Growing up with Star Wars

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I’ve mentioned before that when I was at first school, most of my friends wanted to be Sandy in Grease, but I wanted to be Princess Leia.  I even got my Mum to put my hair in Leia-type hairdo’s, involving plaits mostly.  The boys let me play as none of them wanted to be Leia.  They were too busy arguing over who was Han and who was Luke…..and Chewie and the droids.

Iconic scene from Star Wars: Luke on Tatooine

Any child born, or growing up, in the 70’s would literally have to have been from another planet if they had not at least seen, what is, the most famous movie saga in the world.  That instantly recognisable operatic movie score from John Williams.  The closest anything else has come to Star Wars is Harry Potter, but that is for another post.

Star Wars: The Millennium Falcon

When George Lucas wrote Star Wars, he was writing a space adventure for children to enjoy.  He never envisaged it would reach such stratospheric levels of fandom, love and devotion. He says he was inspired by westerns, the old-fashioned good vs. evil and that good always wins in the end.

The Empire Strikes Back: Luke and Yoda

I remember my brothers collecting the Star Wars spaceships and figures.  I was bought My Little Pony and Barbie, which utterly bored me.  I was forever playing with Lego and Star Wars toys when I wasn’t riding my bike, or climbing trees.  I was a little tomboy.  Hence my admiration for Princess Leia.  I loved the scene in Return of the Jedi when she leaps on a speeder bike in pursuit of a biker scout, for example.  She didn’t wait for the boys to deal with the dilemma/problem.

That ending. Gulp….

I was 8 when I saw the Empire Strikes Back (the same year I saw ET) and I remember crying when Han got frozen, confusion at that paternity revelation and the ending.  It couldn’t end like that, could it?  As an adult, Empire is my favourite of the trilogy.  It is the operatic, dark, second act.  However, back to my childhood, I was relieved when good won out in Jedi and loved the cute ewoks, but my brothers found them annoying.  However, the boys got Leia in a gold bikini so they shouldn’t complain.

Return of the Jedi

My teens, which I hated, came and went.  In my early 20’s the trilogy was rereleased at cinemas ahead of the new prequel, The Phantom Menace.  I had never seen the films at the cinema as I was only 2 when Star Wars came out.  I dragged one of my best friends along and after seeing Star Wars, she really looked forward to the next two films.  Seeing certain scenes such as the X-Wing attack on the Death Star, Hoth, Cloud City and the speeder bike chase on Endor was amazing.  To a child, this would be pure cinematic magic.

Wicket. Cute.

So, in 1999, the day tickets went on sale for The Phantom Menace, I got up early and booked tickets for myself and two best friends for the first showing.  On the day, queues were going round the block and people were offering three or four times the price for a ticket, but nobody was selling.  There was an air of hushed excitement when we all filed in, which I’ve never experienced before in a cinema………it was all for nothing.  It just didn’t have the charm, or magic.  The best thing Star Wars-related that year was Simon Pegg’s episode of Spaced called ‘Chaos’.  Simon Pegg is another huge fan of the trilogy.

Mace Windu. Bad-Ass Jedi. Purple Lightsaber.

I dutifully watched Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, hoping things would improve, the latter film being the best of the prequels.  I feel sorry for Jake Lloyd who copped all the flak.  He was just a kid.  Lucas should have cast an older Anakin and Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman (forgiven because of Black Swan) were wooden and awful.  Then there was the awful Jar-Jar Binks….. There were a few good scenes and glimpses of what could have been, in all three movies.  Ewan McGregor hit his stride as Obi Wan in Clones and Revenge.  Darth Maul was the best thing in Phantom.  Mace Windu was the best thing about the whole trilogy.  Too cool for Jedi school.

Episode VII Cast Meeting

Anyway, onwards and upwards.  My 5 year old is now Star Wars obsessed.  Star Wars is his world.  Luke Skywalker is awesome and my son wants to be a Jedi when he grows up, alongside acting, directing and winning the Tour de France. Of course.  He will be 7 when Episode VII is released in December 2015.  I cannot wait to take him to the cinema, along with my husband, my brothers and nephews.  This is a film with huge expectations, build-up and excitement, much like Christmas.  I have every faith in JJ Abrams being the man for the job.  I think the force is strong in this one.

