My Week in Movies, 2016 Week 52

This is the last weekly post of the year, but soon (hopefully) I’ll be posting my grander retrospective on the year as a whole, so I’ll not go into too much detail today about the targets and how well I may not have done with them. Instead, I watched a whole bunch of movies over the holiday period, so let’s talk about them instead!
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My Week in Movies, 2015 Week 51

This past weekend I decided to stop moaning and worrying about how many of my goals I’m going to miss and instead just get on with doing what I can. It’s unlikely – very unlikely – that I’ll complete at least two of them, but let’s try anyway, right?

Here’s what I’ve been watching this week: Continue reading

My Week in Movies, 2015 Week 2

Like most of my fellow movie bloggers and podcasters, these past few weeks have been spent looking back at the past year and working out those films that I’ll hopefully still be remembering this time next year. Well, thankfully that time is now over, and we can get onto the future, or in my case even further into the past. Due to all the time spent looking back and writing my mammoth annual review of the year (links are below) as well as prepping for and editing the Lambcast’s flagship Best of the Year show, I’ve not actually written any reviews this week, but I have seen a few movies: 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 5… Directors For The New Star Wars Films

As I’m sure you’re aware by now, Disney recently bought LucasFilm, and are currently planning on releasing the next trilogy of Star Wars films, starting in 2015 (which is looking like a pretty damn good year for movies so far, what with Avengers 2 and the Justice League movie). Currently nothing has been set in stone other than a frankly ridiculous amount of rumours over cast and crew, so I’m going to throw my hat into the already over-hatted ring as to whom I believe would make a decent director for what proves to be one of the most eagerly, yet cautiously, anticipated films of the next few years. As I like to do sometimes, I’ve made two lists, one of a safe pair of hands to kick off the trilogy, and another list of film-makers who could add an interesting spin on the series that I’d quite like to see.
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Top 5… Movie Monarchs

Last weekend was Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. I’ve mentioned before that I’m no Royalist, but it got me thinking as to the cinematic world’s greatest rulers, so let’s have a look at the top movie monarchs. I’ve broken this down into real and fictional.

The Star Wars Saga

I’ve already discussed my disliking of George Lucas’ recent decision to withdrawn from movie making, and my distaste for those who’ve lobbied against him for years here, so I’ll say no more about that at this time.

I had a problem before even starting to watch these cultural milestones; in what order should they be seen? I’m one of those obscure creatures (also known as ‘young people’) who initially saw the Star Wars films chronologically, from Phantom to Return. My father was never an avid SW fan (to this day he still speaks of the films with a level of disdain and mockery usually reserved for discussing his son), so there were none of the Saturday afternoon viewing marathons subjected upon my friends, and I was left to discover the films by myself, with my first experience being Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson kicking some robot butt, and I’ve seen all the major scenes more time in Lego format via the videogames than on DVD. So, to solve my chronological dilemma, I consulted some of the aforementioned friends, and after being beaten to within an inch of my life with plastic light sabres and busts of Darth Vader, I concluded that release date order was the wisest option (although alphabetically was also suggested, but 4-2-5-1-6-3 is just silly). I should also note that episode 2, Attack of the Clones, did not appear on the list, but is featured here so it doesn’t feel left out, and because there are some (admittedly few) bits I like in it. And yes, this review contains spoilers.

So just what is it that makes Star Wars so iconic? Other than an ever-growing army of fans, the answer lies in the creation of an entirely new universe, where seemingly every minute detail of life has been mapped out. From the robot-hoarding Jawas of Tatooine to repulsive slug-like space mobster Jabba the Hutt, each new and exciting world has its own rules regulations and customs, although most worlds seem to have only one characteristic, be it desert, ice, cloud-city, forest or lava. Throw into this vast cornucopia a story of bounty hunters, intergalactic warfare and a dying breed of oddly magical humans, as well as a buddy comedy about two bickering robots, and you’ve got a license to print money and flog a limitless amount of merchandise to people who really need to get out more (that said, last year my advent calendar may have been from the Lego Star Wars range).

I’m hardly breaking new ground when I say that however big a cult following this saga may have, it also owns a few slaws. The dialogue and mythology are often hokey and cringeworthy (“May the force be with you”) and when not are hardly original (“It’s them, blast them!”) and George Lucas shows a racism and sexism unseen since Disney was room temperature, with one black man in the original trilogy (not counting Vader’s voice), and he is an opportunistic traitor, and no other human races bar whites, and aside from Leia and one other woman in power, all of the female characters are strippers or dancers.

