The Three Musketeers – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 72: The Three Musketeers (1993)

3 Musketeers 01

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re on the hunt for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

I talked about how much I like Raphael Sbarge. Oh, and we watched Risky Business.

The Choice

My turn to pick and I managed to narrow it down to:

Runaway Train (1985)

After Hours (1985)

Better Off Dead (1985)

Vanilla Sky (2001)

and the victor….

The Three Musketeers (1993)

The Link

Rebecca De Mornay

3 Musketeers 06

Before watching Risky Business last week I wasn’t really aware of her. In fact, judging by IMDb credits the only other thing I’ve seen her in is 2003’s Identity which I don’t particularly remember. In Risky Business she was upstaged, as was everyone else, by Tom Cruise. She was a slightly ethereal presence, but that matched the ethereal Tangerine Dream score. How will she fare in a rollicking adventure?

The Three Musketeers and me

Well that’s a tricky question, isn’t it. The Three Musketeers is one of those stories that’s revived every 10 years or so with a new batch of stars for the ensemble. Exactly the same, but different (as my first headmaster used to enjoy saying). So for me, the Three Musketeers who remain iconic are Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Frank Finlay alongside Michael York’s D’Artagnan.

3 Musketeers 04

The Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan

It was on TV regularly when I grew up and I don’t think it’s been bettered. Whether this is a generational thing or if it’s widely thought to be the definitive version I’m not so sure. I suppose Dogtagnan may also have been an influence…

I do also have a soft spot for The Man In The Iron Mask (1998) however, which features (wait for it)… Gerard Depardieu, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovitch and Gabriel Byrne as the musketeers. Not a bad bunch, all told.

The Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan

But as far as this particular version goes… I bought the cassette single of All For Love by music’s three musketeers: Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting. I find that slightly mind boggling now. The film came out in ’93, so I would have been 12. At that age I was obsessed with Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, buying a new album by one or the other every week I could afford it. While Bryan Adams had a bit of rock cred, I’m still surprised I bought the single. But I have never seen the film. I’d seen a version with Oliver Reed et al, why did I need one with Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt, Charlie Sheen and Chris O’Donnell?

The Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan. Srsly.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have high hopes, but it feels sort of festive as we approach Christmas. A big nonsensey bit of swashbuckling to snooze to on a Christmas afternoon…

IMDB says

The three best of the disbanded Musketeers – Athos, Porthos, and Aramis – join a young hotheaded would-be-Musketeer, D’Artagnan, to stop the Cardinal Richelieu’s evil plot.

I says

Kiefer, Charlie, Ollie and Chris may be the big names up front, but only Tim bloody Curry plays Richelieu! And Michael Wincott is his second in command. Things started to look good pretty early on. But then it just sort of puttered away.

The Three… no hang on… Tim Curry, wahoo.

Charlie Sheen was originally considered as Porthos and I think that would have suited him better – as it is Porthos and Aramis kind of blur into one braggart. In the other versions I mentioned earlier Porthos is Oliver Reed or Gerard Derpardieu. Oliver Platt is a fun presence in things, but he’s harder to believe as a swashbuckler (unless he’s prowling the halls of the West Wing with a cricket bat in hand of course). And Kiefer is doing his best proto-Jack Bauer, but it just made me want to watch a bit of 24 (don’t worry, I quickly disabused myself of that notion).

It’s fine. It’s certainly not the worst film we’ve seen as part of CRFC (by a long shot), but there’s just no real need for it. We’ve had this generation’s version a few years ago with a pretty mediocre cast, so perhaps it’ll be more fun to ponder who I’d cast in a current Three Musketeers than talk about this version any more… Let’s see….

Porthos (braggart, brawler) – Tom Hardy could certainly have a bash at this.

Athos (secretive, drink problem, more of a loner) – Cillian Murphy. Oh those wounded eyes…

Aramis (Pious, but also a ladies man) – I’d love to see Oscar Isaac give this a go. When he smiles the world is a better place.

D’Artagnan (the young firebrand hero) – Maybe just because I’m thinking about Star Wars at the moment, but perhaps John Boyega could be worth a go… Or Ferdia Walsh-Peelo from the incomparable Sing Street – his energy would be infectious in the old duffers above. Have you seen Sing Street? You should see Sing Street.

The Verdict

Well I want to watch my version. Or the Michael York one. What? There’s a version with Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen? Pull the other one mate.

Coming Attractions

It’s Tim’s choice and I’ve given him a who’s who of 80’s and early 90’s Hollywood to pick from, plus a few curveballs. I’d like to see more of Michael Wincott, Tim Curry is always worth a watch and Julie Delpy could take us into some different territory. We shall see.

@BornToPootle

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Risky Business – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 71: Risky Business

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re looking for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems, oddities and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

Hackmania 2017 is over, six Gene Hackman films were watched and the winner was… Me and Tim of course, we got to watch six Gene Hackman films. Read about them here and here.

The Shortlist

Timecode (2000)

Risky Business (1983)

Collateral (2004)

Into The Wild (2007)

Once Around (1991)

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

The Link

Tom Cruise

Tom’s the one on the right

He’s a funny old one, isn’t he? There are some massive Tom Cruise films I’ve never seen, but plenty I have – Legend, Interview With The Vampire, Born on the Fourth of July, Mission Impossible and A Few Good Men all hit when I was at impressionable ages. He’s never less than solid, he’s seldom more than engaging. Oblivion is dull as ditchwater but he holds it together well enough, whereas Edge of Tomorrow (or All You Need Is Kill, or Live, Die, Repeat) was a surprise pleasure. And boy does he look good running.

Risky Business and me

I know the scene from Risky Business. Well, not really the scene. The shot. I know that shot where Tom Cruise slides into shot in his undies. But that’s about it.

I assume it’s a sort of Ferris Buellery thing, but I haven’t seen that either. The whole 80s American teen thing has never really tickled my fancy. I have seen Breakfast Club, that’s one… and… does Lost Boys count? I saw that once… St Elmo’s Fire? Nope. Pretty In Pink? Nope. Sixteen Candles? Fast Times At Ridgemont High? Weird Science? Noooooooooooooooope.

