2022 | Weeks 4–6

It’s been a busy start to the year… at my day job, which has had the knock-on effect of lower film viewing than has been the case in recent years. (I say that, but as February passes its midpoint, I’ve actually watched slightly more films than I had at the same point in 2020; but the last time I was lower than that was right back in 2014, so…)

As well as work, there’s the psychology of my new reviewing practices. These regular up-to-date roundups have taken me right back to the days when I used to review everything in order, and how not being caught-up on my reviews made me not want to watch anything more. I’m getting those same kinds of twinges now. I need to try to use them to my advantage — take the time to read more books or something.

Anyway, enough about me — let’s have some film reviews…

  • Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary (2016)
  • L’avventura (1960)
  • She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
  • Don’t Look Up (2021)
  • Jackass: The Movie (2002)
  • Jackass Number Two (2006)


    Voyage of Time

    (2016)

    aka Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary / Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience

    Terrence Malick | 46 mins | digital (UHD) | 1.90:1 | USA / English | NR / G

    Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary

    Calling a film “a visual poem” sounds either clichéd or pretentious, or both, but how else to accurately describe this work by Terrence Malick? It’s labelled “a documentary”, because only because it’s not strictly fiction — if you come looking for the kind of education you’d get from something narrated by David Attenborough or Brian Cox, say, then I think you’d leave disappointed.

    No, film-as-poetry is the most appropriate way to attempt to engage with Voyage of Time; and, as with so much written poetry, your personal tolerance for and interest in it will vary. That’s how I found it, anyway: like most poetry, I felt I should appreciate it, but really was glad it was quite short. (The non-IMAX version of the film, subtitled Life’s Journey, runs about twice as long.) There’s some stunning photography, of everything from the birth of the universe to prehistoric vistas (presumably shot in remote modern-day locales rather than computer-generated), and Brad Pitt occasionally whispers some abstrusely meaningful ponderings over the top. As much as the pretty pictures are a draw, you can also find gorgeous nature photography in a BBC Attenborough documentary, and you’ll learn something at the same time.

    The IMAX version of the film has been streaming on MUBI since the end of last year, and they definitely sold it on the visual experience, boasting about offering it in 4K. I found the quality to be variable, with the stream unable to keep its end up for the whole running time, sometimes sinking to sub-1080p levels, becoming blocky and compressed. This is why physical media remains the best, when possible.

    3 out of 5

    Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary is the 11th film in my 100 Films in a Year Challenge 2022.


    L’avventura

    (1960)

    aka The Adventure

    Michelangelo Antonioni | 143 mins | digital (HD) | 1.85:1 | Italy & France / Italian, English & Greek | PG

    L'avventura

    I don’t have a great track record for enjoying acclaimed classic Italian cinema (neither Bicycle Thieves nor were to my taste, for example), so I’ve put off watching L’avventura for years, expecting I wouldn’t get on with it. But, inevitably, I had to face it someday… and, as it turned out, I really liked it… for a while…

    The film begins with Claudia (Monica Vitti) and her wealthy friend Anna (Lea Massari) meeting up with the latter’s wealthy boyfriend, Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), to go for a cruise on the yacht of some other wealthy friends. When they dock on a small island, Anna goes missing. The party scour the island, but there’s no sign of her. Police and divers arrive, but no luck. Reports suggest maybe she boarded another boat; possibly she was kidnapped. The wealthy friends quickly drift back to their lives, but Claudia and Sandro keep searching, following scant clues. Soon they too begin to get distracted — by each other.

    I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that L’avventura starts out looking like a missing-person mystery only to get sidetracked into being a kind of romantic drama. I certainly knew that going in; and it’s probably beneficial to know it, spoiler or not, so as to manage your expectations of the film appropriately. Anyone expecting a Christie-style hunt through clues and suspects until the truth is unearthed will come away severely disappointed. No, this is the Mystery genre reimagined through an arthouse lens: it’s inconclusive, more interested in the characters than the hunt they’re on, and notoriously slow paced.

