“My Name Is Miles Morales. I’m The One And Only Spider-Man. At Least That’s What I Thought…”
With the superhero genre reaching some sort of unprecedented cinematic peak in 2018 with the likes of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War in particular reminding that even in a climate stuffed with familiar tales of heroism, there are still many tales left to be told, the last month of the year has reserved just a few more before returning once again with a new handful of highly anticipated releases come 2019. Produced by the successful American pairing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the first of two big comic releases this month is of course, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a barmy and maniacal addition into its’ respective genre which continues the recent success of the pair’s ventures into animation after the likes of the rather excellent The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, with a movie which utilises the versatile figure of Marvel’s web-slinging cash cow for a dazzlingly designed superhero adventure which attempts to offer something slightly different to the same old comic-based routine many of us are well and truly used to. With a gorgeously orchestrated animated design and some snappy comedic dialogue, Into the Spider-Verse is an entertaining if slightly functional Marvel addition, offering some of the best visual splendour available this year but suffering ever so heavily from an overstretched running time which does unfortunately begin to test the patience as it ticks just under the two hour mark.
With an overly familiar Lord/Miller tongue-in-cheek sensibility running through the central core of the film, Into the Spider-Verse begins by poking fun at the varying cliches attached to the superhero genre, particularly in regards to the many origin-based stories and similar cinematic developments of Spider-Man himself since the turn of the twentieth century, and with a clear understanding that many in the audience will undoubtedly be comic obsessives themselves, the snappy dialogue and in-house running gags prove effective, even when the core storyline does strangely end up falling right into the familiar superhero plot devices the script finds joy in making fun out of. With the central appeal of the movie hanging on two key factors, the first of which being the jerky, stylised animation which more than ever before seems to be a direct three dimensional transition of the comics from paper to screen, and the second of course being the chance to see radically different versions of the Spider-Man character all appear together on-screen in order to combat the central threat of the larger than life, Wilson Fisk, the question remains whether such selling points actually benefit the movie as a whole or are simply nothing more than cinematic gimmicks. In the case of the animation, a high proportion of it is indeed spectacular to behold on the big screen, with sweeping, soaring wide screen views of an animated New York really quite breathtaking, but as the movie moves into its’ predictable climax, the overreliance on stuffy, messy and maniacal splashes of pixelated colour brings the film on par with Teen Titans! Go To The Movies in terms of the headache inducing pain your eyes endure before the credits ultimately roll, but with a stellar supporting voice cast including the likes of Hailee Steinfield, (True Grit) Nicholas Cage, (Mandy) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Into the Spider-Verse is an entertaining, if flawed, sugar rush of a movie with enough to like to counteract the migraine you may obtain after watching it.
Overall Score: 6/10
“You Know What They Say. If An Exorcism Isn’t Completed, Evil Will Find A New Vessel…”
With the horror genre in general throughout 2018 managing to have one its’ most successful years in recent history, with the past twelve months offering up a wide range of interesting, superbly entertaining and, particularly in the case of Hereditary, unrelentingly nightmarish new examples of the well-trodden format, it seems both an oddity and a shame to leave the year on such a false note with The Possession of Hannah Grace, an ideas-based horror flick which fails to hit the heavy heights of its’ similarly genred pals and fall instead more into the here-we-go-again cattle-prod cinema audiences more than ever are getting more and more accustomed to. Directed by Dutch filmmaker, Diederik Van Rooijen, and based on a script from Brian Sieve, whose previous credits include the television adaptation of Scream and um, the awkward one-two of Boogeyman 2 and 3, The Possession of Hannah Grace, originally entitled Cadaver, follows Shay Mitchell (Pretty Little Liars) as Megan Reed, a grieving ex-cop and recovering alcoholic who takes the thankless role of a night shift morgue worker who swiftly comes across the battered corpse of young Hannah Grace, a seemingly innocent murder victim found hacked and burnt to death on the streets of Boston with a mysterious past regarding her involvement in a devilish exorcism attempt gone horribly wrong.
