Horror Anthologies You May Have Missed

Greetings, Glancers! Here in The Spac Hole, a place of ambiguous terror and self-disgust, Halloween is our favourite time of the year. What could be better than lighting fireworks inside your neighbour’s house, waiting for them to run outside, and launching a live Alligator at them? It’s all in the festive spirit I’m sure you’ll agree. I admit it’s getting tiresome trying to think of interesting things to post about at this time of the year, beyond the usual lists I’ve already published and more and more horror movie reviews. I was listening to an old episode of the Shock Waves Podcast recently (it’s a podcast by four mega horror fans within the movie industry and features regular special guests) in which they discussed building the perfect horror anthology from existing movies. Each presenter picked five segments and a wraparound, and hijinks were had. At the end of the episode, they talked about possibly doing the same, but with Horror TV instead of movies.

That got me thinking about may of the shows I used to watch and continue to watch. The anthology series, even ones concerning scares, have been around since the 1950s and continue to this day. We all have our favourites, and there are many obvious ones – The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Masters Of Horror, Are You Afraid Of The Dark, Goosebumps etc. Many of these are excellent introductions to the wider genre for kids or newbs, while others are surely catered towards the hardcore fan. Today, we have the likes of The TerrorBlack Mirror, Channel Zero, and (if you’re stretching the terminology) American Horror Story, but what about the shows which may have escaped your clutches? Us horror fans are always looking for the next thrill, the next scare, and it shouldn’t matter if this involves looking across the oceans, or back in time.

As a non-American, I have been exposed to some shows which many of my readers may not be aware of, but all that is about to change. Check out the list below, or even better, find and watch the shows. Then tell your friends. Spread the disease. There’s something here for everyone – for kids and newbs, for hardcore fans, for those who love the supernatural, those who prefer their horror with a touch of realism, and those looking for something more… out there. Give them a shot.

Out There (2001-2002)

See what I did there? Almost certainly no-one outside of Britain will be aware of this, and almost certainly only about twelve people watched it – myself included (religiously). I’m cheating considerably with this entry, but it’s nevertheless a show I’d love more people to see. It is essentially a 30 minute clip show, showcasing snippets of gore, sex, and weirdness from movies and TV shows from around the world, all hosted in a non-narrative by the gorgeous animal lover Anneka Svenska and later, all round horror bad-ass Emily Booth. It was a British Elvira, but much much weirder. It was one of those shows that had me grabbing the pen and paper, taking notes of all the weird shit I had seen, then trying to hunt done the source material online the next day. There’s sadly very little of the show to be found online now, but those of us who saw it can consider ourselves both very very lucky, and quite badly scarred.

Beyond The Walls (2015)

Over to France now, for a nifty little show I believe you can catch now on Shudder. I’m being loose with the definition of Anthology again, but there you have it. It’s really a Haunted House mini-series – three episodes, meaning you can get through the whole thing in no time. And it would be a good use of your time, because aside from the interesting story (which follows Lisa – a lonely woman who inherits a house from a man who she has never met, and who has been dead for thirty years), it looks stunning and packs in a lot of ideas in its short running time.

Chiller (1995)

One of the first British anthology shows I remember watching, Chiller ran for a single series and featured a mere five episodes. Luckily, each of them is strong and feature the likes of ghost babies, curses, not so imaginary friends, and serial killers. My memories of the first two episodes – Prophecy and Toby are the strongest – not bad for shows I haven’t seen in over twenty years. In Prophecy, a group of friends perform a seance and each receive a prophecy, which then start coming true in deadly fashion, while in Toby a woman loses her unborn son in a car accident but continues to display signs of a phantom pregnancy, all the way up to birth. The show features British stalwarts like Martin Clunes (Men Behaving Badly), Nigel Havers (Chariots Of Fire), Sophie Ward (Return To Oz), John Simm (Life On Mars), and Peter Egan (Downton Abbey). You can buy the series on DVD and catch some of them on Youtube. Incidentally, the BBC had a similar show around the same time called Ghosts, but I don’t recall it and will have to track it down.

Dr Terrible’s House Of Horrible (2001)

Once you get past the horrible, terrible name, this is a decent show. Obviously, the name is a spoof and once you realise that this is a Steve Coogan vehicle, you’ll understand we’re firmly in the comedy realm. It’s another show which only ran for one series, starring Steve Coogan as Dr Terrible (and others) who presents each tale in the vein of the Cryptkeeper. Each episode is a loving, spoofing riff on British anthology classics from the likes of Hammer and Amicus and each features actors from those classic productions, as well as modern fans like Mark Gatiss and Simon Pegg. It’s a who’s who of the last 100 years of British Cult Cinema. While it rarely gets scary or disturbing, it’s a must for horror fans – especially of those films being spoofed – the love is authentic, and the laughs are hearty.

Eerie, Indiana (1991-1992)

So, I’m guessing most of you know this. It’s ostensibly a show for kids – I watched it upon release and have loved it ever since – but there are enough knowing nods to classics for adults and experienced horror fans to enjoy. For my money, it was one of the first kids shows to also appeal to adults. Look at Cinema and TV now – almost everything is catered to such a wide audience. It’s a shame the original series didn’t run for more series – you know the writers were setting things up for future shows – recurring guest stars, expanding mythology, but sadly it was all abandoned for an ill-advised follow up series a few years later. Joe Dante’s creative touch is all over it, there are a myriad of in-jokes and guest stars you’ll recognise, but most importantly – the stories are unique, varied, entertaining, and spooky enough for kids without treating kids like idiots. We have kids being sucked into TVs, dogs trying to take over the world, sentient cash machines, other dimensions, commercialist zombies, tornado chasers, lonely artistic kids, and ghost organ transplants. Great performances all around too – a rarity for a show like this.

Fear Itself (2008)

Masters Of Horror is one of the modern titans of the Anthology with a terrific idea – take some of the world’s most renowned directors within the genre and give them free reign to create their own mini-movie. It lasted for two seasons and the DVD boxsets are some of the finest examples of the craft. It was unfortunate when the show ended (it’s surely time for a revamp now that horror on TV is more prevalent and we have a new crop of young Masters to get involved), but series creator and horror icon Mick Garris wasn’t ready to let it die yet. Fear Itself is basically the third Season of Masters Of Horror, with returning and new masters contributing again. While the quality isn’t as strong, it’s still a damn good show, pushing the envelope with what can be done with the medium and showcasing a tonne of gore and scares. For whatever reason, it wasn’t as successful as its older brother and only lasted for thirteen episodes – five of which ended up not being shown in the US. Luckily you can buy the boxset on DVD and dive back in. It’s a lot of fun, some episodes are more comedy based, some are psychological, while others go right for the jugular.

Hammer House Of Horror (1980)

Hammer is one of the most renowned producers of Horror in film history and at the end of the peak of their powers they branched into Television. It’s another show which only lasted 1 Season – thirteen episodes (what is it about that number?) – but those episodes are exactly what you would expect from the Company – sex and violence and creepy old mansions. A lot of British stars of the time show up in stories concerning time-travelling witches, Nazi experiments, upper class cannibals, human sacrifice, Pierce Brosnan, and of course, staples (Satan – one for older readers, that wee joke). There have been various DVD and Blu Ray releases, the Horror Channel in the UK shows them every so often, and a few episodes can be found lurking on Youtube, so there’s no excuse not to indulge in some classic creaky horror.

Inside No. 9 (2014 -)

I’ve spoken about this one before (in this best Christmas episodes post) but it’s a show that is still not widely seen. It’s always something which has irked me when inferior British shows get widespread publicity across the seas and stuff like this is overlooked. It’s a thirty minute anthology show – different stories each episode but with some overlapping cast members, with a focus on intelligent writing, horror, humour, and an interesting setting. The set up is that each story should be set in or based around the Number 9 – as in House #9, or train carriage #9 etc. So far there have been four seasons, and there is an upcoming Halloween Special this year – given the writers’ and performers’ love of horror and skill within the genre, it’s one to look forward to. Guest stars include – Gemma Arterton, Sheridan Smith, Jack Whitehall, Tamsin Greig, David Warner, Rory Kinnear, Kevin Eldon, Jane Horrocks, Danny Baker, Peter Kay, and many many more. While most of the stories are heavily influenced by the macabre – a dying child’s last wish, a silent episode featuring bungling burglars and murder, child abuse exposed during a game of sardines, crumbling relationships – it’s the overt horror stories which horror fans will be most interested. Here you will find stories based around snuff movies, witch trials, devil worship, suicide support lines, seance, torture rooms, and Final Destination esque games of fate. If you like your humour dark and your horror original, then you have no excuse to not watch these now.

Mr Biffo’s Found Footage (2017)

You may not be prepared for this. In fact, I know for a fact that you are not. I’m going to give a link to the first one – they’re all on YouTube – and you can decide for yourself if it’s for you. It’s definitely for me, but unfortunately that means only about twelve other people will find it ‘suitable’. No spoilers – just watch.

Night Gallery (1969 – 1973)

I’ll again assume that most people reading this actually know this one, but it’s still not as well or widely known as The Twilight Zone, even though it’s essentially a sequel to that grandest of shows. While it wasn’t as successful or as culturally significant, it still lasted for three seasons and featured Rod Serling presenting more stories to keep you awake at night. While still morality and twist based, Night Gallery tended towards a horror slant while The Twilight Zone’s scary episodes were sporadic. As you would expect, the prolific Serling wrote many of the stories but it also featured adaptations of Lovecraft, Bloch, and Matheson. There’s a great selection of tales here, expertly acted out by many familiar faces like Edward G Robinson, Carl Reiner, John Carradine, Leslie Nielsen, David McCallum, Adam West, and other big names of the time. While time has proven that the stories may not be as immediately terrifying as they once were, they’re perfect for cuddling up on the sofa for family viewing to introduce a younger audience to the genre’s classics.

Shockers (1999-2000)

Full disclosure – this entry is the main reason for writing this post. As I was listening to the Shock Waves podcast earlier (along with others, and blogs, and discussions) I remembered this show – and one episode in particular. I think when it comes to anthologies, we all have that one entry which sucks us in and makes us lifelong fans of the format, whether that be Burgess Meredith breaking his glasses in The Twilight Zone, Karen Black being terrorized by a dummy in Trilogy Of Terror, or even the monkey’s paw from The Simpsons. I was a fan of the format long before I saw Shockers, but it was the episode named Parent’s Night which has stayed with me perhaps more than any other segment I’ve ever seen. If there’s any purpose to this post, it’s a hope that someone will go online and watch this episode – consider it my seal of approval, but also beware that it may fuck you up.

Shockers is a show you never hear of or read about in any anthology discussions. While none of the episodes are on par with Parent’s Night, a few of them are very good and all are watchable. There isn’t any linking or central theme or premise behind the stories, aside from them all being set in a modern, realistic Britain and them being presented as written by future stars. As for the cast – you’ll recognise a few of them – Daniel Craig, Lennie James, Kerry Fox, Ashley Walters, and a host of other British familar faces. As far as I can tell, there were only six episodes – if you live in the UK you can catch them all on Demand 4, if you’re outside of the UK some of them are on YouTube, including (most importantly) Parent’s Night. As there’s only six, I can give a a rundown of each:

In Cyclops, a prisoner has a camera implanted in his eye upon release to watch his every move. In The Visitor, a charismatic stranger turns up at the house of a couple and their friend, while in The Dance a widower falls for a younger woman at a dance class who may not be what she seems. Deja Vu is about a husband and wife who lost their son in a car crash, but then another car crash changes things, while Ibiza sees a typical lads holiday to the island turn to a deadly game of mystery and murder. Yet it is Parent’s Night that I want everyone who reads this to watch. It’s…. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was released when I was still in school and when certain recent school shootings were still in the public eye. It’s a vital piece of art which is sadly all the more powerful now, especially in the US. Although the climates and cultures of our two nations are very different, bullying and anger are universal. In my country, we have several groups who have no issue, at least historically, in blowing each other to hell yet thankfully guns in schools are not really a problem. We may live in a warzone, but at least we don’t go that far. Still, when I watched Parent’s Night, I was blown away and it remains the only time I’ve ever stood up and applauded something I’ve seen on TV. I hadn’t seen it in 17 or 18 years – since it was released, but in preparation for this post I watched it again, and it is still as haunting, stomach-churning, horrible, and sadly realistic as ever. It’s a near perfect view of what School could sometimes be like. I should stop prattling on about it – if you’ve ever valued my opinion on TV or Movies, then when I say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen, you should know to check it out. Click right here to watch on YouTube.

The Nightmare Room/The Haunting Hour (2001 – 2014)

We need something to calm us down after that. When I was a kid in the 90s we had Goosebumps and Are You Afraid Of The Dark? It turns out R.L Stine kept ’em coming, and in The Nightmare Room he made a follow-up series. It only lasted one season, but its thirteen (of course) episodes feature many a big name – Shia Labeouf, Frankie Muniz, Robert Englund, Angus Scrimm, Ken Foree, Josh Zuckerman, Amanda Bynes, and um… Allison Mack. Not content, Stine returned with The Haunting Hour which was more successful and ran for four seasons. The cool thing about The Haunting Hour is that it is much darker and graphic than the other two – it’s still for kids, older kids, but it definitely has an edge. Once again, a bunch of pretty teens who have gone on, or are currently on the hunt for greater fame, make an appearance, but I’m not as au fais with this bunch.

Thriller (US and UK 1960s and 1970s)

Two unrelated shows here, and neither have anything to do with Michael Jackson prancing his way up into yo’ bidness. The US show was a response to The Twilight Zone and saw Boris Karloff in the Serling role. While it’s not as strong as TTZ, it thankfully does feature stories written on directed by Ida Lupino, Robert Bloch, Arthur Hiller, Richard Matheson, and has many of the biggest stars of the time and the future (past) such as Shatner and other TTZ stalwarts. The British show came around a decade later and ran for six seasons. As with almost all these shows, it has a semi-iconic intro theme and title sequence. This show focused less on the supernatural and more on murder and mystery with people such as Robert Powell, Dennis Waterman, Helen Mirren, Haley Mills, Jenny Agutter, Francesca Annis, Stephen Rea, Denholm Elliot, Bob Hoskins, and many many others popping up.

Urban Gothic (2000)

My final choice popped up around the same time as Shockers – this being Channel 5’s attempt at late night anthology horror. The problem with the show was always that the running time didn’t allow the ideas to be fully fleshed – some ideas seemed ripe for either better writing or a 60 minute show instead of the 30 given. The cool thing about some of the stories though was that they had sequels or featured overlapping characters – it would have been nice to see this expanded beyond the two seasons which we ended up with. Once again you can catch these on DVD or some on YouTube to find out for yourself. Some highlights include Ingrid Pitt playing herself, Dirty Den essentially playing himself, necromancy, vampires, gangsters, zombies, serial killers in reality shows, all set in a by and large realistic view of British City life. My person favourite was always Be Movie, in which a group of school kids in detention find themselves stalked by a killer, yet if they try to leave the school… their heads explode. Just like my school then.

Which of these are you going to check out? Are there any forgotten anthology shows you want to raise awareness on? Which shows and episodes are your favourites? Let us know in the comments!

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2018 In Film – A Preview – July – September

Popcorn

Lets see what the rest of the blockbuster season has to offer us in the upcoming year.

The Purge: The Island

As much as The Purge series seems, on the surface, to be right up my street, at the time of writing I still haven’t seen any of them. How good can a fourth entry be? Fourth entries are rarely good, but often enjoyable nonetheless. I’ll get to this once I get through the first three, and hopefully before the inevitable The Purge In Space comes along. I don’t know the director or the cast, with DeMonaco stepping back to only fulfill writing duties.

Ant-Man And The Wasp

You already know I haven’t seen Ant-Man yet. I do like Paul Rudd, and the trailer (for the original) seemed like lighter, less serious Marvel affair. Once again, I’ll get to it some day.

The Nun

A spin-off of The Conjuring series, this is sure to make a load of money, but I can’t imagine it being as successful as the core movies. I liked the first movie, wasn’t amazing, but I like how James Wan works and I like the cast – haven’t seen the second one yet. I love how this stars Taissa Farmiga, younger sister to Vera – Taissa is a very gifted actress too. This time Corin Hardy directs – he has one credit to his name so far, but it is a respectable one.

Hotel Transylvania 3

I’ve watched most of the first one – the same parts multiple times – due to my kids liking it. I think they have watched the second one, and I may have seen snippets of it. I assume this will be more of the same with diminished returns, though if it introduces more kids to horror then I’m all for it.

Skyscraper

The Rock continues his one man army romp through every action sub genre you can think of. This time he’s a former hostage negotiator and building security guy, so I’m assuming this is Die Hard again. But wait, Neve Campbell is on board. Regular Glancers will know that I’m actually (not) married to Neve, so you can be sure I’ll be seeing this. Thurber has worked with The Rock before, and I quite liked We’re The Millers, though that makes me think this could be more comedy than action.

Alita: Battle Angel

Isn’t this something that Jimmy Cameron was once involved in? Robert Rodriguez is now directing, and he’s always good for plenty of stylized action, even if he hasn’t had a major success story for a while. Look at the budget of this thing… it could be a mess, but I hope it’s good.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

No, we’re not going anywhere. The first one was fairly awful, so this will undoubtedly be worse.

Gaugin: Voyage De Tahiti

No idea, but Vincent Cassel is on board, and that’s usually enough for me.

Mission Impossible 6

It must be high time that someone else takes over the MI reigns from Tom Cruise. I love him in the role, and the movies are always enjoyable, but to turn the movie series into a full blown, long-lasting franchise, they’ll need to Bond it up and let someone else take over when Tom gets too old. I’ve only seen the second one in the cinema, but I’ll catch this on streaming.

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

I was genuinely bewildered when I read a few posts saying people don’t enjoy this show and don’t have high hopes for the movie. The show is great! Clever, quirky, and a lot of fun. I mean, I don’t know if the rapid-fire style will work for a feature length, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin was always a bit of a dweeb. This Disney re-imagining focuses on him as a washed up grown up who has lost his imagination. Good director, good cast, but the Winnie The Poo series was always fluff so I’m not sure how much they can get out of this.

The Equalizer 2

I haven’t seen the first one and I didn’t really watch the series. Denzel hasn’t really convinced me as an action guy, but fine. Ah well, killing baddies is always good so I’m sure I’ll catch it late some night when I’m old and deformed.

The Predator

Given that Predator is one of my favourite films of all time, it’s a guarantee I’ll be seeing this. I’m not sure about the premise – being set in suburbia and all, but Shane Black is involved, and I’ve pretty much loved or enjoyed everything he’s ever touched (including Predator). I like the sequel, the spin-offs are mostly muck, and Predators was decent fun. If Arnie had been nailed down for this, it would be my most anticipated movie of the year.

The Spy Who Dumped Me

Is this another Austin Powers? No. It’s an action comedy from Lionsgate with Mila Kunis and a few other random big names. How good can it possibly be? I’m all for the female director and apparent focus on women, but I can’t say I have high, or any, hopes.

Barbie

I’m a dad to two girls. Lets not pretend that there aren’t already a million Barbie movies. And the Life In The Dreamhouse series. I’ve seen most of the straight to DVD efforts, but this is of course going to be a big release. Hold on, this has mysteriously moved out of 2018 to 2020. Oh well, I’ve typed it here now. Regardless, there should have been a Barbie live action movie in the 90s with Stacey Keibler. You know it.

The Meg

I love shark movies. I just do. Even when they’re not good, I’ll still watch, and almost all of them are not good. I haven’t read the books that this is based on, but it’s sharks and Jason Statham, so I’ll be seeing it. Jon Turtletaub as director doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence – Cool Runnings is awful… yeah, most of his movies have not been good, but I did like While You Were Sleeping for some reason, and he has some decent TV credits. I’m sure this will be crap, but hopefully good crap.

Scarface

Why? Apparently Diego Luna and The Coen Brothers are involved, so that’s good. But why?

The Nightingale

Australian period revenge thriller, for the ladies? Cool. I loved The Babadook, so lets hope this is good too.

My Son

No clue, but Melanie Laurent is usually enough for me. Canet is cool too, and Carion’s Joyeuz Noel was pretty good.

Crazy Rich Asians

As much as I’m happy for a mainstream American movie with an Asian cast, it’s a romantic comedy based on a book being directed by a guy who does dance and Beiber movies. So I think I’ll pass.

White Boy Rick

Now we’re talking – Yann Demange’s follow up to the fantastic ’71 – a film close to my heart… and house, this has a great cast – Piper Laurie, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Matthew McConaughey. I don’t know anything about the plot but this all points towards potential greatness.

Captive State

Is this the American District 9? Set in Chicago about citizens after colonization by aliens, so this stinks of politics. Vera Farmiga and John Goodman, and Rupert Wyatt’s three filmd so far have been strong. Hopeful.

