On those Wonder Woman screenings…

You may have heard there’s been a little bit of a hullaballoo over Wonder Woman, the latest film in the ongoing DCEU. U.S. cinema chain Alamo Drafthouse announced that they will be holding special women-only screenings for the movie. As you may expect, some people flipped their shit and now it’s a big news story that just about every twat with a blog (yo) has to comment on.

If any of you are aware of comedian Richard Herring’s annual Twitter tradition, this reaction will be painfully familiar. On the Facebook post announcing the screenings, there were many grouchy comments asking when the men’s only screenings were. It’s as predictable and punctual as the German tide. This is all kinds of ridiculous, but let’s break down the actual non-issue for the thickies at the back:

a) It’s fitting. Alamo Drafthouse are known for theming their movie nights and an all-female screening is perfect. Wonder Woman is a princess of Themyscira – a utopian land populated entirely by women. It’s a fun idea. Sure, I personally wouldn’t have been able to take part, but fuck it. Not everything should cater to my needs, nor should I expect it to.

b) She was designed as a feminist icon. It’s part of the character. Wonder Woman has usually been portrayed as Superman’s equal. She’s maintained that through decades of shifting societal attitudes. If you’re a woman who takes an active interest in feminism and who likes comics, why wouldn’t you want to go to a screening with your friends and be surrounded by like-minded people?

Especially a screening of a movie that is a cultural victory for women. It’s the first “proper” solo female superhero movie of this new generation of movies (Supergirl, Elektra and Catwoman don’t really count as they were pre-shared universe explosion) and it’s also directed by a woman, namely Patty Jenkins. This shit doesn’t happen often I can see why some would want to celebrate it.

c) There will be thousands of other screenings of the movie, why the hell does it matter that one of the screenings on one night has restrictions?  It’s not even a preview of the movie. The screenings take place three days after its release. Eager fans going to midnight screenings or early showings in the first few days will have already seen it before the event takes place.

d) In regards to the men’s only screening question – is there any movie that actually warrants a male-only audience? It’d be fitting for Sausage Party, but even a lads-em-up like The Expendables, doesn’t deserve an exclusive audience.

Looking at it cynically, it’s a marketing gimmick. A damn successful one at that as it’s now an international news story and the screenings have sold out. People never like to feel like someone’s got one over on them, yet they play into the hands of outrage every time. Whenever swamp troll Katie Hopkins posts something vile, people rush to the page to read the thing they know they’re going to get angry about. The Daily Fail is counting on it. They must be making an absolute mint off her bilious shite. I think Hopkins should be called out, don’t get me wrong. I just think the approach is rather self-defeating. It’s funny how the ones who want to shut this shit down end up signal-boosting it farther than could have ever been imagined.

The only possible issue is in the scenario where a group goes to the cinema on a whim and is turned away. I could see how that could be frustrating, but how many people does that actually affect? It’s probably even less than the number a usual multiplex would inconvenience because Alamo is more of an upmarket chain with tailored dining experiences and a strictly enforced no-talking policy.  It’s not exactly the local fleapit.

If Alamo did a ladies-only screening of one of the Fifty Shades movies, no-one would give a shit. However, because this is based on a comic book and is therefore part of a scene that the vocal minority believe to be a boys’ club, it’s become an issue. These are the same people who got annoyed when Jane Foster became Thor and the new Iron Man was actually Ironheart- a fresh suit piloted by black engineering student Riri Williams.

Granted, this is one of the things that will be forgotten about in a week, but it’s still a brief light shone on some of the persistent problems that dog the comic book and movie industries and their wider fandoms. Damn near everything with the merest hint of feminism or race threatens to blow up into a Ghostbusters 2K16-sized fiasco and it’s exhausting.

So yeah, I’ll be seeing Wonder Woman soon and I’ll post my review here. As this stuff involves both comics and movies, I figured I’d stick my oar in and actually update my site for a friggin’ change.

Rose-tinted spectacle : Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

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Like the handsome go-getter that I am, I dedicate a lot of time to reading film sites, forums and the like. It’s a good way to get the lay of the cinematic land and see what people are responding to and what they aren’t. One topic that keeps coming up is this year’s Ghostbusters film and how many people are straight-up willing it to fail. I’ve talked in depth about the Fembusters thing before in this piece- click – I wrote when it was first announced. You may read that piece and think- “Ben, you absolutely fucking nailed it last time, what more could you possibly add?” Well, this isn’t specifically about Ghostbusters, although it definitely includes it. I’m here to talk about the nostalgia business, fandoms and the weird vitriol that surrounds both things.

