Reviews for April / Early May 2016
So in case the audio ramblings of the Film Chum Podcast don’t appeal to you, here are some written ramblings about the films I’ve seen in the past month or so; except for Captain America: Civil War, which is getting its own post.
Don Cheadle’s cinematic Directorial Debut, is masterfully and lovingly made. It is clear how dedicated Cheadle feels about Miles Davis and this story. So much so that every aspect of the film is reflective of what is presented as Miles Davis’ core philosophy, improvisation. From the fracturing non-linear structure and editing, to Cheadle’s central performance, it all feels truly inspired by Miles Davis. However after the first 45 minutes or so, this constant pace can become a little exhausting. Particularly when the film starts to follow the typical creative/violent genius’ home-life drama story-beats that have been seen hundreds if not thousands of times before. MAYBE SEE if you have a keen interest in filmmaking flair or a Miles Davis Biopic that has light touches of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Jane Got a Gun
A Solid final act doesn’t really make up for lacklustre and plodding hour or so that comes before it. Natalie Portman has her moments but never really shines, and neither does Joel Edgerton, but really what moments are given to him are glossed over and rushed. Ewan Macgregor is clearly enjoying his moustache twirling black hat turn, but that too is not enough to save this damp CGI squib of a film. DO NOT SEE, while not offensive to cinema, it is undoubtedly a waste of time for all concerned.
This is at the very least an interesting story idea for modern ^horror^ audiences, “Facebook is haunted and will force you to kill yourselves”. However it is quickly made incredibly boring by tired horror cliches and tropes, including the ever popular JUMP SCARE!!! This movie’s target audience may be entertained with this new genre of Cyber horror, just on the whole “monsters will get you where you are most comfortable” level, but in all honesty the movie falls completely flat. There is a rather cool music/sfx choice where mobile phone-speaker interference is used as the sound to signify that Marina is about to kill her victims. DO NOT SEE, there are many better and more interesting horror movies out there.
Louder Than Bombs
It’s difficult to really put into words how to feel about this film, beyond saying that I enjoyed it however it is not a typical choice and I know it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. It’s a very interesting and esoteric character story of how the two sons (High-School and post PhD age) and the husband of a widely praised war zone photojournalist, deal with their lives a few years after her death. The storytelling is very fragmented, cold, and Scandinavian, thanks to the juxtaposition between the visuals and narration. And the performances, particularly from Jesse Eisenberg, feel as if they spring directly from that tone, which for me is always essential to having a film become a beautifully coherent whole. I don’t think that this film will have a long lasting impact on my life emotionally. But while watching the film, it certainly held both my heart and mind firmly and I couldn’t avoid watching it, unlike most other releases this week. ONLY SEE if you’re looking for a drama unlike the typical multiplex fare, that balances risqué and experimental artistic tendencies with powerful and genuine human emotion.
Not since Die Hard With a Vengeance, or perhaps Taken, has an action-thriller been so gleefully self aware. While this film is not quite on those levels it is certainly trying, and having plenty of fun in doing so. This joy continues to Idris Elba’s ultra-tough guy/rogue agent performance as Agent Briar (Get it? He’s Prickly!!!). This film is genuinely enjoyable from start to finish, in terms of schlocky entertainment. When you see the phrase “Amazon Instant Video Presents” at the front of the film, your confidence and expectations can drop exponentially, luckily for Bastille Day that’s seemed to work in its favour. MAYBE SEE if you’re happy watching a discount Die Hard with a Vengeance set in Paris, and that’s not really the weightiest of condemnations that this film could face.
Ratchet and Clank
The sheer level of half-heartedness and flippancy that this movie oozes does lead to an ultimately underwhelming experience, but it also makes up the largest portion of the movie’s best jokes. Every planet and location has an interesting “fun-fact” or fourth wall breaking comment that are admittedly enjoyable, it’s just a shame that the rest of the film is too disposable and pointless to warrant seeing, just for a few worthwhile chuckles. If this had been made around 10 – 15 years ago, it would have been straight to DVD and only remembered as being slightly better than Bionicle: Mask of Light. DO NOT SEE, not even if it’s being given out for free on the PlayStation Network, none of the 97 production companies involved in making this, deserve any support from this project.
It is strange when two movies with similar central ideas are released within weeks of each other, and no matter how different they approach that same central conceit it is even stranger when you can immensely enjoy both of them. Demolition is simply beautiful, that is meant both aesthetically and emotionally. It is just as impactful and hard hitting as Louder than Bombs with gallons more heart and joy thrown in. The atypical relationships that Jake Gyllenhaal’s character forms throughout the film feel quite unique, and as they unfold this film just runs up and down the emotional spectrum, appropriately with the force of a sledgehammer. Beat after beat after beat, you’re hit hard with a different emotion. In any other film this would come across as sheer tonal inconsistency, but it is very clearly been considered and made as a stylistic choice, one which was very welcome and downright creative. As much as I would like to definitely recommend this film, I understand that the material, no matter how ultimately uplifting it may be, the journey there isn’t the easiest so I would have to say ONLY SEE if you feel that you can deal with this films challenging themes and ideas.
Florence Foster Jenkins
Honestly this film is not entirely intellectually investing, however this flaw is made up by just how emotionally investing it is. Meryl Streep is simply a delight in the titular role, and Hugh Grant is often the best he’s been for a while, whereas while Simon Helberg’s performance is as earnest and genuine as his co-stars, his character’s nervous twitches and ticks did grate and come across as false. The sheer force of will and passion of Florence Foster Jenkins (Both in the character and the film) is what makes this film slightly worthwhile. And while the trailers do present this film in its most simplistic form, it does take a few unexpected and interesting turns, that do make the drama worthwhile, for the most part. MAYBE SEE if you need a safe, heartwarming and emotional film to recommend to your mother. It is completely innocent, inoffensive and yet above all else passionate.
I Saw The Light
This film has such magnetic central performances from Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen and some interesting flair to its cinematography, but for wholehearted positives that is about it. The best biopics (and Documentaries for that matter) will engage its audience, no matter the audience’s prior interest in the subject matter, this film fails that ultimate challenge, despite its best efforts. Fans of Country music star Hank Williams or just Tom Hiddleston may feel differently, but the plodding, repetitive, and trite biopic narrative won’t appease everyone. MAYBE SEE if you’re more forgiving or appreciative of Tom Hiddleston losing a lot of weight, learning to play the guitar, and sing with enough of a southern drawl to get by.