I have a habit of writing an introduction to my movie reviews long before writing anything else. For example, I’m writing this opening paragraph on 27th October 2017 – I probably won’t write the rest for a few months after and then post the thing months after that. As I write, I have really only started to embark on my Marvel Movie adventure, having never really been swept up in the whole universe. I’m pretty much the prime target audience, having grown up with these characters in their various guises. However, none of the movies I’d seen really reached out to me in the way that say, a Batman movie, or The Crow, or 1978’s Superman did. I’d seen The Avengers, the first Iron Man, some of the early Hulk movies where there was a new actor each time, but they all felt identikit and meh. Lots of ‘splosions and lots of meandering plot which really boiled down to big man saving world and/or girl from big bad man. I didn’t go in to The First Avenger with too many expectations, but I was nevertheless keen to see what the fuss (of the extended universe) was all about.
Our story begins in present day as a mysterious aircraft is discovered in The Arctic. We flip back to the 1940s and get a battle scene where Nazis are doing a bit of mystical treasure hunting – finding something called The Tesseract which can grant them massive power. Cut to the US and we meet the scrawny Steve Rogers, your typical old school white patriot who wants to sign up to the Army to help in the war but is turned down for being sickly and weak. Impressed by his resolve, he is snapped up by a US experimental intelligence team who give him some magic juice, turning him into a Super Solider – a much stronger and faster version of himself. He is now Captain America and while acting as a symbol for all that is good, holy, and American, he chases down the evil Nazi (who also took the magic juice but something went wrong with his experiment) and lots of fights and ‘splosions happen.
First the positives – good effects, good attention to detail in all aspects, especially in creating a believable 1940s world. Not being a fan of Chris Evans beforehand, he is good in the role and abandons all of the annoying ticks and quirks from his earlier movies making him a well-rounded, if a little bland, action hero. The rest of the cast do their jobs as expected, Hugo Weaving having fun as the villain and Hayley Atwell adding some spunk as Peggy Carter. That’s pretty much it – it works as a world building movie and all the expected cameos and geeky nods are there. As an origin story it ticks all of the boxes. The main negative, as I alluded to in the intro all those months ago (now writing on 20th July 2018) is that it’s all so plain. Maybe I’m not the target audience anymore – I’m not wowed by anything, the geeky nods don’t do a lot for me, and there’s an air of ‘seen it before’ about it all. The conflict never seems real, we know how the film is going to end, and try as they might to form some sort of tortured love story, it never comes off. There’s not enough here for me to sink my teeth into. In another world this would be just a very average action movie – it is a very average action movie – but in our world that’s seemingly enough to warrant making almost half a billion dollars at the box office. I can’t come off as too critical – clearly a lot of work goes into a film on such a grand scale and clearly a lot of people love it – it’s fine, I just need something more these days.
Let us know in the comments what you thought of The First Avenger!
I promised I wouldn’t do it, but if you didn’t know by now I’m something of a liar. A couple of years ago I posted a series of Top Ten movies lists by year, and they were just that – a list of my ten favourite movies of the year with no gloss, no explanation, no guff. For those who like to get into the nitty gritty, I then wrote my favourite movies of the decade posts in which I did go into detail about why I loved what I loved. The purpose of the list posts was just to give a simple snapshot of what I enjoy without verbose embellishment; a quick snack before bed.
Now I’m going to go back to those Top Ten Lists and do the embellishment. I’m not going to change the ordering or add or drop my choices – I’m simply going to add a few lines about why I love the movies and maybe encourage anyone who hasn’t seen them to give them a shot. And because I like talking about what I like. Rather than starting with 1950, I’m going to go backwards from 2009. In addition, I might complete the original series by adding simple lists from 2010 – 2019. I still don’t feel I’ve seen enough movies in these last nine years to create lists which I can standby, but at least they’ll act as a current snapshot.
So, for anyone who likes to ready my ramblings or who has been waiting for me to cover in greater detail some of my picks – the time has come. Also, remember this post? It was my argument over ‘Essential’ being a subjective term when it comes to movies, because as viewers we have our own needs and desires and backgrounds – so to decide what is Essential you must first define the viewer? Yes, it’s as crap as it sounds. I’m going to begin posting some of my lists based upon that notion – essentially (sorry) looking at some of the most beloved movies of each year, starting in 1960, and arguing if they are truly essential (spoiler alert – they’re not).
That’s that then. If you like what I do, tell your friends. Recommend my humble blog to the guy who keeps coughing on your commute to work. Tell your da that you have some new toilet reading material for him. I’m not earning money from any of this, but knowing I have billions of followers is bound to be an ego boost and might even make me put a bit more effort in to what I write.
As a horror movie fan, I’m a member of various groups on Facebook. Those groups feature the same movies, actors, and arguments over and over again as you may expect. One type of post which comes along every so often is ‘what scared you as a kid’ and one image which is typically given in response is the image at the top of this post. Yes, that cute little fella apparently spawned millions of nightmares in the bedrooms of millions of kids all around the world – but it was from a movie I had never seen. Somehow I had made it into my thirties without ever seeing Trilogy Of Terror – one of the most famous horror anthologies. It’s time to right that wrong.
It’s difficult to understate the loss the movie world suffered when Karen Black died a few years ago. From appearances in cult movies such as Easy Rider and Dogtown, to mainstream hits like Nashville and Five Easy Pieces, the horror world quickly claimed her as one of their own. With Burnt Offerings near the start of her career to House Of 1000 Corpses near the end, she was an icon of the genre. Trilogy Of Terror is a masterclass from Karen Black, appearing as no less than four wildly differing characters over the three stories we are told. Dan Curtis directs, himself no stranger to the horror genre having crafted cult series Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker, and many others. The three stories here are each solid, offering different ideas – some of which seem ahead of the curve, even if one is the obvious standout. Based on stories by Richard Matheson, it’s hardly surprising the tales have credibility and twists.
