TBT – Goldeneye (1995)

TBT – Goldeneye (1995)

On Monday I’m finally going to get to see Spectre. I know there have been a few dodgy reviews but I always love a Bond film. It comes back to those lazy weekends as a kid where I had nothing to do but watch Roger Moore on his hover-gondola. Younger me loved James Bond because it was silly and camp. Twenty years ago this week the James Bond franchise changed completely. Pierce Brosnan stepped into the role and helped create one of the best bond films of all fucking time. That’s quite a bold statement and part of me does worry my love of the game is clouding my judgement. However, there is no denying that Goldeneye took the womanising, drunk spy in a more modern direction. Without it we wouldn’t have ever met Daniel Craig’s brooding and parkour-ing 007.

If nothing else, Goldeneye starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the end credits role. We first see Bond as he traverses down a dam and uses a laser to cut his way in to a Russian munitions factory. Literally catching the enemy with their pants down, James reappears in a toilet cubical where he takes out a henchmen with as many raised eyebrows and sassy quips that you’d expect. This is Bond as you know him but just bigger.

Goldeneye’s plot involves a mysterious entity, Janus, taking control of a weapon that emits a deadly electromagnetic pulse onto any chosen target. In order to get to Janus, James must battle his deadly female sidekick, Xenia Onatopp, with thighs that are more than capable of crushing a man to death. Of course it’s not that simple: turns out the mission has a deeper personal meaning for James as a Russian Colonel who is mixed up in the scheme was responsible for killing a fellow agent 15 years earlier.

There are all the trappings of classic Bond here despite the fact that this is the first script written completely independently from Ian Fleming’s novels. The gadgets come into play in a timely fashion, the girls are still creepily obsessed with the creepy lothario, the baddies take part in an overly complicated plan, and plenty of people die. It’ll keep everyone who knows the formula happy enough. Just keep ticking off that checklist.

Goldeneye, however, appears to be in on the joke this time though. The whole affair is very tongue-in-cheek and every line is said with a knowing wink. The script is littered with subtle references to the Bond tropes that have become famous. The franchise helped Roger Ebert create the term Talking Killer but he is only visible here in a throwaway line about “proper sinister interrogation”. Goldeneye is aware of where it came from but it’s going to make damn sure you know it’s understands how silly things were getting.

So when Bond changed faces he also changed attitudes. Still the incessant womaniser but one with some amount of emotional depth. The scene where James and his latest squeeze have some quiet thinking time on a beach in the Carribbean is one of the cheesiest things you’ll ever see but it’s also not the kind of thing you’d see in pre-Bronhom Bond. He kills people for a living but don’t think for one second that he’s not fucking upset about it.

Our 1995 Bond also gets a bit more resistance from the female population. There have always been attempts to give James a strong female cohort but it wasn’t until Judi Dench stepped into the role of M that things got fucking serious. M wastes no time in telling Bond that exactly what she thinks of him and that his bullshit won’t wash with her. Judi Dench is by far the greatest fucking thing that happened to this franchise. I’m still recovering from her Skyfall departure.

M’s first encounter with Bond on screen shows her telling him he’s “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur”. That was becoming painfully clear by 1989’s Licence to Kill. Goldeneye went some way towards rebranding the man without losing any of what made him so compelling in the first place. I have no shame in admitting that Bronhom is my favourite Bond because he has the most fun with it. He knows what he has to do and just goes with it. I also have no trouble admitting that he’s nowhere near being the best.

Goldeneye is a great spectacle but it’s not necessarily a great film. It gives you everything you need from a spy film and all the traditions you need for a 007 film. The stunts are as spectacular as you’d want and the plot as outrageous as possible. This film holds an important place in James Bond history. And that’s not just because of the fucking awesome tank chase through St. Petersburg.

Kindle Surprise: or why I’m finally embracing the electronic age

Kindle Surprise: or why I’m finally embracing the electronic age

Anyone who knows me well enough will have heard me ranting about eReaders for years. I’m infamous at work for my stubbornness about Kindles and my desire to stick with the physical book form. So it shocked a few people when I made the decision to buy on this week. When it comes to reading, I still prefer owning and holding a book in my hands. I think books are a beautiful thing and having full bookshelves is better than wallpaper in terms of decoration. However, over the last 27 years of my life I’ve amassed a rather large selection of books, which, sooner or later, I’m going to have to pack up. If I have to move soon then it’s going to be hell transporting my library. It was time to find an alternative option.

As I’ve said, I’ll always be a lover of real books. There’s so many reasons why they’re better than a kindle. Over the years I’ve honed my ranting to a few key arguments.

