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Showing posts from 2022

A creature that cannot talk will be a welcome relief.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) (SPOILERS) The most striking aspect of Anatomy of a Murder on revisit is how atypical it is of the courtroom drama/thriller, even six-decades-plus after it broke new ground. Studio wisdom would dictate you can’t have such an incendiary case and not include whodunnit; it would be anathema to audience expectations. And yet, for Otto Preminger’s picture, the ambiguity of motive, perspective and moral judgement are precisely the point – “ the apparent fallibility of the human factor in jurisprudence ” as Wiki puts it – occasionally to the extent that one feels one is being lectured, rather than watching a dramatisation.

I bet even Madonna has difficulty getting her shoes and socks off.

The Full Monty (1997) (SPOILERS) There are certainly much less respectable examples of the modern British dramedy, but that doesn’t mean The Full Monty had any business being Best Picture Oscar nominated. It certainly isn’t in the same class – ahem – as earlier awards darling Four Weddings and a Funeral , even if it made even greater waves at the box office. And that’s what this is about, really: showing the Oscar doesn’t stuffily need to be oozing respect and refinement from every pore.

I felt he used too many onions, but it was still a very good sauce.

Goodfellas (1990) (SPOILERS) Scorsese’s gangsters-at-street-level masterpiece is near the top of most lists for “It wuz robbed” when looking back at Best Picture Oscar winners. Kev’s Dances with Wolves is a decent-enough movie and a decent-ish revisionist western, put together with care, craft and what appears to be genuine feeling on its maker’s part; there are certainly far worse Best Picture winners out there. But co-contender Goodfellas is in a class all its own. It also reminds the viewer that, in the first rank of filmmakers as Scorsese is, it’s become relatively rare for him to tackle material with which he visibly (and palpably) connects.

He's not in my pyjamas, is he?

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) (SPOILERS) By rights, Paul Mazursky’s swinging, post-flower-power-gen partner-swap movie ought to have aged terribly. So much of the era’s scene-specific fare has, particularly so when attempting to reflect its reverberations with any degree of serious intent. Perhaps it’s because Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker (also of The Monkees , Alex in Wonderland and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! ) maintain a wry distance from their characters’ endeavours, much more on the wavelength of Elliott Gould’s Ted than Robert Culp’s Bob; we know any pretensions towards uninhibited expression can’t end well, but we also know Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice have to learn the hard way.

There is a war raging, and unless you pull your head out of the sand, you and I and about five billion other people are going to go the way of the dinosaur.

The X-Files 5.14: The Red and the Black The most noteworthy aspect of this two parter is that it almost – but not quite – causes me to reassess my previous position that the best arc episodes are those that avoid tackling the greater narrative head-on, attempting to advance the resistant behemoth. It may be less than scintillating as far as concepts go, but the alien resistance plot is set out quite clearly here, as are the responses to it from the main players.

I think that if you prepare people well enough to believe a lie, they will believe it as if it were true.

The X-Files 5.13: Patient X Season Five’s continuation of the mythology arc has been rocky going. Despite a bracing volte-face handed to Mulder, Carter et al haven’t really known what to do with it, probably because they set it up with the inevitability of it, in turn, being revealed as misdirection (gotta get those aliens in the movie!) Nevertheless, this is the closest the show – by necessity a proponent of the ET-government collusion narrative – gets to the essential psyop-ness of the management of the conspiracy movement, of whistleblowers and official or leaked reports (regardless of any truth therein, the key is control and misdirection). This two-parter makes Mulder’s non-belief an outright impediment to the investigation, refreshing in itself.

Basically, I take human garbage from around the world, and I reprocess it.

No Escape (1994) (SPOILERS) A problem for the futuristic prison movie subgenre is that its instigators can be a little slack when it comes to including an idea of how the encompassing future world operates. A corporatised prison system seems like a given (see also Wedlock , Fortress ), probably because it already had roots when these movies came out (in the US, UK, France and Oz, at minimum). Beyond that, though, the unifying factor is an apparent lack of thought. No Escape , a mish-mash of established tropes, some utilised effectively by director Martin Campbell, some less so, exemplifies this.

Intestination commencing.

