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.
Steampunk art has become very popular in recent decades. But what is it? Today we’re going to look at what the steampunk aesthetic consists of. As well as analysing the origins of the subgenre and some key films that are part of this movement. Let’s get steamy.
1986 saw the release of Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky, considered one of the first true steampunk films. Then the 90s saw the release of the big-budget Hollywood adaptation of Wild Wild West (1999) and Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s wildly imaginative The City of Lost Children (1995). Which takes place in an undetermined time full of retro clothing, oil rigs, sea mines, and eyepieces that seem both advanced and simple.
However, steampunk cinema arguably became most popular in the 21st century. This time saw the big-screen adaptation of Alan Moore’s popular steampunk comic The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) employed retro-futurist technology alongside a magical fantasy world to showcase the wonders and atrocities that mankind is capable of. And short films like the Oscar-nominated The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (2005) helped to showcase the genres growing popularity. Even films like Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011) showcased a fascination with the genre’s aesthetics. Despite being set after the steampunk era. Hugo’s world is full of steam trains, old-fashioned dress, and mechanical automatons. Eventually, the film even becomes a tribute to genre influencer Georges Méliès. And that’s only a few examples of steampunk cinema throughout this time.
Steampunk is a fascinating movement. Full of imaginative stories and worlds. And while it isn’t the biggest genre in terms of cinematic content its roots stretch back to the birth of cinema. And it has continued to grow in popularity over recent years. Not bad for a genre that got its name from a joke.
Have you ever been shopping and noticed a DVD/BluRay for a movie that looks like a recent release? E.g. The Little Panda Fighter or Guardians of the Tomb? The world is full of bad copies and rip-offs of popular movies. And today, we’re looking at some examples of films that fell flat on their faces (according to the scores available on Rotten Tomatoes,) trying to capitalise off bigger films.
But copies and rip-offs are hardly exclusive to the American and Japanese market. The 1980s Italian film industry produced many films to capitalise on international hits. Contamination was one of several releases produced to capitalise on Ridley Scott’s Alien. Mostly through its use of alien eggs which wreak havoc on the human body. Needless to say, Contamination was unfavourably received compared to Alien (Contamination- Critics: 40% Audience: 29%. Alien- Critics: 98% Audience: 94%). But Contamination attained its own legacy when it became part of the infamous video nasties list.
Ator: The Fighting Eagle copied Conan the Barbarian
Speaking of Italian copies. Conan The Barbarian (1982) inspired many sword and sorcery films in the 80s and Ator: The Fighting Eagle is incredibly close to Conan in terms of story elements. Focusing on a musclebound sword-wielding hero’s quest for revenge against an animal-themed cult leader who killed his parents and kidnapped a young woman. Although Ator couldn’t copy Conan’s success with audiences (Conan has a 74% audience rating, Ator has 14%), Ator acquired 3 sequels. A lot more than the Conan series.
Video Brinquedo was one of the most shameless modern mockbuster companies. Released to bank off the success of Pixar’s Ratatouille, both movies deal with a rodent obsessed with making food. However, Ratatouille won an Oscar and is loved by audiences (87%) and critics (96%). While everyone dislikes Ratatoing’s ugly style and cheap animation (27% on RT).
Thank you for joining me on this excursion into the land of copies and rip-offs. What rip-offs do you hate? Have you ever mistakenly bought any copycat titles? Conversely, are there any copycats that are better than their inspiration? Please let us know.
Sci-Fi is an incredibly versatile genre because it allows you to explore new worlds and interesting scientific theories in many entertaining, thought-provoking ways. And today we’re going to recommend 10 great sci-fi movies that are currently available on Netflix for you to watch.
1. Netflix Original Sci-Fi – Okja
A corporation sends 26 creatures, which were developed as a food source, across the world as a PR stunt. However, when they take one of the creatures (Okja) away, Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn), sets out to get her back. What makes Okja special is its direction, which mixes many different elements (Science fiction, horror, comedy) together without feeling tonally confused, and Seo-Hyun Ahn’s performance which easily invests us in her struggle to get Okja back.
2. Hard Sci-Fi – The Martian
Mark Watney (Matt Damon) becomes stranded on Mars after his expedition team evacuates. Mark has one goal, survive. Thankfully, the world’s space agencies begin mounting a mission to rescue him. The Martian is great sci-fi. The entire cast makes their characters and the technical dialogue feel very natural. The special effects really sell the experience. And, it does a great job making the science feel accurate.
3. Sci-Fi Comedy – The Truman Show
Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) slowly realises that his life is a TV show. He’s being filmed from every angle 24 hours a day. And lives inside the world’s biggest set. The Truman Show is a fantastic dark comedy that uses its sci-fi trappings to make great statements on humanity’s voyeuristic nature. In fact, with the continual expansion of surveillance technology, the Truman Show is more relevant now than ever.
