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Let’s talk about the Oscars

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As many of you probably know, the Academy Awards (otherwise known as Oscars) took place on Sunday. Whilst the whole ceremony has been overshadowed by the “wrong Best Picture” debacle, there is another debate that is worth discussing, and that’s the fact that the ratings were the lowest in a long time. I know why: general audiences aren’t interested in the Oscars.

What do I mean? I mean that the movies that the Oscars choose to celebrate and the movies that general audiences choose to celebrate are very different. Of course there’s some overlap but let’s be honest here; most people care more about Civil War and Rogue One far more than La La Land. I’m not saying that you can’t care about all three, but ask someone on the street what they watched and they’ll probably say Star Wars. This isn’t just me saying I prefer superhero movies and other sci fi/fantasy blockbusters, which I do, but it’s just a general statement on how the shape of the movie industry is. Hollywood today is built on blockbusters, some are good, some are bad, but the 21st century is built on franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Harry Potter and Star Wars.

When the Oscars first started in 1929, movies were still a relatively new deal. It wasn’t until the 1970’s, with the arrival of Jaws, A New Hope and Superman, that the “blockbuster” first started to emerge and audiences gravitated more towards killer sharks, space battles and men who can fly over the heavy dramas of Hollywood’s “Golden Age”. This trend continued into the 80’s with Indiana Jones, ET and Batman before the 90’s became dominated by blockbusters such as Jurassic Park. Today we have a strong balance, but the Oscars still seems to think they are stuck in the Golden Age of the 30’s-60’s, and as a result are ignoring the biggest movies which people know.

Here’s a challenge- without using the Internet, how many Best Picture winners in the last 15 years can you name? With the exception of Return of the King, chances are it’s not much, if at all. The simple fact is that Best Pictures are not the most interesting. I’m not saying they’re bad, not at all. I really like the King’s Speech, which won the 2010 Best Picture. But Inception and Toy Story 3, both of which were also surprisingly nominated, are much more remembered and equally good. If the “Best movies of the year” consist of movies with limited releases that people haven’t heard of, they’re not going to care about the outcome. It’s even worse when the vast majority are only released towards the end of the year, basically defeating the whole “of the year” aspect of the Oscars, and even worse than that when the movies aren’t even released in other countries until after the ceremony, meaning people in the UK (we get Oscar movies in January and February) may be watching a movie win “Best Picture” that they can’t even see yet. No wonder people aren’t watching the Oscars, they don’t even know the movies being nominated.

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Now, I know blockbuster movies have been nominated and even won. Return of the King famously won 11 Academy Awards, and as much as it deserved every award (the Lord of the Rings trilogy is as a whole my favourite film), the cynic in me believes it only won because if it didn’t, there would have been riots on the street. It was the same reason Mad Max: Fury Road was nominated in 2015; it was so acclaimed by critics and general audiences there would have been a public outcry if it didn’t at least get nominated. In fact, the current Academy rules of a maximum of 10 movies are in place due to the huge uproar over the fact that The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for Best Picture in 2008. Despite this, the situation is still the same, as the Academy are making the same mistakes, and they literally have no excuse. They nominated 9 this year, so why couldn’t they have used the final slot for Civil War? Last year there were two slots left empty: surely The Force Awakens and Inside Out could have been considered, and in 2014 The Winter Soldier, which is definitely Oscar-worthy, was left out (on the subject of the 2014 nominees, while it didn’t win, I did really enjoy The Imitation Game). I’m not saying these movies have to win, I’m just saying that the nominees need more diversity to get more people interested.

So how to avoid this issue? Simple. Have a new category for Best Blockbuster. I’ve suggested this in the past but I think it bares repeating, as even I have to admit something like Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok isn’t going to be Oscar-worthy. So in order to honour all kinds of movie, have an award where superhero movies and other non-Oscar movies can compete. Have Civil War battle Rogue One and Doctor Strange and let the fans decide which is the winner. The BAFTAS (which I have watched every year since 2015, mainly because Stephen Fry is all kinds of awesome) have an award which is decided by the public (the Rising Star Award) so by having the Oscars let the public decide which blockbuster they enjoyed the most that year would be a great way of respecting the movies that the general public like watching. The box office says it all: with the exception of Return of the King (again) and Titanic, Best Picture winners never make as much money as the big movies, mainly because they’re lower budget so don’t need as much but because most people would rather watch LEGO Batman than the movies nominated this year. I know I did. I do want to watch Arrival though, which is a sci fi movie that got nominated this year, and sci fi is my favourite genre.

So that is how and why I believe the Academy Awards should evolve to adapt to the current movie industry. Well that and getting the right envelope to announce Best Picture. They’re never going to live that down.

Thirteenth Doctor: Should the Doctor be female?

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Yeah, it’s time to talk about that elephant in the room.

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Well, Peter Capaldi has left the TARDIS, after what only seems like a few days. While there’s a time and place to discuss the Twelfth Doctor (when he leaves this Christmas I’ll be doing a massive post on my views on his era as a whole, which will be interesting considering he followed my favourite Doctor), right now the question on everyone’s lips is: Who is the Thirteenth Doctor?

This then leads into the largest talking point: after 53 years of white males, is it time for a woman?

