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Showing posts from 2019

If a rat were to walk in here right now as I'm talking, would you treat it to a saucer of your delicious milk?

Inglourious Basterds (2009)
(SPOILERS) His staunchest fans would doubtless claim Tarantino has never taken a wrong step, but for me, his post-Pulp Fiction output had been either not quite as satisfying (Jackie Brown), empty spectacle (the Kill Bills) or wretched (Death Proof). It wasn’t until Inglourious Basterds that he recovered his mojo, revelling in an alternate World War II where Adolf didn’t just lose but also got machine gunned to death in a movie theatre showing a warmly received Goebbels-produced propaganda film. It may not be his masterpiece – as Aldo Raines refers to the swastika engraved on “Jew hunter” Hans Landa’s forehead, and as Tarantino actually saw the potential of his script – but it’s brimming with ideas and energy.

Check it out. I wonder if BJ brought the Bear with him.

Death Proof (2007)
(SPOILERS) In a way, I’m slightly surprised Tarantino didn’t take the opportunity to disown Death Proof, to claim that, as part of Grindhouse, it was no more one of his ten-official-films-and-out than his Four Rooms segment. But that would be to spurn the exploitation genre affectation that has informed everything he’s put his name to since Kill Bill, to a greater or less extent, and also require him to admit that he was wrong, and you won’t find him doing that for anything bar My Best Friend’s Birthday.

That woman, deserves her revenge and… we deserve to die. But then again, so does she.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2  (2004)
(SPOILERS) I’m not sure I can really conclude whether one Kill Bill is better than the other, since I’m essentially with Quentin in his assertion that they’re one film, just cut into two for the purposes of a selling point. I do think Kill Bill: Vol. 2 has the movie’s one actually interesting character, though, and I’m not talking David Carradine’s title role.

When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
(SPOILERS) It sometimes seems as if Quentin Tarantino – in terms of his actual movies, rather than nearly getting Uma killed in an auto stunt – is the last bastion of can-do-no-wrong on the Internet. Or at very least has the preponderance of its vocal weight behind him. Back when his first two movies proper were coming out, so before online was really a thing, I’d likely have agreed, but by about the time the Kill Bills arrived, I’d have admitted I was having serious pause about him being all he was cracked up to be. Because the Kill Bills aren’t very good, and they’ve rather characterised his hermetically sealed wallowing in obscure media trash and genre cul-de-sacs approach to his art ever since. Sometimes to entertaining effect, sometimes less so, but always ever more entrenching his furrow; as Neil Norman note in his Evening Standard review, “Tarantino has attempted (and largely succeeded) in making a movie whose only reality is that of celluloid”. Extend t…

Everyone wants a happy ending and everyone wants closure but that's not the way life works out.

It Chapter Two (2019)
(SPOILERS) An exercise in stultifying repetitiveness, It Chapter Two does its very best to undo all the goodwill engendered by the previous instalment. It may simply be that adopting a linear approach to the novel’s interweaving timelines has scuppered the sequel’s chances of doing anything the first film hasn’t. Oh, except getting rid of Pennywise for good, which you’d be hard-pressed to discern as substantially different to the CGI-infused confrontation in the first part, Native American ritual aside.

Where’s the commode in this dungeon? I gotta have a squirt.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
(SPOILERS) I’m not shy to admit that I fully bought into the Tarantino hype when he first arrived on the scene. Which, effectively took place with the UK’s reception of Reservoir Dogs (and its subsequent banning from home video), rather than the slightly tepid post-Sundance US response. That said, I think I always appreciated the “package” more than the piece itself. Don’t get me wrong, I admired the film for what it achieved, shrewdly maximising its effectiveness on a limited budget by, for example, making a virtue out of notshowing the all-important heist. But its influence was everything, more than the sum total of the film itself – that slow-motion parade in cheap matching suits (not so much Chris Penn’s track one), the soundtrack CD that was a fixture until, basically Pulp Fiction came out, the snatches of dialogue, most famously the “Like a Virgin” monologue, even the poster, adorning every student’s wall for the next half decade – so I wouldn’t quite say I …

That's what I think of Mr J Evans Pritchard.

