What is breakfast in the twenty-first century? Can you really have a top flight career and a decent breakfast? In this non-stop, multi-hour technological age, where you’re only away from your desk when you’re asleep (and sometimes even unconsciousness isn’t a guarantee of non-employment), what does breakfast even mean in the first place? Power Breakfast is the film that seeks to definitively answer that question. With a playful yet biting mix of vignette, contemporary sounds and of course foodstuffs, it takes the viewer on a sensory journey. At first the viewer may not want to go on that journey. Yet as the two minutes slowly elapse, he or she will come away with a deeper understanding of why breakfast is judged “the most important meal of the day”. Feed your mind and try not to empty your stomach with Power Breakfast.
Breaking Bad is quite rightly hailed as one of the most successful dramas of the twenty-first century. But in this age of multi-platform entertainment, could it have survived in another format? Say creator Vince Gilligan’s insistence on the casting of Bryan Cranston over preferred choices like John Cusack had led to the whole project being aborted. Would Gilligan have gotten his idea to live outside the confines of the small screen?
Absolutely not. The show has one of the all-time great concepts, but an unusual one in that it was perfectly suited to TV. Other great offerings of the age can easily transfer to different mediums. For example, House would make a good novel as well as an essential prescription for the cathode ray tube. True Detective had the stuff of an epic movie. The adventures of Walter White on the other hand could only have flown one way – in a creative setting that allowed for the unique blend of complex character arcs and ambiguity that Gilligan and his team demanded.
To demonstrate this point, here are six imaginary paths Breaking Bad may have followed in other media, showing how things panned out for Walt had AMC not come calling. As you’ll see, it would’ve looked like Breaking Bad. Sounded like Breaking Bad. But it wouldn’t have been Breaking Bad…
THE GUNMAN (2015)
A surprising feature of the mature action movie’s unexpected rise has been the calibre of names attracted. Oscar-winner Liam Neeson reinvented his career via the Taken franchise, and now director Pierre Morel nets Sean Penn for butt-kicking duties in The Gunman. Of course Penn is as known for his staunch political views as his acting, so there’s a bit more going on here than a simple case of a tin opener and a can of whup-ass.
He plays the hilariously-named Jim Terrier, who operates in the murky world of private security in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With one foot in the humanitarian end of the equation (alongside surgeon girlfriend Jasmine Trinca) and the other working at the behest of corporate interests, it isn’t long till an impromptu assassination leads to Terrier fleeing the scene. Years later, this bone-cruncher of conviction is helping the poor with their water supply when unknown elements come to wipe him out. The rippling star (looking exceptionally craggy in full HD) must then traverse the globe, tracking down his former associates and trying to work out who wants his head on a platter.
Penn performs this wronged tough guy well, but the central character also displays the movie’s key weakness. If you’re following a man on the run it helps if you have some sympathy for him. Terrier’s former act of atrocity is so appalling it’s very difficult to get on board. In fact his workmates – now trying to live their lives as well-paid stuffed shirts – convey more remorse than he does. It helps that they are played by a truly impressive supporting cast – fans of brooding, middle-aged actors have an embarrassment of riches. In addition to Penn you’ve got Winstone, Bardem, Elba… not to mention Mark Rylance.
This is Rylance’s first high profile villain role, and he’s as good as you’d expect. But even he starts to go adrift as the story builds to a pretentious climax at a bullfight. Co-writer Penn must take responsibility for some dialogue so cheesy you could coat it in red wax and market it for Edam. It’s a strange combination of scribes overall – the script also carries the names of Don Macpherson (The Avengers – as in the Ralph Fiennes one!) and Dredd‘s Pete Travis. Also you might think Penn would work up a more balanced battle of the sexes, but no. Trinca is presented as impossibly saintly and well-lit as the female element, and is required to do little more than freak out and weep as bullets fly over her head. Out of the stellar line up, Winstone makes an impression as Terrier’s wing man, dressed like a member of Status Quo.
