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.
Every job has its nightmare scenario. For people in my line of work it could be writing an erroneous news article about the President or wading into a position to find one’s self disgraced and fired for bowing at the altar of plagiarism. For someone like the subject of this film, airplane pilot Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, your nightmare scenario sees the death of hundreds.
A History of Violence
David Cronenberg says a lot of things about violence in his 2005 masterpiece, A History of Violence. Consider the brilliantly absorbing final scene that sees the central family of four sit for dinner like they probably have a million times before but only this time there is a new constant. Their varying bearings convey some insight into how Cronenberg believes the world perceives the idea of violence.
Suicide Squad sports likeable elements and largely persuasive characterisation but is held back by disappointing execution. Writer/director David Ayer should be above this clumsily paced and poorly staged end product but everything here is just so rushed and slapped together with choppy editing compromising whatever momentum it seeks to garner. On the DC studios spectrum of things, there is so much concern with humour and fun and this film features a strong dose of these but fun and humor, a good film do not make.
How does the man who showcased the absolute horrors of war in Saving Private Ryan also provide a warm sweet marvel in E.T.? That is a question I like to ask of Stephen Spielberg, a question that comes up watching his latest offering – The BFG. The simple answer is he is a great filmmaker who never lost touch of the child in him and boldly calls on that part with ease. We don’t get a lot of outright kid’s movies these days (outside animated offerings) so a film with this tone and sentiment from a great filmmaker is welcome.
The horrendous racist and misogynistic backlash and ridiculous levels of fan entitlement leading up to the Ghostbusters reboot have been unprecedented, in my lifetime at least. The Paul Feig directed reboot has reared its head in GH and I guess you could fault it for a number of things, mainly the canker of mainstream Hollywood continually leeching off the past. However, the one thing you can’t fault this film for is humor.
Green Room was one my most anticipated films in 2016. Every review of talked about the shocking levels of violence and the riveting suspense. It did live up to expectations but not in a way I expected. On the surface, Green Room isn’t the most violent film in the world but thanks to writer/director Jeremy Saulnier, it is wields an enthralling, if simple, narrative and harnesses an aura of pure menace to ramp up the anxiety.
Independence Day: Resurgence
The good news with Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence is, it is an enjoyable ride, solid popcorn fare. The bad news is I spent most of this sequel just laughing – laughing at this film and its script which mostly bordered on ludicrous. Truth be told, the bad news needn’t actually bad news. There should be some joy in entertaining nonsense and I choose to take advantage of what Emmerich serves up especially since he demonstrates some degree of self-awareness.
The eight year-old me’s vision of the future featured flying cars, super-fast food and service robots and more – think the Jetsons or worst case scenario, 1995’s Judge Dredd. Fast forwards some 16 years later and I don't put it beyond humanity to screw up the world. A desolate punishing future akin to Mad Max or The Road is becoming more plausible argument as the years go by.
The Nice Guys
I was extremely enamoured with Shane Black, director of The Nice Guys, long before I actually knew Shane Black. Those nights and Saturday afternoons with the Lethal Weapon series on TV3 were everything. Mel Gibson was Martin Riggs before Mad Max. The Long Kiss Goodnight, also by Black, had its fair share of screen time on TV3 and it was an action film so the 12 year-old me loved it by default. Same for 1991’s The Last Boy Scout which was enjoyably rugged and violent and starred the guy from Die Hard.
Alice Through the Looking Glass
I had two overarching thoughts prior to seeing Alice Through the Looking Glass, so indulge my digression. First off, in line with the recent trend of fairy-tale re-tellings, I recalled how much I hated Pan and I didn’t even see it. As someone who loves Peter Pan, the idea of a Caucasian Tiger Lily was repugnant. The idea of a Captain Hook who was not only a good guy, but had no hook made me sick of cinema for a week. Even as a money grab, Pan made little sense.
It is funny how having seen X-Men: Apocalypse, I couldn’t really explain to anyone how James Mcavoy's Charles Xavier lost his hair. When it happens, it is interesting but any form of reasoning behind it will be hard to find. This sentiment could be true of majority of a film that is essentially an empty barrel. Our director here, Brian Singer, has paid his dues to the superhero genre. We have seen him reach undoubted heights with this very franchise but here, he is at best labouring in neutral on a journey rampant with some of the most pointlessly punishing CGI.
I reckon a ton of Ghana has heard its fair share of Upstream Color director, Shane Carruth given the Abraham Attah ties that were belted out when the young was a mainstay in news cycles. However, cinephiles will recognise this quintessential indie director as much more given his insensate cerebral but still gripping handling of the two films in his back catalogue.
Barbershop: The Next Cut
The funniest thing about Barbershop: The Next Cut is the fact most of the people who come in for haircuts already have impeccable hair. Maybe day-old fades are taboo in that part of Chicago. I haven’t seen the other Barbershop films in a good while but I can’t imagine the setting of Chicago took centre stage like it does here. The film opens with a nice homage to icons from Chi-town then goes on to lament the whirlwind of violence that birthed the ill-famed Chi-Raq moniker.
The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book is an adaptation of Kipling’s tale of the man cub, Mowgli, brought up by a pack of wolves in an Indian jungle. I’m tempted to call Jon Favreau’s remake of Walt Disney’s 1967 picture a masterclass in tone and atmosphere manipulation but I suspect my relatively low expectations greatly elevated this film. That said the tonal decisions Favreau makes set this film apart from its 60s counterpart and ostensibly justify a remake.