But why is the fun gone?

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , |

This return from a long absence is brought to you by the end of first year medical exams. Free time rules.

While my exam induced hermitdom has prevented me from seeing any of this month’s new releases thus far, I have had the chance to catch some reviews, and the one that is bringing me the most pain and anguish is the absolute trashing of Pirates 4 all over the internet.

I get it. You’re all upset because it didn’t live up to the original. But seriously, did anyone think it was going to?  Pirates is suffering from the same problem that nearly killed Star Wars, The Matrix and countless others: it did too well. Of course when a movie makes several billion dollars worldwide the execs are going to want to make more of them. Lots more. Even when they run out of plot and have got rid of most of the main characters. They’ll bring them back from the dead if they have to. You can never expect the later films to live up to the glorious original because it is exactly that originality that has been lost.

The reason that everyone fell out of their sticky cinema seats when Black Pearl first hit our screens was because nobody was expecting it to work. It was a pirate film, the first to be made in decades. It was based on a theme park ride. People died and there was an army of the undead, but it was aimed at kids. And it starred Johnny Depp, who until that point was definitely not someone you associated with Disney or any kind of children’s film. It shouldn’t have worked, and yet it was a complete knock out.

How do you recreate that magic? Simple. You can’t. It’s like when you have those amazingly spontaneous nights out with friends, and end up having a much better time than you could have imagined. When you try to do the same thing again  it just isn’t the same.

And yet the films keep coming. And people jump up and down and wring their hands about how it’s all gone wrong. Mark Kermode got particularly animated on 5 Live, but as far as I’m concerned he completely missed the point because he was too busy congratulating himself for being right. For starters, the point of Jack Sparrow has never been that he’s a rubbish pirate, it’s that everyone thinks he’s rubbish, and he acts like he would be, but in fact he’s a genius. Anyone who doesn’t get that is not allowed to talk about Pirates as far as I’m concerned. (5.35 in the video if you want to hear him harping on. Idiot.)

So, Kermode and Co.: Calm Down. You’re going to give yourself a hernia. Pirates of the Caribbean is not trying to win Oscars. It’s not trying to break new ground in cinema. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be for kids (not self-righteous middle-aged radio critics who love the sound of their own voice). Yes, the first one was brilliant, and the ones that have followed are nowhere near as good. But who cares? Stop comparing them to each other and take them on face value.  OK, I haven’t seen 4 yet, but I have seen 2 and 3 and while they can’t live up to the impossible expectations of the original, they are still fun movies. If we’d never seen 1 we’d all probably love them.

If you can’t separate your expectations from reality then don’t go see it. I very much doubt it will be as good as I want it to be, but I also doubt that it really is as bad as a lot of reviewers would have you believe. They’re bitter because the glaze has come off, a bit of a crack has appeared and they can no longer ignore the man behind the curtain. But ask the kids, the people this movie was made for (even if it was for the wrong reasons) and you’ll find that they will happily watch Jack stumbling across the ocean searching for lost treasure for as long as the studios will let him.

And I probably will too.

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A Life in Movies

Posted on May 8, 2011. Filed under: Memes and Blogathons, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The ever-creative Andy has come up with another fantastic blog-a-thon idea and I’m determined to get in on the fun. The idea is to pick a favourite movie for ever year you’ve been alive. (I think it’s his sneaky way of finding out how old we all are.)

Notoriously indecisive as I am, this is probably going to be a tricky one for me…

1988

That’s right folks, I reach the ripe old age of 23 this August

This is actually pretty tricky, putting aside such cinematic wonders as Crocodile Dundee 2 and Police Academy 5, this is also the year that brought us Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Big. The dilemma for me though is choosing between two of my favourite films: Rain Man and Die Hard.

In the end I’m going to have to go for Die Hard. It’s just everything I want in an action film.

1989

This one is a bit easier. Although I’m sure that most of you who were around at the time will be picking Batman starring the fantastic Jack Nicholson as The Joker, I have to go for Dead Poet’s Society.

1990

We’ll just gloss over the fact that this was the year that brought us Kindergarten Cop shall we? 1990 also saw the release of the final (and weakest) installment of the Back to the Future trilogy and the second (and weakest) of the Die Hard quadrilogy. Enough of the slightly dodgy though, there was also some good to ring in my terrible twos, including the surprisingly sweet Mermaids starring Cher and Winona Ryder, the quintessential Christmas film Home Alone and this year’s winner: Edward Scissorhands.

