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Author: Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker from Chesterfield. I have a masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.
Editorials

5 Feel-Good Movies on Netflix

March 29, 2020
5 Feel-Good Movies on Netflix

With everything currently going on in the world regarding Coronavirus, many of us just want a way to distract ourselves from this depressing situation. Thankfully streaming giant Netflix is happy to provide us with hours of escapist fun. And today I want to take the opportunity to recommend five titles that are currently streaming on Netflix to help put a smile back on your face.

Classic: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

This is the film equivalent of a warm, loving hug. There is nothing I can say about The Wizard of Oz that hasn’t been said a million times. The story of young Dorothy Gale’s (Judy Garland) journey of self-discovery as she is swept away to the land of Oz has inspired many people and continues to inspire many more as years go by. And while it may have its scary parts (The Wicked Witch of the West; her armies of flying monkeys and Winkies continue to scare children to this day) the loveable heroes, beautiful set design, iconic music, and the heart-warming story will ensure that a smile is never far away. If you don’t feel happy inside by the end of the Wizard of Oz, there is something wrong with you.

Wizard of Oz, currently streaming on Netflix
Dorothy skipping down the yellow brick road with Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz (1939) [Source: AVS Forum]

Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbour?

If you need to restore your faith in humanity, this is the film to see. This documentary goes in-depth into the life of children’s TV host Fred Rogers and gives us insight into his world view. How he believed in teaching children about important issues without talking down to them to help them grow and develop into good people. He dealt with topics like the assassination of Robert Kennedy, racism, depression and many other heavy subjects on his show. And the doc even delves into his personal fear that he hadn’t done enough to reach people. It’s a very human portrait of a man who believed in the best of us, which will leave you inspired and much more positive about the world.

Won't You Be My Neighbour, currently streaming on Netflix
Fred Rogers putting on his iconic cardigan. Won’t You Be My Neighbour [Source: Empire]

Comedy/Drama: Fighting with my Family

The story of Saraya Knight alias Paige (Florence Pugh) and her journey from humble beginnings, wrestling and teaching the sport with her family in Norwich, to WWE Diva’s Champion. Fighting with my Family is a treat for one simple reason, it feels entirely genuine. Everyone can relate to the hardships of trying to chase your dreams and even the hardship of having to give up your dreams for something else, like Paige’s brother Zak (Jack Lowden). And because of that, we route even more for our heroine to succeed. The family dynamic is also tender and affectionate with Nick Frost and Lena Headey providing fantastic turns as Paige’s parents. And a funny bit part for Dwayne Johnson ensures you will come out of the film with a spring in your step.

Fighthing With My Family, currently streaming on Netflix
Florence Pugh as Paige dreaming of becoming a wrestling superstar in Fighting With My Family [Source: Entertainment Weekly]

Animation: My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro is the definition of adorable. Two young girls and their father move to a new house in the countryside while their mother is in hospital. Through a series of chance sightings and some investigating the girls then encounter several woodland spirits. Which includes the eponymous Totoro with whom they proceed to have many adventures. Totoro is a film that is impossible to not love. Showing the world through the eyes of a child, where there is no argument that can’t be solved with kindness and compassion, nothing is ever hopeless, and the world truly is a magical place (coupled with some of the cutest creature designs ever) the film is guaranteed to get you in a good mood.

My Neighbour Totoro
Satsuki and Mei fishing with Totoro and the woodland spirits in My Neighbour Totoro [Source: Empire]

Netflix Original: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Lara Jean (Lana Condor) has long existed in the margins. Her crush is dating her sister, her former friend is now her worst enemy and her little sister won’t stop criticizing her driving. Her one solace is her letters to all the boys she has had a crush on. Which allows her to get all her feelings out. However, when her letters are sent to her crushes she has to try and fix the problem. And the answer to her problems may lie in her former friend’s ex-boyfriend Peter (Noah Centineo). If you’re looking for a rom-com, full of charming characters, a good sense of humour, a central couple with great chemistry and even a few surprises along the way then do yourself a favour and check out To All the Boys for a reminder of the beauty of young love.

Netflix Original, To All The Boys I Have Loved Before
Lara Jean, her younger sister Kitty and Peter watching a movie in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before [Source: NME.com]

Thus, ends our recommendations list of feel-good film on Netflix. We hope you all enjoy our choices and that they help to add a little joy during this tough time. If you want to recommend any films on Netflix then let us know in the comments.

Also Read: 5 Documentaries To Watch On Netflix

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Editorials

The Greatest Horror Villain of Each Decade

March 18, 2020
horror-movie-villains-collage [Source: shnakebite91 Wordpress]

Horror cinema has many iconic villains and today we’ll be counting down 10 of the greatest merchants of menace. I will choose a single villain from each decade, look at a bit of the villain’s background and how they managed to traumatize audiences who watched their films. So, let’s get spooky.

1920s: Count Orlok – Nosferatu (1922)

Originally made as a Dracula stand-in, Count Orlok has become a great villain in his own right. With actor Max Schreck’s towering frame, creeping shadow, sharp teeth, and keen unblinking eyes Orlok has become an instantly recognizable cinematic predator that has lasted almost a century. Not even Stoker’s estate could prevent him from becoming a cinematic nightmare.

Count Orlok one of Cinema's greatest early horror villains from Nosferatu (1922) [Source: PopHorror]
Count Orlok one of Cinema’s greatest early horror villains from Nosferatu (1922) [Source: PopHorror]

1930s: Frankenstein’s Monster – Frankenstein (1931)

The archetypal mad scientist creation. The monster isn’t necessarily evil but because of continual abuse and a lack of moral guidance, he begins violently lashing out at the world. Frankenstein’s Monster has a legendary look courtesy of makeup artist Jack Pierce. And thanks to Boris Karloff’s animalistic performance, which makes the character threatening and sympathetic, Frankenstein’s Monster has been cemented as one of horror’s most tragic monsters.

Frankenstein's Monster prowling through the woods in Frankenstein (1931) [Source: Movie Monster Wiki - Fandom]
Frankenstein’s Monster prowling through the woods in Frankenstein (1931) [Source: Movie Monster Wiki – Fandom]

1940s: The Wolf Man – The Wolf Man (1941)

Like Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man garners great sympathy because of host Larry Talbot’s (Lon Chaney Jr’s) inability to control the monster within him. But unlike Frankenstein the Wolf Man is vicious. Murdering innocent people and leaving Larry to deal with the consequences. With Jack Pierce’s brilliant makeup making the monster the midpoint between man and beast, the Wolf Man is an iconic example of the darkness in all men.

One of cinema's most iconic werewolves. The Wolf Man (1941) [Source: Fiction Machine]
One of cinema’s most iconic werewolves. The Wolf Man (1941) [Source: Fiction Machine]

1950s: Godzilla – Godzilla Series

Cinema’s biggest monster. Starring in 35 films since 1954 Godzilla is a Japanese icon. He’s a prehistoric monster awakened by hydrogen bomb testing and was created as a symbol for the destructive powers of the atomic age, though lately, he has become a metaphor for nature striking back at humanity. He’s the embodiment of destruction and for 66 years he’s shown that for all our advances annihilation is never far away.

Godzilla, the King of the Monsters. Gojira (1954)
Godzilla, the King of the Monsters. Gojira (1954) [Source: USA Today]

1960s: Norman Bates – Psycho (1960)

The grandfather of all slasher villains. While seemingly normal, Norman hides another personality that forces him to kill anyone who threatens the illusion that his mother is still alive. Thanks to Anthony Perkins’ understated performance and Alfred Hitchcock’s direction Norman Bates (based on murderer Ed Gein) terrified audiences by showing that even the quiet good-looking boy next door could turn out to be a murderer.

