A Tarantino Trek?

taratrekRather illogical this one, Captain.

I don’t know, Spock, perhaps if your Vulcan mind could consider a more…. emotive, human, crassly commercial  point of view….

Dang blast it, Jim, I hate to agree with the green-bloodied oaf but this time I think he’s right. I’m a surgeon, not a damned film critic, but the guy behind all those foul-mouthed violent self-indulgent pulp movies putting words in MY mouth? Sounds like I’ll being calling Spock the alien muthaf—–kr we all think he is in every f—n scene.

Gentlemen, Tarantino’s heroes are the very epitome of cool, and I haven’t been cool since the 1960s – he rescued Travolta’s career, after all, and God knows after the past few Trek movies, my career needs rescuing.

Hell with you square cats, Tarantino is a man who knows how to objectify women and I’m tired of this communications console, I so need objectifying. I’m black and sexy, dig, and I want some of that sugar he gave Pam Grier. ‘Uhura Unchained’ sounds groovy.

Ye Canna let him do it, Captain, he’s liable to make some kind of Natural Born Trekkies movie and I dunna think the ship can take it- I can give ye maybe ten more minutes at Warp 7 and then I’m muthaf—-n out of here with Dr McCoy.

Really, Mr Scott, I find your outburst sickeningly emotive and hardly conducive to solving this quandary. Whilst I have my reservations, after what JJ Abrams did to us I hardly think Mr Tarantino could do any worse, I only think-

Dang blast it you heartless muthaf—-kn pointy-eared waxen-faced alien b—d you sold us out, didn’t you?

No, Doctor, I merely thought it’s time I became the star of this show and I’m certain Mr Tarantino will see the logic of my proposal.

Damn it, Spock, I’m your Captain. And I love you.

Out of the seat, muthaf—r, this Vulcan’s taking over.

 

 

 

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A Good Year?

We’re rushing into that time of year when we all start to realise that the year is fast becoming a whole new last year, and inevitably begin to take stock. For my part, it’s begun to dawn on me that it hasn’t been a bad year at all for movies.

We have, after all, seen the release of Blade Runner 2049, and it was everything any Blade Runner fan could have hoped for.  Its struggles at the American Box Office, as if in direct opposition to wondrous reviews, just add more to it somehow, an added pathos. If nothing else, it likely means we won’t have to worry ourselves silly over a third entry anytime soon. Maybe. Alcon did spend a lot of money for the rights, and it is still a well-known IP, so I’d rule nothing out- maybe we’ll see a smaller, less-blockbuster-budget outing next, or even a series on some cable channel.

Beyond the long shadow of BR2049, which has frankly ruined me for any other cinema outings this year (I saw it THREE times!)  and leaves me rather burned-out in the face of another Star Wars entry (still not excited, and it’s only weeks away now), there have been some pretty nice surprises this year. Genre films like Logan, Kong: Skull Island and War for  the Planet of the Apes have all impressed me greatly. Even the live-action Ghost in the Shell was rather fun with a lot to offer once you get your head around a live-action GITS existing in the first place.

On the tv front, things may have been even more impressive- Westworld was fantastic, as was The Leftovers, but another long-remembered favourite (with just as huge expectations/fears as the big-screen’s BR2049), the new Twin Peaks, proved to be utterly sublime. 18 hours of prime David Lynch, a labour of love as scary and bemusing and funny and baffling as anything he ever did. David Lynch at his very best, on tv for goodness sake- who needs cinemas? I just got the blu-ray box this week, can’t wait to plunge into it all over again (just want to rewatch Fire Walk With Me first this time).

The latest Game of Thrones season suffered from its headlong rush to the finish line of season eight. It was just three episodes too short and risked jumping the shark with a few of its questionable plot-turns. Here’s hoping the last season delivers when we finally see it. Back on the movies front, Ridley risked losing the plot along with his nerve, when his Prometheus 2 became Prometheus 1.5 with 0.5 of an unnecessary Alien prequel thrown in. Maybe he was right about Giger’s alien being all done- if Ridley can’t make the Alien scary again, who can? Meanwhile while Marvel soared (particularly with the triumphant Spiderman: Homecoming) DC floundered yet again with the frankly risible Justice League. Maybe an Ultimate Cut will fix that… who knows?