The special features show the verbose actors speak up in support of their infamous star/writer/producer. And you’ve got to hand it to him for trying to do something a bit different, even if this bird is really carrying too much on its back for it to fly. On the whole the film does alright as a chunky slice of smack-happy tosh. The various fights and car chases are decent, care of Taken veteran Morel. However the efforts of The Gunman to be both relevant and disposable means it collapses between two stools, bearing a mismatched combination of lean muscle and well-meaning paunch. It sort of apes the Bourne films, but they kept their subtext as fleeting as Matt Damon‘s footwork. Penn just isn’t a light enough touch for the beer and pizza crowd.
STATE OF GRACE (1990)
Sean Penn and Gary Oldman are long-established in the movie firmament, but they were once young guys who fired on all cylinders in edgier fare. An opportunity to remind viewers of this has presented itself with the release of State Of Grace on Blu-ray. A well-made crime thriller set in Hell’s Kitchen, it caught a few actors on their way up the ladder, from Ed Harris to John Turturro.
Penn plays Terry Noonan, who returns to the New York neighbourhood he grew up in looking for employment. This means rekindling his relationship with the Flannerys, an Irish family with whom he was intimately involved. Best friend Jackie (Oldman) is an unstable enforcer who works for hoodlum brother Frankie (Harris). The place has changed in Noonan’s decade-long absence, as locals are squeezed out by the property boom. Frankie is turning against the people he used to call friends in a bid to impress a mob boss (Joe Viterelli). Meanwhile, Terry encounters old flame Kathleen Flannery (Robin Wright), who in attempting to distance herself from her heritage represents salvation for Penn’s tortured soul.
Partway through the story there’s a revelation about the lead character that isn’t a surprise if you’ve read any of the publicity. However if you avoid the blurb you may find, like I did, that the development deepens your involvement in the narrative.
The decaying urban backdrop to the film is very interesting, arguably more so than the players out front. No-one here is that likeable, but the situation – always one step away from disaster as Oldman’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic – is a compelling walk along a cinematic knife’s edge. Acts of shocking violence are committed under the auspices of maintaining “good manners” amongst the criminal fraternity, a more appropriate term than most in this case. Death has become a constant feature of these peoples’ lives: a friend is pulled out of the river on the same day Terry and Jackie have to attend a funeral.
In addition to the main cast there is a treasure trove of talent in support to keep your attention glued – John C. Reilly (looking exactly the same as he does now!) takes the role of a wayward peer and screen legend Burgess Meredith has a short but poignant scene as Penn is sent to his apartment to collect money.
We’ve seen this type of set up before (I was reminded a little of Mean Streets) but director Phil Joanou gives the production its own life, shooting in a sweeping, epic style that lends itself nicely to the Blu-ray treatment. Dennis McIntyre’s solidly-constructed script boasts some snappy dialogue – “What, are you some kind of asshole or are you taking lessons?” – that’s a treat for the ear. Speaking of which, Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack is a key aspect of this class act. There are strong minor touches also, such as the moment henchman R.D. Call scoops up some nuts to eat after gunning down a bar owner.
The disc carries around twenty-five minutes of special features, which are decent. Directing A Bunch Of Gangsters has an enthusiastic Joanou describing the process and Harris shows up to discuss the role of Frankie in his own featurette. Nothing extensive, but certainly enough to satisfy anyone with a curiosity.
Ultimately the film isn’t in the same league as Scorsese. The striking slow-motion climax really belongs somewhere else. Oldman overdoes it and Wright is just plain drippy. Yet State Of Grace remains a punch-packing entry in the twentieth century gangster movie canon and is worth catching in hi-def twenty-five years later.
Columbo is one of my favourite TV shows, and like many fans I wonder how it would work if it were brought back. In the twenty-first century the legacy is very much alive on social media and Columbophile’s recent post got me mulling definitively on the prospect.
It’s led me to think that, despite the absence of original star Peter Falk, the show really could be revived. Whether it should…? That’s a whole other question. Columbophile was highly eloquent about what he did and didn’t want, and we chatted briefly about it on Twitter. However the more I pondered it, the more I found myself going in a different direction. Eventually, like the little details that always bug the Lieutenant, the ideas soon crowded in my head and now it’s going to be cheap therapy for me to write it down.
I’m arguing that the format was as much a star of the show as Mr Falk. The simple concept of knowing who committed the crime from the outset is unique to Columbo and can’t be separated from it in my view. There are two major factors to the appeal of the series – watching the killer in the aftermath of the crime/waiting for him or her to be caught. And spectating as the high and mighty are brought down a peg.
The former will always be compelling. There’s a greater social context than ever for the latter. Donald Trump is aiming for the White House. Celebs achieve notoriety by showing up at various places. The cultural landscape is ripe for a Columbo’ing! Aside from the usual line up of prominent figures I’d have murderers more directly tied to real life “personalities”, so there’d be a satirical bent to proceedings. Columbophile makes a good point that – as with the classic 70s version – performers you associate with movies have decamped to television (one of the reasons the revival lacked sparkle). But there’s scope to put some less likely actors in the frame, along the lines of Johnny Cash‘s appearance in Swan Song. In this age of celebrity you might well see occasional thesps Taylor Swift, or Snoop Dogg being pestered by the great detective.
So a crucial element of a return for me would be a contemporary setting. Columbo is associated with the 70s, but back then it was cutting edge stuff, in terms of electronic music and presentation. I’d be more interested in pushing forward with the new rather than sticking closely to the old, and feel the staple ingredients would update themselves quite easily. The earlier episodes were an hour long, fairly similar to today. I’d keep the slower pace of course, in opposition to the CSI style – audiences wouldn’t mind and like before it’d enhance the old school battle of wits.
The small screen plays host to all manner of horrors, with the theatre of death having been ramped up to mega-levels in the decade or so since the last televised instalment. I’d make the murders pretty eye-popping at times, fiendishly-constructed and not shying away from gore. That’s not to say every week would see a flying head, but the new Columbo would be more wince-inducing and graphic. Mind you, its predecessor had a fair helping of nastiness – George Hamilton despatching a reporter with a poison cigarette in Caution Murder Can Be Hazardous To Your Health was uncomfortable viewing as I recall.
Last but not least, there’s the question of the lead actor. Peter Falk is a legend. That’s why I’d have no intention of trying to replace him, or echo his performance (though Jason Alexander would make a good Columbo in that mould). Instead I’d go for something different and cast Hugh Laurie…
His name has been speculated on previously and to me he’s a great fit. Columbo is full of surprises. Hugh Laurie is full of surprises. He can take the aloofness, the humour, the intelligence and gumshoe persistence, and roll it into a ball, creating a deceptive steamroller of a character. There’s no point in conjuring up Mr Falk. A fresh take on the concept requires a fresh face.
I’d shift the nature of the Lieutenant slightly, moving him away from the trench-coated bloodhound and more in the direction of slacker. To his opponents he’s a Cosmo Kramer-like “hipster doofus” (though he wouldn’t be walking into doors and so forth). Yet he epitomizes the person who looks all over the place, when really they’re paying strict attention, and waiting for the moment to strike.
That’s how I’d do it anyway.
Though streaming services are packed with full-blooded historical dramas from your HBOs and BBCs, Jail Caesar is something a bit different. An independent movie starring Derek Jacobi and Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact) which recently arrived on Netflix, it appears to be another ripe slice of actors projecting amongst the pillars. However the details behind this tale of a young emperor-in-waiting are anything but conventional. It was shot inside real prisons, using their plight as a context to the action, and featured inmates working alongside the professionals.
The brainchild of director Paul Schoolman, it was born out of a ground breaking series of workshops conducted within Dartmoor in the 1980s. When Home Secretary Douglas Hurd put the brakes on development, it kept evolving over the decades before finally reaching screens in 2012. So far it has won a string of awards on the worldwide circuit, such as Best Supporting Actress for Krige at the Madrid International Film Festival. Appropriate given the project’s globe-trotting nature – Schoolman took his team inside the infamous Pollsmoor Prison in South Africa (which played host to Nelson Mandela), as well as a facility in Cardiff. The cast blends Jacobi with names like John Kani (A Dry White Season) and Richard Clifford (My Week With Marilyn). Prestigious though the movie turned out to be, the real goal was to provide a means of expression and a lasting legacy of empowerment for the men and women behind bars. To this end Jail Caesar has made some inroads to its destination, laying the groundwork for its participants to leave their former existences behind and go on to become a real part of the film industry, in locations as far afield as Los Angeles.