4. Sci-Fi Action – Dredd
While on a training exercise Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and rookie judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) get locked inside a futuristic skyscraper full of bloodthirsty gang members. With no retreat, the only option is to fight to the top to get out. Dredd’s futuristic setting explores many pressing issues such as the justice system and overpopulation, but it also facilitates some of the best action of the past decade.
5. Sci-Fi Horror – A Cure for Wellness
Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) goes to a remote wellness centre to retrieve his CEO. However, he soon becomes injured, meaning he can’t leave, and he begins to believe the facility is hiding something sinister. But what is happening and can Lockhart escape? A Cure for Wellness feels like a classic Universal horror film. Where the gothic atmosphere is thick and engaging. And the minor sci-fi ingredients greatly amplify the horror.
6. Sci-Fi Drama – Proxima
Sarah (Eva Green) is training to become an astronaut but she must try to balance her training with her family life, particularly preparing her daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant) for when she leaves. Proxima is an amazing look at the physical and emotional hardships astronauts go through to prepare for space travel, but it’s also an affecting family drama and an inspiring tribute to female astronauts. It’s also buoyed by Green and Boulant’s excellent performances.
7. Alien Sci-Fi – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
After Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) has a mysterious encounter with an unidentified flying object he and the government begin investigating and trying to contact alien life. Close Encounters is a fantastic exploration of how obsession with the unexplainable can negatively affect people and can also be used to cross boundaries.
8. Steampunk Sci-Fi – Castle in the Sky
Sheeta (Keiko Yokozawa) holds the key to finding Laputa, the castle in the sky, and along with Pazu (Mayumi Tanaka), she must try to outrun the pirates and a government agent trying to find Laputa for greed and conquest. A touchstone of modern steampunk fiction, Castle in the Sky is a thrilling adventure with a fun story and wonderful characters who populate an inventive fantasy world that melds modern and primitive technology together beautifully.
9. Children’s Sci-Fi – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
When Peter Parker dies Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) must become his world’s Spider-man and defeat the Kingpin with the help of the spider-people of several realities. Into the Spider-Verse is perfect kids science fiction because it’s full of great action, gorgeous visuals, and creative use of sci-fi concepts like alternate realities. But it’s also grounded by a fantastic lead, a great supporting cast, and a positive message about carving your own path.
10. Surreal Sci-Fi – Sorry to Bother You
Cassius (LaKeith Stanfield) begins losing touch with his roots after being promoted at his telemarketing company until he discovers a new project the company is working on. Sorry to Bother You is a vehicle for social commentary. This movie critiques capitalism, race, media and uses sci-fi elements to create a riveting dystopian portrait of contemporary life.
Those are just 10 great sci-fi movies available on Netflix. If you have any favourites we missed, let us know.
The past year has been tough for film festivals. With Coronavirus posing a severe threat, festivals had two options: postponement or heading online. And so, many decided to make the jump to online screenings.
Today we will explore the positives and negatives of moving online. As well as the impact it could have on film festivals in the future. But first, let’s look at how some festivals took their experience online.
How Film Festivals Went Online
The main consideration when moving online was how the festivals were going to host their selection of films. Major brands found two methods to accomplish this:
Lastly, there are worries about how online showings can negatively affect smaller films. Because several major festivals are only showing a limited number of movies, smaller films might not have the opportunity to receive the profile boost that would come with being a part of a big festival. And some argue that giving premiere rights to festivals using streaming services will deter future distributors.
But the positives arguably outweigh the cons. Firstly, it offers convenience for viewers by allowing festival selections to be viewed from home. Without needing to spend money on travel and accommodation. Which helps improve the festival’s brand while allowing a larger amount of people to financially contribute to the festival.
Lastly, it further legitimizes the online sphere within an industry continually apprehensive about the internet. Showing with successes like The London Film Festival that digital screenings (in whole or in part) can attract big audiences.
Can Festivals Go Back to Normal?
While many view moving online as temporary, it’s hard to see future festivals going back to being entirely physical after the COVID-19 threat has passed. Because this experiment allows a vaster range of people access to the festival’s materials it would seem silly to shut out this potential audience when things return to normal. It’s probably more likely that as festivals go forward they will try to incorporate online elements alongside the physical experience. As it will allow festivals to take more money and act as a really good tool for attracting those without the finance needed to physically attend.
In summation, despite some downsides, the move online greatly benefits film festivals, fans, and workers across the world. Whether partnering with streaming giants or using their own portals it’s hard to see the festival experience going entirely back to in-person screenings once COVID has been tackled.
Finally, listed below are several upcoming online festivals for you to keep an eye on. Warning, some festival features are geo-blocked:
The horrific year of 2020 played host to many new horror film gems, like The Invisible Man (2020), Saint Maud,Relic, and more. After such a frightfully good year can 2021 top it?
