Thursday, 1 December 2011

Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for his performance in this film, beating Colin Firth (in a film I’m going to watch soon, for comparison). Bridges stars as ‘Bad’ Blake, a country singer whose career is falling apart as he struggles with alcoholism, whilst his former friend (Colin Farrell) becomes successful in his wake. It is not hard to predict that some one or thing will appear at the end of the first act to change his life. In this case it is Maggie Gyllenhaal, a single mother who wants to be a music journalist. She, as usual, is the most compelling presence in this film. Bridges is good but, as much as I do like him as an actor, there is nothing enthralling about his performance. He is not helped by the plot, which follows fairly ordinary lines. For UK viewers (or non-country music lovers in general) there is nothing that exciting about the world that we are thrust into. Bridges is to be admired for actually playing the guitar and singing, but that is technical ability, not acting brilliance. The film is little more than a slight, sensitive drama. The issues it raises are not engaged with or overcome. Whilst in film and literature we do enjoy bad things happening in the anticipation of a reversal or retribution, here it becomes unappealing as we watch for too long a talented man struggle through alcoholism. He is never really as desperate as he could’ve been, or as passionate in his high points. There are no great speeches. It is a tempered, moderate film, even if its ending is poignant and memorable.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

X-Men: First Class

Whilst I’m generally wary of prequels that attempt to explain the origins of characters, it has to be admitted that this film succeeds where others have failed. The back story here is a truly compelling one, and it makes the earlier X-Men films more fascinating because of it (instead of some other prequels which merely serve to remove the mystery of their originals). In this movie we find out how Xavier and Magneto meet, and the pressures they come under as some of the first mutants to be brought to the attention of the government. The backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 provides an interesting, realistic setting for the otherwise fantastical events taking place. Although the film can’t resist the odd knowing, ironic joke, and playing to the audience who’ve seen the first three (four?) films, or read the comics (the scene with Wolverine springs to mind). There are some slightly ridiculous moments, but the movie in general is concerned with real issues, if perhaps a bit too portentous at times. The whole thing is greatly helped by the very good performances of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Perhaps this isn’t the place to criticise a whole franchise, but the mutations seem random – that is, with no theme to them except to provide good cinema viewing, and interesting fight scenes (compare Heroes, or Fantastic Four). We have to take this film for what it is and what it attempts to achieve, however, and on those terms it succeeds admirably.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


I had virtually no intention of seeing Thor, until I noticed that it was directed by Kenneth Branagh. Yes, exactly. It stars Chris Hemsworth as the Norse god of thunder who is banished from Asgard and sent to Earth (why Earth? It’s not clear). This is not a storyline based on Norse mythology, though, but the Marvel Comics’ characters. It proceeds to rip apart, debase and trivialise that elegant, ancient mythology. We live in an age, however, when myth, history, literature and art are rehashed and remodelled to service movies, video games, popstars, clothing brands, websites and apps. So, I suppose we must embrace it. The incongruity of the mighty god in a remote New Mexico town is played with humour and post-modern irony (as we’ve come to expect from adaptations such as this). There is a slight fault in the structure in the way we start with his arrival on Earth, then go back to explain how he got there. It may have been better to do without the explanation completely, as his time on Earth seems fairly short and insignificant by the end, which is perhaps not what was intended. The romance with Natalie Portman is amusingly quirky and perverse, and has a sensitive conclusion. For all their vast powers, the gods are reduced to taking part in fist fights to decide anything, but this seems like an inescapable outcome for many movies like this. It isn’t the best, but it isn’t the worst, of these modern remakes of comic characters. This is partly explained when we find out that the film was only made to introduce the character of Thor for the forthcoming The Avengers film – also starring your old favourites Iron Man, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk. Again, this would seem like a terrible idea (the term ‘cash cow’ can’t be far from many people’s minds), but it is being written and directed by Joss Whedon, so there is hope. Fans of Kenneth Branagh might be mildly disturbed by this film, but fans of comic books might understand the oddities better when they realise who the director is.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Tron: Legacy

