15 Favourite Films

04/10/2014 at 12:21 pm (Movies)


I was challenged on Facebook to list my 15 favourite films. While the list changes occasionally, I actually found this a lot easier to compile than I thought.

So in putting this together, it’s important to say this – I’ve not ranked these films as I don’t think I could do that. Also, I don’t care if these are considered ‘good’ films or not. It’s about what they mean to me.

So let’s just get the Star Wars films out of the way first.

starwarsStar Wars

The reasons why Star Wars, or A New Hope, or Episode IV is in this list is that I don’t think any other film has the power to catapult me back to wide-eyed childhood like this one does. I can actually feel the cynicism of adulthood evaporate.

 

The Empire Strikes BackThe Empire Strikes Back

Kind of unimaginative as a choice, mainly as it’s also widely considered the best Star Wars film, but The Empire Strikes Back injects a more human feel into the space fantasy. The result is a warmer, more intelligent adventure without losing the action set pieces that makes Star Wars what it is.

The-Haunting-006The Haunting

I’m not the biggest fan of gruesome horror, enjoying the psychological instead. The Haunting is a low key story and is more powerful for it. At its core is a haunted house story, but we don’t see a riot of bangs and flashes. The strength of The Haunting is the way the house is used without the need for many, if any, special effects.

somelikeithotSome Like It Hot

The first thing that surprised me about Some Like It Hot was the pace of direction of the car chase at the beginning, making it look way ahead of its time. What was also ahead of its time is some of the attitudes within the film, turning the standard ‘needing to find a husband’ theme completely on its head.

startrekStar Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

The Wrath Of Khan is a classic adventure at sea. There’s piracy, revenge and a ship that’s a character in its own right. And the best uniforms. It just happens to be in space. Like many of the films in this list, the score is also an important element and The Wrath Of Khan’s main overture is perhaps one of the finest written for a movie.

spinal-tap-1This Is Spinal Tap

What makes This Is Spinal Tap such a great comedy is not only down to the talented cast, who ad-lib their way through the film wonderfully. It’s also because the film brilliantly creates a believable world of a rock band in decline. You know they’re ridiculous, but you love them nonetheless. You’re almost tricked into thinking you’ve seen one of their old albums at a car boot sale.

alienAlien

Science fiction and horror are two genres that often crossover, but perhaps not as successfully as in Alien. The atmosphere builds and builds, just from the tensions between the crew. Then there’s John Hurt’s terrible dinner experience and then your vertebrae starts to fuse.

 

 

shaun of the dead

Shaun Of The Dead

There’s no better way to take on the tropes of horror than to throw in a healthy chunk of British humour. Unloading the van that was packed up when the series Spaced finished, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright made a funny and knowing zombie film, buzzing with great dialogue.

raidersRaiders Of The Lost Ark

Much like Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark pulls me back into that particular world of excitement that only comes with youthful eyes. One of the things I love about Indiana Jones, which is essentially an extension of Han Solo, is the lack of cocky one-liners that were prevalent of action heroes that came after. He was flawed, reckless and succeeded by not quite messing up as much as he might’ve done.

Superman-II-superman-the-movie-20437774-1600-815Superman II

To me, Superman II is the ultimate superhero film. It was made before we started talking about how ‘dark’ superheroes should or shouldn’t be. It was a simple film, which made it stronger. Superman was a hero, full stop. Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman is given even more of a chance to shine, which he does, cementing his place as the benchmark version of the character.

Back-to-the-Future--006Back To The Future

Back To The Future represents something of that halcyon era of eighties movies that seemed to throw in action, adventure, comedy and fantasy in an almost effortless way. I can’t imagine Back To The Future being handled so deftly now, but that’s just my general distrust of Hollywood.

quatermass-pit-aQuatermass And The Pit

There’s something so alluring to me about the premise of Quatermass And The Pit. The development of a London tube station uncovers a strange capsule. This discovery leads to terrifying, supernatural phenomena. The truth is, it’s alien, and it’s causing mass hysteria and brutal rioting. I’m not sure if the film was made for me or I was made for it.

north by northwestNorth By Northwest

What grabbed me about North By Northwest, aside from the incredibly memorable set pieces directed by Alfred Hitchcock, was the contemporary feel of it. The casual sexuality is believable, which must’ve seemed strange at the time. It’s not signposted like a Bond film, nor is it whitewashed over like in other films of the era in fear of censorship. It makes the characters believable in an unreal situation.

