Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1998!

Shakespeare In Love Review | Movie - Empire

It feels like a long time since I’ve posting one of these. I think that’s because my last batch of favourite/least favourite movie posts were written months ago, then posted sporadically in the weeks afterwards, but I haven’t actually written any new ones in 6 months. Time to get back into these now.

I had a tough time with this one – I had to resort to scanning down all the movies released according to Wikipedia, and it wasn’t until the letter H that I found one that I was even remotely inclined to include here. Quite a few of the movies I’ve listed – I don’t think they’re bad, I don’t even dislike them much. It’s just that out of the movies I’ve seen from 1998, these ones I liked least or had some personal issues with. There are, of course, a few stinkers.

Hard Rain

The letter ‘H’. It’s a film I don’t have anything against, it’s just a little meh. Underwhelming. It was one of Christian Slater’s last shots at the big time before he sadly fell into straight to DVD fare. He’s one of my favourite actors, he’s in some of my favourite movies, and he’s capable of so much more. Here he rejoins Morgan Freeman in a sort of action, sort of thriller, though both the thrills and action leave plenty to be desired. It’s a decent idea, coming around the same time as all of those 90s era disaster special effects blockbusters, but it lacks the entertainment or the scope of those.

The film looks good – it just lacks that spectacle. Danish Cinematographer Mikael Salomon directs – famed for his work on The Abyss – but the story doesn’t deliver the thrills which the setup promises. It’s basically a heist movie inside of a disaster movie, which sounds great on paper, and the disaster is the flooding of a small US town. Slater is the everyman good guy, while Freeman plays against type as the villain. It’s worth seeing, it probably didn’t deserve to flop as badly as it did, but it’s hardly the most memorable movie of the year.

Knock Off

In the 1980s, Jean Claude Van Damme made his name for himself as a respectable action movie star. Then again, in the 1980s you could get away with a lot of nonsense which simply wouldn’t work in any other era. When we entered the 90s, much of the cheese went away and the surviving successful action stars had to adapt – bigger budget movies, higher concepts – with Van Damme doing well in the first half of the decade thanks to Universal Soldier and Timecop. Those less inclined to follow every movie such stars release would have though JCVD dropped off the map, but he was still there pushing out a mixture of cult classics, lesser known fun times, and shite like this.

It seemed good on the surface – Tsui Hark is a man renowned for his flamboyant, amusing, action packed Hong Kong movies, with the Once Upon A Time In China series being one of the greatest Martial Arts franchises. But then Rob Schneider appears in the cast. And Paul Sorvino. And the plot is about… stolen pairs of jeans? It doesn’t matter. It all circles on Knock Off clothing and Van Damme and Schneider are the cops tasked with sorting all this shit out and making sure only wholesome American brands are worn on ever thickening American asses.

The movie is camp as get out, something I’m usually resolutely against in my humour, but there are a few amusing moments. Mostly because the whole thing is ridiculous. It tries to follow the straight man/weirdo buddy cop formula… but the mixture of Hong Kong algorithms into the mix really throws things off meaning it becomes a bizarre, unwieldy mish mash which isn’t really suited to anyone. The most egregious crime is that it lacks the kinetic and visual flare of the HK side, or the brutality and coherence of the US side. If you like JCVD, it’s certainly one of many curios in his career, but it’s not worth the time for anyone else.

Little Voice

1998 was one of those years where the influence of Britpop and Cool Britannia spilled over into British Cinema – on the surface all of these new British voices – writers, directors, actors, were hitting the mainstream. The worldwide mainstream. British Cinema was firmly on the map again. Four Wedding And A Funeral kind of kicked it off, and Trainspotting blazed the trail in a different direction, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the decade that all of these British (English) movies made an impact beyond our shores. People suddenly loved British Cinema again. The stupid thing is, the whole era resulted in a grand total of fuck all good movies. There are a few of them on my list this year, and each in their own way signifies everything I hate about English film in the populist sense. From the sickeningly desperate leg-humping attempts to be notice by the big boys in Hollywood (rather than having the self respect to be their own thing), to the inevitable cutesy twee humour which, again, is something which exists only because it’s what the big boys in US expect. These movies are always, always comedies, with slightly offbeat characters – the types of people you cross the street to avoid, then wait until they’re out of sight before following them home and shitting on their doorstep – but they completely avoid the truest, best trappings of British humour. Look at any number of British sitcoms of comedy TV shows from this same era, which were made primarily for British audiences; there’s simply no comparison. TV writers were pumping out some of the finest characters and sketches ever committed to screen, while movie makers were shoving this shite down everyone’s gaping holes.

You know exactly what this film is before seeing it – it hits all of the same character, comedy, and story beats of every other film of its ilk. Shy woman from working class background hides from the world and impersonates her favourite singers (read – has zero personality of her own). Her mum, who is a shit, thinks she is shit. She is encouraged to sing in public, and after some misfires becomes a success. The end. The amount of awards this was nominated for is ridiculous.

There was any number of other British films this year that I could also have included here (further down the list I have) but the likes of The Land Girls, Waking Ned, Titanic Town almost made the cut but were just redeemable enough to avoid such embarrassment.

Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels

With its poster adorning the walls of idiots around the globe, Lock…. was a sensation and launched the career of Guy Ritchie – a man who has yet to make a single film I have even tolerated, never mind enjoyed. His success is truly bewildering to me. I get that people love his early work, but I just don’t understand any of it. It’s cut rate Tarantino at its worst, and even more unforgivably it centres on a bunch of Cockney twats who I wanted out of my life within seconds of seeing. A bunch of people I don’t like arsing about in a convoluted yet empty crime plot with a soundtrack by artists I can’t stand – the only good thing about this was that I generated a nickname for one of my English teachers at the time – Mr Blackstock And Two Smoking Armpits. Because he was a sweater. And because I am a genius.

Psycho

There’s a silly argument which goes on about remakes of foreign movies – that the US version must somehow be superior, or that the original is somehow inferior or overhyped simply because it is foreign. Because it is subtitled. Pushers of this argument double down on the remakes which are essentially scene for scene. Ignoring the casual racism inherent in such a statement, it’s a very silly argument to make. I could make the argument that if the US remake isn’t very good but the foreign original was lauded and lavished with praise – simply that the critics and reviewers were wrong or that the wrong films are being remade. The whole thing is rendered pointless when we think of US shot for shot remakes of US films. Gus Van Sant’s remake of Hitchcock’s masterpiece is as close to a shot for shot remake as you’ll ever get. Yet it somehow lacks the chills and the shocks and the atmosphere and the intelligence of the original. Which highlights the simple fact that, no matter how similar you make your remake it’s still an entirely separate entity. Different director (probably), different cast, different filming period, different everything. Before comparing remake to original or blindly assuming the original must somehow be a product of reviewer bias if the remake is poor, maybe go watch the fucking thing yourself.

Rasen

Ringu is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It’s also one of my personal Top Ten movies of all time. Rasen is the forgotten… side sequel? Honestly, the whole Ring book and movie series is quite complicated, but basically both Ringu and Rasen are based on the original books by Koji Suzuki – Ringu is the first novel and Spiral is the second, with Rasen based on Spiral. Both movies share some cast members – namely Hiroyuki Sanada and Miki Nakatani, and exist in the same universe. That’s about where the similarities end. The book series is loosely horror, and as it proceeds begins to deal with artificial intelligence and the link between the supernatural and technology, and that’s kind of the tone which Rasen follows. Ringu is all terror, all the time. Ringu was a massive hit, singlehandedly kicking off the J-Horror movement, while no-one remembers Rasen exists. It’s hardly surprising, because Rasen is a slog to get through, isn’t scary, and doesn’t really know what it’s supposed to be.

It doesn’t make an ounce of sense. The books are incredibly well written and in dealing with complex theories they actually drive an engaging narrative and convince the reader of what is being proposed. Rasen jumps from scene to scene and twist to twist with little explanation, and what explanation there is ends up bewildering further. The film was such a flop that those in charge demanded a new sequel – the vastly superior Ring 2 more closely following the events of Ringu insteaf of the books.

Shakespeare In Love

Here we go again. Another British Rom come. This ticks a tonne of my no go boxes – English (kind of)? Rom Com? Period Piece? When I first heard about it… I thought it was a good idea. As an English Literature Degree holding guy this should have been up at least one of my alleys. But a combination of irritating casting and misguided humour, along with the aforementioned no go boxes meant this was at best an annoyance best forgotten. The fact that the film was such a monumental success was salt, ketchup, and garlic and chives into the wound. We’ll get to the whole Oscars debacle at some point in the future, but it’s neither here nor there – the film is utter balls.

Sliding Doors

Two Gwyneth Paltrow movies in one list in one year? I’m not surprised, given how garbage an actress (human?) she appears to be. Existing in this space entirely on the backs of famous parents, her entire career is a mess. If I look down her entire filmography, there isn’t a single performance that I’ve seen that I’ve enjoyed, and her appearance in films I have more or less liked – The Talented Mr Ripley…. actually, that’s probably the only one – her appearance has brought those films down. Why is she a thing?

Sliding Doors… another quirky English Rom Com which panders to the big boys. It’s actually an okay premise – how something as uneventful as getting on or not getting on a train could be on your life. In reality, such things don’t actually make a difference to anyone’s existence – few things do, but that’s the Hollywood lie to keep us poor folks hoping and dreaming and giving over money to our betters. The idea is used only to serve the ‘romance’ which is what really matters, but the horrible dialogue, the cutesy twee crap, the awful casting, the production line beats of the script… it all adds up to yet another wholly unnecessary entry in a genre which has produced more shite than almost any other.

