My Movie Blogging Resolutions for 2020

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Happy New Year everyone. Love them or hate them, New Year’s resolutions help to focus the mind on what we need to improve or achieve. In the spirit of that, here are my movie blogging resolutions for 2020. What do you think of New Year’s resolutions? Do you have any? What would you improve? Let me know in the comments below.

3) Start writing about Film Music

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I’m not an expert in the genre. But I’ve always been drawn to how Film Music communications the emotions of a film and as a form of storytelling in its own right. While I’ve infrequently discussed in other places, I’d like to start writing about it for the blog. Watch this space.

2) Themed Months

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Themed months are a great opportunity to introduce a fun activity for everyone to get involved with. They’re also good as a crash course to get into a particular genre or a director’s filmography. I’ve some ideas up my sleeves.

1) Write more Blog Posts 

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This is always a tricky one to judge. All I have to go on is how good I’ve felt getting a good number of blog posts out. This particularly struck me in the tail end of 2019. I will do my utmost to continue that this year.

 

 

 

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My Top Ten Anticipated Movies of 2020

10 The King’s Man

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This is quite an odd pick, seeing as I have not seen the first two Kingmans films. However, based on the trailer, the film seems like an intriguing early 20th-century spy film with colourful revisionism for many of historys great players, including Grigori Rasputin. Im interested to see what Matthew Vaughn does with an exotic spy story that predates the James Bond franchise.

9) Halloween Kills

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I was not particularly enamoured with David Gordon Greens Halloween. I felt it occupied a strange middle ground between the sense of mystery that permeated John Carpenter’s film, and the streak of sadism that defined many of its imitators. However, Halloween Kills represents a part one of a duology and that alone peaks my curiosity.   

8) No Time To Die

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Despite having interesting themes and moments of great filmmaking: Spectre felt dramatically unfulfilling as Daniel Craigs last bow to the franchise. However, No Time to Die has a chance to rewrite that mistake. With the additions of Cary Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Im optimistic.

7) Godzilla vs. Kong

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Nothing much to say here, except Japan’s most beloved monster squaring off with the Eighth Wonder of the World. The concept and battle sell itself.

6) The Invisible Man

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The Invisible Man has a first-rate actress in Elizabeth Moss and promises to use its title character as a metaphor for gaslighting. In theory, this sounds like the stuff of a visionary horror movie. Let’s hope the movie lives up to its promise.

5) Tenet

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Since the announcement of Tenet, I’ve been pretty blase about it. However, the extended IMAX preview changed my mind. It made me feel like I had been handed a beautifully chaotic piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I’m dying to solve the rest of it and see if it results in an interesting picture.

4) Wonder Woman 1984

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Picture this: a comic book movie that seems to be a big-screen adaptation of Fantasy Island, with a colourful eighties ascetic and Pedro Pascal channelling Ricardo Montalban. I’m in.

3) Mulan 

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Out of all the animated Disney movies that have been slated to have live-action remakes, Mulan seems like the one film to have the most potential. It can be a genuine war epic that says interesting things about Japanese culture and the role of women in society.

2) The Lighthouse

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From the trailer alone, The Lighthouse seems like a lost relic from the silent era that has been remade with sound and given a dash of expressionist era imagery. Is it January 31st yet?

1) Dune

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Dune is one of the Science Fiction genre’s crowning achievements and has been notoriously tricky to adapt. But Denis Villeneuve and a solidly assembled cast seem like the best shot to bring this celebrated novel to the silver screen.

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Editorial: My Top Five Comic Book Movies of the Decade

5) The Dark Knight Rises

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Christopher Nolan’s third film in The Dark Knight trilogy is a flawed epic that never reconciles its social commentary with the bleak portrait of its world. However, it has ambition, touching moments and a steadfast commitment to the broken portrait of its main character.

4) The Wolverine

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While it’s tempting to put its superior older sibling (Logan) or its ’60s hipster cousin (X-Men First Class), The Wolverine has resonated for me most out of the entire X- franchise. In a decade that’s seen the genre take on daring dives into character study waters, The Wolverine stands tall as a meditation on purpose, death and loss. It may have a third act that’s the work of someone who didn’t understand let alone watch the first two, but it’s got Wolverine fighting ninjas in the snow.

3) Snowpiercer 

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Bong Joon-ho’s adaptation of the French graphic novel- Le Transperceneige is a exceptionally well made high concept picture. The film balances social commentary, impressive action sequences and decisive cinematography that makes the audience complicit in whether to go left or right. This is compounded by a fiendishly sly sense of humour that makes the film feel like a fumbling political speech.

