After Life (2019): Series Review

A Spoiler-Free Discussion

Directed By: Ricky Gervais

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Episodes: 1 series, 6 episodes at 30min

After Life has a simple premise: a man’s wife dies of cancer and he grows depressed, adopting a devil-may-care attitude and generally mistreating everyone around him. Over the course of the six episodes, however, we start to see flickers of the sympathetic character buried beneath and watch as sometimes the most unexpected people and encounters elicit acts of kindness and gratitude.

I’m aware that Ricky Gervais has a polarising reputation, but he does have a knack for constructing British dramedy, such as The Office, Derek and Extras, all of which I enjoyed. His blend of observational and shock humour allows us space to laugh at things that we perhaps shouldn’t, treading a line between hilarious and awkward with delicate expertise. Not everyone wants to feel themselves squirming uncomfortably as they laugh, but if you enjoy challenging your own boundaries and exploring the border of political correctness, Ricky Gervais often does not disappoint.

After Life is the darkest venture that I’ve seen from Gervais’ series and does include potentially triggering content when we see our protagonist at his lowest. The depiction of depression has some honest moments: the inability to perform menial tasks like the washing up, buying groceries or cooking; the small reasons, such as needing to look after the dog, are the ones which ultimately keep him going; and the impulse decisions towards self-destructive behaviours. The cardboard characters become increasingly three-dimensional and start to serve less purpose to our protagonist’s narrative as he starts to realise that they are all their own people with their own lives outside of his own, which was unexpected from the first couple of episodes and a welcome change of pace.

Ricky Gervais puts in a commendable turn as our grieving widower, though this feels less like acting than a close iteration of Gervais himself placed in an unfamiliar situation; there are a number of monologues which I know reflect Gervais’ own views, especially with regard to religion. As a fan, I am more than happy to follow him as our lead, but others may struggle to lose themselves in the character. Among the supporting cast, there are a great number of familiar faces: the hilarious Roisin Conaty as sex-worker Roxy, David Bradley of Harry Potter fame as Gervais’ ailing father and a welcome return from Extras regular Ashley Jensen as his nurse. We also see Downton Abbey’s Penelope Wilton in my most endeared role, the widowed Anne, and Diane Morgan (a.k.a. Philomena Cunk) provides my favourite comic relief in Kath.

As a standalone series it does perhaps end a little twee, but a second series is in the works. The comedy does perhaps restrict the depth of darkness that the characters were allowed to explore, resulting in some surprisingly bleak or morally questionable moments being quickly glossed over or otherwise forgotten. However, for the episode time-span and wider audience accessibility, I think this is an allowable concession.

The show explores familiar ground in a way that feels fresh and relevant with rising discussion of mental illness, occasionally reaching highs of poignant clarity. In my opinion, very much so worth a watch. Looking forward to Season 2!

Favourite quote: Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing, it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not.

Public Opinion: After Life averages 82/100 across IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.

After Life is currently streaming on Netflix.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What did you think of this series? If you enjoyed this piece, give it a like, comment or share, tweet me @emmalhooker, or subscribe to this blog via my Facebook Page ‘In Touch With Humanity’ for access and updates on all my content. Cheerio!

Top Movie Franchises for Kids of All-Ages

Movie Franchises. Some we love (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and some we hate (Transformers). Some start well and fall apart (Alien) and some are so maddeningly inconsistent that we must make our minds up on a case by case basis (Star Trek). It is my belief that we fall in love with franchises when we are children, when we have endless patience for exploring the lengths and depths of new worlds and characters, even when the movies themselves grow increasingly shallow and poorly constructed – just look at the straight-to-DVD Disney sequels of the nineties and noughties.

That aside, there are a number of kid-friendly movie franchises which have multiple solid entries in their portfolio. The very best of these are the ones which appeal to adults and kids alike, either as we grow older and enjoy the nostalgia or take children of our own to the cinema. So, to celebrate where our (or at least my) love of movie franchises began, I’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 movie franchises which are appropriate for all ages.

The Rules: There are a few caveats as to how I categorised and ranked these franchises.

– There must be at least three movies in the franchise.

– All the movies in the franchise must be rated PG, G or U (though I’ll allow one 12A exception if there are already three movies which are PG, G or U)

– The franchise must be reviewed as a whole, so a brilliant first movie may not make up for a batch of lousy sequels.

Now we have that out of the way, on with the list:

10. Spy Kids

Movies: Spy Kids (2001), Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002), Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003), Spy Kids 4D: All The Time in the World (2011)

Iconic line: Do you think God stays in Heaven because he too lives in fear of what he’s created?

