Paris Can Wait

Movie Score: 0 out of 5 (Horrible, avoid at all costs)

Cast: Diane Lane, Arnaud Viard, & Alec Baldwin

Writer & Director: Eleanor Coppola

Synopsis: Anne Lockwood (Diane Lane) is the wife of busy movie producer Michael Lockwood (Alec Baldwin). The couple are at the Cannes film festival and have to travel to Budapest for Michael’s work. Anne suffers from ear-ache and decides to meet her husband on the next leg of their trip in Paris. Michael’s partner, Jaques, offers to drive Anne to Paris and she accepts. The pair depart from Cannes, but fail to reach Paris as speedily as Anne desires because Jaques takes her on multiple side trips to his favorite restaurants and villages.

Paris Can Wait reveals that greatness in filmmaking is a non-transferable asset through marriage. Eleanor Coppola (wife of Francis Ford Coppola) failed in her endeavor to emulate the romantic magic of a Nancy Meyers’ film. She set herself up well with a romantic destination (small villages in rural France), the possibility of an unhappy marriage, and a doting goof to woo the leading lady’s heart (Jaques). Despite selecting the correct trappings of the genre, Coppola fails to correctly execute the motifs.

For example, normally in a love triangle, the female lead is unhappy in her relationship because her husband/partner neglects her. Once she meets the hero, he wins her heart through acts of kindness, humor, and sex appeal. However, only one of these things occurs in Paris. Michael Lockwood ignores Anne at the beginning of the movie. However, he does not mistreat her to the extent that would justify to the audience her leaving him. Michael’s greatest sins occur when he overlooks the fact that Anne’s ear hurts and takes a phone call when she is talking to him. True, such behavior is a little rude, but after the first ten minutes, Michael ends all such negative conduct. Even though he’s in Budapest on business, he calls her several times in two days, asking about how her ear feels and her trip with Jaques thus appearing like a caring husband. If Coppola wanted the audience to root for Anne to leave Michael for Jaques then she needed to make Michael more unlikeable.

However, the worst part of the film is not Michael as a “bad” husband, but Jaques as the film’s “hero.” Jaques lacks charm, looks, and tact. Really, he is just a creep. During a ride through the countryside the couple suffered from one of many uncomfortable silence. Anne tries to break it by playing the beloved car game, I Spy. She says, “I spy something with four legs.” They had just passed a herd of cows, so obviously she meant cows. In response, Jaques puts her hand on Anne’s leg, and as she tenses, he says, “I spy something with two lovely legs.” She tries to laugh it off, but I could only cringe as Anne had no where to run and no one to save her. Sadly, the creepiness doesn’t end there. During one meal, early on in the movie, while talking about Michael and his busy production schedule, he asks Anne, “Are you happy?” Flustered, she cannot answer because he blurts out, “Is your husband faithful?” These two characters do not know each other well besides Jaques’ business partnership with Michael , so this question is horribly inappropriate. Later in that same meal, he continually refills her wine glass. His intentions become so obvious that Anne even asks, “Are you trying to get me drunk?” Jacques just shrugs his shoulders, offering no verbal answer which connotes a silent “yes.” People should boycott this movie for this scene alone.

To add to the pile of garbage that is Jaques, throughout the movie he fails to pay for their five-star meals, stating that he lost his credit card. While he does repay her at the end of the movie, he continues to take her to fancy restaurants while making her pay for them.

The restaurant ordeal brings me to my final point: Anne had no agency. Wherever Jacques wanted to go, she had to acquiesce to his desires. He had the car, he spoke the country’s language, and knew his way around. Anne possessed none of these things. After accepting his offer to drive her to Paris, Anne made no decisions for the next half of the movie. In fact, she continually implores him, “Please, no more stops till Paris.” Yet Jaques continues to stop since “Paris can wait” even though Anne just wants to get to Paris. In most romance movies, the lead has the ability to choose between her man and the hero. Coppola affords Anne no such choice.