IMDB says

A Chicago teenager is looking for fun at home while his parents are away, but the situation quickly gets out of hand.

I says

Firstly, and most importantly, someone sound the Raphael Sbarge alarm.

Mr. Sbarge on the right

I didn’t even recognise him, he’s so young in it. My love for Mr Sbarge stems from his dulcet tones playing Carth Onasi in the game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The game itself is fab and directly led to the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, and the joys of romancing NPCs in games. Largely down to how frickin’ great Raphael Sbarge’s voice acting was. That game man, that and Fable hooked me back into gaming which has become one of my great pleasures.

Anyway. Just imagine the Raphael Sbarge alarm is going off through the rest of this. Next up, Curtis Armstrong. Sure, Tom Cruise looks like Tom Cruise and is all eyes and grin, but I want a film about Curtis Armstrong’s character. He has moxie, chutzpah and other such words. He looks like a slacker, has moxie and is going to Harvard. He sets everything in motion only for Tom Cruise to slide into the frame in his undies and steal the film away.

What’s that I can hear under the Raphael Sbarge alarm? Why, it’s only the Joe Pantoliano alert!

We last saw Joey Pants in buddy cop romp Running Scared. He played a whiny criminal. And here? A whiny (yet slightly smooth) pimp. You need whiny? Get Pants.

And then I suppose we ought to talk about Tom Cruise… He looks almost no different in this than he did in The Firm, despite the intervening years. And he didn’t look that different in The Firm to how he looks now. That’s some dark magick he’s involved in. He’s Tom Cruise. He turned up fully formed. After the scene where he slides in in his undies he dances around the house, ending up throwing himself onto the sofa and gyrating. He was always that Tom Cruise – Oprah shouldn’t have been a surprise.

And the film? That ol’ thing? It’s not what I was expecting. It’s almost a teen sex comedy, and it’s almost something quite searing about capitalism. The Tangerine Dream score makes the film seem like it’s meant to be taken more seriously than I thought, backed up by the odd slow-mo shot. Tom Cruise getting a call-girl because he doesn’t seem able to get a date makes it seem like it’s meant to be taken less seriously. It reminded me of Wolf Of Wall Street in an odd way. It’s up to us to find Cruise reprehensible, the film isn’t going to do it all for us. But the camera zooming in on the black of the sunglasses lens / Cruise’s soul did enough to flag up the intentions. In a society that’s teaching kids to commodify everything, of course making a quick buck from pimping out prostitutes follows.

The Verdict

Wolf of Wall Street: The College Years

Coming Attractions

It’s my choice next, and I’ve got plenty to pick from. As I mentioned earlier, there are some really big Tom Cruise films I should have seen, but then there’s also Raphael Sbarge… He’s not actually in that many films, appearing more on TV and voiceovers. If I’m in the mood for whininess I’m sure Joe Pantoliano is prolific. And there’s also Rebecca De Mornay, the hooker with a heart of gold in Risky Business, who I don’t think I’ve seen in anything else at all… Who knows!

@BornToPootle

Goldman Variations – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Last time it was Sarandon Season on the Chain Reaction Film Club. We finished that with The Great Waldo Pepper, which was indeed great. Written by master film scribe William Goldman, it seemed as good a time as any to tackle some of his films that we’d not already seen. Those we have seen include The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Sting. So he has some form for this writing lark. The only slight snag is that we can’t use him to link between films, as it has to be an actor who appears on screen and has a meaningful line of dialogue. So from Waldo Pepper we were able to get to:

Film 62: The Hot Rock (1972)

Link: Robert Redford

I’ve been in the mood for a crime caper for quite some time, so this was very exciting. A Goldman script (based on a book by Donald Westlake), Redford in the lead role, directed by Peter Yates (whose The Dresser I enjoyed very much) – all signs point to glory.

Redford is an ex con with a talent for planning heists. He’s brought back for one more job… a team is assembled… things go wrong… some stuff happens…

Rather than focussing on one big heist, this ends up being a series of escalating heists as things don’t quite go to plan. There’s a bit of silliness, but no one has told Robert Redford that as he plays it straight throughout. And the heists don’t really escalate that much. I think Goldman may have been having an off day when he adapted this one…

But wait, who’s this?

It does however feature one of Christopher Guest’s first film performances – one line as a cop in a police station. So worth it for that alone.

Film 63: A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Link: Robert Redford

Next to a crime caper, a classic war film has been pretty high on my list. And this one, about Operation Market Garden, is definitely a classic. Let’s just have a whiff of the cast:

Dirk Bogarde, Michael Caine, Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, Edward Fox, Sean Connery, Ryan O’Neal, James Caan, Alun Armstrong…

Redford (yet again appearing in a Goldman-penned film) doesn’t appear until quite far through. By then we’re deep in the mud and blood, but Redford is approached for a mission and turns and smiles and is just Too Much.

No smile, but you get the idea

I don’t know that much about Operation Market Garden (must watch Band of Brothers…) but the film title alone gave me the impression it wasn’t an overall success. And while I got a bit confused here and there about which bridge was which and who was waiting for back up from who, it’s a solid ensemble beast. It’s not quite in the browbeating war is hell category, but it certainly isn’t tubthumping either.

Goldman was adapting a book again here, and strikes a fine balance between the stiff upper lip facade and the grim reality. Most of the military advisers to the film had the same names as the characters, so I’m going to assume authenticity was the watchword.

Also, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Sean Connery in anything other than Bond. He’s a fantastic, muscular presence.

That’s the Chicago way…

Film 64: Absolute Power (1997)

Link: Gene Hackman

This has the honour of appearing on more shortlists than any other film so far (ok, I haven’t really been keeping track but this and Bob Roberts turn up a LOT). And for once it’s a Goldman film without Redford in tow! It is another book adaptation though, this time of a David Baldacci thriller.

Clint Eastwood is a burglar who hides when the house he’s burgling turns out to be occupied after all. He watches a steamy affair from behind a two way mirror, then things get violent, the man calls for help and… the Secret Service run in and shoot the woman. That’s right, President Gene Hackman is in trouble and has a lot of covering up to do. 