In Julie, Karen stars as a college professor who receives unwanted advances from one of her students – Chad. The story covers obsession, perversion, voyeurism, and date rape, with Chad pursuing Julie for sexually sadistic purposes. Julie meanwhile, has her own plans. In the second story Black plays two sisters – Millicent And Therese – one being dour and repressed, the other direct and adventurous. Even with voodoo and rivalry and psychoanalysis, it’s the weakest of the bunch – raised by Black’s performance. The finaly story is the one I hear mentioned regularly on the horror pages and forums – Amelia. Following on from the other stories, the title is the name of the main character. I feel this has been to the detriment of the story because no-one even remembers the name, only calling it ‘that one with the creepy African doll which comes to life’. That’s a pretty apt title.
Presumably a lot of people saw this in their youth and it stayed with them. Fair enough – it does a job of portraying the doll in a creepy light, it’s certainly a freaky looking wee bastard, and Black’s performance convincingly conveys the peril. One thing keeps coming back to me though – it’s a doll. Doll horror movies, or even movies with smaller creatures in the vein of Critters, Ghoulies etc, are one step past ridiculous for me. If people are genuinely afraid of these things when they’re young, it’s a fear that passed me by. I can’t take them seriously and I almost take them as a full blown comedy. I do’t know about you, but when I was young I viewed my toys – my He-Man, Transformers, MUSCLE men etc, as my protectors – coming alive to stand guard against nightly threats and terrors. If they happened to turn evil? Well then I’d kick them over and casually walk out of the room.
So even though the scares don’t work for me, I appreciate that they do for others and Curtis manages to create both creeping dread and efficient jump-scares. It’s the most straight tale of terror in the bunch, the most visceral even if it doesn’t rely on gore. Indeed, none of the stories are bloody and most are psychological in nature. It’s a brief watch, both fun and interesting, and if anything it’s a must due to the pedigree involved. The fact that none of the segments are weak will make it a seasonal favourite for horror fans – this horror fan just isn’t creeped out by dolls.
Let us know in the comments what you think of Trilogy Of Terror!
It seemed like a good idea. An adventure movie with input from James Cameron, set in the claustrophobic world of underground caves and which promised unique visuals, thrills, and realism. That world is not one we see nearly enough of, and you can count the number of good films with such a location on one finger – hint – it’s called The Descent. So what the hell went wrong with this then?
It’s pretty clear early on what the problems are and that they’re unlikely to be overcome. In the opening scenes we are treated to the terrible delivery of some pretty bad dialogue and it becomes increasingly apparent that we’re dealing with a shoddy screenplay and some less than desirable actors – either that or they’re horribly miscast. It’s not hyperbole for me to state that every line in the opening 20 minutes is stilted and delivered in a knowing, winking way, almost as if it’s a first read through. In fact, it felt like a porno or a Carry On movie, but without the sex. We meet a group of explorers who are investigating a labyrinthine subterranean cave system. There’s the fun-loving billionaire who…. likes caves? He brings along his girlfriend – an avid something or other, and a teenager called Josh who looks like he walked out of a gnarly amateur skateboard video – fish-eye lens and all. Josh’s dad is the world renowned, never heard of him, diving expert Frank McGuire – a man so dedicated to fingering caves that he has had no time for fingering (hugging) his son. He’s a complete asshole. There’s a bunch of other explorer types helping out. You can already tell how these relationships are going to go, and the beats they’re going to take along the way. There isn’t an ounce of originality in the script when it comes to character or drama. The stupid thing is – nobody in the real world speaks, acts, or behaves like any of these buffoons. Early on one character says to another ‘Promise me you won’t let me fall’ – I wonder if that’s going to come back and bite them.
It all feels more Congo than Jurassic Park. Those movies at least had a sense of fun – this is all very po-faced or making jokes in that self-aware manner. So, they’re down this cave, hole thing, and – wait a minute – all these guys are divers? So that’s where Jimmy Cameron comes in. In order to explore the cave system they have to dive, so we get all of this wonderful dialogue about diving equipment and safety and fuck it there’s a giant storm coming so rather than climbing out lets forget all about that and plow ahead. Oops, now somebody’s dead. Seriously? I’ve no idea why or how this woman dies – I know nothing about diving – but basically she is swimming along, something happens and she immediately freaks out. She tries to share air with Frank, but this is beyond her abilities and Frank takes the breather from her and watches her drown. This kind of makes sense, but it’s filmed so horribly that it’s not clear what happened. Everybody blames everybody else. Josh decides to climb out before the storm blocks them completely. Why anyone decides against this is a mystery. Why some of the group do leave, never to be heard from again is a mystery. Why Josh decides to turn back and join his father is a mystery. You’ve just accused each other of murder and hated each other your entire lives, but maybe sudden death will bring us both together.
You can guess how the rest goes – the cave picks off the group one by one in increasingly pointless ways and arguments continue to get heated. Someone gets the bends, not sure why, someone refuses to wear a wetsuit, someone cracks their skull, someone’s hair gets caught and everyone freaks out inexplicably because they try to free themselves, someone drowns, and as expected, someone falls on a stalagmite. It’s all very very silly. It is watchable, barely, thanks to some great visuals. Not amazing, not what they are hyped to be, but certainly not the sort of thing we’re exposed to frequently. The action is sparse and lacking in threat, the film moves slower than a bubble on a lake, and we’re given no reason to care about anything that happens. Some day, someone will make a good film set in this sort of location – with the claustrophobic tension and characters it deserves, while retaining realism. As it stands, this is mostly a shambles and one to skip.
