The 100-Week Roundup X

These 100-week roundups are a clearing house for reviews I haven’t got round to writing up 100 weeks (i.e. almost two years) after I actually watched the films in question. As I mentioned in my August review, I’ve recently fallen behind even on that, so the 100-week moniker isn’t technically accurate right now. Hopefully I’ll catch up soon.

This time, we have a motley bunch from September 2018: two one-star films that made my “worst of year” list; and two four-star films, one of which made my “best of year” list. They are…

  • Lost in Space (1998)
  • Skyline (2010)
  • April and the Extraordinary World (2015)
  • I Kill Giants (2018)


    Lost in Space
    (1998)

    2018 #189
    Stephen Hopkins | 125 mins | digital (HD) | 2.39:1 | USA / English | PG / PG-13

    Lost in Space

    I remember this reboot of the classic ’60s sci-fi series being received very poorly indeed when it came out in 1998; and so, even though I was a young sci-fi nut at the time, I didn’t bother to see it — and then spent the next 20 years not bothering to see it. But with the recent re-reboot on Netflix going down rather well, I thought maybe it was time to see for myself. I shouldn’t have bothered — it’s truly terrible.

    It gets off on the wrong foot, starting with a load of over-ambitious CGI, and that continues unabated throughout the entire movie. Anyone who moans about the quality of CGI in modern blockbusters should be made to watch this so they can understand what they’re complaining about. Maybe it looked ok back in ’98, I can’t remember (I suspect not), but watched now it looks like an old computer game, never mind an old movie.

    Poor effects can be forgiven if the film itself is any good, but the opening action scene is both fundamentally needless and stuffed to bursting with cliches, and the rest of the film is no better — just nonstop bad designs, bad dialogue, bad ideas, more bad CGI… Even the end credits are painful, playing like a spoof of the worst excesses of the ’90s, from the trippy “look what our computer graphics program can do” visuals to the dance-remix-with-dialogue-samples version of the theme.

    So, it turns out the critics at the time were right. I have seen even worse movies in my time, but there aren’t many merits here — there’s one effect that is well realised, at least. But that doesn’t come close to justifying the film, or for anyone to waste their time watching it. It really is very, very bad.

    1 out of 5

    Lost in Space featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2018.

    Skyline
    (2010)

    2018 #190
    The Brothers Strause | 93 mins | digital (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 15 / PG-13

    Skyline

    In a Cloverfield-esque setup, a bunch of young people awaken from a boozy party to discover an Independence Day-esque alien invasion happening outside their window. What follows just feels like familiar parts from even more movies Frankensteined together in a failed attempt to produce something original.

    In terms of overall quality, it’s like a direct-to-Syfy movie granted a minor-blockbuster effects budget. Goodness knows how it landed a cinema release. The directors were visual effects artists who, based on their IMDb credits, moved into directing music videos before springboarding into film directing with Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, the sequel to the much maligned AVP that, shockingly, managed to be even worse. Skyline was their second feature — and, in a seemingly-rare bit of justice for directors making shitty blockbusters, their last (they’ve gone back to effects, where they continue to have a long list of high-profile credits). They completely financed Skyline themselves, forking out just $500,000 for the shoot before spending $10 million on the effects. It couldn’t be any clearer where their priorities were…

    And it feels like a film made by VFX artists. For one thing, one of the main characters is a VFX artist. He lives in a swanky apartment, with a hot wife and a hot mistress, drives a Ferrari and owns a yacht. Either this is extremely obvious wish fulfilment, or at one point VFX guys were doing very well indeed. (Considering there was that whole thing a few years back about major VFX companies shutting down, either this was made before the bubble burst, or some were able to weather the storm to a sickening degree. Or, like I said, it’s wish fulfilment.) Aside from that, it’s like a CGI showcase. Everything’s shot handheld, all the better to show off how realistically the CGI’s been integrated. The screenplay puts in no effort, with thinly sketched characters and a flat, uninspired storyline that rips off other movies with abandon, runs on a shortage of logic, features weak world-building with inconsistent rules, and seems to just… keep… going… until, after you think it’s definitely over this time, there’s yet another scene: a mind-bendingly gross and laughable finale.

    And yet, years later, someone made a sequel! I’ve even heard it recommended (though it has a lowly 5.3 on IMDb). Someday, I’ll have to see…

    1 out of 5

    Skyline featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2018.

