30 Books for My 30th – Number 1

30booksformy30th, book blogger, book blogging, books, books that shaped my life, childhood favourite

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img_4338Dear Lord of the Flies,

How are you? It’s been a while since we last spent any real time together. That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten you. I appreciate that these days I only come round if I want something (more often than not, a worn or well-loved book for an Instagram post) but don’t think for one second that I no longer care. We’ve known each other for about 15 years and that means something. Like every other young person, we first met when I was studying for my GCSEs. Your pages were already bent and you were full of notes but that didn’t matter. My sister may have claimed ownership of you once upon a time but now you were mine. And, if I have anything to do with it, you always will be.

I’m always shy around people I don’t know so I was a bit wary of you at first. I was at an age where I was good at studying literature but I didn’t love it yet. I warmed up to you pretty quickly. You were intense and powerful. I’d read important books before, of course, but nothing that was quite so fiery. Nothing that was quite as beautifully written whilst being so devastating. I found myself enjoying working my way through your pages and analysing everything in front of my eyes. I was getting excited about your symbolism and your allegory. Every inch of your blank pages became a notebook of pencil scribbles. I wanted to discover who you really were: I needed to see you properly. And I believe that, during those GCSE years, I did.

But we’ve grown apart since. I’ve barely opened your pages since then and have left you languishing on a shelf. It’s scary, you see, loving a book so much as a teenager and, inevitably, stopping being a teenager. What would I do if you were no longer the book I thought you were? What if I’m no longer the reader I was back then? The young, naive girl with an insignificant personal library. What if I no longer deserved you? I couldn’t bear that. Not after you meant so much to me.

So, yes, you can call me a coward because I am. But you shouldn’t care for me any less. The thing about real friendship is that you can see each other’s flaws but it doesn’t matter. I see your flaws as I, probably, saw them then. You’re a little bit cynical, a little too on-the-nose. Your allegorical narrative is wonderful and painful but, you have to admit, it is anything but subtle. Your writing may be exquisite but it’s a little stilted at times. There are better books out there, many of which I’ve actually read but more that I haven’t.

But that doesn’t matter Lord of the Flies. You were the first book to show me the potential power of literature. You were making a real and important point and trying to teach us all something about ourselves. Something about myself. You made me care about studying literature. You made me fall in love with my subject. You made me fall in love with you. So, I’m sorry if I don’t call you much anymore but, never forget, that you’re always with me. We’re always together.

Maybe it’s only us


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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of J K

blogger, blogging, book blogger, book blogging, books, childhood, childhood favourite, film blogger, film blogging, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Johnny Depp, LGBTQ+, rant, rants

DSCN6734So it’s been quite a while since I had a good old-fashioned rant about JK Rowling, hasn’t it. But now, only a few weeks after JK Rowling and David Yates caused a stir by brushing off the controversy surrounding Johnny Depp’s continued presence in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, the Harry Potter author is pissing off her fans once again. Over recent years, I’ve sort of become disillusioned with Rowling. Yes, she does a lot of great things and has used her money to aid some fantastic causes. That doesn’t mean she can get away with anything, though. Whether she means to or not, she has allowed herself to gain a certain sense of entitlement that only goes with becoming the world’s richest author. Just look back on the moment when she acted like a victim when it was revealed she had written The Cuckoo’s Calling.

TBT – Beauty and the Beast (1991)

animated, animation, childhood favourite, Disney, fucking beautiful, fucking funny, music, musical, rom-com, romance, TBT

I went to the cinema with a friend today and she happened to mention that she’d just seen the remake of Beauty and the Beast. When I asked her what she thought about it her answer was “I really liked it because it’s exactly the same.” Anyone who has read my review from Tuesday will know that, whilst I didn’t hate the film, I didn’t exactly feel blown away by the new film. Especially after we’d been promised such great things by its director, Bill Condon, and its star, Emma Watson. My issue with the film is exactly the reason that people love it so much. The reviews have been great because it is exactly the same as the film they love. The film took no risks and added nothing new to the narrative, except for a wife for Cogsworth and a husband for Mrs Potts. There’s been great feedback from audiences but it’s mostly because it just reminds them how good the original film is. It feels like cheating. Why would you want to watch an imitation when you can still watch the real thing? It’s like tribute bands to real bands that are still touring. Yeah, it’s fine in a pinch but you’d much rather see the real deal. So, for TBT this week, I did.

