Highlander: A Love Story

Anyone who has known me longer than five minutes will know that i have a pure and absolute love for Highlander. I’m not one of those nostalgia fiends who merely declares a like for a film in order to score some cool points (I don’t even think Highlander would score any cool points in any era of time to be honest). My love for this film transcends space and time, dimensions even. So transcendent it is that I once bid on Ebay for a replica of Connor MacLeod’s sword when I had too much time and not enough sense. Alas, I lost the bid so we will never know what a 19 year old university student would have done with a fake Scottish broadsword.

 

My Highlander journey started on a dark and chilly evening in 1995. I, a mere youthful scamp of 7 at the time, took an opportunity to sneak downstairs and turn the television on after my parent’s had retired to their bedroom for the night. Flicking through the glorious four channels (remember when we only had 4!) that were on offer, I came across a strange vision. A vision that grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and never let me go.

 

Two men, one old, one young, one clad in trainers and dad jeans, the other in swish glasses and suit, were trying to hoof the shit out of the each other in a soggy underground car park with swords. There was the echo of clanging metal, sparks flying as they clashed their weaponry off various pillars, posts and cars, backflips were performed, and there was I,eyes wide, mouth agape, drinking it all in. For the next 110 minutes I was transfixed by the strange and bizarre spectacle of sword fights, bagpipe based flashbacks, and loud excessive noise, until it ended in a blaze of shattered glass and Christopher Lambert howling like a banshee. I’ll never understand how my parents slept through the entire thing (I had the television on loud enough) but i am so thankful that they did because if they hadn’t then maybe I would have never enjoyed Highlander in the way that i did on that very cold evening in 1995.

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It’s not The Godfather Part II, I’ll give you that. It’s not ahead of its field in special effects, the script is nifty but oddly paced, the direction a little too on the wrong side of fast and furious, and the acting is over the top on many of the actors behalf, though enjoyably so, but for giving you that euphoric feeling of joy, Highlander cannot be challenged.

 

As soon as the credits begin, and Brian May strikes that heavy opening chord of Princes of The Universe, you find yourself balling your fist tightly, and then Roger Taylor’s drums kick in and everything is alright with the world. Admittedly, the credits are a ridiculously underwhelming show of red writing over a black screen, but that music, oh that sweet music, gets you so bloody pumped up that it’s hard to stifle an aggressive declaration of ‘YEAH!’ as it rolls out between your clenched teeth.

 

Queen had done soundtracks before, Flash Gordon most notably, but the music they provided for Highlander is without a doubt one of the greatest gifts to humanity itself. Their 1986 release A Kind of Magic is essentially the Highlander soundtrack, unofficially i might add, and shows Queen returning to their heavier roots (Princes of the Universe and Gimme The Prize are almost heavy metal-esque) while also batting out some bona fide hits in One Vision and A Kind of Magic. It’s not an understatement to say that A Kind of Magic is one of my favourite albums, it’s link with Highlander is probably part of that love, and I listen to it on frequent rotation which then makes me want to watch the film which then makes me want to listen to the album which makes me want to watch the film…… repeat ad infinitum.

 

If you can’t get your tiny mind mind past the fact we have a Swiss-French-American playing a Scotsman and a Scotsman playing a Spanish-Egyptian then Highlander is definitely not for you. If you enjoy spotting random British actors in early roles (Terry from Emmerdale and Celia Imrie being two familiar faces that pop up with Scottish accents) or if you want to see what Mr Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants was doing a decade before he decided to make Krabby Patties then you might actually want to give it a whirl. Lambert is perfectly not perfect as MacLeod, his attempt at a Scottish accent being more wonky than one of my old bras, yet I genuinely can’t think of anyone else playing Connor. He plays some of the more comedic scenes (the drunken duel and the underwater sword swishing) with quite a deft touch and as we get further into the flashbacks showing his life pre-New York he manages to bring something more as we start to understand the loneliness and isolation or being an immortal (the bloke is 450 years old .. THINK OF ALL THE DEATH HE HAS SEEN), and we don’t just see Connor as some powerful bloke with a sword, but an actual person struggling with the negatives of the ‘condition’ that he is. Yes, he is an immortal, but look at the human and emotional cost of that.

