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Showing posts from July, 2022

That’s all we need. A robot who’s into equal rights!

Short Circuit 2 (1988) (SPOILERS) Evidently, the inspiration for Babe: Pig in the City . And, in turn, as Time Out put it “ a chromium Crocodile Dundee ”, as our anthropomorphic hero is led astray in the Big Smoke. Johnny 5’s the original Chappie, and on balance, far preferable. Short Circuit may not have been able to boast an actual Indian benefactor/human sidekick, but it at least avoided the blight that is Die Antworte. This sequel was divested of stars Steve Guttenberg and Allie Sheedy (the latter has a voiceover), and director John Badham also opted out, so it’s unsurprising the box office halved. Short Circuit 2 is by no means terrible – Johnny 5 is nothing if not personable, in an irrepressible, ADHD, Roger Rabbit kind of way – but it’s unmistakeably a big-screen TV movie.

Extra ten million to the first guy to put a bullet in this Ken doll’s brain.

The Gray Man (2022) (SPOILERS) Somehow, all those MCU movies, with the immaculate pre-vis work, had a great many convinced – studio execs included, doubtless – that the Russo Brothers were auteurs of the first order. And somehow, the wretchedness of Cherry did nothing to dent their reputation in any serious way (perhaps because it was tucked away on Apple). The Gray Man , a $200m Netflix monster, may be less forgiving, however, since it ought to confirm to a great many that the siblngs’ action chops are about as convincing as Anthony’s rug.

Piece by piece, the camel enters the couscous.

The Forgiven (2021) (SPOILERS) By this point, the differences between filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and his younger brother, filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, are fairly clearly established. Both wear badges of irreverence and provocation in their writing, and a willingness to tackle – or take pot-shots – at bigger issues, ones that may find them dangling their toes in hot water. But Martin receives the lion’s share of the critical attention, while John is generally recognised as the slightly lesser light. Sure, some might mistake Seven Psychopaths for a John movie, and Calvary for a Martin one, but there’s a more flagrant sense of attention seeking in John’s work, and concomitantly less substance. The Forgiven is clearly aiming more in the expressly substantial vein of John’s earlier Calvary, but it ultimately bears the same kind of issues in delivery.

I was just checking to see if I was standing on plastic.

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) (SPOILERS) As an aficionado of ’80s-90s action cinema, I naturally loved all things Joel Silver (except Joel himself, natch… except in Who Framed Roger Rabbit , natch), yet I was never entirely persuaded by the Lethal Weapon series. The first is a more than decent movie, and the chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover is uproarious and infectious, such that the series is undoubtedly very difficult to dislike. But as action cinema, as boosted as it is by Michael Kamen’s robust scoring, the movies are never more than serviceable, competent, respectable. Richard Donner was no John McTiernan at his peak, and you can see that in the way he threads, or rather doesn’t, Lethal Weapon 2 together. It’s almost an archetype of “That’ll do” sequels, because it’s bigger, funnier and more ridiculous, while never attempting to be a consummate piece of cinema in its own right.

Jurassic World? Not a fan.

Jurassic World Dominion (2022) (SPOILERS) “ Jurassic World? Not a fan. ” You said it, Jeff (well, Ian Malcolm). I can’t say I’m really a Jurassic Park fan either, although I do respect the skill and efficiency involved in several of the first two movies’ set pieces. And more perversely still, unlike many, I wasn’t actively antagonistic towards the first Jurassic World , probably because I didn’t venerate its predecessors. Fallen World , while much better directed than Colin Trevorrow’s movie, and with a couple of leftfield ideas, simply wasn’t much cop. Jurassic World Dominion – per critics’ takes – isn’t much cop either, and furthermore, it isn’t very well directed. But, it has much more going on it that’s interesting this time round.

If that small woman is small enough, she could fit behind a small tree.

Stranger Things Season 4: Volume 2 (SPOILERS) I can’t quite find it within myself to perform the rapturous somersaults that seem to be the prevailing response to this fourth run of the show. I’ve outlined some of my thematic issues in the Volume 1 review, largely borne out here, but the greater concern is one I’ve held since Season Two began – and this is the best run since Season One, at least as far my failing memory can account for – and that’s the purpose-built formula dictated by the Duffer Brothers. It’s there in each new Big Bad, obviously, even to the extent that this is the Big-Bad-who-binds-them-all (except the Upside Down was always there, right?) And it’s there with the resurgent emotional beats, partings, reunions and plaintively stirring music cues. I have to be really on board with a movie or show to embrace such flagrantly shameless manipulation, season after season, and I find myself increasingly immune.

Get away from my burro!

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) (SPOILERS) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is beloved by so many of the cinematic firmament’s luminaries – Stanley Kubrick, Sam Raimi, , Paul Thomas Anderson and who knows maybe also WS, Vince Gilligan, Spike Lee, Daniel Day Lewis; Oliver Stone was going to remake it – not to mention those anteriorly influential Stone Roses, that it seems foolhardy to suggest it isn’t quite all that. There’s no faulting the performances – a career best Humphrey Bogart, with director John Huston’s dad Walter stealing the movie from under him – but the greed-is-bad theme is laid on a little thick, just in case you were a bit too dim to get it yourself the first time, and Huston’s direction may be right there were it counts for the dramatics, but it’s a little too relaxed when it comes to showing the seams between Mexican location and studio.

Is this supposed to be me? It’s grotesque.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) (SPOILERS) I didn’t hold out much hope for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent being more than moderately tolerable. Not so much because its relatively untested director and his co-writer are mostly known in the TV sphere (and not so much for anything anyone is raving about). Although, it has to be admitted, the finished movie flourishes a degree of digital flatness typical of small-screen productions (it’s fine, but nothing more). Rather, due to the already over-tapped meta-strain of celebs showing they’re good sports about themselves. When Spike Jonze did it with John Malkovich, it was weird and different. By the time we had JCVD , not so much. And both of them are pre-dated by Arnie in Last Action Hero (“ You brought me nothing but pain ” he is told by Jack Slater). Plus, it isn’t as if Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten have much in the way of an angle on Nic; the movie’s basically there to glorify “him”, give or take a few foibles, do