The Nightman Scoring System (c) Movie Edition

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Six years ago I unleashed the Nightman Scoring System (c) upon the world and since then it has been a huge success; a grand total of zero people have used in for reviewing albums. Rather than quit while I’m ahead, I’ve decided to present a movie edition of the system. It’s like a movie edition of Trivial Pursuit, but with less arguments and headbutting your Grandmother. Go read the original post first for some lengthy reasoning. If not, here’s a short recap; I don’t like giving scores in reviews, but if I absolutely had to I would bring up the most important components of the Product into equal parts and score each part individually thereby giving a more credible, less partisan overall rating. I split the Product into 20 parts, each part has a total possible 5 points, giving a total possible score of 100 – nice for percentages. While personal preference will still come into play, it will be further balanced by other components – you may love something which was a commercial flop so you can’t possibly give it a high rating in a Sales category. Furthermore, you may hate something which sold millions, but you are forced to give it a high score in a Sales category. This loose rigidity should further keeps things fair in preventing the most staunch, anti-genre critics from giving high or low ratings in certain categories.

So, what makes a movie and how do we break it down into components? A lot of people are involved in movie making, and handily they are essentially already split into different parts – wardrobe, editing, directing, music, acting etc. You can look to existing Award ceremonies or other reviewers and critics to see which pieces of movies are most discussed. The below 20 categories are my choices – most of them you can’t argue with, but I’m sure I’ve missed a few which you think are important or which could replace some which I have given. You can switch those out, remove some, or add some, but you must remember that each category must have equal rating – you cannot change that. Sales are NOT more important that critical consensus. Music is NOT more important than wardrobe. You will have your preferences – I sure as hell do – but to give a fair score everything must be weighted equally. I do think there is room here for 25 components, giving each a weighting of four points, but I’ll stick with 20 for now. Lets check out my components and some description and ‘rules’ around each.

Sales: We begin with the easy components. You can’t get away from sales. Money is what makes the Business work. Your indie/arthouse/foreign/not commercial movie might be awesome, but if it doesn’t sell, then it isn’t successful. With all these categories there are variants – a movie with a budget of $10,000 which goes on to make $10 million would be seen as a huge success. A movie with a $50 million budget which makes $55 million would not be a success – but it still hit $55 million. A film might get strong sales in its home country, but weak sales worldwide – what were its targets before release? Do you factor in DVD/home sales? Basically there is a little wriggle room in here for what you think gets a high score – something like Paranormal Activity or Avatar gets a 5, while something like Heaven’s Gate would be a flop. A good way of thinking about it is if it loses money on it’s budget, it can’t get higher than a score of 3, if it exceeds it’s budget, it can’t get less than 3.

Chart: Chart and Sales are different. A film may reach number 1 in Charts in various countries, but drop out of the top 10 the following week. On the flip side, a film may not reach the top 5 in the US but not fall out of the top 10 for a number of weeks.

Critical Consensus: This is where Rotten Tomatoes etc come in. You should not only look at critical reviews, but fan reviews too. If a film gets rave critical reviews, but muted fan response it can’t get a 5. Likewise, a film could be a strong fan favourite but get a ‘meh’ from critics – can’t get a 5. A 5 is reserved for movies which are loved by fans and critics, a 1 is where most in both groups give the movie a bad review.

Director: Self explanatory – how good is the Direction? This is subjective, but try to be objective. If the director wins or is nominated for awards for the movie, chances are it deserves a high score. If the director is merely competent, takes chances, if it’s a first movie versus a veteran director, all of these things should be considered.

Performances: Self explanatory – how good are the performances? Possibly you could divide this category in two – lead performances and everything else. Again it is subjective – I’m not a huge Kevin Spacey fan in that I find his performances limited and samey, but I’m in the vast minority there. Again you look to award wins and nominations, but for the most part if you know and watch enough movies, you’ll know if a performance is good, terrific, average, bad, or awful.

