I watched some movies last year. This is them.

So, I tried something new in 2014. I kept a record of every movie I watched (in it’s entirety) this year. Since so many people are doing their favorite movies of the year posts, I thought I would just throw out this batch and call it a day! I have watched 105 movies this year, some of them repeated. The list is organized in the order that I watched them.

Exit through the gift shop
Robin Hood (Disney Animation)
Conviction
West Side Story
The conjuring
Muppet Treasure Island
Zero Dark Thirty
Oblivion
The raid redemption
Pacific Rim
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Stardust
The Lego Movie
42
The Purge
John Cater
Spirited Away
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
The Croods
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Brave
Waking Ned Devine
Frozen
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The Thing (2011)
X-men: first class
X-men Origins: Wolverine
X-men
The  Princess Bride
Mean Girls
The hole
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
What’s Up Doc
In The Name of the Father
Speed Racer
X2: X-men United
X-men: The Last Stand
The Wolverine
Ender’s Game
Legend of the Drunken Master
The Amazing Spider Man 2
Yobi the Five – Tailed Fox
X-men: Days of Future Past
12 Years A Slave
Godzilla (2014)
Much ado about nothing (2012)
The Jungle Book
Dear Mr. Watterson
Cowboys & Aliens
Dear Zachary
Captain Phillips
Akira
World War Z
Buried
Escape From New York
Saving Mr. Banks
Hook
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
The Intouchables
Old School 
Mama
Tales from Earthsea
The Secret World of Arrietty
The Battered Bastards of Baseball
Snowpiercer
The Sandlot
The Patriot
True Grit (2010)
Shanghai Knights
Guardians of the Galaxy
Stripped
My Cousin Vinny
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Scoop
The Lego Movie
Let Me In
Muppets Most Wanted
Network
The Neverending Story
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
White House Down
Batman Begins
Silver Linings Playbook
The Haunting (1963)
Fantasia
Anaconda (Rifftrax)
A Knights Tale
Fantasia 2000
Joseph : King of Dreams
The Taking of Deborah Logan
Interstellar
Wreck it Ralph
The Hunger Games : Mockingjay
Holiday Inn
Scrooge (1970)
The Incredibles
Mary Poppins
The Wind Rises
Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
Singing in the Rain
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
An Affair to Remember
Annie (1982)

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Stripped

stripped

In a recent review, I discussed the film Dear Mr. Waterson. It was an overly sentimental look at one of our time’s most beloved comic strips Calvin and Hobbes. That film scratched the surface on the politics and cultural ecology surrounding the specific strip, allowing a number of people to relive their favorite iterations of the comic strip. In essence, it was one big “we love Calvin and Hobbes” tribute. While it was entertaining and nostalgic, it was a shame the movie didn’t delve deeper into the creative process and business model of the comic industry. At it’s best Dear Mr. Waterson was a fun little trip down memory lane; at it’s worst the film was a self serving parade for the director to talk about how he’s their biggest fan. The title of that film centered around an unresponded letter to the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson. In Stripped we get all the missing elements, as well as hear, for the first time for most of us, Bill Watterson as he talks about the industry that made his creations pop culture icons.

 

Stripped is a documentary film that sets it’s lense squarely on the comic strip industry refuses to look at anything else. Directors David Kellett and Frederick Schroeder allow the giants of the comic strip world drive the narrative. Their examination is vast, touching on everything from the creative process to licensing of merchandise. The vast differences in philosophy between comic creators is staggering considering all their creations resided on the same page of a newspaper together. The crux of the movie is the divide amongst the newspaper comic creators and those thriving in the digital age. The real joy is simply in listening to people that are absolute giants of the industry discussing their work. Jim Davis (Creator of Garfield) and Bill Watterson were two of my highlights, but there are many, many more that offer their insights and experiences into the art and business model of the fantastic medium.

 

Very early on there is an obvious divide between the older generation of artists and the newer. Having little knowledge of the inner workings, it’s absolutely fascinating to watch the two sides discuss why their particular business model is the best. We have artists vouching for syndication on one side, the idea that you sell your strip to a syndication and they sell it to individual newspapers. Then on the other side are the digital age artists that pay to host their own websites and sell their own merchandise swearing by their method. Despite differences all the creators featured in this film share a passion for their medium. They love it almost as a parent would love a child. They’re angry with it at times, tired of it. But it is what defines them, and the act of putting words and pictures together fuels them in a way that allows for a perfectly paced documentary film.

Stripped would be a fun watch for anyone, even more so for someone that grew up loving the funny pages. Among the interviews is the first ever recorded interview with Bill Watterson, which is itself worth the run-time of the film. The pacing is perfect with a score that is neither distracting nor boring. Ideas and ideologies are bounced off the viewers all while the evolution and history of a beloved medium draws itself onto the screen. It is not, however a story with an end. Comics, despite what some might say, are not dying. This is a time of transitioning and change. A time of uncertainty, but one of hope. This is the message of Stripped. A message that may or may not be true, but one that immensely interesting to hear.