Opening with the titular exorcism attempt, Van Rooijen’s movie immediately lays down the movie’s wildly chaotic cinematic cards, with the overblown, nonsensical and rather quite silly introduction resulting in one particular laugh out loud moment of unintentional absurdity which begins the failed attempt of the film to hold down a central feeling of dramatic pull which every single effective horror piece fundamentally needs to get spot on. With low budget violence, creaky digital effects and an over reliance on Ringu inspired creepy dead girl gurns, the movie’s eighty minute runtime after the initial opening set piece circles in a Groundhog Day esque roundabout as we see our leading lady attempt to get to the bottom of mysterious doings within the morgue, including not-so-secure security doors and the miraculous recovery of wounds on the body of the recently obtained, Hannah Grace. Whilst there is undoubtedly an interesting and spooky idea at the heart of the movie regarding isolation of our leading heroine within a surgically clean open-aired basement with dodgy light installation, the movie unfortunately falls into the same traps many small release American horrors do by resorting to predictable jump scares and particularly dodgy character deaths to one dimensional side characters with as much substance and personality as a freshly made cadaver, but with a committed central performance from Mitchell and rather swift runtime, Rooijen’s big time debut is undoubtedly weak and iffy, but not as awful as it could have been.
Overall Score: 4/10
“People Like Me, We Live In The Past. You Got People That Need You Now. You Got Everything To Lose, This Guy Has Got Nothing To Lose…”
Boosting the career of Ryan Coogler into the international stratosphere, 2016’s Creed remains arguably the most entertaining and thrilling entry into the Rocky franchise since the Oscar winning original, one which brought the leading boxing film series back into the eyes of critical admiration and most crucially, managed to place Everton’s beautifully old fashioned Goodison Park onto the big screen. With Coogler too busy to return to directorial duties, American filmmaker Steven Caple Jr. takes the reigns for a sequel which sees Michael B. Jordan’s (Black Panther) Adonis Creed be crowned as the new heavyweight champion of the world after a successful win against former foe, Danny “Stuntman” Wheeler, a title which is soon challenged from across the East when Creed is called out to partake in a high profile grudge match against the son of Dolph Lundgren’s (The Expendables 3) Ivan Drago, the Soviet Union muscle machine responsible for the death of Creed’s father in Rocky IV. With stakes higher than ever before, Creed II follows a very familiar and welcome filmic sensibility to Coogler’s re-shuffling of the tried and trusted boxing genre back in 2016, with Caple Jr. using the most cinematic of sports as a secondary measure to a story which centres on notions of grief, regret and ultimately redemption within a movie which wonderfully offers once again a much deeper and thematically complex narrative backbone than one would expect from what is essentially a big budget Hollywood sporting blockbuster.
By immediately accepting its’ role and responsibility of the Hollywood sequel with welcome arms from the offset, Creed II utilises a two hour plus runtime to balance expanded characterisation with gorgeous sporting spectacle, and with a central key narrative arc regarding the pressures of living up to individual legacy running parallel within both the tightly wound Creed party and the fiendish Drago camp, Caple Jr.’s movie impressively manages to focus enough on both protagonist and antagonist to allow an empathetic view into the trials and tribulations of their individual lives, ones separated not only by country but by lifestyle too. Offering bolder and bigger orchestrated set pieces, including not one, but two superb fights involving Creed and Drago, the narrative at times does sway into cliche, particularly to audiences already well versed in the ways and means of the Rocky franchise, but with beautiful dialogue and complex character development which carries on from the groundwork already put in by Coogler and co in the film’s predecessor, emotional involvement is achieved with astounding ease, resulting in you peering through your fingers as you witness the young Creed battle through broken ribs and busted eyes against the intimidating and physically mountainous presence of Florian Munteanu’s similarly youthful Drago. With the choreography of the central fights executed to an excellent degree and the long awaited ringside reunion between Stallone and Lundgren as gleefully exciting as the diner scene between Pacino and De Niro in the masterful Heat, Creed II is everything I expected from a follow-up to one of my favourite films of 2016 and even without the presence of Ryan Coogler, the latest Rocky picture is superb sporting cinema.
Overall Score: 8/10
“And Now For The Million Dollar Question: Do People Assume All Your Problems Got Solved Because A Big Strong Man Showed Up..?”