Music: How good is the score? Did you buy or download the soundtrack or does a particular piece infiltrate your sub-conscious? When you hear the soundtrack do you automatically think of the movie or if someone talks about the movie can you hear the music in your head? Does the music compliment the mood, tone, theme? This is more than just ‘I hate jazz, the soundtrack is jazz, so it gets a score of 1’ and it is more than ‘it has a single important song so automatically gets a score of 5’.

Cinematography: How good does the movie look? Look for unique shots, beautiful camera work and framing. Is it distinct? A bad movie can look breathtaking. A great or entertaining movie can have bland or by the numbers cinematography.

Writing: It doesn’t matter if the screenplay is adapted or original as long as it’s good. Is it over-burdened with description and exposition? Does the plot makes sense, or does it takes leaps of logic? Is it consistent or overly simplistic? Is the dialogue authentic, quotable, interesting? Do you believe the characters would do and say what they do and say? Everything from quips to speeches to plot to background text (posters, advertisements and other written text you see on screen – think of Simpsons gags like store names) should be considered under writing.

Wardrobe: Clothes. I don’t know much about them. I wear them to cover my nuts and that’s about it. But costumes and wardrobe are important for movies – they make the characters leap off the screen and heighten performances – what would Vader look like without his mask and cape? Well, Jedi spoiled that for us. Are the costumes authentic when they need to be? Is the care and dedication into costume clear or do they seem like an afterthought?

Editing: A film with bad editing can be a mess. It can destroy consistency, ruin plot, and cause the timing off the film to be off. Editing is part of the overall style and when done right can be immediately noticeable or not noticeable at all.

Make up and Hair: Another piece I don’t pay much attention too and I was almost going to merge it with Costume. Make-up however is where it’s at for me – I couldn’t care less about hair. Make-up though – The Elephant Man, Nightmare On Elm Street… need I say more? I think only something truly iconic or groundbreaking should ever get a 5 here, while on the flipper only something with zero effort or disastrously awful should get a 1.

Effects: Special effect, visual effects, practical effects, digital effects, into the pot you go. Again, look at how groundbreaking they are and look at the time they were made – something groundbreaking in 1980 will look like muck today so consider time’s whorish saunter too. Also consider if the effects add anything to the film or take anything away – does an effect suddenly pull you out of the narrative, does it look fake, or are the effects so conjoined to plot that the film would fail without them?

Art and Set: The opposing side of cinematography, how impressive are the sets? Care, love, dedication, skill, realism, imagination and all the rest of it should be thought of before giving a score.

Sound: I was almost going to get rid of this one entirely and replace it with something like plot, separated from writing. As much as I don’t care about Sound, or really notice it, it is nevertheless an important part of a movie. Editing, mixing, volume, coherence, consistency, realism, ingenuity, all go towards creating the soundscape of a movie.

Cultural Significance: How much impact does a film have on the general public? Not every film can have the impact of a Casablanca or a Star Wars. Also, it is difficult to gauge that level of significance upon release – partly why I wait a while after release before reviewing a film. You could look at hype up to and at the time of a release, and that is important, but you can also look at the number of sequels a film generates, the amount of fan-fiction or buzz or blogging that goes on afterwards. Does the dialogue seep into everyday conversations? Is the movie referenced in other works? Does a particular moment or style or character or device crafted in the movie get used again in later movies? How much are people still talking about it in 1 or 10 or 50 years time?

Accomplishment: To score this you need to understand the movie’s goals. If it’s a horror movie did it scare you? Did it scare others? If a comedy, how much laughter did it generate? Did you cry when you were supposed to? How successful was the movie in doing what it set out to do?

Stunts: Some people might replace this component with something else. Almost every film, if not every film has some sort of stunt. Even the most bland drama will have some element of stunt work or stunt performance. If it doesn’t, then feel free to exclude this category and put something else in its place. More importantly – what are you doing watching a film with no stunts, you big weirdo? With stunts we generally think of the biggest and best. That is definitely something to think about, especially in movies where action is heavy. You may think this category then is biased towards a certain type of movie – that’s kind of fair enough but it’s probably likely that stunt heavy movies will fall down in other categories that stunt-lite movies will not.

