Friday, 13 July 2018

Critical Week: Here comes the judge

It's been a busy week, even if press screenings have been a little thin. The World Cup semifinal featuring England on Wednesday night erased all planned screenings that night. And Thursday was the summer party for the Critics' Circle - that was good fun. I'm the vice chair of the film section, so as one of the event hosts had to skip that evening's screening of Mission: Impossible - Fallout (I'll catch up on that in a week or so).

But I did see a few films. The Children Act stars Emma Thompson (above), who is simply devastating as a high court justice who gets caught up in a thorny case. Based on an Ian McEwan novel, it refreshingly refuses to simplify characters, plots or themes, and leaves us with a lot to think about. Conversely, Skyscraper is best watched with the brain disengaged: it's a preposterously stupid action thriller that's far too serious for its own good. Dwayne Johnson is, as usual, the best thing about it, but was clearly told to rein in his charm and wit.

Hearts Beat Loud is a moving, gorgeous drama starring Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons and Toni Collette. The story is interwoven with engaging, earthy songs, so it's involving even if it's a little over-crafted. And A Swingers Weekend is a loosely awkward comedy-drama about three couples trying to spark up their relationships at a lake house. The darker scenes are far more interesting than the rather tepid sexy silliness.

This coming week will be busy, with the all-star musical sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Jodie Foster in Hotel Artemis, Glenn Close in The Wife, Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 2, Sylvester Stallone in Escape Plan 2, Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Damascus Cover, Oona Chaplin in Anchor and Hope, and the costume designer doc Love, Cecil.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Critical Week: Over the borderline

Back in London after a two-week break, I've been catching up on several films, including the sequel Sicario: Day of the Soldado (UK title Sicario 2: Soldado), a gritty and intensely gripping thriller following on from the more resonant first film. Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro and Isabel Moner are excellent. Tonal issues make the romcom Ideal Home surprisingly challenging - it feels like a gentle family film, but is packed with more provocative adult elements. Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd are superb at the centre. And Mary Shelley is a fascinating biopic about the author of Frankenstein, although it feels like it has smoothed out the real story. Elle Fanning is terrific in the title role.

A little further afield, My Life With James Dean is a gentle, wry French comedy about a filmmaker on a bizarre odyssey in a sleepy coastal town. It's artful, quirky and hilarious. And Postcards from the 48% is a solidly assembled doc digging into the issue of Brexit. It may be one-sided, but frankly there hasn't yet been a compelling argument in favour of leaving the EU, aside from emotional nationalism. Which makes the film seriously scary.

Coming up this week are screenings of the Dwayne Johnson action Skyscraper, Nick Offerman in Hearts Beat Loud, Emma Thompson in The Children Act, the comedy A Swingers Weekend and probably a few more as I continue to play catchup...