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Shooting For Socrates (2014)

A suggestion of my mum's, who hates football, but was born in Belfast in the 1960s, and can enjoy any sports film that binds in some kind of social history too. That is what this is an attempt at doing. Not so much a documentary (though parts of it are done in that style, as one of the characters is the reporter who covered the Northern Ireland team in the 1980s.) but more just a multi layered story of a tiny underdog like Northern Ireland first qualifying for the World Cup in 1986, and then facing the biggest of odds when they were drawn in a group containing the mighty Brazil and their otherworldly captain Socrates.

It is done in an interesting way, focusing on the team and the manager and how they can muster any hope against such massive odds, in particular on young David Campbell, and the fans at home, mainly one 9 year old boy Tommy who is growing up football mad while the troubles rage on the streets.

I think this could have been done better, as it was a bit uneven, some scenes were done really really well, while others felt a little dull and needless. It's worth a watch either way.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

So this was the first film I decided to watch with my new random number generator idea, so when I dont know what to watch, I dont just end up flicking through the menus on Netflix and Prime for 2 hours and end up watching nothing. Right now, that seems like a more attractive option.

And it all started so promisingly with the whole phone call setup, but beyond that first half hour, this descends further and further into trope laden 'stalking is totally acceptable when they're pretty' creepy as hell homewrecking make it stop right now bull****.

Always said that romcoms are that genre that doesnt have an in between. They're either really right, or really wrong. This is all kinds of really wrong that even early 90s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan cant save. Burn it all.

The Children Act (2017)

Courtroom drama isnt really all my thing, but then very little of this is really confined to the courtroom. It's not a great film, and a bit slow in parts, but massive fan of Emma Thompson's performance here, she practically carries the whole thing on her own, as a judge who makes life and death decisions for families professionally, but who's own family life is crashing down around her.

Asks a lot of important questions about morality, faith, parental influence and all that, which I really liked, as well as it not really taking any sides in these arguments, just presenting the differing sides quite factually.

The Happytime Murders (2018)

Wow, so this is getting a universal panning I see. I guess any comedy film lives or dies by finding it's audience, and with such a genre mix (traditionally childish puppets and humour meets film noir seedy crime mystery) there wont be any in between. People will get it and find it funny, or it's an aberration.

Meh, it's crude, and silly, and childish, but then South Park has made a living of that kind of genre comedy crash for over 20 years, so it's nothing new. But I was laughing most of the way through, Im not above laughing at low brow, and it's short enough that it wasn't overdone. Provided you're not going in with high expectations of some high brow puppet/ film noir parody, you wont be disappointed.


Your review of Happytime Murders seems fair. South Park has the same kind of appeal where you can pretty much anticipate the jokes coming, and its just a matter of if you enjoy the execution of it or not.

Your review of Happytime Murders seems fair. South Park has the same kind of appeal where you can pretty much anticipate the jokes coming, and its just a matter of if you enjoy the execution of it or not.
Yes I think that's a good way of putting it. It's just where your 'line' is. I grew up watching South Park and mostly enjoyed it, but there were always a couple of episodes every season that were just too far, or just the joke wasn't funny.

101 Dalmatians (1961)

The Big Disney Challenge 17/56

Another one I watched a lot as a kid but haven't seen in years. Having another dogcentric film so soon after Lady and the Tramp might have been a risk, but then not when it's this good. We get a lot more of the human characters in this, from Pongo and Perdy's 'pets,' to another set of excellent baddies, Horace and Jasper as an excellent mix of funny and dangerously sinister, to another top notch Disney villainess in Cruella De Vil, a badun so bad she gets her own song! I love this film, the perfect balance between adventure, funny, and heartwarming family stuff with all the love between Pongo and his family.

Best Scene:
Hard to really pick one that stands out, as I think it's a solid film all round. The scene when Horace and Jasper steal the puppies though is really well done, very unsettling.

As An Adult:
The What's my Line parody is great! Also in the opening scene where Pongo is looking for a mate for his pet, is that a pile of Playboys he's looking through?

Other than everyone being white and middle class, nothing to see here.

Did I Cry?
No. The scene where the Collie and the cows shelter the dalmatians gives me the warm and fuzzies though.

