Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Exploding Helicpoter - Independence Day


Captain Hiller (Will Smith) and David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) mug their way through this overblown shambles as they try and protect Earth from the worst scum of the universe when aliens invade in giant spacecraft and lay waste to America's major cities. Goldblum manages to save the day using his Bluetooth to install a virus on the mother ship in a plot so hackneyed you would think it was written by a 6 year old.

Bill Pullman deserves special mention as the least convincing American President in cinematic history. He demonstrates all the leadership qualities of a boiled egg.

Director and co-writer Roland Emmerich spent a miniscule four weeks on the script and 13 months on physical production and the results are as expected. The film is the cinematic equivalent of all-you-can-eat buffet with lots on offer but little of any quality or substance.


In fact he deserves an Oscar for managing to distil everything that is bad about big-budget blockbusters into one film: Laughable dialogue, cardboard stereotypes, plot sacrificed for effects overload, cheesy endings and cloying sentimentality.

Top it off with Will Smith in full wise-cracking Fresh Prince mode and you will be praying for aliens to invade you anally if only to stop this assault on your intelligence. The things I do for this blog.

However, the film does deliver on the exploding helicopter front. No fewer then four of the bad boys are blown up in the name of "entertainment".


In a misguided attempt to welcome the alien invaders to the planet General Gray (Robert Loggia sleepwalking through his performance) sends up a "Welcome Wagon" of three Sikorsky S-64's fitted with a bizarre panel of flashing lights to try an communicate to the huge spaceship suspended over Washington, through the medium of disco. As the helicopters approach the saucer it opens up a crack and shoots out a powerful laser blast that destroys each helicopter in quick succession with a minimum of fuss.

Later in the film the First Lady (Mary McDonell) flees the Whitehouse in a presidential chopper just as the aliens attack. In the iconic shot of the Whitehouse being blown to smithereens her helicopter is utterly engulfed in the all-encompassing explosion that quickly consumes it in an enormous wall of flame.

Number of exploding helicopters:
4


Artistic merit:

This is a big budget movie so the CGI explosions look pretty realistic but lack the gritty satisfaction that only a real life fireball can deliver. Shots of the burning debris as the helicopter wreckage plummets to the ground are a nice touch thogh.


Exploding helicopter innovation:

A hatrick of helicopters being destroyed by alien laser fire is not something you see everyday. Sadly it's not as impressive as you might think.

Do passengers survive?

The three pilots in the welcome wagon meet-and-greet team are instantly turned to toast. Amazingly the First Lady survives the mother of all explosions only to die later in the film from internal bleeding.


Positives:

Emmerich might not know how to make a decent movie but he knows how to blow things up with the aid of CGI. The Whitehouse scene which went some way to win the Best Visual Effects Oscar still looks pretty good 15 years later and the wall of flame that destroys the Presidential chopper is about as eyebrow singeing as it gets.

Negatives:

How on earth does the First Lady survive the impact of an explosion equivalent to that of a nuclear bomb and the subsequent crash to emerge with a few scratches and some internal bleeding. In the real world the fireball would have bypassed the need for the President to cremate her.

Favourite Quote:

News announcer warns viewers against interacting with the aliens

"Do not fire your guns at the spacecraft. You might inadvertently start an interstellar war"

Interesting Fact:

Interesting is not a adjective I would use about this film.

see http://explodinghelicopter.blogspot.com/ for more crappy movies with burning helicopters in them.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Exploding Helicopter - John Carpenter's The Thing


Kurt Russell plays MacReady a hard drinkin’, risk taskin’, beard totin’ scientist marooned out in the frozen wastes of Antarctica with a rag tag team of scientists who suddenly find a shape-shifting, bodysnatching alien in their camp who is taking them over one by one.

Too many films are giving the “classic” epithet but horror supremo John Carpenter’s The Thing justifies the hype with his low-budget sensibilities remaining intact despite the Hollywood gloss. He superbly conveys the paranoia and fear of group cut off from help with a monster in their midst who could be any one of them. An understated Morricone score combined with great ensemble acting and some mind blowing special effects from Rob Bottin whose imagination was allowed to run riot ensures the film withstands the rigours of time.


