Free Fire. Ben Wheatley, seemingly one of the busiest people in the film industry, co-writes and directs another good’un. The film is, basically, a massive shootout in a warehouse in the seventies. It is all done very well, with lots of humour and great performances. It looked great fun to make.
Life. This claustrophobic and well crafted space horror hasn’t much, if any, originality but it is entertaining nonetheless. The size and limitations of the space station, as well as having the actors floating around for the whole film is really nicely choreographed. There is also little doubt that a lot of the film was genuinely tense as hell. Although containing two particular big stars (in Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds) it is quite an ensemble affair with no real lead (at least at first) and there’s a great unpredictability about it all. There is an interesting fan theory about this being a Venom (as in, Spider-Man spin-off released in 2018) prequel too, which is pretty cool.
Peppa Pig – My First Cinema Experience. And what an experience it was. Rather than a full film with one story, my 5-year-old son and I enjoyed nine brand new episodes with some interludes from an extremely freaky looking live action Peppa and George with their humanoid friend Daisy trying to get us all singing and dancing in the audience. The episodes were good fun, to be fair, and my son gave it a resounding 10 out of 10.
Raw. A film that I unfortunately missed at Mayhem Film Festival 2016, so I was glad to see it on general release. To get an 18 certificate purely for gore nowadays in pretty impressive and apparently, at Gothenburg Film Festival, several audience members fainted and vomited with over thirty people leaving the cinema prematurely. Ridiculous (and probably exaggerated) as this is, Raw certainly has its fair share of gross moments. It is about a vegetarian veterinary student who gets a taste for human flesh, so it is bound to. Some of the story elements were flawed – mainly things that were a little lazily nonsensical but helped push the story in the direction that was needed – but this was a well shot, and acted, unpredictable film.
City of Tiny Lights. Riz Ahmed leads in this low-key British private eye story, and he is as dependable as ever. The stories, from two different timelines, unfold in an interesting and engrossing enough way. However, it never seems to get as good as I wanted it to be, and I felt it could have been.
The Handmaiden. I doubt Chan-wook Park will ever make another film that will impress me as much as Oldboy, however, this one has many plus points. It all looked beautiful and the twist and turns within the story were all intriguing and well revealed. Some great performances, too, particularly from the two leads – Min-hee Kim and Tae-ri Kim. There was something missing for me, though, keeping it a good film rather than a great one. Definitely worth a watch, though, even with its long runtime.
I Am Not Your Negro. A beautiful, meditative, and poetic documentary centred around James Baldwin and his unfinished novel about race in modern America. It shows this using only Baldwin’s words and through the lives and assassinations of three of his friends; Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. It really is an engrossing and sad piece of cinema, director Raoul Peck did an excellent job. Baldwin was a great speaker, so any of the archive footage of him talking is truly mesmerising. Top notch.
The Sense of an Ending. A slow and deliberate British film about nostalgia and regret. Jim Broadbent is predictably great in the lead role. The central mystery in the film is not a big one; it is the character’s reactions to it and around it which make for the interesting viewing. It reminded me of 45 Years in some ways, also starring Charlotte Rampling; Andrew Haigh’s excellent 2015 film is better, but that doesn’t take away the merits of this one.