Hello readers! I must apologize. I did rather forget to update this thing for the longest time, I kept falling further and further behind and it became quite a mountain of reviews still to write that I missed. It’s become so overwhelming that I have decided to hit the reset button and just briefly go over all the films I missed a review from and let you know whether they are worth seeing. Some of them aren’t even in cinemas any more (oopsies) but this should help you out on Netflix night at any rate. Alright, let’s get started!
Remember last year, when I expressed some worry about the film Deepwater Horizon but found all my fears eased when it became one of the best movies of 2016. Well, I had very similar fears upon the release of Patriot’s Day – the story of a Boston police officer played by Mark Wahlberg who deals with the aftermath of the terrorist attack that occurred in 2013 during the Boston marathon. Those fears, that this film would be a jingoistic “Isn’t America great and aren’t those nasty brown people just the WORST” action film, were completely unfounded as this wound up being an emotionally satisfying and thoughtful film. Directed by the same man who did Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg (who also directed Battleship and Hancock, though we don’t talk about that), Patriot’s Day features an awesome ensemble cast that includes Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan and winds up making the audience think about the West’s role in causing these horrific terrorist attacks and what we can do to stop them happening again.
4.6/5 – a really fantastic true story film. Doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house.
Martin Scorsese returns for his first cinematic effort since the highly regarded The Wolf of Wall Street, and guys…. this one is an absolute shocker. A right doozy. It’s gotten some accolades from some people, but here’s the cruncher with this film – unless you are incredibly devout in your faith (and that faith happens to be a Christian one), then this film is going to become a tad nonsensical and extremely boring.
It’s still Scorsese, so it has some things going for it. The cinematography is gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. The acting, from a cast that includes Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson, is on point. The problem is the story. The film sees 2 Jesuit priests, played by Garfield and Driver, head to 17th century Japan to determine the fate of another priest (Neeson) who was rumoured to have turned away from God. Once in Japan, they find a highly Buddhist nation whose Emperor had outlawed Christianity in all it’s forms. This premise is then stretched for 3 and a half hours, mostly consisting of conflicted Christian peasants being offered the choice of stepping on a crude drawing of Jesus or having their head sliced off. To someone of extreme devout faith, this may seem like a major dilemma, but for those who lack that religious conviction, then this film just drags.
2.4/5 – a rare misfire for Martin Scorsese.
Hidden Figures is… an amazing movie. There’s no 2 ways about that. This film is incredible. Director Theodore Mefti reportedly turned down an offer to direct the upcoming Spider-Man movie in order to direct this film, and it is incredibly easy to see why,
The film tells the story of 3 real life women – Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), who worked for the NASA Space programme during the first manned mission into space. Not only were these women belittled for their gender at the time, but they also had the misfortune to be black, adding another layer of discrimination. But through hard work all 3 wound up being integral to the success of the mission.
This film deals with discrimination, but not in a preachy way at all. Characters such as the ones played by Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst are obstacles for these girls, and often say things that would be unacceptable by today’s standards, but they are also afforded a level of empathy that paints them as ignorant rather than evil or cruel. The only character that doesn’t work is the head engineer, played by The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons and portrayed with as much humanity as Parson’s character of Sheldon Cooper.
Coupled with a great sense of humour, a rollicking soundtrack, awesome costume design and not feeling the need to go too “artsy” for the Oscar race, this film is very hard to fault in any way, shape or form.
5/5 – A brilliant film and my favourite of this year’s Best Picture nominees.
Trainspotting, upon it’s 1996 release, became a cult classic – a film that launched the careers of so many people (notably director Danny Boyle and future Star Wars star Ewan McGregor) and added so many lines and phrases to the cultural lexicon. It was like a drug trip if all drug trips were written in the style of a Quentin Tarantino movie.
And this sequel, 21 years later, is…. fine, I guess. Look, I really enjoyed it at the time. But it failed to leave any sort of lasting impression, and the most obvious adjective to describe this film is “unnecessary”. Rent Boy, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie are back, with Renton returning home to see the friends he abandoned after the life he fled to falls apart. There’s tension, there’s a whole lot of drug scenes that make no real sense except as callbacks to the original. There’s a love triangle, for some reason. The villain of the film is so cartoonish as to take away from the whole movie.
