Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
I finally got around to watching the critically revered Zero Dark Thirty, which was the eagerly awaited return to the big screen for Kathryn Bigelow after claiming the Oscar for Hurt Locker in 2008. After becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, the bar was set high for Bigelow and she took her time to make sure the next project was as significant as her last.
Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatisation, based on the true events, of the hunt for Osama bin Laden that lasted nearly a decade after the 9/11 attacks in New York. Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year, Lawless) plays no-nonsense CIA operative Maya and delivers a strong performance throughout, worthy of her Oscar nomination that year. We follow Maya’s journey over many years as she fights for a voice in the US security circuit and tracks leads and potential targets across the Middle East.
Chastain is supported by a stellar cast including Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Kyle Chandler (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy). Everyone, however, seems to play second fiddle to the brilliant Chastain. This is Maya’s shot at bin Laden; this is her work, her grit and her movie.
Bigelow creates a tone early on by showing scenes of water boarding and interrogation; you know straight up that this won’t be pretty. The film seems to pace itself parallel with Maya’s progression, if a lead is picked up the film picks up pace and we can feel the anguish when something doesn’t work out or loses momentum. This pace leads up to the brilliant final assault climaxing to that eventful night in May 2011.
If espionage is your jam or you want an American war film that isn’t American Sniper this is one to watch.
Batman: The Movie (1966) Dir. Leslie H. Martinson
A week that includes Paddy’s Day also includes hangovers and therefore hangover movie days. Thankfully our sore heads were quickly healed with the combination of Adam West, Pot Noodles and Lucozade.
The 1966 movie, based on the brilliantly 60s TV show, was the first full feature to star the caped crusader and is so far removed from the Burton and Nolan movies it doesn’t even feel like Batman to me anymore. It is like there is another character that happens to be called Batman, drives a Batmobile, hangs out in a Batcave but has absolutely nothing else in common with Keaton or Bale’s representation. And that’s just how I like it.
The ‘66 film is a mind-boggling mix of camp costumes, overly explained situations and pure hilarity. Seen today it plays as an SNL parody sketch but truthfully it is a fine example of adaptation. Taking its cues from the 1940s comics where Batman often found himself in ridiculous situations and somehow managed to escape due to pure mistake or unrelated bafflement. Batman: The Movie is both a record of the time it was made and a reflection on its origins.
With some, now iconic, bits like the shark repellant Batspray, the dehydration of the United World Organization members and the infamous “some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” sketch, this sixties classic will forever be one of the easiest watches you can ever treat yourself to.
With The Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman forming the United Underworld there is only one man who can stop them, not Batman, but Adam West. What a hero.
CHAPPiE (2015) Dir. Neill Blomkamp
Although Edwin Sammon already gave his two cents this week with his review, I felt obliged to add my take on Blomkamp’s most recent project. This unfortunately, is his weakest to date.
Chappie kicks off in the not so distant future of 2016 Johannesburg and it launches us into the world of new robotic police, called “scouts”, fitted out to protect the squishy police humans, and shoot bad guys. AI guru Deon (Dev Patel) finally cracks the code for a robot’s free mind, the ability to think and feel like a squishy human; Chappie is the result. Although the motion capture and special effects, that Blomkamp has come to be synonymous with, are flawless throughout, it is the lackluster story and character development that lets the film fall down.
As Edwin mentioned in his review, both Jackman and Weaver’s characters are one-dimensional and beyond ‘rugby-loving scout hater’ and ‘money-hungry CEO’ we know nothing more of these two. Every time Hugh Jackman’s character, Vincent, is on screen the only thought running through my head is “why is he the only person in that office wearing shorts?” That is the most pertinent question I can think of.
Chappie himself is played wonderfully by Sharlto Copley who has starred in the two previous Blomkamp features, District 9 and Elysium. As an AI Chappie is loveable and full of heart, his affection and familial bond with Yolandi is palpable and it is the only believable relationship in the movie. Ninja, Yolandi’s partner in crime on and off screen, brings a freshness to certain scenes and a lack of experience to others. He is basically acting as himself, or more specifically, as his persona of Ninja, one half of zef rap/rave group Die Antwoord.
The film is not awful by any means however it lags in the middle and repetitive jokes grow old fast, it spirals into bloody carnage in the last twenty minutes and fails to surprise with its ending. All in all, I would recommend going to see it in the cinema for the effects alone but only if someone is willing to buy your ticket for you.
Featured image source.