As an admirer of Schoolman’s aims and ambitions, it was a privilege to be able to speak to three very diverse but key players in the making of this release – Sam Burns, a British writer who met the director whilst in Dartmoor… Peter John Christians, a formerly-incarcerated South African musician and rapper… and Warren Adler, an actor and businessman who eventually became the star and co-producer. I began by asking them about their backgrounds and the paths they took to getting involved in the production…
Sam: “I’m a working-class boy. Got into drugs, became an alcoholic and a drunk, joined the British Army. Made it up to being a paratrooper and a solider, messed that up cos I married the wrong woman. I was a speed freak or an amphetamine taker, intravenously and orally. And at thirty-five I got diagnosed with severe bi-polar, and schizoid-empathic disorder, which means I’m a borderline schizophrenic and I see things that are not real when I’m ill. Plus on top of that I’ve got post-traumatic stress disorder. My war was Northern Ireland, and I have recurring nightmares, night terrors… and then I have epilepsy and I have Type 2 diabetes. That’s a full drawer isn’t it? Full house in five card stud!
I went to Dartmoor for a robbery. I was a nasty piece of work mate, I had no conscience. And I’d use as much violence as I had to, to take what I wanted. Prison is immensely boring. You spend an awful lot of time in prisons just locked up… so all these tattooed maniacs would come rushing downstairs to watch a sitcom before getting banged up halfway through it. I sat there and changed all the dialogue into filth. I even had the screws laughing… Tony and Frank (two fellow inmates) said ‘Go on big mouth, go on this!’ On the board there was a little sign that said: ‘Looking for four guys who think they’d like to write a screenplay on the early life of Julius Caesar’. I didn’t have to do much, so I went.
That night I wrote two films, I had to do something. You get banged up at ten o’clock, I’d pull my bed into the centre of my cell, stand on it, and there’s no power in the cell. I hand wrote by the security light. I had no idea I could write and still I can’t punctuate, I’m a phonetic speller, and grammar’s like Japanese to me. Paul absolutely changed my life. I wrote a play which subsequently got put on at the Edinburgh Fringe. Me and Paul went on breakfast telly… that was very successful.”
Peter: “I was born in Cape Town. At the age of eighteen I was charged with murdering my stepfather. After spending two years awaiting trial I got sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Inside Pollsmoor I discovered the ability and passion to write poetry and songs. At first I used my skills to help fellow inmates write poems to their girlfriends and family who were on the outside. In prison word gets around fast, so I got approached by other inmates who also wanted to rap and write poetry.
Before long I founded the I.K-Crew (Incarcerated Knowledge). Then one day a warder, who was very supportive of our crew and all inmates aspiring to positive change, informed us about Paul and his film crew busy in another section of the prison. We asked him to escort us to there to hang around and see what all the fuss was about. After a few minutes we got infected with the creative energy of their group. On the second day Paul’s interpreter was absent due to falling ill and I volunteered myself to stand in for him. By the end of the day, Paul asked me whether I’d be interested in taking on the role of Cicero. I accepted and as they say, the rest is history.”
Warren: “I was at school with Alice Krige’s nephew, he was a very close friend of mine. And when I went overseas to live in Los Angeles and look at the film industry he put me in contact with Alice. So I had dinner with Alice and Paul at their home in LA, where they introduced me to… it was called STRING CAESAR at that time (in reference to the movie’s overarching theme of string theory), and the work they’d been doing in prisons. And I was intrigued by it. I was over there obviously looking for acting opportunities, and one thing led to another.
I ended up getting more involved with them both, from a producing perspective as well as an acting perspective. Coming from a business background in South Africa I understood the principles of producing… putting all the pieces together, bringing all the players and the locations together, to make the film work.”
