Here are the 30 movies that I watched over Christmas

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags , on January 1, 2017 by Ross McG

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I used to do these all the time.

Just after Christmas, I’d rattle through all the movies I’d gorged on over the holidays and whack em up on this blog.

You can read the past ones here, and for me it’s like delving into a personal past I never knew existed; did I really watch Mamma Mia? And ENJOY it?!

There are some equally disturbing entries (doesn’t that sound like an early 90s psychological thriller in the mould of Single White Female… DISTURBING ENTRY) in the list below, because it was bloomin’ Christmas.

You might not watch the best films ever made around Christmas, but you tend to watch a lot of them. I know I do.

As in previous years, I didn’t watch every one of the movies below in their entirety. Some of them, sure, but others were caught for 15 minutes or half an hour – that’s the beauty of the Christmas TV schedule.

Most of the below were seen on TV, and they are listed in the chronological order in which I viewed them.

If you get the chance, give us your Christmas viewing list in the comments below. Happy new year…

1. Love Actually

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Where better to begin my festive watching than with everyone’s most loved/hated Christmas movie? I love Love Actually, actually – and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Okay, I’m a bit ashamed, but as ashamed as I should be.

2. Trading Places

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This has become a pre-Christmas tradition, dusting off the old DVD and lashing it on a few days before December 25. I lapsed last Christmas, but the two-year gap did me good, as this time round it felt even funnier. Clarence Beeks remains the biggest git in movie history.

3. Scrooged

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My mum took me to see this in the cinema, so it will always have a special place in my heart, which is more than can be said for its star, Bill Murray, who reportedly hated it. Sorry, Bill, you’re wrong.

4. 12 Dates of Christmas

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Uh… okay. This isn’t my usual Christmas fare, but it was lurking on Channel 5 on a boring afternoon so I gave it a go. Amy Smart has always been an underrated comedic actress and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (from the amazing Franklin & Bash – and some show called Saved By The Bell) pops up as the romantic love interest and… it’s really not that bad. Really.

5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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From the ridiculous to the sublime. George Roy Hill’s genre-subverting classic wipes the floor with most modern movies. It’s a western where the main hero doesn’t know how to fire a gun and spends most of the running time doing just that: running away (John Wayne would never have played Butch Cassidy). William Goldman’s script still crackles nearly 50 years later.

6. Cool Runnings

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Candy is the man.

7. Holiday in Handcuffs

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Zack Morris isn’t the only Saved By The Beller getting up to some festive antics. In Holiday in Handcuffs, AC Slater is kidnapped by Sabrina the Teenage Witch in a bid to convince her pushy parents that she has a boyfriend for Christmas. It’s absolute drivel, of course, but it killed 20 minutes or so.

8. The Hateful Eight

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Quentin Tarantino’s snowbound chat-then-shoot-em-up is perfect cosy Christmas viewing… as long as you like your turkey’s juices running red. It’s as if the director took the stunning basement bar scene from Inglorious Basterds and decided to make an entire film out of it – and it’s bloody brilliant.

9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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I had forgotten Paul Rudd was in this… and how flipping funny the whole thing is.

10. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

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The Alan Partridge movie is still a bit hit-and-miss, even on a third viewing, but when it hits it hits hard. ‘What’s your favourite siege?’ – ‘Iranian hostage crisis.’ – ‘Me too!’

11. The Vikings

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What’s your favourite movie with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis? If you answered with Spartacus, you’re wrong – The Vikings is where it’s at.

12. The Lady in the Van

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I caught the last five minutes of this, and was left as confused as all hell. Just what the heck was going on?

13. Love Actually

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Yes. I watched Love Actually again. Attack me if you dare, I will crush you.

14. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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PoA finishes with one huge hour-long time-travelling sequence that is exhausting, but it’s also deliciously clever. Hermione’s ‘Does my hair really look like that from the back?’ might be the funniest line in the Potter movies.

15. Pride

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This had me crying bucketloads. The true story of how the LGBT community backed the miners’ strike in the 80s, Pride is rabble-rousing, poignant and hilarious in equal measure, constantly flitting between one of several main characters to always keep you on your toes.

16. Muriel’s Wedding

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I had forgotten how utterly depressing Muriel’s Wedding is until I flicked on the last 40 minutes while late-night Christmas channel hopping, but its depiction of dullness is the film’s secret weapon; life isn’t all bombastic Abba numbers, you know.

17. Death on the Nile

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Just caught the last 15 minutes of this to find out which of the starry cast did it. Peter Ustinov’s Poirot had all the answers, of course.

18. Teen Wolf

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When I was nine, I thought Teen Wolf was the best film ever made and couldn’t possibly be equalled. While I have since learned this not to be the case, it still has its charm. I stayed with it until the classic keg of beer scene, then went outside. I didn’t just watch movies over Christmas, you know.

19. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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A good few Christmases ago, this was the movie that finally convinced me Harry Potter films were worth watching, and it still holds up, thanks to the stirring action of the Triwizard tournament and a really chilling ending.

20. Love Story

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This one I watched in its entirety. I’d always avoided Love Story in the pigheaded belief it was over-sentimental drivel – how wrong was I? Soon-to-be college sweethearts Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw clash in the very first scene and the whole thing unfolds wonderfully from there, right up to its tear-filled ending.

21. Captain America: Civil War

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This was another full watch. In the cinema, I thought Civil War might be the best Marvel movie yet, but its deficiencies become more apparent on a second viewing. It’s still terrific fun, but it might have elevated itself to the Best Superhero Movie Ever title had it contained any sense of jeopardy. At no point do you worry about the fate of any leading character, which is a shame. The airport bit is fantastic, though.

