03 Apr Fantana’s Film Roundup – March 2017
An ongoing monthly feature. Here’s a snapshot of my viewings over the past 30 days…
The bad news is, unfortunately any movie that comes along under the ‘small-space-crew-in-peril’ sub-genre will always fall foul to the inevitable comparison to Alien. The good news is, I LOVE the ‘small-space-crew-in-peril’ sub-genre, and this is no exception. Admittedly nodding to genre stalwarts such as Event Horizon and Sunshine, what sets Life apart is an accomplished cast, a script grounded predominantly in reality and some stunning effects and photography. A must-see for genre fans everywhere.
One False Move (1992)
It would be rude not to have gotten a Paxton fix in this month and this quiet thriller marked a rare outing as lead for the recently tribute legend. Containing many hallmarks of a good 90’s crime vehicle – bloody violent encounters, sleazy soundtrack and too many characters than is necessary – OFM doesn’t tread any new ground, but delivers a competent, watchable, and surprisingly dark take on the modern western, before there was such a thing.
Get Out (2017)
Not the most capricious movie to come out of the horror genre, and suffering from an over-reliance on the crutch that is LOUD NOISES, but what it lacks in surprises, Get Out makes up for in a sharp-witted script, well-rounded characters – anchored by equally accomplished performances – and excellent pacing. Predictable but forgiven.
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
A found footage horror that tries to do something different by masquerading as a documented spotlight on an Alzheimer’s sufferer – the titular Mrs. Logan – but unfortunately falls victim to all the same old pitfalls; logic and physics are often questioned; character motivations even more so; the person holding the POV camera seems unable to turn their own head… you get the idea. Almost worth enduring for the solitary third act moment of originality that gives Blair Witch a run for its money and will certainly satisfy horror fans, albeit briefly.
Caché (Hidden) (2005)
A highly-lauded French thriller that doesn’t deliver anywhere near the critical reception implies. What should be a thought-provoking closure only serves to compound initial confusion, going so far even to debunk its own ideas through the poor use of what can only be described as an omnipotent presence. What remains is an average character study of regret and denial.
Following the Raid duology out of Indonesia, Headshot is the next ultra-violent action thriller to showcase martial art prodigy, Iko Uwais. Although it doesn’t ever hit the intensity of either Redemption or Berandal, it still succeeds in delivering some powerhouse moments of jaw-dropping violence, impressive action sequences, and a diverse rogues gallery that make it easy to forgive the rather flimsy plot.
Yet another lacklustre effort from Illumination Studios, who can’t seem to get that winning formula quite right, and for a movie based on the over-saturation of singing competitions currently gracing our televisions – as Louis Walsh used to say – the song choices were all wrong. Formulaic, unoriginal, predictable and bland, despite all the acting talent on show.
Dakota Fanning’s mute mother is terrorised by Guy Pearce’s insidious pastor in this bleak, generation-transcending western. A rewarding slow-burn that riffs on religion and flirts with the arcane whilst avoiding anything remotely resembling mundane. If you don’t allow Kit Harington’s accent to pull you out of the story, this can be quite engrossing.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
A watchable B-movie that delivers on monsters at the expense of characterisation. Usually the idea of soldiers versus beasts would enthral, but with the soldiers reduced to stereotypes and predictable fates, the appeal is lost. Still worth seeing for the initial Kongslaught ™ alone.
The Girl on the Train (2016)
A dull novel somewhat impressively adapted into an even duller movie. Emily Blunt and Haley Bennett, starring as the titular alcoholic and the object of her voyeurism respectively, are the best things about this unnecessarily altered interpretation, which sees the most realistic moments replaced by bog standard drama-by-numbers for the sake of we the silly audience. After all, we wouldn’t understand otherwise.
I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore (2017)
A burglarised depressive finds renewed purpose when she takes the investigation into her own hands. Often dark, often gruesome, often hilarious, it’s no surprise Macon Blair’s effort evokes an austerity akin to 2014’s Blue Ruin. Cast to perfection, Elijah Wood threatens to steal the show, but overall this is a well-balanced ensemble piece that boasts a slow simmering first half and a sucker punch of a finale. The best movie so far to come out of Netflix and well worth your time.
Fresh off the Netflix conveyor belt, this sci-fi actioner borrows from Aliens and the Darkest Hour quite liberally, and certainly doesn’t come across as anything original, but showcases director Nic Mathieu well. The photography is vivid and uncluttered, the cast competent (despite a hum-drum script) and the pacing adequate. It’s not re-defining the genre, but if you’re at a loss on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, you could do much worse.
Despite a first act that plays out like so many other Disney and/or Pixar fodder, Moana evolves into something of a break away from the norm. A soundtrack largely curated by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda certainly bolsters its case, but also the overall design and tone – at points hinting at a darkness not often seen from Disney since the Black Cauldron or Alice in Wonderland – feels like a fresh direction for the house that Walt built.
A promising premise translated into a grossly disturbing end product. Bullied school kid, Marty, finds a severed head in his older brother’s closet and discovers his sibling is a serial killer. In better hands that tagline could have been crystallised into something dark and wonderful, but instead we get a surprisingly-tolerable character study ruined by interlacing scenes of gratuitous torture porn and parricide that leaves a sour taste. Avoid.
Top of the Class
Wolverine gone gritty replaces Deadpool as the best thing to come out of the cinematic X-verse.
See my full review here.
On the Horizon: 13 Assassins, Ghost in the Shell, Boys in the Trees, Your Name, A Simple Plan, the Discovery, Lake Mungo, Here Alone.