Fortress (1992) (SPOILERS) Stuart Gordon’s pulpy prison sci-fi has acres of splatter and some vital ideas to see it through its budget-conscious paces; one thing you could rely on with Gordon was a sense of humour, even if the finished product was frequently patchy. Here, he amasses a collection of dystopian tropes and runs with them to sporadically effective results; like the previous year’s Wedlock , Fortress is better when its protagonists are confined, rather than engaged in the act of escaping.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

We’re not murderers, in spite of what this undertaker says.

The Godfather (1972) (SPOILERS) I expect most people – among those aware The Godfather won the Best Picture Oscar, that is – assume it was the big winner that night. While it could indeed boast the top prize, Cabaret far and away exceeded it in trophy count, eight to the Don’s meagre three (Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Actor, the latter category one where Cabaret wasn’t competing). In those terms, The Godfather ’s victory looks closer to a quirk of Spotlight proportions, despite sharing the year’s most nominations with Bob Fosse’s movie. Time and hindsight have shown the Academy got the main award right, but the cautious applause serves to emphasise that its now-hallowed status was anything but a foregone conclusion.

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

You’d be surprised how many intersectional planes of untethered consciousness exist.

Moon Knight (2022) (SPOILERS) Now, this is an interesting one. Not because it’s very good – Phase IV MCU? Hah! – but because it presents its angle on the “superhero” ethos in an almost entirely unexpurgated, unsoftened way. Here is a character explicitly formed through the procedures utilised by trauma-based mind control, who has developed alters – of which he has been, and some of which he remains, unaware – and undergone training/employment in the military and private mercenary sectors (common for MKUltra candidates, per Dave McGowan’s Programmed to Kill ). And then, he’s possessed by what he believes to be a god in order to carry out acts of extreme violence. So just the sort of thing that’s good, family, DisneyPlus+ viewing.

Drank the red. Good for you.

Morbius (2022) (SPOILERS) Generic isn’t necessarily a slur. Not if, by implication, it’s suggestive of the kind of movie made twenty years ago, when the alternative is the kind of super-woke content Disney currently prioritises. Unfortunately, after a reasonable first hour, Morbius descends so resignedly into such unmoderated formula that you’re left with a too-clear image of Sony’s Spider-Verse when it lacks a larger-than-life performer (Tom Hardy, for example) at the centre of any given vehicle.

He doesn’t want to lead you. He just wants you to follow.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) (SPOILERS) The general failing of the prequel concept is a fairly self-evident one; it’s spurred by the desire to cash in, rather than to tell a story. This is why so few prequels, in any form, are worth the viewer/reader/listener’s time, in and of themselves. At best, they tend to be something of a well-rehearsed fait accompli. In the movie medium, even when there is material that withstands closer inspection (the Star Wars prequels; The Hobbit , if you like), the execution ends up botched. With Fantastic Beasts , there was never a whiff of such lofty purpose, and each subsequent sequel to the first prequel has succeeded only in drawing attention to its prosaic function: keeping franchise flag flying, even at half-mast. Hence Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore , belatedly arriving after twice the envisaged gap between instalments and course-correcting none of the problems present in The Crimes of Grindelwald .

You think a monkey knows he’s sitting on top of a rocket that might explode?

The Right Stuff (1983) (SPOILERS) While it certainly more than fulfils the function of a NASA-propaganda picture – as in, it affirms the legitimacy of their activities – The Right Stuff escapes the designation of rote testament reserved for Ron Howard’s later Apollo 13 . Partly because it has such a distinctive personality and attitude. Partly too because of the way it has found its through line, which isn’t so much the “wow” of the Space Race and those picked to be a part of it as it is the personification of that titular quality in someone who wasn’t even in the Mercury programme: Chuck Yaeger (Sam Shephard). I was captivated by The Right Stuff when I first saw it, and even now, with the benefit of knowing-NASA-better – not that the movie is exactly extolling its virtues from the rooftops anyway – I consider it something of a masterpiece, an interrogation of legends that both builds them and tears them down. The latter aspect doubtless not NASA approved.

How’s it feel to be working for your favourite food?

The Bad Guys (2022) (SPOILERS) Wow. I didn’t expect this. Having, of late, been disabused of any expectations of quality Hollywood animated movies, thanks to the combined efforts of Disney and Pixar (the same entity, really, but let’s split the difference), The Bad Guys comes as a breath of fresh air. It’s a welcome reminder of what the art form can accomplish when it’s allowed a little freedom to move and hasn’t been agendised to within an inch of its life.

