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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.

How can you have time when it clearly has you?

Dark  Season 2
(SPOILERS) I’m not intending to dig into Dark zealously, as its plotting is so labyrinthine, it would take forever and a day, and I’d just end up babbling incoherently (so what’s new). But it’s worth commenting on, as it’s one of the few Netflix shows I’ve seen that feels entirely rigorous and disciplined – avoiding the flab and looseness that too often seems part and parcel of a service expressly avoiding traditional ratings models – as it delivers its self-appointed weighty themes and big ideas. And Dark’s weighty themes and big ideas really are weighty and big, albeit simultaneously often really frustrating. It came as no surprise to learn of the showrunners’ overriding fixation on determinism at work in the multi-generational, multiple time period-spanning events within the German town of Winden, but I was intrigued regarding their structural approach, based on clearly knowing the end game of their characters, rather than needing to reference (as they put it) Post-It…

Spider-Man with his hand in the cookie jar! Whoever brings me that photo gets a job.

Spider-Man 3 (2007)
(SPOILERS) Spider-Man 3 is a mess. That much most can agree on that much. And I think few – Jonathan Ross being one of them – would claim it’s the best of the Raimi trilogy. But it’s also a movie that has taken an overly harsh beating. In some cases, this a consequence of negative reaction to its most inspired elements – it would be a similar story with Iron Man Three a few years later – and in others, it’s a reflection of an overstuffed narrative pudding – so much so that screenwriter Alvin Sargent considered splitting the movie into two. In respect of the latter, elements were forced on director Sam Raimi, and these cumulative disagreements would eventually lead him to exit the series (it would take another three years before his involvement in Spider-Man 4 officially ended). There’s a lot of chaff in the movie, but there’s also a lot of goodness here, always providing you aren’t gluten intolerant.

Guy name Otto Octavius ends up with eight limbs. What are the odds?

Spider-Man 2 (2004)
(SPOILERS) It may be a relatively minor heresy, as these things go, but I prefer the first Spider-Man to Sam Raimi’s praise-showered follow up. More accomplished in terms of character work, effects and interweaving plotting it may be, but Spider-Man 2 just isn’t as much fun.

It's a simple case. A man with the mentality of a child of seven could handle it.

The Avengers 6.18: Wish You Were Here
Wish You Were Here counts as one of the season’s best so far, combining an appealingly eccentric premise from Tony Williamson (a guest house prison with no obvious barriers to leaving) with strong direction from Don Chaffey. I have to admit, though, like a bit of a lemon, the obvious The Prisoner parody aspect – it was even the working title – escaped me until afterwards, probably because this is tonally so different.

My name's the Human Spider!

Spider-Man (2002)
(SPOILERS) I’d recalled Sam Raimi somewhat performing with his hand in his pockets for his first Spidey outing, reining in his style in order to prove to Sony he could do the necessaries and deliver the required blockbuster (and only really becoming unleashed for the sequels), but his first Spider-Man is actually most striking for how much flourish, colour and inventiveness there is from the get-go. Perhaps that’s a consequence of a decade of actually stylistically restricted MCU movies, but even the formally freer DCEU has yet to produce anything approaching both his sense of panache and fun.

What, you're going to walk in there like it's the commie Disneyland or something?

Stranger Things 3 (2019)
(SPOILERS) It’s very clear by this point that Stranger Things isn’t going to serve up any surprises. It’s operating according to a strict formula, one requiring the opening of the portal to the Upside Down every season and an attendant demagorgon derivative threat to leak through, only to be stymied at the last moment by our valorous team. It’s an ‘80s sequel cycle through and through, and if you’re happy with it functioning exclusively on that level, complete with a sometimes overpowering (over)dose of nostalgia references, this latest season will likely strike you as just the ticket.

That's Steed. Who else would smile at a time like this?

The Avengers 6.17: They Keep Killing Steed
Great title. If only Brian Clemens’ teleplay was up to the same standard. Which isn’t to say the episode is terrible, just that it’s anotherdoppelganger Avengers, only this time, instead of one Steed there’s a selection. Ray McAnally (5.23: The Positive Negative Man) returns, overplaying again with a silly accent, and he’s better here, but still far from being one of the series’ most iconic guest stars.

