Saturday, 31 May 2014

DINO CRISIS





A couple of TV spots for Transformers: Age of Extinction lifted from Michael Bay's vimeo. Highlights include a liquid metal Decepticon and gigantic robot dinosaurs - all your childhood favourites - stomping along, flanked by Hot Wheels coloured sportscars.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine


















The first entry in a prequel series that went nowhere, X-Men Origins: Wolverine decides to fill in the blanks on Logan's already disclosed past. Working from a script by Skip Woods and Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff, director Gavin Hood dumps us in pre-Canada Canada for an inciting incident involving powdered wigs, saucy gamekeepers, and unwelcome erections.

After some brief howling we spend the opening credits tracking through glimpses of a far more exciting film involving Wolverine and half-bro Sabretooth as they take part in every major American armed conflict. It's Nick Cave's unfilmable Gladiator 2 script with Marvel action figures, the deathless idealism of a Civil War Yankee morphing into the unrestrained bloodlust of Full Metal Jacket's 'get some!' chanting chopper gunner.

Origins is full of this kind of trickery. It proposes something great like immortal war men, or a superhero entry with the shape and hue of Mr Majestyk, then cruelly snatches it away to play with histrionic computer effects. The usual Marvel franchise break between talking scenes and action interludes is hilariously pronounced in this film. Hood and Cinematographer Donald McAlpine ground the film in location lumberjacking shot like Vilmos Zsigmond working in his 1970s heyday. Mood established, actors glowing with a sheen of grease and sweat, they hand over to at least seventeen different special effects companies that specialise in absolute fucking nonsense. Origins wants to walk tall, testing the limits of cornered masculinity. Unfortunately it has to be the latest instalment in Fox's billion dollar X-Men investment.

Friday, 30 May 2014

X-Men: The Last Stand


















X-Men: The Last Stand is full of coke writing, by that I mean characters are twisted in antithetical, arrogant ways to serve the next plot progression. It's easy to imagine Steven E de Souza, or similar, cooking this up between lines. Genesis blaring in the background. Previously established characters shed nuance, mutating into ciphers who act only to facilitate the next action scene. This kind of approach can work - witness Schwarzenegger - but only if the script also engages with something resembling a sense of humour. X3 does not. Professor X is especially mangled by this shorthand. A previously regal figure is reduced to a creepy stepfather who has spent decades psychically abusing his young charge Jean Grey in an effort to squash what she expresses as her sexuality.

In X3, Xavier has specifically infantalised Grey, building layer upon layer of false personalities into her brain in an attempt to stop her assuming her superstate. When Grey does finally ascend she's violent and capricious, a malformed identity apparently stunted by Xavier's suppression. Grey isn't allowed to shoulder her great responsibility, Daddy was too busy making sure she stayed pretty. Paternalism bleeding in from a usually dignified source leaves a sour taste, as does the sudden predilection for the casual use of the word bitch. These missteps make you appreciate the inclusionist vibe Bryan Singer brought to the series. The director may well prove to be a predatory rapist, but at least he doesn't hate women.

Gill by Daigo Ikeno


Charlie Wilson (and DJ Sosinful) - I Know You're Tired of Loving

X2


















Wolverine's off exploring his ice bound origins, Jean Grey's worrying about her emerging Phoenix powers and her boring Mum haircut (probably). Thanks to Monster's Ball and eye candy turns in Die Another Day and Swordfish, Storm is now allowed in-front of the camera. She gets to lead a reconnaissance mission and fly a ridiculous plane that looks like a Lockheed SR-71 designed by Japanese toymakers. Storm also has a much better haircut than Jean Grey. How's that for a promotion? Rogue's thriving at school; she's landed herself a new boyfriend, Iceman, who looks like Zack from Saved by the Bell and does very little even when the group is threatened with fifty foot waves. You'd think his total mastery of background water vapour would be a boon. Oh and Cyclops still has a curtain fringe and a blue Mazda that he doesn't drive? They're struggling to find things for him to do.