2) Black Panther

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What’s this you say: a comic book movie with interesting themes, an Afrofuturist ascetic and a fierce central antagonist, who has a point in his villainous intentions. Compounded by an array of fascinating female characters, a hero in mourning and intriguing world building. No, that’s too fiery and won’t hook audiences or mainstream critics. Oh wait…

1) Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

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No film this decade has done more to embrace the comic book medium then Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. At the same time, it tells an engrossing story about Miles Morales’ search for identity. The story line has personal and postmodern implications as Morales tries to stamp his identity against the backdrop of a franchise that movie audiences are accustomed to seeing. But like him, we’re amazed by the various incarnations of the character. Quite simply, that’s how you do a team-up movie.

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My Top Ten Films of 2019

10) Stan & Ollie

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Stan & Ollie is a delightful and gentle tribute to the famed comedic duo. Told in the pair’s twilight years of fame, the film wonderfully depicts their relationship as though its a marriage in its last throws. At the same time, the picture effortlessly illustrates how Laurel and Hardy’s comedy uplifted and united people. Consequently, the movie becomes a little slice of innocence that’s much needed in our bitter and divided times.

9) It Chapter 2

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It Chapter Two is an ambitious and sobering effort, weaving past and present with such beautiful elegance, that the film becomes the cinematic equivalent of group therapy. It never forgets the human element of the story and how fear can paint us in the worst possible way.

8) Joker 

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Joker is a genuinely startling experience. It’s the sort of film that’s been pitched and promised when most comic book movies are in development but never delivered. It doesn’t reinvent the mass popular sub-genre. Instead, it shows new colours the comic book movie can apply to its canvas.

7) Under The Silver Lake

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Under the Silver Lake takes the neo-noir to mesmerising heights by combining standard elements from a Hitchcockian thriller, Lynchian surrealism and ’90s slacker comedy. The result is a film that shines in its momentary weirdness than overarching narrative and theme.

6) Marriage Story 

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Marriage Story doesn’t just depict divorce with biting and painful realism. It also asks questions about how much you can lose a sense of self in a relationship and how finding your voice is crucial to your identity. The film’s best aspect comes from the blocking of key scenes where the characters use the full space to shout, vent and emotionally break down.

5) The Irishman

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The Irishman is a return to mob movies for Scorsese and is a sobering rumination of the genre, as opposed to an electrifying rebirth.

4) Toy Story 4

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Toy Story 4 necessitates its existence by opening up its narrative to the alluded aspects of the previous films. In this way, the film is like an old toy that you rediscover and find that it has more features than you initially thought.

3) Us

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With images that will remain etched in your mind and a premise that keeps unravelling into something rich and interesting: Us is a serious call to arms film for cementing Jordan Peele’s talent as a horror auteur of the highest degree.

2) If Beale Street Could Talk

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If Beale Street Could Talk is about how injustice haunts every day living. It can cause us to become cynical, question long presumed truths and even want to emotionally outburst against the entire world.

1) Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

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Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is an astounding cinematic work; a singular mosaic, presenting genuine existential angst through the prism of a gleaming era, which was starting to lose its sheen. But like the magic of movies, for a brief moment, Tarantino makes us believe that the magic of 1969 never truly died.

 

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Ranked: The Star Wars Films (1977-2019)

 11) Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

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Attack of the Clones is a shrug of a movie, often mixing belaboured action sequences with awkward dialogue exchanges. It also marks George Lucas’ digital ascetic at its least charming and wonderous.

10) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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I’ve never been able to get on board with this fully. For being the first “experimental” Star Wars movie, it does rely heavily upon the saga films’ storytelling and cinematic tenants. The result is a film that feels like a virtual museum of nostalgia.

9) Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Despite boasting some great world-building and Bradford Young’s exquisite cinematography, Solo is a low stakes affair. Its central problem comes from the main character feeling less interesting than the world he inhabits and the supporting players he interacts with.

8) Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

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The Rise of Skywalker is a good Star Wars film. It throws a lot at the wall. Not all of it sticks. But it does understand what’s made the franchise indelible for 40+ years. Rey’s arc of control and internal strife is the film’s highlight

7) Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

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Return of the Jedi is an embarrassment of riches in terms of creatures, effects and imagination. And it mostly delivers in being a dramatic conclusion to the Original Trilogy.

6) Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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Featuring distinctive new characters, great imagery and a rousing John Williams’ score: The Force Awakens is a persistently fun and fascinating mixtape of the Original Trilogy.

5) Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

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To an entire generation, this film is a kidified and ruinous pariah. But to me, it’s Star Wars at its most innocent and optimistic, advocating the importance of symbiotic relationships to overcome the problems of the world. The impressive set pieces and creative world-building does not hurt either.

4) Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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The Last Jedi is an assuredly bold and subversive film. It digs beneath the surface of the space fantasy franchise, finds its mythological heart and puts it on a monumentally striking canvas. It’s also a parable of failure that’s held a great deal of personal significance for me.

3) Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

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I always forget how great this film is. It’s impressive for sustaining a persistent level of tension with its characters constantly being in danger. Or having to face hard truths about themselves. The valuable gift it’s given this franchise is that the middle chapters can be introspective and personal.

2) Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

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Despite having a few deficiencies, Revenge of the Sith is a tragic and poetic final bow from George Lucas. It’s the one Star Wars film that illustrates why the franchise could be considered glorified silent movies, with some stunning imagery, fueled by John Williams’ powerfully haunting score.

1) Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

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It’s so easy to overlook this film. But its roaring success is more than being the right picture at the right time. Its fusion of Saturday Matinee Serials, Spiritually and World Cinema makes it a winner. It’s also charming, funny, exciting and always a joy to watch.

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Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

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In A New Hope, when Han Solo describes the Millennium Falcon, he says “she’s got it where it counts.” The same could be said of The Rise of Skywalker- an occasionally frustrating and erratic film. However, in its best moments, the final instalment proves to be a soaring love letter to the franchise and its themes. The force is mostly with it.

Touted as a culmination of the Skywalker saga, (comprised of three trilogies worth of films), The Rise of Skywalker takes place a year after the events of The Last Jedi. When the saga’s overarching villain- Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is discovered to be alive and well, our heroes, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) attempt to find the Dark Lord of the Sith. They do this in planet-hopping style by finding various MacGuffins that hold the key to his whereabouts. This is punctuated with Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) persistent force encounters with Rey, who uses them to test the young heroine’s commitment to the Jedi cause.

For a film that’s supposed to wrap up nine films, The Rise of Skywalker is surprisingly light on its feet, often charming with its humour (mostly courtesy of C3P0) and frantic exploration. But, the film does have weight, with a permeating bleakness coming from the heroes’ impossible task of overcoming Palpatine’s final order. This gives the film a great amount of urgency. Characters often have to sacrifice their dreams in service to the larger cause of stopping the ultimate evil.

Although, at times, this aspect is deflated by the film’s persistently cavalier relationship with consequence. There are scenes that commit to an emotional weighty moment and are completely undermined later by a quick fix or explanation. The film’s breathless pacing and excessive amount of plot also mean that some of the new intriguing elements of the film are brushed under the carpet.

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But the film does succeed in creating rousing action sequences, whether it’s the opening space chase that’s fueled by snarky dialogue and amusing scenery changes as opposed to adrenaline. Or the central lightsaber battle that takes place on the ruins of the old Death Star. Aesthetically, it resembles the fiery Mustafar duel in Revenge of the Sith and best represents the cyclical nature of the film series.

In a trilogy that’s showcased, talented young actors: Adam Driver has impressed the most with a delicate balance of ferocious physicality and subdued facial expressions. In the Rise of Skywalker, the actor illustrates the internal strife between Kylo Ren and Ben Skywalker with touching subtlety.

Daisy Ridley adds more shades to Rey, namely, in the form of a shadow version. She takes the inviting aspects of the character and twists them into an animalistic presence. And Ian McDiarmid’s return as Palpatine retains the terrifying stillness that was a memorable aspect of the character in Return of the Jedi.

Above all, The Rise of Skywalker is most at home in its thematic echos of the franchise. Rey’s plight is similar to both Anakin’s and Luke’s final struggles, insofar as she feels likes she’s destined to a fate she can’t change. So, she shies away from it confronting it out of fear.

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This internal strife feels in keeping with a series that’s always used its mythological hero’s journey as a metaphor for burgeoning adolescence. Rey’s journey is a powerful conflict of self-identity. Is she bound by her family blood? Or can she overcome it and achieve a sense of self-actualisation? The film’s persistent questioning and depiction of this struggle are engaging.

In fact, this conflict extends to some of the supporting players, who have to grapple with their place in the wider conflict and story. At one point, Poe asks Lando (Billy Dee Williams), how did you and a small group of people beat a huge Empire? Lando simply says we had each other.