Let us know in the comments what you think of Sanctum!
Hey. This post is more of a reference for me than anything else, but it’s probably beneficial to you lovely glancers who regularly stop by to shield your eyes from whatever gobbledicrap is spewing from my maw. I try to post the same sort of features on the same sort of days each week, so for anyone who is interested, below is what I will be trying to post each week going forwards. As always, if there is anything you’d like to see me type about or comment on, let me know. I have absolutely nothing better to do.
Monday: Manic Monday posts – some choice lyrics. On the first Monday of each month, I try to post a blog update – usually some random online crap I’ve found, a ‘get to know me’ piece, or what I’ve been up to recently.
Tuesday: Either a list of some sort (favourite movies in a given year/by a director, favourite songs), or a music/movie review.
Wednesday: Oscars day – I post my personal nominations and winners for a given Oscar category in a given year. We’re up to 1976 now.
Thursday: Another movie/music review.
Friday: Typically this is another movie/music review day, but in the future I will be publishing a second Oscars post, just so I can get through the series more quickly.
Saturday-Sunday: Usually I don’t post anything as I’m not near a Computer.
Regulars may be aware that I write many months in advance of actually posting, so here are some of my upcoming posts:
Favourite George A Romero movies (coming later today)
Favourite 96 Beatles Songs
Favourite 38 Songs By The Music
Ranking The Manic Street Preachers Songs – Everything Must Go and TIMTTMY
Continuing the 1976 Oscars series
Nightman’s Introduction To Foreign Cinema – A, B, C
Completing the 2019 Preview Series
Reviews Written when I was a young’un: Scream 2, Scream 3, The Seven Samurai, Spiderman 2, Street Hawk, Tears Of The Sun.
Reviews Written now that I’m old: Sanctum, A Quiet Place, The Innkeepers, 11/22/63, Zombie Creeping Flesh, Captain America, The Sand
The Lowest Rated Movies I Like – IMDB Edition
Continuing My Favourite Songs Posts
Nightman Listens To Bon Jovi’s Lost Highway
Nightman Listens To Madonna’s American Life and Confessions On The Dancefloor
Nightman Listens To David Bowie’s Tonight and Never Let Me Down
Nightman Listens To Roxette’s Crash Boom Bang and Have A Nice Day
Nightman Listens To The Beach Boys’ Surfin USA and Surfer Girl
Nightman Listens To The Rolling Stones’ Debut and Number Two
Nightman Listens To Iron Maiden Solo Input – Steve Harris’ British Lion, Samson’s Head-On, ASAP’s Silver And Gold, Urchin’s High Roller
Nightman Listens To Disney Soundtracks – Saludas Amigos, Make Mine Music, The Three Caballeros, Fun And Fancy Free, Melody Time
Chart Music Through The Years – 1983, 1995
Top 1000 Albums Series – Talking Heads (Speaking In Tongues), The Stone Roses (The Second Coming), Marvin Gaye (What’s Goin’ On), Steely Dan (The Royal Scam)
Continuing my posts on every Manics song
My Favourite Season Six Buffy Episodes
More Unpublished Screenplays for The Walking Dead
Unpublished Magnificent Seven Screenplay
Unpublished Screenplay for John Carpenter’s Batman
There is also a lot of surprise stuff in the works – some things I’ve been working on for a couple of years on and off, others more random one-off posts. I do have a new long term movie series coming up, an expansion of both the Foreign Cinema and my Favourite Movies By Year posts if you will (but they’re a pain to write). And because I have apparently lost my mind, I have multiple new music series coming up – listening to more artists whose discographies have been a blank for me, and a couple of other series to rival the Top 1000 series. It’s a busy time, so I hope you’ll join me for the ride, or at least a few of the twists and turns along the way!
Greetings, Glancers! I wasn’t originally going to write this post. In fact, the last time I made any changes to my first Foreign Cinema Intro post was January 2018 and that was followed up with my run through of each Country alphabetically. I haven’t posted those yet, and I haven’t finished writing them. The point is, that when I envisioned the series as a whole, this specific post wasn’t part of it. While reading the initial post back though, I felt like something was missing among all the begging and moaning – my journey. Maybe you don’t care about this, maybe you do. I thought I’d write it anyway as it may be helpful if you decide to begin watching foreign films or if you’re one of those strange people who simply wants to know more about me. I’ll keep it brief, as I did cover the basics in how I first started watching non-Hollywood fare in my first post. The other thing which is lacking is in my upcoming A-Z posts – I didn’t feel there was enough of a stepping stone between the Intro and those posts, so maybe this will help.
It was Bruce Lee. I don’t remember why or how I started watching his movies, but I was around six years old. From there I would watch any film I could get my hands on which had ‘Dragon’ or ‘Fists’ or ‘Ninja’ in the title or which featured box art with a guy wielding a sword or performing a fly kick off or onto a helicopter. What could be more simple? I don’t even think I understood the concept of ‘foreign’ back then – all I knew was that I liked these films and that I wanted to be able to kick the crap out of people too. By the time I understood that people could be actors and that actors appeared in different films, my favourite actors were foreign – Arnie and Bruce Lee. It made no difference to me that they may have spoken a different language or been dubbed or had a weird accent or were made in Hong Kong or LA. To a kid from Northern Ireland whose day usually began watching my dad checking under our car for bombs before letting us go to school, everything was foreign. This may be one of the biggest leaps for US viewers. You guys have everything you could ever want on your doorstep and centuries of breeding and culture to make you believe you are the best at everything. We’ve existed centuries longer and we’ve come to understand truths which you have avoided or not yet been faced with. But to me, everything was foreign and everything was mine no matter when or where or how it was made.