Images: IMDb

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My Favourite Movie Soundtracks

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The soundtrack to a movie is hugely important.  It gives a movie impact by stirring the relevant emotion in the viewer.  Think of John Barry’s music for Out of Africa for example.  Here is a list of some of my favourite soundtracks, some well known, others not.

 

The Talented Mr Ripley – Various artists

Beautiful, brilliant and haunting…..just like the film, this music will get inside your head.  I love that Matt Damon and Jude Law perform on the soundtrack.  My favourite piece is a classical music piece, Italia, by Gabriel Yared. It reminds me of how I feel when I arrive in Italy on holiday.

 

The Virgin Suicides – Various Artists

Again, beautiful soundtrack.  Everything about Sophia Coppola’s films are in the little details and the soundtrack is perfect, making one think of lazy, hot summers and first love.  I adore Playground Love by Air.

 

Tron Legacy – Daft Punk

I have always liked Daft Punk so I thought it was pretty cool that Disney gave them free rein on the soundtrack.  Daft Punk have created an amazing score that could not be more perfect for this film.  Various pieces have been used for adverts, unsurprisingly.  We always listen to the whole album when driving over the San Gottard pass to get to Italy every year.  My favourite track? Two, Outlands and Disc Wars, but if you love electro then you’ll love the whole album.

 

Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet – Various Artists

The music for these two fantastic films, is key. It is quite unusual for the music to be centre stage in what are not quite musicals in the traditional sense, or Romeo & Juliet is not at least.  I love the variety of rock and pop.  My favourite tracks are I’m Kissing You by Des’ree and Diamond Dogs by Beck.

 

Hitch – Various Artists

Just like the film itself, the soundtrack is totally feel-good, I  mean, this film has Heavy D & the Boyz for goodness sake!  My favourite track is 1 Thing by Amerie.  This movie and soundtrack reminds me of a great year in my life.

 

Despicable Me (1 & 2) – Pharrell & Various Artists

What can I say?  I have two little boys who adore these films and I admit, I enjoy the soundtrack with them too.  My 5 year old knows the despicable me ‘rap’.  Best track?  Happy.  End of.  Pharrell is indeed a clever guy.

 

The Bodyguard – Whitney Houston

Now, more than ever, this soundtrack is more heartbreaking because of poor Whitney.  She was at the top of her game here and surprised everyone with how good an actress she was to boot.  I love, I Have Nothing.

 

Lord of the Rings – Howard Shore

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Sweeping and epic, like the trilogy, the Lord of the Rings soundtrack is a triumph.  Instantly recognisable, like other hugely successful film saga soundtracks, this is already a classic.  All of it is as brilliant as the three films themselves.

 

The Empire Strikes Back – John Williams

Speaking of epic sagas, John Williams score for Empire is just that.  The best track on the soundtrack is undoubtedly Finale.  Best soundtrack of the trilogy for the best film of the trilogy.  I’m not including episodes 1-3.

 

The Lost Boys – Various Artists

One of my favourite movies from my teens, this is one awesome soundtrack.  Really, no competition, best track is People are Strange by Echo & the Bunnymen.

 

Last, but not least….

When Harry Met Sally – Harry Connick Jr

I love this film.  Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal and writer, Nora Ephron (RiP), are at the top of their game.  So was Harry Connick Jr when he made this soundtrack.  Perfect songs for a movie about a couple of friends in New York trying to find true love.  My favourite track? Gotta be, It Had to be You.

 

There are so many more, too many to mention, but anything by John Williams, the fab techno soundtrack to Run, Lola, Run, Quentin Tarantino’s movies always have good music (Kill Bill a prime example), I love Danny Elfman’s quirky sound (he scores Tim Burton’s movies), Michael Ghiacchino’s score for Star Trek: Into Darkness, Alan Silvestri’s score for Avengers Assemble, the Bond movie soundtracks…..

 

images: IMDb

 

 

Mean Creek

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If you had the chance to give your bully a taste of their own medicine, would you?  If you think you know the answer, watch this film and it may change your mind.

