RIP Robin Williams: A Personal Tribute #RIPRobinWilliams #RobinWilliams

article originally published in 2014

[This post contains some language that may be deemed offensive]

No longer will we hear him scream his catchphrase Goood Morning Vietnaaaaam! – because his contractual obligations on that film expired more than 25 years ago, and he is dead.

RobinWilliams_article-2535891-1A80FA3A00000578-643_634x583

Hairy, bipedal, primate, Robin Williams, passed away on Monday. The ex-actor (dead, remember) and 1998 Academy Award Winner died from an apparent suicide. No longer will we hear him scream his catchphrase Goood Morning Vietnaaaaam! – because his contractual obligations on that film expired more than 25 years ago, and he is dead (See previous parenthetical comment).

My wife’s first reaction: “Nooo! Why not Brad Pitt instead…?” [1] Why not Brad Pitt, indeed: the question on everyone’s lips. My wife loved Robin Williams so much: he was her idol, second only to Patrick Swayze… “All my favourite people are dying… since I met you”, my wife eyed me suspiciously at breakfast as we heard news of Williams’s demise. Swayze’s death was long-coming and, although sad, completely expected. But when Swayze finally gave up the ghost (see what I did there? Also, note: the only thing funnier than a pun is a pun explained or pointed out), my wife didn’t let me get any sex for six months. Perhaps mentally picturing a dead man every time she let me have my wicked way was just a turn off for her. I’m terrified the same may happen now that Robin Williams is gone: what were you thinking, Robin!?

Robin-Williams-movie-poster-9pk-set-1
Robin Williams’s films helped define my childhood

But quite apart the imminent loss of nookie, I am genuinely in shock and very upset. How can you feel this for someone you’ve never met, never said “hi” to – this numbness and the sense that nothing is real or meaningful anymore? Robin Williams was 63, and I, a mere 29 (chronologically speaking, although physically my Wii Fit says I am 43), I have never known a world without him. Sure, I’ve never known a world without A. Robinson from Crosby-on-Eden in Carlisle, either [2], but the difference is I grew up with Robin Williams. His films bled into my mind and helped form my outlook on life – for better or worse(!) He was like a kindly uncle you’d see once a year, and who’d never fail to bring a smile to your face. Indeed, me being a member of Generation Y, Robin Williams and his films practically raised me as my parents couldn’t frankly be bothered to adequately balance work commitments with nurturing their sole sprog.

Bicentennial_man_film_posterThe eerie thing is this: the week leading up to his death, me and the wife randomly decided to binge on Robin Williams. We had a Robin Williams-athon: two and sometimes three of his films, every day, for a week. It’s like we almost knew what was coming as we drunk him in… it’s certainly difficult to deny that this constitutes overwhelming evidence for ESP. During this Robin Williams-athon, we rediscovered some films we’d forgotten about, and I broke down in tears at the conclusion of Bicentennial Man, having one of my periodic existential crises. I consoled myself with the knowledge that the film was based on a story by brainy sci-fi heavyweight Isaac Asimov, and that therefore it was intellectually valid to cry at a Robin Williams flick: truth be told, you made me cry so many times, you hairy, stout, hook-nosed, wonderful bastard!

My idols growing up – not just “guys I liked a bit” –, and I swear I’m not kidding: Rik Mayall (died two months ago), Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, and Rolf – seriously. Unlike the last two, however, Robin Williams didn’t enjoy (allegedly) touching up prepubescent cock and/or vag. He was by all accounts a giving and kindly man. Yet he had his dark side that we’re all hearing so much about now. But I don’t want to dwell on that: Robin Williams brought me so much joy, and that’s how I’ll remember him.

(Oh, I also idolised John Cleese, but nothing much has happened to him (the odd divorce aside), so mentioning him would spoil the dramatic point I was making).

