I did a post a couple of weeks ago rambling about the movies I had seen up to that point in June. This post adds to that list. I’m still staying safe at home and so I have more time to watch more films than usual:
Da 5 Bloods (2020) is a Spike Lee joint about four Vietnam veterans, Paul, David, Otis and Eddie, who travel back to the country to find the remains of their fallen brother in arms, Stormin’ Norman, and also to find a chest full of gold bars which was sent into the country to pay the local fighting forces during the war. It’s mostly a drama with a few comic moments that inevitably gets quite grim toward the end.
Delroy Lindo (Get Shorty, The Core), Clarke Peters (The Wire), Norm Lewis (who I’ve only ever seen in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Isiah Whitlock Junior (Veep, The Mist) play the vets, Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco) plays Paul’s son, and Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, Get On Up) plays their dead friend in flashback sequences. There’s a good chemistry between the group and the interplay between characters is well written.
While the story is pretty good, the flashback sequences are a joke – instead of using different actors Lindo, Peters, Lewis and Whitlock Junior play the younger versions of their characters and it really doesn’t work for me. I’m not sure if the intention was to do some clever The Irishman effects later or the filmmakers actually though they could get away with it, either it way it ruins the suspension of disbelief.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) has very few remarkable facets. This is perhaps unsurprising given that it’s the sequel to the rather soulless reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise which I couldn’t even be bothered writing about on this blog. Universal (yes I do blame the studio whose execs no doubt vetoed any risk-taking to protect their revenue projections) have somehow managed to remove all the humour that helped us swallow down the first film and transpose most of the action from the mysterious island of dinosaurs into a giant auction house somewhere in America.
Was I wrong to expect more from this film? Maybe. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return as Owen Grady and Claire Deering and do the best they can with a terrible script in a film that has so far grossed $1,308,467,944 worldwide. However, to extend the animal metaphors, two reasonable lead performances and a short appearance from Jeff Goldblum can’t save this film being a T-Rex sized turkey. Really don’t bother. Imagine the kind of steaming slurry of excrement that a giant turkey would plop out of its butt and you’ve got the film. One for the kids… lol…
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) in comparison to the above feels like a breath of fresh air and continues my love-affair with all things Anderson. Co-written with regular collaborator Roman Coppola, this Wes Anderson film stars Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. There’s also room for smaller parts for Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman and Tilda Swinton. However, it’s the kids that make this film what it is.
The two lead child actors are Jared Gilman (a new face for me) who plays Sam and Kara Hayward (who has been in, but I don’t recognise from, loony Netflix show Haters Back Off!) who plays Suzie. The two run off into the wilderness together after being pen pals. Norton plays the scout leader intent on finding Sam, and Willis the police captain looking for them both. The police captain is having an affair with Suzie’s mother (McDormand) and Bill Murray plays her father.
There’s a whole troupe, if not two, of boy scouts who help with the search and the film is a celebration of childhood and young love. Cliches abound and Suzie falls into the kooky girl with too much eye makeup trope that Anderson keeps coming back to, but it’s still a fun film full of the signature style we’ve come to expect from the director.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) is perhaps the best-known Wes Anderson film and takes his penchant from presenting ‘a frame in a frame’ and applies it to the story which is presented as at least one story within a story which at times feels a little like a Russian doll. Ostensibly it is about the adventures of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), the lobby boy he mentors and who becomes his confidante. To my mind it is Anderson’s best film to date despite it pushing some of the director’s quirky nature aside in favour of a robust character-driven movie which for once lets the actors shine along with the writer/director.
Fiennes is outstanding as Gustave H along with Revolori as his sidekick. Homeland‘s F. Murray Abraham plays an older Zero telling the story of his youth to a writer staying at the famous hotel (Jude Law) who narrates his part of the story. Saoirse Ronan (Lovely Bones) plays Zero’s bakery assistant girlfriend (with no eye makeup but a birthmark on her face instead) and Adrien Brody is great as the main bad guy along with Willem Dafoe as his henchman.
There’s room in the film for some short scenes with Anderson (ir)regulars Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson who all play a part in making this film immensely enjoyable. It’s also curious to see two Bond actors together in the form of Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace) and Léa Seydoux (Spectre, The Lobster).
Isle of Dogs (2018) is a quirky stop-motion animated film from Wes Anderson which I originally saw on Amazon the year it was released and have revisited this month as part of my unofficial Anderson movie appreciation lockdown festival with Siggy. In Isle of Dogs a boy crash lands his plane on a Japanese trash island where dogs are exiled by a government run by a secret society of cat-lovers. The boy is helped on his quest to find his dog, the first to be exiled on the island, by a pack of misfit canine characters.
The animation is wonderful with Anderson’s usual attention to quirky detail and symmetry. The voice-acting is mostly done by an impressive cast of Hollywood names which seemingly inevitably includes Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray, along with Bryan Cranston. Yoko Ono even has a bit part as Assistant Scientist Yoko-ono.
Anderson’s story-telling is as bizarre as ever as he plays around with the fact the film is a mixture of dog-speak (heard in English), English and Japanese which mostly comes with no subtitles but doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. It’s a great film for dog lovers, maybe not so much cat lovers, my only gripe is that the pacing is a little slow at times and I have to admit falling asleep in places the first time I saw it. Shock horror.
Missing Link (2019) is another (shorter) stop-motion animated film which looks a lot slicker than Isle of Dogs but as a result loses most of the charm of the seldom-used technique and I suspect that certain elements were added via CG in post-production which kind of defeats the point of the process imo.
Hugh Jackman and Zach Galifianakis are very good as the lead voice actors and are joined by a whole host of British comedy actors Guardian of the Galaxy Zoe Saldana. It’s a fun kids film with some technically impressive moments and comical dialogue.
Get Out (2017) was a surprisingly good film, despite some of the most blatant product placement of Windows devices I’ve ever seen. It had been languishing on my list of recordings from Film Four for months until I decided to give it a go one boring Sunday morning. From the trailer the story looked to me to involve some kind of hypnosis with a kind of Stepford Wives vibe and didn’t really appeal to me overly. However, I was pleasantly surprised – the film has some humour in it as well as mining the depths of some classic horror tropes and tapping into the fear of meeting the girlfriend’s parents for the first time in a very entertaining fashion.
Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther), who will always be Tealeaf in the creepy British comedy Psychoville in my mind, is brilliant as the unsuspecting victim with a very convincing American accent, and Allison Williams (a new face for me) is also great as his girlfriend. As sanity unravels it’s fun trying to guess if the girlfriend is in on the gig or also innocent. No spoilers here.
Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie (2017) is a very short movie that felt like it might have started out being pitched as a TV series. It’s a lot of fun with good comedy performances from Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), who also directed and co-wrote the film, and regular Netflix star Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll, Orange is the new Black). They shine as Gene Handsome and Fleur Scozzari; two Los Angeles homicide detectives investigating the murder of a babysitter.
Handsome’s ability to solve crime is matched only by his inability to make sense of his own life and Scozzari seems more intent on getting off with the suspects than helping him. I really liked the film which never felt like it was trying to hard to be funny and it’s a shame it’s not evolved into a show or been followed up with a sequel as yet. Co-writer Andrea Seigel was also executive producer and previously wrote the excellent Say When (2014).
Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash