Sunday, 28 August 2016

Movie Review: Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016)

This is going to be a different kind of review than I am used to writing for this blog. See, for the most part, I rather obviously view and critique films from the perspective of a film-goer: Is it entertaining, is it smart, is it using the visual medium properly, etc. However, because this film is ingrained in something that is a rather prominent part of my childhood and indeed my identity as a video gamer, I will be looking at this film from that perspective. From watching my uncle play Final Fantasy IX to playing the PS2-era titles in the franchise to rediscovering emulators to purchasing the X/X-2 HD Remaster, this franchise has formed a rather large part of my tastes when it comes to games. However, even with it containing some of my all-time favourites in the form of IX, X and XII, it has fallen extremely far in recent times. Between the mockery that was Final Fantasy XIII to the wrong-headed idea to turn it into a trilogy to both attempts to make XIV’s MMO work, with Square-Enix apologizing profusely for the latter, it genuinely seems like the glory days of the series with its iconic characters, locales, combat and even musical cues are far behind them. So, when it was announced the latest installment in the series was getting a companion film made and released, I… was rather hesitant. I mean, outside of working as a film in its own right, this film has to prove to me that this is a game universe worth investing in again, and after the travesty of Lightning and the Annoying Bunch, that is a tough ask. This is Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Movie Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

Even before I developed anything resembling taste when it comes to cinema, I’ve always had a real soft spot for superhero and comic book-related movies. Films that have gotten a bad rap since their release like Constantine, the Tim Story Fantastic Four duology, even pre-Director’s Cut Daredevil; have to admit, I find quite a bit to like about them. That said, I carry the comic book nerd gene for outrage: I still hate Man Of Steel with every fibre of my being, last year’s Fantastic Four movie is bad to the point of bafflement, and lord knows that I’m not looking forward to the latest iteration of Spider-Man on the big screen thanks to the imbeciles that are writing the bloody thing. And even with all that in mind, I still have to stop and say “Would you people get over yourselves already?”. I’ll admit, I was sceptical about this film myself due to factors I’ll get into in the review proper, but this kind of “Oh, they hate what we like, therefore we hate them” keyboard-smashing attitude is the kind of overreaction that I thought we had gotten past for this year after the whole Ghostbusters fiasco. But no, we still feel the need to go on the uber-defensive for films that, even with my differing opinions on them, are mostly pretty divisive to begin with. Seriously, ignore what the aggregators are saying: Batman Vs. Superman’s reception has been about as consistent as Man Of Steel’s, and I’m willing to bet that the rest of the DC cinematic universe will follow a similar path. But, given my own reaction to Gods Of Egypt, there’s still a possibility that I could be a part of this backlash myself… except I hope I can show a tad more decorum than the average Youtube commenter. Anyway, enough waffling on; time to get into the film itself and see whether or not it’s worth its salt. This is Suicide Squad.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

My first officially published article!

So, a few months back, I did some work experience over at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I wrote up a few lists for them, mainly focusing on highlighting prominent Australian actors and their best respective work, and one of them actually got published on their website Australia Plus.

Words can't really express how amazed I am by this response. I started this blog out as a kid with no formal training in anything to do with films or filmmaking, just rambling about the many sometimes-contradictory thoughts I have about whatever new film I've seen. Now, things are getting more serious. I am deeply thankful to the people at ABC International for giving me the opportunity to write for them, as well as to all of you fine readers whom have stuck with me for all this time.

So, here's my take on the best film roles by perennial Aussie legend Hugh Jackman.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Movie Review: Bad Moms (2016)

As of the last few months, I live with a mother of three little brats between 3-5 years old. Every morning, usually very early on, the screams wake us up and, quite frankly, magic starts to happen. I say that because, for as loud and “seriously, it’s still too early for this stuff” as they get, their mother shows an almost superhuman level of patience. It is genuinely remarkable to see a mother in her element, as it is most certainly something I could never hope to have the tolerance for at any time. You’ve seen already how badly I react to films I don’t like; you don’t want to see how I am with people of any age who annoy me. But of course, much like their mother, I love those kids just as much as she does; probably helps that what I didn't mention earlier was that the mother that I live with is in fact my mother, and the brats my little brothers. I help out my mother as best I can with them, but it does take a certain natural skill to be able to do this sort of thing day in, day out. It is because of this that, despite a very obvious biological difference between myself and what is meant to be the target audience for today’s film, I somehow get the feeling that I will be able to relate somewhat to how a mother would interpret such a feature. At least, as best as I am capable of doing. This is Bad Moms.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Movie Review: The BFG (2016)

