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There a lot of movie subscription services available in the UK, I am signed up to two of them, but there are plenty of movies available to stream free of charge.  The BBC selection even includes a Hitchcock film, meaning it has one more than Netflix!  Here are a few recommendations:  

BBC iPlayerbringing up baby

There are some excellent movies available on the BBC streaming service including 23 RKO movies.  Here are a few I would recommend:

 

Spotlight (2015) – The best picture Oscar winner from 2016 tells the true story a Boston Globe report that uncovered the scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the Catholic Church.

Election (1999) – Quirky comedy from Alexander Payne.  Matthew Broderick plays a teacher whose life spirals out of control when he goes against overachieving student Reese Witherspoon.

The Company You Keep (2012) – Thriller directed by and starring Robert Redford.  A thriller of the type they don’t really make these days, probably why it went under the radar on release in 2012.

The Elephant Man (1980) – Atmospheric and beautifully shot true story of John Merrick.  David Lynch’s second feature.

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Howard Hawks’ delightful Screwball comedy with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and a leopard!

Citizen Kane (1941) – The best film of all time is a hard burden for a movie to carry; in recent years it has been fashionable to push back against this and claim to not like the film.  Don’t believe the detractors, Orson Welles’ masterpiece may not be the best film ever made, but it is still fantastic.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) – Alternatively,  take a look Welles at his follow up.  Butchered by the studio, it isn’t exactly the movie he intended, but is still fantastic.

King Kong (1933) – Forget the Peter Jackson version, or the recent Skull Island, the original 1933 is the true King of the monsters!  stop motion animation was as groundbreaking in its day as modern CGI is now, and Fay Wray is fantastic in the lead.

Suspicion (1941) – Joan Fontaine plays a shy young heiress, Cary Grant the charming but penniless playboy she falls for, and marries.  He may or may not be planning to kill her for her money.  Fontaine won the Best Actress Oscar, the only acting Oscar in a Hitchcock film.

Fort Apache (1948) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) – The first two of John Ford’s cavalry trilogy.  What more do I need to say.  Watch them!

Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944) – Low budget horror classic from legendry producer Val Lewton, and director Jacques Tourneur.  The influential movie is a perfect example of less is more in the genre.  The sequel came just two years later and is also excellent.

I Walked With a Zombie (1943) – Atmospheric zombie movie, also from director Jacques Tourneur.  More disturbing than scary,  its  masterpiece of the genre.

All 4 The Warrior

The streaming service for all Channel 4, including Film 4 also has a large selection of movies, here are my picks:

 

Sweet Sixteen (2002) – Ken Loach movie about a teenager determined to raise enough money to get a home for himself and his mother who soon to be released from prison.  The film stars Martin Compston in his first acting role.  Having recently signed for the Scottish second division side Greenock Morton, he was more interested in a career in football than acting.

The Warrior (2001) – Asif Kapadia doesn’t just make documentaries.  The Warrior stars Irrfan Khan (who recently passed away) as a warrior in feudal Rajasthan attempting to give up the sword.  Shot in the Himalayas and the deserts of Rajasthan the film looks stunning.  It won the Alexander Korda and Carl Foreman BAFTA’s.

Slow West (2015) – Revisionist Western, and directorial début from John Maclean, previously best known as keyboard player/DJ and founder member of The Beta Band.  A strange mix of tone, it is often violent, but also very funny, while still remaining at its heart a western.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Danny Boyle’s Best Picture winner launched the career of Dev Patel.  As a teenager is accused of cheating on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” we see flashbacks of his extraordinary young life.

Tangerine (2015) – I haven’t actually seen this film, but it comes highly recommended; director Sean Baker’s next film The Florida Project was excellent.  Shot entirely on an iPhone.

Rakuten TV The Ninth Gate

The VOD site has a small number of movies that are free to stream, my pick of them are:

 

The Ninth Gate (1999) – Curio from Roman Polanski that takes him back to the demonic supernatural of his earlier career.   Johnny Depp is perfectly cast.

The Crazies (2010) – Remake of the George A. Romero classic from 1973.  It isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a good fun horror.  Radha Mitchell and Timothy Olyphant are always worth watching.

My 5 Triangle

Chanel 5’s streaming service also has a reasonable selection of movies, here are few recommendations:

 

Bad Lieutenant (1992) – Abel Ferrara’s story of a detective on a downward spiral of drink, drugs, prostitutes and gambling, but there is a faint hope of salvation and redemption in his latest case.  Harvey Keitel is truly outstanding in the lead role.

Cold In July (2014) – Revenge thriller from director Nick Damici and his long-term writing partner Jim Mickle.  The plot has enough twists and turns to hold the interest.  The cast is excellent particularly Sam Shepard.

Triangle (2009) – Time loop horror thriller.  A low budget masterpiece from writer/director Christopher Smith.  The success of the film rests on the excellent performance from Melissa George.

eXistenZ (1999) – One of David Cronenberg’s most David Cronenberg movie!  The plot keeps you guessing all the way, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is brilliant.

Camp X-Ray (2014) – Kristen Stewart is fantastic in her first movie after the final twilight film.  Stewart plays a young inexperienced guard at Camp X-Ray at the Guantanamo Bay eight years after 9-11.  The theme of the film is exactly what you would expect, but it is a lot more subtle and nuanced than you would expect.

ITV Hub

only has The Equalizer and a couple of Carry On movies available at the moment. 

 

I Hope there is something here of interest!  

Fandango Day

It was announced yesterday that PM Boris Johnson is to review lockdown restrictions with cabinet over the weekend, and may be “eased” as soon as Monday.  While we are a million miles away from freedom of movement, and cinemas reopening, it will happen one day, but what will the industry look like by then?  Will there be a place for cinemas as we know them, and will people want to attend busy screenings?  As with the rest of our daily lives cinema is changing to fit the new world order, one of the first to react was Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  The usual rules require a film to be eligible for awards consideration must “have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theatre, with at least three screenings per day for paid admission”.  Under new (temporary) rules, if a film would have had a theatrical release but switched to streaming and/or VOD due to Coronavirus, it will still be eligible for awards consideration (providing it meets the other requirements).

