Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Movie Blog’ Category

Blogathon The Film That Started It AllThis blog post is part of The Film That Started It All Blogathon on Let’s Go To The Movies. I haven’t participated in a Blogathon for several years, but when Caz suggested this one I couldn’t resist.  Not only because Caz was the first fellow blogger I connected with ten years ago, but because it’s such an intriguing idea.  The brief:

“We all have that one truly special film, the one that really made your love for film and cinema so deep. I thought it would be a fantastic idea to share this with each other and it could really create some positive thoughts and discussion.”

The problem I have with this proposition is I don’t remember a time before I was obsessed with movies, but one event stands out in my mind.  Sunday October 24th 1982 at 7:15pm, I was six years old when Star Wars made its UK television Premiere.  I’m not sure how I came to be watching it. I remember my parents building up the cultural significance of it.  Looking back this seems strange.  I don’t think I had shown any real interest if films prior to this, and my dad has an irrational disinterest bordering on distain for Sci-Fi.  But however it happened, we stayed up way beyond my bedtime, and I was hooked.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I don’t think I need to give a synopsis, but here goes: Before being captured and held hostage by the evil Imperial forces, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hides a message in a droid and sends him to find Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) a friend of her late father.  Along the way the pickup Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), a farm boy who dreams of fighting the empire.  They hire freighter pilot/smuggler, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his first mate Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and set off on a adventure to rescue the Princess and restore justice to the galaxy.

To give it some context, by this time in my young life, I had never visited a cinema.  In fact I only visited the cinema eight times before the age of eighteen.  I kind of made up for lost time after that seeing an average of 10 movies per month at the cinema every week for the past 20 years, but that’s a different story.  I spent most of my formative years watching movies on video, but at this time we didn’t have a VCR.  The first film I watched on video was Superman (1978), but again that’s another story.  Had I not seen Star Wars on that day, would I have seen another movie, and my lifelong obsession with movies started?

But where did Star Wars come from? During the great depression there was an appetite for escapism in movies, characters like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers were a mainstay shown in serial form.   World War II and the development of the atomic bomb led to a period of paranoia and a so called Golden Age of Science Fiction, but most of these films didn’t trouble the mainstream.  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) were the biggest grossing Sci-Fi movies of the era; a long way from space adventure.

Following the events of Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, the world was prime for an epic science fiction adventure.  Fortunately 20th Century Fox had the perfect film, the tagline said it all: “An adventure you will never forget”.  The few people who saw it promptly forgot Damnation Alley.  A post-apocalyptic adventure loosely based on the novel of the same name by Roger Zelazny.  Fortunately Fox had another film, one set: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….  So how did this happen?  George Lucas had made two movies THX 1138 (1971) and American Graffiti (1973) (possibly Lucas’ best film), and wanted to make a space opera like the ones he loved as a kid  His original idea was an adaptation of Flash Gordon, but couldn’t get the rights.  He set to work writing a treatment with similar plot points to Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958).  Refining the script over several drafts before coming up with the film we now know.

Why did it strike such a chord with me, and so many other movie fans, I think its a perfect blend of familiarity and originality.  Around this time I had seen reruns of the old serialised movies from the 30s and 40 that had been shown on early morning TV when I was kid, things like: Tarzan,  The Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, Zorro.  Many of them followed a similar and simple formula of an adventuring hero battling against an oppressive villain.  That is probably why Star Wars was so familiar on first watch.  But Star Wars took this formula and put it in a premium package.  The old series were low budget, but Star Was cost around $12million, a lot for 1977, and it showed.  The six Oscars it won included: Visual Effects, Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Costume Design.

