“I’m Working On Something Now, Something So New That The World Will Never Be The Same…”
Filmed and completed almost two whole years ago, with the original release date back in 2017 shelved following the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal and the subsequent MeToo movement, The Current War finally hits the big screen after being acquired and released by Lantern Entertainment, an American film studio who purchased all assets owned by The Weinstein Company as the disgraced company fell into liquidation following their owner’s high profile fall from grace. Directed by Texas-born filmmaker, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, whose previous works include the overly kooky, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, and directorial credits on both episodes of Glee and American Horror Story, The Current War attempts to dramatise the titular battle fought by both Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse during the latter stages of the nineteenth century, as each attempt to outwit each other and become the leading light of electrical power across the globe. With very little background noise or press following closely behind it, it seems fair to say that The Current War is the kind of movie which Lantern Entertainment feel the need to let loose just for the sake of it, with the main goal of course being to recoup a slender amount of financial reward after the cost to make it, yet much in the same way Billionaire Boys Club came and went like a fart in the wind after the similarly troubling Kevin Spacey allegations, Gomez-Rejon’s movie feels rather icky and strangely enough for a film without electrical power, staggeringly lifeless.
Central to the film’s array of issues is its’ central narrative, one based upon a screenplay from American playwright, Michael Mitnick, who seems to have been catching up on the back catalogue of Christopher Nolan by producing what can only be described as a monumental bore of a story, a cheap, Nolanized knock-off which attempts to recreate the fast-paced, engaging storytelling Nolan does so well, yet forgetting to include any sort of pace or engaging, meaty plot whatsoever, resulting in the cardinal sin of watch checking only five minutes in. With the film clocking in and just under two hours, it’s fair to say that The Current War only works as a medicinal prescription for prolonged sleep deprivation, a laborious, yawn-inducing borefest which wastes good acting talent including the likes of Michael Shannon, Tom Holland and Katherine Waterston, whilst reasserting the notion that Benedict Cumberbatch is quickly becoming the most typecast actor in the acting business today, with another leading role which leans heavy on the intelligent, sarcastic know-it-all characteristic and less on the sympathetic nice guy, akin to other historical figures the Brit has played in the likes of The Fifth Estate and The Imitation Game. Add into the mix woozy, sanctimonious camera work from Chung Chung-hoon who seems to think he’s the reincarnation of Kubrick alongside simply awful time-hopping editing and The Current War is the first movie in a good while to be so awfully dull, I began to worry for the future of cinema as we know it.
Overall Score: 3/10
“He’s Happy To See Me. Every Time. Everyday Now, I Can Either Save Him Or Let Him Die…”
With 2015’s Crimson Peak in retrospect coming over as somewhat of a major disappointment, Spanish director, Guillermo del Toro, returns this week with the Academy Award nominated, The Shape of Water, a fantastical romantic drama featuring the likes of Sally Hawkins (Paddington 2), Michael Shannon (12 Strong), and long term del Toro collaborator, Doug Jones (Hellboy) on staggering form and a release which poses as the director’s best work since the masterful Pan’s Labyrinth back in 2006. Built around a somewhat overly simplistic narrative with heavy influences of B-Movie cinema and underlying themes of Cold War paranoia, The Shape of Water, in fairy-tale like fashion, explores the radiant relationship between the charming mute figure of Sally Hawkins’ Elisa Esposito and Doug Jones’ remarkable, amphibian human hybrid who is captured by the US Government and kept in solitude at a high-security research facility under the watchful eye of Michael Shannon’s vulgar Colonel Richard Strickland. With a blend of romance, fantasy and at times, exploitation violence, The Shape of Water is a stereotypical del Toro release through and through and with flashes of remarkable brilliance and a Sally Hawkins on fine, fine form, the Spanish director’s latest is unlike anything you’ll see throughout the remainder of this calendar year.
With a loving sense of cinematic tradition and a wild, twisting tornado sensibility which navigates the movie through a wide range of differing genres, The Shape of Water is a beautifully old-fashioned work of film, one with a larger than life digital print clouded with dark colours of emerald green and cold war inspired muskiness, and a film which utilises the widescreen format to staggering degree, resulting in the film, as a work of pure spectacle, simply gorgeous to breathe in and admire for its’ detailing and slimy creature feature makeup and effects. Although The Shape of Water may not be as rewarding as del Toro’s previous endeavours as an overall body of work, the feature is one which instead arguably boasts his most humanist cinematic venture to date, with the leading relationship between human and inhuman marvellously envisioned thanks to character building set pieces which are as eye-wateringly romantic as they are naturally subversive in nature and with the film’s leading character having to rely on the usage of sign language due to her incapability to convey her emotions through speech, Sally Hawkins is truly spectacular, a performance both powerful and understated in equal measure and one which may indeed tip the boat for upcoming Oscar success. Whilst the movie’s quest for award supremacy in each of its’ respective nominated categories is admirable and actually quite brave considering the fundamental strangeness of the tale at the heart of it, the most obvious case would be for The Shape of Water being the movie which hands del Toro his long-awaited directing Oscar after being wrongly acquitted of it back in 2006, and whilst when up against the likes of Dunkirk and Phantom Thread the film does seem lesser in its’ successes in comparison, del Toro’s latest is still a wonderful and endlessly romantic drama of monstrous creativity which demands to be admired on the biggest screen possible.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Nineteen Men Attacked Our Country. The Twelve Of You Will Be The First To Fight Back…”
Growing up throughout the late 1990’s and the early 20th century, whenever the name, Jerry Bruckheimer, appeared on the opening credits of a movie, my action loving, adrenaline fuelled teenage mind would jump in extended joy at the knowledge that what lay ahead was an eye-watering level of action and adventure which had me sold from the word, go. Whether it be The Rock, Bad Boys or Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, the standardised Bruckheimer release tends to consist of hyperbolic explosions, rugged leading heroes, and of course, guns, lots of guns, and what we have with 12 Strong, the directorial debut of Swedish filmmaker, Nicolai Fuglsig, is indeed a movie which confines strictly to such a model with a steady degree of success. Set directly after the events of 9/11, 12 Strong follows Chris Hemsworth’s (Thor) inexperienced Captain Mitch Nelson as he leads his titular team of warriors into the heart of Afghanistan in order to broaden alliances with Navid Negahban’s (American Assassin) General Abdul Rashid Dostum and strike back against the threat of the Taliban, personified by Numan Acar’s (The Great Wall) murderous leader, Razzan.