MorkMindy
Mork and Mindy: not a funny show

I remember as a young child in the late eighties watching re-runs of Mork and Mindy, the show that launched Williams’ career. Not because it was a good show – it wasn’t: we watched it because there were only four channels in those days and it was raining outside. But I thank God he did make that programme or else the vastly superior semi-remake Third Rock From The Sun would likely never have been made at all (I imagine). And without Mork and Mindy, Robin Williams probably never would have broken through in quite the way he did, and for that reason too, I’m thankful for Mork and Mindy.

Thank you, Mr. Williams.

  • Thank you for inventing Flying Rubber (Flubber): I had a great day out that one time my aunty-to-be took me to the cinema in order to transparently ingratiate herself to me such that I would consent to her marrying my uncle.
  • Thank you for being the foil in The Birdcage and giving us a delicate, beautiful performance.
  • Thank you for Jumanji: this film inspired many a daydream, may have helped instil a love of boardgames which lasts to the present day, and I also won a t-shirt from a Jumanji themed Twister ice cream competition, a win I enjoyed as I was suffering personally at the time.
  • Thank you for the tender loving father and for the cross-dressing slapstick in Mrs Doubtfire.
  • Thank you for The Fisher King: your depiction of Parry was moving and the blurring of reality and fantasy which you portrayed so well meant a lot to a teen obsessed with the nature of reality and concerned by his own failing mind.
  • Thank you for Good Will Hunting: it was the first film of yours I saw which impressed upon me your incredible talent.
  • I want to say thank you for Hook, but it never quite did it for me. Think it’s because I’ve always kind of been suspicious of Peter Pan (and had long since conflated Peter Pan and Michael Jackson sleepovers in my mind). But, yeah, okay, for my wife’s sake: Thank you for Hook!
  • Thank you for Big… no, wait, that was Tom Hanks. Never mind.
  • Indeed, Thank you for every single film you ever made. That includes the odd dud, because even they meant I got to spend more time with you.

So, thank you, Robin Williams (I know he can’t hear me because of the aforementioned being dead and all, but these sorts of things are always addressed to the person regardless of how little sense that makes), thank you so much for all the laughs, all the tears. You touched my heart so many times. No, I’m not one of those people who became a teacher because of the Dead Poet’s Society [3], but you made a difference to my life, you made my existence richer and more joyful. I miss you already.

RIP Robin Williams
RIP Robin Williams: 1951 – 2014

References & Notes

[1] Funny ‘cos it’s true.

[2] http://www.thephonebook.bt.com/publisha.content/en/search/residential/search.publisha?Surname=Robinson&Initial=&Street=&Location=WARWICK+BRIDGE++%7b+Carlisle+-+CUMBRIA%7d&OriginalLocation=Warwick&Range=xloc

[3] I am actually a teacher, but I became one because I love dreary form-filling and taking abuse from colleagues and students.

featured image from http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/01/08/article-2535891-1A80FA3A00000578-643_634x583.jpg

“Robin Williams’s films helped define my childhood” image from http://www.krock1057.ca/files/Robin-Williams-movie-poster-9pk-set-1.jpg

Bicentennial Man image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicentennial_Man_(film)#mediaviewer/File:Bicentennial_man_film_poster.jpg

Mork and Mindy image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e7/MorkMindy.jpg

Robin Williams with a cap image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_williams

© 2014, 2020 Bryan Ashley James Parry

Netflix Film Review: The Boy Next Door (2015) #100WordReview #NetflixReview @TheBoyNextDoor @JLo #TheBoyNextDoor @ryanAguzman @Netflix @thefilmreview @ianmnelson95 @Lex_Atkins @KermodeMovie

a paint-by-numbers thriller-stalker ideal for playing cliché bingo

Having recently separated from her philandering husband, lonely teacher Claire (Jennifer Lopez) has a night of passion with her new next door neighbour: young, sexy-but-smart Noah (Ryan Guzman). Yet when Claire tells Noah she made a mistake, Noah won’t accept it and starts his reign of stalking terror.