Little Shop Of HorrosLittle Shop Of Horrors

The film that made me realise that not all musicals needed to be schmaltzy. Bloody murder, very dark comedy and astounding animatronics make Little Shop Of Horrors an outrageously fun film. The songs add to the atmosphere (which you would expect from a musical!) but in such a clever way that the Motown sound could be turned into a soundtrack for a extraterrestrial, man-eating plant.

American-Graffiti-5American Graffiti

I’m just going to put this out there: American Graffiti is George Lucas’ best film. I think the main reason for this is because it’s honest. This was the youth he remembered. The cruising around in cars, the rollerskating waitresses and the fear of leaving home. Each time the story jumps to another character’s storyline you get a little pang of frustration as you were following it, before finding yourself engrossed in the new storyline just a few moments later.

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JJ Abrams Into Darkness

22/05/2013 at 8:08 am (Movies) (, , , , )


EXT. STREET DAY

JJ ABRAMS pulls up in his car. Stepping out, he stops. He turns and looks thoughtfully back at the car. He presses the central locking fob on his keys with DETERMINATION. He crosses the street to grab a coffee at the Starbucks over the road.

There is an ALMIGHTY RUMBLE!

The road gives way as JJ ABRAMS is halfway along it! He jumps as the ground beneath him gives way. He just manages to grab the other side of the road as it forms a wider chasm. He pulls himself up. Teeth clenched, he hangs uselessly from the edge. With great DETERMINATION, he pulls himself up. He WANTS that coffee.

INT. STARBUCKS

Starbucks is empty apart from one BARISTA.

BLONDE BARISTA

What can I get you, sir?

JJ ABRAMS

(Slightly out of breath) A soy latte (beat) please.

BLONDE BARISTA

Sure. What name do you want me to put on that?

JJ ABRAMS looks into the BLONDE BARISTA’S eyes, as though searching her very soul.

JJ ABRAMS

JJ.

BLONDE BARISTA

JJ (writing on the cup), sure. Say, what’s that short for?

(looking away from the barista, he stares out across the devastation of the torn road)

JJ ABRAMS

I don’t remem…

A truck CRASHES into the wall of Starbucks, completely demolishing the wall and throwing tables, chairs and debris into the air. JJ ABRAMS leaps over the counter, pulling the BARISTA down with him as a tray slices through the air exactly where the BLONDE BARISTA was standing. It would have KILLED HER!

The truck comes to a halt. The debris settles (slow motion). JJ ABRAMS raises his head above the counter, eyes narrowed. He can see into the cab. The driver side door has swung open. NO ONE INSIDE.

JJ ABRAMS

Damn it.

BLONDE BARISTA

Oh my god. You saved my life.

She looks at the tray embedded in the coffee machine behind her. Steam billows DRAMATICALLY from the coffee machine.

BLONDE BARISTA

At that angle and velocity, that tray could have killed me. Not to mention several other dangers flying around at the time. You’re probably wondering how I know all this.

JJ ABRAMS

I was starting to wonder.

The BLONDE BARISTA smiles sexily.

BLONDE BARISTA

I’m only working here as a favour to (Beat) someone. (She looks down, sadly) I’m actually a medical doctor and an astrophysicist.

The BLONDE BARISTA looks at the small tear on the sleeve of her shirt.

BLONDE BARISTA

Oh no. This top was new on this morning. Now I’ll have to take all my clothes off revealing my smoking hot body. Look away would you?

JJ ABRAMS

Uh… yeah, of course… (he blinks nervously) So, you were saying you were working here as a favour for someone?

BLONDE BARISTA

Yes. I’m here for… (She pauses to suppress a tear. She knows that if she lets one tear out she won’t stop crying) I’m here because my father…

There is a HUGE EXPLOSION outside of Starbucks!

