The Commune. Thomas Vinterberg’s follow-up to the impressive Far From the Maddening Crowd adaption, sees him go back to his native Danish language. The titular commune is in seventies middle class Denmark, with an array of quirky characters coming to live with the central middle aged couple and their daughter. There is nakedness and drinking and fun and liberalness and such – until inevitable complications occur. The film was entertaining and had some great elements but it was often a bit heavy handed and I am not quite sure what the characters’ disinterest at the end felt unrealistic, but was probably trying to represent something. In any case, not quite as good as it could have been.
Suicide Squad. DC, in an attempt to catch up with Marvel’s shared universe, is rushing theirs badly. And no-where has it shown so clearly as with Suicide Squad. I am part of a seemingly small group that actually rather liked Man of Steel and Batman Vs Superman, despite their faults. However, the introduction of all these DC baddies, already caught and in prison at the beginning of the film, was an assault on the senses. Sure, it explored the back stories of them all later on – particularly concentrating on Harley Quinn and Deadshot – but it was too much. At least a couple of them needed to have been in another film previously. There were great elements – actually some humour (something Snyder’s films did lack), plus the Harley (though a bit over-sexualised), Joker, and Deadshot characters were particularly well realised and performed. But, overall, a rushed mess.
The Shallows. Actually quite a surprising gem, this one. Really nicely shot with some genuine tension throughout. Blake Lively holds her own, too, being the only human on screen for large parts of it, often with just a shark and (Steven Sea)gull to play off. Not quite sure why the shark was so angry at her, though – I mean, it was really not happy with her. It had a huge whale to eat and grabbed some other humans, but it kept at her fully focused on its sadistic mission. I suppose a finale in which the shark just picked at the whale for a hour wouldn’t have been quite so exciting. Good film, though – worth a watch.
David Brent: Life on the Road. Ten minutes into the film, I was very very happy. It was funny. Really funny. Perhaps Gervais wasn’t going to bugger this one up. And he doesn’t; not completely. Purely in regards to the humour, it was spot on, for the most part. And it really did jerk at those tears a few times. The story itself, of Brent going on ‘tour’ with his band Forgone Conclusion, was a good one but the film didn’t bring anything new to the character. I’d already gone on this emotional arc with him. And it didn’t help that the ending was so similar to Gervais’ awful SpecialCorrespondents, released on Netflix earlier this year. However, David Brent is one of the best comedy creations of all time so, despite the niggles, it was lots of fun to be back with him for an hour and a half.
Finding Dory. Pixar’s 2003 predecessor to this sequel, Finding Nemo, was never quite at Toy Story and Wall-E level but it was certainly one of the animation company’s elite. Finding Dory, however, fails to get close. Sure, the animation is 13 years better (especially on the cute short shown with it, Piper, it was photo realistic), but it didn’t really do anything new and felt extremely lacklustre for it. I do fear Pixar are making too many films and their overall quality is diminishing because of this – to the adult viewer, anyway. My four and a half year old son thought it was better than Nemo. He’s wrong, but each to their own.
War Dogs. This intriguing true story of two young childhood friends who stumbled into being international arms dealers was dynamically told, with a standout performance from Jonah Hill. I loved the sentiment from Miles Teller in his opening narration too: “War is an economy. Anybody who tells you otherwise is either in on it or stupid.” The film was certainly entertaining but it was told in a pretty paint by numbers kind of way, right down to the lead character’s wife who has his kid and loves the money and then leaves him and blah blah etcetera. Certainly not a bad film, at times great in fact, but as a whole: mediocre.
The Purge: Election Year. The third in the series of films with a great concept. They are decently executed overall, but comfortably fit into a guilty pleasure category for me. It is a well thought out allegory for financial inequality and not even that far-fetched really – especially with Donald Trump looming so large over in USA politics currently. The films get the creepiness just right too, with a gang of murder tourists from Europe in Lincoln, Washington, Uncle Sam masks being a particular standout. Like the previous two films, there is a certain cheesy, bad dialogue, B movie type element to it – in the hands of a better writer and director (sorry James DeMonaco) this could have been a phenomenal trilogy, but no matter – I’ll settle for an entertaining flawed set of movies with a poignant message.