By Orla Smith
It’s been a slow month, but even so there are genuine delights hidden within the dirge. The two hour plus length of this month’s three worst films might beg the question: how come the new Sofia Coppola and Lynne Ramsay movies are only 90 minutes long, yet I have to sit through two hours of Guy Ritchie? Just one of the world’s unanswerable questions (which will likely be complicated further by the oncoming of a new ‘Transformers’. Brace yourselves).
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (dir. Guy Ritchie)
I won’t deny that I was expecting to hate ‘King Arthur’ right from the word go and long beforehand. I have precedent – Guy Ritchie is a self-obsessed over-stylist whose self-estimation towers perilously above his actual talent. Charlie Hunnam is a bland would-be movie star that hopefully won’t be. I have negative interest in a revamping of the Arthurian legend as it is, but with that killer combo? No thanks. And yep, it’s every bit as mind-numbingly dull as its credentials implied.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (dir. Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg)
Credit where credit’s due? Well, as opposed to ‘King Arthur’, there are definable moments and sequences within ‘Pirates 5’, ones that had bombastic potential that it half-heartedly tries to fulfil. Kaya Scodelario gives good pirate and Javier Bardem’s villain is a whole lot of fun. The problem is… it’s almost unbearably boring, and criminally cheesy the nearer it gets the finish line. Johnny Depp’s shtick is getting harder and harder to bear.
- Last Cab to Darwin (dir. Jeremy Sims)
A small Australian indie with a heart it’s unable to handle. Michael Caton’s performance as a dying man travelling cross-country to be euthanized is worth any plaudits you want to throw at it, but over a sleepy two hours, the warm sensation set up at the start slowly fades away as it becomes clear that nothing else is going to happen, either physically or emotionally.
- Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower (dir. Joe Piscatella)
Netflix gives us this Sundance pick-up, a political documentary following Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong teenager fighting fiercely against China’s attempts to dictate his beloved city. It’s a short, sharp and dangerously gripping film that works wonders as a statement, although the film may have benefited from an interest in exploring its title figure: what is it that could make someone so young lead such a big fight? We meet Joshua after that’s been figured out, and Piscatella never bothers to look back.
- Carrie Pilby (dir. Susan Johnson)
‘Carrie Pilby’ may suffer from the presence of a bit too much cheese, but its familiar rom-com stylings are also what makes it such a warm delight. Bel Powley is excellent as Carrie, deftly balancing British and American identities in her accent, capturing a perilously smart girl who is isolated by her own design. It’s often clichéd, but that veneer hides a character study that’s uncommonly nuanced.
- Alien: Covenant (dir. Ridley Scott)
The first 20 minutes of ‘Alien: Covenant’ are brilliant. Ridley Scott demonstrates a technical skill he hasn’t matched in years, but his grip loosens throughout until you’re left sighing at what he almost achieved. But that almost is more fascinating than pretty much any other summer blockbuster is likely to be this year. Scott is smart enough to recognise Michael Fassbender as his strongest asset, playing his two android characters off of each other with glee. You’ll never look at recorders the same way again.
- Miss Sloane (dir. John Madden)
It’s hard to imagine why ‘Miss Sloane’ opened in the US last year to such little fanfare, especially given how blisteringly timely its subject of gun control happens to be. The film may be about lobbyists, but it’s one of the most entertaining films you’ll see all year. Watching Jessica Chastain obliterate everyone around her with words is 10,000x more entertaining that watching the Avengers do the same with magical laser beams (or whatever they’re using these days).
- Colossal (dir. Nacho Vigalondo)
Amazingly, (for a film about an alcoholic woman telepathically controlling a Godzilla-like monster rampaging over Seoul) it takes about an hour and twenty minutes for Nacho Vigalondo’s ”Colossal’ to veer off course. Even more amazingly, it gets right back on afterwards and delivers a kicker of ending, one that’ll make you want to stand up and cheer. Quite possibly this year’s most original film, with the weirdness of ‘Swiss Army Man’ and the allegorical relevance of ‘Get Out’, it juggles a million different metaphors in a circus act you can’t take your eyes off of, all held together by the Anne Hathaway performance that we needed, even if we don’t quite deserve it.
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