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How to Beat Those January Blues With Movies!

by Maggie Kruger

January sucks, doesn’t it? There’s very little that’s good about January [Editor’s Note: Hey! My birthday’s in January!]. Let’s look at why January is officially the crappiest month of the year:

1. You have no money cos you spent it all on Christmas presents.

2. You don’t fit into your jeans cos you spent December feeding yourself a diet of cake and Camembert.

3. Your face is puffier than the Staypuft Marshmallow Man after breakfasting on Mimosas for the entire Christmas period.

4. You walk to work on a Tuesday morning (like I did) in weather that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Roland Emmerich apocalypse extravaganza.

5. You have broken all your New Year’s Resolutions by January 2nd.

Personally, I think that January needs to be spent in hibernation. If I could, I’d crawl into my bed, champagne tipsy, at 3.30am after a brilliant New Year’s Eve party, and stay there until February 1st. The Man, however, disagrees, and so I need something to get me through the New Year Blues.  Chocolate’s out; alcohol’s not the answer; I can’t go back to the gym until I’ve got rid of at least 2 of my new chins… time to bust out the movies.

In January, you need films that make you feel happy, in a ‘wraps you up in a big quilt and makes you feel better about being a penniless fatty’ kind of way.  Now I realise it’s going to be each to his own in terms of which movies you watch, but I know that that for me only my old faithfuls are going to cheer me up.

Obviously you need to start with comedies. Any of your standard Sunday Night stock – Life of Brian, The Princess Bride et al – would be a perfect choice, but also consider squishy comedies that make you go ‘ahhhh’.  Uncle Buck is perfect, and I’m a sucker for both Sister Act movies. You have to find movies that are sweet, gentle and don’t strain your brain. Or that are just silly in a good way. Think Tootsie, Airplane!, Spaceballs, Three Men and A Baby. In fact, I defy you to watch the following clip without smiling:

Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1984)But I know as well as you do that too much sweet stuff is bad for me, so I like to mix it up with something actiony. Big, overblown and loud are your watchwords: think True Lies, Rocky 4 and The Fifth Element.

Yes, I know that invoking the unholy Planet Hollywood trinity will most likely speed along the Apocalypse; yes, I know that The Fifth Element is batshit crazy and makes very little sense; and yes, I know full well that any Rocky film makes me bawl like a 2 year old who’s just discovered Santa isn’t real*, but they’re all really good and don’t need take any serious contemplation.

But what really, REALLY cheers me up, on nights like tonight when I’ve only just managed to persuade myself that lentil stew is a great alternative to pizza, is nothing short of eightiestastic: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun stars Sarah Jessica Parker before she turned into a horse (thanks, Family Guy) and Helen Hunt before she won an Oscar, as well as Shannon Doherty before she turned into a public liability.

It’s got everything – awesome dance routines, a cheesy love story and a bitchy mean girl, not to mention Ed Lauter (Best. Eighties. Dad. Ever.), a kooky best friend and a training montage that still makes me tear up a little. It’s fluffy, clichéd and totally implausible, but is just wonderful.

Check out the trailer:

Then go and find it and watch it immediately. Even writing about it now has made me smile goofily.

So with a handy supply of movies like these, January flies by faster than you can say ‘Bu-hut he’s suh-huch a goo-hoood ma-ha-ha-ha-ha-aaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnn!!!’**. See you in February for Awards season!!

*Honestly, every time Rocky gets punched it makes me cry. I was a mess after Rocky Balboa, I couldn’t talk for sobbing for about an hour afterwards.

**Yes, that was me about an hour into Rocky Balboa. I am ridiculous.

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work.Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How to Throw an Awesome Halloween Movie-Themed Party, Part 4: This Time It’s Personal!

by Maggie Kruger

So less than a week to go and your movie-themed Halloween party is shaping up to be a bit special! You’ve planned the décor, you’ve rented/hired/made the finest costume known to zombie, ghoul or ghost, and you just can’t wait to tuck into that brain pate.

There’s just one thing more you need…

Every great Halloween party I’ve been to has had a movie or two playing in the background on a big screen, then at the end of the night the stragglers have all settled down to watch something spooky – the perfect end to a perfect night!

The horror! The horror!

The horror! The horror!

I could argue with you all day about the best horror movies in existence…but let’s face it, Joel and Jason do that enough for the lot of us… instead, let me show you how to pick the most party-friendly flicks!

1.       Don’t go too scary too early.

Who’s coming to your party? Unless every single one of your party guests is a fully paid up member of the Dario Argento Fanclub you might want to dial down the gore, at least in the early parts of the evening, otherwise someone’s bound to get upset, especially if Aunt Mildred’s snuck in by mistake and can’t stomach anything scarier than Tom Cruise doing ‘smouldering’ .

Good Choices: Ghostbusters; Hocus Pocus; Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton); The Monster Squad; Beetlejuice.

Bad Choices: Anything the UK newspaper the Daily Mail has tried to get banned (seriously, they’re all about the ‘Ban this sick filth now’ and yet had no complaints about Love Actually. Meh.)

2.       Don’t choose anything too distracting.

In my opinion, the point of having movies on during your party is to add to the décor, unless you’ve specifically planned to have a movie marathon where everyone sits around debating whether John Carpenter is better than Wes Craven: rather, they’re to add to the atmosphere.

So you don’t really want anything too distracting that’s got masses of dialogue in it. Instead, think about what’s visually striking.

Shocking!

Shocking!

Good Choices: Hit up the Gothic classics – Nosferatu (1922); The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920); The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Bad Choices: Anything written by Kevin Wiliamson – entirely too much talking. Yeah, I’m looking at you, the Scream movies.

3.       1 Movie? 2 Movies? 100 Movies!!

Let’s face it – if you’re in your Edward Scissorhands costume the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about changing DVD s several times throughout the night.

So what you need to do is a. find a minion to do it for you and b. Have a pile of films ready to go – if you don’t plan it in advance you’ll have 20 movie fans standing around demanding that you put their favourite on.

Pick Me! Pick Me!

Pick Me! Pick Me!

Good choices: Think about themes – vampires, werewolves or ghosts, or perhaps you could pick a trilogy… Now far be it for me to suggest The Evil Dead trilogy, but seeing as you mentioned it… ;)

Bad choices: This is purely subjective, but I really hate the Final Destination films – I don’t think there’s anything good about them, I really don’t.

And harking back to point 1, you might want to avoid the Saw movies, unless you want Aunt Mildred throwing up her Mummified Sausages on the good rug.

4.       Later in the Evening…

Later on, when it starts to thin out, you can start to think about putting a couple of movies on to watch properly.  Get everyone to settle down and watch something horror/Halloween –themed, but something that’s fun – no need to skimp on the giggles, even if you’re done laughing at your mate Barry’s Zombie dance.

Good choices: Lair of the White Worm; Young Frankenstein; Bubba Ho Tep; Slither…. Good god, the list is endless.

Peter Boyle: Best monster ever? Discuss.

Bad choices: Vampire in Brooklyn. The only thing that could’ve made this movie worse is if Kirsten Dunst was in it.  Please, PLEASE don’t watch it. Don’t do it to yourself, and certainly don’t do it to your friends.

Regan's slumber party didn't end well...

Regan's slumber party didn't end well...

5.       It’s all about the Stragglers…

So it’s late, the party’s wound down, you’ve turned off all the spooky sound effects planted round the house… you could go to bed, but that’s kind of lame, no?  This, this is the time to crack open a beer, snuggle down on the sofa (maybe take your Scissorhands bondage pants off first), turn off all the lights and…. Wait, what was that noise?

Good choices: for me, it’s all about The Exorcist. Some films have scared me, but this is the only one that made me run all the way home to cower under a blanket with the lights on after I watched it at the cinema. But I’d also accept The Omen, The Shining, Carrie, and of course Halloween (that last one’s kind of obvious, eh?)

Bad choices: I’m not going to teach my grandmother to suck eggs here. You guys can argue till the sun comes up about what’s good or bad…. I’m going to set my party up!!

ENJOY!

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work.Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How To Throw An Awesome Movie Halloween Party, Part 3: Spooky Food and Drinks!

From Motel Hell (1980)by Maggie Kruger

What’s that you say? “Food’s not spooky, Mags, you daft baggage! Food’s lovely!”

All I can say is

How are those maggots, Michael?

  1. The census taker, her liver, some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
  2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Are you with me yet?

OK, I’m not suggesting you go out and do anything rash with a power tool in preparation for your party, but you ARE going to have to think a bit further than chips and dips to cater for your fantastic Halloween party… here’s my picks…

Got a case of melon brain?

Got a case of melon brain?

Ah, I love a good brain pâté!

Ah, I love a good brain pâté!

1.       Braaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnns

We’re all zombie fans here, what’s a little brain nibbling between chums?

How to do it: get a melon, peel it, (carefully) sculpt it, get creative with the red food colouring. BOOM! You’ve got yourself a brain. Type in ‘MELON BRAIN’ to your search engine of choice for inspiration and some helpful pictures.

Another way to do it: Again, head to your favourite search engine and type in ‘BRAIN PATE’. The results are certainly an eyeopener!! Did YOU know you can buy brainshaped jello moulds? I bloody LOVE Halloween, for that reason alone.

2. Mummy Dearest

Mummy's in a blanket!

Mummy's in a blanket!

OK, this one’s actually kind of cute. Great for kids and big kids alike (yeah Jason, I’m looking at you).

How to do it: Grab some pork sausages (sausage links in the US) and pop them in the oven till they’re cooked but not too browned. Let them cool down.

Take some thin strips of puff pastry and wrap them round your sausage, bandage-style, leaving a space near the top to draw in eyes after they’ve cooked.

Wash with egg and cook in the oven according to pastry instructions.

How do you save face? You deep freeze it, of course!

How do you save face? You deep freeze it, of course!

When they’re cooked take a thin brush and some food colouring, and paint in some eyes (you could also do this with mustard). They should look like this –

3.       Your face or mine?

A mind bogglingly brilliant Halloween recipe, that I happened upon whilst idly searching the internet for spooky food ideas.

How to do it: Go online and  type in ‘Halloween food flesh face’. There are some truly sick culinary geniuses out there.

I’ll never look at parma ham in the same way again.

4.       Waiter? There’s a maggot in my soup…

Uhm, did that pasta just wiggle?

Uhm, did that pasta just wiggle?

I think I’ve mentioned before my penchant for ‘The Lost Boys’. I mean, Kiefer Sutherland’s about as cool a vampire as you can get. I really love this scene, but I read somewhere that serving maggots to your friends is a bit of a social faux pas.

However, it wouldn’t be 31st October without a few creepy crawlies, would it?

How to do it: This is so simple. Go to your local pasta selling emporium, and ask for Orzo Pasta. Cook as per the pack instructions (with a pinch of saffron or turmeric to make them a particularly gross and authentic yellow colour), add it to anything and VOILA!

You’ve got maggots in your food!

Something wicked this way comes...

Something wicked this way comes...