So what happened next?  I think everyone knows about the sequels and prequels that have been made, and are still to come.  For me it was a lifetime before I saw another star wars movie, an impossible span of time for six year old to comprehend: about two years.  That was the time we really entered the 1980’s, we got our first VCR.  By the time I saw The Empire Strikes Back(1980) (or Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back to give its full title), I already knew about the twist at the end, it was relatively common knowledge. I also knew the story of Return of the Jedi back to front.  I hadn’t seen the film, but I had received the Return of the Jedi Annual for Christmas.  This was the Marvel comic book adaptation of the film collected together into a single hardback book (I still have it).  I also had a shed load of the toys, again I still have most of them in my loft today.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The toys probably framed my thoughts on Star Wars.  By my mid teens, I saw them as kids films and had largely lost interest.  You can read about my favourite films from that time HERE.  But then at eighteen I went to university. On a lazy weekend afternoon a group of us gathered around a small TV in a friends room and watched videos from our collections.  Until someone came up with Star Wars.  Some of the group, like me loved it as a kid, but hadn’t seen it since, others had never seen it, and a couple declared it to be their favourite film of all time. My love of Star Wars was rejuvenated.  In the coming days we watched the rest of the trilogy.  Later that year, I acquired the trilogy on VHS (anyone under the age of twenty, ask your parents), the last time the original trilogy was available in its original form, before George Lucas went back and messed with it.  Then in my final year at university The Special Edition of the original trilogy was released theatrically, and I got to see them in cinemas for the first time.  Two years later I attended a midnight screening of The Phantom Menace, again, that’s another story!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

We all know the idiom “To kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs”, referring to  an unprofitable action motivated by greed, but what does this have to do with TV?

Once upon am time there were just three TV channels,  BBC1, BBC2 and ITV, it was all free to air, well sort of, there has always been a TV licence fee.  Then in the 1990’s came satellite and  cable TV and a new world order of pay TV had begun.  The 21st century gave us high-speed internet, and with it streaming.  Initially I subscribed to Amazon Prime as it is now called, then came Netflix, and more recently Now TV (Sky).  My Now subscription will probably only last as long as the final season of Game of Thrones!

Game of Thrones is for the moment Sky’s big draw.  With just six episodes to go, they need to find something else epic to keep my attention.  Upcoming seasons of Westworld and Big Little Lies are probably the most interesting things to come.  Netflix has Stranger Things, Black Mirror, The OA and The Good Place.  Amazon’s standout show Into the Badlands is coming to an end, but still has American Gods (that so far has failed to live up to first season promise), Bosch (the most underated show on TV), Mr Robot, and The Grand Tour.

But soon these channels way be under threat from a new competitor; Disney +. As I wrote this there were no announcements suggesting when or if they would will launch anywhere outside the US.  However, its surly only a matter of time.  But we all knew it was only a matter of time.  Then a few hours later Disney announced that Disney + would go live in the US on 12th November 2019, and in other territories within two years.  This caused me to delay publication and slightly rewrite.  I understand Disney Plus is set to cost $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year.  No UK prices have been mentioned but speculation suggests It’s likely it will cost £6.99 per month or £69.99 per year. Given the exchange rate, that means we will be paying around 30% more than America.

So what does this new service offer?  Drawing from the Disney back catalogue, and those of its acquisitions, but nothing R rated, so no Deadpool.  The suggestion is over 7,500 episodes and 500 films will be immediately available.  Disney has also been rapidly cutting ties with other streaming services and has several new shows planned based on their largest properties.  At least two Star Wars TV shows, The Mandalorian, and a prequel to Rogue One with Diego Luna reprising his role as Cassian Andor.  Their other major property Marvel are set to figure strongly including shows featuring: Scarlet Witch, Vision, Loki, Falcon, The  Winter Soldier, and Hawkeye.

So what will another streaming service mean for UK audiences? Let’s work on the assumption that in future, each service will have a handful of good shows and at least one great program each.  How many people will take on four subscription streaming services?  And do they need to?  There are various HDMI-port plug-in devices (some branded and associated with the above channels) that can be used via apps freely available online to stream most TV and movies via file sharing.  Despite not being exactly legal the practice is easy and therefore relatively widespread.  History is filled with reports of nations raising tax rates, resulting in tax revenue falling as more people evaded/avoided taxes.

So what will happen if the price of multiple platforms gets too high and viewers turn their back on subscription streaming in favour of file sharing?  The most notable thing could be the loss of income resulting reduced budgets for new original programming.  Lower quality, or fewer programs in turn results in less subscribers.  And thus starts a vicious circle that ultimately kills the proverbial goose.  Will we see a day when competing streaming services share content?  At the moment, we are clearly in a golden age when it comes to the availability of content, if not the price of it! 