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Connery plays Connery in hosiery like no one else could. He also gets a fantastically cheesy fantasy film opening monologue which he reads with gleeful gusto like he knows what he is reading is hokum but he’s getting paid a big fat £2 million or so to do it. He and Lambert strike a decent chemistry as his character Ramirez gallops in on his steed and offers to train Connor in order to defeat the nasty piece of work that is the Kurgan. There were only two characters that gave me nightmares as a child, one of them was Ursula from The Little Mermaid and the other was Kurgan. With his pale skin, hollow blue eyes, jet black hair, scars across his neck and face and low, rumbling voice like a cryptkeeper gargling gravel, Kurgan (Clancy Brown or Mr Krabs or every horrible army general on television) is absolute nightmare fuel. He beheads without guilt or fear, skewers one man and lifts him off the ground, he stalks through the night intent on tracking down Connor and separating his head from his shoulders, leaving carnage in his wake. He is wonderfully awful, a foe that you genuinely believe can defeat your hero, and that is a rare thing indeed.

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Mythology wise, Highlander is the strongest film of the lot. Before they started mucking about with the extra-terrestrial angle in the subsequent and increasingly shitty sequels, the mythology was of a far purer nature. Immortals had been fighting for centuries, whittling the numbers down until there were only a handful left who were then drawn to one particular place (which so happened to be New York City) and this was called The Gathering. When an immortal kills another immortal they absorb their energies and this is called The Quickening. Immortals can only be killed by decapitation. Immortals can sense each other’s presence hence the seemingly random opening sword fight in the underground car park. Some nit-picky questions such as ‘why? are amusingly side stepped. Ramirez dismisses the entire ‘why’ question in three lines ending with ‘Who knows?’ You either embrace this mythology or you can spend your sad time trying to pull it apart. Believe me, it’s far better when you just embrace it.

 

I’ve watched Highlander three times already this year and the returns it produces are not diminishing. It remains, for me, a true high water mark of the swords and sorcery fantasy genre that gets sullied by so much lazy rubbish (by some of its own sequels nonetheless). It’s fun, unashamedly daft in parts but with real heart and soul and i reckon i could get at least another 5 or 6 watches out of it by the time the year is out.

P.S…. if you’ve never seen it, what are you doing with your life….

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Book review – The Lunar Chronicles (Marissa Meyer)

This review contains spoilers. You have been warned.

I’ve been avoiding doing this review for a while because the series became so big and so popular that I worried if I reviewed it then I wouldn’t do it justice. Today I’m slightly hungover and I already feel like crap so if everyone hates this then it’ll just add to my sad hungover day but people MIGHT like it and if so it could make my day so much better.Cinder_book_cover

I should start off by saying that this is about the four main books; Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter. I own Fairest and Stars Above but I haven’t yet got round to actually reading them.

The books kick off with Cinder, a cyborg girl who lives with her step mother and two sisters. Sound familiar? Well it should do, each book is a retelling of a classic fairy tale. Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella, Scarlet retells Little Red Riding Hood, Cress is about Rapunzel and Winter is based on Snow White and to be honest this as the reason I even picked up the books in the first place.

Cinder is loathes by her step mother and one of her sisters but unlike the classic story, she actually has a great relationship with her sister Peony. After her father’s death and loss of fortune, it falls on Cinder to make money for the family by becoming a mechanic in the market place. As there is a plague killing half the country, working in the market place isn’t the safest place to work. Luckily one day Prince Kai walks into Cinder’s workshop needing his android fixed and he takes a shine to Cinder instantly. As Cinder is a cyborg she is generally thought of as a lower class and Kai doesn’t realise Cinder is a cyborg so she has to hide her metal arm and leg from him, only falling and revealing her true self in front of him and the queen of Luna at the royal ball at the end of the book.download (1)

In the second book we meet Scarlet, a feisty redhead who lives and works on a farm with her grandmother. On the same day that Scarlet meets a sexy stranger, she gets home only to realise her grandmother is missing and Scarlet just knows that her grandmother didn’t leave at free will. With the help of the stranger from earlier, Wolf, Scarlet sets out to find her grandmother and save her.

Next we meet Cress. Cress has spent her entire life locked up in a satellite working as a top hacker work for the evil queen of Luna. By this book the queen is trying to find Cinder and wants her dead so knowing that Cress is the best hacker, she sets her the challenge of finding Cinder who is now on the run. Luckily Cress isn’t evil like the queen and she decides to become a double agent, making out that she is helping the queen but in reality she is helping hide Cinder and it helps that Cinder has teamed up with Captain Thorne who Cress is madly in love with.

