My Week in Movies, 2017 Weeks 33-52

Oh jeez. It’s been… holy hell it’s been months. I’m sorry. Really I am. Things just got away from me and kept on going. That’s the past now though, let’s celebrate the here and now. If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to for the past half a year, well:

I designed, made, wrote instructions for and recorded a video of an origami Blade Runner unicorn for Total Film magazine, which can be seen here. I used to read Total Film a bunch growing up, so this was kind of a bucket list item, even if it wasn’t really in a movie capacity.
Built a Lego Millenium Falcon (the one from The Force Awakens, not the new giant one) and a Lego First Order Heavy Assault Walker.
Started watching E.R., and finished series 1 & 2
Met up with fellow LAMB friends from America and the UK – some for the first time – and found many snarky things to bond over
Archived a bunch of Lambcast shows, though still not up to date
Made 1,000 origami cranes
Spent a solid 10 hours making fudge
Spent a solid 6 hours making brownies
Watched a bunch of Harrison Ford movies
Planned an extended James Bond marathon
Failed to accomplish said James Bond marathon, instead just watched two movies over a period of a month
A new 1001 book came out and I’ve barely even looked at the new additions.
Became an uncle
Saw Jurassic Park on the big screen for the first time, at my first outdoor screening, and still found new details even after all these years.
Attended my first funeral (my partner’s grandfather passed away) and gave a reading at it, despite probably being the person there who knew him the least.
Attempted to write this post at least 26 times.
Visited Canada, specifically Victoria, Tofino and Vancouver, where we saw bears, whales, otters and raccoons, and I tried a bunch of new food including poutine (I know it’s just chips, cheese and gravy, but I really thought it’d be more than the sum of its parts), fish tacos and artichokes.
And oh yeah, I went and got married, no big deal. That’s what the cranes, fudge and brownies were for.

Anyway, in all that time I have also watched a bunch of movies, so let’s get down to business. Here’s everything I saw since the last one of these posts:
Continue reading

Advertisements

Top 10… Movie Monsters

OK, so this week the scope is a little, um, monstrous? Sorry. I mean it’s quite wide. The term ‘monster’ could be applied to a lot of things (like some recent Top 10s, for instance), but I’m thinking more along the lines of actual creatures, so no real-world animals (be they normal or giant versions, so no King Kong), no humans, and also no other generic monsters that have been used enough to become worthy of their own list. This means no zombies, witches, vampires, werewolves, aliens, dinosaurs, dragons, ghosts or robots. Also nothing that was a person, but has become something else, like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. This puts Frankenstein’s monster in a difficult category, as technically it used to be several different people, so I left that one off. Sorry guys, but your times will all come. Next October, maybe. monsters_vs_aliens29Also, I’m limiting this to just one ‘monster’ per film (or franchise), just to prevent this being a Top 10 Monsters Inc. characters list. Oh, and cards-on-the-table time – despite having a deep appreciation for both creature features and stop-motion animation, I’ve never seen a Ray Harryhausen film. I’m fully aware that this is horrific (I’ve even got a book written by the guy about the history of animation) but as far as I know they aren’t shown quite as often in the UK as they are in the rest of the world. Yes, I’m ashamed. No, I don’t plan to do anything about it soon, but yes I’d like to. Some day.7th-voyage-of-sinbad-harryhausen2Another big omission may be Godzilla, but as I’ve only seen the Roland Emmerich version (which I admit is a guilty pleasure) then it really didn’t deserve a place here. The same can therefore be said of all the monsters Godzilla fights amongst his extensive catalogue, as I’ve not seen any of them either. Sorry, Mothra. So, creatures, critters, freaky beings from other dimensions. Let’s see what we’ve got.
godzilla-1998

Continue reading

Top 10… Films Of 2012

As promised, the Top lists have returned, with a vengeance! For you see, what once was five has now become ten, because y’know, when something was already a struggle to do on a weekly basis, why not double the workload? Anyway, this list is a fairly standard one for this time of year, looking back at the best films of 2012. I went to the cinema a total of 14 times last year, and for the most part I only saw films that I actually wanted to see, hence why I was able to make this list, as most of what I saw I genuinely loved. The three films that didn’t quite make it this year were, in ascending order, The Woman in Black (partly because of my terrible film experience, partly because it was quite a boring film that I didn’t want to see anyway, thanks Craig), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (wonderful viewing experience, good film that genuinely made me happy) and Prometheus (massive disappointment, but probably better than I originally gave it credit for, if you remove my impossible expectations).

