They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)

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2018 #234
Peter Jackson | 95 mins | TV (HD) | 1.85:1 | UK & New Zealand / English | 15

They Shall Not Grow Old

Commissioned by 14-18 NOW (the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary) and the Imperial War Museum to see what he could do to make their old World War One footage more engaging for a modern audience, director Peter “Lord of the Rings” Jackson’s initial tests at restoring the footage were so successful that the project was eventually worked up into this feature-length documentary. It tells the story of the Western Front from the point of view of ordinary Tommies living and fighting on the frontline, using only footage from the period (plus photos, posters, artwork, maps, and so on) and narration taken from interviews with men who were really there — no historians to provide context or analysis here.

This presents two distinct things to consider when looking at the film: not only its success as a documentary, but also the methods Jackson and co have undertaken to produce it. In terms of the latter, what Jackson and his computer wizards have done goes far beyond the normal realms of “restoration”. For starters, the original footage has been cleaned up (removing scratches and dirt, stabilising the image, etc) — so far, so normal. But that original footage was shot on hand-cranked cameras, giving it a frame rate of anywhere from 10 to 18fps (sometimes varying within one piece of film). So, computers have created additional frames to bring all the footage up to a standard, smoother 24fps. Then the footage has been painstakingly colourised, and also converted into 3D (if you see it at a 3D cinema screening, anyway. Maybe there’ll be a Blu-ray). The goal of all this is to make it seem more immediate and real; to try to connect modern viewers to these men in a more direct fashion, without the distancing effect of watching juddery, indistinct black & white film.

Before and after

Calling the work Jackson and co did to old footage “restoration” has been controversial in some circles, because it goes beyond mere “restoration” and into the realm of revisionism, like the colourisation of old movies that came to prominence in the ’80s and was widely criticised (though it still occasionally rears its head today — try buying a Blu-ray of It’s a Wonderful Life without both black & white and colour copies of the film). Jackson has a different and specific aim with his work here, however. He’s not saying this is a better way to view old film footage fullstop, but rather is looking for a way to bring these past events to life for a modern viewer; to try to erase the past 100 years and put us in their shoes, to make us see how much these people, though separated by so much time, were really very similar to us. The effectiveness of the end result in achieving this goal — of bringing that long-gone war vividly to life — is undeniable.

Indeed, anecdotally, a lot of people do find the addition of colour to be revelatory — after the film’s screening on BBC Two last night, I saw many tweets talking about the “extraordinary”, “breathtaking”, “jaw dropping”, “spine tingling”, “astounding” moment when colour faded in. Personally, however, it rarely seemed like more than a special-effects veneer painted over the original footage. Well, that’s exactly what it is, in fact. it’s not necessarily a criticism, either — it may be for the best, even, because this isn’t a kind of ‘restoration’ we want to see applied across the board to old films. Either way, I do agree that it added a new perspective to see the war presented in this way; but the idea that it’s a perfect, genuinely lifelike ‘restoration’ didn’t quite wash with me. In fact, I thought one of the film’s most striking, identifiable moments came early on, before it had made the transition to colour: as the narrators talk about how young they were when they signed up, we’re shown closeups of soldiers’ faces, and you can really see how young they were — many of them literally just boys. I think it’s pretty common knowledge that, although the age to sign up was 19, lads as young as 14 lied to get in, but seeing it so clearly is another matter.

Faces

Moments like that prove that They Shall Not Grow Old’s success as a documentary doesn’t just lie with its “restored” footage. The film’s worth lies as much in the way the story is told — the voiceover narration taken from genuine soldiers’ testimonies, recorded by the BBC and IWM in the ’60s and ’70s; the editing of certain sequences — as it does in the “modernising” of old footage. The added colour and clarity do bring some bits to life and make them feel closer to today, as per Jackson’s stated goal, but a lot of the time the smeary, blurry quality of the colourisation makes it feel as much like a painting come to life as it does real footage. Nonetheless, the truthfulness of what we’re being told burns through that, and it’s the combination of visuals and audio that aids our understanding of what life was like for those men in that place at that time.

It’s quite a dense film too, packed with information, constantly surging forward with the images, an imagined soundtrack to match them, and almost non-stop narration. At times it becomes like a tone collage, where you almost absorb it more than process it, getting an impression of life on the front more than specific experiences. In this interview, Jackson says the film uses about 120 narrators, edited together to sound almost like they’re telling one story — the “common story” of the experience of a soldier on the Western Front, with extreme or uncommon anecdotes having been edited out. It means a lot of the war isn’t touched on (other fronts, other experiences, like the Navy or Air Force), but there were budgetary reasons for that as much as anything (they originally offered Jackson enough money for a film about 30 minutes long).

Western Front

While those other stories are undoubtedly worth telling too, I think it was wise of Jackson to retain a degree of focus here. Rather than attempt to cram a wide-ranging account of a complex conflict into the brief running time of a single film, he’s instead painted a picture of what it was like to be an ordinary Tommy in the trenches of Europe. This is not the story of commanders and generals, of presidents and kings, but of ordinary blokes on the ground — the people most of us would’ve been, had we lived 100 years ago — and Jackson’s methods help make that story as real and relatable as it’s ever been.

5 out of 5

They Shall Not Grow Old is available on iPlayer until Sunday 18th November. A documentary about the making of the film airs on BBC Four tonight at 7:30pm.

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Another Month Bites the Dust: The Monthly Update for October 2018

Another month gone and another month gone, another month bites the dust. Hey, I’m gonna get November too! Another month bites the dust!

(So, I didn’t actually get to see Bohemian Rhapsody this month, but I thought of this title and it was too good to miss.)


#207 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)
#208 Prevenge (2016)
#209 Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)
#210 TiMER (2009)
#211 Suspiria (1977)
#212 Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999), aka Jin-Rô
#213 Matinee (1993)
#214 Zatoichi’s Pilgrimage (1966), aka Zatôichi umi o wataru
#215 The Night Comes for Us (2018)
#216 The Producers (1967)
#217 Rocky Balboa (2006)
#218 It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
#219 Unsane (2018)
#220 The Lives of Others (2006), aka Das Leben der Anderen
#221 Phantom Thread (2017)
#222 Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Suspiria

Phantom Thread

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  • This month I watched 16 new films. It’s not the best month of the year, but it’s not the worst, either.
  • It beats the October average (previously 13.8, now 14.0), but not the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 21.0, now 20.4), nor the average for 2018 to date (previously 22.9, now 22.2).
  • One of those 16 was Rocky Balboa, which means I’ve now watched all the main Rocky films for the first time this year. That wasn’t the plan when Rocky scraped onto my WDYMYHS list in last place! But at some point I made the conscious decision to finish them (rather than let them spread out indefinitely, like many other series I’m in the middle of), and I’ve enjoyed them all (even Rocky V). With Creed II out at the end of November, I intend to get fully caught up on the entire Rocky legacy very soon.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: colourful and sonically bombastic horror in Dario Argento’s original Suspiria. I’ve been saving it all year for this month (for hopefully obvious reasons), and it didn’t disappoint.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film: superb behind-the-Berlin-wall dramatic thriller The Lives of Others. And, as I only do ten of them, that’s the final WDYMYHS film for 2018!



The 41st Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Lots of enjoyable films this month, including some high-quality Oscar winners… but it was October, aka horror month, which just tips the scales in favour of Suspiria. It was the first Dario Argento film I’ve seen, but I look forward to experiencing more.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
There’s no point beating about the bush: it was definitely The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1.

Best Demonstration That Shooting On Film Is Still Better of the Month
Phantom Thread may’ve looked gorgeous in 35mm-derived UHD, but nothing reminds you of the beauty of film quite like Unsane’s fugly shot-on-iPhone visuals.

Most Gratuitous Nude Scene Without Any Nudity of the Month
Bella and Edward going skinny dipping before finally consummating their marriage was barely necessary, but at least the whole series had basically been building to the point when they finally do it. Megan Fox going for a completely unmotivated nudey dip in Jennifer’s Body, on the other hand, was… well, gratuitous.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
For only the fifth time this year, the winner of this award is not my TV column. In fact, it’s the second most-viewed winner of this award in 2018 (behind Avengers: Infinity War’s huge tally back in April). That would be Netflix’s Indonesian actioner The Night Comes for Us.

Leaving aside new posts, my overall most-read post of the month by an absolute mile (much higher than any other post has ever managed in a single month, barring that time Cracked.com linked to me, which is mainly why I’m mentioning it) was last month’s TV review. Why? Well, it included my review of Bodyguard, which, following its phenomenal success in the UK, debuted on Netflix in the rest of the world last week. It previously won Most-Viewed New Post in September, but in October it received over six times as many hits!



My Rewatchathon continues apace…

#39 School of Rock (2003)
#40 Face/Off (1997)
#41 South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

Face/Off was one of the films I put into my 100 Favourites without rewatching, but if I had… well, I’m not saying I wouldn’t’ve included it, but I wouldn’t’ve given it 5 stars. It’s sort of terrible… but it goes about its business so outrageously and so ridiculously that it’s also sort of glorious. If it didn’t star Travolta and Cage or wasn’t directed by John Woo, I think it would’ve been a disaster; but they all carry out their roles with OTT abandon, and that’s actually what makes the ludicrous material work.

