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I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in Casablanca, married to a man who runs a bar.

When Harry Met Sally… (1989) (SPOILERS) When Harry Met Sally… is undoubtedly indebted to the oeuvre of Woody Allen, but I disagree with those who dismissed it as a shallow steal of his best moments. It lands somewhere between the Allen of Annie Hall and the knowing New York-ness of Seinfeld (and like the latter, it is remarkably honed; there isn’t an ounce of fat on it). But what mostly distinguishes the picture is that it allows itself warmth and optimism in a manner Allen would surely have scorned. Woody’s “romcoms” were all about the bittersweet, about reflecting on the loss of love in a melancholic manner. So while I’d never suggest When Harry Met Sally… is a better movie, or a better comedy, than Annie Hall , it is a more satisfying romantic comedy.

You discovered so much up there. I just point.

The Midnight Sky (2020) (SPOILERS) In which George Clooney the director proves his most enduring quality in said role: boring the shit out of the average viewer. Which isn’t so different to his acting these days either. He fooled me first time round, since he rose admirably to the occasion of translating Charlie Kaufman’s translation of Chuck Barris’ Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) into a movie (albeit, failing to meet with Kaufman’s approval). Even with Suburbicon (2017), his more recent, tampering take on an old Coen Brothers screenplay, he brought the original parts to the screen with due conviction (the parts he introduced were, unsurprisingly, complete cobblers). So maybe it’s just down to the material. But given a third of his directorial efforts – this, Leatherheads (2008) and The Monuments Men (2014) – are as boring as a dog’s ass, I wouldn’t count on it.

He looked exactly the same when he was alive except he was vertical.

The Trouble with Harry (1955) (SPOILERS) Hitch was very partial to this atypical comedy, one he took on over Paramount’s objections (“ With Harry I took melodrama out of the pitch-black night and brought it out into the sunshine ”). The Trouble with Harry probably represents very few Hitchcock fans’ favourite of his films, so it is conversely a prime contender for “most underrated” lists. I’m not hugely on board with it, I have to admit. It’s enjoyably lightweight (it has that in common with his previous film) but almost painfully self-conscious in its quirkiness. Funny as The Trouble with Harry often is, its trouble is that it’s so aware that it’s Hitch doing outright comedy, it loses a lot of goodwill along the way.

I never drink while emancipating!

Love Crazy (1941) (SPOILERS) William Powell and Myrna Loy made so many films together that The Thin Man series doesn’t even make up half of them. They’d already been teaming for the best part of a decade when they collaborated on this farce, one that, if it’s very much arranged for Powell to take the lion’s share of the funny business, still grants Loy some choice scenes.

He is a brigand and a lout. Pay him no serious mention.

The Wind and the Lion (1975) (SPOILERS) John Milius called his second feature a boy’s-own adventure, on the basis of the not-so-terrified responses of one of those kidnapped by Sean Connery’s Arab Raisuli. Really, he could have been referring to himself, in all his cigar-chomping, gun-toting reactionary glory, dreaming of the days of real heroes. The Wind and the Lion rather had its thunder stolen by Jaws on release, and it’s easy to see why. As polished as the picture is, and simultaneously broad-stroke and self-aware in its politics, it’s very definitely a throwback to the pictures of yesteryear. Only without the finger-on-the-pulse contemporaneity of execution that would make Spielberg and Lucas’ genre dives so memorable in a few short years’ time.

Another case of the screaming oopizootics.

Doctor Who Season 14 – Worst to Best The best Doctor Who season? In terms of general recognition and unadulterated celebration, there’s certainly a strong case to be made for Fourteen. The zenith of Robert Holmes and Philip Hinchcliffe’s plans for the series finds it relinquishing the cosy rapport of the Doctor and Sarah in favour of the less-trodden terrain of a solo adventure and underlying conflict with new companion Leela. More especially, it finds the production team finally stretching themselves conceptually after thoroughly exploring their “gothic horror” template over the course of the previous two seasons (well, mostly the previous one).

