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Showing posts from July, 2018

I've killed him! I've killed him again!

The Avengers 5.10: Never, Never Say Die.
An episode that sets out its store of intrigue quite nicely, and hums confidently along, but ultimately reveals itself holding the least plausible of decks. Never, Never Say Die sounds like a Bond title and tends to be a fairly highly-regarded episode, however; I can only assume much of that is based on its illustrious guest star, Christopher Lee, strutting his stuff in dual roles; both Professor Frank N Stone (hur-hur) and his monster, a part he has, of course, played before.

I will unheal the shit out of you!

Hotel Artemis  (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hotel Artemis is all set up. It's solid set up, undoubtedly – a heightened, John Wick-esque criminal world by way of John Carpenter – but once it has set out its wares, it proceeds to pulls its punches. One's left more impressed by the dependable performances and Drew Pearce's solid footing as a (debut feature) director than his ability to develop a satisfying screenplay. 

You’ll note, gentlemen, the correct way of doing everything, even in defeat.

The Avengers 5.9: The Correct Way to Kill
You wouldn't get away with this kind of thing today. An undisguised remake of third season episode The Charmers, right down to its choicer dialogue, looking at them side by side is neither revealing as a shot-for-shot exercise (Gus van Sant's Psycho) nor the changes resulting from a switch to colour and upping the budget (The Man Who Knew Too Much, although there were additional substantial changes there, of course). Instead, both versions have their positives and negatives, but for me, this new one never quite manages to improve sufficiently on source material that was never quite there in the first place.

It means murder, Watson. Cold-blooded, refined, deliberate... murder.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983)
(SPOILERS) The 1988 Jeremy Brett Hound of the Baskervilles was, sadly, an early sign his incarnation wasn't full proof, doubly disappointing because there was an expectation, based on previous form, that it might have been the telling of the tale. Luckily, there's another '80s TV version that's much more satisfying. Half a decade earlier, Douglas Hickox directed Ian Richardson in the latter's second, and alas final, Holmes outing. If The Sign of Four was merely adequate, in part due to the changes made to the story, Charles Edward Pogue furnishes Hound with several creative solutions to key challenges in adapting the material.

The best place to hide a needle is not in a haystack, but among a lot of other needles.

The Sign of Four (1983)
(SPOILERS) The first of two TV movies featuring Ian Richardson as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's greatest creation, and a very upbeat, personable Sherlock Holmes he makes too, making for an effective contrast with the more burdened Jeremy Brett incarnation of a few years later. The Sign of Four is lightweight but efficient, its biggest stumble being the manner in which it reframes the plot so as to present most of the salient facts upfront and as a consequence impinge on the mystery and sleuth's deductions.

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.