Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987, Jim Drake)


In this shambolically awful film – which appears to have been edited by a 10-year-old with ADHD – members of the public are given police training. For some reason. Here are more of the series’s running gags and clichés…

Mahoney flirts and pulls pranks! – He drives along with Jones, both enjoying jiggling along to the movie’s theme tune. He tricks Harris and Proctor into visiting the Blue Oyster bar. When Proctor uses a Portaloo, Mahoney arranges for it to be lifted into the air by a crane and – inexplicably – dropped into the middle of sports stadium. He helps Jones con three slapdash recruits into thinking their lives are in danger, and later puts superglue on the mouthpiece of Harris’s loud-hailer.

Hightower uses his strength! – He pushes against a locker, which domino-like knocks a whole series of them over; slam-dunks a basketball so hard it breaks the hoop; and pretends to be a big, scary Voodoo priest as part of a prank.

Tackleberry shoots! – He considers ‘not carrying grenades’ as his biggest frustration about his job. He finds a comrade-in-arms in gun-loving pensioner Lois Feldman; wears a Dirty Harry T-shirt in one scene; and revels in the gun-range training session.

Jonesey’s sound effects! – Hip-hop shakes; gulps and a belch as Mahoney mimes drinking; a crowd going wild; the revs of an engine when Harris calls him ‘Motormouth Jones’; a huge fart to embarrass Harris; music for an aerobics class; two more run-outs of his kung-fu-movie dialogue; a basketball commentator; feedback when Proctor uses a loud-hailer; a creaking door, a Dracula voice and a wolf’s howl; gunfire to scare recruits; sound of someone seasoning meat; and triumphant trumpets.

Hooks shouts ‘Dirtbag!’ – She struggles to control a crowd; and is flustered when a ghettoblaster is missing its tape. Her only shouty moment is telling Callaghan that “There’s been a jailbreak!”

Callahan’s chest! – Her biggest job frustration is “separate locker rooms”. Tackleberry tells her to “cover her rear” in an OAP home when men approach in wheelchairs. She jumps into a swimming pool in a T-shirt as part of a training session. When she pops up out of the water, she shouts “Who’s gonna save me?” and everyone enthusiastically jumps in. Her Japanese boyfriend is back from film three: she pins him to the ground, her crotch in his face.

Harris shouts ‘Proctor!’ – He’s back, polishing his baton a lot and having – with no explanation – Proctor as his sidekick. His catchphrase “Move it, move it, move it!” occurs five times. Hightower’s dog takes a liking to his crotch. After he pisses off Zed, Zed switches his deodorant for mace.

Lassard is a bit, um, vague! – He plays golf in his office, hitting balls out of the (closed) window, bouncing off the walls and into Zed’s mouth. When giving a speech, he has Zed next to him carrying his goldfish bowl and prompting him. He goes to a police conference in England: all his peers have goldfish bowls of their own.

Bobcat! – He gives an eccentric talk to a sedate poetry club, and gets teary. He still has an old-couple double act with Sweetchuck. He intimidates people into being interested in the COP programme. He thinks about eating Lassard’s fish. He gets a romance subplot.

Homophobic!/Racist! – “They’re gonna send me to jail and some fat, hairy guy is gonna–” says a skaterboarder found guilty of vandalism before Mahoney shuts him up. There’s another iteration of the Blue Oyster gag: straight characters nervously having to dance with leather-clad bears.

Bare breasts! – “Don’t you ever touch my balls without asking!” shouts Harris to Proctor after the latter fiddles with his Newton’s cradle. There’s a few mild swears but it’s noticeably less rude – though Lassard does obliquely refer to the prostitute from films one and three.

Famous totty! – Sharon Stone plays journalist Claire Mattson. She’s barely in the film, though, and the reason why she’s in most scenes is never explained. The character is just occasionally *there* with no real logic. She is, however, in a couple of deleted scenes available on the DVD, which actually contain some plot missing from the finished film.

Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986, Jerry Paris)


In this good-enough third entry, the police academy has to fight for its survival when the Governor announces he might close it. Let’s list some more of the series’s running gags and clichés…

Mahoney flirts and pulls pranks! – He’s coaching a women’s basketball team in his first scene – one of the players bumps into and lands on top of him. He flirts with new police recruit Karen Adams, then tries to convince her they’re roommates. He and Jones trick Mauser into putting some sticky tape over his eyes – when removed, it pulls off his eyebrows.

Hightower uses his strength! – He poses undercover as a woman to catch a mugger (blonde wig, usual ’tache). A new recruit mistakes him for a porter, so he flings the guy’s suitcase over a building. He rips a taxi meter out of a car when the cabbie tries to rip someone off. He tells a dog to sit – everyone nearby immediately sits down. He holds onto a speedboat as it attempts to drive off.

Tackleberry shoots! – He’s turned his backyard into a Vietnam-style jungle. We meet his in-laws from film two, but not his wife. He shoots a TV when he hears dialogue he doesn’t like (“You’re dead meat, copper!”); shoots a crossbow into a rude man’s cigar; and shoots a public phone when a woman’s quarter gets swallowed.

Jonesey’s sound effects! – Mauser speaking nonsense; music and a pair of voices to welcome new recruits; sound-effects of high-speed driving as he and Karen sit in a parked car; two further run-outs for his badly dubbed kung-fu-movie dialogue; a malfunctioning till in a bar; hip-hop music when bored; a scanner as he chases bad guys; and submarine sounds as he goes underwater.

Hooks shouts ‘Dirtbag!’ – Her shouty bit comes early – telling a busload of recruits to “Zip your lips, slap your butts to the seat and listen hard!” She later punches both Blanks and Copeland at the same time.

Callahan’s chest! – Back after a one-film absence. She meets recruit Nogata (see Homophobia!/Racism!), who’s at tit-height and falls in love with her. He later goes to her room – while she’s working out in a leotard – and they get it on.

Harris shouts ‘Proctor!’ – He’s not in this one.

Lassard is a bit, um, vague! – He gets distracted by a fly while listening to a speech (when he sees it on a woman’s face, he slaps her off her chair); slaps his baton on his desk and his fish flies into the air; drives his golf buggy into a lake; and drops his fishbowl out of a window (Mahoney catches it).

Bobcat! – The bad guy from film two is now a student at the academy. He shares a room with meek shopkeeper Sweetchuck, who he terrorised in the earlier movie. As well as every line being delivered in strained raspy voice, he screams at a door to open it (it works).

Obvious replacement characters! – It’s still Mauser rather than Harris. For plotting reasons he now runs a rival academy. Proctor’s still his sidekick.

Homophobic!/Racist! – One of Mauser’s recruits is Tomoko Nogata (“of Tachikawa Nogatas”). He misreads from a translation guide, is referred to as Fu Manchu and “stir-fried shrimp from outta town”, and is soon shipped off to Lassard’s academy, where he sleeps on a, um, bed of nails. A naked Proctor wanders into gay haunt The Blue Oyster.

Bare breasts! – There’s a close-up of Karen’s arse as she walks away from Mahoney. The hooker from the first movie returns – Mahoney convinced her to get Proctor naked and then shut him out of his hotel room. Proctor then ends up wandering the street and walks into the Blue Oyster bar. (The producers had by now presumably realised how much more cash they could make if these films were PGs. We get neither proper swearing nor boobs.)

Famous totty! – None.

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985, Jerry Paris)


In this first sequel, the Class of ’84 are sent out to staff a badly performing precinct in a rough area of town. Here I continue my attempt to track the series’s running gags and clichés…

Mahoney flirts and pulls pranks! – He flirts with women on the beach; pulls out Mauser’s floss when it’s stuck in his teeth; gives Tackleberry dating advice; swaps Mauser’s shampoo for epoxy resin; and then later arranges for him to have a body-cavity search.

Hightower uses his strength! – He throws a football so hard it knocks a guy off his feet; singlehandedly brings out a number of bad guys from the Blue Oyster bar; and is annoyed when mild-mannered Sweetchuck matches him on the funfair’s test-of-strength.

