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148. The Sixth Sense – Summer of ’99 (#157)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Joe Griffin, 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. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, continuing our Summer of ’99 season, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense.

1999 was a great year for movies, with a host of massively successful (and cult) hits that would define cinema for a next generation: The Blair Witch Project, The Virgin Suicides, Stir of EchoesElection, The Haunting, Fight Club. The Summer of ’99 season offers a trip through the year in film on the IMDb‘s 250.

After discovering that one of his cases has gone spectacularly wrong, child psychologist Malcolm Crowe finds himself drawn to a suspiciously similar case. Cole Sear is a strange and troubled little boy, haunted by something he refuses to articulate. Can Malcolm save this child, and atone for his earlier failure?

At time of recording, it was ranked 157th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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“I’m Ready to Communicate With You Now”: The Millennial Anxieties of “The Sixth Sense”, and Feeling Alone in the City of Brotherly Love…

This Saturday, I’ll be discussing The Sixth Sense on The 250, the weekly podcast that I co-host discussing the IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All-Time. However, I had some thoughts on the film that I wanted to jot down first.

What do you think these ghosts want when they talk to you? I want you to think about it, Cole. I want you to think about it really carefully. What do you think they want?

Just help.

That’s right. That’s what I think too. They just want help, even the scary ones. I think I might know a way to make them go away.

How?

Listen to them.

The Sixth Sense is a remarkable film, for many reasons.

These days, The Sixth Sense is perhaps best known for its central twist. The film’s powerhouse emotional ending has become a pop cultural touchstone, anchoring jokes in everything from Fifty First Dates to the viral video sensation Jizz in my Pants. Of course, this also complicates the legacy of The Sixth Sense by serving as ground zero for director M. Night Shyamalan’s subsequent dependence upon these sorts of twists in movies like The Village or The Happening. Nevertheless, The Sixth Sense has endured in the popular memory as one of the rare twist-driven films that stands up to repeat viewings.

A Cole’d open.

However, it is much more than that. Even beyond that, The Sixth Sense is a lavish production that looks beautiful. Of course, Shyamalan’s ego has done his reputations few favours, from his own cameo as a writer-messiah in The Lady in the Water to his role in a Sci-Fi Channel documentary The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan to the famous Newsweek cover crowning him “the next Spielberg.” Still, The Sixth Sense is visually stunning. Although it is tempting to think of The Sixth Sense as a “small” movie by modern standards, it was actually produced on a budget of $40m.

Rewatching The Sixth Sense twenty years later, it is amazing how much of the film’s visual storytelling lingers. Shyamalan might not have been the next Spielberg, but he had a wonderful eye for composition; that shot of a red balloon drifting up the inside of a spiral staircase, those eerie sequences of Malcolm and Cole wandering through a surprisingly quiet Philadelphia, even the conversations at that church with Cole towering over Malcolm from the balcony as he plays with his toy soldiers.

Pew pew!

However, even more than all of that, The Sixth Sense remains the rare film that is both specifically rooted in its cultural moment and profoundly universal. The story that drives The Sixth Sense is surprisingly straightforward – helpfully encapsulated in Cole’s trailer-friendly assertion that he sees “dead people.” However, Shyamalan understands that ghost stories are about more than just the recently deceased. Ghost stories translate a sense of longing and regret, of disconnect and isolation. The Sixth Sense is fundamentally a story about how difficult it is to meaningfully communicate in the modern world, with or without a pulse.

The Sixth Sense is a story of existential ennui, wrapped up in a set of late nineties anxieties.

M. Night Shyamalan had to eat Crowe on his next few films.

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141. Escape Plan 2: Hades – This Just In (-#100)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guests Babu Patel and Giovanna Rampazzo, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 100 worst movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Steven C. Miller’s Escape Plan 2: Hades.

At time of recording, it was ranked 100th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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58. Die Hard – Christmas 2017 (#122)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Ciaran Mooney, Gerry Mooney and Helen Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, a Christmas treat. John McTiernan’s Die Hard.

Travelling across the United States to reunite with his estranged wife, New York cop John McClane finds himself embroiled in a high-stakes hostage crisis on Christmas Eve.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 122nd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: RED 2

Red 2 is a stronger film than Red, although it’s still not quite a wholly satisfying cinematic experience. There’s a certain charm to watching all these veteran stars reuniting on the screen together, with a considerably lighter touch than The Expendables. What’s interesting about Red 2 isn’t a dearth of good ideas or interesting hooks in the set-up of this sequel, it’s just a littler rushed, a little unfocused, a little disjointed. However, Red 2 generally moves so fast that these problems never quite reach critical mass. The result is more-than-occasionally great fun, but also just a little too light for its own good.

Growing old disgracefully...

Growing old disgracefully…

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About Time: Time Travel Logic, Paradoxes and Looper…

I watched Looper again at the weekend. It’s still a pretty great movie, well-constructed and thoughtful. Of course, it still doesn’t feel like a proper “time travel” movie, because the time travel element doesn’t logically gel as easily as it otherwise would. After all, the original time line sees young!Joe kill old!Joe as soon as he appears. Therefore, old!Joe can’t logically kill Sara. If old!Joe doesn’t kill Sara, then why does Cyd become the Rainmaker? After all, we’re told (or it’s heavily implied) that young!Joe killing himself (and old!Joe) prevented Cyd from becoming the Rainmaker. So if this never happened in the time line where young!Joe grows into old!Joe, how did the Rainmaker come to be?

Oh no, I’ve gone cross-eyed.

This is the thing with time travel movies, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about. How important is internal consistency to a time travel movie? How necessary is it for a time travel movie to flow relatively logically from its own premise? At what point do we just stop trying to apply rules of logic and just enjoy the movie for what it is?

looper4

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Non-Review Review: Die Hard

I know it’s a bit cliché at this point, but Die Hard really is my family’s ultimate Christmas movie. The season hasn’t truly started (or, if we’re delayed, truly ended) until all of us have sat down on the couch and indulged in the seasonal spectacular. Even if you don’t quite buy into the “Die Hard as Christmas movie” argument, it’s still impressive how tall John McTiernan’s action movie stands when compared to the bulk of eighties action films. Like Nakatomi Plaza itself, it towers over the competition – and it’s not because it does anything especially or novel or innovative in a genre that has always been fairly conservative. Instead, I’d argue, Die Hard succeeds because it executes all the conventional action movie beats exceedingly well, and because it doesn’t treat any of its plot points as necessary items on a check list.

Jump-starting Bruce Willis' action career...

Jump-starting Bruce Willis’ action career…

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