1991

This might be an unpopular choice, but I’m going to pick Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It might involve a more American Robin than we’re used to in the form of Kevin Costner, but Alan Rickman as the sheriff of Nottingham more than makes up for it.


Here’s where I start to change the game a bit….As I was working through finding films that were released in each year, I came across a problem. There are films that came out in these years that I absolutely adored at the time, and still love now, but there are also films I’ve come back to as an adult that might edge out those childhood favourites if I’m asked to choose. So from here on I’ve kind of cheated a bit. Sorry Andy. Hopefully as well as being a massive cheat, it’s interesting for people other than myself to see what I was into at the time, and what I’ve come back to discover later.

1992

So what was the 3-4 year old watching in ’92? Aladdin of course! Meanwhile the grown up (well, not really) version looks back on ’92 as the year that gave us Reservoir Dogs. Bit of a contrast there….

1993

This was a good year for childhood movies.  Not only did it see the release of my guilty pleasure movie Free Willy but also Mrs Doubtfire and Nick Park’s brilliant short film The Wrong Trousers. The best childhood movie of ’93 for me though had to be Cool Runnings. Some people say you know they can’t believe….

Coming back to the ’93 films and I’ve got a tricky choice, but in the end I’m going to pass over Philadelphia in favour of the more feel good Benny and Joon

1994

This seems to be the year of Jim Carrey, with both Ace Ventura and The Mask showcasing his “rubber faced humour” as they love to call it.

There’s no question that the 5-6 year old me’s favourite film is The Lion King, I can still vividly remember going to see it in the cinema. It still a contender for my favourite film of the year , but faces stiff competition from a whole collection of films I love including; Pulp Fiction, Speed, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. In the end I’m going to have to go with the perhaps predictable choice, but outstanding film, Forrest Gump

1995

1995 was a big turning point for animated movies. It was the year Toy Story was released, becoming my favourite film instantly and holding on to that top spot for a long time.

Also that year came Apollo 13, Braveheart, Desperado, Die Hard With A Vengeance and The Usual Suspects, but you know what? I still love Woody the most.

1996

This is an easy pick in both directions.  My favourite film at the time (and I still love it now, because I’m cool like that) was Muppet Treasure Island. Tim Curry as Long John Silver. Yes.

But the best film to come out of ’96 has to be Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. I’ve written about it on this blog more than once, but it really is a fantastically made movie and a clever adaptation of the worlds best known love story.


1997

OK, don’t judge me, but as soon as I saw this on the list of ’97 movies I knew what my favourite film at the time was….George of the Jungle

*ahem* Moving on.

Lots of big Sci-Fi movies in ’97: The Fifth Element is an under-rated movie, sitting alongside Men In Black and GATTACCA.  This was also the year the world went crazy for Jack and Rose in Titanic, but I’m going to pick a film that you might not know: Donnie Brasco. It’s a great look at what it’s like to infiltrate the world of organised crime, made all the more significant because unlike the many other gangster movies out there this one is true.


1998

In the year I hit double figures I have another very clear early cinema memory; going to see A Bug’s Life.  This time it was my little sister (then 5) who was in awe of the big screen for the first time. She stood up for the whole thing.

1998 was also the year of the battle of the killer Meteorites, with both Deep Impact and Armageddon coming up with different ways to prevent the apocalypse. I’ve gotta admit I prefer the ever so slightly cheesy but more fun version involving Bruce Willis and a giant oil drill.

As much as I love both these films though, I think my adult film of ’98 is going to have to be The Truman Show because not only is it a much unloved movie with a beautiful soundtrack that more people should see, but it also proved to me that even though I’d always been a fan of Jim Carrey because his dumb humour made me laugh, it turns out he can actually act too.

1999

It’s 1999! The year I started secondary school and everybody started panicking that the world was going to end when the millenium came. Light relief form these two distressing issues came in the form of a year of great movies including Sleepy Hollow, The Green Mile, Dogma, Notting Hill, The Talented Mr Ripley and 10 Things I Hate About You. This presents both the young and old versions of me with a dilemma because it’s quite hard to pick.

11 year old Katie is torn between The Iron Giant and Toy Story 2. Both amazing films. Both still watched with regualrity. I think my life long love of Pixar will win in the end though.

