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Steve Norman’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Before I start the list, some notable omissions… Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 was ruined (as predicted from the trailer) by that stupid plant, and Dunkirk was a tedious wasted opportunity – if you want a war film, watch Sink the Bismarck instead. I’d also like to mention The Cult of Chucky and the lower jaw kill, which is one of the finest slasher movie kills in years! And Rambo III is always worth a fresh look! Now here be my top ten films of the year.

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Everything a Star Wars fan needs and more – epic space fights involving some mental new ships (and the greatest sound effect involving absolutely no sound ever), imaginative lightsabre battles, some great new characters and locations and decent storyline progressions for the old ones. Apart from the ridiculous scene when Leia is flying through space like Superman. And it all goes on for hours! Can’t wait to see it again. And again. And again…

2. Underworld: Blood Wars

Kate Beckinsale goth’d up in tight black leather. Killing stuff. No further words needed.

3. Thor: Ragnarok

Despite Thor never being my favourite Marvel character, this is probably the most fun I’ve ever had with a Marvel film. It’s a non-stop barrage of ridiculous action, and it knows it, resulting in something genuinely funny on top of being a complete visual feast of set piece after set piece involving all your favourite Avengers.

4. Wonder Woman

If a hot chick kicking arse in skimpy bits of metal is empowering to women, then let me slip on a pair of comfortable shoes and start a new crochet project in front of some ladies’ cricket because I’m all in! Great superhero movie regardless of all the shoe-horned right-on crap surrounding it.

5. Leatherface

Really cool story about a bunch of surprisingly likeable deviants escaping from an asylum and going on the run from some crazy hick lawmen. Just try to forget the association and back story that no one needed to know and enjoy the sickness.

6. CHIPS

I probably enjoyed the next film in the list more than this, but the appearance of Erik Estrada at the end moves it up a place. I loved CHiPs (to use its original monicker) back in the 80’s, and this is familiar territory but reinvents Jon and Ponch as an ex-extreme sports sad-case and an undercover FBI sex addict, resulting in Carry on California Highway Patrol, complete with Freddy Got Fingered levels of smut. Which obviously makes it worthy of this list.

7. XXX: Return of Xander Cage 

This is a real man’s film. Stunts, explosions, gun fights, martial arts, car chases, surfing motorbike chases, night clubs (and women) that don’t exist in real life… It’s all familiar mindless territory but it’s done so well!

8. IT

About as scary as The Goonies, but I liked The Goonies and this had a similar vibe. I’d have loved an 18-rated version full of blood and gore, but for a kid’s film this kept me a lot more entertained than most do. Pennywise is really well cast, some evocative locations and a nice variety of supporting characters make this my favourite horror film for people that don’t like horror of the year.

9. Justice League 

Wonder Woman and her cohort in even skimpier bits of metal! This is Pro Evolution Soccer to Marvel’s FIFA, especially with its most generic super villain ever, but it’s a decent story, Aquaman makes a great entrance to the franchise, and the other characters are slightly less dour than previously. There’s far better superhero movies this year but there’s enough stuff exploding to make it worthy of the list!

10. Spider-Man Homecoming

 I didn’t know much about this going in, assuming I was going to get the spider bite for the tenth time in about as many years, but when I saw it this Christmas I was really pleasantly surprised by a fun, funny, breath of life into what has become a tedious cannon of films made for a brainless generation of viewers that can’t relate to a film that doesn’t feature the latest iPhone. I can recommend another viewing of Captain America: Civil War beforehand as it adds a whole new layer to that film as well as being a very fine romp in its own right.

