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It’s like being smothered in beige.

The Good Liar (2019)
(SPOILERS) I probably ought to have twigged, based on the specific setting of The Good Liar that World War II would be involved – ten years ago, rather than the present day, so making the involvement of Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren just about believable – but I really wish it hadn’t been. Jeffrey Hatcher’s screenplay, adapting Nicholas Searle’s 2016 novel, offers a nifty little conning-the-conman tale that would work much, much better without the ungainly backstory and motivation that impose themselves about halfway through and then get paid off with equal lack of finesse.

The sooner we are seamen again, the better.

The Bounty (1984)
(SPOILERS) How different might David Lean’s late career have been if Ryan’s Daughter hadn’t been so eviscerated, and his confidence with it? Certainly, we know about his post-A Passage to India projects (Empire of the Sun, Nostromo), but there were fourteen intervening years during which he surely might have squeezed out two or three additional features. The notable one that got away was, like Empire of the Sun, actually made: The Bounty. But by Roger Donaldson, after Lean eventually dropped out. And the resulting picture is, as you might expect, merely okay, notable for a fine Anthony Hopkins performance as Bligh (Lean’s choice), but lacking any of the visual poetry that comes from a master of the craft.

And my father was a real ugly man.

Marty (1955)
(SPOILERS) It might be the very unexceptional good-naturedness of Marty that explains its Best Picture Oscar success. Ernest Borgnine’s Best Actor win is perhaps more immediately understandable, a badge of recognition for versatility, having previously attracted attention for playing iron-wrought bastards. But Marty also took the Palme d’Or, and it’s curious that its artistically-inclined jury fell so heavily for its charms (it was the first American picture to win the award; Lost Weekend won the Grand Prix when that was still the top award).

There’s nothing stock about a stock car.

Days of Thunder (1990)
(SPOILERS) The summer of 1990 was beset with box office underperformers. Sure-thing sequels – Another 48Hrs, Robocop 2, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, The Exorcist III, even Back to the Future Part III – either belly flopped or failed to hit the hoped for highs, while franchise hopefuls – Dick Tracy, Arachnophobia – most certainly did not ascend to the stratospheric levels of the previous year’s Batman. Even the big hitters, Total Recall and Die Hard 2: Die Harder, were somewhat offset by costing a fortune in the first place. Price-tag-wise, Days of Thunder, a thematic sequel to the phenomenon that was Top Gun, was in their category. Business-wise, it was definitely in the former. Tom Cruise didn’t quite suffer his first misfire since Legend – he’d made charmed choices ever since playing Maverick – but it was a close-run thing.

This is very cruel, Oskar. You're giving them hope. You shouldn't do that.

Schindler’s List (1993)
(SPOILERS) Such is the status of Schindler’s List, it all but defies criticism; it’s the worthiest of all the many worthy Best Picture Oscar winners, a film noble of purpose and sensitive in the treatment and depiction of the Holocaust as the backdrop to one man’s redemption. There is much to admire in Steven Spielberg’s film. But it is still a Steven Spielberg film. From a director whose driving impulse is the manufacture of popcorn entertainments, not intellectual introspection. Which means it’s a film that, for all its commendable features, is made to manipulate its audience in the manner of any of his “lesser” genre offerings. One’s mileage doubtless varies on this, but for me there are times during this, his crowning achievement, where the berg gets in the way of telling the most respectful version of this story by simple dint of being the berg. But then, to a great or lesser extent, this is true of almost all, if not all, his prestige pictures.

We’re Americans. We read your emails.

Domino (2019)
(SPOILERS) Brian De Palma essentially appears to have disowned his unhappy latest motion picture encounter (“I never experienced such a horrible movie set”). He opined that he came in on a script that wasn’t of his own devising (by Petter Skavlan of Kon-Tiki) and did his failing best to apply his unique vision to it. And you can see that vision, occasionally, but more than that you can see unaccustomed cheapness and lacklustre material that likely wouldn’t play no matter how much cash was thrown at it.

We have the skills and the right to acquire proper compensation.

Dragged Across Concrete (2018)
(SPOILERS) Craig S Zahler’s response to controversy surrounding his – unstated, but people draw their own conclusions from his cumulative body of work – politics is to double down. He casts Mel Gibson as a good-guy-really racist cop and has his characters, sometimes with extreme lack of finesse, espouse his own thoughts on having a freedom to traverse such rocky terrain. You might argue he’s trolling his audience, and you’d have some degree of justification there. Dragged Across Concrete shows once again that he’s a very talented filmmaker – if over-indulgent and offputtingly exploitation cinema-indebted – but it becomes increasingly difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt in the scenarios he sets up.