Now, speaking as a male Whovian who has grown up with three Doctors, experienced all of them and loves this show, I can safely say that I, personally, would not mind a female Doctor, BUT at the same time I don’t particularly care either way. As long as the character remains the same lovable Time Lord, the Doctor can be male or female, black or white. For me, it matters about the writing and whether or not I’ll like the Thirteenth (I don’t know who I’d cast, but as a Benedict Cumberbatch fan the thought of him as the Doctor is glorious. Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson would also be fantastic).

So, there are two main talking points here. First, let’s look at whether the Doctor can change gender in the context of the show and second, whether it’ll be good for the show.

  1. CAN the Doctor be a woman?

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In the context of the show, yes. The show has slowly been building towards the idea of a female Doctor for years since Steven Moffat took over. In fact, one of Matt Smith’s first lines after regeneration was “I’m a girl!”. In the brilliant story The Doctor’s Wife, the Doctor’s friend the Corsair was established to have changed gender and in the Night of the Doctor, Paul McGann was given the choice “Man or woman”. Even Hell Bent, which I usually avoid talking about for fear of hitting something in anger, set this up with the General regenerating from a white man into a black woman.

And of course, there’s Missy. She is the main point of argument that people use when saying that a female Doctor would work. Missy is my favourite Master, but that’s got nothing to do with her gender. I love her for reasons I’ll dive into when she returns in Series 10. Her inclusion in the series has been warmly received by most fans and this once again shows that it’s not about the character’s gender, it’s about the writing. The Master is a character that is 45 years old and predominantly male (he was designed to be Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock) but Missy shows that a male character can be changed into a female and still be the same character. Before Missy, I wasn’t sure about a female Doctor, but I’m now firmly supportive of one.

2. SHOULD the Doctor be a woman?

By this, I mean is it right for the show to do it now? Once again, I say, why not?

The Doctor isn’t like Sherlock Holmes or James Bond, The Doctor’s an alien whose species, as mentioned above, has no set gender. Yes, James Bond has changed actor, but Bond is a very masculine character defined by male sterotypes and tropes. Sherlock has gone through countless iterations but the character is still a male figure. The Doctor, on the other hand, is a time travelling alien with a magic police box who travels through time and space fighting monsters. He may be a male, but nothing about the character is specifically male. His humanity, his sense of justice, his humour, his code of conduct has nothing to do with his gender. As long as a female incarnation sticks with those ideals, go for it.

But will it be good for the show? Now, contrary to what the tabloids are saying the show is not dying. Peter Capaldi may not have been as loved by the public as David Tennant or Matt Smith (I really hope the BBC haven’t done what they did to Colin Baker on Capaldi), but the show is watched by millions worldwide and is critically adored. However, it has slipped past the public consciousness in recent times. Could a female Doctor be so discussed and so shocking that people will be interested in the show and check it out? Journey’s End received over 13 million viewers because people couldn’t stop talking about the surprise regeneration. A female Doctor could bring in a new audience and interest, and provided she’s good could keep that audience.

As for whether it’s right, of course it is. Pop culture is gradually shifting to be more equal. The Force Awakens, one of the biggest movies of the decade, has a female lead, as does Rogue One. There’s a Wonder Woman movie this year and a Captain Marvel movie in two years. There was an all female Ghostbusters (although that was pretty controversial to put it mildly). Female heroes are popping up more and more, so while it’s not necessary, a female Doctor would keep with modern pop culture.

Another criticism against a female Doctor is the fact that the boys watching will lose their role model. Well, I grew up watching The Sarah Jane Adventures and didn’t feel alienated, so I fail to see how having a different gender will make a portion of the audience completely lose faith in the show. Besides, lots of girls watch the show. Wouldn’t you say it’s time they had a role model they could be in the playground? I don’t think they want to be stuck playing the companion all the time. Speaking of companions, having a female Doctor doesn’t mean we have to lose Bill. All we need is a male companion to balance things out (I can’t be the only one who prefers multiple companions). Then, when Bill leaves we can have the traditional dynamic of male/female, just reversed.

So overall, this debate needs to be looked at fairly on both sides. I can see why someone would be against it, but for me I can’t see why it would ruin the show. I hope I’ve addressed both why a female Doctor can work and why it may/almost certainly will happen. Again, I’m not asking for one as a necessity. However, I have a strong hunch that we will have a female, or at least someone who isn’t a white male, for the Thirteenth Doctor and I feel like this needs addressing.

The Harry Potter read-athon

At the beginning of this year, I compared two of my favourite movie franchises- Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I then said I hadn’t read either book series in full. Well, as of last week that has changed completely. While my reaction to the Lord of the Rings books was… interesting, I looked forward to reading the Harry Potter books. Having tackled a massive thousand page book with about half its pages dedicated to landscape, I could easily handle seven Harry Potter books. So, I slowly and patiently made my way through every book in the series (excluding Cursed Child, because from what I’ve heard… eek) and finally finished Deathly Hallows last week. My Harry Potter experience is now complete. I don’t need any stage plays or prequel films to satisfy me, although I want to watch Fantastic Beasts purely because the reviews have said Eddie Redmayne would make a good Doctor, so I want to see if I agree.

Anyway, onto the books. While I adore the movies and always will, having actually read the books in full now, I can totally see where people are coming from when they say they prefer the books. Starting from Goblet of Fire, the books cram so much detail and information in to the point where the movies have to cut out whole chapters and subplots.

