Monday, 24 August 2015

Movie Review TRIPLE FEATURE!: Trainwreck/Last Cab To Darwin/Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' (English Dub) (2015)



Yep, a triple feature review… and no, I’m not going to make this a regular thing. This is more a matter of necessity: Between several time-stealing occurrences that got in my way, Blip.tv’s recent shutdown (Yeah, being a fanboy has its drawbacks sometimes) and just plain procrastination on my part, I have three films that need to get written up and quick. As such, today I’m reviewing three films in one go: Trainwreck, Last Cab To Darwin and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’. No plot synopses like I usually do; just straight forward opinions on each.

Trainwreck

Ah, gender politics; the one topic where, no matter what I say, someone out there will want to chew me out for it. While this has a lot of the traditional trappings of a rom-com, like the overly dramatic finale and the third-act break-up that irks me so, credit where it’s due to Amy Schumer because she seems determined to lacerate gender roles when it comes to these films. The way it’s done is extremely risky, as I’ve seen writers try to flip the genders in order to make a statement about said genders and have it fail quite disastrously. Here, it feels more like this is the result of women learning how to interact with the opposite sex from growing with rom-coms where the men are supposed to be the woman-conquerors and any attempts of them trying to be genuinely kind-hearted has to have some sort of sexual/monetary motive behind it. It’s almost like a call to arms for romantic love, and I mean actual romantic love and not just “I’m an uptight woman who needs a penis in my life” as is usually the case in these movies. The whole “following bad media for advice” thing isn’t limited to just the women either; through the eyes of a younger and na├»ve intern who works with Amy, we also see how media can warp the expectations of gender roles and sexuality for guys as well, particularly teenagers. As much as statutory rape isn’t exactly the funniest thing in the world, a close pass is given for at least having it serve a bigger purpose than just embarrassment over nearly having sex with someone who is underage.

Among the other things that this film takes that I normally can’t stand and make funny is the walking, talking gay joke that is John Cena. As I have learnt through several games of Cards Against Humanity, my morals are willing to take the backseat if something is legitimately funny enough; with that said, his sex scene with Amy is pretty damn funny. I guess it also helps that Cena’s character is one of the few that has a proper head on their shoulders when it comes to knowing how relationships between the genders work nowadays, something also rather amazingly illustrated through Amy’s connection to her father. The whole “even arseholes turn into top blokes after death” angle is poked at and shown as being kind of true, which makes sense considering how as much we may say otherwise in polite company, there is something kind of funny in the blatantly offensive. Must be the reason why I find this film as funny as I do in the first place.

All in all, this is easily one of the most organic feeling comedies I’ve seen in a long while, with full credit to director Judd Apatow for his improv-heavy actor direction that made for some great moments, editor William Kerr for accomplishing Stylstic Suck by leaving mistakes in that made Schumer’s writing feel that much realer (also, seeing the actors corpsing on-screen was funny too) and Schumer herself for some damn good rom-com deconstruction that actually worked for the most part. Also, bonus film buff points for bringing out Matthew Broderick and Tim Meadows from Frith knows what hole for some smaller roles, and Tilda Swinton in yet another unrecognizable portrayal as Amy’s astoundingly vile boss. It ranks higher than Chappie, as the characterization is a lot more consistent here instead of having a couple of characters that are really well-developed and half-assing it for the rest. However, as much as I love rom-com skewering, I have to stand behind the creativity that went into Wyrmwood: The Road Of The Dead on this one so it goes just below that.

Last Cab To Darwin

I really wanted to like this film a lot more than I did: The cast list shows prime Aussie talent, like Michael Caton, David Field and Jacki Weaver; the cinematography is downright gorgeous with some equally beautiful and haunting scenes, like the ‘Pussy Willow’ that might be one of the more disturbing cinematic images of the year; the soundtrack, comprised of bare-bones acoustic guitars, gives a nice rural flavour to the overall film; and the first act involving said cab ride to Darwin has a lot going for it. The relationship between Caton’s Rex and Mark Coles Smith as Tilly is a bit rocky but makes for a great buddy dynamic and the two genuinely feel like people who could become friends in such a short amount of time. The film also takes a scalpel to Australian culture in terms of its prejudices, raising some really good points about how we’re perfectly willing to accept tourists and treat them with due respect but how we aren’t doing the same for those who already live here. Yeah, this inevitably ties into Aboriginal communities in context to the rest of Australia, but it also ties into the main character’s plights as well: One group is unable to live a proper life, while another is unable to die a proper death. I know that stories about prejudice will always be relevant, but a story about a person who feels he isn’t given the rights he deserves is yet another occasion where a film has been released at just the right time in this country. If only Oscar season took place during this same-sex marriage debacle; maybe then I wouldn’t be as allergic to its tropes as I am now.

