Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from October, 2017

You’re like, totally tubular.

Stranger Things 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) It would be very easy to uncritically adore Stranger Things. When it first filtered into my awareness it was still called Montauk, and I made a mental note to follow its fortunes due to that connection to the holy grail of unholy conspiratorial government projects (as noted in my Season One review, and it’s an aspect that curiously seems to be entirely not discussed by anyone involved for whatever reason, despite Eleven being a pretty clear gender-swapped carry-through). Perhaps because my immediate attention lay there, much of the subsequent negative conversation, relegating the show to no more than an ’80s genre pastiche, didn’t really vibe with me. Sure, there were references, but it was more than such relatively minor parts. Season Two, or rather Stranger Things 2, initially seems set on confirming the worst preconceptions of everyone who laid that charge at its curiosity door. Indeed, it had me immediately thinking sequelitis, so it’s gratifying…

Hey, let’s do “Get help”.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
(SPOILERS) Thor: Ragnarok is frequently very funny. It’s also very colourful. And quite wacky. But very funny, very colourful and quite wacky are, clearly, the current Marvel formula du jour, such that Kiwi director Taika Waititi isn’t so much unleashing a miraculous, newfound irreverent spirit onto the studio’s assorted favourites as rearranging its recently-upholstered furniture. What makes this case a little different is that the rearranging is in the service of their least interesting title character; Ragnarok comes across as if a whole movie had been based on the scene in the first Thor where the god of thunder goes into a pet shop and asks for a horse.

Today, there just isn’t enough war to go round.

The Avengers 4.20: The Danger Makers
A bit of a plod this one, enlivened by a couple of scenes, admittedly, but not enough to salvage The Danger Makers. The title pretty much tells you the score, as military personnel, dismayed by the lack of conflict in peacetime, create thrill-seeking exercises for themselves. Unfortunately, the thrill seeking only intermittently extends to viewer enthralment.

It seems we have two Arthur Peevers. One dead, one learning to swing a dainty foot.

The Avengers 4.19: Quick-Quick Slow Death
Coming straight after The Girl from Auntie, it’s impossible to ignore the similar “villains cover their tracks by whacking wacky eccentrics” structure, but since I’m a sucker for such Avengers tales, it scarcely matters. Robert Banks Stewarts writes, but particular laurels are due James Hill for his deft touch during the musical climax.

The jungle is hell, but... one kind of likes it.

The Lost City of Z (2016)
(SPOILERS) It’s probably no coincidence that the two films I’ve enjoyed most in the last couple of months have adopted an expressly stately pace, slipping effortlessly into the style and narrative form of features of yesteryear. That might be interpreted as a symptom of getting older and failing to appreciate a frenzied assault on the senses the way I once might have, but I suspect it rather derives from surprise and appreciation that this kind of picture still has a place (if not necessarily a wide audience), and that, when it suits the material, the results can still be impressive. The Lost City of Z, like Blade Runner 2049, has variously been described as long-winded and boring, but contrastingly, I found it an immersive, rewarding experience, one that wrestles valiantly with the problems inherent in adapting a decades-spanning, unresolved historical tale.

I don't know whether to worship at your feet, or spank you.

Fifty Shades Darker (2017)
(SPOILERS) I suspect you could throw any director at this material and still end up with results akin to watching erotic paint dry. As such, Fifty Shades Darker’s woes cannot fairly be laid at the door of James Foley (responsible for Glengarry Glen Ross, but also Who’s That Girl). You spend most of the running time hoping for a murder to brighten things up, or for Paul Verhoeven take over the reins and inject some crazy Dutch angles.

In a few moments, you will have an experience that will seem completely real. It will be the result of your subconscious fears transformed into your conscious awareness.

Brainstorm (1983)
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…

Two hundred thousand pounds, for this outstanding example of British pulchritude and learning.

The Avengers 4.18: The Girl From Auntie
I’ve mentioned that a few of these episodes have changed in my appreciation since I last watched the series, and The Girl from Auntie constitutes a very pronounced uptick. Indeed, I don’t know how I failed to rate highly the estimable Liz Fraser filling in for Diana Rigg – mostly absent, on holiday –for the proceedings (taking a not dissimilar amateur impostor-cum-sidekick role to Fenella Fielding in the earlier The Charmers). I could watch Fraser all day, and it’s only a shame this was her single appearance in the show.

By Jove, the natives are restless tonight.

The Avengers 4.17: Small Game for Big Hunters
I wonder if Death at Bargain Prices’ camping scene, suggestive of an exotic clime but based in a department store, was an inspiration for Small Game For Big Hunters’ more protracted excursion to the African country of Kalaya… in Hertfordshire. Gerry O’Hara, in his second of two episodes for the show again delivers on the atmosphere, making the most of Philip Levene’s teleplay.

