A giant, monster edition of Sun DVD reviews this week – and not only because the Pacific Rim sequel is among the films vying for your attention.
There’s Paddy Considine as a retired boxer facing the hardest fight of his life in Journeyman; Claire Foy losing her grip on reality in psychological nerve-shredder Unsane; Nic Cage tackling bank robbers in 211; a Japanese justice dilemma in The Third Murder; Viking drama in Of Gods And Warriors; and finally two time-straddling adventures with Wonderstruck and The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey. Read on…
Out July 30
Matty Burton (played by director and writer Paddy Considine) is the middleweight boxing champion of the world approaching the end of his career.
After a final punishing title defence before retirement, Matty collapses.
Writer and director Paddy Considine offers a bleak and honest portrayal of living with a brain trauma[/caption]
Now unable to recognise his family and friends, struggling with a speech impediment and unleashing a violent streak he’d never previously shown outside of the ring, Matty is completely dependent on his wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker).
Their relationship becomes increasingly strained as she cares for both Matty and newborn daughter Mia.
While Considine offers a bleak and honest portrayal of living with, and the recovery process of, a brain trauma, it is Whittaker who truly shines. She gives a resilient performance, refusing to throw in the towel despite the testing circumstances – it’s a sobering nod to the grim realities of caring.
Visceral and at times utterly heart-wrenching, Journeyman punches well above its weight – when it ends, you’ll feel like you’ve done 12 rounds.
Pacific Rim: Uprising (12)
Out July 30
John Boyega is on ferociously charming form in this giant monsters vs giant robots action sequel.
He plays Jake – son of Idris Elba’s hero from the 2013 original – who is caught up in the chaos of a corporate conspiracy to replace the human-piloted mechanoids with remotely operated drones.
Jake – John Boyega – is caught up in the chaos of a corporate conspiracy[/caption]
Jake is set to work training new cadets for the mech programme with, in one of several startling coincidences, his former co-pilot, Nate Lambert (the consistently vanilla Scott Eastwood, son of Clint). It’s a small world in Pacific Rim: Uprising.
Around the halfway mark, the film fully commits to the abject craziness of the plot.
Highlights include a character essentially getting high by mind-melding with one of the monster’s brains, and the always welcome sight of Burn Gorman, playing against type in his portrayal of an actual good guy.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is giant robots getting into massive brawls with monsters from another dimension[/caption]
Pacific Rim: Uprising is at times, bonkers beyond belief, but let’s be honest – you’re not here for award-winning scripts and nuanced character portrayals.
You’re here for giant robots getting into massive brawls with monsters from another dimension, laying waste to urban environments and wading ominously from the seas.
It’s ludicrous, poorly plotted, and also very, very fun.
A YOUNG saleswoman hides out in Pennsylvania, having fled her home in Boston over an unknown trauma.
But Sawyer (The Crown’s Claire Foy) cannot hide from the terrors of her past, and seeks counselling for the suicidal thoughts that plague her.
Unsane does a good job with setting up the terrifying scenario, and soon we are doubting whether the plight of Sawyer – Claire Foy – is real[/caption]
And she finds herself committed involuntarily to a mental institution, where it seems that her worst nightmares are lurking in wait for her.
Unsane does a good job with setting up the terrifying scenario, and soon we are doubting whether Sawyer’s plight is real or a figment of a troubled mind.
Foy gives a great performance, and director Steven Soderbergh doesn’t know how to make a boring film.
But the plot twists get increasingly crazy (forgive the pun), and soon become wearisome.
Nicolas Cage stars as Mike Chandler, a cop who’s nearing retirement and gets caught up in a bank heist – 211 being the police code for a robbery.
With him trying to stop the bad guys is his cop partner and son-in-law Steve (New Zealander Dwayne Cameron), as well as a local kid with the bad luck to be on a police ridealong.
It’s engrossing from the opening scene, and thoroughly enjoyable, although when bullets start flying, things become a tad melodramatic.
Cage’s performance is dialled down a notch from his crazier performances but he still delivers the goods in this action romp.
Out July 30
Ben and Rose are two 12-year-olds growing up 50 years apart who each go in search of the missing piece in their lives.
For Ben, that is the father he never knew and for Rose, her famous actress of a mother.
During their searches, parallels in their lives arise, leading you to expect some sort of fascinating fantastical reveal.
But when this does finally arrive – after what feels like a tediously long time – it is far more mundane and throws up unanswered questions, most notably, why was Ben’s father such a mystery to him?
Chronicling Rose’s 1927 search in the silent black and white style of the era, compared with Ben’s more modern 1977 hunt, is a nice touch in theory, but in practice not knowing what the characters are saying just leaves you wonderstruck, and not in a good way.
The Third Murder (15)
In the week Home Secretary Sajid Javid finds himself in a row over the death penalty comes the release of Japanese drama The Third Murder, in which a man faces execution after confessing to killing his boss.
The case seems open and shut – at least until defence lawyer Tomoaki Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) digs deeper and contradictions emerge.
Is his client guilty after all? And is killing – by the individual or the state – always wrong?
From writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda, this is a complex, slippery – and at times cynical – rumination on the machinations of the legal system and the nature of justice.
Of Gods And Warriors (18)
Out July 30
The words ‘fantasy action epic with Terence Stamp playing Odin’ might sound appealing, but unfortunately the great thespian lends only five minutes or so of his time to this well-meaning but ultimately lacking low-budget adventure.
Set in a medieval Viking-esque world where the gods appear as hooded figures to members of the kingdom’s royalty, newcomer Anna Demetriou plays the princess Helle. She is hounded from her kingdom when she is framed for the murder of her father, the king, when in fact her evil uncle Bard is the man responsible.
Bard (Timo Nieminen) has been corrupted by the whisperings of God of Mischief Loki (Murray McArthur, decidedly having the most fun).
Demetriou makes a striking impression, and the film has far better fight choreography and staging than expected, but too often the intervening scenes are stilted and lack momentum.
Moreover, the cinematography has an overly clean look to it, which only enhances the budgetary limitations. A sequel, audaciously baited in the closing moments, seems unlikely.
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The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (PG)
Now getting a Blu ray rerelease, this 1988 fantasy tale is set in Cumbria of 1348.
After hearing awful tales of the Black Death, a young boy called Griffin is plagued by prophetic visions instructing him to erect a cross on the tallest church in the land which he thinks could save his village.
With a resolute and determined band of men, they tunnel deep into the bowels of the earth where they emerge in, er… 20th century New Zealand. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey is an ambitious, mysterious blend of myth and time travel that draws a parallel between the archaic and modern.
A highly imaginative film that may pull on your heartstrings as you try to empathise with the characters’ displacement and incomprehension of their new surroundings. A decent watch.