Only the best, most interesting, or little-known films will be fully reviewed on here moving forward.
Only the best, most interesting, or little-known films will be fully reviewed on here moving forward.
It’s the most wonderful time… of the yeeeeearrr – but you’re probably sick to death of the same 20 ‘classic movies’ being played on mega-rotation on every TV channel? Here’s a rundown of the best Anti-Christmas movies for people who fancy something a little different this festive season.
Bad Santa: any such list that doesn’t start (or end) with this film isn’t worth reading. Billy Bob Thornton plays an alcoholic, sexually deviant Santa that uses his mall access to loot the place on Christmas Eve. It takes a slightly simple 8-year-old and a normal woman (with a Santa fetish) to show him the true meaning of the holiday – in a film that’s bursting with great characters and laugh-out-loud jokes. Adults only. (After years in development hell a sequel looks to finally be on the cards!!!)
Die Hard: not just a great XMas film, or Anti-Christmas movie, but one of the best films ever made. Period. It never gets old. It never gets boring. And you should never pass on an opportunity to watch it. Everything about Die Hard (characters, action, direction, script…) is solid gold. What’s more christmassy than watching an all-American action hero throw evil European shitheads out of exploding skyscrapers?!?!? Special mention to Die Hard 2; which actually has snow and shit.
Hostile Hostages / The Ref: In one of his earliest leading roles Kevin Spacey (in a precursor to Lester Burnham) and his cheating wife get taken hostage by a down-on-his-luck burglar, who winds up becoming their marriage counsellor. Sharp and snappy dialogue, entertaining performances (especially from the three leads), and a send up of the big suburban family Christmas make this a memorable festive outing.
Gremlins: set against the most Christmassy of small-town American backdrops, and hitting the ultimate sweet spot between comedy, festivities, horror, gore, and stupidity – Gremlins is one of the few festive films that everyone can enjoy. If you didn’t want a Gizmo for Christmas as a child please check in with a head-doctor, because you’re probably dead inside.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Robert Downey Junior and Val Kilmer romp around L.A. in a Christmas Crime caper. The festive vibes are definitely more of an undertone, until Michelle Monaghan pops up in a saucy little Santa suit and gets her twins out – which, as a man, is probably better than any present you’ll actually get on the 25th. Weapon’s grade entertainment from two of Hollywood’s comeback kings.
Rare Exports (A Christmas Tale): a group of hunters come across a large burial site with a slightly familiar occupant. It’s all well-connected with festive mythology; set in the Korvatunturi mountains (the original home of Santa Clause – or ‘Christmas Goat’ as the Finnish so lovingly call him). However, it blends this with some horror, gore to fully shirk off the “jolly-fat old-guy-with-a-beard” image, big time.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas: the one Christmas film you didn’t know you needed to see. This was one of the biggest surprises of 2011 for me – an upliftingly festive Christmas movie about two stoners looking for a replacement magical Christmas tree. Surprisingly funny, and equally offensive to every and all age/race/belief – this is hands one of the best modern Christmas films.
Jack Frost: A serial killer dies, but gets re-incarnated as a murderous snowman. Obviously, this isn’t the 1998 Michael Keaton ‘Jack Frost’. And even more obviously, this isn’t a good film by any stretch of the imagination – but you do get to see a bunch of comedy-horror deaths, topped by American Pie
boner heart-throb Shannon Elizabeth‘s movie debut, as a hot babe that gets humped in a shower… by a randy snowman, like a hoe hoe hoe. Two death scenes in this clip.
Black Christmas: one of the first true ‘slasher‘ movies, there’s something ace about the idea of a 18-rated gore-fest being centered around the most festive and upbeat of holidays. Violent, eerie, atmospheric – it’s still unsettling to watch today as the camera bobs in and out of the house, stalking each victim before they meet their grisly demise.
TrollHunter: The final third is very, very snowy and it’s got that magical fantasy vibe riff that defines the best Christmas films.
Cobra: set at Christmas. Although pretty much no mentions of it for the duration of the film.
Dumb and Dumber: Lloyd Chhistmas – duh!
The World is Not Enough: Dr Christmas Jones – who comes more than once a year. nudge nudge wink wink eh boys!?!? LOL.
Sex and Fury: “a butt-naked lady chopping her way through a gang of swordsmen in snow” (I’m not even trying now)
In Bruges: set over Christmas, but nothing much more than some symbolic snow. Any excuse to put this on a list really, you inanimate fucking object!
The Life of Brian: it’s not set at Christmas, but has a cameo from the main man himself, Jesus Christ.
OK – so you’re officially in to foreign cinema, and want to be a little more adventurous. Here‘s a is a list of foreign films that are suited to those looking to further explore the more engaging, unique, and interesting movies that other countries have to offer. These are ‘middle of the spectrum’ movies: they require more effort and attention than the previous list for beginners, but aren’t quite the ‘hardcore’ existential or often divisive films that need to be cryptically pulled apart.
This article also has an intentional modern bias. Most of he ‘Best foreign films’ lists appear to have been voted for, and compiled, by older people who only seem to watch a small and predictable list of films made before 1980. That’s utter bobbins, and completely pisses me off. Like music, art, or photography, there’s great things being created all the time. Apologies for the completely arbitrary number but I’ve been deliberating over this list for over three months.
Amores Perros (Love’s A Bitch – Mexico): three different lives brought together by a car single crash. An intricate, intertwined, and multi-layered drama that follows and connects a fashion model, dog-fighter and homeless assassin. This is a raw, authentic, and unflinching look different social classes in Mexico City. It’s 153 mins long, but packs in three fleshed out stories with overlapping themes of violence, family, and inequality. Despite being Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (Birdman) first film, you knew straight away he was someone special. Storytelling in its purest form. TRAILER
Sex and Fury (不良姐御伝 猪の鹿お蝶 Furyō anego den: Inoshika o-Chō – Japan): a highlight of the ‘Pinky Violence’ genre (think nudity and nunchucks). This is a refreshing combination of kick-ass female lead, breathtaking visuals, a historical setting, and a revenge story that leans heavily on crimson-splattered action set pieces. Put that all together and you’ve got a supremely high-quality exploitation film that is the blueprint for Kill Bill. Proof that ‘video nasty‘ / exploitation movies can be well-crafted and visually spectacular; beautiful and brutal in equal measures. TRAILER
City of God (Cidade de Deus – Brazil): an honest, visceral, and no-holds-barred drama that follows a group of kids in Rio favelas from childhood in the 1960s through to the 1980s, and how the city and its people changed. It got Oscar nods for direction, cinematography, editing, and writing, so you know it’s a well-made piece of cinema. With such an ambitious scope, and featuring mostly non-actors this was an enormous gamble, but it paid off big time, and has a legacy of one of the best
foreign movies ever made. Often referred to as ‘The Brazilian Goodfellas‘ – lets just call if GoodFavellas from now on? TRAILER
OldBoy (올드보이, Oldeuboi – Korea): an unrivaled tale of epic revenge. Everything about this film is exceptional. There’s a grand and intriguing story, meticulous direction, intense action scenes, a nice layer of humour, and the finale to end all movie endings. Every time I watch OldBoy it blows me away. It’s fantastic and cinematic but rooted in reality by sublime, career defining, performances. It sits perfectly in the middle of a trilogy, and you can’t go wrong with Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, or Lady Vengeance either. An original masterpiece that didn’t deserve a Hollywood, or Bollywood, remake – it’s arguably the best film from one of the world’s best film-makers. TRAILER
Together (Tillsammans – Sweden): Explores the life of an over-populated ‘hippy commune’ house in 1970s Stockholm. A micro drama about real people, that manages to be satirical, funny and poignant at the same time. The housemates are vegetarians, homosexuals, hippies, confused teenagers and alcoholics: basically a comedy scrip-writer’s wet dream. It sports a great ensemble cast, a masterful director coming in to his prime, and the happiest ending to a film I can remember seeing – Football and Abba. Between this and Fucking Amal, arguably Lukas Moodysson’s finest era. TRAILER
Infernal Affairs (無間道, 无间道 – Hong Kong): a powerful and simple concept – the triads have a mole in the police, and the police have a mole in the triads… who’s cover will be blown first? While on paper it’s technically a gangster/action film’s success rests on moments of high tension, drama and suspense; scenes where characters are just about to be made by the opposing side. The cream of H.K. actors push this single concept story from great to amazing. The Departed remake is a fantastic film, but this is still superior in every way. TRAILER
Persepolis (France / Iran): A coming-of-age story about a young, liberal, Iranian at the beginning of the strict Islamic revolution. Most reviews splurge on and on about how great this film looks – and this is true – but the biggest draw of Persepolis is the phenomenal story. It balances an interesting history of Iran, with the small-scale drama of how the regime affected individuals, free speech, feminism, art, culture… There are tragedies, shocks, and heart-warming humanity which make this an engrossing watch. TRAILER
Survive Style 5+ (Japan): it’s impossible to describe what this is like to watch – although this trailer should give you a rough idea. Imagine an intense dose of the West’s ‘crazy Japanese culture’ stereotype perception, but it just works! It’s five offbeat, stories set in a colourful, hyper-designed, pop-art, exotic, and garish world. It’s one of the maddest, most memorable, and most enjoyable films you’ll ever see. If you take cinema as a visual medium – this should be the holy text! The world needs more movies like this. A true one-of-a-kind – and I will be recommending this until the day I die. TRAILER
Headhunters (Hodejegerne – Norway): A Norway–Sweden joint venture based on a Jo Nesbo book – it doesn’t get more Scandy than this. The film translates well up to the big screen as a very tense suspense-thriller that only lets up during moments of comically graphic violence and ultra black humour; which give the audience a few seconds to catch up with their breathing. It’s well-directed, well-acted, well-written, and a great example of a smart, serious, dramatic yet darkly comic crime caper. Better than the best bits of the (original) Dragon Tattoo movies. TRAILER
A Bittersweet Life (달콤한 인생, Dalkomhan insaeng – Korea): a loyal mob enforcer’s life is thrown into disarray when he refuses his bosses orders. This is a meticulously directed film where, although quite minimal, every single shot in reveals something else about the characters or keeps the story’s momentum going. The performances are strong, and the action scenes are intricate, innovative and flawlessly executed. It’s the second Korean revenge film on this list, but where OldBoy is unique, daring, and rich – A Bitterswet Life is simple, stripped down, raw, and emotive. TRAILER
JCVD (Belgium): the ultimate anti Jean-Claude Van Damme movie where he plays himself, in real life, during a bank robbery where he reflects on his career. Although it flirts with self-indulgence at times, Van Damme turns in a sensational performance that peaks with a 6-minute long single-cut soliloquy with his heart on his sleeve. It’s an Oscar-worthy show from a man who most people believe can’t even act – and makes you wish he’d been offered more A-list roles. Probably the least accessible film on the list, but you’ll get the most from this if you’ve seen – or care for – other JCVD movies.
Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno – Spain / Mexico): while most of Del Toro’s work contains an element of duality this one is split between two contrasting settings; the harsh reality of Franco’s Spain circa 1944, and a wild fantasy underground labyrinth. The film is eerie but seductive; violent but captivating; and contains some big emotional punches. One of the main reasons this works so well is Del Toro’s background in SFX – the physical effects and CGI are masterfully blended to create completely immersive, and non-distracting settings & characters. Like other true auteurs (Besson, Chan-Wook, Almodóvar, Noe, Jeunet…) you always know when you’re watching a Guillermo del Toro movie, and Pan’s Labyrinth is his masterpiece to date. TRAILER
Paprika (パプリカ, Papurika – Japan): a genuinely fearless animation that explores technology, mythology, reality, iconography, dreams, and the psyche. A 50/50 mix of breathtaking & vibrant visuals paired with thought-provoking concepts – you could show Paprika to an intellectual or a toddler, and they’d both be captivated for the duration. It put’s Hollywood’s ‘Cartoons are for kids lol’ attitude to shame, proving that you can do ‘Miyazaki for adults’. As the strapline proclaims: ‘This is your brain on Anime‘. Where can I buy this drug? I want more! TRAILER
Europa (Zentropa – Denmark): Before he was all about controversy and pushing everyone’s buttons Lars Von Trier actually started out as a promising straight up director. Part of his ‘Europa Trilogy’, Europa is LVT at his finest, employing 100 years of cinematic techniques to make this 1991 film feel like a 1930s Noir classic; told through fractured, surreal, and dreamlike visuals. While it’s not a weighty story, imagery is king here, and there are buckets of it – leaving you to wonder why he went in for Dogma, and hasn’t really shaken off that visual style since. TRAILER
Drunken Master II (醉拳二, Zuì Quán Èr – Hong Kong): generally considered to be the one of the best Jackie Chan movies; and finishing with one of the greatest fight-scenes ever put to film, there’s a lot of grand claims that follow this picture. With a fairly weak plot, the film is completely defined by JC’s unique brand of entertaining slapstick, breathtaking, jaw-dropping, and highly innovative fight-choreography. He’s like Bruce Lee and Buster Keaton, but on better form than both here – mix it up with some unbelievably dangerous elements like fire-breathing, and hot coal stunts and you’re on to a winner. Most importantly, Drunken Master is great fun to watch. TRAILER
Y Tu Mamá También (Mexico): Alfonso Cuaron is third director of the modern Mexican boys club (with Iñárritu and del Toro). Before the technical accomplishments of Gravity and Children of men, he made this indie-spirited, passionate, and fiery road-trip movie about love, loss, sexuality, and youth. All three leads are fantastic, but whereas the very young Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna went on to be Latino superstars, the female lead – Ana López Mercado – hasn’t worked since. A solid story, great performances set against a very interesting political background make this a genre-topping road trip to remember. TRAILER
Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen – Germany): in the final throws of the GDR (East-Germany) a Stasi police officer has to spy on a writer and his lover, but slowly becomes immersed in their lives. The best thing about the intentionally slow pacing is that it gradually sucks you in, more and more, until you’re completely gripped. Ulrich Mühe steals the show with a dialogue-light, nuanced performance as officer HGW XX/7; going from a cold and by-the-book interrogation instructor, to a complex and divided human being. The other cast members, especially Sebastian Koch, put in stellar shifts too. On paper this sounds like a non-event, but it’s as solid a drama / thriller as you could ask for. TRAILER
Only Human (Seres queridos – Spain-Argentina): a Jewish lady takes her new Palestinian partner to meet the family; naturally everyone’s dysfunctional. I know what you’re thinking: “that sounds like Meet the Parents!? #LOL”. It’s absolutely not, because this is actually smart, witty, and laugh-out-loud funny. Although the story hinges on an intense political divide this film is as apolitical and innocent as they come – it almost feels like a ‘classic’ comedy; playing heavy on stereotypes, slapstick and some black comedy elements. My biggest complaint about Spanish cinema is that it’s usually over-dramatic, but it works perfectly in here. TRAILER
Please leave your film suggestions and reasons in the comments.
I’ll hopefully have enough to create a follow-up post – which would credit your entry and link back to your website.
Remember though, these are NOT the best foreign films per se, but the best ones for helping people explore the more interesting movies in world cinema.
Steven Seagal: Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing good actors in shit films for a quick buck. However, I never experience more intense bouts of simultaneous anger and apathy than seeing Steven Seagal‘s latest releases. Seagal shot to fame in the 1980s with a rapid bout of mainstream action films; Nico (AKA – Above the Law), Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Under Seige… While none of them were ‘Best. Movie. Ever’ status, they were all quite enjoyable but – most importantly – fitting for the time. Not one to let past glories fade, if you pick any point over the last 30 years I bet that SS was working on the same old hackneyed one-man-army B-Movie action film.
There’s not much else that Seagal hasn’t dabbled in: directing, producing, writing, choreography, he’s got a blues band with two albums, he’s a Reserve Deputy Chief with his own ‘reality’ TV show (Steven Seagal: Lawman), he has released his own therapeutic oils and an energy drink (‘Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt’), aftershave (‘Scent of Action’), knives, and is in the process of designing his own gun with ORSIS rifles.
Verdict: I don’t really care that he has a bunch of dodgy lawsuits, or is friends with Putin, or still tries to convince everyone he’s a total badass (Video)… What bothers me about Seagal are his crimes against cinema. His films are literally all the same. He’s always an Ex-Black Ops / Mercenary / Hitman. He’s never in danger. Every synopsis is the same. And practically every poster & DVD cover is identical: his big face – usually close up – with an equally massive gun, pulling a ‘badass‘ pose. Even the titles are impressively unimaginative like “Ultimate Revenge”, “Out For Vengeance”, “Retribution Overload”, “Payback Force”, “Explosive Justice” or other such nonsense.
Justice Genius or Arsey Ryback – YOU DECIDE!
Have you always wanted to give foreign films a try but don’t know where to start?
There’s something for everyone in the ‘world cinema’ section of any shop – you just need to know what to look for. Foreign films aren’t all 4 hour-long arthouse softcore snooze-fests; although there are some… The only advice I would give to first-timers is to avoid dub-tracks at all costs and go straight for the subtitles (voice acting is generally stale, lips are out of sync, you lose the performance, and famous voices can distract you)
Below is a list of ‘Entry Level’ movies to get you started. There’s nothing too heavy on dialogue or ideas. These are ‘gateway’ movies to show that there’s an alternative to Hollywood’s churn-and-burn franchises. Some of the choices may seem obvious, but this list is aimed at absolute beginners. Most similar lists I’ve seen seem to stop at around 1970 listing ‘classic after ‘classic’; which aren’t necessarily the most accessible movies for novices.
The Raid (‘Serbuan Maut‘ – Indonesia): imagine an action film where pretty much the entire runtime is nothing but bone-breaking, innovative, and mesmerising fight sequences! An action film that delivers on real, physical stunts and traditional fighting & filming techniques! An action film that says no to overblown and unnecessarily cheap-looking CGI, and gratuitous back story of 1D characters. The Raid (and The Raid 2) are movies that don’t disappoint. TRAILER
Run Lola, Run (‘Lola Rennt‘ – Germany): A simple concept played out three times, in a variety of frenetic, stylish, and a adrenaline-pumping ways. The plot follows a girlfriend’s attempts to bail out her debt-ridden boyfriend before his lenders send him to sleep with the fishes. You could watch this and think about free will, chance, the butterfly effect etc – or you can sit back, switch off, and let it hypnotise you. Bright, poppy, and with a pounding dance soundtrack, this plays out like an elongated music video. TRAILER
Hard Boiled (‘辣手神探‘ – Hong Kong): So you love the iconic gun fights from films like Face/Off, The Matrix, and Shoot ‘Em Up – awww, that’s cute. How about some genre-defining gunplay complete with doves, explosions-ahoy, and slow-motion bodies flying in all directions – delivered by the master of infinite-ammo action, John Woo. This is the peak of the ‘Heroic Bloodshed’ genre of action; basically kung fu but with guns. The final hospital shootout is among the best action scenes ever filmed. TRAILER
Love me if You Dare (‘Jeux d’enfants‘ – France): Love stories, meh, I’m not usually a fan – but here’s one that’s quirky, cool and doesn’t star Zooey Deschenel (WTF, France?!?). It follows two best friends from children to pensioners as they struggle to be in the right place at the right time for their life-long love to truly work out. Any film this poetic, stylish and charming – to the point of warming your heart – could only be French! TRAILER
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 – Korea): one of Korea’s best directors, and a handful of the country’s biggest stars in a story about three outlaws trying to find ancient treasure before the Japanese Army and other bandits. This is a fun historical romp that entertains for the duration, like an Indiana Jones film. It’s an Italian-style spaghetti western, with Hollywood sensibilities, but still remains a very ‘Korean’ feeling movie; combining some of the best aspects of 50 years of ‘world cinema’ together perfectly. TRAILER
Timecrimes (Spain): Whilst on vacation with his wife everyman Hector sees a lady undressing at the edge of his property, which sets off an elaborate chain of events. Here’s to the high–concept, low-budget time–travel film with no SFX! It’s hard to say more without ruining the film, but this one stands out for being completely rooted in the real world; the characters feel human, the baddie fumbles around, the settings are banal but creepy. Simple, clever, and effective. TRAILER (contains spoilers)
The Street Fighter (激突！殺人拳 – Japan): when he refuses to kidnap a billionaire heir for the Yakuza, they try to kill the street fighter – which turns out to be a terrible decision for all involved. This is the first movie to get an R rating for violence alone, a major influence of a Mr Tarantino, and while it’s not as shocking as it would have been 40 years ago, it’s still a brilliant Martial Arts movie. It’s also been deemed important enough to be made available for free on the public domain (LINK) TRAILER
Trollhunter (‘Trolljegeren‘ – Norway): mock–documentary following an old school troll-hunter (mythical ones, not internet trolls) as he helps keep these magnificent beasts hidden from the unsuspecting public. This one’s a dead-pan slow-burner that packed with loads of tiny details about trolls and their mythology. The central character is played superbly, taking his job very seriously, which engages the viewer. Great black comedy / fantasy satire. TRAILER
Ring (Ringu – Japan): You know the drill; after watching a cursed VHS you get a phone call saying “you gonna die lol”, and you spend your last week in a pants-shittingly terrifying nightmare scenario. A victim of its own success, having being parodied everywhere, it’s easy to forget how scary this film is; it’s broody, atmospheric, restrained, and genuinely terrifying. The haunted mother of the J-Horror genre, which kick-started the trend of (usually botched) Asian horror remakes. TRAILER
MicMacs (‘MicMacs à tire-larigot‘ – France): after losing his dad to a landmine, and being hit by a stray bullet Brazil sets out to take his revenge on the two weapons manufacturers responsible. Despite being a sharp commentary on the arms industry the title translates as “non-stop shenanigans”, and that exactly what this is. A fun take on the classic ‘revenge’ story, this is from French visionary Jean-Pierre Jeunet; who somehow manages to capture surreal and dream-like worlds perfectly – and manages to make this modern film look and feel like a Golden Age classic. TRAILER
Please leave your film suggestions and reasons in the comments.
I’ll hopefully have enough to create a follow-up post – which would credit your entry and link back to your website.
Remember though, these are NOT the best foreign films per se, but the best ones for introducing people to world cinema.
If you know any metalheads you’ve probably seen a few links spreading through social media about “The best band you’ve never heard of”. Here’s a brief rundown of the band, and their best songs for you to enjoy.
TL;DR – If you even remotely love Metal, and are open to other genres sneaking in this is absolutely a band you must try.
Listening to Maximum the Hormone is an experience that no other band comes close to. While you’d probably have to class them as a ‘Metal’ / ‘JMetal’ outfit, playing one of their discs is like sprinting through a music store, listening to as many genre sections as you can cram in to four minutes; everything’s covered, from funk and thrash through to pop and ska.
Most other genre-crossing bands usually stick to one combo – the burgeoning Dance / Metal genre being a popular one (Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein, Mindless Self Indulgence, Enter Shakari etc) – but where MTH stand out is that they do a whole raft of styles, yet they never come across as gimmicky or ridiculous; the switches between styles are all seamless, and ultimately it makes them impressive and admirable to listen to – it also helps that singing duties are split over three vocalists (One screamer, one rapper and a pop singer) and backing vocals done from the fourth.
Their ‘sound’ is massive; huge, broad and accomplished production that’s evenly split over all frequencies. Whereas most rock bands dial guitar and vocals to 11, the MTH bassist is their main producer, which helps to emphasise the lower range and rhythm tracks. It’s amazing what your ears can pull out of a well-mixed song!
The true beauty of their music is that their songs are packed full of great riffs (from a rock/metal perspective), yet they do justice to all of the genres mentioned above, and many more. Below is a whistle-stop tour of one of the best (Metal) bands in the world, and one that are criminally under-rated – alongside Hot Action Cop, Phil X and The Drills and Danko Jones.
