Later today, Film 4 kick off one of their fairly regular Fantastica seasons. As ever they’ve got a good line up for it too. A nice combination of well-known blockbusters, cult movies and the odd bit of cinematic pizza. Greasy, laden with cheese but sometimes so very needed. Plus a few films which missed the mark by astonishing margins but are still weirdly fun. Here’s me talking about the movies I’ve seen in the season and you can see starting from 9pm tonight.
9.00pm – Iron Man 2
Many people will tell you this is the worst Marvel movie and they’re almost right. It’s certainly got the worst guest performance with Mickey Rourke’s incomprehensible Ivan Vanko but there’s still a lot to enjoy. The Stark/Potts banter is probably never better than it is here, the moment with Tony’s dad is surprisingly poignant and sweet and there’s some excellent ‘Stark thinks very hard’ stuff. Also, Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson in her first outing as multiyear winner of the Character Whose Lack Of Solo Movie Is Actually Offensive At This Point Award, Black Widow.
11.25pm – Terminator Salvation
This is not a good movie. It does have a brilliant trailer though as you can see and it is, despite it’s legion of flaws, an interesting watch. Putting aside the books that will one day be written about the catastrophic production, it’s actually got a rock solid central idea; this is the war with the machines. Better still, this is the war and Connor is viewed either as a messiah or a very naughty boy by his fellow troops…
It has some great ideas, some lovely visuals and a Bryce Dallas Howard performance so minimal the film should be prosecuted for it. You’ll be annoyed but you’ll also be weirdly entertained.
Friday 13th November
9.00pm – The Hunger Games
As Mockingjay Part 2 gets ready to open across the country, go back and re-watch this. It’s brilliant, an effortlessly nasty, dystopian piece of science fiction with one of a string of star-making turns Lawrence has turned out at its core. That would be enough to make this a must-watch but there’s so much more here to enjoy. Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta is great, Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket is a shrill monstrosity here before she becomes a tragic heroine and Woody Harrelson’s drunken Haymitch is magnificent. But all of them pale in comparison to Lawrence’s wounded, seething, enraged dignity.
Saturday 14th November
9.00pm – Legion
If Paul Bettany as an angel packing a wide variety of automatic weaponry makes you giggle as much as it does me, this is for you. The film that spawned the short-lived, and missed, SyFy channel series Dominion isn’t half as good as fellow angelic thriller The Prophecy but very few movies are. It is however immense fun and provides a welcome skew on the usual apocalypse shenanigans.
Sunday 15th November
Stop whatever Twilight joke is forming on your lips right now. Not just for us, but for you. You’re better than this. Better than this desperate need to point and laugh at something everyone you know has pointed and laughed at for years. There are better, more important battles to fight, you don’t need the confidence boost and God only knows the world doesn’t need any more Twilight jokes. So, please, for all of us, don’t.
Plus, this is better than you remember it being. Later movies hit franchise bloat good and hard but this is, while bloodless, nicely atmospheric, directed very well and has solid central performances.
9.00pm – Independence Day
There are a pair of British Tornado pilots in the pre-end fight montage here who have these lines:
‘The yanks have a plan!’
‘It’s about bloody time!’
They are the stars of ID4UK, now only partially available on youtube, which is the best audio tie in to anything ever. Go listen to it after watching this because, whether you like it or not, this is really good fun. Will Smith in full charm mode, Bill Pullman doing a cover version of Henry V, Jeff Goldblum going Maximum Goldblum, Randy Quaid pre full-scale meltdown and an amazingly young Mae Whitman. It’s ridiculous and huge and one of the last times Roland Emmerich remembered how to do this kind of movie and still huge fun a frankly horrifying amount of years after it was made.
11.45pm – The X Files: I Want To Believe
There’s a moment towards the end of this dismal, ill-tempered snowfest where Mulder’s in trouble, Scully’s found him and the door is kicked in. Walter Skinner, Assistant Director of the FBI and patron saint of put upon, over-articulate big guys comes in, backs Scully up, saves Mulder’s useless idiot hide and then leaves again.
There, now you don’t need to watch this waste of time, celluloid and the talents of all involved.
Monday 16th November
11.05pm – Season Of The Witch
Nicholas Cage! Ron Perlman! NO SEMBLANCE OF COHERENCE!
11.25pm – Trance
Great magic tricks entertain you. Truly exceptional ones entertain you once you know how they’re done. James McAvoy is both star and avatar of the movie; charming, well dressed, of dubious trustworthiness. Brilliantly done, brilliantly scored and brilliantly acted by McAvoy, the extraordinary Rosario Dawson and Cassel. If there’s a must watch from the movies I’ve seen in this season, it’s this.
11.45pm – The Running Man
Ahnuld in full Science Fiction splendour, forced to compete in a gameshow where he’s hunted to death. Except he isn’t, because it’s Arnie and the greatest lie cinema told us in the 1980s was that he could be killed. Or harmed. Or act. Totally worth it though, if nothing else to see the last bloom of his pre-Terminator 2 ‘cheesy bringer of death’ schtick.
Friday 20th November
9.00pm – Battleship
I am a very, very forgiving watcher of film. With that in mind, you should know that less than fifteen minutes into this, when three lasers are fired from three parallel radio telescopes on Hawaii and combine, Death Star style before shooting into space, I audibly said ‘Oh FUCK OFF!’ in the movie theatre (Thankfully inhabited only by two friends and I).
We did not leave the theatre. The film did not disappoint. I hate the term guilty pleasure but if I had them, this would be one of them.
11.35pm – End of Days
There’s a genuinely brilliant Kevin Pollack supporting turn in here which features one line delivered so perfectly I still laugh at it 15 years later. There’s also Gabriel Byrne, who pulled double duty in the pre-millennial Religious apoco-fest with this and Stigmata, as the devil. And Vatican commandos.
So I’ll be watching this again, despite it being awful, is what I’m saying.
Saturday 21st November
9.00pm – X-Men: First Class
Either the second best or tied with X2 for best X-Men movie to date has a ton of problems with female characters (Evil or sidelined!) and non-white characters (Evil, sidelined, dead or all three by the end!) but does everything else pretty much right. It’s ludicrous problems with half its cast will be a deal breaker for a lot of folks but if you’re not one of them there’s a ton to enjoy here. Especially the gloriously snarky Macavoy/Fassbender central double act, yet another excellent turn from Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult as young Henry McCoy.
11.35pm – Stoker
Chan-wook Park’s English language debut, from a script written by Wentworth Miller. Go look him up. I’ll wait.
Yep. That’s him. Captain Cold from The Flash wrote this. It’s bloody good too. Mia Wasikowska is excellent, as is Kidman and Matthew Goode in a crucial central role is incredible. A spider on the skin of a film, creeping, gentle, insidious and chilling.
Film4 are good at this, and this season shows why. There’s some really smart blockbuster choices, a couple of old friends who get drunk and puke on the sofa (Hi Battleship!) and some fun surprises. Even better there’s a bunch of stuff I’ve not seen. Starman, Machete Kills, Life of Pi and You’re Next in particular. So dive in, try something new as well a revisiting an old friend or two. That’s certainly my plan.