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The DCU Begins

“The future of the DCEU is about to change”. These are the now immortal words spoken by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, prior to the release of his passion project Black Adam – part of the DC Extended Universe of films. He meant that his character was so integral to the ongoing story that it would be a character introduction as major as Thanos to the MCU but this isn’t exactly how it panned out. The film was a box office bomb but it doesn’t mean that the statement itself would end up being false…because cancellation is a form of change. Not long after the release of Black Adam, it was announced that the DCEU, a franchise started by 2013’s Man of Steel and featuring 12 films of questionable canonicity, would no longer be continuing in its current form. Director James Gunn and Producer Peter Safran were being brought in as co-heads of DC Studios, the replacement for DC Film, with the first part of their grand vision for the series finally being unveiled this past week.

This slate of releases, titled Gods and Monsters, includes 5 films (Superman: Legacy, The Authority, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, and Swamp Thing), 4 live-action TV series’ (Waller, Lanterns, Paradise Lost, and Booster Gold), and an animated series (Creature Commandos). It’s a really interesting mix of properties, with some being ones that many people may never have heard of, and there are reasons to be excited. Swamp Thing is a particular favourite while Supergirl will notably be the first attempt to portray the character on the big screen (in live-action) since 1984’s Supergirl. However, it doesn’t end there. Much like the MCU currently does, all of these projects will exist within one shared universe and will notably share the exact same actors. This will also apply to the animated shows as well, which is something that the MCU has not yet managed but that Star Wars has been doing for quite some time. 

As iterated, there are plenty of reasons to be excited. Some of these are fan-favourite characters, it’s promising a grand story and the pairing of Gunn/Safran is a safe bet however there are reasons to be anxious too. Primarily, there is the current state of Warner Brothers which currently owns DC. Since taking over as CEO in April 2022, David Zaslav has seemingly made it his mission to destroy the company. Content is being pulled from the streaming service HBOMax with reckless abandon while projects that were near completion are being written off for tax purposes. This is on top of the already notorious history of Warner Brother executives meddling heavily in the production of their films – particularly the DCEU. Man of Steel and Batman Vs Superman may not have been popular with the masses but it was executive backpedaling that really killed any of the cohesion in the so-called Snyderverse. Of course, this isn’t a new thing, they famously threw director Joel Schumacher under the bus for Batman and Robin – a film that turned out exactly how they wanted. It seems fair to have faith in Gunn and Safran, who have earned it over their illustrious careers, but at the end of the day, they are still reporting to Zaslav.

Despite unveiling a large number of properties (10 in total), no indication was given as to how quickly their production was to begin. Whilst this may bother some, it actually demonstrates that, despite ideas of grandeur, they likely won’t be rushed. This is often the primary issue with companies attempting to build cinematic universes – too much, too fast – and there is plenty here to keep audiences entertained over at least a few years. The only given date was for Superman: Legacy, which Gunn is already writing and will be released on July 11th, 2025. At one film and one series per year (which is the bare minimum and unlikely to be the final schedule), this is 5 years of content which gives plenty of time to adapt future plans where necessary and to begin production of further installments. It’s also worth noting that the DCU is not the only thing in store with the releases of Joker: Folie A Deux and The Batman Part II still scheduled for October 4th, 2024 and October 3rd, 2025 respectively. There’s also the next couple of series of Teen Titans Go! And Superman and Louis, all of which will keep that DC bone itched until their major franchising can begin.

There’s this notion that something can be too big to fail and it’s one that’s been applied more and more to franchises like Star Wars or the MCU. The DCU currently does not have that luxury because they are, in essence, starting from scratch. DC/WB have spent the past two decades building a portfolio of separate film and television releases with arguably the biggest achievement being the CW Network’s Arrowverse, composed of Green Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, and Batwoman. It is through these shows that the iconic storyline Crisis on Infinite Earths was brought to the screen, which featured cameos from the likes of Burt Ward (Batman: The TV Series) and Robert Wuhl (Batman 1989). It’s one of the company’s crowning achievements. This Arrowverse isn’t dead as such, it just seems to have run its course, although there has been no confirmation of its fate either way. It seems like it won’t be a part of the DCU and that, even if it does continue, it is likely destined for the Elseworlds label like The Batman Part II and Teen Titans Go!. Until now, DC/WB has very much been throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks but with a shared universe across all visual mediums, they’re placing all their eggs in one very risky basket. 

The DCU is an exciting prospect. If it works, it could one day make DC the powerhouse of media that they want to be. However, it’s going to take time, patience, and no shortage of good faith from viewers. The final installments of the DCEU are still to come with Shazam: Fury of the Gods and The Flash, before what James Gunn described as a Universal Reset followed by the release of Blue Beetle and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. All four of those are due for release this year and in that order. When this new vision finally begins, let’s hope that this week’s general buzz of excitement from fans hasn’t worn off.

Good luck DCU, you might need it.

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Matilda: The Musical

Adapting Broadway musicals for film is no easy task. For every West Side Story (1961) or West Side Story (2021), there as a Dear Evan Hansen or Cats (2019). There are several key aspect to musicals that make them work and need to be carried over if a film adaptation is to stand the test of time. The songs need to serve the story/characters, the choreography needs to match the songs being sung and the story being told needs to fit the medium its being told by. A lot can be discarded through adaptation but the trick is to only cut moments that don’t massively impact proceedings. Matilda: The Musical, is an example of adaptation done right. 

Based on the beloved book by Roald Dahl, it follows Matilda as she escapes the horrors of her un-adoring parents for a school run by a tyrant of a headmistress. Adding some sweetness to the pot is her equally book-loving teacher Miss Honey, who hides her own sad backstory. In a change from the original source material, Matilda is an only child who frequently visits a mobile library run by Mrs. Phelps who has no idea of her home circumstances. It adds an extra layer of tragedy to an already tragic character. Perhaps the biggest change, aside from the addition of Tim Minchin’s magnificent musical numbers, are the characterisations. The Broadway musical, upon which this film is sourced, is noticeably different to the book’s 1996 film adaptation by Danny Devito. That take had more rounded edges compared to this one which has a little more bite. It had whimsy and darkness but a wholly book-like feel whereas this film is often more upsetting. Matilda’s rage and grief feel more visceral here and her parents more disparaging. Meanwhile, the Trunchbull is slightly more militaristic with a more crazed look behind her eyes. Emma Thompson captures her loss of sanity in a more manic way than the great Pam Ferris. 

The look of the film is different too. Adapting a Broadway musical means deciding whether or not to adapt the staging too, which was handled differently by both sides of West Side Story. The 1961 version chose matte painted backgrounds and minimalistic sets to closely replicate the fell of the stage while the 2021 version chose to shoot primarily on location in New York and replicating the real world settings. Both films, as a result, feel totally distinct. Matilda: The Musical manages to find a happy medium between the two. A tiny slice of Matilda’s suburb, Crunchem Hall, Jenny’s hut and several outdoor locations are all that are seen but never much of what surrounds them. The suburbs is more of a street, Crunchem Hall is located in a vast field and all the outdoor locations are…well…outdoors. It feels like a more minimalist (more timeless) design choice but the sets themselves are bold and extravagant. The suburbs are bright and neon, like the colour pallet of an early 70s show whilst Crunchem Hall feels like the stoniest prison imaginable where nobody is safe.

The cherry on top of this delicious chocolate cake of a production are the musical numbers. Not all of them made it in (Telly is a minor miss) and the opening number is reduced for time but they are all marvellously choreographed. When on stage, it’s a general rule to use the space provided unless otherwise required, and the screen should have the same applied rule. From the opening number, it’s clear that Matilda understands this perfectly, whisking us through hospital halls before dissaassembling the set before our eyes for a classic tiered dance. This continues throughout particularly in songs taking place at the school. Not only is the space used, but it’s never just walked through. The ensemble are dancing constantly in choreography that reminds us how important choreography is to detailing the excitement of these numbers. 

The biggest flaw is that not all of the Broadway material is present. Several songs have been cut for time and the Wormwood parents feel like strangers. Brilliantly dislikable strangers. This change is understandable, given how often people have complained about the growing length of films but if all 3 hours were adapted, there would be no complaints here. There’s nothing revolting about this musical adaptation.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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10 Picks For 2023

Delayed production is a natural aspect of the film industry. It’s been more prevelant over the last couple of years due to obvious circumstances, but it feels as though normality may have returned. There are a few picks on this list from last year, but it felt acceptable given the circumstances. I am no less excited for them now than when I released my list of picks for 2022. As always, I don’t wish to pit these picks against each other so they are present in the order that they are alleged to be released.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

It’s been over a decade since Dreaworks has released a new installment of the Shrek franchise but that doesn’t mean it has any less traction. With a whole new, almost sketch-like animation style and a butt-kicking story to boot, this dynamic entry seems to be a fitting send-off.

65

One of the last trailers to land in 2022 and it had people buzzing. Adam Driver stars in this sci-fi adventure that sees him crash-land on a mysterious planet dealing with some monstrous foes. The twist? It all happened 65 million years ago on a planet later known as Earth. It seems like some sci-fi schlock, but that tends to be one of the best kinds of sci-fi.

John Wick: Chapter 4

Keanu Reeves’ current major franchise kicked off nearly a decade ago with his majoritavely silent protagonist avenging the death of his beloved dog. Several sequels later and he finds himself on the run from the board of mercenaries he used to work for. Sure to be as gorgeously shot and feature as many beautifully choreographed action sequences as it’s predeccessors.

Scream 6

A surprising to this list, given I hadn’t seen any of them until the 5th installment was released. This satire of the horror franchise is an often camp gift that keeps on giving, with this particular one being set in a brand new location…New York City. Very little else is known but it’s sure to be as metatextual as ever.

Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse

Now officially just Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse, with part two being renamed Beyond the Spiderverse, this is another major adventure to look forward to. The plot description doesn’t give much to go on but it seems like all is not well with the Spider-people and Miles finds himself in the middle of it. Into the Spiderverse is already the best Spider-film of all time with a great story, wonderful characters and stunning animation but this installment seems likely to top that. The trailer alone has been worth the wait.

The Flash

Not on this list because I think it’ll be good, but because it’s sure to be an interesting experience. Between lead actor Ezra Miller’s many recent crimes and alleged alterations to various cameos, it feels ridiculous to even release it. And whatever is released almost certainly isn’t the original product. With only several months to go and no new trailer, things aren’t looking bright for the speedster.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

One last sunset…again…maybe. After the generally poorly recieved fourth installment was released 15 years ago, it seemed like Indy’s adventures may be over, but franchising rights never die. With Dr Jones facing off against Nazis at the tail end of the 1960’s, it’s sure to be a classic adventure (regardless of quality).

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1

Serving as the first part of a two-act story, Tom Cruise’s latest installment of this blockbuster franchise looks bigger than ever. There’s still no official plot outline but it seems like the IMF has had a change in ideology and Ethan Hunt has found himself on the run for disagreeing with it. One thing is for sure though – it’s going to be even more bombastic than the last.

Barbie

Sometimes, it’s good to have a film that is unashamed of what it is. This live-action feature includes some big names in both the main roles and in the directors chair. The short teaser released recently gave glimpses of a vast, pink Barbieland that I can’t wait to visit. Also features the 15th Doctor Chuti Gatwa.

Ghostbusters Afterlife Sequel

Work doesn’t seem to have begun on this as-yet-untitled installment of the iconic franchise. All that’s known is that the cast are expected to return and that Jason Rietman will be penning the script. Considering Afterlife was all about legacy, it’ll be interesting to see what direction this one takes.

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10 Picks for 2022: Retrospective

Moonfall

Roland Emmerich’s newest blockbuster did not disappoint. The master of destruction once again delivers chaos on a planetary scale, using all the advancements in technology at his disposal and a couple of old tricks. The plot was basic and the characters cookie-cutter but they’re never the real stand out in an Emmerich flick. Although, for the record, the performances are a lot of fun, particularly Jon Bradley as KC Houseman. The plot goes straight up of the rails in a way that’s difficult not to smile at. Full review HERE.

Turning Red

PIXAR’s latest isn’t perfect. The third act, whilst great, does feel a little tonally different from the first two acts but there’s still plenty to love. The music perfectly captures the boybands of the early 2000’s, while the characters are a shining example of how “cringey” young teens can be and there’s a really solid family dynamic at play. The animation is similar to what the company has been doing recently, with the likes of Luca, but with a definite anime inspiration. When it leans into that and allows the animation to be quick, it makes for a unique feel. Full review HERE.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The first Sonic movie very much felt like a product of it’s time and this one is no exception. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s actually fairly enjoyable, but it’s clear from the humour, pacing and effects that this is a 2020’s film. Trying to have an overarching plot like the return of Robotnik (whose scenes are the highlight) with smaller plots like family drama and Sonic making friends with Tails doesn’t always work. The film feels like it could be shorter. However there’s no doubt that the people working on this film love the Sonic franchise because you could spend all day sifting through references. Fun for kids and bearable for adults.

John Wick: Chapter 4

Delayed until next year

Jurassic World Dominion

The Jurassic World characters have nevre been as likable as the Jurassic Park characters and the film studio behind this franchise must know that because they brought back the original characters. However, the focus remains on the World characters and the Park characters never really add much. There’s also a severe lack of dinosaur and an over-reliance on nostalgia-baiting the audience.

Lightyear

Another installment from PIXAR that wasn’t perfect but is still a good time. It’s a solid send-up to the genre of sci-fi and the concept of space as well as having some stunning visuals. It takes full use of it’s setting in the most gorgeous way but never totally hinges on it’s characters. There are also plenty of references to the Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, right down to repeating lines but it never distracts from the moment. It’s not complex but it never needed to be, it simply needed to be.

Black Adam

There are superhero films that are bad in a cheesy way but this is not one of them. It’s built on concepts and moments that have been done better in other superhero films and the main character isn’t likable enough to be endearing. As an anti-hero, there needs to be something to make the audience root for them, even if they disagree with their tactics, but that’s just missing here. Throw in an utterly wasted Justice Society of America (who deserve their own film) and a post-credits cameo teasing a battle we may not see and it’s just not worth all the effort The Rock put into it.

