Thursday, 26 July 2018

Critical Week: Fooling no one

It's been a busy week in the press screening rooms this week, and I saw a few films that have been among my favourites of the year so far. Sundance award winner American Animals (above) is a stunner, a true heist thriller that happily breaks genre rules. Performances are terrific, and Bart Layton's direction is masterful. And Mission: Impossible - Fallout was a very pleasant surprise, easily the best in this six-film series, and the most satisfying action blockbuster of the summer. Tom Cruise even manages to deepen the iconic character he first played 22 years ago.

Playing on our social media culture, Searching is an inventive thriller that is viewed on various screens, yet is also taut, moving and packed with superb performances. Jon Hamm is excellent in The Negotiator (aka Beirut), a gritty and very well-made thriller set in the chaos of early-80s Lebanon. Hot Summer Nights features another solid turn from Timothee Chalamet, but the film itself is too hyperactive and grim to be the pastiche it seems to want to be. And the documentary King Cohen is a joy for movie fans, especially lovers of cult movie guru Larry Cohen.

There were also three small British films: Apostasy is simply excellent, a fair-minded depiction of a crisis within a family of Jehovah's Witnesses that makes us think about our own belief systems. Strangeways Here We Come is an uneven black comedy about a group of neighbours who concoct a murderous plan. And Possum is a somewhat pretentious arthouse thriller about a man with the creepiest ventriloquist dummy in movie history. Finally, the American web-series Paper Boys has been compiled into an involving, nicely flowing little feature about young people trying to start their lives in San Francisco.

This coming week I'll finally catch up with Ant-Man and the Wasp, plus the comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me, offbeat WWII adventure The Captain, coming-of-age drama Brotherly Love, horror comedy Fanged Up, French WWI epic The Guardians, Italian mystery A Sicilian Ghost Story, Portuguese horror The Forest of the Lost Souls, anime fantasy Mirai, and the doc The Eyes of Orson Welles.

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