Happy Birthday Mr. President…

We watched this the same week Weinstein allegations surfaced, so it was oddly on point (let’s not even get started on White House abuses of power). 

The first half chugs along very nicely, then it all gets a bit murky. It’s one where everything could have been resolved much earlier wih a bit less faffing around. Still, seeing a pre-24 Dennis Haysbert as the President’s bodyguard was fun. Soon enough he’d be in the big chair himself.

‘I hope my presidency is much less dramatic…’

Right at the beginning, when the prez is making out with the woman, not only are the Secret Service on hand but his chief of staff is too. And so I spent the rest of the film imagining President Bartlett and Leo being caught up in that kind of situation which, I’ll be honest, sounds like more fun. 

Gene Hackman has been in quite a few films we’ve tackled so far – not only Absolute Power and A Bridge Too Far (with a Polish accent no less) but there’s also been Bonnie and Clyde, Scarecrow, Wyatt Earp, and Twilight. There’s a simple reason for this: I just haven’t seen that many Hackman films. He’s an actor who has almost entirely passed me by, with the notable exception of Unforgiven and his Lex Luthor. I’m not really sure why this is – I’ll ponder it a bit for next time because… we’ve reached the end of The Goldman Variations and it’s time for Hackmania!

What have I learned from dipping toes deeper into Goldman’s inkwell? Maybe a little of what you fancy is better than a lot. His notable films really are extraordinary (I forgot he also wrote All The President’s Men, what a guy!) but not every script can be legendary. There are still more I’d like to tackle – I’ve never seen Marathon Man for example (we almost linked to that after A Bridge… via Olivier) – but I don’t feel like a mug for not being au fait wih every single film he’s been involved in.

Hackman though… Let’s see what I’ve been missing out on.

Filmapalooza 2017! – The Chain Reaction Film Club

I’ve been quiet on the film front lately but fear not, I’ve still been watching them it’s just that I’ve changed jobs and have to actually do a full day’s work now. Curse the lack of surreptitious blogging time!

As I’ve built up a fair old backlog I’m going to burn through them in a few handy (hopefully not too lengthy) posts.

So.

Last time was the 50th (and 49th and 51st) film extravaganza wherein I discovered just how good Starship Troopers still is. Endlessly quotable, fun yet compelling, poking fun at fascists. What’s not to like?

Film 52: Scanners (1981)

Link: Michael Ironside

Ironside

This was a serious gap in my film knowledge, and an odd one at that. I’ve heard it mentioned and referenced so many times that I had built up my own version of it in my head.  And of course that vesion doesn’t bear many similarities with the actual film other than there are explodey head psychics about.

The first half hooked me, but I’ve seldom seen a film so resolutely sunk by the lead actor’s performance. Going from hobo to superspy in the course of the film was always going to be a tough sell, but sadly Steven Lack was exactly, monotonously, the same throughout. You might say he was… Lacking… Oh well.

For what it’s worth, in my made up version the famous exploding head happens live on TV and is a news presenter or similar, and psychics are kept in some kind of walled prison. I think I prefer my made up version.

Film 53: Escape From Alcatraz (1979)

Link: Patrick MacGoohan

McGoohan

McGoohan and The Prisoner.

This was Tim’s choice. I was quite in the mood for some kind of prison escape romp or caper, but the capering and romping are kept to a minimum. I guess Clint Eastwood isn’t that much of a romper unless there’s an orangutan involved. There is some prison escaping though, so tick.

It’s the (pretty much) true story of the only three men ever to escape Alcatraz. The wrinkle is that they have never been recaptured or definitively identified since escape and so there’s a possibility they didn’t make it after all. It’s a solid, dour, straightahead piece uninterested in any unnecessary fun. Which is fine if you want that sort of thing, but I’ll take a caper any day.

Film 54: Running Scared (1986)

Link: Larry Hankin

I mainly know Larry Hankin as Mr Heckles from Friends and the actor playing the Kramer role in the Seinfeld sitcom within the sitcom. He also plays a convict in Escape From Alcatraz, andit turns out he’s been around. In fact he was in a film that Tim has been wanting me to pick since we started the Chain Reaction Film Club (or Thing Thing Thing Thing Thing as Tim usually calls it). He’s big on buddy cop films and big on Gregory Hines, and Running Scared is a buddy cop film starring Gregory Hines so… And the other buddy? Only bloody Billy Crystal!

Having now seen it I can confirm that it is most certainly a buddy cop film starring Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal. They’re engaging and snarky, it’s got an 80s-licious soundtrack, it’s got an 80s-licious attitude to women (seriously, yikes).

Running Scared

Double yikes

It’s for the most part a fun romp (finally, a romp!). But it’s so comprehensively overshadowed by the likes of Lethal Weapon or Beverley Hills Cop that there doesn’t really seem to be any need for it these days. One for historians of the 80s buddy cop genre, I’d say (hey I’m sure they exist. There’s a V&A exhibition about plyywood on at the mo, so anything’s game).

Film 55: Commando (1985)

Link: Dan Hedaya

Well Dan Hedaya in dark slap with a dodgy latino accent was an unpleasant surprise…

Hedaya

Greased up Arnie firing a machine gun topless was a more pleasant surprise. Jesus Christ the size of the man.

ACTOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER IN SCENE FROM COMMANDO

And the film… it’s Arnie. There are guns. That’s about it. There’s a very peculiar relationship with Rae Dawn Chong’s character that stays platonic but is utterly unbelievable – he kidnaps her for reasons, she shops him to the mall cops, he escapes and she runs away with him. And then keeps going to different places with him for no particular reason. It’s very strange.

We kind of cheated here a little. I was torn between Commando and The Cotton Club (via Gregory Hines), the latter of which has been on the list before. We ended up watching The Cotton Club too, separate to the Thing Thing Thing Thing Thing (crap, that’s catchy). There were a LOT of people in it, and it’s worthwhile for some of the singing (great Cab Calloway impression) and dancing (Gregory Hines’ tap).

