Decade Definers: 1980s – Birth Of The Action Hero

Written by Chris Gelderd

Like most things in life, it’s hard to pin-point the exact formation of something. A season. A movement. A trend. These things just seem to happen when every factor around it comes into alignment and all the signs point to go. Somethings just naturally work with the environment around them. The film industry also does this and has done for over 100 years

The 1980s saw the formation of many things that changed the industry forever. The emergence of special effects allowed film-makers to really let their imagination blossom. Risks were being taken across horror, sci-fi and comedy with franchises taking off left right and centre, content being pushed for teen audiences (the introduction of the US PG-13 rating for such an occasion) and talent was setting the bar high in their chosen genres, such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Jane Fonda and Eddie Murphy to name but a few.

Yet the 80s was a decade that discovered a new wave of acting and creative talent that changed the way we look at action movies and their heroes forever, and we can see that winning template is used in films today to cater to new generations.

The world needed heroes, and the right men – and women – came along at the right time to deliver. Not satisfied with your suave Brit Sir Roger Moore and his family friendly James Bond adventures, mature audiences wanted more. More action! More violence! More stars! More outrageous, exciting, balls-to-the-wall popcorn entertainment!

The studios listened. The creative talent put pen to paper. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 1980s and the birth of the action hero!

Ask any film fan to name 5 action stars and they will probably give the same names.  From just a rather small selection of big name stars throughout the 1980s, we certainly got a truckload of memorable and long-standing action films from them. Some spawned franchises that still are going strong today, others simply one off treasures. Either way, they helped shape a genre that inspired much of what we see today on the big (and small) screen.

Let’s take a look at some of the big names that came to be during the 1980s and how they helped shape the action movie itself.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger

One man proved you didn’t need to be the next Charlton Heston of the acting world in order to make shockwaves across Hollywood and the world. Sometimes all you needed was a thick, inimitable European accent, muscles the size of watermelons and the passion to chase the American dream. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the ‘Austrian Oak’, did just that when he launched onto the scene during the 1980s with his imposing, unique frame as a bit player in cheaply produced movies before the studio execs took a risk and cast him in films where dialogue and plot were minimal, but action and iconography where high.

Arnie gave us 9 movies during the 1980s that became classics of the genre and his trademark style of witty one-liners, high violence, break-neck stunts and blending action into sci-fi, fantasy and comedy. From ‘Conan The Destroyer’ in 1982 that tested his boundaries for taking any role seriously and dishing out action in any form he was given, he soon was given movies such as ‘The Terminator’ in 1984, ‘Commando’ in 1985 and ‘Predator’ in 1987.

Each film was unique and different, letting Arnie win over fans and critics not with his acting, but with his ability to be an action hero across any genre who was tough talking, physically imposing and looked like a demi-God with his muscles and strong stance. He used any means at his disposal to eradicate bad guys – and sometimes good guys – and gave James Bond a run for his money with the one liners. Arnie became synonymous with action films and many of his 80s films stand strong today and shape franchise on the big and small screen in a career built on action that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

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Sylvester Stallone

Stallone gave us two big ‘R’s throughout the 70s and 80s…and 90s and 00s, all things considered. Rocky Balboa was his character for sport and drama, but Rambo was his character for action and excitement. From 1982 to 1988 (and 2008, but we’re not here for that), Stallone carved a new niche for his action ability in the form of John Rambo, a traumatized Vietnam veteran.

After a debut in ‘First Blood’ that actually gave us a grounded action film that used drama, humanity and tension as its main driving points, it’s two sequels “First Blood Part II” and “Rambo III” threw humanity out the window (literally) and cranked up the chaos to 10.

Muscles bulging as he waged war against the Vietnamese and Russians to save POWs and innocent people, Rambo became the invincible one-man army whom America and the world could count on.  Armed with  rocket launchers and sub-machine guns, bow and arrows and hunting knifes, Rambo proved Stallone could deliver the sort of story fuelled action audiences wanted, and it continued over his career with the likes ‘Tango & Cash’, ‘Demolition Man’ and ‘The Expendables’.

