5. Cars. I have four gorgeous children, so end up watching a lot of family films at the cinema with them. A lot of family films are awesome for adults to watch – often with jokes or parodies of things that the children would have to have explained to them. I love Ice Age, Shrek and Toy Story. However, my favourite family film has to be Cars. The little filmette that starts this off is called One Man Band and is excellent in itself, and the film is great too. It starts with a race sequence, and goes on to tell the story of Lightning McQueen, the fast, heroic, city car who ends up stranded in a small town, imaginatively called Radiator Springs, and learns about a different pace of life and a different set of values. It’s a lot better than the Michael J Fox “Doc Hollywood” from which a lot of the plot appears to be based, and for a children’s film, conveyed a message about how if all you aim at is success, who will you share it with when you get there.
A lot of fuss was made at the time about the decision to put the animated cars’ eyes on the windscreen, rather than use the headlights which is more common in cartoon films. However, I think it makes the cars seem more anthropomorphic, more animated and more “human”.
Definitely an enjoyable cinema trip, and a great film…
4. Back to the Future. This film is just a lot of fun: Michael J Fox goes back in time, driving a time machine designed by a wacky professor played to a tee by Christopher Lloyd. As he goes back to 1955, he breaks the time machine, has his mum develop a crush on him, inspires the civil rights movement, invents Rock and Roll – and skateboards, and finally manages to convince his dad to fight for his mum and not only returns to his present day but finds out he has actually improved it.
Some fantastic set-pieces (the car chase while he is in the skateboard, leading to the car crash into the manure truck), the Doctor from 1955 refusing to believe Reagan could be president, and the fact that Marti (Michael J Fox’s time traveller) is called Calvin Klein by his mum because that is the name on his underwear, make this film thoughtful, action-packed and a lot of fun.
Although the two sequels are also fun and play with the ideas in the original in spectacular ways, neither of them reached the sheer energy and wit in this one. In a decade that promises to be full of 80s remakes, I’d love to see a remake of this in 2015 with Marti going back to 1985 – but I can’t think of any music that would shock a group of 80s teenagers!
3. Superman (the Richard Donner film). I love superheroes, I used to spend all my money on comics as a child, and Superman has always been my favourite. I went to the cinema to see this with my nan, and she had me convinced I was going to see the Fox and the Hound! It was awesome to watch on the big screen – I too believed a man could fly. Christopher Reeve achieved the almost impossible: he made it believable that you could see Clark Kent and Superman and never realize they were the same person. He showed the humanity of Superman even though his alien origin was paramount in the film.
From Marlon Brando as Superman’s alien father, to Lois Lane, this film altered the comics, and opened the way for a new generation of superhero films. Gene Hackman plays a fantastic so smart he is dumb Lex Luthor, and I love this film.
My only criticism is one I have had of all the incarnations of Superman since (with the exception of Superman II): Superman needs a super-villain, someone he can have a super-fight with. Chasing missiles at the end and catching a car is a bit mundane for Superman, using his heat vision to chop a branch of a tree – or in the latest film Superman picking up a mountain – is not really how I define an action film. Let’s have him have to pound someone to pieces. Hopefully the re-introduction of General Zod in the upcoming Man of Steel film will lead to some super action in a Superman film.
2. Cinderella Man
I love boxing, and I love true live films – and this one is excellent, telling the story of James J Braddock as he goes through the Great Depression as a washed-up injured boxer and eventually re-enters the ring. Braddock is a proud man, and as he starts winning fights, starts to pay back the government the money he received as welfare. The scene where he makes his son return stolen food to the butcher, insisting that he would rather starve honest than eat as a thief brought tears to my eyes – that is good, fair parenting.
The end of this film is unbelievable until you realize it is based on a very true event. Great film.
1. Shawshank Redemption
I reckon this must be a lot of people’s favourite film, Most people don’t realize it is based on a short story by Stephen King as it is not like his normal work. The story of hope in the worst of situations resonates with all of us who have felt confined, falsely accused, bullied, and exploited, that your situation has no hope and your self-worth is continually undermined – and Morgan Freeman puts in the performance of a lifetime as “Red” the go-to guy who can get things, and who narrates us through Andy’s story. Tim Robbins plays the everyman Andy to a tea (little known fact – the original casting of this film was Tom Cruise as Andy, and Harrison Ford as Red: so so glad that film was never made!), and draws you into his struggle.
When Andy finally succeeds in outwitting the prison warden, and ensuring Red survives, it is one of the most powerful cinematic scenes in history. In fact, if you need a little light at the end of the tunnel today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SheaMMd8H5g