Today we’re looking through 8 exciting upcoming horror releases that will (hopefully) release this year. We will give a brief synopsis of what we know about these films. And explain why you should be excited to see them.
Ben Wheatley’s latest film focuses on a scientist and a park scout going on an equipment run after a virus infects the world (topical). Wheatley’s projects are always fascinating thanks to his ability to get great performances from his actors and effectively build atmosphere. In the Earth also sees Wheatley round up prior collaborators, including Reece Shearsmith (A Field in England), Hayley Squires, and Mark Monero (Happy New Year, Colin Burstead). Let’s hope this is another winner.
Carlson Young’s debut feature is about a woman drawn into a surreal world where her sister is still alive. This movie deserves more attention from the trailer alone. The candy-coloured lighting juxtaposes brilliantly against a foreboding soundtrack and frightening images. Like a smiling man in black, and a worried girl amongst her smiling friends. The Blazing World looks like David Lynch meets Suspiria (1977). What a nightmarish treat.
From cult director Sion Sono (Suicide Club and Love Exposure) this action, horror, thriller follows a notorious criminal (Nicolas Cage) who must break an evil curse to recover a missing girl. While the story sounds generic the pairing of Cage’s and Sono’s odd talents could lead to another Cage cult horror hit like Mandy and Colour Out of Space. With production stills showing Nic Cage’s quintessential mania, Prisoners of the Ghostland looks like a fun time.
This MCU adjacent Sony movie focuses on Morbius, the living vampire. Jared Leto plays brilliant biochemist Michael Morbius whose experiments to cure himself of a disease result in him developing abilities such as super strength, echolocation, and gaining a thirst for human blood. With a horror-inspired aesthetic Morbius looks like a welcome attempt to try something different from other MCU films. Let’s hope this horror comic book film lands better than New Mutants.
When a young woman obsessed with 1960s fashion travels back in time and meets her idol things take a dark turn as time begins falling apart. Last Night in Soho comes to us from Edgar Wright. Wright”s track record alone should entice anyone to see this movie. And with a cast that includes Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, Rita Tushingham, and the late Diana Rigg, Last Night in Soho should be on everyone’s radar.
Whenever A24 releases a new horror film the horror community takes notice. Starring Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, David Lowery’s latest project reimagines the classic folktale with a decidedly darker edge. The trailer should excite any horror fan. Full of creeping camerawork, unnerving music, and nightmarish fantasy creatures, The Green Knight looks set to please fans of the niche studio.
Finally, little is known about this project, but it’s a reportedly original idea from horror master James Wan. Who birthed great modern horror films like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring movies. And honestly, that pedigree is all you should need to be excited.
There you have 8 upcoming horror releases you should watch (if possible) this year. Are there any future horror releases you’re anticipating? Please let us know.
Zombies have definitely become overexposed in the past decade, but does Il Cho’s recent zombie film #Alive offer anything new? Join me as I review the Netflix original to see if it’s worth checking out.
Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-In), who lives with his family and spends most of his time streaming himself playing videogames, wakes up one morning to find the news talking about the spread of a disease that is causing people to become rabid and consume human flesh. He soon becomes trapped inside his parent’s apartment. Although he posts a rescue request on social media, he soon faces the prospect of surviving on his own. Driven to despair he thinks about ending his life. However, he is saved when he finds another living person in his apartment complex, Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-Hye). Finally having something to live for they both decide to manoeuvre to the top of the complex to be safer. But is it really as safe as they think?
What Did I Like?
With the themes of disease and isolation playing on everyone’s minds this year, #Alive seems very relevant. And the way it explores these themes feels quite captivating from a cinematic perspective. In the first half, the film has long stretches without dialogue. As Joon-Woo attempts to navigate through the world’s ever-growing craziness. And sometimes Joon-Woo speaks to himself or people who can’t respond. Which is a very accurate dramatic way of showcasing the isolation and growing mania of the main character. The film conveying information to the audience through television news and social media also feels very realistic. And is an effective way of placing us in Joon-woo’s perspective.
Coupled with this the film has some fantastic central performances. Yoo Ah-In is impeccable as the immature tech-obsessed Oh Joon-Woo. Managing to make us laugh at his obliviousness and over the top actions while also making us empathise with his position. Park Shin-Hye is also really good as survivalist Kim Yoo-bin. She’s very much the straight person to Joon-woo’s more animated personality, and her cold put-downs of him are very funny. Combined with this she is also a very warm presence in her private moments and she really sells her action-heavy scenes. Making her into a funny heroine who knows how to handle herself in a hairy situation but still has a very relatable human core. And special mention must go to late player Jeon Bae-soo who leaves a great impact as the only survivor on the top floor, with an outwardly inviting attitude hiding something sinister.
What Did I Not Like?
