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Showing posts from February, 2018

I was going to thank all the little people, but then I remembered I am the little people.

Prediction 2018 Oscars
I’ve seen six of the nine Best Picture nominees so far (and should see Phantom Fred, I mean Thread, on Thursday), and I’d argue only two of those have no business being there (The Post and Darkest Hour). I don’t think either are in danger of troubling voters for the top award, in a ceremony that has always been politically fuelled but just now even more so. As such, what might on one day be a frontrunner could get bumped for not sending out the right messages in the right way the next (which, if it doesn’t win, will surely be the bone of contention for Martin McDonagh’s contender). My track record with these guesses is usually in the 50-60% region, which an uninformed person (not that I’m suggesting I’m informed) could probably get close to, so if you’re aiming for aggressively average standards, I’m virtually impossible to beat. Accordingly, let the guessing begin:

Yeah, keep walking, you lanky prick!

Mute (2018)
(SPOILERS) Duncan Jones was never entirely convincing when talking up his reasons for Mute’s futuristic setting, and now it’s easy to see why. What’s more difficult to discern is his passion for the project in the first place. If the picture’s first hour is torpid in pace and singularly fails to muster interest, the second is more engaging, but that’s more down to the unappetising activities of Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux’s supporting surgeons than the quest undertaken by Alex Skarsgård’s lead. Which isn’t such a compliment, really.

Like an antelope in the headlights.

Black Panther (2018)
(SPOILERS) Like last year’s Wonder Woman, the hype for what it represents has quickly become conflated with Black Panther’s perceived quality. Can 92% and 97% of critics respectively really not be wrong, per Rotten Tomatoes, or are they – Armond White aside – afraid that finding fault in either will make open them to charges of being politically regressive, insufficiently woke or all-round, ever-so-slightly objectionable? As with Wonder Woman, Black Panther’s very existence means something special, but little about the movie itself actually is. Not the acting, not the directing, and definitely not the over-emphatic, laboured screenplay. As such, the picture is a passable two-plus hours’ entertainment, but under-finessed enough that one could easily mistake it for an early entry in the Marvel cycle, rather than arriving when they’re hard-pressed to put a serious foot wrong.

He's a wild creature. We can't ask him to be anything else.

The Shape of Water (2017)
(SPOILERS) The faithful would have you believe it never went away, but it’s been a good decade since Guillermo del Toro’s mojo was in full effect, and his output since (or lack thereof: see the torturous wilderness years of At the Mountains of Madness and The Hobbit), reflected through the prism of his peak work Pan’s Labyrinth, bears the hallmarks of a serious qualitative tumble. He put his name to stinker TV show The Strain, returned to movies with the soulless Pacific Rim and fashioned flashy but empty gothic romance Crimson Peak (together his weakest pictures, and I’m not forgetting Mimic). The Shape of Water only seems to underline what everyone has been saying for years, albeit previously confined to his Spanish language pictures: that the smaller and more personal they are, the better. If his latest is at times a little too wilfully idiosyncratic, it’s also a movie where you can nevertheless witness it’s creator’s creativity flowing untrammelled once mo…

I'm going to open an X-file on this bran muffin.

The X-Files 11.2: This
(SPOILERS) Glen Morgan returns with a really good idea, certainly one with much more potential than his homelessness tract Home Again in Season 10, but seems to give up on its eerier implications, and worse has to bash it round the head to fit the season’s “arc”. Nevertheless, he’s on very comfortable ground with the Mulder-Scully dynamic in This, who get to spend almost the entire episode in each other’s company and might be on the best form here since the show came back, give or take a Darin.

The aliens are not coming, just so you know.

The X-Files 11.1: My Struggle III
(SPOILERS) Good grief. Have things become so terminal for Chris Carter that he has to retcon his own crap from the previous season, rather than the (what he perceived as) crap written by others? Carter, of course, infamously pretended the apocalyptic ending of Millennium Season Two never happened, upset by the path Glen Morgan and James Wong, left to their own devices, took with his baby. Their episode was one of the greats of that often-ho-hum series, so the comedown was all the unkinder as a result. In My Struggle III, at least, Carter’s rewriting something that wasn’t very good in the first place. Only, he replaces it with something that is even worse in the second.

He's going to emasculate our nuclear deterrent and bring the whole damn country to its knees… because of his dreams.

Dreamscape (1984)
(SPOILERS) I wasn’t really au fait with movies’ box office performance until the end of the ‘80s, so I think I had an idea that Dennis Quaid (along with Jeff Bridges) was a much bigger star than he was, just on the basis of the procession of cool movies he showed up in (The Right Stuff, Enemy Mine, Innerspace, D.O.A.) The truth was, the public resisted all attempts to make him The Next Big Thing, not that his sly-grinned, cocky persona throughout the decade would lead you to believe his dogged lack of success had any adverse effect on his mood. Dreamscape was one of his early leading-man roles, and if it’s been largely forgotten, it also inherits a welcome cult status, not only through being pulpy and inventive on a fairly meagre budget, but by being pretty good to boot. It holds up.