Beauty and the Beast is getting older now. It’s only 3 years younger than I am and I’m fucking old. However, saying that it’s old does not mean that it is in anyway inferior. You can tell that isn’t because the updated film is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original animated film. Of course, for all of the nostalgic warmth that Emma Watson and co. may have been able to drum up, there can be no substitute for the real thing. No matter how dodgy the story at the heart of it is deep down. I mean, I know that Coke is really bad for me because of the sugar but that doesn’t mean I’m going to start drinking Diet Coke with it’s shitty tasting sweeteners, does it. There is so much charm within the ’90s animation that just couldn’t be replicated with a cavalcade of CGI household objects.

There’s a reason that Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for an Oscar. It’s possible it could be because 1991 was a shitty year for films but, looking at the evidence, it’s more likely that it was because Beauty and the Beast is a fucking great film. It’s a triumph of animation, voice acting, and soundtrack. Everything comes together perfectly to create a truly magical experience that helped strengthen a new era in terms of Disney’s movies. Emma Watson may be desperately trying to convince us that her version of Belle is a super feminist but, the fact is, Belle kind of broke the Princess mould back in ’91. Yes, the story is all about love but Belle doesn’t spend all of her time mooning over a guy. She craves adventure and bravely steps into dangerous situations to save her family. She’s intelligent, creative and wants to make something of herself. She’s always been inspirational.

But, let’s be honest, the story itself isn’t what made this film so memorable. It’s a story about a girl meeting a guy and the story of how they fall in love. Just like every other Disney film. This film holds up because it is so incredibly well made. When we look back now and remember that, in another timeline, Beauty and the Beast could have been made as a non-musical it seems insane. The soundtrack, created by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, is pretty flawless. The compositions are rich and memorable, whilst the lyrics are funny, emotional and really clever. It helps that the voice actors give such solid performances. Angela Lansbury’s version of the title song can not be surpassed for the understated simplicity that makes is so romantic. I love Emma Thompson but she lacked something the ’91 version had oodles of.

It’s one of the reasons that ballroom scene is such an iconic moment in film history. The grandness of the animation next to Angela Lansbury’s almost timid performance is quite spectacular. To be honest, the song didn’t need to be something too extravagant because the visuals were so impressive. This was the first Disney film that used any digital assistance in its creation and it remains an impressive feat even to this day. The details on Belle’s dress as she twirls round the ballroom is still some of the best animation I’ve ever seen. The world of Beauty and the Beast is a classic cartooony Disney world but it was a revolutionary step into their golden age. This was film made by the best people that could be found and it has stood the test of time. Call me cynical or biased but it’s not something I expect to be saying about the latest version in 26 years time.

TBT – Home Alone (1990)

childhood favourite, Christmas, film, fucking awesome, fucking stupid, fucking weird, review, TBT

I slept terribly last night. I was at work for 7 this morning so was awake before half 5. However, no matter how hard I tried, I found myself still wide awake at 1 am. So today I’ve been like a fucking zombie trying not to let exhaustion get to me. It also meant that, despite my plan to come home and write this post as soon as possible, I spent my time napping. So, in a moment of complete honesty, I’m not going to put my normal review hat on for this post. Of course, it doesn’t really matter I suppose. Any Christmas film that I could discuss for TBT are ones that everyone knows. So, instead, I want to discuss several points that have been bugging me about Home Alone over the years. I, like everyone else around my age, loved this film growing up and I’ll still watch it every year. I mean it is a remarkably funny festive film that, despite the absurdity of the premise, a terrible script and more than a few cringey stops in schmaltz town, is an essential Christmas watch. Let’s be hoenst, we love this film because of nostalgia. It reminds us of being children who all wanted to be the situation that Kevin found himself. But, we’re not kids anymore. With every year that passes, I find myself worrying more and more about what I’m watching. So I want to address some points.

  • Why are Kevin’s family such massive dicks?

Even before you consider the fact that they left their child at home whilst they flew to Paris, the McCallister’s are an awful family. I mean, sure, Kevin is a whiney brat but they all verbally abuse him and leave him in the attic. Why? Because someone else ate all his cheese pizza. Buzz was being a huge knob and nobody even challenges him. No, it’s all the 8 year old’s fault. I mean his awful uncle straight up calls him a “jerk” because he accidentally got covered in Pepsi that Kevin’s dad dropped. What we see of the McCallister’s in the beginning of the film isn’t usual family banter. The kind of gentle ribbing that you can get away with when you really love someone. It’s straight up bullying. I’m not surprised Kevin wanted his family to disappear. 

