It gets harder and harder to identify where the summer starts nowadays. Big blockbusters even get released in February for god’s sake. So all we end up with are the usual mix of big budgets and the few mid-level films that sneak through the cracks. It’s all a muchness.
I am increasingly aware that this year most of my viewing is of English-language pictures. Independent cinemas are showing more and more mainstream fare to stay financially viable and with so many films being released, very few are grabbing my attention. I mean, I wanted to see Dheepan (2016 – Jacques Audiard) but lacked the motivation to do so. I’ll watch it on Blu-Ray this summer.
Midnight Special (2016 – Jeff Nichols)
For the first fifteen minutes you’re convinced you’re seeing something quite extraordinary. A mysterious alien child on the run from some apocalyptic death cult. All fed through the lense of John Carpenter’s Starman. It’s the taste of a perfect film. But it can’t quite follow through with this premise, and ultimately its benign revelations sour the desperation of the first act. Nice performances, a nice shoot out, nice intentions are not enough.
A good mid-sized screen at Bluewater Showcase. Ticket cost £8.95.
Hitchcock / Truffaut (2016 – Kent Jones)
It’s not quite sure what it wants to be. A film about the production of the book.? A film about the relationship between Hitchcock and Truffaut? A film about their films and careers? A film about contemporary directors talking about the power of their cinematic features? “It’s about all those things.” you cry. Well if you touch upon them all and end up with a mess, no you haven’t achieved anything really.
I mean it is lovely to hear so many talented directors talk about Hitchcock (and glance towards Truffaut every now and then), but can’t I just watch the rushes of those interviews? They seem that much more interesting than the mess we ended up with here.
DVD viewing – cost about £8.99. Excellent special features.
Captain America: Civil War (2016 – Anthony & Joe Russo)
So this film is marginally better than the other superhero movies that are suffocating our culture at the moment. The nerds won…and this is what we ended up with. Things I liked: it being another film in the long list of films where America comes to terms with its military might (and the responsibilities and effects of such might), Robert Downey Jr. and the gut-punch of the revelation at the end, any bit with Ant-Man and/or Spider-Man being funny. Things I disliked: The utter incoherence of it, the nonsense arguments about the issues being discussed within the film, Martin Freeman’s accent, the chaos of the fight scenes.
I reviewed The Avengers (2012) as follows: “Like McDonalds: a tasty meal at the time, but you’re hungry 30 minutes later.” The same applies here.
A lovely large screen at Picturehouse Central. Ticket cost £15 (can’t remember if I paid or not…)
Bad Neighbours 2 (2016 – Nicholas Stoller)
Every five minutes there’s a knowing wink to the audience: “We hear you twitter. Sexism is bad. Yuck. Isn’t it disgusting?”. Seth Rogen smugly nods at the audience. He understands. And yet…there are still scenes where barely adult women parade around in bikinis and get soaked with water. It’s a confusing mess of progressive and regressive politics. It’s almost as if we can’t escape sexism…
Zac Efron is beautiful. Rose Byrne is extraordinary. Worth it for those two alone. Regressive enough for you?
A good sized screen at Bluewater Showcase. Ticket cost £8.95. Only a mildly douchey audience. No one else laughed at the Bill Cosby joke.
Lemonade (2016 – Beyoncé Knowles & various)
I went through a week of reading about this film before I saw it. It did not disappoint.
A woman who is adored, struggles with the humility implicit to her faith. A woman in love and commitment, struggles with the pain of adultery and the realisation that she has not broken the cycle, and thus her daughter will suffer heartbreak too. A woman in power forcing the men around her to be subservient. A woman possessing and shading the imagery of oppression that has enslaved her people. A woman who will not be defined by you and will not allow you to impose your narratives upon her creativity.
This is not a film for me. I do not own it. I do not get to comment on it. I am, in the face of its beauty, reduced to a Becky. But I loved it, and I loved the power that it gave to people who saw it. I want more of these films and more of these voices and I want to never be heard again.