Later, once I began talking about movies with friends I would branch out to other martial arts and action stars – typically also foreign – Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Dolph, and into the older Hong Kong staples. Then I started to get into horror movies, thanks to Salem’s Lot and my love of gruesome myths and legends. Those myths and legends? Foreign. Horror was a different matter entirely and while I was generally allowed to watch movies where guys killed each other by jumping on their spines or beheading them with swords, horror movies were more off limits. While perusing the video store I would inevitably be drawn to the horror alcove to stare at the box art for Freddy movies, Fright Night, zombies, killers in masks, pictures of hands coming out of the ground, hands grabbing throats or clutching knives, houses perched ominously on hills with weird lights and shadows coming from within. While my first horror experiences were Hollywood based, I knew that the really scary stuff – the banned stuff – came from overseas. Once I began to understand what movies were and started to make lists – of things I had seen in magazines, on shelves, by recommendations, or advertised on TV or Radio by the few people who actually talked about these things, I began seeking them out. Not because they were foreign, but because they were supposed to be good. They were meant to be ‘must-sees’.
Eventually, in my teen years as your typical jaded youngster disillusioned by the populist stuff, I would fall a little more in line with the ‘seeking things out because no-one else knew about them’ cliche. I never fully embraced this as I’ve always been a single-minded person not swayed by the opinions of, well, anyone. Which makes this post ironic as I try to convince others to watch things, but we’ll ignore that. The point is that while I watched some films that I knew none of my peers had heard of, I soon saw no benefit or got no pleasure from the process. I wanted to watch movies I knew I would like and I wanted others to know about them. Cue many unwarranted one-way discussions on ‘this guy from New Zealand called Peter Jackson’ or ‘if you hate that America doesn’t make movies like Die Hard anymore, then check out Hard-Boiled’ and ‘you think that’s bloody/scary/weird, try Suspiria/Ring/Hausu’. I wasn’t bragging or trying to score points – I wanted my friends to see the movies I had seen and get the same kicks out of them that I did. I still want those kicks today, and I always will, and I want people to know that it isn’t all Marvel/DC/Disney/Blumhouse/insert favourite US studio.
So what do you like? My favourite countries for movies outside of the US have always been Hong Kong and Japan. While I appreciate that some people are simply never going to want to watch a Kurosawa movie, or a martial arts movie, both of those industries have a lot to offer. I loved J-Horror while it lasted, before it choked on its own tropes. Hong Kong action remains breathless and you can get everything from war epics to balletic gunplay to treetop sword-fights and jaw-dropping stunts. In recent years, the South Korean, Indonesian, and Thai markets have been stepping up their game when it comes to action and horror. Japan meanwhile continues to make both the weird and wonderful – experiences I guarantee you won’t get anywhere else on the planet, but also the most perfect character driven dramas of the moment.
As I’ll mention more in my A-Z posts, Australia is a great starting point. They have a rich and varied history, although the output is much smaller than the US and UK. Everyone loves Fury Road, right? Go back and watch the early Mad Max movies and the copycats. Elsewhere, France had a wave of horror movies which we are currently seeing either the tail-end of or the beginnings of what comes next. These are not for the faint of heart, but if you’re a horror fan you’ll find something to love. My history with French Cinema is more closely aligned to looking at critic’s lists of best films and best directors, although on a personal level it has been my love of certain performers or directors which has drawn me in more – I have a thing for pretty ladies so Virginie Ledoyan, Audrey Tautou, Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Eva Green have all led me down some interesting paths. I also have a thing for cool anti-heroes and action movies, which France is full of. Italy was always more distant than France for me, until I discovered Dario Argento, Mario and Lamberto Bava, and Spaghetti Westerns, and with Spain I was taken more by the sexy stuff before learning more about the whole Franco/anti-Franco influence.
What I would recommend, before embarking on your journey, is to look at your favourite movies as they stand currently. You will have something directed by someone who worked outside of the US before making it in Hollywood. If not, I guarantee there will be an actor who fits that criteria. Go watch their non-Hollywood movies. In doing so, you might find another actor or director you like, and you can go watch those too. Suddenly, your world has opened up. Read my upcoming posts in which I’ll talk about my limited experiences of each country and I’ll talk a little about what I consider to be gateway films – films which are from the particular country, but also universal enough that the majority of film fans should get something out of them. I’ll list some of the most well-known performers and directors in the hope that you say ‘oh, I’ve heard of that guy/I liked that one thing they did/maybe I should give one of their other movies a try’.
Well, that was more of a P.S post than I intended, but I am typing this on the fly. My simple hope is for anyone reading this who is skeptical about foreign cinema to watch a single foreign movie – just one. Give one a chance. If one person comments to say that they’re going to try a foreign movie, I’ll be happy. If only one person comments to say that they did take the plunge, watched, and loved one, I’ll be ecstatic.
It’s over to you – let me know in the comments if you’re willing to give it a go and how you got on.
Greetings, Glancers! A question I am often asked is ‘What the hell is wrong with your hair?’, quickly followed by ‘and what’s up with your face?’. Another more pertinent question, though asked with an equal amount of disdain and mewling voice is ‘why do you watch all those weird foreign films? Aren’t they all full of kinky sex, boring talking, and subtitles? Why can’t you just watch Fifty Shades Of Gray like the rest of us? And while I’m at it, seriously, what is up with your face? Cut your hair and get a job, you weirdo’.