Continuing on from 2012’s highly entertaining animated spectacle, Wreck-It Ralph, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest venture sees the return of the titular well-meaning and reluctant arcade game villain, voiced once again by the one and only John C. Reilly (We Need To Talk About Kevin), who continues his blossoming relationship with Sarah Silverman’s (Battle of the Sexes) bubblegum racing princess, Vanellope von Schweetz, in an adventure which follows the atypical cliche of most movie sequels by offering something bigger, bolder and particularly in the case of Ralph Breaks the Internet, a movie which thrives on being rather quite barmy. Directed by the working couple of the returning Rich Moore and Zootropolis screenwriter, Phil Johnston, the second installment in the Ralphverse pretty much continues on from where its’ predecessor ended, with Ralph, Vanellope and the motley crew of arcade game characters carrying on with their wildly colourful existence within the confines of a universe full of retro throwbacks and particular designs which seem to make certain fanbases in the world giggle with utmost joy when seeing their favourite characters appear on the big screen. Wowed by the introduction of the unpronounceable “WiFi” plug which is brought into the arcade by the aged, behind-with-the-times owner, Ralph and Vanellope soon journey into the the new area after the latter’s game, Sugar Rush, is unplugged due to an accident indirectly caused by Ralph himself.
Whilst the central storyline to Ralph Breaks the Internet undoubtedly fails to be as straightforward, streamlined and easy to follow as its’ predecessor, moving from one plot point to another and then to another again in the spirit of George Lucas at his insufferable worst, the most surprising aspect of the movie is the almost uncanny similarity to the truly awful, The Emoji Movie, with varying familiar themes regarding on-the-nose product placement and the darker, seedier side of the world wide web all bringing to mind how terribly wrong everything involved with that particularly movie ultimately became. Fortunately for Ralph and co, Disney’s attempt proves much more successful, blending the wide range of internet-based notions to a much more effective degree which even manages to suppress the annoying factor of the obvious advertisement, and with crisp, well designed and admirable animation to soak up, Ralph volume two is rife with astronomical levels of detail including numerous, off-centre comedic asides which in a similar vein to The Lego Batman Movie, will undoubtedly require subsequent viewings in order to locate every single easter egg on offer. With effective guest voice actors including Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) as a Death Race inspired, super-cool racing driver and Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) as a social media obsessed entrepreneur, a trippy final act filled with animation spectacle at its’ finest and a particular scene involving Disney Princesses which is the finest animated comedic set piece since everything involving Jack-Jack in The Incredibles 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a more than adequate sequel which ticks all the boxes for all-round family friendly animated adventure.
Overall Score: 7/10
“There’s Been Whispers Of A Thief. He’s Got Our Commoner’s Looking Up, Seeing Hope…”
With the unintentional hilarity which ensued during last year’s dire attempt to recreate one British legend in the form of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, in which a cameo from David Beckham was one of the better aspects of the movie, Hollywood’s obsession with re-hashing well versed tales of adventure and heroism continues with yet another adaptation of Robin Hood, succeeding Ridley Scott’s mediocre 2010 version as the most contemporary telling and one which utilises the talents of Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Golden Circle) in the titular role. Directed by Otto Bathurst, a British filmmaker famous so far for his acclaimed work on the likes of Black Mirror and Peaky Blinders, and based on a debut script from Ben Chandler and David James Kelly, Robin Hood circa 2018 somehow manages to leapfrog in front of Guy Ritchie’s work of nonsensical silliness with relative ease in terms of cinematic woefulness, channelling an off-kilter tonal mix between Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Monty Python and the Holy Grail as it attempts to redefine the age-old tale with a strange stylistic decision which seems to cater particularly for audiences who are simply after a slice of mindless fun. Unfortunately for Bathurst and co, Robin Hood isn’t a movie which can be branded with such positivity, bordering instead more on the edge of being totally irredeemable as it slogs its’ way through a two hour incoherent mess featuring awfully slim characters, a laughably bad script and feeling that once again a supposed future cinematic franchise dies spectacularly with its’ first attempt. Whoops.
