COLOSSAL: 3 ½ STARS
“Colossal” may be the strangest rom-com ever made. Director Nacho Vigalondo has taken the basic format—woman in trouble returns to hometown and strikes up a friendship with a former schoolmate—and turned it upside down. And inside out. And flipped it on its head. He simultaneously reinvents and destroys the form in a movie that might be best referred to as a rom-mon.
Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, an unemployed Manhattanite who fills her days—and most nights—drinking. When her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) kicks her out of their apartment she returns to her small hometown a broken, drunken wreck. On home turf she reconnects with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a childhood friend, now owner of the local bar. She takes a job at the tavern, earns some spending cash and access to after hours booze. So far it is the set up for an unconventional rom-com.
Then things take a weird turn.
One afternoon she wakes up with the forty-ounce flu to the news that a giant monster, an enormous Kaiju, has attacked Seoul, South Korea. It is worldwide news, but it soon becomes clear to Gloria that the mysterious attacks are somehow related to her early morning stumbles as she comes home from the bar. It sounds outrageous, like the ramblings of a drunken sot, but when she takes Oscar and her bar friends to the sandbox in the local playground, the monster suddenly appears on the other side of the earth, mimicking her every move. When her movements cause havoc in Seoul she is forced to confront the monster within, her addiction.
“Colossal” is the kind of script Katherine Heigl or Drew Barrymore or any other Rom Com Queen would likely toss in the trash by page 11. Hathaway, however, throws herself at it, relishing the off-kilter and dowdy character. This may be a monster movie, but the real monster is her alcoholism not the foot stomping Kaiju. Hathaway embraces Gloria’s faults, working through issues—both physical and metaphysical—creating a character we’ve never seen in a rom-com before.
Sudeikis begins the film as a typical rom com-suitor, a nice guy who’s there for the woman he loves. When his affection isn’t returned things take a turn, allowing Sudeikis the opportunity to explore his dark side. Put together Gloria and Oscar are the Bickersons with a destructive (literally) edge.
“Colossal” isn’t exactly a monster movie or a Jennifer Anistonesque rom-com. It is something else, something original and that is its beauty. It’s a reinvention, for both Gloria and its genres.
THE LOST CITY OF Z: 2 ½ STARS
“The Lost City of Z” is an epic true-to-life tale of adventure and intrigue. Based on the book of the same name by David Grann it stars Charlie Hunnam as a determined explorer who obsession with the Amazon led to his mysterious disappearance.
Hunnam, who will soon be seen playing another legendary character in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” is Colonel Percy Fawcett, a man convinced of the existence of a lost city deep in the Amazon. When he discovers pottery, evidence of an advanced civilization in the region, he is ridiculed by the scientific establishment who hang on to old-fashioned ideas about indigenous populations. “Your exploits have opened every door for you,” he’s told, “but keep your ideas to yourself. It is one thing to celebrate the people it's another to elevate them.” At a boisterous Royal Geographical Society meeting he says, “If we can find a city where one was for not to be able to exist we could rewrite history,” only to be drowned out by dismissive chants of, “Pots and pans! Pots and pans!” from his peers.
Determined to prove his theory he returns, aide-de-camp Corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) and crew at his side only to be side-tracked by James Murray (Angus Macfadyen), a fellow explorer unfit for the journey.
Fawcett doesn’t give up despite Murray’s lawsuits, family trouble, his resignation from the Royal Geographical Society and World War I.
His search for the Lost City of Z provides the subtext for the movie. As much as this is an adventure tale, it’s also the story of a man desperate to not only prove himself personally but professionally. Personally he was, as the mucky mucks say, “unwise in his choice of ancestors.” Professionally, he needs to prove to his British countrymen that the forgotten South American civilization were not “savages,” but people who have tamed the jungle and created empires.
His third and final try is a stripped down affair with son Jack (Tom Holland) in tow.
Traditionally made, “The Lost City of Z” feels old-fashioned, as though you could almost imagine James Mason and Gregory Peck in the leads. It takes us back to a slower time, a moment in histry before there were Starbucks on evefy corner and movies had to have gotcha moments woven throughout. It throws the modern adventure movie playbook out the window. There is no timetable for the action, no crash-and-burn scene every 10 minutes, just a story of survival and class warfare.
For much of the running time that’s OK. Director James Gray takes his time laying out Fawcett’s obsession, allowing us to get under the skin of a man with much to prove. It begins to feel overlong at the hour-and-a-half mark during a scene, wedged between the second and third explorations were a psychic goes on at length about the importance of Fawcett’s work and we still have WWI and the third expedition to go! It is the movie’s “dropout moment,” the scene that loses the audience and the film never recovers.
