Archive for August, 2012

You have probably heard the expression once in a blue moon referring to a rare event, but what is a blue moon? There are actually multiple meanings. The moon occasionally appears to take on a bluish tinge, this is caused by smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere. The particles have to be a very particular size and are only caused by erupting volcanoes and forest fires. There are also two astronomical definitions: the third full moon in a season (or quarter of the year) with four full moons: or the second full moon in a month. Under this definition, we have a blue moon tonight. What better time list my top five werewolf movies:

ONE – An American Werewolf in London (1981): The advances in CGI mean that modern horror movies are better and more realistic than old ones that look cheep and outdated; well actually NO! An American Werewolf in London is more than thirty years old and still has the best man to werewolf transformation. The movie has moments that are scary, funny and sexy, it really is the ultimate comedy horror, the word classic is an overused but when talking about this movie, it just seems insignificant.

TWO – Ginger Snaps (2000): With all the wolf effects you need a big budget to make a good werewolf movie, again NO! With budgetary constraints comes artistic invention, $4million would barely pay the coffee budget on the Lord of the Rings movies but that’s what Ginger Snaps cost to make. Fantastically developed characters full of teen angst, the film is more gritty, earthy and visceral than the pithy ironic style of most horror movies of the time. With themes of alienation, despair and transformation the entire film is a metaphor for teenage in particular puberty.

THREE – The Company of Wolves (1984): With Red Riding Hood, two Snow White movies and the TV show Once Upon a Time there is a real desire to update fairytales, it has never been done better than the Little Red Riding Hood inspired The Company of Wolves. It was also a bit of a game changer for werewolf movies, until this time, werewolves were portrayed as viscous beasts whilst vampires were symbols of sex and sexuality, but this sumptuous horror fantasy movie oozes sexual metaphors. Loosely based on Angela Carter short story of the same name, the meaning of the film is left perfectly ambiguous and open to interpretation but is filled with themes of fear and desire and has an undercurrent of sexuality and loss of innocence.

FOUR – Dog Soldiers (2002): Soldiers on a training mission gone wrong in the Scottish highlands sounds like a rip-off of Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort, in a way it is but writer/director Neil Marshall (who went on to make The Descent) isn’t afraid to borrow from the best, later scenes are equal parts Night of the Living Dead and The Evil Dead with the end being pure The Howling with a British spin. As is often the case film makers are at there most inventive whist constrained by a limited budget, this film is no exception making great use of their none CGI monsters. Again for budgetary reasons the werewolves spend a lot of time where they traditionally belong, in the shadows. The final victory of the film is the perfect blend of horror and comedy, something that is hard to get right.

FIVE – The Howling (1981): Made by Gremlins director Joe Dante The Howling is a great early 80’s horror that dispenses with many of the conventions of the genre. The film plays out like a conspiracy thriller and in the sprit of All the President’s Men and The Parallax View the main character is a journalist. A film of the same era as An American Werewolf in London, The Howling is less comical and more satirical but also in the conspiracy thriller style it is actually a little subversive, the wolf effects aren’t as good and look a little dated but aren’t bad.

Honourable mentions:

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001): Not an honourable mention because it isn’t as good as others on the list, but because it ultimately isn’t really a werewolf movie. loosely based on a real-life Beast of Gévaudan. A series of killings in France in the 18th century that caught the attention King Louis XV who sent professional wolf-hunters to solve kill the wolves responsible.

Underworld (2003): Not a great movie, but the first of this werewolf V vampire franchise is a real guilty pleasure for me. Making the most of its relatively small budget underworld is a hugely stylish movie. The sets are amazing and the Budapest locations are used to full effect giving the film a perfect blend of modern and gothic horror.