We interrupt our Christmas carol service to bring you an important announcement. The world will end at 12 o’clock.

The Goodies 7.6: Earthanasia Christmas Eve. What better time to contemplate ending it all? If the Goodies of 1977 had written an irreverent take on 2020, would it have turned out very differently to Earthanasia ? Governments of the world collectively coming together – albeit in an act of implicit complicity rather than explicitly – and agreeing to destroy the world. In tandem with taking jabs at a media eager to milk every last drop of hype from the situation.

The bonniest, brightest little blue egg you have ever seen.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 1.7: The Blue Carbuncle Sherlock Holmes does Christmas. Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes at that. An antidote to the ghastly likes of the nu- Who festive instalments, where the only thing going for them is provoking a gag reflex for those who have overdone the turkey dinner, The Blue Carbuncle eschews saccharine and fake tinsel. Indeed, it is possessed of a proper plot, the sort of thing rarely scene in Christmas TV special episodes post-1980s. Of course, that comes courtesy of the 1892 Conan Doyle original, taking a very Christmassy element – the aforementioned dinner, although in this case a fattened goose – and creating a mystery around it.

I regret that the exchange of presents at Christmas time is something about which I am notoriously lax.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes 2.16: The Blue Carbuncle The final episode of the 1960s BBC Sherlock Holmes series. It ran between 1964 and 1968 across two seasons, first with Douglas Wilmer and then Peter Cushing (Nigel Stock provided a sense of continuity, appearing as Watson throughout). Cushing played Holmes eight years earlier in Hammer’s full-blooded The Hound of the Baskervilles , of course, but this series is a decidedly less atmospheric affair, as might be expected of the less exotically budget BBC. Certainly, if the meagre seven surviving episodes are testaments.

Mulder, I’ve got wrapping to do.

The X-Files 6.6: How the Ghosts Stole Christmas One of the worst things that happened to X-Files producer Chris Carter, output-wise, was witnessing the often very funny, witty contributions of his more comedically minded peers – Darin Morgan, Vince Gilligan – and deciding he’d have some of that. Because Carter’s best contributions as writer – and even, initially, as director – to the show’s early period, tended to be honed, tightly constructed mythology builders or punchy standalones. He dipped his toe in more frivolous waters with 3.13: Syzygy and failed to garner the plaudits he likely felt were due, such that he didn’t try again until the much better received 5.5: The Post-Modern Prometheus . Which brought us to Season Six, and undisciplined messes like third episode Triangle . And How the Ghosts Stole Christmas .

I don’t want to spend the holidays dead.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) (SPOILERS) Chevy Chase gets a bad rap. By which, I don’t mean the canvas of opinion suggesting he really is a bit of a tool in real life is misplaced, as there’s no shortage of witnesses to his antics (head of the pack being probably Bill Murray, whose brother Brian appears here as Clark’s boss). But rather that, during his – relatively brief – heyday, I was a genuine fan of his deadpan delivery in the likes of Caddyshack and Fletch . The National Lampoon’s Vacation movies, even the initial trilogy overseen by John Hughes, are very hit-and-miss affairs, but it’s Chase, with his almost Basil Fawlty-esque ability both to put his foot in it and deliver withering put-downs, who forms their irrepressibly upbeat core.

Yay, I’m a llama again!

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) (SPOILERS) Perhaps more Disney fare should be born of desperation, if this is the result. The Emperor’s New Groove came as a breath of fresh air after all those overly sincere, straight-arrow Disney Renaissance flicks (with the honourable exception of Hercules , but even then, its distinction is based more on Gerald Scarfe’s input than ingrained irreverence). You know, the ones with the perverse subliminal imagery the Mouse House claimed was an accident. The picture is remarkably cohesive in style and tone, all the more of a miracle given its production history. It’s the most fun you’ll have with a Disney flick since the Wolfgang Reitherman era. Which is to say, The Emperor’s New Groove feels less like a Disney movie than something Warner Bros might have come up with if making a feature-length Looney Tunes .

