Unbridled Extravagance

My Cousin Rachel

Director: Roger Michell

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, Pierfrancesco Favino, Andrew Knott, Tim Barlow

South African born British based director Roger Michell has been responsible for such films as Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Morning Glory and Hyde Park on Hudson. Michell returns with a cinematic adaptation of the Victorian Gothic romantic drama by Daphne du Maurier My Cousin Rachel set in the dramatic cliffs of Devon and Cornwall and also in Florence Italy.

My Cousin Rachel is a handsome cinematic production held together by a suitably ambiguous performance by Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, Youth) as Rachel Ashley who arrives in England to seduce the impressionably young Philip Ashley wonderfully played with besotted bewilderment by Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Their Finest and The Riot Club) who is proving to be one Britain’s rising young actors.

When young Philip’s legal guardian travels to Tuscany to recuperate and then mysteriously dies, leaving Philip’s claim to his cousin’s massive estate in a precarious position, Philip travels to Italy to uncover the source of the mystery surrounding his new relative the beautiful Rachel. Upon arrival in Italy he does not meet Rachel but the Italian lawyer handling his cousin’s affairs played by Pierfrancesco Favino (Rush, Angels and Demons), who Philip suspects is conniving with Rachel to steal Philip’s rightful inheritance.

Back in England, advised by his godfather Nick Kendall played by Game of Thrones star Iain Glen and his daughter Louisa played by Holliday Grainger (Cinderella, The Finest Hours and Anna Karenina), Philip is initially weary of Rachel as she sets foot on English soil soon to arrive at the family home at dusk.

Incredibly dramatic, the one thing Philip has not had in his life is any female influences so naturally he is completely beguiled by the beautiful and exotic half Italian Rachel who makes such a fashionable entrance in local society, which is enough to cause a mild scandal.

But as family jewels are generously given away and as Philip approaches his 25th birthday upon which he will rightfully inherit his cousin’s massive estate, intrigue within the landed gentry is heightened by the scheming and provocative Rachel who often dressed in mourning is portrayed as a sort of Black Widow, a woman with a rumoured  history of killing off husbands to profit off their inheritances.

My Cousin Rachel is the Victorian femme fatale, a noir female character who is subtly undermining all that the male hero is trying to achieve, which in this case is quenching his unbridled lust matched only by Rachel’s own unbridled extravagance. Sexual tensions simmer as the scheming continues, but as the narrative draws to a dramatic conclusion, My Cousin Rachel leaves audiences with a portrait of a woman with considerably dubious intentions.

My Cousin Rachel gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and will be enjoyed by audiences that love period dramas with a touch of the Victorian Gothic, especially scenes of luminous pearls cascading down darkened candlelit staircases.

Initiates and Caregivers

The Wound (INXEBA)

(poster will be available upon commercial release)

Director: John Trengrove

Cast: Nakhane Toure, Bongile Mantsai, Niza Jay, Thobani Mseleni

Spoiler alert valid until date of commercial release

Director John Trengrove’s film The Wound about ritual circumcision practices in the rural Xhosa community is sure to generate discussions around patriarchy, cultural taboos and more controversially homosexuality.

The Wound premiered internationally at the Sundance Film Festival (add URL) held in Park City, Utah in January 2017 and later opened the Berlinale Panorama at the Berlin International Film Festival in the same month.

The Wound had its South African premiere at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) in July 2017 http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ At the 38th Durban International Film Festival, John Trengrove won Best Director for The Wound and Nakhane Toure  who plays the main character Xolani deservedly won Best Actor.

Scheduled for commercial release in South Africa in early 2018, The Wound is already generating controversy and passionate discussion on social media and given the amount of publicity around the film it is sure to inject life into contemporary 21st century South African film analysis.

The story focuses on a lonely factory worker Xolani who works in Johannesburg but travels back to the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood through the Xhosa cultural practice of ritual circumcision under the supervision of his male tribal elders.