Nostalgia is money. It always has been, but I’d argue it’s been ramped up considerably in the last fifteen years or so when it comes to media. You can’t move for nostalgia nowadays. It seems every other week some supposedly iconic film is celebrating an arbitrary anniversary. There are people already nostalgic for the Harry Potter films, a series that ended a mere five years ago. That’s insane.

Our culture of pining for shit has led to the current box office climate. The Transformers films cashed in on ’80s kids who never quite grew up and became a huge franchise. The Force Awakens was marketed almost entirely on nostalgia. Jurassic World made a embarrassing amount of cash by leaning on fond memories of Jurassic Park. Superhero films are banking on nerdy ex-children to buy a ticket to see their favourite hero on the big screen. If you loved something in the current “golden era” of the 1980s/1990s, chances are it’ll make a comeback if it hasn’t already. Whilst there are missteps like the recent flop Jem and the Holograms movie, the reason behind it being made in the first place is clear. Nostalgia sells and everyone wants a piece.

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The screenshotted comment above, taken from the official Ghostbusters Facebook page, is a sentiment I’ve seen repeated a lot. I first became aware of people claiming something had “ruined” or “raped” their childhood during the Star Wars prequel backlash. People seem to hold childhood memories of Saturday morning cartoons and the like incredibly close to their hearts. Not only that, they seem to want to defend and protect those things from the big bads out there. They internalise it and take it personally when said thing is criticised. I even have the same urge occasionally. If someone was to say to me that Bucky O’Hare was a pile of wank, my first reaction would be one of righteous indignation, because I remember watching it as a kid and playing with the toys. I’ve not watched it since and I’m sure it’s not aged well, or was even any good in the first place. However, because I have good memories associated with that cartoon, I feel I should not only remember it, but rejoice in that fact.

So, why is this? As far as I can see, it’s a combination of things. It’s partly down to the general infantilization of society. We’re encouraged not to grow up. I suspect marketing has had a huge hand in this. As an example, look at the insurance ads we have in the UK (and I suspect worldwide). They tend to consist of CGI characters dicking about and the promise of a toy of said character if you sign up with them. They’ve turned one of the more responsible and adult things you can do into fucking Happy Meal sort of deal. Still though, isn’t that one loan company advert with the singing satsuma funny? Yeah, probably won’t be as amusing when you can’t keep up the payments, face crippling debt and bailiffs come to take all of your shit, you goop-brained twat.

Then there’s the goddamn internet itself. Apart from providing more devious ways for the slimy claws of marketing to rake across our brains, there’s also the polarising nature of it all. You have to love or hate something as the hyperbolic voices are the ones that get heard the most. It’s why Buzzfeed has headlines like “33 Beyonce Gifs To Complete Your Life” or “20 times John Virgo Was Literally Perfect”. On sites like Tumblr and on social media, it’s almost the law to pick a fandom/several fandoms and then defend it/them to the hilt. Marvel or DC? Supernatural or Teen WolfHunger Games or Divergent? One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer? Lines in the sand must be drawn, motherfucker! Define yourself with your fandom! What you like is literally a part of you and you’re not a true fan unless you make a monochrome gif of that one moment when you couldn’t even.

I used to post on the now-defunct Empire magazine forums and I would often get hostile responses to my plainly stated viewpoints. I’ve had my fair share of poison here too. I rarely get TPB comments but when I do, about 70% of them have been angry diatribes as to how I’ve misunderstood my own opinion. The linked Ghostbusters article I did was a toxic wasteland. To date, it’s my most commented-on article and I couldn’t show any of them to my mum. I put the most memorable one below. You know what the search term was that led at least one of them to this very site?: “I hate female Ghostbusters”. That just says it all, doesn’t it? Once you’ve picked your side, the Internet is there to nurture and cultivate that opinion, connecting you with other people who share your views. At that point, it becomes a hugbox and it’s easy to switch from being a two-way receiver to broadcast only.

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This thirst for the good old days is affecting how films themselves are constructed. When done right, a sense of nostalgia can be really effective. Look at Back to the Future‘s intentionally idealistic portrayal of the 1950s. More recently, you’ve got Super 8‘s attempt to evoke early ’80s Spielbergian magic. On the other end of the scale, we have Jurassic World, which constantly felt the need to nod its head towards the original film and which only ended up reminding me of all the ways that it wasn’t as good as Jurassic Park. Terminator: Genisys was even worse- cutting up the iconic moments of the only two good films and pasting them together haphazardly using jizz and a Pritt Stick.  The Force Awakens was playing the same dangerous game, but there was enough narrative and character meat in there to just about get away with it. Neat little homages and references are one thing, but building an entire film around fan service is an ultimately hollow experience.

