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Film Review: David Lynch: The Art Life

“David, I Don’t Think You Should Ever Have Children…”

Eraserhead. Blue Velvet. Twin Peaks. Mulholland Drive. Inland Empire. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the one and only David Lynch is hands down my personal favourite filmmaker of all time, a man who knows no boundaries when it comes to the creation of cinema and a director who continues to baffle, amaze and wonder even to this day, with the return of Twin Peaks currently gracing our screens and being as surreal and beautifully constructed as ever. With that in mind, the chance to see David Lynch: The Art Life can only be classed as a “no-brainer”, a documentary constructed by the triage of Neergaard-Holm, Barnes and Nguyen, and a film which documents impressively the early stages of Lynch’s life, beginning with his upbringing in the Western state of Montana through to his breakthrough love of artistic freedom and concluding just before the release of the surrealist 1977 classic Eraserhead. 

Narrated completely by Lynch himself, The Art Life combines an awfully extravagant array of elements in order to gather an effective understanding of what it was like to be a young, doe-eyed, expressive Lynch, highlighting the extraordinary and wholly eclectic catalogue of Lynch’s penchant for surrealist art and and adding context to its’ foundations by channelling stories which seem to have crafted the entire back catalogue of Lynch’s propulsion onto cinema. Whether it be a tale of a clucking, mentally ill woman on his street or the first sight of natural, naked beauty, Lynch’s fundamental and wholly natural ability as a storyteller is really what makes the alluring appeal of his presence so impressive and when up against the challenge of holding the camera on just himself for ninety minutes, Lynch inevitably manages to pull it off. Whilst the film does lull in places, with the normality of Lynch’s life never really holding its own when contrasted with the nightmarish images that haunt particular scenes of the documentary, The Art Life is an interesting portrayal of one man’s quest onto cinema and whilst Lynch himself is never going to be for everyone, the documentary is clearly made for those who truly adore him. Myself included.

Overall Score: 7/10

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Film Review: The Beguiled

“You’re Our Most Unwelcome Visitor, And We Do Not Propose To Entertain You…”

Although the inevitably of almost always being regarded as the daughter of legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola more than anything else, Sofia Coppola has more than done enough to earn her stripes as an effective creator of film in her own right, with the Bill Murray starring Lost in Translation always being the first movie which really kicked off the critical plaudits for art and something which has continued through the likes of Marie Antoinette, The Bling Ring and this week’s release of The Beguiled, a somewhat eclectic collection of previously used Coppola stars including Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst, all set within the confines of a Civil War-ridden Virginian school for girls which features Nicole Kidman’s Miss Martha Farnsworth as headteacher. Featuring the smoky, charcoal cinematography of Philippe Le Sourd and some top-notch performances from its’ wonderfully selected cast, The Beguiled is an interesting and wholly entertaining claustrophobic drama, one which dwells on the presence of the outsider and the battling nature of fundamental human emotions.

After allowing the recovery of the wounded Irish mercenary, Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) within the confines of her school, Farnsworth (Kidman) attempts to balance the safety of her fellow residents with the emotions brought up by the inclusion of McBurney’s charming, elegant mannerisms and ways, emotions which are shared also by fellow teacher Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst) and the youth infused innocence of Elle Fanning’s Alicia. With an opening title sequence which completely sets the tone for the classic feel of Coppola’s latest, The Beguiled mixes seething sexual tensions with a thrilling twist of ambiguity, bringing to light recent releases such as My Cousin Rachel and even It Comes at Night as obvious reference points, even when Coppola’s script is wholly based upon the 1966 original novel by Thomas P. Cullinan and the 1971 Don Siegel movie of the same name. With brilliantly measured performances from Farrell, Kidman and the ever-radiant presence of Elle Fanning, The Beguiled culminates in a final act which is as juicy in its’ execution as it is suitably fulfilling, something which could serve as a pithy review for the film as a whole, and whilst the drama is rather televisual at times, The Beguiled is a well-played, short and sweet drama which proves that not all remakes are destined for the bargain bin.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Snatched

“What I Need Is An Amazing Adventure…”

In a world where American comedy is usually as effective as a chocolate teapot, Amy Schumer undeniably is up there with the worst that particular side of the continent has delivered over the course of the past few years, with her venture onto the big screen with releases such as Trainwreck burdening millions with her screechy Americanised tones and hysterically dull sensibility which really doesn’t compute with my idea of an effective comedic personality, particularly in a day and age in which memorable comedies are quite hard to find. Co-starring this week in Snatched with Hollywood legend Goldie Hawn, mother of Kate Hudson and partner to the awesomely cool Kurt Russell, Schumer once again proves that her particular brand of comedy just doesn’t work within the cinematic atmosphere, resulting in a performance which ultimately solidifies the notion of her inability to create laughs through a tired and cliche-ridden narrative which attempts to turn the vulgarity up to eleven in order to distract the audience from the utter boredom which encompasses the events on-screen. Goldie Hawn, what on Earth are you doing in this movie? I guess a gas bill must be due sometime soon. Ker-ching indeed.