There’s a wolf in the henhouse. We let him in!

The Founder (2017)
(SPOILERS) I’d had this on my watchlist for an age, balancing the positive of a Michael Keaton showcase against the vanilla prospects of a John Lee Hancock joint. I should have been less cautious, as The Founder, the tale of the rise of Ray Kroc and his wresting control of McDonalds from the brothers who started it, is hugely engrossing. It may even be that Hancock’s inconspicuous directorial presence benefits the material on this occasion, allowing Robert Siegel’s screenplay and Keaton’s performance to be exactly as persuasive as they should.

The world is one big hospice with fresh air.

Doctor Sleep (2019)
(SPOILERS) Doctor Sleep is a much better movie than it probably ought to be. Which is to say, it’s an adaption of a 2013 novel that, by most accounts, was a bit of a dud. That novel was a sequel to The Shining, one of Stephen King’s most beloved works, made into a film that diverged heavily, and in King’s view detrimentally, from the source material. Accordingly, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep also operates as a follow up to the legendary Kubrick film. In which regard, it doesn’t even come close. And yet, judged as its own thing, which can at times be difficult due to the overt referencing, it’s an affecting and often effective tale of personal redemption and facing the – in this case literal – ghosts of one’s past.

Do you see that crap? All that horror crap?

Creepshow (1982)
(SPOILERS) It’s curious that Creepshow is so keen to establish an EC Comics style, right down to the page frames and inked opening and final shots of each story, as George Romero’s patchy approach is exactly notthe way to produce a consistent aesthetic. Compare this to the more full-blooded engagement with split screen and attempts at visual immersion of Ang Lee’s Hulk two decades later, and subsequently the likes of Sin City, The Spirit and 300, and Romero’s movie looks rather malnourished. In a way, though, this cobbled-together vibe is perfectly suited to movie. Like most anthologies, the quality of its episodes is wildly variable, and add to that very spotty performances and tonal lurches (including those of humour) and you have a grisly mess, if one emphatically short on scares.

Well, isn’t that an oogy mess?

Misery (1990)
(SPOILERS) Misery’s the first time in Rob Reiner’s spotless early run where one becomes conscious of his limitations. It’s a thoroughly, commendably decent adaptation, one in which he elicits outstanding performances from his leads and pushes all the necessary shock buttons, but there’s never that crucial sense of an ability to go the extra mile to make it a truly seminal horror movie. Instead, what it has is a truly seminal villain. Otherwise, it has to settle for punching-above-its-weight journeyman status.

If a Ripley gets out of this pine tree paradise, well, it just can't be allowed to do that.

Dreamcatcher (2003)
(SPOILER) A puzzler for many. Not so much in terms of how a post-horrific car crash, OxyContin-addicted Stephen King could have written such a rotten story (at one point, before his comedown, he proudly extolled that Dreamcatcher would do for the toilet what Psycho did for the shower”, which, well…) – I think the circumstances speak for themselves – but how such luminaries as William Goldman and Lawrence Kasdan became involved in the movie adaptation, and how Castle Rock, for the most part a bastion of successful translations of the author’s work, could have tripped up so badly. Because Dreamcatcher is an unmistakably bad film.

It’s a comedy and it's sex and it's action. It’s a total entertainment experience.

Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
(SPOILERS) Eddie Murphy’s Rudy Ray Moore biopic, charting Moore’s rise to fame in Ed-Wood-who-could blaxpoitation movie Dolemite is breezy and enjoyable, brimming with performers clearly having a very good time and overseen by director Craig Brewer with an easy zest that bodes well for the forthcoming Coming 2 America. It’s the best thing Murphy’s done in years. But still, it never feels quite as turbo-charged or uproarious as it promises to be.

Yeah, I’m so bad, I kick my own ass twice a day.

Dolemite (1975)
(SPOILERS) It says something about unlikely interdependencies in the digital age that Amazon Prime should suddenly offer Rudy Ray Moore’s blaxpoitation cult item off the back of the publicity engendered by Eddie Murphy’s Netflix comeback movie Dolemite Is My Name. The problem with cult items is often that they’re so attuned to time and place – and how wasted you were when first encountering them – that theirs are the most subjective of merits.

