This month was dramatic. It went on forever and had enough news and events to fill an entire yearbook. And I moved back to university. AND I saw a lot of films. The last part’s the important part –
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
There are only four actors in this film, but they were all nominated for Oscars. Well deserved in my opinion, but Richard Burton is the highlight, along with Elizabeth Taylor, who are a middle-aged couple who drag a younger couple into their mind games, which they play for their own amusement and attempt to outdo each other. The dialogue sparkles, and the provocative subject matter, controversial for the time, brings an edge and tension to every scene even with nothing really happening except people talking.
Guest stars on Doctor Who are one of my absolute favourite aspects from the show – Huge established stars like Michael Gough, Richard Todd, Timothy Dalton, Derek Jacobi, Diana Rigg and Simon Pegg have joined this silly little show, whilst Kylie Minogue brought the show some of its highest ratings in its history. Then there’s the actors who appeared in an episode or two as an early acting job to get experience in the acting world who have gone on to be huge stars in their own right, like Andrew Garfield, Daniel Kaluuya and Carey Mulligan. Today, we’re focusing on the first group – the big marquee names of the time. The ones that, if put on a Doctor Who movie poster would have the “And” credit. The kind of name that’ll create headlines and give the show a huge sheen of prestige. The amount of actors who’ve been in the show is absolutely humongous, but there’s still loads of actors, from Britain and across the world, who haven’t joined the franchise and who I really, really want to see. So let’s talk about five non-Brits who would make this quintessentially British show a bit more international and prestigious. Neil Patrick Harris in the 60th specials is a BIG deal – he’s a huge American star, and Ncuti Gatwa’s casting has already caught the eye of Hollywood so I hope this the start of a trend! So let’s look beyond our island and expand further to see who else we (realistically – I doubt Al Pacino is doing Doctor Who) can get!
I am not just saying this because I have seen, as of this writing, nearly 30 Nicolas Cage films and counting since February (somebody stop me, please). Nicolas Cage is the perfect actor to join the crazy world of Doctor Who, and he’d be a guest star for the history books. A huge, Oscar winning name with a huge fanbase, currently going through a pretty big renaissance and with collaborations with every director under the sun in every genre… Cage would be a MASSIVE get. He’s also never really done television… imagine if Doctor Who was the show that managed to secure him on the small screen. He’s a chameleon, easily adapting to any role or challenge, and would be a formidable foe or trusted friend to the Doctor.
Yes, it’s slightly delayed – been REALLY busy all month. Regardless, I still saw some great films. So let’s waste no time, get right in!
The Great Dictator
Genuinely, not joking, one of the best films ever. Seriously. Charlie Chaplin is one of the few figures in film history who both utterly deserves every bit of praise and is STILL underrated – he conveys comedy, drama and pathos with physicality whilst hardly saying a word. Well, he does here, in two roles – a Jewish barber and the new dictator that rules his kingdom. A scathing satire on facism and Hitler, the film is just as profound now as it was 80 years ago, and that speech at the end? Chills. Literally chills. I don’t quite understand how he was able to create a film so meaningful even now. Chaplin being clairvoyant, or simply no lessons being learnt?
For most people my age, their first exposure to Neil Gaiman’s work was the 2009 Coraline adaptation, the 2007 Stardust adaptation or even his two Doctor Who episodes. Not to me. Oh no, when he was announced to be writing for Doctor Who in 2011, I was probably the only ten year old in the world going “YES THAT’S SO COOL THE SANDMAN AUTHOR IS WRITING DOCTOR WHO”
Yes, reading large chunks of Sandman as a child does explain a lot about me, I know.
Anyway, enough stalling – like the recent Dungeons & Dragons film announcement, The Sandman on Netflix is something ten year old me would refuse to believe would ever happen. Yet here it is. I’m not exactly an OG Gaiman fan considering these comics are from the 80’s, but I was certainly a fan of his before his massive boost in popularity in recent years. So, yet again, like the Dungeons & Dragons film, I know *exactly* what I’m talking about here. He is one of my “Big Four” authors along with Stephen King, Alan Moore and Derek Landy. And The Sandman is his masterpiece, although I’m really keen on American Gods too. The Netflix show has done the impossible and actually adapted the comics – not just copy them, not completely re-do them, ADAPT. If you’re like me and have the comic compilations under your TV, after you watch an episode find the issue it’s based on and be amazed how much dialogue and imagery is lifted without feeling lifeless or derivative. It’s modified for a visual medium but stunningly faithful.