Meanwhile 11 years older Katie is debating whether I love Fight Club more than The Matrix. I don’t think I do.

Ps. Just in case you were forgetting/mentally blocking/still recevinign counselling for it, this is the year that George Lucas decided three epic Star Wars films wasn’t enough…exit, persued by a Gungan

2000

The world didn’t end. Confused computers didn’t bring civilisation to a standstill and (scarily) we have reached the halfway point in my life. Quite a lot of good “family” films came out this year, and despite being 12 at the time, I still had a soft spot for movies like El Dorado and The Emperors New Groove. Kids movie of the year has to go to Chicken Run, especially because it’s better than the classic its based on.

And while I can imagine a lot of you bloggers out there will pick Gladiator as your movie that kicked off the noughties, for me film of the year is the one that started my transformation from realtively geeky kid into Marvel comic super nerd. Because this is the year they brought out X Men.


And here’s where the split ends….by 2001 I’m 13 and my favourite movies of each year at the time tend to still be firm favourites. That probably has a lot to do with the release of a certain trilogyThere are still a lot of movies that I discovered later, but there’s less of a stark split in tastes as there was in the earlier years, so I’ll stop cheating and go back to only picking one movie per year.

2001

I’m not going to pretend that the next couple of years picks aren’t going to be pretty predictable. I could deliberately pick other movies in the interest of variety, but then I wouldn’t be picking my favourite film, which kind of misses the point now doesn’t it? 2001-2003 was all about three films for me despite other great releases including Donnie Darko and Moulin Rouge in ’01. But there’s never going to be any question that my film of the year is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. If I hadn’t been to see that film, this blog would not exist. And that’s about all I can say that you haven’t heard a thousand times.

2002

Not even the release of Spiderman can topple Tolkein in ’02.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

2003

As one trilogy came to an end, Pirates of the Caribbean appeared to fill the hole. But the big finish was definitely worth the wait, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King delivered the epic battle scenes and final showdown we’d all been waiting for.

2004

OK, no more LOTR, you can stop rolling your eyes now. ’04 is quite tricky for me because there are a lot of films I really like, but not one that stands out against all the others.  There are some fun films like Spiderman 2, The Day After Tomorrow and Wimbledon but I think I’m going to have to go with The Motorcycle Diaries; a recent discovery that really surprised me with how good it was.

2005

Even though one of my current favourites, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang came out in this year, I’m going to have to pick Brokeback Mountain because not only is it a fantastic piece of cinema, it was quite a moment in movie history, if only for showing us just how talented Heath Ledger was.

2006

2006: I left school and set out for the big smoke to start my degree. 3 fantastic years of new friends and new movies followed.

Loads of great films came out this year, but I’m picking Casino Royale because it was the first film I ever saw on the big screen in Leicester Square, with 3 people who are still among my best friends. It also converted me on Bond films.

2007

Lots of sequels in ’07:  Spiderman 3, Pirates 3, Die Hard 4, but movie of the year for me has to be Stardust. Because its brilliant 😛

2008

I will never forgive 2008 for Mamma Mia. It still gives me chills. It does try to make up for it though with The Dark Knight and the possibly controversially picked, (but I am a Marvel girl after all) Iron Man.

2009

The year I graduated from uni (the first time). The year I started this blog, and a big year for movies. No wonder I was inspired!

I find it impossible to believe that Avatar came out 3 years ago. I was also converted to the trekkie side by J.J. Abrams and got into endless fights with  bloggers about why Wolverine should not be trashed all over the internet. It’s a tough choice, but I think I’m going to pick Sherlock Holmes as my film for ’09, because I can’t wait to see what happens next.

2010

This gets easier as I’ve had less time to get to the cinema and so have seen very few of the films released in the last year. The ones I did see are all strong contenders though; Inception, Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3…I’m going with The King’s Speech. Partly because it got me to finally forgive Colin Firth for the sins of 2008, but mainly because it did what very few films manage to do, it lived up to the hype.

2011

And here we are. Although I still have trouble remembering it actually is 2011. Depressingly this post has made me realise that I haven’t been to the cinema yet this year (is it really May already?) However, with Thor already out, Pirates 4 coming out on May 16th and X Men: First Class hot on its heels in June, I’m sure it’s going to be a very good year. 🙂


And there you have my semi-autobiographical life in movies. I’m back at uni again, and struggling a bit to find time to get to the cinema or post on here, but getting involved in things like this reminds me why I started STRM in the first place. Hope you all enjoy having a read through my tragic taste over they years. Looking forward to being trashed in the comments.