This is the loudest snow I’ve ever heard in my life.

The Grinch (2018) (SPOILERS) A pot-bellied (okay, fat) curmudgeon with a twisted sense of humour and unruly hair attempting to destroy Christmas for everyone? Never has the noxious notion had more resonance. Actually, the nightmarishly unpleasant and saccharine 2000 Jim Carrey incarnation probably bears more resemblance to How the Boris Stole Christmas! But the subtitle And Didn’t Put It Back Again at the Behest of His Masters, the Elite, as Part of Their Plan to Cull, Sterilise and Reset the Entire Global Population doesn’t quite fit Dr Seuss’ tale of a character whose heart thaws in the face of basic goodwill of all men. Or Whos. Illumination’s version of the Christmas classic is exactly what you’d expect from an envisioning by the animation house responsible for the Despicable Me s (they also previously tacked The Lorax ). Which is to say, it’s as easily digestible, undemanding and indistinct from its stablemates as one DreamWorks animation or Pixar pic is from the other.

It’s just a colour that burns.

Color Out of Space (2019) (SPOILERS) Richard Stanley returns to features after 27 years (without a finished one) and gives us a Lovecraftian horror, his first of three planned adaptations. Responses have been generous, but I quickly found Color Out of Space teetering on the brink of the tedium that comes with escalating horror chaos devoid of suspense or turns of plot. We know what is happening here – madness unbound, physical, mental, psychic – and we’ve seen Cage’s brand of unbound lunacy more than enough times already. Add to that a picture heavily indebted to John Carpenter’s The Thing by way of gross-out familial descent into hell, and there’s something oddly pedestrian about the whole affair, despite it being clear that, in his time out, Stanley has lost none of his flair as a director.

I don’t know if we should leave, but I would definitely advise skipping the fish course.

The War of the Roses (1989) (SPOILERS) Danny DeVito’s ruthless black comedy is an evergreen. Based on Warren Adler’s 1981 novel of the same name – Adler’s Random Hearts was later adapted much less successfully – it finds the director using audience familiarity with Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and himself to sell a very different prospect to the Indy-riffing Romancing the Stone . The War of the Roses certainly wasn’t guaranteed to become the hit it did, but it’s uncompromising freshness, and its offbeat seasonality (it was released in December in the US, with an accompanying 12 Days of Christmas -riffing trailer), hit a nerve with audiences.

Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking.

Mary Poppins (1964) (SPOILERS) Disney’s unimpeachable – unless you were an unimpressed PL Travers – smash hit, loved by children everywhere… Although, I don’t recall that I was ever that enamoured, preferring the similarly themed, just with an overtly identified witch and even wackier animation, Bednobs and Broomsticks (1971). Indeed, Bednobs and Broomsticks  was in the running to be an earlier Disney production, when the rights negotiations for Mary Poppins were looking beyond Walt’s reach. Suffice to say, I don’t think my earlier position holds up. Even for one as jaded and cynical as I undoubtedly am – most of all towards the Mouse House – Mary Poppins is an irresistible affair, blessed with great tunes, dazzling choreography, some gorgeous cinematography and delightful performances. Even the eccentrically accented one.

Mrs Claus’s Village is the best place on Earth.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two (2020) (SPOILERS) Good grief. I came late to the Queen’s Gambit party over the last week, but it’s proof Netflix doesn’t always just serve up any old crap, expectant that its passive subscribers will gratefully receive. The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two , however, their highest-profile festive offering of the year, rather confirms every worst conclusion you’d reached about the service. A sequel to their – actually quite good – 2018 movie, they couldn’t just let such amiably innocuous fare lie. No, they had to churn out a grotesquely hollow, plastic-packaged Christmas bauble of a follow up. Somehow, it has garnered a 72% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which if nothing else signals that civilisation as we know it has well and truly collapsed.