There is another side to this.  Trolls World Tour, the sequel to Trolls (2016) was set for a cinematic/theatrical release just as the Coronavirus lockdown hit.  Rather than delay release as with so many other films, Universal decided to release the movie on VOD in April.  It took, $100million in the first three weeks from the North American market.  While it has some way to go to match the $346.9 million the first movie took, it is good business for the studio at a time when their largest revenue stream has dried up.  I haven’t looked too deeply into the business model, but a quick glance at the costs involved suggests the studio will be taking a larger cut of that $100,000 than they would have with a traditional release.  There are lots of factors to consider, including the fact the film came out just as a lot of parents needed to occupy kids who were unexpectedly off school.  The release, will also negate, or reduce future revenue from a home media releases, but it does show there is an argument for home releasing.  Based on this, Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBC Universal told the Wall Street Journal that following the reopening of they would be releasing films in cinema’s and on VOD.   The fallout from this came when AMC Theatres, the parent company of Odeon declared the decision “unacceptable” suggesting they would no longer show films distributed by Universal.  They were quickly joined by Cineworld who in a statement said “Our policy with respect to the window is clear, well known in the industry and is part of our commercial deal with our movie suppliers. We invest heavily in our cinemas across the globe and this allows the movie studios to provide customers all around the world to watch the movies in the best experience. There is no argument that the big screen is the best way to watch a movie”.Cinewworld Universal Odeon

Some of the films set to be released by Universal (Universal distribute films for other studios as well as their own) include the Candyman remake and the sequel Halloween Kills.  There are also a few smaller little known movies: A British spy film called No Time to Die, a film about street racers called Fast and Furious 9, and something about dinosaurs, Jurassic World 3, there is also an animated movie, Minions: The Rise of Gru.  But I’m sure nobody is interested in seeing those!  In all seriousness, all these movie are from franchises that have had a least one, $1billion movie in their past lineup.  When they went into production, they would have been expecting to achieve this again, probably more.  For those who don’t know, the window referred to, is the time between when a film is shown in cinema’s until it is available for home release.  This dates back to the increased popularity of VHS in the 1980’s and had continued to this day.  The system is voluntary, and agreed between cinema’s and studios/distributors.  This all relates to the UK, although similar agreements are in place across Europe, including some of the continents biggest markets: Spain, Italy, and Germany.  The one nation where it is different is France, a country with a long and proud history of both film-making, and cinema screenings.  Their release window is enshrined in law.  They have a minimum four month gap between cinema and VOD release, and 36 months for SVOD (They are temporarily relaxing restrictions during the lockdown).  Although, they do have a caveat that a film that sells fewer than 200 tickets in the first month, they can apply for a one-month reduction to the window.   This has resulted in a lot of smaller UK and US movies skipping cinema entirely in favour of VOD, and SVOD.  The waters were further muddied two years ago when Cannes film festival got involved  but that’s a rabbit hole best avoided for today!

As it stands we are in a position of stalemate where Universal Films will not be show in Odeon or Cineworld cinemas.  I can’t believe the two largest cinema chains in the UK (45% of the market between them as of 2018) are and one of the world’s major studios (the world’s fifth oldest, and the oldest member of Hollywood’s “Big Five” studios) are going to let this happen.  Somebody will have to back down, or a compromise must be reached.  My first instinct is that the cinema’s are right to protect their interests, and the studio will have to back down.  The more I think about it, the cinema model may be outdated.  Film critic Mark Kermode has long been an advocate of Day & Date Release and often talks about it on the BBC’s flagship film program.  This article quotes him eight years ago! It would certainly help reduce piracy, an argument that has been gaining traction in Spain, who I understand has a bigger issue with piracy than the UK.  We also have to look at what cinema’s will be like after Coronavirus.  I don’t see them filling up on day one after they open.  I am certainly looking forward to returning to watching films as intended, on a giant screen, but am less keen of watching them in a packed auditorium.  I often go to see big releases on opening night (often to avoid spoilers) , this included Birds of Prey this year, and The Rise of Skywalker at the back end of last year.  Will this result in the big releases I mentioned above taking less than expected?

There is also the possibility that we are on the precipice of change in the industry.  If home viewing overtakes cinema box-office will it be the end of big cinema chains? If this is the case will it be the golden age of smaller independent cinemas?  Only time will tell, but first things first, we need beat covid 19 so we can get back to living our lives, and that means staying at home and away from cinemas for a little longer.

I have spent the last few days re-watching the X-Men movies, here are a few thoughts.  The MCU has reshaped cinema, nine of the twenty  movies have grossed over $1billion.  Their success is responsible, not only for imitators, but also setting a new benchmark for film budgets, and what is deemed successful.  Back when a comic book movie looked like Batman & Robin (1997) this would not have seemed possible.  A series of events, or to be more precise films set the foundations that made the MCU possible.  I believe it started in 1998 with Blade, but there are two other franchises that were the key stepping stones: Spider-Man starting in 2002, and X-Men franchise starting in 2000.  At the time I knew the X-Men better than most MCU characters, I’m sure the same is true for a lot of viewers.  From that point of view, it was probably a safer franchise to begin with.  But they still started off small with relatively small budgets.  After all, none of the X-Men were as big or well known as DC’s big hitters, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, or Marvels big two, Spider-Man, and The Hulk! It’s worth remembering, this is all before Marvel Studios, when Marvel properties were made by other companies under complicated licence agreements that are still being unpicked to this day.  The X-Men movies were co-productions between Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.   Marvel, 20th Century Fox, and lots of companies are now owned by The Walt Disney Studios.  That’s enough of the business, what about the movies? Here goes:

X-Men (2000) – The first movie X-Men was limited by a relatively small budget.  While $75million is a lot of money (think how many indie movies you could make for that), it is relatively small by blockbuster standards, around half that of The World Is Not Enough (1999), the most recent Bond film at the time.  The financial limitations probably helped with the creativity of writer/direct Bryan Singer, and he his co-writers David Hayter, and Tom SeSanto.  There are a few key reasons the film works: The story starts with the X-Men as a established group, not an origin story.  But we as the viewers have a way into both the world of the X-Men (both the group, and the world they inhabit) with minimal exposition.  We are introduced via Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin).