Back to the “ruining your childhood” thing (which, as we’ve established, is a notion created by both marketing and internet culture – keep up). How does a new, subpar film do that exactly? I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan and if the new film is awful, I’ll be disappointed. However, it doesn’t mean its lack of quality erases the original from existence. The negatives aren’t going to burst into flames. I can still pop the Blu-ray in and watch it to my heart’s content. Nothing changes. I’ve been a James Bond fan for almost as long as I can remember and the franchise is littered with duds. It’s not like you’ve grown up and found out that your comfort blanket movie has been arrested for touching kids. Fuck- even if that was possible it’d be a case of separating the art from the artist.

In fact, nostalgia almost separates the art entirely. Most things we watch as kids are shite, let’s be honest. Very few of my childhood favourites have held up to adult eyes. However, because I remember watching several crappy kids’ films on VHS with my grandmother, they’ll always have warm feelings attached. The thing is, “I watched it with my nan a few times” isn’t a conversation about the art. It’s not a review. Nostalgia shuts down that avenue of analysis and it becomes more a part of someone’s personal history. This is probably why people seem so personally offended when I say Tim Burton’s Batman isn’t very good. Which it fucking isn’t.

It’s due to society getting nostalgic about everything that the whole thing will be devalued somewhat. Nostalgia can be awesome in small doses. I love it when it reminds you of something you just don’t have the think space for any more. I saw a Boglin the other day. I hadn’t thought about Boglins in the longest time and it was like someone had blown the dust off a part of my brain and plugged it back in.

Boglins, in case you weren’t aware.                                                               Source: nothingbutnostalgia.com

So, try not to get too upset when Thing You Like gets resurrected and shoved into cinemas. If it’s good, you’ll get a sweet hit of nostalgia and if it sucks, you can ignore it, safe in the knowledge it doesn’t change a damn thing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get into my superhero pyjamas, curl up on my beanbag and eat a bowl of Frosties whilst watching The Rocketeer. Standard Thursday, really.

Pissing in the wind – why “Paint Drying” is pointless

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Ha, those crazy people on the Internet! You’ll never guess what they’ve gone and done now, the mentalists! They only Kickstarted a 10 hour film of paint drying, actually called Paint Drying, that the stuffy old British film censors have to watch. They, like, HAVE to watch it. Haha, what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall when they do! I want to buy them all drinks, the absolute legends. Teehee!

You may have heard of the whole Paint Drying thing this week. Some douchebag crowdfunded a 1o hour long film of nothing but paint drying to protest the fact that every film that goes on sale in the UK has to pay for a mandatory classification given by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). This includes a submission fee and a per minute rate. Say your film is an average 90 minutes long, that would run you around £740 all in. Plus, to release something on DVD/Blu-ray, everything on the disc including featurettes and commentaries have to be similarly vetted, incurring additional costs. There’s also a bit about protesting the BBFC banning and censoring stuff on the Kickstarter page, but I’ll get back that in a minute.

The thing is, I half agree with the core principle of the matter. A submission fee and a per minute rate is fuck all to most studios, but it may harm smaller independent filmmakers from getting their stuff seen. It’s restrictive and rather exclusive.

However, that’s only if you want to be able to show it in cinemas and sell it nationwide. You can release it digitally for next to nothing (there will undoubtedly be server costs an’ shit, but they’ll be nowhere near the classification fee). If you’re a fan of physical media, you can get DVDs/Blu-rays printed yourself and also sell them via several sites. I could make a 70 hour film called Paint Drying 2: I Like The Colour, But I’m Not Sure I Want It In The Hall, host it on this here site and charge you poor suckers to download it right now if I wanted to. No BBFC involvement required. From what I understand, whether or not something can be shown in cinemas is down to the local authority anyway, like how Monty Python’s Life of Brian was technically banned in Aberystwyth until 2009.

I get that the campaign was to spread awareness, but what did it actually help? Most sites that picked up the story weren’t sure what the protest was actually about with this one saying that it’s anti-censorship and this one focusing on the prohibitive fees. Both of which have that sort of fuckawful “check this guy out!” tone exemplified by the opening of this article. It’s been largely written about as a kerr-azy prank and the original meaning, as confused as it may have been, was buried under how fucking “random” it was. Plus, the BBFC people got paid to do their job, just like they are every day. I’m sure that fucking stung ’em. I’ve sat through some crusty toss as a reviewer, I’m sure they’re completely battle-hardened by now.