Alright, alright. I know they’ve aged badly, and the special effects are not nearly as impressive as they once were. The acting is cheesy, the sets are bizarre and the premise comical. However, I couldn’t make a list about my favourite kids’ movie franchises without giving a shout-out to Spy Kids. If you let yourself relax and don’t take them too seriously, you’ll understand or remember exactly what’s to love about it. Packed with inventive gadgets, colourful characters and a surprisingly star-studded cast, the Spy Kids movies are light-hearted, low-budget espionage at its most melodramatic. Plus, this iconic line is one of the greatest and most philosophical in children’s movie history. Just don’t watch the fourth one. Honestly, don’t.

9. The Chronicles of Narnia

Iconic Line: Things never happen the same way twice, dear one.

Movies: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), the Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).

Based on the beloved series of books by author C. S. Lewis, adults and children alike were excited and intrigued to learn The Chronicles of Narnia were making the leap to the big screen. Using similar techniques to The Lord of the Rings to bring the mythical creatures and mystical world to life, we were more than happy to step through the wardrobe with the Pevensie children. Though they perhaps never quite lived up to the complexities and magic of the books, and we were only ever presented with three of the seven stories, the cinematography is memorable and occasionally breath-taking, alongside admiral performances from Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent and its four young protagonists.

8. Despicable Me

Movies: Despicable Me (2010), Despicable Me 2 (2013), Minions (2015), Despicable Me 3 (2017),

Iconic line: It’s so fluffy, I’m gonna die!

The original Despicable Me movie released in 2010 by Illumination Entertainment was a surprise delight. It introduced us to a clever subversion into the qualities which we typically associate with villains in animated film, endeared us to three intelligent, spunky children and their reluctant adopted father, and amused us with the antics of the bizarre Minions. Personally, I was not nearly as impressed with the movies that followed the initial venture, but there is clearly something about these movies which refuses to be ignored. As of 2019, all three of the Despicable Me sequels/spin-offs are in the Top 10 Highest Grossing Animated Movies of all time, a feat which is unmatched by any other animated franchise.

7. The Lion King

Movies: The Lion King (1994), The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (1998), Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata (2004)

Iconic Line: Long live the King.

The Lion King is undoubtedly one of the greatest animated movies of all time. Loosely based on the Shakespeare story of Hamlet, the 1994 Disney film gave us staggering visuals, a climactic Elton John score and one of the most vicious villains of all time in Scar. These elements are not present in the sequels, which is why this franchise does not make its way further up the list. However, Simba’s Pride, despite less impressive animation, music and villains, does have its memorable moments. There is greater moral ambiguity to all our characters, moving away from the typical Disney tropes, and a few of the songs are catchy enough to inspire a sing-along. Hakuna Matata is also entertaining enough, following fan-favourites Timon and Pumbaa through the timeline of the original movie. Safe to say, the first film is the clear standout, but its sequels do not mar its reputation.

6. Indiana Jones

Movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

Iconic Line: He chose … poorly.

The 2008 disappointment that was Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is sadly most people’s recent memory of this franchise. Even with its influence, however, the Indiana Jones movies would probably still rank here on my list. Indiana Jones is a balanced hero, both an intelligent professor of archaeology and daredevil whip-wielding explorer, flawed but ultimately moral and altruistic. There is a blend of histories and mysteries, action and comedy, snakes, insects and Nazis. With Harrison Ford in his late thirties and forties for filming, he inspired more than children to live their own adventures, and the movies are as entertaining now to those who saw them on their cinema openings.

5. How to Train Your Dragon

Movies: How to Train Your Dragon (2010), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014), How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World (2019)

Iconic Line: Everything we know about them is wrong.

How to Train Your Dragon has released its third instalment, titled The Hidden World, this year to favourable reviews after the enormous success of its first two outings. The animation quality is the finest that DreamWorks has to offer, with beautiful attention to detail. The movies boast sensitive portrayals of disability as many characters and animals have rudimentary prosthetic limbs, and there is a wonderful message against prejudice and towards education and understanding. At the same time, there are several hilarious moments, there is a great deal of grounded character development and the plot is exciting and action-packed throughout. It is playful enough to amuse children and emotionally rich enough to satisfy adults. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy these movies.

4. Shrek

Movies: Shrek (2001), Shrek 2 (2004), Shrek the Third (2007), Shrek Forever After (2010)

Iconic Line: Ogres are like onions.

Of course, Shrek had to make an appearance. This franchise turned the typical Disney-esque story on its head, transforming a monstrous ogre villain into our unlikely hero, a beautiful imprisoned princess into a sassy, yet still very much so feminine, martial artist, and a conventional Prince Charming into a smarmy, spoiled brat who needs his mummy. The fairy-tale creatures we all know and love from our storybooks are all brought to life with character traits and hidden motivations that we never anticipated, the action sequences are dramatic and thrilling, the love story one of the most relatable, genuine and enjoyable in animated movie history. The pop culture references and familiar soundtrack keep the film off-beat and fresh, although they may now be dating the films. While the series dipped in quality during its third outing, I enjoyed the ambition of Forever After, and Shrek 2 may well be the best sequel to an animated movie. Plus, this cast of voice actors is unparalleled.

