My Week in Movies, 2015 Week 3

This was what could be described as the year’s first “normal week,” in that it was a full week at work, with the occasional busy evening here and there. We’re in a perpetual state of doing up the house, which always eats away at time, but fortunately it means I can’t afford to go out anywhere, which leaves lots of time to stay in and watch movies. Continue reading

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Top 10… Snakes

Last week was spiders, this week we celebrate that other great scary creature – snakes! I know I got some negative feedback from scaring people with the spider pictures – sorry Dylan, you big pansy – and that’s unlikely to change this week, especially because my girlfriend is frankly terrified of snakes, so sorry about that honey, but it is October, after all.promo189333424I’ve got no problem with snakes, but then again I’ve never actually encountered one that isn’t trapped in a perspex box, apart from the one an obnoxious twat was parading round a shopping centre near me recently, deliberately trying to scare people and using the snake as a clear replacement for the lack of any other reason people would have to notice or talk to him. But it would seem they show up an awful lot in films. This is probably because, similarly to spiders, they have completely the wrong number of legs for any normal animal, yet still manage to function effectively. How much fear do you think you’d strike into the heart of small children without any limbs? Not a great deal, probably, but that’s because you’d probably have an awful lot of trouble moving around unaided, whereas snakes get along just fine. It’s impressive, really.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????So, the obvious answer everyone’s shouting is Snakes On A Plane, to which I say yes, it’s a great film, but no, it’s not on the list, because of the same reason I ignored Eight Legged Freaks and Arachnophobia last week – it’s just lousy with snakes. There’s too many for any to stand out, so they all suffer because of it. And as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t quite bring myself to include Monty Python, nor did I allow  Lt. ‘Cobra’ Cobretti on, mainly because I haven’t seen Cobra. And I was tempted to include Mark Wahlberg’s appendage in Boogie Nights, but decided against it at the last minute. There is one questionable not-really-a-snake inclusion, but there’s no way he could be omitted. Anyway, enough preamble, here’s the list: Continue reading

Top 10… Movie Spiders

So apparently all I’ve got time to write at the moment is my weekly top 10 lists. Sorry about that, I’ll get back onto the reviews in good time. I’m especially annoyed because this year I was planning on celebrating Hitchcoctober, which of course would have been dedicated to reviewing as many Hitchcock films as possible, but as I still haven’t moved yet and my girlfriend probably doesn’t want to be subjected to lots of old and/or scary films, that will have to wait until next year, I suppose. But I’ll be doing at least something a little topical with a few horror-themed Top 10s.
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First up, spiders. Now, I’m not scared of spiders, I just fucking hate the little shits. The way they skitter about, can seemingly climb anything (other than bathtubs, suckers) and just have far too many legs than any living creature should. So many joints! If I could select one species to be wiped clean from the Earth, I’d pick spiders in a heartbeat. Actually, I’d pick daddy-longlegs (otherwise known as crane flies) because they’re just as horrifyingly hateful as spiders, except they can fly, and have seemingly no real purpose or knowledge of their surroundings. They just float around, this way and that, not giving two shits about where you are and how many rolled up socks you’re throwing at them. Fuck crane flies. Sorry, I got a little side-tracked there.
Eight-Legged-Freaks-1-9VAP4UZ5G0-1024x768Spiders are evil, hateful demons from the dusty, unswept corners of Hell, who purposefully leave cobwebs across doors or alleyways, just for me to walk through and become semi-cocooned in. And I’m not the kind of guy to trap it under a glass and release it back into the wild. No, those spiders came into the house for a reason; they like it in here. And if you let them outside, they’re just gonna come straight back in again. Therefore, the only resort is arachnicide, preferably via flip-flop. There’s no need to be unnecessarily cruel here – I’m not the kid from Chronicle – I get it over with quickly, and hope that all the other spiders get the message. I think I’ve rambled on long enough now. Proof of just how horrible spiders are can be clearly seen in how often they appear in films as monsters. As such, here’s my top 10 movie spiders. Oh, and I’ve immediately disqualified Eight Legged Freaks and Arachnophobia, because there’s nothing but spiders in those films, and I can barely remember them.Chronicle-1 Continue reading

