Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking another step back into the acting pool this week with news that he’s set to appear in an upcoming remake of The Toxic Avenger. Some reports have suggested that he will play the title character’s mentor, while others speculate that he may take on the role of a villain.
For those of you unfamiliar with Lloyd Kaufman’s 80s cult favourite, you best check out this trailer:
Now here’s a genuine question: how is ANYBODY expected to top that?
Kaufman will serve as an executive producer while Hot Tub Time Machinedirector Steve Pink will be calling the shots. While Schwarzenegger has been out of the governor’s for over two years now, he’s been slow to jump back into acting, taking a minor role in Expendables 2 before moving back into the driver’s seat with the under-rated The Last Stand.
Arnold has wrapped production on Ten, an action thriller directed by End of Watch‘s David Ayer. It’s due in cinemas early 2014.
In Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Jamie Foxx plays the Django – an abused slave who’s freed by a bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz. Upon his liberation, he strikes a deal with the German: if he helps him hunt down a trio of fugitives, Waltz will help him track down his wife. It’s a journey that takes them all the way to Mississippi, where she has since become the house slave of a cruel landowner (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).
With obvious references to the films of Sergio Leone and Blaxploitation cinema of the 70s (Superfly, Black Caesar, Shaft, etc…), Tarantino has created an incredibly entertaining film. But within the strange context of an ultra-violent exploitation western, he hasn’t shied away from depicting the cruel racism and abuse of slavery-era America. There are scenes of torture but there’s also a memorable section where DiCaprio’s methodically explains his theory of genetic supremacy.
But while Django has quickly become the most iconic of African-Americans ‘cowboys’, Tarantino’s film certainly isn’t the first Western to star black actors.
With the digital release of Django Unchained this week at blinkbox, we wanted to take a look back at some other westerns that featured black leading characters. Some of them are low-budget exploitation films from the 70s, some are more mainstream. But in most cases, they had something interesting to say about the social politics of not only the Wild West, but of the times in which they were made.
1. Buck and the Preacher (1972) Sidney Poitier directs himself in a revenge western. Poitier plays a newly freed slave who takes on a group of racist horsemen who kill a number of men, women and children in his wagon train. Along the way, he finds an unlikely ally in Harry Belafonte. Little under ten years before, Poitier had become the first man of colour to win an Oscar for Best Actor; Belafonte had also joined the small group of black vocalists to crack the white American music market. But between the two of them, they were still unable to find their usual mainstream audiences with Buck and the Preacher.
2. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Widely considered one of the finest comedies ever made, Mel Brooks followed up his seminal film The Producers with this remarkably ambitious comedy set in the Old West. In a part originally intended for Richard Pryor, actor Cleavon Little plays Bart, the black sheriff of a frontier town. Appointed by a greedy governor to scare the townsfolk into abandoning the settlement, Sheriff Bart teams ups with a drunken gunslinger (Gene Wilder) to win over the his skeptical public.
While it’s true that this was made for a mainly white mainstream audience, Blazing Saddles doesn’t smooth the edges off the social comment. The parts of the film dealing with race issues still ring true and on review, movie never feels all that dated. On top of that, the film is so packed full of hilarious moments, you could literally have an entire pub conversation just quoting Blazing Saddles scenes.
3. Boss N****r (1974) If there’s one common trend in the Blaxploitation films of the 60s and 70s, it’s that they showcased the acting skills of many a retired professional sports stars. Jim Brown found himself in great films like The Dirty Dozen and Ice Station Zebra after he wrapped up his career in the Cleveland Browns; The Buffalo Bills’ record-setting running back OJ Simpson transitioned smoothly into film and TV before shifting his career into definitely not murdering anyone.
In the case of Adios Amigos, we see the directorial debut of Fred “The Hammer” Williamson – a feared NFL defensive back who parlayed his success on the field into an acting career. After a number of grindhouse roles, he appeared wrote, produced and starred in the Blaxploitation western Boss N****r. He played the title character, a black bounty hunter forced to rely on his wits and weapons to make his way in a racist white town. Praised by critics as both a pastiche of the Spaghetti Westerns and as a parable for the Black Panther movement, the film found some success at the box-office and marked a high point in Williamson’s film career.
