Saturday, 31 October 2015

Lead Me Astray (2015) - Movie Review

In another dual example of "Australian indie production" and "I didn’t know what I was getting myself into", we have today’s film. Now, between its one-night-only screening in my area and its local production, I knew that I had to check it out. What I didn’t realise was that it was an official red carpet premiere. Almost everyone is in black tie, and there I am in my green pocket-T, hoodie and jeans. I’ve always felt out of place in film circles, but this is the first time that I’ve had that fact hit me square in the face; this is the kind of situation that separates the hobbyists from the professionals (or, in my case, the fanatics). So, when faced with the crowd of people who came to see this movie, I just shuffled into the cinema as soon as the doors opened and found my seat, doing as best I could not to draw attention to myself. With how similar this situation has started out, was this going to result in another Quarantine Hauntings bout of shame, or am I in for another beast altogether?

Friday, 30 October 2015

Legend (2015) - Movie Review

In the world of film, there are very few prospects with as high a grade of difficulty as the dual role. On the surface, it’s an actor’s greatest dream: A chance to showcase range within the confines of a single film, be it for comedy like with the cinematic works of Mel Brooks and Monty Python, for dramatic purposes like with the HBO adaptation of Angels In America or even to add a touch of the surreal like with Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. However, this is assuming that all actors are able to maintain multiple personas at once on set, and even then it can just as easily be used for evil as it can for good. One look at the Seltzerberg catalogue shows a ready use of this technique, with frankly embarrassing and nipple-twistingly painful results. A good rule of thumb when attempting this on film is to stick with characters who will naturally look like each other to begin with: Basically, clones or identical twins. As such, today’s film seems to be a decent place to try this out, not to mention bringing in a capable actor for it in the form of Tom Hardy. But intentions are one thing; do they actually pull it off?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Crimson Peak (2015) - Movie Review

With the established horror classics of The Amityville Horror, The Shining and Poltergeist, the haunted house sub-genre transformed into one of the foremost horror film premises. True, much like most peoples’ assumptions concerning Halloween and slasher films, haunted house fare existed long before these three films, but this was the period where it truly entered the Hollywood zeitgeist. Just look at the most prominent horror film series of today with Paranormal Activity which, while starting to drift in quality, also makes for one of the better examples of doing the premise right since the inception of the idea. From the old-school revivalism of James Wan to the annoying failure at parody of Michael Tiddes, it’s quite clear that this isn’t going to go out of fashion any time soon… even if the idea itself is beginning to grow stale. Well, here comes Gothic horror devotee Guillermo Del Toro to give his own take on the idea; with any luck, this will fare better than last time he attempted this with Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Black Mass (2015) - Movie Review

Dollars to donuts, there isn’t a single actor working today who has the range of Johnny Depp. True, his work with Tim Burton may result in people forgetting this pretty damn easily, but seriously think about it: Edward Scissorhands, Jack Sparrow, Ed Wood, Raoul Duke, Guy LaPointe; even after seeing him in all these roles, I still find it difficult to believe that they’re all done by the same guy. Hell, even when he’s in absolute dreck like Mortdecai, he can still lose himself in a role. But, regardless of all of this, there’s still that Burton stigma to deal with: The pale, depressed and darkly-tinged loner, a role that has probably resulted in doing the both of them more harm than good of late. It’s with all this in mind that I look at today’s film, Depp’s latest foray into the world of American gangsters since Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, with cautious optimism. Do we get another character for the sizzle reel, or is it another stock (for Depp) performance that will have audiences reeling from their seats in droves?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Macbeth (2015) - Movie Review

Shakespeare is far and away the most adapted writer in human history, which makes the prospect of reviewing one of the thousand films based on his work a little daunting. Not only that, as much as some scholars would eagerly wish to argue, the man’s work is full of notoriously intricate language that can prove rather difficult to read. As someone who has a serious habit of comparing films to each other, even when it isn’t called for, how am I to know whether or not the supposedly 'fresh' ideas presented in one adaptation haven’t already been made cornerstones of the work previously? Is there nearly enough time in the world for me to spool through every work just to be sure? Is it even worth me doing so in the first place? This is where I come face-to-face with the reason I started this blog in the first place: To learn. I have never made any pretence about my own knowledge involving the medium: Everything I claim to know about film, I have learnt in passing and I am by no means a definitive voice on anything except my own personal tastes and opinions.