    With that in mind, I was surprised by how effective I found the mystery part of the movie. It’s not a whistle-stop action-adventure, but it’s not significantly slower than your average murder mystery, and accusations of it being uneventful seem misplaced — if I were expecting it to unfold like a regular mystery, there’d be plenty of places to look out for clues. It’s as the film shifts more towards Claudia and Sandro’s burgeoning romance that it begins to drag. The pair start just hanging around places as tourists, at which it does begin to seem like nothing’s happening and so what’s the point? The conceit of them falling for each other when they’re meant to be searching for someone they mutually care about is a good storyline, but I wasn’t convinced by how it played out. There doesn’t seem to be any time when they’re actually falling in love, they just suddenly are. Maybe I’m missing some point there. Or maybe it’s beside the point. Until I can work that one out, I’m going to have to chalk this up as half great, half A Shame.

    4 out of 5

    L’avventura is the 12th film in my 100 Films in a Year Challenge 2022. It was viewed as part of Blindspot 2022.


    She’s Gotta Have It

    (1986)

    Spike Lee | 84 mins | digital (UHD) | 1.66:1 | USA / English | 18 / R

    She's Gotta Have It

    Spike Lee’s post-student debut concerns twentysomething Brooklynite Nora Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), who’s openly dating three men: upright ‘nice guy’ Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks), preening model Greer (John Canada Terrell), and streetwise Mars (Lee himself). And let’s not be coy (because the film certainly isn’t): she’s not just dating them, she’s sleeping with them all. The story of this love ‘square’ is partially narrated to camera by its four participants, as well as some of Nora’s other friends and acquaintances.

    It’s kinda crazy to think that the American indies were making sexually frank films like this and sex, lies and videotape in the late ’80s (a precursor, no doubt, to the wave of ‘real sex’ movies in the early ’00s), while nowadays we regularly get young people on Twitter arguing that no movie ever needs to have a sex scene, ever. So while I’m tempted to describe the film’s views on promiscuity as “then-modern”, perhaps just “modern” will still suffice — it’s certainly taken most (arguably all) of the intervening decades to get rid of the double standard for men and women as regards having multiple partners. That said, what has perhaps changed is our idea of what counts as “sexually explicit”. The film was obviously quite shocking back in its day, with the MPAA insisting on cuts before they’d give it an R (the unrated “director’s cut” had a Criterion LaserDisc release, but hasn’t surfaced anywhere else since), but you’ll see more nudity, more thrusting and moaning, on certain TV shows nowadays.

    Sexual stereotypes are not the only ones Lee sought to subvert here, as he also attempts to combat stereotypical depictions of African-Americans on screen — note the prominent message in the end credits that “this film contains are no jerri curls!!! and no drugs!!!” (punctuation as seen on screen). It extends beyond those basic signifiers; for example, how Nora’s three lovers are such different personalities. Partly that makes sense for the plot — that different sides of Nora’s personality like different types of guy — but also it shows different ideas of male Blackness; that The Black Guy is not just one thing. The jazzy score is another definite contrast to what you’d expect from a Hip Young Black Movie in the ’80s. Maybe that’s just Lee’s personal preference, but maybe it’s another conscious subversion of expectations.

    Lee’s politics are clear and forthright, but his filmmaking still needed some work. A lot of the film looks great, mostly shot in high-contrast black-and-white (plus one striking, ultra-saturated colour sequence), but some of the editing and performances could use refinement. Rough round the edges though it may be, She’s Gotta Have It is so clearly the calling card of a talented and individual voice with something brand-new to say that those rough edges are almost more of a feature than a bug.

    4 out of 5

    She’s Gotta Have It is the 13th film in my 100 Films in a Year Challenge 2022. It was viewed as part of “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?” 2022.


    Don’t Look Up

    (2021)

    Adam McKay | 138 mins | digital (UHD) | 2.39:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

    Don't Look Up

    Oscar statue2022 Academy Awards
    4 nominations

    Nominated: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Original Score.