The colon in the title of this film is an indication that it’s a sequel or prequel (or intends to have one, like Pirates of the Caribbean). Tron, released in 1982, was a truly cult movie (unlike some that are given this title unduly today). I saw it for the first time a few months ago, admittedly only because I wanted to see this sequel next. The visuals now seem rudimentary, almost laughable, but I understand at the time were groundbreaking. From what is essentially a live action version of Pong and Snake, however, the original writers and director built a whole mythology, akin to Star Wars. Although with our advanced knowledge of computers it’s now an outdated conception, the film still has powerful things to say, and of course can easily be read as a reflection on human society, rather than as pure escapism. This is something the makers of Tron: Legacy picked up on in particular. They have not merely rehashed the key parts of the original for monetary gain. It’s a thoughtful sequel, done with respect and admiration for the original. Landing the co-operation of Jeff Bridges was of course essential. If you were to only watch the trailer for this film, one thing would stick in your mind: the incredible visuals and great music. The director is an assistant professor of architecture, which may help you appreciate the design of the film, and the music was written by Daft Punk (heavily influenced as they’ve always been by Tron). The plot, however, falls into a fairly ordinary storyline that doesn’t hold many surprises. There are certain very familiar themes and action sequences in imitation of The Matrix (although Tron of course came first) and Star Wars. At least one scene feels like it was included entirely for a game tie-in, with no emotional function. The rest of the sequences, however, are calculated, effective and dazzling, and the film does avoid sentimentality and verbose dialogue. Michael Sheen makes an unfortunate appearance in perhaps the worst role of his career. More significantly, I felt it was a shame that something of the mysticism of the original Tron was lost – the Jedi-like power of the Users is virtually ignored in this sequel. It’s a pity that we’ve become so used to phenomenal special effects that many movies like this aren’t recognised for their brilliance. There are certain moments in this film, however, that will make you pause and marvel.

Friday, 11 November 2011

A Prophet (Un Prophete)

I saw the beginning of Saving Private Ryan a few minutes after I had finished watching A Prophet, and I was quickly astonished by the difference. From the very first moment of Spielberg’s film, the audience is told what to think and feel by the music, the slow motion, the graceful tracking shots etc. In A Prophet, you are left alone to decide how to think and feel about the main character’s actions and the issues that arise from them. The film begins as subtly as it ends, and in-between is a slow, seamless development of the character, so masterfully done that years pass without the abruptness that they do in other films. Having seen The Godfather recently, certain comparisons occur to me, but I wouldn’t want to go too far. This is a unique film that stands on its own merits. It would be too simplistic to call it a ‘prison movie’, not only because the ‘leave days’ the main character is granted let us see the outside world, but because the scope of the issues it deals with is wide-ranging. It is difficult to know when and where we are to sympathise with the main character, or anyone else. Events happen but we are not given musical cues or emotional speeches to help us interpret the action. This is a good thing, I should add. A lot of this film’s engaging nature is derived from the brilliant performance of Tahar Rahim. He is innocent, hopeful, anguished, experienced and indomitable within the space of two hours. Jacques Audiard of course is mainly responsible . After the equally good The Beat That My Heart Skipped, he is quickly becoming one of the most interesting directors in the world. The title of the film becomes relevant towards the end, and I would have found it interesting if they’d developed this strain more. Not in a crass spiritual way, in that he actually is a prophet, but some symbolic significance towards it. Although I was initially a little confused by the ending, I realise this is partly the point. Now that he has left prison, its effects on him are not finished. If you want a film that will make you pause and think about it for the next few days or weeks, cause you to reconsider your values, choices and actions in life, this is the one.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Godfather: Part II

In my review of this movie, I think I am again going to come across issues in the process of criticism. The Godfather: Part II is widely accepted as one the greatest films of all time, and yet when I watched it recently (only the second time I’ve ever seen it) I wasn’t impressed. It could be argued that everything in this film is said in the first, insinuated in that film’s brilliance. Al Pacino closes the door on his wife at the end of The Godfather, and by that we understand he is isolating himself from her – in Part II we merely see this played out again over three hours. He has already told her in the first film that the family will be legitimate in a few years. He does nothing but repeat his position in Part II. There is no real storyline for him. Where in the first film he moved from someone distant to the family to becoming head of the family, in the second he does nothing, or nothing new. At its worst, the film feels like a bloated, indulgent morass, un-engaging and portentous. There is a difference between letting an audience figure things out for themselves, and deliberately making it difficult for them. Where the first film pitched it perfectly, this second film goes too far. It feels like we are missing vital dialogue, characters arrive and leave who we don’t know, and we seem to skip randomly between scenes. The trial especially is a sudden, unexplained intrusion. The parallel storyline explaining how Vito Corleone came to America could be seen as another unnecessary extrapolation from the first film. It adds little to our understanding of his character. I had to look up other critics to see if I was alone in my feelings here. I have some support (I will post links to them in the comments), but not much. Of course, this movie is filmed exquisitely, the acting is superb, the dialogue curt and precise. I loved the slow progression of the seasons, the sinister movement of moods reflected in the cinematography, the silence on the lake, and the final brutal moments of the film. What it comes down to is that I didn’t enjoy this movie, and in fact don’t enjoy much of what Coppola has directed. He appears to have difficulty editing down the vast amounts of material that he shoots (see Apocalypse Now), which is a vital element of filmmaking. If you were to change the question and ask ‘is it a great sequel?’, then my answer might change too. This is a different issue which raises new questions, such as what is the purpose of a sequel? It’s not required to be complete or satisfying in itself, and this film certainly isn’t.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Audience of Critics

