Day 164 – The Last Starfighter – 1984

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The Last Starfighter is the 1984 cult classic that tells the story of Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) who live in a trailer park with his mum and brother. One day he is approached to join the Ryland Star League and become a Starfighter. The film also stars Robert Preston who plays Centauri, the renegade agent of the Star League tasked to find the greatest fighters. Directed by Nick Castle it was too many reviewers comparing it to Star Wars but praised the cast for their energetic performances.

Alex Rogan lives in a trailer park with his mum and brother. The inhabitants always go to Alex to fix various things. One day his girlfriend Maggie Gordon (Catherine Mary Stewart) wants to visit the beach, and as Alex is about to enter the car his mother calls to help fix the electricity generator. Annoyed yet loyal he agrees to help. After he finishes he plays on the local arcade game ‘The Frontier’. He reaches the highest score anyone has ever seen. Proud of his accomplishments, he finishes the day turning off the trailer park neon sign only to be approached by a futuristic car. A man named Centauri asks him to join him in the car and he is whisked off to the Ryland Star League as a top starfighter. It’s up to Alex, Centauri and new friend Grig (Dan O’Herlihy) to stop the threat of Xur and his fighters.

The film has a similar premise to the classic Star Wars films thanks to its similarities with space battles and a lone male sent to save the galaxy. The film also contains all the classic 80’s charm with a clone character also played by Guest who actually has all the laughs. The comedic charm of which Beta Alex is deadpan because he doesn’t know what is right or wrong, and its funny to see him in situations. Alex, on the other hand, is more down to earth, thinking that he could be killed at any time. The cheese factor is also deep when we meet Grig. His head looks awfully like male genitalia but that doesn’t take away from his humorous persona. He brings the honour to the role with charm and charisma. What I believe that Nick Castle has done here is that he has tried to merge the characters from E.T and put them into the world of Star Wars. It kind of works, but thanks to the inclusion of a terrible villain Xur, it kind of plays as a campy fun.

The film was moderately successful in 1984, but as the years passed many fans looked back and loved it essentially giving it cult classic status. The film was also known as the first to fully incorporate computer graphics for the space sequences which was unheard of in the 80s. Every single scene that takes place in space was generated on a Cray X-MP machine which was incredible. 27 minutes of screentime, 300 shots on screen. Incredible work for something ahead of its time.

Overall the film was amazing, a concoction of Star Wars and E.T. fighting in space. Fantastic special effects for the time and some fun writing for the characters. Lance Guest and Dan O’Herlihy are fantastic as the dynamic duo with Robert Preston as the crazy yet infectious Centauri. Catherine Mary Stewart plays the girlfriend Maggie to Alex and she is perfect. Beautiful, funny and smart she was ideal for the role. The film is a hidden gem, and a sequel should be greenlit asap.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 163 – Jadoo: Kings of Curry – 2013

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Jadoo comes from Leicester writer and director Amit Gupta who tells the story of two brothers who are chefs. Starring Amara Karan, Harish Patel and Kulvinder Ghir it was shot in the great city of Leicester, on the golden mile where the two brothers restaurants are. Released in 2013 to a limited release, it was praised for its content but not its execution.

Raja (Harish Patel) and Jagi (Kulvinder Ghir) are brothers who cook from a book written by their mother. One day they fall out, and both rip the book in half looking to start their own restaurants. Raja takes the front of the book which contains the starters and Jagi takes the other half which contains the mains. Their restaurants are successful to a certain degree, but as the brothers require the other half of the book the restaurants level out. 20 years pass and Raja’s daughter Shalini (Amara Karan) is getting married to an English doctor. She comes to Leicester to ask her family to attend the wedding, only to find out her old friend is going to launch a restaurant to take out both her fathers and uncles restaurants. It is up to her to get the brothers to join forces and take out the opposition after 20 years of not talking.