Dead Poets Society (1989)
(SPOILERS) I’ve been up and down on Dead Poets Society over the years, initially impressed by the picture and subsequently finding it rather lacking. As such, I hadn’t been minded to revisit it in a good while, but this occasion found me resolved somewhere between those two positions. On the one hand, Tom Schulman’s screenplay is often simplistic in its character and thematic content while sporting a veneer of substance and maturity. On the other, director Peter Weir imbues the proceedings with an immersive, tangible flavour of time, setting and atmosphere. It’s Witness all over again, basically, just slightly less satisfying in the final reckoning.

The VP just sits around and waits for the President to die. You’ve said so yourself.

Vice (2018)
(SPOILERS) It doesn’t bode well when you have to preface your movie with an admission that you know fuck all about your subject matter, even going as far as using the f-word jokingly as a means of saying you’re hip to this problem but you’re going to struggle on manfully anyway, as you’re telling an important piece of political history in a populist and accessible manner. You think. Underlined by repeating it at the end (“If you leave knowing Cheney no better than when you arrived, you’ll know how we feel”), which only emphasises that being self-aware regarding your abject failure doesn’t make it any less of a failure, even if you allows one to be smugly pleased over job badly done. So no, Vice just isn’t very good.

A squad of dirty Bosch bastards were about to have a sausage party, but I shot them.

Welcome to Marwen (2018)
(SPOILERS) The latest flop from Robert Zemeckis isn’t, fortunately, as dramatically inert as Allied (surely one of the most soporific films of the twenty-first century) but it’s just as guided by its director’s curious obsession – having got over his hideous motion-capture phase – with choosing material on the basis of whatever effects innovations he can bring to the table, whether they merit it or not. If you’re working by that methodology, it shouldn’t be a surprise, as evidenced by Welcome to Marwen, when your storytelling suffers, again and again and again.

You know what successful people do, Detective Bell? They get over shit. They move on.

Destroyer (2018)
(SPOILERS) Karyn Kusama seems to get offered a steady stream of TV work these days, but her movie career has never quite taken off. Following the well-received Girlfight, Æon Flux was a well-documented disaster, and Jennifer’s Body was unable to capitalise on either Megan Fox or Diablo Cody, then both then in fashion, sort of. More recently, The Invitation proved a very pleasant surprise, one of those instant cult movies that, despite bearing a resemblance to other fare (I’ll say no more) managed to etch out its own distinctive furrow. She’s working from a screenplay by her husband Phil Hay (who writes with Matt Manfredi) again for Destroyer, but the results are less than compelling.

I'm like a cat who makes tables. And I'm gonna build was a great big table.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
(SPOILERS) Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight is the kind of fare usually lapped up by the awards circuit. Which isn’t to suggest Jenkins was necessarily setting out to make it a double on Oscar night, but rather that If Beale Street Could Talk is achingly self-conscious in its awareness of its worth and responsibility. You can tell, right from the off and the over explanation of the opening titles – of how James Baldwin intended Beale Street to represent the universality of the black American experience – that this is going to be a little-seen stodge, the kind of artful, self-involved project a director often takes on after Oscar plaudits (see Soderbergh and Kafka).

I think I’d rather poke you in the eye.

Stan & Ollie (2018)
(SPOILERS) I really couldn’t get on with this one. The acclaim (including multiple BAFTA nominations) had me thinking I might have had the trailers wrong, and that Stan & Ollie was other than a slightly hackneyed, twilight-years biopic resting on the laurels – ahem – of such reflective fare. But that’s exactly what it is. Despite decent impersonations from Steve Coogan and John C Reilly, Jon S Baird’s movie is something of a predictable slog.

Is the atomic weight of cobalt 58.9?

Ghostbusters II (1989)
(SPOILERS) Columbia doubtless saw a Ghostbusters sequel as a licence to print money. Well, they did after David Puttnam, who disdained the overt commercialism of blockbusters – as you might guess, he didn’t last very long – was replaced as chairman by Dawn Steel (Puttnam lasted just over a year). Troubled waters were smoothed over – he’d effectively insulted Bill Murray, as well as claiming a sequel was going ahead; Ivan Reitman’s office responded that it was “The first we’ve heard of it” – and development put into high gear, but the studio ended up with a box office also-ran, thoroughly eclipsed by the summer of the Bat (Tim Burton’s movie opened the following week) and grossing less than half the original’s tally. Ivan Reitman put it down to a change in tastes towards darker fare, while Murray opined that the special effects guys took over; both would have been better simply to admit that Ghostbusters II sucked.