The Happytime Murders

This is the puppet one, right? It’s unfortunate then that the cast is populated with, well, puppets. It’s every comedian from those films I don’t like very much. Could still be good though, cos it’s puppets. It ain’t no Farscape though. Seriously – watch Farscape. 

Three Seconds

Crime thriller with a good cast… these can be fine or forgettable, but they rarely make a huge impact on me unless they’re exceptional.

Cadaver

No clue about the plot or director, and a cast of youngish pretty people. It’s horror. As it’s horror I’m always hopeful, and I’m always going to see it, but with the details above I’m sure it won’t be anything special.

Replicas

Keanu Reeves sci fi? Naturally I’m in. The plot seems interesting enough – a futuristic Pet Sematary but with some sort of Handmaid’s Tale twist. Nachmanoff has had successes as a writer, less so with his movie directing.

Kin

Brothers on the run from baddies and monsters and something about a mysterious weapon – sounds like a nonsense, but exactly the sort of nonsense I love. Some biggish names here.

The Little Stranger

Lenny Abrahamson’s latest appears to be a haunted house movie. Good good, but again these have a a habit of focusing on fashion and setting rather than plot or scares. Good cast too so I’ll hope for good reviews.

New Line Horror Film

Is it a new Elm Street?

The Darkest Minds

Based on a YA series I’ve never heard of. So I assume lots of teen romance. Probably guff, but again I’ll take a look if reviews and trailer are good.

Alpha

A boy and a wolf, thousands of years ago. Cool. Lets hope it’s not a CG wolf. The Hughes Brothers haven’t made enough movies over the years, but they are generally strong and interesting when they do.

Fighting My Family

I don’t like Stephen Merchant. I find his humour as funny as… well, Ricky Gervais. However, this is a wrestling movie featuring some wrestlers, based on the true story of… wait for it… Paige. As a pretty big wrestling fan I’m sure I’ll see this, but this has several WTFs… why isn’t Paige just in this as herself? She’s only 25, yet here she is being played by a 22 year old. Is it because Vince McMahon owns her? And what about the whole sex tape business – did that throw a spanner in the works? Does a 25 year old really merit a biography, especially when most of the world have no clue who she is? Will WWE start making films about all of their superstars? This could be the weirdest film ever.

Johnny English 3

Yay? Rowan Atkinson is a God. I mean, I’d much rather have a new Mr Bean series, but I’ll take what I can get. Kerr is a fellow Northern Irish guy, so I suppose I should support him? Fuck that, I don’t give a shit about such things – he has been involved in some good shows though. No Natalie Imbruglia again 😦

The House With A Clock in Its Walls

Is this Eli Roth putting all his cards on the table and going all in? I can’t think of any more poker metaphors, but you get the idea. This seems to be a big budget Del Toro style movie rather than his usual grindhouse fare. Big cast too – Kyle Machlachlan, Cate Blanchett, Jack Black, Colleen Camp returning after Knock Knock. I know nothing of the story it’s based on.

Robin Hood

Seriously, how many of these do we need? Have we had a Detroit based one where Robin Hood is a gangsta? The Ridley Scott was wank, and its attempt at being gritty has ticked that box, so what’s left?

Night School

I read that name and guessed it would be another one of ‘those comedies’. That’s it, purely based on the name. Of course I’m right. Keith David is in it…. that’s maybe my only reason to watch.

Smallfoot

Is this another Land Before Time? Yeah, I know that was Little Foot. Hold on, is this seriously another Land Before Time? No, but it is some sort of prehistoric animated thing. The cast is a mess, and the director is Disney-lite, so this will be balls. In fact, there will probably be a joke about (snow) balls in the trailer.

The Kid Who Would Be King

Joe, of Adam And Joe (and laughing at Taffin) fame follows up Attack The Block with what appears to be a retelling of The Sword In The Stone. As I mentioned above for Robin Hood, we’ve already had the gangsta, ‘gritty’ retelling, so what’s left? This seems more like a coming of age comedy, so could be good.

Boy Erased

Speaking of coming of age, this looks like a Joel Edgerton passion project. I prefer coming of age films to be universal, and this seems to focus on a gay kid in a religious small town. Having said that, I generally like these films and the cast and director are all strong, so hoping it’s good.

Let us know in the comments which films you’re looking forward to!

 

2018 In Film: Preview April – June

Popcorn

The first three months were… underwhelming for me? As we near blockbuster season, there’s likely more films I’d be keen on being released in this quarter so lets take a look.

Blockers

It’s called Blockers and there’s a picture of a cockerel on the poster. It’s American Pie 12! This seems to be the same premise as American Pie but more from the girls’ perspective as a group of young ladies aim to get their first stiff one at the Prom. The cast doesn’t look promising and it’s directed by writer of those dreadful Pitch Perfect movies. I’ll pass.

A Quiet Place

A horror movie with a sort of interesting premise – a family is haunted by some evil entity which is attracted to sound… so Tremors but without the soil penis monsters. They apparently use sign language… but what if they sneeze? Or fart?

Show Dogs

This sounds like another one of those weird movies where they CG the mouths of various animals or children to make it look as if they are talking. Maybe they will just make it more like Look Who’s Talking. Either way, this looks terrible, with rappers and ex-sports men propping up the voice cast, although the director has a history in average, yet successful family movies.

You Were Never Really Here

This one looks interesting and could be one of Amazon’s first success stories. I don’t know much about the source material, but the film has received strong early positive feedback and Joaquin Phoenix is always good. Director Lynne Ramsey is someone who gets childhood and doesn’t gloss over the fear and distress of that part of our lives.

Chappaquiddick

This appears to be a political drama getting released at the optimal time for fiery debate. I don’t care about US Politics, or know much about it, but this is based on that time Ted Kennedy crashed his car, killing the girl who was with him, and apparently tried to cover it up or at least save his own ass. The lesson here is – all politicians are scumbags, every single one. Good cast, decent director.

The New Mutants

An XMen spin off, this seems to focus on a group of youngsters. Historically, when you put the word ‘New’ in front of an existing franchise it becomes the death knell of said franchise. The Director has done sucky teen romance till now, so you can be sure there’s going to be a lot of sucky teen romance in this. Then again, Buffy is the best thing ever and it did teen romance the right way, so I’ll give this a chance. I haven’t loved an X-Men movie since the second one, but this features Alice Braga who I will watch in anything.

The Rider

Chloe Zhao’s second film hopefully will provide her more exposure – however I have no idea what it’s about based on the wiki entry alone. It seems to star real life siblings and two people playing themselves, so presumably there’s a focus on family, friendship…. who knows?

Beirut

There was a joke when I was growing up in war torn 1980s Northern Ireland… ‘at least we don’t live in Beirut’. Anytime someone was shot or a place was bombed, we’d say something like that. This has an interesting enough cast and Brad Anderson’s films tend to be taut and dark which will hopefully raise this above a mere by the numbers thriller. I’m not sure I buy Rosamund Pike as a CIA action hero type though.

The Miracle Season

It’s a sports movie. Moreover, it’s an American sports movie. I watched NBA in the late 90s, early 2000s, so outside of that the only American sport I watch is WWE and TNA. McNamara makes family movies, and the cast includes a couple of upcoming youngsters… is this going to be about little league? Netball? Either way, you can almost guarantee I won’t see this unless reviews are outstanding.

Sgt Stubby: An American Hero

Animated movie about a dog who did some heroic stuff in WWI. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but I doubt I’ll see this.

Dolphins

I’ve never actually watched anything like this on the big screen. I love nature and animal documentaries, not so much a fan of the stuff Disney has done, more the Attenborough style.

Rampage

The Rock sure loves getting stuck into these existing IP doesn’t he? I think we all know this is going to be a CG messfest, but The Rock is always watchable. I imagine I’ll catch this on streaming at some point in the future, depending on reviews.

Tully

We’ve had Bully, Sully, and now Tully. How about a Krull sequel – Krully? No? This is Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, so should be good. Decent cast, but I have no idea what it’s about.

Overboard

Why? Why in Gandalf’s name does this need to be remade? It was crap first time around and absolutely nothing and nobody involved here makes me think it’s going to be any different. Still, it’ll make more money than you’ll make in your lifetime.

Super Troopers 2

I always got Super Trooper mixed up with Reno 911! I never watched either, but I saw a few scenes from one of them and laughed…. This appears to have the same director and cast as the first movie, but it’s seventeen years later. Usually stuff which comes back so much later is depressing.

Duck Duck Goose

I think the most notable thing to say about this is that the great Carl Reiner is in it – still going at 95. Jenkins has some pedigree in the animation business having worked on a number of classics, but how good can a cartoon about a goose really be?

The House Of Tomorrow

Wiki has no synopsis aside from saying it’s a drama. Ellen Burstyn is there.

Truth Or Dare

On name alone this is either a teen horror or sex comedy. I was never popular enough to play such things. Or stupid enough, thankfully. It’s a horror, with college students, so I’ll say I was right. The director has done a variety of films, none of which I’ve seen, and it stars a bunch of pretty young singers and performers who have mostly appeared in crap. You can see where this is going….

Traffik

I don’t know what this is, but the director’s previous films have mostly earned negative reviews.

Disobedience

Based on a book I’d never heard of, about a lesbian woman who is the daughter of a rabbi as she… does stuff? Not normally the sort of thing to leap out at me, but it has received great reviews till now. Lelio makes interesting films and I like Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams.

Godard Mon Amour

A documentary. Presumably about Godard.

Selfie Dad

Wikipedia doesn’t have a synopsis, but it’s listed as Comedy/Drama/Faith. No-one in the cast I care about, sounds like a disaster all around.

Avengers: Infinity War

So, I recall last year the internet going buck nuts when this trailer dropped. Why? Because it has all the people from all the different (same) movies appearing for about three seconds – which is likely half the time each of them will appear in the final product? Fine, I can appreciate that, I understand it’s cool all these people meeting and showing up in the same movie. But the trailer looked like every other Marvel movie, with lots of ‘splosions, some Iron Man quips, and… that’s about it? I haven’t seen the second Avengers movie yet but I suppose I’ll get to that and this at some stage. I’d be more excited if the films weren’t so generic and forgettable. Can’t anyone make decent, exciting action movies anymore?

Animal Crackers

This could be a mess, but at least it sounds more interesting than some, with Stallone, McKellen, Blunt, De Vito and others in the voice cast. It’s about a family who inherit a zoo and find magical animal crackers which turn you into whatever animal they depict. WTF.

The Guardians

French drama. No idea what it’s about, but the director has made some decent movies. Stars mother and daughter in Nathalie Baye and Laura Smet.

Life Of The Party

Starring and written by Melissa McCarthy, so we already know what this is going to be. Looks like a mainly female cast, fair enough. The Director has made a bunch of McCarthy movies, so expect more of the same.

Action Point

An action comedy about a theme park, starring Johnny Knoxville and Party Boy. The kicker is that it’s directed by Tim Kirkby who directed Look Around You – one of the best things in human history. Still, this is probably going to be crap, but you know I’ll be seeing it.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

I was all ready to destroy this based on the name alone, then I saw it was Richard Linklater who generally doesn’t make bad movies. Listen to the first part of the synopsis ‘Bernadette hates people, she hates leaving the house, and more than anything, she hates the other parents at her daughter’s school’. I am Bernadette. Good cast… highish hopes for this one.

Slender Man

I mean, I guess the character and story of Slender Man are creepy if you’re twelve years old and telling stories around the campfire. This follows a group of ‘teenagers’. Why not actually make the creature stalk kids – like no older than twelve, but make it a serious horror movie, or at least something like IT? Because then we couldn’t have bewbs, and bewb associates. Expect crappy jumpscares, though the director does have some pedigree.

Solo, A Star Wars Story

See, the problem I have with this is… I was always much more of a Luke fan, but A New Hope is essentially the start of Luke’s life – we don’t need anything more beyond that. Do we need a Leia origin story? Probably not. So we’re left with Han. I think we already know everything we need to about his character – charming rogue, gets into scrapes, hangs with Wookies. I’m not sure we need this. I’ll be first in line though.

Deadpool 2

I still haven’t seen the first one. I still can’t get around the fact that it’s Ryan Reynolds as he has been barely better than terrible in almost anything I’ve seen him in. But for all intents I should love the first Deadpool. You know the drill – I’ll get to it.

Ocean’s 8

I haven’t seen any of the bloke Ocean’s movies (aside from the 60s one) and I’ve never had any particular urge to do so. This one is presumably the same as those, but with women.

Breaking In

McTeigue is known more for his assistant work rather than his own directorial efforts right? Everything he’s worked on though has a clear, visual, cinematic flair. I wasn’t a fan of V For Vendetta and haven’t seen his other work as a director. This seems like a more down to earth affair – no ninja’s, or futures, or sci-fi stuff here, just a mother and her kids. I like home invasion type movies, but they never make me run out to the cinema. One more thing – this poster, like many many others (and trailers too) promotes the good old ‘from the Producer(s) of’. What does that even mean? I don’t give a damn about Producers. This is basically saying, for the less cine-literate, ‘remember that movie that made a bunch of money – we had nothing to do with its success but our name was attached so you might like this one too’. It’s the equivalent of sticking some lifeless supermodel into one of those horrible adverts for aftershave.

Tag

So, I guess I like the idea of this, but I know exactly how it will be executed, given the writer and cast. Still, could be good. On a personal note – I used to do this all the time when I was young. We would have games of tag which would spread out all over town and through the countryside. I even made it to Scarborough once, which is a different fecking country, so I already have this movie beat. And I was fourteen.

On Chesil Beach

So… directed by a CBE theatre dude, written by one of Britain’s most revered authors, and starring some of Britain’s most respected performers? I couldn’t be less interested though – I didn’t like Atonement and Ronan has a habit of appearing in starchy dramas that I can do without. It’s about a man, or a couple, looking back over their lives and separation and wondering ‘what if’. Fair enough, but not my thing.

Paved New World

This is a Disney, presumably non-animated, comedy. I have no idea because when I click on it in Wiki, it takes me to someone called ‘Tilky Jones’ who was in something called ‘Take 5’. In other words, I will never see this.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The trailer for this seemingly saw saw negative reaction… though I’m not sure why. it has dinosaurs, and running away from dinosaurs, and…. what else do you need? It certainly had me more interested than ‘generic Marvel superhero mashup #15’. I don’t expect this to be as good as Jurassic World or of course Jurassic Park, but if there’s dinosaur action without the wanky wankiness of Part 3, then I’m all in.

Sicario 2

Sicario was great. We can’t hope that this will be in the same league, but with the cast and director, surely it can’t be awful.

Valley Girl

Unless this is about slaying vampires, I don’t think I’ll care. I see Marti Noxon is invovled, so maybe it will be! Ahhh right, it’s a(nother) remake, this time a cheesy Nic Cage movie. Why isn’t Nicolas Cage in this again? It can’t be much worse than anything else he’s doing these days. This is going to be a complete piss-take, right?

I Feel Pretty

Yeah? Well you look like shit. Someone’s going to say that line, or some synonym of it. Some woman bangs her head and believes she’s awesome. Methinks there are lot of people who have bumped their heads in the world.

Uncle Drew

A comedy about basketball or something. Plenty of basketball stars in the cast. Don’t care.

Incredibles 2

It was only last year, maybe the year before, that I saw the first Incredibles. I quite liked it, but I think it was the sheer pace and energy I appreciated rather than the humour or characters or story. I hear this is going to focus more on Jack Jack, who was my daughters’ favourite character. This will be one to stream.

Let us know in the comments which movies being released from April – June you’re looking forward to most!

2018 In Film – A Preview – January – March

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So, I never really do these preview posts. I tried doing the whole reviewing trailers things and I have a bunch of unpublished posts on those. Still, I thought I’d give this a try as I do always look forward to the new year’s movies and in the past I would send work emails around saying ‘Look, look at these movies coming out in a few months – it’s going to be EPIC’. As this could be a lengthy one (matron), I’m going to be as quick as possible (matron?) and give brief thoughts on every single film Wikipedia currently lists for a 2018 release and whether I think I’ll see it or not. Most of these entries I’ll be basing purely off the wiki entry, unless I happen to have some prior knowledge of the films (which will be unlikely in most cases).

Insidious: The Last Key

I loved the first film, the second I thought was just okay – it expanded the universe, but it became a little convoluted – the whole further stuff was the stuff I liked least in the original. You know, I don’t believe I’ve watched the third one yet, but I will, and I will get around to this eventually too. The trailer looks fine, and while I love Lin Shaye, this looks too much like it’s focusing on her character and the further, neither of which I’m too interested in. Hopefully this isn’t just a cash in, but with new director Adam Robitel (whose Deborah Logan I did like) this could be a dud.

The Strange Ones

I don’t know the Director (s) and I don’t care about the cast and wiki tells me nothing about this aside from it’s a drama – it seems unlikely I’ll see this.

Stratton

I’m not sure if this is supposed to be set in Northern Ireland, but it says it was filmed in Italy – two countries which couldn’t be more different in appearance. It also says this has already been released in the UK. Simon West can be hit and miss when it comes to action movies, but they’re generally entertaining – the cast here is okay, but no-one leaping out at me to give me the impetus to watch. I’ll see it at some point.

The Commuter

It’s Liam Neeson and Jaume Collet-Serra once again, so you know it’s going to be both great and terrible. These are always good for a laugh – my father in law went to school with Liam and they have a best friend in common (so I get to hear all the gossip) and it has become a New Year’s Eve tradition in my house to watch a Liam Neeson action movie so my father in law can comment on how ridiculous it all is. This has a great all round cast – Vera Farmiga can do no wrong and I like Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Banks, and McGovern. I’ll see this, though probably not until some New Year’s Eve in the future.

Proud Mary

This will probably be terrible, but it has the hallmarks of a future cult favourite with some Blaxploitation roots. I’ll see this if it gets good reviews, but that seems unlikely.

Freak Show

Some sort of teen balls and based off a book I haven’t read. I think the Young Adult bubble burst a few years ago, but they’re still churning them out. It has an interesting cast but I don’t think there’s anything here to make me watch. I should really check out the trailers for each of these or research a bit more… but what are you gonna do?

Humor Me

It’s Eliot Gould and one of those Concordes people from that show I didn’t watch. This reeks of hipster, so I’ll be avoiding it.

Vazante

A Brazilian period adventure about a cattle farmer? I think I’ll wait for reviews on this one.

Mary And The Witches Flower

You know I love the anime and this looks like an updated Kiki’s Delivery Service which I love, so you can bet I’ll see this at some point.

12 Strong

An epic war film set after 9/11 – this doesn’t have the sort of cast which screams out classy movie, but it nevertheless has Hemsworth, Pena, and the wonderful Michael Shannon. Again, I’ll wait for reviews, but don’t have high hopes.

Den Of Thieves

I don’t think there’s much more mileage in the heist movie to be fair, and the cast looks terrible. It’s Gudegast’s first movie as director, so things don’t look good.

The Leisure Seeker

A road movie about a runaway couple – fine, I usually enjoy road movies. Oh wait, it’s Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren as the couple, and they’re running away from their kids? Didn’t The Simpsons do this already? Doesn’t seem like something I’ll be seeing.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

I read an early proof of the first Maze Runner before it was released and touted it as the next big thing (though I thought it would suit a TV show rather than a movie). I haven’t read the other two books, I enjoyed the first movie, but haven’t seen the second. I’ll probably get to this at some point.

Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad

It’s a terrible name, firstly, and it’s not Dreamworks or Disney or Pixar. It does have a decent cast though. I’ll see it if my kids show interest.

Forever My Girl

First off, it’s called Forever My Girl. Secondly, it’s a romance. Thirdly, it’s based around Country music. Finally, I don’t care about the cast. If there was a ever a film I was never likely to see, this is it.

The Insult

I have no idea.

God Particle

It’s the next movie in the Cloverfield series, now they’ve decided to expand that universe. I loved the other two movies, so hopefully this will be good too. I know nothing of the director, but the cast seems good.

A Fantastic Woman

This has already been critically acclaimed, but sounds like something I’d never be interested in.

Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built

It’s another film with an awful name – why are there so many of these? Based on the life of Sarah Winchester who built that wacky house with wacky rooms and stairs, this a a Helen Mirren horror movie. As you don’t get too many of those, I’ll be giving this a shot, though I can’t imagine it’ll be very good.

Armed

An action movie starring and directed by Mario Van Peebles and also featuring a bunch of other familiar faces. This looks like straight to DVD/VOD so I’ll listen for reviews, but I tend to enjoy these for what they are.

The 15:17 to Paris

It’s directed by Clint, so yeah… maybe? However, this has flag waving wank squirted all over it so I hope it doesn’t go down that road. Interestingly, it stars the three guys who were involved in stopping the actual attack, so I guess that’s cool too. I’m not sure why you would ever want to revisit something like that, but fine. It’s rare I don’t have high hopes for a Clint movie, but this looks dubious. Again, terrible name.

