Yearly Film Location Post

The post is being made at the right time this year, but it only covers films mentioned up to December 2016.

Looking at all film locations, half of the films I have mentioned in the blog were set in the UK, the US or France. Outer space is next, then Middle Earth is the top fictional location.

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Looking only at real places, over half are still UK, US or France but the UK and US make a much larger proportion.

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Looking at UK-located films only, they’re still all in England or Scotland.

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Dune (2020)

I think Dune might be just the right film for Timothee Chalamet, because Paul is supposed to look scrawny, lost and slightly confused. I can already hear Gurney Halleck shouting at him.

I mock with some affection, I think Chalamet’s going to knock the Jamis scene out of the park.

Most importantly, I have seen pictures of Liet Kynes.

Doesn’t she look magnificent!

It is no secret that Liet Kynes is my favourite character in Dune, and I am pleased to see they’re doing him justice, in the photos at least. Of all the characters, if there was one they could genderswap, to try and balance out the number of characters of each gender (not that the women of Dune aren’t all … I’d say awesome, but just as flawed and vivid as their male companions is more truthful), then Kynes is the easiest, because there’s nothing about him or his story that needs him to be male.

I’ve also found out that it’s going to be two films, which might explain why they haven’t revealed who is playing Feyd Rutha. Then again, he’s important background for the plot and explaining the Baron Harkonnen’s motives, so I remain dubious. Because that scene where the Baron watches Feyd Rutha fight is important, not just for the Baron’s “be still my beating [redacted for the good of mankind]” at the sight of Feyd’s body. It’s so we know that although Feyd Rutha looks nice and, unlike the beast Raban, has manners, hygiene and charm, he’s still a Harkonnen and enjoys fighting slaves who are drugged so they’re no harm to him to make himself look good. It presages the end duel. You kinda need Feyd in the first half, if only for two scenes.

I withhold my fuller opinion until I see any of the Fremen’s eyes.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Last year I went to watch this with colleague Y. Colleague Y wanted to watch it because it looked cute, and her cat looks very similar to Toothless, and I am very easy to convince to go see a film.

I am so glad I went.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a little gem.

We get to meet old friends (Hiccup, Astrid and the gang, Toothless, Gobber) and see that they’re still doing well. And they’re still warm, loving and ridiculous and everything we love about them, especially Toothless and Ruffnut.

Then there was Grimmel. Oh he’s a fantastic villain, mean, cruel and evil, but with a plan, and the will to carry it out.

The effects for the hidden dragon world are fantastic. I don’t know if it was filmed for 3D, I suspect it might have been, but it still looked amazing in 2D.

I enjoyed the fact that they whole-heartedly tell their story with such vim and vigour.

Definitely recommended.

Sword-fighting films – Robin Hood

This is the first in an irregular series of posts about films with sword fights. Although they’re all part of a series, the formats will be slightly different, for reasons which will become clear as the posts occur.

Some time ago, in a post about the 1938 Oscars, NWhyte wrote that he’d never seen the Errol Flynn Robin Hood. I was surprised, but looking back on it, I’m not sure why, because former housemate P didn’t watch it until his mid-20s, and as a fencer, he’d had more reason for watching it.

Following on from that post, I wondered which sword-fighting films I would recommend for people to watch. And then I realised I’d watched a lot, and probably needed a way of splitting them up, so I am writing about them by topic, starting with Robin Hood, since it was the Errol Flynn version that kick-started this idea.

Robin Hood:

Must watch: As you may have guessed from that intro, as far as I’m concerned the Errol Flynn version is the best film version. Partly it’s Flynn himself, in all his charming, insouciant glory, but there’s also Olivia de Havilland as a beautiful, charming and courageous Maid Marian, Claude Reins and Basil Rathbone as excellent villains, and comic relief characters who get to be both funny and heroic.

Of course, the fight scenes are famous for a reason (spoilers for the big end fight).

It’s amazing what you can do when one of your principals is a fencer.

Ex-housemate P didn’t like it because it wasn’t flash enough for him and too slow, but he was more than occasionally wrong about films (he didn’t like Casablanca). His favourite version will be mentioned shortly.

In the same vein: The Richard Todd and Richard Greene versions of Robin Hood stick closely to the Errol Flynn model, and the Richard Greene TV version is one of my family’s favourite ways to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Something different: The Disney Robin Hood is actually my favourite version. However, because it’s animated, I have to admit that the sword fights aren’t all that. On the other hand, there are some truly excellent villains, an adorable Robin and Maid Marian, one of my favourite Friar Tuck’s (seriously, watching him go full “badger don’t care” at the Sheriff is glorious), excellent music (A Pox On The Phoney King of England, Not In Nottingham) and Lady Cluck.

