Peter Weir directs Gérard Depardieu, Andie MacDowell and Bebe Neuwirth in this romantic comedy where a New Yorker marries a Frenchman in a sham marriage so he can gain citizenship… but then Immigration investigates and they are forced to live together.
The behind-the-camera craftsmanship is impeccable. So its a minor shame that MacDowell cannot act and Depardieu has no chemistry with her. That might sound like a major set-back to this type of genre movie but genuinely it is so finely made that you can almost just look past the cabbagy leads and get lost in the thrall of all the other pitch perfect bells and whistles.
Wong Kar-wai directs Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung and Andy Lau in this Hong Kong period romance where a playboy breaks hearts.
Sultry and sumptuous but a bit too loose at the end. Not a movie that reaches a destination so much as just halts. The opening sequence showing a gradual seduction in a stadium cafe is wonderful. Throughout Wong Kar-wai lingers on clocks and the marking of time. You rarely have a shot where you aren’t visually aware of the moment passing, a schedule being met.
Larry Charles directs Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian and Pamela Anderson in this faux documentary comedy where fake Central Asian reporter Borat interviews unsuspecting real people across the USA and falls in love.
Strange to think that because of the streaming war landscape I have yet to see Borat Subsequent Moviefilm a whole year after its release. But this original bad taste gem is still just as scene after scene hilarious. So, some of the marks seem a little more in on the joke than you noticed the first time around but only very rarely do you feel you aren’t seeing a genuine reaction or over reaction to a bit of secretly staged madness. Fifteen years on we all now seem quicker to leap to offence but this is very much a movie about challenging the very concept of taking offence. What is acceptable in one culture is near criminal in another but who are we to judge that culture? No matter how ridiculously extreme and baiting the pantomime of that culture might be. Borat still works, as for every piece of risky business stunt prank, there’s a moment of sweetness or risqué daring that feels truly transgressive and universally welcoming. Sure, there’ll be viewers who are unwilling to see the joke in its context or are too blinkered to understand the blunt force satire… For those… maybe 15 certificate comedy is not for them? I’m surprised Borat didn’t receive an 18 in all honesty. As someone who has enjoyed Sacha Baron Cohen’s guts since the The 11 O’Clock Show days I’m not surprised Kazakhstan’s finest documentarian has endured over his Ali G and his Brüno. Borat always was a character with a certain degree of sympathetic Chaplin or ungainly Tati to him, if you can overlook the rape, racism and retardation. A creation with a little grace and personality among the risks and pratfalls. His restraint to only deliver the killer death blow of impolite affront is second to none. Sure, most left outside of the Venn Diagram crossover of people who truly get this will focus on the catchphrases and mankinis. But really this is very laugh packed, a tightly run road movie that checked America’s temperature in a way it never truly sat comfortably with afterwards. Naughty, naughty.
Lisa Joy directs Hugh Jackman, Thandiwe Newton and Rebecca Ferguson in this sci-fi noir thriller where in a waterlogged dystopian Miami a man relives memories through a machine.
Not really a film in it own right but a box ticking exercise in how many better classics are referenced or recycled. Strange Days without the confident aggression. Blade Runner without the lived in world. Inception without the quality control. Memento without any emotional heft. Chinatown without the shocks. Dark City without the cult potential. The list goes on and on. A shiny, soggy mash where action intrudes only occasionally and often unconvincingly. The kind of movie that blatantly tells you how it is going to end in the middle, so you set your watch hoping it won’t do that with such an obvious thud. Clearly the victim of some degree of studio meddling, we all want original, ambitious sci-fi content with grandiose budgets. This film wouldn’t know originality or ambition is it was plugged into a dream machine for the rest of its life. Okay… so there is one chillingly inventive scene involving a billionaire’s widow lost in time that feels like something Philip K Dick or Alan Moore might conjure up. Otherwise this is just not it! The polar opposite of what we are craving. Yet it plods along inoffensively with a great cast who are gamely unsure if they are making the new The Matrix or another Transcendence. Oh well!
Tom McCarthy directs Matt Damon, Camille Cottin and Abigail Breslin in this drama where a working class dad moves to Marseille to solve the crime his daughter has been sent to prison for.
