My Top 5 Animated Movie Villains

We all love a good hero, but they cannot exist without a great villain to hate.Without  a villain a hero is just some jerk beating people up over nothing. So, we have villains to fight against and to teach us that greed and being evil is bad.

Although I firmly believe that not all animation is for kids, for the purpose of this list I have decided to concentrate of kids’ animation, so I can hark back to all those times I pooped my pants in the living room watching a movie (sorry Mum, you washed those knickers like a pro!)

I’ll warn you now, there are spoilers contained within!

5) Ursula – The Little Mermaid

UrsulaTheLittleMermaidShe was probably the first real villain that I ever encountered as a little whippersnapper. The Little Mermaid was my first ever VHS and I watched it all the time.

Ursula just looks evil from the start. As soon as Ariel drops on by to sell her voice and change her species so Prince Eric will fall in love with her (seriously though ladies, don’t change who are just for some man, Prince of not) we can sense Ursula’s evility. She’s all in black, she’s got some kind of weird thing going on with her hair, she has, quite frankly an amazing bosom. She lives in a sea cave thing full of withered twiglet looking things with eyes. Have you heard her laugh? It’s the most typical evil laugh you’ve ever heard!

I have to admit I don’t really remember being scared of Ursula, but I do remember being mesmerised by her and the way she used to slither about with her wayward tentacles. Even when watching it as an adult the grand finale with the gazillion foot tall Ursula is pretty disturbing, especially when she laughs as though she’s a vinyl recording of a creeping seaside laughing man played at the slowest possible speed.

4) Dr Facilier – The Princess and the Frog

dr facilierYou could be forgiven for not having a clue who Dr Facilier is, even if you’ve seen The Princess and the Frog. No one calls him by his name in the movie.

This guy is so scary the townspeople of New Orleans don’t even use his name, either that or they don’t think he’s interesting enough to bother learning his name. They refer to him as The Shadow Man or sometimes The Voodoo Man.

Dr Facilier uses his shadow friends from ‘the other side’ to hatch a plan to take over the whole of New Orleans to… Harvest their souls, or something.

This guy is both awesome and a total scumbag in equal measures. He has one of the most impressive musical sequences in modern Disney memory with the Friends on the Other Side song, where he makes himself look like a total badass with all the magic he needs right at his fingertips. He’s whispering green stuff here and there, he even appears to turn into a sugar skull at one point

He put on this big show so everyone knows how hard he is only to later on show himself to be a snivelling snot weasel worse than that kids in school who hung out with the bullies, but only had the guts to agree with what the head bully had to say.

 

3) Judge Doom – Who Framed Roger Rabbit

judge doomYou remember this guy, he broke your heart when he dissolved the squeaky shoe in that green goopy stuff. Never have I had such emotional attachment to a bright yellow and red clown shoe. *wipes a single tear from eye*

This guy was creepy as hell. As the human Mayor of ToonTown he reigns with fear thanks to his disgust for Toons and their whimsical nature. With a cool and collected demeanor He delights in torturing any Toon that dares to break any of his stringent rules with ‘The Dip’ (the aforementioned green goopy stuff).

judge doom toonHowever, after getting steam rollered during the finale, he reveals himself to be Toon, the very thing he hates the most. As a Toon he switches from the cold and calculated psychopath type to more of a maniac killer profile. He starts spouting daggers from his eyes, he develops springs in his feet. Most disconcerting of all his voice ascends to a shrill squeak as he admits to the murder of Bob Hoskins’ brother.

Whichever Judge Doom you get, Human or Toon, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

 

4) The Raptors in the Kitchen – Jurassic Park

raptorsI know what you’re thinking, they don’t count, they were interacting with live actors, in a live action setting. They were designed to look as realistic as possible. Technically, they were animated, so they totally count.

 

You’ve got to be careful who you say raptors in the kitchen to. If they’re in their late 20s you might just trigger a latent case of PTSD. Those demon dinos struck fear into children of all ages in the early 90s and most have still never gotten over the ordeal.

Unlike the onslaught of might and power from the T-Rex, the raptors are sneaky and were willing to play the softly softly catchy monkey game, they even learnt how to open doors to get at their prey. Doors! I bet a T-Rex couldn’t do that with it’s comically small arms.  

The great camera work from Spielberg really puts you in the action. It makes you feel like you are in the kitchen with those two annoying twerps trying to avoid not only a violent and wild creature, but a clever one. Giving thousands of children nightmares for years to come in the process.

 

1) The Other Mother – Coraline


other mother goodThe Other Mother, for me, is one of the creepiest little mo’fo’s out there. The others on this list have been evil from the start, their intentions were clear. You knew Ursula and Dr Facilier were not really concerned with helping poor unfortunate souls. You knew dinosaurs were only out to eat what they can.

