Sunday, 26 August 2018
Boling's film is a micro-budget affair without any technobabble or FX, albeit that you get the feeling that the director wouldn't know where to start if forced to explain how or why the characters got there. But, disregarding that, what we get is a quiet New York relationship drama, playing on the idea of the refugees from a bleaker future, trying to stay under the radar, equating to the situation of all lonely, guarded immigrants in an alien world.
It's a painstakingly-crafted labour of love, having employed a total of 125 artists from more than 20 countries, and the visual end result, bringing the landscapes and personages of the paintings to vivid life, is quite stunning. But it's also a tad flat dramatically, as the image and our awareness of what effort it took to create constantly overpowers the acting and slender plot, with the inevitable urge to identify the big-name actors behind the paint also a distraction. It is undoubtedly meant to educate, and does bring Van Gogh's work to light in a whole new way, but doesn't quite engage the emotions, meaning that it falls somewhat short of being a complete cinematic work.
Monday, 20 August 2018
Of course, this would be to suggest that we're just dealing with a cynical market-tapping superhero blockbuster to end all blockbusters here. Which naturally it is. But an effort towards a workable film is actually made, even if that too is necessitated by having to preserve the individual selling points of all its zillions of characters, not all of whom have had their own films yet (though that will most likely come), so there's one-liners through the Guardians, manly grieving through Thor, bitchy superciliousness between Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch and teen geekery through Spider-Man. And that serves to make it watchable despite the endless cycle of each big hitter being put in a queue to have their go at the uberbaddie, just enough that when the end comes at last and it's actually surprising, it's a fair reward for the slog. Just don't expect too much from the sequels when the world gets rectified again.
Sunday, 19 August 2018
Del Toro has built his career on far-fetched premises like this, and the conviction with which he pursues them is almost essential to make them work. But here, he may have gone a step too far. As good as Sally Hawkins is as the delicate but determined heroine, with sterling support by Richard Jenkins as her gentle closest friend and Michael Shannon as the irredeemable soldier-villain (akin to the evil captain played by Sergi López in Pan's Labyrinth), a seething mass of prejudice and loathing, and as fabulous the whole of the production design and soundtrack are too, it has to rest on the feasibility and charm of the premise of spontaneous interspecies erotic love, and that's asking a bit much.
It picked up a plethora of accolades and awards, including the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars, and it's easy to see the in an age of big-budget kids' animations with something always included to placate the grown-ups, and droves of sci-fi and superhero films watched by all and sundry, the time is right for romances which are also out-and-out fantasies. Hence the success of La La Land, and now this. They're both full of magical and delightful moments and lovingly made, but also heavily dependent on our surrender to their essential conceits. One wonders how much further we'll go down this road.
Sunday, 12 August 2018
Friday, 10 August 2018
As the Avatar-graphic quest progresses, we go through the most intense saturation of mostly 1980s pop culture references ever seen, at least what Spielberg was allowed to use, from Batmobiles and Duran Duran through to a complete recreation of The Shining as one of the challenges. This proves both daft fun and also as exhausting as the pace which is ramped up to beat even the video games that it reproduces, because it's clearly felt that it has to in order to retain the jaded audience's attention. Of course, both of these characteristics and the FX overload are conveniently justified by the plot.
On a base level, the message is that games-obsessed teens are good and adults are squares, and pop culture cannibalising itself is perfectly acceptable. It would have been nice if there was a more complex message in it, but you don't usually get that with Spielberg's kiddie products, so it was probably pointless to expect one. Compare this with Ender's Game, which was also built on a kid hero playing games to save the world, and yet managed to work in a morally ambiguous resolution.