Posted by: themoviecheese | November 6, 2016

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day 2

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day 2

Day two of the festival started with a screening of Jurassic Park. I’m not going to review it for obvious reasons, but suffice to say it was the first time I’d seen it on the big screen since 1993. Here’s a wee little fact…Jurassic Park was actually the first ever film I saw at the cinema, at just 8 years old. So to say this is a big deal for me is an understatement. This is literally where my obsession with film began. We all know how well Jurassic Park still holds up today, but one thing this screening taught me is that I genuinely believe there will never be another family blockbuster quite like Jurassic Park. It’s the perfect family blockbuster. Between the characters that feel so real and authentic and the dialogue that’s witty without being even remotely pretentious, it’s a film making aesthetic that I think is unfortunately lost today. There are some great modern blockbusters out there such as Inception and Avengers, but they concern themselves with characters that ultimately feel like characters in a film. The dialogue feels synthetic and, well, written. Hollywood is so concerned with who they cast in their films. I actually enjoyed last year’s Jurassic World for what it was, but compare the cast to Park’s. Chris Pratt vs Sam Neil, Bryce Dallas Howard vs Laura Dern – these don’t feel like real people the way they did in Park. The characters in Park ultimately feel real, but not to sacrifice the blockbuster nature of the film. It’s still a huge film with one of the best examples of CGI work of all time, even at 23 years old.

Anywho, that’s enough about Jurassic Park. There were three other (new) films shown throughout the day, which were…

Ambulance (dir. Mohamed Jalaby)


Ambulance is a documentary following Palestinian film maker Mohamed Jalaby as he documents the attack on Gaza by Israeli forces during summer 2014. Jalaby joins an ambulance crew as they race around the West Bank helping to clear rubble, searching for people’s families, stitching the injured and, yes, clearing the dead bodies. Ambulance is truly harrowing stuff, and never shies away from its first person close quarters aspect. You are right in the thick of the Gaza attacks, and when a victim is brought out on a stretcher, you really feel the terror of the situation through the screams of the victim’s family. I’d say Ambulance is even more harrowing than 2011’s 5 Broken Cameras as it never once lets up, and can feel exhausting as a result. The attacks of 2014 on Gaza were constant throughout summer, and as such so is Ambulance, perfectly portraying the horror of the situation. Rating: 9/10

Mother (dir. Kadri Kousaar)


So we come to the first film of the festival that just wasn’t for me. Mother will delight some with its overly careful pacing and its Coen Brothers-esque dark humour, but it was lost on me. For me, it was mostly just a dull film featuring dull characters in a dull situation. I laughed once, and that was towards the very end of the film. I do give it proper for having a genuinely intriguing ending, but that could mostly be down to me not paying enough attention. Mother tells the story of Elsa, a mother who cares for her adult son Lauri after he is shot and placed in a coma. The police are investigating the crime, and a handful of characters enter the house one by one to pay Lauri a visit. Fine performances and a genuinely good ending stopped me from falling unconscious, but it wasn’t enough to save the dull script and bland execution. Rating: 4/10

Chi-raq (dir. Spike Lee)


Now I’m not the biggest Spike Lee fan – the man himself is up his own arse, and as a director he always seems to struggle with tone. However, a good film is still a good film, and Chi-raq is that film. Unquestionably Lee’s most ambitious film to date, Chi-raq tells the story of a group of women who set out to challenge America’s gun laws after the accidental death of a child on a violent Chicago street. Audience reception for Chi-raq has been fairly polarising for two reasons – 1. The whole film is told via cleverly scripted poetry. It’s technically a musical, just not the kind of musical you’re used to. Also 2. It’s very very liberal. This isn’t so much a problem for me. I have extremely liberal views when it comes to gun laws, but your enjoyment of the film will definitely depend on your political allegiances, as with a lot of Lee’s work. That said, the one aspect that the film really excels in is comedy – Chi-raq is very funny when it wants to be, and hilarious cameos (including Dave Chapelle’s first film appearance in almost 15 years) pop up all over the place. The casting is generally strong throughout, with stand outs being Samuel L Jackson’s narrator and John Cusack as an enigmatic priest. Teyonah Parris is a fantastic lead and carries each scene with true conviction. There is an odd addition to the cast in the form of Wesley Snipes as what is essentially one of the film’s villains. He plays a leader of one of the gang banging crews. At 54 years old, Snipes is an odd choice to play a character that should be in his twenties, and I found it extremely off putting – surely he would have been better suited playing one of the dads attempting to convince the youngsters to stop being dickheads. That’s not to say Snipes is bad as such, his performance is actually very funny and he has some of the more standout scenes. Chi-raq is also waaay too long, a common problem with Spike Lee films, and also really struggles with its tone and identity. That said, there’s no denying its enjoyable factor. Rating: 7/10

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