Saturday, 20 May 2017

Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane, Cert: 15, 132 mins approx, Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, John Lithgow. Entertainment One.

The ever-unpredictable subject of American politics makes for a fascinating, twisty thriller set in the glossy arena of senate hearings, campaigns, constitutional questioning, boardrooms and backstabbing. The eclectic versatility of director John Madden has brought us the literary romanticism of Shakespeare In Love, the horror of the holocaust in The Debt - (also starring Chastain) and the gentle warmth as well as lucrative success of two stays, at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
  This, is another change of tactic, with a fantastic screenplay of corporate, rhymical dialogue that hits the polished, governmental ground running, like Damages, or the rat-a-tat vernacular Aaron Sorkin might have written - his stylistic hallmark of The West Wing, and The Newsroom, (which Allison Pill also starred in, playing a similar role both there and here, a young protage to whom there’s more than meets the eye). It’s an examination of how the setting of broadcasting operates. That’s also evident here, with frequent and forensic motifs of live television, media outlets, and the distortion of truth through sensationalism and the changing balances of power. The complex legal rhetoric won’t suit everyone, but enriched the darkly tangled web of corruption, deceit, plotting and secrecy for me.
  These are all framed by the hot-button issue of legislative gun control. Given the cataclysmic events of the current U.S. climate politically - (a certain polariser was elected two days after its U.S. premiere) - it may have been decidedly different in its rather neutral approach. Although, however much these comparisons are made with the emphasis on current events and topicality, these are often either exaggerated (never here) or coincidental (more likely) in cinema, depending on timing and public opinion, - ironically - also central themes.
  Jessica Chastain’s never shy of tackling either serious subjects, or true-life material (Zero Dark Thirty, The Help). Her deservedly golden-globe nominated performance, is a powerhouse of intensity, an unreadable exercise in restraint, as the titular lobbyist, Madeline Sloane, with the laser-focus of her eyes or click of her stilettos. She has an amazing ensemble cast around her, including John Lithgow, Jake Lacy, Mark Strong, Sam Waterston and Christine Baranski. Max Richter’s score, like the film’s structure, flips between cat-and-mouse scheming and tense consequence. Gripping. 
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Friday, 5 May 2017

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol. 2

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol: 2, 12A, 136 mins, Marvel Studios.

When Guardians Of The Galaxy burst irreverently onto every cinema screen on our planet in the summer of 2014, its pop-art aesthetic and zany cultural self-referentiality - made a previously widely obscure entry into Marvel’s leviathan of a canon - a dizzying, left-field delight.
 Now, the rag-tag bunch of misfits are back, in all their neon-lit, wise-cracking though not quite as subversive blockbusting glory.
Director James Gunn (the writer of the fantastic big-screen adaptations of Scooby-Doo (criminally underrated, personal favourites of mine), returns to amp up the florescent, psychedelic phantasmagoria.  
 Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) teams up again with the lime green-skinned, short-tempered warrior Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the gigantic, teal muscle-bound convict Drax (Dave Bautista), Baby ‘I am’ Groot (voiced once again, although unrecognisably), by Vin Diesel. Best of all though, is the deliberately facetious raccoon (don’t call him that - ‘triangular-faced monkey’ or ‘trash-panda’ are apparently better! Yes, Bradley Cooper, (also entirely unrecognisably, channeling Bruce Willis again), lends his grouchily self-deprecating, sarcastic barbs to Rocket, the miniature mercenary.
 Rocket may have all the best jokes (his and Drax’s sarcasm, as well as total lack of irony, make for some uproariously crowd-pleasing moments), but, as was the case last time, it’s the terrific Pratt who steals the exuberant show. His Star-Lord is a magnificent creation - one of the best, and identifiably grounded superhero figures of recent years. Wonderfully knowing and retro, his character personifies the entirely unique tone of the series; energetic, smart (subtle when needed) and surprisingly heartfelt. This time, Peter discovers more about the ambiguity of his quasi-heritage, leading him to the aptly-named Ego - (another resurgence for Kurt Russell)…
 As with all franchise-films, to say any more would mean spoilers, but what ensues is an excellently entertaining romp with plenty of exciting set-pieces, hugely ambitious visual-effects, and a galaxy of tunes and cameos. The dialogue is filled with 80’s pastiche (Pac-Man, Cheers, and Hasselhoff are all unapologetically usurped!).
 But it lacks the novelty, surprise, edge and twists of the original. Glenn Close, rumored to be reprising her pivotal role as the marvelous ice-cream-cone haired Nova Prime, is also mysteriously absent. Here’s hoping she’s back for number three!
Rating: * * * *

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