  • How the hell does nobody notice he’s missing?
Yes, we see the scene where Kevin’s dad accidentally throws away his boarding pass (still not entirely sure how he couldn’t tell what he was picking up) but that still doesn’t explain how, in the time between them leaving the house to them getting on the plane, nobody in the whole massive group managed to see that Kevin was missing. I mean it’s fucking obvious no matter how late you are. These parents are incompetent. 
  • Why, after a frantic mother informed them a child was home alone, do the police just accept that everything’s okay?
This is the biggest dick move in the entire movie. A mother has called the police from France to explain that her son is alone in the house and the police officer who attends the scene leaves after two minutes. He barely even checks the house. He knows the kid is 8 but still believes he’d answer the door to him. It’s insane. How does someone so fucking stupid become a police officer? Why isn’t he a little more worried about a child being alone in a house? 
  • Why are the Wet Bandits so interested in the McCallister’s house?
Okay, so the house is big but it’s not as if it’s full of priceless antiques and shit. The McCallisters clearly have a shitload of money if they’re able to afford the house and fly that many people to Paris at Christmas. But, it’s also not as if the house is made up to look that great. Nobody is showcasing any fancy jewels or whatever. It’s just a big house. That is weirdly full of mannequins and potted plants. I’d hardly call it a thief’s dream score. 
  • Why does Kevin’s neighbour willingly act so fucking shifty?
I get that the guy is probably sick of his neighbours spreading awful rumours about him killing his family but that doesn’t mean he needs to act like a he did it. It’s as if he purposefully goes out of his way to freak Kevin out. Everything he does is super weird and exactly the kind of thing that a killer would do.
  • Do we not need to worry that Kevin is actually mentally unhinged?
Kevin is a worrying child and it probably has something to do with his years of neglect and familial abuse. He shows signs of being a sociopath in the wake of the spilt milk incident and, as he spends more time on his own, shows signs of a dwindling mental state. He talks to himself all the fucking time without any concern. He quickly turns to a life of crime. He takes pleasure in terrorising people. He scares the poor pizza delivery boy to death for not reason but amusement. Then, he takes everyday household items and turns them into super effective weapons. I mean, outside of the non-violent film world, Kevin could have killed the burglars. Yes, they’re bad guys but they hadn’t done anything to warrant that kind of physical and emotional scarring. He’s clearly had violent tendencies for a while now. Someone needs to send Kevin to see a doctor before he murders his family in their beds.
  • Seriously, was Harry going to eat his fucking fingers?
Still, it’s not as if the thieves don’t also have a nasty side. When Harry and Marv finally catch Kevin, Harry threatens to eat Kevin’s fingers. That’s fucked up. They went from being petty criminals to being fucking cannibals in the space of a few minutes. Not cool. 

TBT – The BFG (1989)

animation, childhood favourite, review, Roald Dahl, TBT

When it came to the adaptations of his books Roald Dahl was a tough critic. He was incredibly stubborn about giving the rights in the first place and, when he did give his permission, it was nearly impossible to create something that he felt was a faithful  It’s a well known fact that he turned his back on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He wasn’t happy that the focus was on Willy Wonka instead of Charlie and he was against the casting of Gene Wilder. It wasn’t the film that he wanted to make and the alternative script wasn’t what he wanted. However, it wasn’t completely impossible to get Dahl onside and after he saw the 1989 animated version of The BFG Roald Dahl actually stood up and applauded. If I’m honest, I find it doubtful that Dahl would have been completely happy with Steven Spielberg’s 2016 adaptation of the book despite the fact that it’s a genuinely good film. So how does its predecessor actually stand up to Disney’s CGI filled version?

Rewatching the animated retelling of The BFG nearly 30 years after it’s release will bring back a lot of memories for people who grew up with it. It also reminds us just how far film technology has come. The animation itself, whilst good, is dated and pretty embarrassingly 80s in places. Not that it’s actually bad; considering it was produced by the now defunct Cosgrove Hall films, a British animation studio who were responsible for creating some of the biggest children’s television shows on British TV. It’s just that the style is very nostalgic in this digital age. It’s all very sparkly, hazy and just a little bit trippy. The sequences in which Sophie and the BFG move between the human world, Giant country and Dream country are much more dreamlike than Spielberg’s interpretation and are decidedly psychedelic. They actually make for some magnificent visual sequences and really help to play up the magical elements of the story.