  1. If you damage a book it’s really not the end of the world; in most cases it actually adds character to you bookshelves. You break a kindle and you’re paying out big time. Not worth the danger. 
  2. Reading in the bath (see above argument).
  3. The feel of reading a book is so different to reading a Kindle. You feel more involved when you hold a paperback in your hands and turn the page yourself. If feels more personal and involved. It may sounds crazy but its the fucking truth.
  4. Reading before bed is a bad idea on a Kindle. We all know the one about turning off our electronics an hour before bed and we all know that reading before bed is calming. There is a major conflict with these rules when it comes to Kindles. I have enough trouble sleeping at night without having this new problem.
  5. Books are pretty: eBooks are shitty. 
  6. Reading on a screen will always get annoying after a certain amount of time. Eye strain caused by gadgets may be a third world problem but that doesn’t make it any less real. 
  7. A physical book is a memento of your past. Some of my favourite books are the ones I’ve read over and over again. The copies I love most are the well-thumbed versions that I reread every few months/years. The books I’ve been given as gifts. They mean something. What memories does an eBook stir up?
  8. The financial reward to the author tends to be greater when it comes to physical books and that fucking matters. Authors need to make money to be able to write and only the big names can rely on a meaningful income. Less well-known readers need people to buy physical books rather than eBooks. 
  9. A study from 2014 showed that Kindle readers recalled less information about a novel than those who read physical books. You want to remember a book? Then you’d better read a real one. 
So there we have nine whole reasons why I never thought I’d buy a Kindle. However, space is a real issue in life. I love having books everywhere. My room is covered in piles of books where I’ve had bookshelf over-spill. Having a room full to bursting with literature is a fucking beautiful sight. Of course, the issue comes about when you have to move elsewhere. I, like every other late-twenties failure, still live with my parents. They keep threatening to downsize their house, which means sooner or later I have to man up and box up my belongings. The idea of getting my novels into boxes actually fills me with dread. 
My problem is impulse buying. As a general rule I will definitely buy every book by my favourite authors and I will, though I’m trying not to, buy multiple copies of my favourite books. I’m also pretty easily manipulated by things I read on the internet. This means I tend to impulse buy a load of shitty books that I either read and hate or leave to get dusty. It is this category that I feel like the Kindle will really help with. 
If I ever get the urge to read the next big YA book thanks the reviews I’ve read/heard then I can happily just buy a digital copy. I don’t need to find space for it or feel guilty when I read it once and give it to charity. I can buy every shitty book I want to read without feeling bad about the ever-increasing pile of books that threatens to engulf me whilst I sleep. They’ll just take up by memory. 
I’ll still buy the beautiful hardback and paperback editions of books that mean something to me. My favourite authors will always have a place on my shelf. It’s the likes of Rainbow Rowell and trashy crime novels that my Kindle was made for. All those books that BuzzFeed, Flavorwire and Huffington Post always convince me to get. I’ll save my shelves for the books that mean something. 
That’s what she read – Sunday rundown

That’s what she read – Sunday rundown

So, it’s week two and I’m still trying to go strong with my new routine. I’m actually doing pretty well at sticking to things at the moment. Since September I’ve been doing some form of exercise (nearly) everyday. I’m so fucking smug at the moment but, don’t worry, I won’t turn into one of those people that constantly mentions how fucking awesome I am. I won’t be tweeting about my post-workout high or anything. Doing more than I was doing wasn’t exactly difficult. However, it does mark the beginning of a new age where I make myself promises and really try and stick to them. So I’m naively hopeful that this can work… provided I start reading some fucking books that is.

Currently Reading

Yep, still not finished. I’m so near the end but the purchase of my Kindle (I’m getting to it tomorrow) has turned my attention away from this book. I’m still a little unconvinced by Krakauer’s methods but it at least creates a dialogue about a subject that needs to be discussed.

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

After reading two fairly intense books I was really in the need for something simple and light. I wasn’t a fan of Eleanor and Park so didn’t imagine I’d really love this. So far I’m not so full of hateful but I’m starting to get annoyed by the usual YA bullshit. The problem with YA as I see it is that all of the ridiculous teen problems that matter to teens has to be viewed sympathetically. The narratives portray teen issues with absolute sincerity which is fine when you’re a teen. I’m 28 years old and I can’t help but view all of their problems as silly and childish. However, I can sympathise with Cath to some extent. Probably because she’s so fucking generic that most people would be able to. We’ll see how this goes.

Forgotten Books
  • The Armageddon Rag by George R.R. Martin

I couldn’t do it. It was too exhausting carrying on with this book. Not because it’s not good: I was really enjoying it. I just don’t have the time to do it at the moment. I’ve bought a load of books I’m eager to read and the thought of slogging through one of these mammoth chapters just saps all my energy. I’ll finish it later.

Sample Read
  • What She Left by TR Richmond

A book I read about in a shitty magazine at work and was sort of interested in. It’s the story of a young girl who was murdered and the university professor that is obsessed with trying to solve it. The novel is intriguing thanks to its use of the imprint people leave behind. In the modern world there are endless traces of people online and in their personal relationships. How much can you find about someone just by researching them a bit? The sameple I’ve read gave an insight into modern society and social media but I haven’t been wowed enough to buy it. I probably will though. It was a quick read. 