Based upon Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book “Horse Soldiers”, Fuglsig’s movie is full to the brim with mechanical, macho mayhem with notions about the price of war and the effect of 9/11 on the wider world simply glanced at in favour of endless action set pieces and somewhat cliched, emotionally manipulative character development. Thankfully for the first-time director however, the sheer spectacle and scale of the aforementioned action presented on-screen is surprisingly well done, with the mixture of well-tempered violence and sound design managing to inflict a rigorous amount of tension, and even when it becomes somewhat easy to giggle at witnessing a tight muscled Chris Hemsworth riding into battle upon a horse in a War for the Planet of the Apes-esque manner, 12 Strong doesn’t ever become too mindless to lose its’ audience completely. With a ensemble cast featuring the likes of Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Michael Peña (End of Watch) and Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, the chemistry between the band of brothers is solidly captured, and whilst the film does seem at least twenty minutes too long, with a sense of familiarity and repetitiveness hanging over it come the concluding act, Fuglsig’s first shot at Hollywood is entertaining enough, and even with a ridiculously bald William Fichtner, 12 Strong is the type of Bruckheimer release I would have drooled over as a child, explosions and all. Bring the popcorn.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Do You Ever Feel You’re Life Has Turned Into Something You Never Intended..?”
With only his second feature after A Single Man, designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford returns to the cinematic spectrum this month with Nocturnal Animals, a gripping, white-knuckle thriller featuring a stellar cast on top of their form and a film which not only develops the reputation of Ford as an intelligent and sophisticated filmmaker but a film which resonates with you long after you arise from your sweat-covered seat and leave the cinema. Not only is Nocturnal Animals one of the most original films of the year, it is undoubtedly one of the toughest thrillers I can remember seeing in a long time, producing scene after scene of unbearable tension all the while mixing between a wide range of genres in an effective and unashamedly top-notch fashion. With an unbelievable bunch of A-List stars such as Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and the always brilliant Michael Shannon at the film’s core, Nocturnal Animals is an essential movie for anyone tough enough to withstand its’ scorching sense of nihilistic suffering.
After receiving the first print of former husband’s latest novel “Nocturnal Animals”, fashion designer Susan Morrow (Adams) begins to delve deep into the dark and twisted story that her former lover has created, all-the-while reminiscing not only her own, personal life struggles but the way in which her relationship with former husband Edward Sheffield (Gyllenhaal) came to an end. Mixing in a somewhat Lynchian nihilism to developments as well as a wide range of thrilling yet hard-going set pieces, reminiscent of films such as Lynch’s Blue Velvet and even films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in terms of the film’s relentless darkness, Nocturnal Animals will indeed not be for everyone, yet much like Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon earlier this year, some will revel in its’ extreme genre crossing boundaries; myself included. Whilst the film’s rather off-kilter and entirely misjudged opening title sequence prevents the movie from being anything close to perfection, Nocturnal Animals is one of the most refreshing and original movies of the year.
Overall Score: 9/10
“Could We Go Back To Texas Now?”
Oh boy, it’s glad to be back. Taking a much needed couple of weeks off from the cinema during the over-long Easter break, my return to the big-screen begins with Midnight Special, the newest film from the mind of Jeff Nichols, best know for films such as Take Shelter and the critically acclaimed Mud a couple of years back. Erasing the horror of my last venture into the cinema before my break, with Batman v Superman still hurting my mind every time I think about it, I ventured into Midnight Special hardly knowing anything about it apart from the incredibly solid A-List cast featuring the likes of the brilliant Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton as well as the newest Sith Lord himself, Adam Driver being on the payroll. Mixing in-between genres quicker than you can say space invaders, Midnight Special is a strange, quirky movie, one that undeniably revels in showing off it’s love of movies like E.T and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in fact, it’s love of Spielberg in general, yet it ultimately fails to live up to the great man, coming up short in many aspects that could have perhaps made it a future cult classic.
Delving right into the mix of things, Midnight Special begins head-first into the action, with little characterisation to begin with being offset with ambiguous plot threads ranging from a mysterious cult, to the involvement of the FBI and DEA, and finally, the kidnapping of a young child, one whom may not be all he seems, ripping a plot device used so effectively in Rian Johnson’s Looper, a film which bears minor similarities to Midnight Special, along with a hint of last years’ Tomorrowland, particularly in the film’s slightly over-long final third. Mix in a element of A.I, and the recipe completes the blueprints to Midnight Special, a film which begins well enough but then slightly descends into generic sci-fi territory, with added corny CGI thrown into the midst. A solid sci-fi, but nothing extraordinary, but hey, at least it’s better than Batman v Superman.