Tuesday, 6 October 2015


Normally, I wouldn't be so eager to write a post on a John Hillcoat film that had been exiled to a February release date. But Triple 9 looks to have quite a lot going for it - a vivid trailer that showcases a full-throttle thriller style which I approve of wholeheartedly, and a potentially career-top-5 performance from Kate Winslet. Looks to be another trashy turn from the star that won't get awards traction, after what happened to Romance & Cigarettes, but that won't stop me from showing up to Triple 9 in genuine anticipation. Out in the US on the 19th of February.

Sunday, 4 October 2015


The clash between what audiences crave and what the suits think audiences crave is manifested in a halfway house that doesn't feel like one at all. The Intern is a slick, canny delivery of good sense and sweet sensibility, encased in a commercialised sugar shell. I don't suppose Nancy Meyers knows her film doesn't need it - the film's money-making, people-pleasing prospects would surely have been unfettered by relative creative freedom, since this is, after all, what audiences crave. Meyers the suit is, predictably, off course, tempering the otherwise good nature of her film with concessions to those who'd most likely rail against that nature, and her interpretation of ignorance in her characters settles into the screenplay too easily, and The Intern itself begins to court flagrant ignorance. It's thus up to the performers to eke out something relatable, and relatably compassionate, in their roles; leads Robert de Niro and Anne Hathaway are certainly up to this task. Hathaway has the more difficult role as the more difficult person, and succeeds wholly, rightly recognising that her difficulties are intrinsic elements to her persona, and Meyers does her best work here quietly but pointedly placing the blame on societal attitudes toward gender roles. It's a progressive film at heart, when Meyers gets around to it, though only politically - The Intern is far too conservative a creative proposition to properly bring these ideas to form and then to flourish.

Saturday, 3 October 2015


A scientific spectacular that gets too much right to be truly wrong. Ridley Scott is a filmmaker as gifted with brilliance as his films are often blighted with bloat - The Martian is so many different films in one that it's hard not to enjoy at least some of it, even if it's hard to recommend all of it. It's a popcorn movie, or it is until your popcorn runs out, whereupon you wish they'd found a little more excess weight to jettison to make the journey that bit smoother. A gargantuan ensemble of A-listers occupies two planets and one spaceship in between them, travelling through comedy, suspense and corporate drama, the whole film approaching each individual moment, as well as the entire enterprise, with a gusto that makes this mish-mash surprisingly affable. Early scenes establish the kind of speedy pace that suggests less a Mad Max style full-throttle thriller, more a film that's bitten off way more than it can chew. Kudos to The Martian - it makes it through the whole meal, though the gristly bits that appear as the film stumbles its way toward some sort of climax still can't be rescued by Pietro Scalia's expeditious edit job. Drew Goddard's dialogue does good work making the science palatable for the muggles among us, but does better work when dealing in quick comic quips; Goddard's ear isn't fine enough to pick up on a large number (everything in The Martian is large, though) of clangers in his own script, however. An artless piece of work made with an immense amount of artistry, The Martian at least boasts an excellent climactic sequence to save it from the sag that has otherwise set up shop by this point. It's winning details like this that do save The Martian - it's fun, both in spite of and because of itself.

Thursday, 1 October 2015


I Am Love director Luca Guadagnino's first narrative film since that international breakthrough in 2009, A Bigger Splash stars Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson. It received boos at the Venice Film Festival where it premiered last month, but it also received cheers, and that's the kind of divisive reaction I rather want it to have. Out on the 12th of February in the UK and on the 13th of May in the US. Also screening at the London Film Festival later this month.


Strange how the most self-aware films are often also those with the least self-awareness, practically speaking. It would seem that the security of style that these films trade in largely rebuffs variation in interpretation, insisting instead on their own opinion of themselves. Rick Famuyiwa's Dope has a rather contradictory view of itself, not least in that its affectations infer that its level of self-awareness is high, while its unintentional hypocrisy dictates that this level is actually fairly low. This is a slick film, too slick in fact, but its swagger is earned - such an amount of effort has gone into making Dope feel effortless that you can forgive the filmmakers from getting a little high off their own product. No doubt they keep it lively, engaging and both visually and sonically interesting, though the problems begin to arise not in that Dope fails to push any boundaries in this regard, but that it seems to think that it does in others. Certainly, purporting to transcend cliche and stereotype, then reverting back to them in the very same scene, character, even line of dialogue, is a radical way of proposing a fresh discussion on racial and cultural aspects of American society, but that's not what Dope intends to do. Its sights are set higher, on serving as a voice of authority in this discussion, when it simply can't construct its argument with sufficient clarity to earn this. And thus, the self-awareness that drives this film, and surely engenders so much of its most appealing attributes, is the foremost reason that it doesn't work - it's so determined to prove to the viewer what kind of film it is, it neglects to even prove it to itself.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015


The year's most hyped-up unseen Oscar contender, The Revenant, is in danger of being another overblown macho fantasy, like its director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's last film, Birdman. With Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead, my hopes aren't exactly high, though the above trailer features promising work from DiCaprio's costar Tom Hardy and from reliable DP Emmanuel Lubezki. Now those are some Oscars I definitely wouldn't mind seeing The Revenant win. Out in the US on Christmas Day and in the UK on the 15th of January. I can wait.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


This run-of-the-mill cop thriller has all of the whats and the hows, and none of the whys. It tells us that the killer did it, naturally, but it can't tell us why the killer did it, despite numerous scenes of expository pseudo-psychoanalysis from one character about another (or about themselves). It tells us that there's a paranormal angle to this case, but it can't tell us why, nor even what gargantuan suspension of disbelief is required in order to excuse this, at least as long as the film can be bothered acknowledging it. It tells us that it exists, but alas, Solace can't tell us why it exists, nor why we ought to care. Its origins as a sequel to David Fincher's Se7en show through in its basic design, though not in Afonso Poyart's dreadfully simplistic direction. His stylistic affectations come off as accidental lurches, like moments where the executives fell asleep and failed to pick up on the pretensions they had excised everywhere else. It's all fairly beige until the woman in red multiplies and strips naked, or until the pre-teen kid is autopsied and his brain is sliced open. But even that's easier to stomach in this context than the very existence of Solace in the context of the American film industry. More whys: Why does Colin Farrell appear about two thirds of the way through? Why did Abbie Cornish's career have to amount to this? Why did Anthony Hopkins even show up? Hopkins is just about Solace's saving grace, though I'll admit that run-of-the-mill cop thrillers like this are my soft spot, and I'll almost always give them a watch, if not a pass. Solace doesn't earn a pass. It was close enough, until it debased itself with a vile homophobic association that categorically ruled it out of receiving a pass from me. And you? You just ought to pass altogether.

Monday, 28 September 2015


Everything is not fine - sorry, but it was asking for that - in Wim Wenders' stilted soap opera, which aims for some vague, unformed sense of literariness and little else, apparently failing to grasp that the prestigious written word it attempts to emulate only acquires such prestige through a sharpness and an eloquence, both of which almost wholly evade this dreary drama. Every Thing Will Be Fine is a curio, a film whose achievements are considerable yet inconsequential, and whose failings sit in stark opposition, themselves banal yet of disastrous effect. Technically, there's much to admire in Benoit Debie's luminescent 3D cinematography and Alexandre Desplat's luscious, Grieg-inspired score (the screenplay is by Norwegian Bjorn Olaf Johannessen, and the Canadian setting could have easily replaced his homeland at some point during production); these elements are attractive, though not without fault - objectively, neither contributes anything particularly profound or even relevant to this tale of modern morality in the artistic male. Yes, that's roughly what Every Thing Will Be Fine is actually about, and the level of philosophical inquiry and broader cultural awareness that such a summation may suggest (a decidedly low level) is quite present. It's the sort of film you'd imagine James Franco directing on a whim over a two-week period - fitting, then, that he's this film's lead, as aloof and half-asleep as ever, and neatly matched as such by the film. Alongside Desplat's score, standouts include a chilling moment of tragedy early on and a sensitive performance from Charlotte Gainsbourg (when is she ever not?); on the flipside, there's barely one line of dialogue or plot point that strikes as sincere, and the film concludes in a sequence of thoroughly nauseating shots, whose sheer ugliness must be seen to be understood.

Saturday, 26 September 2015


Cate Blanchett sets out to expose the truth and single-handedly change the Oscar game in James Vanderbilt's directorial debut Truth! Acclaim for the film has been slightly muted, though not so for the performances of Blanchett and Robert Redford, whose turns as Mary Mapes and Dan Rather are among the most well-received English-language perfs of the year yet. Out in the US on the 16th of October - no other international release dates have yet been officially confirmed.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


Ngl, this was on my watchlist for the London Film Festival, and was one of my biggest disappointments when it failed to turn up there. Deniz Gamze Erguven's debut feature film as director, Mustang, drew raves from critics at Cannes, where it premiered in May to award-winning success. It has since gone on to earn a healthy reputation on the festival circuit: more positive responses at Venice and Toronto festivals surely helped contribute to Mustang securing France's bid for the Foreign Language Film Oscar this year, over titles such as Palme d'Or winner Dheepan from Jacques Audiard, and Cannes Best Actor winner The Measure of a Man from Stephane Brize.