My earth magic will stoke the flames of your sword.

The Northman (2022) (SPOILERS) Tarzan the Eric Northman . Robert Eggers’ “authentic” Viking flick is a pagan-chic melange of exploitation splatter and grisly characterisation, designed to impress upon us just how uncivilised things were back then. But also kind of great, right ? Because people were freer and more instinctive and more aligned with the old gods. And shit. Eggers’ pictures, with their unhealthily heathen hues, appear to be an embrace/warning of the madness and ecstasy that comes with such release. Surely no right-minded person would wish to end up like Robert Pattison in The Lighthouse , nor Alexander Skarsgård here, even if they were granted the latter’s magic pecs in the bargain. It follows, then, that you don’t need to be a right-minded person to clutch his works to your shrivelled bosom. Hence The Church of Satan endorsing The Witch .

Not so tough when you’re fighting someone 700 times your size, are you?

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) (SPOILERS) I don’t find Sonic the Hedgehog, as realised by Jeff Fowler’s FX team and voiced by Ben Schwartz, particularly endearing. That’s a reasonably hefty barrier to getting on board with, ahem, a run of movies featuring the character. I do, however, think Jim Carrey is pretty funny here, whichever version of Jim Carrey that is here (not, it seems, the former law-of-attraction loving, TM-promoting, anti-vax, Illuminati-baiting one, but more plausibly some post-wrongful death suit performing seal). Consequently, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is patchy enough, even without factoring in all the material devoted to the humans who aren’t human cartoon Carrey, and the animated characters who aren’t the already less-than-endearing Sonic.

You tampered with the universe, my friend.

The Music of Chance (1993) (SPOILERS) You won’t find many adaptations of Paul Auster’s novels. Original screenplays, yes, a couple of which he has directed himself. Terry Gilliam has occasionally mentioned Mr. Vertigo as in development. It was in development in 1995 too, when Philip Haas and Auster intended to bring it to the screen. Which means Auster presumably approved of Haas’ work on The Music of Chance (he also cameos). That would be understandable, as it makes for a fine, ambiguous movie, pregnant with meaning yet offering no unequivocal answers, and one that makes several key departures from the book yet crucially maintains a mesmerising, slow-burn lure.

You’re like a human mummy!

The Lost City (2022) (SPOILERS) Perhaps the most distressing part of The Lost City , a Romancing the Stone riff that appears to have been packaged by the Hollywood equivalent of a processed cheese plant lacking its primary ingredient (that would be additives), is the possibility that Daniel Radcliffe is the only viable actor left standing in Tinseltown. That’s if the suggestions at least two of the performers here – Sandra Bullock and Brad Pitt – are deep faked in some way, shape or form, and the other name – Channing Tatum – is serving hard atonement time. If the latter’s choices generally weren’t so abysmal and his talent in arears, I’d assume that was the only explanation for him showing up in this dreck.

In order to produce the necessary answer, I had to alter the equation.

Raised by Wolves Season Two (SPOILERS) The most impressive part of Raised by Wolves Season Two is the way in which, at times, it is able to cast off the shackles of Ridders-brand science fiction and transform itself into something truly strange, boasting imagery that only ups the ante of the first and suggests the untamed psyches of Miyazaki or Jodorowsky. The least impressive part is also its most catnip quality; the show insistently pursues Lost mystery boxes, week after week, dispensing with one before setting up another (thought that snake was where it was at? Guess again). Will Raised by Wolves win a third season, or will it become HBO’s latest example of a Carnivale ?

I only know what I’ve been programmed to believe. But, of course, the same goes for you.

Raised by Wolves Season One (SPOILERS) Ridley Scott’s latest transhumanist tract is so stuffed with required lore, markers and programming, it’s a miracle it manages to tell a half-engaging story along the way. Aaron Guzikowski ( Prisoners ) is the credited creator, but it has the Ridders stamp of dour dystopia all over it, complete with Darius Wolski ( Prometheus ) cinematography setting the tone. Which means bleak grey skies, augmented by South Africa this time, rather than Iceland. Raised by Wolves is a reliable mix of wacko twist plotting and clumsy, slack-jawed messaging; like the Alien prequels, it will surely never be seen through to a conclusion, but as an agenda platform it’s never less than engaging (and also frequently, for the same reasons, exasperating).

