Tag Archives: The Omen

Tour De Westcliff

IMG_1535And so the Tour De France starts tomorrow, Iz loves her little bike and takes to the park whenever she gets chance. She’s not exactly Street Hawk or BMX Bandits level yet but she certainly enjoys getting those wheels in motion.

I do love the fact that she is wearing her Muppets t-shirt though as it conjures images of Kermit and Piggy in a London park on their bikes in The Great Muppet Caper.

We’ve got a looooong hallway and she even sometimes insists on going up and down it, which never fails to evoke memories of The Omen or The Shining!

IMG_1537Back to the park, you can really see her determination as the grown man next to her ‘races’ her. To be fair Iz never was a great fan of the colour yellow!

Perhaps she’d have been a little quicker if Anxious the Elephant hadn’t been hitching a ride.

The Dad Busters: Celebrating fathers on film

With today being Father’s Day I guess this could have been alternatively called A Good Day to Dad Hard.

This list is in no particular order but for me stand out as some of the key father moments on film. Of course there will be those that don’t get mentioned or that I hadn’t thought of , but that’s the point these are the ones that sprang to mind for me, these are the ones that – on some level – resonate with me as a dad.

Martin Brody in Jaws (1975)

He’s the Chief of Police on Amity Island (in Amity we say yard!) and there is a rogue killer shark on the loose…not bad for a man who hates water. You know what he faces his greatest fear (quite literally) after his eldest son nearly gets taken out by the Great White. His job may be to serve and protect the community but he also wants to do the same for his family.

Jaws is my favourite film of all time, it was made the year I was born and it’s always been a big part of my life, and Roy Scheider as Brody is fantastic as the former New York cop who has moved to the seaside for a quieter life and a better life for his family. In many ways he will see that he has put his family in danger, it is his fault that they have moved in danger’s way. Director Steven Spielberg often makes films with an absent father or films without fathers (take Jurassic Park, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for example) due to the break up of his own parents marriage when he was young but the dad plays a major part in this film.

Father wise it’s a small moment for why Jaws is chosen and its one of the film’s brief interludes where his youngest child, Sean Brody, is sat with his dad at the dinner table and his young son copies his each and every move. It’s poignant and full of sheer warmth and is expertly delivered by Spielberg who manages to eek such moments out of young actors. For me is shows how important those little moments are, how attune young kids are and how…no matter what else is going on in the world…they bring you back down to earth and show you what is really important and really matters.

Jor-El in Superman (1978)

You often hear of stories about people going back into burning buildings to save their children or people giving up their lives so that their children can have a chance of survival. It’s weird but until you become a mum or dad you kind of get it but you don’t really understand it, you will do anything to ensure that they are safe and secure, that they will survive.

This brings me to self sacrifice. Kal-El (AKA Superman) survived because of his dad, because he was looking out for him, because he and his wife sacrificed themselves so that they could survive.

Marlon Brando was paid an astounding (nay super) salary of $3.7 million and a percentage of the profits  for  12 days shooting but he was certainly worth every penny with the gravitas he has in his scenes, a gravitas he carries through to Earth when a young Clark Kent is listening to his words of wisdom, the words that he will live by, the words that turn him into a superman.

Our dads all impart words of wisdom to us, why might not always think it is at the time but over time we’ll revisit it and find us using some of those very same words ourselves. Also see Mufasa in The Lion King, another sacrifice and a dad with wise words imparted to his son that are echoed again later.

George Kirk in Star Trek (2009)

Before he was Thor but after he was Kim in Home and Away, Chris Hemsworth played Kirk Snr in the opening of the JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek. Again like with Superman before it this is about sacrifices and although the father and son bond is fleeting – he gets to hear the cry of his new born son moments before his death, a death that saved countless others, including his wife and son.

George Kirk evacuating the crew of the USS Kelvin, including his wife and unborn son, as he sends it into the enemy craft is an amazing piece of cinema as his death is juxtaposed with the birth of his son. It’s a great opening to the film as initially we are only introduced to him as Kirk – so some of the new to Trek audience will think it is James T –  and it is also the birth of a legend, talk about an apt introduction.