Cotton

Strange in a film about a club famous for black musicians that we spend most of the time following white gangsters instead, but given black people weren’t allowed in the club as punters it seems oddly on point. I had a similar feeling towards Wind River recently. It’s a film which ends with a serious message about native American women disappearing, set on a reservation, in which we exclusively follow two white characters.

Film 56: Jeff, Who Lives At Home (2011)

Link: Rae Dawn Chong

I’ve always got this muddled up with Lars and the Real Girl, so nice to actually see one of them and hopefully put that behind me.

Lars

Jeff Who Lives With The Real Girl?

I’ve got a soft spot for damaged slacker characters – my favourite films are Donnie Darko and Harvey – so despite a few reservations (Jason Siegel and Ed Helms are in very few things I have even a passing interest in) this started off well. And if it had ended 10 minutes before it actually finished then I’d feel pretty positive about it. Unfortunately that last 10 minutes undid most of the charm.

Jeff

Lars Who Lives At Home?

I’ve already mentioned that the two leads aren’t in a whole lot I’m interested in, and though we sometimes have different opinions this is something that Tim and I share. So our options were a little limited for what to pick next… except… Susan Sarandon co stars as Jeff’s mother. And, it being his choice, Tim buffed together a shortlist purely consisting of Susan Sarandon films. There were 25 films on the list. Sometime ago we contemplated The Month of the Fox for Edward Fox though we ended up only watching 3 Fox films (The Duellists, The Dresser, The Day of the Jackal – all excellent). This seemed like the perfect time for Sarandon Season. How many did we manage before we were lured away? Find out next time!

50th Film Spectacular – The Chain Reaction Film Club

I may only have blogged 13 entries in the Chain Reaction Film Club, but we’ve been going for long enough to reach 50 films. What, you’re thinking? Wasn’t the last film number 48?

Yes it was.

Aren’t I jumping the gun then?

Noooope.

To smash through the 50 film barrier we managed to link our way to a Paul Verhoeven triple bill at the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s fashionable West End. In honour of the milestone I’m ditching the usual format and going freeform.

Last time up we watched Traffic (2000). It was sort of like a rough draft of The Wire told in just 2 hours. Take the plunge and watch The Wire instead.

The late Miguel Ferrer played a grouchy drug lieutenant and provided our link to the first of the triple bill and film 49 of the CRFC:

RoboCop (1987)

Robocop

Confession time.

I’m 36 years old. And this was my first time seeing RoboCop.

I know, I know, what the hell did I do with my youth? I’ve been pondering that, and I think I kind of bypassed the violent action film phase and went straight to the horror phase. I amassed a nice little collection of the former video-nasties as soon as I was able – the Evil Deads, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Re-animator et al. Over the years I’ve filled in some of the blanks, but there’s plenty I should have seen that I haven’t (and a lot I probably shouldn’t have seen that I have). So yes, RoboCop for the first time in my thirties. Just in case you’re worried, I studiously ignored the remake the other year, you’ll be pleased to learn.

Miguel ferrer

Linking actor Miguel Ferrer, right

First up, Miguel Ferrer was a joy. It’s odd but always feel slightly protective of our linking actors, like me combing through their filmography means we’ve bonded in some way. There’s often a part of me that thinks about putting the CRFC on hiatus while we work through someone’s whole filmography, taking in the good, the bad and the experimental to get a sense of the arc of a career. In Traffic, and most other things I know him from, Miguel had a downbeat, snarky, rumpled quality. By contrast he’s a ball of energy in Robocop, almost a Patrick Bateman kind of figure but having a lot more fun.

And the film? Well ED209 has not aged well. The model shots are painfully obvious. Otherwise, it was a hoot.

Robocop 2

ED209 was a weird wobbling toy

I have mixed feelings about seeing classic films at the Prince Charles. I don’t find the audiences tend to be particularly respectful of the films – there’s a lot of over the top, frequently inexplicable cackling (despite warnings against cackling beforehand) – which I found really annoying at a Labyrinth screening a while back. I got the sense though that I might have enjoyed RoboCop less if I’d seen it without an audience treating it like a comedy – I might have been tempted to take it more seriously. The humour is clearly there, just like it is in other satirical Verhoeven films (more on that later) but having it flagged up as acceptable to find it that funny really helped. Certainly young me wouldn’t have laughed as much. Jolly good fun all told, and I can see the influence it’s had – I saw Neil Blomkamp’s Chappie recently (god that sounds filthy), and there’s a clear debt owed.

The prime baddie in RoboCop was Ronny Cox as an almost moustache-twirling evil-man-in-suit type. Handily, he plays an almost moustache-twirling evil-man-in-suit type in the second of the triple bill and film number 50 of the Chain Reaction Film Club:

Total Recall (1990)

Total_recall

I very much have seen Total Recall before, though not for a number of years. I even started watching the remake because… I guess I must hate myself a little bit. So I remembered the main thrust of the plot, some eyeball popping and, sigh, the three-breasted woman.

The thing that struck me most on this rewatch, particularly coming hot on the heels of RoboCop, was the humour. Where RoboCop had satire at its base, Total Recall just has one liners. It’s like a Bond film, or your stereotypical Arnie film in that regard, and feels like a worse fit for Verhoeven. Arnie kills someone, says something not particularly funny. Rinse and repeat. It’s a formula that I find a bit dull – if you want to make a funny film, make a funny film. Add humour, not shit one liners that feel tonally out of place.

This is going to sound odd, but I find the last act really stressful, and not in the good way. When the air is turned off to the red light district I kind of find the whole thing a chore and want it all to be over. I don’t know why – maybe the instant atmosphere that saves everyone just feels too deus ex machina.

And… women.

In RoboCop Peter Weller’s cop gets transferred to a new precinct and partners with a female cop who we first see kicking the hell out of a suspect. She then proves to be a resilient, feisty officer who can go toe to toe with the best of them.

Total Recall features two feisty women in notable roles who can also do a bit of the old violence. One is a sex worker, the other is being paid to pretend to be Arnie’s wife, including sleeping with him. Most of the other women in the film are sex workers. Hum.

