Month: January, 2018

Downsizing

DOWNSIZINGWhat if you could be shrunken to a miniature version of yourself? It’s not the first time the concept has graced the silver screen and as you might expect, Downsizing ends up asking more questions than it answers. Nonetheless, in an interesting take on human reduction, Director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) has taken this well-used idea and wrung out a surprisingly bleak look at the possibilities.

Matt Damon plays the disgruntled Paul Safranek, an Occupational Therapist who along with his wife (Kristen Wiig), are finding it increasingly difficult to get ahead financially. After much deliberation, they decide to undergo the irreversible procedure of “downsizing”—a new technology invented by Norwegian scientists in the hope of turning the tide of human consumption.

Interestingly, the film is more concerned with exploring the environmental and humanitarian impact of downsizing rather than having fun with the shrinking concept itself.  And although it has its playful moments, this is far less Honey I Shrunk the Kids and more High-Rise … well, ok maybe not that aggressively grim.  But it paints a nihilistic world where human society inexorably gravitates towards a life of pleasure to the detriment of the planet’s health—the new invention simply providing people with a further reason to live a life of hedonistic excess rather than using it as an opportunity to reverse the damage done.

Despite the film’s mildly depressing outlook, Safranek’s tale does ultimately deliver a positive message—one that encourages us to focus on individuals in need rather than the world’s forlorn situation. It is a noble message which unfortunately is muddied by Downsizing’s rather loose and disjointed delivery.  A mishmash of different genres renders the film an unsatisfying experience as it struggles to settle on a single tone.  It swings from romcom to sci-fi drama and then shifts gear into a soft disaster flick, creating a tonal disparity that separates rather than coalesces the film’s themes. It’s an interesting attempt at one of the more unique takes on the subject, but it simply tries to cram too much in.  Perhaps the film could have done with a bit of downsizing itself.

  

You can see my published reviews here.

Advertisements

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

jumanjiThe body-swap gag has graced the silver screen many times over the years. The Hot Chick, The Change-Up, Freaky Friday, 13 going on 30—the list goes on and what is common to most are their tendency to be b-grade comedies.  Here, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle attempts a slightly different angle as it blends the body-swap trope with the 1996 Jumanji original.

Jumanji tells the tale of four high-school students and one fateful afternoon on school detention.  The four students occupy various extremes in their school’s social pecking order; the football jock, the “selfie” valley girl, the nerd, and the loner. The premise is ripe for some Breakfast Club styled soul searching and frat-boy high-jinx. Although that’s as far as Jumanji has in common with any John Hughes film, as here the four become entwined by the fickle finger of fate and a magical video game. Unwillingly sucked into game’s world, they come to terms with each occupying a fictional avatar quite different to their real self.  They must also work together to save Jumanji from the evil villain, Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale). Plot, for the lack of a better word, is not this film’s strength as it navigates a very linear narrative in search of the next comedic moment … of which there are, thankfully, enough giggles to maintain a mild semblance of interest.

Kevin Hart offers his usual “go to” brand of loud and brash humour which has become a tired cliche since the days of Eddie Murphy.  Likewise, Jack Black and Dwayne Johnson operate well within their comfort zone and offer little more than their norm.  The big surprise being Karen Gillen (Guardians of the Galaxy), who steals the show. Externally she’s a kick-ass Lara Croft styled martial arts vixen. Internally, she’s a painfully shy loner who has to come to terms with what’s required of her—hilarious scenes involving Jack Black teaching her how to flirt is the film’s high point.

Putting the humour aside, Jumanji briefly touches on issues of adolescent identity, however, director Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher) seems uninterested in exploring the topic with any depth. Alas, Jumanji does feel a little lightweight and while my expectations for this film was fairly low, it somehow still managed to mildly disappoint.  If all you’re after is average adventure thinly draped over a collection of chuckles, then Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle will be a perfectly serviceable holiday block-bluster … but beyond that, it will fall out of your brain soon after you leave the theatre.

You can see my published reviews here.

The Post

thepostAnyone who lambasts the role of the media should see this film.  Sure, the media isn’t entirely squeaky clean, but there’s no denying its role in providing a level of accountability to organisations and crucial in the defence against corruption. As free press advocate and America’s first female newspaper publisher, Kay Graham, agonises “We have to be the check on their power. If we don’t hold them accountable, my God, who will?” The Post’s retelling of a time when the free press and the U.S. government clashed couldn’t be more topical in today’s media climate of fake news and media commodification.

Read the full review for the NZ Herald here.