Films I’ve seen this week, my ratings:
Imperium (Daniel Ragussis, 2016) 3/5
Good performances, especially Toni Collette. Daniel Radcliff is cast against type as a neo-Nazi undercover FBI agent. Not as interesting for its psychological depth as other films about skinheads (This is England, American History X, Romper Stomper, The Believer), but a fairly entertaining ‘undercover cop’ subgenre thriller if you liked Mississippi Burning and The Departed.
Born to be Blue (Robert Budreau, 2015) 3/5
No way did I think Ethan Hawke could pull playing a mercurial, drug-addicted iconic Jazz player, but like Radcliff in Imperium I was wrong. Hawke doesn’t really look or sound anything like the real Chet Baker, especially if you’ve seen the brilliant documentary Let’s Get Lost. I’d have imagined a wrinkled, emaciated Bradd Pitt playing the role, but not Hawke, he never struck me as a versatile actor who could do accents like Depp or Pitt. The film is not really a biopic, or even anything to do with Chet Baker, just an examination of the persona and his mythic struggle with addiction and fame. I was reminded of the Clint Eastwood/Forest Whitaker biopic about Charlie Parker, Bird, which I think was alot better made. I have yet to watch the Don Cheadle biopic about Miles Davis Miles Ahead.
The BFG (Steven Spielberg, 2016) 3/5
Perhaps Roald Dahl’s most popular book, and one I remembered seeing as animated film as a child. There are elements to this story which are profundly disturbing; the giants devouring children. I was surprised Spielberg decided to adapt this film just as I was with Tintin and his interest in the Harry Potter films; perhaps I shouldn’t have been. I’d just assumed that with ET, Jurassic Park and Hook, Spielberg would’ve lost interest in making family friendly films, but he seems happy to do them. Visually the film is pretty good, with a its mix of CGI and live action, but I wonder if this will be the last of the nostalgic British kiddie stories featuring by magic. I enjoyed Robert Zemeckis’ Beowolf alot more.
Mr Turner (Mike Leigh, 2015) 4/5
Probably would’ve given this film 5 stars but don’t think it was really a masterpiece. Unlike Hawke in Born to be Blue, or other biopics about icons and political figures, Mike Leigh tells a ordinary story about an ordinary man who happened to be an extroadinary British artist and this is what makes the film charming and enjoyable. It also shows the complexity, and Leigh, one of my alltime favourite directors, goes to length for both historic accuracy and character portrayal, as he’d done with his previous films Life Is Sweet, Secrets and Lies and Naked. Although I’d found Topsy Turvy and Vera Drake quite dull. Visually, like Turner’s paintings, the film is beautiful, and feels like something Spielberg or Scorsese would’ve recreated. Leigh also has devilish sense of humour and loves show hypocrasy amongst the upper-classes, at times Timothy Spall appears to be deliberately imitating a pig to irritate the gentry.
The Magnificient Seven (Antoine Fuqua, 2016) 1/5
Well, I don’t think I liked the original western with Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner (directed by John Sturges), and much preferred the violent chaos of antihero films The Wild Bunch, The Long Riders, Dirty Dozen etc. Obviously this is a remake of a remake of an iconic Samuria epic by Akira Kurosawa. The film also stars Ethan Hawke as a traumatised gunslinger and friend of the lead hero played Denzel Washington. You know the story, a hero on a mission to save a small town terrorised by bandits recruits a bunch of misfits and outlaws to defeat them, and despite the odds they win. Whereas Kurosawa’s original film seemed like an ironic but heartfelt film about redemption and the ancient warrior code to protect the innocent, this doesn’t quite translate the same way with either version of the Magnifient 7, especially where darker, edgier films by Howard Hawks, John Ford, Sergio Leone, Anthony Mann and Sam Peckinpah appear to challenge the romanticism of the old west. Yes, although I really like fun movies about groups of outsiders who come together to join forces against a common enemy, as in the much better Silverado or Young Guns, this was the worst one I’d seen since Suicide Squad. Also the fact that neither Denzel Washington’s race, or the race of the Camanche, ever gets mentioned during the entire film, despite what has already been established with westerns such as Dances With Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, Glory and Django Unchained, you’d have thought issues of race and politics for a Hollywood production exploring American values and overcoming evil wouldn’t have felt so contrived.