Wednesday, 7 April 2021

LIST: WHICH THREE FRANCHISES WOULD YOU ERASE FOREVER?

In response to this tweet from Brian Avolicino: you have to lose three forever and any future projects. What's everybody getting rid of?

So let’s think about this.

[1] STAR WARS. I wouldn’t really want to lose this one, if only because of the first three films (the Original Trilogy). Yes, I don’t mind Return Of The Jedi at all, but crucially any problems I might have with it I’ve found much later in life, not when I saw it first time in my teens (admittedly late teens). The prequels I saw as a grown adult and thought they were mostly rubbish, the Disney sequels and side-project films I saw as an even older grown adult and thought they were perfectly alright now that George Lucas wasn’t making them. No interest whatever in the cartoons and TV shows. Verdict: keep them.

[2] MCU. This is where the problems really start. I don’t actually mind any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (again, I don’t give a damn about the TV incarnations). Some are better than others, obviously, but I’ve never been moved to rewatch any of them and several of them I didn’t even bother to catch at the cinema, settling for the Blu later. My problem with the MCU (and DC to a certain extent) is not with the films themselves but the stranglehold they have on cinemas, taking over half the screens in your local multiplex and running for weeks if not months, thus denying other films a fair chance at the box-office. Also there are too many of them: scarcely out of the box-office before the next one hauls into view. Sure, they’re mostly fun, colourful diversions, but for that kind of money I think they should be more than that; and sure, they’re undeniably well done but for that kind of money so they damn well should be. Verdict: lose them, if only because it means no more Spiderman and also dumps the Schumacher Batman films.

[3] DC. Much the same as the MCU, really, except that at least Marvel are usually fun. DC’s offerings, the Nolan and Snyder films particularly, aren’t. Nolan’s films are taking what are essentially colourful pantomimes for children far too seriously as though they’re serious human dramas, while Snyder piles on the excessive destructo-porn because that’s really all he’s got. Granted, outside of the Nolan-Snyder Axis Of Misery there have been more enjoyable ones like Aquaman and Wonder Woman (I haven’t seen WW84 yet), but the ratio of good to bad is slimmer than Marvel’s and I’m happy enough to lose Marvel. Verdict: lose them.

[4] JURASSIC PARK. I don’t mind them. The first one is great, the second has some terrific stuff in it. The advantage of these is that they only come along every three or four years rather than every other Tuesday with the Marvels and DCs, so there are fewer of them. Verdict: keep them.

[5] HARRY POTTER. Well, they’re done and finished, unless you’re counting the Fantastic Beasts ones as well, which I haven’t seen yet. Again, there aren’t really enough of them and they don’t come out often enough to get angry about. Verdict: keep them.

[6] LORD OF THE RINGS. So, so boring. And the Hobbit films are worse. Lose them. Throw them down The Fire Mountain Of Death or whatever it’s called, along with bloody Gollum. Verdict: lose them.

[7] FAST AND FURIOUS. I see I’ve played my three Death Cards already so now I have to justify keeping the rest of the listed franchises. The escalating silliness, nay insanity, of the F+F series makes this an easy one: they’re slam-bang nonsense that takes enormous steaming dumps on physics and reality from a ridiculous height, but I laughed more at Hobbs And Shaw than I did at every Will Ferrell movie I’ve ever watched put together. Verdict: keep them.

[8] BACK TO THE FUTURE. It’s been thirty years since the last one of these: I liked them enough (not so much the third one as I’ve no great love for Westerns) but I’m at most ambivalent about them. Wiping them from history so they never existed seems kind of ironic, though. Verdict: keep them.

[9] 007. Every single Bond film has something wrong with it, be it a rubbish theme song, an ill-advised comedy bit, a terrible performance, a plot that makes no sense, Dame Judi Dench or an invisible car. Some of them are just plain boring (Thunderball), some are wildly far-fetched (Moonraker), some of them have a star who’s way too old for this sort of thing. But enough of them are good enough, or have enough great stuff in them, to more than get by. Also, most of the scores are great, except for the last two because Thomas Newman simply wasn’t the right choice, and I couldn’t bear to not have John Barry’s magnificent scores from You Only Live Twice through to The Living Daylights in particular (some of the non-Barry Bonds from that era, particularly Live And Let Die and For Your Eyes Only, are great as well, and David Arnold was a more than worthy successor even if he did go over the top on occasion). Verdict: keep them. Even Thunderball, I guess.

[10] STAR TREK. To be honest, I could bear to lose this one, if only because I’ve always felt that if it isn’t Shatner, it isn’t Trek. I found Next Generation unwatchable, gave up on Voyager after the pilot, and didn’t even bother with Deep Space Nine or any of the other subsequent variants. I did catch all the films (except the first one) in cinemas and enjoyed the first six more, probably through the familiarity of the well-known characters, while I wasn’t unduly bothered pro or con about the Picard ones. As with James Bond, though, I’d hate to lose the music: Jerry Goldsmith has always been my favourite film composer and his Trek scores are wonderful. Verdict: keep them.

[11] INDIANA JONES. I think you have to keep these, even the allegedly dodgy fourth one. (Personally I don’t think it’s that bad!) Temple Of Doom is as full-on a horror movie as any actual horror movie short of Hostel and Saw, and Raiders got away with melting faces and exploding heads with a PG certificate. Verdict: keep them.

[12] AVATAR. There’s only one of them, and the four long-proposed sequels may or may not show up at the end of next year and every other Christmas until 2028, so there’s really not enough of it to get agitated about. I saw it when it came out and thought it was alright: haven’t been back since and probably never will. Verdict: keep them/it.

So that’s that: I’d vote to lose Marvel and DC and the LOTR/Hobbits, and keep the rest while acknowledging that some of them aren’t great, and some of the ones I’m willing to lose are actually okay. 

Saturday, 13 March 2021

RUN HIDE FIGHT

CONTAINS SPOILERS AND STUFF

Hitting the UK with a lot of problematic baggage, some thoroughly deserved, some less so, this throwback exploitationer never really rises above the basic back-of-a-fag-packet one-line concept of Die Hard In A High School. The serious sexual allegations made against certain individuals within the distribution company (who didn't actually produce the movie but bought the rights afterwards), together with the more politically conservative thrust of that distributor's mission statement, certainly weigh the movie down a little with controversies it doesn't need, which is a pity because taken as a straight-up shooty action movie it's perfectly alright: occasionally nasty, occasionally silly, a solid enough and slightly disreputable popcorn action flick.

Run Hide Fight is also burdened with the stench of bad taste regarding school shootings, but these senseless tragedies seem to happen so frequently that it's always too soon. It just so happens that one terrified but resourceful and gutsy student, Zoe (Isabel May) isn't in the school cafeteria when a quartet of her armed classmates crash their van through the wall and start shooting. Their motivations vary: mental illness, simmering revenge for old humiliations, a hunger for instant media fame. Zoe has to get as many other classes out of the building and to safety, take down the killers as she encounters them AND somehow save her semi-boyfriend who's been coerced into being the egotistical lead maniac's broadcaster and streaming his incoherent manifesto of blathering nonsense to the media, while at the same time coming to terms with the loss of her mother...

It's odd to see the Die Hard blueprint - everyone taken hostage except one who slips the net and, aided only by wit, grit and personal trauma, takes out the bad guys and saves the day - revisited after so many years. Eventually even Die Hard stopped following the Die Hard formula, and audiences got satiated with the basic idea and moved on, but it's also nice to see that subgenre revived, even if only briefly, as a nostalgic nod back to the late 80s and early 90s heyday of the Big Dumbo Action Movie. However, Run Hide Fight does open with the genuine killing of a deer for no reason other than it was supposedly cheaper than using special effects, and thus it has no business being there, or indeed existing in the first place. (Expect an obvious nip and tuck if and when the film comes to the BBFC because they are, quite rightly, very strict on that sort of thing.) Elsewhere, it's very uncritical of the Second Amendment, cheerfully playing the Good Guy With A Gun card and entirely glossing over how a group of clearly and demonstrably unstable teenagers have amassed their cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives. It's also slightly uncomfortable in its attitudes to mental illness: one of the killers is clearly seeing and hearing things and is suffering from serious psychological problems but in the end it's nothing that a bullet through the head can't solve.

It is a callous film, it has no more than the occasional trace of humour. As a Friday night dumb action rental it's perfectly passable: director Kyle Rankin also made Infestation and Night Of The Living Deb, both of which were kind of fun, and while this does have a darker and nastier tone to it it's still enjoyable; its earlier scenes building tension quite nicely. But if you're not comfortable supporting a distributor with an overtly right-wing agenda, staffed by people with numerous sexual misbehaviour (and worse) allegations against them, or a film which includes an entirely unjustified animal killing (I looked away as I knew it was coming), then Run Hide Fight may prove too problematic. Trying my best to be even-handed: I enjoyed the film itself just about enough, but would probably have enjoyed it another half-star's worth without those issues surrounding it.

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