So yeah, an interesting year and one that 2018 will struggle to live up to, I suspect. Afterall, new Blade Runner films and Twin Peaks series don’t come along every decade, do they, nevermind every year. Hell, if those two projects were the only worthy efforts of the year, it would still have been a Good Year.

And I haven’t mentioned the new two-disc Close Encounters of the Third Kind soundtrack on its way across the pond, possibly in time for Christmas….

Scarlet’s gone Blu

scarlett1Just thought I’d mention this recent arrival (I really need to do a ‘2017 Selection’ update) as it doesn’t seem to be available outside of the online shop of Network; it’s the first volume of a four-volume set of Gerry Anderson’s original Captain Scarlet series. The show has been lovingly remastered and is being released in seperate volumes presumably to finance the restoration/remastering work prior to an eventual box-set release. At just £10 it’d be foolish to wait for that box-set though. The disc is a bare-bones affair with eight episodes sans commentaries or anything, but the packaging is gorgeous, the amaray case is bright red and looks lovely, and above all else the episodes in pristine HD in 4.3 format look better than I have ever seen them. The colours really pop. This series was my personal favourite Anderson show, all grown-up and violent, it was really quite dark for a kids show (but then again, Anderson never really made ‘kids shows’, they were always aimed at a wider audience).  Anyway, it’s out now via the Network website, and I just hope it won’t be long before the second volume is announced.

Bad to the Bone? Breaking Bad

bbad2017.66/67/68: Breaking Bad Seasons 3 – 5

My colleague at work who lent me his DVD boxsets warned me not to expect much of the final season. “I didn’t like where it went- I thought it spoiled the whole thing,” he told me. Well, endings of tv shows are funny things, and  some work for some people, and they don’t for others. I’ve remarked on this before, in shows like BSG I’ve really enjoyed what I felt were satisfying endings- in shows like Dexter, not so much. Of course, it’s impossible for showrunners to keep everybody happy, but I think for the ending of a show to be satisfying, it has to be honest to the internal logic of the show and how it started. As if you can follow an imaginary through-line from episode one to episode xx and think, yeah, that makes sense, it works.

In the case of Breaking Bad, contrary to my work colleague, I think it works. Indeed, in many ways it was the only way it could end, and I figure that as I’ve watched this series so long after everyone else has, spoilers can be cast aside. Walter had to die- he was dying from the very start, and it was the cause of everything he did. Whether he died the way he should have, well, I guess that’s the crux of the argument for fans. Did he deserve a noble death, a death with purpose, or a death dying of cancer in prison? Was he a good guy or a bad guy, and what is the morality in the ending of the show? We are clearly supposed to be rooting for him from the first episode, but by the final episode, are we supposed to be hating him? If so, then Bryan Cranston is possibly too sympathetic/charismatic an actor for that to fully convince.

For me that’s the biggest question of the whole series- was Walter a good guy caught in a bad situation, just digging himself deeper all the time he tried to dig himself out of trouble, or was he a bad guy trying to justify his actions by using his family as an excuse. Frankly, was he enjoying it too much, or was it a case of the end justifying the means?  There was certainly a tipping-point in season three when he just seemed to go over some edge. I think it would be fascinating to watch it all over again, see season one through the eyes of someone who has seen season five, with the almost Godlike-perspective of Fate, seeing the beginning while knowing where things go, how actions unfold and everything unravels.

Not that I think that necessarily has to make sense, like there’s some moral high ground. In some of the best moments of Breaking Bad, it seemed deliberately morally obscure, as if I was watching Chaos Theory in action. Sometimes I thought that maybe the showrunners were throwing the various season’s arc-cards up in the air and seeing where they fell. It was exciting but also inherently flawed at times- the ambiguity was great but possibly counter to traditionally satisfying storytelling.

