DO THE RIGHT THING (18)
D: Spike Lee
40 Acres & A Mule (Spike Lee & Monty Ross)
W: Spike Lee
DP: Ernest Dickerson
Ed: Barry Alexander Brown
Mus: Bill Lee
Danny Aiello (Sal), Ossie Davis (Da Mayor), Ruby Dee (Mother Sister), Richard Edson (Vito), Giancarlo Esposito (Buggin' Out), Spike Lee (Mookie), Bill Nunn (Radio Raheem), Rosie Perez (Tina), John Turturro (Pino)
Spike Lee's breakthrough film, presenting racial issues that the political filmmaker felt that Hollywood had a tendency to ignore.
The film takes place on a scorching summer day in multiracial Brooklyn neighbourhood. The local eatery, Sal's Famous Pizzeria, owned by Italian-American Sal and his two sons is the main focal point of the story, where delivery boy Mookie does as little as possible in his dead-end job, occasionally being on the wrong side of bigotry by Sal's embittered son Pino. Mookie acts as a mediator when the neighbourhood's self-styled political activist, Buggin' Out, kicks up a fuss that the pizza restaurant has a lack of African-Americans on its 'wall of fame', a trivial matter which ultimately sparks a riot in the streets, born out of intolerance, frustration and pure vitriol.
The film balances finely between a race relations drama and propaganda, which isn't helped by an ending which fails to address the issues it raises and counters this with a Martin Luther King quote that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
It's quite an irony that 1989 saw the Oscars honour a film (Driving Miss Daisy) that suggested racism wasn't a problem and virtually ignored this, which has an opposite view. It's also quite ironic that, out of a huge ensemble of African-American actors, it was Danny Aiello who received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, although he does do a great job in making a likeable character out of someone suppressing unconscious prejudices.
The film doesn't really have heroes or villains, just a mixture of realistic characters thrown into a melting pot. The success opened the door for a new generation of black filmmakers, including John Singleton, who released the far more insightful Boyz N The Hood two years later.
DOCTOR STRANGE (12)
D: Scott Derrickson
Disney/Marvel (Kevin Feige)
W: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill [based on characters written by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko]
DP: Ben Davis
Ed: Wyatt Smith & Sabrina Plisco
Mus: Michael Giacchino
PD: Charles Wood
Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Stephen Strange), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Karl Mordo), Rachel McAdams (Christine Palmer), Benedict Wong (Wong), Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Mads Mikkelson (Kaecilius)
The Marvel comic book character Doctor Strange was originally tackled in 1978 with a TV movie, but without any real budget or the technology for special effects, it's fair to say that this version failed to take flight.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe in full operational swing and filmmaking tricks now able to convincingly bring the magic to the string, this 2016 film not only blows the 1978 version out of the water, it practically destroys its existence (I haven't reviewed the 1978 version on this website because of its television roots).
The origin tale follows the path of Dr. Stephen Strange, a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who suffers irreparable nerve damage following a car accident, and when conventional medicine fails to remedy him, he turns to a mysterious cult in Nepal who teach him of spiritual arts, including the separation of the physical world from the astral world, allowing him to bend the rules of time, space and physics.
An enemy rears his head in the form of Kaecilius, who separated ties with the cult in order to practice the dark side of the spiritual arts.
The effects are easily the most impressive ever seen in a Marvel film, with no bounds to the limitations, but some of the visuals will seem incredibly familiar to other films (Inception, The Matrix) and the story follows the all too familiar origin story path. Even the character of Doctor Strange is modelled so close on Tony Stark, they could easily be related. That being said, Benedict Cumberbatch fits the character like a glove and the film sets up a follow-up film to perfection.
The superhero genre may be a little oversaturated recently, but with offerings like this, there's still plenty of mileage to go for Marvel.
A DOG'S PURPOSE (PG)
D: Lasse Hallström
Universal/Amblin/Reliance/Walden/Pariah (Gavin Palone)
W: W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes & Wally Wolodarsky [based on the book by W. Bruce Cameron]
DP: Terry Stacey
Ed: Robert Leighton
Mus: Rachel Portman
Josh Gad (narrator), Dennis Quaid (Ethan Montgomery), K.J. Apa (Teenage Ethan), Juliet Rylance (Elizabeth Montgomery), Peggy Lipton (Hannah), Britt Robertson (Teenage Hannah)
This family fantasy follows the life of a dog as it is reincarnated as various breeds over the course of six decades, eventually coming back into the life of a man who owned him when he was a teenage boy.
Josh Gad provides the narration voice for the dog through its various lives as it attempts to learn its reason for being, and each life the dog lives each has its own style.
For dog lovers, this movie may very well be adored, but it does come with a heavy dose of saccharine. Personally, I think for films like this to work, the narrator has to be perfectly cast, and this is where the movie fails. Josh Gad's voice just doesn't sound right for the part.