22. Muppets Most Wanted

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I caught the second half of this on telly, and laughed way more than I thought I would at a film containing large chunks of Ricky Gervais.

23. About Time

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I have a feeling About Time really will stand the test of that word in its title. A bit of a gem.

24. Beaches

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Anyone who dismisses Beaches as a throwaway chick flick is an idiot. It’s not a film about women – it’s a film about friendship; and a funny and beautiful one at that. Guaranteed to make a grown man cry, especially at Christmas.

25. The Great Muppet Caper

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How did they do that bicycle bit in Battersea Park?! So brilliant.

26. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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I watched The Force Awakens while building some Star Wars Lego – that’s how cool I am. I obviously like it if I decided to watch it for a third time, but I do hope they dispense with the action and concentrate more on the characters in the upcoming Episode VIII – there’s almost too much stuff blowing up in The Force Awakens. That bit with the upside down Millennium Falcon and the gun turret though… super.

27. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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I love a bit of Potter at Christmas, and Half-Blood Prince is quickly becoming my favourite instalment, mainly because it blends the humour and the darkness so beautifully.

28. 84 Charing Cross Road

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This is a film in which Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft write each other letters. That’s all that happens. And it’s kind of great. Rumour has it Michael Bay is circling the remake.

29. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

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My final Potter fix this Christmas. There are some Harry fans who rate this below the frankly unwatchable first two films, which is grossly unfair. Yes, our heroes spend a good deal of the action off the Hogwarts reservation in a tent, but there are so many memorable sequences, particularly Harry’s return to Godric’s Hollow and the magnificent animated tale of The Three Brothers, which is as powerful as anything else in the entire series.

30. You Again

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You’ve seen them kick Michael Myers’ and the Alien queen’s respective asses – now catch Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver together in a bizarre romcom that also features Betty White, Bobby Ewing and, uh, Hall and Oates. I only saw the last ten minutes, but what a perfect way to round off my Christmas movie viewing.

 

WHICH MOVIES DID YOU WATCH OVER CHRISTMAS? TELL US BELOW…

 

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What would happen if Alan Rickman’s characters in Love Actually and Die Hard switched places?

Posted in BATTLES with tags , , , , on December 16, 2016 by Ross McG

 

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This article first appeared on Metro.co.uk

It’s rather strange, given that he stars in two of the greatest festive films ever made, that Alan Rickman once declared on screen that we should call off Christmas.

Let’s put the late, great Rickman’s bah-humbugging in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves aside for a moment, however, and concentrate on his roles in Love Actually and Die Hard.

These two very different Christmas movies (one says you should follow your heart; the other that you should follow terrorists around in your bare feet) have one thing in common: Rickman rocks.

In Die Hard, he plays Hans Gruber, an exceptional thief and lover of nice suits who uses his benefits of a classical education to hold up Nakatomi Plaza in LA on Christmas Eve.

In Love Actually, he is Harry, a disgruntled middle-aged MD of a design agency who dabbles in a spot of extra-marital flirting with his secretary before holding up a queue in Selfridges in London while buying some jewellery.

In many filmgoers’ eyes, both characters are as villainous as Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham, but have you ever imagined what might happen if Hans and Harry swapped movies?

No? Well that’s too bad, because I have, so you’re just going to have to lump it.

THIS DECEMBER…

COMES A STORY…

ABOUT A MAN…

AND ANOTHER MAN…

AT THE WRONG PARTY…

AT THE WRONG CHRISTMAS TIME…

BRUCE WILLIS IS JOHN MCCLANE…

AND ALAN RICKMAN IS HARRY…

IN…

DIE ACTUALLY

It’s Christmas Eve in Los Angeles. NYPD detective John McClane (Willis) turns up at his wife’s work in Nakatomi Plaza. Little does he know that an armed gang of German thieves have taken over the building. And little does he know that he isn’t the only unexpected guest at the party, pal…

Harry (Rickman) was in the building giving a design pitch to Nakatomi president Joseph Takagi, but couldn’t get out again to catch his flight back to London because someone got stuck in the elevator.

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Now, John and Harry will have to put their differences aside and team up to foil the heist. One enjoys exercising in nothing but a dirty vest; the other prefers a fine wine while wearing a trench coat. Can these two unlikely heroes come together to save the day?

It’s not going to be easy, but taking down terrorists at Christmas never is. It’s time to lock… and load. Let’s find out what happened When Harry Met Johnny.

The pair are kept apart initially by a series of explosive events. McClane, the ultimate lone wolf, must go to the rooftop of Nakatomi Tower to save a group of hostages by waving a machine gun around.

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Harry came out to the coast, got together with someone, had a few laughs (Pictures: Fox/Universal/Metro)

Meanwhile, Harry is downstairs having a dance with Mr Takagi’s new secretary. The conversation turns to seasonal gifts. He quips: ‘Christmas shopping, never an easy or a pleasant task.’

It’s high-octane stuff.

John eventually turns to Harry for help, calling him repeatedly on his walkie-talkie to ask for back-up. Harry, however, isn’t interested.

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That secretary is giving him all the signs so he makes up some lame excuse to McClane and hangs out downstairs a little longer.

John isn’t very happy about this.

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John is obsessed with taking down terrorists, but Harry just wants to get the girl. Christmas is a time for romance, he tells his new pal, even in a tense hostage situation.

In the end, Harry has to make the ultimate choice – does he save his new partner’s life when he is staring down the barrel of a gun, or does he take the chance to pop back down to the party and ask that secretary how far away her apartment is? Or does he just scream like a big baby?