The first season adapts the first two volumes of the comic, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. The first half is about Morpheus, the King of Dreams, being captured, his escape (it’s not a spoiler it happens in the first episode) and the quest for his items to restore his realm to full strength. The last four episodes are about Rose Walker, a young woman looking for her missing brother and her connections to the Dreaming, still weak from Morpheus’s absence, and the complex machinations of what’s really going on. The two halves are separated by a standalone episode, which we’ll get to later. Then, when you finish the season, you get a nice bonus episode too.
When you’ve got a summer job that requires you to be at home but is very flexible with hours, a big television, and all six films of a franchise you’ve been interested in checking out on a free streaming service (with ads, but we’ll tolerate that)… I mean, why not?
Mission: Impossible! What was putting me off? No, it wasn’t Tom Cruise. I dunno, I guess… honestly I have no reason. 2/3rds of these films have Simon Pegg I have no excuse, and I like Bond so there’s *really* no excuse. I guess I just needed them to be literally offered to me, and they were! It helps that I’ve been really into Brian De Palma and John Woo recently, so that’s the two Pegg-less installments sorted. OK, fluff over, let’s start!
Mission: Impossible (just that), 1996
Ooooo I have mixed thoughts about this one. It starts SO well. The team are on a mission and slowly get killed off, except Tom Cru – sorry, Ethan Hunt, it’s hard to tell if he’s just playing himself here although the character does get more layered, thankfully. After a thrilling opening in Prague, although the film never gets boring, I found myself drifting. There’s a clear identity crisis at play here – it wants to be a fun 90’s action film with Tom Cruise, but also offer a more gritty, plot based espionage focused equivalent to the Pierce Brosnan Bond films. I can appreciate both takes, it just feels like David Koepp cramming them both together in his script. And that plot based espionage? RIDICULOUSLY convoluted. Like… what is going on! Seriously! I was paying attention! I don’t know what’s happening! So there’s a traitor and backstabbing and Ethan gets framed because… wait I need to look it up on Wikipedia lemme go…
I don’t want to be too negative. I had a fun time – fun but confused. Brian De Palma is on top form, wringing in high stakes tension at all corners. You needed a director of his experience helming something like this – if I was a first time director handed *this* script and plot, I’d just melt. On top of the well-crafted opening, the ending action scene is very thrilling. You’ve got a helicopter, a tunnel, a train and explosions. Yes. ALL this. And apparently that’s what the audience wanted, because four years later, the man, the myth, the sequel…
You may be having a bad week, but at least you haven’t plunged headfirst into irrelevancy and chaos as much as Warner Brothers Discovery this week.
Long story short, the streaming bubble might be about to burst. And there’s gonna be a surge in physical media. I LOVE DVDs. I own several, and my collection is precious. BUT, I still watch most of my films on streaming services. I think both ways of watching films are perfectly valid – I’m not a physical media purist and won’t shame people for not owning a DVD player and can’t watch films on DVD. That’s pretty judgemental. Nothing wrong with watching films just on a laptop on what services you have. Like me! From next month when I’m back at university, all I’ll have to watch films with would be the cinema, which always has limited choice, or on my laptop. I only have a handful of DVDs, all of which I’ve already seen (more on this later), and I have a DVD player but it can’t play Blu-Ray (again, more on this later). Most of the time, I watch film and television on streaming media.
I like physical media, but I also appreciate and value streaming. So let’s look at the pros of DVDs and why I always consider it important –
The main reason is the fact that DVDs are a full product. On top of the “feature” (be it the film or TV show), I expect a product that gives me stuff I wouldn’t get if I had just watched on Netflix. The best DVDs have all sorts of extras – for me, commentaries and documentaries are a big factor in me buying a DVD. If I just wanted the film, I’d just watch the film, basically (£10 for one DVD and nothing else or £10 a month for hundreds of products including the one I’m watching) for free, on a service. But if I want a proper physical product, film included, because I love it so much, I will go for the DVD. Bloopers, deleted scenes, unique features I get on physical media, beautiful art cards or little booklets or even a gorgeous DVD cover – Arrow Video’s masterful restorations of Dario Argento’s films are works of art, for example. You get an awesome film with great extras and exclusive artwork – I’ve talked about why I love commentaries before, but I love the whole DVD, most of the time. If you want me to buy the DVD, give me MORE.