The Other Mother though, although she might look a little weird with those button eyes, she starts out as being the ever loving matriarch. She provides Coraline with a caring environment filled with all the delights her heart desires including delicious food, a colourful garden and attentive parenting.

One day The Other Mother offers Coraline the chance to stay in the alternative realm forever on the condition Coraline sews buttons onto her eyes. Coraline senses something is afoot and declines, angering the other mother and revealing her true colours.

the other motherGradually The Other Mother morphs into her real form and the magical house reveals itself to be a prison for the ghosts of other children who were more willing to have buttons sewn onto their eyes.

Why is The Other Mother the worst? She pretends to love you, she lures you in with delights and kindness only to pull the rug from under you as she delights in stealing your life essence. Always beware of something that seems too good to be true.

If you can think of any other great animated villains, from a kids movie or not, leave a comment.

 

 

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)

the wiz poster

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.

the wiz michael jackson

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)

south park poster

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)

rocky horror jpeg.jpg

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)

pitch perfect

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)

little shop poster

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.

audrey 2

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 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)

brave.png

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.

My Top 5 Stop Motion Animation Films

I love animation. I love that it can take you to worlds and places you could only ever see in your dreams. It’s not constrained by real life and as such can create places that can be as normal or surreal as you like.

It can take you to an island where it rains food, you can go on a trip in a yellow submarine, you can dance with beasts and go on a magic carpet ride. You can even go down a magical rabbit hole into Wonderland. The only limit is your imagination (and artistic skills).

Animated films and TV shows have brought delight and wonder to children and adults everywhere and in this list I am choosing just 5 of my favourite movies animated using stop motion techniques.

Stop motion has a special quality to it, because it’s filmed using real puppets that are painstakingly moved centimetre by centimetre with a picture taken after every move you can feel the love and dedication that is poured into producing them. It also makes it more tangable than other forms of animation. There ar fantastical images happening on the screen, and yet, it all feels real. Perhaps because at some point, somewhere it was real. Even if it is a little on the small side. This is why stop motion is my favourite animation method.

So, without further ado here’s number 5!

5) Alice (1988, PG, 86mins Dir. Jan Svankmajer)

alice mad hatter

This film on our list is also the only one to incorporate live action into the animation.

An adaptation of Alice in wonderland, Alice was brought to life by czechoslovakian animator Jan Svankmajer. It brings forth a much more dark and disturbing version of alice white rabbitWonderland than previous adaptations had portrayed. It follows a live action Alice in her adventures down the rabbit hole. Gone away are the bright coloured and friendly characters. In their place we get characters that seem dangerous and confusing. The puppets are often found objects re-purposed for the film. Even using a real stuffed rabbit for The White Rabbit. Wonderland itself looks like an old house where any child could wander and find any manner of strange things.

All this give Alice a unique feel and mood, and is often cited as one of the great films about childhood, discovery and the loss of innocence though I’m not sure I would let a child watch this. Even with the PG certificate I feel that it would be a little too disturbing for young children.

4) Mary and Max (2009, 12, 92mins Dir. Adam Elliot)

mary and max

An amazing film about a friendship between a man with Autism in New York and his pen pal. A lonely little girl in Australia.

Mary and Max is one of the most beautiful and emotional films you will ever watch. While the colour palette has been deliberately kept to browns and greys to reflect the lives of the two protagonists, this film is anything but.

You’ll laugh out loud at some of the childish musings of Mary (Toni Collette) and you will cry at the tragedy of Max’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) life.

mary and max meetIf there was ever a film that could be described as a roller coaster of emotion, this is truly it. It’s about finding a partner in loneliness and making your way in a world that perhaps doesn’t accept who you are. 

The design and animation is beautiful, and the soundtrack will have you humming The Penguin Cafe Orchestra for weeks. One word of caution, this is rated 12, and like Alice, it is not really intended for children.

 

3) Chicken Run (2000, U, 81mins Dir. Peter Lord & Nick Park)

chicken run poster

No list about stop motion is complete without at least one Aardman entry. I decided to go with Chicken Run, because it was the first feature film they produced. I remember going to the cinema to see it with my family, and everyone enjoyed it. Even when watching it back now it really stands the test of time.

chickensThe story is essentially The Great Escape, but with chickens. It sounds absurd when said out loud, and it’s this slightly eccentric absurdity that makes this work so well. The humour is daft British through and through and the voice performances from the cast are great and really help to make the chickens characters that you feel for and are with every step of the way.

You can tell that this is an Aardman production, the chickens have the iconic Aardman mouth made famous from Wallace And Gromit, and the humour is so British there may as well be a bowler hat floating at the top of the screen the whole time.

Gather the family round one Saturday night with some popcorn and you are all guaranteed a good time.

2) Coraline (2009, PG, 101mins Dir. Henry Selick)

coralie top

Based on a novella by Neil Gaiman this animation was brought to life by the animator Henry Selick, who also brought us such delights as James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone.

