What do you think of when you hear the name Shane Black? If you’re in the know, as I pretend to be, you likely think of two or more clever-by-half characters exchanging shuriken-like witticisms against a backdrop of intrigue and mayhem.
When I heard Black’s name in conjunction with the those of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, my heart nearly skipped a beat. There’s no reason why The Nice Guys—with it’s talented writer/director, cast, and setup—shouldn’t have knocked it out of the park. Instead, the final product is a disappointing and painfully meandering reminder of what could have been.
It seems to me that the action genre has been maligned in recent years, probably because at least ninety percent of it consists of creatively bankrupt, pitifully vapid, painfully generic dross. When I first saw the trailer for Hardcore Henry, I admit that my first reaction was a pretentious sneer at the blazing neon lights blatantly forming the words “Gimmick! Gimmick! Look at me!”
So no-one was more surprised than I at the fact that Hardcore Henry turned out to be one of the most raucous joyrides that I’ve had the pleasure to experience all year.
I saw a film yesterday. It starred actors, was presumably filmed using a recording device of some description, and consisted of scenes which were acted out and arranged in sequential order. The name of the film was Fateful Findings, and I was changed by it.
Even now, in the relative safety and repose of my room, and enjoying the old familiar comfort of my writing desk, I find myself struggling for the words to describe this…experience. I feel uncommonly labored as I write this, as if I have to dredge each individual word from a stinking, fetid pit of tar, and, even then, they seem unfitting for the task at hand. Where should I start?
It’s a tricky question, because one does not simply appraise a film like Fateful Findings based on artistic merit or technical execution. Rather, I think the degree to which the film makes one lose their grasp on reality is a more meaningful method of evaluation. That said, I suppose I should start at the beginning.
With The Martian, director Ridley Scott has finally found a story worthy of his filmmaking talent. Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney, Mars’s most optimistic botanist, who is abandoned on the planet by his fellow astronauts, believing him dead. Isolated, wounded, rapidly depleting his supplies, and unable to contact Earth, Watney is faced with an impossible task: he has to MacGyver together a plan for survival on a planet with no food or oxygen–all in a way that doesn’t feel hopelessly contrived. And boy, does he rise to the occasion! Damon’s superb performance and Scott’s expert handling of the subject material make The Martian not just one of the best films of 2015, but the most fun movie-going experience I’ve had all year.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dearie me. I wanted a horror film, and for my sins, they gave me one. Of course, in this case the word “horror” has to carry almost tangible sarcastic connotations. The horror genre doesn’t need defending, obviously—but to call this unmitigated piece of shit a horror film is nothing but a cruel charade. Still, you can’t say it’s off message though: it’s certainly psychologically and emotionally painful for the audience to sit through.
This week on High and Low, we cover the filmography of one of the most talked about and beloved directors of the last 20 years, Paul Thomas Anderson.
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