Catatonics are so easy to possess.

The Exorcist III (1990)
(SPOILERS) The demand for reshoots on The Exorcist III, as seems to be the case more often than not, failed to bolster its box office. One might argue that alone made tampering with William Peter Blatty’s vision for the picture redundant. Ironically, however, it may have resulted in a superior film; while I haven’t seen the “Director’s Cut” version of the film assembled a few years back (glued together with sticky tape and Blu Tack might be more accurate, given the quality of the materials available), nothing I’ve read about it makes it sound superior to the theatrical release.

Please do not start calling it my “Peter Tingle”.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
(SPOILERS) I had a feeling the makers of Spider-Man: Far From Home weren’t making life easy for themselves when they picked Mysterio as – yes – the villain the piece, and the finished movie bears that out. Because Quentin Beck’s nature as an illusionist/ master manipulator, rather than an antagonist prone to getting into extended punch-ups with our hero, means there’s added onus on dexterous, surprising and slippery plotting, and screenwriters Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers only partially succeed in that regard. Which doesn’t mean Far From Home fails to deliver a series of standout sequences and twists, but as a whole it just isn’t as well sustained as its Spider-predecessor.

The spoon is safer.

Toy Story 4 (2019)
(SPOILERS) Do you want a Toy Story that’s just entirely serviceable? I mean, that’s what they all are, but Toy Story 4 appears to set out to be precisely that, a collection of already over-familiar series elements dusted down, spruced up and rolled off the conveyer belt with the necessary sheen (and then some), but rarely truly inspired. As such, while there have been occasional longueurs during previous instalments – usually involving a Randy Newman song – this is the first time I’ve felt a certain listlessness coming on.

That’s Mr Evil Doctor Pork Chop to you.

Toy Story 3 (2010)
(SPOILERS) If only for the merciful absence of a Randy Newman dirge (until the end credits), this might be the best of the trilogy (well, what used to be a trilogy). Indeed, Toy Story 3 is superior to the previous two on almost every level until the last five minutes, which retrospectively tarnishes a fairly sentiment-light tale that also has a – surprisingly – strong emphasis on plotting, given the previous ones told the same basic tale, and even this one reuses several key story points.

I despise that chicken.

Toy Story 2 (1999)
(SPOILERS) Acclaimed as the Pixar high-water mark by many (a high accolade indeed) and one of the best sequels ever made, I’m afraid my response is more along the lines of “Well, yes, it is good, but…” Rotten Tomatoes can’t be wrong, though, with 100% fresh and an average rating of 8.67 out of 10. There’s not much nuance to a straight positive, however, and Toy Story 2, while raved over for its thematic depth and nuance, is basically more of the same, just more polished.

Ages three and up. It's on my box.

Toy Story (1995)
(SPOILERS) Pixar has a lot to answer for. Killing off traditional animation, for starters. And Randy Newman (well, in Pixar films at least). Indeed, one of the reasons I’m immune to the unconditional worship of the animation house’s crown jewel franchise is that I simply cannot stomach his anodyne, twee songs and lightly-sandpapered crooning. He does not have a friend in me (I’m sure he’s a very nice chap). The first Toy Story profoundly changed the industry (and won a special achievement Oscar for its troubles) and has paved the way for both the plentiful very good computer-animated movies since as well as the multitudinous ones that aren’t, but at what cost? And is it really that good?

Oh man, without a gang, you're an orphan.

West Side Story (1961)
(SPOILERS) Why the hell is Spielberg remaking this? Does he somehow think that, from on high in his Hollywood ivory tower, he has the keen insight to imbue some of the realism lacking in the Robert Wise/ Jerome Robbins Best Picture Oscar winner (well, it is a musical)? Or that, with today’s marginally keener eye for ethnicity-appropriate casting – if you aren’t Ridley Scott – this alone is good enough reason to retread ground there’s no earthly reason to (this at least appears to be part of it; that and he loved it as a teen, the soft-headed sop)? I don’t think West Side Story represents the unalloyed perfection its ten Oscars might suggest, but I have great difficulty in working out quite what the Berg thinks he’s going to achieve, aside from unflattering comparisons. If in doubt, he should go ask Gus van Sant.

Down ‘ere they say the lighthouse is haunted. And what’s more, blokes go mad and kill themselves.

