FEATURE: Six Pack of ‘Flix | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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These are strange times, there’s no denying. Given the current state of events, many of us have suddenly got a lot more time on our hands, but no idea what to do with it all. Luckily, there’s currently a veritable cornucopia of filmic treats to both distract from the perennially gloomy news cycle and stave off cabin fever. Here’s six of the best to dive into ASAP:

1) Uncut Gems

There’s an ineffaceable viscerality to the filmography of nascent indie darlings Josh and Benny Safdie. Each one of their micro-budgeted yet richly nuanced features crackles with a gritty nerviness reminiscent of the brooding cinematic character studies of the 1970s – small wonder then that the New York natives count none other than Martin Scorsese, who also helped finance this project, among their accrescent fanbase. As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Adam Sandler delivers a career-crowning performance as fast-talking jeweller Howard Ratner, whose incessant high-risk antics will leave you literally screaming at the screen. Whilst there’s also solid support from The Weeknd, Lakeith Stansfield (Atlanta, Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You) and NBA legend Kevin Garnett, it’s newcomer Julia Fox’s star-making turn as Howard’s brassy paramour that comes closest to matching Sandler’s kinetic charisma.

2) Atlantics

Wistfully evocative and starkly ambient, there’s a pronounced emphasis on colour that’s strikingly evident right from the opening seconds of Mati Diop’s epochal Cannes Grand Prix-winning directorial debut. Set in a Senegal of the not-too-distant future, this dusky spectral-romance-meets-afrofuturist-meditation-on-migration opens with an arrestingly gorgeous wide shot – richly rendered in alluringly hazy beige and blue hues – that’s enough to leave you wholly breathless. Plus, if like me, elegiac film scores afford you some measure of solace amid upheaval, then Fatima Al Qadiri’s hauntingly soothing set pieces (particularly Body Double) are the perfect comfort blanket for these uncertain times.

3) The Laundromat

Whilst everyone else is currently losing their shit over the admittedly eerie prescience of Steven Soderbergh’s solid if slightly forgettable 2011 pandemic thriller, why not have your funny bone tickled by his waggishly satirical 2019 romp? Featuring a high-profile ensemble cast (fronted by none other than O.G screen queen Meryl Streep), the film – which delves into 2015’s Panama Papers scandal with irreverent levity, thanks to a zesty script by frequent collaborator Scott Z. Burns (Side Effects, The Informant) – dissects the tedious minutiae of money laundering into coherent chunks for the average layperson. And if, for whatever reason, that doesn’t float your boat, then the charmingly camptastic dyad of Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas is certainly more than worth the price of admission by itself.

4) Hail Satan?

For those on a documentary bent, indie filmmaker Penny Lane’s amiably jocular exposition of the Salem (yup, that one) Satanic Temple reappraises the basic tenets of Satanism in a postmodern context. Surprisingly more political than theistic, this unexpectedly thought-provoking flick primarily focuses on the Temple’s benevolent message of inclusivity and open-mindedness. It also reveals the plethora of mirth-inducing shenanigans instigated by the Temple’s civically astute activists in order to expose the longstanding twin hypocrisies of American fundamentalism and religious conservatism. Owing to both Lane’s laidback but assiduous approach and the winningly eloquent cast of talking heads, you just might come away with some sympathy for the devil.

5) The King

Having announced himself in style with 2010’s superb crime thriller Animal Kingdom, Aussie writer/director David Michôd closed out the last decade with a solid loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henriad trilogy. Now, if your eyes reactively glazed over at the very thought of stomaching an ostensibly historifictional schlockfest, worry not, dear reader, ‘cos this most certainly ain’t one of those. Decidedly less jingoistic than its source text, there’s enough clangtastic action, lush scenery and medieval machinations to fill that GoT-shaped hole in your life. That it also stars heartthrobs du jour, Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson, as the carousing-prince-cum-titular-monarch and Dauphin of France, respectively, is a more-than-welcome bonus. Chalamet turns in a soulfully stoic performance, but it’s R-Patz’s quasi-faux-ironic French accent that’s the REAL treasure here.

6) 6 Underground

As anyone weaned on mid-to-late-90s shoot ’em up flicks can attest, Michael Bay has long been the undisputed grandee of OTT budget-busting actioners. This latest madcap $100m+ outing – which stars Ryan Reynolds as the douchetastic honcho of a ragtag ensemble of reluctant heroes – not only bears all the gratuitous hallmarks of Bay’s patently vulgar auteurism (i.e. hardcore bedlam and softcore shaggery underscored by unabashedly boorish humour), but also marks a return to pre-2017 form for the Armageddon director, especially after the clusterfudge of mind-numbing dross that was Transformers: The Last Knight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means a good or even logical film; but, considering the Orwellian fever dream we’re currently living through, 2 hours of high-octane piffle is as good an escape as any.

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