Cinematic Advent Calendar #19 – Goodfellas

Good Jimmy

“You think I’m funny?”

This story of Henry Hill shows how he was “sucked” into the world of organised crime.

This is a violent film and the language is, how shall I put this, quite colourful.

There are a few other Mafia films that I like, I recently saw Scorsese’s The Departed which I liked. I also thought highly of Donnie Brasco.

When it comes to Gangster or Mafia films I know many people will talk of the Godfather trilogy. Please don’t be cross, but I’ve still yet to actually see it…

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Cinematic Advent Calendar #18 – ALIENS

Cinematic Advent Calendar #18 - ALIENS

I never did Alien before going to see ALIENS, I think the main reason for that was that a) I don’t like horror films and b) I was too young to get into the cinema when it came out.

ALIENS is in many ways a very different film to the original Alien, I sometimes think they are two very different films which just so happen to be linked.

As for the next two sequels, well I was very disappointed. I think I would have rather seen a sequel with the Colonial Marines rather than the Alien and Ripley. I have seen Prometheus and I did think that this was a very good film.

The main thrust of ALIENS is that is a action war film, rather than the claustrophobic individual horror that was Alien. The design echoed current military thinking of the time, so was more “realistic” than say Starship Troopers.

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Cinematic Advent Calendar #17 – The Killing Fields

 The Killing Fields

The Killing Fields is a powerful moving film that shows in a small part the horror of the Khmer Rouge campaign of terror in Cambodia in the 1970s.

One reason I think that this film has such an effect on me is that I was a young lad when I found out about Cambodia, I was a little too young to understand the Vietnam War, but I remember in vivid detail when Blue Peter went to Cambodia after the end of the Khmer Rouge and launched their 1979 appeal.

The dramatic impact of the Year Zero policy is the background to the film which is a story of a friendship between two journalists, Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg.

 The Killing Fields

The soundtrack of the film is particularly evocative, the majority of the music used in the film was composed and performed by Mike Oldfield. He used a range of musical styles, including a choir and a full orchestra as well as his trademark electronic instruments. The final scene of the film uses John Lennon’s Imagine (which incidentally isn’t on the soundtrack album) and this really adds to what is a very moving final scene. The soundtrack album is if I remember correctly the first album I ever purchased on CD, from Our Price records, a record store that no longer exists.

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Cinematic Advent Calendar #16 – The Matrix

Cinematic Advent Calendar #16 - The Matrix

I managed to watch this film, not having read the plot or any spoilers, so when Neo is given the choice between the red and blue pills, it was a real dramatic surprise for me and really threw what I thought the film was about. As a result I enjoyed the film much more than I thought I was going to and really felt that this was a very clever story with some real twists.

I do think it is hard these days to avoid “spoilers” or plot twists. Often the entire story is played out in the trailer or even in the film reviews. I recently and finally managed to watch Prometheus and I worked hard to avoid the trailers, the clips, even conversations on the Twitter. I did manage in the end to avoid most spoliers and really enjoyed that film much more than if I knew how it was going to pan out and end.

Of course the Matrix introduced us to the concept of “bullet time” and it is a pity in some respects that it has become common place so much in other films. It worked in the Matrix because of the way the universe in the film is set up, however I think it is a distraction in the way it is used in many other films.

I really like the Matrix, my biggest disappointment with the film is the sequels, which are nowhere near as clever as the original.

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Cinematic Advent Calendar #15 – Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

Now it has to be said that I was never a fan of Tolkien’s writing. Now I also know that this will upset a few people as he is well loved by many. I had read a fair few of Tolkien’s novels, but I didn’t like them, in the main as Tolkien loved to be overly descriptive of stuff in his novels. I always felt it left little to the imagination.

When I first hard that Peter Jackson was going to make three films to cover the three books of Lord of the Rings I was intrigued, but not overly excited or impressed.

I think the big difference between this film and other films was that this was a film that was promoted heavily using the web. There was lots of online video and stills from the making of the film. This it has to be said did spark a little excitement.

I did wonder how Peter Jackson was going to make this film, complete with hobbits, dwarves and elves. In the end with a combination of special effects, forced perspective and CGI I did feel he was very successful in creating a magical and fantastical world.

Though I had read the book, it was a fair few years before seeing the film and as a result I knew the book was about a ring, but didn’t remember much more. Jackson created an incredible feat, this was an exciting, thrilling film with lots of superb action sequences.

I also really liked the camaraderie and relationship explored between the four hobbits. The phrase “second breakfast” is now a standard saying in our house. During the course of this film we see the friendships grow and develop and this follows on in the next two films.

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

I remember coming out of the cinema, wanting to not only see the film again, but also wanting to see parts two and three immediately. In the end I had to wait for the sequels and of course the Hobbit (in some ways the prequel) is now out in cinemas. I did buy the extended Director cuts of the three films and this was something I remember as been very different experience to DVDs I had bought before with deleted scenes as extras. These deleted scenes were integrated into the films complete with special effects and music. In many ways I prefer the extended films, even though they are much longer than the original cut. Having said that the experience of seeing these films in the cinema is much more preferable than watching it on the small screen at home. One of the reasons I have called this a cinematic advent calendar, is that many of these films are cinematic and to really appreciate them you need to see them in the cinema. This is of course is not easy and usually impossible, as cinemas rarely show stuff that has been out before.

Out of the three Lord of the RIngs films, I have put the first one as my choice for the calendar. I do think that the other films are very good, what they didn’t have was that impact the first one had, which is why I have chosen The Fellowship of the Ring for the calendar. I did enjoy Return of the King, this was an incredible visual feast, likewise The Two Towers has many incredible elements within it. However they did follow the first film and the impact of that first film shouldn’t be ignored.

So what of the books, well I’ve not read them again (yet), but have recently re-read the Hobbit and I’ll be honest and say I did appreciate it much more having seen the Peter Jackson films, I think he added to the worlds of Tolkien and in my mind that has to be a good thing.

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