Unfortunately, #Alive is held back by much of its story feeling rather generic. Most of the film’s plot beats – the outbreak, failure of the government to respond, survivors teaming up to take on the horde – are by now standard for zombie films. Making #Alive seem very stale. While the potentially refreshing elements (the idea of facing the peril alone or how social media might affect someone’s understanding of the apocalypse) are either underdeveloped or are jettisoned by the halfway point. Which leaves the film feeling like just another zombie movie with some half-hearted gimmicks added on.
The production work is also lacking. With the constant jump cuts being very distracting; making the film seem rather amateurish instead of contributing to any sort of presentational effect. The lacklustre musical score also adds little to the overall experience. Not to mention the only standout visual decision is to incorporate drone footage into the narrative. Otherwise, the film’s visual presentation is very conventional. Leaving little of interest from a stylistic perspective.
Finally, the film’s climax feels very out of step with the rest of the film. With the ever-darkening tone suddenly dropped for a hopeful ending. It sees the two main characters rescued by the army because of Joon-Woo’s social media post. Not only does this feel tonally contrary to the rest of the movie but it also feels very implausible. As the post was made days before the rescue effort. Meaning there was no guarantee that the main characters were still alive. So why would army resources be used on this? And with the film focusing little on social media outside of the first act, this conclusion feels inappropriate.
#Alive has some great central performances. As well as some unique ideas for how to explore isolation and the spread of disease. With that said #Alive is let down by not committing to its more interesting ideas. The result is a project that despite some inventive ingredients ultimately becomes like every other zombie movie. Which is further diminished by some poor production decisions. As well as the out-of-place conclusion. Consequently #Alive is little more than a fun disposable distraction.
The Miracle on 34th Street films are the perfect antidote to Christmas cynicism. They are about an old man who thinks he’s Santa Claus and how his selflessness conflicts with the modern world. It shows that sometimes we need to believe in the impossible to better ourselves and the world around us. But which version did it better?
Today we’re comparing the 1947 classic, the 1994 remake, and the 1973 TV movie of Miracle on 34th Street. We will analyse the films in several categories to determine which movies performed certain things better. And at the end, we will tally up the score to see which Miracle is the best. Let’s begin.
Who is the best Kris Kringle?
First let’s explore the story’s central character, Kris Kringle. The old man who believes he’s Santa Claus. Over the years this role has been played by Edmund Gwenn, Sebastian Cabot, and Richard Attenborough. But who is the best St. Nick?
From the outset, Sebastian Cabot’s Kris Kringle is far too mean and bitter to be considered a good Santa. Even if the filmmakers were trying to make Santa more mean it doesn’t fit the film’s otherwise light tone. Either way, Cabot’s Santa cannot beat his competitors.
Conversely, Edmund Gwenn feels like the real Santa. Despite his stern streak, which comes out when people abuse his friends or don’t take the responsibility of Christmas seriously, he also emits an aura of pure warmth and joy. The happiness on his face when he makes children smile and the jolly nature he has towards life is infectious. He deserves the name, Kris Kringle.
Richard Attenborough’s performance chooses a very different angle. Throughout the film, he subtly hints, through doubtful looks in his eyes, that he doesn’t believe he is the real Father Christmas. But his all-around loveable nature gives the impression of a regular man trying to show it is possible to live your life with the spirit of Christmas. He also lacks Gwenn’s harder edge. Making him closer to the modern image of Santa.
Ultimately Gwenn and Attenborough are too good to choose between. Gwenn feels like Father Christmas translated into the real world. Attenborough feels like an ordinary man trying to accomplish the impossible task of being Father Christmas. Both portrayals offer something intriguing and both actors do fantastic work. Therefore, they have both earned the title of Kris Kringle.
Winner: Tie – Miracle on 34th Street 1947 and 1994
Who is the best Susan?
Next, we must consider the story’s other central pillar. The young disbelieving girl who Kris tries to turn into a believer by granting her wish for a house and also a family.
Again the 1973 Susan comes nowhere near the other versions’ quality. Suzanne Davidson does fine with the material. Unfortunately, this script makes Susan feel like a brat who deserves nothing for Christmas.
However, as with Kris Kringle, the 1947 and 1994 Susan’s are characterised differently but are equally interesting. Natalie Wood (1947) and Mara Wilson (1994) feel like real children rather than actors. An incredible example of their abilities as child performers.
Natalie Wood’s Susan is a precocious young person whose knowledge has gone to her head. But this characterisation makes it very satisfying when Kris begins convincing her that sometimes it’s better to have a child’s faith. Rather than being wholly realistic. It’s a testament to the writing and Wood’s performance that Susan never becomes unlikable. She just feels like a child realising that everything isn’t solely black and white.
Comparatively, Mara Wilson’s Susan feels more tragic. She isn’t happy knowing what she knows. She looks robbed of the opportunity to be a child. Which is a great consequence of the plot thread about her mother’s divorce. You feel that Wilson’s Susan wants to believe but doesn’t want to be hurt again. Which makes her character journey quite emotionally resonant.