Read Full Post »

Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers
Puttin’ suckers in fear

“Mama Said Knock You Out”  LL Cool J

In the last couple of years there have been a few high profile horror movies that have critical praise, and a healthy box-office: Us (2019), Mandy (2018), The Witch (2015), A Quiet Place (2018), Suspiria (2019), It (2017), Get Out (2017), Hereditary (2018).  This has resulted in suggestions on both social and mainstream media that we are in some kind of golden age of horror, or there is some sort of renaissance.  This is somewhat misleading, as LL Cool J said: “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years”.

Horror has existed since the birth of narrative cinema with  the short film Le Squelette Joyeux (1895) possibly being the first.  After the first world war, German Expressionist cinema saw a growth in the genre with The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922) being two great examples.

It wasn’t long before Hollywood was on the bandwagon, most famously the Universal Horrors starting with Dracula (1931), and Frankenstein (1931) and reaching a pinnacle with Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

The biggest name in British Horror, Hammer entered the genre via TV when The Quatermass Experiment was adapted into The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), this was closely followed by their versions of two age old classics; The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958).

Throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s Italian Giallo movies like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) and A Bay of Blood (1971) by directors Mario Bava and Dario Argento became a mainstay of horror.

Born in the 70’s I grew up in the 80’s watching horror movies, here are a few of my favourites of the decade: The Shining (1980), An American Warewolf in London (1981), The Evil Dead (1981 and Evil Dead II 1987), The Thing (1982), Videodrome (1983), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Aliens (1986), Near Dark (1987), The Lost Boys (1987), Hellraiser (1987).

The 90’s are often regarded as a poor decade from horror, but it is the decade that gave us Silence of the Lambs (1991), Scream (1996), and The Blair Witch Project (1999).

This quick overview shows that horror has always been with us, but is just the very tip, of the tip of the iceberg of the genre.  But there is more to it than the longevity of horror.  Critically well received and commercially successful aren’t a new combination, if you adjust for inflation some of the highest grossing horrors include: Psycho (1960), The Exorcist (1973), Young Frankenstein (1974), Jaws (1975).

To rub salt into the wound of the disrespect shown to horror movies, there is also a contingent that suggest that there this new crop of horror movies are not horror, or even that they are more than horror.  The terms Elevated horror or (insert relevant adjective) Thriller, seem to be used a lot.  These films are not more than, or better than horror, or even a different genre with elements of horror.  So where does  this all come from?  The simple answer is prejudice.  Horror has always been the black sheep of the movie family, and rather than admitting they like horror movies, some people choose rebrand them to help move them to a new pigeonhole.

Horror movies have always been with us, and will always be with us, or to put it another way: “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years“. 

Read Full Post »

Captain Marvel has some great 90’s songs on the soundtrack:

  • Crazy on You – Heart
  • Kiss Me Deadly – Lita Ford
  • Whatta Man – Salt-N-Pepa ft. En Vogue
  • Connection – Elastica
  • Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage
  • Crush With Eyeliner – R.E.M.
  • Waterfalls – TLC
  • You Gotta Be – Des’ree
  • Come As You Are – Nirvana
  • Just A Girl – No Doubt
  • Man on the Moon – R.E.M.
  • Celebrity Skin – Hole

But as pointed out by The Empire Podcast, Carol Danvers wouldn’t know them if she heard them.  In his second outing, The Winter Soldier, Captain America kept a notebook where he made note of things he had missed in the near 60 years he was frozen.  At the time I ran a Blogathon where participants recommended movies made between 1943 and 2011.  I don’t have time to run a Blogathon, so am just making my own recommendations this time, my favourite albums from 1989 to 1995:

1989199019911992199319941995

I chose six for each year simply because they fitted in the grid better than five.  Most years I could have come up with ten!  If I was struggling to choose, I favoured albums I loved at the time over ones I discovered later.  Here are a few bonus picks that didn’t make the top six but I didn’t want to omit:Bonus Picks

