Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Neon Demon (18)

I first encountered Nicolas Winding Refn when Drive hit the big screen. When that was followed up by Only God Forgives, I was hooked.

So it was with a heady mixture of excitement and confident certainty that I settled into my seat ready for his latest offering.

Yes, it was going to be off-beat and more style than substance, but you expect that...

And I wasn't wrong. There's whole boatloads of style. This film is styled up the wazoo.

And the imagery. What imagery. Seriously, it's stunning.

Which is good, because there's bloody loads of it.

And sub-text too. You can't swing a designer shoe for the subtext.

It's just a pity he forgot to have any actual, you know, text above that.

In its simplest, boiled down form, The Neon Demon is a critique on the world of fashion and modelling and chasing your dreams to the bright lights of the big city.

And you can have a lot of fun ticking off the fairytales that amble past you slowly and stylishly, and there's plenty of time to ponder how Romeo And Juliet fits in to all that too.

And you might as well dwell on that, because there's precious little else to dwell on.

In showing the fashion industry to be shallow and image-led, Refn has taken Neon Demon to such an extreme he's created the perfect film equivalent.

Which is either screamingly ironic or bloody annoying, depending on how you're feeling at the time.

You can also wallow in the beautiful modelling, the beautiful fashion scenes, the rich, lush tones used to such great effect.

And again, you might as well, because bar one scene Demon takes Refn's penchant for one-paced films to a whole new, very flat level.

Amazingly, despite this wave of negativity, The Neon Demon isn't a bad film - it's just trying too hard.

On the plus side, there are some nicely tense moments, some delightfully twisted elements and you come out of the cinema feeling like you need to shower in bleach.

It's not a totally wasted evening.

But it's too clever for its own good and is half an hour too long.

Elle Fanning puts in a great performance as new girl in town Jesse, while Jena Malone oozes malevolence as Ruby - but after that, they all kind of blend into one.

And yes, that's the point - that looks are everything and no one is an individual - but that doesn't make for an engaging film.

Quite by chance, I found myself in the captioned screening and I was told that you don't notice the subtitles after a bit.

And the helpful chap on the ticket desk was right. What he wasn't to know was that's because the dialogue is so sparse the captions aren't needed that much.

Somewhere in here is a blistering take-down of an industry obsessed with image.

What would have been nice is if an actual plot could have been casually inter-woven, if only to tie all the beautiful scenes together.

As it is, you're left wondering what the hell you've just watched but knowing it looked good.

Ghostbusters (12A)

OK, let's be clear about this from the off - I have no idea why this film exists.

Well I do - money. It's going to be a hit so why take the risk on something new, eh?

But how does Hollywood ever find a new writer, a new good idea when all they're doing is rehashing old favourites?

It would be good, of course, if this was the reason a small section of the male population were up in arms. It would be good if the dearth of originality was what was causing them to attack their keyboards with their little clubs.

But it's not.

No, it seems some people are all bent out of shape about the fact we now have an all-female cast (plus token eye candy care of La Belle Hemsworth).

Which is nothing short of pathetic.

Because if you can get past the small issue of a remake (or reboot, depending how you look at it) what you've got here is nothing short of brilliant.

The gender issues aren't important.

Well, no, that's not true. What they do is serve to help the 2016 version step out of the shadow of its 1984 daddy and be seen in a new light.

And it works.

Oh sweet Jebus, it works.

From the opening pre-title sequence to the closing credits (and when was the last time you were having so much fun you stayed for those?) this film is just one long rollercoaster of FUN.

It knows what it's doing.

You've got jokes, great performances from the 'Busters (Melissa McCarthy, Kirsten Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon), superb effects, tension, spooks, jumps, slime...

Really, what else did you want?

What? Geek-tastic cameos? Oh yeah, boy, you got those.

As I sat there, loving it more and more with every passing scene, my bafflement at the negative reactions just kept growing.

Is it like the original? No.

Is it as good as the original? No.

Is it even trying to be? No.

Because what the 2016 version is offering is a different take on the story, a different look at the set-up, and most importantly bringing a new generation their own spooky wonderland.

When you've spent two hours just relaxing and grinning at the big screen, you know this film has hit all the targets it set itself.