What about all that talk of banning and censoring? Well, here’s a list of films banned in the United Kingdom. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty small list. Now, whilst I’m against censorship in all forms and I believe that adults should be able to watch My Daughter’s a Cocksucker if they want, I really don’t think it’s that much of a deal. The BBFC is one of the most transparent and reasonable film boards going. For starters, they’re a hell of a lot better than America’s MPAA, who still seem to bump up ratings if there’s even a hint of homosexuality. If you haven’t seen the eye-opening documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, I urge you to do so.

The BBFC haven’t always been as decent. There were the infamous “video nasties” in the ’80s and they had a proper moral crusade going right up until around ten years ago. In the early 2000s they had an especially weird issue with headbutts. Star Wars shitquel Attack of the Clones risked being pushed from a PG to a 12 purely because of one scene where bounty hunter Jango Fett gave Obi Wan Kenobi a Glaswegian kiss. They’ve thankfully knocked that shit off since and fictional people can headbutt each other without fear of the censor’s scissors.

If I have any problem with the BBFC, it’s how studios use them. There’s a fairly recent trend of studios asking the BBFC for advice on how to get a desired rating for their films. The Hunger Games films, Spectre, The Maze Runner films, A Good Day to Die Hard, The DUFF and countless others have all been rated something higher than the broadest audience, money-making 12A certificate and have gone to the BBFC for help trimming their shit down. Like you needed any more proof that artistic integrity was the rarest thing in Hollywood. Their BBFC entries all say the same thing: “During post-production, the distributor sought and was given advice on how to secure the desired classification. Following this advice, certain changes were made prior to submission”.

I’m fine with these things being cut for cinemas in certain cases. It would have been dumb to release of version of The Hunger Games into cinemas which the built-in preteen fans of the books couldn’t see. It makes sense for certain films to have a lower rating for their theatrical release.

What it all comes down to is choice. When it comes time to release your film on shiny disc, give us options. The Hunger Games had 12 and 15 rated editions, as did The Maze Runner. A Good Day to Die Hard also had a harder, extended cut when disc time rolled around. However, this is not the case across the board. Spectre will not have a meatier cut on DVD/Blu-ray when it’s released in late February. Now, granted it would take a lot more than a few nastier action sequences to make that fucking facepalm work, but it would be a start.

So yeah, to return to my original point- fuck Paint Drying. Just think- the money raised could have put at least five proper films through certification. Right, I’m off to set up a Kickstarter to paint my arse blue and wave it around Pinewood Studios to protest the lack of an uncut version of Spectre on Blu-ray. See you on The LAD Bible. Wahey!

Oscars 2016: It’ll be all white on the night

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If you’ve been away from glowing screens for the past week, you should know that a media shitstorm has rolled through town since the Oscar nominations were announced. For the second year in a row, all the acting nominees were white and only one non-white director was given the nod. People got pissed at the lack of diversity and the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite started trending soon after. Then, Jada Pinkett-Smith, her much more famous and likeable husband Will and Spike Lee announced their intentions to boycott the ceremony. The Academy has since responded and has released a statement about the Board “doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020” as well as reviewing their lifetime membership policies.

Much like most of the Academy voters, I haven’t seen half the films nominated. I’m going on basic critical consensus and “my mate said it was good” anecdotal evidence. Should Creed and Straight Outta Compton have got more nominations? Almost certainly. From what I’ve heard, both are equally as decent as some of the other contenders with more noms. You’d have thought the Academy would have realised that only nominating the white people involved in predominantly black films would raise eyebrows at the very least, if not a few torches and pitchforks.  I can’t believe Beasts of No Nation got completely snubbed. Despite being a Netflix film, it played in LA cinemas making it eligible for consideration. It’s complete and actual bollocks (the non-inclusion that is, the film is great, if emotionally draining). I’m saving the actual film for a Blu-ray viewing, but I’m already pre-scandalised that Benicio Del Toro didn’t get a nod for his role in Sicario.

The issue isn’t black and white in all senses of the phrase. The whitewashed nominee list is just a symptom of a bigger problem. Unfortunately, it’s not one that the Academy booting a few dusty old farts out of their comfy lifetime board seats is going to fix. Diversity is a problem in media full stop. Women and people of all ethnic backgrounds, disabilities and sexualities need better representation. The Oscars are just a reflection of how things are at the moment. Most films are still stories about white dudes doing white dude things. That needs to change and the only sure way it will is by people and wallet power. The sole thing we can do this side of the screen is to continue to support the kind of films we want to see more of.