At the very start of the film we see a sniper mounted in a Norwegian helicopter attempt and fail to shoot a dog after chasing it across the frozen wastes of Antarctica. They touch down at MacReady’s base camp in order to finish off the job. The sniper attempts to throw a Thermite grenade at the dog but comically loses his grip and lets it slip out of his hand. We see him desperately scrabble about in the snow to retrieve it while the pilot legs it. The grenade goes off followed a split second later by the helicopter.

Number of exploding helicopters:

One

Artistic merit

Whilst the film is a tour-de-force from its stark beginnings to the nihilistic denouement the helicopter explosion is decidedly lacklustre and is about as impressive as a lit fart.

Exploding helicopter innovation

A stationary helicopter is blown up in the snow. Poorly. The end.


Do passengers survive?

The idiot who cack-handily drops the Thermite deservedly ends up in a million fiery pieces. The pilot who is outside of blast range lives a few minutes more until he is shot through the eye by Garry (Donald Moffat) who thinks all this shooting and grenade throwing is an understandable danger to the camp. If only anyone spoke Norwegian they would have heard the pilot shout

"Get the hell away! It's not a dog! It's a thing! It's imitating a dog! It's not real! Get away you idiots."

and this whole sorry mess could have been avoided.



Positives

The scene is great even though the explosion is not. The helicopter chase across the frozen wastelands sets us up for the isolated paranoia that is to follow.


Negatives

As Macready picks through the mangled remains of the chopper he spots at least 15 tanks of kerosene in the wreckage that could have made this a monster fireball yet the explosion we see is pathetic. John Carpenter fumbles the ball on this one.


Favourite Quote

After the disembodied head of Norris (Charles Hallahan) drops off the table, sprouts legs and attempts to crawl it’s was out of the room Palmer(Dave Clennon)utters the immortal line

“you’ve got to be fucking kidding!”



Interesting Fact:

At the end of the film Macready (Kurt Russel) sits in the blazing remains of the burnt out camp with Childs(Keith Davids) both of whom unsure if the other is a shape-shifter and know that when the fires go out they will probably freeze to death.

Due to its macabre ending film editor Todd C. Ramsay suggested filming a happy conclusion for test audiences that sees Macready rescued and given a blood test proving he was human. The scene was shot but Carpenter didn’t like it and it has never seen the light of day.

For more exploding helicopter action you know where to go:

http://explodinghelicopter.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Sold Out


It shouldn't surprise me but yesterday's news that AC/DC have released their own brand of wine has left a nasty taste in my mouth.

Why you would want a bottle of Highway to Hell cabernet sauvignon, Hells Bells sauvignon blanc and You Shook Me All Night Long muscat is beyond me but people will drink any old shit providing it does the job.

AC/DC are not the first musicians to suddenly become sommeliers. The Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, Motorhead and Madonna have all released their own vintages. Rumours that they all taste slightly stale and past their sell-by date could not be confirmed at the time of writing.

Is it me or does rock 'n roll have absolutely fuck all to do with wine? To me it's a clear sign that the individuals concerned have unceremoniously slumped into saggy middle age.


AC/DC are just another in along line of musicians treading the fine line between capitalism and credibilty. King of the hawkers is Gene Simmonds, lead goon in Kiss, and probably the most business savvy rocker in music. Despite never having written more then two good songs he has built up a multi-million pound brand selling all sorts of tat from clocks to comic books to clothes to coffins (The Kiss Kasket, yours for $4,700. It would make your mother very proud.) There are currently over 3000 Kiss licensed products on the market and at least Simmons is open with the fact that he has more in common with hard nosed businessman than a rocker.

"Rockers are idiots, come on. If strapping a guitar around their neck hadn't worked out, thanks to the grace of god, they'd be putting on an apron and asking the person next to them if they'd like fries with that."


