Bold it may be to make a sequel to a feature helmed by one of the all-time greats, director Peter Hyams probably didn’t consider the influence of Stanley Kubrick when whirring away on his science-fiction project. Arthur C. Clarke developed sequel after sequel to the lightning in a bottle experimentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like any prolific science fiction writer from the 20th century, he churned out more and more. Eventually losing grasp on the pop culture that would surely adapt his works, Clarke petered out with 3001: The Final Odyssey, a lukewarm bow wrapped around a dead horse, beaten to a pulp years before with its second adaptation, the Roy Scheider-led 2010: The Year We Make Contact.
Anyone willing to fly a suicide mission is insane, but anyone who refuses to do it is sane enough to realise they’d be insane to fly. In a nutshell, that is Catch-22. The remarkable writing and character studies surrounding that nugget of wisdom in the Joseph Heller novel are fascinating dives into the weak minds and strong hearts of those who plod through life during wartime. Adapting that paradox to the screen provides Mike Nichols and Alan Arkin with their very own Catch-22 scenario. A solution denied by the rule. To get to grips with the characters they must drag themselves through the throes of the Second World War, but to do that they must heave themselves into the heart of the characters.
Visual anthologies are hit or miss. There is, undoubtedly, going to be a segment that doesn’t work as well. It will feel bulky or slower. Rare it may be to find much balance; The French Dispatch at least tries to. Director Wes Anderson’s collection of fictional works of great journalism are the ensemble-heavy notes of love to the boundary-pushing journalists at the heart of great stories. Anderson’s sickly, Mr. Kipling French-Fancy variation of colour, technique and cinematography is abruptly halted. His stylistic dependency is changed. Most surprising of all for The French Dispatch is its reliance on drab tones. Black and white cinematography is the common treatment for these three stories. Reflect on the past, the simplicity of the times. That is the point, but in practice, it makes this latest feature from the distinct visual creator a bit run of the mill.
Stuffy newsrooms, Paul Newman, and Sydney Pollack in the director’s chair, Absence of Malice has all the fundamental makings of a clear shot success. Following a reporter duped into running a false story, this 80s thriller piece follows one innocent man attempting to clear his name of allegations that have nothing to do with him. Presumably the IPSO code of ethics wasn’t around back in the day, and the whole affair could’ve been avoided had it been for a few background checks. Still, trivialities such as that shouldn’t stop us from engaging with or enjoying with a relatively solid, but unfortunately forgettable flick that doesn’t quite capitalise on its sudden blowouts.
I do think that, for many, The Grand Budapest Hotel will have marked an introduction to film. It did for me, it feels like only days ago that I first watched this Wes Anderson piece, one of the films that started such an unequivocal, feverish interest in the arts. I remember studying this for an A-Level exam some years ago, between this, Reservoir Dogs, and, oddly enough, The Imitation Game, I found an appreciation for a form of art I had only engaged with in passing. It’s a tad embarrassing, to some degree, that this was the film that got me into a wider world of creativity, but there’ll always be a soft spot for this film in my heart.
It takes great efforts to make space, the final frontier of life as we know it, boring. But as ever, Steven Spielberg rises to the plate, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind goes to great lengths in making its case for extra-terrestrial life being nothing more than a brief, bland flutter that’ll temporarily spike everyday normality. Brushing a close encounter with life from other planets off as cannon fodder for the news instead of a monumental moment in our time on this wretched Earth. Still, I can’t complain too much with the amicable approach Spielberg takes in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a film that screams popcorn movie at every turn.
As director Ken Russell channels his inner David Cronenberg, it’s not surprising to see that the director of Tommy can’t actually pull together an engaging horror. One that relies on the vivid dreamscapes and imagery that comes from the altered states of mind Edward Jessup (William Hurt) puts himself through. His intense desire to uncover the secrets that can be found through tripping on a variety of different drugs whilst in an isolation tank lead to horrific results, a lengthy PSA on why we should never drop acid whilst in a bath. With the debut of both Hurt and Drew Barrymore, Altered States has a superb deal of talent behind it, but lacks a consistent drive for much of its running time.