Total recall 2

Great roles for women…

Talking of feisty women though, it’s time for film number 51 and the final film of the triple bill. And they saved the best for last:

Starship Troopers (1997)

Starship_Troopers

Ten years on from RoboCop, but in effects terms it seems like a century. Jesus it’s aged well. Shockingly well. There were a few shots of ships that looked a bit outliney but otherwise it’s golden. Michael Ironside is the link – he loses his arms in Total Recall, only has one arm in this and then loses his legs. He must love working with Paul Verhoeven.

With the satirical newsreel clips it felt like a direct successor to Robocop – so much so that it was a bit of a shame that Total Recall was sandwiched between them. Then there’s the role of women in this futuristic society – there’s a mixed gender sport team, relatively balanced gender in the military recruits, the head of the military (or Chief Sky Marshall) is a woman – towards the end at least. It’s particularly surprising because it’s such a traditional gung-ho masculine fantasy. It’s not all plain sailing, but makes for an interesting starting point.

Starship troopers 2

Those oh-so sharp uniforms…

The film works so well because the society is plainly flagged up as some kind of authoritarian regime – early on Johnny Rico’s father references being willing to take a punishment whipping in a public square, the tone of the news broadcasts is fascistic – and yet by the end I’m always whooping and cheering for the ‘good’ guys in their SS-style uniforms. It’s a masterpiece of manipulation that’s as funny as it is thrilling.

I saw it at the cinema when it came out and was utterly gobsmacked that it was a 15 (it was subsequently bumped up to an 18 on video release). There are body parts and mutilations and scooped out brains galore. These days I’m shocked by some of the stuff that gets a 12A certificate (the opening of X-Men Apocalypse is the most recent example I can think of) but this was the first film where I really considered the rating. Worked in my favour though – I was 16 so may have missed it at the cinema if the BBFC had been more strict in the first place.

StarshipTroopers 3

Body. Parts.

So there we go. One night, three films and we’re over the half century. All this started with 90s actioner Chain Reaction, and here we are at 90s actioner Starship Troopers. The oldest film we’ve watched so far is Bonnie and Clyde from 1967, with the most recent being a couple from 2013. All have been British or American. Hopefully in the next few months we’ll get a bit further back (some of my favourite films are from the 40s, so I’ve certainly got nothing against going further back) and maybe even overseas. Standouts so far? Well The Fifth Element – but I’d already seen that. The Duellists, Day of the Jackal and Mud are some of my favourites. The Net and Renaissance Man by far the worst. You can see the full list here.

And Paul Verhoeven? I haven’t seen many of his other films – not even Basic Instinct or Showgirls. However this year’s Elle was phenomenal so if you missed it at the cinema I’d recommend checking it out when it’s on Netflix/DVD or whatnot.

Traffic – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 48: Traffic

Traffic 1

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor.

Previously On…

Last time we watched The Dresser which definitely did not make me want to act again. It definitely did make me regret not seeing The Dresser before however.

The Shortlist

There was a lot of wringing of handsand gnashing of teeth this week. I mentioned last time that we’re off to see a triple bill of Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers shortly, and that, as it’s Tim’s choice, he would have a quick investigation of how possible linking from The Dresser to Robocop in just one film is. Turns out it’s possible!

However we were also considering adding in a cheeky extra film before the triple bill (yes, we spend too much time watching films and talking about watching films, what’s it to you?) so there were suddenly options.

With minutes to spare Tim decided we’d link direct to Robocop, leaving us two options – Traffic (2000) and Chaplin (1992). The war on drugs or a silent comedy icon.

I’m quite a fan of Chaplin, predominantly for Robert Downey Jr’s performance, but I’ve seen it a couple of times and we’ve been let down by biopics recently… So Traffic got the final nod as the vegan cheese pizzas browned in the oven.

 

 

The Link

Albert Finney. What a guy. I mentioned my love for Miller’s Crossing last time, but I shall dwell on it a little more. These days it’s pretty widely known, but just in case you aren’t aware, here’s a fun bit of trivia. Albert Finney plays the head of the Irish mob in Miller’s Crossing. He’s an honest sort of crook with no time for messing around (unless giving the high hat to Jon Polito in possibly the finest opening scene in film history counts as messing around).

Finney 1

He’s a man’s man.

Anyway, at one point Gabriel Byrne’s character bursts into the ladies’ room at Leo’s club to raise hell with his squeeze. All the women scuttle out, appalled by the man’s presence in their domain. And one of the women that scuttles out? Albert Finney in drag.

Finney 2

He’s a man? Man…

 

Traffic and me

When Tim suggested Traffic I did a bit of googling. After a few days I vaguely thought I might have seen it around when it came out – maybe at the cinema. Could I remember any of it? Nooooope. Not necessarily a great sign, but perhaps I was getting it muddled up with a different film about drug cartels.

IMDB says

A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America’s escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is a crack addict. Two DEA agents protect an informant. A jailed drug baron’s wife attempts to carry on the family business. 7.6 stars.

I says

 

So having just watched it I can confirm I did indeed see it at the cinema in 2000. I think. Maybe. Ok, I’ll level with you, I have no idea. I really don’t remember it.

EXCEPT FOR…

The plot about Michael Douglas’ daughter. He’s the US’s new Drug Czar getting ready to ramp up the war on drugs. She’s a student who gets hooked on crack, runs away and sells her body for drug money. Taken in isolation I think I saw a version of her story in a terrible play for schools in 1993. Shit, I think I wrote it in a workshop in 1993. It’s the archetypal Young Person Gets Involved In The Drugs descent story.

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Drugs = bad

As the IMDb synopsis suggests, the film is a series of separate yet related stories and we flit between them all. The image is drenched in yellow when we’re in Mexico (the plot strand which isn’t actually mentioned in the IMDb synopsis), blue when we’re in Washington. There’s a hazy, dreamlike feeling to the whole mashup. Partially that gives the feeling that you’re watching it stoned. Partially that gives the feeling that I won’t remember whether I’ve seen it AGAIN.

