Thursday, 31 January 2019

Critical Week: Body issues

Cinemas are now absolutely jam-packed with awards movies, leaving people unsure what they should watch. The box office is always ruthless, rarely rewarding the films that actually deserve it. And the awards are skewing populist as well this year. After the producers (PGAs) and actors (SAGs) went all over the place, all eyes are on the directors (DGAs) this weekend to restore a sense of order before Bafta and Oscar arrive. But could Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star Is Born and Green Book knock the more ambitious, accomplished films out of the spotlight?

Press screenings this week included the much-anticipated Akita: Battle Angel, which James Cameron developed before handing off the directing job to Robert Rodriguez. It's a big, action movie, with lots of action, flashy effects, some cool themes and, erm, bashing robots. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part has huge shoes to fill, and is thankfully relentlessly hilarious as it rockets through its insane plot with engaging, silly characters, outrageous storytelling, inventively crazed visuals and a nonstop peppering of references to everything, including itself.

A little off the beaten path, Untogether is an artful romantic comedy-drama starring Jamie Dornan, Jemima Kirke, Lola Kirke and Ben Mendelsohn. It's sharply made, observant and a little mopey. Lucid is an independent British thriller about a young guy who learns to control his dreams, sort of. It's intriguing and visually stunning. Wretched Things tells three stories linked by themes about sex and morality. It's inventive and beautifully shot and performed, if a little on the nose. He Loves Me is a fiercely artful Greek drama with no dialog (there's a voiceover) about two men on a beach holiday trying to save their relationship.

And finally, I managed to watch the recent American TV production of Rent: Live, which turned out to be the dress rehearsal, and it showed in the low-energy performances and uneven technical quality. But it was also far too frantic, busy and even a bit dated. Surely a stripped-down update would give new life to this awesome musical.

This coming week, I'll buy a ticket to see How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, as I was unable to attend the only press screening. I also have screenings of Liam Neeson in Cold Pursuit, Penelope Cruz in Everybody Knows and two docs: The Gospel of Eureka and The Sunday Sessions.

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