Knights of the Round Table

Charlie-Hunnam_KingArthur_07242015

Knights of the Round Table: King Arthur will star Charlie Hunnam in the title role, Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Guinevere, Eric Bana as Uther Pendragon, Djimon Hounsou as Sir Bedivere (a Merlin-like figure), and Jude Law as Vortigern, the film’s villain. The film is set to be released in 2016 with Guy Ritchie directing.

Side Effects

Wow, Side Effects is a good movie. It begins with the tale of a depressed young society wife whose medication plays really nasty tricks on her….but then becomes so much more.

Side Effects

To be honest, I was really expecting a Sodeburgh procedural exposing the iniquities of Big Pharma – a Contagion-esque whodunnit following the insistent thudding steps between mild depression, drug popping and devastating side-effect breakdown. I certainly wasn’t expect an old style noir-ish psychological thriller.

I won’t tell you anything more about the plot except it’s magnificent, and twisty, and joyfully cruel. Rooney Mara is electrifying, Jude Law is fantastic. Great stuff. Vivid New York locations too.

Anna Karenina

I didn’t really enjoy Anna Karenina. I loved Joe Wright’s earlier movies – I thought Atonement was absolutely superb and I even enjoyed Keira Knightley and her lazy eye in Pride and Prejudice. But he’s just too busy here. The entire plot is played out on one great big theatre-like set (and actually filmed on a single soundstage at Shepperton) where the constantly shifting scenery is just kind of distracting. The costumes, the music, the delicious decor, the performances – all excellent – but it feels like a case of over-reach. On the plus side, it’s certainly a novel approach for a movie. It wasn’t for me, that’s all.

anna-karenina-production-still9

Contagion

I guess when you’re Steven Soderbergh, you’ve got your pick of A-listers prepared to do bit parts in your films. And I guess you also get to pretty much choose where you’re going to shoot. And I guess, therefore, when you’re Steven Soderbergh, and a script like Contagion lands in front of you, you get to bring together your game team of cast and locations in perfect harmony.

Well, yes, that’s true enough, in principle. And it’s also true that – unlike some unfocussed, heart-stringy Roland Emmerich block buster – Soderbergh takes the high road with the story line. He treats it dead seriously that a working Mom returns from a business trip to China trailing a disease in her wake that’s both airborne and transmitted by touch. The ensuing pandemic ultimately takes out several million people whilst Scientists struggle try to isolate a cure and the woman’s surviving husband attempts to fend for his surviving child.

So I found the sociological parts of the story really fascinating – yes, even the close ups that remind us ickily of the gazillion objects we carelessly touch each day. But in spite of the excellent cast and the glorious range of places he puts them (Illinois did stand in for Minnesota), it just fails to connect on any visceral level. Perhaps that’s apt: in a movie where human contact can be fatal we are held at a very safe distance from the characters. So: Contagion? Good, but not, sadly, great.

Repo Men

In the near future, a voracious, post-Obamacare corporation called The Union has developed synthetic prostheses for every conceivable body part. These expensive parts are sold to the sick (without a public option, apparently) by door-to-door insurance salesmen offering terms. But there is one horrible catch: should a recipient fail to keep up with his payments, the company’s Repo Men will (forcibly, bloodily) reclaim company property. Cue the scalpels. That’s the set up. And butched-up Jude Law plays the main dude, who’s forced to have a rethink (get a heart) the day his own is replaced. That’s the plot.

So Repo Men mostly feels like you need your brain replaced. Location wise, the movie’s set in a glimmering Tokyo-esque metropolis full of lit-up skyscrapers and a showroom-load of electronic billboards (actually Toronto), but it’s got all the connection of an establishing shot on the Action Channel. As Stephen Holden says in New York Times: “Otherwise, there are the abandoned warehouses, studio backlot suburbs, and dilapidated apartment complexes that action movies use because they’re light on the wallet and the imagination.”