Shall we begin then?
The good news is that Queen of Mopey Faces, Kristen Stewart, is noticeably absent from the latest sequel/prequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War, though I must say I was unexpectedly able to watch the uninspired but palatable first film back in late 2012. Even despite her patrician facade, Stewart in that first film was emboldened by the lustrous presence of Charlize Theron—damn, she is a beautiful woman. That said, this time around, we receive fluff instead of snowy fantastical marvels, and light comedy in place of a lack of overall vision. Emily Blunt plays Freya, who is convincingly hell-bound in her mission to resurrect her sister (Theron). With yet another Hemsworth aboard (it’s Chris this time...you know…Thor) and his warrior love interest, played by the ever-lovely Jessica Chastain, the film is rather short on argument and substance but again a scenic marvel to watch (despite Chastain’s questionable Scottish accent). The quests ensue, the drama flares up and dies and flares and dies and la di da…but it’s a tad irksome to see so much talent, time, treasure and sweat spent on a stunningly pretty but still vapid film. Please no more unnecessary sequels and prequels! ###
Whatever happened to the lightning bolt that seemed to be Gerard Butler’s career in the Noughties? In this critic’s opinion, he has been in very few meaningful films over the last decade, except his voiceovers in How to Train Your Dragon (2010) or his brilliant stint in Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla (2008). This week though, we find him starring in London Has Fallen, a snappy, by-the-numbers sequel to Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen (2013), though a different director is onboard this time round. When the PM of England passes away, funeral proceedings obviously summon major world leaders to be present at St. Paul’s Cathedral (where the funeral occurs). Enter a Pakistani terrorist leader with a plan to muck things up and here comes Butler, playing the long-suffering Secret Service bodyguard to the President, who is played by…wait for it….wait for it…Aaron bloody Eckhart, while the VP is played by Morgan Freeman. Really? When there actually is a black man in the White House, you’re going to do that backwards switcheroo? Anyway…Angela Bassett plays the President’s right hand woman and, when the attack goes down just as the funeral proceedings begin, Butler again tries to resuscitate his career as a possible American bad-ass hero. The film is fun for what it’s worth, but it will take a hell of a lot more than this engaging gobbledygook to make London fall. ###
Philip Seymour Hoffman returns for his final big screen outing this week with the unfortunately-titled God’s Pocket, based upon a section in South Philly called Devil’s Pocket. What I’ve come to see is that Hoffman plays the same damn character in almost every film, someone with a substance abuse issue who is still striving to be an everyman. Here we find him as a blue-collar, small-time crook hustling his way by any means necessary in order to get more out of life. The direction is smooth and simple, rather fluid in its own right, and is the first major motion picture directed by actor John Slattery, the silver-haired fox of Mad Men, Ant-Man and Sex and the City. Set in the late Seventies, the story follows the situation surrounding the death of the stepson of Hoffman’s character Mickey, while his wife, Christine Hendrick’s character Jeannie, sets out to get to the bottom of how her young racist punk-ass son passed away while on the job at a construction site. The film, while capturing the brutal, black comedic intensity of the time, has a lingering sadness to it as well, when you take into account that this was Hoffman’s penultimate filmed role and the last time we’ll see him on the big screen. The film is gritty and real and well worth the watch! ###-1/2
Finally today, the wonderful realm of a wonderfully nuanced artiste extraordinaire. Now playing at certain art houses in the city and around the country, Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World is not your typical documentary at all. It almost has a Grey Gardens quality to it, but without the ever-looming sadness hanging about. What director Belinda Sallin does is give us a peek into H.R. Giger’s world until his very recent death in 2014, right after production ended. He actually died from injuries sustained from a fall, though as you can see whilst viewing the doc, he was not the healthiest of specimens—but boy did he have an eye and mind for the magical and fantastical. The very essence of his work is shown in such a gentle yet surreal manner, that it makes everything seem sensual and alive. Indeed, the camera work and emotional interviews pull you into his world, whether you expect it or not. The man was an aesthetic, cinematic and artistic legend, and this lovely little documentary does a fine job of revealing that. A sweet gem of a doc. ###/1-2
It was a lovely weekend with these movies, and I’ll see you all in a few days. Have a great one, everybody!