Originality: When we think about originality, we’re not only talking about being the first movie in a particular genre. Movies can show originality in most of the above categories and more. A new camera technique, a new type of squib, a new brand of performance, an original script, hell even something new like an original viral advertising is all part and parcel of things. If the film does nothing new, copies other better or more successful movies, or just seems like a cash-in, then it’s probably going to get a low score here.

Miscellaneous: Like my music system, this is for anything else you think I have missed, or that you may have missed. Any smaller components which still make up the final package – a nifty poster, a trailer, animal performers (which along with voice work should be considered in the performance category), I don’t know. Again, replace this one with another category entirely if you feel something major has been missed.

Personal: This is your own personal score, just for your bias – even if a film does reasonably well in most of the above categories but you still hate it, go ahead and pop a 1 in here. If your favourite movie of all time happens to be Police Academy 7, feel free to slap a fat 5 here.

There you have it. Try to review a few films using this system. Even better, get a group of your friends, fellow bloggers, or film geeks to choose a film at random – a new release, or an old movie you haven’t watched yet, and each review it to see how you compare in each category and how close or far apart your overall scores are. Like any good review it should act as a discussion point – friends gathering around a few pints (not coffee…. never coffee) and argue over each component and try to find common ground to use when reviewing in the future. Let me know in the comments what you think of this flawless system and if there is anything you wold change. Happy watching and talking!

Goodnight Mommy

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*Spoilers beyond!

When your trailer is proclaimed as the scariest ever, you’d better back that shit up by making an equally terrifying whole. That trailer went viral in 2015, and as a horror fan it was a bold claim that I needed to verify. What I will say about the trailer is that it makes the movie look like something it isn’t. I didn’t find the trailer scary in the slightest but it did look ominous and interesting and had enough potential to make me want to see the whole thing. Now that I have seen it, did the final product live up to that potential?

Well…. no. Goodnight Mommy does have an interesting premise but misses out on creating any real sense of paranoia or dread. There is maybe a single page’s worth of dialogue in the entire movie, no real action appears until the final twenty minutes of an unnecessarily stretched running time, none of the ideas it purports are explored, and the whole thing is simply dull. We have meandering, lingering shots of empty rooms, the Austrian countryside, and people sitting, staring, walking, and we have unsympathetic and ultimately uninteresting characters leaping to conclusions and exhibiting behavior that seems to have no plausibility or reason. If we compare it to a movie such as, say A Tale Of Two Sisters, the difference in quality is vast. You could argue that it is an invalid comparison but it’s clear the makers desperately wanted to make something in that vein. A Tale Of Two Sisters makes use of its absolutely gorgeous cinematography and colour palette, and isn’t merely there to remind us that the family is isolated. The performances in Goodnight Mommy are sterile, while A Tale Of Two Sisters is visceral, and perhaps most crucially the Asian film is genuinely unsettling and scary.

Goodnight Mommy tells the story of two brothers who apparently live alone in a large house far from civilization, until one day a woman claiming to be their mother returns home from an operation. She is shrouded in bandages and seems to be grumpy and detached compared to when she left. The boys are left to their own devices but they begin to wonder if the woman in their house is an impostor – naturally they leap to the next logical step of torture (in fairness they do try to reach out to a priest, but he takes them home – knowingly). There is a supposed twist, but it’s unclear if the viewer was meant to know it before the official reveal or during one of the several unofficial reveals, or even during the first ten or 15 minutes of the movie where it is fairly obvious anyway. Several notable clichés are invoked such as the good old ‘outsider comes to the rescue only to be distracted at the crucial moment’ and the ‘almost escapes but is caught by something which would never happen in reality’. It’s muddled and plain and boring, and it isn’t redeemed by a better final twenty minutes. There are ideas, there is potential, and some of the scenes towards the end might even cause a hardened horror fan to cringe, but there isn’t enough to recommend. It’s a case of wanting to grab the filmmakers by the shoulders and scream in their faces ‘you’re doing it wrong! I know you’re better than this!’

By all means, watch this if you were genuinely creeped out by the trailer – I mean, check out the many many glowing reviews this has received by better people and clearer voices than me and mine. I can’t say I was disappointed by this as I wasn’t expecting much, but in the end this is a fairly tame thriller that both abandons and under uses its ideas. Let us know in the comments what you thought of the movie!