The South Park movie was going to become the latest in my ongoing series of “films I’ve owned forever on a DVD that I’ve never played, but were available on a streaming service in HD so I watched there instead”. Not that South Park’s self-consciously simplistic animation is crying out for the extra detail of 1080p, but a bit of crispness never hurt. But then it turned out it was only available to stream in SD anyway (goodness knows why — an HD version definitely exists because there’s a Blu-ray available in several territories), so I decided to pop in the DVD after all. But then I couldn’t find where my DVD copy was, so I elected to just watch the streaming version after all. What a story, eh? Look out for the movie adaptation, coming soon…

Oh, and the film was pretty good. It’s nearly 20 years old and has dated somewhat, but the vulgar irreverence has its charms.


A new Coen brothers movie! A new Orson Welles movie! Chris Pine’s penis! And that’s just on Netflix…

The Past Month on TV #39

Travel through time and space, into dreams and memories, and along miniature railways in this month’s TV review…

Doctor Who  Series 11 Episodes 1-2
Doctor Who series 11The 37th season of Doctor Who begins with the show’s biggest soft-reboot since at least 2010; arguably, since 2005; arguably, ever. With a new showrunner comes a new broom, and so we have a new Doctor, a new TARDIS, a new set of companions — sorry, they’re “friends” now — new locations, new monsters, and a new style (thanks to a raft of behind-the-scenes changes, including a new effects company, swish new cameras and lenses, and a new aspect ratio). It’s the perfect jumping-on point… and it worked, with the premiere achieving the show’s highest ratings for a decade; or longer, depending how you count it.

Oh, and the Doctor’s a woman now, too. “It’ll kill the show,” cried a vocal minority. Hahaha, nope!

But what of Jodie Whittaker, anyway? As with any new Doctor, I feel she needs a little time to find her feet — something that lies in the writing as much as the performance. There are some lines which would seem more at home in the mouths of David Tennant or Matt Smith, which Whittaker gamely tackles but don’t quite feel natural. But at other times the material and her performance click in perfect synchronicity, and we can see the promise that lies within. Hopefully as the writers become more familiar with her mannerisms, what works and what doesn’t for this particular incarnation, then it’ll all become smoother. There’s no reason to doubt she’s up to the task.

Some question the new man in charge of the running the show, though. Chris Chibnall’s TV record is… patchy. For every Broadchurch series one there’s a Broadchurch series two; for every Broadchurch series three there’s a Torchwood series one; and so on. He acquits himself decently with this opening pair of episodes. The first, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, may owe an obvious debt to Predator with its alien-hunter storyline, but Who has always liberally borrowed from other places and made the material it’s own.

TARDIS TeamIndeed, even as it’s open-armed and newbie-friendly, Chibnall’s era already seems as Who-literate as you’d expect from such a long-time fan (somewhat (in)famously, as a teenager in the ’80s Chibnall appeared on TV criticising the then production team). His sense of what Who should be is at once indebted to the modern era (in particular the years of Russell T Davies, who I suspect may’ve been something of a mentor to Chibnall at one point) and also seeks to reintegrate elements long absent. For example, there’s the expanded TARDIS team, which calls to mind that of the series’ very first group of travellers; though whereas 1963 gave us a teenage girl and two middle-aged teachers, 2018 offers two teenagers and one middle-aged bloke. Such are the changing times. And for dedicated Whovians, the plot of episode two, The Ghost Monument, also had an air of early Hartnell serials, with its episodic trek across a danger-filled alien world. It was a brisk, entertaining 50 minutes, but stop and think about it too much and the cracks begin to show (read Andrew Ellard’s tweetnotes to see how it could’ve been polished up, for example).

Still, two episodes into a new era is no point at which to make generalisations about it (despite what some people have been trying). This is a reasonably promising start, though: there’s a good cast in place, and a clear sense of purpose — this feels like a production team making the version of the show they want on screen, not one rushing headlong to get out anything so long as it meets the broadcast deadline (something that afflicted both RTD’s and Steven Moffat’s eras at times). Only the weeks ahead can really tell how consistently they’ve achieved. Personally, I’m more excited for each new episode to come around than I have been for some time.

Maniac
ManiacNetflix continue to blur the line between movies and TV with this limited series starring Oscar winner Emma Stone and Oscar nominee Jonah Hill, co-created and directed by Cary “director of the next Bond film” Fukunaga. Well, I mean, it’s a line that other TV producers have blurred plenty in the past — movie stars on TV is far from a new thing at this point, and there’s no doubting this is a TV series rather than a movie (it’s 6½ hours long, for one thing) — but, still. And they bend the rules of TV, too, with individual episodes running everywhere from 26 to 47 minutes. (Does that matter when Netflix’s release-it-all-at-once strategy means you choose how much to watch at any one time? Maybe not. But if you’re the kind to still watch one episode at a time, a word to the wise: I recommend double-billing the ultra-short should-be-one-episode pair of episodes 7 and 8.)

Anyway, Hill stars as the paranoid and delusional son of a business magnate who enrols in a drug trial, where he meets Stone’s addict in search of a fix. The trial is a new method for treating past trauma, something both of them have plenty of; and when the AI that’s a vital part of the procedure malfunctions, the pair find themselves in each others dreams and fantasies. It’s kind of like Inception made by someone with a kookier imagination that Christopher Nolan.

In fact, an even better point of reference would be X-Men-adjacent TV series Legion — it has the same preoccupation with mental health, with mysterious possibly helpful / possibly evil institutions, with can’t-trust-reality trippiness, with retro-futuristic design… It’s certainly a heavily stylised series, which is half the charm. The other half is all the dreamworld stuff, which takes a few episodes to rock up but is worth the wait. And the other half — because this is the kind of show that would definitely have three halves — is the chemistry between Stone and Hill, which is unexpected but palpable.

Kooky chemistryA significant amount of the series’ offbeat likability is down to idiosyncratic direction by Fukunaga, I suspect — the way he’s shepherded the visual creation of this world, the leftfield performance choices across the cast, and so on — but Emma Stone is definitely the MVP. While the aforementioned chemistry between her and Hill is important, and a lot of the rest of the cast get to excel at being quirky and funny, it’s Stone who really brings heart and emotion to the piece, making it more than just a zany fantasy.

Maniac throws you in at the deep end, with a first instalment that’s densely packed with information and alternate-world building, which it races past and through, sometimes with two or three things going on at once, making it feel a bit like hard work. But, really, that’s all incidental detail. Once you settle into it, an inventive and kooky journey awaits. How much it all adds up to is debatable — though, for the characters, it definitely reaches a worthwhile place — but it’s the kind of trip where the journey’s worth at least as much as the destination.

The Great Model Railway Challenge  Series 1 Episodes 1-2
The Great Model Railway Challenge
Long-time readers of this column with exceptionally good memories may remember that I once watched two episodes of Shed of the Year merely because one episode featured a Doctor Who-themed shed and another featured a cinema-themed shed (I’m still jealous of the latter, and you should be too — see photos at the aforementioned link). Well, here we have another show that wouldn’t normally be up my street… but episode one was all cinema-themed builds, and episode two featured a Doctor Who-themed build.

As for the programme itself, well, the format follows the template established by Bake Off and since copied ad infinitum for almost every hobby TV producers can think of: a pair of affable, pun-delivering hosts; a mixed-gender pair of expert judges; well-practiced amateur contestants, who compete in a series of tasks and challenges over a period of three days — in this case, to build model railways. It comes across as being as nerdy a hobby as you’d think (and with one team choosing to do the Who themed setup, it’s like nerd²), but I don’t mean that as a criticism — the stuff they produce is, at its best, astonishing and a lot of fun. I think I’m going to end up watching the rest of the series.

Also watched…
  • Upstart Crow Series 3 Episode 4 — It’s funny how this era of catchup TV can lead to both binge-watching and spreading stuff thinner than intended (or is that just me?) Anyway, the sole episode of Upstart Crow continued the quality run I commented on last month, this time with an amusing episode-long riff on Much Ado About Nothing.
  • Would I Lie To You? Series 12 Episode 1 — The best panel show on TV is back and as on form as ever, particularly with the ever-unguessable Bob Mortimer popping in for the first episode. A treat.

    The Not-So-Immortal Iron Fist
    Colleen the Iron FistHaving just last month written about how improved Iron Fist was and how I was actually looking forward to season three, Netflix went and cancelled it last weekend. That’s the first of their Marvel shows they’ve outright cancelled (it doesn’t look like The Defenders is coming back, but that was technically always a one-off miniseries anyway). There are lots of options for Iron Fist’s future, however: could be they’re planning to team up some of the characters into a new show; could be it moves to Disney’s forthcoming streaming service, which is set to have other MCU-related series. I figure the latter is unlikely — it’s tarnished goods now — but it would seem a shame to not pay off the second season’s cliffhangers/teases somewhere, somehow.

