Scott Derrickson directs Ethan Hawke, Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw in this period horror where a wimpy kid finds himself trapped in the basement of a bemasked child killer with only the ghosts of the past victims to help him escape.
Creepy, iconic and with real emotional heft. There’s at least three child actors in this who convince as total badasses. I wouldn’t fuck with Miguel Cazarez Mora, little dude is hard. Hawke is a nasty delight. I’m glad Derrickson made this rather than Doctor Strange 2. Right up my alley.
Colin Trevorrow directs Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Laura Dern in this “concluding chapter” in the Jurassic Park reboot series.
There’s a fair few decent ideas bubbling away but they get lost in a jumble of plot threads that are reintroduced and tied off even though I’m not sure anyone really cared about them when they exited Fallen Kingdom. Audiences or creatives. There’s one good lengthy set piece in Malta that plays out more like The Bourne Ultimatum with velociraptors. A visit to an illegal dinosaur farm and a dinosaur black market feel like implicitly dark settings to enter so casually for a family flick. Everything else is a little undercooked. The returning original oldies are pleasant presences but not really utilised imaginatively. There aren’t even really enough dinosaur money shots. I doubt this is the end of the franchise but even as a paragraph break it is quite disposable. Maybe this should be the end?
Jeremiah Zagar directs Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah and Juancho Hernangómez in this sports drama where a dissatisfied NBA scout risks his career on an untrained Spanish construction worker who he spots “the real deal” in.
Have you seen Jerry Maguire and / or Moneyball? Well, then there’ll be no surprises here in terms of what is delivered. It just happens to be flawlessly calibrated, salty yet sweet, a fantastic Saturday night in. A perfect blend of training montage, jokes and mild drama. I dare you to watch it and not have a smile on your face for 90% of the runtime. Sandler dials it back a notch or three and has fine chemistry with this new crew, notably completely away from his regular ensemble of house goofs. One day someone is going to write a dissertation on his once sneered at Netflix deal and how it freed the underrated funny man up to make movies he cared about that still expanded his following. An easy going delight. Dare I say it… a slam dunk.
Jeff Nichols directs Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham in this drama where an ordinary family man begins receiving visions of an impending disaster, which he takes seriously but also fears might be the start of inherited schizophrenia.
A solid rattler that is expertly acted. Not sure it justifies its entire running time but you have nothing but goodwill towards Nichols’ engagingly simple mode of storytelling.
Joanna Hogg directs Honor Swinton Byrne, Jaygann Ayeh and Richard Ayoade in this sequel which lacks the charismatic thug in a blazer junkie and tells the untold struggle of one posh, non-verbal, white woman’s quest not to make cinema with social import while draining Mummy’s current account at Coutts.
Beautifully shot but also feels like aggressively gentile class war. A hymn to nepotism.
Renny Harlin directs Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox and Danny Hassel in this horror sequel where Freddy Krueger comes back… again… afterajunkyard dog pisses on his grave.
The most visually striking of the Elm Street sequels but that’s pretty much all it has going for it. Bonkers plotting, weak cast, even good ideas for dream kills aren’t exactly scary in execution. The gore FX guys probably deserve more praise than Harlin but you can see why he was offered the keys to the blockbuster kingdom after this. Known as “the MTV Freddy”. But, really, also the only Freddy where you’d struggle to differentiate any distinctive hook for existing beyond box office.
Perfect Double Bill: A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child (1989)
David Mamet directs Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alice Braga and Emily Mortimer in this martial arts noir where an honourable jujitsu instructor is dragged into a series of untrustworthy transactions.
Action sequences?! What is this a Stallone flick? Even so, possibly the most Mamet of Mamets. Don’t let the mixed martial arts setting fool you. He clearly became enamoured with this world while doing some training, but his take on it is pure Dave. This still has trademark lines of dialogue as succulent as “The belt is just symbolic. The belt, as Snowflake says, is to just keep your pants up.” …And retorts as dry as “Read the street signs. We’re in America.” I won’t give you the context for that one but suffice to say it is a potent humdinger. The plot is sheer quicksand, with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s honourable blackbelt (easily his career best performance) getting deeper and deeper with each interaction he finds himself in. I love this shit. Wish Mamet wrote and direct twice as many like this.
Philip Kaufman directs Ed Harris, Sam Shepard and Dennis Quaid in this epic drama following the test pilots and US Marines who broke the sound barrier and became the first astronauts for NASA.
Allegedly the astronauts didn’t like this representation of them. Mercury Seven original Wally Schirra said: “It was the best book on space, but the movie was distorted and warped… All the astronauts hated it. We called it Animal House in Space.” You can see why the flyboys who conquered the stratosphere didn’t gel with this representation of themselves. They’re cocky, laddish, constantly flirting with death wishes. Cowboys who could be replaced by chimps. Pioneers along for a ride they have little control over. Only really Harris’ John Glenn shows an external humanity, emotional maturity. He treats his wife with a gentle adoration while the others hound dog and drag their ‘First Ladies Of Space’ about like required ornaments. Kaufman ain’t interested in myth, he’s interested in myth making. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at MACH 3. He knows it takes a special kind of macho jock to achieve the unachievable. He makes no bones in presenting these men as fallible, flawed and competitive. Because he has no need to turn these men into heroes. They already are, he’s trying to reset them back to being men. Rewind all the hype and propaganda, the Presidential phone calls and ticker tape parades. He explores some icons like Chuck Yeager (Shepard making a genuine, almost supernatural, impact as the man who should have been king of space) with an affectionate focus, others with a cursory shorthand. The movie lacks narrative form, drifting from one character or location to the next with little finesse. It isn’t interested in a trad three act structure. It is a freewheelin’ procedural of a unique, never repeated adventure. Yet it never feels baggy at three plus hours. The Right Stuff feels like a feast. The filmmakers eschewed the use of visual effects done in the lab. It makes you feel like you are right there. Did Tony Scott and Joseph Kosinski use this as a starting point for their Top Gun movies? Fleshing out all the reality but retaining the need speed, the desire to put an audience in the cockpit as the impossible is tamed? Bill Conti’s score adds to the aura that we are on the precipice of a new age of man. It absorbs Holst’s The Planets and Native American chant recycled from a previous Kaufman flick. Synthesiser heaven. John Barry was originally asked to compose the score but didn’t like Kaufman’s brief for how he wanted his movie to feel. “Sounding like you’re walking in the desert and you see a cactus, and you put your foot on it, but it just starts growing up through your foot.” In its finest scenes, and this evening devourer is full of them, The Right Stuff makes you feel like you are witnessing the points in the 20th Century where humanity is being redefined and America lives up to it grand potential. A once in a lifetime cinematic experience.
Matthew Vaughn directs James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender in the swinging Sixties-set prequel / soft reboot of the mutant superhero franchise.
Not as good as I remember on a belated revisit. Though that is the curse of many a summer blockbuster. Like an ice cream in the June sun, these things are only good for one afternoon. Lick it or lose it. It takes too long to get to the goods compared to Singer’s nifty first entry. And then the genuinely epic finale is ruined by Fassbender inexplicably defaulting to his natural accent. Now, we all love a bit of the brogue but Magneto has never and should never sound like a man with a grand ol’ insider tip on the horses. Sloppy execution, lengthy, but the fine ensemble just about justifies it all.
Antoine Fuqua directs Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke and Riley Keough in this one-location thriller where a suspended cop works a 911 call centre on the night of multiple crisis.
A remake of a Scandinavian film which isn’t as good as a throwaway Halle Berry flick which had tons more fun with the same concept. The usually dependable Gyllenhaal struggles to makes an incompetently aggressive character’s redemption believable.