Skip to main content

Posts

Featured post

If that small woman is small enough, she could fit behind a small tree.

Stranger Things Season 4: Volume 2 (SPOILERS) I can’t quite find it within myself to perform the rapturous somersaults that seem to be the prevailing response to this fourth run of the show. I’ve outlined some of my thematic issues in the Volume 1 review, largely borne out here, but the greater concern is one I’ve held since Season Two began – and this is the best run since Season One, at least as far my failing memory can account for – and that’s the purpose-built formula dictated by the Duffer Brothers. It’s there in each new Big Bad, obviously, even to the extent that this is the Big-Bad-who-binds-them-all (except the Upside Down was always there, right?) And it’s there with the resurgent emotional beats, partings, reunions and plaintively stirring music cues. I have to be really on board with a movie or show to embrace such flagrantly shameless manipulation, season after season, and I find myself increasingly immune.
Recent posts

Get away from my burro!

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) (SPOILERS) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is beloved by so many of the cinematic firmament’s luminaries – Stanley Kubrick, Sam Raimi, , Paul Thomas Anderson and who knows maybe also WS, Vince Gilligan, Spike Lee, Daniel Day Lewis; Oliver Stone was going to remake it – not to mention those anteriorly influential Stone Roses, that it seems foolhardy to suggest it isn’t quite all that. There’s no faulting the performances – a career best Humphrey Bogart, with director John Huston’s dad Walter stealing the movie from under him – but the greed-is-bad theme is laid on a little thick, just in case you were a bit too dim to get it yourself the first time, and Huston’s direction may be right there were it counts for the dramatics, but it’s a little too relaxed when it comes to showing the seams between Mexican location and studio.

Is this supposed to be me? It’s grotesque.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) (SPOILERS) I didn’t hold out much hope for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent being more than moderately tolerable. Not so much because its relatively untested director and his co-writer are mostly known in the TV sphere (and not so much for anything anyone is raving about). Although, it has to be admitted, the finished movie flourishes a degree of digital flatness typical of small-screen productions (it’s fine, but nothing more). Rather, due to the already over-tapped meta-strain of celebs showing they’re good sports about themselves. When Spike Jonze did it with John Malkovich, it was weird and different. By the time we had JCVD , not so much. And both of them are pre-dated by Arnie in Last Action Hero (“ You brought me nothing but pain ” he is told by Jack Slater). Plus, it isn’t as if Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten have much in the way of an angle on Nic; the movie’s basically there to glorify “him”, give or take a few foibles, do

Are you telling me that I should take my daughter to a witch doctor?

The Exorcist (1973) (SPOILERS) Vast swathes have been written on The Exorcist , duly reflective of its cultural impact. In a significant respect, it’s the first blockbuster – forget Jaws – and also the first of a new kind of special-effects movie. It provoked controversy across all levels of the socio-political spectrum, for explicit content and religious content, both hailed and denounced for the same. William Friedkin, director of William Peter Blatty’s screenplay based on Blatty’s 1971 novel, would have us believe The Exorcist is “ a film about the mystery of faith ”, but it’s evidently much more – and less – than that. There’s a strong argument to be made that movies having the kind of seismic shock on the landscape this one did aren’t simply designed to provoke rumination (or exultation); they’re there to profoundly influence society, even if largely by osmosis, and when one looks at this picture’s architects, such an assessment only gains in credibility.

All I saw was an old man with a funky hand, that’s all I saw.

The Blob (1988) (SPOILERS) The 1980s effects-laden remake of a ’50s B-movie that couldn’t. That is, couldn’t persuade an audience to see it and couldn’t muster critical acclaim. The Fly was a hit. The Thing wasn’t, but its reputation has since soared. Like Invaders from Mars , no such fate awaited The Blob , despite effects that, in many respects, are comparable in quality to the John Carpenter classic – and are certainly indebted to Rob Bottin for bodily grue – and surehanded direction from Chuck Russell. I suspect the reason is simply this: it lacks that extra layer that would ensure longevity.

Harmony. Peace. Unity. It’s all bullshit. It’s a lie...

