Don't be put off by my title: there is nothing sinister here chaps!! Indeed, with my general 'bloggings' I shall attempt to delight and astound you out of the mundaneness of a middle class suburban life, into the magical world of the Sophster!! Mystical...

Thursday, 27 July 2017

My top 8 Disney Villain songs. Ranked.

It's about time I devoted a post purely to Disney. Let's skip all the cutesy stuff though and head straight over to the dark side. 'Be prepared' for some serious, sinister, sassy singing, dastardly dance moves and reprehensible rhymes as we begin...

The Disney Villain song countdown!


Whilst villains should be applauded for their unconventional dress sense, sarcastic and scathing humour and downright evilness, one of their main strengths is their unparalleled musical numbers. That said, let's kick off with our first golden nugget:

8. Mine, Mine Mine 

Film: Pocohontas
Evil Villain singer: Governor Ratcliffe 
Best line: "With all you've got in ya boys / Dig up Virginia boys!"

From the camp assistant with his 'Hey Nonny Nonny' backing vocals, to the 'Diggity Digg' refrain of the pick axers (not be confused with 'No Diggity') to the mid-song harpsichord breakdown, this number showcases Governor Ratcliffe's extravagance and greed in glorious Renaissance splendour. He's evil and he loves shiny things (we're about 50% the same, then). It's even rounded off with a dramatic duet between John Smith ('This beauty untold') and Ratcliffe ('it all can be SOLD!'), making it all the more theatrical! This tune is built for the stage.

7. Hellfire

Film: Hunchback of Notre Dame 
Evil Villain singer: Judge Frollo 
Best line: "She will be mine or SHE. WILL. BUUURRRRRNNN!"

Did someone just turn the heat up over here? Jeez, I'm breaking out in a sweat! This is probably the most evil Disney villain song ever written. 100% dark, no comic respite, naked flames, sin, adultery, ominous, faceless monks chanting about death. Shadows everywhere. Frollo has serious issues and it's powerful to watch (even more powerful than the wind in his face during the climactic moments)! All I can say is, get the hell out of there Esmerelda...

6. Friends on the Other Side 

Film: The Princess and the Frog
Evil Villain singer: The Shadow Man
Best line: "Sit down at my table, put your mind at ease / If you relax it will enable me to do anything I please"

We're taking things to a much jazzier place now with the Shadow Man and his all singing voodoo mask chorus. The bandiest legged of all the villains, Shadow Man is the master of optical illusions, tricks and killer dance moves (those splits though)! Together with his evil Peter Pan shadow, awesome neon skull face paint and jaunty top hat, he's a style icon as well as a terrible human being. It's dark, it's trippy, it's seedy and it uses an electric organ: yes, this song screams DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN!

5. Prince Ali (Reprise)

Film: Aladdin
Evil Villain Singer: Jafar
Best line: "Prince Ali turns out to be merely Alaaadin" (it's all in the delivery) 

As far as reprises go, this is up there with the best. Just when you think Jafar won't get a chance to stretch his vocal chords, he saunters in with this absolute banger. Gleeful, bitter and positively serpentine, he takes Aladdin DOWN in this short, sweet number. He even SLAPS him at one point. Ouch. Also, this is the first in our countdown to end with a classic evil cackle (don't worry, it won't be the last).

4. Mother Knows Best

Film: Tangled
Evil Villain singer: Mother Gothel
Best line: "Gullible, naive, positively grubby, Ditzy and a bit, well, hmm, vague / Plus, I believe gettin' kinda chubby, I'm just saying 'cause I love you"

This number is perfection. The cutesy, buoyant tone mixed with scathing passive aggressive lyrics makes this one of the sharpest and cleverest Disney songs ever. Donna Murphy's attention to detail in the voice acting is superb (you don't have to watch the scene to revel in its sickly, infuriating deliciousness). Mother Gothel is scenery chewing, evil stepmother goals and she LOVES it.

3. Gaston

Film: Beauty and the Beast
Evil Villain Singer: Gaston
Best Line: "Now that I'm grown I eat five dozen eggs, so I'm roughly the size of a BARRGE!"  

To be honest, every tune in Beauty and the Beast is an absolute classic, and 'Gaston' is no different. At this point in the film, we haven't quite seen the full extent of Gaston's devilish personality (that's to be revealed in the 'Gaston reprise', also very noteworthy), so the cheery waltz is a perfect accompaniment to his ridiculous arrogance. It's kind of like an even more hammy 'Oompa Pa' with better lyrics. One thing is for sure: we'll never run out of examples of how amazing Gaston is (particularly when it comes to expectorating)!

