NEXT FRIDAY: It’s all about the neighbourhood (2000 In Film #2)

This year, 20 years on from the year 2000, I’m going to celebrate the first year of cinema in the 21st century by looking back at some of the films across the year at the turn of the millennium which took No #1 at the box office for their opening weekends.

This week, I’m looking at Steve Carr’s stoner comedy sequel, Next Friday

All things being equal, you may have imagined Walter Hill’s dark science-fiction thriller Supernova would have ruled the box office in the second week of January 2000 but it ended up a critical and commercial dud, paving the way for the modest success of Steve Carr’s Next Friday – the sequel to a film that struck much more of a chord in the culture of black cinema.

Friday appeared in 1995, the brainchild of successful rapper Ice Cube and his co-writer DJ Pooh, who teamed with director F. Gary Gray (in his debut, long before the heights of The Fate of the Furious) to shoot in a modest 20 days a low-budget comedy which was designed by Cube to emulate the modest, indie stylistics of a Kevin Smith but rather for African-American culture. Friday was a slice of life which transformed Cube from rapper to movie star—within two years he would be headlining Dangerous Ground and starring in the schlocky Anaconda and the critically acclaimed Three Kings a couple of years beyond that—not to mention featuring a raft of stars to come: Chris Tucker, Regina King, Michael Clarke Duncan. It was also a surprise hit, tapping into a sub-genre that Cube astutely realised had not been mined by black performers and filmmakers.

As a result, Next Friday was almost an inevitability but, to paraphrase Hugo Drax in Moonraker, it arrives with the “tediousness of an unloved season”. While outwardly amusing, with plenty of basic scatological and farcical gags to keep punters busy, it is an example of the kind of diminishing sequel returns that the early 2000’s would deliver in spades.

It is, quite simply, a film with absolutely no reason to exist beyond the financial.

Game of Thrones – ‘You Win or You Die’

CERSEI: When you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die. There is no middle ground.

If ever you wanted to point to an early episode of Game of Thrones which would serve as a mission statement for the iconic series to come, outside of ‘Winter Is Coming’, you could do worse than point to ‘You Win or You Die’. It is, in many senses of the word, a game-changer. The episode firmly establishes the key, central ideological concept at the very heart of George R.R. Martin’s opus, and it’s one we may already have strongly suspected: we are watching a very powerful and very deadly game in progress.

Though it contains a number of extra elements, ‘You Win or You Die’ can be seen as a clearer successor to ‘The Wolf and the Lion’ than ‘A Golden Crown’ was to the developing narrative. It takes many of the political and Machiavellian ideas established in the fifth episode and builds on them, moving the season firmly toward what would constitute a climactic end game which will play out over the final three episodes, depicting in broad strokes the ending of the book A Game of Thrones and leading very clearly into the adaptation of sequel A Clash of Kings, which will form the basis of the second season. Fates are sealed in this episode with more certainty than they have been for some time, yet the majority of what happens feels inevitable. David Benioff & D.B. Weiss’ script simply brings into focus many more thematic concepts that have been gestating since the season began.