Oy! Happy Holidays/Hannukah/Holidaze everyone! We’ve got some catching up to do as the cold weather has come in with welcome arms and the films at the box office are lighting up. Let’s take a week at some of the latest and some of last week’s greatest.
There was a time not so long ago when a new Steven Spielberg film was met with such happy vibrant fervour, it was like a new Michael Jackson or Madonna record dropping…people lining up around blocks and buzzing with excitement. Lately though, his filmography has been met with a quieter aplomb…like a new MJ or Madonna record…though her concert last week was insanely good, I must say. Bridge of Spies teams him up with Tom Hanks again (for the fourth time), and let it be said that there is a reason for their symbiosis. It works perfectly. The film tells yet another based-on-true-events story and another Cold War drama. But what Spielberg does that turns this atypical cinema drama around is dive into US criminal procedures and constitutional rights revision while clearly holding a mirror up to our modern age. Tom Hanks plays a defence attorney, James B. Donovan, who is elected to represent an alleged Russian spy named Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) after potentially planted evidence spotlights him as a commie spy. The thick, albeit rather known, elegance of Spielberg plays all over the film, and anyone who watches it would be hard pressed not to be drawn into the story’s connection to our world’s current state of affairs. An invigorating piece of cine-art. ####
Once upon a time, there seemed to be a push for trilogies and series to have a continuity that allowed viewers to enjoy the film whether they had watched the other movies in the series. I must say that watching (okay, here we go with the long-ass title!) The Hunger Games: MockingJay Part Two, I was at a bit of a loss as the film kicks off with a recovering heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) after an attack from her once partner-in-crime Peeta (Josh Hutch). It goes without saying that the series was a stand-out for its message and content at its intro. That said, it is rather hard not to watch this film, despite its intricate direction and some griping action sequences, and think ‘Is that it?’ You already know who ends up together and if you’ve followed the series, you know who perishes. I only wish the series had ended as it began: with a thoughtful, boisterous bang. Good but mediocre at the same time. ###
Watching the film progression of Colin Farrell over the last decade and a half has been testament to an actor who knows how to play with his craft. In his latest, oddball comedy, The Lobster, he continues that trend. It’s a good thing that I’m single because this new film takes that common reality and flips it on its head. The plot of the film is strange, unique and hilarious. When his character David finds himself on the crap end of a failed marriage, he is remanded to a kind of last-chance hotel where he has 45 days to find a mate before being turned into the animal of his choice. His choice is a lobster. Enter in the myriad of odd rules in this hotel, from no masturbation to hunting down loners and the fact that you have a clock counting down your days to animal conversion, and what you have is a recipe for thinking. This is the first English-language film by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (Alps) and he has really crafted the single person’s thought piece on being single. Prep yourself. Like life, it isn’t always easy to comprehend but it sure makes for incredible surprises. ###-1/2
When grappling with a topic on celluloid like statutory rape, it is not often that it would be covered in a comedic sense. Marielle Heller’s incredible timepiece Diary of a Teenage Girl does just that, and while it’s a topic I found rather horrifying at first, she finds a way to explain it down to a T…the setting (San Francisco, 1976) helps pat down the fact that we’re also dealing with an almost 16-year-old girl named Minnie Goetz who has a secret affair with her mother’s boyfriend, a guy who is more than twice her age. Firstly, Bel Powley the protagonist actress of the film, is British, boisterous and brave, and yes folks, she only plays a 15-year-old, as she is actually 23. She is a driven girl in the film, a budding cartoonist who knows her way around the San Fran city streets. With a mum played by Kristen Wiig (personal fave alert!) and Alexander Skarsgård as the lewd boyfriend, who is a poster boy for the majority of men under 45 today, we also have two incredible character actors who add cherries on the top of this brilliant, beautiful think piece of a film. By the film’s ending, you realise that just as Minnie says to her ex-lover, you really ARE “too good for those sons of b*&$!s!” ####
Pixar Disney films take time to craft and always come with much fanfare. But usually their movies are fit-to-suit ‘young kids of all ages’. The Good Dinosaur (El Viaje de Arlo) really does feel like something thrown together for the really young ones this time around, however. Nicely enough though, it takes a different premise with a look at the world’s history. What if the asteroid that allegedly hit the Earth 65 million years ago and killed off the dinosaurs missed our planet? What would have happened if, millions of years after that, the still-extant dinosaurs had become civilised, whilst humans had become wild animals that had to be domesticated? When little Arlo is separated from his dad (and yes the father dies…a recurring Disney theme, sigh!) after a freak storm, he gets swept away from home but is stranded with one of the needing-to-be-domesticated young lads. The film then follows their adventure, but while the it is a tad flat with rather weak narrative, the scenery itself is wonderful. An easy-peasy film for your little ones some afternoon. ###
Oh Kevin Bacon. You’re a bit of a badass, ain’t ye? His latest vehicle (ahem…) is entitled Cop Car and it had its debut several weeks back at the Sitges Film Festival. The premise of the film is simple: Two naughty, runaway ten-year old boys find a recently-abandoned sheriff’s car and take it to further their journey and have a great time to boot, especially when they find a stash of weapons hanging out in the back seat. Of course, the car belongs to corrupt cop Bacon, but while the plot could seem severely far-fetched as a premise (even in the States, how many ten-year-olds really know how to drive?) the tight script and indie perfection production make this film a solid thriller from start to formulaic finish. Obvs, there will be no real spoilers left here, but the film works on so many levels, as a thriller, a noir-like black comedy, an adventure film with life lessons for children, to boot! It’s impressive that a small cast like this one and a vastly, wide setting within a tight 90 minutes could result in such a mostly solid adventure flick. This is a fun one to take note of! ###-1/2
There are many more movies on their way this winter and holiday season, and within the next couple of weeks we’ll be unveiling critic’s choices and awards nominations, as well as, our picks at Barcelona Metropolitan for the best films and highlights of 2016. Talk to you soon!