The Secret Life Of Pets

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The first full cinema experience for my kids (barring Peppa Pig And The Golden Boots), The Secret Life Of Pets is one movie my girls (and me) were busting to see having enjoyed the various trailers. This was Illumination Entertainment’s first truly successful move away from the Despicable Me franchise and features all of the zany humour and intelligent insight you would expect. It goes without saying that the film will be just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids – the animated movie genre has come full circle in the early 21st Century for providing cinematic treats for all the family.

The Secret Life Of Pets begins with a series of vignettes based in a typical New York apartment block. Anyone who has ever owned an animal should get a lot of chuckles from these scenes as the behaviour and characteristics of the animals will be very familiar. We focus on little domesticated dog Max, whose life is spent watching the door for his owner Katie to come home. He, like all the pets, wonder what the humans get up to when the leave but his world is shaken up when Kate comes home with a new, much larger dog – Duke. The two do not get along and begin to conspire against one another leading to an intervention by the guys from the Dog Pound…

The film received a fair amount of criticism saying the story and characters were thinly veiled versions of Woody and Buzz from Toy Story. While not entirely untrue, the same can be said for a hell of a lot of other movies and Toy Story took its fair share of ideas from what had come before – it seems a little disingenuous to make such comments about the film when there is so much to enjoy. There is a wide roster of characters and animals, from the skyscraper roof dwelling hawk who would just as soon eat the pets as help them, to the tough street cats who despise the pets for living in domestic bliss. Taking that one step further are the Flushed Pets – the unwanted, lost, or forgotten animals of NYC who live in the sewers (yes, there is a Crocodile). Led by Kevin Hart’s Snowball, a crazed rabbit who wants revenge on all humans, they spend most of the movie chasing down Max and Co who accidentally killed one of their group.

As with any animated movie these days, a key draw and component in its success is the voice cast. It feels a little strange then that this isn’t exactly filled with recognizable A List talent. The cast is good, and they are talented, but most of the performers are not household names. As mentioned, Kevin Hart lends his talents, and he is joined by Steve Coogan, Louis CK, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, and then a bunch of sitcom actors I don’t really know. Luckily this won’t matter to anyone but the most obtuse viewer and the youngsters certainly won’t care. The voices are distinct and build each character to match the personality shown via the animation and story – lazy, boisterous, decrepit etc. The performers deliver their lines, whether subtle quips, energetic wails, or general dialogue with vivre and as with all these movies they sound like they enjoyed themselves making it.

The Secret Life Of Pets should be a fun movie for kids of all ages and rewarding for adults too, especially pet owners. It may not be as immediately wacky or laugh out loud funny as some, and it may not have the emotional depth of others, but it is still a lot of fun while offering some insightful crumbs on the little beasties we allow into your homes and love. Let us know in the comments what you thought of the movie and how it ranks alongside other recent efforts!

#Thisisyourfilm 1999 – 2007

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1999:

Top Grossing Film: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

My Favourite Film: Bangkok Dangerous.

Quite a few good films and big films this year – The Matrix, The Blair Witch Project, and Fight Club are all obvious choices. My pick though is one so very few have seen – there’s no excuse, it’s fucking glorious. Plenty of cult classics this year too.

Biggest Selling Song: Baby One More Time by Britney Spears

My Favourite Song: Unintended by Muse

I almost went for the title track, but then remembered how Unintended grabbed me. I’d heard some of their earlier EP from one of those old radio sampler cds, but it was their ballad that convinced me they would be huge.

Biggest Selling Album: Millennium by Backstreet Boys

My Favourite Album: Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Not too many huge releases this year that I could have gone for, really between this, Muse, and Lene Marlin. Californication is a beast though, a massive return to form and a huge commercial and critical success.

My Favourite Book:  Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

2000:

Top Grossing Film: Mission Impossible 2

My Favourite Film: Battle Royale.

A lot of strong foreign movies this year, aside from my winner. When I first saw Battle Royale I proclaimed it as the most important film of the new millennium. I still stand by that. Pick a better film from 2000, I dare you. 