I'm reliable, I'm a very good listener, and I'm extremely funny.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I wrote my 23 to see in 2019, I speculated that James Cameron might be purposefully giving his hand-me-downs to lesser talents because he hubristically didn’t want anyone making a movie that was within a spit of the proficiency we’ve come to expect from him. Certainly, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Miller are leagues beneath Kathryn Bigelow, Jimbo’s former spouse and director of his Strange Days screenplay. Miller’s no slouch when it comes to action – which is what these movies are all about, let’s face it – but neither is he a craftsman, so all those reviews attesting that Terminator: Dark Fate is the best in the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day may be right, but there’s a considerable gulf between the first sequel (which I’m not that big a fan of) and this retcon sequel to that sequel.

Well, Doctor. This is a surprise.

Doctor Who Season 18 – Worst to Best

Peoples of the universe, please attend carefully.

Doctor Who Season 18 – Worst to Best
As the star ratings that follow will attest, I generally rate Season 18 very highly. John Nathan-Turner’s new-broom approach may have been unceremonious towards the old guard, be they actors or production personnel, and was additionally responsible for introducing a slew of bad ideas (bad companions, bad designs, bad directors), but it also saw the arrival of a script editor with commendably strong story-telling instincts – best if you ignore him talking about them, mind – and at least some of the production changes he made genuinely served to refresh and reinvigorate the show. Unfortunately, especially when ploughing through a Blu-ray boxset, it’s a season where, the more one knows about the behind-the-scenes dramas, tensions and perspectives, the less lustrous it can seem. Albeit, that doesn’t often overwhelm what’s actually on screen; the JN-T era began on a high he’d never again come close to equalling.

I have a cow, but I hate bananas.

The Laundromat (2019)
(SPOILERS) Steven Soderbergh’s flair for cinematic mediocrity continues with this attempt at The Big Short-style topicality, taking aim at the Panama Papers but ending up with a mostly blunt satire, one eager to show how the offshore system negatively impacts the average – and also the not-so-average – person but at the expense of really digging in to how it facilitates the turning of the broader capitalist world (it is, after all based on Jake Bernstein’s Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite).

It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have to look yourself in the mirror any more.

Hollow Man (2000)
(SPOILERS) Paul Verhoeven very acutely critiqued his own choices when he observed of Hollow Manit really is not me anymore. I think many other people could have done that… there might have been twenty directors in Hollywood who could have done that”. It isn’t such a wonder he returned to Europe, and to quality, for his subsequent films. If Memoirs of an Invisible Man failed to follow up on the mental side effects of being seen right through found in HG Wells’ novel and (especially) in James Whale’s film, all Hollow Man does is take that tack, with the consequence that the proceedings degenerate into a banal action slasher, but with a naked Bacon instead of a guy in a hockey mask.

If I had eyes and teeth, I’d be a whole head.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
(SPOILERS) A huge box office bomb for Warner Bros, but unlike the later Escape from L.A., its problems can’t really be laid at director John Carpenter’s door. Indeed, it sounds as if he brought exactly the right instincts to the project (“North by Northwest meets Starman”); it’s almost entirely the presence of Chevy Chase that does for Memoirs of an Invisible Man, a vanity project the star had nurtured but which proved entirely ill-fitting and scuppered his serious thesping designs as quickly as they took form.

It’s easy, really, if you’re clever. An invisible man can rule the world!

The Invisible Man (1933)
(SPOILERS) James Whale’s most celebrated features may be his brace of Frankensteins, but this, his other contribution to the Universal horror cycle (The Old Dark House presumably doesn’t get officially included as it lacks their classic monsters), ought to be mentioned in the same breath. Superbly spoofed by Joe Dante in Son of The Invisible Man for Amazon Women on the Moon (below), it doesn’t actually need that kind of undercutting, as its hearty – and twisted – sense of humour shines through throughout. Much of which can be attributed to a magnificently full-blooded performance from Claude Rains.

It’s not every day you see a guy get his ass kicked on two continents – by himself.

Gemini Man (2019)
(SPOILERS) Ang Lee seems hellbent on sloughing down a technological cul-de-sac to the point of creative obscurity, in much the same way Robert Zemeckis enmired himself in the mirage of motion capture for a decade. Lee previously experimented with higher frame rates on Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, to the general aversion of those who saw it in its intended form – 48, 60 or 120 fps have generally gone down like a bag of cold sick, just ask Peter Jackson – and the complete indifference of most of the remaining audience, for whom the material held little lustre. Now he pretty much repeats that trick with Gemini Man. At best, it’s merely an “okay” film – not quite the bomb its Rotten Tomatoes score suggests – which, (as I saw it) stripped of its distracting frame rate and 3D, reveals itself as just about serviceable but afflicted by several insurmountable drawbacks.