2. Poor Unfortunate Souls 

Film: The Little Mermaid
Evil Villain Singer: Ursula
Best line: "Don't underestimate the importance of... BODY LANGUAGE!"

Sass personified (or should I say seawitchified). Ursula's cabaret style performance, complete with full stage make-up and wobbling bosom will be burned onto our retinas for ever more. She signalled in the beginning of the new, comically dark Disney villain that was later followed by icons like Scar and Hades: dark, twisted but really fun to watch. 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' cements Ursula as the boss of the sea. I mean, she's really an entrepreneur in soul stealing.

1. Be Prepared 

Film: The Lion King
Evil Villain Singer: Scar
Best line: "I know that your powers of retention are as wet as a warthog's backside"

I think this song is in my head about 30% of the time. The catchy rhythm and sultry lyrics are the perfect blend for a killer villain song, and leave you with chills that not even Mufasa could create (and we're talking "Mufasa Mufasa MUFASA!"). Scar skulks and struts his way through his evil jam like a true diva, taking down hyenas as he goes. His evil marching army, smoke canons and elevating rock formation give him centre stage in this magnificent number. And, to top it all off, we get the rare EVIL CACKLE to boot!

That's my top eight - are there any you think I've missed? (Disclaimer: I limited the list to songs sung BY villains, so Cruella De Vil doesn't count. I didn't forget it. Just for the record). Also, which of these do you think is the best cackle? (Don't be getting nightmares, now):

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Sophie's Film Choice #17: MY COUSIN RACHEL

Before I begin: Rachel is not actually my cousin (her name is Charlotte). I wouldn't feel the need to clarify that, but it was a source of confusion earlier today.

Also, there's the fact that Rachel is the character, being played by an actress called Rachel. You know what, I think the whole thing is set up to confuse us even more that the film already does... #conspiracytheory

Now that's cleared up - in the words of Ethel Merman - let's GO ON WITH THE SHOW!

I don't know if I mentioned this but I'm taking a little break from work at the moment. This makes way for the sweet, sweet bliss of... afternoon trips to the cinema!! It's an amazing glimpse at retired life.

My new crew

So, what treat were the mature audience and I in for? An intriguing one, I'll say. Having never read Daphne Du Maurier's original novel, I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I sat down for a two hour mid-afternoon treat: all I did know was that it all boils down to the opening (and closing) phrase of the film: 'Did she? Didn't she? Who's to blame?'

The set-up: Philip, a young, slightly hapless English farm-owning gentleman (you know the type, think Poldark) is brought up by his older cousin, Ambrose - not the custard. Life is great. But THEN Ambrose gets very ill and is sent away to Italy to recover in the sun (I wish that happened whenever I got ill). There, he meets ANOTHER cousin - Rachel - and falls in love (which was OK in those days). But then one thing leads to another and he ends up dying. Rachel suddenly seems VERY suspicious, and Philip seems pretty bent on killing her when she comes over to England to visit. However, as with all murderous feelings, they eventually turn into love. Complications ensue.

I gathered from an interview with Rachel Weisz on the Kermode and Mayo film review (i.e. Wittertainment) that the character of Rachel was kept particularly elusive throughout the entire film, as the leading lady and the director both decided - separately - whether she was guilty, and didn't tell the other. This decision showed itself throughout the film, keeping me guessing from beginning to end.

Classic British Summer outfit 

Rachel doesn't even appear for the first 20 minutes or so of the film, building an enormous sense of suspense before we've even seen her on screen. When she does decide to turn up, she's in constant control of her emotions: even her more 'vulnerable' moments seem planned and measured for dramatic effect.

This is counter-acted with the young, passionate and naive Philip. An orphan, he's never known real female company - and it SHOWS. Described as a 'puppy' by Rachel herself, he's completely over-ruled by his emotions, giving into complete infatuation - bordering on obsession - within literally 24 hours.

He who smelt it, dealt it 

The relationship between these two opposites is richly and subtly portrayed, both parties appearing on the cusp between happiness and madness. It's a creepy, almost mother-son relationship which is stomach-churning and strangely addictive to watch. My only criticism would be that the character of Philip does come across as a bit dim: his rash decisions persistently come back to bite him, even though all of his old friends are trying to help him out. I mean, I would lose patience after a couple of weeks.