Top 10… Most Annoying Film Characters

I’ve been having a hell of a week. If you ever start thinking about moving house, just don’t, it isn’t worth the hassle. I won’t get into the sources of my strife, but let’s just say I’ve been party to some intensely aggravating people these past few days, and so I’m attempting to alleviate my frustrations by thinking about the even more annoying people that are out there that I could have come across instead (or may yet do).tumblr_lcg89rivMX1qd7rsjSometimes characters are supposed to be annoying – you’re supposed to hate them for getting the hero’s girl, or to justify why the lead girl just punched the guy in the throat – but other times some characters are just completely misjudged in terms of how they’ll stack up against Wolverine scratching a chalkboard. Oh, and whilst making this list I found a lot of times I was just writing “The kid from such-and-such”, and “The kids from so-and-so”, so my list of annoying children in film is an entirely different one, that may well come up again sometime soon. To be honest, that one could be a top 100 list, probably. I’ve also tried to limit the entries to one-per-actor, as sometimes I find characters annoying purely because of who is playing them. And I’ve shied away from characters who are irritating because they’re such antagonistic dick heads.
idharveyHonourable mentions:
So it turns out I’m fairly easy to annoy, and therefore I’ve got a hefty list of Honourable Mentions. Firstly, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) is horrendously annoying in the first few Harry Potter films, before he worked out his face could pull expressions that weren’t ‘petrified grimace’. Marty Gilbert (Harvey Fierstein), Jeff Goldblum’s boss in Independence Day, is also very annoying, but this is mainly due to his unbearable grating voice, but fortunately he dies fairly early on, so there’s not too much of him to endure. Then there’s Hart Bochner’s Ellis from Die Hard, who I never want to stop punching, and Clifton James’ Sheriff Pepper from Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, somehow managing to be even more infuriating than Roger Moore’s Bond. Beth Grant’s character in Speed, Helen, the crazy woman who tries to jump off the bus, is also infuriating, but I’m going to give the award to Leah (Olivia Thirlby) from Juno, just for using such phrases as “Honest to blog.” They made me want to seriously harm that creature.juno Continue reading

Top 10… Movie Franchises

I’ve recently gone on record about two movie franchises, Star Trek and The Fast & The Furious, one of which I greatly preferred to the other. This got me thinking, and was the inspiration for this week’s list, my Top 10 Movie Franchises. Now, as always I’ve set myself some limitations. Firstly, I must have seen every film within the franchise. This immediately rules out the likes of Die Hard (haven’t seen number 5), Alien/Predator (haven’t seen Predator 2, can’t remember Alien 3 or Resurrection), Bourne (Legacy), Hannibal (Rising) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake and New Nightmare). I also didn’t include the looser franchises that simply take place in the same universe, for example the Avengers film, Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse, George Romero’s Blank of the Dead series or the Muppets films. I also took into account every film within each franchise, so just because a film happened to feature some true classics, if there were some stinkers in there too then that didn’t help its case for inclusion. The franchise also had to have a minimum of four films, as I’ve made a list of my top trilogies before. So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 movie franchises:

