ROBIN HOOD (12)
D: Otto Bathurst
Lionsgate/Summit/Appian Way/Safehouse/Thunder Road (Jennifer Davisson & Leonard DiCaprio)
W: Ben Chandler & David James Kelly
DP: George Steel
Ed: Joe Hutshing & Chris Barwell
Mus: Joseph Trapanese
Taron Egerton (Robin Of Loxley), Jamie Foxx (Little John), Ben Mendelssohn (The Sheriff of Nottingham), Eve Hewson (Marian), Tim Minchin (Friar Tuck), Jamie Dornan (Will 'Scarlet' Tillman), F. Murray Abraham (The Cardinal)
Yet another cinematic incarnation of the famous English legendary character, following Errol Flynn iconically in 1938, Kevin Costner in a popcorn version in 1991, Patrick Bergin in a rather placid version the same year, Cary Elwes in a 1993 spoof, Russell Crowe in a 2010 film which split opinion, even represented as a fox in a 1973 animated version from Disney. All of these are streets ahead of Taron Egerton donning the hood for this "cor-blimey geezer" version which does for the fable what Guy Ritchie & Charlie Hunnam did for King Arthur a year earlier.
Everything about this film is bad, from the unfocused direction which can't seem to place the story in any particular timeframe to the poorly-penned screenplay which attempts to "subvert expectations" by reimagining the characters in a story we may be all too familiar with. Personally, when a film says it's a reimagination, it just means to me that it's an incompetently researched cash-grab relying on a nostalgic hook to try and pull people in.
Even the action set pieces are boring, which is quite unforgivable for a film which is marketing itself as an action-adventure. Despite having a good cast, the performances are rotten, mostly due to the abysmal direction and script, and I really can't let this review get by without mentioning the anachronistic costumes, which look as though they were picked up from an H&M outlet store on the eve before the shoot.
All this proves is that Hollywood seem to be a little too deft in stealing from the poor (cinema audiences) to give to the rich (studio executives). Don't let them have your money for this.
D: Alfonso Cuarón
Netflix/Participant Media/Esperanto (Alfonso Cuarón, Gabriela Rodriguez & Nicolas Celis)
W: Alfonso Cuarón
DP: Alfonso Cuarón
Ed: Alfonso Cuarón & Adam Gough
Yalitza Aparicio (Cleo Gutierrez), Marina de Tavira (Sofia), Fernando Grediaga (Antonio), Jorge Antonio Ferrin (Fermín), Marco Graf (Pepe), Daniela Demesa (Sofi), Diego Cortina Autrey (Toño)
Roma, for me, is solid proof that a rather unremarkable story and screenplay can be transformed into something unwaveringly engrossing and breathtakingly beautiful if the right person is in the director's chair.
I've always admired Alfonso Cuaròn as a filmmaker (Children Of Men and Gravity are just two examples of his excellent work), and his auteurism blossoms even further with this film, as he takes over cinematography duties, in addition to directing, writing and editing the project.
The story itself is rather basic, focusing on a family in the Roma district of Mexico City during the early 1970's, seen through the eyes of the servant girl who lives with them as a cleaner and nanny to the children. Being a fan of Cuarón's previous work, it was quite obvious to me that this was a biographical story, as certain scenes in the film are from his own childhood, shaping his character and inspiring his filmmaking achievements.
Many are calling Roma a modern masterpiece, and from a filmmaking perspective it's very difficult to disagree; the cinematography is astonishing, every single performance is convincing, the direction is flawless and even the sound design deserves a mention for completely enveloping you, placing you right into the moments being depicted on screen.
A certainty for Best Picture come awards season, it only missed out as a nominee at the Golden Globes because foreign language films aren't eligible.
My only irritation is that the film is being distributed by Netflix, and was only given a very small theatrical release to make it eligible for awards, so if you've missed it, it can only now be seen on the streaming service, and not on the big screen where it absolutely deserves to be experienced.
ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. (15)
D: Dan Gilroy
Columbia/Macro Media/Topic/Cross Creek/Image Nation/Escape Artists (Todd Black, Jennifer Fox & Denzel Washington)
W: Dan Gilroy
DP: Robert Elswit
Ed: John Gilroy
Mus: James Newton Howard
Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), Colin Farrell (George Pierce), Carmen Ejogo (Maya Alston), Lynda Gravatt (Vernita Wells), Hugo Armstrong (Fritz Molinar)
Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a rather average film saved by a very strong performance from its lead actor. Denzel Washington plays the title character, an idealistic civil rights lawyer with a savant-like grasp of facts and figures. Following the hospitalisation of his partner, he takes on the extra workload of cases until his small practice is assimilated by a larger firm, headed by yuppie-like George Pierce (Colin Farrell). Impressed by Israel's legal knowledge, Pierce offers him a job at his offices, but the idealist clashes with others on his quest for civil unity and social justice.
Roman also develops a relationship with local activist Maya Alston and is handed a case to represent a black youth convicted of murder, but when the young man is himself murdered in the penitentiary, Israel sells out and breaks the legal code by pinpointing the real culprit, in exchange for reward money arranged by a group of mobsters.
Dan Gilroy's drama is a peculiar film, the plot neither here nor there and although the performances are fantastic, the muddled story doesn't quite know where to aim for and doesn't quite answer any of the questions that it raises. It also fails to explore Roman J. Israel as a character, hinting at autism but neither confirming nor denying this.
Washington thoroughly deserved the Oscar nomination which he received for his acting portrayal, as he gives the movie credence, but this could have been a much better courtroom drama had the story and direction been less clumsy.
The Citizen Kane of bad movies, so ineptly scripted, directed and acted that it's actually hilarious.
The paper-thin plot concerns a banker who discovers that his best friend and his girlfriend are having an affair, but bereft with suicidal pacing and subplots that go absolutely nowhere, coupled with the atrociously bad acting performances, the material stretches to a running time of 99 minutes.
Writer-director-producer and star Tommy Wiseau almost seems proud of his film's notorious "achievement" of being heralded as one of the worst ever made, and as such a cult following has amassed to celebrate the film's badness.
It's not actual possible to grade this film on a one-to-ten scale due to it being simultaneously awful and compelling, therefore it's exempt from a rating. From a filmmaking perspective, including all aspects of writing, direction, acting, cinematography, editing, etc. it barely registers a one, but for sheer entertainment value it's right up there with the classics, just because it's so damn terrible.
RUNNING SCARED (15)
D: Peter Hyams
MGM (David Foster & Lawrence Turman)
W: Gary DeVore & Jimmy Huston
DP: Peter Hyams
Ed: James Mitchell
Mus: Rod Temperton
Billy Crystal (Danny Costanzo), Gregory Hines (Ray Hughes), Steven Bauer (Det. Frank Sigliano), Darlanne Fluegel (Anna Costanzo), Joe Pantoliano (Snake), Dan Hedaya (Capt. Logan), Jimmy Smits (Julio Gonzalez)
Amongst all the Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon-type buddy-buddy/mismatched cop movies of the 1980's, it would have been perfectly understandable to let Running Scared pass you by.
Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal play the accident-prone double act in this movie, who contemplate retirement to the Florida Keys whilst investigating a narcotics/homicide case.
Despite being good fun, this doesn't really bring anything new to the table besides the exuberant partnership of Hines & Crystal as well as a decent 80's soundtrack of Rod Temperton-penned songs.