Click HERE to see what everyone else has picked.

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Hi folks, remember me?

Posted on March 28, 2011. Filed under: News, Trailers | Tags: , , |

Well, the opera is over. It’s been an amazing month and I had loads of friendly faces out in the audience which was lovely.

Photo by Dan Swerdlow http://www.danswerdlow.com/

Post-opera depression is sure to set in with a vengence soon so it’s a good thing I’ve got this blog to keep me going.  I consoled myself yesterday with Toy Story 3, which is a good start.

Easter break is revision month, which always sucks so I’ll probably be needing some good movies to cheer me up.  The light at the end of the tunnel comes in the form of Captain Jack Sparrow. Pirates 4 is out in May just before my exams.  Although the two previous movies have failed to live up to the fantastic original movie, there is always fun to be had here, and I reckon it’ll be just what I need.

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Alice in Wonderland

Posted on January 12, 2011. Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

I know how much Ross and Ross need their regular updates of why Tim Burton is amazing so I couldn’t watch this movie without putting a few words online for their benefit.

Once again we have the holy trinity of Burton, Elfman and Depp which is usually a good indicator of a decent movie, and while this one did get some stick from the usual naysayers I think it’s a well made film.  Elfman’s unmistakable score brings you straight into (W)Underland with the trademark ethereal quality that he does so well, and the film looks quite spectacular, with an amazing depth I’m sure was intended to heighten the cinematic 3D but leaves the 2D version just as impressive.

Rather than a remake of the various other Alice in Wonderland films, Burton has gone for a sort of Return to Oz style movie, with a more grown up Alice returning to the place she thought she’d made up in a dream.  What I enjoyed most about the film was that as well as taking parts of the original Alice books (including Through the Looking-glass) a substantial proportion of the plot comes from the Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky.  It’s  one of my childhood favourites and makes a great basis for a film, weaving in nicely as a prophecy of Alice’s return.  Essentially, what Burton has made is Alice in Wonderland 3; the one that comes after the two books.

Alongside Depp, there is a huge ensemble cast of talented, predominantly British, names including Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor, Paul Whiteouse, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee…oh and they had to get Helena Bonham Carter in there somewhere.  The best performance though is from Mia Wasikowska as Alice, who captures a kind of restrained sense of adventure and our heroines “muchness.”

The live action has all been overlayed with CG and retouching, meaning it blends seamlessly with the entirely CG characters, to the point that it wasn’t until halfway through the film I remembered I was watching a half-live half-cartoon movie.  The slightly strange appearance of the Underland inhabitants fits well with the dreamlike quality of the film, as well as making it undeniably Burton to look at.

Even though I’m an infamous Burton fan, I went into this film with low expectations after reading a lot of bad reviews.  I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised, finding the film orignal, beautifully designed and, most importantly, entertaining!

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Happy New Year!

Posted on December 31, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Did anyone see where 2010 went? I appear to have missed it.

This is the second new year’s post I’ve written, which must mean my blog has somehow made it to two years old. Wow, wasn’t expecting that.

At the start of this year I was anxiously waiting on an interview to find out what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life.  I’ve now survived my first term at med school and am only 3 months away from my fourth opera with my much missed music society.   Things are going pretty good for the blog too.  We made it past 100,000 hits, 150 posts and 800 comments.  Not bad going for the poorly typed ramblings of someone who doesn’t really know what they are talking about.

I haven’t made it to the cinema as much as I would like this year (as usual), but highlights have included Iron Man 2, Sherlock Holmes and the almighty Avatar. I am now the proud owner of a DVD of Inception, meaning I can finally catch up with the rest of the universe, and I managed to watch Toy Story 3 over the holidays, which was brilliant as expected.  I am also now one of the (probably) hundreds of people who (thanks to the DVD) have seen the full alternate opening to Iron Man 2 and think Favreau totally missed a trick there.

So what’s coming up in 2011?  Well, as the last post shows, I’m a little bit excited about Thor making it to our screens at last and in May you will find me camping in Leicester Square waiting for the premiere of Pirates 4. Not to mention the new Sherlock film I’ve got to look forward to.  June and July are all about the comic books, with provisional releases dates for X Men: First Class, The Green Lantern and Captain America. It’s gonna be a busy Summer.