I’m now going to go through each book and their respective movie, offering my thoughts on both-

  • Philosopher’s Stone

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The first movie is a childhood favourite and one of the few books I originally read in full. Reading it as a fifteen year old made the kid friendly writing stand out, but at the same time the writing is quite sophisticated. No wonder everyone fell in love with the Harry Potter world. Nothing is really left out except for a Potions challenge near the end of the book which Hermione solves while finding the Philosopher’s Stone. Not much to say about the first story really: it’s a simple plot that is enhanced by the later ones.

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  • Chamber of Secrets

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My favourite Harry Potter film for numerous reasons: it was my first one, there’s a giant spider, there’s a giant snake and I love the whole mystery and heightened sense of peril that it has. People say it’s the least important part of the whole saga, but I disagree. It establishes wizard racism, introduces Dobby, sets up the Horcruxes and Griffinndor’s sword and the fact that Harry is a Parselmouth. This is more so in the book, where Dobby is in every book after aside from Prisoner of Azkaban. The book is practically identical to the movie, with the only major event cut being a Deathday Party for Nearly Headless Nick. This is still my favourite film, but my favourite book is coming soon…

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  •  Prisoner of Azkaban

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Ah yes, the one with the completely terrifying Dementors. My second favourite film in the franchise, and the point where the films got darker, both literally and metaphorically. The book however, is much more in tone with the first two. As a result, I feel like I slightly prefer the darker tone the film took. There’s the introduction of two of the best characters in the series, Sirius and Lupin, and my favourite monsters from Harry Potter, the Dementors. Everything about these creatures is fantastic and the way the book describes them is just eerie. There’s once again not much difference between the two versions, except for a subplot revolving around Harry’s Firebolt which was left out.

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  • Goblet of Fire

 

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This is my favourite book in the series, and the point where the movies and books really started to shift. Some awesome stuff left out of the film include: a subplot with Hermione’s attempts to campaign for house elf rights, a giant sphinx in the third task, Blast Ended Skrewts, a subplot with Rita Skeeter and a whole new character called Ludo Bagman who was a judge at the Triwizard Tournament and really really should have been played by Steven Fry if the character was in the movie.

The whole plot revolving Voldemort’s return was also covered in more detail, with a massive conspiracy revolving around Barty Crouch. The reveal that Barty Crouch Jr was in fact alive and orchestrating the whole thing was a huge twist in the book, with a whole chapter dedicated to his plan. Keeping this in would have meant more David Tennant, and that’s never a bad thing. While I still enjoy the movie, I can see why many people feel that this is where the movies began to fall apart.

  • Order of the Phoenix

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Funnily enough this book was actually the one it took me the quickest to read, as I read it while helping a local theatre backstage as well as a train trip to London. It’s because of this that I didn’t actually feel like the book was too slow as I originally thought. However, I still feel a lot of the book could have been trimmed down, and the movie did a very good job of condensing it down. Umbridge is easily the most punchable and hateable character in the whole of fiction. Voldemort, Davros, Darth Vader, Sauron and the Joker combined are still less evil. There’s a lot of great themes in the story, with the Ministry of Magic determined to not accept Voldemort’s return and Harry’s struggle to spread the truth.

The movie used to be my least favourite, however I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a lot of good in it. All the padding from the book (endless house cleaning, teen angst, lots of exposition and more angst) is trimmed down considerably, with all the cool stuff left in. If there’s one major gripe I still have it’s that I wished the final battle between Dunbledore’s Army and the Death Eaters was as awesome as it was in the book.

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  • Half-Blood Prince

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Easily the biggest shift between the book and the movie to me. The movie is very dark both literally and metaphorically and acts more like a prequel to the Deathly Hallows movies. The book however, feels more self contained because of the details the movie left out. The major cuts all involved Voldemort’s past and the revelations about the Horcruxes, which were explained in more detail. There was also a massive battle at the end of the book, but that was cut because of the similarity with the climax of Deathly Hallows.

Everything the movie kept in was still great though. The final third in particular is great, with the shocking event that you probably know. Despite this, the title itself is left ambiguous. In the book it was revealed that Snape’s mother had the surname Prince, which explains the name he gave himself. This still wasn’t the best reveal though, as the Half Blood Prince plot seemed sidelined in favour of the Slughorn, Voldemort and Draco storylines. Harry Potter and the Room of Requirements would have been more appropriate.

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  • Deathly Hallows 1 & 2

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One book, two movies. The final Harry Potter story is spellbinding (tee hee) and ties up all the loose ends. The book and first movie is very slow, but as soon as the first Horcrux is destroyed, things get bonkers and awesome. The final chapters of the book are fantastic, with the Battle of Hogwarts, Snape’s story and the final battle being some of the best moments of the franchise. There is so much detail in the book that the movies had to leave out.

However, despite all this, the movies were still very good in my opinion. They’re action packed, emotional and ties the story up well. Most of the best aspects of the book were kept in and the escalation was magnificant. A fitting end to one of my favourite movie franchises.

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So that was my Harry Potter experience. Having now read all the books I can see why some people would prefer them, and I did really enjoy them. Unlike Lord of the Rings where I prefer one version over the other, I enjoy both versions of Harry Potter equally. I just wish JK Rowling would stop doing extra additions to the universe (FIVE Fantastic Beasts films?) and leave the story where it is, as it is amazing.

What kind of a reader am I?