I’ve found a couple of recipes online of things you could specifically add it too (eg beef stew), but see what takes your fancy, you could also just serve up the pasta on its own in some olive oil and pesto for a truly manky side dish.

5.       Witches Brew…

So you’re going to need something to drink with your Halloween Feast, and what better time to get freaky with your cocktails?

How to do it (X-rated): Again, the internet is your friend (as is the liquor store) – whip up some Bloody Rum Punch and garnish with some Witches Eyeballs (stuffed lychees). Or why not go with a good old fashioned Bloody Mary? See what takes your fancy (but please remember to drink responsibly).

How to do it (PG-13): Whip up a fruit punch – for added effect why not put your punchbowl in a cauldron of dry ice – it looks fantastic! (Just make sure you follow all the safety instructions).

What have I missed? What are your Halloween favourites? Come back next week for our last instalment… you’ve got the costume, the decor and the food – what movies are you actually going to watch?!

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work.Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How to Throw an Awesome Halloween Movie Party, Part 2: Decorations

by Maggie Kruger

They’re (almost) HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

OK, we’ve still got a couple of weeks to go but it’s time to get back to planning your awesome Halloween Movie party – this week: decorations and games!

“Maybe that last daiquiri was a mistake…”

“Maybe that last daiquiri was a mistake…”

 1.       Pumpkins

 (“Maybe that last daiquiri was a mistake…”)

The first thing that springs to my mind when I think of Halloween is the image of a pumpkin, with his insides all scooped out and a scary face cut in (I have no idea why I think pumpkins are male… Return to Oz hangover maybe). You can’t have a party on 31st October without a Jack O’Lantern, you just can’t.

How to do it: Simples – get a pumpkin, cut his head off, scoop his insides out, cut out a scary face shape, stick a nightlight in the middle, put lid back on, put him in the window.

Pros: You can do some really cool faces that look proper scary and atmospheric. Stick ‘Halloween Pumpkins’ into your favourite search engine and it brings up some really useful sites.

Cons: Seriously, have you ever tried to do this? I did once when I was at college and nearly sliced two fingers off! It’s really difficult to carve a pumpkin, so please take care, and please don’t let your kids cut the faces in themselves.

Halloween decoration or Maggie’s real life home?

Halloween decoration or Maggie’s real life home?

2.       Cobwebs

 Some people (me), have an abundance of cobwebs in their houses. It’s because I’m short and can’t reach the top corners with a duster, honest. So my apartment is already rocking the ‘spooky haunted house’ look. The rest of you will have to busk it.

How to do it: You can buy cobweb spray at any party shop, especially at this time of the year. Get a couple of cans and spray to your heart’s content.

Pros: Quick, cheap, easy – this is the ultimate ‘no-effort’ Halloween decoration.

Cons: Cleaning up afterwards – you’ll be finding bits of spiderweb spray all over the place for months afterwards.

A friendly ghost...

A friendly ghost...

3.       Ghosties

The world’s your oyster with ghosts. You’ve got your friendly ghosts, your evil scary ghosts and your downright sexy ghosts … and there are as many decorations available as there are sources of inspiration.

...a ghost to get friendly with.

...a ghost to get friendly with.

How to do it: You can improvise with lengths of floaty white material and some scrunched up tissue paper (thank you, interwebs search engine!). Or, you can also make the world’s scariest decoration with the use of chicken wire moulded into a torso shape(with arms), covered with a shirt and fixed to the wall – Well, hellllooooo disembodied spectre coming at you!

Pros: Ghost decorations are as easy or hard as you want them to be and nowhere near as messy as the cobweb spray.

Cons: Chicken wire sculptures do take a lot of effort (although the end result is worth it); possibly unsuitable for aged relatives of a nervous disposition.

 4.       Bobbing for Apples

One lady you deffo don’t want to bob for apples with!

One lady you deffo don’t want to bob for apples with!

The oldest and messiest of all Halloween games, this one is great for kids and adults alike.

How to do it: Get big tub, add water, add apples, people use their mouths to get the apples out. For a grown-up twist, get people to bob for cans of beer (bottles don’t float)

Pros: Kids inexplicably go CRAZY for this game. Plus apples are good for them.

Cons: You risk wiping your make up off trying to get dry… or your make up’s going to come off on someone’s towels – make sure they’re not good ones!

 5.       Did you hear that?!?

 

"What was that?" "Sorry, it's the cabbage..."

"What was that?" "Sorry, it's the cabbage..."

This is slightly random, but really works if you do it right. Never underestimate the power of the sound effect!!!

How to do it: Download some spooky noises (there are loads online and many of them are free), or record them yourself, and create a couple of CDs filled with random spooky noises.

It doesn’t have to be continuous, in fact it’s better if the noises come and go at random.  Hide a couple of CD players in quiet places where your guests might visit (the bathroom is EXCELLENT for this) and wait for the screaming to start for real!

Pros: It’s a brilliant Halloween prank, pure and simple.

Cons: Again, guests of a nervous disposition may not appreciate the fright.

Have I missed anything?

Fill us in with your favourites if I have, and see you next week when we’ll be tackling the ultimate Halloween party food menu!

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work.Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How to Throw an Awesome Halloween Party – Part 1: Movie-Themed Costume Ideas

by Maggie Kruger

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Joel’s a little excited about Halloween. And why not?  It’s easily the coolest excuse for a party there is – everyone gets dressed up, you can get freaky with the décor, with the food, and let’s face it – the best movies are scary movies!

With that in mind, over the next few weeks I’m going to give you the props to throw the most awesome  Halloween party EVER – the best costumes, decorations, food, and of course, the best movies to watch – feel free to add your suggestions and comments!

Now, I’ve spent many a year running round the costume store the night before Halloween, desperately trying piece together some kind of costume, and let me tell you rushing it is no fun – the results are usually pretty shoddy too.  It’s worth planning your outfit in advance… here are 5 of the best!

1.       Edward Scissorhands

I really, REALLY wish I hadn’t drunk that last gallon of soda…

I really, REALLY wish I hadn’t drunk that last gallon of soda…

OK, so Edward Scissorhands as a character isn’t terribly scary, but you have to admit that it makes for an awesome Halloween costume – blades, white make-up, crazy wig – however it does take a little more planning than 20 minutes before you have to leave.

How to do it: The easiest way is to rent a costume. At the very least rent/buy the gloves and wig, and then make up your own quasi-bondage style outfit involving leather trousers (rrrwwwww) and belts (double rrrwwww).

Pros: Look cool; you’ll definitely get photographed; shows the host that you’ve made an effort.

Cons: Can be expensive to hire a costume; Going to the toilet will be nigh on impossible without outside assistance.

 2.       Witch

Witch Costume: Flying monkeys not included.

Witch Costume: Flying monkeys not included.

For the ladies, the Witch is the easiest costume, and is usually my Halloween outfit of choice – it means if I haven’t been able to plan in advance the makings of a costume are usually available at every shop within a 5 minute radius.

How to do it: Get a hat, some black eyeliner and lipstick, a wig, a broomstick and dress in black. Warts are optional.

Pros: Really simple if you’re short on time; it’s easy to find bits and bobs to cobble something passable together.

Cons: If you always dress as a witch it looks like you haven’t made an effort; there’s bound to be at least one other witch there who looks much better than you do.

 3.       Vampire

Scary vampire...

Scary vampire...

There’s loads you can do with a vampire costume.  You can be sexy vampire, lost boy vampire, hammer horror vampire, Bride

... not so scary vampire.

... not so scary vampire.

of Dracula – let’s face it: there’s a whole sub-genre waiting for you to exploit it for your own costume-related demands.                                                                        

How to do it: Decide who you want to be – personally I’d go for something involving white face paint, blood red lips and a pair of pointy teeth.

Pros: You’re going to look supercool.

Cons: Twilight- the vampires in these movies are about as scary as a bowl of chocolate mousse.

 4.       The Mummy

Giving new meaning to the phrase Egyptian Cotton!

Giving new meaning to the phrase Egyptian Cotton!

If I’m honest, I’ve never found mummy movies particularly scary, but there’s no denying the costume is very visually striking and ensures you’ll stand out.

How to do it: The easiest of easy costumes, all you need is a quantity of white material and someone patient to wrap it round you. Bed sheets are great for this.

Pros: You don’t need to worry about any additional makeup.

Cons: Like the Edward Scissorhands costume, this makes relieving oneself difficult; if you tear up the wrong white bed sheets you could find yourself in a world of trouble.

 5.       Zombie

I couldn’t very well do a piece on costumes without mentioning our lovely Joel’s monster of choice, the Zombie. And it’s pretty easy to do too.

How to do it: Decide on your outfit of choice, rip it so it looks suitably distressed, apply fake blood and fake skin (makeup wax is great for this), use makeup to give yourself some bruises and cuts etc. Adopt a zombie pose and you’re good to shuffle off into the night!

Pros: Again, this is really simple – you can be a zombie anything so all you really need to do is buy the makeup.

Cons: Overzealous gamers may get confused and try to take you out if you aren’t incredibly careful.

Happy costuming guys and gals! Next week… decorations!

 

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5 Babysitting Lessons I Learned from the Movies

Village of The Damned... kids!

Village of The Damned... kids!

by Maggie Kruger

So my sister calls me up the other week, asking a favour. Faintly, in the distance, I heard warning bells start to ring… Tubular Bells, one might say…

I love my sister, but when she asks for a favour it usually means one of three things:

1. She wants to come and stay with me for a weekend. (I love it when my sister comes to visit – we eat dirty pepperoni pizza and watch Matthew McConnaughy movies in our pajamas but I always end up eating too many chocolate biscuits).

2. She needs me to email her my chilli con carne recipe. (In fairness, it *is* an awesome chilli, but I can never find the recipe book it’s in so have to trawl through 3 shelves of books.)

3. She needs me to babysit my niece.

Before you all start to judge me, it’s worth mentioning that I adore my niece beyond all reason. She is cute, funny and unbelievably smart for someone so tiny.

She’s velociraptor smart.

That 3 year old watches you out of the corner of her eye figuring out your weaknesses.

For my part, I’m better with animals than with knee-high ninjas. I visit once every couple of months, bearing bribes gifts, and a pair of gerbils to distract her with, and I always make sure there’s at least one sensible grown-up nearby: sure, I’m the fun auntie, but I’m also the massively irresponsible one – think of the most responsible person you now, invert it directly, and that’s me.

Back to my sister asking a favour… The urgent tone of her voice would suggest that No, she doesn’t want to come visit. No, she doesn’t need The World’s Greatest Chilli Recipe. Yes, she needs me to look after the Small Bean.

This, THIS!, is my chance to prove to the family that I can look after her solo. (They’ve not let me do it since I admitted that before I babysat last time I had to look up how to change a nappy on eHow).  But I’m still terrified. I’ve seen Adventures in Babysitting. I’ve watched Uncle Buck. I’m still not entirely convinced Home Alone was a fictional story. I am scared.

So the night before heading down, in the name of research, I load up the DVD player and try figure out how the hell I’m going to keep Little Miss Monkeypants out of trouble for a day without losing my sanity.

