Review based on a free copy provided by Amazon – by it here. *Originally written in 2013.
It’s about damn time. For decades now, John Milius has been the leading renegade of Hollywood, directing a number of hits, writing some of the most important moments in Cinematic history, and contributing to some of the greatest films of all time. Finally, with this documentary he gets the reverential treatment and respect he deserves – a fantastic, comprehensive documentary which acts both as dedication and memoir, history and story, and hopefully a piece of media which will bring the man back into the spotlight and gain him some recognition with modern audiences.
Through a variety of interviews new and old, archive footage and movie clips, Milius charts the rise, and supposed fall, of the original maverick. We learn of his politics, often confused by others, his views on storytelling and Hollywood itself, and hear many hilarious stories about his early days as a writer and encounters with Hollywood suits. For those not familiar with him, there is a checklist of people he has directly influenced and worked with – the documentary is a who’s who of American Cinema with Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Scorsese and so on recounting their tales. It is a fascinating story with many wonderful insights into the legend’s character. Hopefully he gets back to full health soon and gets to make a few more classics, as the days of the Hollywood renegade seem almost forgotten and needs someone to kickstart another revolution. He was part of the cinema revolution of the Seventies, so why not again?
Growing up in the 80s I was always a big fan of Milius, with hits including Conan The Barbarian and Red Dawn as well as writing on numerous films – Jaws, Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now – he is an integral part of movie history and anyone with a passing interest in cinema should enjoy this. It’s a fast moving, well detailed, and entertaining couple of years in the company of some of Hollywood’s finest.
Let us know in the comments what you think of Milius the movie, Milius the man, and the work he has done.
Well well, it has been a long time since I shared by generous bounty with you. I’ve been off helping James Woods battle aliens on a distant planet, only pausing amidst the carnage twice a month to check what Amazon has wanted to give me. The last few months have seen a shift from electronics to groceries, and while I’m all for eating biscuits and cereal, i’d still rather eat a TV. In November I received thus:
Johnnie To is back in peak form with this crime-action drama featuring a strong ensemble cast and many moments which reminded me of the best in the genre – Heat, Infernal Affairs etc. There are some great performances, plenty of action packed set-pieces, and a twisting, finger nibbling plot.
John Milius has always been one of my favourite directors, and is easily one of Cinema’s best, underrated writers. Jaws? Apocalypse Now? Hunt For Red October? Dirty Harry? Conan? Rome? The list goes on, and this documentary follows his career from early Film School days with Lucas, Spielberg etc, features many amusing anecdotes from some of Hollywood’s most important people, and proves both that you can make your dream come true (if you have a big enough gun) and that the world needs more Milius.
Baby sensors are always handy, especially when you have babies, and possibly more so if you are under attack by a horde of zombabies (I guarantee that before the year is through someone will have made a movie called ZOMBABIES).
Bizarrely not a wepon to use in a futuristic murder-sport, the Finish Powerball (I guarantee that before the year is through someone will have made a movie called POWERBALL) lays waste to grim, wreaks havoc on dirt, and creates billions of orphan germs by sweeping through your dishwasher and leaving everything shiny, lemony, and sparkly, like a Sprite flavoured vampire.
Before Arnie became The Terminator he was Conan the Barbarian in this visually stunning fantasy film based on the books of Robert E. Howard. An endlessly influential film, withe recent films such as the Matrix and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy taking elements from it, a film with much greater depth than most give it credit for, clever, emotive, with a smart script, one of the best soundtracks of all time, strong performances and great action. Conan the Barbarian is an underrated classic, but one which all Arnie fans love, one which deserves to be recognised for what it is rather than criticising it as brainless violence.
John Milius, director of Big Wednesday, writer of the Apocalypse Now screenplay and famous sections of Jaws and Dirty Harry decided to turn Howard’s classic stories into a big screen adventure. With a script by himself and Oliver Stone, they found Schwarzenegger, convinced actors such as Max Von Sydow and James Earl Jones to join the cast, and made the definitive fantasy film. Along with Basil Poledouris making the score, and a host of talented set designers and effects guys, Conan the Barbarian should not be taken lightly.
Conan tells the story of a man whose entire village was slaughtered when he was a child, and taken into slavery until he became an adult. During the period of slavery he pushes a giant wheel until he has grown, become strong, and everyone else has died. He is then taken and trained as a fighter and killer in small arenas, soon becoming the famous and bloodthirsty warrior in the land, forgetting his past, and becoming an emotionless machine. However, when he is released his past soon comes back to him and he seeks vengeance for the man who killed his family-Thulsa Doom. On his travels he rescues Subotai, played by surfer Gerry Lopez, a thief and they become friends. Soon they encounter Valeria, a beautiful young warrior thief who is infiltrating an evil tower owned by Doom. They go in, butcher the bad guys, steal a diamond, and Conan and Valeria fall in love. Her attitude towards life overpowers him, and the three go around the land stealing. However, the draw of the past is too much and they search for Doom who is taking over the land with his hypnotic powers, believing flesh to be stronger than steal. He is a powerful wizard and sacrifices many innocent young people who succumb to his ways, much like a modern religious cult. Doom and Conan meet again, and Doom is too strong, teaching Conan about his power, much like Conan’s father spoke of the riddle of steel. Conan is left for dead, but his friends find him, and with the help of a magician restore him in a very touching and powerful scene. Renewed, Conan once more seeks Doom, but this time it is not him who is killed, enraging him further.
