81 – Unfriended: Dark Web

Designed entirely to simulate the desktop interface of a Macbook, Unfriended: Dark Web enthusiastically adapts modern fears of surveillance and digital stalking to the horror genre (drawing on the style of 2014’s Unfriended, to which this is a sequel). It’s a stylistic achievement that never once feels unconvincing, even if the route the plot takes is far from unpredictable.

We discuss the way the film hides its most graphic elements and is able to create tension and horror from the very opposite, and the wonderful evocation of distracted attention, with the main character jumping between Skype, Spotify, Facebook and more, that remarkably never becomes overwhelming or incomprehensible. Some of the performances aren’t the best, and we each found the film uninvolving at different points and for different reasons, but generally speaking we enjoyed the film’s experiment and found it interesting.

We also discuss the two producers, each of whose names caught our eyes, and how Dark Web fits in to the current cinema programme.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

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80 – The Meg

Big shark, big Cockney, big fun. We dive into The Meg, a film we can all agree should have been called Chomp. It’s definitely trashy, though precisely how trashy is an area of disagreement. For José, it’s a bad movie. For Mike, it’s a good bad movie.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

79 – The First Purge

Low-budget, unexceptionally made, and absolutely vital. The First Purge takes the story of the Purge series back to the beginning, with a poor community composed of people of colour being savagely experimented upon for political purposes. Mike slightly had to drag José to see it, as it was showing only in single late-night screenings, but both were glad he did, as it’s perhaps the most direct and powerful critique of white hegemony that popular cinema has offered in recent memory.

We examine the imagery of the deliberate terrorisation of black communities in the USA. It draws on real-life attacks on black churches, Ku Klux Klan members wielding guns in pick-up trucks, and the resurgence of Nazis – one image of a blackface mask being removed to reveal an Aryan stereotype is particularly poetic. Mike finds that the film protects the white audience from their own complicity in the inequality portrayed, but it’s only a nuance, and as José says, we should be so lucky to have such flaws in most films! And José explains why films of this sort come along so rarely. (It’s not about risk. It’s about power.)

There’s simply so much food for thought and we urge you to see it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

78 – Ant-Man and the Wasp

The sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man maintains that film’s lightness of tone, happily comic sensibility, and fabulously enjoyable visual effects. So often today we take exceptional effects work for granted but the conceptualisation and realisation of the images in Ant-Man and the Wasp make you notice, make you remark upon them. We had a great time.

We find room for nitpicks, of course, with José expressing irritation with Ant-Man’s malfunctioning suit and Mike finding the quantum realm too vague to provide real jeopardy, but our quibbles are minor. It’s a lovely film, it got big laughs from the audience, and even gasps at one notable point. You should see it!

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

77 – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

A mega bumper double podcast today, as we see Mission: Impossible – Fallout twice and incorporate both discussions into one episode. Long story short, we had tons of fun both times and you should see it.

We both adore the visual storytelling and the elegance of the action. We fawn over gripping sequences that evoke silent cinema. We discuss in depth the idea of Ethan Hunt as a moral character, something that the film places front and centre throughout, giving him choices to make and emphasising the protection of innocents and self-sacrifice. José doesn’t quite buy it but Mike does his best to talk him round.

Neither of us is quite sold on the concept of the villain – he’s not enough of an idealist – but Cavill’s performance unquestionably elevates him and he’s a constant delight to watch. To José, he’s the new Errol Flynn. Mike focuses on two implausible scenes to compare and contrast, exploring why he believed in one but not the other. José describes how the action scenes develop like good jokes, with ideas building on top of each other in logical ways. And we go off on a tangent about Idris Elba for some reason.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

76 – First Reformed

We are joined by Celia Nicholls, another former Warwick student, for a discussion of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, a careful drama following a Protestant minster’s personal crises and relationships with his parishioners and community. Comparisons with Robert Bresson, informed by Schrader’s Transcendental Style in Film, are drawn; we consider how trite or meaningful we find the film’s moral questions; and we pick apart the film’s flat aesthetic and occasional flights of fancy.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

75 – Hotel Artemis

A tight yet sprawling high-concept thriller, Hotel Artemis features glorious performances from Jodie Foster and the wonderful cast that surrounds her, surprising pathos and a beautifully built world. José expounds upon his love for Foster and explores the details of her performance here; Mike discusses what makes the world-building so effective and elegant. We’d have liked to have seen stronger, more expressive visual storytelling – there’s so much potential in this single sanctuary hidden within an unforgiving world – but, well, nobody’s perfect.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.