The Snowbound Monthly Update for February 2018

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but films are so delightful; and since we’ve no place to go, let’s look back at the last month on 100 Films


#16 Accomplice (1946)
#17 Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)
#18 The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
#19 Casino (1995)
#20 Hitchcock (2012)
#21 Fast & Furious 8 (2017), aka The Fate of the Furious
#22 WarGames (1983)
#23 Black Panther (2018)
#24 Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold (1964), aka Zatôichi senryô-kubi
#25 The Dark Tower (2017)
#26 The Duellists (1977)
#27 Persepolis (2007)
#28 Being John Malkovich (1999)
#29 One for the Fire: The Legacy of “Night of the Living Dead” (2008)
#30 Birth of the Living Dead (2013)
#31 Mute (2018)
#32 Big Fish (2003)
#33 My Cousin Rachel (2017)
#34 Mindhorn (2016)
#35 The Villainess (2017), aka Ak-Nyeo
#36 I Origins (2014)
Black Panther

Big Fish

The Villainess

.


  • With 21 new films watched this month, February is all set to beat a few stats.
  • So, it passes all averages: for the month of February (previously 11.5, now 12.4); for 2018 to date (previously 15, now 18); and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 14.5, now 15.1).
  • It’s also the second highest February (behind 2016’s 24) and the second furthest I’ve reached by the end of February (behind 2016 again, when I’d made it to #44).
  • In 11-and-a-bit years of doing this blog, it’s only the 10th month with 20+ films. That puts it in the top 7.5% of all months.
  • Despite February being the shortest month, 21 is the most films I’ve watched in a single month since last October. If you include rewatches (more on those further down, as usual), it’s the most since… the same. But to find another month where I watched more overall, you’d have to go back to another October: October 2015, aka my highest month ever.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: one of the few gaps in my Tim Burton viewing, probably his most restrained (and, by no coincidence, one of his best) film in the last 20+ years, Big Fish.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film: one of the many gaps in my Martin Scorsese viewing, though sadly I found Casino to be rather overrated.



The 33rd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
This month wasn’t a bad one for quality viewing — far from it — and yet options for this category quickly narrowed to just a couple of prime contenders. Of those, I had little doubt about my favourite: ticking all sorts of boxes with its African James Bond superhero routine, it had to be Black Panther.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
There were a few less-good films this month, two of them courtesy of Netflix’s Originals line. Of that pair, undoubtedly the worst (to my mind) was The Cloverfield Paradox. Its surprise release may’ve been hailed as genius, but when you actually see the film you realise that innovation was almost all it had going for it. If Netflix ever try to pull the same stunt again… well, it’s not going to bode well for that film’s quality.

Best Action Sequence on Wheels of the Month
Black Panther has a cool semi-virtual car chase, and obviously Fast & Furious 8 bases almost all of its action around motor vehicles, but neither can come close to The Villainesssword fight on speeding motorbikes. And later it trots out a bus-based finale, just to make sure no one else would stand a chance in this category.

Flower of the Month
It may not be the weather for them, but after Big Fish it has to be daffodils.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It’s the film everyone’s been talking about this month — and going to see in droves, too — so it’s no surprise to find Black Panther in pole position here.



In a real turn-up for the books, my Rewatchathon is currently well ahead of schedule…

#5 Blade Runner 2049 3D (2017)
#6 Beetlejuice (1988)
#7 The Mask (1994)
#8 The Love Punch (2013)
#9 Mission: Impossible (1996)
#10 Shrek (2001)

Regular readers with exceptional memories may recall I only last watched The Love Punch in January. Frankly, it’s not a film I necessarily thought I’d ever revisit, let alone so soon, but sometimes you need something inoffensive that will placate a group of family members with varied tastes. And, to be completely honest, although it’s an utterly daft movie, I do quite like it.

Beetlejuice turns 30 next month, so I’ll post more about it then. Mission: Impossible and Shrek will also be getting the “Guide To” treatment, to fill out my archive with posts about the entirety of each series — three of the five Mission films are already here; and while there are no Shreks yet, three of those five will be first-time watches when I get to them. This is also the beginning of a rewatch of all the M:I films before this summer’s sixth arrives. It’s the first time I’ve watched the first two in at least a decade — time bloody flies, don’t it?


It’s time for the annual update of my director’s page header image, which features the 20 directors with the most films I’ve reviewed. (The excitement never stops around here, folks!)

There were no humungous changes like the surge of Spielberg last year. Nonetheless, Michael Bay and Ron Howard have moved into positions where they definitely get to appear on the banner; but there’s a ten-way tie for 18th place, from which only three directors can be selected. Already included in the header were John Carpenter, Alfred Hitchcock, Ernst Lubitsch, Tony Scott, and Billy Wilder — at least two had to go to make way for Bay and Howard. Also under consideration for the remaining three slots were Danny Boyle, Kenneth Branagh, David Lynch, M. Night Shyamalan, and Quentin Tarantino.

In the end, I decided to go for a near-maximum refresh: off come Carpenter, Lubitsch, Tony Scott, and Wilder (Hitchcock stays because, c’mon, it’s Hitchcock), and on go not only Bay and Howard, but also Lynch and Tarantino.