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Harry thinks he and John might need some more FBI guys (Pictures: Fox/Universal/Metro)

Harry’s decision is eventually taken out of his hands, when the secretary reveals she is the mastermind behind the heist. He takes it all in good humour, telling her: ‘Right, the Christmas hostage crisis. Not my favorite night of the year, and your unhappy job to organise.’

She pulls a gun on Harry and it looks like it’s curtains for our unlikely hero, especially as John is picking glass out from between his toes in a bathroom.

But Harry has a surprise up his sleeve… or, rather, taped to his back. He pulls his own weapon and points it at her. They stare into each other’s eyes for a second… squeeze their fingers on the triggers… and then… BAM! They throw their weapons to the ground and embrace, before having one last dance.

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Their love has overcome machine guns, rancid vests, bloody feet and terrorist takeovers.

The lift is finally working again, so they take it down to the bottom floor and prepare to get on that flight back to London.

John is waiting downstairs. Watching them walk out the revolving doors, hand-in-hand, McClane lights a cigarette, smiles and whispers to himself… ‘Happy trails, Harry.’

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FROM ONE OF THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS AND TWO OF THE SEVEN WRITERS WHO BROUGHT YOU DIE ACTUALLY

COMES THE FESTIVE FEELGOOD FILM OF THE YEAR…

ALAN RICKMAN IS…

HANS GRUBER…

IN…

LONDON…

IN…

LOVE HARD

It’s five weeks before Christmas, and the British prime minister David Something (Hugh Grant) is banging on about how great airports are. He obviously hasn’t been through passport control post-Brexit. ‘Love is everywhere,’ he says. ‘Love actually is all around.’

At that precise moment, 27 passengers vomit, and a mysterious figure steps into the arrivals hall.

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It’s Hans Gruber (Rickman), and he has travelled to London to do one thing: pick up some new suits at John Phillips.

But when he spots the prime minister hanging around the airport without his security detail, Gruber seizes his opportunity.

Posing as a German diplomat, he persuades Call Me Dave to bring him back to 10 Downing Street.

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Most. Awkward. Double. Date. Ever. (Pictures: Fox/Universal/Metro)

After the PM has stopped flirting with Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) for a few minutes to concentrate on slightly more important things, like running the country, Gruber pulls a gun on him and subjects him to a humiliating ordeal.

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Gruber has concocted a plan – and the only person who can help him fulfil it is the prime minister. He wants to track down the most annoying people in Britain and erase them from the face of the planet.

Under unspeakable duress and forced to listen to the Girls Aloud cover of The Pointers Sister hit Jump (for My Love) for more than two minutes, Dave cracks and surreptitiously enlists the help of MI5 to allow Gruber to carry out his plan.

Within seconds, the military intelligence agency has supplied the contact information for Britain’s most irritating inhabitants.

Gruber is aghast as he rifles through their files. There’s this guy…

(Picture: Universal)

… and this guy…

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… and this kid.

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Gruber is more determined than ever to complete his mission. He pays a visit to ageing rock lothario Billy Mack (played by Bill Nighy doing Bill Nighy) and makes him dance at gunpoint, just like he did with the PM.

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‘I’m going to count to three… there will not be a four.’ (Pictures: Fox/Universal/Metro)

But the old geezer’s moves make Hans think of the true meaning of Christmas. He spares Bill Nighy (Bill Nighy) but vows to take retribution on jewellery salesman Rufus (Rowan Atkinson).

However, when he arrives in Selfridges, Christmas shopping is in full swing and there’s no way he can kill Rufus in front of so many potential witnesses.

Unfortunately for Hans, MI5 are now on to him, and a dozen agents pile into the department store and a shoot-out ensues.

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Gruber does his best to shoot the glass at the front of the store so he can make his exit, but then someone catches his eye.

It’s Sarah (Laura Linney), and Hans bubby decides he wants to be her white knight. Emitting one last blast of covering fire at MI5’s finest, he dives across the shop floor and whisks Sarah away from danger.

She invites him back to her place and they fall truly, madly, deeply in love. He has a read through Time Magazine while she takes a moment to contain her excitement at meeting such an eligible bachelor.

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And then he turns on the charm…

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… and tells her he wants to give up his life of exceptional theft for her.

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She asks him his name. ‘Bill,’ he says.

‘What, Bill Nighy?’ she asks.

‘No darling. Not Bill Nighy. Bill Clay.’

After spending four weeks together, Hans changes his name legally to Bill and walks out of the deed poll office a new person.

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He and Sarah celebrate by going to a local school’s Christmas production, and Hans/Bill doesn’t kill anyone, not even that little obnoxious kid playing the drums. In fact, he removes the bullets from his gun as soon as he takes his seat.

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Hands up if you love Hans (Picture: Fox/Universal/Metro)

And finally, filled with intoxicating combined joys of love and Christmas, he cannot resist posting an update from his newly renamed Twitter account…

THE END.

OR IS IT….?

AUDIENCES HAVE BEEN LEFT DAZZLED BY DIE ACTUALLY AND LOVE HARD

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AND NOW…

SOME BIG NEWS…

COMING TO CINEMAS AT CHRISTMAS 2018…

DIE, ACTUALLY 2: RETURN OF THE KILLER COMMA

AND…

LOVE HARD 2: HOW GRUBER GOT HIS GROOVE BACK

 

The Harry Potter movies ranked on how Christmasy they are

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags , on December 16, 2016 by Ross McG

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This article first appeared on Metro.co.uk

It used to be Indiana Jones.