Regards Breaking Bad‘s greatness, sure, it’s a great show, but counter to some claims likely not the best show ever made (a ridiculous claim to make of any tv show, really). There were a few twists and turns that didn’t feel right, a few character turns that didn’t fully convince, in order to enable a run of five seasons. I think I tighter run of three seasons would have enabled a firmer, more realistic story.  But that’s being picky. Breaking Bad is a superior television series, indeed one of the very best ever made. Some individual episodes were sheer perfection and the show always managed to deliver some twists and turns I didn’t see coming (no small feat, really, considering all the tv shows and movies I’ve seen over the years). The cast were terrific, and I’m really keen to discover if prequel spin-off Better Call Saul is worth watching, if it is, then yay, another treat to look forward to!

Breaking Bad is clearly another case for the argument that we are living in a Golden Age of television, and that the best television shows are of far better quality than anything we see at the cinema now. Praise enough, there, I think.

We don’t need another Watchmen… do we?

watchmenIt seems quite crazy to be even considering this question. As someone who was blown away by the film during its cinema release in 2009 and subsequently brought the film on Blu-ray in its theatrical, directors cut and Ultimate Cut, I simply cannot understand why anyone would ever want to remake/reboot it… especially when only eight years have gone by. It feels like the ink is still wet on the page, the paint still wet on the canvas.

And yet Damon Lindelof (who, okay, I will cut a little slack following The Leftovers) is working for HBO at creating a mini-series of Watchmen, presumably as a big-budget replacement for HBO’s soon to conclude phenomenon Game of Thrones (as if Westworld didn’t already fit the bill).

Watchmen is perhaps the classic, definitive comicbook. It’s like the War and Peace of superhero comics. I know some have had reservations (or downright hatred) of the film version, but far as I am concerned, the damn thing was definitive. It did everything right. It was faithful (to the extreme) to the comic- set in an alternate 1980s America, it had a fantastic cast that was incredibly close visually to the comic. It even portrayed Dr Manhattan naked, pretty amazing for a mainstream Hollywood superhero film. They even did the pirates comic-within-a-comic Tales of the Black Freighter as an animated cartoon and included it in the Ultimate Cut which runs for something approaching four hours. I mean, it may have its faults, but being unfaithful or disrespectful to the original is not one of them (unless you are one of those that criticises the film for just that).

To me, it was bloody amazing and I still pinch myself that it even exists, and that they went to all the trouble of filming that Under the Hood doc and the Pirates animation and all the rest that it did so right. A bit like the Blade Runner sequel we got this year, it just seems too good to be true, even now. When you consider how the DC superhero films have struggled these past few years it’s clear how badly wrong the Watchmen film could have turned out. But it didn’t. It turned out great.

So why even revisit Watchmen, nevermind so soon? It just feels redundant to me, when HBO could be going off and working on all sorts of other intellectual properties. In anycase, the film Watchmen hardly set the world afire so it’s rather tempting fate, like pushing more good money after bad. I don’t know. In a world of remakes and reboots, this feels the most unnecessary one of all.

They’ll be telling me that hack JJ Abrams is involved next, and this special circle of hell will be complete.

Melancholy Apocalypse: The Leftovers

left2017.61 & 62: The Leftovers Seasons Two and Three

There’s all sorts of ways to interpret The Leftovers. It’s a strange/ambient series akin to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, with the peculiar weirdness of The Prisoner thrown in (particularly towards the end), so it is rather fitting that The Leftovers finished the same year that Twin Peaks returned and The Prisoner celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

Fans of either of those shows will take me to task for this, but one thing that The Leftovers has over both of them is better acting and better, more rounded characters- or at least, more rounded battered psyches. Everyone is damaged goods in The Leftovers. The Leftovers is a study of loneliness, melancholy and grief, and how fragmented personalities/lives try to make sense of a senseless world after a massive, biblical event.

Biblical, yes- the chief supposition of The Leftovers, at least as how I personally see it, rather than how it might seem to others, is that God does exist, but it’s a God that we cannot really understand, and that the world is therefore stranger than we can possibly know. The Leftovers to me is an intensely religious series, its conceit being how would our modern pragmatic world respond to a Biblical event- the Sudden Departure, in which 2% of the planet’s population -millions of people- disappeared. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children… there is no connection, no reason, no scientific explanation. There were here, then suddenly in the blink of an eye, gone. Gone where? Or have they ceased to exist? Should they be mourned, or should they be searched for? Was it random, or were they chosen? Who were the blessed, those that departed or those that remained?

