Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Daniel Pemberton

QuickView: See How They Run (2022)

“It’s a whodunit. You see one, you seen ’em all.”

Leo Kopernick

A theatrical whodunit set in London’s West End in the 1950s with a delightful ensemble cast, See How They Run is a comedy drama that draws you along for an entertaining ride rather that setting up a particularly compelling mystery for the viewer to solve as an active participant. Gleefully self-referential with its setting during the initial run of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap and machinations to adapt the play into a movie, it provides light satire of both the theatre and film industries. The ending is structurally foreshadowed without revealling the killer, but having the culprit ultimately reveal themselves unprompted is rarely satisfying. The journey is enjoyable, however, largely due to Mark Chappell’s deftly paced and witty script. Saoirse Ronan stands out as the enthusiastic but inexperienced constable, jumping to conclusions each time a suspect emerges. The cinematography juxtaposes the artificial opulence of the theatre with drab reality of the streets outside, Jamie Ramsey also being responsible for Living‘s recent depiction of period London. Brief split screen cuts are frequently deployed — used stylistically rather than for any narrative purpose — and the sudden changes to the aspect ratio can be jarring, feeling somewhat cartoonish. It is unlikely to be remembered beyond the end of the year, but See How They Run is a droll diversion despite its weaknesses as a whodunit.

7/10

QuickView: Birds of Prey (2020)

Birds of Prey quad ooster

“If you want boys to respect you, show them you’re serious. Shoot something, blow it up!”

Harley Quinn

The flippant tone of Birds of Prey is its greatest strength, a bright colour palette veering deliberately away from the dark tone of the DCEU with a story told, messily, by Harley Quinn. The script weaves a thin plot around the conceit that she is striking out on her own after years under the Joker’s sway, but for the most part it just strings together a series of acrobatic fight sequences. There is some creative choreography, with a few well-observed moments in the hands of a female director like Harley offering Black Canary a hair-tie during a fight, but it is shot predictably in chaotic quick cuts. We never see the level of audiovisual flair found in Harley’s prison breakout in the The Suicide Squad and, whilst comparing Birds of Prey to a later film may seem unfair, Gunn understood what we need to see and feel to get into the mind of one Harley Quinn, which is almost as important as Margot Robbie’s performance. Birds of Prey tries to do that through its use of voice over and colour palette, but it never quite succeeds.

6/10

QuickView: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (2018)

“So no matter how many hits I take, I always find a way to come back. Because the only thing standing between this city and oblivion is me. There’s only one Spider-Man. And you’re looking at him.”

Peter Parker

Taking Deadpool’s self-awareness and applying it to a family-friendly Spider-Man movie has produced not just the best animated film of 2018, but the most joyous Spider-man film to date (some have suggested it is the best, but I think Spider-man 2 retains its crown). This is beautiful big-budget animation, more minimalist than the meticulous detail of a Pixar movie but with a more stylised artistic vision too. The only slight distraction is the blurred edging used to create depth of field, which can feel distractingly like a misplaced stereoscopic image from film’s 3D release. The Lego Movie‘s Phil Lord and Chris Miller have their fingerprints all over, though they did not direct. The inspired dimensional merging draws in alternate Spider-man variants from other universes, including divergent art styles that couldn’t work in any other medium. That the resulting story structure, which features half a dozen origin stories in broad strokes, is not only coherent but deftly interwoven with wit and a strong through line is an impressive achievement. The plot is light, but even Kingpin as the antagonist has a clearly established reason behind his single-minded, destructive dimensional manipulation. Above all, Spider-man adaptations work best when earnest and emotional, both of which Into the Spider-verse delivers in spades and neither of which loses any potency in the transition to animation.

9/10

QuickView: Gold (2016)

“The guy who invented the hamburger was smart. But the guy who invented the cheeseburger… genius.”

Kenny Wells

Matthew McConaughey immerses himself deeply in the character of modern-day gold prospector Kenny Wells. Based on the 1993 Bre-X mining scandal, in which the discovery of a massive Indonesian gold deposit turns out to be a fraud, there are overtones of The Wolf of Wall Street to this fictionalised account, albeit with a protagonist at once less charming but more sympathetic. Gold serves as a film as much about ambition as avarice, as we analyse Kenny’s motivations and trustworthiness.

7/10

QuickView: Molly’s Game (2017)

“You know what makes you feel okay about losing? Winning.”

Molly Bloom

Aaron Sorkin is one of a rare breed of screenwriters whose name can be the biggest draw in a film. Fans will be pleased by his signature style of sharp, rapid dialogue, applied here to the based-on-true events story of a woman who ran a high-stakes underground poker game, expertly using the tempo of language to build and relieve tension. Sorkin’s directorial debut, his approach is assured but not particularly noteworthy, with some unnecessarily convoluted time jumping. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba both excel.

8/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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