Arnold’s performance here is one of his best, the kind of role he should be given and proving that he is the best at what he does. Sydow is good in a smaller part, Jones is awesome-just watch his eyes. Mako is very good as the Wizard, Gerry Lopez is superb, and Sandahl Bergman is excellent in a performance which should have sent her on to greatness. The score is easily among the best ever, perfectly complementing every scene, heightening the emotional impact whether it be a battle scene or funeral. The action is also very impressive, before masses of CG beasties, with heads sailing off and swords clashing. It is also one of the most beautifully shot films of the decade, the camera panning over wide areas much like Kurosawa in movement, a technique used again by Peter Jackson. The script is full of quotable dialogue, mixing serious ones with typical Arnie one-liners, Nietchze is referenced and other philosophical issues are discussed with an odd amount of skill for an action movie. Rather than discussion, a few one-liners are given, but they are to good effect. Certain scenes are highly emotional, and they are dealt with skilfully, and Conan is a tragic figure rather than a murderer. No-one can ever get close to him again, anyone who does dies. It is not only a great action and fantasy film, but a great love story. Worthy of Oscar nominations, but of course this type of film is always regarded as pointless. Even if you are not an Arnie film, if you are not someone with a closed mind who has made a decision as to whether you will like a film or not before you see it, then you should see the many merits here. One of the best films of the early 80’s, though unfortunately it is mostly discarded.
Try to get a 2 disc special eidition of the movie- although no matter which you choose the classification boards have done it again, cutting parts of the film which may destory our souls if we were to view them (again), but there are lots of worthwhile extra features to make this version the one to buy over others. Deleted scenes, handy commentaries, interesting documentaries. A must-have.
As always, feel free to comment on my review and the movie. Is the movie unfairly lost in the archives? Does Arnie look his toughest here? How strong an adaptation did you find the film?
This movie is it all; everything; it has something for everyone, including a tanned and toned Young Michael Vincent. There is action, a romance, funny moments, some action, good script and stunning surfing footage, as well as plenty of action, but not too much. Yes, Big Wednesday is a classic ‘coming out age’ story set in Vietnam era America involving a group of school friends who love to surf. As is typical of these types of films we get a group of friends on the verge of growing up, setting off on their own path, possibly parting ways, and having one last kick ass summer. It reminds me of my own last kick ass summer with my friends. There was me, Neville, Bobert, Shawsy, Wee Scott, Bunter, Fitz, Simon, Murph, Stoat, Biggles, Rodger, as well as a few girls like Jem, Lee, Gree, Corky and of course my little brother Andy tried to tag along. That fool Brendan and his scumbag mates tried to spoil it on us, wherever we went, he was there too, looking at us with his eyes. Sure enough the exams were done, we knew that we would all be getting jobs or going off to university, or being mauled by bears, or moving away. None of us were going to fight in Vietnam (though Neville claimed he had already been and would have frequent flashbacks), and none of us were into surfing, but you can see the comparison.
Jan Michael and Co- they just wanted to ride one last big wave, but the real wave (the Tsunami of life) was washing towards them at an unstoppable rate, unavoidable and inevitable. Crazy Gary Busey also stars in this Milius film (Milius would go onto wide spread acclaim and fame with Knightriders, having already made a name writing The Godfather), and Vincent would go off to become TV’s biggest star in Airwoof. The army comes to town to draft any young, fit men into the army- any injured or crazy types had to stay at home (this is based on actual events) so Busey stayed and got a job stealing motorcycles, all the smart guys could go to college or become a military strategist. The remainder of the gang, including Vincent go off to War and experience some terrifying events- being locked in cages filled with water and rats, but no surfboards, and being forced to play Vietnam Roulette with each other. The game is thus: 5 cups are presented, each filled with same coloured liquid. The treat is that one of the liquids is actually so disease filled that as soon as it is swallowed the drinker begins to convulse, blood pours from every orifice and they eventually melt. Later they escape and before they go home they ask one request of one of their friends (a young Freddy Kruegger) who has now become their commanding officer- will you surf before we go home. He has however succumbed to the madness of war, wishes to stay, and heart breakingly replies ‘Charlie Don’t Surf!’ This proved to be one of the pivotal moments in 70s cinema, and indeed in American History, signifying loss of innocence, tainting The American Dream, and squirting out the final puff from the spliff of the Hippy Movement and Freedom.
I was fortunate enough to go off to University and subsequently get a 6 figure salary, some of my friends came along too, more went further afield, or stayed at home and began to fade away, losing the beautiful fire of youth that once burned ever so brightly. I sometimes wander through my home town now, and occasionally see one of the old gang across the street. I wave to them, but time and circumstance has been unkind to us, fate conspiring to gouge an impenetrable void between us. They don’t wave; they barely look; in fact, they don’t even recognise me. Who would have though that all those jokes we shared, all those lazy days walking through the forests together, all the sunsets we watched and the nights we hoped would never end, all those great times which would never come round again; who would have thought that now it is as if they have never happened at all? I refuse to give up though- I still chat with a few of them, those who made it. Some are married, heck- some even have kids! I know when we have a few drinks, I see the old glint in their eyes that our youth is still alive and well inside, it’s just having a lie down. Sure I have new friends now, but it’s our oldest ones that count most, those we shared our defining moments with. We don’t say anything; we don’t need to. We may have lost some along they way, but as long as there is at least one of us, we know we’ll be okay.
Best Scene: The flashback to the group of friends hugging and laughing- when times were good. The slow motion, the smiles, the memories, the music. It is my life. I wish I could jump in, take off my shirt, and hug them too.