This is one of several films released in the last few years that really hits the sweet spot in being great for kids and adults alike.

coraline other motherIt is full of magic and wonder at the start when Coraline explores the alternate world she finds in a small door in the living room. However the film takes a much darker turn when Coraline’s wishes for a more attentive family come with a caveat she’s not so happy with. Her ‘Other Mother’ who has constructed this alternative world of amazing feats and characters, wants to sew buttons in her eyes. Coraline revolts and has to fight for her life against the ‘Other Mother’.

This manages to balance the magic and the darkness perfectly, and whilst this might be a little too scary for younger kids this will give slightly older children (and adults) a great thrill when the dreams start to crumble and Coraline isnt so sure what to believe anymore.

I’m fairly certain this has had a helping hand from our friend CGI to create some of the special effects, but you will be honestly amazed at some of the shots and the scenes that the animators were able to create with puppets and cameras. It is truly breathtaking.

1) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, PG, 73mins, Dir. Henry Selick)

 

nbc

This is the first stop motion film I remember truly falling in love with and helped to inspire my love of all things stop motion.

Everything is great about this film. The characters, despite being mostlly monsters from Hallowe’en Town are all relatable. We’ve all felt like Jack, no longer content with what surrounds us, and in need of something new to explore. Sally, also desperate to escape and help Jack all she can.

salyThe songs are just wonderful, all of which were written by Danny Elfman, there’s an array of different musical styles and are all sing along-able. From Jack’s Lament on the curly hill to Ooogie Boogie’s song in his lair of dirty tricks.

Then there’s the  design. I first saw this when I was 6 years old. I am now 28 and even now I can watch it and still spot something new. There’s so much detail put into it, you can see every line in the field with the curly hill, you can see all the small, insignificant details and the minor background characters given the same attention as the stars.

The animation itself may seem a little clunky and not as swish as some of the more modern stop motion films, but for it’s time it was very pioneering. It was the first film to use a metal ‘skeleton’ in the puppets to keep them in place.

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Even the story and the tone was quite brave at the time, though Disney are now quite proud of NBC and include it in their merchandise in their stores at the time they tried to distance themselves from it by releasing it under the Touchstone label they created for more ‘adult’ content. Now it is considered a classic of children’s movies and animated movies.

 

Jake’s Top 5 Podcasts

I’ve loved podcasts since I started discovering video game sites on the internet in the mid 2000’s. They’ve been a constant presence in my life and have got me through many boring commutes to college, uni and now work. I’ve learned some amazing things about life, video games and a multitude of other subjects. After listening to some of these guys for years now I feel like I know them personally, the way they have let thousands of fans be a part of their lives is amazing.

 

Thankfully these days it’s easier than ever to get a hold of podcasts, most phones come with pre-installed software to download them and I’ve also included links to the podcasts in the headers:

 

5.How To Be a Person

how to be a person

Regular Hosts: Mike Drucker, Jess Dweck

 

This podcast follows the socially awkward team of Mike and Jess as they receive life lessons from their comedy pals. Each episode starts off with a full background of the current guest and ends with the topic that they have brought to teach the hosts.

 

This is a consistently great podcast, most of the guests have some comedy background so you’re always going to get some hilarious anecdotes. The part that is so endearing to me is the way the hosts and guests talk so candidly about their lives not matter how embarrassing the situation was. Topics they’ve covered so far include how to draw, make friends, be a parent, stop smoking, write a movie, survive heartbreak and be a scientist. Whether you’re interested in the subject or not you’ll always learn something useful or funny.

 

4.How2Wrestling

 

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Regular Hosts: Jo Graham, Kefin Mahon

 

A show designed to teach the uninitiated how to watch, understand and maybe even enjoy the ‘sport’ of professional wrestling. If you’re curious about wrestling but have no idea where to start, this is the place. Kefin is the resident wrestling expert while Jo is a new fan who’s ready to learn all about headlocks, sleeper holds and heel turns.

 

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to enjoy if you’re already into wrestling, most episodes function as a history of a specific wrestler so there are always some fun/weird/scary facts to learn about people like Hulk Hogan, John Cena and Stone Cold Steve Austin. They have also done some more general episodes that deal with things like wrestling slang/terminology or the reason WWE has so many different shows on every week. They also cover wrestlers new and old so you can start to build a wide knowledge base of wrestling legends and current up-and-comers.

 

This is also one of the few British podcasts I listen to, it’s fun to hear about all this wrestling madness from a perspective that’s closer to home. The hosts Jo and Kefin are absolutely charming together and they’re really good about featuring user comments on the show, I got one of my tweets read on ep 5 How2Shield which was awesome to hear.

 

3.Talking Simpsons

 

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Regular Hosts: Bob Mackey, Chris Antista, Henry Gilbert

 

There’s a special thing that happens when you get a bunch of Simpsons fans in the same room together, we can communicate purely in Simpsons quotes. When the Laser Time podcast guys realised they couldn’t stop doing this on their other podcasts they decided to make a separate show to get it out of their system and so Talking Simpsons was born.

