The confines of a small fishing boat translate into the confines of a filmmaker's imagination in Haemoo, a tense drama whose disappointment is so acutely felt because its promise exists alongside it, entirely evident in the film itself. That filmmaker is Shim Sung Bo, though co-writer Bong Joon Ho could, perhaps, share credit for Haemoo's unremarkable simplicity. One wonders what the intentions ever were, to construct a scenario so formally familiar and to treat it as an opportunity to showcase Shim's abilities as a capable hack? Twists on this theme do occur, albeit in short supply, but Shim and Bong only use them to pursue an equally pedestrian route as before toward mediocrity, just from a different perspective. Those twists, some of them effectively the sole moments in Haemoo where emotion is employed to drive the plot, are starkly, austerely presented for the better part, and the finest elements of the film. And it is tense, which human thrillers like this must, by necessity, be. Yet all the promise it shows and promptly wastes: principally, the fishing boat on which most of the film is situated, pokey and cramped, dirty and damp - Shim skimps on atmospherics, preferring bland compositions dominated by flat, saturated jewel tones, and fails to even acknowledge the characteristics of the space he's working with, as a multitude of characters seem to disappear for huge amounts of time on such a small vessel. It's that setting and that premise which are so appealing about Haemoo, and eventually what are also so disappointing. A confined film, in almost every sense of the word.
Saturday, 28 March 2015
Friday, 27 March 2015
...because we all know it's Amy Schumer's Trainwreck, and not Judd Apatow's. Despite finding features to like in all of his other films, This Is 40 rly did Apatow in for me, and none of the others have lingered particularly well anyway. Even though this trailer feels almost as long as that last film, critics report that it's actually pretty decent, and represents exactly the comeback that Apatow was in such desperate need of. Out in the US on the 17th of July - a bullish summer spot from Universal - and in the UK on the 28th of August.
The better your intentions, the further they're likely to get you. Utterly average filmmaking often engenders below-average films, though, so mediocre filmmakers beware: buck up your intentions! X+Y has a nice, cute, well-intentioned premise, but its short-sightedness and its attraction toward cliche cut its potential power in half. The engendered result is, indeed, below-average. There's such empathy at the heart of this film that it's almost guaranteed to connect with even the most heartless of viewers, and the validity of this empathy is proven as X+Y tests all viewers' patience as real life does too. The difficulties of living with autism-spectrum disorders are delineated not only for the sufferers but for those in their company. That empathy is deeply well-intentioned, and the intentions are pure as far as they reach - what of the equally compelling struggles of those in the company of our withdrawn protagonist? Asa Butterfield is an ideal lead, and he gets the characterisation spot on, but it was the beaten-down sensitivity of Sally Hawkins' character, a loving mother who feels unloved in return, that most drew my empathy out (and I'm an AS sufferer myself). Either character's story might have been more compelling still had it not been for the aforementioned average filmmaking; flattering lighting, quotable scripting, pedestrian editing, unambitious framing, predictable plotting - all present and incorrect, ensuring that no amount of good intentions can get X+Y very far at all. Another one for the coffee table.
Thursday, 26 March 2015
Now, this is a curious one. One that makes you wonder what exactly those involved thought they were getting into. Hey, a job's a job! I'm not always one to require clarity from a film, but a sense of what that film intends to achieve can't hurt. Wild Card no doubt was once a rather different proposition than it ended up, with its conflicting artistic impulses and stuttering storyline; what remains is rarely less than satisfactory, but truly never more. And, while I may have responded favourably toward many aspects of this film, they lack cumulative impact. Simon West, directing, displays no clear idea of what binds Wild Card's multitudinous narrative and stylistic strands together - indeed, he displays no care to even develop such an idea, and he coaxes only a serviceable performance from Jason Statham, the one common feature throughout. As the eccentricities of this character fail to align with Statham's indifferent turn, we amble through a procession of subplots that are diverting in themselves, but whose power dissipates as soon as the scene changes, and attention is diverted elsewhere. Yet talent abounds in Wild Card, albeit in concentrated doses - an eclectic combination including Oscar-winning composer Dario Marianelli, Corey Yuen on choreography in sparingly-used action sequences, and actors who come close to making Wild Card as riveting as it ought to be, actors like Hope Davis and Stanley Tucci. And with West, Statham and writer William Goldman on board, that sounds like a curious mix, doesn't it?
Wednesday, 25 March 2015
This trailer for World Cinema Dramatic Jury Prize winner Slow West betrays either the inadequacy of the competition at Sundance this year or the laziness of the jury. Meh, John MacLean's western is out on the 15th of May in the US and on the 26th of June in the UK, and is destined to be fairly swiftly forgotten about by most of us genuine tastemakers thereafter. Oh, alright, it looks good... like, it looks good, what with Robbie Ryan's cinematography, and, um... this.