Of course, some might believe it’s a bunch of crazy scientists whose experiment went massively wrong (in the third season, some scientists claim to have a machine to send people to another universe), but I think it’s more likely God (in the third season, you see God get mauled to death by a lion).

Ah. Yes, you read that right. And I’ll write no more about it. At turns enthralling and frustrating, amazing and confusing, there are many mysteries in this series. Inevitably for a show with such twists and turns and layers upon layers as this one has, I’m hesitant at this point to discuss the series in any great detail. The beauty is in its ambiguity and discovering its secrets. Surely one of the appeals of this show is the fact it is just three seasons long – three precious miracle seasons- with episodes as intense as anything else on television.  So its not expecting you to sit around for several seasons and outstay its welcome.

Personally, I feel the shows producers nailed the ending (Damon Lindelof! Who’d have thought it! He nailed an ending!)  although I do know some fans felt shortchanged. Some people like to be shown, to see something, rather than have it suggested to them- me, I’m okay with letting my imagination work , extrapolate the suggested possibilities. There are depths to this show that I am sure will reward repeated viewings.

One of the best tv shows I have ever watched, basically. More pointedly, it is possibly the best tv show that no-one else seems to have watched.  I hope it will pick up an increasing audience with time. That’s the beauty of tv box-sets, whether via streaming or on disc (the latter being the rub- season one had a blu-ray release over here, but my second season is an Australian disc and the third season an American disc, and not many people are going to go to such lengths). Its beautifully acted, lovingly shot and directed and scripted. Like any object of art, I’m certain it will raise string responses and that some will hate it as easily as other fall in love with it, but nevertheless it’s worth searching out and discovering and experiencing.  Yes, The Leftovers is an experience and one that you will not forget.

 

 

In the Mind of The Prisoner

inmymindblu2017.57: In My Mind (2017)

Kudos to Network that whilst marking the 50th anniversary of classic tv series The Prisoner with a new blu-ray set they have also released one of its major new extras, Chris Rodley’s curious documentary In My Mind, as a standalone edition. Whilst I’m not huge enough a fan of The Prisoner that I would have ordered the new series box set just for new extras, I’m sure many fans would feel obliged too, so it’s nice they at least have the option.

This documentary dates back to 1983 when Rodley somehow (even he isn’t sure how) managed to get the infamously reclusive and secretive Patrick McGoohan to talk about The Prisoner in a series of interviews. Most of this material has never been aired and has now been assembled to form the heart of this film. In all honesty, little new seems to be revealed so it’s unfair for viewers to expect amazing revelations to have been brought to light, but it is a fascinating glimpse of McGoohan as an artist haunted/hounded by an iconic cultural work. It must have been rather like this for Orson Welles, living in the shadow of his Citizen Kane for most of his life. At some points McGoohan seems trapped by the camera, wanting to get away, as if aware he has made some terrible mistake in agreeing to the interview.

Its interesting to see a work of art with the perspective of fifty years and see its creator wrestling with it as if with inner demons. McGoohan does seem to be a maddening, complicated and conflicted individual who somehow beat the system many years ago to create something utterly unlike anything made before or since (although The Prisoner clearly paved the way for shows such as Twin Peaks and many others). The irony of course is, did the creation of The Prisoner itself make McGoohan a prisoner to it? I do wonder if he would have preferred to have lived a life in which he hadn’t made The Prisoner. He is clearly ill at ease in the behind the scenes footage, a confident yet also fragile figure, almost tragic – or am I reading too much into it?

So new answers to The Prisoner‘s fifty-year old riddle are wholly absent, but instead you’ll see new insights to the man behind that riddle, a human figure now lost to us forever. Its a quite enchanting film and a must-see for anybody interested in The Prisoner.

Fabrications & Misinformations: (not) a Youtube Woody Allen movie, but maybe it should be.

utbeThis morning I had an hour free, and thanks to the wonders of intelligent televisions (question for later: are the televisions more intelligent than the programs displayed on them?) I decided to load up Youtube, put ‘Blade Runner 2049’ in the search box and see what popped up. There’s a few nice featurettes on there; Weta has a nice one about the miniatures, and there are obviously those prequel shorts (I rewatched the Blackout 2022 anime, that’s really good). Some nice analysis videos are starting to surface- 2049 is clearly a great film for discussion.