With a vast array of characters within the comic book universe all with their own abilities, it would have been easy to flood the story with them.  Partly due to the limited budget the groups are kept small, with the X-Men consisting of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm(Halle Berry), and Cyclops (James Marsden).  The Brotherhood of Mutants are Magneto (Ian McKellen), Mystique(Rebecca Romijn), Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), and Toad (Ray Park).  This restraint and the benefit of is shown in later films when the cast gets bloated and it detracts from the story.  This leads nicely onto the next point, the casting is perfect throughout, with a special mention for Stewart, McKellen and Jackman.  The real revelation is Hugh Jackman, a late replacement for Dougray Scott who was stuck doing reshoots on Mission: Impossible II (2000).  At 6’2″ Jackman is a foot taller than the character in the comic book, this is never an issue.  At the time of the first movie, he was a relative unknown, the only thing I had seen him in at the dime was Paperback Hero, a romantic comedy drama.

The plot is relatively simple in a world that is just learning about mutants, but doesn’t accept them there are two opposing views Xavier who believes humans and mutants can live together, and Magneto who believes mutants are superior and should rule the world.  The film is filled with all the ideas that are at the heart of the comic books, the most overt of those are acceptance for people who are perceived to be different.  That people are stronger when they work together as a team.  There is also a recurring idea that no one is all bad, this depicted by Charles’ refusal to give up on Eric/Magneto, and significantly Charles winning in a game of chess.

X2 (2003) – The X-Men were back just two years later, again with Bryan Singer at the helm.  There are two references to the Arthurian novel The Once and Future King (1958) by T.H. White.  Firstly we see Eric/Magneto reading it early in the movie, then at the end Charles asks his class of they know of the story.  While not a blueprint for the X-Men, or the movie X2, there are similarities.  Charles’ School is clearly Camelot, and the X-Men the Knights of the round table.  But who is who.  Charles is not Arthur as you may first think, he is Merlin.  We see in both this and the first film other taking the public lead, such as when Jean Grey address government.  Charles is the power in the background, he also fights with his mind not with his body.  We then have the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. Cyclops, Storm and Logan.  Most importantly, in this sits Magneto.  But who is Magneto in this analogy?  He is probably a combination of Morgan le Fay (Sorceress, half-sister and sometime ally, sometimes antagonist of Arthur.  Mother of Mordred) and Mordred (Arthur’s illegitimate son who ultimately kills and is killed by Arthur), but who he is, is less important than who he thinks he is! He believes himself to be Merlin and/or Arthur, he even has his own round-table in the form of the Brotherhood of Mutants.  But he can never be Arthur, as his table is never truly round, he is always at the head of it!

Longer and with a higher budget, it is the step up you expect from a sequel.  The story is a little more complicated both telling its own story, and delving into Logan’s back story.  With a new antagonist, Magneto teams up with Charles and X-Men.  This is one of the most interesting things about the film, the filmmakers understand the character.  Magneto never goes all the way to Charles’ side, they team up to fight a mutual enemy, but he is always on his own side, or more accurately on the side of mutants, at least from his own point of view.  The visual effects also go up a notch.  Amazingly this does not come at a cost, the film is as good, potentially better than the first film.  The notable additions to the cast are Alan Cumming as Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler.  Brian Cox as Colonel William Stryker and Kelly Hu as Yuriko Oyama aka Lady Deathstrike (I don’t think she is actually referred to by this name in the film).

X-Men: The Last Stand (2009) – Bryan Singer left the franchise to make the oh, so dull Superman Returns and handed directing duties to Brett Ratner.  Although not as bad as I remember, the film isn’t great.  To the credit of the earlier films, recognising that film is its own medium, they did not use existing stories from the comic books, they created cinematic ones in keeping with the mythology of the characters.  The biggest issue with this film, they took a beloved story, “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and developed it, poorly!

The centre of the plot revolves around a “cure” to the mutant gene.  This results in some interesting questions, the most overt being the mutants being a metaphor for homosexuality and the idea that you can’t cure someone who isn’t sick! while touched upon, it is never really explored.  The plot is unnecessarily  bloated, as is the cast of characters.  To its credit, the film looks good, and the visual effects are good, except the de-ageing of Stewart and McKellen that may have been groundbreaking in its day but is truly horrific.

As the previous films worked for their efficient use of characters, this film is dragged back by them, and the need to give them something to do.  Even killing two major characters, and sidelining two more early in the story there are still too many.  The most notable addition to the cast was Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, a mutant with an ability to walk through walls, or to be precise through just about anything.  Not a new character having had a small part in previous films, but a huge character within the comic books, and portrayed by Page who was on the cusp of superstardom.  As with the comic books, by the time the film was make Logan/Wolverine had become the fans favourite.  In the first film he was the main character (although it could easily have been made Rogue’s film).  The second film had a plot that easily put him to the for front, but here, it always feels forced.  It was clear, Wolverine needed is own movie, and the X-Men needed a to tell a story without him.  Both of these were to come, to good and bad effect!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – While I had seen the first two movies many times, and The Last Stand twice, this was my first re-watch of Wolverine.  After a cold open showing the origin of Logan, and Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), we get the best part of the film.  The opening credit sequence is truly excellent.  Showing the brothers Logan and Creed fighting together in the American Civil War, WWI, WWI and Vietnam; each time showing Creed getting more bloodthirsty.  The first act with the pair fighting as part of Team X led by Major William Stryker (same character as Colonel Stryker from X2, now played by Danny Huston).  This is brief but good as is the set-up as we see Logan try to live a normal life also works, it is when he gets his adamantium, once Logan becomes Wolverine/Weapon X that the film loses its way.

This is the film that introduces Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) to cinema audiences.  Referred to as Wade Wilson, Weapon XI, and Deadpool, this is the movie that infuriated the fans.  Understandably as it is a million miles from ” the merc with a mouth”.  This is unfortunate, in the early scenes show promise, after they sewed his mouth shut, it was never going to work! Taylor Kitsch’s Remy LeBeau/Gambit isn’t as far from the comic book character, but still isn’t great.  Over a decade later,  the idea of a Taylor Kitsch Gambit movie still keeps comes up every few years but has never happened.  Liev Schreiber is very good as Creed, and would probably have made a really good Logan.

An interesting point of note is the use of the Three Mile Island accident.  This is the first, but not the last time the franchise incorporated real events within the narrative.  The fact that the first (nearly) half of the film is good, but is persevered to be terrible proves the theory that a good final act can save (our perception) of a film, and a poor ending will destroy a film.