Steven Spielberg is one of those filmmakers that downright demands attention, although not for reasons you may think. Sure, he’s the guy largely responsible for the modern-day blockbuster and has helped shape American cinema into what it is today, but in the last few years, it seems like the guy has kicked into a higher gear. Along with working with alarming regularity for a filmmaker of his stature, releasing five films in as many years, he has also taken to collaborating with some pretty high-profile names during that time. Between working with Peter Jackson along with some of the biggest names in British screenwriting on The Adventures Of Tintin, putting a script written by legendary playwright Tony Kushner to the screen with Lincoln or bringing in the Coen brothers to help polish up last year’s excellent Bridge Of Spies, he seems to be a magnet for big-name talent behind the scenes right now. And keeping up with that pattern, he has brought a bunch of his regular teammates to make a big-budget version of a story by Roald Dahl, responsible for Matilda, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and The Witches, among many other classics. So, with all this hype behind it, how does it hold up? This is The BFG.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Movie Review: Sausage Party (2016)

I once again find myself in a position similar to that when I reviewed Vacation, where I am under the impression that I could watch virtually anything as a follow-up and it’s bound to be a step-up from what I saw previously. While my opinion on Lights Out has been softened slightly in light of its rewrite, make no mistake, I still hate that piece of trash. So, I figured I’d actively go out and find a film I was really looking forward to, and this was certainly it. I’ve made my point about how much I’ve come to appreciate the films produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, but this might have one of the most striking trailers I’ve seen all year. Like, on par if not better than the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane, which turned out to be one of the best films of the year so far. Now, with how family-friendly animated films have really taken on board the idea of appealing everyone in said family with more mature story-telling and a basic level of respect for its audiences, I would normally question if making an R-rated animated film is even necessary in today’s day and age. As I’m about to get into, that question got answered in the best way possible. This is Sausage Party.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Movie Review: Lights Out (2016)

When going into certain films, I make it a point of (usually) doing my research if it involves looking at previous relevant films. For instance, in preparation for my review of Ice Age 5, I will go back and watch the previous four so I have a better idea of what I’m getting myself into. Is it any surprise that I haven’t gotten to it yet, with that in mind? However, this is an extremely rare occasion where I have already done my background work without even realizing that I had. Last year, when I went to go see It Follows (you know, that film that wasn’t exactly the Oscars), it was preceded by an ad-hoc horror short film festival. Among the titles shown, which ranged from the clever to the supremely strange, was a 3-minute short called Lights Out. I didn’t think much of it at the time, probably because the audience I saw it with at the time hadn’t shut up yet and thought we were in an interactive screening, but apparently someone else did. RatPac-Dune, a production company that seems to be competing with Blumhouse for the most ubiquitous film producers of the era, picked it up and turned it into a full-fledged production. Did this film deserve such treatment, and is it capable of existing beyond its smaller origins? Time to find out. This is Lights Out.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Movie Review: The Legend Of Tarzan (2016)

Since getting back into a regular routine with my movie-watching again, I’ll admit that what I’ve been looking at over the last little while have been pretty good overall. Hell, the only real down point of late (Jem And The Holograms) was only watched by yours truly as a Plan B; I originally set out to see Suicide Squad with a friend but, due to matters outside of both of our controls, we were unable to. Will that film break the streak when I eventually get to it? Too late, honestly, because this film seems to have done it for me. Now, even though the classic Disney iteration of Tarzan was the first film I ever remember watching in the cinemas, that isn’t going to factor into how I see this. The problems with this one are so numerous that I don’t even need to. This is The Legend Of Tarzan.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

2009’s reboot of the Star Trek film series is a film that is utter impossible for me to view in any critical sense. I say this because, for better or for worse, it was what finally got me properly interested in the franchise and I have been ever since. When the Star Trek series and movies are at their best, they are some of the most thought-provoking and well-crafted science-fiction stories in the history of the medium. Hell, I’d argue that the Next Generation episode Tapestry is one of the greatest works of fiction ever conceived. But don’t mistake this for blind fanboy devotion: When it’s bad, it conversely makes for some of the most brain-dead uses of the art form possible. In stark contrast to my thoughts on the 2009 reboot, 2013’s Into Darkness is far less complicated: It’s decent, but quickly turns sour thanks to how badly it borrows ideas from previous films in the franchise. I started up companion blog The Coffee Nebula as a means of reminding myself why I like Star Trek as much as I do, and it will continue for a while after this review, but will today’s film measure up to how I see it? This is Star Trek Beyond.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Movie Review: Our Kind Of Traitor (2016)