Likewise, Finn through the prism of a new character- Jannah, realises he’s not the only renegade Stormtrooper. In a story that’s had the supremacy of bloodlines and a prophecy of a chosen one, The Rise of Skywalker emphasises the optimism of banding together, and the similarities that unite us.

The Rise of Skywalker is an experience that at times could die a death of thousand nitpicks and continuity questions. I’ve not even begun to process its complicated relationship with The Last Jedi. But it’s a film that has an emotional truth about its characters and themes.

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Editorial: Why I Love Star Wars

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Star Wars is a cinematic bedtime story that I’ve enjoyed since the age of seven. My introduction to the series was a 1995 trailer on the Power Rangers: The Movie VHS. The fast flurry of images that highlighted parts of each film in the Original Trilogy transfixed me like nothing before. At the same time, there was something different about this trailer. It introduced a legacy of films and a sense of something that had been made. This would be my slow realisation of movies as a medium with an extensive process and history.

In Christmas 1997, I had received the special edition of A New Hope. At that point, the film appealed to me because it was about a young man trying to become a pilot. I was amazed by the film’s various aerial sequences. They were made with great imagination and craftsmanship.

At the time, I had no Star Wars toys. However, I used to take vintage RAF planes and pretend they were X-Wings and Tie-Fighters, fighting for supremacy above the skies of my bedroom. A New Hope gave me a temporary dream of wanting to be a pilot and a new outlet to express my imagination.

The film also introduced me to violence. The scene with Ben Kenobi chopping off the arm of an alien in the Cantina, (complete with a lingering shot of the arm with blood smeared on the floor), startled me in a way that no other Disney animated film had before. It illustrated that people in this fairy tale could be hurt quite brutally. This aspect would continue to fascinate me with Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. They had tough sequences that cemented the threat of a Galaxy, Far, Far Away. In many ways, this led to my love of horror cinema, later in life.

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The summer of 1999 represented my Star Wars fandom at its peak. The Phantom Menace had sparked my imagination with its sense of innocence and impressive setpieces. I also related to Anakin. He felt like an unassuming kid who was plucked and put into a long and far-reaching adventure, beyond his wildest dreams.

The film also inspired me to write. At school, we had an assignment where we had to describe our summer holiday. I wrote about my experiences with The Phantom Menace and the mad capped adventures surrounding the hype of the film. Despite being far away from a film review, the experience was liberating. It provided me with a huge amount of confidence and enthusiasm about expressing myself through the written word.

As I got into my teen years, I started appreciating Star Wars as an embodiment of mythic storytelling and mirror of history. This came in the form of a homework assignment where we had to describe and analyse the Joseph Campbell elements of the story (via the characters and events of A New Hope). I was also studying the rise of Totalitarian regimes in the 20th century. The Prequels provided a fascinating prism to view these topics through.

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What’s struck me about the Disney era is how much I opened up to sharing my fandom of Star Wars with others. I had a friend who used to go with me to see each new instalment. Watching the continuing saga through her eyes was an enriching experience.

In 2018, I had the good fortune to appear on an episode of The Wampa’s Lair podcast. I had brought on the topic of what lessons should Rey learn from the past when forming a new Jedi order. The conversation was insightful and fun. And the hosts (Karl and Jason) were exceptionally kind and continue to amaze me with their approach to podcasting and Star Wars. If you’re curious, I appear on episode 296 of the podcast (Jedi Sliding).

Around the same time, Twitter was slowly becoming my primary outlet for expressing my passion for the franchise. Between snappy opinions about various elements of the saga and discussions with some great fans, I also began engaging with the hashtag #ShakespeareSunday. Inspired by a weekly theme, I attempt to pair up a William Shakespeare quote with a GIF or image from Star Wars. My aim is to always find a relevant quote that sheds light on a particular character or element from the films.

There are countless reasons why I love Star Wars. The films are a mixture of high and low art. George Lucas attempted to combine the Saturday Matinee Serials he loved as a kid and the World Cinema he admired as an adult. The famed space franchise also contains a social conscience and universal appeal. They attempt to meld mythology and religion into an accessible and idealistic space ascetic. But above all, they filter lofty ideas of good and evil, through the prism of family drama, making for storytelling that’s grand and personal.

Like the best bedtime stories, Star Wars has been formative for me. It’s given me the courage to be creative, sooth some of the pains of life and introduce me to a larger world of cinema, writing and history.

As we build-up to the end of the Skywalker saga, what do you love about Star Wars? How did you get into the films? Let me know in the comments below. May the Force be with you, always.

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