"Rage, rage against the dying of the light"

Film Mark K'mode has a new book coming soon and today's Observer has an extract which given its free flowing slightly random nature is either lots of extracts pulled together or the introduction. Either way it's a pretty good survey of where his brain is at in terms of his day job but, despite the many hiring, firings and expirings in the film criticism arena that there's still hope and a need for the serious, expert approach. Here's the usual random paragraph so that this post isn't simply a couple of sentences:
"The idea that the internet as a whole is some kind of unattributed bandit country only has currency in those areas where people have reason to be embarrassed about their true identities – sending abusive messages, engaging in online theft, stalking, or tweeting puff reviews. Most online journalists worth their salt despise anonymity as much as their print counterparts, if not more so, because it undermines the very medium in which they are trying to make a name for themselves. And the fact that bloggers en masse seem increasingly to be rejecting such anonymity in favour of honesty and accountability offers the clearest indication yet that the "traditional values of proper film criticism" are alive and well on the web. Whatever the medium, the key questions remain the same: who is saying this? Why are they saying it? And what do they have to lose by saying it? And if the answer to those questions is "don't know"; "don't care"; and "nothing", then proceed with extreme caution."
Somewhere along the line I stopped posting film reviews here. Partly it's because of currency - not going to the actual cinema much means that I tend to be quite behind everyone else, amazed with myself that I managed to see Iron Man 3 spoiler free the other night thank goodness.  But mostly it's a loss of nerve, the feeling of not having an original thought to contribute.

 With Doctor Who and Shakespeare I feel like I'm on safer ground; what I tend to do is different to professional reviewers to some extent, I think, without trying to overthink anything, treating the former with some seriousness, the latter less so, not that there are any conscious choices about this.  Like any piece of writing, the reviews tend to find their own shape.  Sometimes.

I'll return to this when I have the time, but one trend (in film criticism) I've noticed recently, though it's presumably been happening for decades is now critics, in rushing to comprehensively trash a film have somehow missed the point about what it's trying to do.  Of course such things are value judgements but it's one of the reasons I have become quite wary about even reading reviews before seeing films.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is fun cross-genre exercise, which sets a bloodthirsty action film and all of its rules within a fairy tale world.  It's not perfect and looks like its been (ironically) hacked about a lot in post production, but it's a rare example of a film in which the protagonists are siblings rather than romantic leads in the traditional sense and for once who actually like each other.

Go with it and like the Resident Evil series, or the Underworlds, or the Fast & Furious films, it's loads of fun.  All of the actors seem like they had a tremendous time making the thing and the aesthetic, with its obviously studio bound outdoors scenes recalls 80s fantasies like Krull, Labyrinth or The Princess Bride.  It's not quite as witty as those, but it's not trying to be.  The swearing is part of the genre experiment.

Yet to read the reviews, like this Bradshaw take down, or even Kermode's you'd think that it was one of the worst films ever made largely because both of them are applying elevated expectations to what's essentially a b-movie which unlike say the low-rent Adam Sandler comedies which fail because they're not funny, is action packed, is exciting and titillating in just the right way.

One of the weirder critical anomalies is how often the "historical inaccuracies" are mentioned, the as Time Out lists "Gatling gun, a double-barrelled crossbow, a stun gun and a cure for diabetes" even though the thing's quite clear set within a narrow focused area of a fantasy world which also includes trolls and witches and has its own physical rules.

Now, it is possible to do this sort of thing badly.  Jonah Hex is an example.  Or Cowboys vs Aliens.  Both of those are cliched and boring in the wrong way and it is a fine line.  It's also worth pointing out I tend to be quite forgiving of genre films.  I'm also quite fond of Wrath of the Titans, Prince of Persia and John Carter (of Mars) all of which were equally garroted by the critics.

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