Funnily enough, the film was shot on Belgrave Road in Leicester where I am from. The landmark locations, the restaurants and the physical embodiment of the city are felt from Amit Gupta’s tale of the brotherhood and rivalry. As he was born and raised in Leicester, you can see the director wanting to showcase what it has to offer. Unfortunately, as the cityscapes are shot with glare and wonder, the story of the film falls flat. The rivalry between the brothers is not strong enough for the audience to feel any angst against and the outcome between the two was predictable from the outset. The characters, however, are fantastic with Amara Karan taking the mainstage to get her characters father and uncle to come together for a physical purpose.

The physical purpose of the film was to bring people together with food and I believe Amit Gupta (who actually lived on the road depicted) shows it off beautifully. A swan song to his hometown, and the people that embody. The story is ok, and the inclusion of Keith Vaz in the film is a no go zone, but overall the film showcases the greatness that is Leicester.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 91 – Friday – 1995

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Classic film Friday tells the comedic tale of Craig and Smokey trying to raise $200 before 10 pm. A variety of situations arise for our 2 scoundrels, and the consequences are hilarious. Both Ice Cube and Chris Tucker are on form in this classic directed by F. Gary Grey (who has a great cameo as a store clerk).

Essentially the film leads up to the duo facing off with the streets bully and overcoming demons inside everyone who lives there. Before all this kicks off we are introduced to Craig, who lives at home after being struck off at work for apparent theft, a fact we are introduced when we meet his best friend and local drug dealer; Smokey. He is an energetic character full of humour. They both live in an inner city suburb of Los Angeles and bump into some great characters along the way. Craig’s father played by the great John Witherspoon, the local crackhead Ezail, Debbie the local crush of Craig, Mrs Parker the local sexy lady, and finally Deebo. The insane local thug, who takes what he wants, when he wants, from anyone. The crazy part that it all takes place on a Friday.

It’s a mix of comedy, and drama thanks to the great script and cast. Both Ice Cube and Chris Tucker are on full form providing the narrative for the film with their background chatter and antics. I love the dynamic conversations between the 2 stars as one moment they are talking about food, then next minute they are walking to Smokey’s house to smoke up. It’s great to see this done with simplicity and no overthinking seen in many Hollywood films in recent times. Craigs is the normal one, Smokey is the insane one. Together they have

Craigs is the normal one, Smokey is the insane one. Together they have a crazy day. The fact that director F. Gary Grey has chosen two polar opposites to star, and then make them best friends is a testament to the word friendship. Utilising the verbosity of Cube, and the energetic performance of Tucker, he has generated a body of work that showcases what an inner city street in LA looks like, and after the LA Riots, it shows how mainstream cinema cannot always showcase great talent. Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element comes to mind.

This film had become a cult classic, with it generating 2 sequels continuing the journey of Craig and his life across the USA. I think that the film really does showcase the comedic talents of the cast, in particular, Chris Tucker. Ice Cube, formally a rapper does a great job showcasing what life in the inner city is like and does a humble job of it. The film does change from its comedy direction near the end, becoming more dramatic thanks to the inclusion of drugs and weapons, and to be fair including comedy actor John Witherspoon as the catalyst for it all is mesmerising. Telling his onscreen son to fight with his heart and soul rather than a physical weapon. Something you saw on screen. Passion in the heart of a character.

Overall a great hoody oriented story with a great story. It dabbles with the random encounters, and that’s what makes the film going. A little sad near the end, but overall a film that you can watch anytime and feel great. Damnnnnnn!

Should you watch it: YES

Day 68 – Captain Ron – 1992

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Now, this is a film which flew under the radar when released in 1992 by many moviegoers thanks to its limited released in the UK. Captain Ron is about Martin Harvey played by Martin Short who has inherited a boat in the Caribbean from his long lost uncle. He then hatches a plan for his family to retrieve it and sell to a yacht specialist in Miami, but the only problem is that they need a captain for the (un)worthy vessel. Here we meet Captain Ron played by the hilarious Kurt Russell.

It is more a story about a family being brought closer together by the antics of both Martin and Captain Ron across their adventure across the Caribbean and Miami. It’s both funny and heartwarming thanks to the chemistry of Martin Harveys family. Katherine his wife (Mary Kay Place), Caroline his daughter (Meadow Sisto) and finally his young son Ben (Benjamin Salisbury). Ben being the standout character with his young look on life and the seas. His antics with Captain Ron, in particular, are hilarious with one point in the film he hustles some Cuban revolutionaries out of there money onboard the ship.