Fifty Shades Freed

How many of these books were there? They are all unequivocally terrible and I have no interest in seeing any of the films. Boobies! Cocks! Soft core bumming! I’ll stick with Shannon Tweed, cheers.

Peter Rabbit

My neice and nephew love the show, but my girls aren’t interested. Neither am I. Is this based off the series or a separate entity going back to the book? No idea.

Permission

A romantic comedy, so I’m instantly out unless it has an interesting director or performer. Hall, Stevens, Gershon… fine, but again this looks like something I’ll never want to see.

Monster Family

It’s an animation with some people I like (Emily Watson, Nick Frost) and some I don’t (Catherine Tate). I’ve no idea what it’s about.

Black Panther

I’ve seen maybe… six Marvel movies so far? I don’t know, they’re all basically the same film over and over again, with a new goodie and a new baddie. They’re all fairly boring and generic too. I don’t know much about the character, but I have started watching (or planned to start watching) the MCU movies in order, so I’ll get to this one day.

Early Man

It’s an Aardman Animation, so I’ll see this at some point. I don’t love them like some people do, but they’re always enjoyable.

Loveless

Leviathan was great, this is Andrei Zvyagintsev’s follow up. It has already received acclaim at Cannes and I can see it getting an Academy nod. It doesn’t sound great on paper, but I’ll be giving it a go.

The Party

Another 2017 release, WTF Wikipedia. I haven’t seen it yet anyway. I’m usually not a fan of British film comedies, but this could be an effective political satire. I probably won’t see it, but we’ll see.

Nostalgia

It’s a great cast and I’ve liked some of the director’s previous work, but on the surface this sounds like standard naff indie fare.

Samson

A weird cast makes me think this is going to be a low budget streaming affair, which is strange given everyone’s love for bad Biblical epics – studios tend to throw millions at these things, even though they’re almost never good.

Game Night

This has a cool poster, but… what is it. Wikipedia says it’s an Action Comedy Crime Horror Mystery Thriller movie, so that narrows it down. At least it’s not a fucking musical. The cast is hit and miss for me – more miss than hit to be honest, and I’m not convinced by the writers and directors. If reviews are good I’ll give it a go.

Annihilation

Alex Garland, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh in a sci-fi action horror mess? Yes please. I haven’t read the book, but the trailer looks like a female only Predator mixed with some sort of inter-dimensional balls. I’ll give this a shot.

Every Day

It’s YA time again, but this one sounds particularly bad and none of the cast or crew interest me.

The War With Grandpa

How many films is De Niro going to make like this? Have any been good yet? I liked Grudge Match, but that was a little different. Great cast, but it sounds like Home Alone where the burglar is your own grandfather.

Hannah

It stars Charlotte Rampling… that’s all I know… but sometimes that’s all you need to know.

The Lodgers

A rural horror set in early 20th Century Ireland – so far, so interesting. They’ll lose me if they try to bring in politics, but this seems interesting and the director’s Let Us Prey was decent.

Red Sparrow

It’s not another Marvel movie, is it? Francis Lawrence directs… I hated Constantine, I Am Legend was fine but I have ill feelings towards it given it’s my favourite book of all time, and The Hunger Games movies are okay, but bloated. Jennifer Lawrence stars as a Russian Spy (because Russia doesn’t have any actresses?) who falls for a CIA guy. Decent cast, guessing this will be generic.

Pickings

Neo-noir? Yes please, and the fact that I know nothing of the cast or the director gives me hope this could be a new and original piece.

Death Wish

Eli Roth has never lived up to his potential. His movies tend to have good ideas but are each very flawed and usually fall away in their second half. The world is nicely set up for a new Death Wish but I’m not sure Eli Roth is the right man to takes things forwards. Based on what I’ve seen this doesn’t look or sound good, but we’ll see.

Foxtrot

An Israeli movie which shows the life an death of a soldier, generating some controversy about it possibly criticizing the military. Yeah, it’s not like their army hasn’t committed atrocities – just like every other army. Admit it, own it.

Alpha

This sounds interesting, a boy and a wolf roaming the wilderness is usually the sort of thing where you can let your imagination run wild and make for stunning cinematography. Easy to slip up here though.

Gnome Alone

Wasn’t there another (or other) Gnome animations recently? Is this related? Sounds like a straight to streaming movie.

A Wrinkle In Time

This will either be a beast, or a monstrous flop. I like the idea, even if it’s been done a hundred times, but the cast has me worried – no-one exciting here. Directed by Ava DuVernay, always good, and written by Jennifer Lee of Frozen fame, based off a book I haven’t read. I hope it’s good and I hope it’s successful, but I probably won’t see it for a while.

The Upside

Bryan Cranston is rich and crippled, and Kevin Hart is Kevin Hart. A buddy movie, a remake of a massive French success story, but I can’t see this being any good. There’s fodder for laughs, but seriously….

Gringo

A renowned stuntman turns director of this action comedy… potential to be good from someone who understands the business. Good cast too, but I know nothing else about it.

Thoroughbreds

There’s a likeable cast here, but I have no clue what this is about. From the name and the poster… something about rich white people being better than the rest of us, or slavery or sexy slavery?

The Hurricane Heist

Rob Cohen makes average action movies, generally a step above straight to DVD stuff, though some have been better that that. The budget for what appears to be a disaster movie is relatively small, which doesn’t inspire confidence, and the cast are okay but not A-Listers. Likely bad.

The Strangers: Prey At Night

I never saw The Strangers. Why would I when I’ve seen Ils? Don’t tell me The Strangers isn’t a remake, when it clearly is. The horror community does seem to like The Strangers so I’ll get to it at some point, this one has a new cast and director, so doesn’t sound like it will be any good.

Tomb Raider

I was never a fan of the games, the boobs, and I never saw the other two movies. All that being said it doesn’t seem like I’ll see this any time soon. By all accounts it looks like they’ll be taking a gritty approach.

I Can Only Imagine

A film based around the song of the same name, which is apparently the most played Christian song of all time – can’t say I’ve ever heard of it. It stars Dennis Quaid and Cloris Leachman – yes, she’s still alive. This will be bad.

Love, Simon

Another YA entry about a kid trying to balance his life as a gay kid, with school, friends, family etc. Some notable names, but nothing I’ll ever see.

Entebbe

Daniel Bruhl seems to be getting plenty of work in 2018 – good, as I’ve always liked him. This is a retelling of a hostage crisis by Jose Padilha, so is sure to have some authentic tense moments – could be good, but doesn’t leap out at me.

What They Had

Doesn’t sound like my sort of thing, but it does have a terrific cast so I may get around to this if it gets good reviews.

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They haven’t gone wrong yet, so whatever this is, I’m down for it. And up for it.

Flower

The Fonze’s son directs another film – I haven’t seen his first. Based entirely on the poster and synopsis this screams indie and hipster, but once again I’ll wait for reviews.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

I haven’t seen the original, but given that Del Toro isn’t Director here I’ll assume this will be a step down. Then again, Steven DeKnight has worked on some good shows, including my beloved Buffy, and the cast is filled with likeable people, so we’ll see. Naturally, I need to watch the first one before I’ll see this.

Isle Of Dogs

Wes Anderson stop motion. I enjoyed Fantastic Mr Fox and this seems like it will be similar. I’m not as much of an Anderson fan as most people, but he hasn’t made anything I haven’t liked yet. As expected, there’s a great cast and the fact it is set in Japan increases my  interest.

Sherlock Gnomes

Wait a second… didn’t we already do this? So we have two animated gnome movies coming out this year. Apparently this one is a sequel, continuing our recurring theme I haven’t seen the first one. Despite the cast, I don’t see me getting to this any time soon.

Unsane

I was about to rip this one for having such a terrible name, but then I saw it was directed by Steven Soderbergh who tends to not make bad movies. It’s a horror movie with Amy Irving and Juno Temple too, so I’m curious about how this will go. The single line plot synopsis sounds like a hundred other horror thrillers – The Ward, Shutter Island etc, but I’m optimistic.

Final Portrait

I don’t believe I’ve seen any of Stanley Tucci’s other films as a director, but I’ve liked him as an actor. He’s written this one too, concerning a painter I’m not familiar with and his final work, taking on board an old critic friend to act as a model. On the surface it doesn’t sound like anything I’d be interested in, but there’s a lot of talent involved and room for interesting character study.

Midnight Sun

Well, this sounds terrible. It’s a romance involving some teen with a weird disease and the hipster things she gets up to. Bella Thorne seems to be in everything these days, but I don’t think I’ve actually seen her in anything, and Patrick Schwarzenegger needs to buff up those arms and get into the jungle for some Predator hunting before I’ll ever care about him. The director has made movies about kids and dancing. Also, there is a character called Katie Price. I will never see this.

Paul, Apostle Of Christ

This doesn’t have a page on Wikipedia, but there’s a fair amount of talent in the cast. I can’t be arsed going to IMDB to investigate further, but wasn’t Jim Caviezel killed off in his last outing to Biblical times, in rather violent scenes?

Ready Player One

It’s Spielberg, so you know you and I will both see it. The trailer looks buck nuts, but I don’t know anything about the source material. I’m happy to see Spielberg return to what appears to be fantasy/standard entertainment as he’s had a few films now based entirely in the real world.

Mary Magdalene

It’s yet another Biblical epic. How many of these do we need? Oh, I’m still waiting for a proper re-telling of the entire Troy saga – The Illiad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. A trilogy for each. Someone, get on that. It’s Garth Davis and a terrific cast including Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix but it screams Oscar bait. Also, it’s Weinstein Oscar bait which was mysteriously pushed back from 2017 to 2018 in the midst of Harvey’s antics. This will release once that has all hushed down… by the way, don’t let that EVER hush down.

Tyler Perry’s Acrimony

I haven’t seen a single Tyler Perry thing. The fact that this has some Medusa creature on the poster and is listed as a psychological thriller may make this my first Tyler Perry thing.

Lean On Pete

Andrew Haigh seems to be have been sniffing on the door of great success for a while now – his previous films all critically acclaimed. This one looks set to be another critical success, but I can’t see it doing much business. Props to making films and subject matter which most people don’t go near, and doing it with dignity and respect – I have no doubt this will be great.

God’s Not Dead: A Light In The Darkness

What is this? There’s three of these things? And look how much money they made!? I assume 100% of the takings were in the US. I won’t be seeing this.

That’s January – March sorted. Next time I’ll look at April – June. Let us know in the comments which movies you’re looking forward too!

 

 

 

TTT – Top Twenty Five Christmas Specials/TV Episodes

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Greetings, Glancers! I’m back again to lovingly twist tinsel around your throats and tug until your baubles burst – in other words – to make you read these words about Christmas. If you liked my Christmas songs post, you should seek counsel with your local priest or GP promptly, but while you wait, why not make things considerably worse for yourself by browsing this post too? What’s the worst that could happen?

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Ah.. yes…

In case you didn’t know by now- I love Christmas. I love the TV, I love the atmosphere, I love the presents. I may be in my thirties, but some childhood traditions never go away – I still get the Christmas TV times and highlight all the TV shows and movies I want to watch or record. One of the things I loved most when younger was getting off school in the run up to the big day, and planning out my day of watching – waking up to catch a few 7.00 am cartoons, then seeing which movie I could watch in bed before breakfast. Even on Christmas Day, I would switch on the TV in my room while going through my stocking – Channel 4 always had the best stuff.

As much as the internet is populated with all the classic American TV specials – The Grinch, Charlie Brown etc – those never entered my Northern Ireland childhood in any real sense. I saw them, but they seemed too cutesy or foreign and as such were not deemed required annual viewing. Much of my list consists of shows which were force fed by my family or which I found myself returning to each year by myself once I gained such critical faculties. Don’t worry US readers – there’s a lot more American content here than there was in my TTT Christmas songs list.

I was too young for a lot of the more traditional British Christmas specials – Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies etc, and I won’t be including any soaps, even if Eastenders and Coronation Street have both had their fair share of memorable one-offs. Remember that time when Bradley fell off the roof, or when Archie was done in by Queen Victoria? No, neither do I. No, old soap episodes aren’t the sort of thing you watch each year as they are ever replaced by new episodes, the Langoliers munching up all that has come before. No game shows or compilation clips shows either, both stalwarts of December viewing – sorry QI and It’ll Be Alright On The Night. Also, The Office will not appear in any guise. Because Ricky Gervais is a dick. Finally (finally!) there’s no ranking because I can’t be arsed.

Alan Partridge – Knowing Me, Knowing Yule

For whatever reason, I never saw much, or any of Alan Partridge in my formative years. It was around the age of 18 that I started watching the odd episode here and there before blasting through it all a few years later. In this episode, Alan is hosting his very own special festive edition of his show and invites guests including a devout Christian lady, a Carry On style innuendo spouter, and the disappointed and increasingly angry Chief Commissioner of the BBC, setting up nicely for the following Partridge series. The format is essentially the same as the others – Alan awkwardly interviewing increasingly ridiculous guests and trading insults, but with a nice Christmas backdrop and theme, and a slightly longer running time.

Beavis And Butt-head

Beavis And Butt-head had the occasional special episode during their run, and while many of the entries on my list are satires on British culture, this one is of course US aimed. That’s not to say it isn’t universal, or at least understandable in Western White culture. There’s A Very Special Christmas With Beavis And Butt-head – the name itself a send up, which sees the useless pair watch a bunch of Christmas songs on TV. It isn’t that exciting an episode, but as always their reactions are amusing and they do get to sing along near the end. Due to those pesky copyright laws, this one is very difficult to find in its original form.

The second episode(s) is Beavis And Butt-head Do Christmas. It’s split into the usual two separate episodes, this time linked with a festive theme. Huh Huh Humbug is another version of A Christmas Carol – but don’t worry, there is absolutely no moral here. Beavis falls asleep while his boss lectures him, and dreams that he is in fact the boss. While trying to watch Porn, he is visited by Ghost Butt-head and a bunch of other familiar faces who show him his past, present, and future – the past being particularly funny. The plot doesn’t go anywhere, but they never do. The second one is It’s A Miserable Life and it has a little more story, with Butt-head being visited by his guardian angel who shows him how wonderful life in town would be without Butt-head messing it up. Again it’s funny seeing the little twists within the world – Stuart and Beavis are now best friends and it seems like Beavis has sunk to Stuart’s level by wearing a Winger shirt – the horror. These ones always take me back to my pre-teen and early teen years and still get a chuckle.

Bottom – Holy

Bottom is one of my favourite sitcoms of all time, with two performers and writers at the top of their game, bringing the unfocused anarchy of their 80s work into the self-referential 90s. Aside from being about getting drunk, ‘doing it’, and slapstick ultra violence, the show has always skewered everything from British traditions to the sitcom format itself.

While Bottom also features a fantastic Halloween themed episode, it’s Holy which really gets the juices going, literally at times. Richie and Eddie, the Hammersmith Hardmen, are trying to celebrate Christmas with Richie in usual jubilant, devoutly English form and Eddie simply wanting to get pissed and watch Goldfinger. We have the unwrapping and sharing of presents, hope and disappointment in unequal measure, charades, Christmas Dinner mishaps (including the hilarious loss of a finger and even more hilarious fixing of said finger),  and even a Christmas miracle. It’s one of the finest British comedy episodes of all time and it’s the one which is most quoted by me in the run up to, and on the big day itself. Has heeeee been?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Amends

I talked about this episode in my Season Three Buffy Review so I won’t go into details here other than to say that this isn’t your traditional, drop in and watch, episode. There’s a lot of back story going on, as well as plenty of foreshadowing, but if you’ve seen the whole show a few times then you’ll be fine. The story follows Angel still trying to readjust to life on Earth once more, while being tormented by visions of The First Evil, showing his past brutality and encouraging him to kill himself, or kill Buffy. Buffy, meanwhile is trying to host a normal, family Christmas dinner and invites Faith along. If you’re not a Buffy fan it won’t mean a lot to you, but it’s a nice change of pace from the centrally comic or horror themed episodes.

Friends

Being (one of) the biggest show(s) of the decade, Friends was obliged to have a variety of Holiday Specials – Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Christmas are all covered. There are a few Christmas episodes, as well as other which were filmed around that time of the year and feature New York in all its snowy glory, so you have a few to choose from. In The One With Phoebe’s Dad, the gang are off doing different Christmasy things – Joey and Chandler leave their shopping too late, Monica is on selfish baking mode, Ross and Rachel fight while the heating is off, and Phoebe drives to meet her father. In The One Where Rachel Quits, Rachel quits, Joey gets a job selling Christmas trees, Phoebe witnesses a tree massacre, and Ross helps a scout after breaking her leg. In The One With The Girl From Poughkeepsie Ross is dating two women at the same time and ends up falling asleep on the train and going to Canada, Phoebe is writing a Christmas song, and Monika a Joey scheme to earn respect and money. The one With The Rockin’ New Year’s Eve features some Christmas fun while The Holiday Armadillo is the most famous Christmas episode and features Ross trying to teach his son about Jewish traditions as well as Christmas. Finally, we have The One With The Creepy Holiday Card which sees Ross and Mona’s relationship at breaking point, and The One With Christmas In Tulsa where Chandler is forced to work on Christmas Eve. Watched together, the amount of laughs, nostalgia, and Christmas tone will definitely get you in a festive mood.

Harry Enfield

I could be wrong on this, but I think there were two Christmas episodes in the 90s for Harry Enfield And Chums – it’s difficult given the show hasn’t been released on DVD and it changed its name at least once. These are quite difficult to track down, though you can find it them on Youtube. The shows were sketch based, featuring a wide array of classic characters in various scrapes. The Christmas episodes were extensions of these, with most of the sketches featuring a (mostly very sleight) festive slant both simple characters and those with some sort of progression. Along with this, there was usually a sing-song or longer section such as the characters singing ‘Perfect Day’ or parodying Titanic. There’s were repeated every so often on BBC and now on UK Gold, so catch them to remember a simpler time and some of the based character catchphrases ever.

Inside Number 9

Inside Number 9 is undoubtedly one of the finest TV shows of recent years – an ode to film-making, a love-letter to the creative craft. I know quite a few glancers of this blog are massive movie and TV fans, but may not be as exposed to British Television as those over here. I implore you all to watch this show – if you love horror, comedy, film in general, then this will be a new favourite for you, with the show ranging from gut-wrenching emotional episodes, to horror homages, all down with the typical sadistic wit, love of language, and sinister twists that you would expect from Reece Sheersmith and Steve Pemberton.

For those who don’t know, Inside Number 9 is an anthology programme – each episode featuring a new cast of characters and a new self-contained story, generally set in a single room or location. While the absolutely wonderful The 12 Days Of Christine features Christmas in some key scenes and is referenced in its name, it’s the Series 3 premier The Devil Of Christmas which should be a future viewing tradition. It’s a retro piece, set in the late 70s, and follows a family on a Christmas holiday where one of the locals explains the legend of Krampus. The episode, aside from being a faithful attempt at recalling 70s anthology horror and TV, is very funny, and very dark, and should not be missed. Black Mirror made it big – this should be just as big.

Lost – The Constant

Lost, you say? Lost never had a Christmas episode! Well, you’re wrong, and not only are you wrong but you’ve forgotten the single greatest episode of the series. Not only that, but you’ve forgotten one of the best episodes of any TV show, ever. The Constant culminated in the resolution of many crossover-plots and saw, finally, the happiness of my favourite character on the show. There aren’t enough words I can give to praise this episode – the acting, the writing, the way it all comes together – this is how the series as whole should have ended in terms of quality and tone. While I still enjoyed the last episode, The Constant is the pinnacle of the show. My love for it can be stemmed all the way back to all of those 70s, 80s, 90s cartoons and shows I watched and loved, featuring a person or people trying to find their way home – think Dungeons & Dragons or Quantum Leap or Sliders or Battlestar Galactica. Taken further, it all goes back to my love of The Odyssey – a tale I have been obsessed with my entire life. Hell, lets take it further still and say it’s related to those times I got ‘lost’ as a child and didn’t know how to get home or find my parents. Lost brought this idea into the new millennium, in a time when the world became smaller and there were no more undiscovered lands to explore – The Constant wringing out emotion, drama, adventure, tension, romance, time-travel, parallel balls, and all the rest of it into a single satisfying whole.

Christmas though? Yes, because Desmond has to make the call to Penny on Christmas Eve to let her know… well, I don’t want to get into the plot. This is frankly impossible to watch unless you’ve followed the show from episode 1, closely. Even watching as a standalone when you’ve seen the series before is difficult because you’ll miss most of the intricacies and details and will likely forget many of the more minor characters and references. However, if you’re a superfan, then this makes for excellent Christmas viewing and will warm your heart and make you believe in miracles.