Yet again it’s impossible to pick between the 1947 and 1994 versions. Wood is a likeable presence despite her stuck-up nature and her arc is more dramatically satisfying. Meanwhile, Wilson gives a layered, sympathetic performance that has you feeling more for her Susan. Thus both deserve to win the round.
Winner: Tie – Miracle on 34th Street 1947 and 1994
Who has the best Supporting Cast?
Now we must review the Miracle on 34th Street films other players. And how well they perform their roles.
Miracle 1973s only notable supporting characters are Bill Schaffner (David Hartman), who is alternately charming and creepy because of how he acts around Susan’s mother. And Dr. Sawyer (Roddy McDowall), who is more sympathetic yet more over-the-top than his 1947 counterpart. Everyone else is entirely forgettable.
1994s Miracle fairs better. Elizabeth Perkins gives a great emotionally vulnerable performance as Dorey Walker. The humorously evil corporate underlings Jack Duff (James Remar) and Alberta Leonard (Jane Leeves) are fun to watch. And Robert Prosky’s Judge Harper elicits great sympathy with little screen time. The problem with the 1994 movie is that while people like Perkins and Prosky are good, other performers like Dylan McDermott as Bryan Bedford are very wooden. And characters such as the rival Santa (Jack McGee) border self-parody with their over-the-top actions. Resulting in the good elements feeling hampered.
The 1947 supporting cast is the best. Every character has motivation, feels different, and every actor perfectly fits their role. Maureen O’Hara’s Doris Walker is immaculate. An overly realistic working mother with a genuinely good moral compass. John Payne’s Fred Gailey is incredibly charming. Never wavering in his affection for the Walker’s and Kris despite the challenges he faces. Gene Lockhart’s Judge Harper is very funny. But his obsession with re-election also makes him feel like a real judge. And other players are very memorable. Like worrying store clerk Mr. Shellhammer (Philip Tonge). Dr. Sawyer (Porter Hall) the grouchy psychiatrist with marriage problems. And lovably naive Alfred (Alvin Greenman).
Through its mix of all-around great performances and writing, the original Miracle has the best supporting cast.
Winner: Miracle on 34th Street 1947
Which version tells the story best?
Finally, we look at each film’s story and ask which film tells the narrative in the best way?
All three movies have essentially the same story though with some differences. A man called Kris Kringle becomes the head Santa at a huge store after performing well during a thanksgiving parade. The woman who hired him is a single mother, raising her daughter, Susan, to be a realist. But Kris says that he is the real Santa. Susan wants Kris to prove this by getting her a house (and potentially a family). Which Kris accepts. Many people believe Kris is insane. When pushed too far he strikes out and is arrested and committed. To clear Kris’s name the mother’s love interest agrees to be his lawyer and prove Kris is the real Santa Claus.
The 1994 version’s plot differs the most. Focusing much more on corporate sabotage. With Kris’ disgrace used more as a corporate smear rather than because he is perceived as dangerous. The courtroom procedures are presented more realistically than other versions. And Susan’s wish is changed to something more conventionally unobtainable. That being a house, a dad, and a baby brother. Some of these differences are appreciated. E.g. treating the court scenes more realistically makes the pay off more satisfying. However, the contrast of these realistic elements alongside outlandish plot points such as Kris getting Susan’s mother married and the over-the-top depiction of corporate bosses makes the film feel tonally disparate. And can sometimes feel like the film focuses more on plot action than characters.
The only difference the 1973 film’s plot has from the original is the elaboration of Kris’ friendship with Alfred (Barry Greenberg). Unfortunately this film doesn’t give certain elements enough time to breathe. For example, the scene where Kris tells shoppers to buy gifts at other stores comes and goes rather quickly. Without really impacting the rest of the film. Because of this rushed pace, the story is hard to invest in and the emotional moments feel unearned.
Meanwhile, despite the 1947 film’s plot conveniences e.g. the mail solution coming into the story by chance, the plot flows quite naturally. Largely because the story feels dictated by the characters. With everyone’s motivation and personality informing their actions rather than the characters being forced along by the plot. The pacing is perfect. Each plot point has enough time to sit with the audience before it’s developed. And it weaves a sense of whimsy throughout while also not overdoing it. With the prime example being how Susan gets her wish through a mixture of playful leading from Kris, and Doris and Fred deciding to buy the house to start a new life. Making this version feel simultaneously grounded and magical.
The 1947 Miracle on 34th Street tells its story in a way that feels natural. While also being charmingly whimsical and grounded thanks to its character work and subtly effective writing.
Winner: Miracle on 34th Street 1947
Overall Winner: Miracle on 34th Street 1947
Ignore the 1973 film at all costs. Apart from that, the 1947 and 1994 Miracle on 34th Street’s are good-natured defences of imagination and a push back against holiday pessimism. Both versions have iconic lead performances from Edmund Gwenn and Richard Attenborough. Furthermore, both have great child performances from Natalie Wood and Mara Wilson.