Now the story itself is generic. The suburban family who go out on to the seas to find out who they really are. Thanks to Kurt Russells fantastic acting as the both the oblivious and hilarious captain of the seas, his general persona is funny and charismatic. Martin Harvey gets annoyed with him, but the audiences feel that Martin is in the wrong making Ron to be the bigger man with no harm being done at any point in the film.

Captain Ron is a man with a hidden past. We don’t know anything about him except that he’s a seasoned traveller of the Caribbean and that he loves his crazy fashion in clothes with some spectacular shots of him in his speedos onboard and on land. It’s a spectacle in its own right. Kurt Russell plays him as a laid back, always looking on the bright side and fun role. When compared to former roles such as Snake Plissken in the Escape from New York, and  Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China. The latter being a horror comedy of which he flexes the humorous side seen in this film.

The Caribbean setting in the film is fantastic, as everyone is relaxed and always up to do something. The boat at the beginning is beaten and broken, but as the journey goes on the family clean her up and make her look fresh. It’s uplifting to see the boat be loved, and the same can be said for the family. At the end, they are very close thanks to the crazy antics of Captain Ron and his glass eye (we never know how he got it, and that’s the biggest mystery of the film).

Overall a great family film, about a man and his family bonding on the waters of the Caribbean with Captain Ron brought along to bring the hilarity for added measure.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 52 – National Lampoon’s Vacation – 1983

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This film is a classic. A proper 80’s film because it had it all. Crude humour, hilarious outcomes and Chevy Chase.

Based on the short story by legendary writer and director John Hughes and directed by Harold Ramis (he was Egon in Ghostbusters) it tells the tale of the Griswold family, on their summer vacation to visit Wally World in California. They visit various states and the antics get more and crazier thanks to father Clark always happy yet clumsy character trait.

This is the time when everyone was on the science fiction hype with Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica being at the top of everyone’s list. Chevy Chase is hilarious as the befuddled father Clarke, and his beautiful wife Ellen (played by Beverly D’Angelo) who is always praising his happy go lucky antics. On the trip, we also have the kids Rusty (played by a young Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey. Rusty is given some manly advice during the state jumping chaos. The gross-out gags and the throwaway attitude of Clark enable the audience to connect and enjoy what’s happening onscreen as John Hughes has written the characters as relatable people.

Chevy Chase was a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live with Dan Akroyd and John Belushi so seeing him transfer from TV to cinema was a justifiable idea. Flexing his comedic skills to a wider audience catapulted his fame across the world thanks to his portrayal in this film. Watching Clark in Wally World with his BB-gun is funny as hell. Especially with John Candy as the dimwitted security guard at Wally World who we duped into spending the day with the Griswolds as their hostage.

80’s humour was more gag-based and some of the jokes were a little flat, but it didn’t stop me from laughing out loud are various parts. An example would be when his card is when he asking for directions in a dangerous part of town. He asks a local and gets duped into paying the man $10. He gets given the directions, but at the same time, they steal his metallic hubcaps and it is hilarious.

This also catapulted the song Holiday Road by Lindsey Buckingham into the realm of great songs. Every road trip film made usually uses this song in its lineup as it exposes the underlying feeling of when going on a road trip.

Overall a fantastic film, and again I recommend everyone to watch this at least once in your life and then watch it again for good measure.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 50 – Moana – 2016

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Day 50, I can’t believe I have reached this checkpoint. Another film released in 2016. Is it any good?

Moana is from the people who brought us Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia. It is a tour de force when it comes to emotional punches and truly is return to form for Disney with its incredibly intricate introduction to new characters, its large-scale world building and its truly extraordinary talent behind the music. The animation is magic.

Moana tells the story of the title character who lives on a Polynesian island somewhere in the Atlantic ocean. It recognises the natural habitat and folklore of the surrounding islands and it sews seeds for the great tale which takes Moana on a journey of self-discovery and friendship at the sea. She meets Maui (played by Dwayne Johnson) who is a demi-god and has lived for a thousand years. Wanting him to return a stone to bring back life to the island she left thanks to the corruption occurring all around her. Along the way, we meet a whole host of characters such as the chicken Heihei, the giant crab Tamatoa and my personal favourite; the ocean itself.