Ice cream, Cherryade and chicken nuggets, liquidised.

The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)
(SPOILERS) Joe Cornish generated such goodwill with Attack the Block – admittedly, I wasn’t its greatest fan – that I suspect no one really wanted to admit The Kid Who Would Be King, his belated follow up was a bit of a damp squib. This modern-day Arthurian retelling but with kids in the key protagonist roles may appear to have sufficient reconfigured cachet to appeal, but it’s mostly rather derivative, and that’s without even considering the patchy lead cast.

You’ll just have to face it, Steed. You’re completely compromised.

The Avengers Season 6 Ranked – Worst to Best
The final run, and an oft-maligned one. It’s doubtful anyone could have filled Emma Peel’s kinky boots, but it didn’t help Linda Thorson that Tara King was frequently earmarked to moon over Steed while very evidentlynot being the equal Emma and Cathy were; the generation gap was never less than unflatteringly evident. Nevertheless, despite this imbalance, and the early hiccups of the John Bryce-produced episodes, Season Six arguably offers a superior selection of episodes to its predecessor, in which everyone became perhaps a little too relaxed.

Dude. You’re my hero and shit.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was going to say I’d really like to see what Vince Gilligan has up his sleeve besidesBreaking Bad spinoffs. But then I saw that he had a short-lived series on CBS a few years back (Battle Creek). I guess things Breaking Bad-related ensure an easy greenlight, particularly from Netflix, for whom the original show was bread and butter in its take up as a streaming platform. There’s something slightly dispiriting about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, though. Not that Gilligan felt the need to return to Jesse Pinkman – although the legitimacy of that motive is debatable – but the desire to re-enter and re-inhabit the period of the show itself, as if he’s unable to move on from a near-universally feted achievement and has to continually exhume it and pick it apart.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

He’s got all the nerve in the world, but none of the nerves.

Elmer Gantry (1960)
(SPOILERS) Richard Brooks was something of an Oscar regular by the time he made Elmer Gantry, with The Blackboard Jungle, The Brothers Karamazov and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof all getting attention; he’d continue to keep that up during the ‘60s. Gantry receiving the nominations it did (five, including Best Picture), in some ways feels like a surprise, though: that the Academy would recognise material so overtly critical of religion, or by implication, through broadsiding those treating it like a business. That may be partly because its source material dates back to Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 novel, so there’s a literary pedigree, however current and controversial. It may also help that, while the film starts out with uncompromising zeal to expose and critique, by the conclusion it has become a much more recognisably traditional affair.

So does anyone have another question, not related to Hill House?

The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
(SPOILERS) Throughout the early episodes of The Haunting of Hill House, I nursed a creeping suspicion that the horror element was really so much window dressing. Partly because Mike Flanagan’s loosest of adaptations of Jane Shirley Jackson’s 1957 novel seemed far more concerned with Lost-esque personal narrative juggling than scares – which were, let’s face it, inserted on a formula basis to keep the thing ticking over. That suspicion seemed to be confirmed with the centre-piece funeral episodes (Six and Seven), where however entwined the familial strife of the Crains was with Hill House, it was much less engrossing that the actual emotional fireworks. And then, the climactic episode served to underline the point, seemingly throwing away any notion of horror in favour of a rather sappy, jaundiced depiction of a house that will actually in some way protect the souls it eats.

It's sort of Charles Foster Kane meets The Munsters or something.

The Haunting (1999)
(SPOILERS) I somehow expected time wasn’t going to improve The Haunting miraculously, but returning to it rather underlines the idea that Jan De Bont somehow just got lucky with his first foray into directing – and, to an extent second – while everything subsequently proved him rather tragically incompetent. To such an extent, he effectively retired from the business after his fifth film. The Haunting suggests not only that he didn’t have the faintest clue how to make a scary movie, but that he wasn’t even trying. Or about as much as the makers of Scary Movie.

It ought to be burned to the ground and sowed with salt.

