Author: Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.

Some of the Worst Ideas In Cinema History

March 4, 2021
Oceans 12

Sometimes, despite millions of dollars, a selection of Oscar-winning actors, an endless stream of talented writers and crew, filmmakers have terrible ideas. As the first sentence explains this article will not be about films that have bad ideas and are small films rather films that have every possible advantage and still get it wrong. Whether it’s putting aliens in Indiana Jones or making your prequel trilogy start off with people arguing taxation sometimes the best filmmakers make mistakes.

Spoiler Warning – Spoilers for Ocean’s 12, the Alien films and X-Men: First Class

The Worst Idea Ever

Ocean’s 11 is an enjoyably silly heist film, George Clooney is his charming self, Don Cheadle has a ridiculous Cockney accent and they even had filmmaking legend, Carl Reiner, in it. Ocean’s 12, however, did the worst thing any film has ever done. This is not worst in terms of morality but worst in terms of the worst idea anyone has ever had for a film. This takes some beating. After all, there have been nine films in the Fast & Furious franchise with two more planned, so that’s nine bad ideas in a row, with each idea getting exponentially worse. However, these films are just bad and ultimately that is a matter of opinion and I know that many people love these films. Ocean’s 12 though cannot be countenanced.

Ocean's 12 - Warner Bros
Ocean’s 12 // Credit: Warner Bros.

Ocean’s 12 starts in a typical heist film fashion with the team being brought together, in this one the person they stole from last time is out for revenge and demands they do a job for him. Fairly standard heist stuff. And then it goes off the rails. There is an artistic idea of “the willing suspension of disbelief” meaning that we put aside our parts of our critical thinking to simply enjoy a piece of art. Ocean’s 12 is determined to push this suspension to breaking point. One of the lynchpins of the heist is that Tess, played by Julia Roberts, looks quite like Julia Roberts, so she can pose as Julia Roberts. When watching Ocean’s 12, and indeed any film, we understand that these are actors portraying these characters. Whether that actor “exists” in the world of that film isn’t important as no one thinks that character looks like that actor, otherwise every film would constantly be full of people saying, “You know, you really look like Michael Caine.” So this insulting plan is put into action only for – and get this – Bruce Willis to show up! The real Bruce Willis who is of course friends with Julia Roberts! Oh, the shenanigans that ensue.

Perhaps the worst thing about this is the filmmakers seem convinced this is the Greatest Idea of All Time! Like the “why don’t they make restaurants that look like food” idea for architects, this has occurred to every filmmaker and quickly is dismissed. There are films that play with similar “meta” ideas in good ways – in A Cock and Bull Story Steve Coogan plays both Tristram Shandy and a version of himself making a film about Tristram Shandy. The Last Action Hero plays with many of the little inconsistencies that make films work, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Pleasantville, Wandavision all play with these ideas but the difference being that is the point of those films – that is what they’re exploring.

Ruining What Came Before

Alient 3
Alien 3 // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

As I’ve written about before I am a huge fan of the film Aliens, and believe it does the near-impossible challenge of adding a young child to a film who not only isn’t annoying but improves the film. Ripley’s relationship with Newt makes that film. So why on Earth in Alien 3 is Newt killed at the start? And even worse – she is not killed in service to the story, she is killed in a sentence or two about problems with the ship. Imagine if in The Lost World: Jurassic Park we learned the children from the first film had died off-screen? Alien 3 famously had something of a development hell, with numerous scripts being written and tossed out but even so, it’s hard to imagine how they settled on this script.

X-Men First Class // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
X-Men First Class // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Magneto might be the most interesting character in the X-men films and probably the one who would have the most interesting origins film. So naturally what was meant to be the Magneto Origins film became X-Men: First Class. This is a film in which a survivor of the Holocaust literally rips the fillings out of a person’s teeth and it was thought that was what needed was the hijinks of young people. X-Men: First Class is half of a great film – a powerful mutant seeking revenge across the world caught up in the tumultuous events of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The scene in Argentina where Magneto confronts Nazis is astounding (although the choice for the final line to be delivered in English is bizarre) and the decision made by both Russian and American governments to kill the mutants who just saved the world goes further to explain the Magneto we know from the earlier films. He is a man haunted not just be what happened to his family at the hands of Nazis but even when he saved the world humans still wanted to kill him. But this incredibly dark storyline is combined with something far more light-hearted and neither storyline is served well by this combination.

So a brief look at some of the worst ideas and decisions in films and I’m sure there will be a lot more in the future.

Also Read: From Blockbuster to Mockbuster: Big Films and Their Copies

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Great Dance Moments In Non-Musical Films

March 2, 2021

People dance a lot in films. In some films, it’s practically all they do, but this article isn’t really about musicals or films where dancing is very much the point of the film. Often what I’m writing about isn’t even good dancing and it’s more about what dancing, perhaps even especially bad dancing, represents. This list will comprise of films made after 2000 – not because they are in any way superior but only a great deal has already been said about these older films – we’ve had great dancing like the iconic scene in Ex Machina, the impromptu and surprising musical number in 500 Days of Summer and The Artist celebrating the old Hollywood musicals.

Spoiler Warning for The Men Who Stare At Goats, The Shape of Water, Jojo Rabbit and Good Omens

You Can Dance…Just Someone Told You Not To

These were the brilliant words of Jeff Bridges’ character Bill Django in The Men Who Stare At Goats, an uneven film that contains one of my favourite scenes of all-time. Django is an army officer who after the horrors of the Vietnam War searches for a new path for the US Army and essentially becomes a hippy. He recruits soldiers for a special unit who will learn to become “Jedi Knights” and the very first thing he asks this unit to do is dance. When one soldier, Lyn Cassady, insists he doesn’t like dancing, Django disagrees. A flashback to the soldier’s youth shows him happily dancing to The Beatles as a child until his father yells at him for dancing. Cassady starts dancing and this indeed frees him and brings him happiness. In 45 seconds this film summed up a huge amount of the unhappiness in the world – someone told you that you should feel bad about something that makes you happy.