The final nail in this movie’s coffin occurred at the end. When the two say their goodbyes, Jaques turns to her and tells her, “I made a bet with myself… that I would not make an advance on you.” I laughed out loud. Throughout the movie, every time they were in the same room, he made advances on her and most of them unwanted. During the last fifteen minutes, Anne magically starts taking control and looking fondly upon our fat and tactless French hero. The audience is supposed to believe that Anne turned a corner and started to “stop and smell the roses” (her favorite flower). But I believe Coppola must have reread her script and realized Jacques was a goon and she gave Anne no agency so she tried to rectify it. However, her late alterations made the movie more fake than romantic. You can hear the movie’s falseness in Anne’s laugh. She filled it with empty the “ha-ha” that we give someone who is telling us a factoid that we don’t give a damn about.

Do yourself a favor and go see Wonder Woman instead of this pile of shite. For trailer, see below.

Target Audience: Old people with nothing better to do than waste 90 minutes on a stormy afternoon.

By Hagood Grantham

 

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The Red Turtle

Movie Score: 5 out of 5 (Classic)

Director: Michaël Dudok de Wit

Synopsis: An allegory of family, nature, innocence and more, The Red Turtle revolves around an unnamed man who becomes stranded on island which refuses to let him go.

The Red Turtle’s plays on the saying ‘no man is an island’. Life, its value and its purpose, stem from our connections with the world, and our loved ones. The life and identity of the unnamed man before being cast away are never revealed. At The Red Turtle’s beginning, he bursts from the water amid a dark storm. Devoid of anything, the man’s arrival on the island is his rebirth, from which he begins to adapt to the island, until one scene where he falls asleep, slowly forming the shape of the mountain which peaks the island.

The man becomes part of the island, and the island becomes the world. The Red Turtle lets us witness the cycle of life with an intimacy of a documentary, as scenes focus upon the rainfall in a monsoon, birds flying in the dusk, or the havoc of a storm. The island’s wildlife being to react to the man, adopting the air of children. The wildlife and its behaviour endears us the island providing levity, but also emotional impact, when the harshness of life bears down.

Director de Wit years of effort to create The Red Turtle has forged a masterpiece which requires little dialogue to connect us with the unnamed man’s trials and tribulations. Instead, de Wit uses the island itself as a series of props to convey emotions and ideas to us, alongside eerie dream sequences and the haunting lullaby soundtrack. De Wit’s spartan art style, blending Asiatic economy with a European colour palette, renders the vibrant island alive.

The Red Turtle, which was eventually backed by Studio Ghibli, epitomises the power of animated film. The genre is as profound and provocative as other forms of cinema and can be appreciated by adult audiences. This is a beautiful film which will stay in your eyes and your mind long after viewing as you ponder of its meaning. That being said, The Red Turtle is not a film for children. At times my attention wavered, and when viewing it at the Southbank in London, the bulk of the audience were in their 30’s or older. For parents looking for a good animated film for children below 14, I recommend Belleville Rendez-vous, which is below and a favourite of mine.

I have said little about the film’s plot for fearing of spoiling the story.  The trailer for The Red Turtle is below, but I would strongly advise you to not watch it before viewing the film. Having only watched the trailer after viewing the film, it is a better experience The Red Turtle blind, allowing the twists and turns to have their full weight.

Do watch de Wit’s earlier short film, Father and Daughter, before viewing The Red Turtle. It is linked below the review and acts as an indirect and helpful prelude to ideas and themes in The Red Turtle.

By Saul Shimmin

The Red Turtle Trailer

Father and Daughter (full-film)

 

Belleville Rendez-Vous trailer

Alien: Covenant

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Cast: Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Michael Fassbender

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: The Covenant and its crew are carrying 2,000 colonists towards a new life deep into unknown space. Just like the original Alien, the crew stumble across a distress signal from an unexplored planet. The covenant follows the signal and horror ensues.

Halfway through Alien: Covenant one of the characters declares that ‘if one note is off, the whole symphony fails’. His words are prophetic for the film itself.

Alien: Covenant is an enjoyable film with scares equalling the terrifying Alien.  Unfortunately, Alien: Covenant shares the same problems as Prometheus. It self-proclaims its own profoundness and complexity but buckles under this ambition, resulting in occasionally poor dialogue and plot omissions. Only Scott’s renewed focus upon the monsters distracts you from Covenant’s flaws until the film ends.