The Phantom Light (1935)
(SPOILERS) This lighthouse-set comedy thriller represents one of Michael Powell’s early films, made a couple of years before his career “proper” took off with The Edge of the World. He was making “quota-quickies” during this period, cheap and cheerful no-frills productions resulting from the requirement for UK American distributors and British cinema owners to screen a quota of British films. As you’d expect, Powell ensures it all looks pretty good, despite the budget constraints, while the presence of Gordon Harker in the lead role ensures it’s also pretty funny.

Have you always lived here, Mother?

I Am Mother (2019)
(SPOILERS) This Netflix science-fiction offering arrived with very solid reviews, always a surprise for a Netflix movie, even one they picked up at Sundance. For about two-thirds of the running time, I Am Mother seems to justify the (modest) raves. It boasts assured direction from Grant Sputore (making his feature debut), polished production values and strong performances from a very small cast (basically Hilary Swank and Clare Rugaard, with Luke Hawker in a Weta robot body suit and Rose Byrne providing the voice). It operates intriguing turns of plot and switches in sympathies. Ultimately, however, I Am Mother heads towards a faintly underwhelming and unremarkable, standard-issue conclusion.

Prepare to ingest.

Mortal Engines (2018)
(SPOILERS) One of the all-time biggest flops, based on Deadline Hollywood’s estimates (the only competitors, in the upper range of price tags, are The Thirteen Warrior, John Carter, The Lone Ranger and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas), yet no one much seems to care either way. There wasn’t any real crowing about what an unforgiveable misfire this was (see John Carter), and it didn’t send any studios into bankruptcy. It just sort of happened, everyone shrugged, and moved on. Which fairly accurately sums up Christian Rivers’ Mortal Engines.

Part of the picture’s problem is that the premise is fundamentally ridiculous, and one must assume Peter Jackson, shielded from the masses in his New Zealand ivory tower, has entirely lost his eye for hit franchise material. It’s notable – although you wouldn’t know it, given how very Young Adult the casting is – that Philip Reeves’ series of novels received literary awards in the 9-11-year-old bracket, which is just about what yo…

I’m the spoiled toff who lives in the manor.

Robin Hood (2018)
(SPOILERS) Good grief. I took the disdain that greeted Otto Bathurst’s big screen debut with a pinch of salt, on the basis that Guy Ritchie’s similarly-inclined lads-in-duds retelling of King Arthur was also lambasted, and that one turned out to be pretty good fun for the most part. But a passing resemblance is as close as these two would-be franchises get (that, and both singularly failed to start their respective franchises). Robin Hood could, but it definitely didn’t.

There will be nothing of you left inside. Only space for me.

Suspiria (2018)
(SPOILERS) Luca Guadagnino’s remake of giallo-meister Dario Argento’s 1977 film is set in the same year as the original for reasons that ultimately seem rather spurious. Indeed, while Suspiria 2018, also concerning a coven of witches running a dance school – as you do – is meticulously made and frequently mesmerising in its slow-burn dynamics – at an extremely indulgent two-and-a-half hours, it would have to be – it is transparently victim of the mutton-dressed-as-lamb approach taken by filmmakers tentative about approaching what they see as a lesser genre. As such, this is not justa horror movie. No, it has all this other stuff going on to justify its existence, you see – notably, screenwriter David Kajganich professed not to be a fan of the original. Even if, frankly, all that other stuff is largely beside the point, its inclusion made to seem slightly facile as a consequence.

The Statue of Liberty is kaput.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
(SPOILERS) William Goldman said of Saving Private Ryan, referencing the film’s titular objective in Which Lie Did I Tell? that it “becomes, once he is found, a disgrace”. “Hollywood horseshit” he emphasised, lest you were in doubt as to his feelings. While I had my misgivings about the picture on first viewing, I was mostly, as many were, impacted by its visceral prowess (which is really what it is, brandishing it like only a director who’s just seen Starship Troopers but took away none of its intent could). So I thought, yeah Goldman’s onto something here, if possibly slightly exaggerating for effect. But no, he’s actually spot-on. If Saving Private Ryan had been a twenty-minute short, it would rightly muster all due praise for its war-porn aesthetic, but unfortunately there’s a phoney, sentimental, hokey tale attached to that opening, replete with clichéd characters, horribly earnest, honorific music and “exciting!” action to engage your interest. There are…