Tackleberry shoots! – He orders street-crossing kids around like soldiers; scares the shit out of a child (played by Lorraine Baines’s brother from Back to the Future) at his mother’s request; gets a romance subplot with Sgt Kathleen Kirkland when they bond over handguns; comes in all guns blazing when a lamp shop is being robbed; and, when getting amorous with Kirkland, takes ages to remove all his hidden weapons.

Jonesey’s sound effects! – Ugly eating noises to embarrass two diners; Mauser’s watch beeping; a fault with their car to annoy his grumpy partner; a vicious dog to scare a blinded Mauser; kung-fu-movie dubbed dialogue and fighting sound effects when beating up a pair of bad guys; an automatic popcorn machine; an impression of a bear; sounds of machine guns and the police arriving to intimidate a gang; and an instamatic camera at the wedding party.

Hooks shouts ‘Dirtbag!’ – She’s typically meek and mild, then punches Proctor when he won’t help Mahoney. Her “Don’t move, dirtbag!” comes at the end when pointing a gun at gang leader Zed.

Callahan’s chest! – She’s not in this one.

Harris shouts ‘Proctor!’ – He’s not in this one.

Lassard is a bit, um, vague! – He feeds his fish again, but accidentally puts a huge wodge of food in the bowl; misunderstands his brother’s request for “some healthy young men”; goes to a Chinese restaurant and leaves his fishbowl on a hot plate, then holds Eric’s hand down on it too.

Bobcat! – The first appearance of Bobcat Goldthwait as unpredictable, screeching, hyperactive, eccentric-talking Zed McGlunk. He’s the bad guy in this film. He and his gang ransack a supermarket and terrorise the city; when Mahoney asks Zed for a light, Zed sets his own hand on fire.

Obvious replacement characters! – In the place of Harris, we have Lieutenant Mauser as the antagonistic, arrogant, vain and up-himself policeman who the regulars take against. He has an odious sidekick called Proctor (the dumber of the two).

Homophobic!/Racist! – Proctor mishears ‘new recruits’ as ‘fruits’, so photographs some gay men. When he sees a very dirty Mahoney sitting next to Jones, he jokes that they’re brothers. While being chased by gang members, Sweetchuck runs into the Blue Oyster. (Proctor knows the address of the bar – and gets dubious looks.)

Bare breasts! – There are some topless sunbathers on the beach. Mahoney sticks a long balloon down his trousers when he’s being fitting for a new uniform. “Mahoney, I’m a virgin!” shouts Tackleberry just as the room quietens down. Mauser walks into the precinct lobby while naked, and when he later ends up with hair stuck to his palms, Mahoney makes a wanking gag.

Famous totty! – Colleen Camp (sexy French maid Yvette in Clue, one of the cops in Die Hard With a Vengeance, Reese Witherspoon’s mum in Election) plays Kathleen Kirkland.

Police Academy (1984, Hugh Wilson)


In this first movie, a bunch of misfits sign up for the local police force. Sketch-show-type hilarity ensues with a 15 certificate, mostly entertainingly. Here I begin my attempt to track the series’s running gags and clichés…

Mahoney flirts and pulls pranks! – He crashes a dickhead’s car because he doesn’t like him (“It fits!”); pretends to be an officer and tries to trick cadet Karen into revealing her thighs; enjoys a beer as he peers into the women’s shower room; cons Blanks and Copeland into going to gay bar The Blue Oyster; tricks Barbara into walking in on the commandant’s wife in the shower; and puts shoe polish on Harris’s loud-hailer.

Hightower uses his strength! – He looks at Blanks threateningly after he uses a racist term; pushes a wall over rather than climb over it; pulls a gym rope out of its socket; and tips a car onto its roof in anger.

Tackleberry shoots! – He’s in the first scene, as a nightwatchman in an office building – he bursts into a room shooting wildly, then switches on the light to see it’s his surprise leaving party. Also: he enthusiastically asks the supply officer, “When do we get guns?”; uses a Dirty Harry Magnum on the firing range (“My mom gave it to me…”); gets Barbara to slap him to see if he can take it; revels in the gunfire exercises; shoots a cat out of a tree; and is distraught to have missed the gun fight at the end.

