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…

The Girl on the Train (Tate Taylor 2016)

girl-train-posterand so anyway it turns out that the best thing about The Girl on the Train (2016) is not the way Tate Taylor translates this gaslight melodrama hokum, mixed with a bit of Rear Window and The 4.50 from Paddington, not merely into a contemporary setting but also into a work of significance through a brilliant central performance by Emily Blunt, made all the more endearing when, in the first scene she shares with Luke Evans, both of them temporarily forget their American accents (although his oddly slips back into English rather than Welsh), through studied pacing, through a narrative and temporal slipperiness that makes the plot holes look like enigmas rather than plot holes, and through serious-looking but trivialising invocations of trauma, addiction and therapy, no, the best thing about The Girl on the Train is the way in which, in an era in which political correctness has not only gone mad but is rampaging like a berserker through American culture, as we can see from the current Presidential election, it has has the balls-to-the-wall guts to base its narrative in the scientific truths of sociobiology: that men are driven by the swashbuckling need to put their dicks in every woman they meet, especially if in doing so they can dominate a) other women that a sick society forces them into providing for financially even when they cannot produce offspring or are not always available for penetration, and b) other men, particularly if they live next door; and that the only goal, drive and desire of women is to reproduce – and possibly to be blonde, since things seem to go better for blondes than brunettes, at least for a while…

The Walk (Robert Zemeckis 2015)

walk_ver3And so anyway it turns out that the best thing about The Walk (2015) – Robert Zemeckis’s attempt to turn thirty-five million dollars, the full cutting-edge apparatus of digital and 3D filmmaking, a talented cast and a thrilling story of a daring Gallic tightrope-walker who is also something of a dick, into a tin-eared, lumbering hodgepodge of edge-of-the-seat thrills and ballyhoo-dressed-up-as-self-reflexivity – is not the conjuration of a lost Paris that aims for the joyfulness of early Godard, would settle for the psychotic whimsy of Amélie (2001), falls short of Bertolucci’s genuinely godawful The Dreamers (2003) but just about achieves Team America: World Police (2004), nor is it the fabulously ridiculous haircut the as-always adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt is forced to sport, nor is it the ominous appearance of The Dread Red-Eyed Seagull of Doom, here manifesting as a badly drawn cartoon, no, the best thing about The Walk is the way it distracts from the otherwise and as-always excellent JGL’s woeful French accent by the cunning – nay, bravura – casting of Ben Kingsley, who can do neither a Czech nor a French accent, as a Czech with a French accent…

Tomorrowland (Brad Bird 2015)

mv5bmtq0mdc5mjaynf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzu5mzk1nje-_v1_uy1200_cr9406301200_al_and so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Tomorrowland (2015) is not the way it squeezes in an extra two or three acts in between the second and third act, nor is it the way the mathematics of it all make no sense if you have even the vaguest sense of how old George Clooney is, or the way in which he doubles down on his inability to spend time with women his own age – underscored a couple of years earlier by the extremes to which he went to get away from Sandra Bullock in Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón 2013) –  by sharing some only slightly creepy emotional scenes with the one-fifth-his-age love of his life, but the way in which they left in the naff Indiana Jones jokes from the draft of the script before they decided Harrison Ford was too old for the maths of the film to make sense or to be having big emotional scenes about thwarted love with girls one-seventh his age cos that would be, y’know, slightly creepy…