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Showing posts from August, 2020

And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there?

V for Vendetta (2005)
(SPOILERS) In terms of iconography, the Wachowskis’ adaptation of Alan Moore’s 1980s broadside against Thatcherism has been of undoubted significance. As a movie, it is much less impactful, if not to say clumsy and ill-conceived. V for Vendetta’s sub-1984 messaging hits a number of easy targets in its raging against fascism while simultaneously flirting with anarchy (targets, to be fair, that Moore was also easily hitting). As a consequence, it come across as rather weak sauce, depicting a totalitarian regime too indebted to previous illustrations of the same to have much resonance in its own right, while as a production it’s too slick and glossy to ever really dig into what a horror show that would be (or is). And it has a happy ending!

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

A miracle without proof is only a miracle.

Medicine Man (1992)
(SPOILERS) I’m not sure I really buy John McTiernan’s description of Medicine Man as “a little art movie with Sean Connery”. Sure, the Sean Connery bit (now just turned ninety, but then a fresh-faced sixty-one). But you don’t make little art movies that pay their lead $10m (and a $40m price tag – or $27m as McTiernan tells it – is only relatively little if you’re not expecting to do solid business). But yes, the movie was mis-characterised as an action movie. Even though that decision is understandable, as it doesn’t comfortably fit into any bracket.

I get the feeling we’re either dead, or in a different universe.

The Quiet Earth (1985)
(SPOILERS) I had in mind that I first happened upon The Quiet Earth in a season of Moviedrome, as it seems exactly that kind of offbeat fare However, according to BBC Genome, while it was first shown on BBC2 in the UK, it was in 1991, much later than I thought, and in a 9pm slot. Geoff Murphy’s movie bears all the strengths and failings you associate with a cult SF picture: low budget, variable performances and writing/plotting, but also inspired ideas and, in its depiction of an all-but deserted world, the kind of verisimilitude a big studio budget ultimately tends to detract from with high gloss (I Am Legend).

Abra Kadabra. Shalakazam. Bye-bye, baby. Boom.

A Shock to the System (1990)
(SPOILERS) A Shock to the System might have arrived a few years too late, even though it’s as sharp as ever. Based on Simon Brett’s 1984 novel and relocated across the Pond – one can’t help thinking it would have been more effective, not least on Michael Caine’s never-entirely-effective transatlantic vowels, to stay put – it reputedly got the greenlight off the back of Wall Street’s success. By the time it, and The Bonfire of the Vanities for that matter, appeared, the zeitgeist appeal had dispersed. If it had waited another few years, it might have garnered the era-retrospective credit awarded American Psycho. Nevertheless, this ranks as one of Caine’s best from that period, a chance for him to flourish the full lizard-eyelids psycho that had made his Mona Lisa cameo so memorable.

Say hello to the Scream Extractor.

Monsters, Inc. (2001)
(SPOILERS) I was never the greatest fan of Monsters, Inc., even before charges began to be levelled regarding its “true” subtext. I didn’t much care for the characters, and I particularly didn’t like the way Pixar’s directors injected their own parenting/ childhood nostalgia into their plots. Something that just seems to go on with their fare ad infinitum. Which means the Pixars I preferred tended to be the Brad Bird ones. You know, the alleged objectivist. Now, though, we learn Pixar has always been about the adrenochrome, so there’s no going back…

For a lie to work, madam, it must be shrouded in truth.

Doctor Who Season 23 – Worst to Best
For many, at least those who saw the McCoy years as an uptick, this represents the nadir of classic Doctor Who. To call Season 23 unloved is an understatement, something expressed loud and clear by most of those involved in its making. Colin is particularly vocal in his grouchiness over the trial concept, referencing the “small brains” who must have come up with it; he claims to have no idea, but he remains the bearer of great enmity towards Eric Saward after all these years, so it’s evident who he’s thinking of (it seems it was actually Eric’s small-brained then-girlfriend Jane Trantner). And he’s right. It probably wasn’t the best foot forward to hit the ground running and show what the show could achieve. But neither were multitudinous choices, from a lead actor who couldn’t be persuaded to hit the treadmill (running) in the interim, to lacklustre directors, hideous costume design and dubious guest stars.

He's got too many teeth – and too much Brilliantine.

The Man Who Knew Too Much  (1934)
(SPOILERS) The 39 Steps gets all the credit, but this year-prior Hitchcock is probably the true forbear of the action movie, delivering set piece after set piece while barely pausing for breath. If it isn’t quite as assured or satisfying in construction as the film that followed, it’s nevertheless the first of the director’s pictures that feels like a Hitchcock “production”, hatched with the assuredness of a master talent delivering precision-timed thrills and mischief to an expectant audience.