British Summer Time begins. No, seriously: right now it couldn’t be more wintery, but in just 25 days the clocks change. Madness.

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The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

2018 #18
Julius Onah | 102 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.39:1 | USA / English & Chinese

The Cloverfield Paradox

“Logic doesn’t apply to any of this.”

So says Tam, played by Zhang Ziyi, about halfway through this third movie in the Cloverfield sort-of-series. She’s talking about the crazy circumstances they’ve found themselves mixed up in, but she may as well be talking about the movie itself.

Set in the near future, the energy crisis has reached a point where it threatens the continued existence of mankind as we know it. Our last hope is an experimental particle accelerator that could provide all the energy we need, but it’s so potentially dangerous that it’s being tested in space. After almost two years of failed attempts the accelerator finally works… until it fails spectacularly, crippling the station. When the systems come back online, the crew realise they’ve lost something: the Earth. And that’s just the start of the crazy shit that’s gonna go down.

One worried astronaut

The Cloverfield Paradox started life as a spec script titled God Particle, which was at some point Cloverfieldised by J.J. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot. The writer who originated the project, Oren Uziel, has said that “sometimes [sci-fi] movies tend to be more concerned with whatever the obstacle is, and I’m more concerned with the characters’ relationships to each other and that obstacle I guess. So to me, when you say it’s a contained astronaut movie, I’m just curious what those astronauts are going through and what they’re experiencing and what the character story is, and what specifically the threat is is often less of a concern to me.” Oh boy, is that apparent in the finished film. Whatever else Abrams & co changed to make this a Cloverfield film (and I’ll get to that later), I guess it’s Uziel’s original work that’s responsible for the half-arsed, inconsistent, and poorly-explained threats that the astronauts must face. No spoilers, but the explanation for what’s going on (which is so obvious that I don’t think even the film itself tried to play it as a twist in the end) doesn’t even vaguely begin to explain some of the random shit that happens. Uziel just throws sci-fi or horror ideas at the screen one after the other, with no care for if it hangs together consistently. Consequently, it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, his alleged interest in character hasn’t resulted in anything worthwhile either. At best they’re broadly defined archetypes — the Funny One; the Noble Captain; the One With A Tragedy In Her Past That We’ll Eventually Learn And It Will Affect Her Decisions; etc. At worst they’re utterly blank, with little or no time devoted to establishing or developing them. There’s a strong cast of good actors — people like Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who gets the best of a poor lot), David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris O’Dowd (who at least gets to be funny) — but they’re left to battle bravely against the mediocrity, and often terrible dialogue that comes with it, as they attempt to instil any kind of personality into their roles. They’re fighting a losing battle.

Two worried astronauts

Suffering most of all is Roger Davies as Michael, who’s the star of his own subplot back on Earth. Davies is probably aware this is his big break (his previous roles are mainly in things like Sky’s football soap Dream Team and Channel 5’s attempt at a soap, Family Affairs), but he’s lumbered with some of the clunkiest material of all. He struggles gamely to make Michael seem like a plausible human being while delivering first-draft-level dialogue, but I don’t think even Daniel Day Lewis could make this material work. An item of trivia on IMDb (source uncited, as usual) claims that all the Michael stuff was added later (in reshoots, I presume) to strengthen the film’s Cloverfield connection. It feels like that too: his stuff is completely divorced from the main thrust of the story aboard the space station, and it looks like it’s been achieved on as few sets with as few additional characters as possible.

Indeed, almost everything that’s explicitly Cloverfield-y smacks of reshoots. There’s a newscast about the eponymous “Cloverfield Paradox” that’s all inserts, i.e. it’s on a screen with none of the main cast also in shot. The main characters do refer to the paradox later on, but I’m pretty sure they only ever called it “the paradox”. (Also, side note, I’m not sure anyone involved in the making of this film knows what a paradox actually is.) The space station is actually called “Cloverfield”, but that’s mainly (only?) seen on CG exterior shots and green-screened monitors. Perhaps I’m forgetting something — perhaps there was a Cloverfield reference or two in the main body of the movie — but the vast majority of them could just have been shoved in during post-production. And if they weren’t, they feel like they were.

Three worried astronauts

I enjoyed the original Cloverfield and I liked the idea of them creating a franchise that was Twilight Zone-esque — movies connected by theme and style rather than plot. It seemed like a good way of getting original sci-fi movies made at a time when Hollywood only wants franchises. But we’re two sequels in now, and they were both marred by the Cloverfield elements forced upon them. And whereas 10 Cloverfield Lane was a very good movie before its tacked-on finale, The Cloverfield Paradox is pretty terrible throughout. We’re on a downward curve.

What was once set to be the expensive big-screen older brother to Black Mirror is now cast in its shadow: they’re both debuting on Netflix, but while Charlie Brooker’s TV series benefits from months of enormous anticipation and glowing reviews, Cloverfield was dumped just a couple of hours after its first trailer premiered, presumably in the hope you’d watch it before the reviews rolled in. When you combine that with the fact it was meant to be a theatrical release but Paramount ended up flogging it to Netflix as one of their “originals”, you have to think that even the studios knew it was a dud.

2 out of 5