A Life in Film

An autobiographical review of every single film I’ve ever seen at the cinema

‘There is no truth, only stories’. I read that somewhere. ‘Sometimes there aren’t really any stories, only lists’. I wrote that just here.

I have always loved making lists. I find (or at least seek) comfort in enumerating and organising certain things in my life. Whenever I can’t sleep, I don’t count sheep but I list all the dinosaurs I know in alphabetical order. I have watched a lot of films, I still watch a lot of films and I intend to watch a lot more. I love cinema and one day I decided to make a list of all the films I had seen on the big screen. It occurred to me that these cinema visits might be an interesting lens through which to examine my life; a fairly constant thread but also something that can be quite arbitrary.

I have tried to be as accurate as I can in my recollections but there may be some that I’ve missed or got wrong, I’m also irritatingly fastidious so it is unlikely. If, however, you’ve been on a cinema date with me that I’ve forgotten, perhaps you could let me know discreetly. I’m particularly asking people to come forward with any information on having seen a Pirates of the Caribbean film with me. With five movies released between 2003 and 2017, it seems strange that I have no memory of going to see a single one of them.

On that note, I present my film review autobiography – if this has been done before, I haven’t seen it. Please switch off your phone (unless you’re reading this on it) and enjoy.

1990 / 1991 / 1993 / 1994 / 1995 / 1997 / 1998 / 1999 / 2000 / 2001 / 2002 / 2003

So, my first trip to the cinema was to see a reissue of a film then 45 years old. Does that make me sophisticated or just a bit late to the party? You decide. To this day, I still know next to nothing about this film other than it’s about a deer with a rabbit friend. I remember being frightened but can’t be sure if that was just being in a big, dark, loud place or something about the way the trees were animated. Let’s not forget how frightening early Disney movies were. Come to think of it, I have a vague recollection of crying at Thumper thumping – did I think he was sick? Hard to say. I must also admit that it did not register with me that Bambi’s mother died, maybe since it happened offscreen and my inference skills were underdeveloped at this stage. Cinematically illiterate perhaps, but we will chalk this down to being my first time. 

I was recently surprised to discover that Bambi was male, surprised since the Bambi and Thumper that Sean Connery’s Bond gave ‘breaststroke lessons’ to were both women, so I think I just assumed. Another bombshell that has landed while researching this; I found out that some of the best advice my mum ever gave me (“if you can’t say something nice…”) was apparently lifted from this film’s jittery rabbit. Just as well as I have failed to follow it my whole life. If any good comes from writing all of these pieces, it might be that one day I watch this movie properly and hopefully I’ll have something nice to say about it.

Incidentally, I asked my mum if she had anything to say about watching this film with me but she says she doesn’t remember. I feel like I’m making it up now but I have ‘known’ that the first film I ever saw at the cinema was Bambi and that my mum was there. This has been one of those ‘facts’ I’ve long held about my life since I was about ten years old and perhaps it isn’t true at all.

I have to admit it felt pretty cool going to the cinema with just my older brother (this film also happens to revolve around a pair of brother detectives) but I was terrified by the idea of a crocodile in a swimming pool and this would remain with me for an embarrassingly long time. Anyway, I’d come a long way from Bambi; I laughed at the jokes and sympathised with the protagonist. We may have even had a box (did it ever come in boxes? I remember a red box) of popcorn. Plus my parents weren’t there (apart from one of them buying the popcorn, I guess). ‘Movies’ were no longer a one-off. I was a cinema-goer; a man of the world. 

This must have been the late great Roy Kinnear’s last film as he died that year. I’d later watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Help! and vaguely recognise him from somewhere. To this day I still enjoy making connections with minor actors, much to the annoyance of anyone watching a film with me. I believe this was my first visit to a small independent cinema, which not only gives me kudos but also lends me a certain gravitas, almost as much as using the words ‘kudos’ and ‘gravitas’.

I wrote a short, whimsical section on this cute little (Japanese, I later learned) anthropomorphic, cross-species road movie and then I saw the litany of alleged animal rights abuses attached to this film online and had to rethink it. I’m assuming that Dudley Moore knew nothing of these horrors when he signed up for voice-over work. I think that this film inspired the more popular US rip-off Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey in 1993. I hoped that they learned from their predecessor’s mistakes in the treatment of their furry stars. 

According to IMDB trivia: “There are close-up shots of a frightened cat and then a shot of Sassy going over the waterfall. This scene was shot in many cuts. Fake cats, a mechanical cat, and a real cat were used. When the real cat was used, she was not in a river, but a heated pool.” It does seem so.

My younger brother’s birthday was celebrated at the grade II listed Windmill Theatre in Great Yarmouth, one of the oldest standing cinema buildings in England. Watching The Little Mermaid would mean that half of my cinema trips up to this point were Disney cartoons. This was a happy occasion; I recall enjoying this film and its soundtrack immensely and also remember Ursula, the film’s octopus-witch villain stirring some strange feelings inside me. Do her two arms combined with the six octopus tentacles (apparently it was cheaper to animate) make her a true octopus or is she more of a squid centaur? Up to you. All I know is that the first erotic dream I ever had was about her squashing me underneath them all.

The female lead made me wonder if this was the first of my films that passed the Bechdel test but I couldn’t decide. Two female characters, Ariel and Ursula, do talk, however their entire conversation does seem to be about becoming human in order to bag the Prince. Eric’s maid does also speak to Ariel but, although she can communicate with gestures, she doesn’t actually ‘talk’ at this point. For me it seemed, clear-cut feminism in cinema would have to wait.

Mentioning this trip to my brother recently, he reminded me that William C— (yes a rival William C in my class) had laughed at him a couple of years later for choosing to see this particular film for his birthday. To which he had replied that our mum had obviously organised it since he was only in reception – who else was supposed to plan his fourth birthday? That must have shut him up I guess but was there any shame in it? It clearly left an impression on me.

Lads’ night out. Absolute respect for my dad who bought us sweets in the supermarket beforehand since the concession stand was so expensive in the cinema. We felt like absolute renegades. I’ve since discovered that, unless specifically stated, it is apparently against no rule to bring your own food into the cinema. Is this common knowledge? Why does it feel like such a transgression? Spread the word. Anyway, this was one of the first times I’d eaten a foamy sweet, which would have severely enhanced my enjoyment of the film. I remember losing one beneath my seat and worrying about it for some portion of the film, if only the film’s title had emboldened me enough to rescue it from down under.

My first sequel was coincidentally the first Disney animation sequel. This was also the first fully digital Disney film, using the Computer Animation Production System (CAPS) developed with Pixar. Sadly, unlike its Bechdel-test-passing predecessor, this passes neither the Bechdel test nor the Australian accent test. There is a real drop in quality from the first Rescuers film and the inclusion of John Candy is the only stand out part of this largely forgettable (with my assistance or not) animated action adventure.

We’re sitting at 2/3 Disney films now. This will level out, I’m sure, over the next few years but then it may ping back once they acquire the Marvel and Star Wars properties. So, DuckTales is one word despite the capitals, which you have to respect, I guess. Aware it was a cartoon and (I think) understanding the metaphor, it still used to bother me how Scrooge McDuck could literally dive into and swim through coins in his Money Bin. It didn’t make sense to me – diving into what is essentially a metallic scree would be just like diving into the floor. Tax the super rich (ducks) and this will no longer be a problem on anyone’s plate. I’m sure people will say that I was and am just jealous. 

Anyway, was this movie a fun anatine Indiana Jones riff or a cheap rip-off? Who’s to say? Either way, I still took a few years off from watching cartoons at the cinema after this one apparently. At least it wasn’t a sequel.

“I don’t know about ‘DuckTales’ movies … but I’d like to do another feature … I’m proud of it. It’s just a straight little adventure story.” said producer Bob Hathcock on the possibility of a follow up. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The big one. I’ve always hated the term ‘cinematic event’ – watching a film at the cinema is literally the opposite of an ‘event’ since it is watched in different venues at different showtimes – but we had waited with baited breath for the conclusion* of Dark and Mardy’s adventure (an older cousin informed me on the way that it was apparently Doc and Marty but I was still adjusting to hearing it said in an English accent) so I was ready to enjoy the show whatever happened. They could have used the time machine to smell dinosaur farts and I would have still loved this film. I was so up for this one. My teacher used to find me jumping backwards into the play kitchen pretending to play a guitar, trying to emulate Marty McFly’s opening scene from the first one and every second dream of mine involved a hoverboard.

My family descended on the unsuspecting Canon cinema en masse with such numbers that many younger cousins were sitting on laps. This was the most like theatre cinema had ever felt to me with all the oohs and aahs. The ZZ Top cameo was a nice touch for me as their ‘best of…’ was a recent car cassette so I felt in the know for recognising them. Fantastic family fun but perhaps ends on a sour note with Dark/Doc’s weird looking steampunk kids. They just gave me the creeps.

*The ending of BTTF2 had promised us that the story was ‘TO BE CONCLUDED’ although despite people swearing to have seen it in showings, the first movie did NOT end with the words ‘TO BE CONTINUED.’ This was later added to VHS copies. Unless of course, Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis went back in time and changed it.

Is the title ironic or is it at least self-aware? This was in every way an unnecessary sequel. Perhaps tellingly, only one actor from the original film returned (playing the problematically-named Mr Coreander), which somewhat undermined the trailer’s selling point of being able to catch up with all our favourite characters. I’m sure I enjoyed this at the time as it was a cinema treat and my movie expectations were fairly low at this point, but the one memory that stood out was a flush of embarrassment at the delivery of the climactic line. ‘I will make my last wish. I wish… for you to have a heart!’ Looking back, I feel for our poor French student trying to answer my questions (in a second language) on the way home about how this fantasy villain was able to cause so much trouble before without blood pumping through her body. 

Christina, the student staying with us, had offered to take us boys out to the cinema one evening and she had let us decide between this and something called Home Alone. Solely going off the black and white print in the newspaper (seeing a trailer very much depended on being at the right place at the right time in those days), and being up to date with Bastian and Atreyu’s previous adventures, it had seemed an easy choice. Ben would later get to watch Home Alone at the cinema as well (it might have even been a school night!), which would cause a jealousy that I have never fully confronted until now. Speaking of my older brother…

This isn’t really my cinema story but I’ll put it here as ‘bonus material’. I didn’t go to see this as I was only 6 but my 8 year old brother Ben, who was obsessed with war stuff (he knew names of bombers etc) went with my dad. When told by the Cannon box office that my brother looked too young (indeed he was only ⅔ of the required age for this 12 certificate film), my dad performed a short but sombre improvised monologue about my brother’s premature birth and how lucky we were to still have him, upon which they were hurried through. This was of course all untrue but people don’t go to the cinema for reality, do they?

It was my eldest cousin Tom’s birthday. You might remember him as the cousin that explained my Dr Emmett Brown faux pas if I had thought to mention his name. He celebrated his birthday at the soon-to-be-gone Noverre cinema, where I’d seen Just Ask for Diamond and Milo and Otis. Part of the Assembly House in Norwich, this cosy, grown-up cinema was originally a Victorian ballroom and was apparently known for having ‘no ice cream and no adverts’. I think I do remember enjoying this swashbuckling (let’s assume) adventure but for some reason my strongest memory was of a cart on a dusty path near a bush and an inn, maybe horses, maybe a dagger. A scary ambush? A plot reveal? I can’t be sure. Would definitely rewatch this, if only to jog my memory. 

Apparently, this film was originally made for TV in the states and starred Christian Bale, Charlton Heston and Christopher Lee, who all begin with ‘Ch’, so good for them. More to the point, 1990 was proving to be a busy year for me; I’d seen a movie every two months on average, perhaps starting to show how serious I was about cinema (despite me never having been the one to suggest going). It’s also probably worth mentioning that this was my first pirate movie and that seemed like something I could get into.

A whole family outing for my first silver screen Spielberg fix seemed fitting. Who knows if I connected this one with Jaws, Indiana Jones (known as Junna Jones in my family) and E.T. at the time. I recently rewatched this movie and enjoyed the flashes of realism from Charlie Korsmo’s Jack Banning, despite taking a dislike to the turncoat son’s character on my first watch. It still bothered me how Thud Butt’s legs didn’t quite seem accounted for in his famous plank rolling scene but the action set pieces (with emphasis on the word ‘set’) were exciting and enjoyable, and kind of orange. 

Anyway, this film marked the beginning of many years of wondering what all the fuss was about with Robin Williams. The next time we’d cross paths at the cinema wouldn’t be for another fifteen years. Nothing against the guy, his humour just never really did it for me. On the plus side, this film passed the Bechdel test, no problem. Speaking of girls, I wasn’t particularly interested in Julia Roberts as Tinkerbelle and if either of my brothers try to tell you otherwise, they are absolute liars, alright?

I suppose I’ll never get a better chance to mention that my dad owns the little round glasses worn by ‘uncle’ Bob Hoskin’s Smee, as he got them cheap at an auction and I have always really liked that.

What a disappointment. After seemingly trailing the soundtrack single for months in advance of this (I’d also received Bryan Adams’ album ‘Waking up the Neighbours’ from mum for my birthday), me and my brothers could not have been more up for this. After about 15 or 20 minutes we finally had to admit that Kevin Costner would not be coming and we had actually been taken to a film that was not Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Yes, this was the other Robin Hood film released the same year – straight to television in the States, would you believe? I wonder how many other people were in the cinema for the wrong film and what was the story with the people who were there by choice? 

My first glimpse of one Uma Thurman was apparently completely lost on me, as was that of the versatile David Morrissey. Nevertheless, I tried so desperately to enjoy this and deliberately made a mental note of Friar Tuck saying ‘Welcome to Hell!’ as a ‘cool bit’ to talk about with my brother walking out of the Noverre cinema after the film. As we left, we felt cheated – hoodwinked you might say, if you wanted to say that. The Noverre would close down in 1992 due to declining ticket sales, leaving me with a hard to pin down feeling inside.

I’ve just noticed that the last three films I saw have ‘HOO’ in the title. What are the chances? Anyway… 

‘No blades. No bows. Leave your weapons here.’ ‘Save it for the ladies.’ ‘Bury me; they made it.’* ‘There’s always room for [spit] one more.’ ‘Because it’s dull, you twit. It’ll hurt more!’ ‘Guy of Gisborne [in a weird accent].’ These were just some of the phrases that my brothers and I would endlessly repeat while throwing things at each other or chasing each other around someone’s garden for the years to follow. What can I say about this film? I think it still stands up. I remember how excited I was when I found the actual tree on Hadrian’s Wall that Wulf climbed to escape the soldiers (and how impressed I was that Robin and Azeem had walked from the White Cliffs of Dover up there and back down to Nottinghamshire). Incidentally, on that same walking trip with my dad, we also visited the waterfall that Kevin Costner showers in and discovered to my glee that it is called Hardraw Force, which sounds like a Van Damme movie (sadly none of his on this list – apologies if that’s what you came for).