After being dumped by her rock and roll boyfriend, Schumer’s unbelievably annoying leading character decides to make the most of her pre-planned trip to South America by inviting her feline-loving mother (Goldie Hawn) with a penchant for over-protection and questionable sculpturing techniques. Cue loud and completely unnecessary scenes of alcoholism, party music and nudity, Snatched is the type of 21st century so-called “comedy” which adds to the argument that the good times have most definitely come and gone in regards to its’ respective genre. Whilst Hawn seems to be there only for the sake of financial inducement, the film really doesn’t paint a sympathetic picture of its’ leading character, resulting in a warped sensibility which desires her captors to actually go through with their sickening plan and dispose of their prisoners as swiftly as possible. If this was indeed the case, the audience would have been spared from a 90 minute bore-fest whose only redeemable character is the poor U.S state department official who gets forced to help save their lives. Maybe next time mate, just forget the rescue and leave them to it.

Overall Score: 3/10

Catch-Up Film Review: Rings

 “I Keep Thinking About This Story. There’s This Video That Kills You. Seven Days After You Watch It…”

Blah, blah, blah. Whilst there is nothing new in the notion of American remakes, the category in which really grinds my gears is the one filled to the rim with English-speaking “re-imaginings” of foreign language horror movies, with absolute classics in the form of A Tale of Two Sisters, Let The Right One In and Ju-on: The Grudge all being mashed up and reproduced in the flight of gaining a quick yet tainted blood-stained buck on the account of the butchery which tends to happen when foreign movies are translated onto an audience which is primarily English speaking. Of the many horror franchises which has roots well and truly set in the minds of more intelligent filmmakers, Rings, directed by Spanish filmmaker F. Javier Gutiérrez, is yet another entry into the Ringu canon which began all the way back in 1998 with Hideo Nakata’s terrifying cinematic take on the Koji Suzuki novel of the same name, and whilst the third American entry seems to begin with an element of interest, Rings unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, ends up being yet another wasted opportunity, with it not only coming across as incredibly offensive to horror fans across the world, effectively spits on the shadow of its’ former self with its’ sheer and utter dreadfulness.

With a leading star who carries as much charisma and interest as an ASDA bag for life, Rings begins with a narrative which looks as if it is set to offer some new light into the world of spooky water-covered teenagers with long black hair by delving into a somewhat underground network of shady college preps who view the infamous killer video tape as a reason to get up in the morning, using the threat of Samara as a messed up type of adrenaline rush alongside a basis for Johnny Galecki’s character’s thesis on the mystery of her existence. Whilst this interesting notion covers roughly the first fifteen minutes of the movie, the following 90 minutes is essentially a cheap re-telling of a story in which every single person in the cinematic world is now bored to death with, trading real elements of threat and suspense with cheesy dialogue and awful jump scares which rely on the power of the cinema’s sound system in order to actually come across as worthwhile. News alert; they don’t. Ending on a supposed twist which offers up the idea that the franchise is set to continue into the future, Rings is the type of cinematic face-palm which you really struggle to understand its’ existence. If you’re thinking of buying it on DVD, don’t.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: Rules Don’t Apply

“You’re An Exception. The Rules Don’t Apply To You…”

Whilst Warren Beatty might be best known in contemporary media circles as being lead conspirator in the Best Picture fiasco at this year’s Academy Award’s ceremony, a recent high-profile cock-up more commonly known as “La La-Gate”, the attention comes in a somewhat suspiciously well timed manner considering the release of Rules Don’t Apply this week, a picture directed, produced, written by and of course, starring the cinematic legend, who takes the leading mantle as infamous businessman Howard Hughes within the setting of 1950’s Hollywood, supported by a simply enormous cast featuring the likes of Hail! Caesar star Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin and the always superb, Ed Harris. With a cast as vast as this, Rules Don’t Apply is the type of movie you would think on the surface is one which everyone in the current cinematic world seemed to aching to be involved in, particularly with the reputation of Beatty at the helm, yet the finished picture is one of entirely mixed fortunes, one which suffers from a non-existent narrative and some misjudged moments of self-indulgence amidst some basic film-making errors which makes you wonder whether the real Warren Beatty should most definitely stand up.