    Things to Catch Up On
    InformerThis month, I have mostly been missing Informer, BBC One’s new thriller. Well, it only started on Tuesday, so that’s fair enough, right? I guess I’ll save it up and see how it goes down — I’ve managed to avoid wasting time on a few initially-promising-but-ultimately-poorly-received series with this method; though, equally, it led to Radio Times spoiling Bodyguard for me, so you take your chances… And as the lack of review may’ve told you, I’ve yet to start Killing Eve. With a bunch of stuff popping onto Netflix over the coming weeks (see below), it’ll be lucky to make next month’s column either.

    Next month… after a 2½-year wait (which has included seven seasons of other Marvel/Netflix shows), it’s finally time to give the Devil his due — that being, a third season.

    Plus! Netflix’s spooky Riverdale spinoff, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and more new Who.

  • The “Oh My God, I Can’t Believe It” Monthly Update for September 2018

    Oh my god, I can’t believe it —
    I’ve never seen this many films before!

    For only the second time, 100 Films in a Year has reached 200 films in a year…

    …and — for the first time ever — beyond!


    #188 Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin (1970), aka C’è Sartana… vendi la pistola e comprati la bara!
    #189 Lost in Space (1998)
    #190 Skyline (2010)
    #191 April and the Extraordinary World (2015), aka Avril et le monde truqué
    #192 The Tree of Life (2011)
    #193 I Kill Giants (2018)
    #194 Compulsion (1959)
    #195 The Hunt (2012), aka Jagten
    #196 Heathers (1988)
    #197 Courage Under Fire (1996)
    #198 Gods of Egypt 3D (2016)
    #199 Zatoichi’s Vengeance (1966), aka Zatôichi no uta ga kikoeru
    #200 Sholay (1975)
    #201 Network (1976)
    #202 Mary and Max (2009)
    #203 Ran (1985)
    #204 Step Brothers (2008)
    #205 Before Midnight (2013)
    #206 Rocky V (1990)
    April and the Extraordinary World

    Heathers

    Before Midnight

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    • September adds 19 films to 2018’s tally, in the process taking it past the final totals of both 2016 (195) and 2015 (200) to make it my biggest year ever!

    *ahem*

    So, back in 2015, after I reached my highest ever final total, I felt fairly certain that would never be beaten. It had been a push to get there, and I was determined to spend more time on things besides watching new films. Well, I haven’t done nearly as much other stuff as I’d hoped, but my film tally did drop slightly over the next few years (195 in 2016; 174 in 2017), plus starting my side goal of the Rewatchathon would surely steal numbers from the main tally.

    And yet here we are: at the end of September — with a whole 25% of the year left to go — and I’ve already surpassed that 200 total. Oh, and I’ve watched 38 films towards this year’s Rewatchathon, too.

    How has this happened? Goodness only knows. Whether the remainder of the year will keep up this pace, which would land me with a final tally in excess of 270 films… well, I don’t know that either. It seems unlikely, given that both August and September have had totals well down on the giddy heights of April and May (my two biggest months of all time). Nonetheless, a total in the 230s is a likely minimum, with 250+ not improbable — both far in excess of what I once thought possible (considering that, in two of this blog’s first six years, I failed to even make 100). What I will predict is that I won’t achieve these kinds of numbers ever again. But then, I said that last time…

    Anyway, back to notes about this month in particular:

    • As I said, I watched 19 new films this month, which surpasses the September average (previously 11.6, now 12.3), but falls just short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 20.3, now 21), as well as 2018’s average to date (previously 23.4, now 22.9).
    • Rewinding to the start of the month for a moment, I watched a film on September 2nd, crossing another date off my list of “never seen a film on”s. That just leaves three to complete: January 5th, May 23rd, and December 22nd.
    • This month’s Blindspot film: Danish wrongfully-accused drama The Hunt, a film whose story will surely induce righteous anger in any viewer — which is not a criticism.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: Akira Kurosawa’s feudal Japan-set adaptation of King Lear, and his final samurai epic, Ran. It’s testament to Kurosawa’s magnificence that he made a movie this great but I wouldn’t even put it in his top five.
    • One film I didn’t watch this month was The Shape of Water. Having to wait so long for a chance to see it (it disappeared from cinemas near me in a flash, and the UK Blu-ray release came over three months after the US) seems to have accidentally put it on my back burner: it’s been on disc here since the end of June and I’ve still not got round to it. Maybe next month — after all, it is a monster movie.



    The 40th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    I watched six or seven five-star films this month (one’s still wavering between a four and a five), which makes this a tricky proposition, especially as I really enjoyed some of the four-star ones too. Heck, I had a lot of fun watching Gods of Egypt, and I gave that three stars! It’s not my favourite film of the month, though. I’m going to bestow that honour on Heathers, which I finally got round to seeing thanks to Arrow’s 4K-restored Blu-ray release. Not only does it look fantastic, it’s a great black comedy too.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    Now, here’s a toughie: I watched two of the worst films I’ve seen all year back-to-back at the start of the month. I won’t be surprised if they both make the year-end bottom five. But, of the two, the one I liked least was Lost in Space, because at least Skyline is trying to do something interesting, whereas Lost in Space just squanders its blockbuster budget on being shit.

    Best Fight of the Month
    Tussles galore between giants, gods, and armies of Japanese warriors this month, but none were so gruelling as Celine and Jesse verbally slugging it out in Before Midnight.

    Old Film That’s Still Pertinent Today of the Month
    Media satire Network is 42 years old now, but I’m pretty sure you could take its screenplay, change only a couple of minor words, and film it as being set today.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    For the fifth time this year, my monthly TV review was victorious in this category. I usually attribute this to referrals from IMDb, and the biggest contributor for this month’s column appears to have been Bodyguard. (The most-viewed new film review was Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.)



    A massive six rewatches this month, both catching up on the shortfall left after last month and surging ahead into next month’s ‘allowance’.

    #33 Darkman (1990)
    #34 Avengers: Infinity War 3D (2018)
    #35 Solo: A Star Wars Story 3D (2018)
    #36 Before Sunrise (1995)
    #37 Before Sunset (2004)
    #38 Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

    I feel like someday I need to coalesce into words why I love Darkman — I only wrote a drabble after my first viewing, and I don’t feel like expounding on it right now, but it’s a really good fun pulp sci-fi/horror/superhero noir.

    Avengers: Infinity War is a slightly less mind-blowing experience when you know all the twists and developments — it’s one of those films where the first viewing may always be the best thanks to the surprises and reveals having a tangible impact — but it still holds up as a one-of-a-kind epic, full of excitement, humour, and even emotion. I’m miffed they didn’t put the IMAX ratio on Blu-ray (and always will be — I’m still cross with Brad Bird about Ghost Protocol), but at least the 3D was fantastic.

    Conversely, I definitely enjoyed Solo more on a second viewing, in part thanks to the better-managed expectations of having already seen it. It’s nowhere near the greatest Star Wars movie, but it’s a solid space adventure with many likeable touches. The 3D isn’t bad, but in terms of Fancy Modern Formats, I suspect Bradford Young’s notoriously dark photography would benefit more from UHD’s high dynamic range.

    I’ve been meaning to (re)watch Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy since the third one came out on DVD (no Blu-ray on this side of the pond) five years ago. And I’ve been really meaning to do it since Criterion released them in a lovely Blu-ray box set a little over 18 months ago (that doesn’t sound so bad — I thought it was longer). Well, obviously, I’ve finally done it.

    When I first watched the Before films in 2007 (only a duology back then), I was 21. I admired them both, but definitely preferred the first, Before Sunrise. Indeed, I was a little startled to realise I only gave it four stars in my original review. Now, it’s a firm five, and I’d say one of my favourite films of all time (it did place 28th in my 100 Favourites, but it would be higher now). However, consensus often seems to favour the second film, Before Sunset. I’ve always wondered if this is an age thing: when I first watched them, I was close to the age of the characters in the first film, whereas many critics contributing to said consensus would’ve been closer to the characters’ age in the sequel. Well, now I’m 32, and I certainly identified with the sequel a lot more this time than I did back then. I probably still prefer the first, on balance — it now comes loaded with nostalgia for being in your early 20s — but I consider the sequel to be more-or-less its equal.

    And what of the third film, Before Midnight? Well, I’ll publish a full review at some point…


    It’s October, which means only one thing here at 100 Films: the sheer terror of The Twilight Saga!

    The Past Month on TV #38

    There are three major series for me to review this month, thanks to the UK’s highest-rated drama launch for a decade, Bodyguard; the debut season of Amazon’s heavily-promoted version of Jack Ryan; and a second season for the runt of the Marvel/Netflix litter, Iron Fist. Plus, shorter reviews of other stuff. All spoiler-free, of course.

    So, without further ado…

    Bodyguard  Series 1
    Bodyguard series 1
    A massive hit for BBC One from writer Jed “Line of Duty” Mercurio, Bodyguard follows copper David Budd (Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden) as he’s assigned to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), who’s trying to push through a tough new anti-terrorism act. As multiple terrorist attacks begin to take place, and Montague cosies up to the intelligence services, the series quickly morphs into a conspiracy thriller, with Budd struggling to know who can be trusted as he hunts for the truth about what’s going on and why.