Also, a wall of physical media looks nice. It just does.
In my last post, I utterly neglected to mention Critical Role’s importance in the rise of D&D’s newfound popularity. Having spent the last week binging Vox Machina, this was a big whoopsie in hindsight. No I will not go and edit the post, my mistakes should be *owned*. I should be ASHAMED.
Back in February when I discussed January’s films I said I skipped the Lawrence of Arabia overture when I first saw the film. Well, I have re-watched the film (on my TV this time) and I should NOT have said that. Overture is good.
As usual, I’m skipping stuff I’ve reviewed, so no Love and Thunder, although yes, it WOULD have made the list, because the film is great and everyone else is wrong.
Right, back to business –
Sunset Boulevard –
I mean, this is just a classic isn’t it? A perfectly structured script, with an intriguing cold open and a narrative that is timeless, as an ageing, faded star of the silent film era aims to return to glory, but her delusions hold her back. Gloria Swanson’s performance is iconic and she’s helped by a brilliantly layered look at stardom, the movie industry and gender roles in the studio system, as well as ideas of ego, fame and glory. All this within a neo-noir tone, a framing device of a dead writer, and Cecil B DeMile as himself in one of the few “as themselves” roles that doesn’t just feel good, but necessary. Genuinely don’t need to say too much here, this is one of the most famous films ever made, and it deserves every hyperbole.
Ten years ago, my very first blog post was a very simple one discussing the basics of the game.
Want more proof? I “loaned” these from my dad into my room years ago, and they’re still here.
I have read all of these, and more, so many times. Along with Doctor Who, D&D and associated role-playing games (yes I know Pathfinder is different but to me they’re the same thing and I have always taken elements from both into my campaigns and let players choose classes and races from either) are my oldest passion.
Granted, Love and Thunder had a lot of things I was predestined to like. I like Taika Waititi. I like Thor. I like the songs included in the soundtrack. I like Marvel in general. But I am still capable of acknowledging flaws in things even if I still enjoyed it, like with Multiverse of Madness and Eternals. I definitely got the criticisms there. I even agreed with a lot of them.
So when I say I am utterly baffled by the stupid criticisms about this movie, I mean it. The humour was FINE. It was on the same level as most other Marvel films, if slightly sillier but on the same level as Ragnarok. It wasn’t a comedy! I was genuinely expecting What We Do in the Shadows based on what people were complaining about – it definitely wasn’t like that at all. The film starts with a man losing faith in his god, which turns him into a nihilistic being who cannot understand empathy or love slowly dying from his own self-loathing.
Wow, how funny. I’m splitting my sides. Taika Waititi totally made a comedy film.
Anyway, I’m a bit annoyed at the reaction to this film if you can’t tell. So I’m going to ignore all that and talk about why Love and Thunder is my personal favourite Marvel film along with Guardians 2 and Shang-Chi.
Thor: Love and Thunder is a film I’m personally really excited for, as are a lot of people. But something’s happening within the MCU fandom and even general film circles. No, I’m not talking about the Internet outrage critics who are moaning about diversity in media and I’m not talking about people who just bash the franchise with zero nuance having not seen them with. We *are* talking about something *else* Scorsese said, eventually, but we’re not debating the art itself. Well, we are, maybe.
OK, basically, this current phase of Marvel has been quite divisive and controversial among the actual fanbase. Not those above groups, the actual fans. People like me. Now, do I think this phase has been a disaster? No. Am I still very loyal to the MCU? Yes, I will continue to enjoy the films as long as they continue to appeal to me, which they do. But I have figured out the three core reasons why even die-hard fans are getting their limits tested. It has very little to do with the quality of the films themselves I think – as films themselves, I think Phase 4 has been excellent, and some of the best Marvel films for a while. Granted, this is just my opinion, but even my subjective continued enjoyment of the franchise has to accept that things are going slightly wrong. Not horribly wrong, not diving off a cliff-edge like the DCEU or whatever cursed hellfire Sony is producing next, but I think Kevin Feige needs to start realising not even the MCU is invincible. Although granted most of this is probably the big corporate Disney and not him, who continues to be an excellent producer. Anyway, let’s get right to the three main points of contention –