3. Star Wars Original Trilogies

Movies: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983).

Iconic Line: Use the force, Luke.

The Star Wars films were such box-office smashes because of how they appealed to adults and children alike, igniting imagination everywhere as we studied the history of a galaxy far, far away. Aliens, spaceships, Jedi, Sith, light-sabers, storm-troopers and the force: Star Wars is such a staple of modern culture even now that you can know thousands of plot elements and characters before ever sitting down and watching it. If I were only ranking the original trilogy, it may have pushed its way even higher up the list, but sadly the uneven prequels do let the side down, particularly Episode II. I’ve not included the recent entries since their trilogies cannot be evaluated without the final components (Episode IX due December 2019) and they are all rated 12A, assuming their audience to be the children who watched Star Wars in the seventies and eighties now all grown up. Nevertheless, Star Wars continues to hold its power over the general public, drawing us back to the home movie system and cinema time and time again.

2. Back to the Future

Movies: Back to the Future (1985), Back to the Future Part II (1989), Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Iconic Line: Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

This eighties trilogy still holds up. Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s adventures through time are, ironically, timeless classics. Outside the obvious use of a time-travelling DeLorean, the real suspension of disbelief nowadays comes from when, in the second film, Marty travels to the distant future … of 2015. While we are all disappointed that Hoverboards are not quite the reality we were promised by these flicks, there is so much here to enjoy: the multi-roleplay of characters across numerous decades and timelines, the alliance between charming, charismatic Marty and the quirky, inventive Doc, and the consistent humour and diligence to adhere to the constructed time-travel logic. I first watched these when I was five or six and still sit down around once a year to watch the trilogy, never tiring of its antics. An absolute winner.  

Honourable Mentions: And before we get to number one, here are a few that didn’t quite make the list, usually because the first movie isn’t great enough to pull up the sequels.

Night at the Museum: offers an insight into historical figures for adults and kids alike but are increasingly thin on plot, making them feel like one long skit.

Home Alone: love the first one, like the second one, the less said about the rest the better after they replaced all the cast.

The Santa Clause: entertaining enough to have on in the background over the Christmas holidays.

Ice Age: I enjoyed the first couple then it lost me, and I don’t feel they quite have the same appeal to adults as they do for children.

Madagascar: I enjoyed the first one but wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the sequels as caricatured characters became grating and overused.

Drum roll, please. The number one best movie franchise for kids of all ages is …

1. Toy Story

Movies: Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010).

Iconic Line: To infinity and beyond!

It had to be Toy Story. Somehow the creators have managed to gift us three films which are of near-equal standard to one another. The animation was pioneering, the characters flawed and fleshed out, the plots all vastly different from one movie to the next, exploring different aspects and challenges which face the toys in a world where they come to life. Somehow the introduction of new characters in each sequel is never overwhelming or unnecessary but enriches the environment of those we already know and love. The voice actors are outstanding, boasting names like Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack and Don Rickles. The animators are unafraid to put our characters in real jeopardy and push their negative traits to their maximum, forcing us to recognise that even people we love are not perfect and that’s okay. There is endless space for creativity as there are thousands of different kinds of toys, some verbal and some non-verbal, some anthropomorphic, some vehicles, one literally a walking Etch-a-Sketch. Each movie packs an emotional punch and hundreds of tiny life-lessons to carry with us always. My only hope is that Toy Story 4 due for release later this year is able to maintain this standard; it’s not going to be an easy task!

And that’s my list! As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What did you think of these movies and my ranking? If you enjoyed this list, give it a like, comment or share, tweet me @emmalhooker, or subscribe to this blog via my Facebook Page ‘In Touch With Humanity’ for access and updates on all my content. Cheerio!

A Clockwork Orange (1971) Movie Review

A Spoiler Free Discussion

Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

Genre: Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi

Based on Anthony Burgess’ book of the same name, A Clockwork Orange follows Alex DeLarge, a sadistic gang leader obsessed with Beethoven and ultra-violence as he is presented with an opportunity to reform and curb his natural criminal tendencies. For a movie which revels in its futuristic dystopian setting and deplorable depravity, it is a surprisingly philosophical and religious story on the essence of humanity.