The Haunting (1963)
(SPOILERS) Is it bad that, as far as the haunted house subgenre goes, I prefer The Legend of Hell House to Robert Wise’s very respectable, mature adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s then-recent novel? Both are based on a team of investigators setting up shop in a famously haunted abode – Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape does something similar – but John Hough’s film of Richard Matheson’s novel simply wants to have unapologetic fun with the premise. The Haunting goes for a less tangible vibe – night and day compared to the recent Netflix incarnation – but I’m not sure it quite pulls it off.

This sucks! It sucks the biggest mega balls in the history of shitty ball-sucking!

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
(SPOILERS) The biggest failing of this sequel to the surprisingly witty 2017 Groundhog Day horror is that it stops short of fully embracing the out-there potential of invoking Back to the Future Part II. Instead, writer-director Christopher Landon opts to coast somewhat on a what-if scenario in which returning protagonist Tree (Jessica Rothe) gets to experience an alt-reality where her mum never died, and she must decide whether to give that up to get back to her own universe.

Why do all my generals want to destroy my bridges?

A Bridge Too Far (1977)
(SPOILERS) Deliberate and measured – some might say ponderous – was always the hallmark of Sir Richard Attenborough’s directorial career, but for the most part, that works to the benefit of A Bridge Too Far. It offers a liberal smattering of both personalised and cast-of-hundreds action sequences, but essentially his recounting of Operation Market Garden is all about talk, deliberation and a cavalcade of miscalculations, hubris and outright idiocy. Yes, there’s plenty of spectacle (and cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame, is no slouch in that regard), and the expense is all up there on screen, but its effectiveness comes from following William Goldman’s wordy screenplay.

An invasion of Normandy would be against all military logic. It would be against any logic at all.

The Longest Day (1962)
(SPOILERS) It certainly felt like it. Three interminable hours that even playing “spot the star cameo” couldn’t relieve. It’s salient to note that both this and A Bridge Too Far were based on epic accounts of epic wartime operations by Cornelius Ryan, but whereas William Goldman managed to turn the latter into a surprisingly remarkable screenplay and Richard Attenborough into a surprisingly good film, here Ryan, adapting himself (with additional material credited to four other writers), induces mostly lethargy. He never finds an effective means to thread the various incidents and beachheads and responses together into a coherent whole, so you’re left with material that feels rather formless and directionless.

I can’t have you following me about eternity like the Flying Dutchman.

Time after Time (1979)
(SPOILERS) It seems as if every even half-successful science-fiction movie has spawned at least a failed TV version at some point. I haven’t seen Time after Time’s spin-off, but I’m unsurprised its premise didn’t successfully lend itself to an ongoing series format. Indeed, by the time the credits roll on Nicholas Meyer’s directorial debut, I felt he’d run into the limits of his (Karl Alexander’s) idea.

My advice? Take it to Channel 4. They’ll eat this shit up.

In the Shadow of the Moon (2019)
(SPOILERS) One time, it would be satisfying if the main protagonist in one of these Grandfather Paradox constructions had done with the inherent inescapability of it all and expressly set out to blow the bloody doors off. If Boyd Holbrook’s increasingly bedraggled, hairpiece-hampered ex-cop, on realising that’s his granddaughter on the beach, the initiator of all these time-travel, would-you-kill Hitler murders – notably, there’s no discussion of whether this is a morally unconscionable mission, presumably because those responsible for kicking off the future civil war are hateful racists, so there shouldn’t be any debate on the matter – had just shot her in the head, that at least would have saved his younger, less chronologically-aware version from pushing her in front of a train.

You sucked my arm off!

Logan Lucky (2017)
(SPOILERS) I suppose it’s quite sweet that love and devotion dictated Steven Soderbergh’s return to big screen moviemaking, if reports of the true identity of Logan Lucky’s screenwriter are accurate (his wife, Jules Asner, under the pseudonym Rebecca Blunt). I’d say I can’t see any other good reason for having made it, but I’d say that of most Soderbergh fare (including ones shot on an iPhone or with a handycam or even an instant polaroid).

“All you need is a mango season and everything will change.”

High Flying Bird (2019)
(SPOILERS) The most noticeable thing about Steven Soderbergh’s return to moviemaking has been that so few really noticed. He has directed four films since his four-year hiatus (sorry, retirement), with a fifth on the way, and seems to be operating by a career rationale in direct contrast to Tarantino’s. The latter wants every one to count, to dig deep into his auteur status and thus leave behind an indomitable rep (underlined by that all-important – and terrifying as a prospect to some – ten-and-out movies). Soderbergh appears to have only one criterion in picking his projects: that they’re desperately inessential.

Ew, you feed dragons to dragons?