Opening with a cockney-geezer voice-over which instructs its’ awaiting audience to forget everything they know about the tale of Robin of Loxley and be amazed at a fresh new take of the historic legend, hilariously, such a statement is ultimately completely contradicted almost immediately thanks to one of the most lazily constructed and cliched scripts not only this year but in living memory. Introducing our central hero as a toffee-nosed, obnoxious ruling class beefcake who quickly chooses to swap allegiances after four years of war, Egerton is charming to an extent but ultimately feels wickedly miscast as he is simply directed to portray a hooded version of his character from Kingsman, awful accent and all, and therefore loses all sense of belief in a performance which at times crossed into the realm of on-screen pantomime. Joining him on this list of miscastings, Jamie Foxx’s (Baby Driver) role as a dodgily accented prisoner of war turned teacher is the American’s worst on-screen appearance in recent history, whilst joining in on the pantomime sensibility of the film is surprisingly Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One), an actor who aside from slowly being typecast as the turn-to Hollywood sneering villain, pulls off the most OTT and overly camp lead villain performance since Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending. With woefully directed action set pieces which include a jaw-droppingly misjudged opening scene set in a Iraqi inspired third-world war zone, automatic crossbows and all, and a penchant for utilising the “art” of slow-motion to paint over the pants choreography which seems directly inspired from similar tactics used in King Arthur, the latest version of Robin Hood isn’t just bad, it’s a lazy, pointless and amateurish so-called “blockbuster” which makes Guy Ritchie look like the reincarnation of Stanley Kubrick. Avoid like a CGI arrow to the chest.
Overall Score: 3/10
“Are You Not Lisbeth Salander, The Righter Of Wrongs? The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? The Girl Who Hurts Men Who Hurt Women..?“
With the rather lacklustre attempt to revitalise Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy to an American audience after the success of the Noomi Rapace starring Swedish set of movies back in 2009, the David Fincher adaptation of The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in 2011 was planned as a kickstarter for a fresh release of English speaking crime movies focusing on the intertwining lives of both journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, and vigilante hacker, Lisbeth Salander. With the subsequent Fincher movies placed on indefinite hold in the years that followed, The Girl in the Spider’s Web comes to cinema with a brand new director, a new batch of actors and a script based on a novel by Swedish author, David Lagercrantz, who has subsequently continued the works of Larsson who sadly passed away before the original movies came into fruition. Directed by Fede Álvarez, famous for the rather entertaining one-two of the The Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe, and featuring the wonderfully agile Claire Foy (First Man) in the lead role, the latest Salander-led adventure unfortunately fails to live up to the promise of the Uruguayan’s previous two features, lacking the panache and darkened style which seeped through Fincher’s adaptation whilst failing to offer anything new to a series which seems to have already sailed past its’ sell by date.
If remembered for anything, Larsson’s writing contained subject matter which teetered on the edge of bad taste, combining sexualised violence with a brutal sense of hardened realism evidenced rather memorably in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in which Salander’s rapist is punished by rather extravagant if justified means, and even with Álvarez at the helm, a filmmaker not exactly new to the world of cinematic nastiness, The Girl in the Spider’s Web feels surprisingly tame as it manages to come across as a near 12A rather version of the franchise with no signature grit or substance, emphasises by a bland, overly sterile tone seeping through with no effective levels of tension or threat whatsoever. With a screenplay which centres on long lost sisters, nuclear disaster and a central hacking superhero who seems to have breathed in the James Bond effect of being completely invincible, there have been episodes of Doctor Who which have been more believable, and even with Foy in the lead role at least attempting to bring some sort gravitas to the role with the familiar funky hairstyle and stern, wet flanneled look slapped across her face, she is ultimately let down by sloppy and lazy writing which leaves her well and truly behind her predecessors in terms of overall effectiveness in her portrayal of Salander. With a brilliant supporting cast including the likes of Sylvia Hoeks and Vicky Krieps being rather wasted considering their equally memorable roles in Blade Runner 2049 and Phantom Thread respectively, their brief appearances only resulted in wishing the film would end as soon as possible in order to go and revisit those particular movies which in terms of cinematic levels of excellence, are in a different universe completely.
