Another Five Things

It isn’t easy being a troll. Hand Me Downs is a short story by Maria Haskins.

“We Handed A Loaded Weapon To 4-Year-Olds.” Developer Chris Wetherell built Twitter’s retweet button. He tells Buzzfeed why he regrets what he did to this day.

Rosie Fletcher at Den of Geek suggests the 2 hour 45 minute running time for It Chapter Two indicates that the horror genre is moving into the mainstream. And that’s a good thing.

Over at Aeon, Matthew Stanley recounts British astronomer and physicist, Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s attempt to test Einstein’s theory of relativity. It’s worth reading not just for the challenges Stanley faced, but also the way in which he managed to craft the subsequent narrative into a symbol of post-war German-British solidarity.

And finally, Alastair Campbell has left the Labour Party and asked Jeremy Corbyn to seriously consider whether he’s really up to the challenges ahead.

Rutger Hauer

Rutger Hauer died yesterday, aged 75. There are plenty of tributes to the actor popping up all over the internet, all of which are deserved and many of which note the “Tears in Rain” monologue from Blade Runner. It’s a memorable speech, for which Hauer wrote much of the dialogue, and a powerful performance.

For me, however, Rutger Hauer will always be the true face of Guinness.

He will be missed.

Five More Things

I mentioned Whoops Apocalypse, the TV series, some time ago. At the weekend I finally found the time to watch the film. In this version the plot is updated somewhat to reflect the fact that it was made in 1986 — four years after the TV series — but the humour is still as dark and bitingly effective as an increasingly farcical sequence of events drags the world ever closer to nuclear armageddon.

As a satire made and set during the Cold War, the film is very much of its time and you probably need to have lived through the 1980s for some of the jokes to work. It does, however, manage an accidentally contemporary moment when the US president (played by Loretta Swit) incredulously asks: “You’re telling me that the entire population of Great Britain went and elected a deranged psychotic to the highest office of the land? Again?”

Remaining with the ongoing disaster that is British politics, N Piers Ludlow asks whether the UK ever understood how the EU works. Given that the UK has been a member of the bloc for over 40 years, the conclusion is damning, to say the least.

On a more positive note, Jo Swinson was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats this week and Timothy Garton Ash is optimistic about her chances of leading a fightback for liberal Britain. We live in hope.

Returning to the subject of films, for a moment, Marvel has revealed their Phase 4 MCU lineup and Den of Geek has the details. Ignoring the Disney+ releases — I absolutely am not going to get tied into signing up to endless streaming services — the upcoming Black Widow film is long overdue and I am really looking forward to seeing how they handle Thor: Love And Thunder. Also: Blade is coming back!

And finally, Ian Stewart’s article on social physics reminded me of a book I read some time ago, namely Critical Mass by Philip Ball. The takeaway from both is that you may be an individual but, in aggregate, we are a lot more predictable than we realise.

Son of Rambow

For a film released in 2007, it has taken me a while to find the time to watch this film. As a result, I am simultaneously glad to have finally seen it and kicking myself for not having done so sooner.

Set in the 1980s, Son of Rambow is a joyfully nostalgic exploration of friendship, family and the positive influence that even Sylvester Stallone’s films can exert.

The film centres on two boys: Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) and Lee Carter (Will Poulter). Will, who lost his father to an accident, is being brought up as a member of the Plymouth Bretheren, a cult that keeps its members away from films, music, books and pretty much everything else. Lee’s parents are also out of the picture — living elsewhere — and he is being cared for — in the loosest sense of the word — by his elder brother. Largely left to his own devices, Lee is well on the way to delinquency.

When the two boys encounter each other, Lee ropes Will into helping him make a film. He has a camera and a lot of ambition but things really take off when Will sees a VHS of Rambo. His hitherto repressed creativity is unleashed and the two boys embark on making a film: Son of Rambow.

The relationship between the two boys, initially, is very one-sided with Lee taking advantage of Will’s naivety. This, however, develops into a genuine friendship between the boys which is all the more striking as the boys appear unaware of just how close they are becoming, or why. Each boy is an outcast and needing an outlet and it is this shared isolation and need that brings them together in a manner that is touching and genuinely believable.

Things go awry when the outrageously cool Didier, played by Jules Sitruk, and his hangers-on find out about the film and want to be involved.

To call Didier outrageously cool is, I admit, a tad misleading. The other phrase that came to mind — parody of cool — is equally misleading because Didier is neither cool nor a parody. He is, instead, a twelve-year-old’s idea of what a cool teenager would look like (given the 1980s setting of the film). As such, he serves to underline the fact that this film is made wholly and unironically from the point of view of a twelve year old.

Son of Rambow is a genuinely feel-good film about boys, brotherhood and friendship and about the endless opportunity for adventure and the highs and lows that come from being twelve.

I really enjoyed this film and suspect that I will enjoy it even more when I watch it again.

Five Things

This is a bit of an experiment and, as such, I am not making any promises about whether it becomes a regular (or even an irregular) feature on this blog. The motivation comes from the fact that, as I trawl various corners of the internet, I often encounter articles that are interesting but about which I have little or nothing to add.

I don’t want to descend into writing endless posts that say no more than Look At This, so I plan on pulling them together so that I can say Look At These. We shall see how, or if, this works.

First up is the short story that started me thinking about this type of post. Compost Traumatic Stress by Brian Koukol explores a once-sterile alien world seeded by the blood and guts of battle and follows the traumatized veteran tasked with keeping this alien fauna under control. It’s an effective and often moving exploration of the aftermath of war and well worth a read.