That said, the character designs are phenomenally memorable by being really quite simple – Chewbacca’s walking carpet, clean white stormtroopers and the perfect villain in the glossy helmeted, all black Darth Vader, employing both David Prowse’s imposing figure and James Earl Jones’ mellifluous tones, no other character has so richly deserved their own theme tune.

hough the plot has many aspects to it you never lose track, and any scenes of dialogue and exposition are soon broken up with spaceship battles, light sabre action or new and interesting discoveries in the mythology. A New Hope is easily the most stand-alone film, with no initial setup required (other than rogue paragraphs travelling through space) and a satisfying ending only hinting at a sequel, but the Empire Strikes Back is widely regarded as the superior film, with the inclusion of diminutive Jedi master Yoda and jetpacking bounty hunter Boba Fett, two of the most enduring and iconic characters from the franchise, yet who only have a small fraction of the screen time between them. It also features that great twist ending, now sadly ruined by endless parodies and misquotes. Episode 6, the Return of the Jedi, is the weakest of the three, though there is no shortage of spectacle with the giant Rancor, the Sarlacc Pit and a landspeeder chase through the dense woodland of Endor. It is everything else of Endor that is the problem – the teddy-like Ewoks in particular – that explain the negativity, for if such crude creatures as these cuddly toys can take out the stormtroopers, why has everyone been so worried this whole time? That, and C3PO being heralded as a deity and the Emperor’s flawed plan to kill the rebels – if you’re leaking a plan to send the rebels somewhere deliberately so you can kill them, why not send them to a place where you don’t keep the shield generator for your new planet-destroying Death Star? – deters from the lofty levels of the earlier films.

And so we arrive at the new trilogy. As a child of 12 I must admit I really enjoyed these films, so in some aspect George Lucas succeeded. The Phantom Menace was the most anticipated movie of all time, and there was no possible way it would ever live up to expectations (something I hope is not suffered by the Hobbit, the Dark Knight Rises or the Avengers later this year) so instead Lucas aimed the film not at the hoards of devoted fans he already had, but at newcomers and younglings. The fans would flock in anyway, their money was guaranteed, if not their approval, and which is more important to a movie studio? But, in a vain attempt to pander to the fans, attempts were made to tie the prequels in closely with the originals, and to expand upon the elements most popular in the older films.

And so it is that we see Jake Lloyd’s infant Vader Anakin building C3PO and playing with a child alarmingly similar to Greedo, we discover the stormtroopers are all clones of Boba Ferr’s father Jango, Jabba starts the podrace and Chewbacca pops up with Yoda in Revenge of the Sith. It’s a wonder we aren’t shown Han and Chewie thrown into detention together at school.

Across the trilogy there are some astounding set pieces – the adrenaline fuelled, Greg Proops’ commentated pod race, Attack of the Clones’ gladiatorial battle and Obi-Wan’s light sabre battle with four-sabred robot General Grievous being particular highlights, but too much emphasis is placed on the politics of the Trade Federation and the soppy romance of Anakin and Padme that has no place in a Star Wars film. That, and too many mysteries are uncovered – no-one cared that the force comes from midichlorians in the blood stream and Vader’s rise and conversion to the dark side was more effective before every detail was explained and we weren’t shown him as an annoyingly precocious brat or lovesick teenager.

Some performances are terrible – both Lloyd and his grown up counterpart Hayden Christensen are wooden and aggravating, especially when placed alongside Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson, and even Natalie Portman gives an uncharacteristically poor performance. The final film, Revenge of the Sith, is also disappointingly, but inevitably, bleak, lumbered with having to set up the gloom and oppression at the start of A New Hope. This sense of inevitability ruins the final battles between Obi-Wan and Anakin and Yoda and the Emperor, for we know everyone involved will survive, as they all appear in the original trilogy.

But however poor it seems in comparison, the new trilogy still contains films far superior, and more entertaining, than a lot else out there, and therefore should still be viewed, if a little less frequently.

This post could have gone on a lot longer – I haven’t even mentioned Jar Jar, Han shooting first, Luke Skywalker, Peter Cushing’s most evil face in the world™ or the glorious key to the series, R2D2, but I’m guessing no-one is actually still reading this, and I’ve still got over 30 posts to write, so I think I’ll call it a day.

A New Hope: Choose film 8/10
The Empire Strikes Back: Choose film 9/10
Return of the Jedi: Choose film 7/10
The Phantom Menace: Choose film 6/10
Attack of the Clones: Choose film 5/10
Revenge of the Sith: Choose film 6/10

The Phantom Menaced

So George Lucas is apparently retiring from making movies, citing the reason that whenever he makes a film (or tinkers with an existing one) the Internet explodes with criticism, snide remarks and unremitting hatred, for a filmmaker previously revered for making some of the most popular films ever made. To quote the bearded one in a recent interview with the New York Times, “Why would I make any more, when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”

Yes, he sounds like a whiny schoolchild, but he makes a fair point, and although I don’t blame him, I must admit I’m disappointed. The Star Wars films are excellent, and you can expect to read my List post upon them soon (we had a lovely little Star Wars marathon weekend last month), and I even enjoyed the prequels. If it wasn’t for them, I’d have gotten into Star Wars much later (remarkably, I saw the films in episode order rather than release date), and found the most recent Indiana Jones film enjoyable and a very entertaining film, just not as good as the rest in the series. FYI, it was still voted onto the list, so I’m not alone in this reasoning.

If you don’t like a film, by all means don’t recommend it to your friends, and even write a negative review about it if you like, but no-one is forcing you to see it, and what right do you have to contact the guy who made it and piss on his cornflakes? If you don’t like his films, don’t see them. If you don’t approve of his modifying the films he’s already made or converting them to 3D, don’t buy them. If they’re really that bad, enough people will do the same, they’ll make no money and he won’t make any more, but don’t ruin the enjoyment of anyone who does like his films by encouraging him to not make anymore. Lucas continuing to make films does nothing to you whatsoever.