X-Men: First Class (2011) – After eleven years, two good, and two not so good movies the franchise took a new direction.  Matthew Vaughn steps into the director’s chair and wrote the screenplay along with Jane Goldman, Ashley Miller, and Zack Stentz.  Expanding on the opening of the first movie with a young Eric/Magneto discovering his powers in Nazi-occupied Poland tells us we are in the same universe as the original films.  Recasting with younger actors and telling the origin story of both The X-Men, and Magneto.  Following the previous films use of Mile Island accident, this film doubles down, and uses The Cuban Missile Crisis.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes off Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as younger versions of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, they are both excellent, particularly Fassbender.  There is more than a hint of James Bond about the 1960’s setting.  Every time I see the film I think how good Michael Fassbender would be as Bond.  The film also gives a new and interesting take on Mystique’s origin and her relationship with both Xavier and Magneto.  With hindsight she is the most interesting casting; it was Jennifer Lawrence’s first big budget movie, when she only had one Oscar nomination (Winter’s Bone), and before The Hunger Games.  The main antagonists are Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and in true Bond Villain style his henchwoman Emma Frost (January Jones).  Rose Byrne gets to have fun as Moira MacTaggert, it’s a shame she is so underused in future films.

There are so many things about the film that shouldn’t work from the training montages, the period setting, playing with history, and the actors playing a version of the characters to fit with the older versions; but strangely it does work making it one of the best films of the series.

The Wolverine (2013) –  Just over a year after taking part in the Normandy landings, Logan finds himself as a prisoner of war in Nagasaki in August 9 1945, not the time you want to be in Nagasaki.  Most of the film is set in the present day, after the events of The Last Stand.  Following the events in Nagasaki seen at the start of the movie, Logan finds himself in Tokyo.  This is no great stretch for the character, within the comic book Logan has a lot of stories set in Japan and is closely associated with Samurai and Ronin culture, the character has always essentially been a Ronin.

The most stand alone movie in the franchise up to this point, none of the characters introduced appear again, the only character from previous movies is Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who appears in Logan’s head.  The most interesting of the rest of the cast are the only other mutants to appear in the film (other than a cameo).  Yukio (Rila Fukushima) A precognitive mutant and member of a deadly assassins clan.  And, Dr. Green / Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) one of the movies main antagonists.

A personal story for Logan on a smaller scale than the other movies within the universe, it is more in keeping with a standalone story.  Logan’s “healing factor” has always been his key to his identity, to take that away should diminish the character, in a way it does, but in doing so, it actually enhances the film by raising the stakes.  The whole film, both in plot, and execution feels more grounded and real (until the final act) than previous films in the franchise.  The Shinkansen fight is excellent. Sadly, the final act is terrible, both in story and visual effects, but the MCU struggles with final acts too, so it isn’t exactly unique!

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Days of Future Past sounds like a terrible idea.  Bring the old cast, last seen in The Last Stand, together with the new cast of First Class, and tell a much loved epic tale from the X-Men comic books. However, it really works and is if not the best, close to the best movie in the franchise.  Simon Kinberg provided the screenplay, based on a story by himself along with Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn.  Vaughn was set to direct but agreed to hand it back to the boss, producer and director of the first two movies Bryan Singer.  Understanding that cinema is a very different medium to comic books, the writers took the brave, but ultimately correct decision to not tell the same story as the comic book.  Using a lot of the same characters, and using the idea of travelling back in time to prevent an assignation in the past to save the present/future.

The cast is huge: The bulk of the movie taking place in 1973 with Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven / Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and Hank / Beast (Nicholas Hoult).  All are given plenty to do, and most importantly is in keeping with their character, nobody is making up the numbers.  In the furure section we have lots of recognisable characters Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman – who due to the characters slow aging is able to play the part in past and future), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Storm (Halle Berry), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Bobby / Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore).  They are joined by Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Sunspot (Adan Canto), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart).  The past section also includes a small part for Peter / Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who in one scene steals the movie.

The film looks, and sounds spectacular.  The visual effects are the best we have seen within the franchise, and the photography and production design are both fantastic.  Thanks to changes in the timeline, this film undoes a lot of the narrative of the previous movies leaving (two in particular) of the original characters in a better place than we last saw them.  Given this was the last time the majority of them were to be used in the franchise, this is great fan service without pandering.   The story also leaves the door open to make future stories easier without having to worry about the fitting the continuity,  Sadly they didn’t exactly make the most of it.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) – Be careful what you wish for, The Empire review of Days of Future Past ends with the line “We want X-Men: Apocalypse, now.” Sadly the film is terrible, in many ways the weakest X-Men movie.

Oscar Isaac plays the title villain, En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse.  He is hid beneath lots of CGI and makeup, and frankly isn’t very good. Fan favourite from the comics Psylocke (Olivia Munn) is given a sexy outfit, but no character.  She is given more to do than Mei Melançon did in The Last Stand, we know nothing of her.  Even the outfit doesn’t work, it looks like it doe on the pages of the comic book, but not in the flesh.  And that’s kind of the problem with the film it is all big, bold bright, and brash, you would be forgiven for thinking Michael Bay had directed it, it was actually Bryan Singer.  And that’s the sad thing about it, we know Singer can do so much better,  Michael Fassbender gets a couple of brilliant moments that remind us of this.

The cast is huge again.  As well as the usual suspects, Lucas Till, who sat out the last movie returns as Alex Summers / Havok.  He is joined by new younger versions of characters we have seen in the original three movies: Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers / Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Ororo Munroe / Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy) Kodi Smit-McPhee, and I believe for the first time in the movies Jubilee (Lana Condor). Evan Peters gets to do another set piece as Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver, taken on its own merit, it is the best seen in the movie, but offers nothing new, and isn’t as good as what we saw in the last movie.  There is no place for Wolverine within the corner they have painted themselves into with the timeline; rather than embracing this they squeeze him into the story.

The bigger, bolder and brasher it got the less I cared about it.  A sad end to Bryan Singer’s time at the helm of the X-Universe!  Let’s it to one side and remember the three great films he gave us.

