Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Seven films watched on two planes

Bladerunner 2049
This is not a film designed to be watched on a small, square screen on a plane, the naked bits pixellated and the swearing dubbed. But it still looks amazing, a credible, bleak future of light and texture and history. There's considerable effort to continue on from the original film without matching it slavishly, but sadly this new instalment lacks the quirky humour.

It's treatment of women is also a problem. True, the "pleasure model" Replicants in the first film were all women, and I think this one's trying to make a point about the way women are packaged and sold - while also showing us lots of bare boobs (if I read my pixellated screen right). Given we know that Ryan Reynolds' K is a Replicant, perhaps it would have worked better for him, in his darkest hour, to see a sexy advert not for a Replicant that reminds him of someone else, but for one that looks just like him.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This film about rape and murder and suicide and domestic violence and racism and torture was, helpfully, edited for content, so what seems to have been an almost constant barrage of swearing was dubbed out. For the first ten minutes or so, I thought I was going to have to turn the thing off it was so ridiculous, and then it became hypnotic.

It's a gripping film, that starts with a really tough premise and then keeps coming at you from left field. Part of the thrill of it is in having two lead characters who seem completely unchained, liable to do just about anything.

A final scene seems a bit tacked on - we watch a car drive away past the titular billboards and the film could have ended there, but we then cut to the interior of the car for some last exposition. I'm also really uncomfortable about the sort-of redemption of the racist cop who admits to having tortured a black suspect - an act that is almost a joke among the white people of the community. Yes, he suffers in the course of events, and endeavours to be a better cop, but there's no sense that either he or the community really face up to what he's done.

Baby Driver
This typically stylish caper from Edgar Wright is great fun, though obviously overshadowed by Kevin Spacey's later fall from grace. I really liked the final sequence where Baby must face the consequences of his actions, but also felt love interest Debora was too accepting of all he had done. Grosse Point Blank had Debbie recoil in horror from her prospective boyfriend's criminal life. Not enough of a price is paid here, I thought.

Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie's daft take on the Arthurian legend has baby Arthur brought up in a brothel in London, where he grows into a right geezer with a common touch before learning he's the king. The title would be more accurately Arthur: Ledge. The film's one redeeming feature is that the London shown is clearly the one built and then abandoned by the Romans, the cheeky cockneys having taken charge of the former temples and circus. Just that panning shot made it worth it.

Goodbye, Christopher Robin
Since I'd read Christoper Robin's own memoir, The Enchanted Place, I knew that the opening premise of this film wasn't right - the boy who played with Winnie the Pooh didn't grow up to die in the Second World War. Yes, the film reveals later on that he survived, but that opening meant I watched this wondering what else had been moulded for dramatic effect. Would Olive, the nanny, really have spoken her mind to the boy's parents? Have the writers been fair to Daphne, the boy's mum?

Even so, that didn't distract too much from the moving story, of a shell-shocked AA Milne and EH Shephard struggling to return to their light-comic lives from before the war. A son and a move to the country both fail to quiet Milne's demons, at least at first. Then a bond builds between father and son that Milne works into his Winnie the Pooh stories - which were hugely successful by any measure, except the one that really mattered. Christopher Robin's enchanted childhood became a nightmare adolescence.

It's a compelling, horrifying story, that the books we so adored caused such misery for the boy in them. I find myself reviewing how much I put my own children in the limelight, on social media or in anything related to my work.

The Dark Tower
This is a humourless action movie about a troubled teenager who is really the special psychic who can either save or destroy the whole universe. The gunslinger he teams up with is played by Idris Elba, who adds a touch of class and is the best thing about the film - but it's a shame he couldn't be smarter or funnier. As the two journey through different realms together, they fight various bad guys and monsters, while the main villain does horrible things to anyone close to them. It's downright nasty: the bad guy killing the boy's mum is oddly unaffecting beyond the immediate shock. I kept hoping it would do something more interesting.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
I'd seen this fun adventure before, and again was struck by its wit, its heart, the villain we can totally sympathise with and the brilliant moment where Spider-Man inadvertently turns up at his front door. A lot of superhero films are about exceedingly strong and well-equipped people beating up villains who often seem less well-off in powers and technology. This new version of Spider-Man works precisely because he's a little guy - young and green and apparently out on his own. 

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