The Lego Batman Movie
I spent the screening of The Lego Batman Movie battling sleep. That surprised and disappointed me. It's Batman. I love Batman. Anything Batman should be able to grasp me for 90-plus minutes. But therein lies the question. Was this a Batman movie or Batman roast? This latest entry to the Lego movie franchise felt like the latter and that also upset me a little, in addition to being a bore fest. "Batman should be revered and not mocked", I seemed to be screaming internally the few times I engaged with the film.
It truly has been a while since a decision to immerse myself in a piece of cinema came with the reward of an emotionally overwhelming experience. Bless you Moonlight, bless you Barry Jenkins for your masterful and beautiful humanist approach to your characters, for chucking away the surface and reaching for the crux of your subjects with soothing poetic finesse unperturbed the joys or heartbreak that lie beneath.
My Father Die
Directed by Sean Brosnan ( our very own Pierce Brosnan’s son), My Father Die tells the story of a deaf man, Asher (Joe Anderson) on a collision course with his abhorrent and sociopath father, Ivan (Gary Stretch) in the rural American south. To call their relationship dysfunctional is an understatement given the first time we see them together, Ivan bashes the hearing out of Asher’s head then proceeds to brutalise the life of his older son, Chester. Details, almost animalistic in nature, abound but let’s just say Chester had his hand in a cookie jar labelled Ivan.
Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea manages to be one of the funniest films of 2016 whilst wielding affecting moments of distress and heartbreak. The bleakness of this picture has been overemphasised. Expectations had been inflated. But Lonergan manages to milk a welcome brand of dark humour that doesn’t make light work of a crux wrapped in its powerful layered examination of grief.
Ousmane Sembene’s Emitai
How about some Senegalese spice - Ousmane Sembene’s 1971 film, Emitai, is fueled by a spirit of protest that resonates decades on. The fact it wasn’t released in Sembene’s home country of Senegal and censored in other francophone countries endorses the strength of its message in a time when colonialism was something more tangible than chapters in textbooks.
Chaos is order yet undeciphered – the line that opens Denis Villeneuve’s 2013 film, Enemy. Two films later and hints of that idea are at play in the brilliant Canadian director’s latest film, Arrival. Unlike Enemy, Arrival presents a clearer narrative and denouement that is tied up in a knot of simplicity that still has the power to overwhelm.
Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge embraces the paradox ethos ingrained in Christianity. This film is about a pacifist who goes above and beyond in the line of duty during the Second World War. It looks to affirm the value of human life amidst the carnage of intense bloody battles on the Japanese island of Okinawa where human life is spent in droves to very little avail.
Paul Verhoeven’s new film, Elle, provides more joy than you would expect from a film that opens with a rape. It helps that the victim of the sexual assault, Isabelle Huppert’s Michele Leblanc brushes of the trauma like dust from the harmattan with chilling nonchalance. When she reveals her ordeal to her friends, it’s as casual as it gets; over dinner with a bottle of champagne on ice.
Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford’s gripping and devastating meta-textual mystery, left me heavy at heart. I am enamoured by impenitently bleak narratives but Ford manages to mesh character and tone in a queasy union that left some dissonance lingering within by the time the resolution tapped me on the shoulder.
It only took about 40 years but “wars” in the Star Wars title has finally been justified. Rogue One, the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise, directed by Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards, slots into the period leading up to Episode IV, A New Hope. A lot of people died to get us these plans, is the line I remember in reference to the Empire’s dreaded Death Star schematics and Edwards breathes life into what is almost a throwaway screw in the early Star Wars lore with this riveting adventure romp.
The family at the centre of Captain Fantastic is one the most enigmatic I’ve come across on screen. The patriarch of this family, Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen), is raising his six children off the grid in the woods outside Washington, USA. The family lives off nature as evidenced by their ornate treehouses or the game they have to hunt and crops they have to tend by way of food. Then there’s the ideological spectrum this family operates on.
Hell or High Water
To toe the line of the wittertainment quip, Hell or High Water sports its fair share of bank heists, but it is far from a film about bank robbers and their escapades. It has two law men that jump on the trail of the robbers, but their relationship and not the investigation will probably come to be of more interest. The screenplay, by Taylor Sheridan of Sicario fame, leans very much towards character and presents some of the most subtle and exacting chemistry that drives this modern western to its understated but compelling finale.