This is Kubrick at his best. Kubrick was known for his attention to detail, sometimes to the extent that he irritated his actors by demanding multiple takes of an arduous scene. However, it must be said that Kubrick’s skill behind the camera is impressive and perhaps this obsession with perfection does bear some small justification. Pausing on any frame of A Clockwork Orange generates a perfectly crafted still photograph, more reminiscent of theatre than film, as it is not quite as naturalistic but certainly more striking. Kubrick often sets his characters centrally or even symmetrically, enclosed by two walls, which feels claustrophobic and contained as a theatre stage or comic book panels, forcing the eye of the viewer exactly where Kubrick intends.

A director is only as good as his script and fortunately, the source material provided almost all the dialogue present in the movie. This was to such an extent that most of the cast and crew carried around copies of the novel over the screenplay. Malcolm MacDowell, Michael Bates and Warren Clarke gift us characters almost straight off-the-page, sure to please any avid reader. Of course, there are differences as there always are in book-to-film translation, plot points are altered, scenes switched around and additions made. For example, the famous ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ sequence does not feature Alex singing and dancing as he and his ‘droogs’ commit their crimes. However, A Clockwork Orange is still one of the most faithful adaptations of a novel, up until its end. Similar to popular and faithfully adapted Fight Club, the last chapter of the book is not adapted into the screenplay, which is an interesting choice since it completely alters the tone and message of the book. Perhaps had this last scene been included, the film may not have caused the controversy which it did, but likewise, it may not have been nearly as iconic and come across as preaching or unrealistic.

A Clockwork Orange was pulled from distribution in the UK two years after its release and did not become freely available again until 2000, a year after Kubrick’s death. Kubrick pulled the film from distribution himself after he and his family received numerous death threats, and there were two crimes in the UK which attempted to emulate those of Alex and his gang. Video stores were so inundated with requests for the movie that many had printed signs that read: ‘No, we do not have A Clockwork Orange’. It is not hard to see why the film is controversial and potentially dangerous, arguing that free will is an essential component of human nature, regardless of whether that free will is used for good or evil. The film proposes several polarising arguments and scenarios which certainly ignites a utilitarian and humanitarian philosophical debate. Despite the controversy, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards and is still widely regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars, putting it in my Don’t Miss category.

Don’t Miss … this performance by Malcolm MacDowell. It is haunting, comical and sadistic all rolled into one, outshining his fellow cast-members. A violent and sociopathic but strangely charismatic protagonist, which is my favourite kind. This movie demands your full attention and emotional investment, so dim the lights and don’t say a word as Beethoven floods from the speakers.

Public’s View: This movie averages 86/100 across IMDb, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes.

Fun Facts: Malcolm MacDowell was nearly blinded and cracked several ribs during filming. Gene Kelly was disgusted with the use of his signature song ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and refused to talk to Malcolm MacDowell when they met. The title A Clockwork Orange is never stated in the film but is supposed to refer to the absurdity of a natural thing being made mechanical.

A Clockwork Orange is rated 18 and is available on Now TV, Amazon Prime or Google Play. Please support film and the art of film-making by purchasing this movie legally.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What did you think of the movie? If you enjoyed this discussion, give it a like, comment or share, tweet me @emmalhooker, or subscribe to this blog via my Facebook Page ‘In Touch With Humanity’ for access and updates on all my content. Cheerio!

Isn’t It Romantic (2019) Movie Review

A Spoiler-Free Review

Directed By: Todd Strauss-Schulson

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Champagne, roses, makeover montages and meet-cutes: you’ll find every romantic trope stuffed into this ninety-minute runtime. The difference is, this time, your cynical friend heckling from the cheap seats and throwing popcorn at the screen every time the music swells is our protagonist.

While it is amusing to watch as Rebel Wilson points out that car-rides only last eighteen seconds and somehow her ‘gay best friend’ doesn’t seem to have any job or responsibilities outside providing a shoulder to cry on, the movie falls short of being something special. It’s not ridiculously wacky or melodramatic enough to truly be a parody, nor is it subversive enough to make us take note of the underlying, potentially misleading or damaging messages in romantic comedies. It does have a message of its own which is worth taking away, but it can’t quite justify the uneasiness of the journey.

Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids) plays Natalie, our suitably adorkable romantic heroine. She is charming enough to hold her own in the lead role and her usual crass attitude and physical humour shines through. Once again, she shares the screen with Pitch Perfect co-star Adam Devine who plays her long-time co-worker and due to the many films where they have appeared together, they make believable on-screen friends. Rich, beguiling billionaire Blake is portrayed by Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games). To be honest, the best thing about his character is hearing his natural Australian accent which he doesn’t often get the chance to use.

