This is the time of the year when those films that perhaps once had promise get buried. Maybe they had a positive reaction at a film festival, but in the lightspeed of the internet, the cognoscenti have grimaced at their initial enthusiasm, and love has turned to disgust (all ultimately their own). Producers and financiers have uncomfortable conversations where they realise the director hasn’t delivered and that the final film…just isn’t all that. It can be an interesting time of year, that holding time before we get to the blockbuster season. This is what I saw in the last month.
Blade Runner (1982 – Ridley Scott) – The Final Cut
First repertory showing of the year, and one that was a little disappointing. You’re struck by how different this film would be if it was made now (car chases and high-octane fight scenes). But the model work was astonishing to see on a huge screen and the sound system in the cinema brought a new dimension to my viewing – hearing Pris’ screams when she dies echo around that huge auditorium was quite haunting. Look, great films that you rewatch and rewatch – sometimes they’re transcendental and sometimes they seem quite ordinary. This viewing was just ordinary and that’s entirely down to me.
Final Cut seen at the BFI IMAX. So something quite different (though I think it was a digital projection). Ticket cost about £13.
Hail, Caesar! (2016 – Joel Coen & Ethan Coen)
Some superb scenes and performances and some shots (such as those in the confession box) were beautiful and I wanted to print them out and take them home. But…but… it just didn’t amount to anything, and whilst an enjoyable film, I left wanting something a little more substantial.
As I walked into the screening room, I looked around. There were a group of four 13 year old girls. ‘Uh-oh.’ I thought ‘They don’t know what they’ve come to see.’ They left half-way through.
A good middle sized screen at Bluewater Showcase (local multiplex). Ticket cost £8.95.
Anomalisa (2015 – Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson)
Written about in more detail here: https://asidesteps.com/2016/03/13/anomalisa-2015-charlie-kaufman-duke-johnson/
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016 – Zack Snyder)
Written about in more detail here: https://asidesteps.com/2016/03/29/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-2016-zack-snyder/
The Witch (2016 – Robert Eggers)
As a teenager I had a Saturday job working in a library. It was a smashing job, for many reasons, but mainly for the free video hire. So for a couple of years I was able to take home every home video release. This meant that I got to watch an awful lot of crap, a few films of which occasionally surface to my mind.
Recently I thought of K-Pax. It’s a film where Kevin Spacey (and someone else…god knows who…I want to say Jeff Daniels?) is or isn’t an alien. And it wants to be ambiguous (the curse of all modern cinema narrative), but it only achieves this by being inconsistent. It doesn’t make sense, the evidence that the film provides, and it cheats. And that can be deeply unsatisfying.
Which is to say that The Witch overplays its hand. Outside of the period trappings, it was all a bit too much. Good, though.
(That was a deeply dismissive final statement. I recognise that.)
Medium sized screen at Odeon Covent Garden. I think this cinema is one auditorium that has got split into four, but the screens are all a decent size. Ticket cost £6 – can’t go wrong!
High-Rise (2016 – Ben Wheatley)
There are times when you are walking down the street and you pass an individual wearing the same perfume that someone important to you used to wear. And the scent hits you and evokes something primordial within you as you get this sudden rush of a reminder of someone you used to know. Memories woosh back. You are transported to another time and place. And then you realise that you are just standing in a high street, and it wasn’t that ex who passed you, just a stranger who smelt like them.
Ben Wheatley’s movies are like that. They remind me of other movies. Better movies. There are some very pretty shots in his films and I admire his work ethic, but his movies are too neat, too safe and pale imitations of far more interesting films. Five films in and has he said anything of real worth?
High-Rise is a film where the trailer (with the Tangerine Dream soundtrack) was better than the actual film itself. Shame. I remember seeing the trailer for Sightseers and hoping that Frankie Goes to Hollywood would be in the film itself. It was, to my delight it was (though that trailer gave away the plot for the entire film!) I spent two hours waiting for ‘Love on a Real Train’ to begin…it didn’t.
Once again, a medium-sized screen at Odeon Covent Garden. £6 ticket. I sneaked into the premiere seating section – because that’s how a rebel like myself rolls.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016 – Dan Trachtenberg)
Now this was more like it. The anti-Room. Great performances in a film that kept me guessing every second. The final fifteen minutes almost (almost) ruin the great movie you have just seen, but the previous hour-and-a-half are satisfying enough to deny that occurrence.
I thought it interesting that I had seen a sequel to a movie I have never seen. I wandered into HMV and looked through the racks of DVDs. I picked out Cloverfield. And then I realised. I have seen that movie – I just have forgotten (repressed) any memory of it. It was a monster movie that never showed the monster right?
Who cares? But the only way to release this movie was to tenuously tie it into a forgettable film from a thoroughly redundant filmmaker from the previous decade. Who wished for this world, and can I get my money back?
Bluewater Showcase. A large screen with only two other people present. Ticket cost £8.95.