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Non-Review Review: Charlie’s Angels (2019)

Charlie’s Angels is a fascinating tonal mess. It doesn’t work at all, but the ways in which it doesn’t work are fascinating.

Charlie’s Angels feels like something of a hybrid. It combines several different styles of blockbuster into a single film. It pitches itself as a campy and goofy stupid 1990s blockbuster, but inflected with a veneer of 2000s self-seriousness and filtered through the lens of 2010s ironic self-awareness. However, these elements do not compliment one another, and Charlie’s Angels is never particularly interested in either smoothing over the gaps or exploring the dissonance. The result is an aesthetic that is probably best described as “comedically sociopathic.

Three of a kind.

It’s a shame, because there is some interesting stuff here. Writer and director Elizabeth Banks plays with ideas like the female gaze, and trying to reappropriate the franchise’s iconography and history for the twenty-first century. However, Charlie’s Angels lacks the clean focus that is necessary for a project like this to work, it cannot even figure out whether it wants to be a ground-up rebuild of the classic model or a nostalgic tweak upon it, and so seems to wander the gulf between those two extremes.

Charlie’s Angels is a strangely lifeless blockbuster, for a film that tries to cram so much in.

Solid as a rock?

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New Escapist Column! How “The Empire Strikes Back” Invented the Modern Sequel and Franchise…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine late last week, hopefully one a little bit less contentious than discussions of Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.

The piece takes a look at Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and the impact that it had on shaping a lot of modern blockbusters. We tend to think of Jaws and Star Wars as the cornerstones of the modern blockbuster movie, and that’s certainly fair. However The Empire Strikes Back has arguably had an even greater impact on the way in which franchise movies are built – from ballooning budgets to the idea of the perpetual second act.

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

“For Infinity… and Beyond…”: In Praise of “Toy Story 2” as the Perfect Sequel…

Ranking films is often a fool’s errand.

I make this argument with no small amount of hypocrisy. Most obviously, I co-host a weekly podcast called The 250, which is dedicated to exploring the Internet Movie Database’s Top 250 Movies of All-Time. Even beyond that, I am guilty of participating in that periodic pleasure of pundits everywhere; the top ten… or forty… or fifty. At the end of every year, I produce a list of my favourite films of the year, whether on the Scannain podcast, on my personal Twitter, or even occasionally on this blog. In my defense, I rationalise that through a desire to draw attention to good films, and accept we can quibble on the order of said film.

At the same time, these lists can often be illuminating in terms of contextualising affection for a particular film, or for gauging the general mood. So when a film appears on a single list, it might be worth checking out if you trust the author. If it appears on multiple lists, it is probably a much stronger recommendation. (The Scannain annual top ten is an eclectic list, but it disparate viewpoints often settle on at least one consensus pick: You Were Never Really Here, Moonlight, Hell or High Water.) It helps to set a level of a particular film’s relative appeal and popularity.

By that measure, Toy Story 2 is generally considered the weakest film its franchise. At time of writing, Toy Story, Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 all feature on the Internet Movie Database’s Top 250 Movies of All-Time. Toy Story 2 is the lowest ranked entry in the franchise on lists compiled by Variety, Business Insider and The Ringer. It is the ranked as the weakest of the original trilogy on lists compiled by Slant Magazine, Collider and Polygon. None of this amounts to anything that can quantifiably be described as a “backlash.” After all, to be the worst Toy Story movie, a film still has to be pretty good.

However, there is a sense in which Toy Story 2 gets overlooked. There are any number of structural reasons for that. The middle part of a trilogy, picking up immediately after Toy Story but without offering the resolution expected of Toy Story 3, the film is neither a beginning nor an end. It is not an introduction to these characters, and it does not really function as a farewell either. More than that, the film may also be somewhat tarnished by its production history, originally mooted as a straight-to-video release before entering an insanely fast turnaround as a theatrical feature; it is partly why Disney owns Pixar.

Still, this tends to look past what makes Toy Story 2 such a delight. It is in many ways the perfect sequel.

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135. Holmes and Watson – This Just In (-#100)

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. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Etan Cohen’s Holmes and Watson.

In turn-of-the-century London, the fiend James Moriarty prepares to face trial. His conviction rests upon the testimony of heroic detective Sherlock Holmes. However, Holmes makes a startling deduction about the identity of the man in the dock, which sets in motion a whirlwind comedic misadventure.

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

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #24!

It’s time for the Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Jay Coyle and Grace Duffy to discuss what we watched, the week in film news, the top ten and the new releases. Grace has watched ThievesMissing and My Own Private Idaho. Jay has watched A Day in the Country, Without Name, Craig’s Wife, The Loved Ones and One Sings, The Other Doesn’t. I have watched The Dark Knight Rises, Sanjuro and Lone Wolf and Cub in Sword of Vengeance. There is also an extended discussion on the merits (or lack thereof) of Batman Forever.

In terms of film news, the Galway Film Fleadh continues to roll out announcements – including its slate of masterclasses and an unexpected Cagney and Lacey celebration with Tyne Daly. The IFI is hosting a number of seasons in July – one celebrating the work of Robert Bresson and also the annual Family Festival. Meanwhile, the Lighthouse and Palais Galway are hosting a season of coming of age favourites.

The top ten:

  1. Late Night
  2. John Wick: Chapter III – Parabellum
  3. Detective Pikachu
  4. Diego Maradona
  5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  6. X-Men: Dark Phoenix
  7. Rocketman
  8. The Secret Lives of Pets II
  9. Men in Black International
  10. Aladdin

New releases:

You can listen to the podcast directly here.

 

133. Saving Private Ryan (#28)

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. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan.

It is D-Day. Allied troops are launching the liberation of France from Nazi occupation. Having led his men on the beaches of Normandy, Captain John Miller receives a unique set of orders. He is to track down lost paratrooper Private James Ryan and return him home, no matter what the cost.

At time of recording, it was ranked 28th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #21!

It’s time for the Scannain podcast!

This week, I’m back hosting and I’m joined by Jay Coyle and Ronan Doyle to discuss the week in film. Ronan is fresh back from the Trish McAdams and “Memory on Screen” seasons at the Irish Film Institute, and so has a lot to cover from Spider to Memento to the work of Terrence Davies. Jay has had a busy week as well, watching The Virgin Suicides, The Childhood of a Leader and Valley of the Dolls. I’ve had a more eclectic week, watching animated versions of lost Doctor Who episodes, Holmes and Watson, and the surreality that is The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorised Bash Brothers Experience.

A lot of news this week, including Roman Polanski’s (failed) efforts to sell his latest movie at Cannes, Woody Allen releasing a trailer for A Rainy Day in New York on his personal Facebook, the major studios dealing with the Georgia Abortion ban, Dublin Oldschool arriving on Netflix, and a €3,000 prize on offer at the Galway Film Market in July.

The top ten:

  1. A Dog’s Journey
  2. Dumbo
  3. Paw Patrol Mighty Pups
  4. The Hustle
  5. Avengers: Endgame
  6. John Wick: Chapter III – Parabellum
  7. Detective Pikachu
  8. Rocketman
  9. The Secret Lives of Pets II
  10. Aladdin

New releases:

You can listen to the podcast directly here.