The 2019 List: May

So here’s May- and there’s a marked lean away this month from television shows towards movies. Indeed, the only show I watched this month was season eight of Game of Thrones, but with all the attention that television event received you could be forgiven for thinking that was the only show on television this month. But away from that, sixteen movies- some kind of record for me I think, and indeed bringing my total of shows/movies so far this year to 72 now, which is remarkable really. Best film of the month was John Wick Ch.3, and the worst, well, I think Suspiria edged The Wandering Earth, if only because while both were pretty dire, at least the latter had a bit of a fun element picking out the cheesy nods/homages/direct steals from other films.

Tv Shows

69) Game of Thrones Season Eight


56) Suspiria

57) Widows

58) The Wandering Earth

59) Adrift

60) Halloween 2018

61) The Terror of the Tongs

62) Creed II

63) Avengers Endgame

64) Isle of Dogs

65) Get Out

66) John Wick Ch.3: Parabellum

67) Can’t Stand Losing You

68) Rocky Balboa

70) See You Yesterday

71) The Girl in the Spider’s Web

72) Rim of the World

New Blade Runner books coming

br2049aWell, they must have done something right with BR2049, because there’s a few more books coming – if only the 1982 film had gained such attention so early on. Most interesting of the releases is an art book – Blade Runner 2049 Interlinked: The Art curated by Tanya Lapointe, serving as a companion book to her The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049 that came out at the time of the films cinema release. The latter book was a fine souvenir/companion to the film but there is obviously a treasure trove of art not included in that book (as I recall some critical reviews of the book complained there was too little art, too many set/behind the scenes photographs, so this should please those readers). It does bug me a little that various rights issues seem to forever negate any chance of a similar tome concentrating on the 1982 movie, but maybe someday (life has a way of pleasantly surprising you sometimes).  Currently scheduled for October and looks to be same price/format as the earlier book. Hope there’s plenty of text accompanying the artwork and that maybe we’ll get some hints of deleted scenes alongside abandoned concepts etc; the definitive making-of for BR2049 has yet to be written, so I’m certain the film has lots of secrets to yet reveal.

br2049cA little earlier in September we get what must be one of the first texts examining the film – Blade Runner 2049 and Philosophy is a ‘collection of entertaining articles on both Blade Runner movies (and on the spin-off short films and Blade Runner novels) by twenty philosophers representing diverse backgrounds and philosophical perspectives‘. Blade Runner was the subject of several books over the years –  Retrofitting Blade Runner by Judith Kerman was one of the first and is one of my favourite books, hugely important when I first read it and while several similar studies followed, it remains one of the most important. Now that I think about it, it would likely be fascinating to re-read the Kerman book with the benefit of hindsight and all that happened afterwards regards the Final Cut etc.

br2049bAnd your Blade Runner bookshelf will need a little more room this Autumn because scheduled for October is another book about the film- Blade Runner 2049: A Philosophical Exploration (Philosophers on Film). Seems the film studies/critique network is thoroughly enchanted with Dennis Villeneuve’s film (or they know a cash cow when they see it, considering how many books came out about the 1982 film). This book might be especially noteworthy since it actually has a  foreword from Villeneuve himself, and I can imagine it must be especially rewarding for Villeneuve to see his film getting all this attention. I’m curious to see how similar these tow books actually are and it will be fun to read contrasting views between the two collections. This latter book will be ‘essential reading for anyone interested in philosophy, film studies, philosophy of mind, psychology, gender studies, and conceptual issues in cognitive science and artificial intelligence’. You got to love it- E.T never got this kind of attention. One note of caution- these film scholars/ philosophers are hardly what I’d call efficient, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these books slipped into next year. We’ll see.