Body snatchers in this day and age?

The Avengers 6.33: Bizarre
Perhaps I was just being kind as it’s the last episode, or that I liked the final scene (which I still do like) but I had it in my head that Bizarre was a slight but agreeable way to go out. I was right about the slight part.

You have a fine ear, Mr Steed. I hope you hang onto it.

The Avengers 6.32: Take-Over
Another first-rate Avengers from Terry Nation, this – out of six for the series, half of them are classics – with the kind of nasty home-invasion premise that has been frequent fodder for psychological horror flicks of the last couple of decades. Only, in this case, in much more genteel form. I don’t think it’s quite as strong as Legacy of Death and Take Me To Your Leader, but it’s near enough.

What a fantastic story. Dastardly planned, fiendish.

The Avengers 6.31: Requiem
Is this the least inspired Avengers episode? It certainly had me on the verge of giving up the will, with its crude, jigsaw, memory-association plot that seemed to consist entirely of filler in aid of a reveal that was transparently obvious from the first.

They were worse than philistines. They were villainstines!

The Avengers 6.30: Homicide and Old Lace
It seems Homicide and Old Lace (originally titled Tall Story) generally gets the short straw as the most vilified Avengers episode, but as with the much-decried Invasion of the Earthmen, I was able to find quite a bit to enjoy here. Even the rather deathless main body of the piece, a salvaging of a sort of The Great Great Great Britain Crime, can boast Gerald Harper (2.4: Death Dispatch, 4.15: The Hour That Never Was) as an idiot.

If it turns out to be a poltergeist, vicar, you shall exorcise it.

The Avengers 6.29: Thingumajig
Not up to the high standard of Terry Nation’s previous two teleplays, alas, this is a rather standard-issue affair of something killing off archaeologists in a cave under a church. Indeed, it’s most intriguing aspect is its title. Still, it features Iain Cuthbertson, which is in its considerable favour.

I'm not Pandora. I'm not!

The Avengers 6.28: Pandora
Pandora seems to be a somewhat divisive episode, with complaints ranging from it being atypical to rather dull. I might agree on the former, tonally, as it bears more semblance to a horror tale than an Avengers. That said, it recalls both 5.2: Escape in Time and Avengers girls isolated and in peril in a strange house yarns (3.7: Don’t Look Behind You, 5.15: The Joker). As to it being dull, I tended to being lukewarm on those previous excursions, but I found this one wholly compelling.

Steed, given the opportunity, I could make you look a one-hundred-percent, double-dyed traitor.

The Avengers 6.27: Who Was That Man I Saw You With?
Jeremy Burnham’s last contribution to the show is a likeable but slight framing tale, but this time, rather than Steed or Mother, all the evidence points to Tara King. There’s also a rather crucial issue that it doesn’t really bear much scrutiny that someone as innocuous would be the trigger to destroy the country, even when the dastardly plan has been explained.

Tonight it seems he stalks again through the alleys of the East End.

The Avengers 6.26: Fog
Jeremy Burnham’s teleplay offers an overtly Ripper-esque villain (the deliciously named Gaslight Ghoul) and John Hough serves up appropriately fog-shrouded visuals aided by a very faux-Victorian London set; Fog is arguably pretty thin when it comes down to it, but it’s an appealingly atmospheric yarn, and one with negligible interest in anything approaching a real-world setting, which is very much in its favour.

My image has been hypnotised from his mind. I can put a gun to his head and he won’t even see it.

The Avengers 6.25: Stay Tuned
Steed being hypnotised, such that he repeatedly awakes and prepares for holiday, as if for the first time, sounds like a premise ripe with Groundhog Day potential. And it is, in an episode that generally seems to be a very popular, but for me Tony Williamson can’t quite bring it together.

This is the highlight of my day. I hope it's not all downhill from here.

And the Oscar Should Have Gone To… The 1999 Contenders Ranked
For a year commonly cited - in my view, seemingly at random - as the best year ever for movies, it's notable that 72nd Academy Awards' vanguard Best Picture Oscar nominees have either fallen from grace (American Beauty, The Green Mile, even The Sixth Sense is less feted after two decades of M Night Shyamalan repeatedly using the same template) or been forgotten (The Cider House Rules, The Insider). I'd argue that rather reflects a not-quite-vintage year generally. Still, there's only one picture there that had absolutely no business even being within sight of the last five.

