I spent Easter weekend with my in-laws in Chelmsford last weekend. Like me, the whole family are big cinephiles so it was suggested that each family member pick a film in order to create a weekend long family movie marathon… with no vetoes. As there are five of us, this should have resulted in five films but we somehow underestimated the amount of lying in, cooking and visiting we needed to do and never quite got to my brother-in-law, David’s as yet undisclosed pick. So that leaves us with four films for The Film Friday Easter Family Special Edition.
This 1991, Roddy Doyle classic was my mum-in-law’s pick… possibly because she’s of Irish descent, but also quite possibly because of its fab soundtrack. Robert Arkins plays Jimmy Rabbitte, an aspiring music manager who puts together a band in the hope of bringing soul music to Dublin. Under his, and mysterious horn player, Joey “The Lips” Fagan’s, “expert” tutelage it’s not long before The Commitments start to experience success. But tensions between band mates are never far from the forefront and Jimmy will have to fight if he’s going to keep his dream alive. This is a pretty predictable plot but the musical elements are excellent if you’re a soul fan. Overall the best thing about The Commitments is the hilarious and very typically bawdy Irish banter. Great for a laugh with a bit of heart. 3.5/5
Being of a science fiction bent, this was Paul’s pick. After an unnamed virus has wiped out most of mankind and sent the survivors below the surface, violent prisoner, James Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to find information about the origins of the disease in exchange for a pardon. Returned to the wrong year, Cole finds himself locked up in a mental institution where he meets two people who are going to change not only his life but also the future: fellow patient, Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) and psychiatrist, Kathryn Railly (Madeline Stowe). This film has the particular madness of Terry Gilliam stamped all over it. Dystopian future: check. Sinister and controlling government: check. Mysterious and terrifying medical machines: check. Characters with exaggerated movements and sounds: check. Intense and overpowering score: Check. It’s almost Brazil 2. If you like that kind of thing, like I do, you’ll love this. Pitt reminds us yet again that he wears crazy very well and Brucie does a good turn of unhinged with a heart. Excellent. 4/5
Paul inherited his love affair with Sci-Fi from his dad, who picked this 1951 alien invasion epic. Alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie) arrives on earth with a message and is promptly shot and incarcerated by Americans. Adamant that he wants to speak to representatives of all earth’s people at once, Klaatu implores the American president to arrange this. It being the height of the Cold War, he of course refuses. Klaatu then goes to ground in a type of boarding house, where he meets widow, Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her son, Bobby (Billy Gray). As his time starts to run out, he must put his faith in Helen to help him get his message across, while also preventing the giant robot he’s left in his spaceship from kicking the shit out of everyone. I think I might have found this more compelling if Klaatu’s message had been a little more compelling but at the time that it was made it must have been a great reflection on Cold War hysteria and the poor relations between different countries. It wasn’t really for me, but apparently it’s a thousand times better than the 2008 Keanu Reeves remake. 3.5/5
The last pick was mine… and I couldn’t resist a film I’ve watched over and over again for the last fourteen years. Loosely inspired by The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You follows the story of Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who falls for Bianca Stratford (Laris Oleynik) on his first day at a new school. Unfortunately there’s a catch – Bianca’s dad won’t let her date until her sister Kat (Julia Stiles) does and Kat happens to be a “heinous bitch” with no interest in the boys at school. With the help of his dorky best mate, Michael (David Krumholtz), Cameron tricks handsome twat, Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) – who also happens to have a Jones for Bianca – into paying mysterious school nutter, Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) to win over and date Kat. On the surface this is a relatively predictable teen romcom but somehow it has that elusive magic ingredient that makes it so much more. Is it the whip smart and endlessly quotable dialogue? The magnificently deranged supporting characters (my favourite being Allison Janney playing Ms Perky, the dirty novel writing school counsellor)? The epic soundtrack? Heath Ledger in his first featured film role playing the bad boy all teen girl fantasies are based on – you know that one that’s a bit dangerous on the outside but a total romantic underneath? Probably Heath. It also benefits from excellent set-pieces and female characters you can both identify with and root for. My only criticism is that the absence of Bianca and Kat’s mother, which is alluded to but never explained is underutilised. They just don’t make teen movies like they used to! 4.5/5
Have you ever had a movie marathon with your family? If you did, what do you think everyone would pick?