This month, we turn our attention to these beauties: Weathering with You, Vivarium, Just Mercy, Ema, Richard Jewell, and Capone. Are they worth your time? Join us and find out!
Weathering with You
If you’re familiar with Makoto Shinkai’s work you’ll know that two things in particular interest him visually: beautiful skies and rain, representations of both in his previous works representing some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in animation. His last film, Your Name, had the sky, and what was to be seen there, be a major feature of the story, so I suppose it was inevitable that this film, Weathering with You, should focus on rain.
The rain here is in Tokyo, which is in the midst of the longest spell of wet weather in recorded history. Amongst the other soaked inhabitants are to be found two teenagers, Hodaka (Katora Daigo) and Hina (Nana Mori). Hodaka is a runaway, and while what he’s running away from is never made clear, when he first see him his face is covered in sticking plasters so we can probably guess. His attempts at finding work in the Japanese capital are not particularly fruitful, until he ends up doing menial work for Keisuke (Shun Oguri), the writer of a Fortean Times-like website.
Hodaka’s path eventually crosses that of Hina, an orphan who is raising her primary-school Casanova younger brother, Nagi, alone. Hina confides in Hodaka her secret, that she is a “weather maiden”, capable of changing the weather in a small area. As you might imagine in a season of perpetual rain, the talents of such a person would be in high demand, and Hodaka helps Hina to create a business as the “100% Sunshine Girl”, providing people with guaranteed sunshine for their special events.
The future of the business, and Hodaka and Hina’s burgeoning relationship begin to look grim, though, as Hodaka is sought by the police after being caught on video threatening a gangster with a gun and the slightly more pressing fact that Hina begins to turn into water as she uses her ability more. Could be an issue, that.
While I don’t find Weathering with You as satisfying a film as Your Name, it does address a couple of problems I had with that, as Weathering feels like a cohesive piece, rather than stitched together episodes, and while it once again has a (less catchy) soundtrack from RADWIMPS, the music is subservient to the film, rather than having the film seeming to turn into a music video at points to serve the music.
In a statement that is sure to shock no-one, I found Weathering with You absolutely beautiful, with the incredible attention to detail and the acutely-observed human emotions are amongst the best I’ve ever seen. Like Shinkai’s other work, Weathering is heavy on the melodrama and super-intense emotions of teenage love, and it’s a bit much at times, though it is ameliorated by some keenly-observed reactions and animation of the awkwardness and embarrassment that accompany young love.
The ending is the only true disappointment. Not that it’s bad, just that it’s so… obvious and therefore unremarkable (and so Your Name, perhaps part of the reason Weathering with You didn’t have quite the same impact for me). Well, unremarkable apart from the bit where he betrays his lack of knowledge of how sea levels and rain work, but magic sunshine goddess girl, so I’ll let it slide.
But if you like beautiful things, and especially if, like me, you are a sucker for animated water, then you’d be well-served by checking out Weathering with You.
I can’t claim to know a great deal about Irish filmmaker Lorcan Finnegan, but a look though his non-commercial work (which is pretty strong, as quirky commercials go), shows something of a recurring theme of isolation and the inexplicable, which certainly comes to the for in Vivarium.
In which we are introduced to Imogen Poots’ schoolteacher Gemma and her partner, Jesse Eisenberg’s gardener Tom, who are looking to get on the property ladder. Thus a visit to Jonathan Aris’ Martin, an exceedingly strange estate agent who against all logic and reason they follow to an out-of-town development full of identikit, identical homes.
Martin walks off halfway through, but when Gemma and Tom attempt to leave, they only find themselves back in front of the same house. Clearly something strange is afoot, particularly when burning the house down doesn’t stick, it miraculously healing itself. By that point it perhaps should have been expected when a box is dropped off from nowhere, not filled with the usual supplies but with a baby boy, and a message. Raise the child and be released.
Not, they suppose that they have much of a choice, and they raise this rapidly growing weirdo with an overdubbed voice while dealing with the incredible mental stress that this imposes in a variety of understandably unhealthy ways.