A story that remains pretty faithful the original book’s narrative. I mean not everything makes it into the final film but it essentially the same story you’ll remember from childhood. When Sophie wakes in the middle of the night and sees a mysterious, giant figure walking through the streets she quickly finds herself kidnapped and staying in Giant Country. Thankfully, the giant that took her is a friendly one who doesn’t feast on the flesh of children. He leaves that to his fellow giants who are both taller and scarier than the BFG. Instead he feast on horrible snozzcumbers and harvest dreams to give to sleeping children. Together, the BFG and his new friend come up with a plan to save humanity by rounding up the man-eating beasts.

The one aspect of this adaptation that really makes it stand out against it successor is the fact that it happily embraces the darkness that is inherent in Dahl’s original tales. Even the design of the BFG is scarier than we were all used to. The 2016 film takes more of a note from Quentin Blake’s famous illustrations whilst the animated film created a more menacing figure. Until we learn the truth about his nature, the BFG could pose a real threat. Of course, as soon as we see him next to his fellow giants the figure becomes positively heartwarming. After all, this film doesn’t shy away from showing the terrible aspects of the existence of giants. It doesn’t hide away the idea of children being eaten and the bones being left behind for their parents to find. The giants in Spielberg’s films were just mean bullies but these ones are monsters.

Which only makes the BFG seem all the nicer. Something that is helped immeasurably by having the character voiced by the great David Jason. At this point Jason was a staple of animated children’s TV shows and he certainly brought a charm to Dahl’s giant. Whilst I’d happily say that Mark Rylance really nailed the BFG’s distinct language, Jason does bring his weird way with words to life. He even managed to pull off the handful of slightly dodgy songs that have been added to the tale. David Jason brings the perfect blend of menacing and joy to the character, which makes it easy to see why Sophie loves him so much.

The first adaptation of The BFG may well seem retro and slow paced when compared to it’s modern competition but that doesn’t mean it should be lost to history. The animation may not offer as much humanity as the motion captured Rylance but that doesn’t mean it lacks heart. It is a great interpretation of Dahl’s tale and, in some scenes, offers material that Spielberg left out of his film. I, for one, was upset that the latest film didn’t include the scene in which Sophie and the BFG discuss the tastes of people from different nations. Yes, it might not be as accomplished, grand, or exciting as the new film but there is no doubting that this should be a well-loved classic.

Tuesday’s Reviews: The BFG (2016)

childhood favourite, films, fucking awesome, fucking beautiful, review, Roald Dahl, Steven Spielberg

Conditions aren’t exactly ideal for writing at the moment. My back is aching again and I just can’t get comfortable. I’ve changed position about a million times whilst getting to this point in the sentence. My computer is irritating me and annoying noises every few seconds. And it’s nearly 11 o’clock and I’m feeling a bit under pressure to finish. Still, we all know by now that I like a challenge. I can and will write something before midnight. Now that we’re done with exposition, you may remember that a few months ago I reread The BFG before I watched the film. I managed to read it before Spielberg’s film came out but never actually came through on the second part of the plan. This Summer ended up being a bit of a blur that revolved around work and my sister’s wedding. So the film came and went without me realising. However, it was finally released on Monday so I decided it was time I finally sat down and got on with it.

There’s a certain whimsical charm that comes with any Roald Dhal story that has proven to be difficult to capture on screen. Whether it’s an English thing that Hollywood always fails to understand or if it’s a magic that can only come out in words, I don’t know. However, the films that have come out of Dahl’s works so far have been good but never seemed to be able to translate the whole story. Although, every trailer for Steven Spielberg’s The BFG seemed to suggest that, finally, someone had got it right. Spielberg hasn’t really made a successful kids film for a good few years and has never been able to recapture the greatness that made ET such a firm classic.

Still, what better film to recreate that magic than The BFG? A story that picks us up from the grime of London and puts us right into the heart of Giant Country. We accompany the BFG to his home after he kidnaps a young girl from a orphanage. It’s not as dark as it seems, of course, because the giant is only taking her in case she blabs about the existence of his kind. Thankfully, Sophie’s captor is a Big Friendly Giant who, unlike the other residents of Giant Country, has made a vow to never eat a “human bean”. Instead, he captures and mixes dreams to put into the minds of sleeping families with the help of his special dream trumpet. Unfortunately, the BFG if lonely and must contend with the constant bullying of the much larger and more violent giants. They are merciless in their treatment of the BFG that Sophie decides that it is time to put a stop to it. In order to get their plan to work, the pair must ask for the help of the Queen of England… naturally.