Recently Purchased
  • The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami

Every year the Man Booker Prize longlist comes out my ‘Want to Buy’ list increases by almost the exact number of the list. This year was no different but I know from past experience (I’m talking about you The Kills) that I’ll buy something and it’ll sit on my shelf for years. So when I discovered this in the Kindle store for 99p I thought I’d be stupid not to. During my Postgraduate degree I did a module on Race and Difference during the Romantic Period and became fairly interested in the role race played in literary history. As such, this book sounds right up my street and I’m looking forward to getting started.

  • The Chimes by Anna Smaill

Another book I bought as a result of the Man Booker Prize and a small price in the Kindle Store. To be honest, I was less convinced by the sound of this than the other members of the longlist. It sounded a bit like that shitty Doctor Who episode ‘The Rings of Akhaten’. Although, it’s an interested concept for a book: a world where music is the language of choice. There have been plenty of good reviews for Smaill’s debut so I may as well give it a go… especially for £1.99.

  • Lexicon by Max Barry
A book I’ve had on my Book Depository wish list for years and something that sounds incredibly exciting. Another Kindle store bargain and I’ve finally got round to buying it. I love words. I love how beautiful they can be whilst also being incredibly powerful. Finding the right one can either improve or destroy your world. So a thriller about the power of words? Sounds like my fucking cup of tea. In 1984 Orwell did an excellent job of presenting words as a dangerous tool that governments wanted to control. Lexicon is set in a world where the right words can control people. I mean whole cities are being torn apart because of words. I can’t wait to read this.

Recently Watched
  • Master of None

It’s impossible not to love Aziz Ansari. He’s utterly adorable and really fucking funny. I know Netflix are going mental about his new series but it’s for good reason. Ansari has written, with co-writer Alan Yang, a fantastic comedy that actually has something important to say at the same time. The messages Ansari is sending out about race, gender, age and love are brilliant. It’s an intelligent script that speaks truths that need to be told to modern society. I sped through the first series and now I’m sorry it’s over. Bring on series 2.

TBT – Space Jam (1996)

TBT – Space Jam (1996)

When it comes to these throwback Thursday posts, I like to try and tie in my nostalgic lookback to my Monday post. Sometimes this is nigh on impossible and I just pick something at random. Other times I’ll just make a really tenuous link and hope for the best. Then there are times like this: times when everything falls into fucking place. Monday saw me reviewing The Martian and discussing one man’s struggle in space. To go with it I chose a film about one man’s struggle with beings from space. It also happens to be the first film I saw multiple times at the cinema. I fucking loved it and I still do. Every time I watch it I feel like a kid again. Suffice it to say, this probably won’t be a very objective review… but considering Space Jam is fucking awesome it doesn’t really matter.

The other week at work we had a debate: did I prefer Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or Space Jam? It was a difficult question because my brain refuses to let me forget that Roger Rabbit is a much better film. The story, script, execution: it’s just better. However, my fucking heart just can’t deny how much I love Michael Jordan’s battle against basketball pro aliens. I mean that sentence alone should get you excited.

Space Jam was Warner Bros. attempt to revive their classic Looney Tunes characters whilst utilising Michael Jordan’s immense star quality. They weren’t that successful at carrying out their aim but they create on hell of a film. The story takes places straight after Jordan announced his first retirement from basketball and shows his attempt to break into baseball. Turns out the reason Jordan returned to the NBA was thanks to bugs bunny and co.

These familiar cartoon characters are threatened by a horde of tiny aliens intent on kidnapping the Looney Tunes and putting them centre stage in their galactic theme park. Apparently the only solution is to challenge their minute foe to a basketball match, despite the fact that non of them have any real experience of the sport. Fucking obvious. So when the little aliens steal the talent of some of basketballs big hitters and grow to be fucking huge the Tunes realise they’re pretty fucked.

That’s where Jordan comes in. Pulling the ex-star into their cartoon world, the Tunes persuade him to coach their team… with hilarious results. Really, you shouldn’t really give a shit about the plot because it’s clearly just the first way some executive thought up to mix together Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. It doesn’t really matter and it doesn’t really make sense. It’s fine though. That’s not what this film is about.

It’s about fun. Batshit crazy, basketball fun. Space Jam won’t appeal to Looney Tune purists. Certainly Looney Tunes veteran Chuck Jones was incredibly aggrieved by some of the sassy jokes and aspects of the plot. Yes, Warner Bros. attempted to modernise their old favourites somewhat. Of course they fucking did. Kids are what bring the money in. Space Jam still just a bright and crazy as always though. The spirit of the original remains there’s just more sexy female bunny love interests this time around.

And to his credit, Michael Jordan does a pretty good job at interacting with them. He plays down his role and never pretends to be the funny, cartoon guy. He plays it fairly straight and low-key. He’s obviously not the greatest actor but, for a basketball star, he plays against imaginary bunnies and ducks like a fucking pro. Then again, he is only being asked to play Michael Jordan. He should have that down.