Traffic 2

Mexico = yellow

What it really made me want to do though, is rewatch The Wire. In fact, if you watched 10 minutes of The Wire followed by 10 minutes of Breaking Bad followed by 10 minutes of The Wire etc etc etc then you’d have a similar, but far superior, experience.

Or, if you want some Benicio del Toro/Mexican border action then Sicario from last year has you covered with the most tense traffic jam I’ve seen in a film.

Final bit of trivia – I noticed that they thanked The West Wing for their set in the credits. Now I just want to watch The West Wing instead…

Traffic 3

Set = West Wing.

 

 

The Verdict

I had seen it, I didn’t remember it. Now I’ve seen it again, I won’t remember it again. I’m not sure the holistic view idea worked in a 2 hour film. In a 4 season TV show however… Jackpot.

Coming Attractions

Robocop. Total Recall. Starship Troopers. One night. And that’ll take us sailing past the 50th film in the Chain Reaction Film Club too! Celebrations incoming…

 

@BornToPootle

The Dresser – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 47: The Dresser

Dresser 1

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor.

Previously On…

It was The Day Of The Jackal last time, following on from The Duellists. Can we make it three knock-outs in a row?

The Shortlist

It’s my choice this time around. Last time I suggested we might stick with Edward Fox for a while but, in the interests of completeness, I had a look through a few different filmographies. It’s disappointing how much crossover there is between The Day of the Jackal and Run For Your Wife. I’ve seen a little bit of Run For Your Wife. I will never watch any more of it. It really is as bad as you might think, and I don’t mind a bit of whoops-where’s-my-trousers-sorry-vicar farce.

So in the end I kept coming back to Edward Fox and a few film in particular:

The Shooting Party (1985)

I really don’t know much about this, other than James Mason, John Gielgud and Edward Fox star, and it’s set during a shooting retreat just prior to the First World War. I’m thinking a more intense Downton Abbey with all the female roles expunged.

The Jokers (1967)

This is a crime caper written by Ian Le Frenais and Dick Clement, and starring Michael Crawford and Oliver Reed. Hugely tempting.

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

It’s three hours long, so keeps being an almost-ran. One of these days…

The Dresser (1983)

Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay star as an aging actor and his dresser. Pretty much all set backstage during one production of Lear. It’s been on my must-watch list for years. So long in fact that I couldn’t help but pick it this time.

The Link

Edward Fox

It’s… Edward Fox. Do keep up. He had an incredible air of detached authority in The Day Of The Jackal, rumpled class in The Duellists, how will he be in The Dresser? I’m guessing louche, but we shall see.

The Dresser and me

Okay, this is one I really should have seen. I trained and worked as an actor for a few years, so should have been lapping up theatre-related films. In fact when I saw – and loved – Black Swan, one of the things I loved most about it was the realistically unglamourous way it portrayed the rehearsal/backstage process. So a film all about the backstage goings on? Surely my soya-meat and drink.

Plus, before The Dresser was a film it was a play. I’ve scoured plays for speeches and two-handers over the years, but somehow, despite knowing the setup of The Dresser, never read it.

And finally, it’s got Albert Bloody Finney in it. I need to see a lot more Finney. He’s an incredible actor, and I could watch him in Miller’s Crossing every day and not get bored. Here he is in all his glory (may spoil the finest scene if you’ve not seen it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_le4xh-XV3c

IMDB says

An effeminate personal assistant of a deteriorating veteran actor struggles to get him through a difficult performance of King Lear. 7.7 stars

I says

Dresser 2

Crown him King of Actors right bloody now

Well that was a tour-de-force from Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay. My word. They both received Oscar nominations for Best Actor and I can see why. Who won? Robert Duvall for Tender Mercies. Whatever that is. Maybe we’ll tackle it soon.

Anyway, what struck me was this quote from the director Peter Yates:

“If I can make a film which will get more people to go to the theatre, I will feel I have achieved something.”

M8DDRES EC006

I can see what he means, but in a way the film had the opposite effect on me. It put me off the theatre. And that’s not because I didn’t like the film – I loved it. But the reminder of all the sweat and tears and agony that goes into putting a show on highlighted that I’m not sure it’s worth it. For the actor. And that’s probably why I’m not still acting! It’s shown as the herculean effort that it is – heightened by the particular circumstances of Albert Finney’s Sir, and bravo for shining light on the damp, cramped, fractious experience. It’d make for an interesting double bill with Black Swan – show those two to someone who you has ambitions to perform and they’ll give it all up in heartbeat.

The other film Peter Yates directed that year? Krull.

Krull

Incidentally, I was right. Edward Fox was indeed louche as Oxenby. What a cad.

The Verdict

Stunning performances and a handy reminder for me of why I shouldn’t resume life on the stage any time soon.

Coming Attractions

Well. There’s plenty more Fox in the den, so to speak. However… We’re going to see a triple bill of Paul Verhoeven films at the cinema soon – Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers in that order. And those link to each other by shared actors. It’s like they’re crying out to be included in the CRFC. If we can get to Robocop in time…

So, as it’s Tim’s choice, he’s going to have a quick shufti to see how appealing that is…

@BornToPootle

The Day Of The Jackal – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 46: Day Of The Jackal

Jackal 1

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor.

Previously On…

Last time we watched The Duellists, Ridley Scott’s debut film. It’s one of the best we’ve watched so far.

The Shortlist

There was no shortlist this time round. Just a very very long list. Tim struggled so much to narrow it down that he simply didn’t. Here’s what we were considering:

ShortlistShortlist 2Shortlist 3

Yeah. A fair old bit. Fortunately this was a rare case where Tim had strong hankerings for one film in particular, and so the die was cast – he picked The Day of the Jackal.

The Link

Jackal 5

Edward Fox in The Duellists

This time Edward Fox is up. Kind of like Keith Carradine last time, the Venn diagram of films he’s been in and films I’ve seen don’t really overlap. But so many of them either sound interesting or are classics I really should have seen that I’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing more of this particular Mr. Fox.