Norman Bates and his mother in Psycho (1960)
Norman Bates and his mother in Psycho (1960) [Source: Bloody Disgusting]

1970s: The Caller – Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas‘ sorority house killer remains perhaps horror’s most terrifying villain. Because nothing about him is explained. His victims are random. The only insights we get into him are his disjointed, threatening ramblings. And his appearance, voice; name remain a mystery. Inspired by the urban legend of “the babysitter and the man upstairsthe Caller embodies the fear that you’re never safe. Even in your own home.

The mysterious killer from Black Christmas (1974)
The mysterious killer from Black Christmas (1974) [Source: The Dead Meat Wiki Fandom]

1980s: Freddy Krueger – The Nightmare on Elm Street Series

The burnt, razor glove wielding, Christmas sweater and fedora sporting dream killer has been scaring viewers since his 1984 debut. Inspired by stories about young people suddenly dying in their sleep and brought to life in skin-crawling fashion by Robert Englund, Krueger takes sadistic pleasure in twisting his victim’s dreams into nightmares. And the sheer glee he takes in his cruelty is what makes him cinema’s most iconic bogeyman.

The Springwood Slasher from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Springwood Slasher from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) [Source: NME.com]

1990s: Candyman – Candyman Series

Originally, Daniel Robitaille, Candyman became a vengeful spirit after he was killed over a 19th-century interracial love affair. His hand was mutilated, his body smothered in honey and he was stung to death by bees. Now he kills anyone who dares say his name five times in a mirror. With his imposing figure, hooked hand and Tony Todd’s intimidating voice, Candyman is a true terror titan.

The urban legend Candyman (1992)
The urban legend Candyman (1992) [Source: The Clive Barker Podcast]

2000s: Jigsaw – Saw Series

Jigsaw is the horror villain of the 2000s. Embodying post 9/11 anxieties about the morality of torture Jigsaw, aka John Cramer managed to carve out a gruesome legacy for himself. His use of ironic traps to reform/eradicate those who he believes don’t appreciate life, Tobin Bell’s commanding voice and his animatronic mascot made him the face of torture horror. And his legacy has continued through multiple accomplices and successors.

Jigsaw and his iconic billy puppet mask
Jigsaw and his iconic billy puppet mask [Source: Screen Rant]

2010s: It/Pennywise – It (2017)

Stephen King’s iconic horror creation made a huge impact with Its 2017 reimagining. The creature that haunts Derry, Maine can change into many forms that will give anyone nightmares. His most recognizable form is Pennywise The Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) whose smile hides a desire to devour children. It exploits our fear of the unknown and attacks the sanctity of childhood innocence all at once. Making It the perfect modern horror villain.

Pennywise tormenting children in It (2017)
Pennywise tormenting children in It (2017) [Source: Entertainment Weekly]

So ends my list of horrors 10 best villains. Which horror villains did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

Also Read: 7 Reasons Characters Die In Horror Films

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Editorials

Road Trip to Joker: The Success of Todd Phillips

March 5, 2020
Todd Phillips Films

Love him or hate him, director Todd Phillips has certainly made a very successful niche for himself. Today I’ll be looking over the controversial director’s career. Beginning with an overview of his work before looking into his most acclaimed films, The Hangover and Joker and how they succeeded at the box office, with critics, and for the director himself.

Filmography

Phillips broke into narrative features with 2000’s Road Trip. A sex comedy that made over $119 million dollars at the box office against a $16 million budget. He followed that up with other successes like 2003s gross-out comedy Old School. 2004s movie adaptation of Starsky & Hutch. 2010s buddy road trip film Due Date. 2016s biographical black comedy War Dogs. And The Hangover sequels, which while never earning the acclaim of the original, were still financially successful.

Comparatively, Phillips’ only unsuccessful movie is School of Scoundrels which earned $24 million against a $35 million budget. However inarguably his most successful ventures are The Hangover and Joker.

The leads of The Hangover (2009)
The leads of The Hangover (2009) [Source: Standard.co.uk]

Success and Acclaim: The Hangover & Joker

The Hangover became the highest-grossing R rated comedy of all time during its release (not adjusted for inflation). While this record was later surpassed The Hangover was also celebrated by audiences and critics (Rated 7.7 on IMDb and 78% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Meanwhile, Joker has become the highest-grossing R rated movie of all time, making over $1 billion worldwide. Despite mixed critical reception (68% on Rotten Tomatoes) Joker still received great acclaim. Winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and being nominated for many Best Film and Best Director awards. Audiences also roundly embraced the film (it’s currently rated 8.6 on IMDb and is ranked 46th in the IMDb Top 250).

Both films are examples of popular film trends from their time. The Hangover owes some of its success to the popular raunchy comedies of Judd Apatow. And Joker owes a lot to the domination of comic book movies at the box office.

But both films also have something unique, ambiguity. While The Hangover was a raunchy comedy it also had a grimy presentation. This allowed people to view the film as a condemnation of the activities the characters get involved with. Thus even people unsympathetic to the characters could enjoy laughing at them. Meanwhile, Joker presented its villain as somewhat sympathetic by showcasing how many facets of American culture helped to turn him evil but also presented his actions as shocking. Meaning the film functioned as both a disturbing look inside a killer’s mind but also an exploration of the factors that turned him into one. This ambiguous presentation allows for audiences to engage with these films in different ways. And gives critics a lot to analyze. Which is likely something else that lead to their success.

Frightening killer or victim of society? Joker (2019)
Frightening killer or victim of society? Joker (2019) [Source: Variety]

Todd Phillips’ Risks

Surprisingly Warner Brothers were initially unsupportive of both films. They didn’t want to give The Hangover a $35 million budget, because of its R rating (often not as successful as PG-13 movies) and because the leads were relatively unknown at the time. And even though Joker was a sure-fire hit due to the main characters’ comic popularity, Warner Brothers still attempted to prevent the project being made by giving Phillips a relatively small budget of $55 million.

But this ended up paying off well for Phillips. Because of Warner’s reluctance to finance The Hangover Phillips gave up his directing salary to help make the film and asked for 16% of the films gross. Meaning his pay went from $6.5 million to $75 million. And Phillips took a smaller salary on Joker, again asking for a percentage of the gross. Many publications estimate he will make $100 million from it.

Controversial director Todd Phillip
Controversial director Todd Phillips [Source: NME.com]

Conclusion

In the end, Todd Phillips knows how to get moviegoers talking and how to make a success of it. By using successful formulas his films have struck a note with audiences. And the well-constructed morally ambiguous presentation of Hangover and Joker managed to appeal to many different audiences and critics alike. And thanks to their success and the risks Phillips took to make his two best films he’s now laughing all the way to the bank. What a Joker.   

Also Read: The Unique Style of Wes Anderson

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Editorials

Parasite and Foreign Language Films in the UK

February 26, 2020
Parasite Movie

Since Parasite became the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture (at the Oscars), many have asked if this marks the beginning of more prominence for international films in English-speaking territories?

Well, today we’re going to look at the performance of international films in the UK. Looking at the number of non-English language films that get released in the UK, their box office takings, the factors that affect this and how Parasite’s recent triumph could impact the industry in the future.