Read Full Post »

I’m sure you all know about The Bechdel Test.  In its simplest form there are three criteria:

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man

I have never stopped to consider how the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) fares under this criteria, probably not that well simply for its lack of significant female characters.  As phase three comes to an end, the two most significant women in the MCU are about to meet. thor-captain-marvel-endgame-1200x676

It’s taken the MCU ten years and twenty movies to give a female character a leading role.  Even the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) managed it more quickly with Wonder Woman (2017) being the fourth, and best (some may say the only good) of their movies.  Fortunately this will all be forgotten as Captain Marvel is very good and performing well at the box-office.  However, this puts the sexual politics of the MCU in a precarious place.  They have introduced a character that billed as the most powerful Avenger, a character anyone could be jealous of.  If you have seen the mid credit sequence in Captain Marvel, or the trailer for Avengers Endgame, you will know that Carol Danvers and Natasha Romanoff are about to meet.  How they react to each other is more significant than anyone has given it credit for.  star lord thor

Peter Quill’s jealousy of Thor when they meet is classic Hollywood, except the protagonists are usually two rival women.  As a scenario it is funny, partly for how it is played, but mainly because it is unusual  to see two men react in such a way.  Any amusement or progressive about this would be undone should Danvers and Romanoff react to each other in a similar way.  Let’s hope the writers, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo have considered this and the charters hit it off immediately.     

Read Full Post »

Warning Contains Spoilers

This is not a review of Captain Marvel, but will contain opinions on the film and plot details (for Captain Marvel and other movies).  My greatest fear for the character is that she will turn into Superman.  Not that she will turn into a man (the original comic book Captain Marvel aka Mar-Vell was a man), although that would also be a disaster, there are proportionally far too many men in superhero movies!  The issue is that Superman’s power and ability are too great, and any real peril he faces is by definition contrived.  Captain-Marvel-international-poster-1724182

Captain Marvel is the trickiest of things in a comic book movie, an origin story.  On this level it works well, concentrating on one small time period, by the end of the movie we realise these few days are not the exactly the origin of the character but Carol Danvers rebirth as Captain Marvel.  The film is at its best when it is a mismatched buddy movie with Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson as Danvers and Nick Fury (brilliantly, digitally de-aged).  It has fun with its 90’s setting rather than revel in it, and has some great music cues.  The plot doesn’t always go where you expect, and is largely satisfying.  The cgi heavy final act isn’t as strong as the rest of the movie, but does at least depart from the overused rehash that so many comic book movies use as a fallback.  Larson is perfect casting playing the part with just enough cynicism and cockiness with a constant wry grin.  All in all, it is a fun introduction to the character.Captain Marvel nick fury

But anyone who has seen the film will know, by the end Carol Danvers looks like she could kick Superman’s ass!  This type of power is an ongoing problem in making Superman movies interesting.  Around five years after the introduction of Superman in comic books, creator Jerry Siegel came up with an “Achilles’ heel” that would weaken him, Kryptonite.  In Superman II (1981), Superman III (1983) and Superman Returns (2006), the character is all powerful and indestructible until the use of Kryptonite levels the playing field for a while.  Superman II (1981) is possibly the best movie to feature the character as it pits him against adversaries of similar ability to Superman.  the other contender for the best Superman movie was the 1978 Richard Donner origin story.  This has the same advantage as Captain Marvel; as an origin story it spends a lot of time in Smallville not needing to de-power Superman.

Both the power Captain Marvel exhibits and the events of the film result in a situation with only one possible outcome, she had to leave earth and stay away from the MCU until the events of the first twenty movies had played out.  If you are reading this you have most likely seen the film and stayed for the scene during the closing credits.  It comes as no great surprise that Danvers returns following Nick Fury’s pager message.  This sets the scene for her involvement in Avengers: Endgame, which is sure to be significant.  More than that, has probably been planned for some time.  When all else has failed, she is the obvious choice to take on Thanos.  But where does her cinematic future lie?

