Cinemas & Home Entertainment This Week…
GRIM PICKINGS this week includes key dates to dismember with the Men (and Women) in Black returning to the big screen to save the universe while a senior citizen goes stalking the subways of New York on home entertainment!
MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL
THOR: RAGNAROK stars Chris Hemsworth and Tess Thompson head this refresh of the MEN IN BLACK franchise, under the direction of F. Gary Grey (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON). Thankfully this instalment takes place within the same universe as the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones lead trilogy, so there’s little exposition required for establishing the set-up, instead the focus is cast on the primary story and rendering its two lead characters within it. In fact Thompson’s Agent M is one of the dynamic characters to spring from a blockbuster in some time, a richly layered individual that an audience can both identify and empathise with completely, a credit to Thompson for such a captivating performance and to screenwriters Matt Holloway & Art Marcum for the writing. Hemsworth’s portrayal of Agent H however leaves a lot to be desired, coming off more as an idiot savant than the washed-up hero that the film wants you to be believe he is, it feels that as if there was a slight miscalculation in his approach to the role and his nondescript accent does no favours to the character. Thompson and Hemsworth’s onscreen chemistry is a little hit and miss, aside from Hemsworth’s performance, this could be largely attributed to Holloway & Marcum’s unnecessary decision to infuse the script with the undertone of an unrequited love story rather than focus on the differences that make them a worthy buddy cop pairing. Aside from the aforementioned, MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL once again succeeds in imaginative and often awe-inspiring set pieces including a London street torn-open by electrified shockwaves from two of the film’s villains and an alien-tech speeder bike ride through a Moroccan village (okay so that last one isn’t terribly imaginative but it looks spectacular). The real highlight of the film however is the assortment of amazing aliens on display throughout, from the tiny chess piece critter Pawny (voiced by SILICON VALLEY’s Kumail Nanjiani) to the H.P. Lovecraft inspired arch-villain The Hive. While MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL does little to build within its existing universe, it does offer light entertainment and ultimately succeeds in furthering the cause of ‘inclusion’ with Agent M as a principle character, without alienating anyone in the process. The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organisation.
Tom Harper (THE WOMEN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH) helms this impressive, at times challenging and ultimately emotionally wrought tale of ‘loser makes good’ with a breakout performance by television talent contestant come actress Jessie Buckley (BEAST). Rose-Lynn Harlan (Buckley) is bursting with raw talent, charisma, and cheek. Fresh out of jail and with two young kids, all she wants is to get out of Glasgow and make it as a country singer. Her mum Marion has had a bellyful of Rose-Lynn’s Nashville nonsense. Forced to take responsibility, Rose-Lynn gets a cleaning job, only to find an unlikely champion in the middle-class lady of the house. Wild Rose is a comedy-drama about mothers and daughters, dreams and reality, three chords and the truth.
For all its absurdity and implausibilities, Oscar-winner Neil Jordan’s psychological thriller, GRETA, is a suspense-fuelled, unsettling and often fun rollercoaster experience with an exceptional performance from Isabelle Huppert (ELLE). A sweet, naïve young woman trying to make it on her own in New York City, Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) doesn’t think twice about returning the handbag she finds on the subway to its rightful owner. That owner is Greta (Huppert), an eccentric French piano teacher with a love for classical music and an aching loneliness. Having recently lost her mother, Frances quickly grows closer to widowed Greta. The two become fast friends — but Greta’s maternal charms begin to dissolve and grow increasingly disturbing as Frances discovers that nothing in Greta’s life is what it seems. Universal Pictures Blu-ray & DVD contains just over five minutes worth of Deleted Scenes and a featurette titled ‘Greata: Enemies and Friends’ with cast & crew interviews.
The latest feature from director Nicholas McCarthy (THE PACT, THE DEVIL’S DOOR) is another entry in the current renaissance of the creepy kid sub-genre, following this year’s THE HOLE IN THE GROUND and more recently BRIGHTBURN. Unlike the aforementioned features, THE PRODIGY lacks depth, suspense and any genuine thrills, instead rolling out a cavalcade of jump-scares and the most far-fetched third act you’re likely to witness this end of 2019! Sarah (Taylor Schilling) is a mother whose young son Miles is disturbing behaviour that signals that an evil, possibly supernatural force has overtaken him. Fearing for her family’s safety, Sarah must choose between her maternal instinct to love and protect Miles and a desperate need to investigate what — or who — is causing his dark turn. She is forced to look for answers in the past, taking the audience on a wild ride; one where the line between perception and reality becomes frighteningly blurry. Roadshow’s Blu-ray & DVD contains three production featurettes focusing on Story, Genre and the lead character of Miles.
Dev Patel (LION) leads this gripping and intense recounting of the devastating 2008 terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel that is hard to watch but impossible to look away from. The only thing more unsettling than the film itself is the fact that its all based on a true story. A terrifying assault brings together the guests and staff of the luxurious hotel including wealthy new parents David and Zahra (Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi), Russian businessman Vasili (Jason Issacs) and newly promoted waiter Arjun (Patel) in a desperate fight for survival. This story celebrates humanity, compassion, courage, resilience and the unwavering desire to survive.
Grim Pickings is written weekly by Jarret Gahan.