br2049dBut we’re not quite finished yet. You are probably aware that Alcon Entertainment in cahoots with Titan Comics is bringing us a Blade Runner 2019 mini-series, set, as the title suggests,  shortly after the first film and is officially canon, franchise fans.  I don’t think the first issue is out until June or July, but they have a collection of the series scheduled for November. They do seem to be treating this seriously, as it has the involvement of BR2049 scribe Michael Green to add some weight to its ‘official canon’ claims. The Boom! Comics adaptation of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was surprisingly good, and it will be interesting to see how this turns out (I won’t be buying the individual issues, I’ll wait for the book, I expect). Some teased artwork which I’ll include an example of below certainly suggests it will be a quality production. Speaking as someone who had the original Marvel comics adaptation of the 1982 film back in the day (and I still say that was a beautiful piece of work adapting a film not really ideal for the comic treatment), br2049e.jpgI do get a bit of a kick from the Blade Runner films getting this kind of treatment. Of course we also have the anime series due (next year I think) so its evident Alcon are trying to keep the torch burning brightly for their Blade Runner property. A film is possibly too much to hope for, all things considered, but perhaps a HBO/Netflix/Amazon live-action mini-series might actually be even better. Not that we need ‘more’ but it is, well, strangely refreshing and vindication, really, having championed the film back in the post-1982 days when the film was buried and forgotten, to see all this attention now- and clearly the box-office woes of BR2049 hasn’t totally turned Alcon off the intellectual property. The cynic in me suggests they are just trying to maximise/get some return on their investment in untangling the rights to Blade Runner several years ago (which likely wasn’t cheap). At any rate, it certainly is interesting all this going on. Maybe a super-duper disc edition of BR2049 with decent extras/deleted scenes/commentary tracks might be in the offing someday. I bought Blade Runner so many times on home formats, it almost seems wrong not to wind up doing the same for its sequel.

The Savage Sword of Conan Omnibus Vol.1

The b&w magazine The Savage Sword of Conan was probably my favourite comic of the 1970s – well, I say comic, it was indeed a magazine, as it didn’t have to conform to the Comics Code Authority as the regular four-colour comic books of the Marvel line had to. It enabled the writers and artists to create longer and more ‘adult’ adaptations of Robert E Howard’s stories- it felt more authentic to me, as far as REH goes, a feeling which was reinforced by the magazine running text articles about REH or his books; it was where I first learned about Glenn Lord and his book The Last Celt, and Howard himself and all the stories he wrote. Although I first encountered Conan in the pages of the four-colour Conan the Barbarian drawn by Barry Windsor Smith, it was in Savage Sword that I felt I encountered the genuine Robert E Howard Conan that launched my love and appreciation for his stories, and my fascination with the writer himself.

I still have my old original issues of Savage Sword– original American editions and then later the Marvel UK edition (which lacked the background articles etc). I later bought the first few Dark Horse collected editions  from 2007/2008 that reprinted Savage Sword‘s Conan strips when Dark Horse acquired the Conan license from Marvel – big bulky paperback tomes a little like telephone directories, and really as cheap and nasty as that might sound. I always wished that one day they could be collected in hardback on quality paper with the attention the strips deserved. It was always an idle fancy. The magazine was decades old, of course, and I suppose old-fashioned, and the chance of anyone creating hardback editions for posterity seemed just that- an idle fancy. But over the years I’d look through my yellowing copies and often dream of a proper quality book collecting them.

Well, here we are, with Marvel having now re-acquired the rights to Conan from Dark Horse, this time it’s the original publisher collecting the originals and thank goodness, it has made them part of its Omnibus line, with hardback binding, quality glossy white paper (although I quite miss the old matte paper stock) and even including the supportive text articles and letters pages. Unfortunately, as the rights Marvel has now doesn’t seem to include all the REH characters, as this collection only features the main Conan strips, and not the support strips featuring characters like Kull or Solomon Kane. The only awkward thing about it is the sheer bulk of the thing- at 1,040 pages, it’s a bit of a monster, although I would have appreciated a larger page size- as the book is slightly reformatting the original magazine the pages are slightly reduced in size (in the examples here you may notice the slight window-banner at top and bottom detailing the issue number and omnibus page count), not helping my eyes at all.