He Sees Me For What I Am, As I Am

Teh Shape of Water
The Shape of Water // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

One of the most surprising Best Picture Oscar-winning films ever is The Shape Of Water. This is not because it is not worthy, it is, but because it’s not the sort of film that normally wins Oscars. It is hard to overstate the importance of dancing in this film. Elisa is a janitor in a secret government facility, she is also mute, unable to speak due to a neck injury. She has a deep love of music, films and dancing and after they arrive at the secret facility a mysterious creature, listed in the credits as Amphibian Man, who also cannot speak. As neither can speak they communicate through other means – sign language and, well, dancing. There is a fantasy sequence in the film where they dance in a very Golden Era Hollywood musical performance, but for me, the more telling moments are the simpler examples of dancing. Dancing brings small moments of joy to unhappy people – Elisa, her neighbour Giles, and Amphibian Man. It is a method of communication that transcends the divide that exists between Elisa and Amphibian Man as well as showing it’s something all people – whether human or an amphibian man enjoy.

Dancing’s For People Who Are Free

Jojo Rabbit has a lot to say about dancing. Jojo is a young boy in Nazi Germany with something of an obsession with Hitler, indeed his imaginary friend is Hitler. It becomes apparent quickly that Jojo isn’t really a Nazi but drawn to the most famous person in the country. Nevertheless when he finds out that his mother is hiding Elsa, a Jewish girl a few years older than him, he is in a difficult position. Jojo’s instincts are to turn Elsa in, but then his mother will be in a lot of trouble. Jojo’s mother, Rosie, does not fit in in Nazi Germany. She is very much a free spirit and opposed to fascism and equates dancing to joy and love and freedom whereas Jojo has the narrow view that “dancing is for people who don’t have a job”. Again whilst living in Nazi Germany towards the end of the war (while it means hopefully things will change for the better, it also means soldiers fighting in your town) Rosie can find joy in something like dancing. Even more heartbreaking is Elsa’s answer to the question as to what she will do when she’s free – dance. Which is exactly what she does.

Angels Don’t Dance. It’s one of their defining characteristics

Aziraphale and Crowley - Good Omens
Aziraphale and Crowley – Good Omens // Credit: Amazon Studios

Perhaps the best moment of dancing in recent years is not from film at all but television. The tv show Good Omens is about the upcoming apocalypse…well what it’s really about is the wonder of being human – but the plot is about the apocalypse.  An angel, Aziraphale and a demon, Crowley, decide to work together to stop the apocalypse. These two have been Heaven and Hell’s agents on Earth for millennia and have grown quite attached to Earth and the people there (and against all odds, each other). Also, both have departed from the traditional views of their celestial brethren and this is shown in no better way than the fact that Aziraphale dances. The narrator, who is God, discusses the classic theological question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but starts by saying, well angels don’t dance, it is in fact, a defining characteristic. Aziraphale is the exception- defying his fellow angels, Heaven and God, just so he can dance. If you want to see the greatest portrayal of joy in the history of film and television watch Michael Sheen dancing in Good Omens.

Also Read: Did High-End TV Replace The Mid-Budget Indie Film?

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Oscar-Winning Directors Who Deserved Their Award For A Different Film

February 17, 2021
Oscar Awards

In my last article, I looked at actors who’ve won Oscars but perhaps for the wrong role but it is not only those in front of the camera where this mistake has been made with these filmmakers perhaps getting their Best Director Oscar for the wrong film.

Martin Scorsese

"I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh" Goodfellas
“I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh” Goodfellas // Credit: Warner Bros

What He Won For – When The Departed finally got Martin Scorsese his Best Director Oscar there was almost a universal declaration that is was for the wrong film. In fact, this is the film that inspired the whole article, the classic example of a the Academy rewarding a career of greatness rather than the particular film.

What He Should Have Won For – There are a lot of contenders but it is a crime for which someone should be arrested that he did not win for Goodfellas. This is one of the best films ever made and in my opinion, edges out even The Godfather as the definitive Mafia film. This is an epic story of crime, friendship and betrayal with some of the most memorable scenes in film history such as the long take entrance to the Copacabana, Joe Pesci asking if he is a clown and the stunning final scene wrapping up what has happened with Henry Hill’s narration. It is a practically perfect film.

Alfonso Cuaron

Children Of Men // Credit: Universal Pictures
Children Of Men // Credit: Universal Pictures

What He Won For – Cuaron has two Best Director, one for Roma and one for Gravity. As I have not seen Roma I cannot comment but I have seen Gravity. Again this is not a bad film, it’s a very good film but certainly feels more like a technical achievement than an artistic one. It is the only film I have seen where I thought it made sense to be in 3D, where the director actually did something worthwhile with that technology.

What He Should Have Won For – One of the great overlooked and underrated films of all time – Children of Men. This is one of the bleakest settings for a film ever yet ends up being hopeful. There are technically brilliant shots – such as two incredible long takes, one of a conversation and subsequent attack in a car which I’ve never been able to work out how it was filmed to the shot near the end of the film of Theo rushing through a warzone which is a contender for the best scene ever filmed. But there’s also a lot of emotion and caring, Theo’s relationship with Kee is very touching and Theo transforms from one of the most jaded and cynical people you can imagine to someone willing to die for someone else.

James Cameron

Game over, man, game over! - Aliens // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
Game over, man, game over! – Aliens // Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

What He Won For – In my younger less cinema-literate days I assumed there were two directors named James Cameron – Cool James Cameron and Not Cool James Cameron, one made brilliant sci-fi and the other made Titanic, but indeed they are the same person and Cameron got his Oscar for Titanic. This is a bad film that relies on the romanticism of the real Titanic. Certainly it is a visual spectacle and the sinking of the ship is very well done but still – it is a bad film.

What He Should Have Won For – Cameron can lay claim to making two of the best sequels ever Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Aliens but I think the latter narrowly takes it. In Aliens Cameron does something which is nearly impossible in that he introduces a young child character that not only isn’t annoying but improves the film. Ripley’s relationship with Newt basically becomes the central part of the film and has a big emotional impact. As well as this emotional weight the film has some of the greatest action scenes ever and is incredibly enjoyable. The Academy has a long history of disdain to science-fiction and not recognising the brilliance of Aliens is another part of that history.