The BFG is a simple tale that, for the purposes of this film, has been augmented with extra action sequences, special set pieces, and additional backstory to ensure it fits a the run time for a feature film. Whilst non of these moments feel particularly necessary, they hardly take anything away. There are a few times when you might wish scenes were shorter but, all in all, the film flows nicely towards its epic final act set inside Buckingham Palace. It is these scenes that provide a lot of the really memorable moments. The breakfast scene is such a visual and comedic treat that you’ll be whizzpopping with sheer joy.

It helps that the casting is so perfect. Mark Rylance plays the titular dream-catching giant and does so wonderfully. Rylance embraces the language of the BFG and manages to relay the many misheard words and mixed up phrases in a poetic way. His motion-capture performance will have even those with the hardest hearts smiling though sheer joy. It also ensures that Spielberg proves, that after the uninspiring Adventures of Tin-Tin, he can work with CGI and not really fuck it up. There is as much human emotion and presence on that screen as if Rylance had been there in person. It really is delightful and ensures that, even in the slower sections, the audience will stick with the character.

Alongside the BFG is his little friend, Sophie, who is played beautifully by 12 year old Ruby Barnhill. In both looks and screen presence, Ruby reminds me of Mara Wilson when she brought Matilda to life in Danny DeVito’s adaptation. Sophie is an emotionally vulnerable and lonely child but is full of confidence and big ideas. Barnhill and Rylance come together in the film’s quieter moments to create an emotional centre that shows action and noise aren’t the only things needed to keep a children’s film moving. Their conversations are so funny and enjoyable to watch that it’s almost a shame when we need to move onto the big set piece at the end of the film.

The BFG won’t be the kind of film that everyone will love. It moves at it’s own pace and will indulge itself in the conversations between the orphan child and her new friend instead of wowing its audience with special effects and action. It is a film that is unashamedly nice, which many may think is a mistake. Yes, it is twee and it does push the ideas of magic and fun to the forefront in an incredibly unsubtle way. But so what? Watching this film made me feel fantastic. It was a lovely experience and the kind you can only get from something so pure-hearted and well-meaning. It takes a lovely story of an unlikely friendship and makes it something so real and believable. Anyone who could have watched this film and not forgiven it’s few sins is someone that is beyond hope. After all, as Dahl himself said, “those who don’t believe in magic will never find it” and, unfortunately for them, there is magic flowing out of The BFG.

TBT – Liar Liar (1997)

childhood favourite, comedy, films, fucking funny, Jim Carrey, meh, TBT

This has been an absurd week really. Just when we thought no political decision could out crazy Brexit America decides it’s time to up the game. The world has changed dramatically thanks to the this weeks American election. We’ve been through weeks of incredibly mean campaigns and general horribleness only to be left with scenes of despair, fear and violence when the least likely Presidential candidate actually fucking won. Still, I also feel that it’s not really my place to go too far into how much of a fuck up this could be. It will have an effect on everyone but will have a major effect on the people who live in American who aren’t white, male and straight. It’s crazy and I can see why people are worried. Even if Trump does eventually tire of politics it won’t exactly leave us in a better position. Compared to the rest of his party, he’s fucking liberal. He goes and we get Mike Pence. Hardly comforting. Anyway, this has never been a political blog so it’s time to get back to normal life. So, for this TBT I decided to find a film that both summed up my feelings about this election and provided an escape from reality. Liar Liar is a film that works on both levels.

I have to admit that when I was younger I absolutely adored Liar Liar. I think this mostly came down the bloopers included in the credits which my twin and I rewound so much the VHS ribbon was nearly destroyed. They’re incredibly funny because it’s just Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey. I remember crying with laughter as we watched and it’s given me a great memory of the film. It’s been happily sitting within my nostalgia bank where it would provide happy memories and the occasional random quote when necessary. Upon watching it as an adult I realised that the entire film manages to be funny thanks to Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey. I mean it’s still funny because… Jim Carrey but, when you really look at it, the film lacks substance. The narrative is particularly uninspiring and, were it not for the sheer energy of it’s main star, this film would have been forgotten forever.