Honourable Mentions
Final-Destination-5There’s a lot of franchises out there! Seriously, there’s tons, more than I’d heard of, and I was shocked to discover some of the more longer-lasting movie sagas. Did you know there’s 30 Django films? I knew there were a lot of Carry Ons, but I didn’t think it was as many as 31, which is also the same number of Barbie films in existence (I’m guessing this doesn’t include Hotel Terminus). I’m most blown away, however, by the fact that there’s a Chinese series known as Wong Fei Hung, which includes a staggering 89 movies. 89! That, my friends, is insane. Anyway, I’ve barely seen any of these films (Django Unchained, Carry On Doctor) so obviously these can’t be in my Top 10.
No, this week’s two honourable mentions are the Final Destination franchise, and Police Academy. They beat out stiff competition from the likes of Shrek, Home Alone, Pirates of the Caribbean, Saw and the National Lampoon’s Vacation series, but if I had to pick my favourites then these two are them. Final Destination is one of the few horror series I pay much attention too – I’ve only seen the original Halloween, and have yet to see any Friday the 13th films – and I think this is due to the initially original concept of people cheating death, and being hunted down one by one to fix reality. It’s such a brilliant idea, and it means there’s no iconic killer who’ll end up as a parody of himself by the fifth film. Part four is easily the worst in the series – the premonitions don’t make sense and there’s some truly terrible CGI – but all the rest are at least decent, with number 2 being my personal favourite. I had a screenshot from the death of Rory as my background for a little while after seeing that film.
Police-Academy-police-academy-27137923-1920-1080Police Academy is an entirely different yet still occasionally just as ridiculous franchise, following the antics of a police training school that’s just dropped any requirements for entrants, meaning anyone of any gender, race, weight and ability can sign up and be trained. Yes, the sequels got a bit terrible after Steve Guttenberg dropped out, and the less said about Mission to Moscow the better, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had with the earlier films, the first one is a true 80s classic.
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Top 10 Films Adapted From Books (That I’ve Read)

This week I saw The Great Gatsby, something I’ve deeply regretted ever since. You can expect a less-than-complimentary review in the bear future, brace yourselves. I was thoroughly disappointed with the film, mostly because I’d read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel last year in preparation for the film, and really rather enjoyed it. This got me thinking about the best films adapted from books. However, the potential candidates for such a list would include roughly half of all films ever made, if not more, so I slimmed it down somewhat in the only manner I knew how, by making it about myself. Therefore, this is a list of my favourite films adapted from books that I’ve actually read, a list of books nowhere near long enough in my opinion, but with so many films to watch how can I hope to find the time to read more?

Anyway, the list is comprised of books I read before the films came out, some I was drawn to by the film, and others I read upon finding out the film was to be released, as was the case with Gatsby.

Honourable MentionJurassicParkAs much as I’d love Jurassic Park to be on this list, at present I’m only halfway through Michael Crichton’s so far excellent novel, so alas the best I can do is say the first half of Jurassic Park is my Honourable Mention. In terms of complete books, there are some adaptations that have done a stellar job in maintaining the themes and style of their source material – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is impenetrable and muddy, The Time Traveller’s Wife is bland and queasy, Touching The Void is gripping yet informative – whereas others have differed greatly from where they began – There Will Be Blood covers only a fraction of Upton Sinclair’s Oil!. I think I’ll settle upon Fight Club as my official honourable mention, and it remains the book I’ve read the fastest – in one sitting at that – and quite possibly in the same amount of time as it would have taken to watch the film. It is a rather slim book, you see, but well worth a read if you’re even a passing appreciator of the film.
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2

