How much hate should we harbour for the paedophile Una presents to us? That’s the only feeling that needs calibrating as we contextualize the vice hovering above the two central characters in this film by first-time director Benedict Andrews. The strong performances on show may have you dithering for a minute – second chances right. But by the time the resolution comes around, questions and suspicions arise to drown out what the uncomfortable empathy surfaces.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Did the world go comatose on how great is, or am I just astounded this animated film I watched countless times as a child is actually the most compelling Batman story? Mask of the Phantasm is directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, the minds behind the iconic '90s animated series. The writing team was also well immersed in the animated series with a story from Alan Burnett. Despite its roots, even as a child, I could tell Mask of the Phantasm was not bound by the shackles of TV, much more a children’s programme.
War for the Planet of the Apes
It is hard for me to look back on Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes and not feel some simmering disappointment. The hype was contagious, expectations were sky high and I was primed to declare War for the Planet of the Apes the resolution to one of the finest film trilogies. But by the end, I felt character spent a little too much time battling spectacle. Reeves appeared to be invested in the “war” aspect of film’s title.
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens with a quick origin story of its antagonist, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes aka Vulture. With his roots out of the way, little time is devoted to unravelling the genesis of key components of the story. Instead, director John Watts oversees what was promised – a proper high school coming-of-age vibe sporting authentic teen characters in a film that just happened to centre on a kid who was bitten by a radioactive spider.
The Bad Batch
Ana Lily Amirpour’s brilliant indie debut feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, was to die for. Tagged an Iranian vampire western, the 2015 film served up a flawless pastiche dish and a delightful convergence of differing periods and genres of cinema. Her follow-up, The Bad Batch, sports a bigger budget, high-profile names, an arresting aesthetic but a flawed narrative.
Has cinema seen a child more driven and unyielding than the protagonist in South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Okja[/i]. Probably not. The incredible bond between this South Korean girl and her special pig sees her morph into Jason Bourne at times, when a giant firm looks to use her friend, the titular Okja, to launch its chain of meat products. Joon-ho’s takes us on some whimsical escapades, culminating in an epicentre of warmth and charm, as workings of capitalist exploitation and consumerism are packaged in one of 2017’s best offerings.
Free Fire assembles the tetchiest brand of characters cinema screens have seen in a while. Most of them seem to have gotten out of bed with ill intent, or at the very least, the desire to just vex someone. The problem for them is this film centers on an arms deal in a warehouse so, needless to say, sparks start flying around in a gunpowder pit.
After Alien: Covenant shifted cinematic tectonic plates, I thought seeing 1987’s Predator for the first time in almost 15 years was in order. Shane Black’s reboot is around the corner and you never know – there may be some dirty little secret at the centre of this franchise which alters our cinematic reality (and mind you, it shares a universe with Alien).
A United Kingdom
What would happen if I brought a white woman home and said; Mama, she’s the one. It'll be fine I guess. There would be some eyebrows raised, with increasing murmurs the further you got from nuclear family, but it'll be fine. However, when it becomes a matter of general scrutiny; the optics of a chief or presidential candidate with a white better half, folks would not be having it. So the idea of a mixed race couple with a royal half in the pre-colonial Africa is scandalously daunting, to put it lightly.
I now get the Prometheus gripes. Despite being thoughtful and absorbing on a philosophical level, I acknowledged that Ridley Scott’s first Alien prequel was a slippery slope, but a slippery slope I was content to run up and down on. But as we closed in on the denouement of the second Alien prequel, Alien: Covenant, I was certain I would never think of the first two films the same way again.
Colossal may be one of the more bizarre films I see in 2017. Ballsy even, but not because there is some unworldly execution on the part of our director, Nacho Vigalondo. Simply because it goes all out on its preposterous conceit whilst somehow managing to stay grounded in character and real-world struggles.
The Fate of the Furious
I wasn’t sure before, but I am now – we no longer have to take the Fast and Furious films seriously. I could deal with the luxury sports cars flying from sky scraper to sky scraper. I could deal with cars bursting out of the cockpits of exploding planes. I could deal with characters speaking to each other normally over deafening engines at top speed. I’m pretty sure defended the plausibility of the final action sequence with the safes in Fast Five.
Sembene! - The tragedy of African cinema
The 2015 documentary, Sembene! is a welcome tribute to the father of African cinema, Ousmane Sembene. We spend a chunk of the film soaking in co-director (alongside Jason Silverman), Samba Gadjigo’s reverence for the Senegalese filmmaker as he recounts the impact of Sembene, decades before they eventually met. “When I was 14 I dreamed of being French, like the characters in the books I read in high school,” we hear Gadjigo say. Fast forward three years and the acuity of Sembene’s work had him proclaim “I no longer wanted to be French. I wanted to be African.”