After a rescue mission which finds Cress and Thorne together on earth, we meet Winter, our final hero. Winter is the step daughter to Levana, the evil queen, and Winter has slowly been going crazy because she refuses to use her magic gift in order to make life easier and look more beautiful. Winter is known to be beautiful but she’s also a beautiful person inside but feels alone on Luna, her only real friends are her guard and childhood friend, Jacin, and the animals in her menagerie. Winter hears of Cinder’s rebellion and her plan to take Levana’s throne and decides to team up with the group now made up of Cinder, Prince Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, Cress, Thorne and Cinder’s faithful android Iko.13206828

I love this book series for a number of different reasons but primarily for the kick ass women portrayed in them. Yes there is romance throughout each book and quite quickly it’s established that the protagonist of each book will fall in love but romance isn’t the main feature of the books. The girls are all portrayed as strong minded women who stand up for themselves and the love interests simply help them along the way and help them become better versions of themselves. I loved this idea because I read so many young adult books that portray unrealistic relationship goals and the idea that you can find a man who will help you with your goals and love you for who you are is the message I felt was portrayed in the Luna Chronicles and that to me is a realistic goal and one that people should be aiming towards.

My favourite character changes constantly but at the minute I think Scarlett is my favourite. I love that she remains strong and her relationship with Wolf is only strengthened by the fact that she is strong minded and independent. Scarlet is the only 100% human character out of the lead female characters and can therefore be controlled by people from Luna, due to this she is put through a lot and she comes out at the end stronger than ever because of it.

Queen Levana was an interesting character for me because ii felt she was more than your typical evil queen. I felt that by the end of the books I felt for her and was upset in the end because it became clear why she ended up as bitter and horrible as she did. I felt by the end that she wasn’t just annoyed that she wasn’t the most beautiful person in the end, I felt more that she was simply someone with real issues who let those issues get the better of her and with this she became much more real to me.41SSIYbE2LL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

The guys in the book are amazing. They’re not my favourite love interests that I’ve ever read but they’re written so well. I genuinely found myself really concerned that something was going to happen to one of them but they were such perfect fits for their female counterpart that I couldn’t even imagine one being without the other. When the main guys and women made it through the end I was overjoyed and cried a little bit because I loved Wolf so much.

I can’t recommend the Luna Chronicles enough. They’re exactly my cup of tea, fairy tale retellings with really cool women who fight for the throne and don’t ever give up no matter what is thrown at them? Yes please.

My Top 5 Musicals (for people who don’t like musicals)

I have a little confession to make.

I love musicals.

I love the stories, the romance, the songs! I love learning the songs and singing along, much to the annoyance of my housemates and neighbours (they dread Christmas and my annual Nightmare Before Christmas sing along), they’re quite often a bit of good old fashioned, campy fun.

Which is why I never understand it when people tell me they don’t like musicals, how can you not love escapist cinema in it’s purest form. For a couple of hours you’re going to get some great songs, a bit of a love story and a rolicking good time!

So, to try and spread the joy and my love of musicals to as many people as possible, I present to you a list of musicals that have often been accompanied by the phrase ‘I don’t like musicals, but I loved that!’.

5) The Wiz (1978, 127mins, U, Dir: Sidney Lumet)

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The Wiz, a Motown production, presents an alternative look at the The Wizard of Oz. Goodbye cute little Munchkins from the Lollypop guild, and hello urban wall dwelling graffiti munchkins!

I’m sure you’re familiar with the original story, Dorothy (here played by Diana Ross) ends up in Munchkinland and kills the Wicked Witch. The only way she can get home is by visiting the Wizard in the Emerald City, with Dorothy making friends with some unlikely heroes along the way.

As much as The Wiz sticks with the original plot it makes up for it with it’s wonderfully original design. It transports Oz from being a twee cute world into one of urban vibrancy. It celebrates African American culture, when it was first performed on broadway it was lauded for it’s roots in African American culture.

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This celebration is most present in the soundtrack. The songs are all wonderful and full of soul, the title of the original broadway musical is The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. As soon as they hit wonderland you’re taken back to that great era of soul, the mid seventies. 

Should see this film, it’s for a Sunday afternoon. Just look at Michael Jackson as the scarecrow there! Look at his little face, you wouldn’t to disappoint him, would you? Go watch it!

4) South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999, 78mins. 15, Dir: Trey Parker)

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Those of us of a certain age are sure to have watched this at some point. Due to its excellent story and writing, the fact it’s a musical often gets forgotten.

It’s rude, crude and sometimes kinda lewd.