The Thin Red Line

Terence Malik, I love ya but… this increasingly feels like a meandering misstep. With every new Malik film released it feels like the dude is only good at one thing, and thing stopped being interesting in the 70s. Still, The Thin Red Line is a beautifully shot experience and should be seen by anyone with even a passing interest in Cinema as an art form. It’ll certainly pick up plenty of nominations in my personal Oscars lists when I get around to those. I only wish I cared about any of what was happening. By no means a bad film… it just passed me by like yet another exhibit in a gallery I didn’t have to pay to enter.

You’ve Got Mail

Gwyneth Paltrow and Meg Ryan may well be the same person. Have you seen them in the same room at the same time? In any case, they both select the same sort of material and play the same sort of characters regardless of the film or the genre. Of course, that genre is usually RomCom, but you get the idea. Ryan, to her credit, is a better performer and has sometimes chosen more edgy and exciting material, but it’s movies like this that she is known for. Films for hopeless romantics (read – hopeless people), movies which have these people in ridiculous situations and somehow come out of them with a diamond ring and a nice pretty husband. You’ve Got Mail is one of the most notable of these sorts of movies – it’s equally illogical and annoying as the others, it’s a void of ideas, it’s shot with the flare of a housewife filming her baby’s first birthday, and… well, it’s just for me. I think we’ve established that repeatedly by now. If people enjoy this, more power to them. For me, it’s just another inane entry and the garbage spewing canon.

What are your thoughts on 1998? Have I treated any of these films unfairly? Which films from my list, or from 1998 would you include as your least favourite? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Top Ten Movies Of 1998!

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

As always, I look at the films which narrowly missed out on my Top Ten. American History X  is a film which sadly has become increasingly relevant since its release, rather than less so. While recent cultural events have seen – not a rise in racism, but an increase in the number of existing racists feeling like they have a voice in society and that their sad little opinions deserve to be heard. Even if its events had become a relic of a less enlightened past, it would still remain a powerful, flawlessly written, directed, and performed film. 

Apt Pupil makes for the perfect partner if you’re looking for a seriously depressing double bill. Based on the riveting Stephen King Novella, it follows a deranged youth with a fasciation for Nazism realizing that a friendly old man in his town is actually a former Concentration Camp monster hiding in the US. Featuring career bests from Ian McKellan and Brad Renfro, it’s one of the most underseen movies of the year.

The Big Lebowski is just a lot of fun, a lazy laidback movie which it is deliciously easy to slip on in the background and find your happy place – and I’m nowhere near the biggest fan of it, while The Idiots is Lars Von Trier hitting his stride and entering the ‘I will offend everyone’ stage of his career.

Mulan is a late in the day hand drawn classic by Disney which was overlooked somewhat at release, and has been somewhat re-evaluated in the aftermath of it being remade, while Run Lola Run was a film like no other at the time, a film told from different angles in a looping Quantum Leap manner while we hope for a happy ending. 

10: Wild Things (US) John McNaughton

A dirty, perverted, hilarious thriller by the man who brought us Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, this is a teenage boy’s dream. Certainly for me, the idea of another Neve Campbell movie was more than enough to get my attention, but throw in the odd sweaty boob shenanigans with her and Denise Richards and a cast featuring Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, and Bill Murray, tied around a script which twists and upends Noir tropes, and you have a wonderful little film which people only remember for its threesome – it’s certainly a lot more. 

9: The Truman Show (US) Peter Weir

I always championed Jim Carrey as a great actor, seeing behind his slapstick japes and face-pulling, but he never got the material to prove himself to Critics until The Truman Show came along. He’s the lynchpin which holds this high-concept drama together, and the focal point for the world wide reality show hit he is the star of. He lives in your typical ideal Good Old USA town, has the perfect job, perfect wife, and yet yearns for me – triggered by memories of lost love. Turns out his entire life has been designed for our entertainment and everyone he has ever known is an actor – his town a giant set, and every action he performs nothing more than the latest episode of a long running TV show. Slowly he begins to realise that something isn’t right and he tests the boundaries of his neighbours, friends, and family unsure if he is having a breakdown or if he is part of some big conspiracy. It’s charming, the perfect fuzzy comfort movie, and everyone is on hot form – Carrey, Ed Harris, Natasha McElhone, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich.

8: Dark City (US/OZ) Alex Proyas

I’m probably one of the few people who saw this before seeing The Matrix. Due to my love of The Crow, I wanted to see what else Proyas had up his sleeve – while this isn’t on the same level as The Crow, it is another twisted dark fantasy with signature cinematography and some bamboozling ideas. While it has plenty in common with The Matrix it equally draws comparisons to The Truman Show, Memento, Inception, and any number of European movies of the 60s and 70s, yet the same acclaim and fame has so far eluded it. It stars Rufus Sewell as a man who wakes in a bathroom with no memory, a corpse in the next room, and a group of trenchcoated freaks in hot pursuit. As the film progresses, he picks up clues about his life and surroundings including the fact that he can manipulate his surroundings with the power of his mind, and yet he seems to be the only person questioning the world’s perpetual darkness. It’s one of those films who have to see for yourself, and descriptions don’t do it justice. If the idea doesn’t pull you in, the shifting Expressionist city visuals should, but if those aren’t enough to entice you, the cast also includes Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Melissa George, William Hurt, and the great Richard O’Brien. 

7: Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (US) Terry Gilliam

Speaking of films which should be experienced rather than trying to explain, Terry Gilliam’s take on Hunter S Thompson’s Gonzo classic is the perfect example. Avoiding such niceties and narrative and plot, it loosely follows Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro’s drugged up shenanigans in Las Vegas as they encounter bats, giant lizards, motorcycles, rotating floors, horrendous casinos, and familiar faces such as Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, Flea, Cameron Diaz, Ellen Barkin, Verne Troyer, Jenette Goldstein, Harry Dean Stanton and others. It’s a complete mess, but in the best possible way. 

6: Saving Private Ryan (US) Steven Spielberg

There’s surely a case to be made for Saving Private Ryan being the best War movie ever made. Some War movies focus on character with the violence and brutality in the background, while others may wallow in violence or patriotism or dubious political asides. Saving Private Ryan is very much an American take on WWII, but it takes the best of the best war movies, showing as a range of characters and the impact of War on them, all without shying away from the visceral realism of the battlefield. This being Spielberg, there are heavy doses of sentiment and the film feels like it plays out like a sequence of iconic scenes – but I’d prefer that over a sequence of forgettable ones. It’s also as star-studded as the epics of the past, but focuses on familiar faces if not huge A Listers in minimal roles – Tom Hanks and Matt Damon are the big hitters, but you also have Tom Sizemore, Ted Danson, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, Paul Giamatti, Nathan Fillion, Dennis Farina, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns etc etc. When first watching this, you got the sense that it was creating a new world for War movies and opening the eyes and doors for the next generation of Directors.

5: What Dreams May Come (US) Vincent Ward

I don’t think I’ve made such a list yet, but if I did so this film would likely be my Number One Robin Williams movie. The great man’s comedies could be sometimes hit and miss for me, but maybe because he made so many, but often his more dramatic moments are those which stick in the memory. What Dreams May Come is a tough one to watch in the aftermath of Williams’ death, dealing as it does with notions of suicide and the afterlife. But it’s a uniquely beautiful movie, a love story which transcends life, death, and religion, and features some visuals you’ll never forget. Based on the novel by the great Richard Matheson, the movie was always going to be a hard sell with its philosophical leanings, the tragic story of a man who dies and leaves his wife alone, having lost their children a few years earlier in a car crash. The man goes to Heaven but travels to Hell when his wife kills herself wracked with guilt over the deaths of her husband and children. It sounds rough, and it is utterly heart-breaking, but it is also a lovely film which ultimately ends up in a place of hope.  

4: Fallen (US) Gregory Hoblit

I’m still mystified that nobody has seen Fallen. It’s a police procedural which deals with demonic activity – it’s hardly the first time these lines have been blurred – but it does so in a fun, classy, sardonic way. Denzel Washington stars as a Detective hot on the tail of a serial killer who he just happened to have already caught, sent to death row, and watched die. Yet the guy seems to be back, knowing intimate details that a copycat or accomplice couldn’t. The film didn’t make back its budget, possibly because it simply dropped in the wrong month, the wrong year, the wrong climate. Or maybe I’m elevating it to a point it doesn’t deserve to be on – I’ll let you decide – but any film featuring Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz, James Gandolfini, and Elias Koteas is likely always going to get three thumbs up in my book. 

3: Blade (US) Stephen Norrington

I’ve gone on record multiple time on this blog bemoaning the cookie cutter nature of both Marvel and DC’s recent movies. They’re absolutely huge blockbusters, but I just don’t care about any of it. I don’t find anything unique or engaging about any of them, and they end up being about as exciting as jogging down some steps and as memorable as whatever I had for lunch three weeks ago. Comic book movies were a rarity in the 90s, and possibly because of this the movies we did get seemed fresh. Blade is one such example, seeing Wesley Snipes as the half-vampire half-human renegade working and quipping and killing his way to block a demonic apocalypse. It’s cool, it’s violent and bloody, it’s stylish, and Blade is a more interesting character to me than most of the other hundred thousand superheroes out there.

2: Ronin (US) John Frankenheimer

Another film which is rarely spoken of when discussing the great films of 1998 or the Nineties in general, Ronin is a perfect blend of action, drama, and crime thriller, directed by someone who had more than a little experience of each. John Frankenheimer’s penultimate movie features one of the best car chases of all time and brings together a fantastic international cast – De Niro, Sean Bean, Jean Reno, Natasha McElone, Jonathan Pryce, Stelland Skarsgard, and Michael Lonsdale. It’s like watching Reservoir Dogs unfold in the correct order but with twists and double-crosses peaking out from every frame. 