Here’s what I learned…

1. Adam Sandler is a better role model than you might initially think.

Big Daddy, Billy Madison, Bedtime Stories – movies featuring irresponsible protagonists who, against all the odds, come good, and become responsible parent figures. Also, like me, they have a healthy appreciation of toilet humour.  I’m confident that if Sandler can do it, I can too.

Note to self: Feed toddler junk food at own risk…

E.T. was a slapstick comedy until Spielberg signed the sponsorship deal with Kleenex.

E.T. was a slapstick comedy until Spielberg signed the sponsorship deal with Kleenex.

Sure, it doesn’t look scary NOW…

Sure, it doesn’t look scary NOW…

2. The films I enjoyed as a child are unbelievably traumatizing.

I have happy memories of enjoying Disney movies when I was Jiminy Cricket-sized. I particularly enjoyed Dumbo, The Lion King and Bambi… in which case I’d clearly blocked out some devastating storylines: kids being separated from their mums, dads meeting horrifically messy stampedey endings… Walt Disney, you were a very disturbed man.

Then I put on The Dark Crystal, thinking Jim Henson would never create anything scary or upsetting, I mean, he was the Muppet Man!

Oh, what’s this? The Skeksis? How was I not scared by them when I was younger, given that I was hiding behind a bloody cushion watching it now??! And really, don’t get me started on ET. Saddest. Film. EVER.

With regret I found myself putting several titles back on the shelf rather than in my weekend bag.

3. Treat a toddler as you would a Mogwai.

GremlinsWell think about it… it just makes sense, doesn’t it?

4. If it’s a movie from the 70s, and it’s got a kid in it… avoid it!

Possibly a sweeping generalisation, but given that I have a majestically overactive imagination, I’m going to take a good guess that there are at least 3 films I should never, EVER watch before babysitting: The Omen, The Exorcist, The Shining.  I’m not saying Squidger is one of a pair of ghostly twins.

I’m not saying she’s possessed or in any way demonic. I’m not even saying she could have a 666 birthmark in her hair. I’m Just Sayin’.

5. Shrinking Children is not an acceptable play activity.

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is not an educational tool for adults, apparently. Nor is Jumanji, The Spiderwick Chronicles, or Night at the Museum. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the carry-on in any of those movies is exactly the opposite of what a parent wants their l’il angels to be getting up to.

Anyhoo, I rocked up, gerbils and cake in tow. My sister and bro-in-law left. Me and Littlelegs had ourselves a wee Mexican standoff… and the day went well. She behaved beautifully. However, I was exposed to something that day that still has me waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night:

NB: Big up to @OpticaLiz for trusting me with her pride and joy, even though I’m the least responsible person in our family and I once threatened to put a cork up the baby’s behind to stop her pooing ;) xx

 

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How to Plan your Movie Week

 by Maggie Kruger

Movie Geek RatingMuch to the chagrin of my friends and family, I am a movie geek. (They’re also fairly chagrined that I use the word ‘chagrin’ but never mind that.) They don’t complain about me being a movie geek when they can’t remember the title of that film with that bloke and the woman, or when we’re in the tiebreak round of a pub quiz and the prize rests on someone knowing which actor links The Shawshank Redemption and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (I know, easy right?*), but the rest of the time, they’re fairly embarrassed by me.

But I don’t care.

If you’re a geek, then the movies are your friends. Just as it is with songs, there is a movie to suit every mood and occasion. There are movies that remind you of certain times in your life (you only need one look at Sheri’s ‘It Came From The 80s’ articles to know this is true), and there are movies that you can watch over and over again, saying each line of dialogue along with the characters.  There are movies you watch even though you know you’ll cry for an hour afterwards, and there are movies you watch knowing that if you take a drink at the wrong time, it’ll come shooting out your nose cos you’re laughing so hard.

If someone offers you a recent Jack Black flick, just say no!

If someone offers you a recent Jack Black flick, just say no!

But like anything in life, it’s all about the timing! You watch the wrong movie on the wrong night and it can really spoil your enjoyment of it.  You can’t watch Requiem for a Dream on a Friday night thinking it’s going to set you up for a fun times party weekend: when you’re choosing your movies for a specific night of the week, do as the Knight says and for heaven’s sake: Choose wisely.

AND SO! Here’s my totally unscientific guide to how to plan your movie watching week: you need never go wrong again!

Monday:  As the great Bob Geldof said, “I don’t like Mondays”. I can’t stand the first day of the working week, because the last weekend wasn’t long enough and the next one is JUST. SO. FAR. AWAY.  With this in mind, you might think that this calls for Comedy. Something hilarious starring Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler and Jack Black – or preferably all three.  But no.

Weirdly enough I can’t watch comedies or anything overly energetic that early in the week, so I usually pick something fairly sombre. Not Life Is Beautiful sombre, but a good drama, something to keep the braincells ticking over so you can be amazingly productive and marvellous at the office. Just looking at my DVD shelves now, I can see a pile of Monday night possibilities: Road to Perdition, The Pleasantville, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Children of Men – all good, solid stories that will give you something to think about after you’ve collapsed on the sofa in a heap.

Tuesday: You’ve made it through 2 days at the office! Well done! You’re still not watching Anchorman though. Tuesday’s a funny old day. You can’t complain about it being Monday, and yet Friday night is still SO. FAR. AWAY. It’s enough to make you come home, curl up on the sofa in the foetal position and rock back and forth for 6 hours. Well, you could do that… OR you could watch something gentle, heartwarming and comforting: the cinematic equivalent of chicken soup. Kinky Boots, Dave and Doc Hollywood are all perfect for a Tuesday – lovely movies that make you want to hug everyone.

Wednesday: Hump Day! Wednesday is, IMHO, the most hopeful day of the week. It’s all downhill from here and suddenly the weekend seems just a little bit LESS. FAR. AWAY. But put down Nacho Libre please, you’re still not getting a comedy. Instead I encourage you to embrace your romantic side, and settle down with a love story. Now, I’m not talking a Jennifer Aniston rom-com (or god forbid, a Kirsten Dunst one), but something with a brain, as well as a heart – Waitress, Say Anything, An Affair to Remember are all brilliant and not too schmaltzy sweet.

Thursday: I have to admit, Thursday is my favourite day of the week. The weekend’s so close you can smell it, and let’s face it, who *really* does any work on a Friday, anyway?  My favourite choice for a Thursday is something a little bit alternative – arthouse, or an indie flick – something vaguely cerebral to counterpoint the guilty pleasures lying in store from tomorrow onwards. Favourite Thursday night choices include (looking at the DVD shelf again): Empire Records, The Royal Tenenbaums, even some old black and white classics – I do like a film noir on a Thursday. Double Indemnity and Build My Gallows High are both worth a watch.

Friday: It’s the weekend!! You’ve cut out of work early, the pizza’s on its way and you’ve got a bag of popcorn waiting in the wings. No, put DOWN that copy of Zoolander: you’re still not watching a comedy. Friday night is Horror Night! As I’ve said before, I’m not a big fan of splatter movies, or the really really terrifying Japanese horrors, but give me a good old-fashioned 70s or 80s horror – The Shining, The Omen, The Exorcist – and I’m happy.  I also love love love scary sci-fis: The Fly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, that kind of thing. More recently I was v. impressed by Slither, but that could just be because I’m unhealthily obsessed with Nathan Fillion.

Yippee-Kai-Yay! It's movie week mother $@#&*!

Yippee-Kai-Yay! It's movie week mother $@#&*!

Saturday: I know, I shouldn’t really be encouraging people to watch a movie EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. I should be encouraging people to go out, socialise, get some fresh air. If you’re desperate for some vitamin D then go outside during daylight hours, but in the meantime get yourself ready for a great big silly Saturday night movie… I’m talking blockbusters, action movies, disaster movies, adventure movies. But don’t get carried away and think that any old rubbish will do – I mean each to their own and all that but there’s really no need for you to be watching Steven Seagal movies. I’m partial to a bit of Day After Tomorrow myself, but I also wholeheartedly approve of Bruce Willis movies, sports movies in the vein of Major League, and almost any movie based on one of the Marvel Comics back catalogue.

There can be only one... Clancy Brown!

There can be only one... Clancy Brown!

If you’re feeling bold, you could easily pull a Saturday night double bill. But what to follow a great big shouty actioner with? Seriously, step *away* from Blades of Glory. Saturday late nights are for thrillers. The late eighties/early nineties yielded some superb psychopath movies: Pacific Heights, Dead Calm, Unlawful Entry… As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of the ‘Oops, didn’t kill them properly the first time’ school of endings and they were almost de rigeur for any movie starring Michael Keaton or Ray Liotta circa 1992.

Sunday: Sunday during the day is great. You can go for lunch with friends, do a load of laundry, do anything you want. Sunday NIGHTS, however, are a different matter. I left school 15 years ago and I still get that ‘haven’t done my homework’ feeling at about 7pm on a Sunday evening, and as far as I know, there’s only one way to get rid of it. Now, now is the time for some gut-busting comedy – personally I’ve never gone wrong with something like Old School, Little Nicky or Team America: World Police, but then again I’ve got an incredibly immature sense of humour and am easily pleased by some swearing and the odd fart joke.  If I really need to pull the big guns out, then Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Airplane, or The Princess Bride are my go-to titles, but you don’t want to overdo them, they’re for emergencies only!

Give it a go and see how you get on – you might totally disagree with me in which case let me know what I should be watching and when I should be watching it – I’m open to suggestions!!

*The answer of course is Clancy Brown. If you didn’t know that, you should be ashamed of yourself! ;)

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How To Be As Mad as Hell and Not Take It Any More!

Networkby Maggie Kruger

***Warning! This post is totally NSFW.  It is R –Rated, 18 certificated, 100% not one for the office***

So I know my life sounds like a catalogue of woes at the moment (rat infestations, flatmates swanning off on holiday, don’t even get me started on the leak from the apartment upstairs and the mushrooms growing out of the carpet in my living room), and in all honestly, I have many many things to be thankful and happy about so I should really get over myself and stop complaining. HOWEVER. Yesterday I was one angry little hobbit.

I was trying to renew the cellphone contracts for our office, and for some reason it was more complicated than the plot of Lost Highway (you know, the David Lynch movie that makes less sense than waxing an owl so you can feed the feathers to your pet badger). What should have taken 10 minutes on the phone and been easier than mocking Kirsten Dunst, had turned into a week of back and forth emails, phone calls and unreturned messages.

Finally, yesterday at 8.30am, I got hold of the person who had mangled our renewal. By 11am I was speechless with rage, staring at my computer screen in disbelief as I read an email from this spotty youth based in Scotland who had not only messed up my order, but was telling me it was my fault, and on top of that charging me a small fortune for the privilege. As a rule I don’t like to lose my temper, but I managed to turn both the air around me and the timeline on my Twitter stream blue with the foul language flying out of my potty mouth.  Normally I would just shrug it off but this particular corporation and I have never enjoyed the best of relations, as they are evil. Pure, unadulterated evil, run by thousands of little Pazuzus who sit at their desks thinking up new ways to make their customers lives just that teensy bit more miserable.

