Amidst Disney’s own trend of live-action remakes of their most popular live action films, surely enough it took a while before they decided to go ahead and catch up with rebooting one of their own animated series. With director Akiva Schaffer taking the helm at bringing Disney’s beloved chipmunks to the screen to a completely new generation of viewers, what he brings out with Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers seems to be born out of a parody for how they’ve continuously seen their animated fare as of late – but even knowing that this is still under Disney’s own noses, they can’t fully reach the levels of lampooning that you know the material at hand would be opening themselves up to.
Not many filmmakers are as eager to show their own love of film through their own work like Edgar Wright can be. In Last Night in Soho, he moves away from comedy completely to make a horror film, yet also an obvious love letter to a city he’s stated that he had fallen in love with over the years. With that in mind, you can only expect that Last Night in Soho would be bound to become maybe Edgar Wright’s most ambitious feature to date, though the result isn’t always successful. Despite this, there’s still a lot worth loving about what Edgar Wright brings to the table in this journey back through London in the 1960’s.
A fitting note for the film to start can be found in Thomasin Mckenzie’s Eloise Turner dancing to Peter and Gordon’s “A World Without Love.” Her character is an ambitious fashion student, moving to London to pursue her studies, but in her new home she finds herself able to see a vision of London from the 1960’s, where she embodies a new persona. This new persona is none other than Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandy, an aspiring singer, whom Eloise idolizes – and forms the basis of her designs. To Eloise, the 1960’s was an era she evidently obsesses over, as shown from the film’s soundtrack, but the more she sees from Sandy’s perspective the dream she once thought of only reveals a terrifying history.
From looking at a trailer for Last Night in Soho, it’d be easy enough to assume that Edgar Wright would be getting his influence from the giallo films of Dario Argento and the like, but instead what I saw was a portrait of London owing more to Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (both of which are among Edgar Wright’s favourite films). While Wright certainly is a filmmaker who knows how to make the most out of his influences, the core of his own works is one that seems somewhat lacking. Nonetheless, together with the work of Chung-hoon Chung (a regular cinematographer of South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook), what’s brought out from Last Night in Soho is among the most beautiful that an Edgar Wright film has looked.
There’s a lot that could be done with a premise of this sort, where an aspiring fashion designer travels back in time to see an era where she got her inspiration for what it really is. The horrifying reality of her own dreams is what in turn makes for an interesting turn for Edgar Wright in the long run, but with how Wright delivers on these scares, it leaves his message fumbling onward. As far as Wright’s films have gone, this might be the most he’s ever been able to embrace the gore but there’s only so much to go when talking about what Wright brings out in that regard. For as extreme as he can get with the infliction of violence and its cyclical and traumatic effect upon future generations, its message only finds itself muddled – both in its final moments and the framing of the film as a love letter to London in the 1960’s.
Edgar Wright has never been one to let down with the erratic nature of how his films are put together, although there came a point in Last Night in Soho where I feel like the film would have benefited from having that same energy felt in his Cornetto films. When watching Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead and the like, the core of those films feels so clear in how they are willing to engage with a familiar text yet felt subversive enough in a way that could only be attributed to Wright. But Last Night in Soho lacks that same punch. I say this in the sense that what the film turns into is nothing more than a generic ghost story about a cycle of violence that has targeted women, and exploited them, but to talk about how these moments are framed seems to leave behind an icky aftertaste – especially when talking how it all pays off in its twist ending. The images repeat, continuously torturing its lead character, but they leave little of substance.
I don’t wish to dwell so heavily on the negatives, though, because you’re bound to have fun with watching an Edgar Wright movie in some capacity. Wright brings out great work from both Thomasin Mckenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. But it’s worth noting that in their final performances, the late Margaret Nolan and Diana Rigg deliver with what little they have to show in here. But for as stacked as this cast was, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Matt Smith and Terence Stamp in their just as impactful roles. If anything, what you’re seeing out of them can be enough to leave you thrown off for the many surprises that come along the way. Wright brings the most out of his astoundingly stacked cast, and they all deliver.
It should not be any surprise that Last Night in Soho may turn out polarizing at the time of its wide release. For all the beautiful moments that Edgar Wright dedicates into creating this loving tribute to the city he loves, the message he delivers is one that feels quite messy. Yet maybe that was the goal, because it does its job at putting his viewers in an emotionally difficult spot, which is fitting when you consider Wright’s approach to its gender politics. Wright’s craft is as vibrant as it’s ever been since his collaborations with Simon Pegg, but perhaps his ideas don’t blend well with that aesthetic. I’m interested to see what comes in the near future for Edgar Wright with genre fare, even if my own reservations ultimately keep me from believing this is completely within the right step.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Focus Features.
Directed by Edgar Wright Screenplay by Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns Produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Edgar Wright Starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Margaret Nolan, Diana Rigg Release Date: October 29, 2021 Running Time: 116 minutes
Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue is one of the most beautiful, yet disorienting animated films ever made. Although the film was originally conceived as a live action feature, an earthquake destroyed the studio which later resulted in the film’s budget being used to turn the same story into that for an animated film, and with the very vision that Kon creates for his directorial debut, it’s hard to see Perfect Blue any other way. With Perfect Blue, it’s astonishing how Kon utilizes the medium in order to create a deeply layered tale for what’s only his first feature, leaving behind one of the most harrowing thrillers of the 1990’s.