DVD viewing – cost about whatever an album costs nowadays. Who the fuck still buys physical music?
Green Room (2016 – Jeremy Saulnier)
This is one of those mid-level films that seems heavily indebted to John Carpenter that we still see come out a few times each year. But they are completely safe. John Carpenter did not care, and these films are desperate to be liked. There was no sense of threat at any moment, even when there was a threat on screen.
Stupid, stupid recurring line about favourite bands that is just one of those awful screenwriting conventions. Ergh.
And I didn’t like it when Jean-Luc Picard said the n-word.
A smaller screen at Bluewater, which is still larger than many. Ticket cost £11.95 because it was after noon.
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016 – Bryan Singer)
Olivia Munn did promotion for this film. A film where she has half-a-dozen lines. She literally has spoken more about the film, than she has spoken in the film. Ah, Olivia Munn, the inverse Sarah Paulson. She is the first human to truly escape the sphere of Aaron Sorkin. You will long for the days of The Newsroom.
It’s a nonsense film. Bizarrely, Bryan Singer seems determined to keep making these films, and this ruddy little runt of a movie seems to suggest that we’ll be getting more of these fetid features for years to come. The one little moment of joy was seeing Jack Hugeman as Wolverine kill a lot of people. After next year we won’t even get that pleasure any more.
There is a good sense of beauty to the visual effects of the super powers, but they surround a disengaged, over-indulged cast. Every line that comes out of Jennifer Lawrence’s mouth seems to speak to her own vanity, Michael Fassbinder cannot conceal his own contempt for his performance and James McAvoy is basically a blip on the screen. Back to television please James. The red-headed one, whose name I won’t even Google, is atrocious.
Weirdly, The Age of Apocalypse crossover was the first lot of American comic books I ever read. Weird because it’s so strange to read an alternate history before you understand the original. For nostalgia’s sake, I’d love to have seen that as an adaptation.
The large screen at Cineworld Haymarket. The infamous “mouse” screen where I saw a rodent during hour two of Boyhood (2014). The ticket cost £11.95 (or something like that). Remember when the Haymarket used to be the cheap screen in London? The staff did not appreciate my recollection of this fact, and insisted on pointing out the virtues of their cinema compared to the Picturehouse Central. Still, nowhere else was playing this film, because who gives a shit?
Love & Friendship (2016 – Whit Stillman)
Once, when I was much younger, I claimed in a pub that Kate Beckinsale was the finest English actress working. It was a Sunday and I had just started university. The following Friday I saw Underworld (2003)…
I wasn’t even right in the first place, but if there were more films like this in the world, and fewer remakes of Total Recall, I may have sounded a fraction less of an idiot.
Love & Friendship is a delight; a film where a bitchy protagonist is smarter than everyone else around her. I want a dozen of these films a year please.
Studio cinema at Bluewater Showcase. Where you feel like an absolute prince for £8.95. Always a treat. First film I ever saw on that screen was Scary Movie 2…which slightly undermines the special-ness.
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016 – Richard Linklater)
Written about here: https://asidesteps.com/2016/06/01/everybody-wants-some-2016-richard-linklater/
The Nice Guys (2016 – Shane Black)
I liked it. I like fat Russell Crowe and drunk Ryan Gosling. I wish there were more fat and/or drunk actors in movies. It’s got everything we like in Shane Black movies: a mismatched pair, smart-arse children, self-aware henchmen, Christmas, and there was plenty of enthusiasm before/during/after the release of this film.
I wish there was a version of this film that was not played for laughs. I mean, I laughed a lot, but there were many times when I’m just sitting there watching two people witter on and on. It tries a little too hard and seems a little insincere. To experience a detective movie, it seems it has to be funny. It’d be nice just to have a straightforward mystery story. These are just quibbles though. Good film.
Seen on a medium-sized screen at Bluewater Showcase. Ticket cost £8.95.