CommonSpace film critic Scott Wilson takes a look at the films of the moment
CHOPPY WEATHER IS THE THEME OF THE WEEK whether that’s on a biblical scale, through a documentarian lens, or weathering a social storm...
Geostorm – ★☆☆☆☆
Around the time a "Countdown to Geostorm" clock appeared, I was beaten down and converted. Not that the film improves from there, but it's simply so far beyond the realm of silly that it becomes something else, something more. After an absurd and climactic pursuit involving the president, who's been kidnapped by the good guys, he justifies being able to pull off a number of stunts with "I'm the goddamn president of the United States of America!". By this point, "damn right you are!" is the appropriate and only response.
A technological system is keeping the Earth's weather under control after years of ignoring the signs of climate change. The system, Dutch Boy, malfunctions (or does it?), causing chaos in certain parts of the globe. It's up to Gerard Butler's Jake Lawson, the man who designed the whole thing, to head back up into space and sort it all out. There's some scheming afoot, and plots to impede progress are happening both on and off of our planet.
As a piece of work to be engaged with, it's obviously dreadful. The characters are lifeless, the pacing is confounding, and the plot is next level bonkers. No spoilers, but if you know how to spot a bad guy - yep, that's happening here.
It's not in the "so bad it's good category", it’s more like Geostorm happens to you and you submit to its level of intelligence.
Dig a bit deeper and there's some joy to be had. As a secret service agent who shows very little resistance to outside influence, Abbie Cornish is living her best life. Whether she's shouting cool covert codes or driving through apocalyptic storms while shooting at baddies while reversing, this might actually put Sucker Punch into perspective.
Despite the convoluted plot, the solution appears to be "turn it off and on again" which begs the question why Lawson, the maverick that he is, was required when any of us could have come up with the same plan of action. Why did he build the Dutch Boy OS to include a "Countdown to Geostorm" feature, a timer counting down to a meteorological phenomenon which surely, when almost at zero, would be showing some signs of mayhem on Earth, rather than spurt from nowhere?
It's not in the "so bad it's good category", it’s more like Geostorm happens to you and you submit to its level of intelligence. You kinda do end up hoping Lawson gets home to his daughter who he ignores for 95 per cent of the film. You sorta hold out hope for humanity, despite no empathy shown by the film to the millions who die in (un)natural disasters.
You want to believe in the peace between nations that achieved such a marvelous machine, even though it seems only America and China, the two largest box office markets, were involved. You just also might have problems with words containing more than two syllables by the end.
Earth: One Amazing Day – ★★★☆☆
Planet Earth II was a technological and majestic marvel. It gave us access to natural phenomenon we'd never seen before, reaffirming just how lucky we are to be here and share this place with all of Earth's inhabitants.
Earth: One Amazing Day is basically (and literally) Planet Earth II's greatest hits. It's an essential summation for those who missed the TV series, but for those who saw it first time round, it's an excuse to see some iconic scenes on the big screen - yes, the iguana/snake chase is here, and in the cinema it's akin to Mad Max: Fury Road all over again.
Robert Redford's narration is perfectly fine, but David Attenborough has ownership over such a thing, and anything else is pale. Not to mention, Attenborough has already narrated these scenes, so the need for another is confusing, and even a bit disappointing. It’s a real missed chance to hear that unique voice in the cinema.
There's not enough time to let each scene breathe - having just crossed a river with two zebras, there's no time for relief and jubilation as the film moves on, eager to fit in as much as possible.
It's a hard sell for those who watched Planet Earth II. Rather than focus on habitats, it follows a day in the life of our planet. It lends itself well to showcasing the best footage from the series, but makes it choppy and erratic. There's not enough time to let each scene breathe - having just crossed a river with two zebras, there's no time for relief and jubilation as the film moves on, eager to fit in as much as possible.
Earth: One Amazing Day feels like a missed chance to draw people out to witness some true spectacles. Instead, it's a rehash, unengaging for those who've seen it before, and no amount of dancing bears can get rid of that tedium. For newbies, it's a feature length trailer for the main series.
The Party – ★★★★☆
A better home invasion meltdown movie than Mother!
A promotion, a diagnosis, a pregnancy, a deception, and a gun. As the evening's dinner burns in the kitchen, a bunch of combustible elements are rubbing off one another in the living room. What should be a celebratory gathering unravels spectacularly, as Kristin Scott Thomas's Janet, who has just been promoted to minister for health in the opposition party, receives a few doses of devastating news.
There's a spectrum when it comes to coping. Much is made of Janet's ideology of idealism. This maelstrom of unpleasantness can be seen as a test of how much it takes for someone to snap.
The cynic - Patricia Clarkson armed with biting dialogue - has an air of "of course" towards proceedings. These opposites are best friends in person, but ideologically view the evening through a different lens. Beneath these beliefs, there's a hint of their polar opposites. The idealist unravels, while the cynic weathers the storm (with her estranged and wonderfully chill partner).
It's an intricate weave of character-driven storytelling, and while it looks like an arthouse dream, its humour is universal and that feeling of a party going off the rails is similarly so.
This social circle is a mess, built on networking and mutual benefit rather than a genuine affinity. Such an unstable foundation is sure to crumble, and that it happens all at once is to our grim amusement.
Timothy Spall's face ranges from "existentially done" to "no longer in the room" and it is hilarious; even more so when paired with Bruno Ganz's most-peaceful-person-on-the-planet shtick. Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones are expecting, yet they know so little about each other that it's a wonder they're even together in the first place.
Everything about The Party is a deceit. Cillian Murphy - putting in a coke-fuelled performance that's exhausting just to watch - is on edge and his partner is on her way, her absence hanging over the room. Waiting for her sways between anticipation for the evening to truly commence and dread at the thought of someone else joining the fray.
Is it important who she is, when no one in the room seems to know who anyone else really is? Each character may as well not be there, created as they are from the perceptions of everyone else.
It's an intricate weave of character-driven storytelling, and while it looks like an arthouse dream, its humour is universal and that feeling of a party going off the rails is similarly so. It's rather ingenious, and at only 70 minutes long, accessible and digestible. Really great.
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