My Top 50 Films Part 4

Thank you for stopping by on the 4th entry to my top 50 films list. If you haven’t read parts 1 – 3, you can do here: PART 1  PART 2  PART 3

Just to repeat myself, these aren’t in any order, until we get to the last 2 weeks. My top 50 changes too often to list them. Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen any of the films I mention, love them, hate them? Let me know.

The Matrix

The Matrix is a film I watched as a kid and loved it, although I didn’t really understand it. It looked really cool, had some amazing effects and some great and memorable dialogue. I re-watched the first Matrix film about 2 years ago for its 20th anniversary and it holds up so well. If I hadn’t re-watched it then it probably wouldn’t be here on the list, but it’s an incredible film. The plot is all over the place in the best way, but it follows its own logic. The effects are still sublime and the themes and questions it asks are brilliant. This is one hell of a thrill ride, although I still haven’t brought myself around to watching part 2 and 3 again. I liked them as a kid, but more nervous about that now. I suppose I will have to before part 4.  

Terminator

When I was about 10/11 years old I had a boxset with Terminator 1 & 2 and then later the 3rd one. I loved all 3 and watched them a lot, especially the 2nd one. I do think that the first one is the best, I know that a lot of people say that the 2nd one is better. The 2nd is better action and effects, but the first one is truly tense and scary. The unrelenting Terminator chasing down Sarah Connor. It’s a brilliant series. I liked the 3rd one when it came out, but skipped the next 2 sequels until Dark Fate, which I thought was pretty good. The first is still the best.

The Thing

John Carpenter is one of my favourite directors. Halloween, They Live, Escape from New York/LA, Prince of Darkness. All classics. My favourite of his films is his remake, The Thing. It’s incredibly well made with a great performance from Kurt Russell. The effects are mind-blowingly good. The puppetry is stunning. The dog mutating is sickly and gross and awesome. The scene where they are testing their blood to see who is infected is one of the tensest scenes in horror history.

Silent Hill

While growing up and when I was probably way too young, I spent a lot of time playing the original Silent Hill game. It took me a long time to finally finish it, but I did it (It can be done in under 4 hours, but it took me a few years of stopping and starting). It’s a game I hold very highly. When the film was being released, I was very excited for it. I loved the Resident Evil film series and thought Silent Hill couldn’t disappoint. I wasn’t wrong. I know that a lot of people criticise this film, and it’s probably deserved, but from my point of view it’s fantastic.  

Planet of the Apes

Aside from the excellent twist at the end of Planet of the Apes (which I think is so well known that it’s impossible for someone to watch it for the first time and not expect it), the film is genuinely an excellent sci-fi film. I also think the original sequels are more than decent. They each do something different and tell their own story. The original is obviously the best of the bunch, and really stands up to the test of time. The book was originally adapted by Rod Sterling, the creator of The Twilight Zone, but most of his script was scrapped, apart from the ending. It’s a great film, that has spawned a whole franchise of great sci-fi. Hopefully the new one in the works lives up.

6 more weeks to go. I hope you are enjoying these posts so far. Leave me a comment below and let me know if you’ve seen any of these films

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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Old – Film Review

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Gael GarcíaBernal, Vicky Krieps, Rugus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie and Abbey Lee

Rating: ★★★★ 

A couple of years ago Midsommar was given a lot of praise for being a horror film set mostly during the day. Because of the bright lighting in most scenes, Midsommar subverted the expectations that scary things only happen at night or in the dark. It made the fear more tangible and real. M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film Old does the same thing, and to greater effect, with most of the film taking place on a bright beach. It also takes it one step further, because the root cause of the horror in Old is time and aging, and that happens everywhere. Aging and dying are universal fears that are constantly referenced in horror stories throughout history. In Old Shyamalan takes that fear and gives it a physical form in the idyllic beach that the characters are stuck on.

Something on the beach is making anyone who visits age quicker, and the film is about a group trying to escape from this. The whole ensemble is made up of interesting characters with great dynamics between them at play. If this wasn’t a horror, but a drama set on an island resort, there would still be a captivating story, and that’s how you know you’re in for a good ride from the beginning. There’s a doctor, Charlie played by Rufus Sewell (Dark City, Judy) whose ego takes control, telling nurse Jarin, played by Ken Leung (Rush Hour, Lost) what to do when looking after his epileptic wife. A couple, played by Gael García Bernal (Bad Education, Coco) and Vicky Krieps (Hanna, Two Lives), who are deciding on whether they should get a divorce. It’s a set up for an interesting drama and then it’s thrown onto the beach that ages them unnaturally fast and horror ensues. There are moments that are tense and scary only because the characters are so well written.

As fully realised as the characters are, there is still some awkward and clunky dialogue, especially from the children. This is a trend in most Shyamalan films, his dialogue is very stylised and not always natural. Thankfully the performances of the entire cast bring this to life with believability and conviction. The shining star is Rufus Sewell as Charlie, the egomaniac schizophrenic doctor. His mood swings and outbursts are sudden, shocking, and effective. The rest of the cast are also great with the script they are working with, but Sewell is beyond the most interesting and unhinged of the lot.