You see, all of you big city fat cats who live in a more multicultural society probably have had greater access to more diverse areas of culture – cinema, music, art, and generally meet more interesting people. I, on the other hand, live here:
It’s your typical 90% white, 90% Christian, 90% every other majority you can think of. Diversity – cultural or otherwise – isn’t exactly its strong suit. I’m being a little unfair though, as my town is one of the most absurdly friendly places you could dream of. Everyone says hello to me – for someone who could happily go for weeks without speaking to another soul, it’s quite a surreal ‘burb. Getting closer to some sort of point – for most of my life I have always been interested in stuff outside of the mainstream. I’m not saying that in some hipster way, and the movies and music I prefer are not really that far from centre because almost all of them have popular followings – it’s just that the stuff I like isn’t spoken of in my immediate social circles.
It all started, as most things do, with Bruce Lee. I’ve mentioned it before, but I have always loved martial arts movies, and when I grew up in the 80s the best movies of the genre did not come from Hollywood. I was therefore exposed to Asian cinema – Hong Kong, China, Japan, Thailand and more – at an early age. As time went on I branched out with different countries and genres. I’ve always loved Hollywood movies, but crucially I haven’t been afraid of looking beyond. And there is so much more.
It’s frustrating to me that I follow multiple blogs by otherwise knowledgeable film fans who outright ignore movies outside of the US. Sure, every so often a big film will get a widespread US release and then everyone jumps on it. But then they move on to the next slice of Superhero skyscraper destructo-porn. I get that we all have limited time to watch movies and you want to spend that time either on movies you think you’ll already like or, if you’re one of these bloggers in it for the Likes and Followers, then you only watch whatever crap is in the charts – in which case I pity you. But every so often you have a blogger, or a Youtuber, or someone in a Facebook group who clearly and dearly loves Cinema and knows their John Ford from their John Hughes, yet when the subject of Foreign Film comes up they dismiss it entirely. Subtitles? Pah, if I wanted to read I’d go buy a book. You may as well say ‘if I wanted to learn I’d glue myself to the windows of the local Convent’.
I’m not saying Foreign movies are better and I don’t mean to sound condescending or superior, believe me I’m just as crap a person as you, I’m simply making a genuine plea for those people (bloggers or otherwise) who claim to love movies to widen their horizons. Don’t put yourself in a box, never limit your own experiences, and experiment as much as you possibly can to enrich your own life. Some of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, funniest, terrifying, evocative, influential, skillful, breathtaking movies ever made come from outside the US. If you love movies, why would you deprive yourself of those?
Basically, to get into foreign cinema you need to find your own personal niche – one movie, one performer, one genre that you can get into which acts as a gateway drug to a large and crazy cache of fantasy and wonder. Like West Coast Cooler leads to a pint of Absinthe, like a puff of pot leads to naked desert meth production, like masturbating leads to grand larceny or something, you can’t dive into the hard stuff without first wetting your beak with a treat you already enjoy, albeit with a slight twist. So for anyone asking those questions at the top of the post, or for anyone curious about foreign films, feel free to have a gander at my posts. Today I’ll give you some basic pointers, and later I’ll expand with some examples.
Lesson 1: Don’t Start With The Award Winners
An easy place to get stuck and disheartened is by Googling for Best Foreign movies and working through the list. Almost every such list will be filled with great movies, but they will likely be on the more dramatic or critically acclaimed side – not necessarily the sort of things someone new to Foreign Film will want. Better lists will give a blurb on each movie and if it sounds like you’ll like it, by all means give it a go. Another mistake people make is by checking the Best Foreign Film winners at the Oscars. Again, if you’re the sort of person who hasn’t watched Foreign Films before then there’s a chance you’re not the sort of person who even watches the Best Picture winners at the Oscars. That’s fine – I’d much rather watch a bunch of zombies get shot up than watch Emma Stone sing and dance. Oh yeah, that didn’t win. Looking at the Best Foreign Language winners of the last twenty years, there aren’t many which jump out as something which would suck in the average mainstream movie goer (and you’d be better served by looking at my Oscar Post nominations for Best Foreign Film anyway – ha).
Lesson 2: Don’t Listen To Assumptions
Boring. Slow. Cheap. Weird. Subtitles. Bad acting. A bunch of nobodies. Confusing. Artistic. Porn. These are all things I’ve heard people say, both to my face and in my years of reviewing, blogging, posting, and reading. The simple answer is both yes, no, and so what? Any movie from any country can be boring, slow, ‘weird’, and have bad acting. The assumption that this is somehow widespread throughout foreign movies is nonsense. Movies are subjective, so find what you like – see Lesson 1 and Lesson 4. Personally, I like ‘weird’ movies. If something doesn’t sound like it will be to your tastes, don’t watch it but don’t make the assumption that every other movie will be the same. Foreign films, depending on the Country, have just as many big name actors and directors as Hollywood – you just don’t know them yet. Subtitles are the best way for me to watch a non-English language movie, but if you really are that dim that you can’t read at a faster rate than 1 word every few seconds, then you probably don’t have mental capacity to watch any movie. I don’t like dubbing because I find it a more jarring experience than subtitles – taking away from the performance of the cast. Sometimes dubbing makes the movie better, though this is typically from the viewpoint of unintentional hilarity.