Steve Norman’s Top Ten Films of 2016

If a Star Wars film doesn’t continue to top my annual list for the rest of my life, I’ll be very unhappy. But apart from that predictability, this year has produced some unexpected horror gems and decent action fare, the appearance of which here might also have not been predicted by some. 
  1. Rogue One – A Star Wars Story. I’ve watched The Force Awakens at least once a month since it appeared on blu-ray so had big hopes for this. Didn’t disappoint at all. Stunning film (and female lead, which has a lot to do with it being at the top this list). Great story, great characters, great visuals. And easily Peter Cushing’s best performance since he died. 
  2. The Greasy Strangler. This film is insane. Nothing else in my collection of 2000+ films comes close. The premise of the killer is ludicrous enough, but the backdrop of a bizarre father and son disco walking tour takes it to another level. It’s cringeworthy, filthy and there’s a couple of moments that still make me laugh just thinking about them now. Everyone should see this; it’s a life changer!
  3. Night of Something Strange. If Porky’s had absolutely no moral compass, and was a bad early eighties zombie movie, it might have turned out like this. It’s gratuitous, obscene and doesn’t know when to stop. Like zombies with VD… The kick her in the vag scene was a particular favourite!
  4. Deadpool. I didn’t really know much about this guy until I saw the film, but it’s everything an adult superhero movie fan that’s realised that 99% of everything from now on is being dumbed down for the Pixar generation could hope for. It’s funny, has some great nods to other films and is just a fun action film from start to finish. 
  5. The Conjuring 2. I’ve often criticised stuff like Paranormal Activity for being horror for people that don’t like horror films, similar to Nickelback being rock for people that don’t like rock music. One of my biggest bugbears with this stuff is telegraphing the scares from a mile away; leaving a special space on the screen for something to jump out at you. What makes The Conjuring 2 so different is that you’re left wondering where on almost every frame something is going to jump out at you! It might happen, it might not, and this makes for incredibly tense viewing, winding you up to the point that you’re even left wondering whether you saw the old man sitting in the chair as the camera panned past, or simply imagined it. If you are aware of the Enfield poltergeist case, you just need to be a bit willing to excuse how “based on a true story” it really is – my understanding is that the two Americans these films are based on did turn up in England at the time but were sent packing much more quickly than the film suggests! But otherwise this is a great horror film; the best proper one of the year easily, if not the last decade.
  6. The Witch. Wonderfully bleak and unsettling tale of black magic and possession. Beautifully shot with fantastic attention to detail, and one of the more original horror films you’re likely to catch this year. 
  7. Blair Witch. I’d just watched the first two again – both of which I love – when this one had its surprise announcement. It retreads familiar ground but for someone into the Blair Witch lore that accompanied the original, it adds a bit to the story and does justice to the source as a decent horror film. 
  8. Suicide Squad. I’ve got no problem with shallow characters if there’s big explosions involved. This probably won’t appear in many top ten lists, but I enjoyed it loads!
  9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Megan Fox dressed as a slutty schoolgirl. No further review needed. 
  10. Doctor Strange. Another Marvel character I’d heard of but had no clue about. Quick backstory was more than enough to fill in the blanks though, then straight into a visual thrill ride. 

My Top Ten of 2015 – Films

As mentioned in my last post, not sure why I decided to do this, but throughout the year I’ve been keeping top ten lists of games, films and albums. Here’s the films one, which is slightly influenced by the lack of new films I’ve seen this year. But I still love my films, even if 2015 was dominated by re-watching favourites on Blu-ray, so wanted to record them for posterity. Games you will find posted elsewhere already, albums to follow.
 
1. Star Wars – The Force Awakens
 
This was going to have to be a real shocker not to top this  list, but from the first trailer I never thought there was much chance of that. The prequels didn’t really offend me as much as they did others, but they never really felt like Star Wars. This one does, and from the very start anyone of a certain age is going to feel something they didn’t realise they hadn’t for over thirty years. Every piece of fan service is meticulously crafted to slot into a new – albeit familiar – story with new characters that I took to far more than I expected to. Yes, there’s a hundred plot holes, and you may have seem some of it before (even if the First Order clearly haven’t), but it’s space fantasy and it’s Star Wars so who cares. 
 
 
2. Deathgasm
 
By metal nerds for metal nerds! And a wonderful gorefest to boot, reminiscent of the old Peter Jackson films before he went mainstream. Completely undemanding and utterly entertaining! It’s got everything – from vandalising a lawn with “Hail Satin” written in napalm, to the homemade video for Deathgasm’s “Intestinal Bungie Jump” which pretty much pulls apart every black metal video cliche in the space of thirty hilarious seconds. And not forgetting the variety of creative ways black metal demons get killed with a box of sex toys!
 