2018 Foreign Language Release Numbers

Recent BFI statistics show that 331 films released in 2018 were entirely in a foreign language. This marked a decrease from the 349 entirely foreign language releases in 2017. But international releases still accounted for 43% of UK releases overall. And the number of different languages represented in UK cinemas increased. From 38 languages other than English in 2017 to 44 in 2018.

The Box Office Numbers

Foreign-language releases in 2018 made £30 million at the box office. The joint highest taking (2016 taking the same amount) since 2010.

Many high grossing international films have a dedicated audience in the UK. E.g. The UK has a big Bollywood audience with the highest-grossing foreign-language film of 2018 was Padmaava. A Hindi film which, according to the BFI, grossed £2.2 million (across 137 cinemas). The UK also has a big Polish community (it is the most common non-native language in England and Wales). So films like Clergy made £1.3 million (shown at 237 cinemas), and Cold War made £1.1 million (shown in 79 cinemas).

However, many of the other best-performing films had a great amount of exposure from film festivals and awards ceremonies. Which helped gain more interest from broader English speaking audiences. For example, Shoplifters won the Palme d’Or and earned £0.7 million across 43 cinemas. Making it the second-highest-grossing foreign-language film not in Polish or Hindi. And A Fantastic Woman won Best Foreign-Language Film at the 2018 Oscars helping it to earn £0.4 million across 38 cinemas.

The Success of Parasite

Parasite received several accolades prior to its UK release. These included the Palme d’Or, the BAFTA for best screenplay and best foreign-language film and many more. But since its Oscar win Parasite has become the third highest-grossing non-English language film at the UK box office. Earning a total of £5.1 million. Only beaten out by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (£9.4 million) and Passion of the Christ (£11.1 million). And it increased its cinema presence, from 137 screens to 428. Showing that the prestige of the award helped to further advertise the film to English speaking audiences. And convinced more theatres to show it.

This historic victory also coincides with a recent growing demand for international content. According to Curzon CEO Philip Knatchbull, the rise of non-English content on TV and streaming services like Netflix has helped to change attitudes towards foreign language products. Showing that there are audiences craving foreign language content and that there is a possibility for a new generation of English speakers to emerge who become accustomed to and more appreciative of world cinema.

What does this mean?

Parasite has proven that something has changed in the zeitgeist. Foreign language films usually struggle at the UK box office. Largely due to a perceived lack of interest from larger audiences. However, Parasite‘s Oscar win proves that foreign-language films are more accessible than ever. And are capable of captivating and performing well with English speaking cinema audiences when given the chance and the marketing.

Hopefully, Parasite‘s success coupled with the emergence of modern audiences more appreciative of foreign content, and the big awards ceremonies providing publicity for non-English language films means that bigger British audiences will soon be watching the wide variety of international films available at the cinema. And that more marketing; showcasing opportunities will be available for these films to reach larger audiences. Which is important.

More box office earnings mean more languages and cultures will be represented at the cinema. And exposure to foreign cinema helps us to discover great stories, new methods of storytelling and it allows us to learn more about and empathize with other cultures, traditions and ways of life. And that’s always a good thing.

Also Read: Parasite Director Once Described The Oscars As “Very Local” – Does He Have a Point?

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Editorials

Where Are All The Young Moviegoers?

February 13, 2020
Young Cinema Audiences [Source: British Council]

It’s a fact; cinema relies mostly on young people for their numbers. 15-24-year olds are consistently the largest audience to attend cinemas. But those numbers have been slowly declining over the years. What is causing this? Today we are going to research into the young cinema audience and see if we can answer why younger moviegoers aren’t attending cinemas and if they can be brought back?

Where are the young cinema audiences?

According to Stephen Fellows, some of the main factors hindering young people from going to the cinema are:

Many say that streaming services also greatly contribute to the dropping of young audiences. However, the big streaming services are used primarily to watch TV shows over movies. And waiting to watch new films at home is more often done by infrequent moviegoers. But a big advantage streaming has over the cinema is easy accessibility and it allows for the comfort of home viewing. Whereas young people view the cinema as less relaxing and harder to organize. This means it is harder to encourage young infrequent cinema-goers to come to screenings due to a perceived lack of comfort. So, the cinema experience itself poses more of a barrier to young cinema-goers than streaming.

2018 – Encouraging The Return of Young Audiences?

In a previous article, we showed that 2018 marked the highest number of UK cinema admissions since 1970. Of the 20 highest-grossing movies of 2018, only 3 received a BBFC classification above 12a. These films also told diverse stories that appealed to a broad range of demographics, tastes, and interests. And these films were viewed as events that needed to be seen on the big screen with friends.

2018’s audience figures (at the time of writing) are not available. And while the high year attendance indicates these movies brought in a wide variety of demographics, the encouraging of teenagers and families to come and see the latest releases with low age classification, the telling of a range of stories to encourage interest from groups who may have been previously uninterested; the percieved uptake in value of the overall cinema experience (regarding both the viewing and social experience) indicates that 2018 could have seen a rise in young cinema attendance, as the industry tackled issues pertinent to this demographic.

What Should Cinemas Do?

But no matter what that year’s numbers may show, in the long term the cinema industry must do a lot more to bring young audiences back.

Aside from the family social element and showing more diverse stories aimed at interesting young audiences, consideration must also be given to the cost/perception of attending the cinema, the logistics of organising cinema trips and paying attention to social elements that young people can share with friends.

There are several ways to tackle these problems. Fellows said that young people value cinemas offering rewards for loyalty, as it makes the customer feel valued and also encourages more frequent attendance. Cinemas could also encourage socialisation through ventures like exclusive screenings for young people or film clubs. Frequent hosting and advertising of such events would also encourage good audience organization. Lastly, cinemas must aim to make visits more attractive/obtainable. This can be done by reducing ticket prices (possibly through group offers). Showing that cinemas are good value for their price (offering other incentives for the price of admission). Or constructing more cinemas across the country (allowing more people to easily access the cinema).

This will cost a lot to accomplish. But with more accessible cinemas, incentives geared towards repeat visits and greater social opportunities, it would surely encourage higher attendance from the younger audience.

Also Read: The Biggest Financial Film Flops

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Editorials

The Biggest Financial Film Flops

January 28, 2020
Financial Film Flops

Today we’re going to look at the 10 movies that lost the most money at the worldwide box office. We will compare their expenses with their takings, according to the-numbers.com (using Google to convert the figures into pounds), to see how much they lost (as of 28/1/20). As well as getting to know a little about the movies in question. Let’s begin.

10. The Promise (2016)

Expenses: $99,886,000 (£76,399,615)

Box office: $6,230,913 (£4,765,827)

Loss: $93,655,087 (£71,633,788)

A love story set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, prior to the Armenian Genocide, The Promise‘s main financier (Kirk Kerkorian) never intended to make a profit with the film, instead, the film attempts to simply tell a narrative of the tragedy that wasn’t influenced by the Turkish government.

9. Jupiter Ascending

Expenses: $206,582,000 (£158,007,982)

Box office: $110,744,962 (£84,705,289)

Loss: $95,837,038 (£73,302,693)

The movie about a young woman who discovers her intergalactic royal heritage and fights against evil corporations wanting to destroy earth was intended to launch a new franchise that was not directly based on pre-existing work, though the Wachowski’s drew from sources like The Odyssey and The Wizard of Oz.

8. 47 Ronin

Expenses: $189,988,000 (£145,315,761)

Box office: $93,228,679 (£71,307,643)

Loss: $96,759,321 (£74,008,118)

The Hollywood retelling of the Japanese tale of 47 masterless samurai who set out to avenge their master primarily featured a cast of Japanese actors in the starring roles. However, executives chose to give Keanu Reeves more scenes to capitalize on his star power. Unfortunately, that didn’t pay off.