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Bruce Willis

An interesting case study indeed when you look at it. Out of all the action heroes of the 80s, Willis looked least likely. He wasn’t imposing to look at, not intimidating to hear talk and his career launched in the 1984 US comedy drama TV show ‘Moonlighting’ and the 1987 comedy romance film ‘Blind Date’.

Fox produced a film based on a 1979 novel ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, a sequel to the 1966 book ‘The Detective’, which was adapted into a 1968 film starring Frank Sinatra and allowed Sinatra to accept or decline to star in the new film. He declined. Arnold Schwarzenegger declined it as a sequel to ‘Commando’. Who was left to cast? Bruce Willis, obviously.

Now when you say the words ‘Die Hard’, it conjures up a film often agreed to be the greatest action film of the 1980s. A simple story about a New York cop saving hostages inside a skyscraper whilst taking down a small army of European terrorists was just what people wanted. Full of explosive action, snappy humour, a surprising world-weary and iconic portrayal by Willis of NYPD cop John McClane and a villain as dastardly and suave as them come in the guise of the late, great Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber.

‘Die Hard’ quickly became a template to base an action hero saving the day against the odds, and shaped the hero who could be an everyday cop in the wrong place at the wrong time, not just a muscle bound war hero or super soldier. It launched four sequels, video games and also Willis’s career into action orbit and also the greatest debate going in movies today – “Is Die Hard a Christmas film or not?”.

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Sigourney Weaver

The 80s action market was a place for men. Women had little chance to show they could do as much damage as the guys sadly, but one woman took a role, built it up over a franchise and proved that with the right support, it wasn’t just the men who could kick ass and save the world…or galaxy.

Sigourney Weaver has her niche in drama and comedy, but her action debut came in a little known sci-fi film in the late 1970s called ‘Alien’ that had her go up and survive against a deadly alien being in space, where nobody could hear her or her ill-fated male crew scream. The role of Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley was a big boost to female talent at that time, and while Weaver continued her box-office draw in comedy with other classics such as ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Working Girl’, the 80s saw her return to the role of Ripley in 1986s ‘Aliens’.

This time, Weaver led a group of male supporting actors as space marines to return to and wipe out the colony of aliens and their queen to save the galaxy from extinction. Weaver gave just as good as she got in terms of attitude, action and ability. A fine actress of her generation, she carried over a humane side to her tough-talking and ass-kicking Ripley going up against the deadly aliens and held her own, much like John McClane in ‘Die Hard’, being an everyday person up against the odds but who handles weaponry and heavy machinery as easy as breathing. Weaver cemented a successful and iconic role in an already iconic franchise and is one of the few female actors to carve out a successful action hero over the years.

Now, sadly, I have to rein this piece in because I could go on exploring defining actors and their roles for many more pages, but you all have lives and I must let you get on with them.

I hope this small glimpse into what the 1980s gave us in terms of action resonates with you. A handful of international actors helped produced dozens of action films with the support of creative talent such as James Cameron and Joel Silver that would resonate for years to come and also help launch female talent in front of and behind the camera around the world. The 80s gave us simple pleasures without the need for extensive plots, complicated stories and bloated character development. The era is almost a golden age of simplicity and it’s that simplicity that makes it so easy to return to watch any action film of the time for nothing but entertainment and enjoyment.

There are many more stars out there I could have mentioned. I’ll leave you with a handful more here to explore in your own time as ones who also helped define the action decade:

  • Jackie Chan (‘Police Story’, ‘Project A’)
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme (‘Bloodsport’, ‘Kickboxer’)
  • Harrison Ford (‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’, ‘Blade Runner’)
  • Mel Gibson (‘Mad Max 2’, ‘Lethal Weapon’)
  • Chuck Norris (‘The Delta Force’, ‘Missing In Action’)
  • Kurt Russell (‘The Thing’, ‘Big Trouble In Little China’)

Yippie-ki-yay, mother f….

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Kristof Kiraly: VFXtraordinaire

Kristof Kiraly may not be a household name, but as a visual effects artist, Kiraly has played a part in making some of the biggest films of recent years. From ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ to ‘The Jungle Book’, mass explosions to vast landscapes, Kristof Kiraly is the man with the magic touch who, along with his team at Double Negative Visual Effects, gives your favourite films that extra kick.