Jonesey’s sound effects! – Beat music when we first meet him; gunfire to scare a roomful of people; footsteps to wind up a policeman; electronic noises after banging his head; a computer game when bored late at night; a fake Tannoy announcement; an electric razor while shaving; horse neighs to annoy Harris; helicopter sounds while climbing some stairs; electronic visor on his helmet; and gunfire to disperse a crowd.

Hooks shouts ‘Dirtbag!’ – She’s meek and nervous when Harris shouts at her, then can’t answer him in class; she’s likewise rubbish in a robbery roleplay – all set up for the end when she screams, “Don’t move, dirtbag!” to a criminal.

Callahan’s chest! – She’s an instructor in this first film, rather than part of the gang. She takes a self-defence class and ends up pinning Barbara to the ground, her crotch in his face. “Who’s next?” she asks. Everyone puts their hand up. She later seduces cadet George Martin.

Harris shouts ‘Proctor!’ – He’s yet to have Proctor as his sidekick. He cleans his baton a lot; says, “Move it, move it, move!” on four separate occasions; is caught peeking into the female showers; and has a motorbike accident that ends up with his head stuck up a horse’s arse.

Lassard is a bit, um, vague! – He needs to be reminded how many weeks the training lasts, then gets it wrong each time he repeats it; feeds his beloved goldfish on his desk but claims they belong to a friend; and later sends the cadets to the wrong (more dangerous) part of a riot.

Homophobic!/Racist! – “When I went through this academy, every cadet was the right weight, the right height, the right colour – and they all had Johnsons!” decries the police chief. Copeland refers to ‘spades’ and later calls Hooks a ‘jigaboo’. Harris calls a horny dog ‘queer’, while Mahoney jokes “Sleeping’s for fags”, and Blanks calls him ‘Mahomo’. Also: the first appearance of The Blue Oyster, a gay bar full of butch, bearded men in leather jackets, caps and dog collars.

Bare breasts! – “So, tell me – you and your wife do it doggy style or what?” Martin asks an embarrassed Fackler. Martin dresses as a woman to sneak into the female dorm. We get a long shot from outside that dorm, showing us various windows: Callaghan working out in her underwear, Martin having a threesome, two roommates (one of whom is naked with her back to us) getting ready for bed, and the showers (lots of boobs here). Women also get topless at the beach party. Blanks and Copeland hire a hooker to embarrass Barbara – so Mahoney convinces her to hide in a lectern; when Lassard stands at it, she sucks him off (he afterwards thinks it was Mahoney). The prostitute is in another lectern at the end – Lassard’s revenge on Mahoney. Theses films weren’t PGs in the early days.

Famous totty! – Cadet Karen Thompson is played by a post-Porkies, pre-Star Trek, pre-Sex and the City Kim Cattrall.

Lincoln (2012)


The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, spends the political capital he’s gained from reelection to push for a constitutional amendment outlawing slavery…

Seen before? No.

Best performance: One my favourite actors – David Strathairn, who’s in two of my five favourite movies (Sneakers and LA Confidential; yes, I know my five favourite films, what of it?!) – plays Secretary of State William H. Seward. Sadly he’s not involved as much as he could be. Daniel Day-Lewis is charismatic as Lincoln, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is effective as his troubled son. However, in this film you rarely forget you’re watching actors giving performances. Most of the cast are incredibly theatrical, putting off-kilter emphases on words and shouting to the stalls.

Best scene/moment/sequence: Lincoln’s calm, thoughtful monologue about the legality of the Emancipation Proclamation, one of his numerous soliloquies.