You will find films from a Country other than your own, on average, more confusing than films from your own Country – there’s no escaping that fact. This doesn’t mean you will be utterly dumbfounded or lost. There are just as many ‘easy’ films and mainstream films as in Hollywood – just different. Sure there will be films that you just won’t get, but again you could say the same for Hollywood. You think foreign films are more artistic – I would say that’s not a bad thing. It’s another misconception too. Foreign films make less money – less people see them, and perhaps that means there is less of a sense of Business surrounding them meaning that ‘anything goes’. Everything considered, it sounds like only toffs, hipsters, smart-asses, and weirdos watch foreign junk. You don’t have to be smart, or weird, or sophisticated, or false, or anything to enjoy a foreign movie – you just have to find the one that’s right for you. Foreign movies have sex. Non-foreign movies have sex. If you think sex is evil, don’t watch.
Lesson 3: Understand What ‘Foreign Film’ Means
For the purposes of my posts, I am calling out Foreign movies as anything not made in Britain or the US. I could even limit it to anything outside of US, but that would be weird given that I’m not American. There are a tonne of other movie markets around the world, some English speaking, some not. For any Americans looking to branch out but keeping to English Language – try UK Cinema, try Australian cinema. Foreign cinema as a whole deals with the same issues and genres as American mainstream and indie cinema. You want car chases, slasher movies, slapstick comedies, tragedies, romance, war epics, these are all things which exist around the world. You don’t need to know much, or anything, about the country of origin, but any knowledge might help your appreciation or increase enjoyment. Each country does have their quirks and very loose, very high level style based on decades of movie making and centuries of culture, and the more you watch the more you will catch these. If such things exist, a ‘generic’ French drama has inherent differences from a ‘generic’ Spanish drama, a Japanese action movie will have different trademarks than a Hong Kong one. I’ll focus more on these in my next posts.
Lesson 4: Think About What You Already Like
As alluded to above, Foreign Cinema is essentially the same as Hollywood Cinema – it just comes from a different place and culture. If you’re strictly a horror fan, then the world is your oyster. If you only like bloody and gruesome horror movies, then head straight for France, Italy, or Spain. If you like action movies, get over to Hong Kong. If you like musicals, Bollywood is waiting. You may already like a film by an actor or director who is primarily or partially known for Foreign movies – if you like their Hollywood work, chances are you’ll like their other stuff too. By far the best way to get into Foreign Cinema is by branching out from your existing preferences. All it takes is one movie, or even one moment, to make it all click. You don’t have to worry about being a connoisseur, you don’t have to worry about sounding smart or cool in a crowd, although you can do those things. Watching movies should be primarily a selfish experience – ask yourself what you want from a film and what you’ll get from it. As a secondary item, you will want to share your experience with like-minded people, and eventually even try to convert others, but that all starts with you and that first step of finding something you like.
Lesson 5: Behold Now Is The Accepted Time
It has never been easier to get into foreign movies, or movies in general. Since the mid nineties, foreign cinema saw a boom in the UK and US with a number of high profile films from around the world making a tonne of money outside of their own markets. A tonne of DVD companies popped up specifically to bring you the best in World Cinema, anime became a global monster; nerds and things nerds like became cool, encouraging others to come out of the woodwork. Streaming happened -all you have to do is stick in Netflix or Hulu or Amazon or some of the less legal alternatives, and find the foreign section. Everything is available at the touch of a button, a far cry from asking your local video store owner if he’s getting in any more Dario Argento movies and waiting 6 weeks for an answer. Scroll through a few Streaming Services after reading my posts, and you should find something to try. Just don’t come moaning to me that you lost 90 minutes of your life – what else were you going to do with that time – larceny? Masturbate? Yeah, I know all your dirty secrets.
In my next series of posts I’m going to cover some of my favourite movie making countries and why I love them, and I’m going to give some examples of gateway movies for specific genres. Maybe it will take the format of ‘If you like Hollywood’s X then you’ll like Russia’s Y’. I’ll talk a little bit about the biggest stars and directors past and present from a variety of countries, and hopefully a few of you will take the plunge or use these examples and on-the-spur advice to win your own friends and detractors over. It’s a big world out there, people, and it’s all there to be enjoyed!
Let us know in the comments your struggles with watching foreign films or converting others to watching them, and point out some of your favourites!
The follow-up to Noe’s 1991 brutal short Carne begins with a quick recount of what has happened – lead character ‘The Butcher’ has grown up hating the world after becoming an orphan because of the war. He owns a butcher shop and has a daughter, but everything else is sickening to him. He hates everyone and wishes they would all die, as we all die alone in the end. It is him against the stinking world he despises, everything is pointless, nobody cares. These ideas have been done countless times before, but never has effective, cold, or hard-hitting as here although the mood of Taxi Driver comes close. The Butcher kills a man he believed attacked his daughter, but it was the wrong guy, and goes to prison. Eventually he is let out.
Now The Butcher has found a new girlfriend, with her only because she gives him a room, sex, and promises to buy him a new shop. His daughter has been taken away from him and placed into foster care, and he only sees her for short spaces of time. She is the only one who can hold back his anger, and stop him from killing everyone on sight. However, his girlfriend repulses him, her mother is even worse in his eyes, and his grim surroundings only add to his growing hatred and rage. Like Carne, we hear his inner thoughts, how he sees everything as hopeless. Soon his inner monologue mixed with despair and fury causes an unreality and he, along with the viewer become uncertain of what is real, if the actions he takes are just his imagination or not. Soon he explodes with pure rage, beating his pregnant girlfriend on the floor and takes a gun with 3 bullets, intending to get his daughter and destroy everything. As he walks the streets his thoughts continue, and we wonder whether the people we walk with on our streets may be like this.