All our favourite foul mouthed 8 year olds are here, and they have to go on an adventure to liberate their comedy heroes Terrance and Phillip who are to be executed for farting on TV.

Yeah, it’s as daft and as bitingly satirical as you could hope for from a big screen outing of one of the smartest shows on television.

The songs are wonderfully written and composed, especially with the Oscar Nominated ‘Blame Canada’. It’s here that we really see the influences of classic musicals such as Les Miserable.

If you want a bit of biting satire with your spontaneous music sequences then this is the one for you!

 

3) Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975, 96mins, 15, Dir: Jim sharman)

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One of the original Midnight Movies, Rocky Horror has delighted audiences for 40 years.

It was first recognised for being terrible, audiences would start dressing up and talking or responding to the dialogue on screen, giving the film it’s cult classic status.

Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sandon) find themselves with a flat tyre, so they knock at the door of the nearest mansion to use the phone (remember kids, people in the 70s didn’t have mobiles), where they find themselves in a musical house of horrors.

This is the film that gave us the Time Warp, a staple of school discos everywhere. It’s got Meatloaf riding a motorcycle through a wall, it has half naked men running about the place, and best of all it has Dr Frank ‘N’ Furter (played wonderfully by Tim Curry) the ultimate transvestite party boy who creates his own human toy.

I Rocky Horror is truly a beacon for the lost generation, for those that march to the beat of their own drummer, it’s united those of us who enjoy and revel in the non-mainstream, the freaks, the weirdos. Watch this if you have ever felt ‘out of place’, you may just fit in.

 

2) Pitch Perfect (2012, 112mins, 12, Dir: Jason Moore)

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The most recent film on my list; Pitch Perfect has the perfect mix of irreverent comedy and brilliant songs. Unlike the other films this one relies mostly on cover versions, making Pitch Perfect feel like the edgier, more grown up,  cousin of Glee.

The story follows Becca (Anna Kendrick) as she tries to make friends with the Barden Bellas, her college’s only all female acapella group. The Bella’s are fighting their way to get to the national championships and come up against some stiff competition.

The premise sounds kinda lame, but I promise that I have yet to meet anyone who has not been swept along with it’s amazing cheeriness, brilliant covers of some inspired songs, and fantastic humour (with just the right hint of a bit of gross out). A shout out goes to Rebel Wilson who mostly improvised her lines.

 

1) Little Shop of Horrors (1986, 91mins, PG, Dir: Frank Oz)

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And so we make it to the final curtain. Little Shop of Horrors is with Rocky Horror in the cult classic camp. Like many great films that have reached the hearts of the people this didn’t do too well at the box office and really found it’s home in, well, the home. It’s release on VHS and Betamax really gave this it’s cult status.

Seymore (the always lovable Rick Moranis) was out buying plants one day (for the flower shop he works in) and came across an unusual looking plant. He simply has to buy it, and then name it Audrey II after his crush. The delightfully high pitched Audrey who goes out with a scoundrel dentist played by Steve Martin. However, it turns out the plant only eats human blood… Dum dun duuuuuunnnnnn.

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There is nothing not to like here, it’s got bright, lovely and somewhat intimate songs (see Audrey singing ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ and not cry, I dare you!) to great scary moments. There’s thrills, there’s spills, there are moments where you’ll laugh, cry, and maybe wet your pants, if you’re into that kind of thing.

The puppetry was all the work of the Jim Henson Co. and it is astounding. There are stories I could tell about how they had to shoot certain scenes at super slow speeds and speed it up later so it syncs up with lyrics.

See this film! There is really no reason not to, the musical numbers are just fab and very original, there’s a mix of genres, the design is scrungy yet beautiful, the characters are just adorable and lovely. I would recommend the Blu-Ray version as you can opt to play it with the original ending. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s very different from the theatrical version.

Jake’s Top 5 Worst Cartoons Based on Video Games

Cartoons and video games are are like the only two things I cared about as a kid. I’ve always loved animation, when it’s great it can take you to fantastical worlds that you can’t experience with live action shows. That’s one of the same reasons I love video games too. So surely if you combine the two things it can only get exponentially better right?… right?!

Well no, not always. So let me take you on a journey through my wasted youth in this top 5 worst cartoon shows based on beloved video game franchises.

5. Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the realm 


Now this isn’t an automatically bad idea. Mortal Kombat is a game series so violent that they had to create an entire rating system for video games just for them. The problem was kids loved it, so they created this show to be a Mortal Kombat product that parents could let their kids experience guilt free. 