What do I get? A few runny noses and some dead citrus!

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006) (SPOILERS) Has there ever been a decent movie depiction of Santa’s Village? I suppose Elf intentionally took the piss, so that’s on its side. But the plastic Disneyland of the likes of The Christmas Chronicles , The Santa Clause and Santa Claus: The Movie seems to be de rigueur. Desperately devoid of festive flair. I didn’t catch up with this final Santa Clause for the sake of completism, or because I’m a fan of the other two, but because Martin Short is usually good value. And so he is here, when he gets the chance . But The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is still pretty awful.

I like your pants very much.

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) (SPOILERS) Well Patty and Gal brought their undiluted vision for Wonder Woman to the screen… and suddenly the Snyderverse doesn’t look quite so bad after all. No, that’s an exaggeration, but the fact remains that Wonder Woman 1984 is every bit as flawed as anything arrested-development Zach has delivered to DC. Just considerably less grimdark. On the flip side, moments of curdling sentimentality in this sequel will have you longing for the balm of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ’s relentlessly portentous foreboding. There are quite a few things to enjoy in Wonder Woman 1984 , but they’re almost all on display during first half, the second duly doing its very best to induce amnesia of any positives.

He’d better get that trunk out of there, before it starts to leak.

Rear Window (1954) (SPOILERS) The consummate Hitchcock movie, and the one that probably best distils and displays his ongoing obsessions, certainly in terms of crowd-pleasing spectacle. Rear Window is rightly rarely far from the two or three most highly regarded of the director’s films, and it remains as quick, witty and peerlessly staged as ever.

Mr. President, I stand guilty as framed!

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) (SPOILERS) I’m by no means a die-hard Frank Capryte. His particular taste in earnestly extolled values can easily rub one up the wrong way, and when that blends with his later more cynical tack, the results are sometimes alarming ( It’s A Wonderful Life is justifiably esteemed as a classic, but it’s also a deeply warped picture that finds cause for celebration in a man being resoundingly shat upon and manipulated by everyone he knows). Mr. Smith Goes to Washington saw the inception of this modified approach in the director’s work, where impossible goodness is pressed into service against the unvarnished corruption that lies at the heart of America. As a result, the viewing experience tends to swing wildly according to just how undiluted each side is being at any given moment.

I’m not the auditor, I’m the Doctor.

Doctor Who The Sun Makers Or The Sunmakers , if you first came to the story via its Target novelisation. I’ve generally regarded this one as not quite making it. Call it the Pennant Roberts factor, if you like, degrading any bite and sharpness into a slightly bland soufflé. That approach failed to dent the later The Pirate Planet , where the script’s knockabout energy complements the outrageous performances, lending the whole a ramshackle spark. But departing script editor Robert Holmes lent The Sun Makers a shed load of wit and perversity, and it didn’t feel like it was done justice. Revisiting the tale on this occasion, however, I found it considerably more rewarding. If still some distance from being any kind of classic.

It’s a very stressful thing, time travel.

12 Monkeys (1995) (SPOILERS) Gilliam goes maximum sell out. And yet, even though this is undoubtedly the soberest and least quirky film in his oeuvre, it’s much, much more satisfying than his Terry-Goes-Tinseltown The Fisher King . 12 Monkey s is the evidence that he could have been – not that I’m suggesting he should have been – an entirely creditable studio director had he taken the bit between his teeth and buckled down. As it is, 12 Monkeys still manages to exude enough of his personality and wide-angle visual sense that you’re never in doubt who is calling the shots, but never to the extent that it gets in the way of its lead character’s emotional journey. Or indeed, the fairly wrought conspiracy plotline at its core.

Just relax. Act like a countess.

