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My Guilty Pleasures

Everyone has those films they may be a tad embarrassed to admit they liked. They went to the cinema with their dark shades on and hat pulled right down. They hide the DVD in a cupboard and only take it out to watch when they’re alone and the curtains are pulled. Well here are mine. What do critics know anyway?

Vertical Limit (2000)

Rotten Tomatoes = 48%
I actually remember going to the cinema with my Dad and brother to see Chris O’Donnell jump, slide and fall from icy mountain faces. The film’s story may be a bit clich├ęd, but the action sequences are absolutely brilliant. You’re in for a thrill ride right from the start when Peter (O’Donnell) and Annie (Robin Tunney) have to witness their Dad cut himself loose and fall to his death to save them. Years later Peter is left pulling together a ramshackle climbing crew up K2 after the elite team his sister was a part of are hit by an avalanche during a climb. With his sister trapped down a crevasse, he’s then faced with fierce terrain, life threatening weather conditions, and a race against time to find them before it’s too late. Just watch that trailer. You’re pumped, don’t lie.
I actually thought Robin Chris O’Donnell was really good in this, and he’s surrounded by good characters, from the hilarious Australian brothers to the secretive recluse, Montgomery Wick (Scott Glen). Bill Paxton is a brilliant villain, and as his odds of survival in the crevasse get slimmer, his dark past and ruthless will to survive is eventually revealed. The race to the top never takes its foot off the throttle. One minute they’re jumping from a flying helicopter, they next they’re sliding down a cliff face frantically clawing at it with a climbing axe, and then they’re leaping from one cliff to the other across a gauge. Oh, and they’re all doing it with Nitroglycerine strapped to their backs because, you know… just because. I always find Vertical Limit a really fun, if brainless, ride of catch-your-breath action sequences without that level of intensity ever getting tired. I love the relentlessness, and you can see why director Martin Campbell has two of the best Bond films ever on his CV, Goldeneye (1995) and Casino Royale (2006). It’s not for those with a fear of heights, but if you liked the opening scene to Cliffhanger (1993), then imagine that for 2 hours.

Rat Race (2001)
Rotten Tomatoes = 44%

Jerry Zucker directs an ensemble cast in this story of a bunch of strangers caught up in a race to a $2,000,000 prize in a similar vein to 1963’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, or 1981’s The Cannonball Run. John Cleese and his scarily white teeth play Donald Sinclair (interestingly, the name of the real-life hotel owner that one of my favourite ever Cleese characters, Basil Fawlty was based on), a Las Vegas casino multi-millionaire who hosts the 563 mile race to Silver City, New Mexico, but the A-listers don’t stop there. You’ve got:
  • Rowan Atkinson – Having narcolepsy isn’t always useful in a race. Easily my favourite, the most quotable character in the film. Carbohydrates are important.
  • Cuba Gooding Jnr. – Disgraced American football referee - can’t toss a coin
  • Jon Lovitz – Comes across a Nazi museum
  • Seth Green – Makes up 50% of the Cody brothers. The other half has given himself a homemade tongue piercing and is therefore unintelligible throughout the whole thing.
  • Whoopi Goldberg – Should have bought a squirrel.
  • Kathy Bates – If she asks, buy a squirrel.
That may make up 3 three Academy Award winners, but it’s safe to say neither were for Rat Race. Along with Vertical Limit, I would count this as one of mine and my brother’s films. Andy and I rented this one summer and have quoted it back to each other ever since. Even now, if it’s on, it’s one of those films I will struggle to turn off. Rat Race is completely stupid, and the humour is very daft so that is never going to be for everyone, but it has always worked for us and when you add in so many quotable lines you’re left with a film he and I would struggle to turn off whenever it’s on.

Tron: Legacy (2010)
Rotten Tomatoes = 51%
A man releasing a disc upwards into the air, embraced by a woman. A beam of light descends upon the disk. In the background is a futuristic city and spaceships.
I remember having to wolf down a whole calzone with my mates when we underestimated the time we had available for tea before the Tron: Legacy’s start time at the cinema next door. In the end I’m glad we made it, even if it was a treat for the senses if not for the brain. Joseph Kosinski helmed this, the most expensive film by a first time director, with a budget of $170 million. Unfortunately is doesn’t look like much of that went towards the script. The story is absolute rubbish, and some of the dialogue utter garbage:

Quorra: What’s it like?
Sam: The sun?
Quorra: Yeah.
Sam: Wow. I’ve never had to describe it. Warm. Radiant. Beautiful.