Of the good things within Rules Don’t Apply, the leading trio of Beatty, Ehrenreich and Collins each give respectable performances amidst a screenplay which doesn’t really offer much chance to break new ground, with Beatty really hitting the zany mark in his depiction of Howard Hughes, taking cues from DiCaprio in The Aviator when needed but strictly focusing on the wilder side of the infamous billionaire, whilst Ehrenreich continues to impress every time I see him perform on screen, gearing him up for inevitable higher levels of stardom come next year’s Han Solo spin-off release. Star of the picture however is Lily Collins as the doe-eyed and wondrous Marla Mabrey, the keen and confident Virginian rookie who although is trying sometime in terms of awkward character quips and decision making, is a real find and completely holds her own against the likes of Beatty in a leading role. As for the not-so good elements of the film, Beatty treats the film as a personal blueprint for himself to engage in exceptional levels of excess, an understandable element when considering the character in which he is portraying, yet the sight of an aged Hollywood legend feeling up an intoxicated young star really didn’t sit well on a personal level whilst some fundamental film-making traits are completely disregarded, with endless questionable edits and narrative trails which simply go nowhere. resulting in a movie which ultimately is a complete drag to sit through and when you consider the talent at hand behind it, Rules Don’t Apply can only be regarded as a monumental disappointment.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: Allied

“Being Good At This Job Isn’t Very Beautiful…”

Brad Pitt. Marion Cotillard. Robert Zemeckis. Add into the mix screenwriter Steven Knight, best known for Eastern Promises and Peaky Blinders alongside a range of lesser work such as Burnt and last years’ unbelievably dire Seventh Son, and Allied could be regarded as a much anticipated meeting of the majestic, with all factors of the film’s main quartet being able to hit full stride when needed. Unfortunately for Zemeckis and co,. Allied isn’t exactly a work of cinematic art, in fact, it is far from it, with the film’s impressively strong beginning being offset by a shabby middle and end, alongside some strange plot decisions and an ending so fluffy it wouldn’t be amiss in a Disney movie. As for the film’s narrative, Allied follows the relationship of Max (Pitt) and Marianne (Cotillard) who fall in love after their success during a mission within German-occupied Morocco in the height of the second world war. After returning to London, Max is told some grave news regarding his recently wed wife, grave news which shakes his life to the core.

As is the perils of modern day cinema, if you’ve seen the trailer for Allied, which wouldn’t be much of a surprise seeing how it seems to be absolutely everywhere at the moment, you’ve basically seen the majority of the film, albeit the movie’s climax, a climax which isn’t entirely much of a shocker in itself, and this is a fundamental issue regarding the film’s overall quality. IF the big reveal wasn’t blasted at the audience before they’d even set foot into the cinema, maybe the attraction of Allied would have been less so but this may have been made up for in terms of shock factor when the reveal was made in the actual film. Who knows, and more importantly, who cares. Allied isn’t the best work to come from the likes of Robert Zemeckis, the man behind fantastic work such as Back to the Future and Forest Gump, and instead is rooted somewhere between the likes of What Lies Beneath and The Walk. A solid, if rather hokey, thriller sums up Allied but hey, hokey is good sometimes.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: War Dogs

“When Does Telling The Truth Ever  Help Anybody…?

One of the most crystal clear components of War Dogs, the latest comedic drama from Hangover Trilogy director Todd Phillips, is the obvious and sometimes uncanny influence of Martin Scorsese, particularly that of Goodfellas and Casino, with the fast-paced formula and quick-fire editing of War Dogs being the staple within a blueprint which verges on the edge of daylight robbery. Saying that, although the principle layout of War Dogs is not exactly the most original, the film is saved two-fold by the inclusion of Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in the films’ lead roles, lead roles which are characterised clearly by each side of a coin, with Teller’s David Packouz being the twisted moral compass in partnership with Jonah Hill’s greed-infested monster, Efraim Diveroli. Adding to the Scorsese influence is the notion that War Dogs is essentially Lord of War meets Wolf of Wall Street, a film in which Hill also starred in and a film which too has a black heart at its’ core, showcasing the evilness of greed and the consequences certain actions inevitably lead towards. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun though.