7. How Do You Know?

Expenses: $140,454,000 (£107,428,784)

Box office: $35,567,289 (£27,204,285)

Loss: $104,886,711 (£80,224,499)

This ensemble, romantic comedy accrued around $50 million of its expenses from paying for its cast and directors’ salaries. Reese Witherspoon received $15 million for appearing in the film, Jack Nicholson – $12 million, Owen Wilson – $10 million, Paul Rudd – $3 million and director/writer/producer James L. Brooks earned $10 million.

6. Jack the Giant Slayer

Expenses: $228,504,000 (£174,775,420)

Box office: $123,521,590 (£94,477,724)

Loss: $104,982,410 (£80,297,696)

A contemporary reimagining of Jack & the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Slayer had much disagreement behind the scenes regarding who the movie’s audience should be. Eventually, the movie was released with a 12 rating and was considered too dark for kids but too childish for adults. Which explains why it didn’t find a bigger audience.

5. Monster Trucks

Expenses: $149,450,000 (£114,309,538)

Box office: $39,948,907 (£30,555,645)

Loss: $109,501,093 (£83,753,893)

Paramount Pictures’ tale of a young boy who befriends a monster living inside his truck was to be originally released in May 2015 but got pushed back many times, eventually releasing in January 2017 with middling to negative reception.

4. Deepwater Horizon

Expenses: $189,348,000 (£144,826,245)

Box office: $78,201,830 (£59,814,085)

Loss: $111,146,170 (£85,012,160)

Based on the real-world oil rig explosion, unlike other movies on this list, Deepwater Horizon received good reviews from audiences and critics. Many blame the film’s marketing for its failure. Which made the film look like a heroic disaster movie and didn’t attempt to address the incident’s far-reaching consequences.

3. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Expenses: $199,580,000 (£152,652,375)

Box office: $84,928,297 (£64,958,945)

Loss: $114,651,703 (£87,693,430)

Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur adaptation at one stage in its development was pitched as the beginning of a King Arthur cinematic universe, with six films planned. Apparently, this films final script was a mash-up of several ideas from unmade King Arthur projects.

2. John Carter

Expenses: $295,824,000 (£226,266,341)

Box office: $180,857,835 (£138,332,389)

Loss: $114,966,165 (£87,933,952)

An adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom books (noted as influences for Superman and Star Wars) has been planned since the 1930s. When the film failed at the box office author Michael D. Sellers blamed it on the movie’s marketing not mentioning Mars or Edgar Rice Burroughs, therefore not alerting audiences to its source material.

1. Mars Needs Moms

Expenses: $170,166,000 (£130,154,545)

Box office: $26,754,696 (£20,463,814)

Loss: $143,411,304 (£109,690,731)

When Martians abduct a young boy’s mother he goes on a dangerous journey to get her back. This is considered the worse financial loss in history for a Disney branded film.

So ends our look at films all time 10 biggest money losers. Let’s hope the new decade doesn’t bring any financial failures as big as these movies.

Also Read: Why James Cameron’s Avatar Sequel Has Come At The Right Time

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Editorials

Weapon of Choice: Iconic Weapons in Movies

January 13, 2020
Leatherface - Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Whether you’re a hero or villain you need a great weapon to help you vanquish your foes. And cinema is full of amazing weaponry. So, today we’re going to look at seven iconic movie weapons, who wielded them and their real-world origins.

Lightsaber (Star Wars Franchise)

The weapon of the most powerful beings in the galaxy far far away, the Sith and the Jedi. Many famous Jedi and Sith have wielded the multi-coloured laser swords. Including Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, his son Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Maul, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, and Rey. George Lucas decided to include a futuristic sword in the original Star Wars as a symbol of honour and chivalry. And with only a 4×5 camera flash attachment (the hilt), sticks wrapped in reflective material (the blade); the hum of a projector and the buzz captured from a TV set (the sound effects) Lucas and company birthed arguably the most famous movie weapon of all time.

Vader and Luke’s lightsaber duel from The Empire Strikes Back [Source: Arbin Instruments]

Freddy Krueger’s glove (Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise)

Horror films have created several iconic weapons, some of which we will get into later. But horrors most inventively creepy killing implement is Freddy Krueger’s Razor Glove. Envisioned by director Wes Craven as a throwback to mankind’s primal fear of claws grafted onto modern equipment, not only is Freddy’s glove inventive but its very look is surreal and frightening. Perfectly fitting with the story’s nightmarish aesthetic.

Freddy Krueger's iconic glove
Freddy Krueger’s iconic glove [Source: NME.com]

Nunchaku (Bruce Lee Movies)

This traditional Okinawan martial arts training weapon has become a staple of martial arts movies specifically because of Bruce Lee. Bruce used Nunchaku in several of his movies (Enter the Dragon, Way of the Dragon & Game of Death). He wielded them with such speed, grace, and effectiveness that they were transformed in the public’s mind from mere training implements into incredible weapons in their own right.

Bruce Lee's nunchaku in Game of Death
Bruce Lee’s nunchaku in Game of Death [credit: Columbia Pictures / Sony Entertainment]

The Infinity Gauntlet (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

The MCU needed to give its ultimate villain Thanos a weapon that would make an impression on audiences after ten years of build-up. Made of Uru metal, forged by the dwarves of Nidavellir, with a design ripped straight from the original comic and armed with the infinity stones that collectively give the wearer the ability to do practically anything, including wiping out half of all life in the universe, the Infinity Gauntlet is, without doubt, the most destructive weapon on this list.

Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.
Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet [credit: Disney / Marvel Entertainment]

Chainsaw (Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise)

Employing household tools as weapons is a common practice in slasher movies, and this is one of the movies to thank for that. Director Tobe Hooper originally thought of the idea to use a chainsaw as his movie’s weapon when he was wondering how to get out of the busy store and saw a chainsaw in the hardware section. One thing’s certain, audiences have never looked at chainsaws the same way since.

Leatherface's Chainsaw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Leatherface’s Chainsaw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) [Source: Syfy Wire]

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (Monty Python & The Holy Grail)

In 1975, the Pythons gifted us with possibly the silver screens silliest weapon. When confronted with the dreaded Rabbit of Caerbannog, King Arthur and his knights use the Holy Hand Grenade, originally used by Saint Atilla, to destroy the beast. Shaped like the Sovereigns Orb of the United Kingdom there is no better weapon to destroy your beastly foes and satirize religion.

The Holy Hand Grenade - Monty Python & The Holy Grail
The Holy Hand Grenade [Source: Addicted to Quack]

Revolver (Western Genre)

Everyone loves westerns and the one weapon that typifies the western is the revolver. Patented by Samuel Colt (later developed by multiple companies in the 1800s) as a singlehanded firearm, that can be fired several times without reloading. The revolver has become a symbol of the old west gunslinger. A weapon of great destructive capabilities that requires a keen eye and steady hand to master. No Mexican standoff is complete without one.

Clint Eastwood with iconic western revolvers
Clint Eastwood with iconic western revolvers [Source: AMC]

So ends my list of seven iconic movie weapons. Be sure to fire your suggestions for great movie weapons I missed into the comments.

Also Read: The Best Action Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

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Editorials

The Best Horror Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

December 31, 2019
Horror Movie Collection

There have been many fantastic horror movies released this past decade. So today I am celebrating the decade’s end by picking my 10 favourite horror movies from 2010 – 2019.