Mission Impossible 7

Delayed until next year

Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse (Part One)

Delayed until next year

Matilda: The Musical

THIS is how you adapt a Broadway musical to film. The choreography, the camerawork, the colours. It all just works. It’s also unique enough to stand out from the original book and other film adaptation, as well as making a few alterations from the Broadway show. Some of the songs were cut because there wasn’t enough time for the Wormwood household, which is a shame because they’re great. Blasted necessarily short runtime.

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Top 10 Films 2022

I don’t enjoy comparing movies to other movies and I don’t believe that any film is inherently bad. It’s why I have no rating system and it’s why you’re receiving this instead of a “10 Best/Worst” list. A lot of time and effort goes into making these films from hundreds of people, and I think bashing their efforts is disrespectful. I say that every movie is worth something and I genuinely believe that, even if it’s Disney’s Pinocchio (2022). So without further ado, here are the 10 films that I enjoyed most this year, in release order.

Top Gun: Maverick

This is military propoganda, just like the original Top Gun was military propoganda. However, it’s packed with such intense action and likable characters that it found it’s way into my heart anyway. This is a proper blockbuster and it knows it, whilst not including an over-sexual love plot which is such a nice surprise. Full review HERE.

Elvis

This biopic stretches the facts a little but it gets the vibes spot on. Austin Butler is a revelation as the king of Rock N Roll while the editing amps the tension to a almost unbearable degree (but not quite). One can only assume that this is a film which takes on a whole new level when high, not that it isn’t almost a drugtrip on it’s own.

Mad God

Phil Tippet has been in the special effects game for decades, so it’s fitting that his magnum opus is a perfect example of his work. It’s also absolutely disgusting in a way that can only be described as “wet”, which normally I couldn’t sit through but this film is so entrancing. Impossible to look away or forget. Full review HERE.

Bodies Bodies Bodies

This horror comedy was an unexpected delight. Not only is it consistently amusing but it has the most accurate depictions of rich, obnoxious teens I’ve seen in a while. Manages to be a social commentary about class and a solid whodunnit. Plus it has Lee Pace, which is always a good thing.

Do Revenge

Another film that depicts the teen demographic correctly, although with a more dramatic edge. It has all the vibes of a classic 90’s teen comedy despite being set in the present day and has one of the best plot twists of the year. Yeah, it can ocassionally look a little greenscreened but that somehow only adds to the 90’s of it all. Sarah Michelle Gellar is there too.

The Banshees of Inisherin

An utterly beautiful film. Powerhouse performances all round, with a score to boot, but it’s the undelying comedy of the sombre situation that ties it all together. It’s about friendship and it’s fraility and what we’d be willing to do to keep it but it’s also about the monotony of island life. This list isn’t ranked by preference but this would make the top 3.

Matilda: The Musical

Movie adaptations of musicals have been hit or miss, but these last few years it feels like the misses have been bigger. This is the biggest hit since Spielberg’s West Side Story. It makes perfect use of the visual medium, has some stellar choreography and is different enough from the broadway show that it doesn’t replace it. Truly masterful.

Violent Night

Another surprise hit. When the trailer dropped earlier in the year, it promised a violent comedy where santa beats up house intruders and it delivered in the best possible way. It also managed to have a heartfelt message at it’s centre and in the performance from David Harbour. Kicked Christmas ass and is definiitely becoming a yearly tradition.

GDT’s Pinocchio

There have been several Pinocchio films this year and many over the decades but none quite like this. Del Toro brings his unique brand of dark whimsy to the classic tale through glorious stop-motion. Amazingly anti-fascist with some neat musical numbers, this is one of THE adaptations.

Glass Onion

Knives Out was one of the best films in the year it was released so it makes since that the sequel would be too. The performances, the score, the messaging, the plot twists (PLURAL). It all just works. Would happily take a whole franchise with world’s best detective Benoit Blanc.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

The Matrix Resurrections: A brilliantly passive aggressive meta commentary on the state of the franchise

Moonfall: Director Roland Emmeriech delivers action in a way that only he can…ridiculously.

Everything Everywhere All at Once: Didn’t quite hit that sweet spot for me but I admire the creativity

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Spoilers)

How do you achieve longevity? There are a couple of solutions and they are both present in Marvel’s 30th(!) feature length film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The background surrounding production is as well known as the title Black Panther, with the sequel entering development before the unfortunate passing of Chadwick Boseman and being reworked with a new name taking the mantle. It introduces beloved comic character Namor to the MCU in a rivalry between his underwater tribe and the Wakandans on land, which invites comparison to the DC hero Aquaman, although these comparisons end up being unwarranted. There is such a vast difference in the portrayal of both characters and the oceans they live in that it would do each world a disservice to compare them.

Naturally, at the forefront of this film, is the legacy of Chadwick Boseman. His introduction as Prince T’Challa (later King T’Challa) AKA The Black Panther gave children of colour across the globe a hero that represented them. He took the largest franchise in the world and used it as a platform at a time when racism in the West was on the rise. He seemed destined to continue in his role as actor and activist for years to come, which made his unexpected passing all the more upsetting. There were calls to recast the role but, given this surrounding context, it wouldn’t have felt right and the plot does address that. With all the heart shaped herbs, which provide the power of The Black Panther, being burned in the previous film Shuri is determined to replicate it…to no avail. The opening scene where she attempts to recreate it’s synthetic structure to save her brother is heartbreaking, especially since he is dying of a mysterious illness that he has been hiding from those around him. The story beat works on its own but it, very deliberately, hits close to home mirroring the real life circumstances surrounding Chadwicks passing. Eventually Shuri recreates the herb, consumes it, and becomes the Black Panther but initially she is only doing so out of vengeance. Her arc sees her struggling between letting the hatred consume her and deciding what this role as “protector” actually means. For those who have faced grief, it’s a familiar battle, to let the grief overcome us or to do our best moving forward. To shy away from the darkness or to run toward it. She struggles with it until the bitter end, right up until the moment she is about to kill Namor but, of course, she chooses the lighter path because this story is about healing…or beginning to heal.

The film’s conclusion sees her sitting on a beach, burning the funeral clothes, before being joined by T’challa’s partner Nakia and Nakia’s son T’Challa. It’s a clear indication that while Chadwick (and his character) may be gone, his legacy carries on. It’s not a straight-up recast but still allows for there to be a T’Challa in this world which is the perfect middle ground. Young T’Challa won’t be taking up any mantles any time soon but some day, presumably, he will. Chadwick won’t be forgotten in that time (or in anytime thereafter) but this allows for as much healing as can be done in a moment like this before life carries on. Through this character and these films, Chadwick has achieved longevity and ensured that we will never forget him.

The presence of T’Challa Junior also highlights the intended longevity of the MCU itself. Whilst it seems inevitable that he’ll become Black Panther someday, it’s likely that this won’t occur for perhaps another decade. He’s not the only new character either with the introduction of Riri Williams AKA Iron Heart and the aforementioned Namor. Riri is a delightful enough character who seems destined to entertain people in her own series next year before cropping up as “New Iron Man” for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Namor is rather interesting with his disdain for land-dwellers and long life span (having been around for several centuries) which is deserving of more exploration. Namor receives a rare treat as an MCU villain in that he gets to live, which is for the best considering dead characters can’t really be explored further. Then there are the returning characters, whose own stories are just beginning. Everett Ross returns to light up every scene he’s in with a charm that British Men seem to have patented with Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (or The Countessa) by his side. She makes her return after appearing in Black Widow and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, where she is clearly putting together a Discount Avengers (or The Thunderbolts as they’re otherwise known), making her in essence the new Nick Fury. The MCU has ramped up its production rate since Phase One but considering Fury has been present since the start and is still kicking around, this should give some idea of how long The Countessa should be cropping up for.

The discussion surrounding “superhero fatigue” is a complex one but when the MCU alone is taken into account, it’s not difficult to see why it’s brought up. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is film number 30 but, with TV Shows included, it’s project number 39. The newly released Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is release number 40 and it aired only a couple of weeks after Wakanda Forever’s initial release. Here’s the thing about the MCU…it’s good. Even at its worst (bar a couple special cases) the projects are still adequate at worst. Even Wakanda Forever, which suffers from usual issues like obvious greenscreens and unnecessary characters, is still good. The issue isn’t and has never been the quality, it’s the rate and the risk that there will be an inevitable drop in that quality to maintain release schedules. There’s been a large conversation surrounding Phase 4, which started with Spider-Man: Far From Home (yes it did, I don’t care what Kevin Feige said) and ended with Wakanda Forever. “It feels directionless” is the big critique and it’s partially true but that’s mostly because it lacks context. Every piece in this phase that feels out of place will make sense in time as The Multiverse Saga draws to a close. It’s a promise to the audience that there’s a reason to stick around. People have already clocked off and that’s fine because the critics will still be here, keeping track for you.

We remember it so you don’t have to.

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Women X Festival 2022

Attending film festivals has been a dream since I was aware they existed. However, it’s always been a distant dream because I can’t travel for them…well without at least spending a bunch of money I don’t have. This past year, thanks to the rise of online film festival attendance as the world was told not to travel, I’ve been able to live out that dream. From September 2nd to the 4th, I was lucky enough to experience a glimpse of the Women X Film Festival founded by Caris Rianne. As a Trans Woman, being a small part of this festival meant the world to me and I hope to attend in person someday. For now, here are some short(ish) thoughts on the amazing projects that I watched.

Head Over Feet: A Series of Shorts

First Kiss With A Girl is a short voiceover with related imagery about a girls first kiss with another girl. It’s really cute, shot in a 6:9 ratio, with the theme of the part at which this case occurred being present but not obvious until it’s stated.

Kiss Chase sees a young girl of colour struggling with a crush on another girl, while a boy develops a crush on her. It’s a classic “nerd to beauty” story done well, made more uncomfortable by the age of those involved, which I’m sure is the point. There’s really no knowing what children get up to and the thought that several of the more intense scenes in here do occur is terrifying.

Silent Pride features a private spat between two best friends at a party. The most notable aspect is that one of the girls is hearing impaired, although that’s never the sole purpose of the story. It is used for a cute little moment of connection though.

Virtual Love sees a female couple playing dom and sub for viewers on a camgirl website until an argument breaks out. It makes excellent use of the website itself, often showing the chat window which is itself a lynchpin of the plot. Despite being in skimpy clothing, the camera never leers, which shouldn’t be noteworthy but it is.

Pitching features a woman lost in her tent on a trail, leaving a desperate voicemail for her former girlfriend. The frame composition is fascinating, having been split into 9 squares, each telling a different story from the relationship. At 17 minutes, it’s one of the longer shorts but the lone voicemail is heartbreakingly engaging throughout.

The Cost of Living focuses on a woman in control of her life finally giving up control for the seductive personification of death. It’s the artsiest film in this series and it’s totally engaging. Seems to have the highest production budget so far but this story would be wonderful regardless.

Pragma sees a woman partaking in a rigorous Partnering Programme but struggling to trust the system. It also has a higher production budget and a longer runtime but it’s also consistently funny. A really interesting take on the two core kinds of relationship (short-term and long-term).

Besties: A Series of Shorts

Scuzz features the surprising friendship of a female rocker and the young teen boy who stole her guitar. It’s super sweet and it demonstrates the kinder side of Scotlands gig scene which could use more prevalence.

Venetian Men is the tale of two 15-year-old best friends’ trip to Venice. It has an excellent blend of photos and footage taken on the trip with interprative dance scenes featuring actress stand-ins. The voiceover is soothing too, telling of an often underappreciated time in young women;s lives.

@scroll_alice features a conversation between two people about the benefits of Instagram. With the stop-motion animation depicting conversation topics and use of AI voices, it comes across as a little horrifying despite the dialogue claiming otherwise. It feels like it lacks humanity but at the same time it tells such a human story. Brilliant.

Run With Her is a short documentation of an Irish teens friendship with her running partner and best friend. This short was also featured in last years EIFF so this is a second watch for me but it’s no less lovely. I hope everything is working out for them.

Farewell She Goes sees two Gregorian women grappling with how to bury a bird at sea whilst a deeper issue lies just below the surface. It never explicitly states that one of thee women wants an abortion but it’s made clear through the dialogue, line delivery and notes about abortions history at the films conclusion. Sad but necessary.

Sequin features a little girl at a bus stop encountering a drag queen who looks just like her Barbie doll. It’s adorable and a perfect demonstration of how accepting children are. It manages that without anyone ever uttering a word, which is a real skill.

7 Bannanas features a woman dealing with the deathvof a friend sh’ed been neglecting to message. It feels real, grappling well with the genuine emotions of grief and guilt. Serves as a poignant reminder to keep in touch with people more.

Homegrown: A series of shorts

GSNE is a small doc centres around the foundation of Girls Skate North East, a group specifically for female skaters in the North East of the UK. It’s about camaraderie and support and being female in a seemingly male dominated space. Very inspiring.

After the break is a monologue about living life away from the tv screens and the music. It’s interesting to listen to with simple but elegant visuals.

The Air in Cyberspace features the beginnings of self organising cyborg existence. Not live-action so it caught me off guard, but the CGI visuals and visuals are very impressive.

The Girl Next Door sees a girl trying to vlog her life whilst her psychotic adopted sister lurks in the background. Shooting it purely from the cameras POV is a great way to tell the story and the performances are wonderful.

A Call to the Void follows 24 hours in a depressed young mans life and is quite the experience. A self-motivational tape plays over the entire short providing this juxtaposition between what the world expects and the reality of life.