The film evades any of the questions raised by Prometheus, concluding without any finality to the Alien arc. The cliff hanger ending was well-delivered, but exposes the whole film to be mere kindling for another sequel. Nor does Alien: Covenant provide an explanation of past events for new viewers.  I found the film engrossing, but Alien: Covenant will confuse the uninitiated, and disappoint fans expecting answers to Prometheus.

Alien: Covenant does have many merits. Scott has repeated the pragmatically futuristic design from Alien, coupled with CGI, to create a grounded and believable world. Alien: Covenant is genuinely terrifying, with Scott returning to the slasher-esque feel of the original as the crew scramble to fight or flee from the monsters. The monsters themselves do fall flat  in earlier scenes where they are clearly computer generated, but their menace grows, especially when they appear in glimmers before snatching their prey.

Scott, when interviewed in a Q and A about Alien, said that if you cast properly for a film you have done half of the work. For Alien: Covenant, Scott stuck to his maxim. The cast is a solid roster who convincingly portray the Covenant’s crew. Danny McBride (Tennessee) and Katherine Waterston (Daniels) stand out from the cast. In the past Waterston has stuck to roles portraying damsels in distress. At Alien: Covenant’s beginning, it seemed that Waterston would repeat that role, but she transforms into the pragmatic leader of the survivors. Danny McBride, known for comedic roles, suits the slightly more serious character in Alien: Covenant. It would be great to see him in similar roles soon.

One of the best aspects of the film is the power play within the Covenant’s crew. Certain characters, as tragedies unfold, either break or harden, letting us witness a power shift between the crew from Alien: Covenant’s beginning to end.

Michael Fassbender, as identical androids David and Walter, delivers a great performance once more. Both characters are mirror opposites of each other, developing a twisted father-son relationship, repeating David’s own relationship with Peter Weyland, the androids’ creator.

Other characters may seem underdeveloped, but Alien: Covenant is a monster film, with a vast cast to boot. Given the circumstances, it would be difficult for many of the characters to be well-developed before they die off. However, the lack of expostion for David causes his surrounding air of mystery to dwindle, transforming him into a vaudeville villain.

David’s character underlines what might be the central flaw of Alien: Covenant and Prometheus. Both films require a near complete focus and prior viewing of Scott’s earlier sci-fi films, to understand and appreciate their stories and themes. Personally, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, through their focus on artificial intelligence and conflicts between the creator and the created, are spiritual successors to Blade Runner.

For the every-man, Alien: Covenant will likely disappoint and confuse as much as it may entertain.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

 

The Handmaiden- Review

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Director: Park Chan-Wook

Cast: Tae-Ri Kim, Jung-Woo Ha, Min-Hee Kim, Jing-Woong Jo

Synopsis: Thief Sook-Hee (Tae-Ri Kim) is hired by conman Count Fujiwara (Jung-Woo Ha) to aid in his plan to steal the rich Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (Min- Hee Kim) away from her Uncle Kouzuki (Jin-Woong Jo). Yet a simple con trick spirals into an exquisitely filmed sexual thriller laced with the weirdness and humour which hallmark Park Chan-Wook’s films. The Handmaiden is a must see for fans of Park Chan- Wook.

Stoker was the first Park Chan-Wook film I saw. The experience of watching Stoker was akin to a dream before waking where the world is vivid and surreal yet so close to our own. While Stoker‘s gothic overtones lingers in your mind, The Handmaiden haunts with its visceral autopsy of male fantasies, which occasionally devolves into a sexploitation but with better cinematography. The film echoes a restrained ambience of weirdness throughout refraining from the excesses of David Lynch. The Handmaiden bristles with a visual opulence matching the decadence tasted by the Japanese elite which Lady Hideko and her uncle belonged to. Yet beyond the physical trappings, grandiose manor, and clean city streets which are revealed, there is a richness in every scene, particularly when the camera pans across the landscape. The verdant greens of mature firs revealed during a night-time drive clash with the blazing sun and roaring blue waves beating against the cliffs upon which Uncle Kouzuki’s estate sits. The Handmaiden may not be Park Chan-Wook’s masterpiece, but surely presents his mastery of film.

