The Thing That Will Not Die

I know what you’re thinking. “Damn, is he still around?”

Well yes, as it happens, I am still around.  I’ve just been a very busy boy and as a result I haven’t had time to be doing all the reviews I usually would.  So here’s a rundown of some important stuff that has happened and may be happening soon:

  • I’ve made £350 this year from writing. Which is not a lot of money but pretty good considering how busy I’ve been and it is hopefully the start of something that will continue for the rest of my life. I might have another Guardian piece on the way soon and I have a monthly writing gig with exciting downloadable magazine FirstPlay. Available on your PS3 via the PSN Store now.
  • I’ve only watched about 15-20 films so far this year. Which is a shame because it is something I really love but that will change over the summer and I’ll continue to write for as long as possible.
  • I have passed the PGCE course & I have a job lined up to boot.
  • I am entering into tentative negotiations about putting the Chris vs Cinema formula into another medium.  More will hopefully be revealed soon.

So I’m back writing and hopefully reviewing over the next few months, but there is a clutch of films I have watched and not told you all about. So I’m going to do a brisk run through the lot of them now in a series of one-sentence micro-reviews.

Brace yourself…

3. District 13 – Ultimatum (Patrick Alessandrin, 2009) Disappointing sequel to the excellent French parkour action movie.
4. The Simpsons Movie (David Silverman, 2007) Almost an apology of a film, as though they had to do it to prove it works better in half hour chunks and now they can concentrate on that.
5. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009) Brilliant, brutal, funny and scary sci-fi – proving that you can be smart and have dumb fun whilst looking good all at the same time.
6.The Hurt Locker (Catherine Bigelow, 2008) Oscar nabbing journey into the mind of a soldier is further proof that Bigelow is an excellent modern chronicler of masculinity.
7. The Wicker Man (Neil LaBute, 2006) Jesus titty-fucking Christ. See below.
8. Clue (Jonathan Lynn, 1985) Witty, silly and jolly good fun watching Tim Curry ham it up.
9. Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, 2009) Slick, sad and achingly beautiful – Jason Reitman has a pretty good track record so far.
10. A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951) #203 in IMDB top 250. Brando is an animal, Leigh is cheddar and the support is excellent – efficiently directed by whistle blowing tell-tale Kazan.
11. Logorama (François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy & Ludovic Houplain, 2009) Stunning Oscar winning animation, watch it here and now.
12. The Descent: Part 2 (Jon Harris, 2009) Pointless and insulting sequel whose only noteworthy scenes are weak reshoots from the original.
13. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) Foul mouthed, verbose, irreverent and fun – welcome back QT.
14. Kick Ass (Matthew Vaughan, 2010) Foul mouthed, violent, irreverent and fun – Good day Mr Vaughan.
15. Solomon Kane (Michael J. Bassett, 2009) No nonsense adaptation of the pulpy stuff, all the better for it.
16. The Losers (Sylvain White, 2010) Slightly misfiring A-Team knock off adapted from a superior comic.
17. The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010) Mean piece of work with stunning central performance from Casey Affleck.
18. Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer, 2009) Highly enjoyable piece of throwaway fluff.
19. Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010) Missed opportunity to capitalise on the original success, too many storylines and not enough of Tony being a wisecracking rich wanker.
20. Ong Bak: The Beginning (Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai, 2008) Cracking martial arts can’t disguise the fact that Tony Jaa had a breakdown filming this – it’s all over the place but beautifully so.

Whilst watching Neil LaBute’s utterly bizarre Wicker Man remake I decided to ‘live tweet’ the experience. The following nonsensical ramblings are a remarkably accurate portrayal of this genuinely odd piece of film-making…

Fucking hell that’s a weird start. Cage is banging in some right acting.