Honourable Mention
The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists
Aardman! In an animation with monkeys! Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run and everything else this Bristol-based animation studio have provided (except maybe Flushed Away) are British treasures, and the closest this country is ever likely to come to Pixar. This story, based on an acclaimed series of children’s books, sees Hugh Grant’s Pirate Captain attempt to win both the Pirate of the Year competition and a big pile of cash from some easily-impressed scientists. It’s hilarious, beautifully crafted and packed with a wonderful cast, including David Tennant as Charles Darwin, Imelda Staunton as Queen Victoria and Martin Freeman as Pirate with a Scarf, and I’ve just realised that I don’t own it yet and I’ve forbidden myself from buying DVDs this year, so I can’t watch it again for a while. Bugger.

10. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan’s trilogy closer disappointed many people, myself included, but it is still one of the best films this year in terms of spectacle, storytelling and general epic-ness. I think it may be better than I originally gave it credit for, and I desperately need to watch it again, at which point it may find itself rising through the ranks of this list. The film ended Batman’s arc nicely, with the inclusion of some interesting characters, and a truly effective villain in Tom Hardy’s Bane. I seem to be the only person who had issues with Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, but thankfully we have Joseph Gordon Levitt, Matthew Modine and Marion Cotillard to more than make up for that. And Michael Caine was phenomenal, and I’ll be even more disappointed if he doesn’t receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as Alfred.

9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
 Sneaking its way onto this list after I saw it on New Year’s Eve, The Hobbit was just as entertaining as I’d hoped. There were a few niggles (The Goblin King, old-Bilbo’s introduction) but not enough to spoil what was otherwise a tremendous, and tremendously long, cinema experience. I didn’t see it in 3D or 48fps, because two dimensions and 24 frames per second worked pretty well for The Lord Of The Rings, so I felt it wasn’t really necessary here. Martin Freeman is possibly the most perfect casting in all of history as the younger Bilbo, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (pronounced Smow-erg, not Smorg as I’d always believed) has just jacked up by most anticipated list of 2013 (see next Friday).

8. Brave
Now this is a surprise to me too. When I first saw Brave, I was fairly non-plussed, seeing it as better than the lesser-Pixars (Cars and, presumably, Cars 2), but not as good as anything else they’ve produced. The lack of a truly compelling story, combined with far less going on in the backgrounds of scenes than I’d previously come to expect from a Pixar film made this almost boring to watch. But, after having watched it again recently (also on New Year’s Eve, immediately after The Hobbit) I found it to be nothing short of delightful, full of colourful characters, a wide variety of comedic goings on (a bear falling down stairs, what more could you possibly want than a bear falling down stairs?) and the typically magical effects from the animation wonderhouse. And whilst Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald) will never be my favourite Pixar character (because y’know, she’s a girl), her dad (Billy Connolly) is very entertaining.

7. Skyfall
Last year James Bond came back, back, back with the help of Same Mendes, and together they made one of the greatest James Bond films in history, at least in the Top 5. Skyfall had everything a good Bond film needs – beautiful but disposable women, a nerdy Q (Ben Whishaw, brilliant), a cool car (and me noticing a car is something to take note of), some top quality British actors getting to have a bit of fun (Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Albert Finney), incredible stunts and, of course, a dastardly villain, here in the shape of Javier Badrem’s Silva. Its almost flawless, except no-one really wants to see James Bond become a wreck and suck at being an agent, even if its just for a little while. This is easily forgotten by just remembering the bit where he checks his cuffs after jumping into a destroyed train carriage. Easily my favourite moment in cinema this year, with Avengers’ “Puny God” line being a close second.