The Wound is about a sexually charged love triangle between Xolani played by Nakhane Toure, Vija played by Bongile Mantsai and the young Kwanda played with a precocious abandonment by Niza Jay framed within an almost secretive cultural practice of the Xhosa ritual circumcision ceremonies which takes place in the mountainous Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

As a piece of cinema, The Wound is riveting entertainment and certainly an eye opener in many respects beautifully directed by John Trengrove who in keeping with the desire to make an authentic ethnographic film smartly has all the dialogue in Xhosa and has no female characters since the narrative focuses on the complex relationships between initiates and caregivers which dominates many patriarchal societies especially where rights of manhood are concerned.

Comparisons are there for many viewers in similar societies internationally, but what is more perplexing about The Wound is Xolani’s ultimate choice to free himself of his hidden sexual identity. A choice which appears to be devoid of moral consequence.

The Wound is a fascinating portrayal of masculinity, hidden love and how society shapes rituals to transform teenage boys into brave and tough men. Which is also not specific to the Xhosa tribe, but to many other cultures and nationalities worldwide where it is imperative to prepare the men for a prescribed role of familial provider, defender and protector.

Provocatively, The Wound will certainly generate significant discussion around visual interpretations of patriarchy and sexuality which makes the film all the more relevant, relentless and resonant.

Highly recommended viewing, The Wound is film making at its best and should fare brilliantly as South Africa’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Oscars. If it does get nominated, then The Wound will join a canon of international world cinema which delves intimately into subjects which are essentially taboo in their home countries.

The Wound gets a Film Rating of 8.5 out 10. Ultimately, the wider audience needs to see this film and challenges their own preconceptions.

 

Dividing a Subcontinent

Viceroy’s House

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Lily Travers, Manish Dayal, Om Puri, Huma Qureshi, Simon Williams

Bend it Like Beckham Kenyan born, British director Gurinder Chadha’s handsome post-colonial film Viceroy’s House about the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent in August 1947 effortlessly blends documentary footage of the historic event with gorgeous production design and exquisite costumes.

Fresh from his success as playing Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham in the hit BBC series Downton Abbey, Hugh Bonneville turns in a nuanced performance as Lord Louis Mountbatten the last Viceroy of India who has daunting task of giving India its independence after 300 years of British rule.

Lord Louis Mountbatten is accompanied by his affected yet compassionate wife Lady Edwina Mountbatten played by Gillian Anderson (Shadow Dancer, The Last King of Scotland). Lily Travers (Kingsman: Secret Service, Me Before You) plays their daughter Lady Pamela Hicks.

The actual task of dividing the subcontinent into India and Pakistan so brilliantly written about in Salman Rushdie’s seminal post-colonial text Midnight’s Children is taken up by Sir Cyril Radcliffe in Viceroy’s House superbly played by Simon Callow the stalwart supporting actor of all those Merchant Ivory film’s in the 1980’s and 90’s from A Room with a View to Howard’s End and Jefferson in Paris.

Sir Radcliffe after admitting that he has never stepped foot in the Punjab admits that this is “a monstrous responsibility for one man”.

Equally on edge at the thought of a massive subcontinent being divided and suddenly changing power, are the two love interests of Viceroy’s House, the Hindu manservant Jeet wonderfully played by Manish Dayal (The Hundred-Foot Journey) and his Muslim girlfriend Aalia played by Huma Qureshi. Aalia, a bright and intelligent woman has to look after her father Ali Rahim Noor played by the recently deceased veteran Indian actor Om Puri (The Hundred-Foot Journey, Gandhi).

Michael Gambon who was so brilliant in Brideshead Revisited makes a welcome addition to the British cast as General Lionel Hastings who proves to be more deviant and manipulative as the partition date approaches in the summer of 1947.

In terms of setting the right political tone for the Viceroy’s House director Gurinder Chadha relies heavily on actual news and documentary footage of the partition and the massive disruption and refugee crisis it created when the subcontinent broke into India and Pakistan and then again into Bangladesh.

Chadha chooses to use the actual historical Viceroy’s house a sumptuous Empire palace to metaphorically show a subcontinent being torn into two as all the house servants had to literally choose which country to belong to in the space of three weeks: India or Pakistan, as well as callously divide up all the possessions of this magnificent estate.