Ron Howard

Frost/Nixon // Credit: Universal Pictures
Frost/Nixon // Credit: Universal Pictures

What He Won For A Beautiful Mind won four Oscars, including one for Ron Howard as director. Certainly not a bad film but hardly the best example of Howard’s talents.

What He Should Have Won For – Howard has a number of great films but Frost/Nixon is an astonishing achievement. An adaptation of a play where most of the dramatic moments are literally one person interviewing another does not scream cinematic but it is gripping. Perhaps the most dramatic moment, however, is not part of the interview, with Nixon calling Frost in a rant about they were both from humble backgrounds, were always looked down upon by the upper class and were going “to make them choke on our success” is unforgettable.

Also Read: Oscar-Winning Actors Who Deserved Their Award For A Different Role

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Oscar-Winning Actors Who Deserved Their Award For A Different Role

February 10, 2021
Anne Hathaway

There are many great actors who’ve never won an Oscar – Ian Mckellan, Alan Rickman (who was never even nominated), Annette Benning, Toni Colette to name a few – but there are some actors who have won an Oscar but some people are left wondering if they got it for the right role.

Al Pacino

Al Pacino in The Godfather
Al Pacino in The Godfather // Credit: Paramount Pictures

What He Won For: One of the all-time greats of acting Al Pacino has any number of roles where he deserved an Oscar, but amazingly the role that got him that award was for Scent of a Woman playing Frank Slade. Pacino is an actor who will take things to 11 and this perhaps gets the better of him in this film.

What He Should Have Won For – Without a doubt Al Pacino deserved an Oscar for The Godfather even if it meant depriving Marlon Brando of it. Michael Corleone not only looks like a different person at the end of The Godfather to the beginning, he is a different person. The audience sees the change he goes through from noble war hero who wants no part of the Mafia to the blood soaked crime-boss who shuts out the woman he loves from his life.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street // Credit: Paramount Pictures
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street // Credit: Paramount Pictures

What He Won For – It certainly felt like Leonardo DiCaprio was owed an Oscar and eventually he got it for The Revenant. He plays Hugh Glass a fur trapper who suffers and it seemed like it was suffering that won the award. The Academy can be very impressed by the ordeal an actor goes through for their art and this was certainly the case.

What He Should Have Won For – A very different role to nineteenth century man mauled by bear DiCaprio was brilliant as depraved stock broker Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. To me Belfort is one of the most appalling characters seen in cinema who doesn’t actually murder anyone but the performance is stunning and it is very hard to play so unlikeable a character.

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway in Colossal // Credit: Toy Fight Productions

What She Won For – Watching Les Miserables was one of the hardest cinema-going experiences I’ve ever had. Admittedly I’m no fan of musicals but Les Miserables managed to tick all the boxes of why that is. Hathaway was on screen for a total of fifteen minutes and perhaps other performances of hers may be more deserving.

What She Should Have Won For – This is very much a personal choice but Hathaway has never been better than Gloria in Colossal. This film deserves to be seen as one of the best of the 2010s but seems to have passed most people by. Hathaway is a sort-of writer with a drinking problem who finds her way back to her old home-town whilst on the other side of the world a giant monster is rampaging through South Korea. These events are not unconnected.

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon in Election // Credit: Paramount Pictures

What She Won For – Witherspoon was very good as June Carter in a Johnny Cash biopic that has not really stood the test of time. Of course in this film it is Cash who is the central character and Witherspoon never gets the opportunity to really shine

What She Should Have Won For – Comedy is harder than drama and these and Witherspoon is a great comic actor and her role as Tracey Flick is in Election is unforgettable. Some aspects of the film have not aged well but it is undeniable that Witherspoon is great, giving a performance of someone who is sometimes on the verge of snapping.

Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy // Credit: Studio Canal
Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy // Credit: Studio Canal

What He Won For – Playing Winston Churchill is a classic Oscar role and something that will appeal to the Academy voters. Oldman’s performance in Darkest Hour was by no means bad but also nothing spectacular

What He Should Have Won For – A role without the fanfare of Winston Churchill but nonetheless a much better performance – George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Solider Spy. Smiley is emotionally restrained to the point of being stationary and I only remember one outburst from him in the film – but that just makes it more effective. Smiley is the sort of character rarely seen in film these days and Oldman plays it perfectly.

Benicio Del Toro

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario // Credit: Lionsgate
Benicio Del Toro in Sicario // Credit: Lionsgate

What He Won For – Del Toro won Best Supporting Actor for playing Mexican police officer Javier Rodriguez in 2000’s Traffic – a solid film but unmemorable.

What He Should Have Won For – Del Toro has a number of roles that would be contenders but his role as Alejandro in Sicario may be my favourite. Alejandro works alongside the Americans battling the drug cartels, his exact position is unclear but it is soon demonstrated that he has no restraint – showing no problems with torture or murder. The subdued anger of Del Toro is something to behold and he is genuinely terrifying.

Also Read: Oscar Worthy Characters [Part 1]: Vito Corleone

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Oscar Worthy Characters [Part 2]: The Joker

January 29, 2021
Joaquin Phoenix & Health Ledger

The second article looking at the only two characters where different actors have won an Oscar portraying them – Vito Corleone and the Joker. My last article focused on the character of Vito Corleone from The Godfather films, this time we’ll focus on The Joker. This character has been played by a lot of great actors – the last four film performances (not including animation) of the character were played by Oscar-winning actors. For two of those actors, the role that won them the Oscar was the Joker.


Why So Serious?

Heath Ledger as The Joker // Credit: Warner Bros
Heath Ledger as The Joker // Credit: Warner Bros.

