Recent Films

Some notes on films and loosely film-shaped things that I’ve recently watched.

The Two Popes

From the Vatican’s New Media department comes… ‘The Two Popes’; a 125 minute explanation of how the infallibility of the Catholic Church turned out to be a little less infallible than initially thought. Ultimately, we find out that while the old Pope was old fashioned, dogmatic, and bad (and was conscripted by nazis as a boy), the new Pope is in touch, modern, and an all round good egg (who just so happened to choose to back murderous dictators as an adult). Like most of the Netflix Original movies, it has that odd TV/Film hybrid feel about how it was produced that I am yet to become comfortable with.

YMMV.

Batman

Brooding. Dark. And yet not just a little hammy. It’s Batman from 1989! Possibly the second best of the 90s (yes, I know…) superhero movies, it was a valiant attempt to move away from the campy, fun style of the Adam West show. Did it work? I’m not certain, but what I am certain of is that it was the best of the 90s run of Batman films.

Batman Returns

Blessed with additional ham, this is the difficult second album of the 90s Batman movies. While still quite clearly a Tim Burton Batman movie, it’s certainly the lesser of the two; pacing, characterisation and plot all leave something to be desired.

Batman Forever

Probably the worst of the 90s Batman movies, Batman Forever manages to sit uncomfortably between the brooding gothicness of the first two batman films and the camp fun of Batman And Robin without fully embracing either. Jim Carrey at his most irritating makes this one best to avoid.

Batman and Robin

The nipple-suited Batman movie and the final nail in the coffin of a franchise that had lost it’s way. Even further away from Burton’s gothic vision of Batman movies, this is a sad, seaside-out-of-season attempt at recreating the fun of the 60s TV show.

But at least Schwarzenegger appears to be having fun.

Jesus Christ Superstar

A Lloyd Webber adaptation, this time with just enough of an ‘Occupy’ makeover to make it seem edgy yet not too much that it scares the Mail readers. You either care for this kind of thing or you don’t. I didn’t.

Mary Queen of Scots

Wonderfully shot though the edit could – perhaps – have been a little tighter. Excluding the meeting, the plot is reasonably faithful to history however the characterisation and narrative perspective is oddly whiplash – it flips between strongly backing Mary against Elizabeth to strongly backing Elizabeth against Mary, seemingly at random and, occasionally, mid scene.

Also the lack of comma in the official title offends me.

Ocean’s Eleven

George Clooney being George Clooney having fun being George Clooney and having a slightly better time than we are. Inoffensive fodder possibly created to sell to the long haul airline industry. While it’s probably best compared to an average scone – the one with jam but no clotted cream – in a provincial art gallery cafe, it is a little hard to justify its existence.

Ocean’s Twelve

As above but with one more person.

Ocean’s Thirteen

As Ocean’s Eleven but with two more people.

Ocean’s 8

As Ocean’s Eleven but with Sandra Bullock and three less people but several more women.

Parasite

A fun black comedy who’s humour manages to transcend the subtitle barrier. A little weak in the last 10 minutes it is, never the less, certainly worth a watch and one I will be looking to re-view when it hits a streaming service.

Red Dwarf: The Promised Land

Some of the best post season 5 Red Dwarf going – though it does wear it’s long term future as two separately edited episodes rather heavily. If that seems like faint praise then you’d be correct.

Salt

A fairly by-the-numbers Angelina Jolie vehicle. I’s path from A to B is a little convoluted but not radical radical (for the genre) and that doesn’t stop it from being a suitable background accompaniment to a beer and a curry.

Zombieland

The better of the two Zombieland movies, this remains a fun little vehicle that hasn’t aged perceptibly in the past 10 years and, at only 88 minutes, doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

Recent Films

Notes on films I’ve recently watched.

28 Days Later

See here

Contagion

A medical drama with clear roots in The War GameThreads and The Day After. Well filmed and well cast, it seems to loose confidence in the story it’s trying to tell when it diverges into a Chinese kidnap plot that neither explores the desperation that a village in China might feel or ratchets up the overall tension.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Rubbish! A mish-mash of ideas and themes and – quite possibly – scripts makes this a terrible sequel. The first – though a little wooden in places – understood the concept of the slow reveal and that, while human drama was a traditional element of a Godzilla movie, the drama was always wrapped around the actions of the monsters rather than the other way around.

