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132. Glitter (-#18)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Stacy Grouden, 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, Vondie Curtis-Hall’s Glitter.

Spotted as a back-up vocalist by fly D.J. Julian “Dice” Black, singer Billie Frank finds herself whisked away into a world of stardom and celebrity. However, Billie quickly discovers that fame and fortune do not offer the comfort and security that she has always craved.

At time of recording, it was ranked 18th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the worst movies of all-time.

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Trial and Trailer: The Perils of Publicity in the Internet Era

It is a cliché to suggest that trailers are spoiling movies.

Clint Eastwood was complaining about the trend more than a decade and a half ago, lamenting, “Half the time you go and watch a film, you see eight or 10 different trailers and you’ve seen the whole plot line. There’s really no reason to go see the film.” While film fans might look back nostalgically on classic trailers like Alien or Point Blank, the truth is that movie trailers have always been a bit of a haphazard artform. The trailer for Carrie is as spoilery as any modern trailer.

At the same time, there is a definite trend in contemporary trailers – especially for big blockbuster releases – to ensure that the audience knows exactly what they are going to get. This is most obvious in trailers like Alien: Covenant or Spider-Man: Homecoming, which go beyond spoiling the entire plot thread to spoiling big moments from the film; memorable cameos or distinctive sequences. When dealing with spectacle driven films like Kong: Skull Island, there is a conscious effort to load the trailer with spectacle, revealing monsters and set pieces.

To be fair, this is arguably more of a problem with big budget summer releases. These trailers typically belong to blockbusters that have to absolutely saturate the market in order to build hype, releasing trailers more than a half a year before release or even offering trailers for trailers. It is inevitable that this desire to effectively carpet-bomb the media landscape with footage will reveal far too much about the film in question, particularly for those who task themselves with keeping track of this information. The sparse understated trailers for smaller films like Get Out are a blessing.

It is interesting to wonder what drives these creative decisions, why studios are saturating the market with trailers that seem to lay out every beat ahead of time and which effectively promise every twist that will be delivered over the course of the narrative. There is a lot to be said for the joy of seeing a film blind, without knowing exactly what is coming and how it will be delivered. It seems reasonable to argue that the job of a trailer is to tease, to offer the viewer a hint of what is in store, instead of mapping out how they might spend two hours of their lives.

However, while these views are quite common on the internet and among film fans, it is interesting to wonder whether they reflect the opinions and taste of the mass audience. Is this increasing tendency towards spoiler-heavy trailers that plot out the entire arc of a film are driven by the tastes of audiences? Is this how the majority of viewers want their entertainment delivered, even if they would never frame it in those terms?

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Non-Review Review: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay, Part II

As with the rest of the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II has an admirable sense of ambition.

There some bold ideas here for a young adult series, some of which are increasingly relevant to twenty-first century political realities. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II feels like very old-school science-fiction, tackling big issues through metaphor and allegory. While the final film in the series is very much an action spectacular, the script offers any number of observations about terrorism and state power, about media and revolutionary politics. It is nice to see such a big-budget high-profile film tackling these ideas.

Straight arrow...

Straight arrow…

At the same time, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II feels a little too clean and tempered for its own good. The script is willing to engage with complicated questions of moral relativity, but the problems frequently feel superficial. The movie frequently suggests that political and military realities are not as clear-cut as they might appear, before offering a rather clear-cut solution to what was presented as a moral quagmire. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II does not follow the path of least resistance, but it follows the path of second-least resistance.

Oddly enough for a story that has been split across two films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II feels rather incomplete and rushed in places. Certain sections of the expansive ensemble are casually brushed aside towards the end, with the film tying its major plot threads up quite hastily and efficiently. Still, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II is impressively produced and anchored in a few great performances from a very experienced cast. The result is a smooth-running film that perhaps might have been better to embrace a few more bumps and hiccups.

As the world burns...

As the world burns…

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Millennium – 5-2-2-6-6-6 (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

It is interesting to compare and contrast the scripts that Morgan and Wong wrote for the fourth season of The X-Files with the scripts that they wrote for the first season of Millennium. The duo were writing for both shows at the same time – with episodes frequently airing within a week of each other. Morgan tended to focus more on the four X-Files scripts, while Wong worked primarily on the three Millennium episodes. While the seven scripts are all fascinating in their own way, there is a marked difference in how the duo approach the two shows.