Despite The Boy Next Door being a paint-by-numbers thriller-stalker ideal for playing cliché bingo, it’s very entertaining. Great pacing, logical follow-through, and the acting is mostly convincing — although Guzman increasingly hams as the tension rises.

A good film? No. Entertaining? Undoubtedly. Unoriginal and sometimes absurd, The Boy Next Door is a guilty pleasure.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://eatingfastfood.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/the-boy-next-door-movie-poster.jpg

Netflix Film Review “My Teacher, My Obsession” (2018) #NetflixReviews

Rusty Joiner has a porn star’s name and a porn star’s body, and on this basis he was surely given the role.

Riley (Laura Bilgeri) moves with her father Chris (Rusty Joiner) to a new town for a fresh start. Struggling to make friends, she eventually joins forces with fellow loner Kyla (Lucy Loken). Things are going well as Riley’s personal life begins to blossom, until it becomes apparent that Kyla is obsessed with her father and will stop at nothing to have him.

My Teacher, My Obsession is a fairly standard obsessive stalker-seducer movie which brings little new to the game. Having said that, the plot is generally well constructed and the characterisation is relatively believable. However, Chris’ vulnerability and struggles to resist seduction by Kyla should have been set-up more convincingly. Also, Kyla’s mother’s naivety regarding her daughter’s true nature doesn’t quite ring true.

Rusty Joiner has a porn star’s name and a porn star’s body, and on this basis he was surely given the role. He isn’t a bad actor, but he was miscast. He was particularly unconvincing as a teacher and father, although he does grow into the role of tormented potential seducee later on in the film. The wardrobe department also flunked the exam; I found myself constantly distracted by the bizarrely ill-fitting clothing that Joiner was dressed in.

Laura Bilgeri and Jana Lee Hamblin (Kyla’s mother) were convincing, trying their best to find the throughline in this script which sometimes sagged.

All in all, this is an entertaining TV movie, bubble gum for the brain. Generally competent, if trite, though woefully miscast in the case of Joiner.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BZTI1YTA5ZTMtZjZkYy00ZWVkLTgwMTYtNWM2ZDQ5M2M4MDk5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTYxMjExMzY@._V1_.jpg

 

What’s this film called?

HungarySpoofGerman

I don’t remember now; I was tanked up on Goulash at the time.

This is quite possibly the most pointless thing I will ever write. So… Enjoy!

When I go abroad, I love to watch foreign telly. Even though I have very little idea what they’re talking about, I enjoy seeing the differences between our superior British TV and their inferior outlander television. Think hetheth etheth etheth from The Fast Show. But more than that, I’m a language-lover, and so I just enjoy hearing authentic foreignese.

I recently went to Budapest. One night, I sat up till the wee hours (that’s Scotch for “small”; I was in Scotland recently, too) watching a film. I enjoyed it. Even though it was complete bollocks. But I have no idea what it was called and therefore I cannot do my obligatory post-film ritual of looking up every little thing about it on IMDB.com. This is now driving me to despair.

If I explain the film to you, Dear Reader, will you please psychically intuit its name and let me know? I will reward you handsomely. Behold! 100 Hungarian florints!

image

No, seriously: I will send you this coin if you tell me the name of the film (I’m not joking). A whole hundred! I swear it by the old Gods* and the new.**