    Like Line of Duty, Mercurio excels at Big drama: this is a busy, fast-moving story that churns through plot. Not much here of the gradual, slow, “it’s really more about these characters as people” stuff we usually get from British drama. That’s not to say there isn’t fine character work, mind: Budd, in particular, is a complex and nuanced hero, who starts out calm and capable and is revealed to be… well, something else; so much so that you begin to wonder if he’s an unreliable narrator… The other thing Mercurio is great at is set pieces. In Line of Duty they’re often lengthy, jargon-filled police interviews, although he’s pulled off a couple of big action ones too. Bodyguard kind of merges the two, in that they’re talky but also usually involve bombs and guns. The series is bookended by them: episode one boldly devotes its opening 20 minutes to what initially seems like a prologue (unsurprisingly, it has more relevance later), and a massive chunk of the middle of the finale is taken up with another.

    David Budd and Julia MontagueSome have criticised the series for being OTT, implausible, or having too many plot holes. Well, individual mileage will vary on that. It’s not a slice-of-life drama, after all — the larger-scaled storytelling is a genre thing, not an inherent flaw. It’s no more implausible than hundreds of other thriller TV series and movies, just perhaps not the kind we make much in the UK anymore. I’m always wary of accusations of plot holes — it’s a term that gets thrown around too liberally nowadays by, frankly, people who either don’t know what they’re on about or have a failure of imagination (“we didn’t see that happen on screen so how can it have happened” is, genuinely, the root of one prominent complaint about Bodyguard’s finale).

    Still, I think the series’ main aim was to be an exciting guessing game — it’s a whodunnit, really, with a multitude of suspects and motivations. As that, I thought it was a success; and, based on the ratings and chatter, it looks like the public at large agreed. No second series has been commissioned (and, anyway, Mercurio is busy on the next Line of Duty until sometime next year), but I’d be surprised if we don’t see more.

    (If you’re outside the UK, it was announced last week that Netflix have snapped up the international rights, where it will be available from October 24th.)

    Jack Ryan  Season 1
    Jack Ryan season 1The latest reboot of Tom Clancy’s CIA hero sees him get the TV treatment, which is perhaps the best place for a hero who is more about solving problems with his mind than his gun, and a storytelling style that cuts between lots of concurrent plots before later revealing how they interrelate. That’s something this season has done rather well, incidentally — it’s an original story, taking Clancy’s characters but not directly adapting any of his novels, but they committed to trying to emulate his “mosaic storytelling style”. I’ve never read any Clancy, so I’m not an expert on this, but they seem to have evoked it well. (Considering there are multiple Ryan novels that haven’t been adapted, it seems a shame to abandon them entirely. Maybe in a future season.)

    The actual plot concerns — what else — Middle Eastern terrorism. On the bright side, it devotes as much time to the villains as to the heroes, painting a more detail picture than just “some foreign-looking people want to blow us up”. I don’t know if it has anything deep or new to say about terrorists and those who hunt them (we’ve had ten seasons of 24, seven of Homeland, and goodness knows how many other shows on this theme since 9/11 — it’s well worn), but it’s still effective as an intelligent thriller, bolstered by having a desk-jockey analyst as a hero rather than a trigger-happy soldier. Nonetheless, episodes are packed with incident, tension, and excitement. It’s not quite “a thinking man’s thriller” because I don’t think it ultimately has enough to say about things, but it is a lot more measured and realistic than your usual action-thriller fare, while still creating exciting (but also plausible) sequences.

    Naturally, the season takes the form of “an 8-hour movie” (to be precise, it’s actually 6.6 hours long), because that’s what’s popular with prestige TV nowadays, but it also works on an episodic level. Put another way, it’s in parts that build to a whole, rather than a whole sliced up because it has to be. That’s not to say the series isn’t heavily serialised, mind (for example, there’s a random murder in episode two that doesn’t seem to relate to anything else, but then pays off at the end of episode four), but this is only a problem if you dislike non-episodic storytelling. I tend to agree that some shows take this too far, seeming to go nowhere on an episodic level because everything’s designed to be “one long story”, but Jack Ryan is one of those serialised shows that strikes a healthy balance between the two — it is one long story, but each episode conveys a solid amount of plot.

    Field analystAn advantage the show has in this regard is its short length: with just eight episodes, the plot moves at a fair lick. It gets better as it goes on, too, as the various plot lines and characters begin to build and resonate with one another. Indeed, it’s something very rare, possibly unheard of, in direct-to-streaming series: one where I wished the season was a couple of episodes longer. Not that it’s rushed per se, but one or two subplots might’ve been even better with just a little more room to breathe; the main stories might’ve been even better with just a beat or two more in them. But in an era where streaming/prestige series are gaining a reputation for being bloated and not having enough story to fill their running time, maybe it’s better to leave people wanting more.

    And I certainly do want more — season two’s already in production, and I’m looking forward to it. Although I enjoyed this season a lot, I do hope the next one takes us somewhere a little more original (and therefore interesting) than Islamic terrorists. I mean, how about those Russians and the tech espionage shit they’re pulling nowadays? Now that sounds Clancy-esque.

    Iron Fist  Season 2
    Iron Fist season 2The first season of Iron Fist attracted a lot of criticism, and, thankfully, the people behind the Marvel/Netflix series have listened. This second season doesn’t suddenly revamp the show into the best thing on TV or something, but it is a big improvement. They were hamstrung to an extent — as new showrunner M. Raven Metzner has said in interviews, you can’t reboot something like this: it has to keep to the continuity of what happened in season one, and in The Defenders, and in the other Marvel/Netflix series, and go from there — but they’ve made a fair fist of it, (there’s a good piece about what changes they made here), and by the end of the season the show is in a much better place.

    It starts a little iffily, mind. I mean, the hero is a rich, privileged white guy with anger issues who appropriated another culture for his own ends, while the villains are the Asian guy who wants back his birthright that the hero took, and a businesswoman who wants her due from the company she helped build. If I was confident the show was going somewhere with that it’d be one thing, but it also feels like it can’t’ve been deliberate (considering the heroes also include a Japanese-American woman investigating her heritage and, later in the season, a black female cop), but it’s a definite reading of episode one. I began to worry it was going to accidentally pan out like some kind of Men’s Rights / White Supremacist show. Well, it’s not that bad, thank goodness — the season does make some nods towards tackling these issues (there’s a scene in episode six where Davos specifically calls Danny out on his privilege meaning he values nothing), but I’m not sure it truly engages with it, more hopes that if it’s acknowledged and sort of moved on from (I won’t say too much because of spoilers!) then we’ll let it slide.

    So, even with that, a lot of things are improved over season one. Most things, even. But the show is at its best whenever its title character is off screen. Every member of the supporting cast and their relationships to each other is more interesting than Danny. At best he’s a bit nothingy, at worst an irritant. In fairness, I also suspect the show knows this, given its focus on Colleen — look how she shares the marketing. She makes a better lead character than Danny — her conflictedness about being a vigilante is certainly a richer seam than his privileged certainty, and Jessica Henwick excels in some properly kickass fight scenes, too. Among the supporting cast, Ward and Joy Meacham get some interesting material as well, again developing from what they went through in season one. Where back then it was just Plot Stuff to provide a story and twists, here there’s a genuine attempt to explore what the psychological fallout of that might look like. Plus, there’s a lot less stuff about the running of Rand Enterprises, something I called out the first season for ballsing up.

    VillainsIronically, while the MCU movies became renowned for their poor villains, that’s the area the Netflix series have always excelled in. This season the star turn comes from Alice Eve as a version of Daredevil villain Typhoid Mary, who (spoilers if you don’t know the character!) has dissociative identity disorder (DID), aka multiple personality disorder — so she can be both sweet, timid, kind Mary, and hard, stern, violent Walker. It’s the kind of role that’s a gift for any actor, of course, and Eve is fantastic. Similarly, Danny’s childhood friend Davos gets to combine many of the traits I’ve described in other characters: motivated by past events; complex relationships to other characters (not only Danny, but, as the end of season one teased, Joy). He’s the kind of villain whose goal is almost relatable; where you almost side with him over the hero.

    Across all of the characters and storylines, I think the season wants to be about addiction, but it doesn’t execute it as a throughline particularly well. Early on we see Danny being a little bit out of control with the fist; then, many episodes later, he explains he was addicted to it; in between, there’s a subplot about Ward being in NA and struggling to stay on the wagon. These two plot threads should be mirroring each other, not tag-teaming — and in a way that sometimes leaves the theme untouched for an episode or two, at that. It’s a shame, really, because if they’d managed that kind of cohesion in what the show was “about”, it may have been able to lay claim to being a genuinely very good show, rather than just a marked improvement on season one. Don’t get me wrong, I quite liked a lot of it, and I do think it’s a big improvement; but you can see signs that maybe it could’ve been something even better. But hey, even if it can’t offer depth, at least it can offer thrills. And really, it’s a superhero show — good vs. evil punch-ups are the order of the day.

    Marvel’s Netflix shows have often faced accusations of being too long, of not having enough story to fill their 13 episodes. That’s a problem of story, not episode count, as The Defenders proved by not having enough plot to fill eight episodes. Nonetheless, Iron Fist now only has ten episodes, and it seems to have helped. The plot moves so fast that by halfway it feels like it must be nearing its end, but instead of going in circles, it has some more twists and tricks up its sleeve. And to complete the indication that the show is making an effort to head in new directions, the finale devotes about half its running time to wrapping up the main plotDaughters of the Dragon (via a whole load of fighting, natch) and then the second half to what happens after — not just the necessary “wind down” type aftermath stuff, but also a fair chunk of time into establishing where things will go in season three. Netflix hasn’t commissioned that yet, but I hope they do because I’m actually looking forward to it. Wonders will never cease.