Shalako (1968) (SPOILERS) Sean Connery starring in a western sounds like the kind of lame idea a Bond star grabbing any options available would choose, just to keep working and see where he might land (see also Harrison Ford in The Frisco Kid ). The result then, is a particularly lame movie. Not in the sense of Shalako being awful, but rather entirely redundant, dull and outmoded. Aside from some content signifying the era (the rape of Honor Blackman’s character, usually cut for TV showings), this could easily have been made a decade prior. It’s only really Connery’s presence that announces otherwise.

I never thought one could care so much about a sled.

Mank (2020) (SPOILERS) David Fincher probably deserves due credit for doing right by dad and getting Jack’s screenplay into production. Even if it rather waywardly took him more than two decades. Perhaps the length of time is a clue, because for all the meticulousness of Mank ’s production, there’s negligible sense that Fincher’s fired up by the material. Indeed, you’re likely to come away from this rather flaccid picture convinced that what Citizen Kane needed wasn’t so much a nostalgically positioned sled as a headless corpse. Or any tell-tale Fincherian sign of murderous despair.

And now, here you have a case in which there are no clues, no fingerprints, no motives, no suspects. Ought to be very simple for you.

I Confess (1953) (SPOILERS) There’s a sense in I Confess of Hitchcock aiming for a piece that will garner respect for the qualities of depth and range, rather than something that will simply be a crowd pleaser. It’s a very sombre affair, all-but devoid of his usual wit and thus very much not playing to his strengths. The moral quandary at its heart isn’t really one, since Montgomery Clift’s priest never appears to have the slightest inclination to betray his vow, and the “scandal” of his relationship with Anne Baxter’s married woman is entirely less so by virtue of his being entirely innocent. As a consequence, despite Clift’s strong performance, the film’s protagonist is the worst thing he can be: passive. And I Confess is never really able to move past that.

There's nothing trashy about romance.

The Fisher King (1991) (SPOILERS) The Terry Gilliam film everyone loves, especially those who aren’t Terry Gilliam fans. Often claimed as his best picture, it’s one he himself says he made “ in the real world ”. Which is true, if you consider the real world to be composed of a slightly less sugary Hollywood confection than usual. The Fisher King finds the director making an “acceptable” film. Which is basically one the critics can fully embrace as he navigates the path he is expected to navigate when going the studio route, with a very conservative sprinkling of his own idiosyncrasy. It is essentially, fine. It’s likeable, whimsical, feel-good. Which means it finds Gilliam losing his edge.

Maybe this universal mind resides in the mirror image instead of in our universe as we wanted to believe.

Prince of Darkness (1987) (SPOILERS) John Carpenter’s wounded retreat from the traumas of big studio moviemaking saw its first fruit in this cult curio. Not as legendary as his subsequent They Live! but also very influential in its own scrappy way, as well as being very influenced in its own right (most particularly, and self-confessedly on Carpenter’s part, by Nigel Kneale). Prince of Darkness is also less satisfying than They Live! although its ancient astronauts take still produces several highly memorable moments. Mostly, the movie’s shortcomings are down to the execution, but that’s not because it’s cheap per se. Rather, Carpenter failed to surround himself with the level of talented key players that made his low budget outings in the previous decade so enduring.

If you're going to be rude to my daughter, you might at least take your hat off!

My Man Godfrey (1936) (SPOILERS) William Powell deserves more credit than he gets as one of the all-time most watchable movie stars. My Man Godfrey garnered him his second of three Best Actor nominations, teaming him (at his own behest) with ex-wife Carole Lombard. A hugely entertaining screwball comedy, it duly achieved the singular feat of being nominated for all four acting Oscars (of which it was the first), and writing and directing. But not Best Picture.

You’re easily the best policeman in Moscow.

Gorky Park (1983) (SPOILERS) Michael Apted and workmanlike go hand in hand when it comes to thriller fare (his Bond outing barely registered a pulse). This adaptation of Martin Cruz Smith’s 1981 novel – by Dennis Potter, no less – is duly serviceable but resolutely unremarkable. William Hurt’s militsiya officer Renko investigates three faceless bodies found in the titular park. It was that grisly element that gave Gorky Park a certain cachet when I first saw it as an impressionable youngster. Which was actually not unfair, as it’s by far its most memorable aspect.

