3 (out of 4)
Last year when Guy Ritchie bestowed upon us a telling of King Arthur by way of PS4 cutaways, it would have been reasonable to suggest the popular legend never again be put to film. In serious fashion 1981's Excalibur did as much honest justice as the story could be done and in parody Monty Python conceived comythic perfection nearly 45 years ago.
It would take a Brit who actually knew what they were doing to revitalize the wearied lore. Cue Joe Cornish – following his lively 2011 indie sci-fi debut Attack the Block and a co-writer credit on Ant-Man, The Kid Who Would Be King functions as mighty tyke-friendly entertainment easily servicing the interests of the average viewer. It's a properly scary children's fantasy film (Rebecca Ferguson is as terrifying as she is wickedly attractive) and a pointed commentary on Britain's current national tumult. Cornish ruminates Brexit's massive toll to unearth the present-day relevance of Britain's most perennial legend, Tolkien notwithstanding.
It may be about twenty minutes too long but after so many poor attempts to make better on tired tales, the sheer ambition of The Kid Who Would Be King is of such gusto it makes the laptop visual effects and proudly absurdist British tendencies of Attack the Block's neighborhood sci-fi look quaint in the process. If you were wondering what took Cornish eight years to churn out what amounts to a strong kid flick, the answer is quiet diligence. He appeals to whatever helpless innocence is left in all of us while fancying himself a populist moviegoing antidote, January release and weak box office receipts be damned.
2 (out of 4)
M. Night Shyamalan has been lowering the bar of his own brand since The Village silenced those citing him as Spielberg 2.0 fifteen years ago. But thanks to the more recent success of Split, the director's esteem seemed to be restored following box office profits and favorable reviews.
Split’s positive reception was confirmation that Shyamalan needed only a decent premise and a few respectable actors in order to have people salivating over his trademark class of thriller once again. The borderline offensive depiction of mental illness by a mugging James McAvoy (a proven actor just having fun yet still pissing me off) was really baffling given how much people complain every last thing nowadays. The bothersome 2017 flick needs the foremost focus considering Glass is less a trilogy capper beginning with 2000’s Unbreakable than it is a slightly more ambitious follow-up to Split.
The detriment of Glass is in spite of a strong continuation for the characters of Unbreakable (two-thirds of the film’s main cast with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson returning), the weak emotional tether is the loose connection between McAvoy’s multifaceted Beast and Anya Taylor-Joy's character from the film before. Glass also is and looks dirt cheap – Shyamalan's capacity to bore apart from his visual sensitivity is rather insane when accounting for the X-Men psychology and stripped superheroics.
The film’s philosophy of finding the space where supernatural horror and comic book tropes coexist is admirable and yet the film Glass on the extraordinary realism making Unbreakable so bleakly unique. Glass is the best thing Shyamalan has done this decade and nonetheless unforgivably bland and sterilized by an inevitable and uninspired triptych of last minute twists. Restraint has always marked the infamous director's most potent work – Glass finds Shyamalan indulging in his worst behaviors even if the results are more interesting than they've been in some time.
3 (out of 4)
Barry Jenkins wasted no time substantiating the overnight wunderkind reputation chiseled out by his Oscar-winning breakthrough Moonlight, which snagged the Best Picture award in the most memorable fashion conceivable. With an adapted screenplay he apparently penned at the same time on a European summer vacation, If Beale Street Could Talk lives up to a quick update on the director's fresh prominence – it’s a nuanced drama and textured romance intertwined, threaded with relevant themes and sincere social commentary.
His early trademarks of point-of-view perspectives and fidgeting with the focus pay off strikingly well here, as Jenkins' identifies the central innocent love story for its remote delicacies while delivering melodrama with all the aplomb a great modern play might deserve. For every bit of hype behind Regina King’s performance – she’s practically destined beyond nominations to win for Best Supporting Actress – her turn is absolutely devastating. Her character’s convictions and superb dialogue have only remote relation to the raw emotion King funnels through the role.
Our leads are also great – Jenkins not only has a sharp eye for casting but an intuition as to how to draw the most vital vulnerability from his actors. Jenkins was quoted as saying shooting is his favorite part of directing because of the scope of possibilities each take provides. It may be an inevitable comedown following Moonlight’s transcendence but, if nothing else, the effectiveness drawn from KiKi Layne and Stephan James leaves Beale Street worth observantly strolling along.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
so many briefings