I’ll pick one movie from each year (using the IMDb release year as reference), briefly summarise each movie and explain why you should watch it. I’ll also include honourable mentions for you to also enjoy. Well, let’s get spooky.


2010: I Saw the Devil (Dir. Kim Jee-Woon)

This horror/thriller follows a detective (Byung-Hun Lee) who tracks down his wife’s murderer (Min-Sik Choi) and aims to drive him insane by continually capturing, brutalizing and releasing him. From there the mind games escalate until you’re not sure who you should be rooting for. With violence that’ll make even hardened gorehounds’ wince, I Saw The Devil is an experience you won’t soon forget.

HM: Tucker and Dale vs Evil

I Saw The Devil (Official Trailer)

2011: Kill List (dir. Ben Wheatley)

Beginning as a movie about a former assassin returning to work to make some money and gradually morphing into something more horrifying, Kill List benefits from knowing as little as possible going in. But thanks to its perfectly pitched naturalistic presentation, which makes the outlandish plot feel realistic, Kill List is now considered one of the most disturbing movies ever made.  

HM: You’re Next

Kill List (Official Trailer)

2012: The Woman in Black (dir. James Watkins)

Arthur (Daniel Radcliffe) a recently widowed solicitor is tasked with settling the affairs of Mrs Drablow at her estate, Eel Marsh House. However, something is stalking the Eel Marsh grounds. Could it be linked with the deaths of several children in the neighbouring village? Hammer Studios’ best modern film is a perfect old-fashioned ghost chiller. Dripping with atmosphere, backed by a solid cast, and genuinely effective jump scares.

HM: Maniac (2012)

The Woman in Black (Official Trailer)

2013: The Conjuring (dir. James Wan)

Using the Perron Hauntings case as its basis, The Conjuring is one of the decade’s most fun horror films. With likeable leads in Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life figures Ed and Lorraine Warren, some inventive camerawork and eery production design. The Conjuring is a thrilling modern haunted house ride that leaves you invigorated.

HM: Mama

The Conjuring (Official Trailer)

2014: It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell)

After having sex with her boyfriend, Jay (Maika Monroe) discovers she’s been cursed. Now a demon follows her wherever she goes. Her one advantage is that it can only follow her at walking speed. It Follows is a wonderful genre tribute with relatable characters, suspenseful direction, a beautiful score and a creepy monster that’ll have viewers checking over their shoulders next time they’re in a crowded place.

HM: The Babadook

It Follows (Official Trailer)

2015: The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers)

My personal vote for the scariest movie of the decade. A paranoid period piece, The Witch, like Kill List, is most impactful when seen with little knowledge of the plot. However, rest assured you’re in for a skin-crawling slow builder with great performances and brilliant direction that will constantly leave you doubting your own judgment.

HM: Green Room

The Witch (Official Trailer)

2016: Raw (dir. Julia Ducournau)

Justine (Garance Marillier) a devout vegetarian vet in training is forced to eat meat in a university hazing ritual causing her to develop a craving for human flesh. Hilarious, disturbing and touching, Raw speaks to many modern fears about identity, gender and sexuality; and keeps the audience thoroughly invested with fantastically drawn characters and perfect visual storytelling. Plus a woman eats her sisters’ finger, so there’s that.

HM: Hush

Raw (Official Trailer)

2017: Tigers Are Not Afraid (dir. Issa López)

Sadly underappreciated by mainstream audiences, Tigers tells the heart-breaking tale of Estrella (Paola Lara) who attempts to use three “magic wishes” to help a group of children caught up in the Mexican drug war. Firmly grounded in harsh reality and never pulling its punches when it comes to the violence, Tigers is a tough but rewarding watch.

HM: It (2017), Get Out & The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Official Trailer)

2018: Hereditary (dir. Ari Aster)

A family unravels after their grandmother’s death as a mysterious outside force invades their lives. Featuring one of the decade’s greatest performances from Toni Collette and incredible tension. Courtesy of a sympathetic cast of characters and magnificent direction that subtly (using of camerawork and visual cues) and overtly (the scares) keeps the audience on edge to the end.

HM: Climax & Incident in a Ghostland

Hereditary (Official Trailer)

2019: Midsommar (dir. Ari Aster)

Dani (Florence Pugh) attempts to get over a family tragedy by going to Sweden with her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) and his friends. Initially, the locals seem welcoming but as the Midsummer festival begins a sinister plot emerges. While slowly paced Midsommar hits hard because of Florence Pugh’s performance and subtle tension building through camerawork and the performances of the villagers. Culminating in one unnervingly weird finale.  

HM: Extra Ordinary & Us

Thus ends my list of the 2010s best horror movies. If I’ve missed some of your favourites, then list them in the comments. One thing’s certain, with so many new masters of horror, the 2020s will be very exciting to see.

Also Read: Horrors On Horror Sets

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Reviews

Review: Black Christmas (2019) [Spoilers]

December 20, 2019
Black Christmas 2019 (Source: We Live Entertainment)

The original 1974 Black Christmas about a group of sorority girls being stalked by a serial killer over the Christmas break was not only a forerunner of the slasher craze but also gained a lot of praise over the years for its well-characterised female leads and subtle pro-feminist message regarding issues like pro-choice and female agency. And with feminist issues still being prominent in modern culture, it’s only natural that a new generation would want to tell their interpretation of Black Christmas. However, this remake had a lot of difficulties to overcome.  

Not only is the original film highly influential and beloved by many horror fans; the first Black Christmas remake from 2006 was a critical and box office disappointment. Potentially inviting unfavourable comparisons and minimal box office appeal. The film also had a disastrous marketing campaign, with a trailer that seemed to reveal the movie’s twist. But with the acclaimed Sophia Takal directing and stars like Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes attached could Black Christmas (2019) prove itself and step out of the shadow of its beloved and derided brethren? Let’s see.

The Story

Everyone at Hawthorne College is heading home for the holidays but the women of the MKE sorority have other plans. Riley (Imogen Poots) is still recovering from a harrowing sexual assault incident. Aggravated by her uncharged attacker returning to campus. Kris (Aleyse Shannon) is continuing to fight for the removal of Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes). And all their other sorority sisters are helping out with a charitable dinner. But they soon realize something evil is lurking in the college grounds.

As some of the sisters go missing, others receive threatening messages and hooded figures stalk the grounds it becomes clear that someone wants these girls dead. As the women race to find out who their attackers are and what their motives are, the bonds between them grow stronger and they eventually resolve to take the fight to their abusers.

What Did I Like?

Firstly, I really like how the new movie updated the originals feminist undercurrent by incorporating issues relating to the modern female experience in the story – both overtly and subtly. Such as the threat of rape culture, toxic masculinity, and the empowerment of the #MeToo movement. Also, instead of copying the original’s plot, this film weaves these thematic threads and some of the iconography of the original (the faceless killer, some of the weapons and the setting) into something more akin to cult horror than a slasher film. Which yields some inventive and interesting results.

Imogen Poots’ also gives a great performance as Riley. Poots is an often-underappreciated actress, but her portrayal of the mental and emotional torture that Riley has gone through is sensitive, understated and incredibly touching. She’s very likeable in the role and despite problems regarding her lines, which we will discuss later, Poots remains untouchable. Easily putting this film above the 2006 version, as this movie has at least one likeable character.

Lastly, the film looks and sounds gorgeous. The lighting perfectly captures the feel of a Christmas horror film with festive reds and greens brightening the frame. Inventive long shots are also used to create suspense (pay attention Exorcist 3 fans). And the score by Will and Brooke Blair is very effective. Creating a nicely tense and eery atmosphere that compliments the gothic tones of the story and its setting. Unfortunately, the movie’s positives are cancelled out by several problems.

