Gringo (2018)

gringo-movie-poster

Nash Edgerton, brother of Joel, offers up this misfiring Mexican set crime comedy as his debut film and with an opening that’s bombed hard, he may need to think about going back to the drawing board.

Head honcho of a company, that is heading into a merger is Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) who is a greedy piece of work, as is Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron). The two are laser focused on getting what they want and screwing everyone over, including apparent friend of Rusk; Harold (David Oyelowo) who is left behind in Mexico. Soon he calls through saying he’s been kidnapped and a barrage of heightened moments follow.

I think one of the biggest issues this film has is how messy the plot feels. There’s just a bit too much going on and as more madness ensues down in the heat of Mexico, it gets tiresome and badly handled. This is a great shame because this in fact could have been a nifty movie with surprising turns and cartel-ridden sequences but it falls short of that promising ideal by a big stretch. Another issue lies with the promotion of the film, from the trailer it seems like an oddball comedy and you end up with a crime narrative, which I would have liked had I not expected to be amused along the way.

It’s like I can imagine that Matthew Stone and Anthony Tambakis have written this thinking what they’ve come up with is funny but it either lands horrendously flat or comes across as rude; i.e – Elaine pretending to be deaf. There’s not one moment where I or the few other audience members laughed or even chuckled, I think I smiled once because of the sheer force that is Oyelowo as Harold trying to keep his head afloat on this sinking, stinking ship.

I will admit that some of the kidnap plot is quite engaging. It starts off interestingly and is vaguely entertaining to watch unravel but the folding in of other characters, places and story-lines just began to detract from this quite enjoyable mishap of errors that Harold finds himself in the middle of. On the whole though, this is something I won’t remember come the end of the year, the scenes are mostly forgettable and the majority of characters are insanely unlikable, in a way that I just didn’t care to try and get engrossed into the plot.

As said, a lot of the figures within this film have no redeeming qualities and leading the pack is Joel Edgerton who, to be fair, does encapsulate the arse-hat boss with arrogance and disloyalty worn on his clothes like badges. Charlize Theron is somehow even slimier and nastier than Richard Rusk, and again she plays these characteristics well but it was a role of spite that I didn’t enjoy. David Oyelowo and Amanda Seyfried are the only actors that exit this film with any real dignity intact. Both of their characters feel human, likable and warm, their interactions are some of the more grounded and better parts of this film.

There are some alright scenes that kept me sort of interested to the film and Oyelowo is great, but I was close to feeling bored in an up and down, messily made film that outstays its welcome.

5/10

Advertisements

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

cloverfield-paradox_qp9c

Dropped like something out of the sky; here comes a game-changer in terms of movie marketing and distribution, but that aside is this a good ‘Cloverfield’ movie?

Set in our future and aboard the Cloverfield Station are a crew from various countries who are hoping to perfect a particle accelerator; which could solve the energy crisis on Earth. As their mission finally catches a break, it seems not everything is good. The team become stranded, meanwhile life back on Earth isn’t looking safe and sound either.

So, after a few months of whisperings and internet talk about a new feature in the ‘Cloverfield’ series, we’re finally greeted with this big surprise release. It was due last year and then apparently again for an April 2018 cinematic date under the name ‘God Particle’ from Paramount Pictures, but as the sporting spectacle of the Super Bowl reached it’s halftime parade of expensive ads and new trailers, a teaser for this very movie was shown. Not long after the game itself the film was up on Netflix for all (subscribers) to see.

This I must admit is a bold move to make and pretty special to keep something under wraps. Having a $45 million movie on your hands and to maintain its secrecy and avoid the usual over hype of many trailers and TV spots is a fantastic achievement, if not one that disappoints me slightly because it’s final destination means it can’t be seen on the big screen. It’s a great film visually and the sci-fi element is explored quite well through the vacuum of space and a sleek revolving spaceship but Paramount mustn’t have had high expectations to forgo a cinema roll-out and leave Netflix to pick up the rights. This can be felt in a film that seems to have grown out of control to fit within the ‘Cloverfield’ universe.

It’s a mildly slow-burner of a science fiction to watch, there’s neat moments of burrowing unease as things start to go wrong; as they always do in these kinds of films. The back and forth between space and Earth feels like the parts where they re-wrote to segue in the movie monster tie-in and general spots do feel like a scrambled mess to keep that storytelling building.

