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156. House of the Dead (-#8)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Ethan Shattock and Gerard Rooney from Disconnected Talk, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Uwe Boll’s House of the Dead.

In this adaptation of the beloved arcade shooter game, a rave on a remote island goes horribly wrong. A small group of friends arrive late to the party of a lifetime, only to find it has become a literal dead zone.

At time of recording, it was ranked 8th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Last Christmas

Last Christmas certainly has its heart in the right place.

On paper, there’s a lot to recommend Last Christmas. Paul Feig is one of the most reliable comedic directors working today, and his work on films like Spy and A Simple Favour deserve consideration among the best comedies of the decade. Emilia Clarke is coming off an extended run as one of the two primary stars of genuine cultural phenomenon Game of Thrones, and has proven herself a likable romantic lead even in solid-if-unremarkable projects like Me Before You. Tony Golding has charisma to burn, as demonstrated by his supporting turn in Crazy Rich Asians.

Things are looking up.

Unfortunately, none of this really coheres as well as it should. Given the talent involved, this comedy should go down a festive treat. While it’s hardly a lump of coal, it is decidedly underwhelming. The problem isn’t a lack of surprises. After all, Last Christmas aspires to comfort rather than novelty. The problem is that Last Christmas is built around the assumption that it has the perfect festive surprise waiting for its eager and bright-eyed audience members to unwrap. Unfortunately, it vastly over-estimates how much some wrapping paper and bow can disguise a familiar outline.

Last Christmas feels far too pedestrian and far too predictable for what it is trying to do. There’s a potentially interesting premise here, but Last Christmas never really tries. It gives up the ghost too early.

Elf help.

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Non-Review Review: I Lost My Body

I Lost My Body is a stunning piece of animation.

In a Parisien hospital, a dismembered hand comes to life. Distracted and disoriented by memories of its previous life, it scrambles out of the fridge and out into the world. Making a daring escape from the inevitable fate of medical waste, this detached hand embarks on a journey across Paris. This adventure takes the body part from the roofs to the underground, through the gutters and into the air vents. It confronts rats and pigeons, but also encounters rare beauty and intimate insight. All of this is part of a primal urge to return to the body from which it was so cruelly severed.

Taking the matter in hand…

It is certainly an interesting and intriguing premise, and I Lost My Body lives up to the absurdity of that set-up. Jérémy Clapin’s animated film runs a tight eighty-one minutes, which means that it never overstays its welcome and that the central hook never has the opportunity to become distracting. I Lost My Body uses this absurd premise as a prism through which it might explore ideas of human connection, of the unlikely ways in which lives intersect and collide within the modern world. Some of its choices are inelegant and clumsy, but it never lacks ambition or insight.

I Lost My Body is a moving tale of what it’s like to feel truly disconnected.

Naofel me.

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Non-Review Review: Klaus

Around midway through Klaus, the film’s title character has an introspective moment. The film’s protagonist, a wiry and self-interested postman named Jesper, has decided that Klaus need not settle for delivering the toys that he has already handcrafted. Instead, Klaus could fashion new toys for all the boys and girls of the local community. Klaus’ mood darkens. He stares off into middle distance. “I don’t make toys,” he tells Jesper, in an understated manner. After a beat, he clarifies, “Not anymore.”

It is a very strange moment for a family-friendly animated movie that promises a glimpse at the origin story of Christmas. It obviously hints at a dark and traumatic back story for the muscular woodsman. Klaus has experienced things. It is the children’s movie equivalent of the shell-shocked combat veteran, of Sylvester Stallone retreating from his failure at the start of Cliffhanger or Sergeant Powell having sworn off the use of his sidearm in Die Hard. What horrors could Klaus have experienced that would have made him stop designing adorable handcrafted toys for children?

Snow bad ideas.

It’s a very weird beat, one that feels all the weird for the way in which it tonally clashes with the more openly absurd slapstick elements of the plot or the occasional nods to contemporary pop culture. Klaus is a very odd film, which seems to have little idea of what it actually wants to be. It is a mishmash of themes and influences, awkwardly bouncing between various extremes and never settling on any one long enough to find a grove. It’s a film that really needed more time on the original story break and scripting phases, requiring a stronger vision of what exactly Klaus is supposed to be.

This is a shame, because Klaus looks absolutely gorgeous.

Making a play for the animation market.

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New Escapist Column! “His Dark Materials” Could Only Exist in a Post-“Game of Thrones” World…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday evening. This one took a look at the new BBC/HBO co-production of His Dark Materials, adapting Phillip Pullman’s fantasy epic for a new generation.

It feels appropriate that somebody should take another crack at Pullman’s novels now. New Line Cinema attempted to adapt The Golden Compass back in 2007, using the same model that they applied to The Lord of the Rings. However, that was never going to work; Pullman’s work was too subversive and too radical to ever fit the traditional cinematic narrative template. In contrast, this feels like the perfect moment for another adaptation, as Game of Thrones has pushed the boundaries in terms of television fantasy, both in what is possible and what audiences will accept.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Earthquake Bird

Earthquake Bird certainly embraces its late eighties setting, providing a hearty intersection of two largely forgotten eighties genres: the erotic thriller and the familiar story of westerners lost in Japan.

To its credit, Earthquake Bird wears its influences on its sleeve. The film is executive produced by Ridley Scott under his own Scott Free production company, and the opening credits include a quick glimpse of Lucy Fly working as a translator on Scott’s own Black Rain. After all, that film was part of a larger cinematic movement in the late eighties and early nineties reflecting western anxieties over the expanding economic and cultural reach of Japan; Blade Runner, Die Hard, Rising Sun.

So far things are going interro-great!

Similarly, the basic premise of Earthquake Bird owes a lot to the simmering erotic thrillers that emerged at around the same time; films like Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction, even Disclosure. In hindsight, it is surprising that Earthquake Bird can’t work in a small supporting role for Michael Douglas as an acknowledgement of these influences. Still, Earthquake Bird feels very much like a throwback in more than just its late eighties setting. It is a surprisingly nostalgic thriller. In its own way, it affirms the idea that Netflix exists as a home for the kind of films that don’t really make it to cinemas anymore.

The only problem with Earthquake Bird is that it all feels a little too familiar and a little too rote. Earthquake Bird hits all of the marks and rhythms of these sorts of films in a dutiful manner, but without any real energy or ingenuity. It seems content to serve as a straightforward example of these tropes and beats, rather than as a celebration or examination of them.

The life of Riley.

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155. The 250 Anniversary Special 2019

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This week, to mark the podcast’s three-year anniversary and passing the one-hundred-and-fifty-episode threshold, we decided to bring back as many of the guests from the third year as possible. So, joining Andrew and Darren on this podcast are:

We thought we’d take the opportunity to have a talk about the best and worst of this list, both in general and over the past year, and also take a nostalgic look back at the year 1999.

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