I’ve not cared about the Oscars for a long time. It’s been nice when someone or something I liked got the nod, but I haven’t given a thimbleful of spunk about the results for years now. I’ve mostly used the winners list as recommendations for what to see at some point and even then, when I’ve sat down to watch one, the record is patchy. Hopefully, the Academy’s new recruiting policies will send ripples through the industry. It won’t happen overnight, but admitting you have a problem is an important first step in fixing it.

Perhaps this added diversity will mean relevance once again. Maybe it’ll mean an end to bland, sort-of inspiring period dramas or films about how bloody brilliant cinema is being dead certs for Best Picture. The fact that there’s a “type” of film that usually wins the big awards is fucking embarrassing. The only thing that should unite them is quality.

Actually, whilst I’m on that subject of quality, let’s start to break down the dumb two-tier system between “serious” and “pop” movies when it comes to showing some award love. Last year, Vin Diesel said that Fast and Furious 7 was going to win Best Picture. That’s charmingly optimistic, but there’s no real reason why something as popular and crowd-pleasing as one of the F&F films couldn’t be considered if the quality was high enough. “Blockbuster” is not necessarily a synonym for something that’s artistically worthless. Guardians of the Galaxy was excellent and wouldn’t, in my awesome opinion, have been out of place amongst 2014’s Best Picture nominees, especially if it bumped American Hustle out. Guardians even had the superior Bradley Cooper performance.

Still- one step at a time for the Academy. They’ve only just discovered that there are other flavours besides vanilla out there.

My favourite Alan Rickman roles

I know. Fuck, I didn’t want to have to write this for a good long while yet. I loved Alan Rickman. Tons of people did. He was an amazing actor who just seemed to be an agreed-upon thing. Being the type of person to seek out or instigate discussion about films and/or actors, I’ve heard some surprisingly vitriolic spiels about who I thought to be universally beloved people. It says a lot that I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about Rickman.

So, again, I feel I must celebrate the man’s work in my own dumb way. I rewatched Anthony Minghella’s Truly, Madly, Deeply to remind myself of a subtler turn by Rickman before I realised the folly of doing so. I definitely recommend the film and his performance in it, but that’s not who Alan Rickman was to me. The fact that I could barely remember anything about it was a clue. Let other sites dogmatically talk about “The Definitive Rickman Performances” or “Every Rickman Movie- Ranked!”. Instead, all the roles listed below are straight from memory- no rewatching or research required. These are all films I’ve seen countless times and all occupy special places in my brain.

Die Hard – Hans Gruber

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Die Hard has a huge legacy. It’s been imitated but rarely, if ever, improved upon and it gets better with age. It’s a fucking masterpiece in my eyes and I don’t think I’m overstating things. A good chunk of the film working can be attributed to the villainous Hans Gruber. Pre Die Hard, there had of course been Euro villains. There had been raving psychopaths who couldn’t give a squirt of piss about human life too. Gruber was a newer, smarter breed of baddie that incorporated those qualities and more. His role required actual acting. That sounds like a knock against most action movie baddies, but Gruber’s whole thing was deception. He and his goons take over Nakatomi Plaza under the pretense of some lofty political statement, but their motivations boil down to a bog standard down and dirty cash grab.  Rickman is masterful in the role. He took lines that would have more than likely clunked out of other actors’ mouths and made them quotable brilliance. His casual quip about the recently murdered Mr. Takagi not joining them “for the rest of his life” is superb.

Defining moment: When Gruber gets caught sneaking around by McClane, affects an American drawl and pleads for his life. McClane, only having heard Gruber’s Germanic tones over the walkie-talkie believes him and advises that they stick together- the tension always building as to when Gruber was going to reveal his true self, especially when McClane hands him a pistol for protection.

Galaxy Quest – Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus

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Never will you find a warmer spoof than Galaxy Quest. It’s a smart, incisive and affectionate parody of Star Trek. Rickman plays serious theatre luvvie Alexander Dane, who in a take-off of Leonard Nimoy’s “I Am Not Spock” phase, hates the fact he’s known as Dr. Lazarus, a part he considers well beneath him. Rickman’s dry humour is perfect for the role and Dane’s hatred of the part and his “stupid line”. His flat, eye-rolling delivery of “By Grabthar’s hammer…what a savings!” at a low key superstore opening fucking slays me every time.

Defining moment: When Dane realises that his “stupid line” is more than just about him and speaks it to a fallen friend as a comfort. It’s genuine, earned and rather touching.

Dogma – The Metatron

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In a bit of inspired casting thanks to his instantly recognisable tones, Rickman was tapped to play the Metatron, an angel tasked with being the voice of God, in Kevin Smith’s Dogma. Dogma is my favourite of Smith’s movies and to my mind, the best written. Many of the characters get extended monologues and they’re golden. The Metatron is no different. I love his fiery entrance and opening speech which gets interrupted by Bethany dousing him with an extinguisher. After things calm down slightly, we get this great exchange, delivered in the way only Rickman could do:

BETHANY: What are you?