From a historical perspective, Viceroy’s House is a fascinating film about the after effects of colonialism and the subsequent first heady days of independence in this case not of one country but two divided controversially along religious lines, Hindu and Muslim.

Audiences that enjoyed Midnight’s Children, Heat and Dust, A Passage to India, will certainly enjoy Viceroy’s House although these films are a far cry from the contemporary portrayal of India and Pakistan in such films as Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Fascinating, tragic and historically relevant, Viceroy’s House with its sumptuous production design and beautiful costumes gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

 

The Exiled King

The Exception

Director: David Leveaux

Cast: Jai Courtney, Lily James, Christopher Plummer, Janet McTeer, Eddie Marsan, Ben Daniels, Anton Lesser, Mark Dexter

After its packed South African premiere at the 38th Durban International Film Festival, http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ The Exception is a riveting World War II drama told from the German perspective.

Set in Holland in 1940, German soldier Stefan Brandt played with bravado by Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad, A Good Day to Die Hard) is sent to guard the exiled king Wilhelm II wonderfully played by Oscar winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners).

At the end of World War One when the allies defeated Germany, besides the harsh reparations placed on the defeated nation, one of the conditions of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles was that the reigning German monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II be stripped of his royal title and sent to live in exile in Utrecht, Holland.

British director David Leveaux assembles a fantastic cast in this interesting film also starring Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella) as a sexually provocative Dutch maid Mieke de Jong who quickly falls in love with the handsome and tough Brandt and Oscar nominee Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) as Kaiser Wilhelm’s wife, Princess Hermine who is desperately hoping that her exiled husband will have his monarchy restored even though Germany has entered the Third Reich under the ruthless Nazi’s who have started World War II.

Eddie Marsan (Their Finest, Happy Go Lucky, Concussion) appears as the creepy Head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, in a brief yet comical scene stealer.

As a historical film, The Exception is a watchable tale, filled with intrigue, sexual conquest and lost dreams although its relevance will be lost on a mostly English speaking audience and also because most of the cast are British, Canadian or Australian actors playing German characters. If audiences want authenticity they should watch the excellent 2015 German film, The People vs. Fritz Bauer, which also premiered at #DIFF2017 http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ as part of the German Film Focus.

Nevertheless, as a World War II thriller which deviates from the usual Allied scenario, The Exception is enjoyable in the same vein as director Mark Herman’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

What does stand out in The Exception, are the fine performances of Christopher Plummer and Janet McTeer but sadly their acting will probably be overlooked in the 2018 Oscar race.

Concisely written with an engaging plot, The Exception gets a film rating of 7.5 out 10 and was an impressive film to be screened at the Durban International Film Festival, attracting a full cinema house.

Recommended viewing for audiences that prefer a provocative World War Two thriller from the perspective of the so-called enemy.

 

For the Young and The Fast

Baby Driver

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Lily James, Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal

While the trailer is cool and the cast is hip, Baby Driver delivers some cool stunts as a sequential car chase film with its sweet looking leads Baby played by Ansel Elgort and Debora played by rising British star Lily James.

With a fabulous soundtrack, Edgar Wright’s crime caper Baby Driver, clearly inspired by Pulp Fiction is thrilling to watch, with a great fast-paced narrative, transplanting the action from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Georgia it does get weigh down by its own super-cool importance and could have been edited by at least 20 minutes.

Oscar winner Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects, American Beauty) plays crime boss Doc who hires Baby played by Ansel Elgort as a bank robbery get a way driver because of his fast skills behind the wheel. That and the fact that Baby doesn’t get fazed by the traffic, the cops or his fellow henchman. Baby starts re-evaluating his crime driving does when he meets the sweet Southern diner waitress Debora played by Lily James (Cinderella, Wrath of the Titans).

Soon Baby wants out but has to contend with a new and vicious crew headed by the psychopathic Bats wonderfully played by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (Ray) and equally threatened by the crazy gun-wielding Buddy played by Mad Men star Jon Hamm (The Town, Million Dollar Arm).