Taking a quick look at the ongoing disaster that is British politics these days, Jonathan Calder is exasperated with Heidi Allen and Nick Cohen is horrified at the way in which party politics have been allowed to undermine representative democracy. Personally, I think Parliament should insist on a vote of confidence for whoever the Tories select as the next Prim Minister. Regardless of how a party picks their leader, if that leader can’t demonstrate that they have the confidence of Parliament then they shouldn’t be able to form a government.

If Asian cinema has ever appealed to you (and it should) Paul Bramhall has a fascinating article on The General’s Son trilogy and the birth of the modern Korean gangster movie. I really need to carve out some time in my week to start making a dent in my DVD pile.

And finally, Susan Biali Haas suggests that working with your hands does wonders for your brain, which is all the excuse I need to spend more time pulling up nettles.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home follows on from the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame and deals with the consequences of the events in those films. It’s probably best seen as an epilogue to those films and, this being the case, I don’t think I can talk about this film without spoliering the films that have gone before.

So if you haven’t seen the Avengers films, I suggest you stop reading now.

If you have seen everything up to this point, or just don’t care, there’s more after the jump.
Continue reading “Spider-Man: Far From Home”

Men in Black: International

I really liked Pawney. This pocket-sized alien, voiced brilliantly by Kumail Nanjiani had the best lines and the best jokes and was, by far, the funniest character in this film. And the fact that a one-joke CGI comic relief character was able to upstage both Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, who formed such a great double act in Thor: Ragnarok, rather neatly sums up Men in Black: International.

Men in Black: International revolves around Agent M, played by Tessa Thompson, who has finally found her way into the MIB organisation after a childhood encounter with an alien. She is promptly sent to London where she manages to pair herself with the reckless but heroic Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). We have threats aplenty, a suspected mole in the MIB organisation and a whole bunch of subplots that don’t really go anywhere.

It’s been a few years since I watched the original Men in Black but if I remember correctly, that film didn’t make a huge amount of sense. What it did have going for it, however, was Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones and — probably most importantly — a director that was willing to stand back and let the two leads develop a chemistry that is unforgettable.

The problem that Men in Black: International has is that there is just too much plot, which insists on constantly reminding us that none of this makes much sense. This is not helped by the fact that the scriptwriters don’t appear to have been able to decide whether the film is about the rookie Agent M or the failure and redemption of Agent H. Consequently, the focus keeps switching and the plot threads keep clashing in a manner that makes it a bit of a struggle to enjoy the ride.

Men in Black: International isn’t a bad film, it’s just not a particularly good film either. The film is at it’s best when Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth are allowed to bounce off each other and recapture the sense of fun that so imbued the original film. But all too often they are dragged down by an overly convoluted plot that frequently serves only to suck any and all the life from the film.

Minuscule – Mandibles from Far Away

I thought I had talked about the Minuscule series previously on this blog, but a couple of searches didn’t turn anything up so I shall have to file that under Things I Meant To Do But Didn’t Get Around To. It’s a shame because the series of short films is a superb collision between the documentary style of National Geographic and the universe of Tex Avery in which animated insects experience their adventures against a background of real-world sets. The films are short, dialogue-free and very, very funny.

Many of these short films can be found online and there is also a DVD box set available if you prefer to watch in comfort.

What I hadn’t realised is that the folks behind the short films had also released a feature film (in French, of course, but when there is no dialogue this really doesn’t matter) in which a stranded young ladybug forms an alliance with a squad of black ants in order to retrieve a rather unusual treasure to the ant hive.

And now there is a sequel.

When the first snow falls in the valley, it is urgent to prepare its reserves for the winter. Alas, during the operation, a small ladybug is trapped in a box – to the Caribbean. One solution: reform the shock team.

Avengers: Endgame

May 1st — Labour Day — is a public holiday in Belgium so, on Wednesday, wee all trooped to the nearest Mutiplex to see Avengers: Endgame. The reason we made the trip to the multiplex rather than the smaller, cheaper and close cinema we normally go to is that they were screening an Avengers: Endgame Marathon. This comprised of a double bill of Infinity War immediately followed by Endgame, or six hours in front of a big screen. It was fun, and an excellent way of reminding ourselves of the events that led up to Endgame.

I was expecting this to be a single film in two parts, but it really isn’t. The Thanos storyline is closed off very quickly and we jump forward five years to find what’s left of the Avengers trying to deal with the ongoing fallout. Things pick up with the return of Ant-Man, who has been trapped in the Quantum Realm for the past five years, and he’s come up with a plan.

What follows is less of a film and more a series of sub-plots as various Avengers dash through time and space as they try to reverse Thanos’ actions. Much of this involves returning to the events of previous films and allows several of the characters to bring their story-arcs of the past decade to a close. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that not all of the Avengers survive and, of the survivors, it’s quite possible that some of them will hang up their capes after this.

In many ways, then, Endgame is a long goodbye to the characters we have been watching for the past decade. That’s not to say that the film isn’t entertaining, it is. And, of course, things come together for the inevitable climactic battle which is both well executed and thrilling to watch.

For me, Infinity War is the stronger of the two films, but Endgame continues to maintain the high standard we have come to expect from Marvel and provides a solid send-off for the original Avengers. I look forward to seeing where they go from here.

My Spoiler Senses are tingling

Avengers: Endgame is out and… I haven’t seen it yet.

May 1st is a public holiday in Belgium and a local multiplex is showing an “Endgame: Marathon”. We have nearly six hours of superhero antics to look forward, starting with Infinity War and then, after a short popcorn break, we are straight into Endgame.

We thought it would be wise to book the comfy seats.

This is all well and good, but I hadn’t realised just how many sites I visit that carry potentially spoliery content about the latest blockbuster. I have managed to avoid seeing any spoilers so far, but it has been a bit of a challenge.

Still, only two more days and then I can go back and look at all of those articles in my RSS reader that are currently sitting there screaming “Read Me!”