Interview by Jakob Lewis Barnes

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JLB: Working in visual effects seems like a very specific and technical field of filmmaking, was there a particular moment where you realised that was what you wanted to do?

KK: From a very early age, I was obsessed with creation. I spent hours drawing, sculpting or playing with Lego. I’ve always wanted to understand how things work under the surface. I think it’s this kind of curiosity which led me to the world of computer graphics.

Like many other artists, the big blockbusters were the real push for me; I remember watching behind-the-scenes documentaries of ‘Star Wars’, ‘Jurassic Park’ etc. and realising that people do this for a living was a life-changing experience. Of course I had no idea how I could break in to the industry, but I dived in deep and spent all my time learning VFX on my own (this was a time before YouTube tutorials). With that knowledge, I was fortunate enough to secure a job with a small VFX company where I really started growing, and after six years I got invited to MPC (Moving Picture Company) in London.

JLB: I imagine visual effects to be an extremely challenging and painstaking task, so what, in your opinion, does it take to be a top visual effects artist?

KK: In my opinion, a good VFX artist has to be a good problem solver, because that is essentially what we’re doing most of the time. In this very technical world, things go wrong all the time and you have to figure out how to fix them. The ability to work under pressure is a must-have skill too; time is always compressed and the number of tasks can often be overwhelming.

Also you have to be open to learning new things all the time, because the industry is rapidly evolving and if you stop learning you’ll get left behind. And finally, learn to leave your ego at home. A movie is a team effort where your work is always open to criticism, changes and sometimes it can even be completely thrown out. That’s the nature of the beast, but that is also why the end result is usually much better than the first version.

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JLB: On IMDb you’re credited as “Environment Technical Director” – can you clarify exactly what that entails on a day-to-day basis, and on a larger scale in the filmmaking process?

KK: Environment Technical Directors are responsible for creating environment scenes, that match the photographic quality of the plates they are dealing with. In simpler terms, everything that isn’t a character, vehicle or prop is environment. Creating environments requires both technical and artistic knowledge, as it involves everything from matte-painting to modeling, texturing, projections, lighting, rendering and even composition. As I said earlier, it is creative problem solving on every level.

JLB: Your filmography includes quite a few superhero movies such as ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, but who is your favourite hero (or villain) and why?

KK: To be completely honest, I’m not a huge superhero or comics fan. I personally prefer movies that are closer to reality; I am more excited about everyday superheroes like the journalists of ‘Spotlight’, or the computer scientist Alan Turing, who helped Britain win WWII. But if I had to pick a superhero movie it would be Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, with its dark atmosphere and Hans Zimmer’s unforgettable score.

JLB: Recently, films like ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and the upcoming ‘Assassins Creed’ have opted for more practical effects rather than CGI – can you see this becoming a common trend?

KK: I think everyone agrees that going practical is the proper way of approaching any shot. It gives the film crew a physicality they can relate to. The actors can feel that they are part of the environment, the DOP can set the lights up properly and figure out what lens and camera movement works. Of course, practical effects are very costly, harder to control and have their limitations. That’s where VFX comes into play – to extend those boundaries, but it should be used sensibly and be based on reality. That’s why it’s good when we have the practical elements.

To be honest, my only problem with this new wave of “practical effect based” movies is their marketing and the way they treat visual effects publicly – as though VFX is just a negligible thing, and practical effects is the holy grail. The fact is that these modern blockbusters have almost no frame which has not been digitally enhanced in some way.

Ex-Machina

JLB: Your company – Double Negative Visual Effects – was part of the VFX Oscar winning team this year for ‘Ex Machina’. Where would you say Ava – the artificial intelligence at the core of the story – ranks among your studio’s creations?

KK: I was extremely pleased to see ‘Ex Machina’ winning the Oscar for Best VFX. Especially since everyone was pretty sure that it would go to either ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Mad Max’. I think the movie in general was a massive achievement, and the effects served the story well; it wasn’t just a mindless visual orgy but a very organic piece. ‘Ex Machina’ is a great example of why I love to work for Double Negative – it is very much a technology-driven company with some insanely-talented artists.

