It’s all over now, the disaster zone known as the summer of 2016 has finally come to a standstill and to close out what else but an almost utterly deprived month in which just a few days before the writing of this post I literally didn’t have a single film that I could place within my usual selection as the best of the month. Thankfully I was rescued by the liked of Mel Gibson and the guy who did that ‘Evil Dead’ remake, I can’t really say they were my likely candidates of people to rescue this train wreck of a month but nonetheless decent cinema pulled through an I managed to find three worthy choices.
It crushes me slightly, because I was expecting to be walking out of this month on a high note, I was waiting for the likes of ‘Jason Bourne’ and ‘Sausage Party’ to be the standouts of the summer but it was to no avail. While they were both serviceable blockbusters neither lived up to their promise and ultimately gave us handfuls of what we have seen hundreds of times before. I was tempted to list ‘Suicide Squad’ as not only the worst film of the month but also the most disappointing, however even that fell through when another movie actually met my exact expectations, one of the few to do so this summer. But before that, first we have the top three.
3: Blood Father
It was quite unexpected that Mel Gibson would emerge from the shadows to turn in a brilliant performance that carries this tightly wound thriller, but that was exactly what the former Mad Max did in a role not too dissimilar to that of the Road Warrior. It succeeds it building a strong relationship between its central characters and uses the audiences own understanding of that relationship to elevate the stakes and emotions of the plot surrounding it. It crafts complex and imperfect characters whom we feel empathy for and wraps it all up in an appropriate grind house style package. But the talking point is Gibson himself, whose sheer charisma, presence and energy make him a force unlike any other.
2: Don’t Breathe
To find a horror film as excellently crafted as ‘Don’t Breathe’ in this day and age is quite frankly, astonishing. The film is already making Scrooge-McDuck levels of money at the box office and it certainly feels well earned. Choosing to invoke terror from the audience with the aid of techniques such as tension, atmosphere, claustrophobia and some outstanding sound design to match the films narrative, its direction is simply impeccable. It makes the viewer intimately familiar with the environment of the film and lets the story play out before our very eyes. Despite its seemingly simple premise it packs enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of the seat, if you weren’t already there due to the masterful on display throughout.
A study of grief, regrets and guilt that is as emotionally powerful as it is narratively riveting. Pedro Almovodar’s latest movie (fresh from its Palm d’Or nomination at Cannes) plays out less like a melodrama and more like a Hitchcock thriller and it is all the better for it. He establishes complex and damaged characters whom we are infinitely more intrigued to discover more about and solve the riddle that assembles their lives. It jumps forwards and backwards through time, during which we are treated to two fantastic portrayals of the same person at different stages of her life by Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte, leaving us small amounts of information that allow us to slowly piece together the damaged past and when it is finally revealed it does so with a masterful understanding of character and scenario.
And the worst….
When I was talking about a movie that actually met my expectations without fault it would be ‘Ben-Hur’. The reason being that I expected the film to be a pile of utter shit, and that is in fact what it was. Beyond the fact that remaking a classic such as ‘Ben-Hur’ feels so utterly pointless that if you looked up the definition of tedium in the dictionary you would get….the definition of tedium which is what this is, you also have the fact that the movie is so utterly uninspired and unmotivated that it becomes outright laughable when it reaches its conclusion. Condensing the 212 minutes into a mere two hours diminishes the immersive nature of the films world, the development of its characters, the subtleties of its context and just about everything else that made the 1958 version the classic that it still is. Add in the painful pandering to religious audiences by upping the Jesus levels and downplaying the homosexual undertones of the 1958 version and you have a complete dumpster fire on your hands, bravo Hollywood.