Every year I’d burrow my way through my Christmas dinner, then very politely ask if I could be excused from the kitchen table to watch my hero.

In 1987, the BBC trailed their Christmas Day showing of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom so heavily that the film was simply unavoidable.

It was the biggest event in Britain’s history – or, at least, it was to me.

Looking back from an internet age where access to any movie is a finger-tap away, it all feels remarkably quaint. I felt privileged to watch a film at home only THREE YEARS after it had been released in cinemas.

And it was only Temple of Doom! Not even Raiders of the Lost Ark or Last Crusade.

Indiana Jones used to be my staple diet at Christmas, and while he still remains a healthy side dish, he has been replaced as the main turkey course by another hero: Harry Potter.

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without at least one visit to Hogwarts – the amount of snow that falls across the entire Harry Potter saga could be used to solve the Arctic’s climate change crisis.

The world of Potter is a wintry one, even though only four of the eight films in the series were actually released in November – the other half were given a date in either May or July.

But which of the movies gives Potter fans the cosiest Christmas feeling inside?

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

You do know what happens in this one, right? There’s little time for Christmas cheer when people are perishing in battle and Hogwarts is being reduced to rubble.

The sparks from Harry and Voldemort’s wand fight kind of remind me of festive lights (and Return of the Jedi), but that’s about it.

Amazing film, though.

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7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

This is more like it. While a terrible, terrible film, Chamber of Secrets does bring out the big Christmas guns.

A fleet of horse-drawn carriages ploughing a furrow across a white carpet of snow in a bid to out-Narnia Narnia? You got it.

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And what about some indoor drift down the Great Hall of Hogwarts? Here, have some of that.

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6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The pink cardie sported by the terrifying Dolores Umbridge looks like something your gran would grab you from M&S for Christmas, but think of all the blood she has spilled on it over the years while torturing pupils with her Black Quill. It doesn’t really conjure up images of festive fun, does it?

Order of the Phoenix finds more suitable Christmas spirit in Harry’s admittedly ‘wet’ kiss with Cho Chang under the mistletoe.

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Away from the yucky kissy stuff, there’s a heartwarming Weasley family dinner at Grimmauld Place, when Ron gets the usual crap Christmas jumper from his mum. Bless.

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5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Let’s rewind back to the original Harry Potter film now, and that very first crap Christmas jumper.

The Philosopher’s Stone makes Chamber of Secrets look like The Godfather: Part II, such is the ear-piercing shrill of some of its more unrepeatable dialogue, but it comes up trumps in the festive feelgood stakes.

There’s a lovely sequence where we see Hagrid dragging a Christmas tree through the snow…

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… followed by said tree’s decoration by Filius Flitwick.

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This bit is very subtly soundtracked by the Christmas at Hogwarts carol, which contains the choice lyric:

Find a broomstick in your stocking,
Singing you the magic of this place.
Join the owls joyous flocking,
On this merry Christmas Day.

Later, Ron wakes Harry up on Christmas Day for a spot of wrapping ripping. While Ron has to make do with an R-printed pullover from his mum, jammy little Harry gets a flipping invisibility cloak, the Super Nintendo of Potter presents.

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In Harry’s defence, this is effectively his first Christmas, having been subjected to years of seasonal torment at the hands of the Dursleys (previous sample gift: a box of dog biscuits from Aunt Marge), so the poor tyke has every reason to be excited.

Although technically his cloak is more of a hand-me-down; it later emerges that it once belonged to his dad, but was given to Harry by Dumbledore – come on, Albus, you cheapskate, flash some cash next time!

On a more serious note, Christmas provides a powerful backdrop in the Potter movies, because it shows us Harry’s isolation. There’s no tramping off home for festive frivolities for him – with his parents dead, there’s nowhere to go. Hogwarts isn’t just a school to him, it’s his new home.

So when he asks Ron, ‘I’ve got presents?!’, it’s incredibly poignant.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

If the above sequence jerked a few tears from your eyes, then this next one will leave you swimming in a pool of them.

Many Potter fans dislike the first cinematic instalment of the Deathly Hallows, possibly because a lot of the action takes place away from Hogwarts, and possibly because a lot of that action involves kids camping.

But I for one enjoyed the change of scenery and pace, leaving us with only the beautiful Forest of Dean and Harry, Hermione and Ron dealing with the weight of Horcrux-carrying, which in no way reminded me of Frodo’s burden wearing the One Ring whatsoever, no, not at all.

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The best bit, however, is when Harry and Hermione ditch Ron (good for a laugh, but always the least interesting of the heroic trio), for a spot of Christmas Eve graveyard gazing in Godric’s Hollow, the boy who lived’s birthplace.

Sure enough, they stumble across Harry’s parents’ headstone, and his trademark stoicism shines through once again. No overwrought speeches for our Harry – just some sniffling and a ‘Merry Christmas, Hermione’.

When she replies with her own, ‘Merry Christmas, Harry’, it gets me right in the tear ducts every time.

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

From the least loved Potter movie to the fans’ most cherished.

Alfonso Cuarón’s film was the first in the series not to be specifically targeted at four-year-olds, and the move paid off in spades, setting the tone for all the instalments that followed.

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I had forgotten, however, just how Christmasy the whole thing is, from the owl swooping past Hogwarts Castle’s clock tower in deep winter to a cloaked Harry hurling snowballs at Draco and co.

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The film also contains the very seasonal sounding Double Trouble on its soundtrack, which is often confused with another John Williams track – itself a variation of a 1914 arrangement by Mykola Leontovych – called Carol of the Bells. That one was in Home Alone.