I had that Christopher Marlowe in my boat once.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)
(SPOILERS) You see? Sometimes Oscar can get it right. Not that the backlash post-announcement would have you crediting any such. No, Saving Private Ryan had the rug unscrupulously pulled from under it by Harvey Weinstein essentially buying Shakespeare in Love’s Best Picture through a lavish promotional campaign. So unfair! It is, of course, nothing of the sort. If the rest of Private Ryan were of the same quality as its opening sequence, the Spielberg camp might have had a reasonable beef, but Shakespeare in Love was simply in another league, quality wise, first and foremost thanks to a screenplay that sang like no other in recent memory. And secondly thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow, so good and pure, before she showered us with goop.

When we have been subtle, then can I kill him?

The Avengers 6.16. Legacy of Death
There’s scarcely any crediting the Terry Nation of Noon-Doomsday as the same Terry Nation that wrote this, let alone the Terry Nation churning out a no-frills Dalek story a season for the latter stages of the Jon Pertwee era. Of course, Nation had started out as a comedy writer (for Hancock), and it may be that the kick Brian Clemens gave him up the pants in reaction to the quality of Noon-Doomsday loosened a whole load of gags. Admittedly, a lot of them are well worn, but they come so thick and fast in Legacy of Death, accompanied by an assuredly giddy pace from director Don Chaffey (of Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts) and a fine ensemble of supporting players, that it would be churlish to complain.

This is the most secret nursing home in the country.

The Avengers 6.15: Noon-Doomsday
Noon-Doomsday isn’t exactly bad, but it’s incredibly slack, ripping off High Noon so redundantly that Brian Clemens had every right to tear Terry Nation a new one (he promptly went away and ripped off The Maltese Falcon instead, to miraculously better results). The effect is not dissimilar to watching a New Avengers episode where, for long sections, nothing much happens while simultaneously taking itself all-too seriously.

You're reading a comic book? What are you, retarded?

Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (2009)
(SPOILERS) It’s a decade since the holy grail of comic books finally fought through decades of development hell to land on the big screen, via Zach Snyder’s faithful but not faithful enough for the devoted adaptation. Many then held the director’s skills with a much more open mind than they do now – following the ravages he has inflicted on the DCEU – coming as he was off the back of the well-received 300. Many subsequently held that his Watchmen, while visually impressive, had entirely missed the point (not least in some of its stylistic and aesthetic choices). I wouldn’t go that far – indeed, for a director whose bombastic approach is often only a few notches down from Michael Bay (who was, alarmingly, also considered to direct at one point), there are sequences in Watchmen that show tremendous sensitivity – but it’s certainly the case that, even or especially in its Ultimate Cut form and for all the furore the change to the end of the story provoked,…

I’d kill you too, Keanu. I’d kill you just for fun, even if I didn’t have to.

Always Be My Maybe (2019)
(SPOILERS) The pun-tastic title of this Netflix romcom is a fair indication of its affably undemanding attributes. An unapologetic riff on When Harry Met Sally, wherein childhood friends rather than college attendees finally agree the best thing to be is together, it’s resolutely determined to cover no new ground, all the way through to its positive compromise finale. That’s never a barrier to a good romcom, though – at their best, their charm is down to ploughing familiar furrows. Always Be My Maybe’s problem is that, decent comedy performers though the two leads may be – and co-writers with Michael Golamco – you don’t really care whether they get together or not. Which isn’t like When Harry Met Sally at all.

Bleach smells like bleach.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)
(SPOILERS) I’d like to be able to say it was beyond me how Clint’s misery-porn fest hoodwinked critics and the Academy alike, leading to his second Best Picture and Director double Oscar win. Such feting would naturally lead you to assume Million Dollar Baby was in the same league as Unforgiven, when it really has more in common with The Mule, only the latter is likeably lightweight and nonchalant in its aspirations. This picture has buckled beneath the burden of self-appointed weighty themes and profound musings, which only serve to highlight how crass and manipulative it is.

A distillation designed to eliminate the George Washington syndrome.

The Avengers 6.14: False Witness
Season Six has found something approaching form over the past four or five episodes. You wouldn’t mistake them for peak-Avengers fare, but they’ve hit a certain groove, especially since Mother has joined as regular. False Witness is a story played mostly straight, and succeeds on those terms, yet its (absurd) premise – a drug that compels the victim to respond to “yes” as “no” and “no” as “yes” and any variations of the same – could easily have been played entirely for laughs. Notably too, it’s another Jeremy Burnham teleplay, who earlier took to the series like a duck to water with You’ll Catch Your Death.

You have six minutes in which to win, or lose, our game of Super Secret Agent.

The Avengers 6.13: Game
If you’re casting around for villain seeking revenge… look no further than Peter Jeffrey (4.9: Room without a View, 5.15: The Joker). In The Joker, he wanted payback against Mrs Peel, whereas this time, Steed’s on his list. Jeffrey’s a formidable presence even in a limited role, of course, and Game – a disappointingly spartan title – can at least boast variety of content, particularly during the finale.

He made me look the wrong way and I cut off my hand. He could make you look the wrong way and you could lose your whole head.

Moonstruck (1987)
(SPOILERS) Moonstruck has the dubious honour of making it to the ninth spot in Premiere magazine’s 2006 list of the 20 Most Overrated Movies of all Time. There are certainly some valid entries (number one is, however, absurd), but I’m not sure that, despite its box office success and Oscar recognition, the picture has a sufficient profile to be labelled with that adjective. It’s a likeable, lightweight romantic comedy that can boast idiosyncratic casting in a key role, but it simply doesn’t endure quotably or as a classic couple matchup the way the titans of the genre (Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally) do. Even its magical motif is rather feeble.

In England, Colonel, the historic mission of the proletariat consists almost entirely of momentary interest.

Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
(SPOILERS) A reluctant Ken Russell (his second feature, and helming under protest, so he said) at least ensures this final (well, until the ‘90s, if we really mustgo there) looks good. Crucially, however, it’s all but devoid of internal tension, except momentarily when Harry experiences an altercation or two with a couple of heavies. Which invariably leads to a ream of exposition from his captor; this is about as far from an espionage investigation or mystery begging to be solved as it gets, and while the Bond comparisons batted its way are slightly unfair, Billion Dollar Brain does support a similarly incidental approach to plotting.

Don’t care much for Berlin, sir. You’re liable to get your head shot off.

Funeral in Berlin (1966)
(SPOILERS) A serviceable follow-up to The Ipcress File, but conclusive evidence that it wasn’t Michael Caine’s insolent performance as Harry Palmer alone – “You really work on the insubordinate bit, don’t you?” – that made it special. With Sydney J Furie conspicuously absent (Harry Salzman very much did not ask him to return), the directorial reins were passed to reliable go-to Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger). While Otto Heller returns as cinematographer, painting a suitably drab, austere Berlin, Bond editor Peter Hunt is absent, and so is the indelible score (Konrad Efers replaces John Barry). Gone too are the pep and verve of the original. This could be any Cold War spy movie, but with a pair of spectacles and an occasional quip.

You're always sorry, Charles, and there's always a speech, but nobody cares anymore.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
(SPOILERS) To credit its Rotten Tomatoes score (22%), you’d think X-Men: Dark Phoenix was a travesty that besmirched the name of all good and decent (read: MCU proper) superhero movies, or even last week’s underwhelming creature feature (Godzilla: King of Monsters has somehow reached 40%, despite being a lesser beast in every respect). Is the movie’s fate a self-fulfilling prophecy, what with delayed release dates and extensively reported reshoots? Were critics castigating a fait accompli turkey without giving it a chance? That would be presupposing they’re all sheep, though, and in fairness, other supposed write-offs havecome back from such a brink in the past (World War Z). Whatever the feelings of the majority, Dark Phoenix is actually a mostly okay (twelfth) instalment in the X-franchise – it’s exactly what you’d expect from an X-Men movie at this point, one without any real mojo left and a variable cast struggling to pull its weight. The third act is a bi…

You didn’t come here to talk to me about button mushrooms and birds.