Overall Score: 4/10
“When You Dance The Dance Of Another, You Make Yourself In The Image Of Its Creator…”
Considered as one of the staple examples of horror cinema since its’ release in 1977, Dario Argento’s Suspiria continues to bewilder, bemuse and bewitch audiences both observing for the first time and avid returners still hooked in the enchanting spell cast by the Italian, with the iconic neon colour palette utilised for the film’s signature style and the extravagantly overblown score by Goblin the standout elements forty one years on. Whilst I can consider myself a stern admirer of the Argento classic, repeat viewings have failed to alter my opinion that even with all the outstanding elements within its’ genetic makeup, there also sits a few major ills, particularly in its’ longevity regarding certain special effects and awfully hammy acting, and whilst the thought of ever treading on such sacred ground for a remake, reboot or re-imagining seems fundamentally blasphemous, Suspiria circa 2018 is project which I have been gleefully looking forward to since the first whispers surfaced into the ears of cinema fans across the world. Directed by fellow Italian, Luca Guadagnino, (A Bigger Splash, Call Me By Your Name) who refers to his latest project as a homage to the Argento original rather than a fully blown remake, Suspiria sees Dakota Johnson (Bad Times as the El Royale) as Susie Bannion, a seemingly repressed yet mysterious American dancer who travels into the heart of a war torn West Berlin in order to be admitted into the world renowned Markos Dance Academy and fall under the wing of Tilda Swinton’s (Doctor Strange) lead choreographer, Madame Blanc.
Taking place in 1977, the release year and setting of the original, Guadagnino’s interpretation follows Argento’s original screenplay only to particular extents, using familiar characters and settings only in name as the Italian reunites with A Bigger Splash screenwriter, David Kajganich, for a script which is determined to offer something completely radical as it plunges headfirst into an array of themes and mythological exploration, setting the tone for a remake which doesn’t care how much you may love the original as it seeks to present a subversive, differing tale of events which sits at the opposite end of the cinematic spectrum in terms of its’ filmic genetic makeup. Of the more obvious changes, Guadagnino completely strips the neon embers of the Argento version for a more traditional, classic horror movie aesthetic, choosing to gloss the film in a grim, grainy colour palette and incorporating familiar B-movie genre tropes including quickfire camera zooms, schizophrenic editing and detailed facial shots similar to the likes of Don’t Look Now and more crucially, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Whilst the original thrived on the central twist regarding the secretive coven of witches embedded within the heart of the school’s grounds, Kajganich’s script openly embraces such a fact from the outset, presenting the presence of evil as somewhat natural as we see Johnson’s Bannion quickly become the centre of a scheming plot to sacrifice her bewildering power to the unseen force of the school’s titular matriarchal figure, Helena Markos, and whilst the openness of such evil forces seemed a strange narrative choice heading into the movie, the decision does ultimately make absolute sense, saving an even bigger reveal for its’ own terrifying final act and understanding that most audiences heading in are original Suspiria fans anyway and therefore already well versed with the film’s central horror.
Synchronising deliciously with the purposeful intention to oppose pretty much everything within the original, Thom Yorke’s score beautifully and hauntingly glides hand in hand with the story, utilising a primarily piano led catalogue of tracks which matches the best work produced by Yorke both in a solo capacity and with Radiohead, with lead track, “Suspirium”, particularly impressive, encompassing the radical difference to the rather barmy but highly memorable Goblin score utilised in Argento’s film. At two and a half hours, the run-time does seem rather off-putting for some audiences who will undoubtedly find the slow burn nature of the pacing tortuously boring and irksome, but in a similar vein to Blade Runner 2049, the slower pace never felt much of an issue, building up dramatically to flashes of brutal, stylistic violence and a final act which when arrives feels particularly well earned. Among the many standout set pieces, the central dance sequences are incredibly well choreographed, with Guadagnino’s version emphasising the art of movement much more then the original ever did, and with added thematic notions regarding motherhood, the effect of war and a rather contemporary commentary on the abuse of power, Suspiria circa 2018 almost falls into the category of epic cinema, even when particular narrative arcs seem slightly tacked on to the extent that they either could have been shortened or removed completely. With Johnson and Swinton both absolutely superb in the central roles as they willingly buy into the vision created by a director they have both worked with in the past, Suspiria is a bold, beautiful and at times, genuinely unnerving work of art-house cinema which took the genetic code of a horror genre classic and redefined it from top to bottom.
