Tag Archives: movie thoughts

A Look Ahead at 2020

2019 is done and dusted; viewed, reviewed and rounded-up. Now it is time to look ahead to 2020.

I mean… There’s an impressive volume of leftfield options this year.

Once more, I will be looking at the major releases upcoming in each month – they say – and pondering on what I expect from them, which ones I want to see, and how I might resolve potential clashes.

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A Look Ahead at 2019

With the last of 2018’s crop now viewed and reviewed, it’s time to look ahead and think about what’s coming up in 2019. This is my month by month plan of action for cinema in 2019; assuming that Brexit doesn’t reduce the country to a trashfire with no international distribution details, clean water or Italian cheeses.

“This is what was called a ‘camera’ in the before times.”

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2018 in Cinema

And so, as another year comes to an end, it’s time to reflect on a busy year of cinema. In January, I laid out my plans for the films I wanted to see this year. Which did I see? Which did I miss? Which did I not see because they were rescheduled for 2019? Which did I miss because I chickened out of seeing horror at the cinema?

I’m going to break this down by genre, rather than by month. I’ll quote each film’s original score on the BMM, although as ever my increasingly antiquated, utterly subjective and just a little bit arbitrary scoring system does not necessarily match up with what I actually liked.

“So… much… cinema!”

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Must See Movies Before You Grow Up

Must See Movies Before You Grow Up is a list compiled by Into Film, a charity devoted to the use of film in children’s education. The list is as follows:

  • 101 Dalmatians (1961)
  • A Little Princess (1995)
  • Annie (1982)*
  • Babe (1995)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)*
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)*
  • Coraline (2009)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010)
  • Dumbo (1941)
  • ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)*
  • Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
  • Free Willy (1993)
  • Frozen (2013)*
  • Home (2015)*
  • Hook (1991)*
  • Hotel Transylvania (2012)*
  • How to Train Your Dragon (2010)*
  • Jumanji (1995)*
  • Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)*
  • Mary Poppins (1964)*
  • Matilda (1996)*
  • Nanny McPhee (2005)*
  • Night at the Museum (2006)
  • Oliver! (1968)*
  • Paddington (2014)
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)*
  • Shrek (2001)*
  • Space Jam (1996)
  • Spirited Away (2001)
  • Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)*
  • Swallows and Amazons (2016)
  • The Adventures of Tintin (2011)*
  • The BFG (2016)
  • The Gruffalo (2009)*
  • The Iron Giant (1999)*
  • The Jungle Book (1967)*
  • The LEGO Movie (2014)*
  • The Lion King (1994)*
  • The Lorax (2012)
  • The Never-Ending Story (1984)*
  • The Princess Bride (1987)*
  • The Secret Garden (1993)
  • The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
  • The Witches (1990)*
  • Toy Story (1995)*
  • Trolls (2016)
  • Up (2009)*
  • Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)*
  • Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)*
  • Zootropolis (2016)*

But is this really the ultimate list of childhood movies?

Disclaimer: This is my own take on the matter and I make no pretense to some superior status of judgement. Full disclosure, those films marked with an asterisk are the ones that I have seen an which I will be discussing most closely.

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My Life in Movies


This is the meme: What is your favourite movie for each year of your life?

Well, it’s tough enough to narrow each year down to a selection, let alone a single movie, but I felt like I ought to give it a go. Below then, I consider this question and come up with answers, some reasons for those answers, and some also rans, for each of my forty years. To be clear, I’m not making quality judgements; this is about my historical and ongoing enjoyment of the movie, not how good it is. Therefore I am only looking at films that I’ve seen, and believe me there are some shocking gaps in that subset. Even in that limited space I’m not saying these are the best movies, but they are the ones I’ve had most fun with, for one reason or another.

“If this is a best of list then where is Citizen Kane?”

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The Summer of Lovecraft: What Have We Learned?

HPL! HPL! Is the source of all our pain!
HPL! HPL! Is the source of all our pain!

Well, it’s been over a month and we’ve finally come to the end of the Summer of Lovecraft! We’ve watched a lot of Lovecraft adaptations (and a few that weren’t actually Lovecraft adaptations at all) and what have we learned from the experience?