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ParaNorman

Animation is for children. At least, this is what some adults will try to have you believe. Current Disney CEO Bob Chapek is one such adult, which may partially explain why the world is in the midst of a live-action-remake-renaissance. The fine folks over at PIXAR Animation Studios have never held such a belief, knowing that children can handle most of what life can throw at them and that’s there no use hiding them from reality. The same is true of Laika Studios, whose 2009 classic Coraline delighted and terrified audiences of all ages. It was the very first film they’d produced for themselves, having assisted on other projects like The Corpse Bride, but it wouldn’t be their final forray into the world of horror. 3 years later came ParaNorman, which is often overshadowed by it’s predecessor but is no less creative.

The story follows 11 year old Norman, who has the unique ability to see and speak to ghosts, as he attempts to stop a 300 year old witches curse from destroying his town. The curse, which until recently had been held at bay by a crazed hermit, brings back to life the seven jurors who sentenced the witch to death as well as the spirit of the witch herself. Along the way, he is assisted by his older sister Courtney, school bully Alvin, best friend Neil and Neils older brother Mitch. It’s a simpler plot than Coraline but the characters and their dynamics are just as interesting. There’s the classic sibling rivalry betwween Norman and Courtney which also exists between Neil and Mitch, whilst Alvin finds himself clinging to the group out of fear. Courtney’s infatuation with Mitch is especially fun to witness, particularly on a rewatch with the knowledge that Mitch is gay.

The plot never makes a big deal out of that fact. It isn’t a running thread throughout themovie and, when revealed, isn’t given an aura that demands praise. It’s just part of who he is and comes up naturally, which is how it should be. Gay people are more than just their sexuality, which is something that Laika continues to understand. Their following three films would include gay characters, both in the background and the foreground, but there was never a massive deal made about them. Disney has been expecially bad for using gay characters as a marketing gimmick but the fail to grasp that this community isn’t demanding attention. The goal is simply to be included because that’s how it is in reality. The LGBT community only seems loud because it fights so hard to exist without prosecution, which is only getting more difficult by the year. Characters like Mitch normalise a community that has been seen as “other” for decades and help children to realise that, not only are there gay people, but that it’s ok to be gay yourself. It breeds a more open and loving ideollogy in children who see it and provides hope for a netter tomorrow for the community. Mitch was the first gay character in a “children’s” movie and he remains one of the best examples of how such a character can be handeled.

The most interesting development in ParaNorman occurs as act three begins. The seven undead jurors are not the steotypical undead, but are instead victims of the witches curse who wish to be set free. The overall message here is to not jusge a book by its cover but this only works because the idea of a “zombie” is so ingrained in popular culture…which is fascinating. It’s an idea embeded so deep withing society that this tweist works regardless of the age of the viewer and it only works better as time goes on. The zombie genre has seen a surge in popularity over the last decade propelled, in part, by the success of shows like The Walking Dead (a show which ironically will not die). However it also means that subverting the expectation of brain-hungry zomnies is not as unique as it once was, having been used in films like Warm Bodies and Life After Beth. ParaNorman was one of the originators and, considering how well they pulled it off, it’s no wonder it stuck around.

It’s also a remarkable homage to the B Movies of old. The opening scene is an in-universe B Movie which perfectly sends up the hoaky acting, simple sets and bright colours. This homage continues throughout the film itself. Laika’s signature stop-motion animation comes across on screen as more jagged and slow in movement, providing a slightly uneasy feel akin to the low frame rates of early cinema. There’s also a lighter tone than something like Coraline, although it still has its dark moments. The eventual reveal of the witches identity is as heartbreaking in terms of narrative as it is in terms of historical accuracy. There is also a direct link between the witch, the hermit and Norman which is never stated outright but is evident enough from context clues. It feels that a link like that would be directly adressed in a film today, but again ParaNorman refuses to talk down to its audience.

Despite the admiration the creative team clearly have for the horror genre and the admiration audiences should hold for their creative process, ParaNorman remains second fiddle to Coraline.This is likely down to its simplicity and lack of emotional weight in comparrison, but that doesn’t make it a lesser film. ParaNorman has enough charm, humour and stly to stick around in the public conciousness…even garnering a 4K remaster for its tenth anniversary. There is plenty of room for both and they make a spectacular double bill, with Coraline serving as the major scare and ParaNorman acting as a semi-palette cleanser. Both feature a suitably spooky aesthetic and are sure to entertain.

ParaNorman is fun for the whole family.

And, incidentally, a Happy Halloween to you at home!

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Analysis: Three and a Half Years of Shakesqueer

I consider myself incredibly lucky that anybody reads what I write. This began as some articles that my friends would see and that would keep them entertained for a couple of minutes every week. Even after a year and a half of doing this, it never felt like much more than me spouting my opinions into the void. At three and a half years, I think it may be time to realise that this has become more than just a hobby. It’s become a part of my life and I couldn’t be happier about that. It’s led to some amazing opportunities and has allowed me to meet some incredible people (who I’ll hopefully get to have an IRL conversation with some day.)

It’s been two years since I did an analysis piece, primarily because I kept forgetting to, but it’s wound up being the perfect amount of time between them. There are very few articles here that were in the last analysis, although one section remains noticeably unchanged. Some edits in creation have been made too. The lists and editorials have been merged, since I figure the former acts as a subsection of the latter, and the word counts now include every word except the titles.

The one thing that hasn’t changed though is my gratitude. Whether you’re new or you’ve been around a while, I can’t thank you enough for paying attention to my ramblings. So, without further ado, I give you…DATA!

Longest Reviews

Avengers: Endgame (2576 words)

The Matrix Trilogy (2400 words)

Pixar Theatrical Shorts (2228 words)

Independence Day Duology (2021 words)

Avengers Assemble (2004 words)

It makes sense that for the impact the MCU has had on my life that the first and last installments would make it onto this list, although for different reasons. The first half of the Assemble review is a discussion about the horrific personal actions of the director whilst there was just so much to unpack with Endgame that it’s a miracle it wasn’t longer. Noticeably, the other three pieces are compilations, but the PIXAR one is the one I’m proudest of here because, unlike the other two, it’s entirely new. Considering PIXAR and the place they have in animation history, it’s a surprise that this one isn’t longer either.

Shortest Reviews

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (257 words)

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (270 words)

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (285 words)

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (316 words)

Pride (378 words)

Totally unchanged from the last time and it probably always will be. The initial reviews for the Star Wars saga were written for Tumblr (don’t bother looking, you won’t find them) and the “Authors Notes” sections were added to beef them up a bit to be more “professional”. It seems almost fruitless now and I’ve considered writing new reviews from scratch to replace these pieces but I’ll never hide them. They are the earliest works that I have and, if nothing else, serve as a reminder of just how far I’ve come.

Longest Editorials

The Small Things 2021 (9749 words)

Superhero Rights: The Story So Far (6535 words)

The Small Things 2020 (4276 words)

Doctor Who is Dying and the BBC are to Blame (3996 words)

The TROS Defense (3064 words)

Three more compilations on this list, with the final two pieces being more editorial. Although, Superhero Rights was one that I’d initially planned to release at once before it became unwieldy and splitting it up made more sense. To this day, it technically remains unfinished because I was waiting for some major film rights updates to pen an epilogue of sorts but they’re in such a state of flux that it may be a couple of years before that comes to fruition. As for the TROS Defense…I stand by it. It may come across as slightly arrogant or like I was in a deep state of denial about how bad TROS was but I’m proud of how well researched and written it is.

Shortest Editorials

Ranking the Middle Earth Saga (338 words)

10 Films I’ll watch in 2020 (424 words)

Ranking the Star Wars Saga (439 words)

2022 Oscar Predictions (447 words)

Growing Up with the MCU (452 words)

More compilations, this time covering areas that don’t require so many words. Sometimes there is only so much that can be said or that needs to be said, to the extent that even I can’t ramble too long. That Star Wars list could probably do with an update considering it hasn’t been touched since TLJ came out. I’m always surprised at how short that MCU piece is, considering the importance of it. At the time, it was the most personal thing I’d ever written, but I’ve started pouring so much of my soul into some of my pieces that this likely isn’t the case any more. I still love it though and I still miss Stan Lee.

Word Counts

Reviews: 146,847

Editorials: 60,383

Total: 206,599

Number of Pieces

0-500: 13 reviews, 6 editorials

501-1000: 87 reviews,18 editorials

1001-1500: 59 reviews, 6 editorials

Over 1500: 9 reviews, 10 editorials

Total: 159 reviews, 40 editorials

Palindromic Pieces

10 Films I’ll Watch in 2020 (424 words)

10 Films I’ll Watch in 2021: Retrospective (464 words)

The Matrix Resurrections (757 words)

Cars 3 (1001 words)

The Incredibles (858 words)

Jessica Jones Series 1 (707 words)

Kingsmen: The Secret Service (646 words)

The Lego Batman Movie (676 words)

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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Pinocchio (2022)

There should always be a core reason for remaking classic media. The Wizard of Oz (1925) was the first adaptation of that story with sound while Ocean’s 11 (2001) gave the story more action and a larger scale. Even Dumbo (2018), another of Disney’s Live-Action Remakes, expanded the original plot past its conclusion. Pinocchio (2022), on the other hand, seems to exist purely to absolve the main character of any flaws.

Disney’s original telling of this tale in 1940 has, admittedly, not aged well. The age-old racist stereotype of the chain-smoking Native American gets a look-in while the child selling aspect is a bit intense. Honest John even sings about how “gay” an actor’s life can be which has different connotations these days. There are sultry puppets, evil whales, and minors drinking but Disney has brought this story into the 21st century by ignoring all that. It’s as safe and squeaky clean as stories can be. It’s so clean that Disney appears to have forgotten to give the story any morals.

1940 Pinocchio is a mischievous little scamp. No sooner is he born than he’s directly disobeying his father in the pursuit of becoming an actor. When he escapes the abuse of that life choice, he becomes enticed by an island with no rules and plenty of alcohol. He only leaves that island out of fear, with his first act of true selflessness being the rescue of Gepetto. 2022 Pinocchio goes through the same plot beats, but in a way that fully absolves him of any blame. He only becomes an actor after he is kicked out of school and he only goes to the island because he’s been kidnapped. By the time he rescues Gepetto, there is no question that he is pure of heart because he’s never been anything else. The same character assassination happens to Jiminy Cricket who once became a conscience to gain a medal. Here, he’s imprisoned in a glass for half the plot so that Pinocchio’s actions can’t be pinned on him either.

The morals of “a lie will grow until it’s as obvious as the nose on your face” and “actions have consequences that are sometimes dire” have totally vanished. Pinocchio (2022) would like the audience to know that lying is bad and that bad things can happen to good people but it will probably work out in the end.

The best decision made for this story is to give it a more cohesive plot. It no longer feels like 3 separate stories that happen in quick succession but like a series of events that lead to each other. However, it also adds backstory for Gepetto which may have been present in the source material but comes across here as forced. 1940 Gepetto wasn’t the most fleshed-out character but he was clearly lonely and longing for a family. So many pieces of current media feel the need to spell everything out for the audience as if they’re too dumb to figure it out from the subtext themselves. There can’t be any ambiguity about a character’s past or how they feel, despite mystery sometimes being a key part of their personality. Just because the audience knows more about a character, doesn’t mean they’re more likely to care.

It would be nice to say that the CGI is impressive and worth sticking around for but that isn’t the case. It’s at its most creative when Pinocchio reaches the island and embarks on a theme park ride through all the attractions it has. It’s whimsical and colourful but it’s the only part of the film to which this sentiment applies. Pinocchio feels hollow, like a tree that’s had its center removed.

Sure, the tree is still there but it no longer benefits the world it exists in.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

First impressions are important. When Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was first announced at E3 2019, it had a lot to live up to. The first two Lego Star Wars games (later edited and repackaged as The Complete Saga) held a special place in the hearts of fans with its charm and visual storytelling. The following installment, based on the Clone Wars TV Series functioned differently with less of a focus on individual levels and more of a focus on open-world gameplay. The same is true of the Lego adaptation of The Force Awakens but after that game, there was silence. There were no video games based on The Last Jedi but with The Rise of Skywalker on the horizon, fans hoped that something would manifest. Anticipation was high and when that first trailer dropped at E3 it seemed to deliver. It boasted all 9 core films in Lego form in glorious high definition, which was further demonstrated by the second trailer unveiled in the lead up to December of 2019.

It quickly became one of the most anticipated releases of 2020, before it was announced that the game would be delayed until sometime in the first quarter of 2021. This wouldn’t be the first delay, with it finally being released on April 5th, 2022, although there were frequent trailers during this time that gave a further glimpse at the expanded galaxy each time. Those who pre-ordered the Deluxe Edition of the game would receive an exclusive Luke Skywalker Minifigure with his own carton of blue milk as well as each of the 7 DLC Character Packs as they released. The first two of these packs, featuring characters from Solo: A Star Wars Story and series one of The Mandalorian, would be available from the day of the game’s release.

This is where the issues began.

The code given with the deluxe edition, which was to provide access to the DLC, only granted access to the Classic Character pack. It would seem that the codes meant for the deluxe edition ended up in the cases for the standard edition which was an issue for sure, but fixable. Within 2 days of release and after countless e-mails from fans, the developers were able to patch the game providing the correct DLC for those who paid for it. Thankfully, it wasn’t an issue that affected the core gameplay…that came later. Many players have reported several bugs over the past month, which they hope to be resolved in a patch of some kind. It’s worth noting that the developers aren’t to blame for this as they (like all video game developers) crafted this game under ridiculous time constraints, unfair hours, and a paycheck that doesn’t reflect the hours they actually worked. Crunch time is a serious issue and video game companies should be held accountable.

A major bug prevents the level markers for Maz Kanatas mission from loading in, meaning that players cannot play this level or any that follow it. Since each episode of the saga needs to be completed to unlock the next, it leaves players unable to access episodes 8 and 9 as well as the planets and missions unlocked by playing through them. It seems like opening a new save file may solve these issues for some players although it would mean replaying through any portions of the game that have already been completed.

