So this week marks the first birthday of Screen Goblin. Over the last year we’ve brought you reviews of a huge range of films; from X-Men to X-Men 2, from Oldboy to the Oldboy remake, at Screen Goblin we have left no stone unturned, no film unwatched, and we’ve loved every minute of it. Except The Girl with the Pearl Earring. That almost made us give up. So to mark our first year, here’s a look back at some of our best reviews. A review of reviews, if you will. Join us as we look at the best of the best and the worst of the worst of our 360-odd posts from the last 12 months. Enjoy.
We’ve visited cinemas everywhere from the green leafy parks of Cambridge to the grey industrial parks of Stevenage, to bring you reviews of all the exciting new releases, usually just before they disappear from cinemas as if by magic. And talking of magic, let’s take a look back at James Wan’s The Conjuring, just like future generations won’t.
It’s not all been bad though, and the past year has given us some pleasant surprises at the cinema, and I’m not talking about finding half a bag of popcorn under the seat. Liam Neeson took to the skies in the non-stop madness of Non-Stop, which was just plane fun. Just to contextualise one of the jokes, this was the same week that Lupita Nyong’o won her Oscar for 12 Years a Slave. The rest are about planes.
From Liam Neeson-on-a-plane to Tom Hardy-in-a-car; Steven Knight’s profoundly self-contained Locke was an impressive feat of writing, grounded by a beardy Hardy speaking very softly on the phone, with a Welsh accent, about concrete. Or in Welsh, “conk-reet”.
You might not have heard of John Otway, “rock and roll’s greatest failure”, but luckily this documentary is on hand to tell you all about it. I was lucky enough to go to a screening introduced by Otway himself, who is basically the Frank Spencer of the musical world. You may remember me reviewing a film about the worst movie ever made, Troll 2. But while The Best Worst Movie was enjoyable enough, it can’t beat Otway for sheer likeability. Check out my review of Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure: Otway the Movie.
From one failure to another, this time instead of a hapless man trying to make a success of his life, we see two hugely successful men stripping down to their shorts for a geriatric boxing match. That’s right, it’s Stallone vs. De Niro in Grudge Match, which was far more fun to review than to watch. Check it out.
In case you’re scared of ever going to the cinema ever again after reading that, check out Her, one of the best films this year, and also one of my favourite positive reviews.
We like to delve into the Screen Goblin archives and dig out an old classic or some forgotten film that’s been forgotten for good reason. Disturbia, for instance, stars Shia LaBeouf, a man whose recent attempts to quit public life have had the adverse effect. It’s almost as if he’s doing it deliberately…
From LaBeouf to Le Carré, whose novel The Constant Gardener was presumably made into a film in order to compete for the title of worst named movie of all time. Actually, since writing this review I’ve learnt that “constant” can mean steadfast or resolute, as well as continuous. But I still think it’s a terrible title. You could say I’m constant in that opinion.
But we don’t hate everything we watch. Sometimes, very rarely, we’ll be nice about a film and be filled with an enthusiasm which is quickly demolished by our next trip to the cinema. Since 1988, Heathers has only grown in cult appeal, thanks to its scathing satire, cool cruelty and endless quotability. Lick it up baby, lick it up.
My favourite reviews from the last year have to be the ones where I got to be rude about films. Personally I think there’s nothing more enjoyable than spending half an hour writing a typo-ridden reveiw slamming hundreds of people’s hard work, time, passion and enthusiasm.
One film I definitely had to qualms about tearing to pieces was Hannibal Rising, a film about as interesting as yeast rising. A cynical and artistically void cash-in, it was worthy of every mean word I used about it. In fact, I’m going to make up a new word to describe it: blengrew. It means fucking awful.
But sometimes you watch a film with an awful reputation, which turns out to have more redeeming qualities than you expected. This was true of King Kong (1976) and Judge Dredd. While you couldn’t say I flattered either of them, I do give them the benefit of the doubt on several issues.
But what’s worse than a tacky, badly made popcorn film? A pretentious arthouse film with misjudged ideas and poor execution, that’s what. And those are the crimes of bizarro Bob Dylan sort-of biopic I’m Not There.
But there’s one review I enjoyed writing more than any other. It’s a film that has something for everyone. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry. It has great music, and is as educational as it is inspirational. I am, of course, talking about Reincarnated, the documentary charting Snoop Dogg’s discovery of reggae music and transition to Snoop Lion.
Top 5 Lists
Just to be extra confusing, we thought we’d give you a top 5 list of our favourite lists. Cue the riff from Whole Lotta Love!
5.Cinematic cresendos, that is, films which build and build to their finales. This would have been a top 5, but there were 6 films I wanted to talk about, and I didn’t want to put them in any order.
4. Unable to contain his excitement for the all-women Expendables, Alex took us through the 10 actors we’d love to see in the Expendabelles. Probably while listening to Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves. Check out Expendabelle Watch.
3. Journo-lists! Great pun, and an equally great list of cinematic journalists.
1. The list that everyone wanted, and also by far our most-read article, the number one list is, of course, 5 Best Sci Fi Sex Scenes.
Here at Screen Goblin we love a good rant, particularly when aimed at James Wan. After the infuriating experience of watching Insidious: Chapter 2, I wanted to codify all that was wrong with modern horror films. Here’s my attempt.
James Wan was also responsible for The Conjuring, which utterly failed to live up to the hyperbolic reviews on the poster. This trend for headline-grabbing poster quotes drove me to another rant, which led me to a review that called I Am Legend “One of the greatest movies ever made.” Go figure.
Speaking of horror films, I became fascinated by the video nasties scandal of the 1980s, thanks in part to Jake West’s brilliant documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape, which is worth returning to as he’s releasing the also brilliant follow up Video Nasties: Draconian Days. It’s an important period of cinematic and cultural history, so I basically plagiarised the first documentary in the form of a blog.
How come there are so many action movie tough guys called John? That was the topic of one blog post from last August. It was inconclusive.
Finding something that lots of films have and writing a blog about it is a good way to revisit some of your favourite films, which is how I ended up writing about shouting scenes and bar fights. Both of these things feature in too many films to count, which makes them a great pretext to talk about whichever films I happen to want to talk about.
We also looked at actors we, as children of the 90s, knew from some of their…ahem…lesser works, in a rare joint blog post.
Sometimes we accidentally watch lots of similar films, or films with a particular actor, in close succession. When we do this, we pretend we did it on purpose, and publish the reviews as a series. Here’s a series of the series we’ve done:
Rash of Bacon – Inspired by those EE adverts they put on at the cinema, we took a look back at some of Kevin Bacon’s greatest hits, and concluded he’s actually a lot less annoying than in those awful ads.
Strictly Classified – With Chelsea Manning’s revelations about NSA surveillance, we took the opportunity to watch some of the great films about being watched, examining how far government can go in the name of protecting its citizens.
LGBT History Month – In an insensitive bid to make our reviews seem relevant, we used February to explore LGBT issues in cinema. We may not have eradicated homophobia, but we reviewed the hell out of some movies.
Under the Sea – Basically we happened to watch a lot of films about submarines and reviewed them. That’s it really.
A Spike Lee Joint – With Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake out last year, Alex took a look at more than a dozen of his past films. This conveniently coincided with him getting a Spike Lee box set at bargain price.
Woody Allen: A Double Bill – Meanwhile, Dan bought a Woody Allen box set, much to Alex’s amusement, and used the opportunity to write a series of Woody Allen reviews. And for some reason named them after the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.