Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from August, 2017

You didn’t come here just to sell ladies’ nighties, Mrs Peel.

The Avengers 4.5: Death at Bargain Prices
Great title, and the best episode of the season so far. Brian Clemens fashions a fine, larger-than-life teleplay brought effectively to the screen by Ealing man Charles Crichton, mustering strong support from returnees Andre “Quatermass” Morell (Death of a Batman) and TP McKenna (Trojan Horse).

Ladies and gentlemen, Audrey’s dance.

Twin Peaks 3.16: No knock, no doorbell.
(SPOILERS) Well, he’s back. Finally (Mike was speaking for the entire viewing audience there). And he’s 100%! That Lynch faded in the Twin Peaks theme to announce the fully restored Special Agent Dale Cooper is indication enough that Coop’s the show’s emotional anchor, its comfort and strength, and without him, however good the show is – and it has been very, very good – there’s something missing. Not that the show should be mired in formula, but Coop-free, the Twin Peaks-verse is a starker, more forbidding place. The other event of the episode – and No knock, no doorbell is brimming with them, so maybe that’s being a little subjective – is the insight into what is going on with Audrey.

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

It was, er, quite a killing. That is the correct term, isn’t it?

The Avengers  4.4:Dial a Deadly Number
Dial a Deadly Number features a number of memorable scenes and abundant witty dialogue, as well as a return by the then-in-everything Peter Bowles, but despite strong direction from series stalwart Don Leaver, it’s difficult to care very much about who’s doing what to whom in Roger Marshall’s teleplay.

I added sixty on, and now you’re a genius.

The Avengers 4.3: The Master Minds
The Master Minds hitches its wagon to the not uncommon Avengers trope of dark deeds done under the veil of night. We previously encountered it in The Town of No Return, but Robert Banks Stewart (best known for Bergerac, but best known genre-wise for his two Tom Baker Doctor Who stories; likewise, he also penned only two teleplays for The Avengers) makes this episode more distinctive, with its mind control and spycraft, while Peter Graham Scott, in his third contribution to the show on the trot, pulls out all the stops, particularly with a highly creative climactic fight sequence that avoids the usual issue of overly-evident stunt doubles.

You think you can work in a fire-breathing chicken?

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
(SPOILERS) Laika studios have received much acclaim for their undoubtedly first-rate stop motion animation technique, but I’ve tended to the lukewarm on their output’s overall quality. Coraline was a strong feature debut, but both ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls came up short for me. Kubo and the Two Strings represents a significant uptick, one that shows off a mastery of tone and atmosphere, but it also suggests Laika still need to beef up their script department.

The director says I look like a battered monument. I have a terrible feeling he’s trying to be kind to me.

One More Time with Feeling (2016)
Perhaps the aspect most underlining the legitimacy of this nominal making-of-an-album (Skeleton Key) documentary is that the tragedy informing it is never even outlined (I admit, while I knew the basics, I wasn’t aware of the tabloid free-for-all that ensued). Nick Cave lost a son, and as close as we come to addressing the circumstances outright is his comment “Every time I articulate it, it does him a disservice”.

You need to watch out for run-on sentences.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
(SPOILERS) It occurred to me during The Edge of Seventeen that it might have approximated Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, if it had been written from the point of view of his sister instead of Ferris, and if Ferris wasn’t only the most popular guy in school but had also bedded Jeannie’s best friend. While Kelly Fremon Craig’s feature debut is darker and gleefully cruder than most of John Hughes’ fare, it owes a significant debt to him (she acknowledges as much), particularly so in cuing up an optimistic, anthemic resolution.

You've already met Judy.

Twin Peaks 3.15: There’s some fear in letting go.
Just two episodes ago, Big Ed was nursing a solitary late night cup-a-soup and looking as if nothing could ever come right. And even here, it seems as if, having finally been finally let off the leash by Nadine, he’ll be reduced to a coffee and cyanide. So the reparatory hand on his shoulder, signalling Norma is ready to be there with him for evermore, seems too good to be true. I’m wary that Lynch and Frost won’t just pull the rug from under them, and how long Nadine, who thanks to Dr Amp shows no fear in letting go, will remain in her golden, shovelled-up state.

So you made contact with the French operative?

Atomic Blonde (2017)
(SPOILERS) Well, I can certainly see why Focus Features opted to change the title from The Coldest City (the name of the graphic novel from which this is adapted). The Coldest City evokes a nourish, dour, subdued tone, a movie of slow-burn intrigue in the vein of John Le Carré. Atomic Blonde, to paraphrase its introductory text, is not that movie. As such, there’s something of a mismatch here, of the kind of Cold War tale it has its roots in and the furious, pop-soaked action spectacle director David Leitch is intent on turning it into. In the main, his choices succeed, but the result isn’t quite the clean getaway of his earlier (co-directed) John Wick.