It really is a joy reading these stories again and seeing them in such a durable edition at long last. Whenever I read REH’s original Conan stories, it’s always the Savage Sword images that come to my mind, over and above that of Frank Frazetta’s famous oils. The magazine’s art was something really special, particularly as it was always in black and white with intricate detail most of the time, looking like old-fashioned classic illustrated book style and not at all like contemporary comic-books of the day. They always featured pretty extraordinary painted covers, too (and which are printed in colour in this edition, heading each reprinted issue), which rivalled anything on paperback covers- it looked and felt like something really special, and I used to read it over and over. Of course, part of my love and fascination was because it chiefly featured my favourite Marvel artist, John Buscema. To my mind, Buscema’s work reached whole new levels of majesty when the magazine featured his partnership with Alfredo Alcala, starting with an adaptation of REH’s Black Colossus. Alcala, a popular Filipino artist of some renown in his own right, served as an inker of Buscema’s pencil layouts but added much of his own embellishments and details. The stories they did together are some of my favourite pieces of comic art of all time.

Imagine my shock and surprise then, to be reading Roy Thomas’ lengthy introduction to this collection and discovering that John Buscema himself hated what Alcala did to his pencils! I still can’t believe it. I suppose, thinking about it, a lot of that embellishing and detail and texture that Alcala was adding was more Alcala’s own illustrative style – looking at his own comic-book art, it’s clear it looks very much like those Savage Sword  strips that I love. Indeed, perhaps too much like Alcala and too little like Buscema, from Buscema’s point of view. To me of course, it offered the best of both worlds- Buscema’s brilliant layouts and framing and the sumptuous old-school illustrative details of Alcala. But really, when I read all those stories I had no idea, and in the magazine’s letters pages most readers seemed to think the same as I did- the two artists were a magnificent partnership.

So there you go- you learn something new everyday.

While this omnibus is pretty expensive, for fans of old this is surely a must-buy, as they tend to have limited print runs and I have to wonder if there will ever be another reprint after having waited over 40 years for this one. Roll on The Savage Sword of Conan Omnibus 2 in November of this year. Meanwhile I need some new reading glasses…

Rim of the World (2019)

Another Netflix Original but, er, not one of the good ones. Its harmless enough I suppose, and is an affectionate low-budget nod to the Amblin films of the 1980s, but very often when I watch these kind of things, well, I have to wonder, shouldn’t modern stuff have a voice of its own? Why the need to keep on looking back on the past, particularly those genre films that fans remain fond of that are perfectly fine left be? Rim of the World only proves that, well, whatever See You Yesterday or the Back to the Future films might say, you really can’t go back.

Rim of the World is The Goonies versus the Space Aliens, or Stand By Me: Alien Invasion Edition. Or Explorers: The Ugly Aliens Found Us. That’s about it. I suppose there’s nothing particularly wrong about that, but when composer Bear McCreary’s end-title of the film begins with an obvious nod to Jerry Goldsmith’s Explorers score, I just thought it was a bit much after nearly two hours wondering down Amblin Memory Lane (its doubly unfortunate, as Bear’s score is otherwise quite fine and enjoyable).

We’ve been here before, and thats really the problem- these Amblin productions that the film-makers here are so indebted to are, what, 34 years old or older? Nostalgie is fun I suppose and while I’m really not the target audience –  its really aimed squarely at kids of 8 -14 – can I just be the grumpy old sod in the corner who points out that, well, instead of watching substandard stuff like this (as sincere or well natured with the best of intentions as it may be) the kids would be best off watching those Amblin originals instead?

See You Yesterday (2019)

Hmm, another Netflix Original, but one of the better ones, providing you can get your head around two teenagers inventing a time machine in a garage. If you can get your head around that, the various time travel paradoxes of old are pretty routine but the film itself has plenty of heart and a big load of energy. Certainly it could teach the writers of Avengers: Endgame a thing or two about constructing a dramatic and involving time travel yarn that is easy-flowing and not liable to cause a headache.