But let’s not forget that I am English, so what did I do to sort out the situation? Well isn’t it obvious?  I had a cup of tea and wrote a sarcastic email, of course!

Which, let’s face it, is a bit rubbish. I should have gone postal on his ass, man! I should have torn the Spotty Scotty a new one! I should have… yeah, it’s not really me, is it? So yet again I turn to the movie world to teach myself some life skills – in this case how to have an epic movie-inspired meltdown…

My first port of call is of course Falling Down. Made by Joel Schumacher before he started destroying Batman franchises and starring Michael Douglas as D-Fens, this is throwing your toys out the pram on a biblical scale: stressed white collar worker hits rock bottom and embarks upon a city wide rampage. Do *not* tell this man he’s too late to order his breakfast, y’all.

Next up, I need some help with my F-Bombs (although you might not have known it if you’d been anywhere near me yesterday, honestly I kiss my mother with that mouth, I should be ashamed).  And there really is no better education than Steve Martin losing his shit in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. This one of the funniest scenes known to man, woman or gerbil, not only because of Steve’s unparalleled brilliance, but also due to the understated  wonderfulness of Edie McClurg.  Completely off-topic but she totally steals her scenes in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (‘Hello Jeannie, who’s bothering you now?) – I think she’s fab.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5o8DFfYHS4

Now I know full well that if I really wanted to study meltdowns I should watch Scarface… but in all honesty every time I even think about that movie I run around yelling ‘Say hhhello to ma leetle friend!’ in the dodgiest Al Pacino impression ever.  Which is less ‘meltdown’, more ‘certifiable’.

Instead, I turn to the work of an actor who has done more for the great art of Losing It than possibly any other. I’m not talking about Kevin Spacey, I’m not talking about Jack Nicholson, hell, I’m not even talking about Christopher Walken.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…

Nicholas Cage!

This is one actor who knows how to freak out. I mean, his films are getting exponentially worse, the tighter his face gets, but he’s still got the meltdown magic. Just look at this clever little compilation.

I especially like it because it includes my favourite bit from The Wicker Man (and we all know my feelings about The Wicker Man). Just watching this video could inspire you to take on the cast of 300.  And on another tangent, has anyone noticed that Nicolas Cage is turning into Gene Simmons in Runaway? Just look at them!

Nic Cage

Nic Cage

Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons

Nicolas Cage and Gene Simmons – separated at birth?

Now in the spirit of Equal Opportunities I should look at some Lady Rage. The early 90s gave us some brilliantly terrifying women: Kathy Bates in Misery, Rebecca de Mornay in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female, and of course I can’t not head back to 80s and mention Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Yes, we all knew these characters were crazy, and yes, we all knew there would be shrieking, violence, and the inevitable ‘didn’t kill them properly the first time’ resurrection, swiftly followed by a grisly impaling on a fence post, but godammit, they looked like they were having so much more fun than their victims!

‘But all I want  to do is renew my cellphone contract!’

‘But all I want to do is renew my cellphone contract!’

(Right, I fear I’m bordering on the sociopathic here, time to reel it in, Mags)

Obviously honourable mentions should go to Peter Finch in Network, to Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop (come on, what’s not to love about it?). And of course – let us not forget King Robert of De Niro in Taxi Driver.

I’m slightly ashamed of myself – 30 years of watching great movies and I still don’t know how to have a proper freak out, and I’m sure I’ve missed out on a whole slew of titles here. But a night in front of my TV and I feel well able to deal with the next Jobsworth that comes my way…by turning back into the angry little hobbit!!

 

 

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How to Reinvent Yourself Via the Magic of the Movies

by Maggie Kruger

Ever had one of those mornings when you’ve woken up,  looked in the mirror and wished you were somewhere else?  That you were someone else? That you had someone else’s life,  one that didn’t involve long commutes to the office,  lengthy arguments about whose turn it is to do the washing up,  and in which you were richer,  thinner and with better hair?  (Personally,  I covet the updo Julia Roberts is sporting in Closer  –  unfortunately my short brunette locks will never attain that level of fabulousness).

But I digress.

Through the magic of the movies it is possible to reinvent yourself  –  here’s how…

The Devil may wear prada, but that's only because her Kathy Lee Gifford designer clothes would give her away.

The Devil may wear prada, but that's only because her Kathy Lee Gifford designer clothes would give her away.

Scenario 1:  I Hate My Job

We’ve all had those days,  when your boss shouts at you for no reason,  every single person on the phone is blaming you personally for whatever’s bugging them,  and you’re convinced you’re never going to get that payrise/promotion.  What to do in that situation?  Take a leaf out of Tess McGill’s book,  that’s what!

Working Girl is the film that gave all of us hope (yes,  even the boys) that even if your boss is beyond evil,  you too can make it to the top:  put upon secretary Tess McGill (a pre-surgery Melanie Griffith) finds out boss from hell Katherine (a beyond brilliant Sigourney Weaver) is stealing her ideas. One skiing accident,  a foxy haircut and a fling with Harrison Ford later,  she’s at the top of the pile. Inspiring and funny,  and over 20 years later it still stands out as a classic comedy.

See also:  The Devil Wears Prada (no word of a lie,  I used to work for a woman who was as evil,  if not more so,  than Miranda Priestley. She used to say I’d made her tea wrong and send me to make her another cup on average of once a week.  However,  now I have a lovely office in Central London and she has to make her own tea. Ha. );  9-5;  Swimming With Sharks.

Scenario 2: There Once Was An Ugly Duckling…

If there’s one thing Hollywood loves,  it’s the ugly duckling story.  Take one homely hero or heroine,  add one suitably soundtracked montage,  and what’s the result?  A beautiful swan and smiles all round,  that’s what!  Of course,  it usually helps that the person being transformed hadn’t exactly been beaten with the ugly stick in the first place,  but let’s just lay that thought to one side for the moment.

It’s a total guilty pleasure,  but Miss Congeniality is one of my favourite Ugly Duckling stories  –  sloppy FBI agent Sandra Bullock is forced to go undercover at a Miss United States Pageant and discovers that even being beautiful and being smart are not mutually exclusive concepts. Just glorious.
See also:  Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club;  Tara Morice in Strictly Ballroom;  Patrick Dempsey in Can’t Buy Me Love (thanks to @meemalee for that one);  Brendan Fraser in Blast from the Past:  I love this film,  it’s totally feelgood and boy,  Brendan Fraser’s got some moves!

Vera (Annie Ross) would like to say, "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!"

Vera (Annie Ross) would like to say, "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!"

Scenario 3: I Hate My Species.

Being human can be so,  well,  pedestrian sometimes,  can’t it? So what are the options available? Given the right financial resources you too could recreate The Fly,  but getting an insect to go into the machine at the right time does take stonking amounts of fly-training,  and the end result doesn’t tend to win you many friends (especially not when puking on them after too much beer on a night out means they’re likely to lose a limb or 3).

See also:  Teenwolf;  Vera in Superman III (when she gets turned into the robot…  that bit still scares me you know.)

Scenario 4: FML

Tootsie (Dustin Hoffman) wants you to know: that is most definitely NOT a banana in her pocket... and yes, she is in fact happy to see you!

Tootsie (Dustin Hoffman) wants you to know: that is most definitely NOT a banana in her pocket... and yes, she is in fact happy to see you!

So,  your life is resembling the Friends theme tune. You can’t get a job and your ex-wife won’t let you see your kids.  What to do?? DRESS UP AS A WOMAN,   that’s what. Tootsie is just about one of the funniest films made by anyone ever:  struggling actor Dustin Hoffman can’t get a job,  so dresses up as a woman to become the newest star of a popular daytime soap. Hilarity ensues.

See also:  Some Like It Hot (‘Nobody’s perfect!’ );  Mrs Doubtfire;  Transamerica (ish… great movie though,  well worth a watch, Felicity Huffman is brilliant in it).

Scenario 5: If I Were a Rich Man…

Admit it  –  we all think our life would be better if we had more money. But would it really? In the sublime Mr Deeds Goes to Town,  Gary Cooper inherits a fortune,  but finds only ridicule and unhappiness await him in the big bad city. This was remade a few years back as Mr Deeds with Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder,  but it’s not a patch on the original.

See also:  Trading Places;  The Jerk;  Brewster’s Millions

Of course,  we all know that the grass is always greener… I’m sure if I ever got Julia Roberts’ hair I’d soon be hankering after someone else’s barnet… Jennifer Garner’s rocking a pretty fierce look these days,  after all.

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983,  and has loved the movies ever since,  even going so far as to study them at college,  where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London,  UK,  and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove,  although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work. Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How to Safeguard Your House Against a Cinematic Animal Attack

by Maggie Kruger 

So the nice exterminator has been to visit and there is now rat poison aplenty in my basement – the Mousekewitz family were in fact the cast of Willard and now their verminous behinds are paying the price for attempting to colonize my apartment.  I’m slightly worried that they’re going to seek vengeance and aren’t eating the poison at all but biding their time until they can come and attack me and my pet gerbils, so I’ve been doing my research: you never know when you’ll need to defend yourself against an animal attack…

1. Rats

OK, I’m screwed.  It’s a well-known fact that when the apocalypse comes, the only creatures to survive will be cockroaches and rats, and the movie world appears to bear this fact out.  The reason I’m so terrified of rats is that them critters is intelligent, and über-horrors Willard and Ben do nothing to dissuade me from this idea: intelligent rats befriend lonely boys and bad thing ensue.  Watch the trailers… these are the scenes currently unfolding in my basement!

2. Dogs

Ah, man’s best friend.  I like dogs, I like dogs a lot: Eight Below is lovely and sad and inspiring… and Snoopy is a particularly favourite character.  But wait…what’s this I see on my TV screen? Cujo? Old Yeller? White Dog?  *goes off to arm myself with something to fend off big scary rabid and possibly racist dogs*.  You never got that kind of crap with Lassie, you know.

john-goodman-arachnophobia

My Hero.

3. Spiders

Up until recently, I thought there were only spiders in my basement, and we had a deal. I wouldn’t bother them, and they wouldn’t bother me. Occasionally some brave maverick would attempt to claim the bathroom as spider territory, but I’d send a flatmate in to deal with it.  I’ve never been a massive fan of spiders, but when I saw Arachnophobia, well, that was it: I immediately summoned John Goodman to come and live with me.

I should also possibly mention Shelob from Lord of the Rings here…the only thing in the entire trilogy that’s scarier than Orlando Bloom’s ‘acting’.  However not all spiders are evil…. I live in hope that at least one of the spiders in the basement is friendly like the one in Charlotte’s Web and has got my back.

4. Birds

What’s that you say?  ‘Birds, Maggie? Birds?  Birds aren’t scary, you silly sausage!’. Well just do me a wee favour and watch this trailer…

5. Dinosaurs

Look, I’m just covering all the bases here.  You never know, Jurassic Park could come true one day.  Every time it’s on TV the gerbils get all overexcited and spend the next week pretending to be velociraptors… so if anyone’s got Jeff Goldblum’s number, do me a solid and ask if he wants to move to London…?  There’s really no way to escape a dinosaur attack, apart, of course, from standing stock still if you’ve got a T-Rex after you. The same method also works on door to door salesmen and aged relatives who want to pinch your cheek.