As for the supporting cast, I did enjoy the performance from Betty Gilpin (GLOW) as Natalie’s secretary Whitney, but sadly her character is underused. Brandon Scott Jones’ gay best friend Donny is so over-the-top and grating that he suffers the opposite affliction to Gilpin. Priyanka Chopra’s intimidating beauty is perfect for Natalie’s rival love-interest Isabella and there is an amusing cameo in the opening sequence from Jennifer Saunders. The cast do seem to be having fun throughout, which is enough to keep the movie from feeling like a cash-in or a slog.

Written by a trio of women: Erin Cardillo, Katie Silberman and Dana Fox, and directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, the movie is bright, colourful and cheesy from start to finish. The movie aims to celebrate the tropes of romantic comedies and accept them for what they are, but what we are left with ends up feeling unoriginal. For me, this disappointment stems from how many pathways are teased but never explored. For example, Jennifer Saunders sets up that ‘they will never make movies about girls like us’, but it never goes further into that argument than just allowing Rebel Wilson centre-stage. I thought we were going to see Rebel Wilson actively refuse to participate with the formulaic characters and surroundings, but instead her character submits to the script so that she can ‘get to the end’. The commentary is not incisive enough, the direction not inspired enough, so the movie settles somewhere in the realms of mediocrity.

My Rating: 2/5 stars, placing it in my Only Watch If category.

Only Watch If … you just want some background noise that might elicit a few laughs here and there. Stick it on when you’re doing the ironing or you and your friends are having a ‘movie night’ where you all know you have zero intentions on actually sitting down quietly and watching a movie.

Public’s view: This movie averages 60/100 across IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.  

Fun fact: Most of the cast made fun of Liam Hemsworth for his lack of dance skills. 

Isn’t It Romantic is currently streaming on Netflix and is rated 12.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What did you think of the movie? If you enjoyed this review, give it a like, comment or share, tweet me @emmalhooker, or subscribe to this blog via my Facebook Page ‘In Touch With Humanity’ for access and updates on all my content. Cheerio!

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann (2019)

A Spoiler-Free Discussion

Directed By: Chris Smith

Genre: Documentary

Madeleine McCann’s disappearance is one of the most intriguing and enduring mysteries of the twenty-first century. A three-year-old girl vanishes from her bedroom in Praia da Luz, Portgual on the night of April 3, 2007. Quickly, she becomes the single most famous and recognisable missing person in the world. Nearly twelve years (and £18 million) later, we are still none the wiser as to what happened to her.

It’s no secret that Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry, were publicly made ‘arguidos’ or ‘official suspects’ when the investigation was still open under the Policia Judiciar (PJ). Since the Portuguese police closed the case in 2008, the McCanns employed private detectives and have benefited from the expertise of the Leicestershire Police and Scotland Yard, including the £12 million taxpayer-funded Operation Grange, to pursue their theory that an abductor snatched Madeleine. Since the PJ closed the case, their police files have been freely available on the internet (mccannpjfiles.co.uk if you’re interested). Alongside the inordinate quantities of newspaper articles and television appearances from the McCanns, the information shared has allowed the global general public to formulate their own theories.

As a follower of true crime, I was well-versed in the detail and politics of this case before I learned of the documentary. When I heard that Kate and Gerry McCann had denounced it, citing that ‘they didn’t ask for it and don’t see how it will help the search for Madeleine on a practical level’, I was intrigued to know why. Could it be that the documentary was accusing them of involvement in their daughter’s disappearance? Otherwise, how could publicity, at a time when people may well have been forgetting about the ongoing search, be a bad thing? With this in mind, it came as something of a surprise when I watched the documentary and found that it seemed to sway far more in the McCanns favour than against them.

Having watched many (many, many, many) documentaries on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, from reputable BBC reconstructions to ludicrous conspiracy theorists on YouTube, I have seen far more people presenting their evidence of the McCanns guilt than of their innocence. It was interesting, therefore, to see something which seemed to give them the benefit of the doubt. They showed just how easy it is to throw out claims and act as though they are insignificant, because truly the issue with this case is a fundamental lack of tangible physical evidence and overwhelming political and financial influence.

Though it was disappointing to see just how many of the people interviewed on the documentary were friends and family of the McCanns or tabloid journalists rather than criminal experts, I did enjoy the testimonials of fired Portuguese detective Gonçalo Amaral, despite the fact that the reconstructions did appear to demonise the PJ and their investigation. It was also interesting to hear from the formerly accused Robert Murat and Sergey Malinka. Sadly, there were no interviews with the McCanns themselves or any of the Tapas 7.