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How will we watch films in future? The anti piracy adverts in the cinema suggest that they are worried that cinemas days are numbered as a way of watching films. I don’t see that happening but things are clearly changing. Back in 2010 I streamed a film called Frozen, it is my understanding that it was available online, on DVD and in cinemas at the same time. Is this the future? There could be more to it than that. If I think back to my childhood around 1981 we got our first VCR, this is the moment I got hooked on movies, as I remember it the first film I watched on video was Superman (1978). Before this moment I had only ever seen films on TV, I am sure I must have seen others but the only ones I can remember were Star Wars (1977) and Robin and Marian (1976). Sometime in the mid 80’s we borrowed a Videodisc system. The quality was infinitely better than VHS, unfortunately, we only had a very limited number of films (Rocky (1976) and its first two sequels (1979) and (1982), Hang ‘Em High (1968), Blue Thunder (1983) and Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983) including a making of documentary). I watched those movies a lot!

Then at the age of eighteen, I rediscover the oldest format for watching movies, the cinema. Up until that point I can only remember going to the cinema seven times. As a child of my generation I grew up with video, but at the age of eighteen I went to university and met a likeminded group of friends who watched movies at the cinema. The first two films I saw at this time were reissues of movies that at the time had not been given a video release: Reservoir Dogs (1992) and The Exorcist (1973). I now watch at least one hundred films at the cinema each year (making up for lost time?). I still maintain that this is the best way to watch films but understand others think differently. Many people enjoy going to the cinema but for their own reasons, often financial or logistic only go on special occasions or for big event films. Other chose to watch movies at home out of preface. This is made easier by the falling price and improving quality of home entertainment equipment. But what format will people be watching? I still own many VHS videos, I caught on to DVD relatively early on in the late 90’s but have never owned a LaserDisc and am yet to get a Blu-ray player. I also subscribe to a DVD rental company that also offer a streaming service so have a foot in the old and the new camps.

The changes are easy to see, we have already seen the demise of the video store in favour online DVD postal services, then there was a report last year suggesting that Blu-ray Sales will Surpass DVD Sales some time this year. In America, Netflix reported earlier this year that it has nearly twice as many subscribers to their streaming service as the DVD service.  this may have something to do with the fact that they only offer a streaming service here in the UK. This I believe is where things are going. I remember in late 90’s a program on TV looking at the possibility of a Video on demand service via the internet or telephone lines, the conclusion was that it was not going to be feasible and would lose out to “Box Office” type services from satellite and cable TV providers. Look at how far we have come and how wrong they were! It can not be long before it is possible to stream movies the same quality as Blu-ray, Netflix already offer high definition streaming. 

Will there still be a market for owning a version of a movie on a disk/tape or similar? Will streaming take over or will people store them on some sort of hard drive the way they now do with MP3 music files? When we want to watch a movie do we go to our “library” or do we go online? Things have changed at the cinema too, I wrote a few months ago about how I miss celluloid as cinemas move over to digital projection. The greatest benefit of digital projection is the reduced cost in comparison to proving prints, this in theory makes it easier for smaller releases to make their way onto the big screen. It is also resulting in more reissues of older films. This takes us back to the start and the movie Frozen, if a movie is only ever going to exist in a digital state, it makes it easy for a simultaneous multi platform release, but is that where things are going? Some people believe that multi platform release will kill cinema trade, others think it will have no effect on cinemas but will help prevent piracy. Unfortunately it is something we will never know until we try it. On the MILFCAST earlier this month director Blayne Weaver talks about how his movie 6 Month Rule (2012) had a theatrical premier before going onto Video on Demand. Earlier this year Iron Sky (2012), in the UK it was release in cinemas for just one single day. Its popularity led to the cinema release being extended. It has been suggested that in that first day the movie was seen by more people than it would have been if it had been given a standard release for a week or two. It soon became available to rent and buy on DVD.

The simple conclusion is I don’t know what new technology will emerge and who will win the next Betamax v VHS or HD DVD v Blu-ray battle. DVD/Blu-ray will probably suffer more than cinema from internet advances, but people will continue to enjoy movie at home and in cinemas.