If you can look past that though, I still think there’s a lot to get out of this. The film’s visuals are stunning, and the lighting, architecture, and those motorbikes make up a world I want to spend a lot of time in. I usually can’t stand 3D films, but that was one of the very few times it really worked. That may have been to do with the look of the world, but I thought the 3D actually added to it rather than just having a load of unnecessary ‘stuff’ needlessly flying in to your face. On top of that, Daft Punk put together one of the best soundtracks ever. I had it on repeat after having watched the film, and it’s getting played to death again now when I was reminded of it writing this post. It’s very much Daft Punk’s style, so that may not be to everyone’s taste but I thought it complimented the film’s world and scale really well.

I’m a big fan of Jeff Bridges, Garret Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and Michael Sheen, so it’s a real shame they didn’t have too much to go with here. Ultimately Tron: Legacy’s a really shallow film, but I would look forward to watching this again… maybe less calzone beforehand next time though.

Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes = 56%
Deep Blue Sea (1999 film) poster.jpg
My love of Deep Blue Sea, and how it’s the perfect fall back movie were mentioned in my blog on a failed trip to the Odeon cinema one evening. This is another film that leaves its brain at the door (there’s a worrying theme beginning to appear here) as it cooks up an excuse to have super smart sharks preying on innocent 90s rappers. Character decision making, story logic, and the set pieces are laughable at times in Deep Blue Sea, but that is what makes it so much fun. It definitely does all of that with its tongue firmly in its cheek too though. How could it not when LL Cool J is talking to a parrot.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes = 55%
Illustration depicting various characters of the film, surrounded by a frame which reads at the top "Every saga has a beginning". In the background, there is a close-up of a face with yellow eyes and red and black tattoos. Below the eyes are a bearded man with long hair, a young woman with facepaint and an intricate hat, three spaceships, a short and cylindrical robot besides a humanoid one, a boy wearing gray clothes, a young man wearing a brown robe holding a laser sword, and an alien creature with long ears. At the bottom of the image is the title "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" and the credits.
Apart from The Force Awakens, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a film release. My Dad had taken me to see the re-releases of the original trilogy and, oblivious to the George Lucas’ meddling, I fell in love with them. So, when a new film was released in cinemas, it’s fair to say 10 year old me was losing his sh*t. I wasn’t the only one either. During the first week of the trailer’s release, some cinemas reported people just paying for tickets to films to watch the Phantom Menace trailer with up to 75% of audiences then walking out (what a game changer YouTube is!). I may have been blinded by the innocence of youth and convinced myself going in to it that it HAD to be good, that I somehow saw past a huge mess of a story, naff dialogue, Jar Jar Binks, midichlorians, and Jake Lloyd. When I watch it back (and I even went to see it’s 2012 re-release in 3D for some reason) it just takes me back to being 10 years old again. It reminds me of the poster I had on my wall, the shockingly bad Playstation game, and I have a huge urge to fire up the N64 and put in Star Wars Racer (think I may just do that now actually…). John William’s ‘Duel of Fates’ is a masterpiece, and that lightsaber duel with one of the best looking villains of all time is stunning. I’m glad I saw it when I did, otherwise I don’t think I would have ever fully recovered from the horror.

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Rotten Tomatoes = 81%
Movie poster featuring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in character
If Vertical Limit and Rat Race are mine and my brother’s films, then the movie translation of John Green’s romantic novel The Fault in Our Stars is mine and my sister’s. I would like to say that Suzie forced me down to watch this but in all honesty I don’t remember taking a lot of convincing. Now, this film actually reviewed quite well and was very successful so why on this list? Because this film’s audience is my 18 year old sister, Suzie, and I’m... well... a 27 year old bloke. Although I only caught this on DVD, I would have been one of those boyfriends you see getting dragged in to a cinema but secretly loving it.

Josh Boone’s romantic drama stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort and their character’s budding relationship and struggles with cancer. Although the story can feel a little emotionally manipulative at times as it desperately wants to you to cry, there are too many other good things going for it. It’s really well acted. Although I haven’t seen the Divergent series she’s probably most well-known for, I always thought Woodley was great in The Descendants (2011) and she is just as good here. Willem Defoe makes a brief appearance, but it’s the massively likeable and charismatic Elgort (Gus) and his chemistry with Woodley that’s the star. 2013’s Carrie remake was on TV the other day and I stand by that he is the only good thing about that film. Hopefully his upcoming films give him a decent platform to take his career up a gear. The soundtrack is also a brilliant selection of well-placed songs that worked well both in the film and as a playlist on my iPod. It may manipulate a tad, but the story is a heartwarming/wrenching one, and I’m not going to lie… I’ve seen this film at least three times now. I love it. So there.


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