#wickermantwitblog Blonde girl in red being hit by truck motif. New twist on a classic cinema trope. Transcendant stuff. 10:14 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Was Neil Labute on very strong drugs? Cage clearly is. 10:27 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Leelee Sobieski! Cor, I used to fancy her rotten. Very pretty. Especially dressed in gingham. 10:31 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Lookit Cage’s eyes. Almost popping out of his head. Sobieski’s a fine vision though. 10:40 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog The Crow! Little Fibbers. A big fibber. 10:47 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Rowan is……. Dead? Superb acting, all forehead. 10:48 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Channel 5 are working hard to fuck this up even more than it is already. The ad for Vacancy is a reminder of good genre. 10:55 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Double fake out dream. Classic since American Werewolf. Neglects to use rowboat to get to plane. Madness. 11:08 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog No ill effects to swimming trip. Gun emptied? Probably not. HOODIES! Creepy Cage uses subtle b&e technique. 11:10 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Bees – all up in me face. Hilarious run through the field there Nicky. 11:20 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Cage seemingly immune to bees now. Ellen Burstyn looks alright for her age – she seems a bit embarrassed to be in this. 11:26 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Where is this island community getting their supply of padlocks? 11:30 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog How’dit get burned? Did they let Cage get bent off his tits before shooting every scene? 11:34 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Badly CGI’d blind women are a bit creepy. Where’s Leelee? I liked her. 11:41 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog It makes sense if that crap he drinks at the start of the film is crazy juice. 11:44 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Pow! Cage smashes woman right in the kisser. Bam! 11:44 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Ah ’tis the bearsuit. Shame Leelee has gone crackers. Swift kick to the chops has seen to her. Cage striking for misogyny 11:46 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Kapow! And another lady laid out. Is he after a record or something? 11:48 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog How fast is that kid? And I’m starting to wonder if there actually is a Wicker Man in this. 11:50 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog She’s not answered one fucking question properly. I’d shoot her for kicks. 11:52 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog There is a wicker man. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA my legs! Oh m’god. 11:53 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog Well that’s sort of similar really. I’d heard it was wildly different. It’s shit, obviously. But interestingly weird. 11:57 PM Jan 25th via web

#wickermantwitblog I’m over at the Police Academy? Bees in her fanny! 11:59 PM Jan 25th via web

Chris vs Bullies

Hi, sorry about the lack of posts so far this year but I have some good news.  I had another Clip Joint article accepted by The Guardian and it is online as of now – HERE.  It will be in print in Friday’s Film & Music pull-out too.

I’m keeping track of the few films that I have watched this year but I’ve been ridiculously busy for the most part with my little lad and teaching English at a new, and very cool, school.  Obviously I’m slipping film clips in as and when I can and attempting to give them a good rounded education in the brilliance of the movies.

So around Easter I’ll pop in a round-up of what I’ve watched and a few thoughts on each one. Until then, please have a look at my article and make a comment – suggest a school bully film clip too. It’s always a pleasure to write a blog post and there will be more forthcoming over the year but you’ll just have to be patient with me.

Oh, one clip was edited out of the article so I thought I’d share it with you and although a few of the readers have already seen this – it bears another watch or two…

Chris vs The Guardian?

High 5!

It has been a long held ambition of mine to do some paid writing work.  I’m not kidding myself, I’m not good enough to do it full-time; but I think I have enough to say, and just enough style to say it with, that I might be able to do a bit on the side for some time to come.  Chris Vs Cinema has been the framework to improve my writing and after a speculative e-mail or two it has paid off.

Today, in a flurry of activity, an article I have written has been posted on The Guardian Film Blog credited to my internet sobriquet ‘SolidChris’. It’s one of the weekly posts they make accepting contributions from outside the main staff and I’m well chuffed that something I’ve written has been put up on the site.  So please, go have a read of it and add a comment and a suggestion of your own – essentially make me look popular.

You can read it here – Clip Joint: Chat-up lines.

I hope this isn’t a one-off, I hope that there is more where this lies because that would make me happy and slowly fulfil one of my major ambitions in life: to be able to put that I am a writer – and to be confident about saying it.

Chris vs Cinema Review of 2009

shini1

January 1st, New Years Day, 2009 – I watched six films and the seed of this blog challenge was born.  I’ve failed to achieve the main objective, but I think I’ve failed for all the right reasons.  This year has seen some fairly seismic shifts in my own life, not least the career change and birth of my son, Seth, which put a grinding halt to my blog writing exploits in September.  Factor in that it was an Ashes winning summer for the plucky England cricket team and I’ve had a pretty busy time of it.

What of the objectives though? Well I watched 206 films, some of them short films which I thought might be interesting or different and I tried to put a video embed or link on there for readers to try and watch them too.  The Hangover was the last film I watched before Seth was born and that numbered 186 on September 6th.  I was, at that point, managing over 22 films a month which is pretty strong going and I think 250 would have been easily achieved.  I’m fairly proud that I managed to write a fifty word review at least for each film, often a lot more than that.

If I were to pick one review that I was most proud of it would be the review of Cat’s Eye.  It is the kind of review that I’d like to read, not focusing purely on the film but on the nature of the creative process involved.  It’s not a co-incidence that that is the review that I spent the most time working on and researching.  By contrast the one I look back on with most regret is Let the Right One In.  I loved the film, one of the best I’ve watched all year, but the review doesn’t do it justice – I feel that I should have written more, said more about how brilliant it is.