X2 is more confident and assured than its predecessor. Action peaks early with the introduction of a teleporting goblin named Nightcrawler. Every dust-up after is just okay. Each of the X-Men are finally allowed to be a gifted, individual components instead of a bunch of irritating bores. Wolverine is still the matinee star focus mind you, fighting female opposites and dimly snooping around military mutation tanks, but at least we aren't asked to consider everything in this world from his perspective. The bad mutants get a push too - Mystique is easily the most capable character in the whole film, quietly accomplishing amazing feats while the rest struggle with basic heavies. Magneto gets so much dramatic lifting that his character starts to feel schizophrenic. I understand the impetuous. Sir Ian McKellen is so good he'll make it all look like a breeze - and he does - but by the end Magneto is less a consistent organic character and more a rolling plot generator. In particular, his decision to leave Professor X to the wolves has the distinct whiff of bullshit about it.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

X-Men

















Pull X-Men apart and see what works. The screenplay, credited to David Hayter but featuring work by at least Christopher McQuarrie, Joss Whedon, Bryan Singer, Ed Solomon, and Tom DeSanto, does a decent job juggling X-Men and their introductions, building a central framework kin to Warner Brothers' 1990s political thrillers. You know the type. Easily digestible hook, usually starring some combination of Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, and Julia Roberts. Probably based on something people read in airports.

The first act's the best, invoking the Holocaust to give us a gauche sense of stakes, then flashing forward to a blustery white politician arguing down a beautiful mutant with homespun, right-wing rhetoric. This sense of solemnity is matched by Singer and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel's insistence on framing the actors against chicken fencing and complicated mechanical / architectural backgrounds. Cages are continually stressed with mutants either close or already in them.

Hugh Jackman's Wolverine - basically a quick healing version of Clint in Every Which Way but Loose - takes Anna Paquin's runaway Rogue under his wing and ends up at Professor Xavier's school for dorks. X-Men begins to wobble. The filmmakers are so desperate to push Wolverine as cool dude number one that they forget to give any of the other X-Men traits beyond party pooper. Halle Berry in particular is treated with contempt - barely photographed and saddled with an appalling Kenyan accent that somehow made it past rehearsals.

X-Men ends up being structurally unsound too. Action scenes are, correctly, built around each of the mutant's individual abilities. Unfortunately, no-one found a way to make these acts visceral, physical experiences. The film frequently stops dead for feature computer effects that read as impoverished and primitive. Singer and Sigel's deep focus framing splayed open for lame effects plates. X-Men then has no sense of release. Its attempts at kineticism as dull as the voluminous clouds of cosmic cum Magneto summons up for the finale.

Ibuki by Daigo Ikeno


Oro by Daigo Ikeno


Battlefield Hardline - RECKY



EA make their annual Battlefield intentions clear with Battlefield Hardline, due two weeks before whenever the next Call of Duty launches. While this cops and robbers framing does appear to be sleeping on the franchise's scale and destruction selling points, EA have at least roped in Dead Space studio Visceral Games to pump up whatever dreadful campaign DICE had planned. It's a shame seeing Visceral gobbled up for FPS grist, especially since their last game, Dead Space 3, seemed hobbled by executive interference. I suppose being relegated to off-season instalments of EA's leading property could read like a promotion, but I'd rather see Visceral exploring their horror game instincts.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Westworld




















Westworld unfolds like an airport novella. We get a middle-aged hero upfront and struggling, along with a rhythm and pace that's closer to a sixty minute science-fiction serial than it is cinema. Writer / director Michael Crichton spends an extended amount of time unpacking his idea - in the near future, themed resorts revolve around simulated murder and sexual debauchery. Crichton cycles through various permutations, detailing the central holiday destination from a variety of angles. A simple gunslinger set-up takes centre stage in which Yul Brynner's black hat is vanquished by Richard Benjamin's nebbish attorney. Naturally, this is followed by a visit to the local bordello for the victors.

When Brynner reappears programmed for vengeance it feels like the film's about to kick up several gears, delivering on the computer virus strand a few nervous scientists floated behind the scenes. It doesn't though. Brynner's 'droid is easily blown through a window allowing Benjamin and his pal to indulge in prison breaks and bar brawls. It's a dither, but one that allows an idea of safety to take hold. When the power fantasy is eventually shattered it registers as alarming rather than routine. Aren't we already past this destination point?

With Brynner hot on his heels, Benjamin stumbles through the various other worlds, one designed to resemble ancient Rome, the other medieval Europe. We had got a taste of Medieval World, through a subplot in which a sweaty fifty-something tried to stick his dick in anything that moved, but Crichton held back on Roman World. Our main glimpse of the pre-Christian retreat arriving during the initial malfunction when the robotic slaves threw off their shackles and murdered the middle-class holidaymakers posing as their masters.

