Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The first film was a bit of a surprise hit, and it was certainly an enjoyable affair. Its standalone nature from the Marvel Universe, along with a great soundtrack and lots of humour were winning plus points for it. Volume 2 has all these things but to a lesser extent. It is still standalone, but you feel it moving towards joining up; still a good soundtrack but not quite as good; and plenty of humour but not quite so funny overall. It also often felt long, boring, clichéd and over-sentimental. But it was all right.
Unlocked. A weird film, this. Cast-wise, at least, it was pretty bonkers, if only for the fact that most supporting roles were played by actors who are often in lead roles. It plods along reasonably well for quite a while but starts to have more frequent silly moments as it goes on. The idea and end reveal is all quite interesting, though done before and better. Noomi Rapace’s CIA agent manages to be really slick and amazing at her job, except when making a silly mistake will change the direction of the story in the way the writer needed it to. Anyway, quite a mixed bag of decent and rather pants moments.
Lady MacBeth. ‘Bleak’ was the one word review on the Broadway notice board. They were not wrong but it was much more than that one describing word. Florence Pugh is great as the lead Katherine; a young woman sold into marriage in nineteenth century Northumberland. She is initially set up as someone to pity and root for, but such black and white feelings are not so clear by the end. It is a lovely looking film, patiently shot and played out, with barely any music – the atmosphere created by director William Oldroyd, as well as the dark humour, makes the film pleasantly engrossing, despite the afore-mentioned bleakness.
Mindhorn. Julian Barrett gets his Howard Moon on in this great film concept. He plays an actor, once the star of reasonably popular eighties cop show, now struggling for work. He is called in to assist with a police investigation back on the Isle of Man, in which a murder suspect will only speak to this fictional cop who he thinks is real – and hilarious situations ensue. There is a similar vibe to the Alan Partridge film here – not just in the humour and the fact it stars Steve Coogan, but also in its juxtaposition of Hollywood-type action with a rural British setting. Most importantly, though, the film is very funny.
Their Finest. A perfectly pleasant British film, set during World War II, centred on the screenwriters of a propaganda film production. Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin are strong in their main roles and Bill Nighy is perfectly entertaining as Bill Nighy. The themes, of women in the workplace and of the power of cinema are well handled, even with all the whimsy. Perhaps the love story was unnecessary, and often clichéd, but even that has some surprises up its sleeves.
Alien: Covenant. I will always be excited by a new Alien film. I know perfectly well that no prequel or sequel will ever be half as great as the original or even get that close to Aliens. However, there is always that hope that it will go some way to keeping me entertained. Prometheus had great elements and was perfectly decent; and this follow-up lands on that same tier. Some grand ideas, some of which fall on, if not quite face, than their knees at least. Fassbender is great in both is subtly nuanced roles and the two strands of story – the new one of the colonial ship and the one from Prometheus -come together reasonably nicely. So, despite the missed opportunities and the plot holes, it all looked very nice and it was enjoyable enough.
Colossal. The film is great; on the most part. It is quirky and original and it is serious and sinister, with none of these traits ever feeling jarring. Anne Hathaway is brilliant. The two storylines – her leaving New York after a break-up to move back to her hometown and a giant monster attacking Seoul quickly come together in the most bizarre and interesting way. As the film progresses, Jason Sudeikis’ character gets more interesting and the film’s themes of alcohol abuse, jealousy, male chauvinism, and the disconnection from tragedies happening in non-Western countries come to a head. It gets parts of the ending slightly wrong, in my opinion – I thought it could have done without trying to explain the phenomenon, plus several things with the final exchange were morally and conceptually wonky. Which is shame. It was so close to perfection, but still settled comfortably on great.
FILM OF THE MONTH: Lady Macbeth