For this blog, I have conducted a selection of films which I remember attending the pictures to see and which I am the most glad to have watched when they came out. Because I was born on April 1990, I am only including the films that were broadcast/released from that period onwards. Some of the following films were from my childhood. Some are adult. Some are more recent.
- The Flintstones (1994 live-action movie)
Ironically, I don’t remember my kindergarten years that well, but I certainly remember being a fan of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s cartoons, one of them being The Flintstones. One of my great uncles had a large video collection and I think one of the videos included episodes from some of the cartoons. It’s roughly 23 years and I still think their cartoons are awesome, although I find some of the more recent ones i.e. The Powerpuff Girls tedious. So it’s probably no surprise that when I was four, myself and my family attended the cinema to see the live-action version of The Flintstones. I loved it so much, I was completely ignorant regarding the bad reviews the film received and I guess most people were, because The Flintstones became a blockbuster grossing somewhat over $300 million.
I suppose a lot of people hate the film now, but unfortunately, I find it really hard to hate. There are certain elements that bring the movie up; I love how the crew analysed the intro and the outro and staged them. I love how the mise-en-scene’s constructed. I think John Goodman’s portrayal of Fred Flintstone is badass. But it is especially the liberal values that turn me on. Fred and Barney, two quarry workers, take a test and whoever wins the highest score gets promoted to vice president. Fred has struggled, so Barney sacrifices his chance by switching tests with Fred. Fred is promoted, but is ordered by Cliff, his boss, to lay-off Barney. Barney, Betty and Bamm-Bamm (who they only just adopted) struggle with their finances, so the Flintstones allow them to live in their house. However, Fred, after being seduced by Cliff’s secretary, becomes a greedy self-centred jerk and lays-off all the remaining quarry workers, but soon regrets it and realises Cliff’s capitalist schemes.
Many reviewers hate The Flintstones movie due to its ‘over-‘maturity and were/still are so paranoid about the suitability towards children. But that’s what I love about The Flintstones. I think with a few mature issues, i.e. capitalism, financial problems, business and redundancies, this should provide children early learning regarding the adult world. Look at Gerry Anderson’s works. Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet are fairly mature and they’re general family viewing. Even The Simpsons is mature and I don’t mean mature as in swearing and that. In fact, the movie kind of reminds me of The Simpsons. Fred is the regular Homer Simpson. He has a dead end job with low income and an evil boss. Plus he’s quite fat and he’s not very bright. Notice how hard Fred struggles with the test and when later, Barney asks him “what’s 2 + 2?”. That probably makes Wilma the Marge Simpson, considering her domestic… activities. At one time, when she snaps at Fred for making the Rubbles move out, she smashes up some plates and Fred says “It’ll take hours for you to clean that”, portraying him as a lazy lump.
So from a lefty’s point of view, I would recommend at least one viewing of The Flintstones movie, though I should start with some of the episodes of the cartoon. Of course, the fact that John Goodman and Rosie O’Donnell (the actor of Betty) are among the cast and Steven Spielberg (or Spielrock as he was credited) is one of the executive producers isn’t the only reason for its left-wing values. Not many live-action versions of cartoons are that great hence the Garfield and Scooby Doo movies, but in my opinion, The Flintstones movie is the one that will provide us the gayest old time ever!
- The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1996 Disney version)
When I first became familiar with Victor Hugo’s famous story, we had a Commodore 64 that previously belonged to one of my cousins and Hunchback, which was based on the story, was one of the games we owned. Out of all the games we had for this console, Hunchback, which is a very simple game, was one of the games I seemed to play the most. Sometime in 1996, I saw a few trailers of the new Disney film and I thought to myself “I gotta see this movie”. The rest of my family thought the same, considering they too were familiar with the novel.
So sometime during the summer vacation, we attended the cinema to watch The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. After one viewing, we enjoyed it. I fell in love with this yarn. I even had toys given to me; they were small figurines of some of the characters; Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Frollo, Phoebus, Clopin and the three gargoyles. I don’t have those anymore, but memories live on. When we got our first PC, one of the first games we had was based on the film and I frequently played that game. We also bought it on video and I even had a colouring book (yeah I know).
So as you can probably see, I’ve obtained a long obsession with the film. My brother prefers this version to the 1939 version with Charles Laughton in it, but I love that one too. As a kid, I remember citing this along with Fantasia and The Sword In The Stone as my favourite Disney film. I love its mature issues; I especially love Frollo’s romantic (or sexual) feelings for Esmeralda. The music is awesome. Hell, even the backgrounds are so real! Speaking of Frollo, he’s such an excellent Disney villain, I’ve no idea whether to label him or Captain Hook from Peter Pan as the best Disney villain.