    Having targeted those responsible for the 2008 financial crash in The Big Short, and Dick Cheney and his responsibility for everything bad that’s happened in the last few decades in Vice, writer-director Adam McKay now turns his satirical attention to a fictional scenario, basically so he can have a go at anyone and everyone he feels like. The plot concerns a giant asteroid headed for Earth; an extinction-level event just 6½ months away. But, despite a handful of scientists trying to warn everyone, nobody seems in a great rush to do anything about it. It’s all an allegory for America’s carefree attitude to climate change, see.

    Really, this is a film I should be fully onboard with. It’s setting its sights on vacuous mainstream culture and Trumpian politics, after all. The problem is, these targets are low-hanging fruit, and — somewhat ironically, given its title — Don’t Look Up is satisfied with only plucking those lowest branches. Repeatedly. Unhurriedly. When they said the comet was 6½ months away, I didn’t expect the rest of the film to feel like it was covering that in real-time. It needed a better editor, or perhaps a studio who exerted a bit more quality control than Netflix’s famed “do what you want, we’ll just release it” approach. There are funny moments, certainly, but they’re literally few and far between when the pace is languid and the satire so broad, simplistic, and repetitious. Indeed, the most laugh-inducing stuff has nothing to do with the satire at all, just funny bits of business along the way (the best is a running gag about a general and snacks, which keeps cropping up unexpectedly).

    And for a film that’s entire thesis is being critical of American attitudes, it’s (again) ironic that it depicts this global crisis as so America-centric. Sure, there are cutaways to people watching events in other parts of the world, and a couple of belated nods to the idea that other countries might have their own thoughts on this impending disaster, but that’s all they are — sops and nods. “If America’s not going to fix this, no one can,” says the film. Ah, fuck off.

    2 out of 5


    Jackass: The Movie

    (2002)

    Jeff Tremaine | 85 mins | digital (SD) | 16:9 | USA / English | 18 / R

    Jackass: The Movie

    Jackass never appealed to me. I was a 14-year-old boy when it started, surely the franchise’s target audience; but I was an intelligent 14-year-old boy, so I was above it. Sorry, not sorry. But with everyone going on about the new movie, and reevaluating the whole franchise as some kind of essential classic of Cinema, I thought it was finally time to see for myself.

    For those not au fait with the series, it’s about a bunch of men who clearly aren’t old enough to know better performing stunts and pranks that no one in their right mind should ever want to do anyway. They’re frequently designed to induce pain. They’re often trying to be as crude or gross as possible. Some may make you feel ill just by watching them. And yet others are almost on the level of wholesome fun… albeit “wholesome fun” where you know participants will come away with bruises, at the very least.

    Almost everything the guys get up to is “dumb” — that’s kinda the point — and yet… It borders on “educational” when, for example, lead troublemaker Johnny Knoxville submits to being shot by “less lethal” riot control ammunition. The plan was for him to be shot in the chest, but the guys who make the stuff say if it hits his heart it could kill him, so they revise it to him being shot in the abdomen. Whereas most of the other stunts are followed by cutaways to the rest of the crew in hysterics, here the shocked silence of their reaction is telling. Or how about the kinda-feminism of a segment called “Ass Kicked by a Girl”, in which one of the gang enters the ring against a world champion female kickboxer. There’s no “haha, I can take her easily ’cause she’s a girl” posturing: the guy knows he’s about to get his ass handed to him. There’s some kind of respect for women in that, anyway, which you might not expect given the rest of the laddish antics.

    Taken as ‘a movie’, it’s rather formless — I suspect the TV show was exactly the same, just shorter — but the rapid-fire, standalone-stunt style does mean that no sketch hangs around too long. Some are literally seconds. But there’s not even a sense of escalation, say — it’s not like they save the largest or most outlandish stunt for the end (although there’s a post-credit scene that seems like it was probably the film’s most expensive single sequence). In some respects it doesn’t matter (who cares about the structure of a Jackass movie?), but in others, it’s what keeps it at the level of “feature-length special” rather than true Movie.

    But, ultimately, the important thing is this: some of it is funny. Reader, I laughed.