So, with that unnaturally heavy introduction to another one of my typically idiosyncratic and scatterbrained analyses out of the way, time to get into today’s film.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Martian (2015) - Movie Review

To paraphrase one of the more boisterous names in space exploration: “Space: the final frontier”. However, something that is becoming clearer and clearer with every day since that phrase was first uttered is that space will always be the final frontier. Unlike our home planet, there is an infinite amount of, well, space outside of our atmosphere and it is expanding every second. The distance between points of interest (stars, planets, space fog, etc.) is occupied by a vacuum that seems to exist at the exact opposite of our ideal living conditions, and that’s if we even have a vessel that can stay in one piece during all that travel.

Is it any wonder, with all this in mind, that space travel and exploration is frequently used as the setting for dramas and thrillers? Sure, space combat will always be enticing, but the thought of how claustrophobic, hazardous and ultimately liberating leaving Earth for greener pastures can be has produced some truly amazing works of art, particularly in the realm of cinema. So, when director Ridley Scott decided to return to the cold void that yielded him a bona fide sci-fi classic with Alien (and a modest success with Prometheus), how did it turn out considering his last cinematic venture?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Intern (2015) - Movie Review

Some films give me a bad impression from the trailer, while others make me weary just from finding out who is working on the film. This might be a first, in that it was the poster that made me want to give this film a pass. First off, advertising that the writer/director also worked on the painfully generic-sounding 'It’s Complicated' and 'Something’s Gotta Give' isn’t going to convince me that this is worth seeing. And secondly, as much as I wish it still were, Robert De Niro as your lead is no longer an accomplishment nor something to gloat about. Combined with my general dislike for MOR generi-drama, this all spells trouble. But these are just my pre-film assumptions at work; how does it actually turn out? This is The Intern.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015) - Movie Review

With the Hunger Games drawing to a close at the end of this year and the Divergent series only getting worse with each instalment, the third-wave of YA adaptations may soon be reaching its conclusion… or, at least, we can only hope lest we have to sit through the same darkly shot post-apocalyptic analogies for high school for another three bloody years. However, it seems that we may be able to squeeze at least one more good series out of the fad: The Maze Runner.

2014’s The Maze Runner, in my not-so-humble opinion, is easily one of the most underrated films of the year, if not of the entire wave. It’s probably one of the few times that the attempts at analogy with these films has panned out, as the plot works as a surprisingly nuanced, if flawed, fable on the transition from adolescence to adulthood: Venturing out into the unknown, leaving your old ways behind you, discovering the opposite gender in a new light; coming from a bunch of first-time writers under a first-time director, this is kind of astounding. As such, other than the complete surprise of John Wick, this was the film that I have been most looking forward to a sequel to; with how cynical I can be when it comes to my own expectations, it’s rare that I genuinely anticipate a good film these days. So, how does this sequel turn out?

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Oddball (2015) - Movie Review

Even as someone who has a dog, I have never really understood the appeal of films starring dogs. Whether it’s the Underdog adaptation, the numerous Air Bud sequels, the numerous Beethoven sequels… actually, that’s another thing: I have never understood why these films spawn franchises that last for that damn long. Anyway, while it may be the archetype of the 'a child and their pet' subgenre, unless your name is Disney, chances are you won’t be able to bring anything new to the proceedings. As such, probably the only way that this could be done any more, and make it to the big screen no less, is if it was based on a true story. Thankfully, we have another entry in the stranger than fiction files where in south-western Victoria early last year, a sheepdog saved a colony of penguins from predators like wolves and foxes. Well, anything for something potentially interesting to come out of Australian cinema, I say, but how well did this story translate to film?