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There is already a lot of speculation about the death of director Tony Scott yesterday. Rather than join the speculation I would rather remember the joy he gave me and millions of others who grew up with his movies. While his brother Ridley Scott has made some classic films, Tony makes movies, feet up with beer, pizza and a big smile on your face movies. The mid to late 80’s saw a reinvention and renaissance of action movies where they became credible mainstream entertainment, a small number of directors where at the forefront of this, they include: John McTiernan, Richard Donner, James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow and Toney Scott. With an often imitated visual style and string of hit movies, he has been a hugely influential director. He was also a prolific producer of both movies and TV shows including interestingly Stoker, Chan-wook Park’s first English language movie (set for release in 2013).

He has worked with some of the biggest stars of the last quarter century: Tom Cruise: Top Gun (1986) and Days of Thunder (1990). Eddie Murphy: Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). Kevin Costner: Revenge (1990). Bruce Willis: The Last Boy Scout (1991). Denzel Washington: Crimson Tide (1995), Man on Fire (2004), Deja Vu (2006), The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009), Unstoppable (2010). Will Smith: Enemy of the State (1998). Robert De Niro: The Fan (1996). Brad Pitt: Spy Game (2001).

I have seen all Tony Scott movies (except The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) and enjoyed them all even the less well received ones like Domino (2005). But here are my favourites:

The Hunger (1983) wasn’t successful on its release but has gained a cult following amongst fans of vampire movies including me.

Revenge (1990) is possibly Scott’s most under appreciated movie. A tough revenge thriller starring, Kevin Costner, Anthony Quinn and Madeleine Stowe. Having received mixed reviews on release it was finally appreciated in the mid 90’s when Quentin Tarantino declared it one of his favourite movies.

True Romance (1993): Largely faithful to the Quentin Tarantino screenplay it is Based on a, it received the ultimate praise when Tarantino declared he was happy with the outcome. Perfectly cast and full of memorable moments, it is probably my favourite Tony Scott movie.

Spy Game (2001): received positive reviews but was only a moderate success. Robert Redford and Brad Pitt are fantastic together, the films pace and structure are perfect. Its lack of action disappointed many viewers but they kind of miss the point. A great spy movie that deserves another look.

Man on Fire (2004): That most unusual of movies, a remake better than the original (it and the 1987 movie of the same name directed by Élie Chouraqui, starring Scott Glenn were both adapted from a novel by A.J. Quinnell). The kidnap, revenge thriller is elevated by a monumental performance by Denzel Washington fresh from his Oscar winning Training Day.

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As previously mentioned, a new Batman movie is inevitable but how will it live up to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight vision of Batman, the answer make it very different. One option is to follow the silly or the camp versions that went before it, but I have a different idea. Until I started researching a article a couple of months ago I didn’t know that there was a Batman serial made in 1943. Set at the time it was made during World War II “The Batman” had become a government agent and was pitted against Japanese agent Dr. Daka. Are you starting to see where I am coming from? Firstly a little background: Batman’s first appearance was in May 1939 in The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, published in Detective Comics #27. Six months later his origin (variations of which have been retold many times since) and motivation were revealed. He received his own solo title in 1940 and Robin, Catwoman and The Joker were all introduced.

Like all good stories Batman could exist in any era, the 40’s set Captain America and the 60’s set X-Men: First Class have proved that setting a comic book movie in the past has proved that it can work. Set in the mid 30’s in a Gotham City full of gangsters rich from profits made during prohibition. Falling somewhere between a noir detective thriller and an action adventure it will give a great chance to reinvent Batman. This isn’t as strange as it sounds, not only was Batman created in the 30’s but it’s original style was inspired by pulp novels of the time. I would probably avoid World War II, that would probably stray too far into Captain America territory. Rather than an actual reboot from day one this new Batman should jump straight into the story as an established character with a little exposition as we go along, we all know enough about the characters mythology now to negate the need for an origin story.