I’m what you might call a champagne problem.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
(SPOILERS) The idea of teaming the two most engaging characters from the recent Fast & Furious movies for a spin-off seems like a no-brainer for making something better than Fast & Furious at its best (somewhere around 6 & 7), but there’s a flaw to this thinking (even if the actual genesis of the movie wasn’t Dwayne Johnson swearing off being on the same set as Vin again); the key to F&F succeeding is the ensemble element, and the variety of the pick’n’mix of characters. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – I can’t help thinking the over-announced title itself stresses an intrinsic lack of confidence somewhere at Universal – duly provides too much of a good thing, ensuring none of the various talents employed are fully on top of their game.

Would you like Smiley Sauce with that?

American Beauty (1999)
(SPOILERS) As is often the case with the Best Picture Oscar, a backlash against a deemed undeserved reward has grown steadily in the years since American Beauty’s win. The film is now often identified as symptomatic of a strain of cinematic indulgence focussing on the affluent middle classes’ first world problems. Worse, it showcases a problematic protagonist with a Lolita-fixation towards his daughter’s best friend (imagine its chances of getting made, let alone getting near the podium in the #MeToo era). Some have even suggested it “mercifully” represents a world that no longer exists (as a pre-9/11 movie), as if such hyperbole has any bearing other than as gormless clickbait; you’d have to believe its world of carefully manicured caricatures existed in the first place to swallow such a notion. American Beauty must own up to some of these charges, but they don’t prevent it from retaining a flawed allure. It’s a satirical take on Americana that, if it pulls its p…

Is CBS Corporate telling CBS News "Do not air this story"?

The Insider (1999)
(SPOILERS) The Insider was the 1999 Best Picture Oscar nominee that didn’t. Do any business, that is. Which is, more often than not, a major mark against it getting the big prize. It can happen (2009, and there was a string of them from 2014-2016), but aside from brief, self-congratulatory “we care about art first” vibes, it generally does nothing for the ceremony’s profile, or the confidence of the industry that is its bread and butter. The Insider lacked the easy accessibility of the other nominees – supernatural affairs, wafer-thin melodramas or middle-class suburbanite satires. It didn’t even brandish a truly headlines-shattering nail-biter in its conspiracy-related true story, as earlier contenders All the President’s Men and JFK could boast. But none of those black marks prevented The Insider from being the cream of the year’s crop.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

You know what I think? I think he just wants to see one cook up close.

The Green Mile (1999)
(SPOILERS) There’s something very satisfying about the unhurried confidence of the storytelling in Frank Darabont’s two prison-set Stephen King adaptations (I’m less beholden to supermarket sweep The Mist); it’s sure, measured and precise, certain that the journey you’re being take on justifies the (indulgent) time spent, without the need for flashy visuals or ornate twists (the twists there are feel entirely germane – with a notable exception – as if they could only be that way). But. The Green Mile has rightly come under scrutiny for its reliance on – or to be more precise, building its foundation on – the “Magical Negro” trope, served with a mild sprinkling of idiot savant (so in respect of the latter, a Best Supporting Actor nomination was virtually guaranteed). One might argue that Stephen King’s magical realist narrative flourishes well-worn narrative ploys and characterisations at every stage – such that John Coffey’s initials are announcement enough of his …

You don't find it depressing that Homer Wells is picking apples?

The Cider House Rules (1999)
(SPOILERS) Miramax’s big Oscar contender of 1999 made its finalist appearance largely by default, after hopes for The Talented Mr Ripley bottomed out. The studio had gone great guns during the previous few years, taking both The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love to the top prize and even securing Roberto Benigni Best Actor, but suddenly things didn’t look so bright, and the result was this: a film that put a whole new spin on the – to all intents and purposes – inconsequential nominee vying for the main award. The studio would repeat the trick to almost exactly the same effect with the same director a year later in the form of Chocolat.

My security device is now primed. I will give audible warning of any unauthorised contact.

The Avengers 6.24: Take Me to Your Leader
Terry Nation hits another bullseye – or near enough – with Take Me to Your Leader, in which he shrewdly uses a similar “trail of suspects” approach to previous winner Legacy of Death, as Steed and Tara are required to navigate a suitcase – one that provides the bearer with instructions – to its owner when – in theory – it’s required to be passed from enemy agent contact to enemy agent contact in relay. It isn’t perhaps as uproarious as his previous teleplay, but more than makes up for it in inventiveness.

