Talking Movies

September 4, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LIX

As the title suggests, so forth.

A Blacklist Darkly

Well, that was … unexpected. The unintentional season 7 finale of The Black List aired on Sky One last week. And it was half-live action, half-animated. Not at all the expensive rotoscoping over live action of A Scanner Darkly, but clearly that was at the back of someone’s mind as they tried to figure out how to finish the story with the remaining dialogue being phoned in by the actors, and a limited budget to render them and their environments accurately. Leading to such wonderful innovations as little title cards telling us the narrative and emotional import of the facial expressions of the animated characters when there was no time or money to actually make the avatars tell the story that way. One hopes that this approach is not going to catch on…

Golfgate, moral hysteria, and No Deal Brexit

Imagine a world where nobody in the media was allowed to use Twitter or report on Twitter. Imagine a world where government did not respond clumsily and frantically to frenzies whipped up by the tiny fraction of very loud people who use Twitter. In this world the Cork Examiner might still have taken out Dara Calleary, a target that remains highly suspicious, but not Phil Hogan. Instead the Twitter-led moral hysteria brigade have excelled themselves, and Phil Hogan is gone. Now nobody should cry over the end of Phil Hogan’s political career. The man was a boor of long standing and his disastrous quango Irish Water will outlive him. But to go now. For attending a dinner that was perfectly legal. As the Atlantic reported yesterday the rich in America are saving oodles of money because they have nowhere to go right now. If functions which separate people into groups of less than 50 and give them different exits, entrances, and toilets, are to be verboten because somebody might go mental on Twitter – who benefits? The hotels that cease to host such functions and shut down? The staff who cease to work such functions and go home? This is the self-defeating performance of austerity in another guise: where a billionaire decides not to buy a new yacht for fear of it being seen in a poor light, and a number of yacht-builders go on the dole because of the optics. So… less than 6 weeks to go until a deal needs to be ready to present to a top level EU gathering to approve Brexit with an actual trade deal. And the EU has no Trade Commissioner. And whoever comes in, with less than 6 weeks to appoint someone, will be totally clueless as to their brief as opposed to being on top of it from being there all thru the Brexit farrago. Good Job Everyone!!! A satisfying bout of righteous crucifixion during the silly season, and, well, come January, when we will be battling the flu season, the seasonal spike in patients on trolleys in hospitals, a surge in coronavirus as we all stay indoors without any preparation for proper ventilation, and probably another total lockdown we look forward to the final kibosh: 3 weeks of empty shelves, and an eternity of higher prices thereafter, as No Deal Brexit arrives like a tonne of bricks and all our imports from England become hugely expensive, and all our supplies perforce must come thru France at greater uncertainty and therefore a new model of supply chain management involving the resurrection of warehouses which don’t come for free, we can all content ourselves with the knowledge that the Bad Man Was Made Quit and that makes it all okay.

You really mean that this Spotify list is so highly classified you damn people would kill to keep it a government secret?!

Spotify these 60 songs for a 70s mood

Edwin Starr – War // Talking Heads – Life During Wartime // Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaper // David Bowie – Station to Station // David Shire – The Taking of Pelham 123 theme // Led Zeppelin – Kashmir // Lou Reed – Sweet Jane live // Boston – More Than a Feeling // Iggy Pop – The Passenger // Bob Dylan – One More Cup of Coffee Before I Go // Creedence Clearwater Revival – Who’ll Stop the Rain // The Beatles – Across the Universe // Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water // Arvo Part – Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten // The Doors – Hyacinth House // Bob Dylan – Tangled Up in Blue // Blondie – One Way or Another // Roxy Music – Love is the Drug // Talking Heads – Psycho Killer // Creedence Clearwater Revival – Up Around the Bend // The Doors – LA Woman // Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird // ABBA – Voulez-Vous // David Bowie – Starman // T-Rex – Children of the Revolution // Kansas – Carry On My Wayward Son // Alice Cooper – School’s Out // Blondie – Heart of Glass // Stevie Wonder – Superstition // The Rolling Stones –Brown Sugar // The Clash – London Calling // Pink Floyd – Us and Them // Led Zeppelin – The Rain Song // Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have You Ever Seen the Rain // Bob Dylan – Shelter from the Storm // John Lennon – Imagine // Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody // The Doors – Love Her Madly // ABBA – S.O.S. // Blondie – Call Me // The Kinks – Lola // The Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen in Love // The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again // John Williams – Jaws theme // David Bowie – Life on Mars // Van Morrison – Moondance // The Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down // Lou Reed – Satellite of Love // John Williams – Superman march // David Bowie – D.J. // Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised // Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side // Talking Heads – Memories Can’t Wait // David Shire – All the President’s Men finale // Glen Campbell – Rhinestone Cowboy // ELO – Mr Blue Sky // John Williams – Star Wars march // Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven // The Knack – My Sharona // The Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant // ABBA – Waterloo

June 9, 2019

Notes on X-Men: Dark Phoenix

The last chapter in 20th Century Fox’s X-Men saga was the film of the week today in a return to Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

This is the way the X-world ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Simon Kinberg first arrived as X-screenwriter with the awful X-3, and now he rehashes X-3 as X-writer/director and makes it even worse, which is perversely impressive. X-3 has some rather nice music from John Powell, strong acting even in minor roles, and a number of upsetting moments (that were doubly upsetting for how badly Brett Ratner handled them) that leaned on the good work of the first two movies. This movie has A-list composer Hans Zimmer only occasionally elevating the material with emotive minimalism, some of the worst acting outside of X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, and absolutely no memorable moments whatsoever in part because there has been no good work done in previous movies to establish anything. Cyclops was killed off 20 minutes into X-3 by Jean Grey to establish she was out of control, and here Mystique is killed off 40 minutes in by Jean Grey to establish she is out of control. Kinberg shamelessly reuses dialogue and the ideas of X-3, but doubles down on them to make what was once annoying now insufferable.