Back to the cinema visit; all was right in the world when we went to see this for my birthday with a couple of friends and we even had burgers at Zak’s on Mousehold Heath afterwards. If you were young in Norwich then you might recall with some excitement that a birthday in Zak’s meant a knickerbocker glory with sparklers might be brought out. Priceless (as far as I was aware).

*I always thought Will Scarlett said that (the VHS we got with tokens from the garage must have been edited) but apparently he says something different.

This was a landmark but not a good one. The first time I went to see a film that I was not excited about and, let’s face it, didn’t really enjoy. I am dismissing out of hand this sweet little tale of Liza Minelli teaching a bunch of misfits to tapdance. In fact I felt quite grown-up as my mum had asked if I wanted to come and watch it with her and a friend and I had said yes. The only problem was I didn’t give a flying flicking turd about watching flicking tap dancing and I suppose this is when I realised that I can’t stand musicals. Glitzy, titzy shitzy singing and dancing nonsense; sorry if they’re your bag. You can count on one hand how many musicals there will be in this list without lifting a finger. Don’t get me wrong, I love the artifice in a lot of art, I appreciate performance and I could not live without the sweet soul accompaniment of music in my life, but I just have no time for these elements being combined in this irksome, embarrassing way. I cannot get on with the idea of singing exposition. In my book (or blog), songs are better as poetry and not prose, bar one or two exceptions. I’ll leave you to guess what those might be but you likely have better things to do with your time. 

Yes. Well. It seems like young William would have to start asking to go to the pictures, instead of just waiting to be asked to be taken.

Now this was more like it. Kids these days can’t turn around for spies like them but in 1991 it was a rare treat to have the debonair secret agent as one of ‘us’. Teen Agent (‘If Looks Could Kill’ in the US) starred 26 year old Richard Grieco as a ‘handsome slacker underachiever’ who is mistaken for a CIA agent since they share the same name. After his namesake is murdered, he gets to take over use of his exploding chewing gum, suction trainers and a Lotus Esprit! Admittedly, cars were more my brother Ben’s thing but even I could appreciate this film was SLICK. Cinema didn’t get better than this. There was even a trailer for Michael J Fox’s Doc Hollywood, which I thought looked very cool, and that I swore would be the next film I saw. I am still adamant that I will get around to watching it one day.

On the topic of trailers, around this time would have been the important arrival of ITV’s Movies, Movies, Movies (later Movies, Games and Videos), which was invaluable to my brothers for trailers and clips of the latest movies well before the arrival of the ‘Internet’ and any subsequent ‘Movie DataBases’.

A rare grey spot on my list. It does seem odd that I didn’t visit the cinema once during this calendar year but if I’m completely honest, I cannot confirm whether I saw these films at the cinema or on Home Video so they are very loose question marks at best. A Robin Williams singalong and a lacklustre sequel; I’m not going to waste my words either way. 

However, I can confirm that during our visit to MGM studios the following year, my brother and I would be chosen to ride a huge bee as part of a tour showcasing movie special effects. The bee in question was from the far superior Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

While in Florida… Should I count this odd little 17 minute Michael Jackson sci-fi short shown in Disney’s EPCOT Center (yes, American spelling) in my list of films I’ve seen in the cinema? Of course, how much more cinematic can you get? Future World may not technically be classed as a cinema but it had a big screen and I was nine years old and it wasn’t a VHS. I make the rules here. We were so excited to be wearing our 3D glasses, which were extremely effective when The Supreme Leader (played by Angelica Houston would you believe?) waggled her claws at us. I pulled my glasses down for a moment just to check and I worried briefly that I’d ruined the illusion, perhaps forever. Speaking of ruining illusions, this was written by one George Lucas, which I didn’t know at the time, nor did I know that it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Life was good. We were on the family holiday of a lifetime in the USA and we were watching a 3D movie. Nothing would ever be this exciting again. Until the thing with the bee, which happened the next day.

Don’t really remember this one. I mean, I could probably write the script by head or off the top of my heart or whatever and it remains one of my favourite films of all time, since I was (and let’s be honest still am) obsessed with it, but I couldn’t really tell you much about the actual cinema trip. One regret I have was that we didn’t get the chance to watch this at a Drive-In cinema while we were visiting the United States during the height of its release. We discussed the idea but it just didn’t work out. The ‘Junior Novelisation’ and some disgusting watermelon-flavoured dilophosaurus egg sweets that I pretended to like would have to do, in order to tide me over until we got home. 

The original Michael Crichton novel was probably the first adult book I ever read and is the only novel I’ve read twice. Dr Ian Malcolm’s Chaos theory clearly had an impact on me, as did the startling discovery during Dennis Nedry’s gory death scene that Americans use ‘spit’ for past and present tense, which shocked me as much as the intestine-holding. I also read the first Topps comic adaptation but couldn’t get on with the art since it depicted dilophosaurus as having gold rings as their crests, plus Robert Muldoon was wearing trousers instead of shorts, which really changed the vibe for me. Although, credit to Walter Simonson and Gil Kane for rectifying a gaffe with Nedry and Dodgson’s scene in San Jose, Costa Rica, by making it clearly a city setting and not a beach. A minor thing for us perhaps but if you were Costa Rican that would really get your goat.

A great family film, almost certainly watched with mine. It’s sweet how the Addams’ are remarkably loving and supportive despite their appearances. I thought that Raul Julia was very cool in this, in a way I couldn’t put my finger on at the time and was also amazed that fawning Fester was my old pal Dark from Back to the Future

There was something unnerving I noticed in this film, and later in others, that I’d eventually be able to articulate as the garishness of Hollywood movies. I think it was a combination of the colour palette, lighting and perfect teeth of some 90s American movies that would sit uncomfortably with me until my taste developed enough for me to enjoy it on a more removed level. 

Either my fourth or fifth sequel already (depending on the outcome of Honey, I Blew Up the Kid) less than twenty films into my cinematic career but, interestingly enough, I still don’t think I’ve ever seen the first film. This is true at the time of writing but I will try to remember to update if this changes. I’ve been told by a couple of sources that this one of those rare better second films. On top of that, they had the forethought to give it a name that avoids putting the number ‘2’ in the title so maybe I needn’t bother.

So the adults could enjoy a little peace and quiet at some family event or other, I was sent with my cousins and brothers into the city, where this became the first and last time I went to see the same film at the cinema twice. I only have vague memories of the trip. Maybe some of the others hadn’t seen it and maybe I was annoying. How many times have I seen this film since? ‘Bout two million. Supreme film-making that would have an impact on me and my writing for many years to come.

Have you ever wondered if John Williams was inspired by the first three notes of Pure Imagination when he wrote the rousing theme for this movie? It would make sense since it’s essentially the same plot, except after careful consideration, Charlie decides not to endorse the Chocolate Factory in the end.

A swashbuckling adventure that seems indistinguishable from many others of its time, apart from one particular moment where I first realised that there was a seed inside aniseed balls if you sucked all the way to the end. On realising this, I laughed to myself and nearly choked, swallowing it. 

My brothers and I saw this with some friends at the ODEON in Anglia Square (or Angular Square depending on where you’re from), which was later taken over by Hollywood Cinemas, who closed down in 2019 after a brief moment of fame in 2013 for hosting the alternative Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa premiere. Who knows what’s happening with the place now.

Storywise, I don’t think this film covered much more ground for me than Dogtanion and the Three Muskehounds but it was nice to see them with human heads, I suppose. I remember thinking Oliver Platt was funny so I looked at the poster to find out his name on the way out, and perhaps this was when I first realised that the actors names were not always above their heads in the line up. Good old Michael Wincott was in this too, whom I already loved and feared as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and whom I would love even more in Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man owing to his character Conway Twill having my name hidden in his.

Anyway, 1993 was a good year with five trips to the pictures after a fallow 1992 and, who knows, maybe it peaked there for me.

Another whole family outing, which we were all excited about after staying in the most rundown (I think we can safely assume unofficial) Flintstones themed campsite the year before in America. I remember getting burns on my knee from crawling along a ragged carpet inside a fibreglass dinosaur, as well as losing my maroon plastic camera. Great times.

I don’t think I really understood the tone of this film and was disappointed by the millions of years of anachronism* after the recent groundbreaking handling of dinosaurs on film still fresh in my memory from the previous year. I guess I enjoyed it but perhaps I was starting to get tired of saturated colourful kids’ films. I wouldn’t have known Kyle McLachlan at the time but I wonder what my mum and dad thought having recently watched him in Twin Peaks. It was also the final outing for Elizabeth Taylor, which was lost on me. Not so with my first glimpse of future Academy Award winner, Bond girl and X-man Halle Berry as Sharon Stone (a role initially to be played by Sharon Stone, apparently).

I recently enjoyed the 2016 comic adaptation of The Flintstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, which had an existential spin on the concept that I now wonder if I had simply not picked up on in the cartoons. I think it’s fair to say it was largely absent from this film.

*Worse than any of the rock puns for me was renaming the B-52s the BC-52s for the title song, which seemed to suggest that Fred et al lived during the reign of Julius Caesar, along with dinosaurs from 150 million years before the Neolithic. ‘Jesus, Will. It’s just a cartoon (movie, song and comic)!’’

The first animated film I’d seen for a while and the last I’d watch for years. The animation was impressive, the action was fun and I didn’t even mind the music. After Mufasa died, I remember my cousin Jona whispering too loudly about the girl in front crying, who heard and claimed that she had a cold. We laughed about that for a long time afterwards. 

I was recently surprised to hear the phrase ‘the circle of life’ in a film set in the seventies and was even more surprised at myself for thinking that the phrase had been coined for this particular film. I love the resignation of the herbivores in the movie and always wondered whether there were any repercussions for the wildebeests after the stampede. I saw a joke somewhere about a running wildebeest turning to another and saying ‘Wasn’t he the guy whose baby shower we went to that time?’ which I can neither stop thinking about nor remember whose joke it was.

The Lion King was one of the 5 Mega Drive games my brothers and I ever owned. My brother’s exchange student remains the only one who could deliberately execute the grapple-and-throw move required to toss uncle Scar from Pride Rock in the final level; however I was honoured to have been the only one there when he did it. Not least so I got to watch that indelible ending scene where Simba just stood there for a bit and then it rained. Of course, it wasn’t a patch on the Jurassic Park game.

My birthday treat (P-A-R-T-Why? Because I gotta!). One of those films you laugh along with but secretly worry your parents would think you’re stupid for liking. I’d been to the cinema without my parents plenty before but this one just felt naughty. It took me a while to warm up to Jim Carrey but I have a feeling this won’t be the last we hear from him on this list. Cameron Diaz probably not so much. 

Over the top cartoon mayhem probably full of innuendo that I could sense but didn’t understand. I also remember a lot of big band music in the soundtrack. Is that what made it so popular in the nineties? I guess the film reminded me of a cranked up Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but without the familiar faces. I wonder what I’d make of this film now. I found it upsetting and unsettling in some places but I enjoyed the Norse link (the mask belonged to Loki in case you don’t remember weird little details like that). Who could have predicted how much more success in the box office the God of Mischief would have in years to come? Incidentally, this was my first big screen comic book adaptation. Fun, but again, NOT Jurassic Park. Bring on 1995.

The soundtrack to this film was exceptional and we played it in the car that summer holiday, which led to the family having to watch the film together. This was the first I’d really heard of Method Man, Flaming Lips, Mazzy Star and PJ Harvey. I wonder if my mum knows this was the first Nick Cave song she ever owned. Years later she became obsessed with him (and may be to this day).* Trailing such an enjoyable soundtrack before the actual film comes out will happen again in this list (I’ll hopefully remember to tell you when) and can sometimes lead to the film itself being disappointing, for example this time. Superfly and Saturday Night Fever suffered similar fates; subpar films or just great soundtracks? Who is to say? 

Another one of those films that I just cannot imagine for the life of me what my Dad made of, although I guess the U2 and Seal tracks were right up his dark alley.

Props to the, erm, props department, plus I must praise the wardrobe for creating Two-Face’s glorious two-sided suits and for somehow managing to make the prosthetic half of Tommy Lee Jones’s face look even less rubbery than the real half. This was also the first onscreen appearance of the bat-nipples. Since Catwoman’s costume in the previous film Batman Returns had been bondage-inspired, it was hard not to see the nipples (sorry) in that way. However, the costume designer has since clarified that the design was more inspired by Roman centurion armour, which puts the matter to bed of course. Until the next film, in which they were even more prominent.

*Side story, years later I followed my mum out of a Nick Cave concert, a little concerned that she wanted to leave before the end of the encore, and she collapsed just in front of me in the Troxy foyer after her drink had apparently been spiked. A very dark ending to an evening out that seemed more fitting of Gotham than London.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed (as I have in writing this) that the last three films all have a certain Canadian link. So, I topped off my personal 12 month Jim Carrey trilogy with the Pet Detective sequel, which coincidentally featured a protagonist with a plot-central fear of bats like the previous one. My older brother, some mates from down the road and I headed to town to watch a second helping of veterinarian slapstick, after being assured by Sean and Paul that the first one was hilarious. 

Sophie Okenedo gave me a funny feeling in my tummy, which I’ve since recognised as the realisation of how criminally underrated she is as an actor. I think. Oddly enough, Simon Callow was also in this one, fresh off last year’s Four Weddings and a Funeral, whose Wet Wet Wet soundtrack single remained at number one just one week shy of Bryan Adams’ soundtrack single’s record from a few years before. The songwriter Reg Presley reportedly spent much of his royalty check on funding crop circle research. Jim Carrey allegedly had a paranormal experience in room 217 of the Stanley Hotel (from The Shining) while filming Dumb and Dumber the year before. Are these things connected? Up to you. Though if it was up to me, I might say no.

Anyway, this movie is mostly set in the fictional country of Nibia,* which I’m not sure how I feel about, but then again, I guess it could cause more trouble setting it in a real country. Regardless, I have a feeling that this movie would not survive a rewatch. If memory serves, there was definitely some ‘White Devil/White Saviour’ stuff in there and don’t recall our titular detective (or the filmmakers) showing much respect for the culture of the country they invented. Perhaps they could have simply not invented it.

*I wonder how many fictional countries there are in movies. Movie buff points if you can name the films that feature Freedonia, Zamunda, Krakozhia, Florin and Wakanda.

Another birthday trip to the Cannon cinema on Norwich’s Prince of Wales Road, once labelled ‘the most dangerous street in Norfolk’. I don’t remember this being my first choice movie but (perhaps mercifully) I cannot remember what that was.

I hadn’t seen Apollos 1 through 12 but I was just about able to keep up with the story. I think I missed the point of the film and perhaps felt like it was a bit of an anticlimax. Perhaps the Jim Carrey completist in me would have preferred to see a Man on the Moon (but that wouldn’t come out until 1999).

The late, great Bill Paxton has a decent role in this and, despite apparently being the only actor to be killed by an Alien, a Predator and a Terminator,* he survived this unlucky voyage to the moon.

Considering Kevin Bacon with his famous six degrees of separation and this being a list of films, I was surprised to realise that this is one of only two of his films that I actually saw at the cinema. There is a joke here about VHS and having to bring home the Bacon that I am both too proud to make and yet too frugal to let pass.