Logan (2017) – Firstly, it is worth mentioning, for my re-view, I watched Logan Noir, the black and white version that comes on a separate disk with the Blu-Ray version.  It’s the first time I have watched it this way.  While it isn’t as spectacular as Fury Road: Black and Chrome, it does add to the atmosphere of the movie, and what a movie!  While I have described Days of Future Past as the best X-Men movie, Logan is something different, in a lot of ways, it isn’t an X-Men movie, it doesn’t even look like a comic book movie.  Written (along with Scott Frank and Michael Green) and directed by James Mangold who was also responsible for the previous movie, The Wolverine.  Not only is this Logan’s  most personal story, it is also the most grounded movie within the X-Men universe.  The cinematography by long-time Ridley Scott collaborator John Mathieson is fantastic (in both black and white or colour).  The low angles give a feeling of space reminiscent of with a western.  This is further enhanced by big mood skies straight out of an Ansel Adams photograph.

Set in a post super hero universe where very few mutants remain, and a 90 year old Professor X and Logan are the last of the X-Men.  Charles is struggling to contain his powers and Logan’s powers are fading as he is poisoned by his Adamantium.  There is often a theme in movies like this where the hero has to balance their own survival with a reluctant search for redemption associated with helping somebody else.   This comes in the form of Laura (Dafne Keen – who went on to play Lyra Belacqua in His Dark materials) recognisable to comic book fans as X23, a young mutant with abilities with a striking resemblance to Logan’s.  Richard E. Grant is wonderfully sinister as the movies main villain Dr. Rice.  Other notsble cast members are Boyd Holbrook as Pierce, the main henchman, and Stephen Merchant as Caliban, a mutant friend of Charles and Logan.

This isn’t a comic book movie for all.  New fans of the genre, those who have come along since the start of the MCU, and DCEU will not find what they are used to.  But it’s the comic book movie we need, one that doesn’t end with a giant something hovering over a major city threatening to destroy the world.  The stakes may be smaller, but not for those involved, making it more personal, and relatable.  Even before the Disney takeover, Hugh Jackman had decided to end his time as Logan/Wolverine, this is a brilliant and fitting end to his seventeen years portraying the character, he is going to be a hard act to follow in the inevitable remake.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) – OK, time to confess, I didn’t re-watch all the movies.  Its less than a year since I saw Dark Phoenix.  It is only available to me by rental, which I wasn’t prepared to pay for as quite frankly, it wasn’t very good.  This is a real shame, it represented so much: The final film in both the reboot since First Class, and of the whole franchise before Marvel/Disney take back the franchise, But most importantly a chance to undo The Last Stand, and tell a better version of the Dark Phoenix Saga.  Most of the cast of the last movie return including Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender, they are all good.  But Jessica Chastain is totally wasted.  This won’t be the last time we see the X-Men, but it is most likely the last time we see these actors portray them, the deserved a better send-off.DEADPOOL

Depending on your point of view, the bonkers, but brilliant Deadpool (2016), and the pretty good sequel Deadpool 2 (2018) may be set within the X-Men universe, but that’s for another day.

As mentioned, last year The Walt Disney Company acquired 20th Century Fox, and with it the film rights for the X-Men.  They soon put all film production within the franchise on hold, eventually cancelling all future films except The New Mutants which was already in the can.  The New Mutants is yet so see the light of day following multiple delays and some re-shoots.  This is despite a 2017 trailer promising a release date April the following year.  Its a great shame as the trailer actually looks good, more of a haunted house horror than a superhero movie.  The two most interesting projects to be cancelled were: X-23; James Mangold was to write and direct the continuing story of Laura aka X-23 from them movie Logan.  And, a Kitty Pryde movie.  Had it been made, it would probably have been an origin story as studios seem to like, if that was the case, it is no great loss, but if they were thinking of a stand alone movie with the character from the existing franchise played by Ellen Page, that would have been worth seeing.  Sadly it is not to be!  There will be new X-Men movies made by Marvel/Disney, I just hope they keep them out of the MCU, as the franchises are probably best not mixed.

 

At last year’s Golden Globes, while accepting the award for best foreign language film, director Bong Joon-ho stated (via his now famous translator Sharon Choi) suggested “Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”.  At the time I intended to write about the first time I personally crossed the proverbial barrier, but didn’t get around to it.  Since then, it has won four Oscars (including best picture, and director), and to BAFTA’s and has grossed over $250million.  What better time to revisit this idea.Bong Joon-ho

The film that made me the breach the “one inch tall barrier” was Nikita (1990) from French Auteur Luc Besson.  The first I heard of it was probably from Barry Norman on Film 90.  As far as I can recall, like most people at the time, he gave it a lukewarm review praising the style but suggesting it lacked substance.  However he showed a clip from the film including part of the big action scene at the centre of the story, I was hooked.  At the time I didn’t visit the cinema often, and had I wanted to, had the issue of being four years younger than the 18 certificate would allow.  I was however, a very good customer of my local video shop!  They didn’t know, or more to the point chose not to ask my age, so sometime the following year, the day the movie was released on VHS (ask your parents) I was there waiting to rent it.

It didn’t disappoint.  With far less action than I expected, and more style than I had ever seen, it was a neon masterpiece.   For those who don’t know it, the obligatory synopsis (warning – spoilers, most of the first act revealed).  A group of junkies break into a pharmacy, chaos ensues, three cops, and all but one of the kids are killed.  The lone survivor Nikita (Anne Parillaud), is sentenced to life imprisonment.  He death is faked by an apparent suicide, she then wakes to be given the option of death, or serve her country as an assassin.  To date, it has spawned tree adaptations  Just three years after the original, there was an American remake: The Assassin (aka Point of No Return) (1993).  There have also been two TV series: La Femme Nikita (1997-2001), and Nikita (2010-2013). All three have some merit,  but are a shadow of the original movie.

Anne Parillaud is perfect for the part.  Throughout the film she goes through a series of transformations, from the feral junkie, the petulant teenager impossible to teach, to the sophisticated killer.  But the real character is then revealed.  The woman who doesn’t know what to buy in the supermarket.  And most importantly the real person, the one who falls in love, and is trapped between by her past and her job, unable to talk about either.  There is action, and it is very slick, but my modern standards it is also very realistic.  Thanks to the 18 certificate, the film can be brutal and violent.  This gives a surprising sense of realism.  But the film has more to offer, the titillation of the action and violence, gets people through the door, but the real appeal of the movie is its portrayal of humanity, despair and distrust.  Made just after the end of the cold war, and the tail-end of the excess of the 80’s.  This is year zero of the Tyler Durden generation “the middle children of history” – “No purpose or place” as described in Flight Club (1999) at the end of the decade.

