I’ll be the first person to admit that more often than not, I am persuaded to go and see a film not because of the storyline but because of the actors in it. I am much more performance driven than director driven, and with names like Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny and Tilda Swinton front and centre here, The Dead Don’t Die was something that I know I wasn’t going to be able to miss. The problem was, though, that my last journey in the to world of filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was nowhere near as satisfying as I wanted it to be. Could this new genre piece make up for the ‘meh’ that I felt for 2014’s Only Lovers Left Alive?
The Dead Don’t Die tells the story of a zombie invasion that takes place in the fictional town of Centerville, USA. Whilst local cops Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray), Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny) work to try to find the cause of some initial mystery killings, the rest of the town slowly but surely becomes aware that the cause of the problem is real, actual undead ghouls, apparently risen from their graves due to a shift in the Earth’s rotation.
A campy, silly premise like this certainly sounds like it has the potential to be fun, but then you have to remember whose film this is. Writer/director Jim Jarmusch has a penchant for making things so deadpan and counter reactive that, in my opinion, it ends up sucking the life out of everything in a really tedious and self indulgent way. Any traditional pleasure a viewer might take from a dumb zombie movie simply isn’t there, and whilst the aim was clearly to replace this traditional fun with a more wry, satirical edge, the fact is that the film isn’t nearly funny enough on a regular basis to make up for it.
Remember back in 2016 when everybody piled in on the disaster that was Suicide Squad? I was a card carrying member of the crowd who thought the movie was massively flawed, but reading my review back, it’s obvious that one of the very few things I did enjoy was Margot Robbie’s take on Harley Quinn. Clearly, that seems to have been the general consensus, so here we are in 2020 with another trip to that version of Gotham, this time focusing on Harley and getting rid of all the driftwood that made Suicide Squad such a disappointment. I went in cautiously optimistic about this one.
And ultimately, though it does fair better than Suicide Squad, Birds Of Prey is still only ‘fine’ at best. In an attempt to free the character from her oppressive ties to the Joker, the film puts Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in the middle of things with her own Gotham centred narrative. After breaking up with her long time villainous beau, Harley’s protection is lifted and she suddenly finds herself the target of most of the city’s bad guys out for revenge.
Connecting at scheduled points with a number of other female characters in the universe including vigilantes the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), young pick pocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) and cynical police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), the narrative forms into a squad movie of sorts, with the women teaming up to fight off the movie’s main big bad, crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).
Despite a promising set up, I think the fact that I can barely remember the movie even though I watched it mere days ago says everything about it. Birds Of Prey has a lot to offer in terms of fun action sequences and vibrant visuals, but at the end of the day, some of the technical choices that it makes prove to be its downfall. Chiefly, the decision to rely heavily on flashback scenes to establish the timeline doesn’t really work for me. Every time you feel yourself settling into the story and enjoying yourself, yet another jump in time occurs and you find yourself having to find a rhythm all over again.
Despite the film not being able to transition quite so smoothly between its two binding themes, there is a lot of entertainment on show, and that is mostly thanks to the truly excellent cast of performers in central and supporting roles. Keira Knightley seems to excel in any role that puts her in a time period other than our own, and as Sally she effortlessly exudes that sort of 1970s early intellectual feminist attitude, an attitude that is wonderfully contrasted by the more militant activism and charisma of her friend Jo played by Jessie Buckley. Together those two actresses are the key figureheads for the Women’s Lib element of the film, and they are great.
It feels against the message of the film to say, but I need to stress just how irresistibly resplendent Gugu Mbatha-Raw is as Miss Grenada Jennifer Hosten. The grace, serenity and knowing intelligence that both the character and actress possess is a captivating joy to watch, and Mbatha-Raw along with Loreece Harrison as Pearl Jansen (the first black Miss South Africa) provide a necessary and thought provoking contrast for the audience, helping us to see how the pageant, as strikingly ‘cattle market’ as it might be, was one of the very few avenues for a minority to be given a platform.
Overall, Misbehaviour falls in very neatly with dozens of other British comedy dramas of its like, not quite the top tier, but still far from being anything close to bad. Given the subject matter and themes involved, it perhaps doesn’t have quite as much bite as I would have personally wanted, but a handful of really great performances along with that quintessentially ‘comfortable’ British quality make it a solid enough watch.
As for the immediate future of this blog, I’ll try to catch new releases on home cinema as and when I can, but the main thing is that we all stay safe and be sensible. Hunker down, build up that Netflix queue, and enjoy doing your part to prevent this shitty virus from spreading to those more vulnerable than ourselves. See you soon!
It’s not every day, or even every year, that a romantic comedy touches a nerve of reality — and is drop-dead funny, and becomes an acclaimed awards-bait hit. So when a director makes the rare romantic comedy that accomplishes all those things, unwittingly or not he has set the bar high for his next effort. “The Lovebirds” is the first movie directed by Michael Showalter since “The Big Sick,” the 2017 indie knockout about love, cultural identity, and a girlfriend in a coma, and since this one also costars the deadpan live wire Kumail Nanjiani (though he didn’t cowrite it, as he did “The Big Sick”), it’s hard not to go in with your expectations in overdrive.
The opening scenes totally deliver. We see the moony morning after the night that Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) first slept together — they met at an event while flirting at the crudité table — and the actors generate the kind of connective heat that’s either there or it’s not.
I’m sure there were others at the time, but to me it very much feels like Mulan was the first high profile casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mentioned in my March review of System Crasher that I had expected to be watching Disney’s big new remake on that weekend, but here we finally are six months later! I might be back in the cinema now, but Disney+ was chosen as the home for this long awaited picture. As I pressed play, I hoped beyond hope that the wait was going to be worth it.
As I am sure we all know, Mulan tells the story of Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei), a young woman who disguises herself as a male soldier to take the place of her ageing, injured father (Tzi Ma) after the Emperor of China (Jet Li) issues a decree to defend the country from Northern invaders.
I won’t beat around the bush, guys. The wait was not worth it. I’m not going to hide the fact that I am a huge fan of the 1998 animated version, so a lot of this review is going to be a comparative exercise between the two, but even as a stand alone feature, Mulan is an incredible disappointment. Let’s start with the comparisons, shall we? I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single important beat of this story was executed better twenty-two years ago. Moments like Mulan’s decision to transform herself, the iconic training montage, the final battle, each and every one is a pale imitation of what we saw in animated form in 1998. I’ve really thought about it, and this isn’t nostalgia talking, it’s just plain facts.