It has its heart in the right place and the dogs are very cute, but it's just an average, rather forgettable film. A shame, considering Lasse Hallström had pedigree directing similar films (see Hachi: A Dog's Tale)
DON'T BREATHE (15)
D: Fede Alvarez
Screen Gems/Stage 6/Ghost House/Good Universe (Fede Alvarez, Sam Raimi & Robert Tapert)
W: Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues
DP: Pedro Luque
Ed: Eric L. Beason, Louise Ford & Gardner Gold
Mus: Roque Banos
Stephen Lang (Norman Nordstrom, "The Blind Man"), Jane Levy (Rocky), Dylan Minnette (Alex), Daniel Zovatto (Money), Franciska Törôcsik (Cindy Roberts)
Wait Until Dark (qv) for the 21st century, following a trio of teenage thieves who break into homes to fund their plans to travel to California.
Rocky (Jane Levy) is the main protagonist of the three, and along with her douchebag boyfriend, Money, and her besotted friend, Alex, they plan robberies based on the database which Alex's dad has in his security company, so they can use copies of keys and utilise knowledge of the alarm systems.
They plan for their last job to be in the house of a blind man, whose cash horde is believed to be $300,000.
Of course, the blind loner is far less helpless than the robbers assume and the deadly game of cat-and-mouse begins, only for it to emerge that the blind man is more morally reprehensible than a gang of lowlife thieves, even if the girl of the group comes from a broken home in a pathetic attempt for the audience to feel sympathy for her plight.
There isn't any good guy here, and it's one of them films where you couldn't care less who comes out alive at the end of it.
There's a good concept here, but it really is ruined by the fact that all the characters are poorly written.
Don't Bother. Watch Wait Until Dark instead.
D: Alexander Payne
Paramount/Ad Hominem (Mark Johnson, Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor)
W: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
DP: Phedon Papamichael
Ed: Kevin Tent
Mus: Rolfe Kent
Matt Damon (Paul Safranek), Christoph Waltz (Dušan Mirković), Kristen Wiig (Audrey Safranek), Jason Sudeikis (Dave Johnson), Hong Chau (Ngoc Lan Tran), Udo Kier (Joris Konrad)
The concept Alexander Payne delivers with Downsizing is better than the movie, which begins quite promisingly but tails off in a direction where the issues it raises aren't clear, nor the genre of the movie itself.
Set in a near future where the Earth's resources are nearly depleted, Norwegian scientists create a procedure which becomes known as downsizing, where people are shrunk down to about five inches tall and can reside in communities where they live a life of leisure in opulent mansions.
Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig), struggling with money problems and finding a suitable house, decide to undergo downsizing, but when Paul is miniaturised, he discovers that his wife didn't go through with it and subsequently files for divorce, taking half of their finances and sentencing him to a miserable life not too far removed from his one as a regular sized man. After striking a friendship with his obnoxious neighbour and a Vietnamese dissident who cleans apartments and scavenges for a living, Paul travels to Norway and the very first downsizing community where it emerges that the environment is in a much worse state than originally thought.
It's a shame that the movie itself downsizes from a quirky sci-fi comedy into a preachy sermon about how we should love our planet, and if the main premise were in the hands of a director like Spike Jonze or Wes Anderson, it could have been a much more different and interesting film. As is, it has some good production design and one excellent standout performance from Hong Chau, aside from this, it's among the biggest disappointments of 2017.
The trailer certainly mis-sold the movie.
DUCK SOUP (U)
D: Leo McCarey
Paramount (Herman Mankiewicz)
W: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Arthur Sheekman & Nat Perrin
DP: Henry Sharp
Ed: LeRoy Stone
Mus: Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby
PD: Hans Dreier & Wiard Ihnen
Groucho Marx (Rufus T. Firefly), Chico Marx (Chicolini), Harpo Marx (Pinky), Zeppo Marx (Bob Roland), Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Teasdale), Louis Calhern (Ambassador Trentino)
This classic Marx brothers comedy is quite simply the easiest of their works to engage with, mixing goofy slapstick with political satire for a truly memorable piece of cinema magic.
The screenplay is tailored perfectly for Groucho Marx's shtick, as he plays an incompetent called Rufus T. Firefly, who is made president of the fictional country of Freedonia during a period of impeding civil war.
Though the production itself feels a little dated, the dialogue is still as funny as it ever was. Real life dictator Benito Mussolini found the film so offensive, he banned it in Italy, much to the Marx Brothers joy.
If you only plan on catching one vehicle starting the fraternal comedy quartet, make it this one. Bursting with brilliant gags during its modest 68 minute running time.
DUEL IN THE SUN (PG)
D: King Vidor
Selznick International (David O. Selznick)
W: Oliver H.P. Garrett [based on the novel by Niven Busch]
DP: Lee Garmes, Harold Rosson & Ray Rennahan
Ed: Hal C. Kern & William Ziegler
Mus: Dimitri Tiomkin
PD: J. McMillan Johnson & James Basevi
Cos: Walter Plunkett
Jennifer Jones (Pearl Chavez), Gregory Peck (Lewt McCanles), Joseph Cotten (Jess McCanles), Lionel Barrymore (Sen. McCanles), Lillian Gish (Laura Belle McCanles), Herbert Marshall (Scott Chavez)
Nicknamed 'Lust In The Dust' by many a critic, Duel In The Sun was producer David O. Selznick's vainglorious attempt to recreate the enormous success of Gone With The Wind, to which it fails on every single level.