Visually, the film is beautifully shot, with noticeable attention to detail - the warm, rich colours of Italy contrast with the gothic darkness of the English country house; windows, arches and trees give natural frames to the most intimate scenes, making us feel like spies looking for clues. Pastoral beauty and rugged landscapes meet the dark decadence of the inner-house scenes. A sharp, close focus on Rachel's face gives the film the edge of a thriller. There's even one scene where we are looking up at the window and you half expect a 'Woman In Black' style hand to slam on the glass.

 'Caaaann You Feel the Love Tonight' 

Gothic tropes colour the whole film: Rachel's lace mourning veil which gives her an air of other-worldly mystery, the many candle-lit scenes where Rachel is the one controlling the lighting and extinguishing of the candles, and the brilliant, Hitchcock-style strings which add an extra depth of foreboding to the dramatic climaxes. The tea stirring couldn't fail to remind me of Get Out (which my dad tells me stole it from something else, please comment if you know what he's talking about)!

All in all, a very enjoyable, unnerving and atmospheric mystery (which may make you avoid cliffs for a while).

Thursday, 20 July 2017

7 stages to the Ultimate Old School Sleepover

It seems I'm on a nostalgia trip this week (as you'll tell from Tuesday's post). Today, I want to put a new suggestion on the table... can we please bring back 'turn of the (21st) century' sleepovers? If you think this is a bizarre request and would much rather go out drinking at pubs like a normal adult, let me convince you otherwise. With a LISTICLE!!

7 beautiful stages to the Ultimate Old School Sleepover 

1. The rental 

Who doesn't have excitement-fuelled memories of being driven to Blockbuster by your friend's dad, browsing the VHS-filled aisles and carefully selecting the films that would set the tone for your evening? The Blockbuster card was a staple in every parent's wallet, just waiting to be brandished whenever the moment came. You just had to follow the simple rules: rewind and post back within 48 hours: no-one needs a Blockbuster fine of shame.

Good news! There are still 12 Blockbuster stores open. You just have to... move to Alaska. Or I guess you could just stream something if you're not THAT committed. 

2. The necessity of pizza 

You can't have a sleepover without pizza. Really, it's the only food choice for said occasion. You don't need cutlery, you can share it with a flexible amount of people, and... well it's pizza. The choices? Domino's (obviously, but only if you can get a deal), Papa John's (minus that DIABOLICAL garlic dip), or, a fun alternative... make your own, yo! This was a particular treat at one of my friend's houses, and doubles up as a team building activity. Share those ingredients, cook together, eat together, STAY TOGETHER. 

3. Film snacks 

Keeping on the theme of food, let's not forget the unsung heroes: the snacks. Microwave popcorn that gives you a kitchen firework display and inevitably burns the roof of your mouth, Haribo Starmix (kids and grown ups love it so) AND... ice cream. So much ice cream. Ben and Jerry's Phish Food if you're lucky. Tesco's own chocolate ripple if you're on a budget. But remember to save enough for the elusive 'midnight snack.' 

4. Home cinema time!! 

The snacks are in and it's time to get down to business. Get your comfies on (PJs completely necessary), grab a blanket/cushion, fill every available bowl with snacks, make sure the 2 litre bottle of Pepsi (that came free with the pizza) is at arms length, and turn the lights down low. The programme? 

7:00pm: One mild-moderately scary film (12A): think The Village, The Others, Sixth Sense 
9:30pm: Toilet / snack refill break / de-scare 
9:45pm: Chick flick/comedy (also 12A): A Cinderella Story, She's the Man, Bring it On, etc. 

Because who wants to go to sleep mildly scared? NOT ME.

5. Tween beauty regime 

This can take place before or in between the two feature films of the evening. Options: face masks (the ones in the sachets with the photos of women with fruit on their eyes), nail painting (multiple colours preferable) or perhaps something hair related. But NO eye make up. That can wait until you're at least 15, thank you very much. 

6. Late night chats

The films are over, the lights are out, but the night is still young. Time for some post-film discussion, starting with comparing thoughts on the leading men, planning sequels and the 'alphabet game' (name a film beginning with A, B, C etc). If there is stationery available, get on the consequences game. Or it might even be time to start planning the NEXT sleepover. Whatever happens, NO SNOOZING til 1pm. 