The key to a movie like this is getting the right director, given what he did with The Rocketeer (1991) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Joe Johnston could be the man for the job. I loved Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (2009) but given the fact he is currently making the Superman movie Man of Steel, it is unlikely he would make a Batman movie. Then there is my go to director for action with a little depth, Kathryn Bigelow. I would love to see a Quentin Tarantino Batman movie, but not this one. But all these would be a second choice at best, the next Batman movie should be the one who missed out when Nolan made Batman Begins, Darren Aronofsky. I would expect Aronofsky’s Batman to b darker even than Nolan’s, pushing the boundaries of right and wrong and how far a Batman should go in his fight against crime. Next we need a credible Batman, there are two options, a complete unknown or a huge star. Of the stars a few ideas that have been kicking around that I like are: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbinder (who could probably play any part he likes) and Jake Gyllenhaal. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy could also do a good job but their presence in the Nolan movies probably negates this.

I don’t see this movie ever being made, for one simple reason, money. A 1930’s set movie won’t fit with the inevitable Justice League movie without a Superman movie set in the same era. Whatever happens a suitable gap should be left before the franchise is rebooted, the eight years between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins should be a minimum, however I don’t see them waiting that long again because of money! Christopher Nolan has turned Batman into Time/Warner’s most bankable commodity.

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As mentioned before I try to avoid political comment on my blog, but what’s the point of having a virtual soapbox if I don’t stand on it once in a while. Earlier today three members of the Russian “feminist punk-rock musical collective” Pussy Riot (Maria Alyokhina 24, Yekaterina Samutsevich 29, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova 22) were convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment for “hooliganism.” What was their crime? The judge described what they had done “crudely undermined social order”. What the actually did was sing a protest song in church:

The impromptu performance took place On March 3 this year at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and is said by the band to be a protest at the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for Vladimir Putin. I don’t speak Russian so can not comment on alleged blasphemy of the song, but based on the fact the charge wasn’t blasphemy I suggest this is a red herring. Amnesty International have called the ruling a “bitter blow for freedom of expression in Russia” and have quoted a group of Russian lawyers who published an open letter stating “the actions of the three women could not be qualified as a crime and that bringing charges against them was in violation of Russian law.”

Any government or religious group that isn’t open to reasonable criticism or even ridicule isn’t fit to rule or to preach and only helps the case of those who criticise and ridicule in the first place. The fact that the church and president Putin have received support from a lot of Russian people proves that they are strong enough to not need the support of an over zealous legal system. I don’t see this as a matter of right and wrong on the side of the band, this is a reflection on the government and the legal system. I would like to think that even those who support Putin agree with Pussy Riot’s freedom of thought, expression and speech. Freedom of speech that challenges authority has to be a good thing for society especially in a country like Russia that is looking to the future and not its imperial or communist past.

This isn’t just a political rant, it does have a (vague) movie connection, given the coverage the case has received and the fact the band record their stunts, there must enough footage and interest for someone to make a documentary.

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Following last weeks thoughts on where the Batman franchise may go from here, I thought I would take a look how we got to where we are now. The Dark Knight Rises didn’t just happen, a comic book movie this big and epic but also this dark could not have been made in the 80’s or 90’s. Is the world in a darker place making such filmmaking a product of its time? Probably, but there is more to it than that. The billion dollar gross of The Dark Knight (2008) ensured that there would be a third film but things were very different before that. Batman Begins (2005) had a reasonable but unspectacular profit (it grossed around two and half times its budget). A few years before that would a big budget comic book movie have been made especially after Batman & Robin (1997).

When I started getting into movies as a kid the only comic book or super hero movies that had any credibility were Superman (1978) and Superman II (1981). Batman was best remembered for the Adam West/Burt Ward TV show from the 60’s that although it has gained a cult status now it something of a joke for a long time. Then things changed in with Tim Burtons Batman (1989). Although it is a long way from Christopher Nolan’s (very dark) Dark Knight version of Batman it was a million miles from the camp TV show. Gotham City became stylized Art Deco world that didn’t know if it belong to the future or the past. Futuristic gadgets existed alongside old cars and villains carrying Tommy guns. Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is a gloriously awkward character, only just the right side of sanity and probably closer to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark than Christian Bale’s Batman. The big name and star turn is Jack Nicholson as the Joker who has been unfairly forgotten in the shadow of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Batman Returns (1992) offered more of the same, it didn’t expand on the first film or offer anything new or different the way The Dark Knight did after Batman Begins but did boast an unforgettable Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. But then it all went wrong when Joel Schumacher took over.

