2018 Review: August

August saw some news breaking regards the circumstances of Johann Johannsson’s passing, a commentary on the birthday of the late Chris Whitley, a note regards the death of Neil Simon, a new Blade Runner-inspired book, and all this-

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Film of the year, simple as that. I suppose that will depress some people no end, but as far as summer blockbusters go, like the previous entry, this is pretty much definitive.

Big Bad Mama – Funnily enough, years from now, when I look back on this years viewing, I think Big Bad Mama will be one of the most memorable entries of this year. It was a blast from the past, wildly nostalgic of that 1970s era of film and television with a great cast- afterall, this one has Captain Kirk and Captain Dallas sharing the screen. How could it possibly fail?

Extinction– A pretty frustrating movie, as I recall.

Ready Player One–  As disappointments go, this one is up there with Black Panther. A very vacuous CGI-fest, it seems to have the best of intentions but I suspect the book simply ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, so the film collapses under the weight of hype and expectations.

The Camp on Blood Island – Another Indicator boxset of Hammer obscurities. It just can’t fail. This was the first n the box and a pretty entertaining flick.

Yesterdays Enemy – Surprisingly modern in approach, this is an undervalued/forgotten gem, seemingly an apology for some of the more dubious racial sentiments of the Blood Island film which preceded it.

The Age of Adaline – Ouch.

Loving Vincent– A beautiful, unique-looking film.

The Stranglers of Bombay – Likely the weakest of the third Indicator Hammer set.

It – Oh dear, another disappointing film. I think this post had the most comments of any post this year.

Lady Macbeth – Still have mixed feelings about this, not wholly successful but worth a watch, certainly.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri –  Hey, this was brilliant. One of the films of the year. For once a film lived up to the hype (which is the trouble, I suppose, of coming to films late, whether it be disc release or later rental etc).

Cardinal Season Two – Entertaining thriller from Canada, ensuring interesting locations and, hmm, that Rocketeer bloke.

Murder on the Orient Express – My discovery of the charms of Agatha Christie continues.  This was a beautiful looking movie, even on HD streaming. Can only imagine what a Blu-ray or 4K UHD possibly looks like- ravishing, probably.

Only the Brave – Considering what has been going on in California a few weeks ago, I imagine this film will have long legs. Maybe some of these true story/biopics are a little too respectful or have little to say other than recounting the events? I mean, sure, that’s fine I suppose, but it’s surely an opportunity for some valid opinion or artistic viewpoint informing on those events?

15 reviews? Is this some kind of record?

 

 

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The Equaliser 2 (2018) 4K UHD

eq22014’s The Equalizer proved to be something of a surprise- I was never interested in the original tv series and another reboot of a tv property was hardly anything to get invested in. Yet when I (eventually) got around to watching it on a borrowed disc, I found it to be a solid, thoroughly entertaining thriller- in no small part because of star Denzel Washington’s onscreen gravitas and charisma. Indeed, it was one of those situations where you know the actor is too good for the part but it just somehow works.

The film had sufficient success with the public to warrant a sequel with the same creative team- I also believe, from what I have read, that it’s the first sequel that Washington has ever gotten involved with, so certainly something worked first time around.

Alas, lightning rarely strikes twice, and this film is a poor reflection of the original. Something feels off- certainly, it’s no cash-grab/opportune knock-off, but perhaps simply because it isn’t a usual sequel that steers towards copying what came before, instead telling a markedly different story in its main arc, it doesn’t really feel like a Equalizer movie. It even could be said that it’s perhaps as much a Man on Fire 2 (that film being another Washington movie from years back) as it is an Equalizer 2. I almost feel that I should applaud it for taking this approach, choosing to open up the title character’s mysterious past and back story instead of simply doing an American modern-day Robin Hood righting wrongs and sticking it to the bad.

But there are problems. For one, the script does feel disjointed and much of the story really doesn’t make any sense- Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) turns globe-trotter somehow (don’t know how well being a taxi driver pays, but it must pay well) saving a snatched girl from Turkey and returning her to her American mother. A man in Belgium is executed, the murder staged to look like a suicide after he had killed his wife, and for some vague reason McCall’s friend and ex-boss Samantha (Melissa Leo) is pulled into the investigation (the dead guy being a CIA operative of some kind) and is herself killed before she stumbles upon what’s really going on. But what’s really going on isn’t really clear. The two druggie guys who beat her up and leave her for dead (the actual kill being completed by the films real baddie) are after some money but are themselves later killed to cover the real baddies tracks, and it’s never clear if the money was just a ruse to get the two druggie guys involved or if it is all about money or why the Belgium CIA guy was killed in the first place. If I sound confused it’s because I am.  There are all sorts of coincidences and twists that don’t really convince and some of the action scenes, while mostly well-staged and quite elaborate, are quite awkwardly edited in some places (the chief bad guy is up high on the roof of a tower and suddenly McCall just appears out from camera left and you have to wonder how the fuck he ended up there and standing to one side without the bad guy registering it).

