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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Roundup for 18 March 2016

Another big week with only one or two truly notable movies. Here are my quick thoughts on everything but The Divergent Series: Allegiant, which will get its own full review by the weekend.

Sink. Starting with a local, Afrikaans drama, Sink is clearly better than the vast majority of those godawful Afrikaans movies but, unlike something like Dis Ek Anna, it only really holds up against its own, quite particular Afrikaans film industry. Taken as a film in and of itself, it is very well intentioned and it makes it pretty clear that newcomer Brett Michael Innes has enough writing and directing chops that he can definitely grow into a very accomplished filmmaker in the future. He isn't there yet, though. Sink, which tells the story of a white couple trying to come to terms with the death of their Mozambiquen maid's young daughter under their watch, uses a non-linear approach to storytelling that robs the film of all its emotional power to the point that the first hour, at the very least, comes across as more than a little dull and entirely emotionally unengaging. It also feels far too staged to fully utilise the rawness and realism on which it presumably tries to stand. (5/10)

Risen. Aka. The Young Messiah: The Much Later Years. Of the two Jesus films out right now, Risen is by far the superior one. Yes, non-Christians will probably still find much of its denouement pretty dopey, but it's still a very sincere and basically well-done and pretty effortlessly enjoyable retelling of a great story from a slightly different perspective (Joseph Fiennes' Roman centurion - mirroring, hilariously, the film within the film on the Coen Brothers' latest, Hail, Caeser) that's nicely designed, solidly acted and makes much more interesting use of the history of the period. They even get Jesus' Hebrew name right - though, for the record, the Jewish high court is pronounced Sanhedrin, not Sanheeedrin. (6/10)

Remember. A story of an old Holocaust survivor hunting down the man who tormented him in his "stay" in Auschwitz is occasionally heavy handed but mostly a very moving, very enjoyable mix of whimsy and tragedy that very almost works. Christopher Plumber and Martin Landau head a great cast and it's largely well written by Benjamin August and solidly, if unexceptionally, directed by Atom Egoyen, who's on decidedly more solid ground here than in some of his latest misfires. It's a pity then that the film utterly fails to stick its landing by shoving in an unearned and utterly unnecessary twist at the end that feels both ridiculous and a little crass. You may or may not see it coming but to my mind at least - and I know for a fact that other disagree - it subtracts from rather than adds to the film. The first three-quarters are really bloody good, though. (6/10)

Kung Fu Panda 3. No better and no worse than its predecessors. Despite my love for beautiful animation and martial arts, I've never been a hue fan of this series. It's fine, to be sure, but it lacks the depth, complex characterization and strong storytelling of the best of its competition. If what you're looking for is something that is ultimately satisfying then look elsewhere but if you're looking for a diverting 90-odd-minutes of some admittedly gorgeous animation (its forays into a more painterly, "2D" style are particularly lovely) that rattles along, has some OK jokes and decent enough action then the latest in this seemingly neverending franchise should more than do the trick. (6/10)  

Sleeping with Other People. My easy pick of the week, Sleeping with Other People is quite a low-key little film that falls squarely into the When Harry Met Sally tradition (between that and the title, you could pretty easily surmise the entire plot) but boasts a witty, moving script and some really terrific performances from its two immensely likable leads. The ludicrously pretty (and pretty damn sexy) Alison Brie especially shines here: showing off both her formidable comedic chops and warm humanity that fans of Community have long been familiar with, but may be news to regular cinema-goers who are mostly familiar with her from (admittedly scene-stealing) supporting roles in other romantic comedies. I don't personally find the actual plot tremendously relatable, but that's presumably mostly because my lifestyle is very, very different from this film's characters (sometmes gladly, sometimes less so) but I still believed in and cared about these characters and their weird, weird relationships with, well, relationships. It ain't groundbreaking and it ain't remotely unpredictable but it's funny, has loads of heart and features one of the best on-screen couples to come along in a while. And sometimes that's more than enough. (8/10)

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