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October 1, 2021

Static Age #18: The Bourne Identity (1988)

The Bourne Identity (1988)

This Static Age’s spotlight goes to The Bourne Identity (1988), a two-part mini-series (both episodes are feature-length, typical for ABC at the time), based on the same-titled 1980 book by Robert Ludlum, adapted for the small screen by Carol Sobieski and directed by Robert Young. The now-famous story (catapulted to households the world around thanks to the 2000s theatrical films, that we will have a look at on a later post of this blog) follows Jason Bourne (Richard Chamberlain) who wakes up in a small French town, suffering from heavy memory loss. Trying to recover his memory, he realizes that people want him dead, and in order to solve the puzzle of his past he will have to fight secret agents and assassins. A captivating winner actioner that should not be missed.


And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…


Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (2020)

Homicide detectives Tiago Vega (Daniel Zovatto) and Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane) investigate a series of murders in the 1st (and sole) season of creator John Logan’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (2020), which is set (as you might have already guessed) in Los Angeles, and in 1938 in particular, when a mixture of Nazi politics and influence will mix with evil tradition and witchcraft, to an astounding result. Some of it is very stage-like, but strangely the series manages to get away with it successfully.


The 1st season of Amazon Prime’s Carnival Row (2019 – present) is set in a 7th Century European Capital, in which the human ruling class co-exists unwillingly with the hordes of the migrating fae, a form of fairies, each with his/her own peculiarities. On this background a series of brutal murders of fae lead investigator Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) on the trail of a serial killer in a uniform, but maybe there is more to the case than meets the eye. Featuring stunning production design and very intelligent commentary on migration and racism, this fantasy/horror series is ideal for binging and its mere 8 episodes leave us desiring more.


Doctor Who - Season 10 (2005 - present)

The 10th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) brings us more adventures of the titular alien (returning Peter Capaldi with his rock star qualities). In ‘The Pilot’, the Doctor and Nardole (Matt Lucas) join forces with Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) in order to fight against a watery alien life form. In ‘Smile’ our protagonists find themselves in a human colony in the future when emoji robots rule; they want you happy and if you don’t comply you might as well die. ‘Thin Ice’ takes the action to 1814 and in River Thames in particular, where people disappear in the frozen setting. ‘Knock Knock’ is an eerie episode about a mysterious house. ‘Oxygen’ is a weak episode about lethal spacesuits, that however proves that Peter Capaldi would be excellent in a David Cronenberg film. Possibly the season’s best episode, ‘Extremis’ finds the Doctor researching an ancient Vatican text that has the power to force who ever reads it to commit suicide. ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ may be featuring impressive monsters and – you guessed it! – a pyramid, but it is overall boring; the story continues in ‘The Lie of the Land’. ‘Empress of Mars’ is proving – once again – that a ‘man in a suit’ is better than CGI, but you still can’t do much with it if you haven’t got a decent script. ‘The Eaters of Light’ is mixing Scotland with the Roman Empire, revealing that this is indeed the weakest season of the series. ‘World Enough and Time’ and ‘The Doctor Falls’ feature some creepy imagery and at last some decent antagonists, but the series still feel very tired.


Mainstream films are not films at all, let alone auteur works of art, they are merely a committee-made products and deeply undemocratic at that. Whereas many filmmakers have the chance of making a $10 million horror show, pretty much nobody can direct a $200 million superhero crapper. Having said that, I do watch some of those mainstream films from time to time, and I will share with you my thoughts on some recent ones right now …


Black Widow (2021) poster

In Marvel’s Black Widow (2021) directed by Cate Shortland, the titular superhero (Scarlett Johansson) travels around the world and searches for her past; she’ll find that and much more, including a large-scale Russian conspiracy (unsurprisingly involving Cuba) and several super-villains. Full of high-end production values, stunts, and CG, this is very enjoyable and quite a bit feminist as well.


I don’t like origin stories. I mean, what’s the point in wasting a film’s worth of time for lame introductions and needless character development? All I want to see is maybe a 10-minute introduction on the hero and the villain, and then unleash them and have them kick each other’s butts. Another boring origin story in the seemingly endless array of them in recent Hollywood is Robert Schwentke’s Snake Eyes (2021) which is focusing on the birth of the titular character (Henry Golding) from the G.I. Joe toys. If you are like me – meaning having grown up in the 1980s and spent much of that decade playing with the aforementioned toys – you might find something to like here (as I did), but the film only takes off in the second half where all the action happens.


The Suicide Squad (2021)
On the other hand, DC’s The Suicide Squad (2021) featuring a team of misfits and cons turned mercenaries (led by Bloodsport played by Idris Elba, and featuring Harley Quinn played by Margot Robbie) with no other option but to complete a suicide mission – infiltrate the island of Corto Maltese and the ongoing struggle for the power of that country – is basically the best superhero/super-villain movie in history, mainly because it combines the freedom to go as wild as possible (its R-rating allowed that) and hero’s journeys so strong that if it wasn’t for the bloodletting and the beheadings it might as well run for Oscars. All of that thanks to the unparalleled talents of writer/director James Gunn, who is still making Troma movies, albeit for major studios and gazillion-dollar budgets; having Lloyd Kaufman providing a cameo proves that.


Presented by Fox Searchlight Pictures, Ready or Not (2019), directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, is a fun horror/comedy about a gorgeous bride (Samara Weaving) about to join a rich and eccentric family. Since said family is on the board game business, on the wedding night she must play a game; it turns out to be ‘hide and seek’ but it is also revealed that the version they are about to play in the family mansion is quite deadly. Gothic, fun, and entertaining, this comes highly recommended.


Prisoners (2013) poster

Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners (2013) is about two young girls that go missing and the struggles of their parents and the detective assigned to the case to find them, all of them finding themselves in a dark labyrinth that may make them as monstrous as the person/s who kidnapped the kids. Featuring an all-star cast (Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal), this is elevated from the standard police procedure tropes to a crime epic (it is longer than two and a half hours), reminiscent of 1990s genre hits. Bleak and depressing, it had me biting my nails throughout its running time.


And finally, I enriched my bookshelf with the following addition…


Bleeding Skull! A 1990s Trash-Horror Odyssey (2021, Fantagraphics) by Joseph A. Ziemba, Annie Choi, and Zack Carlson is focusing on SOV trash/horror that went mostly straight-to-VHS, and benefits from the unparalleled passion and talents of its writers, who offer a machine-gun-like approach to sharing their knowledge and views. The book wastes no time with introductions or historical context and goes straight into reviewing more than 200 of these films. Lavishly designed, but the real value here is the text, which is generally better than the movies it tackles.

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