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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.

***

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