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.
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…
The ‘Burbs (1989) (SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs
is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you
masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch,
or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins.
Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences
by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and
the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely
nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its
foothold in the Dante pantheon.
It came out at a time when there had been a
good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and
it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away;
you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say
that some, as with say The Big Lebowski,
“got it” on fi…
(SPOILERS) In which we find Sean Connery – or his agent, whom he got rid of subsequent to this and Cuba – showing how completely out of touch he was by the late 1970s. Hence hitching his cart to the moribund disaster movie genre just as movie entertainment was being rewritten and stolen from under him. He wasn’t alone, of course – pal Michael Caine would appear in both The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure during this period – but Meteor’s lack of commercial appeal was only accentuated by how functional and charmless its star is in it. Some have cited Meteor as the worst movie of his career (Christopher Bray in his book on the actor), but its sin is not one of being outright terrible, rather of being terminally dull.
Zootropolis (2016) (SPOILERS) The
key to Zootropolis’ (or Zootopia as our American cousins refer
to it; the European title change being nothing to do with U2, but down to a
Danish zoo, it seems, which still doesn’t explain the German title, though) creative
success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding
prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal
stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central
duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason
Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). It’s coming armed with that rarity for an
animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces
or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.
due to co-directors Byron Howard (Bolt,
Tangled) and Rich Moore (of The Simpsons, Futurama, and latterly, the great until it kind of rests on its laurels Wreck-It-Ralph)
and Jared Bush (presumably one of the
"Predalien" The Alien-Predator-verse ranked
Fox got in there with the shared universe thing long before
the current trend. Fortunately for us, once they had their taste of it, they concluded
it wasn’t for them. But still, the Predator
and Alien franchises are now forever
interconnected, and it better justifies a ranking if you have more than six entries
on it. So please, enjoy this rundown of the “Predalien”-verse. SPOILERS ensue… 11. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
An almost wilfully wrongheaded desecration of both series’
legacies that attempts to make up for AVP’s
relative prurience by being as transgressive as possible. Chestbursters explode
from small children! Predaliens impregnate pregnant mothers! Maternity wards of
babies are munched (off-screen admittedly)! It’s as bad taste as possible, and
that’s without the aesthetic disconnect of the Predalien itself, the stupidest
idea the series has seen (and that includes the newborn), one that was approved/encouraged
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.
Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied
plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable
folly of the panned Pan, I was struck
by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters,
makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed
illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such
investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston
Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely
puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II
tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.
The Avengers 3.20: The
Little Wonders More
memorable for Steed (undercover, naturally) planting a smoocher on a surprised
Mrs Gale than its plot of Mafia-esque “clergymen” electing their new leader.
This isn’t bad, and Macnee’s having a lot of fun as the Vicar of M’boti, but
you can’t help feel it should have been a lot more lunatic.
Beardmore: What if
he’s a phoney, and doesn’t know Harbottle was playing a double game? The mob
organisation is known as Bibliotek, and Steed is replacing the deceased Reverend
Harbottle who, we learn, has been involved with another group led by Sister
Johnson (Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell, who strikes a very Bond-esque image at one point, blazing away with a machine gun in a
nurse’s uniform). She’s posing as the carer of the Bishop (David Bauer), the
head of Bibliotek, while attempting to bring about his demise with Dr Beardmore
(Tony Steedman of Citizen Smith).
Complicating matters in a way that fails to really elicit interest is a German
doll containing mi…
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.