Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The time-traveling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women!

No 498 - Back To The Future 2
Director - Robert Zemeckis

This is the perfect film to watch over a cup of tea and a bowl of Muesli, and it allows me to talk about sequels. For where Back To The Future used the immortal line of "Roads, where we're going we don't need roads" to hint at a second story (it could have never happened) - this film is dropping blatant hints everywhere. Carefully setting up the situation to lead up to the 3rd film.

  • Doc Brown mourns the fact that he'll never be able to visit his favourite era - the American West
  • The time circuits are faulty, continually flickering between the selected date and 1885
  • In the Biff Tannen museum we are introduced to Biff's great-grandfather: Buford 'Mad Dog' Tannen, fastest gun in the West.
Hmmm..... could we possibly be heading for a wild west finale to this trilogy?

And whilst part 2 does build up perfectly to the third film, it fails to resolve itself as a single entity. This is a regular problem for middle films in trilogies, especially when parts 2 and 3 are being filmed at the same time (as was the case for this) - rather then reaching an ending, the film ends at a cliff hanger with a big flashing "TO BE CONCLUDED". We're not watching Lost here, its a family friendly blockbuster (albeit still with a lot of swearing! You could crow bar a lot of 'Shits' into a PG in them days), we don't want to be teased and taunted. I can only imagine how the audience felt when they realised they'd have to wait a year to see the end of this story line. At least part 1 had the decency to finish the arc and cheekily start a new one in the final 5 minutes.
It also adds a whole new dynamic to Marty's character. A crippling weakness which was not even touched on in the first film at all.... Marty can not turn something down if he is called a chicken. That's a pretty big character flaw, and it appears to get him into every single piece of trouble he has ever had in his entire life. Why haven' we seen this before?..

but what of the film itself? In the blurry drug and liquor addled recesses of my mind, part 2 is the least clearly remembered of the films. And upon re watching it, it kind of becomes clear why.

Part 1 is a hilarious 50s comedy about nearly shagging your mum
Part 3 may be the weakest but its a western... and westerns are cool.
Part 2 is just a bit higgledy piggledy and therefore comes out slightly confused.

I mean I only remembered that it was set in the future. But there are actually 3 sections to this film and each section is a gradual improvement on the section before it: So I'm going to break it down in to 3 parts and discuss them individually.

1) The Future - 2015

If Robert Zemeckis has got it right, we're going to get the following stuff in the next 7 years:

  • Self lacing shoes
  • Flying Cars
  • Holographic Cinemas - and another 6 Jaws films (shark still looks fake)
  • Hover Boards
  • .... um... Elijah Wood will regress back to childhood and wear a sieve on his head
  • ...... to be honest the list reached its peak and continuing it is pointless. Hover Boards have been scientifically proven to be the sweetest most gnarly thing ever put on screen. Ever. They are - to paraphrase Mr S. Dogg - The Bizzle. The best thing about them was that Robert Zemeckis conned people into thinking they were real and that Mattel had let them have some prototypes of a toy they had never released due to it being too dangerous. Good times.
Despite the awesomeness of Hover Boards, BTTF2's future bit has some serious flaws and the main flaw is huge. We're talking massive. the flaw is The Plot.
In Part 1, Marty accidentally ends up in 1955 and accidentally stops his parents getting together. Thus potentially ruining his chance of existing. It is far fetched but makes sense in the world of the film and there is a genuine sense of urgency and of deadline. In Part 2 they go to the future to deliberately stop his son getting arrested. This is in the future.... there is no urgency.... Why doesn't Doc Brown just tell Marty what will happen and then Marty can sort it out in his own sweet time over the 30 years between now and then. He can make sure Marty Jr isn't out on that day. Hell, he could even move from Hill Valley. That'd solve the problems...

Luckily that bit of plot is quickly dealt with by the excellent hover board chase and we can move on to the second plot. The better plot. For this is Biff's movie - from the first scene where Biff (the Hopeless 1985 version) glowers menacingly at the flaming DeLorian tracks... we know this is his Movie, and his plot is excellent premise. What would happen if you travelled from the future (aging Biff with the pimpest cane ever), found your teenage self and gave yourself enough knowledge on future sporting events to become stupidly rich?

And so, as Doc and Marty return to 1985, believing themselves to be successful in their futile mission, we reach part 2 of this film.

2) Dystopian 1985

I love views of dystopia and I find it very amusing that Biff used his riches to essentially abolish the police, kill off a few people, turn Hill Valley into a dump and swagger about in a dressing gown smoking cigars. He is the epitome of the swaggering preening 80s megalomaniac bastard and for that he must be saluted and praised.
However besides that, not much happens. This bit is just full of nice little touches - especially James Tolkan as a cigar chomping shotgun toting version of Mr Strickland...