There’s a lot wrong with this movie, but it’s also a bit of fun in the moment, with some nice dialogue and some funny bits. Trainspotting fans will likely enjoy it but it’s far from a must see.
3.4/5 – An unnecessary but watchable sequel, far inferior to the original.
Before I saw Logan, I thought the best superhero movie of all time was The Dark Knight, and that this honour would remain for a very, very long time. But it would be very hard to keep Logan out of the best superhero film conversation now, and there’s a very good chance that if you ask me on a good day, I’ve ranked Logan as a better film than The Dark Knight.
The film marks the end of an era for the X-Men films, as Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart both confirmed this as their last outing as the Wolverine and Professor X respectively. The film is set in a war-torn future where the X-Men are all but extinct. Logan/The Wolverine is moonlighting as an UberBlack driver while taking care of the ailing mind of the now 90 year old Charles Xavier. Logan’s powers are beginning to fade, as age catches up with him and his healing powers slow. When a young girl that mirrors the Wolverine’s powers shows up (played incredibly by 11 year old actor Dafne Keen), the old X-Men are forced onto one last journey with the future of mutant-kind hanging in the balance.
This is an extremely emotional movie, and is very different from any superhero movie on the market. Director James Mangold won accolades and awards for his Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, and he’s taken indie elements from that film and worked it into Logan, giving the film a gritty and realistic feeling, compared to the glossiness of many of the X-Men films. If you were to leave this film with dry eyes, then you my friend are a monster.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Here’s a question for you – were you disappointed with 2014’s Godzilla due to the lack of the title character and the predominance of uninteresting human characters whose story is cliched and poorly written? Well, prepare to be disappointed again, because the second entry in the “KongZilla” Cinematic Universe has the exact same problems. Probably less pronounced, but still the same problems. When the titular ape is on screen, the movie really works. But we keep forgetting about him.
The film is set at the conclusion of the Vietnam War (rather humorously described by John Goodman as a time in the White House where things were more “fucked up” than they’d ever be again). Satellite imagery reveals an island surrounded by a constant thunderstorm, and the US Government promptly sends a team in to investigate. The mostly military team draws the ire of King Kong, who tears down their helicopters and forces the team to try to survive a very dangerous jungle and get back to the rendezvous point.
The two lead characters are played by Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson, and their entire storyline is “pretty people who we can watch flirt”. On the side is John Goodman’s cryptozoologist, who is a crazy person who acts like John Goodman a lot, and Samuel L. Jackson’s military leader, who mostly runs through a greatest hits of “Samuel L. Jackson’s best movie lines”. The only human character who was interesting was John C. Reilly’s character, a World War II pilot who crashed on the island and had been surviving there ever since.
Once Kong returns to screen, the film gets infinitely better, and is watchable as a result, but if this Cinematic Universe is to work, then Legendary Pictures need to find a way to either make their human characters interesting, or give the giant monsters more screen time.
3.5/5 – Fun, but uneven and not enough of the monkey.
The final movie in this run is the latest film by Jeff Nichols, the man behind indie hits such as Mud and Midnight Special. This film, Loving, follows the real life legal battle by married couple Richard and Mildred Loving, whose marriage was not recognized by their home state of Virginia and who were thus arrested and charged for sharing a bed together in 1958. Their legal battle would set a precedent that is still followed today in determining that skin colour can not be used to prevent two people from marrying.
The film is well acted, with the two leads played by Joel Edgerton and, in an Oscar-nominated performance, Ruth Negga. The film is heartfelt, and shot well, but it is very slow paced – that’s not something I mind all the time, and trust it, it held my interest much longer than Silence managed, but it still could have been a little snappier perhaps. Hard to fault it on that though. What I would have liked was to see more of the Supreme Court case, which mostly happened off screen. I suppose I have about 100 John Grisham adaptations I can watch if I really wanted to see that though.
4.1/5 – A well made movie that, while a little slow, was still engaging.