Koi No Mega Lover – I’d happily put this down as THE best Metal song of the 00s. This has everything that makes the band great: pop-hook vocals, crunching metal riffs, super-tight bass/drum rhythms, and a genre-bending structure. You just can’t help but be uplifted by the greatness of this track – and that’s without even understanding a single lyric. It’s way over five minutes long, but always seems to finish too quickly. (Bonus: Fake subtitle version)
Uehara~Futoshi~ (Apologies for the terrible Anime video) Named after the bassist, this song is raw, fast, angry and bassey, and with one of the most stand-out bass licks since Rancid’s Maxwell Murder. At 2:36 long, it’s one of the band’s shorter tracks, but it doesn’t half pack a punch. Sounds like RHCP in parts (if they were actually good). Signature pop/slap funk bass playing.
Buiikikaesu – a great album-into track that tries its best to prepare you for the rest of the album. It lulls you in with a soft – unassuming – guitar riff, then clobbers you over the head with a wall of Nu-metal riffage, rap rock, slap bass, and pop chorus. This is primal MTH, going from 1-100mph in 5 seconds.
Bikini. Sports. Ponchin’ – Split in to several contrasting parts; starting at Emo/Metal with some screaming, an angry rock pre-chorus, which bursts into a disco-inflected funk chorus and middle-eight. On paper a song like this should be terrible; but as MTH prove over and over, any genre can be combined with metal.
A L I E N: sitting at the more extreme end of the spectrum. This one begins with thrash, nosedives into death/grind metal before pulling off one of the most powerful jumps into some bass showboating and short-lived rock riffs that most bands would regurgitate for a full five-minute entire song. Unfortunately, the end of this one digresses to a simple, repetitive power-pop chant for 2 minutes. Still, worth watching for the bizarre video alone.
Rokkinpo Goroshi: another absolute knockout of an opening track. This uses an Asian scale (and some old gongs) to let you know for sure that this is a metal band from the Far East. Twisting between rock, metal
Louisiana Bob: (another poor anime vid) If you ever wanted to here how some crunchingly good, full-bodied, rock production, then this is your track. Metal vocals, rock riffs, rhythmic breakdowns and pop chorus – you know the drill by now.
Chu Chu Lovely Muni Muni Mura Mura Purin Purin Boron Nururu Rero Rero: (again, rubbish video). Classic retro, almost ‘heavy surf rock’ bubblegum chorus hook. But being MTH it’s followed up with some coarse vocals and crushing riffs.
[Remotely decent video unavailable]
My Girl: no, not that one, although it is slipped in right at the end. One of the more steady and straightforward metal tracks in the band’s canon. A good sound mix, catchy vocals and the ‘headbangability’ make this one an instant classic.
Think of the most powerful movie scenes you can remember? The scenes that shocked and grabbed you. The moments that punched you in the gut. The takes that made you fall in love with Cinema. My guess is that they’re not from a kids film?!?!? For me, there’s something more raw, powerful and hard-hitting about the scenes and themes in 18-rated film that lesser certificates fail to match. Despite this, it feels like there are almost no 18-rated movies being released in the UK any more.
In Britain we have the following certificates for cinema-screened movies, issued by the BBFC (British Board Film Classification)
U: Universal – everyone can watch
PG: Parental Guidance
12A: Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult
15: Fifteen years and older
18: Eighteen years and older
Between 2003 and 2013 the number of films released in UK cinemas jumped from 587 to 994; a raise of 59%. U-rated films went from 60 (10% of all films) to 127 (13%), 12A went from 153 (26%) to 321 (33%) yet the number of 18-rated films has gone from 56 (9.5%) to 68 (6.8%). Of the 28 UK box office number 1 movies this year so far, only one – The Wolf of Wall Street – was an 18; and the last 18 before then was Dredd back in September 2012.
In reality, most of what comes out would be broadly categorized as either kids/family films (PG/U), teen/comedy films (12A), and thriller/horror films (15-18). Despite this, distributors seem hell-bent on cutting 18s down to 15s, 15s down to 12As, and 12As down to PG. It’s frustrating because you pay good money to see a film that’s been censored by the distributors to maximize the bums on seats – but the studios release the DVD as the higher certificate anyway.
Most notoriously, The Hunger Games dropped 7 seconds of ‘gore’ to limbo under the 12A bar. Doesn’t sound bad? Think how much more powerful it would have been with a little bit of blood or some realistic swearing in there! I zoned out of the ‘fighting’, as you saw someone hack into an opponent, and raise their weapon which was clean and shiny. Rubbish! Sure, it didn’t have to be another full-blown Battle Royale, but don’t sanitise it this much – at the end of the day, it’s kids killing kids!
A Good Day to Die Hard was another movie that was intentionally cut from a 15 to a 12A – by removing some violence and swearing. This is a franchise that started life as a genre-topping hard-18 action thriller, which has been diluted down to a family-friendly romp. You know what I say to that? “if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem. Quit being a part of the fucking problem!!”
These films aren’t alone – Jack Reacher lost some violence to drop from a 15 to a 12A. Woman in Black was a 15 that got trimmed down to a 12. Robocop & Total Recall, both originally ultra-gory 18s were re-made as 12As. Machete was an 18, Machete Kills – 15… I’m sure you get my drift
But it’s not all bad news. Nebraska last year should have been a 12A, but for the term C*cksucker being deliberately left in by the director – Alexander Payne, step up and receive your bravery medal. And then there’s Airplane! A film that has been a PG for over 20 years, but was recently has been uppded to a 12A for the sexual references – I guess I picked the wrong day to look up film certificates.
Where did all the brash, bold, action-packed, risqué, sexy, and ballsy film-making go? And why the fudge are the Jackass Movies all rated 18?!?!?!?!
For any readers thinking ‘this site is rubbish‘, ‘this guy knows nothing’, or ‘I’ve got loads of time to burn’, you may want to consider starting your own blog. The bottom line is that on WordPress it takes about 2 minutes, and it’s a brilliant way of making yourself feel important – “Yah, I run a Film Review website in my spare time, yah”. But before you dive at the deep end in – STOP! Think about the following…
Do you have enough spare time? Writing, re-writing, editing, pictures, and posting takes longer than you’d think, but that’s only the first part. You should also be reading, linking, and commenting on similar sites. Movie bloggers should join the LAMB, participate in Blogathons, and after a while start your own blogathons… If you’re wanting a decent level of traffic and interaction, you have to invest a lot of time.
So you’ve convinced yourself you want to be a blogger? Before you register, the next two things will be the biggest factors in your blog’s future; so don’t rush them.
It’s all in the name: ideally you want a unique and self-explanatory website title, with a matching URL. It also has to be memorable enough that fleeting visitors will be able to recall it and search for your site again. For me having “Film Reviews” in the title and URL works because it’s on several places in every page, which makes for some good SEO.
What’s your niche? Short articles? Long essays? Detailed analysis? Humour? Technical? Industry insider? Genre specific? Debate? A single country’s or region’s cinema? Pick a pigeonhole and stick to it. In my opinion, there are too many broad film review sites, all busting out generally similar reviews of the same films at the same time – the “one stop shop” market is packed. Pick a niche and fill the vacuum.
Once you’ve registered, here’s some more general advice gleaned from years with my nose stuck in the WP dashboard.
You’ve heard the hyperbolic cliché a bajillion times before; but content really is king. It’s your site: should be your content. There’s no point in regurgitating or aggregating stories & content from established movie news sites like IMDB / empire / SlashFilm… who themselves are constantly scanning studio, production and industry sites. Original articles, ideas, features, opinions and reviews will be why people tune in again and again.
Be patient. Don’t worry about your first few months; unless you can log some serious hours it will take a while to find your stride, hone your own style and work out how to best layout your website, widgets and articles themselves. It can take years for your stats to truly snowball, and for your site to build up a loyal readership & subscribers.
Be critical, keep reading/re-reading your articles – looking for mistakes, and areas of improvement. Comb through your stats and find out what’s driving people to your site, and what else is keeping them there. It could be a particular franchise, actor, or catchphrase – once you know, write more about it.
Be honest; a lot of movie reviewers seem to ‘go with the flow’ and mark a film depending on how it’s generally received. Don’t worry about being the stick in the mud, tell it like you see it and readers will genuinely respect you more, comment more, read more…
Watch a film just before you review it: remember how awesome you thought a film was when you were ten years old, drunk or stoned? (You’re a legend if it’s all three) Watch it again to make sure it’s still good and funny!
Review the movie, don’t re-tell the entire plot. This is easily the biggest and most infuriating mistake of many ‘review’ sites – a sentence or two should cover the plot, any more and you’re probably in spoiler territory. If you write a couple of paragraphs about the story, you’re being a dick.
Use the wider WordPress community. As mentioned above, join an index site like the LAMB and participate in as much as you can. Seek out similar, but larger and more successful sites and leave meaningful comments & links there – don’t spam the same comment on every article about a particular topic.
Posting semi-regularly; is far better than bunching reviews together. Start aiming for 2-3 posts a week to keep people interested and coming back to your site. The ‘schedule’ feature in WP is great, use and abuse it!
Pictures help: I went several years with no pictures, thinking short reviews were snappy enough. Now the site looks a lot slicker, and hits from image-specific search engines make up around 30% of all incoming traffic. Some pictures have more hits than the actual review of that movie.
Finally, some advice from one of Britain’s top film critics. The spectacularly quiffed Mark Kermode – as pointed out in his book The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex – lists five essential components to proper for any movie criticism (which applies to all writing)
Most importantly, ENJOY BLOGGING This should be a fun hobby, not a chore. If you ever feel like you’re beginning to loathe writing, GET TO ZE CHOPPA and escape before it’s too late! It’s worth taking some time off to clear your head and put some good content together if you hit the wall.
If you’ve been mulling it over for a long time, the best advice I can give you is to start as soon as you can; you’ll wish you’d done it years ago.
Archer is one of those great shows where the more you watch, and re-watch it, the more you appreciate and pick up on the obscure and flat moments that you didn’t ‘get’ first time round. Here’s another list of even more recurring jokes that you’ll find in TVs greatest adult cartoon.
Kenny Loggins / Danger Zone – this fan favourite appears time and time again; mostly when a perilous mission is being described, or Lana’s feelings for Archer surface. Going beyond bad (and country) renditions of the 80s pop classic, it comes to a head in an episode where ‘K-LOG’ is the central storyline, but it all becomes a bit self-indulgent. Personal favourite. “I will hire Kenny Loggins to come here and play an acoustic set, while I slap some sense in to you”.
Boom… Phrasing – essentially the “that’s what she said”, of the show. Every time someone says anything that has even a fraction of innuendo (pretty much every second line) someone will inevitably shout phrasing – BOOM! Dropped in Season Five, as it was getting a bit too obvious when they were appearing. Favourite: Other Barry calling Phrasing on Barry “So tell Archer I’m coming for him, phrasing, boom, and both Barrys out! “
Smut – it’s far raunchier than most cartoons, and the cast doesn’t hold back with the x-rated running gags. There’s everything from inappropriate boners (favourite: “I love that I have an erection, that didn’t involve homeless people” – Kreiger), to arousal descriptions (favourite: “I swear to god you could drown a toddler in my panties right now” – Pam) and even the blackest of taboo, as Archer gets a stiffy at the thought of his dead mother – it’s wrong on soooooo many levels. Cheryl/Carol is also a one woman choke-fetish gag factory.
Tinnitus – every time there’s an explosion, or a grenade / gun goes off next to someone’s ear the aftermath is undoubtedly peppered with the affected character poking their ear(s) and shouting “Maaahhh” “Mahp”. Favourite: when Archer tries to bazooka the ISIS Armory Requisitions officer Rodney – it doesn’t end well.
Woodhouse – Archer’s long-suffering live-in man-servant is a great minor-character. For no reason whatsoever he is a heroin addict, WWII hero (arguably the original rampager) that collected Nazi scalps – he is also absolutely bursting with gay innuendo and British stereotypes. This is best displayed in the Tontine episode (“The Double Deuce”). Favourite, when Woodhouse learns what his fellow soldier naming his aeroplane “Choke and Stroke” really meant.