To be fair to Xavier Dolan's Mommy, it lets you know early on exactly what type of film it intends to be. Perhaps, then, don't allow yourself to be fooled by its bracing, brazen intensity, though do allow yourself to be seduced by it, by all means. This garish portrait of life in all its glorious gaucheries is a genuine piece of pop culture and as charmingly contemporary as any film you'll see - who'd have thought it from a filmmaker seemingly too concerned with his own position in the history of film to pause and observe that history as it occurs? For Dolan, whatever broader context this might imply is shunted out by a restrictive aspect ratio, one of many gimmicks that reveal themselves to be valid storytelling tools in such expressive, perceptive usage. Just about everything that Dolan throws at Mommy is bold and potentially crass, yet employed so ideally herein that one's critical eyes are softened, these tools obviously no less eligible manipulations of the cinematic form than any more 'prestigious' ones. Dolan makes you respond positively - he shows you what you thought couldn't be done, not what you always knew could be. When his artistic ambition extends to his plotting, though, you'll see what shouldn't have been done. Granted, you knew it was coming, but Dolan can't find any tools in his arsenal to make these narrative contrivances palatable; if, at least, they provide his actors with scope to pour their hearts out in impressive, varied fashion, they're hardly unique in even that, not in this film. The sour inevitability of Mommy's missteps and their growing frequency erodes the forgiveness developed earlier in the film, when minor stylistic indulgences appeared more like canny artistic reflection of the emotional instability of the characters. Beloved by some, reviled by others, Xavier Dolan still has much maturing to do as a filmmaker, but he's already done far more than I imagined he ever would.
Tuesday, 24 March 2015
Not gonna dwell on the Chlotrudis awards this year for too long, since I'm totally done with awards season and kinda enjoying a break from hearing about other people's invalid opinions. But take a look at the choices the Chlotrudis voters have made - they're pretty good, and pretty varied too. Far better than that other lot. And take a look at their nominations too: they're right here.
Koreeda Hirokazu (Like Father, Like Son)
Tom Hardy (Locke)
Anne Dorval (Mommy)
Best Supporting Actor
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Best Supporting Actress
Agata Kulesza (Ida)
Best Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Lukas Moodysson - based on the novel by Coco Moodysson (We Are the Best!)
Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal (Ida)
Sandra Adair (Boyhood)
Best Production Design
Marco Bittner Rosser (Only Lovers Left Alive)
Best Use of Music in a Film
Mica Levi (Under the Skin)
Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Finding Vivian Maier
Rocks in My Pockets
Sunday, 22 March 2015
I'm not sure how much behind the scenes gay-bashing I can take in one trailer, but between Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Jeremy Renner and even Lauryn Hill on the soundtrack, this 60-second job ought to give me my fill. Director Christopher McQuarrie made his name with the overrated The Usual Suspects and has spent the twenty years since letting everybody down. The Tourist, people. Cack the Giant Slayer. He ain't no Brad Bird. This will come out in the UK and the US both on the 31st of July. Tom Cruise will not.
It's oddly easy to let The Gunman just wash over you - this anaemic action movie doesn't make much of an impact for better or worse, so one can sit back and appreciate the simple pleasures it provides. Though not a total waste of time, The Gunman washes off too quickly to be honestly recommended, and thus can be shrugged off with equal ease. This kind of artistically nondescript, functionally plotted thriller keeps getting resurrected every year at the movies, as frequently in international film industries as in Hollywood; there's precious little left to say or to prove in this niche of the market, and The Gunman's filmmakers actually seem keen to exploit the fact that there's no point in trying any more. Rather than attempt even a minute variation on this timeworn theme, they stroll through the motions in the contemptuous belief that anyone might care when they do not. The only person involved who does seem to care is Sean Penn, but he does his best to conceal his flailing desperation. This is a reinvented Sean Penn, a stoic, muscular, skilled action hero and effortless womaniser, but Penn's ego maintains much of his old cinematic persona: intelligent, honest, painfully self-righteous. Combine each of these callous, self-aggrandising characters and form a film around the wholly uncharismatic product of the two, and you have The Gunman, a silly, formulaic, manipulative and plainly boring piece of work, with a horrendously didactic screenplay (the opening credits dialogue is just the worst, no rly it's the worst). Lively supporting actors like Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone and Sir Lord King Emperor God Mark Rylance are the only reasons to let this trumped-up trash wash up anywhere near you.
Hello Good Kill trailer, not far off seven months after Andrew Niccol's new film premiered at TIFF 2014. The Ethan Hawke film is one of a number of promising thrillers from the recently Oscar-nominated actor; it received reviews as good as its kills on the festival scene last year, which is to say they could have been better, could have been worse. Out in the UK on the 10th of April, and a slightly delayed release in the US, on the 15th of May. The impressive cinematography is from overexposed and underrated DP Amir Mokri.