A week in film – 2016, week 17

Well, firstly, as I promised last week I’ve carried on with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – the binge, which started at about 10 o’clock last night, is already on episode 7. As I fully expected, it’s around this point where I’m able to conclude that, yeah, I think this show is great. It still takes a bit of getting used to – it’s sometimes offbeat to the point of confusion – but there is at least one killer line or moment in every episode, and often more. Thank God it’s back, because there was a proper comedy drought in my life – and it also looks like it’s getting me back on the binge train (something which is both good and bad).

Meanwhile, it’s getting increasingly complicated to switch between the three superhero TV shows I’m currently watching – especially when I attempt to watch an episode of each consecutively. From Inhumans to metahumans, from some doppelgängers to other doppelgängers, they all (inevitably) share elements with one another which become confused when trying to separate them all out later. Still, apart from the slightly disappointing episode of Supergirl, I’ve been fairly on-board with everything this week. The Flash dealt with its capacity for time travel quite inventively – including the fact that, in the scheme of things, time travel has unusually few consequences – even if the Time Wraiths felt very Doctor Who. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. also had a chance for a little Doctor Who homage with its snow that wasn’t snow, but also felt fresher for its noticeably tighter script and treatment of inevitability and fate. An Inhuman with the power to project visions of the future – or a potential future – through touch, always with a fatal conclusion, leads to yet more interesting stuff for Daisy and her desperation to protect others like her, and a largely hopeless conclusion reminded me that this show’s never exactly been particularly optimistic in its outlook. Seeing as I’m usually railing against the dark superhero trope, the fact that I’m still watching week-on-week is as much of a surprise to me as it is to anyone.

Another surprise came from Jon Favreau’s take on The Jungle Book, which I wasn’t really expecting a lot from despite its decent reviews. Seeing it on a whim, we were first surprised by how packed the screening was (seriously, I’ve never seen a film so popular after almost a week) and then by the film itself, which is a genuinely joyous, affectionate take on its 2D-animated predecessor. This is referenced from its opening moments, moving seamlessly from a 2D version of the Magic Castle to the 3D-animated – almost everything in this film, despite being lauded as ‘live action’, is animated – jungle. Some of the songs are in there too, but they’re different enough from the original versions to feel justified – plus, how did we manage before without having heard Bill Murray sing ‘The Bare Necessities’? This is essentially what I want from a remake – understanding and appreciating its source, but willing to tell the story differently.

The animation itself is a way in which it tells this story differently – and while saying that its visuals are its main selling point sounds like damning with faint praise, but doesn’t make it any less true. The CG is magnificent, achieving so many technical feats which would have been unthinkable a few years ago (wolves in the rain would have been a nightmare of wet, unrealistic fur before, but in this film is a visually stunning – and beautifully sad – moment). It’s not all going for realism though – apart from the fact that it’s about talking animals (I never questioned this for a minute, though I don’t think this is just because I willingly buy into almost everything films tell me to), a scene of Kaa’s hypnotism in particular has wonderful, eerie transitions from the snake’s eye to a cave to ‘man’s red flower’. Its one major live-action element, newcomer Neel Sethi’s Mowgli, is also really good, especially when you remember he’s a kid running around a green-screen stage in L.A.. It’s worth seeing, potentially on the biggest screen you can (although we were sat RIGHT at the front of a little 2D screen and the experience was surprisingly enthralling – no mobile phones in front of us, for starters).

Other films this week may not have been quite so successful. Mission: Impossible III, this week’s CeX bargain (costing me all of 50p), is alright but in nowhere near the same league as Rogue Nation, or even Ghost Protocol. Still, the only one not previously readily available to me – the first, second and fourth movies are on Netflix, but bizarrely the third is missing – meant it was time to find it somehow for a revisit, just in time for what I’m sure will be an annual panicked nostalgia trip to the desperate times of my dissertation and procrastination-watching everything I could think of – including the Mission films. Mission: Impossible III isn’t as fun as I remembered, and it’s certainly closer to the darker first movie than the blistering action shenanigans of the films which followed. They might be more my speed, but this doesn’t mean that this was a wasted experience – or a wasted 50p.

Rushing out to get the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray on my lunch break on Monday, though, might have been more reckless. The Force Awakens is a funny one for me. Unlike most of the movies I watch repeatedly, I don’t feel that same spark of joy I felt on the first viewing – but I’m compelled to keep revisiting it by the memory of how intensely I enjoyed it then. This probably isn’t a sensible way to keep watching, nor is it a legitimate reason to spend a fortune on the Blu-ray, but keeps me going. Plus, while things aren’t as fizzy, they aren’t exactly flat. It’s never going to stop being fun to ship Poe and Finn, and BB-8 is ceaselessly charming. Every scene contains a character or shot or perspective which propels me onwards and, having a discussion about it afterwards, it’s clearly capable of letting people make their own particular interpretations of everything shown on screen. Still searching for those alternative viewpoints and a wilful determination to keep enjoying it will at least convince me to watch it a few more times, and the special features now available to me (including one on BB-8, yaaaaasssss) will help too.

Next week: Captain America: Civil War. Midnight screening. I am NOT ready.

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