This reading slump really does need to stop soon. Not only am I still reading the same book I started in April (with a few stops to read other things along the way) but I’m entirely unmotivated when it comes to my Wednesday night bookish posts. It also doesn’t help that I’m having a terrible work week but we’ve reached that point where I need to go to bed but still haven’t got anything up on the blog. I genuinely don’t know what’s wrong with me. It takes me so long to get motivated to do anything. I’ve sat with WordPress open for ages but kept finding reasons not to start typing. Okay, I guess not having a subject matter is a pretty decent excuse for not writing. At one point I genuinely contemplated trying to write a post about how to deal with reading slumps but I quickly realised that if I knew how to deal with them then I wouldn’t be in one. So I scrapped that idea. I guess I’m just feeling a bit low all round right now. Even Bookstagram really isn’t giving me the same kind of joy that it once did. I wake up early on my days off to get ahead with my photos and lie in bed for hours instead of actually taking them. Apparently, these days taking loads of photos of books isn’t really top of my priorities list.
I didn’t know anything about Proud Mary when I watched it this week. I genuinely don’t think I’ve heard anything about it but it sounded like the kind of thing that could be quite fun. As much as I’d like to use my cinema viewing as a chance to make a stand against gun violence given the current climate in American, I’m a bit of a sucker for a good action movie. My inner 12-year-old boy comes out every time there’s a decent gunfight or car chase. It’s the only reason I continue to watch all of the godawful Transformers movies. Robots, check; guns, check; fast cars, check. It’s got it all but a decent script and a good cast. In spite of everything, there will always be a part of me that thinks that movie characters who are super handy with a gun are cool. It’s like smoking. On screen it looks totally badass but, in reality, it’s really harmful and awful. Gun control is a real issue and I do believe that Hollywood has a need to be careful with how they portray guns but, at the same time, I really love a good gunfight. Which is the very reason that I actually watched Proud Mary despite knowing nothing about it. Well, that and the fact that Taraji P. Henson is an absolute legend.
I’ve put off trying to write this review until the last-minute because I genuinely don’t know how to feel about this film. I knew that I wanted to see it because I think Margot Robbie is a great actress and I’d probably totally adore Allison Janney in anything. But, being a British person who has never been very interested figure skating and was only 6 when Tonya Harding was stripped of her title, I also wasn’t exactly knowledgeable about the story. I mean, I knew the basics of Harding’s story but it’s not as if I’d ever had any reason to go an delve deeper into her backstory. So, as much as I wanted to see this film I wasn’t sure I’d be the right person to appreciate it fully. Still, Mark Kermode was raving about it about a month ago and we’ve been on the same wavelength for a while now. I felt like it was the least I could to do to give the whole thing a try.
If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll be aware that last week I was lucky enough to see the stage version of the book War Horse. It was an absolutely amazing experience that I will never forget and one that left me an emotional wreck for days. I don’t understand it but the deaths of massive wooden puppets was super traumatic. As a huge literary nerd and a bit of a history geek too, World War 1 has always been somewhat fascinating for me so I’ve been interested in War Horse for a while. It wasn’t until I watched Steven Spielberg’s film in 2012 that I became familiar with the story and, if I’m honest, it left me feeling more than a little critical. As I suggested in my review, I felt sad that society could only become emotionally invested in the story of the Great War through the treatment of horses. I mean I’ve got nothing against horses but why do we need to make a film about a horse when loads of innocent, young men died as well? Human beings care more about animals at times than they do about strangers. It’s ridiculous. Going off topic for a second, I once heard a story (probably not true) about a charity that went around giving food to the pets of homeless people. Now I have nothing against this kind act on its own but the same people were (allegedly) only giving food to the animals. Now, I realise dogs that live on the street deserve food but what kind of fucked up person would not also give food to the owner? Anyway, I’ve had my misgivings about Michael Morpurgo’s story of a magical fucking horse since I laughed my way through Spielberg’s film but the stage show had me changing my mind. Maybe there was something there after all?