I’m a strange breed of muggle. I’ve seen all the Harry Potter films, most in the cinema. I’ve read all the books. Hell, I own them. Double hell, I was first in line queueing up outside Morrison’s on the morning book 7 was released. But I wouldn’t call myself a Harry Potter fan. So why have I kept with it? I read the first book in school, and found the wizarding world to be quite wonderful, a dream of a place to escape to. Granted, by the time the much darker later books came along I became much happier that this world of dictatorial terrorists with almighty magical powers didn’t actually exist (or so I’m led to believe) but back then it was nothing short of fun, and the fact that I was of a similar age to the protagonist when the books were released made it all the more so.
The books were perfect for film adaptations, and the stylistic choices throughout the series have been close to faultless. Most of the negative aspects, other than the questionable acting abilities of the children early on in the franchise, can be blamed on the books being too labyrinthine to be condensed down into a 150-minute movie, and there are arguments to make as to whether each book would have been better off as a TV series, but it’s doubtful they’d have received such a hefty budget or impressive cast, or made nearly as much money.
Of the films, part 3, Prisoner of Azkaban, is widely regarded as the best, with director Alfonso Cuaron unleashing the franchise’s dark potential, redirecting away from Chris Columbus’ more child-friendly first parts, but personally I prefer part 4, Goblet of Fire, because it’s easily the most fun and structured, following the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and it has dragons in it, which are awesome. Parts 5 and 6 are, in my opinion, the weakest, with my reasoning being that I can barely remember anything that happens in them other than some character deaths and casting decisions, but the final films really kick things into gear.
Many have questioned the decision to split the final book into two halves, citing financial gain as being the true reason, but having seen the results I approve of the choice. Whilst the earlier books could stand to lose some of the lesser plot points without the plot suffering, the amount of closure given in the finale could not have been achieved with a similar level of editing. Whilst the total runtime for the final two films could have been a little shorter than the 4½ hours achieved here, getting it down to a length the core Potter audience would be willing to sit through without complaining would have resulted in almost catastrophic levels of cutting.
The most impressive aspect of the film franchise has always been the cast. Whilst the three leads, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, were never expected to be incredible actors (and, for the most part, lived up to this promise) the film studios ensured this wouldn’t be a problem by surrounding their stars with almost every British actor working today, with more added every film. To list them all would be senseless, but the fact that, Richard Harris’ untimely demise notwithstanding, every actor returned to their roles for every subsequent film shows that the films must have been great to work on too.The Deathly Hallows alone saw the inclusion of Bill Nighy, David O’Hara, Rhys Ifans, Ciarin Hinds and Nick Moran into a cast already including the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs and Maggie Smith, and the fact that so many notable actors returned for such minuscule roles is incredible. Jim Broadbent, John Hurt and Emma Thompson are barely on screen, but the fact is they are.
Part 7 is the only one of all eight films not to feature Hogwarts, the wizarding school where our young heroes are taught, and therefore doesn’t feel like part of the Potter pantheon. Freed from the structure of lessons, Quidditch matches and Harry being picked on by Slytherin, the film feels a little meandering, as Harry, Ron and Hermione scour the country looking for a series of magical Maguffins, horcruxes, that for one reason or another must be destroyed to help bring down the evil Lord Voldemort. The film opens strongly, with Harry’s escape from his home assisted by his wizarding friends transformed to be replicas of him, but it’s not until a later infiltration of the Ministry of Magic that any more excitement is had. There’s an awful lot of tension and relationship issues, exacerbated by a locket that builds negative feelings in whoever wears it (so… put it in a bag rather than wear it?) and a particularly cringeworthy scene wear Harry attempts to alleviate some tension by dancing with Hermione in a tent, but it feels empty without the action-balance provided by the second film. The brief animation, depicting the origins of the Deathly Hallows that grant the owner power over death, is easily the highlight of the series in total.
If watched as one long film, the two halves join together to form a perfectly balanced picture, with the final hour-long battle a rewarding epic culmination after a mammoth build-up, so if watching make sure to set aside the best part of an afternoon, however just watching part 8 alone is also acceptable. The infiltration of Bellatrix Lestrange’s Gringott’s vault, with Helena Bonham Carter gleefully impersonating Emma Watson, is tremendous fun (there’s another dragon!) and now they’ve got all the teenage angst and worrying out of the way it’s time for good and evil to get scrapping. The finale is equal parts devastating and spellbinding, as the regular cast is treated with a sporadic survival rate, literally anyone is up for the chop, up to and including Hogwarts itself, as various sets we’ve grown to feel at home in are burned to the ground. Some aspects of the battle feel crowbarred in – Mrs. Weasley’s showdown against Lestrange, Ron and Hermione’s inevitable kiss – but for the most part it’s a cinematic marvel that doesn’t disappoint.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Choose life: 6/10
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 : Choose film 7/10
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2: Choose film 8/10