The other human characters are hit and miss but there are some fantastic appearances from comic big-hitters Billy fucking Murray and Wayne Knight. Murray’s cameo in the film is both fucking amazing and totally fucking absurd. Still, it makes for a pretty great final act. That’s Space Jam in a nutshell: you’ll think it’s totally fucking crazy but absolutely love it despite yourself. Everything tells me that I should hate this film. It’s nonsensical, silly and totally focused on marketing. However, it’s such a fucking joy to watch.

That’s what she read – my new weekly rundown

That’s what she read – my new weekly rundown

Sometimes we all go through reading slumps where the last thing we want to do is sit down with a book. I’m currently in the longest slump I’ve experienced since I first graduated from university. Buying books is not a problem for me but getting through them is taking a lot of effort. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m too fucking old now or just too overworked but I can’t get through a chapter before bed anymore. My eyes start dropping a couple of paragraphs in. If I’m going to continue with my rule to never leave a chapter unfinished then I’ll have to start reading books with much shorter chapters. Next time I’m in a book shop I’m only buying children’s books or the novels of Dan Brown.

Despite these difficulties, I’m a stubborn old thing and am forcing myself to read whenever I can. It just takes me fucking ages to finish one. By the time I finish a book I know I’ll want to talk about I’ve usually missed my post deadline and my review ends up lost in the ether. So I’ve come up with a plan. Not only to guilt me into reading more but to give me a chance to set out my thoughts on books/films/TV shows I’ll probably never discuss in detail. Every Sunday (I know, I know, it’s Monday) I’ll present a short round-up of my week: what I’m reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been buying, what I’ve been thinking. It’ll be great… possibly.

Currently Reading

  • Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

I read about this book online and I was fascinated to read it. It’s a pretty morbid subject to be reading about before bed but Krakauer is a writer famed for his ability to produce a decent narrative out of tough non-fiction topics. Missoula, as the title suggests, explores how cases of sexual assault are handled in the collegiate and crimial justice system in North America. Krakauer sites several case studies of young women who were raped by students at the University of Montana. It’s a harrowing read as the different crimes are described as precisely as they would have been to an investigating officer.

Reading this book has made me incredibly angry and sad for humanity. The statistics Krakauer brings up regarding success rates in rape convictions are fucking awful. The cynical way in which accusations of sexual assault are first viewed make me want to be sick. It’s hard not to read this book and automatically want to ban all college football and castrate anyone who’s ever played it. I was all set to write a full post about how disgusted I was with society’s treatment of it’s rape victims because it is, a lot of the time, disgusting.

However, the more I read and the further I stepped back from Kraukauer’s work the more I began to question. Not the subject matter, which is undeniably something that should be discussed in great detail. No, I questioned the depth of his argument. I also objected to Kraukauer’s lack of objectivity. The argument is very one sided and his anger towards certain people blatantly comes through at times. He speaks to some of the female victims but they never become anything more than victims. It’s hard to see anything beyond that. Kraukauer’s book just doesn’t do this subject justice and, more annoyingly, gave me something else to be angry about.

  • The Armageddon Rag by George R.R. Martin
I, like pretty much everyone in the world, is waiting for George R.R. Martin to hurry the fuck up and write the next A Song of Ice and Fire installment. I don’t begrudge George taking his sweet time so I’m not going to do my usual thing and rant about it. I decided to do something positive and read more of his books. The Armageddon Rag sounded right up my alley. With a tale of murder, politics and rock and roll, it was a world away from Westeros and exactly what I wanted. It’s a intricate and interesting story that I was initially sucked right into. Then I remember just how long-winded George can tend to be. I mean the chapters are so fucking long that I can’t stay awake to finish one. It’s too much. At this point I’m 177 pages in and we’ve only just started to get into the murder investigation. The post-60s setting is fascinating history but Martin seems to be getting too bogged down in the politics and violence. I’m sure it will turn out to be relevant but it’s starting to feel like I’m reading another non-fiction book now. Can’t decide if I should push on or pick up something else.
Recently Purchased
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Mainly bought because it’s so fucking beautiful but also because I was interested to see how this played out. It’s not a new idea but there’s something interesting about an ordinary person in an extraordinary environment. Plus, this book has been fucking everywhere and I’m so easily swayed. 
  • Ball by Tara Ison
Yet again I’ve been influenced by the internet: in this case Publisher’s Weekly’s Pick of the Week. I’ve saved most of this list to my Amazon basket but only bought this one so far. As soon as I read about this collection of stories I was fucking frothing at the mouth. They sound dark, creepy and fucking brilliant. Seriously, who can read this synopsis and not want to buy it immediately?
  • Hotels of North America by Rick Moody
Another book I was introduced to on Twitter. I read a not completely favourable review of this somewhere (Flavorwire most probably) but was too captivated by the style to say no. Moody’s novel is written in a series of online hotel reviews by our narrator. When he goes missing we have a fairly in-depth look into his life and thoughts. Probably all style and no substance but what a fucking great style it could be.
  • A fucking Kindle
The Martian (2015)

The Martian (2015)

I was such a naive fool just a few months ago. I definitely thought I would be able to manage reading Andy Weir’s The Martian before the screen adaptation came out. As I’ve mentioned a million fucking times already, I’m not managing to read a damn thing at the moment. Especially when you consider that Aziz Ansari’s new show is up on Netflix. I’ll always love reading but, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, there’s always something else going on. I’ll wait til I can sit down and read a chapter without falling asleep I’ll get back on with the reading. Before that miracle happens, I’ll just go with the film version. Especially when it has more Matt Damon.

