Skip to main content

Archive - S


FEATURING:

Spies Likes Us
The Spirit
Splice
Starter for Ten
The Station Agent
The Stepford Wives
La Strada
A Study in Terror
Super 8

Spies Like Us
(1985)

The first hour is good fun, and Chase is on good form (although I'm sure many would say that such a thing is not possible), but the jokes dry up in the last half hour and it all becomes a bit-by-numbers. Best scene is the "Doctor" introductions sequence.

***


The Spirit
(2008) 

Despite the terrible reviews, I didn't expect quite such an inert film. Frank Miller may be able to write comics but he has no idea how to direct. 

There's zero energy here. He approaches each scene like he's bringing a frame to life, with all the two-dimensional unconnected results that would suggest. You can see how it would work on the page but just doesn't as cinema. He also points his green screen camera at a scene like he only has a three-walled set of a world.

*

Splice
(2009)

Vincenzo Natali, he of Cube and Cypher, directs a gnarly little tale on the perils of dabbling in genetic engineering. All seems to be going well for Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley until they break out on their own by using human DNA in their latest experiment, with very messy results emotionally, career-wise and then physically. 

This the sort of material that could be very OTT and schlocky, but is played out with much nuance until the predictable final reel. Delphine Chaneac as the hybrid gives an entrancing performance.

****

Starter for 10
(2006)

Watchable, inoffensive, TV movie-ish University Challenge romcom. McAvoy, Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall. Catherine Tate as McAvoy's mum... She's got shoulders like Russ Abbot's when he did those gangster sketches.

***


The Station Agent
(2003)

Sensitive and charming story of diminutive Peter Dinklage's train spotting recluse and the unlikely friendships that he develops (Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale). 

At times it has the feel of Hal Hartley in its presentation of small-town eccentricity, but without the self-consciousness that Hartley brings. Small roles for Michelle Williams and Mad Men's John Slattery.

****

The Stepford Wives
(2004)

Abysmal Frank Oz comedy remake that gets everything wrong. This is a sickening, gaudy mess of movie. Kidman looks cute in a brunette bob but can't do comedy to save her life while the rest of a decent cast relentlessly mug and shame themselves. Just awful.

*

La Strada
(1954)

Okay, but I don't think I really go for Fellini's brand of slowing burning sentiment and whimsy.

***


A Study in Terror
(1965)

John Neville's rather chipper Sherlock Holmes is on the trail of Jack the Ripper. Donald Houston's Watson isn't an ass but he is a bit wet. Much enjoyment to be had from the extended sequence leading up to Babs Windsor's slaughter (it's almost treated as comedy). A young Judi Dench also shows up.

***

Super 8
(2011)

Shameless homage to all things Spielberg. Well-put together in a derivative way, with winning perfomances from the young leads, typically lens-flared direction from J J Abrams and a stirring, John Williams-influenced, score from Michael Giacchino. 

I wasn't too let down by the gloop-overload of the ending, but the completely unimaginative monster was a significant chink in its armour.

***

Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

Drank the red. Good for you.

Morbius (2022) (SPOILERS) Generic isn’t necessarily a slur. Not if, by implication, it’s suggestive of the kind of movie made twenty years ago, when the alternative is the kind of super-woke content Disney currently prioritises. Unfortunately, after a reasonable first hour, Morbius descends so resignedly into such unmoderated formula that you’re left with a too-clear image of Sony’s Spider-Verse when it lacks a larger-than-life performer (Tom Hardy, for example) at the centre of any given vehicle.

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?

He doesn’t want to lead you. He just wants you to follow.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) (SPOILERS) The general failing of the prequel concept is a fairly self-evident one; it’s spurred by the desire to cash in, rather than to tell a story. This is why so few prequels, in any form, are worth the viewer/reader/listener’s time, in and of themselves. At best, they tend to be something of a well-rehearsed fait accompli. In the movie medium, even when there is material that withstands closer inspection (the Star Wars prequels; The Hobbit , if you like), the execution ends up botched. With Fantastic Beasts , there was never a whiff of such lofty purpose, and each subsequent sequel to the first prequel has succeeded only in drawing attention to its prosaic function: keeping franchise flag flying, even at half-mast. Hence Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore , belatedly arriving after twice the envisaged gap between instalments and course-correcting none of the problems present in The Crimes of Grindelwald .

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.