 

Winner Announced and an Alphabet of Movies I Like

First things first, a big congratulations to Sarah Gifford. She is the winner of the Harry Potter box set giveaway and received all 8 films on DVD! We will be doing other contests in the near future so keep an eye out for those.

 

Secondly, I thought it might be entertaining (perhaps more so for me than for you) to present to you a list of 26 movies that I enjoy. This is an alphabet of enjoyable movies. Bear in mind this list is in no way conclusive, rather it’s a quick glance into some of the movies that I’ve most enjoyed from A to Z.

Anatomy of a Murder

Beauty and the Beast

Chinatown

Dredd

Elf

Father of the Bride

The Godfather

Hook

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Jaws

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Little Shop of Horrors

My Neighbor Totoro

Newsies

The Orphanage

The Princess Bride

The Quick and the Dead

The Rocketeer

Serenity

Tucker and Dale Vs Evil

Up

Vernon Florida

What’s up doc?

X-Men: First Class

Young Frankenstein

Zombieland

 

City of Ember

 City_of_ember

 

Making an artistically valuable film is difficult. Most movies manage to have some level of cinematic worth, weather it be in the visuals, the story, cinematography, musical score, acting or any number of inherently necessary elements. It is asking far to much to demand perfection from any film, so the viewers (myself included) find themselves in a position to accept certain compromises. The biggest compromises allowed are those associated with Children’s films. Somehow, the idea that if a movie is geared toward a younger audience it’s a free pass to skimp on quality. This has been a problem that, thankfully, has become increasingly lessened over the past few years, as studios realize the potential quality films have. A few years ago a movie was released that was largely ignored.  City of Ember suffered from it’s fair share of flaws, namely people complained that there wasn’t enough action. However, what became more noticeable than it’s flaws were the solid set designs, costumes, acting and music that created an imaginative and vivid world.

The story is a familiar one, though perhaps not as common in the realm of Children’s films. The city of Ember was constructed 200 years before the majority of the movie took place. It’s a massive underground city in which humanity survived “the end of the world”. Instructions for how to return the population to the surface of the earth. The Dilemma arises with the instructions being lost, and the population of ember growing largely complacent with their abode under the surface. Lina Mayfleet (Soairse Ronan) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) are two young citizens that embark on an adventure to discover the truth about their mean-to-be-temporary home.

Though exaggerated and sometimes cartoon-like, the larger than life sets give the film a distinct and believable-to-the-movie artistic feel. The scale of the sets is equally impressive, giving the city an incredibly large, but still very claustrophobic atmosphere. The costumes and set decorations are also impeccably detailed for any film, let alone a children’s film. The toys that children play with and the worn and tattered clothing worn by all the citizens gives the feeling of a society comprised of hand me downs. It’s a, borderline, steam-punk visual feast; a reminder that their society is deteriorating, the limited resources are dwindling and soon they’ll need to move on or cease to be.

The performances given in the film were genuine and believable, if a little over-eager. Perhaps the strangest addition to the cast was Bill Murray as the mayor of Ember. While his part was crucial, it seemed like an odd casting choice. However the two protagonists embodied the characters of two young people living in a post apocalyptic bunker. The performances are enhanced through a score that accurately follows the emotional cues of the story and the actors.

All in all, City of Ember manages to create a somewhat standard children’s fantasy/adventure film with quality components. The criticism that the pacing is a little slow is  accurate, but never on the point of boredom. The action sequences are few, however the world exploration is interesting enough on its own. This was a pretty big box office flop, which was far less than it deserved. Few live action movies aimed at this demographic take the time to incorporate the level of detail demonstrated here.

About Popcorn and Peril

The film industry has, for the last 100 years created a world that attempts to mimic reality while at the same time exaggerating it. Film has created a parallel universe, a universe of possibilities and artistic creativity. This universe changes at the same speed as our culture, and on some occasions, faster than it. The rise of the film medium brings about thousands of works every year, of which only a fraction is seen, leaving the majority undiscovered.
When creating Popcorn and Peril, I wanted to make a blog that was many things. At first it was to be reviews on anything I happen to watch, then I intended to do mostly new movies and then jumped to the conclusion that I would only do older ones. I have come to a decision. Taking into account the sheer number of movies that are released every year, it would be folly to attempt to write about them all. Likewise, given the fact that there is such a vast amount of film that has been overlooked due simply to the factor of time, I cannot attempt to steer you away from all those I did not enjoy. Once a movie is out of theaters and no longer a new DVD release it dissolves into obscurity. I believe that the reason someone will rent and watch a movie that is past it’s prime is because a friend or acquaintance has recommended it. There are those that are adventurous, willing to pick up movies at random (either on demand or from redbox or blockbuster) and then there are the “film connoisseurs” those that watch movies for posterity sake, hoping to better grasp the medium as a whole, but these types are few.
Popcorn and Peril will mostly be a recommendation site. There are so many movies that deserve to be seen that will have few recommendations. I want to recommend movies to you, which is why you will see very few negative reviews on my site. For instance, I watched Dick Tracyfor the first time in probably 15 years. I was set to write a review on it for this site, but I didn’t enjoy it enough to do so. No one needs to read a negative review about a movie that’s 20 years old because very few people would even think about that movie as an option to watch.
I say that the majority will be positive reviews, however this will not always be the case. I don’t want to box up this site into strictly one category. I will, from time to time, review a series of movies, or do lists that may include movies I did not enjoy, but I do not want to waste too much of my time (or yours) telling you why you shouldn’t see a movie that you had no intention of seeing in the first place (naturally, if I review a new film it may be completely relevant to post a negative review. I am speaking mostly for older films).
I want this blog to be a place where I can say “hey, I liked this movie, you should check it out”. I want this to be a place where you disagree with me, where you recommend movies back, and where we can discuss movies. I want Popcorn and Peril to be a place where one can discover movies that may have blockbusters in their time, or perhaps a place to discover the joys of watching a cult classic for the first time.
In short: Popcorn and Peril is primarily a place to discover films that may have been forgotten or obscured by time, negative reviews, lack of advertising or any other reason. It is a place where I can write and discuss movies and film making. It is a place to rediscover the magic at the movies, where one can sit down and witness a thousand perils while enjoying a bucket of hot buttery popcorn.