2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Also known as Carry on Harry, given how everyone’s hormones at Hogwarts are raging.

And there’s no greater aphrodisiac than Christmas, except maybe a Love Potion.

In the Half-Blood Prince, Ginny Weasley gets into the Christmas spirit by teasing a flustered Harry with the offer of a festive mince pie, and there’s a snowy sequence where Harry, Hermione and Ron share a touching group hug after a visit to the pub (right before Katie Bell gets cursed in arguably the scariest scene of the entire series, but we won’t mention that).

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Proving that Christmas parties are almost always awful, Hermione has a torrid time at the Slug Club do, finally fending off the unwanted affections of Cormac McLaggen, who finds Professor Snape’s shoes with a chunk of projectile dragon balls vomit. Lovely.

What is lovely is that Harry goes to the Slug Club Christmas party with Luna Lovegood – I love Luna!

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Two words: Yule Ball.

Sorry, four words: The Fricking Yule Ball.

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Who didn’t want to attend this sumptuous Christmas feast, the traditional schmoozefest of the Triwizard Tournament? Yes, one of your friends might die in the tournament itself, but at least you can have a last blast at the ball a few nights beforehand.

There are so many ‘YAY!!’ moments in the Goblet of Fire’s dancing extravaganza it’s hard to keep track, but special mention goes to a set of sweet romantic match-ups (Ginny and Neville! Hagrid and Madame Maxime!) and the band for the night, The Weird Sisters (led by Jarvis Cocker).

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But like every school ball you ever went to, it all ends in tears – and, unfortunately for Hermione Granger, they all come gushing out of her eyes.

It’s not surprising that Ron got jealous of her date for the ball, Viktor Krum – the guy can almost turn into a shark – but did floppy-haired Weasley have to be so moody about it?

Hermione’s tantrum on the steps at the end of the night epitomises the trials of a hundred million teenage girls… why do stupid boys have to be so cruel?

HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM HOGWARTS!

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We have invented our own Oscars contender to win Best Picture… The Wham! Men

Posted in NEWS with tags , , , on February 28, 2016 by Ross McG
(Picture: Myles Goode)

(Picture: Myles Goode)

It’s a question asked by countless film producers every year; how do I win an Oscar for Best Picture?

Eight films are in the running for the biggest accolade at the Academy Awards this Sunday, and each contender is very different.

Among the nominees for this year’s Best Picture are a film where a man is stuck on Mars (The Martian); a film where a woman is stuck in a room (Room); a film where a man is stuck in a permanent car chase (Mad Max: Fury Road); a film where a woman is stuck in Ireland (Brooklyn) and a film where a man is stuck inside a horse (The Revenant).

See? All very different.

But if you look through the Best Picture winners of the past 30 years – from Out of Africa to Birdman – patterns do emerge.

THIS POST FIRST APPEARED ON METRO.CO.UK

So we decided to dissect the information on those 30 previous winners and pinpoint what exactly makes a Best Picture.

The result is our own movie, complete with a title, a director, a cast, a setting, a genre and a running time, which we are hoping could go into pre-production immediately and make a tilt at the Academy Awards in 2018 – you read about it here first.

This is how we crunched the Oscar numbers to create our own Best Picture contender…

THE DATA

Here is what we’re working with; the list of the Best Picture winners released between 1985 and 2014 (this weekend’s Oscar contenders are 2015 releases). Let’s have a look at them in reverse chronological order:

1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

2. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

3. Argo (2012)

4. The Artist (2011)

5. The King’s Speech (2010)

6. The Hurt Locker (2009)

7. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

8. No Country for Old Men (2007)

9. The Departed (2006)

10. Crash (2005)

11. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

12. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

13. Chicago (2002)

14. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

15. Gladiator (2000)

16. American Beauty (1999)

17. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

18. Titanic (1997)

19. The English Patient (1996)

20. Braveheart (1995)

21. Forrest Gump (1994)

22. Schindler’s List (1993)

23. Unforgiven (1992)

24. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

25. Dances with Wolves (1990)

26. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

27. Rain Man (1988)

28. The Last Emperor (1987)

29. Platoon (1986)

30. Out of Africa (1985)

Before you ask, we’re going to call last year’s Best Picture by its simple name Birdman – the film is the only Best Picture winner in Oscars history to have parenthesis in its title.

RUNNING TIME

To work out our movie’s length, we’re going to grab the average running time of the Best Pictures from the past 30 years. Can you guess which movies in that list help beef up that average?

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (201 mins)

2. Schindler’s List: (197 mins)

3. Titanic (195 mins)

4. Dances with Wolves (180 mins)

5. Braveheart (177 mins)

Only six of the 30 last Best Picture winners have a runtime under two hours. People hate on Driving Miss Daisy a lot – it’s often described as the worst Best Picture in history – but at least, at a mere 100 minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

So no matter what happens, our proposed movie is going to be over the two-hour mark. Make sure you go to the loo beforehand.

THE DIRECTOR

clint

John Ford has the most Best Director gongs in Oscars history with four, so he would be an obvious choice to helm our film, but he died in 1973. Dammit!

Of the more current crop of directors, it’s quite hard to narrow down a candidate – the past 21 winners of the Best Director Oscar have all been different, which is rather amazing.

There have been three double winners in the past 30 years – Oliver Stone, Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg. We’re going to have to hire one of them. But what we want is the director who has directed the most films that have also won Best Picture. And that’s Eastwood.

Because no one really knows what a director does, the Academy drools all over one particular type of director; the director who is also an actor.

Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson and Ben Affleck have all tasted success by combining the two roles.