Children of Men (2006)

I saw this at the cinema when it first came out 12 years ago, and despite buying the DVD as well, I've never watched it since. As time has gone on, I forgot what exactly it was that so upsetting that despite enjoying it, made me not want to go back. Until a recent discussion about it's current relevance on Twitter forced me to go back. And now I remember.

Unquestionably one of the bleakest films I've ever seen, it us genuinely scary how relevant this film is today. And unlike many futuristic sci fi films that give us their story with promises of technological advancement, this is completely different. It is set in 2027, but everything in it looks like anything from the last 10-20 years, it could be now. It is a world that is recognisable to us that has gone to hell. And it has all happened because something unexplained has rendered the whole world infertile. And with no future and no hope, chaos and insularity have taken over and destroyed what little there was left. Until hope arrives in the form of a young pregnant girl.

There isn't one single piece of this film that isn't perfect. Cuaron is a genius, taking us everywhere he wants to go. Makes us despair for humanity in one scene, then remember what there is about us that's worth saving in the next. From a technical perspective, again perfection. The leading camera angles, POV shots, the whole scene towards the end that effectively descends into guerrilla warfare, the horror of that refugee camp. it's a masterclass in filmmaking.

It is helped along by a powerhouse central performance from Clive Owen, in what is easily the best performance of his career. We practically live and breathe the whole film through him, we feel everything.

One of the finest films ever made, and one of the most relevant around right now despite being 12 years old.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)

First off, screw all you bastard execs who decide that films like this only get a limited release. Kids from Hicksville need a bit of exposure to culture and representation too you know! So thank you to Liverpool's indie cinema for showing it, one of only 7 in a 50 mile radius. There is something badly wrong with that.

So yes, despite the fact likely nobody will see this, it's another important one worth seeing. And despite the fact it is set over 20 years ago, it remains timelessly relevant as long as the pure evil that is conversion therapy continues to exist. While the main body of the story focuses on Cameron's development through the therapy, we also see the different stages reached by some of the other kids. Cameron's roommate Erin being one, and most jarringly, the reaction we see from Mark's character towards the end to his family's feelings on his therapy is pretty horrifying stuff. The group is led by 'ex-gay' Reverend Rick, who sums up the whole crazy farce by actually being a quite likeable guy who you get the feeling is doing this for what he believes are the right reasons. All in stark contrast with his therapist sister, who Ive read in a couple of other reviews is likened to Nurse Ratchett...I'd say that's fairly accurate. A character in the film also relates her to Piper Laurie's mother character in Carrie...pretty apt also considering she scared the hell out of me. (Past tense 'scared' she says...still terrifies me today in my 30s...)

The subject matter is pretty awful, but it survives as the kids do, on a diet of gallows humour, because how else do you get through an ordeal? There is a line that asks how is programming teenagers to hate themselves not emotional abuse. Spot on. Watch this, then watch But Im a Cheerleader after. While that hilariously parodies the sheer ridiculousness of conversion therapy and double standards society has towards sexuality, this is a much more emotional look at how damaging it is.

(By the way, please tell me Blessercise is a real thing, because I just cant even...)

The Sword in the Stone (1963)

The Big Disney Challenge 18/56

One of the first big disappointments I've come across really. I loved this when I was a kid, it was on TV every Christmas so was religiously watched every year. Watching it again's a bit poor really. The fact that Disney had now started recycling animation and sound effects means it get's really repetitive for a start. Merlin is fun in parts, but overall Wart is a dull as sin protagonist. And for all it's after school special lessons, that Wart has to use his brains to overcome brawn to make something of himself, what happens? A piece of luck has him end up squiring very badly for Kay, he pulls the sword out of the stone, and he's king by a trick of fate and a show of physical strength or divine intervention, whichever way you look at it. It's all in all a quite dull King Arthur origin story with some weird horny squirrels thrown into the mix.

Best Scene:
Madam Mim!!! Give me all the Madam Mim FFS! It's crazy just how good that scene with her song and the Wizard's Duel is compared to the rest of this. And she gets one bloody scene to save the whole thing, and then she's gone again! The magnificent marvellous mad mad mad mad Madam Mim!

As An Adult:
This really does play out like some kind of educational video. Look this is how fish swim, the world is round, lots of inventions came around way later than the dark ages...

So much white! But then this film is supposed to be the Dark Ages, so I guess that's acceptable.

Did I Cry? Noooooo....


The Jungle Book (1967)

The Big Disney Challenge 19/56

And here we are, the last animated Disney film that Walt himself had a hand in, and it wasnt a bad one to go out with was it? Like so many others, it's not the most exciting or creative story in the world, but it is brought to life by great music and characters. What stands out most is the balance here. There are so many great characters, and nobody outstays their welcome, all playing a wider part in an ensemble story. It's one of the funnier films so far, much of which provided by Baloo (one that still always makes me laugh is where he shouts out looking for Bagheera across the jungle, Bagheera then turns up, only for Baloo to not notice again and shout in his face..."oh you heard me?") and overall is easily one of the funniest and most enjoyable Disney films yet.

Best Song: Bare Necessities
Has to be doesnt it?

Best Scene:
Baloo steals every scene he's in, and takes all the best lines. I love the whole scene when he first meets Mowgli. The comedy is so string in this. Mowgli's 'big bear growl' still makes me laugh every time too, it's so pitiful!

As An Adult:
We are all Baloo at the end when the girl from the Man Village seduces Mowgli at the end. "She did that on purpose!"

Oh boy...a lot to dissect here. While there is at least a little credit given in that Mowgli and girl from the village are not actually white, that' There is a lot going on under the surface here, mainly with the monkeys. It seems too that the original choice to play King Louis was Louis Armstrong, though seemingly with the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Disney were wary to cast a black man in the role of a instead cast lots of white men talking black. All very reminiscent of the crows in Dumbo nearly 30 years earlier.

Did I Cry?
You dont have a heart if you didnt cry when Mowgli thinks Baloo is dead.

The Aristocats (1970)

The Big Disney Challenge 20/56

Watching these films in order is interesting because you see where similarities and changes come in. This one has it's moments, but overall, I've always found it quite dull. The story is way too similar to Lady and the Tramp, and 101 Dalmatians, but both of those do it better. And have dogs.

Best Song: Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat
A bit like the Madam Mim segment in the Sword in the Stone, this whole bit is just so much more fun than every other bit of the film.

Best Scene:
The whole scene in the above mentioned song. Top jazzy song, colourful, and loads of fun.

As An Adult:
Did Duchess really just sing 'if you want to turn me on?' Also, notice the 3 kittens all resemble Duchess, O'Malley and Scat Cat? And notice each of them seems closest to the kitten who is the same colour of each of them?

Ah, so using animals to perpetuate racial stereotypes is the new way in now is it lads? The Chinese cat and his segment in the song...bloody hell...

Did I Cry? No

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Sometimes the 50p shelf at Cex chucks a gem at you out of nowhere. I'd only heard of this because I love Anne Hathaway and I love Jonathan Demme, but other than that, this flew completely under my radar. It needs a wider audience.

The titular Rachel is getting married, while her junkie sister has been given leave from rehab for the weekend to attend. What follows is an intimate character driven story of family dysfunction. I say intimate bevause the whole film is shot almost in style of a documentary. No background music, unconventional close up shots sometimes obscured by people in front in crowded scenes. We are not just watching some family on screen trying to work through their problems with themselves, problems with each other, their pain and grief. The camera brings us in so close, we're part of this family. You are sad for them, you cringe for them, you laugh at their shared history. The fact the whole film revolves around a wedding just sums up how some families survive, putting on the happy face and just getting through it, putting everything else aside for a day. If there were problems before, they'll still be there in the morning.

Full of powerful moments and performances, Hathaway got an Oscar nom for what is probably her best performance, but kudos too for Rosemarie DeWitt and Bill Irwin as her sister and father. All three help create this real tense family dynamic that brings it all home.

Touch of Evil (1958)

I read after watching this that it was cut and edited by the studio without director Orson Welles' input, and I think you can definitely tell. All round, there is so much right going on here. The camera angles and lighting are fantastic, creating a dark and dirty mood throughout. The performances are excellent, (even with Charlton Heston playing a Mexican?) Welles himself being the obvious standout as cop Hank Quinlan, so hulking and filthy, you can almost smell the sweat. The passive aggressive racism between the Americans and Mexicans is palpable, more so as the tension grows.

The only real the plot. Its not so much the plot itself, and it isnt that confusing, just the way it's put together makes it almost confuse itself. It would be interesting to watch the 1998 re-edit and see how it compares, as there is so much here that's good, and so much potential. It just slightly misses the mark.

Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
I don't know where you watched it, but nowadays the version showed is THE re-edit.
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
My IMDb page

Touch of Evil (1958)
The only real the plot. Its not so much the plot itself, and it isnt that confusing, just the way it's put together makes it almost confuse itself.

Welles in an interview said he purposely edited the movie so that the viewer was kept up close and personal, and never given back story or other POVs, that way the viewer is kept in the dark the same way the investigator is.

I wrote in detail about the movie after watching it and the commentary track. If interested here it is: link

The Godfather (1972)

So here's one that has been on my list for some time, it is only that runtime that has so far stopped me, as finding the time to fit in a 3 hour film and without the distractions to enjoy it, can always be difficult. Then I found out it was showing in a couple of local cinemas tonight so felt this is surely the absolute best way to make that commitment, right?

Oh so right. The only word I can find to describe it is perfect. I can sit here thinking as hard as I can to find something that I think was needless, or could have been done better, and I just cant. Three hours just flew by, as I was treated to an absolute epic. Every performance, every shot, every bit of lighting, every piece of cinematography, every plot point, every note of music could not have been done better. Most films of this length usually have at least a few bits that drag a little, or feel a little pointless to the plot and have you looking at your watch. This never did, every moment is important. And that's not to say it rushes through and bombards you, nor does it meander slowly around. The pacing is just what it needs to tell you everything you need to know.

The obvious centre of the story is family, and it's importance above all else. It's hard to pick out a standout performance because every single one here is on point. What stands out more than anything is that dynamic between Don Vito, and his sons Sonny and Michael. How we see that dynamic and the power change hands between them. Vito begins the film as this immovable, powerful rock of the underworld, but as we see him diminish with age and injury, we see Michael grow stronger before our eyes. As much as we are given the impression at the start of the film that he has no interest in 'the family business,' as time goes on, family tells, and he is his father's son.

I could ramble all night about how good that was, but Ill stop there. And Im told part 2 is better?

Robin Hood (1973)

The Big Disney Challenge 21/56

This is more like it. A bit of a departure from the talking animals stories of the previous years, this goes one further and gives us a traditionally human story, retold with the characters as an array of animals. And it comes together perfectly. It really allowed the animators and writers to really toy with a whole new set of ideas, basing characters on the traits of the animals they're portrayed of. There's a lot of the Jungle Book here in that sense (Phil Harris once again voicing a bear, though a much more sensitive one but still funny, and a sneaky hypnotic snake character similar to Kaa) but adding that to a traditional well known folk tale, complete with a minstrel telling the tale from inside the story, was inspired.

Like the Jungle Book, we have a wide range of characters who all make the most of their screen time. The Sheriff of Nottingham is a downright nasty piece of work, and one of the most dislikable Disney villains of all, Friar Tuck is sympathetic to his people despite his short fuse with the Sheriff, and the various villagers are endearing. Maid Marian is lovely, and ably assisted in comic relief by Lady Cluck, while Robin Hood himself is definitely one the more appealing Disney heroes.

Best character by far though? Prince John, voiced to hilarious perfection by Peter Ustinov. Nasty and cruel, greedy and selfish, he portrays a really mean spirited villain, who also manages to be a hilarious mummys boy coward. It's a ridiculous mix that done badly could have killed this film dead. Ustinov makes it.

Best Song: The Phony King of England
All the songs in this are pretty good on the sly, and all very different. All of the film type songs sung by the minstrel are very good at setting that medieval period, while Not in Nottingham is suitably melancholy for a very sad scene. The love song played between Robin and Marian in the forest is do much better than painful similar efforts in Bambi and Cinderella. The Phony King of England is the toe tapping catchy bag of fun you came for. None of these songs would ever make a best Disney song list, but as an overall quality of all songs in a film, it's probably the most consistent so far.

Best Scene:
The fight scene following Robin's capture at the archery tournament. Full on anarchic fun, with Lady Cluck taking centre stage. Also includes Prince John screeching the immortal line 'seize the fat one' before an American football inspired sequence. An absolute riot.

As An Adult:
Not much, but I did now catch the reference to the rabbit family having lots of kids!

Maybe I missed it, but I don't think there was any? Is this the turning point?

Did I Cry? Not this time, though the scene where everyone in the village is locked in the tower always made me cry when I was little, it's very well done. Reminds me a lot of the Pound in Lady and the Tramp.