OK, yes, it's a cynical money-making bid - but screw it. When it's this much fun, I'll go and pay again.

I know that only encourages them, but if it gets these four back together for round two it'll be worth it.

And it's not a frame-for-frame remake with just the testicles swapped out. This has its own story.

It just happens to feature a few things you recognise.

And it's that bit that makes Ghostbusters 2016 so joyous.

This film has been made with love, with heart and with soul.

The people involved have done this because they really wanted to do a good job - and when it gets the clear seal of approval from the lauded alumni, you know they've done that.

I would even consider seeing this in 3D. That's how much I enjoyed it.

Sure, you can spot the bits where stuff and things are going to come flying out at you, but I was so immersed I really wanted to suddenly duck.

If I could get slimed then even better.

Look, you can get bent out of shape about the fact a girlie is holding the fancy toys, you can foam at the mouth that the only man in the main cast is playing the secretary, you can even take to the web forums and claim the only good reviews are from people Sony have paid.

If that's what makes you get out of bed in the morning, then rock on.

Meanwhile, the rest of us can carry on enjoying a bright, brash, fizzy, bangy, funny, explodie, gunkie, slimy, ghoulie spooktastic laughfest.

It doesn't matter who's wearing the pants, what matters is does this film give you all the things you wanted from a Ghostbusters movie?

And it does. With extra weird sciency knobs on.

(Oh, and just for the record, the theme tune sucks. Fall Out Boy? Really??? Do me a favour...)

And just for old times' sake:

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Nice Guys (15)

Sometimes, you feel you are just meant to see a film.

Since its release, we've been planning to see The Nice Guys - but life has a way of getting in the way, and without fail at every turn we spectacularly didn't get to see it.

But it's still hanging around! It's still on the big screen! And life didn't get in the sodding way!

And so, finally, we get to watch Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe being 70s gumshoe detective sorts, directed by Shane Black of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 fame.

Surely, having had to wait this long, it wasn't going to disappoint.

Was it?


How do you want this film judged? Plot? Acting? Direction? Or the fact we left without any socks on having laughed them off?

Because the latter was definitely the winner here.

The story itself is, ultimately, neither here nor there. Political schemering, missing daughters, bad guys, more bad guys and a smattering of the porn industry - this has the lot.

It's basically a love letter to 70's crime films.

The fact it doesn't make a whole lot of sense isn't a dealbreaker. If anything, it kind of adds to the whole feel of the thing.

Acting? Well, that's pretty bang on.

Ryan Gosling, it turns out, has one hell of a comic turn in him. The man who seems to sleep through his films can do the slapstick. Who knew, eh?

Then there's Russell Crowe, who on the back of this and The Water Diviner is looking like being back to his best.

Understated, subtle (I know, right?), he allows Gosling to make all the noise and just in-fills with the odd glance, nod and smart gag.

Oh, and there's a new kid in town too - Angourie Rice. For someone with such a short CV (she's not even 16) she delivers a performance of such maturity you'd swear she'd been acting her whole life.

So far so good then - but what of Mr Black's direction?

Having made his name with sharp, snappy dialogue and zippy, fast-paced action flicks, what I wasn't expecting here was an homage to the 70s.

From tone and pacing alone, Black has got this nailed - and when he starts throwing in the action and humour, you just know this is going to be good.

In fact, from the opening scene alone, you know you're in for one hell of a ride.

With the right soundtrack, and subtle background touches (Airport 77 and Jaws 2 billboards), Black has skilfully weaved everything you want from a black comedy action detective thriller.

In fact, he's probably invented a whole new genre.

But, it's not perfect (which is probably a good thing).

It's too long for a start, and there are some scenes that, while funny, don't necessarily add anything to the whole - and almost seem out of place.

There's also some near-the-knuckle conversations going on that you're pretty sure kids shouldn't be taking part in.

And no, you can't say "it was a different time". Just no. That's a whole different conversation.

But the negatives are small compared to the huge positives.

Great performances, superb slapstick violence, a ludicrous shoot-out around a palm tree - this is a film that just keeps on giving.

And when you think it can't give anymore, some one else dies in a lovely, gruesome way.

Money says there's a very welcome sequel.