Summer heats up and the kids are out of school, so that means everyone and their mother and father are literally out and about. How are you coping? Let me help you out a bit more. because there’s plenty to talk about.
Starting with the big movie of the past weekend…Independence Day: Resurgence, let me first say Happy Fourth of July! Now then, say what you like about big budget, summer blockbusters, but it’s unfortunately true that they seem to get less stellar and more mundane with every passing year. Some are good, but I dare say that most are worthless. This sequel to the original 1996 Independence Day was frankly not necessarily wanted, and you should know that Will Smith is unnoticeably absent, but that didn’t stop Roland Emmerich from throwing together a sequel so vapid and chillingly boring, it seems to be the perfect, useless follow-up to his equally painful last film Stonewall, about the NYC gay riots back in the day. Both are devoid of any real drive or story and passion. Our lead actor is Liam Hemsworth, waltzing slowly to this series from a Hunger Games set and Miley Cyrus’ arms. Enter in his love interest/fighter pilot girlfriend, played by newbie Maika Monroe, who just happens to also be the daughter of ex-president Bill Pullman, who also makes his appearance in this silly sequel…as does Jeff Goldblum, Vivica A Fox, even Brent Spiner still playing that nutso scientist is here. Also here is Charlotte Gainsbourg (why oh why did you choose this role?), who plays a researcher bopping around Goldblum like an annoying brat. Here’s the thing…the only poignant scene for me was watching London impale itself whilst aliens attack that city (and Paris!), and that was mostly impactful because it comes right after the Brexit drama. Folks, if one day aliens DO attack us, let’s all pray that they hit Hollywood, starting with Roland Emmerich first. Penance for so many crappy, big-budget (and low budget) films he’s made. #-1/2
I wasn’t sure how to feel about the film after screening it. Me Before You is heart-wrenching in the same way that really, decent TV movies-of-the-week can be while also having the same, non-endearing acting skills as said TV movies-of-the-week, save perhaps Janet McTeer (as always!) and Charles Dance (not always!). Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones fame makes her mark in a major attempt to switch over to film star status, I suppose. While her acting is over-the-top and at times, rather garish in its forwardness (as if trying desperately for the audience to love her), something about her eyes and smile captivated me throughout the film. She plays the role of an inexperienced caregiver for a youngish quadriplegic who is so rich that his family actually owns two castles. The film is dotted with moderately-known TV actors from Britain and even a Harry Potter alum is along for the ride, but when it turns into The Bucket List meets Bridget Jones meets Intocable, something starts to feel really forced…when you add in all those Ed Sheeran (and the like)-sounding tunes, it’s all played with moderate effect in order to make you tear up. And hey, it works sometimes, as well. Based on the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes who also wrote the screenplay, we get a major handful of romantic dreams thrown our way. Some of them work to success, but a lot of them work to excess. At a loss for where to go with this one. I liked it, I was annoyed by it. ###
Richard Linklater’s last film Boyhood appeared to be another magnum opus in his stellar career, and come Oscar season last year, that was proved evident. His latest flick, Everybody Wants Some!, has been dubbed a sort-of “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, one of Linklater’s first films from 1993, and incidentally, the first one I saw from him just before my “freshman piggie” year of high school. One of his biggest aims has always been touching the surfaces and inner linings of basic Texas life. As someone who was born there, I can say that he very rarely misses his mark. This time around, it’s late August, 1980, just three days before school starts, and a doe-eyed freshman named Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at Texas Southern University, the new pitcher of the baseball team. He lives with a claptrap group of his teammates, and this quickly became one of the things that made me cringe at the film’s start…the annoying, over-sexualised and incredibly white presence of the film. There is one token black brother, no Latinos, tons of hot girls of all persuasions, no mention of racism in 1980 Texas and things just do NOT seem believable AT ALL! And then, days two and one until classes start come into play, and Linklater finally manages to break away from his WASPy cliche into a universal, university reality. Eschewing the fact that not one of the actors here appears to be anywhere near 18 or 19 years old (did everybody really look 30-35 in the 70s? Answer: NO!), Linklater does what he does best, using witty dialogue to break down the layers of specific social issues: young adults’ first freedom from home, masculinity as being based on feminine attention, music, meaning of life, relationships, basic insecurities and social tensions, etc. When Jake meets Beverly (played by Zoey Deutsch), we see him fall for a gal pal who is essentially just another musical-theater geek…but with an edge. She is so damn real, and I completely fell for her. She is Mary Stuart Masterson’s little girl, by the way, so this “80’s film” fits right into the family’s filmography. That said, she practically imbues the film with new life anytime she’s around. When she gives a solid but curt theory on the myth of Sisyphus as a metaphor for life, I really fell in love! The film gives a mostly accurate look at that amazing time for young adults, when they actually leave the home, while also showing us how time may be on our side, but it waits for no man, so learn to live your best days to their fullest. Again, comrade Linklater has managed to succeed. ###-1/2
Finally today comes the newest film from Wild and Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee entitled Demolition. It’s a look at loss through a very different lens. because it brings up an unusual way of dealing with painful family death…through sudden actions, destruction of personal property and writing to unsuspecting people you do not know. When Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) survives a sudden car accident but loses his young wife, his whole perspective gets imbalanced when a vending machine at the hospital emergency room cheats him out of $1.25, causing him to write incessantly to the complaints’ department of the vendor. As with his other recent work, Vallee takes us into the mind and therapeutic process of obsessive people coping with big personal struggles. Davis is inextricably linked to his girlfriend’s family as he works with her dad in investment banking in NYC. When the complaints department finally reach out to him, it’s in the form of Naomi Watts, a single mum with a boyfriend (he runs the vending machine company), who emotionally attaches to Davis while reading all of his letters. When Davis seemingly adopts her son as a companion of sorts, things take on a new life as the two guys come to terms with their own identity and mortality, though done so through a series of oddball, destructive moments and hard-to-believe tactics that felt rather forced. Still, while Demolition hardly lives up to the excellence of his two previous efforts, it still plugs itself nicely into his body of work, and I’m eager to see what he churns out next. ###
The International FIRE! Film Fest is live and alive in Barcelona this week, so more reviews coming up later this week, my dears. Have a great one!