Before all of that Frank Miller wrote two seminal comic book series The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Batman: Year One (1987). As well as introducing characters and storylines that their way into Nolan’s films, both books had a dark tone and themes of rebirth and redemption that we have come to associate with Batman. It also popularised the name “The Dark Knight”.

Then in a true comic book way, an unlikely hero came forward to save the genre, Blade (1998). After years of the rights to Marvel comics being sold off for TV shows and rubbish films (often with a tiny budget) Marvel studios first film was a co production with New Line Cinema. Not risking one of their big name comic books their first film and in some ways their most important was Blade. The character originated in the 1970’s as a supporting character in The Tomb of Dracula comic book. He went on to star in his own comic book as well as making appearances in various other Marvel Titles. Released in 1998 written by David S. Goyer (who also has writing credits on all three Nolan, Batman films), directed by Stephen Norrington and starring Wesley Snipes. Snipes is perfect in the lead role giving the right blend of stone faced killer, brooding hero and a little deadpan humour. The production had a relatively modest budget of around $45million and produced worldwide Gross revenue of $131million. This does not appear to be much when compared to the near $600million Iron Man took or the or the $2.5billion the three Spider-Man movies have made however without the relative success of Blade these films and the X-Men may never have been made. The sequel directed by visionary geniuses Guillermo Del Toro is even better and also introduced comic book audiences to a darker more melancholic view. Like many of his movies, there is an underlying question of who the monsters really are, and more importantly who are the real monsters.

So these are the films that created the environment that made The Dark Knight trilogy possible but what about its director. Christopher Nolan’s first feature Following (1998) is a low budget, low key affair that is well worth a look. He really made his name with the innovative and brilliant Memento (2000) before making Insomnia (2002) a remake of a Norwegian. Both films made a decent profit received critical praise. Between the first two Batman movies Nolan made The Prestige (2006), another financial success that received largely positive reviews. After the success of The Dark Knight he embarked on what appeared to be an expensive vanity project, Inception (2010), but that too was a runaway success taking over $800million and appearing at the top of many people top ten movies of 2010 (including mine). The net result of each of these movies is the same, they prove Nolan to be a bankable director that studios what to work with.

This leads to the part Warner Bros. played in the production of Nolan‘s Batman trillogy. Ultimately they hired him to make A Batman film. Prior to that, there was always going to be a Batman film but which Batman film? Early ideas involved a fifth film in the existing series and a return for director Joel Schumacher. Schumacher preferred the idea of a reboot bases on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One he was reported to have said: “[I] owe the Batman culture a real Batman movie. I would go back to the basics and make a dark portrayal of the Dark Knight.” This is the first suggestion I have heard of for both a reboot and a darker movie. Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise pitched an idea to Warner called Batman: DarKnight. It involved the character Man-Bat as well a plot centred around Dr. Jonathan Crane and his experiments into fear (sound familiar). This idea didn’t get off the ground, the studio instead deciding to hired Darren Aronofsky to write and direct and adaptation of Batman: Year One. He quickly brought Frank Miller in on the project as a co-writer and approached Christian Bale for the role of Batman. This idea fell by the wayside along with Clint Eastwood’s The Dark Knight Returns and a Wolfgang Petersen directed Batman vs. Superman.

I’m not necessarily saying all of these movies or events had a direct influence on Nolan and his trilogy but they are all the building blocks that made the movies possible.