Merry Christmas, Mr Bean

Out of all the shows on my list, Mr Bean is the one my kids have watched most regularly at the time of writing. I try to get them to watch this around Christmas each year, but they prefer the one where ‘Mr Bean shows his bum to all the little kids’. Their words, not mine. Merry Christmas, Mr Bean has a load of iconic and hilarious moments – the most famous of which is of course that Turkey on the head scene. The episode follows Mr. Bean preparing for the big day by doing a spot of shopping. His girlfriend drops hints that she wants a ring, a proposal, leading to much hilarity later on, while Bean messes around with a Nativity scene, leads a Brass Band, raises money for charity, and steals a tree. In the second half he decorates his house, posts a card to himself (which always makes my eldest laugh), makes a hash of Christmas dinner, and designs his own cracker. Mr. Bean is one of my oldest and most most favourite series and another which never fails to warm my soul.

Only Fools And Horses

I’m not even going to bother listing the various Christmas themed episodes for Only Fools And Horses…. incidentally, for any of my US glancers – are you even aware of half these shows? What British shows did you get (before the days of downloading and streaming and Kodi etc) on your shores years ago? A lot of these probably don’t translate well, but if Monty Python gets an audience worldwide then I don’t see why others can’t. Out of all the shows on my list, this is likely the biggest British institution. There have been a whopping sixteen Christmas episodes, starting in 1981, and ending in 2003. The ones I am most familiar with are the ones in the 90s, coincidentally around the time I started watching the show, having previously dismissed it as grimy and depressing. Namely, the 1996 Christmas Trilogy which sees Del Boy and Rodney dressing up as Batman and Robin and then, finally, becoming millionaires. It’s classic British humour, but it helps to have a history with the characters before indulging.

Peppa Pig

Peppa and pals have been around for years now, and with each new generation parents get roped in to watching and end up realising that it’s actually really good. I mean, it doesn’t have the same invention as Ben And Holly but it’s more of a family show. There are now a whole host of holiday themed or one-off Peppa episodes, but the Christmas ones were among the first. Peppa’s Christmas was the first episode to run longer than five minutes, and sees Peppa having to remember what all of her friends want from Santa – then he pops in to say hello. Later on the show started doing multi-episodes where the story followed on from the previous episode – we have one where the family visits a Santa’s grotto followed by an episode where they wake up on Christmas day to see what presents they have, and later still there’s an episode where they see Mr Potato in panto. Due to the short running time you can blast through these quickly, but it’s good to supplement them with some of the snow-themed episodes, like when the family build a snowman, go to a snowy beach, and go skiing. These are great for younger kids and cuddling up to watch and get into the Christmas spirit. At time of writing there is a new Christmas episode coming – by the time I post it should have been shown in the UK.

The Simpsons

What quickly became the Daddy of the festive episode, thanks to the yearly Treehouse Of Horror episodes, and later more regular Christmas episodes. Even though the show is largely unwatchable now, you can still revisit those classics, including the very first episode – Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire. It looks terrible now, but it still sucks you in and avoids a lot of the terrible, flat humour of Season 1 by piling on the charm. I’ll move next onto the least best episode of the classic era of the show – Gift Of The Magi. By this point in the series the scale was tipping over to having more misses than hits, this one following an evil toy company trying to unleash a new must have on citizens. It’s an okay episode, but not one I’d recommend watching every year. I’d say the same about Skinner’s Sense Of Snow except I remember less about it aside from people being trapped in school. There’s also one about Lisa becoming a Buddhist. No, stick with the good ones; Miracle On Evergreen Terrace sees Bart accidentally burning the presents and lying to the town and features the immortal ‘where is Christmas’ line, and the best of the lot, by a huge margin – Marge Be Not Proud. This one nails what it’s like being a boy at Christmas, from putting up with the lovingly bought, but terrible videogames or knock off action figures (I am Carvallo), to jealousy, to wanting to be loved, and all that other junk. This is the one to watch every year. Recent years have seen almost annual Christmas episodes, but I haven’t seen any of those that I’m aware of – I’ll get round to them eventually, but watching the show now is at once a chore, depressing, sad, and infuriating.

The Snowman

What is there to say about this – you have to watch it. Is this a thing in the USA, or anywhere else? Let me know. Like Mr Bean, it’s universal because it’s mostly silent, even though it’s inherently British. Follow it up with Father Christmas and The Snowman And The Snowdog for added points.

Wallace And Gromit

Although none of them are honestly Christmasy, the fact that they were released and are always shown at Christmas means they have become part and parcel of the whole package. You can take your pick of any of them, but you’re best watching them all over a few days – A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, A Matter Of Loaf And Death – and while you’re at it, watch a few Timmy Time and Shaun The Sheeps too.

The Vicar Of Dibley

I say this is just as much of a British institution as Only Fools And Horses and any other sitcom which has lasted more than a few years. It is harmless, family oriented humour which anyone can ‘get’ which makes it great for watching with older kids. I hope my kids end up with a similar sense of humour to me, tending towards the zany side, playing with conventions, playing with language, more on the bizarre, non-sequitur side of the scale. The Vicar Of Dibley has just enough of this, mixed with traditional laughs to make it cross borders, and its Christmas episodes work well enough as standalones, though you’re better with a grounding in the characters. There are a few Christmas episodes, the one where Geraldine has to go to all the different meals on the same day, the one where Alice has her baby, the sort of double episode where it’s Geraldine’s 10th year in Dibley and the anniversary of Live Aid.

The League Of Gentlemen – Yule Never Leave

As mentioned above, my sense of humour was waiting for this show to come along. I already loved Bottom and everything Vic & Bob did, and this came along to merge both styles as well as my love of horror. The League Of Gentlemen instantly became my favourite show after its premier, but this Christmas Special is one to whip out and return to thanks to its anthology nature. Sure it means more if you know about the characters, but it’s a better choice to watch on the spur of the moment than any other episode as the series was fairly plot heavy.

I love anthology series and movies, and in this special episode, the Vicar is trying to have a bit of peace at Christmas but is disturbed by three visitors, each with their own macabre tale – the highlight of which is the Herr Lipp story. If you want to laugh your balls off this Christmas, this is the one to watch – I highly recommend you watch the series from beginning as it’s an all time great. Even better is that we’re getting new episodes this year as part of the 20th anniversary!

The Royle Family

This was grabbing all the headlines around the time The League Of Gentlemen first came out, and as such it was like Oasis Verses Blur all over again. I didn’t watch the show for quite some time, and the pieces I saw of it, all the slow panning cameras of people sitting, eating, yawning, scratching themselves, pissed me off. When I finally did watch, I began to appreciate it. I mean, I still hate all that slow panning stuff and the repetition, but I love the characters and the dialogue. The series last for three seasons, and had two Christmas episodes, but since the original run it has been brought back a number of times for specific new Christmas episodes. Again, it’s perfect for family viewing, but better suited to having teens in the house as the kids won’t understand any of it. I’m not sure I’ve even watched any of the other later Christmas episodes, but I must do that this year as we won’t be getting any more after the tragic passing of Caroline Ahern.

The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air

The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air remains, well, fresh. It’s still LOL funny today, has more one-liners, yo momma, and fat jokes than anything else, and is still a better written sitcom with more fully formed characters than most around today. It’s one of those shows which influenced me to the point that I can’t answer a simple question without including some sort of joke or sarcasm. I used to tune in to every new episode on BBC 2 and laugh my ass off, and the show still gets regular viewing by me today. The show had a bunch of Christmas episodes – all are worth revisiting in December, from Will decorating the house, to the one where they are robbed, and the one with Boys II Men, or the one where Hilary decides she wants a baby…. or does she?

The Fast Show

The Fast Show was the master of one-liner, catchphrase character based, surreal skits and sketches. It feels weird now looking back at a show which was often based around building up to a certain character saying their unique catchphrase, but the show was so much more than that, creating a world of interesting and weird characters with a wealth of humour and drama. As the name suggests, the show was quick moving, with sketches rarely lasting over a couple of minutes. Everyone had their favourites – while most loved the likes of Ted and Ralph, it was always the weirder side of the scale that I enjoyed – Johnny Nice Painter and the ‘what if you feel down a hole’ guy. Johnny Depp made an appearance, many of the characters featured in spin-offs, other shows, or ended up having their own dedicated series, and it has been brought back for various new series or specials over the years. The Christmas Episode as exactly as you’d expect it – more sketches with the usual suspects, though with a Christmas twist or backdrop. It will either be entirely bewildering to any newcomers watching now, or you’ll be sucked in and left gasping for more – for regular viewers it’s another great one to watch at Christmas for a quick collection of laughs with old favourites. SLAP. IT. IN.

The X Files

Like Lost, you may think it’s a bit strange that a show such as The X Files would contain a Christmas episode. Why not, though? WHY NOT? There are two episodes which overtly features Christmas – in Christmas Carol, the ongoing saga of what happened to Mulder’s sister is avoided and instead we look at Scully’s dead sister Melissa. Melissa had been killed off in an earlier episode, but here, during a Christmas trip with the rest of her family, Scully begins receiving phone calls from a young girl who sounds just like her sister – investigations and twists ensure. It’s not the most festive episode, and you’d need to be a longstanding fan to follow everything, but it’s still good. On the other hand, How The Ghosts Stole Christmas is a monster-of-the-week festive experiment. By this point in the series, the writers were creating more outlandish and unique episodes outside of the main arcs, and this was one of the most popular – I can remember watching this in bed in its original BBC run and chatting about it in school the next day. It’s Christmas Eve again and Mulder ropes Scully into investigating a haunted house – ghostly hijinks ensue in what is simply a good fun romp – its standalone nature makes it a strong candidate for one-off viewing.

3rd Rock From The Sun

I was a huge fan of this during its original British run, but it was one of those shows that no-one else seemed to watch. It was the right mixture of surreal and traditional, the performers were excellent, and the writing and jokes were always top notch. Jolly Old St Dick is probably the best festive episode, with Sally and Harry getting part-time Mall jobs at Christmas, leading to plenty of laughs, Dick being arrested, and Tommy again becoming frustrated with August. Happy New Dick almost qualifies but focuses more on New Year, while Gobble, Gobble, Dick, Dick is based on Thanksgiving.

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone must surely rank as one of the greatest, most rewatchable, and most influential series of all time, and even it was no stranger to the Christmas episode. The Night Of The Meek deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as other Christmas Classics such as A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life, being a hope-based story in the midst of troubling times. It centers on an alcoholic store Santa on Christmas Eve, a well-meaning character who wishes that just for one day all the beaten, downtrodden, and hopeless people he knows could be happy. This being The Twilight Zone, his wish comes true, and for a change there isn’t a stinging twist in the tale. Next up is The Changing Of The Guard in which Donald Pleasance learns on Christmas Eve that his job is going to be given to a younger man, so he contemplates suicide. Enter a guardian angel to show him that this would be a mistake. There are plenty of other episodes of the show which feature snow or moral quandaries suitable for watching at this time of the year, and as always if you’ve never seen the show, there’s no better time to start than today.

South Park

I’m not going to bother listing all the festive or Christmas related shows here – any or all of the Mr Hankey episodes will do nicely here, and most are delightful and hilarious send ups of various tropes and cultural norms.

Spittin’ Christmas

I freely admit that anyone not from Northern Ireland and of a certain age will have no idea what this is. It’s a bit of a cheat given that it’s not actually a TV show, but a comedy recording – I have it on cassette but you can find it on CD or online. What is it? It’s a comedy recording by one John McBlain – a wonderful impersonator from my country whose voices are second to none and whose comedy centers on British and Irish politicians. Even if you listen to it as a non NI person, you’re unlikely to understand the voices never mind the references or know who the various players are, but for me it’s a vital part of Christmas tradition. There are actually two versions of it (at least) – Christmas at Adams’ and Christmas at Paisley’s but they’re essentially the same.

For existing fans of McBlain’s Spittin series, this is a joy – you’l already be familiar with the characters (caricatures of their real life counterparts) – the ultra violent beast Ian Paisley, the cowardly pervert Gerry Fitt, the shit-stirring Adams, John Cole who tries to hold it all together, and many more – even Bill Clinton pops in. They are all getting together for Christmas dinner in one of the homes which Gerry A owns (or should I say frequents, for various reasons) and to have a bit of a chat and a party. Naturally all hell breaks loose, there’s piss in the soup, Robert craps himself, Fitt cuts down a tree and wrecks himself…. yeah, I’m laughing my head off typing this but you are likely losing the will to live. It’s packed with one-liners, hilarious gaffs, great moments, and it’s also fucking disgusting. Click the link above, but be warned, this is racist, sexist, makes jokes about the handicapped, pedophilia, and anything else you could possibly be offended by… but it’s all funs and games.

Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13 is such a wonderful show – it’s the geek show that not even geeks talk about. It’s a lighter take on something like The X Files with a great cast, interesting ideas, lots of sexy ladies and (sort of) lads, and it’s written by Jane Espenson – if you’re not sold, you’re not worth talking to. Basically, there’s a big warehouse in the middle of nowhere which houses mysterious, mystical, and powerful artifacts – items with the ability to stop time, to give super powers, to hurt people etc, and they are typically based on some historical moment or famous person. A group has been protecting these artifacts for hundreds of years, preventing them from doing harm or falling into the wrong hands. Each episode follows a different artifact, though there are larger arcs too. Oh yeah, loads of Buffy people and other famous guest stars pop up too.

Anyway, the show has a couple of Christmas episodes which are, again, best viewed if you’re already a fan but still are entertaining standalones for the uninitiated. Secret Santa sees Claudia trying to reunite Artie with his father, while Myka and Pete investigate a Christmas artifact which seems to be making Santa evil while The Greatest Gift is a little more trippy as Pete accidentally sends himself to a parallel universe where he doesn’t exist and has to convince his friends to save him and send him back. Both episodes are a lot of fun, have plenty of drama, laughs, and Christmas cheer, and are good as an early December entree.

I think that’s enough yapping for now. Even as long as this post was, I’m sure there’s a load of shows and episodes I’ve missed. Let us know in the comments what your favourites are, what your Christmas viewing routine is like, which shows you absolutely couldn’t miss when you were young, and if I don’t speak to you again before the big day – Merry Christmas!

TTT – Top Twenty-Two Christmas Songs

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s the festive season again, that most wonderful time of the year when we open our chimneys and beckon Good Old St Beardy McBuldgingsack into our homes so he can spurt joy all over our hearth. That run up to Christmas may be getting earlier each year, and as we grow older and more cynical it’s increasingly easy to aim a sneering ‘humbug’ at the whole tinsel-draped event. But ‘fie’, says I. Fie, to all the naysayers, scrooges, sadsacks, and seasonally-challenged. Fie to those who would rain on our snowy parade in a vain attempt to wash away our once a year spending spree in a moaning puddle of sleet. Who could deny the smile and wonder of the wide-eyed child when they stumble out of bed to find a Winter Wonderland frosting up their windows? Who could hold back a tear and an oh so human warmth when seeing the innocence and excitement of finding a half-munched carrot in the living room and bags upon bags of toys and treats just waiting to be discovered? Dicks, that’s who.

Growing up in the turgid 80s wasteland of Northern Ireland, where a large snowfall usually meant having to spend longer on your hands and knees checking for car-bombs each morning before heading to school, Christmas was nevertheless something unimaginably special. The lights, the music, the parties; the end of school, the Television specials and adverts, and of course the presents. Even though Christmas as depicted on screen, in such far-flung places as England and the USA looked like an impossible dream, where everything was bigger, brighter, and even more snow-packed and gift-wrapped, in our wee corner of the globe we still shared in the united glory and tradition.

A very large part of that tradition – one that has been going of course for centuries, but at least as part of modern culture, is the Christmas song. I’ll say this about the USA – as impressive as their Christmases looked, their Christmas music is wank compared to ours. This list therefore is going to be primarily British. What list? Why, this list of my favourite Christmas songs! This selection of songs never fails to bring back memories, nostalgic feelings, and the fact that they have been enjoyed for so many generations and continue to be passed from parent to child each year will ensure that even as our descendants are old and frail, they will still be taken back to a place of happiness and wonder upon hearing them. I hope you read, enjoy, and comment with your favourites, but above all I wish you a safe and happy Christmas.

22. A Winter’s Tale – David Essex

Slow. Dreary. These are things that are not reflective of Christmas, yet so many Christmas songs, particularly US ones strike me as being such. This song I feel skirts dangerously close to falling into that category, but avoids it due to the warmth and comfort of melody. The horns work, the violins hit the mark, and the sentiment ripples outwards.

Did it reach Number 1 in the UK: Nope, but it did get to number 2

Is The Video Terrible: Yes, just David meandering through various depressing snow-covered fieldsand hanging about near a shed

21. Lonely This Christmas – Mud

Firstly – this is NOT Elvis. Okay? It sounds like Elvis, but this has nothing to do with him aside from the fact that the band are deliberately trying to sound like him. I always assumed it was him when I was young, and when I saw the video I assumed Mud were covering him. It’s slow too, but it has always struck me as funny – that along with the harmonies keeps it from being dreary. It could absolutely do without the spoken section.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes, and it was a Christmas Number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: Of course – a live version taken from TOTP where the band sit about looking depressed in front of the world’s most 70’s Christmas tree. They are wearing gaudy suits and covered in tinsel and bauble accessories, yet rather than appearing festive they look like  four local low-grade thugs who have broken into your home and demanded a warm plate of turkey and ham – and they’re not pleased about having to wait.

20. Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen

It’s another slow one, and it has terrible 80s drums, but it does have Mr Mercury belting out the vocals – particularly the title – so it’s immediately worth hearing. It’s far from being exciting, nothing really happens, yet it somehow still works.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, not even close

Is The Video Terrible: There isn’t one.

19. Stay Another Day – East 17

Many people argue that this isn’t a Christmas song. Yes, there’s very little Christmasy about it, except for the fact that the video has fake snow and the boys are wearing hoodies. There is some timpani or bells or something which gives it the edge, and the fact that is was released in December and was such a massive hit means it has become associated with the period – that’s fine with me. On a serious note, the lyrical content bears mentioning as it was written about the suicide of one of the member’s brothers. It’s unusual subject matter for a boyband, it’s unusual for a boyband member to actually have any input into a song’s creation nevermind write the whole thing, and it’s unusual that it actually ends up being pretty good.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes. It was apparently their only UK number 1 and it was a Christmas Number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s a boy band, so obviously the video is terrible. It looks like it was put together on Media Player by a child, and it consists almost entirely of the group in various poses shooting around the screen or giant close-ups of their faces panning across. It’s doubly terrible because of how the group were portrayed as ‘bad boys’, so they have all these looks that aren’t so much smouldering or heartfelt, but rather come across as ‘I’m going to stab you and then ram your nan’. Also, did you ever notice how whenever a new boy band becomes popular, within months an alternative appears and they are ALWAYS – without exception, portrayed as bad boys? It’s hard to take any of it seriously when the songs are wafer-thin love-letters or requests for sex. Aimed at 10 year olds.

18. In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield

The only hymn on my list, the only instrumental, and the only song that’s over 500 years old. You have to hand it to Oldfield – he’s a musical beast, playing all the parts himself and using roughly 500 instruments too. It doesn’t feel like a Christmas song at all, except for the fact that it’s always played around Christmas. It’s also repetitive as hell but remains dynamic throughout thanks to the gradual building of instruments and the occasional little twist on the standard.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, number 4 only.

Is The Video Terrible: Yes, it is kind of terrible, but that’s mainly due to the age and hair and fingernails and clothes, yet it apparently influenced every Youtube video ever made with it’s grid based format showing Mike playing each instrument.

17. Do They Know Its Christmas? – Everyone

The ultimate ‘get together a bunch of famous people to sing a song’ song. It has also been re-recorded and released with diminishing returns numerous times, but there’s not getting away from the original. It’s not the most complex song – it’s not supposed to be. It’s meant to be a message to the world, delivered in an earnest and easily digestible, commercial way. It worked, becomes one of the biggest selling songs of all time.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes, and was a Christmas Number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: Yes, given that it’s just a bunch of famous people singing into the camera or walking around in slow motion. It’s interesting now though as you try to work out who each person is and what the hell was wrong with the world in the early 80s to make some of them so famous in the first place – to be fair, each version of the song has featured mostly unremarkable artists and the odd diamond.

16. Walking In The Air – The Snowman – Peter Auty/Jones/Nightwish

I’ve no idea how popular this, or The Snowman is in the USA – let me know in the comments, I guess. Over here though it’s a must for Christmas viewing – the timeless story of a boy and his adventure one night with a snowman. In some ways I wish this hadn’t been such a choirboy vocal as those are almost always unlistenable. It works though, although I will say the Nightwish version gives some much needed oomph – I don’t think the best version of the song has yet been recorded, or if it has I haven’t heard it. I do love the quiet instrumental version which is played over the end credits – beautiful. I’ve given three links above – the original by Auty, the Aled Jones version (yes folks, it’s not him in the movie), and the Nightwish one.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope.

Is The Video Terrible: The Snowman is excellent – everyone should see it. The Aled video is fairly bad, unless you’re into watching Welsh boys traipse around barren mountains, while the Nightwish version was not a single and had no video.

15. Don’t Let The Bells End – The Darkness

Back in that brief period when The Darkness was a popular band, they cranked out an impressive number of hits. This is arguably their widest reaching song, aimed directly at the Christmas market and ensuring annual rotation. Good marketing, sure, but it’s also a fun, festive song with all the hallmarks of other British classics. There’s a wry sense of humour, heapings of cynicism, and plenty of double-entendres. Musically it has everything you would want from a Christmas hit – big chorus ripe for a drunken singalong, hefty verses filled with festive lyrics and traditional instruments, a choir of kids etc. It doesn’t take itself seriously, just like most of the best hits for the time of year.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Unfortunately not, just like a bunch of other better songs. It was held off the top spot by the absolute wank cover of Mad World – one of the worst songs of all time.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s fine – deliberately cheesy, it fits with the rest of the band’s visual output and humour while also harking back to a few previous Christmas videos. It’s mostly the band unwrapping presents in front of a roaring fire inside a log cabin, but done with plenty of panache and larfs.

14. Mr Hankey The Christmas Poo – South Park

Nothing says Christmas like squeezing out an enormous yuletide log of your own, and this song continues the grand tradition of animated characters recording a Christmas song. The song appears in the episode of the same name, along side other classics like Kyle’s Mom Is A Big Fat Bitch and A Lonely Jew On Christmas, but this is the winner. It’s as ridiculous as it is ridiculously catchy as well as being endearing and funny.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Of course not.

Is The Video Terrible: Of course not.

13. Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney

It’s another one that reminds me of Christmas parties as a child, ones we had at home, or the more organized group ones in my town. This was always one of a number of songs which seemed to be played every day of December and therefore it’s intrinsically linked to toys, snow, and good times in my mind. The song has a lot of weird synth stuff going on meaning it doesn’t feel inherently Christmas-like, but it does have those bells and the video is festive as hell. It’s super repetitive and simplistic, but still good.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, it only got as high as number 5.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s certainly dated, with a lot of weird effects and fashion, but the setting of the pub in the midst of a party is a great idea – all the locals are hammered, everyone’s dressed up in cosy garb, the booze is flowing, and Paul keeps bouncing about in every shot like he’s snorted a snowball right off Rudolph’s red nose.

12. A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris De Burgh

The most unusual song on the list – weird considering the list includes a singing turd. De Burgh posits that the Star of Bethlehem was actually an alien spacecraft. The lyrics are interesting and the song feels both ethereal, somehow faith-driven, and otherworldly. I love the organ/keyboard.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: When it was first released in the 70s it failed to chart, but it had better success when re-released in the 80s with a more Christmas themed arrangement.

Is The Video Terrible: There wasn’t one, so I’ve linked your standard live version.

11. Hazy Shade Of Winter – The Bangles

Okay, this one isn’t necessarily very festive – it does have those jingle bells though and if you play it each Christmas it’ll soon sink in to your annual festivity. There aren’t many Christmas songs which rock as well as this one, so you should stick it in your playlist.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, only number 11.

Is The Video Terrible: It has Susanna Hoffs in it, so it couldn’t possibly be terrible. It’s just the band playing with clips of Less Than Zero in the background.

10. Mistletoe And Wine – Cliff Richard

It seems weird that soon we’ll have kids (actually, we already do) growing up in a world without Cliff Richard’s music. I’m hardly a fan, but he’s nevertheless a British icon. Cliff has always been no stranger to Christmas songs, but I think this is his most well-known and best, and you can’t pass December without hearing this at least five times. Cliff took a rather sordid song and made it more religious, more Christmasy. It’s all about the kids, as Christmas should be, but hopefully it doesn’t take on a more dubious meaning given recent rumours about Cliff. Again, though I’m not a fan, it’s pretty shocking that many people don’t recognise his influence and impact. Back on topic, this is a super-happy song with lyrics about presents, Santa, hymns, fires, baby Jesus et al. It’s great.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Of course, one of the four times Cliff has had a Christmas Number 1. Speaking of Christmas Number Ones, looking at the list the last one I’ve actually heard is 2009’s Killing In The Name. Sad.

Is The Video Terrible: Depends on you really. It’s just Cliff and a bunch of extras roaming around a set filled with fake snow, singing carols and swinging their arms.

9. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin Stevens

We’re into the classics now – another song you’ll start to hear in shops around the middle of November. The moment you hear those opening notes you can’t help but grin like a maniac and it’s another which takes me back to my childhood with zero effort.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Does Santa shit in your chimney? Christmas Number 1. Incidentally this, along with a few others in my list re-enter the UK charts every Christmas and generally reach the top 40.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s certainly different, starting out with some kid getting a private jet trip and landing in some far-flung snowy land. From then on it’s as Ultra-Christmasy as the song itself, with snow fights, sleigh rides, presents, Santa, elves, and the rest. That dance remains terrible, as are the rolled up sleeves.

8. Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues

My wife’s personal favourite. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this one as in the UK it’s held up as this untouchable thing – it’s not, it’s just a decent song. Out of all these songs I feel like it’s overplayed the most and it’s the one I get sick of most easily. Perhaps it’s the whole Irish thing that annoys me given my feelings about that particular brand of music. Yes the lyrics are cynical but that loses its impact after the billionth play and you begin, quickly, to remember how terrible the vocals are. Still, you can’t have Christmas without it!

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, held off the top spot by The Pet Shop Boys. There’s no question it should have made Number 1 though.

Is The Video Terrible: It gets points for featuring a snarling Matt Dillon, but loses points for showing Shane Macgowan. If Shane Macgowan starred in a horror movie it would be banned. The video is mostly a lot of bored, dour, sour faces sitting in bars or walking around New York – it has become iconic, but that neither means it’s terrible nor good.

7. River – Joni Mitchell

It’s arguably the finest rip off/musical homage of all time, with Joni twisting ‘Jingle Bells’ and transforming it into something serene, heart-rending, and timeless. This is likely the finest song on this list and a haunting reminder that Christmas can be rough. It doesn’t go into some of the more important issues we should think of at this time of year – homelessness, starvation, families drifting apart etc, instead fixating on a single relationship. But who cares, it does what it does beautifully, the lyrics and music centre on Christmas, and it’s a gorgeous listen every damn time.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: It was never released as a single, so nope.

Is The Video Terrible: No video.

6. Last Christmas – Wham!

I prefer the James Dean Bradfield solo version as it cuts away most of the chaff, but this is the better of the two in terms of pure festivity. This is Christmas through and through, managing to be tragic and happy at the same time. It’s great, and again you can’t have Christmas without it.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, kept off the top spot by Band Aid – the song remains the biggest selling UK single to never reach number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s certainly a dated relic of the 80s, but it isn’t terrible in and of itself. There’s nothing amazing, just Wham and a bunch of extras prepping for a party and having fun up a snow covered mountain.

5. The Ghosts Of Christmas – Manic Street Preachers

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, it was released free so wasn’t eligible for charts. Damn Capitalism.

Is The Video Terrible: Manics videos are rarely very exciting, and as this never had one we can assume it would have been standard fare. However, given the band’s love of nostalgia we may have had childhood clips and the usual twists on British culture. I can’t even find the song on Youtube, so you know it must be good.

4. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John And Yoko

An anti-Vietnam war song, became an anti-war song, became an anti-hate song, and remains a pro-Christmas song. It’s another which doesn’t feature a lot of traditional Christmas sounds or lyrics, but the sentiment is one of hope, peace, and looking towards a brighter future – things we can all support at this time of the year. Musically it’s one of the best post-Beatles pieces of work, and not even Yoko’s wailing can dampen it.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, number 4 in 1971 and then number 2 in 1980, as well as other positions in other years.

Is The Video Terrible: There are a couple of different versions, but they’re both fairly similar. The original features John, Yoko, and Sean and a lot of footage from their War Is Over period, while the newer one is news footage of the aftermath of war, famine, murder etc.

3. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

A frequent winner of many Best Christmas songs lists, it’s certainly one of the most fun, unashamedly buoyant, and downright joyous Christmas songs. How can you not smile or get excited when you hear this? It makes me want to live somewhere where there’s actually a guarantee of snow each December, not the same grey clouds and drizzle we get every other time of the year.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, number 2, kept off by Stay Another Day.

Is The Video Terrible: No, it’s probably one of the best videos on the list. Back before Mariah was a dick, she was incredibly hot, supremely talented, and crucially – not a dick. Her frolicking about in the snow should be watched at least once during the holiday period and it makes me, again, wish I lived somewhere with actual seasons – warm summers, freezing winters, not this endless grey shite we deal with 90% of the time.

2. Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade

IT’S CHRIIIIIISSSTMAAASSS! There’s isn’t much else to say about the song – it’s great, and you need it in your life in December.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes, Christmas Number 1 in 1973

Is The Video Terrible: Absolutely, but it’s great too. Laughing at the hair and the fashion and the Noddy, but then remembering that whatever you are wearing, however you are dancing, is going to be ridiculed in 10 years time. Not me though – my look is timeless. It’s another live performance video so you can’t say much about it.

  1. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day – Wizzard

My favourite, and it has mostly always been that way – all those memories I’ve mentioned before about my own childhood are most perfectly recalled by this, it’s probably the song I listen to most at the time of year, and it’s definitely the song I find myself singing or humming most. It’s perfect. I think it’s the only Wizzard song I’ve ever heard.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, kept off the opt spot by Merry Xmas Everybody.

Is The Video Terrible: Well, yes. The band, in all their bizarro, glam, glory prance around in a semi-frightening manner while a bunch of kids arse about with them.

There you have it, my favourite Christmas songs. I’m sure you have plenty of your own. As I was typing the list, I remember the Gary Glitter classic – Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas – a song I always kind of liked, but then… Gary Glitter. Let us know in the comments what your favourites are and if you have any fond memories of Christmas music!

Bonus – Sexy Christmas USA – yeah, best watch this one alone. Or Never.

TTT – Top 10 Horror Movies

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s been an age and a half since I did one of these Top Ten Tuesdays lists, and that is simply unacceptable. As it’s the season of ghouls and murder I’m going to throw my head into the ring and let you know my Top Ten favourite Horror Movies of all time. Now, I haven’t put a lot of thought into this – I’ve just gone back to my old, faithful, never updated since created Top 250 IMDB favourite movies list and picked the highest ranking horror films. The lowest ranking movie in this Top Ten comes in at 40th in my IMDB list – so you know how much I love horror when 10 movies appear in my top 40 favourite films of all time.

Yes, I’ve loved horror all my life, and I’ve always been the morbid kid. One of my first Primary School stories came back with a note from the teacher saying I had a keen interest in the macabre. I had no clue what that meant, or how to pronounce it. Most of my stories and the games I imagined up to play with my friends involved monsters and gruesome mayhem. And ninjas – it was the 80s after all. I’ve probably mentioned it before – how I was always drawn to the horror section of the VHS store – and I don’t really know where it comes from. I think some of us are just born the right kind of wrong. That’s a good thing too, otherwise we would have never had many wonderful works of fiction and film.

I’m not saying any or all of the below films are wonderful, or masterpieces, or anything like that – just that they represent a decent picture of what I love from the genre (however some of them are genuine masterpieces). I don’t think this list will be too different from any horror fan’s list but maybe there will be a few surprises. If I went back to my Top 250 there would be some definite changes, not just to the ordering but additions, removals, and not just from the horror genre. Enough warbling though. The below ten films are as good an introduction to Horror Movies as any, and they have provided me with a lifetime of entertainment and insight. Scares? Yeah, scares too.

10. Interview With The Vampire

This is probably the most controversial and least loved film on my list. I’m actually surprised I had it so high on my Top 250 too, but there you go. I do love the film, and it’s a great adaptation of one of my favourite books. The cast is top notch, it looks gorgeous, it’s sexy, bloody, and in Claudia we have one of my favourite tragic figures.

9. The Lost Boys

The ultimate MTV generation movie. One of the coolest movies ever too, but you had to be there around the time of release to see that, because watching today it looks either cheesy as hell or a product of another world. It’s vampires again, but rather than mopey, sorry figures, these guys are perma-teens of the cool kids club – sleeping all day, partying all night, pouting in leather and denim. Again there’s a great cast, everyone is ultra-hot, it’s hilarious, quotable, and endlessly entertaining.

8. Night Of The Living Dead

Probably the most important film on the list, this is where modern horror truly kicked off – Psycho started things rolling, but this brought realism where Psycho still felt like a movie. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the film where zombies feel most plausible and most scary. Other films use their zombies for sheer shocks and gore, Romero included, but here they are at their most chilling – we don’t know where they’ve come from, they look like our loved ones, and they just keep coming.

7. Jaws

I’m going to assume everyone has seen this. It’s the ultimate gateway horror film, and one its best to see in your youth. Its scares range from jump-shocks, dread, tension, gore, but at its core it’s a story of man versus monster with universal characters and a simple, entertaining story.

6. Scream

Horror in the 90s was in a downward spiral – Scream almost single-handedly brought it back to relevance, making a tonne of money and getting praise from critics and fans new and old. As much as it nods, winks, and plays with tropes, it’s still an emotive story with a great heroine, tonnes of memorable dialogue and iconic scenes, and plenty of violence, laughs, and scares.

5. The Stand

I could get a lot of stick for this, but I don’t care – I love The Stand. It’s probably my favourite or second favourite book ever, and Mick Garris does it justice. Sure, some of the acting is painful in places and its age and budget are showing now, but the opening scenes and the following collapse of society were shamelessly stolen by The Walking Dead and yet are still effective. There are jump scares, there is violence, nihilism, hope, but it’s the ultimate battle of good versus evil. The soundtrack is also on regular rotation in my car/pocket. As much as I love it, I think an updated version could be epic.

4. The Thing

Now, these top four films – every one of them is a masterpiece – that can’t be disputed – and there isn’t much between how much I love, respect, and appreciate them. The Thing transcends horror – it’s one of the best movies of all time. It’s one of those movies I can’t really fault… the only thing I would say is, as great as the cast is, maybe we don’t spend enough time in the early moments with certain characters, and it can be difficult to differentiate between them. Regardless, it’s a perfect film.

3. Dawn Of The Dead

I can find fault with Dawn Of The Dead, and yet I love it just as much, if not more. The Thing is bad-ass, but Dawn Of The Dead was life-changing. I already loved horror, I already loved zombies, but this opened up a whole new world – it’s one of those movies that feels like something I would make or write. You know when you’re starting out as a writer or performer or artist – and I’m speaking to those of us who started young – as children – you get an idea and you begin tossing it around your juvenile mind, working out the plot and intricacies, and then one day you find out that someone else has already done it. They got there before you, and did it better than you ever could – suddenly you see your dream or nightmare on screen before you, but rather than being bitter, you love it. Someone else gets it. That’s Dawn Of The Dead, and it’s mind-blowing every time.

2. Ringu

This one was also life-changing. I already love foreign movies, Japanese movies, but my experience of Asian Horror was fairly limited. When I first saw Ringu around 1999 I had never seen anything like it. It was modern, beautifully shot, paced to perfection, and holy heavens did it scare my soul away. I couldn’t buy it anywhere, but once it came to TV a year or two later I recorded it and must have watched it every day for a week, showing it to my brother, sister, friends, and loving it every time. I don’t think I’ve had a horror film which has made me do that before or since. Sure I have recommended films to people and have sat people down and forced them to watch some movies, but no movie felt so necessary – I had to see and feel their reactions and I had to be part of that world again. I love the sequels, I love the books, but this is where it started. I was picking up every single Asian horror film I could find after this.

1. A Nightmare On Elm Street

I don’t want to say this is where it all began – the first true horror film I remember seeing was Salem’s Lot – but really this is where it all began, and where it’s still at. Those VHS stores I mentioned –  the Elm Street movie VHS covers were the ones which most caught my eye. Sometimes there would be a poster or cardboard cutout of Freddy there and I’d look at it cautiously, waiting for it to come to life. Who was this guy? What was that glove about? What happened his face, what was he doing? Somehow – credit to the wonderful powers of childhood imagination – somehow, though reading the backs of the videos, looking at the pictures, and splicing together rumours, by the time I was 6 or 7 I kind of had the whole thing worked out. I knew Krueger’s name, I knew the 1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you song, I knew that he got you in your sleep, and yet I didn’t see any movie until years later.

I somehow caught the last minute or so of the movie once, and that stayed in my head for years, even after I finally watched the whole thing. The same goes for snippets of other films in the series – something about the characters crept inside me on a personal level to the extent that I credit Krueger, Craven, and the series as being my true doorway to horror cinema. That idea of not being safe in your sleep is something chilling for all of us, but I think it’s something kids are especially susceptible too. We’re supposed to go to sleep, dream sweet dreams, and wake knowing we are safe and warm and loved. Craven turns that upside down and inside out, and goes further, exploring that idea that it’s the fault of the protector, the parent, that we are put in this mess. That idea is explored in many of his films – the mistakes of the parent coming back to haunt the child, but it’s perfected here. I still have a crush on Langenkamp, and while the film doesn’t remotely scare me any more, I can still put it on and love the imagination, the characters, the nostalgia, the story, and all of the more artistic and technical elements.

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So there you have it, my very own favourite horror movies. What are your’s? Let us know in the comments! Before I go though, as a bonus, I have other genre crossover movies which some would consider horror or as having horror elements that I rate just as highly, if not higher than some of the above (in other words, they are not lower than 40 on my Top 250 list):

The Terminator

Firmly placed in the action genre – it’s essentially a chase movie – nevertheless The Terminator has a lot in common with the slasher genre. There’s a final girl, an unstoppable killer, tonnes of violence, and plenty of kills.

Predator

Unstoppable killer, violence kills, sort of a final girl, but a bunch of bad-ass marines kicking ass. Predator is a horror icon, even though this is more entrenched in the sci-fi genre.

Aliens

Unstoppable killer, violence kills, a definite final girl, but a bunch of bad-ass marines kicking ass. The Alien is a horror icon, even though this is more entrenched in the sci-fi genre.

Battle Royale

It’s questionable that anyone should include this in the Horror genre… but if it’s not, then what the hell is it? Drama, action, satire, and horror elements – kids forced to kill each other. Regardless, I still say it’s the best film of the 21st Century.

The Crow

Is comic book adaptation its own genre? There are loose connections to horror here, with the unstoppable killer being the hero. The dark visuals and the origin plot are horror.

Assault On Precinct 13

Like many (most?) of Carpenter’s movies, this is a siege film. There isn’t anything supernatural, but it features hordes of faceless gang members attacking relentlessly – Night Of The Living Dead anyone? Also – ice cream.

Jurassic Park

It’s lighter and more family friendly than Jaws, but it’s still Spielbergian horror. Kids under threat from dinosaurs, huge unstoppable monsters, nowhere to run – good stuff.

Happy October everyone – Happy Halloween, Happy Horror Watching, and don’t forget to share your comments and memories!

Bond Girls Extra – Should Have Beens

Greetings, Glancers! If you thought I was finished with Bond Girls after my other three posts (here, here, and there) you are double oh wroong. Today we allow our imaginations to fly by asking a question – this question – which actresses (or former Miss Worlds as the case may be) would have made a great Bond Girl? A Bond Girl has to be any number of things – beautiful, alluring, possibly dangerous, possibly exotic, and it helps if they are a decent performer (matron).

I’m going to pick ten women from each decade who I feel would have been interesting choices – actresses who it would have been cool to have seen capering around with Connery, Moore, Brosnan and co, either as a traditional Bond Girl or femme fatale. Have a gander at these actresses and let us know in the comments which choices you agree with.

1960s:

  1. Claudia Cardinale

Arguably the finest European actress on my list, she had the dark, sultry look, big eyes, and the acting chops to stand alongside anyone. Would probably have been a brothel owner working for the movie’s villain but would switch sides to Bond.

2. Audrey Hepburn

A pipe dream choice to be sure as the Bond films have never been draws for already superstar actresses but still, Hepburn’s beauty and class mean she would have fit in wonderfully to any imagine Bond movie – most likely as the high class wife of a movie villain who spends her days wandering lonely through casinos and yachts.

3. Catherine Deneuve

Another international star, Deneuve could just as likely play a villain as goodie and could have played the role of a woman who was out only to achieve her own goals, becoming embroiled in or even aiding some international nefarious plot, playing Bond and the villain off each other so that she could further her own interests.

4. Natalie Wood

Although it would happen much later, has a tragic status which is something sort of common to Bond Actresses, Wood having the sympathetic looks which would have allowed her to shine in the role of a woman out for revenge after the villain killed her parents.

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5. Jean Marsh

Clearly a femme fatale, Jean Marsh strikes me as someone who would have been a terrific villain, arguably pulling the strings for the main bad guy or even being the central antagonist herself. I can just imagine that malevolent smirk as she coldbloodedly watches someone Bond cares for die.