Extraordinary creatures. I’ve never been able to understand what motivates them.

The Avengers 6.23: Love All
Another quality episode from Jeremy Burnham, with a plot simultaneously both daft and clever (so very Avengers), but the biggest standout is the terrific performance from his wife – and later Children of the Stones lead – Veronica Strong, first seen as an aging, fag-ash cleaning lady with a strange knack for attracting men in the Ministry, and then as her “real” self, a dazzling beauty.

You’re a staring Stanley!

The Sixth Sense (1999)
(SPOILERS) It has usually been a shrewd move for the Academy to ensure there’s at least one big hit among its Best Picture Oscar nominees. At least, until the era of ever-plummeting ratings; not only do the studios get to congratulate themselves for their own profligacy (often, but not always, the big hits are also the costliest productions), but the audience also has something to identify with and possibly root for. Plus, it evidences that the ceremony isn’t just about populism-shunning snobbery. The Sixth Sense provided Oscar’s supernatural bookend to a decade – albeit, The Green Mile also has a stake in this – that opened with Ghost while representing the kind of deliberate, skilfully-honed genre fare there was no shame in recognising. Plus, it had a twist. Everyone loves a twist.

Kindly behove me no ill behoves!

The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
(SPOILERS) It’s often the case that industry-shaking flops aren’t nearly the travesties they appeared to be before the dust had settled, and so it is with The Bonfire of the Vanities. The adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s ultra-cynical bestseller is still the largely toothless, apologetically broad-brush comedy – I’d hesitate to call it a satire in its reconfigured form – it was when first savaged by critics nearly thirty years ago, but taken for what it is, that is, removed from the long shadow of Wolfe’s novel, it’s actually fairly serviceable star-stuffed affair that doesn’t seem so woefully different to any number of rather blunt-edged comedies of the era.

What say we unscrew the lid and see what happens?

The Current War (2017)
(SPOILERS) If you didn’t know Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s The Current War had a turbulent history in the editing suite, you’d rapidly reach that conclusion from watching the film. Either that, or assume the director has no idea what he was doing. Aside from an aesthetically inadvisable penchant for low-angle, fish-eye framing, there’s scant design or coherence to Gomez-Rejon’s visual sense; we’re subjected to random cutting (and cutting randomly) from careful compositions to ones bereft of the same, regardless of the requirements of the scene or flow of the overall narrative. As a consequence, it says something for the fascination the Thomas Edison/ George Westinghouse story exerts – their competition for whose electrical system would win out and be adopted en masse – as told by Michal Mitnick that the film is even halfway watchable.

Ice is civilisation! That's why I'm here! That's why I came!

The Mosquito Coast (1986)
(SPOILERS) How different things might have been, had The Mosquito Coast been a hit. Its failure evidently chastened Harrison Ford, who was still opining half a decade later that it was his only film that hadn’t made its money back. For a spell there, with two phenomenal franchises to his name and his star power entrenched by the success of Witness, he felt confident enough to mix things up a little, to put his name to the Peter Weir project that had fallen through due to lack of funding/Jack Nicholson, to work with an out-of-favour European director (in Frantic for Polanski, now even more out of favour), try his hand as the supporting romantic interest in an unfamiliar genre (Working Girl) and work with one of the ‘70s most feted directors in a did-he-didn’t-he Jagged Edge-esque courtroom drama (Presumed Innocent, where more column inches ended up being devoted to his severe haircut than the quality of the picture). At least a couple of these paid off, and it w…

Different skin, same suffering.

Heaven & Earth (1993)
(SPOILERS) All credit to Oliver Stone for feeling a responsibility to portray the Vietnamese perspective of the Vietnam War, after so many depictions of the physical and mental traumas of GIs (even when inflicting suffering on the enemy) but from the evidence of the all but forgotten Heaven & Earth, the final part of his Vietnam trilogy, he wasn’t the guy to do it.

Do you think the world’s ended and they forgot to tell us?