What Did I not like?

The biggest problem is the script. This movie’s dialogue is abysmal. Every line continually beats the movie’s message over your head. Obviously, themes are important, and many films use characters to articulate certain points of view (Jess filled this role in the original). But this must be balanced by subtle dialogue. To get the point across without becoming preachy. The original excelled at this. This film’s lines are so cartoonishly written it becomes laughable.

The film also suffers from weak plotting and characterisation. The original had proactive characters, with varied, likeable personalities, who always had something to do; because we cared about them and always knew where the killer was, there was a sense of danger propelling the narrative. The characters in Black Christmas (2019) lack agency and personality. Most are just mouthpieces who spend their time doing little of relevance; while a few scenes have a tense presentation, there’s no overarching tension on a character or plot level to keep the audience invested. Just a lot of cheap jump scares.

Then there’s the third act. Which introduces a supernatural element out of nowhere, undermining the grounded conflict and relevant social commentary and transforming into a silly action movie. With new plot elements being added that have no explanation (the other sorority houses) or serve no purpose (using objects to track down students despite the villains already knowing where the main characters live). Leaving the movie an unfocused mess.

Finally, every actor (besides Poots) delivers a terrible performance. All the evil male characters are over the top to the point of parody. The worst offender is Cary Elwes, whose turn is so pantomime villain it becomes insulting that our leads never figure out his intentions. But the film plays elements like the music and lighting completely straight. As though these people are meant to be scary. Which is incredibly jarring. The good men also fail to endear themselves because they’re just too dull. The women don’t fare any better with most being flat and forgettable. Except for Aleyse Shannon, whose performance is so smug and self-satisfied that she becomes instantly annoying.

Verdict

Despite a good central performance from Imogen Poots, some gorgeous, occasionally inventive cinematography, a creepy score; the inventive updating of the themes and story of the original Black Christmas, which easily puts it above the first remake in terms of quality, Black Christmas (2019) is a chore to sit through.

This is thanks to a completely inept script full of preachy dialogue that hammers the movie’s themes home with no subtlety. Coupled with a thin plot that gives no agency or arcs to its characters. Disastrous and annoying performances and a third act that destroys everything the prior movie was building towards.

At the end of the day, Black Christmas (2019) is a movie whose message takes priority over its filmmaking. But when a movie has little to offer besides that it quickly becomes boring. Even to people who agree with said message. It wants to be game-changing like the original but completely lacks any understanding of what made the original film work. After 45 years the original still remains unbeaten.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Black Christmas (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Alternative Christmas Movies

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Editorials

The Best Action Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

December 14, 2019
The Best Action Films of the Decade

With 2020 approaching many are currently reflecting on all the positive points of the past decade. Today I’m doing the same, as I list the best action movies of each year from 2010-2019.

These films were picked based on their creativity, the impact of the action and how well the story complimented the action. And because there were so man good action films this decade I will be including honourable mentions for you to also watch. Without further ado, let’s begin.


2010: Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)

With an interesting story about implanting ideas into someone’s mind while having to battle through not only the subject’s mental defences but your own baggage as well as incredibly staged action sequences like the rotating hallway fight and using minimal CGI, Inception is a true sci-fi action masterpiece.

HM: Kick-Ass & 13 Assassins.

The Rotating Hallway fight (Inception)

2011: The Raid (dir. Gareth Evans)

After a swat team is ambushed in an apartment complex the survivors must reach and arrest the kingpin before his henchmen kill them. From this simple premise, The Raid quickly ratchets up the tension as we are never sure who will escape alive. And the action sequences use of flowing choreography, camerawork and editing turn the film into a remarkable ballet of violence.

HM: Captain America: The First Avenger & X-men: First Class.

The Hallway Fight (The Raid)

2012: Dredd (dir. Peter Travis)

Similar to The Raid, Dredd finds two judges (police officers who are judge, jury, and executioner) Dredd (Karl Urban) and Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), trapped in a skyscraper, having to fight their way to the kingpin to escape. However, Dredd keeps The Raid’s tension while also injecting a healthy dose of comic book action. With bloody violence, great world-building, beautiful slow-motion usage and endearing characters, Dredd, packs a punch despite its small stature.

HM: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises & Skyfall.

Slow-motion break-in (Dredd)

2013: Snowpiercer (dir. Bong Joon-Ho)

While the premise is far-fetched (the remnants of humanity are trapped on a perpetually running world-spanning train after a climate crisis), Snowpiercer’s story about humanity in microcosm and fight scenes are very affecting. The skirmishes are protracted and merciless, combined with the claustrophobic setting and masterful editing, Snowpiercer will keep you riveted till the end.  

HM: The Worlds End & Elysium.

The train massacre (Snowpiercer)

2014: The Raid 2 (dir. Gareth Evans)

After surviving the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais) must infiltrate the mob and bring them down from inside. From there this sequel improves on everything great about the original. With more impressive choreography, more brutal violence; even more memorable characters, all wrapped around a fantastic story of family and loyalty. The Raid 2 is my favourite action film of the decade.

HM: Captain America: The Winter Soldier & Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rama vs Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man (The Raid 2)

2015: Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)

Mad Max: Fury Road puts all other 2015 action movies to shame, with an effectively slight story about Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) helping a band of women escape an oppressive patriarch; spectacular vehicle stunts. By the movie’s end, you’ll feel exhausted by the relentless action. Impressed by the practical stunts and special effects. And moved by characters like Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Nux (Nicholas Hoult). High octane action at its finest.

HM: Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron & Sicario.

Driving back to the Citadel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

2016: Captain America: Civil War (dir. Joe Russo)

Civil War is the highlight of the MCU. The story grounds the conflict in each heroes’ hopes and fears, examining them and playing them against each other expertly. Every character is relatable, making the fights more impactful. And each action sequence is creative. From the opening robbery to the final 2 on 1. Marvel has made many good films, but none topped the impact of Civil War.

HM: Deadpool.

Part 1 of the Airport Fight (Captain America: Civil War)

2017: Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Depicting the titular WWII evacuation from three perspectives: the soldiers trapped at Dunkirk waiting for rescue, the civilians coming to evacuate the soldiers and the airmen covering them from above, Dunkirk’s tension becomes almost unbearable as we hope the soldiers escape in time. The use of practical effects, incredible sound editing, and Hans Zimmer’s tense score make the film effective and harrowing.

HM: Baby Driver.

Death from above (Dunkirk (2017))

2018: Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (dir. Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman)

The perfect balance of spectacle, personality, and high personal stakes. Into the Spiderverse is an expertly crafted love letter to comic books. With beautiful visuals that are used inventively in action sequences, all anchored by protagonist Miles Morales. Who allows us to feel his wonder, excitement, and fear better than any other spiderman.

HM: Avengers: Infinity War.

Fight at the Parker house (Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse)

2019: John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (dir. Chad Stahelski)

Parabellum marks the culmination of everything great about John Wick. The story is full of unique, intriguing characters, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still thoroughly engaging and the grounded, varied, constant action easily beats the overblown spectacle of other films this year.

HM: Avengers: Endgame.

Motorbike Fight (John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum)

So ends my list of the 2010’s best action movies. Be sure to tell me your favourite action movie of the decade in the comments. There have been some great action films this decade, now let’s see what the 2020s have in store.