Following the then highest grossing animated feature, The Lion King, Disney’s next cartoons were still box office successes, but grossed less money than The Lion King and a few other features released before then. Pocahontas followed; I didn’t see that film until we rented it on video for an evening viewing. The film’s gross amount was between $300million and $400million. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame grossed a little less money (still over $300milllion). However when it comes to film analysing, I don’t care much. I believe The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was a massive improvement compared to Pocahontas. While I consider Pocahontas the weakest Disney cartoon of the 90s, I consider The Hunchback Of Notre Dame the strongest Disney cartoon of the 90s (anonymous reader: “What about the Lion King?”, me: “I like the Lion King too, but… aw shut up.”).
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame is my all-time 4th favourite Disney animated movie.
- Antz (1998)
As some of us know, Antz is the second CG cartoon to have ever been produced, the first being Toy Story. Oddly enough, I didn’t see this film advertised on the TV or billboards or so forth. I know it’s ironic, because Toy Story began a lot of conversation for its techniques. It was December 1998 and my parents wanted to go to the cinema at some point during the Christmas vacation. So on Boxing Day, we went to see Antz and I thought it was quite good. It was swanky, it had a cool soundtrack, it even had a lovely cast; Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Dan Ackroyd, too many to mention.
Now, there was another insect-related CG movie which was released the same year; that was A Bug’s Life, by the same company who did Toy Story. It was like Dreamworks faced a competition with Pixar. I didn’t see A Bug’s Life until my child-minder got the film on video and showed it to us.
Not everybody would agree, but I prefer Antz to A Bug’s Life. The reason is mainly due to the details. I mean literally the film’s details. Both films have animated the characters to scale, but Antz contains a much more realistic tone. The ants each obtain the correct number of arms and legs and are a believable colour. In A Bug’s Life however, the ants have just two arms and two legs and I can’t understand why they have to be blue. It’s like seeing a movie remake of The Smurfs (I love the cartoon, but I dread for a modern version). Plus the dialogue is not that interesting. Antz is totally unforgettable and has demonstrated effort with CGI. Few CG cartoons have followed the example and Antz is to thank for that. If you don’t believe me, check out Beowulf.
- Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Earlier on, I stated my original familiarity with The Hunchback Of Notre Dame through a Commodore 64 game. Well, that’s similar to the Star Wars franchise. One of our games was based on Star Wars and I remember being totally abysmal at the game. What I mean to say is that I kept losing each round and never completed it. Good memories.
Of course I remember parts of my childhood involving viewings of certain Star Wars films of the television. I wasn’t born when the first three films came out, but the next three including Star Wars Episode 1 came out during my time. A lot of people express their distaste with this film when they look back at it. I admit there are a few flaws, but I’m glad to have seen a Star Wars film at the cinema when I had the chance. I think there is some good stuff included.
First of all, ever since the film’s release, feel free to object, I have had a soft spot for Jar-Jar Binks. Call me a dumbass if you want, but I personally don’t understand all the hate-mail directed towards poor old Jar-Jar. As a kid, Jar-Jar was my favourite character. His accent and table manners made me cackle and he still puts a smile to my face. I also admire how well staged the fight scenes are, including the showdown between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul; Constant vaulting, somersaulting and various other gymnastically awesome skills. I also admire the robot designs and find the origin of Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader really interesting.
Now I have to admit, I’m not a great fan of the character of Padme. I found her rather boring and annoying. Yet again though, I can’t blame her much for being boring and annoying. It’s obvious she hates being a queen and ironically as a queen, she doesn’t get the chance of holding authority over anything much. Is it because she’s barely reached 20 yet, I’ve no idea. But I’d still recommend a viewing of this film.
- Chicken Run (2000)
God I love Aardman Animations. Their programmes, including Morph, Wallace & Gromit and Rex The Runt, have made a huge contribution to my childhood. We had every short film of Wallace & Gromit taped off the television and watched them quite frequently. So it was no surprise when we saw the trailer on some BBC channel that Chicken Run really sparked my attention and I was like “I’ve so got to see this movie”.
A day before we saw Chicken Run, I received a pair of socks with the character of Rocky Rhodes pictured on them. The next day, I think I was wearing them while we watched the film. When we saw it, I loved this film to bits. I enjoyed the slapstick, the scene where Rocky rescues Ginger from the pie making machine and the bit where the chickens construct a plane.