JLB: For you personally, what is your proudest moment/favourite piece of work in the VFX industry?

KK: I’m extremely thankful that this is my nine-to-five. Working on movies that millions of people will go and see (and hopefully enjoy) is very rewarding. I’m proud of everything I’ve been working on, but my personal top three would be ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation’ and ‘Spectre’.

Mission Impossible

JLB: And finally, what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given throughout your career?

KK: I’ve been given lots of great advice throughout my career, but two of those stand out as the most influential. The first, is from my late grandfather who told me that you have to learn new things so you have more legs to stand on and that will give you stability.

The other is from my former MPC leader, mentor and friend, Marco G, who told me that in VFX you have to have three things to survive: reputation, connections, and savings.

Netflix Highlights: March

April Fools’ Day has been and gone, but this is no joke. We take your Netflix viewing very seriously here at JumpCut UK, and that’s why we ask our resident Netflix expert Mark Blakeway to pinpoint the best films that the streaming service has to offer. Here’s what was added last month.


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I Love You Phillip Morris
Jim Carrey stars as Steven Russell, a policeman turned con-man, made famous for his multiple prison escapes in this “based on true events” dark comedy-drama. It’s an enjoyable mix of unfortunate circumstances made funny by the sheer bluntness of it all, and heartfelt certainty of Russell’s unequivocal love for Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). It’s quick-paced, funny, sharp and witty, and shows how much depth and range Carrey can truly achieve when pushed to do something different.


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The Ides Of March
An above-average political thriller starring George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Packed with solid performances, a decent script and some very dark moments, albeit not quite to the lengths of ‘House of Cards’, it is enough to satisfy anyone with a vague political interest. While it doesn’t do much to break the mold, the typical story of a good guy in a bad system trying to do right still holds value. Predictable, but interesting nonetheless.


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The Grand Budapest Hotel
A single performance by Ralph Fiennes is so good in this film, that it’s difficult to talk about anything else. Visually, it’s incredible. The typical dry wit you expect from Wes Anderson is there in abundance. It’s well-polished, finely composed, superbly acted and the dense script is executed perfectly. I’d go as far as saying it is my favourite Anderson film to date, and whether you’re already a fan of Anderson or not, I highly recommend this film. Here’s our review to persuade you further.


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Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This is such a slick movie. While it does ultimately end in a mess of CGI, what gets you to that point is an intriguing storyline with some incredibly detailed actions scenes. This effort is truly a credit to the superhero genre. Whether or not you buy the whole “timely social commentary” angle, there is something undeniably very real about this film – this is more evident in the first half than the second, but this paranoia infused action movie exceeded my expectations. Here’s our review to persuade you further.


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India’s Daughter
This is a powerful documentary showcased as part of the BBC Storyville series I keep harping on about. What spurred the making of this documentary, was the horrific gang rape that took place on a private bus in South Delhi, after which 23-year-old Jyoti Singh died from her injuries. The attack gained widespread visibility, with many major media outlets picking up the story, and the men were arrested for their crimes. The documentary takes a look at this particular case, and the wider attitudes towards women in India, piecing together news footage, protests and even an interview with one of the attackers. Released to mixed reactions, banned in India itself, it has been interpreted in many different ways by activists, politicians and friends close to Jyoti, but one thing you cannot deny is that the more people who know about these horrendous acts that take place, the quicker they can be stopped. That is only a good thing.


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The Lives Of Others
Winner of the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, ‘The Lives of Others’ is a truly thought-provoking German drama. Set in a period of political uncertainty prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it follows a member of the secret police becoming increasingly engrossed by the individuals he is supposed to be spying on. The tension is gradually ramped up as our protagonist uncovers more and more details, but it remains restrained in its no-frills approach to film-making, leaning on the simplicity, performances and apparent authenticity of it all, creating an engrossing and somewhat relatable thriller.