Recently I finished the Lord of the Rings books after being inspired to finally give them a go after enjoying the movies so much. Honestly, having now read it, I’ve got to admit- I don’t get it.

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Now this post won’t be about me going on a rant about the books and how I prefer the movies, even though I do. Rather, it’s going to be about why certain books appeal to me and others don’t. It’s not the genre I can’t get into, it’s the way it’s written. I did a post on books three years ago but to be honest, that post didn’t really go in depth enough about what kind of a reader I am, and having now read more books and experienced different genres, I think I can say what books appeal to me.

To me, a book needs to entertain. As a very visual person who loves films and television, books, without visual images, need to be able to make me feel like I’m seeing the characters do what’s happening in the story. That’s one problem I had with the Lord of the Rings books- everything was too vague. The parts I really liked such as Sam versus Shelob and Eowyn versus the Witch King worked because I could picture what was happening in my mind due to the descriptions. Helm’s Deep on the other hand was literally an afterthought in the book and I couldn’t picture anything happening except people whacking orcs with swords, as opposed to the awesome battle in the movie.

Part of the reason I like Derek Landy’s writing is the fact he writes his books like a movie script. Actions are described vividly and in detail, and characters are described well but still vague enough for me to imagine people while reading them (I know Skulduggery is supposed to be Irish and have a smooth, velvety voice, but David Tennant is too perfect to not be cast). This is the same effect I had while re-reading the first Harry Potter book recently. J.K. Rowling really goes in depth with the world and characters but still keeps things flowing and even though I’ve seen the movies countless times, the way the book described things meant I could have another picture in my mind.

I’m not saying books need to describe EVERYTHING- that’s partly why I gave up on the Harry Potter books later and just listened to the audio books and watched the films. That said though, now I’ve done Lord of the Rings, Order of the Phoenix will be a walk in the park, and I do want to read them again. Books are a style of writing where anything can happen, and what the author describes can be interpreted in different ways by different people. Books that just waffle on and on without having anything happen physically in the story really annoy me because then how am I supposed to imagine it in my head? Do I just imagine Harry standing there thinking? My favourite books always have something happening in the story on every page- just like a movie.

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Another book I read after loving the movie was Jurassic Park. I ended up enjoying that book too even though I adore the movie. Part of the reason was I had the characters in my head based on the movie, which I found really helpful. To me, if I can’t picture a character in my head, then the author has failed in making me care. I remember reading so many books in junior school where the characters were literally amorphous blobs in both what they looked like and personality. It’s why if I haven’t seen a movie beforehand of a book, then I need descriptions of the characters in the book to allow me to imagine people there. Obviously, if the books are based on something like the Doctor Who books or if I’ve seen something beforehand such as Jurassic Park, it’s easy, but in an original book, failure to set up visual images of characters in my head means I’m probably going to give up.

So what about genre? I obviously like sci-fi and fantasy, but just because those are the genres I read doesn’t mean I won’t try anything else. At school thankfully the books we read are getting better. I really liked To Kill a Mockingbird in Year 9, and in Year 10 we’re doing Jekyll and Hyde, and again I really like it, convincing me that 19th century gothic literature is awesome. Despite these books being really old, the writing is still vivid enough for me to have the same enjoyment while I read them as I do reading modern books.

So ultimately what it boils down to is the fact that a book needs to paint a picture in my mind. I am definitely a visual reader and need things to connect to while reading. That’s why some books appeal to me, while others don’t, even if I love the movies they’re based on.

Movies I want to see get made

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I have a very obvious passion for movies and as someone who wants to get involved in the film industry, I have some ideas of my own to pitch to Hollywood. So here we go-

  • A sequel to the Nightmare Before Christmas
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I know, sequels sometimes suck, and making a sequel to one of my favourite films would be hard to get right. But I believe it can work, just as long as it’s done in stop-motion and the songs are good. The reason I pick this movie to have a sequel is because the film established a brilliant universe, and we only see Halloween and Christmas Town, meaning there’s a lot more potential. In a sequel, Easter Town could be explored, as well as others like St Georges Town (a dragon as their ambassador perhaps?) a Chinese New Year’s Town (with 12 rotating ambassadors) and a Valentine’s Day Town (with Cupid as the ambassador). So here’s the plot. The Krampus, the Sandman, Nian and the Bunyip have risen from the dark corners of myth and folklore and launch an attack on the collective Holiday Towns. So Jack must team up with Santa and the other holiday ambassadors to fight them off.

  • A Ben 10 movie

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One of my childhood shows, Ben 10 appealed to me because I was 10 and I’m called Ben. The show is about a young boy who discovers an alien watch that turns him into different aliens, each one unique and interesting. The series evolved into a more mature show called Alien Force, with Ben and his friends as teenagers and a slightly darker tone with cooler, less childish aliens, which has my all time favourite alien from the show, Brainstorm, who still sits on my shelf. Also, he’s a psychic crab. This was my favourite version of the show. Ultimate Alien then followed with even more awesome aliens. I don’t watch the show now obviously but I think it was genuinely great and it has fantastic potential for a movie. There were two TV movies but I don’t remember much from them and a Hollywood movie would bring the show to life. I know I’ll be there opening weekend.

  • A Dungeons & Dragons film

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This is excrutiatingly easy to do. D&D is one of the reasons nerds exist, so a film based on it should happen, and apparently is happening. The genius of D&D is that there are no characters or storylines, so whoever writes the film can create an original plot while using the D&D world as a template. Fantasy is very popular thanks to Lord of the Rings saving the genre (not to mention the awesome Merlin TV show), but the D&D film needs to be different enough to distinguish itself. Incidentally, Lord of the Rings would be an awful D&D campaign. Too much walking and not enough dungeon crawling, and the Battle of Minas Tirith would take about a year’s worth of gaming sessions. A D&D movie would star a wide variety of species and different types of characters to reflect the 11 different classes, and the film could use D&D monsters such as the beholder and mind flayer and of course, dragons.

  • A Skulduggery Pleasant movie

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this awesome book series deserves a Harry Potter style movie franchise. Just as long as it’s done with respect to the book series then us fans will be happy. Today’s technology will make Skulduggery easy to present on screen, and to have a film franchise with an unconventional hero, strong female characters and not having a dark, depressing and gritty tone would be refreshing indeed. While I’m perfectly content with the books, having a film would be the perfect way to introduce this great series to a wider audience. But, if it is made, the characters must stay Irish. I say this as a British person who loves the fact that they actually let everyone in Harry Potter have British accents, rather than American accents (which they considered) so it seems right that the Irish Skulduggery Pleasant series has Irish actors.

  • A Brexit movie
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I can’t find anything suitable so I’ll put up a Civil War poster seeing how that’s basically what was happening to the Tory Party.

This needs to happen. Seriously. A comedy-drama about the EU referendum which will probably win a lot of awards will be fascinating to watch. Everything about this whole situation is film material, from the civil war (Cameron vs Johnson), to the logistics in how David Cameron handled the referendum, to the fact that everyone involved heavily in Brexit (Johnson, Gove and Farage) have all quit/been kicked out of important positions, leaving the state of events in this country in a bit of a pickle. I would love to see how a movie presents the events that have transpired in the past few months here. Have some big name British actors (Peter Capaldi as an angry SNP member would be hilarious) to play the politicians and go nuts. I predict in a few years this movie will be nominated for Best Picture/Director and possibly Best Actor for whoever plays David Cameron or Boris Johnson.

So those were five movies I want to see get made. Honestly, I’d be fine if none of them were made, as we live in a world where geek franchises and movies are being more and more popular and mainstream. Let’s hope the trend of great geek films doesn’t come to an end.

My 5 favourite Pixar films

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One of the main reasons for my passion for film developing was my childhood watching animated films, in particular Pixar. Large chunks of my childhood was dedicated to watching them and even today I still love them. So to commemorate the release of Finding Dory (it’s not out in the UK for another month but it’s out in the US), today I’ll discuss my five favourite Pixar films-

  • Finding Nemo

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This is probably the reason why I love ocean life and aquariums. I remember as a kid just loving the giant whale and the hammerhead shark (I love hammerheads). Like most Pixar films, it has strong characters and themes which appeal to a universal audience. In Finding Nemo’s case, it is about trust and family. The characters in this film are so memorable, with my favourites being the sharks, the pelican and Dory. It’s clear why she is getting her own movie. The funniest moments are when the seagulls say “mine, mine, mine” all the time. It’s so funny, and it’s hard to take seagulls seriously afterwards.

  • WALL-E

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This was the first movie I remember seeing in a cinema, so I have always had a personal connection to it. Once again the characters are fantastic, with the robot on the ship who is constantly cleaning being a comedic highlight. The themes in this film are some of the strongest Pixar has dealt with, as themes about the environment and consumerism are addressed. The animation is some of Pixar’s best, with the robots and futuristic spaceship looking amazing. I also really like the villain in this movie, Auto, as he is only doing what he believes is right. That’s the best kind of villain.

  • Toy Story- all of them

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Yeah, I’m cheating here. I have very fond memories of this trilogy, and I consider it to be one of three perfect trilogies (along with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings). I saw the third one in cinemas and love the other two just as much, with the second one being my favourite. There is so much to love about these movies, from the amazing characters (my personal favourite is Rex, because dinosaurs), the mature themes and the humour. As someone who recently gave a lot of toys away, it’s going to be hard to re-watch Toy Story 3. I don’t think I need to say more- these movies are a classic.

  • Inside Out

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I missed this film when it was released but I saw it on the plane back from holiday and I’m glad I did. It once again goes to show how accessible Pixar is, as this movie is for everyone. It’s a truly brilliant concept with plenty of high concept ideas (I adore the train of thought). Once again the emotions and themes are really strong and prevelant, with plenty of funny moments. My favourite character is Anger, where most of the comic relief comes from. However, the main characters of Joy and Sadness are fascinating and have a great, complex relationship.

  • Up

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I’ve mentioned this before as one of my favourite movies a while back, and when I update my list this movie is staying on. This was the second Pixar film I saw in cinemas and I have loved it ever since. The characters and emotions here are the most mature and compelling out of any Pixar film, while the ideas and imagery are hilarious. It’s amazing how a film with a flying house and talking dogs can be so human and dark, while never forgetting to be entertaining and appealing to everyone. Up is without question my favourite Pixar film.

 

So those were my five favourite Pixar films. I’ve seen every film except the Cars movies and The Good Dinosaur and I’ve enjoyed them all. I hope Pixar continue to make brilliant films for a long time.