I was unable to find Barry Norman’s original review, but in looking for it, I found a lot of other  opinions.   It appears Nikita has a 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but most of these reviews are more recent.  Back in the 90’s most people and critics seemed to dismiss the film, focusing on the style and/or the violence.  Not surprising, it is after all a key film within what has become known as the Cinéma du look movement.  However, I did find one contemporary review, from Roger Ebert.  As you would expect it is more interesting and insightful; concentrating on the transformation of the character, and the price we pay for decisions.  He called it “a version of the “Pygmalion” legend for our own violent times”.

Back to that one inch tall barrier: It wasn’t the first time I had read subtitles.  I had seen films with sections in other languages.  I also remember my mom watching a French film, I think it was Mourir d’aimer… (1971), which looking back seems bizarre as she hates reading subtitles now!  But most importantly, Director Bong was right it did introduce me to so many more amazing films.  My favourite film of the century so far, Oldboy (2003) is subtitled.  It was a good time to discover subtitled movies, as well as everything that had gone before, within a couple you years of Nikita there were some excelled films released including: Delicatessen (1991), Hard Boiled (1992), El mariachi (1992), Cronos (1993), Three Colours: Blue (1993), Three Colours: Red (1994), Chungking Express (1994), and The City of Lost Children (1995).  People have said to me they can’t read, and concentrate on the movie.  I have never had an issue with this, after a while, you forget you are reading.

My experience of subtitles hasn’t always been perfect.  As a student I had a part time job in bar.  I worked with a French girl who complained she couldn’t go to the cinema in England.  She explained that although she could converse in English she struggled with movies, especially American ones where people either mumble or speak too quickly to under understand.  Growing up she always watched “version originale” films; films shown in the original language but with French subtitles.  It had the dual benefit of being able to read anything she didn’t understand, but also helping her learn English.  I was unable to find her a screening with French subtitles but did take her to see a French film, La Haine (1995).  Not only did she hate the film, but spent the entire screening telling me the English subtitles were wrong!

If you are yet to get past the one inch tall barrier, why not give it a go, their is a whole world of amazing movies waiting for you.  What else are you going to do, watch Gone with the Wind? 

Twin PeaksThirty years ago today saw the premier of the greatest TV show ever, Twin Peaks.  By the time it reached the UK in October of the same year it was already a phenomenon; 34.6 million people watched the pilot on US TV, people were already quoting “damn fine coffee”, and Cherry Pie.  I watched it because of David Lynch.  I had seen Dune (1985) shortly after release, and loved it (despite popular opinion), and had recently seen Blue Velvet (a little young at 14).  Both directed by Lynch, and like Twin Peaks, both starring Kyle MacLachlan.  Like everybody else, I didn’t know what to expect from the show. The Radio Times described it as an “offbeat murder-mystery drama”.  I seem to remember people having a problem with the long-form  story arc.  One review, possibly also in the Radio Times called it a Soap Noir suggesting it had more in common with soap operas than quality TV, which at the time was episodic.  Little did they know that it was a glimpse of the future.  But it is more than that, this is TV at its most cinematic.  After all, it was television directed by a visionary filmmaker, something that would be almost the norm two, and three decades on.  Lynch may be known for his quirky characters and absurd scenarios, but he is also an elegant filmmaker.  Take a scene early on; Laura Palmer’s parents (Ray Wise & Grace Zabriskie) are talking on the phone, she is missing but they don’t know she is dead, we as an audience do.  As they are talking we see a police car pull up in the background.  As with so much of the show it is subtly brilliant.  That’s not to say Lynch and co creator Mark Frost are afraid to lean into the melodrama of soap!  The “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” advertising campaign was directly influenced by the “Who shot J.R.?” campaign from the show Dallas a decade earlier.  Like a soap, there are over thirty main characters.  There are also the strange encounters and conversations , many which are left hanging and are not connected to the plot, but all add to the colour. laura-palmer

Ultimately the long form nature of the show was its downfall for me, for a while at least.  Early in the second series, I went on Holiday and missed an episodes when the recording failed.  An episode or two later I stopped watching intending to pick it up again when re-run.  Ultimately, this opportunity came a couple of years later when I borrowed the VHS from a friend and watched both season  all the way through.  I have watched it all the way through at least three times since then. dale cooper audrey horne

The title sequence shows both the simple splendour, as well and the mundane of small two life.  There is something strangely beautiful about watching a giant saw-blade being sharpened, or is that Angelo Badalamenti’s theme music doing the heavy lifting?  The theme that is echoed throughout the rest of score perfectly captures the grief and melancholy that hovers over the show.  It doesn’t take a music expert to recognise that Laura’s theme (that is repeated throughout the show), and the theme music are of the same piece.  Other parts of the score reflect the absurdity and obscurity of the show.  The music is bizarrely brilliant, and totally timeless; it sounds like nothing else, but is also reassuringly familiar.    The evil lurking under the surface of a seemingly perfect and idyllic community is not new ground for Lynch having explored it in Blue Velvet (1986).  But lets not forget this is a murder mystery, and that is where Mark Frost’s expertise rests, his credits include around fifty episodes of Hill Street Blues as scriptwriter and/or story editor.  If you strip away all the strange characters and events, it is still a great murder mystery, just not one with the conclusion you would normally expect. Part of the brilliance comes with the setting Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) talks about how murder isn’t a faceless event, not a statistic, and how Laura Palmer’s death affected everybody in town.  Pure evil is more noticeable and more meaningful than if it had been set in a large city. Twin Peaks Black Lodge

Like all the best shows, it hasn’t dated (except possibly the 4:3 aspect ratio), even after thirty years.  Initially cancelled after two seasons, but as a final act, Lynch made the boldest of moves.  Taking a storyline that goes back to early in the first season as a jumping off point, he revisited the show (just over) twenty-five years later.   Twin Peaks The Return, as it is sometimes known dove deeper into the supernatural that always been there, often just below the surface.  The result was a very different experience, that makes you look differently at the original show.  Like a film with a very different sequel, you can take Twin Peaks as the original thirty episodes of seasons one and two, or you can take all forty-eight from all three seasons; either way, it was as groundbreaking as it was brilliant! twin peaks the return

Following my list of Space Adventure movies in the century so far, I thought I would take a similar look at TV from the same time period. 