I could write whole essays on how Lady Cluck is just the best (which she is), but I shall provide video evidence instead:

Anyone who has ever seen me do sports may recognise a certain similarity in both shape and attitude.

The Disney Robin Hood is an hour and a half of sheer sugar candy joy.

Other options:

The ITV Robin Hood, Robin of Sherwood, which is housemate P’s favourite. I happen to think it’s New-Agey, pseudo-realistic nonsense, but several other people I know like it.

I also blame it for several of the modern Robin Hood cliches. It popularised one of the Merry Men being a Saracen, Will Scarlet being an (angry) working class man rather than Robin’s cousin, and Robin going off to the Crusades before the story starts. This annoys me. It’s like, ‘why are you doing this to the character and the story, not going to the Crusades it what gets him outlawed in the first place?!!!’

I find it interesting that in 1938 you could get away with a Robin who says “no way, you go fight your own pointless war if you want to but I am staying here to protect my people” whereas nowadays you can’t. I don’t know how much of that was due to US isolationist policies pre-WW2 and general public opinion, or wanting to stay close to the original legend, but it’s an interesting difference.

I like that Robin doesn’t go to war, despite the threat of being outlawed if he doesn’t. He goes ahead and follows his conscience. It makes him a more impressive hero. It’s all well and good to show him fighting against a prince who has usurped power, but for him to disobey someone who he regards as the rightful king, with all the moral and legal force that implies, now that’s a different thing.

If storytellers want to have a story with a Crusader veteran horrified with what they’d seen for the one (and it’s only ever one) PTSD-related episode or section, then Will Scarlet, nobleman with fewer reservations than Robin, seems like an excellent choice. He already canonically wanders around a forest wearing red, which I think might well be described as a death-wish.

Unnecessarily long story short – I don’t particularly like this version, although I do recognise that it has its own distinctive feel, and does its own thing its own way, which I admire.

The Patrick Bergin Robin Hood, which was unlucky enough to have been released at the cinema at the same time as the Kevin Costner version. I prefer it, even if it is a bit heavy-handed. Also, it has Owen Teale’s Little John and is about the only modern version that gives Little John anything to do. (Why do modern versions give all/most of Little John’s important bits to Nasir/Azeem?)

Avoid:

The BBC’s 2006 Robin Hood – But, I hear you cry, you spent far too much time watching it. And this is true, any time spent watching it would be too much.

via GIPHY

Basically the BBC Robin Hood was one very good performance, four good performances and Keith Allen eating more than the Recommended Daily Allowance of scenery, being hamstrung by increasingly poor and peculiar authorial choices on the part of the writers.

The Kevin Costner version (mild spoilers ensue) – I am about to be accused of being mean, and it’s not just that they hew very closely to Robin of Sherwood to the point where you think they should have paid licencing fees, but I can explain my objection to the film in four words: Will Scarlet would never.

I don’t mean this Will Scarlet, I mean any Will Scarlet. In fact, having any Merry Man betray the rest is a good way of ending up in the avoid list. Even Alan Rickman’s glorious, vivid and vile Sheriff of Nottingham cannot save this film, nor can Morgan Freeman and Michael McShane. It is un-salvagable.

If anyone has any other Robin Hood recommendations, please send them my way. It’s a legend I never tire of.

My top 10 films of 2019 explained

The reasoning behind my top 10 films of the year.

There was only one real stinker in the films I saw in 2019; Ad Astra, which was appalling.

I continue to use these 4 criteria for this round up:

1 – did the film do what it set out to do?
2 – did it use its resources to its best ability? A £250,000 film is not going to have as good explosions as a £25,000,000 film, or it shouldn’t, and if it does, there’s something wrong with the £25,000,000 film. Basically, it’s a technical merit score.
3 – Intellectual satisfaction – does the film’s plot pull some really stupid move at the last moment? Does the plot rely on characters being more stupid than they are?
4 – Does this work as a whole? Did it work for me? I am aware that this is the most subjective of subjective criteria!

Ad Astra failed all 4 of these.

I’d say 8 and above of my top 10 pass one or more of these criteria.