If we keep shooting Joey, don’t you think he might get suspicious?

I Love You to Death (1990) (SPOILERS) At the time, the sheer broadness of Lawrence Kasdan’s comedy came as something of a surprise; his previous picture was the well-regarded, Best Picture Oscar-nominated The Accidental Tourist , and yet, here he was, taking someone else’s script based-on-an-actual incident of a wife employing hit men to kill her unfaithful husband, and delivering a knockabout romp wallowing in farting, fornicating and foul play. Critics found it on the coarse, unfinessed side, and audiences didn’t find it all. I Love You to Death may not be a forgotten gem, but it is often very funny, in its shambolic way, and it boasts some cherishable performances from an eclectic cast.

Don’t blame me, madam, if you chose to go abroad to do your shopping.

Passport to Pimlico (1949) (SPOILERS) Ealing Studios’ “What if?” scenario yields several raw reminders of an inflexible establishment behind its genteel, gently playful exterior. A few years later, The Man in the White Suit would devastate supply-demand economics and make very clear what a farce that whole ball game is. Passport to Pimlico does something similar, albeit in even less polemical form, with ideas of concealed history and personal sovereignty. It has been dismissed as amiable but toothless, but its message is as unmistakable as Sidney Stratton being left standing in the street in his shirt and underwear.

You're creating this whole scenario to fulfil a dream.

The X-Files 5.6: Christmas Carol What could be more festive than some X-Files misery porn? This mythology arc two-parter continues the series makers’ mission to decimate poor Dana Scully’s life. They got in there early in Season One by blitzing her dad. Then came killing off sister Melissa in Season Three before she even had a chance to develop beyond the rudiments of new-age flake. On top of that, Dana’s had cancer for what seems like more seasons than the show’s been running. So don’t, whatever you do, Chris Carter, grant her any sustained respite.

She was born to serve an agenda.

The X-Files 5.7: Emily Just when you thought you’d escaped the insultingly rote voiceovers… (“ It begins where it ends. In nothingness ”) Cued by the return of Mulder (“ Have you ever seen Mr Potato Head? ”), Emily assumes a much more traditional thriller bent than its predecessor. And accompanying that shift, the show’s calculated, manipulative streak is foregrounded. What better way to put Dana through the ringer than losing the child she so desperately wants?

They got a buildin' down in New York City called Whitehall Street where you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected.

Alice’s Restaurant (1969) (SPOILERS) Arthur Penn’s picture “dramatisation” (comedisation?) of Arlo Guthrie’s classic song Alice’s Restaurant Massacre , and the actual events contributing to it, is intentionally ambling, unhurried and episodic, much like the song itself. Unlike the song, however, it’s far from a classic, regardless of the affection many may (understandably) hold for it. Penn was no master of comedy, and Guthrie is no actor, one with even less screen presence (he bears a slight resemblance to Jerry Seinfeld, also no actor, but more of one than Guthrie. And tangibly better at comedy too). Consequently, Alice’s Restaurant is rather shapeless and inert – you could confidently exit the room to brew intermittent cups of tea without feeling you’d missed anything vital, because you wouldn’t have – and it’s only really that song on the soundtrack lending it character.

Horses don’t eat sardines!

The Reivers (1969) (SPOILERS) I’m sure there’s an appetite for this brand of nostalgic, good ol’ southern boys tale – one only has to look at the later successes of The Dukes of Hazzard and numerous Burt Reynolds vehicles, generally foregrounding vehicles – but it’s rather lost on me. The Reivers comes from sometime Hollywood resident pisshead William Faulkner’s 1963 The Reivers: A Reminiscence , and was doubtless considered a hot property: a Pulitzer winner that attracted Steve McQueen to star. Unfortunately, it lands largely as reheated Mark Twain, far too pleased with its comfort-zone childhood glow and the faux wisdom of times past.

Right in the schnitzel!

The Pentaverate (2022) (SPOILERS) Soft disclosure, or a hard pass? In last week’s So I Married an Axe Murderer review, I speculated why Mike Myers might choose to return to comedy now, almost a decade and a half since his last effort, and considered the context of his picking the conspiracy subject – when it has never held greater currency – yet flipping the malign elite control on its head to present a positive secret society. That he was an identified visitor to Langley didn’t really make such a great case for his approaching the material with autonomy. But what if The Pentaverate is actually a White Hat exercise, making the case for those working behind the scenes to get the world – or globe, ahem – to a point where the bad guys are sent packing? With accompanying filthy language, flatulus and foreskins.

