I spent half of Coco teary-eyed and there was this whirlwind of joy within me. Pixar’s still got that exceptional touch and its working on our hearts and minds in full force. It takes a smart combination of factors to truly set Coco apart as possibly an all-timer, prime among them the magical realism of the Mexican setting meshing with a simple but emotional and layered plot that will psychoanalyse children and adults alike.
Justice League review
Justice League tries so hard to distance itself narratively and tonally from the earlier films in the DC cinematic universe, save for Wonder Woman. You could say it largely succeeds, but to who’s benefit? I will argue no one. There are no winners when you serve the campiest Bruce Wayne/Batman since George Clooney and his nipples. I took it personal. I found this version of Batman a pure anathema. Ben Affleck didn’t seem engaged and I don’t blame him. You sign up to play the cold, cynical, calculating and tortured Dark Knight but instead, you end up playing a damaged bumbling man playing dress up because he is rich.
Thor: Ragnarok review
Give me a lifetime and it may not be enough for me to prepare for and accept a comedy featuring Thor, the god of thunder. Yes, I jumped onto that small wagon of whiners that feel Thor: Ragnarok should have been a little more restrained instead of trying to be too funny. I am acquainted with director Taika Waititi’s quirky sensibilities. What We Do In The Shadows; now that’s a funny film – witty, taught and focused.
Happy Death Day review
Like most films, I went into Happy Death Day cold so the central conceit of the film hit me like whiplash. It’s basically Groundhog Day meets your average exploitation slasher film, as many have pointed out. I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed. It’s not that I’m a sissy and scare easy but I never really see horror films in the cinema so I had psyched myself for something tense and filled with dread. I was hoping for the bonus score of screaming girls and the sight of grown men flinching. Nope, it was basically demented laughs all around.
I expected the first film I saw Ed Harris in this year to be Daron Aronofsky's Mother. I was wrong. About 20 minutes into Geostorm, he shows up as the US Secretary of State and aside from the obvious “gimmie my cheque” stamp on his forehead, let’s just say there is a Clancy Brown in Daredevil Season 2 thing going on. I guess the good news in all this is, my remaining experiences with Harris in 2017 are sure to be the opposite of mind-numbing.
Taylor Sheridan is quite the enthralling storyteller. His attraction and empathy with life on the peripheries of society continue with his latest film, Wind River. After only playing scribe to the chilling Sicario and the gritty Hell or High Water, Sheridan is in the director’s chair for the second time in his career overseeing thriller with western tendencies set on a bleak Wyoming Indian reservation.
A Ghost Story
A Ghost Story, Directed and written by David Lowery, is a film simultaneously about the passage and stillness of time. It’s a film that seems to harbours a certain fixation on the mundane despite (or because of) the separation enforced. It serves as a confluence for sentiment and existential angst. Above all, it’s a film that meditates on the coin that is life and death, using its eccentricities not to sideline the viewer, but instead to overwhelm.
Blade Runner 2049
The question of what it means to be human and existential angst will never be exhausted by the medium of film. Pinocchio, AI, Ex Machina and, hell, even Alien: Covenant, ring to mind as the sizzling hot Denis Villeneuve ventures into the purest of sci-fi worlds, creating the most reverent follow up to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. 35 years on, Blade Runner 2049 is in familiar philosophical territory, probed with such confidence, style and ambition.
It Comes at Night
Writer-Director Trey Edward Shults understands what true horror is. His It Comes at Night leaves you in no doubt the thing you should fear the most stares at you every morning. Perhaps, the only thing worse is the person who refuses to acknowledge this paradigm, kind of like the whiners who went into this master class in simmering tension expecting a jump scare fest.
There are some parallels between Jordan Peele’s dark comedy Get Out and Katherine Bigelow’s Detroit. At the centre of the latter, a film set in the heat of the 1967 Detroit riots and uprising, is the incendiary matter of race relations, made even more so by the portrayals of vicious police brutality and at its strongest points, Bigelow harnesses absolute terror out of the mundane, much like in Get Out, only through an obviously more serious and frightening lens than in Peele's enjoyable film.
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.