THE CAST

Who do you think has starred in the most Best Picture winners recently? Clooney? Kidman? Day-Lewis? Streep?

Nope. Not even close. If we want our film to win Best Picture in 2018, we need to hire the guy who shares a first name with what you shout at your cat when you’re trying to usher it out of the kitchen.

We’re talking, of course, about Scoot McNairy, who broke through in Monsters and is soon to be seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a terrific actor who has the midas touch when it comes to recent Best Picture winners.

scoot

He was in Argo in 2012 and 12 Years A Slave in 2013, both Best Pictures, and was cruelly denied a hat-trick last year by Birdman… although it was unlikely that Liam Neeson actioner Non-Stop was going to whet the Academy’s appetite in 2014 – the only award it was nominated for was a Golden Trailer. It didn’t win.

So we have to have Scoot McNairy, even in a cameo, because he’s a good luck charm. And if we can’t get Scoot McNairy, we have to bag John Goodman.

Before Scoot McNairy came along, there was John Goodman. Like McNairy, Goodman was in Argo, but he was also in the previous year’s winner, The Artist.

But, however brilliant both McNairy and Goodman are, they’re not A-list. We need some star power for our Oscars contender.

We could go with Morgan Freeman, as he has starred in three Best Pictures; Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby and Driving Miss Daisy, but he might be too old for the central role that usually secures Oscar glory.

The great Guy Pearce also has form, appearing in both The Hurt Locker and The King’s Speech. Tell the truth, you’d forgotten he was in The Hurt Locker, hadn’t you?

But to really increase our chances, we need to go British. And we’re not talking about Eddie Redmayne. He may have won Best Actor last year, but he’s yet to star in a Best Picture.

We need to go to two more established thesps; the company of Firth & Fiennes.

Colin Firth has been in three Best Picture winners; The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love and The King’s Speech.

firth

Ralph Fiennes starred in Schindler’s List, The English Patient and The Hurt Locker. Tell the truth, you’d forgotten he was in The Hurt Locker, hadn’t you?

Firth… Fiennes… that will roll off the tongue nicely when reading the poster.

Sadly, what we won’t be doing is making a film that is built around a female lead role. A female character hasn’t been at the heart of a Best Picture since Million Dollar Baby in 2004, although Chicago, Titanic, Shakespeare in Love and The Silence of the Lambs all had juicy roles for women.

Meryl Streep has been in three Best Pictures, but Out of Africa in 1985 was the most recent, although the Academy loves her.

In the past few years, the likes of Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis, Rooney Mara and Jessica Chastain have been battling for the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards, so we may need to cast one of them.

But the unfortunate truth is that Best Picture is a man’s world, and yes, before you ask and allude to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, it’s also a white man’s world.

THE GENRE

gump

When you cynically set out to make a Best Picture like we’re doing, you can’t just pick any old type of story.

What we can’t produce is a horror movie – only The Silence of the Lambs can be classed as such among the Best Picture winners of the past 30 years, unless you’re being particularly unkind to Forrest Gump.

Making our movie a musical is also out, as Chicago’s success at the 2003 ceremony was a one-off in the modern era.

People moan that comedies don’t win Best Picture and yet Birdman, Shakespeare in Love, Forrest Gump, The Artist and (unintentionally) The Departed all have laugh-out loud moments.

But in the end, we have to go with a drama. We can show a bit of adventure and a bit of laughter, but mainly we will be tugging at heartstrings.

THE SETTING

While Middle Earth worked as a backdrop for the Oscars-laden The Lord of  the Rings: The Return of the King, Academy voters usually like to keep it real.

Which is distinct from keeping things contemporary – it is rare for a modern story to sweep home the Best Picture Oscar – Birdman was something of an anomaly in more ways than one last year.

This means we need to set our movie in the past – it can be the recent past; look at Argo – but it has to be the past.

THE SUBJECT

rainman

Our hero – and yes, it is a hero not a heroine if we want to bag Best Picture – must overcome some kind of adversity. He must go from an underdog to a champion.

Argo is an underdog movie, as is Birdman in its own way, while The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Million Dollar Baby, The Return of the King, Gladiator, Titanic, Forrest Gump and Rain Man all feature a protagonist who battles against the odds and wins. Or drowns in icy waters after being selfishly excluded from a floating door that has PLENTY of room on it ROSE!!

THE HERO

And that hero can only have one name if we want to guarantee Oscar success. He has to be called… GEORGE.

Since 1985, there have been six actors nominated for Best Actor who played a character called George.

Peak George came between 2009 and 2011, when Firth (King George VI) and Jean Dujardin (George Valentin) both won awards for their Georges.

The year before winning for The King’s Speech, Firth had another George that lost out to Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart – George Falconer in A Single Man.

THE TITLE

beauty

Now we get to the hard part.

To win Best Picture, you need a catchy title, but you also need a certain type of title. First, the number of words is important.

Of the 30 previous winners, 10 have three words in their title, 9 have just one word and 7 manage with two.

In that case, let’s opt (narrowly) for three words. And one of those words is going to be a ‘The’, because it pops up in 8 Best Picture successes.

But what do we put in that title after THE?

Answer? As many ‘A’s as we can. Almost every Best Picture has loads of ‘A’s.

AmericAn BeAuty

12 yeArs A SlAve

RAin MAn

It’s all about bringing your A game.

In the early ’90s, all a producer had to do to win Best Picture was stick an animal in the title (Dances with Wolves, The Silence of the Lambs), but that pattern died as quickly as it started.