1: Ringu (Japan) Hideo Nakata (Top Ten Of All Time)

Check my Top Movies Of The Decade post.

Let us know yur thoughts in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1999!

Notting Hill review – a year-round treat, not just for Valentine's | Notting Hill | The Guardian

1999 was a pretty favourable year for me, as you’ll have seen in my Favourites post. There were plenty of movies I enjoyed outside of those Twenty movies, so it was tricky finding enough I didn’t like for this post.

Angela’s Ashes

There’s no valid reason for me having this on the list – I just don’t like Irish films for the most part. Maybe because it’s too close to home, because they’re grimy and filthy, and offer me no escapism that they become nauseating. It’s well made, well acted, and disturbing. But it’s on the list.

The Haunting

Man, this just takes everything which makes the original movie (and haunted house movies in general) interesting, and throws it out the window in favour of dodgy effects, tepid characters, the atmosphere of a vet’s waiting room, and endless aimless dialogue. There are a few unintentionally funny moments here and there but not enough to make it worth anyone’s time.

In Dreams

I was looking forward to this, being a fan of Neil Jordan’s work (excluding some of his Irish stuff) but I generally don’t care for Annette Bening or Aidan Quinn. Having crafted some of the more interesting horror movies in recent decades, this should have worked, but once we get into so called twisting psychological territory, things fall apart quickly with the same old tired tropes and obvious twists signposted early on – plus the whole thing has a drab visual design.

Lake Placid

This is another movie I had looked forward to, hearing it compared favourably to Jaws and Tremors. Both comparisons are insulting with Lake Placid being more similar to Jaws 3 or, well, Tremors 3. The camp humour is risible, the script clueless, and it fails to either entertain or scare or engage in any manner.

Notting Hill

Another year, another dastardly British ‘comedy’. If it’s not a shitty musical, it’s one of these. It reeks of Richard Curtis – smarmy faux slapstick comedy, toff scum, English ideals and character types who don’t actually exist. The annoying thing is that I actually like the central idea – a Hollywood superstar just randomly stumbling upon some nobody’s life. I could do without the falling in love part, and Hugh Grant will never be convincing as anybody other than Hugh Grant. With that idea alone, an overhauled script, new cast, new director, you might have an enjoyable movie.

Runaway Bride

Sorry, Julia Roberts, I think you’re a very good actress – you just have an annoying habit of picking shitty material. Master of the shitty Romantic Comedy, Gary Marshall, created yet another inexplicable hit – did he ever make a good movie though? There’s nothing you need to see here.

Stigmata

Yet another film I was pre-disposed to like – horror, religious iconography, Patricia Arquette, and a Natalie Imbruglia song on the soundtrack to top it off. Sadly, it’s just not very good. Not interesting, not scary… I’m not sure what it was trying to be.

Let us know in the comments what your least favourite movies of 1999 are!

TTT- Top Ten Gameshows Which Need To Make A Return!

Big Break - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! It’s a strange time we find ourselves in, and the natural instinct is to withdraw into simpler times – when the skies were blue, when the music was better, when our only responsibility was deciding whether to roll out of bed at 10am or 11, and for some people, when you could be a racist dick and get away with it.

All your favourite distractions have been put on hold – movies have been pushed back due to Cinemas being shut down, and filming has stopped on even the most successful TV shows. Those shows lucky enough to have finished recording pre-Lockdown are being drip-fed to us in the UK, and one of these is Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow. It’s an hour long format which sees the annoying buck-toothed imp prance around and relay famous catchphrases from days of yore. Each week, Carr and his team bring back a classic ‘British’ gameshow which has been off our screens for years for a nice bit of nostalgia. It’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened, and indeed many of the gameshows included have already seen multiple reboots over the decades, but each time it happens my wife always asks ‘why don’t they show gameshows like this anymore’ – to which I always reply ‘because you and all the other chumps killed them by watching Reality TV shite’. 

It’s something I’ve probably written about here before, and it’s definitely something I’ve misspent a lot of time thinking about – having my own TV channel and bringing back all of my favourite Game Shows. Game Shows were a big part of my youth – growing up in an era of four (count em) TV Channels where choice was extremely limited. While time has clearly moved on, and most Prime Time Game Shows now are an excuse to shove already famous people into nostalgic settings, the range of channels out there now surely allows for a few of these to be brought back. Sure, the prizes might not be as awe-inspiring as before due to limited audience figures but who knows, maybe the tide will turn and people will get sick of Reality TV shite such as I’m A Celebrity (No I’m Not), I’ll Sell My Own Baby To Be Famous, and Anal Island, and people will demand a return to 30 fun packed minutes of questions and games. If not, we can always dream. Here are ten Game Shows I’d love to see make a return (and there will be a part two coming soon).

Big Break

Big Break was a show which centered on the sport of Snooker, or as they call it in the USA, The Pointy Stick Coloured Orb Game. Like many Game Shows, our host was a trained stand-up Comedian, in this case Jim ‘I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this’ Davidson. He was the perfect man for the job, always ready with a quip, a pulled face, or a frantic grab at a contestant’s balls (snooker balls). Ably backed up by his sexy, glamourous assistant – John Virgo – sort of a less sexually threatening Paul Hollywood, Jim would invite three contestants each week to join up with a famous snooker player to compete for the top prize of… a holiday? Usually? I can’t remember.

The show was split into different rounds – the first finding the contestants answering questions so that their professional compatriot could try to pot as many balls as possible – each correct answer giving ten seconds at the table. Whoever scored lowest was booted off. Next up saw coloured ball co-ordinated questions – pink for sport, green for music etc. The player would attempt to pot as many balls as they could within a time limit (again), but if they missed a shot the contestant would have to answer a question on the missed ball’s colour and the player couldn’t continue until the contestant got the right answer. The winner would proceed to the final round where they had to answer five questions against the clock (90 seconds for the whole round) – each correct answer meant a red ball removed from the table, and once all questions are answered the player had to pot the remaining balls on the table within the remaining time. Each non-red ball corresponded to a prize, with the star prize coming only if the black was sunk.

Big Break seemed to drop at a time (it ran from 1991 to 2002) when Snooker was very popular and had a lot of famous personalities in the sport. It was always exciting to see which player the contestants would get – would you be lucky and hit a Stephen Hendry or Jimmy White, or fall on your arse and get a Willie Thorn? The show was spiced up by the humour and antics of Virgo and Davidson, with lots of prat falling and cheating if a player was struggling, and an addictive Virgo’s Trick Shot Round which saw the first contestant eliminated trying their hand at the table, and having to pot a Trick Shot – amusingly Virgo would explain the shot and sometimes miss himself, and Davidson would usually use his hands to pot the ball if it looked like the contestant was going to miss. Would the show work nowadays? Honestly, I don’t watch too much snooker anymore and don’t know a lot of the top names, but it’s a format which succeeded for over a decade and which always managed to keep me entertained. The unique format of having the contestant and player rely on each other was interesting – sometimes the professional would have an off day, or sometimes the contestant was an idiot -and I can imagine a variety of other sports which could follow the style of Big Break. I’m not sure if it would be much use now without a duo of Virgo and Davidson’s chemistry, but I’d love to see it return.

Theme Tune: ‘I’m gonna be snookering you tonight!’

Catchphrases: ‘Say Good Night JV/Good night JV’. ‘Pot as many balls as you can’.

Cyberzone

What the hell is Cyberzone you may ask. In truth, I barely remember it, and for years I wondered if it had been a dream, as no-one I explained it to ever seemed to think it existed. Once again though, I prove all you fools to be the fools you are, as Cyberzone did in fact exist outside of my barely functioning mind. Created by famed quiz creator dude Tim Child, Cyberzone was helmed by famed ‘always starring in weird futuristic shit dude’ Craig Charles and was one of the first examples of VR being used for TV entertainment. Naturally, this being the early 90s, the technology was terrible – yet still made an impact on little old me as I imagined a future of virtual exploration, adventure, and quite probably boobs.

The game featured two teams of contestants tackling virtual challenges by stamping on pads on the ground to walk, and shaking their arms to simulate shooting or completing some other challenge. Craig Charles dials it up to fifteen and brings much needed energy while he tries to explain computer speak for the ignorant masses while an all too white Colonial Cowboy Gamesmaster hybrid introduces the games, but unfortunately the games now look less early 90s Doom and more late 80s The Vindicator for Spectrum. Not heard of that one? Google it. Yes, the virtual world is blocky and barren, but again for a kid in an era of 2D sprites this was like chicken soup to a Measles sufferer, and I gobbled down every second, wishing I could take part.

VR has seen recent resurgences and it’s now sort of affordable to get much more innovative and immersive VR experiences in the comfort of your own’s momma’s basement. So why bother with a Virtual Gameshow? Well why not? A money rich studio could pump cash into this and make something which doesn’t hurt our tech-cultured 21st Century eyes, and games could be a lot more entertaining than ‘walk over there and pick that box up’. I’d recommend making this a kid centric show, upgrading the rather nifty set of the original, keeping the ludicrous hype of the original, but showcasing a technology that looks the part and doesn’t move at a single frame per second.

Theme Tune: I don’t remember the theme tune, so it must have been muck.

Catchphrases: Awooga! Cyber filth!

Fun House

Keeping things in the realm of Kids TV shows, for a moment, is there a more fondly related kids gameshow than Fun House? The show ran for ten years, was a staple of afterschool TV for multiple generations, and a source of wish fulfilment and escapism for people like me who wanted nothing more than to race down a slide into a coloured ball pit where a pair of gunge covered blonde twins waited to offer me their ‘prizes’

Pat ‘yes, this is a mullet’ Sharpe brought such much needed, barely veiled dry sarcasm to proceedings, proceedings which saw two teams (each made up of a boy and a girl) who represented a particular school tackling a variety of slimy, slippery games all for the opportunity to enter the Fun House and win some top top prizes. The games always led to people sliding on their arse and getting covered in foam, and eventually racing around in go-karts. I don’t know anyone who didn’t want to be in the show, and once similar giant indoor play parks started to pop up in Northern Ireland, we finally had the opportunity to recreate our fantasies.

