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Showing posts from 2018

Well, in this case, the cats are going to kill the curious.

The Avengers 5.8: The Hidden Tiger
Another of the season's apparent run-on ideas, as the teaser depicts a character's point-of-view evisceration by aggressor unknown. Could this be the Winged Avenger at work? No, it's, as the title suggests, an attacker of the feline persuasion. If that's deeply unconvincing once revealed, returning director Sidney Havers makes the attacks themselves highly memorable, as the victims attempt to fend off claws or escape them in slow motion.

What if I tell you to un-punch someone, what you do then?

Incredibles 2 (2018)
(SPOILERS) Incredibles 2 may not be as fresh as the first outing – indeed, certain elements of its plotting border on the retread – but it's equally, if not more, inventive as a piece of animation, and proof that, whatever his shortcomings may be philosophically, Brad Bird is a consummately talented director. This is a movie that is consistently very funny, and which is as thrilling as your average MCU affair, but like Finding Dory, you may understandably end up wondering if it shouldn't have revolved around something a little more substantial to justify that fifteen-year gap in reaching the screen.

Perhaps I am dead. Perhaps we’re both dead. And this is some kind of hell.

The Avengers 5.7: The Living Dead
The Living Dead occupies such archetypal Avengers territory that it feels like it must have been a more common plotline than it was; a small town is the cover for invasion/infiltration, with clandestine forces gathering underground. Its most obvious antecedent is The Town of No Return, and certain common elements would later resurface in Invasion of the Earthmen. This is a lot broader than Town, however, the studio-bound nature making it something of a cosy "haunted house" yarn, Scooby Doo style.

Dirty is exactly why you're here.

Sicario 2: Soldado aka Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)
(SPOILERS) I wasn't among the multitude greeting the first Sicario with rapturous applause. It felt like a classic case of average material significantly lifted by the diligence of its director (and cinematographer and composer), but ultimately not all that. Any illusions that this gritty, violent, tale of cynicism and corruption – all generally signifiers of "realism" – in waging the War on Drugs had a degree of credibility well and truly went out the window when we learned that Benicio del Toro's character Alejandro Gillick wasn't just an unstoppable kickass ninja hitman; he was a grieving ex-lawyer turned unstoppable kickass ninja hitman. Sicario 2: Soldadograzes on further difficult-to-digest conceits, so in that respect is consistent, and – ironically – in some respects fares better than its predecessor through being more thoroughly genre-soaked and so avoiding the false doctrine of "revealing" …

He’d been clawed to death, as though by some bird. Some huge, obscene bird.

The Avengers 5.6: The Winged Avenger
Maybe I’m just easily amused, such that a little Patrick Macnee uttering “Ee-urp!” goes a long way, but I’m a huge fan of The Winged Avenger. It’s both a very silly episode and about as meta as the show gets, and one in which writer Richard Harris (1.3: Square Root of Evil, 1.10: Hunt the Man Down) succeeds in casting a wide net of suspects but effectively keeps the responsible party’s identity a secret until late in the game.

Invisible man? Ha-ha-ha! I could see through that one immediately!

The Avengers 5.5: The See-Through Man
I’m sure Warren Mitchell and Patrick Macnee had a fine time bouncing off each other whenever the former won a guest spot on the show, but the return of Brodny in The See-Through Man is about as welcome as bringing back Harry Mudd in Star Trek's Mudd's Women. Additionally, and quickly becoming something of an over-used device, there are suggestions of pure science fictional goings-on, ones reduced to something much less remarkable (see also Escape in Tim eand From Venus With Love).

The trouble with Scotland is that it’s full of Scots.

Braveheart (1995)
(SPOILERS) With some Best Picture Oscar winners, it's difficult to conceive the precise conflation of circumstances that compelled Academy members to plumb for a particular contender. So it is with Mel's ridiculous medieval martyrdom epic. My objections to Braveheart, however, aren't to do with its historical inaccuracies, be it the woad, the plaid, the facts of William Wallace's life, or the Battle of Stirling Bridge not taking place on a bridge; with the biopic (in its loosest sense), fidelity tends to fall away as a source of vexation if the overriding content passes muster. The problem with the picture is that it simply lacks the sensibility to fill the shoes it clearly wants to; if Eastwood's passage to director takes in the Siegel tradition, Gibson's goes via the Lethal Weapon route.