METATRON: I’m pissed off is what I am! Do you go around drenching everybody that comes into your room with flame-retardant chemicals? No wonder you’re single.

Defining moment:  A revelation hits home the enormity of Bethany’s holy mission and she ends up in on a riverbank- cold, wet and defeated. The Metatron appears, walking on water towards her and explains the situation. She sobs that she doesn’t want any of it and that the task is too big, to which the Metatron replies that Jesus said the same thing. He tells her about coming down to Earth to tell a scared child he’s the son of God and will be persecuted and crucified by the very people he’s trying to help. It’s a beautifully written moment and both Linda Fiorentino and Rickman sell it perfectly.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – The Sheriff of Nottingham

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Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is pretty mediocre. It’s inoffensive enough, but having the supposedly rakish and dashing Robin Hood being played with bland indifference by Kevin Costner puts a cap on the fun you can have with it somewhat. Thankfully, Rickman is playing the Sheriff of Nottingham like he’s in a different film altogether, chewing on scenery and snarling out genuinely funny one-liners. He and Morgan Freeman seem to be the only people actually having fun. Rickman’s so great, his performance elevates the entire film. He ends up walking away with the whole film tucked under one arm and I love him for that.

Defining moment: A lot to choose from, but dictating the following to a scribe is pretty fucking delicious:  “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings and call off Christmas” As is this bit below:

SHERIFF OF NOTTINGHAM: [to a wench] You. My room. 10:30 tonight! [to another wench] You. 10:45… And bring a friend.

The Harry Potter series – Severus Snape

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Yeah, there was no way this wasn’t going to appear on this list. The Harry Potter films were massive and Rickman’s portrayal of ostensibly evil Potions master Severus Snape is genuinely great. He appeared in all eight films and was a fantastic presence throughout. Casting career baddie Rickman as the not-quite-what-he-seems teacher was a masterstroke. I’m happy that he played a role that would impress on children how awesome he was. I saw a lot of snark online the day he died, calling out kids for only knowing him as Snape. So fucking what? If they enjoyed him as youths, they may be open to exploring his back catalogue as they get older. They may stumble across some of the films detailed above and like them as much as I do. Who even cares anyway? Snape is the definitive role for Rickman and it’s what he’ll be mostly remembered for. To be honest, it’s a hell of a legacy to leave behind.

Defining moments: As there are eight films, I allowed myself two moments. One is the end of series flashback that you all must know by now.

DUMBLEDORE: “After all this time?”

SNAPE: “Always.”

Secondly, it’s his flamboyant and angry entrance to his Potions class in Prisoner of Azkaban. He strides past the class, slamming the window shutters closed with his wand, pulls down a screen and says “Turn to page 394!”. I’ll admit that it’s not the most amazing line to justify an entrance like that, but that’s what I love about it. Snape could be an intimidating bastard, but also had some camp value to him, making him a character that played to Rickman’s strengths.

Cheers Alan. Thank you.

My favourite David Bowie soundtrack appearances

I’m sure you’ve all heard the sad news that David Bowie passed away yesterday. I’m not a Bowie superfan who has listened to every album he’s put out or anything, but I love his songs as well as respect him as a fine actor in his own right. He was and will continue to be such a huge part of pop culture, I felt I had to write something to commemorate the man and his legacy in my own very small way. A collection and analysis of his film appearances seemed the most logical choice until I realised I’d only seen about half of them and would have to rely on writing an embarrassing amount about his short cameo in Zoolander to make up for it.

Whilst rewatching Inglourious Basterds to get mad hype for seeing The Hateful Eight this week, I was reminded of the babe how awesome film scenes can be made with a little sprinkling of Bowie. Looking at his IMDB page, the man has hundreds of credits for movies, games and tv shows. So, I decided to revisit and list my personal favourite times films borrowed a bit of magic from the great man himself.

1. Inglourious Basterds – “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”

Eager film remixer that he is, Quentin Tarantino used Bowie’s title track from Paul Schrader’s 1982 erotic horror film Cat People for his tale of revenge and Nazi scalpings. As with all Tarantino soundtrack choices, the song fits perfectly as the backing to Shosanna’s (Mélanie Laurent) preparations for her long-gestating ultimate payback plan.  Never at a loss for words, Tarantino explained the inclusion:

“I’ve always loved that song and I was always disappointed at how Paul Schrader used it in Cat People because he didn’t use it — he just threw it in the closing credits…And I remember back then, when Cat People came out, going, ‘Man, if I had that song, I’d build a 20-minute scene around it. I wouldn’t throw it away in the closing credits.’ So I did.”