In theory, I should include cats here, but I’m not worried about a moggie attack – I’m well able to deal with the odd evil furball – catnip is a brilliant thing.  And besides, how could anyone think this lot are evil?

So, what have I learned about surviving animal/arachnid/dinosaur attacks?  Probably that it’s best to leave them to the professionals…. Or get the Beastmaster in! ;)

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work. Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How to Tour Western Europe Without Leaving the Country (or Your TV)

by Maggie Kruger

My flatmate is off to Italy in the morning, and I am very jealous of him: he’s heading off to the Amalfi coast and I get to stay in our manky flat waiting for the exterminators to come and do something about the family of mice we’ve got living in the walls.

But I don’t need to be bitter.

Thanks to the magic of the movies me and the Mousekewitzes (yes, yes, I have named the vermin, what of it?) can have our own summer holiday in the sun, without going anywhere near an airport! NB – I’m going to be massively exclusive here and focus on France, Spain, Italy and Germany – if you want the full European experience, then watch the Eurovision Song Contest ;)

Allez les Bleus

First stop is France, land of le baguette, le stinky fromage and men in striped jumpers with onions draped around their neck.  I love the French, they’re so effortlessly cool: you tell me another nation that can eat that much garlic and still be so unbelievably sexy. The first movie to watch is the delightful Amelie– truly the movie equivalent of Prozac.

I defy anyone to watch this film and not be cheered up by it: a collection of eccentric Montmartre residents having their lives improved by offbeat loner Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou).

Nothing about this film is bad, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it. Altogether less saccharine but equally heartwarming is feature length animation Belleville Rendezvous (aka Les Tripelettes de Belleville).  It’s impossible to describe this movie: I know I’m not really selling it if I say it’s the story of a tenacious old lady trying to rescue her cyclist grandson from the hands of nefarious crooks, but that about sums it up… watch the trailer and trust me when I tell you it’s worth seeking out.

Totally sugarfree and quite frankly disturbing is 1980s classic Betty Blue.  Hot, steamy and by no means an easy watch, if your idea of ‘Crazy in Love’ is what Beyonce sang about, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. Two other French films that are shamefully obscure, but worth a watch if you can find them, are Ponette and MicMacs.

If Ponette doesn’t break your heart, then you don’t have one: a 5 year old girl sent away by her father, whilst trying to cope with the death of her mother.  Child actress Victoire Thivisol is just beautiful in this – as are the rest of the children in the cast – stupendous.  MicMacs is strange but lovely… I couldn’t even begin to tell you what this is about, but should you see it playing somewhere – Watch it!!

Viva Espana

Down to Spain and crack open the cervezas as you watch Pan’s Labyrinth.  Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece is set just after the Spanish Civil War and blurs the line between fantasy and reality.  There are a couple of moments in this movie that are terrifying, and this is largely down to the physical genius of Doug Jones (who also played Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies) – the man is just hypnotic  to watch.

By now you may be tiring of the subtitles a little, so the next movie isn’t strictly Spanish, but looks beautiful nonetheless.  Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody Allen’s love letter to the city, and is the movie that convinced me Scarlett Johansson could actually act (it’s worth noting at this point that I really REALLY hated Lost in Translation, but that’s another story).

Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz (who won an Oscar for her role here) are fantastic in it, and whilst some people saw it as a 2 hour commercial on behalf of the Spanish Tourist Board, it rocketed Barcelona to the top of my must-visit destination list. A quick paella break, then onwards.

Mambo Italiano

I can’t talk about Italian cinema without at least mentioning Dario Argento, for my splattertastic friends on the FF Crew, but I am a complete wuss when it comes to that much

Cinema Paradiso poster (1988)

Cinema Paradiso poster (1988)

gore (or at least that much gore that’s taking itself seriously – I have no issue with tongue in cheek gore a la The Evil Dead), so all I can really say is – ‘Dario Argento, he’s Italian and he makes scary gory movies’.

What I CAN talk about though are two of the most romantic films of all time. Il Postino is a truly stunning love story – exiled poet Pablo Neruda helps a local postman win the woman of his dreams – simple, but stunningly effective.

What is possibly more heartbreaking is knowing that lead actor, Massimo Troisi, postponed surgery to work on Il Postino, and suffered a fatal heart attack the day after filming wrapped.

Too sad.

And of course no cinematic trip to Italia would be complete without watching Cinema Paradiso – it’s the ultimate love letter to the movies.  A fatherless Sicilian boy befriends the projectionist at his local cinema, who teaches him not only about film, but also about life and love.

Believe me when I tell you this film is worth watching for the last 5 minutes alone: call me a softie but just reading a recap of it online brought tears to my eyes. But enough mawkish sentimentality!  Onto our final destination.

 

 

Max Schreck in Nosferatu (1922)

Max Schreck in Nosferatu (1922)

Deutschland Deutschland Über Alles

I loooooove German cinema.  I did a study on it at school when I was 18 and I can still bore on about it at length when the feeling takes me. I’m not going to do that now though – I’m just going to give you the most squeaky of whistlestop tours… Starting with Nosferatu.  This is an unauthorised adaptation of Dracula and stars the creepy  creepy Max Schreck as Count Orlok.

Some of the most iconic images of Expressionist cinema come for this movie…. I can feel a lecture startingso I’ll stop here.  Nosferatu: watch it, es ist ganz gut.

The next film worth a look is Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, if only because it’s beautiful, and Hollywood waded in and remade it as City of Angels, which IMO is one of the most dreadful films I’ve seen IN MY LIFE.  Seriously, it’s the biggest piece of rubbish committed to celluloid.

Wings of Desire on the other hand, is gorgeous: 2 angels roaming West Berlin towards the end of the Cold War, one of whom falls in love with a mortal.  There’s also a subplot featuring Peter Falk – what’s not to love about that?

Luck Dragon, Falcor, The Neverending Story (1984)

Luck Dragon, Falcor, The Neverending Story (1984)

The last film you need to see isn’t set in Germany, but it’s by brillingtons German director Wolfgang Petersen: The NeverEnding Story.  I loooooove this movie, nearly 30 years on and I still wish I had a Luck Dragon.

If you’ve never seen it, it’s right up there with Labyrinth, The Princess Bride and The Dark Crystal in the list of top fantasy films – dark, quite scary in places but ultimately heartwarming.   Highlights include the racing snail, a rock biter, and a gigantic turtle with a headcold.

(I want a Luck Dragon, and my birthday’s in December should you wish to start saving up!)

So with that I shall leave you – I’m going to feed the mice some Bratwurst and berate them for not being French.

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work. Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How To Throw A Great Movie Murder Mystery Party

LA Confidential posterby Maggie Kruger

It’s no secret that I love a good party.  Any excuse to have friends over, cook extravagant amounts of food and pop the cork on a couple of bottles of fizz and I’m happy.  But even better than having your mates round for plain old nibbles and drinks is having your mates round for a theme party.  And what better theme for a party than the movies?

Now, I’m not talking about your bog standard everyone-come-in-fancy-dress-and-stand-around-eating-canapes movie theme party, that’s so dull it’s the party equivalent of Kirsten Dunst.  With a little effort and imagination, and you can have yourself an awesome Movie Murder Mystery Party! Here’s how…

First of all, think about the scale you want your party to be on.  Do you want an epic, Orson Welles-esque affair with whistles and bells?  Or a low-budget indie smash that would have Quentin Tarantino weeping into his Royale with Cheese?  A small, intimate affair can be as much fun as inviting everyone you know, so decide how big you want it and take it from there.

For a party so big it needs its own zip code, think about investing in a murder mystery game online: type in ‘Movie Murder Mystery Party’ into your search engine of choice and the world’s your oyster.  They can be on the pricy side, but virtually all the hard work is done for you, leaving you more time to plan your costume.

The Big Easy (1987)

The Big Easy (1987)

The first one I looked at when researching this even gives you a timetable of the evening and a list of games – but you need everyone get into character and join in with the fun, and about 16 people to get your money’s worth. Trawl the search engines, and you’re bound to find something that suits your budget. Some of them even offer menu suggestions – I’m sure if you look hard enough there’s one out that that’ll actually host the party and cook all the food for you!!

Now, the other end of the scale is a lot smaller, a lot more disorganised, but just as much fun.  You will need:

-5 Friends

-Cluedo

-Some gumshoe movies

-Many, many doughnuts

-Other, less diabetes-inducing foodstuffs (burgers/pizzas/hotdogs… ;) )

-Music: the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack, some Gerschwin, I’d avoid the Grease soundtrack though.

The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

-Drinks of choice – thematically nothing less than coffee or whisky will do, although those of a nervous disposition should probably avoid both.

-Popcorn

Tell your friends to dress up as their favourite movie detective, and encourage them to bring with them their favourite murder mystery movie – my own particular favourites are The Big Easy, The Eyes of Laura Mars and I’ve got a major soft spot for LA Confidential.

When they arrive, set up the game and assign everyone their characters (this is why you have the Reservoir Dogs OST… all the colours!).  Play the game. Heck, play several games if you want, consuming doughnuts as you go (doughnuts are of course, a well known aid to solving crimes).

When you’re all Cluedo-ed out, whoever’s won the most games gets to choose a crime movie for you all to watch.  Grab the popcorn and the pizza, turn the lights out and enjoy!

NB: to get you in the mood, you could even start by watching Clue – here’s the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-uR2tz-QD0&feature=related

 

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work. Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

 

 

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How to Make the Greatest Movie Ever

Old_School_JVC_Camcorderby Maggie Kruger

Listen up Hollywood, I’m about to throw you a few home truths.  A lot of your favourite actors need to go back to drama school.  A lot of your hotshot directors couldn’t direct themselves out of a wet paper bag.  A lot of your movies are among the greatest crimes ever committed to celluloid.

Some films are enjoyably terrible: have a look at Jason’s ‘Deep Fried Cheese’ series to get the best of the schlock, and how many times have you told a friend that a movie is ‘so bad it’s good!’?  We all love a good bad flick: it’s no secret how much I love Beastmaster, and as I sit here typing away I’m watching Home Alone 3 and not hating it, even though every fibre of my being tells me I should switch it off and put on something far less ridiculous (although having just done a channel hop and realising that there’s a TV movie about Prince William and Kate Middleton on, I think I’m better off sticking with the mischievous kid).  Heck, I even watched Anaconda 3 the other week because a friend is in it: high art it ain’t but it made me laugh for a good hour after I’d switched it off.

My biggest problem with Hollywood (or indeed, any country’s film industry) is that it is/they are money, not arts-oriented.  Who cares if a film is good or not, so long as it rakes in the cash, right?  Who cares that the leading man or lady is totally miscast, so long as audiences flock to the opening weekend, right? And who cares if the director’s best-known work to date is a Lady Gaga video, so long as they bring it in on time and under budget, right?

Wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

Yes, I know that there are exceptions to the rule: when David Fincher made the moody, broody and really rather good Alien³ his biggest hit till then had been a Madonna promo.  I thought Avatar, the highest-grossing movie ever, was amazing.  No-one thought that Tom Cruise could play an oppressed Irish emigre in Far and Away, and they were right.  But when he’s not jumping on sofas, Wee Tommy O’Cruise can occasionally turn in a surprisingly good, against-type performance – Magnolia and Interview with the Vampire spring immediately to mind, although I hated his bit in Tropic Thunder with every fibre of my being.

Before I get too comfortable up here on my soapbox, I should probably clarify that despite all appearances to the contrary, I do love mainstream cinema.  It’s big and silly and entertains me.  It just frustrates me that it churns out so much rubbish.  So to move swiftly onto the subject in hand: how can Hollywood make the best movie ever? What would make it the best movie ever? Who should write it?  Direct it? Who should be in it?  Of course, every single person on the planet has a different idea of what makes a great movie: one man’s Citizen Kane is another man’s Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow, after all.

I’m being purely subjective here.

Selecting a Story

7 Basic Plots book.

7 Basic Plots book... just pick one already!

First and foremost, story.  If there are only 7 basic plots in storytelling, then it shouldn’t be so difficult to create a narrative that works… or even one that doesn’t have more holes in it than a piece of Emmenthal Cheese (I’m looking at YOU, The Lake House). Every movie you’ve ever loved can be traced back to one of 7 basic premises: Overcoming the Monster; Rags to Riches, The Quest, Comedy, Tragedy, Voyage and Return, and Rebirth.  Even movies that take 8 viewings before they make sense, or can be interpreted in a squillion different ways, like Inception, The Matrix or Black Swan, can be boiled down to one of those (magnificent) seven.

Truly original stories seem so few and far between these days: just look at all the sequels,  reboots and comic book adaptations coming out this year (disclaimer: I love comic book movies, so I’m not saying that’s a necessarily terrible thing – it’s only May and I’ve already got Thor down as one of my movies of the year).

Have we run out of stories?  Surely not, as long as the likes of Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky and Terry Gilliam are around – innovative directors who make consistently beautiful work, and coax amazing performances out of their actors (just look at 12 Monkeys – who knew Bruce and Brad could be so good!).  And that’s not to say that remakes can’t be better than the original: the Vincent Price version of The Fly is all well and good but it’s not a patch on the Cronenberg remake.

I have to admit that a lot of the time I don’t like films adapted from books I know well: The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Golden Compass, even Kubrick’s The Shining to a certain extent – all great novels, didn’t translate well to the big screen, as if no one took a minute to think about what elements would be essential to the story and could never fit into a 2 hour movie.  The Time Traveller’s Wife was particularly disappointing – the casting was all wrong (more of this later) and whilst it used the skeleton of the storyline, to me it left out the heart and soul of what made the book such a wonderful love story – those character developing episodes that gave each character any depth.  Plus the kid in it made me properly nauseous.

Of course it would be churlish of me not to admit that there are a shedload of amazing films based on books  that aren’t horrible, or that I don’t know the source material well enough to justifiably pass comment – just look at Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (never read ‘em but loved all 3 films).  So before I get lynched by a group of LOTR fans insisting that there were no elves at Helms Deep, onwards.

You need a decent screenplay to tell your brilliant story – and that can often be the first hurdle a movie falls at.  Again, some movies fall into the so bad it’s funny category (I have a soft spot for some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s kiss-off lines… ‘What happened to Buzzsaw?’/ ‘He had to split’…brilliant) but some movies contain dialogue so bad it’s beyond painful – ladies and gentlemen I give you Gigli:

J. Lo: ‘It’s turkey time’

Affleck: ‘What?’

J. Lo (nodding towards her crotch): ‘Gobble gobble’.

Ewwww.

Is it really that difficult to write credible dialogue?  Do audiences WANT credible dialogue?  After all, everyone has a movie quote that they trot out on all occasions (Bless her, my mum still uses ‘Not!’ from the Wayne’s World films), and more often than not, they’re the cheesiest, crappiest lines in the whole shebang.

Having said that though, there are some brilliant screenwriters running around the world right now –one of my particular favourites is William Goldman (the man’s a fracking GENIUS), but look at the ladies coming up behind him – Jane Goldman, Diablo Cody. With the amount of fresh talent rising up the ranks, there’s really no reason for Joe Eszterhas to ever have one of his screenplays made, ever again.  Really.

Choosing a Director

So we’ve got the words, onto the next important element: the director.  Now, call me old fashioned, but I like a director who can actually tell a story by, y’know, storytelling, not relying on editing so fast it could induce epileptic fits, or on so many crappy effects. Have a look at Frank Darabont and Sam Mendez’ movies – almost theatrical in their cinematography, and confident in slow, unflashy cuts: The Shawshank Redemption and Road to Perdition are superb examples of this.

Other personal favourites are Cameron Crowe, Stanley Kubrick, Peter Weir and, I feel like I should whisper it, James Cameron. I’m aware that after the first viewing Titanic is long and arduous but if you turn it on about 80 minutes in it zips along nicely.  And yes, Elizabethtown is nothing short of horrible, but what do you expect if you cast the spectacularly charisma-less duo of Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst as your leads?

Casting the Movie

Which leads me to my next point: those pesky performers.  For every amazing actor forever doomed to obscurity, or even worse, to play the hero’s best friend, there are at least 3 talentless donkeys who are inexplicably cast in leading roles time after time. I’m fairly convinced that Shia LeBouffant has signed a pact with Lucifer, that’s the only reason I can see that he works as much as he does.

What’s almost worse is when you look at some of the terrible choices great actors can make.  I’ve looked at it from every angle and I still can’t work out what induced Nicolas Cage to star in that remake of The Wicker Man (‘My eyes!! My eyes!! Not the BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!’… I mean come on).

Before I get too carried away with my list of terrible actors (which, believe me, is long, and which I can bang on about for hours at a time) , it’s time to celebrate the ones that we want to be in the Best Movie Ever. We want the Top Gun of actors, those unsung heroes that can turn a sow’s ear of a film into a cinematic silk purse.

We all know those exceptional people who are constantly bothering Best Actor/Actress nomination lists, and also the stars, whose name alone can open a movie.  They may be the main attraction, but in my humble opinion the people you want to be looking at are the Supporting Artistes, as quite often they’re the ones making the leads look good.  The buddy, the boss, the long-suffering girlfriend, the quiet neighbour who turns out to be a raging psychopath – if I’m looking at a cast list and I see any of the following on it, I know it’s got to be worth a watch: Stanley Tucci, David Strathairn, Kathy Bates, Dianne Wiest, Ernie Hudson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Stockard Channing, Peter Stormare, John C Reilly, Helena Bonham Carter… I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

One final word on actors, as touched on earlier.  One of my issues with The Time Traveller’s Wife was the casting – I just don’t understand how anyone thought Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams were right for that movie: whilst they’re both undeniably good actors, they were totally wrong choices for those characters.  How often have you seen that happen- a popular actor in a role they’re totally unsuited to: Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; Ray Winstone in Cold Mountain (actually, most of the cast of Cold Mountain apart from the always-reliable Brendan Gleeson, James Gammon and Ethan Suplee); Keanu Reeves in just about anything?

If I’m not sure about someone’s performance in a movie, I’ll always ask myself, OK, if it wasn’t them playing that part, who would it be?  9 times out of 10 I can come up with a better alternative.  Try it, it’s an excellent game to play over a couple of beers.

So anyway, I have rambled on for a very long time about what should make a good movie and should really come to some form of conclusion.  In my head, the perfect film is one that has an intelligent, comprehensive story.  It should be written by someone who understands how movie dialogue works, and directed by someone who can tell a story without resorting to flashy tricks, although they can use the flashy tricks if it adds to the story.  It should star someone who actually knows how to act, and is the appropriate age and accent for the character.  It should also feature a host of the world’s finest character actors in an assortment of cameos/supporting roles.  It should not, under any circumstances, feature Kirsten Dunst, nor should Michael Bay be allowed anywhere near it.

Now, is that too much to ask, Hollywood?

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work. Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How To Get Yourself in the Cinematic Mood (for a Royal Wedding)

The Queen by Maggie Kruger

On April 29th,=, the world and its gerbil is going to turn its attention to Ye Olde London Towne, to witness our Future King marrying Kate Middleton.  What with the success of The King’s Speech at the Oscars in February and now all of the UK getting an extra day off work so we can watch the ceremony, it’s been quite a year for the Royal Family of Great Britain.

If I’m absolutely honest I’m not all that excited about it – I reached Royal Wedding saturation point about 3 months ago – but my friends and I will be getting together to watch the ceremony and drink champagne nonetheless.

Any excuse, after all.

I’m thinking I should get myself in the mood though: after all itis a historic occasion.  So this weekend I propose to climb aboard the Royal Express, please join me as I try to figure out How To Get Yourself in the Mood (for a Royal Wedding).

Starting with the ladies, I’ll begin with The Queen– this is an awesome movie and well worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet: the immediate aftermath of Diana, Princess of Wales’ death in 1997 when the Royal Family stayed silent in the face of a nation’s hysteria.  Helen Mirren (always great to watch) is an uncanny Lizzie II, ably supported by James Cromwell, Michael Sheen and Sylvia Sims.  Michael Sheen’s brilliant in it actually, now I come to think of it, you can almost see the oil oozing off of his portrayal of Tony Blair.

shakespeare in loveIf we’re looking at awe-inspiring Queens (leave your Elton John jokes at the door), I guess we should at least have a little look at Elizabeth I, but I’m going to make a confession here: I think Elizabeth is probably the most obvious choice and certainly the easiest to find, but I went to see it at the cinema when it came out and I think I was a bit bored by it… I don’t really want to watch it again.  It’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it – it looks beautiful and Cate Blanchett is great, but give me a choice between Elizabeth and something else, I’m going to choose something else.

For my Lizzie One fix I’m much more likely to head towards Judi Dench’s Oscar-winning 9 minutes in Shakespeare in Love (loads of the same cast as well… Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes…).  A lot less worthy, a lot more fun, and my favourite Rupert Everett performance OF ALL TIME.

Speaking of the wonderful Judi Dench, let’s not forget Mrs Brown, in which she plays Queen Victoria in her period of mourning after Prince Albert’s death.  Her Scottish groundsman (Billy Connolly, best known in the UK as the Best Ever Stand-Up Comedian Ever Who Ever Lived Ever and a total revelation in this movie) gradually brings her out of her fugue, much to the disapproval of her family and the government.  As inspiring as it is heartbreaking, it’s one movie I can watch over and over again.  It’s also notable for an early Gerard Butler appearance, before he forgot how to act (PS I Love You, anyone?).

monty-python-and-the-holy-grailSo far, so stately.  The problem with historical films is that on the whole they’re not so big on the *fun* side of sovereignty: it’s a serious business, being a monarch.  Now, I could watch myself some Henry V, Richard III or any other Shakespearian epic for my Kingly fix, but I think for seriousness’ sake, I will go with The Madness of King George, as I’ve never seen it and I’m fed up of people looking at me like I’m a leper when they find that out (Sorry, but look at what else came out in 1994 – I was too busy trying to get someone to hire out The Crow or Leon on video for me to bother with that historical rubbish).  Nigel Hawthorne was a great actor though, so I’ll let you know how I get on.