The Avengers 6.21: The Morning After
This one seems to get something of a mixed reaction, which rather surprises me. Along with the not-dissimilar-in-premise 4.15: The Hour That Never Was, it was one of the highlights of my first-run Avengers experience, and revisiting the series stands up even better than its Season Four counterpart. Much of that is down to John Hough’s superb location work and sure feel for suspense, but Brian Clemens also ensures the plot maintains a sense of mystery, while the odd couple/ Midnight Run/ The Defiant Ones handcuffed pairing of Macnee and Peter Barkworth (1.22: Kill the King, 3.16: The Medicine Men, 5.9: The Correct Way to Kill) is an absolute treat.

But let me remind you that the course has already begun. And you can be taken away and interrogated at any time. Any time at all.

The Avengers 6.21: The Interrogators
After the dual-role disappointment of 5.10: Never, Never Say Die, the show finally does right by Christopher Lee, in the role of Colonel Mannering (!), “Head of Interdepartmental Security”, operating a beast of all scams on the intelligence network. It’s a seriously-inclined episode from Richard Harris, rewritten by Brian Clemens (and directed by Charles Crichton), but with just enough of the eccentric to add flavour.

What about the meaningless line of indifference?

The Lion King (2019)
(SPOILERS) And so the Disney “live-action” remake train thunders on regardless (I wonder how long the live-action claim would last if there was a slim hope of a Best Animated Feature Oscar nod?) I know I keep repeating myself, but the early ‘90s Disney animation renaissance didn’t mean very much to me; I found their pictures during that period fine, but none of them blew me away as they did critics and audiences generally. As such, I have scant nostalgia to bring to bear on the prospect of a remake, which I’m sure can work both ways. Aladdin proved to be a lot of fun. Beauty and the Beast entirely tepid. The Lion King, well, it isn’t a badfilm, but it’s wearying its slavish respectfulness towards the original and so diligent in doing it justice, you’d think it was some kind of religious artefact. As a result, it is, ironically, for the most part, dramatically dead in the water.

I can’t believe we’re fighting each other, when we should be fighting them.

Platoon (1986)
(SPOILERS) Oliver Stone won his first of two directing Oscars for Platoon, but it was one of three nominations at the 59thAcademy Awards; dual Best Original Screenplay nominations for Platoon and Salvador were also forthcoming (Woody won for Hannah and Her Sisters). Now, I think Salvador’s a fine piece of work, near-peak Stone operating at the height of his powers, and it’s worth remembering that he had previously won in the screenplay category for Midnight Express, but his writing for Platoon is by some distance the least of its virtues. As Pauline Kael noted, it’s like “a young man’s first autobiographical – and inflated – work” (Stone wrote it a decade before he eventually got to make it and its earliest form came not long after his tour of duty in Vietnam concluded). At its best, Platoon is visceral and ferociously uncompromising, but its merits are too often diminished by Stone’s would-be poetic lens, casting himself (through Charlie Sheen) as the sensitive, afflict…

You're waterboarding me.

The Upside (2017)
(SPOILERS) The list of US remakes of foreign-language films really ought to be considered a hiding to nothing, given the ratio of flops to unqualified successes. There’s always that chance, though, of a proven property (elsewhere) hitting the jackpot, and every exec hopes, in the case of French originals, for another The Birdcage, Three Men and a Baby, True Lies or Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Even a Nine Months, Sommersby or Unfaithful will do. Rather than EdTV. Or Sorcerer. Or Eye of the Beholder. Or Brick Mansions. Or Chloe. Or Intersection (Richard Gere is clearly a Francophile). Or Just Visiting. Or The Man with One Red Shoe. Or Mixed Nuts. Or Original Sin. Or Oscar. Or Point of No Return. Or Quick Change. Or Return to Paradise. Or Under Suspicion. Or Wicker Park. Or Father’s Day.

They literally call themselves “Decepticons”. That doesn’t set off any red flags?

Bumblebee  (2018)
(SPOILERS) Bumblebee is by some distance the best Transformers movie, simply by dint of having a smattering of heart (one might argue the first Shia LaBeouf one also does, and it’s certainly significantly better than the others, but it’s still a soulless Michael Bay “machine”). Laika VP and director Travis Knight brings personality to a series that has traditionally consisted of shamelessly selling product, by way of a nostalgia piece that nods to the likes of Herbie (the original), The Iron Giant and even Robocop.

Oi! Give me back my bum bag!