Looks like I’m going to have a lot to be writing about.  Thanks again to all of you out there in the blogosphere who take the time to read and comment.  I’ll do my best to keep it worth the visit.

Have a great New Years Eve everyone, see you in 2011.

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Best trailer I’ve seen in ages: Rango

Posted on September 7, 2010. Filed under: Trailers | Tags: , , , , |

I already love this film, but I’ve got at least a 6 month wait before it comes out. Dang.

Johnny Depp as a chameleon. What more could you want?

How about Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina and Ray Winstone? Now you’re talking!

Animation looks pretty awesome and I love how unusual it is as a premise.  Going to be looking forward to this one.

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Movies that couldn’t survive without their lead actor

Posted on July 25, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Some movie characters are iconic.  In some cases the reason for that is more to do with the actor playing the role than the character itself.  There will always be parts that you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing, but arguably some characters are so wrapped up in the identity of the actor that they would be entirely different with someone else in the costume.

The character who I think fulfils this most of all is Captain Jack Sparrow.  Just try to imagine any other actor playing that role.  Can’t do it can you?

Legend has it that Johnny Depp turned up to the audition in that costume, complete with make up, accent and real gold teeth.  Without Sparrow there is no Pirates of the Caribbean and I would argue without Depp there is no Sparrow.  The movie was a real risk-taker, with the appeal of pirate movies long dead and many people  wondering if a film based on a little known ride, made by Disney but not strictly for kids, could make it. Then Jack staggered on to the screen and everyone was hooked.  The whole movie hinges on that one iconic character; a point backed up by the fact that he is the only returner (except Gibbs) in the upcoming fourth movie.  Sparrow is now as famous, if not more so, than Long John Silver or Captain Hook and I really don’t think the movies would have done even half as well without Depp at the helm (bad pun not entirely intended).

Another character who I think is intertwined with the actor playing it is Iron Man.  He basically is Robert Downey Jr.  When he was announced as the man stepping into the suit it seemed a strange choice but it’s turned out to be a career defining role.  I’m not saying that no one else could play Iron Man, because I can think of a few other people who probably could, but I think the characterisation would be very different, as the writers have clearly put a lot of RDJ into Stark.

It’s not just faces on screen either.  Imagine Disney’s Aladdin without Robin Williams voicing the genie.  Doesn’t work does it?  And I’d put a strong case for the fact that Woody and Tom Hanks fit so well together that Toy Story would be a different movie without him.

Pretty much anything in Jim Carrey’s early career is entirely dependent on him too.  Obviously a lot of that is down to parts being written for him, but can you really picture Ace Ventura or The Mask in the hands of someone else?

There is only one incidence I can think of where the same character played by two different actors has an equal impact on the movie, and that’s The Joker.  Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman completely owned the movie and was put down as the definitive Joker.  Or so we thought. Fast forward 19 years and Heath Ledger brings something completely new to the table which has audiences and critics alike lost for words playing a huge part in the success of The Dark Knight.

Usually we think of movies as making or breaking the career of actors, but it works both ways.  One  performance can lift a mediocre movie to a whole new level, or just as easily bring it crashing down.

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Top 5 Magical Movie Moments

Posted on June 6, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Yet another post inspired by channel hopping to films on TV.  Back in October I told you about my Top 5 fight scenes, but today I want to get you thinking more generally about those moments that are just great pieces of cinema.  The ones where the direction, the acting, the score, the cinematography, everything just comes together for a scene that makes you think “wow.”  When I was thinking about what I’d put down, I realised that for a lot of these scenes, it’s the combination of the action and the music that really makes it a perfect scene for me.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a great score can really make a movie.

Although I’ve called it Top 5, these aren’t necessarily in ascending order.  It’s more 5 great moments.

1.Where does my allegiance lie if not here?

This is the scene that got me thinking.  Now, we all know that I can rave about LOTR until the Orcs come home, but before you start rolling your eyes hear me out.  This scene really is pure magic.

Howard Shore’s score is so perfectly matched it’s scary, building the drama and then breaking away for Billy Boyd’s (self-penned) haunting melody.  What I think really makes this scene though is the foley work.  As the score takes over, we lose some of the sound.  The commands of the men and Orcs are silent screams, but the creaking of the bows remains, really hammering home the suicidal misson that faces the brave riders. It’s just epic.  Add to that the juxtaposition of Denethor almost frantically eating while he tries to ignore what’s happening, with blood running down his chin, and you end up with an awesome movie moment that is just melodramatic enough without over doing it.

