Saturday, 26 September 2015
IN BRIEF: PAN, SICARIO & THE VISIT
PAN (Roadshow Films)
This prequel to J.M. Barrie's ever-popular creation tells of how 'the boy who could fly' came to Neverland; starting out in a Dickensian boy's home in WWII London before being whisked away by space pirates to work in the mines (digging for fairy dust) operated by Blackbeard (a scenery-chewing Hugh Jackman). From there it's all action set pieces and exposition as young Peter (Levi Miller) and his accomplice, James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), team with native warrior, Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), to prevent Blackbeard from getting his hands on the richest deposit of fairy dust imaginable. There's also the possible fulfilling of a prophecy that Peter could be 'The Chosen One'. Perhaps a little dark for the little ones (this isn't Disney's animated Peter Pan), Joe Wright's mish-mash of styles (aided greatly by collaborators Seamus McGarvey (cinematography), Jacqueline Durran (costumes), and Aline Bonetto (production design) is still an oddly enjoyable tale; succeeding by being better than what one expected from this ostensibly unnecessary origins tale.
SICARIO (Roadshow Films)
Fifteen years after winning an Oscar for Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, Benicio del Toro is once again a player in the war on drugs. And little much has changed in the intervening years: the drugs keep flowing over the Mexican border into the US, cartel violence extends to both sides, and the Americans are either helpless against or complicit in the corruption. Seconded from the FBI to aid in another US agency's clandestine insurgence into Mexico, Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) has her eyes well and truly opened to the horrors being committed on both sides. And while Blunt's performance is perfectly fine, her character is an anchor and a conduit; merely there to serve as our eyes in this Hell. There's no denying the skill of Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (nor the majesty of Roger Deakins' cinematography), but it's not nearly as urgent or as thrilling as Johann Johannson's score would have us believe.
THE VISIT (Universal Pictures)
Not exactly a found footage horror film, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest at least has the distinction of being a well shot handheld experience; unlike so much of the Paranormal Activity films, The Visit is always easy to look at even if not all that much is happening. And stuff usually only happens at night when Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ben Oxenbould), who’ve come to stay with their estranged grandparents in the remote mid-west and are documenting everything on camera, hear things go bump – and scratch, thump, scream and vomit – in the middle of the night (well, not long after their 9.30pm curfew actually). Just what’s up with Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) is more of a reveal than Mr. Shyamalan’s trademark twists but there are enough jump scares, a good dose of humour and two engaging performances by the young leads (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!) to keep you oscillating round the perimeters of your seat.