Jaws (1975)

Jaws bigger

Forty years ago this weekend the world of cinema as we knew it altered irrevocably with the release of Jaws (Steven Spielberg).  For months you couldn’t buy another novel in Woolworths, at least not in the small town where I lived.  It was all anyone was reading – except for little kids like me.  Richard Zanuck and David Brown acquired the property and after failing to develop it  with their first two directors of choice offered it to Steven Spielberg before the theatrical release of Sugarland Express (1974),

He declared that his favorite part of the book was the shark hunt on the last 120 pages, and told Zanuck when he accepted the job, “I’d like to do the picture if I could change the first two acts and base the first two acts on original screenplay material, and then be very true to the book for the last third.”

The rest is history.

’71 (2014)

71 (2014)

An English squaddie (Jack O’Connell) is dropped into Belfast to assist the RUC  in protecting the Catholic population from the B Specials in 1971.  A house to house search goes dramatically wrong and he ends up on the run taking succour wherever he can find it in the midst of growing unrest in the city where everyone is turning on everyone else.  In this contemporary version of Odd Man Out, we learn a sad truth about the so-called Troubles – the intelligence masters were infiltrating the Provos, the terrorists were turning on themselves and there was high-level manipulation in the fomenting of a war that should never have occurred (and goes on to this today with the Let’s Forget About It, Shall We, alleged Peace Agreement with psychotic mass murderers walking the streets of the Republic as a result). This is the least sentimental and most truthful of this sub-genre and a credit to writer Gregory Burke and director Yann Demange.  Above all, it’s a cracking thriller with wonderful performances and a real sense of place (it was shot in the North – of England.) Probably the film of the year,

Spy (2015)

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It takes a woman to save the world.  In this fabulously funny James Bond spoof (who knew it would take so long to make another one in the English language?) Melissa McCarthy is Coop, the desk-bound CIA analyst in the basement forever whispering sweet life-saving nothings into the ear of dashing Bradley Fine (Jude Law), the proper gentleman spy presumed killed at the hands of dreadful nuke-buying Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) who has enormous hair and serious daddy issues, in a neat reversal of the daft Skyfall. She’s hilariously vain and cripplingly insecure and a total brute. So far, so Bond. Goaded on by her BFF Nancy (British TV comedienne Miranda Hart), tripped up by deluded wonderspy Rick Ford (an hilarious Jason Statham), slobbered over by presumed multilingual (fnarr fnarr) agent Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz), she eludes death, apocalypse and ultimately humiliation by her boss Elaine Crocker (Alison Janney) when she goes out into the field in the capitals of Europe. Whipsmart, knowing, a proper two fingers to the world of male superciliousness, this is Paul Feig’s valentine to the wonderful McCarthy, who has come a long way from their overrated collaboration in Bridesmaids and is a proper postmodern feminist action heroine here. Glamorous locations, hilarious setups, wonderful self-deprecation. Funny? That’s just the half of it. Long may she run. And Paul Feig – especially if he can give Goldie Hawn the role she deserves to bring her back onscreen.

Christopher Lee

27 May 1922-07 June 2015.  Count Dracula.  Sweeney Todd.  The Wicker Man. Fu Manchu. The Man With the Golden Gun. The Three Musketeers. The Lord of the Rings trilogy.   Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels. Dark Shadows. The voice for Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday.

Forever in our fear-filled hearts.

Christopher Lee