With love

It has become a tradition in our household to watch Love Actually at some point over the festive holidays. It’s a sugary sweet treat, although usually ends up in both happy and sad tears, particularly as each year passes and makes us feel ever more closer to the characters involved.

Anyway, we indulged this year and instead of the floods I was expecting, I actually found the whole thing to be uplifting. Maybe it’s because it’s been such a bad year, maybe because there are so many moments in it that you just feel wouldn’t be possible anymore (a politician standing up for what they believe in? Don’t be silly). But mostly, it’s just because the premise of the film, whether you like the saccharine nature of the movie or not, is that it’s about love and it proves that no matter the situation there is good to be found in people.

It’s so easy to pin all the bad things on a specific year. “2016 has been awful,” we all cry. And it has, but there’s nothing to stop 2017 being the same, after all New Year’s Day is just another day rolling on from another day to another day. But what can make it different is how we approach it – the day, the year, the world and everyone in it. With love.

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that.

It seems to me that love is everywhere.

Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.

When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love.

If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.


Reason number six

A long, long while back, I wrote my five reasons for not going to the cinema anymore, and occasionally if I’m ever asked why I dislike watching films on the big screen, I point people towards that post. All of it still holds true, and as I get more cranky and my TV setup at home gets more awesome, there’s less of a reason to fork out for cinema tickets for any blockbuster release.

However, I also think I need to add another bullet point to the list. Problem number six: You can’t pause in the cinema.

The reasons for pausing are wide and varied, including but not limited to bathroom breaks, getting more wine, interruptions to google things we don’t know about, discussions to catch up what’s going on when one person (usually me) has lost the plot, and more and more these days, just to pause and revel in what incredible or brilliant thing has just happened on screen.

I can’t pinpoint why exactly our use of pausing has increased exponentially, but I’ve narrowed it down to three explanations. The first being that having so much control over what we watch and when we watch it has spoiled us to the point where we decide when to take breaks and chatter, and split the shows up into our own mini segments as and when we please. Instead of waiting to make a cup of tea in the ad break, you just hit pause and go when you’re ready. Recently, we happened to catch one of the new episodes of Top Gear live in all its glory and were caught out by not being able to pause. (Granted, instead we just waited to talk all over the dull celebrity interview section.)

I’m also convinced part of it is a factor of getting a bit older – not so much in terms of slower reflexes and poorer memories (although they definitely apply in my case), but just in having so much to think about. I understand lots more references than I used to, and that in turn makes me want to fully understand every second of what I’m watching. My addled brain also dislikes waiting until the end of something to share a thought or opinion, because if it’s a film especially, the chances are I will have forgotten it by the closing credits!

It’s also got a lot to do with how fast-paced things are on screen at the moment. We’ve been watching a lot of comedies, and you just have to take a moment to indulge in your laughter in pause mode, otherwise you miss a hundred more jokes. We used to watch things over again, and for a twenty minute TV episode that’s doable, but for a ninety minute film, that’s not the ideal situation. I think there’s a correlation between this and the fact that new generations are enjoying shorter form content more and more – it’s because so much more is packed in to such a short space of time.

Whatever the reason, I can only give thanks to whoever invented the pause button for how many times it has come to our aid and made our TV and film watching experience that much more pleasurable. I think pause, and the plus or minus ten seconds button, are how everything should be controlled from now on.

That tale as old as time

Beauty and the Beast was never one of my favourite Disney films but with Emma Watson in the live action remake, I’m interested to see how it comes to the big screen. A teaser trailer was released this past week, with just a few glimpses of the lady in question, and no sign of the beast at all.

I’m a bit concerned that this teaser doesn’t really do much to make it look live action, up until you see Emma’s lovely face. Until then, it could just as easily be the cartoon in slightly sharper detail. Hopefully future trailers will offer up a little more because even though I said it wasn’t my favourite, I’m still secretly a little excited for it.

Going above and beyond

A new trailer for the third installment of the Star Trek reboot was released recently and it looks quite a lot like the previous two!

This time, however, it’s co-written by Simon Pegg and directed by Justin Lin, who played a big part in getting me hooked on the Fast and Furious franchise (something I’m still not totally over!)

J.J. Abrams has had to hand over the baton to another director, busy as he has been with bringing Star Wars back to life, and that might make this third film an interesting proposition. I loved the first two, even if I didn’t totally understand the time-bending logic that rewrote all of history in the second film. I know a lot of people didn’t feel the same, and there was some furore when the first teaser trailer for Beyond came out. Even Pegg himself wasn’t too happy with how the first trailer looked, but he’s been more complimentary about this one.

It’s so important to get a trailer right, as it can be the key thing that makes someone watch a film or not. In this case, I like this trailer and I like Star Trek, so there’s no doubt this one is going to get a Film Watch review at some point.


It felt like an incredibly long wait, but finally, a couple of weeks ago, I got to see the new Star Wars film. Actually, it emerged onto my chosen digital media platform about four months after it graced the cinema screens, so whilst it felt like the anticipation went on forever, that window is thankfully getting smaller. I managed to avoid all but the most obvious spoilers – and for the most part they were things that only made sense after you’d seen the film anyway. (There are no spoilers in this post, btw.)

Naturally, I’ve seen it one or more times since that first occasion, and I love it. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for about a year, and I can categorically state that a) I’m obsessed and b) I’m now even more obsessed.

