Today we’re doing our regular rounding up of the pick of the week’s US cinematic releases to see what’s worth a visit to the local multiplex, what’s probably best left to a later viewing at home and what’s not worth wasting your precious time at all… Love it – or leave it!
FREE STATE OF JONES – dir. Gary Ross
George Wolf writes of this Matthew McConaughey-starring historical drama that ‘writer/director Gary Ross struggles to find cohesion for elements that too often conflict’ but that Ross ‘does find more subtlety as the film progresses’ when it comes to McConaughey’s Newton Knight. McConaughey delivers a ‘committed and moving performance’ and the film succeeds with its ‘brutal’ depiction of war and the ‘ugly roots of racism’. George states that ‘Ross’s passion is understandable. This truly is an incredible piece of America’s history, but one so expansive that an approach this broad is hampered from the start.’ Read his ☆☆☆ review here.
INDEPENDANCE DAY: RESURGENCE dir. Roland Emmerich
George writes of INDEPENDANCE DAY: RESURGENCE, ‘Have you ever seen a fast food commercial where the burger looks fantastic, then you get there and it’s basically day old dog food on a flattened-out bun? Say hello to INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE’. He laments that it’ as ‘preposterous, tedious filet of sequel’ with ‘the script is often groan-inducing, highlighted by lines no more subtle than “You’re the only family I got!”’. George is keen to observe that it’s Summer and ‘there’s nothing wrong with wanting to eat some popcorn and watch aliens explode’ but this sequel is ‘churned out with all the joy of a kid’s meal minus the toy surprise.’ ‘INDEPENDENCE DAY was no classic, but it was fun, something RESURGENCE couldn’t spell if it gave an F.’, read George’s ☆☆ review here.
THE NEON DEMON – dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Hope declares that ‘Refn is as assured a director as you’ll find. Each of his films has its own peculiar and magnificent look and sound that sets it apart and marks the helmsman as someone with a unique vision to share’ but his work here ‘looks and sounds great, but it doesn’t look or sound unique’. She compares the ‘entire aesthetic, from the shots to the palette to the score’ to that of Kubrick and Dario Argento but notes that ‘Interestingly – or boringly, depending on your perspective – the story swims such familiar waters that this borrowed aesthetic feels simultaneously intentional and derivative.’ Hope concedes that ‘It’s tough to make a film about the dehumanizing effect of objectification without objectifying’ but states that ‘even the deeply talented Refn can’t seem to do it’. Read her full ☆☆1/2 review here.
THE SHALLOWS – dir. Jaume Collet-Serra
George muses that there’s ‘a great deal of convenient idiocy in this screenplay, but director Jaume Collet-Serra – who is no comrade of subtlety – actually handles most of these items deftly.’ THE SHALLOWS ‘is gorgeously filmed’ and ‘will have you believing you’re watching a tense, thoughtful survival drama’. On Blake Lively’s performance, he writes that she ‘does a fine job in what is essentially a one-surfer-show’ and ‘it’s with a balance of delicacy and grit that she just about makes you believe the ludicrous.’ For all the good, .the shark becomes a vengeful-mythical-beast-warrior-machine-monster, and any hint of credibility is lost at sea’ but ‘whatever the case, it’s a wild mashup of efforts: equal parts empowerment and ogling, survival thriller and Sharkasaurus Rex.’ Read the ☆☆☆ review.
FROM AFAR – dir. Lorenzo Vigas
This film is a ‘confident feature film debut from director Lorenzo Vigas’. Chilean actor Alfred Castro gives a ‘masterful performance’ opposite a ‘a blistering screen debut’ from Luis Silva in this story of a ‘solitary figure who stokes what little longing he still has by paying street kids for company’. Vigas’ ‘film explains very little and yet exposes much – about yearning, class divides, human nature, and survival. He and his remarkable cast invite you into lives you couldn’t possibly know to tell a story with no judgment, and the truth in it is devastating.’ Read Hope Madden’s ☆☆☆☆ review.
FILM OF THE WEEK: FROM AFAR