Posted by Ali Gray
at 23:00 on 19 Jan 2017
One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2017 was to watch more movies I wouldn't normally watch, with the intent of broadening my cinematic horizons. Little did I know, the first invite to plop into my inbox would be for xXx: Return Of Xander Cage, an action movie so extreme that it doesn't even have the time to include the definitive article in its title. I have never walked out of a movie, but the closest I've ever come is during the first xXx in 2002, around about the time Vin Diesel's buff Generation X-er snowboarded down an avalanche on a tea tray. I assumed that in his absence, Cage had been hitting the books, ready to return older, wiser and woke. But then the movie opened with xXx jumping off a TV transmitter and skiing through a jungle, so I guess I'll be putting off the broadening of my cinematic horizons until another day.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 22:45 on 19 Jan 2017
Some actors go their whole lives without being offered a role as tasty as James McAvoy's character in Split. You've heard of roles being described as "scenery chewing"? In Split, M Night Shyamalan basically builds his sets out of beef jerky and invites McAvoy to tuck in. It's full-on Willy Wonka. As kidnapper Kevin who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities to you, me and I), McAvoy effectively has free reign of a buffet comprised of equal parts cheese, ham and bananas.
Please let's not ruin this. We have a great thing here: La La Land is the rare kind of spellbinding, wonderful film that has reviewers like me tripping over themselves to find new superlatives for describing it. It's simply flawless. But that means that there'll be an unholy inclination by some #hot-takers to put it down; to chip away at the film's perfect sheen just to say something "interesting". But can we just not, this time? Can't we just have this one? Don't we deserve to enjoy something this sweet and pure and lovely just for once? It certainly feels like it's been a while.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 23:00 on 19 Dec 2016
Passengers is a sci-fi with an easily adaptable premise: what if, on the 120-year journey through space to colonise another planet, you were the only person on your spaceship to wake up? You can imagine dozens of versions of this movie. The Werner Herzog version is slow and considered and intimate and depressing and everyone dies. The Michael Bay version is huge and costs a billion dollars and has bikini models in zero gravity and it turns out the spaceship is evil. Nestling uncomfortably in the halfway point between the two is Morten Tyldum's Passengers, a shiny spin on Jon Spaihts' screenplay that can't decide if it's a blockbuster or a character piece and ends up being neither.
For all the criticism aimed at Marvel, the thought of a 1-star or 2-star MCU movie these days just seems like an impossibility, and you'd like to think that we could expect the same for all forthcoming Star Wars instalments. Surely there are just too many talented stakeholders invested in the process to allow for any major misfires? And yet, there are valid reasons to fear for Rogue One: it's the first standalone spin-off, consisting of almost entirely new characters; director Gareth Edwards still has much to prove; rumours around the reshoots weren't kind; and of course the recent memory of the prequels is still hanging around like a clingy, irritating Gungan. So does Rogue One give us reason to believe that Star Wars will now always be in safe hands? Or is it just another hollow, unmemorable blockbuster facsimile? Is it a new hope, or just the latest attack of a clone?
Can you separate the art from the artist? Is it fair that a film with high hopes of awards potential is now being overlooked because of behind-the-scenes controversy? And should we let a 1999 rape charge brought against filmmaker and star Nate Parker affect how we view his depiction of rape in this film? One thing's for sure, film reviewers everywhere are grateful for being handed an easy opening paragraph before never mentioning the ethical dilemma again for the rest of the review because it's all a bit (*sharp intake of breath*)
There is a terrifying truth presented in Snowden, and I don't mean one of the obvious ones about misuse of power or unlawful global surveillance. It's one that comes early in the film and is only hinted at, but it is confirmation of a deep, dark, universal suspicion: that the incompetency you see in some of your work colleagues is a common problem that exists all the way up to the top. Like when Patrick from Legal doesn't process your request because he doesn't know the difference between an Excel spreadsheet and a Google doc. That kind of thing could very feasibly still happen at a top government level. Goddamn you, Patrick. Goddamn you, all the Patricks.
At a time when every superhero, toy, 80s cartoon character, board game and emoji are fighting for enough space at the box office to create their own movie 'universe', J.K. Rowling's work is already done. Her wizarding world of Harry Potter is well established and still ripe for further exploration, which is pretty much the perfect environment in which to churn out money-making tie-in movies of lesser returns. And yet, instead, a far greater challenge has been undertaken: birthing an entirely new franchise of films set within the same universe. Somehow, audiences are going to have to get invested in a new story that - we can assume - will never be as important as the one we have already seen. So those beasts had better be pretty bloody fantastic.
Trouble with all boxing films: they aren't Rocky. Rocky not only set the benchmark, but the template, out of which no one's really managed to break: guy has to overcome adversity, the other boxer is a metaphor for his life, and his real opponent is himself. True-lifer Bleed For This is a bit different. But not that different.
In times of crisis, look to Hanks. America's on its arse and what it needs now more than ever is a man whose Twitter account is dedicated to finding gloves on the streets of New York, not making baseless claims of voter fraud. Inferno got it wrong, but Sully understands better what sort of hero Hanks can be: the kind who manages to land a malfunctioning aeroplane but afterwards just wants everyone to stop going on about it.