Never lose any sleep over accusations. Unless they can be proved, of course.

Strangers on a Train (1951) (SPOILERS) Watching a run of lesser Hitchcock films is apt to mislead one into thinking he was merely a highly competent, supremely professional stylist. It takes a picture where, to use a not inappropriate gourmand analogy, his juices were really flowing to remind oneself just how peerless he was when inspired. Strangers on a Train is one of his very, very best works, one he may have a few issues with but really deserves nary a word said against it, even in “compromised” form.

This is what the Cybermen do to you.

Doctor Who Attack of the Cybermen (SPOILERS) For some, Attack of the Cybermen is a low point of 80s Doctor Who , the moment when continuity finally ate itself and heaved up a glob of indigestible Levinised cyberbile. It’s an entirely reasonable position. As About Time acidly pointed out, it’s a sequel to just about anything you can think of and then some. It also represents Eric Saward – whose influence on the show I don’t, in contrast to the consensus, see as entirely negative – at his most brazenly nihilistic, almost to the point of self-parody. Even with that, there are a lot of things l like in Attack . Unfortunately, they’re almost all in the first episode.

I don’t like fighting at all. I try not to do too much of it.

Cuba (1979) (SPOILERS) Cuba -based movies don’t have a great track record at the box office, unless Bad Boys II counts. I guess The Godfather Part II does qualify. Steven Soderbergh , who could later speak to box office bombs revolving around Castro’s revolution, called Richard Lester’s Cuba fascinating but flawed. Which is generous of him.

Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash, and I’m delighted to say I have no grasp of it whatsoever!

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) (SPOILERS) Wondrous. Gilliam’s colossal misfire is, in fact, his masterpiece. Although, it might be even more so in its unedited form; the director, in response to pressure from Columbia, under new management and loathing his David Puttnam-initiated project, attempted to hone it closer to their favoured two-hour duration. In doing so, he felt it lost something of its assured pacing; “ an extra five minutes would make a big difference ” (albeit, Gilliam is also on record as saying “our first cut ran three hours and I thought it was just perfect”). When interviewed by Ian Christie twenty years ago, he said he didn’t think he had the energy to put together a restored director’s cut. Besides which “ Nobody’s going to give me the money for that, since the film didn’t make any money in the first place ”. Even given that some directors since have shown an almost deranged zest for revisiting previous work to variable results (Coppola, Mann) I can only

Miss Livingstone, I presume.

Stage Fright (1950) (SPOILERS) This one has traditionally taken a bit of a bruising, for committing a cardinal crime – lying to the audience. More specifically, lying via a flashback, through which it is implicitly assumed the truth is always relayed. As Richard Schickel commented, though, the egregiousness of the action depends largely on whether you see it as a flaw or a brilliant act of daring: an innovation. I don’t think it’s quite that – not in Stage Fright ’s case anyway; the plot is too ordinary – but I do think it’s a picture that rewards revisiting knowing the twist, since there’s much else to enjoy it for besides.

I'm being toyed with by a bunch of depraved children.

The Game (1997) (SPOILERS) It’s fair to suggest that David Fincher has had an up-and-down career. No one blamed him for Alien³ going pear-shaped (although, the stylistic choices in it are straight-up his and many are downright lousy). But by the end of the 90s, with Seven and Fight Club to his name, he had firmly established auteurish credentials, with a yen for dark, edgy material boasting that rarity: smart thematic content. In between those two, there’s the rather forgotten The Game . Unfortunately, it turns out this was the real harbinger for his later career: a shallow film that desperately wants to mean something more.

Now, are you sure you want to have a fight? Because I’m only going to use my thumb.

