Tuesday 30 December 2014

Walking With Dinosaurs (2014) - Movie Review


While, at first glance, it’s an easy assumption to make that the director has sole creative control over a film, there’s also the matter of the producers to consider. The producers and production companies attached to a film are the money backing it, and they get a considerable amount of sway over what ends up in the final product; they can pull funding to the film if they don’t agree with what the director wants to do with it. Sure, you will occasionally get the auteurs that partially or even entirely fund their own movies themselves, but in the Hollywood system this isn’t always the case. Not to say that this is always a bad thing, mind you; just that it occasionally leads to bad decisions. To further illustrate this, let’s get started with today’s film: This is Walking With Dinosaurs.

Monday 29 December 2014

August: Osage County (2014) - Movie Review

On the surface, it seems that adapting a work of theatre into a movie would be a lot easier than adapting from a different work like a book or a video game, and to a degree it is. But they are still two different media, however similar they may be, and in order to do it right it can’t just be a simple copy-and-paste job.  For a good example of stage to screen adaptation done right, look at 11 Things I Hate About You, a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew: It took what is, in the modern age, the most difficult Shakespeare work to portray due its rather screwed-up gender politics and essentially left only the framework and changed the rest in order to make it work, and for the most part it did. A bad example of this? … Let’s get into today’s film: This is August: Osage County.

Sunday 28 December 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (2014) - Movie Review

Peter Jackson may serve as one of the greatest cinematic success stories in recent memory: From his humble beginnings with bat-shit insane cult films like Bad Taste, Meet The Feebles and Braindead, he went on to craft himself as a directing legend through his adaptation of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, making himself one of the most critically and financially successful filmmakers of all time. Not only that, Weta Digital, a special effects company co-founded by Jackson himself, has also become a powerhouse in Hollywood due to their work on the LOTR films and have gone on to do SFX work for films like Avatar, The Avengers and the Planet Of The Apes reboot series. Today’s film marks the end of an era, as after 13 years and over a thousand minutes of screen time, this is the (supposed) final film Peter Jackson will make based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (2014) - Movie Review

It’s a very bittersweet experience seeing a film like this; Robin Williams is one of my favourite comedians of all time with a wide pedigree of talent (despite a couple of film clunkers) whether it’s his excellent stand-up shows, his classic film roles like the Genie in Aladdin and Peter Pan in Hook, or his surprising talent at darker roles like One Hour Photo and his guest spot on Law & Order: SVU. It is a tragedy when anyone dies, but knowing who he was and how it happened… I’m getting choked up as I write this just thinking about it. But his works still remain to warm the hearts and tickle the funnybones of audiences for a long while yet; I firmly believe that men live on so long as they are remembered, and I doubt that Williams will be forgotten anytime soon. With that, let’s take a look at his final live-action film role that was also dedicated to his memory.

Friday 26 December 2014

Into The Woods (2014) - Movie Review

The plot: A baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) have been cursed by a witch (Meryl Streep) so that they can never have children. In order to stop the curse, they need to retrieve four items: A cow as white as milk, a hood as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold; but in order to collect them, they run into some rather familiar characters.

Thursday 25 December 2014

The Imitation Game (2014) - Movie Review

Looks like it’s typecast time again, this time turning our spotlight on Benedict Cumberbatch. He's made a real name for himself in the last few years playing neurotic and narcissistic geniuses both fictional (the titular detective in Sherlock) and non-fictional (Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate). In fact, Cumberbatch is getting so close to absolute overexposure that he might as well be called Rule 63 Jennifer Lawrence at this rate. However, also like Lawrence, his performances in films are pretty much guaranteed to be good even if he isn’t always in the best films (August: Osage County, The Fifth Estate, Star Trek: Into Darkness depending on who you ask) so I’m not in a good enough position to complain about that. What do we get with today’s film? Time to find out: This is The Imitation Game.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Nebraska (2014) - Movie Review