There’s no good reason why Fun House wouldn’t work today – there have been several calls to bring it back and at the height of its popularity there was talk of an adult spin off. While that does sound fun, I don’t think it would work in practice – maybe the odd one-off special. One thing I didn’t like was the School representation – winning prizes for your School? Balls to that, you earn them, you keep them. A modern game would likely be watered down due to health and safety nonsense, but kids always want an opportunity to play in places like these – a new version with more entertaining games could be souped up to be more exciting than their local play park. My kids enjoy watching the original – no reason why they and others wouldn’t love a new one.

Theme Tune: ‘It’s wacky/it’s fun/it’s crazy/it’s outrageous’

Catchphrases: Lets re-run the fun.

Knightmare

Knightmare was a staple of my childhood after-school routine and, well, Nightmares. The show’s melding of mystery, puzzles, pantomime, mythology, real world contestants, and nifty special effects, all capped off by setting it in a swords’n’sandals world was perfect. I still watch any re-runs that are shown periodically. It was the show for nerds before nerdom became the all-encompassing bullshit it is now. You had to be intelligent, and lucky, to stand a chance on this gameshow, and if you weren’t the results were nasty.

This kids show featured a team of four friends entering a dungeon where they had to complete a quest, avoiding traps, monsters, giant spiders, wizards, witches, all to earn the lifelong respect of your peers and fellow humans. One poor sole donned a knapsack and helmet – blinding them – and set off into the dungeon, while the other three would sit hunched with notepads near a medieval fireplace under the watchful guidance of the Dungeon Master Treguard, and his cryptic clues.  I’ve talked about it before, you get the idea.

Kids TV, as mentioned, doesn’t have a lot of interesting gameshows like this anymore. In the Nineties there were a host of Virtual Reality themed gameshows with similar tasks, though none so atmospheric or brutal as Knightmare which could see contestants’ efforts spanning multiple episodes. With the improvements in Virtual Reality Technology, there’s no reason why something like this couldn’t be done again. The key would be to make it genuinely creepy, and difficult, and make those brave enough to step up to the challenge question their every decision.

Theme Tune: A classic

Catchphrases: Oooh, nasty.

Steal

I’m guessing none of you remember, or have heard of Steal. Like Catchphrase, Steal pits contestants against each other using a giant computerised board. Also like Catchphrase, it was hosted by a Walker – Mark Walker, son of Catchphrase legend Roy. It’s a show I loved at the time it was aired (1990-1992) and is one I spent years trying to find as I couldn’t remember its name. Thanks to various sites and the internet, I found it again. Now we should take the next step and bring it back to TV.

In truth, catching old episodes on Youtube reveals the show’s flaws. It was based on technology which didn’t really work even then, and was hampered by games which were a bit rubbish. Two teams would face off against each other to win both money and spot prizes by answering questions and then attempting to find a hidden symbol on the big TV board – Cash, Swag, or Jools (I used to think the show was called Swag). The 16 square grid would be shown to the contestants with the associated symbols, then hidden and rotated. The contestant would have to find the correct symbol by saying ‘top row, third from the left’, or ‘middle square’ etc. Its called Steal, because the other team can steal your squares/prizes if they get a Steal Square. The fun part was when they landed on the Jools square (the mascot of the show), and had to play a mini game. These were very basic computer games, played with a huge joystick, and involved digging up prizes or avoiding a dog etc. That’s where modern technology could come in, and spice the action up. Hell, you could even do some official game tie-ins and use the biggest blockbuster games challenges and make the whole format a mixture of Gamesmaster and prize-winning competition. It wasn’t the most exciting show looking back, but as a youngster into gaming at the time, it was fun tea-time viewing and made me want to play along.

Theme Tune: A fairly typical, jangly muzak type theme tune, nothing memorable.

Catchphrases: Take a bow, Jules. Our Feline Felon. Lets fill up the board. Remember what you saw and where you saw it.

Pets Win Prizes

As a kid, I spent a lot of my Summers at my a Caravan Park nestled between the sea and the mountains. Days were spent playing football, going on bike rides through country roads, evenings were spent wooing young ladies and eating gravy chips, and nights were spent camping and watching TV shows we probably wouldn’t normally watch given we were all sandwiched in the same space. Pets Win Prizes was one of these shows, always seeming to be on during those Summer Saturday Nights when I was filling my face with fart fuel (gravy chips). Obviously there’s nostalgia talking, but everyone still loves cute, furry pets, right? Look at recent Britain’s Got Talents, and look at all the rescue dog shows which are always on TV. Crufts still gets a huge audience, and it’s awful. A gameshow which sees talented pets, and their embarrassing owners being ridiculed by a quick witted host for the sake of some prizes should be simple TV gold. The series back then was hosted by Dale Winton, and before him Danny Baker, and saw pets being put through some often bizarre agility and skill based games, while their owners answered animal trivia questions. It wasn’t high art, but I’d say there’s still life in the old dog. So sorry. For anyone wondering why the hell I enjoyed this – I think I just enjoy anything with obstacle courses.

Theme Tune: Hardly a classic, but jaunty enough to be memorable. I was certain someone sang ‘Pets Win Prizes’ over the top of the music, but turns out that didn’t happen, and must have been my adding the words and singing myself.

Catchphrases: A succession of terrible animal based puns to go along with the badly behaved cats and dogs.

Takeshi’s Castle

There’s a solid argument to be made for Takeshi’s Castle being the greatest TV show of all time. The problem with it is… you have to be very careful with how it is presented and portrayed. For example – the original Japanese show is hilarious and bizarre, and the British Craig Charles presented clip type format is even better. HOWEVER, once the yanks got their hands on it and converted it to MXC or Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, it became almost unbearable due to a couple of dickhead co-presenters delivering the most hatefully unfunny commentary and complaining draining the show of its natural humour. Likewise, when the UK crafted Rebooted and brought in the normally amusing Dick and Dom instead of Craig Charles, it just wasn’t the same. Sure, the best clips had already been used, but the commentary and format simply wasn’t as strong.

So what is Takeshi’s Castle? It’s a Japanese show, the brainchild of the legendary Takeshi Kitano who wanted to make a live action Super Mario level. This quickly morphed into a gameshow/sketch show which saw Kitano and pals playing a range of strange characters who defended a Castle from intruders – the contestants. To storm the castle and defeat Takeshi for a fat cash prize, roughly 100 contestants had to complete a range of physical challenges which tested their limbs and skills, with dozens being eliminated each round until only a few survived. The final round, always a bit of an anti-climax, was a bumper car type water pistol battle. The best thing of course, aside from the characters and the contestants and their costumes, were the games – and the ever present chance of people being seriously injured.

I could list all my favourite games and moments, but I’d be here all day, but there was such a variety of challenges, even before factoring in the ‘Special Episodes’ that you always had something new balanced alongside personal favourites. Given the runaway success of, the frankly rubbish, WipeOut, and the vastly inferior modern versions of Ninja Warrior there is absolutely zero excuse to not bring back Takeshi’s Castle. It was a show which focused much less on the physical skill of the individual and instead highlighted to mayhem and creativity of the games and the mixture of luck and skill, as well as being one huge insane pantomime. Crucially, in today’s overly safety conscious world, shows like Ninja Warrior or The Floor Is Lava or Beastmaster – all those shows which copied Takeshi’s Castle – contain zero life or death threat. People gently flop into water with not even a scratched knee, while in the original potential snapped necks, twisted ankles, and new ribs were expected. For any new version to truly succeed, you’d need to leave yourselves open to potential law suits, health and safety concerns, leave shin guards and helmets aside, and just get stuck in.

In truth, I see a couple of formats for a true revival of the show. Much of the sketch side of things could be dispensed with but you could still have a cast of wacky characters following the general plot of ‘try to make it to the end without dying’. An hour long show could perhaps give a quick glimpse of every contestant and highlight the more quirky, more successful ones so that audiences can follow along with their endeavours, while a follow-up thirty minute show would be more like the Craig Charles version and feature just the best bits and smashes along with hilarious commentary. Naturally, you need to have Craig Charles doing it. Now that I think about it – think about the money pumped into shitty reality shows like Big Brother, X-Factor and the ilk, and the sheer amount of TV hours they take up, from auditions to live shows to backstage shows after each main show. I say have your main Takeshi show, follow it up with panel discussion and hidden clips with contestants and Takeshi guards as guests, then have your weekly 30 minute format too. If I was boss of the world, this would be top of my list. I could write an entire blog based on bringing back Takeshi’s Castle, so I’ll stop.

Theme Tune: The Craig Charles version is a beast.

Catchphrases: Too many to mention, again from the Craig Charles version.

Bullseye

A staple of Sunday night TV since the early 1980s, Bullseye always seemed old fashioned and a bit odd to my childhood eyes, yet there was something addictive about it. In fact, it was one of those rare TV shows which managed to break the Sunday curse of my childhood – 99% of TV shows which were shown on Sundays in my youth, I associate with how much I hated Sundays and therefore almost never like those shows. Nowadays, it’s all about making fun of the either naff, or strange top prizes – like speedboats, caravans, or a Mini Micro and they ignore how much fun the game was. Hosted for decades by the late Jim Bowen, it has been brought back a couple of times – in the aforementioned Alan Carr thing, and by Dave Spikey in the Noughties, as well as various celebrity one-off specials – it’s a simple gameshow based around darts. Three pairs of contestants, three rounds, darts and questions. It sounds rubbish, but it somehow works, and I see no reason why it couldn’t slot neatly in to regular Sunday night rotation in the Autumn or Winter when there’s feck all else on worth watching.