My top 10 films of 2019 are:

1 – Blinded by the Light – It’s not perfect, it’s bit obvious, and heavy-handed in parts. But it’s made with love and it perfectly captures *that* feeling of being alone in the world and suddenly, there’s that band (or that singer) who is the only person who understands you.

2 – How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – I liked the art work, and the way they told the story they aimed to. I love Toothless in all his ridiculousness, and it also gets points for F. Murray Abraham’s villain, who was excellent.

3 – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – L thought I’d love it, all well-choreographed violence surrounded by baroque nonsense and a delightfully morally ambiguous turn from Ian McShane. And I did. I am a woman of simple tastes.

4 – The Missing Link – I like Laika films. This just didn’t quite work for me. Not quite sure why. I did love the Elder of the Yetis.

5 – Captain Marvel – Another one that didn’t quite work for me. Probably for the same reason that Captain America didn’t work for me. Excellent soundtrack mind you.

6 – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – In what’s getting to be a theme, this didn’t quite work for me. And while the stunt crew and the actors brought it, the continuity department and fact-checking teams really didn’t.

7 – Gemini Man – While this did work for me, I am more than aware that it wasn’t as good as the three films above it. I could have done without most of the technical tricks it used (except *that* one. *That* one was very good.) but there is a solid and interesting film somewhere under the top layer of too much SFX.

8 – Avengers: Endgame – This is the one where I am willing to accept that I am being mean when I rank it this low. Because the technical parts of this were excellent, and I cried when they wanted me to. I also respect that they had a story they wanted to tell and told that story. I like what they did with two of the main 6 Avengers, and I can live with what they did with another 2. But with one of Avenger, I have the same problem with the way they handle him as always, although this time they at least gave him a few scenes where he wasn’t impossible (the problem is, as always, the disconnect between what they want me to feel about the character and what I do feel). But for the remaining Avenger, I hated what they did with him. I think it could have been done, and done well, even if it went against his character arc in his own 3 films, but they also chose to make him a joke, and I don’t like that when he’s my favourite Avenger.

9 – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Again, it didn’t work for me (set design excepted, that worked) but it’s less well done than the other films that didn’t work for me. I’m not sure what story they were trying to tell. It’s probably a bad sign that the bits of the film I enjoyed all featured bad guys.

10 – X-Men: Dark Phoenix – I think this one might actually have been bad, but it was better than the remaining two films I saw in the cinema last year. It seemed like they threw in lots of characters and then gave them nothing to do. It was a lot of set pieces barely strung together. Worst of all, the character they handled the worst was Jean, which given that it was supposed to be *the* Phoenix film is a very bad thing indeed.

Fuller reviews of those 10 films and the others I saw in 2019 forthcoming, only I am terribly behind.

Top 10 Films of 2019

Yes, for the first time in ages I have actually seen enough films in a year to have a top 10. I saw 12 new films, but the top 10, in reasonably final order are:

1 – Blinded by the Light
2 – How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
3 – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
4 – The Missing Link
5 – Captain Marvel
6 – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
7 – Gemini Man
8 – Avengers: Endgame
9 – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
10 – X-Men: Dark Phoenix

No explanations yet, mostly just to annoy L.

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

(I do not care how Marvel spell Spiderman, they are wrong.)

I loved it. I loved the colour, the style, the music, the sheer vivid inventiveness. This is a film which used its medium to the fullest. Too many cartoons are content to be live action plus. This was cartoon maximus. It saw the freedom possible and used it.

I loved it, because I am a film fan and a comics fan. It’s an excellent film and it’s an excellent Spiderman story.

I loved that they took SpiderHam and Spiderman Noir and made them work. (Oh my heart, did it make them work.)

I loved the rolling “and this is how I became Spiderman” pages, and that horrible two ticks before the film told us who Gwen’s dead person was.

I loved Miles Morales, and his Dad and his Mum and how much they loved each other despite not always seeing eye-to-eye. I was so worried when Miles’s Dad turned up at the end fight.

Someone involved in the film seemed to have hated One More Day even more than the rest of us, and that vigour made them clever. The film showed that you can tell a story about a +30-year-old Spiderman and still make it interesting, without removing all the history between him and Mary Jane. Peter B. was just a glorious vision of what superhero-ing costs and doing it any way. He’s such an interesting contrast, not just to Miles, but to a lot of other superheroes.

I was hopeful that I wouldn’t have to see Uncle Ben die, again. Dear film, replacing uncles with other uncles does not help that problem!

