this time the inversion of the ideal American family are hitting the silver screen.

After going missing in the Bermuda Triangle for 25 years, Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) is reunited with Gomez (Raul Julia), Morticia (Angelica Huston), Wednesday (Christina Ricci), Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and Lurch (Carel Struycken). But is everything as it appears.

Family-friendly fun, albeit with a morbid sense of humour.

Never Seen … Star Wars (1977)

I set Callum Dunbar the challenge of watching Star Wars, another of my favourite films, which he had never seen before. Here’s the conversation we had after he’d watched it.

*WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Elspeth H (EH): So this week you watched Star Wars (1977) – the original episode. You hadn’t seen it before?

Callum Dunbar (CD): I hadn’t. I haven’t seen any of the original films.

EH: How have you existed without seeing Star Wars?

CD: Probably the same way I’ve existed without watching Ghostbusters.

EH: So it’s not that you’d had the opportunity to watch them and you’d decided not to?

CD: No, the chance never came about. Which is surprising because I love the Phantom Menace. [pause] Don’t make that face.

EH: OK, and what were you expecting from the film?

CD: C3PO and R2-D2. I was expecting the “Luke, I am your father moment”, but that didn’t happen in this film. Actually I was expecting the chase at the end with the X-wings, because I’d seen that on a ride at Disneyland. I was looking forward to that bit.

EH: So you had some experience of the film?

CD: I had some experience, mainly of different characters – like Chewbacca.

EH: Can you make the noise?

[pause]

CD: No. My girlfriend thought that Chewbacca was irritating and couldn’t understand why he was there. I had to explain that he was Han Solo’s co-pilot. She shouldn’t have been so dismissive.

EH: Chewbacca is my favourite character. But we’ll move on from that. Did the film meet your expectations?

CD: Yes. Definitely.

EH: It was everything you were hoping for and more?

CD: Yeah. It was awesome.

EH: What did you think of the special effects? I know when you watched Ghostbusters, there were some issues there.

CD: I thought they were really good. Especially as it was the 1970s. I mean, I was watching a re-mastered version and you could see where the re-mastering had been applied. But the sets and the costumes were just fantastic; the amount of extras; the budget must have phenomenal. It was great. I think I loved it most as a feat of imagination; the amount of things going on and the size of the vision is what I enjoyed.

EH: It’s a whole universe.

CD: Even down to the way the droids were loaded into the X-wings. It was just amazing.

EH: So, it was different from what you’d expected it to be?

CD: Urrm… It exceeded my expectations in terms of scale. It was huge.

EH: You can understand why it has a fanbase the size that it does?

CD: Yeah. Absolutely. I went straight onto Wikipedia and started researching different characters. I already know what happens in the next ones.

EH: You’re an idiot. [laughter]

CD: Yep, I just think it’s fantastic. Completely immersive. It’s awesome.

EH: So you want to watch the next ones?

CD: Yes. I want to watch all nine.

EH: Well, there’s only six at the moment. The next one’s out in December, so you’ve got a good couple of months to watch all of them before then. Did you know it won Oscars?

CD: No.

EH: It won six.

CD: I’m not surprised.

EH: I’ll admit, I didn’t know that until I was checking it on IMDb earlier and I was impressed. I was going to ask if you wanted to make any guesses as to what happens in the next ones, but you’ve already Wiki’d it! So you know! You’ve destroyed this interview! [laughter]

CD: Sorry! It’s only because it was so good.

EH: Are you going to go away and buy all of the paraphernalia that goes with being a Star Wars fan? Are you going to be dressing up in your robe with a lightsaber?

CD: Probably not. I probably will dress my daughter up as a Tuscan Raider if I get the chance.

EH: Does it make you think less of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, now that you’ve seen how good the first film is? Can you appreciate why I pull a face when you say “Phantom Menace”?

CD: Yes – especially given the 30-year gap between the two.

[EH rants about how much she dislikes The Phantom Menace, possibly unjustly as she’s only seen it once.]

EH: Good. Let’s move on. I have real problems with the Phantom Menace.

CD: I can see that. I also liked the fact feudalism and other medieval institutions had been taken into space. Darth Vader is a lord and there are princes and princesses. Again, it’s down to the size of the vision. Also, the references to Imperial and Republican history.

EH: Fantastic. I don’t really have any other questions for you. I kind of just wanted you to geek-out on the whole thing. Buy the posters that kind of thing.

CD: I won’t be doing that. But I will understand more t-shirts now, I think.

EH: I was going to say! Because there is so much in this world that is Star Wars-related…

CD: Exactly.

… May the Force be with you.

You can find Callum’s blog here or follow him on Twitter here.

We’d love to know what you thought of Star Wars the first time you saw it. Are you a fan? What do you think of Callum’s first impressions?Please use the comments box below to join in the conversation!