Distant Voices, Still Lives

This is a fantastic 1988 British drama film set in 1940’s and 1950’s Liverpool.

The story follows a working class family headed by an angry and abusive father (played by the excellent Pete Postlethwaite), his wife, and three children.

The film is split into two parts, with the first part called “Distant Voices” and the second “Still Lives”. Each part jumps around in the past, present, and future, and does it quite well, although some may find it confusing.

A central part of the story, apart from being about a family that has to deal with a difficult father, is singing. Most of the cast are singing at some point, or are all singing together at home, or together down at the pub with their friends. This is pre-rock ‘n’ roll, so the songs are old-timey. The film’s timeline ended probably just on the cusp of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and I was actually expecting to hear Bill Haley or Fats Domino at the end. Some of the actors and actresses were very good singers.

Everything about this is superbness, and I find it hard to criticise it in any way. Some may find this to be a bit depressing, especially the scenes involving the father who is mostly in a bad mood, and what his suffering wife has to go through. But, I found it to be beautiful and unforgettable.

Date watched: August 19th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 53

The Empire Strikes Back

In preparation for Solo, James and I watched half of this this last night, and the other half today after we got back from Solo.

I have reviewed this a few times before, so I won’t go into it much. What I will say though is that there are several references in Solo to this film, nothing major but I like how the Star Wars films do that, it makes you feel like a real geeky fan when you can pick things up that Muggles won’t.

I am undecided whether I like this or Episode 4 better, so for now I will just call it a draw.

Date watched: July 16th
Score: 9.5/10
Film count 2018: 44

Countryman

This is probably the third time I have seen this, the last time was back in 2011.

Here is my review from back then:

I think I may have seen this ages ago. I remember getting a Jamaican video from Alice’s and maybe this was it. None of it rings a bell though, all I remember is the cover.

Not much of a story or acting but the main character, Countryman (playing himself) and the reggae soundtrack make it worth watching. Countryman is a cool dude but a little difficult to understand at times, strong Jamaican accent. There is a funny scene where he does some kind of spiritual kung-fu fighting, and he runs around a lot.

Entertaining.

The same goes this time around, and the score stays the same.

I the meantime though, the man himself, Edwin “Countryman” Lothan, died in 2016 from cancer. He was quite a fellow it seems. Read about him here

Date watched: February 5th
Score: 7/10
Film count 2018: 10

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Colors

I remember this coming out, way back in 1988, and the thing I remember the most about it was the title song by Ice-T, a catchy song.

Back in the day this was a controversial film because of the subject matter. It is of course about gang violence and the cops trying to stop it. These days it seems quite tame as there are no extreme violence scenes where peoples heads are exploded by gunshots, or innocent bystanders are wasted by a psycho-drugged-up Crip or Blood gang member. It was more about the story back then, and great acting.

And the acting is probably the best thing about this film, both Robert Duvall and Sean Penn are both great. The supporting cast including Don Cheadle, María Conchita Alonso, and a one-scene one-line appearance by Jack Nance, are good but not as great (except Nance of course).

The producer hired actual gang members during filming to act as guardians, and two were apparently shot.

Dennis Hopper directed, his first film as director since Easy Rider. He shot many scenes in actual Blood or Crip areas using either Bloods or Crips as extras depending on where he was filming.

Sean Penn got a bit miffed at an extra taking photos of him without permission and gave him a good punching…33 days in prison for him.


The guy on the right in this image amused me. Not only did he look out of place in a Chicano gang, but he also basically took on this pose in almost every scene. A later scene kind of explained later on why he looked like this (he was drugged out of his mind), but it was weird nonetheless.

This is described as a “police procedural” on Wikipedia which it is I suppose, but not as procedural as those of the 1950’s. The story was pretty standard stuff actually. It followed Duvall and Penn who grudgingly become buddies, and together they set about finding out who blew a gang member away in a drive-by shooting (Don Cheadle did it!). It had all of the usual police, gang, love-interest, and car-chase tropes we expect from a police/gang story. But, I guess it portrayed the gang culture of the time well, but I wouldn’t really know.

I would not say this is an essential watch, not these days anyway, and if it wasn’t for Duvall’s and Penn’s acting skills, and Ice-T ‘s nice song, it would not rate as well.

Date watched: February 3rd
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2018: 9

Airplane!

I was watching this video of birds swearing and was laughing so much that it set me in the mood for a comedy. This film seemed to be the best choice.

I have seen this several times, and each time is just as funny as the last. All of the cast members in this were perfect in their roles, not a dud in sight. The dialogue was great with plenty of memorable one-liners and jokes. Some gags were a bit too silly, but they were far and few between. Some jokes would not be allowed today.

The script is an almost perfect recreation of a film called Zero Hour! Here is a good YouTube video with comparisons between the films (the producers had to buy the rights to the original film).

This film ranks just behind Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian in my all-time funniest films list. Blazing Saddles is not far behind, along with Young Frankenstein which I must watch again.

Date watched: January 19th
Score: 9.5/10
Film count 2018: 3

Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi

James and I watched this in two parts, finishing the second part tonight.

Ewoks, damn frickin’ Ewoks.

The rest was pretty decent really, Georgie did a pretty good job on the main story, but he seemed to just take too many happy pills at some point, and dreamed up the Ewok horror which almost borked the whole thing.

Thank goodness for Disney.

Date watched: December 1st
Score (not including Ewoks): 7.5/10
Score (including Ewoks): 3/10
Film count 2017: 136

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years

This is a 1988 documentary about metal, and mostly about glam metal or hair metal.

While I do like a bit of metal, I cannot stand those old hair metal bands, most of them are fake and play terrible music, some still continuing to do so today somehow. However, this documentary was well made and told, and some of the interviews (some were faked or staged according to Wikipedia) were quite funny. The bassist of W.A.S.P. was interviewed lying on a pool floaty thing, clothed in his metal garb and swigging from a Smirnoff bottle. He was quite blotto, and to make it even more cringe-worthy his mother was sitting poolside. Read this article about the interview, funny stuff.

There were interviews with bands like Odin and Seduce which at the time were convinced they were going to be the next Guns ‘n’ Roses or Ratt, but didn’t get anywhere. There were interviews with Aerosmith (they mostly talked about their drug and alcohol addiction), Alice Cooper, Paul Stanley of Kiss (lying on a large bed with scantily clad ladies around him), Dave Mustaine, and good ol’ Lemmy from Motorhead who was the most sensible one of all. The best though was Ozzy Osbourne (interviewed while cooking bacon in a kitchen, all staged it turns out), who was just plain funny, and while comprehensible (unlike these days) was probably on something at the time.

So, despite being about hair metal it was quite fun to watch, kind of an enjoyable train wreck as you knew most the the bands in this were soon to disappear. Here is an article about the main protagonists in the film.

Date watched: November 4th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2017: 124