*Some sticklers may claim that Paxton survives the assault in The Terminator so we can do a straight swap with being killed in Schwarzenegger’s dream in True Lies if that works for you.

Entertaining anthropomorphic farmyard shenanigans that were way more fun than I expected. I’d read the book (obvs) but some years before. Babe la-la-la-ing Jingle Bells is possibly the most joyous cinematic moment I can think of. I have watched that clip on youtube a hundred times. This quaint British farmyard children’s book adaptation was filmed in Australia and made by George Miller, who directed the Mad Max and Happy Feet movies as well as the sequel Babe: Pig in the City (1998) but for some reason, he didn’t sit in the director’s chair for this one. 

I never understood why they named the film Babe instead of The Sheep Pig. Dick King-Smith’s title is pretty self explanatory and the word Babe on its own could refer to all sorts of content. One change I can get behind however is that Farmer Hoggett’s James Cromwell decided to become a vegetarian after he made this film, as well as many young people in the audience. If you don’t believe me, google The Babe Vegetarians or The Babe Effect. Perhaps this was what saved us from a trilogy that violently ended with Babe 3: He’s Back. Sorry, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Bacon connection.

A watershed moment. This was my first 12 certificate on the big screen. My best mate at the time Joe A’s younger brother Andy was the same age as me (sounds weird now I write that) and we practised our fake dates of birth so much in the queue that, when he was asked at the door how old he was, he mechanically blurted out the date of birth instead of the actual age. I learned something about how the world works that afternoon, as the man just blinked and let us go in. 

A silly film I guess but there were some scary parts, including some eyeball catching with Bruce Campbell (who else?) and a mutilated Grant Heslov stumbling down the stairs. The fairly forgettable lead acting was perhaps saved by a more memorable supporting cast, (see above plus Ernie Hudson, Tim Curry and an uncredited Delroy Lindo), and that’s not even counting Amy, the talking gorilla, who everyone seems to remember.

I felt like a bit of a connoisseur watching this since I’d already read the book for this one too. Michael Crichton sure knows how to disguise a screenplay as a novel. Speaking of which, Tim Curry’s wealthy philanthropist (who we find out is broke after he convinces the protagonists to go on a dangerous journey) seems to have been straight lifted for William H Macy’s character in Jurassic Park III (1999) – incidentally the only Jurassic Park film I didn’t watch in the cinema.

A different type of watershed moment and a different type of feeling grown up. I got a call on the landline attached to the wall (remember those?) from some girls at school asking if I wanted to come and watch this film. If any other boys were invited, they didn’t turn up and I must have seemed like an absolute baller sat between all these ladies at the cinema. Could they have known that my first female-directed movie visit would see me surrounded by women? Possibly.

I know I enjoyed this film at the time but only later appreciated how good it actually is. I was more focussed on how one of the girls turned to look at me just after the skateboarders walked in accompanied by the World Party cover of All the Young Dudes. I later dug out my mum’s Bowie and Mott the Hoople vinyls and eventually my scruffy style would find its natural home when I started actually skateboarding. The girl I liked at the time wasn’t actually there but teenage me often looked back at this as a missed opportunity. I dread to think what kind of things we talked about that afternoon, if we talked at all. Clueless indeed.

Obviously I didn’t realise this was Jane Austen in Beverly Hills until afterwards but I guess that accounts for the great storytelling. I’ve rewatched this film plenty and recently checked the wikipedia page only to stumble on the most wonderfully 90s ending to the ‘Filming’ section.

‘The Mighty Mighty Bosstones performance, originally an outdoor event, had to be moved inside due to rain. Paul Rudd bought everyone gifts after filming wrapped.’

Did you know Bono and the Edge wrote this theme song for Tina Turner? Do you think they considered calling it Goldeye  for the sake of consistency (or should Auric Goldfinger have been called Goldenfinger)? Did I actually watch this at the cinema? So many questions. So little interest in answering. Pierce Brosnan aka Bronhom’s first outing as Bond and I have way more childhood memories of playing the video game on Ben’s N64 than actually seeing this in the cinema; so perhaps I didn’t. Sniper rifles in the Temple. Boys with toys.

Another one with that oversaturated, cheesy sheen but perhaps I was getting used to it by this point. Me, Joe C and Chris (RIP my friend) didn’t really know what to make of this but it was really enjoyable, in equal measures silly and terrifying, even if it is one of Tim Burton’s least popular movies. I always have a soft spot for any artist’s misunderstood unpopular projects, seemingly only capable of making those ones myself. I hadn’t quite arrived at the point where I respected films for killing off big actor characters but this is a big, bold one for that. I also think for an alien invasion story to make all its characters deliberately unlikeable is kind of a strength.

This just about makes my top five exclamation-mark-punctuated movies, after Help!, Airplane!, Safety Last! and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Is it better than Oliver!? Perhaps. Is it better than Mamma Mia!? I couldn’t tell you. I refuse to watch a musical that was made after I was born. I didn’t realise that was the internal rule I’ve been adhering to until I typed that. Although I have just realised that Bronhom is in that one; after being in the last two movies in my list, perhaps it’s a sign…

Had I already read the book of this on holiday before it came out? You bet jurass I had. It’s no Jaws 2 but it’s a pretty decent sequel. I seem to remember a scene from the book where a T. rex does a huge creamy white bird turd on the hood of a jeep but don’t think that it made it to the big screen. In fact, considering Michael Crichton wrote his first ever sequel specifically with a movie in mind, it’s quite interesting how much they changed. At least they finally used the waterfall scene from the original book and brought in the compys – those nippy little critters were a big part of the first novel. Did you know that when the little compsognathus gang kill that mean hunter (played by Peter Stormare, who will tell The Dude that they believe in nothing a year later in The Big Lebowski), this death scene is actually borrowed from how John Hammond bites the dust in the first novel, after falling down a hill and breaking an ankle upon hearing what he thinks is a T. rex roaring when it’s actually his nephew and niece playing it over the PA system? How’s that for a long sentence?

Lingering a while on the dinosaur hunters (check out my comic Steak with Marc Olivent – there’s a plug for you), the excellent Pete Postlethwaite’s mercenary Roland Tembo was a welcome addition to the cast. What a fantastic actor he was; may he rest in peace. We’re eventually going to lose all our great working class actors, aren’t we? We’ll never know how much talent a chronic underfunding of the arts and continued class war has deprived us of. A rant for another time and place perhaps.

Anyway, in another mortality based quirk of the book series, Dr Ian Malcolm eventually dies from his injuries sustained in the T. rex attack in Jurassic Park but is seemingly resurrected for the sequel with little explanation. Life, uh, finds a way.

I lapped this up, I will admit. I was a Star Wars obsessed kid so of course I did. I remember my brothers and I flinched when Han shot second and squirmed a little when he stepped on Jabba’s tail but it would be a couple of years before I saw those monstrosities for what they really were. At the time, all I really cared about was collecting tazos from crisp packets and drawing spaceships in my notebooks.

It’s impossible now to feel the way I felt about Star Wars when there were only three films* (plus the Droids and Ewoks cartoons) in my faraway galaxy. There are, to date, eleven Star Wars films and one animated movie, as well as two more films in development, and that is without even considering the further six animated shows and four Disney+ television shows (or the further six seasons in development).

In writing these reviews, I have realised that the convention around naming these films is rather inconsistent. Word order and punctuation seems to go a number of ways depending on where you read it. The use of latin numerals in the titles makes me wonder whether the Galactic Empire were aware of the Roman Empire. I feel those guys would have a lot to talk about if only the Romans could just learn English like the rest of the Galaxy.

*I was not aware of the gloriously baffling Holiday Special at this point, as the studios had successfully buried it in these pre internet video days, nor had I seen Ewoks: Caravan of Courage or Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, which I don’t think I could sit through even now.

They didn’t tinker with this one as much or as obviously and it’s just a better film so this was an excellent day out, although at the time I probably still felt slightly short-changed by the lack of resolution to the story.

There is a supposed Mandela effect moment in the movie where Vader says ‘No, I am your father.’ and not ‘Luke, I am your father.’ as many people like to quote. I don’t think movie misquotes should be chalked up to the Mandela effect. I think most of these ‘misquotes’ are simply neatened up to contextualise them outside of film and people don’t actually swear that they remember the line being different. The amended lines just roll off the tongue easier. Anyway, that’s my two Republic dactaries on the matter.

Staying on the subject of Darth Vader’s dialogue, Ross, my housemate at university once interviewed the (body) actor David Prowse for the London Student newspaper, for which he was invited to Prowse’s house. I still remember listening to his minidisc recording of it, when my friend asked how he delivered his lines (while under the illusion that his voice was being used) and the delight of hearing him declare ‘Astronoids doon’t concern me, I warnt thaat ship,’ in his lovely West Country accent. By all accounts, a lovely fellow apparently. RIP.

At the time, we had an old optician’s eye chart downstairs from my dad that we would throw darts at and for some reason we invented something called Australian Eye Darts and invented a whole story around the world championship rivalry between Nick Bushwalker and his father Doug Bader (all of course in our attempts at Aussie accents). To this day, I still have no idea what that was all about.

With some money my grandma had given me for ‘my future’ later that year, I bought the gold VHS box set of these films, as well as more action figures to go with my battered eighties ones – only these musclebound nineties guys had clearly been overdoing it on the blue whey shakes*. In any case, the gold card cover for the videos made the most wonderful comedy fart noise when you opened it and slid it closed just right. I’m sure my family must have absolutely loved me doing that all the time.

Anyway, to the film. I did NOT need the Sarlacc to have a beak, nor did I need Sy Snootles sexed up any more. If you don’t know what I mean, just before Luke Skywalker enters Jabba the Hutt’s palace, there’s a strangely upbeat but bleak tune playing that ends with an unfortunate dancer being fed to the Rancor beast below. This was a great mirror of the Mos Eisley cantina musical number in the first film, when an inexperienced Luke enters another hive of scum and villainy so unprepared that he ends up accidentally starting a fight. In Return of the Jedi, the new Luke we see is a calm and confident Jedi, strolling in unarmed (too soon, Ponda Baba?), which showed us how far he had come. The updated, 1997 CGI-embellished music track is an admittedly fun R&B number but it just completely changes the tone of the scene. A baffling decision. On a more positive musical note though, the John Williams score swelling in the last lightsaber duel gives me goosebumps still.

Since writing this, I found an article in a film magazine from 1983 (in the Castle cinema) that quoted a LucasFilm Vice president as saying ‘I can’t think of anything we know how to do that we haven’t done for this movie.’ Make of that what you will.

*It’s always hard to know whether a reference is too niche when dealing with such a huge franchise but I did mention Republic dactaries in the last one, I guess.

This is a really decent movie, showcasing a different side of Jim Carrey. A solipsistic fable somewhere between a digital age Genesis and Plato’s cave for anyone who ever pretended (or feared) they were in a TV show. Perhaps we all are now. 

The sheen of this movie did slightly depress me in that unquantifiable way that I first started noticing in The Flintstones, Mars Attacks! etc but at least in this one I could see that the veneer was a key part of the plot. It was definitely an American thing; I used to find the reddish colouration of shows like Sesame Street uncomfortable to watch. Maybe one day someone will explain to me the different cameras or colour encoding or scripts or accents or behaviours or whatever it is that would make me long for some bleak British realism. Speaking of which, I believe this was my last visit to the Prince of Wales Road’s Cannon cinema, although I could never have known at the time. In 2003, this building would become the much-needed nightclub (cruelly named Mercy) that this sleepy street was clearly crying out for. 

Philip Glass supplies some soundtrack music, as well as a rare cameo in the film, which I only recently found out about. Ed Harris seemingly reprised his control room role from Apollo 13 with a bit of a twist. Laura Linney, fresh from Congo (as far as films I’d seen) has a little more room to flex her acting chops, if flexing is indeed what people do with chops.

The opening shot of a spinning, burning planet actually made me feel quite dizzy because our seats were quite close to the screen but me and my brother certainly enjoyed this movie. I didn’t know what a Michael Bay was at that point but, being a teenage boy, I guess he had my number. I was swept along nicely with this big budget action adventure and was even moved by the ending. The Aerosmith song is cheesy of course but maybe it’s sweet and poignant that Steve Tyler is singing it about his daughter (who is in the movie) as she says goodbye to her father. I watched it with Ben, who had the Aerosmith best of Big Ones on cassette but I think we’d both grown out of them by then.

The movie boasts a really quite impressive cast (my first real views of Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Michael Duncan Clarke, Billy Bob Thornton, Keith David, Jason Isaacs and William Fichtner) but equally impressive is that Liv Tyler seems to be the only female actor with more than one line.

This oil industry puff piece was also my first Ben Affleck film and I recommend his (possibly inebriated) DVD commentary if you haven’t already heard it. Will they bring back letting actors trash the film on the extras or was that just a moment in time?

In 1999, the Riverside Development opened up in Norwich, bringing with it a bowling alley (where a stranger would one day flash my younger brother) as well as some huge, awful nightclubs (where the only time I visited, I was constantly searched, seemingly because I was wearing a hoodie and not a pink shirt). The new development also brought some more chain restaurants and a brand new multiplex called the UCI (now an ODEON).

Anyway, what am I doing wasting my time talking about a retail development near Norwich station? We have a new Star Wars film here! Hearing that iconic score and reading the first opening scrawl to have been written since I was born and, oh boy, I knew we were in for a wild ride. Tax disputes, blockades, I mean this is the exciting stuff that target audience children with a history of buying their merchandise like me were screaming out for. Talk about fan service. Some said that this new trilogy was just a ploy to sell midi-chlorians but I think it was much more than that. 

It’s almost hard to imagine the idea of a prequel being a rarity so it took me a while to get over the fact that it was a new Star Wars and actually think about how little of this movie made sense and how poor it looked.* Until 2015, this was the last Star Wars to be filmed on actual film, but where A New Hope’s low budget had led to inspiration and creativity, this one just felt cheap, despite costing ten times as much. It remains the lowest rated of the trilogy of trilogies. This will have likely been the biggest encounter with cognitive dissonance for others as well as myself, as we tried desperately to like something that just seemed to do everything it could to prevent that. Perhaps they should have called it The Fandom Menace, amirite? 

John Williams was seemingly the only person who knew what he was doing on this project; I still think Duel of the Fates is a decent piece of music. It’s just a shame the finely choreographed lightsaber fight it played over had no emotional depth and made no sense, much like the rest of this movie.

*The RedLetterMedia takedown of this film says more than I can here but it isn’t for everyone.

Before steampunk (or at least my awareness of it) became so ubiquitous and irritating, I actually quite enjoyed some of the silly conceits in this movie. My brother and I even learned how many ‘wickys’ were required to be able to mouth over the beginning of the Stevie Wonder-sampling titular tune but we ran out of steam after the first verse of the rap. 

One thing I don’t understand is why they repeated the word ‘Wild’ in the title. Is it supposed to be a pun? Will Smith’s character is named (Jim) West but that doesn’t make it make any more sense. Why not keep the actor’s first name and call it Wild Will West? Even Wild West West would have made more sense.