The Presidio (1988) (SPOILERS) “ Shit on a shtick ” exclaims Sean Connery (RIP) at one point during The Presidio . That was probably also his reaction on learning Mark Harmon was to be his co-star (it seems Kevin Costner dropped out, and then Don Johnson couldn’t catch a break from Miami Vice . You know, manly male types Sean might have vibed with). Much as it would be nice to dispute the prevailing view (“ I suppose Harmon could have been stronger ” was Sean’s verdict), Connery’s co-star is the weak link here. But even if this had ended up as a reteam for Costner and Connery, I doubt The Presidio would have been a keeper.

You took part in an unsavoury debauch with the scum of the convict colony!

Under Capricorn (1949) (SPOILERS) Under Capricorn remains one of Hitchcock’s most under-the-radar films, particular so considering it comes just before his most feted, populist period. An independent picture and an adaptation of Helen Simpson’s 1937 novel, it became a massive flop; Truffaut suggested that many of Hitch’s admirers regarded it as his very best work, but I think a citation would definitely be needed on that one (apart from Cahier du Cinema voting it one of the ten greatest movies of all time in 1958, suffering no doubt from an especially pseudish malaise). Like many of the directors’ films where you can’t readily identify what attracted him to the material, the results are simply “okay”; Under Capricorn ’s a serviceable melodrama most distinguished by the self-imposed technical rules to keep him interested.

Combined primary economics was a bottle about this big.

THX 1138 (1971) (SPOILERS) Curious George’s debut is the antithesis of his later Star Wars ( A New Hope ), and it’s interesting that he should have invested himself in something so austere, “adult” and joyless given his later escapist veneer. One half senses, like Spielberg with Sugarland Express , that this was a self-consciously serious piece, intended to garner respect, rather than being something he was entirely invested in. But in contrast to the berg, Lucas was always a thoughtful young man – the prequel trilogy is deadly serious in theme – and it’s as likely that basic pragmatism took over when it came to delivering ideas that audiences might actually go and see next time. THX 1138 lent its title to his game-changing sound system, of course, and like Star Wars , Lucas couldn’t help but revisit his work decades later and add in some obviously updated special effects (not as egregious as most of the additions to A New Hope , but still wholly unnecessary). The picture remains an

I never strangled a chicken in my life!

Rope (1948) (SPOILERS) Rope doesn’t initially appear to have been one of the most venerated of Hitchcocks, but it has gone through something of a rehabilitation over the years, certainly since it came back into circulation during the 80s. I’ve always rated it highly; yes, the seams of it being, essentially, a formal experiment on the director’s part, are evident, but it’s also an expert piece of writing that uses our immediate knowledge of the crime to create tension throughout; what we/the killers know is juxtaposed with the polite dinner party they’ve thrown in order to wallow in their superiority.

I enjoy working with human beings and have stimulating relationships with you.

2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) (SPOILERS) The deal with 2010: The Year We Make Contact , of course, is that it pales into insignificance if sat next to Kubrick’s film. The further deal is that, just because it isn’t a worthy sequel that doesn’t make it a bad film. Indeed, I’m always rather impressed by it. With the proviso that, like pretty much all Peter Hyams’ best films (see also Capricorn One, Outland , The Star Chamber ) it doesn’t quite come together. And that, most damagingly, it feels like an 80s SF movie, whereas 2001: A Space Odyssey for all its psychedelia and monkey suits, hasn’t dated at all. And for that, Hyams really does have to cop the blame.

They'll think I've lost control again and put it all down to evolution.

Time Bandits (1981) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam had co-directed previously, and his solo debut had visual flourish on its side, but it was with Time Bandits that Gilliam the auteur was born. The first part of his Trilogy of Imagination, it remains a dazzling work – as well as being one of his most successful – rich in theme and overflowing with ideas while resolutely aimed at a wide (family, if you like) audience. Indeed, most impressive about Time Bandits is that there’s no evidence of self-censoring here, of attempting to make it fit a certain formula, format or palatable template.