For me, The Dark Knight trilogy is the high-watermark for superhero films, with The Dark Knight being the best. Superhero films are made great not by the hero but by the villain and Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker is the prime example of this. It was a stunning and memorable performance. Every scene with the Joker is fantastic and adds depth and understanding to the character. Whether it’s the Joker’s ever-changing scar-origin story, to his attack on his police convoy in which for most of it he has no lines but still conveys what is going on with the character, to the perhaps ad-libbed confused look when the hospital fails to explode, Ledger is amazing. Moving the character away from a criminal who just wants money to the agent of chaos was genius and it allowed the character to work against both Batman and the mobs he originally worked for. Ledger’s Joker became a cultural icon with some much of the design of that character becoming part of fashion and wider culture.

Can You Introduce Me As Joker?

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker // Credit: Warner Bros
Joaquin Phoenix as Joker // Credit: Warner Bros

Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is a very different character. There is much debate about this character and whether it is even meant to be the Joker, but coming from the world of comic books having radically different origin stories is perfectly normal. Joker is an origins story but not just for the Joker but for many, many villains – indeed, it tries to show that this is how many real-world problems are created. South Park did an episode in which they argued Trump’s treatment of immigrants was simply creating “jokers”, people who were treated badly and would grow up angry and have a problem with America. Phoenix’s Joker is not a supervillain, he has no powers, no henchman, he’s not even very capable of committing a crime. He is simply a damaged man with nothing to lose. This Joker deals with lies, betrayal and abuse from those closest to him and complete strangers. The wildness of this character at the end of the film is hard to watch and riveting at the same time especially when compared to his passivity in other sections of the film. Some people warned of fans copying the violence in the film but most people just seemed to copy him dancing downstairs.

Phoenix’s performance is exceptional and the character does seem to go through a transformation and become a different person by the end of the film. I would argue Phoenix is the only actor who is genuinely the lead, in the Godfather films the focus is always on Michael and in The Dark Knight obviously it’s on Batman. Whilst there are a number of great actors in Joker it is Phoenix’s film and its success or failure is on him.

Two Characters Four Oscars

Ledger as The Joker // Credit: Warner Bros.
Ledger as The Joker // Credit: Warner Bros.

So why did these characters get more than one Oscar – what do they have in common? The first thing is that they are all great performances, truly Oscar-worthy acting. Brando was already an acting legend when he played Vito and De Niro is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. Ledger was a great talent whose life was cut tragically short and Phoenix still seems to be very much at his peak. De Niro and Brando both won Oscars for other performances and both Ledger and Phoenix have given other Oscar-worthy performances.

De Niro and Phoenix both won for origins stories. How did Vito Corleone become such a powerful figure and where did his complicated moral system come from? Things are more complicated with Joker as I don’t think Phoenix’s character is meant to be seen as the same person as any of the Jokers we’ve seen on screen, more just the origins of how you would get to be someone like the Joker.

Both characters are criminals, albeit very different types, Vito has become the archetype old fashioned Mafia boss, whereas the Joker in these two films is more like an agent of chaos, not interested in financial gain or power.

Ultimately though the reason these characters resulted in Oscar wins is a collection of a number of great artists coming together – actors, writers, directors, cinematographers and more, that is what makes these characters great. And with the Oscars, there is a great deal of luck and many of the best performances ever were not rewarded with Oscars. For prime evidence of this Al Pacino did not an Oscar for his role as Michael Corleone, who I think gives the best performance of anyone in those films.

Also Read: Oscar Worthy Characters [Part 1]: Vito Corleone

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Oscar Worthy Characters [Part 1]: Vito Corleone

January 27, 2021

There are two characters whose portrayal have landed the actors who played them Oscars: Vito Corleone and the Joker. These are characters from a different genre of film, from different periods in cinema style and with very different personalities yet both have this rare distinction. In this article, I will focus on Vito Corleone.

Spoiler Warning – Huge spoilers for The Godfather trilogy

Vito Corleone

Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone // Credit: Paramount Pictures
Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone // Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Godfather Part I and Part II are often considered two of the best films ever made (and I would agree with that assessment), bringing together a truly fantastic cast with Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro winning Oscars for their portrayal of Vito Corleone. So clear is the love for these films there is a Family Guy sketch about how The Godfather is perfect. 

The Oscars are by no means a perfect measure of quality but it is interesting to think about why two portrayals of the same character were so well-received. The Godfather Part I introduces us to the character of Vito Corleone, the most powerful crime boss in New York, respected and feared, The Godfather Part II is very much an origins story for Vito. In this film we see Vito Corleone (he still has the surname Andolini at this point) as a boy, fleeing Sicily in fear of his life, coming to America, alone and trying to make his way in the world. He has a difficult life and we see how he is slowly drawn into a life of crime. Whilst Vito is a criminal figure there is a contrast between the far more restrained figure of Vito compared to his son Michael. Vito genuinely takes his role as a protector of the Italian-American community seriously yet Michael seems less concerned with this and more concerned just with power. When Michael is Godfather he radiates menace, whereas there is more of a statesman feel to Brando’s Vito.

Why Is This Character So Memorable?

Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen and 
Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone
Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen and
Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone // Credit: Paramount

To look at the actual performances – Marlon Brando is understated and calm but gives off the power and authority of the position. The first scene of The Godfather Part I sums up so much of what Vito Corleone is about; how he insists on there be justice, how he is offended that someone is trying to hire him to commit murder rather than to be his friend and ask for help. Not far into the movie Brando’s Vito is nearly killed and never recovers his strength with his other family members taking his place but he still exudes authority and gives wise counsel.

De Niro’s Vito tells the story through the other end of the telescope. It starts with a powerless child with no family sent to another country so he isn’t killed and his name taken away at Ellis Island. Part of what comes across in this film is that it was very hard for Italian-American immigrants not to be involved in the Mafia, De Niro’s Vito loses his job as his employer has to give it to a friend of the local Mafia representative. The motivations of De Niro’s Vito are not entirely clear – when he kills Don Fanucci there is an element of this is a bad guy but is his ambition also coming into play? Far more understandable is when De Niro’s Vito travels to Sicily to finally take revenge on the man who killed his family. De Niro’s Vito is also portrayed as someone who almost fell into being a gangster, with people coming to him for help with their problems. Brilliantly De Niro portrayed a man who seemed like a decent person, certainly before his life of crime starts he just seemed nice. Then there is obvious reluctance De NiroVito has to take up this position of power.

