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I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourite filmmakers include Bong Joon-ho, Danny Boyle, the Coen Brothers, Nicolas Winding Refn, Clio Barnard, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Verhoeven, Taika Waititi and Edgar Wright. All reviews and articles are original works written and owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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Fresh Thoughts on Film
Archived Thoughts on Film
FANNY LYE DELIVER’D is a 17th Century-set sort-of home invasion horror where a family of Puritans and particularly the titular character (Maxine Peake) are made to question their beliefs under duress by a “sinful”nontheistic and hedonistic Quaker couple. This is bleak, dirty history in itchy clothes and it’s a mostly mirthless affair, apart from the pleasing line “There was a full-blown ranting orgy at the Hopton alehouse”. The whole thing is delivered in a thick regional dialect and archaic sentence structure but any pretence of period drama class is soon eclipsed by jarring borderline-exploitation film imagery and loud cinematography and a blaring score. It’s a pretty unique beast, and definitely not for everyone, but you’ll not soon forget this muddled and strangely beguiling mismatch of genre elements. SSP
In SWALLOW, Hunter (Haley Bennett, terrific) is trapped in a miserable marriage and pregnancy to a rich asshole. The only excitement in Hunter’s day, the only control she can exert on her monotonous life is which objects she puts into her body. She consumes them for every passive-aggressive slight she endures at the hands of pretty much everyone she meets, not least her nearest and dearest and they are retained as mementos or trophies once they pass through her. “I wanted to do it so I did it!”. But even this freedom is eventually taken away from Hunter and she essentially ends up under house arrest with a burley Syrian watching her every move because her husband refuses to even try to understand how he is making her feel. Hunter’s painful journey into herself is only just beginning and sooner or later she has to make a stand to regain her freedom. This is unusual, twisted and heartfelt stuff. SSP
The DCAMU (DC Animated Movie Universe) has been quietly excelling on home media for six years now. These animated movies just get the essence of the characters, their relationships and puts new and interesting twists on some of the comics’ most famous storylines. With JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: APOKOLIPS WAR, it all comes to an end, and it’s going to be costly for our heroes.
After many years plotting from the shadows, space despot Darkseid finally launches an all-out invasion of Earth, and the planet’s most powerful superheroes sally forth to meet him. But after a costly opening battle every one of the heroes is routed, captured, de-powered or killed and the fate of the world looks bleak. Two years later in an apocalyptic landscape, the survivors hatch a desperate plan to strike back…
Much like Marvel’s ENDGAME, a lot has to be tied up and paid off. Like Endgame an early mission goes badly wrong and we pick up the story years later with survivors putting together the pieces. Characters from the Justice League, the Teen Titans, Justice League Dark, the Suicide Squad, the extended Batman Family and others have been introduced and developed over half a decade in these animated adventures. Batman’s reluctant fatherhood, Robin and Raven’s bonding over unhealthy parental relationships, Constantine’s myriad demons internal and external and Superman’s newfound sense of vulnerability are all given decisive conclusions here.
The great thing about straight-to-video is that there tends to be fewer restrictions on what is considered acceptable – no worries about keeping it 12A here. It never feels excessive, but this war is bloody and brutal and heroes use colorful language when they lose it in the heat of the moment. While the general plot is pretty similar to what was purportedly originally planned with the live-action JUSTICE LEAGUE, it goes to some unexpected places and hits really hard because fans have spent upwards of 20 hours with this iteration of these heroes.
The film’s finale, while spectacular, stages its action in such rapid succession that it can overwhelm your senses – multiple supporting characters meet brutal ends but you could easily miss who’s been killed and how. You also have a sneaking suspicion, much like in Marvel’s INFINITY WAR that not a lot of this will stick, that there will be some timey-wimey messing before all this is over.
If there’s a single main criticism to be had of Apololips War it’s that some of the previous films in the DCAMU expressed their major themes more elegantly through nuanced character work. JUSTICE LEAGUE VS TEEN TITANS was about adult responsibilities forced upon the young too soon, BATMAN: BAD BLOOD was about broken families and THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN was about iconoclasm, also not being a needlessly miserable slog like BATMAN V SUPERMAN. More characters and story means less time for everyone to be done justice unfortunately.
Apokolips War brings the many storylines of the DCAMU to a close in suitably grand-scaled and emotionally resonant fashion. There have been better, more singular in vision individual stories in this series (this film does miss regular director Sam Liu) but this is one hell of a crowd pleaser nonetheless. Hopefully Warner Bros’ live-action superhero movies will continue their upward trend and crib notes from this animated world – get the essence of the characters right and the battle is half-won already. SSP
Questioning truth and the nature of reality is one of Noah Hawley’s favourite things to do. In FARGO it’s the weekly repeated introduction taken from the Coen Brothers film that “This is a true story”. In LUCY IN THE SKY we have “Inspired by true events”, though the story of a female astronaut’s erratic behavior on her return to Terra Firma has little to do with the real Lisa Nowak. Noah Hawley’s obsession with composing shots around neat lines and geometric shapes from his TV work is present and correct and Natalie Portman is reliable as always, but the film doesn’t really scratch the surface of Lucy as person struggling with living in the moment and Hawley’s usual bonkers imagination is disappointingly absent for the most part. This needed to be weirder or more grounded and as it is this is frustratingly halfway between tones. SSP