The great thing about the format is that you don’t need to change anything – you have your contestant pairs – one a darts player, the other there to answer questions – and at the end of each round the lowest scoring team is knocked out. In round one, each player tries to hit a category requested by the other player on the dartboard – they get bonus money for hitting the correct category and getting the question right. If they get it wrong, another contestant can buzz in for money. In Round 2, it was a case of each player getting three darts and the team with the highest score got to answer a question for more money. There would then be a charity round where a pro tried to earn as much money with 9 darts as possible, before moving into the final round where the winner tackled Bully’s Prize Board with the chance to win up to 9 prizes with 9 throws – both players in the team taking turns. Once their prizes were won, they could decide to go home with what they had, or gamble on the top prize – either winning or losing it all. This was a nice twist, because often the winning team would turn down the chance at the top prize, meaning the second, and then third place teams would be offered the same choice. If one of the teams did decide to go for it, they had to score more than 101 points with six throws – three for the darts dude, and three for the quiz person. More often than not, people would fail.

With this simple format, you could easily bring the show back – prizes need not be bank breakers, and you just need an affable host to run the show. Darts as a sport I feel has rarely been more popular, and surely a show like this would increase popularity and drive revenue towards some of the Sports Channels who host Darts Championships. There are plenty of near household name Darts players out there, at least for UK audiences, and of course you can still have your fancy pants celeb specials to grab more attention. I’m sure there are plenty of famous faces out there who grew up with the show and would want a chance to play on it while earning cash for charity.

Theme Tune: A nostalgic favourite, wouldn’t need much, if any updating.

Catchphrases: One hundred and eighty! It’s a bullseye! Keep out of the black and in the red – there’s nothing in this game for two in a bed’.

Full Swing

Keeping with the Sports theme, this was another one of those Summer time Caravan TV shows of my youth. Ostensibly a cash-in on Big Break, it never had anywhere near the same level of success and didn’t last long. Maybe it’s because my Caravan Park was opposite a Pitch’n’Putt and Driving Range which we played on at least once a week, maybe it was because Golf also always seemed to be on TV during the Summer hols, but I enjoyed Full Swing at the time.

Affable Scouse golf fan Jimmy Tarbuck hosted the show, often entering in a golf cart and telling his usual brand of family friendly jokes before introducing the guests. Like Big Break, three contestants would be paired with a celebrity – though typically not a golfer. Now, golf is a little more difficult to play within an enclosed space than snooker, meaning computer technology needed to be employed. Players would have to whack a real ball, which would translate to a virtual reality shot (think Wii Golf), and then contestants would answer questions for further shots. The second round saw contestant and celeb playing on a indoor mini golf course, complete with bunkers and water hazards, aiming to get as close to the hole as possible, with the final round being a beat the clock putting game. Again, like Big Break there was a consolation game for the first contestant to be knocked out, which involved a Mouse Trap esque Crazy Golf trick shot. This was probably my favourite part, because I used to love those Rube Goldberg type contraptions. And of course, it was a type of obstacle course.

This is one of the more unlikely shows to ever see a return, given how bad its ratings were. Honestly, I don’t think it was a bad attempt at porting the Big Break formula to sport which didn’t naturally suit it. Golf is still a highly popular sport and there are zero golf gameshows out there, so with a bit of tinkering a remake of this could be a minor hit. Once more, technology has improved to as to make the virtual golf better, more realistic, or alternatively you cold film the whole thing on location at a genuine golf course. I would maybe change up the first and second rounds, or even shake the whole thing up and have the whole thing (or one round) based around an indoor Crazy Golf course rather than the miniature pitch n putt style round. There’s plenty here to work with, and the fact that you would have celeb guests in each episode would keep things interesting for people not really invested in the sport. Perhaps a co-host or lively voiceover would improve entertainment and humour value.

Theme Tune: I remembered nothing of this and had to check Youtube to remind myself. It’s not great.

Catchphrases: More a host of Tarbuck specials and golf puns.

Small Talk

I loved Small Talk. It seemed like the perfect mixture of mirth, irreverent humour, and quiz fun and Ronnie Corbett was the perfect host. I believe the US had their own version too. Once more, three contestants faced off against each other, this time contending with a giant board filled with children. Yes. There were 9 squares, each with one child inside (though sometimes there would be a pair), and the kids had pre-recorded answers to questions which the contestants would be asked – the twist being that the contestants had to correctly guess if the particular child (or the majority) knew the correct answer. The children were amusing little characters themselves, often giving hilarious incorrect answers to the questions and nonsensical asides spurred on by Corbett. The final round would see Contestants trying to reach a score of 500 by picking five kids (each kids holding a particular points card from 50 to 500), and then guessing whether the kid would get a question correct or not. If the contestant and kid were in sync, the points were theirs. Sometimes things could be ruthless, with contestants not having a lot of faith in a particular child and expecting them to get everything wrong, but it was all done with the best intentions and was always light-hearted fun. One of my school teachers featured in an episode once – he didn’t win. I wonder if any of the kids are famous now. I bet one of them is Pixie Lott or some shite.

I see no reason why this wouldn’t work today. Sure, there would be some child safety protection bullshit going on, but kids will never not be funny. Look at all the memes and internet challenges which do the rounds each year – parents will know these – things like filming your child answering 20 random questions and then sharing their results, or leaving them alone with a chocolate biscuit for 1 minute and filming them to see if they can resist eating them – that was a big one in 2020. It’s the same idea, but less perverse. Who wouldn’t want to see their own kid on a show like this, and which mums and dads would not relate to the often bizarre responses to simple general knowledge questions? It’s the perfect show for early evening mid-week TV.

Theme Tune: A classic

Catchphrases: Oooh, nasty.

There you are – some random bloke’s list of TV shows he used to like and would like to see make a return. There is literally nothing omre important happening in the world right now. If you would like to see these make a comeback – please send me money and I’ll see what I can do.

Ranking The Manics Songs – Resistance Is Futile

This is more like it. The last album was a step beyond the one before, and this one takes things further again, delivering the melodies I’ve come to expect from the band that just keeps coming back. The band delivers a whopping six singles, though these mostly download only and therefore came with no B-Sides. Still, a few extras appeared due to the different editions of albums and singles though the higher overall quality of the album tracks mean it’s harder for me to switch anything out.

  1. Hold Me Like A Heaven
  2. People Give In
  3. Distant Colours
  4. In Eternity
  5. Liverpool Revisited
  6. International Blue
  7. Sequels Of Forgotten Wars
  8. Broken Algorithms
  9. A Song For The Sadness
  10. Vivian
  11. The Left Behind
  12. Dylan And Caitlin

There are a couple of very good extra songs which would have been superb if squeezed into a single whole – one has a fantastic verse, the other a great chorus. As they stand, I’d add those in and take out my bottom two:

  1. People Give In
  2. International Blue
  3. Distant Colours
  4. Vivian
  5. Holding Patterns
  6. Liverpool Revisited
  7. Sequels Of Forgotten Wars
  8. Hold Me Like A Heaven
  9. In Eternity
  10. Broken Algorithms
  11. A Song For The Sadness
  12. Mirror Gaze

And that’s us up to date. Will there be another Manics album? I sure hope so – the idea of a world without The Manic Street Preachers is almost unimaginable, especially as so many other greats have fallen by the wayside. Let us know your rankings in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2000!

It took me a longer time than it usually does to find a suitable list of movies to include for this post. Sometimes you get those years where very few films stink up the nose holes.

Kevin And Perry Go Large

More difficult than me finding ten movies I didn’t like this year, is finding a British sitcom which translates successfully to the big screen. In the case of Kevin And Perry – they came from more of a sketch show rather than a sitcom, though their particular sequences in the various Harry Enfield series essentially acted as a mini sitcom. Being in my early teens when the Harry Enfield series were prime time viewing, maybe I should have related more to Kevin and Perry, somehow, even though they were clearly mocking annoying teen culture and clueless parents. They weren’t my favourite sequences or characters though – I still liked them but I liked other parts more. Maybe what irked me most was the fact that these guys were held up as the ‘mascots’ of the series – everyone was doing impressions and one-liners of these guys to the point that it was clear they hadn’t watched any other part of the show. The movie itself sees the teenagers heading off to Ibiza for a steek-fest, in the hope of getting drunk and getting laid, and it sadly became a celebration of 90s Lad Culture instead of a satire. Plus, it isn’t funny, it’s badly directed, and the characters are too thin to sustain a feature.

What Lies Beneath

Big budget horror movies with big names, fully backed by a powerhouse studio? Honestly, these never work for me anymore – the recent attempts at classy horror like this, like The Others, lack the scares and don’t show me anything new. It wasn’t until A24 came along and pulled the same trick, but did it with authenticity and originality. What Lies Beneath sure looks the part – A-list cast, it’s pretty, it’s classy. But it has zero balls, it’s bland, it relies on a twist which is fairly obvious from the opening minutes, and it is painfully long.

Billy Elliot

It’s a British comedy about a boy who just wants to dance. Was there any way this wasn’t going to make my list? The only other question is why I ever watched it in the first place.

Book Of Shadows

As much of a divisive film as it is, I love The Blair Witch Project – not only for what it did and achieved, but because it was for me an extremely effective horror film with an ever increasing atmosphere, a crippling of characters’ mentality, just enough world-building to intrigue, and a wonderful finale. I fully understand those people it didn’t work for – different things scare different people. I fail to understand how anyone could enjoy Book Of Shadows, on anything more than a base level. It fails as a sequel, it fails as a standalone due to its general incoherence and amateur feel, and it fails as a horror film – we’ve seen it all before a thousand times better and worse. I only ever saw it once when it was released, so maybe my feelings will have changed if I saw it again now – doubt it.