 
3. Mad Max – Fury Road
 
I love that this film has no pretensions of a plot – exactly how a great action film should be! Just a huge post-apocalyptic car chase full of stunts and explosions and general chaos. This is my favourite Mad Max film (all of which I watched in the week before watching this) and one of the best mindless action movies in years.
 
 
4. Mission: Impossible  – Rogue Nation 
 
Some incredible action scenes that never take themselves too serious – in the midst of all the mayhem there are some really intentionally bonkers moments! The pace is unrelenting, the story provides plenty of intrigue, and Cruise rides a motorbike without a helmet faster than ever before. 
 
 
5. Spectre
 
It’s a proper Bond film! Ludicrous opening sequence, bonkers car chases and a scrap on a luxury train. There’s still the emotional grit that’s been part and parcel of the Daniel Craig era, but Spectre brings back a bit of that classic Moore panache. Goes on a bit but you only really notice how much time has passed when the credits roll. 
 
 
6. Avengers: Age of Ultron
 
Nearly two and a half hours of eye-popping action scenes – mostly over-powered fighting – interspersed by a few nice moments of character-based humour, without much dwelling on unnecessary character development, and dream sequences that are thankfully short enough not to get dull before they turn into another fight scene. I hope the brain lady (as explained next…) gets her own movie too. 
 
 
7. Ant-Man
 
I remember when this was first announced, and I announced it to my family (in Byron, in Cambridge). They thought I was making it up. I’m not a big Marvel nerd, but unlike them I had heard of Ant-Man, though I did share their scepticism about a miniature superhero with super strength working in a movie. It turned out to be a lot of fun and great platform for the character to develop further though. The size thing was well worked as part of the story and worked convincingly on screen too. If only more of the audience had appreciated the helicopter scene with The Cure in as much as I did then the world would be a better place. 
 
 
8. Jurassic World 
 
Big, stupid, mega-budget monster movie, which all adds up to AAA fun. Maybe doesn’t have the suspense factor or the impact of the original, but there’s some imaginative touches, great set pieces and a real Spielberg feel, with more than a nod to Jaws. 
 
 
9.It Follows
 
Could have been a bit creepier, but an original concept, well polished, and unusually a horror film that clearly had a reasonable budget that was not designed for 12-year olds or people that don’t like horror films! Similar vibe to Nightmare on Elm Street, and a refreshing change. 
 
 
10. Ex Machina
 
Easy to watch sci-fi exploring humanity through artificial intelligence via a simple plot mechanic, complemented by an equally simple but high production visual style and some really nice robot effects.

Liquid-Suited Superheroine Cosplay (Bit NSFW)

These very impressive shots of Catwoman, She-Hulk, Wonderwoman and more, all dressed in liquid paint, are from a 2015 calendar by photographer Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz. Enjoy… 

                       

Marvel x Post-Punk Icons

Another post-punk Marvel mash-up has been long overdue – since 2013, in fact, when Brazilian artist Butcher Billy did it last. This time he offers us Ian Curtis as Spiderman, Big Bob Smith as  Nightcrawler, Siouxsie as Scarlet and The Moz as The Hulk. There’s also The Numanoid as a superhero I don’t recognise – I’m really not as hot on Marvel as I am post-punk! 

Hopefully in 2017 the next lot will include Robed in Desire, who I’m told are also post-punk icons….

   

       

Serious She-Hulk Cosplay

Jesus!

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Spiderman Cookie Cutters

These appear to take far more artistic (and cooking) talent than I possess, but should you want a go at these very smart looking Spiderman biscuits, they’re about fourteen quid and you can get them here:
http://bit.ly/qDUaaR

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Nerdgasm! Marvel Cake Moulds

I can’t say this any better than the seller…

Team up with legendary superheroes as they battle evil, avenge dastardly deeds and spread dessert throughout the universe. The action begins in the kitchen, where our cakelet pan brings six favorite Marvel comic-book characters to life.

Turns out individual Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine and The Incredible Hulk cakelets.

Durable cast aluminum distributes heat evenly and will not corrode or rust.
Premium nonstick finish releases cakes in a flash, so each character emerges with precise detail intact.

After baking, use colorful icings and sprinkles to give your heroes their superpowers—and let the action begin!

Yours for $36 from here:
http://bit.ly/qF2vZv

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