Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Roma’

2018 is over, in the final month I saw twelve movies at the cinema bringing my total for the year to 126.  For the final time of the year we crown the movie of the month, here are the contenders:

Disobedience – Following the dead of her farther, a highly regarded rabbi, Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns home to London from New York.  While some of the Orthodox Jewish community welcome her return, others are less welcoming.  When she reconnects with childhood friend Esti (Rachel McAdams) it becomes clear why she left.  Based on Naomi Alderman’s début novel of the same name, Disobedience is a beautiful exercise in subtlety and understatement.  Set within a community I little to nothing about, it comes across as the most honest, and realistic film I have seen all year, it helps that the performances were sensational.Disobedience

Green Book – Based on a true story; a mildly racist working-class Italian-American doorman (Viggo Mortensen) takes a job as the driver of an African-American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour of venues American South in the 1960’s. No cliché is left underused, there are no surprises in the plot, the characters are caricature, and not a great deal happens.  None of this matters, as the film is warm and funny, the performances are Oscar worthy, what should be cringingly sentimental turns out to be nothing short of delightful.GreenBook

Creed II – Or Rocky 4.5.  Now heavyweight champion of the world, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), takes on the s Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed Apollo Creed in the fight depicted in Rocky IV.  Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), Bianca (Tessa Thompson) are both back, the latter being poorly served by the script.  Although it fails to reach the heights of the best in the franchise, the way Creed did, it is an enjoyable and uplifting story.Creed II

Tulip Fever –  A romantic drama of misadventure and misunderstanding told against the backdrop of the Tulip mania of 17th century Amsterdam.  The film has sat on the shelf for several years, a look at the producers behind the film may explain why.  Or it could just be because the movie is average at best. Alicia Vikander, Holliday Grainger, and Christoph Waltz are all good.  Tom Hollander, Dane DeHaan, and Jack O’Connell are all guilty of overacting.Tulip Fever

The Old Man and the Gun – A “mostly true” story (so a caption tells us), Aging bank robber Forrest (Robert Redford) is in the middle of crime spree, some committed alone, others with Waller and Teddy (Tom Waits, Danny Glover), al committed without violence or even a raised voice.  Along the way he meets the delightful Jewel (Sissy Spacek).  All the time Detective Hunt (Casey Affleck) is on his trail.  A charming film told with a deliberate pace that director David Lowery seems to have mastered more so than any other filmmaker.  Reported to be Robert Redford’s last movie before he retires from acting, if this is true, it’s a worthy end to a great career.The Old Man and the Gun

Beautiful Boy – Timothée Chalamet plays Nic Sheff, Steve Carell               plays his farhter David in a film adapted from books written by both men describing Nic’s fight with addiction.  Both actors are fantastic with Carell slightly edging it for me.  The story is well told with a great use of time-shift that is never confusing.  The English language début of director Felix van Groeningen isn’t as heartbreaking as his earlier film The Broken Circle Breakdown, but it is just as compelling.Beautiful Boy

Mortal Engines – Yet another high concept dystopian sci-fi based on a popular YA series of books.  This time, we have mobile cities roaming across the wastelands of the globe capturing and consuming the recourses of other smaller towns and cities in what they refer to as Municipal Darwinism.  I won’t spoil the plot that unfolds within this story, least to say it involves a young couple who start on opposing sides.  Newcomer Hera Hilmar is a compelling lead Hester Shaw, Robert Sheehan is less convincing as the co-lead.  Jihae, Hugo Weaving, and Stephen Lang all provide good support.  The world building is good, if not believable.  The look of the film is good, and the story zips along nicely.  The characters are relatively well realised, although a couple of supporting players look like most of their story is on the cutting room floor.  One of the reasons the story works, as is often the case with stories of the type; the heroes are filled with self doubt, and the villains think they are heroes.  The allergy for the destructive, and self-destructive nature of capitalism isn’t subtle, but it is surprisingly effective.  An enjoyable if disposable blockbuster with an ending so clearly influenced by another film, it should be called Mortal Engines episode IV A New Hope!Mortal Engines

Aquaman – After the events of The Justice League, we learn the origin  Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa).  He (and the audience) soon discover that he is heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, but there is the small matter of his evil half brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson).  Aquaman should have been the Justice League’s equivalent to Thor, the preposterous but fun member of the team, the character played totally straight the more silly things get.  In a way it achieves this in justice league to a certain extent, but it lacked the fun and charisma of Thor.  But given his own movie he fares better.  The visuals are spectacular, Jason Momoa has fun with the part, and is well supported by Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, and Willem Dafoe.  Very silly and not as good as Wonder Woman (or even a middle ranking MCU movie), but the most fun the DCU has been to date.Aquaman