Unfortunately they forgot the part about actually making a quality cartoon. The character designs are pretty good even though they’re from the less successful Mortal Kombat 3 but the animation is just cheap. Characters routinely stand around with weird expressions on their faces and appear in front of objects they should be standing behind because the animators messed up with the layers. 

The fights end in some extremely unsatisfying ways usually with one punch or kick sending a person flying back 50 feet or someone just dodges and lets the bad guy fall off a cliff. My favourite part is where Reptile and Sonya square off and he just runs up and kicks her in the butt, then does it again 4 more times while she tries to get up… MORTAL KOMBAT!
All the characters act really immature. Sonya is the whiny teen of the group and takes every opportunity to shout her catchphrase “Kombat Time!”. Raiden at one point calls the group “Mortal Butts” as an insult that only a 5 yr old would find funny. And we find out that Jax was a fat kid in school and teasing still hurts his feelings awwwwwww. 

It was an awful show but when you’re a kid that just wanted more MK it was all we had, sadly. Here’s a montage of some bad moments if you want to check it out yourself.

4. Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

Yay! Mario, the most famous video game character in the world! There’s no way they could mess this up.
Now I know what you’re all asking, “who’re those old creepy dudes?” why it’s mildly successful pro-wrestler Capt. Lou Albano and Canadian television actor Danny Wells playing Mario and Luigi of course! 

The creators decided to bookend the episodes of this cartoon with boring improvised live action segments that usually involve trotting out some “celebrity guest” from the network’s other TV shows. I don’t know about you but I always wanted to know what the Mario Bros got up to in their plumbers workshop in front of a fake studio audience.

That’s not to say the cartoon was any better though, instead of exploring the world of the Mario video games or referencing any of his in game adventures they went with scintillating storylines such as: While trying to catch Koopa in Jungleland Mario suffers from amnesia and is convinced by an ape couple that he is their child, Posing as Judge Koopa he sentences Mario and Co to the prison of Koopatraz where he is also the warden, Mario and Luigi take to the skies to stop Koopa and Lakitu from taking over Pastaland with the help of a used magic carpet salesman, Koopa kidnaps Santa Claus in order to ruin Christmas, Koopa’s road gang has stolen all the spaghetti sauce in Car Land so Mario’s group must work to get it back and many more horrible ideas!

Almost every episode was a bad movie or tv show parody and the ones that weren’t had a bad cover song in the episode. Probably so they didn’t have to write any dialogue for a few minutes. The only good part of any episode was the end credits because you knew you were free of this abysmal show but also because you get the live action Mario Bros awkwardly dancing in front of a green screen. Come on everybody! Do the Mario!

3. Street Fighter (The Animated Series)


This show is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. It’s horrible looking animation and stupid dialogue all combine into a deliciously bad mixture and I kinda love it. 

Looking back at footage of this show I just have no idea what’s going on. They were so cheap with the cartoon you can see the individual frames of animation a lot of the time, which should never happen. It suffers from similar problems as the MK cartoon except it takes them to a ridiculous level. Characters will show ridiculous feats of strength and agility only to be swatted aside by whoever they’re fighting and there are multiple times characters just fall over for no reason. 

This show also has the most animation mistakes I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. The characters randomly grow and shrink in size to such a noticeable degree that you’re left unsure if it was intentional. It constantly breaks the laws of physics in it’s own world. 
I feel like if you watch too much of this show you might go literally insane. Just see for yourself:

The only thing it gets right is that characters all have the right costumes and special moves so I guess one person working on the show knew their stuff.

2. Captain N: The Game Master


A 90s kid and his dog get sucked through the TV into Video Land which is apparently where all our favourite obscure Nintendo characters live:

This show’s worst offence is that it’s boring. It shouldn’t be hard to make a story about a kid getting sucked into a video game considering that’s probably the dream of their target audience. I think one of the reasons it failed was they clearly couldn’t get any of the famous characters to accompany our hero. He gets lumped with Kid Icarus, Simon Belmont and Mega Man (who inexplicably sounds like he smokes 100 packs a day). Three characters that I never heard anyone my age mention until I started reading about games on the internet. 

The villains are even more perplexing and obscure. For henchmen we’ve got Eggplant Wizard who is an enemy from the game Kid Icarus that turns you into an eggplant (or aubergine to the UK crowd) and King Hippo who is one of the boxers from the Punch-Out!! Games. But our main attraction here is their leader Mother Brain from the Metroid series. In the game Mother Brain is an evil sentient bio organic computer that shoots lasers at you. It doesn’t really have any characteristics or personality till later games. So for the show they decided to give it a face and have it sound like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. It even has heavy lipstick and eye makeup which just makes me think of Frank N. Furter too!