Bret Bunsen/Buckley – being a spy agency, every so often a gun will go off in the ISIS offices, and unfortunately mild-mannered clerk Brett usually ends up with a slug in him. Last count I did was six times – although I’m sure it’s probably higher. Season Five opens with Bret’s funeral – “he died doing what he loved – getting shot”. He also got the nickname “Mr Bloodmobile” because he lost so much blood, without ever bleeding out.
Grammar Nazi / Literary References – for a racy, adult style comedy one of the best, and most subtle, recurring jokes is that Archer is a complete book-and-grammar pedant;
– to whom,
– can’t or won’t
– literally and figuratively
– Irony lessons
Favourite: on being told that Animal Farm is a book “No, it’s not Lana. It’s an allegorical novella about Stalinism by George Orwell, and spoiler alert, it sucks”
Couldn’t hear you – even when you can clearly hear someone, it’s not uncommon for agents to bait each other by saying I Couldn’t hear you over the sound of… “… my giant throbbing erection”, “… me breaking your nose”, “… how awesome I am”, Favourite, the one time someone says “I can’t hear you over the sound of.. I genuinely couldn’t hear you” was so unexpected that I snorted.
Woooooooh! – any time Archer partakes in some high-adrenaline activity (or enters the Danger Zone) he will end up running into enemy fire laughing or shouting Wooooh.. Favourite: “he broke both of Wu’s arms; while shouting Wooo!”
And for anyone that doesn’t like Archer…. THIS
Shamelessly stolen from Michael over at It Rains… You Get Wet.
Oldboy: saw it in a tiny – practically empty – 50-seater screen [Aberdeen, Belmont Cinema] and just fell in love right there. It’s got plot, style, direction, acting, editing, originality, and groundbreaking themes that the re-make probably hasn’t touched with a bargepole: I’m not rushing to watch it! Such a fine example of original, bold, and brave film-making.
Don’t think I would purposely decide to never watch a particular film on grounds that it’s potentially bad (I’ve sat though old propaganda films, terrible B-movies, outrageous exploitation films with no problems), but you’d be hard-pushed to convince me to watch the High School Musical movies, or any of those “he/she dies of cancer at the end” manipulative sob-fests.
Children of Men: My friend Spencer and I literally walked home slack-jawed, glancing at each other occasionally and muttering phrases like “No way”, “Holy shit” and “Fuck me” for 20 minutes after we left the cinema. Unbelievable, powerful film-making, paired with groundbreaking technical precision that should be watched big, loud and uninterrupted.
City of God: usually to people that haven’t yet been swayed to world cinema yet. My DVD of this has been continuously whored out for the past 5 years. Actually, I don’t even know where it is any more… Poor Rocket! Take that acclaimed coming-of-age crime film Gomorrah, turn that son-bitch sideways, and stick it straight up your candy ass!
I try to catch as many Barry Pepper films as I can. For me, he’s one of American cinema’s unsung heroes, never the leading man, but always putting in a top shift, and connects with the audience so effortlessly. Jackie Chan too, although he’s done so many movies that it’s hard to keep tabs – and had a few ropy hollywood outings.
Zooey Deschanel: seems to have carved herself out as the go-to queen of the quirk. I cannot stand her cutesy, look at me, bug-eyed, big-fringed, dressed-like-a-tranny-from-the-1980s vibe. Arrested Development is Michael Cera’s get out of jail free card, or else he’d be cast off in the same boat.
See next question – LOL. Seriously, I’d love to sit down and have a few beers with Russell Crowe. Of all the egos, stars, and reported stories from behind the scenes, he’s been the most fun to follow through the years, and sounds like he’d be a great drinking buddy. It helps that he can act the pants off of most people too, at least when he puts his mind to it.
I have always exclusively reserved my Hollywood-wood for the lovely Gina Gershon (Those eyes! Those lips! That hair!) – she’s like an expensive whiskey that keeps getting better with age. Although recently I saw a few photos of Italian actress Sophia Loren and my life hasn’t been the same since. Too close to call. Maybe Lizzie Capplin, or Penelope Cruz. Toughest question on the list for sure.
The Good, The Bad & The Weird is as close to a ‘dream movie’ I’ve seen in real life. However, if I were a producer I would go for… Brian De Palma directing an international action-thriller with an ensemble including Javier Bardem, Jean Reno, Penelope Cruz, Barry Pepper, Moritz Bleibtreu, Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel – all in their prime.
When Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) are in the same scene my telly, brain, and Marshall stiffy pretty much explode simultaneously. The back-and-forth banter between those two is some of the best-written TV out there, and the actor’s chemistry is sublime.
If I was living in a world where BASEketball or Death Race 2000 were actual sports I’d quit my job tomorrow. Being dropped into a Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, MicMacs, Delicatessen) or Luc Besson (Fifth Element, Adele Blanc Sec, Angel-A, Nikita, The Last Battle) would be wildly entertaining, although I know for a fact that this is going to change when Snow Crash is finally made – come on Hollywood, pull your finger out!
I think the 2000s is a tough decade to beat, so much emerging talent and superb movies. Probably helps that I spent most of the decade in front of a cinema screen.
Oldboy, Amores Perros, Mystic River, A Bittersweet Life, Children of Men, Kill Bill Vol 1, Together, No Country For Old Men, 3:10 to Yuma, Battle Royale, Memento, The Fall, Intacto, Infernal Affairs, The Woodsman, Bourne Ultimatum, District 9, 3-Iron, Brick, Eternal Sunshine, Primer, Lilya-4-Ever, In Bruges, City of God, Love Me If You Dare
Action; every single time. I like the odd chick-flick now and again – Just Like Heaven, Princess Bride, SATC – but even the Mrs prefers a good old action-film over the chick-flicks.
Two words – James. Bond. Total hero.
Colour for the most part. I’m not particularly adverse to black and white – it has its merits – but I’ll take ‘modern cinema’ every time over the classics. Imagine watching films like Volver, Scott Pilgrim, The Fall, Lego Movie, Kill Bill and Survive Style 5+ in monochrome / B&W… no chance.
As a British male under 40, there are very few things that unite almost everyone in this demography – a love for Peep Show, is one of those things. To those unfamiliar, it’s a British sit-com about two flatmates that uses First-Person (from the character’s perspective) viewpoints, and their stream-of-consciousness internal thoughts as part of the dialogue.
I remember being so confused the first couple of episodes – why is it filmed like this? Is he saying this out loud? WTF is going on? But when it clicks it’s seamless. (Not unlike Family Guy’s confusing jumping to unrelated events, timelines, and situations). Essentially, Peep Show is Being John Malcovich, but through the eyes of two atypical British guys.
Most of the comedy comes from the two central characters being wildly opposing personalities; and although they’re almost caricatures – we can all relate to a bit of each of them. One is an uptight, awkward, history boffin loan manager with confidence issues; the other is a happy-go-lucky, idiotic failed-musician / eternal waster. Naturally, these two try to help each other feel more normal, and hijinks / hilarity ensues. We love them because you hear what they think, which is usually what everybody thinks, but society says you shouldn’t say out loud – and you never hear on other shows.
What separates the Peep Show style of humour from other comedy series’ is that it’s so awkward & realistic – with some scenes being difficult to watch. The closest thing I can think of is that it’s a bit like Party Down but – being British – has more deadpan/reserved characters and less glamorous settings & scenarios: basically, everyone’s like Roman & Henry.
Although it isn’t quite as witty, or well-written, as shows like Arrested Development or Father Ted (the storylines are often a bit clunky) the charm of Peep Show is that it’s grounded, brutally honest and unfiltered – like your own thoughts. Because of this, it can stand proud alongside British TV Comedies like Fawlty Towers, BlackAdder, The Young Ones, The IT Crowd and Mr Bean. If anyone was interested in knowing what It’s actually like being awkwardly British in today’s world, take a look at this.
As a bonus, I’m from a Scottish City called ‘Aberdeen’, which is name-checked a disproportionately high number of times for a TV show (i.e. way more than once)
After five series’ (and renewed for a sixth) this show is obviously a big hit in the ‘States, but The Good Wife (TGW) in an unsung hero of the UK TV schedules – big props to Channel 4 and More4 for giving it a punt, and sticking with it. As a late-20s guy that loves Action & B-movies, It’s not the type of show I thought I’d like, but here’s a bunch of reasons that will hopefully convince you to give this a spin!
The Women: unlike 99% of other TV shows the main character is a strong, powerful, hard-working mother (don’t run away!). She’s written well, brilliantly acted, fleshed out, and what’s more – she’s surrounded by other equally capable ladies – Diane, Kalinda, and dozens of other minor, characters. It’s a sad time when around 50% of all movies fail the ridiculously simple ‘Bechdel Test’ – and ½ that pass do so by the skin of their teeth – but TGW puts women front and centre, making it a refreshing change.
The Tech: I work in IT and the tech in TGW never fails to amuse and impress, not just the kind of gadgets they use day-to-day – but the way in which cutting edge technology is often the centerpiece of a story arc, or the focus of a case. There are entire episodes based on Bitcoin, search algorithms, NSA surveillance, Reddit (Scabbit), Silk Road, drone murders, leaked documents, Anonymous, ISPs turning over IP addresses, memes, video game murders, and a recurring Google-esque client – ChumHum. You watch it and think “WTF TGW, this exact case was in the news last week!?!?” It’s easily the most tech-savvy show on the planet.
Major characters: Although Alicia is the eponymous Good Wife, there are around ten recurring characters that come in and out of the spotlight throughout the seasons. Kalinda Sharma, Will Gardner, Peter Florirck, Eli Gold, Diane Lockhart, Cary Agos, and to a lesser extent, the kids and grandparents. All of these enjoy a good share of screentime, character-building and season-spanning story arcs, that bring some much-appreciated depth to the cast – making them way more than “The husband”, “The Boss”, “The Competition”.
Minor and recurring, characters: arguably the show’s best feature is the ability to craft great minor characters with very little time. David Lee (Family Law!!) is one of the best lawyers on TV; Colin Sweeney is deliciously creepy; quirky lawyer Elisabeth Tasioni, politically incorrect Senior Partner Howard Lyman, the ever-scheming Louis Canning (Michael J Fox), promiscuous brother Owen, morally sound Clark Hayden, those are just off the top of my head. These characters – and many more – are so good that you cross your fingers every episode, hoping they re-appear and you get enough time to have a proper catch up with them.
The Judges: interestingly, the show has a small roster of regular judges, each with their own personality, leniency threshold, quirks, and history with Lockhart/Gardner. You find yourself thinking “un-ohhh, this is the strict Judge” or “Yeeess, this one fancies Alicia”, or “Is that in your opinion?” Technically another bunch of minor recurring characters, but they’re definitely worthy of their own spot on the list.
The main reason that all of these characters are awesome is that the casting for the show is phenomenal. I can’t think of a single actor who you could say was totally mis-cast. Re-inventing actors so inseparable from their big roles – Chandler Bing, Ugly Betty, Marty McFly – making them work alongside relatively unknown / under-rated actors. Someone somewhere has outstanding vision – like a Tarantino of the TV Sphere – making something special out of people with fairly unremarkable careers. It’s a true anomaly of TV. The guest appearances are also often surprising: Eddie Izzard, Method Man, Anna Champ, Sarah Silverman… it feels like everyone is lining up to appear in the show.
The Law: probably the most important aspect of a legal program – and not that I’m a qualified lawyer or anything – but it’s one of the few shows when the law is complex, believable, but still completely accessible (usually through some ‘approach the bench’ exposition). The show’s also not obsessed with Lockhart Gardner winning every case, and you sometimes see the flipside when they have to knowingly defend a guilty party… There’s so much fiery courtroom drama that you’ll soon find yourself walking around shouting phrases like Objection! Sustained! Over-ruled! Leading the witness your honour!! STRIKE THAT!! RECUSE YOURSELF!!!