The Handmaiden commences as a scheme to dupe Lady Hideko and slowly becomes a tale about women fighting against a male society that fetischizes and manipulates them. For a film that is an unfettered delve into sexual desire, the setting of Japanese controlled Korea in the 1930’s is a politically barbed statement towards Japan. The backdrop of Japanese rule coupled with the sordid desires of Uncle Kouzuki and his entourage of respectable Japanese noblemen eerily reminded me of the Comfort Women.

The Comfort Women were young women in the Asian countries conquered by Japan during the 1930’s and World War Two who were forced to be sex slaves. This dark sliver of history remains inflammatory between Japan and its Asian neighbours, where the events of World War Two are fresh wounds compared to Europe. While The Handmaiden bears no explicit reference to Comfort Women, the film’s depiction of sex and desire loses any whiff of eroticism once the connotations strike home, morphing The Handmaiden into a graphic attack on Japan’s misdeeds in Korea. Delving into hard subject matter is nothing novel for Park Chan-Wook, and his brand of black humour prevents The Handmaiden from excessive brooding. Both Count FujiWara and Uncle Kouzuki deliver comic relief, helping to humanise their selfish and deceitful characters.

The Handmaiden is close to a masterpiece but is flawed by its own focus on sex. The film is advertised as sexual thriller, far beyond the fodder of 50 Shades of Grey. Yet The Handmaiden’s unbridled depiction of sex, both in reality and fantasy is intentionally perturbing to the point where I longed for the film’s end. Moreover, the ending disappointingly devolved into soft porn, pandering to the very sexual desires the film had earlier lampooned.

The Handmaiden is a film that should be seen for its beauty and its oddity, but I could not stomach repeated viewing.

Target Audience: Fans of Park Chan-Wook of adult age, so parents, keep your DVD copy in a safe place.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer see below:

 

The Exception [Trailer Review]

Outlook: Simple, but possibly pleasing

Director: David Leveaux

Cast: Lily James, Jai Courtney, Christopher Plummer, Ben Daniels, & Eddie Marsan.

Whenever the A24 logo appears, I pay attention. When I noticed that The Exception takes place during World War II, I was sold. After watching the trailer, the plot appears fairly basic: Forbidden love, dark secrets, and a mysterious man who may end up being the villain.

Receiving little information from the trailer, I will go see this movie because I’m willing to fully place my faith in A24 to produce another solid film after having success across varied genres such as VVitch, Ex Machina, Room, 20th Century Women, Locke, and Moonlight. However, we must all remember that not all of the studio’s films have been well received by critics and audiences. Take Trespass Against Us or Mojave. Both films displeased their respective viewers despite sporting strong casts and interesting plots.

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I’m a fan of Christopher Plummer and The Exception’s trailer is reminiscent of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which is one of my all time favorite films. Placing my bias aside, The Exception has the potential to be great if David Leveaux can balance the atmosphere of mystery that the trailer cultivates alongside the themes of love and duty.  However, The Exception may be the opposite of its namesake, relying upon the well-worn trope of star-crossed lovers and devolving into a half-boiled thriller.

Overall, I’m cautiously hopeful. Let us know your thoughts.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

The Last Jedi [Teaser Trailer]

Outlook: Face-melting excitement

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Benicio Del Toro, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, & Kelly Marie Tran

Last Jedi Poster.jpg

Hagood’s Review: 

To be perfectly honest, I cried when Rian Johnson introduced the trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. I am beyond excited for this movie. But I must steel myself and try to be logical.  I was equally excited for The Force Awakens and after three viewings of it, I must admit, I’m a bit let down. Rogue One was a much stronger movie and I’m hoping that Kathleen Kennedy and Lucas Film have learned that Finn’s modern dialogue/humor and a hackneyed plot do not belong in the Star Wars universe.