In any case, I remember there being a trailer for a movie called Varsity Blues with James van der Beek, which I never saw and I bet you didn’t either. Always a good sign when you remember a trailer you saw before more than you remember the movie.

Will Smith apparently turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix and made this instead, since the Wachowski’s explanation of their ‘bullet time’ filming technique didn’t really captivate him. He remains circumspect but open about this, but for me the saddest part is that we were denied a Will Smith Matrix single.

Huge movie at the time, despite it originally being conceived as a straight to video deal. There was a lot of hype over the detail in the sleeping man wotsits scene as I remember, but I can’t be the only one who noticed he didn’t clean his fingers before picking his priceless cowboy doll off the floor. I did like that it framed the middle-aged collector as the villain despite the fact the industry has been courting them for years. I don’t know if the human faces were less nightmarish than in the first Toy Story or we were just less shocked the second time round.

As a sequel, its Empire Strikes Back reference somehow manages to get the quote both correct and incorrect when Zurg says ‘No, Buzz… I am your father.’ Perhaps this in itself has even contributed to the misquoting. 

Did anyone else used to find it odd going to see a sequel at the cinema when you weren’t there for the first? Maybe I felt like I’d missed out or I didn’t deserve to be there if I hadn’t supported it from the beginning. But isn’t it sadder the other way around? Seeing the first and not bothering with the sequel? At least this way there’s some sense things might be getting better, not worse. With that in mind, I just went back and counted over twenty films on this list for which I didn’t deem it necessary to visit the cinema for its sequel/s. Some I really had to rack my brains for, since I haven’t bothered with them on the small screen, even out of curiosity (would you like to sit through Son of the Mask?), which is probably far more scathing than any bad review. Also less time-consuming.

The first 15 certificate movie that I watched at the cinema and I might have already been sixteen. How very proper of me. I know this has been parodied and picked apart and awfully sequelled (see above) and perhaps not even aged that well, but I still think this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. For a daytime scene about getting lost to carry so much dread, plus that final sequence and last shot… There are so many little gaps for your imagination to fill in that makes this really scary to each viewer in an individual way. Poet John Keats called this phenomenon ‘negative capability’. Year 3 teachers call it inference or ‘reading between the lines’. Other people call it ‘leaving things to the imagination’. The people who make films nowadays don’t seem to believe this is a thing any more.

I remember seeing this at the old Anglia Square ODEON and I feel like this is as good a time as any to either inform or remind people that ODEON is actually an acronym and stands for Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation. How about that?

My household are huge fans of the Jaws series (yes, all of them) so a new shark movie was like chum in the water to me. For some reason, I kind of see this film as an embodiment of Calvin Bouchard’s line; ‘You’re talkin’ about some damn shark’s mother?’ Jaws 3D doggie-paddled so that Deep Blue Sea could swim. Pure popcorn entertainment – suspense and silliness in equal measure (I haven’t actually measured). 

The antagonists of this movie are genetically modified sharks so savvy that they know how to cut off a rousing speech before everyone gets too roused and are also agile enough to reverse back into the water afterwards with their snack. Funnily enough, Samuel L Jackon would eventually survive working with Stellan Skarsgård in a lab tampering with a different dangerous power thirteen years later in The Avengers, but not this time. I remember LL Cool J worked well in this as sage-cum-audience-proxy and Thomas Jane (perhaps limbering up for his mad masterpiece Stander a couple of years later) had plenty of cheesy blond action man moves.

The film was fun since it had all the classic claustrophobic action thriller tropes of being trapped in a facility with a seemingly omnipresent threat (see Alien Resurrections, Resident Evil, Event Horizon etc). Why do these scientists have to keep tampering with nature? Why can’t those squares just knock it off with all the questions and discoveries? Will they never learn? I hope not, or the action movie industry will surely suffocate.

My mum, dad, brother and I met my uncle in the Compleat Angler pub on the river before going to the aforementioned UCI. My uncle James (fittingly) had invites for the premiere in those special seats they have at the back that were probably also called premiere where you could apparently have fancy drinks with cinnamon sticks and ice brought to you according to the adverts, although I don’t know why anyone would do that during a film. Anyway, because we were having a drink before, this is the only time I can remember ever having missed the beginning of a movie. Luckily, it didn’t really matter why Bronhom was in that bank since he was getting the heck out of there pronto! Something something speedboat. Something something opening sequence. Pulse pounding stuff I’m sure.

I was not quite old enough to see how obvious the set up was for the Christmas pun at the end, and I actually laughed out loud. Maybe I was just trying to show how grown up I was. I would not have much experience of such carnal matters for at least a year. Speaking of things only coming once; this sits with the Quantum of Solace as one of the only two Bond films I have never bothered to rewatch.

This was sadly the last outing for the gorgeous Desmond Llewelyn as Q who was, as ever, thinking ahead by recruiting his replacement in John Cleese. Always have an escape plan.

That was my last film of the millennium. Everything was about to change and not just all four digits in the year. On NYE Y2K (as a few people were calling it at the time) I met my first long term girlfriend. This, coupled with being in sixth form, as well as the new multiplex in Norwich being a draw for me and my mates to come into town, meant that I managed to watch a whopping 20 films in the cinema in the year 2000. No other year would be so cinematic for me. Strap in.

This was the first cinema date with my first girlfriend and for some reason I thought it would be funny to pretend that my mate Graham, who I’d just been hanging out with in the skateshop, was going to be joining us. I don’t know why I took such a risk at such a precarious time but we did go out for a number of years after this so perhaps it didn’t matter all that much. Anyway, I enjoyed the movie and the twist ‘got’ me (is that what twists do?), although, looking back, it does seem that the whole movie is simply geared towards that twist and most of it doesn’t hold up to even the lightest scrutiny.

Is the sixth sense nonsense? It certainly isn’t a sense of humour. It’s often said that when someone loses a sense, their others become more acute but in this case Haley Joel Osment’s Cole having an extra sense appears to have dulled Bruce Willis’s Crowe’s. If a sense is defined as any channel through which our body can perceive itself, he apparently hasn’t noticed that hardly any of his seem to be functioning at all. I’m guessing M. Knight Shyamalan didn’t spend too much time considering proprioception – the sense of where your body parts are in space. 

Considering Bruce Willis was in Die Hard, he did seem to be dying quite easily in the rest of his films. In fact he was dead by the end of every film I’d see him in (this one, Armageddon, Sin City, Planet Terror) until being mercifully spared by Wes Anderson in 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, although admittedly I didn’t stay to see if there was a post credits scene.

Perfect fodder for an easy date with the girlfriend. I had already actually met the parents at this point so this film held no menace for me. Her father (RIP Richard) was the kindest and jolliest gentleman I’ve ever met and her mother was, and still is, delightful. When I was first invited back home, her mother recognised me and said ‘I knew it was you.’ It turned out that I had run through a shop door in town (chasing my friend Matt during a free period) and paused to hold it open for her a few days before and she had somehow sensed that from her daughter’s description of her new boyfriend that it was me. Quite strange but an extremely compelling advertisement for good manners. You never know who could be watching.

Ben Stiller had been jobbing away in various things since Empire of the Sun and I suppose I would have known him from There’s Something About Mary but I feel like this was the first film I saw him ‘star’ in. Getting Bobby DeNiro in as the straight man was a great decision. It’s a shame they kept going with these movies because as a standalone maybe this would be perfect. If only Ben could have kept stiller.

Another date. I remember really hearing Tiny Dancer for the first time on this, despite half recalling it from my dad being a big Elton John fan. The tour bus singalong scene certainly made me feel like I should already know it. My then girlfriend was smaller than me and a dancer so this all lined up well as I recall. Staying on the bus, I believe that Noah Taylor’s Dick (behave) is reading one of my favourite short story collections, Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, which incidentally inspired the Elton John song Rocket Man.

As a skateboarder, I felt something like civic pride at Jason Lee (a former professional skateboarder) being ‘big time’ enough to be in this one. Glorious Philip Seymour Hoffman was also in this; had I seen him in anything before? I’d certainly see him again. 

I’m wondering if, in one of the films around this time, I would have heard my first announcement telling me to switch off my telephone because I was definitely becoming mobile at this point. I think my first was dad’s old Nokia 3310 and I suppose this was around the time Trigger Happy TV would have been on the television. I wonder if the guy answering his huge phone inspired those announcements. In which case, Dom Joly has a lot to answer for.

Was this really the first non-English speaking film I saw at the cinema? How uncivilised of me. Apparently the accents of the main characters weren’t very well received in China, so I guess it must have seemed foreign to everyone really.

I recently rewatched this masterpiece with my wife and tried to remember what I must have felt like watching this in the cinema. I had never seen anything like it at the time and to be honest I can’t think of anything really like it now. Simple and tragic, I did not understand Jen’s motivations in a lot of this but weirdly didn’t feel like I needed to. The love fight between Jen and Lo stood out for me and I remember his playful ebullience being fun to watch. I think I wanted to be like him.

This epic had a moving story and it looked gorgeous, introducing me to the work of director Ang Lee. I think I’ve seen every film he’s made since this, bar the one that only 5 cinemas in the world could handle its frame rate. If you think I’m making that up – google Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. I’ll be impressed if you’ve seen it.

If I’m honest, I still only half understand the title of this film, even now. I think I joked at the time that the tiger must have been crouching very low and the dragon was very well hidden, as I didn’t remember seeing either of them. I won’t pretend that I’m above making that joke now.

This was another enjoyable date movie but not a patch on the Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby-voiced cartoon The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that we were given by a German student years before (along with some Haribo gold bears before Haribo were a thing in the UK). If you haven’t watched this cartoon, I would recommend you find it on youtube. The music and voicework really are fantastic. 

Back to the Tim Burton film; it’s pretty good, very creepy and apparently, despite there being a horror element to his previous films, the first time he considered that he was making a horror movie. This was also coming off the back of the abandoned Nic Cage-led Superman Lives, which sounds like it was a bit of a horror show too. Jon Peters, the producer, wanted this vision of Superman to be more rugged and less flashy, and it involved a (perhaps flightless) fight with a giant spider for the finale. This movie never happened but, funnily enough, the Jon Peters-produced film Wild Wild West (see above) ended on a battle with a huge mechanical spider. When a producer wants a giant spider…

Worth noting that this was my first view of one John Christopher Depp on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong, he usually looks great but the poor boy just can’t act any more, can he? Try thinking of a recent time when he’s engaged convincingly with other actors; a decent supporting role rather than some enigmatic, separate thing. Although maybe I shouldn’t be too harsh, we wouldn’t want him to quit acting and take up his painting full time, would we?

Two legends in a row? Has there ever been a truly legendary film with that word in the title? The Legend and I Am Legend may be half decent but would you call them ‘legendary’? They aren’t even Jet Li or Will Smith’s best movies.

So, a school friend of mine had a job at the new cinema complex and was given a few free tickets for certain films, which she handed out at school. They were slightly oversized promo tickets with a faded monochrome image of the movie printed on them, which seems decadent by today’s standards. Despite not being particularly close friends with the girl in school, I managed to bag three pairs of tickets. Thanks! One I gave to my parents (Quills with Kate Winslet and Geoffrey Rush, not realising what it was about – eek), one I took my older brother to (see next entry) and the other looked like perfect date fodder. Alcoholic golfer Matt Damon learns about life with the help of the ghost angel of Will Smith. I wouldn’t have known at the time that this would be the final film for Jack Lemmon or that it was based on the Bhagavad Gita or that it would bomb in the box office or that it perpetuated what Spike Lee called the ‘magical negro’ trope but I did know that I didn’t pay for the tickets. Not much else to say about this film.

The other free film tickets I got from school and, since it was a war movie, I had to bring my big brother Ben who’d introduced me to Platoon and Apocalypse Now. This was not only my first Colin Farrell film (I have always liked him even though he is so handsome) but it was also the first time I’d see the talents of Clifton Collins Jr and Shea Whigham – at the time I was simply rooting for the handsome protagonist but both of these supporting characters stayed with me. In fact, After Yang, a film that I enjoyed on the flight to my honeymoon, reconnected Farrell and Clifton Collins Jr briefly and I wondered if they were friends in real life. I hope so.

My first modern war movie was this grainy-looking film shot almost like a documentary with an enigmatic but compassionate (did I mention handsome?) protagonist. But despite being a modern movie, it didn’t depict a modern war – they don’t even make it to Vietnam. This was a more muted, low budget offering compared to previous films from director Joel Schumacher (RIP), whose work has appeared once on this list and will appear once more but I will leave you to figure out which movies. A bit of fun, or not. Your only clue is that Jim Carrey is in both.

If I had a tiger for every film I watched in 2000 with ‘tiger’ in the title that didn’t actually contain any tigers, I’d have two tigers, which isn’t a lot but it’s still weird that it happened twice, right? On second thoughts, two tigers is a lot of tigers to have. I take it back.

This one blew my tiny mind when I watched it and I must have revelled in teenageboysplaining it to my girlfriend on the walk home when she said she was confused. I still really enjoy Christopher Nolan films, I know a lot of people love to pick them apart to sound smart. I think as complex as the narrative order seemed on first watch, this is maybe one of his simplest, where he doesn’t need his characters to go to exotic locations to explain that many lofty concepts to the audience.

I remember liking the fact that two Matrix actors were in this together and it might have been the first film to really get me wondering about how casting worked. Stephen Tobolowsky, who played the endlessly looping Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, is the amnesiac manslaughterer Sammy Jankis, which was a clever casting move if deliberate.

Probably my strongest memory from this trip was the fact that when we turned up, a girl I had a huge crush on in Year 7 (we technically ‘went out’ for a day or two but I didn’t really understand such things at that point) was working at Ster Century in the Castle Mall and put our tickets through for free. I felt like an absolute baller.

A lads trip into town for this one with Matt and Chris at the Riverside cinema. I think, as a sci-fi concept action thriller, this still stands up today, although I don’t think it required the Riddick-ulous sequels – Vin Diesel is still such a funny thing to me after all these years. Anyway, I think he was well cast in this and it reminded me a little of Alien 3. I love a dirty space movie; is that a genre? I thought the line ‘I was supposed to die in France. I never even saw France.’ was quite poignant, with them being on another planet.

This was the second movie of my year to star an actor from Neighbours, in Radha Mitchell. I’ll let you work out the other. Funnily enough, it would have been three if I’d seen Gladiator on the big screen – did you know Russell Crowe was in Erinsborough in 1987? Part of me wonders how many other films on the list contain former Ramsay Street residents but then another, perhaps stronger, part of me doesn’t.

While on movie trivia, I don’t know if anyone else remembers there used to be a mini ‘text-in’ quiz on the screen before the movies and one recurring question was ‘Who played the villain in Face/Off?’ I could never work out if that was really clever or just really stupid.

I watched this with my girlfriend and both our mums. I was a big fan of Marc Bolan so the T Rex* soundtrack was extremely welcome. Years later, as a mentor for Chance UK (check them out; they do great work) I took an exuberant eight year old boy to see the stage show of this with music written by Elton John for some reason (if it ain’t broke…) and it was awful. My mentee was a budding dancer but had never seen it done on stage, so it was hopefully more enjoyable for him than it was endurable for me. I don’t know if I’ve made my feelings about musicals clear already but, if not, you might have guessed that I’m not a fan.