Infact, the only real criticism I have for this film is the ending- somehow I’d totally lost track of time (yeah, how ironic) and thought there was still twenty minutes or so of the film to go, when the credits suddenly came up in what felt like mid-scene. It completely caught me off-guard, as the film (and I’ll be vague enough to try to avoid spoilers here) suddenly seems to end, if not on a cliffhanger, then somewhere that possibly even hints at a sequel. In hindsight, it was intellectually perhaps the perfect place to end it, and doesn’t really need a follow-up- its simply leaving a character in a kind of loop, always doomed to try changing the past to no avail, which is rather neat and quite dark when you think it over. In the moment though, when the credits came on, I was rather annoyed thinking it something of a cheat.

In anycase, this one is well worth a watch, particularly for an early cameo by Marty McFly himself, Michael J Fox,  playing a science tutor, who closes his cameo with a one-liner that is just priceless. It also rather indicates the Back to the Future-inspired story that follows, but there’s a little more added to the mix that might surprise. Time travel can still be a fun ride, but this film also assures us of the consequences, and has some valid and important social messages alongside the time-travelling escapades. Its time paradoxes are nothing new, but it still managed to seem like a breath of fresh air. Yeah, I enjoyed it.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)

I was rather surprised how successful this was, and how much I enjoyed it. Something of a sequel and reboot for the franchise, following the original three films starring Noomi Rapace and the Western remake of the first of that trilogy,  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by David Fincher that starred Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. Phew, that’s seems a little complicated looking back on it- and rather symptomatic of the state of the film industry these days. Its enough to make this latest film seem rather cynical.

Which does hang over the whole enterprise. Based on a book by David Lagercrantz, in turn based on characters in the original book series by the late Stieg Larsson, the whole thing is an attempt to extend the original book series and films beyond it- a little like James Bond books and films running far beyond the passing of Bond creator Ian Fleming. Characters can so easily gain an immortality of their own far beyond that of original creators, and while it may have noble intentions there is always a sniff of opportunism and money-making in things like this. Its also rather true that in this film, and possibly the original book, there seems a concious intention to shift away from the dark character-based intensity of the Larsson originals and towards a larger espionage/James Bond thriller vibe- perhaps a little like the Jason Bourne franchise. It does feel a little incongruous for Lisbeth here to be drawn into a thriller about a program that can seize control of the world’s nuclear arsenals and leave the world ransom to armageddon- it really does feel more like the plot of a Bond movie.

Which might be a good thing, I don’t know. I certainly quite enjoyed it, because it did seem to be stretching the character a little  and pushing the boundaries- but does it do that too much? I guess that’s more a question for die-hard fans of the Larsson originals to ponder.

Taking over the role of Lisbeth Salander here is Claire Foy, which really seemed a bit of a stretch to me when I became aware of the casting but I have to say it works quite well. There’s a few peculiar moments where Foy seems to suddenly channel the Queen from Netflix’s The Crown (an occasional inflection of her voice, or flash of her eyes, sometimes) but on the whole she’s really intense and surprisingly successful, She manages the physical moments very well too- certainly a far cry from Little Dorrit.

Less successful, and very surprisingly so really, is Sylvia Hoeks as Camilla Salander, the main villain of the film and sister of our heroine. Hoeks was simply brilliant as Luv in BR2049, a really quite complex and nuanced character/performance but here she does seem to simply be a blonde Luv, reprising that role alarmingly in what feels a one-note performance. In Hoeks defence, I suspect it’s more the limitations of the part as written, leaving her little else to really do with it, but its similarity to her character in BR2049 is really disappointing. When I saw her name in the credits my interest in the film was raised considerably as I’ve not seen her in anything else other than BR2049 and I was really curious to see her possibly surprise me, but alas, no, this really is just more of the same.

I gather the box-office returns from this film were quite poor so we are unlikely to see Foy reprise the role in future installments. Perhaps the intent to reboot the series into another film franchise with yet another cast was perceived as cynical and ill-judged, and  got the rewards it deserved.  For myself, the quality of the film (it’s a pretty successful, albeit routine, old-fashioned thriller, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that in a cinema swamped by superhero caped crusaders etc) seemed pretty decent and I found myself enjoying it much more than I had expected. It does make me wonder if sometimes films such as this might be budgeted too highly – I suppose the purported budget of $43 million might seem fairly low in the great scheme of $150 million blockbusters but its returns of just $35 million (with marketing costs etc the film must have been a bit of a bomb financially) would suggest the market simply isn’t strong enough to support films budgeted like this.  If this is indeed the case then its an unfortunate state of affairs, and possibly suggests this kind of thriller might in future be relegated to Netflix/Amazon productions- which is a little sad, to consider that traditional cinema is no longer the place for thrillers like this.