Farscape (1999 – 2003), Where better to start a list of programs from this century, than in the previous one! The Australian-American series ran for four seasons, before being concluded with a three hour mini-series.  The Jim Henson Company, were responsible for both the alien make-up/prosthetics and animatronic puppets. The show had a great cast, the highlight being Claudia Black.  The world-building was excellent, but the standout was the story.  In a time before longform TV as we know it now, most of the episodes were standalone or short narratives over a small number of episodes, however, there is always an overarching story arc.  Farscape

Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000) Produced by the Sci Fi Channel, and regarded by many as the definitive version of Frank Herbert’s novel.  I found it a little tedious, and prefer David Lynch’s 1984 film version.  A second series: Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune (sometimes called Dune Apocalypse) followed in 2003.  Based on the books Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune.  A better series overall, mainly thanks to James McAvoy as Leto II.Frank Herbert's Dune

Andromeda (2000 – 2005) Marketed as Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, it was based on an and unused material by the late Roddenberry.  The show ran for 110 episodes over five seasons.  Set in a future dystopian, post-apocalyptic universe, the premise of the show is fighting against the odds to make things better, a very Roddenberry idea.  I seem to remember the show was no very late at night in the UK, I watched the first episode and then saw odd episodes over the years.  I remember enjoying what I saw, but never enough to seek out a whole series. Andromeda

Cowboy Bebop (2001 -2002) – Japanese animated series made up of 26 episodes and a movie.  Set in a future where Earth almost uninhabitable, and humanity has colonized most of the Solar System.  The story concentrates on a an Inter Solar System Police. Described as a cyberpunk blend of Western and pulp fiction, it meets all the space opera credentials for this list.  An American live action version is reported to be in production for Netflix, although recent reports suggest it will be much delayed due to a knee injury suffered by star John Cho. Cowboy Bebop

Star Trek Enterprise (2001-2005) Running for 98 episodes across four seasons, Enterprise was set around a century before the original series and captain Kirk’s five-year mission telling the early years of Starfleet, and the first starship Enterprise. I lost interest during the first season, but understand it got better. Star Trek Enterprise

Firefly (2002 – 2003) The show that gives this article its title.  Cruelly cancelled mid season, there are only 14 episodes, but they are all fantastic. Although episodic, flashback episodes tell the origins of the characters.  Set on the fringes of civilised society echoing pioneer culture and western movies, key members of the crew fought on the losing side of a civil war.  Handled differently this could have been very problematic.  A combination of fantastic world-building and characters set the short lived show head and shoulders above others, this made it easy for them to transition into Serenity, the movie that finished the story. Firefly

Battlestar Galactica (2004-09) When I was kid in the early 80’s I used to watch the original Battlestar Galactica every Sunday evening for years. Or did I? How the mind plays tricks on us, it only ran for 21 episodes (plus 10 episodes of Galactica 1980, which I didn’t see).  While I loved the show at the time, re-watching it in the 90’s revealed that it wasn’t very good.  However, the re-imagined version is nothing short of a masterpiece.  Retaining the original concept, and technically a sequel to the original show.  The action and drama of the show were enhanced by a smart script with political undertones with contemporary relevance.Battlestar Galactica

Stargate Atlantis (2004 – 2009) Although I watched and enjoyed the original Stardgate movie, I have never seen any of the TV show.  I did however start watching Stargate Atlantis, which I understand to be a continuation of the original show.  A military survival series, set in a new galaxy and unable to contact earth, I enjoyed the first season, them it moved from free to air TV and I haven’t seen any further episodes. Stargate Atlantis - Season 5

Doctor Who (2005 – ) Doctor Who ran for over 700 episodes from 1963 to 1989.  When it returned in 2005, nobody knew what to expect, I don’t think anybody expected it to be so good and to re-cement itself as a British institution.  It has lost its way since the departure of Steven Moffat, but still remains fun and watchable. Doctor Who

Star Wars The Clone Wars (2008 – 2020) The clone wars were mentioned by Princess Leia, and then again by Luke and Ben in Star Wars, without any explanation as to what they were. Following the prequels (clones were introduced in Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)) came The Clone Wars filling in the can between episodes II and III.  I have never seen any of them, but understand they are popular. Star Wars The Clone Wars

Stargate Universe (2009 -2011) An exploration team find themselves onboard an Ancient spaceship several billion light years from our Galaxy. Running for 40 episodes over two seasons, the show was cancelled after the final season was in the can resulting in an ending described as a semi-cliffhanger.  A shame, as I enjoyed the show. Stargate Universe

Caprica (2010) – Set a generation before Battlestar Galactica and telling the story of the creation of Cylon’s and sowing the seeds for the destruction of the twelve colonies.  The show was filled with interesting characters played by some really good actors.  Sadly the story unfolded too slowly and it failed to find an audience and was cancelled before the first season had finished airing.  This is a great shame, the tease real for the unmade second season look really good.Caprica

Agents of SHIELD (2013-2020) The MCU’s longest running TV show is largely earth based, but the whole firth season is set in space, and is pretty good.Agents of SHIELD

Dark Matter (2015) Six people wake up on a deserted spaceship with no memory of who they are or what they’re doing there. Running for three seasons, I am yet to see it. Dark Matter

Killjoys (2015-2019) What started out looking like it was going to be a second-rate Syfy channel space opera gradually became more interesting and compelling.  As well as an overriding story arc, it also included more relevant characters and storylines.  Beyond all this, the real reason for watching is the shows secret weapon, rising star Hannah John-Kamen in the lead role.Killjoys

The Expanse (2015- ) Based on a series of novels by James S. A. Corey (the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).  Set in a future with a colonized Solar System, a fragile cold war like peace exists between Earth, Mars and the Belt (an asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter). Essentially a cold war/conspiracy thriller, the brilliance of the show is that as an audience we don’t take sides; all three sides are represented, and there are good and bad on all sides.  This is further complicated as the good characters are flawed, and the bad ones have redeeming features, just like real life!  Simply one of the best shows around at the moment.The Expanse

Lost in Space (2018 – ) When I was kid in the 80’s I loved the re-run of the 1960’s show.  I only watched the first two or three episodes of the new version before loosing interest.  It appears to be popular with a third season being commissioned. Lost in Space

