Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) I’ve seen comments suggesting that John Sturges’ thriller
hasn’t aged well, which I find rather mystifying. Sure, some of the
characterisations border on the cardboard, but the director imbues the story
with a taut, economical backbone.
Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.
Doctor Who The Keys of
Marinus Most of the
criticisms levelled at The Keys of
Marinus over the past 50 years have been fair play, and yet it’s a story I return
to as one of the more effortlessly watchable of the Hartnell era. Consequently,
the one complaint I can’t really countenance
is that it’s boring. While many a foray during this fledgling period drags its
heels, even ones of undeniable quality in other areas, Marinus’ shifting soils and weekly adventures-in-miniature sustain
interest, however inelegant the actual construction of those narratives may be.
The quest premise also makes it a winner; it’s a format I have little
resistance to, even when manifested, as here, in an often overtly budget-stricken
Doctor Who has dabbled with the search structure
elsewhere, most notably across The Key to Time season, and ultimately Marinus’ mission is even more of a MacGuffin
than in that sextology, a means to string together what would otherwise be vignettes
to little overall coherence…
Django Unchained (2012) (MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has
regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at
very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django
Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a
director in Kill Bill), I was
pleasantly surprised by Inglourious
Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in
its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular
protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic.
As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was
operating at his zenith. Django Unchained
is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his
all-important aesthetic pr…
The best you can hope for the end of a series is that it leaves you wanting more. Blake certainly does that, so much so that I lapped up Tony Attwood’s Afterlife when it came out. I recall his speculation over who survived and who didn’t in his Programme Guide (curious that he thought Tarrant was unlikely to make it and then had him turn up in his continuation). Blakefollows the template of previous season finales, piling incident upon incident until it reaches a crescendo.
The penultimate episode, and Chris Boucher seems to have suddenly remembered that the original premise for the series was a crew of rebels fighting against a totalitarian regime. The detour from this, or at least the haphazard servicing of it, during seasons Three and Four has brought many of my favourite moments in the series. So it comes as a bit of a jolt to suddenly find Avon making Blake-like advances towards the leaders of planets to unite in opposition against the Federation.
Batman (1989) (SPOILERS) There’s Jaws,
there’s Star Wars, and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern
blockbuster. Jaws’ success was so
profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing
was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows.
Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy, to markedly less
enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman
in the company of Jaws as a classic
movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim
Burton put it, it was “more of a cultural
phenomenon than a great movie”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict
that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “mainly boring”.
Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan
incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take
the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock
to the system when Burton did it (even…
Atomic Blonde (2017)
(SPOILERS) Well, I can certainly see why Focus Features
opted to change the title from The
Coldest City (the name of the graphic novel from which this is adapted). The Coldest City evokes a nourish, dour,
subdued tone, a movie of slow-burn intrigue in the vein of John Le Carré. Atomic Blonde, to paraphrase its
introductory text, is not that movie. As such, there’s something of a mismatch
here, of the kind of Cold War tale it has its roots in and the furious, pop-soaked
action spectacle director David Leitch is intent on turning it into. In the
main, his choices succeed, but the result isn’t quite the clean getaway of his
earlier (co-directed) John Wick.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Along with Pain &
Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed
as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess;
the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by
turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most
deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned.
Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas,
the Martin Scorsese film from which The
Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.
I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew
much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such
a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of
the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall
Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a