Escapism is a peculiar thing: By its very nature, it is meant to help us escape from the real world through fiction, yet it seems to affect us more the closer to reality it is. Maybe it’s because it helps give a better view of our own lives through an outside observer, or maybe it’s just because we like the idea of familiarity in an unfamiliar place, but for whatever the reason this seems to be the case. Personally, I use escapist fiction as therapy: A means for me to cathartically let free whatever pent-up feelings and emotions I have, be they anger, melancholy, giddiness, thirst for knowledge or what have you, in a way that doesn’t interfere with those around me. With this idea of therapeutic escapism in mind, let’s look at today’s film.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Annie (2014) - Movie Review

I’ve gone into films with low expectations before: The Best Of Me, Tammy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, of everything I’ve gone out to see this year (including a couple that I have yet to see), this is undoubtedly the one I was dreading the most. Whether it was my attachment to the 1982 version, the snippet of the music I got from the trailer or the general impression I got from its attempts to modernise the script, I couldn’t be looking forward to this any less. I will try to put my initial impressions to one side and let it stand or fall on its own.

Monday 22 December 2014

The Babadook (2014) - Movie Review

Today’s film almost seems like the ultimate underdog story: A filmmaking debut from an Australian director/writer partially funded by Kickstarter and given a wide release in both Australia and the U.S. to massive critical hype. This is the kind of production that gives me serious pride in my country and what its creative minds can accomplish, as well as some faith in my own creative ambitions knowing that others have paved the way. However, much like films, a great story only means as much as what results from it. As such, it’s time to engage in some more horror for the holidays.

Sunday 21 December 2014

The Water Diviner (2014) - Movie Review

Every so often, an actor will step forward and decide that they want to become a director and make their own movie. This can sometimes lead to great things: Clint Eastwood has had a very prolific and critically-praised track record of directorial efforts over the last decade or so and Ben Affleck made a major comeback in Hollywood with films like The Town and Argo. However, it can also lead to rather disastrous things: William Shatner made a dog’s breakfast out of Star Trek V, Eddie Murphy’s Harlem Nights is one of his many cinematic punchlines, and the less said about the brain-melting confusion that is Crispin Glover’s What Is It?, the better. Today’s film is the directorial debut of love-him-or-hate-him actor Russell Crowe.

Saturday 20 December 2014

12 Years A Slave (2014) - Movie Review

While the film season in the U.S. sees January/February as the dumping ground for the previous year’s leftovers, it’s the complete opposite case in Australia. The beginning of the year marks Oscar season, the time when all the big awards contenders that haven’t already been released are brought to the masses en masse. Since my recent cinematic compulsion began a few months after that season, I unfortunately missed more than a few of them. As my inevitable year-end lists would be conspicuously incomplete without mention of such films, I plan on using my new-found extra time to look back and see as many of these as possible before the New Year. As such, what better way to start than with one of the biggest critical darlings of that season? This is 12 Years A Slave.

PK (2014) - Movie Review

It’s one thing to go into a film with a general assumption about whether it’ll be good or bad based on what you know about the film beforehand. It’s quite another thing, however, when you go into a film without any idea what to expect because, quite frankly, you don’t know thing one about the film itself. Granted, this is far less a case for people who do the sensible thing and choose what they see at the cinema, but for critics who have to see and give an opinion on as many movies that come out as possible (or idiots like me who have a compulsion to do a similar thing), there can be the occasional blinder. The last time this happened for me personally, funnily enough, was with Happy New Year, another Bollywood movie. This is another one of those occasions: This is PK.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) - Movie Review

Given my compulsion to review every new film I see, I will inevitably come across some films that are easier to talk about than others; whether it’s because it’s easier to talk about bad films than good ones or because some films engage me more and leave me more to work with in terms of writing, not every film will give me the same amount of content. This is such an occasion, only for different reasons than usual. It isn’t because this film is entirely good, leaving me with less to talk about, nor did it fail to leave me with much to talk about. No, this time the difficulty in writing a review for this movie is, put simply, because it is just plain unpleasant to recollect.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Paddington (2014) - Movie Review

When one of the most prominent trailers for your film contains your main character licking earwax from a toothbrush, we can be forgiven for assuming the worst. Add to that that we’re dealing with a film aimed primarily at kids and we’re dealing with a high probability of running from the theatre wanting to burn everything. I have never read any of the original books, and only have marginal knowledge about the character itself; this means that I only had the very disheartening trailer to go on. This is the kind of recipe that results in clouds of thick black smoke, melted lab equipment and possibly the need for several HAZMAT suits. What does this cook up in practice? Let’s dig in and find out: This is Paddington.

