'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’.
'The Shape of Water' review
A sour trace of disappointment lingered after seeing Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, ‘The Shape of Water’. After months of consuming short bursts of adulation, leading to me constructing my own fanciful masterpiece in my head, a possible spiritual sequel to del Toro’s own 'Pan’s Labyrinth', the slow realization that 'The Shape of Water' was just good, not great, hit me like whiplash. When I saw 'Pan’s Labyrinth' for the first time years ago, I understood what Pauline Kael meant by ‘I lost it at the movies’. Del Toro’s 2006 masterclass in magical realism was entrancing and heartfelt, but also a grim and terrifying feat of cinematic poetry that spoke to certain truths about myself the more times I saw it and the older I got. But for the ‘The Shape of Water’, to paraphrase Jay-Z, it's alright but it's not real.
'The Commuter' review
'Murder on the Orient Express' meets 'Non-Stop', with a dash of 'Taken'. To be honest, you could describe ‘The Commuter’ as a remix of every action flick Liam Neeson has starred in. His performances in these films seem to be on the same wavelength; broken, grizzled veteran given an opportunity for valour and redemption. In his fourth collaboration with Director Jaume Collet-Serra, Neeson plays a 60-year-old ex-cop turned insurance salesman called Michael beginning the roughest day of his life. His droning mundane routine is interrupted when he loses his job amid debt and his son's college tuition worries. He then loses his phone (what a nightmare) as he battles through the hellishly claustrophobic New York subway system. Then he meets a mysterious lady on the train who turns his subway trip, and life, upside down.
‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’ review
‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’ is one of the best action films of this decade. It’s certainly one of the most memorable. While standouts like 'John Wick', 'The Raid' and the most recent 'The Villainess' bring to the table the grandly choreographed fight sequences and adrenaline-infused balletic gun battles to the table, making your average action film look like shite in lieu of the welcome raising of the bar. ‘Brawl in Cell Block 99’ opts for the road less travelled. Its bread and butter as an action film is unrelenting grit and pure brawn driven by an outstanding performance by Vince Vaughn.
'Bright' feels original and fleetingly ambitious with its meshing of fantastical elements and hard-knock policing to envision Los Angeles some 2000 years after the battle of Helms Deep. But it’s a bit of a wreck. You realize the film is fighting a losing battle when it starts with a bland montage likening Orcs to African Americans who have faced centuries of oppression. The lack of tact with its political undertones is to be one of its major failings (*cough* graffiti of Orcs doing the Black Power salute *cough*). Beyond this, It’s generally tedious and bursting at the seams too many ideas from writer Ma Landis, when simplicity may have been its saving grace.
'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' review
Grief begets anger in Martin McDonagh’s 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'. Anger goes on to begat empathy and introspection in what, quite surprisingly, is this Irish director’s most heartfelt film, despite its rough and sardonic packaging. As one of my main takeaways, I realised it was time for me to start work on my shrine to the thespian goddess Frances McDormand. After winning my heart with her earnestly blithe and sunny performance in chilly 'Fargo', McDormand ascends to higher heights with a showing singed with some buoyant nastiness and exuding a fierce charisma perfectly placed to anchor the blackest of black comedies. Every three years or so years, McDonagh reminds me of why this is my favourite genre of film.
And on the sixth day, God made his one mistake – He created man. This is according to the brilliant Darren Aronofsky, whose ‘mother!’ turns out to be the most fascinating exploration of God’s relationship with man. The catch here is, this relationship is scrutinized with some scorn and disdain through the lens of mother nature and it unravels into a weighty misanthropic and admittedly demented parable justifying the backlash and controversy that enveloped it.
‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Review
Is the idea the balance the burden humanity must bear? At its philosophical best, this is one of the questions poses, venturing into territory the canon has explored. This is one of the beats that makes the central conflict of the Star Wars universe an infinitely compelling experience and provided a certain underpinning that assured me I was immersing myself in something truly confident, thoughtful and enriching. All credit goes to writer/director Rian Johnson, who delivers a masterclass in blockbuster filmmaking.
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.