Friday, 21 July 2017

The Bequiled

Shortly after Sofia Coppola’ success at the Cannes Film Festival (where she won best director) her latest effort was the target of criticism for the removal of a black slave character from the story (the character featured in both the 1971 original and the novel). Sofia’s defence was that she didn’t wish to half arse such a serious topic (slavery) and thus focused on the isolation white Southern women felt during the years of the American Civil War. It does seem questionable that a black character would be excluded entirely from a picture set during a war where slavery was the main reason for the fighting, but Coppola’s view of the novel does not deal with that aspect of the war.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

It Comes at Night

It seems to be the case that every year a horror movie is released to much critical acclaim but a lot of audience distain. Granted there might be a sense of an audience unwilling to be tested or broaden their horizons but mostly it’s because the studio incorrectly advertised the film and sold a different product to what the audience got. It happened with The Witch and now it happened with It Comes at Night. It perhaps does the film a disfavour even if the box office proceedings were boosted by the film’s questionable advertising.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

2017 Catch Up

Claire (Teresa Palmer) is an Australian tourist taking pictures of Berlin’s GDR architecture. She meets a dashing Berliner named Andi (Max Riemelt) and the pair immediately hit if off. Claire goes out looking for Max the next day, and the pair have a one night stand. After the night of passion, Claire wakes up to find her locked in his apartment. She stays another night, assuming being locked in the apartment was an accident, but when it happens a second time it turns out Andi has dark motivations. With no means of contacting the police or shouting for help, Claire must outsmart her captor.

The title, Berlin Syndrome, is a slight spin on Stockholm syndrome and its an apt title for a film where you can’t always quite work whether Claire is generally falling for her captor or it’s a ruse in a bid to escape. It makes for a intense film where each bid to escape is breathlessly tense. Teresa Palmer is excellent in the lead role in which she starts out by being captivated by the charms of her eventual captor, but yet her performance also gives off an air that something is troubling Claire back in her native Australia. Max Riemelt is also superb as the charming but malevolent Andi in this effective thriller.


John Wick 2 follows directly on from the events of John Wick (in which John Wick gets revenge on a Russian mobster for killing his dog) where John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is bought out of retirement to do a job for an Italian mobster of whom John is in debt to. Wick carriers out his essential task, and he becomes the target of every assassin in the assassin underworld.

2014’s John Wick was perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the year as it showed filmmakers how to make an action movie. It employed professional stuntman, the main star did his own stunts, and each action scene wasn’t cut so much that it was almost incomprehensible. John Wick retains much of that brilliant action choreography that would impress the likes the John Woo with the smooth editing, perfect precision and superb stunt work. The film gets a little bogged down in being a bit too talky in the middle part of the film, but the effortlessly cool and kinetic action sequences makes this sequel worth watching for fans of the first film


It’s become far less acceptable to whitewash films or have a white savior narrative, these things still happen but people are calling them out on it. The Great Wall was another film that critics took aim for introducing a white savior narrative even though it was a Chinese produced film. Whilst I don’t think it’s entirely guilty of the crime it’s being accused of certain elements come off cringy, take for example every Chinese soldier applauding William Garin (Matt Damon) as he arrives in the Great Hall for successfully defending the wall against the monstrous invaders.

The basic plot is a mythical tale that the great Wall was built to keep out some alien like attackers is interesting enough, and the unique battle tactics employed the Unamed Order add to the impressive spectacle. However, the meat and bones of the story is very lacking, and once we’re introduced to the attackers we pretty much know everything we need to know about them, they’re not kept in any sort mystery. The basic plot points of the story also follow a very Hollywood like route where no tension is created because we’re safe in the knowledge that the most important characters will be saved at the last moment.

Matt Damon’s wayward (Irish?) accent contributes to what is overall a pretty poor performance by Damon who is (as are the rest of the cast) overshadowed by the spectacle even if the GCI is pretty suspect at times. It’s an ok film but the film’s intriguing central narrative is let down by a very basic telling of it


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Baby Driver

Baby (Ansel Englort) is a getaway driver for criminal King-pin Doc (Kevin Spacey), and he only needs one more job to be straight (Baby stole Doc’s car several years back and has been in his debt ever since). After completion of the job that’s set him straight, Baby tries to cope with normality. He finds a job and quickly falls for the lovely Debora, but it transpires being straight doesn’t necessarily mean he is finished as Doc needs Baby to do another job.

Friday, 30 June 2017


There’s a great number of people in the world who are very much set in their ways and, in the film industry, this is no more pronounced that at the Cannes Film Festival. Okja, the Netflix produced film which was in competition at the Cannes film Festival was booed when the Netflix logo appeared on screen (though eventually the film received a standing ovation). As much as I appreciate the French film industry for its quality pictures and being the birth place of cinema I feel the 36 month limit placed on streaming service serves is as much as a refusal to get with the times as it is a bid to protect the industry and the country’s spectacular reputation for theatres and cinema.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Sports documentary double bill

Currently, the McLaren Formula One is at the foot of the Championship table with engine problems being the woes that fall upon the team and drivers. So, with the McLaren team is such a dire position it seems ideal to go back to a time when the iconic McLaren name was in the ascendency. Directed by Roger Donaldson, McLaren follows Kiwi racing car driver and designer Bruce McLaren from growing up in his small town in New Zealand to designing World Championship winning racing cars.

Bruce McLaren is painted as a determined, hardworking and talented figure in the world of motorsport, finding success in many different formulas and racing categories. The time he devoted to the sport was so great it must have impacted his family life though the movie does not investigate this. Whilst, a look into the man’s family life may have opened him up on an emotional level (thereby adding more depth to the film) the areas that film does investigate is very interesting even if some understanding of engineering may be required.

Due to the limited resources available (the sport was still in its infancy in the 60s) director Roger Donaldson combines reconstructive footage with archival footage and interviews, this works reasonably well but the reconstructive footage does feel like it served more as padding than anything greatly informative. What’s also interesting to note is how the drivers and mechanics shrugged off the death of fellow racing drivers. This inaction and belief that death was part of the sport contributed significantly to the high number of fatalities in the era. Sadly, however, the film doesn’t go into great depth regarding the effect the high death toll had on Bruce McLaren.

The climax of the documentary is undoubtedly high emotional, but thrills and quality of material available means McLaren isn’t on a par with Senna.


George Best was football’s first celebrity, many dubbed him the Fifth Beetle for his supreme good look and massive female fanbase. Not only was he supremely good looking but he was an incredible football player, one of the best of his generation, a generation that included the likes of Pele and Eusebio. The documentary, simply titled Best, speaks admirably about the talents of George Best, but it’s not a documentary that spends the entire timewaxing lyrically about how the ball was glued to his feet. Instead it’s a very honest and very moving documentary about a sportsman who threw away his talent because of deadly addiction to alcohol. What’s striking is the friends of George Best not only blame the man himself, but themselves, they feel they did not do enough to turn him away from drink.

Comparisons to the Bobby Moore, whose life was also discussed in a documentary could easily be made, and both are refreshingly honest, yet respectful documentaries. George Best is an endlessly fascinating subject, a great talent ruined by drink and a celebrity lifestyle and the film serves as a warning to celebrity culture and the hounding by press and fans. Making use of archival footage and talking heads, the Best documentary lives up to its name becoming one the finest documentaries on the sport. People can chuckle how George Best may have spent his money on booze, birds, fast cars and squandered the rest but it was a lifestyle never made him happy. A sad documentary about a wasted talent.


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Southern Fury

Southern Fury tells the intertwining stories of the Lindel brothers, Mikey (Johnathon Schaech) and JP (Adrian Grenier), who had only each other to rely on growing up. As adults, JP found success as the owner of a construction company, while Mikey became a small-time mobster, mired in a life of petty crime. When Mikey is kidnapped and held for a ransom by ruthless crime boss Eddie King (Nicolas Cage), JP turns to the brothers' old pal Sal (John Cusack), a plain clothes detective for help – IMDB.