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Showing posts from September, 2018

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

We're carrying three cases each. One is enough to blow out your fire, six cases will blow out the whole field. That means you don't think all the trucks will make it, one of us is a backup.

Sorcerer (1977)
(SPOILERS) By the time it was easily available, I didn't feel any great urgency to check out Sorcerer, mostly because I’d already seen Wages of Fear by that point, and really, how could it possibly compete? Which wasn't wrong. William Friedkin can't equal Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic, although in fairness, he does produce a picture that isn't to be sneezed at, that's very much of its era and that has its own undeniable qualities.

I hope nobody else is going to make me cross today.

The Witches (1990)
(SPOILERS) Nicolas Roeg making a kid's movie? Why, that would be tantamount to… someone as twisted as Roald Dahl writing children's stories. What's strangest is that it should have dropped in Roeg’s lap at this point, after a decade of making wilfully uncommercial movies even by his idiosyncratic standards. The last time he'd flirted with anything the public might go and see in any numbers had been Flash Gordon, before Dino de Laurentis decided not to give him a huge budget for something that would probably go straight over people's heads (more's the pity), with its "metaphysical messiah", and be unsuitable for family viewing with the intended sexual innuendo (although, there's a fair bit of that in the Mike Hodges version we got). That lack of attunement with fashioning hits might explain the financial failure of The Witches, even though it’s generally regarded as one of the best Dahl adaptations. It's exactly what you'd…

Don’t fight it, Mrs Peel. We’re inseparable.

The Avengers Season 5 Ranked - Worst to Best
Season Five is arguably The Avengers season where the show achieved its greatest visibility – now in full colour, Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg returning as its most formidable partnership – but also one that experienced a slight slip in quality from what is rightly regarded as the previous year's pinnacle. There’s little in the way of outright turkeys here – it has that much in common with Season Four – but fewer outright gems too.

You kind of look like a slutty Ebola virus.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
(SPOILERS) The phenomenal success of Crazy Rich Asians – in the US at any rate, thus far – might lead one to think it's some kind of startling original, but the truth is, whatever its core demographic appeal, this adaptation of Kevin Kwan's novel taps into universally accepted romantic comedy DNA and readily recognisable tropes of family and class, regardless of cultural background. It emerges a smoothly professional product, ticking the expected boxes in those areas – the heroine's highs, lows, rejections, proposals, accompanied by whacky scene-stealing best friend – even if the writing is sometimes a little on the clunky side.

They make themselves now.

Screamers (1995)
(SPOILERS) Adapting Philip K Dick isn’t as easy as it may seem, but that doesn't stop eager screenwriters from attempting to hit that elusive jackpot. The recent Electric Dreams managed to exorcise most of the existential gymnastics and doubts that shine through in the best versions of his work, leaving material that felt sadly facile. Dan O'Bannon had adapted Second Variety more than a decade before it appeared as Screamers, a period during which he and Ronald Shusett also turned We Can Remember It For You Wholesale into Total Recall. So the problem with Screamers isn't really the (rewritten) screenplay, which is more faithful than most to its source material (setting aside). The problem with Screamers is largely that it's cheap as chips.

The possibilities are gigantic. In a very small way, of course.

The Avengers 5.24: Mission… Highly Improbable
With a title riffing on a then-riding-high US spy show, just as the previous season's The Girl from Auntie riffed on a then-riding-high US spy show, it's to their credit that neither have even the remotest connection to their "inspirations" besides the cheap gags (in this case, the episode was based on a teleplay submitted back in 1964). Mission… Highly Improbable follows in the increasing tradition (certainly with the advent of Season Five and colour) of SF plotlines, but is also, in its particular problem with shrinkage, informed by other recent adventurers into that area.

My pectorals may leave much to be desired, Mrs Peel, but I’m the most powerful man you’ve ever run into.

The Avengers 2.23: The Positive-Negative Man
If there was a lesson to be learned from Season Five, it was not to include "man" in your title, unless it involves his treasure. The See-Through Man may be the season's stinker, but The Positive-Negative Man isn't far behind, a bog-standard "guy with a magical science device uses it to kill" plot. A bit like The Cybernauts, but with Michael Latimer painted green and a conspicuous absence of a cool hat.

Right! Let’s restore some bloody logic!

It Couldn't Happen Here (1987)
(SPOILERS) "I think our film is arguably better than Spiceworld" said Neil Tennant of his and Chris Lowe's much-maligned It Couldn't Happen Here, a quasi-musical, quasi-surrealist journey through the English landscape via the Pet shop Boys' "own" history as envisaged by co-writer-director Jack Bond. Of course, Spiceworld could boast the presence of the illustrious Richard E Grant, while It Couldn't Happen Here had to settle for Gareth Hunt. Is its reputation deserved? It's arguably not very successful at being a coherent film (even thematically), but I have to admit that I rather like it, ramshackle and studiously aloof though it is.