Now, to the trailer. It begins during Rey’s training. The first shot shows her scared and out of breath with Luke’s voice telling her to breath. This harkens back to Luke’s training on Dagobah when he entered the cave to face his fear. I’m sure Luke will not take his training of Rey lightly, especially after losing all his former padawans to Kylo and his Knights of Ren. He’ll want to overly train her so she can survive another bout with the new Dark Lord. Also, during The Last Jedi panel, Mark Hamill mentioned that Daisy was his “dog” then he caught himself and said “companion,” which I’m sure means Luke puts Rey through hell.

I was quite fond of the shot of Rey standing above the sea pit during another training session and the next shot of her training with the lightsaber as Luke looks on. Kylo’s crushed and smoldering helmet is certainly intriguing. Why did Kylo destroy it? Does he feel he finally realize that he needs to forge his own path instead of trying to follow Vader’s? Was he even the one who destroyed it?

Also, what are in the Jedi scrolls Rey touches? How did Luke get them? Didn’t the Sith destroy them after they executed Order 66? I was happy to hear Rian Johnson say that The Last Jedi will uncover more of Rey’s backstory. That was another one of my qualms with The Force Awakens. It just stated stuff (i.e. Maz having Luke’s lightsaber) without backing things up. Some mystery is fine, but I hope this movie substantiates such plot holes.

There was a distinctly Mad Max-esque shot on a desert plain that seemed to have AT-AT’s in the distance fighting Alliance (?) land speeders. This match-up will hopefully best The Force Awakens land-air battle between The First Order and the Alliance on Maz Kanata’s planet of Takodana. I found that battle to be an unfulfilling tease due to a great set-up but poor payoff.

Another question that arose for me was the fire scene at the end. Was that a flashback to the Knights of Ren destroying Luke’s training academy or in the present? Thankfully Kylo is back (my favorite character) and he seemed to be in the present because you could see the scar on his face that Rey dealt him.

Finally, what does Luke mean by “It’s time for the Jedi to end?” Does he mean they need to evolve like the Sith did when they transformed into the Knights of Ren? Or does he mean something completely different?

I loved this trailer. This is how trailers are supposed to be made. It gave away no plot, but instead raised many questions without answering them. Kudos to Disney, Lucas Film, Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson. I cannot wait for The Last Jedi. 

Saul’s Review:

Given the striking opening to this trailer, The Last Jedi may be the best directed Star Wars film so far.

In the teaser trailer, we see the First Order retaliate following their loss of Starkiller Base, mirroring The Empire Strikes Back. Captain Phasma walks towards a burning settlement while a rebel base is attacked. Clearly the First Order are going to be a far more ubiquitous menance in this film, instead of threatening the galaxy via a doomsday weapon hidden on a remote planet. It would be interesting to see the First Order begin to take over more of the galaxy, and finally expand beyond the edges of space. Hopefully, we will not lose old man Luke Skywalker due to the First Order’s wrath.

I have two questions following the trailer. Firstly, what will Finn’s role be? He briefly appears in what seems to be a medical capsule, but no other information is given. More importantly, does Luke’s belief that the Jedi must end mean that he is now between the lightside and the darkside? If he is, what new order will emerge?

For the trailer, see below:

 

Free Fire

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Director: Ben Wheatley

Executive producer: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Arnie Hammer, Ben Wheatley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, & Sharlto Copley

Free Fire is one long Mexican stand-off between gun smugglers and I.R.A. members after a deal goes south. Trapped together in the confines of a disused factory upon the dilapidated waterfront of 1970’s Boston, Free Fire is a more refined version of Reservoir Dogs. Laced with humour, especially from South African gun smuggler Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Free Fire is a refreshing romp that other action films could learn from. Ben Wheatley delivers a brilliant action film which does not attempt to be overly serious or complex.

By sporting such a large cast including well-known and recognisable actors, Free Fire risked becoming filled with half-developed characters acting as padding for the plot. Yet Free Fire’s setting of a locked room is the film’s biggest strength. It focuses our attention towards the battle to survive, leaving only a few brief pauses where we learn about the many characters through interactions and scraps of dialogue. Given the backdrop, the characters feel real as they squabble, try to outsmart their opponents, or simply survive.

