Gunshots are to Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire what drumbeats were to Alejandro Iñárritu’s Birdman, which is to say that they are both omnipresent and absorbingly hypnotic. Easing any psychological narrative in favour of the wildly entertaining effects of sensation cinema, Wheatley may not plumb the thought-provoking depths of Iñárittu but his is an equally exhilarating ride.
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Raw has in it the most terrifying scene you will see in 2017. A disturbing vignette in which shots disorientate, the soundtrack sickens and all captured in the camera’s frame represent a threat. Three words can describe the sequence and each one will indeed send a chill to the very root of your spine; be warned, they may even put you off from daring to enter your local screening at all: student house party. The nightmare is real and were these deafening drunken exploits not horrifying enough, the plot cascading around them concerns cannibalism. This is certainly an experience offering much to get your teeth into. Ahem.
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From the very top Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell nails its aesthetic. Taking stylistic cues from Blade Runner, Star Wars, Minority Report and company, the artistry on display here really is quite something. There is, however, a ‘but’ coming. For all of its fairground marvels – holographic advertisements, ultra-sleek black cars, neon lights – the world of 2017’s Ghost in the Shell, by contrast to the classic anime of 1995 and the manga serials before it, never quite grasps enough of a sense for the visceral and is thus never able to totally escape a feeling of artificiality.
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The arrival of a Power Rangers reboot in the present era of superhero overload was so inevitable that the most surprising facet of its 2017 debut is the fact that it’s taken quite so long to morph from the ether. Those able to remember the 1990s Mighty Morphin TV series may have in the intervening years forgotten just how joyfully awful it was, a prime example as it is of the ability of campy nonsense to transcend its own awfulness and achieve a nostalgic status of adoration. There is something admittedly iconic about badass Teletubbies in onesies vocally karate kicking there way through innumerable bad guys.
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Humanity has long endured a difficult relationship with nature. It’s a coexistence that has oft been tackled by literature and film alike: that desire for conquest and struggle for omnipotent domination, so perfectly epitomised by Caspar David Friedrich’s romanticist painting: The Wander Above a Sea of Fog, that has driven many an explorer to madness, their sanity a sacrifice to their ambition. From Livingstone to Scott, all have found the natural world to be a fearsome opponent.
Less well known than those Boys’ Own heroes is Lt. Col. Percival Harrison Fawcett, the subject of David Grann’s article, and later published biography, The Lost City of Z, now brought to the big screen by director James Grey. Between 1906 and 1925, Fawcett, portrayed in 2017 by Charlie Hunnam, undertook seven expeditions to South America, spending the most of those years in search of an ancient civilisation, proposed to have been long since lost within the jungles of Bolivia, akin to Hiram Bingham’s 1911 rediscovery of Machu Picchu in Peru.
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The enduring success of Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast is such that the film does not solely remain one of the greatest animated features of all time but among the greatest of any medium. The first Disney musical to be translated to Broadway, it is a well quoted fact that Beauty and the Beast was also the first animation ever to gain a – much deserved – Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. Thus, at a time in which the House of Mouse seems intent on remaking their entire back catalogue, a live action update of this particular classic was surely inevitable, if unnecessary.
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There’s a pivotal scene in Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows in which the reflected image of Jane Wyman’s Cary is framed within a television screen, bought for her by her family. Its a symbolically charged moment, the film revolving around the socially ‘scandalous’ relationship of an affluent widow and her younger gardener, dictating that a woman of Cary’s age and marital status must be prisoner to a life ruled by consumerism and the home. Sixty-seven years later, Anna Biller appropriates the image in The Love Witch, maintaining Sirk’s glorious technicolor, in her use of a mirror as the captive frame not of the woman, who moves freely in and out, but of the man, who is slavishly trapped in his bed. Whilst perfectly capturing the aesthetics of mid-twentieth century Hollywood, Biller’s film is a subversive, and deliciously addictive, feminist hit.
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