6. Ruby Dee

Quite possibly the best African-American actress who ever lived, Ruby Dee would have been a great catch for the Bond series in the 60s and she could have played a progressive role as a Civil Rights campaigner caught up in an assassination plot.

7. Brigitte Bardot

One of the biggest sex symbols of all time, and therefore a prime candidate for Bond. Unlike may of her peers, particularly on my list, Bardot’s films have always taken a back seat to her own notoriety – appearing in something as big as a Bond film would have been just the ticket to snatch back some of that balance.

8. Sharon Tate

Again we have the tragedy factor, Tate being cut down before she had the chance to turn into a full blown star, and I get the sense that she could have played the role of a mistress/slave or flighty fun lover who Bond runs into very well.

9. Cher

A choice many will balk at I’m sure, but Cher was hot in her younger days. She tested the movie waters in the late sixties and while she was still inexperienced could have had a duel role in a Bond movie by providing the song and having a minor role, possibly as a club singer. With secrets. Sexy secrets.

10. Raquel Welch

A choice others have probably mentioned before, and another sex symbol whose movies never quote lived up to her name. Welch could have been a strong Caroline Munro type villainess, entrapping Bond and trying to slice him up before accidentally catching a bullet.

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1970s:

  1. Nora Miao

Bruce Lee’s main go to for beauty and dignity, Miao picked up some athletic skills in her time with Golden Harvest, skills which could have been put to good use in another 70s Roger Moore romp with ninjas, deadly kung fu warriors, and even deadlier boobs.

2. Barbara Hershey

While we’re on the subject of deadly boobs, Barbara Hershey was popular in the 70s though it wasn’t until the next decade that her acting talents were accepted. A younger Hershey could have been great as a hippie under the influence of some cult leader/drug criminal baron who needed a good stabbing.

3. Julie Christie

Too high profile and too much of a critical darling to ever appear in something so lewd as a Bond movie, Christie nevertheless could have slotted in as a Stateswoman type, one of those characters Bond meets along the way but isn’t overly important to the plot. Christie likely would have wanted a bigger part though (and Bond would have obliged).

4. Adrienne Barbeau

While we’re on the subject of bigger parts, Adrienne Barbeau was, and still is a cult figure due to her 70s and 80s work and her performances in action and horror TV and cinema mean she would have been slotted in nicely to Bond’s world. I see her as a feisty type, possibly a CIA operative or a good old horse rustler in some Southern State – Bond horse chase scenes, we don’t have enough of those.

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5. Isabelle Hupert

Frequently mentioned as the finest actress working today, Hupert has been at it for years, stunning audiences in the 70s with her ability and charm. Bond usually ends up in France and other southern European regions and Hupert could have made for solid company cruising around the narrow streets in a convertible.

6. Debbie Harry

The pop punk icon was more known for her acting jobs in the following decade, but Bond could have got his hands on her first – lets stick her in the baddie camp as some sort of sexy bodyguard or administrative executive.

7. Carrie Fisher

Moonraker capitalized on Star Wars – why not go one further and have Bond seduce the finest Princess in the Galaxy? Fisher was always versatile, but I think her natural snarky way would have made her an entertaining comic and dramatic foil for Moore, trading barbs, fists, and eventually bodily fluids.

8. Isabelle Adjani

Everyone’s go to gal for a bit of foreign fluff in the 1970s, Adjani would become a two time Oscar nominated actress so her acting chops are up to scratch – most of you reading this are likely more interested in scratching her ass chops but since I have no idea what you’re talking about lets call her out as another baddie.

9. Barbara Magnolfi

While we’re on the subject of baddies, Magnolfi had that wicked vixen look in the 70s where you weren’t sure if she was a woman or a witch. Moore was all about the wacky times, so lets have Magnolfi as some dark arts purveyor, casting hexes and causing prominent politicians and businessmen to lose their minds, lives, and underwear.

10. Edwige Fenech

While we’re on the subject of witches, Fenech was popular in many Italian giallo movies of the time as well as many sex comedies. Appearing in a Bond film then probably wouldn’t have been much of a stretch for her and she could have had a minor role as someone who invites Bond into a dodgy situation only to turn the tables on him and see him captured, by the good guys or the baddies.

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1980s:

  1. Linda Hamilton

The original badass, Linda Hamilton never got the credit she deserved. Sure she was in the massive Terminator movies but appearing the Bond franchise could have given her an added boost. I’ll always see her as a motherly type, so why not have Bond assigned to help her protect her child, not necessarily from a robot from the future, but from a globe-trotting terrorist ex husband or some such nonsense.

2. Susanna Hoffs

Was there anyone hotter than The Hoffs in the 80s? Is there anyone hotter now? The answer to both questions is ‘No’, and Bond most certainly would not have said ‘No’ to her had she said ‘My my, double oh seven, would you mind helping me to unclasp my bra, my bosoms need fresh air’. It’s how people spoke in the 80s. It was the breast of times.

3. Nancy Loomis

Ah Nancy, with your smokey looks, sarcastic ways, and failure to star in enough good movies. She mostly retired from acting in the 80s, but one final hurrah in a Bond movie would have brought her to an even bigger audience – I see her as a wise-ass military type, chewing gum and showing Bond her guns. Guns to buy, borrow, use to kill baddies of course, not her other guns you dirty minded dirtbag. Oh yeah, she’s show her tits too.

4. Sharon Stone

While we’re on the subject of showing tits, Sharon Stone was just making a name for herself in this decade in various action movies and sequels. A Bond movie would have propelled her quicker, and even in this period she had the look of a femme fatale and leading lady, able to hold her own with Moore or Dalton. I see her as a gangster’s mol, someone with a shady present and shadier past, but those secrets might just be the key to Bond completing his mission.

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5. Melinda Culea

I watched a lot of TV in the 80s, so that explains my next couple of picks. I have a soft (hard) spot for actresses who appear in shows I love but who rarely go beyond. Melinda was Amy in The A-Team so would have been used to a bunch of guys, guns, and exploding things. Bond would have exploded all over her face had she appeared in a movie with him.

6. Patricia McPherson

This time it’s Bonnie from Knight Rider – both franchises could have capitalized by having her appear in a Bond movie so why not have a silly almost crossover role where she helps Q in designing some new supercar for Bond to tear about in.

7. Heather Langenkamp

I’ve always felt that Langenkamp should have been an A-lister, an unconventional beauty with a wide acting talent but for whatever reason it never happened. Appearing while she was still relatively young in the 80s meant she could have appeared in a Bond movie as a trainee agent, possibly in the cold open, suffering a mishap at the hands of a bad guy or aiding Bond in his quest for daily orgasms.

8. Jenny Agutter

We’ve had a lot of American performers on the list, but not too many Brits. I can’t honestly think of too many British stars in the 80s who were both beautiful and talented – Jenny Agutter fits the bill and had already appeared in numerous notable worldwide hits. As I type I think she would actually have made a good fit as a wife of one of Bond’s co-workers – we know Felix already got/gets married so why not have her married to another agent, perhaps one who gets killed or goes rogue – Bond doesn’t always have to do a sex on all of the women.

9. Sandahl Bergman

Continuing the loose theme of 80s badasses rather than obvious looks, Bergman is a beast, as shown in her various sword ‘n’ sorcery outings, and a damn good actress too – but again never made enough high profile films to get recognition. An accomplished dancer and stuntwoman, she could have played a good guy or a bad guy, and dancers usually appear in every Bond movies. How about a dancer who is also an assassin?

10. Beatrice Dalle

While we’re on the subject of beasts, Beatrice Dalle in Betty Blue and Inside fits the bill. We’ve got to have her as a vamp, an early prototype for Xenia Onotopp, and would have done well in the darker Dalton movies – I see some energetic sex and fight scenes between them.

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1990s:

  1. Neve Campbell

My wife in another life, I would cast Neve in anything if I was a filmmaker. Her name was hot in the 90s, so a starring role in a Bond movie wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary. Those eyes, full of sympathy and tragedy, would have been perfect for the central love interest of the film but her strength and willingness to push herself means she would have been a more action oriented 90s Bond girl.

2. Kari Wuhrer

Some may say we’re descending now to Denise Richards levels of acting and, you know, I’ve never had a problem with her as an actress. Sure she wasn’t great in The World Is Not Enough but that was more down to the part being given to her (matron). Kari Wuhrer plied her trade mostly in soft core porn thrillers, but more significantly in the action and sci-fi oriented Sliders. She could play the buxom mistress or the riot grrrl soldier, and her looks will entice many a viewer.

3. Nicole Eggert

I had to get someone from Baywatch, with Pammy being the obvious choice. I go for Nicole though, I preferred Summer to CJ and Pamela’s assets would have become too much of a hammy focus. Nicole was gorgeous in the nineties and I have no doubt could have made for a watchable lead Bond girl.

4. Sarah Michelle Gellar

It’s Buffy herself (is there a Buffy/James Bond crossover fan fiction? Get on that, weirdos). Gellar rarely gets the credit for her acting chops but in BVTS and Cruel Intentions in particular she shows a high caliber. It’s difficult for me to envision where she would actually fit in a Bond movie, pretty much because I always see her as Buffy, but at her commercial peak it would been interesting to see her as a strong women in a world of cold-hearted killers.

5. Winona Ryder

Maybe my most consistent favourite actress ever – she’s always been there in some shape or form through my life and pops up in many of my favourite films. Why not have her in one of my favourite franchises too? I see her as a more flirtatious Moneypenny type figure, and would like to have seen her in multiple films – something I’ve always said the series sorely lacks. She could work with Bond or M or Q or somebody and return in a handful of movies in a short series of scenes and I’d be happy.

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6. Sandra Bullock

The go to girl next door actress for action movies before she became the deserving Oscar bait she is now, it seems odd that Bullock never made it into a Bond movie. Sure she basically had action covered in Speed and Demolition Man, but lets not ruin a good thing – Bond hasn’t had a bumbling, innocent, all action, all American girl for a while.

7. Fairuza Balk

Where did Fairuza go? Always on the verge of greatness, or at least cult stardom, Fairuza appears to be the antithesis of the Bond girl. Balk has never been less than awesome in anything I’ve seen her in but in recent years has appeared mainly in Indie movies or has focused on artwork instead of acting. Her apparent attraction to darker roles means she could have crafted a villain of true depth and danger, a character who would stand out among femme fatales and henchmen.

8. Claire Forlani

The British born Forlani has played a wide range of characters from different cultural backgrounds, with experience in drama, action, comedy, romance and more. Although she has appeared in some high profile films and shows, she isn’t a household name, but as she was on the rise in the 90s her eye-catching beauty and acting experience mean she could have fit any mould of Bond girl.

9. Stacey Dash

Stacey Dash…. yeah, I think she could have made an entertaining bimbo character – one of those single scene Bond girls. I’m sure she could have been much more of course, but that’s the role that leaps out at me when I think of her.

10. Salma Hayek

She knows her way around a gun, a fight scene, a reel of difficult dialogue, and your eye is naturally drawn to her when she makes an appearance. I don’t think the whole Latino or South American thing has been explored too much and Hayek have made for a captivating local with ties to the bad guys or some sort of underground resistance which Bond gets involved in.

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2000s:

  1. Jennifer Love Hewitt

Another Party Of Five alumni, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s fame continued into the 2000s with a string of successful comedies, but outside of a Jackie Chan escapade and some minor efforts she never gut her teeth on big budget action or drama. Out of all the teen dramas which were born out of the late 90s, Hewitt is surely the hottest actress among them, and if there’s one thing Bond is attracted to like Blofeld is attracted to pussy, it’s hotness. Brosnan or Craig could have had some smouldering chemistry with her.

2. Kou Shibasaki

One of the many shining lights of Battle Royale, Shibasaki was all set for Western stardom after being hand-picked by Tarantino for Kill Bill. As fate would have it, she had to pull out and another BR co-star took her place. Since then she has made a tonne of movies and shows all over the world, but a Bond movie would have catapulted her into stardom. It would be easy to see her have a similar role in a Bond movie as she had in BR, but I’m sure she could have just as easily played the main love interest.

3. Emily Procter

Procter came to attention in 2000 for her superb fast-talking turn in The West Wing before moving on to one of those CSI shows I’ve never watched – presumably there is more talking in those, as well as action. Owner of arguably the best accent/voice combo you’ll ever hear, Procter would have done well as either some stereotypical Southern gal bimbo or more appropriately a smooth talkin’, gun totin’ small town cop.

4. Gigi Edgley

With so many movies being filmed in Australia to save money, why not use some Australian actresses? Edgley is best known for her energetic, unique performance as Chiana in Farscape but has shown plenty of dramatic chops over the years. I think she could channel her inner demon and make for an interesting villain or good guy and with her dance background could get herself into some contorted shapes. Plus she would be the second Farscape actress to ‘Bond it up’.

5. Brooke Satchwell

Staying in Oz, I had to get a Neighbours actress in somewhere so why not our Brooke. She’s had plenty of TV appearances since leaving Ramsey Street, but no major movies. Why not have her starring alongside Gigi, possibly as yet another daughter figure who Bond has to save from her clothes?

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6. Thandie Newton

Classy, beautiful, smoking hot, and no stranger to spy escapades, Thandie has all the obvious qualities of a Bond girl and would be a formidable lead alongside Craig. I’m running out of things to say about each actress now without repeating myself, but out of all of the picks Newton seems one of the most obvious.

7. Clemence Poesy

Foreign, exotic, gorgeous, great actor. Apparently she’s in the Harry Potter movies but I haven’t seen those. I first saw her in Gunpowder, Treason, & Plot and she has since had quite a few hits in quite a few genres. One thing she should have on her bucket list though is flying around in a parachute with a secret agent while bad guys try to shoot them out of the sky.

8. Asia Argento

Dario’s hot daughter is a goddess among horror actresses and has a highly varied screen experience. Pop her in a Bond movie and she is sure to make an immediate impact, going toe to toe with any villain or spy.

9. Megan Fox

Poor Megan Fox gets a bad rap. Sure, I haven’t seen her in too many movies but she was excellent in Jennifer’s Body and she ticks all the boxes for nudey times. This seems like an obvious fit for me as any number of US archetypes for Bond to tangle with. In the nudey.

10. Rachel Miner

Poor Rachel Miner was set for stardom after a string of impressive performances in good movies. Since those early days she hasn’t had the major success she seemed destined for – an appearance in a Bond movie would surely have helped. No stranger to harrowing or difficult subject matter she has the range to tackle anything and the looks to keep jaws open.

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Future: Just a brief look at some people I think would be a good fit in future Bond outings.

  1. Juno Temple

Another Harry Potter person, is she? Temple is easily one of the best actresses of her generation with a series of stunning performances. Get her in there.

2. Scarlet Vas

Neighbours again, because why the hell not. I’ve only known she existed for a few weeks now, but look at her. Get her in.

3. Alexandra Daddario

Making waves with her assets, she has appeared in some high profile shows and films recently. Bond would raise her game.

4. Emilia Clarke

Dragons, cyborgs, weird guys in wheelchairs. All she needs now is Bond.

5. Kate Mara

Hot. Sultry. Great actor. No excuse.

6. Caitlin Stasey

Look, it’s Neighbours again. I know you’re all going to pick Eliza Taylor as your Oz person, but I go for Stasey. If you know anything about her then you’ll agree it would be super interesting to actually see her in something so male-oriented as a Bond film.

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7. Jennifer Lawrence

Hollywood’s favourite A-lister, they don’t usually show up in Bond films. Get her in, she’d be awesome.

8. Emma Roberts

Ticks all the boxes once more and could be a perfect new femme fatale for a new generation.

9. Lucy Fry

I didn’t intend to pick so many Australians, but there you go. Gorgeous, good actor, in.

10. Peyton List

Plenty of TV shows, no big movie yet. Sort that out – get her in.

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There are many many others I could have picked from each decade, particularly the 90s onwards – I wanted Milla Jovovich and Sherilyn Fenn and Freida Pinto and others on the list but either remembered them after I’d made my choices and couldn’t be arsed changing them, or felt they were too similar to others. Additionally, I’ve sickened myself with such a bloke’s post so anymore would be too much. If you’re pick isn’t here, chances are I’d already thought of them, but stick them in the comments anyway. Let me know you think would have made a great Bond girl, or still could in the future. Don’t just throw names out there, give us a reason beyond ‘they’re hot’ or what sort of character they should be.

Don’t forget to check out all of the other great James Bond Blogathon posts courtesy of Maddylovesherclassicfilms – they will be running all weekend so should be plenty of things to read for Bond fans, and probably much better than my muck!

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Nightman’s Top 15 Albums Of The 1990s

Greetings, Glancers. Jeepers, it has been an incredibly long time since I posted one of these  – in fact, my Best Albums of 2000-2010 was one of the first non-movie review posts I ever stuck on this site. I think. Have a gander at that post if you’re looking for some fairly recent ear treats, but today we’re going retro. Which seems like a bizarre thing to say. Yes, the 90s are well and truly considered retro now and I think I only truly started to appreciate this when I watch all those Teens React To 90s Music, or Do Teens Know 90s music Youtube videos. I mean, I don’t feel that I look all that different or much older than the teens in those videos, but most of them weren’t even born in the 90s. Damn, in 1999 I was ringing in the new year by getting drunk in my hometown and waking up in some weird street in Belfast the following millennium. I think. Again, it’s apparently so long ago now that myth and memory are colliding and I can’t keep track of what’s what.

Anyway, what I do remember of the 90s is the music. I was actually a DJ in the 90s. And by DJ I mean I helped my dad when we was doing the music for school discos, putting on CDs and hitting play. It’s a weird thing to say – I’ve no idea why or how my dad was doing this given that he doesn’t really like music and only listens to Irish muck. The 90s were strange, you see. There were the last two great musical movements of any significance in grunge and Britpop. Sure a lot has happened since then, but not to the cultural extent of those two, and certainly not from a sheer quality standpoint. I was a grunge and metal and hard rock kid, as I’m sure you’ve heard me say before. I was too young to traditionally ‘get it’, but I had a lot of older friends, and older siblings of friends – people who were teens in ’94 while I was 10/11. Having said that, I was still getting exposed to a lot of pop, a lot of whatever was on the radio and in the charts – I mostly remember the early 90s for being the start of manufactured boy/girl bands and the increase in popularity of rave/dance music, both of which I despised.

As grunge faded, Britpop emerged. I wasn’t a huge fan of any of the main Britpop bands, but a lot of the British bands I did love were lumped into that category, or into indie because they happened to come out around the same time and were essentially alternative to whatever was popular either in pop or rock. All of this nattering means that my favourite albums of the 90s will feature a variety of genres but won’t include many of the albums which regularly top critical lists. In preparing for my list, I went looking through a bunch of those lists and knew that the same culprits would appear over and over – Dummy, OK Computer, Nevermind, Definitely Maybe, Automatic For The People, Loveless, Odelay. Some of those I like, some of those I don’t. Maybe some will even appear in my list. What I’m getting at is that this is my list – read it, comment, make your own,try not to complain that the usual suspects may not be there. These albums each have a special place in my life, tied up with specific memories. Outside of that, I do believe each is a firmly great album and would highly recommend to any true music fan. As before, I’m only choosing one album per artist – otherwise there would be 2-3 by certain bands; there’s going to be a lot of ‘I could have chosen this but instead I went for this’.

The ordering isn’t too important, it never is, but I suspect by number 1 will always be my number 1. If you’re interested in 90s music, or if you are new to it all, you could do a lot worse by starting out with these bad boys.

15. Dangerous

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Jackson entered his third decade of making music on top of the world. If you were alive in the early nineties then you knew all about the Dangerous Tour. You heard every single one of the singles from the album almost every single day. You sat up waiting to watch the world premiere of his new video. Does that happen anymore? Maybe it does, I’ve no idea, but certainly not to this extent. Families crowded around the TV waiting for Black Or White to come on like people wait for the Superbowl. For my list, it was a toss up between including this or HIStory. Both are albums I love, but both are flawed – neither are as good as Bad or Thriller, but then what is? Both albums have their share of fillers, but it’s the sheer strength of the singles and the hidden treats which ensure they have a spot on any Best Album Of The 90s discussion. Dangerous edges it with the better singles and for pure personal nostalgia value.

Black Or White, Heal The World, Give It To Me, Remember The Time are all flawless pop hits. The you also have Who Is It, Will You Be There, and In The Closet. All underrated pop classics. The rest of the album is a mixture of New Jack noise and genre twisting ballads of varying quality – if trimmed a little or if certain songs were switched out for something else this would surely be held in as high esteem as his earlier offerings but I love it regardless.

