A Core Winter.

Film Finally, after a whole decade, Review 2004 finally has a use. As you'll know if you click here, in 2004 I kept a record of everything I watched including the television and the dates I watched them.

Tonight as I sat through the reprehensibly bad Disney film Pocahontas I realised it was the last film I'd be watching while I'm in my thirties. Which is fine. I'm trying to treat this whole thing in as low key a way as possible, so business as usual in terms of working through a list is fine.

But as it reached its trite conclusion, I did wonder how I began the decade. Then I remembered Review 2004. Silly old, list based, boring to look at Review 2004.

Here is the news.

The last film I watched when I was in the my 20s (on 29th October 2004) was:

The first film I watched in my thirties (on 31st October 2004) was:

Which isn't a bad way to start I suppose.

For earlier decades I can only guess. The first film of my teens, in 1984 was probably a James Bond film. The last film of my teens is tricky. I used to watch quite a lot on VHS at the university library but I have a sneaky suspicion it was Pulp Fiction at the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds. The first film of my twenties might have been Ken Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein at the Odeon on the Headrow again in Leeds. I'm basing this on a handy list of release dates. I can remember both screenings pretty vividly (including sitting on the floor for Ken's Mary's Frank), as I often can with cinema visits, but not the dates.  Obviously.

Cheaper Festive Cheer.

Food One of our post-Christmas traditions is watching the Marks & Spencer's website watching for the hampers to reduce in price and hoping to actually by online when this happens so we can snatch one up before anyone else does. This year, I thought I'd try and pre-empt things and see how cheap the hamper we usually end up with, the Festive Cheer, is if you simply buy all the separate items and if this would be cheaper anyway.

Today I visited the shop and did the leg work.

Here it is on the M&S website. It's £30, which as we always say every year seems quite expensive for what you get.

In the shop the same hamper is on sale for £25 but it's called something else like "Give Cheer".

With the brochure I worked my way around the isles, collected the bits and jotted down the prices.  Here's what I found. The price is in bold.

Christmas Tea (125g) £1.60
Spiced Mandarin Marmalade (295g) £3
Tomato & Basil Soup (400g) 0.90p
Strawberry & Champagne Conserve (295g) £3
Top iced Christmas cake (600g) £3.30
Classic Christmas pudding (100g) £1.25
All butter Scottish shortbread rounds (180g) £1.50
Wild Alaskan Red Salmon (170g) £3.00

Milk dark white chocolate box (220g)  (Not available on its own in the Liverpool shop but 200g boxes of other chocolate available for £4.)

Total:  £21.65

Which is cheaper.  Buying in store, you're essentially paying an extra couple of pounds for a nice box.

But this is over eight pounds cheaper than online.

We bought it.  Apart from the chocolates.  So for once we can enjoy it before Christmas.

Seven Ages of the BBC.

TV The choice of YouTube thumbnail should not go unnoticed. Metacrisis human Tenth Doctor and Rose forever etc.

Right then, Carol Danvers.

Film While I was eating hoops on toast and watching North West Tonight, entirely unaware that MARVEL was having press conference, MARVEL had a press conference in which they announced what was going to be released at the cinema in the years leading up to my mid-forties. The line-up pretty much speaks for itself and confirms what I thought back when Guardians was a hit. That we're now in a place where MARVEL's three releases for 2017 are a Guardian's sequel, Black Panther and a Thor film and they're entirely confident that all three.

When DC published their list, which must surely have been one of the things which prompted MARVEL to make their plans clearer, the reaction at least from what I saw was fairly muted to vaguely bored.  To an extent they're taking the greater risk, Man of Steel made a shed load, but it isn't universally liked (I hated it and I love Superman) and assuming people will turn out for a raft of films set in that version of the DCU seemed a tad arrogant.  It all depends how well the first JLA film in 2016 does.  Yes, in 2016.  MARVEL has two whole films out before then.

What people did seem interested in was how MARVEL would react.  Now we know and it's very, very exciting even if I'm going to be forty-five by the time the second half of the third Avengers film is released.  The order is interesting though.  Considering it's supposed to be their screen substitute for not having the X-Men, Inhumans seems late in 2018.  Unless it's a placeholder in case something happens with the mutant rights.  There's also the question of what happens at Sony with Spiderman or indeed FOX with the Fantastic Four.  They seem to think they'll have two films at least out for them.  Bless.

The lack of Black Widow is disappointing, but it's also worth noting the lack of Hulk or Hawkeye.  There has to be some narrative reason for this.  Hopefully, she's not going to be Jossed in Avengers 2, she'll survive and thread through the other films on the slate.  It'd be fitting if she turns up in Thor for example, having turned up in the other two Avengers related trilogies, but there's nothing to say she won't cameo in the Netflix series, especially Daredevil or on SHIELD (which probably needs the lift).  All depends on Scarlett Johansson's availability and fees.