The year after, he would try his hand at directing Adios Amigo, a comedy-Western with Richard Pryor. It was not a good movie.
4. Man and Boy (1971)
At the point when this film was made, Bill Cosby was a household name. He was the first African American lead in a primetime drama, starring in I, Spy with Robert Culp as a pair of government agents masquerading as wealthy ‘tennis bums’. In that period, he had also released a number of successful comedy albums (including To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With which is now considered one of the greatest stand-up records of all time). So when the trailer for Man and Boy announced Cosby’s ‘stunning switch from his TV and comedy portrayals’, they weren’t kidding around. He plays a civil war veteran who heads west to Arizona to forge a new life for his family. But in the wild frontier, he finds himself up against all sorts of outlaws.
As with next to everything he’s ever done, Cosby’s film does not deal with matters of race and equality in a particularly overt way. Instead, he always sought projects with positive black figures: ones in which his character’s race was almost incidental to the story. Also, Cosby’s wife is played by Gloria Foster, who you may know as The Oracle from The Matrix. There is also a character called ‘Lee Christmas’ — which action fans will know as Jason Statham’s name in The Expendables.
It’s sad to say, however, that this film was another unspectacular Western that has since been forgotten over time.
A loose adaptation of 60s TV serial, Wild Wild West began its big screen life as a Mel Gibson collaboration with his Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner. But when those two decided to remake Maverick (another television western), it left the door open for Barry Sonnenfeld and Will Smith, both of whom were riding high off a recent success with Men in Black. Boldly casting Will Smith in a lead role originally played by (white) actor Robert Conrad, any discourse about 19th Century social politics were quickly scuppered by a litany of terrible ideas. Crazy steam-punk devices, ridiculous villains and giant mechanical spiders aside, the film’s story barely makes any sense and critics tore it apart on release.
And when the film finally came to address the idea of a black Secret Service agent in post-civil war America, Smith stumbles into a regrettable piece of ‘banter’ with the wheelchair-bound villain played by Kenneth Branagh.
It’s tough to tell whether this exchange is more insulting to disabled people or the African-American community but needless to say, it’s really not cool.
The movie musical is a dangerous animal for any film producer. For every mega-hit like Singin’ in the Rain, you have a two flops like Phantom of the Opera with Gerard Butler. One of the ways studios can try to mitigate the risk of a big screen musical is to cast big name actors: Mamma Mia struck gold with a catalogue of ABBA songs sung by Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan.
With his take on one of the world’s most beloved stage musicals, director Tom Hooper insisted that his actors sing live on-set instead of miming along to a pre-recorded track. It was one hell of a gamble: performing in a recording booth with all the sophisticated studio wizardry at your disposal is one thing. But getting modern film stars to sing out live is another thing altogether.
Thankfully, Hooper also had the good fortune of working with a talented cast, full of triple-threat performers: Actors, singers and dancers — all rolled into one.
Hugh Jackman – Jean ValjeanThe true, traditional triple threat of the cast, Jackman had appeared onstage in musical theatre years before he became a star as Wolverine in the X-Men films. He had appeared in Australian productions of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (as Gaston!); he played the lead in Sunset Boulevard; and he starred in the Royal National Theatre’s London production of Oklahoma!:
After becoming a star in Hollywood, Jackman would return to the theatre, conquering Broadway with his starring run in The Boy from Oz, the musical about Aussie songwriter Peter Allen. His skills as a singer and dancer would also be seen on a larger scale when he hosted the Oscars in 2009, opening the ceremony with an ‘austere’ song-and-dance number.
Anne Hathaway - FantineAnd speaking of the ’09 Oscars, it was the moment where Hollywood realised that Anne Hathaway was a reasonable hoofer with a decent set of pipes on her. Having said that, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Her mother was a stage star, who had played Fantine in the first touring production of Les Miz, so it would seem that Hathaway was always destined to own the same role on the big screen. But for those of you who were still surprised to see her appear in a musical, need I remind you of a little film from 2004 called Ella Enchanted:
Act? The Academy certainly thinks so!
