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Space: Above and Beyond – Pearly (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Richard Whitley is one of the more promising writers on Space: Above and Beyond.

While Pearly does not benefit (and indeed actively suffers) from the same loose structure that made Dear Earth work so well, it is an episode very much in touch with what the show wants to be about. It is very much a science-fiction version of a classic Second World War story, to the point where Whitley himself has described it as an adaptation of the classic Humphrey Bogart movie Sahara. It is a nice glimpse at several facets of the conflict that we have not seen yet, but which make sense in context.

Canned ham...

Canned ham…

That said, there are serious problems with Pearly. It is very clear that the production managed to get ahold of a tank for filming, and sought to capitalise on that. The episode’s structure feels rather forced and unstructured in places, full of contrived coincidences that seem a little strange when considered as a whole. Not all of the character interactions feel genuine, and not all the episode’s big moments feel entirely earned. These are legitimate problems, and they do hold Pearl back.

At the same time, Pearly is an episode simmering with potential and ambition. It is hard to hate.

Crossed wires...

Crossed wires…

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On Second Thought: Apocalypse Now (Redux)

I wrote in my review of the original version of the movie that the two-and-a-half-hour cut captured a great deal of the insanity that seems to have been a defining characteristic of the Vietnam War, with the movie feeling like a crazed surrealist trip into madness, a collection of abstract meditations on the American condition that felt compressed at over two hours. If that is the case, Apocalypse Now Redux captures another aspect of the conflict. It’s now less insane, but the instability and absurdity appear more systemic and endemic. It’s bloated, terrifying, harrowing and seemingly eternal.

Much like the war itself.

Back into the Heart of Darkness...

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Non-Review Review: Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now was what might be described as a “troubled” production. Francis Ford Coppola was never intended to direct the film, which ran into trouble with local weather and local politics, undergoing script changes on a daily basis, an overweight and overpaid Marlon Brando who refused to read either the script or the book it was based on (leading Coppola to read it to him), Dennis Hopper’s drug addiction and countless other factors. Actor Martin Sheen at one point had a massive heart attack and had to walk a quarter of a mile for help, which Coppola had to cover up (claiming he collapsed due to exhaustion and filming with extras and voice doubles) for fear of losing funding. Al Pacino had been considered for the role, but had the foresight to turn it down, with Coppola suggesting, “Al would do the film, if we could film it in his apartment.” If that’s true, he might be the smartest person associated with the production.

I mention this, because I think a significant amount of that trouble seems to feed through the film. There’s a sense that isn’t a safe production, which is somewhat fitting, given the subject matter.

Up the creek...

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Secret Shame: Classic Films We Haven’t Seen…

One of the things about having a blog is the fact it takes a significant amount of self-confidence to publish. I mean, even if you’re just doing it for own sake, it still takes a great deal of faith to put something out there for others to see and read. To be honest, I’m not sure I properly consider myself a “critic” and certainly not an “expert”, at least not in a sense that requires big inverted commas. I don’t like to think that I make statements of cinema, and I hope (perhaps with a hint of arrogance) that I might contribute in some way to some discussion about cinema somewhere. Still, I’m always a little bit embarrassed at all the great films I haven’t seen. I feel like it diminishes me in some way, not even as a blogger or any nonsense like that, but as a film fan.

Getting in deep with my classic movies...

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Non-Review Review: Tropic Thunder

I make no apologies, I love this movie. Though it might not always hit the perfect notes, it maintains Ben Stiller’s pitch-perfect ability to just throw tonnes of stuff at the wall and if even 30% of the jokes hit, you’re at least grinning for the film’s runtime. He also has a fantastic cast full of the talented and the one-note, all of whom are perfectly chosen for the roles that they play within Stiller’s war comedy. Sure, the film may lose focus a bit, and it has a fairly short attention span, but this means that Stiller isn’t afraid to pull away from a gag that isn’t working.

Jungle Fever

Jungle Fever

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