Monday 8 December 2014

Exodus: Gods And Kings (2014) - Movie Review

It seems that we are in the middle of a major influx of Christian-oriented films: Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, Son Of God, Heaven Is For Real, the Left Behind remake, the previously thrashed God’s Not Dead, as well as the recent Christmas… anomaly that is Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. I may have a fair bit to catch up on concerning this list but I welcome the experiences faith-based films can offer. Today’s film is possibly the most mainstream yet to come out of this, with veteran director Ridley Scott at the helm.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Penguins Of Madagascar (2014) - Movie Review

When it comes to animated movies, there are a lot of companies jockeying for top position nowadays: Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks Animation, Blue Sky, Aardman and most recently Laika has become a major contender. However, for the longest time, the closest competition has always been between Disney and Dreamworks. I’ve seen these two titans butt heads numerous times and the outcome has been surprisingly even: While Disney has produced quite a few gems like Frankenweenie, Wreck-It Ralph and the still-popular Frozen, the cinematic open wound that is the Cars franchise drastically weakens their track record. On the other hand, Dreamworks has mostly stuck to just decent movies like Rise Of The Guardians and this year’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman, while being capable of the outright impressive at times like How To Train Your Dragon. How does today’s film add to the equation?

I was on a podcast!

I got the opportunity to be a guest host on the podcast Lesbian Talk, hosted by Diamanda Hagan and The Omega, two reviewers that I definitely recommend checking out. We shot the shit about fantasy movies (supposed to be high fantasy but trust me to derail that ever so slightly) and I had fun with it. I hope you'll enjoy it as well!

Lesbian Talk Episode 79: High Fantasy And Mahan

Love Is Now (2014) - Movie Review

An old-fashioned term for the cinematic medium is ‘moving pictures’, but I honestly think that it is not only antiquated but also wildly inaccurate. While cinematography plays a big part of the production as a whole, there has to be some form of substance behind why we’re being shown what we’re being shown. Some largely visual directors like Terence Malick, as far as I’m concerned, still haven’t figured this out and continue to just arrange admittedly well-captured shots together to form something resembling cohesion if you squint at it sideways. Sure, at its core, the term is accurate: A film is a series of still pictures shown at a certain speed to give the illusion of movement. But at the basis of what cinema is in reality, it’s only part of the overall picture. So, with this in mind, let’s look at today’s movie.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

The Book Thief (2014) - Movie Review

Of all the films to have come out of the big YA adaptation boom of late, I can safely say that I would never have expected this one. However, I can at least semi-understand the decision behind this on two fronts. Firstly, the third-wave of YA adaptations has been largely focused on dark, totalitarian and/or post-apocalyptic settings, so it only stands to reason that a setting from our own history that unfortunately fits into that category would be considered. Secondly, films set in Nazi Germany are easy Oscar bait. So, given this criteria, today’s film was one designed not only to appease the Academy crowd but also as a sleeper agent to get the attention of teens who likely would have read or are currently reading the source material for school… what could possibly go wrong? This is The Book Thief.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Need For Speed (2014) - Movie Review

Even with Hollywood as it is today, reaching for anything and everything to turn into the next big blockbuster, there is still a major stigma attached to one source material for adaptations: Video games. Maybe it’s because of the inherent nature of games to be less about the plot and more about the interactive experience, maybe it’s because the majority of video game movies are absolute garbage (with the exceptions of the original Mortal Kombat, Prince Of Persia and maybe Hitman), or maybe it’s both. Regardless, there is a heavy expectation whenever one is released that it will be bad, made even heavier if the source material is less focused on plot than its neighbours. Today’s film is just such an occasion.