Bumblebee – Set in 1987, about twenty years prior to the events of Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie: Bumblebee arrives San Francisco, a little worse for wear, he finds himself mute and in a scrapyard in the shape of a VW Beatle trying to evade the Decepticons. This is where awkward teenager Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) finds him.  The sequels, to Bay’s first Transformers film were so bad, we forget that the original wasn’t bad.  Bumblebee, is somewhat better than not bad, it’s actually really good.  Steinfeld is charming and funny, but so is her animated co-lead.  The filmmakers aren’t shy in talking about the influence of Steven Spielberg movies, notably ET.  Bay’s pornographic sensibility is nowhere to be seen.  Superficial characters who would have been on the end of Bay’s “male gaze” are relegated to supporting roles and ridiculed.  The final act is far better than you would expect, and the 80’s soundtrack is excellent.Bumblebee

Sorry to Bother You – Set in a dystopian present-day, Cassius’ (Lakeith Stanfield) lives in his uncles garage with girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson).  In need on money he takes a job in telesales, and sucks at it until colleague Langston (Danny Glover) teaches him to use his “white voice”.  Musician, activist, and first time director Boots Riley’s movie is full of fantastic ideas and brilliant gags, and observations, unfortunately the execution is a total mess.  The cast are all excellent, and I enjoyed parts of the movie, but I fail to see the masterpiece I was led to expect.Sorry to Bother You

Stan and Ollie:  Towards the end of their career, world famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy toured UK music halls.  Most of the film concentrates on this one brief spell of their careers, but it gives an insight into their relationship and personalities of camera.  Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are both excellent as the duo, Reilly looking the part, more than Coogan but both giving believable performances, for me Coogan is the better of the two.  Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson are also excellent as their wives.  The balance of the film is a little off, with the first half spending too much time recreating the performances.  the behind the sconces relationship is far more interesting.Stan and Ollie

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Like Peter Parker before him, Miles Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a new Spider-Man. At the same time Kingpin opens a portal to other alternate realities, bringing multiple Spider people into Miles’ world. Not an MCU movie, but part of Sony’s own ever more confusing cinematic universe.  Using an ever changing array of animation styles to create a bizarre and bonkers movie that is also amazing fun, and very funny, as well as being full of heart.   The freshest and funniest comic book movie for a very long time.  The voice cast is amazing, Shameik Moore is joined by: Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoë Kravitz, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, and Chris Pine.Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Die Hard: 30th Anniversary Screening – Towards the end of the 1980’s Die Hard rewrote the book on action movies, how has it aged? The simple answer is very well! It is made with typical 80’s film stock that is a little grainy and muddy looking (not as bad as 70’s, but not as bright or crisp what came before or after), other than that it is very modern. If you saw it for the first time many of the story beats may seem a little clichéd, it isn’t, this is the archetype that everything else copied. A treat to see on the big screen. (not included in competition for movie of the month).Die Hard

First, a special mention for the best new film of the month Roma.  Seen on TV via Netflix, not at the cinema so not eligible.Roma

Disobedience, Green Book, The Old Man and the Gun, and Beautiful Boy, would all make worthy winners.  I considered Bumblebee as it is the movie that surprised me so much.  But the movie of the month is: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse poster.jpg

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I have recently published my top ten movies of the year.  I only included films I saw at the cinema, however, film distribution is changing; more films are being released online at the same time, or instead of theatrically.  Netflix original productions, and exclusive distributed movies have stepped up a gear employing A list actors and directors.  Below are the movies by the most significant of these directors.  For the record, Roma would have made my top ten movies of the year if eligible.    

Roma (Alfonso Cuarón) – Mexico City 1970/71, an upper middle-class family is going through a time of transition, told from the point of view of their housekeepers, who has her own issues to deal with.  After spending time in space, the future and the wizarding world, director returns to his native Mexic for the first time since 2001’s Y Tu Mamá También, it was worth the wait!  The family drama shot in beautiful black and white immediately invokes thoughts of Yasujirô Ozu, Roma is that good, it sits comfortably in such auspicious company.  There is little in the way of plot, the film just drifts along evoking a dreamlike feeling.  As in life, there are smaller resolutions but no real conclusion, the story goes after the lights go down.  Simply shot, often with a fixed camera, but always beautiful to look at.  Cuarón employs a deep-focus to great effect, there is always something going on in frame.  The same is true of the incredible sound design.  This leads to my only criticism, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN SCREENED IN MORE CINEMAS!Roma

Annihilation (Alex Garland) –  A meteor hits an area of Florida swampland and is now surrounded by what the film calls the shimmer, it blocks all contact with the outside world, and all expeditions into it have failed to return.  Cellular biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) joins an all-female team in.  With a great track record as an author and screen-writer, Alex Garland hit the ground running with his directorial debut Ex Machina.  The cast is first rate, particularly Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Oscar Isaac, but it is often Tessa Thompson that steals the show.  Elements of the movie will draw comparisons with Arrival, it sadly isn’t that good, but that movie set a pretty high bar.  This is still an excellent film.  Drowned in the mythology of the genre(s), the film asks some big questions in a very bold way, but has the intelligence and the restraint not to answer them. annihilation

