Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Critical Week: Don't throw in the towel

Press screenings are still a bit thin in London, mainly because we saw most current releases at film festivals in the autumn. One new entry was the British movie Jawbone, starring Johnny Harris and Michael Smiley (above), along with Ray Winstone and Ian McShane. It's a remarkably thoughtful boxing drama with a proper emotional kick. The German drama Jonathan centres on a teen caring for his dying father and finally discovering why there's a rift in his family. It's also thoughtful and moving, and beautifully filmed. From Israel via London, Who's Gonna Love Me Now? is a startlingly honest documentary that meaningfully grapples with themes involving family, sexuality and life purpose. And I had a chance to revisit the 1969 classic Easy Rider, with sharply restored imagery and sound. A remarkably loose movie that has a lot to say about American culture, plus terrific performances from the young Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. Finally, I also caught up with a TV series being released on video in the UK this week...

dir-scr Morgan Jon Fox
with Jordan Nichols, Seth Daniel Rabinowitz, Jacob Rickert, Leah Beth Bolton, Ryan Masson, Chase Brother 
16/US Dekkoo 1h56 ***
There's an artistic sensibility to this web series that makes it worth a look, as creator Morgan Jon Fox uses swirling photography and non-linear editing to follow the emotional lives of his characters rather than create coherent plotlines. The problem is that this leaves everything feeling a bit thin and wispy, as events and characters are undefined even though they are going through some big emotions. The premise centres on two young artists in Memphis: Billy (Nichols) has an inexpressive boyfriend (Masson) with depression issues, while Daniel (Rabinowitz) wants to run off to the big city. They get a new housemate (Rickert) and have some personal crises, but while a lot happens to them, the filmmaking approach is so loose and mopey that there isn't much proper emotional impact. Frankly, the title of this series is a mystery. The relationships are written, never quite lived-in or believable, and only vaguely sexy. And some of the writing and acting isn't terribly convincing. But it looks great, the cast is likeable and the idea is clever enough to sustain itself through eight brief episodes.

Films coming up this week include The Lego Batman Movie and the acclaimed British drama Lady Macbeth. I'm also getting ready for a trip to Los Angeles to visit my family and friends - I'll be there for both Bafta and Oscar, as it happens. Watch this space...

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