So, the film then…

  • It was evidently a German film dubbed into Hungarian. It was like a crap German rip off of Hot Shots!. Yes, when you thought the spoof genre couldn’t get any worse: ladies and gentlemen, the German spoof.
  • The lead character: white guy, long dark hair, slightly chubby, glasses. He mostly had a Rambo-style headband, but earlier in the film he was wearing a leather jacket.
  • In one scene, a girl officer is crying, and the ?General offers a hanky from his sleeve. Except it was a series of multi-coloured hankies linked together like a clown.
  • In the same office but ?a different scene (I don’t remember now; I was tanked up on Goulash at the time), random people from nowhere start pouring into the office and laughing at the protagonist. One guy dies from laughter and his ghost carries on this cruel spasmodic audible thoracic diaphragmatic contraction-based mockery.
  • There’s an oriental-looking bad guy with a dodgy ‘tache.
  • A Predator is hunting them and at one point invisibly slays the protagonist’s foes so that everyone, including the protagonist himself, thinks the protagonist is possessed of some psychic mage-like powers. This Predator eventually takes off its suit to reveal himself as __PLOT SPOILERZ__ a sexy female Vulcan.
  • In one scene the bad guy is speaking down the phone to a guy who is copying the words down. Reveal: the guy on the other end of the line is SAT NEXT TO HIM. Like, lulz.
  • After the protagonist (getting tired of typing this word already; how about “pr’ag”?) succeeds in his mission, they pour a trophy full of medals over his head. And he gets the girl. Wahey.

And that’s about all I remember. Good bye.

Footnotes:
*YHWH, Allah, Zeus.
**Britney Spears, Jordan, Tom Hardy.

NOTE: It’s been six years since I saw this film, and I still can’t get it out of my head. Can someone PLEASE tell me its name??

© 2014, 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Netflix Film Review “Calibre” (2018) #NetflixReviews

read the 150 word review here

debut solo feature … a remarkable accomplishment.

Two thirty-ish childhood friends, Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann), meet up after a few years for a weekend away in Scotland to celebrate Vaughn’s impending fatherhood; a kind of paternity stag do. Ironically, to hunt stags — all at Marcus’ expense. But when an incident happens, their trip is turned into a nightmare that which will change their lives forever.

There’s an awful sense of inevitability from the very start of the film, even before the truly shocking and gut-wrenching inciting incident. We know something awful is going to go down. The film gripped me with a suspense I haven’t felt for a while.

The countryside, almost a character itself, oozes Britishness and is both beautiful and haunting. Indeed, the cinematography is beautiful and effective throughout, never drawing attention to itself but is quite magnificent. I particularly enjoyed one shot of Vaughn’s dinner. The sound design is understated but truly powerful and sells the film magnificently. 

The writing is tight and fat-free but never feels shoehorned or with an inevitable end-point. The film is marked by highly convincing motives and actions and reactions from all of our characters throughout. This is sold by some truly phenomenal acting, including from supporting characters.

Vaughn, a shy but nice bloke; Marcus, his larger-than-life but slightly unbalanced friend. We get the impression that Vaughn had emotionally distant parents and was a bully victim; Marcus seems to have the self-confidence and slightly self-destructive side afforded by a more privileged upbringing. But almost all of this was subtly and carefully implied rather than being explicitly stated. It felt like our two leads had a lot of backstory to work with and were therefore able to deliver a very convincing throughline. The film’s first act sees them having a highly believable lad’s bonding session. If you’re a man, this kind of sesh will definitely be familiar, true man-on-man bromantic bonding.

The finale was satisfying and totally appropriate with a final shot which made us feel complicit.

Calibre reminded me of the excellent Eden Lake: a tranquil countryside retreat, an incident in a forest, local townsfolk who seems a little on edge and present a constant threat. But in recalling Eden Lake, a truly gritty and realistic movie, Calibre made me realise how theatrical Eden Lake was by comparison. I was fully gripped and absorbed, whereas Eden Lake now seems a little bit “horror movie”, emphasis on “movie”.

This was writer-director Matt Palmer’s first solo feature length film after several horror short films. So the title “debutant” seems a little inappropriate. None-the-less, this is a debut solo feature, and it a remarkable accomplishment.