Chicken Run has left a massive impact on me since its release. A few years later, I spent some of my Christmas money on a video cassette of the film and I have to admit, I did get rather addicted by it. Later when I did A-Level Film Studies, we had to analyse one of two British films and the messages and values for an exam. The focus films were Chicken Run and Bullet Boy. I chose to study Chicken Run, due to my full familiarity. I guess it wasn’t so hard to study, because I had Chicken Run on VHS and saw it a squid-zillion times (total exaggeration). I knew the messages included ‘work together to achieve goals’, hence the chickens helping each other set up ways of escape, and ‘capitalism can hurt’, hence the farmers using the pie machine to attempt to wipe out the chicken population, and the values included liberation for animals, friendship and the right for freedom.
As a lefty, I would seriously recommend Chicken Run is a film to watch before one dies. It’s like Animal Farm, only more liberal. It’s one of those films which is likely to appeal to those who support animal rights, those who despise capitalism and those who hate it when people feel something painful when working too hard and receive bad treatment (I’m sorry, I don’t know how to re-word it). In fact, I remember feeling touched when the farmers beheaded Edwina and thought “I know how the chickens feel”. Not only does the British humour contribute to Chicken Run as does the constant parodies to The Great Escape and I also love the suspense, but the politics mark an essential aspect to the film. Chicken Run is a definite film for all ages, including children. It doesn’t need any butt jokes or overly cutesy scenes to be an awesome comedy film. This is what Despicable Me relied too much on (shudders). No, never mind those. Chicken Run is a film to enjoy and to be taken seriously simultaneously.
Good work Aardman! You are simply one of the best British film companies to have ever been in business. Thank you for making my childhood.
- 300 (2006/7)
I think 300 was released in the year 2006, but it was March 2007 when I first saw 300. One day, I went on a school trip to the Odeon in Leicester City Centre. The trip was meant to support those studying Film Studies including myself. 300 was the film we were to watch. When I saw it, I felt a little bit cynical and couldn’t understand it much. I questioned the giant rhinos and elephants for I didn’t think they were that huge in reality. I was however impressed with the picture quality.
The next time I watched 300 was three years later when it was broadcast on Channel 5. 300 was much better than I remembered it. The plot made more sense; the film is based on the Spartans at war with the Greeks. The acting was impressive, though I have to admit the dialogue is simplistically corny at times, but I think it’s meant to be corny. I certainly smiled when the lead warrior said “This is where we hold them! This is where we fight! This is where they die!”. I’m certainly impressed with the way the Spartans always manage to win each battle without receiving many scratches. It makes me wish I could be like them. I love the visuals, I love the constant action, I’ve always loved action and war movies. I also love the heavy use of heavy metal music. I really think it fits the whole atmosphere of the film. Hell I even love the colouring.
- Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008)
I had a similar cinematic experience with the Star Wars franchise to the Indiana Jones franchise. The first three Indiana Jones movies all came out way before I was born. Luckily I had managed to catch up with all of them through broadcasts on the television before Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull was screened. When I heard the fourth film was made, I got really excited and watched it with a school-friend of mine who was also a fan of the franchise. When we watched it, the film did not disappoint me one bit.
Most people regard this film as the worst one in the Indiana Jones franchise, labelling my personal favourite, The Temple Of Doom, as the second worst. Call me nuts if you want, but I couldn’t see much wrong with The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. The film takes place in the mid/late 1950s, years after Indy’s constant struggles with the Nazis, which I suppose annoys viewers, because they saw the Indy vs. Nazis war as the recurring theme of the franchise. But it is nineteen years since The Last Crusade and Harrison Ford has been ageing. Surely, there can’t be much wrong with Indy reuniting with his estranged girlfriend from the first film and meeting his biological son who wants to be like his father. Speaking of father/son themes, I often feel sorry for Indy as he observes the picture of his now deceased father, who you may remember from the previous film. What’s really great about The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is the car chase among that mountainside which is plenty to enjoy and make one cringe. Another daring scene involves ants crawling from a pile of sand and it’s like “Oh my god, watch out Indy” and “get out of there, quick”. I also enjoy the thrilling finale and the scene after that; need I say more in case I spoil the ending.
So there’s plenty to enjoy from Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. It may not be exactly Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but there’s enough nostalgia the film provides. I’m definitely glad to have seen an Indiana Jones film on the big screen.
- Robin Hood (Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe version) (2010)
I’m a huge fan of the films based on the famous 12th/13th century liberal hero that is Robin Hood. Since childhood, I’ve especially admired the Disney version. This was always the first film that popped into my head each time Robin Hood was the subject of discussion. It’s also one of the reasons why I became a lefty. I have also seen The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938), Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991) and Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993). All films are great, though Prince Of Thieves is a little bit romantic for me, but it’s a film I cannot dislike one bit.