 

This is the first podcast from the Laser Time Network on my list, I’ve been following these guys since they all used to write for the website GamesRadar around 2008. So when they all eventually left I gladly followed them to their own independent site where they have started a multitude of podcasts under the Laser Time banner.

 

Talking Simpsons is a chronological exploration of The Simpsons starting from episode 1, it gives an overview of the episode plot line complete with sound clips of the best parts. They also have a lot of behind the scenes info about the making of the show and explain some of the more obscure jokes. One of my favourite parts is hearing the host’s personal experiences watching these episodes as kids and there is lots of 90s talk to hit all those nostalgia buttons.

 

At the time of writing the first season of Talking Simpsons is only available to contributors to the Laser Time Patreon but since they’ve started the season 2 the new episodes are free for everyone.

 

2.The Giant Bombcast

 

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Regular Hosts: Brad Shoemaker, Jeff Gerstmann, Drew Scanlon, Dan Ryckert

 

Giant Bomb is my all time favourite website and as long as they keep doing what they’re doing it always will be. The Giant Bombcast is one of the longest running weekly podcasts ever, the episodes usually run around 2-3 hours long and at the time of writing there have been about 932 episodes. That alone doesn’t make it great though. The Bombcast has been one of the great constants in my podcast life and they’ve been consistently funny for over 8 years now.

 

At it’s core the show is simply a weekly round up of all things in video games but it’s the personalities that will keep you coming back. All the hosts have amazing chemistry together, members have come and gone as people have joined and left the site but Jeff, Brad and Drew have always kept the show running smoothly. They are all really passionate about video games but aren’t afraid to admit how dumb they can be sometimes.

 

This isn’t just a show for video game fans though. The first segment of the show is usually just the hosts talking about what they got up to at the weekend. They also take listener emails at the end of the show which can hit upon any topic imaginable. You can get an email about pooping habits followed by one about the mysteries of space! Whatever the question/topic the Bombcast crew is more than happy to oblige.

 

1.Thirty Twenty Ten

 

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Regular Hosts: Brett Elston, Diana Goodman, Chris Antista, Henry Gilbert

 

This is one of the most unique podcasts I’ve ever heard. Thirty Twenty Ten is an exploration of what was happening in pop culture this week 30 years ago, 20 years ago and 10 years ago. So currently they’re taking a look at 1986, 1996 and 2006. They cover any important things they can find for that week like movies, music, TV shows, video games, comics and world events. What other podcast can you hear discussions about the Challenger explosion, the release of Underworld: Evolution and the developers of Grand Theft Auto being taken to court for an unused sex minigame all in one episode?

 

All the hosts have their own area of expertise but also offer their own personal anecdotes about what they were doing in the various time periods. This is probably the easiest podcast to recommend out of my list because it literally has something for everyone. It’s also pretty new having only started this year so there are only 14 episodes to catch up on at the time of writing and I’ve got to mention that it has an amazing theme tune done by Dotflist. It’s not too late to climb aboard the pop culture time machine!

Blessed Are We By The Beards

You can forget your hipster, quinoa munching, chai latte sipping, wanko beards. Here we celebrate the true beards of cinema. The beards of power, of distinguishability, of magic, of evil, of the bloke stuck in the Antarctic who can’t be arsed to shave or maybe it’s just a bit cold.

These are my top 5 beards of cinema.

 

  1. Ian McKellen in Lord of The Rings Trilogy/The Hobbit Trilogy

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No beard list would be complete without an epic wizard beard. I could have gone for Saruman but I am saving Christopher Lee for my ‘What Cher would have looked like without the surgery’ and ‘Best Wizard Fingers’ lists. McKellen’s grubby, lanky yet oddly glorious chin wig gives Gandalf that all important distinguished gravitas. He looks like a wizard who’s been in scraps, been around Middle Earth a bit and knows what he is talking about. Try to imagine him yelling ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS!’ clean shaven… you can’t can you. It doesn’t bloody work.

 

  1. Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

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Oh Alan, my Alan. To be honest, the late, great Sir Alan of Rickman has had some cracking facial garnish in his film career, see the quality moustache in Truly, Madly, Deeply, the wonderfully manicured slimline feature of his lower face in Die Hard, and the seedy moustache coupled with lower lip hair nubbin in Bottle Shock, but for me the piece de resistance is his deathly dark and malevolent mush in Prince of Thieves. I’ll admit now i re-watched Prince of Thieves last night over a bucket of fried chicken at a mate’s house so this particular beard is fresh in my mind. It is glorious though. No patches, no wispy bits, just proper full coverage, moving and molding around Rickman’s sneering chin as he yells at the guards to ‘CLEEOOOOWSE THE GATE!’