Charlie’s outbursts and aging aren’t the only source of horror to be found in Old. There’s one moment in the cave, towards the end, that is hauntingly chilling and terrifying. The body contorting scene is the scariest moment of the film and one of the many moments of true madness presented. This film is off the rails with memorable moments. The cave scene, a surgery sped up by the aging process, an entire pregnancy. It’s all here, one moment after another that keeps the pace moving at a quick pace and never letting the film feel slow.

Sadly, this isn’t carried on to the end. The pace doesn’t slow down, and the ending feels rushed. When the big reveal happens, it makes sense and is coherent enough, but you’ll leave the film wishing there was more time with the outcome, explaining more and delivering a better pay-off for the 2 hours you’ve invested in. Another ten or so minutes would have really driven this film home. It’s a real small problem, and the film makes complete sense as it is, it just would be nice for the ending not to feel rushed.

One of the best things about Old is the cinematography by Mike Gioulakis. He captures the beach and holiday atmosphere perfectly. There are also some good uses of blurry vision and deliberate framing to keep the suspense, especially in the early scenes where it’s not clear what is happening. The beach and holiday resort itself look gorgeous and if it wasn’t for the outcome, this would be a dream vacation.

Shyamalan is dealing with some interesting themes with Old. We all know that one day we will die, but for the characters on that beach, they have to deal with that day being today. It begs the question, if today was your last day on Earth, what would you do? With some many open-ended things in life, such as strained relationships and worries of work, what does it all matter? Everything and nothing.

Old is a great horror/mystery film. It dances with the ideas of mortality and time in an interesting and thoughtful way. This is one of Shyamalan’s best films and if the ending was given some more room to breathe then it would be his best. Oh, and so you don’t spend half the film trying to figure it out, the film with Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson is The Missouri Breaks.

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The Reading Pile – 29th July

As we reach the end of July, I wanted to write a little bit about what I’ve been reading. I’ve started quite a few books, so I haven’t actually finished anything since my last post. My main focus has been on One, Two, Three, Four: Beatles in Time

I’m very close to finishing this one. It’s the quintessential Beatles book. Chronicling with incredible detail from The Quarrymen to the height of their success and beyond. For any die-hard Beatles fan, this is essential. It’s incredibly well detailed with great research. I’m a big Beatles fan and have loved every second of this. One of the best bits about it, is that it will look at something from every possible angle. There’s entire chapters detailing one event, one moment, but with excerpts from every witness or interpretation of the events.

It goes to extreme lengths to be as revealing as possible, there’s a full chapter about the guilt of the driver who killed Julia Lennon, which isn’t something I’d ever thought about before but found it fascinating. If there is a fault with the book, it’s that it does focus on a lot of strange details. There are long passages focused on the tours you can do through Hamburg now, almost 60 years later, and how little of the old stuff remains. It’s interesting, but does go on a bit.

I’m listening to the audiobook version and it would be really nice to have some of the music of the time playing in between sections or chapters. I know there is a rights issue with this, but it was really cool when the stars was books had the music in the background of the audiobook version. Reading the actual book with The Beatles on in the background is probably the way to go.

Overall it’s a really interesting book, it gives a lot of details that I didn’t know before, lots of events, moments and stories. It does a really good job of contextualising The Beatles and where they came from, the impact they had and how people received them at the time. It also gives some what-if moments, about how so many decisions led to them meeting. It’s interesting to think what might have been.

Other Reads

I’ve been reading Dean Koontz’s Elsewhere, which is really good. I’m about 100 pages off finishing that one, so will write more about it once I’ve finished it. I’m also still re-reading Archibald Lox by Darren Shan. I’m hoping to be caught up in August in time for book 6 on September 1st. I’m really enjoying it so far.

I’ve also got Tarantino’s novel version of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which I’m looking forward to reading, just want to have enough time set aside for it. Stephen King’s new book comes out next week, which will probably take my attention once it arrives. I also have Push by Dennis Vogen on my kindle, I’m really looking forward to reading it, but want to finish some stuff up first.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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Signs – Film Review

Director: M Night Shyamalan

Staring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones

Rating: ★★★½

M. Night Shyamalan made The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs one after the other. All three were greatly received by audiences and critics alike. He had his own tone and distinctive style that made him one of the more recognisable names in film at the beginning of the 21st Century.

Signs is about grief and a loss of faith. Graham Hess, played by Mel Gibson (Mad Max) is struggling to come to the terms with the loss of his wife, who died recently in a car crash. He is raising his two children, with help from his brother, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Joker). The loss of his wife leads Graham, previously a reverend, to lose his faith. There’s some strange events happening on Graham’s farm from crop circles to the dogs acting odd. At first, this is passed off as a hoax, but before long the aliens make themselves known and the family has to prepare for a potential invasion.