Warren: “Sam’s an interesting character. I think he’s got a lot of history and a lot of depth to his character. I found him very interesting, especially for someone who had been in and out of prisons and understood the prison culture. He had an unbelievable aura, this powerful energy that surrounded him. And I think… working with him both on that sequence in the changing room and on the basketball court one can get that sense of prowess in him. He’s just a really good guy.”
Sam had long been a free man when he worked on the shoot, whereas Peter entered Paul’s world as an institutionalized artist. The director’s way of working inspired him.
Peter: “I immediately opened up my mind to Paul’s creative process and his vision, because through me the group had to get a clear understanding of the insights he shared with us. Therefore I had to let go of any stereotypical or prejudicial habits a person tends to develop being in a position that I was in. Luckily, being a creative and a creative facilitator myself, it wasn’t a hard task for me. So we worked really close together and I really appreciate him giving me the freedom to edit the script of my character. I wanted the lingo to be more fluent and comfortable to my mother-tongue and cultural background as a Cape Town Coloured. For the rap scene at the funeral, I totally had to get out of Cicero’s mind/persona and look at the script through the eyes of Julius Caesar himself. So I wrote a song especially to reflect on Caesar’s perseverance through his trials and tribulations and his determination to be number one.”
For Warren he approached the process from the opposite end: the perspective of a regular citizen immersing himself in one of South Africa’s most dangerous settings.
Warren: “I’ve got to tell you the first day that I ever I walked into Pollsmoor Prison was… before I went in, obviously one was a little bit nervous. Not apprehensive, but you didn’t know what to expect. And we were met with warm smiles, friendly attitudes, an openness from both the staff as well as the inmates themselves, and a willingness to want to work with us and meet with us, and help facilitate whatever we needed on the inside. So I found it a very warm, engaging environment, and I felt extremely safe working within the confines of the prison.
We worked at length with all the inmates that wanted to work with us, both on the production side, on hair and make up, on wardrobe, on acting, on camera, on a little bit of post production… On elements of the ‘Making Of’ we gave some moonlighting cameras to some of the inmates to go round and record some footage and tell some stories, and that was an extremely rewarding process. To take these guys, with no opportunity on the inside, and take things through a work process and skill them up with certain life skills… where they wouldn’t have had the opportunity on the outside or the inside.”
Arguably the biggest challenge lay in acclimatizing the famous talent to their new workplace. The transition proved to be surprisingly easy, as the aims of the visitors fused with those of their collaborators.
Warren: “With Derek Jacobi and Alice Krige and John Kani, who were all known in terms of the work they have done… I think they brought a level of credibility to the work that Paul had set out to do. Working with those three seasoned, veteran actors, hugely talented people… the inmates really fed off their energy and enjoyed the interaction. For Derek it was quite a life-changing experience as an actor, to work within that scenario. He was extremely complimentary to the guys, for what they gave to assist him in getting to where he got to in the film… I think when you watch the film you won’t be able to tell who are the actors and who are the inmates, the prisoners.”
Indeed, Jacobi’s performance is striking in the way he blends into his surroundings, despite his theatrical presence. But the real yardstick for Jail Caesar is time. How will ensuing years treat the end product? Will it make a difference to the relationship between art and institution, or could it languish as a curious social experiment?
Peter: “The process of working on this production made me more determined to pursue my art-form and nurture my creative talent. The appreciation for my work boosted my self-respect and made me see some value in my past experiences. Although sometimes it feels as if it was all a joyride…. it would’ve been nice if the movie could make some money so I could set up a home studio and invest into recording equipment. My criminal record doesn’t allow me to get a decent job or any financial credit. I still write and rap and hold on to the beautiful things in my life, my family. When I have to choose between being a full time creative and doing an odd job for someone to at least buy necessities, I have to choose the latter. The compliments I get are feeling more and more like insults. They do not reflect in the reality I’m living: homeless, my suitcases full of potential.
I’ve recorded a few songs so far and a documentary about my life post-release from prison. I’m trying to get funding to do a campaign in schools with it. To use my music and documentary as inspirational tools to motivate youth at risk to stay in school and away from a criminal lifestyle.”