 

  1. Chia Hui Lui in Kill Bill 1 & 2

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It’s a fake; we know this. But a proper homage to old school martial arts films wouldn’t be complete without a kung fu master sporting a ludicrous, glossy beard, with some fucking gloriously OTT eyebrows to finish the look. Riffing on the White Lotus films of yore and the Bak Mei legend, Tarantino ups the facial hair ante and dons Chia Hui Lui with one of the most striking looks in modern film. How Lui manages to complete any fight sequences with that hairy face tail whipping around his persons i will never know. Either way, it all looks cool as shit.

 

  1.  Mr T. in Rocky III

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I spent years arguing with my ex about whether Rocky III was superior to Rocky IV or vice versa. It was an argument that was never settled. He maintains Rocky IV is superior because Ivan Drago and because Rocky defeats Communism by avenging Apollo Creed’s death. While this is all well and good, I would also mount my defence by saying Rocky III had Thunderlips, the emotional implosion due to Mickey’s death, EYE OF THE TIGER (!!), the best homo-erotic training montage ever committed to film, and of course, the one and the only, Clubber Lang. I may be biased here by being a big fan of the mutton chop look, but Clubber Lang’s epic chops combined with the delightful mohawk perched upon the dome of his head gives him a look like no other.

 

  1. Kurt Russell in The Thing

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The absolute beard of beards. If there was ever an Academy Award for Best Beard then Kurt Russell as MacCready would win every single year regardless of the fact that The Thing came out in 1982. It doesn’t matter. His beard is the milestone to which all other movie beards are measured against. No one has yet come close to meeting its majesty. Kurt Russell, like our old friend Alan up there, has a varied history with cinematic facial hair and has come close to usurping himself (observe the wonders on his face in Bone Tomahawk and The Hateful Eight) but i don’t think anything will top his turn in The Thing. We see bored MacCready beard, angry MacCready beard and frosty MacCready beard, all looking full and luscious, enveloping his lower face in a nice furry blanket. Add to the mix his utterly sublime hair do then i am afraid we only one winner here folks.

My Favourite Book Series

I generally shy away from book series due to the fact that I have major commitment issues. I really want to read more series but instead of being excited about what they might entail, I only manage to see a pile of books that once I start, I’ll feel obliged to read regardless of how much I like them.

That said, on a rare occasion I’ll see a series that I want to read or I’ll pick up a book, not realising that it belongs to a collection and I’ll love it so much that I’ll read the rest.

Today I thought I’d share with you a few that I’ve loved and sometimes even read more than once. Yes they’re fairly obvious choices but I can’t help being generic so here is my top five in no particular order.

Side note: When I say series I mean two or more books.

The Harry Potter series J. K. Rowling

As I say, this list is in no particular order but I still wanted to start with my favourite series of all time. I know a lot of people out there will be banging their heads against they’re keyboard after seeing the most obviously predictable series but I couldn’t make this list without mentioning it. In 1997 J. K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or the Sorcerer’s Stone if you’re American) and at nine year old it changed my life. I can honestly say that I doubt I’d love reading as much as I do today if it weren’t for this series. After reading the first book, I was hooked and I was first in line on release day for each book that followed.download (3)

Unless you’ve been living in a world without any source of media for the last twenty years, you will be aware that this series follows a young boy, Harry, as he goes from a mistreat child to a famous wizard who is constantly being threatened by one of the most dangerous wizards of all time.

Why do I love these books? Because they were perfect for me. I was part of the Harry Potter generation, the generation that grew up as Harry did and as his stories became more complex so did my own life. Although I never received my Hogwarts letter, I still related to so many issues within the books, they may follow a fictional world but they also tell a true story of how hard life can seem but how much easier it can feel if you have good friends along the way.

There won’t be many people (if any) who read this and haven’t read the Potter books previously but if you’re one of the few then please pick them up. I promise* you’ll be sat at your letterbox waiting for an owl to bring you some important news.

*You might not.

The Lunar Chronicles – Marissa Meyer

A series where the main character is a kick ass woman? Yes please! I was a little bit late to the party with this one. By the time I picked up Cinder, Scarlett and Cress were already released but the idea of books based on well-known tales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White) was enough for me to buy all three at once. Cinder stole my heart, I honestly love the character and even after the series has ended, she’s my favourite. There’s so much that I love about this series but the fact that it shows off a lot of strong women made it perfect for me.

download (4)The series starts with Cinder who is living with her step mother and step sisters in a world where letumosis, a deadly plague, is spreading rapidly. Cinder, an overworked and underappreciated cyborg, realises that she is immune to the disease and with that revelation she discovers a whole lot more about who she is and who she was before she came to live with her step family.

I couldn’t put these books down. As the series progressed I loved them more and more. The characters are all so strong and relatable and I had serious book crushes on all the male love interests. I adore the fact that although there is romance within the books, it’s not the main story, instead they focus on the protagonists and how they develop themselves based on the situations they’re forced into and the friendships they forge.