Monday 1 December 2014

Oculus (2014) - Movie Review

There are two film production companies that I have grown to be extremely cautious of: Summit Entertainment and WWE Studios. Summit, even without bringing Twilight into discussion, helped bring Alex Cross, Warm Bodies and Divergent among others to audiences; and WWE Studios focuses mainly on films starring wrestlers who aren’t Dwayne Johnson. Whenever I see their respective logos before a movie, I get a mild bit of cinematic PTSD and understandably so far as I’m concerned. However, expectations shouldn’t dictate a person’s opinion on a film entirely; hell, the last film Summit released was John Wick, which is a great movie. Do we get another tradition breaker here?

Update: Red Ribbon Reviewers

Hello everyone, just a quick update on the state of my reviews for the next month. This year, I will be taking part in Red Ribbon Reviewers. The central idea behind the project is simple: Putting a red ribbon in a text or video review to help raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. Last year, I did a video review of a seasonal episode of the Aussie TV show Round The Twist (check it out here), but this time around I'm going a bit bigger with it. As such, for the entire month of December, every review I post will feature one of these beauties:
It may seem like a very small thing, but as the great Paul Kelly once put it: From little things, big things grow. For more information on RRR, HIV/AIDS or just to check some of the other contributors (which are definitely worth checking out), go to http://redribbonreviewers.wordpress.com.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Nightcrawler (2014) - Movie Review

Directorial debuts are kind of a bizarre thing to see happen in real time. Sure, looking at films like Alien 3 or The Pleasure Garden can be interesting considering what their respective directors David Fincher and Alfred Hitchcock would go on to make, but that’s only because of the gift of hindsight and knowing that they did go on to make more movies and become regarded as great directors. It’s another thing to see a directorial debut and it being the only thing to go on: It could be a great film and then the director drops off of the radar; it could be awful and yet the director goes on to make even more like it; or any happy medium between the two. A recent example of this going right would be Chronicle, an excellent found footage movie (Yes, those exist) whose director Josh Trank is currently working on the new Fantastic Four movie. Will we get such a success story with this?

Saturday 29 November 2014

Fat Pizza Vs. Housos (2014) - Movie Review

Whether it was watching TV standards like The Late Show and Kath & Kim, seeing stand-up gigs by the likes of Adam Hills and Carl Barron, or just by living in this country myself, I can’t think of a single time in my life when I wasn’t being influenced by Australian comedy. To quote the comedian Vince Sorrenti: “We don’t need to protect the Australian way of life; the Australian way of life is our fucking protection. It’s the most benign existence on Earth.” We are easily the most laidback people on the planet and it shows in our collective comedic styling, given how quick we are to take the piss out of ourselves and everyone else within earshot. To carry on that tradition, we have today’s film.

Friday 28 November 2014

Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014) - Movie Review

Sometimes, we see movies for reasons that are in no way rational; the fact that I have seen The Room in cinemas twice this year is proof enough of that. I’ve said before that I try not to let my expectations dictate how I anticipate a movie, but every so often I’ll get kind of hyped for a movie just because an actor I like is in it. This is… a weird case. I say weird because the actor I wanted to see here isn’t even one of the main characters. In fact, I had no idea just how much screen time he was going to get. Who that actor is, I’ll get to momentarily.

Sunday 23 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) - Movie Review

As I write this, I am also working on a presentation about film tastes for a class I’m taking. In it, among other things, I make mention of critical hype and how it can ultimately damage a person’s film experience: You build up too much hype about how good (or bad) something is and you could end up giving someone else expectations that cannot possibly be met; this is the Detox Effect at work. With how much I was looking forward to today’s film after my last review, as well as how much talk I’ve seen involving this movie both on and offline, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was cautious.