But I watched a few review videos, and good lord some are just plain terrible. Is this the future of film criticism? Two guys are on there talking about 2049 for some forty minutes and they can’t even remember some of the character’s names. On another there’s four reviewers talking about the film, and one of them claims the original Philip K Dick ‘short story’ states that Deckard is clearly a Replicant. What is he talking about? That is patently not the case, and it’s a novella, not a short story.

This kind of stuff really winds me up. In this day and age, misinformation is everything- I mean, some people believe everything they see on the tv or internet. And everyone seems to think they can be a presenter or critic and put themselves up on stuff like youtube without any qualifications or talk without any research or due diligence. God knows this blog is read by very few and amounts to very little in the great scheme of things, but I think about what I write and make an effort to be factually correct. But some people are spouting utter nonsense and drivel on these videos. It’s like the inmates are running the asylum, and quality control comes a distant third, fourth or fifth in the aim to get as many clicks/views as possible.

The dangers, of course, are that some people’s careers can be put at risk because of the unqualified opinion and vitriol on these sites/videos, whether it be the film-makers being spoken about or professional critics views being swamped out in all the nonsensical noise. Every fool seems to have an opinion, well, of course they do, and I guess everyone has a right to voice that opinion, but please, take the courtesy of due care and do some research.  Next thing you know, our Prime Ministers, Politicians and Presidents will think they can spout any utter nonsense without having to back it up with facts. Oh, wait…

 

What year is it?

tp12017.52: Twin Peaks – The Return

Well, what was all that about, then? Up to the penultimate episode I thought I had a fairly decent grip on things but then Lynch, that crafty old goat, comes along with a final curveball with a confounding episode 18 that pulls the rug from under viewers and leaves a cliffhanger that just hangs there for… well, forever?

Who knows? Maybe we’ll get another season in four or five years, or maybe it’ll never happen. Even if it did, I doubt that we’d get any closure or things would ever tie together. That’s not what Twin Peaks was ever about- every mystery solved just unwrapped another mystery. Back when we learned who killed Laura Palmer we didn’t really learn who killed her- or what killed her, the answer not really being an answer, just something else to analyse and decode. In some ways, Twin Peaks isn’t at all strange or odd- it just mirrors our own reality, our lives and world that makes little sense either. The fun is just being there, and enjoying the crazy madness of it all.

Which rather sums up my feelings about this Twin Peaks revival, an event as crazily impossible as a Blade Runner sequel-  2017 is some year for  ‘pinch me, this cannot be possibly happening’ moments.  The Return is a brilliant, bizarre show that faithfully  echoed the appeal of the original and just took it even further out there. Indeed, it occurs to me now that this is quite similar to how 2049 did just the same thing. Both projects took a cherished original and reworked and expanded upon it, where the creative forces had freedoms that outweighed any backroom pressures. Watching this new Twin Peaks you could tell Lynch was just doing his thing with this great toy set of cast and crew, in just the same way as watching 2049 I had the sense that it was Villeneuve’s film, that he had total freedom to make his movie his way.

There are so many incredible moments through the 18 episodes of The Return, clues/codes/red herrings, so many cameos and dead-ends. Was there ever any connection to that New York sequence early on, what was that scary creature that killed that naked couple (whoever they were), what was the significance of the Atom bomb test in episode 8? Indeed, was Episode 8 of some particular significance, as the talking boiler that represented FBI agent Phillip Jeffries (who Cooper tells us  “doesn’t even exist anymore, at least not in a normal sense”)  exudes a steam cloud that transforms into the number 8 and an infinity symbol when turned on its side.  Maybe it means something. Maybe it means nothing.

Quite astonishing really. In just the same way as 2049 has been rattling itself around in my head for the past few weeks over three viewings at the cinema, so Twin Peaks: The Return has been rattling around in my head these past few months. It’s been quite brilliant, confounding and exhilarating,  possibly the best show on tv all year. Its positively nuts, crazy, maddening, funny, bewildering, scary- only in 2017 could television get away with this. With this and 2049, it’s as if the stars are just aligned somehow. “What year is it?” Cooper asks, the series very last line. I feel like shouting back: ‘2017. You better believe it!’