So it’s no surprise that I got really obsessed when I heard Ridley Scott was directing a new version which stars Russell Crowe as the title character. Ridley Scott is also one of my favourite film directors and I admire such works of his as Thelma & Louise, Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator and Matchstick Men. What really interested me was that apparently, Ridley was not a personal fan of any versions of Robin Hood, except Men In Tights, and my guess was, he decided to portray what he guessed would’ve really happened if/when the hero existed and/or how one of the versions of Robin Hood should’ve looked. Well, me and my dad saw the film and my god, it was amazing! I guess some of you predicted I was going to say that.
Seriously though, Robin Hood was worth the ticket purchase. It’s sort of Batman Begins meets Saving Private Ryan meets, er, Robin Hood. In short, the film pictures the title character’s origin including his involvement in the crusades alongside King Richard. King Richard is killed in battle and his brother Prince John takes the throne. Of course, he isn’t as wimpy and immature as the Prince John in the cartoon, but he is still a rich conservative bigot. Although he does admire Robin Hood’s bravery and the population of Sherwood Forest are still in the middle of the butt-kicking and unfinished war.
The cast are awesome; Russell Crowe provides a smart and slightly different portrayal of Robin. He’s dedicated, he’s smart, he’s tough, he has a “don’t mess with me” persona, he’s sort of like Phil Mitchell in a way. His dialogue is both witty and hard-edged at the same time. Though I do admit, Russell ought to have stuck to one accent during the shooting. I remember my dad pointing out the various accents he used; from New Zealand to Yorkshire to… There’s also a nice British cast to fit the English atmosphere including Mark Addy and Stephen Fry. I also love the cool visuals and how many shots capture the flying arrows fired from the archers either side, a bit like the battle sequences in Mulan and the constant bullet lodging in Saving Private Ryan.
Robin Hood is a smooth visual British epic to enjoy.
- War Horse (2011)
Another movie that was directed by Steven Spielberg. Yeah, I happen to be a huge fan of Steven Spielberg. He is one of my favourite film directors of all time. So I guess it’s no surprise that I was appealed to watch War Horse.
I first became aware of War Horse when I saw an article in the Empire magazine back in 2011. It was released in America the same year, but it wasn’t released in Britain until January 2012. At the time, I was at college and I asked my course-mates if they would be interested in coming to the cinema to see War Horse. Nobody was interested and I usually prefer not to attend cinemas on my own. However I didn’t want to miss out my chance, so I decided to watch it anyway if I had to go alone.
I gave one cinema viewing and I was totally invested. I remember coming out of the auditorium smiling and in tears at the same time. It was a glorious movie.
War Horse is set during World War 1 and is about a British guy who owns a horse, but the horse is forced to join the army, who are in need for forms of transportation. Albert, the horse’s master, does his very best to ensure the horse does not get killed and he enlists in the army himself, for it is the only logical way to keep an eye on the horse.
War Horse is a lot of things that make up a spectacular family-friendly movie. The event is very awesomely researched; though the story isn’t exactly true, there were definitely true stories where many people lost their horses during the war. The film demonstrates not only that war is absolute hell and can be extremely difficult to live through, but it also shows how hard it can be for one to lose/get separated from one’s pet. I certainly felt emotional when Albert was forced to say goodbye to Joey, and when Joey lost a friend to a traumatic death. I won’t give anything away, but the main characters do eventually get lucky.
War Horse is easily one of Steven Spielberg’s finest movies, starring a horse, of course. It’s kind of Saving Private Ryan suitable for family audiences. It’s action-packed, adventurous, dramatic and sometimes humorous. Kids, have a look and see for yourself.
- Lincoln (2012)
Yet another Steven Spielberg movie, but I don’t care, because he rocks!
A year after I saw War Horse, Lincoln came out. Some of my course mates saw the film. I was a bit jealous, because I hadn’t yet. I couldn’t find anybody to go to the cinema with and because I was studying a film-making related course, it was predictable that certain people would give away the ending, so I was like; “better get to the cinema quick, before anybody spoils it”.
So I went to the cinema and saw Lincoln. And I loved it. I especially loved the scene where Abraham Lincoln was receiving a lot of “ayes”, as opposed to being elected as US president, obviously. Yes, this is a biopic film based on Abraham Lincoln and stars Daniel Day Lewis as the title character. He gives a fantastic portrayal. Mind you, he’s been in In The Name Of The Father and The Age Of Innocence. Lincoln is a political historical drama about a Radical Republican who opposes the civil war and campaigns for a new-Republican nation. And yet, Steven Spielberg hates war; hence, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, War Horse and so forth.
I reckon Lincoln could be a perfect movie to show to students who are studying history and/or politics. It’s a smooth period drama which could provide you an education on a famous role model like Abraham Lincoln.
So these are the ten films I am most proud to have viewed at the cinema. As I say, these range from my childhood to my adulthood and I was only including the ones I viewed in the cinemas. Which films have led an impact to your cinematic life?