I always have a slight hesitancy about talking about it though, because as a new fan, I hate to be one of those people. You know, when you’ve liked something for soooooo long and then someone else comes along and is all “Isn’t it so good? This bit, and this bit, and this bit?” And you’re like… yea, twenty years ago.

You don’t tend to take to them kindly, really. And I know I’m being that person but I can’t help it. I came to Star Wars late, and I love it, and the rest will just have to fall into place.

The fact that I was somewhat tardy in my arrival to Star Wars fandom had me in two minds. At first, I thought it was a shame I hadn’t had more years to watch the films over and over, to indulge in the books and comics and great things that came from the series. Now, of course, things have changed. Disney have wiped the slate relatively clean so that only the films, the TV series, and newer books and comics are canon. In that case, I’m incredibly grateful to have arrived at the franchise when I did – just early enough to get a good grounding in the first six films, but not so early as to get carried away with expanded universe stuff that was only going to get cast aside.

Now that I’m up to speed again, and can start reading things that have the word Star Wars on, I’m looking for more. I’ve spotted an amazing visual dictionary or two on Amazon and am keen to investigate the comics as part of my limited introduction into that world as well.

This incredibly handy list of what is canon these days will be my guide.

Hey Flash, wanna hear a joke?

Zootopia looks like one of those films that is going to be almost unbearably cute. A world of animals of all shapes and sizes, all getting along? Hello!

More than anything though, the films many trailers have opened my eyes to the world of sloths – who knew these creatures were so adorable?

The way his face lights up at the joke… so… slowly. It’s amazing.

Actually, it reminds me of a video tutorial I saw once about creating digital cartoons – how to manipulate the face to show sadness or happiness, and to go from one state to the other. This is almost a textbook version of that, and I love it!

Also, Priscilla’s glasses are excellent.

Way too fast and a little bit too furious

If things had worked out differently, I don’t think I would have ended up watching any of the Fast and Furious films. I like pretty people driving gorgeous cars as much as the next person, probably more so, but I wasn’t convinced they could make one feature length film out of such a thing, let alone seven.

Yet, those seven movies later, I’m an emotional wreck.

Paul Walker’s death was meaningless to me at the time, but is now steeped in so much poignancy it physically hurts to think about. The iconic stunts in their unbelievable and ridiculous nature still manage to take my breath away. And hearing any suped up car makes me do a double take of joy rather than disgust. I have genuinely never been so affected, so bruised by films, to the point where I have absolutely needed to take a break from the big screen. I’ve only just worked up the strength to post the Film Watch review and that’s over a week later.

How is it that a series of films that had potentially some of the worst acting in history has gripped me so? Can it be possible that a bunch of stories littered with as many plot holes as bullet holes had me riveted to my seat? What is it about this group of misfits wreaking havoc on any city they descend upon that has had such an impact on me?

The answer is: I have no idea. But what a journey it’s been.

I blame Apple entirely. I was vaguely aware of the films being made and released but they were never on my radar as something to dip into. Then a series of events occurred that led me on this emotionally challenging path.

Firstly, the seventh film was released and stayed in the charts for so long that Mr C and I started wondering if we were missing out on something. Then, I realised the Rock was in the series and Mr C realised that Ana Lucia had found work post-LOST. And then, most crucially of all, the iTunes Bundle of all seven films was loaded with behind the scenes extras and reduced to less than £35. It was inevitable, then.

If you’ve watched the entire series, you probably know how this part of the story goes: I liked the first film, Mr C was slightly less enthusiastic. The second was a similar story, but sadly missing Vin Diesel. By the third film, we really were starting to wonder if we should have put the £35 towards buying our own muscle car and doing a better job with it.

You need those early films to plant the seeds of what comes later, but it’s not until the fourth film that the genius and the real heart of this series starts. By F&F4, the misfits are starting to find their way towards each other, and rather than just racing for the sake of it, they’re now driving those fast cars for a significant, albeit far-fetched, reason.

Sometimes it was chasing Mexican bandits, occasionally it was driving a safe through the streets of Brazil, and other times it was battling a tank on the highway, all of it was ridiculous but brilliant. Vin Diesel was consistently convinced that giving people a sharp look and reminding them he was part of a “family” would stop them from shooting him, and somehow it always did. Brian went from being a cop to a criminal to a cop to a criminal, whilst somehow a Brazilian policewoman became a criminal’s girlfriend before deciding to join the FBI when he dropped her. Is that even logistically possible?

I could write and write and write about the plots and the characters, and it would all sound insane. The more you try and put into coherent sentences, the more it sounds like you’ve had one too many Coronas.

There were good things too, obviously. The way they all stand up for each other, and for what they believe in. The moments that proved loyalty above all things is rewarded in the end.  That Mia didn’t try to hold Brian back just because they had started a family. The way the Rock burst open his own plaster cast with his ridiculous arm muscles.

But still, despite the dodgy dialogue and the over-the-top bad guys, despite the implausibly long racing sequences that require extensive runways and stretches of straight roads 100 miles long, despite the fact we’re supposed to believe Vin jumped from a moving car across a bridge, caught his girlfriend in mid-air after she was thrown from a tank and both landed safely on top of another car, despite ALL OF THAT, it’s some of the best work I’ve ever seen.

I wish there was a way to bottle what was created during these films. I wish there was a way the future sequels could continue in the same vein. But more than anything, I wish I could just go back and watch them all again, from start to finish, and revel in every single second of it. Because I might laugh at Vin Diesel and his extended family, but boy, it was so good to feel for even the smallest moment like it might include you.