You crazy bastard! You’d prop up dead men and inspect them if you was ordered to.

The Hill (1965)
(SPOILERS) The kind of movie that gives you faith there are positives to star power. The Hill wouldn’t have been made if not for Sean Connery’s Bond cachet, and if it failed to create any waves at the box office, it still ranks one of the very best things most of its cast did. Which also goes for director Sidney Lumet and cinematographer Oswald Morris (who won a BAFTA for his efforts).

Fiji. We're moving to Fiji.

The Truman Show (1998)
(SPOILERS) I’d had it in mind to revisit The Truman Show for a while now, and it seems many are rediscovering the picture with fresh eyes amidst a plandemic and the implications that holds for our paradigm. It’s a film I’ve never quite been able to embrace. There’s something about it that’s a little too facile, a little too on-the-nose. And I say that as an unabashed Peter Weir fan. Even with a few new angles to bring to the picture twenty-odd years later, I find that take hasn’t really changed.

Play to them, then! Fickle, brainless idiots.

Waltzes from Vienna  aka Strauss’ Great Waltz (1934)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock was dismissive of this adaptation of the stage musical of the same name, ironically minus the musical element. Waltzes from Vienna is a rather low-watt picture, with a rote romance/jealousy plotline running through it (Johann Strauss is offering his services to Countess Helga, much to the dismay of intended Resi). The film comes alive only intermittently with bits of comedy, Strauss’ rivalry with dad, and the central composition.

Sausage. That’s what I hit ‘im on the ‘ead with.

Number Seventeen (1932)
(SPOILERS) Number Seventeen isn’t exactly anaemic, or anonymous, but it is almost fiercely pedestrian, perhaps the least interesting picture Hitchcock put his name to during the 30s. It runs a slender sixty minutes, but this tale of separate parties – cons and cops and some comic relief – descending on the titular house manages to feel long for all that, starved as it is of dramatic tension and cursed with largely uninteresting characters.

What the hell are you doing out here, Fred?

I Am Legend (2007)
(SPOILERS) The version of Richard Matheson’s novel you’re really supposed to have it in for, if purists’ antagonism towards it is anything yardstick. It’s definitely the case that the theatrical cut ending of I Am Legend is a massive cop-out and entirely stuffs up any merit in this adaptation finally using the original title. Nevertheless, in many respects, this is a laudable remake. Its biggest failing is that it has too much budget to play with, leading to decisions that nearly capsize it dramatically.

So long, sky trash!

Star Wars The Saga Ranked
This is an update of my 2018 ranking, with the addition of highly-acclaimed The Rise of Skywalker along with revisits to the two preceding parts of the trilogy. If you want to be generous and call it that, since the term it makes it sound a whole lot more coherent than it plays.

Barbarians? You call us barbarians?

The Omega Man (1971)
(SPOILERS) Chuck Heston battles albino mutants in 1970s LA. Sure-fire, top-notch B-hokum, right? Can’t miss? Unfortunately, The Omega Man is determinedly pedestrian, despite gestures towards contemporaneity with its blaxploitation nods and media commentary so faint as to be hardly there. Although more tonally subdued and simultaneously overtly “silly” in translating the vampire lore from Richard Matheson’s I am Legend, the earlier The Last Man on Earth is probably the superior adaptation.

Every other night it’s steak and kidney pudding.

Rich and Strange  aka East of Shanghai (1931)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock experimented with a number of ill-fitting genres during his early sound period. As with the melodrama of The Skin Game, one senses that broad, or even “straight”, comedy was never quite his wheelhouse (The Trouble with Harry is a later example, and remains a very minor work, even as it has more traditional “thriller” elements around the fringes). Alma adapted Rich and Strange, based on Dale Collins’ novel, in which a married couple, stuck in a middle-class routine, seize the opportunity to cut loose on an expenses-paid cruise. These freedoms don’t turn out to be necessarily for the best.

It’s mighty near conspiracy, this.

The Skin Game (1931)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock grapples with a melodrama concerning feuding families. However, rather than a proto-Dallas affair, The Skin Game is very much concerned with class and culture clash. An adaptation of John The Forsythe Saga Galsworthy’s play (previously made into a film in 1921), it pits landed gentry the Hillcrists against upstart businessman Hornblower and his clan, with Hornblower intent on ruining their rural idyll. There’s a moral to this tale; no good can come from the dirty tricks and underhand tactics that ensue when all-out war is declared. This is the “skin game” of the title, and it feels like far from Hitch’s thing to be so overt and on the nose.

I think it’s gratuitous, but whatever.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best
This is an update of a ranking previously published in 2018. I’d intended to post it months ago but these things get side-tracked. You can find the additions of Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home and a revised assessment of Ant-Man and the Wasp. There are also a few tweaks here and there.