It’s the strongest moment of the new Trek universe that has yet to be equalled, nevermind bettered in its execution.

Bryan Mills in Taken (2008)

When I was growing up Brian Mills was a catalogue, now he’s a kick-ass former special ops dad in a leather jacket played by Liam Neeson who acts as a sometime bodyguard for Holly Valance. Neeson himself thought the film to be no more than a straight to video thriller but the central crux of the story, his daughters kidnap into a people trafficking ring in France, and particularly the trailer that features the now famous “I have a certain set of skills….I will find you and I will kill you” dialogue over the phone as he speaks to his daughter’s kidnappers sent it into the stratosphere. It’s the pre-kidnap scene where he is telling his daughter to remain calm, to remember details, to hide under the bed…and to prepare to be taken that is the stand out moment for me.

It really touched a primeval nerve that we would do anything and go anywhere to save our sons or daughters or to avenge what has been done to them. He’s the Jack Bauer and the Paul Kersey in all of us, doing whatever and taking out whoever it takes to get the job done. The same could be also said of Russell Crowe in Gladiator after the murder of his wife and son, although he dies at the end his mission is accomplished and he gets want he wants, to be with his wife and son in the afterlife.

This revenge/avenging role is also used to great effect by Mel Gibson in practically everything where he is a wronged dad – see The Patriot, Ransom and Edge of Darkness for details.

Michael Newman in Click (2006)

Like most of Adam Sandler’s films this has plenty of infantile moments, such as repeatedly farting in David Hasselhoff’s face but this It’s A Wonderful Life-esque comedy also has its fair share of well-handled drama. Christopher Walken hands Sandler’s character a TV remote control that can control life itself, pausing or fast forwarding through life…the pefect tool for the over-worked architect fighting for promotion.

It’s a genuine surprise to find such a funny and touching film that has a real emotional core and an important message about spending time with your family taking precedent over your job. Life is short and it can’t be repeated and moments can’t be recaptured, essential to this are great performances by Henry Winkler as Sandler’s dad and with Sandler himself as he grows older, which culminates in his own moving death scene in the pouring rain trying to conect with his own grown up son outside the hospital. It’s this moment that’s my highlight.

The idea isn’t a new one, you’ve only got to look as far as A Christmas Carol and The Family Man for that, but its mix of humour and heart coupled with its contemporary setting and theme of work/life balance shows us it is perhaps more relevant than it ever was.

More than notable mentions also go out to the “I am your father!” scene in The Empire Strikes Back, the baseball game scene where Kevin Costner ‘meets’ his dad in his former cornfield come baseball diamond in Field of Dreams, the interplay of Henry Jones Jr and Sr in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the moving penultimate scene in the original version of The Omen where Robert Thorn hesitates in killing his adoptive son who just so happens to be the son of the Devil, and the Chariots of Fire-inspired scene onwards of Clark W. Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Perhaps I’ll return to these dads in more detail next year.

Pete Postlethwaite: a celebration

Craggy faced and voiced, the versatile actor, Pete Postlethwaite, who was described by Steven Spielberg, with whom he worked twice, as ‘the greatest actor in the world’ died last month at the age of 64 after a battle with Cancer. Earlier this week his memorial service was held and Dean Newman remembers the man and his movies.

Pete Postlethwaite kept working as he battled the disease, last year alone appearing in everything from Clash of the Titans to Inception and The Town. He first came to world-wide prominence in the Oscar-winning In The Name of the Father, for which he was also nominated, although the eagle eyed may have spotted him amongst the scrum of shaved heads and fellow British thesps in Alien 3 some 12 months earlier.

He cemented his position as one of the cream of British character acting talent however with three very different roles that he will perhaps be most fondly remembered for.

Looking to do for colliery brass band players what The Full Monty did for Sheffield steel workers, Brassed Off saw Postlethwaite deftly mix drama and comedy as the Obi Wan Kenobi of brass band leaders taking, funnily enough, future Obi Wan, Ewan McGregor under his wing.

1996 was a vintage year for the former Royal Shakespeare Society player who was the perfect choice and pillar then for Baz Lurhrmann’s sumptuous Romeo and Juliet with Postlethwaite’s Father Laiurence delivering the memorable ‘two households’ monologue that sets the scene, classic.