It’s a shame because “The Lost City of Z” is a handsome movie, ripe with subtext and solid performances. It’s is also self indulgent, in need of one of Fawcett’s jungle machetes to chop it down to size.
UNFORGETTABLE: 1 STAR
In “Unforgettable” one family blows apart, while another comes together. And that’s when the trouble starts. The advertising tagline says it all, “When Love Ends, Madness Begins!”
Originally meant to star Kate Hudson and Kerry Washington as spurned ex wife and new bride respectively of David (Geoff Stults), they dropped out to be replaced by Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson.
In the 1980s style psycho-romance drama sees the two actresses face off.
Tessa (Heigl) is the ex, and mother of Lily (Isabella Kai Rice). She’s an obsessive perfectionist, a Mommie Dearest who uses Lily as a pawn as she tries to win David back. To pass the time when she isn’t plotting against Julia, she watches her wedding videos with tears in her eyes.
Julia (Dawson) is David’s new girlfriend. A transplant from New York, she moves to California to be with him, leaving behind a troubled past that includes an abusive boyfriend (Simon Kassianides).
David, the centre of attention is a bland former New York City Merrill Lynch hot shot who uprooted to California to take over the family brewery. He is as oblivious as he is handsome.
When Tessa discovers Julia and David are to be married a switch goes off in her head and she steps into “Fatal Attraction” territory. First she hacks into Julia’s phone, does some mild identity theft and by the time we see POV shots of her prowling around David and Julia’s love pad the conspiracy to break the happy couple up has been put into place.
It’s a cheap shot but it has to be said, “Unforgettable” is unforgivable. What could've been a down and dirty exploitation b-movie is undone by characters straight out of Central Casting. Not only are they stereotypes—David is the good guy who says things like, “Nothing matters but you and I,” while the bad guy is simply a snarling animal—but they are mind-numbing stereotypes. We’ve seen them all before and better. None have any shading. Tessa, Julia and David exist strictly to move the story along, not to be real people. Only the cop character (Robert Wisdom) stands out, and that’s only because he may possibly be the dumbest policeman in cinematic history.
Then there is the limp-as-a-cooked-noodle plot. Can this rightly be called a thriller when every twist and turn is telegraphed and amplified by a script devoid of mystery or secrets? I don’t think so. For example, [MILD SPOILER ALERT] as one of the characters is about to take a bonk on the head ask yourself, “Does he not see the heavy iron fireplace poker in her hand?” You knew it was going to happen, people you tell about the movie, but who haven’t even seen it, could tell it was going to happen but it is just one example of many of the death defying suspension of disbelief the filmmakers expect from the audience.
“Unforgettable” is a revenge movie that feels like the ultimate revenge was on the audience.
FREE FIRE: 4 STARS
The worst part of writing reviews is regurgitating the synopsis. Perhaps that’s one of the reason I liked “Free Fire,” the new shoot-em-up from director Ben Wheatley, so much. His follow-up to the psycho sci fi movie “High Rise” can be described with an economy of words: Ten bad people meet, a grudge emerges, bullet fly. The End.
For those craving more detail, the story begins at a rundown warehouse in Boston with Irish Republican Army out-of-towners Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) and their henchmen Bernie (Enzo Cilenti) and Stevo (Sam Riley) buying thirty rifles from Vernon (Sharlto Copley). Vernon’s team includes Martin (Babou Ceesay), Gordon (Noah Taylor) and Harry (Jack Reynor). Bringing them together are Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) fixers who stand to make mucho bucks.
The deal goes south, however, when a beef erupts between Stevo and Harry. Words, then punches and finally bullets are exchanged as the situation spins out of control. Soon it’s every man or woman for himself or herself as everyone exchanges bullets and barbs.
The gun battle makes up the bulk of the film but this is no average bullet ballet. Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump carefully calibrate the action, mixing gunfire with sharp dialogue and plenty of irreverent, dark humour. Their best trick is keeping it real. When people get shot in “Free Fire” they don’t shake it off like most action movie characters. Instead they shriek, whine, wince and in pain, putting the strong silent type clichés of most first person shooters in the rear view mirror. As the situation grows more desperate so do the characters as they struggle to stay alive long enough to grab the elusive suitcase filled with cash, settle old scores and trade schoolyard taunts.
It’s hard not to see echoes of “Reservoir Dogs” in “Free Fire.” The warehouse setting and sketchy characters suggest Tarantino but Wheatley has done something else here. He’s packed away all pretension, all sentiment and focussed on making a down-‘n-dirty but wildly entertaining b-movie.