The 1994 version is also very entertaining. Updating the concept of defending Santa Claus to fit a modern audience. But with a well-rounded, memorable supporting cast, and a story that balances the fantastical with the mundane as well as being dramatically engaging, natural, and satisfying, the original 1947 Miracle on 34th Street deserves the title of the best version of the story. It’s a Christmas classic for a reason.
It’s Christmas time again. Time to watch some Christmas movies. But while classics, like It’s a Wonderful Life, are great; watching the same films constantly can get boring.
So today we’re giving you some new holiday films to watch by recommending the best Christmas movies from the past decade. To ensure a wide variety of selections the films will be recommended by genre.
Best New Christmas Animation: Arthur Christmas
On Christmas Eve a child’s present gets misplaced. But Santa (Jim Broadbent) and his cold, technical son Steve (Hugh Laurie) aren’t interested in its delivery. So, Santa’s clumsy other son Arthur (James McAvoy), Grandsanta (Bill Nighy), and elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) decide to do something.
Arthur Christmas is charming. Updating the Santa story for modern audiences with Aardman’s trademark whimsicalness. The voice work is stellar. Bill Nighy’s and Jim Broadbent’s older Santa’s are particularly great, and James McAvoy’s Arthur is infectiously endearing. The modern and traditional Christmas designs blend wonderfully. And its message of unity taking Christmas into the future is incredibly meaningful. Arthur Christmas will put a smile on everyone’s face.
Best New Christmas Drama: The Hunt (2012)
In this Danish drama, teacher Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is falsely accused by his student Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) of doing something heinous. As a result, his friends, colleagues, and neighbours turn on him and his family.
The Hunt is much darker than your average Christmas film, but the holiday setting adds a poignant edge as people begin casting stones at Lucas. The writing is hard-hitting while also making everyone recognisably human in their actions. And Mads Mikkelsen gives one of his best performances. The Hunt shows that innocent people are capable of doing cruel things to each other. But that we are also capable of something more.
Best New Christmas Romance: Carol
Carol is about shy wannabe photographer Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett), who is fighting a custody battle. When they meet in the store where Therese works, there is instant electricity between them. Which over the course of the holiday becomes a relationship. But can their love survive the time they live in?
Carol is a beautiful movie to watch around the holidays. The cold snowy backdrop beautifully contrasts the warm central relationship (Blanchett and Mara are fantastic), the festive red and green hues in the production design, and the themes of love and togetherness perfectly fit the holiday setting. So, if you want to get lovey-dovey this year, snuggle up and watch Carol.
Best New Christmas Comedy: Tangerine
Tangerine follows transgender sex workers Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) on Christmas Eve as they scour Los Angeles for the pimp who broke Sin-Dee’s heart.
Tangerine is a foul-mouthed inversion of traditional Christmas films. There’s no snow, Santa, and little jollity. The characters spend their time mostly hurling abuse at each other. But because of that Tangerine feels refreshing. It shows us the lives of groups seldom represented in popular culture, in a very real way (Tangerine was filmed on an iPhone making it look more grounded). But it’s also scathingly funny and heartbreakingly moving thanks to a great script and the very talented unknown leads. Which is worth celebrating.
Best New Christmas Horror: Better Watch Out (2016)
This holiday horror focuses on Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) who is babysitting Luke (Levi Miller) while his parents are out. But things take a turn after it becomes clear that someone wants to get in the house. For what reason? You will never suspect.
Despite the generic setup and some cringy moments, Better Watch Out is a treat to watch unfold, as its standard narrative soon gives way to something more engaging. The beautiful festive design (full of fairy lights and popping bright colours) and fun performances, especially that of Levi Miller, are also more than enough to keep you invested. By the end, you will be satisfied with this winter wonderland whirlwind.
Best New Christmas Musical: Anna and the Apocalypse
It’s almost the Christmas holidays and Anna (Ella Hunt) has decided to go travelling when she leaves school, against her father’s (Mark Benton) wishes. But when zombies invade her hometown, she must work with her friends to save their loved ones.
Anna and the Apocalypse is a musical, horror, comedy, high school drama that works surprisingly well. The small-town comedy and zombie horror fit together perfectly. The drama feels earned thanks to the great writing and well-done performances. The music is a great extension of the character’s personalities. And the Christmas setting makes for some lovely set design, gags, and Christmas inflected musical numbers. A real treat for music lovers.
So ends our list of some of the best Christmas movies of the past decade. Please tell us your favourite festive movies from the last 10 years in the comments.