I never saw Oliver and Company when I was a kid but I remember seeing the trailer for it whenever we watched a Disney film on VHS. Every time I saw it I wanted to watch it but it never happened. Probably because I’d get too distracted by whatever Disney film I was going to watch. It always looked really fun and, as someone who loved dogs, I was obviously into the idea of Oliver Twist being remade with animals. I mean if The Lion King has taught us anything it’s that taking a piece of great literature and retelling it with animals is a great strategy for storytelling. I mean who’d even heard of Hamlet before Disney introduced us to Simba, right? Plus, there is a whole host of Disney films that prove that dogs and/or cats having adventures together is an instant winner. I’m not a big fan of Dickens anyway so I couldn’t imagine how it could get any worse by involving household pets.
I have to say, I’m quite enjoying this journey back to the year I was born. I mean, politically it was a pretty shitty time in the UK but there are plenty of cool films that I’m yet to discover. I’m not suggesting that all films from this year are going to be stellar or even completely watchable but I’d say, on a whole, I’m not ashamed of my birth year. I discovered the other day that a lot of the films in my TBT jar are currently on Netflix UK. I guess its possible 1988 films are popular because of the big 3-0 anniversary but maybe it’s just cheaper. I don’t know and, really, I don’t care. If it’s as simple to get through my Throwback Thirty list as turning on Netflix and relaxing then I’m happy. Still, it does mean I’m taking the whole ‘randomly pick a film out of the jar’ thing a little less seriously. I genuinely picked a Netflix film this week but, after finding so many on there, I’m tempted to change the rules. The problem is, there are a lot of films in the jar that I love or am super keen to watch but a fair few that I think it will be tougher to get myself to watch. The more serious and filmy films. If I don’t stick to the “rules” then I’ll only watch the ridiculous films like Killer Klowns From Outer Space or Who Framed Roger Rabbit and not the films like Cinema Paradiso. Basically, I’d just watch films that meant I didn’t need to think. I wasn’t sure how I’d fair with today’s prompt but I sat down anyway. After all, I’m a big fan of Alec Baldwin’s face in the 80s and, even though he’s only in this film briefly, it was enough of an incentive.
Thankfully, I was able to catch up with myself for Throwback Thirty this week. After failing to watch Short Circuit 2 after I drew it out of my jar I actually managed it for today. Yesterday I settle down and had an afternoon of Johnny 5. It’s been ages since I last say Short Circuit so I wanted to remind myself… you know, in case it was too difficult to work out what was going on! Other than reminding me of how much I adore Ally Sheedy and causing me to Google (not for the first or the last time) ‘what is Steve Guttenberg doing these days?’, my rewatch of the 1986 science-fiction film wasn’t that memorable. I remember liking this film way more than I did. I don’t even think I had much of a warm nostalgic feeling about it. It just seemed a bit shit now. Of course, it was always shit but when you’re a kid nothing with a talking robot will ever be completely terrible, right? I mean, if I’m honest, the talking robot was still pretty cool as a nearly 30 year old but I was still disappointed with the film. So, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I sat down to watch the sequel for the first time. If there’s one thing we know it’s that the sequel is always worse than the original… and I say that as a younger twin. So I know what I’m talking about.
Everyone has their own favourite Christmas film. It’s a deeply personal and, often, confusing thing. I, personally, don’t understand why anyone would say anything other than The Muppets’ Christmas Carol but there are some weirdos out there. Love Actually is one of the those films that genuinely baffles me. There is so much love for that film but, when you really look at it, it’s just awful. I know people who willingly watch it repeatedly throughout December. Who would do that to themselves? Netflix should stop trying to shame fans of A Christmas Prince and starting calling out the people who are watching Love Actually again and again. They’re the real worries. Alongside the more contemporary Christmas viewing there are the real classic Christmas films that people just adore. Although, not all of them seem to be as popular over here as they are in America. I don’t know why but it feels like A Christmas Story hasn’t really translated to the UK market in the same way that most other Christmas films have. Every year I see and hear loads about it but, up until recently, I’d never seen the film myself. I knew quotes from it but had no context for them. After a recent prompt for an Instagram challenge I’m doing this month referenced the film, I decided it was finally time to watch it. After all, people seem to bloody love this film. Why else would it be played over and over for 24 straight hours? Oh god, imagine a world where somebody starts doing that for Love Actually? I couldn’t cope.
