We are introduced to Scott Cooper’s ‘Hostiles’ with a solemn quote from D.H. Lawrence, assuring me that I was about to immerse myself in one of my favourite things in cinema – the Western that attempts to cut to the core of man’s tortured existence. What follows D.H. Lawrence’s affirmation of man’s marriage to violence is a prologue that lays the groundwork for this story.
'Ready Player One' review
'Ready Player One' is much more than the love letter to gaming culture some corners of the internet would have you believe. The earlier suggestions from some that this could be the “Black Panther for gamers” were ridiculous. Whilst its director, Stephen Spielberg, has admitted his affinity for the 80 with regards to the influences of this film, I viewed it as more as an affirmation of the timelessness of certain aspects of popular culture that draws not only on video games but also on cinema. Within this affirmation, however, is the painful reality of the dysfunctional romance we as audiences have with some of these iconic totems of gaming and cinema.
There is a not quite explained comic charm behind the Nigerian accent. 'Gringo', a dark comedy directed by Nash Edgerton, is the latest film to support that hypothesis. Just before this, Black Panther gave us Winston Duke’s M’Baku, who has emerged as an unlikely breakout star and fan favourite. Just like you go for a European accent to enforce some level of iniquitous ill intent – on a scale from British to Russian, the Nigerian accent; unreserved, vivacious, and tailor-made for pantomime sensibilities always seems like a sure bet to keep your average low-hanging fruit comedy afloat, even if barely in the case of 'Gringo'.
'The Cloverfield Paradox' review
There is an ideal dimension out there where all films get released in the manner of horror Sci-Fi film 'The Cloverfield Paradox'. You wake up one day and hear X studio has its film screening in theatres or streaming on demand. No exhausting hype (*cough Black Panther*), no spoilery trailers, minimalist marketing controversy. It’s all about the art and the desire to consume it. It then becomes a shame that the film at the end of this stunt was woefully underwhelming. The basic narrative now is that the powers-that-be at Netflix and Paramount felt the Julius Onah-directed ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ was so much of a bust that just dumping it after the Super Bowl was a prudent option. I don't blame them.
Every now and then, I come across a film operating outside the conventional constraints of the horror genre that leaves me in a state of distress. The anxiety served up in Denis Villeneuve's 2013 film 'Prisoners' readily comes to mind. It made the idea of caring of caring for one's kids a terrifying prospect evoking this strong sense of paranoia. The 2004 Oscar-nominated South African film ‘Yesterday’ left me in a similar space, with respect to the hellish confluence of poverty and travails for medical care.
'Braven' marks the first real turn of interest from Jason Momoa; the first time I’ve seen him play something resembling benign and vulnerable. It’s also the first time I’ve seen him with a shirt on and his strapping biceps covered for most of a film. Director Lin Oeding, in his debut effort, goes for nostalgia and grants Momoa the opportunity to play a character that channels heroes from action films we may have seen in the ‘80s and ‘90s as domesticity and drug runners collide in an otherwise peaceful woodland near the Canadian border.
Black Panther and Ryan Coogler's definition of Africa
The rambling below contains spoilers to Black Panther. — Just how angry is Ryan Coogler, If he is at all? That’s been one of the questions on my mind having seen ‘Black Panther’. Marvel gave Coogler the keys to the Black Panther vehicle and he took them to the promised land, delivering an incredibly personal film, opening up his soul to reveal a whirlwind of heartache, frustration and fury.
'Black Panther' review
My biggest fear going into ‘Black Panther’ was that director Ryan Coogler would serve up a righteous narrative fuelled by Fela’s ‘Water No Get Enemy’. A story riding milking the idea of the untouched African country, untainted by European occupiers and firmly in control of its destiny. Conceived by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966, the cynic in me regards Blank Panther and his kingdom Wakanda as a mere utopia for the white gaze and an antithesis of the distressing dysfunction of the continent. This sentiment informs this paragraph, which I penned weeks before I actually saw the film.
'Mom and Dad' review
Buried in the craziness of ‘Mom and Dad’ is an earnest exploration of parental angst and midlife crises. But that’s just the bonus that comes with the package. The label promises an epidemic causing parents to murder their kids and it delivers on that front with gleeful mordancy. The central conceit has a mysterious signal triggering these wild homicidal tendencies in parents. We are given some sort of scientific explanation in this regard that I won’t get into, but we are eager to see this film make nonsense of God’s charge to have man and woman bear fruit and fill the world.
'Sin Bin of the City' review
Watching the 2017 documentary short, ‘Sin Bin of the City’, which reflects on the racially charged 1981 Toxteth Riots in Liverpool, I was struck by was the initial lack of or absence of faces to the voices of the oppressed blacks on the Merseyside. I'm used to the average documentary serving up the standard face-to-face interview as a director looks to interrogate a subject and cut to the crux of a central truth. But our director, James Arthur Armstrong, whilst working with the constraint of keeping his interviewees somewhat anonymous, shows confidence in the voice of his subjects and their laments which are very much relevant to Liverpool and beyond.
'Proud Mary' review
The month of lowered standards continues with the Taraji P. Henson-led quasi-Blaxploitation action thriller, 'Proud Mary', directed by Babak Najafi. My most important takeaway from; the classic eponymous Tina Turner hit from 1970 (originally performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969) does not play as the most alluring soundtrack for a shootout. But that’s the least of 'Proud Mary’s' problems, which plays as the extremely poor man’s version Luc Besson’s brilliant ‘94 thriller, ‘The Professional’.