But that was then. And this is now. I'm back home. Right where I belong.

Mudbound (2017)
(SPOILERS) Mudbound has had to make do with just the four Oscar nominations, all well-deserved (although honestly, I’m not so fussed by the overly earnest song), failing to trouble the big four categories, but it’s a much better film than at least several of the nine selected for the top prize. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the Netflix factor, or that Academy members only feel inclined to given the nod to one movie about racism per year. Mudbound, set in and around Jim Crow Mississipi in the ‘40s, isn’t just about racism, but it’s infused into its characters and locale such that all other themes are informed or affected by it. At times, there’s a sense that it’s trying to achieve too much, spread its canvas too broadly for the time it has, but when it hits its stride, it’s outstanding.

Hi, I'm the robot. She's the monster.

Colossal (2016)
(SPOILERS) There’s usually a sinking feeling attached to any movie when you realise you’re being preached at, and by implication, it often doesn’t reflect that well on the storytelling skills of the preacher. Colossal’s a movie that works much better while you’re trying to figure out where it’s going, rather than once you know. Which means a good deal of it is very good, but also that its backend falls out.

I actually am a terrorist. I just do standup on the side to keep a low profile.

The Big Sick (2017)
(SPOILERS) The Big Sick wasn’t the big hit many expected. Tipped as a summer sleeper, it merely performed respectably (on a low budget, so that was okay). But then, with a title suggesting the worst excesses of now passé gross-out comedy, what did Amazon and Lionsgate (who picked it up following Sundance) expect? It isn’t that at all – by which I mean, vomit-related – of course, and is in fact a rather sweet culture-clash comedy with a you-couldn’t make it up coma thrown in – the actual big sick – based on the experiences of comedian Kumail Nanjiani in dating his wife to be (Emily V Gordon).

My arm helped us find the Earth!

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
(SPOILERS) As soon as the rumour broke that Paramount might be selling God Particle, or Cloverfield Station, to Netflix, entirely bypassing a cinema release, speculation ran rampant that they had a turkey on their hands and wished to palm it off. After all, this came off the back of reshoots and shifts in release dates. So when confirmation came, in something of a publicity coup, that it would touch down on the same day as its trailer, there was an understandable buzz of anticipation; this was exactly the kind of rug-pull surprise the series had previously done so well. Alas, the conversation quickly returned to turkey talk. The Cloverfield Paradox isn’t a patch on the previous two entries – particularly 2016’s entry – and its insertion of the Cloverfield branding is particularly inelegant, but it’s an actually an agreeable enough ride for the first hour, before revealing it has nowhere interesting to go with its not really all thatdistinctive alt-univers…

Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh?

Altered Carbon Season One
(SPOILERS) Well, it looks good, even if the visuals are absurdly indebted to Blade Runner. Ultimately, though, Altered Carbon is a disappointment. The adaption of Richard Morgan’s novel comes armed with a string of well-packaged concepts and futuristic vernacular (sleeves, stacks, cross-sleeves, slagged stacks, Neo-Cs), but there’s a void at its core. It singularly fails use the dependable detective story framework to explore the philosophical ramifications of its universe – except in lip service – a future where death is impermanent, and even botches the essential goal of creating interesting lead characters (the peripheral ones, however, are at least more fortunate).

You didn't happen to drill a li-ttle hole in the dentist today, did you?

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
(SPOILERS) One of the most interesting aspects of what can often be a rising level of tedious repetition over the extended annual awards season is the manner in which pictures are reappraised as the spotlight intensifies. A frontrunner can be reduced to tears as an accusatory critical challenge, usually political or (in historical or biographical cases) factual, begins to hold sway. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri has been the recipient of the lion’s share of such flak this year, but I somehow doubt Martin McDonagh intended his picture to be held up to scrutiny as an exemplar of any comfortably vetted viewpoint; such reductive treatment would be entirely foreign to its thorny DNA.

They've shifted the tilt of the Earth. The stupid, crazy, irresponsible bastards. They've finally done it.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
(SPOILERS) One of the all-time great science-fiction films. It isn’t so much the specifics of the end of the world premise – the science of which is easy to tear apart – or the heightened dialogue – someone in the accompanying documentary on the Blu-ray release had the temerity to suggest it’s a bad thing – that make it sing, it’s the manner in which the unfolding events are treated as real and immediate, the way mundane life continues apace as a horror overtakes the everyday. The Day the Earth Caught Fire still packs a punch.