Films I loved in March 2018

29 March 2018
Annihilation

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dr Ventress and Natalie Portman as Lena in Annihilation

Alex Garland is one of my favourite contemporary writers and directors of science-fiction films, and my admiration for him continues with Annihilation. Atmospheric and with just the right amount of explanation to not remove all mystery, its story of an expedition into the unknown is beautiful, terrifying and uncanny. Released in Australia on Netflix, it is disappointing it can’t be experienced on the big screen.

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Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev, Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov and Paul Whitehouse as Anastas Mikoyan in The Death of Stalin

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt as uncomfortable watching a comedy as I did with The Death of Stalin, where master political satirist Armando Iannucci savagely ridicules the Soviet regime while constantly reminding the audience that it was built on torture, sexual violence and murder. However, this uneasiness is part of its strength and it’s a timely reminder of the dangerousness and destructiveness of men who crave power.

Thomas Caldwell, 2018
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Film review – In the Loop (2009)

31 January 2010

Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) and Lt. Gen. George Miller (James Gandolfini)

Barely disguising its intentions to ridicule the circumstances that lead to the 2002 Iraq Invasion, In the Loop examines the fictitious machinations of UK and USA spin-doctors, career politicians and advisors who get caught up in a debate about whether or not to declare war in the Middle East. As everybody plays off each other for political gain it soon becomes apparent than in modern politics you must either compromise your morals or be destroyed.

Made by the UK comedic writer/director Armando Iannucci as a stand-alone spin-off from his TV series The Thick of It (think The Office meets Yes Minister), In the Loop is both ruthlessly cynical and extremely funny. While the consistently strong cast includes recognisable names such as Steve Coogan and James Gandolfini, it is Scottish actor Peter Capaldi as the unstoppable spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker who truly stars. Tucker’s profanity-filled tirades of abuse would intimidate the entire cast of Glengarry Glen Ross, making him one of the most delightfully repugnant characters to grace the screen.

In the Loop is political satire at its best, leaving you giggling at the one-liners yet feeling complete despair about the political process.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 346, 2010

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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