In general, I found the documentary stretched four episodes of material into eight. Believe me, there are definitely more than eight episodes worth of theories and evidence, but this documentary was very selective about what was shown, focusing heavily on history (such as that of the town of Praia da Luz) and the influence of the media. Some of this content was interesting to me as someone who already knows the case well, but I quite often found myself bored and wondering why certain irrelevant anecdotes were included when there was so much of the case which was left ignored or unexplored. That being said, the presence of the media in the lives of the McCanns, regardless of their innocence or guilt, is staggering and inappropriate, which I’ve not seen much attention drawn to before.

In all, I didn’t learn much that was new from this series, but it does propose a different point of view. The documentary also served as a reminder that we should not forget about Madeleine McCann and should remember that at the heart of all the cadaver dog alerts and lack of credible eye witnesses, a young girl disappeared. That is a tragedy no matter how or why it happened.

In the UK, someone is reported missing every 90 seconds and each year 80,000 children are reported missing. 20% of trafficked or unaccompanied-in-care children have not been found. For more information, or to see what you can do to help, visit missingpeople.co.uk or missingpersons.police.uk.

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann is currently streaming on Netflix.

Public’s view: This documentary series averages 63/100 across IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What did you think of the documentary? If you enjoyed this discussion, give it a like, comment or share, tweet me @emmalhooker, or subscribe to this blog via my Facebook Page ‘In Touch With Humanity’ for access and updates on all my content. Cheerio!

The Greatest Films of All Time

It’s a daunting question: What makes a movie one of the greats? How do we assess what makes an amazing movie? It’s a question that I’ve pondered for a long time. The art of film is not one that can be broken down into binary pieces and tallied. There is no defined way in which we sit and grade a movie, whether we are critics, film students or the average movie-goer. That being said, most of us know on some level when we have watched a great movie. There are some movies that are almost universally well-liked. What is it about these movies that makes them so special?

In my opinion, there is a difference between a movie that is great because of its power, its statement, its place in history, and a movie that is great because it is well-written, beautifully directed and superbly acted. Also, I believe that when we talk about what makes a movie great on paper, we often forget the most crucial aspect of film: entertainment. A movie must be entertaining. That doesn’t necessarily mean laugh-a-minute or chock-full of violence, but it should be engaging, well-executed, satisfying, watchable and, in the best cases, original.

Anyone who knows me is aware that I take movies seriously. I can barely make it through a movie I know and love without spouting off trivia. I know how many movies I’ve seen. I know what each one of them is called. I’m insane, I know. The reason is simply that I love movies. I love everything about them, and I want to share that love with you all. So, I’m going to blog as much as I can about the films, directors, actors, composers and writers which I adore. Hopefully, it will be entertaining.

What better place to begin than the greatest movies of all time – at least, according to IMDb, the Internet Movie Database. I’ve seen what are regarded as the Top 15 Greatest Movies of All Time. To introduce you to how I perceive movies, and what makes each of these movies deserving of its place in the Hall of Fame, I’ve re-ranked the same list of movies according to my personal preference. This was incredibly difficult to do, as they are all fantastic movies, but I stand by my list. If you disagree, please let me know in the comments, I would love to know what you think.

Without further ado, let’s get cracking.

15.          Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)   

My Score – 93/100

Place on IMDB: 14                                                               

IMDb Score 8.8/10          

Iconic Line: No, I am your father.

One thing that is amazing about the IMDb Top 10 is just how many of the movies on that list are sequels. Episode V was released three years after its blockbuster predecessor, and far superseded it. It would be wrong to talk about the greatest movies of all time without mentioning Star Wars, and in a way, I wish I could place the whole original trilogy in this 15th place. For a children’s movie, Star Wars appealed to adults and children alike, building a world and reality which is still being explored today, over forty years since the original. Though the special effects may be dated, the heart and imagination have truly stood the test of time.

14.          Fight Club (1999)                                                                  

My Score – 93/100

Place on IMDB: 11                                                                

IMDb Score – 8.8/10       

Iconic Line: The first rule of fight club, is you do not talk about fight club.

Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s book of the same name (which I recommend you read by the way, it’s awesome), it’s hard to think of many other movies which have cemented so deeply into modern culture. Fight Club inspired a generation, and not always in the way which the book’s author intended or anticipated. Arguably one of the most dangerous and misunderstood movies of all time, it is undeniably entertaining, gritty and intelligent. The narration sparkles, there is black humour galore, and the bizarre Fincher cinematography with freeze-frame, fish-eye and POV warps our perspective to remind us of our character’s warped attitudes to life.

13.          Forrest Gump (1994)                                                     

My Score – 94/100

Place on IMDB: 13                                               

IMDb Score – 8.8/10       

Iconic Line: Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Robert Zemeckis’ Best Picture Winner is a timeless exploration of life’s beauty and lessons through the eyes of a man with below-average IQ. It is an inspiring tale of success against all odds, love across decades and how the actions of one person shape the lives that we all lead. America’s sweetheart Tom Hanks delivers a stellar performance as the titular Forrest, the script proffers iconic line after iconic line, the cinematography is beautiful, and it takes us on a deeply enriching journey. Though praised for its portrayal of complex female characters and disability, it has come under some controversy in recent years for its apparent erasure of black history.