14. Californication

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I almost didn’t include this, mostly because I always think it came out in 2000. This felt like the dawning of a new are of music, not because the band had come out of their malaise with massive renewed commercial success, but because it felt like a moment in time – both immediate and new and futuristic. The band found their peak at mixing funk, rock, and pop with Californication, and the hits kept coming – the title track, Road Trippin, Otherside, Scar Tissue were all huge hits and when they weren’t being played on radio stations they were being covered by school bands, in bedrooms, and by buskers. Other songs such as Easily and Parallel Universe ensured the hits were not confined to singles while Purple Stain retained their trademark humour and original sound.

This is an album about transcending – sound, music, and mind, and it felt at the time like a new movement was coming. It didn’t, but it was exciting all the same. The album dropped just in time for summertime, at a time when exams, parties, illegal entry into pubs and clubs and getting on top were high on the agenda of me and everyone I knew, and this felt like a unified blast of sunlight in our dreary surroundings and a statement about hope and potential and love which brought us all together – it was such a hit that the sensation carried through to the following summer. The band would unfortunately copy this template for their next releases with diminishing returns.

13. Ray Of Light

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One year before Californication, another 80s icon proved she still had it. In fact, she proved she was more relevant than ever, reinventing herself in the best way possible and unleashing her best work. Madonna’s Ray Of Light was a winter release and one which grew as the year progressed and it was another album which felt like everyone could enjoy it. I almost managed to have friends, or at least not enemies, in every school group – sports people, smart people, nerds, stoners, whatever, and pretty much everyone appreciated this one. Like essentially every album on my list it has a bunch of smash singles or hits and an equal number of strong album tracks – Frozen, The Power Of Goodbye, Skin, Drowned World, Sky Fits Heaven, are among Madonna’s finest songs. Ironically like some other entries here this can be seen as their last great work, but great is the operative word here.

12. Unreleased Susanna Hoffs Album

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Ah ha! You didn’t see this one coming, did ya? Hoffs released her debut in 1991, but as a whole it’s naff. She released a better follow up in 1996, but still it had problems with consistency. In between these though, she recorded a second album with some of the songs appearing on the 1996 release, albeit in slightly different forms. While the debut was a miscalculated, dated mess, the unreleased one showcases Hoffs’ talents – her songwriting, vocals, guitar playing, and mostly her ear for melody. It moves from mellow to doom laden to shimmering pop to energetic rock, but it is held together by an overall sense of, if not death, then fading away. I’ve felt this for such a long time that I actually have an outline for a story based or inspired by the album – the names of each song essentially write the story for you. If this had become a concept album I wouldn’t have been surprised – Catch The Wind, Without You, Go, Sleep, Ghost, Turning Over – the second half of the album in particular evoking that sense of departure and loss. Every song is terrific and it’s a shame that so many will never get to hear it. Even the reworked songs for what became her 1996 album will go unheard by most – do yourself a favour and find both albums now for the sheer majesty of songs like Darling One, Sunshine, and Right By You. 

11. Grace – Jeff Buckley

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Well, you probably saw this coming. I came to the Jeff Buckley party later than most. Plenty of friends had and played me Grace and his live offerings in the late 90s but it wasn’t until probably 2003 roughly that I bought it myself. There was no looking back. Every positive thing you’ve heard about the album is true, from Jeff’s lyrics and voice to the cauldron of genres he blasts through, often in a single song. There is melancholy, there is anger, there are heavenly odes, but mostly there is grace.

10. The Black Album – Metallica

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Spoiler alert – there won’t be a lot of metal on this list. Many people in the know will agree that the 90s wasn’t the best decade for metal, at least from a commercial standpoint. Most of the big bands from the previous decade fell on hard times. A lot of idiots will blame grunge for this but the fact is that Grunge simply raised the bar for heavy music – forcing it to become more intelligent, raw, and visceral. Gone were the stadium pleasing anthems and performances, gone was the cheese. Gone was the need for a Rock God and a twiddly solo. However, a lot of new acts were coming out of the woodwork, particularly in Europe and the best of the rest learned to adapt quickly. Pantera, Megadeth, Emperor, Sepultura and others brought out their best work in the early to middle of the decade, and every one of them was in some way influenced by the changing musical landscape. Metallica’s Black Album is the pinnacle of these, throwing them into the limelight like no other metal band had been before.

The Black Album saw the band streamlining themselves after their opus And Justice For All. The complexity was replaced with hard-edged hits yet none of the ferocity was lost. The production was noticeably better, and the songs noticeably more radio-friendly. If the band lost fans with their previous album due to accusations of selling out, they lost a lot more with this one. Their reply was to sell over thirty million copies of this, not bad as middle fingers go. With singles such as the eternal Enter Sandman, the plaintive Nothing Else Matters, and hidden delights like My Friend Of Misery it’s the perfect album for introducing people to metal. The riffs are still there, the anger, the melody, but it’s a much smarter album with the lyrics tortured and poetic instead of a series of attempts to rhyme ‘death’, ‘war’, and ‘blood’.

9. Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

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I’ve harped on about this album in other posts plenty of times, but it all holds true; it’s as fine a slice of the 90s musical landscape as any – hits like Ironic and One Hand In My Pocket as timeless as another US rock song as far back as Born In The USA or Jailhouse Rock. More than anything this album reminds me of early Secondary School days – not school itself of course, but the friends and the fun times we had. It was one of the first albums which felt ‘ours’ as a collective whole – this was my generation and the songs spoke to our experiences and feelings, even if (again) I was a few years younger than those it was truly for. There was a bit of grunge, a bit of the riot gurl, a bit of optimism, and a shot of realism. Where other artists sought to emulate Alanis, or Nirvana, or whoever, Jagged Little Pill was a pinnacle which few have equaled since in terms of sheer quality and cultural impact.

8. Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos

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Long before Jagged Little Pill, Tori Amos came out swinging with a collection of songs which seemed a world away from the distortion and rage spewing out of Seattle. Little Earthquakes is equally as earth-shattering, but coming from a place of pianos, high-heels, and OMG vaginas. It’s a near perfect album (it does feature Happy Phantom which is just silly and Mother which is too long) with songs like Crucify, Winter, and Precious Things as deserving of the praise and airplay it didn’t receive as a thousand songs from the era which did. The aforementioned, bracketed songs? Switch those out for Sugar and her Smells Like Teen Spirit – then you have a perfect album. Tori would never be as consistent and restrained again.

7. Dirt – Alice In Chains

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We finally land on some authentic grunge, with the appropriately named Dirt. Alice In Chains were always closer to the metal side of things, while Nirvana were decidedly punk (Pearl Jam were blues or traditional US rock and Soundgarden did whatever they pleased in case you were wondering). Dirt is both soulful and ugly, a stripping back of the American, human psyche, and set to a swirling storm of shrieks, distortion, and riffs. Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley are one of the most underrated songwriting duets of all time and on Dirt both are at their peak, not to mention Mike Starr and Sean Kinney. We have some of the finest examples of grunge hits in Would?, Angry Chair, and Down In A Hole, along with the introspective Rain When I Die, epic Rooster, and the opening bombast of Them Bones and Dam That River. Staley’s voice wavers between anguish and ecstasy, the riffs offer sludge, speed, and the lyrics are dark and cynical looks at drug use, the impact of war on families and the individual, religion, life and death, and much more – dirt has never been so appealing and easy to wallow in.

6. UYI 1 and II – G’n’R

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If an unreleased album was a cheat inclusion, then I’ll go the extra mile and include two albums in one. Come on – they’re basically one long album and ask most people to name a song from one and they won’t remember which album is which. Not super fans like me of course. There’s the eternal argument that had the band trimmed away the rough stuff from each album then they could have had a single album with the best from both. While that’s true, you’d also end up cutting some greats. And seriously, while both albums are massive and have a few middling songs, the only thing that should be cut is My World. I think a single album would have ended up too bloated – you’d need November Rain, Estranged, Coma, Civil War – all songs over six minutes long, and then you’d need (one version of) Don’t Cry, You Could Be Mine, Back Off Bitch, Get In The Ring and you’re at around 50 minutes long already, and that’s before you add in Knockin On Heaven’s Door and Live And Let Die. There is already a US only release single album, but it adds in some odd choices which most fans would consider the filler. There’s no point arguing about it – these are two albums which act as two parts of the same whole.

These albums have probably been played by me more than 95% of anything else I’ve owned or heard – I had them at release, or near enough, and I listen to elements of them every week. I remember sitting up to watch the UYI tours on TV, trying to play every song when I got my first guitar, and ever since, and hiding My World on any mixtapes I made for friends. There are few albums I know as inside out as these ones, as anyone who has seen me requesting, then air-guitaring and singing along to Breakdown in The Venue can attest to (pro-tip – The Venue was Northern Ireland’s premier (only) rock and metal club for years and where I spent most Saturday nights from 17 onwards).

5. Hey Stoopid – Alice Cooper

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We’re at that point where the ordering doesn’t really matter anymore. Hey Stoopid I got around the same time as UYI and it subsequently became one of, if not my most favourite Alice Cooper albums. Most of the cheese of the 80s has been abandoned, meaning all that is left is pure unfiltered Alice Cooper goodness, albeit with a new, more metal edge. While Alice appeared on G’n’R’s album, Slash appears on this one along with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Vinnie Moore; it’s a guitar fan’s dream. Ozzy, Nikki Sixx, and Elvira among others also pop up. Ignoring the guest stars we have one of Alice’s biggest hits in Feed My Frankenstein but the genius is in songs like Burning Our Bed, Dangerous Tonight, Die For You, and one of the greatest songs ever in Wind Up Toy. Ballads, blistering rock, Cooper’s madness, ideas, and brilliant lyrics all flow together meaning that even the slight dud Dirty Dreams doesn’t harm the whole. This one needs to be heard by many more people, including the metal and rock fans who should already be familiar with it but likely are not.

4. How To Measure A Planet?

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It could have been Mandylion, but I feel this is still their best. Another album you’re not likely to see on any other critic’s list, yet one which is more deserving of a place than most, How To Measure A Planet? was The Gathering’s first shift away from metal into parts unknown. If there is any album on my list which needs more exposure, it is this one. It’s an epic double album covering space and time and features should-be-classics in Travel, Marooned, Frail, Rescue Me, Great Ocean Road. If you like rock, dance, shoe-gaze, trip-hop, prog, pop, guitars, soundscapes, angelic vocals, ethereal melodies, then you will undoubtedly love this album.

3. In Utero

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It was this or Nevermind. In fact, it was this or Incesticide. Nevermind gets all the credit and acclaim, while Incesticide most reminds me of that time, but In Utero is the best Nirvana album. The best way to follow up the album which defined a generation is to break it all down again in the most brutal, anti-commercial way you can. If Nevermind was an unexpected hit, then this is even moreso – songs with titles and content like Rape Me, Radio-Friendly Unit Shifter, Tourette’s, Heart Shaped Box, Very Ape are not the stuff of radio. And yet they are. They should be. We should listen to music not because it’s popular, or easily packaged, or nice, or sounds like everything else. We should listen to it for our own reasons, to be moved, to be destroyed, to be challenged, to be inspired. In Utero will inspire, move, challenge, and destroy you, Cobain’s lyrics childlike, incisive, insightful, angst-ridden, world-weary, obsessed with the body, corruption, failure, success, and every note he hits powerfully delivered with maximum feeling. Grohl and Novoselic as always are in perfect tune reminding us that the band were the finest cohesive unit since Led Zeppelin, even as Kurt increasingly abandoned structure and played with form. The best grunge album ever isn’t even grunge, but an unholy descent into hell.

2. The Bends

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It’s this or OK Computer. I’d happily argue that Pablo Honey deserves a spot on any 90s list too – that album is highly underrated purely by the fact that the other two came next. But Pablo Honey is to The Bends as Help is to Revolver. While I appreciate what OK Computer was and is and does, The Bends has always been my personal favourite. It tugs at the emotions more, it has more variety, it isn’t so calculated, and it’s obviously the more emotional of the two. You don’t even need me to list the hits do you? Fine – Street Spirit, Just, My Iron Lung, High And Dry, Fake Plastic Trees. Any album which contains a song as good as any of those songs is alright by me, but to have them all and also feature the title track, Nice Dream, Bullet Proof, and my own favourite Black Star means you have an album for the ages and one deserving of being mentioned as one of the best ever. The strange this about it is, I don’t have any specific memories associating the album to the time and to me. It feels like it’s always been there. In fact, it wasn’t until much later that I found people who appreciated the band but by that point Kid A and Amnesiac were being released. If you think Radiohead are overrated, you’re doing it wrong. Doing what? Existing.

Before we get to Number One, lets look at some who could have made it on:

Talk On Corners – The Corrs

Ten- Pearl Jam

Superunknown – Soundgarden

Fear Of A Black Planet – Public Enemy

Suede – Suede

Dummy – Portishead

Rust In Peace – Megadeth

Imaginations From The Other Side – Blind Guardian

Showbiz – Muse

Still Life – Opeth

Oceanborn – Nightwish

Drum rolls please – my number one pick for the Best Album of the 90s is:

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  1. The Holy Bible – Manic Street Preachers

My number 1 spot was always going to be my number 1 spot. Sure you can pick Everything Must Go as a better album, certainly a more palatable option and maybe one more symbolic of the decade, but The Holy Bible is THE ONE. I made some Beatles comparisons above, but what the hell do you compare this to? Sure there were dark albums before and there have been since – the 90s were full of them, but none of them come close to this. This is pain not commercialized, romanticized, or glorified. It’s like unnecessary eye surgery. It’s darker than any metal album, and unquestionably more authentic in its horror. While the 90s were known for certain artists paving new ways with sampling The Holy Bible offered the following soundbite samples:

‘I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit, and then force it too look in the mirror’

‘I knew that someday I was gonna die. And I knew before I died Two things would happen to me – That number one I would regret my entire life. And number two I would want to live my life over again’

‘I wonder who you think you are. You damn well think you’re God or something. God give life, God taketh it away, not you. I think you are the devil itself’ (Mother of one of the victims of Peter Sutcliffe).

‘I eat too much to die and not enough to stay alive. I’m sitting in the middle waiting’ (quote from a documentary about a girl’s struggle with anorexia. She died a few months later).

‘I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt’.

‘The court has come. The court of the Nations. And into the courtroom will come the martyrs of Majdanek and Oswiecim. From the ditch of Kerch the dead will rise. They will arise from the graves, they will arise from flames bringing with them the acrid smoke and the deathly odour of scorched and martyred Europe. And the children, they too will come, stern and merciless. The butchers had no pity on them; now the victims will judge the butchers. Today the tear of the child is the judge. The grief of the mother is the prosecutor’ (transcript from the Nuremberg Trials).

Lets not forget the artwork and the liner note quotations. There has rarely, if ever, been a more assured statement of art in music – the band honing their past experiments with design and quotes to a sharpened bullet tip. That’s all well and good, but in the end it is the band themselves who stand out, draped in military garb and spouting rage and vitriol and anyone and everything – this is the Holy Bible for the twentieth century – a catalogue of atrocities counted off with some of the most gut churning vocals, ferocious guitar, ungodly noise, and potent lyrics you’ll ever experience. The Holocaust, self-hate, Imperialism, anorexia (Richey, the band’s lost guitarist and lyricist was 6 stone at the time of recording), murder on an individual and massive scale, religion, banks, politicians, exploitation – the band uncover every ugly truth of the modern man and let us know precisely who’s responsible.

It is possible to separate the songs from the intent and the peripherals. Listening to songs such as Faster, PCP, This Is Yesterday and others – each a perfect song in its own right, whether it be an end of the century/world punk anthem or a mournful ballad to an idealized and lost youth. It is possible, but not easy. You can come as a virgin to the songs, but you’ll inevitably ask what the lyrics are, or what the song is about. You’ll ask why there is such a creepy, soul-darkening drone and wonder what they hell they are so angry about. You’ll get sucked in, sucked down. The opening bass riff to Archives Of Pain will haunt you for ever more. The death shrieks at the end of Mausoleum will set you on edge as if you are being stalked, while the entirety of The Intense Humming Of Evil may very well disturb you to the point of no return. And yet you’ll want to play it again, because the songs are so good, the melodies so incisive and brutal. You’ll find youself screaming along to songs with titles like Of Walking Abortion and yelling out the names of serial killers and dictators in Revol. It’s still a rock album – solos, riffs, headbanging, yells are all checked in, but it’s rock on another level – the sound of the world setting itself alight and both celebrating and screaming in agony with equal measure.

There you have it – my favourite albums of the 1990s. Rather than waiting around to hear what my favourie albums of the 2090s will be, why not share your own thoughts and albums in the comments below. I’ll get around to the 80s and 70s eventually, don’t worry.

My Favourite 48 Natalie Imbruglia songs

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For my money, Natalie Imbruglia is the best female pop artist since the mid nineties. As Glancers will know by now, for me emotion and honesty are more important than originality or fitting in with the current musical scene. Imbruglia fits these personal criteria as well as having a superb, appealing, harmonious voice and being an all round great human and bad-ass. I was a fan from day one. Scratch that, I was a fan from her Neighbours days, long before she hit the charts with her multi-million selling debut. Most people know her for the smash hit Torn and… that’s about it. As great as that song is, it only hints at her talent – the real deal would come out in White Lilies Island her second record which I have called (and continue to call) one of the best albums of all time. It genuinely is – do yourself a favour and get it now – melancholy, brutal, euphoric pop at its finest. A bunch of complete morons gave it, seriously, gave it bad reviews. Jesus wept.

Since then her general popularity has waned, no doubt due in part to a less than frequent series of releases. Five albums (including one entirely of covers) in twenty years isn’t great, but the general quality of those more than makes up for those missing years. Sort of. She has also recorded a large number of B-Sides and rarities, the best of which would make at least one more superb album. From the indie Brit-pop rock of Left Of The Middle, the majesty of White Lilies Island, the mature pop of Counting Down The Days, and even the much maligned Come To Life and covers album Male, Imbruglia has carver her own path and deserves a hell of a lot more exposure and critical acclaim than she has received thus far. I’m giving links to Youtube for each song, where there is a single I’ll give the official video link and the album track as there are usually differences. Here is a rough list of my favourite Imbruglia songs. Listen and love!

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48. Only Love Can Break Your Heart

We kick off our list with a cover from Male. This droopy-bass heavy is a slow effort with not a lot of exterior instrumentation which suits the downbeat grunge feeling of Neil Young’s original. I will say this – Male is not an album I am super familiar with yet and while a number of songs immediately leaped out at me others did not have the same impact. Songs like this one which I enjoy now may drop out of the list if I was to write it in a year’s time and likewise others which have not been included here could appear. Today is today though, and this is how I feel. I also feel warm, because I’m writing this on a train filled with sweaty types.

47. Goodbye In His Eyes

If you’re a regular glancer on my blog you’ll probably know I’m not much of a country fan. Country music is an inherent US product, yet also oddly a Northern Irish one. Country music is everywhere in my home crust Earth and I’m biased in that I associate the whole stinking genre with either idiots, scumbags, people who don’t really care about music, or people who refuse to listen to any other type of music. Massive stereotyping ahoy! I do like this as it doesn’t contain the usual whining guitar or vocals which is prevalent in the genre. I haven’t heard the original at the time of writing, but I’ll get to it.

46. Identify

Natalie Imbruglia. Patricia Arquette. Billy Corgan. Blood. This cut from the movie Stigmata is one I liked a lot more around the time that movie came out. I think it’s a movie and a song I thought I liked more than I actually ever did – both are things I wanted to like more but they’re just okay. The song is better than the film; it’s smokey and mysterious and dreamy, almost like a lost Portishead song. It’s a song that doesn’t really sound like anything else Imbruglia has ever done, aside from one song which will appear later on my list. The various contributors to the song are each masters at their craft and ensure it is a ghostly partner to the film it fits. I do love the line ‘am I lonely or am I just alive?’

45. My God

The opening song to Come To Life – Imbruglia’s first album in x years had a lot to live up to for me. It sort of sets the tone of the album in that there isn’t really a tone. Come To Life’s main problem is that it feels like a collection of leftovers or experiments – main problem is that it feels like a collection of leftovers or experiments – My God a pulsating, thronging pop punk thing with strange noises and spirited vocals. It works, but it doesn’t work as well as it could and doesn’t compare favourably with her opening tracks. Still, I include it here because it is an interesting effort.

44. Lukas

The second track from Come To Life goes off in a tonally and totally different direction from the first – this one clearly a Coldplay song with their usual mixture of simpering mistakes and pseudo-Radiohead bating. Imbruglia adds a smooth layer of quality, slicing out any pretension and leaving a light, jolly song which is better than I thought it would be.

43. Stuck On The Moon

The first of the new tracks recorded for Imbruglia’s greatest hits album Glorious to appear on my list, Stuck On The Moon has lovely, poetic flourishes in the lyrics and a fine juxtaposition between the cascading piano and clattering drums. It would have been sad to end her musical career at this point as this song proves she was as capable of crafting a simple yet catchy pop song as anyone.