Audiences should expect lots of car chases, a really cool soundtrack and a crime caper with as many twists and turns as a Southern freeway. Despite the hype surrounding Baby Driver and its ode to all things Americana – The Cars, The Diner, the Freeway, director Edgar Wright places too much emphasis on trying to encode the narrative with a moral undertone which doesn’t quite work especially towards the end of the film.

Basically, despite all the violence, money grabbing and loads of action, the end result is crime doesn’t pay – which is ultimately a bizarre sentiment to portray in a film such as Baby Driver which glorifies crime, violence and greed, making all three look hip, cool and attainable especially in a fast car.

Baby Driver is a stylish and entertaining ride, but don’t expect the cinematic journey to live up to the hype. Nevertheless its still a fun way to spend an afternoon at the movies.

For the young and the fast, Baby Driver gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and recommended for audiences that enjoyed Pulp Fiction and all sorts of sleazy, pulpy crime thrillers which the Americans are so fond of making. The irony is that director Edgar Wright is British…

The music is the best thing in this action flick!

 

 

Savage Nobles

The Lost City of Z

Director: James Gray

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, Franco Nero, Angus McFadyen, Edward Ashley

The Immigrant director James Gray’s handsome exploratory film The Lost City of Z had its South African premiere at the 38th Durban International Film Festival http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/. Starring Charlie Hunnam in the role of British explorer Percy Fawcett who establishes his inherent masculinity in the opening shot of the film as Fawcett hunts deer on an estate in Ireland during the Edwardian era.

Hunnam embodies the role of the hunky and courageous explorer Percy Fawcett who according to legend was the inspiration behind Indiana Jones and also whose life was briefly drawn upon in the Charles Sturridge film A Handful of Dust starring James Wilby and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Although The Lost City of Z is set during an earlier period pre World War 1 and in the early 1920’s it documents the extraordinarily bizarre story of Fawcett who with the backing of the Royal Geographic Society travels to the unexplored border of Bolivia and Brazil deep in the Amazon jungle and becomes convinced that there is indeed evidence of a much earlier advanced population that lived there in a illusive city of Z, an exotic place hidden in the jungle filled with gold far removed from the civilized establishment of Europe.

After several tormented expeditions to the heart of the Amazon with his aide-de-camp Henry Costin played by Robert Pattinson, his geographical explorations are halted when world war one breaks out and Percy is forced to fight, leaving his frustrated wife Nina played by Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, American Sniper) to look after his three children.

Nina sees the value of her husband’s expeditions but wishes that as a woman she has more influence to assist him, such as accompanying him to the tropics, a desire which Sienna Miller conveys beautifully in her screen portrayal.

Angus Macfayden (We Bought a Zoo,) plays the disruptive financier and explorer James Murray who Fawcett and Costin abandon on a second expedition to the Amazon just before WW1 breaks out. Murray attempts to discredit’s Fawcett’s reputation as an explorer.

Despite internal society politics and world war, The Lost City of Z is a fascinating portrayal of one man’s quest to discover The Other, the truly exotic even if it means possibly endangering his own life and that of his son Jack played by Tom Holland (Spiderman Homecoming). Fawcett in his quest for discovery pays the ultimate price of a nobleman obsessed with a savage jungle.

Audiences should watch out for a cameo by veteran Italian actor Franco Nero (Django, Django Unchained) as the decadent Baron De Gondoriz who has established a debauched Portuguese outpost deep in the Amazon complete with naked tribes and operatic performances.

With a screenplay by James Gray and David Grann based upon the book The Lost City of Z, the film version is fascinating if slightly long in the middle, yet definitely worth watching if audiences enjoyed such ethnographic films as At Play in the Fields of the Lord and of course A Handful of Dust.

The Lost City of Z gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Source: Percy Fawcett – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Fawcett

 

Operation Dynamo

Dunkirk

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Jack Lowden, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, James D’Arcy, Michael Fox, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keogh

Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy director Christopher Nolan achieves a cinematic feat when he authentically tackles the war genre in his brilliant film Dunkirk starring a host of young British actors including One Direction lead singer Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard backed up by some Oscar nominees Tom Hardy (The Revenant) and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) and Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies).