That, broadly, is it plotwise for this film, and while there’s some excellent performances from Eisenberg and Poots exploring their character’s reactions to this nightmare, in terms of wider point to the work, I’m struggling to find one. I can’t see if it’s really even trying to say anything other than “wouldn’t it be weird if this happened?”, and yes. Yes, it would be weird.
It is weird. It’s a weird film. And on the whole a film I was happy enough to go along with, as it does manage to take what seems like a slight premise and find new, relatively subtle ways to make it increasingly nightmarish as it goes along without escalating into a sfx sideshow, or attempting to give any real explanation behind what’s going on ,or to what purpose. Which I kind of appreciate, at the same time as wishing that there was at least enough of a hint given in the text to attempt to formulate those answers for myself without it being wild mass guesswork.
So, yes, not the most satisfying end to a film I was continually intrigued by, and I can entirely understand the mixed reception it’s had, but I would say it is worth adding to your watch list and rolling the dice on it on your catch-up service of choice.
(With apologies to Google’s recap:)
After graduating from Harvard, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or those not afforded proper representation. One of his first cases is that of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who is sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence. In the years that follow, Stevenson encounters racism and legal and political manoeuvrings as he tirelessly fights for McMillian’s life.
As much as I liked the last Pablo Larraín film what I done saw, Neruda, I’ve not tracked down any of his other work. I’d like to say it’s because I fear they’d be more like Post Mortem, the other, significantly less enjoyable Larraín film I’d seen, but in reality it is simply the abject laziness that is the root of so many of my evils.
Still, I was glad to see Drew putting this selection in front of me, although I knew nothing about the contents of it. And to be honest, I think that’s absolutely the best way to approach this. Consider this forewarning, as even the most superficial recap will, I think, ruin this film. It’s not that there’s any major twists or turns here, but the structure of this film is for me its genius, and the way it unfolds was the most enjoyable thing about it.
Best analogy I can think of is that if the overall story of our lead character, the spirited dancer Ema, played by Mariana Di Girolamo, was a miniseries, this film is episodes three, four and five of it. The details of the earlier events aren’t hidden from you, but you’ll have to reconstruct them from the organic mentions of them as the story progresses. And also, I suppose, have to write your own end to the story as while this has the sense of an ending, and is structured accordingly, it’s also plainly a state of affairs that’s going to break apart just after the credits roll.
So, to roll this up into a sentence, while not telling you very much that’s not obvious in the first five minutes, Ema is in a tempestuous relationship with her choreographer Gael García Bernal’s Gastón, the most common flashpoint being dealing with the fallout of returning their adopted son Polo to the system after he proved to be a bit of a handful, a decision that Ema now greatly regrets and now seeks to rectify by any means necessary.
I think that’ll do you, to be honest. This isn’t a film that’s overly dependant on the plot’s throughline anyway, as that’s as much tied up with Ema’s character as it is her actions. And what a character she is, forceful, driven, seductive, manipulative, a femme fatale, particular given her occasional flamethrower wielding, which in retrospect was certainly something that Neruda missed.
It’s a really well crafted film on Larrain and co-writers Guillermo Calderón and Alejandro Moreno’s parts, that credits its audience with a modicum of intelligence and assumes they will pay attention to it, which I despair of having to laud as a positive point but so many films don’t, you kind of have to take what you can.
The supporting cast are entirely on point, although it’s Gael García Bernal and particularly Mariana Di Girolamo that deserve the plaudits for making this film a captivating experience that I recommend highly.
During the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, a backpack full of nail-filled pipe bombs was left in a public area, with the intention of causing much death and mutilation. That the actual toll was relatively minor was due principally to the actions of a security guard, who noticed the backpack and insisted on treating it seriously. That security guard was 29-year old Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), who was instantly lauded as a hero. Jewell had little opportunity to enjoy his time in the spotlight, though, as the ever-competent FBI decided that he fit the profile of a lone terrorist and began to build a case against him, though one with basically no evidence.
In a particularly odious and unprofessional move, his status as a suspect is leaked to the press, and the media tries to destroy Jewell. After a belated awakening to the fact that the FBI are not on his side (and that his rights are being treated as if they didn’t exist), Jewell calls Sam Rockwell’s Watson Bryant, the only lawyer he knows, and the only person at one previous workplace that treated him with dignity.