Russell Crowe– JavertYou may know him as Russell Crowe, hard man star of Gladiator, Master and Commander and Cinderella Man. But what he’d really like to be known as is a gentle poet; a troubadour; a sensitive chronicalist of the modern male experience. Fans will already know that he often tours as a musician, as he did for over a decade as the front man for Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts. Their best known songs include… erm…. <desperately searches internet?>… Sail These Same Oceans?
Fighting round the world?Hell, yeah! Triple threat!
Amanda Seyfried - CosetteThe years ago we only knew her as Karen Smith, the dumbest Queen Bee in the Tina Fey-penned Mean Girls. Cut to 2013 and she’s probably one of the most coveted leading actresses in Hollywood. As we’ve seen, she can do comedy but she can also do serious drama (Atom Egoyan’s Chloe); romantic fluff (Dear John, Letters to Juliet); and fantasy pictures (Red Riding Hood). Plus, she also starred in one of the most successful movie musicals of all time:
Dance? Um… well there’s this (though some would argue it’s a little inappropriate for high school)
Eddie Redmayne – Marius
As well as being incredibly popular with certain sections of film-going females, Eddie Redmayne also possesses a pretty decent theatrical pedigree. He has appeared in productions of Shakespeare at The Globe and the Donmar Warehouse so by any conventional standards, you would brand him ‘a proper actor’.
Although his voice wouldn’t necessarily get him past the first round of the X-Factor, there’s something about his high quivering tenor in Les Mis that suggests he would have been somewhat of a hit in 50s musicals. In particular, I’m thinking of the character of Freddie from My Fair Lady.
Dance? Does this scene from the BBC’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles count?
Samantha Barks- ÉponinePlaying the adopted daughter of Jean Valjean, Samantha Barks was one of the greenest members of the film’s cast but that didn’t stop her from making one of the strongest impressions. If anything, she stole the movie from some of her more experienced co-stars with her wonderfully assured performance. In fact, she had played the very same role in the West End just months before she went on to appear in the film, displaying the kind of vocal chops that quickly made her the toast of the London musical theatre scene.
Plus if there was ever any doubt she could act, all you have to do is watch Barks maintain an air of humility whilst being condescended to by a group of celebri-judges on live TV. Like all great creatures of the stage, she hits all three categories in becoming a true triple-threat performer. Watch out for her in the future – not that you need us to tell you that!
The West End juggernaut that became a big screen hit has now made its way to your home. The beloved songs by Schönberg and Boublil are performed by a glittering cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway (in her Oscar-winning performance). Director Tom Hooper has delivered the big screen Les Miz that everyone’s been dreaming of for decades: one that is created on an appropriately epic scale. Sure, Crowe’s singing is a little wobbly but this lush production cannot be faulted for lack of verve or ambition.
Quentin Tarantino follows up his blockbuster WWII fantasy Inglourious Basterds with this genre-riffing revenge epic. Jamie Foxx plays Django, a former slave on a mission to rescue his beloved wife (Kerry Washington). Helping him on his quest is German bounty hunter Cristophe Waltz, who won an Oscar for his charming performance. Highly controversial and endlessly entertaining, see what all the fuss is about and watch Django Unchained!
Return to 1950s Los Angeles with this all-star tale of cops and gangsters. Sean Penn plays Mickey Cohen, the ruthless New York mobster who ruled Southern California with an iron fist and a smoking gun. Unable to stop him with legitimate means, police chief Nick Nolte puts together an elite hat squad of moral cops, willing to ignore the rules of procedure and stop Cohen by any means necessary. Did we mention this also stars everyone’s favourite man-crush, Ryan Gosling? Go on… you know you want to.
Playing for Keeps
Gerard Butler continues his streak of warm and fuzzy rom-coms with this tale of a has-been Scottish football star and his shambolic personal and professional life post retirement. Butler’s taken a lot of flak for these kinds of roles but he does have an easy charm that’s not always best served by his scripts. Is that the case with Playing For Keeps? I’ll never tell!