But despite these wacky characters to work with they still managed to make something boring. Looking back I think they ignored the source material a little too much and their own interpretations were just plain weird.

1. The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog 


This was one of those cartoons that I genuinely thought would hold up until I revisited it and learned how wrong I was. This show is one of the messiest and obnoxious things I’ve ever seen. I can deal with intentional chaos in comedy, I’m a big Tim and Eric fan but this Sonic cartoon is just disgusting. It’s a complete assault on all 5 senses and a few more that I didn’t even know I had.

The characters are repulsive in every way, just look at this vomit:

I think they were going for a Ren and Stimpy sort of vibe with the art style but they didn’t have the talent to pull it off so it came out more like Worker and Parasite.

Every character’s voice is shrill and annoying, especially Scratch the chicken robot henchmen who punctuates every sentence with an ear piercing high pitched “AHA HAHAAAAAAAA”. Most episodes involve Scratch and Grounder (out resident Bozos) setting traps for Sonic to run into that even Wile E. Coyote would be embarrassed by. They don’t even have any real motivation, Dr. Robotnik just stamps around saying “I hate that hedgehog!” whenever Sonic escapes one of his traps.

I’m surprised I came out of my childhood with any brain cells left after watching this abomination. Luckily for us the show had to succumb to the Children’s Television Act which meant the episodes had to contain a portion of educational content which is where we get this gem from:

Yep! That was Sonic telling kids what to do if someone touches them inappropriately. Unquestionably good advice but such a hard pivot considering the pointless cartoon trainwreck that came before it.

So that’s it for this dark window into how I spent my time as a child in the 90s. If you want to watch any of this junk they’re pretty much all on YouTube in their entirety because not even the creators care about these shows anymore.

My Favourite Childhood Books

I’ve loved reading from a young age and as a child my most prized possession was my library ticket so I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite books and book series from my childhood.

Each Peach Pear Plumdownload

I still have my very worn copy of this book and at twenty-eight I can still recite the entire book from memory. Before I could read, this was my go to book. Every day I would ask my parents to read this to me and I eventually learned the poem of by heart so I would then ‘read’ the book to my parents.

The Chronicles of Narnia

You’ll most likely all know the sorties of Narnia, the books follow a group of children who find a magical world where they meet Aslan the lion who helps them fight evil in the land and claim the throne. I say I love the series but I mostly loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A group of kick ass kids fighting queens and talking to animals? Yes please.

Goosebumps

Around the age of eight I was getting better at reading and Goosebumps came into my life. goosebumps-featI can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved these books. It was my first glimpse into the world of horror and shortly after I (and the rest of my school) started reading them, the TV show was aired in the UK. It soon became ritual for my friends and I to read a book then watch the episode and discuss if we preferred the book or TV episode better. Goosebumps are a collection of horror books, each with an individual story, written by R.L. Stein. My favourite books include Say Cheese and Die, Let’s Get Invisible, What Lies Beneath the Sink and Be Careful What You Wish For. These books lead to a love of mystery and it was the first time I realised that not every story has a happy ending.

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Staying in the same category as Goosebumps, Point Horror fiction were horror books written by various authors, my favourites being R.L. Stein and Linda Cargill.
These books were a step up from Goosebumps, horror for a slightly older audience. I would have been around thirteen or fourteen when I started reading these books and the fact that they included some romance (sometimes it didn’t end well) made me feel like I was reading more grown up fiction. My favourite books included The Boyfriend, The Snowman and The Lifeguard.

Sweet Valley High

1758847Now it’s time to admit a slightly more embarrassing collection of books I loved. I turned thirteen and suddenly realised that boys existed and took to the world of books to understand how they worked. Sweet Valley High follows the lives of identical twins, Jessica and Elizabeth, as they made their way through high school. If I’m honest, I don’t remember too much about individual stories in this series, I just remember feeling really grown up reading about high school relationships.

The Babysitter Club

BSC_Logo_(book_series)These books followed a group of friends who run a ‘Babysitters club’, each book is written in first person by the person named in the title (Kirsty wrote ‘Kirsty’s Great Idea’ and Claudia wrote ‘Claudia and the Little Liar.’) Claudia was my favourite character to follow; she was vice president of the club and always described as creative and arty. I basically wanted to be Claudia. The books basically told the story of children growing up facing normal childhood problems such as their parents going through divorce, sibling rivalry and friendship issues. They helped me with whatever issue I faced at the time.