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was a big fan of How to Train Your Dragon, and rated the sequel as a cut above most repetitive, remixed follow-up fare, even if it was thoroughly embedded with second-chapter tropes. This third instalment, however, arriving half a decade after its predecessor, feels more like contractual obligation than the consequence of a real yen to tell a story. The focus on dragon Toothless ends up yielding a rather toothless story.

Er, should we tell him there are no restrooms in the Land of the Dead?

Coco (2017)
(SPOILERS) Although I knew I should Coco, it took me a while to get round to this Pixar (don’t hold your breath for Cars 3). Partly because I’ve become somewhat jaded towards the animation house’s once must-see cachet, whereby even their original offerings betray a formula that it isn’t so stratospherically superior to that of DreamWorks, who invariably suffer when it comes to comparisons. But, as with Inside Out, Pixar’s ninth Best Animated Feature Oscar winner offers the potential of an original outing that’s also somewhat risky; it’s actually nothing of the sort, as much great beyond comfort food as Casper, but it’s nevertheless as appealingly precision-engineered as only Pixar can provide.

He is a rambunctious sort, ain't he?

Quentin Tarantino  Ranked
The debate continues, particularly with the typically divisive Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, over whether Quentin Tarantino deserves all the attention lavished on him. Is he a true talent with a deceptive amount to say? Or a showy, shallow pretender to the auteur crown, who gets the press he does because he’s pretty much alone in an arid desert of popular original filmmaking, one where cinema is all-but suffocated by franchise overload.

You're not even an ape. You're a media person.

Natural Born Killers (1994)
(SPOILERS) In which Oliver Stone loses the plot. Casting about for something new to get incensed over now he’s burnt himself out on Nam and dead presidents, Oli happens upon a Tarantino script (sold for $10k) and proceeds to take a wrecking ball to it. As a non sequitur of a cinematic experience, it’s almost as if he actively sought to piss away the good will the editing Oscar for JFK engendered (notably awarded to a different editor). As a media “satire”, Natural Born Killers reinforces criticisms that his only means of tackling a subject is napalming it.

What you are doing is not how it's done.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
(SPOILERS) Tarantino undertook a bout of script doctoring during the mid-90s, but From Dusk Till Dawn represents his sole outright gun-for-hire job from inception, and apart from feeling through-and-through like a scrappy Robert Rodriguez production, with “That’ll do” writ large across it (complete with a plum part for mate Quentin), it’s also an unusually scrappy screenplay, lacking his usual inventiveness and memorable dialogue, leaving instead merely a pervading air of unpleasantness.

Do you like to get pie after you see a good movie?

True Romance (1993)
(SPOILERS) The track record for others adapting Tarantino’s early screenplays isn’t so hot – the prosecution offers Natural Born Killers and From Dusk Til Dawn – but Tony Scott’s envisioning of True Romance, made before the director went stratospheric with Pulp Fiction and after Quentin politely turned Tony down when he made it known how much he’d like to direct Reservoir Dogs himself, is nigh on perfect. Scott ironed the director’s tricksy structure into something linear, and brought with it an upbeat ending, because he knew that if you’re onboard with Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette), you don’t need bells and whistles and foisted tragedy. And he managed to make a classic as a result, the best film of his career.

I am forever driven on this quest.

Ad Astra (2019)
(SPOILERS) Would Apocalypse Now have finished up as a classic if Captain Willard had been ordered on a mission to exterminate his mad dad with extreme prejudice, rather than a mysterious and off-reservation colonel? Ad Astra features many stunning elements. It’s an undeniably classy piece of filmmaking from James Gray, who establishes his tone from the get-go and keeps it consistent, even through various showy set pieces. But the decision to give its lead character an existential crisis entirely revolving around his absent father is its reductive, fatal flaw, ultimately deflating much of the air from Gray’s space balloon.

Hey, everybody. The bellboy's here.

Four Rooms (1995)
(SPOILERS) I had an idea that I’d only seen part of Four Rooms previously, and having now definitively watched the entire thing, I can see where that notion sprang from. It’s a picture that actively encourages you to think it never existed. Much of it isn’t even actively terrible – although, at the same time, it couldn’t be labelled remotely good– but it’s so utterly lethargic, so lacking in the energy, enthusiasm and inventiveness that characterises these filmmakers at their best – and yes, I’m including Rodriguez, although it’s a very limited corner for him – that it’s very easy to banish the entire misbegotten enterprise from your mind.

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.