Land: Film Review

Land

Daniel Power / Focus Features

I’ve always rated Robin Wright as an actress so I was keen to see how she fared behind the camera and I thought her feature directorial debut Land told a beautiful and moving story.

Following a horrific tragedy, a bereaved woman named Edee (Wright) buys a remote mountainside cabin in the middle of the Wyoming wilderness and gets rid of her phone and car so she is completely off the grid and isolated from the world. She has no experience of that life – she can’t chop wood, catch a fish or hunt – so she struggles to survive out there, until local hunter Miguel (Demian Bichir) comes to her rescue, offers her friendship and helps her cope with her grief.

I loved the narrative and the journey Edee goes on over the course of the movie. She starts off not seeing the point of living following her profound loss and initially refuses to let herself become friends with Miguel, insisting she doesn’t want to be around people, but she grows to enjoy his company, connect with others, address her grief and feel like life is worth living again.

Despite the film only being 89 minutes, it still feels quite slow, but that’s because we spend a large portion of the movie just watching Edee on her own trying to survive out in the woods and there’s no dialogue to latch onto. It’s never boring though and I was still captivated. I had no concept of time with this film so I couldn’t figure out how long she was supposed to be on her own for, but it was a welcome change of pace when Miguel arrived and offered up some much-needed conversation, companionship, wilderness survival tutorials and ’80s singalongs.

The location of Edee’s cabin – which was actually shot in Alberta, Canada – is absolutely stunning. The landscapes are gorgeous and the cinematography is breath-taking. It actually made me want to go there (but only in the summertime).

I’m usually a person who dislikes having very little information about a character. I like to know as many details as possible. We have a couple of flashbacks with Edee and her sister Emma (Kim Dickens) and we have enough nuggets to guess what happened, but that’s about it. However, on this occasion, I liked that Edee’s backstory was withheld until the end of the film – holding it back delivered more of an emotional gut-punch and it made the ending much more poignant.

Wright delivers an emotionally raw performance and was a compelling presence onscreen throughout. Edee is cold and unfriendly and Bichir’s Miguel offers a good contrast – he is kind, warm and lovely – and I liked watching their friendship develop and him tearing down the walls she’d built around herself.

If you can’t tell from all that praise, I was a big fan of Land and I recommend checking it out.

In cinemas from Friday 4th June

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Godzilla vs. Kong: Film Review

Godzilla vs. Kong

I really didn’t think Godzilla vs. Kong was a film for me – I usually cannot stand watching two big CGI monsters fight each other and that is literally the plot of this movie – but the fight scenes here are a cut above your average and the film as a whole was way more entertaining than I was expecting.

The film, which serves as a sequel to Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island, stars Alexander Skarsgard as Nathan, a former Monarch geologist who is tasked with moving Kong from the safety of his giant dome on Skull Island, where he is looked after by Ilene (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), into the Hollow Earth, the true home of the titans, to retrieve an energy source to supposedly stop Godzilla’s unprovoked rampages. As we already know from the franchise, there can’t be two alpha titans so Godzilla soon comes for his enemy Kong.

From reading this summary, you can probably tell that the plot is threadbare, contrived, and doesn’t make a ton of sense, but considering this is a film about a face-off between two massive monsters, you shouldn’t go in expecting a solid screenplay, well-rounded characters, or any sort of depth. This is a Blockbuster with a capital B; it’s all about the action and the spectacle so don’t expect anything else. It is silly, but it knows it is, and it’s a lot of mindless fun.

I usually tune out during action sequences after a while because I find them boring but these ones really captured my attention. None of Godzilla and Kong’s fights outstayed their welcome and they looked so cool to watch, from the fight choreography, the way they were shot, the slo-mo punches and jumps, and the setting. I particularly loved the Hong Kong battleground, with them being lit up by the colourful skyscrapers and just destroying the city entirely. The stakes aren’t super high because you know Warner Bros. would never kill such a profitable property off but it’s still great fun to watch.