I… have no words. This film has left me speechless in the best possible way. And no, that doesn’t mean the rest of this review is going to be just a blank screen; I just don’t know how to open this review without either getting into details that are already in the review itself, or just breaking down and saying “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SEE THIS MOVIE!” For reasons why, let’s get into it. This is Our Kind Of Traitor.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Movie Review: Jem And The Holograms (2016)

I’ve brought up the weird standards we have over here in Australia when it comes to cinematic releases, but it bears repeating in the face of something like this. Three Wise Cousins, a local production that barely qualifies as something ready for the big screen: Made it to cinemas. Mother’s Day, a film that has managed to become even more tragic in hindsight because it turned out to be the last thing the director would ever make (rest in peace, Gerry Marshall, I mean no disrespect), and no person should have something that awful be their final creative product that they give the world: Made it to cinemas. The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a made-for-VHS cash-in sequel that had no right being shown anywhere, let alone in cinemas: Nevertheless, made it to cinemas. Today’s film, based on a cheesy 80’s cartoon that my mother inexplicably had on DVD while I was growing up (and that I wound up watching on more than one occasion), never got a proper release over here despite plenty of posters, trailers and even session times posted on cinema websites. After what I’ve paid money to see over the last 12 months, is this really deserving of such treatment? Let’s plug in and find out. This is Jem And The Holograms.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Movie Review: Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016)

Even in spite of my attempts to not let the hype machine sway me when it comes to certain releases, there are still times when things get so intense that I stand back and say “Holy hell, just how good is this thing?!” As I write this, this film is standing at almost 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with all of one bad review that, when you actually read the thing in all its Geocities-esque glory, still gave it a slightly-above-average rating. The film’s writer-director, Taika Waititi, is not only slated to help co-write the next Disney princess flick with Moana but also directing the next Thor movie with Ragnarok. Even ignoring my somewhat lukewarm reaction to his previous film What We Do In The Shadows (I liked it, but not nearly as much as the rest of the world seems to), this is raring up to be the prologue to a rather explosive break in the mainstream. Now, given how happy I still am that other Oceanic directors like James Wan have managed to get their much-deserved chance to shine, I’m seriously hoping that this will pan out well. But quite frankly, this has a very ‘Boyhood’ feel to it before I even set foot in the cinema; you know, it’s still good but cut down incredibly small thanks to the hype behind it. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: I welcome the chance to be proven wrong on my scepticism. This is Hunt For The Wilderpeople.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Coffee Nebula: Emissary (Deep Space Nine)

If The Next Generation is the older sibling who loves lording its intellect over people, and Voyager is the younger sibling who is way more immature than it thinks it is, then Deep Space Nine is the middle child with the serious chip on its shoulder; the one who feels it has something to prove and, in its own way, it did. The Next Generation was pretty much guaranteed a few seasons, thanks to the involvement of Gene Roddenberry, and Voyager was the flagship title of the then-new UPN so it was bound to stick around for a while. DS9, on the other hand, didn’t have the luxury of coasting for the first season and had to prove that it had a reason to exist beyond the Star Trek nepotism. Keep in mind how pretty much every Star Trek series started out on some rather bad footing, and this series looks like it will join the long, long list of promising sci-fi series that barely made it to a full season before cancellation. However, in a stroke of luck that would make Dave Gorman weep with envy, this show not only started out especially strong but its first episode (technically two, since it’s a two-parter) may be the single best introduction for any Star Trek media; better than any of the shows, not to mention the three Star Trek film series. Time to take a closer look as to what exactly happened to make this so damn good. This is Emissary.

The plot: Starfleet commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) has been stationed at Deep Space Nine, a formerly Cardassian space station that has recently been liberated by the Bajorans. As Sisko tries to get himself and his son accustomed to their new home, he has been called upon by the Bajoran elders to serve as an emissary for the Bajoran people, uniting them together with insight from their spiritual leaders. For a placement that he didn’t even ask for, Sisko has a lot to deal with already.