By the time Benjamin shows up, both areas are strewn with bodies and deactivated androids, a development emblematic of Westworld's overall approach to conflict. The film is stubbornly anti-action. Benjamin is never asked to battle any other, subordinate threats, and his attempts to thwart Brynner's clockwork heavy are fleeting and imprecise. Benjamin appears genuinely scared, depressingly aware of how little threat he is when the Gunslinger's safety restraints are turned off. In this sense Westworld is exciting for what it doesn't do. It's a relic from a time when films didn't need to have capable leading men. Like Duel, Westworld posits adventure as a state of stress and psychological damage. It's not about baptising a hero, it's about stripping civilised man down to naked, violent aggression.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Thing


















Fortunately for me, I seem to naturally space out my viewings of The Thing just enough that I forget who turns out to be infected. Heart attack Norris is a constant, his face as engine to a repulsive insect form is seared into the part of my brain that pores over books about 1980s make-up effects (Mark Salisbury's Behind the Mask in particular). I'm less sure of everyone else though. It helps that there's a lot of doubling in the film - at a glance Blair and Doc Copper could pass for at least cousins. Palmer and Windows have a similar acid-fried outline. Kurt Russell's bearded MacReady toys with having a twin in kennel master Clark, only to trump Clark's modest baseball cap with a fuck off ten gallon. Individuality asserted.

The Thing endures, and thrives, because the threat is mostly abstract. John Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Lancaster are never tempted to telegraph anything specific. Instead danger exists as a potential, logical constant. The men deprive themselves of sleep and attempt to build alliances, slow to get a handle on a creature that gobbles up men and spits out facsimiles. A couple of the drones don't even seem sure they're imposters - it's only when cornered that their characters break, the creatures cycling through violent looking attack modes to stress threat while a contingency plan slithers away.

Unlike the Alien that stalked the Nostromo, the Thing is cowardly and opportunist. The shapes it takes don't prowl, attempting to sexually dominate the humans, they skulk. Masters of misdirection. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr's wobbly remake-cum-prequel proposed a drunken mugger, desperate to procreate. This Thing is more like a rapist. It waits until its prey is alone, success momentarily secured, before it dares to strike. It's a wimp playing a numbers game. When a defective component is offered the opportunity to lead it denies the promotion. It screws its face up and drops bass, feigning the kind of weakness that leaves trace levels of disgust. Leader Thing could've sabotaged from the front, plunging the survivors into needlessly dangerous situations, weakening the group. It didn't though. It considered short term gains irrelevant, dangerous even. Instead Thing chose to bide its time and blend into the crowd. Above all then the Thing is a survivor. It isn't driven by pride or anything else recognisably human. It'll debase itself, wrench its body apart, in order to see another day. It's truly alien.

Dudley by Daigo Ikeno


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Godzilla (2014)


















Godzilla has survived many genre upheavals. Beginning as a nuclear extinction parable, the films have raced excitedly through mutations dictated by public taste. Science fiction evolved into spy thriller, then an after-school special and onto childish superheroics. Godzilla has never been one particular thing. Like 007 the series is about building whatever story you like around one indefatigable idea - he walks the Earth. Godzilla 2014 matches the character with a modern set of concerns. How can we slot the King of Monsters into a pro-forces blockbuster?

Following an unusually localised earthquake in Japan, the Janjira nuclear power plant collapses in on itself killing (amongst others) supervisor Joe Brody's wife. We catapult ahead 15 years to find Brody and his son breaking into the exclusion zone to track radiation signatures in derelict buildings. It's a shame more time isn't spent in this milieu - the unhinged Joe as our point-of-view and Tokyo as the cyclical backdrop; ruin as a habitat rather than an interchangeable arena. Post-fall Edo is born in a reality bending shuffle, news footage of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown by way of a 1970s disaster movie, framed, much like a key reveal in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, from a classroom. A decade and a half after the accident a secret research facility sits in the heart of destruction. Teams of scientists pore over an egg concealing calamity, director Gareth Edwards giving us a taste of Akira scenes shot live action.

Despite the best efforts of on-site expert Dr Serizawa and his giant electricity gun, the egg hatches and the newborn riots, trashing Joe Brody's investigation. Attention then settles on his disengaged, thick-necked son for the remainder of the runtime. Brody Jnr. is an army bomb disposal expert with a smiley family back in San Francisco. Military leads are nothing new to the Godzilla series, the Millennium cycle had a procession of officer class females desperate for a settler with the Kaiju King. Ford Brody isn't quite so involved though, instead he's an everyman with a dramatically sympathetic job that allows us to track the carnage. Ford is decent but unremarkable, a poor substitute for a spluttering Bryan Cranston. From the second act onwards the entire film is placed on Aaron Taylor-Johnson's shoulders, of course it wobbles.