The New Girlfriend

The New Girlfriend
The story of Claire (AnaĂŻs Demoustier) and the widow of her best friend, David (Romain Duris). A friendship post-death is forged for reasons I’d rather not go into – the key component of the story was kept a surprise for me and I hope it remains a surprise for you. It tests your perceptions of gender, sexuality, grief, relationships and identity. It does not remain with a single theme, a single character or a single issue – this is a complicated film handled delicately, with great care and understanding. Suspenseful, ridiculous at times, but incredibly fun, this was one of my favourite films from 2015. Here’s Mark’s review to persuade you further.


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Wayne’s World
Admittedly, the adventures of Wayne and Garth aren’t for everyone, but they are for me. A timeless classic, the perfect rainy day viewing, filled with quotable scenes, impeccable comedic timing and a flare for the ridiculous. Starring a young Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and Rob Lowe among many others, this is your not-so-typical oddball comedy about a couple of rock and roll loving friends who just want to apply their passion for music and babes, and make the most of whatever comes their way. Unfortunately for them, others have a different view as to how that should play out, whether it’s a TV show or a concert, and it’s up to Wayne and Garth to find a way to do what they do best. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth. You’ll also find ‘Wayne’s World 2’ on there. Here’s our review of the original to persuade you further.


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Turbo Kid
‘Turbo Kid’ will be a delight to any one who was a fan of 80s action adventure films like ‘BMX Bandits’ and ‘Mad Max’, as it is a huge love letter to both of these. Set in the dystopian “future” of 1997, you follow the film’s hero with his customised NES power glove, paving the way for inventive gory kills on-screen (one particularly gruesome one involving a modified bike) all backed with a rocking 80s synth soundtrack. Theres so much to love about this movie from the scenery-chewing performance of Michael Ironside as the sadistic overlord Zeus, and Laurence Leboeuf who plays the love interest, Apple. It’s not often you get to see a film like this, and I loved every second of it. 

N.B. Mark roped in the help of his friend Gary Joyce to discuss ‘Turbo Kid’. Here’s our review to persuade you further.

Charlize Theron Takes Brad Pitt Role

Angelina Jolie must be pretty ticked off right now. Charlize Theron has not only swooped in to take a role originally lined up for Brad Pitt, but may also have beaten Angelina herself to the role too. The ‘Mad Max’ star is in talks to take the lead role from the previously much fancied candidate Brad Pitt in ‘The Gray Man’. This film is about a male CIA operative turned assassin who has to protect his children that he never knew existed. But here’s where it gets confusing, especially for script wizard Mark Greaney, who wrote the original ‘Gray Man’ series of books and has now been tasked with coming up with the screen adaptation for Sony Pictures. Good luck with the re-write Greaney, because the title ‘The Gray Man’ may be pretty redundant now. Will ‘The Gray Woman’ cut it? 

But it gets even more convoluted and crazy – Angelina Jolie was rumoured to be on the short list of actresses that just might pull this gender switch off. Jolie has a bunch of experience in that area, if you think back to her CIA stealth and twists movie ‘Salt’ which was originally written with a male protagonist in the lead role – none other than Tom Cruise. 

So what does all this mean? For women in Hollywood it’s great news. Because, as Sandra Bullock recently pointed out at the Toronto film festival, there are very few decent parts for strong female characters. Bullock takes the lead in ‘Our Brand Is Crisis’, which was produced by George Clooney and originally planned to star Clooney but guess what? That got gender inverted too. The bad news though, is that ‘Mad Max’ and Theron fans will have to accept that we ain’t gonna see Furiosa return any time soon.

Written by Wan Tyszkiewicz

George Miller To Helm Man Of Steel 2

Rumors began circulating this week that Oscar-winning director George Miller would be taking the chair for a ‘Man Of Steel’ sequel. This project, which is currently “on-hold”, would fulfill Miller’s dream of creating a DC movie after his ‘Justice League’ project was abandoned back in 2007. Sources report that Miller, director of the ‘Mad Max’ franchise, including recent monster-hit ‘Fury Road’, is in talks with Warner Bros. about the possibility of taking on a future DC Comics movie, though precisely what character is in play “hasn’t been decided yet”. Nonetheless, the idea of Superman meets ‘Mad Max’ would be incredible, and the gap in the market for a ‘Man Of Steel 2’ certainly coincides with these rumours.