This film was tense and boding from the outset. It’s hard to think of how this could have been improved. Everything was magnificent. I am sorely tempted to give this a five star rating, but I only give five star reviews to films that I immediately think, “Wow, this will go down as one of the greatest movies in history”. Calibre was too simple a story and too simply told to ever be classed as one of cinema’s greatest works. But even though Calibre may not have changed the cinematic game, it is, none-the-less, a phenomenal movie which I cannot recommend highly enough.

4/5

featured image from https://kayoustore.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/WEB-6.jpg

Netflix Film Review “Eli” (2019) #150WordReview

 … the script not so much careens off the tracks … as it blasts into outer space …

Eli (Charlie Shotwell) is a boy with a rare life-threatening autoimmune disease which effectively renders him “allergic to the world”, as one character puts it. His parents (played by Kelly Reilly and Max Martini) take him to a remote medical facility where renowned specialist Dr Horn (Lili Taylor) promises to save him. However, all isn’t as it appears, and Eli might not be in the safest place for him, after all.

This are-the-doctors-bad-or-is-it-all-in-the-boy’s-head thing worked very well for the first two thirds of the film. Sadly, the script not so much careens off the tracks in the final act, as it blasts into outer space with the most unlikely and film-destroying plot twist ever. A far less obvious twist, or no twist at all, would have rendered this film better.

Good acting, a tense film up until the last third, I can think of several endings that, whilst less twisty, would have been more in keeping with the tone of the film and done justice to it.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/eli-movie-poster.jpg

Netflix Film Review “Time Trap” (2017)

… Goonies gone awry quickly becomes The Descent-with-teens …

A group of adolescent friends go on a jaunt to a hidden cave in the woods in order to find their missing teacher. It’s an accident waiting to happen, something the characters themselves point out several times. And yes, they inevitably do end up getting lost in the cave network themselves. But this Goonies gone awry quickly becomes The Descent-with-teens; what they find down in the dark is beyond any of their imaginations and will change their lives forever in ways they couldn’t conceive.

Time Trap is basically a B-movie which was shot on a limited budget of $1,000,000, a paltry amount — especially for a Sci-Fi flick. Yes, this is a sci-fi movie. However, the special effects weren’t bad at all, and the make-up was impressive, too. The acting wasn’t amazing. But despite being a bit teen movie, it worked.

The film felt like an over-extended episode, perhaps the pilot, of a 1990s Sci-Fi show. Which is both good and bad. Action, drama, thrills, but a total reset by the end of the episode. Which was a bit of a let-down.

Despite a lack of budget and a ’90s TV vibe, it was an absolute mind-bending pleasure. It dealt with huge themes, which totally shocked me. As pretentious as it sounds, I was reminded of Olaf Stapledon’s magisterial 1930 novel Last and First Men, an aeons-spanning epic like no other which inspired many, including the great Arthur C. Clarke. That really does sum up the themes hit upon in this movie. Awesome stuff. However, the film starts out with no hint of such a direction. It begins as a kind of teen adventure movie in the mould of the Goonies (which was meta-ly referenced by the characters themselves), but transforms into a truly terrifying science fiction horror. This tonal shift worked quite well; much better, in fact, than the campy tonal shift back to adventure comedy at the very end. This ending, a happy ending of sorts, felt like it thoroughly undermined the true mind-melting horror of what happened in the caves. Hence the “90s Sci-Fi show” vibe.

B movie, yes, but a true delight.

3/5

featured image from https://movieberry.com/static/photos/221962/3_midi.jpg

Netflix Film Review “Calibre” (2018) #150WordReview

A true gem.

Two 30-ish year old childhood friends, Vaughn (Jack Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann), meet up for the first time in a few years for a weekend away in Scotland to celebrate Vaughn’s impending fatherhood; a kind of paternity stag do. Ironically, to hunt stags — all at Marcus’ expense. But when an incident happens, their trip is turned into a nightmare that which will change their lives forever.

There’s an awful sense of inevitability from the very start of the film, even before the truly shocking and gut-wrenching inciting incident. We know something awful is going to go down. The film gripped me with a suspense I haven’t felt for a while.