The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins

So far all my choices have been super predictable, I’m aware, but I love The Hunger Games and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Again I didn’t read in the beginning, by the time I picked up the first book, the other two had been released already but at the time I wasn’t aware of the buzz around them and there hadn’t been any films released yet.download (5)

Again, I’m sure you’ll all be aware of the premise of The Hunger Games. In this dystopian series, every year the government host the hunger games, a game that is broadcast across the world (made up of twelve districts- but secretly there’s an active thirteenth) and forces two children from each district to partake, one male, one female. The children fight to the death and whoever is the last person standing is the victor and wins a lifetime of fame and fortune. After her younger sister gets picked to be part of the games, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her position and we follow her through the games and through the rebellion that follows after her victory.

I’ll be honest (please don’t hate me for saying this) I didn’t like the last book. I found it was a lot of running around the Capitol and hiding from the law but it doesn’t stop me thinking as a whole, it’s an amazing series. I love Katniss in book one. I love that she’s strong minded and she loves her sister so much that she’s willing to put her life at risk for her. As I was reading book two and three, I found myself starting to dislike her more and more. I found her too whiney and miserable. It wasn’t until I re-read the books that I started to appreciate this about her. I realised that yes she was miserable all the time after winning the games but then who wouldn’t be? After being forced to kill a bunch of kids they then stuck her back in another game where she had to instead kill a bunch of adults in order to survive, after she was finally away from the games forever she was forced to be the face of a rebellion that she never agreed to start.  I think I really like the fact that the books portray how real people would act under these circumstances.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before –Jenny Han

There are only two books to this but I’m still putting it in here. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was my favourite YA romance that I’ve read and I’ve read a lot!

15749186In this duology, Lara-Jean has written five letters, all to boys who she has loved at some point in her life. These letters are put into a hat box and she never plans to send them but one day she finds they’ve been posted and her secrets are revealed.

The books are predictable and typically YA but I loved them. I loved Lara-Jean’s love interests, in most YA I just can’t deal with the love triangles but for once I loved it. I understood how this love triangle happened and I understood why Lara-Jean had such a hard time deciding what she wanted. She felt every bit the sixteen year old girl wanting the best of both worlds and I never once felt annoyed with her for not immediately making up her mind. Oh, I also bloody loved Kitty.

The Shopaholic series – Sophie Kinsella

Now this is a weird one because although it’s one of my favourite series, I feel a little like it’s being dragged out and that Sophie needs to just finish it.The_Secret_Dreamworld_of_a_Shopaholic

This series follows Becky, a twenty-something journalist who has a big spending problem. She’s obsessed with buying things and she really can’t afford everything she is buying. Becky meets Luke Brandon, a successful businessman who she forms an unlikely attraction to but whom she has to hide her spending issues from.

There are so far I believe there are eight books in this series and with every book I’ve come to love Luke a little bit more. If you ask me who my ideal book boyfriend is, I will always answer Luke Brandon. He’s just perfect. He’s hard working, motivated and loving. He also constantly puts up with Becky’s shit and sometimes I really don’t understand why. Up until Mini Shopaholic (book six) I really loved Becky, I felt she grew as a character and she deserved the outcome of every book but with the latest instalments I’ve started to hate her. All the hard work Kinsella did to make Becky a lovable character seems to have evaporated and Becky has become ungrateful and annoying. I’ve just finished reading the newest book, Shopaholic to the Rescue and I admit Becky redeems herself a lot and I enjoyed this book a lot more than the previous two books so I’m hoping it all just stops there while I love Becky again.

I know this doesn’t seem like a glowing review but up until Mini Shopaholic, I really love the series and I genuinely found it hilarious and heart-warming.  I love the characters and I love Sophie’s writing so I would recommend the series to anyone. Just pretend it finishes with Shopaholic and Baby.

John Hughes: The Best of the Worst

John Hughes is a bastion of teen movies, he practically invented the modern teen movie.

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, the chances are John Hughes helped you to get in touch with your acne covered, slightly greasy, hormonal feelings!

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Hughes gave us some great movie moments. There’s the emotionally charged scene in The Breakfast Club (you know, the one where we found out Emilio Estevez is a person as well as a jock, and The nerd can’t make an elephant lamp). Ferris Bueller somehow getting away with destroying his friend’s Dad’s car. Let’s not forget Kevin McCallister beating a couple of inept burglars with a house of tricks. So sometimes it can be easy to forget just how many duffers he squeezed out the nib of a pen.

john hughes home alone

Ladies and Gentlemen I am here with you today to give you five reasons that John Hughes, should have stuck to capers involving children being abandoned and teenagers coming to terms with growing up.

So, let’s start at the end:

5. Drillbit Taylor (2008, 1hr 50mins, 12A)

john hughes drillbit

The classic tale of little kids getting even with their bullied.