Dunkirk shot entirely with Imax cameras and with crystal clear cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema who also worked on Interstellar and superb production design by Nathan Crowley is a cinematic experience of unparalleled proportions. Epic, immediate and accessible.

SURVIVAL IS VICTORY

Christopher Nolan keeps his war film as authentic as possible with hardly any use of CGI and using real planes, ships and shot mostly on location at Dunkirk in Northern France, the film immediately positions the viewer in the centre of Operation Dynamo: the forced evacuation by allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk between 26th May and the 4th June 1940 as the allies were hemmed in by the Nazi’s approaching from the Western Front and the Luftwaffe were bombing the evacuees at a rapid rate over the English channel.

With minimal dialogue, Dunkirk brilliantly retells this eventful evacuation from three different geographic perspectives Land, Sea and Air.

While the British soldiers viewed the evacuation as a retreat, the fact that so many of the soldiers were saved by civilian ships, was an absolute miracle: 338 226 mostly British, French and Dutch soldiers were rescued in possibly the biggest military evacuation in human history especially during a World War.

Dunkirk is told from three distinct perspectives, Tommy, the everyday 19 year old British soldier played by Fionn Whitehead, from air force fighter pilot Farrier played by Tom Hardy and also from the perspective of Mr Dawson played with determination by Mark Rylance who takes his civilian fishing boat across the channel to save soldiers aided by his son Peter played by Tom Glynn-Carney and his friend George played by Barry Keogh.

 

The best sequence in Dunkirk is when Collins, played by Jack Lowden (A United Kingdom), another fighter pilot crash lands in the icy channel and is trapped inside the sinking spitfire intercut with Tommy and a gang of young soldiers including Alex played by Harry Styles are trapped inside a precariously berthed ship which is being shot at from an unseen enemy as the tide is coming in on the beach.

Cillian Murphy (Inception, The Wind that Shakes the Barley) gives a harrowing portrayal of a rescued shell shocked soldier who is desperate to leave the slaughterhouse that was Europe during World War II and is horrified when he goes back to the shores of Dunkirk to rescue more soldiers under the stern command of Mr Dawson.

The visceral tension as the evacuation gets more dangerous and urgent aided by a frenetic original score by Hans Zimmer, makes Dunkirk a truly exceptional, economical and sublime war film, authentic and utterly immediate. Christopher Nolan places audiences directly in the centre of Operation Dynamo with ships sinking, aerial battles and underwater sequences which put James Cameron’s Titanic to shame, Dunkirk is a truly exceptional film.

Come Oscars 2018, Dunkirk should be recognized for being a masterful film, in terms of sound editing, cinematography and the sheer scale of the cinematic production.

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk is a cinematic masterpiece and gets a film rating of 9.5 out 10.

 

The Survival of the Species

War for the Planet of the Apes

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Max Lloyd-Jones

Original score composer Michael Giacchino won an Oscar for Best Original Score for the animated film Up in 2010. Giacchino has also composed film music for Ratatouille, Inside Out and Jurassic World among many others. His most recent musical composition is for the Matt Reeves directed War for the Planet of the Apes in which he surely deserves another Oscar nomination.

In this case, brilliant music makes the film. War for the Planet of the Apes on a technical level is a superb film with superior production design by James Chinlund while the sound editing is perfect especially noticeable in the film’s final battle sequence which by all counts is absolutely remarkable.

As a story of survival of one species over another and an allegorical tale about the horrors of colonialism, War for the Planet of the Apes, with an engaging screenplay by Mark Bomback, is a fascinating film examining ethnographically man’s relationship with animals within the context of climate change or scientific experimentation.

At the centre of the narrative about a vicious conflict between men and apes is a towering performance by Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (No Country for Old Men, The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Messenger) as The Colonel In which he draws direct inspiration from Marlon Brando’s performance of Colonel Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola’s ground breaking Apocalypse Now.

