Quick Picks brings you short reviews of films available to rent, buy or stream now. This edition features Undergods (2020), Capernaum (2018) and Great White (2021).
Some films demand a repeat viewing, the first layered with so many themes and ideas that your brain cannot fully process the director’s vision. Chino Moya’s ambitious, dystopian sci-fi anthology is one of these films. Its intelligent, unnerving spiders web of stories, compelling, beguiling and full of rich social discussion. In fact, in many ways, Undergods reflects our current pandemic life more than any film directly using pandemic as a narrative tool. But, Undergods unspoken reflection of our pandemic world is not due to its dystopian atmosphere and location. Instead, Moya’s film is wrapped in a dark commentary on human progress, selfishness, greed and inequality. Its reflection of our current world, built on the open and growing divides in privilege, place and opportunity; divides further highlighted by COVID 19.
In a post-apocalyptic landscape of burnt out buildings, poverty and despair, K (Johann Myers) and Z (Géza Röhrig) drive a garbage truck. Their job is to collect the dead bodies that litter the streets on their route. However, occasionally they also find a live one, with these rare gems harvested for slavery. These dark and sombre scenes act as the frame for three stories, each taking us back in time while also dovetailing with the darkness of the present.
While centred on themes of family, masculinity, and equilibrium, each story is wrapped in overarching concepts of equality, belonging, wealth, and status. Here, we see a man invade the home of his neighbour; a foreign inventor, propose a project, only to be betrayed and used. And a husband mysteriously reappear after fifteen years in the house of his now remarried wife.
Each of these stories weaves together into a rich tapestry of social conversation. Here, the divides created by our modern obsession with success take centre stage—Moya’s camera reflecting the darkest corners of our hidden world. And when coupled with outstanding cinematography and a compelling, tense electronic score, Undergods becomes an unforgettable cinematic experience.
Underdogs is available to rent or buy from May 17th.
Nadine Lebaki’s sublime, challenging and emotional film weaves through the streets of Lebanon like a documentary. The story writhing with energy, emotion and sincerity as we follow young Zain through a fog of abuse, separation and longing. Here, Lebaki expertly creates a powerful reflection of our damaged world. While never losing sight of childhood’s beauty, innocence, and escapism, even when faced with poverty, separation and destruction. For this reason, Capernaum sears itself into the memory of the viewer, creating a journey of deep emotional resonance equally laced with beauty, humanity and darkness. Zain’s childhood needs sitting uncomfortably alongside a forced adult existence.
The performance of young Zain Al Rafeea’s is one of pure authenticity and beauty. The audience desperately longing for his happiness and security through every expression he commits to the screen. Here, Rafeea reflects the light and dark of his world with no speech needed, his presence commanding our attention. Zain’s journey echoing Dicken’s work as he fights for place, purpose and security in a city where the odds of success are stacked against him. However, there is no classic Dicken’s happy ending in the narrative at play. Instead, Lebaki opts for a razor-sharp exploration of the no-mans-land between childhood and adulthood in communities where poverty is rife. Her resulting movie, Capernaum, is nothing short of essential viewing.
Watch Capernaum now on All 4.
Great White (2021)
Summer is on the way, and our beaches will soon be filled with eager swimmers, sunbathers and kids building sandcastles. So, what better way to celebrate than with a classic shark attack movie that will have you fearing every ripple and bubble as you enter the sea. However, how do you compete with or even try to surpass Jaws in scale, fear and artistry? With every new shark movie that comes along, I carry a faint hope that one may find something new, unique and engaging; a modern take on Spielberg’s classic. But, just like many of its predecessors Great White, is unable to keep its head above water.
Martin Wilson’s directorial debut is not the worse shark movie ever made, but it’s also far from being the best. And while it carries brief moments of tension, the overriding feeling is one of boredom. In fact, I found myself cheering on the shark, hoping that it would munch through the cast as quickly as possible—the screenplay, performances and CGI clunky. Its characters, simple, one-dimensional, uninteresting and predictable. The resulting film struggling to find a defining hook to the action on screen as it bounces from an all too brief discussion on climate change to a simple stranded in the ocean thriller. It’s CGI shark making short work of a predefined menu of characters. And while Wilson tries to employ the camera techniques and angles that made Jaws a classic, he fails to inject these with any real sense of fear.
I have no doubt Great White will find an audience in those seeking simple Saturday night entertainment, but for those seeking a good scare, it will undoubtedly disappoint. For me, I’ll stick with Speilberg’s Jaws; after all, at least his Great White story had teeth.
Great White is available to rent or buy from May 17th.
Why not explore more with Love and Monsters