The Green Knight

The Green Knight (2021)
Directed & written for the screen by David Lowery

I’ve read a number of very disparaging comments about this movie but I really don’t get it. I have to question how familiar they are with Arthurian legends in general, let alone the epic tale of Gawain. The only conclusion I can draw is all these stories are shrouded in a mediaeval mysticism that could seem nonsensical or over the top to 21st century viewers. And this version of the Arthurian legend is visually sumptuous. Gloriously lit and shot by DoP (and frequent Lowery collaborator), Andrew Droz Palermo, this retelling plays deeply into the fantasy elements of the famous 14th century story.

Watching, I was reminded a few times of Terry Gilliam but more (particularly given the source) of John Boorman’s insanely flawed Excalibur (1981), which remains with Zardoz (1974) some of my not-so-guilty cinematic pleasures. While both Boorman especially and Gilliam to some extent veer into self indulgence, I don’t feel Lowery’s fallen into the same trap.

The casting is excellent and performances uniformly superb. Dev Patel has just the right balance of physicality, pride and foolishness to bring Gawain to life on his perilous journey to fulfill his bargain with the Green Knight, and he is ably supported by a great ensemble.

My only complaint is that this only had a very limited cinematic release here in Tasmania and I had to watch it at home via Amazon Prime on my big(ish) television. Nevertheless, it’s a glorious retelling of an epic story and, in my opinion, worth watching on any screen.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Directed by Zack Snyder

I grew up through the Silver and Bronze ages of comic books and loved team-up stories. Although Thor was my favourite, I ate up The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Justice League and any comics that involved multiple characters in convoluted story arcs. At that age I didn’t really care or fully understand who published what, I was just there for a rollicking good tale that could take me away from my small country town life for a little while.

In many ways, that’s what I’ve continued to look for in what can only be described as, this golden age of superhero films. Unfortunately, DC’s cinematic offerings have fallen way short of the mark, with the exception of most of Wonder Woman (2017) and elements of Aquaman (2018). Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017) are distinctly below par, particularly when compared to Marvel’s unbelievably coherent productions and the tour de force that was Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Endgame (2019).

Rather than focus solely on what’s wrong, I’d like to stress that Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League is infinitely superior to Joss Weedon’s theatrical cut from 2017. As many critics have noted, the Snyder cut is far more coherent but sadly, still a mess! While I really appreciated the extended version of Cyborg’s story, I wonder if it would be better served by a short series or a standalone origin story film. Similarly, The Flash (despite being part of the Arrow small screen universe), here seemed somewhat overblown. But upon reflection I wonder if it was the grating dialogue Ezra Miller had to say, which cheapened the character for me.

Above all, what lacks here is true character and narrative development. Instead, I see wasted opportunities. For instance, there is no building on the character branding and fan goodwill established through the Wonder Woman (2017) and Aquaman (2018) origin films. Instead, these two characters seem to get lost in the maze of the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” ad hoc storytelling and set pieces. There appears to be no cohesive narrative and even in this superior version, character motivations seem at best, muddled.

To my eyes and ears there are many problems with this film, not least of which are the (at times) incredibly intrusive score, the dreary colour palette (something of a DC trademark these days) and the overblown seriousness of absolutely everything! Also, this film runs in at just over 4 hours long, requiring a dedicated time investment and making it off-putting for many more casual viewers. But this is what the fans wanted, and to his credit, Snyder has responded.

Overblown and still pretty boring, but at least it sometimes almost makes sense now.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League and the theatrical cut are both currently available to stream on Amazon Prime in Australia.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary – The Iso-Posts #6

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019)

A movie review today because, let’s face it, I’ve been watching an awful lot of movies lately!

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019)

Directed by Jack Bennett

I find it difficult to believe that it’s 21 years since Galaxy Quest (1999) was released. Although I was living in the bush at the time and going to the cinema was approximately a 280 km round trip (almost 174 miles), I do remember watching this on video and being instantly taken back to my childhood and youth.

The whole movie was a love letter to people like me, who were the nerdy sci-fi aficionados, who literally grew up with Lost In Space (1965-1968) and Star Trek (1966-1969) as the Friday night prime time viewing options and went on to love shows like Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, and later Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) and my personal favourite, Babylon 5 (1993-1998). Rather than talk down to the fans, Galaxy Quest celebrated them – and this documentary in turn celebrates the film and the profound effect it still has on audiences everywhere.

Many of the cast were interviewed for this and it was particularly lovely when they spoke about the late, great Alan Rickman. Other highlights for me were the interview with Sam Rockwell, who was a relative unknown when he played Guy Fleegman and interviews with Brent Spiner and Wil Wheaton who were in Star Trek: TNG. It’s a very positive watch, which is a good thing right now in my opinion, and makes no apologies for any shortcomings one might find in the movie – also fine in my book!

I watched this delightful documentary last night. Because of the current situation with COVID-19, it’s gone straight to streaming rather than the promised cinema release. Here in Australia, it’s available on Amazon Prime.

The Report

Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, and Adam Driver in The Report (2019)

The Report (2019)

Written and directed by Scott Z. Burns

Adam Driver is hot property at the moment, with Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019) still playing in cinemas, Marriage Story (2019) on Netflix and The Report (2019) available on Amazon Prime. He is undoubtedly a powerful screen presence and an actor that’s always worth watching.

In The Report he certainly has his work cut out for him, carrying a film that is both an important story and a complex one but is very ably supported by a fine cast, including Annette Bening, John Hamm, Corey Stoll and Tim Blake Nelson. Driver plays Daniel Jones, an FBI operative, who leads an investigation into the heinous Enhanced Interrogation program, established by the CIA in the aftermath of 9/11. There are scenes of torture and they’re intense and at times, harrowing but the majority of the film takes place in the sterile, closeted offices of the FBI, CIA and Senator Feinstein. The idealism of Driver’s Daniel Jones turns to frustration and simmering anger as almost everyone attempts to cover up or shut down his investigation.

Based on a true story, I understand Scott Z. Burns wanting to honor the incredible dogged determination of the real life Jones and Adam Driver brings commitment and sincerity to his portrayal, supported by a top notch cast. I love a good political thriller, but I felt throughout the whole film, this piece is just missing the mark and I think it is in the script and editing where the problems lay. At very nearly two hours, this isn’t a really long movie by today’s standards but by the end it felt like much more, which is disappointing in so many ways.

The Report is currently playing on Amazon Prime Australia. An interesting premise and worth watching if just for Adam Driver – but not as good as it could be.