My Top 5 Most-Read New Posts in 2016

…and why I think they made the cut.

5) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition
Reviews of alternate cuts always seem to do well for page hits, especially when they’re new releases.

4) The Last Dragonslayer
This had just been on TV, and in fact was repeated on the night I reviewed it; plus there were some retweets. Also, as a TV movie I’d guess it was less widely reviewed, so if you’re looking you’re more likely to find me.

3) Starman
Posted this when it was on Film4 and it got retweeted by their official Twitter account. Normally that’d be enough to get it #1, I think, but not this year.

2) The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
Again, it was on TV the night I reviewed it. And, again, a TV movie… though there were quite a lot of reviews when it aired in the US. Advantage of being in the UK, then, maybe.

1) The Witches of Eastwick
No idea.

The Delayed Monthly Update for April 2016

I was away this weekend and didn’t have much time for blogging, and most of what I did have was spent finishing 1999 Week, so that’s why this post is later than normal (and also why I have plenty of your posts & comments still to catch up on!)

(Also-also, if you were wondering where the “top films of 1999” post I promised had got to, I wrote about three-quarters of it before I decided it was rubbish, so I abandoned it. I’m sure I’ve published lots of rubbish on this blog over the years, but never deliberately.)

Anyway, on with what I watched in April…


#68 Of Human Bondage (1934)
#69 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
#70 Cool World (1992)
#71 Warrior (2011)
#72 The Limey (1999)
#73 The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
#74 Election (1999)
#75 The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984), aka Wu Lang ba gua gun
#76 Ghosts of Mars (2001)
#77 Caesar Must Die (2012), aka Cesare deve morire
#78 300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
#79 Lost River (2014)
#80 The Fighter (2010)
#81 Wuthering Heights (2011)
#82 A Royal Night Out (2015)
#83 Locke (2013)
#84 Maleficent (2014)
#85 Christine (1983)
#86 The Iron Giant (1999)
#87 Badlands (1973)
#88 Pixels (2015)

.


  • This is the earliest I’ve ever reached #75 — the previous best was 1st June, last year.
  • Coincidentally, I reached #75 this year on the date that I reached #50 last year (8th April) — which at the time was a record.
  • “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen” continues at pace with Brad Bird’s popular animated B-movie homage The Iron Giant. I’ve already reviewed it here.
  • Four films from 1999 this month. We know what that led to.


For the fourth month in a row, I’ve crossed the 20 film boundary. Out of 112 months I’ve been doing this, it’s only the 7th time that’s happened. Expressed another way, it only happens 6.25% of the time; before 2016, it only happened 2.78% of the time (and before 2015, it only happened 1.04% of the time!)

The final number of films this month was actually 21, which is slightly behind the 2016 average — but only slightly, because that was 22.3. It’s now adjusted to a round 22. Conversely, being five films better than April’s previous best, it raises the April average from 8.25 to 9.67.

Predictions are typically futile, though it’s beginning to look like I’ll be away for most of December, which throws an interesting variable in the mix. (I say “interesting” in a relative sense.) Of course, “most” is not “all”, so it likely won’t count for 0 — but will it reach the 10-per-month minimum I’ve been holding steady on for nearly two years now? Well, that’s a discussion for December itself. In the meantime, even if December doesn’t reach 10, my final tally should be in excess of 160 — easily enough to score the second best year ever. If I hew closer to that 22 average, 2016 could wind up passing 250…



Foreign deconstructions of American values, genre revisionism, high camp, one of the greatest Bond films, and paternal revelations — it’s all go in this month’s eight favourites!



The 11th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Quite an easy choice this month. Films that are made ‘artily’ (for want of a better word) sit on a fine line, for me: too far one way and they tip off into pretentious dullardom, but get it right and they can be utterly fantastic. A couple of films erred on the right side of that line this month, thankfully, but only one really nailed it, and that was The Limey.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Even in a month that includes multiple critically-reviled films (Cool World, Ghosts of Mars, Lost River, Pixels), my pick for this category was really easy — and it’s none of those. This winner’s predecessor wasn’t exactly high art (far from it), but it had something to it — some innovation; some merit in its extremeness. This sequel doesn’t have that. For being almost entirely vacuous and looking cheap as chips, this month’s travesty of cinema is 300: Rise of an Empire.