Back to the film; it was and still is excellent – lively and moving. Coming out of the cinema, the ladies had all said it made them cry and I remember wondering which part, but I think on watching it again I realised which parts. Pretty much all of it. I don’t know if it’s true that teenagers are less compassionate than children or adults but I was certainly at my most callous around my late teens. I think I am now, however,  grown up enough to be able to cry during a film. I’ve done it a couple of times now and am keen to try again in another film. Well up for it, you might say. 

*Interesting palaeontological aside: if referring to the extinct genus, then it should be written T. rex (dot to indicate shortened first word and lower case first letter of second word) not T Rex or T-Rex. It is actually pretty rare to use the ‘binomial’ latin names for animals at all – boa constrictor being a rare one. This is really the only dinosaur famous enough to be known by its latin name in this shortened way. Fun fact; if we used the same rule for Triceratops we would be calling it T. horridus.

The fact that I was having sex when I watched this (not during the film, just sexually active) made me feel pretty grown up and in the know. I haven’t watched the film since but my main recollection was wishing Marisa Tomei had more screen time. I also think I started to recognise something which I’d later identify as Toxic Masculinity, as well as something called Hating Mel Gibson. I guess he’s supposed to be kind of redeemed by the end but I don’t know if I buy it.

I never understood how telepathy was supposed to work anyway. Can you really ‘read’ a mind if we don’t always think in words? To properly read someone’s thoughts you’d need to know their memories and be familiar with their unique personal inner language. For context, maybe you’d need to actually feel their emotions to really understand what they’re thinking, since thought is emotional after all. If our conscious experience is our reality, then wouldn’t you have to actually be the other person to ever really know their thoughts? Then what would happen when you came back into your own mind? Would you still be you? Where would the other person’s mind be while you were occupying it? Maybe this film answers these questions. I can’t remember.

If you think about it, this film is fairly terrifying on many levels, perhaps they should have made it into a horror movie instead of a rom-com; it was too lighthearted to do the premise justice. Having said that, this is probably true of more comedies than we’d care to imagine.

With my school being about ten minutes away from the Castle Mall’s Ster Century cinema, Matt, James and I either bunked off for this or just had free periods that afternoon, I don’t know which is worse. I think we just thought that was a funny thing to do. I’m glad we did though. 

Animated in this case, another movie with Mel Gibson’s misogyny mocked ostensibly but perhaps ultimately enabled, however in this one, at least it’s clear from the start that he’s a cock. This film was more than just a plasticine Great Escape as it cheerfully explains feminist and marxist ideologies via the soothing voice of Julia Sawalha (unfairly overlooked for the 2023 sequel) so there is a lot to like here. In this film, the hens work together to create their own version of the ‘Colditz Cock’ from WW2 but this one actually flies. The real life makeshift glider built in 1945 never left the ground as the prisoners were liberated by US soldiers in 1945 before it was completed. If only they had asked the chickens for help.

I was already a big fan of Aardman since teaching myself shading by pausing the VHS that my friend Ian lent me to draw the characters from The Wrong Trousers and A Grand Day Out. Aardman animation had also produced the Lurpak trombone player I remember from the television ad breaks in our Raiders of the Lost Ark VHS. It was nice to see the animation as the main event on the big screen. Butter, cheese and now eggs. What was Nick Park trying to tell us?

More telepathy but this time mercifully they let one of the x-women do it too and crucially, not a whiff of Mel Gibson. I suppose this was the first big droplet out of the superhero floodgate and it’s still quite enjoyable for its time. Wolverine was my favourite X-person at that point in time so I was very excited to see this, but they really did squeeze every last bit out of poor Hugh Jackman in this franchise by the end.* Ray Park, fresh from playing Darth Maul the previous year, gets a good stint as another bodily villain, Toad. I still don’t really know exactly what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning but I think I have an idea what happens to a toad when it’s struck by a lightsaber.

Being a huge existing comic book property, as you can imagine, this film went through many mutations before it arrived in this form, some of the most notable departures perhaps being Bob Hoskins as Wolverine, Katherine Bigelow as director or Magneto causing the Chernobl disaster. In another strand of the multiverse perhaps.

If you’re interested in such things, Kevin Feige, the highest paid producer of all time, who has overseen the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its inception and looks like a big-boned, Belgian farmhand, was an associate producer on this movie. He’s nothing if not committed.

*Ouch, since first writing this, they’ve managed to jack a last drop out of the man into a 2024 Deadpool MCU movie. He’ll need that healing factor.

The Alex Garland novel was the best book I had ever read at the time. I’d never had a thriller that seemed to be written for me. It made me feel grown-up and in the know but also tantalised and naive. The film adaptation was likely underway or had been announced while I read this, so of course I felt the familiar swell of pride from being in on the ground floor with something when the movie came out.

The film was a total disappointment for me. I don’t think I was ready for the Danny Boyle style camerawork and I hated the soundtrack (minus the Unkle song). But the thing that really grated me was how it seemed to completely miss the point of the book. The story was full of angst and dealt with the madness of sexual frustration, since he never gets it on with the French girl he lusts after so much. In this film, however, not only do they get together but he even sleeps with Sal, played by a young Tilda Swinton, who was obviously destined for greater things. Also the character of Richard is so English in the story and definitely not an American heartthrob. It would take me years to get over my jealousy of Leonardo DiCaprio and appreciate him as an actor but for now, I was fuming.

Silly fun with some mates. Sometimes cinema should be just that. It was the first I really remember of the cheap and obvious ‘parody’ movie, although I’m sure I caught up with plenty more at uni. Similar to a sixth form pantomime, these films try to shove in as many references to current things as they can, safe in the knowledge that most people are entertained by simply recognising something. This film was so relevant and up to date they had even managed to squeeze in an ‘I see dead people’ reference to a movie released the same year. Classic horror movies such as The Matrix and Charlie’s Angels were also parodied. I guess I found it strange that this film franchise was a spoof of Scream, which itself was supposed to be satirising the teen slasher movie. Simply imitating the content of something without considering the intent seemed like laughing at someone wearing a T-shirt that says ‘I’m stupid.’ They chose to wear the T-shirt so you’re not picking up on anything they haven’t already said.

The difference between parody and pastiche is supposedly that the former pokes fun while the latter pays homage, but I think calling this sort of thing a pastiche seems like going too far. I mean it’s a French word after all. Or Italian. Whatever. Silly fun with some mates.

I thought this film was so cool at the time but I don’t think I’ve really enjoyed a Guy Ritchie film since (although I did like Hugh Grant’s performance in The Gentlemen). One big reason it was cool was that it was my first 18 certificate movie at the cinema, and was I 18? Was I fuck? (I’m now allowed to say more than one of those per review.) Nowadays, I bet I wouldn’t enjoy the violence that probably washed right over me at the time. I still think Alan Ford’s Brick Top is an excellent villain and always considered East End Thug in the Armando Iannucci Show as a kind of continuation of that character, which only adds to his value. Bradley Pitt was also great in this one – teenage me was already very impressed after watching him in Fight Club but now he had exhibited the extra bravery of doing an Irish accent. Other big star Benicio del Toro was allegedly a bit tricky filming this, although Stephen Graham was seemingly much easier, landing the role after he accompanied a mate to an audition and was convinced to read a few lines when they heard him speak. The luck of the Irish. Or Turkish. Or Tommy.

In halls at university someone once taught a couple of us what he called ‘the vagina game’ (no, not that one). If you haven’t played it, it’s one of those car journey type of games where you think of films and replace a word from the title with ‘vagina’. Is this one of those rare movies where you don’t need to do anything?

These last two films probably give an inflated view of my interest in illegal dog fighting. Nevertheless, if I thought watching Snatch was cool then this one was on another level. Not only was it grittier but it had subtitles (plus I could understand just under half of what they were saying since I was doing A-Level Spanish). I still feel quite pleased with myself watching foreign language movies now despite having watched hundreds, so 16 year old me would have been feeling like a don.

It has been twenty years since I watched it and I actually can’t recall much about the plot of this film, beyond the dogs and a car crash, so I guess it’s time for a rewatch. I think I stayed near a couple of the locations in this film in Ciudad de México a few years later and I wish I’d paid more attention. Maybe I was too distracted by all the delicious new food. I do remember my friend taking me to some of the locations of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet so who’s to say. If you were showing off film locations in your city, would you lead with the art deco church from the Shakespeare film or the nondescript busy street corner? Tough call.

So, director Alejandro González Iñárritu seemed like one to watch after this. And at around this point I would definitely be starting to remember names of foreign directors in order to seem cultured but it would be years before I was confident enough to pronounce his name out loud.

Young Robert DeNiro lookalike Breckin Myer of Clueless stars in this largely forgettable college sex comedy. I even forgot Tom Green was in this, and indeed the only real memorable scene is one in which a diner cook inexplicably puts DJ Qualls’ french toast in his underwear. I can’t remember what motivated him to do something that would so obviously result in such discomfort for the rest of his working day but it was a perfect example of when ‘gross-out’ humour is just obnoxious and loses me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not precious or squeamish, but even aged 17, I clearly had a reaction to the meanness and impracticality of it. This is my only memory of the film to be honest, that and the fact that they play Mr E’s Beautiful Blues at some point.

Very much following in the crumby footsteps of American Pie, in which they famously and nonconsensually use a webcam to spy on an undressed foreign exchange student, Road Trip is about trying to stop a sextape getting to Rachel Blanchard, who later replaced Breckin Myer’s Clueless co-star Alicia Silverstone in the TV show of the same name, but you might more likely recognise her as the American girl from Peep Show. Does any of that mean anything? Probably not but I’m struggling to think of much more to say on this movie.

Funnily enough, years later I’d take a road trip of my own with my siblings to visit my cousin at Ithaca, one of the colleges from this movie, but not connect the dots that I took part in my own sex comedy of sorts there when I managed to talk my way out of the bed of a beautiful American girl.

Another movie about driving where I happened to visit one of the locations years later. Coincidence? I think so.

As a teenager, I was a fan of Ben Folds and became aware he had recorded a song for the soundtrack of this one, so we went as a festive family film foray. I had also been given an interview at Theodor Seuss Geisel’s own Lincoln College in Oxford to study French and Spanish so I was on a real Dr Seuss tip at the time. Although I must say I enjoyed the experience, which included staying the night in the halls of residence, and was of course disappointed when I wasn’t offered a place, I dread to think what would have happened if seventeen year old me had ended up in Oxford. Would I have been happier or smarter? Would I have ever moved to London? Would it have improved my chances of success as a writer? Who knows. Oxford certainly doesn’t have as many cinemas as London.

The last Ron Howard movie I’d seen (Apollo 13) was also with my whole family but we wouldn’t assemble for him again. In fact, there’s only one more of his films on this list and it’s not one I’m particularly proud of. I’ll give you a clue; it rhymes with Finchley Road.

Now to the actual movie; it was a bit too bright and colourful and the teeth freaked me out, but it was pretty funny, plus you know my thoughts on Jim Carrey so I would definitely say I enjoyed it. It should also be appreciated as the only Christmas movie on this list and probably the last Christmas movie that I deliberately watched. Bah humbug, as Jim Carrey says in a different film that I will most likely never see (no, not even for you, Jim).

A nice seasonal ending to top off what would be my most cinematic year. I never saw as many films in twelve months again. Until now perhaps…

Well this is embarrassing. So, after telling everyone that I saw 20 films in 2000 (and in fact embarking on a whole year-long pursuit to beat the record this year), I realised in writing this that I got a year wrong and only in fact saw 19. I could have just lied I suppose but someone might have had a more distinct memory of watching this film than me and called me up on it.

More Johnny Depp playing his quirky, untamable but sensitive lover character. I was familiar with Juliette Binoche from watching The Horseman on the Roof on television one late night. I also recognised Alfred Molina, who betrayed Indie at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark and was equally crafty in this one, but I could at least identify with his chocolate scoffing this time. 

Not much else to say about this one. Despite the appealing title, I don’t really think this film was for me but it probably was fine as a date. Speaking of dates, looking at the March release, it does seem like a missed opportunity coming out two weeks after Valentine’s day. Missed opportunity for me I mean, as I could have ticked off the chocolate and the movie in one.

Since I’m in confessional mode, I might as well try to slip this one in. I think we watched this with my Grandma and possibly went to the Orion cinema in Dereham for the pleasure but I might be confusing this with her taking us to a pantomime in Dereham once and the fact that the teapot reminded me of her. Ironically perhaps, I always associate my grandma with memory loss and she wasn’t even the one who had dementia. The first time in my life I ever remember forgetting anything was when grandma came round and there was something I had wanted to tell her but I just couldn’t remember it. She told me not to worry but it has bothered me ever since, if I’m honest. The other reason is that the first dream I ever swore was real was one where she had come round to see us the day before, which I was later told didn’t actually happen. So, of course it’s quite fitting that this cinema visit was forgotten off the list and had to be hastily added in here out of order. The truth is that I had written it in a different column of my spreadsheet with a question mark initially and then forgot to add a date, which meant that it dropped out of the list when I arranged the films chronologically. Tale as old as time.

Speaking of tales as old as time, here’s one. Girl learns not to judge boy’s appearance, only going off his unpleasant behaviour and having kidnapped her, falls in love with him after he’s nice to her a couple of times and is rewarded by finding out that he is, in fact, conventionally attractive after all.*

I was aware of Angela Lansbury from Bedknobs and Broomsticks but this film was from a time before all-star casts seemed necessary for voice-over work. The only other big actor among the Prince’s servants (who are also inexplicably punished by the witch) is Jerry Orbach, who’s maybe not a name but you would definitely recognise if you googled him. The character who had the most lasting impact on me, however, was Gaston for his egg-eating feats. I think (and talk) about that scene pretty much any time I eat an egg.

*I have heard a few people admit to having a crush on the Prince in his Beastly form in any case, despite looking like a mixture between a lion, a witch and a warthog. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with the clothes and the castle.

Not to be confused with the mad masterpiece Castaway from 1986 starring Oliver Reed, who advertises in the newspaper for a wife to come and live on a desert island with him so he and Amanda Donahoe can slowly deteriorate into madness and sickness together. Nor was it Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N, the Dick Van Dyke-led desert island Disney caper that we watched endlessly while I was growing up, since it was one of our only videos.

No, this film stars T. Hanks as a delivery company employee who gets shipwrecked on an island alone with some of the packages from his ill-fated plane. Robert Zemeckis has a habit of making decent all-round movies (from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Contact to Death Becomes Her, not to mention the Back to the Future trilogy) and I enjoyed this one a lot. I seem to remember a group of us going to see this and all being a little dazed afterwards. Was it anything to do with the muted, minimal, musicless soundtrack from movie maestro Alan Silvestri? Hard to say. 