Romulan ale should be illegal.

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
(SPOILERS) Out of the ST:NG movies, Star Trek: Nemesis seems to provoke the most outrage among fans, the reasons mostly appearing to boil down to continuity and character work. In the case of the former, while I can appreciate the beef, I’m not enough of an aficionado to get too worked up. In the case of the latter, well, the less of the strained inter-relationships between this bunch that make it to the screen, the better (director Stuart Baird reportedly cut more than fifty minutes from the picture, most of it relating to underscoring the crew, leading to a quip by Stewart that while an Actor’s Cut would include the excised footage, a Director’s one would probably be even shorter). Even being largely unswayed by such concerns, though, Nemesis isn’t very good. It wants to hit the same kind of dramatic high notes as The Wrath of Khan (naturally, it’s always bloody Khan) but repeatedly drifts into an out-of-tune dirge.

Fear not, for ‘ere this day is done, you shall have a hole in one.

The Avengers 4.16: The Thirteenth Hole
A strange one this, for the first twenty minutes The Thirteenth Hole looks as if it’s going to be the most generic of all oddball Avengers scenarios – super villains up to murderous acts on the golf course, and Steed and Mrs Peel must investigate – but turns things around for a highly entertaining last half as Steed engages in a tournament filled with dirty tricks (many of them courtesy of Mrs Peel, aiding and abetting him).

What god made these things?

The Great Wall (2016)
(SPOILERS) I’ve seen comments that The Great Wall isn’t a great white hero movie, as Matt Damon is only a supporting character. Who are they trying to kid? Sure, he isn’t the character extending ultimate authority in Zhang Yimou’s latest foray into the realm of colourful, stylised martial arts choreography, but the emotional beats undoubtedly revolve around him, as does the unrefined arc of an archer for hire discovering a higher cause.

You have to be incredibly relaxed to use a cheese grater right.

Toni Erdmann (2016)
(SPOILERS) It’s easy to see why Maren Ade’s rambling, rumpled – it rather resembles its protagonist in form – tragi-comedy was instantly snapped up by Hollywood (or more especially by Jack Nicholson, promising to come out of retirement for a golden role; we shall see…), as, with a few minor tweaks and a directive to over- rather than underplay, it bears all the hallmarks of a classic uplifting Hollywood narrative. I’m not sure I buy into its miraculous hype, however (including a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination and Sight & Sound’s best film of 2016). The performances in Toni Erdmann are top notch, the scenarios often funny, sad, excruciating, but it’s also content to meander and overly devotes itself to the idea that vérité equates to depth.

A body’s a body.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
(SPOILERS) AndréØvredal’s previous film Troll Hunter was an unlikely delight, succeeding in taking the generally moribund found-footage device and coming up with something both wickedly funny and disquieting. This follow up is an altogether more routine affair, expertly stitched together but relying on its choice of lead actors for what juice it has.

This breaks the world.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
(SPOILERS) It was a questionable thing for (Sir) Ridley Scott and Alcon to go ahead with a sequel to an all-time classic that wasn’t screaming for one, and whose very pervasive influence makes any attempt appear immediately defensive. How much credit they should get for pulling off the seemingly impossible is debatable, however. Ridders was certainly right to go to Hampton Fancher for (co-)screenplay duties, but the clincher was probably delegating directing to Dennis Villeneuve; the Ridley of today just couldn’t direct a slow-burn, immersive piece like his original, and would have turned Blade Runner 2049 into something serviceable but generic; would you want a sequel to Blade Runner that at best stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Prometheus or Alien: Covenant (and I ask as an apologist for both)? I don’t think Blade Runner 2049 surpasses the original, or even equals it, if that must be the yardstick, but it manages to be a worthy successor to an extent no one co…

I think there’s more behind these walls than just a ghost.

The Avengers 4.14: Castle De’ath
A splendidly atmospheric episode from the pen of John Lucarrotti, his last for the show, brought to vivid life by James Hill, his first, Castle De’ath is one of the highlights of the fourth season, incorporating as it does some surefooted misdirection as Jock McSteed and Mrs Peel investigate a death in the loch.

But one soldier, against seventeen. What are you going to do?

Soldier (1998)
(SPOILERS) Now that a bona fide Blade Runner sequel has arrived, we can stop clutching at straws of movies that may/not be set in the same universe. Ridley Scott, growing more senile with each passing minute, considers Alien to exist in the same continuity, but David Webb Peoples got there first with “sidequel” Soldier, enthusiastically partnered by Paul WS Anderson. Unfortunately, no one benefits from the association, as Soldier is a downright terrible movie.