Mexican-American Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones) is caught up in a love triangle between two brothers, one a man of morals (Joseph Cotten) and the other a wild outlaw who lives by his own rules (Gregory Peck). Of course, it's obvious that the bad boy is going to stoke her fires, so she spends a lot of the film crying over him whilst trying to maintain a steamy image of beauty.
Though the performances are good, sans Butterfly McQueen who merely reprises her racist stereotype from GWTW, and the production values are particularly impressive for 1946, the story is a dirge of a soap opera set amongst horses and the desert.
David O. Selznick ruled over the project with an iron fist, causing many to be fired from or leave the project which makes it a little more understand that the finished project is all a bit of a mess.
DUMB & DUMBER TO (DUMB & DUMBER 2) (12)
D: Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrell
Universal/New Line/Red Granite (Charles B. Wessler, Riza Aziz, Joey MacFarland & Bradley Thomas)
W: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Sean Anders, John Morris, Bennett Yellin & Mike Cerrone
DP: Matthew F. Leonetti
Ed: Steven Rasch
Mus: Empire Of The Sun
Jim Carrey (Lloyd Christmas), Jeff Daniels (Harry Dunne), Laurie Holden (Adele Pinchelow), Rob Riggle (Travis / Captain Lippencott), Kathleen Turner (Fraida Felcher), Rachel Melvin (Penny)
20 years after the enormous success of the original Dumb & Dumber movie comes this inferior sequel which features more writers credited to the screenplay than it does laugh out loud moments.
The majority of the plot is even ripped off from the 1997 film Fathers' Day as our dumbass duo Harry & Lloyd hit the road again, this time in an attempt to find Harry's long lost daughter, who seems to be as thick as he is.
While in the first film, the duo had funny mishaps which were at the expense at other characters, their actions in this feel a lot more spiteful and unpleasant.
It looks like Jim Carrey may have to push his serious side a little bit more, the rubberface stuff just doesn't cut it anymore.
D: Christopher Nolan
Warner Bros/Syncopy (Emma Thomas & Christopher Nolan)
🇺🇸 🇬🇧 🇫🇷 🇳🇱 2017
W: Christopher Nolan
DP: Hoyte van Hoytema
Ed: Lee Smith
Mus: Hans Zimmer
PD: Nathan Crowley
Fionn Whitehead (Tommy), Tom Glynn-Carney (Peter), Jack Lowden (Officer Collins), Harry Styles (Alex), Aneurin Bernard (Gibson), Kenneth Branagh (Cmmdr. Bolton), James D'Arcy (Col. Winnant), Mark Rylance (Mr. Dawson), Tom Hardy (Farrier), Barry Keoghan (George)
Christopher Nolan's recreation of the Dunkirk evacuations, one of World War II's biggest failures for the allied forces, is brought to the screen with a story featuring minimal dialogue, which allow the sights and sounds to build tension with greater effect.
The non-linear story follows the evacuation from three perspectives; land, sea and air, as the British and French forces are surrounded on the beach on all sides by German attack.
The lion's share of the running time focuses on a small group of soldiers and their struggle to get off the beach, while the other two storylines feature a pair of RAF pilots providing air support and a mariner and his two teenage companions who do their part in the rescue, picking up a soldier suffering from PTSD en route.
The non-linear narrative of Nolan's story won't be for everyone's taste, as it serves more as a gimmick rather than serving any driving force to the story, although it does leave questions hanging over which characters survive. The film's main assets come from the cinematography which finely capture both the period detail and the nerve-shredding battle scenes, as well as the sound design, which aurally plunges you straight into the battlefield from the very first scene. It also has to be noted that Nolan makes a very good choice in hiring young actors, representative of the actual soldiers' ages to play the main characters, and even former boy band singer Harry Styles delivers a very good performance with his cinema debut.
It's not quite of the same visceral realism of Saving Private Ryan, but Dunkirk will surely be hailed as one of the classic war films in the years to come, and is certainly due for some recognition come the awards season, particularly in the technical categories.
DÜNYAYI KURTARAN ADAM (THE MAN WHO SAVED THE WORLD) (12)
D: Çetin Inanç
Anit Ticaret (Mehmet Karahafiz & Tim Ubels)
W: Cüneyt Arkin
DP: Çetin Gürtop
Ed: Necdet Tok
Cüneyt Arkin (Murat), Aytekin Akkaya (Ali), Füsun Uçar (Bilgin'in Kizi)
Produced at a time when western films were banned from Turkey, and copyright law with the countries borders were totally non-existent, this B-movie utilised footage from popular American movies and ultimately became known as Turkish Star Wars.
The plot has nothing to do with George Lucas' blockbuster hit, instead focusing on a space pilot who crash lands and has to battle an evil wizard in order to save Earth.
The storyline is totally incoherent and far too much of the film is made up from Star Wars footage. Despite being terrible, it has gathered a modest cult following, mostly from Star Wars fans, but it has also been called the worst Turkish movie ever made. It really isn't worth watching.