The Martian is the thrilling tale of one astronaut’s struggle to survive alone on Mars. After being mistakenly left for dead, Mark Watney must find a way to get by on a desolate planet with limited supplies. Mark, a botanist, manages to farm crops, get back in touch with Earth and survive in a harsh environment for around 600 Mars days. Back on Earth, a team at NASA must attempt to find a way to get supplies to the planet so Mark will be able to live until the next manned mission lands in four years.

This film pretty much lives and dies on the lead character because so much of the narrative rests on him alone. Matt Damon does an exceptional job and manages to ensure the film remains grounded in the realms of human emotion. Mark is a great character who shows a great tenacity and Damon plays him beautifully. It’s got to be one of his strongest performances to date. It’s the moments with Mark that keep the film together through the slightly dodgier scenes back on Earth.

Despite a quite epic cast list, that includes everyone’s favourite Sean fucking Bean, the plot that takes place back home as NASA work tirelessly to help Mark often threaten to bring the film down. The pacing is a little odd at times and the great actors are given fuck all to do anything with. There are so many characters on the sidelines that they all get forgotten about in the drama of rescue. Sean Bean and Jeff Daniels get a small chance to lock horns slightly as the flight director and NASA top-dog respectively. However, the rest of the cast just coast by with a few furrowed brows and scientific jargon.

Most unfortunately of all, Watney’s fellow crew members who are resigned to a couple of brief glimpses into their personal lives through video messages and flirty glances. Considering how wonderful the moments on Mars are it just doesn’t feel good enough. We deserve to know more about Jessica Chastain’s Commander Lewis and Michael Peña’s pilot. There should be more to the pathetic attempt at romance between Kate O’Mara and Sebastian Shaw’s characters than a quick peck on a space suit helmet. For a film so invested in it’s main character, the rest of the character development is annoyingly shitty.

Much more annoying than any potential scientific issues viewers may have found. As someone who just about scrapped by in A Level Chemistry, I can’t really comment on the accuracy of the science at play here. To be honest though, I don’t really give a shit. I said the same about Gravity and the I think realism was far more important to that plot. Ridley Scott went out of his way to ensure that enough of what was seen on screen was close to reality and, in my humble opinion, he does a good job. If anything, the most unrealistic part of this plot is the fact that Matt Damon’s character is apparently unmarried. What the fuck? The man’s a fucking god.

To be honest, the science doesn’t really matter. This is a film that refuses to take itself seriously and, against Christopher Nolan’s super serious Interstellar, The Martian is quick to point out its relaxed attitude. Watney is forever cracking jokes and pointing out the coincidences that allow the story to keep moving. The only aspect of the film that belies its unassuming nature is the length. The film is fucking obsessed with time and the number of Mars days (sols) that Mark has stranded is constantly being updated. The constant count, mixed with the problems with pacing in the narrative, has the effect of making the film feel as though you’ve been waiting as long as our astronaut. However, there’s so much charm on screen here that you won’t give a shit about it.

TBT – Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

TBT – Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Despite spending my last post bemoaning the sudden influx of all things Christmas I’m about to embrace the season of goodwill to all men. You see there’s a secret clause (HA!) in my whole ‘no Christmas movies until December rule’. There is one film that combines the months of October and December in such a way that it’s totally okay to watch it any time during November. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas staple. Not watching it at least once would be like not having a fucking tree or a turkey. It’s also not directed by Tim Burton. I vividly remember during my undergraduate degree nearly getting into an argument about that very fact whilst on a bus. I’d just been to see Coraline with my flatmate and had to bite my tongue as someone behind my started telling his friends that the film, from the director of Nightmare, was such a typical Burton film. I was fucking livid because I’m something of a pretentious twat like that.

I’ve feel bad for Henry Selick. It’s absolutely shitty how often his works gets attributed to Tim Burton. I’ve always liked him more because of this fact. It’s the same way that I used to ‘support’ Ralf Schumacher and say that my favourite member of Boyzone was Mikey. I’m naturally drawn to someone who’s overlooked by everyone. It’ll be a younger twin thing: a psychologist would have a fucking field day with me.

However, there is no denying that, unlike Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas is such a Tim Burton film. It is, after all, based on an idea he had back in the early 80s. The film is weird and creepy. It takes inspiration from so many other people but manages to create something unusual and unique. It’s one of the most original and exciting Christmas films that has ever been made and its fucking ridiculous that Disney nearly didn’t let it get made.