2013’s ‘Man Of Steel’, starring Henry Cavill as Superman alongside Amy Adams and Russell Crowe in supporting roles, may have achieved box-office success, but it was widely panned by critics. Many of the criticisms noted its dark, unpleasant tone and composer Hans Zimmer’s “turgid, over-produced score.” As Warner Bros. tries to blot out the abomination that was ‘Superman Returns’ (2006) with the ‘Man Of Steel’ franchise, the addition of George Miller is expected to take things to the next level. Though Miller is apparently not looking to go forward with anything until he finds a suitable script to do this superhero story justice.

Written by Patrick Alexander

Watch This Space: May 11 – May 17

Welcome to our newest feature – WatchThisSpace – where we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

As most of you are well aware, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ opens this weekend. Charlize Theron has a buzz cut, Tom Hardy dons a mask AGAIN and George Miller is back to his weird and wonderful best after the happiest of ‘Happy Feet’ to bring us dystopian chaos of the most explosive and action-packed variety.

For most, a trip to the cinema this weekend will provide a very clear fork in the road; you either go for an abundance of gore and violence, or warm up your vocal chords and sing at the top of your voice with ‘Pitch Perfect 2’. Luckily for us, we love both, so we get double the fun this weekend.

ON TELEVISION

Monday 23:05 GMT: There are very few directors with such a legendary status as that of Alfred Hitchcock, whose diverse and unusual body of work boasts numerous classics. One of the most disturbing of these films is arguably ‘The Birds’ which you can catch over at Film4.

Tuesday 23:40 GMT: Denzel Washington is now 60 years old, and still an absolute badass. See him at his most formidable and dangerous best, with a hint of emotion in the 2004 great ‘Man On Fire’, again on Film4.

Thursday 22:00 GMT: Every week, there are plenty of war films we could recommend to you. As fantastic as it is, ‘The Great Escape’ is on TV every Sunday, without fail. So let More4 show you a different perspective to the war with Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds’.

Saturday 21:20 GMT: Comedy creations don’t come much better than Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge. A timeless character who has improved with age. BBC2 brings us ‘Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa’, the feature length follow up that we so desperately needed. 

Sunday 15:00 GMT: The weekend is nearly over, so spend a couple of hours with the family and watch everyone’s favourite wild child, Lindsay Lohan, before she turned bad. ‘Parent Trap’ is delightful afternoon viewing on Channel 4.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

If election week has left you feeling militant, and ready to revolt, instead of setting a couple of bins on fire and engaging in a bit of casual looting, why not fight the man with some anti-establishment viewing:

A Clockwork Orange: Stanley Kubrick delivers a masterpiece in cinema history, with lead character Alex running around trying to defile pretty much everything in sight – so you don’t have to. The ultimate social menace.

Taxi Driver: Robert De Niro’s chilling monologues will say everything you wish you could. And just when you’re feeling disillusioned and frustrated, remember “we’re all fucked”.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: If you were old enough to vote, you probably don’t have to ask the parents for a sick day. Ferris did and look how much fun he had. So either way, run from the doldrums of normal life and have a crazy day.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Samuel James

Mad Max: Fury Road [Preview]

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal

News of the plans for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ absolutely evaded my radar until about a year ago. I knew nothing of the franchise and nothing of the complications in getting this fourth film to the big screen. The project was put on hold for a lengthy 25 years, with financial difficulties, security concerns and the short attention span of Mel Gibson bringing the fourth installment to a standstill. That is, until 2006 when director George Miller declared his intention to make the film, even if Mel Gibson wasn’t willing to reprise his role as Max Rockatansky. Several years later, and my attention was peaked with news that Tom Hardy would be leading the cast for the all-action reboot; I was sold almost instantly.

Click here to read the full preview

Mad Max: Fury Road

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal

News of the plans for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ absolutely evaded my radar until about a year ago. I knew nothing of the franchise and nothing of the complications in getting this fourth film to the big screen. The project was put on hold for a lengthy 25 years, with financial difficulties, security concerns and the short attention span of Mel Gibson bringing the fourth installment to a standstill. That is, until 2006 when director George Miller declared his intention to make the film, even if Mel Gibson wasn’t willing to reprise his role as Max Rockatansky. Several years later, and my attention was peaked with news that Tom Hardy would be leading the cast for the all-action reboot; I was sold almost instantly.