SCENE

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The Magic Of Classic Horror

01/07/2012 at 8:56 pm (Horror, Movies)


Zazzle Posters
Poster from Zazzle

It’d be worrying to think that your only knowledge of the horror genre stops at the slasher movie, the documentary style ghost story and zombie action films. I’m not saying that each of these areas of horror don’t have their own merits, but there’s so much else out there!

I remember, as a child, stealing the chance to try and watch horror movies with my brother. We had a small, portable black and white TV (which weighed more than your average flatscreen), and we would stare into this flickering blue glow, daring it to frighten us.

These were the days when you could watch some truly classic horror movies, which would appear on BBC2. There was something really magical about this, about seeing these tales unfold from long ago. My brother in particular was a fan of werewolves, so every werewolf movie on TV we would have to watch. For me, they were the most terrifying of the monsters, but I would have to keep viewing.

I remember with complete crystal clarity the night that we first watched Curse of the Werewolf starring Oliver Reed. The mad eyes darting back and forth was already enough to set my heart racing. I’m not sure I was more than 11 years old. And still I kept watching.

There really is something about these old horror movies. It’s the storytelling, the atmosphere and often the unsettling way they are shot that gives them the intrigue. And while many of these films are floating around on DVD, I often wondered how they would be on the big screen. It’s almost as if these movies are as ancient and long gone as the evils they explore.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. There are many events and festivals that celebrate the classic horror genre. Some of these events include the Frighten Brighton Classic Horror Film Festival, which shows many classic horror movies of past eras.

On August 11th, from 12pm, the next festival of films is under the heading Horror By The Sea, and features such notable films as:

Mad Love

Cat People

Them! (a personal favourite – “Shoot the antenna!”)

Plague of the Zombies

Phantasm

You can order tickets for these horror movie screenings right now.

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Meanwhile, on Hoth…

22/12/2010 at 5:09 pm (Humour, Movies)


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3D Cinema: Why We Don’t Actually Need It

26/10/2010 at 10:50 pm (Movies)


This isn’t going to be just some reactionary comment about distrusting new technologies. Without great developments in cinema we wouldn’t have talkies, or colour, or quality processing, stunning colours and sumptuous sound.

That’s all well and good. However, I’m kind of sick of 3D. Avatar was an okay movie that was made with 3D technology in mind. It was pretty clear that, without seen this increased forced-perspective, the film would have been quite ordinary. That might sound harsh, but we have seen some magnificent visual effects now, and Avatar took these to a rather impressive conclusion.

But that’s big budget movies, and without seeming in some way ungracious for seeing these spectacles, it’s kind of what we expect. It’s been proven that when a movie hasn’t been made for the 3D process doesn’t really work. Oh, I know, I know, I’m being a naysayer, but hear me out.

Take for example, Clash Of The Titans. I’m not bringing this up as a critique of, what is essentially a piss-poor movie, but to point out that within about 10 minutes of the film you didn’t actually notice any 3D. Toy Story 3, the polar opposite of quality to Clash Of The Titans, doesn’t really benefit either. The movie begins, the characters are engaging, the film is entertaining. Again, I forgot about the 3D.

If the price wasn't enough, now you have to contend with the eye strain.

If the price wasn't enough, now you have to contend with the eye strain.

Maybe that’s what 3D is supposed to do? I do remember a few more “oohs” and “aahs” in Avatar though. I have to confess, while I haven’t been the strongest advocate of 3D cinema anyway, it was news of George Lucas’ desire to re-release Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and its subsequent adventures in 3D that inspired this post. I was already aware of his desire to do this with Star Wars, and thought that was bad enough.  Of course, I shouldn’t be too surprised.  It is money in the bank afterall.

Recently, a classic movie was re-released (on an all too short run): Back To The Future. Not remade – a whole other kettle of nasty little fish I’m not going to get into here – and not in 3D. Just cleaned up to be enjoyed on the big screen. That was a smart idea. There are films out there that are already watchable! There’s no need to mess them around. Just give them a polish up and send them out on their rounds now and again.