I want to return to a discussion of Woody Allen’s film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. It was pointed out to me by a good friend that in an article on his blog, Andrew Collins criticises the movie, and Allen’s recent career, fairly strongly. I have a few issues with this review that I thought I’d raise here. Firstly, Collins’ appreciation of Woody Allen seems to be based on a kind of hero worship only, and he states several times that he prefers films in which Allen is the leading man. He refers to an interview with him, which he calls the highlight of part of his career. Moreover, he doesn’t appear to understand the crucial style of Allen’s films that distinguishes them from all other filmmakers – that they are not either comedy or drama, but an entirely original mixture of the two. In his review of the film, he also misunderstands a vital point of the plot (that the woman in the window is the character’s ex-wife), and instead focuses on whether there is a light in a fridge or not. This could be explained if he wanted it to be, but I think engaging in such nit-picking is unbecoming of a critic.

This is the point I’m coming to. In his review, Collins is clearly influenced by other critics in the screening with him. He validates his thoughts of the film by referring to their reactions. It wasn’t just him that was appalled, they were too. He later gives details that this was a Warner Bros. screening, introduced by a PR. This in no way reproduces how most of us go to the cinema or watch a film at home. We too are influenced by other people when we watch a film (this is part of the joy of watching films, after all, unlike reading a book), but they are either a mass audience in the cinema, or friends and family at home. Watching a film with a group of other critics (and agents from the distribution company) must be a profoundly different experience, and one none of us can relate to. How valid, then, are their reviews? How useful to us are they? I believe films will be unnecessarily praised and unfairly panned (as is the case here) in such an atmosphere as this. Of course, such reviews might be the exception, and many critics are surely able to get past what actually we can now see as a disadvantage to them (even if they are advantaged in seeing films early). We might go so far as to say that this critical atmosphere doesn’t end in the screening room. When they write their reviews, do they write for us, or with one eye on what other critics are thinking? You might argue that how we watch a film doesn’t influence our thoughts on it, and I would disagree strongly. The question for me is whether critics have become isolated from the cinema-goers they are trying to communicate with and, if so, how can we redress the balance?

Monday, 7 November 2011

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

As this is the second new Woody Allen film that I’ve seen recently, I actually struggle to think of new things to say. Of course, I should consider the movie on its own merits, but it’s very hard to do this when you’re dealing with a director with such a vast body of work behind him. We may be able to read/view an artist’s one piece of work in isolation, but it is very often the connections between work that build a profound, more complex, meaning. We come to understand an artist in terms of his/her whole output, and this is a fascinating thing, even though sometimes it is an inconvenience to certain readings we may want to undertake (and this isn’t just a recent phenomenon: see Homer, Virgil etc.). This film is about two couples in London and their search to find happiness. Anthony Hopkins has a late-mid-life crisis and splits with his wife, whilst their daughter struggles in her relationship with her husband, an aspiring writer. The issues and dilemmas these characters face are familiar from Allen’s previous films (if at least original outside them). They try to attach happiness to success, or children, or spirituality, and the drama works quite well, if not quite as funny, or not quite as sharp as it could’ve been. The ending, however, is where the film is let down. The various threads are left hanging, instead of being tied neatly together. Everything is not resolved, although the narrator makes the point that nothing ever will be for certain characters. I do have a problem with this narrator, though, other than that he is almost unnecessary: why is he American? The answer may just be that Woody Allen is American, and the film is intended to appeal to an audience there, but it makes no sense for the story, set in London, with everyone except one character being European. Woody Allen’s London films (which now, it seems, we can talk about as a phase in the past) have been a fascinating resurgence, with one notable success, and as he moves further into Europe it seems he is being inspired to make better and better projects. Although You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is not as good as some of them, it still rises to this new level, and furthers his reputation as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Bunny and the Bull