Red Planet/Mission To Mars

Honestly, I can’t remember which one of these it was, or indeed if it was both. I think it had Val Kilmer in it, but then again Mission To Mars sounds like the film I remember him being in – which isn’t the case. All I remember is looking out the window more than at the TV. In truth, both weren’t great but one was particularly grueling.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

I only saw this one during a recent Christmas break, as something festive to watch with the kids. A mistake on my part, and on everyone involved. This is the sort of monstrosity I assume that the Cats movie is, but I struggle to see how anything could be more painful than this. Now – like the previous entry, there’s every chance I’m confusing this or merging it with The Cat In The Hat movie with Mike Myers. In any case, both are abominations which should never be spoke of again, unless as part of some arcane incantation to invoke the undead holy power of Nzzgrprtkaghk.

Snatch

Guy Ritchie has yet to make a movie I’ve tolerated, never mind liked. This and Lock, Stock were all over ever twats’ walls in poster form when I went to University. I don’t get it. Of course, I can’t stand any of that Cockney shite that people seem to love – I can think of fewer things I like less than films set in London’s criminal underworld.

Ginger Snaps

This film angered me because it seemed to get a lot of plaudits and credit and acclaim when it immediately struck me as a try-hard Buffy clone. While nobody actually seemed to be talking about Buffy and how important it was, critics were fawning over the stuff that wouldn’t have existed without it. In the late 90s, a lot of Buffy clones made it on to our TVs – young, sexy, self-aware, smart teens quipping in school and juggling daily lives and some wider conspiracy or secret. Ginger Snaps is precisely this, but told in a more irritating way and without an ounce of the originality it is claimed to have.

Meet The Parents

Are any of these good? Actually, don’t answer that, I don’t care. The first was bad enough.

Let us know in the comments which films of 2000 you would slap onto the naughty list!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2000!

It’s 2000! Sure it took until 2020 for The Great Plague to come and strike us all down, but for a while in 2000 people were freaking out. Also – there were movies. Here are some of my favourites. Brother was Takeshi Kitano testing his toes again in the US – it’s fun, mainstream. American Psycho is all chainsaws and suits and nudity. Amores Perros is another classic of South American cinema which still feels fresh, while Baise Moi has nothing ‘fresh’ about – it’s scary, filthy, and unmissable. Erin Brockovich is one of the rare Oscar bait movies which I enjoy. In The Mood For Love is trippy, sexy goodness. Memento is trippy trippy goodness. MI 2 is probably my favourite in the series, though everyone else says it is the weakest.

10: Almost Famous. (USA) Cameron Crowe.

Almost Famous dropped at the right time for people like me, of my generation. I was 16/17, ready to set off in the world and make an impact,brimming with dreams and wonder and a desire for experience. Plus I was already a big fan of a lot of the rock music of the 1960s and 70s. Almost Famous has that hopeful, free vibe flowing through – a great cast, terrific soundtrack, and hits my personal sweet spot as a coming of age story too following a kid trying to break into a world of writing, music, heroes, and rock and roll excess.

9: Gladiator (USA/UK). Ridley Scott.

Regular readers will already know this, but it’s worth calling out here for those of you who only read the list posts. From a very early age, I had an obsession with Greek and Roman myths and legends which eventually became intertwined with the genuine history of those countries. I studied Latin in school for 7 years, and part of my University Studies was in ‘Classics’ – the literature, language, and philosophy of Greece and Rome. My Latin class in School (there only was eight of us) actually went on a School trip to see Gladiator after the rave reviews one of my classmates was giving it. Aside from finally getting a decent version of the Trojan Epics, this is the best film someone like me could have hoped for. It’s an epic without all the faff which came later to the ‘genre’, a story of personal grief, struggle, and justice, a remarkable depiction of Rome with bloody battles and at least a couple of great leading performances. Super soundtrack too.

8: Best In Show (USA). Christopher Guest.

Just a quick update since I originally wrote this post – after the great Fred Willard sadly passed away. What a massive loss to the comedy world it is.

I went through a Christopher Guest phase in the early 2000s, repeatedly watching this, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting For Guffman while laughing my ass off and gobbling down illegitimate muffins. This one is a large step up in laughs from Waiting For Guffman and is just as strong a movie as This Is Spinal Tap. Set in the, already laughable, world of Dog Shows it follows various hopeful Dog Owners as they prepare their pooches, in often surreal situations, for a chance at stardom at the prestigious Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. All of the usual Guest favourites are out in force – Eugene Levy (who literally has two left feet), Catherine O’Hara (whose promiscuous past keeps catching up with her), Fred Willard (as the scene stealing over exuberant co-host of the event), and John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean (as the bitchy gay couple).

Like the best mockumentaries, this has a fair level of understanding of the subject matter meaning the satire and detail hit the mark more often than not. The cast are all comedy veterans and are both at ease and having great fun with the material, so it makes for comfortable viewing – there are no try-hards and the jokes range from dialogue based to slapstick, from visual to surreal, all with a light-hearted sprinkle of vignette silliness.

7: Dancer in The Dark (Denmark). Lars Von Trier

There’s a strong case for Dancer In The Dark being Von Trier’s best movie. It works on a number of levels, but most crucially it doesn’t feel like either exploitation or experimentation – it works as a brutal and downbeat drama with less of a focus on the director’s quirks and ego, and more on the character and plot. Bjork is spellbinding, the soundtrack features a few great songs, and the rest of the cast give notable performances. Is it manipulative? Sure – it’s a Lars Von Trier movie so that is part of the package, but it asks a lot of questions of the viewer and wrenches its answers unflinchingly.

6: Unbreakable (USA). M Night Shyamalan

Unbreakable remains Shyamalan’s best work – The Sixth Sense continues to get the plaudits, namely because it was first and people were so taken in by the twist, but Unbreakble is more accomplished in almost every level – a gloomy take on the comic book genre which you don’t even realize is a comic book movie until the final scenes, unless you’ve been paying attention closely or reading these spoilers.

5: Pitch Black (USA). David Twohy

I’m probably remembering this wrong, but I’m almost certain I saw the trailer for this a solid year before it was actually released. I remember catching the trailer and thinking ‘what the hell was that, that looked epic’. But nobody else mentioned it afterwards and I began to think it was all a dream. Then a year later it returned and I grabbed a couple of people and raced to the Cinema shouting ‘this is that trailer I told you all about’! What was even better was that Aeryn from Farscape was in it – of course nobody in the screening knew what the hell Farscape was and told me to shut the hell up. Plus you have Keith David in a legit big screen outing! But the film is all about Vin Diesel and his Riddick character – one that would become less interesting with each sequel, but here he has just the right amount of mystery to make him an enigma. Oh yes, it’s also set on a planet filled with near-unstoppable monsters in near-unstoppable numbers which only come out in the dark, and it just so happens that the planet is entering it’s ‘Winter’ Season when all light is extinguished. It was the best pure alien creature feature since Aliens. 

4: X-Men (USA). Bryan Singer

The only reason I really wanted to watch X-Men was because I loved the 90s cartoon. I’vev never been a big comic book fan and the comic movies I’ve enjoyed are few and far between, given how many there have been. When I like them, I love them and X-Men seemed more interesting given the cast and director. It was better than I expected and while it lacks much of an emotional core, it is more clever and socially relevant than whatever passes for superhero entertainment these days. Plus there’s a tonne of kick-ass action and the cast are committed.

3: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China/HK/Taiwan/USA). Ang Lee

By 2000, I was already well versed in Asian Cinema, particularly Kung fu movies. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Wuxia type movies, preferring realism in my tales of revenge. Ang Lee brought a heightened sense of realism to the genre, removing much of the magic but keeping the romance and string-work, bringing the beauty of the best of Hong Kong and Chinese Cinema in a more palatable way to Western audiences – without the flag waving patriotism in other words. Established stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat give a sense of familiarity and credibility, while Zhang Ziyi became a household name thanks to her blend of teeth shattering beauty and baddassery.

2: Final Destination (USA). James Wong

It’s in my best of the decade, so check for more info there.

1: Battle Royale (Japan). Kinji Fukasaku

It’s my favourite film of the decade. It’s also the best film since 2000.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two (including the winner)

My Blog – May 2020

1993 Me, Flipping off 2020 You.

May The Fourth Be With You! How many posts will begin with that today? Four billion? Make that four billion and one, punk. Once again I’m not at all prepared for what I want to write today. When I did these monthly, more personal posts last year, I had it planned out in January at a high level what I should tippidy type about each month, but this year all fucks have gone fuckidy flying out the window.

So how are you? That’s what we’re all asking these days – how are you coping? It’s all very strange to me because before nobody ever asked me these things, or if they did I was too busy not listening. It’s nice though, isn’t it? Or is it? I don’t know, social stuff is weird for me. Anyway, Northern Ireland is still in quarantine, but you wouldn’t know it in my speck of the country – idiot farmers are still idling along in their tractors, phones clapped to their ears as they drag their 10-tonne crush machines blindly up the middle of the road, vacantly oblivious to the instant carnage they would bring if they were distracted and bumped a kerb. These are the demented thoughts of a parent, pushing a pram with a 10 week old bundle of helplessness down the middle of a country road where the chavs think it is their duty to drive at 60 rather than 30 and I take great delight and pinging their windees if there’s a suitable stone laying nearby. Why am I walking in the middle of the road, you shriek? Well there’s not a lot of choice when the dickheads with driveways large enough to house four cars, whose houses dot the edge of said road, decide to park their chavy little R Plates on the pavement, leaving barely enough room for a proto-anorexic like me to sidle by, never mind a mammoth buggy. Inconsiderate twats, everywhere you go.