Captain America: Civil War review- The squeeing is strong in this one

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Wow. That is all. Just wow. Captain America: Civil War is in my opinion a brilliant, brilliant movie which is easily the best Marvel Studios movie and up there with the best comic book movies along with Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Civil War’s predecessor The Winter Soldier. I was blown away by this movie, as it got everything I wanted from it and more. I will keep this spoiler free, so it’s safe to read if you haven’t seen it yet (it’s weird how here in the UK we got Captain AMERICA a week before the US. If there’s ever a Captain Britain movie, the US should get it first). I won’t reveal anything that hasn’t been revealed in trailers.

united we stand

The main plotline revolves around a dispute between the remaining Avengers about whether they should be controlled by the United Nations, who have created the Sokovia Accords, or whether it’s better to remain free from control. Iron Man, feeling guilt over Ultron, decides to sign the Sokovia Accords along with Black Widow, War Machine and the Vision, while Captain America, not being able to trust authority after SHIELD’s takeover by HYDRA, decides not to. Things get more complicated when the Winter Soldier reappears with both the Black Panther and a mysterious figure tracking him down. I won’t get into details, but it’s amazing how everything fits into place.

While I liked Age of Ultron a lot, one problem with it was how some characters felt pushed to the side, Thor in particular. In Civil War, every character feels important, whether it’s for the plot, advancing their individual arcs or just there for comic relief, which is needed in this film. The tone is overall more lighthearted than Winter Soldier, thanks to the presence of Spider-Man and Ant-Man, but at the same time it’s the most mature and compelling film in the MCU. A character driven plot has only really happened in Iron Man 3, and Civil War takes a similar look at the psychological effects of being a superhero.

My favourite character this time around was Black Panther, without a doubt. While Spider-Man was brilliant (more on him later) Black Panther felt much more crucial to the story. The way his character ties in with the rest of the story was really well done, and he is just such a cool character. He moves and talks in a unique manner, has his own fighting style and the soundtrack momentarily switches to an African vibe whenever he enters. I cannot wait to see his solo movie. Black Panther is such a unique character in the comics and it’s great that the MCU has done justice to him. The trailers show him being on Team Iron Man, but in the movie he’s more complex than that.

black panther

The action is incredible. There’s fistfights like in The Winter Soldier and there’s also an epic chase scene involving Bucky, Black Panther, Captain America, Falcon and the German police. The main fight however is the fanboy pleasing airport fight which felt like a comic book come to life. The stakes are real, the characters all have motivations for fighting and it’s just brilliantly handled in every way. Spider-Man and Ant-Man steal the show, with the two characters providing the funny moments and some of the standout scenes in the fight. The dynamics in the fights are great, with nearly everybody fighting everybody else. The build up is fantastic, as the characters try to talk before hitting each other. And of course there’s an epic group shot for each side.

So what about Spider-Man? I’m a huge fan of the original Spider-Man from the older movies but I have to admit this one was just as awesome. His mannerisms are right, his quips are on point and he blends into the action brilliantly. Unlike Black Panther, Spider-Man isn’t vital to the story, but he doesn’t feel forced. His world was set up well and just seeing Spider-Man fighting Captain America along with Iron Man just made the Marvel fan in me squee in delight. While I can’t say he’s my favourite version so far, hopefully Spider-Man: Homecoming will change my mind.

spider man yay

But where this movie really works is the character interactions and the realistic motivations and conflicts. The villain of the film is hard to talk about without spoilers, but he isn’t a throwaway Marvel villain like Malekith, Ronan or Yellowjacket. His plot works and he is actually quite complex and ties into the film’s themes. The conflicts within the protagonists are even more compelling. Captain America and Iron Man have had a complex relationship since meeting, and here both characters are pushed to the extreme. Age of Ultron has affected them both, while themes from Iron Man 3 and The Winter Soldier are revisited. It’s such a layered movie which is so much more rewarding if you’ve been following the MCU like I have. The plot is complex but not confusing and there are plenty of twists and turns that make the film ridiculously engaging and more importantly, fun.

In conclusion, Civil War is to me the new Marvel highpoint. Everything worked, and it has set a high bar for the rest of Phase 3. My new most anticipated movie from Marvel is Black Panther, with Thor: Ragnarok and Doctor Strange close behind. I hope the rest of the MCU sticks to the tone established by Civil War- dark and mature, yet still fun and entertaining.

My 5 favourite MCU movies

Age of Ultron review

Thoughts on Batman vs Superman

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When it comes to comic book companies, it may seem like I prefer Marvel (which is true on the movie front) but in reality I prefer DC. I own more DC comics, I find the characters more interesting and the world more diverse. My anticipation for this movie was quite high. I know the trailers made it look dark and gloomy (which is not the tone of most DC comics, excluding Batman) but I loved what the film was going for and where the cinematic universe was heading. I watched the film wearing my Batman shirt and expecting a good time. Due to the negative reviews I was quite anxious, but I ended up quite liking it. There is a lot to work on in terms of making this cinematic universe better, but as an introduction to most of the Justice League it’s a decent set up.

I’ll do things slightly different from my usual reviews. I’m going to look at the good points and bad points separately, before looking at where the cinematic universe could go and how to improve. Let’s call the good portion Yay, and the bad will be Nay. Let’s look at the good first, and there will be spoilers ahead-

Read the rest of this entry

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

It’s finally here! After 12 months and a bizarre Star Wars marathon (In order- III, II, V, IV VI + Clone Wars Season 1) I have finally seen The Force Awakens! As a Star Wars megafan who has at least liked every Star Wars movie I’ve seen (I still wonder if Phantom Menace is worth my time) my expectations were high, and I was not disappointed.