Far more heinous then being sold rubbish are the cringeworthy adds featuring former anti-establishment figures like Johnny Rotten bending over and taking the corporate buck like he did with Anchor butter commercials. Iggy Pop the once edgy rocker and Godfather of Punk is now advertising insurance for Swiftcover like some two-bit door-to-door saleman even though the insurance he advertises was not availble to musicians. The fact that notorious paedophile Gary Glitter once advertised Heinz soup may be an irony lost on some (slogan: It's fresh, hot and creamy and it slips down your throat)



There are rare occasions that adverts can be credible. Lemmy doing a bluesy version of Ace of Spades for Kronenburg was actualy pretty cool and it was for alcohol so you can see the logic. Dr Dre has he own range of high end Beats headphones which are pitched at the right level and are obviously not purely shoe-horned product placements.

Ozzy Osbourne was filmed baking fairy cakes in an ad for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Normally this would be terrible but his hardrocking image had already been deconstructed by his reality show and he has turned into more of a national treasure and therefore his credibiltiy remains intact and he won't go to hell.


Sadly there is so much money sloshing about not just from CD sales and gigging that "alterante revenue streams" become very tempting. Beyonce was the richest female singer in 2010 with a net profit of $87 million. She earnt much of her income from a myriad of endorsement deals with companies such as L’Oreal. Lady Gaga earnt $63 million in part because of her partnerships with Virgin Mobile and Polaroid and The Black Eyed Peas made $48 million in 2010 from their sponsorship deals with Target, Bacardi and Apple. Once an edgy rap group they now fart out hideous cover versions to the lowest common denominator. Their music has got more banal the more they have chased the dollar.

With this much cash floating about you would think everyone in music was a corporate whore. Not so. There are still a few who keep the home fires burning. Radiohead, Neil Young, Springsteen, The Doors and so called bedwetters Coldplay are known for being extremely picky to the point of paranoia with the use of their music for commercial purposes. Adele point blank refused to do any gigs at the O2 despite losing millions in potential revenue as she does not like playing huge souless venues.

It is a grubby tide that will only continue to contaminate the musical shoreline so what next in line of pointless endorsements? The Lady GaGa guide on How To Dress for a Job Interview, The Michael Jackson Sleep Over Set, Eminem advertising Birds Eye fish fingers?

"They're fit for the Captain's table mutherfucka!"

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Kids Just Don't Give A Fuck


Oh Dear.

A collective insanity has simultaneously struck Britain's youth ensuring that August 2011 will go down in the world's eyes as the moment Britain lost its genteel, civilised image once and for all. Liverpool, Nottingham, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, London. There is carnage everywhere you look.

The scenes unfolding are just the type I'd expect to see if a nuclear bomb dropped and people had to fight for food in the apocalyptic aftermath. Marauding gangs smashing and stealing everything in their path dispels the cliché of Brits sipping tea with the Queen and wearing their bowler hats around London.


Foreign press are describing these riots to be race-related. On the face of it the rioters motivation seems to be little more then opportunism, to make a few quid whilst spicing up their dreary lives. There is an elephant in the room though. Whisper it, but from the footage I have seen there seems to be a disproportional amount of black or Asian looters. Are black people living in poor areas more disaffected then whites? Or are all the poor areas full of minorities? Is Clapham a poor area? I'm just putting this out there.


Personally I think it has nothing to do with race. What started off as having potential racial overtones has escalated. Now it is just kids who have seen their peers get away with wanton destruction and want a piece of it themselves. On Five Live I heard an interview with some kids who have never been trouble before, openly admit they are looting because they know they can get away with it.

"The police can't do nothing and the prisons are full so if I get an ASBO..well..I can live with that"

What is scary is that many of looters didn't even bother to hide their faces such is their disregard for the law. Some of them were looting because they could. Others we just looting for the fun of it. Whatever the motivation they have made thousands of hard working lives a misery and have cost tax payers tens of millions of pounds.


You might be forgiven for thinking that he rioters were just a bunch of mindless thugs. Firstly the UK's high streets are crawling with CCTV. There is plenty of footage that the police will pour over, it will take time but a lot of these plums will be behind bars before long.

Secondly, why smash up the areas you have to live in? To shit where you eat is truly the product of a twisted mind.

Amazingly, it turns out that out of the 32 that have appeared in court so far some of them are university graduates, college students, army recruits, youth workers and graphic designers. So it seems many of the rioters are intelligent people. Are these the disaffected or has their moral compass broken? It seems the kids just don't give a fuck.


