I said a while ago that I was going to start including films and books here, so I think it’s time I delivered on that. So, I’m going to try to do a quick monthly round up of what I’ve watched and read.
The Square (cinema): There’s some great stuff in this film. Some properly laugh out loud observation and humour, particularly in the weird reality of a modern art museum. It would have worked really well as a sitcom in the vein of W1A or The Thick of It. Unfortunately it was in the wallowing pretension of a 2.5 hour long film, which was determined to ram home some messages and morals as well. There were too many strands, and many of them were just left hanging or forgotten. So the film was both too long and incomplete. It’s a shame because the funny bits were incredibly well done.
Mute (Netflix): The style will be incredibly familiar to anyone who’s seen Bladerunner or Altered Carbon, but it’s a solid entry into the genre that kept me engaged the whole way through. I can’t think of anything else to say really, it’s not a classic for all time, but it’s perfectly satisfactory.
Annihilation (Netflix): I thought this film was absolutely rubbish. It took me two attempts to get through it because I was falling asleep on the first viewing, and that was even before I reached the part where everything got completely bonkers. I didn’t mind that the overall setup was weird, I objected to the fact that they kept trying to explain it with science (which was both dubious and boring), and that the characters made no sense at all. I actually watched the whole thing a second time because I read so many good reviews that I was beginning to think I’d missed something. I watched it with someone who’d read the book and added some background and context that made things make a bit more sense… but I still didn’t particularly like the film and from the sounds of it I wouldn’t like the book either. Some people may say that it didn’t get a cinema release because studios are scared that people won’t watch ‘smart’ sf. But the problem isn’t that this is too smart, it’s that it’s too stupid!
New for me:
Colossal (Amazon Prime): The concept at the centre of the film is bonkers, but that really doesn’t matter because, like all good science fiction, it’s about the fallout from the central idea. The character development here is fascinating and the things go in directions that you might not predict, but that still make perfect sense. The whole thing is smart, original, witty and incredibly satisfying.
Once (was on Amazom): I gave this film two attempts, the first time I wasn’t feeling it I assumed it was because I was in a grumpy mood, but even a couple of weeks later in the middle of a relaxing day, it still didn’t work for me. The biggest personal problem was that I didn’t really like the music in it, but I think even without that I would still have been slightly irritated by the noodling tempo and awkward characters.
Hampstead (Amazon Prime): Twee. There really is no other word for this than twee. It’s passably entertaining thanks to the always wonderful Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson but they’re struggling with a clunky script and the supporting cast are bogged down with ploddy characters.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DVD): This is the kind of film that’s just joyous to watch, I had a smile on my face just about the whole way through the film and at one point laughed so suddenly I choked on my ice cream. The world is immersively vibrant, the character are completely alive, the story is completely engaging and the script is hilariously snappy, the whole thing is just a complete joy. I will admit that there were a couple of scenes that dragged a smidge and surprisingly I found Cate Blanchett’s the weakest performance (and accent) of the bunch, but those are really very minor quibbles. I could cheerfully have gone straight back and watched this a second time!
The Terminal (Amazon Prime): This is a very sweet comedy with a slightly uncomfortable thread of xenophobic drama. The concept of someone living solely in an airport is quite a cute one, but the way they manage to get the character stuck there, and the way he is treated by immigration is pretty horrific. The film is very much a throwback to Tom Hanks romantic comedies of the past, which in some ways is good, but in other ways seems like a bit of a waste of his and Spielberg’s talents. I like that the film avoids some of the standard cliches and I really enjoyed the first 1/2 but there’s some more dramatic stuff in the 2nd half that felt a little misplaced within the overall tone. And dear lord there’s a lot of product placement! Still, I will happily watch Tom Hanks do just about anything.