It’s a very basic premise that doesn’t really get much development and is intended to give Carrey the chance to gurn, shout and jump around on screen. Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, a very talented lawyer who is willing to lie and cheat his way to the top. In his desperation to become a partner of his law firm, Fletcher is jeopardising his relationship with his son, Max (Justin Cooper). After on too many disappointments, Max makes a birthday wish that his father spend one day without telling any lies. Unfortunately for Fletcher, who is in the middle of a career defining case, the wish comes true and his planned trial tactics are suddenly impossible. Then there’s the added threat of Flethcer’s ex-wife, Audrey (Maura Tierney), taking Max to Boston with her new boyfriend. Fletcher must find a way to win his case, make it up to his son, and stop his wife moving without being able to fall back on his talent for telling lies.

The premise is so flimsy that it’s hard to ignore the fact that in the hands of a lesser actor there would be little to keep an audience with the story. I mean it’s basically just one gag repeated in different scenarios: Fletcher being forced to confront situations with complete honesty and facing the disastrous consequences. It’s all fine but it’s hardly an in depth discussion on the social and moral consequences of lying. It’s just a load of absurd situations mixed in with some cliched emotional nonsense about a workaholic, negligent father finding out that, really, his son is the only thing that really matters to him. This film only succeeds because Jim Carrey is willing to do anything to get a laugh and, to be honest, he often does. He has a way of making his face and body do things that seem impossible. I still love this film as an adult but I do so without the rose-tinted glasses that youth provides us.

TBT – Hocus Pocus (1993)

childhood favourite, cult, Halloween, magic, TBT, witches

It’s weird to think about it now that Hocus Pocus is a cult classic but when it was first released in the 90s the film bombed at the box office. The critics hated it and people just didn’t go an see it in the cinema. However, as we’ve seen with a shitload of supposedly terrible films, over the years it has become a fan favourite and a cult Halloween classic. It’s pretty much the only film I’d say is a must-have viewing over the fright season. Who needs scary movies and gore when you have Bette Midler and that nun from Sister Act dressed as witches and luring children to their home? Nobody that’s who. I realise I’m someone who dislikes the horror genre but that doesn’t make my point any less valid… does it? Well, I don’t give a shit. I’ve loved Hocus Pocus since I was a kid and I’m pretty sure I watch it every year around this time. It’s the only time I’ve enjoyed something starring Sarah Jessica Parker.

I understand why people might hate this film. I mean it’s kind of cheesy and it’s kind of over-complicated. On paper it’s nothing special but, thanks to a great cast and a fake talking cat, Hocus Pocus is actually incredible. One Halloween in Salem a teenage boy, desperate to impress a girl, lights a candle that brings three witchy sisters back to life. They have one night to magically steal the youth of a child or they’ll turn to dust. First they have to track down their spellbook from the trio who inadvertently set the menace on the world. There’s also some dancing, a couple of bullies and the aforementioned talking cat. I think it’s easy to see why this is my favourite Halloween based film.

The film follows awkward teenager Max Dennison (Omri Katz) who has been forced to move to Salem but can’t fit in with his fellow students. Despite being incredibly cynical about all things to do with the holiday, Max is charged with taking his younger sister Dani (Thora Birch) trick or treating he comes face-to-face with new crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw). Allison loves Halloween and, with some encouragement from Max, takes the pair to the house that once belonged to the three Sanderson sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy). The sisters were witches who hundreds of years earlier were killed after they kidnapped and killed a young girl, Emily. Max lights a candle and Winifred, Sarah and Mary return to life and immediately begin trying to find eternal youth. With some help from Emily’s brother, Thackery Binx, who was unfortunately turned into a cat, the trio must keep the sisters away from their spellbook and stop them brewing the all important potion.

A lot of what makes this film so great is what also makes it so bad. It’s utterly camp and over-the-top but it’s also endearingly fun. All the cast are clearly having a whale of a time and totally embrace the ridiculousness on screen. It means that despite whatever crazy shit is happening it still feels like everyone’s in control. And, yes, it is camp but it’s about Halloween for fuck’s sake. It’s a holiday about dressing in colourful costumes, demanding sweets and using cheap tricks to scare people. It’s hardly the classiest time of year. Anything that is based around plastic spiders and face-paint isn’t going to be ruined because Bette Midler and her skin-bound spellbook.