In a year in which The Big Short gave us a comedic insight into the downfall of the economy and America’s presidential race being wholeheartedly in the spotlight, War Dogs does seem rather timely. A satire into the gun-ho nature of the US war efforts, War Dogs does feature some rather top-end black humour and although the movie does suffer when heading into the direction of vulgar, laddish type humour between our two leads, reminiscent of the director’s previous work, its’ the dramatic seriousness within the movie which makes the film work as a whole, particularly the third and final act in which we witness the inevitable downfall of our two leads who realise to what extent their “illegal” doings have had on not only themselves, but the country as a whole. War Dogs is by no means perfect, but it is very entertaining and a double-bill with a film like The Big Short would be a quickfire lesson into the politics and principles of the world as we know it today. Nihilism is a bitch.

Overall Score: 8/10 

Film Review: The Shallows

“It Is Paradise…”

Looking at the back catalogue of director Jaume Collet-Serra brings with it an overt sense of trepidation. I mean House of Wax, come one, who on earth thought it was a good idea to cast Paris Hilton in anything, whilst Goal 2 and the Liam Neeson helmed trilogy of Unkonwn, Non-Stop and Run All Night don’t exactly ring the bells of excellence. With The Shallows however, Collet-Serra has brought to life “Jaws for the 21st century” as many have called it, yet my memory of Jaws was most definitely not one that included a rather silly screenplay, an overbearing sense of tin-eared dialogue and camera work so transfixed with its’ leading star that it verges on the edge of creepiness. You’ve got it folks, The Shallows is ironically, rather shallow and inept, a survival drama with no sense of threat, no sense of danger whatsoever and whose only character with more than a one dimensional feel to it is a flippin’ seagull. That’s right Lively, you aren’t the hottest bird in this particular movie.

So The Shallows expects us to believe that a supposedly intelligent med-school drop-out would continue with her journey into the unknown titular secret beach without her friend who feels its’ more important to hang out with cliched hot holiday dude. No, I don’t believe that. Secondly, the camera is so transfixed upon said med-school drop-out that I felt a restraining order was only a court case away, with the constant close-ups and wide-angled focusing of Lively just plain creepy akin to the recent treatment of the character of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. Thirdly, every single character is just there for the sake of it. No smooth characterisation whatsoever, just mashed up sentiment which is enforced in order to feel for our beloved surfer chick. Does it work? No, but does the film work aside from it? No. Although the underwater shots are well done and Steven Seagull is the best thing in it, The Shallows is just meh, and meh is not how I would summarise my memory of Jaws. 

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: The Boss

“Let’s Watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre…”

Yes, we probably should have watched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original, not the remake, and a film which reminds me how thrilling and dramatic high quality cinema can become, something of which The Boss, directed by Ben Falcone and starring Melissa McCarthy, is most certainly not. However, in a week in which the human race has been subjugated to the horror show of Gods of Egypt, The Boss most certainly is a slight step up, however not the laugh-filled spectacular many would have thought when seeing McCarthy on the cast list, a comedic actress in which I can wholeheartedly state I am not the biggest fan of, with her latest cinematic venture being a reminder of what happens when comedy goes wrong, with The Boss being strapped full of face-palming plot points, dead-end jokes and one-liners that verge on the edge of profanity. At least one thing can be said for Gods of Egypt, it’s funnier than The Boss, regardless of how unintentional that may be.

Focusing on the exploits of the greed-inflicted Michelle Darnell, who after being incarcerated and losing her entire income and empire sets to rebuild her wealth by exploiting the work of minors by selling brownies, The Boss expects you to empathise with a woman who not only becomes a white-collar criminal within the first five minutes of the movie, but a woman who believes using children as pawns in her tactic to regain her strength in the economic world is indeed the most important thing to do now she is free in the outside world. Feel empathetic yet? No, me neither, and this alone is a fundamental flaw in the films’ genetic make-up. Add into the mix jokes that full flat on their face and a script so wayward it seems to have be written as a blind bet, The Boss is a comedic mess from beginning to end, a comedic mess which features the second awful Game of Thrones cameo in the space of a week with Peter Dinklage now having a pop at degrading his reputation. Oh well, at least Game of Thrones is on tomorrow.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: Midnight Special

“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. 

Overall Score: 6/10