Three cooks at a high security mental institution get into trouble when a power outage traps them inside the facility with maniacs on the loose. It’s a tense little thriller with stunning visuals courtesy of first time feature director Alex Courtes, who had previously worked on music videos for U2. Watch out for the surprise twist ending, where it turns out that the entire ordeal was orchestrated by Bono in order to show the chefs how unfairly society treats the mentally ill. Or something….
Vampire mania has taken over the world, but nowhere is this as literally as it has in the world of The Caretaker. A small group of survivors in South East Australia are attempting to hold out against a global vamp rampage. They strike an unlikely alliance with an outcast bloodsucker who promises to protect them in the night, if only they agree to protect him from the humans during the day. There’s only one thing we can assure you about this films: at no point does anyone crack open a tin of lager and throw some shrimp onto a grill.
For more of the latest films, check out our New Releases section
In case you hadn’t noticed, this summer is pretty much packed with blockbuster sequels. But in the realm of Summer comedies, there’s only one that we can say will be a massive success with any degree of certainty.
The Hangover Part III reunites the cast of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis – whose careers have exploded since we first saw them in 2008′s The Hangover. Galifianakis has turned into a genuine comedy star in the vein of Jack Black and Helms became the lead of the American Office and starred in the criminally underrated Cedar Rapids. Bradley Cooper has even gone from playing minor comic villains to an Oscar nomination for a Best Actor this year!
In what promises to be the final chapter of the Hangover saga, the gang will reunite for their biggest adventure yet as they’re hunted down by pissed-off mobster John Goodman.
In case you’re not feeling the hype yet, check out these following character posters just released by Warner Bros.
As inevitable as death, taxes and QPR’s failure in the Premiership, every odd numbered Star Trek movie sucks. But does that old theory still hold true? Let’s take a look…
Odd — Star Trek: The Motion PictureThe Enterprise comes to life on the big screen over ten years after it was cancelled from television. In the intervening years, Trek had become a phenomenal success in syndication – enough for creator Gene Roddenberry to get the whole gang back together for the first of what would prove to be an intermittently successful film franchise.
High Point: The crew of the Enterprise are back together! Bones! Spock! Uhura! Chekov! Scotty! Nurse Chapel? What more do you want??
Low Point: The terrible story. After a 5 minute sequence in which the camera ogles the hull of the newly rendered Enterprise, the crew get down to the boring business of stopping a sentient cloud that seems to be heading to Earth. The film is really for Trek completists only, and those who want to bear witness to one of the most dated twist endings in film history. It also has this gratuitously dark scene in which two unfortunate science officers get mutilated by the transporter.
How sucky? Pretty Sucky. Yeah, there’s no two ways around it.
Even –Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
It’s the one that even the most casual Star Trek aficionado will point out as the best entry in the canon. Ricardo Montalban plays Khan Noonien Singh, a supervillain who first appeared in the Original Series episode ‘Space Seed’ where his plan to take over the galaxy was thwarted by one James T Kirk. Cut to fifteen years later and Khan has since developed a hate Kirk, whom he blames for the death of his wife.
High Point: Khan’s plot to extract his pound of flesh almost has a Shakespearean level of gravity to it. It’s one of the few Star Trek films that seem to have any personal stakes for the main character, leveraging Kirk’s estranged family as an emotional pawn.
Low Point: KHHHAAAAAAAAAN!!!
How sucky? Totally unsucky
Odd — Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
After *SPOILER ALERT* Spock’s death at the end of Wrath of Khan, the gang return to Earth only to discover that the Vulcan uploaded his consciousness into poor Dr McCoy. So naturally, the senior crew hijack the Enterprise from space dock and return to the Genesis planet, where they intend to bring their friend back to life.
High Point: The crew of the Enterprise face their best Klingon foe to date: Christopher Lloyd aka Doc Emmet Brown from Back to the Future!
Low Point: The film basically spends 100 minutes undoing the last ten minutes of the previous film.
How Sucky? Somewhat sucky.