This film was perhaps unfairly promoted as ‘from the director of The Mighty Boosh’, with Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt having prominent places on posters and in trailers. Paul King did direct all three series of that TV show, but such advertising as this doesn’t give him much chance to stand on his own merits, or carve out a new career. Fielding and Barratt are in this film, but with relatively small parts. It stars Edward Hogg (who reminds me of Jon Richardson) as a man who relives a road-trip around Europe with his friend, from the confines of his flat, which he hasn’t left for a year (why did he relive it? We’re never told). The objects in his flat become the building blocks of his recreation of this journey, for which reason this film is called ‘surreal’. I have a few issues with that label. I don’t think it really qualifies as surreal. The storyline is actually very ordinary, and most of the events quite normal. Some of the characters do odd things, but that hardly makes it surreal. If one were to compare it to actual surrealist art from the 1920s (which understandably is a bit unfair) it would come up well short. That, however, is just a label that other people might have applied to it, not the director. It is a slight, mildly funny drama, with the best moments coming from Fielding and Barratt, such that it gives the impression of being a sketch show. The whole thing, in fact, could easily have been a television drama, with little to lift it into the realm of cinema. There is some mild racism in the depiction of foreign characters, which seems to be forgivable if the general concept is comedy. At the end, which I don’t want to spoil too much, there is an intrusion of reality, and I wonder what is intended by this? The fantastic world we have invested in was just a joke? The intrusion initially affects the viewer with sentimentality, but isn’t this exactly what surrealism intends to avoid? It is as if the director undertook to follow one way of telling the story, and then abandons this in favour of getting an effect. It reminds me, a little, of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic, yet that film does not go as far into surrealism as this one, and the tension between reality and the world they live in is always present (whether in humour or violence). That said, I did like this film, and would happily and with interest watch it again. The visuals are incredible, has great music, and humour, and despite my reservations is a sensitive, moving film.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Battle Royale

This is the sort of film that after about ten or twenty minutes renders you speechless, or if you can manage to speak at all you’re likely to say something akin to ‘Jesus’. Yet, if I were to describe the plot to you, aside from a little intrigued, I suspect you’d mostly feel uninterested: a class of school kids are transported to a remote island where they are forced to fight to the death until only one remains. As with any good film, though, it’s in the delivery of this plot that Battle Royale succeeds. Relatively little explanation is given. The dialogue and action are curt and brutal, matched by sweeping, epic classical music, and shots of the rough sea clashing against the rocks. We have a feeling, ultimately, of who is going to survive and who isn’t. You could see the rest of the film as a guessing game as to what order, and how brutally, the other characters are going to be killed, but this movie is much more than that. The characters and their history together is real, and sensitively portrayed. They are just kids, scared and vulnerable, clinging to each other. Their playground cliques, bullying, and crushes are replayed in extreme violence and vengeance on the island. Why this film caused such controversy, aside from the violence, could be put down to the reason why this is happening to the kids, or perhaps the very lack of reason. It is a critique on Japanese morality as much as anything else. I’m not sure I understood the role of Takeshi Kitano, unless he was supposed to be more symbolic (of the older generation) than real. Clearly the director felt his role was crucial to the resolution of the drama, but there were issues I couldn’t resolve in my head. Regardless of this, and perhaps some other minor faults, this is a fascinating, daunting film that will shock as much as move its audience.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Scream 4