Getting the main character’s name in the title is usually helpful – see Shakespeare in Love, Forrest Gump, Schindler’s List, Driving Miss Daisy, The King’s Speech and the Return of the King.

Apparently, it also helps if your main character is a king.

We’ve said it already, but what really works is if your main character is a man, so why not get ‘man’ in the title, like Rain Man, Birdman or even No Country For Old Men.

 

THE REVEAL…

AND SO, AFTER CONSIDERING ALL OF THE ABOVE DATA, WE HAVE CREATED A MOVIE TO GO INTO PRODUCTION AND WIN THE BEST PICTURE OSCAR IN 2018.

AND HERE IT IS….

 

Pictures: REX / Credit: MylesGoode

Pictures: REX / Credit: MylesGoode

CLICK HERE TO TO ENLARGE POSTER

(Image by Myles Goode)

The Wham! Men looks pretty awesome, right?

It has Colin Firth as George Michael; Ralph Fiennes as Andrew Ridgeley; John Goodman as Elton John; Scoot McNairy as Bob Geldof and Meryl Streep and Viola Davis as pop duo Pepsi & Shirlie.

It will be directed by Clint Eastwood and will have a running time of 139 minutes, which is the average length of a Best Picture winner for the past 30 years.

Let’s look at why we ended up deciding to produce a movie about Wham! – the best band of the 1980s.

a) It’s got three words, a ‘The’, an ‘A’ and some ‘men’ in its title.

b) Its lead character is a guy named George.

c) We had to have Firth and Fiennes in the lead roles – they have five Best Pictures between them.

d) We want to create some history of our own; no film with an exclamation mark in its title has ever won Best Picture.

e) It’s the story of two friends who make it to the top, only to go their separate ways not long after Live Aid.

f) It’s a story set in the relatively recent past.

g) It’s a real life story.

h) The Wham! Men will set us up perfectly for the sequel that follows George Michael’s solo career. We think we might just call that one… FAITH.

Leonardo DiCaprio and 10 other actors who should have an Oscar

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags , on February 27, 2016 by Ross McG

rev

‘And the Oscar goes to… Leonardo DiCaprio!’

You can expect to hear those words echo around the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood this Sunday, as, after years of waiting, Leo finally gets his hands on an Oscar.

DiCaprio is a hot favourite to pick up Best Actor for his performance in The Revenant, in which he writhes around in the mud a lot and gets a little too cuddly with a bear.

It’s somewhat strange that DiCaprio will (likely) win his Oscar for a role which requires him for long stretches to simply lie in a stretcher. All of his great previous performances, whether it’s proclaiming himself ‘king of the world’ in Titanic or snorting copious amounts of drugs in The Wolf of Wall Street, have been kinetic and dynamic. In The Revenant, he does most of his acting with his eyelids.

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON METRO.CO.UK

DiCaprio is set to be crowned after missing out on an acting Oscar on four previous occasions, for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond and The Wolf of Wall Street.

It’s looking like fifth time lucky for Leo, but until Sunday night at least, he’s not the only great actor out there who has yet to win an Oscar.

You won’t believe that none of this lot have been honoured by the Academy.

1. Tom Cruise

cruise

The current incarnation of The Cruiser is known for strapping himself to planes and scaling the world’s tallest buildings, but his action man tendencies hide some huge acting chops.

Cruise has come close to Oscar glory with three nominations, each telling its own story. You can’t argue with his performance in Born on the Fourth of July losing out to Daniel Day-Lewis’s in My Left Foot at the 1990 ceremony, but he really should have pipped Geoffrey Rush in the almost forgotten Shine with his brilliant meltdowns in 1996’s Jerry Maguire.

And don’t get me started on Cruise losing out on Best Supporting Actor in 2000 after his amazing work in Magnolia (‘RESPECT THE COCK’) was pipped by Michael Caine’s awful New England accent in sentimental tosh The Cider House Rules.

2. Keira Knightley

keira

I don’t get the backlash against Knightley and I never will. ‘Oh, she’s always in period dramas!’ her detractors cry, a bit like shouting ‘Oh, you’re always cutting inside from the wing and shooting!’ at Cristiano Ronaldo.

In the early part of her career, Knightley was great in costume dramas – so what if she played to her strengths?

She’s been nominated twice for Oscars – for Best Supporting Actress last year in The Imitation Game (sorry, Cumberbatchers, she was the best thing in it) and for her wonderful turn as Lizzy Bennett in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice.

But it’s her work in The Duchess, Begin Again and the astounding – and astoundingly overlooked – Never Let Me Go that stands out. She’ll get her Oscar soon.

3. Harrison Ford

ford

How do you get nominated for an Oscar when the world knows you as not one but two movie icons; Indiana Jones and Han Solo?

Well, Harrison Ford managed it with what is probably the best performance of his career – as John Book, the cop among the Amish in Witness (1985). At that point in his career, Ford thought he was done with Solo and wanted to pursue more challenging roles.

This saw a terrific run of late ’80s movies that saw him in The Mosquito Coast, Frantic and Working Girl. He was also terrific in Air Force One and Patriot Games, but political action movies don’t really attract Oscar attention.

In an ideal world, the Oscars would ditch their stuffiness and reward performances that change the course of film history. Ford could have been nominated for his turns in both Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade, mainly because he just WAS Indiana Jones.

4. Winona Ryder

ryder

Ryder has a Golden Globe, but – PAH! – who wants one of those? If Hollywood stars keep their Oscar statuettes in their bathrooms, you can guess where they flush their Golden Globes.

Nominated at the Academy Awards in 1994 for Best Supporting Actress (The Age of Innocence) and Best Actress (Little Women) the following year, Ryder probably should have had nods for Edward Scissorhands, The Crucible, Heathers and Black Swan.