And you people, you’re all astronauts... on some kind of star trek.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
(SPOILERS) Star Trek: First Contact (also known as plain First Contact, back when “Star Trek” in the title wasn’t necessarily a selling point to the great unwashed. Or should that be great washed?) is probably about as good as a ST:TNG movie could be, in as much as it actively rejects much of what made the TV series what it is: starchy, placid, smug, platitudinous exchanges about how evolved humanity has become in the 25th century. Yeah, there’s a fair bit of that here too, but it mainly recognises that what made the series good, when it was good, was dense, time travel plotting and Borg. Mostly Borg. Until Borg became, like any golden egg, overcooked. Oh, and there’s that other hallowed element of the seven seasons, the goddam holodeck, but the less said about that the better. Well, maybe a paragraph. First Contact is a solid movie, though, overcoming its inherent limitations to make it, by some distance, the best of the four big screen outings with Pic…

Don’t get tipsy. We can’t have you hiccoughing in the coffin.

The Avengers 4.2: The Murder Market
Tony Williamson’s first teleplay for the series picks up where Brian Clemens left off and then some, with murderous goings-on around marriage-making outfit Togetherness Inc (“Where there is always a happy ending”). Peter Graham Scott, in his first of four directing credits, sets out a winning stall where cartoonishness and stylisation are the order of the day. As is the essential absurdity of the English gentleman, with Steed’s impeccable credentials called on to illustrious effect not seen since The Charmers.

Now you're here, you must certainly stay.

The Avengers 4.1:The Town of No Return
The Avengers as most of us know it (but not in colour) arrives fully-fledged in The Town of No Return: glossier, more eccentric, more heightened, camper, more knowing and more playful. It marks the beginning of slumming it film directors coming on board (Roy Ward Baker) and sees Brian Clemens marking out the future template. And the Steed and Mrs Peel relationship is fully established from the off (albeit, this both was and wasn’t the first episode filmed). If the Steed and Cathy Gale chemistry relied on him being impertinently suggestive, Steed and Emma is very much a mutual thing.

I fear I’ve snapped his Gregory.

Twin Peaks 3.14: We are like the Dreamer.
(SPOILERS) In an episode as consistently dazzling as this, piling incident upon incident and joining the dots to the extent it does, you almost begin to wonder if Lynch is making too much sense. There’s a notable upping of the pace in We are like the Dreamer, such that Chad’s apprehension is almost incidental, and if the convergence at Jack Rabbit’s Tower didn’t bring the FBI in with it, their alignment with Dougie Coop can be only just around the corner.

Death to Bill and Ted!

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
(SPOILERS) The game of how few sequels are actually better than the original is so well worn, it was old when Scream 2 made a major meta thing out of it (and it wasn’t). Bill & Ted Go to Hell, as Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was originally called, is one such, not that Excellent Adventure is anything to be sneezed at, but this one’s more confident, even more playful, more assured and more smartly stupid. And in Peter Hewitt it has a director with a much more overt and fittingly cartoonish style than the amiably pedestrian Stephen Herrick.

Evil Bill: First, we totally kill Bill and Ted. Evil Ted: Then we take over their lives.
My recollection of the picture’s general consensus was that it surpassed the sleeper hit original, but Rotten Tomatoes’ review aggregator suggests a less universal response. And, while it didn’t rock any oceans at the box office, Bogus Journey and Point Break did quite nicely for Keanu Reeves in the summer of ’91 (inflatio…

A wrong has been made right, and the Sun is shining bright.

Twin Peaks 3.13: What is the story, Charlie?
(SPOILERS) After the relative wheel-spinning of the previous episode, What is the story, Charlie? makes up for it and then some, with hugely satisfying Evil Coop and Dougie Coop plotlines and several really nice little moments back in Peaks itself. Damn it, they’re making me care about characters I always found tiresome in the original!

Anthony Sinclair: Dougie saved my life. Thank you, Dougie. Dougie-Coop: Thank Dougie.
I’m betting Tom Sizemore loves playing Anthony Sinclair. It’s so entirely against his type – “a weak fucking coward” as John Savage’s bent cop puts it – there’s an added enjoyment factor to seeing Sinclair break down and confess upon having Dougie-Coop massage his dandruff-coated shoulders. Dougie-Coop’s idiot savant ability to unknowingly bring about exactly the most positive solution is verging on the Clouseau-like (“I tried to poison Dougie, he saw right through me”), such that now even the crooked cops are implicated (whil…