I read somewhere that T. Hanks nearly died making this when his injured leg got infected. I don’t know if I believe that. Apparently the Wilson volleyball was inspired by a real life volleyball washing up on the beach during the screenwriter’s inspiration-seeking isolated week in the Gulf of California. I don’t know if I believe that either. One thing that I do believe is that, since it’s basically a one man show, the title is technically a pun if you think about it.

My girlfriend and I went straight into a night out at the Loft nightclub in Norwich after watching this at the Riverside, but we probably could have done with just sitting with it for a while as it’s quite an intense and violent film. Yes, I’d read the book already but probably only because I’d known that a film was coming out. Obviously, I had seen Silence of the Lambs* but I hadn’t read that book. I still haven’t even seen Manhunt yet, which is criminal, but on a smaller scale.

This film was brutal visually but very enjoyable. Maybe my first real root-for-the-villain movie at the cinema. I figured they recast Clarice to use a younger actor as Hollywood often does but I have just noticed that Julianne Moore is actually two years older than Jodie Foster. In any case, they both play great Starlings. I always forget Ridley Scott directed this – it’s mad that this was out only a year after Gladiator. He also made a fantastic film called The Duellists only two years before Alien about a violent rivalry across many battles during a war, which is incidentally the theme of the next film I saw at the cinema.

*The first time I tried to watch Silence of the Lambs with my friend Chris, my dad told us we weren’t allowed to but then, a week later, saw that Deliverance was on television, which he called ‘a nice camping film’ and suggested we watched it. To this day I still am not sure what to make of that.

I enjoyed this one at the time. It might have been the first war movie I watched without my older brother. Would he approve? I don’t know how historically accurate any of the sniper duel was, or indeed any depictions of the war but it kept my attention. Rachel Weisz I was fully aware of, after watching My Summer With Des a couple of years before – the perfect mash up of Fever Pitch, Men Behaving Badly and Euro 96 for teenage boys.

This movie had a fairly all-star cast including, as well as Ed Harris, Ron Perlman and Bob Hoskins, who only appear on this list again once each but that’s my fault and not theirs. I remember Jude Law was a big name but I hadn’t actually seen him in anything else at this point. Strange that I chose this over the Spielberg film that he was starring in this same year. Oh well, no great loss. Twenty years later and people still talk about enemies and gates all the time but when do you ever hear anyone talking about AI?

I was likely unaware at the time but I think this ended up being my last date with my first girlfriend. I would move to London a few months later and turn eighteen a little after that, but in my head, this was when I became a man. Well, a single man – not to be confused with the 2009 film starring Colin Firth. Although, I did get told once that I looked like him, which should have come in handy now that I was a single man.

Matt and Chris were really good at looking after mopey old me and keeping me occupied after my break up but I have no idea why we chose to see this one in particular. Maybe Chris had read the book. I recall finding it odd and irritating that an American plays an Italian and a Spaniard plays a Greek. Maybe I was just disappointed as it was my first Nicolas Cage movie on the big screen and he wasn’t being Nicolas Cage enough.

Unfortunately, this was one of my most memorable cinematic experiences ever as, during one almost silent scene of Penelope Cruz wandering around her idyllic island home in deep thought, my mobile phone started ringing. I was mortified to have become the Dom Joly character. I have had my phone on silent ever since.

Of the rest of the film I have few memories. I only just realised Christian Bale is in this from IMDB, as well as having to jog my memory of anything more than basic details of the plot, which is pretty sad, since the story actually deals with a real life tragedy. Maybe I would have enjoyed this one more as a date. Sniff.

A mysterious stranger saves a policewoman’s life and they embark on a romantic confrontation of the past and… beyond the synopsis you could find for yourself online, I cannot remember a single other thing about this film. Sorry.

What can I say? I guess we just really wanted to go to the cinema. In our defence, since Matt and his brothers had driven 30 minutes into town, we figured we might as well watch something, but it is odd looking back that one of us made the decision to watch this film in particular. I’d never heard of it, so it was unlikely to be me but not impossible. It’s also worth taking into account that tickets were so much cheaper back then, especially since most of us were under 18. I feel like I’m over-explaining things. We watched a J-Lo movie, so what?

Alongside Jennifer Lopez, this film stars Jim Caviezel, who is one of those actors that feels like a big name yet I haven’t seen a single other film of his, discounting a minor role in The Rock (which you’ll have to google unless you are a complete geek). I hadn’t seen J-Lo in anything either* but at least I was familiar with her from her music career. Despite a back catalogue full of romcoms I won’t bother with, I still think she’s an understated and possibly underrated actress. Speaking of underrated, her father was played by my favourite hangdog mobster character actor Victor Argo, who I clearly wouldn’t have been able to name at the time but will watch him in anything now.

*I actually watched Out of Sight since writing this review (great fun) and also realised that she was in 1995’s Money Train so shows what I know.

This was the first date I went on after the break up. I called up a girl that I knew on the telephone* and asked if she wanted to go see a film. The date didn’t lead to a second but she was cool and it still felt like a big step. I remember walking out of the film, she said she thought the film was rubbish and was surprised I enjoyed it. She wasn’t being mean but it obviously struck a nerve with me, the shame of enjoying something of apparently poor quality. I don’t know why it should matter but I’m an absolute snob now.

I think it was shortly after this that I realised that I just love going to the cinema, and that it takes a particularly bad film for me not to enjoy the experience. This film just wasn’t particularly bad, I guess. I was entertained, even if Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts had more chemistry in that year’s Ocean’s Eleven. Almost fittingly, James Gandolfini carried this movie, in a near reprisal of his True Romance role kidnapping the female lead, although a little more sympathetically this time round.

Spoiler alert (?); there is a scene in this film where a character is killed by a falling bullet, fired into the air during a Mexican Independence day celebration. Six years later, I would witness this celebratory gunfire first hand in a small village with my friend Douglas. I was young and carefree enough to find it hilarious being surrounded by strangers letting off firearms but I might feel differently about it now.

*I only had her home number. Remember the house phone? Remember rolling the dice to see which family member would answer? Even worse, remember both parties having to take the whole phone call in full earshot of whoever happened to be home at that moment? Simpler times.

Cinema City in Norwich had a suggestion box and, partly to impress a girl, a friend and I lobbied them to show this film. Maybe they were planning to show it anyway but it felt pretty cool to be engaged with the cinema like this, especially requesting a stylish film that was made before I was born. I love it when a plan comes together. That’s a little A Team reference for you as I was pleased to note that it starred George Peppard. Unfortunately, it was also the debut of famously Japanese actor Mickey Rooney, who was shocked to hear his performance described as a racist caricature and said in 2008 “I wouldn’t have done it. Those that didn’t like it, I forgive them and God bless America, God bless the universe, God bless Japanese, Chinese, Indians, all of them and let’s have peace,” which somehow makes it worse.

I went to see this with my friend and the girl I liked. As I recall, I think we both kind of liked her. The two of them ended up going out that summer, which was no fun for me. Oh well, at least I could then admit that I only pretended to like the film. Case in point; I have had a copy of this novel on my shelf for years that I somehow know I will never read. I guess because I know what happens. This is a complete double standard since that didn’t prevent me from enjoying Truman Capote’s other famous book In Cold Blood despite that. So it’s not Truman Capote’s best book, Audrey Hepburn’s best role, nor is it even Henry Mancini’s best soundtrack. Let’s not speak of this film again.

I went to see this with Matt and his older brothers, who liked going zoom zoom in their cars so it was right up their street and even I enjoyed this as silly, disposable fun. Who knew that, over 20 years later, they would still be telling this same story? If you told me back then that there would be 10 of these films, I would have probably nodded solemnly.

Obviously, the words in the title have entered into the vernacular in a way that makes us no longer engage with them as words with meaning but I still don’t really understand what the title refers to. Are the fast people and the furious people the same people or are the slow people furious at being slow? I guess it sounds good and The Quick and the Dead was already taken so who really cares now?*

Hot on the heels of Pitch Black, Mark Sinclair aka Vin Diesel was back and still doing the deep voice that would eventually get him cast as the galaxy’s most popular alien tree. Apparently, he wasn’t their first choice actor and was reluctant to take the part but I’m sure, 10 films in with a combined gross of £7 billion, he is extremely glad he took it now. Although his character Dominic would eventually become a kind of demigod, at this point in the franchise he was just a regular tough guy mechanic who just could not be beaten in a race. Over later films, he would develop the powers of precognition, superhuman strength, unbreakable skin and seismic control, as well as an almost mutant ability in marksmanship. At this point, he basically has all of the abilities of the Avengers in one, which I assume means that they’ll have to introduce dinosaurs or some kind of alien invasion for the next one.

*Yeah, yeah, I know it’s from a 1954 movie of the same name, but it doesn’t explain in that either.

Directed by Tim Burton, and despite the screenplay by William Broyles Jr (of Apollo 13 and Cast Away), this just wasn’t very good. It was set in 2029, which seems like the least of its narrow-minded creative decisions. I suppose I enjoyed trying to recognise the actors under their simian makeup. Marky Mark is well cast in this, with his look of constant bewilderment being great audience proxy stuff. I don’t know if this is where Tim Burton met Helena Bonham Carter but he’d jilted Lisa Marie and was going out with her by the premiere.

If I’m honest, I don’t know if I had even seen the entire original film before this, although I’d seen parts of it and its sequels on TV over the years and liked to sing the Simpsons’ Dr Zaius* song with my brothers at any opportunity. I guess this remake did have an interesting twist on the twist but wonder if I even knew what the original twist was at that point.

This remake was apparently on the cards since the late 80s and at various points had Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, Tom Cruise, Oliver Stone and Peter Jackson attached, and at other points had plots involving Spartacus-like slave revolts, cavemen fighting advanced apemen, biblical codes, an anti intellectual revolt against an ape Renaissance, time travel, plagues and deadly space viruses. The plot from this one seems relatively conservative.

*Charlton Heston has an uncredited cameo as Dr Zaius. He would have probably preferred his next and final cameo before his Altzheimers diagnosis and death to be uncredited too, since it was Michael Moore’s ambush interview in the following year’s Bowling for Columbine.

Another classic on the screen at Cinema City, this time recommended by Matt’s older brother. This cinematic education was part of the ‘summer of fun’ Chris, Matt and I had declared before leaving Norwich to go to university. What a film. Likely the first Japanese film I had seen but the visual storytelling is so good that you could probably watch without subtitles. Perfect to watch with your mates, this archetypal team-up movie has compelling characters, great pace and brilliant cinematography. Whether I could have articulated that at the time is a different matter.

OK, so some of the motivation for going to see this may have been to look cool and cultured but you know what? I’m not ashamed. If teenage me hadn’t been up for watching foreign films or arty films (or both), that would have kept my aesthetic appreciation bar pretty low, which would have prevented me from enjoying so much. I love the feeling of discovering something new and it’s fun to share it, especially if it opens up a whole treasure trove of art or culture to be explored. Granted, this may have made me a bit of a bore at a party or two, but you know who’s more boring? People who aren’t interested in anything.

I guess I’ve always looked up to people who are into high quality art. Sure, taste isn’t intellect but I think we’d be foolish not to consider any correlation between them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we survive on a diet of highbrow alone – we need some brow range on a decent face – but how bleak would it be to end up with nobody on the lookout for the good stuff. Art and culture would just stagnate and who knows, maybe interesting things just wouldn’t get made.

Got a little carried away there… Anyway, Kurosawa had only died a couple of years before and I think this was as good as any introduction to his oeuvre (yeah, I said oeuvre). That said, I probably own as many unwatched DVDs of his as films I’ve seen, which is as good and as bad as it sounds. I guess it’s harder to convince someone to watch a film with me when it’s black and white and subtitled. I think it might be time for me to fully lean into being the snob I am.

Considering the huge success of this franchise, I’m surprised that the film hasn’t put the original William Steig Shrek! book onto more bookshelves. I’ve worked in primary schools for a decade and don’t recall ever seeing it. Perhaps I’m just not looking hard enough. I can’t decide whether it’s desperately depressing or incredibly shrewd that they managed to angle this into spawning two movies, grossing well over $330 million between them in the US, out of a five hundred year old fairy tale about a talking cat.

As a beast of burden, it’s perhaps fitting that Donkey essentially carries this movie. Was it a bit of an Eddie Murphy comeback or had I just stopped watching his movies? Who’s to say? I recently found a copy of 1999’s Life on DVD, which I missed at the time but would wholeheartedly recommend.

Three paragraphs into the review, I suppose I should get on with the movie. Yes, Shrek was silly and irreverent fun at the time and very likely still stands up but I remember I just could not get over Michael Myers as a Scot. Why get a voice over artist to do a voice that clearly isn’t in their ability to do? Well, apparently, after Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the film in the late 90s, most of the voice over was recorded by Chris Farley before his untimely death and the ahem iconic voice of Shrek came from a second choice stand-in, which makes sense. Accents aside, this was a nice iconoclastic kid’s movie that kind of set the standard for a while. It also had a positive message about looks not being as important as character. Shame it had to be a cartoon. Hollywood still isn’t ready for ugly live-action romantic leads, it seems.

I was very familiar with the first song Chan Chan* after first hearing it on a Chad Muska interlude on the Shorty’s skate video Fulfill the Dream (yes spellchecker, it’s an American spelling) and we had already listened to this album a fair bit. It’s still one of those great records that you can put on any time and no one will complain – it always makes me think of summer, especially the ‘summer of fun’ Matt, Chris and I were intent on having in 2001.

Obviously the music is a huge part of it but the film itself is very evocative and leaves you with a positive feeling about the world. I love the idea of people finding acclaim and success in later life. Compay Segundo was in his nineties at the time of recording, which is a lesson to us all. Be a Cuban singer. Ibrahim Ferrer appeared on the first Gorillaz album pretty soon after we watched this but it took me a year to actually listen to that album, despite being a massive fan of both Blur and Hip Hop. Sometimes something can be too up your street, apparently.

I wasn’t aware of Wim Wenders or Ry Cooder at the time but nodded to Chris as though I did when he told me about them. They will both crop up again, as will me pretending to know more about things than I do.

*As a Spanish A-level student, it was hard not to enjoy learning the language through these songs, especially when the lyrics are about a guy feeling shame at being aroused by watching his girl shake as she sieves sand on the beach.

Me and the boys went to see this one in Norwich. In a world before trailers on youtube and turn of the millennium under-18s cinema prices, it was nice going to the pictures with no expectations. This was a fun movie and the only thing I’d ever seen David Duchovny in except The X-Files. I had watched a LOT of X-Files though, and, come to think of it, he’s not really been in a lot else.

Putting some science into science-fiction, I found the shampoo-as-toxic-weapon part (do you need spoiler alerts for comedies?) really funny and clever since it used a neat logic using my favourite grid of all time, Dmitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of Elements. How many movies can you think of that reference the Periodic Table? None because there are none. Ok, in Iron Man 2, Tony Stark synthesises a new element (that never gets mentioned again). Iron is an element too I guess. There’s Mercury Rising, The Calcium Kid, loads of films with gold and silver in the title but the point is it’s still pleasing when they talk about elements in movies.