Review: It’s a very talky film – a contrasting bookend for #SpielbergWatch, seeing how we started with the dialogue-sparse Duel. Most scenes are of men sitting at tables talking in paragraphs, which is not exactly vibrant movie-making. I missed Spielberg’s usual visual panache and inventiveness, which barely register in this. The movie does have an interesting story – but it’s a strangely flat one. We all know the ending, of course, and the fight to win the vote doesn’t seem especially difficult. Also, the film’s not as dynamic as the similar-territory Amistad, which more ably showed different aspects of the issue of slavery. Most strikingly, black characters are virtually absent from Lincoln (presumably a deliberate choice, as this is about Washington politics). On the plus side, we get a strong, very watchable lead performance from Day-Lewis, while the semi-comic subplot concerning three political operatives offering jobs and other incentives to whip votes could make a decent movie in itself. It gets nowhere near enough screen time, though; likewise, Lincoln’s family (including Sally Field as his complex wife, Mary) feel underdeveloped. An interesting movie rather than a wholly entertaining one.

Six aye votes out of 10.

War Horse (2011)


The story of a horse called Joey, who’s owned by a variety of people immediately before and during the Great War…

Seen before? No.

Best performance: Tom Hiddleston shows up about a third of the way in and gives the film a much-needed boost of energy.

Best scene/moment/sequence: The moment when the cavalry mount their horses in a wheat field is a beautiful image. The subsequent charge on the German camp is well staged, and ends with a powerful, high-angle wide shot. There’s later also a really good scene in No Man’s Land – one soldier from each side working together to free Joey from some barbed wire.

Review: War Horse begins like it’s an episode of Lark Rise to Candleford – we’re in rural England with poor-but-happy people who have Mummerset accents, archly villainous landlords and plenty of facial hair. The opening 40 minutes are as twee, simplistic and dull as a Spielberg movie has ever been. Then the First World War breaks out, which frankly comes as something of a relief. The pace picks up a bit, we get a bit more visual flair – but it’s too late. I was bored rigid, I’m sorry to say. The story moves on, new characters get introduced (some interesting, some mind-numbingly naff), but the leaden beginning ruined any chance of me enjoying the rest of the film.

Four Benedict Cumberbatch moustaches out of 10.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)


Ace reporter Tintin buys a model ship at the local market and gets embroiled in an adventure to track down the lost treasure of seventeenth-century pirate Sir Francis Haddock…

Seen before? Yes, at the cinema on 6 November 2011 and on DVD a couple of times since.

Best performance: Andy Serkis plays Captain Haddock and is really brilliant, with lots of energy, charm and subtly. He’s often laugh-out-loud funny and holds the whole movie together – more than Tintin, this is *Haddock’s* story. (Although an animated film, actors performed their roles out through motion-capture technology, so they drove the characters’ movement, posture and expressions.) I spoke to Serkis on the phone once – he rang looking for my then boss, Gary Russell, with whom he was writing a book. I’ve actually met a large number of the key personnel on this movie… I’ve been introduced to co-writer Steven Moffat about three times through mutual friends – he was aloof, cold and totally uninterested in me each time. I once spotted Simon Pegg (one half of Thomson and Thompson) in Selfridges, so went and told him I’m a huge fan – he was friendly and open. The next day it was announced he would be playing Scotty in Star Trek. Last year, I saw co-writer Edgar Wright in HMV on Oxford Street, so said hello and told him I love his movies. (I don’t make a habit of this, by the way. Pegg and Wright are special cases.) He was polite and patient with my fanboyness. And, although I’ve never met him, I once transcribed an interview with producer Peter Jackson for a book on The Lord of the Rings, which basically makes us best friends.

ADDENDUM: I rewatched this film on Wednesday 13 August then wrote this review Thursday lunchtime. Literally a few minutes after finishing it, I popped to the nearest shop… and walked past Mackenzie Crook on Soho’s Broadwick Street. He plays one of the bad guy’s heavies in The Adventures of Tintin! When I saw him he had a baseball cap on, but clocked that I’d noticed him and gave me a ‘Don’t talk to me’ look.