From playing an instrument to playing it colourful, Postlethwaite played it cucumber cool as the rather mysterious Mr Kobayashi in the really rather excellent, The Usual Suspects. Hollywood couldn’t really do anything other than sit up and take notice and he worked solidly right up until his untimely death.

Postlethwaite worked across a wide range of genres but he could often be found stepping in and out of the realms of sci-fi, horror and fantasy. Lucky us then. Genre highlights include Dragonheart, The Lost World (clearly channelling Robert Shaw from Jaws), James and the Giant Peach, Aeon Flux, Solomon Kane and the aforementioned Titans, Alien 3 and Inception.

It was almost as if the word gravitas could have been invented for him, a bit like getting Williams to do your score (yes Spacecamp I mean you) or Drew Strazan (hello Masters of the Universe) to whip up a tasty poster for you as no matter how bad the project he would give it that little bit more feeling of class to the proceedings.

The perfect case in point being his memorable turn in The Omen remake, ably filling the dog collar of Patrick Troughton who tries to forewarn Robert Thorn about his Devil son. Heck, I even loved his rhyming voiceover and his musings on mum’s cheesy bake in a certain well known cheese advert!

Being such a presence and class act it’s something of a surprise then that he didn’t pop up at Hogwarts, visit Middle Earth or try to have James Bond bumped off. He would have been perfect in any of them. Rarely bettered in the films he appeared the films themselves were always better for him being there and so was our experience.

Time After Time

It could be the film that the term high-concept was made for; H.G. Wells chases Jack the Ripper through time from Victorian England to 1970s San Francisco where he continues his killing spree.

It’s a brilliant idea that Wells actually built a working time machine, rather than just wrote about it, here very steam punk looking and heavily influenced by the likes of The Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Tracked down by the Victorian police Jack the Ripper, otherwise known as Stephenson, a close friend of Wells, steals it and the chase is on.

Featuring Malcolm McDowell in his American film debut as H.G. Wells, until this time he was chiefly known for his villainous roles, especially in A Clockwork Orange, so this was a brave and successful departure, especially as the studio initially wanted Derek Jacobi for the role.

There is also a masterful portrayal of the Ripper by the great David Warner, who was previously best known for losing his head in The Omen, and was a far superior choice to Mick Jagger who the Studio were hankering after. As an aside it does also feature Cory Feldman in his first ever film role!

With the subject matter of THE Jack the Ripper running amok in 70s San Francisco, the same town as frequented that decade by the real Zodiac Killer and in the age of the dawning stalk and slash genre, not to mention the exploitation likes of The New York Ripper, it’s a very low key affair as you don’t see any stabbing as such, it’s all left to the imagination and is the better for it.

For both McDowell and the film’s Director, Nicholas Meyer, this his first dabble in Sci-Fi but went onto helm the rather marvellous Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country, Time was more or a love story between Herbert George Wells and Amy Robins, played by Mary Steenburgen, who clearly enjoyed the romantic time travel shenanigans so much that she did it all again some 20 years later in Back to the Future Part III. Mixing fact and fiction it is interesting to note that Amy Robins was the actual name of Well’s real life second wife.

It turned out that life imitated art though as both McDowell and Steenburgen fell in love on set and ended up getting married.

This intriguing yarn wasn’t Meyer’s first dabble with melding famous Victorian characters though as he’d already won great plaudits for his meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud in his previous film, The Seven Per Cent Solution, which was considered to be one of the best ever Sherlock Holmes stories not written by Conan-Doyle. Nicholas also returned back to time travel and San Francisco in 1986 as he also co-wrote Star Trek: The Voyage Home.

As well as being tense and highly original the film is also highly entertaining and features some good, unlike Les Visiteurs and its American remake, funnily enough featuring Mr McDowell, time travel related humour. These include a visit to McDonalds and giving the police the fake alias of Sherlock Holmes. There are countless ‘little’ fun parts like this in the film which makes it a pleasant and entertaining one to watch as well as a tense nail biting thriller.

However the two genius aspects of the script that help raise it above the usual time travel fare and help keep it an arresting over 30 years later are the effect the latter 20th century has on the two male leads.