    April and the Extraordinary World
    (2015)

    aka Avril et le monde truqué

    2018 #191
    Christian Desmares & Franck Ekinci | 102 mins | digital (HD) | 1.85:1 | France, Belgium & Canada / French | PG / PG

    April and the Extraordinary World

    This French animation is an alternate-history steampunk adventure that follows orphan April (voiced by Marion Cotillard in the original audio) as she investigates a decades-long spate of missing scientists, including her own parents.

    The tone is one of pulp adventure, which is right up my street, and consequently I found the film a lot of fun. It’s a great adventure, abundant with imaginative sci-fi/fantasy ideas, engaging characters, and laced with humour. The independent French production means it’s not beholden to Hollywood homogenisation — there’s some very dark stuff in the world-building details, which contrasts somewhat with the light adventure tone of the actual plot, and some viewers may find this spread of tones problematic. More of an issue for me came when, a while in, the plot heads off into barmy sci-fi territory. No spoilers, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting from the original premise. But this is perhaps more an issue of expectation than actuality — it wasn’t severe enough to lose me, just take the shine off something that was otherwise headed for perfection; and, as I adjusted to where the story was going, I enjoyed it more again.

    Resolutely unproblematic is the visual style. The design and animation, inspired by the works of comic book artist Jacques Tardi, are absolutely gorgeous — like a ligne claire comic sprung to life. When US animations try to ape an artist’s style, it often winds up as a movie-ised imitation — at best you can recognise the inspiration, but it’s still been filtered and reinterpreted (cf. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). But this is like the panels just started moving, with full fluidity (none of the “jerkily moving between static poses” you sometimes get with cheaply-done modern animation). That applies to character animation as much as anything, but the wildly imaginative steampunk alternate history allows the designers and animators to really cut loose, with a fabulously invented world.

    Put alongside the likes of Long Way North and The Secret of Kells, it’s a reminder that we should look further afield than the US and Japan for great animation.

    4 out of 5

    April and the Extraordinary World placed 26th on my list of The Best Films I Saw in 2018.

    I Kill Giants
    (2018)

    2018 #193
    Anders Walter | 106 mins | digital (HD) | 2.39:1 | Belgium, UK, USA & China / English | 12 / PG-13

    I Kill Giants

    The past few years have seen a random, unexpected mini-genre pop up: dramas about Serious Issues where the protagonists also have something to do with giant monsters. I’m not talking about Pacific Rim or Godzilla, but movies where the monsters are either imaginary or in some other way analogous to the very real problems experienced by the characters. Films like A Monster Calls, about a teenage boy coping with impending bereavement, or Colossal, in which Anne Hathaway discovers she’s controlling a giant monster that keeps appearing (and which kept its big issue a secret in the marketing, so I will too). I don’t know if there’s really enough of these to call it a “genre”, but three films in as many years that fit roughly in that very specific bucket strikes me as a lot; and I watched all three in the span of a few months, just to emphasise the point.

    Anyway, the latest entry in this genre I may’ve just invented is I Kill Giants. Based on a graphic novel by Joe Kelly (who also penned this adaptation) and J.M. Ken Niimura, it’s about American schoolgirl Barbara (Madison Wolfe) who believes giants are coming to attack her hometown and she’s the only one prepared to fight them. Whether these giants are real or just an outward expression of an inner conflict is, of course, why this ties in with the other films I mentioned.

    There’s plenty of stuff I liked a lot in I Kill Giants. The female focus. The power of friendship, and of small acts of kindness. The acceptance of being a bit different and an outsider, within reason. The magical realism in its handling of the giants. Unfortunately, it takes a bit too long to get to its conclusion — it’s not exactly repetitive, but there is some running on the spot. When the finale comes, it’s an effective twist. I’d guessed many of the reveals, and I think the film definitely expects you to guess at least one (which it then wrong-foots you about). But narrative trickery isn’t really the point. It’s impossible to discuss which other film it’s most similar to without spoilers, but the other one dealt with certain stuff better due to being upfront about it, rather than lacking it all into the final ten minutes. That’s the ending’s biggest flaw: that another film did fundamentally the same thing recently and, overall, better. That’s not the film’s fault.

    Not a perfect film, then, but it has a lot to commend it. Just be aware it’s one where the journey is more rewarding than the destination.

    4 out of 5

  • 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

    .


    • 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!