WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

2017; directed by Matt Reeves; adapted by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves; 140 mins

[MAJOR spoilers!]

Whoever would’ve thought you could say the phrase; “a beautiful performance from Steve Zahn“? The man who used to be the most annoying element of any movie in the late 90s/early naughties, here, gives one of the performances of the year so far! As a mad old, Ben Gunn-esque chimp called Bad Ape (which, it seems, is what his Zookeepers used to call him all the time), he is essentially the comic relief role, which he carries off enormously well, never tipping it too far or upsetting any scenes. What he also does, however, is countenance the comedy with just the right sprinkling of tragedy and frailty. So, Steve Zahn’s good – what else is good about this third installment? Well… Continue reading

A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE/DUCK, YOU SUCKER!/GIU, LA TESTA!/ONCE UPON A TIME… THE REVOLUTION

1971; directed by Sergio Leone; written by Roberto De Leonardis, Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone, Carlo Tritto and Luciano Vincenzoni; 154 mins

[Spoilers.]

“And then, the people who read the books, they all sit around the big polished tables, and they talk and talk and talk and eat and eat and eat, eh? But what has happened to the poor people? They’re dead! That’s your revolution.” – Juan Miranda

About the only film I would say is a genuine underrated classic. Perennially lost amidst all of Leone’s other films, A Fistful of Dynamite (by which it’ll be referred from here on in because that’s the name by which I came to it) is the dirty, smelly, subversive cousin sandwiched in between golden children, Once Upon a time in the West (1968) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984). It’s historically all over the place, to say nothing of the lead actors’ accents. When it came out, it was too ambivalent in it’s politics for the cultural elite and too arty for the studios, both of whom butchered it in their own way. This review is of the 154 minute version… that’s very important! Not the 121 minute version or the 138 minute version which miss out very crucial character beats. Continue reading

IVAN THE TERRIBLE

1944/1958; written and directed by Sergei Eisenstein; 99/82 mins

Part I: Ivan Vasilyevich, Tsar of Moscow, having subjugated the warring Boyars under one leader, is crowned Tsar of all the Russians. This is greeted with suspicion and hostility from the old-school nobility, chief amongst them, Efrosinia Staritska, Ivan’s malicious, scheming aunt who is desperate to put her own, child-like son, Vladimir, on the throne. Much political infighting ensues even as Ivan continues in his plans to fight back against the encroaching forces of the Tatars and the Livonians and trying to establish trade routes with England. Throughout, he learns the struggles of staying strong and true to himself when even victory for his country cannot stop those who wish to depose him. Continue reading

THE BLACK PANTHERS: Vanguard of the Revolution

2015; written and directed by Stanley Nelson; 115 mins

Black Power was like so many half-heard-about groups when I was a kid. Always represented as an anomalous, uncouth, violent, disruptive group to be lumped in with the IRA, unions and other peoples’ kids in supermarkets. When and how my opinions were opened up on the Panthers, I’m not sure but certainly Göran Hugo Olsson‘s hugely underrated found footage documentary, Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 was a major catalyst. There is a rich and vibrant cinematic history on the subject of the Civil Rights movement, going way back to Agnès Varda‘s short doco, Black Panthers, from 1968 (beautiful footage from which which is used a lot and very well here). Here is a really solidly put together addition to the canon, succeeding at being an overall history of the equally fiery rise and fall of this truly revolutionary group. Continue reading

ALEXANDER

2004; directed by Oliver Stone; adapted by Laeta Kalogridis, Christopher Kyle and Oliver Stone; 167 mins

[Spoilers within!]

Another go round* with Oliver Stone’s ballsed-up but unfairly shat upon historical biopic. This time, the 167 minute “director’s cut” that got released instead of the 175 minute cinema cut that bored us all shitless. Trimmed and tuct after the deadly reception it got and also in the wake of Stone’s open criticism of Warners’ treatment of the film in post-production, how does it stack up in-between the two longer behemoths? Continue reading

WHITE MATERIAL

2009; directed by Claire Denis; written by Lucie Borleteau, Claire Denis and Marie N’Diaye; 106 mins

Jesus! I’ve just noticed… it’s ten minutes since the film finished and my heart rate is still up! I should quickly state that this is no pulse-pounding thriller, rather an intense drama depicting the last vestiges of colonialism in Africa and the fallout of an empire coming full circle to ruin it’s own descendants. Continue reading

MAN OF IRON

1981; directed by Andrzej Wajda; written by Aleksander Scibor-Rylski; 147 mins

[Sorry, couldn’t find a suitable English language clip or trailer]

With the passing, late last year, of director Andrzej Wajda, and with Cannes 2017 well underway, I thought it time to check out Palme d’Or winner Man of Iron – interestingly, the only sequel ever to win the prize. Previously, I had only seen Wajda’s 1958 masterpiece, Ashes and Diamonds and beyond that, my knowledge of Polish cinema is pretty poor, so let’s delve in… Continue reading