Was this the last film I saw before leaving my hometown to go to university? Seems fitting since it is set around a college and was about adaptation. Adaptation, the excellent Charlie Kaufman film, would be released the following year to become a DVD favourite of mine and Chris’, and is one of the only movies on my original list that I cannot say for certain whether I actually saw at the cinema.

Have you ever been to see a blockbuster with your mates at the same time as going on a semi date with another mate’s ex-girlfriend? Just me? I have enjoyed this film a couple of times since but my strongest memory of this particular viewing experience was my friend Mally sitting on the other side of me to the poor girl I’d brought along, hissing ‘go on’ and ‘do it’ all through the film, thinking he was absolutely hilarious. I was back in town for Christmas from my first term at university and it was like I’d never left.

Apart from that, this film was epic (in the actual sense of the word) and had all the excitement of the first of a sprawling trilogy, with the promise of so much more to come. I sometimes forget how much actually happens in this one and for my money, it’s the best of the three.

My younger brother had read the Tolkein books in the build up to the film’s release and got me excited about the films by telling me about them. I don’t know why I never read them myself, considering what a voracious reader I am. The only thing I could put it down to is that I had started university, which kind of killed the fun of reading for me for a couple of years. But maybe I just didn’t want to read the books if my little brother had read them before me. 

Looking back at all these lads trips to the movies has made me realise how infrequently I watch films with a large group of friends nowadays. Perhaps it’s time to organise a trip. You know what? Maybe I’ll do that this month. Although, I don’t really know who I’d invite these days and it’s tough to find a film everyone wants to watch or hasn’t already seen. Plus I’ve got a lot on. Yeah, maybe I’ll leave it.

Apparently, I once sat bolt upright in the middle of the night once and asked my girlfriend at the time if she’d ever read anything by Iris Murdoch, which she found hilarious. She’d probably find it even funnier if she knew I still never have myself. When this film came out, of course I had to watch it, even if it was with a different girl. I love Judi Dench and it felt grown-up watching a grown-up film about a grown-up writer, which probably isn’t very grown-up.

This film boasted an Oscar and BAFTA winning cast, which sounds about right to me, I suppose. There was something neat and believable about Dench/Winslet and Broadbent/Bonneville casting in this and the sad, silly, stoic dynamic of this felt very British. The score was also composed by the versatile late James Horner, whose impressive musical résumé includes classics such as Aliens, Titanic and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (or put in terms of this list; Captain EO, Apollo 13 and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.)

Iris Murdoch’s work often dealt with changing or broken relationships and the film shows her Alzheimer’s develop from a light forgetfulness to full blown memory loss, which might be why I actually wrote half this review before realising that I watched it in a different year with a different girl. I like to think that Iris would approve.

In one of those weird moments that, looking back now, seems like part of a quirky indie romcom, I watched this on a kind of date with F.* and enjoyed the music so much that we went straight to HMV and bought the soundtrack on CD for my best friend, who also liked her. I don’t really remember it seeming as odd to me then as it does now. In any case, the excellent soundtrack by frequent collaborator David Holmes included Handsome Boy Modeling School, who would become a frequent fixture in my speakers and headphones.

The movie was great fun, with good pace, a fun tone and some playful twists. After finally seeing Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, I can see how this is absolutely a continuation of what he did in that film, and it is of course very slick but just not as sexy. J-Rob is no J-Lo (see a few reviews above). One nice touch in this movie was how Mr Bradley Pitt’s character seems to always be eating, and I thought to myself that I would like to do that in every one of my films if I ever became an actor. Perhaps there’s still time.

*I’m not trying to be coy but I just think it’s respectful not to name anyone I haven’t seen in years so I’ll refer to some people using their first initial, if that isn’t too mysterious for you. If anything, I think it’s quite classy.

There was a fair bit of pent up adolescent sexual energy here. Now, let’s talk about the film. There is a chance that I went to see this as part of the tangled triangle mentioned in the last review but that might be giving it too much credit. The plot certainly seemed loosely familiar at the time but I don’t think we were quite prepared to resolve our situation in the way they do at the end of this film.

I would think of this film again when, a few years later, I travelled around Mexico with another good friend. However, we were fortunate enough to have wildly different tastes in women and they were fortunate enough that I was rather useless in any case.

This was only my third big screen foreign language film; is that good or bad? I don’t know, but over 20 years on, I still feel like I should get a special prize every time. Seamlessly transitioning to English language films, the director Alfonso Cuarón has some real range in his repertoire; Children of Men, Gravity and even a Harry Potter movie. This excellent, sexy (sexcellent?) coming-of-age road-movie clearly made the right studio people sit up and listen, or not want to stand up too quickly, or something along those lines. On a completely unrelated note, Maribel Verdú is excellent in this film and has gone on to Hollywood blockbusters like The Flash, most recently, as well as many Spanish-speaking roles, including hits like Pan’s Labyrinth. Since she plays the hero’s mother in the former and Mercedes in the latter, you definitely cannot say that she’s a Flash in the Pan.

Is it Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones or Star Wars Episode II : Attack of the Clones? IMDB punctuates it like the former but I went with the latter since that’s how it is on Wikipedia, plus I’ve already done it that way for previous films. Many people probably wouldn’t even notice but the inconsistent nomenclature of this endless franchise bugs me. Unfortunately, the name is the least irritating thing about this film.

Ross and I skipped down Finchley Road to watch this at the O2 (typing that, I realised I’ve been calling it the 02 this whole time). Like Episode I, I wanted desperately to enjoy this, but sadly I couldn’t do anything about the fact that it was just awful. On the walk back, I remember trying to unpack Anakin revelling in the slaughter of ‘sand people’ with my housemate, an American History student. This was of course not long after the World Trade Centre attacks and it seemed somehow even more offensive. It’s no surprise that detractors have called out the racism in this trilogy. After the awful Jewish, Asian and Jamaican stereotypes in the previous movie, this one is happy to perpetuate the trope of all Kiwi men being identical bounty hunter space soldiers.

There’s something paradoxical about how this movie somehow manages to cram in as much stuff into the frame and storyline as it possibly can while still only telling us the important parts instead of actually showing us. I remember all my wild imagining after hearing Obi-Wan Kenobi talk of the ‘Clone Wars’ in A New Hope, so seeing it all actually fleshed out was not only extremely dissatisfying but also seems to have taped over those childhood memories. It’s almost impressive how they managed to make an army of clones seem more human than those useless eunuch ‘good guys’ in the Jedi council.

I have so much to say about how Lucas and his yes-men ruined the mystique he’d created around the Jedis but I’ll just choose the worst offence. Yoda whipping out his little lightsaber and parkouring around an octogenarian not only looked ridiculous, but to me undermined every bit of wisdom about the Force he’d ever uttered in his anagrammatical grammar, which is another irritating thing they overdid to the point of nonsense. Yes, Yoda always spoke with an old fashioned syntax but didn’t just jumble every sentence for the sake of it like he has done in everything released since 1983. Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.

I was excited seeing the soundtrack advertised in the Marvel comics I was reading – the premise was matching hip hop artists with (mainly UK) electronic and dance producers; Mos Def with Massive Attack, Cypress Hill with Roni Size and Redman with Gorillaz. At the time, music crossovers like this were still quite rare and, although the soundtrack perhaps didn’t live up to the expectations, it was still pretty good.

This vampire sequel was as gory and action-packed as expected. I can’t remember if it was this one or the first one where Wesley Snipes does a Home Alone style fistpump after nailing some bloodsuckers but it is definitely this film that casts the quieter half of Bros as a villain, which probably balances out After The Screaming Stops.

Guillermo del Toro was the director and I think that helped. After watching this, I was recommended El espinazo del diablo by a fellow student at university but I was probably still only at the level of comic book action movies so I would have to wait for my taste to mature to enjoy that one.

Fifteen or so years later, a Blade reboot would be announced featuring an actor who has already played two Marvel characters but, to be fair, if an actor from the sequel to this one has now played the same comic book character in three different universes of the franchise at this point, nothing really means anything any more. I wouldn’t be surprised if Deadpool turns up in the new Blade either. Or will Blade be in the new Deadpool? Who cares? I’ll still watch both though.*

*At the time of writing, production is on hold for both projects due to the WGA strikes. With writers (and other creators) seeing less and less of the money while executive salaries mushroom, perhaps the stakeholders are the real bloodsuckers.

I’ve probably read a thousand Spider-Man comics and I have drawn the webspinner hundreds if not a thousand times. I even once wrote and sketched out my own fanfic comic about the wallcrawler losing his suit and eventually his temper (call me anytime, Marvel). I guess I’m saying that this was a movie I was very excited for. I’m old enough to remember thinking we were getting a James Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio adaptation but I was glad it turned out the way it did. 

Tobey Maguire played a great geek – maybe at the time I found him a bit too nerdy, being more familiar with a 1990s adult Peter Parker. J.K. Simmons was an inspired bit of casting as the curmudgeonly newspaper editor who just wants the world to see Spider-Man for the menace he is, which I think we can all relate to. 

I hadn’t seen any Sam Raimi films at this point and I remember finding some of the camper parts a little jarring at first but I’ve definitely learned to embrace them. The slight body horror of organic web shooters makes sense now that I’ve seen more of Raimi’s work. I would have preferred a more ragged and comic-accurate Green Goblin but, in this current era of gushing fan service, I can certainly appreciate these sort of creative departures now. Willem Dafoe really could have just put on some green blusher and it would have been better than that plastic mask though. 2021’s No Way Home leaned into the idea of using his maniacal face I suppose, but by then I just wanted a comic book character to keep their mask on for once. Well, to each his own.*

I would usually come out of the cinema excited but must have been bouncing off the walls after this one. I’m sure this film in no way influenced me to jump off the kitchen roof of my student halls on my skateboard that same month.

*I thought this was a clever place to drop a Green Goblin quote from the rooftop scene where he’s drugged and tied up Spider-Man and inexplicably doesn’t remove his mask, but if I didn’t explain it, I worried it might go over everyone’s head (much like a mask does – I’ll stop now). 

This was a spur of the moment one with my brothers, organised by my mate Edd and a very good shout. It was the first time I saw the best actor Oscar winner at the cinema, which only happens again twice on this list and neither men are white. It’s a sad state of affairs that they’re probably quite easy to work out. Considering the length and breadth of Denzel Washington’s work, at first I thought it was an odd choice to get an Academy Award for but he plays the charming, cruel and corrupt Alonzo with a real depth and pathos. 

Ethan Hawke is one of those actors who’s always been around but I can’t name much that I’ve seen him in. I actually hadn’t seen him in anything before this. Eminem turned this role down as he was making 8 Mile, which was fortunate, not just because otherwise I wouldn’t see Ethan Hawke on the big screen until 2015 but because I don’t think the role was in Mathers’ wheelhouse. The movie did not feel empty without him.

I don’t know how often Macy Gray turns up in movies but she was in this and Spider-Man in the same year and nothing else I can think of so I’m guessing she had a busy and exciting 2002. Speaking of music, although she has a speaking role and provides no music, the movie’s soundtrack was released on 11th September 2001 (released perhaps quite fittingly by Priority Records), although the film was postponed a month for reasons you can probably guess. This delay meant that by then we knew every lyric to the Pharoahe Monch track* that basically gives a synopsis of the film. Although one crucial and contentious element of the plot involving the cousin’s wallet wisely isn’t mentioned.

*I sometimes wonder why they bother making a radio edit of a song with a swear word in the title but then I remember it’s money. The reason is money.

Chris asked me if I wanted to watch this documentary at the Curzon and, since I’d never been to the Curzon and I liked how it felt going to see a documentary, I said yes. Sometimes we do something because it makes us seem clever or cool or grown up. I know that’s an ugly thing to admit but it’s quite a motivating power to learn about things. Looking back, an award-winning, sensationalist documentary like this seems quite basic now but that’s just it; a baseline for exploring more interesting and nuanced work. We’ve got to start somewhere.* I recently managed to watch Gus Van Sant’s Elephant from 2003, which responds to the same shootings in a different way – it’s both heartbreaking and terrifying and not for everyone.

As a scruffy, dirty teenager who liked quite a lot of things that were probably loud and obnoxious at the time, this film spoke to me since it put the adults in charge at the centre of the blame. I have my reservations about Michael Moore’s mealy mouthed manner now. You start to see through his emotional techniques after you’ve seen a few of his interviews but his argument is still clear. Easy access to firearms is at the root of gun crime. Obviously there are people who benefit from the sale of weaponry, but it’s a little mad that there are people without vested business interests in the weapons industry who need convincing of that.

I liked the use of the Beatles’ Happiness is a Warm Gun on the soundtrack – especially apt since Lennon took the title from the cover of an NRA magazine. I never really thought about it until now that the opening line ‘she’s not a girl who misses much’ could just mean that Yoko Ono had a great aim.

*I typed all that before remembering I’d already seen a documentary at the cinema before. Anyway, point still stands.

I was taken to see this on stage a couple of years before at either the Arts Centre or Maddermarket theatre. My mum imagined me having a more festive and theatrical future and hoped I would one day be part of the footlights so I was already very familiar with Oscar Wilde at this point. But after all that, I think I went to see this film with a girl I liked back in Norwich while very much not attending an Oxbridge university. I was clearly going to be a disappointment on many levels.

This was my second dose of Dench for the year and of course this also stars gorgeous Rupert Everett, who I am delighted to have just discovered was the visual reference for Italian comic book detective of the supernatural Dylan Dog. Of course, I had no idea of any of this at the time and just enjoyed being taken along by the sizzling script and I imagine probably feeling very smug for already being familiar. 

In the days when I used to save my cinema stubs in a scrapbook,* I remember writing the quotation “I can resist anything but temptation” next to this ticket. How very esoteric of me. I often wonder what it would be like if I had started taking my writing seriously earlier on but I was a very easily distracted teenager. The silver lining to holding off for so long is that I’ve spared the world from whatever embarrassingly earnest tosh I would have come up with back then. 

*At some point I must have decided to throw this out. Would have been really handy for writing this. Oh well. Memory is the diary we all carry about with us, as the man said.

Did anyone notice the last four films had gerunds in the title? How many films do? Next time you’re bored on a car journey and want a game to pass the time; think of films that have ‘-ing’ in them. You’re welcome.

By the director of Notting Hill*, this stars Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck, whose car crash makes them both late for court and pits them against each other in a tale of revenge. Looking back, this was Nick Fury vs Batman; who was the most resourceful? That’s something that’s arrived with the later invasion of comic book movie franchises is the ‘comic character’ vs ‘comic character’ meme fuel, when two comic book character actors star in another film together, as movie stars tend to do. Is it the Gen Z six degrees of Kevin Bacon?

Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve seen him on this list, but I am almost certain that Samuel L. Jackson will be the actor that appears the most. It’s the cameos and bit parts that do it. Who is your most viewed actor? There’s another game for you. It could be Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Brad Pitt, Bill Murray, Matt Damon, Tom Hanks or even Kevin Bacon. But it’s probably Samuel L. Jackson.