Suspiria (2018)

I’d been looking forward to this since I first saw the trailer; I’ve not seen the 1977 original, and know very little of it, so it’s impossible for me to judge this film in comparison to the original but that first glimpse back in July last year really had me intrigued. Part Twin Peaks, part Kubrick’s The Shining, it looked strange and creepy and wonderful.

Well, it’s certainly strange. Finally turning up on Amazon Prime at last, I looked a little harder and found the 4K stream in particular (Amazon loves to hide the 4K stuff away). This new Suspiria is beautiful to look at; both the cinematography and the art direction (dim lighting, lots of browns and beiges with a muted palette all over really) evokes a real sense of 1970s Germany, of coldness and lack of warmth, the setting having a sense of a marked absence of Nature. Considering the presumed pagan origins of this hidden coven of witches, that void of greens and natural light and warmth is rather telling us something, I suspect. This is like a Wicker Man in concrete.

My main issue with this  Suspiria is that, well, it’s not really scary, which you’ll have to excuse me, but it’s how I judge horror films. Like a number of recent films (Velvet Buzzsaw one of them) it really seems to be an arthouse film posing as a horror film. Failing that, its a film by a director mindfully too sophisticated to resort to usual horror film tropes, resulting in it failing to succeed as one. Sure, there’s a few sequences with some gore etc that may be of distaste to some viewers but as a horror film, it’s really something of a failure. Sure its moody but it has no real scares, or, most damning of all, any tension really.

Its clearly more an intellectual exercise than an emotional or nervy one. I can imagine the film having a tagline ‘for discerning audiences only’. This notion is only reinforced by the peculiar casting of Tilda Swinton as two characters- one the lead tutor of the dance school and the other an old man haunted by the loss of his great love decades before during the war. The make-up for this latter character is either impressive or plain peculiar and other than a technical exercise adds nothing to the film itself- if anything it just proves distracting. I had the feeling that the director Luca Guadagnino is trying to prove something, but I don’t know what. I kept expecting some twist revealing the that the witch and the therapist were either the same person or related somehow like brother and sister thus excusing or explaining the physical similarity between the two, but I was barking up the wrong tree. To me, it added nothing to the film, just left me wondering why they bothered. Perhaps the arthouse crowd think its ingenious.

Likewise there are multiple sub-plots that seem fairly pointless.  There’s a prologue in which a dancer, Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz) has fled the school in fear for her life and soul and tensely warns her therapist (yep, Swinton in male guise), before running off into the night never to be seen again. It promised a threat of almost Lovecraftian hidden horrors but never delivered. There is a vague background noise of terrorist atrocities in the divided city that somehow Patricia is swept up by, but its all off-handed suggestion and not clear. We see a rural religious community in Ohio, America in which a woman (mother of our lead character Susie Bannon (Dakota Johnson)) lies on her deathbed. Susie will be cast out or leave from her own choice (it’s not really clear, unless I missed something) and finds herself in Germany auditioning to join the dance school. I suspect she was banished based on revelations at the end of the film.

Suspiria is interesting. Again, its an arthouse movie posing as a horror film and a director perhaps positioning it as an intellectual exercise rather than a deeply involving, tense or scary one. Sure, it has some unnerving moments but it also has long sections that don’t really do or say much of anything. Indeed, for a film that is so intellectual, it seems to have very little to say, or else its message is lost or passed me by. So much of it -the casting of Swinton in two roles, the period setting, the coven politics- didn’t really seem to amount to much of anything other than the director making some obtuse point. Something of a dissapointment really. Or perhaps I need a repeat viewing sometime if the curiosity ever impels me.


