Cineworld’s campaign on social media is the perfect fit for my blog, so I decided to do a post a week for six weeks, combining brief answers with more comprehensive rambles.
It’s interesting to ask yourself these questions and try to think of anecdotes, because it’s those experiences that truly resonate – and why we love films and the cinematic experience.
That is what I miss the most, and will miss even more the longer that I can’t safely return to my local cinema!
Day 16 – a film with a number in the title
I despair at this question and will just again point you to a (LARGE) number of films I’ve reviewed before with numbers in the title. It’s also a good pointer to how many sequels there have been in the past six years (and how many films do actually use numbers):
- 1917 (so good, watch it on the biggest screen possible)
- Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (a franchise, ruined – and yes, it’s a Roman numeral but that’s still a number)
- It: Chapter Two (some good bits, some bad – Bill Hader/James McAvoy elevate it)
- John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (not as good as the first two, but still immense)
- The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (still great, but can’t compare to the original or Lego Batman)
- The Incredibles 2 (a great follow up to a great original)
- Sicario 2: Soldado (a massive waste of time and money)
- Deadpool 2 (more or less the same as what I just said above)
- Ready Player One (an engaging nerdy nostalgia fest)
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (well acted, surprising drama)
- Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (an excellent film, whatever Star Wars nerds will try to tell you)
- Blade Runner 2049 (absolute masterpiece, as I said in week one)
- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (bizarre sci-fi to shut your brain off to)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (more space-based Marvel excellence)
- John Wick Chapter Two (an excellent sequel with some incredible action)
- T2 Trainspotting (not a sequel anyone expected, and a great assessment of middle aged men mourning their youth)
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (a truly great Star Wars film that shows the way forward for the series – in other words, no Skywalkers)
- 10 Cloverfield Lane (a hugely underrated, tense character drama with sci-fi tinges)
- The Hateful Eight (one of Tarantino’s best, and a theatrical masterpiece)
- Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (a stirring Star Wars cinematic return)
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two (a pretty damp conclusion to an overlong series)
- Fantastic Four (an absolute disaster)
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (still think this series is good, despite what everyone else thinks – a strong ending to the return to Middle-earth)
- The Expendables 3 (Dad’s Army: US Edition)
- The Inbetweeners 2 (not a patch on the first film or on the far superior series)
Day 17 – your favourite animated film
This is a really tough question, because in the last few years there have been some absolute blinders. I would probably say though that I don’t necessarily have a favourite – I watched all the Disney and Pixar classics when I was younger, but I don’t routinely return to them nor consider any of them a favourite film.
Thinking about films that I’ve seen in the last 10 years, I think I could probably narrow it down to Inside Out, The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, with an honourable mention for Sausage Party as well. All four of these films were excellent for VERY different reasons (VERY DIFFERENT in the case of the latter).
The two Lego films are far more intelligent and witty than their U certificates let on – and both bringing us the best Batman on screen, hands down, in Will Arnett. They are hilarious but never quite let go of the important moral messages inherent in children’s films – their strength is that they deliver this in a more subtle way without ramming it down your throat.
Inside Out achieves the same but in a far superior way – it is frankly far too underappreciated in its spectacular ability to tell a story about growing up and dealing with your emotions for children in such a heartfelt, mature and yet still particularly Pixar/Disney (read: cutesy and amusing) way.
Sausage Party meanwhile – well… that’s at the other end of the scale, and spectacularly so. I never thought I’d go to the cinema and see a CGI animation about food that would be so transgressive – it covers the gamut from different animated food types having sex through to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and concludes with one of the most jawdropping animated scenes you’ll ever see. I still laugh thinking about the cinema’s reaction to those scenes – you couldn’t tear yourself away but my god you wanted to!
Day 18 – a film you couldn’t stop thinking about
I like this question! Mostly because it gives me an easy answer and a film that I’ve reviewed on here, the best combination. Alex Garland was more well known for his books and scripts ahead of his first directing job (official one anyway, after Dredd), and I started hearing incredible things about Ex Machina – so I went to see it.
Two hours later I left the cinema with my brain on fire, because this film was incredible. Garland’s gone on to make Annihilation (a pretty good adaptation of a mental book) and the amazing TV series DEVS, but Ex Machina remains his best work for me just because it took a plotline so overused in cinema – artificial intelligence – and made a sophisticated, complex and thoughtprovoking masterpiece out of it.
My original review (which you can read here) is an absolute love-in, but I wrote most of it within an hour or seeing the film – which I’ve never done since, and had never done before. I basically walked back to my flat with my mouth open and obsessing over how excellent what I had seen was on a scientific level – it drills down into the messy and intricate world of machine intelligence in a way most other films never would.
Garland’s approach means that the almost play like set up (four actors, one sprawling set) feels less like films usually do, and he gives so much time over to conversations about free will and Turing tests that you come out feeling more intelligent – like you know more about artificial intelligence than you did when you went in (or turned the film on).
Any film that makes you feel like you’ve learned something – and that goes into the depth this one does, while still remaining engaging, visually spectacular and unnervingly tense – is a winner. Ex Machina blew my mind early on in 2015 – a year in which multiple films of that level of depth and focus (and style) came out in cinemas.