The Ipcress File (1965)
(SPOILERS) It’s ironic that Harry Palmer is seen as the down-at-heel, scruffy sibling of James Bond (from then Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman) – the anti-Bond as Variety put it – since, in The Ipcress File at least, there may none of the opulence that comes with grand sets and villainous lairs, but it’s visually more stylish than any Bond movie, despite the drab London scenery and non-descript interiors (legendary Bond designer Ken Adam was nevertheless on hand to offer verisimilitude – he won the BAFTA over the also-nominated Goldfinger and “Cubby wouldn’t talk to me for the rest of the day”). Michael Caine’s career-making performance as kitchen-sink spy Harry Palmer may be the most obvious clue to the picture’s success (which included the sometimes-dubious honour of the BAFTA for Best British Film), but it’s Sidney J Furie’s direction that engraves it on your memory.

We’re behind all the best windows.

The Avengers 6.12: Super Secret Cypher Snatch
More idyllic location filming in this one, most notably in the form of Mother’s temporary base in a field, as second-unit man John Hough graduates to main man and provides a wealth of striking visuals. Not enough, unfortunately, to make a silk purse from Tony Williamson’s rather uninspired teleplay (Williamson’s prior contributions to the show included the high of 4.6: Too Many Christmas Trees and the low of 5.23: The Positive-Negative Man).

"Take a hammer, Emily," he said. "Take a hammer and smash everything shiny."

The Avengers 6.11: All Done with Mirrors
One I rated much more highly prior to this revisit, Leigh Vance’s teleplay for All Done with Mirrors (he’d later pen the screenplay for mid-70s Michael Caine thriller The Black Windmill) nevertheless has some appealing conceits, while Ray Austin (who would also helm half a dozen New Avengers) offers some memorable visuals.

Whacking. I'm hell at whacking.

Witness (1985)
(SPOILERS) Witness saw the advent of a relatively brief period – just over half a decade –during which Harrison Ford was willing to use his star power in an attempt to branch out. The results were mixed, and abruptly concluded when his typically too late to go where Daniel Day Lewis, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro had gone before (with at bare minimum Oscar-nominated results) – but not “full retard” – ended in derision with Regarding Henry. He retreated to the world of Tom Clancy, and it’s the point where his cachet began to crumble. There had always been a stolid quality beneath even his more colourful characters, but now it came to the fore. You can see something of that as John Book in Witness – despite his sole Oscar nom, it might be one of Ford’s least interesting performances of the 80s – but it scarcely matters, or that the screenplay (which won) is by turns nostalgic, reactionary, wistful and formulaic, as director Peter Weir, in his Hollywood debut, breathes a…

Consider us very intimidated.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
(SPOILERS) If Godzilla: King of the Monsters is any indication of a regal ideal, the key job requirements are clearly eating a lot of pies and remaining largely out of the public eye. Excepting a wave to the gathered crowds in the vein of a punchy, severed-head-in-the-mouth, city-devastating finale. The third in Legendary’s series of monster movies – their MonsterVerse, which bears absolutely no resemblance to a very long Pam Ayres limerick – is a bust, and one might lay the blame squarely at the lack of monster mashing, or the choppy action choreography when they areon screen, but by far the worst of it is the human element.

It seems there's nothing deadlier than the mail.

The Avengers 6.10: You’ll Catch Your Death
Jeremy Burnham’s first teleplay, originally titled Atishoo, Atishoo, All Fall Down, which might have given the impression that it’s zanier than it is (equally, it might have been used to more sinister effect, as nursery rhymes often are). There’s plenty of eccentricity in the supporting cast, though, which lifts this one considerably above the past couple of episodes.

Did you ever go to a totally strange place and feel certain you'd been there before?

Lost Horizon (1937)
(SPOILERS) Frank Capra’s adaptation of James Goodbye, Mr Chips Hilton’s novel has a potent legacy, not least through helping to popularise the name Shangri-La (Roosevelt named the later renamed Camp David retreat after it) and a wholly lambasted musical remake in the ‘70s. The production of Lost Horizon spiralled out of control and took some time to make its money back, but it still ultimately continued Capra’s hot streak, duly garnering a Best Picture nomination. With hindsight, while one wouldn’t call it a folly, it does betray the unvarnished privilege that has given form to its utopian vision, and one can even muster a modicum of sympathy for Columbia head Harry Cohn in his desire to edit down the director’s unwieldy beast.