The cinematography was beautiful and the countryside oozes Britishness and is both beautiful and haunting.

A true gem. Watch it.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://kayoustore.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/WEB-6.jpg

Netflix Film Review “Bird Box” (2018)

read the 150 word review here

… Sandra Bullock rowing her children up a certain creek …

Bird Box is a The Happening (2008) and A Quiet Place (2018) mash-up where an evil presence blown on the wind is causing people to kill themselves (or, in the rare case, become homicidal maniacs).

Five years after an unseen and malevolent presence caused the majority of the world’s people to mysteriously commit suicide or else turn into blood-thirsty maniacs, mother Malorie (Sandra Bullock) is desperately trying to navigate a safe path through this post-apocalyptic landscape to a fabled safe haven for her two young children. The evil force manifests itself as a shimmer and a rustling breeze which seems to instantly infect people who gaze towards it. Therefore, the only way to avoid being infected is to stay indoors, or only go outside with your eyes covered at all times.

We join the story with Sandra Bullock rowing her children up a certain creek, and it might as well be without a paddle as they’re all blindfolded, to a fabled haven. The film is two narratives at the same time, cutting between her river-based journey and recanting the tale of how she got to be on this perilous solo mission cut

For years I wondered to myself how M. Knight Shyamalan could have got it so woefully wrong with his The Happening, based as it is on the absurd concept that nature is out to get revenge on mankind by infecting us with suicide blown on the breeze(!), but Bird Box‘s set-up and premise is what The Happening could potentially have been. We don’t know the source of this evil presence, nor are the details made clear. Why do some people merely become homicidal lunatics whereas the majority immediately kill themselves? Why can the evil force not enter into buildings? But these questions do not matter as the technicalities of this blight are not the focus of the story; rather, the human drama is. And the film excels. Man versus himself, man versus man, man versus time, all three classic dramas are well-played to maximum tension.

At times, The Road-style post-apocalyptic road trip (well, river trip), at times an alternative reality good version of The Happening, at times “the enemy within” dramatic plot thread of 28 Days Later, this film delivers a tense and thrilling horror ride. The cast are all wonderful in their roles. However, this film surely deserves an award for the most bizarrely random cast of all time: Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, rapper Machine Gun Kelly (or should I say, ex-rapper, RIP, after Eminem (metaphorically) killed him in their 2018 diss battle), British comic actor from The Thick Of It Tom Hollander, jovial comedian Lil Rel Howery, and Bend It Like Beckham‘s Parminder Nagra. But despite this motley collection of all sorts, the casting never jarred: there was no Ed-Sheeran-in-Game-Of-Thrones-WTF moment. I was particularly impressed with Machine Gun Kelly’s supporting turn.

Scary, emotionally terrifying, thrilling, the blight feels real even though the full details are never spelt out. A wonderful movie, what M. Knight’s The Happening could have been.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/36/750×445/1058045.jpg

 

Netflix Film Review “Bird Box” (2018) #150WordReview

read the long review here

Bullock … paddles her two young children up a certain creek …

Take 2008’s The Happening and 2018’s A Quiet Place, pop them in a blender with a pinch of Oscar (Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich) and a dash of randomness (British comic actor Tom Hollander, rapper Machine Gun Kelly, Bend It Like Beckham‘s Parminder Nagra), and voilà! An evil presence blown on the wind is causing people to kill themselves or each other (The Happening) when they look towards it (swapping A Quiet Place‘s sound for sight).

We follow Bullock as she paddles her two young children up a certain creek to an alleged haven. The film interweaves with the tale of how she came to be on this river.

Bird Box is a human drama of survival against odds.

Scary, emotionally terrifying, and thrilling, the blight feels real even though the full details are never spelt out. A wonderful movie, what M. Knight’s The Happening could have been.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/36/750×445/1058045.jpg