*Not a gerund but it’s up to you if you expand the game to include any ‘-ing’ word to make it easier. I won’t judge you/know/care.

AKA MIIB AKA Men In In Black. I think this was a date with F. and we enjoyed it as silly fun. I was very taken by my first glimpse of Rosario Dawson and I loved the pull back at the end to show how insignificant we all are like that old Louis Armstrong Guinness advert in reverse 

Big Willy Smith’s obligatory single stands out as the only thing not by Danny Elfman in the soundtrack. Perhaps there’s a neuralyzer solo at the end as it’s almost instantly forgettable. Shame about the lacklustre music considering two notable cameo appearances* from talented musicians no longer with us. The first being Biz Markie as a beatboxing alien. He appeared in one more film (again with Will Smith) before his untimely death in 2021 as an uncredited funeral guest. Perhaps more notably, this film also marked the last movie appearance of Michael Jackson, playing a keen MIB applicant who’s given the runaround by Rip Torn’s Zed. 

At the other end of the spectrum, Johnny Knoxville had his first movie role (aside from a few seconds of drooling in a bar in Coyote Ugly), which I liked in principle but I don’t know if his acting was quite there yet. He played both heads of a two-headed alien but he only got paid once. The thing I really wanted to see him star in wouldn’t come out until October though… 

They showed a teaser trailer for The Two Towers, which was the most excited I’d been for a new film since, well, probably Spider-Man earlier that year. While on comics, I recently read the first issue of the series Men In Black was based on and they take out a cult on a mad new drug; no aliens. Apparently they don’t exclusively deal with extraterrestrials; more generic paranormal stuff. And drugs. Oh and they just kill witnesses instead of wiping memories. 

*Or are they bit parts? I thought that a cameo was when an actor plays themselves but wikipedia says otherwise. Named after a carving that stands out of a gemstone, apparently a cameo is by a recognisable person who usually doesn’t speak, and a bit part has direct interaction with a principal actor and no more than 5 lines of dialogue. There you go.

This was somehow only the tenth highest grossing film of the year. I’m sure that was more because the title doesn’t contain the name of a franchise and not because it sounds like a leaked government document. In any case, more people this year watched six other films in my list, as well as Signs, Ice Age and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Well, luckily good folks like me went to see it and my strongest memory was how blue and oversaturated everything looked in the future.

Philip K. Dick, Steven Spielberg, Colin Farrell, Tom Cruise. I wouldn’t have been as familiar at the time but also Samantha Morton and Max von Sydow too. A great project with some fantastic talent. I’m not sure why I’ve never got round to a rewatch of this one. Maybe knowing that I will do it one day is enough… 

As an avid reader, especially of sci-fi, I must admit I find Philip K. Dick tough reading at times but boy is his stuff optionable. Screen adaptations we have alongside this so far are the Blade Runners and Total Recalls, A Scanner Darkly,The Adjustment Bureau and The Man in the High Castle. I was surprised we hadn’t seen anyone adapt Ubik yet until I read that Michel Gondry attempted and abandoned it in 2014 – dommage. For now, I’ll have to settle for a John Woo film I’ve just discovered with Ben Affleck called Paycheck and a Nicolas Cage one called Next. Tough when I also read that Minority Report was originally planned in 1992 as a follow up to Total Recall with Arnie in the lead. Can you imagine?

To give some background, I had spent years building up to this by performing all sorts of stupid and painful stunts making skate videos with my brother and mates, plus we were already big fans of CKY so Jackass was very familiar territory. We went en masse and I dread to think what stupid things we decided to do on the way home. That Christmas, my mum bought me one of the few black T-shirts I ever liked, with the chest X-ray showing the toy car inserted into Ryan Dunn (RIP). Perfect for Halloween.

Aside from jumping off or into anything we could find, I think the silliest thing I did ‘for the good of the film’ was probably, after hanging on the back of a mate’s brother’s motorbike on my skateboard, obviously going too fast and coming off, the first thing I thought to do with my freshly skinned palms was to pour vinegar on the wounds to ‘clean’ them. A close second is firing an industrial staple gun into my own hip, although nobody was filming so who’s to say it even happened.

Brandon DeCamillo was probably the funniest on the original videos but I don’t think he enjoyed the limelight and seemed to step back as Jackass got bigger. I felt a little sorry for Ehren McGhehey, who looked like he was kind of bullied in an under the radar but under your nose way. He seemed like a sensitive soul desperate for approval, and perhaps unconsciously preferred to be the butt of the jokes as long as he was part of the group. If it was about insecurity or lack of confidence, it’s worth remembering that the show’s rockstar-like leads, Bam and Johnny Knoxville, or Brandon and Philip, weren’t even secure in themselves enough to use their real names. I guess ‘Hi, I’m Philip John Clapp. Welcome to Jackass’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.

You could be forgiven for thinking this was trying to cash in on the year’s arachno-madness from Spider-Man but no spandex or pumpkin bombs here; it was a very East London psychological thriller from David Cronenberg, starring Ralph Fiennes and Miranda Richardson. 

This haunting film impressed me at the time but I have even more respect for it now. Apparently, neither Cronenberg, Fiennes, Richardson nor the producers received a salary for this film since it was underfunded and it only had a theatrical release in a few cinemas. I’m guessing Chris and I saw it at the Prince Charles or Curzon Soho and I’m even more grateful for him suggesting it now.

I remember feeling smart for recognising the canal and gas towers so I felt even cooler when a later Cronenberg film, Eastern Promises actually opened with a shot of my old front door. I thought about rewatching Spider to see if I recognised any more of Hackney and Hoxton but just read that lots of the other street scenes were actually shot in parts of South and West London. Plus, as much as I enjoyed this one, there are plenty more unseen Cronenberg films I need to get to first. The first film of his I watched was The Fly and then along came Spider. I hope I’m doing them in the right order.

What’s the equivalent of getting starstruck but for set locations? I remember sitting up straight when a shot, perhaps from a previous film, showed Bond’s Aston Martin driving out of the building next to my university, which was definitely nothing to do with MI6 (unless that’s just what they want us to think). While writing this, I discovered that the building opposite my doctor’s surgery was the set for the cigar factory so I’ve got that buzz again.

This was my first visit to Peckhamplex and maybe even the first time I’d been to Peckham. One memory that stood out was being confused for a second at the huge cheer in the cinema when former showjumper Oliver Skeete popped up on screen, but it was a real lesson for me on why representation matters. How often did dreadlocks appear on the big screen usually, especially in a Bond movie?

Although this was the last outing for Bronhom, bedraggled and bearded Bond was a new take at least, and the fact he was tortured to Madonna definitely rang true with me. It seemed strange at the time that the villain Zao was unable to remove the jewels embedded in his face but maybe there’s a Diamonds Are Forever, pun in there that I missed. Bond is literally saved by a bell from falling off a cliff at one point and do you think he lets that line go? Coming up with camp one liners for twenty films clearly taking its toll.

I remember being so excited for this, seeing the adverts on the tube (and even a zombie Big Issue cover) in London but I’m fairly sure I watched this in Norwich with a bit of a crew. Loved and still love this film, from David Schneider popping up as the scientist at the start to my first experience of the marvellous Brendan Gleeson. I thought Naomi Harris was really cool and was impressed with Cillian Murphy and Christopher Ecclestone. The visual effects were powerful and efficient. It had an evocative soundtrack and great direction. Boyle had redeemed himself after The Beach.

A few years later, I got into John Wyndham and realised that the plot is basically the same as Day of the Triffids, but with a faster moving threat that doesn’t need to blind everyone first. That takes nothing away from my enjoyment of it. For any younger people reading, this was the film that gave everyone else the idea for zombie joggers.

I read that the test audiences didn’t respond well to the original ending in which Jim succumbs to his wounds so the studio gave them money to film a new more hopeful ending with an actual fighter jet flying overhead, which was apparently cheaper than a CGI one at the time. There’s an interesting and nuanced conversation to have here about the environmental impact of practical effects over using a computer that I’m not really prepared to start.

By now I had moved to Bounds Green, with my older brother in Palmers Green, we would meet in the middle in Wood Green (as far as I remember, Bounds was the only one that actually had a Green). I tagged along with Ben and his housemates to the ‘Hollywood Green’ Vue. Since we mysteriously got there way too early for the film, we spent an hour in the Wetherspoons beforehand, which is at least two hours in student drinking time, making this the first film I ever watched at the cinema completely hammered. 

Nevertheless, it was a great film and the first on this list with Paul Newman, who died a few years later.  Sadly, this was his last live action movie according to the internet. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a big favourite of mine around that time. Like many people my age, I first saw his face on a bottle of salad dressing so it was nice to see what else he could do.

I had no idea the movie was adapted from a graphic novel, which was itself heavily inspired by the excellent Lone Wolf and Cub. The actor who played the son even went on to play Superman in a television show or two. You wouldn’t think of this as a comic book movie but there you go.

Memories are a little hazy but I remember the film being quite economical with dialogue. I guess I’d have seen American Beauty but wouldn’t have been au fait with the mise-en-scene of Sam Mendes yet (yes, I can use French cinema terms). It would take me a few more of his movies to notice his love of using rain, mirrors, windows, tables and Daniel Craig.

Me, my brothers and my (male) mates were extremely hyped for this masculine movie. Watching the battle of Helm’s Deep side by side with my comrades stirred feelings that were as powerful as they were hard to explain. I don’t know what it is about that part when they try to take down the Uruk-hai as he runs in with the torch to blow the wall. Maybe it’s a guy thing. The film certainly seems to be.

I guess ‘male friendship’ is one of the central themes of the books but yes, this is another LOTR sausage fest. This one, however, somehow manages to scrape through the Bechdel test due to a minor character in Rohan asking Éowyn where her mum is. Just as well the deadly spider Shelob (Tolkien’s vagina dentata according to some theorists) was punted forward into the next movie so I don’t have to think too much about the sexual symbolism and what it might say about the way the writers or filmmakers view women.

I’m probably not going where you think with this, but I’ve been thinking about Frodo’s dreams. The film opens with an action sequence that Frodo wakes up from. So does that mean what happens is canon within the story? As I see it, the four options are: he dreamt exactly what happened; Gandalf transmitted a viewer friendly version of what happened to him; he woke up from a less specific dream about Gandalf or they just cut to him waking up worried for dramatic effect after showing us what really happened. Either way, I don’t know if it’s lazy writing or clever, economic storytelling. It’s not just a dream, Frodo.

This one blew my mind. I hadn’t seen anything like it, although I’ve seen films try to capture elements of this since. One of the best film soundtracks and to be honest I still think this is one of my most enjoyable cinema trips. Another recommendation from Chris and another visit to the Curzon on Shaftesbury Avenue. 

Chris’ girlfriend at the time burned me a CD of the soundtrack back in those halcyon days when people would print and cut out the album cover for the case. Of course it could well have been that she burned him or herself a copy of the CD when we lived together and I just played it all the time and took it when I moved out. Whatever the case, I’ve lost the disk now.

Seu Jorge was great as Knockout Ned and I’d hear from him again on record, on film and even live at the Albert Hall. A few of the other actors went on to star in a television spin-off* called City of Men, which was a more light-hearted serial seemingly existing in the same world, but they all played completely different characters, which is confusing. I missed it at the time but I see the same creative team also made a movie version, which I will now have to watch. The bonus is that even if it’s not great it’ll still give me a reason to rewatch the first. Win-win.

*I don’t know if it even counts as a spin-off. Although it shares directors, actors, setting and themes, the characters are different and the stories aren’t connected. Feels like there should be a slightly different word for that. Answers on a postcard.

The Hip Hop Karate Kid. Don’t get me wrong, I lapped this up at the time. And Eminem rightly got a lot of praise for it because it’s a compelling story and he is a very competent rapper. Plus his ‘breakout’ scene in the final battle uses one of the smartest and most elusive hip hop samples of all time* so of course it sounds great. But let’s admit it; the guy can’t act. Have you noticed that in almost every scene where he’s talking, he’s looking straight ahead at something; a fire, a crowd, another conversation in the room, the road while driving. When he isn’t, the scenes just seem forced (there’s one where he’s shouting at Kim Basinger that’s particularly cringeworthy).

The film starred poor Brittany Murphy, who had a lot more to offer before her untimely death. I don’t know why I find it even sadder that this film scores higher than Clueless on IMDB. This was also the first big screen outing for a young Anthony Mackie, who shares a birthday with me and was destined for even greater things – who’d have thought that Papa Doc would one day be Captain America? Even in the comics, Sam Wilson wouldn’t take up the mantle until 2015, a year after Mackie first played the character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Coincidence? Probably.

*At this point in time, no one knew the sample was three seconds of Jessica by Herbie Hancock slowed down. Bronco from The-Breaks.com finally figured it out in 2011.

I thought this film was slick and smart and honest and I really fancied Rosario Dawson in it. She’s obviously gorgeous but I just thought her character was cool as hell and I would have readily accepted going to prison if she was my girlfriend. Edward Norton is an interesting leading man, isn’t he? High-pitched and not traditionally handsome and yet… Great actor. Great agent. Looking at this top notch cast – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anna Paquin and Brian Cox also star, it’s clearly time for a rewatch. If anything at all comes out of me writing this blog, it’s that I get to review all the decent ones on the list. 

My first Spike Lee joint at the cinema after playing the soundtrack to Crooklyn in the car on repeat with Matt and Chris (your new favourite if you haven’t heard it yet) but this felt like a very different movie*. It was the first post-9/11 depiction of New York I remember seeing on screen and that definitely played into the sense of grief suffusing this film. 

Ready for another scintillating car game from me? Movies with numbers in their titles. Could you do 1-30? I’m struggling with 26 and I’m too proud to google. Frustrating because I have a 27 and a 28. Maybe I’ll have to wait to see if a future Iron Man reboot will use its atomic weight or if someone makes a multidimensional movie about bosonic string theory. Niche references. Desperate times.

*Of course it has a fantastic soundtrack too – name another film that features three Cymande tracks.

Looking at the release date, I’d have seen this with Chris at Tottenham Court Road ODEON since I basically lived in his halls in Warren Street at that point because it was in Central London and had better water pressure. I didn’t have a wife yet or even a girlfriend to drag to all these comic book sequels so poor Chris would usually be roped in and we’d smoke afterwards and dissect the film. As with many action movies, watching this requires you to suspend your disbelief, much in the way Magneto suspended the X-Men jet in the air while somehow standing in a field at the exact spot that it was about to crash land.

I don’t think I clocked at the time but both this and the last film I saw featured Anna Paquin (Rogue) and Aaron Stanford (Pyro), which doesn’t mean a lot but it’s weird it happened twice, especially since neither of them appear again on this list.

The sequel to X-Men is styled as X-2 for no reason I can discern, even as a reader of the comics, I can’t think of anything it refers to. It was the best of the trilogy but, as much as I loved Wolverine, I do wish they’d explored more of the seemingly infinite interesting X-People there are, instead of focussing the whole trilogy on the growly slashy guy, especially since they went on to make another three films about him. By the way, why is Wolverine never invited to the X-Men prom? They think he’ll spike the punch.