Harry Potter

downloadI’ve spoken about Harry Potter time and time again so I won’t go too in depth but I could never have written this post without including the book series because from the age of around twelve, there was no book series that I enjoyed more. Harry Potter is the reason I still love reading so much, they made me understand just how amazing it is to get completely lost inside a fictional world.

My Top 5 Disney-Pixar Characters

 

Everyone loves Disney-Pixar. They’re some of the most amazing films that have been made over the last twenty years. They might be classed as children’s movies, but they have always been greatly enjoyed by adults as well. This is mostly thanks to their ability to tap into deep emotions and stories in a way that everyone can understand.

All their best characters are ones that have gone on a true emotional journey to learn something about themselves, and to grow as people giving them a deeper depth than many other kid’s films dare to go.

In this list I’m going to be looking at some of my favourite characters that Pixar have brought to the big screen.

5) Merida (Brave)

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Who is she?

The feisty red headed Scottish lassy. She’s an independent young lady who doesn’t want to conform to what her mother considers to be ‘lady-like’. So upon discovering her mother expects her to marry a suitor she’s never met before Merida runs away and accidentally turns her mother into a bear. Like you do.

What makes her great?

she’s a princess (a Disney Princess technically) and she breaks all the rules of ‘traditional’ femininity. She fights, is awesome with a bow and arrow and shoves food in her mouth like she’s not been fed in a month.

Her lesson is to learn to bond with her mother. At it’s core Brave is about the mother/daughter relationship. As someone who had a fractious relationship with her mother growing up I’m not ashamed to admit I was in floods of tears at the film’s conclusion when Merida (and her mother) learn the other’s point of view and reach an understanding and reconciliation.

 

4) Carl (up!)

carl up

Who is he?

A curmudgeonly old man who turns his house into a giant hot air balloon using nothing but some very strong string and some party balloons. Though he accidentally brings along Wilderness Explorer, Russell along for the ride.

Why is he great? 

The start of Up! has ten minutes of pure emotion. We see him fall in love with Ellie, their heartbreak at not being able to have children, and then growing old together. We also see the tragedy of Carl lose Ellie.

Carl’s whole world came crashing around him. As such he was unable to move past this, he was stuck trying to relive the life had shared with Ellie. Through his adventure and building (rather unwillingly) a relationship with Russell, Carl is able to learn to say goodbye to Ellie and to begin a new chapter in his life.

3) Joy (Inside Out)

joy and sadness

Who is she?

Joy is the cheery, and very yellow characters in charge of the feelings of happiness inside the head of Riley, a little girl who is struggling with a big move from Minnesota to California.

What makes her great?

Joy always has a need to be in charge, she feels that she cannot let Riley be sad, even when times are tough and Riley is having trouble with the big move, Joy will always find a way to try and keep Riley happy. However, when her and Sadness accidentally get lost in the long term memory Joy learns from Sadness. She comes to realise that not only is it OK to feel sad sometimes, but that it is important to feel sad in order to grow and heal as a person.

2) Wall.e (Wall.e)

wall.e

Who is he?

He’s the cute little robot left on planet Earth to tidy up the mess left by the humans, who are all on a really, really long space cruise.

What makes him so great?

All you need to do is look at him, he’s so cute and adorable. He roams the wasteland of the planet humans once called home. Still carrying out his intended purpose, despite all the others of his kind having burnt out due to the monumental task at hand.

As he wanders through the rubbish dump he finds beauty in the mundane and ordinary. He’s fascinated by Rubix cubes, light bulbs, lighters and ring boxes.

When Eve comes along his love to her is amazing, and helps her to learn to love in return

1) Woody (Toy Story)

woody

Who is he?

If you don’t know Woody you must have been living under a rock for the last 21 years. He’s the rootinest tootinest cowboy leader of the toys from Andy’s Room.

What makes him so great?

He was the first and the best. He’s the cowboy whose everyone’s best friend. Especially Andy.

For years Woody has been Andy’s favourite toy which has given him the position of leader. When Andy’s birthday comes along and a fancy new toy called Buzz Lightyear turns up, Woody can’t help but feel jealous at all the time Andy is spending with his new rival.

After nearly killing Buzz and getting them both lost in the big wide world outside of Andy’s room Woody has to get the two of them back in time before the family move to a new house.