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen) – Portmanteau western consisting of six stories: A guitar-playing gunslinger (Tim Blake Nelson).  A bank robber (James Franco). A travelling theatrical show owner (Liam Neeson). A prospector (Tom Waits). A young woman on a wagon train heading west (Zoe Kazan).  Five strangers on a stagecoach (Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson, Jonjo O’Neill, Saul Rubinek, Chelcie Ross).  The western is as old as cinema.  From Ford (and before) to Eastwood and Costner, via Peckinpah and Leone the genre has established and reinvented itself countless times, but it still has its beats, its clichés.  With the western filmmakers have told every story imaginable, from the birth of America (and tried to justify the more unseemly aspects  of it), to a nations loss of innocence, and so much more. With True Grit and No Country For Old Men, The Coen Brothers have demonstrated their understanding and appreciation of the Western.  Here they have taken the archetypes of the genre and subverted them, in the process both embracing and exposing the absurdities of filmmaking.  The result is a film that you can take as disposable fun, or a thought-provoking meditation on the mythology of the western movie, I chose to take both!The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

 22 July (Paul Greengrass) – True story of the atrocity on the island of Utøya in 2011, and its aftermath.  Paul Greengrass has an uncanny ability to bring real life stories to the screen making them cinematic, and entertaining without losing the humanity, and sensitivity.  Take exhibits 1 to 3: Bloody Sunday, United 93, and Captain Phillips.  The brilliance of the story, is that although terrorist Anders Behring Breivik is front and centre, it isn’t his story.  It is the victims story, the survivors story, but most importantly Norway’s story.  The film is a little on the long side and could lose some of the middle section where the metaphors are a little heavy-handed.  This is a small quibble for a very powerful movie. 22 July

Bird Box (Susanne Bier) – Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and two young children embark on a river journey wearing blindfolds.  We learn in flashback what got them to this point, and about the mysterious entity that once seen drives you to suicide.  Bullock and the supporting cast (including: Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Tom Hollander, Jacki Weaver, and BD Wong) are all fantastic.  The characters representing a microcosm of society are a little clichéd, but that is the necessary shorthand of a film, and doesn’t stop you empathise with them.  The best thing about the film is the concept and the story, that shows just enough, and leaves so much more for the audience to wonder.  The direction is taught making the over two hour runtime seem like 100 minutes. DSC04279.CR2

Hold the Dark (Jeremy Saulnier) – A young boy goes missing in a small town on the edge of the Alaskan wilderness.  The boys farther (Alexander Skarsgård) is away, fighting in Iraq.  His mother (Riley Keough) hires a wolf expert (Jeffrey Wright) to track and kill the animals responsible.   Jeremy Saulnier’s first two movies Blue Ruin, and Green Room are not happy affairs, but they are positively shiney and glowing in comparison to Hold the Dark.  The film is cold, dark and oppressive.  I describe, Roma as having a dreamlike feeling, this movie has that same quality, but this is a far less pleasant dream, this is the type of dream that you wake from with a feeling of hopeless despair.  It is a far better, deeper and more intelligent film than many have given it credit for, but it’s a really hard film to like or enjoy.  I am really glad I watched it, and really need to see it again to better understand it, I’m just not sure I want to watch it again.Hold the Dark

Apostle (Gareth Evans) – A troubled young man (Dan Stevens) travels to a remote island to infiltrate a cult who have kidnap his sister.   After the success of the Raid movies, Welsh born director Gareth Evans returns home to the UK for a rather unusual and brutal horror.  Comparisons with Wicker Man are inevitable, while it fails to come close to the contestant feeling of dread invoked by that film; it isn’t a laughable mess like the 2006 remake.   What it lacks in dread it makes up for in downright eerie and creepiness.  To its credit, the story doesn’t always go where you expect it to, it is however a little saggy toward the middle and would have benefited from a fifteen-twenty minute trim off the runtime.  More a film for horror fans than those of Evans earlier work, I certainly enjoyed it. Apostle

Mute (Duncan Jones) – Berlin, 2052. A mute barman (Alexander Skarsgård) is searching for his missing girlfriend (Seyneb Saleh).  The story overlaps with an AWOL U.S. military medic (Paul Rudd) who with the help of fellow surgeon and all-round sleazebag (Justin Theroux) is trying to acquire fake ID and travel papers to get back home.  Duncan Jones bust onto the scene just under a decade ago with the excellent Moon (2009).  The follow-up Source Code (2011) is and underrated gem, even the bonkers video game  Warcraft (2016) isn’t bad.  Mute, however, is a strange beast.  The Blade Runner inspired idea of a hardboiled 40’s detective in a future setting is good, but the film is a mess.  The balance between the two stories don’t work.  It would have been better if the Justin Theroux character were dropped completely and the Paul Rudd story reduced.  That said, Skarsgård is a good lead if a little lacking in dimension.  Clint Mansell’s electro-synth score is excellent.  And for fans of Moon, there is a nice Easter egg , we get to see what happened to the Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) clones. Mute

 Netflix have also released: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (Andy Serkis), and Outlaw King  (David Mackenzie).  As well as Orson Welles’ last film The Other Side Of The Wind that has been in some sort of limbo for the past four decades.  I am yet to see any of these. 

Read Full Post »