“The life of a repo man is always intense.” | Repo Man (1984)

What makes the perfect cult film? As film enthusiasts we use the phrase ‘cult film’ an awful lot. In many respects defining a cult film is like that old adage about describing an elephant: difficult to do, but you’ll recognise one when you see it. Things got more complicated after Hollywood’s major studios and distributors ...

“Do I Look Like I Give a Damn?” | Casino Royale (2006)

James Bond, the British MI6 agent created by author Ian Fleming, is the star of pretty much the world’s most commercially successful movie franchise. Since 1962 the character has headlined 23 feature films, not including two rogue productions in 1967 and 1983; at the time of writing a 24th is in production. Together the films ...

“Trees and people used to be good friends” | My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Japanese animation turns 100 years old in 2017. The art form initially flourished in 1917, as animators including Oten Shimokawa and Seitarou Kitayama produced short comedic films that ran for only a few minutes each. While the vast majority of those early animated shorts are now lost – due variously to time, humidity, earthquakes and ...

“Something new can come into this world” | John Carter (2012)

Mention the name Edgar Rice Burroughs to many people and they’ll immediately recognise him as the creator of Tarzan, the popular pulp hero of novels and film who endured throughout the 20th century as one of the world’s most popular fictional characters. Less well known that Tarzan, however, is John Carter. This Virginian Civil War ...

“This is true love” | The Princess Bride (1987)

‘As a writer,’ said William Goldman, ‘the only book I really like is The Princess Bride.’[i] Goldman’s original take on the classical fairy tale was first published in 1973. It was his eighth novel, although despite beginning his career as an author he had already made significant head-roads into writing for American cinema. Goldman’s first ...

“It’s a thousand years to Christmas” | Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

An audio version of this essay is available here. From the late 1970s the Walt Disney Studios went through a particularly bleak period. Their family films were not finding the success in cinemas that they used to enjoy. Their animated films were in a creative doldrums as the studio’s aging animators started to retire, and ...

“Well of course we talk, don’t everybody?” | Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

An audio version of this essay is available for download here. ‘There are no auteurs in musical pictures,’ said actor/director Gene Kelly. ‘It’s impossible. You have to have music and arrangements, a choreographer, a director and so forth.’[i] It would seem that good musicals require good partnerships to succeed, and if that is true then ...

“A fuzzy blue Charles Dickens” | The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

In 1843 Christmas in England was undergoing a process of change and re-evaluation. Its core purpose as a Christian festival remained central, however it was rapidly developing a broader significance as a commercial and family-oriented holiday. The tradition of placing a Christmas tree had only just gained popularity in Great Britain, following its well-reported use ...

“Kill da wabbit” | What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)

‘What’s Opera, Doc is one many Europeans adore,’ said animated film director Chuck Jones. ‘They call that my “masterpiece,” which it may or may not be; I didn’t think about it at the time.’[1] It’s not a surprise that Jones didn’t dwell excessively on What’s Opera, Doc (its title includes a question mark at the ...

“Something in the blood” | 28 Days Later… (2002)

When is a zombie movie not a zombie movie? It’s a question that quite a lot of critics and viewer may have asked themselves when they saw Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later…, released in the UK in October 2002 before opening internationally over the subsequent twelve months (the USA got it in July 2003, Australia ...

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