Overall Score: 9/10
“Do You Know Why I Admire You, Newt? You Do Not Seek Power. You Simply Ask, “Is A Thing… Right..?”
Not being the biggest fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film back in 2015, the three year wait for the second entry in the ever-expanding “Wizarding World” franchise to focus on Eddie Redmayne’s (The Theory of Everything) Newt Scamander was undoubtedly filled with notions on how exactly they could make a film with such talented performers become something I could actually enjoy. Directed by the steady hand of David Yates, a filmmaker who has helmed everything linked to the words of J. K. Rowling since Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Crimes of Grindelwald reunites Scamander with both friends and foes whilst introducing the likes of Jude Law (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) as a younger, trimmer Albus Dumbledore and Johnny Depp as the central and titular antagonist after Colin Farrell (Widows) was seen in the previous movie to simply be a jaw-dropping falsehood. Whilst swapping the likes of Farrell for Depp feels similar to trading your beautiful Aston Martin for a raggedy, temperamental French coupe with a penchant for stalling, such a trade feels only like a faint blip in the spectrum of issues prevalent in The Crimes of Grindelwald, a convoluted and needlessly tedious second wind which suffers from the simple fact of being a franchise entry which is all filler, no killer, and whilst there are particular elements which bring forth memories of what makes Rowling’s world so magical and delightful, Yates’ latest is unfortunately a wizarding tale of woe which fails to recreate the best the franchise has offered in the past.
Central to the film’s maddening issues is undoubtedly Rowling’s script, a convoluted, messy and particularly confusing work of madness which features zero threat, makes zero sense and is bogged down by a range of two dimensional, underdeveloped characters who come and go without clearly laying down their individual intentions or overall purpose to the story. With Depp ironically the best thing in the entire movie, his Billy Idol inspired look and Bono-esque sanctimonious villainous speeches failed to prevent me from cheering inside every time he came on screen, particularly when alternative company elsewhere became more and more boring with every passing minute, and even with the inclusion of the wonderful Zoë Kravitz as a conflicted, troublesome auror adding to list of powerful female actors carried over from the first film, her performance is let down by wonky character development and a overarching sense of her talent’s being well and truly wasted. With awful camera work which featured a mix between jaded, snapshot editing and invasive facial shots which looked like the work of a drunk and drugged up Sergio Leone, one of the more obvious issues is cinematographer Philippe Rousselot’s decision to mask the film in a bland, murky colour pallette, which although managed to echo the bland and lifeless feel of the film to a tee, also felt like a DC Universe interpretation of the Harry Potter franchise by failing to handle the darker aspects of the narrative and instead becoming a painful slog into unrepenting murkiness. Whilst the likes of Jude Law and even Eddie Redmayne, an actor who I still can’t fully get on board with, try their absolute best to bring some sense of dramatic pull to the action, an impressive musical score and wardrobe aside can’t paint over the fact that for a film which lasts nearly 140 minutes, nothing memorable actually seems to happen, and with gargantuan, bewildering plot twists crammed into a indecipherable final ten minutes, The Crimes of Grindelwald is somehow less fantastic than its’ mediocre predecessor.
Overall Score: 4/10
“This Is The Story Of How My Town, Salem, Lost It’s Mind. Let’s Start At The Beginning…”
Written and directed by Sam Levinson, son of Good Morning Vietnam and Rain Man director, Barry Levinson, Assassination Nation acts as the American’s third feature after trading in acting for directing but the first to venture onto the big screen with a significantly wider general release. Slapped with a beautifully rare 18 certificate and released within a period of the cinematic year in which Halloween, Overlord and Suspiria have all shown a resurgence in the BBFC classifying movies with the highest rating possible, Levinson’s latest is a particularly odd beast, a hybrid of varying subjects with an underlying topical social commentary which sees Odessa Young as the free spirited Lily Colson who along with her group of freely spoken youthful friends become embroiled in a town-wide internet hack which sees every single resident’s personal online history leak into the gaze of the public eye, resulting in extraordinarily extravagant and particularly violent consequences. Beginning with a familiar stylish and slightly bizarre aesthetic feel to Harmony Korine’s woefully unsatisfactory Spring Breakers in 2013, Levinson’s movie traverses through a minefield of themes and genres for two hours worth of storytelling which at times is undoubtedly problematic and troublesome, but crucially, never boring, resulting in audiences guaranteed to leave the auditorium thinking to themselves; “what on earth was that all about?”