Sometimes, the longer a franchise goes on, the less well you start to think of the earlier films. Certainly this is now true for Pirates of the Caribbean. Will it be true of the upcoming Mission Impossible 4? The first and third movies were entertaining and will probably remain so. As bad as the fourth Indiana Jones was, it surely won’t affect the reputation of the first three, and Die Hard 4 wasn’t that bad in the first place (albeit perhaps just as an ordinary action film). Scream 4, however, seriously makes one question the value of the earlier films. The second and third movies weren’t that interesting anyway, and the rehashing of anything original about the first film in this fourth one, makes the whole franchise seem a waste of time. The larger, gruesome body-count isn’t likely to impress many viewers. The reversals, the genre-play, and self-referential irony, is no longer amusing. It was all done in the first film, and didn’t need repeating. It seems like the desire to make a fourth movie came before the ideas to put in it. This is often the reason for a franchise’s failure. When you put desire before ideas, you often come up bankrupt (creatively, as well as occasionally financially – although, as Mark Kermode has pointed out in relation to other bad movies, this film was a box office success). The characters are no longer engaging or interesting. What is Sidney (Neve Campbell) doing with her life? Like the heroes of other franchises, she has become a blank, uninteresting space at the centre of the film. All her issues were resolved in earlier movies. What’s strange is that it is relatively easy to please audiences of franchises by having certain characters say or do certain things again and again. Even if you were a die-hard fan of these movies, however, I’d tell you that there was very little to be gained from watching this fourth film. That, I think, says it all.

Friday, 21 October 2011


This is a film I’d never seen before. That is not to say, of course, that I knew nothing about it. You might have seen cropping up here and there articles by people who’ve never seen Star Wars, watching it for the first time (they are very rarely, by the way, people who were young kids at the time it was released). They might never have actually sat down to watch the films the whole way through, but that doesn’t mean they’re coming to it with a blank mind. The very act of sitting down to watch them presupposes a judgement already, and they will probably have seen clips and know about the general plot, characters and ideas from references by friends, family, and the media. Likewise with me and MASH. I decided to watch it because I’d already been told it was good. This is the first hurdle to get over when watching classics, if we can call them that. MASH is certainly a fascinating film, and the amount I would like to say about it (but can’t here), perhaps indicates its value alone. It is a mix of farce, black comedy and political satire, tragedy, poignancy, and pathos. The carefully choreographed ‘last supper’ sequence, and the poker game with the dead body being driven away in the background are scenes that will stick in my mind for a long time. I found the characters often offensive and rude, but I’m not sure if this is how I was supposed to see them. They are also brilliant surgeons who work hard, which seems to compensate in some way for their arrogance. The film is made up of episodes with little connection to one another, brought into a broad, but relatively meaningless, story-arc of the two surgeons’ brief service in Korea. Perhaps this is what gave the inspiration for a TV series. The film is like one already. However, the idea of tying things together too cleanly (such as the apparent intention to have the Korean boy reappear) would have been too neat. The film does work better as haphazard, irreverent, although the sport sequence towards the end of the film felt relatively redundant and out of character with the rest of the sequences. It’s interesting to read that there was tension between the actors and the director, and that some of the loud-speaker announcements were added later in order to try to build continuity. I haven’t seen many of Robert Altman’s films, and think initially that his method has to rely on exceptional acting, music and dialogue in order to succeed for me, but it certainly does that here.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Midnight in Paris

Expectation often leads to disappointment, perhaps never more so than in the case of Woody Allen films. This is doubly so. There are his fans, who live in the hope that he will recreate his classics of the 70s and 80s, and there are the people who have seen the trailer for a romantic comedy starring (in this example) Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, and hope it will be endearing and funny. So in recent years both types of moviegoer have been disappointed. Woody Allen’s films are not simple romantic comedies, nor are they recreations of his earlier classics. Both sets of expectations are frustrated. How, then, are we supposed to watch his films? The obvious answer is as someone aware of what to expect from Woody Allen, and yet not in anticipation of something similar to his films from the past. Midnight in Paris will not disappoint anyone who approaches it in this way. It is funny, rife with literary allusions, self-deprecation, and brilliant, real comic characters. It can undoubtedly be called ‘his best for years’, although this often-repeated phrase is somewhat patronising. Without wishing to ruin the film for those who haven’t seen it, it stars Wilson as a screenwriter visiting Paris with his fiancĂ© and her parents. There is at times that awkwardness perhaps due to the script, or the direction of the actors, that I often feel in watching his recent films. The jokes, or literary references, are too stilted, or fall out of the actor’s mouths rather clumsily. It could only barely be maintained that Owen Wilson was doing an impersonation of Woody Allen (as most of his leading men have been). He does a good job of making his own character out of the heavy burden of being Allen’s mouthpiece. There are great, poetic moments in this film, finished with a perfect ending. You should see it.