One of my favourite MCU movies is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The film is very much like a 70’s conspiracy thriller, it does have a plot problem.  The final act is a typical MCU (or DCEU for that matter) movie, with a large object above a major city threatening the safety of said city, or even the world.  As part of the inevitable heroics to save the day by The Avengers, Sam Wilson aks Falcon has to perform tasks that are near impossible, but that would have been easy for Iron Man (even easier for Captain Marvel).  This isn’t much of an issue when you are watching the film excitement of the movie, but the more you think about it the more glaring the contrivances are. Captain-America-Winter-Soldier-captain-america-38170916-2880-1800

So does this limit Carol Danver/Captain Marvel’s involvement in the MCU to intergalactic adventures (we have the Guardians of the Galaxy for that), and stepping in when all else is lost?  Given the tendency  to give the main characters three of their own movies, they will need to find at least two more stories to tell.  The MCU’s record with sequels isn’t great, Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World are poor movies.  All the other second movies in a series are inferior to the first, all except one, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the best of the Captain America movies and  possibly the best MCU movie.  Given the usual pattern of releases the next instalment should be two or three years away. 

Read Full Post »

Following its release on Netflix I held off watching Roma for several weeks in the hope it would find its way to a cinema near me.  I live in a city covered by most major cinema chains as well as lots of great independents (including “The UK’s Oldest Working Cinema”), I therefore thought I had a pretty good chance.  Sadly it didn’t appear, so in the dark days between Christmas and New Year, I bit the bullet and watched Alfonso Cuarón’s latest on TV at home.Roma

Following an online search I soon discovered why it hadn’t appeared at a cinema.  It appears Netflix set the bar pretty high for any cinema wishing to show the movie.  It suggested they needed the capability to project 70mm film or 4k digital, and have Dolby Atmos sound.  This excluded most independent cinemas across the country; many will have one of these capabilities few have both.Roma

After watching the film my first reaction was that I could understand the restrictions as the films sound design was nothing short of spectacular.  I have a reasonable home setup with 7.1 sound, this was by far the best sounding film I have watched at home, I’m sure a full Dolby Atmos would have sounded even better.  My impression was further galvanised by a friend who had watched the film the same night as me who commented that he hadn’t noticed the great sound.  The irony of this, the person in question was partly responsible for convincing me to upgrade my system, but doesn’t himself have surround sound having recently moved house, and not set up his surround speakers yet.ROMA

However, it suddenly hit me; there was a chink in the Netflix criteria.  A cinema with a really good, but not Dolby Atmos setup could not show the film, but anyone with a Netflix account could watch it on a mobile phone with a 2 inch screen and a single speaker.  Accepted, it is unlikely that anyone who would have paid to watch the film in the cinema, when they could have watched it at home at no extra cost (if they have Netflix) is unlikely to then watch it on a mobile phone! Nevertheless, even the best home set-up is going to be inferior to most cinema’s even if they are not Atmos.  Therefore there must be more to it than simply showing the film in the best way.roma 3

Whether you think it is the death of cinema or an exciting time, we are certainly at a tipping point in not just how we view films, but how they are funded and made.  Steven Spielberg has joined the debate suggesting that films should not be eligible for the Oscars if they are predominantly streamed and receive just a token release.  Film critic Mark Kermode has long been an advocate of simultaneous release across multiple platforms, I tend to agree with him.  But the Roma model (and many other Netflix releases in 2018) goes a long way past the idea of a simultaneous release and into what Spielberg calls a “token” release, where films are shown in a very small number of cinema’s for a very short time.  Netflix have responded on Twitter “We love cinema. Here are some things we also love: Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters – Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time.” While a measured response, they don’t seem to have taken account of people who don’t have the capability to stream movies, for example if they live in a rural area with low bandwidth.  Also from a cost point of view, many people may not be able to afford the cost of high-speed internet, and Netflix subscriptions, but can afford the odd treat of a trip to the cinema.  For at least the last half century the cheapest way of watching movies has been free to air TV, at this time, it isn’t clear if Netflix movies ever find their way to TV.roma4

There are more questions than answers, and they are sure to be asked again later this year with the release of Martin Scorsese’s much anticipated return to the gangster genre The Irishman.  I will be watching with interest. 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »