12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS FILMS

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Day 10 Scrooged 8/10

‘Well, I’m sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples.’

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So to me what is probably the main event of this entire series. Bill Murray’s masterpiece (in Christmas movie terms) Scrooged.

Part remake, part spoof of the classic Dickins tale, Scrooged is a weird film even by 80s standards. Just as comfortable with cartoonish violence as with heart tugging emotional scenes it could have been an utter disaster if not for Bill Murrays brilliant performance as the protagonist. Murray can make anything funny but he has a genuinely clever and witty script to work with here and there are countless laugh out loud moments. Crucially most of the effects are simple and effective and they still hold up today and the ones that don’t are so ridiculous it doesn’t matter that they look a bit dated.

Stinking the place out with a rubbish performance is Indiana Jones’ main girl Karen Allen who I suppose doesn’t have much to work with being as her character is such a massive wet lettuce and continual doormat for Murray but nearly every scene featuring Allen feels unnecessary.

Particularly memorable are the three ghosts with the ghost of Christmas past a particular success and Scrooged is worth viewing for the mental concept behind the ghost of Christmas future alone. Things had started to get a bit saccharine since it’s been a few days since Bad Santa but Scrooged was the perfect remedy for that and a good precursor for Die Hard tomorrow.

Day 9 The Santa Claus N/A

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It turns out that watching 12 films in 12 days at this time of year is a logistical nightmare.My plan was to go out for a friends birthday, have two pints (wait for it to all blow over – wink), then return home for a civilised night with Tim Allen and Judge Reinhold. Instead what transpired was, I had seven pints of real ale, stumbled home leathered and stared incomprehensibly at Tim Allen’s smirking face for forty five minutes before giving up and going to bed.

I really tried to follow what was going on but at one point I was seeing double Tim Allen’s and literally nobody wants that.

Day 8 Jingle All The Way 3/10

‘You can’t bench press your way out of this one’

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If you showed this film to somebody now who had no knowledge of Arnold Schwarzenegger they would be so baffled as to why this ever got a cinematic release. I haven’t seen an Arnie flick for a number of years and I had never before realized how much of a truly terrible actor he really is. Obviously I still love him, not just for kitsch value but for the huge part he played in my childhood. You can’t argue with Terminator & T2, Predator, Running Man, Total Recall etc… You can however argue with Jingle All The Way. The highlight of this film from a technical stand point was when I nodded off for ten minutes and had a dream that I lived in a wooden shack with a lovely old loyal dog. I awoke to one of Arnie’s three facial expressions staring back at me. Truly when you stare deep into Arnie… Arnie stares back into you.

As with Elf, this is not a film I had the pleasure of viewing as a kid and while I am really glad I finally watched it as it is definitely an experience there is no denying it is just awful. To be fair this is a film completely of its time that would never be made today but it is a pretty fair indication of the 90s culture that seemed to result in every single idea anyone had immediately being turned into a feature film.

Jingle All the Way is a kids film that features a man explicitly trying to have sex with his neighbours wife. It takes in a genuinely offensive racial slur (Shaking like a dog in a Chinese restaurant). The acting, script and execution are truly terrible all the way through. It is however, a film that when I compiled the list for the 12 days of Christmas films was one of the most requested so director Brian Levant (responsible for such masterpieces as Problem Child 2 and The Flintstones Movie) obviously did something right.

Day 7 National Lampoons Christmas Vacation 7/10

‘Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.’

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Christmas Vacation is the third of National Lampoon’s… Vacation series and I must admit before beginning I haven’t seen any of the others so there is probably loads of stuff that passed me by here. I still love this movie though and it is in my top five Christmas films. Unlike the cloying sweetness of stuff like Miracle on 34th Street and Elf, Christmas Vacation is closer to a real family Christmas what with the turkey being ruined, the Christmas lights not working and putting up with borderline insane relatives for days at a time. It’s also a bit different as it ends on Christmas Eve so doesn’t have the big Christmas day pay off that renders all the films in this genre a bit samey.

As it came out in 1989 Christmas Vacation is obviously a little bit dated now (animated intro anyone?) but when you have Randy Quaid and comedy God Chevy Chase heading up the cast the majority of jokes are going to land and there are many laugh out loud moments along the way. The kind of Christmas film I imagine Scrooge would enjoy.

Day 6 Elf 6/10

‘You sit on a throne of lies!’

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Elf is the first film on the list that is neither new to me or beloved from my childhood. I was about sixteen when I first saw Elf so I was too busy listening to Slipknot and wearing black nail varnish to have any time for Christmas films (apart from maybe Black Christmas or A Nightmare Before Christmas…) so Elf passed me by at the time. I did catch it a couple of years later but I wasn’t that impressed and I have to say after a second viewing it still didn’t do a great deal for me.

Anchorman and Everything Must Go aside I’m not actually that into Will Ferrell and he is consistently loud and irritating as Buddy. Being flanked by Zooey Deschanel who always toes the line between adorable and downright annoying doesn’t really help either and it is telling that the funniest scenes are the ones that Ferrell isn’t in at all (The brilliant scene where Peter Dinklage is pitching children’s literature ideas and the funniest part of the movie where the interviewee is in love with the television reporter).

James Caan looks at Ferrell with as much disdain as I felt towards the character so I enjoyed the scenes between the two more than the stuff involving Ferrell prancing around making noise.

Elf is the film I have enjoyed least on this list so far but I’m sure it is loved by people who grew up watching it.

Day 5 Miracle on 34th Street (1994) – 7/10

‘I’m not just a whimsical figure who wears a charming suit and affects a jolly demeanor. You know, I’m a symbol.’ – Santa Claus/Batman

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Day five of 12 days of Christmas films and I feel like I have eaten the cinematic equivalent of a full selection box so sickly sweet, that it is all becoming too much for a cynical, miserable old turd like myself. Miracle on 34th Street is the most traditional and festive film yet and at nearly two hours long it did get a bit much towards the end. However Richard Attenborough really is superb as Kris Kringle. If Santa is real I want him to be like this. I firmly believe it would feel really safe and warm sitting on Attenborough’s knee. He even cracks a few jokes. Banter Claus if you will.

It is weird seeing Saint Nick in a courtroom drama but those scenes are probably the best in the movie with dreamy lead Dylan McDermott also putting in a strong performance as the lawyer defending Santa. That little girl from Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire is adorable once again but it is a smart move to fade her character out a bit in the second half as I think she would have started to grate on me eventually.

Miracle on 34th Street has absolutely no edge and it takes zero risks but sometimes a straight up heart warming fable is called for and never more so than at Christmas.

Still waiting for the dark crossover sequel A Nightmare on 34th Street where Kringle is burnt to death by local residents and he comes back in a green sweater and emerges from the fireplace with knives for fingers to murder the children.

Merry Christmas.

Day 4 Home Alone – 8/10

‘Keep the change ya filthy animal!’

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The first movie on the list that isn’t specifically about Christmas but it does take place over the Christmas period and features various xmas songs on the soundtrack.

Writer John Hughes had barely put a foot wrong what with the success of his much loved Shermer films Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, Weird Science etc but it was with Home Alone that he really hit the jackpot. Home Alone is still in the top 50 highest grossing films worldwide and it made a huge star of Maculey Culkin albeit briefly. The real stars of Home Alone however are the hapless and brilliantly named Wet Bandits portrayed by the always hilarious Joe Pesci, and Daniel Stern. I have also loved John Candy since seeing Cool Runnings and Uncle Buck as a kid so his cameo as Gus Polanski – polka king of the Midwest – is also a plus point.

Culkin is certainly confident and he has a certain charm but it is difficult to see why he became such a massive star on the strength of this film. I much prefer Devin Ratray as Culkin’s bullying older brother Buzz. I have often longed for a spin off pairing Buzz up with Biff Tannen from Back to the Future where they go on a spiritual and existential journey but alas nothing has materialized.

Home Alone is not a brilliant film from a technical stand point but it is a real, bona fide classic and for many people of my generation it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

Day 3 – Bad Santa 8/10

‘Why don’t you wish in one hand, and shit in the other. See which one fills up first.’

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After the saccharine sweetness of Santa Claus, Billy Bob Thornton’s anti Claus is a welcome change of pace. If you are looking for something a bit risqué but still Christmassy then don’t watch this. Especially don’t watch it with your family. If you want to see Santa drinking, smoking and whoring his way across the advent calendar though then look no further than Bad Santa. BBT is superb as mall Santa Claus and thief Willie. He is disgusting, foul mouthed and by all accounts a truly terrible person but Thornton somehow makes him likeable to the point that in the genuinely emotional conclusion I was actively rooting for him. It is a testament to the quality of Thornton’s performance that even though Bill Murray and Jack Nicholson were considered for the lead role, I don’t think anyone could have pulled this off as well as Thornton does. Brett Kelly is also superb as The Kid that acts as Willie’s potential salvation, matching Thornton’s scowl with blank nothingness. Elsewhere Bernie Mac is a pleasure as always displaying more humour with one look of disdain than Chris Tucker could with a thousand loudly screeched sentences.

The most Christmassy thing about Bad Santa is the score which is made up entirely of well known classical music including stuff from The Nutcracker which I always assume has something to do with the festive season despite knowing nothing about it (and being too lazy to research it properly).

This was director Terry Zwigof’s follow up to much loved cult classic Ghost World but for me Bad Santa is more cohesive and definitely funnier if not as quirky. If you have nobody to pull your cracker with and you find yourself surrounded by empty beer cans and overflowing ashtrays this Christmas let Bad Santa make you feel better about yourself.

Day 2 – Santa Claus 7/10

‘Santa Claus doesn’t tell lies’

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Santa Claus plays like three very different movies all squashed into one. The first is like a Marvel origin story for Santa complete with tragic beginnings and rebirth. This film takes place entirely at the North Pole and is about as Christmas as anything could ever be. The set looks like the ghost of Christmas present has been sick everywhere so resplendent is it in red, green and gold. The second part is a truly terrible piece of cinema about Santa befriending the most orphany orphan since Oliver Twist upon which time all sorts of sickly, heart warming events transpire. The third and most brilliant plot line involves a rogue elf unwittingly teaming up with an unspeakably evil toy executive to try and respectively save Christmas and make loads of money by blowing up children. This is as brilliant as it sounds especially with John Lithgow channelling his inner (Jolly Saint?) Nic Cage with a wonderfully over the top performance as the exec.

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On a serious note though Santa Claus the movie is all heart and crucially Dudley Moore respects the role of Patch the Elf (in the same way Michael Caine did with Scrooge in The Muppets). Sure it’s sentimental and some of the acting is atrocious and one moment of product placement featuring McDonalds is so blatant that I half expected Santa to eagerly proclaim ‘I’m loving it’ into the camera with a cheeky wink, but isn’t that what Christmas is about? Sentimentality and crass consumerism? Humbug!

Day 1 – Muppets Christmas Carol 10/10

There is no such thing as objectivity when it comes to Christmas films. You can’t look at one Christmas film and say that is definitely better than another one. Your preference depends on what you were brought up on. Just as there is no answer to the Coco Pops vs Sugar Puffs debate, one could not provide an unequivocal winner in a battle between Scrooged and Miracle on 34th Street. For me you can forgot the tree going up, the Coca Cola advert or my Dad starting to drink a single malt with every meal, Christmas begins when I watch The Muppets Christmas Carol.

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Before Adventure Time and Pixar, The Muppets followed the trail blazed by Looney Tunes in not talking down to children. Muppets Christmas Carol takes in themes of omniscience, death, regret and redemption while still staying faithful to Dickins’ beautiful prose. Perhaps if Disney had taken a leaf out of The Muppets book they wouldn’t be producing such turgid affair as Frozen.
At the heart of this anthropomorphic retelling of the Dickins classic is a wonderful performance from Michael Caine as Scrooge. He plays it straight and adds gravitas to the heavier scenes towards the end shared with the ghost of Christmas yet to come (always the life and soul of the party).

The juxtaposition of classic literature with familiar Muppets classics heckling old men, singing mice and talking frogs always seems surprisingly natural and it never jars. The songs are mostly on point, even when Michael Caine starts warbling like someone’s uncle at a New Years Party and because of the aforementioned refusal of The Muppets to patronize the audience there are many genuinely laugh out loud moments throughout.

For me The Muppets Christmas Carol simply IS Christmas and perhaps for the first time ever on this blog I am not afraid to use the word magical.

Foo Fighters – A Retrospective (Part 1)

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Foo Fighters 7.5/10
From the ashes of Nirvana came the first Foo Fighters album. Recorded exclusively by Grohl himself (save for a guitar part on ‘X-Static’ provided by Afghan Whigs Greg Dulli) and only six months following the death of Kurt Cobain. Foo Fighters is a focused and upbeat effort which strives for catharsis about Kurt’s tragic suicide by focusing on the music itself rather than reflection. The lyrics throughout this album are pretty meaningless (‘fingernails are pretty, fingernails are good’ Grohl proclaims on opening track ‘This is a Call’) but the songs themselves are well crafted and passionately performed. Despite Grohl playing every instrument on the album, the sparse and raw production somehow makes the Foo’s eponymous debut feel like a band playing live for which Grohl and fellow producer Barrett Jones deserve infinite credit.

The opening three tracks are a statement of intent for Grohl being as they were the three singles released from this album. This is a Call sounds exactly as you would expect a song with that title to sound, I’ll Stick Around comes raring out of the tracks and is the closest we get to Grohl’s previous band and also to the Seattle grunge scene in general. Big Me is the biggest nod to the more melodic, softer band that Foo Fighters would become and is also an album highlight with its Lemonheads jingly jangly guitar. The rest of the album is very solid if a little too similar in style. Good Grief has a brilliantly catchy riff running through it and Oh, George is the most underrated Foo’s song on this album and possibly overall but Foo Fighters runs out of steam a bit towards the end with more nonsense lyrics (For All The Cows) and two forgettable if spirited efforts as album closers (Wattershed, Exhausted). Whilst being a phenomenal debut given the circumstances it is difficult to see how the Foo Fighters became one of the biggest bands on the world on the strength of this record.

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The Colour and the Shape – 9/10
The beauty of any art form is subjectivity. If we all agreed on everything the great pub debates would be a thing of the past. The great thing about subjectivity is sometimes you can find yourself with an opinion that absolutely nobody seems to share. It is with this in mind that I continue my Foo’s retrospective with the admission that The Colour and the Shape contains my favourite Foo Fighters song and it is not My Hero, Monkeywrench or even Everlong.
The pounding drum intro, the earworm of a riff and for me the moment that Grohl took his second most famous band from grunge offshoot to full blown rock & roll band destined for arenas and world domination.

Hey Johnny Park really is a breathtaking and atmospheric moment and in an era when the charts were dominated by boybands and britpop a timely reminder that there will always be a place for rock music. The fact that it wasn’t even a single (Grohl preferred the aforementioned tracks plus the pretty but far inferior Walking After You) shows how strong an album Foo Fighters sophomore record really was.

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Beginning the album with a taste of things to come and indication of quality is the blink and you’ll miss it Doll followed by massive single Monkey Wrench and Hey Johnny Park. It is a struggle to think of an album leading with three stronger songs. Then comes the only stinker on the record My Poor Brain which is so Foo’s by numbers that it could be filler on any of their other albums. From there though it is all killer with the twin epics Everlong and February Stars, the Paul McCartney inspired jaunt See You, the killer bassline running through Enough Space, the brilliantly catchy Up In Arms, the list goes on.
The Colour and the Shape also marks the moment that the Foo Fighters became an actual band with the recruitment of Sunny Day Real Estate’s Nate Mendal on bass and occasional Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear. This, plus Pixies producer Gil Norton, help to flesh out Foo Fighters second outing and along with Grohl actually singing about things happening in his life rather than cows result in a vintage rock & roll album.
When people talk about classic albums of the nineties The Colour and the Shape absolutely deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Automatic for the People, Definitely Maybe and yes even Nevermind. Foo Fighters would never better it and if you only listen to one Foo’s album, make it this one.

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There is Nothing Left to Lose 7/10
Foo Fighters third marks the moment where Grohl & co pretty much stopped experimenting. They had found a winning formulae that would stay as the Foo’s blueprint thereafter. That is not to say There is Nothing Left to Lose is a band resting on their laurels, far from it. Lead single Learn to Fly seems to polarize Foo’s fans due to it veering uncomfortably close to U2 territory but as a thirteen year old who had just been blown away by hearing Nirvana, Learn to Fly was the song that introduced me to the Foo Fighters and I still love it to this day. My personal favourite song from There is Nothing Left to Lose however is furiously heavy opener Stacked Actors (apparently written as an angry response to Courtney Love well… just doing what Courtney Love does) but Learn to Fly runs it close as does other massive singles Breakout and Next Year.

Pat Smear leaving citing exhaustion is significant but even worse is the loss of Grohl on drums. While Taylor Hawkins is a brilliant drummer who definitely enhanced the Foo’s as a live band, pretty much anyone would be a step down from Grohl in the studio.

Producer Adam Kasper brings a mechanical, soulless element to both this and its successor One by One which leads to a polished but heartless sound especially on songs such as Gimme Stitches and Generator. Away from the massive singles though there are some hidden gems on this album. Ain’t it the Life is a song that can only be described as lovely stuff and M.I.A closes the album with nearly as much quality as opener Stacked Actors.

There isn’t really a bad song on There is Nothing Left to Lose but there is also nothing to match the best moments of The Colour and The Shape or the first album. This third record helped to propel Foo Fighters into the heavyweight division of rock music but it should be nobody’s favourite album.

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One by One 5/10
When listening to any artists volume of work back to back there is always one album that you struggle to get through. One by One was that album for me. Despite containing two of Foo’s biggest hits in All My Life and the hugely overrated radio friendly unit shifter Times Like These there is little to get excited about on the Foo’s fourth LP. Grohl himself would later comment ‘four of the songs were good, and the other seven I never played again in my life’.
Alarm bells were ringing when the first version of One by One was scrapped completely after Grohl said the recording sessions ‘sucked the life out of the songs’ and this feels like a record for the sake of it with not much focus or passion at any stage. Disenchanted Lullaby is one of the bands most boring and meandering songs and even the haunting Tired of You outstays it’s welcome running at over five minutes. The fact that I had to listen to closing four tracks Lonely As You, Overdrive, Burn Away and Come Back three times before giving up on finding anything interesting to write about is an indication of the lack of ideas inherent throughout One by One.

This was the moment where loads of people, including myself, stopped caring about Foo Fighters for a while.

The Maze Runner – 6/10.

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If you came to this film because you like watching people running through mazes you will not be disappointed.

If you have seen any film ever you will have seen pretty much everything that happens in Maze Runner. Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale or Hunger Games for people who like friendship instead of murder. I guarantee you wont read a review for this film that goes more than six lines without mentioning The Hunger Games such is the obvious comparison. The reason for this is the huge success of that series is literally the only reason this film exists. Rather than have the good looking young adults fight themselves they instead battle huge spider alien creatures whilst doing a lot of running through mazes. Imagine Battle Royale vs Predator and you are pretty much there. I wont bore you with the list of clichés trotted out in The Maze Runner but put it this way the only part of the film that shocked me was the fat, curly haired kid not being comic relief. Another annoyance with this film is that obviously it is the start of a franchise and trilogy so even though this is the first film in the series it already feels episodic and very much like a piece of work that will never stand on its own. This is the problem with releasing films in this way, does anyone ever watch Attack of the Clones or The Matrix Reloaded or even Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers by themselves? No, those films exist to move the story along and connect the first and final chapters but at least the other films in those respective series’ make this worthwhile. The Maze Runner already feels like a means to an end designed as an introduction rather than just a film in its own right. However for all it’s flaws if you can switch off your brain completely Maze Runner does at least look amazing and the characters are likeable if paper thin. Credit goes to Will Poulter (Son of Rambow), Ki Hong Lee and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed for any GOT fans) for squeezing the most they can from poorly written characters and I suppose even protagonist Dylan O’ Brien is fine considering he is playing the kind of character who would be portrayed by Megan Fox if the role had been female. Loads of people will hate this but if you just want a pure piece of popcorn Hollywood fluff this is completely adequate.

The Babadook – 7/10.

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The Babadook is the latest in a long line of Australian horror movies like The Loved Ones, Wolf Creek and erm… Wolf Creek 2?

One of horrors great tragedies in recent years is how so many films fit so tightly into an existing trope (Found Footage, Slasher, Haunted House etc) that you kind of already know what is going to happen within the first five minutes. To its credit The Babadook takes elements from a few of the classic films and genres, notably The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Ring but sadly never becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Atmospheric and scary at the right times and with a strong performance at it’s heart. Essie Davis is great as the desperate matriarch but Noah Wiseman makes for a ghastly and odd child and his early overacting threatens to undermine the whole thing. Whilst Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees represent subconscious fears and horrible revenge, and Michael Myers embodies pure evil, The Babadook is a personification of depression and particularly repression. This is quite a fresh approach and it also keeps the ending from being laughably absurd. The Babadook isn’t ground breaking but it is significant in being another welcome stride towards horror finally stepping out of the shadows of Scream, Sixth Sense, Blair Witch Project and Insidious to reach a creative plateau in line with what oriental horror films have achieved for years.