So, take three nerds, some bullies and an older father type figure who helps them to overcome their demons. It’s like the Karate Kid but with a pathetic loser instead of Mr Miyagi. And there’s three of them.

Most of the jokes involve rather terrible slapstick and Owen Wilson (as the eponymous Drillbit Taylor, our Mr Miyagi) pretending to be cool when he clearly isn’t. At least Mr Miyagi was legit.

Hughes used a pseudonym, Edmond Dantes and you can tell why. Maybe he didn’t want people to remember him with this film, the very last before his death in 2009

4. Maid in Manhattan (2002, 1hr 45mins, PG)

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Where to begin with this festering, cesspool of a movie? This was a pretty big hit back in the day, grossing $155 million worldwide. It became the go to date movie of late ‘02 and early ‘03, and middle age ladies love watching it on a Saturday afternoon with a bowl of Chunky Monkey.

So, why is this movie so terrible? People clearly like it. Well we’ll start with the acting, Jennifer Lopez as Marisa Ventura is so wooden she could be picked up to stir your favourite cake batter with. Ralph Fiennes as the bajillionaire that rescues Marisa from her terrible life was also pretty bad, but in his defense he does his best with what he’s got. Which isn’t much.

The script is Awful, you can tell that it was heavily influenced by Pretty Woman, as it’s essentially the same story. Only told less well and even more patronising to women. Hey girls! If you want to get away from your life of drudgery and awfulness, just meet a rich, white dude. He’ll be amazed at how novel poor people are and buy you nice thing

3. Curly Sue (1991, 1hr 41mins, PG)

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Upon it’s release Curly Sue was a a bit of a flop, and gained a lot of criticism from critics and fans alike.

The story centres around a homeless man with a heart of gold, Bill Dancer (Jim Belushi). Along with his plucky sidekick, Curly sue (Alisan Porter), a young child about the age of 8. They pulls scams, not to get money, because that would be wrong, but to get food to eat, that’s survival, so it’s OK.

Apart from some loose back story revealing Bill knew Curly’s (Or Sue’s?) mother and agreed to look after her once her mother died it’s not really clear why he didn’t just dump this irritating little weasel as soon as he could.

She’s just. So. Annoying! She has a whiney voice and shows a level of cutesy precociousness not witnessed since Shirley Temple sang about her Goodship Lollypop.

Then, one day they try and scam a fancy lawyer. They end up getting invited to stay the night in her house, and in what I am sure will be a shock twist to you all. She ends up falling in love with Bill, the homeless guy that tried to scam her for free food. How adorable.

Most of this film doesn’t make sense, the characters are two dimensional and (as previously stated) really annoying. This film did so badly, Hughes actually dropped out of the business of show for a little bit. Not for long though as the next year he saved himself with Home Alone II

2. She’s Having a Baby (1988, 1hr 46mins, 15)

 john hughes shes baby

Hughes didn’t want to be typecast, over his 30 year career he tried his hand at many genres, from pure kids’ movies (Home Alone), to teen movies,(Pretty in Pink) and Comedy movies (The Vacation series). Some genres he could tap into and others he just couldn’t get the hang of. Adult drama, unfortunately falls into the latter category.

It’s about a newly married couple learning how to be married. An interesting concept, getting married is a pretty big change in people’s lives, you have to learn to adjust and compromise and make big decisions together. Like weather or not to have a baby.  

Like other films on this  list, the catalogue of errors is present, the bad acting, terrible direction. Awful dialogue and a script that doesn’t always make sense. You have zero sympathy for the characters as Kevin Bacon’s character, Jake Briggs drops out of his Master’s degree, seemingly because he got scared of not being good enough. Meanwhile Kirsty Briggs (Ally Sheedy) just randomly stops taking birth control without telling her husband. I’m all for women being in charge of their own bodies, but having a baby affects both of you… At least tell the guy! By the end, when they eventually have the baby they have learnt so little and seem like such terrible people you really wish they hadn’t just procreated.

 

And the winner of worst John Hughes movie is

1. Mr. Mom (1983, 1hr 31mins, PG)

john hughes mr mom

A man has to look after a child. Hilarity ensues. This should be enough to tell you all that you need to know about this movie. That and the poster, just look at it! You know you’re in for a hilarious time when you see a man wearing rubber gloves and carrying a baby.

I know that this film is over 30 years old now, and some allowances must be given for historical context. Even with that in mind, this is really just. Anger inducing.

So, Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) loses his job. So wife, Caroline (a housewife of many years) has to go out to work. After a few japes involving terrible slapstick and pooey nappy jokes Jack starts to get the hang of this child care and cleaning malarky. However, after a while he starts to find this life a little constricting (he’s learning what it’s like to be a woman in the 80s… How very progressive!). Then his neighbours start coming onto him. Let’s face it all housewives are horny and just want to sleep with whoever is going, married or not.