12.          The Godfather Part II (1974)                                          

My Score – 94/100

Place on IMDB: 4                                                             

IMDb Score – 9.0/10

Iconic Line: Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

This movie was the first sequel to win Best Picture. Some people argue that this movie is actually better than the original. While I think that possibly the characters and the depravity of the criminal antics are explored better in Part II, I think it is impossible to conceive of The Godfather’s world without Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone. Al Pacino is at once sympathetic and terrifying as he is consumed by his new role, the direction is as flawless as it was in the original, the whole movie is swathed in an elegance and nuance which elevates it far above other gangster and crime movies. Perhaps this character study is not as accessible to today’s audience, but it stands as a masterpiece of filmmaking.

11.          Inception (2010)                                                    

My Score – 95/100

Place on IMDB: 10                                                    

IMDb Score – 8.8/10

Iconic Line: You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

I acknowledge that I am a sucker for the work of Christopher Nolan. Inception is not a perfect movie, but its ambition and imagination are simply staggering. There are so many ideas, characters, worlds and themes explored in this movie, that it’s no wonder so many people found it confusing on an initial viewing. The visuals are nearly unparalleled in invention, there is a wonderful sense of fun for the characters and filmmakers as they are allowed to place the same characters in myriad different locations and situations. The concept is entirely original, with sci-fi elements so inspired they are reminiscent of The Matrix. We all have our opinions on the ending.

10.          The Godfather (1972)                                                 

My Score – 95/100

Place on IMDb: 2                                                        

IMDb Score – 9.2/10

Iconic Line: I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Few films have been parodied and referenced in popular culture to the extent that The Godfather has. Sleeping with the fishes, revenge being a dish best served cold and a decapitated horse’s head in a bed – this is where it all began. A disturbing family portrait, The Godfather lingers in the mind long after its first viewing. It is undeniably the finest work of Francis Ford Coppola; we all just wish he had never let his daughter take to the screen in Part III. The Corleone family are possibly the most famous family in film history, headed by the incomparable Marlon Brando, who many consider to be the finest film actor of all time. Only fitting that he should be best remembered by this movie.

9.            The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)                     

My Score – 96/100

Place on IMDb: 9                                                              

IMDb Score – 8.9/10

Iconic Line: There are two kinds of people in the world.

It’s not just A spaghetti western, it’s THE spaghetti western. Bounty hunters, gunslingers, outlaws, a fortune in gold and incredible aliases (looking at you ‘Angel Eyes’), this movie has everything that you could possibly want from this setting, including a powerhouse performance by Clint Eastwood, an icon of the genre, and a breath-taking score from legendary Ennio Morricone. Especially for its time, this is an exercise in grim brutality, gallows humour and bleak cinematography which even now transports you to the Confederate versus Union nightmare of the Old West. It is a morality tale, an adventure and a timeless classic. Even if you never watch another western, watch this one.

8.            The Dark Knight (2008)                                            

My Score – 96/100

Place on IMDb: 3                                                                

IMDb Score – 9.0/10

Iconic Line: Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Another Christopher Nolan, another sequel, but the first and only superhero movie on this list. Superheroes have been a staple in pop culture for a century, but Nolan’s dark and slightly more realistic take on the caped crusader changed the public’s attitude towards them forever, and arguably ignited the phenomenon of action-packed, grittier and grounded comic book heroes which plague our cinemas today. It’s a pity that the DC Universe has never quite repeated its success with Nolan’s trilogy, but The Dark Knight rightfully holds its place in the Hall of Fame, not least for a staggering performance by Heath Ledger, who earned the very first and only posthumous Academy Award, and the first Academy Award for a superhero movie. The Dark Knight is a pioneer.

7.           Schindler’s List (1993)                                                          

My Score – 97/100

Place on IMDb: 7                                                                   

IMDb Score – 8.9/10

Iconic Line: Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

Everyone should see this movie. Everyone. Even writing about it makes me emotional. Oskar Schindler’s story is one which shows truly how the actions and beliefs of one person can make a difference to thousands, even millions of others. As a true story, this account of heroism and bravery holds even more merit, and the harrowing portrayal of life under the Nazi regime is unabashedly stark and horrifying. It is difficult to watch this movie for all the right reasons, especially Ralph Fiennes shattering performance as Goeth. Shot in black and white despite being made in 1993, we are almost deluded into believing what we are watching is archival footage, but for me it does alienate the audience by placing the Holocaust far into the past, when it is something that we should acknowledge as part of our recent history.