Do you have to open graves to find girls to fall in love with?

The Mummy (1932)
(SPOILERS) Even though retellings of Dracula and Frankenstein have been more ubiquitous over the years, it feels as if The Mummy has been granted the most prolific attention of late, probably because the Brendan Fraser Indiana Jones version, while mostly not very good, was very successful, and the recent Tom Cruise edition, while also not very good, wasn’t nearly successful enough, bringing Universal’s "Dark Universe" crashing down around its ears. This original iteration is very modest in both ambition and intent, but boasts craftsmanship in key areas that ensures it stands the test of time rather better than some of its Universal Horror stablemates.

Maybe he was just too strong to die?

Neither the Sea Nor the Sand aka The Exorcism of Hugh (1972)
(SPOILERS) A Jersey-set (the Channel Island, that is) curio based on actor and news reader Gordon Honeycombe’s first novel, for which he also furnished the screenplay, Neither the Sea Nor the Sand makes for an unlikely zombie movie. Not in the ravenous-for-flesh sense, but the more traditional revivified empty shell. Indeed, going in knowing nothing – provided you haven’t been spoiled by the alternative and misleading title The Exorcism of Hugh – you’d have no inkling that anything supernatural’s in store for almost half the running time. While the sudden shift in genre engenders interest, this is nevertheless a cold, distancing tale, told at a torpid pace, in which it’s difficult to summon much engagement with the main protagonist.

We’re feeding electricity to him, hoping he’ll respond.

The Avengers 6.9: Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?
Another like My Wildest Dream, Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40? is equipped with a decent-enough premise but rather falls down by having nowhere interesting to go with it. We don’t know precisely why the titular computer has been sabotaged until quite late in the proceedings, but we could have guessed (it’s assumed that Pelley was feeding George top secret equations, hence the “PELLEY… TRAITOR” message, but he was actually telling George he was held captive, for the purpose of revealing that old reliable: “full details of the seek and destroy mechanism of the anti-missile system”).

I think it’s time I consulted my aggresso-therapist.

The Avengers 6.8: My Wildest Dream
Philip Levene’s teleplay is translated effectively to screen by former production designer Robert Fuerst, in his, er first, for the show, but the director can’t rescue the back half of the story, which entirely fizzles. Written for the John Bryce regime, My Wildest Dream’s serious tone and corresponding lack of eccentric insulation shows unflatteringly, but it can boast a formidable guest star in Peter Vaughn, clearly enjoying himself.

Does he have the squirrels in the attic?

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
(SPOILERS) Well, at least he didn’t starve a horse to death this time. It took Terry Gilliam almost twenty years to remount The Man Who Killed Don Quixote following its initial disintegration, in which time original player Johnny Depp’s movie star career exploded then imploded, and original Quixote Jean Rochefort passed away (as a horse lover, Rochefort was understandably most upset about the equine; still, he gets an “in memory of”, along with intended replacement John Hurt). Gilliam managed to make four movies in between, none of which had anything approaching the kind of raves of his early efforts (several were outright slated) and his career seemed ever cooler and pet projects less attractive to financiers. Fortunately, Amazon finally came knocking. And then, less fortunately, they exited (while the budget fell to half that of the original, without factoring in inflation). The film still isn’t officially released in Britain, thanks to the rights…

Looks as though vaudeville may have just decided to fight back.

The Avengers 6.7: Look – (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers…
Well, it took a while, but The Avengers finally rediscovers the sparkle of the best Rigg era episodes thanks to a Dennis Spooner teleplay (his first credit since the first season), one that spreads itself just about as broadly as it’s possible for the show to go – Look – (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers… was purportedly rejected for the Rigg run for just that reason – but which is also nigh on perfect in pace, structure and characterisation. And guest spots.

Move away from the jams.

Aladdin (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was never overly enamoured by the early ‘90s renaissance of Disney animation, so the raves over Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin left me fairly unphased. On the plus side, that means I came to this live action version fairly fresh (prince); not quite a whole new world but sufficiently unversed in the legend to appreciate it as its own thing. And for the most part, Aladdin can be considered a moderate success. There may not be a whole lot of competition for that crown (I’d give the prize to Pete’s Dragon, except that it was always part-live action), but this one sits fairly comfortably in the lead.