Now that I have seen A Christmas Story I have to say, I don’t get it. I was so ready for it to be the greatest thing I’d ever seen but I just don’t get it. I mean, it’s a fine collection of stories and all but it’s nowhere near as funny or endearing as I’d been lead to believe. The film is narrated by adult Ralphie Parker as he reminisces about the Christmas he had when he was 9 years old. Specifically about how desperate he was to get his dream present: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Unfortunately, as he’s only a fucking kid, most sensible adults see this as a bad idea. Ralphie isn’t one to be stopped so tries every trick he can think of to convince his parents that it’s a good idea. Along the way, there are several smaller plots going on including Ralphie’s father winning a ridiculous prize in a competition, an ongoing joke concerning his dad and the neighbours’ dogs, Ralphie’s encounters with the school bully, and a brief encounter with some ill-advised swearing.
A Christmas Story is a very odd film that attempts to win favour with its nostalgic setting and fairly twee sensibility. The story is set around the 1940s so there is a slightly magical feel to everything. It’s a little historic whilst being incredibly familiar. Hearkening back to a time when Christmas was much less commercial and families thought about the more important things. Although, there is something quite off-putting about the setting. It feels too forced. I just couldn’t get on board with it. I like nostalgic TV but it has too feel natural. Take something like Mad Men, which makes the historical references work within the context of the story. A Christmas Story just seems to be using the past as a way to create a feeling that it is unable to generate naturally. Using nostalgia to create a festive ambience.
It’s not as if there aren’t good moments in this film but they are somewhat outweighed by the bad. For all the jokes that land fairly well, there are far more that just feel forced or cringey. There are parts of this film that make me feel so uncomfortable because they’re so bad. Like the moment Ralphie’s father is opening a crate and misreads the word “fragile” for no reason whatsoever. It’s not funny or silly. It doesn’t make any sense. Just like the whole film. I get that it is supposed to have the feel of several small vignettes coming together to create a festive treat but it just feels too disparate. There is nothing, other than Ralphie, that really ties these stories together. It just feels badly edited and unconnected. And super long. It’s not actually that long a film but watching it felt like a fucking marathon. I can’t imagine how long a 24 hour repeated watch would feel.
I guess it’s entirely possible that I’m missing something that I’d get if I was in America. Maybe that’s why the film hasn’t really made it over here. Something fundamental has been lost in translation. All I do know is, this film certainly won’t make it into my yearly festive rotation of films. It’s not the worst Christmas film I’ve ever seen but it’s certainly not an experience I’m keen to repeat.
After I watched A Christmas Prince the other day I went on a bit of a Christmassy binge and watched a few films. Not all of them good. As anyone who has read my lists of the best and the worst Christmas films ever made will know, there is a huge variety when it comes to the quality of Christmas films. Now, I’ve watched a lot of shit ones in my time but usually only indulge in my favourites. It never really feels like Christmas until I’ve seen A Muppet Christmas Carol and, obviously, I really fucking love Die Hard. I tend to stick to a select group of tried and tested classics throughout December so newer Christmas films aren’t really on my radar. Still, the terrible A Christmas Prince hadn’t made me want to vomit quite as much as I thought so I went back to Netflix for today’s TBT post. I picked the first film that sounded remotely similar but, let’s face it, all of these TV Christmas movies are basically the same premise. Young girl, media job, carefree young man, festive magic, romance, the end. How bad could this really be? Spoiler alert: really fucking bad!