Sam: “I didn’t achieve very much at school, I was too busy getting caned and whipped. If I was born today I would have definitely been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, you know? I just wouldn’t behave, they couldn’t control me. They’d use corporal punishment, they’d beat me. Now I’m a Christian. A Baptist Christian. I always play devil’s advocate in my writing.
I’m hoping that Jail Caesar will go viral on the internet in the end, and I hope Paul makes some money because I will. And then maybe I can get off benefits, because I’d love to be off benefits. I don’t like being on benefits, I’ve worked hard all my life when I left school, and never was on the dole. I really was a good soldier, I had an excellent record, till I messed it up. Unfortunately I didn’t know I was ill then, but the Army should have picked up on that. Now I’m fighting them over a war pension and a lump sum for the damage done to me.”
Warren: “I think its legacy is going to be extremely long-lasting, because if you take the adolescence of Julius Caesar and his scripted journey that the film takes you through, there’s no difference in modern day life than there was in the days of Julius Caesar. All that has happened, in my opinion, is the artillery, and the means of war, of warfare and gangfare, have somewhat changed. One just needs to take a look at the world today and look at the Somali pirates that are capturing all these big cruise ships and holding them hostage… you know, Caesar himself back in the day was ransomed, in real life. The methodology is identical. However the ammunition and the warfare they use in today’s world is just different to what they had then.
History has a way of repeating itself, and in today’s world there are many Caesars and many leaders going through the world trying to make difficult decisions and trying to make things better for their country and the world. I think if people can look at Jail Caesar in that context and see how history repeats itself, I think this film can have a long-lasting legacy, especially with the youth.”
Sam is currently writing a book, ‘Somewhere The Weeds Grow’, based on the parables of Jesus. He’s also working with Paul Schoolman on a forthcoming documentary.
Peter is working on new material – a link to his music can be found here: INCARCERATED KNOWLEDGE.
Warren is pursuing new business interests and hopes to return to acting soon.
UK TV viewers are currently being treated to the sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger being blackmailed by two nattily-dressed Eastern European meerkats. Tied in with the release of Terminator: Genisys, this is an advert for car and home insurance – now the T-800 has popped up in some odd places, but lending itself to a company that helps you when your water pipes burst? That’s a whole new level of terror. As the star reaches pensionable age, so the endorsements get more staid and sensible.
What with Sylvester Stallone flogging sliced bread and Jean-Claude Van Damme karate’ing his way round his own ice palace for a popular beer brand, it seems Eighties action stars are really starting to build those nest eggs. It isn’t a great surprise to see these commercially-minded butt-breakers sign up for the big bucks – after all Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Bruce Willis made a hefty mint out of the Planet Hollywood restaurant franchise. Yet when the likes of George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and even Al Pacino start appearing in your home hawking various products and services it opens a different chapter on the history of movie stars mingling with the Mad Men.
Bill Murray mildly spoofed stars who absconded to foreign territories to peddle rubbish in Lost In Translation. However these days the business of plastering your face onto a money-making exercize is viewed with less embarrassment, to the extent that Sean Penn weighed in to criticize his fellow actors for being quite so quick to open their wallets. Mind you, he’s a fine one to talk, as our list is about to demonstrate!
Here we take a moolah-strewn peek at the complex relationship between the film industry and advertising. Along the way we uncover some alarming examples of Hollywood shunting brand names front of camera, in creative or often just blatant fashion. This is the art of extracting cash from unsuspecting punters, and where better to start than our first choice, a man who earns a crust from being covert? Well, as covert as a handsome man in a tuxedo doing major stunts in capital cities can be…
JAMES BOND (1962 – present)
The 007 franchise has been a bandwagon of luxury brand names for decades. From the Aston Martin he drives, to the Walther PPK he shoots people with, right through to the tipple he enjoys after a hard shift beating up bad guys and bedding beauties (Martini, shaken not stirred) this agent has a licence to print money as well as kill.