What about the IMDB Top 250? At the start of the year I’d seen 134 of the films on the list.  Over the year I tried to watch as many as possible.  Due to the fluid nature of the list in some cases I’d watch a film that was on the list only for it to slide off as more people voted, Watchmen being a prime example.  Well, as of today (02/01/2010) I’ve seen 168 of the films in the list, leaving 82 to go.  Perhaps as of next year I’ll have reduced that by another 30 or so.  That’s not such bad going though and I’ve got a few of them on DVD ready and waiting.

That brings me to something else, my DVD collection has gone through the roof.  Not only through some judicious trading courtesy of the Sheffield branch of CEX but my birthday and Christmas have given me ample opportunity to build a bit of library of unwatched films.  Many thanks to the people who actually posted me films, lent copies and in some cases made copies of films for me.  You know who you are.

I even made a few appearances on the Sheffield Live! Film File podcast alongside my friend Jim Whiting and presenter Simon Thake, an experience I really enjoyed.  I made a guest appearance on Sarah Ditum’s Paperhouse blog and even made a few virtual blogosphere acquaintances, which sounds twatty but is actually quite a nice thing.  I even had a brief disagreement with Graham Linehan via Twitter over his opinions on Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (he liked it!).

What about the films themselves then? There’s been so many, so many really enjoyable experiences and a few disappointments.  I’ve done a quick list of some that I liked and didn’t below but special mentions have to go to the films that took me by surprise, Nimrod Antal’s moody underground thriller Kontroll, the light whimsy of Mediterraneo and pulsing tension of Bronson.  All three were films I expected little of and they surprised me with how much I just enjoyed watching them unfold. On the other hand the live blog review of Shaft displayed what a crocked mess it was but the prize winning turd of the year for me was Red Dawn. A train crash of a film, awful stuff.

What to do with the blog then? Chris vs Cinema as I have used it in 2009 is over.  No more challenge, no more staying up to ridiculous hours of the morning to finish watching a film I’m not really enjoying.  I’m going to remove the references to 365 films in a year, that’s done with.  But the blog will continue as I continue to watch new films, I’ll even try to review every new film that I watch.  That might be less than 100 this year though.  I’ll be reviewing some books and other things connected with cinema too.  Once I’ve revised the look of the site then things will continue.

Once again thanks for reading, it’s been fun.

Chris.

Note: I’ve popped the lists below – they aren’t comprehensive but then I find it very difficult to make lists like this.  That’s why I like reading other people’s.  I’ve not hyperlinked them but you can use the search function on the right if you fancy a reminder of my original comments.

The Good

Give ‘em Hell Malone

The Hangover

Kontroll

The Shock Doctrine

Roger Dodger

Once

Moon

Mediterraneo

The Killing Fields

The Constant Gardener

Bronson

[.REC]

Friday Night Lights

Diner

The Bad

Automaton Transfusion

What Just Happened?

Red Dawn

The Entity

Rollerball

Leprechaun in the Hood

Black and White

Terminator: Salvation

Shaft

Cross Post: Bilge Pump

Hello chaps,

I’m just working through some reviews that I’ve had backing up for a while but in the midst of all this I’d like to share a review that I’ve read recently that I’ve really enjoyed reading.  Tim Lee writes the Bilge Pump blog and sifts through the worst that modern culture has to offer us.  Tim’s also got an admirable fixation with the work of Nicholas Cage and here’s his review of Cage’s recent unholy alliance with Werner Herzog to re-make/re-imagine Bad Lieutenant

nicolas-cage-hair

Crack’d actor

So here we stand at the end of another DeCage In Film. An era which started so spectacularly with Gone In 60 Seconds ends with Nic teaming up with Werner Herzog for a re-imagining, if you will, of Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant. Could The Wicker Man really be only his second most inconsequential remake? Expectations were low, but nowhere near as low as those of Ferrara himself: “I wish these people die in Hell. I hope they’re all in the same streetcar, and it blows up.”

We open with a shot of a lone snake in the water. Film students may recognise this as some kind of metaphor achat viagra livraison rapide. Pull back and it’s revealed we’re in a flooded jail cell and a prisoner is drowning. Of course Nic isn’t just going to rescue the prisoner straight away, he’s got to call said prisoner a “shit-turd” before launching into a tortuous monologue about not wanting to ruin his $55 Swiss cotton undies. Then finally he makes the two foot leap down to rescue the prisoner – don’t do it Nic!

