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Stark Reviews: Alice's Wild West Show (1924)

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Stark says: “Gimme uh double one”

Yes, so granted you’re getting used to me reviewing some pretty odd Westerns, but I have to say this one’s particularly odd, even for me. In it a six-year old girl – who also happens to be Sheriff – smokes a cigar and cheerfully massacres a room full of strangers, later beating up a load of troublemakers with a stick. Sounds like something out of a peyote-crazed Acid Western, right?

Wrong. It’s a Disney film.

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Monsters & Mullets: The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

PhaaaaaantomMore than 130 million people have seen The Phantom of the Opera on stage since it first opened in London in 1986. It has won a million awards, is the longest running play in Broadway history, the second-longest running West End musical and its soundtrack has gone four-times platinum.

Having clocked an estimated $5.6 billion in revenue in the last 30 years, The Phantom of the Opera is considered ‘the most financially successful entertainment to date.’

The Phantom of the Opera is one other thing, however.

It is a terrible movie.

Given the immediate and spectacular success of Phantom, creator Andrew Lloyd Webber, for obvious reasons, began thinking about a film adaptation right away. (Michael Jackson approached him about playing the Phantom, apparently.) The film rights finally went in 1989, with a young filmmaker signed on to direct – Webber had seen The Lost Boys and been impressed with how the director used music in the film, and so the young auteur Joel Schumacher tied himself to the project. Originating stars Sarah Brightman, who was married to Lloyd Webber, and Michael Crawford agreed to reprise their roles.

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Villain of the Month: Loki

Loki by Caspian WhistlerThis month, we’re looking at Loki, as represented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (who differs a little from Comic Book Loki, and a lot from Norse Mythology Loki).

Loki is a great place to start, because he’s a perfect example of a villain who isn’t really all that impressive on paper. Oh sure, he’s got some nifty tricks up his sleeve – notably his talents as an illusionist – but on his home turf of Asgard, a world populated entirely with godlike denizens, Loki’s powers barely set him apart from the pack. As a warrior, he’s no Thor; heck, he can’t even compete with his brother’s merry band of cookie-cutter sidekicks. His schemes aren’t all that subtle, either. He does manage to manipulate his brother pretty effectively, but let’s face it – that takes about as much cunning as convincing your golden retriever to chase the stick you didn’t really throw.

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Friday Five: 5 Fantastic Flicks at the BFI


One perk of being a Londoner? The BFI Southbank. Anne and I were there recently for an Indiana Jones marathon (all three films!), and I was reminded - for the 857th time - what a wonderful place it is. Pros: an unbelievable selection of movies from the timeless to the trashy. Cons: they don't sell popcorn (heathens!)

Smuggle in some Haribo and check out the website, because there's an amazing line-up for the rest of the summer. A few highlights below.

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Stark Reviews: Ride in the Whirlwind (1965)

Ride in the Whirlwind

Stark says: “Obliged.”

Monte Hellman’s Westerns are a strange breed. For one thing, it’s hard to talk about one without talking about the other. The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind were shot back to back, after the film’s financier reckoned that, if you’re making one film, why the hell not make two? And while both are considered to be prime examples of revisionist, acid Westerns, they’re also very different films. As a Western, The Shooting, written by Carole Eastman, is female-led, abstract, uncompromising and hallucinogenic. Ride in the Whirlwind, on the other hand, is defiantly realistic; more conventional and plot-driven. It was also written, produced and acted in by Jack Nicholson.

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Will Eisner and Three Visions of New York

Eisner new yorkNew York, New York.

Is there any city that has featured in as many stories, songs and films? Ok, maybe Paris, but ignoring that - definitely New York. The representations of New York are as varied as its famously melting-pot population, but there are threads and themes that connect them.

Will Eisner’s New York; Life In The Big City is a classic collection of vignettes and short pieces about New York, published between 1981 and 2000. It is perhaps the most famous graphic text dealing with the city itself. It collects four of Eisner's works: 'The Building’, ‘City People’, ‘Notebook’ and ‘Invisible People’ - all drawing on Eisner’s lifetime of observing the people of New York and the changes it has undergone over the years.

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Nerd is the New Black: Civil War

Civil War (Bryan Hitch)

Full disclosure: I've already seen Civil War (twice!), and it's great.

But if you haven't and you want to head to the cinema wearing something that proclaims your Cap vs. Iron Man loyalties, or if you just want to look at some cool Civil War-inspired stuff... well, that's what we're here for. 

Let's start with the iconic Cap vs. Iron Man image from the comics, above.

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