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42. Wishing I Was There

I’ll let you in on a secret; I’m not a huge fan of Imbruglia’s first album. I like it, obviously, but it doesn’t compare with her second and third, and as such there won’t be many songs from it on my list. This is probably the best example of her twisting the indie sound of the era to her own means. It’s a little bit Morrissette, and a little bit Brit-Pop, but fluid, fun, and the chorus –like many on the album, is designed to be ear sherbet. When you get to the end of the list you’ll see which songs from her debut were left off in favour of this one – I simply find this one more fun.

41. City

As above, this one merges independent the rawk girl sound which emerged in the 90s with Imbruglia’s own captivating presence and uniquely sweet vocals. This song feels a little more progressive or different from the more obvious hits on her debut, it still has its heavy indie moments but is infused with jazz and mystery and the sombre undertones which would characterize her next album.

40. Just Another Day

Out of all her B-Sides ad rarities, this one feels most Brit-pop, going as far as reminding me of Robbie Williams back when he was starting his solo career by stealing from Oasis. This was actually a B-Side to That Day so that particular era was long turned over to dust by the time it was released. I’m convinced this was written earlier though and that sound was retained, even if a few touches of instrumental colour were added near the end of the song to expand its sound. All that being said, it’s a bowl full of sunshine, whatever that means.

39. My Own Movie

What I loved about discovering all of the B-Sides and rarities is the variety. Yes, they all still fall into the rock/pop/girl and guitars category, but the songwriting and general styles vary and there seems to be more freedom or less restrictions on what the song needs to be. This one seems to start like a downbeat ballad before the booming chorus floats those notions away. I love the chorus harmonies/filler vocal bits, the jangling guitars, and the strangeness which is allowed to lurk in the melody.

38. Sanctuary

This is arguably the happiest, most obviously joyful song Imbruglia has recorded and I defy anyone who listens to it to not smile throughout. Lyrically, I’m not really sure what’s going on – suggestions of stress and speed and crap with Imbruglia offering herself as an anchor in the storm. The verses are fine, but the chorus is pure grinning heroine. Harmonies, guitars, strings, melodies, happiness!

37. Pigeons And Crumbs

The first expansive song on her debut and another which hints that she was already demanding to break out of the overall sound of that album. The verse vocals are sung in little girl lost style which somehow doesn’t annoy, rather it incredibly adds to the song. Imbruglia may be the only singer who sings in a prominent accent which never irritates me. This is still a simple verse, chorus, verse album track, but it evokes a more epic scope thanks to some angelic production and layering.

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36. I Will Follow You Into The Dark

I’ll admit again here and now to not having heard the original, knowingly at least. I checked and saw it was by Death Cab For Cutie – a band I don’t know much about but remember laughing at their name when I first heard it. I still don’t know much about them but I admit I lumped them in with a bunch of other pop rock for children American acts which have been charting in recent years. The strength of this cover makes me want to listen to the original and see if the band has any good stuff. I imagine anyone who can write the line ‘Lover mine, some day you will die, I’ll be close behind, I’ll Follow You Into The Dark’ must be a decent writer because, God, that line really gets me every time. Imbruglia’s delivery along with the music and melody seal the deal, and I’ll admit to being tearful when I first listened.

35. Left Of The Middle

The title track closes the debut, the softest, quietest song on the album but one rich with feeling as Imbruglia yearns for the lover she is yet to find. It’s a great vocal performance, gentle in the verses, stretching to breaking point with each renewed chorus. It’s a very simple song but she again proves you don’t need to have complex structures to get a wealth of emotion and quality across.

34. Apologise

A song recorded for Come To Life and written with the singer from British band Ben’s Brother. That band decided to release their version first so Natalie kept her one as a rarity. Again, I haven’t heard Ben’s Brother’s version but this one is great – love the build up to the chorus and the chorus has a fantastic hook. Come To Life is a short album and there’s definitely room for this one to be included. Again the vocals find and highlight the emotion of the lyrics beautifully and the closing chorus where she half-shouts, half-sings is glorious.

33. Only You

This one opens with some dark, ambient, warbling electronic sound – like ears filling with water. The vocals come in cleanly and plainly, work through a double pre-chours thing before giving way to gentle guitars and a lovely chorus. The song basically repeats everything above but with greater power in those repetitions. It’s all lovely.

32. Fun

You probably know, or can guess I’m not a Coldpay fan, mainly because they’re shite. I didn’t mind their first album but everything since has been pale and bland and painful attempts at cloning Bends-era Radiohead. Normally I wouldn’t mind such things, but it’s so blatant and so clearly missing the point that it’s laughable. But people like them, so fine. Credit where it’s due though, this is a fine song but you can instantly tell it’s Coldplay thanks to that piano and beat and rhythm which appear in several of their biggest singles. Imbruglia does her best to make it her own and I much prefer her vocals to how I imagine Chris Martin would yawn his way through it.

31. Goodbye

Much of White Lilies Island is sombre and soaked in melancholy, though generally the music covers the angst of the lyrics. Not so with Goodbye – lyrically and musically it is inward looking and despair fuelled, the despair of love voided. We’ve all been there, whether concerning love or loss, the well-meaning comments which suffocate and further distance us, the anger crushed by sadness, and the utter confusion. The lyrics are mumbled semi-coherant thoughts, the verses droned into the bottom of a glass, and the chorus the shattering of said glass against a wall.

30. Perfectly

‘When I say it doesn’t matter, it matters most of all’. We’ve all seen those silly women cliché posts on social media or in decorative shops – ‘Things a woman says and what she really means’. That opening line always reminds me of such things, but not in a negative way. You can guess then that we have more contradictions in the lyrics, but musically this features the summery guitar driven pop which is a central feature of Counting Down The Days. The melodies and chorus don’t grab or reach as much as others on the list, but the overall warmth of the song ensures you come back for more.

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29. That Girl

That Girl always reminds me of a Motown track, the jangled guitars, the beat, the horns in the introduction – it all has the vibe of a Supremes song. The lyrics seem to speak of the multiple personalities we adopt to cope with the many facets of life forced upon us or which we have to cope with – one face for romance, a face for fans, one for friends, family, the smiles and acts which we hone over time for a variety of reasons until one day we see ourselves performing these perversions but fail to recognise the actions as our own. It’s a classy song with lovely harmonies and a great chorus to boot.

28. Always Never

Speaking of contradictions, this one is driven by such thoughts – the clue is in the title. This one is a perfect mixture of evocative vocal performance and verse to chorus melodic wonder. The lyrics are very nice too, once again speaking of the inner and outer self and an inability to cope with that balance until misery becomes the preferable solution.

27. All The Magic

Sounding like a cut from Counting Down The Days, All The Magic is as pure and easy as you could wish for – acoustic guitars and Natalie’s voice dancing through the verses. The pre-chours comes in suddenly, and then the chorus soars into the sky taking the corners of your mouth with it. Yeah, you’re going to smile at this one as it forces you to remember your first love – those excited feelings about getting ready to meet, about catching one another smiling across a room, about allowing your defenses to come down and your feelings to be shared.

26. Be With You

This is how you do piano drive pop – a very simple descending piano line leading in to soft electronic beats and a basic, short verse. It all serves the chorus, it all sounds like typical happy pop stuff except she’s saying ‘I don’t want to live if I don’t want to be with you’. This reminds me of some of the Lifeblood era Manic Street Preachers stuff, at least in terms of production and melody. Regardless, it’s another one which never fails to make me smile. And hop about.

25. All The Roses

The last great song from Come To Life is this brooding, bleeding ballad. It’s slow, led by unusual electronic hums and beeps and punctuated by alarm bell piano. With most of the music stripped back you get a clear shot of the vocals – strong throughout with the best moments coming in the bridge before the final chorus. I like how the song unearths a subtle beat in the final moments which threatens to build and turn into some dance track – instead a little violin takes over and the song comes to an abrupt end.

24. Do You Love

We stay in darker territory, which means we must be back on White Lilies Island. This is a mixture of low register guitars, soul-churning strings, and mournful vocals. The pre-chorus goes grunge, the chorus goes stadium rock, and the song instantly lands in my favourite’s list. The volume and backing sound continues to grow, all the way to the massive final chorus. You should know by now that this album is essential and almost everything on it is fantastic – this song should reach out to a multitude of fans of different genres – like all good music it doesn’t matter what your preference is, you just hear and appreciate.

23. Counting Down The Days (official video)

A sad song about distance, a happy song about looking forward to being together again. This one kind of lost out a little when the single trimmed parts of an already short song – stick to the album version. It starts out as a tear-jerker with John Lennon’s Imagine piano and Imbruglia’s vocals bemoaning the fact that she is apart from the ones she loves, but holy crap the pre-chorus with it’s tiny guitar piece, and the chorus itself are exquisite. Moving back into the verse feels like a come down meaning the song plays a little with your emotions and expectations – none of which I have a problem with. Then the Christmas/Wedding bells come in at the end to confuse me even more. Still time for one last Hawaiian guitar bit and another chorus!

22. Against The Wall

My favourite new song from her Glorious Greatest Hits album is one which wastes no time – thronging guitar chords and more summery melodies. Imbruglia is a master of that segue-way from verse and chorus as I have written about already and this is another prime example. It can fall apart if you don’t have a pay-off in the chorus, luckily here all three pieces are flawless. You already know I love the bridge too.

21. Friday I’m In Love

What can you do to a beloved The Cure classic to make it your own? Why this of course. Whatever the hell this is, that’s precisely what you do. It’s a little bit country, a little bit weird, and a hundred percent marvellous. As mentioned earlier, some of the songs from Male may go up and down drastically in my preferences as I’m not as familiar with them as everything else but I don’t see me ever not liking this. The first time I listened to this I almost literally laughed my balls off. I mean I laughed, yes, but then a few minutes later as I was driving some old fucker pulled out in front of me leaving me with no choice but to pound the breaks futilely and smash into him. My balls remained in check, and in sack, but my car was a write off. True story. Do I like this more than the original? That’s hard to say – they almost feel like different songs. In the end, both give me the same feeling of euphoria, and that’s all that matters. It’s an achievement because it includes two things I hate – Country music and hand claps – yet it’s inexplicably wonderful. SATURDAYYYY – WAIT!

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20. Talk In Tongues

We need to calm down after that last one – back to White Lilies Island for another downbeat, heads-down-walk-in-perpetual-rain-uphill-to-nowhere song. This opens a little like Lucky by Radiohead – similar guitars for a few seconds anyway. There are bizarre little moments throughout, little digitized ticks and strange jangles, and explosive vocals blast in the bridge where the song changes almost entirely, only to be pulled back down by the old-black-and-white-movie strings to the somber chorus once more.

19. Shiver (Official video)

Pop perfection. Imbruglia announced her return with this first single from her third album, a song which ended up being the most played on British radio in 2005 apparently. I don’t recall it being played at all. I assume then you’ve heard it, but if not get listening now. There’s the usual sense of melancholy, but it’s more underplayed here thanks to the warmth of the melody.

18. Instant Crush (official video)

Covers are funny things. I had not heard the original by Daft Punk, and I’ve never been a huge Daft Punk fan anyway. After hearing people raving about the original I went back to it and found it too twee. Imbruglia’s version feels much more emotional to me, or at least it speaks to me much more. That’s the funny thing about cover versions – we usually like whatever version of a song we hear first. Thanks for writing the original guys, but Natalie beefs it up into a soul-searching, heart-rending ballad and blows your one away.

17. Torn (official video)

If you were around in the 90s you heard this song. You saw the video. Presumably you fell in love with the song and the singer. It’s perfect, but I’ve heard it so many times and it’s such a part of the public consciousness that it doesn’t top my list. Technically a cover, it’s Imbruglia’s entirely – can you think of any other version which comes close to this? If I’m picky I prefer a live version without those silly digitized drums. My favourite parts? The way she changes the vocal slightly for one of the final ‘I’m cold’ lines and the way she sings the first ‘That’s what’s going on’. I don’t know why.

16. I Won’t Be Lost

Lovely lovely lovely. One of my favourite vocals from her, mainly because the lyrics have so many vowel sounds and soft sounds – row, vertigo, unaware, billionaire – and the way her accent tackles them is gorgeous. Then there is the pleading, breathy delivery. Then there’s the superb ‘Don’t you give up on me’ section. I will understand fully if people see this as boring, but for me it’s among her best ballads, beautiful, sweet, defiant.

15. Twenty

When this kicked off Come To Life on my first listen, my first thought was ‘Holy Heavens, she’s done it again’. The album as a whole doesn’t live up to this first track, but it’s a brilliant opener and should have been a single. There’s enough of a beat to dance to it or blast from your stereo, it has the mixture of love, hope, and sadness that she conveys so well, it has glorious backing strings, and a chorus which deserves to be performed live by thousands of adoring fans.

14. Hide Behind The Sun

We’re now at that point in the list where the songs are all so good and I love them so much that there isn’t much difference between them. This B-Side to Wrong Impression could easily have made it on to White Lilies Island – it certainly fits the general anguish and strength coursing through that album. This is absolutely gorgeous, note-perfect piano, flawless vocals, I love how the strings and guitars drift in and fade away, I love the weird wind instrument piece in the middle – everything is so underplayed as if she just walked into the studio one day and announced she’d written a new song and the band added their own pieces in a single take.

13. Scars

My favourite song from Come To Life is a ballad and was planned as the second single. I’m not sure how well it would have performed, yet in our current climate of bland Adele love pap, this one deserved to soar to the top of the charts. The lyrics have a wealth of honesty, you can feel each word like a slash at the wrist, the performance an undressing of bandages and a presentation of the scars. It’s simple, brutal, wonderful. There is a more up-tempo, earlier version out there but I’ve only heard live versions of it – I prefer the album take.

12. Smoke (official video)

My favourite song from Left Of The Middle, and the first sign that Imbruglia was much more than a pretty face and a decent singer. Smoke is entirely apart from everything else on that album – unnerving, majestic, cryptic, mesmeric. It’s also a greater vocal performance than anything else on her debut, but for me it’s all about the mystery and fear which is conjured. When the strings come in and the volume increasing around the ‘you’re pushing me’ line – my gawd. For the longest time I assumed she would not top this, but then White Lilies Island came out and.. well, you’ll see.

11. Starting Today

The opening track of Counting Down The Days just missed out on my top ten. That’s meaningless though because this is another nigh-on perfect song. A song of realization, opening your eyes to your self, your worth, and what is on front of you, a song of moving on, on leaving behind but not looking over your shoulder, looking ahead, head held high. Each time I hear this I forget how slow it is – something about it makes it seems faster than it actually is. Favourite part here? ‘Eve-RE-day, ev-RE-day, ev-RE-day-ee!’

Natalie_Imbruglia_-_Left_of_the_Middle

10. Come On Home

Top ten now, and we start hitting songs that have some weird single moments that I love – putting them in my personal pantheon of best single moments in music. For Come On Home that moment occurs late in the song when Imbruglia suddenly wails on one of the last ‘Come on homes’. It’s completely unexpected and brilliant, for me at least. I don’t see anyone else getting as much joy out of that moment as me, but it helps to push the song high on my list. The rest of the song is great, that goes without saying, mid-rock, plenty of pounding pianos and chugging guitars.

9. Satellite (live acoustic)

Remember I mentioned earlier about happiest songs? Well, this may be one of the happiest songs by anyone, ever. None of that Pharell balls. If you don’t find yourself repeating the ‘do-di-do’s then you need to be put down, stat. Every single note here is joyous, heavenly. You can feel the smiles in her vocals. There’s a cyclical nature to this song and several others on White Lilies Island – you know, songs that start out a certain way and end the exact same way? I don’t just mean verse chorus verse, I’m talking a complete mirror – intro, verse, chorus, verse, outro. Enough of that nonsense, this is just fun beyond words.

8. Wrong Impression (official video)

Another hit single now, albeit one which starts out with a hilarious fake classical intro. Man, I love the pronunciation on some of the ‘I want you’ lyrics. This is another sublimely sunny song, especially given the general dark tones of the album. What else do I love? The key change at the end, standard pop fare I know, but it works even better here. Also, the dragged out ‘didn’t want to leeeeeavve you there’.

7. What’s The Good In Goodbye

It’s another example of those times when the B-Side is as good as, if not better than the single. This is better than Counting Down The Days – both terrific songs, but this one is special. Sure on the surface it’s another soulful ballad about lost love, but it’s so damn genuine and drenched in truth and feeling that it’s painfully universal. Every melody is perfect, the simplicity doesn’t require a single extra note or instrument, she does that cool vowel thing that I love when she sings ‘no’, ‘go’, ‘know’, and ‘hello’ and the chorus with its central lyric will rummage its way around your brain for days after a single listen.

6. When You’re Sleeping

Another track which begins with extravagant strings, which you should know by now I’m a sucker for, and then leads into what seems to be a depressed verse until you realise the the lyrics are actually positive and touching. Another brilliant vocal, just acoustic guitar, Natalie, and the strings, an entirely charming song to melt the stoniest soul.

5. Shikaiya

It’s only in relatively recent years that I tracked down Natalie Imbruglia’s b-sides and rarities. I knew Identify and Glorious from their respective releases, but I never bought any of her singles even though I bought each album around the time of release. I can’t remember what b-side I heard first, but the moment I heard this one I knew that she was one of a select few artists capable of recording varying material which could be just as strong as her album tracks and singles. I’m not talking just a handful of flukes, but at least an album’s worth of rarities which would be just as good as any of her official releases. Shikaiya is one of the finest B-Sides (here it’s the B-Side for That Day) I’ve ever heard, an unashamedly beautiful ode, a song of new life, new love, of dedication, one to play surrounded by blue skies, white sand, and blistering sunlight.

4. Everything Goes

White Lilies Island again, and another one of those cyclical, perfectly symmetrical songs. By this point in the album you already know it’s an all time classic, songs like this popping up everywhere. By this point in the list I don’t need to explain how I feel about these songs or how good they are – perfect verses, perfect pre-chorus and chorus, guitars, strings, vocals, everything. I love how chaotic the chorus gets and then how the verse sucks everything back in and calms the mood, I love how she switches up which part of the chorus comes first each time around, and I love how it ends as it began.

3. That Day (Official video)

I still remember the first time I heard That Day – the first single from White Lilies Island. I caught the video and was immediately smitten – it was very different from her previous stuff and had a more mature and dense sound – the 90s were long gone and this was Imbruglia’s personal blend of pop and rock, still replete with everything that made her special. The video is pretty great too, simple but a sign of the defiance and spark of the album – everyone and everything pushing against her but she is walking on regardless – a simple motif, but it works. The album version is of course superior but the single gets the jist across – great riffs and melodies, but my highlights are simply how many words there are in the song meaning the vocals become a frantic rushing of thoughts. My second highlight is the way the line ‘I lay down beside myself’ is changed every single time – a different inflection, or word selected to pronounce more heavily or emphasize, or give it slight melodic twist. What the hell – my third highlight – which shouldn’t really count, are the bizarre overdubbed harmonies on ‘it’s supposed like this’. They sound like mistakes which were accidentally left in, but again they somehow work.

2. Come September

White Lilies Island comes to a close with this downpouring of loveliness. The opening drums suggest it will be a heavier affair but then the swooning guitars and vocals join in and we know this is more of a mini epic ballad. Her vocals are never more angelic than here, the way she pronounces the word ‘die’ is maybe my favourite moment in any of her songs and yet the rest of the song is filled with similar little moments. It all feels so effortless, from the subtle introduction of the strings to the chinking piano loops, to the celebratory key change leading into the final verse. The lyrics are wonderful too, my only issue though is that I hate September and can’t bring myself to agree that everything wrong’s gonna be alright come September.

  1. Hurricane

My number one song has basically been my number one since I heard it, and yes we’re staying on White Lilies Island for it. If you trust anything I’ve said in any of my music posts (and I’ll admit my tastes are pretty weird) then go and buy that album now. Hurricane starts off with a slow guitar arpeggio or note progression played through a filter which makes it sounds like it’s from some old timey 1910 era sepia movie. There are some sort of seaside noises too, or at least that’s the sense I get while listening. Then the vocals start, creeping through the verse’s undergrowth, lyrics about shock and confusion, before the song emerges into the clarity of the chorus with perfect string section building and guitar change. The second verse is more of the same with the addition of bass and off kilter percussion and then, as we have come to expect with this album, the two part chorus is again switched around so that the second part comes first. Everything peaks and we drift off into the sunset. It’s simple, symmetrical, and if it isn’t one of the best songs of all time then I think I’m finally done with the human race.

Phew. I think Natalie Imbruglia as an artist is someone who can appeal to any music lover and if you have dismissed her as pop pap or sub-Morrissette/Brit Pop stuff I would urge you to give her another try. Hit a few of the links above and let me know. If you have any special thoughts or memories of any Natalie Imbruglia song or if you want to share you favourites then drop them in the comments below!