Imagine all the wonderful movies we could do that with? Instead, we don’t only have a current fashion for new films being chundered into theatres in 3D, old ones are set to be watched that way. At the moment, there is an understandable concern about potential customers downloading a film for free. Is 3D really that much of an added incentive to go to the pictures?  Is it really the time to add further costs onto the price of an already expensive night at the movies?

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A Return To Classic Horror: A Chat With Cyberschizoid

21/09/2010 at 9:34 pm (Childhood, Movies, TV)


While I refer to “advRick Gladmanentures in the modern world”, more often than not, the ties to the past are just as important. I have realised that I do compare an awful lot of the past with the present. This is certainly true of how I view television. When I grew up, BBC2 would show a double bill of classic horror movies. The likes of Hammer and Universal built my staple diet of late night entertainment and scares.

So when Rick Gladman (of the Cyberschizoid blog) set up a campaign to reinstate the classic horror movies of bygone days into the current TV schedules, my interest piqued considerably. Currently, the petition is pretty successful, and it seems that the British public wants to see classic chillers once more.

This seemed like a good opportunity to talk to Rick about this campaign, and how it was shaping up. One thing that always fascinates me when it comes to interests, or even obsessions, is the initial spark. Why do we love what we love so much, and other things don’t even scratch the surface?

My first memories of loving the darker side of movies actually began with Disney’s productions of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the Night on Bald Mountain segment from Fantasia,“ Rick told me. “All of these animated movies included strong horror elements which had a massive influence on me as a child.”

The fascination for this darker side grew, and young Rick began his steps into horror through the realm of the Monster Movie. “I was taken to see King Kong, The Land That Time Forgot and The Giant Spider Invasion as well as reading the seminal monster movie magazine House of Hammer, which all fed my ever-growing love of horror. The icing on the cake was BBC2’s Horror Double Bill seasons every summer which introduced me to an incredible variety of horror films and directors over the years.”

Which takes us to the present, the snowballing success of the petition, and a need to return to those late night horrors. I do remember talking to Rick about this a long time ago it seems now, and how great it would be to have those nights set aside for a classic double bill. It certainly seems that we weren’t the only ones!

We now have 1027 signatures and this figure is rising daily.” he affirmed. “This is particularly exciting since we’d set o urselves a target of 1000 names by Halloween, and we have already surpassed this.” This is an interesting development. In a world that seems to only offer re-hashed versions of original ideas – with varying degrees of success – the initial feeling is that no one is interested in watching anything over 10 years old.

So why horror? And why now? “I think it’s partly due to the fact that people are becoming sick of all the bland remakes and lack of originality in mainstream horror.” It’s true – over the last decade, the horror genre has been swamped with a litany of tried and tested projects.

He added, “the only horror movies shown on UK TV are very recent ones that everyone’s seen over and over again and are just bored with! I think screening old classic horror movies in primetime will not only give viewers more choice and better quality films, but will also introduce these movies to a whole new, younger generation who probably aren’t even aware that this cultural legacy even exists.”

This project has also gained recognition with a variety of names supporting the cause to get classic horror back on TV. “We’ve got some fantastic names involved. British Scream Queen Emily Booth is the face of the campaign and we have had messages of support from Hammer sex symbol Caroline Munro, Shane Briant, Eileen Daly, Reece Shearsmith, David Moody, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman.” And it doesn’t stop there; along with the support of horror’s online community, the three key horror magazines of the UK, Gorezone, Shock Horror and Scream are also on board.

In an age of DVDs and on-demand downloads, we can watch whatever we like, when we like. But I believe, as I’m sure that Ri ck and his petition signatories do too, that there’s nothing better than making a night of it. This could be the start of a whole new tradition with your friends, your family or that one special person, settling down for a night of chills and a creaky old horror movie…
If you want to find out more, or get involved yourself, you can find the petition to bring back classic horror here.  You can also follow Rick on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cyberschizoid

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The Horror Colour Mood Chart

30/01/2010 at 12:03 am (Art, Horror, Movies)


This little entry was inspired by a particularly random series of texts with my pal Rick over at http://cyberschizoid.blogspot.com.  We were talking about the various colours that are prevalent in certain horror movies.  Being the worthwhile and useful member of society that I am, I bring you – the horror movie fan – a selection of vivid shades to improve your decor…

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