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You have a very angry family, sir.

Eternals (2021) (SPOILERS) It would be overstating the case to suggest Eternals is a pleasant surprise, but given the adverse harbingers surrounding it, it’s a much more serviceable – if bloated – and thematically intriguing picture than I’d expected. The signature motifs of director and honestly-not-billionaire’s-progeny Chloé Zhao are present, mostly amounting to attempts at Malick-lite gauzy natural light and naturalism at odds with the rigidly unnatural material. There’s woke to spare too, since this is something of a Kevin Feige Phase Four flagship, one that rather floundered, showcasing his designs for a nu-MCU. Nevertheless, Eternals manages to maintain interest despite some very variable performances, effects, and the usual retreat into standard tropes, come the final big showdown.
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Archimedes would split himself with envy.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) (SPOILERS) Generally, this seems to be the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad outing that gets the short straw in the appreciation stakes. Which is rather unfair. True, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger lacks Tom Baker and his rich brown voice personifying evil incarnate – although Margaret Whiting more than holds her own in the wickedness stakes – and the structure follows the Harryhausen template perhaps over scrupulously (Beverly Cross previously collaborated with the stop-motion auteur on Jason and the Argonauts , and would again subsequently with Clash of the Titans ). But the storytelling is swift and sprightly, and the animation itself scores, achieving a degree of interaction frequently more proficient than its more lavishly praised peer group.

Abandon selective targeting. Shoot everything.

28 Weeks Later (2007) (SPOILERS) The first five minutes of 28 Weeks Later are far and away the best part of this sequel, offering in quick succession a devastating moral quandary and a waking nightmare, immortalised on the screen. After that, while significantly more polished, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo reveals his concept to be altogether inferior to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s, falling back on the crutches of gore, nihilism, and disengaging and limiting shifts of focus between characters in whom one has little investment in the first place.

Doctors make the worst patients.

Coma (1978) (SPOILERS) Michael Crichton’s sophomore big-screen feature, and by some distance his best. Perhaps it’s simply that this a milieu known to him, or perhaps it’s that it’s very much aligned to the there-and-now and present, but Coma , despite the occasional lapse in this adaptation of colleague Robin Cook’s novel, is an effective, creepy, resonant thriller and then some. Crichton knows his subject, and it shows – the picture is confident and verisimilitudinous in a way none of his other directorial efforts are – and his low-key – some might say clinical – approach pays dividends. You might also call it prescient, but that would be to suggest its subject matter wasn’t immediately relevant then too.

This guy’s armed with a hairdryer.

An Innocent Man (1989) (SPOILERS) Was it a chicken-and-egg thing with Tom Selleck and movies? Did he consistently end up in ropey pictures because other, bigger big-screen stars had first dibs on the good stuff? Or was it because he was a resolutely small-screen guy with limited range and zero good taste? Selleck had about half-a-dozen cinema outings during the 1980s, one of which, the very TV, very Touchstone Three Men and a Baby was a hit, but couldn’t be put wholly down to him. The final one was An Innocent Man , where he attempted to show some grit and mettle, as nice-guy Tom is framed and has to get tough to survive. Unfortunately, it’s another big-screen TV movie.

A laughing jury is never a hanging jury.

Find Me Guilty (2006) (SPOILERS) I’m trying to recall when I last had the displeasure of viewing such a horribly lit movie. It took me longer than it should have to become engrossed in Find Me Guilty , because every early scene screamed of sets and soundstages in the tattiest, cardboard, amateurish fashion. Damages Season Four sprang to mind, which looked ghastly and cheap. Find Me Guilty looks equally ghastly and cheap. Which is a shame, as it is otherwise very good.

The Bible never said anything about amphetamines.

The Color of Money (1986) (SPOILERS) I tend to think it’s evident when Scorsese isn’t truly exercised by material. He can still invest every ounce of the technical acumen at his fingertips, and the results can dazzle on that level, but you don’t really feel the filmmaker in the film. Which, for one of his pictures to truly carry a wallop, you need to do. We’ve seen quite a few in such deficit in recent years, most often teaming with Leo. The Color of Money , however, is the first where it was out-and-out evident the subject matter wasn’t Marty’s bag. He needed it, desperately, to come off, but in the manner a tradesman who wants to keep getting jobs. This sequel to The Hustler doesn’t linger in the mind, however good it may be, moment by moment.

He said he was going to exorcise his dreams.

The X-Files 4.23: Demons This is, officially, a mythology episode, but if so, I see no reason why any of the broader conspiracy/alien-y ones ( Jose Chung’s From Outer Space , The Unnatural , Dreamland ) shouldn’t also gain admission. Mulder smacks himself up with Ketamine and undergoes a trepanning in an attempt to recall the fate of his sister. Only, he also goes and gets accused of murder in the process.

It feels wrong, doesn’t it? To interrogate a miracle.

Midnight Mass (2021) (SPOILERS) Midnight Mass , Mike Flanagan’s “deeply personal” Netflix horror, at least comes to the party with something to say. The problem is that its discourse is neither terribly original nor insightful, and it proceeds to rehearse it again and again, to diminishing effect, in ever longer monologues throughout its characteristically luxuriant (some might say a little baggy) runtime. It’s probably more interesting, then, as a metaphor, albeit one that wasn’t Flanagan’s express intent.

Now, that’s some unscrupulous shit.

The Harder They Fall (2021) (SPOILERS) The revisionist western is a broad church, at its best opening out the genre to new ideas or perspectives while preserving a prevailing verisimilitude. Conversely, it also runs the danger of offering window dressing, with the “serious” commentary of the shallowest and most obvious kind. For the most part, The Harder They Fall amounts to little more than posturing pastiche, taking in historical figures but making no attempt to integrate them intelligently – or intelligibly – with its fictional framework (in the manner of, say, Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid ). The results are closer to something like Jake Scott’s Plunkett & Macleane , with a brazenly clashing score and an accompanying approach to milieu (costuming, photography, dialogue) and performance (everyone has a “I get to be a cowboy for a few weeks!” air about them). I mean, it’s fine for what it is, intermittently, which isn’t very much.