Friday, July 25, 2014

Random DVD Round-Up - NEED FOR SPEED


NEED FOR SPEED is so much macho bullshit it makes the FAST & FURIOUS franchise look like the Ingmar Bergman of car-racing flicks.  We're in the sort of clumsy, asinine movie-making that epitomises THE EXPENDABLES except without the self-knowing irony. Some lazy reviewers have argued that you shouldn't expect better from a movie based on a video-game, but that's to do video games a disservice. The simple fact is that ex-stunt driver and director Scott Waugh only knows how to direct by pasting together action set-pieces  and scriptwriters John and George Gatins (REAL STEEL) have either no interest in or no talent for depicting real human emotion.  

Random DVD Round-Up - THE LEGO MOVIE


If Marxist theories Slavoj Zizek made an animated kids movie, THE LEGO MOVIE would be it!  It'a audacious in its deep satirical criticism of modern consumer culture - creating an alarming but entertaining picture of a dystopia where people are subjected to an almost Orwellian fascist mind-control - fooled into buying over price coffee, too busy watching mindless TV shows to notice that big corporations rig the elections.  The ultimate irony is that this movie was produced by yet another corporate behemoth, and its gratingly catchy theme song "Everything's awesome" itself became a non-ironic hit, raking in ever more phat cash for President Business at Warner Brothers.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY


GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY is hands-down the most fun I've had in a cinema over the past year. It's goofy, funny, smart, touching and at times plain balls-out crazy.  But when the lights came up I could have happily sat down to watch the movie all over again, and I can't wait for the sequel.  It reminded me of all the reasons we loved cinema as kids - of all those Saturday morning serial inspired movies like STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES with their epic quests and buddy comedy relationships. But even better, it reminded me of the richly imagined almost gothic worlds of Guillermo del Toro movies - worlds where people (and raccoons!) look battered and beaten rather than shiny and new.  There was something nostalgic about the very concept of the movie - a throwback to the great eighties action comedies - that went beyond its hokey mix-tape seventies sound-track.  I mean, I CARED about the talking tree and the psycho-raccoon, god help me. And I want to know what happens next!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES


DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a handsome, earnest if somewhat hamfisted sci-fi action movie that dazzles visually but grates emotionally.  

Five years after the events of the reboot, Caesar (Andy Serkis), the genetically modified intelligent ape has founded a colony and a family in the forests outside of San Francisco.  His original owner (James Franco) is presumed dead from the deadly Simian Virus that has reduced mankind to small isolated survivor groups of the genetically immune.  The structure of the story is symmetrical - the apes and humans have to fashion a new society and decide how to engage with their enemy. In both camps we have the peaceful diplomats - wise Caesar and scientist Malcolm (Jason Clarke).  And in both camps we have the battle-scarred and distrustful war-mongerers - Koba (Toby Kebbell) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman).  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

GOLTZIUS AND THE PELICAN COMPANY


GOLTZIUS AND THE PELICAN COMPANY is a work of genius - a movie that is beautiful, inventive, provocative and mischievous - a work that could only have come from Peter Greenaway. It's a movie that begs to be seen on a big screen and yet has received a micro release in London: a movie made by a man who declares that cinema is dead, whose declining audiences seem to echo that fact - and yet who persists in creating these amazing virtuoso pieces of art.  It's just one of the many paradoxes encapsulated in the film.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

QISSA: THE TALE OF A LONELY GHOST


Anup Singh's fantastic historical fable (qissa means fable in English) is a tale of loss and madness that echoes in it's personal tragedies the wider political madness of Partition.  The separation of India and Pakistan in 1947 led to a traumatic upheaval as Sikhs and Hindus left the newly Pakistani northern Punjab and journeyed to the still India southern Punjab, while Muslims made the journey in reverse.  Torn from their homes, the refugees were victims of violence on both sides. Thus, early in the story we meet the Sikh patriarch Umber Singh (Irrfan Khan - LIFE OF PI) - so embittered that he literally poisons the well of his former home - an act which in the quiet unspoken fantastical film signals ill-omens. Four years later, when his wife gives birth to yet another daughter, he commits a momentary act of madness, welcoming the birth of his son and heir. Thus his daughter is brought up a a boy - a deceit that is tacitly condoned by father, mother and even family friend - and it's part of the subtle ambiguity of the film that even on her wedding day, we're not entirely sure how far the daughter realises she is in fact a girl.