The dynamics: it’s baffling that a show with such a super-broad appeal, and so many angles, still works this well. Ultimately, it appears to have been pitched at more senior viewers (median viewer age is 61 years old, and rising), yet it’s very tech-savvy and has a lot of explicitly gay/bisexual characters. It’s supposed to be about a lawyer, but that’s not even ½ of the runtime as family and politics feature heavily. It flips between serious drama, social commentary, and contemporary comedy so easily that it must be enviable to other show writers. You can watch the show as booth case-of-the-week, or appreciate the larger stories that bridge episodes and seasons. On paper it would look committee’d to death – a show that really shouldn’t work – but it’s a true anomaly.
it’s just a shame that the title is so bad. “The Good Wife” – bleurgh! It instantly repels most male viewers (probably wimin’ too); it’s just so frustratingly vague that anyone flicking through the TV Schedules could be forgiven for not giving it a second look. It could be a show about housewifery, it could be a melodramatic soap opera, hell – it could even be a softcore Movies For Men / Cinemax / Bravo style show.
TL; DR? Short Version: this is a peach of a show, and you should be watching it.
Last week I got a notification that Paragraph Film Reviews had made it to five years old – which officially makes this one of the few things I’ve stuck at for more than a week – joining the tiny list of playing Fifa Games and Guitars. To celebrate this I’ll be throwing up some longer features and articles over the next few weeks.
At the time of writing the site has 750 posts, 1,450 followers, 6,850 article shares, almost 2,000 comments, and (since stats began in 2011) hits from almost every country in the world – including a bunch I didn’t know even counted: New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Aland Islands, Eritrea, Benin, Belize, Martinique. Big shout out to the USA too, who make up twice as much traffic as my home country, the UK! Modest as they are, I never thought this tiny blog would ever get stats like that.
Regulars will notice that the site has slowed down a little, but I do intend keeping it up – I’ve recently moved to the Scottish countryside and got an awesome dog, leaving me with less time to write new content.
Thanks to everyone that’s visited, read, and commented on this site over the past five years – and to all of the other movie reviewers doing the public a solid by being a film blogger!
Hope to see you all around in another five years.
The awesome people that follow me on twitter will be familiar with #searchtermoftheday – a regular feature of the best searches that real people type in to real search engines, which (somehow) directs them to this site.
Unfortunately, Google have started encrypting their searches, meaning that the majority of search engine referrals are no longer known – so enjoy these while you can. Here are some of the greatest hits from the past few years. It should be obvious they they’re 100% genuine / real, because nobody could think them up…
Amusing / phrasing
Saught-after celebrity body parts (these are around 40% of incoming hits):
Fetish / Sexy-to-someone / Fapping
What are your best search terms? And why are some people still allowed online?!?!
Last year Mr and Mrs Paragraph Film Reviews destroyed all 4-and-a-bit seasons of Prison Break on Netflix. While it’s faaaar too much for a single paragraph, below is a list of all thoughts and issues. BEWARE: This article contains some spoilers – so if you want to be cautious, skip to the final paragraph.
Michael Schofield: architect-turned-inmate with a ‘genius’ mind, but clearly has a learning difficulty of some sort as he he’s continually putting everything and everyone on the line for his absolute meathead of a brother. His role boils down to babysitting the other characters, and hundreds of close-ups of his shifty eyes & pretty fake-looking tattoos, whilst he incessantly muttering nonsense about how everything is always part of “The Plan”. The writers give him some of the most random illnesses, scenarios and backstories of the group. He’s also slowly inflating as the series tick by, winding up as a bit of a pie in Season 4.
Lincoln Burrows: Michael’s aforementioned meathead brother. Initially and indisputably THE worst actor in the cast, but unlike everyone else he doesn’t switch off by the end of S4, and slowly becomes one of the better actors. Lincoln is there to continually hit people, fight people, jeopardise/ruin ‘The Plan’ and generally be the total opposite of Michael. It’s like a casting agent didn’t have the budget for Henry Rollins, so just went to a LA gym, found a similarly-looking beefcake that had done some amateur dramatics and said “YOU’RE HIRED! Please channel the energy and charisma of a root vegetable into your character”.
Theodore Bagwell (T-bag): absolutely nailed by Robert Knepper: easily the best and most interesting / entertaining character in the show. Easily the best actor in the show. Gets all of the best lines, stories and memorable parts. Almost forgot to mention that T-BAG IS THE CENTRAL BAD GUY, AND A TOTALLY DESPICABLE PERSON. He’s genuinely creepy, has a sleazy physicality, disturbing accent, is a sex offender (and pedophile) with serious daddy issues – not to mention a white supremacist, murderer, rapist, necrophiliac, vile, unhygienic, and leaves a trail of bodies and devastation behind him. He even ends up with a freaky deaky plastic hand. How this can end up as the best character is a testament to Knepper doing a stellar job, and spectacularly shit writing of every other character. On the flip side he’s clearly smart, resilient, eloquent, and above everything else – a survivor, with a penchant for eating any clues that will keep him in the game. T-Bags is undeniably the best thing about Prison Break and will go down as one of my all-time favourite villains / characters.
Sarah Tancredi: Initially appears as a minor character / romantic sub-plot / the only girl in the show, but ends up in all kinds of trouble, so decides to join the outlaws, landing herself a Kim Bauer-esque role – perpetually in the shit, being kidnapped, tortured, killed, beheaded and resurrected all in the name of terrible writing. It’s a shame because in S1 she was actually pretty good (in a badly written but well acted kind of way), but by S4 and beyond she clearly doesn’t give a single shit about anything but the money. For some reason, every time she gets sexed up the writers made every guy she tried to seduce ABSOLUTELY REPULSED by her advances – felt a little sorry for SWC by the end of the show. See also – Prison Break: The Final Break.
Alexander Mahone: played by Will Fitchner, would have been one of the best characters… if he had something good to work with. In season 2 he’s a generic bad-cop / bent lawman, season 3 he plays a zombie/junkie with flashes of clarity and only really gets a chance to shine in the fourth series. It’s an interesting character arc, given that everyone else is either good or bad, but any attempt to pad out his story feels like necessity or afterthought, which is a shame, as he’s easily the most talented actor in the show.
Gretchen Morgan: remember Nina from 24; a femme fatale with a deadly set of skills and no conscience… Imagine someone gave that great character to a bad actor. The writers try their best to make her the ‘sexy chick’, but she’s the second manliest thing about the show after Lincoln. She also has the ridiculous task of being the face of ‘THE COMPANY’ for S3: the combination of a bad actor, playing a bad character with a bad plotline is just too much to handle.
Fernando Sucre: bum-chinned token Latino petty criminal with the best intentions but a very bad streak of luck, and some shitty family members. When Sucre isn’t telling us that he’s doing it all for MARIE-FUCKING-CRUIZ (about 20 times in every episode), he’s generally shouting hispanic insults at people interfering with the plan, and calling Michael Papi in every scene. Quite a flat character given the amount of screentime he gets, but he’s played well enough by Amaury Nolasco.
John Abruzzi: stereotypical Italian-Mobster boss, right down the greasiest hair in history, and a stupid religious breakdown. Despite being such a ridiculous character, the he’s played very entertainingly and almost knowingly ridiculous by Peter Stormare – which only serves to make his early-ish departure more frustrating than sad.
Brad Bellick: Fox River’s mad dog head guard with only one weakness – his mammy! Bellick’s story arc is the most varied of the cast: S1 Nasty Guard, S2 deputised bounty hunter, S3 prison bitch, S4 begrudging good guy. He’s another case of a baddie played well, making you really dislike him. My only problem was that for the whole story he is all about himself, but in his last scene he makes a sacrifice, which just isn’t Bellick.
JL (Lincoln Junior): If anybody was the true ‘Kim Bauer’ of the Prison Break universe, it would be LJ, a weak and feable character that’s always either on the run or being captured by pretty much any person with a weapon, or 1/2 brain. Ultimately he just whimpers, cries and apologises to everyone for getting into trouble, again, and again, and again.
Paul Kellerman: an autonomous hit-man working in the FBI, for “The Company”. Doesn’t have a whole lot of range to cover, but is played well by Paul Anderson.
Don Self, perhaps the worst-cast person in the show – nasally voice, non-intimidating, ginger-permed pansy of an FBI agent. Not impressed. Not scary.
Bill Kim: another terribly-cast government/FBI/Lawman body. Supposed to be intimidating and dangerous; looks like a school-kid in his dad’s suit.
Wyatt Mathewson: Season 4 company hitman, stoic but almost ‘Terminator’-esque in the things he does. Unrealistically brutal, and generally unbelievable in his style, method and ability to avoid detection (for a man-mountain of a guy).
Tweener: absolutely ridiculous white-rapper stereotype, who’s styled to look like a 90s boyband member. Shifty acting, but with such a crap character, it’s hard to say if it’s his fault, or the just a terrible character.
There’s such an obvious distinction between the first two seasons and seasons 3 & 4. Series 1 is generally well-written, dramatic – and runs seamlessly in to Season 2, which has many well planned plot threads simultaneously running together for the duration. Then season three is born out of a ridiculously stupid twist in the last five minutes of S2, which feels like the ultimate tag-on to merely keep it all open-ended. The last 10 minutes of Season 3 also set up yet another season, which is infuriatingly bad – and short-sighted – writing for such a big show.
Season 1: THE ACTUAL PRISON BREAK! A season in which everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Every single aspect of Michael’s ridiculously convoluted prison escape plan is jeopardised and strained to wring out the maximum tension. Most episodes revolve around obtaining an object or access to a part of the prison that is ‘VITAL TO THE PLAN’ – it takes 40 minutes of twists and turns, but the gang usually get their way. Turns out to be an interesting look at life on the inside. Things of note: stupid Taj Mahal sub-plot, toe amputation, pretend diabetes, about 40 people getting shivved, random Christianity conversion, horrific flashback filler episode for no reason, prison poker, random acts of origami.
Season 2: BAND ON THE RUN. The not-looking-like-a-Christian-rock-band-at-all “Fox River Eight” escape prison but now must survive in their various factions, all searching for DB Cooper’s money. In this season, every coincidence and bit of luck is cashed in by the writers. Out of the whole of America, separated characters end up bumping in to each other all of the time. This was probably the peak of the show, as it juggled several good stories with loads of characters doing their own thing and plenty action. Things of note: nobody sleeps, European Goldfinch dot net, cartels, terror-baths, electrocution, forced suicide, plane ride.
Season 3: SHIT, THE SHOW’S STILL CALLED “PRISON BREAK”, BETTER PUT ‘EM BACK IN A PRISON! Half of the crew are in Sona, a ridiculous guard-free prison, where the inmates self-govern the joint; looks like a 3rd world crack den. The rest of the team are on the outside either helping the plan, or being held as collateral (aka completely written out). Probably the most boring series, and was thankfully cut in half by the writer’s guild strike. Feels like a sloppy re-hash of everything from season 1.
Season 4: SCYLLA. Totally couldn’t be assed watching it by this point, but having sunk 55 episodes before it, there didn’t seem like much point in quitting. The actors’ disdain is there for all to see by this point – nobody seems to give a shit as the story spirals from the ridiculous to the completely retarded. Some of the throwaway lines are supermassive holes in the story – like “oh yea, those guys escaped from that maximum security prison when a fire broke out, OBVS!”. WTF?!? To substitute for everything being terrible the writers in as many gratuitous fights, gunfights, and action scenes as the budget will allow. Shocking TV, feels like a totally different show to the first few series.
Prison Break – The Final Break: not being content with giving us a proper conclusion, wrapping up the entire story and showing us a ‘several years later’ scene at the end of S4, someone thought it would be a good idea to make a TV Movie. They found a single open-ended story from S4 (wasn’t difficult, there were about ten thousand) to milk, and boy, did they milk it. The long and short is that the love of Michael’s life – Sarah – has been put in to a sexy-but-dangerous women’s prison, and he needs to break her out. OMG, it’s like a role reversal!!! This is shockingly bad; from the women in prison angle, to the terribly acted lesbian inmates, to the whole cast not giving a shit, to the god-awful, rushed, final break. It was such a sour and cynical note to end what could have been a really good show.