  1. There are a lot of shitty Lovecraft adaptations out there.
    Okay; you may say this isn’t news, but damn there are a lot of these things. The appeal to filmmakers seems to be endless, despite the fact that 80-90% of the finished products are complete dingus.
  2. The best of the bunch are the ones that can fit into another genre.
    Those adaptations that make decent films are basically those based on the stories that can most easily be turned into a story in an extant film genre (Herbert West: Re-Animator and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,) because pretty much all of the adaptations do this. As we noted at the start, Lovecraft is not a very cinematic writer, so with very few exceptions (Cool Air) to make a film the writers and directors have to put the essentials of the plot into a gothic horror, slasher, splatter movie or contemporary horror, along with liberal helpings of gore, jump-scares and boobies.
  3. New interpretations work.
    When Lovecraft inspires people to go in new directions, that’s pretty cool — whether that’s the over-the-top horror-comedy of Re-Animator or the introspective examination of outsider-ness of Cthulhu. Heaven forbid that we only get story-accurate retellings for ever and ever. One or two are nice, though.
  4. “Lovecraftian” is a very elastic term.
    Some horror fans use “Lovecraftian” as a sort of generic compliment — any reasonably intelligent horror movie is Lovecraftian, no matter how unrelated to Lovecraft’s work. For others, it just means tentacles. For others, it just seems to mean … I don’t know what. If you can associate the name with something like “Whispers,” it can mean anything.
  5. Lovecraftian fiction is contemporary fiction.
    Stuart Gordon is insistent on setting his adaptations in the modern day, as do many others, because Lovecraft wasn’t writing period fiction. Given the misanthropy of many of his protagonists, even the manners of the age have little impact, and the horror of most of his pieces lies in the here and nowness of the setting, the conflict of ancient and modern, familiar and alien (be that literally alien or just newfangled,) and that loses something when the setting isn’t here and now.

It’s been a blast, and sometimes a chore. I’m looking forward to our next project, to be announced… soonish. Until then, there will still be our regular views. Happy reading, happy watching!

Marvel Needs Women

Originally posted at My Life as a Doge. I’ve put it here as well as part of a notion that I might review all of the MCU releases to date now that I’m not restricting myself to unequivocally bad movies.

The MCU's Black Widow is awesome, but she is also one of only two core Phase 1 Avengers not to get her own movie, and has notably different hair in each appearance, where the boys seem fine with a single iconic do*. (Poster for The Avengers, (c) Marvel Studios)
The MCU’s Black Widow is awesome, but she is also one of only two core Phase 1 Avengers not to get her own movie, and has notably different hair in each appearance, where the boys seem fine with a single iconic do*. (Poster for The Avengers, (c) Marvel Studios)

It is not infrequently noted that it is a crying shame that the cinematic juggernaut that is the MCU doesn’t have more female headliners, and just as common for such rejoinders to be offered as: “But it’s got Black Widow,” or “The Captain Marvel movie is in the works,” or “Jane Porter is a strong female character, even if she doesn’t do much fighting,” and all of these are true, but it is still the case that there has yet to be a female headliner. As awesome as many of them are, all of Marvel’s female characters to date are supporting roles. The most common response when the absence of female characters in any given film is mentioned is ‘but this film is about [male character X], and you can’t hold this movie responsible for the general dearth of female leads in Hollywood’. This is, as far as it goes, true, but the thing about the MCU is that it isn’t just one film, it’s twelve films, with another ten already scheduled for Phase 3, and three ongoing TV series with four more in the works (and in fairness, two of those – Agent Carter and Jessica Jones have female leads,) plus one shots, tie-ins and a colossal presence in the cultural zeitgeist.

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Not Falling, but Doing – Comic Books and Bad Adaptations

(This post originally appeared in my other movie blog, My Life as a Doge.)

Say what you like about the yellow spandex, at least you knew who was on which side.

“It wasn’t like that in the comics” is a common enough rallying cry for the aggrieved geek community these days.

Let’s be clear: I’m not having a go at geeks. Have you read this blog? I’m a geek, or possibly a nerd; it depends if the geeks will have me. I’m talking about a particular facet of geek culture, which has as many flaws and foibles as any other cultural group.

So, increasingly I start to ask myself if it isn’t a good thing sometimes when an adaptation breaks away from the original text, especially in an original text as convoluted as a comic book continuity. After all, it isn’t as if the comic books themselves haven’t cleaned house from time to time, with either a universe shattering Crisis event or an outright reboot. It’s needed too, with the two main continuities – DC and Marvel – each spanning dozens of titles and decades of publishing history, including a lot of highly contradictory, controversial, and on occasion just plain dumb stuff.

So, what change is okay when adapting a comic book for the screen? What change is too much change?

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