But not Alien: Resurrection though, no way.

5. Samuel L Jackson

jackson

When he’s not SHOUTING REALLY LOUDLY, Samuel L Jackson is a damn fine actor. HELL, HE’S A DAMN FINE ACTOR WHEN HE’S SHOUTING TOO!

Cruelly overlooked in his one Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for Pulp Fiction, Jackson could easily have been nominated for more of his collaborations with Quentin Tarantino. He was sensational in Jackie Brown and absolutely magnetic amid the bloodbath in this year’s The Hateful Eight.

It would be worth giving him an Oscar just to hear his speech.

6. Jessica Chastain

FILM_REVIEW-ZERO_DARK_THIRTY_CAPH692-2012NOV30_195623_827.jpg-AY_98909035.jpg

Jessica plays it cool until her Oscar arrives (Picture: Columbia)

There was a period between 2011 and 2012 in which Jessica Chastain was in every film ever made, which was understandable given she was the best new actress on the block.

Nominated twice for The Help and Zero Dark Thirty, her name in a cast list is always a mark of quality.

Even her non-Oscar chasing stuff excites – check out gripping horror Mama.

7. John Malkovich

malkovich

He was in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which is perhaps the only reason the Academy haven’t given John Malkovich his Oscar.

Two nominations is unworthy of an actor of his talent. He wasn’t even shortlisted for his stunning work in Dangerous Liaisons (1988), a crime in itself, but not to be nominated for his role as himself and various versions of himself in the bonkers Being John Malkovich (1999) was nothing short of a travesty.

If I had my way, he would also have been recognised with a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his sterling work as Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom in Con Air, but I can sort of understand why the Academy chose to overlook it.

8. Glenn Close

close

Malkovich’s co-star in Dangerous Liaisons did receive a nomination for Best Actress, but was unlucky to come against Jodie Foster in The Accused.

That is just one of six nominations which have failed to materialise into a statuette for Close, so quit your whining, Leo.

When nominated for her bunny-boiling in Fatal Attraction a year before Dangerous Liaisons, she lost out to Cher, back in a time when Cher was a serious actress – and a good one.

9. Brian Cox

cox

Not only has Brian Cox never won an Oscar, he’s never even been nominated for one, remarkable when you consider he is in every film released between 1994 and 2015.

But just because he’s prolific doesn’t mean he’s not fantastic.

Cox’s brilliance stretches all the way back to 1986 and Manhunter, in which he played the original Hannibal ‘Lecktor’, and runs right up to 2008 prison drama The Escapist, which gives him a rare and deserved starring role.

With his output of two films per week, he’s bound to bag an Oscar soon.

10. Amy Adams

adams

Leo is also out-nommed by Amy Adams, quickly turning into the Meryl Streep of her generation. Unlike Meryl, however, Adams doesn’t have an Oscar.

What’s often forgotten about Streep is that despite winning two Oscars from her first four nominations, for Kramer vs Kramer and Sophie’s Choice, she then went on a 12-nod losing streak that was finally broken by 2012’s The Iron Lady. Three wins from 19 nominations isn’t that great a haul, bizarrely.

Anyway, that’s what could be ahead of Adams if she keeps up her success rate, following nominations for Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter, The Master and American Hustle.

It’s surely only a matter of time before she’s taking home an Oscar statuette.

What if The Goonies had Twitter

Posted in NEWS with tags , on May 21, 2015 by Ross McG

goonies

Here’s a piece I did over on Metro.co.uk this week, exploring what might have had happened if the members of The Goonies had access to smartphones and Twitter when they were hunting One-Eyed Willy’s treasure and fending off the Fratellis.

You can read the post by clicking HERE.

Or you can go directly to the Twitter timeline of the entire plot of The Goonies by clicking HERE.

Big thanks to Sean Astin (Mikey), Jeff Cohen (Chunk) and Corey Feldman (Mouth) who already tweeted links to the article.

It’s the 30th anniversary of The Goonies in a few weeks.

GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE

The best and worst Bond villains from 23 movies

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags on December 5, 2014 by Ross McG

blofeld

We got some new Bond villains this week. Details of the next Bond movie – Bond 24 – were officially announced.

The film, which will hit cinemas next year, is called Spectre and will feature Daniel Craig as James Bond for the fourth time.

He will be joined by new cast members Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser; Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra; Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann; Dave Bautista as Mr Hinx and Andrew Scott as Denbigh.

Waltz’s character is rumoured to be something of a ruse: he is expected to be the next Blofeld in Spectre.

Getting Bond villains right is a tricky science. If one element is just slightly out of place, you end up with a turkey – but get it right and you have Bond gold.

Here is the list of the worst and best Bond villains across the 23 movies in the series so far. Let’s start with the worst…

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David Fincher’s movies ranked from 1 to 9

Posted in TOP FIVES with tags on October 1, 2014 by Ross McG

Fight Club (1999) Edward Norton and Brad Pitt (Screengrab)

David Fincher’s new film, Gone Girl, an adaptation of the bestseller by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the script for the movie, is out this week.

In a few years, it will be interesting to see where Gone Girl sits in Fincher’s body of work. Because in his case, it takes a few years and plenty of sittings to digest his films.

Some of them – most notably Fight Club – have been famously written off on release, only for critics to change their minds further down the watching road.

Film critics, eh? They haven’t a bloody clue.

Bloody clues are what Fincher’s movies are all about, and Gone Girl is no different. But what is the director’s best work to date? Begin the countdown.

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