I enjoy blockbusters, but sometimes I just want to watch a cleverly written independent film and Mean Creek falls in this category.

Mean Creek is about a group of friends who have had enough of bully, George (Josh Peck), picking on Sam (played fantastically by Rory Culkin) who is small for his age.  The group decide to plan a day out on a boat, instigated by Sam’s older brother, Rocky (Trevor Morgan), with the intention of humiliating George and giving him a taste of his own medicine.

Written and directed by Jacob Aaron Este, Mean Creek was released in 2004.  It deservedly received two independent movie awards and was nominated for others.

The film is set (and filmed) in Oregon.  A welcome change from the usual film locations.  The scenery is gorgeous, but foreboding in some ways, hence perfect for the building tension as the teens spend longer together in the boat.

Mean Creek reminds me of my childhood in the early 80’s.  Those long, hot summers where you would disappear all day with your friends on your bikes.

Beautifully shot, the child actors are superb.  At times, in other films, some child actors can over-emote, or be plain wooden.  There is no such trouble here.  Rory Culkin is particularly great as Sam, miserable at being tormented, but not keen on getting his own back either.

The music, produced and composed by tomandandy, is flawless and sets the tone perfectly.  I particularly love the track by Ethan Gold, “Our Love is Beautiful”.

If you love ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘The Butterfly Effect’, you will love Mean Creek.

Sam: “You know, if we hurt him, we’d be just as bad as him.”

Rocky: “We need to hurt him without really hurting him.”

 

What is your favourite independent film?

Images: IMDb

The 80’s: Decade of Nostalgia

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The 80’s is one of my favourite movie decades.  It was not filled with the greatest films, some of them were downright daft in a so bad they were good way (Mannequin, Dirty Dancing, Big Trouble in Little China, or Weekend at Bernie’s are prime examples).

Mike Nichol’s Working Girl – I love this film!

Most films from this decade happily bathed in their gloriously imaginative stories, they didn’t hold back.  There were just as many films for children and teenagers in the 80’s as there were for adults.

Top Gun

The 80’s is filled with John Hughes movies, Spielberg, Steve Martin (when he made funny movies), Schwarzenegger leading the way in the hugely popular action movie genre, the world fell in love with Tom Cruise, the brat pack and Bueller…..Bueller, anyone? anyone?

The 80’s movie always has memorable quotes, music, clothing, characters and posters.  I clearly remember the Nightmare on Elm Street poster terrifying me!

Staypuft – Ghostbusters

A movie critic will always pick the 90’s with it’s fantastic films such as LA Confidential, The Green Mile, Fight Club and Tarantino films.  Some of my favourite movies are from the 90’s and 70’s.  However, many of today’s bright stars in the movie industry grew up with and/or are inspired by 80’s films.  People such as JJ Abrams who was influenced by Star Wars and is now at the helm of episodes 7-9, M Night Shyamalan (Spielberg) with his cinematography and lately, Guardians of the Galaxy director, James Gunn (Raiders of the Lost Ark).  In fact James Gunn is so influenced by the 80’s that he has used an 80’s soundtrack in Guardians.

Labyrinth

My personal favourite films from the 80’s are:

The Empire Strikes Back, The Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, The Goonies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Trading Places, Big, The Terminator, Ghostbusters, ET: The Extra Terrestial, Labyrinth, The Lost Boys, Working Girl, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

I will be covering these films in future posts.  There are many more memorable films, such as; Beetlejuice, Back to the Future, Top Gun (my bff will have words with me if I don’t mention this), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Wall Street, Aliens, The Karate Kid, The Breakfast Club, Gremlins….but for now, I will be sticking to the films above and perhaps covering these and others later on.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

These films are never claiming to be serious, or arty and this is one of the points of my blog, to show that you can love movies and love these films too.  If these films weren’t great then they wouldn’t keep showing up in Top 100 Films polls.  You can enjoy The Godfather 2 and still revel in the popcorn fun of The Goonies.  It is allowed.

Images: IMDb

So, what is your favourite 80’s movie?