Through the journey Woody learns that Andy will always love him. Even if he might spend time with another toy, Andy will come back, and the best way to be a friend to Andy is just to be there for him whenever he may need Woody. He also learns to befriend Buzz and something may seem like a threat can actually be a big asset.

Captain America: Civil War Review

Not content with cracking the superhero team-up movie formula way before DC and just over a month removed from the critical flop Batman v Superman, Marvel have also shown everyone just how a hero vs hero movie should be done.

Civil War is the latest instalment in Marvel’s cinematic universe which sees the Avengers fractured due to consequences from their previous adventures. The film takes inspiration from the 2006 comic storyline of the same name but it changes a lot of stuff so it fits better into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

*This review will contain spoilers about the plot and character moments but I’ll try to keep it vague*

Despite being a named Captain America movie, Civil War is totally the next Avengers movie. Cap is technically the main character but there’s a lot of Iron Man and the gang too. We open with big chase scene where the Avengers team as we saw them at the end of Age of Ultron is trying to stop Crossbones (the douchey Hydra agent from Winter Soldier in cool skull themed body armor) from stealing a bio weapon. We get Cap, Black Widow and Falcon running through a crowded market place where there are plenty of masked goons for them to throw around.

I really love how they handle the fight choreography in this movie. Obviously Cap can’t throw guys through buildings like Superman or Hulk but if he hits a running dropkick on a guy you better believe he’s going to fly back 30 feet into a wall. Sparing use of CG also helps everything have a real impact. They’re also not afraid to do more complicated fight scenes with huge groups of people. There’s a really impressive scene like this where Cap and Bucky are escaping from an apartment and fight their way through about 100 guys down the stairwell.


Whatever a Spider Can

The rift in the team partially comes from an accident in this first scene where Crossbones set’s off a bomb blowing up part of a government building. This combined with the Avenger’s other incidents of collateral damage spur the UN to create document which would stop the Avengers deploying unless the UN deems it necessary. A side effect of this is that any heroes operating without the government say so would become criminals. Cap doesn’t want to sign and thinks they can do more good un-regulated whereas Iron Man thinks they need to play by the rules to stop more needless deaths. I love when Marvel delves into the real world consequences of superheroes. Granted, it runs the risk of getting too serious but Civil War still keeps that trademark Whedon-esque charm that they’ve had since the first Avengers movie.

So now that Cap and Iron Man are lacking some team mates they both recruit a little extra help. Cap collect some members who aren’t too bothered by being on the wrong side of the law which turns out to be Hawkeye and Ant-Man. Paul Rudd is great in this movie, his irreverent humour in the face of being totally out of his league is hilarious. Iron Man decides to one up this by recruiting the newest member to the MCU, Spider-Man! 

Going in, I was thinking he would just have a small cameo but it was much more than that. This is the debut of their much younger Spider-Man played by Tom Holland who’s most famous for playing Billy Elliot in the stage production until now. We also get to see a strangely young Aunt May which just seems wrong to me. Aunt May is supposed to be a nice old lady, not a milf!

So once the two side are evened out they’ve got to have a big fight, naturally. This is definitely one of the best fight scenes they’ve had in any Marvel movie to date. Everyone gets a moment to shine and it’s the first time we properly see Spider-Man in action. Obviously we’ve seen his web slinging and acrobatics in other movies before but they really make a point of showing off his lesser known skills like his super strength and his wisecracking. Seeing all of these Iconic heroes battle on the big screen is truly amazing and I’m so glad we finally got to see it. 

We need you Cap

When it all comes down to it though this is really a story about Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. We’ve spent the last 2 Avengers films watching them become friends but that all comes crashing down over the course of this movie. Stark does come off looking worse overall due to some questionable choices but you can definitely see both sides of the argument. There are some surprisingly emotional scenes considering this is a movie about costumed lunatics running around punching each other. It also leaves us with plenty of questions about the future Avengers movies and how they will function after all this. 

I really enjoyed this movie from start to finish, it brought back some of the perfectly timed comedy moments that I thought Age of Ultron was missing and the action scenes are easily their best to date. The only bad point I noticed was the pacing was a bit rushed at times, they had a lot to get through in their 2hr 26 min so it moves at more of a quick comic book pace. This meant they had to put in a few convenient plot moments like Bucky miraculously getting his memories back after being knocked out for a few minutes of screen time. Other than that I really can’t fault this movie, after the disappointment of Batman v Superman I was so glad Captain America: Civil War was everything I wanted it to be and more.

★★★★★