Archive for the ‘FILM’ Category

The release of the Laurel and Hardy film biopic Stan & Ollie has brought the legendary comedy duo back into the public consciousness for a while.

And it reminded me that, among various things I’ve written for this site over the years but never posted, there was a piece on Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy that I had notes for. It was originally to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Laurel’s death; but it works just as well to put it here now.

Even if it’s mainly about Laurel and the last days of his life, you actually can’t write about Laurel without it being about Hardy: the pair were inseparable, both in public consciousness and, as it happened, even in life and death.

It is a remarkable sign of the longeivity potential in the medium of film, and a testatement to the talents of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, that we still talk about them even now.

We are soon coming up to 100 years since the pair starred in their first movie together. Most of the shorts considered their classics are 80 and 90 years old by now. When I developed my love of Laurel and Hardy as a kid in the eighties, they had both already been dead for around two decades and their prime era had begun before even my grandparents had been born. (more…)

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So I’ve just rewatched The Last Jedi for the fifth time now. And I want to talk about why it may be… time for the (Last) Jedi (hate)… to end.

And why this film flourishes emotionally and viscerally, even as it collapses logically and critically. I wish I could outright hate this movie or outright love it – as it is, however, I’m in the frustrating position of both hating and loving it at the same time – and I really can’t figure out how I’ll feel about it five years or ten years from now.

In this ‘re-evaluation’ or essay or whatever you want to call it, I want to reappraise my views on The Last Jedi, see what’s changed over time, and essentially conduct something of a defense of this movie – even though I could write another equally valid piece on everything that’s wrong with this movie.

This is motivated in part by how bored I am with all the ongoing hate for The Last Jedi – some of which is valid, and much of which has been excessive. But it is also motivated by how much the film has improved for me in these nine months. I also want to talk about how the Five Stages of Grief relate to my/our response to this movie and I also want to talk about The Last Jedi in the context of The Phantom Menace.

I have to say, it’s a film that seems to get better and better the more I watch it. It’s a film that grows over time – not a film that necessarily enamours you on first viewing.

I certainly wasn’t enamoured with The Last Jedi back in December: but to be clear, I never totally hated it. My initial review of the film was balanced between praise for the film’s significant strengths and pleasures – and dismay at some of the storytelling choices, character portrayals and frankly bad structuring.

My sense of the film now is still generally the same: I love lots of it, I definitely have an emotional response and engagement in key scenes, and I adore the cinematography and the visual tone and dynamics of this movie. But I still dislike some of the story choices, am still baffled by some of the lapses in logic, and I still question – as I always have – whether these sequel films needed to exist at all. (more…)

The mysterious death of movie legend Natalie Wood might be the most troubling and tragic ‘Hollywood Mystery’ that there is.

It’s a case that hasn’t been resolved – and which conspiracy theories still circulate around – for over thirty years. And it’s a case that keeps resurfacing every several years; most recently with the news, in the last few months, that Wood’s two-time husband (and American film and TV star) Robert Wagner is again “a person of interest” in the re-opened case.

Natalie Wood, who starred in, among other things, Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, was a massive star and icon of her age. (more…)

In the sixth Star Trek  film, The Undiscovered Country, Ambassador Spock tells Captain Kirk, “There’s an old Vulcan saying – only Nixon could go to China.”

The line was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, suggesting that Nixon going to China was so symbolically significant that it had even become a saying among an alien race centuries in the future.

The Nixon-going-to-China reference has also been cited a bunch of times in recent days, since it has been announced that Donald Trump appears to have accepted North Korea’s invitation for the US President to attend a talk with Kim Jong-un. The seemingly sudden onset of diplomacy and de-escalation seems to have caught most commentators off-guard.

It seems, on the surface, to be a positive development, with the historic meeting tentatively scheduled for May. (more…)

I haven’t seen the Black Panther movie yet; but I’m looking forward to it.

T’Challa, the Black Panther, has for a long time been one of my absolute favorite comic book characters – and I’ve been glad that his mythology has been given the cinema treatment: and that it appears to be doing so well and generating so much conversation.