Next are the loading issues, which aren’t game-breaking by any means, but may be bothersome to some. The biggest of these occur during the Smugglers Run missions, where the player will occasionally drop out of hyperspace to take on battalions of villains. If the player has already fought some of the Capital Ships (like the Galactic Trade Federation Ship) then it will load in during these battles but only as textures. They take up a large portion of the screen but they have no mass, meaning that they can be flown through. The only workaround seems to be completing these Smuggler Runs missions before taking on the Capital Ships, however, since they spawn at random this isn’t possible.

EDIT: In a patch, it appears that the developers have managed to smooth over the majority of these bugs. It is currently still unclear how many but the Capital Ships issue is entirely fixed.

Lastly for this article, although I’m sure there are more hidden in the game itself, is the loading screen. It’s a gorgeous piece of artwork in its own right with many of the main characters from across the entire saga just hanging out. There are some neat little character moments in here like Rose Tico tasering Jar Jar Binks or Poe Dameron and Finn being unable to keep their hands off each other (methinks there was a Stormpilot fan on staff) but these are not the flaws. The flaws are that, on occasion, they will load in incorrectly. So far, they have loaded in the lightsabers minus the characters and, more horrifyingly, loaded in the characters minus their faces.

These issues are particularly frustrating because the game itself is excellent. It’s not simply a remaster of the previous games (like GTA: The Definitive Edition was) but a completely new game, built from scratch and designed for a totally different experience. The Complete Saga was primarily focused on the missions, 6 for each episode, which were accessed through doors at the main hub – a cantina. Meanwhile, The Skywalker Saga spends less time on levels and more time on open-world exploration and collectable hunting. There are numerous side quests, puzzles, and trials to complete across the 24 planets and the space in between them along with almost 400 characters to unlock. The galaxy is vast in a way that’s never been fully exemplified before, with the closest approximation being the Battlefront games which showed areas previously unseen but which only scratch the surface in comparison to this. It’s clear that the developers hope that the player will explore every nook and cranny, given how much walking there is between levels. It can feel as though the 9 episodes are merely to acquaint the player with game mechanics and to unlock the various planets, with the “real” game being the galactic exploration. This won’t be for everyone but it’s an absolute delight for anyone who wants to marvel at all the galaxy has to offer.

It’s a gorgeous game, making the most of every pixel on screen. Whether it’s the reflective surfaces, sunset skies, or the sheer quality of the high-definition graphics, there’s plenty to be in awe of. This carries across to the characters and the way they interact with their surroundings. They leave little square footprints on the ground, dirt sticks to their clothes, and the frost builds up along the plastic seams. It’s no wonder this game took so long to make. It’s not just a treat for Lego fans but for Star Wars fans too, with little easter eggs and nuggets of lore littered all over the place. A high number of these may be accidentally missed by the player if they’re not keeping a watchful eye, making this world feel lived in and loved. There’s a recreation of a photo featuring Warwick Davis with some of the original cast on Endor, cover art for previous Lego Star Wars games, and even a literal easter egg. It is abundantly clear that this game wasn’t just made for Star Wars fans, it was made by Star Wars fans.

One of the game’s strongest aspects is the voice cast, comprised mainly of returning voice actors from the Clone Wars TV series. Fans of the show will get a kick out of hearing such iconic voices reading even more iconic lines, like James Arnold Taylor uttering Obi Wans famous “hello there”. It also provides a little more weight to his final duel against Matt Lanter’s Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, which they deserved the chance to voice. The standout performance comes from Sam Whitwer who, as well as returning to voice Darth Maul, voices Emperor Sheev Palpatine. He pours as much energy into this performance as he ever did for Maul, absolutely cackling with devilish glee as he delivers lines like “do it” and “I am the Senate”. This is on top of the return of some original cast members too, like Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Brian Blessed, and Daniel Logan.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga may not be the definitive edition of this story but it’s the most expansive. Having been created all it once, it has benefits that the original 9 films never did, like referencing any piece of the lore that they choose in any era. (Keep an eye out for the Jawas!). The John Williams composed soundtrack is as beautiful and meticulously crafted as it has always been, which perfectly matches the beautifully crafted locations. It’s got plenty of that Lego-brand humour that will delight both children and adults, without ever overshadowing the original story. The amount of travel won’t be for everyone, nor will the numerous bugs, but if you can survive these then you’re in for a whole galaxy’s worth of fun.

May the Force be With You…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
Featured

New York Ninja

When travelling, it is often the longest route that provides the most interesting journey. Such is the case with martial arts movie New York Ninja which is finally seeing the light of day after 37 years thanks to the efforts of film preservation studio Vinegar Syndrome. They have crafted a thoroughly entertaining, high-definition motion picture from raw footage, no audio, and no script. The latter two of these they had to provide themselves in a tale that’s as barmy as the film itself and has to be heard to be believed.

New York Ninja stars martial arts legend John Liu as the titular vigilante who is hunting down the gang responsible for killing his pregnant girlfriend. This gang is also behind a slate of female kidnappings and is led by The Plutonium Killer, who regularly exposes himself to the chemical in order to survive. It’s a simple story, embellished by the absurdities within, although it isn’t as much a story as it is a reason to move from one fight scene to the next. Liu demonstrates impressive kicks and astounding flips throughout the 92-minute runtime, with his opponents acting as mere puppets to be demonstrated upon. His feats are truly stunning and matched in entertainment value by the costumes.

The 1980s were an interesting time for fashion, with big shoulder pads and even bigger hair. These are present in New York Ninja, but the most fascinating clothing choices are made by the villains who would fit right into a low-budget pantomime. It’s a style that can only be described as “mismatched Halloween costumes” but the choices are to be laughed with instead of laughed at. Equally commendable are the special effects, which appear rarely but make an impact whenever they do. This particular era of filmmaking was home to fake-looking effects that only needed to get the notion of gore across on-screen and it’s immensely charming. The blood has a paint-like quality but the prosthetics are genuinely brilliant, especially where faces are involved.

With no surviving audio or script, both had to be provided by the restoration team, which is a difficult task, especially when the ADR has to fit over pre-existing mouth movements. The team solved this by only matching when required, and considering the average quality of ADR work in mid-tier production movies at the time, it feels more like an homage than it does a necessary choice. It’s not an award-winning script either, but the voice actors are delivering lines with all the campness required. There are stretches with very little dialogue outside of grunts and it’s in these moments the score is allowed to shine. Composed by Detroit-based band Voyag3r, the score is written specifically for the film and oozes 1980s excitement. It’s as much a work of art as the film and equally worth checking out on its own.

The DVD release will feature the 50-minute documentary Re-Enter The New York Ninja which features interviews with both original and new crew members. It’s a bizarre tale of guerrilla filmmaking, studio dismissal, and surprising secrecy which details the importance of preserving media.


Vinegar Syndrome’s mission is an admirable one. Many may see New York Ninja as just another martial arts movie but, due to its complicated history, it is so much more than that. It is a testament to those who salvaged it and to all those who salvage the media of the past. It saved the inspirational 1927 sci-fi classic Metropolis and 79 episodes of the original run of Doctor Who. Saved pieces like this are a love letter to those original artists, credited or not. New York Ninja does not list those who worked on the original production because the restoration team could find no names to list but hopefully, they hear about their rescued project and seek it out. Hopefully, they’re proud of their work and the added work of Vinegar Syndrome because they should be. They’ve helped create a campy, violent work of art.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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Unus Annus: A Summary

Contained within are the links to the summaries of the videos of the former Youtube channel – Unus Annus. Created by Mark Fishbach and Ethan Nestor, with assistance from friends, the channel’s aim was to drive home the inevitability of death. They posted a video every single day for 365 days with the intention of deleting everything at the end of the 365th day. Along with the channel, they deleted all social medias but the memories and the merch will live on.

Month 1

Month 2

Month 3

Month 4

Month 5

Month 6

Month 7

Month 8

Month 9

Month 10

Month 11

Month 12

Memento Mori
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Poem: This Will Make Sense When I’m Older

Im young, maybe 8 or 9
There’s this girl and she looks nice.
Why do I care? Boys do too.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’m grown now, I think 13.
I have a girlfriend for now.
She leaves and I hurt inside.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’ve grown again, 15 now.
I’ve got a new girlfriend now.
She leaves. My male friend seems cute.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’ve grown a bit, still 15.
He ends up being a tool.
My heart has broken again.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’m 16. Bisexual.
Don’t feel I can tell my fam.
Told my girlfriend though. She’s nice.
This will make sense when Im older.

One more year and girlfriend gone.
She’s replaced by my “true love.”
Feel this could last forever.
This will make sense when I’m older.

It fell apart. All my fault.
It fell apart. ALL my fault.
It fell apart. ALL MY FAULT.
This will make sense when I’m older.

The next year isn’t so great.
I want to die and try to.
Think I can’t love anymore.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’m 19 now. I found God.
I finally have feelings.
It’s a lot. This girl seems nice.
This will make sense when I’m older.

Didn’t think it would matter.
A guy dating me? Doubt it.
Turns out i was super wrong.
This will make sense when I’m older.

21. Boyfriend loves me.
He asks me to marry him.
I say yes. People aren’t keen.
This will make sense when I’m older.

23. Living with him.
Being bi isn’t easy.
But life goes ever onward.
This will make sense when I’m older.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

The Small Things 2022

Jan 1st: (Doctor Who) Eve of the Daleks is an interesting premise with a less than interesting delivery. The Doctor and friends find themselves trapped in a time loop with Daleks in yet another poorly written episode. Aisling Bea is a tonne of fun though, possibly the best guest since Alan Cummings.

Yaz being queer is a choice that emotionally exhausts me. She isn’t fleshed out enough to justify it and it doesn’t feel like we’ve been building to this. Mandip and John handle the scene respectfully but companions being in love with The Doctor is overdone.

Jan 5th: Book of Boba Fett Ep2 is surprisingly heartwarming and respectful. A lengthy flashback shows more of Bobas time with the Tusken Raiders who seem to have inherited some Maori tradition. It really humanises them whilst remaining respectful of actual tradition which is super neat.

Jan 8th: BBC Protest: The BBC has made some undeniably great content but that does not distract from their discrimination.

They pulled out of Stonewall and platform transphobes on a regular basis, without letting us speak up.

It’s abhorrent and we deserve better.

Jan 12th: Book of Boba Fett Ep 3 feels more relaxed than the previous 2. As Boba struggles to keep peace in his present and his past, we meet cool new characters and experience excellent action scenes. You can tell Robert Rodriguez directed this one, in a good way, but it lacks oomph.

Jan 12th: The Power Of The Dog is excellent. The story of a troubled family in 1925 Montana tackles what it is to be manly, which remains a prevalent topic in today’s society. It also dabbles with familial feuds, discrimination, and status in a plot that burns slowly with terrific performances.

Jan 14th: The Matrix Resurrections has a lot to say. The continued story of Neo’s struggle against machines explores multiple ideas, occasionally halting for an action scene, in a film that requires more than one viewing. Currently good, if not a little muddled, but only time will truly tell…

Jan 19th: The Book of Boba Fett Ep 4 is THE episode. A lengthy flashback to the beginning of Boba and Fennec’s relationship, this feels like when the first few eps should have been set before having the last few set in the “present”. Probably the best episode so far.

Jan 21st: The King’s Man doesn’t hold its punches. The prequel to Kingsmen about the founding of the secret service is heartfelt and action-packed, although a little less impactful than the original. Some top-tier casting too with excellent (yet few) uses of classical music.

Jan 23rd: Line Goes Up-The Problem With NFT’s “It’s rotten all the way down” is an astounding summary of this 2 hour dissection of NFTs, Crypto and all in between. Dan Olsen once again picks a target and meticulously explores every aspect until you yourself feel like an expert, with a subject that only gets worse.

Jan 25th: The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is really rather sad. Based on the true story of a cat-centric artist, the film achieves whimsy through fantastical cinematography and a haunting score. Solid performances all round, especially Cumberbatch but a Fun Cat Video this is not.

Jan 26th: The Book of Boba Fett Ep 5 might be one of my fave episodes of a different show. The exposition can be a little clunky and I miss Boba but I’d be lying if I said I didnt get a kick out the comedy or seeing That Ship. This one’s for the fans so no spoilers here. Go and enjoy.

Jan 27th: There are names in British comedy so large and so well renowned that you never need to have seen any of their work to recognise their name.

Barry Cryer was one of those names. And it’s a heck of a legacy he leaves behind.

Jan 27th: [Animéducation 6/many]

Cowboy Bebop is somehow manic and relaxed at the same time. The show, following the increasingly turbulent life of Space Bounty Hunters, looks and sounds gorgeous. The joy of being mostly episodic means that this is perfect for dipping in and out of.

Feb 2nd: The Book of Boba Fett Ep 5 is the most infuriating episode yet. Just when the plot progresses, another aspect of the wider universe is shoe-horned in. This is starting to feel more like the MCU than Star Wars. It feels like there wasn’t enough material for a full season.

And yes, that Bounty Hunter cameo is the most excited I’ve been in quite some time, but it feels like set-up for something larger. There’s one episode left and it feels like hardly any time has been spent with the shows protagonists.

I’m exhausted.

Feb 2nd: Finally caught up on Bob’s Burgers and it’s one of the most delightful shows currently on television. The animated adult comedy about a family and their burger joint is continuously entertaining with lovable characters and a surprising amount of musical numbers.

Feb 4th: Licorice Pizza gives nostalgia for an era I never lived through. The story of a turbulent relationship in 1973 California feels like several stories stitched together which made it difficult to settle, but each story is a delight. Aesthetically pleasing with an equally airy score.

Feb 4th: Scream (2022) is an enigma. The latest installment in the slasher franchise is still full of relevant parody but takes itself a little more seriously than it needs to. There’s more blood and less laughs but the characters are still likable and the commentary important.

Feb 9th: The Book of Boba Fett Finale is pure Star Wars. The excitment, the emotion, the explosions, the resisting. As Boba aims to defend his city from the Pyke Syndicate, friends new and old join the fight in a high octane final episode that allows this middling series to go out with a bang.

