The Rocketeer (1991)

Blast from the Past!

As a fan of classic Hollywood cinema, how can I not love The Rocketeer? I delight in all those old Hollywood references, from lines such as “You stood behind Myrna Loy with a bowl of grapes”, to a movie set very similar to the castle interior from The Adventures of Robin Hood. I even find myself thinking this film’s protagonist has a pretty sweet life going for him; he gets to fly planes all day, has a hot aspiring actress girlfriend and lives in 1930’s Hollywood.  The cast of The Rocketeer have that cartoony look which stars of the 1930’s possessed; even one of the film’s villains is modeled after Rondo Hatton, a not well known b-movie player with a uniquely disfigured face. The film also provides a nostalgic look at the golden age of aviation; ah for the days when aviation was a gentleman’s pursuit, back before every Joe Sweatsock could wedge himself behind a lunch tray and jet off to Raleigh-Durham.

Why do these pulp serial adventures keep failing at the box office (The Shadow, The Phantom, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow)? Of course, The Rocketeer’s lack of box office success canceled plans for an intended trilogy. Are audiences just not interested in these kinds of films, or do they just keep getting poorly marketed? Either way, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Timothy Dalton is the one of who steals the show as the Errol Flynn-esque Neville Sinclair. Dalton really is one of the last of his kind, as a Shakespearean trained actor who can play these types debonair, hammy villains, both here and his role in Hot Fuzz. Interestingly Errol Flynn himself has had (hopefully untrue) posthumous accusations of being Nazi sympathiser. What’s scarier than Nazis? The Rocketeer has the answer: Rocket-propelled Nazis who can travel across the Atlantic on their jetpacks.

My only complaint with The Rocketeer and the only aspect which prevents me from awarding the movie with the mighty 10, is the lead protagonist Cliff Secord played by Billy Campbell, whom I find not to be terribly interesting. While it could be argued he’s supposed to be dull in keeping with the tradition of B-movie serials having bland leading men. Still, I would rather have a more charismatic screen presence but when a movie still manages to be this much fun despite this nor do I ever care in the slightest as to why the rocket blasts to not burn off the back of Cliff’s legs, it’s defiantly doing something right.

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Hot Fuzz (2007)

Proper Action and Sh*t

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Hot Fuzz is my favourite comedy of the new millennium as well as in my top 5 favourite films of said era. I already thought Shaun of the Dead itself was a perfect film yet Hot Fuzz is even better. There are so many film and pop culture references, inside jokes and foreshadowing ranging from the subtle to the more obvious. Just how long does it take to write a movie this layered? It’s like Bad Boys meets The Vicar of Dibley meets The Wicker Man. British comedy has long been about quality over quantity, just look at the small episode count of British sitcoms or films by Aardman Animations which employee a similar style of humour to Hot Fuzz; there is more comedy in this one film than several Hollywood comedies combined. The pacing and consistency of the jokes in Hot Fuzz are perfect, never is there more than 10 seconds that I’m not laughing. For me, the best laugh was saved until the end when the swan attacks the police officer in the car.

Those moments when Danny (Nick Frost) asks Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) about films he has seen; just how many times have I been in this situation in real life when someone names films one by one (usually junk food films) and when you say you haven’t seen one they keep going onto you about it. Angel himself manages to be a likable character despite his overt political correctness but for me, Timothy Dalton steals the show. He really is one of the last of his kind as a Shakespearean trained actor who can play these types of debonair villains; here he just has the smuggest look on his face.

It’s easy for a film to mock bureaucracy but this seems to be one film which speaks in its favour, then again how many films can make the act of filling out paperwork look exciting. The film’s use of fascism and the concept of “The Greater Good” (the greater good!) as a theme surprisingly is highly thought-provoking.

Hot Fuzz satirizes action movies by being grounded in reality and with Danny’s misconceptions between fantasy and reality yet at the same time also celebrates them. Having an action movie with British police officers, set in a small English town and full of Hollywood action movie tropes; the concept works on so many levels – likely because there doesn’t exist a tradition of cop movies in the UK. Plus having the bad guy’s hideout being an outlet for an actual British supermarket chain is another stroke of brilliance. There’s just something refreshing and satisfying watching these Hollywood clichés spoofed in a British manner. Action movies have never been a favourite genre of mine, especially this brand of shaky cam, fast cut action, but the action scenes here are legitimately edge of your seat thrilling. The film’s use of CGI blood is my only complaint but when a film is this amazing I can look past this one flaw. Thank you, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg for improving the greater good of British cinema (the greater good!).