2. At the Moulin Rouge you’ll have fun!

I have written about this scene before but I just couldn’t exclude it when talking about my favourite cinematic moments.

Energy and colour are what Baz Luhrmann does best, so when it comes to Moulin Rouge that first scene when you’re taken on a rollercoaster ride through the dance hall is just mindblowing!  In one 3 minute scene we get a mash up of no less than 6 songs culminating in a supercharged Can-Can.  The best thing about the scene is that we’re seeing it from the same position as Christian, so we too are bewildered and enthralled by all the flashing colours (and flashing flesh!)

3. Welcome to Port Royal Mr Smith

Best. Entrance. Ever.

Before he even says one word we know eveything we need to know about Captian Jack Sparrow from his incredible entrance to Port Royal. Who else would stand so proudly on the top mast of a ship which was more than three quarters sunk?  The best part is it doesn’t even seem to faze him.

As soon as he set foot on that board walk I knew I was going to love this film

4. He is The One.

Another great moment for movie music.  This scene is slightly marred by all the crazy superman stuff we see Neo do in the two Matrix sequels, but when he first stands up and stops those bullets I always want to jump up and cheer!  I love how effortless it all becomes for him, he just turns and says “No.” He even fights with one hand behind his back!  It’s a great turn around having just watched him have the crap kicked out of him.  The music is perfect here too, that great strings slide that runs through the film really captures the idea of being in a dream while still sounding artificial, but the addition of a choir brings back the human element, mirroring what’s going on on screen.

5. Oh Captain my Captain

I know it is incredibly cheesy. And I know that it is orchestrated to be a heart wrenching moment. But cynicism aside it’s still a great scene.  Ethan Hawke makes it for me.  It’s not so much the getting up on the desks that has the magic but the obvious guilt and pain of Hawke as everything he has been taught not to believe in is once more forced down his throat.  And Robin Williams is a better actor than he lets on…(may have to come back to a post on that later)

Those are mine, what are your stand out moments of cinema?

**Disclaimer: thank you to all the YouTubers whose clips I’m borrowing.**

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Posted on May 3, 2010. Filed under: Movies to miss, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Faithful followers will know that I was really looking forward to this films release. No doubt they will also have noticed the lack of review on this site.  The inconvenience of having a full time job mean that I never got to see Parnassus in the cinema, but the epic rain that washed out the Bank Holiday weekend allowed me to finally get around to watching the DVD.

Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first. Yes, it’s weird. In fact it’s very weird.  But this is the mind of Terry Gilliam, where if you think it makes sense, you’re not getting it.  So put that aside before you start and you’ll get on a lot better.

Gilliam is essentially an artist, and it’s the visuals that make this film.  Each trip through the Doctor’s magic mirror takes us into a world beyond imagination that only Gilliam could create.  But unfortunately it has little else to offer.  I did enjoy the juxtaposition between the old-fashioned world of the Imaginarium and the modern world of it’s clientelle.  The opening credits set you up for a period piece, but then a drunk guy wanders into shot from a nightclub and you realise you’re expectations were wrong.  Just how Terry likes it.

I don’t want to call Parnassus a bad film, because it isn’t bad exactly.  But I’m not sure what it is.  The plot is as expected; convoluted and very hard to follow, but if you strip it down to the bare bones it’s actually relatively simple.  The problem is the characterisation.  I’m not really sure whose side we’re supposed to be on.  There isn’t really a protagonist story to follow, the plot just seems to meander around a group of people.

As for the actors behind the performances, Tom Waits does a great underworld Mr Nick and Verne Troyer proves he can do more than just be the funny little guy in his first proper acting role.  The focus however,  falls inevitably on Heath Ledger.  This is where it gets difficult.  Neither Ledger, nor alter egos Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, really get to stretch their acting muscles.  If anything, the only thing that caught my attention was Ledger’s wandering accent, which never seemed to get hold of a region (Farrell on the other hand carried off an impressively non-Irish dialect.)  It’s a shame to have four huge talents like that on screen and see them go to waste, but to be honest not many members of the cast get to do much.