Godzilla 2014 is then constructed to tease. The title creature is glimpsed in snatches - an arm here, an undercarriage there. As with his excellent Monsters, Gareth Edwards wants to present a world in which mankind are struggling against warring / mating Gods. The reason this doesn't quite work, for me at any rate, is that Edwards is so good at arranging the combatants that you just want to see them fight. An extended sequence in Hawaii in which Godzilla comes to shore, causing a tsunami naturally, registers as a beautiful example of pace because we know one of the enemy MUTO monsters is rampaging on the same island. We are shown not only where the two beasts are but how close they're getting to each other. Geography is becoming a lost art in action films, so to see a director in complete command of beat-to-beat moments junking his climax for a Spielbergian gag is incredibly disappointing.

For all intents and purposes we have a sequence that plays like the greatest Wrestlemania hype promo ever disappearing into background noise. Godzilla was thundering through Honolulu, flanked by waves of people and debris. The male MUTO was in the process of eating a sky-train, presumably because it resembles the ICBMs it's discovered a taste for. We were criss-crossing constantly, soldiers firing wildly, unable to even gain Godzilla's attention. Ford Brody grappling with gravity, desperately trying to keep himself and a child from being consumed by the hungry antagonist. Explosions at the airport! Rows and rows of aircraft crumble and ignite around the moving MUTO, then water hits a cowering baggage handler, signalling the King of Monsters' arrival. It was an expert moment - endless possibilities signalled by a tiny detail. Godzilla is the wave, and he is close. His lumpy Apatosaurus foot smashes into view, framed by an airport lounge. Battle is joined. Cut to a child watching TV.

Again and again Edwards and editor Bob Ducsay build these confrontations, then deny release. Possibly this stings even more because a massive amount of trailer real estate was created out of the film's scant Godzilla glimpses. Surely the function of an advert should be to give an elliptical impression of the whole? Hints of spectacle rather than the spectacle itself? I haven't seen a film so committed to blowing its grandstand moments through advertising since Transformers. When the creatures do finally fall on each other, the resulting action is only briefly noted. We aren't experiencing these confrontations through the expertly realised monsters, we're avoiding it in the company of Kick-Ass. Sustained fisticuffs are absent, there's never really a point were you get to simmer in the weight and space of three titans clashing. Instead, for better or for worse, we're left with the vague impression of an earthbound God moving through clouds of rubble.

Hugo by Daigo Ikeno


Friday, 16 May 2014

JET SET



As a PS4 owner, if Microsoft could stop securing exciting third-party exclusives, that'd be great. Sunset Overdrive looks like a head-on collision between a Sega studio Jet Grinder and a 360 open world exclusive - think Dead Rising or Crackdown. As an open-world proposition, this looks a trillion times more fun than Sucker Punch's recent efforts.

Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake - Love Never Felt So Good

The Wind Rises















It's hard to shake the idea that Hayao Miyazaki's latest (last?) is an autobiography of sorts. The Wind Rises is a film about the creative impulse and how it shapes lives. Miyazaki's Jiro Horikoshi is obsessed with aviation. In his dreams he communes with his idea of Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Caproni. The Count encourages the short-sighted child to channel his passion into engineering.

These meetings are scattered throughout the film, steering Horikoshi through his career. Interestingly, there's very little attempt to discredit these sequences with the kind of visual language usually associated with fantasies. They're lucid, instructive encounters that impart wisdoms and reorganise failure. Horikoshi's subconscious readings actualised as a paternal, jovial hero. There's also an idea that Horikoshi lacks any true peers, so he must create them himself.

Anyway, back to the idea of the film as Miyazaki's account of himself. Horikoshi is a slight smoker who loses himself in intricately detailed drawings. His life is experienced in short bursts, usually built around particular aircraft projects. Friends and family drop in and out the film, usually with little fanfare. Close associates describe him as insensitive and unfeeling, tallying with the Miyazaki alluded to in One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island. Work consumes Horikoshi, leaving very little time for anyone else. He has his stationary and his cigarettes, he doesn't need anything else. Even experiencing deep emotional turmoil, Horikoshi continues to scribble away. This single-mindedness is such that when Horikoshi falls in love, it actually feels like an upset in trajectory.