Feb 9th: Save The Cinema is what humanity needs right now. Based on the true story of a small-town cinema saved by Spielberg and a stubborn mum, it’s full of sincerity and kindness. Fairly predictable but that doesn’t make it any less tear-jerking or important.

Feb 12th: Nightmare Alley is bleak but beautiful. The tale of a man on the run who begins dating a Carny and becomes a renowned magician is a harrowing story about fame. How do you get it and what do you do with it and how does it affect you? Made me sad but in an artistic way.

Feb 12th: Sing 2 is as cute as the first but lacks the heart. Buster and his friends try to put on a big show in the big city whilst trying to hire a recluse in a sequel that serves its purpose well. Plenty of music to capitalise on but less in-universe usage. Also lacks Seth Macfarlane.

Feb 14th: [On the passing of Harold Ramis] Nothing could have prepared me for this news. I hope he was proud of the work he left behind and the many lives he affected, including mine.

My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Feb 25th: Death on the Nile is a theatrical delight. Sir Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic is a visual masterpiece. Full of melodrama, suspense, and (mostly) superb acting with an often noticeable green screen and lack of subtlety. Just a fun time.

Mar 2nd: Jackass Forever proves that there is still a place in the world for laughing at people doing dumb things. As the classic crew, and some new friends, subject each other to dangerous stunts and pranks, the laughter came barreling out. Tamer, but no less Jackass.

Mar 6th: Moonfall is classic Emmerich. A disgraced ex-astronaut, his former partner, and a conspiracy theorist attempt to place the moon back into orbit in a progressively ridiculous and explosive story. Takes a little bit to get going but, once it does, the thrills and twists don’t stop.

Mar 13th: Uncharted feels exceptionally derivative. Based loosely on the videogame series, it follows Nate as he meets Sully and they search for hidden treasure, with “loosely” being the key word. It’s kept afloat by the charm of its 2 leads but is let down by cliches and a bland script.

Mar 13th: Turning Red is adorable. Young MeiMei becomes a red panda whenever her emotions get the better of her in the heartfelt, laugh-a-minute new tale from PIXAR. The representation is a huge positive, but there’s plenty of relatability too as well as some of the most vibrant and exciting animation the company has ever produced. PIXAR deserves to be shown on a big screen and movies like Turning Red prove it.

Mar 16th: Benediction is perfectly somber. Detailing the life and loves of famed author Siegfried Sassoon, it captures both his heart and his pain. It’s also about the futility of war and the scars it leaves, which is shot beautifully and scored to perfection. Heartbreaking. [BFI Flare]

Mar 16th: Boulevard! A Hollywood Story is a charming and educational documentary. Telling the story of the Sunset Boulevard musical that nearly was, it’s a tale of romance and regret between its 3 creatives. A marvelous story that begged to be told. [BFI Flare]

Mar 17th: Borekas is really sweet. A short film centered on a father and son bonding whilst their car is broken down, it seeks to have a meaningful conversation about how closed off men can be from each other and how a gay person can interact differently with their parents. [BFI Flare]

Mar 17th: The Tumbler is utterly charming. The short film sees a pair of GenZ hackers seeking to exploit a couple of millennials but getting more than they bargained for in a piece about assumptions and secrecy. [BFI Flare]

Mar 17th: Birthday Boy hits close to home. The short film about a trans man seeking to celebrate his 18th birthday as himself perfectly encapsulates the feeling of despair and suffocation that is having your family refuse to acknowledge you. [BFIFlare]

Mar 19th: The Duke is utterly delightful. Based on the true story of a pensioner who “stole” a painting, it’s slow in places but never loses that unique British charm. Heartwarming performances and a quirky soundtrack make for a very pleasant experience.

Mar 21st: Long Live My Happy Head is a real emotional rollercoaster. Comic artist Gordon battles a brain tumor, the pandemic, and a long-distance relationship in this honest and uplifting documentary which tugs at the heartstrings and is filled with love. [BFI Flare]

Mar 22nd: Cheaper By The Dozen (2022) is fairly paint by numbers. The story of the Baker family and dad Paul’s attempts at a sauce franchise has some delightful young talent and some heart but is filled with modern Disney-isms that will date it poorly. Nice to see Zach Braff again though.

Mar 22nd: Fresh puts the thrill in thriller. A newfound romance takes a drastic turn in a film that features outstanding performances and made me constantly uncomfortable (in a good way). Felt like it cut off the story too soon but MAN what a story.

Mar 26th: The Eyes of Tammy Faye is marvelous. Based on the true story of televangelist Jim Bakker through the eyes of his wife, it features outstanding performances and an honest depiction of all the best and worst of faith. Partially uplifting and constantly engaging.

Mar 26th: Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild lacks any of the IPs charm. Possums Crash and Eddie reunite with the titular weasel to take down an evil dino in this bland spinoff. Lacking in OG cast, animation budget, and humour, this is Disney direct-to-streaming all the way through.

Mar 30th: Moon Knight Ep 1 is full of promise. The tale of a man whose body is a vessel for an ancient mercenary, it has an intriguing premise and the illusion of Netflix-Marvel violence. What remains to be seen is if it will follow through on the latter and fully develop the former.

Apr 2nd: The Bubble is wild. A group of self-obsessed actors shoot a film during lockdown in this joyous dumpster-fire of a movie. The script is often unfunny and full of cringe but seeing high-caliber actors delivering that script is An Experience. Cameos you won’t believe!

Apr 4th: Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is worth the wait. The sheer scale of this thing is astounding, as is the resolution. It’s an absolutely beautiful game to walk through and easy to get lost in. That’s before adding that cute lego humour and the wonderful Clone Wars voice cast.

Seriously. I’m maybe 3 hours in and, starting with The Phantom Menace, I’ve just defeated Darth Maul.

Apr 6th: Moon Knight Ep 2 delivers on the intrigue but falters on the action. Things heat up for Steven as Marc vies for control in an episode that’s beautifully shot except for the choppy action sequence. Khonshu provides suitable menace while the score provides the tension.

Apr 14th: The Bad Guys is delightful. A group of criminals faking going good takes a turn in this action-packed heist flick. The music is great, the moral simple and the design feels straight out of the book it was based on.

Apr 14th: Moon Knight Ep3 is a great character study. As Marc and Layla close in on Arthur, they realise Steven may be of some use in an ep that looks gorgeous. One of the best mid-series finales yet from the MCU, although there is a noticeable lack of Moon Knight.

Apr 15th: Morbius embodies uncertainty. The tale of ailing Dr. Morbius and his vampiric cure should be cool but is mostly bland. Torn between horror and comedy, it is suitable at both with Matt Smiths Milo stealing the show. It also features the most rushed, poorly dubbed, awfully written mid-credits scene I’ve ever witnessed.

Apr 17th: [Doctor Who] Legend of The Sea Devils is a chore. The Doctor and co face off against 19th century Sea Devils on an exposition-driven, choppily edited, husk of an episode. The production design is good and the 2 featured pirates feel genuine but those don’t save it. One left. Thank goodness.

Apr 20th: Moon Knight Ep4 is delightful. Layla and Steven finally reach Ammits Tomb in an episode that ups the archeology and then ups the weird. The relationship between Steven and Marc remains adorable whilst there are plenty of tense elements throughout. More like this, please!

Apr 22nd: Sonic Movie 2 is good fun. Sonic and his new friend Tails face off against Robotnik and his new friend Knuckles in a slightly slower movie than the first. It’s filled to the brim with references to the source material and current-day references, giving it peak Sonic cheese.

Apr 28th: Moon Knight Ep5 is the best so far. Steven and Marc process past trauma in an episode that really demonstrates Oscar Issacs acting abilities as well as the exploration of darker themes allowed by a 15 rating. The Jewish element seemed glossed over though, which kinda sucks.

May 6th: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a mixed bag. As Dr. Strange attempts to keep multiverse-hopping America Chavez out of the hands of Wanda Maximoff, there’s plenty to enjoy. Sam Raimi’s horror elements provide a new MCU experience but Wanda gets done real dirty.

Sure to split audiences.

I feel like if Sam Raimi had been allowed full creative control and a 15 rating, this could have been better.

May 20th: Chip N Dale: Rescue Rangers is entertainingly bad. The animation doesn’t gel, many of the jokes don’t land in the intended way and the relentless/odd cameos are a lot to take in. It’s a heck of an experience though, there’s nothing else like it. Best enjoyed with friends.

May 27th: Obi Wan Kenobi Ep 1 is a perfect re-introduction to the characters we know and love with a story we don’t. Nobody has lost a beat in the last 20 years, the Score is classic Star Wars and the cinematography is gorgeous. Director Deborah Chow is on to a winner here.

May 27th: Obi Wan Kenobi Ep 2 is the perfect follow-up to Ep1 whilst also acting as a great hook for the rest of the series. It can be funny and dramatic but within the final few minutes may leave fans emotional. These first 2 eps have felt like one film. And it’s great.

Jun 1st: Obi Wan Kenobi Ep 3 builds the tension and keeps it up. With Obi trying to sneak across the galaxy, the looming presence of The Empire has never felt stronger. Vader is as terrifying as he’s ever been here and the magnificent score is certainly helping. Love this show.

Jun 2nd: Stranger Things S4Ep1 is an entertaining re-introduction to the town and people of Hawkins. It’s a fun time with some interesting new dynamics and enticing new characters with a cliffhanger that reminds you this is still a horror show.

June 3rd: Stranger Things S4Ep2 is a good mixture of stories. It progresses the main plot whilst also filling in some pre-S4 gaps. With 3 seperate locations, it never feels like one is taking away from the others, there’s a good balance. Horror intensifies.

Jun 3rd: Stranger Things S4Ep3 ups the tension and the intrigue without ever getting too carried away. Feels like a mid-series finale but with a little less intensity. Also, we ship Nancy and Robin now.

Jun 3rd: Stranger Things S4Ep4 is an interesting one. It’s focused on the characters and the mystery rather than the supernatural. As a result, it feels a little slower but it still feels like a neccessary piece of breathing room.

Jun 4th: Top Gun Maverick is a high octane delight. As Mav returns to teach the next gen of Top Gun pilots, he is reunited with former wingman Goose’s son in a story that has a strong emotional core. The 80s soundtrack remains too, making this an instant classic. Film of the year so far.

Jun 5th: Stranger Things S4Ep5 is entertaining enough. It switches between the emotional story of 11 and the Scooby Doo story of the others, although the 11 side of things is a little more interesting. Definitely the least well paced of these episodes so far.

Jun 5th: Stranger Things S4Ep6 brings back the intensity thats been lacking the last couple of episodes. More is revealed, some great character interactions are had and there’s a cliffhanger that, had it been the end of this firt episode batch, would have left people screaming.

Jun 6th: Stranger Things S4Ep7 is full of cliches and resolutions that can be figured out but DAMN it’s good storytelling. Perfectly sets up the finale to come and resolves the first batch of episodes brilliantly. Its been a delight watching these actors come into their own.

Jun 8th: Obi Wan Kenobi Ep4 takes the action to the next level. Feels like a Clone Wars episode with all the emotional weight of one. A stark reminder that nobody is safe from the Empire and that Obi Wan is a top tier Jedi.

Jun 8th: Ms. Marvel feels like a Disney show in terms of tone, direction and score. Which is to say that it’s fine. It’s got a nice, grounded, family feel to it but it doesn’t feel like anything special. Also Captain Marvel is an odd character to idolise in-universe.

Jun 10th: The Bob’s Burgers Movie is burger flipping great. It feels like an extended episode instead of a bombastic blockbuster, meaning it keeps the tone, humour and characterisation perfectly. Wonderful to see a 2D movie on the big screen again.

Jun 15th: Obi Wan Kenobi Ep 5 is an emotional gut punch. As Vader closes in on Obi Wan, secrets and motivations are revealed in an episode that knows exactly how to affect the audience. Pure Star Wars.

Jun 15th: Ms. Marvel Ep 2 is more interesting than the first. The characters are endearing, even if the romance is a bit corny. Feel like the lore is going to end up being the most interesting part whilst Kamala becomes one of the best characters in the MCU.

Jun 17th: Lightyear is a loving send-up to the sci-fi genre and PIXARs first feature film. Buzz and a team of not-quite-recruits take on Zurg in a story full of heart, action, and laughs. Exactly the kind of movie it needs to be and a beautiful return to the big screen for the company. ALSO A HEADS UP: There are 3 credit scenes!

Jun 22nd: The Obi Wan Kenobi finale is probably perfect. As the story closes out there are confrontations, laughs, tears, and a couple of cameos that are sure to delight fans. This has been the best of these shows, and it’s hard to imagine something topping it. Just AAAAAAAAAAA

June 23rd: Ms. Marvel Ep3 is the closest the show has come to being good so far. There’s a decent amount of lore and the dancing is well choreographed but it’s only just starting to feel like it fits the MCU. However it is wonderful to see a Muslim wedding taking pride of place.

June 23rd: The Umbrella Academy S3Ep1 picks up the story perfectly. As the famous 6 meet the Sparrow Academy for the first time there’s plenty of butt-kicking and set-up for the tale to come. It’s good to be back in this world.

June 23rd: The Umbrella Academy S3Ep2 is wonderful. A major revelation hits the group and Luther spends some time with the enemy in a show that keeps being great. This is the Viktor transition episode btw and it’s handled beautifully with the respect that all Trans people deserve.

June 23rd: The Umbrella Academy S3Ep3 starts bringing the intensity whilst keeping the heart and humour. With the gang reunited they must figure out their next step in an episode that features some of the finest character work yet. Reginald Hargreaves is especially wonderful…yes really.

Jun 24th: The Umbrella Academy S3Ep4 is a turning point in the show that keeps turning. It builds perfectly on the last episode’s cliffhanger whilst introducing some new elements of its own. A whole episode of “WHAT?” moments.