The Illumi-what-i?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) (SPOILERS) In which Sam Raimi proves that he can stand proudly with the best – or worst – of them as a good little foot soldier of the woke apocalypse. You’d expect the wilfully anarchic – and Republican – Raimi to choke on the woke, but instead, he’s sucked it up, grinned and bore it. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is so slavishly a production-line Marvel movie, both in plotting and character, and in nu-Feige progressive sensibilities, there was no chance of Sam staggering out from beneath its suffocating demands with anything more than a few scraps of stylistic flourish intact.

Next stop, implosion!

Fat Man and Little Boy aka Shadow Makers (1989) (SPOILERS) The Manhattan Project is currently Hollywood currency once more, on account of a highly-prized – by bidding studios – Chris Nolan project that hopes it will be a goldmine simply based on the director’s past credits. Not, perhaps, an outrageous assumption, but studios would have been wise to look to Dunkirk ’s performance and then halve it when agreeing to the budget. On the face of it, Oppenheimer ’s a prestige Oscar-grab by Nolan, one that sees him once again scouting the terrain of perception and reality as he reinforces the dominant paradigm. If he isn’t careful, though, his picture will meet with a similar response to the last major foray to Los Alamos: crickets. Which is where Roland Joffé comes in with Fat Man and Little Boy .

What does plinge mean?

Doctor Who The Time Monster Fifty years of The Time Monster. A cause for celebration? With no prior experience of the story, one might have been conditioned by The Discontinuity Guide ’s perverse smackdown: “ Like watching paint dry while being whipped with barbed wire: immensely dull and painful at the same time ”. Of course, ripping the Pertwee era a new hole circa the mid-90s was very fashionable – Paul Cornell, the movement’s chief architect, was one of the book’s three authors – and you can find similarly jaundiced responses towards stories in the latter four Pertwee seasons, not least its predecessor The Mutants . Both bombardments are somewhat over the top, which is not to suggest they don’t have their problems. In The Time Monster ’s case, its faults are particularly exacerbated by Paul Bernard’s unenthused direction.

I can’t wait to get back to all that music and fun and diversion.

Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) (SPOILERS) While up to its eyeballs in Oirishness – Disney had attempted to secure professional Hollywood Oirishman Barry Fitzgerald as Darby, to no avail – this adaptation of Herminie Templeton Kavanagh’s stories is surprisingly un filtered by the studio’s predilection for sentimentality and cutesiness. The Sean Connery-Janet Munro romance lends Darby O’Gill and the Little People a sniff of a supernatural (or is it?) The Quiet Man , while Albert Sharpe’s unmoderated accent – unless you’re unfortunate enough to see it on Disney+ – in concert with the emphasis on boozing, all the while with the main drama/comedy revolving around the interaction of a couple of sexagenarians, announces this as slightly unlikely kids’ or even family fare.

I'm smitten. I'm in deep smit.

So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993) (SPOILERS) An unlikely choice for an extended universe, even if unofficially. But with Mike Myers' imminent return to original comedy, his first outing since The – unfairly maligned – Love Guru , So I Married an Axe Murderer gets a chance to be recognised as more than simply a fizzle, one best known for featuring the by-then-ancient The La’s’ There She Goes as its theme song.

It turns out it’s not all Cabbage Patch Kids and cocaine.

Russian Doll Season 2 (SPOILERS) Russian Doll ’s first season started off going great guns, before failing to stick the landing. This unnecessary – in as much as nothing about the original demanded more, beyond it proving something of a hit for Netflix, not least critically – second run doesn’t have that problem, mostly because it never even clears the runway.

He loves to pull a cork, I know that!

True Grit (1969) (SPOILERS) In the wake of the Coen Brothers’ version, there isn’t really much need to see this first cinematic go round of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel again. Unless you adore John Wayne. It won him his Best Actor Oscar, of course, but if you came to True Grit cold, with zero knowledge of the background to his receiving the statuette, you’d reasonably be mystified quite how that came to pass.