Oddly enough, I think there was actually the hint of a good idea hidden under the layers of mess. The eco-terrorism angle had potential legs and could have led to a very nice Night Moves-with-giant-monsters concept. Perhaps that’s an idea who’s time has yet to come?

I Am Mother

A nice little film with elements of MoonSilent Running and the Terminator. Female led – and better for it – it’s probably the best of the Netflix’s Originals that I’ve seen. Certainly better than any of the post-Channel 4 episodes of Black Mirror.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Fun. Achieves what it sets out to be. Better than the second though not as good as the first one. At times seriously at risk of disappearing up its own mythology – which doesn’t bode well for the inevitable chapter four.

Nightcrawler

A rewatch. Jake Gyllenhaal remains infinitely creepy and the Los Angeles news industry doesn’t come out much better. Probably not one for when you’re looking to have your faith in humanity restored.

Rocketman

Far better than last autumn’s written-by-committee Bohemian Rhapsody. Enjoyable – even with the musical elements – and interesting, it holds back far less than you would expect for a film with such strong links to the Elton establishment. Also proof that Taron Egerton is wasted in the Kingsman franchise.

The Social Network

A rewatch. Wonderfully scripted and beautifully filmed, I’ve seen this several times but, after each, I find myself increasingly convinced that it pulls it’s punches when it comes to dealing with both Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Toy Story

A rewatch of a classic in the run-up to seeing Toy Story 4. There’s not much more to be said about that.

16 Years Later: An (almost) review of ’28 Days Later’

Sorting through an old box of crap I accidentally came across my ancient DVD of ‘28 Days Later’.

Ever-happy to put aside something I should actually be doing and procrastinate, I popped it on and spent the next two hours (ish) rewatching a film I’d not seen since I first bought the DVD back in autumn 2003 – some 16 long years ago.

And it remains a cracking film! Very much of that post 9/11, pre-recession interregnum, it’s well paced and tightly plotted with almost all extraneous fat cut away. The Wyndham-esque Day of the Triffids style opening in the deserted streets of London was fantastically done and anxiety inducing in it’s own right. The later elements – the sudo-reestablishment of civilisation with the wise elder and the vulnerable child, that nascent societies’ destruction at the thrashing corpse of a dead military – all slot one after each other with a level of precision not often seen in horror.

Alas the production is something of a mixed bag – shot on one of the first prosumer digital camcorders, it is firmly a standard resolution fare with all the colour and depth of shot issues that the first wave of budget digitisation brought with it. Shots are cleverly taken, each designed to hide the limitations of the device but, when the story calls for it, the camera is pushed and is sometimes found to be lacking. This is especially apparent in scenes with large amounts of rainfall. Later transfer to DVD only exacerbated these issues.

But that’s not to say that these technical issues should stop you re-watching ‘28 Days Later’, it’s more that these issues should be remembered as facets of a film that was of it’s time and treated as so.

DOOM

A trailer for the new DOOM dropped at E3 yesterday and I have to say that I’m rather looking forward to it. I’ve played DOOM – in it’s various incarnations – since the mid-late 90s and, in a world where stories seem to be ever more complex, the simplicity of DOOM is a refreshing change.

  • A portal to hell is opened.
  • Bad things come through.
  • Kill them all (and, preferably, do it to a rocking soundtrack).

It’s mindless escapism with black and white antagonists which, given my ever more limited gaming time, manages to strike a deeply appealing note to me.

An Alien short for the 40th anniversary of the first film

Alien turns 40 this year and, to me, remains the pinnacle of horror movies and ranks amongst the top tiers of the science fiction pantheon.

Dirty, claustrophobic, unrelenting; it was the complete opposite of another great personal favourite – 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gone was the shining white heat of Kubrick and Clarke’s future, where a top tier crew pushes the boundaries of man’s knowledge with not a mote of dust to be seen. Instead our A Team is replaced with tired industrial workers, each one vested in little more than getting safely back home with their pay packet in their pockets. It was a grimy, tired future, one created by people worn out by the end of the post war dream and who were looking to see a future that reflected a present that refused to change.

Interestingly enough though, both crews get screwed over by a remote governance structure that doesn’t trust them and an artificial intelligence that acts as their local agent. Apparently some fears never change.

As part of this 40th anniversary celebration, a set of Alien themed shorts has been commissioned. The first, below, is a nicely compact piece that manages reflect the fear and claustrophobia of the original film whilst ignoring the pseudo-philosophical tripe that tainted recent efforts. I look forward to the release of the remaining shorts over the next month or so.