The placement of the Captain Marvel film is evocative.  If the third Avengers film, with that title, ends on a cliffhanger, how will Captain Marvel fit into the scheme of it?  Speaking of which who'll play her?  Established actress or newcomer?  Not having read anything Carol Danvers since her echo was inside Rogue's head, I haven't the first clue who would fit.  A quick search on the Twitters suggests Yvonne Strahovski or Alice Eve or Gwendoline Christie.  Margot Robbie?  Rosamund Pike?  Pity Romola Garai's going to be busy with Doctor Who.

Phase Four?  What'll I be watching into my fifties?  Guardians 3 presumably.  A sequel to at least one of these films.  After Infinity Wars, Avengers could be retired in favour of something else.  I'd assumed a Civil War trilogy, but that's not happening now.  Secret Wars trilogy.  First film scoops everyone up and plonks them on Beyonder's world.  Second film has Beyonder come to Earth.  Good god, I'm going to be in my mid-fifties by then.  Crumbs.  This is like watching the Pertwee era and knowing there'll be another three or four Doctors coming soon.

Soup Safari #4:
Sweet Potato at The Garden by LEAF.

Lunch. £3.95. The Garden by LEAF, FACT, 88 Wood Street, Liverpool, L1 4DQ. Tel: 0151 707 4444. Website.

Link Around You.

Reading fashion magazines doesn’t make you stupid:
"Being interested in fashion is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I don’t think one should be ashamed of taking an interest in anything. Being interested in something does not mean liking everything about that subject, nor does it mean one is utterly uninterested in everything else. Why, since I’ve been writing this column, I have thought about fashion, the career of Steve Guttenberg, the books of Melissa Bank and whether I should buy a Halloween costume for my dog – all in the space of 10 minutes, without breaking even a bead of sweat. And you know what? Most other humans can, too."

Mark Gatiss to play Peter Mandelson in Channel 4 Nick Clegg drama Coalition:
"The one-off drama aims to chart the “astonishing rise” of Clegg, a “rank outsider” who became the man who “would decide the fate of the country” after the 2010 election failed to produce a winning party, according to C4."

Publishers want out of Apple’s Newsstand jail:
"Core to the problem is the way Newsstand alerts users when they have new magazines to read. In iOS 6, Newsstand’s home screen icon would automatically refresh whenever a new edition of a periodical was available, giving iOS users a clear indication of when new content was available. That changed in 2013, however, when Apple introduced iOS 7, which ditched the bookshelf style icon for a simpler one that gave no visual cues at all. And the Newsstand app has remained unchanged in iOS 8, the latest version of the operating system."

Netflix: A Love Story:
"We met online. The dating Web site I’d signed up for thought we would be a great match—“Friday Night Lights” was a “top pick,” and we had a compatibility rating of five red stars. At first, I was just looking for a good time. I didn’t know that I was about to embark on something that would change my life forever."

The Author of White Noise Reviews Taylor Swift's White Noise:
"It is possible to be homesick for a place even when you are there. "Track 3," the latest release from Taylor Swift's 1989, explores the dropped pin, uniting the past and present—the now, the then—with the sharp pangs of its own absence. "

Why watching Lynda Bellingham's Doctor Who appearance is the only thing Whovians should do this evening:
"While the late Lynda Bellingham is so often mentioned in the same breath as Loose Women and those brilliant Oxo TV adverts, Doctor Who fans will always remember her performance in the Trial of a Time Lord. She played an Inquisitor, a sort of Gallifreyan Judge Judy who summoned the Doctor to a spaceship and judged him on his time travelling antics - which were largely meddling in the affairs of aliens, and, er, genocide."

The Films I've Watched This Year #40

Film  You'll notice from the list I finally saw Gravity in 3D this week, albeit on a fifty inch television domestically and once again my heart was in my stomach for much the duration.  Unlike Hugo, which is the only other film I've seen in the format and which suffered from the old Viewmaster problem of flat figures in a three dimensional space, or at least it did on the big screen, this is totally immersive and despite this being my third viewing felt like a completely different film.  Finally I understood the awe of the moment when the tear floats away, or how it feels to be with Sandra Bullock inside the space suit as she spins out of control and the sheer ingenuity of only having filmed their faces and recreating the rest in the computer and souring over the uncanny valley.  Like the very best films, even having seen all of the special features, had the magic explained to me, my suspension of disbelief was entirely intact.