The Day of the Jackal and me

I’ve worked out that it’s unrelated to Carlos the Jackal. I know it involves a hitman. I’m also sure it doesn’t star Bruce Willis sporting a silly moustache.

Jackal 3

Dear god, look at that thing

That’s about it. It’s one of those films that I’ve heard of (and probably nodded sagely when it’s come up in conversation to hide my ignorance) but never seen.

IMDB says

A professional assassin codenamed “Jackal” plots to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. 7.8 stars.

I says

Jackal 2

The gentleman hitman…

The older I get, the more I realise that all that you really need to make a film, book, play, whatever, compelling is someone overcoming obstacles. The beauty of DOTJ is that it shows us two parallel stories – the hitman and the police. They are each trying to overcome the obstacles that they keep putting in each other’s path. That’s about it. There’s not much in the way of personal backstory – in fact the Jackal himself has no personal investment in the matter at hand other than money and professional pride. It’s amazing how enthralling it is, and an object lesson in less is more.

Jackal 4

… and the down-at-heel cop. It’s a classic combination

My grasp of French history is good enough to know that Charles de Gaulle was not assassinated, and I wasn’t expecting some kind of Inglourious Basterds-esque rewriting of history. Again, because of the simplicity of the setup that’s irrelevant. The moment-to-moment working to overcome obstacles is enough to keep engaged and on the edge of the seat.

Watching it in 2017 one of the things that most struck me was the speed of information. It moved so slowly. Sooooo slowly. At one point police went around the area they thought the Jackal might be staying in and gathered guest information from all the hotels. Then first thing in the morning it was sifted through for likely suspects. One was identified and the police swooped in. Of course this all took hours and hours so he was long gone. These days a few clicks in a database and the jig would be up. I wonder if we’re going to see an increase of things set in period because it’s easier to create obstacles – kind of like how mobile phones never work in horror films; they make escape too easy.

And, on a side note, Edward Fox sports an excellent array of cravats.

The Verdict

A brilliant setup that’s gripping in a way that it feels like we’ve somehow lost track of how to achieve in the intervening decades. Stone. Cold. Classic.

Coming Attractions

This may have been The Day of the Jackal, but we might try and have The Month of the Fox – Edward Fox had quite a few tempting films so I’m probably going to limit myself to his filmography for the next choice.

@BornToPootle

The Duellists – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 45: The Duellists

Duellistsposter

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor.

Previously On…

It was Tim’s choice and we watched Wild Bill. It was another disappointing Western biopic. Watch the first season of Deadwood instead and be a lot, lot happier.

The Shortlist

Despite my lack of enjoyment of Wild Bill, it had a stonking cast who’re in an awful lot of stuff I either should have seen or want to see. Narrowing it down to just five was heartbreaking enough.

Southern Comfort (1981)

Whilst Walter Hill isn’t in my good books for directing Wild Bill, this looks plucky and was made a lot closer to the brilliant The Warriors.

The Contender (2000)

I was less sure about this one than some of the others, but while trying to narrow the list down I watched a trailer, and it suddenly rocketed up the rankings. Gary Oldman looks brilliant in it, add Susan Sarandon, Sam Elliot and Jeff Bridges to the mix and it’s a goddamn party.

Silent Running (1972)

Mark Kermode bangs on about this a lot in his film reviews and blogs, so it seems like a bit of an oversight that I’ve not seen it. 70s sci fi, Bruce Dern, cute little robots, what’s not to like?

Nashville (1975)

This is a Robert Altman film, and having already covered M*A*S*H and The Player in the CRFC, both of which are excellent, it seems like a sensible choice.

The Duellists (1977)

Ridley Scott’s first film, and the one he made directly before Alien. Another one where I was intrigued by the premise, but hooked by the trailer. So hooked, in fact, that it gazumped Silent Running and became my choice.

The Link

Buffalo Bill

Keith Carradine as Buffalo Bill

Keith Carradine played Buffalo Bill in Wild Bill and he’s one of the two leads in The Duellists. He’s someone who has sort of come out of the blue in the last decade or so for me – in the likes of Dexter, Deadwood (playing Wild Bill this time) and the Fargo TV series. I’ve been more aware of his brother, David, from Kill Bill and Deathrace 2000 so it was a nice surprise to go through Keith’s filmography and find loads of tempting stuff spanning multiple decades. I imagine we’ll get back to more of it soon.

The Duellists and me

I hadn’t heard of it at all, but the premise is great – two soldiers in Napoleon’s army have a disagreement and fight a series of duels over the next 16 years. Ridley Scott isn’t a man who can do no wrong, but there is absolutely no arguing with Alien’s brilliance. None. And this is the film that he made in the build up to it, so close to the peak of his powers, some might say. I have hopes…

IMDB says

A small feud between two Napoleonic officers evolves into a decades-long series of duels. 7.5 stars.

I says

duellists

They’re not highwaymen, but they are definitely dandy.

My hopes were well-founded.

Lovely long shots of misty fields with duel combatants warming up while cows and sheep look on? Tick.

Period-accurate clothes, haircuts and fighting styles (apparently – it’s certainly the only excuse for the haircuts)? Tick.

Pete Postlethwaite playing a barber with no lines? Tick.

Keith Carradine duellists

It’s a strong look.

Here’s an interesting thing, though. The film is about two Frenchmen in Napoleon’s army. Pretty much all the characters are French. Almost all the actors are English, and using English accents. So far so consistent. The two leads, Keith Carradine as the calm, sensible d’Hubert and Harvey Keitel’s permanently furious Feraud, have American accents. That’s liveable withable. Every now and then D’Hubert shouts ‘La’, though. As in ‘There’, but in French. It’s a puzzling choice, but not exactly the end of the world.

Harvey Keitel The Duellists

Bursts of sudden violence? Feraud’s yer man.

The sword duels are wonderfully choreographed, with bursts of sudden violence, sudden politeness and long moments of weighing up moves. It reminded me of the wonderful duel in Zatoichi. Then there’s a mounted duel and hide-and-seek pistol duel too just in case sword aren’t exciting enough.