Which is a shame, as Mel's a much more talented filmmaker than Clint. But where the latter directs with reserve that sometimes verges on indifference (or t…

Steed! The Venusians! I told you! They’re here! They’ve landed.

The Avengers 5.4: From Venus With Love
Not the return of Venus Smith (although you can readily imagine the rumours a title like that would provoke today), From Venus With Love is the best of the season so far, which is to say the avenging business still isn't quite on top form, but there's a winning line in amiable quirkiness running through the proceedings, and as an added bonus, it's another of the series' relative rarities that keep its cards close to its chest regarding who is doing what and how until quite late in the game.

Toodle-oo, comrades.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.6: Comrade Bingo  (aka Aunt Dahlia, Cornelia and Madeline)
PG Wodehouse wasn't famed for his piercing political insights. Indeed, he was vilified for a lengthy period over his apparent obliviousness in that field. But Comrade Bingo, a 1922 short story collected in The Inimitable Jeeves found him taking pot-shots at the increasingly popular communist movement. Sprinkle in some Spode (just because, and to offer some groundwork for the final season's unlikeliest of marriages) and you have the author’s ridiculing of twin political extremes in one melee. Oh, and there’s a plotline involving Bertie stealing a painting from Jeeves Makes an Omelette.

The noblest parrot of them all. A master of rhetoric. Such a garrulous tongue. Such verbiage.

The Avengers 5.3: The Bird Who Knew Too Much
A step up from the first two below-par episodes, there nevertheless remains a pervading sense that Season Five isn't yet firing on all cylinders. The plotting isn't quite smart enough, even at its most playful, and the eccentricity is all a bit learnt. But The Bird Who Knew Too Much does at least move along at a pace, and features a couple of – well, one in particular – truly nasty psychopathic hitmen, which makes for a jarring but effective contrast when one of the characters is a bird enthusiast named Twitter.

Well, I've always had a hankering for the eighteenth century. Gadzooks and stap me vitals.

The Avengers 5.2: Escape in Time
I suppose one couldn’t expect The Avengers to deliver a genuine "Could-it-be-possible?" element to a time-travel plot, but Escape in Time doesn't offer even a modicum of suspense or intrigue regarding how the scheme is being achieved; as soon as one of the intended victims escapes "1680" and shows up at Steed's flat (not even ten minutes in), it's clear we'll have to look elsewhere for satisfying plot twists.

It isn’t all a bed of roses, trying to be a dictator.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.5: Hot Off the Press  (aka Sir Watkyn’s Memoirs)
There's some serious thieving going on from Blandings Castle in this episode, albeit one could argue that by using a very early Wooster short story revolving around the same subject, it's fair game to get the drop on the account of Sir Galahad Threepwood's memoirs that formed the backbone of probably the best known Blandings novels, Summer Lightning and Heavy Weather.

Do not run a job in a job.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)
(SPOILERS) There’s nothing wrong with the gender-swapped property per se, any more than a reboot, remake or standard sequel exploiting an original’s commercial potential (read: milking it dry). As with those more common instances, however, unless it ekes out its own distinctive territory, gives itself a clear reason to be, it’s only ever going to be greeted with an air of cynicism (whatever the current fashion for proclaiming it valid simply because it's gender swapped may suggest to the contrary).  The Ocean's series was pretty cynical to start with, of course – Soderbergh wanted a sure-fire hit, the rest of the collected stars wanted the kudos of working with Soderbergh on a "classy" crowd pleaser, the whole concept of remaking the '60s movie was fairly lazy, and by the third one there was little reason to be other than smug self-satisfaction – so Ocean's 8 can’t be accused of letting any side down. It also gives itself distinctively – stereo…

What we sell are hidden truths. Our territory is the mind. Our merchandise is fear.