Today’s Bond is no different, with watch manufacturers, fashion houses and even purveyors of fragrances courting Daniel Craig‘s attention. Be it deploying one of Q’s gadgets, checking the time to see whether the bar is open or tearing up the streets of an exotic location, there’s a queue of corporations as long as Richard “Jaws” Kiel‘s arm waiting to put their stamp all over the latest adventure.
There are too many examples of product placement in the Bond movies to catalogue here, but my favourite was Pierce Brosnan‘s Nineties superspy driving a remote control BMW off a roof in Tomorrow Never Dies… landing it perfectly in the window of a Hertz rental shop!
CARRY ON UP THE JUNGLE (1970)
The Carry Ons epitomized the idea of a long-running film series way before the blockbuster entries of Hollywood. Featuring liberal helpings of irreverence and outright sauce, their approach was also characterized by the product placement on offer. It’s perhaps appropriate that iconic star Sid James became the arch exponent of this.
Known to be partial to a drop of Scotch whiskey, he took his interest to new extremes for studio-bound tropical romp Carry On Up The Jungle. In an infamous sequence he opened a cabinet, where an obscene amount of Johnny Walker Red Label was seen inside!
Ranking as one of the booziest movie scenes since Richard Harris and Richard Burton sat down for a chat and a vat of spirits in The Wild Geese, the unexpected and, more importantly, distilled addition to the shoot ensured both the actor’s representatives and his thirst were satisfied.
BLADE RUNNER (1982)
Director Ridley Scott‘s visionary sci-fi epic impressed audiences in many respects, bringing them a neon-soaked urban landscape the likes of which they’d never seen before. One of the factors which rang true was the generous helping of brand names lit large amongst the giant geisha faces and the pollution.
Everyone recognized Coca-Cola, but the film also highlighted other logos that reflected the Eighties as much as a futuristic vibe. Atari and Pan-Am were two of the major entities on the list that either changed and vanished into the smog in ensuing years.
Interestingly, there is a “curse” associated with the machine-hunting masterpiece. A noticeable number of companies who got displayed prominently wound up going the way of the replicants! I wonder who’ll be queueing up to have their wares splashed all over the upcoming sequel like a robot’s brains…?
Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis‘s lucrative comedy spawned a lot of merchandise, and these two savvy humour-mongers may have had their gameplan worked out to perfection – the ectoplasmic quartet were branded with a distinctive logo, Ray Parker Jr.‘s catchphrase-heavy title track became the anthem for a generation and the “ugly little spud” Slimer was a toymaker’s dream come true.
Yet the writers also cannily included everyday products in their concept, some of which must base part of their revenue on the basis of ‘Buster involvement. American sweet treat the Twinkie got a name check in a legendary piece of dialogue from Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz. And then there was the small matter of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
A massive dude made of marshmallows dressed in a sailor outfit may have been fairly low on the list of global threats up to that point, but you can be sure the citizens of New York found him pretty damned horrifying after he tried to wreck the city in a fondant-fuelled rampage! How the incident affected Stay Puft’s profits has yet to be revealed.
When you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, in a dustbowl hotter than Ricky Martin’s jockstrap, you’re going to get thirsty, right? That was exactly the type of hard-boiled nightmare experienced by Sean Penn in Oliver Stone‘s vicious thriller U Turn.
While Penn’s character Bobby found numerous distractions in the remote community of Superior, most notably Jennifer Lopez‘s femme fatale Grace, it was the prominent appearance of a lower level brand name that gave viewers the impression they were suddenly watching the world’s harshest soft drinks commercial.
Usually a vending machine in an American movie is full of the all-powerful elixir that is Coke. However, when Bobby really needed to drench his parched throat after a battering Stone opted for the lesser-known Dr Pepper as the town’s speediest source of refreshment. Penn may well look back on this scene and shudder, bearing in mind he took A-Listers to task recently for their flagrant ties to advertising!
As long as the film business earns money, the big beasts of commerce will always be looking to make a deal. But it’s an interdependent thing between art and acquisition, that shows no sign of either party wanting to kick the other out of bed.
This feature appeared on The Hollywood News