But, amid all of that conversation (much of which, rightly, is focused on the subject of the first entirely black superhero movie), one thing that probably won’t be discussed is the subject I’m going to cover here now: which gives me a rare opportunity to talk about both my love of comic-book mythologies and my interest in real-world geo-political conspiracies at the same time.

This isn’t an article about the film or even about the character’s history. Rather, it’s about a specific perception I have of the Black Panther mythology and how it relates to particular real-life North-African nation that I’ve written a lot about in the past – specifically Libya, and more specifically the Gaddafi-era Libya.

Now, obviously, I’ll need to justify this – and I will. (more…)

Is The Last Jedi the ‘worst Star Wars movie ever’? Possibly. Even probably. But what does that even mean? It could be the ‘worst’ Star Wars film and still be really interesting and have great stuff in it.

Needless to say, this is my provisional review of The Last Jedi. And yeah, it’s probably going to get ugly at times.

I say ‘provisional’ because I have only seen the film once, a few days ago.

I plan to see it again, to try to understand it better and see if I feel better about it the second time – which is a distinct possibility. And I usually don’t write Star Wars reviews until I’ve seen the film more than once – however, my sense of dismay and confusion from this experience was so strong that I have felt compelled to write this out earlier than I would’ve done.

Writing this review – and thinking all of this through – has actually been a form of post-The-Last-Jedi therapy for me. And I needed that. If any of you out there have also been suffering from post-The-Last-Jedi psychological issues or distress, then perhaps reading through this might help you a little too.

I saw the film on Saturday night. I’ve been aware that there’s been some degree of ‘backlash’ online, but I haven’t looked at any of it, having been mostly off-line for a few days. (more…)

As Episode 8 of the Star Wars saga hits cinemas and adds a new chapter in the mythology of the galaxy far, far away, here’s a timely revisit to all the existing films in the epic, magical universe Uncle George made.

Even die-hard fans have mixed feelings about the various films, particularly in regard to the prequel trilogy, which has been excessively and mostly unfairly maligned. But here is a loving and critical look back across cinema’s greatest saga, with the added power of hindsight and greater perspective.

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There is something that occurred to me ever since seeing The Force Awakens for the first time. It’s a theory based firmly in the mysticism and esoteric nature of the Star Wars mythology that has always been there.

And I want to lay it out here – before people go to see the new film.

As the next chapter in the Star Wars film saga sees general release, I’m taking a last chance to bore everyone with my juvenile fan-boy theorising and wide-eyed analysis: and, in this instance, to explain why I think there’s a hidden story in The Force Awakens and that it wasn’t entirely the film we thought it was.

For anyone who’s not particularly a Star Wars fan, I apologise – for what is going to read like a lot of rambling, geeky nonsense.

I’ve posted this theory elsewhere too; but I wanted to make sure I shared it here as well. I can’t say, of course, whether The Last Jedi will validate any of this or not. But you will need to rewatch The Force Awakens after reading through this – in order to test the argument out.

An alternate title for this could be ‘ANAKIN SKYWALKER WAS IN THE FORCE AWAKENS AND WE DIDN’T NOTICE’. (more…)

Rita Hayworth is still one of the most iconic pop culture figures of the 20th century and one of the four or five most iconic ‘Hollywood’ stars of the last century.
A few weeks ago marked the thirtieth anniversary of her death in 1987, and I wanted to take a moment to draw attention to some of the curious things relating to Hayworth and also to generally reflect on her.

Her story is an extraordinary, though not particularly happy, one; one that straddles the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood and cinema, the Second World War, and even becomes a real-life story of a princess, is punctuated by high-profile marriages and dysfunctions, and eventually finishes as a sad story of early onset Alzheimer’s.

The fact that Hayworth developed Alzheimer’s very young – and a time when the illness wasn’t very well understood – is the saddest aspect of her story. For much of her final years, it is said she didn’t really even know what being ‘Rita Hayworth’ meant and didn’t fully even remember her past.

My own fascination with Rita Hayworth began not with any of her films, but with a feature-length documentary film about her life I remember seeing on TV a number of years ago. It was narrated by Kim Basinger and called simply Rita – The Biography of Rita Hayworth; I remember being entranced by it when it was on in the very late hours of Christmas Day (or early hours of Boxing Day) about twelve years ago. (more…)