To mark its 40th anniversary and the sad passing of actor David Prowse today we are reviewing the original version of what many (including myself) consider to be both the best Star Wars film and one of the best films ever made, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Three years after destroying the Death Star, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and the rebels are hiding from imperial forces. Who are led by Darth Vader (David Prowse & James Earl Jones). After the rebels retreat from the planet Hoth, Luke leaves for Dagobah. To continue his Jedi training with Master Yoda (Frank Oz). Meanwhile, Vader, at the behest of the Emperor (Clive Revill), relentlessly pursues Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) to use them against Luke. The story culminates at Bespin’s Cloud City where the battle for the galaxy changes forever.
What did I like?
Empire’s production work is astounding. Sequences like the asteroid field chase required an incredible amount of work to accomplish, in terms of effects. But it feels more fluid and dramatically engaging than many modern action films. Wonderful creations like Yoda, despite being a puppet, feel very real. Thanks to the great puppetry and direction. And I must mention John Williams’ score. Which weaves between, romance, mysticism, blistering action, and oncoming doom without ever feeling overdone or misplaced. And contains the introduction of arguably film’s most iconic musical piece, the Imperial March.
Then there is Empire’s fantastic script. Which makes each character, even minor ones, feel fully rounded. While managing to be both funny, with plenty of moments of levity. And brave, as many characters end the movie having lost something. But because these emotions are built-up effectively and feel in keeping with the character’s personalities it all works. Also many may not notice Irvin Kershner’s direction thanks to the film’s natural flow. But subtle touches, like showing Vader’s power through his ship’s shadow falling over the imperial fleet, or the slow-motion Dagobah cave fight, create an effective foreboding atmosphere. Without being distracting.
And there’s the fantastic cast. A New Hope’s leads (Hamill, Ford, and Fisher) now feel more comfortable in their roles and really show their range. Believably taking their characters to brave new places. Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) is an intriguingly complex addition, who effortlessly navigates many conflicting motivations and emotions throughout his journey. Frank Oz’s Yoda is fascinating, with his weary voice and broken speech hiding the galaxy’s wisest being. Clive Revill and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) leave a great impression with incredibly brief screen time. But the MVPs are James Earl Jones and David Prowse who have more time to shine as Darth Vader. Prowse’s intimidating figure and mannerisms and Jones’ deep vocals make Vader feel like a terrifying force of nature. But they also give Vader a lot of depth through subtle vocal ticks and physical actions. Making him into the perfect cinematic villain.
What did I not like?
Reluctantly, some criticisms of Empire are worth addressing. Firstly, the special edition releases, which update the film’s effects and included elements to fit later series continuity e.g. including Return of the Jedi’s Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, aren’t needed. The original version is so brilliantly constructed that even minor green screen glitches never ruin the experience. Other changes serve only to remind you of other franchise films. Or to fix what didn’t need fixing (e.g. Luke screaming as he falls in Cloud City) rather than improving the story. The original version is superior.
Some also feel that Empire isn’t as strong without the first movie to attach us to the characters. However, through action and dialogue, Empire does a great job at filling in the gaps. Allowing us to easily invest in our players without needing prior knowledge.
Finally, many point to storytelling elements like the time scale and Luke’s ready belief of the twist, as narrative flaws. Regarding the time scale – Luke appears to train with Yoda for days while the Millennium Falcon crew appears to be fleeing for only a few hours – there is no concrete timeline for the length of each story. So there’s enough room for it to not affect the overall narrative flow. And while initially, Luke appears to swallow the twist too easily, plenty of information is seeded about his father’s dark past and Luke’s downfall is his unwillingness to believe the seemingly impossible. Making Luke’s ready belief make more sense.
Empire’s only flaws are either softened upon repeat viewings, problems of public perception, or the product of unnecessary re-editing. Everything else about Empire is perfect. Whether it’s the writing, directing, performances, the score, or the production work. The Empire Strikes Back is, for me, the greatest film ever made.
Everyone knows Waterworld. The Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic action film has gained a reputation as one of the most expensive flops in history.
Waterworld also earned many lukewarm reviews. Currently, it sits at 46% on RT and a 6.2 rating on IMDb. But today we’ll be looking back at Waterworld. Seeing what worked, what didn’t, and asking, was it really that bad?
“Nothing’s Free in Waterworld”
After the polar ice caps have melted, humanity survives by scavenging the seas. The one hope to find dry land is Enola (Tina Majorino), a young girl with the supposed location tattooed on her back. But who will find land first? The destructive Smokers lead by Deacon (Dennis Hopper) or the self-centred water breathing Mariner (Kevin Costner)?
Then there’s the design work. The sets, costumes, and props effectively evoke the future post-apocalyptic aesthetic of films like Mad Max. As well as the classic cinematic look of old westerns (with saloon sets) and swashbuckling pirate adventures. All of this makes the world of Waterworld feel familiar and pleasingly unique.
And there is Dennis Hopper’s performance as Deacon. Deacon is a classic over the top pantomime villain. He lays waste to entire cities and threatens to kill people when they bring him bad news. All while wearing a fitting eyepatch. But Hopper commits to it with enthusiasm. Managing to be both funny and intimidating. He is undoubtedly the film’s bright spot.