Aloof sounds good.

Sweet Charity (1969) (SPOILERS) Bob Fosse’s directorial debut, and very far from any kind of classic. Sweet Charity does, however, offer a sequence that undeniably merits such status, and knocks 99 percent of choreographed numbers into a cocked hat. Unfortunately, it comes during the first thirty minutes, and there are still two more hours to go.

I just popped some heroin and took a gas pipe.

The Happy Ending (1969) (SPOILERS) Turgid melodrama that earned Jean Simmons a Best Actress Oscar nomination: there’s no contesting the quality of her performance, only the material she has available. Director Richard Brooks had earlier worked with his missus, far more successfully, in Elmer Gantry , and he only has himself to blame, since he also wrote and produced The Happy Ending .

Let’s never be weirdos, okay?

The Sterile Cuckoo (1969) (SPOILERS) Alan J Pakula’s debut has more in common with his ’80s relationship dramas than his more immediately adjacent ’70s forays into neo-noir. Even then, though, it stands somewhat apart. An adaptation of John Nichols’ 1965 novel of the same name, The Sterile Cuckoo actually bears closer resemblance – to jump to another decade – to ’90s indie pictures; it’s a low-key, lo-fi affair revolving around likeable or not-so-likeable eccentrics (we’ve seen not dissimilar from Wes Anderson, Alexander Payne and Hal Hartley).

Yeah, that’s a very expensive car chase right now.

Ambulance (2022) (SPOILERS) My advice is to go with the definite article – the 1990 Larry Cohen movie starring Eric Roberts – but this latest unwieldy slice of Bayhem is nevertheless engaging for the most part. Ambulance is one of his “artier, more character-driven” statements. You know, artier, more character-driven statements replete with gunfire, car chases and seismic explosions.

Hey, I go everywhere with Mr Whiskers, okay?

Uncharted (2022) (SPOILERS) The omens never seemed promising for Uncharted , which over the span of almost a decade and a half of development hell, went from a Mark Wahlberg starrer to… a Mark Wahlberg starrer. As unwanted as a Wahlberg Nathan Drake was, though, Tom Holland is straight-up absurd as the video games’ main protagonist; he resembles a twelve-year-old with photoshop pecs, and there’s still no sign of his voice breaking any time soon. Holland’s essentially the new Michael J Fox: tiny, likeable – the teeny girls just love him – and at a stage in his career when he’s still nursing the illusion he can do any damn thing. He will learn, by hit and miss, he can’t.

Please tell me you’re here with severe chest pains.

The X-Files 5.2: Redux II Generally considered an uptick on a subpar season opener, Redux II may slack off somewhat when it comes to the portentously inert narration, but it’s no less drowned in Chris Carterisms. There are some decent beats here, but they’re wrapped in another instalment in the interminable sick Scully arc; that it (finally) finds its resolution here in no way mitigates the alienation it engendered.

There are truths that can kill a nation, Agent Mulder.

The X-Files  5.1: Redux Looking back at season opener Redux now, it’s scarcely believable this was The X-Files at the peak of its popularity. The myth arc isn’t merely running on fumes, it’s being serviced in a manner that borders on (unintentional, alas) self-parody. The saddest part of this is that – although my response at the time was that they should just quit horsing around and cut to the chase – the series during this phase was coming closest to the smoke-and-mirrors truth of how the conspirasphere operates.

Do you know how you sound, accusing the owner of a Fortune 500 company of being some kind of occultist?

Archive 81 (2022) (SPOILERS) The latest in Hollywood’s apparently unwavering appetite for Lovecraftian horror, Article 81 is also diligently magpie with regard to scooping up cinematic influences in the same. It’s nearest relative and Netflix stablemate is thus probably Stranger Things , with its parallel realms to our own nursing unspeakable horrors of an anti-life nature (that series’ Rebecca Thomas directed half the episodes here). On top of the HP source, Archive 81 embraces the found-footage conceit, one that has been very variable in value – The Blair Witch Project being the most prolific and most vastly overrated – and is employed here via a set of logistical rules that are strictly bendable. The result, exec-produced by James Wan (who likes his Cthulhu) effectively pushes all the buttons you’d expect while never breaking free from what could be regarded as formula.

That’s your problem, kid. You don’t know who you’re kidding.