Back in 1979, a fresh-faced Mel Gibson donned head to toe leather and put his Australian ancestry to good use as the titular character in ‘Mad Max’. The lure of fast cars, big explosions and dangerous biker gangs was enough to elevate the film to cult status; the fans wanted more. And George Miller duly obliged, with the hard-hitting 1981 sequel ‘The Road Warrior’. This follow up excelled where its predecessor failed, with more violence, more explosions and a Max with a darker, more dangerous edge. Literally, everything an action movie should be – success all round. Sadly, a trilogy dictates that there must be a third film, and everybody knows “three’s a crowd”. Roping in the help of a pop diva was always going to be problematic, and as the main antagonist in ‘Beyond Thunderdome’, Tina Turner is nothing more than half-decent. Gone are the psychopathic bikers, replaced by a musical matriarch. Nonetheless, the legacy of ‘Mad Max’ lived on, just about surviving on the grounds of two out of three ain’t bad.

George Miller, the mastermind behind it all – as he is so regularly described – enjoyed an unusual career in the years following the famous trilogy. Perhaps it was the stress of the escaping dream of a ‘Mad Max’ quadrilogy which led Miller to settle down in the director’s chair for the farmyard fun of ‘Babe’. Fair play to the man – the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and smashed the Australian box-office – but surely this was an anomaly, a nice, relaxing family film to break from all the violence. Wrong. Three years later and Miller stepped in to make a sequel. Even more odd, in 2006, the man with a penchant for action and explosions took on the all singing, all dancing ‘Happy Feet’ series. From post-nuclear warfare to theatrical penguins, quite the transformation.

Luckily, George Miller finally managed to give his fourth film life, and we have been treated to multiple teasers and trailers over the past year. From the footage we’ve seen so far, we can make certain predictions about what we can expect from this franchise reboot. Aesthetically and visually, this film looks absolutely stunning. Long tracking shots over vast open desert spaces, filled with intense and vivid colour. As far as setting and environment goes, I can’t think of any trailer off the top of my head which has instilled me with such a feeling of awe as ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ has. As we mentioned previously, this is a franchise which has been built on its reputation for all things violent and downright crazy. This fourth installment looks set to not only continue that trend, but take it to a whole new level with gravity-defying collisions, monumental explosions and incredible slow-motion action sequences all look set to feature prominently. And as far as those crazy antagonists, we need look no further than Nicholas Hoult’s stunning one-liner, “Oh what a lovely day”, to reassure us that this film will be just as mad as its characters allow it to be, and from the evidence we have, I would prepare for full-on insanity.

The trailers, particularly the latest offering, conjure up plenty of memories from the original trilogy. We see the famous gasoline truck which has served Max Rockatansky so well in the past, and there’s the haunting tune of the clockwork musical box which Max gifted to a feral child in ‘The Road Warrior’. Will this child return? Will Max’s HGV save the day again? Thankfully, the leading man himself appears to have adopted a delightfully dark and dangerous demeanour to put Mel Gibson’s portrayal to shame. Tom Hardy is a firm favourite with us, and he looks set to revel in his most action-packed role to date. Alongside him, Charlize Theron has the strong, leading lady role down to a tee. No surprise there. Here’s hoping her character, Imperator Furiosa, may finally be the one to match Mad Max and give him a real run for his gasoline.

It appears that this latest installment will have everything that thrill-seeking moviegoers could possibly hope for. Having seen the trailer in the cinema, there is no doubt that this is a film which needs to be enjoyed on the big screen. Truly, a stunning visual spectacle. ‘Fury Road’ promises to be the highlight of the series; bigger and better than ever before. The years have been kind to Max Rockatansky, clearly benefitting from the advancements in special effects. The action sequences look beautifully crafted and the backdrop that all of the action takes place against is absolutely breathtaking . Let’s just hope the curse of the trailer doesn’t strike again and fill us with false hope.

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is released in UK cinemas on May 15th 2015