Prior to her merciful death Mystique spends her screentime whingeing about Professor X, after she dies Beast takes up the whingeing baton to the point where you just want to shout at the screen “Why don’t you just move out of the mansion you’ve been living in rent-free for 30 years if you feel that strongly about him being a bad man?” Professor X is the villain of this piece. Somehow. I’m not nearly as sure as Kinberg is that hiding from a girl, who just murdered her mother because she wouldn’t stop listening to Glen Campbell, that her father regards her as a monster and wants nothing to do with her is a morally evil act. How does he think Jean would react to hearing that? Badly? Would she kill many people in her rage? Oh, the rage. In a scene where Jean is moody at a bar one longs for Sarah Snook in this role as Sophie Turner renders Jean Grey’s transformation into Dark Phoenix the temper tantrums of a petulant teenager. Jessica Chastain barely acts as the emotionless alien Vuk, and Jennifer Lawrence projects only deep boredom.

J-Law may be the audience avatar in that respect, fed up so much talent could be squandered on a twice-told tale. Kinberg has Christopher Nolan’s regular editor and composer, and yet there is a cut with the X-jet arriving and the team appearing as jarring as the scene John Ottman apologised for in Bohemian Rhapsody. The cinematographer of Avatar is on hand to, well, hide the action under cover of darkness and big swirly CGI. Watching X-Men and X-2 in recent days they really are films of the 1990s rather than the 2000s with their emphasis on practical effects to which CGI is added; a quaint notion long abandoned by Marvel and DC films that superpowers are more impressive interacting with tangible physical reality rather than being a welter of CGI battling a big swirly thing of CGI in a CGI landscape populated by CGI extras. There is some pleasing practicality here, but this is not a movie to stand beside Guy Hendrix Dyas’ amazing sets for X-2. And let’s remember the big swirly thing CGI that reached its nadir in X-Men: Apocalypse began in X-3 for Dark Phoenix’s powers.

Kinberg reprises it here in another display of creative bankruptcy. What exactly is the point of filming the Phoenix storyline? To plonk an actress down in mauve garb to stare moodily/blankly at everything for two hours while everyone stands around agonising over killing her while repeating that she’s unstoppably powerful and therefore can’t be killed unless she wishes it? Does that sound at all interesting? At this point it seems safe to say that the writing credits strongly suggest that the only X-screenwriters worth a damn were David Hayter, Zak Penn, Matthew Vaughn, and Jane Goldman, and everyone else was just coasting off their story ideas. It seems perilously close to the truth to say that, as set up by Bryan Singer’s original decisions, these films rarely worked without Hugh Jackman as Wolverine – the best of the bunch were X-Men, X-2, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Maybe the reason for X-Men: First Class succeeding was that the charismatic turn by Michael Fassbender as vengeful hot-headed Magneto stood in for Wolverine. This is a terrible way for the X-Men to end given that they started the Marvel era.

It’s especially bad given that Disney will fold them into the MCU and a Marvel executive seems to think the signal problem with the X-Men was not their farrago of continuity, their revolving door of writers and directors, their recycling of the same stories, their failure to properly establish characters, their over-reliance on one actor, their ever-escalating budgets, their out of control CGI, their limited palette of character motivations and plots, but the fact that they were called the X-Men.

Listen here:

October 6, 2016

War on Everyone

John Michael McDonagh’s third film as writer/director attempts to mash up the concerns of his first two films, The Guard and Calvary, with intermittent success.

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Terry Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard) is rarely sober. His work buddy Bob Bolano (Michael Pena) is rarely polite. But that doesn’t matter because they literally have a get out of jail free card, they’re cops. But they won’t be cops for much longer if Lt. Stanton (Paul Reiser) doesn’t see them rein in the lunacy. Dialling down the public drunkenness and excessive force is a huge ask when Terry and Bob stumble, via their CI Reggie (Malcolm Barrett), onto a complicated heist. Dazzled by the prospect of acquiring riches; and on Terry’s part, Jackie (Tessa Thompson), a moll at a loose end; the dirty duo unwittingly put themselves in the bad books with an unlikely mastermind after one beating a suspect mercilessly too far. Lord James Mangan (Theo James) is the nemesis fate has set up for these cheerfully corrupt detectives.

War on Everyone does not live up to the high expectations held for it as while it features any number of hilarious lines and ideas it never truly gels. It doesn’t rattle along like an absurdist procedural with philosophical tangents, but it isn’t an episodic tale in service of a larger philosophical meditation either, so it falls between the two stools of The Guard and Calvary. Lorne Balfe’s score is heroically in thrall to 1970s brass, funk and bombast, while Terry’s preoccupation with Glen Campbell finds full tuneful fulfilment on the soundtrack. The New Mexico locations are strikingly captured by Oren Moverman’s regular cinematographer Bobby Bukowski, a highlight being a distant tracking shot capturing Skarsgard chasing a perp. And in a delirious scripting touch Terry’s constant outrageous drinking is shown wreaking havoc on his memory and his ability to work.

War on Everyone is a memorable film, not a great one, but a patchwork that uses to the full its licence to offend is preferable to any cookie-cutter banality.

3.5/5

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