LAST NIGHT IN SOHO: 3 ½ STARS
“Last Night in Soho”, the new film from director Edgar Wright, currently showing, is a love letter to the Swingin ‘Sixties of London via Italian Giallo. Surreal and vibrant, it’s uneven and more than a little silly, yet enjoyable for those with a taste for both Petula Clarke and murder.
When we first meet Cornish teenager Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), she is dressed head to toe in a newspaper print dress of her own design, dancing to the Peter and Gordon hit in 1964, “A World Without Love “. Several dramatic dance moves later, she goes to her grandmother’s (Rita Tushingham) downstairs and a letter announcing that she has been accepted into fashion school in London.
“London is not what you think it is,” cautions Grandma. “It can be a lot.”
Eloise ignores the warning. She is obsessed with London, especially the magical time when Julie Christie wore Mary Quant and Carnaby Street was the fashion capital of the world.
“If I could live anywhere, I would live in Soho in the 60s,” Eloise exclaims. “It must have looked like the center of the universe.”
Sadly, London, as exciting as it is, does not welcome Eloise with open arms. At school, her nasty roommate makes life so miserable that Ellie moves out, renting a dilapidated bed in Soho from eccentric landlord Mrs. Collins (Diana Rigg).
Falling asleep on her first night in the New Excavations, she is transported to the glamorous world of the 1960s. “Thunderball” is in theaters, Cilla Black sings at Soho’s Cafe De Paris, and the streets of are bustling with people like Sandie. (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer with a large wardrobe and stardom aspirations.
Over time Eloise finds herself drawn into Sandie’s world, the world she had long dreamed of, but are these visions dreams, nightmares or dangerous manifestations of the ghosts that haunt every nook and cranny of Old London? ?
“Last Night in Soho” begins brilliantly, painting a picture of an irresistible time and place. A mosaic of music, fashion and evocative settings, the first hour brings an inventive construction of the world and breathtaking images. Wright goes all out, making visual connections between his film and the period films he portrays and even including 1960s British icons Rigg, Tushingham and Stamp in the cast.
A dance sequence that replaces Eloise with Sandie at each turn is exuberant, breathtaking in its choreography, and an early indication that the two characters will be intertwined for the rest of the story.
The first half is a lot of fun but takes a very dark turn.
As Eloise immerses herself in Sandie’s life, she peers under the dazzling veneer of Soho to see the dark undersides of London’s nightlife scene. Wright changes his tone, introducing elements of horror and psychological. The two halves fit together like puzzle pieces, fitting together naturally despite the change in mood.
“Last Night in Soho” might use more character development in its main characters, but the chemistry between McKenzie and Taylor-Joy, two sides of the same coin, is electric. Wright uses these characters to explore the misogyny that colors Sandie’s life, rooting out the horror of the treatment she receives from her manager / pimp Jack (Matt Smith). The scares, which surprise me in the minds of Hammer Horror and “Repulsion”, are catchy and effective, leading to a surprising finish.
“Last Night in Soho” is more than the sum of its influences. They abound, but filtered by Wright’s sensibility becomes an enjoyable stroll through a part of town and time that no longer exists.
THE FRENCH EXPEDITION: 2 ½ STARS
“The French Dispatch,” now in theaters, is the most Wes Anderson-y movie of Wes Anderson’s playbook. If you forced a bot to watch 1,000 hours of Anderson movies and then asked them to write a movie on their own, “The French Dispatch” would be the result.
Divided into three stories, this is the story of three writers and their work for The French Dispatch, an American newspaper supplement edited by Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) from their offices in Ennui-sur-Blasé. , in France.
On the occasion of Howitzer’s death, the staff met to prepare a special edition of the journal in his honor. After a brief introduction to the newspaper and the city by Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson), the film presents its first tale, a wacky vision of the birth of Abstract Expressionism.
Benicio Del Toro plays Moses Rosenthaler, a capricious artist jailed for double murder. Her muse is Simone (Léa Seydoux), the guardian of her cell block. When his work is discovered by art dealer Cadazio (Adrien Brody), who finds himself making time for financial irregularities, Moses reluctantly becomes a worldwide sensation.
Next comes “Revisions to a Manifesto”, Anderson’s take on the French student uprising of May 1968. French Dispatch reporter Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) covers the story of wild-haired Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet), of the revolutionary Juliette (Lyna Khoudri) and of the manifesto they want to present to the world.
The final story involves food critic Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright). It tells of how a dish prepared by the brilliant police chief Nescaffier (Stephen Park) foiled the kidnapping of a police commissioner’s son.