Jun 24th: The Umbrella Academy S3Ep5 is wild. As the family is once again reunited, they must face reality and themselves in an episode that dives deep into how everyone is coping. There’s also a brilliant revelation about Klaus.

Jun 24th: The Umbrella Academy S3Ep6 ups the intrigue and the danger. As the apocalypse nears once again, the family begins to fracture in an episode that’s gripping from start to finish.

Jun 24th: The Umbrella Academy S3Ep7 sends chills down the spine. Both families put their differences aside and Klaus faces a challenge of his own in what feels like the calm before the storm in the best possible way.

Jun 24th: The Umbrella Academy S3Ep8 is beautiful. It’s the “emotional closure” episode and it’s sure to hit fans like several buses. Of course, the joy can’t last but it’s amazing while it does.

Jun 24th: The Umbrella Academy S3Ep9. All good art makes you feel something. With film and television, it’s to be traumatised when a dire outcome for your beloved characters becomes a reality. Consider me traumatised.

Jun 24th: The Umbrella Academy S3 finale deserves a coherent review. It’s visually stunning, emotionally devastating, and brings up some really interesting dimensional theory. But all I can think is AAAAAAAAAA

Jun 26th: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is wonderful. Nic Cage portrays an exaggerated version of himself befriending a mafia boss in this shockingly heartwarming tale. Plenty of laughs, plenty of action, and plenty of Cage who is CLEARLY aware of his reputation and his having fun with it.

Jun 26th: Everything Everywhere All At Once is close to brilliant. An unsuspecting laundry owner is thrust into a multiversal battle in this absurdly creative spectacle. It’s grounded by a lovable family and is funnier than expected but sometimes it leans too heavily into the silliness.

Jun28th: Jurassic World Dominion is serviceable. The new gang must save the clone child with help from the old gang in an installment that feels like it should have come first. It has good moments, and some fun interactions but is ultimately too caught up in nostalgia-baiting to be good.

Jun 30th: Ms. Marvel Ep4 is really charming. Despite an action-packed final act, much of the story is focused on Kamala, her mum, her Nani, and her heritage. Talking about Partition/ the effect it had is probably the closest the MCU has come to “being political” in a while and it’s welcome.

Jul 1st: Stranger Things S4Vol2 is a brilliant finale that falls short in the final half-hour. It’s almost totally conclusive, except for having to set up that looming series 5. Great character work, soundtrack, and aesthetic but lacking in finality.

Jul 6th: Ms. Marvel Ep 5 feels rushed. There’s not enough time spent in the past or the present with the final 10 minutes feeling like 2 separate scenes that have been jammed together. It ends super abruptly too. Just…not very good.

Jul 8th: Minions: The Rise of Gru is surprisingly entertaining. Gru’s attempt to get into a villainous group is more Gru-centric than the trailers implied and there are a few genuinely funny moments. Also nice to see Alan Arkin still getting work.

Jul 16th: Elvis is stellar. Austin Butler’s performance as The King of Rock and Roll is intense, passionate, and filled with tragedy. Director Baz Luhrmann handles the story with respect but allows the film to ooze style and Tom Hanks gives a fascinating turn as Colonel Parker.

Jul 16th: The Ms. Marvel finale is one of the best episodes of the series. The story reaches its conclusion in the fun Home-Alone-esque plot that’s at its best when focusing on Kamala’s relationship with those around her. Just wish the whole show had been this good.

Jul 23rd: Thor: Love and Thunder is a cringe-fest. Thor and Jane reunite to take on a God Butcher in a plot that feels rushed with jokes that will presumably amuse children. The final act is decent and there are a couple of laughs but all of these characters were wasted. More Gorr, please.

Jul 28th: Bernard Cribbins has affected the lives of several generations. From The Railway Children to Jackanory to Doctor Who to Old Jacks Boat, there can’t be many in the UK who don’t recognise him. He was an extraordinary talent and a beacon of warmth. Love to those who knew him.

Jul 31st: A hell of a lot of the diversity in sci-fi, we owe to Nichelle Nichols. She paved the way forward even when the world thought it wasn’t ready. Her loss leaves a galaxy-sized hole in many hearts.

Jul 31st: One of the cons of loving older film/TV is that a lot of our idols are passing away while we’re relatively young. And it’s not something I think I’ll ever get used to. Nichelle Nichols is one of many great losses but she’ll remain remembered and loved. Just like the rest of them.

Aug 3rd: Gasper Noe’s Vortex is impossible to take your eyes away from. The story, about a French couple dealing with dementia and their troubled son, is slow but totally worthwhile. Unique use of the frame and gentle score but it’s all in the gripping performances.

Aug 6th: DC League of Super-Pets is an excellent time for DC fans new and old. Krypto and his newly superpowered friends rescue the Justice League in one of the year’s funniest, DC-referential, heartwarming, beautifully animated movies of the year. Merton is my fave, btw.

Aug 7th: Prey is brilliant. A female Comanche warrior takes on the iconic Predator in a story that truly understands what made the original work so well. It’s slow, but tense, with dialogue only when it’s needed, and is dripping with gorgeous visuals. One of the best of the year.

Aug 9th: Carlo Bonomi, beloved Pingu voice actor, has passed away. The man wasn’t just an unbelievable talent, he also provided years of joy to children around the world. As an adult looking back, it’s impossible not to crack a smile. Thanks, Carlo

Aug 11th: Brian and Charles is so charming. This mockumentary about a lonely man who builds himself a friend features both the highs and lows of friendship as well as the monotony of small village life. Not for everyone, but certainly a really comfortable flick.

Aug 17th: I Am Groot is an acceptable little boost of serotonin. The youngling embarks on a few solo ventures in a well-paced, excellently animated collection of shorts. Although it’s a little bothersome not having them as a collective season. Would take many more.

Aug 18th: She Hulk Ep1 is a surprising delight. Tatiana Maslany is engaging, grounded, and has great comedic timing whilst the story finally fills in some gaps in Banner’s story (As well as Cap’s). If all episodes are like this, it may be the best, most TV-esque MCU show

Aug 25th: She Hulk Ep2 is pretty good. Jen finally meets Blonsky in a plot that does some neat world-building and provides plenty of reasons to smile. No proper laughs but it maintains engagement. The little title flip was a good gag.

Aug 25th: The Sandman is close to brilliant. Neil Gaiman’s source material is expertly crafted and it carries across well. It’s never unclear what’s going on and the lore is never too much. The characters are instantly likable, although a couple of casting choices are uninspired.

Sept 1st: She Hulk Episode 3 fully embraces the cringe. As Jen defends Blonsky, her associate defends an old colleague in a plot that makes me wish we’d seen more of Blonsky in the last decade. The humour won’t be for everyone but I don’t hate it yet…

Sept 2nd: Middle Earth is as full of lore and as grand in scale as it has always been. The first 2 eps of Rings of Power introduce excellent characters, high stakes and a score that’s just as beautiful as Howard Shores. Little quicker than the films, but not by much, it’s a good time.

Sept 7th: Fisherman’s Friends: One and All won’t win awards but it will win the hearts of audiences. The group struggles with the loss of a founding member in a story that has many of the same beats and jokes from the original but no less charm. Just very lovely.

Sept 8th: Pinocchio (2022) is proof that more backstory does not mean more interesting. The retelling of the Disney classic removes any bite or morals in favour of a tame tale that would rather reference its own parent company. No integrity but at least it can be a little creative.

Sept 12th: Nope is a conflicting experience. The tale of a UFO terrorising a small town builds slowly before a stellar 3rd act that falters at the finale. The concepts are interesting but they never feel fully realised, unlike the characters who are delightful. Eerie score too.

Sept 13th: She Hulk Ep4 is ridiculous. Jen tries dating whilst juggling a case against a sleazy magician, featuring Wong. The constantly drunk Madisynn adds a bubbly air to the entire thing. It’s the kind of episode that means the smile never leaves my face. Lovely.

Sept 13th: Rings of Power Ep3 is interesting. Switching between Galadriel, Nori and Arondir, it sets up some interesting plot points and has some lovely character moments. However, it feels like it is simultaneously fast and slow which is the joy of multiple episodes I suppose.

Sept 15th: She Hulk ep 5 has a surprising amount to say about influencers. As Jen and Titania face off in court, there’s an interesting look at how skincare brands operate and how loopholes can be used in the legal system. Fair amount of humour too, but the Shrek reference was a bit much.

Sept 16th: The Rings of Power ep4 ups the ante. Tensions rise in Numenour and Khazad-Dum as The Southlands evacuate. There’s something interesting going on in every story and one feels that they’ll culminate eventually but it’s the Khazad-Dum one that piques the most interest.

Sept 18th: I think Star Wars has always been easier to get into than Star Trek, unless you were there from the beginning of course. It’s not a matter of quality, rather it’s one of quantity. Star Wars was primarily a film series so there’s always been less of it but what FASCINATES me is that they’re so close to being similar now. Star Wars may never catch up in terms of hours but it’s now probably more than a general audience member is willing to sit through. You’re a fan regardless of how little you’ve watched btw.

Sept 18th: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Directors Cut) is a stunning achievement. The Enterprise crew reunite to intercept a powerful ship rapidly approaching Earth in a plot that exists to display how magnificent the Star Trek visuals can look on a large screen. It’s about spectacle and it remains one.

Sept 18th: Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn (Directors Cut) is astounding. The Enterprise crew find themselves at the mercy of an old adversary looking for a planet altering device in a film that remains iconic for a reason. Fully engrossing with masterfully updated visuals, it’s a sight to behold.

Sept 21st: Eps1-3 of Andor have the grime and story of Star Wars but isn’t yet as gripping as those other tales. Cassian Andor finds himself on the run from The Empire in a tale that’s most interesting when focusing on bureaucracy but shows great promise. B2EMO is perfect, no notes.

Sept 22nd: She Hulk ep6 is a delight. Jen attends a wedding, in an episode that gives a painful look at her personal life and provides the basis for a fairly obvious villain going forward. Some good Titania closure too, although I doubt she’s gone forever. A breath of fresh air for the MCU.

Sept 23rd: The Rings of Power ep 5 is equally tense and charming. As Mankind prepares for war, elsewhere friendships are tested in a story that continues to feel like Lord of the Rings. Poppys Wandering Song is an embodiment of that spirit, as is the kinship between Durin and Elrond. Great stuff.

Sept 28th: Andor Ep 4 continues to up the intrigue but never quite passes the threshold. Cassian becomes embroiled in planning a heist whilst Mon Mothma is reintroduced in an episode that is at its best when delving into politics. This series feels like it’s dragging.

Sept 29th: She Hulk ep 7 is very wholesome. Jen finds herself stuck on Blonsky’s ranch and takes the time to love herself in an episode that introduces some minor comic characters in an entertaining way. This version of Blonsky is also a delight and I hope he sticks around.

Sept 30th: The Rings of Power ep 6 is superb. The Southlands finally go to war in an episode with Big Finale energy in the best way. It’s broken up with some light humour but the climax is one of the best pieces of TV I’ve ever seen. Epic in scale and lore repercussions.

Oct 1st: ET: The Extra Terrestrial remains as whimsical as ever. The chance meeting of a young boy and an alien pulls at the heartstrings with amazing visuals ESPECIALLY this remaster on the big screen. It allows the atmosphere to soak in and the gorgeous score to fill the soul.

Oct 1st: Jaws is as stunning now as it’s ever been. The mission to hunt down a killer shark builds slow and maintains tension with a few laughs for good measure but it’s STELLAR in 3D. Depth of field like this in a movie is rare, making it feel like a once in a lifetime experience.

Oct 3rd: Bodies Bodies Bodies seems like a riot. An upper-class teen party goes wrong in a plot that consistently entertains, even if you can figure out the ending before it occurs. Worth seeing, ESPECIALLY with a group of friends and some alcohol.

Oct 5th: Andor ep 5 is a little tense. As the group continues to organise their heist, there’s a decent amount of friction in a character-driven episode. Feels like a turning point in the series, like action is only a week away. Slow burn but decent.

Oct 5th: Do Revenge is a delight. A school newbie and dethroned popular girl team up to enact each other’s revenges in a perfect send-up to 90s teen movies. Includes a poignant message about social media, the futility of school popularity, a stellar 3rd act twist and plenty of laughs.

Oct 6th: She Hulk ep 8 is a delight. Jen encounters the mischievous leapfrog and makes a new friend in lawyer Matt Murdock. The two leads have excellent chemistry and the fight scenes, while not perfect, are mostly about the relationships of those involved. Tense ending too.

Oct 7th: The Rings of Power ep 7 is a heck of a penultimate episode. Everyone deals with the literal and metaphorical fallout from the Battle of the Southlands in an emotional tale that perfectly sets up the finale to come. Features one of the most excellent last-minute reveals I’ve ever seen.

Oct 7th: Werewolf by Night is the best MCU entry since No Way Home. A group of hunters must survive fighting a beast in this tale from multi-talented composer Michael Giacchino. Great aesthetic, amazing score and no tying itself down to the larger universe…it’s refreshing.

Oct 12th: Andor ep 6 is where the fun begins. Having built up tension and relationships, The Big Heist finally takes place in one of the most beautifully shots eps yet. Slow build with a heck of an explosion and hopefully it isn’t a slow afterburn.

Oct 13th: The She Hulk finale is both an astounding feat of TV unlike anything I’ve ever seen and mildly frustrating the more thought is given to it. The metatextual narrative reaches its peak as Jen finally confronts Intelligencia in an episode that proves the MCU knows better.

Oct 14th: The Rings of Power finale is astounding. Identities are revealed and personal battles are fought in an emotional rollercoaster of a plot. Difficult to think of another show on TV with the scope of this one, now comes the tantilising wait for S2. Wow.

Oct 17th: Don’t Worry Darling is interesting enough. The story of a picturesque town that isn’t all it seems has stunning performances from Pugh and Pine with an amazing soundtrack. The ending feels hectic, and Styles’ acting isn’t brilliant, but 2/3rds of a good time is still pretty good.