There is certainly a connection between Brando’s Vito and De Niro’sVito and this is important as De Niro’s job was not to just play a character but make it seem like he was the younger version of a character.

Vito’s relationship with his children is also a crucial part of the character. Brando’s Vito has many brilliant scenes with or about his children – talking to Michael about what hopes he had for him away from crime, to his heartbreak at the death of Sonny. With De Niro’s Vito we see a man who is very preoccupied with providing for his family and ensuring they are safe. Vito’s story in The Godfather Part II takes places over many years and the passage of time is tracked by the presence of his children. And, of course, The Godfather Part I starts with the wedding of Vito’s daughter.

The End Of The Story

Brando Vito’s story ends with his death and playing with a grandchild was probably a better way to go than many of the other options for a Mafia Boss. De NiroVito’s story ends as he is ascending to power, his revenge fulfilled and ready to lead a life on his own terms.

Vito Corleone is one of the most enduring characters in cinema – played by two of the greatest actors in the history of film and so it’s no surprise the performances were rewarded with Oscars.

Also Read: 30 Years On: The Godfather [Part 3]

Read More: Oscar Worthy Characters [Part2]: The Joker

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Beyond The Mandalorian: Expanding The Star Wars Universe

December 31, 2020
The Mandalorian

I recently wrote an article for this very site talking about the success of The Mandalorian and how television might be a better avenue for future Star Wars projects than film. Evidently the team as Disney read the article and subsequently announced a slew of television shows. These films range from dream fan projects like a show on Obi-Wan Kenobi and another on Ahsoka Tano, whilst others are more original ideas that delve deeper into the Star Wars universe.

The canvas Star Wars has to work with is big – a quick google lists the number of populated planets in the Empire in the millions. There are films and TV shows showing the time around the civil war that made up the original trilogy, but references are made to thousands of years of space travel capable civilisations. So with millions of planets and thousands of years to work with the possible stories within this are essentially endless.

Going Solo

Will Donald Glover return as Lando Calrissian? (Credit: Disney)

Several characters are getting their own series – Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lando Calrissian and Cassian Andor – all of whom are potentially very interesting protagonists. Kenobi’s show seems to be set on Tatooine in the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and given that this is a planet that will not only have storm troopers but Jabba the Hutt there will be a lot for him to do. Details about the Calrissian project are virtually non-existent to the extent we don’t know who will be playing him and all we know about Tano is that Rosario Dawson will play her and it will be set in roughly the same period as The Mandalorian. Cassian Andor appeared in Rogue One as a Rebel Alliance intelligence officer and presumably he’ll get up to similar spy shenanigans.

Rangers of the New Republic & Acolyte

Rangers of the New Republic is set in the same time as The Mandalorian and Ahsoka – perhaps suggesting some future crossover. Acolyte is perhaps the most original of all the shows as it is set in what is called the High Republic era, this being the several centuries before the birth of the Empire which, at least in film and television, is untouched ground. It’s worth noting that there are many books, graphic novels, computer games and more that have been made since Star Wars first came out that have dealt with what happened before, after and during the films. Grand Admiral Thrawn who appeared in Rebels and has been mentioned in The Mandalorian first appeared in a trilogy of novels set a few years after Return of the Jedi. The vast majority of these books, games etc have been declared non-canonical but are still a rich area to mine.


The Bad Batch (Credit: Disney)

Two new animated shows were announced The Bad Batch and Visions, the first being a spinoff from The Clone Wars tv series about a squad of Clone Troopers working as mercenaries in the early days of the Empire, and Visions being a series of short anime-style films.

Why focus on television?

Disney also announced a Rogue Squadron film but most of the focus has been on television – and this is a lot of television. The Disney Star Wars projects have had mixed success with some fans thinking the recent trilogy worse than the much derided prequels. Star Wars fans have proven difficult to please and it’s certainly impossible to please all of them. Some want the films to make references to the original trilogy, some want them to be completely new and original. Some only want new characters, some want to see the old characters. This might be Disney’s strategy – provide a wealth of shows and people can pick the ones they want.

As big a fan of Star Wars as I am, I do think this might be too much and my worry is that the quality will diminish. Ever since the term “franchise” came to surround films there has been an idea that seemingly they will never stop – there will never not be new Marvel superhero films, there will never not be new Terminator films and maybe now there will never not be new Star Wars. I am sure great shows and films will come out of this approach but it does not sit well with me – it’s hard to get excited about Star Wars Project #17 that feels like it’s more about filling a quota than telling a story.

Also Read: The Mandalorian – A New Hope For Star Wars

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The Recent History of Review Bombing

December 11, 2020
Ghostbusters 2016

It’s those that claim to love you that can hurt you the most. Fans were once the people who would support you, keep your franchise going, a bedrock of popularity. Fandom today can be very much a double-edged sword, equally capable of raising up or crushing your work – and one tool of disgruntled fans is review bombing.

What Is Review Bombing?


While it happens in various mediums, we’ll stick to films…review bombing is when online review sites receive a huge number of negative reviews with the intention of not providing a review for the film but actively dragging down the average rating. Often these people have not seen the film – certainly, it seems like many such review bombers have made their mind up before seeing the film and often these are organised efforts. Why are people orchestrating these bad-faith campaigns? There are usually two reasons – first, they are fans of the franchise and are upset by decisions made about the film. Second are people who see the film as simply another part of an ongoing culture war, where the film is, or is perceived to be, making some kind of statement. These two groups are not mutually exclusive.

Films That Were Review Bombed

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Credit: Disney)

The best two known examples of review bombing I can think of are the Ghostbusters remake and The Last Jedi. Remaking a beloved film is always going to be difficult but 2016 Ghostbusters endured a nightmare of backlash from the start. I would argue that this film is a mix of the two mentioned above – fans unhappy with the direction the film was taking and people engaged in the culture war. Many people were upset that the four ghostbusters were going to be played by women (rather than men as in the original), and many just assumed, seemingly because of this, that it was going to be a terrible film. This is despite the fact that it’s director was the very successful Paul Feig and the women in question were very talented comedic actors (three of whom had all been stars of Saturday Night Live, the very show that launched the careers of some of the original Ghostbusters cast). A cliched refrain from certain people was that this remake was “ruining their childhood”.

