Featured this week: Animal Crossing as a revenge thriller, photo journalism as a historical subject, and something meta as something stupid.
Picture Stories : B
UK Film Review
Fuelled (short film) : B+
It gave the internet memes, and the internet gave it a grossly inflated estimation of its worth. Being the best Star Wars prequel is rather like being the best Trump sibling—an a priori indictment.
In which John David Washington is chased around the streets of my life, Timothy Spall is bussed across the streets of my country, and Charis Beth Swartley fights family drama in a short film with no streets, thus ruining my triptych.
Beckett : B+
The Last Bus : B
UK Film Review
A Good Home (short film) : B
Spielberg is constantly manipulating the screen with his use of lighting and camera angles to spin mundane scenes into something interesting, and it’s a constant pleasure to watch. Tom Hanks is as ever, ever-dependable, getting a lot of joy out of the fish-out-of-water who finds he’s surprisingly good at sleuthing. Its Mark Rylance though who delivers the best performance—upstanding, understated, and utterly unflustered—as rumbled Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. Conversely, the legalistic story about Abel’s prisoner exchange with U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers lacks a certain spark. Even if the mawkish epilogue you always fear is coming with Spielberg had been discarded, the run-time would still be overextended, and there’s never quite enough drama to spice up its talky formality. It’s eminently watchable though—another solid entry in the director’s sizeable biographical line.
Running out of ideas on round four, Sylvester Stallone gives up on filmmaking to create a series of sweaty training montages set to ‘80s AOR. And to be fair to him, this is the best series of sweaty training montages set to ‘80s AOR you’re ever likely to see, drenched in unintentional camp and buttressed by characters I’ll continue to like even if the set-up has grown stale. Also contains a gloriously kitsch cameo by the Godfather of Soul.
Over the last couple of months, film reviews have been littered across the internet as if by some kind of manic cyberspace litter bug. Here they are all in one place.
Grades displayed below won’t necessarily match those on the sites, which use their own rating systems (or none at all), so there can be some approximating involved. This is simply my translation of those scores using my own.
Battle Royale With Cheese
Martin Eden : C+
French Exit : B-
Old : C+
UK Film Review
2088 (short film) : C+
Petrichor (short film) : B+
True Calling : D
Three reviews for you:
— Mark Wahlberg Talks To Trees, Mark Wahlberg Runs Away From A Light Breeze, Mark Wahlberg And The Suicide Breeze, The Breeze of Doom, Plant Wars, Al Gorefest, The Trouble With Triffids, Foliage Party, M Nightmare On Elm Street, Mark Wahlberg And The Deathly Willows, Lawn Of The Dead.
— You’ve got to hand it to him. M. Night Shyamalan has pulled off his greatest plot twist with The Happening, a film in which absolutely nothing happens.
— A couple of jump-scares, coupled with the premise’s fear-fuel of a gruesomely fatal contagion spreading uncontrollably ensure that better horror films are less scary than this. But it’s lead by the weakest of weak screen-couples. Mark Wahlberg plays a science teacher, which might be more implausible than the notion of plants hyperevolving an invisible neurotoxin that makes people mad for seppuku. Wahlberg’s counterpart Zooey Deschanel mumbles through a half-arsed performance with the floaty angst of a Xanax-patient. No chemistry, no chops, and in Deschanel’s case, dead annoying.
After wasting years on an airbender, M. Night Shyamalan rediscovers his sixth sense for cinema with a supernatural horror film that crucially doesn’t suck. His suspense-building and creepy camerawork works new life out of genre clichés, though not without a little help from his friends. Shyamalan’s successes display a huge gulf in casting quality compared to his duds—sour memories of nepotism and whitewashing are banished here. James McAvoy manages to wrestle what could be a bunch of silly accents into a deadly serious organising principle as “The Horde”, a man with 23-personalities. If anything however, it’s Anya Taylor-Joy as kidnapped teen Casey Cooke who’s the real star of the show, holding her gaze with fractured sorrow, projecting her body-language with the no-nonsense demeanour of someone with far too much lived-trauma. McAvoy has to put so much work into persona construction that his character’s pain is comparatively submerged. Both well-acquitted stars are served by an adroitly-threaded narrative, as well as Shyamalan’s signature twist—a great idea signalled just enough to be cottoned on to. For those who do, it’s a thrill to find out whether your hunch is right (if you can avoid spoilers that is. This viewer did not).
The film that established Jesse Eisenberg in the mainstream, and simultaneously trapped him in a mode no one’s sure he’ll ever escape. Our prayers continue to wish him every favour in his battle with Zuckerbergitis. At least for once the affliction works in his favour—in The Social Network he’s actually playing Mark Zuckerberg. For the Facebook founder’s theatrical treatment, director David Fincher positions his own timbre in a way that’s thematically thin but dramatically engaging, while master-of-esoteric-verbiage Aaron Sorkin fires words like they’re machine-gun rounds. Visually however, it’s dead. The grading has no dynamic range, creating a heavy monochromaticism that’s unfortunately artificial for a film that’s based on real-life. By extension, the artifice feeds into Fincher’s vacuous, particularly Hollywood depiction of Zuckerberg’s life—a lot of supermodels, a lot of revelry, not a lot else. You’re almost batting for the real MZ by the end. But there is one important thing to consider. This is a biopic, not a documentary. Entertainment is the name of the former’s game; the truth is just along for the ride.
One part parable about the US Army creating a new generation of Charles Whitmans and Lee Harvey Oswalds, one part Vietnam action set-piece. The parable is fine, but something felt amiss during the second act, something I couldn’t quite pin down. And then it struck me. This didn’t look like a Vietnam movie. Stanley Kubrick’s stab at the genre clearly hadn’t been filmed in South East Asia. Rather, it looked like it had been filmed on a damp industrial estate in Western Europe (Beckton Gas Works, as it turns out). Nobody expects the opulence of Apocalypse Now from every depiction of the war, but at the very least, every movie has to convince as to its environment. The shoot’s failure to do so inhibits any hope of viewer immersion. Furthermore, the way the script treats the soldiers is equally unconvincing; they behave like morons when faced with a crack-sniper. Not idiotic in a way that suggests the extreme mental pressure of their situation, but in a way that suggests flimsy writing.
At the top this pyramid is Kubrick. His slow pans, deliberate pacing and calculated direction are not a natural fit for action or war-filmmaking. It’s all too pristine, too careful. And I’m sure one day his relish of the psychologically twisted will stimulate an emotional response that goes beyond mere recognition of his method. Just not today.