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Captive State review ambitious sci-fi thriller offers up uneven intrigue

Charmaine Blake

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“A jumble of themes and ideas jostle for space in an audacious, but often messy, film that takes a familiar alien invasion set-up and goes for broke

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Buried somewhere underneath the wreckage, theres a smart little sci-fi film pulsing at the centre of Captive State, a scrappy, unwieldy curio with plenty on its mind, coherence not necessarily included. Shot over two years ago and pushed around the release schedule, its a troubled project that feels troubled, with confused editing and clear structural issues clueing us in on its difficult journey to the screen. Its a frustrating experience but one that remains worthwhile because theres just enough of a glimmer of the film it could have been to make it worth watching the film it turned into instead.

Were presented with a familiar set-up: aliens have invaded Earth leading to destruction, division and plenty of dust. But unlike the majority of similar films that have come before, were then presented with an idea of what comes after. What if aliens stuck around? What if an uneasy arrangement was made with Earths governing bodies? And what if the invaders were now seen as the main legislative force whose presence had actually led to a statistically safer society? Its a fascinating conceit and one that raises a string of intriguing questions, some of which the film answers with skill.

Pitched somewhere between District 9 and The Purge, writer-director Rupert Wyatt, whose 2011 prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprisingly urgent and necessary blockbuster, focuses the action on Chicago and how the new world order affects a city already struggling with crime and economic disparity. His lead is Gabriel, played by Moonlights Ashton Sanders, existing in one of the poorer districts and working in a factory tasked with wiping data from digital devices, which have been outlawed. His brother Rafe (Jonathan Majors, a rising star after his charming turn in Sundance darling The Last Black Man in San Francisco) was leading a resistance against the state but after his death, Gabriel finds himself scrambling for an escape………………………………………………………………”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/mar/14/captive-state-review-ambitious-sci-fi-thriller-offers-up-uneven-intrigue

New Movie Reviews

Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ demands to be watched and watched again

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There’s a reason this lady has an Oscar.

Image: Universal

“When the credits rolled on Us, I realized I needed a minute.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like the film – quite the opposite. It was that the film, written and directed by Jordan Peele, is so rich, so layered, so diabolically clever and emotionally astute, that it felt an enormous undertaking to process in a single sitting.

Several hours and many conversations later, I’m still convinced this film has secrets I haven’t uncovered yet, and I’m just eager for my next chance to go digging through it again.

Which is not to say it’s without surface-level pleasures. Moment to moment, Us is a film designed to make you react – to get you to giggle at Winston Duke’s extreme dad-ness (“You don’t need the internet. You have the outernet!” he tells his exasperated teenage daughter), or scream at a villain silently materializing in the corner of a frame. And it shapeshifts so frequently, and so deftly, that it’s a fool’s errand to guess at any moment what might happen next.

But it quickly becomes obvious that Us has a lot more on its mind than making you jump. Every detail here seems carefully considered, down to the amount of dust gathered on a coffee table in a rarely used living room. In the hands of a filmmaker this precise, much of the fun is in waiting to see just how his intricate puzzle will come together.

Family bonding time can be sweet *and* sinister.

Image: Universal

Duke, Lupita Nyong’o, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex are instantly winning as the Wilson family, whose beach vacation is cruelly interrupted by funhouse-mirror versions of themselves. These strangers – clad in blood-red jumpsuits and armed with gleaming gold scissors – are hell-bent not just on killing them, but on explaining exactly why they’re doing so…………………………………………………………..”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/us-jordan-peele-review/

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Fighting With My Family review, Stephen Merchant has all the right moves

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The writer-directors story of a British female wrestler striving to make it big in the US winningly balances oddball humour with affection for the antics of the WWE

“These are big movies, insists Michael Lerners studio boss in the Coen brothers 1991 hit Barton Fink, about big men in tights, both physically and mentally! Hes trying to explain to John Turturros angsty writer the inherent parameters of a wrestling movie, insisting: We dont put Wally Beery in a fruity movie about suffering. Yet just as William Faulkner reportedly did uncredited rewrites on Beerys 1932 picture Flesh, so writer-director Stephen Merchant here manages to subvert the genre and inject some of that Barton Fink feeling into this uplifting romp. Inspired by Max Fishers similarly titled Channel 4 documentary about a Norwich wrestling clan, Fighting With My Family is a hugely likable underdog tale, packing plenty of crowd-pleasing comedy wallop, and boasting a smack-down turn from the indomitable Florence Pugh.

Building on her brilliantly modulated performances in Carol Morleys The Falling and William Oldroyds Lady Macbeth, Pugh gets physical as Saraya (AKA Britani), punchy daughter of wrestlers………………………………………………………..”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/mar/03/fighting-with-my-family-review-stephen-merchant-florence-pugh-dwayne-rock-johnson

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Critics are not impressed with the tired jokes in ‘Holmes & Watson’

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The comedic duo’s third film falls short.

Image: sony pictures entertainment

“Remember when Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly collectively made the world double over with laughter in 2008’s Step Brothers? Well hold on to that feeling, because it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen with Holmes & Watson.