Even — Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Unlike thehigh-stakes greatness of Wrath of Khan,the fourth entry into the film franchise went super-fluffy: a move that paid great dividends. Following on from the end of III, the Enterprise hasto go back in time to retrieve the only creature that can save the future: a humpback whale! In a nice little coincidence, the ship arrives back in the late twentieth century. Between five TV series and over ten films, Starfleet crews keep finding themselves flung back to the 20th century more than any other time period ever. Strange, that…
High Point: The crew get into all sorts of fish-out-of-water japes (Scotty tries to speak to an Eighties computer! Spock beats up a kid that’s dressed up like one of The Warriors! Nuclear Wessels!)
After the last two Star Trek films in which the crew of the Enterprise spend most of their time not in the Enterprise, they’re issued with a brand spanking new Starship. They’re immediately dispatched on a mission to save a group of diplomats kidnapped in Space-Israel. Kirk and gang get pulled into a madman’s plot to find God at the centre of the galaxy. This film also marks the feature debut of director William Shatner, which might explain Kirk’s bewilderingly thin and agile stunt double.
Low Point: The first 25 minutes follows Kirk, Bones and Spock on a camping trip where they try to teach the Vulcan how to sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat. You know: that beloved Earth classic. Also, they meet God – which turns out to be a little underwhelming.
How Sucky? A little sucky for a bit, and then it will put you to sleep.
Finally! After decades of squabbling, the will they/won’t they courtship between Klingons and the Federation is ending with a wedding! Or the diplomatic equivalent. On the eve of a monumental treaty, Kirk and Bones are accused of murdering a Klingon diplomat and are sentenced to hard labour. Will they get out? Will they save the peace accord?
High Point: You have not experienced Shakespeare until you’ve read it in the original Klingon. And indeed, the ridge-faced hot-heads are played by stage legends David Warner and Christopher Plummer in this film!
Low Point: If you hate Sex and the City, you’re not going to enjoy seeing Vulcan Kim Cattrall. As Vulcans go, she’s a reaaal Samantha (if you know what I mean).
How Sucky? Perfectly unsucky. A fitting send-off for the original crew — the last time they would all appear on the big screen together.
By the time the previous film hit the big screens, Star Trek: The Next Generation had already become a television hit, attracting a whole new generation of fans with its vision of the future. Generations brought the cast of the new and old shows together, employing a ‘temporal nexus’ as a device that would allow Kirk to team up with Picard even though their two shows were set almost a hundred years apart.
High Point: There’s a sequence where the Enterprise-D has to split into two pieces, one of which comes crashing down onto a planet. Trust us, it’s pretty cool. But on a dramatic side, Patrick Stewart is given some wonderful scenes in which his character grieves over the death of his nephew: it’s not the kind of scene we’d ever expect from a summer blockbuster but Stewart really nails the emotion.
Low Point: Apart from Shatner, the only two other original cast members that make an appearance are Scotty and Chekov. The film also suffers from some structural issues, with a phenomenally long first act.
How Sucky? Time has been kind to Generations. I would say that this is not sucky.
The first solo outing for the Next Generation crew is a real corker. When the Borg travel back in time to destroy Earth’s first warp speed spacecraft, Picard and co have to step in and save the day. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew have to contend with a Borg takeover of the Enterprise. Jonathan ‘Riker’ Frakes acquits himself remarkably as a first time features director.
High Point: The introduction of the Borg Queen, a villain who’s as disgusting as she is alluring in her attempts to seduce the ship’s resident android, Data. Plus, as Star Trek villains go, the Borg are the one that have always been the ones most suited for the big screen. They’re essentially hive-minded space zombies.
Low Point: The female members of the regular cast really get the short shrift, with only a couple of lines each.
How sucky? Very unsucky.
Odd — Star Trek: Insurrection In an attempt to create a film with a lighter tone, the producers of Star Trek decided to wheel out a story that would not have made for a memorable episode, let alone a feature film. The crew of the Enterprise find themselves on a planet where no-one ever seems to grow old, thanks to a special anomaly. Needless to say, the people of this planet become victims of people from the Planet of The Aged Crones, who want to steal its youth-giving powers.
High Point: There’s a lot of Patrick Stewart, which is never a bad thing. He sings Gilbert and Sullivan with Data in one scene as well. Fun, but very minor.