Its a strange one really; it’s clear a real effort was made to do something worthwhile and on one level it certainly works, but on another it has to be said a more cynical cash-in lingers in the background, as if the creative team were stuck somewhere in the middle.

Like the first film, the film delivers action in spades and is somewhat guilty of glorifying in that violence. Like with the first film, the British release was cut to manage a 15 certificate but the 4K UHD release of both films restore the films original international cut requiring a 18 certificate. I believe the cuts to the second film are for 11 seconds in total for some graphic details that yes, are pretty graphic but hardly make the film any better (or worse for the cuts).

2018 Review: July

July was marked by me starting a number of lengthy posts analysing BR2049 that took up far too much time and nobody read. I got a third one nearly ready to go but never posted it. I figured I’d return to it sometime as I enjoyed doing them (any excuse to rewatch BR2049 is officially A Good Thing in my book), but it was taking too much time to justify, and besides, there’s sure to be actual books about it coming out soon or similar stuff up on the internet already.  Surprisingly, really, I didn’t do too bad with new reviews in anycase:

Mission– French sci-fi must be an acquired taste, it was pretty sour to me. Funnily enough another Mars adventure, The First (which I reviewed a few days ago) was coming up that was much classier/serious than this silly nonsense- maybe my high evaluation of The First owes much to how daft this was.

How It Ends – An ironic title, as it turned out.

Calibre- Scottish Deliverance.

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season One– This was a great period horror series, I was a bit late catching up with it but glad I did.

Wind River – One of the best films I’ve seen this year, I think.

The Foreigner – A pretty fun, low-demand thriller that was more entertaining than I expected.

Resolution – This was fantastic, alongside its sequel/part two which follows next. A low-budget Lovecraftian sci-fi/horror that is genuinely disturbing and fascinating.

The Endless – Follow-up to Resolution, which it accompanies on Arrows excellent double-bill Blu-ray.  Not quite as good as the first film, but really, both are better than most sci-fi films coming the mainstream route. Anybody who got a kick from Annihilation would enjoy these two.

Eight reviews then, two of which were tv shows that take longer to watch for obvious reasons. July also unfortunately marked the passing of author Harlan Ellison and artist Steve Ditko, both of which I wrote posts about. I also wrote my first 4K review, which was a rewatch of the first Deadpool movie. Busy month, all told.

2018 Review: June

We’re fast approaching the midway-point of the year now: as far as that legendary 100 films tally, I’ve done a count and up to May it actually isn’t far off target, standing at 45. So you never know; the question I suppose is, does June give a helping nudge towards that finish line…?

All the Money in the World – More remarkable for the story behind it than anything in it.

The Limehouse Golem– Interesting period horror/mystery that perhaps tips it hats too soon.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – More fun than I expected it to be. I remember my musings about a War of the Worlds/Zombie spin-off with the tagline ‘They don’t want our planet, only our brains’. I still want to see that movie!  Doesn’t anybody in the industry read this blog?

Black Panther – Other than The Last Jedi, my biggest disappointment of the year so far. I really don’t get what everyone sees in this, other than a social-political agenda. The ending is a boring CGI-fest that depressed me.

Alice Through the Looking Glass – Surprisingly boring and ill-judged sequel.

So, only five new reviews then. Mind, I was still distracted by weekly write-ups about Westworld, at this point reaching its finale of season two, and June was the month I took the jump into 4K, buying a new television and disc player (all the overtime trekking up and down the motorway due to my temp job relocation finally bearing fruit).  So halfway through the year I’m at 51 new reviews of film/television, ignoring other commentary. Not too bad I guess.

Film of the Year

Well, okay, while this may yet seem a little early to post something like this, it’s surely a foregone conclusion- I’m only confirming, afterall, something I suggested back when  I saw the film at the cinema in August. I watched the 4K UHD of Mission Impossible: Fallout the other night and can only suggest the film gets even better and more impressive on second viewing. I’d actually add that the 4K UHD is actually a better experience/presentation than the cinema screening I attended (alas, I didn’t see the film in Imax, which must have been breathtaking).  At any rate, this film is surely the best film I have seen this year. Its astonishing/riveting/thrilling/funny/surprising… its possibly the Perfect Summer Blockbuster, and God knows, that title has plenty of competition.