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Last month I wrote an article about how no one movie can be “The greatest movie of all time”.  The idea being that how good a movie is, is far too subjective to be quantifiable, thus it is all a matter of opinion. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem but when take into account the variables, not to mention that opinions both differ and change the whole idea falls apart. While the point may have been lost in my esoteric ramblings, it did create a certain amount of discussion. At the time, I didn’t realise it was time for Sight and Sound to update its list of “The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time

The list (compiled every ten years since its inception in 1962) was voted for by “A panel of 846 distributors, academics and critics” who each chose a top ten, 2,045 different films in total. The big news is that after 50 years, Citizen Kane has topped from the top spot by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. As I looked through the list all the usual thoughts came to mind: is 8½ really a top ten movie? My favorite Federico Fellini film is down at number 39. La Jetée is great and influential but 50 greatest of all time, really? Great to see Some Like It Hot on the list but why isn’t it in the top ten. Pleased but surprised to see Mulholland Dr. on the list. There is a lot of Andrei Tarkovsky on the list! Should I admit that I have never heard of Late Spring, Ugetsu monogatari or Close-Up? But all this speculation misses my own point. There is no such thing as The Greatest Film of All time, and therefore there can not be a top 50 greatest.

The list and the fact it has changed perfectly proves my point. None of the top ten movies was released since the last time the list was undated a decade ago. Actually only two of the top ten (Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey from 1968 and Federico Fellini‘s 8½ from 1963) where released since the list was first conceived in 1962. Have films suddenly got better or worse? The films haven’t changed, the audiences have. We often talk about films aging well or poorly, this isn’t true, the films are the same as they ever were, its is just our mindset or zeitgeist as we watch them. This also asks another question, why so few modern movies? Are old films really better than new ones? I am the first to defend older movies but firmly believe there have been good and bad movie made through the history of filmmaking. So why no place on the list? Are the voters to set in their ways or attached to the old films on the list to let them slip away in favour of something more modern? Do they feel a movie is like vintage wine and last to mature before being considered? Will the list in ten or twenty years be full of films from the 80’s and 90’s? I don’t know the answers, but to look for them would give undeserving credence to the idea that fifty films are better than all others, at least for the next ten years when they update their list again.

When a blogger writes a “best of” list, it is personal to them it is a list of their favourites or the best in their opinion, but when a collective is brought together to vote it appears to lend a certain credibility (like Oscar voters!!!), but this in itself creates problems. Philip French writes in today’s Observer about films that didn’t make the list “ Ingmar Bergman, too, has also been and gone, possibly because votes were divided between a string of his masterpieces. The same is true of the French new wave, with neither Truffaut nor Godard reaching the top 10”. French should know, he is one of the 846 critics who voted on the list. He goes on to talk about the films he voted for the first time he was asked to participate in 1972. The fact that he has changed his list over time says it all. When voting are people conscious that their choices may be published and they could be judged on them, you may feel The Man with Two Brains is the best comedy of all time but you will look more intellectual if you put La Règle du jeu on your list. So do the opinions of critics and film makers matter more than those of the audiences who watch them? Again it is a question I won’t answer but it is one worth thinking about. None of the Sight and Sound top ten appear in the top ten of the IMDB top 250, Empire top 500 or the Rotten Tomatoes top 100!

Back to the headline of Vertigo v Kane; for two films that have been around for so long Vertigo and Citizen Kane have seen a real change in opinion in recent years. I fell in love with Vertigo when I first saw it around twenty years ago, my opinion of it hasn’t changed. Even back then it wasn’t the most loved or appreciated of films. On the other hand Citizen Kane was still considered the greatest film of all time. It has seen a certain backlash in recent years, especially in the film blogging community. In some quarters it has become a badge of hour to say “I’ve never seen Citizen Kane”. This is a shame, as much as I have turned against the idea of definitive lists of THE best films of all time, I do think all film fans should see Citizen Kane if only for Gregg Toland’s stunning photography.

