Bushwick (2017)

Whilst not entirely successful, Bushwick is an interesting, scrappy little movie that suddenly finds itself relevant… I’ll say ‘spoilers’ at this point because, although the relevance is now the selling point, I enjoyed watching this with no knowledge of what was happening and, given the form the film takes, I imagine this was the intention.

Anyway: spoilers.

The set-up is simple, a young couple arrive in Bushwick by train to find the platform deserted.  After a couple of minutes someone comes down the stairs, they are on fire.  As the couple near the exit the boyfriend goes ahead and says he’ll be right back…  We follow the girl (Brittany Snow) as she makes her way through a city under attack by secessionist forces and becomes paired up with an ex-marine played by Dave Bautista.  All the while the film rolls forward in a series of protracted hand held takes (the first intended visible edit being 28 minutes in) designed to place us in the action and only give us the information that the main characters are privy to.  For the most part the film makes a decent fist of this but you can see the patches of the low budget (some bad performances, muddled and muffled dialogue, cgi explosions), and the verite shooting isn’t a friend to Bautista who seems cramped and caged by the frame.

But it’s got heart and that counts.  One of the co-writers is Nick Damici (writer / star of Stake Land (2010), who possibly should have taken the Bautista role here) which is a plus and it gives a simple but hopeful take on the weakness that the purveyors of divisive politics project on those they would oppress.

Recommended.

Advertisements

Monsters: Dark Continent (2014)

Monsters (2010) was such a unique film that following it was always going to be difficult.  It took a fantastic subject and made it background, war and suffering as white noise whilst we go about our lives.  Something exotic.  Monsters: Dark Continent places war in the foreground and the interest is lost as the metaphor is so pronounced that why don’t you just make a film about the thing you are making a film about?

…but it still retains some of the original’s wonder and otherness.  It still feels different.  That’s enough sometimes.

Recommended.

 

Listen Up Philip (2014)

When it comes down to it, spending time with genuine douche bags is rarely time well spent which leads me to the weird position of having watched a great film that I didn’t enjoy.

Listen Up Philip is beautifully filmed on 16mm, superbly scripted and the acting is universally perfect.  The problem is that both Philip, played by Jason Schwartzman, and his mentor Ike, Jonathan Pryce, are such completely terrible people that time in their company is painful.  And not in a Larry ‘this is what the world would be like if we didn’t censor ourselves’ David way because these guys are so cynical and misanthropic that their company is suffocating.

They are unbearable and so is this well crafted, insightful and at times funny film.

Did I mention that Elizabeth Moss is in this?  Well she is, and she is as brilliant as ever.

Recommended.

Fantastic Four (2015)

I don’t get the hate.  I don’t understand how people can sit through the majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe content deliver system and this is where they find fault.  I’m not saying the MCU doesn’t contain some great stuff but there are many many miles and minutes of utter tedium to wade through.  Even the better efforts like Ant Man (2015), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and the Captain America films (2011 / 2014), all great fun, feel burdened by conformity and the weight of the franchise.

Fantastic Four isn’t a great film, it might not even be a good one, but it’s enjoyable and contains some really interesting ideas.  The best thing here is that someone has finally admitted how horrible superpowers would be.  From the moment that the accident happens the film steps up a gear and becomes a freak show.  The limbs of Reed Richards recall the body horror of Cronenberg whilst the Human Torch writhes and The Thing becomes a Golem.  Sue Storm (who’s ironic lack of presence here is a genuine disappointment) pops in an out of existence and Doom gets fused with his spacesuit and stranded in another dimension.  There’s pain here that isn’t going away and a real sense that mastering your ‘powers’ isn’t the same as a cure.  ‘I’m used to it’ is the best you can hope for.

In it’s 100 minute form the film does feel disjointed, as if they had edited down a three part mini-series, and that is a problem but it’s a good movie, yeah I’m going with ‘good’, and much more fun than expected with it’s hit and miss melding of kid’s logic and genuinely horrific images.

I much prefer a bit of a mess to a corporate filing system of characters.

