The Guns of Navarone (1961)

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A friend of mine is under the weather at the moment so I prescribed holiday viewing:  The Great Escape and its fraternal twin, this, one of the best men on a mission action adventures to come out of WW2. It’s 1943.  An Allied commando team is deployed to destroy huge German guns on the Greek island of Navarone in order to rescue troops trapped on Kheros. They’re led by British Major Franklin (Anthony Quayle) and include the American Mallory (Gregory Peck), Greek resistance fighter Stavros (Anthony Quinn) and reluctant Brit explosives expert Miller (David Niven). Facing impossible odds, the men battle stormy seas and daunting cliffs. When Franklin is injured, Mallory takes command, and the infighting begins. They have to impersonate Nazi officers and work with local resistance fighters Irene Papas and Gia Scala. There is a spy  in the camp – but who can it be? There’s interrogation and explosives and betrayal and all kinds of good stuff. This is sublime fun and contains probably my favourite movie line of all, from the inimitable Niven:  Heil everybody! Adapted from Alastair MacLean’s novel by blacklisted screenwriter and producer Carl Foreman (who made a lot of changes to the material) and directed by J. Lee Thompson (taking over from Alexander Mackendrick one week before production – that old saw, ‘creative differences.’) Narrated by James Robertson Justice and shot by the peerless Oswald Morris with a majestic soundtrack by Dimitri Tiomkin. Definitely taking this to the desert island. Or even a Greek one.

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Mean Girls (2004)

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Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 book Queen Bees & Wannabes is a serious-minded guide for parents about how to help their teenage daughters through the maze of high school, cliques and arbitrary social rules. Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey (wonder what happened to her?!) took it and turned it into a smart comedy screenplay, directed by Mark Waters. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) has been home-schooled in Africa (yes, it’s that specific…) and when her parents move back Stateside is sent to high school in suburban Illinois where she is ridiculed by the Plastics, a self-appointed girl clique who rule the school. Befriended by two social exiles, she infiltrates the group but makes the mistake of falling for the ex of Queen Bee Regina (Rachel McAdams). Maths teacher Fey tries to keep everyone civilised but when Regina figures out what’s happening and her Burn Book goes public the school goes full tilt jungle madness. Fey probably took inspiration from the lists of recommended films at the back of Wiseman’s book – which also has a list called It’s Not Just Her Generation:  maybe when you visit someone who’s not dead and they have a lot of flowers in their house you’ll now know why (they’re the person everyone’s most scared of… That explains a LOT.)  This is genuinely good fun – for everyone. And you know what? Regina’s right – ‘fetch’ is not a cool word. What a shame that out of all the terrific performers here it should be the wonderfully gifted Lohan whose career is in the doldrums.

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)

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One of those creature feature titles you think will be far more exciting than they prove to be. However on the day that I finally saw The Hateful Eight it was interesting to see Daisy Domergue’s namesake, Faith, a small-featured brunette with an attractive lisp acting her ass off opposite not just a huge octopus but Kenneth Tobey, the older guy in my beloved Whirlybirds (Craig Hill died and I wrote about him before). The film was produced as a vehicle for the effects of Ray Harryhausen and it was developed from a script by George Worthing Yates and directed by Robert Gordon, capitalising on nuclear fears when Tobey’s sub detects a massive sonar return and life beneath the ocean wave is disturbed. Domergue and Donald Curtis are the marine biologists called in to inspect the area. The fishermen who report a giant sea creature are sent to psychiatrists but a giant suction cup print on a beach forces re-evaluation and watch out San Francisco!… Serious-minded monster movie with great underwater scenes that would have been fabulous in colour! Released in a double feature with Creature With the Atom Brain. Wow.