The Last Jedi faced similar problems. The Disney Star Wars films have been dogged by fans upset by decisions made, ranging from perfectly legitimate criticism of plot-holes to hounding actors off social media with horrendous abuse. Some fans were already upset after The Force Awakens and ideas about what Rian Johnson planned to do upset some of them all the more. The Huffington Post published an article in which they spoke to someone who claimed to be behind a bot attack on Rotten Tomatoes to lower the rating and his criticism ranged from it’s “feminist agenda” to characters in danger of “being turned gay”.

It’s important to say it’s fine for a person to dislike these films and it is okay to give them bad reviews – if you’ve seen the film and you’re not simply acting in some bad faith campaign. Also, review bombing isn’t inherently about people wanting to criticise perceived progressive political bias – many of the cases of review bombing in video games were due to issues like anti-piracy moves that limited the number of times games could be installed, or high prices on games in certain areas, and review bombing was felt to be the only way to communicate with the game makers.

What Is Being Done To Stop It?

Cinema Ticket (Credit: KTSDESIGN / Getty Images)

Sites that use reviews submitted by members of the public are aware of this issue (and some have had some pretty angry reactions to it) and have taken measures to prevent it. Rotten Tomatoes started a policy of verified reviewers, meaning a person had a to verify they had actually bought a ticket for the film. IMDb has developed a behind-the-scenes formula to detect attempts at review bombing and “weight” reviews. Some sites are taking action for films that have clearly already caused a stir before their release and are likely targets – Rotten Tomatoes has disabled the comments feature for some films before they were released in theatres – such as Captain Marvel which had received a large number of negative reviews before being released.

How Do We Know What People Like?

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood enjoying a trip to the cinema (Credit: Sony Pictures)

The best way to work out what an audience thinks of a film to ask them after they’ve watched it – and there are companies who survey audiences as they leave the cinema, but that costs money. Streaming services seem to offer an almost foolproof way as they can tell if a person has watched a film but it’s a minority of films that are released on streaming services at the same time as a theatrical release. Part of the problem is I’m sure many Star Wars fans who review bombed The Last Jedi did watch it but were never going to give it a fair chance.

It does seem like any online system is open to this sort of problem – where many people can easily be organised to disrupt the purpose of the task. Many an organisation has regretted leaving the decision of naming something open to an internet vote (see Boaty McBoatface and all the things named after Stephen Colbert). I don’t know if there is a simple solution to easily gauging what people think online that is immune to this sort of problem but, for now at least, this is a problem for only a handful of films.

I’ve never liked putting too much stock in rating on IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes as they’re a self-selecting sample. IMDb does not force everyone who watched Inception to rate it and I suspect most of the people who submit ratings either loved a film or hated it as they felt motivated to give their opinion. I don’t think a fair online measure of what the general public thinks really exists and if you’re looking for a way to tell if you will like a film then talk to friends who share your interests, find critics who have similar taste, talk online about films. Trusting a review is like deciding whether you should listen to someone’s advice – you have to know a bit about them first.

Also Read: Great Video Games That Should Be Adapted Into A Movie

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The Mandalorian – A New Hope For Star Wars

November 26, 2020

Since Disney bought Star Wars in 2012 it would be fair to say they have had mixed success. Apoplectic fans have denounced all three of the last trilogy and Solo was not well-liked either. The TV series The Mandalorian has actually been there most successful creation (successful here means critical and fan appeal, not making money, in that sense I think Disney are very happy).

The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian with "Baby Yoda" (Credit: Disney)
The Mandalorian with “Baby Yoda” (Credit: Disney)

The show stars Pedro Pascal as the titular character, an exceptionally good bounty hunter always hidden behind his near priceless Mandalorian armour. The character’s bounty hunter code is challenged when sent after a morally difficult target and he chooses to do the right thing. The show is set in between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens and is heavily focused on the chaos that follows the death of the Emperor.

The Golden Age Of Television

There was a time when film was the perceived cultural superior to television but in the last twenty years things have changed – this is the Golden Age of television. Film and television can tell stories in different ways – in my opinion, Goodfellas and The Sopranos are the high-points of the portrayal of gangsters in their respective mediums but have different strengths and weaknesses. The Mandalorian has a main story arc but within that are numerous smaller stories, characters who get to shine in a particular episode. It often felt with the Star Wars films you are getting a glimpse of a huge universe, whilst and TV shows can go into depth.

One benefit to doing a TV show over another film trilogy would be that a film trilogy would inevitably feel it had to be about saving the galaxy and with some even bigger ultimate weapon. The Mandalorian is about saving one child and a smaller story can actually be more engaging.

The Trouble With Trilogies

Star Wars - The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace (Credit: Disney)

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about a film as I was about The Phantom Menace and like many, I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad, but that couldn’t last. The prequels were a disaster with a few redeeming features – there are many, many problems with them ranging from casting to too much CGI to just being boring. The text crawl at the start of The Phantom Menace talks about tax disputes and while I do think a movie could be made about war sparking from something that dull The Phantom Menace failed.

Star Wars: The Last jedi
The Last Jedi (Credit: Disney)

It’s hard to even discuss the sequel trilogy without being overwhelmed complaints of the fans – they’re too much like the original trilogy, they’re too different to the original trilogy, Rey is a Mary-Sue, they ruined Luke, and then there’s the torrent of sexism that was also present in much of the criticism. For what it’s worth I think the sequels have problems but are much better than the prequels. The Last Jedi is an uneven film yet it has amazing parts to it – Luke and Kylo Ren’s confrontation is incredibly well done and a brilliant way to deal with their history. The biggest problem might have been it felt that the different directors had different ideas of what they wanted to do.

