We will be the first to see it. To explore it. To experience it.

The Black Hole (1979)   Sometimes, a movie’s ambition is enough to see it through its less illustrious aspects. When I last revisited this entry in the “Dark Disney” canon, I pointed the finger of blame for The Black Hole’s drawbacks at director Gary Nelson, and while I still believe that’s partially fair, I have to credit him with the fact that it remains commendably weird-arsed (as I put it) and light years ahead of most big-budget science fiction, not only in its broaching of ideas but also in pursuing them to their conclusion. Calling it a kiddie 2001: A Space Odyssey would be

Get yourselves to the Moon.

Belfast (2021)   I wasn’t expecting that. I may have to retract my assessment that Sir Ken is one of the worst directors under the firmament. There’s no doubting his responsibility for the steaming pile that is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and I wouldn’t wish to go to the opposite of extreme of suggesting Belfast is some kind of small miracle, but it is, for the most part, a model of restraint and well-wrought performances. Almost as if, when faced with something personal, Branagh was ironically able to get out of its way. Cynicism is due Belfast, however. It’s a modest little movie, calibrated, with its black-and-white

Why, once he even tried to ravish me, disguised as a cuttlefish.

Clash of the Titans (1981)   A Harryhausen step too far? Dynamation deflation? At the time, being a devotee of Jason and the Argonauts and lured by the cash-in mini/movie-adaption ads from Smiths Crisps – I was a DC Thompson comics reader; they appeared, it seems, in Warlord, although it could as easily have been Buddy or Victor – I was as eager to see this as any right-minded kid was the next Star Wars. And Ray had evidently considered the zeitgeist (hence Bubo). But not enough. I know many swear by Clash of the Titans, but too much of it is stale or ineffectual – regardless of the occasional splash of

You’re going to make me drop a donkey.

Encanto (2021)   By my estimation, Disney brand pictures are currently edging ahead of the Pixars. Not that there’s a whole lot in it, since neither have been at full wattage for a few years now. Raya and the Last Dragon and now Encanto are collectively just about superior to Soul and Luca. Generally, the animation arm’s attempts to take in as much cultural representation as they possibly can, to make up for their historic lack of woke quotas, has – ironically – had the effect of homogenising the product to whole new levels. So here we have Colombia, renowned the world over for the US’s benign intervention in

He has dubiety about his identity, possibly.

The Tender Bar (2021)   George continues to flog his dead horse of a directorial career. It has to be admitted, however, that he goes less astray here than with anything he’s called the shots on in a decade (Suburbicon may be a better movie overall, but the parts that grind metal are all ones Clooney grafted onto the Coen Brothers’ screenplay). For starters, he gives Batfleck a role where he can shine, and I’d given up on that being possible. Some of the other casting stretches credulity, but by setting his sights modestly, he makes The Tender Bar passably slight for the

Out of my way, you lubberly oaf, or I’ll slit your gullet and shove it down your gizzard!

The Princess and the Pirate (1944)   As I suggested when revisiting The Lemon Drop Kid, you’re unlikely to find many confessing to liking Bob Hope movies these days. Even Chevy Chase gets higher approval ratings. If asked to attest to the excruciating stand-up comedy guy Hope, the presenter and host, I doubt even diehards would proffer an endorsement. Probably even fewer would admit to having a hankering for Hope, were they aware of, or further still gave credence to, alleged MKUltra activities. But the movie comedy Hope, the fourth-wall breaking, Road-travelling quipster-coward of (loosely) 1939-1952? That Hope’s a funny guy, mostly, and many

My hands hurt from galloping.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)   Say what you like about the 2016 reboot, at least it wasn’t labouring under the illusion it was an Amblin movie. Ghostbusters 3.5 features the odd laugh, but it isn’t funny, and it most definitely isn’t scary. It is, however, shamelessly nostalgic for, and reverential towards, the original(s), which appears to have granted it a free pass in fan circles. It didn’t deserve one. The casting of Finn Wolfram and Hart may have been an early tell that Sony was attempting to swathe over the backlash against the Femmebusters with a similar void of inspiration, that of a pint-sized next next generation. Afterlife is

I’ve heard the dancing’s amazing, but the music sucks.

Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021)   At one point during Tick, Tick… Boom! – which really ought to have been the title of an early ’90s Steven Seagal vehicle – Andrew Garfield’s Jonathan Larson is given some sage advice on how to find success in his chosen field: “On the next, maybe try writing about what you know”. Unfortunately, the very autobiographical, very-meta result – I’m only surprised the musical doesn’t end with Larson finishing writing this musical, in which he is finishing writing his musical, in which he is finishing writing his musical… – takes that acutely literally. Which is to say, Tick,

I think it’s wonderful the way things are changing.

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)   The meticulous slightness of Driving Miss Daisy is precisely the reason it proved so lauded, and also why it presented a prime Best Picture Oscar pick: a feel-good, social-conscience-led flick for audiences who might not normally spare your standard Hollywood dross a glance. One for those who appreciate the typical Judi Dench feature, basically. While I’m hesitant to get behind anything Spike Lee, as Hollywood’s self-appointed race-relations arbiter, spouts, this was a year when he actually did deliver the goods, a genuinely decent movie – definitely a rarity for Lee – addressing the issues head-on that Driving Miss Daisy approaches in

If this were a hoax, would we have six dead men up on that mountain?

The X-Files 4.24: Gethsemane   Season 4 is undoubtedly the point at which the duff arc episodes begin to amass, encroaching upon the decent ones for dominance. Fortunately, however, the season finale is a considerable improvement on 3’s, even if it’s a long way from the cliffhanger high of 2.25: Anasazi. It’s biggest problem – well, actually two biggest – is hauling out the cheap “mystery” of Mulder being dead. Of course he isn’t dead, so Chris Carter is onto a massive loser trying to milk any kind of tension from the thread. A thread that, to make matters worse, is teased