Starring Ferrell and Reilly as the titular Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, Holmes & Watson attempts the capture the comedic duo’s chops seen in Step Brothers and Talladega Nights in a new, historic setting. Unfortunately, that magic seems to have been lost along the way with jokes that don’t land and a backdrop that doesn’t allow for Ferrell and Reilly’s improvisation to take hold.

With 12 reviews in on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of reporting, Holmes & Watson is currently sitting at a 0 percent. That’s not a good look for writer and director Etan Cohen.

Here’s what the critics have to say about Ferrell and Reilly’s third movie together.

The setting isn’t right

Peter Debruge, Variety:

As far as Ferrell and Reilly are concerned, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s unstumpable sleuth and the thankless sidekick who recorded his every exploit are not just a great crime-solving duo but one of the great bromances of English literature — and therefore a natural target for the two actors’ ongoing exploration of dysfunctional friendships. The trouble is, Sherlock Holmes exists so large in audiences’ minds already that the pair’s uninspired take feels neither definitive nor especially fresh — just an off-brand, garden-variety parody.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club:

Written and directed by Etan Cohen (not to be mistaken for Ethan Coen, under any circumstances), Holmes & Watson imagines the title characters as a couple of needy, middle-aged manchildren—though the similarities with Ferrell and Reilly’s work together on Adam McKay’s Step Brothers end there. Struggling with objectively awful English accents, the two actors spend their time on screen dragging out terrible jokes, as though trapped in the improv-exercise equivalent of eternal damnation. Though it’s mostly the audience that suffers. Even the movie’s attempts at gross-out humor—such as an extended bit in which Holmes keeps barfing into a bucket, or a sequence where he calculates the trajectory of his arcing urine in slow-mo, à la Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes—are timorous and half-assed.

Almost all the jokes are bad

David Ehrlich, IndieWire:

Instead of picking a particular tone and wringing it for all it’s worth, Cohen just throws a mess of half-funny jokes at the wall in the hopes that some of them might stick. They don’t. Not enough of them, anyway. Mild gross-out humor (projectile vomit, cadavers baked into party cakes, etc.) is mashed together with poorly choreographed physical comedy (Holmes and Watson accidentally unleash a swarm of killer bees while trying to kill a single mosquito) and limp post-modern gags that poke fun at old technology (Watson telegrams someone a dick pic) or current events (a “Make England Great Again” hat precedes a conversation about how the Electoral College will always protect America from tyrannical grifters).

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter:

There’s at least one scene that proves mildly amusing, when Holmes silently communicates with his brother Mycroft (Hugh Laurie, who had the good sense to go uncredited) via their shared ability to “brainspeak.” It’s a slyly witty moment that contrasts with the otherwise lame slapstick permeating the frenetic proceedings. A gag involving the eating of raw onions isn’t so much running as limping. And there’s a strange amount of anachronistic Donald Trump-related humor, including bits about fake news and red MAGA hats (here reading “Make England Great Again”) that fall utterly flat in this context.

None of the actors shine

Sandy Schaefer, ScreenRant:

Holmes & Watson is missing a key ingredient from Talladega Nights and Step Brothers – namely, director Adam McKay. Where McKay knew how to create comedic scenarios that allowed Ferrell and Reilly room to improvise, Cohen’s approach seems far more dependent on scripted jokes. That wouldn’t actually be a problem if his film could settle on a clear throughline, like McKay’s movies with Ferrell and Reilly had. Instead, Cohen’s script recycles Ferrell’s character arc from his 2000s comedies (his Sherlock is an egomaniacal jerk who doesn’t appreciate Watson) and can’t decide if his comical take on the super-sleuth is dumber than he thinks or too smart for his own good. Reilly isn’t given much to work with here either, and is left trying to get additional mileage from listless scenes that subject Dr. Watson to all sorts of comedic torment (be it emotional neglect or mean-spirited slapstick).

David Ehrlich, IndieWire:

The cast is rounded out by an incredible array of actors and comedians, including Kelly Macdonald as Holmes’ secretary, Hugh Laurie as Holmes’ brother, Steve Coogan as a one-armed tattoo artist, Rob Brydon as a flabbergasted inspector, and someone who shows up for a last-minute cameo so good that it almost redeems the rest of the movie. Of course, none of these people are given anything to do — forget standing out, Laurie isn’t even on-screen long enough to stand up. Usually, you’d have to watch the Golden Globes to see this much wasted talent. As it stands, the only compelling mystery about “Holmes & Watson” is how so many funny people have been squeezed into such an unfunny movie, a movie that isn’t nearly smart enough to recognize how stupid it should have been.

It’s awful

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club:

One might call it a failure on almost every level—that is, if the movie ever gave the impression that it was trying to succeed. Instead, it’s pervaded by an air of extreme laziness. It’s cheap and tacky—a bizarrely dated parody of Ritchie’s Holmes (complete with a soundalike score) poisoned with rib-elbowing topical references and puerile gags. It’s the Sherlock Holmes movie with the red “Make England Great Again” hat and the lactating Watson. It succeeds in only one respect. As a Christmas Day release that wasn’t screened in advance for critics, it managed to avoid our list of the worst films of 2018. It belongs at the top.”

Holmes & Watson is in theaters now.

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