This week Gal Gadot fights to single-handedly save the DCEU, Natalie Portman shimmers in Annihilation and a creep is repeatedly propelled head first into a video camera.
Despite all of the hype and impressive reviews following Wonder Woman last summer, I decided to give it a miss at the cinema after having the immense misfortune of enduring DC Comic’s turgid shit-show that was Suicide Squad only 10 months previously, a film that had no business to be as awful as it was. Thankfully, Wonder Woman features genuine humour, great performances from Gal Gadot and Chris Pine and a superb lack of Jared Leto’s Joker, making this film comfortably the best of the DC Comic’s bad bunch of recent films.
Wonder Woman follows Gadot’s Diana through her journey from Amazonian warrior to war hero on the World War 1 frontline with the help of Pine’s American Allied spy. Firstly, Wonder Woman is a very fun film, with some excellent battle sequences, an enjoyable and believable chemistry between the two lead characters and a lot more humour than the deadly serious Batman vs Superman:Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel. What Wonder Woman does better than any of the other DCEU (DC Extended Universe) films so far is getting the casting spot on with Gal Gadot, who is the most authentic version of the character committed to the screen thus far.
Wonder Woman unfortunately falls into a couple of previous DCEU pitfalls along the way: it’s about 20 minutes too long and drags slightly through the middle of the film, the German villains are unintentionally hilarious and campy which is incredibly bizarre giving the effort clearly put in to make Dr. Poison appear menacing and fearsome and finally, the end CGI battle between Diana and Greek god Aries is one of the most disappointing and infuriating finales since (spoiler alert) Batman and Superman discovered their mothers had the same first name.
Verdict – More fun than any recent Batman, Superman or Suicide Squad movie and with a superb performance from Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman is the best DCEU film to date.
This is the latest Netflix Original film to be released through the streaming service following on from the disappointing Cloverfield Paradox and last year’s Will Smith led Bright. Annihilation is a film that might work better the less you know going into – I would strongly advise against watching the trailer, which I think gives far too much away, and jumping right into it, but only if you are a fan of strong sci-fi.
Annihilation follows Natalie Portman’s military scientist Lena and an all female team of scientists who enter ‘the shimmer’, a mysterious shimmering zone which has engulfed a large piece of land and is constantly expanding. When Lena’s husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) becomes the first person to emerge alive, but not unscathed, from ‘the shimmer’ Lena decides to go in to discover what has happened to her husband.
Coming from Alex Garland, the director of the also brilliant Ex-Machina, you can expect some mind-bending moments and some shocks. Annihilation is one of the most original and intelligent sci-fi films for a number of years – miles ahead of the latest Cloverfield knock-off or last year’s dreadful Alien:Covenant. It looks stunning throughout – especially whilst they are in ‘the shimmer’ and manages to be tense, unnerving and genuinely smart and thought-provoking all at the same time. Without giving anything away, the final 30 minutes are absolutely outstanding and have stuck in my mind for days. I think it’s a film that may require repeat viewings to fully grasp it’s brilliance.
Portman is excellent as Lena, and I’m not her number one fan usually. But special credit must go to Gina Rodriguez for her role as Anya, who as they venture deeper into ‘the shimmer’ becomes increasingly paranoid and volatile. The all female cast all deserve immense credit for their individual and collective portrayals of women at different points in their lives experiencing great anguish.
I do feel that it won’t be for everyone – sci-fi, especially on this level, rarely is. My only other disappointment was that this is exactly the type of film that I wish I could have seen in the cinema, rather than at home on the TV.
Verdict – Tense, original and refreshingly smart science fiction at it’s finest.
Found footage horror films have become the new slasher horror film – everywhere you turn, there’s another one. For every Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch Project that breaks new ground and makes millions in the process, there are hundreds of cheap knock-offs such as Grave Encounters or V/H/S. Following on in this vein is Creep, a 2014 found footage horror starring Mark Duplass (The League) which you can find on Netflix.
Duplass plays Josef, who hires Aaron (director Patrick Brice) to document his daily routines to show to Josef’s future son when Josef dies, with Josef seemingly suffering from a brain tumour. Of course, with this being a horror film there are twists along the way played out through Brice’s handheld recorder.
Duplass is superbly weird in the lead role, and watching him is always an uncomfortable experience. Creep is undoubtedly at it’s scariest when Josef is explaining one of his many stories, or simply talking right into the camera. Unfortunately, the film fails to realise this point and resorts to basically propelling Duplass head first into the camera at different moments in order to scare the audience, which after about 30 minutes gets extremely predictable and tedious. The first 40 minutes set the story up perfectly and leave you worried about how much of Josef’s story is true, and how videographer Aaron will be able to escape if the situation is to deteriorate. In this first half of the film there is intense tension and it is almost impossible to take your eyes off of every one of Duplass’ moves. There is a clear disjoint between the first and second halves of the film however, and the film loses a lot of momentum when it chooses to switch the action to a different location and almost removes Josef from the story altogether.
The final 10 minutes go some way to redeeming some of the movie’s poorer qualities but it’s desire to fall back into classic horror tropes cannot be avoided and as such any glimmer of hope for a surprising twist ending are somewhat ruined by boring jump-scares.
Verdict – One of the more interesting found-footage horrors with a gripping performance from Mark Duplass, Creep manages to both be intensely creepy at times while being disappointingly predictable.
Film of the Week – Annihilation