Cinematic Advent Calendar #24 – Back to the Future

Well here we are, the final entry in the Advent Calendar. The films in this series have been in no particular order or placed where they are because they are artistic or have merit. These are films I like, some have personal memories, other have had a profound impact. Many are just great films, good stories or are just plain fun.

“Great Scott!”

Back to the Future is a fun film. I love this story of time travel, paradoxes and all those things that should be in a time travel film. Oh and there’s a DeLorean too!

Back to the Future DeLorean

It has been copied many times since, but nothing has come close to what is a great fun film. Michael J Fox plays the role of the nerdy kid brilliantly. I think one of the reasons I like this film is that I am roughly the same age as Marty McFly and that resonates. I do like the two sequels, but they never come close to the original.

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Back to the Future

Back to the Future Part II

Back to the Future Part III

So there we go, that’s twenty-four films that I like what do you like? There were a number of films outside those presented over the last twenty four days that I also like. Well Pan’s Labyrinth was a contender, however I have only watched it once and not at the cinema. It’s a beautiful film with a disturbing fantasy feel to it. I would have probably put It’s a Wonderful Life in the list and I would like to have seen that at the cinema too. So what have I missed that would have been in your list?

Cinematic Advent Calendar #23 – Dances with Wolves

Cinematic Advent Calendar #23 - Dances with Wolves

To be honest even I was surprised to find two Kevin Costner films in my list of films. I know when you mention Kevin Costner people think of The Postman and Waterworld, but before those two post-apocalyptic movies there was The Untouchables, Field of Dreams and Dances with Wolves.

I really do like this film, though to really appreciate it you really need to see it at the cinema. This is a cinematic film, from the Buffalo herds to the vast openness of the plains, it certainly doesn’t look as good when viewed on your standard TV.

This is a story of a soldier discovering the beauty of the American west and the native people who live there. I actually do like the length of what many consider to be an overlong film, I think it adds that depth that makes this film an epic masterpiece. I do like the story about discovery, understanding, friendship and devotion.

Alongside is the soundtrack, which everytime I hear it reminds me of the vast epic views in the film.

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By the way, in case you were wondering, my indian name is Dances with Badgers, now that’s another story.

Cinematic Advent Calendar #22 – Brazil

I initially had this down as 1984, even thought about V for Vendetta, but when I thought about it, from a cinematic perspective I like Brazil best out of those three films. 1984 is a great film, but is an incredible book, especially when you consider it was written in 1948. A powerful vision of a dystopian future where Big Brother knows all and there is not just no freedom, but no freedom of thought. However though I think the book is superb, I am less enamoured by the film.

Brazil, which has a similar dystopian future to 1984, is much more surreal, but also contains more humour. In many ways it is just as bleak as 1984.


Brazil certainly has an interesting cast, and I certainly would not have made the casting choices. Having said that I do think it works. Robert De Niro does an excellent job as the air conditioning engineer, Tuttle.

The fantasy scenes are intriguing, but for me do work well and contrast with the greyness and drabness of the “real” world. I also love the ending, which is really clever and I remember been genuinely surprised.

If you enjoyed V for Vendetta, or have seen 1984, then do check out Brazil.

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Cinematic Advent Calendar #21 – A Few Good Men

Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessup

“You can’t handle the truth!”

Though featuring Marines and Navy officers, this film is a legal drama, it’s about a courtroom battle not a military battle. Of course this is Hollywood, so it probably bears no resemblance to reality, but does that matter? It’s a film not a documentary. For example most courts martial take place in plain simple rooms, not ornate courtrooms, and those dramatic lawyer moments just don’t happen. Despite that, this is a great film.

Of course part of the reason is that the screenplay (and the play the film was based on) was written by Aaron Sorkin, who in my opinion has written some fantastic screenplays and television. I really liked Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the West Wing. I was disappointed when Studio 60 was cancelled, as I thought it had a lot of potential. The West Wing was also excellent television and extremely well written. A Few Good Men was of course written well before these televisual delights.

This for me is Jack Nicholson’s best film, likewise Tom Cruise and Demi Moore are really good, and though they could dominate the film, they don’t. They share the screen with their co-stars and as a result this isn’t a star driven picture, this is a story driven one.

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Cinematic Advent Calendar #20 – Blade Runner

Cinematic Advent Calendar #20 - Blade Runner

I know some out there will be saying, okay which version? I’ve no idea, I can never remember which is the theatrical version, the authentic version, the Director’s version, the version that some guy from the backlot of Paramount did in his spare time… I didn’t know (checking Wikipedia) that there are seven versions of the film.

Regardless of the version, I do like this dark vision of the future, the bleakness and the fact it is always raining.

I was going to talk about the “plot twist” but I am afraid I might annoy people who’ve not seen the film. Let’s just say I didn’t even suspect that “plot twist” for at least ten years, until someone spelt it out for me. I am not sure if it ruined it for me, or opened my eyes.

Looking at the film now, you suddenly realise how young Harrison Ford looks in it, it’s also an interesting move for him from a career perspective. He really came to the fore as Han Solo in Star Wars, then he was the 1930s adventurer Indiana Jones. I personally think that the role of Deckard was the role that opened doors for Harrison enabling him to take on a whole series of straight dramatic roles.

This is a cinematic advent calendar, and alas this is one of the few films I didn’t see at the cinema and I wish I had. I must look out for it if it is shown in the future.

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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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