With visionary tales of western love, animated dragons, and supernatural presences to his name, the eclecticism of writer and director David Lowery’s work reflects the expansive nature of his imagination. His latest feature is medieval fantasy epic The Green Knight, adapted from a 14th century poem of chivalric romance, and it could be his most imaginative to date.Continue reading “DVD review: The Green Knight”
Acclaimed writer and director Michael Winterbottom is perhaps best known for his work in the comedy genre, but has stepped into a more abstruse field for his latest feature. The Wedding Guest is a mystery thriller set on a criminal’s journey between Pakistan and India. Armed with weaponry and a pile of fake IDs, Jay (Dev Patel) flies from Britain to track down bride-to-be Samira (Radhika Apte) ahead of her forthcoming nuptials. With unclear motives, he kidnaps the young woman in the dead of night, but the crepuscular job takes an unexpected turn.
In his directorial debut, Australian filmmaker Garth Davis brings an amazing true story to the cinematic stage with Lion, a stranger-than-fiction tale of a lost boy in India. The screenplay adapts the memoir entitled A Long Way Home written by Saroo Brierley, who is portrayed by Sunny Pawar initially and then Dev Patel as the story develops. At the age of five, caring Saroo wants to help his mother by providing in any way he can and after persuading his older brother Guddu (Abhisek Bharate) to let him accompany him to work, he falls asleep at a train station. When he awakens alone in the middle of the night, he searches for Guddu but drifts off again, this time on a train which takes him on a two day journey to Calcutta, almost a thousand miles from home. Twenty five years later, having been adopted by Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John (David Wenham), Saroo tries to track down his biological family, using Google Earth as his map.
When South African science fiction filmmaker Neill Blomkamp burst onto the cinema scene with District 9 in 2009, he was hailed as one of the most promising directors in the industry. His mainstream follow-up was dystopian epic Elysium, which was met with a contrastingly frosty reception. Is he a one trick pony or was his second feature a mere hiccup in his path to further critical acclaim? His third film, titled ‘Chappie’ continues the sci-fi pattern and returns to Johannesburg, the setting of his debut. Set in a future where a robotic police force known as ‘scouts’ have been introduced to reduce high crime rates and regain order on the chaotic streets of Joburg, the narrative follows the inventor of these law enforcement machines, Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel. Against the orders of his boss Michelle (Sigourney Weaver) and angering office rival Vincent (Hugh Jackman), he tests his home-made AI program on a disused robot, his experiment resulting in the birth of Chappie, voiced by regular Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley. However, when he and Chappie are forced into forming an alliance with a local gang of criminals, the potential threat of his conception is unveiled. Can he raise his creation to fight crime rather than commit it?
Like his previous efforts, the premise of Chappie is one with real promise and as a director, Blomkamp expresses his striking visual style which is well suited to the genre he continues to place himself in. The opening sequence sets the scene in a documentarian manner, much like District 9 did with footage of news channels and talking heads thrown together. The similarities with what we’ve seen from him before drives home his lack of creativity, and it is almost as if he is trying to redo his past films to improve them rather than attack a new idea with a fresh approach. The problems lie mainly in the heavy-handed storytelling as the story becomes cluttered with one-dimensional, motiveless characters. The triumphs in scientific achievement are glossed over by lazy montages more than once, with just a combination of one energy drink and taking off your glasses for a quick think resulting in the most significant of breakthroughs. When he finally arrives, the eponymous android is a joy to watch as he finds his robotic feet in the world but not enough screen time is spent between him and his beloved ‘maker’, which belittles the attempted father/son connection between the two when the conclusion nears.
Dev Patel is probably the only actor who comes away unscathed from the project, making the best of the material he has to work with and maintaining his likeable image. Hugh Jackman’s character is given the back-story of a devoted, decorated military man but is quickly reduced to a snivelling snitch who carries around a rugby ball for the whole film as a symbol of his masculinity. The aforementioned thugs that try to take advantage of Deon’s intellect are weirdly played by South African rave-rap group Die Antwoord, going by the aliases Ninja and Yolandi both on-screen and off. Devoid of acting talent, their personality traits change drastically from scene to scene, and they appear far more interested in their distractingly fluorescent image and the promotion of their back catalogue, than adding any depth to their villainous alter-egos.
For a film about intelligence, artificial or not, ‘Chappie’ is really rather dumb and the narrative shortcuts lessen the value and the impact of the initial idea, which is interesting in the first instance. As a filmmaker, Blomkamp has obvious strengths in building intelligent plot foundations and also in the way he directs and constructs big-budget action set pieces. We see signs of this in Chappie but the lethargic script proves to be his downfall. Surely now it’s time to draw the line under the man/machine sub-genre that he’s tried so desperately to master and move onto another strand of science-fiction. Director Alex Garland already topped his attempts in that area with the thought-provoking Ex Machina earlier this year. Not to be swayed from the field completely, Blomkamp is set to undertake the unenviable but nevertheless exciting challenge of directing the next chapter of the cult sci-fi horror Alien franchise. No pressure.
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After seeing the trailer for German film ‘Vincent Wants to Sea’ in 2010, Los Angeles-based writer and director Gren Wells was instantly inspired to do a US remake, and her version, titled ‘The Road Within’, screens at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. The indie drama explores how young adults manage their mental health disorders, and stars Robert Sheehan as Tourette’s sufferer Vincent who is sent to a behavioural facility following the death of his mother. Whilst trying to settle in, he meets OCD patient Alex (Dev Patel) and anorexic Marie (Zoë Kravitz), and they bond over the constant day-to-day struggles they encounter. When the three mixed-up teens embark on an ad hoc escapee adventure together, their road trip heads in the direction of self-discovery and living life to the fullest, in spite of their problems.