Hook

At its core, Neverland is where the wonders of ones mind come to life. J.M. Barrie’s universally known story “Peter Pan” uses Neverland as its backdrop. A land of pure fantasy, where a child can escape from the cruel reality of the real world; in which one is dictated by school uniforms and social norms, into the exhilarating freedom of unbridled imagination. The hero of this paradise is Peter Pan: a boy who never grows up, a boy who rides the back of the wind, and lives without care of fear or authority. Peter Pan is the icon of youth, but in Hook, the 1991 film directed by Steven Spielberg, he grows up, becomes a man, and forgets who he is and what he stood for.
Hook introduces us to Peter Banning (played by Robin Williams), a man who struggles to balance his professional life with his family life. He sacrifices the chance to see his son’s final baseball game of the season because of business meetings, sending a surrogate to film the proceedings. Peter, albeit reluctantly, flies to London with his wife and two children, Maggie and Jack, to visit his extended family, and to give a presentation at an event honoring the woman who took him, as well as countless other orphans, in. This woman’s name is Wendy (played perfectly by Maggie Smith). Upon returning from an evening of, decidedly grown up and boring, events Maggie and Jack are discovered kidnapped, and a note, written in meticulous calligraphy upon browned parchment, is pinned to the door by a jewel encrusted dagger. The note demands Peter’s presence at the request of his children, and is signed by none other than Jas Hook. The remainder of the movie introduces us to fairies, lost boys, mermaids, pirates, sword fights, re-discovery of self, and the importance of where to allocate our love. The movie is not a call to the frivolity of childhood, but a call to life. After all, “To live would be an awfully big adventure.”
The film has many strengths aside from it’s story telling. The landscape in Neverland, for instance, ranges from snow to blazing heat in a matter of seconds. The majority of the film takes place in a land created by imagination. However, the adventure of the film is in the music. John Williams, one of the foremost masters in cinematic music composition, delivers a score that is absolutely perfect. One can, as I often find myself doing, listen to the soundtrack, and the film will play itself in front of your eyes. The music rages forth with all the bravado necessary to accompany a hero, who has just rediscovered his ability to fly, racing towards the pirate captain that kidnapped his children. Sword drawn Peter soars to the deck of the giant ship. When the infamous Captain Hook seems to gain the upper hand the notes seamlessly reposition themselves, now favoring the theme that plays whenever the heartless pirate parades on screen. With a rousing cry, Peter calls his Lost Boys to action, and again the music switches sides. John Williams does not just score a film, he scores the soundtrack to countless daydreams. If Neverland is the physical manifestation of imagination, then John Williams has given that manifestation a voice.
The breathtaking set pieces and awe inspiring soundtrack of this incredible world are all backdrops to the phenomenal actors that remove all pretenses of their true selves and firmly adjust the mask of adventurers to their persona. Dustin Hoffman gives an incredible, and oftenmelodramatic, performance of the titular villain, Captain James Hook. A man that, almost like Peter Banning at the start of the film, has forgotten what it is to be a child. He is a being of pure evil, that will stop it nothing to destroy Peter Pan. Bob Hoskins plays the bumbling first mate Smee, also giving a stellar performance. The top billing, of course, goes to Robin Williams, perhaps the perfect actor to be cast for this role. Williams ability to first play a disillusioned business man that is tired of his family, into, literally, Peter Pan, is one of the main reasons why this movie is as entertaining as it is. Julia Roberts, Maggie Smith, and Dante Basco (who plays Rufio, perhaps one of the most memorable characters from the 1990s, if not for his hair alone) all give incredible performances further drawing the viewer down the rabbit hole of imagination and wonder.
   
Hook is not without it’s flaws. I cringe every time the crocodile comes back to life. However, the film, on the whole, is a piece of entertainment where one can feel the adventure coursing through their veins. It swells like adrenaline, sweeping over the viewer with each thrust of Pan’s sword and swing of the Hook.