The film introduces us to the residents of Halloween town and their ghoulish ways. The town hero, Jack Skellington, is celebrated by his fellow townspeople. Every year he helps create the spectacular Halloween celebrations but Jack is bored of his repetitive life. Thankfully he discovers Christmas town and his eyes are opened to a world of colour, candy and the Sandy Claws.

Getting back home, Jack tells the town all about this new holiday and starts planning his own Christmas party. Clearly things get a bit weird and scary: rather than treats the children are left tricks in their stockings. With Jack getting carried away playing Santa, it is left up to Sally, a rag-doll create by the local mad scientist, to stop Jack from fucking Christmas up for all the boys and girls.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a truly magnificent film and, at only 74 minutes, is the perfect length for the whole family. It has something to appeal to everyone and the stop motion animation is charming. The style changes to fit in with the various settings. It’s fucking beautiful film with influences from all over the worlds of art, film and literature.

Henry Selick has created a world that is totally unrecognisable and unusual but that is so easy to get lost in. It is a visual triumph that stands up a good twenty years after it was first created. There is a reason this film has become a centerpiece of Disney’s annual Christmas festivities. Selick takes the concept of a holiday with such traditional iconography and turns it round so it seems fresh. It’s fucking amazing.

Then you have the music. Burton’s regular collaborator, Danny Elfman, created 10 original songs for the film once Burton decided it should be a musical. Elfman has since said it was one of the easiest jobs he’s ever had and it certainly offers one of the best soundtracks of all time. The lyrics are funny and the orchestration is just perfect. Anyone who doesn’t spend October 31st singing ‘This is Halloween’ on repeat is just a freak as far as I’m concerned.

The Nightmare Before Christmas works so beautifully as a holiday film because it celebrates everything you love about both Halloween and Christmas without being par for the course. It stands out against all the other films portraying portly old men with rosy cheeks and a grandfatherly grin. It was a creative solution to an over-saturated market. It’s also one of the best advocates out there for the endless possibilities of stop-motion animation. It’s no wonder it’s so regularly voted as top Christmas film of all time.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… is going to drive me insane.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… is going to drive me insane.

When it comes to favourite times of the year I realise that most people pick the month of their birth. March is great an all but the months towards the end of the year are perfect. I love this season. I adore the knitwear, the ability to wear tights without being judged, and the boots. The people I work with complain about the fact that it’s dark when we get to work and its equally as gloomy when we leave. Not me: I fucking love the shorter days. I’m super pale and get irritated by the sun. Summer is absolute hell for me. Winter is the perfect time to stay inside, curled up with a book. There’s very little that I dislike about Winter. Although, there is one worrying trend that I can’t fucking stand.

Halloween finished two days ago and already we are being assaulted with all sorts of Christmas nonsense. For fuck’s sake, we haven’t even had Bonfire Night yet: why the hell should I give a shit about party dresses, turkeys and presents yet? I have two birthdays to buy for before I get serious about Christmas presents. I don’t need to be reminded daily about just how many weeks there are until the big day. I understand that Christmas is a big deal but do we need to make it last so fucking long? It’s one day out of 365. What is happening to the world?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I may be 27 but I have the heart and soul of an under-10. Whilst playing Michael Buble’s Christmas album on repeat, I get excited about decorating the tree (even if it’s never how I want it to look) and I love buying and wrapping presents. I’ve already mentioned how fucking awesome I am at buying for people and I always love the moment when you find that perfect gift. Despite my annoyance with the elongated celebrations, I’m actually ahead of myself this year. I’ve already sorted presents for 2/3 people. Normally I’d still be looking well into December. I’m feeling fairly smug.

However, I still can’t stand this incessant Christmas theme we have to put up with for the two months preceding the 25th December. I admit that last December wasn’t the greatest time for me personally or professionally. However, I can’t deny that with every passing year I become a little more disillusioned with the holiday period. As I mentioned last week, I have a difficult time being exposed to something for a long period of time. I end up hating it before too long. If I have to spend months at a time thinking about Christmas then I lose all the fucks I would have given about it on the day. I’m getting to that point where I want to smash baubles and set fire to all the tinsel.

It doesn’t help that I work in a job that has to start worrying about Christmas before Summer. I’ve had to start thinking about Christmas puddings, mince pies and fucking cranberries for a good few weeks now and I’m starting to get yuletide fatigue. I haven’t even eaten my first mince pie of the year and I know I never want to see one again. I’m already exhausted by the whole affair and it hasn’t even started yet.

Any of you who’ve been around these parts for a while now will know that I consider myself something of a Christmas film connoisseur. Last year, however, I didn’t really indulge in them. I’d got so jaded by the time December arrived that I just wanted to avoid any more festive nonsense. It made me sad when Christmas came around and I’d only made an effort to watch Muppet Christmas Carol (obviously) and Die Hard. It’s not good enough.