The Avengers 5.1: The Fear Merchants
The colour era doesn't get off to such a great start with The Fear Merchants, an Avengers episode content to provide unstinting averageness. About the most notable opinion you’re likely to come away with is that Patrick Cargill rocks some magnificent shades.

It’s all Bertie Wooster’s fault!

Jeeves and Wooster 3.4: Right Ho, Jeeves  (aka Bertie Takes Gussie's Place at Deverill Hall)
A classic set-up of crossed identities as Bertie pretends to be Gussie and Gussie pretends to be Bertie. The only failing is that the actor pretending to be Gussie isn’t a patch on the original actor pretending to be Gussie. Although, the actress pretending to be Madeline is significantly superior than her predecessor(s).

I think my mother put a curse on us.

Hereditary (2018)
(SPOILERS) Well, the Hereditary trailer's a very fine trailer, there's no doubt about that. The movie as a whole? Ari Aster's debut follows in the line of a number of recent lauded-to-the-heavens (or hells) horror movies that haven't quite lived up to their hype (The Babadook, for example). In Hereditary's case, there’s no doubting Ari Aster's talent as a director. Instead, I'd question his aptitude for horror.

I love the combination of Gummi Bears and meat.

Despicable Me 3 (2017)
(SPOILERS) The Illumination formula is at least reliable, consistently and comfortably crowd-pleasing where DreamWorks often seems faintly desperate (because they are – who's their distributor this week?) Despicable Me 3 ploughs the same cosy, affirmative furrow as its wholly safe predecessor. When I saw Despicable Me 2, I mentioned that it reminded me of Shrek 2 in its attempt to continue a story that was complete in itself. Despicable Me 3 is similarly redundant, suggesting the most airless of brainstorming sessions – Gru has the kids, the wife, the job, how about now he gets a sibling? – although this time I was put in mind of the Lethal Weapon sequels and their ability to continue churning out/expanding on the family vibe long after Riggs had become a (relatively) well-adjusted member of society.

This entire edifice you see around you, built on jute.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.3: Cyril and the Broadway Musical  (aka Introduction on Broadway)
Well, that’s a relief. After a couple of middling episodes, the third season bounces right back, and that's despite Bertie continuing his transatlantic trip. Clive Exton once again plunders Carry On, Jeeves but this time blends it with a tale from The Inimitable Jeeves for the brightest spots, as Cyril Basington-Basington (a sublimely drippy Nicholas Hewetson) pursues his stage career against Aunt Agatha's wishes.

Gives man a halo, does mead.

Robin Hood (2010)
(SPOILERS) It’s all about story for Sir Ridders, which is why he signed on to a direct an original take on Robin Hood that he promptly disabused and changed into something much more run-of-the-mill. The same Ridders who cocked a snook at the entire history of big screen Sherwood Forest forays by suggesting Men in Tights was the best version of Robin Hood yet managed to make a picture inferior to most of the ones he probably sidelong glanced at en route. Robin Hood is most definitely not one of Scott's best movies, and yet, the first half has just enough pissed-away potential to leave one with a whiff of what might have been.

Scott had been angling for a Robin Hood picture before seizing on Nottinghamby Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris (BrimstoneSleeper Cell). Their take flipped the protagonist and antagonist, with Robin as the villain and the Sheriff of Nottingham as the hero. They also had – I know, not exactly vouching for its quality – a serial killer plotline (Robi…

You two. You're the parents of the new world.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
(SPOILERS) One thing the Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly scripted follow up to their ludicrously popular Jurassic World has going for it is that it finally delivers on the promise any self-respecting dinosaur exploitation aficionado would have meted out in the first Jurassic Park sequel, rather than waiting another 25 years until the fourth. Even then, they only offer a closing-moments taster of what to expect next time. But that's been a problem with this series all over, caught between the desire to have the prehistoric beasties scare the bejesus out of youngsters on the one hand and teach them the merits of preservation of endangered species on the other (if we're to be more precise, of valuing genetically modified organisms over the natural environment, but hey, let's not quibble). Trevorrow and Connolly possibly wanted to push against those restrictive ground rules, given Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is loaded with B-movie trop…