JULY 29 ― The scramble to see new summer movies continues this week.
Quite a few more arrived this week, though only Atomic Blonde can be considered a “big” Hollywood film with the rest of this week’s release slate filled up by lesser-known and smaller movies like Overdrive, Shot Caller and two sequels to recent Asian hits in the form of The Doll 2 and Wolf Warrior 2, and of course Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winner The Salesman, to highlight a few of the new titles opening this week in local cinemas.
Together with some of the movies that opened last week, here’s Part 2 of my summer movie round-up, which hopefully will help you decide which movies to see in the cinema this week.
There are many ways that a film can fulfill you. Some fulfill you by offering up a mind-blowing and twisty narrative. Some give us satisfaction by being an emotionally affecting experience.
Some simply give us visceral thrills, whether in the form of action, violence or horror. Some give us butterflies in our tummies or a great many hearty laughs.
As a film geek who’s also very familiar with the mechanics of film-making, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing what could be just another lightweight or typical genre exercise elevated into the realm of art through sheer skill and craftsmanship.
On paper, Edgar Wright’s latest film Baby Driver will just seem like any other heist movie, but even the two sequences that open the film will be enough to make you realise that this is actually a musical, posing as a heist movie.
The whole film is a bravura display of skill, from the long-take musical sequence that was the film’s second scene (which is a superb example of mise en scene) to the many brilliantly edited musical sequences that were timed and assembled to perfection.
This, folks, is pop movie-making as art. And it’s a sheer pleasure to get to witness something like this in the cinema.
Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets
Whatever Luc Besson does now, we will always have The Fifth Element, Taxi and Leon: The Professional to remind us of what a great pop film-maker he can be.
Even some of his later films like the underrated The Adventures Of The Extraordinary Adele Blanc-Sec has got that magical blend of wonder and imagination that’s specific to his film-making style.
Valerian unfortunately will not be making it to that list. It has some imagination in the form of the CGI creatures and universes that Besson and his team created for this film, but it sorely lacks the heart and emotional centre that Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis brought to The Fifth Element, which resulted in audiences very likely not going to give a toss as to what happens to the two lead characters played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne here.
And without that crucial emotional investment, all we have here is a relentless display of imagination that fails to conjure up that magical sense of wonder that’s so crucial to space operas like these.
The week’s biggest surprise comes in the form of what looks like an unpromising prison drama (with a seriously dull title to boot), which sees director Ric Roman Waugh revisiting the familiar emotional terrain of his two previous films ― Felon and Snitch.
What did arrive though is an emotionally engaging and impressively unflinching look at how a cruel twist of fate can plunge a simple family man into the unforgiving world of crime.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in Game Of Thrones) plays that tragically unlucky dude ― your typical Wall Street man before a fatal accident plunges him into the scary world of prison violence ― and thus begins his journey of survival in prison, which leads him to do things that he never thought he’d ever do before this.
Waugh tells the story in two separate timelines, one showing his journey into the prison system and the other his journey after getting paroled, expertly intercut to give maximum emotional impact, and Coster-Waldau gives such an impressive performance that I won’t be surprised if people start campaigning for him to at least get an Oscar nomination.
Watching this film is akin to eating a very familiar dish, but one that’s so expertly cooked that the result is something that’s never less than a beautiful and satisfying meal.
The Doll 2
Another surprise arrives in the form of a sequel to one of Indonesia’s biggest box office hits last year, The Doll, and in such a quick manner too! I remember too well watching the first film sometime late last year (probably November 2016), and not being too impressed with it, but less than a year later comes a sequel, which obviously does not bode well as it kind of smells like a quick cash grab if you ask me.
So I’m obviously quite happy to be proven wrong because this sequel is a pretty smart example of how to create a horror franchise without making the whole thing feel like another case of déjà vu.
The first good decision here is that it’s not a continuation of the same story in The Doll. It’s a different doll this time around and of course a different spirit/ghost. The only link to the first movie here are some of the characters.
With that burden out of the way, this sequel is free to be whatever it wants to be, as long as there’s a doll involved and there’s a spirit/ghost inside, a fact that the film-makers clearly relished here as the film goes from being a haunted doll movie to a psychological thriller to a slasher film without any hesitation, gleefully ramping up the violence and gore and giving us horror fans pretty good value for money.
In fact, I’d say it’s a much better horror movie compared to the first one just for the sheer pleasure of its visceral thrills, and the unexpectedly moving finale between a mother and her daughter. There are still flaws aplenty here, but as far as Asian horror sequels go, this is definitely one of the better ones out there.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.