I’m sure at the time it was thought of as being progressive, it was only 4 years later we got Three Men and a Baby (a much better film following a similar theme) but it’s just misguided. Caroline works for an ad executives, and they want to hire her based on her housewife know how, they might as well have patted her on the head and said ‘now now pretty lady, we need someone who knows about these… Women’s things’. Eurgh. 

Five Films That Should Have Ruined A Franchise But Didn’t

5. Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift

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It’s hard to believe we are now on the cusp of being eight films into this behemoth of a franchise and, with films nine and ten reportedly already being outlined, it shows absolutely no signs of stopping. But it all could have been so different after the release of an utter skidmark of a third film. Somehow they managed to suck all of the stupid joy of meatheads barreling along in souped up cars and shoehorn some pathetic piss-baby story about a young man finding love and acceptance through streetcar racing. Some of the race scenes are undoubtedly thrilling, but the pace is jarring, the acting is so wooden you could probably chisel a good chest of drawers out of it, and by bringing back none of the actors from the previous films (expect Vin Diesel, who pops up in a rubbish cameo) it makes this film feel completely out of sync with the rest of the series. The team behind F&F have upped their game since, shrewdly nudging the films to be more action/heist based propositions and dropping in some heavyweight names (Kurt Russell, Jason Statham), meaning that the latest instalment has punched through that blessed $1 billion dollar mark.

 
4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

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Oh Hugh, Hugh, Hugh, Hugh. Everyone loves Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine. Everyone. Even people who hate superhero/comic book films think he is a good Wolverine, and if they don’t then they are beyond help, but dearest Hugh tested all our goodwill with this horrendous instalment in the X-Men franchise. All the hallmarks of a dud were there from the start, an incomplete script at the start of filming (which only works for Ridley Scott and, for him, only about 35% of the time), bad scheduling and general production troubles; then butting of heads between director and the production company, piracy of a non-theatrical release version. All in all, it was an utter state.  Fox, however, did learn their lesson from this steaming mess, shelving plans for any further ‘Origin’ stories (Magneto was mooted but then cancelled) and started a sneaky rejigging of the franchise by using First Class and Days of Future Past to make Origins an unessential and grubby footmark. Wolverine finally did eventually get a half decent stand alone film, but Origins stands alone as a brilliant example of how not to do a comic book film.

 

3. Saw III

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*raises hand* I admit now that I am a big fan of the first Saw film and the second film was an entertaining, gory attempt to further the myth of Jigsaw. Saw III is where I draw the line; where I felt the novelty wear off and I was dulled to the tricksy traps and gratuitous gore. The introduction of Amanda (Shawnee Smith) showed us the thought process of the film’s producers. By introducing a disciple-esque character with an unwavering dedication to Jigsaw’s vision and someone who was quite happy to continue it on the producers set up the Jigsaw universe to survive without Jigsaw himself. It was all very cynical and all very rubbish, to be honest. Saw III itself was a muddled half job, exceedingly dull and convoluted beyond belief, and the franchise never recovered. Yeah, it made a huge chunk of cash over the course of its 7 (and possibly 8) films, but it never reached those dizzy heights of actually being good ever again.

 
2. Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4)

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More like Live Farce and Die Hard, amirite? Die Hard 4 (I can’t be arsed with its longer moniker) was something that should have been just talked about and not acted upon. It has left a smelly little stain on a once great trilogy and spawned another furiously bad fifth film which was somehow worse. And now someone has decided it would a great move to make a prequel to the entire franchise. What irks me the most about Die Hard 4 is that it diluted all the great elements of the previous three films (the snark, the writing, John McClane’s humanity) and created something so infuriatingly generic in its execution. Die Hard 4 has nothing to set it apart from any other crappy post 2000 action film, the writing is flat, the action sequences themselves are riddled and soiled by shitty CGI, and Willis looks bored (and that’s in the decent scenes). Die Hard with Vengeance is the last Die Hard film for me, and will stay that way for a long time yet.

1. Highlander 2: The Quickening

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Highlander is my catnip. Highlander 2: The Quickening is my Kryptonite. I become so weak with despair whenever it is mentioned that I crumple to floor before crawling away to the nearest darkened room to collect my thoughts. Every terrible thing you have heard about The Quickening is true. It is an utter shambles. It dismantles the good stuff from the first film and grinds it into a dust. The Quickening goes as far as to re-write and ruin the origins of the Immortals, turning it into nonsense that even James Joyce would be proud of. Sean Connery inexplicably reappears (for the money probably) even though that should be theoretically impossible. But this film basically says fuck to everything. The creators clearly felt guilty about releasing this lung spore of the devil onto the general public that they made a third film, and a fourth, and a fifth, and then a naff tv series. There’s also been a couple of animated series, a Japanese anime film (!), and various games and merchandise thrown in there for good measure. Do yourself a favour. Start with the first. End with the first.

 

There can be only one.