I liked the film’s take on the seductiveness of doing bad things, and I thought that what they did with Kingpin was interesting. They made it very clear that nothing he did was justifiable, even if it was understandable.

I saw the film shortly after Stan Lee’s death and I just was not prepared for that scene. I was fine until “It always fits. Eventually.” It’s that mix of salesman, and the truth about superheroes, and then I cried.

I liked the film’s take on Aunt May. Maybe in this ‘verse, she’s the physicist. I also loved Liv Octavius, bound only by what she can achieve. Science never asks if it should!

I loved every marvellous minute and I am not alone. From comments at work, this is the superhero film for people who do not like superhero films, because it’s so different, because it’s bright, colourful and stylish.

Utterly recommended for everyone.

Venom

I was dubious about Venom, because I knew Spiderman/Peter Parker couldn’t even be mentioned because of Sony’s deal with Marvel. I felt that you could probably make a Venom film without Spiderman, but I couldn’t figure out how you’d make an Eddie Brock film without Peter Parker. Because it’s Brock’s obsession with Peter Parker that leads to his downfall. He fixates on Peter to try to hide his own shortcomings from himself. Hating Peter Parker becomes his raison d’etre.

The film worked round this in way that was quite clever. First, they have an unspecified New York incident move him away from Peter Parker, the Daily Bugle and events in New York, then they move his knee-jerk dislike to Carlton Drake (or I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Elon-Musk*), and finally, they actually have Eddie admit his faults. I actually liked Eddie Brock!

A good chunk of that was due to Tom Hardy, who appeared to be having all of the fun. He’s got charm enough to burn, and can do lovely but feckless so extremely well. And he’s good enough to sell you on Eddie Brock’s repentance. Which is just as well, because some serious repentance is required. And I like that. The film makes it clear that Ann is right to be angry with Eddie. It’s a film where actions have consequences, no matter if those actions come from good or bad intentions.

I also like that Doctor Dan is a good guy. The minute he sees that Eddie is ill, he immediately tries to help him. All hail Doctor Dan.

Other actors who seem to be having all the fun include … Tom Hardy as Venom. Venom’s alienness makes the occasional FX weakness easier to take, as does the way Tom Hardy makes Venom completely different to Eddie Brock (and I wonder if that challenge was how they got him to sign up for a minor superhero film). The other interesting thing about how they do Venom is the sound just before he appears, which is (probably deliberately) reduced as Eddie and Venom get more used to each other. The falling sensation some people experience as they’re drifting off to sleep that catapults them awake is called a hypnic jerk but some people get sounds as well/instead. Mine sound just like the noise of Venom’s appearance. Which led to an interesting if peculiar cinema experience. I know it’s coincidence but I’d love to know why that particular combination of sounds was chosen.

The end fight, although weak as tends to be the case in minor superhero films, had some enjoyable details in the lead up to it, like Venom using a dog as his way to get out of hospital, and then Ann letting him use her to bodysurf to Eddie. I also liked that Ann:

1 – remembered stuff
2 – did fight dirty. She got that Drake/Riot had to be stopped, by any means necessary.

Basically, I just liked Ann.

As well as finding the end fight underwhelming, I didn’t like one of the two end credit scenes. Not “Into the Spiderverse” which looked amazing, but the Carnage one. I think it’s because that’s not what Cletus Kasady sounds like. It’s not Woody Harrelson’s fault. He’d make an excellent Cletus Kasady given the opportunity, but they seem to have told him to play it that way.

So in short, Venom was good, stupid fun and far better than it had any right to be.

*I know Drake is a scientist in comics, and it’s not Elon Musk’s fault that a lot of his plans sound like supervillain schemes, but … it’s a remarkably close portrait.

Film Locations

Yes, this was supposed to be done at the start of August but everything this year is late. It covers all films mentioned on the blog up to March 2nd 2016.

All non-fictional locations:

All real locations 2019

UK and US located films make up more than half of the films, although the exact percentages have gone down since the last time.

Including fictional locations:

Including fictional locations

This trend of fewer films set in the US/UK or more films set elsewhere also occurs if you take fictional locations into account. Last time US and the UK locations made up more than half of those as well, but it’s now the US, UK and France make up half of locations.

It would be interesting to see if the locations change over time as more films need multiple production companies and those sometimes require non-US/non-UK locations as part of the agreement for funding. Not sure how I’d measure that since obviously the films I watch are a very small microcosm of all films.

UK-based films:

Where the UK films are set

Are still all England and Scotland and mostly England.