Captive State (2019) (SPOILERS) Rupert Wyatt’s dystopian, alien-occupation sci-fi has all the prerequisite signifiers of a totalitarian, Orwellian future, but by presenting its scenario “in situ”, for the most part, it runs with a good-guys terrorists narrative that probably seemed more original than it is; if anything, it’s a throwback to WWII yarns, which means that, as well made and performed as it is, it never finds itself breaking new ground.

I work for the guys that pay me to watch the guys that pay you. And then there are, I imagine, some guys that are paid to watch me.

The Day of the Dolphin (1973) (SPOILERS) Perhaps the most bizarre thing out of all the bizarre things about The Day of the Dolphin is that one of its posters scrupulously sets out its entire dastardly plot, something the movie itself doesn’t outline until fifteen minutes before the end. Mike Nichols reputedly made this – formerly earmarked for Roman Polanski, Jack Nicholson and Sharon Tate, although I’m dubious a specific link can be construed between its conspiracy content and the Manson murders - to fulfil a contract with The Graduate producer Joseph Levine. It would explain the, for him, atypical science-fiction element, something he seems as comfortable with as having a hairy Jack leaping about the place in Wolf .

The plot, I found a shade torturous, but the exposition of it, remarkably adroit.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) (SPOILERS) Goodbye, Mr. Chips really oughtn’t to be as agreeable as it is. More still, it ought to stink. Its raison d’être is, after all, a complete bust: James Hilton’s novella reconceived as a musical. Perhaps the manner in which the songs entirely fail to take centre stage – unless the songs are diegetically taking place ona stage – saves this element; by and large, they’re solo soliloquies utilising montage or controlled choreography, rather than flamboyant budget busters. It would still have been preferable had they’d been entirely absent – and easy to see why a number of them were initially cut following the premiere – but then we would likely have been denied the pleasure of Petula Clark. It’s her chemistry with her leading man, and particularly the remarkable performance of her leading man, that rescue Goodbye, Mr Chips .

Okay, pump up the Verbaluce, let’s get ’em talking.

Spiderhead (2022) (SPOILERS) Spiderhead ’s setup suggests a third-act revelation, or at least stunning dramatic development, that never comes, a deficit that may lead many to feel underwhelmed by Joseph Kosinski’s follow up to Top Gun: Maverick , currently flying high in the box office charts. I wouldn’t say that of it, exactly, but this is undoubtedly a case where the short story lent itself more directly to the anthology show format, lacking sufficient meat for feature expansion.

The king is mad. I am doomed.

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) (SPOILERS) If asked to speculate, I’d propose a greenlight for this adaptation of Maxwell Anderson’s 1948 play followed directly from A Man for All Seasons ’ Best Picture Oscar win (it has been claimed the less than salubrious subject matter, rife as it is with royal staples of incest and adultery, would have prevented an earlier film version). One might further conjecture that it was foolhardy to think a same-era Tudor setting featuring many of the same figures could see lightning strike twice, yet both Becket and The Lion in Winter had been well received earlier that decade, both with Peter O’Toole as Henry II and both garnering Best Picture nominations. Anne of the Thousand Days duly earned one, almost as if middle/early modern age forays into British history were guaranteed recognition, regardless of quality. A bit like expensive musicals in that regard. That no one talks about Anne of the Thousand Days today should be no surprise, however; it’s c

See you around, buddy boy.

The First Power (1990) (SPOILERS) One I had a hankering to see, largely due to the Don LaFontaine-narrated trailer – “ Since the beginning of time, Satan has worked to create the perfect killer. One who kills many, without reason. One who cannot be stopped. Today, that man exists. Be warned ” – but it somehow passed me by. Perhaps an inner sense told me it was worth skipping, and nothing Don LaFontaine could say would make it otherwise. Robert Renikoff’s supernatural serial killer thriller – see also the same year’s The Exorcist III – owed much to Jack Sholder’s 1987 body-swap SF horror The Hidden , and Gregory Hoblit’s Fallen would later hew closely to a similar premise, but is markedly inferior to both.