Bryant begins to build a defence (well, proves that the FBI’s case has a much substance as a breath), but is continually hampered by the fact that wannabe cop Jewell insists on helping the law enforcement agents who are trying to send him to the electric chair, until a thoroughly disillusioned Jewell finally stands up for himself and the FBI investigation into him is formally ended.
Richard Jewell feels like a companion piece to Eastwood’s earlier Sully, a solid drama about a hero turned suspect, but in contrast to the 2016 film, which filled a 96 minute running time with about 76 minutes of content, there’s plenty of meat this time around. It’s not surprising that a director of Eastwood’s talent can attract such a talented cast, and Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates are particularly compelling in their roles, but the revelation is the relatively unknown Paul Walter Hauser, probably best known prior to this for playing the super-duper-extra-especially-competent “CIA-trained” hitman in I, Tonya.
Jewell seems tailor-made to be made fun of, a clown in the mould of Paul Blart or Seth Rogen’s Ronnie in Observe and Report, but Hauser portrays a remarkably sympathetic character, foolish rather than stupid, and it’s easy to share Sam Rockwell’s lawyer’s frustration at his desire to help the FBI hang him, while at the same time appreciating his lifelong and unquestioning faith in law enforcement. While Jon Hamm’s FBI agent seems unnecessarily antagonistic, most of the characters feel believable, and even if you know the outcome it’s a compelling tale.
There is a serious black mark on the film, though, that must be addressed, and that is the (seemingly unfounded) assertion that Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), the journalist who broke the story of Jewell being a suspect in the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, offered sex for tips to FBI agents, specifically here Jon Hamm’s Tom Shaw. Scruggs died in 2001 so can’t defend herself, but it seems more than a little hypocritical that a film that condemns the character assassination of a suspect would commit the same crime against this one reporter.
That aside, Eastwood has shown time and again how efficient he can be as a storyteller, and with well-realised characters, and so it is again here. Richard Jewell isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a solidly entertaining drama with an excellent central performance.
Al Capone was 48 when he died, after a heart attack following a few years of ill health following complications from syphilis. This came as a slight surprise to me on checking, as Tom Hardy’s portrayal here in Josh Tranks film has him looking closer to 80.
This is… well, quite what this film is is open to interpretation, I suppose, but we at least join him in very poor, already brain damaged health at his Florida mansion after his release from prison on compassionate grounds. In as much as there’s any plot to it, there’s some mention of Capone having buried a few million dollars somewhere but can’t remember where, with both the cops and his family wanting to find out where this probably imaginary stash is, er, stashed, however saying that’s in any way relevant to what’s going on in Capone would be entirely misleading.
Most of this film, and certainly the bulk of memorable bits you’d want to make a gif out of, happens in Capone’s misfiring grey matter, and it is bonkers, mainly by containing a Tom Hardy performance where he looks just as confused and baffled by everything that’s going on as the audience is.
I’m not sure there’s a lot of point recapping it further, other than to say it features a confused Capone chomping carrots as a cigar replacements, shuffling through a prohibition era party to confusedly join Louis Armstrong on stage, and later on, looking like a bloated corpse, clad in dressing gown and nappies, shuffling around on a murder rampage with a gold plated Tommy gun.
On the one hand you could argue that any cinematic portrayal of Capone is an act of glorification, so I suppose that’s why he’s shown undergoing at least three rapid unscheduled bowel evacuation events. On the other hand I suppose you could see it as making fun of the mentally-ill, but it’s Al Capone, so who cares. Hot take – Al Capone was bad.
Josh Trank, of course was last seen five years ago after making Fantastic Four, and then having the studio decide to remake most of it, by all accounts, so perhaps that festival of blandness should not be held against him. After all, Capone is certainly a lot more memorable.
It’s also absolutely awful, with Hardy putting in his most laughable performance to date, like Bane off Batman had he been dosed with quaaludes and left in salty water for a decade. It’s never less than hypnotically abysmal, and combined with the Poundland Lynchian feel of these dream sequences, this film is never less than dreadfully entertaining. The best worst film I’ve seen in a while. Highly recommended for being atrocious.
Thanks to everyone who has got in touch with us on this, or said kind words about the show – it’s all very much appreciated.
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