Saturday 16 November 2019

Screen Time

Inferno (2016)

Another techno-thriller with a fantasy streak based on a Dan Brown book, and again featuring Tom Hanks in the role of Robert Langdon, a university professor with a habit of getting involved in violent adventures. I read the book long enough ago to have forgotten all but a few snippets of the plot, so I watched the film unaffected by prior expectations.

The problem with all of these Dan Brown films is that the book plots are very complex and arcane, with lots of codes and clues to follow and unpick, which there isn't really time to deal with in a movie-length production. By and large it was interesting enough to hold my attention but the ending was particularly rushed, with an extremely improbable explanation for what had been going on made in one compressed infodump. Not good, but just about watchable.

The Humanity Bureau (2018)

I can't recall what prompted me to acquire this one, as it is not the kind of setting which normally interests me – a post-apocalyptic dystopia.  Much of the USA has become a semi-desert wasteland for various reasons, environmental devastation apparently being uppermost. The government seems to be totalitarian (not a lot is spelled out clearly, most of the background has to be deduced by the viewer) and everyone is expected to work very hard. Those who are judged insufficiently productive by the government Humanity Bureau are transported to a planned settlement, New Eden. What follows contains some spoilers.

Noah Kross (Nicholas Cage) is a Bureau agent whose job is to travel round interviewing those suspected of being unproductive, to see if they should go to New Eden. He begins to have doubts about what he is doing as rumours circulate that New Eden is not the new opportunity it is claimed to be. This comes to a head when he travels to see a single mother (Sarah Lind) and her 11 year old son, who he decides to help instead of condemn, putting himself at odds with his superior officer. It later transpires that the woman is not the boy's mother, but has acquired her identity along with her son – who's father is Kross. The trio head for Canada in a forlorn attempt to escape. The climax of the film is a mix of tragedy and hope.

There are some odd aspects to the plot which indicate that Kross is not what he appears: he is contacted by people resisting the Humanity Bureau's operations and supplied with information about New Eden; and near the end a Canadian border guard remarks that they had been expecting Kross to arrive bringing evidence about New Eden, suggesting that Kross may have been an intelligence agent for Canada all along. One ironic aspect is that the Canadian border is heavily guarded to keep out refugees from the south… no great surprise to learn that the film is a product of Canada rather than Hollywood! Whether or not this affected the low critical ratings I don't know. In my judgement it is not a bad film, just depressing.

Avengers Assemble (2012)

I really must look at my own blog more often. I watched this film and did not realise at any point that I had already seen it, and reviewed it on this blog in October 2012. Only a vague air of familiarity prompted me to check my blog index to reveal the horrible truth: I had wasted a couple of hours, twice over. This time around, I found it just as tedious and monotonous as I did the first time, and can now add another description: completely forgettable!

Dr Strange (2016)

A bit different from the usual Marvel Comics superhero fare, with Benedict Cumberbatch in commanding form as the eponymous surgeon who goes searching for a mystical cure to the injuries which have ended his career. He finds more than he expected, and becomes involved in titanic magical battles between good and evil for the future of the Earth. Except that the good guys are not entirely good… One of the better films in this franchise, and well worth watching.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

I was looking forward to this one, having enjoyed the first two of the Thor films. Ragnarok is in most respects more of the same, but apart for a brief glimpse of a Norwegian cliff-top sadly lacks any scenes set on Earth – the interaction between the present-day Earth and the heroes of Asgard being, for me, the most enjoyable aspect of the earlier films. So what we are left with is various fantasy sets, very good CGI, and lots of comic-book violence accompanied by loud music. Fortunately, the humour is retained and enhanced, providing most of the enjoyment.

To ring the changes a bit (or cross the plot threads) Hulk and Dr Strange make appearances (the latter foreshadowed at the end of Dr Strange), and it's always good to see Cate Blanchett in anything.  Do not miss the final clip which occurs after most of the credits have rolled – a great tee-up for the next film!

Black Panther (2018)

Another product of Marvel Studios, this received universal praise and many award nominations. To sum up: it deserves the praise, and joins Wonder Woman as one of my top-rated superhero movies. The only criticism I have is that I initially had some problems remembering who was who, as there is a large cast of characters who appear from the start and I was familiar with hardly any of the actors. Which is a good excuse to watch it more than once!  As seems usual these days, there are final clips inserted in the credits.


mudpuddle said...

we liked "Panther", and "Thor". I've wondered about "Strange"; i think we started watching it once and quit for some reason... mrs. m and me tend to avoid sadistic or cruel productions...

Anthony G Williams said...

Not sure that "Strange" is a particular offender, but tastes differ!