Their four episodes of The X-Files are very bold and experimental – they look and feel utterly unlike anything that the show has done; before or after. These four scripts seem to needle at the show, pushing it further. Home seems designed to see how much unpleasantness the writers can get on to Fox prime time in the nineties. The Field Where I Died is a thoughtful and melancholy romance with no companion in the X-Files canon. Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man parodies the show’s central conspiracy. Never Again makes the Mulder/Scully dynamic toxic.

Having a blast...

Having a blast…

That makes a great deal of sense. After all, The X-Files was in its fourth season. It was approaching that impressive “one hundredth episode” landmark, the number of episodes necessary before the show would be secure in syndication. (At least in the television landscape of the nineties.) Although less than half-way through its eventual nine-season run, The X-Files was an old dog by this stage of its life cycle. As such, it made a great deal of sense for Morgan and Wong – two writers who had been there at the beginning – to shake things up.

In contrast, the three scripts that Morgan and Wong wrote for the first season of Millennium are a bit more conservative in scope and tone. They are fascinating pieces of television that help to establish the mood of the show, but they are not as experimental of the work that Morgan and Wong were doing on The X-Files. Again, this makes a great deal of sense. Millennium was still a very young show. It was still defining its own identity, figuring out what it wanted and needed to be. Morgan and Wong’s three scripts are essential in that development.

Taking a page from the Group...

Taking a page from the Group…

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My 12 for ’14: Nightcrawler and Bleeding Leads…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

One of the most compelling criticisms of Nightcrawler is that the almost obligatory comparisons to Network are all too apt; that the film has not really bothered to update its social and political commentary for the twenty-first century. In many ways, this is true. The social satire at the heart of Nightcrawler is pretty familiar at this point. Lou Bloom is a young man who talks like a living and breathing self-help book, willing to do whatever is necessary to get ahead in life. It is just the latest in a long line of searing criticism of American capitalism.

After all, Nightcrawler would make a suitable companion piece to The Drop or Snowpiercer from this year; perhaps it make an interesting double-feature with Killing Them Softly from last year. The decision to focus this tale of exploitational capitalism on the media industry means that Network becomes the obvious point of comparison for Nightcrawler – just as 2001: A Space Odyssey inevitably comes up in discussions of Interstellar. If it feels like the satire has not really been updated, that is because that satire is still largely relevant.

nightcrawler6

That said, Nightcrawler is just a stunningly well-produced film. Writer and director Dan Gilroy brings a delightfully kenetic energy to the movie. Cinematographer Robert Elswit helps to give the film a unique style by adopting a hybrid approach to filming the movie – the daylight scenes are shot on film, while the late-night sequences are shot on digital. This helps to create a clear sense of different between the Los Angeles seen during the day and nightmarish version present by Nightcrawler after dark.

However, Nightcrawler largely belongs to Jake Gyllenhaal, who provides one of the year’s most mesmorising lead performances as a young man willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. Whatever it takes.

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The X-Files – Wetwired (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.

Wetwired is an oddity.

It is the penultimate episode of the third season, written by special effects supervisor Matt Beck. It is very much a conspiracy episode, albeit one lacking any real sense of forward moment and with only the loosest thematic ties to the rest of the show’s mythology. Unlike – say – Soft Light, this is not simply a “monster of the week” story with elements of the mythology grafted in. The show has largely move past those, which is why Avatar felt so weird.

More like

More like “terror vision”, am I right?

Instead, Wetwired is that strangest of government conspiracy stories. It is an episode dedicated almost exclusively to shady goings-on at the highest levels of government, but with no mention or inference of aliens or other sinister long-term plots. Wetwired stands out as something strange and hard to place; perhaps its closest analogue is The Pine Bluff Variant from towards the end of the fifth season.

The result is an oddity that is a little uneven and disjointed, an episode packed with clever ideas and concepts, but difficulty connecting them to each other.

Scully has had it with Mulder's quips about her driving...

Scully has had it with Mulder’s quips about her driving…

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Non-Review Review: Network

Network is a compelling condemnation of news television. The black comedy from Sydney Lumet is one of those great movies which actually feels more relevant now (thirty years after it was first released) than it did when it first appeared on the big screen. In particular, while some plot developments are clearly satire, it seems that quite a few moments in the movie seem a lot less ridiculous or fantastical in this day and age than they would have when originally written. It’s a rare movie that can do something like that, and the fact that it’s a lot easier to imagine some of the movie’s jokes coming to pass in this day and age only makes it all the more potent.

Beales appeal...

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