Liberal Arts
Gravity 3D

Beauty and the Beast

Two of the films don't deserve longer than half a paragraph each.  Divergent is disappointing, derivative, dull, dumb, diarrhoea.  Cresting on the YA wave, as every review has noted it has not a single original idea to its credit and fails at the first hurdle by offering an apocalyptic world which doesn't make a seed of sense.  Having Kate Winslet play the antagonist is an interesting idea.  Shame they couldn't have given her a more interesting character to play.  Based on a true story, Lawless is nevertheless a tired, generic gangster film with two-dimensional hats which if produced at the time its set, the 1930s, would have easily covered the same material in three-quarters of the duration.  Instead this stretches on for two hours which seriously meander because it can't decide on a protagonist in the way which often happens when there's at least two or three potential leads.

Liberal Arts is wonderful, but also an incredibly difficult for someone who has a liberal arts degree and finds himself mired in the same out in the world difficulties as the protagonist or would do if he'd had inclination for teaching or the ability and so instead is even worse off.  A post-mumblecore romantic drama about a college professor returning to his old alma mater and suddenly having to deal the fact he isn't as young as he feels, it's written and directed by and stars Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother (which I haven't seen), Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins in yet another of his sad man roles (I notice they're making a musical version of The Visitor which should be hilarious) and Allison Janney giving fair treatment to one of those inspiring lecturers you have good memories of crushing on even though you secretly suspected they were a total bore.

Thematically it's somewhat High Fidelity at a safe distance in relation to letting people like what they like and also Wonder Boys and its ilk, not to mention most of Woody Allen's career in terms of embarrassing the viewer for not being as literate as its characters.  Is it possible for people read this much?  One of the reasons I haven't read worked through my inferiority complex about the bigger books, genius authors is reading seems to take so damn long for me whereas in these films its almost as though they're knocking off an Austen in a week.  Which isn't to say there isn't one particularly good sequence about the longevity of reading to create some balance.  The film also features one of the best sequences I've seen about what it's like to discover classical music.  Not since Guardians of the Galaxy have I'm been quite so obsessed with a Spotify playlist.  All hundred hours of it are available here.

As you know I'm a bit obsessed with watching the Toronto Film Festival industry videos in which the heads or at least marketiers from Vod companies of various stripes wrestle with what the future will be.  Always but always two films are cited as the canaries, Margin Call and Bachelorette which has sat in my Netflix queue for months.  Released primarily as a video on demand product, it's become the by-word for how the kinds of mid-range commercial films which have been squeezed out of cinema other than for short runs to get them noticed by the press to help promote the Vod release can still attract relatively big stars and generally break out of the kind of stigma which made direct to vhs or dvd difficult to sell.  For more on this, see the discussion about day-and-date release models and sigh with pride as it becomes apparent that the UK is best at this (thanks to Curzon and the like) and France lags behind due it actually being illegal there.

Is Bachelorette any good?  It's fine.  Written and directed by Leslye Headland based on her play, it is a straight down the line commercial comedy, which would be easily dismissed as the Asylum equivalent of Bridesmaids, where it not for the main cast of Dunst, Fisher, Caplan and Wilson and that it's an old school stoner odyssey which just happens to be primarily be about women.  Bits of it are horrible and it's never entirely clear the extent to which we're supposed to be laughing at or with the protagonists or just plain hate them, which on reflection is pretty realistic.  It's also surprisingly problematic gender wise when the best man and his friends enter the narrative and whip the agency right from under the bridesmades to some extent shaming their behaviour in the process, teaching them lessons like a team of Petruccios (not that they're entirely successful).  Luckily, the My So-Called Life conversation in the middle saves everything.

Apologies if this is you, but there's an entirely incorrect review of Maleficent in SFX Magazine this month which gives it three stars, hates the fact she doesn't turn into a dragon and that she's the only fleshed out character while all the others gain nothing on the original cartoon.  Each in turn.  It's a five star film if ever there was one on the strength of Anglina's cheekbones alone.  Given that they monocapped and realistically recreated the faces of Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple such that I thought they'd Hobbited them and dangled them from wires against a green screen, I think they would have transformed Angelina into a dragon if they'd wanted to but since the point of the piece was to underscore how fairy tales are at their core folk tales and so will be told in different ways they decided to not.  I didn't miss it.  Plus why simply recreate the cartoon in live action?  The films at its least interesting when it's doing exactly that.

But the third charge is just bizarre.  The point of the film is to flesh out Maleficent as a character, to make her three dimensional, flipping the usual structure of a fairy tale film on its head where its the heroes who fight against two dimensional villains whose motives are simply that they're bad.  Whilst its also true that it means we're watching Darth Vader's six film story arc compressed into 90 mins, it's a solid attempt to give this fairy tale depth and nuance.  I really do miss Angelina as a screen presence.  Apart from the Panda films, this is her first screen role since Salt and The Tourist in 2010 which is too long.  I notice her directing debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey still hasn't had a UK release.  There's a Netherlands R2 release available on Amazon but it's strange that no one has picked it up.  Anyone have a clue as to why?