This film is silly and weird and absolutely amazing. It’s full of dark and adult humour despite being a kid’s film. It’s funny but it’s also kind of scary for children. I mean the sisters spend the entire film looking for children to kill, they nearly force the entire town to dance themselves to death, and there’s a hanging in the first 30 minutes. It would do the job as a children’s Halloween film but it’s so much more than that. It’s insane and unnecessarily complicated. The sister get locked in a furnace but somehow survive to drag the plot on further. There are plenty of sub-plots that aren’t needed and loads of things included just or jokes. It kind of feels like an hour long story dragged out by another 30 minutes. However, I honestly don’t know what I would remove if I had the chance. It’s all so fucking vital to the overall experience. The moments where the sister’s come to terms with modern life are fantastic. Any time when the three witches are together and just being fucking weird is fantastic.

I don’t care what you might say but Halloween isn’t a time to be scared. Especially when you’re my age. It’s about dressing up and being outrageous. This film, in it’s own way, is outrageous. It won’t get the appreciation it deserves from critics and the like but fans love it for a reason. You don’t need to sit around at home watching people run away from chainsaw wielding freaks in masks. No, you need the Sanderson sisters and Thackery fucking Binx.

TBT – Finding Nemo (2003)

animation, childhood favourite, fucking awesome, fucking beautiful, Pixar, TBT

The thing I never get about grown-up Disney fans is the obsession with the Princesses. As a 28 year old who has a room filled with toys and a wardrobe full of clothes covered in pop culture references, I worry about all of the people that walk around covered in garish depictions of the royal women of Disney. I don’t really think I’ve ever been as enamoured with the Princess ones as I have with the animal ones. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White are all well and good but I didn’t give a shit about finding Prince Charming pr having the big fancy wedding. I loved The Fox and the Hound and 101 Dalmatians because I really love dogs. I didn’t want to be Aurora: I wanted to be Simba. I guess, when it comes down to it, animated films are better suited to non-human characters because it is able to give a voice to those without a voice. I realise that live action films about animals do exist but there is something so creepy about it. I mean Babe is a great film but talk about the uncanny.

When it comes to animated features there are few studios that have capture an audience’s imagination like Pixar. Everyone has their favourite Pixar film and, in my experience at least, that usually comes down to one of two choices The first is Wall-E, an adorable film about a waste-collecting robot, or Finding Nemo. “Which is my favourite of the two?”, I hear you cry. No doubt about it Finding Nemo. I may have been a little older than Pixar’s main target audience when it came out 13 years ago but that didn’t stop me absolutely adoring this film. It’s utterly fantastic. With the release of its sequel last month I was given the perfect chance to revisit the classic children’s film.

Now I’m not for one second going to sit here and pretend that I even need to sit here and convince you all that this film is worth a watch. We all know it to be true. Instead I’m just going to quietly gush about just how great this film is. Not least because it takes us into the depths of the ocean. Now a film about a bunch of fish may not have seemed like the most engaging topic back in 2003 but now we know differently. The characters may be cold-blooded but their story certainly warmed our hearts. We have sat on the edge of our seat as Marlin, a widowed clownfish, overcame his deep-seated neuroses to save his only son. We have fallen in love with the positivity of Dory, the blue tang suffering from memory loss but who just “keeps on swimming”. We cheered as Nemo, Marlin’s son born with a deformed fin, managed to help his friends escape to freedom. This film has everything.

It also has the perfect voice cast who perfectly work with their character’s animation. Each actor helps create a very real and deep character that it is impossible not to engage with. Albert Brooks is ideal as the worrisome Marlin who, after the death of his wife, lives in fear of the ocean’s hidden monsters. Ellen DeGeneres is perhaps the only person with enough charm and energy to play the well-meaning and inspiring Dory. With supporting roles from actors like Willem Defoe, Geoffrey Rush, and Allison Janney, Finding Nemo is perhaps, in my opinion anyway, one of the best cast animated films ever made.

On top of that it’s also a fucking visual spectacle. If, for some unknown reason, the cast and the narrative don’t have you engrossed then the sheer scale of the backdrop will. We are taken on a watery journey through coral reefs to the ocean deep and into the aquarium in the middle of a dentist’s office. The skill that was involved in not just creating the backdrop but in making the underwater scenes feel authentic is just awe-inspiring. There was a fucking insane amount of research put into creating a realistic underwater setting the ensure every detail felt real. Everything is perfect; from the lighting, physical properties, movement, colour, reflections and so on. I could watch Finding Nemo on repeat and not pay attention to anything but the visuals and I’d still be raving about how great it is.

