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SCREENWASH REVIEWS – SEPTEMBER 2016 – PART TWO – FILM

SCREENWASH – SEPTEMBER 2016 – PART TWO – FILM REVIEWS

Following my Part-One-TV-reviews for September – here’s Part Two with the movie reviews. I had a week off work so I managed to watch loads. Here’s a run through with the usual marks out of eleven. Enjoy.

FILMS OF THE MONTH

A SINGLE MAN (2009) – NETFLIX

Tom Ford’s brilliant character drama starring the exceptional Colin Firth in the lead is an amazingly assured directorial debut. Firth portrays, George Falconer, grieving Professor in 1960s America and we follow him over one day as he meets various characters and muses over past events. It is a beautiful study of grief; exquisitely acted by the ensemble cast and incredibly moving too.  (9 out of 11)

FOLLOWING (1998) – NETFLIX

Christopher Nolan’s debut no-budget feature shot at weekends with friends on 16mm black-and-white is a brilliant noir story. Making progressive use of natural light and locations it’s a stylish affair with a twisty plot concerning a loner who pursues a thief only to have the tables turned on him unexpectedly. (8 out of 11)

JUNO (2007) – SKY CINEMA

Ellen Page’s sparky teenage outsider gets pregnant by mistake and faces a critical life dilemma. Diablo Cody’s witty script is the star with all manner of cracking one-liners peppered throughout. Page, Michael Cera, JK Simmons, Allison Janney and Jason Bateman are hilarious too in a very funny offbeat comedy. (8.5 out of 11)

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016) – CINEMA

A group of heroes’ band together to protect a community against evil foes: how many times can they tell THAT story? Well, you’ve got: The Seven Samurai (1954), The Magnificent Seven (1960), Battle Beyond The Stars (1980), A Bugs Life (1998), Avengers Assemble (2012) and now The Magnificent Seven again.  The latter movie from Antoine Fuqua stars: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio plus another fun turn from Chris Pratt. Having established the cowboys and villains it sets about delivering a cracking piece of entertainment. The last hour stands out as a scintillating series of set-pieces, shootouts and explosions and I just had loads of fun with it despite the generic narrative.(9 out of 11)

SPY (2015) – SKY CINEMA

Funny person Melissa McCarthy was hilarious in Bridesmaids (2011) and subsequently has been in some hit-and-miss comedies including: Tammy (2014) and Identity Thief (2013). However, in Spy she perfectly captures her downtrodden-underdog-meets-loud-sweary-women-persona in a slick, knowing and very funny espionage parody. The whole cast including: gut-cracking Jason Statham, Peter Serafanowicz, Jude Law and McCarthy herself excel in a joke-a-second-action-fest which had me in stitches. (8 out of 11)

STEVE JOBS (2015) – SKY CINEMA

Writer Aaron Sorkin is obviously a genius because once again he takes a potentially dry subject matter – as he did with The Social Network (2010) – and creates a fascinating character study of a complex man. Jobs is an irascible marketing “god” surrounded by mere mortals struggling to meet his product launch demands. With Michael Fassbender brilliant as the Apple head honcho, Sorkin proves it is THE character and not the tech which sells drama. As usual Danny Boyle directs with aplomb too in a brilliantly structured and written story. (9 out of 11)

UNDER THE SHADOW (2016) – CINEMA

Set in Tehran during 1980s at the height of Iran-Iraq conflict, a mother and young daughter are haunted by a Djinn spirit as war spirals violently outside. Overall it is an excellent Iranian low-budget horror film – while similar in theme and story to Dark Water (2002) and The Babadook (2014) – that delivers some fine supernatural scares and socio-political subtext within the suspenseful action. (8 out of 11)

BEST OF THE REST

11 MINUTES (2015) – NETFLIX

Intriguing ensemble drama which begins slowly and full of mystery as various character lives come to entwine in a very watchable Polish thriller with a twist.  (7 out of 11)

ABC’s OF DEATH (2012) – NETFLIX

This is a gruesome, horrific, nasty, heartless and sickening anthology of horror stories. Many of the twenty-six short films are excellent but others are so poor they are virtually unwatchable. Lots of gore, humour and sicko stuff for horror fans to get their jaws into though! (Mark: 6 out of 11)

BAD NEIGHBOURS 2 (2016) – BA INFLIGHT

Sequel to the hilarious sleeper hit comedy starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne. This time the married thirtysomethings battle a sorority house instead in a hit-and-miss film that recycles its’ best gags from the first film. (6 out of 11)

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BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) – BA INFLIGHT

The visuals and action are brilliant as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor face-off in a chaotic superhero trifle. Zach Snyder’s vision is impressive but his storytelling is way off as dream sequences, narrative strands and subplots all collide in an unsatisfactory whole. Looks good – shame about the lack of a coherent story! (6 out of 11)

FRENCH CONNECTION II (1975) – SKY CINEMA

A decent Marseilles-set sequel to the stunning French Connection (1971) as “fish-out-of-water” cop Popeye Doyle hunts down heroin trafficker Fernando Rey. This is gritty, grainy and dark as Gene Hackman tears up the screen with a brutish and brilliant performance. (7 out of 11 for the film/10 out of 11 – for Gene!)

I SAW THE LIGHT (2015) – BA INFLIGHT

So-so biopic of the legendary country singer Hank Williams features a fine performance from Tom Hiddleston and some classic country music; but in terms of structure and scope is an above-average TV movie at best. (Mark: 6 out of 11)

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PARADOX (2016) – NETFLIX

Not-too-bad-time-travel-thriller inspired by And Then There Were None with a TV-movie cast but plenty of twists to keep the interest. (6 out of 11)

PRIMER (2004) – NETFLIX

Shane Carruth’s mind-swirling no-budget time-travel tale has two friends who invent a time machine and then. . . I’m not sure what happened after that as the narrative was too confusing for me. Either a work of genius or pretentious mess; one has to admire his intellectual vision even if it lacks real drama or emotion. (7 out of 11)

TIME-LAPSE (2014)

A fun, tricksy and paradoxical time-travel film which centres around the intriguing premise of a camera which can take a photo of events 24 hours into the future. The Shallow Grave (1994) plot finds around three friends who try to exploit the camera to their own gain only for it to bite them on the arse!  (7.5 out of 11)

TRAINWRECK (2015) – SKY CINEMA

Amy Schumer’s starring debut directed by Judd Apatow is funny in places with a fizzy lead performance from the comedian. She portrays a thirtysomething who sleeps around and gets drunk while avoiding commitment; until her free spirit, is recuperated by Bill Hader’s likeable surgeon.  Decent cameos and some great one-liners make it watchable but ultimately it’s a conventional rom-com which runs out of steam before the cringe-inducing ending. (7 out of 11)

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TRIPLE 9 (2015) – BA INFLIGHT

John Hillcoat’s contemporary cop thriller has a cracking ensemble cast, testosterone dripping from the screen and powerful action throughout. Covering similar ground to Ben Affleck’s The Town (2010) – but without the romance – it pits dirty cops against kind-of-good-cops and throws Kate Winslet’s bouffant-haired-gangster into the mix. Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson and Winslet make this genre movie very watchable and worth a butchers. (7.5 out of 11) 

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #9 – TIME TRAVEL FILMS

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #9 – TIME TRAVEL FILMS

My ongoing series writing about cinema stuff I love, has gone from eulogizing actors to directors and now to genres; oh, how progressive am I?  Seriously though, in this piece I choose FIVE time-travel films which are just brilliant examples of the (sub)genre.

I love time-travel films and the main reasons are:

  • They offer fantastic and paradoxical narratives and “what if” scenarios.
  • They really get your brain working overtime.
  • The concepts fit all manner of different genres from action to comedies and thrillers and even the Western.
  • The philosophical concepts at play often examine the nature of existence; especially where one tries to make sense of life or find meaning where there probably is none.

As evidence I present FIVE such time-travel films which meet all of the criteria and are representative of most genres. Please note I have concentrated solely on time-travel films released in the cinema so Doctor Who remains parked up for this particular piece.

**HERE BE MASSIVE SPOILERS**

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

This is probably the most perfect Hollywood movie. It’s a high-concept-time-travelling-Oedipal-narrative-joy-fest which combines action, comedy, romance, sci-fi, and nostalgia genres while backed by a past and present pop music extravaganza!  A young teenage innocent called Marty McFly is thrown back to the 1950s. In the 50s he unwittingly begins to undo his own future by accidentally beginning a romance with his own mother. Allied to that he must help his father (Crispin Glover) overcome his social weakness plus battles with horrible bully Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Following the basic temporal rule that one’s actions in the past will affect your future the tremendous script is jam-packed with so many wonderful gags, twists and chases; while the race-against-time narrative is a thrill-a-second. The rich iconography – notably the mad scientist’s DeLorean “time machine” – plus cracking performances from Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, render this one of the most exhilarating time-travel films ever.

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993)

Bill Murray is obviously praised as a wonderfully funny man but he’s also a deviously good film actor. At times he doesn’t actually seem to be doing much but his mind is always working as he gives a sly look or a sarcastic smile or a silent sigh from his deadpan, hangdog face. In Groundhog Day he runs the gamut of ALL emotions from anger to desperation to insanity to bliss to apathy to suicide to pride and finally to LOVE!  This is a wonderful film with a tremendous “what if” premise which offers the idea we can only move on in life if we’re prepared not only to accept change but also throw off cynicism and find romance. The exceptional script mines the Sisyphean narrative for so many brilliant sequences as Murray relives the same day over and over again. At the beginning this temporal immortality offers an array of gifts to his jaded weatherman Phil Connors; however, by the end his life becomes a dreaded nightmare and repetitive hell. Ultimately, time-travel has never been so funny, tragic and romantic!

PREDESTINATION (2014)

I think most time-travel films are paradoxical by nature and holes can always be found in the logic but as a time-travel/thriller genre film Predestination worked really well while providing an intriguing gender-political angle too. The nature of the loner and finding love for others and oneself was also an interesting theme plus the inevitability of fate was there in the subtext too. There’s been a lot of big budget dross at the cinema recently but for the running time this gem offers far more than many other star-driven, big-budget movies. Even though I enjoy seeing stuff blown up on screen I do love a brain-twister too and this film presents one hell of a challenging narrative. Starring Ethan Hawke and with a breakout performance from brilliant Sarah Snook this film from German/Australian directors has intelligence, thrills, heart and several mighty plot twists which bear up under successive viewings.

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

This is one of my favourite films ever.  It propelled Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron to mega-stardom in their respective fields and has often been parodied and imitated but rarely bettered. While story is simple: a killing machine has been sent back from the future to destroy Sarah Connor – the soon-to-be mother of uber-rebel leader John Connor; the journey is an absolute humdinger. Cameron’s lean, mean and muscular action screenplay combines brains, brawn, cracking one-liners and explosive set-pieces. Moreover, Linda Hamilton excels as the endangered young woman who turns from a flaky waitress to formidable matriarch over the course of the film. The sequel was brilliant too but the original will remain, despite being made for just $6.4 million dollars, the epitome of a tech-noir-futuristic-time-travel-action classic.

TIME CRIMES (2007)

This fascinating Spanish thriller has a narrative like a Russian doll as it is structured on an enigma within a conundrum within a paradox.  It concerns an ordinary Spanish bloke, who having seen some weird behaviour going on in the woods near his house, ends up looping and pursuing multiple versions of himself throughout one very bizarre day. Similar to Triangle (2009) – an underrated time-paradox gem directed by Brit filmmaker Christopher Smith – the enjoyment derives from immersing yourself in the weird and unexplained reasons why Hector (Karra Elejalde) has begun a psycho-sexual, violent loop of death involving a number of temporal leaps. This is all paradoxical plot and wicked thrills and while there is little in the way of characterisation the filmmaker Nacho Vigolondo has created the closest equivalent to a movie version of an Escher painting.