Can’t argue with that.

2.  The Martian- “Starman”

As you may have gathered by it appearing in both my Scenes of the Year list and this one, I liked The Martian very much. I was enjoying the shit out of it anyway, but when “Starman” started playing, I knew this love was for real. I’m glad they didn’t go for the obvious choice of “Life on Mars?”. It’d have been too on-the-nose and wouldn’t have worked nearly as well. It’s hard to pick, but I think “Starman” may be my favourite Bowie track. I’m going to be vague here as the film isn’t even out on DVD yet, but it’s used to great uplifting effect in The Martian, playing over a montage of people deciding how to deal with Watney’s situation.

3. A Knight’s Tale – “Golden Years”

I feel A Knight’s Tale doesn’t get enough love in general. It seems to be one of those films people have seen, but only the once when they were younger. If they do remember the film, it’s usually for the anachronistic soundtrack which folded the likes of Queen and Thin Lizzy into a medieval setting. One of the best examples of this is the use of Bowie’s “Golden Years” when Heath Ledger’s bluffing fake knight is asked by the scowling Rufus Sewell to show everyone a traditional dance from his home of Gelderland. Ledger struggles before Shannyn Sossamon’s Jocelyn steps in and takes the lead. I love the slow build up to the track and the familiar “Angelll!” in the background before the song kicks off properly.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy – “Moonage Daydream”

If you make a throwback space opera with a prominent ’70s/’80s soundtrack, it makes all kinds of sense to include a bit of Ziggy Stardust. Luckily, director James Gunn thought so too and used “Moonage Daydream” to soundtrack our heroes arriving at Knowhere- a busy mining colony located inside the floating severed head of a gigantic ancient godlike being known as a Celestial. It’s a short scene, but the trippy quality of the track really establishes the setting well. Fuck, that soundtrack is great.

5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – “Life on Mars?”

Bowie features heavily on the Steve Zissou soundtrack. Brazilian musician Seu Jorge’s character translates and performs many of Bowie’s hits like “Rebel Rebel” and “Space Oddity” in Portuguese throughout the film. It’s all wonderful, but my favourite use is of the original “Life on Mars?” to score Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) meeting Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), a man who may be his son. He chats for a while before the realisation sets in and he makes his excuses. He strides to the prow as the song swells before getting there and sparking up a much-needed, head-fugging joint. It’s such an oddball choice, but then that’s both Wes Anderson and David Bowie all over.

6. Labyrinth – “Magic Dance”

There was no way I couldn’t include this one in the list, considering Bowie performs it too. Labyrinth is such a fun and weird slice of ’80s fantasy. Bowie is fantastic as Jareth the Goblin King and every time I watch the film I always look forward to “Magic Dance”. It takes a talented performer to not look lost in a room full of puppets and a baby and Bowie pulls it off with style.

Right, I’ve made myself a bit sad now. Still, whenever anyone dies, we should try to concentrate on celebrating their life rather than mourning their death. Rest in peace Mr. Bowie. Thanks.

My most anticipated films of 2015: Part 2: The Cradle of Life

So here’s the second part of my list. I actually got rid of a few like Fast and Furious 7, but I realised asking people to read through every single film I’m even a little bit interested in was a bit much. Still, there’s plenty outside this list I’m excited about, just these are the main ones. Also, as if to personally bollocks me up, In the Heart of the Sea has moved to the end of the year’s “award season”. It’s a hell of a delay, but at least it shows they’re confident in the quality of the product.

 

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond – 22nd May

Known elsewhere as simply “Tomorrowland”, this film is Disney’s latest attempt of making a film out of areas/rides in their theme parks. Plot details are scarce, but it has something to do with George Clooney and visiting a futuristic place called Tomorrowland. Two reasons why I’m excited for this one. One, Brad Bird’s directing and he hasn’t directed a film I didn’t really enjoy. Two, it has a very effective teaser trailer that captures that old fashioned mystery that you don’t tend to get these days. I want one of those pins.