Recommended.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

As summer action movies go the 5th instalment in the Mission: Impossible franchise is a fun couple of hours in the cinema.  From the spectacular, vertiginous opening set-piece, which almost equals the Burj Khalifa climb from the previous film, to a finale which pays of some well placed character beats, the film hits all the notes that you would expect from Cruise’s ongoing answer to Bond.  Like the rest of the series it’s also a fully formed whole with new villains and the actors effectively playing themselves (if you’ve seen Simon Pegg before then you know Benji and don’t need to catch up on the other movies etc) with some well placed humour at their expense (Cruise’s height is well used).

Its also all pretty much replaceable and nothing really seems intrinsic to the film.  Many of the stunts could easily be swapped out with something from the previous films… apart from the first movie because that was something special and during a magnificent Opera based sequence, meticulously set up and executed, it’s De Palma’s daring flourish and skewered reality that’s missing.

But I’m moaning about something being great fun rather than spectacular.

Recommended.

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

So you don’t have to wander far to find men moaning about ‘objectification’ and ‘if it was female strippers…’ and ‘feminist double standards’ and boo hoo hoo etc over this one film out of a billion to seemingly be aimed at a female audience.  And they would have a point if only they weren’t utterly wrong.  Just on a form / technique level the film puts the issue of objectification front and centre by not using the camera to dissect Channing from his Tatums.  We’re not given body parts in isolation (a’la every female strip club scene ever) but whole people.  It matters.

Away from the noise, the film is also surprisingly funny and a much lighter ride that the original.  The guys are genuinely amusing in a blokes at work sort of way and everyone is having a good time.  This allows the characters pride in what they do whilst also acknowledging that they are, in their own way, utterly ridiculous.  On the downside, it’s a bit long (the Andie MacDowell scene is the first to go) but that’s a minor problem.

The real winner is that sex is treated as something fun and healthy and, because the camera isn’t cutting up bodies into fetish items, you also get to see some properly impressive dancing.

Recommended.

Spy (2015)

Spy just isn’t funny.  It might be to you but, save for some fun moments where Jason Statham revels in self-awareness… well, humour is subjective and I just don’t get this particular rambling, post-Apatow brand.  For two hours.

Why is it always two hours?

But I can’t dismiss it out of hand because it is a good hearted movie.  Everyone appears to be enjoying themselves in a ‘let’s include the audience’ sort of way, Melissa McCarthy is more likeable than before, and it’s a decent blend of action and yukkity-yuks.  Also, because the central character is female we don’t have to sit through the usual tired male wish fulfilment nonsense of Seth Rogen getting the much more brilliant woman despite being, well, Seth Rogen’s on-screen persona.

So, good fun if you like that sort of thing.

Oh, and Alison Janney.  Who should really be in most things because she is ace.

Recommend for people but not me.

Ironically, I was the only person in the cinema.

San Andreas (2015)

So here’s some good popcorn cinema.  Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a helicopter rescue pilot, there’s a massive earthquake, his daughter and estranged wife are out there somewhere needing rescuing.  Get Paul Giamatti in to play a Professor of Exposition and fill in the blanks etc.

As well as the usual scenes of destruction, daring do and realigning of the correct family unit, San Andreas works because of Johnson’s persona.  The guy is sun-blockingly huge and as ridiculous to behold as Arhnold (who never made sense outside of roles that played on his size) but he has a lightness of presence that makes him seem, well, sort of normal.  Something the Austrian never had.  And, unlike 2012 (2009), The Day After Tomorrow (2004) etc, the film itself is devoid of the usual dower messaging that drowns out the sugar rush.

Going back to the smash bangs, because that’s what you’re paying for, there’s plenty to enjoy (despite some floaty CGI) including a tsunami climb and a few genuinely smart solutions for problems.  Granted, you won’t linger on this for long but a good time is a good time is a good time,,,

Recommended.

Surprisingly.

Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

She wouldn’t fall for him.  That’s the problem.  Thomas Vinterberg’s film is something of a delight, especially Michael Sheen’s performance as the utterly decent Mr Boldwood, but it falls down on the crucial point that Bathsheba Everdene makes a choice that just doesn’t ring true.

Maybe it’s just the disappointment of seeing such a strong female character have her head turned by such a vacuous individual, but then people can be two things at once and a woman just making a choice in the era in which the film is based is victory enough.  It just doesn’t fit with the character presented here.

But this is solid, familiar, good looking stuff, not to dissimilar too a tin of biscuits at Christmas.  When it hits TV they’ll screen it on a Sunday evening and it’ll do perfectly nicely.

Recommended.