I have asked more questions than I have given answers but stand by my headline, it isn’t absurd that Vertigo is suddenly better than Citizen Kane, the absurdity lies in the concept of there being a top ten or a top fifty. It is more troubling that it is all taken so seriously, the fun is take out of the movies and the process of compiling a list. And that is my final point as much as I don’t like the idea of definitive best of lists, they can be fun to compile and if you take the fun away they are totally pointless.

*  *  *  *  *

How would you vote? Would you pick your favourite ten movies or would you try and be subjective and pick what you feel are “the best” films? The following guidance was given to the voters: “We leave that open to your interpretation. You might choose the ten films you feel are most important to film history, or the ten that represent the aesthetic pinnacles of achievement, or indeed the ten films that have had the biggest impact on your own view of cinema.”

The Sight and Sound top ten for 2012 is:

  1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
  2. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
  3. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
  4. La Règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
  5. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)
  6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  7. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
  8. Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
  9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1927)
  10. 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)

As of today, the top ten movies on the IMDB top 250 are:

  1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  2. The Godfather (1972)
  3. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  5. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
  6. 12 Angry Men (1957)
  7. Schindler’s List (1993)
  8. The Dark Knight (2008)
  9. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  10. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The top ten on the Empire “ The 500 Greatest Movies of all Time” as voted for by “10,000 Empire readers (including me), 150 of Hollywood’s finest and 50 Key film critics” is:

  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
  3. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  5. Jaws (1975)
  6. Goodfellas (1990)
  7. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  8. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  9. Pulp fiction (1994)
  10. Fight club (1999)

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99.99% of this blog is about movies but once in a while I am compelled to write about something else. This time because there aren’t any movies coming out, they have all been scared of by Christopher Nolan and a little sporting event happening in London.

We British often revel in our sporting failure as plucky losers, but once in a while we have something to shout about. After just a week, it has already been a successful London Olympic games, both as a spectacle and for the home team, but tonight things got just a little special.

At 5’5” Jessica Ennis is by no means small, but in the company of other athletes in her chosen event, the heptathlon she looks tiny. And yet she is amongst the best in the world. She has become the “poster girl” for London 2012 and Team GB despite never competing in an Olympic games before (she was forced to drop out of the Beijing Olympics with three stress fractures in her right foot).

Going into the 800 metres, the last event of the heptathlon Ennis was 258 points ahead of her nearest competitor having set three personal bests in the first six events. As the race started Ennis took the front from the start and crossed the line at the end of the first lap in first place but soon dropped back to fourth place. As they came round the final bend she found herself boxed in but found her way through to the front for a final sprint to the line. She crossed the line with her hands in the air knowing she had won the Olympic gold medal beating her own British record. Before the medal ceremony she did a lap of honour draped in a union flag to the soundtrack of David Bowie’s Heroes. If it were a movie we would all dismiss it as sentimental and clichéd. But it isn’t a movie, it is true and it has just happened at London 2012!

But is doesn’t end there, as I type this Team GB have won two more gold medals: Greg Rutherford wins the long jump, the first British winner in this event for 48 years: Mo Farah is the first ever Briton to win Olympic 10,000m. To put this in prospective we only won four athletics medals in Beijing (1 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 Bronze).

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With The Dark Knight Rises bringing an end to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy there is a lot of talk about where the character should go from here. It would be naive to think this is the end of Batman on screen. There is too grater appetite from viewers and too much money to be made from the studio point of view for it not to happen.

WARNING this paragraph contains The Dark Knight Rises plot spoilers 

Firstly a little background. You may remember the whole thing about all Marvel characters who couldn’t appear in the Avengers movie because the rights have been licensed to other studios; Fox’s has dibs on Daredevil, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer while Sony/Columbia have the big money Spider-Man. Batman has no such problem, Time/Warner owns DC Comics giving Warner Brothers exclusive rights to do whatever they wish with the character. The result of this is that the true power lies with the studio. If they want to continue the Nolan universe going with a new director, Joel Schumacher for example, they can. The way The Dark Knight Rises ended leaves great potential for spin-offs. Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is set up to become Robin or even a second Batman, this has endless possibilities. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) came to the Nolan Batverse as an established character with a slinky costume and a shady back-story. This gives her character the option for an origin story as well as a spin-off. And then there is Batman himself, depending on your interpretation of the end of the movie, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) may or may not be alive. If he is alive, he has certainly left Gotham, what will he get up to in a different country. As tantalising as these possibilities are, it is probably best they remain unmade leaving customers wanting more. Fortunately, my understanding is that Christian Bale has said he won’t play Batman for any other director so they will need to change him to. I would like to think the rest of the cast would do the same. So where do we go from here.