Such an act of bravery is rewarded when he gets the Distinguished Service Cross in recognition of “extreme valour in the line of duty”… by jumping down a twofoot sheer drop.  But hang on, the film isn’t called Good Lieutenant, is it? Cut to the doctor’s surgery and the first of many dramatic bombshells is dropped: Nic will suffer “moderate to severe back pain,” possibly for the rest of his life. This news pushes Nic over the edge, the switch in his brain marked ACTING is flipped, and all of a sudden he’s Good Nic Gone Bad. At this juncture I should point out his character’s name is Terence – even the name exudes pure evil.

To finish reading Tim’s excellent review go Here.

With Arms Wide Open

The following, somewhat mawkish and possibly genuinely awful, video is appropriate for two reasons:

  1. It’s about having a new addition to the family.
  2. My brother used to sing it at karaoke and often introduced a choreographed all-male striptease to the proceedings, which is something you had to get used to in my family.

Whilst I continue to carry on the hard fought battle against the vagaries of cinema things have taken an unexpectedly early shift in my life. At 7.21am on the 7th September my wife gave birth to baby Seth Warrington. He dropped in on us a couple of weeks early and weighed in at a 7lb 10oz. Him and his Mum are currently having a bit of a rest upstairs whilst I attempt to do a bit of tidying up.

He’s been downstairs for a watch of the cricket, witnessing Dwayne Smith’s blistering 4 wicket over for Sussex against Notts. He expressed disappointment at England being 2 down in the One Day International series and expects to see a turnaround sharpish. Ashes in the bag or not. At least, that’s what he seemed to be gesturing.

Needless to say I might not be hitting this mythical 365 film target. In fact, I doubt I’ll get close. 250 is on the cards though and I’ve still got a few reviews to write from the past week; some more Nimród Antal, an awful mess of a remake, a right wing commie bashing blast from the past and the best comedy of the year. This blog has become pretty important to me, I enjoy doing it and I don’t think that will change for some time.

For now though I’m excited about something else, I’m excited about the little man upstairs and about how we’ll learn things together; playing cricket, irrationally disliking Australians, watching movies we’ll love and movies we’ll hate and the inevitable point where we start disagreeing about them, teaching him about the past when supporting Manchester City was mainly an exercise in contemplative misery that you revelled in rather than a shopping list of topline talent. I want to teach him so much that the list could go on and on. I’ll leave it there though – because I’m tired and because this blog is supposed to be about something else.

Now, I’m off to dig out that copy of The Dark Crystal, “this is what special effect used to look like”…

Loud and Proud

Hello chaps, I’ve recorded another podcast from the Sheffield Live! Film File. Alongside my good buddy Jim Whiting we joined the ever gracious and witty Simon Thake to chew the fat on the latest releases, movie news, a discussion about Campbell Scott and baseless rumination on films we haven’t seen. It’s been released as a podcast which you can download or stream from here…

Sheffield Live! Film File

Bring me my Bow of Burning Gold!

 

Several things have interrupted my attempts to watch as many films as possible this year but perhaps nothing as much as the ongoing Ashes series between England and Australia over the summer. I suffer from a bit of a weird emotional attachment to the fortunes of the England cricket team so I’m more than a little happy as we’ve won the little urn for only the second time since I actually started paying attention back in the doldrums of the 90s.

By way of celebration I teamed up with a friend of mine on Twitter (@MGElliott) have made a Spotify playlist of our favourite cricket songs. Some of them are quite tenuous but we were having a bit of a giggle, and of course there is a double entry for the fantastic Duckworth Lewis Method. See what you think HERE.

Guest Appearance

Hello you lovely people.

I’m currently making a guest appearance over at Paperhouse, the blog-site of the excellent up-and-coming writer Sarah Ditum. She’s wrestling away with actual paid writing work at the moment so at her behest, and perhaps my suggestion, I’ve made my mug visible over there. It’s a mid-term report on what it is like to be ‘Vs Cinema’ and the effect it has had on me. I hope you like it.

Read my post – One man against the movies.

Go to the Paperhouse front page and scroll through her awesome writing.

If you need any proof about how sharp Sarah is then I’ll let you in on one of our many conversations where I don’t come out of it so well…

Chris: “Pfft, fashion? What’s that? What does it really mean? It’s cobblers, the lot of it. It’s all surface with no substance – that sums up the people who like it. Fashion is for idiots.”

Sarah: “Well dressed idiots.”

Chris: “I, err… yeah.”