The plot picks up 30 years after Return of the Jedi and sees the First Order (mega space Nazis) trying to take back the galaxy by hunting down Luke Skywalker, who has vanished. All of this is explained in the opening title crawl. Incidentally, it was so awesome finally being in a cinema and seeing an opening title crawl with the music on full blast.

This movie basically combines the best aspects of both trilogies. It has the character and plot of the original, and the great lightsaber fights and world building of the prequels. It has a very simple plot, like A New Hope, with the emphasis on building the new characters and establishing the story of the new trilogy. I am definitely intrigued about what will happen in Episode VIII.

A great aspect about the franchise as a whole are the villains. Darth Vader, the Emperor, Darth Maul, Count Dooku and General Grievous are all cool in their own way. Kylo Ren continues the bad guy tradition of having a strange gimmicky lightsaber, and in the film his awesome three bladed lightsaber is used in a clever way. He is also a very complex villain, as the film shows that he is morally confused about which side he’s on. I won’t reveal exactly what role he has in relation to the other characters, but there are twists which enhance his character. I also like how he uses his mask to hide the fact that he is not really threatening to look at. Unlike Vader, he hasn’t completed his training yet and he is more emotional, making him a unique villain.

I also really like the action. The space fights are all really well done and like the other films there is a giant monster scene which is appreciated. The lightsaber fight is great, though I won’t reveal exactly who is in the fight or what the context of the fight is. It’s like a combination of the duels from the previous six films. There’s the emotional weight of the duel in Empire Strikes Back and there’s the awesome choreography of Revenge of the Sith. The main action scene is basically the same scenario as the one at the end of A New Hope, which does seem strange. However, because the film needs to reintroduce the universe, I can slightly forgive the repeated story. There are enough differences within the characters and scenarios to make it different and hopefully Episode VIII will have a unique story.The Force Awakens also understands the core of Star Wars- great characters, a simple story and deep meaning within the plot.

Overall this was a hugely entertaining film which could be my favourite this year. In terms of Star Wars movies, I would rank them like this, keeping in my mind I haven’t seen Phantom Menace-

  1. Empire Strikes Back
  2. The Force Awakens
  3. A New Hope
  4. Return of the Jedi
  5. Revenge of the Sith
  6. Attack of the Clones (though I still enjoy it).

I eagerly anticipate the next chapter of the Star Wars saga. If The Force Awakens is any indication, the franchise still has life in it.

5 wishes for Doctor Who Series 10

Tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, Face the Raven, is going to be a very important one. At the Doctor Who Festival last week the writers and actors all discussed Face the Raven as a game changer. So naturally, I’m hyped. But one thing is certain; by the end of Series 9, Clara will be gone, almost certainly dead. Series 10 will hopefully see the return of a darker Doctor, one who has lost his companion and who is angry at the universe, which should hopefully change the style of storytelling.

I thought about writing this article after the series had finished, but I thought before tonight’s episode will do, given its importance. Any of the wishes I say here could happen by the end of the series. So here goes, 5 wishes I have for Series 10.

  • An interesting and new companion

face the raven

With Clara leaving, the new companion is of course going to appear soon. Now my hopes for a new companion is for someone completely different from the other New Series companions. Part of the reason I love companions like Romana and Jack are that they are so unique from all the others. I hope the new companion is either a male companion who travels independently with the Doctor (a Second Doctor/Jamie dynamic could be established) or an alien companion. Someone from the Earth’s past could be interesting as well. While I haven’t hated any New Series companion, they are all pretty similar in origins and there are several similarities between them. I love Donna because she was a break from the RTD era mould, so the third companion of the Moffat era should be a break from this era’s mould (a feisty girl with a mystery around them).

Clara’s departure should not impact the new companion either. Part of the problem I have with Series 3 is that the Tenth Doctor just wouldn’t shut up about losing Rose, meaning Martha’s introduction was like “new companion, yeah, but the old one is better”. This is partly why I find the Series 4 dynamic of The Doctor/Donna much more satisfying. I understand that Clara’s departure will be devastating for the Doctor (and the audience) but he shouldn’t be mourning for a whole series. Clara’s introduction worked because the Doctor got over Amy and Rory’s departure and accepted Clara, so the audience automatically did. The companion is the surrogate for the audience, so it is important the Doctor treats them with respect. Yes, Series 10 has to have an angry and upset Doctor, but the new companion needs to be treated as their own character, not just as a replacement for Clara.

  • Bring back more old monsters and have better new ones

zygon

Series 10 needs to be braver when it comes to reviving older monsters. This year, the Zygons returned with a bang after only two appearances (one of which wasn’t focused on them) and Davros returned after seven years. This was much more refreshing than just the Daleks, Cybermen or the Master, although two out of three of them have already appeared. I love the Daleks and the Cybermen, but they need a break to make their appearances have more impact. The show needs to revive older monsters, preferably ones who haven’t appeared for a while.