There’s no real mystery as to why Finding Nemo is so often hailed as Pixar’s best. It features a story that is funny, emotional and just scary enough for both children and adults alike. The characters are often more human than the people seen in their other offerings and you certainly care about them more. The animation is just breathtaking. I can’t recommend this film enough and I can’t wait to see it again and again.

TBT – Hook (1991)

childhood favourite, films, J M Barrie, meh, Peter Pan, review, rewriting, Robin Williams, Steven Spielberg, TBT

My twin sister and I really loved Hook when we were younger. It’s a really good children’s film that we found utterly hilarious. I mean, if I’m honest, it was mainly down to the fat kid and his weird dancing but it’s something. We rewatched that film as often as we could and I’m certain we would quote along with it. We must have really worn out the ribbon on the VHS copy we owned. Jesus, that statement makes me feel fucking old. Something else that made me feel old was finding out that Hook turns 25 this week. Has anyone else seen that picture of the Lost Boys as they are now? God dammit, those Lost Boys really grew up. Still, it provided the perfect chance to talk about it for TBT. I always enjoy the chance to revisits a classic from my childhood. The fact that it also marks the 2nd anniversary of Robin William’s death is just fate.

Hook is based on JM Barrie’s Peter Pan but, instead of telling the story of the boy who refused to grow up, Hook poses the question of what would become of Peter when he became a man. It’s not a retelling as such but a re-purposing I suppose. We get reintroduced to all the characters we love but not as we remember them. Wendy (Maggie Smith) is now well into her 80s and a great-grandmother. Peter (Robin Williams), now a hotshot lawyer, is married to her granddaughter, Moira (Caroline Goodall), and has two children of his own, Jack and Maggie. When Peter returns to the house where he first met Wendy he finds himself reacquainted with an old foe who has a long-standing grudge. Captain James Hook (Dustin Hoffman), wishing to finally rid the world of Pan, kidnaps his children and challenges him to a duel. Can Peter remember the boy he used to be or will he lose his children to his greatest nemesis?

As re-tellings go, Hook is hardy the most inspiring. It’s an incredibly long film considering you’re told the same thing about three times over. The exposition is over-complicated and reiterated so many times you’ll get déjà vu about your déjà vu. It also fails to do anything remarkably new with Barrie’s original tale. Who exactly is this film trying to appeal to? The kids out there who empathise with a lawyer on the edge of mid-life crisis or the mid-life crisis suffering lawyers out there who yearn to fly and fight pirates? It’s a weird idea for a film and you can’t help but wonder why Spielberg didn’t just re-imagine Peter Pan for a new generation? As it happens, Hook brings about a lot more questions than it answers and there’s a disturbing level of creepiness hanging over the whole thing. I mean it’s uncomfortable that Wendy and Peter had a weird romantic thing and now he’s married to her granddaughter. Then there’s the fact that a middle-aged Peter rightly brings about questions of the fact that there’s a load of unsupervised children living on an island and fighting pirates. When you introduce real adults into Neverland it all starts to lose a bit of the magic that made it do great when you were kids.

Watching Hook again as an adult is a weird thing. Part of me can understand why Spielberg hates this film so much but the other part just delights in everything that happens on screen. Hook is by no means the best kids film Spielberg has ever made but it makes up for its lack of finesse with fun. Spielberg clearly just doesn’t give a shit about anything he’s doing so it’s all just a bit of a mess. The big budget had meant a grand and spectacular scale but there is some amount of warmth and heart lost in the vastness. It’s all a bit paltry. However, the whole point of the story is to remind people not to lose their sense of fun. As a supposed grown-up its hard not to get swept away in Peter’s journey to rediscover his youth. It’s the ultimate fable about letting go of everything that made you great as a child when you get swept away in the world of work and family. We could all do with being a bit more like Peter.

It helps that Peter is played by the marvellous Robin Williams who utterly embraces the idea of recaptured youth. I know everyone has their favourite Williams role and, like most, I think the Genie in Aladdin is definitely up there. However, his performance in Hook is just as engaging because he has it all. Not only does he excel as the ultimate child all grown up but he is incredible as the father desperate to save his children. You can hardly call it his best dramatic role ever but its a performance that turns this potentially underwhelming concept into something I will love forever. After all, who can honestly say that there heart doesn’t leap when Peter finally starts to fly? Or when the Lost Boys realise that beneath the flab and the suit is the boy that they once followed so loyally? Hook is a bit of rough diamond. Yes, it could do with some polishing but, if you’re honest, it has enough charm that it doesn’t really matter.