The story is fun and adventurous and takes Moana, Maui and Heihei across the ocean in a humorous yet strong character development which showcases Disneys talent to always remind the audience that family is forever. It is an incredible achievement on both a story level and a technical level thanks to its beautiful animation from Disneys Animation Studio which is separate from Pixar. Maui’s hair and tattoos are very responsive to the actions that the character takes with the latter having a persona of his own. It’s both hilarious and sweet thanks to the portrayal of the sweet animation. Did I mention that Maui’s tattoos were all hand drawn then digitised into the computer? Disney has returned to the roots that made them great in the first place.

The score was drafted by Lin-Manuel Mirinda who currently is massive on Broadway for his play Hamilton. The music is incredibly subtle and packs a large punch thanks to the Polynesian style and beat which made it big for replays across the Spotify playlist lovers. The songs are very personal because it showcases the mind of Moana and Maui as they cross the ocean. The Polynesian language in the songs also adds a sense of authenticity and also very catchy. I myself have listened to some of the songs on full blast while smiling across the city.

The main attraction in the film in my eyes is the character of the ocean. How did Disney create a character out of the environment and make me feel like it was an essential part of the story. The animation and fluid detection in the film is second to none. It is beautiful. We are really living in the future of cinema.
Overall a beautiful return to form for Disney after Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia. All are fantastic, but this is even better.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 49 – Nerve – 2016

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Nerve comes from the mind of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who directed the smash hit Catfish in 2010. They tricked the audience of that film to feel bad for the main character only to flip it upside down and make you feel bad for the catfish. Emotion was the directors first forte into motion picture. Does Nerve stand up to the previous films in the director’s catalogue?

Set in the digital age of what we live, it tells the story of an app called Nerve which you either play the game and do the dare, or watch the player and influence their dare. It is a fresh idea and has some interesting scenarios of which the characters get themselves in and out of. Vee is a photography student soon heading to university, she isn’t the most popular girl but has a close group of friends. One particular friend named Sydney plays Nerve to become quite the nomad across New York on a certain night. Vee decides to play and joins in the dares across the city. She meets Ian on a dare and they become an item during the night. A variety of dares and lines are crossed and even some moral codes are broken. It’s an interesting idea, with only some flaws in the muddled story. A subplot is present with Vee’s friend who is a hacker and tries to take down the game during the story, it’s a wasted part of the film with some cringe worthy dialogue.

The visuals look of the film tries to be consistent with today’s style. An example would be the 2016 obsession with emoji and neon lights everywhere. It seems to work in favour of the story because it looks really energetic and the city seems to be alive everytime we see it in frame. There is some funny parts in the film, as the humour is appropriate for the age it is aimed at: Teens.

As the film is about technology but at the same time there is a hidden meaning being told to the viewer. It is about friendship, and how certain obstacles can come across the paths of the viewer and the main characters have some demons in their closet of which the film deals with very respectively. Also, it deals with the idea of a teenager becoming an adult and the moral responsibility of leaving home with the aspect of leaving your parents behind while still being true to yourself. It’s a very deep meaning blended into the typically bland yet hypnotic scope of the plot.

The cast is respectable as the chemistry between Emma Roberts and Dave Franco both being natural and avert with each other on screen. Juliette Lewis also plays the out of the loop nurse/mother who has to figure out what’s going on, to her dismay with Emma Roberts best friend Tommy played by Miles Heizer. The only issue I had with the film was with Tommy, one minute he is a sad loner who looks like he’s going to jump off a bridge at the beginning of the film. As the film goes on we learn that he’s a computer hacker with links to some of the most bizarre people in New York such as a Pool Club and a place called The Cloud. He goes from being so lame to trying to be a badass by the end of the film. It’s miscast and personally, I felt the character should have been removed altogether.

Overall the film is good, with great acting from the two leads and fantastic Direction from Joost and Schulman. P.S. Casey Neistat has a cameo in it. He’s a legend.

Should you watch it: YES