Hollywood is revisiting the Power Rangers, King Kong, Beauty and the Beast, The Birth of the Nation, Patriot Games and even the 1970s/80s motorcycle cop TV series CHiPs – a show that really annoyed me when I was seven. Has it always been spelt that way? Yes! Another reason to hate it!
Not as good as Spotlight
Patriot Games … noooh, Patriots Day (69 on Metacritic; released on March 17) is not a remake of that over-rated, cross-Atlantic Jack Ryan flick, which some remember fondly for the head-giving/shooting scene featuring a gorgeous IRA assassin.
No, this film recalls the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt for its perpetrators. In fact, one of them, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is on Death Row, so maybe he’ll find time to bask in the limelight again. We say again because in 2013 he was on the cover of Rolling Stone looking like the fifth member of the Kooks. So it’s no surprise to note that the actor playing him, Alex Wolff, who will no doubt get thumped (or worse) by at least one Trump supporter, is also a musician.
Overall the reviews have been solid, but the hometown media have been harder to please. The Boston Globe (they preferred Spotlight of course) remarked that “at best, it’s unnecessary; at worst, it’s vaguely insulting”, while others have taken issue with Mark Wahlberg’s hackneyed fictitious policeman. With everyone’s favourite badass JK Simmons (Whiplash) on board, there’s plenty to like though.
Oscar’s biggest loser
The same can’t be said of The Birth of a Nation (69; March 23), an early frontrunner in the Oscar race before it was released stateside and got mediocre reviews. The cynics will say the ‘blacklash’ was always going to claim the big prize, and that Moonlight stole this film’s Oscar.
Back in September, just weeks before its US release, it was a 5/1 second favourite, and we revealed how 39.1 percent of its votes (674) gave it zero on IMDB and 32.7 percent gave it 10, despite it being based on a slave revolt (led by preacher Nat Turner) that took place in 1831.
Some might not have liked how it took the name of a DW Griffith silent movie from 1915, a three-hour Ku Klux Klan propaganda project that pretty much covered half of the 19th century. While others might have had it in for its star and director, Nate Parker, after allegations surfaced that he raped a student in 1999. But most were just racist rednecks with no historical knowledge predating the invention of the twinkie.
Robocop’s French sidekick
Also overlooked by the Academy – for guaranteed hilarity, check out a pre-award BBC report in which the PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountants portentously show off their magic briefcases – was Elle (89; March 17), a fantastic return to form for veteran Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, which failed to get nominated for Best Film in a Foreign Language.
Barely a day passes by without our current dystopia recalling an iconic scene from films like RoboCop and Starship Troopers (the recent assassination of the once heir to the North Korean empire, for example) in which he gloriously satirised the future, while the rape scene in Showgirls is one of cinema’s most cruelly hilarious moments. But this is a departure from his normal focus, even if it was described as “pure Verhoeven, extremely erotic and perverted” when it was first announced at Cannes in 2014.
There could, however, be no overlooking its star, the 63-year-old French actress Isabelle Huppert, whose Golden Globe for best actress in a drama made a nice change to her record in the César Awards, which has shortlisted her 16 times but only given her one statuette.
I know: you’re still questioning whether she’s 63. We live in ageist times after all, when most actresses over the age of 40 struggle to get work without resorting to daily Botox and lip collagen injections. Her captivating performance as a woman who responds in an unorthodox fashion to being raped in her own home is, as one reviewer noted, “gloriously empowering”.
It’s the kind of performance Bryan Cranston tends to deliver, so it makes you wonder how he’s ended up in Power Rangers (Not Released Yet anywhere; March 23), but this is a franchise that has thrived because badass children like breaking things.
Life (NRY; March 23), in which a space mission to the Red Planet gets the answer they were dreading to the immortal David Bowie question (“Yes, but mostly death”), has the stars queuing up. Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds are joined by Swedish-English actress Rebecca Ferguson who hasn’t looked back since playing the title character in The White Queen and being handpicked by Tom Cruise to star in back-to-back Mission Impossible films.
Normally to get ahead you need to have starred in either Harry Potter or Downton Abbey, which might explain why Beauty and the Beast (64; March 17) has cast Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the titular roles.
However, CHiPs (NRY; March 23), the story of a couple of motorcycle cops who just … cruise around … has opted for a non-British approach. Which is just as well, or it would have been called ‘Crisps’.
Elsewhere, Certain Women (81; March 2) was sneaked out with minimal notice. Directed by Kelly Reichardt (Night Moves), its three loosely-connected mumblecore plot strands don’t add up to much, but as a female character study it is immense. Each of the characters, applauds the Wall Street Journal, is a “minimalist masterpiece, sculpted, polished and uncompromisingly female”.
Kong: Skull Island (62, March 9) and A United Kingdom (66, March 9) were previewed in our last issue, as was CPH: DOX, of which Iggy Pop study Gimme Danger (72, March 9) was the opening film.
The festival features heavily in Cinemateket’s March/April program, which also includes a David Lynch retrospective in the build-up to the return of cult TV series Twin Peaks; festivals dedicated to the cinema of Ireland (ongoing, ends March 15) and New Zealand (ongoing, ends April 20); a chance to see recently acclaimed Danish films with English subtitles (see dfi.dk); and a season dedicated to films that inspired La La Land (ongoing, ends April 10).
Yes, La La Land, or as it’s know in Faye Dunaway’s house: ‘Emma Stone, La La Land’.