Having been a fan of Ben Wheatley since A Field in England, it seems that pitting characters in a closed environment is becoming one of Wheatley’s tropes.

The action stands out in Free Fire. Instead of being a slick set of choreographed scenes, characters fire haphazardly and nervously as they scramble for cover, while bullets ricochet off the walls. No one is smoothly despatched in the film. Every character suffers injury upon injury which adds to the film’s dark humour. Nor is the film purely focused around the action. Subplots of romance, betrayal and rivalry quickly emerge between characters before and in between the shooting.

The cast all deliver great performances, but Sharlto Copley, as bumbling and arrogant South African gun runner Vernon, steals the show. Arnie Hammer (Ord) was a suprising favourite due to his rivalry with hardened IRA member Frank (Michael Smiley). Although Free Fire is an action-comedy which has no main character, there is no competition between the cast to be the comic relief, as each character has their own moment to shine.

There are a few moments near the end, where Free Fire‘s pace begins to falter, but otherwise this an enjoyable film.

Free Fire is a great film that you should go see while it is in the cinema.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

All Eyez on Me (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Exciting, but uncertain

Director: Benny Boom

Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Dominic L. Santana, & Jamal Woolard

I’m a huge Tupac fan, and I’ve been hankering for a movie focusing on the legend ever since Straight Outta Compton. This trailer paints a very exciting picture, but everyone involved with the project is largely untested. Director Benny Boom best known movies are B knockoffs like S.W.A.T.: Firefight and Next Day Air. The best thing he has going for him are his music video credits that include 50 Cent’s “Just a Lil Bit” and Ciara’s “1, 2 Step.” In other words, he understands the hip-hop community well. My other reservations include the cast. All Eyez on Me is Demetrius Shipp Jr.’s first movie and while he is Tupac’s doppelganger, that doesn’t guarantee an accurate or convincing portrayal of Tupac.

I’ll still happily go see it. I loved 2009’s Notorious that critics gave a middling 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. Us critics aren’t always right, so don’t take my words too seriously. Enjoy the trailer and I’ll let you know in June whether my fears are warranted.

Kong: Skull Island 

Kong: Skull Island  is an unimaginative soft reboot of the King Kong franchise, which squanders its interesting context and becomes a cheap counterfeit of Apocalypse Now.

Movie Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars (Average)

Cast: John Goodman, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John C. Reilly and more

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

I have never been a fan of monster films. If I wanted to spend my money watching a fight, I would buy boxing tickets. I was hoping that Kong: Skull Island might be more than a monster brawl, and stray towards a Cloverfield-esque plot, but it didn’t.

Kong: Skull Island  begins with an interesting premise by taking the main arc of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountain of Madness and placing it in the Nixon era. The result is a backdrop of paranoia and Cold War politics where the danger of hidden knowledge, embodied by Skull Island, the land where King Kong dwells, is the doom of the expedition. Kong quickly fails to fulfill any of the potential it establishes, and becomes a generic monster film aimed at families which is clearly the first product in a larger franchise chain. Skull Island’s tropical setting and its ethereal human society, led by downed World War Two pilot, Hank Marlowe, whose name is clear reference to Heart of Darkness, both borrow from Apocalypse Now.

These references soon proliferate, devolving the film from a quasi-homage to an outright counterfeiting of Apocalypse Now, with the helicopter scene shown in the Kong: Skull Island trailer mimicking the ride of the Valkyries scene, replete with a speaker system attached to one helicopters blaring out Wagner while bombs fall on the jungle below. The plot itself is an obvious set of events leading up to a big finale which is made glaringly obvious by the main characters, who are two dimensional signposts for the plot. The worst of all the cast has to be Colonel Packard, portrayed by the venerable Samuel. L. Jackson. Even Jackson cannot save a character whose existence is to warm up Kong for the big fight, despite Packard’s repeated quips that he will not lose another war, just like Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. James Conrad, the steeled former S.A.S. tracker who joins the expedition for money,  is Tom Hiddleston’s best Bear Grylls impression, which is best summarised as Grylls without the thrills.

