The writer and script editor collecting tweeted thoughts on various TV and film type things. Can’t say I agree with everything, and certainly not his take on the Ghostbusters reboot (it’s not a fraction as funny as it thinks it is, and I fucking hate the Holtzmann character). But his tweets on Rogue One get to the nuts and bolts of why it doesn’t really work. My own review is superficial in hindsight, too forgiving of its flaws, but it’s a fairly superficial movie that I was evaluating in the context of a greater disappointment. #link
This video gets a bit too cute in its definition of passable (focusing on certain film tropes ‘passing’ for genuine human interactions, but ignoring that such tropes have an important role to play in the medium). Still, the bigger point stands; I’ve seen far too many passable movies lately — and been permissive about it, too. My film diet needs greater nutritional value. #video
Macon Blair’s directorial debut, a blackly comic revenge film, suffers from first-film-itis for much of its running time. Its obvious influences (mostly his old filmmaking pal Jeremy Saulnier, with a smattering of Edgar Wright) get in the way of a story that’s unevenly focused as it is, one minute a me-against-the-world drama, the next a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style cringe comedy. Things improve markedly in the final act, however, with an explosion of violence that brings a film with quirky, flighty tendencies back down to earth hard. David Yow (he of noise rock legends The Jesus Lizard) is a revelation as the primary heel of the piece, and Elijah Wood brings his usual charm as the oddball sidekick, but it’s Melanie Lynskey in the lead who holds it all together, just about, as the woman who decides she can no longer bear to let the bastards get her down.
Unexpectedly decent, this. The postmodern Wes Craven approach is writ large in its first half, and the obvious references pay off in grisly amusement rather than belly-laughs, as they should. It’s also effectively atmospheric, as the tropes start to die off and our main characters succumb to the creeping realisation that there are no rules to this horror movie. If there’s anything really wrong it it, it’s that it suffers from the same problem as that other colossal horror tussle: it’s far too long before the titular characters go one on one.
It’s bland, it’s pat, it’s sentimental — nothing like the extraordinary true story it sets out to re-tell. #link
Folding Ideas on Suicide Squad and its terrible editing. Some of its problems are obviously in the screenplay and the poor direction and framing, to be fair, but even without those issues, the way it's put together is remarkably lazy. #video
Just piping up to recommend Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix, if you haven’t seen it already.
Think a mildly gore-splattered Desperate Housewives with the sensibility of 30 Rock. If that floats your boat, give it a couple of episodes to get going and find its tone; by the third, you’ll know.
For me, it’s all in the combination of great writing — especially in the fleshed-out characters and relationships — and spot-on casting. You can’t go wrong with Drew Barrymore, though Timothy Olyphant is the real standout. Who knew he had such a gift for comedy?
Anyway, if Netflix keeps doing shows as entertaining as this, it’ll make the subscription worth keeping.
In this house we’re probably the only people who haven’t seen Stranger Things among all the world's Netflix subscribers, but the issue discussed here is one that’s been a thing a lot longer. And it’s a problem with story-arc shows in general, when the main narrative thrust is too slow-burn to let the individual episodes stand alone. #link
Fede Alvarez’s reboot of the Sam Raimi horror classic pretends to add depth with a thinly veiled subtext of demonic possession as metaphor for drug addiction, but it’s drowned out amid a witless torrent of wince-inducing gore — and a thoroughly nasty, cynical tone. I walked out on this halfway through when it first hit cinemas, and after catching up on Netflix I see I didn’t miss much.
Olympus Has Fallen comes with a certain charm to its ridiculous premise and theatrical violence. Only a trace of that tongue-in-cheek attitude is present in this cheap and nasty sequel, which takes its jingoism far too seriously. It’s also a film that constantly takes its audience for mugs, and can’t even be bothered to get Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman in the same place on the same day. That’s pathetic.
Always interesting to compare my own habits with others. My stats for 2016 slipped a little, about 20 films short of what I watched the previous year. And I rate things differently. Few if any five-stars; a four-and-half from me is more like a five from someone else. #link
Here’s a diegetic twist on the found-footage horror where the meta-narrative is more than just a series of links between episodes, as a team of cops race against time to rescue a missing family from a masked assailant, following clues from digital cameras recovered at the crime scene, but uncover a mystery far more messed-up than anyone could have expected. Props to French film prodigy Nathan Ambrosioni (he’s only 17, the bastard!) for a decent attempt at the kind of genre blend that usually separates or scrambles. However, it’s still primarily a found-footage psycho slasher, set in a spooooky abandoned building, in the deep, dark woods — hitting the cliché trifecta — so your mileage may vary.