Not the movie it has been sold as, certainly not the movie a minor Twitter hype storm has branded it as. Yes, a central aspect of the plot is an American student convicted of a crime under dubious circumstances like the infamous Amanda Knox case. But that seems a leaping off point for a very different story arc. Matt Damon’s hulking deadbeat only spends a small section of the story chasing leads and getting into fights. There’s a certain degree of irony to seeing Jason Bourne struggling in council estate scuffles. Yet if you’ve come for effective detective work or All-American dogooding you’ve come to the wrong shop. Slowly the mood gives way to a tale of redemption, rehabilitation and self realisation. Like, say, Gran Torino or Manchester By The Sea, we patiently follow a macho character finding a new lease of life within a makeshift family and unlikely community. The thriller aspects rear their head again in the finale… but are resolved with a dismissive ambiguity. McCarthy, by stealth, is making a film about how America views itself now that innocence has been long lost and the values it once held incontrovertible have been rejected or diminished. It is a complex movie that ends with two characters sitting on a porch, their worldview and understanding of themselves completely warped and altered. Marketed as a classy Taken this is some far more flavoursome stew than the meat and potatoes we were promised. I wonder if like Spotlight, Stillwater will grow on me over the years… it certainly has that potential.
James Gunn directs Margot Robbie, Idris Elba and John Cena in this DC comic book movie sequel to the “villains get drafted into a crisis and prove their anti-heroic worth” blockbuster.
An improvement on the first film in every possible way. Here the names die mercilessly – it is unpredictable, gory and feels completely stand alone. The jukebox soundtrack is just as intrusive but the choices feel more in keeping with that flip, violent thrill ride we’ve bought a ticket to. Robbie’s Harley Quinn is shunted off to her own solo subplot for most of the runtime… you have the fear that she is in it more for the poster appearance than necessity to the narrative. Yet ghettoising your marquee name has its advantages too, the new freaks and geeks are given room to shine. Cena, a tubby shark and Daniela Melchior manage to make full impact among the busy ensemble of doomed showstoppers. Silly, excessive and garishly bright – this hits all the summer blockbuster buttons you want pressed. It outstays its welcome… a tighter finale would have elevated this into a rewatchable classic but as it stands this second attempt to Suicide Squad sees the mission very much accomplished.
Justine Triet directs Virginie Efira, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Sandra Hüller in this dark French erotic drama where a psychoanalyst becomes obsessed with her new movie star patient, exploiting her life with damaging repercussions.
A difficult film to get a grasp on but the unpredictability leads to plenty of full on sex and scenes of emotional jeopardy. It probably tries to do too much but never stumbles from the fine line betwixt comedy and tragedy that it bravely walks. Featuring nicely ambiguous turns from the two leads and a striking, stand out comedy support from Toni Erdmann’s Hüller as an overbearing director. Worth a try. Shame that Britain doesn’t make these undefinable but mature works of cinema at all anymore yet they still seem a dime a dozen across the Channel. When did we give up on making movies for adults?
Wong Kar-wai directs Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung and Jacky Cheung in this Hong Kong gangster romance where a low level triad is torn between his lovely cousin and his reckless friend.
Like early Tarantino, here is a debut that embraces the well chosen homage, improving and personalising the great threads from other movies into a pleasing megamix. Neophyte Wong Kar-wai shamelessly wears his influences on his sleeve. Riffing directly off of Mean Streets, Stranger Than Paradise and, in the finest but least least cohesive interlude, Top Gun – you can’t resist and are seduced. It helps that Andy Lau and Maggie Cheung absolutely sizzle when on screen together. Goes on a bit too long in the final wrap up – otherwise this would be an actual superior take on the plot of the Scorsese classic it steals wholesale from. Loved seeing this in all it step printing, neon lit glory on the big screen… the experience unearthed memories. It felt too familiar. I must have watched this late night on Channel 4 back in the day, with no idea what it was.
Tom Ford directs Colin Firth, Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult in this 1960s Americana period drama where a grieving gay professor meticulously prepares for his suicide over a day.
A heady mixture of sensuality and precision. You know everything within the frame has been chosen to a direct cohesive specification, right down to the weave of Firth’s protagonist’s black woollen tie. The performances are strong, it all floats definitively towards an inevitable conclusion.