6. Argo
Ben Affleck continued his quality-ascending solid thrillers with this impossibly tense extraction film, as his CIA agent formulates and performs and elaborate scheme to rescue six American citizens from 1980s Iran. The mix of edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting tension and biting, self deprecating satire of the Hollywood industry courtesy of Alan Arkin and John Goodman worked unbelievably well, and it was a long time after I’d seen the film that my heart stopped racing at an incredible pace, so fraught is the film. A cracking supporting cast featuring every jobbing character actor available (Bryan Cranston! yay!), an effective and realistic recreation of the era and a well balanced script outshines the overly Hollywood-ised ending to finish off Affleck’s best work to date, both in front of and behind the camera. Roll on whatever he decides to do next.

5. Looper
It’s officially the film I’ve seen the most times at the cinema, with a current total of 1.5 viewings after I fainted during the first attempt. The fact that I not only paid for myself but also a friend to go and see it again (in premier seats no less, and a different companion to the first co-watcher) must mean that the story was beyond captivating. The casting of Bruce Willis and Joseph ‘Joggle’ Gordon Levitt as the older and younger versions of the same guy who, for reasons that become clear, aren’t necessarily all that fond of each other and are definitely out for different goals, is just beautifully done, and I never had any problem with Joggle’s facial prosthetics. There are so many things I want to say about this film, but pretty much all of them are spoilers, so if you still haven’t seen it I can only imagine it’s because you haven’t seen either of director Rian Johnson’s other films, in which case go and watch this, Brick and The Brothers Bloom immediately, for this is a guy who does nothing but make good films. Imagine if he directed the new Star Wars films! They’d be so awesome. Joggle as Han and Leia’s son anyone? Oh, and one final shout out to Pierce Gagnon, the kid in this film, who is pretty goddamn great for a young’un. And Jeff Daniels, for being Jeff Daniels.

4. Seven Psychopaths
Christopher Walken! Woody Harrelson! Tom Waits! His rabbit! Sam Rockwell! Harry Dead Stanton! Kevin Corrigan! Colin Farrell! Crispin Glover! Michael Stuhlbarg! Michael Pitt! Everyone else in this goddamn cast! by Martin McDunnough! Yep, you know me, I’m a sucker for a character actor, so when you give me a cast full of them, I’ll go see your film (goddamn I can’t wait for Lincoln to get over here). Seriously, if at some point in The Sound Of Music Christopher Walken rose from the grave, Nosferatu-style, with a pistol in each hand and started unloading on a gang of hoodlums, I’d happily sit through three hours of saccharine nonsense just for that moment. Especially if he ended up gunning down the Von Trapps. Starting with the little girl. Anyway, it wasn’t just the cast that made me love this film, but all the self-referential twists and turns, the stories within stories, the complete disregard for even caring whether the female characters were well written or not, just everything. 

3. The Muppets
Now I know what you’re thinking, why is The Muppets, a film from 2011, on a best of 2012 list? Hell, it even won an Oscar in 2012. Well, that’s because I live in a world where I can receive a t-shirt I’ve ordered from America in a matter of days, but where it takes 3 months for a film to arrive in my local cinemas. You see, The Muppets wasn’t released here until February 10th 2012, so as far as I’m concerned it came out last year, and thus is more than deserving of a place on this list. The Muppets saw human the human Gary (Jason Segel) and his bizarelly felt-clad brother Walter attempt to track down the disbanded Muppets, with the hope that they’ll perform a show to raise money in order to save their theatre from evil rapping oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). Packed to bursting with cameos (of which my favourite is probably still The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Sheridan), wonderful songs penned by Flight of the Conchords‘ Bret McKenzie and more puppet-based hilarity than is probably good for your health, this even surpasses the original The Muppet Movie in terms of sheer enjoyment value.

