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By midlandsmovies, Aug 22 2019 11:06PM

Under the Silver Lake (2019) Dir. David Robert Mitchell

In 2001 indie chiller Donnie Darko became an underground runaway success and director Richard Kelly followed up that intelligent dark drama with a film so bad, indulgent and incomprehensible (2006’s Southland Tales) it pretty much killed his career. Well, in true Groundhog Day style, this L.A.-set neo-noir mystery film is a gigantic misfire on almost all counts, which is a shame as fans of David Robert Mitchell’s 80s-infused horror It Follows were no doubt anticipating something exciting for his second movie.

The plot, if you can decipher it, involves Andrew Garfield investigating the sudden disappearance of his neighbour Riley Keough, but during his escapades uncovers a large and complicated conspiracy. A great score clearly influenced by Bernard Herrmann’s music for Hitchcock is about the only positive to recommend the film, as low-brow discussions on masturbation and nudity crossed with comics and animated sequences fill a ridiculous incoherent narrative involving songwriters, a dog killer and some underground Pharaoh bunkers.

Influences range from Mulholland Drive, Raymond Chandler and Chinatown as we get dream sequences, the seedy underbelly of the city and some classic detective tropes but although it’s never really boring, it’s always awful.

There’s a scene midway through that so sums up this gigantic misfire that you must think that the director is trolling the audience into disliking his own film. “Do you like the movie?” asks one character to Sam (Garfield) as he stands in a cemetery next to a HITCHCOCK grave watching a film before 3 girls get into a limousine with a fancy-dressed pirate. What? How VERY clever of you.

The music is stupidly on the nose such as it is, including the “Behind movie scenes” line from Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha to REM’s What’s the Frequency, Kenneth. Ambitious, weird and bizarre but consistently terrible, Under the Silver Lake is what 2 stoner mates may think was a good idea at 4am but the film is baffling in construction and makes a terrible attempt to satire the movie industry and provides a lame and superficial commentary on female representation.

The only reason I watched right to the end of the credits was because I was hoping to get a fucking apology. I didn't.

★ ½

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Feb 16 2017 06:57PM

Hacksaw Ridge (2017) Dir. Mel Gibson

A biography of Medal of Valor-winning Desmond Doss, this film from Mel Gibson combines the sentimental with the shocking as it follows one man’s moral standpoint in the face of adversaries both at home and abroad.

Ex-Spider-Man Andrew Garfield plays Doss who as a Seventh-day Adventist refuses to carry firearms after joining the army in World War II. The pacifist joins to help the war effort much to the aggravation of his military superiors.

The film began with an immediate turn-off as Garfield’s Virginian accent has all the subtlety (and annoyances) of Hank’s Forest Gump, and combined with the theme of war I was preparing for a rehash of that film at its worst. After a brief childhood sequence and a rather soppy and gawkish romance with Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte, the film actually settled into a meaty drama once he enlists as a soldier. A rather surprising Vince Vaughan plays a thunderous Sergeant Howell which was a great role-reversal for the usually slobbish character actor.

A kind of Full Metal Jacket-lite ensues as Garfield is shouted at, undertakes menial tasks, gets beaten by his fellow troopers and trains on assault courses at the base in preparation. Despite these beatings and a subsequent court martial, Doss sustains his beliefs and Garfield does a good job of focusing on the emotional complexities as his faith clashes with others.

Soon to be discharged, his ex-army father (played by a great Hugo Weaving – where has he been?) supports him during the trial and soon Garfield is free to become the medic he has always wanted. Quickly shipped off to the Far East to battle for Hacksaw Ridge – a key target in the US war efforts – Doss bravely assists others without the protection of bullets like others.

Although Gibson’s personal life is questionable to say the least, Hollywood has given him multiple chances over and over again and it’s somewhat sad to say that the man has stepped up and delivered a hell of a story. With some of the syrupy scenes being overly Oscar-baiting it is great that Gibson then delivers the next hour of the film as a huge jaw-dropping skirmish. Not since Saving Private Ryan (Hanks again) have so many limbs been blown off in an attempt to capture the horrors of war. The cinematography is excellent and the sound effects fight between explosions, tinnitus and silence which increases the atmosphere throughout.

One sequence sees soldiers buried alive in order to save them whilst parts of bloodied bodies are used as bullet shields. Doss returns time and time again to the battlefield to save more and more men as the violence intensifies and the Japanese attempt to kill any survivors after each wave. The film is more Hollywood than documentary yet doesn’t flinch from the murky morals, scared and scarred soldiers and the horrific physical and mental effect it leaves.

But the heroic nature of Doss and his commitment to going beyond his call of duty is the focus here. The story allows itself to savour the serious (and the lightheartedness of these band of brothers) set against a war of unimaginable shock.

A fully rounded cast deliver a great screenplay and although Garfield as Doss takes centre stage, it really is an ensemble film with everyone delivering their role to perfection no matter how big or small. Catch this as soon as possible as tinsel town’s biggest outcast has once again come in from the cold to deliver a passion project that favours hope over horror on the big screen.


Midlands Movies Mike

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