Compared to other alien invasion films, Signs is more insular in scale. There’s no real mention of the government and armies fighting back. This is a story about one family trying to survive as long as possible. The majority of the story is set in the farm house, with some scenes in the local town. Focusing so deeply on the family gives you time to get to know them on a personal level, from their past to their odd habits. All four of the main characters are well developed and more dimensional than the usual paper thin characters expected from Hollywood alien invasion films. Shyamalan also takes his time in developing the plot, letting you seep into the narrative and the character dynamics.

All of the performances are great, especially from Gibson and Phoenix. The pain and grief on Gibson’s face is evident throughout and is a powerful performance. The children are all great as well, with believable performances and great characters. The interplay between the characters, especially the way in which the children act with the parents after such a great tragedy is really the soul of the whole story. It’s about survival, but not just from aliens, but everything.

While the tone is dark and it’s grappling with some tough themes, there is also a twisted sense of humour throughout with some absolute laugh out loud moments. From the aliens not being able to open doors, to quips between characters it’s some much needed relief that adds an extra element to the film.

Sadly this is all building up to one of Shyamalan’s weaker twists. It doesn’t feel justified when it finally happens and is really forced. Not everything can be a classic, but the final sequence is a real let down for everything this film builds up over its running time. It’s sticks to the themes, but could have been handled a lot better. However, the moments before the ending are suspenseful and full of tension in all the best way.

Signs may not be the best Shyamalan film, but it’s still an interesting take on the alien invasion genre. It’s more focused narrative lends itself to a more emotional and captivating story, and this is it’s biggest successful. If the ending was better, than this would be one hell of a film.

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Weekly Update – 28th July

It’s time for the last update in July. I want to start by talking about my schedule for posting. As I’m sure some of you have noticed, I’ve been putting up 2 posts a day. That’s my plan going forward. I’m going to be writing 2 posts a day, with a schedule of when they will go up.

Monday – In the morning will be the daily film review followed by a post about what I’m planning on seeing in the cinema that week in the evening. The reasoning for this is that the cinemas close to me announce what they are showing the following week on Monday afternoon, so it’s when I plan my next weekend.

Tuesday – The morning post will be a random post. This could be an extra film review, stuff I’ve been watching on TV, like yesterday, or just anything I write about. In the afternoon/evening will be my daily film review

Wednesday – There will be an update every Wednesday morning, mainly about how writing is going as well as an update on my weight loss journey. In the evening is the daily film review

Thursday – The morning will be split into alternative weeks. One week will be the next Franchise Catch Up, and then the alternate week will be a random post, same as Tuesday morning. The evening will be the dedicated film review

Friday – The morning post will be a list of some kind. I’m currently working through my top 50 films. 7 weeks to go. After that, will be my top 5 hated films, followed by random lists that I’m working on. The evening will be the daily film review as normal.

Saturday and Sunday – For the weekend I plan on putting up 2 reviews each day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon/evening

The times of each post will be between 8am-10am for the morning post and anywhere between 5pm-8:30pm for the evening ones. This is mainly due to work. My shifts are all over the place between 8am-8pm so I can’t guarantee when they will go up. I could schedule them on the site to be published at specific times, but I like doing it personally to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Now onto writing. To be honest it has been slow-going. I’m trying to get ahead on film reviews, to ensure I don’t miss one. I have 5 ready to go right now and want to build a better buffer. As a lot of what I write about is older films, there isn’t really a pressure to get them out straight away. I will be posting more up to the minute reviews for cinema and new releases. Once I’ve got this settled, I’m going to be focusing on my short stories. I’m working on 2, both around half way through. I was hoping to have 1 for this week, but I think it will probably be next week.

Reading is also going slower than I’d like at the moment although I am reading a little every day. I’m going to be uploading a new Reading Pile post tomorrow for Thursday morning to go into more detail about what I’ve been reading and how I’m enjoying it.

On the fitness and weight loss side, I currently weigh 16 stone and 1 pound (102KG), so I’ve lost a pound in the last week. It’s fluctuated a bit since last Wednesday. It’s going in the right direction at least. I’ve barely done any exercise this week, mainly due to the heat and a lack of sleep. My neighbours get up early to get ready for work and as a gardener, makes a lot of noise getting their trucks ready. It wakes me up most mornings around 7ish. I’ve struggled getting to sleep due to the heat, our house seems to have 2 temperatures boiling or freezing and switched between them every 6 months. So I’m averaging about 5 hours a day.

Now that it’s cooled down, I’m going to do 10 minutes a day on my exercise bike and 10 minutes weight lifting. Starting slow and building up. Previously I did 40ish minutes on my bike a day, listening to an album in full and then around half an hour with weights. It took a while to build up to it, so I’m practically starting from nothing again. Also focusing on eating less crap, which is going reasonably well.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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