    Upstart Crow  Series 3 Episodes 1-3
    Upstart Crow series 3Ben Elton’s Shakespearean sitcom commences its third run as funny as ever, if not more so — I’ve always enjoyed it, but it feels particularly on point this series. I guess its on-the-nose satire of modern life by transposing it to Elizabethan society (e.g. Will’s woeful carriage journeys between London and Stratford are an unsubtle riff on the problems with British railways) won’t find favour with everyone, mainly because it seems a little easy and there’s a monologue about it pretty much every episode, but I still find that stuff amusing. When Elton applies the same strategy to other aspects of modern life, it’s similarly as rewarding/obvious, depending on your predilections. But there’s also a solid vein of mining Shakespeare’s own works for humour, the best one so far this series being an extended bit about how all of Will’s friends think Hamlet is a comedy due to its farcical plot. There’s also a running subplot about Will’s nemesis, Robert Greene, trying to discredit him by making people think he doesn’t write his own plays, which nicely pillories those ridiculous theories, and includes a guest appearance by Ben Miller doing an amusing riff on Mark Rylance.

    Reported Missing  Series 2 Episode 1
    Not normally my kind of programme, this — a fly-on-the-wall documentary that follows police as they search for missing persons — but the ‘plot’ description for the first case piqued my interest. A dad reports his five-year-old son missing after having not seen him for two years due to a custody dispute with the mother. When the police track her down, she says the boy doesn’t exist and she doesn’t even know the man who made the report. Who is telling the truth? What’s really going on? It plays out like a low-key thriller. If you have access to iPlayer (the episode is here), it only takes up the first half of the episode and I’d say is worth half-an-hour of your time.

    Also watched…
  • Daniel Sloss: Live Shows — A pair of live stand-up shows, recorded at different times and places, that Netflix have lumped together as a ‘series’. The first, Dark, is a masterpiece; it lives up to its name though, so avoid if pitch black humour isn’t your thing. The second, Jigsaw, isn’t quite as exceptional, but is still excellent. A definite cut above most other stand-up specials I’ve watched.
  • Hang Ups Series 1 Episodes 4-6 — I was praiseful of Hang Ups last month, but if anything it improved as it went on, with the finale a riotous farce.
  • The Imitation Game Series 1 Episodes 1-3 — ITV’s impression-based panel show is a bit odd (everyone’s busy pretending it’s improvised when much of it is clearly scripted) and dependant on the skills of the guests (some of these so-called impressionists should find a new job), but it’s pleasantly diverting. Plus it gave us this skit of Andy Murray singing I’m So Excited, which is spot on.
  • Magic for Humans Season 1 Episodes 4-6 — Like Hang Ups, there’s even better stuff here than in the first half of the season (which I also wrote about last month). Episode four, Seeing is Believing, is not only a fun magic show but also kinda profound.

    Things to Catch Up On
    Killing EveThis month, I have mostly been missing Killing Eve, BBC America’s critically-acclaimed, Emmy-nominated thriller about an MI5 officer hunting for an assassin. It aired in the US back in April, and it feels like ever since I’ve been hearing praise for it flowing across the Atlantic. It finally made its way to this side of the pond this month (for an organisation with “BBC” in their name, BBC America productions do take their time getting over here). As I’ve only just (as in “as of last night”) finished making my way through 24 episodes of Jack Ryan, Iron Fist, and Bodyguard back-to-back, maybe that’ll be up next.

    Although likely to get in the way is Maniac, Netflix’s miniseries starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone that looks inherently interesting (based on the trailer — like Inception made by someone with a wilder imagination than Christopher Nolan) and is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, aka the recently-announced director of Bond 25. I’ve never seen anything he’s done, despite almost all of it being on my “to watch” list, so it’s about time I started. Expect reviews of both of those next month, then, alongside the return of a certain time traveller…

    Next month… Jodie Whittaker is the Doctor!

  • The 100th Monthly Update for August 2018

    It’s been over eight years now since I started charting my progress via monthly updates — the first was in May 2010. And that, as you may’ve guessed, makes this the 100th such monthly update. (Although this was the 140th month I’ve been doing 100 Films, so, er, it’s kind of meaningless and arbitrary, really…)

    Anyway, to mark this special occasion I’ve… named this blog post after it. And… that’s it.

    So, on to this month’s viewing!


    #174 Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
    #175 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
    #176 Strangers on a Train (1951)
    #177 A Quiet Place (2018)
    #178 The Quiet Earth (1985)
    #179 Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
    #180 Christopher Robin (2018)
    #181 Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965), aka Zatōichi jigoku-tabi
    #182 Darkest Hour (2017)
    #183 Ready Player One 3D (2018)
    #184 Seoul Station (2016), aka Seoulyeok
    #185 The Most Unknown (2018)
    #186 Zorro (1975)
    #187 The Elephant Man (1980)
    Christopher Robin

    Zorro

    .


    • With 14 new films watched, August is the lowest month of 2018 so far.
    • Nonetheless, it beats the August average (previously 11.7, now 11.9). And though it falls short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (20.0), last August was even lower, so it still increases it (slightly) to 20.3. No such luck with my average for 2018 to date, though, which was previously 24.7 and is now 23.4.
    • But it’s only by recent standards that a total of 14 looks in any way poor. There’s no other year in which it would be the smallest month, and three years where it would’ve been the biggest. Plus, it would be an above-average tally for any month of the year except May, where it’d be bang on average. So, on an all-time scale, 14 is still good going.
    • In other good news, this month I passed 2017’s total to make 2018 my third best year ever. It will almost certainly reach second place next month. And I’d have to average just three films a month for the rest of the year for it not to become my best year ever. Well, let’s not jinx it…
    • It wasn’t a deliberate choice to watch A Quiet Place and The Quiet Earth back to back (though possibly a subconscious one, I guess). They’re the first (and second) films beginning with Q in this year’s viewing, and only the fifth and sixth in this blog’s lifetime.
    • And then I immediately followed those with a film beginning with “Z”, which would normally be quite rare (it was only my 13th ever “Z” film), but this year it really isn’t: it was my 7th this year alone, and by the end of the month I was up to my 9th.
    • While we’re on the topic, The Elephant Man is my first “E” film this year. It may be the most commonly used letter in the English language, but it’s a surprisingly rare one at the start of film titles.
    • This month’s Blindspot film: Alfred Hitchcock’s murderous thriller Strangers on a Train.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: the aforementioned The Elephant Man. Disappointed to discover it wasn’t David Lynch’s attempt at superheroes. (Not really.)



    The 39th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    There are some well-regarded films in the list above, including a couple of Best Picture nominees, but nothing leaps out at me as a huge favourite — my short list for this award encompassed nine of the fourteen titles. On balance, I’m going to pick Christopher Robin. It’s definitely not the “best” film up there, but I love Pooh, and he’s on particularly good form in this film.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    There were no films I outright disliked this month, but two flicks battle it out for the title of least whelming — both starring zombies. I expected very little of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I was surprised to find parts of it rather enjoyable. I still don’t think it was all it could’ve been, though. On the other end of the spectrum, there was a weight of expectation on a prequel to the magnificent Train to Busan, one which Seoul Station couldn’t live up to. It’s by no means a “bad film” though, and is certainly the best least-favourite film this year.

    Podcast of the Month
    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to listen to journalist Chris Hewitt chat with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie about Mission: Impossible – Fallout for 5 hours and 52 minutes on the two-part Empire Film Podcast Mission: Impossible – Fallout Spoiler Special. No, that’s not a typo: the interview (actually two interviews) lasts almost 6 hours. If that sounds like an OTT amount of time to discuss one film… well, I guess it would be for some. But McQuarrie is an intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, and honest interviewee, and the insights he shares about the process of making Fallout, a big-budget entertainment-focused summer blockbuster, are fascinating for die hard Mission fans, or, indeed, anyone interested in behind-the-scenes details of filmmaking. He gets pretty candid at times too. I guess Paramount okayed it, but it feels more revealing than you normally hear during a film’s press cycle — including what really went on during the saga of Henry Cavill’s moustache and the Justice League reshoots. (If you just want to hear that, it’s in the final 15 minutes of part one.)

    Best Swashing of Buckles of the Month
    Really, this is just an excuse to highlight the 1975 version of Zorro starring Alain Delon. It’s a Spaghetti Western cum swashbuckler, an actioner cum comedy, with very much the same kind of tone as Richard Lester’s Three Musketeers. It’s a lot of fun, and I think rather underrated. If you’re interested, it’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime in the UK (but not in the US, I’m afraid. Don’t know about elsewhere, or other providers).

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    Despite only appearing on Thursday, my 37th TV column stormed up the charts, taking under 36 hours to pass presumed victor Christopher Robin (which had two whole weeks to amass its hit count) to bag this month’s crown. I thought this would be due to referrals from IMDb seeking my Disenchantment review, but the stats show it’s more thanks to referrals seeking Magic for Humans. Well, there you go.