Last time I talked Star Trek on here, I spent most of it discussing the very authoritarian mindset that the franchise as a whole carried with it. A lot of hypocritical posturing and talking down to supposedly ‘lesser’ species, all under the guise of establishing peaceful contact with new civilizations. By stark contrast, we have this series where such ideals are practically non-existent and for very good reason. While Sisko has been brought onto the station under Starfleet command, he is still just a liaison between the Bajorans and the Federation. Starfleet ideals have no real place in this setting, meaning that the focus is put more on just portraying characters as they are, rather than holding them to any preconceived notions. This is helped by how, even though a few of them still have some smoothing out to do over the next season or two, the character we are presented with as the regulars immediately connect with the audience as something worth seeing every week. Sisko portrays a more war-scarred soldier than the franchise’s standard, making for a nice change of pace as well as a very commanding presence in his own right, Kira’s leading Bajoran officer on the station is a freedom fighter with some learning to do, Odo’s chief of security maintains a different franchise standard in having the most interesting character in each series be the one who is the least human, Jadzia as the science officer, right from her first scene with Sisko, presents a lot of possibilities for further development of their relationship, Miles from TNG makes for a welcomed familiar face and Bashir… okay, Dr. Bashir probably comes off the initial worst, looking like the kind of horndog that should be polluting a modern-day bro-comedy, but like I said, smoothing needed to occur and it did for the most part. There’s one of the bigger difference between this and some of the other ST series: Rather than insisting that it was doing the right thing from the get-go, it acknowledged its faults rather quickly and worked to improve them. What took Voyager and Enterprise a few good years to get right, this series did in just one.

We also get an introduction to Qwark’s bar, a regular locale for the show, and it on its own shows this series’ difference in approach… as well as something that would have never existed under Roddenberry’s tenure. Roddenberry’s Federation universe was one that was unrealistically cleansed of vice and greed, a venerable haven that represented the utter worst stereotypes associated with left-wing politics. Qwark’s, both the bar and its owner, show something vastly different than that: Vice exists, and it may even be necessary. Qwark was probably what the Ferengis were meant to be from their first appearance, only they didn’t quite manage it: A hodge-podge of uber-capitalist tropes combined with a roguish sense of humour and loyalty. Only here, rather than coming across as a being with an attacking agenda attached to it, Qwark is depicted as just another person in this very big universe. And to make things interesting, even though his sexist attitudes can be rather abrasive, there is a legitimate reason why he is on the station at all. As the plot for this two-parter goes on, we get the revelation that there is a stable wormhole, the first found of its kind, close to the station that leads to the previously uncharted Gamma Quadrant. All those prospective merchants and missionaries coming in through the wormhole, looking to trade and establish new relations in the Alpha Quadrant; what better place to first make contact with prospective buyers than on the station right next to the entrance. Ferengis may be sneaky and largely untrustworthy, but they have built a reputation for commerce for a reason: Because they are damn good at it. Yet another reason why, even from the pilot, this series showed promise: It looked at previously failed ideas and improved upon them, both with older species and with the outlook of the franchise itself.

Now for the story, and it’s here where things get really interesting. While every character that gets introduced here gets their own moments to show their worth, this is ultimately all about Sisko this time around. After losing his wife at the battle of Wolf-359, a massacre tied into the classic TNG two parter ‘The Best Of Both Worlds’, Sisko still carries that grief with him some three years after the fact. This isn’t helped by how the officer who gave him the assignment, Captain Picard, was the one who lead the Borg in that confrontation. Don’t worry, I’ll probably get to those episodes before too long for proper context, but for now, just treat it as a temporary side switch coupled with mind control. When Sisko makes contact with the beings that the Bajorans worship, I’m not sure who exactly it was but either writer Michael Piller or director David Carson (or possibly both) came up with an insanely good idea for showing the beings interact with Sisko. The idea of extradimensional entities that are beyond human understanding isn’t anything new, especially for Star Trek, but depicting their conversation as the beings using Sisko’s memories to better understand humans? Pure genius, far as I’m concerned. There’s also how their dialogue is handled, which shows their lack of understanding of relatively limited conceptions such as space, time and memory in a way that is easily digestible. Bonus points for Sisko being able to demonstrate the idea of probability and chance through the outcome of a baseball game, at once the most American and human way of handling such a query. Where the other series were focusing too much on rather minor ideas, and ideas that were poorly realized at that, DS9 started right away with a very sympathetic main character who was going through a very understandable emotional crisis, immediately getting us on level with the show, its approach to storytelling and its characters.

So, when all is said and done, how well did this pilot do for the series? Well, not only did it manage to make itself noteworthy beyond the Star Trek name, it went back to the drawing board on a number of series staples and improved upon them, rather than going with the usual practice of just ignoring it and moving on. The rest of the first season would go through certain dips and climbs, and Emissary definitely shows one of the higher points for the series overall, but it also managed to keep a good median for its first impression beyond the pilot. I may maintain that Voyager is still my favourite series, because even at its worst it’s entertaining in its own way, but DS9 set a precedent as being the most abjectly good and I definitely consider it as such.