    3 out of 5


    Jackass Number Two

    (2006)

    Jeff Tremaine | 88 mins | digital (HD) | 16:9 | USA / English | 18 / R

    Jackass Number Two

    Even Jackass isn’t immune from the law of diminishing returns: after three seasons on TV plus a movie, this second big-screen outing feels kinda uninspired, like they’ve used up all their truly great ideas and are mostly running on fumes. That said, there are some good sequences — a variety of rodeo-based stunts with real live bulls are among the highlights — but other pranks feel reheated, or are just underwhelming; things you suspect would have been rejected in favour of better material before.

    In that sense it almost feels like it was rushed out to capitalise on success, but there’s a gap of four years, the TV show had ended, and they hadn’t necessarily intended to do any more — surely the only reason to return, then, was fresh ideas? Or, perhaps, being given the budget to do things they couldn’t before. That might be the case, because some of the material does feel like it’s got too much money and/or time behind it. I say “too much” because I think Jackass works best when it has a rough, cheap, “made at home” vibe. The finale here — a big “old Hollywood”-style musical number, with stunts mixed in — feels particularly out of place. Obviously it’s all a big joke, but the glossy, clearly-expensive visuals don’t feel of the right style.

    Plus, at various points you can feel some of the cast are getting genuinely fed up with this shit. Maybe they’d been doing it for too long by this point (I say there was a years-long gap, but some had been involved in spinoff projects). Whatever the reason, it serves to undermine the fun somewhat. One of the reasons you can enjoy these fools doing life-threatening stunts is because they’re volunteering for it and they seem to be having fun, however much they’re getting hurt or disgusted. But if they’re not enjoying it, aren’t we just watching people be tortured for our entertainment? It almost tips it from being stupid-but-funny into exploitative bullying. And we shouldn’t be having to think about anything that deep during a Jackass movie.

    As I’ve given both films 3 stars, let’s be clear: I’d definitely rate the sequel lower than the first movie, just not a whole star lower — it doesn’t merit being pulled down to a 2, while the first doesn’t merit a retrospective bump up to 4. If this kind of tomfoolery tickles you, there’s still plenty of entertainment to be had in Number Two, it’s just (mostly) not their finest output — which I guess is kinda apt, given the title.

    3 out of 5

    Jackass Number Two is the 15th film in my 100 Films in a Year Challenge 2022.


  • The All-New Monthly Review of January 2022

    I’ve already lied to you, dear reader. I say that because much of this monthly review is going to seem familiar — “All-New” it is not. “Partially new”, that would be the truth: there are new graphics, and a revised focus in some sections, both to fit in with the blog’s new identity.

    Despite that, I’ve stuck with the “all-new” moniker to reflect The All-New 100 Films in a Year Challenge, my progress with which is now the primary focus of these monthly updates… although you can still find links to all my reviews; and the Arbies survive, now in their 80th month, still drawing from everything I watched.

    Well, we’ll see how it goes. On which note, on it goes…



    This month’s viewing towards my yearly challenge

    #1 Carry On Spying (1964) — Decades #1
    #2 Gosford Park (2001) — Rewatches #1
    #3 Penny Serenade (1941) — Decades #2
    #4 The Navigator (1924) — Decades #3
    #5 Flight of the Navigator (1986) — WDYMYHS #1
    #6 In the Line of Fire (1993) — Decades #4
    #7 Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper (2004) — Decades #5
    #8 Free Guy (2021) — Decades #6
    #9 Mass (2021) — New Films #1
    #10 Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise (2007) — DVDs #1
    #11 Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary (2016) — Decades #7
    #12 L’avventura (1960) — Blindspot #1