Maybe part of the problem is the shittiness of modern day Christmas films. I mean when was the last time we had a decent December release? We’ve had three fucking Nativity films. How does that compare to Miracle on 54th Street? The last Christmas film to get excited about was Elf and that’s 12 years old. TWELVE!? The film industry isn’t even trying anymore because they know idiots with kids are always going to watch feelgood films at that time of year.

That’s the problem with Christmas. People will spend money on any old shit. Everyone knows it. Paste the word Christmas onto something and you’ll make a fucking fortune. Things seem more magical and special at Christmas. It’s why Jack Frost (the Michael Keaton one) is seen as life-affirming instead of fucking horrifying, At Christmas, you can make a film with a bunch of annoying kids and, because it’s set at Christmas, people will decide it’s so good you have to make two sequels. Nobody gives a shit because you’ll make a shit ton of money regardless. Parents have to do something with their kids during the holidays. Let’s be honest, the best Christmas film this year is going to be Force Awakens and I doubt Old Saint Nick is going to be popping up in that very often.

TBT – An American Werewolf in London (1981)

TBT – An American Werewolf in London (1981)

mv5bzgnmywqzmgetndlhms00nzewltkzmditmdq4mjkymzrknjfixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi40._v1_It’s Halloween this week and, to be honest, I don’t really give a fuck about this holiday. I’ve never really got it. The whole sexy costumes thing just confuses me. My favourite Halloween costume to date was my first year of uni when I went as Christine the demon car from the Stephen King novel. It was amazing, even if I do say so myself. I made a license plate, wore furry dice and taped torches to my legs as headlights. Fucking amazing. Now I’m not saying I hate Halloween because of my leanings towards homemade costumes. It’s just that I lack the artistic skills to make it look like something that wasn’t made by a fucking child. I’m all for any excuse to go out drinking but I dislike having to jump through certain fancy dress hoops to get there. I’d rather stay home and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas on repeat.

After all, I’m not a massive lover of horror films. I don’t rush to see films that are desperate to make scare the bejesus out of me every 5 seconds, Making me jump out of my seat is just a waste of good popcorn. Anything that doesn’t have a sense of humour with it’s method of scaring an audience is just not on my radar. Although, as I’ve discussed before, I love a good silly horror. So much so that I reference An American Werewolf in London in everyday conversation way more than I think is necessary. I fucking love it. As a proud Yorkshire lass, that might have something to do with the fact that the film’s first act takes place in God’s own county.

John Landis’ 1981 comedy-horror introduces us to young Americans David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) as they embark on a backpacking tour of England. Stumbling across some creepy moors in the North, they find themselves taking refuge in The Slaughtered Lamb: a local pub for local people. After upsetting the pub’s patrons the pair soon become lost in the wilderness. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t end well. With Jack killed, supposedly by an escaped lunatic, David wakes up in a London hospital being nursed back to health by Alex (Jenny Agutter) and having crazy visions. Being visited by a quickly decomposing Jack, David discovers that he was bitten by a werewolf and will become an unstoppable monster at the next full moon. The only option, Jack reveals, is for his friend to kill himself.

So far, it sounds like a standard horror film but, thanks to John Landis’ script, American Werewolf is so much more. It’s fucking funny and takes shots at so many horror movie staples. He also lovingly takes the piss out of British customs. For such a simple narrative, the story manages to be fun. There are the usual Landis in-jokes and cameos to keep long-standing fans happy. The story is deceptively simple but is clever enough to have ensured the film has stood the test of time. There are moments when it starts to feel as though things are falling apart but there is something to endearing about the film. It’s easy to see why it became a cult classic.

Yes, this may not be the best film Landis has ever made. It’s no Blue Brothers but it’s still a film to get excited about. Even now, some 30 years later, the transformation scene is still fucking impressive. It’s both funny and disturbing in equal measure. Rick Baker’s effects throughout the film were outstanding at the time and, though they may seem rather quaint in this day and age, they are still fucking awesome. Watching the change in Dunne as his character becomes more and more haggard is a weird joy. It’s my second favourite part of the film: the best being the totally awkward and really fucking 80s sex scene between David and Alex. It’s a cold hard fact that Jenny Agutter was a fucking babe back in the day. She’s a stone cold fox but it’s one of the least tantalising things I’ve ever seen. We’ve seen it time and time again but sex was less sexy in the 80s. Still, it’s hard not to love Agutter as she runs through misty London trying to stop David. This film is worth a look for her alone.

American Werewolf isn’t the most fleshed out film you’ll ever see nor is it the most intelligent. It sets up the plot and then rushes towards an end without any real closure. The love story has no real depth and the character’s are fairly underdeveloped. That being said, it’s still a fucking great film and one I will always watch. It’s a B movie that also manages to be technically amazing. Who could ask for more?