Fan Entitlement & Game of Thrones Season Eight

Back when I was fourteen, three years felt like an awful long time, much longer than it seems these days when the weeks, months, years seem to slip by in a hurried rush leaving me wondering what happened. So back then, having seen The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 with its tease for whatever would happen next with the various threads it left in place, it seemed I had a long, long time to daydream and fantasize about what would happen in the next Star Wars film- especially when its original title Revenge of the Jedi leaked out. I would imagine such grand events.  I imagined an opening scene in which Darth Vader stormed into the Emperor’s throne room, killed him and became Emperor himself. Vader was still a terrible Dark Lord to us back then, quite irredeemable- the idea he’d turn back to good and save Luke would have been laughable. Back then Star Wars was Luke’s story, far as we were concerned, and certainly not Anakin Skywalkers. It was also a 9-part saga, and the idea that the next film would see the Empire defeated and no Vader or Emperor alive, and all finally well and done, well, that was preposterous. How little we knew.

At this point no-one had any idea who or what Jabba the Hutt was, except that he was a big bad crime lord and Han Solo was in big, bad trouble. I imagined Boba Fett was as mean and tough as anyone we’d met in Star Wars so far, and that he and those other bounty hunters working for Jabba would be a big handful for Luke and his friends. I imagined a whole movie spent searching for and rescuing Han Solo, while Vader resumed his search for Luke… or maybe the ‘other’ that Ben had remarked upon. Back then it was such a big canvas, and Star Wars seemed to be getting just bigger and bigger, such a wealth of possibilities with Episodes 6 – 9 ahead of us (Episode 7 in 1985, Episode 8 in 1988 etc… I and so many other fans had it all mapped out). We thought Vader and the Empire would be around for many years of movies. How little we knew.

When Revenge eventually arrived in the guise of Return of the Jedi, well, I really did feel let down by it. Vader was suddenly a bit of a stooge, the Emperor a cackling crazy old wizard who talked and boasted too much, Jabba a giant slug easily thwarted in what was reduced to almost a prologue, and as for those bloody teddy bears… This wasn’t the ‘even darker’ sequel to TESB that I had dreamed up over the years in between. I felt let-down. With TESB, Star Wars seemed to have grown up with me, become a more serious and teen-adult Star Wars and I’d expected it to carry on as I became 17. I’d forgotten that Star Wars was a kids film, really, and I wasn’t actually its intended audience afterall. Lucas, although I didn’t know it at the time, was already leaving Star Wars behind as he suffered a divorce and his real life became more pressing than a saga in a galaxy far, far away…

Back then of course, my negative view was left for me to stew over with my friends. I had no Internet or social media  to rage on, to share my indignant wrath and sense of betrayal by George Lucas. We lived in much smaller worlds, little bubbles of geekdom. There were no petitions  to get George Lucas to reshoot Return of the Jedi as a darker film with Wookies instead of Ewoks and leave the door open for the  Episodes 7 – 9 that we fans had dreamed of and felt entitled to.

Naturally the world is so very different now. Those old Star Wars films that only existed in my teenage dreams, though, have returned to mind over the past few weeks as I have watched season eight of Game of Thrones and witnessed the almost hysterical drama being enacted online  and in social media. Dedicated fans have been outraged by a perceived lack of thought, originality and care that is evident within the final eight episodes of this huge saga. Characters acting completely out of character, logistics of geography and time and distance, such a big part of the show in earlier seasons, now being ignored, awkward plot holes just being left there for fans to rage upon.

The brutal truth is that most of the fans complaining would struggle to organise a six-year olds birthday party, nevermind a tv show costing anything up to $100 million to make, being made across continents, a scale of production the details and difficulties of which we cannot imagine. Game of Thrones is a remarkable achievement, an event we rarely see. I appreciate the old term ‘tv show’ hardly means what it used to, years ago, but watching some of the scenes in Episode 5, The Bells, and its huge scale… well, I had to keep telling myself, this isn’t a movie, its a bloody tv show. We forget what has been done here when we become so accustomed  to tv of such scale. This stuff isn’t easy, and I think we ridicule it to our peril. Its too easy to sit in our armchairs and sofas and pretend we are experts and believe our opinions carry any weight with the behemoth that is HBO or anyone making millions from Game of Thrones.We are consumers, on the sidelines.