2. The Avengers

Firstly, I refuse to call this film by it’s British name, Avengers Assemble, because that sounds really quite dull. There is little to no chance of anyone going to see this film and be disappointed when Ralph Fiennes doesn’t show up wearing a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella, so the marketing department can just accept that they were wrong on that front. Who knows, if they’d given it the proper name, this may well have been my top film of 2012. I guess we’ll never know. Either way, before it was released there was much speculation that this could be a monumental flop, all of which disappeared when the film was released and pretty much everyone though it was flipping amazing. And I’m inclined to agree. Be it Mark Ruffalo’s best-Hulk-yet (though that’s not necessarily saying much), the return of Tom Hiddleston as a villain worthy enough of requiring six superheroes (OK, four superheroes and two skilled agents) to bring him down, the deft blend of awe-inspiring action with laugh-out-loud humour or the many lingering shots of Scarlett Johansson’s backside, there was an awful lot to like about this film. Oh, and it was directed by Joss Whedon, who can really do no wrong in my eyes. Which brings me neatly along to…

I went into The Cabin In The Woods already knowing a little bit about the plot, which I won’t ruin just in case. If you have so far avoided hearing anything about it, I encourage you to continue to do so until the copy that I presume you are about to order arrives in the post, at which point you can sit down, watch it, watch it again, then come back and tell me which bits you loved so much. My Christmas was almost ruined when I failed to find this under neath the tree, but rest assured my shiny new Blu-Ray arrived yesterday, and I cannot wait to watch it soon (hopefully this weekend). This is a horror film for people who don’t normally watch horrors, a comedy for those that do, and just basically a great movie for people that like such things. Joss Whedon, hallowed be thy name, has crafted an intelligent, hilarious and brain-melding script whose concept is what I truly love. Even if, as with The Avengers, the trailers may have left me waiting for certain moments to happen, this is still the most enjoyable film I watched in the cinema last year.

Unlisted: The Cabin in the Woods

Five college kids head for a vacation in a deserted shack (or cabin) in a remote forest (or woods), with no-one around for miles and a very creepy basement. So far, so Evil Dead. Or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Or… well, you get the point, but the fact this is written and produced by Joss Whedon, and co-written and directed by Drew Goddard, one of the men behind Lost, should tell you that this is no ordinary textbook horror.
The recent years have seen the horror genre be evaluated, analysed and turned on its head, with the likes of Wes Craven’s Scream franchise and Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, and also imbued with a greater sense of comedy, for example Shaun of the Dead and Severance, to name two prime British examples. Cabin in the Woods takes these films and goes much further, leaving you rethinking every slasher movie you’ve ever seen.
I’m going to do my best to not reveal spoilers here, but if you’re trying to avoid them then chances are you probably aren’t reading this. The trailers have been criticised for perhaps showing more plot than is strictly necessary, revealing that there is more to this cabin than meets the eye, but I personally feel this is essential for the trailer (though it could have been hinted at more subtly) else the only trade the film would have made would be from the slasher fans willing to pay to see them at the cinema, of which I most certainly am not. My only trailer annoyance was the use of a scene or two from the third act that, though I’d only seen the trailers once, still stuck with me and left me waiting for them, over-thinking the plot as I went.
The performances are all wonderful, particularly practically unknown Tim De Zarn as the token redneck doomsayer the kids encounter on their way, and there’s some casting coups for fellow Whedon-ites in Dollhouse’s Amy Acker and Fran Kranz (whose Topher Brink is, occasional Firefly cameo aside, the best thing about Dollhouse) as well as Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins.
I have very few faults with the movie. One came because I’m a film nerd, and caught the signposted closing cameo from a recognisable voice, and the third act feels a little off the rails at times, but in an exhilarating, thoroughly entertaining way, although I did question why exactly that big red button was there. I look forward to pouring through the features when it’s released on DVD, and it’s the first film in a while that I’m actually considering going to the cinema and watching again. Go see this film, it’s truly wonderful, especially if you’ve ever seen a film with a cabin and some woods, and chances are you have.
Choose film 9/10