Biggest Selling Song: Music by Madonna

My Favourite Song: Bumblebee by JJ72

The studio version is quite lovely in its torment, but seeing it live is an entirely different beast – it transforms into a destructive, euphoric masterpiece.

Biggest Selling Album: No Strings Attached by NSYNC

My Favourite Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

I don’t think there was a better album this year, a year which also included Rated R, JJ72,  Lost Souls, Brave New World, Kid A, Wishmaster, and more.

My Favourite Book: A Storm Of Swords by George R R Martin.

2001:

Top Grossing Film: Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone

My Favourite Film: The Fellowship Of The Ring

Plenty of worthy picks this year, but come on, LOTR wins every damn time.

Biggest Selling Song: It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy

My Favourite Song: Hurricane by Natalie Imbruglia

Biggest Selling Album: Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park

My Favourite Album: Origin Of Symmetry. 

White Lillies Island, Toxicity, Amnesiac, Blackwater Park, and a whole host of euro and american metal and rock coming back into the mainstream. Muse raised their game and easily bypassed any and all expectations for their second album.

My Favourite Book: Black House by Stephen King

I feel like I should apologize for how limited by reading appears on these lists. At this point in my life I was reading 2-3 books a week, mostly for University. Those books were almost exclusively old – pre-20th Century, or pre-1983 at least. What spare time I had was going on King’s latest releases. He had two this year, and Black House (which I stupidly read before The Talisman) is the better of the two. Looking at what else was released in 2001, I think my choice stands.

2002:

Top Grossing Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers

My Favourite Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers

See above.

Biggest Selling Song: Anything is possible/Evergreen by Will Young.

My Favourite Song: Under The Ice by Blind Guardian

Biggest Selling Album: The Eminem Show by Eminem

My Favourite Album: Century Child by Nightwish

Night On My Side, A Night At The Opera, Highly Evolved, I To Sky, Deliverance, and plenty more personal favourites.

My Favourite Book: Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

Some of King’s finest short stories collected here, including Little Sisters Of Eluria and the award winning The Man In The Black Suit.

2003:

Top Grossing Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

My Favourite Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

See above. Again.

Biggest Selling Song: Where Is The Love by Black Eyed Peas

My Favourite Song: No More Lies by Iron Maiden

Biggest Selling Album: Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ by 50 Cent

My Favourite Album: Another Day by Lene Marlin

The Music, Damnation, Dance Of Death, Absolution, Souvenirs… probably others.

My Favourite Book: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.

Not to be an asshole, but I was on the hype train for this before anyone else. I even started an IMDB thread about a potential movie on the book before the book was even released. Anyway, it’s great.

2004:

Top Grossing Film: Shrek 2

My Favourite Film: Dawn Of The Dead

This wasn’t a great year personally for standout films. There were some very good sequels and plenty of films I enjoyed – not many that leap out as a strong favourite. My two obvious picks involved zombies. I’ve gone for the one most would not pick.

Biggest Selling Song: Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Various

My Favourite Song: Ghost Love Score by Nightwish

Biggest Selling Album: Confessions by Usher

My Favourite Album: Welcome To The North by The Music

Faded Seaside Glamour, Once, Until The End, Leviathan, Lifeblood, and more. But my album of the year is also the album of the decade and one of the best ever.

My Favourite Book: The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Well, I had to, didn’t I?

2005:

Top Grossing Film: Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

My Favourite Film: Batman Begins

Plenty of worthy comedies and dramas, but Batman wins it.

Biggest Selling Song: Is This The Way To Amarillo by Peter Kay and Tony Christie

My Favourite Song: Something In The Way by Gemma Hayes

Biggest Selling Album: The Emancipation of Mimi by Mariah Carey

My Favourite Album: Ghost Reveries by Opeth

Counting down The Days, Dirty Diamonds, The Roads Don’t Love You and not a lot else. A pretty crappy year.

My Favourite Book: Kafka On The Shore, by Haruki Murakami

Cats. Cats everywhere.