The Star Wars Universe

Star Wars - Nien Nunb & Lando Calrissian
The next hero of a Star Wars TV show – and I don’t mean Lando (Credit: Disney)

There is a wealth of material for more television shows. Aside from the films, there are a variety of TV shows, dozens of books, graphic novels, computer games and more:

The Old Republic – The Empire overthrew the Galactic Republic but there would be wars, conflict and interesting stories throughout this period. It could explore the time when the Jedi were at the height of their power.

It’s not all about the war – There’s a lot more going than just the civil war between the Empire and Rebel Alliance – there are bounty hunter guilds, crime syndicates, strange religions and more.

So Many Characters – There are a wealth of interesting existing characters. What about Chewbacca’s life before Han? Or ace rebel pilot Wedge Antilles – the only pilot to have fought in both Death Star battles? I was genuinely thrilled when Nien Nunb (pictured above) turned up in the sequels – for those who don’t know Nunb is the small alien who co-piloted the Millennium Falcon with Lando Calrissian in Return of the Jedi and would love to see more of him. If they’re willing to embrace the Dark Side, Disney could explore Darth Vader’s war against the Jedi.

Whatever happens next we all know Disney aren’t going to stop making Star Wars films and tv shows – let’s just hope they’re worthy additions.

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad?: Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker

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Great Video Games That Should Be Adapted Into A Movie

November 24, 2020
Uncharted - Tom Holland

The adaptation of mega-successful video game franchise Uncharted has just finished filming and it is hoped it will add to the rather slim library of good video game films. The first draft of this article was 600 words on the great injustice that Nathan Fillion was not cast in the lead role in Uncharted, but as all my articles could be 600 words complaining why Nathan Fillion wasn’t cast in every film ever made, instead I made a list of other potentially great video game adaptations.


Bioshock - 2K Games
Big Daddy and Little Sister from Bioshock (Credit: 2K Games)

A plane crash survivor stumbles upon the underwater city of Rapture, imagined as a utopia but now descended into anarchy, inhabited by terrifying humans and sinister monsters. From the start, Bioshock looked amazing, released in 2007 game designers were putting as much effort into “set design” as any filmmaker. The first game featured monsters so compelling – the gigantic hulking Big Daddies and the Little Sisters they protected – that in the sequel players took control of a Big Daddy.

Who Should Direct – surely a job for Guillermo Del Toro, creating a bizarre but beautiful world and especially suited if the Big Daddy was to be the monster-hero protagonist.

Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto  - Rockstar Games
Grand Theft Auto from 1997 (Credit: Rockstar Games)

There are lots of GTA games, some which are undeniable high points of video games, but I want a specific game – the first Grand Theft Auto. Released in 1997 it’s hard to explain the dizzying level of joy this game delivered there had been nothing like this before. More important than plot, acting or even making sense will be capturing that sense of anarchic fun this original had.

Who Should Direct – It would be very easy to tip over into the grim horror of the at times amoral GTA world, instead bring in the genius comic-action director Edgar Wright.

Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption 2 - Rockstar Games
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Credit: Rockstar games)

Another game franchise that already looks like a movie – YouTube is full of videos of people simply riding around the beautiful scenery. A western set in the dying days of the Wild West with little room for cowboys and outlaws. A morally nebulous world of crime and adventure, working for the authorities as often as fighting them and often little hope of every actually getting to any sort of better life.

Who Should Direct– John Hillcoat – looking at the westerns and not quite westerns that exist in multiple layers of moral ambiguity his back catalogue would make him an excellent choice.

Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart - Nintendo
Super Mario Kart (Credit: Nintendo)

We’ve had a Super Mario film and I think we all agree it was terrible but there has been no Super Mario Kart film, surely one of the best video games of all time. I propose a nightmarish horror-action extravaganza of monsters, dinosaurs and plumbers battling it out on dazzlingly bright M.C Escher inspired racetracks full of insane bursts of speed and turtle shell violence.

Who would direct – With Mad Max: Fury Road George Miller brought us a brilliant film that was one long car chase, I’m sure he could do one long car race on a similar scale.

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus - Sony Computer Entertainment
Shadow of the Colossus (Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment)

A curious and unusual game, Shadow of the Colossus had players travel the world and kill sixteen (mostly) gigantic creatures – known as Colossi, in doing so the life of another person will be saved. The departure from most games is that there are no towns to explore, no NPCs to interact with, no legions of lesser enemies to wipe out – you simply fight the Colossi. Each enemy is different and designed with a huge amount of detail and depth, each way to kill them is different.

Who Should Direct – there are two options – first a more traditional fantasy take helmed by Peter Jackson who if nothing else can do spectacle. The second would be Paul Thomas Anderson in a There Will Be Blood style – long periods of not much talking, it looks stunning and brief moments of shocking intensity – Daniel Day-Lewis could even play one of the colossi.

Also Read: When Great Video Games Become Lacklustre Movies

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Suicide Squad: Release The Ayer Cut?

November 9, 2020

2016’s Suicide Squad was one of the biggest disappointments of the year. It was a film I was very excited about as I enjoy the idea of the good guys being the bad guys. Sadly, it wasn’t a good film, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn being perhaps it’s best feature, which has lead to Robbie reprising the role for Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey and James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Director David Ayer though is now pushing for the film to be released the way he had originally intended – The Ayer Cut.

The Lost Forty Minutes

Zack Snyder's Justice League
The Snyder Cut (Credit: Warner Bros)

The Ayer Cut comes hot on the heels of the Snyder Cut of Justice League, the DC film originally directed by Zack Snyder who was replaced by Joss Whedon after a family tragedy for Snyder. Fans campaigned for a version they believed was closer to what Snyder had envisioned and were successful. Ayer now wants the same for Suicide Squad. Ayer has said forty minutes of his film was cut by the studio which would surely have an impact on any film. Studios insisting on their own edits of films is nothing new – sci-fi classic Blade Runner had voiceover added that completely changed central parts of the film, leading to a slew of other “cuts” that better represented what director Ridley Scott had in mind.

What was wrong with Suicide Squad?

Jared Leto as The Joker
Jared Leto as The Joker (Credit: Warner Bros)

Suicide Squad was unpopular with both critics and fans (but there are those who champion the film, or at least parts of it) and the film had many problems.