This is one of those stupid TV Christmas movies that isn’t meant to do anything but offer a bland viewing option for people in the festive season. It isn’t challenging and follows such an obvious narrative structure so its audience literally don’t have to do anything other than passively watch it. It doesn’t need to be original, well written, well acted, or, really, any good at all. The rule is: the schmaltzier the better. Logic and reality don’t play a part because it’s Christmas. Why should anything make sense. Now I realise that I criticised A Christmas Prince for being written using all the best Christmas teen movie staples but Angel of Christmas makes that film look like Citizen Kane in comparison.
You know, I can just about see how a young, under-qualified wannabe writer might be sent to report on some European royalty story because, when you think about it, it won’t be such a huge story. I can believe that the aforementioned writer would be able to pass herself off as a tutor to a royal child without having to show anyone any identification. I can even bring myself to imagine that the journalist is the first person since the King’s death to go snooping around his desk in order to discover the secret adoption papers. I can do that. What I can’t do is believe any of the narrative of Angel of Christmas. Something even weirder when you consider how fucking similar the plots are.
Here we have a wannabe writer who gets given the chance to write a huge Christmas story for her publication (sounds familiar). She, however, is given the super generic task of writing about Christmas. I mean what kind of assignment is that? Her choice? Writing about the story of her great grandfather’s doomed love for a random actress. I know, weird. But it’s fine because it’s actually really fucking magical. You see, the great grandfather in question carved a wooden angel for the woman he originally wanted to marry but, after she rejected him for her craft, the angel went on to introduce him to his true love. This angel was passed down to his children who found their true loves. It’s a magical, matchmaking Christmas ornament, y’all.
I don’t even really want to write about this film because of how much it offends me. The final, supposedly magical, reveal is so fucking obvious from the start that it’s just annoying. The plot is dragged out way longer than it needs to be and there are far too many twee Christmas montages and establishing shots of snowy vistas. There’s even the world’s least believable love triangle because, well, how do you know the couple are really meant to be together if he’s her only choice, right? This film offers no warm and fuzzy Christmas feelings. It’s presented as some magical and heart-warming tale but it’s just dull and predictable. There are plenty of bad Christmas movies out there but they at least offer some kind of festive cheer to distract you. A Christmas Angel is one of the total disasters that leaves you feeling less Christmassy despite the fact it says the world Christmas about a million times.
The problem with an actor playing an iconic role early on in their career means that they are forever carrying that character around on their shoulders. Look at Daniel Radcliffe who, despite seeming to take every random opportunity that comes his way, is finding it difficult to come out of the shadow of the Boy Who Lived. As much as I want to watch every new film he stars in as a new Daniel Radcliffe film I can’t help but see Harry Potter everywhere. Similarly, I have often had problems separating Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot. As such, every role that I’ve watched Bell play has just seemed more childish than it should have done. He’s tried to do plenty of serious stuff over the years but all I see is that young ballet dancer pretending to be a grown-up. Which is a massive shame because I really like Jamie Bell. He just hasn’t ever quite found that one role that changed the way people, or at least I, perceive him. For the last few years he’s done a variety of different thigns that have had varying degrees of success. He was perfect as the title character in The Adventures of Tintin but was recently in the reboot of Fantastic Four that never really worked. I admit that I was
unconvinced after seeing that he was going to star in a film as a member of the SAS. Would I ever be able to see anything other than Billy Elliot with a gun?
Going into 6 Days I didn’t really know a great deal about the Iranian Embassy siege that took place in London in May 1980 but, considering the number of recent terrorist attacks around the world in the last 12 months or so, it seems like a rather prescient story to make a film about. 37 years on, the world is facing even greater atrocities than the ones carried out at Princes Gate just 1 year into Margaret Thatcher’s government. On 30th April that year a group of Iranian Arab men stormed the embassy in Kensington and held 26 people hostage. Threatening the lives of those they hel, the group demanded the release of a group prisoners in Khuzestan and their safe passage out of the UK. The Prime Minister and her Tory government refused to agree to these demands so a siege ensued for the next 6 days. Whilst the SAS were on standby to storm the building, negotiators successfully saw the release of a handful of hostages by agreeing to a few of their more minor demands. It wasn’t until one of the hostages was killed that the special forces regiment carried out an assault and brought the siege to and end.