    Sadly, I fell slightly behind target with my Rewatchathon viewing this month. I only missed one, though, so that should be easily caught up.

    This month, by coincidence, they’re all spy thrillers in long-running series…

    #30 Skyfall (2012)
    #31 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
    #32 The Hunt for Red October (1990)

    The big news here is Mission: Impossible – Fallout, because it’s the first film I’ve seen twice at the cinema since Watchmen back in 2009. It’s a superb film that I would’ve considered seeing twice anyway, but it was sealed by getting the chance to see it in IMAX, where it did look incredible. (For the record, and for anyone who cares, it was only “LieMAX”, but still, looked great.) I would have quite liked the chance to see it in 3D too, especially as there doesn’t seem to be a Blu-ray release scheduled for that, but hey-ho.

    Much like Never Say Never Again last month, I only watched Skyfall because I happened to see it was on ITV2. This time I was flicking and came upon it a little way in. Normally I wouldn’t watch a film under those circumstances, but I had nothing better to do and it’s so good that I became engrossed, eventually watching it through to the end. So, technically, this isn’t a full viewing, but I did watch the vast majority of it. According to my records, I’ve only seen it twice before, the last time being five-and-a-half years ago in February 2013. Even though I’m counting this, I feel like I should do it again properly sometime soon.

    Finally, The Hunt for Red October is a film I remembered liking but, well, that’s about all I remembered. I’ve been meaning to re-watch it for many years, and I recently bought the Blu-ray so I could do just that — and, having checked my records, it turns out “recently” here means “three-and-a-half years ago”. I’m a lost cause, people… And I didn’t decide to finally get round to it because the latest reboot of the character came out yesterday. Well, not consciously, but I do keep seeing posters for the series around, and I have been quite looking forward to it, so that may have exerted a subconscious pull.


    So, August was quite a slow month, both in viewing and review-posting, because I was away from home for a fair chunk of time in the middle. I’d hoped to catch up some on my ludicrous review backlog during that time, but that didn’t happen. Not even a little bit. And the reason I’m mentioning this now, in the “next month” section, is that the rest of my year is shaping up to be pretty busy with non-film stuff too, which is likely to mean a continued reduction in viewing and blog-writing. Only time will tell just how that pans out.

    The Past Month on TV #37

    Another later-than-usual TV review, because my TV viewing was affected by the same stuff that’s seen my post count plummet this month, as well as kept this month’s film numbers down (more on that on Saturday). Consequently, I waited until I’d actually watched enough TV to make this post somewhat worthwhile…

    Although, despite what I said in last month’s “next month”, I still haven’t watched Lost in Space. Maybe next month (but don’t count on it).

    Disenchantment  Season 1
    DisenchantmentThe first new series from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening in almost 20 years, Disenchantment is a riff on the fantasy genre. It follows the misadventures of Princess Bean of Dreamland, a rebellious sort who prefers to sneak out of the castle and get drunk in the pub than… well, do anything else. In the first episode, she and we are introduced to her personal demon, Luci, and Elfo, an elf who has left his happy-clappy kingdom to explore the misery of the wider world. This trio form the heart of the show, though naturally there’s a wider ensemble to help fuel storylines.

    You may’ve heard the series has come in for a bit of a drubbing from critics, which I’m not sure is wholly fair. It’s not the most consistently funny show, with background gags sometimes providing bigger laughs than the main stories or situations, but it raises chuckles with decent regularity. It’s also not the most original concoction on TV, with some familiar characters and relationships, just grafted onto a fantasy setting. Although at least it has the good sense to create its own fantasy world, rather than being a direct spoof of, say, a certain other show that has brought the genre widespread attention. Whether it’s set in a fully-realised world or one the writers are creating on the fly, I’m not sure, but there’s a lot of room left to explore.

    But even if it’s not hilarious or groundbreaking, the first season builds up a nice little rhythm as it goes along. The weakest episodes are undoubtedly the first few, which are somewhat swamped under setup. After a few standalone stories in the middle — which vary in quality from some of the season’s best instalments to, well, not — things begin to come together for a highly serialised run at the end, which finds a use for many disparate bits from those standalone episodes, and all culminates in a cliffhanger. Fortunately, Netflix’s original commission was for twice as many episodes as are in this first run, so we’re guaranteed a second batch. This serialisation works better for a streaming show than completely standalone episodes, although Disenchantment thankfully doesn’t lose sight of being consumable in episode-sized bites.

    So, while it may take most of the season to truly warm to the characters and for the series to find its groove, it does get there, and suggests brighter things in the future. Whether it will ever attain the cult following enjoyed by Groening’s other series is arguably a long-shot (can lightning strike thrice?), but it has potential.

    Hang Ups  Series 1 Episodes 1-3
    Hang UpsLoosely based on the US series Web Therapy, this new sitcom stars Stephen Mangan as Richard Pitt, a therapist offering his services over the internet. The filming style (each client only appears for a few minutes per episode, popping up now and again throughout the series, always via webcam) allowed them to attract a rather phenomenal supporting cast, including the likes of David Bradley, Charles Dance, Celia Imrie, Richard E. Grant, and David Tennant. The way each episode pingpongs around the various clients and Richard’s many, many personal problems (his marriage, his kids, his parents, his siblings, his bank balance) makes for a whip-crack pace that has pros and cons — each episode seems to disappear in a flash, having at once both dashed through some plot and also gone nowhere. Partly this is the result of an abundance of characters — some of the clients are basically one-off sketches, which is fine, but the regulars’ stories can only advance in small increments. I’m left wondering if it might’ve actually worked better with less going on. Still, the quality cast means characters do get rounded out speedily, and when it works it can be pretty funny.

    Also watched…
  • The Comedy Lineup Season 1 Episodes 2,5,8 — Netflix’s series of 15-minute standup sets from up-and-coming comics. Naturally, that means the quality is varied. I only watched a semi-random sampling, and some were very good and some were pretty weak. A new batch of episodes is released tomorrow.
  • Magic for Humans Season 1 Episodes 1-3 — I love a good magic show, and this Netflix series is definitely a contender. Magician Justin Willman’s cheeky-chappy persona may grate with some viewers, but his tricks — a mix of hip variations on old standards and wonder-inducing new stunts — are dazzlingly effective.
  • Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema Episodes 3-5 — So good (see my review from last month) that they’ve decided to keep it on iPlayer for a whole year. No word on a second series, as far as I’m aware, but fingers crossed.

    Things to Catch Up On
    BodyguardThis month, I have mostly been missing Bodyguard, the new BBC One thriller from Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio that premiered with a two-day double-bill last weekend. It seemed to go down well, based on the ratings and what I saw on Twitter (while avoiding spoilers!) As usual, I intend to wait until the whole series has aired (or most of it, at least) and then whisk through the lot.

    Next month… everyone’s least favourite Marvel Netflix show returns. But there’s a new showrunner and a lower episode count, so fingers crossed Iron Fist feels worth the 10-hour investment this time.

  • The Mission: Obviously Possible Monthly Update for July 2018

    Dun dun dun-dun-dundun, dun-dun-dundun, dun-dun-dundun, dun-dun… duh-duh-duuun… duh-duh-duuun… duh-duh-duuun… duhdun!

    It just makes you want to go jump out of a plane or something, doesn’t it? Sadly, I think I’d be less Tom Cruise, more James Corden.


    #146 Batman Ninja (2018)
    #147 Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
    #148 Blade of the Immortal (2017), aka Mugen no jûnin
    #149 Red Sparrow (2018)
    #150 True Romance (1993)
    #151 RoboCop (2014)
    #152 Rocky IV (1985)
    #152a Rocky VI (1986), aka Rock’y
    #153 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
    #154 Cash on Demand (1961)
    #155 Despicable Me 2 3D (2013)
    #156 Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018), aka Gojira: Kessen Kidō Zōshoku Toshi
    #157 Zatoichi and the Doomed Man (1965), aka Zatôichi sakate-giri
    #158 Free Enterprise (1998)
    #158a Friends, Romans and Leo (1917)
    #158b Little Red Riding Hood (1917)
    #158c Quaint Provincetown (1917)
    #158d Microscopic Pond Life (1915)
    #159 Kidnapped (1917)
    #160 Iron Monkey (1993), aka Siu nin Wong Fei Hung chi: Tit ma lau
    #161 Superman III (1983)
    #162 The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988)
    #163 The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
    #164 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
    #165 Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    #166 Wind River (2017)
    #167 The LEGO Ninjago Movie 3D (2017)
    #168 Body of Lies (2008)
    #169 I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969), aka Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino
    #170 The Garden of Words (2013), aka Koto no ha no niwa
    #171 The Secret in Their Eyes (2009), aka El secreto de sus ojos
    #172 Paul (Extended Edition) (2011)
    #173 The Way of the Gun (2000)
    Muppet Treasure Island

    Free Enterprise

    The Navigator

    Mission: Impossible - Fallout

    Full Metal Jacket

    .