2006:

Top Grossing Film: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

My Favourite Film: Casino Royale

A terrific year for movies and at least five I could just as easily call my favourite. I’m going to go with what might not be the best out of my favourites, but I think it just about cinches it for ‘rewatchability’.

Biggest Selling Song: Crazy by Gnarls Barkley.

My Favourite Song: Waking Hour by The Gathering

Biggest Selling Album: The High School Musical Soundtrack

My Favourite Album: A Matter Of Life And Death by Iron Maiden

Inhuman Rampage, Black Holes And Revelations, Blood Mountain, Home. Iron Maiden’s return to form culminates in their epic war-based monster.

My Favourite Book: Cell by Stephen King

I know I know, but it’s good!

2007:

Top Grossing Film: Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End

My Favourite Film: Enchanted

A bit of a crap year, actually. Even all the films which did well at The Oscars which most non-Oscars people like, I felt were a bit meh.

Biggest Selling Song: Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis

My Favourite Song: Bouncing Off Clouds by Tori Amos

Biggest Selling Album: Noel by Josh Groban

My Favourite Album: Send Away The Tigers by Manic Street Preachers

As you can tell, the number of quality releases drastically shrinks with each year this decade, so by this point there is’t much worth mentioning – naturally there’s a tonne I haven’t heard so there’s bound to be plenty of great albums and songs I’ve missed. I narrowed by albums down to three, but none of them are even great choices.

My Favourite Book: Unknown

You know, I don’t think I’ve read a single book published in 2007. I mean, I probably have but I can’t think of any which likely means any I did read I didn’t particularly enjoy.

Next time I’ll squeeze the remaining years into one post and I’ll probably remove the books section as there haven’t really been too many books in recent years that I’ve loved outside of the usual suspects. Maybe that’s what happens when you get old(er).

#Thisisyourfilm 1991 – 1998

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1991:

Top Grossing Film: T2

My Favourite Film: T2

What. A. Year. The top 3 highest grossing movies in the US among my top favourite movies, with T2 maybe being my favourite movie of all time and Beauty And The Beast being my favourite Disney movie ever. There’s a bunch of other classics this year too but Arnie, Eddie, Linda, Robert and co are never going to be topped.

Biggest Selling Song: Everything I Do By Bryan Adams

My Favourite Song: November Rain by Guns N Roses

As cheesy as it is, I do love Everything I Do – especially the long version. I should pick something else though so lets go with Axl’s epic.

Biggest Selling Album: Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey

My Favourite Album: Nevermind By Nirvana

What. A. Year. My winner could have been either of the Use Your Illusions, Metallica’s Black Album, Dangerous, Hey Stoopid, and several others come close. But my winner has to be Nevermind – the so called album of a generation ‘nevermind’ the album of the year.

My Favourite Book: Ringu by Koji Suzuki

It’s a different kind of horror from the one on screen, but clinically delivered.

1992:

Top Grossing Film: Aladdin. 

My Favourite Film: Fire Walk With Me

Unlike most years in this era there isn’t one film which leaps out as my absolute favourite – there are four or five which I could choose between, followed by a larger group of almosts. There are a lot of interesting horror movies this year, plenty of comedies and action hits, but for now I’ll go with Lynch’s masterpiece.

Biggest Selling Song: I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston

My Favourite Song: Winter by Tori Amos

It’s perfect.

Biggest Selling Album: Some Gave All by Billy Ray Cyrus

My Favourite Album: Generation Terrorists by Manic Street Preachers

Well, we also had Little Earthquakes, Dirt, and a few other near shots.

My Favourite Book: Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

1993:

Top Grossing Film: Jurassic Park

My Favourite Film: Jurassic Park

Another terrific year for action movies, with a host that I hold dear, but those dinosaurs stand tall above them all. There are a few close runners so stay tuned for when I eventually reach the 90s in my Oscars posts.

Biggest Selling Song: I’d Do Anything For Love by Meat Loaf

My Favourite Song: Life Becoming A Landslide by Manic Street Preachers

My favourite Manics song is obviously my favourite song of the year.

Biggest Selling Album: The Bodyguard soundtrack

My Favourite Album: In Utero by Nirvana

Also efforts from Radiohead, Manics, and others but In Utero stands alone in it’s bleak rage.