Monday, 22 August 2011


I had to double-check halfway through this film: was it really directed by Clint Eastwood? There is so much potential in the material, cast and director, I can only think it was a very rushed production. It is a big disappointment. The great lines and speeches are delivered robotically, without any real conviction. The film isn’t about any one thing. It tries too much and too little. A film centred around Francois Pienaar might have been better, having only glimpses of Mandela, but there were greater problems than just this. It is as if the writer(s) was too afraid to elaborate, or imagine anything new at all. Like all biographical and/or historical films, the writer has to create artificial highs and lows, sometimes exaggerating what took place, or emphasising certain issues that perhaps weren’t important at the time. Otherwise you end up with this: a flat, unexciting picture. There were moments of great potential, such as the confrontation between Mandela’s security guards and the old, white presidential security team. But nothing is ever delivered, no arguments or speeches, nothing happens and the confrontation peters out and ultimately falls flat. What is more, the film is about Mandela alone for a good while before we see anything about rugby, as if they were afraid to make a sports movie. Then, towards the end of the film, the rugby takes over almost completely, large amounts of time are dedicated to the game, with no dialogue given. The complexities, tension and excitement of the final are attempted in brief highlights (for someone like me who enjoys rugby I found it hard to follow). What was a great match was drained of its enjoyment, rather than being emphasised, and there are awful lines of exposition, characters explaining to other characters something they obviously would have known (for example, the basic format of a knockout competition). More use could easily have been made of the poem, which gives the film its title. Instead we only hear a mumbled narration of it by Morgan Freedman. This is one of those mysteries in the film world – everything is in place for it to be a good, Oscar winning movie, and yet it fails. It is important to learn some of the lessons as to why.

Source Code

As this film is a concept movie that achieves most of its success on a first viewing, that right from the very first scene involves a puzzle that you, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, have to unravel, I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to give away much of the plot. I can say though there is not just one puzzle but at least three almost buried inside each other that we have to try to unpick. The problem, though, like most puzzles, is whether once you’ve solved it you want to keep watching, and/or ever see it again? Undoubtedly you want to see how this film ends. It is intriguing, thought-provoking, well-written and acted, and nothing is solved until the last minute, when perhaps even then questions are left unanswered. There are always logical flaws in this type of film, the question is whether they are obtrusive enough, or covered over cleverly enough. In a very similar film, Deja Vu, the viewer is just about convinced. In Source Code, however, the flaws I think are too many, or the one main flaw is too large. You finish the film thinking about that, rather than what the film means, which I think is a failure. It is a cross between Groundhog Day, Vantage Point, Deja Vu and a host of other sci-fi films, as well as perhaps a touch of Quantum Leap. Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent, and the film isn’t claustrophobic as it might seem if I were to describe the plot to you. It is compelling and tragic, but at the same time it is only a concept movie, a genre which is limited in scope by its very nature, and can only point to one inevitable ending which when it is avoided by the director/writer, the viewer feels slightly cheated. Without a doubt, Duncan Jones is a director to keep an eye on, and this is a promising second movie (although I'm wondering if he'll ever move away from sci-fi or not), but there will I hope be better to come.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Super 8

It seems at first that this film sits uncomfortably between several genres or approaches: it mixes elements of horror, emotional drama, comedy, sci-fi and the monster movie, is aimed at adults and kids, and is both postmodern whilst being nostalgic.  This doesn’t appear to make any sense, and yet it does. J. J. Abrams has created something almost entirely new with this film, but I don’t think it’s an experiment that can be repeated. This is like a kids’ film for adults. Or rather, a film for adults who were kids when these movies came out: E.T., Flight of The Navigator, Explorers, The Goonies, and The Last Starfighter. It follows similar lines to these yet obviously ironically, now being set thirty years in the past where those were contemporary. It is also a far more serious, and at times frightening film. Like those films, like indeed all great action films, the main drive of the movie is the emotional development of the characters. It overtakes the terrifying events around them and very neatly, perhaps too neatly, provides a resolution to the whole drama. What I did miss was how the small scale charm with which the film starts, following its predecessors, is swept away, especially towards the end. This is the temptation of the relative ease of modern special effects, perhaps. Like all monster movies, the suspense is better than the explanation. I also regretted how the role of the Super 8 film itself became relatively insignificant, when it could have been (and perhaps was originally intended to be) the crucial element of the movie. Anyway, I don’t know what people who haven’t seen those original films might think of this, but for those of us who have, it’s unmissable.

The Hateful Eight

Tarantino has said he'll only make ten films, and then retire. I don't know if he still stands by this statement, and if he does we ...