7. The next morning 

The sleepover isn't over til the last person leaves. Therefore, breakfast is not to be underrated. One parent might provide delicious bacon sandwiches. Another might let you keep your sugar high topped up with pancakes, chocolate sauce, and... if you can stomach it... MORE ice cream. The possibilities are endless (but don't settle for anything healthy). The aim is to feel terrible but triumphant. 

The seven stages are complete and I think I've done enough to convince you. Let's all move to Alaska and get this PARTY STARTED! 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

25 years in film: the beginning (1992)

Come with me on a journey into the past...

The 90s, to be precise.

To commemorate my quarter life (should I be so lucky as to live to 100), I've taken a look back at the films that have made a lasting impression on me over the last 25 years. To clarify: in NO WAY are these the best films in the world - although some are extremely decent - but they each have a character, a story (and pretty much all the other elements that make them films. Duh). I was going to make this one post, but there were TOO MANY absolute classics, so we'll do bite-sized, yearly chunks. Just to prepare you for the long haul.

So, without further ado, get into your flowery leggings, grab a 10p Freddo and kick back in your inflatable sofa... we're going to 1992!

A bit about me at this time:

Age: 0-12 months
Hobbies: crying, being sick, crying some more

Obviously I don't remember any new releases from this year, but looking back on it there were some gems which have been a big part of my life since, starting with...


"Or can I call you 'laddie?'"
The third film in what we (at least in my family) call the Disney Renaissance, Aladdin is probably in my top 5 favourite Disney films of all time. It's perfectly paced, the characters are cheeky and flawed (including a CARPET who we actually CARE about), the villain is properly evil and ridiculous in good measure, and we're treated to songs of TOP Menken/Ashman quality. Prince Ali just has the best lyrics, and acts as the perfect vehicle for Robin Williams to shine as the multiple-character-changing Genie. A bonafide weekend watch whatever the occasion. 

I also feel that I relate to Abu on a personal level. I would not have given up that bread roll. 

It goes without saying that we all love Aladdin, so I'll let this cheesy 90s trailer say the rest.


"Do bundle up, it's... awfully cold outside" 
Ok, so we can probably agree that this isn't necessarily a GOOD film. But don't worry, I'm not going to include any non-Macaulay Culkin sequels down the line. For anyone who hasn't seen Home Alone 2 - it's essentially a re-hash of the first film - but in New York. The creepy broom man is replaced with a creepy pigeon lady, etc - it's all very by-the-book, festive family fun. However, we simply must take into account one key element: THIS film has Tim Curry in it. Being fabulous.

SOLD. (Don't believe me? Here's another fantastic original trailer). 


"I don't even own a gun. Let alone many guns that could necessitate an entire rack." 
This film is an absolute classic in my family and I'll always associate it with growing up - the jokes have stayed with me from primary school (I think I must have first seen it when I was about 9) and will continue to for years to come. It's ENDLESSLY quotable, spoof-ridden, high voltage joy and is the best way to enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody. Any film that has Alice Cooper describing the historic origins of Milwaukee is on to something great. We are not worthy.

This trailer makes me so happy inside.


"No cheeses for us meeses"
This is quite simply the best Christmas film ever made, and I'm sure not a year has gone by that I haven't watched it during the festive season. Charming, funny, with super catchy songs, this adaption is suprisingly true to the Dickens' original story, even lifting a significant amount of original text for the screenplay (albeit spoken by Gonzo). Although you do need to allow for some dramatic license: it did lead me to think for years that there were two Marley brothers...

Miss Piggy as Mrs Cratchett is genius, as is "Fozziwig" (you can't write this stuff). Also, get the tissues to hand for the homeless bunny and... TINY... TIM. *SOB*. A must-watch, even just to see Michael Caine dance as if he is just discovering his arms.

Get in the unseasonal spirit with this cheeky original trailer.

And purely for the nostalgia...


"I just think I'm more responsible than most people" 
Again, definitely better films, but I remember watching this a lot as a kid. Maybe I had a secret wish to become some kind of babyzilla and trample tall buildings? Probably. I was pretty violent. This was a sequel to the - probably superior - Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, where a goofy, hapless Rick Moranis accidentally turns his children flea-sized, leaving them to battle seemingly gigantic insects and slide off leaves. This time, it all goes the other way. Mayhem ensues. 

Disclaimer: I don't recommend this film. The trailer is quite funny though (and you get to see a HUGE baby). 

The nostalgia train stops here for today. Next time we'll delve into the excitement of 1993, but until then I'll leave you with this anthem...

Any glaringly obvious films I've missed from 1992? Do comment below!