He is alone. Only the gun keeps him company. Several further shocking and brutal scenes are shown and they are made all the more unbearable because of the relentless pounding of words such as HATE being fired into our heads. That BOOM effect is useful in making the viewer uncomfortable, guns going off as the scenes cut. Our senses are assaulted by Noe’s direction, and Nahon’s performance is extremely impressive, easily worthy of any award. The scene where he repeatedly punches his girlfriend seems to go on forever, with all too real acting from her (Frankye Pain) adding to the horror. One scene with his daughter involving the gun is horrifying, but filmed so oddly beautifully and tenderly that we cannot look away, no matter how much we know we should be. If The Butcher escapes one harrowing act, he quickly replaces it with another. Characters like this are typically only seen in the realms of over the top horror, but Seul Contre Tous is entirely grounded in the real world.
Blandie’s performance as The Daughter is excellent, her vacancy ironic, he passivity revealing. With so much going for it, the film should rightly be seen by all self respecting movie fans, but beware that it won’t be easy. The film would be almost unwatchable if not for the beautiful cinematography, as well as some humour. However, the humour is so tongue-in-cheek that many people simply may not see it. It may leave you depressed with the world, or act as some skewed catharsis and give you hope because of your ‘better’ position. An extremely impressive film that deserves much more notice than it has received, but then again it is not the type of film you would take your partner, parents, or kids to see. Watch it on your own and let the pure emotion, and complete lack of love seep into you. One of a select breed of utterly harrowing films which will stay with you forever.
Let us know what you think of Seul Contre Tous in the comments!
So, I was reading a well-written and passionate post by Jason over at Jason’s Movie Blog which just so happened to coincide with a recent trip to my nearest Cinema and the less recent news that Belfast’s famous Dublin Road Cinema is due to close. Cinema closures in Northern Ireland, and throughout the rest of the world are no big thing, but this one is personal to me. The Cinema will soon shut its doors as of the time you read this, caused by a number of factors including lower attendance figures across the industry, and viewers in Belfast seemingly preferring to go to Cinemas in either the more suburban areas or those on the outskirts of the city. Belfast is a tiny city, even by UK standards, but it does house quite a few Cinemas, although sadly most are carbon copies of each other bringing little more than the latest chart blockbusters – there’s The Odeon in Victoria Square Shopping Mall, Odyssey Cinemas in The Odyssey Complex, Movie House Cinema at Yorkgate (sister to Dublin Road’s Movie House Cinema, as well as Short Strand Cinema and one in The Kennedy Centre – neither of which I’ve been to. Throw in a few notable smaller ventures – the QFT at Queen’s University where I frequented, and Beanbag Cinema which is exactly as it sounds.
Beanbag and QFT offer alternatives – Indie and Local movies, documentaries and Art films, take part in festivals, and also show films long since out of screening. I’ve posted before about my ideal Cinema – read that here – it’s essentially a huge complex which offers all the latest movies, but also movies from around the world along with regular seasons on a certain theme or by a certain director/actor etc. Not living in a big city like London or LA or wherever, where it seems you have unlimited choice, we basically have to take what we can get, so it’s difficult to get the full Cinema experience while also broadening your horizons. Most of my horizons were broadened by VHS, DVD, and watching late night TV.
Nowadays, it’s so easy to stretch those horizons – a few clicks of a few buttons, and you have anything. It’s one of the reasons why many Cinemas are closing their doors – why go out, when you can stay in? Why spend all that money when you can catch up on the other thousand movies you haven’t seen, then in a few weeks the one you passed over on the big screen will be on your small screen? Why get ripped off on popcorn and drinks prices when you can get a month’s worth at your local store for the same price as a single Cinema outing? Why deal with other people talking and chewing and laughing and looking at their phones and existing, when you can close your doors and curtains and sit butt naked on your sofa? All the old reasons for going to the Cinema are gradually fading away, or are gone together. In the past it took years for a film to come to VHS and TV; now it’s a few months – or in some cases the same day. You can easily make your own Slushy drinks and Popcorn at home now. TV Screens are much larger and of a much greater quality than ever before. So why even bother going to the Cinema now?
For some people, it’s because they have to be first – they want to see it first so that they can avoid spoilers, so that they can be part of the conversation, so that they can tweet about it, or write a blog post about it. I only go to the Cinema now if it’s something I desperately want to see on the big screen (which is precious few films these days), or for something to do with the kids (which is only a handful of times a year). And yet, when I had a Cinema on my doorstep I was there every week, watching whatever was on. That’s where Dublin Road Cinema comes in… but more on that later.
For me, the problem is an equation made up of time, money, and distance. My nearest Cinema is a fifteen/twenty minute drive away – admittedly that’s very small and any US readers are probably wondering what the problem is. Well, for one I don’t really like driving, and for two I’ll almost inevitably get stuck behind a tractor/slow driver/idiot/cyclist/all of these. Plus, when I get to that nearest Cinema it only has so many car park spaces because it isn’t just a Cinema – it’s also a Crazy Golf joint, a bowling alley, a pile of restaurants, an arcade, and an indoor playpark. It’s busy – all the time, and parking is a pain in the arse. So, a twenty minute drive becomes leaving twenty minutes early to account for parking and idiots on the road. Factor in a 2 hour movie, padded out to 2 and a half thanks to all the ads and trailers, then 20 minutes driving home – you’ve quickly chopped 3 or 4 hours out of the day. So time and distance go hand in hand. Money then – if I’m going by myself it’s not such a huge deal. A single ticket is probably five quid, and I stash my own food and drinks inside my coat/pockets. Going with the family – our trip a few days ago to see The Secret Life Of Pets 2 cost thirty quid, which is much less than what I thought it was going to be, but again we’d stashed some of our own grub away. It’s usually closer to forty or fifty quid and to spend that sort of money on a few hours of entertainment when we could get the same at home for nowt, seems frivolous and wasteful.
