Police Academy


Viewed – 12 February 2016  Blu-ray

I recently received the box set of this once much loved but ultimately milked to death franchise that I recall enjoying a lot in my formative years.  I hadn’t really given the movies much thought in probably the last twenty years but the prospect of checking out at least the first one was surprisingly appealing.

Police-Academy

This follows the story of a law being passed that relaxes the rules on citizens joining the Police force.  One such scoundrel is Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg – remember him?) who following an altercation at a car park is arrested and given one final chance to ‘clean up his act’ by the Police chief whose had enough of seeing his face at the station.  Mahoney therefore is forced to join the Police Academy alongside a number of other oddball characters.  Here we’re introduced to many of the other series stalwarts … the gun-obsessed Tackleberry, the man-mountain Hightower, the squeaky voiced Hooks and series fave; the sound effects spouting Jones (Michael Winslow).   We also get a love interest for Mahoney in the gorgeous shape of Kim Cattrall.  There’s an immediate familiar charm to this movie, helped by a memorable theme tune and highly entertaining, albeit cartoon-like characters (who can forget the dictatory Police-Academy-Mahoney-Jones-Lieutenant Harris, or the bumbling Commandant Lassard?).  The humour is pretty tame and light by today’s standards but in the tradition of similar slightly risqué comedies like Animal House and Porkies, we still get plenty of innuendo, some gratuitous female nudity and even a podium blowjob scene (!).  It never gets too crude though and there’s a fun-loving free spirited innocence to it all that most modern comedies should take notes from.

Looking back on this kind of comedy, the Blue Oyster bar scene, as comical a moment as it is,  would probably be a definite no no today.  Also the word ‘fag’ is thrown around occasionally, whereas sex-mad heterosexual guys are portrayed as heroes.  Have we really come this far since the eighties?  Yet with that being said, there’s no denying how entertaining and fun I still found this even if my brain has been ruined by much more outrageous fair.  An 80s comedy classic worth re-visiting..

The Blu-ray boasts a very clean and at times eye-catching image quality especially for this type of movie.  Colours are well realised and even though I feel a bit of grain reduction has occurred, overall it’s a good looking presentation.  The audio in DTS HD Master Audio lacks some punch and the dialogue whilst clear is a little scratchy.  Extras consist of a very welcome commentary with the director and much of the cast (including Guttenberg) and we also get a behind the scenes doc.  Not too shabby at all.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


Viewed – 03 August 2015  Cinema

Good to see that one of our most enduring Hollywood stars can still deliver a pulse-pounding action extravaganza even as he settles into his fifth decade on this planet.  Add to this the fact he does many of his own stunts, and actor Tom Cruise is the real deal, regardless of what some may think of him personally.

Rogue

Cruise plays super-agent Ethan Hunt who, currently in hiding and ‘gone rogue’ is trying to unmask the real identity of secret organization ‘the syndicate’ whilst back at Langley, CIA headquarters the big wigs are disbanding the IMF.  Following a lead in London, Hunt witnesses the murder of a contact and the revelation that those he believed he worked for may be involved in a global conspiracy.   Like Ghost Protocol before it, this is a confident and well directed spy movie full of fancy gadgets, intense action and lots of double-crossing.  Director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) has put together what feels like the Mission Impossible movie we’ve all been waiting for – the action feels bigger, the locations more diverse and glamorous (London, Paris, Vienna etc.) and the story seems more dramatic.  Add to this a wonderful discovery in actress Rebecca Ferguson, who may be the sexiest (and deadliest) femme-fatale we’ve had on screen in years, and with excellent comedic support from Simon Pegg – this almost has it all.

