Annnnnd I’m back!
It’s been a light month for me on the film watching side as we’ve just started a new show at the theatre I work at. (Click here in case you’re interested!); but as I mentioned last month, even a light month still has me watching too many films to review individually!
What follows is just a quick coverage of all the films I saw in March. Hopefully some of them might interest you!
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016)
A Netflix funded sequel to the seminal original, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. (Released all the way back in the dark ages of 2000!) While it’s great to see a continuation of the Crouching Tiger legend, as well as seeing the return of Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien; it’s hard not to see this belated sequel as “to little, to late.”
With uninspiring fight scenes, unfulfilling storylines and the baffling decision to cast several blatantly American actors, Sword of Destiny ends up feeling like a cash grab trying to gain favour off the reputation of it’s much more accomplished older brother.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
While nearly a decade old, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is almost prescient in its modern day relevance to American politics. The role of Lex Luthor (voiced by the always reliable Clancy Brown) exudes shades of Donald Trump. Even the lies parroted by him in the attempt to discredit Superman and Batman sound exactly like the daily tweets we get from the President’s morning twitter vomiting.
But even ignoring the real life political parallels, this animated extravaganza is still an excellent portrayal of the relationship between two of the world’s longest lived superheroes. With Tim Daley and Kevin Conroy both returning to voice their career defining roles, Public Enemies is an excellent entry into the DC animated universe.
It’s hard not to see Lion as a two part story. One of which follows the story of 5 year old Saroo Brierley (Sunny Pawar), getting lost in the wastelands of Northern Indian and going on a dangerous journey to try and make it back home to his mother. Taking up the film’s first hour, this part is easily the most engaging and moving of the piece.
But in the 2nd hour we skip forward 20 years in order to explore Saroo’s journey to reunite with his lost family. As we already know the ending, the journey slowly drags to its expected, yet still heartbreaking conclusion.
While a strong film, it’s hard not to feel that maybe inter-cutting between the two stories regularly, or maybe involving the story of Saroo’s mother’s 20-year journey to find her son might have elevated this film from great to astounding.
The Founder (2017)
With such a complex and varied life, telling the story of Ray Kroc and the birth of McDonalds in two hours was always going to be a challenge. But with Michael Keaton in the lead, it almost seems like a breeze as the accomplished actor takes us on an incredible journey.
The strong supporting turns from John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman also add to the high quality drama. If anything, I can’t quite believe that McDonald’s allowed this film to be made as the portrayal of Kroc, while effective, is immensely negative.
But what I must applaud most about this film is that it makes it possible to recognise Kroc’s shrewdness in the world of business; while at the same time admitting that such acumen can sometimes be down to the brutal nature of humanity.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
A real conversation with my dad
Me: They released a new King Kong movie today. He’s a lot bigger than that Peter Jackson movie. Like 100 feet.
Dad: Why so big?
Me: Cause they need him to fight Godzilla in 2020.
Yeah, this film is a bit of a cash grab. Merely existing to try and set up a MonsterVerse with a variety of classic monsters.
But, like with the rebooted Robocop, there’s enough there to make it an enjoyable watch. Set in 1973, the most obvious comparison is to Apocalypse Now. But unlike that seminal film, Skull Island‘s character development is almost next to nothing, with John C Reilly’s lost pilot being the only one you want to root for.
Fortunately, the human characters can be overlooked since the titular Kong manages to invoke a variety of emotions in it’s numerous sun-drenched action scenes. It is him, and him alone, that makes this film end up being a solidly entertaining entry in the ape franchise.
Similar in style and tone to a murder mystery, the best way to describe this film (and I apologise for the distastefulness) is being a sort of “rape mystery.” This unique (and admittedly) disturbing approach makes for a wildly inventive film that explores aspects of the female experience not really seen in UK or US cinema.
While often shocking and suspenseful, the film never loses its sense of humanity, and for that full credit must be given to the mesmerising Isabelle Huppert. It may be a cliche to say someone was robbed of an Oscar, but in this case there is no other conclusion.
Next Goal Wins (2014)
Never has the phrase “it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts” been more apt than in this 90 minute documentary about the worst football team on the planet.
Following the lows and even lowers of American Samoa’s national football team, Next Goal Wins is a surprisingly uplifting journey of the incredible (and sometimes not so incredible) feats that can be achieved in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Without a doubt, the ultimate underdog story.
The Love Witch (2016)
While quite the interesting throwback to similar sexual horror-thriller films of the 60s, The Love Witch nonetheless makes the cardinal sin of just being plain boring. While an impressive visual and technical achievement, Anna Biller’s debut feature is rather plodding in its direction and ends up being at least 30 minutes too long.
Fortunately the two hour marathon is slightly relieved by the presence of Samantha Robinson, the film’s titular Love Witch. With a mixture of the feminine wiles of Bewitched and the old Russ Meyer films, Robinson manages to give an attention grabbing portrayal of a woman desperate for love and willing to do anything to get it.
Get Out (2017)
Not being a fan of horror films, my desire to see Get Out was about as high as the average woman’s desire to end up alone in a room with Donald Trump.
But happily the three week gap between US and UK releases meant I was exposed to the incredibly good press this astounding film would receive.
Jordan Peele’s brilliantly subversive horror/thriller can easily hold its own up against other titans in the genre such as The Blair Witch Project or The Purge.
Alongside his stunning direction, Peele brings together a strong cast from both old and new Hollywood (with a special shout-out to Allison Williams!)
If you only see one film on this list, then make it this brilliantly satirical piece of cinema.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Yet another of Disney’s live-action remakes, but unlike The Jungle Book or Cinderella, this newest extravaganza has very little to elevate it above the average Hollywood musical.
While the production values are as sumptuous as you’d expect from a $160 million film, the chemistry of the leads is as lackluster as their singing voices. Luckily the film is saved by magnificent turns from Luke Evans and Josh Gad, both of them bringing a sense of fun, joy and hilarity to what would otherwise be a run of the mill movie.
With the return of Iko Uwais (star of The Raid 1 & 2), Headshot was hopefully going to be another great entry in Indonesian action cinema. Alas, while the action is brutally violent, the story and direction leave much to be desired.
A simple retread of the first Bourne film, Headshot doesn’t quite have the same panache as it’s 2002 western brother. With a paper thin plot, generic supporting characters, and excruciating length, your time would be better spent re-watching the Garath Evans masterpieces.
The Salesman (2016)
I have to be honest, there’s a tiny bit of me that’s glad that Asghar Farhadi was refused entry to the United States, only because I would never have heard of this astounding achievement of a film.
A fascinating commentary on gender and cultural roles in contemporary Iranian society, Farhadi brings the most out of his two leads as they go on a journey that will not only test the bonds of their marriage, but also challenges the norms and expectations of human emotion.
Let me know in the comments if you saw any of them!