Charming. Now she's got the old boy's money, she's making a play for the younger one.

Woman of Straw (1964) (SPOILERS) The first fruit of Sean cashing in on his Bond status in other leading man roles – he even wears the tux he’d later sport in Goldfinger . On one level, he isn’t exactly stretching himself as a duplicitous, misogynist bastard. On the other, he is actually the bad guy; this time, you aren’t supposed to be onside his capacity for killing people. It’s interesting to see Connery in his nascent star phase, but despite an engaging set up and a very fine performance from Ralph Richardson, Woman of Straw is too much of a slow-burn, trad crime thriller/melodrama to really make a mark. All very professionally polished, but the spoiled fruits of an earlier era.

I'm an old ruin, but she certainly brings my pulse up a beat or two.

The Paradine Case (1947) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock wasn’t very positive about The Paradine Case , his second collaboration with Gregory Peck, but I think he’s a little harsh on a picture that, if it doesn’t quite come together dramatically, nevertheless maintains interest on the basis of its skewed take on the courtroom drama. Peck’s defence counsel falls for his client, Alida Valli’s accused (of murder), while wife Ann Todd wilts dependably and masochistically on the side-lines.

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983) (SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bond s in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball , but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again , despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy .

Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you ripped the fronts off houses, you'd find swine? The world's a hell. What does it matter what happens in it?

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) (SPOILERS) I’m not sure you could really classify Shadow of a Doubt as underrated, as some have. Not when it’s widely reported as Hitchcock’s favourite of his films. Underseen might be a more apt sobriquet, since it rarely trips off the lips in the manner of his best-known pictures. Regardless of the best way to categorise it, it’s very easy to see why the director should have been so quick to recognise Shadow of a Doubt 's qualities, even if some of those qualities are somewhat atypical.

You must have hopes, wishes, dreams.

Brazil (1985) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam didn’t consider Brazil the embodiment of a totalitarian nightmare it is often labelled as. His 1984½ (one of the film’s Fellini-riffing working titles) was “ the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984 ”, in contrast to Michael Anderson’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from 1948. This despite Gilliam famously boasting never to have read the Orwell’s novel: “ The thing that intrigues me about certain books is that you know them even though you’ve never read them. I guess the images are archetypal ”. Or as Pauline Kael observed, Brazil is to Nineteen Eighty-Four as “ if you’d just heard about it over the years and it had seeped into your visual imagination ”. Gilliam’s suffocating system isn’t unflinchingly cruel and malevolently intolerant of individuality; it is, in his vision of a nightmare “future”, one of evils spawned by the mechanisms of an out-of-control behemoth: a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And yet, that is not really, despite how indulgently and glee

That’s a surprising amount of controversy for a gin and lemonade.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) (SPOILERS) If The Trial of the Chicago 7 feels like the kind of fare that might once have been prestige Oscar bait, that’s probably because it was intended to be. Doubtless accompanied by numerous speeches about how its subject matter is more relevant than ever. And maybe Paramount and DreamWorks, after more than a decade of development hell, hoped it still had a shot. Maybe, in a year with as little competition as this, it does. The picture finished up on Netflix, of course, which is a good fit for Aaron Sorkin’s lightweight but engaging approach. There’s nothing very much that goes beyond a practised eye for dramatically repurposed biographical fare, as you’d expect from the writer/adaptor of The Social Network , Moneyball and most recently Molly’s Game .

I get it. Little Miss Liberty, carrying the torch.

Saboteur (1942) (SPOILERS) Hitch criticised the screenplay, which is fair enough. However, the biggest impediment to Saboteur ’s effectiveness is – as Hitch also acknowledged – the leads. The movie is often painted as proto- North by Northwest , a dry run for bigger and more elaborate things with handpicked stars, and that’s fair to a degree; all the elements are there for Saboteur being great, but the only consistent one is its director’s technical prowess.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?