Andy Serkis in motion capture technology plays Caesar an ape desperately trying to save his clan from being eliminated by the merciless attack of The Colonel’s army.

In a fascinating plot twist, the apes discover a mute young girl, played by Amiah Miller who galvanizes their support to fight on and also provides empathy for a conflict which is far more complex than it appears, brought on by a simian virus which has attacked Earth.

In the final chapter of the Apes Trilogy, War for the Planet of the Apes is technically brilliant, engaging and utterly watchable and director Matt Reeves has proved his worth in a film which is as good as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, which also provided the final chapter in a compact trilogy.

Toby Kebbell (Warcraft, Prince of Persia) appears briefly as Koba and Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club) appears as Bad Ape all done in superb motion capture technology but what really elevates War for the Planet of the Apes was the excellent musical score provided by Michael Giacchino for which he should be recognized at the 2018 Oscars.

War for the Planet of the Apes gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended for audiences that enjoyed the first two chapters of the Apes films. Technically this film is extraordinary.

 

Magellan’s Curve

Valerian and

the City of a Thousand Planets

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Rihanna, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, Sam Spruell, Rutger Hauer, Kris Wu, Herbie Hancock

French director Luc Besson attempts to re-enact his Sci-Fi success of his hit film The Fifth Element with a sparkling and innovative new space adventure film set in the 28th century Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets starring Dane DeHaan (Life, Kill Your Darlings) as Major Valerian and British fashion model turned actress Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) as his sidekick stroke lover Sergeant Laureline.

After an impressive Virtual Reality sequence in a universal market, Valerian comes face to face with the Pearls a luminescent race whose planet accidentally got obliterated during a celestial conflict.

The Pearls, initially a harmonious alien race soon realize that dark forces are at play in the Universe and seek shelter in an abandoned space ship which is transported to the vast city of a Thousand Planets called Alpha.

The attractive duo Valerian and Laureline play the ever bickering lovers of this bizarre space opera have to report to the crafty Commander Arun Filitt played by Oscar nominee Clive Owen (Closer). As the duo have to discover what is really behind the malignant threat growing within the City, they come into contact with a collection of utterly bizarre CGI creatures and a guest appearance by superstar Rihanna as Bubble who appears in a Cabaret like moment as a glambot nicknamed Bubble.

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood, Training Day) appears all too briefly as the crazy pimp Jolly in Paradise Alley where he attempts to entice Valerian in all sorts of virtual lascivious entanglements with Bubble.

While the pace of Valerian slackens in the second half of the film, the visual effects are utterly mind-blowing and since the majority of the film’s financing came from BNP Paribas let’s hope director Luc Besson gets a return on his box office both in France and internationally.

With fabulous onscreen chemistry between DeHaan and Delevingne, audiences should completely suspend their disbelief as they watch Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets which will certainly appeal to fans of comic book Sci-Fi. The funky score by Alexander Desplat and the gorgeous cinematography by Thierry Abrogast make Valerian cinematically palatable and infinitely beautiful despite some extremely imaginative sequences.

The voices of Elizabeth Debicki and John Goodman also feature in Valerian.

The story of home planets being destroyed is nothing original and has been done before in Star Trek Beyond and Star Wars, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is recommended viewing for hard core fans of Sci-Fi and gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

Audiences should watch out for a cameo by Dutch actor Rutger Hauer as President of the World State Federation who appeared in the original Blade Runner film directed by Ridley Scott in 1982.

 

Rejuvenated Web Slinger

Spiderman Homecoming

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Donald Glover, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Logan Marshall-Green, Jennifer Connelly, Laura Harrier, Angourie Rice

Young British star Tom Holland, who was riveting as Naomi Watt’s son Lucas in director J. A. Bayona’s The Impossible, takes on the iconic superhero role of Spiderman in the Sony Marvel reboot of the webslinger franchise in the captivating Spiderman Homecoming directed by Jon Watts.

Since Marvel entered into a rights partnership agreement to use the Sony copyrighted superhero in Captain America: Civil War when audiences first caught a brief glimpse of Tom Holland as the new Spiderman it was inevitable that he would get a film of his own.