Theme Song: has to be the most random, and ill-fitting piece of post-classical world music you ears will ever hear. Hints of Indian / Persian scales and singing, mixed over an orchestrated dramatic rhythm, and why not mix in a tad of dance beats at the end. I guess it’s fairly unique – but I have no idea what it has to do with the show.
Action scenes: for a show based on big set-pieces it handled human drama/action OK – but if you threw in cars, or anything on a remotely bigger scale the directors seemed to shit their pants and lose the ability to make sense of anything in front of the camera. Then the editing team had to cut the shit out of it, to make it more tense. End result – boring and/or incoherent car chases and shootouts every episode.
Stabs: In the middle of action scenes – when I assumed they’d break to adverts – a bizarre concoction of epilepsy triggering images, rapidly flash up on the screen to some loud, fast, panic-induing music that goes – DUN-DICKA-DICKA-DUN-DUN!!! Like every 5 minutes. For all +80 episodes!
I’m amazed that Prison Break went on for as long as it did. I can only assume that it was filling a void in the schedules or something. My biggest issue is a tag-team combo of the most staggeringly shit casting I can remember seeing, combined with some of the laziest and dumb writing you could imagine. In the end, someone, somewhere managed to force 83 episodes out of Prison Break, and like an absolute sucker, I watched every single one. My advice would be to watch series one and two, then walk away while the going’s good.
As I tried to compile a ‘Best of the year’ list from 2013 (previous ones here, here and here), I ended up with only two movies that were actually released in the UK last year: Alpha Papa – Alan Partridge, and Flight. All of the other high-scoring movies on this site were oldies.
Is it just me or did the studios fail to deliver last year? Almost everything I saw was middle-of-the-road; and most of the big films were re-boots, sequels, or disappointments. This led to me falling out of love with cinema in the second half of 2013; going from around 2 new releases a week, to one a month.
As a result, it’s made me think more about this site, and what I’m writing. From this month on I intend to be going back to this blog’s roots – loads more World Cinema, indie and B-movies. The ‘features’ were also the most popular articles of 2013 by far, so I will be doing more one-off non-review posts.
Here’s to 2014,
This gallery contains 51 photos.
Konichiwa! Brief interruption from regular film reviewing schedule here. As mentioned earlier in the year, the ongoing JAPAN-O-RAMA feature I’ve been running – in conjunction with some of my favourite movie bloggers – was brought around after I booked a trip from Scotland to Japan. It’s been and gone, and I’m not even going to …
Since I started this site I’ve been bleating on about how much I believe that Korea is one of the strongest film industries in the world regarding the actors, directors and the canon of associated staff that it takes to produce world-class, top-notch films. It looks like Hollywood is finally catching up, recognising this talent, inviting the cream of the crop over to tinsel town. Here’s a list of my favourites that have made the jump, so far…
Director – Park-Chan Wook (박찬욱): easily Korea’s most famous cinematic export, and firmly established as one of the world’s greatest directors with over a decade’s worth of acclaimed movies, including; Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK, and Thirst. His trademark style? Meticulous direction, spellbinding visuals, powerful storytelling, and often violent & disturbing subject matter. When Hollywood came a-knockin’ he managed to get Nicole Kidman, Jacki Weaver, and Tony & Ridley Scott involved in his first English-language movie – Stoker, which was well-received.
Actor – Lee Byung-hun (이병헌;): top of the K-actor pack in my books. He’s starred in some of the biggest and best Korean movies of all time: JSA: Joint Security Area, A Bittersweet Life, The Good The Bad The Weird, and I Saw The Devil. Has recently brought his Asian clout to Hollywood as ‘Storm Shadow’ in the past 2 GI Joe movies, and will appear in RED 2 this summer. He can do everything from rom-coms, to flawed heroes, to villains, and his 20-year career’s been so strong that he has his own Wiki page just for awards and nominations.
Director – Kim Ji-Woon (김지운): another director running with a hot streak of impressive movies: A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, The Good The Bad The Weird, and I Saw The Devil. For his debut American production he managed to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger (and coax arguably one of his best performances after a long line of duffers), Forrest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stromare, and the prolific Luiz Guzman. While it was not on the same level as his national works, The Last Stand far outshone Sylvester Stallone’s attempt at a similar genre movie – Bullet to the Head.
Actress – Bae Doona (배두나): Breaking out internationally in Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, and later The Host & Air Doll, Bae was picked up by the Wachowski brothers for Cloud Atlas, for which she was unanimously praised, sealing her a place in their next film, Jupiter Ascending.
Actor – Rain (Jung Ji-Hoon, 비): broke through with I’m A Cyborg, but That’s OK – and immediately jumped over to star in both Speed Racer and Ninja Assassin. Hasn’t done much since, but that’s OK too, because he’s also a singer, songwriter, dancer and model.
Director – Bong Joon-ho (봉준호): despite having less films than the previous two directors, they still pack a punch: Memories of Murder, The Host, and Mother, all being successful exports. Bong’s next film is the much-anticipated sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer, starring Chris Evans, Jamie Bell John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, and…
.. Actor – Song Kang–ho (송강호): One of the most watchable and charismatic actors in Korea today, he has a magnetism that can only be described as ‘star power’ and a range that most actors can only dream of. Appearing in many of Koreas biggest movies: Shiri, The Quiet Family, JSA Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, The Good The Bad The Weird, and Thirst – I’m excited to see that Bong Joon-ho has pulled him across the Pacific.
As you can tell, it’s quite a tight and incestuous list, as the great combinations of elite directors and actors stick together, to create world-class film after world-class film.
But have they been good Korea moves for those involved? (Sorry, had to put that in) You could argue that something is being lost in translation, as the two released directorial efforts, although strong, aren’t on the same level as their previous works, and the actors, despite being in some big roles, are usually word-shy, or over-dubbed in post-production. To that, I would say… so what? Let’s throw Nolan, Scorsese, Bale, Fassbender and Streep into South Korea and make them do a Korean film, speaking Korean, and see how that sits with a completely different culture!
Although it’s quite a recent trend, and a fairly short list in the grand scheme of things, I hope that this cross-pollination of talent continues, and shines a bright light on everyone’s previous – overlooked – work in K-Cinema.
Note: there’s a load of Korean Born / Korean Descendent actors that have spent the majority of their life working and acting in America like Rick Yune, Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, C.S. Lee, John Cho, Sung Kang, Daniel Dae Kim and so on… but to include them would be cheating.
This post is part of the The 5 Obstructions Blogathon over at MyFilmViews; a series where Nostra challenges film reviewers by issuing limitations and rules for five film reviews over five months. The first month’s challenge is to “write a positive review of a movie you don’t like, or write a negative review of a movie you love.” Here goes.
Barb Wire: It’s 2017, the 2nd American Civil War rages on – this film shows how everyday people struggle to make ends meet – by mixing lapdancing and bounty hunting. When people talk about culturally important movies you never hear Barb Wire – this pisses me off. This story is a re-telling of one of cinema’s finest: Casablanca, which sets a high bar for this film – although Barb Wire vaults over that daunting monument with ease. Pamela Anderson, bounces seamlessly from TV and into the movies, cashing in on her trademark look – and transforming herself into a cinematic icon with bodacious curves, blonde hair, skimpy leather outfits and gallons of water for that signature ‘wet look’. The director further complements this by making every single shot about her (and ensuring she flashes a tit every 10 minutes) – not to mention casting Pam as the only sexy person in a world full of freaks and mutants: she truly stands out, and delivers her lines with the cold, jaded authenticity of a bounty hunter that really has seen the horrors of war first hand. She’s supported by some big names, including Udo Kier, Xander Berkley, and Steve Railsback – not to mention a talented Bon Jovi lookalike – who all fit right in with this calibre of movie. The movie is crammed with bold striking imagery and iconography, creating a totally believable futuristic landscape by fusing together the visuals from distinctive eras like WWII, the American Civil War, and Cyberpunk classics, which are expertly stitched together with a Noir look and feel. Despite being 1996, this has the explosions and action of an 80s blockbuster. Barb Wire is a film that has it all: a sexy, dangerous leading lady, on-form supporting cast, action, plot, direction, and most of all re-watch-ability. A criminally overlooked studio classic that will hopefully be seen for the cultural masterpiece that it is within my lifetime.
Real score: 1/10
To me, The Expendables movies are fantastic. Over-the-top action films in the vein of 1980s classics had all but died out, limited to the archive of that decade’s finest genre movies. Then Stallone came along and said “hrmmph hrm hrm mph mphm hmmmmmm ranmhnhmnh mmmpphhhhh” (Translation: “Fuck it, I’m going to make more ridiculous action films”)
These films let action fanboys like me re-live our youth, watching Arnie, Willis, Stallone, Noris, and other legendary action stars shot bad guys with big guns, blow up pretty much everything blow-upable, drive vehicles into things and generally cause as much havoc as the budget will allow. But there’s one crucial element missing from these films… they only focus on the good guys.
The 80s action era was the perfect breeding ground for some of cinema’s most dastardly, evil and often ridiculous bad guys, mega-villains and henchmen.
Bolo Yeung: this guy is my favourite baddie ever. He’s menacing, he’s ruthless, never plays fair, and best of all, he has a huge physical presence and one of those faces that he can make look so, so evil.
Kurtwood Smith: pretty much famous for playing the nasty and crazy Clarence Boddicker in Robocop, but what a villain he was. Outrageous, and would love to even see a glimmer of something like this again.
Vernon Wells: again, a one-trick pony, but Bennett from Commando is the ultimate in camp-classic baddie – a ridiculously out-of-shape guy with a chainmail vest that was supposed to be John Matrix’s equal! LOLZ!
So far, as someone who still gets warm, nostalgic and starstruck seeing the biggest names in action cinema literally coming out of retirement, the only way that this franchise could be any better would be with a stronger emphasis on the bad guys.
Nicolas Cage, Jackie Chan, Mickey Rourke all confirmed, and Statham, Eastwood, Snipes, Harrison Ford & Mel Gibson all rumoured to be in talks, the cast is looking stellar – throw in a couple of the guys mentioned above and it could become the greatest movie of all time!
For those that don’t yet know about this piece of TV gold, Archer is a smart, fantastically written, genuinely funny and raunchy animated adult comedy. It follows the world’s deadliest secret agent, Sterling Archer – a James Bond parody – at his mother’s spy agency ISIS. The show has the advantage of combining two great genres: mixing the world of ‘spy parody’ with ‘workplace comedy’ – and trust me when I say that fans of either genre should be watching this.
Like any other comedy worth it’s salt, there’s a long list of running gags and references that hardened fans will pick up, adding a much deeper appreciation. Here are my favourite gags:
1) Cyril’s welcome: Every time the ISIS sex-addict accountant-turned-field-agent Cyril is caught in a compromising situation he lets out the most innocent and child-like ‘Helloooo’. He even gets to say “Olllaaaaaa” when he gets caught in a Mexican quandary.
2) Lana’s Yep / Nope: The pronunciation (and frequency) of these two words uttered by Lana are so infectious that they will soon creep in to your everyday vocabulary. By the time season 3 rolls round it’s a full on catchphrase. It’s never a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with her, but an attitude laden YUUUUUUP or NOOOOOOPE.
3) Krieger: there are too many standout krieger moments to warrant picking one out – his elaborately pimped out vans are ridiculous, he has a manga girlfriend who’s beamed from a projector, and so many grim and sinister ‘scientific’ projects that are always going wrong – he is easily the darkest aspect of the show.