So busy this week that I forgot to link this one when it went live on Tuesday evening. Despite what I said before, there might be one more film review from me before the year is out, if I can bring myself to write at length about Collateral Beauty. #link
Way too much overthinking here, since the function of the craft doesn’t factor into the story of the film whatsoever. But the fact that these things are thought about? That’s good. [c/o Pinboard/infovore] #link
Probably my final film review for 2016, since I’m missing a bunch of screenings over the next fortnight. And it’s one I liked, but didn’t love. Give it a watch if it shows up on your streaming service of choice. #link
No, he hasn’t: Disney bosses have panicked because they don’t know what they have. Look at how they bungled Doctor Strange, an above-average superhero film that wasn’t screened for critics till days before it hit cinemas. They’re petrified of putting out anything that doesn’t match the tone of what’s come before, forgetting of course that recent genre smashes — even from other studios, like Deadpool — established said tone in the first place. The Force Awakens itself suffered from that fear, by compromising on the fresh take its first 45 minutes offered with a nostalgia trip for the rest of the flick. And how many people were talking about it even a month after release? I hope Rogue One retains the darker, Empire Strikes Back tone as it was allegedly conceived, but that remains to be seen, and it doesn’t look good from here, just four weeks out from release. #link
It takes a good while for this belated sequel to get going, through a messy, meandering first half-hour that feels a lot longer, till all the pieces are in place for a souped-up showdown between our heroes and the nefarious Tall Man, gleefully icky and technically impressive (for its day) special effects and all.
Who the hell called this #Horror when a far better title (Slashtag!) is staring you right in the face? It’s not even really a horror film, anyway, not until the last 20 minutes. Psychological thriller, then? Maybe, at a stretch, when most of it plays as a cyberbullying-themed tweenage drama with some blunt social commentary shoehorned in. First-time director (but long-time actor, fashion industry figure and multimedia artist) Tara Subkoff throws all her influences into the mix here, and it shows. More focus would help, but it’s hardly the worst film ever; these no-star reviews are taking the piss.
That it’s made by one of the ‘stars’ of Troll 2, the ‘worst movie ever made’, is what steers this away from mocking hipster irony to give us a genuinely sweet and decidedly odd where-are-they-now documentary. That it centres on the charming actor-turned-dentist George Hardy as its hero, following his exploits as he drums up support for comedic revival screenings, is more luck than genius, but that’s fine, because Michael Stephenson knows what he’s got here. Not only an insight into the unconventional world of the jobbing actor, and the quirks of the convention circuit, it’s even got a pantomime villain in Claudio Fragasso, director of Troll 2 (it doesn’t even have any trolls in it!) and a man whose inflated ego won’t let him admit he was a purveyor of trash.
You probably wouldn’t expect an Italo-horror cash-in on the 1970s craze for demonic progeny (The Exorcist, The Omen) and young women with supernatural powers (Carrie, The Fury, etc) to have much identity of its own. And especially not when its biggest set pieces betray an obsession with Hitchcock’s The Birds. But The Visitor’s deeply strange story, rooted in a sci-fi interpretation of Abrahamic religious myth, stands apart from the typical rip-offs of the day.
Arrival is definitely a Denis Villeneuve film, and it’s a beautiful one for the most part. The visuals are muted but constantly arresting, a stylistic contrast to the over-sharpened harshness of Sicario. Similarly, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s sound design is enveloping yet the drones don’t conjure a sense of claustrophobic unease as much as something bigger than we can comprehend. It’s full of allusions to Kubrick, Malick, Tarkovsky, even Spielberg, not to mention Villeneuve’s own films: the long tunnel shots of Sicario; the arachnoid preoccupations of Enemy. (And for his second film running, a strong female lead; Amy Adams carries the weight of the world on her shoulders here.) However, the last 20 to 30 minutes of the story require a leap of faith that I wasn’t prepared to make, and I don’t believe is earned. In trying to distill complex philosophical questions about language and meaning and self into something parseable in a two-hour movie, it drops the ball right when it matters most.
I get passion for the genre and nostalgia for the era and everything, but mid-80s drive-in-filler slasher Blood Rage is just plain bad. There’s some intelligence behind the kills, and in the occasional non-sequitur weirdness. But overall? What a waste of a good idea.
Despite the presence of a likeable Tom Hanks, a magnetic Audrey Tautou and an EEEEEVIL Paul Bettany (playing yet another religious figure), not nearly enough happens to justify its near three-hour running time.
Another concentration-camp flick from Brian Trenchard-Smith, though a damn sight more sedate than the terrors of Turkey Shoot. Perhaps too much so, as the only thing really keeping the ‘residents’ of the Star Drive-In within its electrified fences is the fact that the outside world is far worse, freedom be damned. The social commentary is blunt, though it still rings true today, and it’s definitely a saving grace – that and its suitably grimy atmosphere. Yet I can’t help feeling there’s a more exciting film at the other end of the road, in the war on the streets between the tow-truck scrappers and roving gangs of ‘car boys’ that’s only teased at in the first 10 minutes, and can’t not have been in the mind of George Miller when he was writing Fury Road.
An intrepid journalist (Warren Beatty) goes up against a sinister corporation in this conspiracy thriller from Alan J Pakula, who would give us a more triumphant ending with his similarly themed, truth-stranger-than-fiction story All The President’s Men two years later. That film is rightly lauded, but it doesn’t have the Hitchcockian tension, vague sci-fi trappings and general sense of unease that make The Parallax View so compelling.
Funny to consider James Caan’s master thief in Michael Mann’s debut feature is even more of an anti-hero now than he was back in the day, what with his loose way with racial epithets a la Dirty Harry, and his, well, less than ethical treatment of his love interest (Tuesday Weld). Sure, the film does lay out why he’s such a hardened individual, but explanation is no excuse.