Director: Spike Lee
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold, Jasper Pääkkönen, Topher Grace, Paul Walter Hauser, Corey Hawkins, Harry Belafonte, Alec Baldwin
It has been almost thirty years since Spike Lee burst into the public consciousness with Do the Right Thing. In a year when the Academy gave Best Picture to Driving Miss Daisy’s comparatively trite take on race, Do the Right Thing was a cinematic primal scream, offering an uncompromising and profound look at the African American experience. Since then, Lee has somewhat unfairly born the burden of being considered the cinematic spokesperson of the African American community, with this political lens often overshadowing the aesthetic appreciation of his work. He hasn’t enjoyed the standing of some of his contemporaries in recent years and his work has varied in quality. But when faced with the madness of Trump’s America, the bat signal went up in the sky and Lee responded, returning to his sparkling best with BlacKkKlansman. Continue reading
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Kelly Marie Tran, Domhnall Gleeson, Laura Dern, Andy Serkis, Benicio Del Toro, Gwendoline Christie
When The Force Awakens was released in 2015 to relaunch the Star Wars saga it had three specific functions: nostalgia, preparation, and reassurance. It had to remind audiences why they loved Star Wars, it had to establish the new generation of characters who were going to take on the franchise from our old favourites moving forward, and, after the prequel trilogy, it had to leave us confident that they weren’t going to screw this up. The result was a film that was a lot of fun, but was fairly criticised for playing it a bit safe. It set a platform and Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the storied saga, has built on that platform. Nowhere near as dependent on nostalgia as The Force Awakens or even Rogue One, The Last Jedi is liberated to be more adventurous with its narrative. Continue reading
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Yosuke Kubozuka, Issei Ogata, Liam Neeson
Martin Scorsese has, in the last decade or so, enjoyed the most commercially successful period of his career, with The Departed, Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street all making an impact at the box office. In contrast, his newest film, Silence, is his most unashamedly uncommercial film in decades. This adaptation is, however, a project that the great director has been trying to realise since he first read Shusaku Endo’s novel in 1989. It is the textbook definition of a passion project, and the resulting film is a breathtaking and thought provoking crystalisation of some of the key themes that have persisted through Scorsese’s life and work.
Silence takes us into the world of the Kakure Kirishitan, the ‘hidden Christians,’ of Imperial Japan. In 1640, two young Jesuit priests from Portugal, Fathers Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) head to Japan in search of their old mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). They have heard rumours that he has apostatised, renounced his faith, and is living as a Japanese, rumours they simply cannot believe. Continue reading
Director: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin
New York auteur Noah Baumbach seems to make films about life stages. The Squid and the Whale, his 2005 calling card, was about a teenager dealing with the breakdown of his parents’ marriage. The critically acclaimed Frances Ha was about being in your twenties and trying to forge your identity. His newest film, While We’re Young, is about reaching middle age. It is about reaching that point where you no longer feel like a kid pretending to be an adult, about reaching that point when you realise that you no longer understand young people.
Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a childless couple in their forties and have recently lost the last of their peers to babies. Cornelia is the producer daughter of celebrated documentarian Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin), while Josh is a documentary maker who, after initial acclaim, has spent the best part of the last decade working on an ambitious and intellectual film which in its current form is a six-and-a-half hour film that is seven hours too long. They meet a young, hipster couple, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Continue reading