NOTE: This is a revised review that best represents my current thoughts on the film as opposed to my previous review. You can read the original right here.
Twin Peaks is one of the most influential television series ever made but the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me has never enjoyed the same sort of acclaim – having been met with harsh reviews and also having flopped at the box office. I’m fairly biased in the favour of Twin Peaks as it is my favourite television series of all time but throughout the show you could always tell that Lynch had a particular love for the character of the deceased Laura Palmer. In fact, there are few people whose entire mystery has impacted an entire culture the same way that Laura Palmer has done so, and no one understands the effect her death has left upon many that same way David Lynch does. Yet few people knew her as a person too, which emphasizes the tragic beauty of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
The Vast of Night already carries something ominous along the way based on the title alone, but if anything else best sums up what makes this film a perfect Rod Serling tribute, all the evidence you need is present in there alone. There’s nothing more vast about the atmosphere that makes up the nighttime, because for some you can already say that it’s a beautiful thought – and yet for others it also makes for great nightmare fuel. Andrew Patterson’s directorial debut is one that mixes all of those elements in order to create what is also the perfect Twilight Zone tribute film, and it also leaves a lingering effect on the viewers.
Nobody quite makes caper films like Rian Johnson does. Making his feature film debut in 2005 with Brick, Johnson has already established quite a name for himself in the genre through films like The Brothers Bloom and Looper, before he went on to direct Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Going back to working on a smaller scale with Knives Out, it feels like this is the sort of film that Rian Johnson has always wanted to make for a while – and it really shows. Mixing all of his greatest passions together with his knack for always throwing in surprise after surprise for his viewers, Knives Out only manages to provide far more when you least expect it, and it makes for a wholly entertaining experience. Like all the best thrillers from the classic Hollywood era, it’s clear as day that Rian Johnson is having so much fun with what he’s been given and he knows how to transfer that feeling over to his own audiences too. The knives do come out in this twisty comedy-thriller, but how deep in they go, you’d have to find out for yourself.
David Lynch’s films are so easy to characterize for carrying a weird aura that only he could ever perfect, yet the world that we’re seeing in Blue Velvet is one that is as ordinary as they get. Yet it’s also what makes everything about Blue Velvet so wonderful too, because it invokes his viewers to look at the world that they know a whole other way, beneath the cracks of the perfections in the “ordinary” as David Lynch brings you to see the underworlds that take the screen. It’s all a part of what makes Blue Velvet so intriguing too, because it’s characteristic of everything that has fascinated David Lynch through his long career in the form of a neo-noir mystery, yet it also happens to be one of the very best films of that sort too. Some can even say that a film like this best captures what also is best described as David Lynch’s America, for his subversion of the idealized lifestyle brings you on a journey of innocence slowly fading away through the exposure to a dark underworld unlike any other. You’re taken into a strange world by David Lynch, but maybe that might very well be the world we live in and we’ve convinced ourselves that everything happens to be moving along like it’s all fine.
It’s only fitting enough for me to preface this review by stating this, I have been a lifelong Pokémon fan since childhood. But the old animated films have never aged well, which always disappointed me as someone who had been sticking so closely with the series with every new game that were to come out, so it always left me wondering how these films could fare if they were to be done in live action. With a universe of this scope having so much potential for so many more stories to be done based around the wonders of the Pokémon themselves, a comedic noir made to show its inspiration from films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit wouldn’t even be a bad start. To say the least, they’ve already managed to get everything about what made a world uniting humans and Pokémon so wonderful right from the surface, but there’s nothing about the story being told in Pokémon: Detective Pikachu that really feels as if it’s using up all the most of what this world can offer. It’s certainly not a bad way to start, because watching this as someone who has been a lifelong fan of the games it already gave me the urge to find my old games once again – though something still feels missing elsewhere.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is a film that seems to feel like in its own sort of league from the many other superhero films that also come out over the years, and that’s one among a few things that I find to be most welcoming about it. Nearly twenty years after the release of Unbreakable came out and offered a refreshing perspective on the superhero genre, with its deconstruction of the general structure, Shyamalan’s many ideas continued flowing with the potential of reaching a greater stature. When Split came out in 2017, there was that reminder Shyamalan has yet to lose his touch – because of the bridge presented between the two films. So with bringing both films together in Glass, one would only be left wondering how much further can we bring these ideas to come together in order to create a different sort of superhero film by bridging the gaps between both films. For a while, I’ve been wondering about how exactly everything would be culminating in the end, and though I didn’t quite get the answers that I was hoping for, there’s still a lot to be admired about what how the threads come together in Glass.
The very idea of Gone Girl would already suggest one thing, but the actual film suggests another right from Ben Affleck’s opening narration: “When I think of my wife, I always think of the back of her head. I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers.” In a story that would traditionally place emphasis on the first-person perspective of the husband, who is also a prime suspect in the murder of Amy Elliott-Dunne, you would want to see him being the victim of mass hysteria. But what makes David Fincher’s Gone Girl so amazing is what it manages to create with this very idea, because it tells you what sort of person Nick Dunne is right before we get to the driving focus of the film. From adapting the writing of Gillian Flynn, what Fincher has managed to create is also one of his finest accomplishments, a film that sets your expectations right from the get go and twists them around at moments when you least expect them. But if that already isn’t the material for a great thriller, I wouldn’t even know what is – because for all I know, this film just carries everything that I love most in watching a film by him.