The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu 2015)

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterand so anyway it turns out that the best thing about The Revenant (2015), Alejandro González Iñárritu’s bizarre picturesque slapstick epic of wilderness survival, in which beardy absurd terminator Leonardo DiCaprio repeatedly treads on the ends of rakes that slap him in the face as he – always out-bearded, always out-gurned – pursues Tom Hardy through Werner Herzog’s old stomping ground and a maze of try-hard-wannabe allusions to Tarkovsky, is not the indigenous-washing sequence in which Leo’s magical negro is played by a native American indian, nor is it the faithful historical reconstruction of a world without exposure, hypothermia or women, no, the very best thing about The Revenant is the sheer chutzpah of beginning with the line “It’s okay son… I know you want this to be over”…

Free Fire (Ben Wheatley 2017)

free-fireand so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Free Fire (2017), easily (though you might want to heed the ambivalence in this expression) the best men-with-guns-in-an-abandoned-factory movies since Walter Hill’s Trespass (1992), which I always somehow forget was written by the Bobs Gale and Zemeckis, probably because it is not a steaming pile of shit like the latter Bob’s films usually are, is not the sheer amount of talent (e.g., even Armie Hammer is good) visibly being frittered away on such a fundamentally frivolous project designed for teenage boys younger than the certificate, nor the occasional lines you are pretty sure you can hear Amy Jump insisting had to be in the script in order to preserve some measure of dignity, such as the 90 minute rule or Brie Larson’s exasperated ‘Men!’,  nor the fact that guns never need reloading until it becomes essential to the ‘plot’ that they do, nor even its nuanced and sensitive delineation of the Irish Republican struggle in the 1970s, no the very best thing about Free Fire is that everything would have been fine and dandy, and deadly violence would never have erupted, if Sam Riley hadn’t attempted to do an American accent, at least I think that’s what it was, I’m not sure, but whatever it was it made me want to shoot him, too…

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (DJ Caruso 2017)

xxx_return_of_xander_cage_film_poster-jpegand so anyway it turns out the best thing about xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017) is not reminding people that when xXx (Rob Cohen 2002) first came out serious people seriously spoke about it seriously killing off the hopelessly moribund Bond franchise, seriously,[1] and being able to prove it by pointing to the film’s complex self-referentiality (well, the succession of innuendo so lame even Roger Moore would have questioned the wisdom of saying such things aloud), no, the best thing about xXx: Return of Xander Cage was seeing it in a cinema full of boys who were not alive when xXx came out and who were in fact so young that, when Ice Cube turns up for his cameo, they not only have no idea about xXx: State of the Union (Lee Tamahori 2005),[2] and thus of who Darius Stone is, but were also not actually all that clear on the identity of Cube himself, no, wait, the very best thing about xXx: Return of Xander Cage is having an audience of teenage boys turn around in unison and stare at you when Cube/Stone appears and you are the only person in the auditorium to let out a small involuntary cheer…

Notes
[1] But then Vin Diesel walked away from the franchise, and from the Fast and Furious franchise, to make the massively underrated but still a bit crappy Chronicles of Riddick (David Twohy 2004) and especially, and lest we forget, The Pacifier (Adam Shankman 2005).
[2] Aka, for non-US, audiences xXx: The Next Level.

Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs 2015)

magic-mike-xxl-poster-01and so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Magic Mike XXL (2015) is not that it has a credit for ‘tool manager’, though it does, nor that, thanks to a too-tight posing pouch, we finally get a glimpse of Channing Tatum’s wagging little doggie tail, but that in this post-truth era of alternative facts someone bothered to keep a full and accurate record of the great shirt drought of ought ’15…

Elf (Jon Favreau 2003)

4117a7hikql-_sy450_and so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Elf (2003) is not the fleeting homage to the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage, nor the proposed children’s book about a group of young asparagus who are anxious and self-conscious about the smell of their urine, but the fact that the look on the face of Zooey Deschanel every time Will Ferrell does something ‘funny’ is exactly the same look you get on your face when, during her subsequent career, Zooey Deschanel does something ‘kooky’…

Noah (Darren Aronofsky 2014)

mv5bnde1mtkznzc0mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjyxndeymje-_v1_sx640_sy720_and so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Noah (2014), Darren Aronofsky’s hilarious pro-genocide, anti-abortion, pro-incest, whitewashed  biblical epic, with additional rock-Autobots/Galaxy Quest homage, is the way in which Aronofksy, with the aid of the Bible, trolls Russell Crowe and Ray facking Winstone by setting them at each other’s throats (in a film co-starring Anthony Hopkins) and calling someone else called Ham…

Macbeth (Justin Kurzel 2015)

macbeth_2015_posterand so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Macbeth (2015) is not Michael Fassbender’s chameleon-like performance, in which his face alternates, depending on the line and the lighting, with those of Christian Bale, Ralph Fiennes, Jamie Dornan, Eddie Izzard and others, nor is it the decision to have everyone mumble the dialogue in Scottish accents broad to the point of caricature, even the actors with actual Scottish accents, nor the instruction from the tourist board to film in some of the most beautiful places north of the border but in a bleak way so as simultaneously to attract wealthy tourists and discourage the other kind who used to go on cheap and sunny European holidays before Brexit, no, the best thing about Macbeth is the way in which it relentlessly trolls the audience with bad audio-visual puns – from rethinking how to get Birnam woods to Dunsinane (the clue is in the name of the woods), to repeatedly standing  Macbeth’s best friend (Paddy Considine) next to a goat, to always shooting Duncan’s son (Jack Reynor) in between two other people – but then sneaking into the background of  Lady Macbeth’s (Marion Cottilard) hand-washing scene a black and white dog – who is piebald and never at any point dismissed…