Most Inexplicably Popular Film of the Month
I’m going to steal a bit from the draft of my forthcoming review to explain this one: “The weirdest thing is, this is the kind of movie I regularly give 4-stars to, while loads of other people give it 3 and I think they’re being a bit harsh but I can see where they’re coming from. Yet somehow Warrior transcends such criticism from people who usually have too much ‘taste’ — they acknowledge it’s terribly clichéd, but then give it a pass on that. Why? Why don’t you give the same leniency to the tonnes of other movies you cruelly rip to shreds for their clichés?” (For more on this theme, see table9mutant’s review.)

Most Critically-Reviled Film of the Month That I Actually Really Enjoyed
As I alluded to above, there are several contenders for this trophy (not Cool World, though — that is rubbish). Leaving aside a couple of sci-fi blockbusters that, while not as bad as many critics made out, are still not really more than “entertaining while they’re on”, the winner here is Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River. Heavily influenced by other filmmakers, certainly, and almost self-consciously elliptical with its pace and storytelling, I nonetheless thought there was a lot to like if you’re open to ‘that kind of film’ (think Lynch).

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Thanks to a retweet by Film4, views for Starman went through the roof (relative to my normal posts, anyway). It wasn’t enough to challenge Harry Potter 1&2 for the most-viewed post of the month overall, but then nothing ever is.


Once upon a time, I made a comment that can be summarised as, “Perhaps one day I could reach #100 in May — ha ha ha ha ha, like that could ever happen!”

Well…

Starman (1984)

2016 #14
John Carpenter | 115 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English | PG / PG

In this sci-fi romance, an alien intercepts the invitation included on the Voyager 2 space probe and tries to visit Earth, but is shot down. Taking the form of Karen Allen’s recently deceased husband, Jeff Bridges, he forces her to drive him to Arizona, where his people will rescue him in three days — if they can escape the attention of the government agents chasing them, anyway.

Starman can most pithily be summarised as “John Carpenter does Steven Spielberg”. Almost literally, in that it’s like a cross between E.T. and Always: Bridges’ comical alien learns Earth customs while trying to get home, and Allen’s widow deals with her bereavement while her husband is still ‘there’ (sort of). Of course, Always was actually made five years later, but Columbia Pictures in fact turned down the project that would develop into E.T. in favour of this movie. That’d be E.T., the highest-grossing film of all time for 11 years. Oops.

Although it may not have been the same box office hit or developed into the same cultural touchstone, Starman is certainly not a bad movie. Bridges negotiates a fine line between alien and mannered as the titular visitor who speaks faltering English and struggles with our ways, and I’d argue he always comes down on the right side of said line. Oscar voters certainly agreed, rewarding his performance with a Best Actor nomination (he lost to F. Murray Abraham for Amadeus). Allen is an engaging presence also, and between work like this and Raiders of the Lost Ark it’s a wonder she wasn’t a bigger star.

The film is an oddity on director John Carpenter’s CV, which came about due to The Thing being a box office disaster — Carpenter needed to make a very different kind of movie so he could keep getting work in Hollywood. Nonetheless, Carpenter’s horror roots are on display: there are stalking POV shots as the alien arrives at Allen’s house, and then it grows a human body, a sequence in which the ugliest (prosthetic) baby you’ve ever seen stretches and creaks as it grows into an adult in mere minutes. It’s pretty freaky. Indeed, as per the BBFC, Starman “contains mild language, sex, violence and sci-fi horror”, but is rated PG. Ah, the good old days!

Though it may not quite be a genre classic, the recently-announced remake from Shawn Levy, director of Night at the Museum, Date Night, and Real Steel (not to mention the lambasted Pink Panther reboot) seems ill-advised. While I liked the two of his movies I’ve seen well enough, Levy is a long way from being a John Carpenter, and I don’t envy whoever gets the lead role — copy Bridges and you’ll likely be a pale imitation; do something different and you’ve got to measure up to a very effective take on alienness.

On the bright side, maybe it will shine more attention on this half-forgotten original. I only watched it because I was on a bit of a Carpenter kick and it was available on Netflix, but I’m glad I stumbled across it.

4 out of 5

Starman is on Film4 at 6:45pm today.