Enough with all the solemnity now!  We’re trying to get into a celebratory mood here, and mentally ill monarchs don’t exactly scream fun times royal wedding party preparation.  So I propose one final movie, about the finest mythological king, like, EVER: King Arthur.  Get your coconut shells out, and watch out for the Black Knight, for I shall be kicking back to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  This movie is nearly 40 years old and is freaking HILARIOUS.  I just IMDB’d the memorable quotes and sat giggling for about 20 minutes: I defy you not to do the same…. Go on, watch the trailer.

Run away!!!

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Trailer

But before I get too carried away and start telling people their mother is a hamster, I shall poddle off to try and grow some national pride.  If you’re watching the wedding, enjoy, and if you’re not: I fart in your general direction!

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work. Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

 

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How To Embrace Your Inner Geek

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)So, the other night, I was at the cinema, watching a special screening of one of my favourite ever movies (yes, I know I say that virtually every movie is one of my favourite ever movies, but that’s by the by).  Suffice to say, I had a front row seat and a wonderful, unobscured view of Aliens.

I was only 7 when it came out, so I had never seen it on the big screen, and oh my god, watching it on a teeny TV just does not do it justice. But what, you may ask, does watching Aliens have to do with inner geeks?  Liking Aliens doesn’t mean you’re geeky, it means you’ve got great taste in films. Well, I was looking forward to going to see it so much that I was Tweeting about it rather a lot on the day.

A young, achingly trendy guy in my office assumed that when I said I was going to see Aliens, I was actually going to see a band called The Aliens, who are painfully stylish and up to the minute. When I informed him otherwise, he looked mildly amused and faintly disbelieving that I’d willingly pay to see some trashy old sci-fi, action movie.

Now, I don’t claim to be a total Trendy Wendy, but I do try to cultivate a certain image at work, and 5 minutes talking to this man totally opened the can of worms that is my nerdiness.  As he walked away from my desk, I observed the remains of my so-called “cool sophistication” lying in tatters about my desk.

So far, so John Hughes (trendy guy, nerdy girl, opposites attract, yawn yawn); however, that isn’t the way this story’s going.  What was interesting was that myriad others, finding out what I was going to see that evening, suddenly crawled out of the woodwork with previously undisclosed passions for sci-fi, for Xenomorph movies, and for Lance Henriksen.  Which inspired me: no longer would I hide my inner movie geek, but rather I’d celebrate her.

“I can’t believe I just gave my panties to a geek.” — Sixteen Candles

I have issues with the term ‘Geek’.  When you hear the word do you, like me, automatically think of Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club?  It creates connotations of someone freakishly obsessed with something that the cool kids think is beneath them–a tad unfair I feel.

I don’t like soccer, but I don’t call footie fans ‘soccer nerds’.  (Actually, I call them something far worse, usually when scores of Chelsea fans are stopping me from getting home in a timely manner by blocking up the Underground).

Why should I be ashamed of having a hobby that is not only socially acceptable, but also broadens my cultural horizons?

I like movies, nay, I love movies. But I don’t love all movies –Japanese horror scares the bejeezus out of me and I don’t think I’ll ever have Eli Roth on my ‘must-watch directors’ list, but if it’s a moving picture and it doesn’t feature Kirsten Dunst, chances are I’ll give it a go.

I don’t care particularly if it’s mainstream or arthouse, just so long as I’m entertained and/or moved.  That’s why, on my shelves, you’ll find Il Postino next to 50 First Dates, and Monsters, Inc. next to The Shining.  They’re all great movies – just because I’m able to articulate why I like them doesn’t make me a freak of nature.

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” – Almost Famous

Go to any social gathering, and you’ll hear people talking, discussing and arguing about any given topic.  It could be about anything: sports, politics, pizza toppings… but get into an argument with someone about Kevin Smith and you might as well have a big, illuminated sign with ‘NERD’ emblazoned on it hovering above your head.

Specialized knowledge, to the less well-informed, translates as geekiness, and is frowned upon.  For the record (and just to get the last word in on one such argument with Swiss Cheese and Bullets), eh-hem…

“Kevin Smith is an awesome writer and director, and despite a few minor glitches (Jersey Girl, anyone?), has produced some fantastic comedies: Dogma remains one of the most clever films I’ve ever seen, and there are some beautifully tender moments amongst the hilarious crudeness of Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

“It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?” – Psycho

Before I get disowned, I’d like to clarify that my mother is nothing like Norman Bates’s mum.  I have her to thank for my interest in obscure movies: when my classmates were watching pre-teen fluff, my sister and I were being introduced to sci-fi, myth and magic, and sword and sorcery.

We saw Star Wars before anyone else I knew, and we had an extensive VHS collection that included The Beastmaster, Hawk the Slayer, and Gremlins.  And whilst I may not have appreciated it at the time, despite the derision of my classmates, I’m grateful that my early film education contained the titles it did, otherwise what you’d be reading right now is a full and frank article on the finer points of The Care Bears Movie.

Call the all me names you like, nothing bad ever came from knowing the correct way to look after a Mogwai.

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” – Gone With the Wind.

We’re all friends here.  Heck, in the 6 months since I happened upon Forgotten Flix it’s become my must-read blog in a way that Harry Knowles can only dream of, and now I find myself revelling in my nerdiness.

There are some things that maybe I should keep to myself (like the picture of Superman sellotaped to the inside of my desk drawer), but on the whole, from now on I will be proud to stand up and say,

MY NAME IS MAGGIE, AND I AM A MOVIE GEEK’.

Heck, if you’re nice about it I’ll even lend you my copy of Misfits of Science.  

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work. Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How To Take A Cinematic Tour of the British Isles

The British Flagby Maggie Kruger

It’s no secret that Great Britain doesn’t have the greatest reputation in Hollywood: it’s cold, wet, grey, and it’s peopled by buffoons, bad guys, and Hugh Grant.  So I’m guessing you don’t particularly want to spend your hard earned wages and precious 2 weeks holiday allowance on a trip here… and the good news is that now you don’t have to!  Allow me, if you will, to take you on a whistlestop tour of the UK, all from the comfort of your easy chair.

NB – Apologies in advance for leaving out Northern Ireland – I figured all of Ireland is worth its own virtual tour another time soon!

First Stop: London.

I love London: it’s alive, it’s vibrant, and it’s my hometown.   It may not have the edge of New York or the romance of Paris but go beyond the cloying, saccharine awfulness of movies like Notting Hill or Bridget Jones’ Diary and there beats a dirty but delightful heart.  One of the best examples of this is This Year’s Love, from 1999.  It’s a slightly off-kilter love story, set in grimy North London over 3 years.  The characters all look like they smell of booze and cigarettes, yet underneath this dingy exterior is a wonderful ensemble piece, with Kathy Burke and Ian Hart in particular standing out.

One thing that London is famous for is The London Underground – so you could do worse than finding a copy of Death Line (aka Raw Meat in the US) – watch the trailer here…

Death Line (aka Raw Meat) Trailer

… and don’t forget… Mind the doors…!!  Maybe easier to find would be Creep from 2005 – Franke Potente gets locked overnight in the Underground and finds herself fighting off seven shades of nasty.  I have to confess that I haven’t seen this all the way through– I started watching it but I have such a bad habit of falling asleep on the tube that I chickened out of watching the nasty bits… hey, I have an overactive imagination, ok?!

Oh, I Do Like to Be Beside The Seaside…

Rebecca Movie PosterMoving swiftly down to the South of England and we have cult classic Quadrophenia, which is set in Brighton on the Sussex coast.  Nowadays, Brighton is like a miniature London, lots of fun and slightly kitsch, but this movie is far from camp – set in 1965 it charts the rivalry between the Mods and Rockers and features a very young Sting, before he got all pretentious.  Watch the trailer.

Travelling West along the coast to Cornwall, there’s only one movie I can recommend to you – Hitchcock’s Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.  It’s a classic thriller, and the bleak settings only serve to heighten the atmosphere of this truly creepy ghost story – it won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1940 and is one of my favourite rainy Saturday afternoon films (of which there are many in the UK, if you believe everything you see at the cinema…. :o )

(Now, geographically, we should be visiting Wales here… but I don’t really like any movies set in Wales…. So go and watch and watch something with Anthony Hopkins in it instead.  I recommend  84 Charing Cross Road, another awesome London movie, but hell, any excuse to watch The Silence of the Lambs, eh?!)

It’s Grim Oop North (it’s not really)

Heading up north, get an idea of Liverpool with everybody’s favourite Scousers, The Beatles, and A Hard Day’s Night.   I love this film, even though it’s only partially set in the ‘Pool – particularly the scene where Ringo runs away and gets himself into all sorts of bother.  You Highlander Movie Postercould also do worse than having a look at Educating Rita for tour de force performances from Michael Caine and Julie Walters (before they were Alfred Pennyworth and Mrs Weasley).

Onwards and Upwards

Crossing over the border to Scotland and not to put too fine a point on it: there can be only one.  You know what I’m talking about… From Christopher Lambert’s dodgy Scottish accent, to Sean Connery’s even dodgier Spanish accent, all the way over to the Great Big Hulking Tower of Awesome that is Clancy Brown as The Kurgon, if you want to see Scotland, you want to watch Highlander.

It’s preposterous, it’s overblown, it’s absolutely bloody brilliant.  I imagine I’m preaching to the converted here but if you’ve never seen it then I implore you to seek it out and watch it as soon as is humanly possible.

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

(You could also watch The Wicker Man here, but – and I’m being deadly serious here – please make sure it’s the 1970s Edward Woodward original, not the Nicolas Cage remake – the only thing scary about the latter is how scarily terrible it is).

And now, the End is Near…

The final stop on your tour of the UK is Yorkshire… and what a pick you have.  If you want to experience the windswept majesty of the Yorkshire Moors (and they truly are beautiful), then any of the gazillion adaptations of Wuthering Heights are a must, although personally I find Kathy and Heathcliff only slightly less nauseating than any character in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.  I’ve saved you the best til last, really, but it might put you off visiting our fair isle…

To my mind, there’s only one movie you should be watching to have a glimpse of the Yorkshire Moors – just keep to the road and beware the moon, lads!   An American Werewolf in London is not only one of the coolest films ever made,  but it also takes you all the way from Yorkshire back to London… where I’ll leave you – hopefully with a slightly better impression of Great Britain!  Just watch out for those zombies and werewolves…

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work.

Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How I Learned to Forgive George Lucas… And You Can Too!

By Maggie Kruger

The Prequels

George LucasIf, like me, you spent your childhood pretending to be Luke, Leia or Han, then Summer 1999 would have been a very dark time for you.