Well, we took a vote. Predator’s cooler, right?

The Predator (2018)
(SPOILERS) Is The Predator everything you’d want from a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator (or Yautja, or Hish-Qu-Ten, apparently)? Emphatically not. We've already had a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator – or the other way around, at least – and that was on another level. The problem – aside from the enforced reshoots, and the not-altogether-there casting, and the possibility that full-on action extravaganzas, while delivered competently, may not be his best foot forward – is that I don't think Black's really a science-fiction guy, game as he clearly was to take on the permanently beleaguered franchise. He makes The Predator very funny, quite goofy, very gory, often entertaining, but ultimately lacking a coherent sense of what it is, something you couldn't say of his three prior directorial efforts.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

I can't explain now, but I've just been murdered.

The Avengers
5.21: You Have Just Been Murdered
Slender in concept – if you're holding out for a second act twist, you'll be sorely disappointed – You Have Just Been Murdered nevertheless sustains itself far past the point one might expect thanks to shock value that doesn't wear out through repetition, a suitably sinister performance from Simon Oates (Steed in the 1971 stage adaptation of the show) and a cartoonish one from George Murcell (1.3: Square Root of Evil) as Needle, of the sort you might expect Matt Berry to spoof.

It’s the power that excites me. I want to be ill-mannered, and rude, and uncouth.

The Avengers 5.20: The £50,000 Breakfast
Another week, another remake. This one reworks one of my favourites of Season Two, Death of a Great Dane, but the results are almost entirely uninspired. Indeed, it jostles for one of the weakest episodes of this season.

High octane stuff, eh?

The Avengers 5.19: Dead Man’s Treasure
One of my very favourite episodes, such that I even like aspects others find profoundly irritating. What makes it such a hit? It might partly be a fondness for the comedy race/rally genre (Monte Carlo or Bust leads that small but distinguished pack) or possibly it’s the supremely jaunty Laurie Johnson incidental score that accompanies the jaunty jalopies. The summery scenery adds something too (Bowler Hats and Kinky Boots notes it had more location filming that any other British film series episode produced during the '60s); the concoction as a whole is irresistible.

It’s great you’re helping all these random people and everything, but it’s not going to fill that hole in your heart.

The Equalizer 2 (2018)
(SPOILERS) I was going to suggest The Equalizer 2 is to The Equalizer (2014) as Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is to Jack Reacher, but then I remembered Jack Reacher is pretty good, and The Equalizer is just okay. Denzel broke his no-sequels rule for this?

It smells like ass in here.

The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017)
(SPOILERS) An unabashed '80s/'90s throwback antagonistic buddy action movie, albeit lacking the finessing and sharp dialogue of the master it aspires to, Shane Black. Samuel L Jackson, who appeared in a few of those movies, is the loud, outgoing, emotionally-contented hitman Darius Kincaid, Ryan Reynolds the careful, measured, reserved bodyguard Michael Bryce. And, given the title, you can tell how it will escalate from there.

Never tangle with a Cybernaut.

The Avengers 5.18: Return of the Cybernauts
Avengers sequels not featuring Brodny are a rarity, and as obvious a no-brainer as this follow-up to last season's crowd-pleaser is, it rather underlines that the show was never at its best when returning to past glories (not least by churning out straight remakes). Return of the Cybernauts at least boasts a couple of elements that put it above its predecessor, however, even if the improvement is very much relative.

Welcome, to Nightmare Alley.

The Avengers 17: Death’s Door
By this point, it goes without saying that, with Sidney Hayers calling the shots, Death's Door is very stylish, which is an enormous boon to the dream sequences, taking a conscious leaf out of Spellbound's book for how to do these things; if Too Many Christmas Trees previously plundered the manipulated mental state in not wholly dissimilar fashion, Philip Levene ensures this one keeps ticking along, with a proper howdunnit for Steed and Emma to solve.

Some clown just tried to kill me!

Married to the Mob (1988)
(SPOILERS) With The Silence of the Lambs, Jonathan Demme became a bona fide mainstream director, and I don't think it really suited him. Apparently, he'd been courting Tom Cruise for Married to the Mob, so I guess he was gradually shifting towards "Hollywood player" territory anyway, but I can't imagine the picture being nearly as loose and fun as it is with the then biggest star in the world attached. Because Married to the Mob is shambolic and freewheeling, disinterested in anything you'd call classically Hollywood, even by comedy standards. And its enormously, infectiously uplifting.