Monday, 28 March 2016
Shot in real time (obviously) on a brutal, early Berlin morning, Victoria begins with the violent flashing of a nightclub strobe light; it's an assault on your eyeballs for sure, but as such it's merely softening you up for what's to come. Schipper, with cinematographer and partner-in-crime Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, latch on to a girl (Laia Costa) dancing in the club and stick to her like glue for the next two hours. We watch, protectively and uncomfortably, as she strikes up conversation with a gang of obviously no-good #lads, taking a shine to their most charismatic member (Frederick Lau). There's a sense that fates are sealed from this moment, and as much as you want her to turn round and go home, you 're stuck with the inevitable, devastating consequences that follow.
Laia Costa's performance, meanwhile, is mind-bogglingly impressive. It's a piece of pure theatre; Victoria's arc is ridiculously ambitious, but Costa sells it without a whiff of fakery. There are moments when it's easy to snort a derisory "well, she wouldn't do that", but how do we know? We only just met her. Lau's character Sonne, meanwhile, undertakes a polar opposite journey, meeting Victoria in the middle as their lives change forever under the dawn of a literal and figurative new day.
Thursday, 24 March 2016
The gist of Batman v Superman, such as I could ascertain, is as follows: Batman distrusts Superman's unchecked alien powers and therefore reaches the obvious conclusion that he must kill him immediately. Superman also dislikes Batman, for reasons that escape me right now. I'm not sure it matters. They fight, they make up, then they fight someone else. This process takes two and a half hours to play out, although due to a bizarre contortion of time that final fight lasts around eight weeks.
With this basic premise in mind Zack Snyder has set about making the experience as baffling, boring and bereft of joy as is humanly possible, and at that he has succeeded enormously. Scenes which appear to have been shorn of their beginnings and ends smash up against each other with little regard for narrative cause and effect, as if William Burroughs had arranged them during his cut-up period. Characters vomit reams of dialogue through stoic grimaces and ponderous frowns without saying anything helpful or interesting, and when they're not doing that they're punching or shooting each other for days on end. Any attempts at levity - I think I counted three - are immediately smothered by the crushingly dour mood, and Snyder's insistence on grading everything in that cobalt blue tint that enjoyed a brief moment of originality in around 2008 ensures that it's nigh on impossible to distinguish one location from another.
David Goyer's script takes a potentially interesting metatextual stance in having characters berate the unbridled carnage that made the climax of his previous Superman film so dunderheadedly offensive, but the concept goes no further than that. One fantastical metaphorical possibility is that Bruce Wayne is introduced as an embodiment of Man Of Steel's critics, sent to spank Kal-El's steely buttocks before - in Goyer and Snyder's sweetest dreams - making peace with the last son of Krypton and realising he's not such a bad cove after all. If that was the intention, though, the plan is somewhat derailed when it becomes clear that the new film is easily its predecessor's equal in terms of piling nonsense upon nonsense, like an eye-wateringly expensive game of nonsense Jenga.
What I'm basically saying is that this is me.
Further major and minor irritants abound throughout, not least of which is Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor, possibly the most teeth-itchingly annoying performance of modern times. Not only is Luthor painful to watch, but he gets the lion's share of plot inconsistencies to boot. He's given no backstory or motivation so we have no idea why he's doing whatever it is he's doing; he's thrilled to see Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne chatting at his party despite the fact that, by rights, he should have no idea who the mild-mannered Daily Planet reporter is; his assistant finds Wayne snooping around in a private room but just leaves him to it, and he miraculously knows to use Lois Lane as bait to trap Superman in an early scene that is so under-explained it's like it fell out of a different movie.
In fact Batman v Superman raises an entire catalogue of questions it can't quite be arsed to answer: why, for example, doesn't Bruce Wayne design a bat-cowl that covers a decidedly identifying mole on his cheek? Why does Amy Adams need to play an entire scene in the bath, naked? Why is there a gigantic statue of Superman in Metropolis when everyone hates him? What in the name of all that is holy is going on in that astonishingly misjudged dream sequence? Why do we need to see Bruce Wayne's parents murdered (complete with pearls clattering on the pavement in slo-mo) for what must be about the ninth time? And what the fuck was anyone thinking when they picked that reason for Bats and Supes to kiss and make up?
Don't even get me started on this fucking thing
How Warner Bros and DC have arrived at this point is no doubt confusing to them, but it seems reasonably clear that much of the blame rests at Zack Snyder's feet. Batman v Superman isn't so much directed as ejaculated, and the resulting mess is going to require an extremely hot wash to shift. Snyder seems to have no concept of light and shade, of memorable moments or of genuinely epic storytelling, which he confuses with excessive CGI and loud noises. Perhaps his everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach is best exemplified in the long-awaited but tediously leaden fight between the leads, during which Batman wrenches from the wall an actual kitchen sink, which he uses in an attempt to render Superman senseless. He needn't have bothered; Snyder has already done the job for him.
Monday, 21 March 2016
Zootropolis (let's call it), of course, isn't aimed directly at me either, but I was caught in the peripheral spray of its eye-popping inventiveness, its wholeheartedly right-on social commentary and its fucking hilarious sloths, so I am therefore fully qualified to comment on its quality. "Anyone can be anything", runs the film's mantra, and while I am aware that science currently restricts me from being, say, an ocelot, I can at least pretend to be a film reviewer for a few minutes, so here goes.
Hopps and Wilde's investigation into the mysterious disappearance of several mammals is an enjoyable bit of whodunnitery, replete with red herrings (not literally; bit of a missed opportunity there), improbable clues and other police procedural standards, but that's not what Zootropolis is really about. The metaphors start to bash you around the head a little hard as the film goes on, but you hope it's so that the small people in the audience, whose intelligence is only marginally below that of the average film blogger, will soak up the messages: don't judge people on ill-founded stereotypes; rise above the expectations of those who judge you, and question those in power and their motives. It's pretty righteous stuff, but it's a humungously worthwhile and relevant thing for a kids' film to be saying, and it's done so intelligently that the life lessons slip almost unnoticed between the comedy stoned yak and the comedy gangster shrew.
And the fucking hilarious sloths
It will be of little surprise or interest to learn that the animation and background gags are spot on, that the world is beautifully and imaginatively realised, or that some of the voices are a bit too distractingly recognisable (sorry, Big Dris), so I won't mention any of that. It's Zootropolis' moral core for which grown ups will remember it the most; I don't know if its target audience will feel the same way because, despite my youthful good looks, I am not a child and I didn't have one to hand when I saw the film. But let's hope it all sinks in, because I for one believe that children are our future, and if we teach them well and let them lead the way while simultaneously showing them all the beauty they possess inside, then one day we can all live in harmony and total agreement that, seriously, the sloths are fucking hilarious.