4) Do you want ants? Every time a piece of food is dropped on the ISIS carpet someone makes a remark about getting ants. It starts as a throwaway line, but is mentioned frequently enough to beome an in joke. It’s so ridiculous and out-of-place that it gets you every time – “We might as well just start an ant farm”
5) Lana’s Hands: Poor Lana. Despite being one of the hottest cartoon ladies ever drawn (is that OK to say?) everyone comments on her man / shovel / yeti / monster / cricket bat hands. Any time she touches someone these are likely to be brought up – even though they look completely normal. Poor Lana, although she doesn’t help herself by using them to death-grip her colleagues.
6) Archer / Barry rivalry: the relationship between Archer and his nemesis Barry, from ISIS competition ODIN, is so twisted and bitter that it has to be laughed at. Archer has dropped Barry from a great height (twice) and broken up his engagement, to which (Bionic and / or Other) Barry has returned the favours.
7) Malory Archer: aside from the fact that not even she knows who archers father is (could be one of five men) Malory appears to have slept with almost every male character, from ex-colleagues through to Burt Reynolds. She’s also the, most stubborn, alcoholic and least PC character, continually spouting the most risqué and offence-courting dialogue.
8) Passwords: working in IT, this is particularly funny to me because it’s so close to the truth, yet played for laughs in the show. Every password to every database and ‘mainframe’ computer in the whole of ISIS is ‘GUEST’.
9) Archer’s Phone: a double-header: firstly, he has the most elaborate voicemail pranks you could imagine, some spanning +30 seconds, and usually aimed at his mother. He also has a completely awesome, but totally unexpected ringtone (Mulatto Butts) going off at the most inappropriate moments of his covert operations.
Of course, there are dozens of other jokes and smaller characters that keep re-appearing. Archer’s childhood flashbacks, and his obsessions with rampages, Lacrosse, turtlenecks/tactlenecks, significant historical names, and cars. Pam “Shit Snacks” Poovey as the shockingly incompetent, badass and blabermouth HR manager. Cheryl / Carol “You’re not my supervisor!” Tunt as the glue-eating choke fetish secretary. Archer’s life-long live-in male servant Woodhouse, and all of his innuendo & heroin. The ever disabled / able ‘Gay’ Ray Gillett. Brett “gunshot wound” Buckley, ODIN Boss Len Trexler, Nikolai Jakov (Khhheeaadd ov Kay Gee Bee) and so forth. Put all of these individual elements together and you have an unmissable comedy show.
The Room: 10 years after it was released, this has become the greatest cult film of our time. In the UK there are currently two (very well-worn) 35mm prints that endlessly tour the country, hopping from one independent cinema to the next. These screenings however are like no cinematic experience you could ever imagine. Remember the established Cinema Code of Conduct that us hardened movie goers live by… bin it.
Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema showed this for the first time in over a year, late last Friday night. Upon entering this screening, there was a very unusual atmosphere. Dozens of people were grasping handfuls of white plastic spoons, which rattled throughout the movie like background chatter, people dressed in over sized suits / tuxedos with shaggy black wigs and shades (inside a darkened theater), American footballs being thrown around – crashing against the odd unsuspecting head, and a whole lot of shouting, heckles and laughter. The cinema was absolutely buzzing and the lights hadn’t even gone down yet.
The origins of the movie are equally unique. It started off as a failed play, then an unpublishable book, before Tommy Wiseau (above) decided to turn it in to a film that he would star in, write, produce, direct, cast and distribute himself – to keep artistic control, of what is easily one of the worst vanity projects in human history. Initially flopping on its small release, it quickly built up momentum on the midnight movie circuit in America and has been screened all over the globe for the past ten years.
The film itself is absolutely god-awful: I’ve seen movies made from editing several separate films together to try to make a single narrative that have worked better (and made more sense) than this. The acting is absolutely tragic. The script feels like it was written by a nursery class. Characters just walk into a scene, spit some melodramatic lines, then walk off, often to never re-appear. There’s next to no continuity in any of the scenes. I genuinely don’t think anyone could make a film this bad, no matter how hard they tried. It’s a crashing car that flips for 99 minutes.
Yet it’s this level of previously uncharted terribility that makes the experience of seeing the room like no other. Nobody’s there to watch it, they’re all there to enjoy it. I’ve seen 1-2 films a week for the past fifteen years and can only remember a handful of standout cinema visits: James Bond opening nights, birthday trips, first-dates etc… All of these pale in comparison to the thrill of watching The Room in a sold-out theater with die-hard fans and wide-eyed first-timers.
As a movie-going experience The Room is fascinating, electrifying, unique, but above all else – stunningly entertaining. Everybody was grinning ear to ear for the duration. It got a King’s Speech style standing ovation at the end, more laughs than Anchorman, more whoops than Rocky and more audience participation than a sing-a-long Broadway show. To watch a download on your laptop, or a DVD in your front room would kill the very essence of the film. If you ever get the chance to see this in a cinema you have to cancel any weddings, funerals, graduations, anniversaries and buy yourself a ticket.
Film score: UNRATABLE
Spoons: the main room in the movie has far too many framed pictures of spoons. Every time one of them hits the screen the audience loses their shit, yells “SPOOONS!!!” and a torrent of white plastic cutlery is thrown towards the screen. It’s like the arrow scenes from The 300… hundreds of white streaks flying overhead. Happens around a dozen times and never gets boring. Fact: it took 3 people +90 minutes to pick all the spoons up after the screening (remnants pictured left)
Hi / Bye!! when any central character enters of leaves a scene everyone hollers “Hi Denny / Bye Denny” in an eerily sincere manner, whilst waving at the screen. The exception being that when Lisa appears she’s greeted with Boooos, hissses and quick-fire bursts of the word ‘SLUT!’.
San Francisco: between most scenes there are establishing shots of San Francisco. Alcatraz, steep hills, trams, iconic houses and the Golden Gate bridge. Any time these appeared the audience yells “Meanwhile, in San Francisco”.
Go! Go! Go!: in any above mentioned establishing shots that are slow-pans the audience claps, stamps, and yells “go, go, go’ for the duration.
Chicken dance: there’s at least three times when a character is called out for being a chicken, and the people in the room burst in to an Arrested Development style ‘CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP’ with flappy arms. Naturally, everyone in the cinema does this too.
Sex Scenes: for a 99 minute movie, there’s at about five lengthy sex scenes – two of which are the exact same footage. Cue lighters in the air, yells of “bewbs!!!!”, and synchronised hand-clapping to the awful romance music. Of all the Men and Motors, Bravo and Babestation nudity you’ll have ever seen in your life, nothing compares to the cold, awkward, physically impossible, ass-bearing, petal-blowing ‘sex scenes’ of The Room.
American Football: about every 20 minutes, for no reason, characters start tossin’ a pig skin around. Guess what everyone in the theater starts doing…
General, infamous, dialogue: You know when these are coming because the die-hard fans will hush the screen in to silence in the run up to some of the best and worst delivered lines in cinematic history. “Oh hi Mark!“, “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA!!!”, “I got the results of the test back – I definitely have breast cancer“, “anyway, how’s your sex life?“, “She’s showing everybody me underwears“, “Leave your stupid comments in your pocket”, “Well we’ll Seeee, Denny, don’t plan too much, it may not come out right”… Every line was followed by an uproar of laughter, yelling and cheering.
There’s nothing else left to say other than seek this out and see it as soon as you can.
What makes a movie going experience unique? In the age of Blu Rays / high-definition torrents, and bargainous HDTVs / home cinema kits it’s becoming easier and more affordable to get a totally immersive film-viewing experience at home. To combat this and keep the footfall in the foyers cinemas are having to go above and beyond the standard experience. My local independent – Aberdeen’s cherished ‘Belmont Cinema‘ – has just screened back-to-back showings of the Dark Knight trilogy (all 7hrs 34min!), and although you can pick up the box set for under £30, the event was packed full of things that no amount of money or equipment can replicate.
With films this big there’s absolutely no denying that they’re best viewed in a proper auditorium. Christopher Nolan’s unmistakable eye-opening wide-angle style which is intentionally shot on celluloid for maximum effect; Wally Pfister’s I-MAX cinematography, Hanz Zimmer‘s deep brassy orchestrated scores, the pounding sound effects & sound editing, million dollar stunts, props and CGI… Sure, they all look fantastic on Blu Ray, but when you see them thrown up on a cinema screen and pumped out through a Dolby SR amp/speaker kit – the effect is nothing short of phenomenal.
Beyond mere technical details there was an atmosphere in the theater that you don’t see often, and definitely couldn’t replicate at home: staff and punters dressing up as their favourite characters from the series (and further back down the Batman franchise), hardcore comic fans ‘nerding out’ in the foyers, people shouting out the big lines of dialogue – and particularly in the first two movies – there’s a lot of humour that really falls flat when you watch it on your own.
Add to this that the staff had gone out of their way to ‘make a day of it’, including an in-character Batman – with the voice – for the duration, special food/drinks promos, cosplay competition, a riddler quiz with awesome prizes, and giving everyone a goodie bag on the way out – it really did make the experience feel unique, and elevated it far beyond the scope of any regular visit to the movies. It also made the 1pm-10pm shift fly by.
I believe that the variety and novelty of screenings and events like this will become a larger part of remaining cinema’s revenue, and Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema is putting a lot of effort in to such programming. At Christmas there was a festive Die Hard screening, a 90s Action Classics season has just wrapped up (Matrix, Total, Recall Con-Air…) and coming up there’s a special screening of the notorious ‘The Room‘, a Wes Anderson retrospective, and one-off re-releases of cult cinema favourites such as The Princess Bride and the ABCs of Death – to name but a few!
Seeing the films together in one sitting also helps pull the story together, with a lot of detail slipping through the cracks of the three, and four year gaps in theatrical releases. More than anything, it’s a glowing testament to Nolan as a director: he has made three very individual, stand-alone movies that will appeal to general punters, whilst having enough detail and plot threads to make them a proper trilogy, AND appease hardened Batman fanboys.
Batman Begins (Review) – perhaps a little harsh on it, but the one that benefited the most from a proper theatrical viewing. It’s funnier with a crowd, and the ‘filler’ is more necessary when viewed as part of the entire trilogy. Overall, it’s an interesting examination of fear – last-minute cameo from Katie Holme’s nipples. Trilogy score: 7/10
The Dark Knight (Review) – the closest thing to a Bond film that Nolan has done. Travel, big stunts, cooler gadgets (and quips about them), peril, awesome villain – it feels in parts like Nolan was using this as a CV. SOMEONE PLEASE LET HIM DIRECT A BOND FILM!! Still awesome. Trilogy Score: 8.5/10
The Dark Knight Rises (Review) – less action, and a whole lot of plot to wrap up the trilogy. Still massive voice issues with Bane – I think my biggest gripe is that unlike the other sound like their being recorded on set, Bane’s booms from all speakers – giving him a bizarre omnipotence. The tone and accent are far too silly for such a bad badass. Still, great way to cap off one of cinema’s best Trilogies. Trilogy Score: 7.5/10
Having just booked a trip to Japan for this summer I’ve decided to use it as the perfect opportunity to watch the huge pile of Japanese movies I’ve been slinging into my cupboard for the past 10 years.
Japan’s culture has always been absolutely fascinating to me, particularly their cinematic output – or at least what we can get our hands on in the West. Many of the Japanese films I’ve seen are easily among the most eclectic I’ve seen when it comes to both style and subject matter, and it’s probably the only country where Yakuza, Ninjas, Robots, Monsters, Samurai and Martial Artists appear to be fairly ‘mainstream’ movies.
For the next 6 months I’ll be consuming and reviewing all of the major genres and themes that have defined Japanese cinema on the world stage: 1950s Samurai Epics, J-Horror of the 2000s, 80s/90s Sci-Fi & Cyberpunk, 4 decades of Yakuza flicks, Monster Movies and some of the most bizarre and unique one-off films the country has to offer. The viewing list is fairly big, but a list as varied as: Branded to Kill, Wild Zero, Zatochi, Babycart (Lone Wolf and Cub), Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Ichi the Killer, Seven Samurai, Tokyo Story, Tetsuo: Iron Man, Tokyo Gore Police, Tokyo Decadence, Lady Snowblood, Godzilla – to name but a few.
I’ll also take a look at how Japan (and East Asia) has been portrayed in Western movies over the years, which hasn’t always been positive; bringing to mind things like the fairly racist stereotypes like Mr Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (played by a caucasian – not uncommon), everyone as a Yakuza (Black Rain), student nerds (almost every high-school film), exotic and erotic females and so on. I can barely think of a single Japanese character in a major Hollywood film that wasn’t nerdy / socially inept / over-disciplined / tech savvy / submissive etc.
As always, I’m happy to take on any film suggestions providing I can get my hands on it easily enough. Also happy to team up with other bloggers, publish some guest reviews, collaborations etc – so please get in touch if you’re interested!
Cheers, and I hope you enjoy it.
Film reviewer (don’t mention the word critic!) Danny Leigh has been writing about movies since the early 90s, in everything from indie-zines to nationwide newspapers like The Guardian. He has also published two novels, with a third in the pipeline, and more recently, became the co-host of the BBCs institution: The FIlm Programme.
PFR: Danny, thanks for taking some time out to do this interview, it’s much appreciated. First off, what’s it like being a reviewer on the country’s most cherished film show, and how do you cope with the added pressure of being broadcast live?
Danny: It’s always been a privilege to do the show – it still has heft, the audience is smart and curious, and most importantly we’ve never been less than honest and independent of the distributors and PRs. I’m pretty ambivalent about being involved with film criticism, but if you’re going to do it, do it on the Film Programme. The experience of TV has been an interesting one because I don’t belong in that world, so hopefully I’ve been able to stand outside it a little rather than it swallowing me whole. I find doing the show live exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure.
Personality-wise, you and Claudia are appear to be polar opposites but the chemistry and chat works surprisingly well. Were you initially surprised? and did you have any reservations about working alongside such a large, ‘marmite’, personality?
Claudia is a performer, which is just as well because one of us has to be. If it works between us it’s probably because I’m always intrigued by what she makes of things, and off air I think we have similar priorities and both know TV is deeply transitory. A lot of people in the media are monsters – she isn’t.
Are you ever tempted to Google yourself, or read reviews of the Show?
I don’t Google myself, I’m not sure that road leads anywhere good, though a few times during each series of the show I’ve followed the programme’s hashtag on Twitter. It would be silly of me to object to people passing judgement on us given that the show itself is based on exactly that process, you just have to filter it a little when you’re on the receiving end. It’s always nice to hear praise and it’s always unpleasant to be slagged off, but what’s been helpful is that I’ve experienced both of them before – I’ve written novels and had them reviewed very favourably and pretty badly.
Most importantly, are there any freebies or other perks that come with the national exposure?
Not really, other than the gold sedan chair and staff of license-payer funded footmen. I get asked to do more stuff for free than I used to.
Film 2012 aside, you’re clearly very cine-literate, with a huge background knowledge to pull from – did you ever study cinema academically?
Thank you. I didn’t, but film has been a significant chunk of my life since I was very young, I’ve written about it professionally for a long time, and I think if you’re fortunate enough to be able to discuss cinema with any kind of audience, and still more to get paid to do it, then the least you can do is treat the subject with the reverence it deserves. Also, my personality lends itself to sitting and sifting through film history more than it does badgering actors on a red carpet.
Is there a particular author or book ‘on cinema’ – or even a film – that really opened your eyes?
The first film book that spun around the way I thought about movies was William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade – dry, impeccably-written, doubling as a beginner’s guide to scriptwriting and a pulling back of the curtain on the studio system. For illuminating the art and mechanics of cinema both at once, David Bordwell’s Film Art is pretty much unimprovable. On screen La Jetée made me think more seriously than I’d ever done before about what film actually was, and Stalker gave me the purest moment of hardcore, gaping-jaw transcendence.
Could you briefly describe the difference between a press screening and a regular one? And which experience do you prefer?
I’m not so much of an ingrate that I’m going to complain about being able to see films for free ahead of their release, but I’ve never been a fan of press screenings. They’re generally quieter and less prone to anti-social behaviour from the attendees, but the atmosphere can be a little self-congratulatory and they’re not something I look forward to. In a perfect world I’d just go to see movies with my wife and kid.
A quick Google hit informs us that Mulholland Drive is your favourite film ever – are you able to balance out this by revealing a couple of your favourites that most Lynch fans wouldn’t usually go for?
I couldn’t narrow down a favourite film to one, but Mulholland Drive would be among them. Films I love that don’t get enough adoration from the world, Lynch fans or otherwise, would include John Frankenheimer’s Seconds and Henri Georges Clouzot’s Quai des Orfèvres. Even Lynch fans don’t often give enough kudos to Lost Highway.
South Korea is our favourite country for film talent at the moment as the calibre of Actors, Writers and Directors has been superb for well over a decade now, do you have one?
I’ve liked a lot of Argentine and Greek cinema in the last few years – not sure if there’s a correlation with economic crises, but I was also just about to say that oddly, Britain is having one of its purplest patches in my lifetime too…
And are there any individual up-and-coming talents in the film industry that you have high hopes for?
Is Peter Strickland still up-and-coming, or has he upped already? Mahalia Belo if so.
And do you have any movie heroes from in front of, or behind, the camera?
Always has been Buster Keaton, always will be Buster Keaton.
Also, could you reveal something that nobody knows about you?
I’ve never wanted to be on television.
Finally, some quick-fire questions, What does your A/V setup at home look like?
What’s the breakdown of films you watch in an average week (i.e. For reviewing / personal / research?)
When the Film programme is on air, I’ll watch four or five new releases a week, and a couple of older movies as a treat. I’ll watch a lot more old stuff when the programme is off, and then other projects generate clusters of films I need to see or revisit – I’ve been working on a documentary for BBC4 about boxing films for the last couple of months, so I’ve been re-acquainting myself with movies like Body and Soul and The Set Up, both of which are glorious.
What’s been your favourite advance in movie technology since your interest in the medium started?
As bland as it sounds, probably DVD – it’s easy to forget how cumbersome, glitchy and unrewarding the simple act of watching a film outside a cinema could be for most of us before the end of the 90s (with all due respect to laserdisc pioneers).
… and least favourite?
The unholy combination of torrents and everything the studios have come up with to foil them.
Who’s been the most surprising person in the film industry that you’ve met?
I think I caught Juliette Binoche on a very bad day, and after making all manner of snotty comments about the BAFTAs down the years I winced on discovering the man in charge of them was smart, gracious and good company.
Are you still a resident in the pro Eddie Murphy camp, and what’s it like over there these days?
Pretty much down to me and Brett Ratner these days. We just get a kebab and whack on Pluto Nash.
Any other future projects that we should be looking out for?
I’m writing a novel about a London family, and the boxing movie documentary I mentioned a couple of answers ago will be on BBC4 later this year.
Finally, in a previous interview you noted – “start a blog, update it obsessively, and ensure every word of it is imbued with your own personality rather than mimicry of popular but often dreary and identikit film sites” – great advice; but can we expect to see a Danny Leigh blog/outlet to keep us going between the series of the Film Programme?
It’s something I’ve thought about, but it won’t happen anytime soon. One of the reasons I stopped doing the weekly piece I used to write for The Guardian because I needed to claw back the time for writing fiction, and for now I’m still committed to that. I know the world favours ever smaller nuggets of “content”, but I’m still in love with the idea of writing books. At this stage I’m more likely to stop doing film stuff and nip through a back door to be an English teacher than seek out more ways to build the brand.
– February 2013
This one’s from Bubbawheat / Nathan over at Flights, Tights and Movie Nights;a site that you should most definitely check out if you love superheroes! Comics, TV, Movies and Games – everything’s fair game and no page is left unturned. Like every professional blogger – he’s on Twittah too. Click click
Brave: A Scottish princess with a shock of red hair has a strained relationship with her overbearing mother who wants her to marry to one of the other heads of the kingdom, but she ends up seeking help to change her fate in a way that she would never expect. As with all of Pixar‘s recent movies, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, from the breathtaking scenery to the wild and bouncy hair of the main character Merida. The story isn’t something exactly new however, how many times has there been a princess that is supposed to marry for political reasons while she wishes to marry on her own terms instead. There is a bit of a surprising magical element to the movie which is reminiscent of another Disney movie, which I won’t mention because it would give it away. The comedy is overly cartoonish and slapstick at times, I know I never personally cared for the antics of the three young triplets who generally just caused random mischief in the background. In the end, there’s still a fair amount of heart at the end which you would expect from a Pixar picture, but the rest of the movie felt a lot more uneven. It’s still worth a trip to the theaters though.
A quick break from the norm: Nathan (a.k.a. Bubbbawheat) from the superhero-centric movie blog Flights, Tights & Movie Nights got in touch with some great site-specific questions as part of his Follow Friday project; having been directed this way by the mentally-connected, universally agreeable, movie reviewing, ever-the-gentleman Ryan McNeely from 5-Word Movie Reviews.
Head on over to the interview to if you’d like a little more insight into Paragraph Film Reviews by Clicking HERE – or on the picture at the top of the post. Cheers.
Following on from previous guest posts, it’s going to be a more regular feature at Paragraph Film Reviews. This one’s from Franz Patrick over at franzpatrick.com – lots of great, short reviews and plenty variety from the classics, to the important, to the blockbusters. Twitter is here too. Click click.
Creep: Kate (Franka Potente) is psyched to meet George Clooney at a party in London, but she fell asleep while waiting for the last train that’s supposed to take her there. When she wakes up, not a soul is in the vicinity. All the gates are locked. It seems she has no choice but to spend the night. Little did she know that someone lives in the tunnels who kidnaps unsuspecting victims and experiments on them. Because the plot is painfully familiar, one would expect “Creep,” written and directed by Christopher Smith, to be more ambitious so it has something to separate itself from the rest of the pack. Instead, a handful of scenes are dedicated to Potente, whose facial expression barely changes, running around as if she was still on Tom Twyker’s “Run Lola Run.” The moments that lead up to the scares are executed lethargically, the background music appearing and disappearing so predictably depending on the placement of the “Boo!” moment. When it finally arrives, there’s more running and screaming. This interminable loop dominated the first half of the film. The picture might have benefited if the screenplay had eventually allowed its audience learn about the villain. Glimpses of images are thrown at us and we are expected to put it all together. The problem is, aside from the missing critical pieces in the puzzle, while we can force ourselves to interpret the images and what they mean, the answers end up either too vague or completely nonsensical. In other words, we don’t get a sense of uniqueness in terms of who the antagonist is and what makes him so terrifying, aside, of course, from the grizzly violence he’s more than willing to inflict. If the protagonist, execution, and antagonist are the major ingredients in a soup and they lack spice, will the soup taste good? Not very likely.
PFR is marking the 500th post by putting up a bunch of DVD extras this week. This review is from Susannah at Not Really Working, a site that discusses everything from The Apprentice and Twitter to books and the Premiership!
Trishna: If the idea of Michael Winterbottom directing another Thomas Hardy adaptation fills you with fear and loathing, you should probably give Trishna a wide berth. This loose update of Hardy’s Tess of d’Urbervilles, transplants the action to modern-day India, and stars Freida Pinto as a beautiful young woman with lousy taste in men. When hotelier’s son Jay (Riz Ahmed) offers Trishna a job, a rosy future beckons, with financial security for her impoverished family. But the reality turns out to be utterly bleak and – at times – hard to watch. The first half of the film is light on action but filled with stunning photography, as Marcel Zyskind captures the glories of India‘s architecture and landscape as well as the teeming streets of Mumbai. When things go sour between Trishna and the bastard Jay, you’re reminded of other abusive relationships so graphically depicted in Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me. I’m not convinced that Pinto has the acting skills to match her spectacular looks, so I became frustrated both by Trishna’s passivity and the deterministic nature of Hardy’s doom-laden story. For a good time, I’d suggest booking a holiday in India, avoiding this film and not packing a copy of Jude the Obscure in your luggage.
Score: 4/10 (2 stars)