Thursday 21 July 2016

The Last 5 Films I've Seen (from best to worst)

Alienated: The Independence Day sequel is an ungodly mess

1.The Measure Of A Man (2015): Stéphane Brizé's film uses France's economic downturn to explore the effects of austerity on the male psyche; specifically how it can emasculate, humiliate and ultimately dehumanise even the most resolute. Veteran French actor Vincent Lindon (who I last saw a couple of years ago in Claire Denis's excellent Bastards) is Thierry Taugourdeau, a former factory worker struggling to keep his family's head above water after two years of unemployment. But even when he finally lands a job as a security guard at a supermarket, he struggles with the compromises his new position forces him to make. Comparisons to the Dardenne Brothers' 
Two Days, One Night and, I suspect, Ken Loach's forthcoming I, Daniel Blake are inevitable as all three films explore the human cost of the economic downturn. Lindon is quite brilliant here (he deservedly won the Best Actor award at last year's Cannes) and the whole enterprise is shot through with both authenticity and anger.  

Dirty work: Lindon is superb in The Measure Of A Man

2. Weiner (2016): Candid documentary chronicling the fall of disgraced US politician Anthony Weiner. The appropriately-named Democrat was forced to resign from Congress in 2011 after sending 'dick pics' of himself to women via social media. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's excellent film picks up his story two years later with Weiner running to be Mayor of New York. Suffice to say, old habits die hard and it isn't long before he and his long-suffering wife - Huma Abedin, an aid to Hillary Clinton - are under siege from the media as his reputation is trashed all over again. You feel desperately sorry for her and a mixture of fury and frustration at Weiner himself, a talented, charismatic politician who could have gone far if he'd only learned to keep Weiner Jr in his pants. 
3. The Invitation (2015): Talking about The Witch on here recently I've mentioned how my favourite horror films are those that, instead of shouting 'Boo!' at you every five minutes, concentrate on creating an atmosphere of looming dread. Director Karyn Kusama's The Invitation (available now on Netflix UK) is one that does just that. Will and his girlfriend Kira are invited to a dinner party thrown by his ex-wife Eden and her new man. It takes place at Will and Eden's old place in the Hollywood Hills, the scene of a family tragedy that drove the couple apart. The other guests are a mix of old friends and a couple of vaguely intimidating newbies. Devastated by grief, it quickly becomes clear Eden is no longer the woman Will married and that her new beau and his pals have sinister plans for the other guests. It builds beautifully - something feels off from the moment Will and Kira walk through the door and Kusama has enormous fun working with that to bring the sense of tension and paranoia slowly but surely to boiling point. The last 20 minutes - when everything goes batshit crazy - are well worth the wait.

Dinner crime: Murder's on the menu in The Invitation  

4. The Mermaid (2016): Barking-mad Chinese romantic comedy from Stephen Chow, who you just might remember from 2011's equally crackers Shaolin Soccer. Playboy businessman Liu Xuan buys up a wildlife reserve to further one of his evil capitalist schemes and scares off the local sea life with a sonar device that also lays waste to the area's population of merpeople. The survivors send mermaid Shan (Lin Yun) to assassinate Liu but instead the pair fall for each other. It's ridiculous, with CG like something out of a '70s episode of Doctor Who, but gets by on its breathless energy, madcap performances and buckets of charm. The highest grossing Chinese film of all time, too, apparently.
5. Independence Day: Resurgence (2016): I saw the original Independence Day again quite recently and despite the dodgy ending and iffy dialogue, I loved the way it built the alien threat slowly but surely, as it introduced us to a cast of intriguing characters. It also boasted some smart, ahead-of-its-time FX work, and the scenes set at the Area 51 base are all terrific. This unnecessary and inferior sequel, on the other hand, is an ungodly mess lacking any of the original's charm. Jeff Goldblum is as watchable as ever but there's a big Will Smith-sized hole here that the next generation of alien fighters never even comes close to filling. Best not make it a trilogy, eh?

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