“Do Something, I Hate Sails”
Unfortunately, Waterworld’s unique ideas are underserved by a film that is thoroughly generic. The film’s characters never advance beyond broad post-apocalyptic movie archetypes: the morally dubious loner who ultimately has a good heart, the innocent family, the villains obsessed with consuming the world’s resources, etc. But because they do little to differentiate themselves from other similar characters it becomes hard to invest in them.
Which isn’t helped by the acting. Aside from Hopper, everyone else reaches nothing beyond passable. The worst offender is Costner who has neither the edge needed to pull off his character’s supposed amoral nature nor the enthusiasm to make his emotional turn feel earned.
Finally aside from the sea setting, the promised land in a ravaged post-apocalypse narrative has little to make it stand out. The story does have details that would have been worth expanding on. Such as how Deacon rose to power and accumulated so much oil, the Mariner’s mutant abilities, and how Enola came to have the tattoo on her. But these details are either skirted over or avoided entirely. Leaving us with a dull story and intriguing details that don’t add up to much.
Was It Really That Bad? Yes
Waterworld’s production scale and technical execution are awe-inspiring. And the unique set and production design and Denis Hopper’s performance are great. But unfortunately, the positives are a minority.
Most of the film is generic. The characters are flat, stock archetypes rather than fully rounded people. Which isn’t helped by the lacklustre performances, especially that of Kevin Costner. The story is cookie cutter. And potentially interesting story details are either skirted over or not expanded at all. For a film that costs so much, everyone should expect more.
Over the years certain opinions have become dominant in the film community, such as Citizen Kane is the greatest movie ever made, the Star Wars prequels are bad; Hollywood is out of ideas and it becomes unpopular to disagree. But, today we are going to look at some unpopular film opinions on Twitter, and analyse what makes them unpopular.
When most people speak about the Bill and Ted films, they talk about the first entry, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Which is understandable, because it is the highest-rated and highest-grossing film in the franchise. But Direct Questions thinks the claim that it’s the series’ best film is bogus. He believes Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is the superior film.
The opinion that children in movies are more annoying than they are effective is nothing new. Though kids in horror films not being scary when movies like The Innocents (1961), The Exorcist, The Omen (1976), andThe Shining (1980) exist? Eric S. Kim’s opinion is definitely controversial.
Many agree that trailers and reviews sometimes give too much away. But how much should you know about a movie to become interested? To Rigmarole Film a movie is improved vastly when you know as little as possible going in. And therefore, have more of an open mind.
10. Henry Cavill’s Superman
Henry Cavill’s Superman films generally divided opinion among both audiences and critics. However, some people, like (thereal)Chris Grant Jr., consider him to be their favourite Superman portrayal.
So ends our brief look at unpopular film opinions circulating social media. What do you think about some of these controversial opinions? What are some of your film hot takes? Please let us know.
Right now I imagine everyone is looking for ways to help them des-tress and reduce anxiety in this stressful year. Well according to Sorina Daniela Dumtrache’s article “The Effects of a Cinema-therapy Group on Diminishing Anxiety in Young People”, cinema is just what we need. Today we are going to be looking over the details of Dumtrache’s Science Direct article. We will look at what methods the study used to explore its hypothesis and the conclusions the study came to. But first, let’s briefly summarise the study’s aims.
This study’s purpose was to identify how cinematic-therapy (use of cinema and/or movies to help with mental health issues) affected the personal development (namely the anxiety levels) of young participants. The study’s other purpose was building, enacting, and adapting a personal development cinema-therapy program to help its participants. But how did they plan on doing this and measuring the results?
This study used 60 subjects selected using cluster sampling. 30 participants were used in an experimental sample (focusing on using cinema therapy). 30 were used in a control sample (separate from the influence of the cinema therapy study). The participants were all between 19 and 22 years old.
Dumtrache then began the study, at the initial meeting before the cinema sessions, the experimental groups discussed the types of films they wanted to see as well as games they could use to test each other’s inter-knowledge and find out their problems and needs. There were then 10 cinema group sessions. These sessions began with the therapists instructing the participants to focus attention on one’s own inner moods and experiences. Then they watched the movies and afterwards looked at personal analysis and group awareness. The final session focused on feedback and used the Hamilton Anxiety Questionnaires to attain the group’s final anxiety levels.
After the researchers collected the data from the control and experimental groups, they used the “t-test statistical procedure” to test for the differences between the samples. And they found there was a more significant drop in anxiety levels with the experimental group than the Control group. Thus, showing that the use of films in therapy helped to reduce the participants’ anxiety.
Whether you’re watching films with a cinema audience or your friends and family at home, movies are a powerful force that can restructure and transform our lives. And especially with everything the world is going through, we need movies to help us relax. Now more than ever.
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