Rogue NationI felt that even for an M.I. movie, sometimes the stunts and situations got a little implausible (a somersaulting car?), and some moments were just plane mad (the admitedly tense under water sequence).  Also, creepy-demeanour aside, the villain was again like Ghost Protocol, rather one-dimensional.  It was a shame to also see Jeremy Renner not be fully utilized for such a gifted actor … but regardless, this was still a shot of adrenaline to the heart and packed full of memorable moments, an amazing car turned bike chase, and an ending that made me want to stand up and applaud.  With Spectre on the horizon, I’d say in the spy movie world, this is going to take some beating.

Over to you, Mr Bond.

Verdict:  4 /5

Birdman


Viewed – 05 May 2015  Online Rental

It’s nice to go into a movie with no other expectation than the thought it might be good.  This Oscar winning drama stars (where has he been?) Michael Keaton as a former super hero movie actor turned has-been struggling to make a name for himself in Theatre.  As opening night looms, he is plagued with various problems and misfortunes, such as a recovered drug addict daughter (Emma Stone), actors butting heads with each other (Naomi Watts & Edward Norton) as well as his own issues with being haunted by the presence of his Birdman alter-ego who is constantly telling him to get back to what he was famous for.

Birdman_2014-8

This is very much a come back vehicle for Keaton who’s own career seems to be purposely imitated here and he is superb, complex and bonkers in all the ways that made him a perfect Beetlejuice or Bruce Wayne.  Aided well by a solid supporting cast who all get their moment, with an almost-upstaging Norton and a believably fragile Watts, not to mention a decent turn by the ever likeable Stone.  Yet beyond the decent performances, this is also about the trials and tribulations of being a star, being a has-been or trying to stay relevant without making a fool of yourself.  It’s scarily convincing.  Add to this a script that juggles realism with fantastical surrealism (has Keaton’s character really got super powers?) and excellent direction by Alejandro González Iñárritu backed up by highly creative ‘how did they do that?’ camera work – and I’d say this is one of the most thought-provoking studies of celebrity and celeb-culture I’ve seen in a long time.

This is also a movie that should get people talking.  The ending will get you talking.  The whole fly-on-a-wall structuring leads you to certain conclusions and then still makes you question things (at least it did me).  And I love that sort thing; clever but doesn’t try and be pretentious about it.  Oh and yes, I’d love to see Keaton play Batman again.

Verdict:  5 /5

A Good Day To Die Hard


Viewed – 26 November 2013  Blu-ray

Back in 1987 Bruce Willis shocked audiences world wide by transforming his wise cracking, comedy image from popular TV series Moonlighting into credible action-hero machismo with the first in this franchise … arguably one of the finest action thrillers ever made.  Naturally such a well crafted movie would spawn sequels, and generally in my opinion, Die Hard has always delivered – but any good run had to come to an end, and yes, all the rumours you may have heard about this ill advised continuation of John McClane’s adventures are true.

A-Good-Day-to-Die-Hard

Willis travels to Moscow to track down his estranged son (Jai Courtney) who seems to have got himself in a heap of trouble with some Russian terrorists.  But before long father and son are reunited against a common enemy, and attempt to bond between the bullets flying and the bodies piling up.  Directed by relative-unknown John Moore, this frantic, moodily shot attempt at an action movie from the get-go fails on almost every level.  Firstly this isn’t just Willis playing McClane as a fish out of water New York cop (that would have been fun – but it’s not explored) he genuinely looks lost – not necessarily over the hill, but just in the wrong movie.  His wise-cracks are delivered awkwardly like Willis himself is bored with the character, and the setting and the plot just failed to resonate.  Add to this rapidly edited, confusing action that is mostly too fast and too chaotic to follow or enjoy, and well … I began to almost want to remove this from my PlayStation 3 and throw the original Die Hard in for the umpteenth time.

A plot twist towards the end was borderline interesting, but especially bad for this franchise, the villain was just a cliché, and his evil scheme nothing that clever.  I wouldn’t normally be so against a movie, but for a franchise I previously adored – this was an embarrassment.  Oh, and that cool free fall through a building and into water showcased in the trailer – that’s the best bit of the movie.

Verdict:  1 /5