    • I watched 11 feature films I’d never seen before in January.
    • All of them counted towards my 100 Films in a Year Challenge, along with one rewatch.
    • As you may or may have inferred from that, this means I effectively have two counts running now: my 100 Films Challenge, and how many new films I’ve seen. The former may be the official thing going on nowadays, but a decade-and-a-half habit is hard to break, so on my ‘new film’ count goes. As I said up top, it’s the Challenge that’s the focus of these posts now, but I’ll still be including titbits about my overall new film viewing. And come the end of the year, it’s the overall new viewing that will continue to fuel things like my Top 10 and the statistics post.
    • So, to the Challenge. As the year gets underway, most — in fact, everything — I watch counts. I don’t expect that to be the case as we go forward.
    • For example: I’m not surprised to see the Decades category filling up fastest, because it’s so easy to complete. Slots are filled by any film that (a) isn’t better off counted towards another category, and (b) isn’t from a decade already ticked off — and, as the year begins, none are ticked off (obv). With 7 out of 12, Decades is already 58% complete. As for the remainder, the 1910s might require a special effort (I don’t watch many films that old without explicitly setting out to), but I imagine the others will take care of themselves in short order.
    • Just in case it needs stating for anyone: yes, Mass is “a 2021 movie” thanks to its festival screenings (the US and Canadian releases were also last year), but it didn’t come out in the UK until 20th January, which makes it a 2022 (i.e. new) movie for me.
    • This month’s Blindspot film was L’avventura, which I’ve been putting off including on the list (or watching in any other way) for years. I haven’t particularly enjoyed other classics of mid-20th-century Italian cinema, like Bicycle Thieves or , so I feared this would be the same. And that’s part of the motivation for watching it first: ripping off the plaster. Well, it was a somewhat pleasant surprise. More when I review it soon.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film was Flight of the Navigator, which I watched on Prime Video. The danger of putting titles from streamers on a “movies I must watch this year” list is that at some point, possibly without warning, they could disappear from that streamer. But that also makes them an easy choice for where to start. This year there are only two across all 24 films from Blindspot and WDYMYHS, and they’re both on the latter list — I imagine the other will be next month’s pick.
    • I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”. And as for this month’s failures: I’ve finally decided to spin the feature off into its own post. Look for that in the next day or two.



    The 80th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    Although my viewing numbers this month were more than solid (getting to 100 films in a year at a steady pace — something the new challenge is partially intended to enforce — requires an average of 8.3 films a month), the level of quality was more middling. One film did stand out, though: Mass, a chamber piece that puts you through the emotional wringer, powered by a quartet of awards-worthy performances.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    Conversely, the month’s middling quality means it’s also hard to pick a worst film. By a nose, I’m going to say Voyage of Time, because I didn’t get as much out of it as I might’ve hoped. Plus, MUBI’s pathetic attempt at streaming in 4K (a feature they’d specifically pushed in the film’s advertising) got on my wick.

    Best Navigator of the Month
    The navigator in The Navigator is actually the name of the boat; and even if it weren’t, Buster Keaton is pretty poor at navigating it. The navigator in Flight of the Navigator is the kid who bonds with the spaceship, and while he’s ostensibly in charge, I think the spacecraft actually does most of the work. But in Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper, Barbie manages to ride into the forest and go straight to the exact hidden cabin where her doppelgänger is being held captive. Impressive navigation, Barbie.

    Biggest Mystery of the Month
    Whodunnit in Gosford Park? What happened to Anna in L’avventura? How did David lose eight years in Flight of the Navigator? Can they catch the assassin in In the Line of Fire? What are the villains up to in Carry On Spying? Can Meat Loaf put on a gig that makes him happy in In Search of Paradise? No, the biggest mystery of the month is: what the feck is Brad Pitt on about in the Voyage of Time narration?!

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    No break-out successes this month — the victor is down in 30th place overall, behind a slew of archive TV columns — but it was a close-run thing nonetheless, with two posts tied for second place, just two hits behind the winner. Said winner was, somewhat appropriately, The Best of 2021. And now it’s the best of (January) 2022, too. Hurrah.



    Every review posted this month, including new titles and the Archive 5


    It’s 100 Films’ 15th birthday (just two months after launching! Is this what being a time traveller feels like?)

    I had been thinking I’d mark the occasion with a revised version of 100 Favourites, as that’s five years old, but those things take literally years to put together (well, the first one did), and while I had been considering it for years, it’s been overtaken by the relaunch. Maybe in 2023.

    Other than that, erm, things continue much the same…