Saying this, the dynamic of the crew is good and the moments of error, confusion and danger aboard the spacecraft are entertaining. I wouldn’t say exciting or wholly dramatic but they work well and keep the film going along nicely too. The main interest for me was in the construct of the shifting paradox and the problems arising from there, which is explored with both thrills and humour but not as deep as perhaps it may have delved. I feel one reason the film isn’t as successful as it could be is down to the distracting technique of its release and expecting the ‘Cloverfield’ monster/arc to keep rearing up.

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ was one of my favourite films from 2016 because it tied in the monster series nicely and felt like a creepily separate thriller at the same time. This is still a good film but nowhere near as great. It’s a film that perhaps, thanks to its many delays and streaming resting place, feels more like a somewhat enjoyable online flick but not a dazzling or suspenseful one.

5.5/10

 

Selma (2015)

Selma_UKPoster

I got the pleasure of seeing this at the third Odeon Screen Unseen night and it’s a powerful and utterly poignant story, in its dramatic relevance to topics going on in the world. and more specifically America today. Driven by an inspirational directing touch and a thundering presence of its lead actor ‘Selma’ is an impressive biographical feat that informs as well as engages.

This account sees Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) campaigning in his peaceful way to win votes for black people. He and his group of advisories stop on Selma, Alabama as the perfect place to rally a protest march to raise awareness of the mistreatment of blacks in America. President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) isn’t a road block but also doesn’t help King as much as he could and thanks to racist beliefs held by George Wallace (Tim Roth), King has a lot of trouble to face on the march to overcome prejudice.

Firstly, I must begin with the unbelievable snub that has befallen on director Ava DuVernay. The way she captures the trials and terrors of this man’s journey for equality is gripping and touching too. Bennett Miller of ‘Foxcatcher’ land, however who has spilled out a paint by numbers bio-pic that bores more than enthralls is somehow up for Best Director while DuVernay isn’t. The decision to include slow motion in this movie isn’t stupid or jarring, it in fact reinforces the horrific trauma of these people and heightens the brutality of their oppressors. The wide shots at times are well placed to breathe in the large amounts of people rallying together for King’s dream and it’s all constructed together in a neat manner to feel at once like a political thriller but also a Civil Rights drama of hope.

A few niggles are in some slow moments that rely on heavy conversations of tactics or quibbles between leading men, but then on the other hand, you could look at these scenes at constructions of character and they make the more dramatic moments of clashes that more impacting. Also, the end facts that normally come with bio-pics are not done over black screen but layered over shots of the end speech delivered by King. Which is exciting and awakening to what happened to true life people but then the speech is lost as you read what’s on screen. These are honestly the only issues I could think of and they’re minor at best.

The way each and every speech and march presented in this film is brilliant. They’re tingled with the fear of the unknown and the dread of what these innocent people are facing day in and day out. The expected retaliation is tense when it needs to be and as King and his followers rise over the Edmund Pettus bridge you really feel the apprehension of what the whites could do. While on this bridge, I must say that the way the struggles are shown is shocking. For the certification there’s a lot more brutal imagery to be seen, not visceral I must say, just chilling to see the onslaught of beatings. This is provoking though for good reasons as DuVernay doesn’t shy away from the necessity of reminding us of the equality barrier.

If there’s one certainty, it’s that this film has to pick up the Oscar for Original Song. Common and John Legend come together to write electrifying lyrics for ‘Glory’. The words are deep and resonate for the subject matter of the film but sentences in there also highlight the atrocities against black members of society nowadays. The film couldn’t come at a more relevant time in relation to the appalling treatment in Ferguson and ‘Glory’ is perfectly executed as they march, inter-cut with actual footage of the demonstration too.

David Oyelowo is a hugely stirring force in this movie. He too has been snubbed while Cumberbatch sits pretty playing a typically Cumbersome role in ‘The Imitation Game’. The mannerisms and motivating tone he delivers his lines are special to witness. He brings calm and passion to Martin Luther King, Jr and there’s a warm balance of emotion to his plight too as he sees innocents murdered for his cause, it’s also nice to see the subtle flickers of not being all perfect as he’s questioned by his wife. Oyelowo plays this silent and pause heavy scene very well.

‘Selma’ is a must see if you want to watch the test of the racial movement done in a moving way. It’s not patronising or shoving intent down the audience’s throats, the message is displayed in an artful, powerful and enlightening manner.

7.5/10