My Favourite Book: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides.

My most easily recalled memory of this is that I read most of it on the toilet.

1994:

Top Grossing Film: The Lion King

My Favourite Film: Dumb And Dumber

One of my favourite years in the history of cinema, there is any number of personal favourites I could choose from as winner. Comedy has been a bit light in my choices so far though, so I’ll go with The Farrelly Brother’s finest film.

Biggest Selling Song: Streets Of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen

My Favourite Song: Lost For Words by Pink Floyd

There’s a bunch I could choose from any of the albums below, and a host of other singles, but I thought I’d mix it up a little with Floyd’s last great song.

Biggest Selling Album: The Lion King soundtrack

My Favourite Album: The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers

Classics from Portishead, Nirvana, Oasis, Jeff Buckley and others but they all hold their heads in shame as they bow to the terrible majesty of The Holy Bible

My Favourite Book: Insomnia by Stephen King

1995:

Top Grossing Film: Toy Story

My Favourite Film: Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead

It was almost going to be Goldeneye but then I remembered Denver came out in 1995 and not 1996. It’s a perfect movie.

Biggest Selling Song: Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio

My Favourite Song: In Motion # 2 by The Gathering

I could have picked something from Jagged Little Pill but in the end I’ve gone for this Anneke era Gathering special.

Biggest Selling Album: Cracked Read View by Hootie And The Blowfish

My Favourite Album: The Bends by Radiohead

Brit-pop, general Indie music, and pop-punk albums were hitting their commercial and critical stride, while metal was roaring back to power in Europe. Only one winner here though. Michael Jackson and Alanis Morissette also sold a few copies of their respective albums.

My Favourite Book: Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

1996:

Top Grossing Film: Independence Day

My Favourite Film: Scream

A few standouts and personal favourites this year, but Stabby Joe and co remains a landmark in horror.

Biggest Selling Song: Macarena by Los Del Rio

My Favourite Song: Darling One by Susannah Hoffs

Lovely lovely

Biggest Selling Album: Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette

My Favourite Album: Everything Must Go by Manic Street Preachers

Not a lot to choose from this year, actually.

My Favourite Book: Desperation by Stephen King

1997:

Top Grossing Film: Titanic

My Favourite Film: The Fifth Element

Not a great year for huge personal favorites but a few make the grade with Luc Besson’s genre collapsing tale taking the top spot.

Biggest Selling Song: Candle In The Wind by Elton John

My Favourite Song: Sonnet by The Verve

Lovely lovely lovely

Biggest Selling Album: Spice by The Spice Girls

My Favourite Album: OK Computer by Radiohead

My Favourite Book: In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

1998:

Top Grossing Film: Armageddon

My Favourite Film: Ring

A pretty crappy year for personal favourites, but there are a bunch of smaller, forgotten movies that I love. Japan’s Ring is peerless though.

Biggest Selling Song: My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion

My Favourite Song: Ready For Drowning by Manic Street Preachers

Another one of my absolute favourite Manics songs.

Biggest Selling Album: Titanic Soundtrack

My Favourite Album: How To Measure A Planet?

Only a few possibilities for me this year, but with one sure winner. How To Measure A Planet? is album everyone should, nay, must hear.

My Favourite Book: Loop by Koji Suzuki

Next time around I’ll let you in on my picks from the new decade/year/millennium! Down boy!

 

Disturbia

Disturbia

Shia LaBeouf, eh? He’s always up to something. But before he became whatever the hell he is now he was a pretty nifty actor, always engaging and capable of carrying big budget movies. Disturbia is a movie from his prime – taking the paranoia and general plot details from movies such as Rear Window and updating them for today’s market. It may not be the classic that Hitchcock’s movie was, but it’s still and exciting and entertaining flick with an easy blend between tension, humour, and angst.

LaBeouf plays a school kid Kale whose life is turned upside when his dad is killed in a car accident – the brief introduction suggests he’s a good kid. After this incident, Kale becomes more disinterested in school, life, etc and after one of his teachers mentions the accident Kale flips and attacks the twat. All this happens just so that he is put under house arrest, rather than breaking his leg Jimmy Stewart style. He is housebound and cannot leave his grounds without the police (including a cousin of his teacher) pouncing. In the background we hear news reports of missing people and a potential serial killer, and a new family moves in next door with an enticing young daughter. Kale and his pervy best friend Ronnie give in to boredom and spend their days spying on the neighbours – watching the daughter undress, swim, exercise, argue with her parents, and another neighbour who is always bringing women back to his house late at night. As time goes on Kale meets the girl next door – Ashley, and becomes convinced that the man in the other house – Robert – is the killer from the news reports.

Like Rear Window much of the first half of Disturbia focuses on humour, paranoia, and friendship of the central characters. There is more of a romantic angle and there is the relationship between Kale and his mother to consider (though this isn’t as developed as it could have been)- the film has more going on that you may assume. That being said, it lacks the true voyeurism and style of Hitchcock’s classic, but makes up for this with pace and charm. LaBeouf makes for a strong lead that the audience will always get behind, and both Yoo and Roemer support admirably. The final stages of the film descend into a more overt horror style as the killer always seems one step ahead in a game of cat and mouse which could leave Kale, his family, and friends all dead and the killer blameless. The modern technological updates serve the story well and prove that a good idea can be both universal and timeless if treated with understanding and respect.

While Disturbia may not have you on the edge of your seat with suspense or keep you guessing and second guessing like Hitchcock’s film does, it will keep you engaged and has plenty of thrills, laughs, and excitement to entertain today’s supposedly short attention span viewers. Let us know in the comments what you thought of Disturbia.

Room

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Room seemed like a fantastic idea for a movie and story when I first heard about it – it was sort of topical, given the sort of recent true events which it shares similarities with, the single setting was intriguing from a cinematic and plot perspective, and it began getting rave reviews from everyone before picking up a bunch of Oscar wins and nominations. Unlike a lot of recent obvious Oscar movies, this was one that applied to me immediately.

Room follows the lives of Joy (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a mother and son who live in ‘Room’ – held captive by an abusive man. In the early stages of the film we are given little explanation or history to their predicament but it is soon revealed that Joy has been there for years after being kidnapped; Jack was conceived, born, and raised there as the product of rape – he has never been outside of these four walls and knows nothing of the outside world. Over the course of film we see the world though both sets of eyes, one of fear and one of wonder, and how these viewpoints change and narrow and adapt when circumstances change. Spoilers will follow.

It is surprisingly early in the movie that Joy and Jack escape from ‘Room’. I was expecting protracted scenes of attempted escape where tension builds alongside hope, only for the latter to be dashed. In reality the story is split in two rough halves – in and out. On the outside, we see how the two cope with either reuniting with family or meeting them for the first time. We see how it is a struggle for everyone impacted – an honest and accurate depiction of how such events can ripple out and affect so many people in a destructive way. In many ways the outside world seems cruel, with Joy and Jack completely displaced from time and reality. There is a media frenzy surrounding the story, and the quest for ratings seems as cold and uncaring as a kidnapper. It is Jack who adapts to the new world more readily after a cautious and frightened start, while the joy of freedom soon becomes a dizzying puzzle for Joy.

And yet, it isn’t perfect. There are things I didn’t like about Room – but possibly the best thing I can say about it is that I can’t recall clearly what those things are now, a few months after having watched it. I don’t feel like the William H Macy scenes were handled well, leaving me cold and disinterested, and I didn’t find it nearly as emotionally powerful as I was expecting it to be; The highs never feel exuberant and the lows never feel too bleak. The script is merely serviceable and I can’t imagine the film would have been significantly better or worse in the hands of a greater or lesser director. As it stands, the film is so strong because of the lead performances and because of the story – the cruelty of the situation – holds a morbid and curious interest throughout, while the leads are never less than stunning, pulling the empathy and emotion where the script is lacking. Whether the film retains its acclaim years from now will be seen, but the performances will always be heralded.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Room? Did it deserve the accolades it received and will it still be as potent in five or ten years time, or is it merely a Hallmark TV movie dressed in fancier clothes?