So how about Halloween huh? An ancient Celtic festival where people believed the barrier between the mortal world and spirit world was at its thinnest – nowadays an evening full of costumes and candy for the kids, costumes and cocaine for the adults. Halloween has always been my favourite holiday and it’s not hard to see why. If you’re a lover of the supernatural and the like, an entire evening celebrating it is like a theme park. As you’d expect, a lot of horror stories are set on the holiday. But a young filmmaker called John Carpenter was surprised when he developed a low budget film about Halloween babysitters being murdered – that the title had not been used before at all. So he eagerly slapped ‘Halloween’ on his latest baby, hoping it’d at least make back its $320,000 budget. Little did he know it would gross $35 million, spawn seven sequels (and a further two rebooted movies) and launch an entire genre. Although Friday the 13th deserves some of the credit, Halloween is the film you can thank for the fact that there’s even a slasher subgenre at all. When watching it, you should also bear in mind that many of the scenes and tropes which are now cliché were in fact invented by this film. But let’s have a look and see how it compares to other more polished slashers that we’re used to today.
Ah, war. What is good for? Well if you’re in the moviemaking business it’s actually a friggin gold mine. War movies have been around since the early days of cinema and they’re one specific genre that has always endured over the years. The first ever Best Picture Oscar in 1927 was for the WWI movie Wings. War as a genre has always been an inherently exciting story. There’s plenty of potential for some really kickass action scenes – bonus points if they actually happened that way in real life. And in the second half of the 20th century, war movies made for great character pieces showing soldiers’ reactions to the madness going on around them. Unsurprisingly some of the highest grossing movies ever made have been about wars. And how about wartime romances? The scripts practically write themselves! What better source for romantic drama than a love interest who risks being killed in battle? Given that war movies kind of need to have a lot of characters, they’re usually magnets for all-star casts. And that’s exactly the case for this famous wartime romance. This is something of a forerunner for films like The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now – detailing the rather unpleasant side of being in the military. Notably despite collaborating on the film, the US Army was not pleased with the final result. So shall we get on?
So who here has ever heard of a Screwball Comedy? It’s a very specific subgenre of comedy. It’s not just, say, a bunch of people caught up in a wacky adventure. Screwball Comedy has a pretty logical story structure, not unlike Slasher Films or Film Noir. The former involves a serial killer stalking a group of teenagers. The latter involves an innocent slowly getting dragged into the darkness of the crime world. Screwball Comedy has to have a couple who are completely mismatched. Usually a man and woman from different social classes works best. They have to be thrown into silly and zany situations, where they’re at odds in the beginning – but ultimately fall in love and end up together. There’s usually plenty of slapstick too. This subgenre was really popular during the 1930s and 40s – and it’s not hard to see why. During the Great Depression, audiences needed a laugh. And the escapist nature of Screwball Comedy was just what they wanted. Bringing Up Baby was not the first of the subgenre – but it’s one of the most memorable. So shall we see what the fuss is all about?
So is Divergent the new Twilight? I remember when the latter came out back in 2008. The first film was actually not that badly received. It had its detractors even then, but the backlash didn’t come until around the time the second film was out. By that time, many of the series’ flaws had become well-known; the shallowness of the romance, the general badness of the writing, the blatant wish-fulfilment in the heroine and several downright scary implications in the story. The fact that the films and books continued to make money just increased the hate towards it. Nowadays, Twilight is kind of like how Disco was for people of the 70s; hugely popular in its heyday, but most people these days will be ashamed to admit they were fans of it. So where does Divergent fit into all of this? I’ve heard comments like “I’d rather watch all five Twilight movies than sit through one minute of Divergent”, or “still better than Divergent” when describing one of the YA adaptations that bombed. Is it because the film is one of many adaptations spawned by the success of The Hunger Games (a problem The Maze Runner experiences too)? I admittedly didn’t see it when it first came out, precisely because it looked like such an imitator. And I only watched it later to see if it was really as bad as everyone said. The fact that it’s got a spot on a list of my favourite films should tell you what I thought. Let’s press on, shall we?
I described this film as a cult classic in my last review, and I suppose that’s sort of true. I mean, critics savaged it when it first came out – but it found its audience eventually. At the same time, I have to wonder if a film can count as a cult classic when it’s also its director’s most successful commercial project? I’ll leave that one up for debate. But anyway, Italian director Dario Argento developed this story from two distinct sources. The first was the screenwriter’s grandmother, who claimed she went to a ballet academy that was later found out to also practice witchcraft. The second was a book, where the film also gets its title from. The book suggested that, since there were the three graces (Hope, Faith and Charity), there had to be an evil counterpart to them. These would be the three sorrows, and Argento developed the Three Mothers to go with them; Mater Suspiriorum (the mother of sighs), Mater Tenebrarum (the mother of darkness) and Mater Lachrymarum (the mother of tears). Each of them plays the villain of a film in Argento’s ‘Three Mothers Trilogy’. This particular film is the first in said trilogy.
So are y’all happy now? After skirting around the comedy genre with Seeking A Friend For The End of the World and Pride & Prejudice, now I have a pure comedy on my list. This one also does not star Keira Knightley. Even back in my teenage years when I was against all comedies, I loved this film. I’ve continued to love it over the years. It’s actually one that doesn’t seem to be that well-known, despite a stellar cast. You’ve got Sigourney Weaver, Jason Lee, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gene Hackman, Ray Liotta and even an early appearance from Sarah Silverman. Something that’ll surprise you even more is where I got the recommendation. My mother of all people told me I’d love this movie. At the age where I was terrified of being caught even looking at a woman in a short skirt, she recommended a raunchy sex comedy to me. You’re probably thinking about how great my mom must be, and then about how great yours all are (that includes the Mr Moms too; I don’t leave anyone out). But how about we meet a mother who’s not so great?
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
So opens one of the most iconic novels from famed English author Jane Austen. Pride & Prejudice is one of those stories that everyone knows. Even if you haven’t read the book or the seen the adaptations, you know the story already. Every romantic comedy ever made has felt its influence in some way. It’s a classic love story; girl meets boy, girl and boy detest each other, girl and boy come around, girl and boy fall in love. The book has been adapted plenty of times – the first of which being a film in the Golden Age of Hollywood starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. The second most notable adaptation took the form of a BBC miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as the leads. It’s been immortalised in comic book form by Marvel, made into a Bollywood musical and even a modernised video blog series. But the adaptation I’ll be reviewing is the one that introduced me to the story – Joe Wright’s Oscar nominated version released in 2005.