The whole thing is a brilliant study in the rules of honour, and how bloody ridiculous they are/were. It’s based on a Joseph Conrad book, which in turn was based on reality. The names have been changed though – take note Wild Bill (I’m still bitter about that). In the film there are five or six duels. In reality there were around 30. And neither of them died. They were either incredibly equally matched duellists, or awful.

The Verdict

One of my favourites of our film club so far. That Ridley Scott is one to watch – you heard it here first.

Coming Attractions

Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel are in a fair old bit between them, but the supporting cast is chock full of notable British thesps like Edward Fox and Alun Armstrong. It’s going to be Tim’s choice and I think I’ve destroyed him with options once more!

@BornToPootle

Wild Bill – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 44: Wild Bill

Wild bill 01

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor.

Previously On…

Last time we watched Streets Of Fire on the big screen at the Prince Charles Cinema. It’s one of the few films that would have been improved by being a musical.

The Shortlist

Colors (1988)

Night Shift (1982)

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)

Hollywoodland (2006)

Wild Bill (1995)

Rumble Fish (1983)

 

The Choice

A relatively long shortlist this time round, and it was, by all accounts, tricky to narrow it down to seven. There were great lists to be had just from Willem Dafoe or Diane Lane’s filmographies. This time around neither of us remembered seeing any of the choices, and they’re a varied bunch.

Night Shift is a comedy about a brothel in a morgue starring Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton! Colors is a tough cop film set in gangland LA, with Sean Penn the hot-headed rookie to Robert Duvall’s experienced cop.

I didn’t go to see The Lincoln Lawyer at the cinema because I wasn’t really a fan of Matthew McConnaughey. Fast-forward a few years and I have a massive man-crush on him, so totally up for this.

I’ve been meaning to see Rumble Fish and Hollwoodland for years. Eddie and the Cruisers stars Michael Pare, so I’d love to see if he’s any better in it than he was in Streets Of Fire.

And then there’s Wild Bill, a Western biopic. I’ve been underwhelmed by both biopics and westerns recently, and especially by a western biopic.

So of course that’s the film Tim chose.

The Link

Wild Bill 03

Diane Lane in Wild Bill

Diane Lane is the shared actor between Streets Of Fire and Wild Bill. In Streets Of Fire she’s a rock singer who gets kidnapped by a biker gang. She’s also in Rumble Fish and The Outsiders, both of which involve gangs and came out around the same time as Streets…

I haven’t actually seen her in that much, apart from Judge Dredd (the Stallone one), Trumbo and Man Of Steel, all of which I’ve tried to forget. She’s one of those names that I’ve always been aware of though. She didn’t have that much to do in Streets Of Fire, so I’m hoping Wild Bill might give me a bit more of a feel for her style.

Wild Bill and me

I don’t know much about this film, other than I almost shortlisted it myself before. It’s directed by Walter Hill (Warriors, Streets Of Fire) and stars Jeff Bridges which is pretty enticing. And it’s a biopic of Wild Bill Hickock. That’s about it…

As far as my knowledge of Wild Bill Hickock that’s at a similar level. In the TV show Deadwood (my gosh I love Deadwood) I remember he dies relatively early on. Shot in the back during a card game. And I’m pretty sure he joined a circus for a bit… Well hopefully even if the film isn’t great I’ll be able to learn a little more about the man himself – much like The Aviator recently.

IMDB says

The early career of legendary lawman Wild Bill Hickock is telescoped and culminates in his relocation in Deadwood and a reunion with Calamity Jane. 5.9 stars.

I says

Wild Bill 04

The man himself

Well then. I’ve now watched the film and done a little bit of research. And I am Not Happy. Here’s an overview of the film (spoilers, but honestly I’m saving you a couple of hours of your life):

Wild Bill goes to Deadwood. A young man there is abusive towards him. Turns out years previously that Bill had a relationship with a woman who had a son from a previous marriage. They split, amicably. The woman’s life went downhill. The woman’s son blamed Wild Bill for his mother’s state and, guess what? He’s come to Deadwood to set things straight. After much to-ing and fro-ing the young man hires some goons, then can’t quite go through with it. Bill kills said goons but lets the young man live and buys him a drink. Young man shoots Wild Bill in the back.

Fine. Whatever. It wasn’t brilliantly told – the flashbacks were heavy handed – but was functional.

However. That’s not how it went down. The chap that killed Wild Bill in reality was someone who was angry about losing to him at cards the previous night. So the central pillar of the film is just a load of guff. At that point you might as well change some names and fictionalise the whole shebang and maybe we could all have a bit more fun.

The film is based in part on the book Deadwood, and in part on a play called Fathers and Sons. It’s the latter which is I think where this fictionalised version of events comes from. There’s an almost interesting scene in the film when the young man and his goons burst into a saloon where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are, and then… it’s a bit of a stand off. The young man could kill Bill, but doesn’t quite have the gumption. They stay in deadlock all night, before the man and his goons flee. That’s when Bill chases after them before bringing the boy back to the bar.

And that, as the whole film, could be quite interesting (if it stopped purporting to have any resemblance to reality). Turns out I think that’s what the play was. All the set-up and flashbacks in the film distract from this interesting and potentially tense night.

So I watched a mediocre film and came out actually knowing less about Wild Bill than I knew going in. Crumbs.

And Diane Lane? A relatively thankless role as Miss Perfect in flashbacks. What the hell did she ever see in Wild Bill? Or this script?

A final thought – Wild Bill was 39 when he was shot. I pointed out in my Wyatt Earp post that Doc Holliday died at 36. It was a shit old life in the West.

Wild Bill 02

The Dude himself

The Verdict

“You ought to know better than to touch another man’s hat,” says Wild Bill in the film. But apparently it’s fine to mess around with another man’s life story.

Coming Attractions

Loads of interesting people in this – not just Jeff Bridges and Diane Lane (plenty of her films on the longlist sounded worth a watch), but John Hurt, Keith Carradine, Ellen Barkin and Bruce Dern.

One thing is clear though: I won’t be picking a biopic. Or a western.

Although I do still have a hankering for Tombstone…

@BornToPootle