Every now and then, I come across a film operating outside the conventional constraints of the horror genre that leaves me in a state of distress. The anxiety served up in Denis Villeneuve's 2013 film 'Prisoners' readily comes to mind. It made the idea of caring of caring for one's kids a terrifying prospect evoking this strong sense of paranoia. The 2004 Oscar-nominated South African film ‘Yesterday’ left me in a similar space, with respect to the hellish confluence of poverty and travails for medical care.
'Braven' marks the first real turn of interest from Jason Momoa; the first time I’ve seen him play something resembling benign and vulnerable. It’s also the first time I’ve seen him with a shirt on and his strapping biceps covered for most of a film. Director Lin Oeding, in his debut effort, goes for nostalgia and grants Momoa the opportunity to play a character that channels heroes from action films we may have seen in the ‘80s and ‘90s as domesticity and drug runners collide in an otherwise peaceful woodland near the Canadian border.
Black Panther and Ryan Coogler's definition of Africa
The rambling below contains spoilers to Black Panther. — Just how angry is Ryan Coogler, If he is at all? That’s been one of the questions on my mind having seen ‘Black Panther’. Marvel gave Coogler the keys to the Black Panther vehicle and he took them to the promised land, delivering an incredibly personal film, opening up his soul to reveal a whirlwind of heartache, frustration and fury.
'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.