Wells looked upon the future as a Utopia and whilst Wells is shocked to find, certainly after the horrors of World War 2, that the World is nothing like his imagined Utopia, the film even neatly riffing on images from his other work in Things to Come, sending Wells up majestic escalators and giant glass lifts.

On the other hand Jack fits right in and positively embraces the chaos and violence of the 20th century in a brilliant scene with Stephenson zapping through the TV channels in his hotel room and finding violent image after violent image, here Jack is very much at home and it is Wells who is out of his time. It’s rather fitting then that in ‘From Hell’ Jack the Ripper even states that he had invented the 20th century.

The special effects aren’t all that special to be honest, especially in the wake of Star Wars two years earlier, but that is kind of missing the point. The fun and quaintness of the effects actually endear the film to you even more and help give it that more classic Hollywood feel as if it were from an age before it was made. It certainly looks more stylistic than dated today and just adds to the whole undeniable charm to the whole proceedings.

It’s not action packed, so don’t go expecting The Terminator, but it certainly never has any dull moments and the unique story keeps you intrigued. It’s more about the battle of wits between these two men, much like Trek 2 was about pitting Kirk against Khan.

With its Saturday afternoon matinee feel, clever concept, engaging leads, humour, romance, science fiction and dose of social commentary it’s all intelligent stuff that is well written that ensures the film remains more than just a curiosity and essential that you should make time for Time After Time.

Some mothers do ave em

With a child on her way I thought I’d take a delve through the archives to see what cinematic child I’m hoping we don’t get. I could have gone for people like Kevin from Home Alone etc but wanted to keep it firmly in the realm of horror, so here’s my list of children you’d need a little bit more than the naughty step for.

Cole

He's behind you!

We all want our children to make friends, er just not perhaps the dead kind. At least birthday parties wouldn’t be expensive although pass the parcel might become a little tiresome. You might also have a few issues if you have Nene’s 99 red balloons playing at any parties as well; read being the harbinger of death throughout the film.

Charlie

She’s a Firestarter , a twisted Firestarter. No she’s not she’s Drew Barrymore. This little moppet might get you hot under the collar as a parent down to the fact that when provoked she can quite literally have a fiery temper – I blame all those E numbers. Think Carrie on heat, so to speak!

Carol Ann

To be fair she’s a sweet kid and it’s not really her fault that she is most haunted, not by Derek Acorah or anything, now that would be bad.

They say that children watching TV can have a bad affect on them and never has this been truer than with Carol Ann Freeling who speaks through the dead through the static on your TV (at least it’s better than The Zone: QVC and signed repeats of Country File I suppose).Having a graveyard in your back garden might be good for the plants but to be honest it doesn’t really help the situation. Soon to be featured on an episode of DIY SOS…probably.

Michael Myers

Knife to see you, to see you knife. Young Michael sure did like his dressing up but clearly this was ‘masking’ other problems. Talking of which if they did the remake today would they use a Chris Pine mask?

He, that’s Myers, grew into a strapping young man and that superhuman strength would come in handy for removals and those trips to the shops. I can see him now in those overalls with his bags for life.

Esther

There’s something wrong with Esther, so screamed the posters for Orphan, well there must have been something about her stare as it used to send our Jack Russell potty when she saw the posters. Essentially a reworking of sorts of The Omen where a well to do family adopt a child only to find out everything is not as it seems. As the body count rises so do the doubts. Comes with an interesting twist that helps stop it being a run of the mill shocker.

 

Malachi

If the whole Dexy’s Midnight Runners look of dungarees does it for you then Malachi might be right up your street…or strip of field.

Leader of the Children of the Corn, the original based on a novel by Stephen King short story but now a never ending stream of uneven direct to video sequels, Malachi is probably not likely to be the apple of your eye for long as he and his minions want all adults dead. Clearly they haven’t thought this through as they won’t get pocket money and end up living of all the wrong kinds of food.

The Children                         

Bugs can be nasty, especially when they turn innocent children into rampaging killers. This is a nasty piece of British horror that has massively effective moments and manages to conjure up some wonderful look away now if you don’t want to see the results death scenes. 