Oct 19th: Andor Ep7 is gripping. In the aftermath of last episodes major heist, its clear that the characters and story have been given enough time to really breathe. Emotions will presumably run high as the conclusion approaches.

Oct 22nd: Lyle Lyle Crocodile is delightful. A boy discovers a singing crocodile in his new home with a story full of cliches and heart. Some fun characters and an annoyingly catchy soundtrack, its one the whole family should be able to enjoy.

Oct 23rd: (Doctor Who) The Power of The Doctor is wild. 90 minutes of classic Chibnall issues bolstered by ridiculous stakes and unexpected cameos with maybe the most gorgeous regeneration ever. With an ending that shocks and delights, it’s not perfect but its damn good fun.

Oct 25th: The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show is fascinating. Documenting the week in 1986 where Harry interviewed some of the most notable people of the era, it’s a reminder of how far we have and have not come in combatting racism. Tragic but hopeful, its a must watch.

Oct 26th: Andor Ep8 is excellent. The tension continues to rise as The Empire finally begins catching up to our heroes in a story thats willing to show just how little The Empire cares. This show makes it easy to root for individual Imperial characters but never their cause.

Oct 31st: Hocus Pocus 2 is delightful. The Sanderson Sisters return to face a new generation of teenager in this sequel that has as much charm and humour as the original. Has a distinct 2020s cringe to it but not too much and Sarah remains The Moment.

Nov 2nd: Andor ep 9 is tense. As Cassian prepares to escape prison and Dedra closes in it feels like theres an explosion of consequence right around the corner. Stunning performances all around but Serkis is particularly nailing it.

Nov 4th: Black Adam is highly derivative of every superhero film from the last 20 years. The Rock as a darker hearted superman should be interesting but between the characters, CGI and score, it brings nothing new to the plate. Dr Fate is neat though.

Nov 9th: Andor ep 10 is some of the most gripping TV I’v3 ever witnessed. Tensions in the prison finally reach breaking point in a plot that will have you rooting for the prisoners and heartbroken at the ending. Powerhouse performance from Stellan Skarsgard too.

Nov 9th: Tales of the Jedi is a fascinating concept. Providing further backstory for Dooku and Ashoka, the former gets the more interesting episodes. They show just how jedi can reach a breaking point, whilst Ashokas episodes show her determination and pure heart. More like this please!

Nov 9th: The House of the Dragon is oddly engaging. Set 175 years before Game of Thrones, it’s an ideal jumping off point for those who aren’t yet fans of the IP with brilliantly bitchy politics, standout performances and enough lore to sink several sets of teeth into. Lighting can sometimes be off though.

Nov 10th: The Woman King is close to excellent. Based on the true story of a group of female African warriors, there’s less focus on the titular character than expected. A couple of tired cliches too but it makes up for it with cracking action and stellar character work.

Nov 11th: To millions of people, Kevin Conroy WAS Batman. But to this queer adult who has felt shunned, like their sexuality will hold them back, he was a hero. My hero. That’s his legacy for me. This hope that he gave. Kevin shouldn’t have had to suffer but in the end he was free. I can be too.

Nov 13th: The Lost King is relentlessly charming. Based on the true story of the woman who found King Richard the Third’s remains, it’s a classic British film through and through. Its witty, heartfelt and features a grand performance from Sally Hawkins as usual. Comfortable viewing.

Nov 15th: Halloween Ends is simply uncomfortable to sit through. Excellent acting and a marvellous score but theres more romance than tension and it seems to revel in its violence. The final kill was particularly difficult to sit through and will be triggering for some. No more please.

Nov 16th: Andor ep11 is full of melancholy. After the highs of last week, with Cassian on the run, everybody else seems to be suffering. Mon Mothmas characterisation has been marvellous but it simply shines here whilst Luthen provides a little spark of hope. Perfect set up for the finale.

Nov 17th: Doctor Who Am I warms the soul. TV Movie writer Matt Jacobs dives back into the Whoniverse after 25 years in a joyous journey of self-discovery. A gorgeous exploration of people and fandom that never pokes too much fun at them and that feels sadly neccessary right now.

Nov 18th: Amsterdam lacks any soul. Based on the true plot to overthrow Roosevelt, its a tale that tries to be funny but lacks the charm to do so. It feels rushed and the acting feels like a bunch of first takes, which is a shame because the final act has a lot of promise.

Nov 21st: The Banshees of Inisherin is outstanding. The tale of a sudden rivalry between friends and the consequences it brings is equal parts hilarious and moving. Powerful performances from Farrell and Gleeson with a soundtrack that can be eerie and whimsical. Just brilliant.

Nov 23rd: The Andor finale is quite a gutpunch. SW has never been subtle with its messaging but as Ferrix finally hits boiling point, theessaging is clear. Rarely has The Empire seemed so evil and devoid of empathy. Setting it to the backdrop of a funeral only adds to the emotion.

Nov 25th: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is part typical Marvel faire and part heartfelt tribute, but it’s definitely better at the latter. The nation of Wakanda faces a new threat from the sea as they deal with a great loss in a sequel that is overly long but adequately entertaining.

Nov 27th: The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is pure festive cheer. Drax and Mantis kidnap Kevin Bacon to save Pete’s Christmas spirit in a plot full of laughs and heart. Standout performance from Pom Klenteiff as Mantis and a killer soundtrack, this one’s an instant classic.

Dec 7th: Bros is remarkably gay. Billy Eichner’s rom-com about two men with commitment issues is exceptionally entertaing if loud gay humour is your thing. In between are some very harsh truths about the way th community is treated so it can feel disjointed at times. But its so gay.

Dec 12th: Wednesday is an odd delight. Ms Addams uncovers a mystery in a small town from her new school in a show that features the same school/crime drama you’d find on the CW but with much more entertaining characters. It’s The Addams Family, just kookily modern.

Dec 12th: Matilda: The Musical is marvelously magical. It’s a more rambunctious telling of the beloved tale that’s packed with stellar choreography, entertaining songs and endearing characters. There’s a perfect blend of stage and screen in this visual feast for the eyes and ears.

Dec 13th: Violent Night is the spiritual successor to Die Hard. More action-packed, yuletide violence please.

Dec 14th: Violent Night won’t just make you believe in santa, it’ll make you fear for those on the Naughty List. Santa gets caught in the middle of a hostage situation in this bloody, beautiful, and oddly heartfelt tale. Simply dripping with festivity and blood.

Dec 16th: Avatar: The Way of Water is a technical masterpiece. From the otherwordly visuals to the ethereal score, it’s unlike any other blockbuster. The plotlines could have been reeled in a little bit but, with worldbuilding like this, you can’t afford to miss it.

Dec 26th: Glass Onion is exsquisite. Director Rian Johnson uses the building blocks of Knives Out to construct a different story that is equally compelling, satisfying and gorgeous to look at. This murder mystery party reinvigorates at every twist and it hinges on some stellar performances. Bravo.

Dec 28th: GDT’s Pinocchio is beautiful. A unique, anti-fascist telling of the tale with marvellous visuals, stop-motion animation and a few brilliant musical numbers. It can be bleak but with enough whimsy and optimism that it never feels hopeless. Best Pinocchio of the year by far.

Dec 28th: Disney’s Strange World is pretty good. It’s like if Journey to the Centre of the Earth had Avatar-level visuals but both those films are fairly average so it makes sense this would be too. It’s the realistic family dynamics, and the Wonderfully Gay Teen Son that make it work .

Christmas Watchlist 2022

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)

Another of the Marvel Cinematic Universes Special Presentations, this time centering on the titular Guardians at Christmas. It’s soaked in the spirit of the season, demonstrates these characters at their best and has a heck of a soundtrack. This got several viewings.

Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

This Jim Carrey classic has been a yearly tradition since childhood. It’s bombastic, ridiculous and manages to make The Grinch a relatable character but that’s what makes it unique. It’s not for everyone but I quote it year round. Full review HERE.

Home Alone (1990)

What is there to say about the iconic John Hughes film that hasn’t been said already? It’s full of heart, Christmas vibes and another belter of a soundtrack from the legendary John Williams. It’s no surprise that it’s become as beloved as it has. Full review HERE.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

This sequel shares a lot of similarities to the original, which annoys a lot of viewers. It’s also clear that Macauly Culkin isn’t as uncorrupted by Hollywood as he once was. But the Christmas vibes and spectacular soundtrack are still present as well as a truly iconic Tim Curry performance. Full review HERE.

Prep & Landing (2009)

This Disney short film about a couple of elves, one of whom is tired of his job, is similair to Arthur Christmas but not so much that it’s just the same story. It’s cleverly designed and written, with a few solid voice performances.

Prep & Landing: Secret Santa (2010)

The elves return in this very short short-film, which isn’t so much a sequel as it is a palette cleanser between releases. Again, it’s very clever with it’s visuals but it’s the Mission Impossible style task and object that they’re retrieving that makes this so good.

Prep & Landing: Naughty Vs Nice (2011)

This sequel is a lovely little follow up. It features a genuine threat with some darker visuals but the villain isn’t truly a villain. Slightly more obnoxious with the introduction of it’s new elf but a sibling rivalry is diifcult to mess up.

The Royal Ballet: The Nutcracker Live (2022)

Ballet is absolutely magical. Throw Christmas on top of that and it’s no shock that this particular story has been around for a century. I’ve only ever seen film/tv adaptations and, having seen the original, they all pale in comparrison however it is not the easiest story to adapt to another medium. May have to make this a yearly tradition too.

Violent Night (2022)

Not the last time you’ll see this on a list this year because this is an instant Christmas classic. Truly a spiritual successor to Die Hard, with a more comedic edge and some no-holds-barred violence. Also has a really interesting and unique take on the Santa mythos.

Office Christmas Party (2016)

Best watched with a friend and some alcohol, this is one of those ridiculous, raunchy comedies aimed at teens. It has the added benefit of featuring Jason Bateman and Kate Mackinnon, who are always giving 100% to their performances. Not great, but damn good fun.

Die Hard (1988)

This top tier Christmas classic has been a yearly staple since I ws considered old enough to watch it. Sure, it has great acting, brilliant action and some great music but it’s an annual reminder of just how brilliant the late Alan Rickman was. Hans Gruber only has perfect lines, that are quotable year round. Full review HERE.

Die Hard 2 (1990)

Just as good as the original. With a different location and different threat, it does what sequels should do by upping the stakes. John Maclane is even more out of his element here and the third act twist is brilliant. Full review HERE.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

This is Disney as it should be. There’s no capitalism on focus on IP, there’s just a story designed to entertain and some heartfelt vocal performances. It perfectly condences the age old story into around 20 minutes and has the warmest vibes of any adaptation. Utterly lovely. Full review HERE.

Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)

Skipped out on the third installment this year and found myself missing it because this film is not good. Feels exactly how an early 2000’s ABC Studios direct-to-tv film in the worst way. Full review HERE.

Noelle (2019)

This Disney film stars Anna Kendrick as the unappreciated daughter of Santa and Bill Hader as the reluctant heir to the Santa throne. It has as much charisma as those two performers ever have and it’s wonderful. Heartwarming and smile-worthy. These two actors are just so great.

The Simpsons in Feliz Navidad (2022)

3 minutes long and not worth a single second. Disney was willing to pay for The Bocellis to sing in what is a glorified advertisement for their incresingly capitalistic empire. Throw in a joke about how it’s “for Disney+ so nobody’s getting paid” from the company who is as guilty of crunch time in animation as anyone else? Appaling.

A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

A new Christmas tradition going forward and one that others have been enjoying annualy for quite a while. Featuring all the Henson TV characters and all the humour they bring with them, it’s a shining example of why they are so loved. Numerous festive songs and plenty of laughs, it warms the heart.

The Polar Express (2004)

Another yearly watch, although it isn’t for everyone. I’ve never been bothered by the animation that some have called “scarring” and the musical numbers, while infrequent, are delightful. Tom Hanks singing about Hot Chocolate is the kind of absurdity that should be in a film based on a picture book. The design of the North Pole is pretty good too.

A Garfield Christmas Special (1987)

Yet another new tradition going forward that others have been enjoying for years. It may be simple but it is so pure of heart and quintiseentially Garfield that it’s impossible not to smile at. The voice cast are all perfect but, of course, special props go to Pat Carroll who recently left us. What an absolute star.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The earliest of my traditions, this one has been a staple of my Christmas for as long as I can remember. The VHS Tape got plenty of love and the DVD copy has gotten just as much, as will the 4K copy when that is eventually bought. Although there’s something about the grainy quality of the footage that hits the nostalgia just right. Full review HERE.

The Santa Clause (1994)

The only part of the franchise that I found some time for this year, despite the recent release of the TV series. It’s exactly entertaining enough to have warrented two sequels, with particularly solid performances by Tim Allen and David Krumholtz.

A Pinky and the Brain Christmas (1992)

Of all the things on this list that will elicit tears, this may be the most surprising. It’s your typical Pinky and the Brain fare, with a Christmas twist, but it’s the ending that really drives it home. Never has a character so sweetly broken into the heart of someone so harsh. Beautiful.

Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The original adaptation and the best. Masterfully illustrated by Chuck Jones and his team with a marvellous narration from Boris Karloff and an iconic song sung by the voice of Tony the Tiger. It is relentlessly charming and has itslef influenced the adaptations that followed. Marvellous. Full review HERE.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A recent addition to the yearly Christmas watchlist that truly deserves to be a staple of everyone’s Christmas. It’s more of an American institution, continuing to be shown on TV every year, but it’s simplicity is its brilliance. Good shoutout to the original meaning of Christmas too.

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

What if Shaun of the Dead was set on Christmas day with teenagers and was a musical? You’d end up with this underappreciated festive treat. Aside from making the most of the medium in terms of choreography, it stars an all-British cast with some excellent songs and a top tier lesbian.

Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House

Franchise fatigue is nothing new. Everyone is talking about the countless Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universe projects, but Home Alone was ahead of the game. The first one is a beloved Christmas Classic, the second is a worthy (if not overly familiar) follow-up and the third is the last one that most people are aware of. At the very least, Home Alone 3 is the last one that people are willing to talk about. That’s because, those who have seen Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House, usually have nothing good to say about it…which isn’t a surprise.

The story serves as a direct sequel to the original, despite the 4 in the title, lack of anybody involved with the original and, continuity errors it causes if Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is still canon. 9-year old Kevin McAllister is spending Christmas with his newly divorced father and his soon-to-be wife, who are barely in the house, as well as their staff – Mr. Prescott the butler and Molly the maid. When the house-owners are out during the day, Kevin fends off previous foe Harry and his new wife Vera, who have a secret accomplice working in the house. This was made specifically for TV, the first of the franchise to be so, and it feels like it. Barring the character names and concept of “hijinks to protect the house” there is very little to connect it to the IP. It was designed as a backdoor pilot for ABC, with the intention being that it would get picked up for a full series but this never happened and means that it feels like a Children’s TV show from the ABC network in the early 2000s.

There’s snappy editing galore and enough screen-wipes to make George Lucas proud, but it’s the pacing and script that do the most damage. Whilst the former installments took their time, allowing the audience to get familiar with the characters and their surroundings, this one just throws you into it. News of the divorce is shoehorned into dialogue within the first five minutes and the scenes rarely take place far from Mr. McAllister’s glorious mansion. Gone too are the softer lighting and barrage of Christmas colours, replaced with harsh studio-esque lighting and barely any decorations save for the tree. Then there’s the score. John Williams is a titan of the music industry and, even if he only composed for the original two, his influence can be felt in Nick Glennie-Smiths score for the third installment. Teddy Castellucci was brought in for Taking Back the House and he does a decent job for the task he was assigned but it doesn’t really hold a candle to previous installments.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing of value. Acting veterans Erick Avari and Barbara Babcock turn in solid performances as Prescott and Molly while Actor French Stewart takes over the role of Marv from Daniel Stern with as much energy as when he took over as Inspector Gadget from Matthew Broderick. It’s a zany, over-the-top performance but it fits the tone of the film and often provides a giggle. The dynamic he has with his wife Vera is also quite nice and it is funny watching him banter with Kevin like they’re old friends. Had this been a stand-alone film I doubt anyone really would have given it much notice but it does carry the Home Alone name. More than that, it features the original characters (for the most part, two of the McAllister children have vanished). As an early 2000s ABC production, it’s allowed to be tolerable but as a Home Alone film it needs to be more than that. The original is a Christmas classic alongside the likes of It’s a Wonderful Life and How The Grinch Stole Christmas despite being several decades newer than them. It has an inviting vibe and is simply drenched in the feelings of the season. The sequel managed to feel festive too and even the third one is an acceptably goofy comedy that appeals more to children than family’s. Taking Back the House feel corporate. It feels like a cash-grab designed to appeal to peoples nostalgia, without understanding why the IP works so well.

The film would fail to provide that TV series that the creative team hoped it would and it would take another decade before ABC would try again. That’s a pretty damning critique in itself and it’s hard not to agree with the sentiment. Honestly, trying to find the good in this film was difficult and it’s only a film that should be recommended to Home Alone completionists but that’s what we do here. No film is without merit, even if you have to dig deep to find it.

Besides, it doesn’t hurt to be a little kind at this time of year.

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.

Doctor Who Christmas Specials: The Moffat Era (Part 2)

Last Christmas

It’s never just a fun little sci-fi adventure, there’s always at least one extra layer. The whole show is like this, delivering a message even if you don’t notice it, but it’s especially true of these festive episodes which pick the most impactful ideals. This time, The Twelfth Doctor and Clara face off against face-hugging aliens that send people to sleep as they slowly dissolve their brains and only Santa Clause can stop them. It’s all very silly, a little dark at times and constantly keeps the audience guessing but the episode’s meaningful message is hidden in plain sight – Last Christmas. As is pointed out during the adventure, every Christmas is somebody’s last with someone else. What’s upsetting is that you don’t know it’s the last Christmas until the day itself has passed. Christmas is finite, lasts for one day out of the year, and a lot can change in between celebrations. Relationships can end and lives can be lost so every Christmas should be cherished.

This doesn’t mean that the season should be without grief and the episode makes that clear too. Clara is facing her first Christmas without the love of her life Danny Pink. When she finds herself celebrating the day with him in a deadly dream, she contemplates allowing herself to die knowing that she will do so at her happiest. Ultimately, she allows herself to wake up because, while people may not always be with us, the memories made with them are. And what is Christmas for if not making memories?

The Husbands of River Song

Christmas specials aren’t designed to flow neatly into each other. There’s a year of real time between each and a whole series-worth of storytelling. Companions come and go, villains are fought and defeated, The Doctor’s appearance occasionally changes. However, if any era was close to having it’s own structure, it’s this one. The theme of Last Christmas carries over as beloved femme fatale River Song makes her final appearance to fight alongside The Doctor. Having been introduced by Moffat during the RTD era, it makes sense that he would wish to give her closure, especially since her timeline has been so turbulent. Her and The Doctor are never meeting in the right order but here, their timelines finally sync up, in her final adventure before that fateful trip to The Library.

This episode almost mirrors that first meeting, where the Tenth Doctor didn’t know who she was, by having her fail to recognise him. She is forever seeking him out and is aware of every face from his first regeneration cycle but is unaware that he has been gifted a new one with a brand new face. Of course, this doesn’t last forever and fans finally get the River/Doctor dynamic where they both have all the details. It’s a melancholy meeting because we and The Doctor know that this is their final night together at the Singing Towers of Darillium. She spends the majority of the episode oblivious to his presence and believes he doesn’t truly care about anyone because he can’t afford to as the universes protector. His final act of love for her proves her wrong in one of the sweetest and most heartbreaking moments of the show because of course he cares. He doesn’t protect the universe because he wants to be praised or rewarded, he does it because it’s right and, above all, it’s kind. If there was ever any way to approach the year ahead…there it is.

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Superheroes are an interesting concept. Everybody lives a double life to an extent, hiding at least one secret from everyone they know, but superheroes take that to the extreme. They invite the age old query “if you had powers and anonymity, would you use them for good or evil?” which can often lead to some hefty introspection. The stories can be silly (Shoutout to The Condiment King) but at their core they usually say something about humanity. Superman fights for truth, justice and a better tomorrow while Batman fights for what is right even if his methods can be a little sketchy. This episode explores much of that idea – erring on the Superman side of things.

Of course, one could argue that The Doctor is something of a superhero himself. He sweeps in from nowhere when there is danger, barely ever sticks around to receive any gratitude and almost never tells anyone his real name. The main difference is that he isn’t living two seperate lives, there’s no Bruce Wayne to his Batman. However, like many, he has two very different faces. The public Doctor laughs in the face of danger whilst the private Doctor is sadder because he knows nobody can see. This special sees him grappling with the loss of River Song, meaning it also flows quite nicely from the previous special. His current companion Nardole (again, from the previous special) is doing what he can to help but the only true cure for grief is time. There’s no antidote for this pain, it just has to be lived with until one day you find you’ve barely thought about it at all. Anyone who can do that is a true superhero.

Twice Upon A Christmas

The twelfth Doctor has always been underrated. It’s no secret that a large section of the general public stopped watching the show when Russell T Davies left and that numbers continued to dwindle as the Moffat years went on. It’s a genuine shame because, whilst the Eleventh Doctor was good, this Twelfth incarnation was everything the famous Time Lord should be. He was mysterious, charismatic, charming, fantastical and just a little bit grumpy. Actor Peter Capaldi once said that he was aiming to channel all the men who had come before him, particularly classics like William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee, which absolutely comes across. It’s particularly prevalent here as a regenerating Twelfth Doctor encounters a regenerating First Doctor portrayed by David Bradley.

Bradley’s characterisation isn’t perfect, being overly sexist in a way that Hartnell never was, but has the same inquisitive nature and cheeky attitude. He’s clearly written this way to demonstrate how far society has (allegedly) come since 1963in terms of the attitude towards women but the show was never like that. It has always represented the best of humanity, regardless of the year. The very first episode was produced by the late Verity Lambert – a woman – and directed by the talented Waris Hussien – a gay, British Indian – which set the standard for representation behind the screen as well as on it. This episode features the introduction of Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor, which was a landmark moment in the shows history, but the plot isn’t building up to her specifically. With both the First and Twelfth Doctors refusing to regenerate, it’s about how far this show has come and how long it could continue to go. Sure, Jodie gets a couple extra seconds to really bask in her presence but then it’s straight back into business as usual. Pretty much sums up the end of the year too. Let’s all take a little moment to bask in the year just gone before diving into the one to come.

Doctor Who Christmas Specials: The Moffat Era (Part 1)

A Christmas Carol

Probably the most well known Christmas tale aside from the Nativity Story and for good reason. The tale of miserable miser Ebenezer Scrooge, whose heart is changed by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, has everything. It’s filled with all the joy and heartache that the yuletide season can bring as well as a sprinkling of scares but it primarily features an important message about life itself. Every single adaptation, regardless of quality, manages to capture at least an inkling of that spirit because the story at it’s source is so pure, and this episode is no exception. Crotchety curmudgeon Ezran Sardick is unwilling to allow a spaceship to land on the planet whose skies he controls, risking the lives of all onboard, until The Eleventh Doctor pulls a Christmas Carol on him. In a fascinating twist to the classic tale, The Doctor spends many Christmases with him and a young woman named Abigail who Ezra falls in love with despite her short lifespan. It switches between these adventures in the past and Old Kazran in the present as he deals with these newly acquired teenage memories. All the elements of the globally famous book are here, just adapted slightly and with a timeline twist that only The Whoniverse could provide. 

This is notably the very first Christmas special where The Doctor is joined by his full time companions, in this case the recently married Amy Pond and Rory Williams, as well as the third time that he joins in with a Christmas dinner. It also features real snow, which will become a constant for this era, and zero on-screen deaths, which will not be a constant ever again. As far as Christmases for the timelord go, this is a fairly relaxed one (unless you count the shark).

The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe

Christmas isn’t easy for everyone. It’s a special day for many but, even for them, life carries on. After all, December 25th is just one of 365 days in the year. This particular episode sees newly war-widowed Madge taking her son and daughter to an uncle’s country house for the holidays. Waiting for them is the house’s new caretaker – The Doctor – who has recently faked his death in front of his friends (Amy, Rory and River) meaning he is the loneliest he has been in quite some time. The messaging in this episode is likely to hit harder than in previous years as it deals directly with processing grief. Madge knows that if she tells her children that their father is gone, then they will forever link that to this time of year, which is heartbreaking enough on it’s own, but it’s the very human way that The Doctor responds that may cause a few tears. His response is one of the most meaningful lines The Doctor, or any other character on the show, has ever uttered: What’s the point of them being happy now when they’re going to be sad later? The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.”

It’s impactful on its own but it means more coming from The Doctor at this particular moment because kindness always means more when it comes from someone who needs it the most. He just wants to provide a magical Christmas for this family, knowing it’s something he can never have, especially with those closest to him. Eventually, the adventure ends and Madge gives him some tough motherly love about being with those you love at Christmas which leads to The Doctor to visit the Ponds and unveiling the truth of his survival. It’s another beautiful, quiet moment that requires no dialouge to convey how much this reunion means to him. Actions speak louder than words and choosing who you spend Christmas with is one of the most impactful actions of all.

The Snowmen

Love isn’t always easy, especially if it ends in loss. Unfortunately, this lesson is often learned the hard way – through first hand experience. The world feels unjust and cruel, like nothing will ever matter again. It’s easy to shut yourself away from everyone and become ambivalent to those who still care because having feelings again just opens you up to more pain. This is the situation The Doctor finds himself in as the episode begins, only to be pushed into a plot involving carnivorous snowmen and a secretly cockney nanny, but his heart isn’t in it initially. This incarnation of The Doctor was known and loved for his whimsical delight and enthusiasm, which was present in his previous special, so to see him like this is upsetting. It feels wrong.

Of course, as the adventure progresses so does he. He finds himself lost in the mystery and fails to realise how much fun he’s having until he clocks himself in a mirror. Without even thinking about it, he has adorned his iconic bowtie, which he’d abandoned it when he no longer wanted to be The Doctor. It’s a small moment but it’s poignant as those moments often are. All it takes is a small moment of self reflection (metaphorical or literal) to remember how good things used to be and to realise that they could be again. Sure, life has its sorrows, but they make those moments of joy even more meaningful. Find things and people that you love and hold on for as long as you can. Treasure those precious memories because it’s those experiences that make life worth living.

The Time of The Doctor

Another regeneration special and another reminder that it’s okay that nothing last forever. As The Doctor finds himself in a stalemate in the town of Christmas on the planet Trenzalore (where it’s prophesied he will die) he faces his mortality and his principles. Yes, he could leave, allowing the town to be destroyed by every villain he’s ever faced but he never would. The Doctor will always fight for what is right, down to his last breath, for even just one life. Even here, as he approaches the end of his final regeneration, he tells the townsfolk that he has a plan because he would rather give them hope than allow them to wallow in despair. The Doctor stands for hope, kindness and the promise that someone out there cares.

That’s true of the show as a whole. For those who love it, it’s a safe space that’s always there when it’s needed. Stories can have dark moments but with The Doctor at your side, there’s no need to be scared. The show has a lasting impact on the fans and this episode is a powerful reminder of that legacy. This special aired Christmas Day 2013, one month after the 50th anniversary special The Day of The Doctor aired in cinemas around the world, and it felt like a defiant stand to anybody who thought the show was close to finished or a niche interest. Doctor Who has been around for nearly 60 years now, and fan-willing, it could go for another 60 because it’s a premise full of promise – all of time and space. The Doctor has 13 more lives (11 as I write) and every single one of them will have their time. This episode asks the oldest question “Doctor Who?” and there’s your answer.