6.            12 Angry Men (1957)                                                                  

My Score – 97/100

Place on IMDb: 8                                                                      

IMDb Score – 8.9/10

Iconic Line: Gentleman, that’s a very sad thing… to be nothing.

This is the oldest movie on the list and there is a very good reason that it has stood the test of time: it’s still relevant. Following the old doctrine of the Three Greek Unities, there is one story and no subplot, one room where the action takes place and it is just one day that passes. The twelve titular men are the twelve men of a jury in a case to convict a young boy to death for the crime of murder, and we follow their deliberations as to whether they can prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The adage of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is rigorously explored as the movie deals with prejudice, racism, justice, capital punishment, morality, mob-mentality and the essence of knowledge and truth. There are lessons to be learned here for any viewer.

5.            The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)                

My Score – 98/100

Place on IMDb: 15                                                             

IMDb Score – 8.7/10

Iconic Line: There’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

The Lord of the Rings holds the unique claim of having all three movies of its original trilogy in the IMDb Top 15 Greatest Movies of All Time. While some believe that The Two Towers is not nearly as good as its predecessor or successor, I hold all three in extremely high regard. We spend far more time with series icon Gollum and villain Saruman, are introduced to powerhouse warrior Eowyn, are privy to the incredible Battle of Helm’s Deep, and we are introduced to the hilarious Ents as they slowly ascertain their opinions on Merry and Pippin. Peter Jackson somehow made the intricately complex and foreign world of Tolkien’s novels come to life in an accessible, beautiful and ageless way and of the three, The Two Towers is underrated.  

4.            The Shawshank Redemption (1994)                                   

My Score – 98/100

Place on IMDb: 1                                                                    

IMDb Score – 9.3/10

Iconic Line: Get busy living or get busy dying.

This holds pride of place at the very top of the IMDb list, the people’s vote for the single Greatest Movie of All Time. It is beautiful. Above all else, it is a story of hope, of decency and redemption, a modern retelling of the story of Jesus. It warms the heart to see a film which feels refreshingly honest without being depressingly cynical. Based on a Stephen King short story and brought to life with Frank Darabont’s delicate direction and Morgan Freeman’s effortless gravitas, there are few movies which can pull on the heartstrings and make it sound like Mozart.

3.            The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)            

My Score – 99/100

Place on IMDb: 5                                                              

IMDb Score – 8.9/10

Iconic Line: I am no man.

This movie won eleven Oscars. Eleven. It’s a feat of filmmaking which is pretty much faultless. My wish for filmmakers of the future is to return to the elaborate costume and makeup over the use of CGI for villains, for it makes for a far more cohesive production. For most lovers of the trilogy, this is the favourite, and it’s easy to understand why. There was enormous pressure for this movie to live up to The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, and it delivered at every turn, wrapping up the stories for each character in a satisfactory and climactic fashion. It’s what we all wanted.

2.            The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)    

My Score – 99/100

Place on IMDb: 12                                                                      

IMDb Score – 8.8/10

Iconic Line: One does not simply walk into Mordor.

It’s not everyone’s favourite of the trilogy, but it’s mine. It’s our introduction to the world, to the story, to the characters and their motivations, and with every viewing this movie only gets better. I would argue that Howard Shore’s score plays much more of a role in the first movie and stakes its presence so deeply and completely that it feels like another character. There is far more of a sense of mystery in the first movie, so much more direct contrast and conflict for the characters as we see them leave their life of comfort for a life of adventure and bravery. The charm of the unlikely friendships, the persistent humour, the stunning New Zealand landscapes, there are a thousand reasons to enjoy this movie time and time again.

1.            Pulp Fiction (1994)                                                            

My Score – 100/100

Place on IMDb: 6                                                              

IMDb Score – 8.9/10

Iconic Line: They call it a Royale with Cheese.

There’s not much to say because there’s so much to say. It’s Pulp Fiction. It’s perfect. Quentin Tarantino’s exercise in violence and human relationships is so outrageously funny, so manipulative in its use of time and space and so unafraid to push the boundaries of cinema, to not answer questions and to exploit the nuances of context and subtext in dialogue, that I have no choice but to place it at my number one spot. Tarantino never lets you relax for a single moment, challenges his audience, and each viewing only lets you fall deeper in love with the complexities and richness of these characters. The star-studded ensemble cast entertain in every frame as we are simultaneously liberated and controlled by the filmmakers. A masterpiece.

So that’s my list! Please do let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree, whether you love or hate any of these movies. Are there movies that you think should be in the IMDb Top 15 that aren’t? Comment below or find me on social media @emmalhooker. Until next time, cheerio.   

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