“This isn’t going to go the way you think.” This line from Luke Skywalker is a pretty good summary of the film (sadly I have no will and read most of the spoilers beforehand). If The Force Awakens was like a bowl of comforting warm porridge sprinkled with cinnamon and nostalgia, The Last Jedi is proving to be more of a divisive dish. Since I’m on a silly food metaphor track, for me it was a bit like a bowl of salad; some ingredients are tastier than others and occasionally you bite on a piece of raw onion (I can’t stand onion), but it’s overall delicious and there’s an excellent dressing binding it all.
I finally watched the DVD I bought on sale almost three years ago. This is why I prefer to rent movies – if I have a fixed deadline ahead I’ll make time to watch them rather than procrastinate and let the box collect dust. There are just way too many other distractions around. I’m glad I freed it from the plastic wrapping, because the movie was a blast. Like Oblivion, that other Tom Cruise sci-fi film from the recent years, Edge of Tomorrow steals from the best in the genre, but unlike Oblivion it feels genuinely like its own beast. And it’s heaps of fun.
The DVD I rented offered me a choice of the theatrical cut, and the alternative version with the original ending that was scrapped after it was unfavourably received at the test screenings. While I really enjoyed the movie this story of two radically different endings is probably its most interesting aspect. The DVD menu made me feel like a character in a fairytale: shall I take the road on the left, or the road on the right? With the magic of the remote, I watched both endings, and once again marvelled at Hollywood’s willingness to ruin a perfectly fine film.
Spoilers for the endings ahead.
In my mind, the original Blade Runner was a cinematic lightning-in-a-bottle that emphatically did not call for a sequel, so when Blade Runner 2049 was announced I felt rather sceptical about the idea. I can’t say I’ve been entirely converted, but I can definitely say that Denis Villeneuve’s film is worth watching on the big screen for the spellbinding visuals alone, and if Roger Deakins doesn’t win the Best Cinematography Oscar for his work here they can just disband the whole Academy Award thing.
Neil Gaiman has become one of my favourite writers over the years and I was happy to get my hands on this latest third collection of short trips into the weird, shadowy country of Gaiman’s mind. It never really occurred to me to compare him to Ray Bradbury, but in fact Gaiman’s short stories have the same effect on me that I had while engrossed in Bradbury’s fiction when a teenager – a pleasantly uneasy sensation of looking at the world in a distorted mirror, or lifting the fabric of reality to find some dark, strange, disturbing things lurking underneath. Gaiman’s imagination is just as boundless, and his voice as a writer is just as distinctive (his books on the whole have a lot more graphic sex, though not in this particular collection).
The Lobster made me think of Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi short stories I read as a teenager, where some “what if” premise would be taken to an absurd extreme, except that this movie does it with an extra helping of bonkers. If you’re a fan of out-there scenarios, the summary should grab you instantly. Here goes: in the dystopian world of The Lobster, it’s illegal to be single. If you’re divorced, widowed or just unattached, you get sent to a high-security hotel in the countryside, where you have 45 days to find a new partner among the fellow singles. Those who fail to pair up are then turned into an animal of their choice and remain that way for the rest of their lives. David (Colin Farrell), the main hero of the film, tells the manager of the hotel that he’d like to cast his lot with the crustaceans, and be turned into a lobster. Lobsters, he says, can live for hundred years, and he quite enjoys swimming.
David Mitchell’s magnum opus was the subject of discussion in our most recent book club, so I thought I’d watch the 2012 film adaptation by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. As far as unfilmable novels go, Cloud Atlas is a doozy: six separate stories set in six different timelines, each written in a different prose style and covering a different genre, from 19th-century pastiche to science fiction. Moreover, how do you visually translate a book whose chief attraction is Mitchell’s virtuoso use of language? This would have been enough to make most filmmakers run away screaming, so kudos to Wachowskis and Tykwer for even attempting something this ambitious and daunting. While I didn’t think that the movie succeeded overall, it’s a kind of high-aiming failure you can’t help but admire.