    Firstly, as usual, stats and numbers…

    • With 28 new feature films watched, July kept up 2018’s run of supersize months — in fact, it’s not only the third best month of the year, but also the fourth best of all time.
    • It’s my 50th consecutive month with 10+ films. It’s also my 6th consecutive month with 20+ films, extending that record-breaking run. It leaves just November and December as the only months that have never reached 20+ films.
    • It’s by far my highest July ever, the previous best being last year’s 17, and is so far beyond the monthly average of 8.1 that it’s dragged it up almost two whole films to 9.9.
    • Continuing with averages, it also surpasses the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 19.1, now exactly 20) and the average for 2018 to date (previously 24.2, now 24.7).
    • On the 17th I reached the landmark of being 100 films ahead of target. That’s the first time I’ve been 100 ahead since the end of 2015, when I was there for all of three days (29th-31st December) — and that was the only other time I’ve been 100 ahead. As it stands, I end the month a whopping 115 films ahead of where I ‘should’ be by this point.
    • Less auspiciously, this month my backlog of unreviewed films also surpassed 100 titles for the first time. Eesh.
    • Back to brighter news: as I continue to keep track of dates on which I’ve never seen a film (see the last bullet point in Viewing Notes here for background on that), this month I watched films on both the 16th and 19th to reduce the remaining list by a third. Still to come this year: September 2nd and December 22nd.

    Now for something actually about the films themselves…

    • This month’s Blindspot film: plugging a gap in my viewing of both Quentin Tarantino’s and Tony Scott’s filmographies, the Tarantino-written Scott-directed True Romance, which plays exactly like a movie written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: plugging a gap in my viewing of Stanley Kubrick’s filmography, as I tend to do about once a year, Full Metal Jacket, which was one of my favourite Kubricks.
    • Somewhat relatedly: Argentinian Oscar-winning thriller The Secret in Their Eyes was a strong contender for one of those must-watch lists this year, but didn’t make it for reasons I forget. I sort of figured it’d be on a list next year. Not anymore, obviously.
    • Finally, earlier this week I posted my Train to Busan review semi-randomly (it was the last review left from 2017 and I wanted those done), only to later discover its UK TV premiere is this Friday. The “likes to make reviews tie into things” part of my brain was not impressed.



    The 38th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    Tom Cruise learnt to fly a helicopter, performed 106 skydives, and broke his ankle just to entertain us. And by golly, it worked. Some favourites are not a choice — this just is Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    There were a few mediocre options to choose between here, though. While there were definite flaws in certain unnecessary remakes and sequels among this month’s viewing (have a scan through the list above and I’m sure you can pick out the films I mean), the closest any film came to the cardinal sin of boring me was Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle.

    Most Played Soundtrack of the Month
    As much as I love the Mission: Impossible music (and, having now listened to the soundtrack in full, Lorne Balfe’s score for Fallout is better than I gave it credit for in my review), the soundtrack I’ve most often had on loop this month is Muppet Treasure Island, which has an array of superbly piratical songs (including a scene-stealing turn from Tim Curry), as well as a proto-Pirates of the Caribbean score from Hans Zimmer.

    Most Impressive Spy of the Month
    Oh sure, Ethan Hunt can do all those amazing physical feats, but can he be a pasty white guy wandering around Iraq looking for terrorists and somehow not stand out like a sore thumb to the locals, hm? No, that’s apparently Leo’s special skill as Roger Ferris in Body of Lies.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    I reviewed two new releases this month: direct-to-Netflix anime sequel Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, and highly anticipated cinematic blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Guess which review got the most hits. Yes, as you’ve probably correctly predicted from the way I’m making this point, it was Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle. Well, I can tell you exactly why that happened: my most-viewed posts are always ones that get a lot of referrals from IMDb, and, despite submitting my Fallout review as soon as I published it on Thursday morning, for some reason they didn’t add it until Monday afternoon, after the pre-release and opening weekend interest had passed. It ended up coming third, behind a very different spy movie, Red Sparrow.


    After a concerted effort, this month I finally finished publishing reviews of my 2017 viewing. Now I’ve just got all those 2018 ones to catch up…


    This month I am mainly rewatching Films That Precede Sequels That Are In Cinemas Now.

    Well, I say “mainly” — from a UK perspective, technically it only applies to two of these…

    #25 Galaxy Quest (1999)
    #26 Never Say Never Again (1983)
    #27 The Incredibles (2004)
    #28 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
    #29 Ant-Man 3D (2015)

    I’ve been meaning to watch Never Say Never Again, er, again for yonks — I last saw it as a kid and, really, didn’t remember it very well. I happened to catch it starting one night on ITV4 HD and thought, well, why not now? Turns out, it’s not all that bad. I mean, it’s not great, but it was a passably entertaining off-brand Bond film. There are probably some Roger Moore films I’d rank below it — if it counted for such rankings, which it doesn’t. I’ll give it the “Guide To” treatment at some point.

    I bought (and last watched) the special edition DVD of The Incredibles when it first came out in 2005, but I’ve never upgraded it because Disney have given it short shrift over here: first an extras-starved Blu-ray, now no UHD release even scheduled. It was long overdue that I revisit the film (as I said, it’s been 13 years), especially with the sequel coming out (in July here, hence why I wasn’t wittering about this last month), but I didn’t want to watch it in SD. I ended up stumbling across a UHD copy by… “other means”. So, yeah: screw you, Disney — I can’t say I feel too guilty about freely acquiring a film I’ve already bought and they’ve not bothered to treat right on this side of the pond since DVD.

    Anyway, it’s a truly exceptional film — I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to rewatch it, and I wish I had more often. It’s certainly in my top four Pixar movies, alongside the Toy Story trilogy. Plus, I definitely made the right call skipping SD: it looks fantastic in higher definition; almost too good, the crispness showing up the age of the CG animation. Whether there’s an appreciable difference between its HD and UHD versions, I couldn’t say. Based on the comparisons at Caps-a-holic, there’s a slight difference in colour and sometimes in very, very fine detail, but the regular Blu-ray seems to hold its own.

    Finally, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. It’s clearly the best of the first five Missions. Obviously, you’re allowed to have a different opinion. But you’d be incorrect. It’s basically a perfect spy/action movie, and anyone who tries to say otherwise is just wrong.


    I suppose summer, with all its picnics and barbecues and whatnot, is the most appropriate time to release a movie about an ant and a wasp…

    The Past Month on TV #36

    There are schizophrenic superheroes, deconstructed movie genres, Italian thefts, and even some ball-kicking competitions in this month’s TV review…

    Legion  Season 1
    Legion season 1The first live-action X-Men TV series is only tangentially connected to either the movies (there are a couple of vague nods) or even the original comic books (apparently the title character is the only thing taken from them), but instead creator Noah Hawley (the man behind the Fargo TV series) has been allowed free rein to do as he pleases. Turns out that’s a massive mindfuck; a series that’s focused on atmosphere over narrative coherence, full of crazy visuals and abstruse plotting. If you’re thinking, “that sounds a bit Lynchian,” then yes, this is probably the nearest thing we’ll ever get to a David Lynch version of the X-Men.

    That’s not just a pithy comment, for two reasons. Firstly, although the series is based around the character of David Haller (Dan Stevens), an exceptionally powerful mutant, by the end of the first episode he’s joined up with a team who are based at an educational facility that teaches mutants how to use their powers, in part so they can fight for their rights against humans who want to oppress them. For those not in the know, that’s more or less the overarching plot of the main X-Men series. Secondly, it’s not just that “this looks a bit weird, let’s reference David Lynch” — the series has a Lynchian attentiveness to dream-like sequences and visuals to convey meaning, and an awareness of the importance of sound design to create an effect or atmosphere. Unlike Lynch, there are some answers to be found; and while they’re often still very weird, at least there’s definite satisfaction in them.

    I watched the eight episodes of the first season over eight days, which I have mixed feelings about. As ever, it makes it easier to connect up the dots of the plot; on the other hand, the show’s style comes so out of leftfield, maybe it would work better spread out at a traditional pace, offering a little hour-long oasis of weirdness in your week. The second season has already concluded, so I’ll have to decide before I approach that one.

    When that will be, I’m not sure. I bought this first season on Blu-ray, so I’d like to do the same for the second, but there’s no sign of a release being scheduled yet. Hopefully this won’t be one of those series that never gets a complete disc release — that happens every so often (and I believe Legion’s network, FX, are regular culprits) but it never pleases anyone.

    Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema  Episodes 1-2
    Mark Kermode's Secrets of CinemaMark Kermode is our guide for this BBC Four documentary series that seeks to expose the inner workings of movie genres and what makes them so effective. Co-written by Kermode and encyclopaedically knowledgeable movie guru Kim Newman, the series certainly has the chops to take on such a task. Focusing on one genre per episode, it makes an interesting choice to start with romcoms — a massively and enduringly popular type of movie, unquestionably, but one that’s often ignored by serious film analysis. That makes it the perfect choice for a series such as this, because, as the episode makes clear, the whole point of the genre is to do something very, very hard (produce a funny movie with loveable characters) and make it look easy (and when they succeed, that’s why it gets ignored!) As insightful as the first edition was, I preferred the second one, focusing on heist movies, though that’s purely because it’s a genre I’m more disposed toward.