Best scene/moment/sequence: An obvious choice, but I adore the comedic chase sequence in Bagghar, which is presented as a single 142-second shot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWmMo8hO57g

Review: One of the reasons I wanted to do this #SpielbergWatch process was so I’d have an excuse to see this film again. I utterly love everything about it. It might be – no, is – the best-looking animated/CGI movie of all time. The level of detail, of craftsmanship, of beauty in the design is stunning. A complete artificial world is created, and repeated viewings are a treat because you continually spot new things in the background of each shot. But, crucially, there’s real heart behind this movie too. Like in Toy Story, you soon forget about the technology and the computers, and instead get swept up in the story and charmed by the sheer talent behind it. The plot is simple but smart, with clearly defined characters. There’s wit, whimsy, danger, plenty of visual gags and madcap action… I haven’t read the Tintin books in about 25 years but this seems spot-on to me. A glorious, glorious triumph.

Ten Milanese Nightingales out of 10.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)


Indiana Jones goes up against Soviet agent Dr Irina Spalko in a bid to locate a mysterious and powerful crystal skull…

Seen before? Yes.

Best performance: Harrison Ford – as soon as he pulls on the fedora, turns towards camera and grumbles, “Russians,” he’s back as Indy. In an instant, 15 years or so of coasting in rom-coms and average action thrillers is forgotten.

Best scene/moment/sequence: The spooky, unnerving sequence at the Peruvian graveyard.

Review: I’ve never understood the negativity – vitriol, in some cases – aimed at this film. Is it as good as the three Indiana Joneses made in the 1980s? No. But it’s still inventive, playful, witty and exciting in the classic Spielberg style. It is tonally different from the last three, though. Gone are the 1930s, the Nazis, a feel of film noir and Allan Quatermain-style Boys’ Own Adventure stuff. We’re now dealing with the 1950s: Reds-under-the-beds, B-movie horror, Rebel Without a Cause teenagers, nuclear paranoia and rock’n’roll. The film has great incidental music, clever action scenes and – especially once Karen Allen returns as Marion Ravenwood – winning humour. On the downside, Shia LaBeouf is a bit tiresome, it’s difficult to get away from how naff crystal skulls are (there’s an especially funny Peep Show episode that ridicules them), a few good jokes get unnecessary punchlines for the hard-of-understanding, and the second half of the movie is overly CGI-happy. Flawed, yes, but still good, honest entertainment.

Eight lead-lined fridges out of 10.

Munich (2005)


After 11 Israeli athletes are murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Olympics, Mossad agent Avner Kaufman and a team are tasked with finding and assassinating the Palestinians responsible…

Seen before? No.

Best performance: Geoffrey Rush has a small but enjoyable role as the team’s case officer. (Daniel Craig’s in the movie too, playing a South African. His accent takes some getting used to.)

Best scene/moment/sequence: The first ‘hit’ – tense, well staged, detailed, it feels like a sequence from The Godfather or The Untouchables.

Review: Well, it’s a darkly apt time to be watching a film about Israel violently targeting its enemies, isn’t it? It’s a curious mix and can be seen as an historical drama, a revenge movie and/or a spy thriller. It drags slightly in the middle and gets repetitive at times, but is mostly impressive stuff.

Seven Bond villains playing father and son* out of 10.

*Michael Lonsdale (Hugo Drax in Moonraker) and Mathieu Amalric (Dominic Greene in Quantum of Solace – alongside Daniel Craig, of course).

War of the Worlds (2005)


Divorced stevedore Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) and his two kids have to go on the run when huge, three-legged alien machines burst out of the ground and start killing people…

Seen before? Once, on BBC Three a few years ago.

Best performance: Dakota Fanning (playing Ray’s daughter) is astonishingly naturalistic for a 10-year-old. She’s equally terrific in Tony Scott’s Man On Fire.

Best scene/moment/sequence: The first appearance of an alien machine is brilliant – it’s a heady, seamless blend of practical effects, stunts, pyrotechnics and really good CGI. A few minutes later it’s topped by a scene in a speeding car, which is (on the face of it) all one extraordinary long take. Check it out here:


Review: Enjoyable for the most part. There are lots of wonderfully staged scenes and the first 90 minutes of the movie have an energetic momentum – both are necessary as the story is paper-thin. Once Tim Robbins turns up (part plot device, part Basil Exposition), it loses its way somewhat and the climax is a bit flat.

Seven crashed Boeing 747s out of 10.