Maybe Naoko endures because she's a constant? Despite her illness she requires minimal upkeep, she's happy to spend her evenings holding Horikoshi's hand while he drafts planes. In describing this it strikes me that this sounds like a lopsided, even abusive relationship. It's actually nothing of the kind, Horikoshi and Naoko share a deep romantic love built on an unselfconscious stability. As with the rest of Miyazaki's films this is passion expressed through small physical gestures, and self-sacrifice. They're in this together, that's enough for them.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Sean by Daigo Ikeno


SHOTGUN FINGERS



Presenting Nuclear Throne, the latest game from Ridiculous Fishing dev Vlambeer. So what 16-bit games does this remind you of? I'm getting Chaos Engine mixed with the body altering power up system from Novotrade's underplayed Mega Drive masher Cyborg Justice.

LOCKDOWN



They're really holding back the bad guys in Transformers: Age of Extinction aren't they? Unless supercar sized Lockdown is meant to have Optimus Prime and his pet dinosaurs trembling. Who cares if he's got an army of generics, mollusc shell shaped Unicron ships, and a gun for a face? Lockdown originates from the Transformers Animated TV series in which he's a bounty hunter who's only notionally a Decepticon. Given his colour scheme, occupation, and general demeanour, I think it's safe to assume he's based on Death's Head, a Marvel UK character who beat up Transformers (in their own comic) on the regular.

Makoto by Daigo Ikeno


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Le Matos - Kaneda (Remix)

GLIMPSE



It's been roughly a decade since Godzilla's last substantial big screen sighting but the King of Monsters isn't above the odd cameo appearance. Back in 2007, this imaginary sequence from Takashi Yamazaki's Always: Sunset on Third Street 2 - itself a post-war nostalgia piece based on a best-selling manga - was rumoured to be a kind of backdoor pilot for a new Godzilla film. Yamazaki was keen to keep the monster rooted in the Showa period, using CG and miniatures to recreate the sights and sounds of 1950s Tokyo. Obviously a fan of Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Yamazaki leans heavily on Shusuke Kaneko's kaiju mise-en-scene, utilising both his satanic Godzilla design and the director's ground level point of view.

KING



Gave Rise of the Planet of the Apes a rewatch this evening, I'd quite forgotten how much I enjoyed it. As soon as the first act is out the way (and James Franco is tidied off to the edges), the film is one long smile prompt for me. It's a creature film in which the monster is allowed to be the dramatic centre. It's like an Alien film in which we dispense with all the boring humans and spend time tracking the beast, seeing his moves, getting to know him. Andy Serkis and WETA's Caesar is the high-water mark in CG acting and character building - the organic rise of a king tracked through a furrowing brow and how he holds his body.

Deltron 3030 - Do You Remember ft. Jamie Cullum

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

80s Rogue by Eric Koda


MARSHALL



Neil Marshall doles out some Escape from New York trivia for Trailers From Hell. Unfortunately Marshall doesn't seem to have any upcoming film projects on his plate, the director has instead transitioned into television, orchestrating budget battles for key Game of Thrones episodes. Remember the apocalyptic Battle of Blackwater episode in Season 2? That was him. He has another guest director slot lined up this season too, episode 9 - The Watchers on the Wall.

Page #12 from Transformers vs GI Joe #0 by Tom Scioli


Monday, 5 May 2014

The Sugarland Express

















A couple of jailbirds out to rescue their son from foster care panic and kidnap a highway patrolman after their ride is pulled over. This ill-advised abduction attracts a convoy of police cars, news trucks, and well-wishers, all following at a discreet distance. Steven Spielberg's first big screen feature is the sweetly naive tale of two parents, barely more than children themselves, in way over their heads. They contextualise their entire dilemma in purely emotional terms, logic doesn't even enter into it. Goldie Hawn's Lou Jean firmly believes this misadventure can have a positive outcome for her family - no-one has the heart to tell her otherwise.

The Sugarland Express offers several distinct modes of masculinity, ranging from a henpecked husband willing to risk grievous injury to placate his wife, to a paternal police Captain who prefers the softly softly approach. Ben Johnson's Captain Tanner feels especially notable, an old-timer who stays his hand, using his position to ensure the couple a mostly unmolested trip across Texas. Either unwilling to risk the life of the captured trooper, or secure in his judgement that these two offer no serious threat, he plays along, hoping against hope for a peaceful conclusion. This isn't just a sympathetic idea of a cop, it's mythic. Tanner indulges the Poplins because they're essentially good. He blows the tires out on a news van because they're parasites.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - KEVIN SPACEY



House of Cards fav Kevin Spacey shows up to dump some fascism in this reveal trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Spacey is tipped to be playing the head of an evil PMC that has a stranglehold on American foreign policy. What hasn't been clearly established is the player's role in all this. Are we one of Spacey's minions? Or a member of a local militia in one of these conquered countries?