Don’t worry, this isn’t isolation getting to me – I love isolation. In truth, essentially nothing has changed for me since Quarantine started, beyond taking and lifting the kids from School. Sure, home-schooling is an issue but it also goes to highlight just how shitty our School is – as near as can be estimated, the teachers are off work on full pay, and have barely lifted their finger since day one. Which is awesome for the rest of us who have to keep working as normal – I’ve always been able to work from home, it just means that now I absolutely don’t need to go into work at all. There are plenty of teachers going over and above – not in my School of course, but in the towns nearby – so to supplement the work we already have, our daughters are watching a teacher from nearby Portstewart who is making daily Youtube videos. This is also beneficial because when we home school, or even in the past when we have done the girls’ homework, we have no clue how they are being taught in school and revert back to how we were taught. It’s easier for everyone if we follow the teacher’s lead.

Ha. My wife just walked into the room to say she’s just received an email from the School to say that each week the teachers will be adding some additional online work for each class. Success! Now I bet if I go for a walk, the car which was blocking the pavement will be on fire. Nothing to do with me, of course. The main positive of all of this nonsense is that I’m getting to spend a lot more time with my son than I normally would have – an almost three hour commute when I’m travelling into work has been dissolved so now there is no rush to get out of bed or get home.

That aside, last month I was messing around with some DVDs which my parents had brought up a few months ago – conversions of our old VHS and camcorder memories. Hours of footage of me messing around as a kid – playing outside, Christmases, Birthdays, assorted family outings and weirdness. My old pal, Mr Biffo – creator of the old Teletext page Digitiser which I used to read on a daily basis before the days of the Internet, had asked on Twitter if anyone happened to have old VHS footage which he could use in some upcoming Youtbe vids. A few conversions to MP4 later and I sent him a batch. If you’re interested (and you should be), you can watch his madness here  – for someone with my sense of humour, it’s the best Youtube channel in the biz. Some of my footage has been used already, so it’s nice to be a minuscule part of something I love.

That’s really all I wanted to say. Okay, fine – I know I usually do one of those silly personal questionnaires when I write these posts, but they’re always terrible, bland or quirky – but I suppose that’s their nature. Here’s a quick Music survey I found – I’ve no idea what it’s about:

  1. What is your gender: Male
  2. What is your age: 35 and older (I guess once you reach this category music stops being important)
  3. Choose the top 3 genres of music you listen to most often (the survey provides a list): Classic Rock. Metal. Heavy Metal.
  4. What genre do you listen to most: Isn’t that the same question? For the sake of brevity I just lump it all under metal.
  5. How do you listen to music: CD, MP3, iPod, Youtube.
  6. How many hours a day do you spend listening to music: 1-2 hours.
  7. Where do you listen to music most: This of course depends on where I am – I’ll listen to music more at work on the days I go in, more at home in the day’s I’m wfh.
  8. List the last three songs I chose to listen to recently: Hmm, according to my calculations those would be ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ theme, ‘Ave Satani’, and ‘Lucille’.
  9. Of the three songs listed above, what musical aspect do you enjoy most: again there are options to choose from which are highly limited, but out of those I would say ‘the instruments being used’.
  10. On a scale of 1-5, how open are you to listening to new music: Well, what do you mean by ‘new’? Music which was recorded and released within the last 12 months? Or music which I’m only hearing for the first time which may have been recorded and released decades ago? In any case, I’m open to anything. It’s just that most ‘new’ chart music is terrible, I’m mostly out of the loop when it comes to new metal and I haven’t bothered keeping up to date recently. But music I haven’t heard before – take a look at any of my musical posts and you’ll see all the crap I’m hearing for the first time. 

That’s that, I guess. Till next time, stay away from coughing strangers and look after your sanity by visiting digitiser2000 on Youtube and browsing my plethora of junk at the links below.

Reminder on blog links:

A-Z Reviews: This category is a single post with links to all my movie, music, and book reviews. It’s the best place to start and you can check it via THIS LINK. I try to update it regularly.

Amazon Vine: I’m a member of Amazon Vine, a program where Amazon’s best reviewers are provided with free products for reviewing purposes in order to drum up publicity before the product is released to the general public. You can find links to the Products I have received here.

Book Reviews: Something I don’t really do anymore, even though I still read plenty. I need to get back into this, but movies are so much easier to review. Maybe I’ll come up with a different format.

Blogging: A new category! This is where I’m going to put this exact post, and the others like it to follow.

Changing The Past: This category is where I go back through every Oscars since 1960 and pick my winners from almost every category. I pick my winners from the official choices, and then I add my own personal list of who I feel should have been nominated. It’s based on personal preference, but it’s also not based on any of the usual Academy political nonsense and I bypass most of their archaic rules. It’s not quite me just picking my favourite films, but it’s close.

DVD Reviews: I should probably just change this to Movie Reviews. It’s what you would expect – reviews of the movies I’ve watched. I’m not a big fan of reviewing every new film which comes out – there are a billion other blogs out there all doing the same thing. I don’t often watch new movies as they release, unless they’re streaming, so instead you’ll be getting reviews of those films a few years later, once I get around to them. Here you will find horror, actions, classics, foreign, indie, sci-fi, comedy, drama – everything. A word of warning – I frequently post reviews that I wrote almost twenty years ago when I didn’t have a clue – they’re crap, but I add them here in all of their badly written glory.

Essential Movies: I’ve only published an intro post for this category, but I have written some other posts for the future. I’m basically questioning what actually makes a film Essential, because it cannot be a definitive statement. What’s essential for you, may not be for me, so I’ve broken down the definition into a few generic user types, then gone through some lists of the best movies of each year to see which ones are essential for each viewer. It’s pretty boring, and I already regret starting it, but that’s me.

Foreign Cinema Introduction: This category hasn’t been published yet, but once again it exists and I’ve written a bunch of posts for the future. The idea came from my many years of hearing people I know IRL or on the internet dismissing anything not mass-produced by Hollywood. If you only watch movies made in the USA – you’re not a movie fan, it’s as simple as that. I follow a few Facebook fan pages and blogs on WordPress which completely dismiss foreign movies – it’s ridiculous as you are missing out on many of the best films ever made. More than that, you are missing out on films which I know for a fact you will adore. So, this is me breaking down all that bullshit about subtitles, about foreign stuff being boring and every other excuse you’ve ever heard, while giving some very basic thoughts and introductions of the various countries of the world from a film perspective.

Lists: Here I post lists – some with comments, some without. All sorts of lists – from monthly previews of the year’s upcoming movies, to my favourite movies by actor or director, to best horror anthologies, best Christmas songs and TV shows, best movies for Halloween, my favourite episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, my ranking of Bond movies, songs, and girls, my favourite albums by decade, my favourite songs by artist, bands I’ve seen live etc. I love lists.

Manic Street Preachers Song By Song: One of the first reasons I started this blog was to try to spread the Gospel of my favourite band, especially as they are not well known outside of Britain. Defo not in the US. Then I found out there were other blogs doing it too. Ah well. These are my thoughts on each song. Don’t know them? They are a Welsh rock band who have been around since the late 80s, early 90s. They are highly political and intelligent, on the left wing, and they are probably the finest lyricists in the world. Their main lyricist suffered from various addictions and mental health issues and disappeared in 1995 – although there have been sightings, nobody has ever confirmed they have seen him and no body has ever been found, though the band, fans, and family are still looking. After three albums with him, they suddenly became commercially successful after his disappearance. If you like rock music… if you like music in general, please give them a try.

Music Reviews: This is the same as movies, except for music. Reviews of albums I’ve always loved, as reviews of albums as I’m listening as a virgin. I take a look at the Top Ten UK Charts from a random month in each year and review each song, while giving my own alternative ten songs from the same year, I am reviewing albums that I’ve never heard by artists I am familiar with – filling the gaps in those discographies. I’m listening to spin-offs of my favourite bands, I’m reviewing the Disney soundtracks. I was a metal and grunge kid, but also had a love for the best in 80 pop when I was young, so I like to listen to anything though since around the mid-noughties chart music has gone from extremely bad to entirely worthless.

The Nightman Scoring System ©: This is something I truly love, but something which nobody really pays attention to. You’ll notice in my reviews I don’t give a score. I just talk about the thing I’m reviewing. Scores are arbitrary and when given, people jump to the score and form a conclusion and a bias. If they read the content of the review, there will be a better discussion. That made me think, in a very unprofessional, semi-scientific, ill-examined way, to come up with a fair, universal scoring system which tries to avoid personal and systematic bias as much as possible. If you look at sites like Rotten Tomatoes which are stupidly becoming reference points for quality or to convince you to watch something, or used by advertisers, it’s a completely flawed system. Anyone can post whatever they like, and drag down or push up an average. The same used to happen on IMDb. There are a lot of posts online recently about the disparity between Critical and Audience consensus on RT and it leads to more worthless arguments, because if there’s something the world needs more of these days, it’s people fighting online about pointless stuff.