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

The teaser poster was so cool – tiny little Jake Lloyd casting Darth Vader’s scary big shadow:  I got goose bumps on the back of my neck the first time I saw it.  The early pictures of Darth Maul: a genuinely scary looking villain – perfect.  I ventured off to the York Odeon with my geeky pals, expectantly waiting to be transported to a galaxy far, far away and relive a rush that I hadn’t felt since seeing Return of the Jedi almost 20 years before.

So it really was a little remiss of George Lucas to serve up to his audiences such a dream-shattering, memory-violating, burning-brown-bag-on-the-porch, just-plain-awful movie as Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.  Seriously, George, how could you honestly think that such a terrible pile of toilet was in any way acceptable as a Star Wars movie?

There is nothing good about that movie.  Not a single thing.  The news that it’s going to be out next year in 3-D is only going to throw into even sharper relief how terrible it really is.  But I digress…

In 2002, one idle Sunday afternoon, I cast aside my doubts and ventured to the Peckham Cineworld.  What was the second one called, the Clone something?  That’s how much of an impression it made on me – I can’t remember the title, only that it was rubbish and nonsensical.  Mercifully George had got rid of the dreadful double act of Jake Lloyd and Jar Jar, but look at what he gave us instead: the dubious acting talents of Haydn Christenson, and Christopher Lee’s phoned-in portrayal of Count Dooku, arguably one of the least threatening movie villains ever to grace the silver screen.

The final insult came in 2004 when a friend begged me to go and see Episode 3 with him.  I should have known better, but I hated to disappoint, and if I’m honest, I remember making my way to the Brixton Ritzy, thinking “How bad could it really be?”I think we all know the answer to that question.

Don’t Judge a George By His Jar Jar

But to borrow  a line from William Shakespeare, “I come to praise George Lucas, not bury him.”  I’m as angry as the next Wookiee at him for Episodes 1-3, and A New Hope aside, it’s no secret that he is a shockingly awful director (apologies to any American Graffiti fans out there, I’ve tried to like it but it just isn’t happening), however take a look at his Filmography, specifically the films he has produced – there are some absolute gems in there.

Obviously, the Indiana Jones films are in there:  rip roaring, swash buckling bundles of awesome with Harrison Ford in his roguish, handsome heyday (I’m trying my best to ignore the Crystal Skull-sized elephant in the room and just don’t get me started on Kate Capshaw) but there are a handful of other gems with George Lucas’ name attached to them that mean we shouldn’t send him to the metaphorical Rancor cave just yet.

(Also I’m well aware that the brilliance of the Indiana Jones films is totally down to one Steven Allan Spielberg and Lucas was totally riding on his coattails, which admittedly isn’t really helping my argument).

Let’s start with 1981’s Body Heat.  This remake of the excellent Double Indemnity launched Kathleen Turner’s career, and also stars one of my favorite ever actors, William Hurt. Check out the trailer – not a CGI racial stereotype with ridiculous flappy ears to be seen!  (And if you really want a treat, get yourself a copy of Double Indemnity too – it really is fantastic.)

Lucas’s Redemption

Moving swiftly on, I refer the honourable ladies and gentlemen to what is possibly one of the finest family films ever made, indeed it’s one of Joel’s Must See Movies from 1986: Labyrinth.  Again, most of the credit has to go to Jim Henson, but it’s a Lucasfilm production.  This is just a diamond of a movie: OK,  Jennifer Connolly’s Sarah tends toward slightly annoying, and David Bowie’s tights are nothing short of terrifying (not to mention his wig), but the puppets still make my heart ache with joy 25 years later (my own particular favourites being Sir Didymus and the beyond-gorgeous Ludo).

One film that’s always amused me is the Lucas-produced Howard the Duck.  If I’m honest, I probably haven’t seen it since the late 80s, but I can remember a lot of it very clearly, and I remember that it was kitschy hilarious: what’s not to love about a vaguely perverted, cigar smoking animatronic duck battling a Jeffrey Jones-shaped Overlord from a parallel dimension?  Ironically enough, Howard the Duck received a critical drubbing and the Razzie award that year for Worst Picture… and yet I still like it a hell of a lot more than Attack of the Clones (there you go, I remembered the name!).

I feel like I should give Willow an honourable mention at this point: it’s an ok movie and certainly one for the kids, but as I have yet to forgive Ron Howard for Far and Away and I don’t recall that the story made a whole heap of sense (another black mark against Uncle George… what was it Harrison Ford said? ‘George, you can type this s***, but you sure can’t say it’), I’m going to leave it to you to make your mind up about it.

So, in conclusion: George Lucas – a shockingly bad writer, a truly heinous director, but an ok producer.  And let’s not forget one thing: George Lucas invented Chewbacca, and for that we should be truly grateful.

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work.

Follow her on Twitter: @emmizzykay .

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How To Throw A Kick-Ass Oscar Party

Oscar Poses.By Maggie Kruger

Toot your horns and sound your trumpets, it’s only the Oscars!  As I live in the UK and have to be at work on a Monday morning, the chances of me staying up to watch the ceremony are as skinny as Renee Zellweger, but for you lucky souls living Stateside, give Oscar Night a go next weekend– if only for me, so I know that someone out there is enjoying it whilst I’m attempting to get my 8 hours in.

Prepare for the Event

We’re not just talking about getting your mates around to watch the show here, you need to think a little bigger: food, games, and yes, dressing up for the occasion is obligatory.  Like most themed evenings, it takes some organisation, but with a little effort and forward planning, you can make it a lot of fun.

To get in the mood, sit yourself down and watch In and Out.  This is a glorious, wonderful, Oscar-themed comedy that is perfect for the occasion: it’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s got Tom Selleck in it, which can never be a bad thing. (By the way, is anyone else totally excited about the new Three Men and a… film?  It’s going to be brilliant).

Keep the Cuisine Classy

Next, think about your food: specifically, canapés.  Not just finger food, but something classy and a little bit swish.  Plug in ‘canape recipes’ into your favourite search engine or have a look on this food website and it’ll give you some good ideas.

You might want to think about drinks at this point too – champagne is fun and an obvious starting point, but why not think about some classic cocktails, or even some movie-themed drinks?

Add Your Own Soundtrack

Whilst you’re preparing your food and drink (and possibly also decorating…  Some silver balloons and artfully placed votive candles add to any occasion I find), what better accompaniment than your favourite movie soundtracks cued up on your MP3 player?  My own personal favourites include anything from the Rocky films, Dirty Dancing or Dick Tracy – whatever floats your boat.

Oscar night games.If you don’t want to put a playlist together then any movie soundtrack compilation CD will do.  Make sure it’s upbeat, however, to get you in the party spirit: The Piano OST is also one of my favourites, but it doesn’t exactly scream ‘fun-times get together’, does it?

Play Games… Just Like They Do in Hollywood!

So, the party arena is set: now, to prepare your games.  You don’t want anything that’s going to distract you too much from the actual ceremony.  Write or print out the nominees from each category and as each guest arrives ask them to write out their predictions.  Whoever gets the most right at the end of the night should receive a prize.

You can also play the Oscar Drinking Game – take a drink every time:

You get the idea – try and think of some games of your own and leave them printed out around the room.  Of course, you don’t have to make this a drinking game, but just remember that you’re going to have to sit through all the technical awards and I honestly can’t think of another way to make those interesting.

Now that everything’s ready, go and get yourself dressed. Get your gladrags on and pour yourself a drink, welcome your guests and settle down for an evening of fun, food and posh frocks!

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work.

Follow her on Twitter at @emmizzykay .

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How to Plan the Perfect Movie Marathon

Movie Popcorn and Soda

by Maggie Kruger

So.  It’s Saturday.  The weather’s rubbish and you haven’t got the energy to go out.  The perfect conditions to plan yourself a cheeky little movie marathon.

It’s easy to mess up Movie Night.  The wrong choice of films, the wrong food, the wrong lighting… all of these can mess up your weekend…. OK, that’s maybe over-exaggerating slightly but hey, give it a little thought and you’re well on your way to a top night.

‘Choose Wisely’

First thing you need to do is decide what you’re actually going to watch.  Ideally you should be looking at 3 films maximum, and if you’re geeky like me going with a theme is a great idea.

Obvious choices could be movie trilogies (Back to the Future is a superb choice, or the first 3 Indiana Jones titles… don’t bother with Crystal Skull), or you can go with genre, or a particular actor.  After Patrick Swayze died some friends and I planned a Swayze Memorial Night: Ghost, Dirty Dancing and finishing up with Road House.

The Breakfast Club

Better have some cereal or eggs for this crew.

Which leads me to my next point – order of viewing.  Depending on what you’ve chosen, take a long hard look at what you’ve got.  Taking Swayze Night as a point of reference, it would have been all wrong to watch Road House first, follow it with Dirty Dancing and close with Ghost

Throughout the night we would have been a bit fighty, a bit cheery and then ended the night wailing like banshees (assuming that Ghost makes you cry – it’s only the last 2 minutes that make me cry but then I’m usually sobbing for about 15 minutes after that).  You have to start with a drama/weepie, then segue into a comedy/musical, and hit the home straight with an action/horror.

Or say you’ve planned yourself an 80s-tastic Brat Pack night. You want to start with one of the more serious ones… The Breakfast Club, or St. Elmo’s Fire.  Round 2 has to be Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and finish with The Lost Boys.

Textbook stuff.

‘Feed me, Seymour’

Ok, so you’ve sorted out what you’re going to watch… Now you need to think about what you’re going to eat. Much like your choice of movies, the food aspect of it shouldn’t be underestimated. This may mean you have to leave the house, but only to go to the nearest store. The last thing you want is to be watching Big Night and realise that you’re so hungry you could eat your hands.

The first rule of Movie Marathon Dining is keep it simple. Chips and dips, nachos, quesadillas: you get the idea.

Pizza for the Marathon!

Pizza for the Marathon! (Courtesy freefoto.com)

The second rule of Movie Marathon Dining is keep it simple. If you absolutely have to cook, make it something you can just sling in the oven, like pizza.

The best time to eat is generally when you’re on movie number 2. Eat too soon and you’ll be hungry later on. Don’t eat during movie number 3: if you’re going to give yourself nightmares you want it to be because you finished up with The Silence of the Lambs, not because you scarfed a pepperoni with double cheese just before lights out.

Now, you’re almost ready to go.

Dim the lights, equip yourself with any other kit you may need- tissues if you decided to start with something sad (boys, there’s no shame in admitting you cried at E.T. and no one likes a sniffer), a cushion to hide behind during the grisly bits, your drink of choice, and hit play. Enjoy!

Maggie Kruger fell asleep on her dad’s lap on her first cinema trip to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983, and has loved the movies ever since, even going so far as to study them at college, where she worked on a number of short films. She lives and works in London, UK, and will tell you that her favourite film is Dr Strangelove, although when pressed will also admit a certain weakness for 1980’s brat pack movies and most of Adam Sandler’s early work.

Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emmizzykay .

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