Also Read: How to Revive a Franchise After Many Years

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Editorials

Who Did It Better?: A Christmas Carol

December 7, 2019
Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carolv(Source: Disney Wiki)

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the modern Christmas story. The tale of the old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the ghost of his dead partner and the embodiment of Christmases Past, Present, and Future, to learn the value of kindness to his fellow-men is iconic. The story has had many adaptations over the years. For stage, radio, television (a new version comes this year courtesy of Steven Knight) and, of course, film. So, today we’re going to see which Christmas Carol film adaptation is the best.

With films of Carol dating back to 1901, I’ll only be looking at five of the most well-known theatrically released movies; comparing them to see which ones did certain things better. Those movies being Scrooge (1951), Scrooge (1970), Scrooged, Muppets Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol (2009).

For this comparison I have chosen to look at, the portrayals of Scrooge, the portrayals of the ghosts, the supporting cast members, and how much they bring to their films, the production value of each film and which film best told the story overall. So, after all that set up let’s begin.

Who’s The Best Scrooge?

Ebeneezer Scrooge is one of fiction’s most iconic characters. His name has even become a part of the English language. With such a reputation you need equally brilliant performances to bring him to life. But who is the best, Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Bill Murray, Michael Caine or Jim Carrey? For my money, Alastair Sim’s iconic turn from Scrooge (1951) is the best.

Unfortunately, while Finney and Carrey are clearly trying their best, their vocal affectations make it hard to take them seriously. Also despite loving Caine’s Scrooge and Murray’s modern interpretation, Frank Cross, Caine’s cold-heartedness does thaw a little too quickly for his change of heart to carry a large amount of weight. And Murray fits the bitter sardonic side of Scrooge better than the renewed Christmas lover.

Sim, however, embodies every aspect of Scrooge perfectly. His miserable nature is believable and never feels over the top. But when he changes his ways it feels like a perfectly played evolution of the character. And Sim communicates the character in every aspect of his performance. From his tone of voice to his body language and the words he uses. For my half a crown he’s the best Scrooge out there.

Winner: Scrooge (1951)

Alastair Sim in Scrooge (1951) (Source: IMDb)
Alastair Sim in Scrooge (1951) (Source: IMDb)

Who Are The Best Ghosts?

Scrooge may be the narrative focus, but it’s the visiting spirits that ultimately change him. So, which ghosts gave us the best hauntings over the years?

Firstly, we must consider Jacob Marley’s ghost. Often shown as a sickly figure dragging a long chain behind him, he’s been portrayed by many fantastic actors. Including Michael Hordern, Alec Guinness, and Gary Oldman. Some of the more creative interpretations include Muppets Christmas Carol, who have critics Statler and Waldorf playing Jacob and Robert Marley. Who come to criticize Scrooge and provide advice for his improvement. While Scrooged presents Marley, as an old retired boss who, humorously, resembles a zombie more than a ghost.

Christmas Past varies the most in appearance between adaptations. Scrooge (1951) and A Christmas Carol (2009)’s ghosts resemble the description in Dicken’s original story. However, both are still different. Scrooge (1951) has an angelic, androgynous figure, while A Christmas Carol has a floating candle carrying a cap. Both functions well as translations of the text but don’t show too much imagination. Scrooge (1970’s) Christmas Past is a middle-aged woman who feels like a mother figure to Scrooge. Going over his past mistakes like a mum bringing out the family photo album for guests. Scrooged’s Christmas Past is a loudmouth Taxi driver who ferry’s Frank around the past. While the Muppet version gives Christmas Past the visage of a child. Whose innocent appearance makes the overall message more poignant.

Of all the ghosts of Christmas Present, the Muppets and Scrooged are the most interesting. The Muppets’ Present, like Scrooge (1970), is more humorous in nature. Very much someone who lives for the moment. Though Muppets’ Present has more depth, as his initially lively nature contrasts greatly with his melancholy later as he begins to waste away. And Scrooged’s Christmas Present is the most original. A cute fairy that slaps people to get them to pay attention to the world around them. A nice change from the usual bearded, robed giant.

Christmas Future is the most consistent in appearance. Every version portrays Future as a hooded figure wearing a dark robe that never speaks. But, of all the adaptations the Muppet version is by far the most unsettling. Nothing about it looks human. It towers over the rest of the cast, with long arms and seemingly no face inside its hood. Making it equal parts fascinating and terrifying.

So, which film has the best ghosts? It has to be a tie between Scrooged and Muppets Christmas Carol. As both display a great amount of imagination in realizing Dicken’s old ideas. Without sacrificing what made them great.

Winner: Muppets Christmas Carol & Scrooged

The Ghosts of Christmas Present (Scrooged left, Muppets Christmas Carol right) (Source: The Viewers Commentary)
The Ghosts of Christmas Present (Scrooged left, Muppets Christmas Carol right) (Source: The Viewers Commentary)

Who Has The Best Supporting Cast?

Of course, Carol’s supporting cast is also important. The Cratchit Family, Scrooge’s nephew and every other character that populate Scrooge’s life add a little extra to the story. All these adaptations have incredible actors in the supporting cast. But Scrooge (1951) and Muppets Christmas Carol use their supporting actors best.

Not that there aren’t incredible actors in the other versions, but unfortunately Scrooge (1970)’s cast never really does much to elevate themselves, remaining functional but largely forgettable. A Christmas Carol (2009)’s motion capture continually distracts from the performances in favour of showing what was possible with motion capture. And many of Scrooged’s prominent supporting players aren’t given enough time to make an impact.

But, Scrooge (1951) and Muppets Christmas Carol’s supporting cast are incredibly memorable. Scrooge’s supporting cast includes greats like Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit (the best version in my opinion). Brian Worth as Fred and Carol Marsh as Fan are great. And memorable faces are dotted throughout like Jack Warner, Ernest Thesiger, and Hattie Jacques. Each character has a memorable moment and every actor gives an incredible performance that will leave the viewer riveted. And Muppets Christmas Carol has great fun filling out the supporting cast with regular Muppet characters. Such as having Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy as Bob and Emily Cratchit and Gonzo as Charles Dickens. Which adds a great amount of humour to the proceedings. And makes all the characters memorable because of the names behind them.

Meaning this segment again ends with a tie. One film showcases the power of incredible performances and great writing. The other demonstrates that sometimes all you need is the right name to make something memorable.

Winner: Scrooge (1951) & Muppets Christmas Carol

The supporting casts of Muppets Christmas Carol & Scrooge (1951) (Sources: Flickr & GQ)

Which Version Has The Best Production?

It’s been interesting to see how each Carol adaptation reflects different attitudes to cinematic production. Scrooge (1951) focuses more on creating an authentic-looking Victorian world for the characters to inhabit. While the blocking and camerawork make for a very classical production. Scrooge (1970) aims for spectacle with varied settings, beautifully muted colours and having the cinematography play a more active role. Using long takes and camera movement to accentuate key moments. Scrooged places emphasis on practical effects and capturing modern metropolitan life. The Muppets use their titular characters to help tell the story, while also incorporating musical numbers. And A Christmas Carol (2009) aims to showcase the capabilities of motion capture and create a thrilling blockbuster. For me, Muppets Christmas Carol is the best of them all.

Everything about the Muppets Christmas Carol is a joy to watch from a visual standpoint. The puppetry is amazing. Within minutes you forget that you’re watching puppets and become completely absorbed into the experience. The special effects also hold up better than many other versions of the story. And is further complemented by the beautiful set design and well-done cinematography. Which comes alive during the musical segments.