If anything this disaster has shown that the police are unable to handle public uprising to any great degree. Health and safety laws combined with cuts mean that the police did nothing but stand and watch as looters helped themselves. Houses were allowed to burn as the police couldn't protect fire-fighters preparing to go into the thick of it. You would expect this in some war-torn African backwater, not the 6th richest country in the world.

There has been suggestions that the army should be called out. Tonight in London 16,000 cops have been deployed in order to put a lid on the unrest. If this doesn't work then there is talk of a curfew and sending in the Army. This is never going to happen. First of all our army is already stretched to breaking and their involvement would show up the police and embarrass Cameron who graced us with is presence. Fresh from his Tuscan hideaway, no doubt he came back early to check if his moat was on fire.

What must the world think of us? In Libya they protest in order to in the remove a dictator. In Egypt they protest in order to remove a regime. In Bahrain they protest for freedom of speech. In the U.K. we riot in order to get more Reebok Classics.






Saturday, 6 August 2011

Exploding Helicopter - Under Siege

One of my friends, don't ask me why, started up a blog celebrating the art of the exploding helicopter. Yes, you read that right.

There is nothing that says overblown blockbuster then the sight of a helicopter up in flames. It was an 80's staple of Hollywood actioners but this very specific dramatic device has endured into the 90's and beyond.

I occasionaly contribute articles when the muse takes me. I will share with you, my latest blog. Fans of Steven Seagal will be pleased. Plus I can't be arsed to write two blogs this week.


Plot

Steven Seagal stars as Casey Ryback, Hollywoods greatest culinary Navy SEAL, an implausibly lethal cook who single-handedly takes down an entire ship full of crazed terrorists out to hijack its cache of nuclear weapons. Basically it’s Die Hard on a Boat.

It may have been made in 1992 but director Andrew Davis must be given credit for including every 80’s clich√© imaginable: gratuitous nudity (thank you Erika Eleniak): check, boisterous frat boy party atmosphere sound tracked to down-home blues: check, important military types sat round an enormous table barking out one-liners: check, group of terrorists marshalled by a demented mastermind (Tommy Lee Jones): check, missile explosion averted at very the last second by the hero who gets a victorious snog: check.



Under Siege should be terrible especially since Seagal has as much acting versatility as a mouldy orange. Despite its supposed flaws the film is something of a guilty pleasure to be enjoyed without the indignity of admitting so.

Seagal and Eleniak sneak on to the deck of the Missouri which is crawling with terrorists. Seagal spots the huge twin rotor Kawasaki/Vertol KV107, and despite the huge enemy presence waltzes over unseen and decides to blow it up either to cause a diversion or to prevent the bad guys from escaping. Logic isn’t this movie’s strong point so you can take your pick.


He gets some paint thinner and liberally splashes about the helicopter near the fuel tank. He sets it alight and as the chopper explodes to high heaven Seagal jumps ship to escape the blast only to be saved by some handy rope that just happened to be lying around.



Artistic merit

The scene was nominated for the MTV award for best action sequence losing out to the freeway scene in Terminator 2. There can be no higher accolade than that. Well almost no higher accolade.

Exploding helicopter innovation

It is rare thing to see a stationary helicopter being used purely as an explosive diversion rather then a fiery tomb for its occupants.

Do passengers survive?

There are no passengers.

Positives

A pleasingly substantial explosion, free from CGI, with the bulky, hatchet faced figure of Seagal neatly silhouetted against the fireball as he leaps to safety.

Negatives

You have to ask yourself was it strictly necessary to blow up a helicopter to prevent an escape on an aircraft carrier full of planes and choppers? As a diversion it is utterly pointless so you can only assume that writer J.F Lawton is a fan of exploding helicopters.




Favourite Quote

Seagal: “What is this babbling bullshit?”

Interesting Fact

The role of ditzy blonde playmate Jordan Tate wasn’t quite such a stretch of Eleniak who herself posed for Playboy in the July 1989 edition, the same month as her character.

For more exploding fun featuring every film we have come across with an exploding helicopter in it clique vous ici