Saturday 22 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) - Movie Review

Upon hitting cinemas, The Hunger Games ushered in what I like to call the ‘Third Wave of Modern YA Adaptations’. The first wave was caused by the early Harry Potter films and created a desire for stories involving destined child heroes in fantasy settings (well, a more immediate desire for them at any rate) with adaptations of The Chronicles Of Narnia and the like. The second wave was caused by the simultaneously over and under-abused punchline that is the Twilight series, creating a want to see romantic stories involving the undead. Such films that fall under this would include Red Riding Hood, The Host and Warm Bodies, along with many other trite bits of fluff. With the third wave, we have a sudden influx of apocalyptic settings, veering more into science-fiction than fantasy, and the ever-growing need to be taken seriously. In 2014 alone, we’ve had Divergent, The Giver and The Maze Runner as by-products of the Third Wave, not to mention The Hunger Games’ own Mockingjay which has just come out. Before I get to that movie though, I figured I should catch up a bit on the series, having only seen the first movie (It was really good, but mostly because of the second half).

Thursday 20 November 2014

I, Frankenstein (2014) - Movie Review

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword seeing Australian names in mainstream cinema: Sometimes you get James Wan, director of The Conjuring as well as the original Saw; and sometimes you get Baz Luhrman, director of Moulin Rouge and Australia, among other pieces of aggravating drivel. I love seeing this great (at times) country I live in being represented in Hollywood, but it doesn’t always yield the best results. With today’s film, we have Stuart Beattie as writer/director who’s had a very murky track record of late, having been a co-writer on G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, the aforementioned Australia as well as a re-writer on Punisher: War Zone. Let's see how well he does here.

Sunday 16 November 2014

The Legend Of Hercules (2014) - Movie Review

The story of Hercules and his Twelve Labours is one of my favourite ancient legends, so much so that the only good essay I ever wrote back in high school was on it and the reasons behind the longevity of the story. It's a tale that has been adapted numerous times before and with good reason: It's a great story with lots of potential, full of action, cunning, darkness and redemption. However, even with that in mind, I find it kind of odd that we got not one but two movie adaptations of it this year alone. We’ve had Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson, which took a different spin on the story and looked more at the idea of Hercules being a literal legend, something I found quite fascinating. True, it didn’t completely succeed at that idea, and it had more than a few narrative issues, but overall it was a decent watch. Prior to that, we also had today’s film which is a relatively more straightforward telling of the origin of Hercules.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

God's Not Dead (2014) - Movie Review

I am not really a religious person, but I don’t identify as an atheist either. Since I don’t think what I believe falls under agnosticism either, I have taken to calling myself a ‘cynical spiritualist’. I believe that everyone is free to believe what they want without being persecuted. However, if someone uses their religious leanings (or lack thereof) as their reasoning for doing stupid/vile things, for example the Westboro Baptist Church, I believe that we are all well within our rights to mock them for doing so. Punish for what they do, not what they think. My own personal philosophies have been brewed over time from a mixture of tenets from different religions (e.g. Christianity, Buddhism, Ancient Egyptian, Dudeism, among others), and they continue to build themselves over time. I have, at different points in my life, identified as a Christian and a rather militant Atheist, so I like to think that I can look at today’s film with some level of objectivity. Then again, talking about religion on the internet is like coating yourself in gasoline: You’re kind of asking for flames.

Monday 10 November 2014

Love, Rosie (2014) - Movie Review

One of the key events that lead me to watching new films as intently as I do was when my therapist recommended a movie for me to watch as part of my therapy. It was a British rom-com called About Time, which I thoroughly enjoyed and got me thinking more about the idea of movie-watching as a form of therapy, something I might revisit at a later date. Anyway, it was a short while later that I decided to go with my current plan of watching all the new releases, as well as revisiting as many of the movies from the last few years that I can, and with that I gained a certain… relationship with romantic comedies. While every other critic has cinematic PTSD, given how bad most rom-coms get, I look at new releases in the genre as a little reminder of something that got me to where I am now as a critic. Doesn’t hurt that today’s movie also comes from the same general geographic location.