  • The Joker – while not a pivotal character in the film Jared Leto’s portrayal still managed to attract a lot of disdain with few people enjoying it. While I didn’t care for it I didn’t judge Leto or Ayer too harshly, following in the footsteps of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s legendary performances they needed to make a distinctive Joker – it didn’t work but at least they tried.
  • The Characters – When you have a large ensemble cast you run the risk of no character having enough time and this certainly felt true of Suicide Squad. The introduction of every character felt rushed and bare bones and I didn’t really care about any of the characters. There were characters like Katana who just seemed to be there – another person to fill out the cast without serving any purpose (despite having an interesting character premise).
  • The Villain -I am a firm believer in that the secret of success for many comic book films is the villain. The Dark Knight had Heath Ledger’s Joker, Black Panther had Michael B. Jordan’s Eric Killmonger, after a lacklustre villain in Red Skull having Robert Redford play Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a stroke of genius. Suicide Squad had a witch…or her brother, and her brother? The film was always going to be in a tricky place with a villain as the whole point is they’re the villains but undoubtedly the forgettable villain they had wasn’t good enough.

James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad

Harley Quinn in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad (geektyrant.com)

Of course, this battle is yet to be resolved on the horizon is the release of The Suicide Squad. How will The Ayer Cut effect this? I doubt it will at all. It seems most people have simply written off Suicide Squad as a mistake, the Ayer Cut is at most a chance to show there was a good film there. The success or failure of The Ayer Cut will not matter and I doubt would have any impact on the already inconsistent DCEU.

Will It Happen?

If the fans get behind the idea it probably will. The Snyder Cut really did show that fans have the power to get alternate cuts released and there’s no reason to give up that power. Whilst in this instance it’s being done under the impetus of the director, it’s important to remember that fans don’t always know best, for years there was a Kickstarter campaign to edit Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, specifically to digitally remove the rat that appears in the final scene. Whether or not you feel this was a bad decision by Scorsese I think you need to essentially trust a director on their decisions.

Before we all start clamouring for new cuts of films we feel could have been improved, remember Star Wars is a prime example of that sometimes it’s just better to leave things alone and that you can never please all of the fans.

Also Read: Flashpoint: The Defining Film of the DCEU

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Retro Review: The Shining

October 22, 2020

The BBC have spoiled us all by making The Shining available on iPlayer (until 16th November) and to celebrate here is a retro review of this classic of horror cinema. WARNING – THERE ARE SOME SPOILERS AHEAD

What’s Going On?

Danny and the Grady twins
Danny and the Grady twins (Credit: Warner Bros)

Aspiring writer Jack Torrence is given the job of winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, a grand and isolated property, in which he, his wife and young son will be completely cut off. It is also revealed that the son, Danny, has The Shining – a supernatural gift that can warn Danny of danger, glimpse the future and see what has happened in the past – allowing Danny to see the various horrific things that have previously happened in The Overlook Hotel. Not long into their stay things begin to get strange and forces seem intent on driving Jack to repeat the horrific things in the hotel’s past.

Behind The Scenes

Nicholson and Kubrick on set
Nicholson and Kubrick on set (independent.co.uk)

The film was based on Stephen King’s 1977 horror bestseller of the same name, this only being King’s third book his legendary status had not yet been cemented. Not true of the director Stanley Kubrick at the time seen as one of the best directors in the world and whose reputation has only increased since. Kubrick is famous, or infamous, for overthinking his films – by which I mean years of research, hundreds of takes, layer upon layer of meaning and attention to detail like no other director. The Shining is a classic example of this and it has been endlessly examined and re-examined by critics and fans.

In Front Of The Camera

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (Credit: Warner Bros)

The Shining has a small cast and is essentially about three characters: married couple Jack and Wendy, and their young son, Danny. Jack is played by Jack Nicholson, Wendy by Shelley Duvall and Danny by Danny Lloyd, who has done little acting before or since. All three give amazing performances. Nicholson gives perhaps a career-best and bear in mind this is a career in which he has won two Oscars (neither for The Shining), his descent into madness and violence is utterly believable and compelling. Duvall arguably has the hardest job – she is an ordinary woman in an extraordinary situation with no supernatural powers or evil forces preying on her to explain her actions. Once things start ramping up she is terrified essentially for the rest of the film – but she never stops trying to defend her son, managing to convey her horror at the events going around her and how her need to protect Danny overrides everything. Lloyd is practically perfect as Danny and his portrayal of the “supernatural child” is almost the textbook example for every film that came after.

Does It Work?

Wendy finally seeing what Jack’s been writing (Credit: Warner Bros)

To put it bluntly – yes, magnificently so. To me, The Shining is the best horror film ever made and one of the best films ever made, it is a genuine masterpiece. The escalating tension over the course of the film as Jack is slowly overcome by madness is incredible. The wildness in Nicholson builds to an absolute fever pitch. The glimpses of Jack trying to battle the darkness overwhelming him are difficult to watch as he can see what he is being driven towards and Kubrick’s horror is as much about the unhealthy dynamic in that family as anything supernatural. Even without the intervention of ghosts, you suspect it would not have been a happy stay (indeed some fans are of the opinion there are no ghosts and it is just the isolation that pushes Jack to madness). Duvall becomes ever more frantic as things unravel around her and the scene where she discovers just what Jack has been writing all this time is phenomenal.

The hotel is hugely important in this film, this vast and grand hotel that is eerily empty. We see Danny riding around the hotel on his tricycle, the camera almost in point of view, giving a very unusual visual perspective. The design of the hotel is glorious – the hotel carpets are genuinely famous and I recently bought a face mask that features the iconic design. Somewhere so big and so empty is inherently spooky, simple things that are in themselves perfectly innocuous because deeply sinister when there is no one who could have them.

The Shining is a perfect film for the Halloween season and is in fact my go-to Halloween film. If nothing else watching this film will clue you in on forty years of references to creepy twins, Red Rum and taking an axe to a door.

Obviously and easily 5 out of 5 stars but that does not really do it justice – a truly unmissable film.

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

Also Read: The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey

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