Saturday 30 July 2016

The Last 5 Films I've Seen

Ghouls just want to have fun: Ghostbusters brings the laughs

1. Barbara (2012): Emotionally and morally complex '80s-set German drama from Christian Petzold, who directed last year's superb Phoenix. Petzold's regular collaborator Nina Hoss is the titular Barbara, an East German doctor exiled to a rural town from Berlin after she applies for an exit visa. Planning to defect to be with her West German lover, Barbara is shadowed by the Stasi, who regularly ransack her room and subject her to humiliating strip searches. Mistrust looms large as Hoss keeps her new colleagues at arm's length, including Ronald Zehrfeld's head physician André, and a palpable sense of paranoia informs the whole thing. But, ultimately, it's a tale of sacrifice and perhaps learning to make the most of what you have. Hoss is, as ever, tremendous and, although low-key, the film skewers Soviet-era Communism quietly and effectively. Rating: WWWW

The good German: Nina Hoss is tremendous in Barbara

2. Summertime (2015): Post-Blue Is The Warmest Colour, any French drama concerning a lesbian love affair is inevitably going to be compared  probably unfavourably  with Abdellatif Kechiche's controversial Palme d'Or winner. But Summertime shouldn't be dismissed so lightly as its a powerful and pleasing piece of work in its own right. Set in 1971, it tells the story of farm girl Delphine who travels to Paris and gets caught up in the city's burgeoning feminist movement. She meets Spanish teacher Carole, and the pair begin a relationship. However, when Delphine's father falls sick, she returns to the farm with the older woman in tow. The pair have to keep their affair a secret from conservative locals, while Delphine struggles to square the circle of wanting to be with Carole but also needing to support her family. It isn't as instantly lovable as Blue... but neither does it fall victim to the graphic clumsiness of that film's sex scenes (although, being French, there is nudity in abundance). Izïa Higelin and Cécile De France are terrific and believable in the lead roles, director Catherine Corsini and her cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie bring the beauty of rural France crackling to life and, come the ending, there won't be a dry eye in the house. Rating: WWW

A place in the sun: Summertime is a fine romance

3. Ghostbusters (2016): With Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) in the director's chair, Parks & Recreation's Katie Dippold on script duties and Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig leading the cast, there was no way this female-centric remake of the beloved '80s supernatural comedy was ever going to fall flat... whatever the micro-penised trolls of the Internet wanted us to believe otherwise. It might not be as good as the original, could have done with one or two more killer gags and McCarthy is oddly subdued, but it had me smiling from beginning to end, and laughing out loud on at least a couple of occasions (Chris Hemsworth as dopey receptionist Kevin gets the best lines). In fact, there's a sense of joy about the whole enterprise, from Kate McKinnon's larger-than-life turn as nuclear engineer Holtzmann, to some nicely judged cameos from the original cast (Murray! Aykroyd! Weaver! Hudson! Slimer!). Rating: WWW      

Slimelight: Ignore the haters, Ghostbusters is good fun

4. Green Room (2015): Jeremy Saulnier's horror/thriller sees a US punk rock band – The Ain't Rights – finishing an unsuccessful tour with a gig at a backwoods club boasting a worryingly far-right clientele. The group – which includes Arrested Development's Alia Shawcat and the late Anton Yelchin – stumble in on a murder scene and the rest of the film sees them desperately trying to escape before the club's nasty-bastard owner (Patrick Stewart, clearly relishing a turn for the villainous) and his mob of neo-Nazis can silence them. It's tense, intermittently thrilling, and brutal enough to make you flinch, but somehow feels a bit lightweight and straightforward when set against the perceptive exploration of revenge the director offered in Blue Ruin, his far better previous film. Rating: WW

Rock and a hard place: Things go south in Green Room

5. The Legend Of Tarzan (2015): When I was a kid, Tarzan was as much a part of UK pop culture as Doctor Who – I seemed to spend my life surrounded by comics, cartoons, TV shows and old films dedicated to the Lord Of The Jungle. Thirty-odd years down the line, though, Edgar Rice Burroughs's most famous creation has slipped so far outside the zeitgeist, he makes The Six Million Dollar Man look positively hip and happening. The main problem, I suspect, is that the idea of a white English posho lording it over black Africans is, in these more enlightened times, seen as an embarrassing evocation of Empire as well as incredibly racist. Director David Yates and his team tackle this obstacle head on and make a decent fist of repositioning Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) as an honourable cove with nothing but love and respect for the tribes he and wife Jane (Margot Robbie) encounter. Putting the iniquities of the 19th Century slave trade front and centre – and giving Samuel L Jackson a sizeable role in proceedings – help too. It could have done with more humour, some of the plotting is a bit clunky, and I wasn't always convinced by the CGI – especially if you set it against that featured in The Jungle Book. That said, Skarsgård is suitably butch and brooding as the titular character and Christoph Waltz adds another bravura villain turn to his CV. Ultimately, it tries to do too much but, as reboots of classic characters go, I've definitely seen worse. Rating: WW

Jungle fever: The Legend Of Tarzan has its moments

WWWW - Wonderful
WWW - Worthwhile
WW - Watchable
W - Woeful

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