Given the title, you might expect this film to be evenly split between the two titans but this is very much Kong’s movie, with appearances from Godzilla. I’m usually a big fan of Godzilla but I really was on team Kong this team around. He has just been so well designed that he has such an expressive face and I couldn’t help but feel sad when he did. I also loved his bond with Jia and their ability to communicate.

I’m surprised so many big names signed up to this considering how dull and paper thin the characters are. Hall and Hottle have a bit more substance thanks to their relationship with Kong, but Skarsgard, Demian Bichir as the CEO of Apex Cybernetics and Eiza Gonzalez as his daughter get so little to do and the human scenes are so flat in comparison to the rest. Normally I switch off in action scenes, but I switched off during those here. Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison – who team up with Millie Bobby Brown to investigate what Apex is up to – were the only ones who tried to inject personality and humour into their characters and were mildly successful.

Godzilla vs. Kong, directed by Adam Wingard, is much better than I ever expected it would be. If you just embrace the silly spectacle, you will have a great time. See it on a big screen if you can because it looks amazing.

Available for premium rental at home now

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Midnight Sky: Netflix Film Review

The Midnight Sky

I love a sci-fi film and always want to see the latest Hollywood offering so naturally, I was excited for George Clooney‘s latest directorial effort, The Midnight Sky, which debuts on Netflix on Wednesday.

Clooney plays Augustine Lofthouse, a scientist whose life ambition was to find hospitable planets where humanity could expand. The main action takes place in 2049, three weeks after “The Event”. Augustine is sick and alone in an observatory in the Arctic Circle as he refused to evacuate with the rest of the team. One day he discovers a young girl named Iris (Caoilinn Springall), presumably left behind following the evacuation, and together they must venture across the treacherous terrain to get to a weather station farther north as it has a better antenna for him to reach the last active space mission – Aether. The Aether crew – featuring Commander Gordon Adewole (David Oyelowo), Sully (Felicity Jones), Maya (Tiffany Boone), Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), and Sanchez (Demian Bichir) – are heading back to Earth from Jupiter following a successful mission to the habitable moon K-23 and have no idea of the global catastrophe that’s taken place.

I was fully excited by the premise for The Midnight Sky, a movie adaptation of Good Morning, Midnight by Lily-Brooks Dalton, and I came away so disappointed. Considering this film is supposed to depict a race against time, there is a surprising lack of urgency to it and the pacing is dreadfully slow. I held out hope for the moment when it would eventually pick up the pace to reach a thrilling climax, but it doesn’t. There are a couple of big moments that should have had a dramatic impact yet they aren’t told with much emotional clout, just the cinematic equivalent of a shrug. Everything is so bizarrely underplayed.

It is also frustratingly vague. Mark L. Smith‘s screenplay holds back so much information that it was hard to care about anyone or their situation. We aren’t given any details about The Event so we have to draw our own conclusions and I had so many questions about Augustine – Why he is at the observatory? What is his role? Why didn’t he evacuate? What illness is he suffering from? We get a couple of flashbacks about his past but they’re still not enough. I also had so much I wanted to know about the Aether mission and his trek to the weather station as well, but again, we are offered so little.

I can’t fault Clooney’s performance, he convinces as the hollow-eyed miserable scientist who is truly fed up with his lot, and I also liked the visuals, the scale and ambition of the story, and Alexandre Desplat‘s score, but what a waste of a fantastic idea. So unsatisfying.

Streaming on Netflix from Wednesday 23rd December

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Hateful Eight: Film Review

the-hateful-eight

The Hateful Eight leaked online ages ago, but I resisted temptation to watch it because I think Quentin Tarantino deserves my cinema money and this is so much better on the big screen. I also think it’s more enjoyable in the cinema, where you can fully concentrate on the long, dialogue-heavy Western and get wrapped up in it as events dramatically unfold like a play.

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