Winner: Muppets Christmas Carol

Gonzo and Rizzo in Muppets Christmas Carol (Source: Muppet Wiki)
Gonzo and Rizzo in Muppets Christmas Carol (Source: Muppet Wiki)

Which version tells the story best?

This segment is hard to judge objectively as each interpretation attempts to do something different with the text. But how well does each adaptation achieves its goals?

While A Christmas Carol (2009)’s goal to be entirely faithful to the source material is admirable its attempts to show off the capabilities of motion capture and including over the top action sequences ultimately cheapens the overall experience. Scrooge (1970) also stumbles as it doesn’t have the pomp and energy needed to make a musical work. And the inclusion of these elements doesn’t add anything to the story other than compounding what we already know. Lastly, while Scrooged is a smart modern update of the story, with a great sense of pitch-black humour, unfortunately, it runs out of steam towards the end. Falling back into what we all expect from A Christmas Carol.

Meanwhile, The Muppets is a marvel of juggling tones. It’s consistently funny thanks to the absurd humour found in placing these weird creatures against the human actors who play their roles 100% seriously. But it also knows how to effectively pull on the heartstrings when needed. The inclusion of musical numbers also works better than Scrooge (1970). Because of the effective editing and how the songs tell us more about the characters and the story. The one disadvantage is that the film is overstuffed with ideas. And it does make a few missteps along the way regarding pacing.

And Scrooge (1951) tells the best straightforward version of the story it can. Focusing on the actor’s performances, the writing and the realization of Dickens’ world. While also expanding on certain aspects of the story. Sections that are glossed over in other adaptations are given real depth and weight here. For example, we get to follow Scrooge’s evolution into a miser in great detail. Which gives us great insight into his character. And we finally get a reason for why Scrooge resents his nephew so much. Which adds a tragic layer to both characters.   

Ultimately, despite some lacklustre special effects and minor grievances, I cannot deny that Scrooge (1951) tells its story the best. By being to the point and focusing on/expanding what worked in the source material rather than delivering overblown spectacle.

Winner: Scrooge (1951)

Scrooge & Tiny Tim from Scrooge (1951) (Source: Histomil)
Scrooge & Tiny Tim from Scrooge (1951) (Source: Histomil)

Overall Winners: Scrooge (1951) & Muppets Christmas Carol

Scrooge (1951) & Muppets Christmas Carol Posters (Source: IMDb)

Final Thoughts

The story of A Christmas Carol has truly given us many quality adaptations over the years. There’s something interesting about the fact that the closest adaptation of the book (A Christmas Carol (2009)) is the least interesting. Each of the other adaptations brought something new to the table.

If you want a generally entertaining and good-looking version of the story then Scrooge (1970) is for you. For an effective modern update to the old story, then go with Scrooged. If you want the definitive version that has incredible performances, fantastic design and expands on the source material in a way that feels natural and, in many ways, improves the story then watch Scrooge (1951). And if you want the best modern adaptation, packed full of imagination, memorable characters and perfectly blends humour, music, and drama then check out Muppets Christmas Carol.

Also Read: Who Did It Better?: How The Grinch Stole Christmas

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Reviews

Retro Review: King Kong (1933)

November 26, 2019
King Kong

86 years ago King Kong, the most famous movie monster of all time, made his debut. Since then his first movie has become permanently ingrained in popular culture. Even people who’ve never seen it know the film’s story and several famous quotes. But as we have seen, the influential don’t always stand the test of time.

So join us for our retro review of King Kong as we see just how well it holds up all these years later.

Synopsis

Film director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is looking to make the ultimate movie to silence his critics and please audiences worldwide. To do this he takes his film crew and leading lady, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to the uncharted Skull Island to find the mythical monster Kong.

Upon reaching their destination the island natives kidnap Ann and offer her to Kong, who carries her off into the jungle. Facing many prehistoric threats the crew eventually retrieve Ann, capture Kong and decide to take him back to civilization.

Once back in New York, Denham puts Kong on display as the eighth wonder of the world. But Kong breaks free, steals Ann and begins wreaking havoc upon the city. Before finally climbing the Empire State Building in one of the most iconic movie endings of all time.

What did I like?

The best part of King Kong is its sheer spectacle. Produced for $672,000 (only $13 million today), King Kong delivers a spectacle that still puts modern movies to shame. The production design and sets are fantastic, giving the film a grand scale. Skull Island’s design is incredibly detailed, feels very lived-in and full of rich history. And effectively contrasts the soulless concrete jungle of New York.

Then there are the iconic effects. The mixture of stop motion, miniatures, full-scale animatronics, and other processes invented for the film, created something film audiences had never seen before. A living breathing world, full of incredible creatures that appeared to actually interact with the cast. Some parts may look a bit ropey today, but the sheer effort it took to realize these sequences and the enthusiasm present make it impossible to not appreciate.

This movie also proved that special effects could be used to realize a story, not just stunning visuals. Kong is one of cinemas best characters. Without a word spoken, we know exactly what Kong is feeling because of his extensive expressive facial animations. Transforming a simple model into a three-dimensional character. And his arc from a mindless animal who sees Ann as a trophy to seeing her as something more is touching and tragic.

Denham also proves to be a compelling character. Though he sees everyone around him as a tool to achieve his ambitions his passion to make art that entertains everyone and his dry sense of humour makes him an enjoyable presence. Despite his actions.  

And Max Steiner’s sweeping orchestral score is incredible. Contributing to the grand scale of the production and adding an operatic edge which gives the dramatic moments great weight. But while Kong’s iconic status is unquestionable, a few blemishes have emerged over time.

What did I not like?

Now, of course, there are the blemishes inherent with films from this era that may impact some modern viewers’ enjoyment of the film. Namely the stereotypical depictions of women as solely damsels to be rescued or objects of affection for the men. And slightly racist depictions of other cultures.

But then there’s also the incredibly cheesy overwritten dialogue and performances, which make the film hard to take seriously. The macho posturing, overegged similes, and hammy New York accents make the film feel like a parody of itself. Resulting in the characters looking more like caricatures than human beings. This isn’t helped by most of the human characters being boring without much depth. Nowhere is this more evident than in the romance between Ann and John Driscoll (Bruce Cabot). It never feels natural. The actors have no chemistry, their dialogue is cringe-inducing and their romance only really serves to further the plot. Instead of being something that helps the characters grow and become compelling. Making the movie a slog until Kong shows up.

Finally, because King Kong’s themes, iconography, and other elements have been so thoroughly reused and deconstructed by other films over the years revisiting the original now can feel underwhelming. While the movie remains important historically, it has largely dwarfed by what it inspired. Ultimately rendering the movie itself as somewhat clichéd as a result. Though this is largely the fault of popular culture, not the film itself.

Verdict

King Kong is a movie that has inspired generations of film lovers and for good reason. With a rousing score, two engaging characters and incredible effects, that required so much time, effort and the invention of new techniques to accomplish, it is a wonderful example of what cinematic fantasy is capable of.

But some elements of the plot do feel forced for the sake of drama. The acting, dialogue, and depictions of certain genders and races are quite dated and may affect some modern audiences enjoyment of the film. And the film itself can be considered somewhat cliché at this point.

Ultimately as a piece of film history Kong is required viewing. It is a piece of entertaining genre filmmaking which though entrenched in the flaws of it’s time helped to pave the way for the blockbusters of today. And that is worth seeing. Warts and all.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

King Kong (Official Trailer)

King Kong is available on the BBC IPlayer service until 30th November 2019.

Also Read: For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi, Comedy & Oscar Snubs

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