Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Ciné File: March 2017

Finally: I'm actually seeing foreign films and documentaries as they're released and not years later!



One thing's for sure: Keanu Reeves is a true action hero. He hits every intricately choreographed note perfectly and demonstrates exactly why he excels in this genre. While Chapter 2 isn't as good as the first film, the action scenes are just as electric, ferocious and exciting this time around.


How on earth does this qualify as a comedy, and more importantly, how on earth was this even made? It's supremely dull and so unfunny it hurts: avoid at all costs.


While this dramatisation of the 2013 Boston marathon bombings doesn't entirely stick to the truth, it does make for gripping viewing while celebrating the heroism of the emergency services and civilians in a time of tragedy. It brilliantly develops the cat-and-mouse hunt for the bombers by ramping up the tension and making full use of its star-filled cast, but the real star here is the city of Boston which is on reverent display in this heartfelt tribute.

LOGAN - 4*

Logan is undoubtedly the best film in the X-Men franchise - somehow they've managed to produce a gritty, emotional drama reminiscent of an indie film that's also a fitting send off for a beloved character (that's no spoiler: Hugh Jackman - and Patrick Stewart for that matter - have mentioned extensively on their press tour that this is the end for them, no matter what happens to their characters on screen). It's a pared-back and almost risky superhero film, focusing less on powers (although there are mightily satisfying and truly violent scenes with the famous claws) and more on the relationships between Wolverine, Professor X, and the new mysterious child Laura. It's a risk that pays off in spades, and rightfully so - what a way to bow out!


The racist narrative that surrounded The Great Wall before it was even released in retrospect was a little off the mark - while I definitely think the initial concern regarding Matt Damon single-handedly saving the Chinese people from an unknown threat was completely understandable, in reality he definitely isn't the hero here and more of a sidekick who happens to be around at the same time that the Chinese are already saving the day. His accent is unidentifiable, the acting is terrible and the graphics are laughably bad, but it's not entirely unwatchable.


Viceroy's House has enormous potential and for such a sumptuously made film it unfortunately flounders on the plot-front rather spectacularly. There is no real coherent narrative as there are several interesting storylines all vying for attention and never quite succeeding - as such it falls a little flat. Had director Gurinder Chadha focused on one - for example the fledging romance between staff members 'downstairs', or the doomed role of Lord Mountbatten, or the political backstabbing during partition, or the effects of partition on the Indian people - it would have been much better. It felt as if she was trying to cover too much ground in one go and as a result the film looks beautiful but doesn't really have the desired impact.


Two viewings later and I'm officially a fan of the new Kong. It's stylish, engaging and entertaining, and it seems to be fully aware of how ridiculous this new monster franchise is. The motion capture for Kong is fantastic, the "skull crushers" are suitably scary and it only really falls down when the camera focuses solely on humans. Make sure you stay for the post credits scene too: this is a franchise in the making and they've taken a leaf out of Marvel's book by setting up the future of this universe in a few minutes at the end of this film. It's a mildly confusing set up for those of us unaware with monster lore, but worth it.


This was my third time seeing Moonlight and I stand by my opinion that it's a remarkable example of filmmaking and an absolute triumph. To think that last month I wanted it to win Best Picture but was convinced it wouldn't derail the overwhelming success of La La Land! It's astonishingly moving, beautifully made and is without a shadow of a doubt an instant classic. Kudos must be given to casting director Yesi Ramirez for ensuring that the 3 versions of protagonist Chiron are so alike that you'd be forgiven for thinking director Barry Jenkins did a Boyhood and filmed it over a number of years and not merely 45 days.


My expectations were exceptionally high for the live-action version of my favourite Disney princess film, and luckily Beauty and the Beast exceeded all of my wildest dreams. The casting is excellent, the songs just as spine-tingling as in the original, and it looks simply divine. 'Be Our Guest' is a personal highlight (aided significantly by a motion-capture performance by Ewan McGregor as Lumière), as is Emma Watson's insistence that Belle is an unabashed feminist. What a triumph.


As family dramas go, Xavier Dolan's latest creation shows a messy family at its most dysfunctional. The drama is claustrophobic, heated and maddeningly frustrating, all played out with aplomb by a stellar French cast.

ELLE - 5*

I've found my favourite foreign film of 2017, and I think it'll be pretty hard to top. Elle is dark, twisted, and makes for supremely uncomfortable viewing, but for all the right reasons. It deserves every accolade that has come its way over the last few months as it's such a thought-provoking,  gripping and thrilling film. Isabelle Huppert is astonishingly good here and shows that there's no singular way to react to a sexual assault.



I don't understand why this film received so much hatred when it was announced (that's a lie, I understand exactly why it did but disagree with it wholeheartedly) and while it may not be a perfect film or even a particularly spectacular reinvention of a beloved franchise, it's enormous fun with humour in all the right places.



The Oscar winner for Best Documentary Short, this makes for fascinating viewing about the heroic 'White Helmet' civilian first responders racing to save lives in Syria. It puts your life into perspective and shines a poignant light on a crisis that's never really far from our minds.

13TH - 5*

Why, oh why, didn't this win Best Documentary this year?! Ava DuVernay's analysis into the criminalisation of African Americans and the prison boom in the US is thought-provoking, well-argued and makes for difficult viewing at times. The subject matter is essential, important and infuriating, and - in my opinion - should be compulsory viewing in the US at least.


Jennifer Lawrence's unofficial audition for The Hunger Games went on to earn her her first Oscar nomination and deservedly so: it's an intense, bleak and unshowy performance that gets under your skin and demands you pay attention. Her star power is more than evident here and she oozes an authenticity, vulnerability and strength that gives the film its heart and soul.


ROOM - 5*

This was one of my favourite films of 2016 and no matter how many times I've watched it I still ugly cry at least 3 times throughout the duration of the film. Jacob Tremblay is a revelation here, and he makes a wonderful film truly unmissable.

This month I've made a real effort to watch foreign films and documentaries (plus a couple of operas too), and while I haven't watched many at all I've already smashed last year's total which is shameful to say the least! I'm hoping that now I have the bug I'll keep picking them as a matter of course. I'm also trying to be more varied in my choices at the cinema rather than purely sticking to indies, dramas and superhero films - I'm aiming to try different cinemas too in order to do so, as my local multiplex doesn't exactly stray far from the mainstream. Bring on April!

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