Or on the other hand-

Maybe The Prisoner has something to do with it. That show is the spiritual father of Twin Peaks and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. How fitting that The Return premieres 50 years after Patrick McGoohan’s show first confounded unwitting audiences.  1967 = 2017. Maybe that means something.

The Race of the Iron Throne

game72017.47: Game of Thrones Season 7 (2017)

Well, it certainly wasn’t Game of Thrones‘ best season. Which is a pity, but in many ways it was inevitable. The trouble with stories is how they end.

In a sense, a story’s end is almost arbitrary. I often think about films or tv series and about their endings. A film might end in a moment of victory or validation, but I often consider what happens afterwards, after the film fades to black and the credits roll up, the story of the film is over but the meta-story, if you will, beyond that, continues. The trick for a screenwriter and a director is in finding a satisfying place to end a story, but it’s always an artificial ending, that meta-story continues.

And of course finding that satisfying ending, it’s a real trick after 30, 40, 50 hours of story in a tv series. Particularly for Game of Thrones and its complex, sophisticated plot and its huge roster of characters. How does one find an ending to match all the dreams and fantasies, all the theories and fan-fiction created worldwide over all those years when the series has become a phenomenon, and from even before that, over the decades of the books being published? Indeed, it strikes me now that Game of Thrones rather cheekily perhaps gets two bites at the cherry, with the HBO series first and, hopefully if time allows, the book series second. It gets two attempts at a satisfying conclusion.

HBOs solution, after a fashion, is that rather than spend three or four years and astronomical sums of money to produce two gigantic ten-episode seasons for the concluding two runs, instead they will condense the spend of a ten-episode season into seven and six-episode runs respectively, thus ensuring huge visuals and scope to hopefully bring things to a grand climax. Unfortunately this rather spoils the other aspects of the show- the sense of scale of the geography, the character beats, the political machinations and various interludes that fans grew to enjoy.  The irony of those of us who complained at the interminable pace of some seasons/episodes while the HBO show waited for author George R R Martin to write and publish another book over the years , now complaining of the ferocious pace of the show now that it has given up on waiting and has gone ahead and leapt beyond the leaden pace of his typewriter, isn’t lost on us. Be careful of what you wish for, eh?

In any case, I return to my original observation- how in the world will Game of Thrones possibly end in a way to satisfy everyone, or even the minority, of its huge worldwide fanbase? It simply can’t, and I think this is the lesson of  season 7. I am not going to write a negative, hateful review picking out all the plotholes or weak scripting or terrible coincidences that insult fans who have watched and enjoyed this show for so many years. There were many spectacular moments in season 7, and it is easy to forget that, HBO or not, this is a television show, not a huge Hollywood movie, and what it manages to create and put on screen is really wondrous and for all its faults this is one of the very greatest entertainments ever, of any format. It is just that season 7 has saddened me a little, and left me a little more reluctant than expectant, for what season 8 brings us next year (or the year after, who knows?). Game of Thrones was extraordinary, indeed still is extraordinary, but it also became a little more ordinary with season 7. Like we just experienced some kind of reality-check.

Because with only six episodes left, and where season 7 has left us, there is little room for many character moments ahead, or for learning who/what the Night King is, what drives him, what he hopes to achieve in slaughtering all the living with his army of the dead or what he intends for those lands yet beyond the oceans (I suspect it would involve turning said oceans to ice and simply walking across). Or what happens when the general story-arc is over and what happens to the (surviving) characters ten, twenty years later.

I had hoped, after all the teasing since the very first moments of the first episode of season one, that the Night King might be fleshed out, as it were. Or that once the Game of Thrones was over, and someone finally sat victorious and uncontested on the Iron Throne we might see the result of that years, decades after. We won’t. Because six episodes is surely a headlong rush of battles and treacheries and victories and deaths that will be thrilling and spectacular but it’s only six episodes. And if the seven episodes of season 7 teaches us anything, it is that six episodes won’t be enough. Maybe ten episodes, or any number of episodes, wouldn’t be enough. That there is the conundrum. Just how do you end Game of Thrones?

game2