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.
I was running late for the screening of Marvel’s latest offering, Doctor Strange but I wasn’t too bothered. I was expecting the usual MCU schematic for origin stories and to some extent, that is precisely the end product although there is a welcome deviation from what I know to be the Doctor Strange source material as it offers a refreshing edge to the MCU, a classy aesthetic and most importantly, the rare 2016 sighting of sensible and justified use of CGI.
One of my favourite podcasters posits the idea of the perfect action movie having a Tomatometer score hovering around 50 percent. Watching The Accountant, I was reminded that for a good amount of time, till maybe The Matrix and Bourne films came along, the perfect action film needed a certain degree of cheese and ridiculous contrivances to hit home and The Accountant is almost fine throwback in that regard.
Queen of Katwe
It may be about chess, but Queen of Katwe is at its core that inspirational sports film angling towards a satisfying sentimental crescendo. Chess of course is a sport but my few film encounters with it (mostly involving Bobby Fischer) toe a line different to the one our director, Mira Nair, takes. The honest setting is just as important as the characters, and that is key to really elevating this film from your conventional feel-good sports story. It also helps that superb thespians, David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o, put in work when called upon.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has been brought to the big screen courtesy Jane Godlman’s adaption and director, Tim Burton’s welcome morbid sensibilities. Based on a Ransom Riggs novel of the same name, Miss Peregrine’s Home introduces us to the kids with gifts one would expect from a film with such a name, also featuring a mansion that will obviously bring to mind Charles Xavier and his home for gifted kids.
The Neon Demon
I guess The Neon Demon, from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, is at its core a satire. It narrows in on seemingly cynical cut throat high fashion world of LA and the aspirations of a young girl who desires what exactly? Therein lies the problem with Refn’s latest film; the screenplay crafts a compelling setting with beautifully shot evocative world building, but for the most part it doesn’t know what to do the characters dropped in there, or isn’t too bothered.
The Shallows is a lean mean man versus nature tale that sees an injured surfer battle against time and a shark with a vendetta in shallow sea waters. Pretty basic plot. It has no deep philosophical or spiritual undertones like say, The Grey. The Shallows just plays as the most minimal of thrillers and our director and screen writer, Jaume Collet-Serra and Anthony Jaswinski, do remarkably well to infuse the requisite tension though the script would have done well to really embrace the simplicity of its core premise.