Low Point: F. Murray Abraham once won an Oscar for Best Actor. As the central in this film, he delivers the MOST acting. The production values are a bit on the low side as well, the village of eternal youth definitely looks like a TV set.
How sucky? Not as sucky as you’d think, but still somewhat sucky.
The final outing for the Next Generation crew, in which they face up against an insane Reman madman who happens to be a clone of Picard! The film has obvious overtones of Wrath of Khan with its revenge plot and surprise final act sacrifice but there simply isn’t enough history between Hardy and Stewart to make the rivalry seem important.
High Point: A very skinny Tom Hardy appears in a big early performance as Picard’s clone. That’s right: Tom Hardy IS Patrick Stewart here!
Low Points: There’s a less-than-developed B-Plot involving Data’s brother. There’s also Riker-Troi sex scene we really didn’t need to see.
How sucky?Quite sucky, possibly the first even-numbered film that we would award that distinction. But not sucky enough to call it a shameful send-off for Picard and co.
Odd — Star Trek (2009)JJ Abrams puts his own spin on Star Trek and takes the story back to first positions. We see Kirk, Spock and McCoy meet at Starfleet Academy and embark on their first mission together as a crew. There are references a-plenty for Trek devotees, including Green Ladies, Kirk’s famous Kobayashi Maru test, as first mentioned in The Wrath of Khan. It’s a very handsome reboot that appealed to (most) fans of the original cannon while tweaking the tone to suit new viewers that might not be so involved in the lore.
High Point: The opening scene: introducing the new visual style as well as a number of story elements. We see the birth of Kirk, the heroic sacrifice of his father (played by a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) as well as the first inkling of the film’s villain (Eric Bana).
Low Point: Bana’s villain hell-bent on revenge against Spock feels a lot like Tom Hardy’s villain in Nemesis. It’s a minor point but you know… just sayin’.
How sucky?: Super unsucky. If anything, this is the film that finally squashed the Curse of the Odds. It’s a rollicking adventure that’s reverent enough to please old fans and breezy enough to attract new ones. In effect, it’s pretty close to being the perfect Star Trek movie. Which bodes well for the current sequel.
George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are astronauts stranded in orbit after an explosion cripples their shuttle. Starring two of Hollywood’s most dependable movie stars, the film also happens to fall into our favourite sub-genre: one we like to call ‘People Stuck in Space Going Mad (Or Are They?)’. Other examples are Silent Running, Sunshine, Moon and Solaris – all great movies.
The teaser does a pretty good establishing the visual style and the basic set-up of the plot: beyond the fact that an accident that destroys their life support systems, we know nothing else about the movie. Which is the way we would really prefer trailers to be, instead of spoiling every major set piece and plot twist.
Director Alfonso Cuaron had a pretty decent run in the previous decade. In 2001, he directed the Mexican coming-of-age drama Y tu mamá también, which put him on the scene as a world director of note. His follow-up to that was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which didn’t necessarily save the wizard franchise but did lend it a lot of credibility and maturity. Next up after that was Children of Men, the near-future epic with Clive Owen – possibly the greatest Sci-Fi film of the 2000s.
As we all know, it’s a dangerous world out there. Instead of leaving the reassuring confines of your own home, why not stay in this month and enjoy a marathon session of your favourite television show? To help you with this, we’re giving you the chance to win every episode of any TV show on blinkbox. That’s not just an entire season but EVERY SINGLE EPISODE!
In the following pictures, we’ve mashed together the faces of two leading actors from 8 great films. Behind them are clues that will help you uncover the film in which they starred together. If you can correctly identify the actors and name all 8 films, you will be in with a chance to win!
7. At the age of 86, he can still find beauty in the most unexpected places
8. To you, they’re 200lb monsters capable of tearing your arms off without a second thought. To him, they’re just good fun.
9. During his tenure as Controller of BBC2, he commissioned a little show called ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’
10. No other presenter can do ‘looking off into middle distance‘ quite like he can.
Join us in celebrating Sir David’s birthday by heading over to our Planet Earth Collection. It features hours and hours of gripping natural history programmes. Or check out Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild, the BBC’s 3 part tribute to the man and his illustrious career. The entire series in now available for £3.99.