I devised two scoring systems – one for movies and one for music. To use it, you have to follow the guidelines and be honest. If you’re not honest, it will be obvious, and your review won’t be valid. For both music and and movies, I break down the scoring into twenty different categories of equal weighting – out of five, for a total out of 100. Categories include acting, directing, sales; or for music – charts, influence, musical ability etc. Say you hate the Marvel movies or The Beatles. You can’t score them a 1 out of five in the Sales category because both of those were factually monster hits – they can really only be 5 out of five. In other words, some of what is opinion and bias is removed from the equation. In the same vein, the disparity between critics and audiences is reduced – typically you may think that a movie or music critic care more about how arty or original or influential something is, while the audience might care how many boobs are seen or how catchy the melody is. I’m making sweeping assumptions – but you get the idea – each category is equally weighted so that influence is only worth five points, chart performance is only worth five points, directing, advertising, whatever – each is five points. I’d love to see people use this, and I’d love to run an experiment where a group of people each use the system to score the same thing, and see how similar or different the results are. I’m positive the average would be a more true reflection than anything on RT or IMDB or anywhere else. The only issue with it is, it’s more suited to scoring once something has been out there for a while rather than a pre-release or first week review.

Nightman’s Favourite Films By Year: Self-explanatory. I list my favourite ten films from every year since 1950, with no comment. Then I give a list of my top films from each decade once I’ve done each year, but this time share some comments. There’s also some stats in there, such as how many films I picked which were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, which were top ten grossing movies etc.

Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: A journalist called Colin Larkin made several of those popular ‘Top 1000 Albums Ever’ books. I grabbed one of them, I removed the ones I had already heard, and in this series I go through the ones that I haven’t heard, give my virgin thoughts, and whether I think it deserves to be called one of the best ever. I want to sync up my Nightman Scoring System © with these. Just one word of warning – I don’t plan or put any thought into these ‘reviews’. I literally listen and type at the same time. Not the best way to give thoughts I know, but that’s the format.

The Shrine: People die. Famous people die. But they live on, in our hearts and minds and in the work they left behind. Here I offer the chance to remember and offer thanks.

The Spac Hole: Each Monday I post a random lyric from a random song. Every so often I write something which doesn’t fit in any other category. Usually it’s weird. That stuff all goes here. There are more semi-regular pieces like those posts where I use Google translate to change the lyrics of (s)hit songs or dreadful imaginings like what I would do if I owned my own Cinema.

The Spac Reviews: Carlos Nightman is my alter ego. Derek Carpet is his alter ego. He is an idiot. He likes movies. These are his reviews. They are…. different.

TV Reviews: I sometimes review TV too. I talk about my current shows and my all time favourites.

Unpublished Screenplays: Derek Carpet sometimes likes to pretend he’s a writer too. Here are some of his original works, based on other movies and TV shows.

Videogame Reviews: I do these sometimes too. Usually retro. Usually with a humourous bent.

Walk Of Fame: Hollywood has a Walk Of Fame. I have one too. Mine’s better, except I don’t update it anymore. Not only do my inductees get a star, but they get a statue too! And, in each post one lucky soul gets a special building concerning their work or life dedicated to them!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2001!

In 2001 I started some genuine ‘study’ or ‘criticism’ with regards to Cinema, thanks to picking up a few Film modules in University. I say ‘genuine’, but what I really mean is ‘watched for more than mere entertainment’. This just happened to coincide with me fully branching out to watch everything I could get my hands on. Unfortunately it meant I watched a tonne of crap and discussed those with an honest critical hat on. I have long abandoned any hope or desire to being any sort of critic – I just call it as I see it, and reserve in depth discussion for those films I love. Today’s list – I don’t love.

Valentine

A few years too late to both the post-Scream horror world and post ‘David Boreanez is hot’ landscape. This is a by the numbers, contrived 90s slasher with none of the smarts of the best of its genre, and few of the scares. I lay in bed watching this when it first aired on TV, and that was the absolute best place I could have been to view such a snoozer.

Bridget Jones’s Diary

It’s a British big screen comedy, so that’s one black mark. It’s a romantic comedy, so that’s another. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are doing their thing, so that’s two more. And there is nothing in the positive column.

Moulin Rouge

Your yearly musical, and really the first one to bring the Musical back to the big time. Perhaps its greatest travesty was ensuring that no matter where you went or what you did between 2001 and 2004, you were subjected to hearing that awful Lady Marmalade song – absolutely one of the most terrible creations in the history of music. The 70s version was bad enough, but throw in Aguilera’s uncomfortable gyrating and skin-tearing caterwauling and you have one of the purest torture instruments since the good old ‘grenade under foreskin’.

Jurassic Park III

The Lost World wasn’t amazing, but it still had ideas and felt like an adventure. Part 3 devolves into camp and converts a solid enough cast into a bunch of bumbling tools acting out an extended Scooby Doo episode, but without the sexual intrigue or fun.

Ghost World

It’s the movie that your annoying proto-hipster pseudo-friend wouldn’t stop harping on about because they thought it reflected them and their life (spoiler alert – it did; both are worthless). There’s one of these every year or so, and they’re never as good as what people claim they are. I probably got a couple of grins out of this, mainly because of Buscemi’s antics, but the whole ironic nerd-gazing anti-pity party tone in this sort of movie always irks me.

The Others

I wanted to like The Others as it claimed to be a throw-back to the good old atmospheric ghost stories of days of yore. And to a certain extent it is, except that you realize that that sort of movie with that sort of tone just doesn’t work anymore – we have progressed as a culture and as an audience to the point that films going for that tone and atmosphere need to bring something new to the table. Most of the movie hinges on a twist, which is glaringly obvious from round about the opening scene of the movie, and an atmosphere which always felt to me more detached and gloomy than foreboding and dread-inducing.

Zoolander

I have no clue why this was a hit at the time or why people still talk about it. Sure, I didn’t see it at the time and came to the party quite late (mainly because I’m not a big Ben Stiller fan), but when I did it confirmed everything I had anticipated – not funny, a chore to finish.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone

I only watched this film for the first time last year, avoiding it and the novels all of these years. I had no desire to watch it upon release and then when my kids were born I thought it would be a great series to watch alongside them, given all the rave reviews and hype. So we watched it last year – wow, what a pile of crap. I appreciate the first in a series is all about creating a world and establishing characters – but the world depicting is bland and unimaginative, the characters are hackneyed and show no progress over those seen in something like The Worst Witch, and the central performances of the (then) child actors are uniformly terrible. I get that they’re child actors picking up this huge mantel, but man there is a monumental level of sucking here. The plot is very much ‘lonely boy realizes he’s special, and goes off to a new place to learn why he’s special’ but with no drama, no laughs, and no endgame. It has all but destroyed any desire I had of watching the others in the series, but more crucially, my kids have zero interest in pursuing it.

A Beautiful Mind

From Day One this looked and smelled like Oscar bait. From the late Seventies these Oscar Bait movies became increasingly prevalent. I almost never enjoy them, especially when they are Biographical in nature. Usually it’s because the biopics are based on people I don’t care about and whose life holds no great interest for me. It’s the same with  A Beautiful Mind – it’s by no means a bad film, it’s simply no different to me than a made for TV movie with a big name cast concerning a person and a story that I’m never going to care about.

Ocean’s Eleven

This one comes down to personal taste more than anything – though of course the same could be said for any entry. The fact is – I’m not a fan of the Rat Pack, at all; their movies, their music, the image – it’s all hateful to me. So when this was announced I was skeptical. It’s not the same as the 60’s outing, but it’s a similar enough exercise in style and dialogue and approach that this was never going to be for me. Credit to bringing together a cast like this, but the whole suit wearing, high life, wise-guy, shtick is to me what being hit in the face with a basketball is to toddlers.

I’m sure there are some favourites in there for any readers – feel free to tell me what I’m missing and add your picks of least favourite movies of 2001!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Futurology

Futurology continued the band’s latter day acclaimed run, with the album also racking up their best sales in a decade. It has more consistent highs for me than Rewind The Film, but its low points are very low. What is the most depressing thing to me is the reliance on other vocalists, as James continues to tire of singing. It’s a shame as Bradfield is one of the finest singers Britain has ever produced and the guests here are almost always terrible. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if the singers were good… they’re just not. Replace the singers and I’d like the songs a lot more. Again, there isn’t a huge list of B-Sides to choose from, but some are good in spite of Nicky’s vocals. The difference is that the B-Sides have grown on me while the album tracks I’d replace them with have slipped in my estimation. Ranking time:

  1. Black Square
  2. Misguided Missile
  3. Futurology
  4. The View From Stow Hill
  5. Let’s Go To War
  6. Europa Geht Durch Mich
  7. Walk Me To The Bridge
  8. The Next Jet To Leave Moscow
  9. Mayakovsky
  10. Divine Youth
  11. Dreaming A City
  12. Sex Power Love And Money
  13. Between The Clock And The Bed

Really those bottom five songs I would happily cut. Mayakovsky is far from their worst instrumental, Divine Youth and Between would be marginally better with a different guest singer. Sex Power Love And Money is ill-advised all around and needed a different vocal approach from James.  The good thing about the B-Sides is that they all fit neat and sweet with the sound and tone of the album. Antisocialmanifesto is quite lovely in spite of Nicky’s lead and it takes a sharp left turn midway through into a bizarre funk breakdown which somehow works. Blistered Mirrors is a clattering jumble with a touch of The Beatles while Empty Motorcade starts out like the techno theme-tune to a creepy kids TV show – it may be the best of the bunch. The Last Time I Saw Paris has a mystery female vocalist – is it Nina Hoss again? It has a rambling verse but a decent chorus, while Caldey has a great chorus and decent verse.

  1. Futurology
  2. Walk Me To The Bridge
  3. Let’s Go To War
  4. The Next Jet To Leave Moscow
  5. Europa Geht Durch Mich
  6. Blistered Mirrors
  7. Empty Motorcade
  8. Caldey
  9. Black Square
  10. The Last Time I Saw Paris
  11. Misguided Missile
  12. The View From Stow Hill
  13. Mayakovsky

That was a tricky one, mainly because while I enjoy some of the B-Sides I get the feeling that I’d be less keen on them over time. Let us know in the comments how you would rank the songs and any you would replace with a particular B-Side!