Babysitting is Dangerous
Going all the way back to Chris Columbus’s first directorial effort, 1987's Adventures in Babysitting is the way PG family films should be made, entertaining for both adults and kids, with just the right amount of edginess. Though incredulous, the entertaining narrative follows teenager Chris (Elisabeth Shue), who, after boyfriend Mike (Bradley Whitford) cancels on their anniversary dinner, grudgingly takes a job babysitting an adventurous eight year old, Sara (Maia Brewton), instead. Her older brother, 15 year old mild-mannered Brad (Keith Coogan), is supposed to be staying at his quirky buddy Daryl’s (Anthony Rapp), but after hearing that Chris is babysitting, sticks around.
What a Riot
With a stellar cast, those behind 1954's Riot in Cell Block 11 did not take the approach of procuring the biggest names available, instead, they brought together a group of character actors that lived their parts – and all surrounded by real prisoners and guards, who played extras during production. Directed by Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Dirty Harry), and produced by Walter Wanger (inspired to make the film after serving a four month prison sentence and being wholly unnerved – he was jailed for shooting his wife’s [Joan Bennett] agent, Jennings Lang, whom she was having an affair with – one bullet penetrated his hip, the other, his groin – clearly we know what he was aiming at), the team cast Neville Brand as a convicted murderer who heads up the riot (the former World War 2 combat soldier was the fourth most decorated American from the period), while his ‘Crazy’ second in command was developed by Leo Gordon (another convict who was shot in the gut during an armed robbery).
1930's Hollywood films are rather intriguing. Though hit hard by the Great Depression (much like everywhere else), the escapism of movies still brought 60-75 million people into theatres each and every week (and, these numbers are for the worst times of the decade). The 30s also harkened in the era of the talkie – quickly putting an end to the silent film industry. The decade can also be split into two distinct periods: the five years before the Motion Picture Production Code (sometimes called the Hays Code) officially came into being (often referred to as the Pre-Code), and the five years after it was put into place – meaning that there was now a strict set of rules and regulations that were being strongly enforced. Both a curse and a blessing (many of the most talented directors found creative and visually clever ways to circumvent the Code – DeMille and Hitchcock are two that immediately come to mind), it did limit creative freedom in a major way, as sex, violence and language were severely censored – movies could no longer depict lacking morals (that is, unless the behaviour would be punished in the end).
There are many actors and directors that I have long championed, one of which is filmmaker Martin McDonagh. More of a household name today than a few days ago, this past Sunday he took home both Best Screenplay and Best Motion Picture - Drama at the 2018 Golden Globes for his film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (the feature also won for Best Actress - Drama: Frances McDormand, and for Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell). First and foremost a British/Irish playwright, McDonagh made his feature film debut in 2008 with the tragically under-seen In Bruges – a movie that will be reviewed on Filmizon.com in due course. This was followed by a 2012 American/British co-production, Seven Psychopaths, another intriguing film. His third is the award winner from Sunday. . . though many probably do not know that McDonagh won an Academy Award back in 2005 for Six Shooter, earning the golden figurine for Best Short Film, Live Action (his true first effort into the foray of film making).
Running Down a Dream
Setting out to film (firstly) the climactic football scene at the Rose Bowl (stadium) in Pasadena, California for his 1925 feature The Freshman, Harold Lloyd soon felt like he was lost – unable to sense the character and his feelings, not able to hit the right tone for his collegiate protagonist. Scrapping the work, he decided to return to Hollywood and shoot sequentially – a rarity for any motion picture. It was typical for Lloyd and his team to come up with the major set pieces first (a perfect example being the football sequence) – shooting it at the very beginning, but in this case, Lloyd felt like this format was better suited, as it would add depth and continuity as the actors grew into this very character driven story. Becoming a major spectacle (and Harold Lloyd’s highest grossing film), it spawned an immense number of college sports movie knock-offs that would dominate the theatre scene for the next several years (a prime example, Lloyd’s character is utterly inspired by a fictional college student found in a fake movie made up for this one titled “The College Hero” – two years later, The College Hero was released by Columbia Pictures). Following Lloyd’s Harold ‘Speedy’ Lamb (notice his nickname is the title of his 1928 New York set picture), the teen is heading off to Tate University – a school that is football crazy. While en route, he meets a shy, sweet hearted ingenue named Peggy (Jobyna Ralston) – timid love at first sight.
Coming off like a combination of Oldboy, The Raid: Redemption, La Femme Nikita, Kill Bill, and the Jason Bourne franchise, 2017's The Villainess, a South Korean film co-written and directed by Byung-gil Jung, is an action packed adrenaline ride that carves out an interesting angle within the genre. Opening with a mostly first person action sequence, it is intensely claustrophobic, showing a supremely talented killing machine of a woman carving her way through a narrow hallway only to find herself in a room packed with another ominous group of villains. Setting the tone from the very beginning, the viewer quickly understands that there is a grace to the way the camera moves (a dynamic visual panache that is all the more impressive when you realize a good portion of it is done without computer generated effects) – though it is a very bloody flair to be sure.