With the film using the first half an hour to introduce the primary quartet of femme fatales at the heart of the action, each with their own distinguishable individuality and vices, the coming of age style narrative allows the evolving opening scandals to be seen from the point of view of the youth of the aptly named town of Salem as an unknown hacker forces out both the secrets of both a local politician and teacher. With Levinson’s screenplay clearly following on from the likes of Ingrid Goes West and Searching by conveying an on-the-nose comment on the nature and impact of social media, whatever point Levinson chooses to focus on becomes completely lost in an out of control second act in which the audience bears witness to a startling combination of Winding Refn and Dario Argento eye-gouging neon style with elements of The Purge, resulting in an abundance of violence and particularly tough scenes of torture, murder and near attempted rape which for some audiences may be too explicit to cope with. Personally however, the sense of silliness and emphatically ripe shock tactics which unveil themselves heading towards the film’s climax never became dull or uninteresting, due in part to some wonderful camera work and blissfully bright cinematography, and whilst there never was a single character in which I cared whether they lived or died due to pretty much every single one being fundamentally unlikeable, Assassination Nation moved along nicely as it offended audiences left, right and centre and concluded in a way which simply made me giggle. Bring on more gory grunge movies!
Overall Score: 6/10
“Today We Will Do Mean Things, And We Will Do Them In Style..!”
Acting as the third on-screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ 1957 children’s story, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” after the 1966 television special and the Jim Carrey starring live-action version directed by Ron Howard at the start of the century, The Grinch, directed by the filmmaking double act of Scott Mosier (Clerks) and Yarrow Cheney, sees the latter reunite with Illumination Entertainment after being handed directorial duties for the forgettable, if slightly entertaining, The Secret Life of Pets back in 2016, for a contemporary adaptation of everyone’s favourite sarcastic green grump as he once again turns on the town of Whoville during the Christmas celebrations in order to spoil the holiday season in which he fundamentally despises. Voice by a Benedict Cumberbatch (Patrick Melrose) who mixes Smaug with a nasally American accent in order to perform with the iconic bah humbug voice, The Grinch is undoubtedly made with the joyfully crisp animation you would come to expect from a studio behind the likes of the Despicable Me franchise, but with a perfunctory, cliched and dare I say it, rather dull, screenplay, Illumination Studios’ latest venture may indeed work for younger audiences unaware of the dastardly works of its’ titular anti-hero but for those with even the slightest inkling of the well versed story at the heart of it, The Grinch is surprisingly quite bland.
Beginning with the positives, the visual aesthetic of the movie is rather quite beautiful, utilising sharp, detailed portrayals of both characters and settings in a manner which almost comes expected now in a world which constantly churns out impressive animation after animation, but with cute comedic asides coming from the likes of a screaming goat and Grinch’s loyal canine companion, Max, the design of the movie does allow for on and off moments of effective hilarious slapstick which usually results in particular characters being thrown, launched and smacked into oncoming trees. Whilst substance and depth isn’t exactly the first thing on the mind when approaching a film such as The Grinch, the real emotional punch of the film undeniably sits in the flashbacks where we see the experiences of a younger Grinch and the impact his own childhood has on his modern day hatred for all things Christmas, yet with most of the action taking place in the modern day, the simplistic screenplay unfortunately doesn’t match the freshness of the film’s aesthetic, treading ground covered in so many Christmas themed films from the past and ultimately becoming quite tiresome as it falls to a predictable end. Following on from the likes of Johnny English Strikes Again by being a movie which utilises comedic set pieces to flesh out its’ runtime, The Grinch never felt comfortable as a feature length re-telling of Dr. Seuss’ most infamous festive fiend, even when at retained at the heart of it is a central message which we all could take a slice of going forward towards “that time of year again”. Bah, humbug.