Kong’s only saving grace is Hank Marlowe. John. C. Reilly channels a part of Steve Brule, creating a character who is both comical but oddly human. Unhinged by his experiences on the Island, he is wise to the dangers all around them, but sweetly naive about the outside world he longs to see again after thirty years. Upon the film’s end, I do hope they make a prequel revolving around Marlowe’s life on the Island which could blend Castaway with Jurassic Park.

To Jordan Vogt- Roberts’ credit, certain scenes, particularly the earlier battle scenes and initial encounters with the island and its ecology, were very well done. Other sections felt hackneyed and lazily done, with hardened photo-journalist Mason Weaver occasionally becoming a snap-happy tourist, despite the terrors they have endured.

Kong: Skull Island will soon become a steadfast favourite for families on Sunday afternoon T.V. and nothing else.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

 

Life

Life is another addition to the sci-fi, creature feature/suspense category. The film begins with with a team aboard the International Space Station waiting to receive a probe carrying sediment samples from Mars. The team soon discovers that the samples carry a dormant, single-cell life form, the first life to be discovered outside of Earth. After introducing the cell to different environments, the team’s lead scientist, Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) awakens the cell and begins to nurture it. After accidentally frightening the alien, known as Calvin, enters survival mode and death ensues.

Movie Score: 2.5 out of 5 (Average) 

 

–Spoilers Ahead–

While Life‘s special effects were breathtaking and often horrifying, I believe the movie’s screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the duo behind the fantastic films Zombieland and Deadpool) missed an opportunity to delve deeper into the dark recesses of humanity. They touched upon certain aspects of our existence: humans feelings of hatred, procreation, love, and unquestioning duty to protect one another. They even rationalized Calvin’s quest to massacre the crew as a survival-of-the-fittest reaction. However, they failed to appropriately address the humans’ survival instinct, leaving a rich topic untouched.

The writers’ first mistake was failing to provide themselves with the right characters to correctly portray life and enter the complex waters of humans’ animalistic survival-instincts. The International Space Station’s crew consisted of a bunch of overly rational, “good people.” CDC doctor, Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), who lived and died by her adherence to the code of her employer, pilot-come-physician, David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wanted to remain on the ISS and away from Earth, Sho Muraki (Hiroyuki Sananda) who’s wife just had a baby (that’s all we learn about Sho), the scientist Hugh Darry who loved other creatures (he was a good guy with an optimistic outlook despite being a paraplegic), the Russian who was kind, Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), and Ryan Reynolds’ character Rory Adams who mostly acted like Ryan Reynolds. The writers created no gray characters, people who were willing to put their survival before their crew-mates. I realize there might be one or two “good” people on a crew of six, but lacking at least one selfish guy/gal, who is willing to sacrifice others to escape Calvin, is not only unrealistic, but boring.

Despite eventually realizing they needed to kill Calvin to survive, the crew always seemed to do so without any ethical conundrums. The closest the astronauts came to a dilemma occurred when Calvin first turned hostile in the lab. Despite some self-sacrifices by members of the crew to save the others, I never believed their acts of “love.” Their uniform kindness made them unbelievable as characters because humans are not so pure. We are sinful creatures at heart.

The writers should have created a greedy, evil, sinful character to match Calvin’s ferocity, to overturn all the “goodness” and “humanity” on the International Space Station. For a moment, I thought Sho was going to be that character, but the script never clarified if his attempt to reach the lifeboat was an act of selfishness or stupidity.

In sum,  Life failed to showcase humanity’s darkside, the side that executed the Holocaust, the side that commits terrorism on a daily basis, the side that massacred Native Americans at Wounded Knee. Instead, every crew member lived by their code, played nice, and died nice.

This is not to say the movie didn’t have its moments. In actuality, I enjoyed many parts of the film. I truly relished how Reese and Wernick overturned many of the monster genre’s conventions. For example, they didn’t allow the crew’s minority members to die first. Though the movie’s finish wasn’t unexpected, they managed to add a pleasant twist and resist the happy ending trope. Also, some of the crew’s deaths were quite imaginative, and I dug seeing Calvin’s motivation for murder (survival) grow .

By Hagood Grantham

For the trailer, see below:

Two movie buffs readying to conquer the world.