Star Trek Discovery (2018 – ) Moving away from the single episodes of most of the Trek franchise to telling one long form story per season has changed the show dramatically.  Interesting stories and fantastic casting have made it a positive move.  Set before the events of the original show, the writers have done an amazing job of fitting the story into existing narratives. Star Trek Discovery

Altered Carbon (2018 – ) With two seasons aired so far, Altered Carbon has become legendary for its cost of production.  The high budget really shows with the lavish production design.  Based on the 2002 novel of the same title by Richard K. Morgan, a key to the story is how, memories and consciousness can be transferred from one body to another allowing recasting to  become part of the narrative. Altered Carbon

Krypton (2018 – 2019) Set on Superman’s doomed home planet around 200 years before his birth. Running for twenty episodes across two seasons to mixed reviews.  I haven’t seen any so can’t comment further.Krypton - Season 2

Nightflyers (2018) Billed as a psychological thriller (aka a pretentious horror) about a spaceship exploring the universe for alien life.  Based on a novella by George R.R. Martin.  It ran for 10 episodes, I lost interest by the second. Nightflyers - Season 1

Another Life (2019-2020) A crew travel into space to try and unlock the mystery of an alien artifact that may be threatening life on earth.  Combining adventure with mystery thriller the concept of this show looks really good.  Unfortunately It didn’t work for me, I gave up after two episodes. Another Life

The Mandalorian (2019- ) Episode One of Jon Favreau’s Star Wars TV show snuck in before the nations cinemas closed, and screened in UK cinema’s as part of the Disney streaming launch.  All the hype seems to have surrounded the character who has erroneously become known as baby Yoda.  The show, is actually very good! The Mandelorian

Star Trek Picard (2020- ) Patrick Stewart returns to the Star Trek universe as a now retired Jean-Luc Picard.  The story makes reference to the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) and brings back a few characters from the past, and introduces some really good new ones.  On the whole it is excellent, but isn’t as consistently good as the first season of Star Trek Discovery. Star Trek Picard

A few weeks ago when it was becoming clear that cinemas would be closing I tweeted to jokingly suggest I was compiling my top ten movies of the year.  Now the cinemas are all closed, and all the big releases have been put back, it isn’t clear how many more movies I will be seeing on the big screen this year, so I thought I would post my top ten of the year.  The top five would probably have made my top ten had they come out in any of the past ten years.

  1. Parasite Parasite
  2. Portrait of a Lady on FirePortrait of a Lady on Fire
  3. 1917 1917
  4. Long Day’s Journey into Night Long Day's Journey into Night
  5. Color out SpaceColor out Space
  6. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)Birds of Prey
  7. The Invisible ManThe Invisible Man
  8. The LighthouseThe Lighthouse
  9. The True History of the Kelly GangThe True History of the Kelly Gang
  10. Little JoeLittle Joe

Bonus/Redux Pick: JoJo Rabbit*JoJo Rabbit

* I just remembered, I saw a preview of JoJo Rabbit in December last year.  Following the advice of Chris Hewitt of Empire Magazine/Podcast, I only included films released that year for my 2019 best of list.

The other films I have seen so far this year (excluding re-issues of older films) are as follows (in the order seen).  Let’s hope I have seen a lot more than 21 by the end of the year!

  • The Gentlemen
  • Just Mercy  
  • Seberg 
  • Bad Boys For Life 
  • Bombshell
  • Queen & Slim 
  • The Rhythm Section
  • Dark Waters
  • Underwater
  • Greed
  • The Hunt

This will be my last Movie of the Month for the foreseeable future.  I have been blogging for over eleven years, although I post far less than when I started, the one constant is Movie of the Month, I have posted every month without fail and usually on the first of the month.  However, world events have overtaken me, and I, like the rest of the nation will not be visiting the cinema due to the lockdown associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  The movies I saw this month are:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire – I went into this movie not knowing anything about it, other than how good it was.  To give anybody reading this the same opportunity, I am not going to give a synopsis.  The film is beautiful to look at, and tells a beautiful that unfolds to devastating effect. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

The Invisible Man –  Following the abject failure of The Mummy (2107) Universal’s overly ambitious  so-called Dark Universe didn’t happen.  This left the door open for the Blumhouse treatment.  The story is as grounded and real as The Invisible Man could be, and also benefits from the always brilliant Elisabeth Moss.  Not only better than expected, but genuinely good. The Invisible Man

The True History of the Kelly Gang – A grubby and grimy Western that subverts the myth of the legend of Ned Kelly.  A Dark and unsettling  movie that  filled with outstanding performances. The True History of the Kelly Gang

The Hunt – Far blander than the its controversial reputation would suggest.  A 21st century take on an often told story.  A final act revelation even softens the any chance of controversy.  In no way revolutionary or outstanding, but well made, fun with couple of really good actions scenes.    The Hunt

I have averaged 111 films per year at the cinema for the last ten years.  Its unlikely I will see that many this year, regardless of how many films I see this year, I am confident that this month’s movie of the month will make my year end top ten: Portrait of a Lady on FirePortrait of a Lady on Fire poster

I have been writing this blog for over eleven years; during this time I have intentionally avoided anything political or even particularly serious, in short, I write about movies, and occasionally TV.  However, on occasion, to be blunt, shit gets real!

One of my local independent cinema’s is The Electric Cinema.  Established over 110 years ago, it holds the honour of being the oldest working cinema in the UK.  On Monday, they tweeted about how they remained open through two world wars, and the Spanish Flue pandemic (the one that infected about a quarter of the population a century ago). Today, The Electric took the drastic step of closing amid the unprecedented issues associated with the coronavirus pandemic.  This followed most of the UK’s cinema chains deciding to close until further notice.

Cinema’s are far from the only places to close.  The UK government are promising help for businesses.  While it is essential to maintain the national economy, and the businesses that keep the proverbial wheels turning, we have to also think of the things that make life fun and enjoyable.  We have to protect, and maintain the theatres, restaurants, pubs, clubs, and sports clubs that we all attend, the things that make life worth living.  Winston Churchill possibly said it best:

The story as I understand it dates back to the Second World War; as the cost of war was escalating and the government struggled to balance the nations books a minister suggested cutting funding for the arts to prop-up the war effort. Winston Churchill response was to ask the simple question:  “Then what are we fighting for?”