Anyway, as good as all this sounds, it starts to go downhill once our mains actually make it to Darwin. Not only does the pace slow to a crawl, and Tilly’s role is drastically reduced in favour of bringing British nurse Julie (Emma Hamilton) into the forefront, but the script starts to seriously doubt itself in terms of its stance on euthanasia. Don’t get me wrong, a change in perspective makes sense given how Rex comes face-to-face with the final question of where he actually wants to die. However, that would only work if it was just Rex who went through this change; instead, the entire film, both its tone and its supporting cast, do the same and end up making the film feel extremely uneven. It doesn’t help that the film drops its commentary on societal prejudices, save for one admittedly well-done scene, in favour of delivering a rather basic medical drama.

All in all, this is half of a good movie and I sincerely wish that it was more than that. It’s better than The Duff, as this isn’t nearly as generic as the script for that one turned out. However, even though my enjoyment for the thing may come from a less genuine place, Paper Planes was a more fulfilling watch even if it was solely in terms of entertainment.

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ (English Dub)

After dealing with such touchy subjects like feminism and voluntary euthanasia, it’s nice to close out this triplet with a film involving a cat-headed god of destruction with a severe sweet tooth. Right of the gate, the fact that Freeza, otherwise known as the best villain in the series’ history, is the antagonist this time around already makes this better than Battle Of Gods. As much as I like Beerus, he’s a lot better as the comic relief than as the main threat, something illustrated really well here as he and Whis spend most of the film being their adorably goofy selves while Freeza takes charge. He carries some of his original goofiness, mostly as a result of what his version of Hell turns out to be (Or, as a possibly funnier take on things, what everyone’s version of Hell turns out to be), but also the psychotic drive that makes him work so well. He’s a little too… well, fabulous in his new final form, but overall, he still makes for a marked improvement over Beerus; at least his motives extend beyond “a new challenger appears”.

Aside from our big bad this time around, I really liked how the majority of Team Z got their turns in the spotlight here, given how BoG mostly focused on just Vegeta and Goku. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a Dragon Ball Z movie so they’re still the main focus but it’s nice to see that they aren’t the only focus amongst our fighters; hell, even Krillin gets an action hero moment during the battle with the Freeza Force. The fight scenes are traditional Toei animation, which whether you love it or hate it has always been pretty bare bones, but aside from a few budget-cut moments works really well here with the action setpieces. It follows the DBZ speed-line-heavy style but the physical attacks have the visual impact that they should possess, bolstered by some classic sound design. This is very much a film for the fans, right down to an extended cameo from Akira Toriyama’s other famous creation, but kudos for how it explains enough about the plot background to bring newcomers up to speed without much hassle. I’m very much a surface fan of the series and haven’t seen everything it has to offer (despite my foreshadowing last year that didn’t pan out), and I didn’t feel like I was being left behind in the dust at any point. It even comes with a bit of lampshading its own convoluted history, what with it involving time travel and casually becoming a god and all that, but in a way that could get people interesting in what other bizarre stories this series has to offer.

The plot is fairly basic, and while it is definitely helped by the presence of a worthy villain (which also sets the tone to be a bit less goofy this time around), it still carries some of the tried-and-true DBZ contrivances. The convenient power level spikes and the cure-all Senzu beans may be staples of the franchise, but that doesn’t excuse how they still drag the film down somewhat. Yes, this is part of a shonen fighting anime franchise where plot is likened to sprigs of parsley, but a little more effort would have been nice as well.

All in all, this feels like a decent step-up from Battle Of Gods. The characters are well-utilized, the fight scenes are good and the animation works without the CGI clashing too heavily with the more traditional character designs. Between this and BoG, these newer Dragon Ball films helmed by Toriyama are looking pretty damn good and I eagerly look forward to when the next one comes out. It’s better than Minions, as at no point did I feel run down from all the action on screen; I’d make a joke about the film’s energy levels, but… no. Just no. However, as fun as this is, this is pretty much the emotional equivalent of snack food and out of that need for something a bit more filling, this ranks just below Amy.

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