Whatever Bond does next, it’s going to be a fascinating thing to see.

fallAs far as Mission Impossible goes, you know, I’d love to see them now go in some other direction, maybe go small and into a low-budget, character-focused, espionage drama. I think that’s highly unlikely, but trying to top this one is so beyond risky, I’d almost suggest its foolhardy. I’m almost tempted to say they should call it a day, wait ten years and do another reboot, start afresh. But part of me really wants another Cruise flick with Ethan Hunt saving the world again whilst blowing my socks off.

2018 Review: May

May was a weird month. Most of my time seems to have been devoted to weekly examinations of Westworld,  but I did see some new stuff-

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace – was as horrible as many have told me, but still held a certain charm having Reeve and Kidder in it. At this point in the year I had no idea I’d be watching the 4K UHD of the original Superman movie a few months later- the gap in quality between the two films is awful and feels so very unfair, so much went wrong with those films as they went on, it’s really quite sad. Worse, a few days after I posted my review of this, Margot Kidder passed away.

Gerald’s Game – Considering the number of hits this post had over the year since, this is one of my most successful, most-read reviews ever. Which does seem so very strange. Perhaps the idea of Carla Gugino tied to a bed does things for some people (ahem- I’ll get my coat).

The Hitman’s Bodyguard – So good (and I really did enjoy it) that I later bought the 4K UHD edition in a sale (although, naturally, I haven’t watched that disc yet).  I think sometimes when you don’t expect very much, films really surprise.

Miss Sloane– I’ll watch Jessica Chastain in anything. She’s just fascinating to watch. This film was doubly troubling because the week I watched it, there had been another mass shooting in a school in America, and it’s difficult when reality impinges on Hollywood fantasy like that.

Geostorm – Ha ha, I’d actually forgotten this until I just saw the review I’d posted. Yeah, it was that memorable.

Sarah’s Key – This was a pretty strong movie, but in a way it felt like a tv-movie. Nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Only six posts about ‘new’ films. Well, that 100 target dies early again then, it seems.

 

 

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

ant1.jpgSomething that struck me while watching this highly entertaining film- the sheer logistics of making a film like this just boggles the mind. Nowadays we sort of brush off stuff such as what this film throws on the screen with a dismissive “nice CGI” comment, as if it’s all the product of a box of tricks on auto. But there is so much more to it. The fight scenes for example, during which our two titular characters flip between normal size to miniature or even giant, must have been filmed in live-action multiple times to ensure continuity with lots of stop-starts and seperate camera set-ups (bad guy swats at non-existent tiny wasp then boom she switches to full-size and punches him, or focus suddenly pulls from life-size punching bad guy to miniature heroine that is placed into shot in suddenly sharp focus reacting to him before leaping into counter-action). Just the organisational side of it (camera angles/lenses/lighting/props/continuity etc) must have been laborious to the extreme, and yet edited together it looks so great and natural. Take the car chases in the film and the vehicles being miniature one moment, life-size the next,  adding a level of complexity to an otherwise pedestrian stunt sequence.

We take it so much for granted. I recall many years ago a visual effects guy remarking that if the audience ‘spots’ his effects work then he has failed, and while there was some irony to the guys comment back then (a dinosaur is a dinosaur, for crying out loud, and likewise a spaceship is, well, a spaceship when all is said and done, so most effects work can’t help but scream its own name), these days I have to wonder. I think part of the problem is how widespread and numerous these big effects films are these days. In the old days, a Star Wars film was still pretty much unique to itself each year or two, and while some other blockbusters would come out, few ever really came close to a Star Wars film in quality or scope. These days you see stuff in television productions that can equal film effects in quality if not in scale/number of shots, and certainly, several big effects films can be released in a single season, nevermind year.

So anyway, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a genuine marvel to me, effects-wise, and the story and the cast are no slouches either. Indeed, while general consensus appears to be that its one of the minor Marvel entries, for me I’d say it’s one of the strongest, certainly superior to the over-hyped Black Panther. I really did enjoy this film more- the finale was genuinely interesting and involving, thanks mainly to the great characters, their warmth and the humour that permeated the film in general. Here is a comic-book movie that remembers to be fun and it’s a great antidote to the almost Biblical seriousness of stuff like Avengers: Infinity War.

Sure, I suppose in a few years it will be films like the upcoming Captain Marvel and the epic Avengers films that people may look back on as classic iconic films of their genre, but I rather think that something like Ant-Man and the Wasp merits the same consideration.  The cast are great, the action scenes are great, the film can be funny and dramatic, it’s a great film.  Maybe it could have been a bit bolder in some artistic choices (it may have benefited from a jazzier, more un-Marvel music score, just to shake things up a little) but on the whole it really surprised me how good this film was.