Two families spend the Christmas holidays at a remote (of course) house and after a seemingly horrific accident where one of the adults dies in a tragic sledge accident (more you’ve been maimed) it isn’t long before other adults start dropping like flys and end up being outnumbered by their butter wouldn’t melt sons and daughters…well worth a look.

Regan

Shut it! No, not John Thaw in The Sweeney but shut it you potty mouthed pea-green splutter! We all hope for beautiful children that turn people’s heads but rarely one that turns its own 360 degrees.

Steer clear of pastel colours as vomit may well be a serious problem although to give her credit she does have a strong grasp of languages, mostly the dead or disgusting kind. She is undoubtedly a fast learner but could perhaps do with some sex education lessons as well, try explaining those splinters!

Village of the Damned

Most people might be rather pleased for kids for kids with blonde hair and blue eyes…but less so if it is the whole bloomin village of the little tykes. Remade to a lesser effect in 1994 by John Carpenter even Superman, Luke Skywalker and Mikey’s mum from Look Who’s Talking couldn’t even stop them! Gives a whole new meaning to ‘Are you smarter than a (collective) ten year old?’

Damian

The original devil child, Damian comes complete with his own devil dog accessory and 666 birthmark in his hairline – at least you won’t get him mixed up with the other kids! Keep out of reach of three-wheeled trike, goldfish and he’s none too keen on churches either.

Damian shows promise and ingenuity with the way he despatches of those who come in his way, the real reason Cameron kept the toddlers milk running. Specialities include Reverend skewered by spire and decapitation by sheets of glass, oh and the Christening and visits to the zoo may also cause something of a problem.

Case 39 AKA Bridget Jones and the edge of insanity

Renee, steady, go

Is it a question of case dismissed as dismal or file under ‘E’ for enjoyable for this Renee Zellweger horror? Dean Newman discusses his notes.

I’m pleased to report that this chiller delivers some quite fun and effective hebegeebes and is neither the disaster nor bore that I had feared. It may not be the most original horror thriller ever, taking various cues from the likes of The Exorcist, The Omen and even The Ring, but it certainly more than held the interest.

Zellweger stars as Social Worker, Emily Jenkins, who is handed the Case 39 of the title and discovers all is not well at the Sullivan household where 10 year old Lillith is being abused and threatened by her mum and dad. Things come to a head when a concerned Zellweger gatecrashes the Sullivan’s with cop friend, Mike Barron (Ian McShane) to see the 10 year old being placed in the families’ oven, in one of the film’s standout moments and perhaps cinema’s greatest fridge pummelling outside of Tom & Jerry.

Jenkins takes the child into care, but nothing is as it seems and playing temporary foster mum is far from child’s play (save for the Chucky variety) and events and deaths soon escalate, including an impressive insect set piece that does for hornets what The Amityville Horror did for flies.

The child prays and plays on people’s fears, adding a further dimension to the proceedings, but can Zellweger’s character face her fears and save herself, the people close to her and her own sanity?

Zellweger follows in the footsteps of the likes of Naomi Watts (The Ring), Jennifer Connelly (Dark Water), Sarah Michelle Gellar (The Return) and Julianne Moore (The Forgotten and the soon to be released Shelter) into the realm of Hollywood women headlining oh so creepy horror but thankfully this isn’t as painfully slow paced as the recent likes of The Unborn (shame on you David S Goyer) and The Return, both of which were painfully dull and slow. Note to horror writers and directors, just because The Ring was a slow burner and did good box office it doesn’t mean that slow equals worthy or watchable horror.

Sure, Case 39 is not without its faults and isn’t going to top anyone’s greatest horror movie list but it does have a couple of nice memorable set pieces, as mentioned above, some effective jumps and a fine supporting cast, namely in the form of Bradley (soon to be ‘Face Man’ in The A Team) Cooper and Ian McShane.

For me I found this piece of horror hokum as much fun as White Noise and other recent child horror fare, The Children and Orphan, the latter which also shares a thing or two with this Omen-esque relation. It’s certainly a fun frightfest and I found it far more interesting and engaging than how the ‘story’ in Paranormal Activity, which sound design aside was rather trite, unfolded.

3/5