Perhaps we'll hop between these two ideologies, as in the ill-fated PS3 exclusive Haze? That game teased a moral back-and-forth, but delivered something primitive and clunky. Sledgehammer Games are well placed to at least deliver the usual Call of Duty competence. I must say, I'm pretty disappointed with the tech avalanche on display here. After yesterday's VICE ad I was expecting a near-future grime war, not another round of Black Ops 2 gyrocopters.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Forth Wanderers - Paw / Caramel Emotion / Sip Neigh

Call of Duty - PMC





Sledgehammer Games' first solo attempt at a Call of Duty looks set to continue the series recent preference for speculative, near future warfare. This VICE clip, produced in association with the forthcoming game, hints at a premise very similar to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - namely a private military contractor growing so large it becomes an independent superpower. Call of Duty 2014 is being made by Sledgehammer Games, a group of developers whose previous credits include 007: From Russia with Love, Dead Space, and the multiplayer component of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

EVEN BREAK



Footage from Duel was used to beef up an episode of The Incredible Hulk TV series, entitled Never Give a Trucker an Even Break. Steven Spielberg was so unimpressed with his first feature being gobbled up for stock footage that the director insisted that all further work contracts contain clauses protecting his films from similar indignities.

Duel



















David Mann is a fussy neurotic who makes the mistake of discovering his dick on an anonymous Californian highway. Stuck behind a massive tanker truck that looks like a scaled up toy, Mann overtakes, enraging the vindictive lorry driver. Steven Spielberg's theatrical (in Europe at least) début is pure incident, building a pressure cooker narrative out what would otherwise be a dull car journey.

Duel is built out of these long haul rhythms, beginning with a disengaged drive. The radio splutters away, registering low in the sound mix, a grade or two beneath the consistent, relaxing sounds of a car maintaining a steady speed. Duel's opening minutes stress safety, conjuring up sights and sounds last experienced when you were very young and in the back of your parent's car, sleepy and safe, on the way to some distant holiday destination.

A vague sense of paternal security is established, then ruthlessly vandalised. First, Mann's masculinity is undermined by a quick collect call to an indifferent wife. Mann feebly apologises for failing to defend her honour at some drunken ass-grabbing party. Mann's wife reads as bored - this particular failing well known to her. Back on the road, Mann is hounded by the truck driver he overtook. The harassment is petty, it seems emotionally driven. It's not a monstrous other trying to gobble up prey, that would imply a distinct purpose and economy of action. Duel's encounters are instead a sustained kind of bullying, designed to emaciate Mann, making him feel worthless.

Power and agency are denied to him, any attempt to equalise or thwart the chase are batted aside by the inescapable, omnipotent truck driver. Mann is completely powerless. Away from these impotence set-pieces, Richard Matheson's script and Dennis Weaver's performance combine to create an impressive sketch of frail, withered masculinity. When Mann attempts to take a time out in a roadside cafe full of truck drivers, it's clear he's an interloper.

Mann has difficulty even navigating the space - there are just too many men in there, radiating their louche, cowboyish power. Mann dithers, unsure how to proceed. Locating a table in an empty corner away from the 'real' men, he stumbles over his lunch order, failing to match the politeness his waitress shows him. Every idle glance is contextualised as a threat, Mann driving himself mad imagining ways in which he can placate this room full of tormentors. Buy them booze? That's what these people like, right? In Duel everything is a threat, the hero doesn't even want to meet the challenge, he just wants to escape.

Amblin'




















Like most début shorts, Steven Spielberg's Amblin' isn't particularly concerned with delivering a tight narrative experience. Instead it's an elliptical brochure documenting Spielberg's breezy, Abercrombie idea of counter-culture. Amblin' is handsome and pleasant, detailing the incidental adventures of two hitch-hiking lovebirds. As a sales document, Amblin' demonstrated that Spielberg had the ability to slip effortlessly between farcical physical comedy and an advertisers eye. It's sort of like Pierrot le Fou meets The Monkees.