    Kermode’s teachings are illustrated with superb graphics (the 3D realisation of each film’s timeline is fantastic), examples drawn from the entire history of cinema (the heist episode takes in everything from 1903’s The Great Train Robbery to last month’s Ocean’s Eight), and throws in a few pleasantly unexpected curveballs too (John Carpenter’s The Fly is a romcom? Half-forgotten black-Vietnam-vet drama Dead Presidents is an archetypal heist movie?)

    Future editions will focus on science fiction, horror, and coming of age films. Of course, there are considerably more than five movie genres — maybe if we’re really lucky there’ll be more series in the future…

    Lupin the 3rd: Part IV  Episodes 1-5
    Lupin the 3rd: Part IVAs I mentioned when I reviewed The Secret of Mamo, this is the first main Lupin III series to receive a release in the UK (spin-off The Woman Called Fujiko Mine was released back in 2013. I’ve still not watched it). Part IV, also known as The Italian Adventure, sees Lupin and co in, you guessed it, Italy, where the master thief and lothario is, much to everyone’s surprise, getting married. Naturally, he’s got another plan up his sleeve. It’s the first of many, as these early episodes are mostly standalone adventures; but with Lupin’s thievery attracting the attention of shadowy MI6 agent Nix, there are hints of a bigger story to come. So far it feels somewhat lacking compared to the two Lupin III movies I’ve seen, but it’s still quite fun.

    Also watched…
  • 2018 World Cup — I’m not much of a sports fan, and even when I am it’s not the ball-kicking tournament that floats my boat, but even I got a little swept up in the England hype… for all of two-and-a-half games, anyway. We won the first (hooray!), lost the second (boo!), and the third-place play-off was so mind-numbingly dull that I spent most of the first half updating my database with that week’s Blu-ray purchases, then wandered off entirely before the second. So that’s that.
  • Doctor Who Series 11 Trailers — You wait ages for a Doctor Who trailer to come along, and then you get two in a week. Well, maybe it’s something to do with time travel. Neither the World Cup-themed teaser nor fast-cut clip-fest proper trailer gave us too many details on what to expect from the forthcoming series, but it’s enticing nonetheless.

    Things to Catch Up On
    Picnic at Hanging RockThis month, I have mostly been missing Picnic at Hanging Rock, the new adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s novel (perhaps better known from Peter Weir’s 1975 film adaptation), which is currently halfway through airing here in the UK. It looks up my street, so I intend to binge it at some point. Also, Keeping Faith, the BBC Wales drama that was such a hit on iPlayer they’re finally giving it a run on BBC One proper. Oh, and the third series of Unforgotten is also partway through, and they’ve gone and revived The Bletchley Circle too. Who says summer is a quiet time for TV?

    Next month… I’m intending to finally get lost in Netflix’s space.

  • The Header-Image-Forthcoming Monthly Update for June 2018

    I’ve been an unexpectedly busy bee today, so I’ve only just finished putting together June’s monthly progress report this evening, without yet embarking on the header image — which take a surprisingly long time to create, so I’ll do that tomorrow.

    [Edit: That lasted for five hours (during which the front page looked like this, fact fans) before I finished the usual style of header image. Much prettier.]

    Anyway, here’s all the exciting lists and facts and stuff:


    #125 The Post (2017)
    #126 Power Rangers (2017)
    #127 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
    #128 Superman II (1980)
    #129 A Monster Calls (2016)
    #130 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), aka Kaze no tani no Naushika
    #131 Rocky II (1979)
    #132 Shrek Forever After (2010)
    #133 Doubt (2008)
    #134 Gaslight (1944)
    #135 Zatoichi’s Revenge (1965), aka Zatôichi nidan-giri
    #136 The Florida Project (2017)
    #137 A Thousand and One Nights (1969), aka Senya ichiya monogatari
    #138 Rocky III (1982)
    #139 Sanjuro (1962), aka Tsubaki Sanjûrô
    #140 National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
    #141 Swingers (1996)
    #142 Amadeus: Director’s Cut (1984/2002)
    #143 If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death (1968), aka Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte
    #144 Becoming Bond (2017)
    #145 Dudes & Dragons (2015), aka Dragon Warriors
    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    A Monster Calls

    Sanjuro

    .


    • I watched 21 new films this month. A step down from the last couple, but by any other measure a very good month indeed — that puts it in the top 10% of all months in 100 Films history. Some of those other measures follow…
    • For starters, it’s the best June ever, easily passing 2015’s 16 to become the first June with 20+ films. Only July, November, and December now haven’t had a 20+ month.
    • That’s the fifth month in a row with 20+ films, a new record. The previous best was four (obviously) from January to April 2016.
    • It also more than doubles the June average of 9.5, pulling it up to 10.5. That leaves just July and August with all-time averages below 10.
    • It passes the rolling average of the last 12 months too (previously 18.5, now 19.1), but not the average for 2018 to date (previously 24.8, now 24.2).
    • Plus, as mentioned last month, I watched a film on June 29th, leaving just half-a-dozen dates on which I’ve ‘never’ watched a film.
    • This month’s Blindspot film: Hayao Miyazaki’s environmentalist sci-fi Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which I liked, but not as much as the thematically-similar Princess Mononoke.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: epic music biopic Amadeus, which, again, I liked, but not as much as everyone else seems to.
    • This month I finally achieved my first Platinum Award on iCheckMovies — that’s the level you get when you complete a list. The list in question was IMDb’s Sci-Fi one, which I finished off by watching Stalker last month and Nausicaa this month. That means I have now seen the 50 greatest sci-fi movies of all time… according to IMDb voters.
    • Because I don’t already have enough film series on the go, this month I added a couple more — namely, the Animerama trilogy and the Sartana series of spaghetti Westerns. Both came out on Blu-ray this month and I thought for once I ought to make an effort to actually watch stuff I was buying.



    The 37th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    Plenty of strong films this month, including multiple Best Picture nominees and winners, but my personal favourite was a sequel. Kneel before… no, not Zod (I’m afraid to say I found Superman II a disappointment), but Sanjuro, Akira Kurosawa’s entertaining follow-up to Yojimbo. (And if you want my pick of all those Best Pics, Three Billboards is a close runner-up for this category.)

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    I’ve never been a fan of the Power Rangers franchise, but the reboot had some degree of promise with its Chronicle-esque setup. It doesn’t deliver, though: it takes too long for the superheroic-type stuff to turn up, and when it does it’s a cheesy cheap-CGI mess.

    Most Initially Irritating But Then Surprisingly Addictive Song of the Month
    This month’s comical earworms have included Rock Me Amadeus (sadly not included on Amadeus’s soundtrack) and Fanfare Ciocarlia’s version of the James Bond theme (which plays over Becoming Bond’s end credits). But the song I keep coming back to is Holiday Road by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame. It’s only two minutes long, which felt like forever when it played during Vacation’s opening credits, but now I can’t stop listening to it.

    Best Title of the Month
    I’ll come clean with you, dear reader: half the reason I bought Arrow’s Sartana box set was because the film’s titles are so good. If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death is, literally, just the start.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    I guess I haven’t been the most interesting blogger this month: the hit count for June was my lowest since November, and some 23% less than the average for the rest of 2018. Ah well. However, one post that wasn’t so afflicted was this month’s winner, whose view count within the month is second only to Avengers: Infinity War’s straight-into-my-all-time-top-ten tally from April. Said winner was my 34th TV review, which covered The Americans season 6, a few midseason episodes of Westworld, a bit of Archer, and the Car Share finale. (In a very, very, very distant second place was The Snowman.)



    This month: a superhero movie that’s a bit like James Bond, a spy actioner that wishes it was James Bond, and a James Bond that’s a bit like James Bond but many people wish was proper James Bond.

    #21 Black Panther 3D (2018)
    #22 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
    #23 What We Did on Our Holiday (2014)
    #24 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

    I enjoyed Black Panther just as much on a rewatch. The 3D is quite mild, with only occasional moments or scenes that pop, but it was worth it for the scenes in the IMAX ratio, which often come with the appropriate grandeur. When they enter Wakanda for the first time and the image smoothly enlarges from 2.39:1 to 1.90:1… gorgeous.

    Ghost Protocol remains a great action blockbuster. Previously I’d always thought the “different directors bring a different style” ethos of the M:I movies went out the window from M:i:III onwards, but, rewatching them all, I’m getting a much better feel for the stylistic differences between Abrams, Bird, and McQuarrie’s contributions. And talking of IMAX ratios on Blu-ray, I’m still cross at Bird for not including them here. The forthcoming Fallout will also have scenes with an expanded aspect ratio for IMAX screenings, and McQuarrie recently stated on Twitter that he intends for those to be retained on the Blu-ray. Fingers crossed.

    Finally, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the first Bond film I’ve watched since seeing Spectre at the cinema, almost three years ago now! And the last one before that was a rewatch of Skyfall in February 2013, almost five-and-a-half years ago. Wow. Seems it’s long overdue that I reengage with a franchise that I love — and a Blu-ray boxset that’s 68% unwatched. In that respect, you could argue OHMSS resumes a chronological rewatch that I started in October 2012 and left off in January 2013, but I’m not sure five-and-a-half years counts as “a pause”, really.


    “Your mission, should you choose to accept it — I wonder, did you ever choose not to?”