Confession of an English blogger

Confession of an English blogger

It’s finally happened: I’ve succumbed to ennui. Work has been especially shitty at the moment thanks to various staffing issues and I’ve been under an increased amount of pressure. It means when I’m not there the only thing I want to do is lie in bed doing fuck all. Even reading is hard these days. I try to get a chapter in before bed and my eyelids are drooping after 1 bloody paragraph. It’s making my ‘never close a book in the middle of a chapter’ really fucking hard to stick to. It also means the last thing I want to do after a busy day is find something to write about. I haven’t been able to keep up to date with the latest films and, understandably, it’s taking me so long to get through a book these days that I’m without topics for reviews. Thankfully I have an endless supply of things to rant about but no real energy with which to do it.

Take today for example. I was all geared up to talk about Star Wars. Or at least my thoughts regarding my colleagues reaction to the news that Carrie Fisher was forced to lose weight for Force Awakens. Upon hearing his “but she was really slight when she was younger” response I had to restrain my biological urge to rant so much that I nearly had an aneurysm. Yes, Leia was a fittie back in the day but people get older. Carrie Fisher hasn’t aged badly: she’s just fucking aged. It’s ridiculous that her very presence in the film came down to 35 fucking pounds of body weight.

The fact that this outrage came right after Germaine Greer tried to push feminism back several thousand steps thanks to her “trans women aren’t really women” bullshit just meant I was feeling extra girl power-y. However, I still couldn’t be bothered to sit down and type out a proper argument to why Hollywood standards for women is so fucking ridiculous. I’ve been so exhausted since I got home that I’ve done nothing of any value. I’ve pretty much been sitting around and feeling bad about not writing anything. It’s a vicious cycle.

I just have a very “I’ll get round to it eventually’ attitude right now. I can’t get excited for anything. Even Star Wars. I didn’t watch the latest trailer until a couple of days after its release and even then I only watched it a couple of times. This may not sound like a big deal but I played the second teaser trailer on repeat for about a month. Although that’s probably mostly because it was the best trailer out of the three. I mean it’s fucking brilliant.

It’s also partly because, after all this fucking time, I’m tired of waiting. It’s been such a long slog between the announcement to this point and I’ve spent so much time wading through all the naysaying comments that I’m done. I just want it to happen now. We’ve still got 2 fucking months to wait. I can’t do it. I can’t keep rewatching the trailer to pick up on every little detail. I just want to watch the film and see Gwendoline Christie as a Chrome Trooper. Is that too much at ask?

The aforementioned colleague proudly announced today that he and his girlfriend had tickets to the opening night whilst another coworker happily bragged that she’d been lining up at midnight to see it. To be honest, I didn’t give a shit. My days of being desperate to watch things first are long gone. As long as I can avoid any major spoilers than I’ll be a happy bunny. I’ve got better things to do than stand in line with people in cosplay on a cold December night, thank you very much. (Okay we’ve already established that I don’t but let me have this one.)

I guess I’m just passed my active crazy fangirl stage. I’d much rather passively celebrate the fandoms I’m part of. I’ll extoll the virtues of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Star Trek and the entire Marvel franchise as much as the next person as long as I didn’t need to get out of bed. Being a superfan just looks exhausting… and also dangerous. I’ve always been such an independent person that I quickly get tired of being around people for too long. I may sound super bitchy but I just like to be alone. My attention span is only getting shorter as I get older so I need to take a break from the things I love before I end up hating them.

I, like every other member of a fandom, get super obsessed with something when I first discover it. Inevitably I overwhelm myself. I get so consumed with something that I get sick of it. The way you feel when you listen to your favourite song on repeat for a week and end up never wanting to listen to it again. You may not be able to tell from this blog but I really loved Harry Potter when I was younger. I lapped up anything to do with it. Reread the books, rewatched the film, played the video games. I was a fucking huge fan.

Now you’ve all seen where that got me. I look back at Harry Potter now and it’s lost much of the magic that made it so important to me as a child. Even before I finished the series I’d gotten tired of it. Reading the final book, I had a sense that I was partly reading it just so it could be over; so I could move on. I’ll always be grateful to what JK Rowling did for me as a kid but I can’t view it through rose-tinted glasses anymore. The first books are really childish and, whilst the rest get better, Rowling will never be the greatest writer who ever lived. I can’t pretend that I think otherwise out of some nostalgic sense of loyalty. That’s because I did my Harry Potter phase. I’m done with it. Time to move on.

I don’t want to get like that with everything. I want to enjoy Force Awakens because I’ve always been 100% behind the project. I’m not so much of a traditionalist that I never thought it could work. It’s the same with this blog. Sometimes I just need my space. I’d love to be the kind of person who could always promise to post three or more things a week but that’s just never going to happen. I do this because I enjoy writing. I don’t really care if anyone reads this (but am always grateful if anyone does, of course!) because I create these things for myself. The more pressure I put on fitting into a schedule will make me resent it.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very rambly sort of way, is that I’m just a tired, commitment-phobe who’s afraid to love anything too much. Except Tom Hiddleston. I’ll never tire of that man and his face.