The Zygons have already been successfully revived, so I think it is time for the Rutans, the Mara, the Ice Warriors or the Autons to have a revival. The Rutans and Mara haven’t appeared in the New Series yet, and they have plenty of potential, while the Ice Warriors and Autons are monsters who have appeared but can be used better than how they were. Cold War was a very rushed re-introduction to the Ice Warriors who deserve a two parter (as I write I’m listening to a Sixth Doctor audio featuring them), and the Autons haven’t been used since 2010, when they are a fascinating threat. On that note, why didn’t Closing Time use them? It’s set in a shop! Even the Sontarans haven’t had a story focused on them since 2008.

More monsters I would like to see include the Terileptils, Sil, the Mandragora Helix, the Fendahl and Omega. If the Macra can re- appear, then I see no reason why he can’t.

omega

Omega versus the Third and Second Doctor. I still have a long way to wait for this story in my viewing marathon but I can’t wait to watch it.

However, Series 10 needs cool new threats as well. In the whole Capaldi era, only the Teller, the Foretold and the Boneless have had a huge impact from Series 8, while Series 9 has lacked an awesome new alien. The ghosts were great, but the Fisher King should have been better than he was, and the other new monsters have barely made an impact. Christopher Eccleston had the Slitheen and the Empty Child, David Tennant had the Ood, Weeping Angels, Judoon and Vashta Nerada, while Matt Smith had the Silence. Capaldi’s era needs a truly iconic and terrifying threat. Series 9 could potentially have the weakest rogues gallery of the revival after Series 7, which barely had villains at all.

  • More focus on story

I have loved the new focus on character and emotion recently, and the idea to make nearly every story a two parter is great. However, often the story gets lost in the muddle. The plot, villains and action of a story is just as important as the character and emotion in my eyes. Stories like Kill the Moon have suffered because it forgot the plot and became a talky episode about killing a moon baby (facepalm) and while the Woman Who Lived was significantly better, the plot still got sidelined to the point where the villain literally exploded for no reason.

Episodes like The Waters of Mars, Mummy on the Orient Express, Vincent and the Doctor and The Satan Pit are all great examples of a story has an equal balance of character drama and emotion and also having a great story and threat. Yes, the Krafygis wasn’t needed in Vincent and the Doctor, but it still functioned in the plot and didn’t feel sidelined, to me at least.

Other examples include The Waters of Mars, which is both a great base under siege story and a powerful character drama while Human Nature is a basic plot made into a story full of strong themes and ideas, with the threat still intact and the story in place.

 

underthelake

Under the Lake is another great example from recent memory with an equal balance of story and character.

In short, the story telling needs to be written alongside the character work, not written separatly and bunched together.

  • The Doctor needs to have a consistent costume
doctor-who-12-doctor-who-series-8-6-reasons-why-it-ll-rule

This awesome promo picture is on my wall and is how I want the Twelfth Doctor to look.

A bit minor, but still an issue I want to address. When Capaldi was introduced, he had that awesome buttoned jacket and plain white shirt. Simple, but effective. So why does it keep changing? I don’t mind costume changes, as Pertwee changed costume all the time, but all his costumes were regal and posh. Capaldi has worn hoodies, boring jumpers and loose white shirts. It doesn’t really scream “Lord of Time” when the main character has a polka dot shirt, hoodie or baggy trousers. Yes, I know Troughton wore baggy trousers but that was in character with his Doctor. Capaldi is a harsh and uncompromising Doctor, so it really doesn’t suit him.

Imagine being a Dalek and confronting the Doctor when he is dressed like this. Not very intimidating, is it?

Thankfully, tonight’s episode has got the Doctor wearing a gorgeous purple velvet coat, similar to his original one.

purple coat

This evokes class and is reminiscent of Pertwee. I love it.

This screams “Lord of Time” and I think he should coordinate between this one and his original coat. It’s a minor point, but I fail to see why the Twelfth Doctor has so many stories where he looks so un-Doctorly. Why is he wearing a baggy white shirt with a pink one underneath when confronting Davros, his archenemy? Into the Dalek, Flatline, Death in Heaven and now Face the Raven have had Twelve at his most regal and impressive, like he should be. Although the First Doctor esque costume in Mummy on the Orient Express was great.

  • Alien worlds

I can’t stress this enough, but I am really tired of Earth in Doctor Who. I understand the budget may not be able to accommodate an alien world every week, but if the Classic Series can have unique worlds and planets every series, then I fail to see why the New Series can’t.

krop tor

Krop Tor from the Impossible Planet is one of my favourite alien worlds in the show.

Capaldi has had two stories fully set on alien planets (Time Heist and The Witch’s Familiar) while Tennant and Smith has had plenty of interesting ones. The Doctor Who universe is so huge and vast, so quite why Earth is always visited baffles me. I won’t even mind a space station or a space ship, but Earth is really getting dull as a story location, especially London. If Earth stories are going to be the norm, then they should be set somewhere like Japan, Australia (the only story ever set there is the Enemy of the World) or Chandler’s Ford to shake things up a bit (OK, maybe not that last place). I understand location filming is expensive, but locations can be mocked up, and for the benefit of an interesting story I want a more diverse set of locations next year away from Earth.

Sydney opera house

I think I speak for all Australian Whovians when I say that a story set there would be awesome, and I’m not even Australian.

So those are my five wishes for Series 10. There are still three weeks to go of Series 9 so some of this may become outdated but I think now is a good time to say what I would like from the show next series.

Oh, and a theme tune change. I want awesome time travelling, not strangled cats. The variation from Before the Flood is what Capaldi’s Doctor needs every week-

Until then, it’s time to Face the Raven…