Here’s my first Bimonthly Review, where I’ll be reviewing new films and TV shows I’ve watched and an old film or series that I’ve recently revisited. January and February’s films include: Split, Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Allied and Roman Holiday, and the new Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula
James McAvoy stars as a man with 23 different personalities and one has just kidnapped three girls. Is there a 24th personality about to be unleashed?
For several years now, people have laughed and scoffed at the name M. Night Shyamalan. His filmography was no longer what it once was so I was very surprised to see that, not only was James McAvoy in his new film, but that it was getting rave reviews.
I loved the premise and McAvoy delivered one of his best ever performances. His big scene towards the end showed just what a talent he truly is and it’s a shame he has been ignored this awards season. The many characters McAvoy portrays were all extremely distinctive and their individual interactions with the kidnapped girls (Taylor-Joy, Richardson & Sula) was very interesting to watch. My favourite aspect of the film, however, was the psychologist’s attempts to help ‘Dennis’ with his DID. I loved Buckley’s portrayal and how much she cared for every one of his personalities. I hope Shyamalan stays on this track as he has created a thrilling world full of wonderful, fascinating characters and, by the looks of the ending, we may not see the last of them. I hope we don’t.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg
After twelve mysterious spacecrafts appear around the world, linguistics professor Amy Adams and theoretical physicist Jeremy Renner are called upon to interpret their language.
Denis Villeneuve has quickly become one of my favourite directors in Hollywood and Arrival certainly did not disappoint. It’s a beautifully told story about human connection and the struggles to overcome a lack of communication. The film begins with Adams and Renner trying to figure out how to understand and communicate with the ‘Heptapods’ but it ends up becoming so much more; the final act is tremendous. Arrival’s greatest strength, however, is its leading lady. Amy Adams, consistently one of the best actresses in Hollywood, adds the emotional weight behind the film and she never falters. Watch and let it take you on one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. A soon-to-be modern classic.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer
Biographical film about WWII Army Medic Desmond Doss (Garfield), who served during the Battle of Okinawa, and refused to carry a firearm and kill people. He subsequently became the first man to be awarded the Medal of Honor and he didn’t fire a single shot.
Hacksaw Ridge is being tooted as Mel Gibson’s comeback to the Hollywood main stage and quite a return it is. The story of Desmond Doss is incredible and Garfield is outstanding. In an unusual role for Vince Vaughn, he plays Doss’ Sergeant. I’m still not entirely convinced of Vaughn outside of the comedic world but he did well enough. Hugo Weaving and Teresa Palmer provide great support as Doss’ father and Doss’ soon-to-be wife respectively. I liked the splitting of the film into two parts, the first hour surrounding Doss’ training and his fight in court to not bear arms and the second half, of course, is all about his heroism. It’s a bit schmaltzy in places but I was incredibly moved throughout and the battle at Hacksaw Ridge was brilliantly done. A great comeback film from Mel Gibson.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan
Brad Pitt stars as a Canadian intelligence officer and Marion Cotillard as a French Resistance fighter who collaborate on a mission in Casablanca and fall in love. Complications later arise when Cotillard is accused of being a spy.
A Robert Zemeckis film with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard sounded utterly brilliant. While, not exactly brilliant, it is enjoyable. I watched the film after reading a large number of mediocre reviews so I didn’t set my expectations too high, however, I was surprised at how much I did actually enjoy it.
Marion Cotillard is, as usual, fantastic and she has the slightly meatier role of the two and Brad Pitt did slightly seem as if he was sleepwalking through some of the film, however, he does redeem himself in the final act. It’s an absolutely gorgeous film to look at, the locations look stunning and Joanna Johnston does a beautiful job with the character’s wardrobes. My favourite aspect was the relationship between Pitt and Cotillard and the final scenes between the two are heartbreaking and this is where both actors shine. It’s far from the greatest film ever but it is a very enjoyable one with two great leads. A good Sunday afternoon flick.
Santa Clarita Diet (TV 2017)
Created by: Victor Fresco
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson, Skyler Gisondo
Sheila and Joel (Barrymore and Olyphant) are married real estate agents in Santa Clarita, California where they live happily with their daughter. However, their lives change drastically when Sheila becomes a zombie and can’t stop craving human flesh.
I had been waiting for Timothy Olyphant to star in a new TV show since Justified ended and then Santa Clarita Diet popped up on my Netflix. The cast and premise were completely up my alley so I binged-watched the whole series in a day. I was incredibly surprised at how funny it was and, mostly, at how it was a comedy that didn’t take itself too seriously; a rarity nowadays. From what I’ve read, many people were put off by the gruesome nature of the series but I wasn’t bothered by it at all, mostly because it was in a comedic context.
The chemistry between Barrymore and Olyphant was fantastic and I loved how hard they worked on their marriage despite recent complications! Liv Hewson was great as their daughter but Skyler Gisondo shone as the nerdy nextdoor neighbour/zombie advisor. However, despite the great cast, it was Olyphant who was the consistent scene-stealer; frequently making me laugh out loud. It was a fresh and funny take on the zombie genre and I hope there will be a second season. It deserves one.
Revisited: Roman Holiday (1953)
Director: William Wyler
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert
Bored princess Audrey Hepburn breaks out to see Rome on her own and Gregory Peck is the American reporter who discovers her secret. Gradually they fall in love but can they ever truly be together?
Rewatching Roman Holiday reminded me how much I loved Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and they are both especially perfect together in this film. The scenes between Peck and Albert are a hoot and Rome, of course, looks gorgeous even in black and white. I was more heartbroken yet understanding this time around towards the ending which surprised me as, usually, I’m just heartbroken for the characters. I love the gleeful look in Hepburn’s eyes as she experiences Rome, I love Peck’s gentleness towards her and I adore Albert even more than I did the first time. It is a wonderful film to revisit and I’ll probably end up watching it again soon.
– Lorna C.