But the Nolan Batman universe doesn’t have to end here, there is something that could happen. What is possibly the best Batman story, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns remains un-filmed (an animated version is due out later this year). Did Nolan avoid using the title because he wants to save it for a future movie? Probably not but you never know. They will have to wait at least fifteen years until Christian Bale is approaching his mid fifties, and that is the interesting thing. Christopher Nolan is yet to make a bad film, and more importantly from a studio point of view he is yet to make a flop, but that is a career has lasted just fifteen years to date. Given another fifteen years and another half dozen movies there is no way of knowing what position Nolan will be in and what his motivation will be. We also don’t know if the world climate will be right for a movie like The Dark Knight Returns. With all this in mind I haven’t given up on a new Christopher Nolan Batman movie somewhere around 2027! To keep continuity with the existing movie a rewrite will be required removing Superman from the story, this isn’t as big a problem as you would think. Superman would be replaced by a government sponsored elite team who are sent to take Batman down. And best of all the timing fits, there is enough time between now and then for another actor and director to take on the character before Nolan and Bale return.

Before then there is something else we have to contend with. The Justice League aka the Justice League of America first appeared in comic books in 1960, for those not familiar, it is a sort of DC equivalent to The Avengers. Rumours of a Justice League movie have been around for years but is yet to happen. The big problem; all the other original members (Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter) are all supernatural, superhuman or alien. But the problem goes deeper than that, none of them have appeared in a decent movie for thirty years. The long and short of it, there can be a Justice League movie, but it can not include Christopher Nolan’s Batman. They will also struggle to make it as successful as The Avengers. The sensible thing to do from an artistic point of view would be to make a Justice League movie with its own story, its own cast and its own continuity outside the other movies. If successful it could create its own franchise, if it flops it would do so without harming other franchises.

There is sure to be a reboot, but when and how. Although it seems like longer, there was less than a decade between Batman Begins and Batman & Robin suggesting a reboot could happen as soon as the end of the decade. Or have things been accelerated by the quick reboot of Spider-Man? While I am not suggesting a Joel Schumacher style farce, the tone and style of any reboot has to be dramatically different to Nolan’s vision. This is essential for its own good as well as avoiding the impact on Nolan than way Schumacher’s movies taint the memory of Tim Burton’s movies.

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The Olympics and a couple of big releases have led to a limited number of new releases in July so I have only seen five movie, but amongst them is the best film of the year so far.

Killer Joe: William Friedkin’s tale of murder set around a dysfunctional Texas family is often violent and repugnant, but it is also brilliant mainly because of a star turn from a resurgent Matthew McConaughey.

Storage 24: For the second month in a row a movie written by and starring the one man British film industry Noel Clarke. A well designed and thought out creature and good use of the confined space make for a really good British monster movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man: A reboot surprisingly soon after Sam Raimi’s trilogy. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are perfectly cast, the action is pretty good but the thing that sets it apart is the none costume build up to the action.

The Dark Knight Rises: Both the most intimate and the biggest in scale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Elevated by great casting particularly Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway. A fitting conclusion to what is possibly the best trilogy ever that like all great movies leaves you wanting more.

Chariots of Fire: The 1981 film has been re-released in time for the Olympics. Based on a true story concentrating on two British athletes culminating with their appearance at the 1924 Paris Olympics. A seminal sports movie that is still relevant thirty years on.

Not only my movie of the month but my favourite movie so far this year:

The Dark Knight Rises

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