Day 19 – a film set in the future
One good question followed by a naff one – just about par for the course with this challenge! I mean, this isn’t asking you to think of anything deep, it’s literally just lazily asking you to think of any film you can set in a certain genre or time/place. Nonsense.
I’ve already tortured you with a list above, and I don’t plan on doing that again. So what I’ve done is think about a great film set in the future (that isn’t Blade Runner 2049 – dammit), which actually made this more of a challenge. Because when you think about it, there are quite a few but many are of, shall we say, questionable quality. But the one I’ve chosen absolutely isn’t…
Not only probably one of the best films of the 21st century, but also one of the best action films ever, Mad Max Fury Road had everything against it – from the fact it was a sequel to films made 30 years before without the star synonymous with the character, through to its production’s epic story of disaster, personal conflicts and strife. Yet what came out the other side is just absolutely incredible.
My review gushes about it, and you can read my thoughts there (they haven’t changed) – but in terms of a film set in the future this jumped out at me for going completely against the grain of what you expect from a “futuristic” movie. There’s no technology; humanity has destroyed the world and what scraps remain are savages, though director George Miller adds enough hints to show you how this dystopian nightmare came to be and highlights the people with humanity still trying to make a difference.
Perhaps it’s overly negative a perception of the future, but at this current time and with the climate getting worse it’s not that hard to see a future more like this than any of the utopias or even less harsh dystopias coming to pass! But I mostly chose this because it’s so goddamn good and you should watch it if you haven’t already.
Day 20 – a film that scared you
I don’t consider myself to be easily scared, though jump scares always get me in the cinema (working as intended). I’m a fan of gory horror just because I find it so fascinating to see how filmmakers achieve realistically disgusting effects, but can disassociate myself from it given I know it’s not real.
I’m not at all a religious nor spiritual person, so I don’t believe in any god nor ghosts – but those types of films tend to be the ones that have often got my back up. The interdimensional horrors of Insidious and the ghostly grimness of The Conjuring (both directed by James Wan) unsettled me after seeing them, while the incredibly bizarre atmosphere and mood of Hereditary and Midsommar had a very different chilling effect on me afterwards.
However, I’ll go back to three films I saw as a teenager – two I saw when I absolutely, definitely should not have that scared the shit out of me in different ways; and one when I thought I was old and “cool” enough (I’ve never been cool) to breeze it out that messed me right up! The latter two are now two of my favourites, while the first I’ll discuss is a cliched choice – but it messed me up at the time!
Yes, this old chestnut, I hear you say. But when you’re a young teen who’s heard it’s horrific and you’ve got the chance to watch an illicit VHS of it, you jump at the chance. So I found myself, on a sunny day (I remember it being during the day as well, why I have no idea) absolutely shit scared at the unrelenting insanity of The Exorcist.
From the creepy interspersed demonic vision (obviously in hindsight a person with make up on) through to the possessed Regan’s disfigured face – and the still frankly surprisingly shocking imagery of the possession itself – The Exorcist absolutely ruined me and the others watching it (of course we all fronted it out afterwards – “I wasn’t scared, it was nothing” despite hiding behind cushions).
I had the amazing opportunity at Southampton University to see it again on a big screen as part of a US cinema course, and to have Mark Kermode (aka the UK’s leading film critic and the world’s biggest Exorcist fan/nerd) discuss it with us before we watched it. On that rewatch, my demons were exorcised (*GROAN*) as I realised how well made a film it was, and how it still retained that shock value – but the fear was gone completely.
Now The Thing’s horrors being exposed to me at too young an age can blamed on my dad, who had a VHS of it and who one day let me watch it with him. I can’t remember how old I was but I was definitely a young teen, but the paranoia and tension of this film were scary enough without Ennio Morricone’s thudding score and Rob Bottin’s unparalleled, unbeaten prosthetic abominations.
I now consider this one of my favourite horror films and indeed films generally – it’s a masterpiece on multiple levels, from those disgustingly tangible effects through to a great acting ensemble embodying paranoia and mistrust. It was unfairly spurned when it came out in the 80s, but I’m pleased that it’s such a favourite now – and it’s one of those horror films that ends without closure or hope, hammering that final nail in the coffin.
Now [REC}… I was in my late teens and so legitimately able to watch this film when I saw it. If you’ve not seen it, the name gives you a fair indication that it’s a found footage horror – and I watched this in the height of summer, at home, alone. Not peak horror movie watching conditions, but then as per my Exorcist experience, this appears to be a trend for me.
Anyway – I’d heard great things, so “came by” a copy of the digital file of the film as most people did in the late 2000s and sat down to watch it. It starts slowly and deliberately draws you into the idea that you’re watching a poorly made news programme in Madrid, and it’s only as it just starts to get almost tedious that the film explodes into life.
It is essentially a zombie horror, but it’s presented and told with such a sense of place in Spain – with some incredibly creative set design and location choices – that the claustrophobia and terror sink in quite quickly, and the way that the two directors let everything unfold is brilliantly grim.
A couple of hours later, I found myself essentially cowering at home in the middle of that blazing hot afternoon – and I bought the DVD soon after (as well as a couple of less impressive sequels). I highly recommend it because it’s the last time I remember being truly scared by a film – don’t dismiss horrors just because they’re not in English (this is true of all cinema – subtitles aren’t a barrier, as Parasite showed earlier this year).