 

Jurassic World – 12th June

I’m torn about Jurassic World. Part of me is still enamoured with all things Jurassic Park and is relishing the thought of a new dino action blockbuster. The other, more rational side reminds me that all the sequels have been varying degrees of shite. Set-up is that Jurassic World is a functional dinosaur park and has been for some years. The spectacle of seeing living breathing dinosaurs becomes commonplace and visitor numbers start to dwindle. At the demands of the higher-ups, the park’s geneticists cook up a new hybrid dinosaur which gets loose and runs amok in the park. Chris Pratt’s in it, so thumbs up there, but the story doesn’t fill me with confidence. I’m looking forward to the spectacle of it all, but the trailer gave me some doubts. The dialogue was hackneyed and awkward and everything had a bit too much of a greenscreen quality to it. Plus, the shot of Pratt on his motorbike riding alongside his raptor buddies has me all kinds of concerned. Fingers crossed that it at least manages to be the best of the sequels.

 

Ant-Man – 17th July

As you may have noticed around these parts, I’m a bit of a Marvel fan. Thing is, I’m not particularly buzzed about Ant-Man. So why put it on a “most anticipated” list? It’s because I’m still looking forward to it, but expectations aren’t high. Part of it is the whole Edgar Wright debacle (although it seemed to be over genuine artistic differences) and part of it is the trailer which can’t decide whether it’s a serious superhero film or not. Ant-Man is the story of con man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who must use a super-powered, super-shrinking suit to somehow help his mentor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Marvel have proved they know what they’re doing and occasionally make initially baffling directorial choices (I was incredibly worried about the Russos directing Winter Soldier, but they fucking nailed it) so the director of unremarkable stuff like Yes Man and The Break-Up gets a pass. I’m really hoping that the tonal problems of the trailer don’t speak of similar problems with the film, because that could be a killer. The script’s written by Judd Apatow regular Adam McKay, so chances are it’ll lean more towards the Guardians of the Galaxy end of the spectrum than anything else. Could be a pleasant surprise, could be the first Marvel misstep in a while. Either way, it’s going to be interesting.

 

Crimson Peak – 16th October

Guillermo Del Toro returns to his gothic horror roots with Crimson Peak. I’ll just copy and paste the synopsis here because it’s elegantly simple: “In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds…and remembers.” S’got Charlie Hunnam, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain in it and I’m looking forward to it. Del Toro describes it as more in line with his earlier Spanish language films like The Devil’s Backbone, which I’m all for. Apparently it’s going to make full use of its R rating too, which is fucking refreshing in this age of neutered horror.

 

 

 

Spectre – 23rd October

Hmm, do you think the guy that reviewed all 23 Bond films back-to-back is excited about a new one? Yep, it’s safe to say there are teethmarks on the bit. Sam Mendes returns which is brilliant considering the bang-up job he did on Skyfall. Christoph Waltz is probably going to be Blofeld too, so there’s that. I haven’t read the leaked script, but I imagine the plot involves James Bond killing dudes and saving something or someone. This is our 24th time around on the carousel, I think we know how many horses are in the race by now. Rumour has it that it might be Craig’s last and if it is, let’s hope this one is more of a Casino Royale than a Quantum of Solace.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 18th December

I can’t believe we’re getting a new Star Wars film this year. Not only that, but it’s been wrestled from George Lucas, so it might be like an actual, proper film. Like nearly everyone else, I geeked out over the teaser. Yeah, it’s all just fleeting glimpses of familiar stuff, but the mystery and excitement is back. If anyone can make a new Star Wars saga work, it’s J.J. Abrams. He’s crazy talented and seems to have a good grasp of what people are looking for in a fun space saga. I was cautiously optimistic, but now I can feel the hype growing. The trailer was in front of Battle of the Five Armies at the IMAX and it blew me away. I’m not as precious about Star Wars as I used to be and if the film turns out crappy, it can simply join the long list of Star Wars crap I don’t pay attention to. Still, if it manages to be great, I can’t tell you how happy I’ll be.

 

 

Trumbo – TBC

Bryan Cranston’s in it. That should be enough. In case it isn’t, Trumbo tells the true story of successful ’40s screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who is blacklisted for being a Communist at the height of the Red Scare. I’ve always found the whole McCarthyism era interesting and so this one looks to be right up my street. No confirmed release date yet, but this is almost certainly awards bait so probably around the end of the year. I hate to jump to conclusions but possibly a Bryan Cranston Oscar? YES.

 

The Hateful Eight – TBC

 

 

It’s Tarantino. You should know your opinion on him by now. I love the guy and am always pumped for his next film. The story revolves around post-Civil War bounty hunters trying to find shelter during a blizzard but end up getting involved in “a plot of betrayal and deception”. Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell all star and it looks like it’s going to be another blood-soaked affair. One ticket please.

So, that’s my list. This is going to be a bumper year and apparently I’m going to have to become a millionaire to afford all these trips to the cinema. The perils of being an unpaid critic are numerous. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.