The eponymous Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) spends most of the time asleep, and it’s hard to keep up with who bet what to who and why.  I’m still not actually sure who won.  Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield are good though as Valentina and Anton.  In fact, Garfield wins the prize for being the only character I actually cared about.

I’m so reluctant to criticise this film.  Not only because it is Heath’s last, but because it had potential to be really good.  Wishful thinking can’t rescue a film though, and I’m afraid I have to confine Dr Parnassus to the missable movies vault.  Maybe watch it once just to say you’ve seen it, but I fear that without the macabre draw of this being a film where the lead actor died during filming, few people would have given it the time of day.

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The 12 films of Christmas, Part One:The Build Up

Posted on December 2, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Once again, I’m being entirely unoriginal here, but what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t have some kind of Christmas post on here?  Everyone has their Christmas traditions, and among mine are a certain set of films which absolutely must be watched before the big day.  Some start to get you in the mood in the early days of December, others are the full on Tinsel and Fairy lights, perfect for Christmas Eve.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my festive favourites, split into three groups depending on when I reckon is the best time to watch them, starting with the ones which aren’t necessarily all about Christmas, but have just enough jingle bells to remind you it’s getting close.

So it’s December. The shops have been playing carols since August but you’re still not quite there with the Christmas spirit yet.  Now is the time for the build up films, the ones that don’t hit you over the head with festive cheer, but start to remind you why it’s “the most wonderful time of the year.”

To start you off: The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I’m never quite sure when to watch this film.  Too Christmassy to watch at Halloween, a bit too cynical to watch at Christmas.  In the end I’ve decided it fits nicely into the end of November and beginning of December; the perfect film to remind you that the season has begun.

I’ve written about Nightmare before, but for those of you who don’t know it’s a cult classic Burton film telling the story of Jack Skellington the King of Halloween town.  By accident he stumbles into Christmasland, where “absolutely no one’s dead” leading him to try and recreate the magic back home.  Poor Jack gets it a bit wrong though, and it’s up to Frankenstein monster Sally to show him what Christmas is all about.

The film is full of Christmas spirit, but it’s also full of goblins and ghouls meaning it’s not the DVD you’ll be reaching for on Christmas Eve.  Whatever the time of year however, it’s a brilliant movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet and are still waiting to be caught up in the yuletide fun, this is definitely the place to start.

Die Hard (no, really)

You might be wondering what I’m getting at here, but I refer you to the quote: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.”  Any excuse to watch this wicked film is fine by me, and in my book a film which takes place on Christmas Eve is a Christmas film.  OK, so it might not exactly be brimming with the joys of the season, but at its heart it’s a film about a guy trying to get home to see his kids for Christmas.  There’s just the issue of a few German terrorists to get past first.  Not you’re typical seasonal fun granted, but a brilliant film in it’s own right with just enough holiday spirit to get you on your way.

Back to Burton for: Edward Scissorhands

It’s the story of where snow comes from. What could be more Christmassy than that?  The film documents roughly a year of Edward’s life, but the final showdown takes place at Christmas and it’s those scenes which stick in most people’s memories.  Another sensational film, this tells the tale of Edward; a boy made by an inventor who died before he could finish, leaving Edward alone in an empty mansion with metal shards instead of hands.  Both hilarious and tragic, Edward is a beautiful film with an equally gorgeous soundtrack that will start to stir up warm fuzzy feelings you never knew were there.

And finally, the first of the real Christmas films: Love Actually

Stop rolling your eyes like that.

For some reason a lot of people don’t like this film, but as far as I’m, concerned Richard Curtis can do no wrong, especially when you’re looking for some festive schmaltz.  This film was made for the build up, as that’s exactly what it’s about! Travelling from mid November to Christmas Eve, it juxtaposes the stories of a great ensemble cast, whose lives all intertwine as they try and make it to the big day.  Stand out performances include Emma Thompson’s perfectly British “Joni Mitchell” moment and, of course, Bill Nighy singing “Christmas is all around.”

If you’re looking for your Christmas spirit, look no further than Love Actually.  It’s got everything you need to get you in the mood, with enough different types of character to be sure of having someone there you identify with.  Of the four on this page, it’s the one film you can be absolutely certain I will watch before Christmas. It just has to be that way.

(Yes, it's blurry. But I couldn't resist a screenshot of that moment.)

Hope that starts to get you in the mood. Part two coming soon.

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