Spiderman Homecoming is thoroughly entertaining augmented by Holland’s spunky performance as the brash young Peter Parker who is struggling to complete High School while also being mentored by Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jnr. The young Spidey has allusions of grandeur of being inducted into the Avengers army but Tony Stark is rather letting him prove his worth first.

In a poignant moment, Stark says to Peter Parker, if you are nothing without this suit then the suit will mean nothing. In other words, the clothes do not maketh the man.

Parker, played with humour and courage by Holland soon proves his worth and apparent screen appeal when while revealing his alter ego to his best friend also has to contend with an evil villain Vulture wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Michael Keaton (Birdman) and his protective aunt May, whom he loves dearly played by another Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny).

While all this parental authority weighs down on the young webslinger he soon finds his own feet as he saves his science group from a diabolical end in the Washington monument whilst on a school trip to Washington D. C. The Washington monument and the action packed ferry sequences are two of the best in Spider Homecoming, both scenes being awash with symbolic American patriotism.

The irony is that Tom Holland is British is not lost on a more erudite viewer of pop culture.

Spider Homecoming has with some great cameo’s including Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Bokeem Woodbine of Fargo TV series fame as Herman Schultz, Vulture’s evil sidekick known as Shocker 2. Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) plays the ill-advised first evil sidekick Shock 1.

Parker’s love interest is high school crush Liz played by Laura Harrier which allows for the narrative to set up an interesting twist towards the end and will definitely satisfy any lack of diversity disclaimers.

Audiences should forget Tobey Maguire as Spiderman in the Sam Raimi Trilogy or the ill-fated Amazing Spiderman films starring Andrew Garfield. Tom Holland presents a revitalized savvy young superhero which will ensure the franchise’s continued survival in the cluttered Marvel universe as he will next be appearing in the anticipated The Avengers: Infinity War.

You never too old to watch Spiderman.

Spiderman Homecoming is blissfully entertaining and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

 

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  
  • Wong Kar-wai Honored in Lyon, Talks Early Influences, Bruce Lee, Hong Kong Handover and Bigger Canvas for ‘Grandmaster’
    LYON The Lumière Festival honored Wong Kar-wai with the Lumière Award on Friday following a wide-ranging discussion between the Chinese filmmaker and the festival director Thierry Frémaux about his life and career. Asked about his early influences during the master class, held in front of a packed house at the majestic Théâtre des Célestins ahead […]
    John Hopewell
  • Film Review: ‘Same Kind of Different as Me’
    In 1998, millionaire art dealer Ron Hall, a Fort Worth father of two and an adulterer, promised he’d do anything to win back his wife Debbie, a “girl with a heart so big that all of Texas couldn’t hold it.” Debbie gave him a challenge: help her feed the homeless at Fort Worth’s Union Gospel […]
    Peter Debruge
  • Busan: Korea’s ‘After My Death,’ Iran’s ‘Blockage’ Win Competition
    Films from South Korea and Iran were announced Saturday as joint winners of the Busan Film Festival’s main competition section. Kim Ui-seok’s “After My Death” and Mohsen Gharaei’s “Blockage” won the New Currents competition which focuses on first and second features by filmmakers from Asia. “My Death” is critique of the world where reason and […]
    Patrick Frater
  • Film Review: Pixar’s ‘Coco’
    Conceived as a vibrant celebration of Mexican culture, writer-director Lee Unkrich’s “Coco” is the 19th feature from Pixar Animation Studios and the first to seriously deal with the deficit of nonwhite characters in its films — so far limited to super-sidekick Frozone in “The Incredibles,” tagalong Russell in “Up” and Mindy Kaling’s green-skinned Disgust in “Inside […]
    Peter Debruge
  • Film News Roundup: Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions Backs Oliver Sacks Documentary
    In today’s film news roundup, Paul Allen comes on board an Oliver Sacks documentary, the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival unveils its lineup, and animation veteran Teresa Cheng gets a USC post. DOCUMENTARY BACKING Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions is backing the documentary “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” in partnership with Steeplechase Films, American […]
    Dave McNary