Interstellar – 8/10

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2001: A Space Odyssey meets Gravity to birth really long, never ending film.
Christopher Nolan’s work on the Batman franchise and much loved modern classics Inception and Memento among others ensured that Interstellar would be the most hyped film of the year. Already featuring 8 Oscar nominees and ranking an astonishing #13 on the revered IMDB top 250 have only increased the huge amount of interest in this film. Is Interstellar worthy of the hype? There is definitely a lot to admire here. The script does not hold back on the science but always holds the audiences hand when things get a bit too technical. McConaughey is very good, particularly in the more harrowing, emotional scenes but he is in danger of being typecast as a Texan oddball talking in hushed tones. As Cooper, McConaughey manages to pull off devastated, doting father and full on action hero in the same role as well as being compellingly intense throughout. Nobody really competes with McConaughey when sharing the screen with him (aside from John Lithgow in earlier scenes) but Jessica Chastain impresses as Coopers daughter Murphy and it is nice to see Casey Affleck in a relatively big role considering recent failures. The main triumph though in Interstellar is Hans Zimmer’s absolutely jaw dropping score. Some of the more lengthy, boring scenes (of which there are many – more on that later) are still kept engaging by Zimmer’s masterful cacophony and this is actually the only area in which Interstellar is a rival for 2001: a space odyssey (beloved by Christopher Nolan – it’s influence looms large throughout the entirety of Interstellar). So Interstellar deserves all the plaudits then? Not quite for me. Despite the heavy subject matter this is still a movie drenched in Hollywood. Possibly the only film to have more endings than Return of the King, Interstellar feels like it is never going to finish with each new revelation taking impact away from what has preceded it. The constant allusions to love holding the key go from grating to downright ridiculous when Anne Hathaway delivers a soliloquy that wouldn’t be out of place in a Sex and the City movie and some of the more emotional scenes fall a bit too close to being manipulative for my liking. There are two fundamental problems with Interstellar. Firstly it is far, far too long and as with The Dark Knight Rises the pacing is all wrong. The second half feels rushed with major plot points covered in single scenes whereas large parts of the first half are just flat out boring. Secondly the reason that Inception, Memento and even The Prestige were so good is they kept you guessing. Inception in particular was made magical by its ambiguity and debate still rages as to that movie’s conclusion. Nothing is left to the imagine with Interstellar though as Nolan explains what is happening every step of the way. A very good film for sure but a masterpiece? Definitely not.

Gattaca – 7.5/10.

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Allegory for discrimination against the underclass or straight up sci fi thriller? Doesn’t really matter.

Gattaca director Andrew Niccol wrote The Terminal and The Truman Show as well as writing and directing Gattaca, Lord of War and In Time so he has a decent pedigree. Gattaca to me though feels like a more grown up but less fun version of Equilibrium. An impressive cast featuring Ethan Hawke, and Uma Thurman play it really straight with only Jude Law standing out above the rest with a funny and believable performance and Alan Arkin a close second place with a typical grumpy Arkin turn. Law is one of the most underrated actors of his generation and he blows Hawke away in the scenes the two share together. Gattaca drags in places but there is an excellent climatic scene and the score is brilliant. Not a film I can imagine wanting to watch again but a decent if bland entry in the sci fi canon.

As Above So Below – 8/10.

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Five attractive and intelligent people encounter a really hardcore zone on the Crystal Maze.

The cynical part of me wants to point out the MANY flaws inherent in As Above So Below. The awkward clichéd script, the fact that director John Erick Dowdle packs the flick with bizarre unexplained creatures, the complete lack of character development, but somehow it all kind of works. The obvious bedfellow in recent years would be Grave Encounters but while that film takes ages to go completely bonkers As Above So Below achieves this in about fifteen minutes. A horror film set in the very real catacombs underneath Paris is an inspired idea and the acting is consistently on the ball so even when the dialogue is truly awful the actors keep it together. So to the main crux of any horror film, is it actually scary? Well despite taking many risks throughout a skinny run time of 93 minutes AASB is always unsettling and sometimes genuinely frightening. Weird, strange, hard to pin down sure but entertaining definitely. I can’t remember the last time I saw three good horror films in a row (The Sacrament & The Conspiracy), perhaps the genre is turning a corner.