Fans of Anderson’s job know what to expect. Perfectly composed shots, Bill Murray and picky, idiosyncratic situations and dialogues. Aficionados will not be disappointed with “The French Dispatch”. It offers the Anderson trademarks en masse. But for me, a longtime Anderson fan, the preciousness of the narrative borders on parody.
There are some magnificent, even poetic, moments in what amounts to a review of the creative life, but the arching style that characterizes Anderson’s work here is overdriven and overwhelms the message.
SNAKE HEAD: 3 STARS
Although documentary filmmaker Evan Jackson Leong turns to fiction in his new film “Snakehead”, now on VOD, the subject matter is very much based on real life.
The story centers on Sister Tse (Shuya Chang), a former Chinese detainee who pays human traffickers, known as Snakeheads, to transport her to the United States. There, she hopes to find her baby, a child adopted by parents in New York City while she was incarcerated.
Its eventual freedom comes at a high price. She owes the Snakeheads $ 57,000, an amount she would have to pay back with a life of prostitution. Instead, she is proving to be a formidable force. When she beats up one of the gang’s henchmen, she catches the attention of Dai Mah (Jade Wu), the cold-blooded leader of a large human trafficking ring. She rose through the ranks, collecting debts, circulating drugs and ultimately, under the tutelage of Dai Mah’s angry son, Rambo (Sung Kang), in trafficking Chinese nationals to America.
“I never believed in the American dream,” she said, “all I knew was how to survive.”
Meanwhile, she is looking for her daughter Rosie (Catherine Jiang).
“They say where I’m from,” she said, “When you drink water, remember the source. I knew why I was here. His determination earns him respect for the Snakeheads, but there is danger around every corner.
“There are rules,” says Dai Mah, “Chinatown doesn’t change for anyone.”
Inspired by the real leader of the New York Human Trafficking Union, Sister Ping, who died in prison in 2014, “Snakehead” is a rocky story with a documentary, you feel there. The all-Asian cast features some compelling characters, and as a female-led gangster flick, it opens up a whole new direction.
Despite an uneven storytelling, “Snakehead” succeeds thanks to the double performance at its heart. Chang’s steel plating masks Sister Tse’s level of vulnerability. The character drives the story, and Chang’s stoic performance keeps the film on track. As crime boss Dai Mah, Jade Wu is regal and ruthless, and when the movie focuses on those two, it works just fine.
“Snakehead” cuts deep to tell Sister Tse’s uncompromising survival story, but is tarnished by too much flashbacks and narration. Still, it’s a memorable narrative debut by a promising director.
THIEF ARMY: 3 ½ STARS
“Army of Thieves,” a new heist film currently airing on Netflix, is a prequel to Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead” from earlier this year, but don’t expect the same kind of bloody, zombie action. .
The new film is set six years before the zombie epidemic that brought Las Vegas to its knees in “Army of the Dead”. Both are heist movies, but the only brain eaters on display in this European film are in the short stories and dreams of the main character, Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer, who also directs). This is a standalone film, the origin story of the cracker that provided most of the lighter moments in Snyder’s film.
When we first meet Ludwig, he’s a cracker nerd, making a YouTube video (which no one watches) about the art of breaking into safes. He is a skilled practitioner of the trade, but he is an innocent person and he has never stolen anything from anyone. His job in a bank is unsatisfactory in the extreme, so when a YouTube commentator invites him to a cracking contest, he gladly accepts.
There he proves himself and is recruited by the bank robber Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) to join his gang of criminals, Korina (Ruby O. Fee), the hacker Rolph (Guz Khan) and the muscle with the hero name d ‘action, Brad Cage (Stuart Martin). The gang have ambitious plans to rob three nearly impossible safes, the kind only Ludwig can decipher, as the zombie outbreak in the United States causes instability.
But what will bring the gang down first, the zombies, the sexual tensions, Interpol or the fights?
The only real connection between “Army of Thieves” and “Army of the Dead” is Ludwig. This is his introduction to the Snyderverse and fits into the zombie movie. Other than that, they’re two separate things.
This one has a lighter touch, there’s a bit of romance and no brain eating.
He plays like a riff on “Ocean’s Eleven”. At two o’clock it seems a bit long but Schweighöfer is a pleasant presence, adept at the character’s slapstick as well as conveying passion for his love interest (no spoilers here!).
The result is a surprisingly fun, action-packed film that breathes new life into “Army of the Dead” ‘s most interesting character.