It’s happening, folks. It’s really happening. The long, hot summer just passed me (and you) by. Oh, I know its vestiges still lie about, but its intensity seems to be fading into autumn. That also means the majority of the big summer blockbuster season is behind us.
It often pains me to sit through war movies, especially when they revolve around actual battleground stuff. I think I’d rather poke my eyes out with a tiny fork than sit through a repeat of Band of Brothers. When faced with this challenge this past week whilst watching John Boorman’s long overdue “sequel” to his 1987 Best Picture nominee Hope and Glory, I faced it head on as Queen and Country was certainly not your typical war machine film. Boorman has a knack (at the age of 82!) for humour and lightheartedness when dealing with bleak themes and times, as well a keen nod to subtle homoerotic references from film history. Kudos if you know what they are. Honestly, it was rather easy to enjoy this film. It fast forwards nearly a decade into the life of the now almost 20 year-old Billy Rowan, though this time he’s scuttled off to the army during the Korean War for training. What’s amazing to note is that this time, there isn’t necessarily so much autobiography here as with the first film, but the friendship between Billy and Caleb Landry Jones (a Texan, no less!) is not only well executed but a real treat. Stepping into Rowan’s world again made the typical war film a thing of pleasure. Well done, Mr. Boorman! ###-1/2
Now, let’s talk about M. Night Shyamalan’s return to decent form, because most of the critic world is pleasantly surprised with the fact that there is actually some fun emanating from the silver screen this time around, and his name is even attached. I'm only slightly joking there, and all of you know what I mean. After the one-two-three punch success with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, his career has consisted of dud after dud. The Visit was made on a paltry budget of only $5 million, so it goes to show that a vision and little studio interference can lead to something decent. When two kids are sent off to their grandparents for a getaway to give their single mom a breather, everything seems normal. The thing unmentioned is that the mum has been estranged from these grandparents for fifteen years and is none the wiser about the strange mental breakdowns that they have been going through. Enter the kids and a dark subject matter and questions abound. Why all the don’t-go-in-there suspense? What’s with granny walking around zombified at night? Why is this creepy film a perfect end of summer treat? Shyamalan has got his motivation and groove back, and we can all sit back and enjoy it again! ###
Lastly this week, American Ultra…ugh. How is it possible that two white, American kids can be so bloody annoying? Sorry if that seems rhetorical as alas, I know it is. But good lord, Jesse Eisenberg is just asking to be butchered at the beginning of this film. Even the fastidious Kristen Stewart is easier to stomach in this farce of a film. That said, it does become a tad entertaining when the violence kicks in after 20/25 minutes, and as the word American is nestled in the title, you already know that violence plays a role here. But that does only so much against a convoluted stoner story which tries too hard to infuse action/CIA espionage thriller/dramedy fun into a muddled piece of celluloid. It’s fun to see familiar faces like Connie Britton, Topher Grace and John Leguizamo, but when you see through the holes of this failed CIA Ultra project, the only fun comes from the fact that decent actors assembled together to make a stoner fantasy. Meh… better off passing on this. Although the historian in me has to let you know that drugs and secret CIA experiments with the word Ultra in them are not a thing of lies. Do some research on Project MK Ultra if you want to know more. ##
Have a fab week and I’ll see you back here in a few!