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Showing posts from May, 2018

What're you looking at? I know what I'm doing.

Star Wars The Saga Ranked
10. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
It’s never a good idea to devise a story featuring a junior protagonist if you’re then going to give that role to a moppet with no acting chops. After sixteen years without any Star Wars, the anticipation for George Lucas’ promised prequels was at fever pitch, and there was understandable denial in the first instance about how disappointing The Phantom Menace was. It wasn’t just that young "Ani" was miscast, or that the Lucas had compounded the stodge of his often-ungainly dialogue by demanding the starchiest of performances from his supporting cast, though. 

You're going to need a nickname, cos I ain't saying that every time.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
(SPOILERS) I had an agreeably good time with Solo: A Star Wars Story, having previously gone from considering it a straight-up terrible idea when first announced, to cautious optimism with the signing of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, to abject pessimism with their replacement by little Ronnie Howard, to cautious optimism again with the advent of various trailers and clips. I have numerous caveats, but then that's been par for the course with the series ever since Return of the Jedi, whichever side of good or bad the individual entries end up falling. The biggest barrier to enjoyment, judging by others’ responses, seems to be the central casting of Aiden Ehrenreich; I actually thought he was really good, so the battle for my allegiance was half won right there. No, he isn't Harrison Ford, but he succeeds admirably in making Han Solo a likeable, brash, smug wannabe scoundrel. Less so at being scruffy looking, but you can’t have everything.

Ain't nobody likes the Middle East, buddy. There's nothing here to like.

Body of Lies (2008)
(SPOILERS) Sir Ridders stubs out his cigar in the CIA-assisted War on Terror, with predictably gormless results. Body of Lies' one saving grace is that it wasn't a hit, although that more reflects its membership of a burgeoning club where no degree of Hollywood propaganda on the "just fight" (with just a smidgeon enough doubt cast to make it seem balanced at a sideways glance) was persuading the public that they wanted the official fiction further fictionalised.

Luck isn’t a superpower... And it isn't cinematic!

Deadpool 2 (2018)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps it’s because I was lukewarm on the original, but Deadpool 2 mercifully disproves the typical consequence of the "more is more" approach to making a sequel. By rights, it should plummet into the pitfall of ever more excess to diminishing returns, yet for the most part it doesn't.  Maybe that’s in part due to it still being a relatively modest undertaking, budget-wise, and also a result of being very self-aware – like duh, you might say, that’s its raison d'être – of its own positioning and expectation as a sequel; it resolutely fails to teeter over the precipice of burn out or insufferable smugness. It helps that it's frequently very funny – for the most part not in the exhaustingly repetitive fashion of its predecessor – but I think the key ingredient is that it finds sufficient room in its mirthful melee for plot and character, in order to proffer tone and contrast.

I didn't kill her. I just relocated her.

The Discovery (2017)
(SPOILERS) The Discovery assembles not wholly dissimilar science-goes-metaphysical themes and ideas to Douglas Trumbull's ill-fated 1983 Brainstorm, revolving around research into consciousness and the revelation of its continuance after death. Perhaps the biggest discovery, though, is that it’s directed and co-written by the spawn of Malcom McDowell and Mary Steenburgen (the latter cameos) – Charlie McDowell – of hitherto negligible credits but now wading into deep philosophical waters and even, with collaborator Justin Lader, offering a twist of sorts.

You think you’re going to take a hundred kilos of heroin into the US and you don’t work for anyone? Someone is going to allow that?

American Gangster (2007)
(SPOILERS) Is this the most rote of all Ridley Scott's movies? I know, there’s serious competition, particularly in his post-Gladiator workhorse mode. On first viewing, there’s a temptation to forgive American Gangster its slackness and shocking lack of internal tension on the basis of the embarrassment of names and faces attached, but that wears very thin very quickly upon revisit. Even the then-Scott talisman of Russell Crowe and the usually reliable Denzel Washington seem cast adrift in this true-life-but-not-all-that-much-really-to-be-honest period piece concerning drug dealer Frank Lucas.

There’s only one God, ma’am. And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.

Avengers Assemble  aka Avengers (2012)
(SPOILERS) As a writer, Joss Whedon has an unwavering grasp of what makes for a crowd-pleasing moment. As a director, he has a less-than-perfect ability to achieve that. It’s striking on revisit how much Avengers Assemble (or plain Avengers if you don’t live in the Britain) resembles a big-budget TV movie, from its aspect ratio to the mild, contained staging of set pieces. It even opens in a basement. Despite this, for the most part, it does exactly what it needs to do, bringing Marvel’s superhero brands together in a manner such that they strike sparks off each other, both playful and antagonistic. 

If books do have the power to bring people together, this one may work its magic.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society bears all the hallmarks of a film tailor-made for the US market place, like so many of its peers in the English heritage genre. That makes particular sense in this case, as the novel upon which it is based was written (co-written) by an American (two Americans). And the screenplay was adapted by another couple (and a Brit). It's ironic then, that the producers have opted to hedge their bets there, selling it straight to Netflix. Maybe they were simply being realistic. If you’ve never been subjected to a period romantic comedy with a splash of tragedy and a love triangle where everything comes right in the end, this might hit the formulaic spot for you. Otherwise, you could well give in to the urge to snooze through a hefty portion of its overly-indulgent running time.

I told you before, Wolfman cannot drive a car.

The Monster Squad (1987)
(SPOILERS) My reluctant response to The Monster Squad at the time of its release was that it wasn’t quite as clever or funny as I wanted it to be, the promise of The Goonies meets Ghostbusters with (effectively) the Universal horror monster roster only sporadically delivering on its potential (not that The Goonies and Ghostbusters are as funny as they want to be either, but you get the idea). I still think that’s the case, albeit now recognising the additional pleasures of nascent Shane Black stylings and obsessions, and the dedication of Fred Dekker in creating an aesthetic that sits comfortably with the pictures its riffing on and homaging.