Tuesday, 29 July 2014
Other high-profile films this week included Dwayne Johnson and Brett Ratner's new take on Hercules, a surprisingly enjoyable adventure that's a lot smarter than it looks. One of Philip Seymour Hoffman's final performances lifts the slow-burning political thriller A Most Wanted Man into something rather amazing. And random cast members from a range of the previous four films are back for Step Up: All In, another corny story punctuated by great dance numbers.
Further afield, we had the terrific small-town drama Tiger Orange, about estranged brothers who both happen to be gay. The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden is a riveting documentary about a shocking event from the early 1930s. You'll want to read more about it, and hopefully someone will make a dramatic thriller. And Al Pacino offered two movies: Salome is his film of his recent staging of the scandalous Oscar Wilde play, while Wilde Salome documents the process of doing the play and film, as well as tracing Wilde's life. The mesmerising staging of Salome is oddly stilted and over-the-top at the same time, with Jessica Chastain riveting in the title role. The doc is even more interesting, a bit padded out but packed with remarkable observations.
Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Off the beaten path we had a fearless Gerard Depardieu as a shameless womanising politician in Abel Ferrara's controversial and superbly outrageous Welcome to New York; the charming but cheesy gay romantic comedy Love or Whatever; the edgy but somewhat familiar Danish youth drama Northwest; and two documentaries: Nick Cave's artful, fiercely inventive and vaguely pretentious 20,000 Days on Earth and Charlie Lyne's enjoyable romp through a decade of teen movies in Beyond Clueless.
In the coming week, we'll be catching up with the summer's big Marvel blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, Dwayne Johnson as Hercules, Jennifer Aniston in Life of Crime, Colin Firth in A Most Wanted Man, the next in the neverending franchise Step Up: All In, the indie sibling drama Tiger Orange, and Al Pacino's take on Oscar Wilde's Salome, plus the making-of doc Wild Salome.
Sunday, 20 July 2014
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
So we turn to two sequels that have emerged as some of the best films of the year: How to Train Your Dragon 2 is even more ambitious than the superb first film, and it has the best action sequences in cinema at the moment. And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes may not be as delicately surprising as the reboot three years ago, but it's a remarkably complex thriller without a true villain. And the acting is hugely involving. But the best film this week was the Cannes hit Pride, a shameless British crowd-pleaser in the vein of Billy Elliot and The Full Monty, with terrific characters addressing a strongly resonant political issue through the true story of gay activists supporting striking miners in the Thatcher years.
Also this past week: Daniel Radcliffe brings his awkward charm to the quirky rom-com What If, costarring Zoe Kazan, Rafe Spall and Adam Driver; Nicolas Cage acts his socks off in the violent revenge thriller Rage, as a dad who wants to kill everyone for hurting his teen daughter; and Brian Cox plays the great Man Utd coach Matt Busby in Believe, a charmingly scruffy British comedy-drama that pushes the sentimentality button. There were also two docs: the fast-moving All This Mayhem traces the turbulent lives of Aussie skateboard-champion brothers Tas and Ben Pappas; and the inventive, colourful Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton tells the life story of the experimental filmmaker with a surge of emotional energy.
Sunday, 13 July 2014
Wednesday, 9 July 2014
The show is set in the near future, as Halle Berry tries to readjust to her husband (Goran Visnjic) and robotic son (Pierce Gagnon) after a year on a space mission, during which something very odd has happened to her: she's become pregnant despite being unable to have children before she left. Not quite sure if I'm in for the duration, but I'll give it a few more episodes before I render my verdict. From one episode, it feels a bit manipulative, one of those shows that dribbles facts very slowly to keep audiences hooked. But it'll need to start dropping some major bombshells soon to hold on to viewers.
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Also this week, I caught up with Philip Seymour Hoffman's intriguing but relatively thin Philadelphia drama God's Pocket; Michael Caine in the engaging but somewhat lightweight French drama Mr Morgan's Last Love; the rather too-repressed but sharply well-made period drama A Promise, starring Rebecca Hall and Alan Rickman; the moving and visceral American indie Hide Your Smiling Faces; the extremely well-observed Danish mystery thriller Keeper of Lost Causes; and the blackly comical Spanish zombie-soccer thriller Goal of the Dead, which actually has its moments. There were also two artful but deeply pretentious epics: from Mexico, Julian Hernandez's I Am Happiness on Earth is a sensual exploration of physical connections. And with Norte, the End of History, gifted Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz takes an unnecessary four hours to tell a darkly involving story about crime and unjust punishment. I also managed to revisit Bob Fosse's classic 1972 film version of Cabaret, starring a particularly fabulous Oscar-winning Liza Minnelli.