The Two Jakes (1990) (SPOILERS) Or Jake and the Fatman: Jake is the Fatman . The Jake in question being one private investigator JJ Gittes, now on his way to occupying a suit of Orson Welles proportions. Chinatown ’s belated sequel, set eleven years later, underwent a succession of production woes such that, by the time it landed, audiences weren’t even willing to take a sniff; it opened in a paltry seventh place in early August 1990 ( Flatliners taking the top spot) and was out of the Top Ten the following week. Equally long-awaited sequel The Godfather Part III opened at the end of the same year, also to mixed reviews, but it still managed to make a relative success of itself. Perhaps Chinatown ’s time had passed, or hadn’t come round again? Perhaps the title plain sucked.

We’ve been dropping the British Empire for the last six months!

In the Name of the Father (1993) (SPOILERS) The trouble with the Troubles is that they tend to make for rather dreary, respectable, eggshell-treading fare. Unless, of course, they’re entering into full-blown genre territory ( Hidden Agenda , ’71 ; there’s a film to be made about the funding of the various paramilitary organisations and their infiltration, but that puts you squarely in the kind of terrorism territory Hollywood wouldn’t want to touch). Barring the odd, unfathomable decision to make a Fiddy Cent movie, Jim Sheridan has mostly spent his cinematic career charting the Irish experience in various forms and settings, several of which relate to the repercussions of British rule (this, Some Mother’s Son and Bloody Sunday ). In the Name of the Father has going for it the “wrongly imprisoned” subgenre, and its intentions are at least laudable, but its failing is that that of an over-emotive cry for attention, one emblazoned with big names before the camera and across the soundtra

Alright, tell me what she didn’t say, word for word.

Cactus Flower (1969) (SPOILERS) The Academy has often recognised the cachet in populating its Best Supporting Actress category with attractive young starlets. Actually giving them the statuette has been less frequent, however, reaching its peak during the ’90s (Marisa Tomei, Mira Sorvino, Angelina Jolie). Nobody’s claiming those recipients were rewarded purely on the basis of skin-deep appraisals, of course, even if they’ve largely failed to make good on early promise. It’s much less easy to make the same assertion of Goldie in Cactus Flower , however. I can think of a number of movies where she’d have been rightly recognised for her effervescent talents – less so her plastic-fantastic current look – but this tired farce, complete with woeful “down with the kids” aging Hollywood hipsterism, isn’t one of them.

Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando were in a movie together.

Old (2021) (SPOILERS) Par for the course from M Night Shyamalan. Old is by turns confidently crafted and ham-fisted, confirmation that, while premise (and twist) is everything to the writer-director (and exasperatingly persistent cameo artiste), it’s very rarely been enough to see him through to journey’s end. In some respects, Shyamalan’s latest twist-horror is a thematic variant on his world-in-a-microcosm The Village , where the nature of reality is concealed from the participants. It foments less opportunity to incur the indignation of its audience when the truth is revealed, however, because there are only so many possible answers, most of which will likely have occurred to them by that point.

We are equally glad to be rid of him, are we not?

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) (SPOILERS) Sometimes, just sometimes, Oscar gets it right. Lawrence of Arabia isn’t only on a whole other level to its fellow Best Picture nominees that year, but also to most films – of that or any year. As a piece of mesmerising, wholly immersive filmmaking, it’s the zenith of the artform. If Oscar got it wrong in any conspicuous categories that year, it was rewarding Gregory Peck over Peter O’Toole – who would remain ever the bridesmaid, or Florence of Arabia, as Noël Coward wittily described him – and Horton Foote over Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson for Best Adapted Screenplay (in both cases, To Kill a Mockingbird being the beneficiary).

There are some places which, to an Englishman, are sacred.

The Italian Job (1969) (SPOILERS) Has The Italian Job been forever sullied by its association with/ appropriation by Loaded / lad culture/ Top Gear et al? I don’t think so. It was a bank holiday and family favourite long before being “rejuvenated” as an emblem of Cool Britannia and shallow self-regard. Indeed, the most striking part of the picture is how custom packaged it is from the first. There’s an easy confidence to Peter Collinson’s film, whereby it knows exactly what it wants to be and how to deliver that. Plus, it’s propelled by a supremely catchy, “footie anthem” theme song: Getta Bloomin’ Move On! (The Self Preservation Society) .