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)
(SPOILERS) “Spy Who…” movies have a reasonably solid historic pedigree (yes, I’m including the Austin Powers one), but that title talisman does little for The Spy Who Dumped Me, attempting as it does to run with the tried-and-tested baton of unexceptional types thrown into a fantastic narrative that can be found in everything from The Man Who Knew Too Much to The Man Who Knew Too Little to Condorman and your average Wilder/Pryor vehicle. On this evidence, though, director Susan Fogel is a better action director than she is a dab hand at comedy (before you call me out by pointing to her credit on the recent raved-over Booksmart, that is with three other writers).

I’ve got a problem in timber technology right here.

The Avengers 6.20: The Rotters
David Freeman’s sole contribution to the series feels like he’s been writing The Avengers for years. Most particularly, the Mrs Peel era in which bad guys (rotters, even) bump off a list of parties connected to some eccentric enterprise or group. Which came first, the punning title or the plot? It scarcely matters, since they’re equal of each other. Director Robert Fuest, meanwhile, continues his domination of the season’s best visuals.

In alphabetical order, he was clubbed, poisoned, shot, spiked, stabbed, strangled and suffocated. And his eardrums are damaged.

The Avengers 6.19: Killer
One of the series’ infrequent “Steed-gets-another-partner-for-an-episode” outings (see also 4.19: The Girl from Auntie). And while on the plus side, Lady Diana Forbes-Blakeney (Jennifer Croxton) mercifully avoids the overt flirtation of Tara, she also lacks the sense of fun and energy Thorson brings to her role. As a result, Lady Diana only ever seems like a stand-in, marking time, where other eccentric one-offs (5.19: Dead Man’s Treasure, 3.24: The Charmers) were more indelible.

You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances.

A Few Good Men (1992)
(SPOILERS) Aaron Sorkin has penned a few good manuscripts in his time, but A Few Good Men, despite being inspired by an actual incident (one related to him by his sister, an army lawyer on a case at the time), falls squarely into the realm of watchable but formulaic. I’m not sure I’d revisited the entire movie since seeing it at the cinema, but my reaction is largely the same: that it’s about as impressively mounted and star-studded as Hollywood gets, but it’s ultimately a rather empty courtroom drama.

What happens at 72?

Midsommar (2019)
(SPOILERS) Ari Aster, by rights, ought already to be buckling under the weight of all those accolades amassing around him, pronouncing him a horror wunderkind a mere two films in. But while both Midsommar and Hereditary have both received broadly similar critical acclaim, his second feature will lag behind the first by some distance in box office, unless something significant happens in a hitherto neglected territory. That isn’t such a surprise on seeing it. While Hereditary keeps its hand firmly on the tiller of shock value and incident, so as to sustain it’s already more than adequate running time, Midsommar runs a full twenty minutes longer, which is positively – or rather, negatively – over-indulgent for what we have here, content-wise, and suggests a director whose crowned auteurishness has instantly gone to his head.

Everyone who had a talent for it lived happily ever after.

Empire 30:  Favourite Films of the Last 30 Years
Empire’s readers’ poll to celebrate its thirtieth birthday – a request for the ultimate thirty films of the last thirty years, one per year from 1989 – required a bit of thought, particularly since they weren’t just limiting it to your annual favourite (“These can be the films that impressed you the most, the ones that stuck with you, that brought you joy, or came to you at just the right time”). Also – since the question was asked on Twitter, although I don’t know how rigorous they’re being; does it apply to general release, or does it include first film festival showings? – they’re talking UK release dates, rather than US, calling for that extra modicum of mulling. To provide more variety, I opted to limit myself to just one film per director; otherwise, my thirty would have been top heavy with, at very least, Coen Brothers movies. So here’s they are, with runners-up and reasoning:

Can you close off your feelings so you don’t get crippled by the moral ambiguity of your violent actions?

Spider-Man Worst to Best

Doesn't work out, I'll send her home in body bag.

Anna (2019)
(SPOILERS) I’m sure one could construe pertinent parallels between the various allegations and predilections that have surfaced at various points relating to Luc Besson, both over the years and very recently, and the subject matter of his movies, be it by way of a layered confessional or artistic “atonement” in the form of (often ingenue) women rising up against their abusers/employers. In the case of Anna, however, I just think he saw Atomic Blonde and got jealous. I’ll have me some of that, though Luc. Only, while he brought more than sufficient action to the table, he omitted two vital ingredients: strong lead casting and a kick-ass soundtrack.