This all sounds like I hate going to the Cinema. I don’t – I love it. I love the big screen, the seats, the volume thronging through my body, the smell, the trailers, the anticipation, even the communal experience. When I was younger I would have movie nights with friends, but those just don’t exist for me anymore. While Cinema can’t replace the banter and comfort of watching with friends at home, the home can’t replace the uncertain excitement of the Cinema. This post has had a long gestation – I heard about Dublin Road Cinema closing months ago from a colleague who worked there, before it was officially announced. I’ve lived in my current Cinema-less town for almost eight years, and in each of those years I’ve asked why it doesn’t have a Cinema. It’s not a big town and it wouldn’t need a big Cinema, but given the sheer amount of people that my nearest one gets, one in my town would mean that it was another option. There are so many smaller villages around my town that it makes financial sense – people already come here to shop, let them come to watch a movie too, and shop some more, and have something to eat. Like I say, it doesn’t need to be huge – three or four screens would suffice. Five would be nice. If there was a Cinema in my town, within walking distance, I would never be out of it.
Because I love the Cinema experience. Some of my best times have been in front of the big screen, and some of my favourite movies (as well as many not so great ones) were seen in Dublin Road Cinema. I saw the last two Matrix movies there, I saw the last two LOTR movies there, some of my first dates with my wife were there. I went to Queen’s University which is about a ten minute walk from Dublin Road Cinema, and because my lectures were spread through the day and week, my only options between times were going to the pub, going to the library, and going to the Cinema. Two out of three of those were more frequent than the other. When I moved in with my then girlfriend, we lived off the Ormeau Road – fifteen minutes from the Cinema. On Fridays we would get drunk in The Errigle Bar and on Saturdays we would go to the Cinema – if we didn’t, I would dander down the road myself on Sunday morning and hang around until the Cinema doors opened and go in myself to enjoy the latest torture porn. It was the perfect place for a Cinema – within walking distance of most of my favourite bars and beside a little square where I would sit and ‘do things’ to girlfriends before my wife came along. It was on the main road walking to University from the Bus Station, meaning I could check out all the posters adorning the outside, then on the rest of the walk I would work out which movies I would see that week. The layout and decor of the interior I’ll never forget – when I imagine my ideal Cinema, it’s always Dublin Road I think of.
So, how do we stop this from happening? How do we keep our Cinemas open? It’s a complex question with complicated answers. We have to do our part – even with my excuses, and your excuses, even with our distractions and other options – we have to keep going. It’s still a one of a kind experience. It’s up to the Cinemas to accentuate those unique positives they have to convince us to keep going. It’s up to the big chains to allow the smaller ones to keep breathing. It’s up to the entrepreneurs and smaller companies to follow their dreams and create niche alternatives, and it’s up to governments, towns, cities, investors to fund those dreams and allow them to become reality. I still say the Cinema Experience can be heightened by having chat rooms and bars installed – places people can go to talk about the movie afterwards. I still say that that we should exit through the gift shop – have posters and shirts and memorabilia and toys and junk from each movie on display, so we can buy or peruse on the way out. I’m clearly no Businessman, but why no go Blue Ocean on Cinemas? Exploit what is unique about them and find those ways to increase revenue that haven’t been tried or considered before. Calm the hell down on your current pricing, because that will be your death knell. Give us something we can’t get anywhere else, and give us a reason to sacrifice our time and money for it, aside from big ‘splosions and a Marvel or Disney logo.
How do you think Cinemas can be saved? Do you think they need saving? Has your favourite Cinema closed down? Let us know in the comments!
The first one wasn’t great and I haven’t seen the second one. These must still be making money – not a surprise when they’re cheap to make, but this will almost certainly be more loud jump-scares and little else.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
I’ve seen the Raimi trilogy, but haven’t seen any since. Was there another trilogy before this latest series? Or just a couple of films? I’m sure I’ll get to them one day.
A cop thriller with a cat and mouse chase around Manhattan. They could go classy on this and make it like Sicario or more likely it could be like a TV movie or stretched TV episode. The cast is okay – only Keith David really stands out to me as someone to get me interested, and the director is mainly known for his TV work.
Looks like a modern buddy movie – I don’t think many of these have worked recently and this will most likely go the same way. When these work they’re always entertaining, and it will be cool seeing Bautista and Iko Uwais going toe to toe. Director Michael Dowse has so far directed the sorts of comedies I actively avoid so I can’t see this being too hot.
The Lion King
Yet another Disney remake and yet another ‘why’. I’m not as precious about The Lion King as some people are, but beyond money there is no reason for this to exist. I’m sure it can’t possibly capture the magic of the original – like any of these remakes – but it’ll be pretty to look at.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
The big one. Tarantino’s movies have been more on the average side for me recently, not since Inglorious Basterds. Django was okay, and The Hateful Eight was probably his weakest. This is the film he has wanted to make for years and it’s the one fans like me have wanted to see. I’d rather he made this in his early days than now, and I’d rather it wasn’t related to the Manson stuff as that seems needlessly exploitative and I’m more interested in Tarantino’s vision of 60s/70s Hollywood.
I don’t know what this is, other than it is an animation with voice work by Jackie Chan.
Is that it? Where did all the movies go? Which ones are you looking forward to?
As a fan of the more extreme side of cinema, I ask you to join me, as I explore the history of Cinema's most extreme movies with all the sex, violence and symbolism intact. I'm here to reflect on the extreme movies that have come and gone to see what they mean, see what makes them so extreme, and of course, see if they're any good.