And worst of all Biff fails his Evil genius exam by falling for the same trick that every Bond and Scooby Doo villain falls for. I feel sullied for saying we should salute and praise him. He explains his plans. Down to the last detail. So that Marty knows exactly where and when he got given the Sport Almanac (this plot's Maguffin). THE FOOL! THE FOOL!

So off we go back to....

3) The Past - 1955
Unbelievable, that old Biff could have chosen that particular date. It could mean that that point in time inherently contains some sort of cosmic significance. Almost as if it were the temporal junction point for the entire space-time continuum. On the other hand, it could just be an amazing coincidence.

So, it is with great personal joy that we return to 1955. Firstly because the clothes are so much better then and secondly because I can once lust for Lea Thompson without her looking old (2015) or strange (Dystopian 1985). She really is very pretty.

This is clearly the best bit of the film (fact not opinion) as Marty has to get the sports almanac off Biff without being seen by himself who is still in 1955 because of the first film. There are some genuinely tense moments which have been lacking from the rest of the film and some surprisingly smooth interaction between Marty and Marty and Doc and Doc... The Special effects work well, even compared with today's examples and there is a glorious nostalgic thrill watching the Marty from this film watch scenes from the the first film or interact with himself.

And finally I want to mention Wesley Mann in the amazing role as the guy who thinks Biff had his wallet stolen. A truly memorable character.

So, in conclusion, this film is flawed as it is a set up to the final 3rd act (and it even ends with a trailer for part 3) - but the Back To The Future franchise is so fun and the concepts between are so clever that you kind of forgive it all.... Almost a shame that Part 3 isn't on the list.

Monday, 29 September 2008

If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious shit.

No 23 - Back To The Future
Director - Robert Zemeckis

Right. Before we start, this is going to be a terrible bit of writing - but hell, I've got 499 other films to hone my skills on... and allow me to explain why we start with this random number and not with something more logical.... like 500.....

The first film that I owned on the list was No 498 - Back To The Future Part 2 (discussed tomorrow), so it made sense to me to begin with the much higher ranking first film.

I sit here with a cup of tea and Fore! playing in the background, to make sure that I stay in the right frame of mind. And to make sure that I can have the excellent Power of Love playing on loop.

This film is an absolute gem - It is only two months younger than me, and unlike me it has aged marvellously well. The scenes set in the fifties look as fresh and as well shot as any recent film set in this period, meaning that you can still be fully transported by the film without loving it because it is kitsch, or part of your childhood. The few scenes that ARE set in the eighties are just so gloriously eighties. Who can not love a film which has Huey Lewis and the News providing the songs? Then there is the wonderfully awful and blatant product placement and the CLOTHES!!!

3 articles of clothing that make this film a must see (technically 2 are accessories)

1) Marty McFly's ridiculous puffer jacket body warmer. It is disgusting. It is perfect.
2) Biff's friend in the 50s wears £D glasses and thus has the Moniker 3D. I want 3D glasses. I would wear them on a day to day basis.
3) When Doc Brown returns from the future he is wearing a see through perspex tie.
- let me just repeat that. A. See through. Perspex. Tie.

Genius - absolute fucking genius,

And the DeLorean is too cool, so cool that I still get far too excited if I see one in real life (this happened once, in Brighton. It was parked outside my house and me and my friend spent a good hour just staring at it) - to think it was almost a fridge.
(to quote Wikipedia "In the first script of Back to the Future the time machine was shaped like a refrigerator. The idea was scrapped, for fear of kids climbing into and becoming trapped in refrigerators. Because an abandoned refrigerator can become an inescapable trap for a small child, laws in most nations require that the door be removed when such an item is disposed.")

This film may be neatly protected with years of nostalgia and may be viewed by millions with rose tinted glasses but it is an excellent film handling some pretty weighty themes in a frothy accessible manner. This is a film after all that touches on the Grandfather Paradox and, to some degree, the Oedipus Complex. It also has some excellent performances.

Michael J Fox is perfect as a 16 year old, and pulls it off despite being 8 years older and working 2 hjobs at the time. The poor guy never slept yet stays fesh faced and the epitome of 80s cool.
Christopher Lloyd was pretty much born to play Doc Brown - his wide scary eyes and manic mannerisms turn the Doctor into one of the most likable and quotable cult figures.
And lets not forget Lea Thompson....

In fact lets take a minute silence to truly contemplate on just how unbelievably hot she is in this film.

She is incredible - her innocence is displayed in the naive way she acts the sexual predator, and it is that which makes her so irresistible (in my un biased eyes)
And of course, this is the film that gave us Biff Tannen. Who is comedy gold and an unbelievable bastard. It is the role of Thomas F Wilson's career and it will follow him to his grave.

So, before PGs got sanitised (there is an awful lot of swearing in this film) we are left with a very clear moral to this story. Punch someone in the face. That way your wife will stay hot, she will not become an alcoholic (I told you that PGs were edgier in those days) and Biff will give your car an extra coat of wax. This will only happen if YOU have your own personal Incredible Hulk moment, just like Crispin Glover.