Yes, there are obvious issues with season Eight. Could it ever match the hopes, fears and expectations of fans, especially with the lengthy delay between seasons seven and eight? So many theories have rampaged across the internet for the past two years, some crazy, some profound. If there was a perfect season eight or ending for the show, we’ll never see it, but I think we got near enough.

I’m well aware that I sound too much of an apologist when I simply offer my own opinion that it could have been worse. But it could have. I honestly am totally thankful that it is as good as it is.  It would have been intolerable for it to have led to a total let-down after so many years and such promise and ambition. But of course, some fans really do feel it was a total let down, and I feel for them- it’s probably awful to feel so angry about something so dear to them. God knows I felt pretty angry about The Last Jedi and very disappointed by Avengers: Endgame. It is so easy when you’re passionate about something to feel so personally affronted by something.

But fans are not entitled to their dreams being given form. Those dreams that take flight in film and tv and books, they are the result of hard work and craft, and unless its us doing that hard work, well, how entitled should we really feel? We do not own these tv series or movies.  I did not deserve as if by some God-given right to have that huge dark Return of the Jedi of my dreams, nor those episodes that should have followed on in the rest of that decade. Its great of course when a film or tv show or book lives up to hopes and expectations (praise be BR2049) but we should always contain those hopes and expectations- hope for the best, fear the worst, something like that. Babylon 5 didn’t manage a saga across five perfect seasons, it rather stumbled after four but I’m glad we got what we did. Its sadly a fact that many shows get cancelled before their time. In the real world, it’s awfully difficult to make a perfect movie, and God knows Lucasfilm has been trying to better TESB since 1980 to no success, Sometimes it’s simply getting lightning in a bottle- get it once, like in Game of Throne‘s Red Wedding episode, and it’s magic, but it’s a deal with the Devil to get it twice or thrice.Eight perfect episodes is treat enough, but eight perfect seasons?

At least the show got made and finished. Its anybody’s guess if ever the books will get written and published. I wonder sometimes if George RR Martin’s (apparent) lack of activity at the typewriter is simply caution, letting the tv show forge ahead and test the waters so to speak, and that he’ll tweak his original intentions per the fan base reactions. That’s rather the long game that Littlefinger might have taken. Evil clever bastard, then.


Isle of Dogs (2018)

I’m not really at all familiar with Wes Anderson’s work- I haven’t seen a single one of his films prior to this. I gather he’s an auteur who makes quirky self-aware films that appeal to the arthouse crowd- not that there’s anything wrong with that, but none of his previous films have really appealed to me. A film about dogs, though?  That’s just impossible to resist.

Isle of Dogs is a stop-motion animated film, and a surprisingly dark one. In that sense, it’s quite subversive, as its form would suggest a childrens simple light-hearted adventure, akin perhaps to such vehicles as the CG-animated The Secret Life of Pets or Bolt, but in reality it has this dark sense of humor, a toughness to it. Its also as much an ecological story as it is a canine adventure, functioning on several levels really. There are murders, political conspiracy and lies, an unlikely partnership and fight for survival on a rotting dump of an island in which medical experiments were made on dogs in hidden labs, and behind it all, all sorts of Japanese culture references that likely flew right past me.

Its one of those rare cases where you watch a film not quite believing it even exists- it’s too strange, too perfect, too confounding. Some films are oddities, and it’s very true that such films seem rarer all the time. Love them or hate them, we should just be thankful they simply are. I really quite liked this film- to suggest I actually loved it might be a stretch really, as somehow I felt more intellectually stimulated by it than emotionally. I suspect this might be a trend in Wes Anderson’s work, glancing at his filmography. Isle of Dogs is beautifully animated and really quite imaginative, and I’m certain it rewards future viewings, so I’m glad I jumped on the Blu-ray price-drop Amazon just gave it. But Bolt, for all its safe and familiar comforting charms, just might be a better movie, whatever the intellectual arthouse crowd might say as they sneer on the more typically family-orientated animated films.