Friday, 16 October 2015

Pan (2015) - Movie Review

In today’s day and age that everyone likes to think is where the practice of rampant recycling of media to create movies started, said recycling can take different forms. One of these is the oh-so-awesome prequel, easily the least successful of all of them. I mean, when online lists of the ‘best’ film prequels frequently bring up Star Wars, you know that the standards for quality aren’t exactly high amongst this pedigree. An offspring of this is the origin story, a film based around a beloved franchise character and how they became the one that we love to this day. Of course, once again, recent examples of this aren’t too promising: X-Men Origins Wolverine managed to ruin the reputation of more than just the title character, Dumb And Dumberer was about as pointless as you can get and Maleficent, while I personally liked it, was a major flop with critics and audiences. Hell, bring up the words ‘horror movie prequel’ in a crowded room and someone is bound to re-enact one of them using you as the victim; some people take this stuff a little too seriously. With all this in mind, ever since today’s film was announced as an origin story for that legendary Lost Boy Peter Pan, I was immediately sceptical (A shocking development, I know) about how well it would work out. And then I actually saw the thing… oh boy.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Sicario (2015) - Movie Review

In today’s day and age where people have grown more and more sceptical of their nation’s military and government (rightfully so, in most regards), the question of how they justify their actions has grown in poignancy. This is especially true in the world of entertainment, where the times when propaganda pieces about the 'Red Menace' are long since behind us. There’s a reason why action films involving soldiers rescuing hostages in foreign jungle settings aren’t nearly as prevalent, and it’s not just because they mostly suck the big one: Violence with lack of justification, when it comes to government-sanctioned officers, isn’t nearly as accepted as it once mystifyingly was. One look at the works of Kathryn Bigelow and Clint Eastwood will see this mindset in full force, where actions are constantly brought into question and that lingering question hangs over everyone’s heads. Today, it’s time to dip into that pool once again.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Visit (2015) - Movie Review

M. Night Shyamalan is one of those directors that it’s safe to dislike, given his most recent output. I mean, sure, The Sixth Sense has one of the most culturally-ingrained twist endings of all time and Unbreakable continues to be a cult classic, but nothing he’s been attached to since even comes close to that. Whether it’s the masterpiece of unintentional comedy that is The Happening, the fan betraying mockery of The Last Airbender, the vanity hack job of After Earth or even the mass of misguided ideas in Devil, Shyamalan has turned from one of the most promising filmmakers in Hollywood into an utter laughing stock. However, even with how horrendous the aforementioned films could get, I still can’t help but feel sorry for the guy after all this time and just hope that he can stage a comeback one of these days. So, when news of this film hit and apparently audiences in the U.S. were starting to warm up to him again, maybe there’s a chance that he has found a way to crawl out of the shite-encrusted mire he’s dug himself into. This is The Visit.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Everest (2015) - Movie Review

Way back when, long before YouTube put Andy Warhol’s words to their most logical extreme, great feats of physical endurance were usually carried out with some reward of societal achievement backing it: Swimming unfathomably long stretches of water, navigating ungodly deserts and scaling unimaginably high mountains; history has put a lot of weight behind the people who did these things first. Now, humanity seems to have stopped caring as much about discovering new frontiers to conquer (on Earth, at least) and now want to share the experience as much as possible. It could be argued that this idea of hosting events where these previously-superhuman feats are available to the everyman cheapen the challenge of the event itself, but there is a feeling of bringing the world closer together through collective experience that gives it some urgency. This is why the idea of scaling Mt. Everest, barring my own aversion to physical exercise, is weirdly appealing despite the very clear danger involved. Something tells me that the idea is going to be substantially less appealing after sitting through today’s subject.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Blinky Bill: The Movie (2015) - Movie Review

In the canon of iconic Australian children’s television, there’s a lot more to us than Skippy the Kangaroo; hell, I still haven’t seen an episode of that show and I’ve lived here all my life. You’ve got the surreal and boundary-pushing morality tales of Round The Twist, the endlessly imitated artistry of Mr. Squiggle and the latest addition to the CGI hostile takeover Bananas In Pyjamas, just to name a few. Amongst this collection of oddities is the hallmark animation franchise Blinky Bill, a series of adaptations of the Dorothy Wall book series about a mischievous koala bear and his friends; yeah, it turns some stereotypes surrounding Australia ended up being true.

Brought to the big and small screens by the Aussie Don Bluth Yoram Gross, it made for a very environmentally-vivid part of many a childhood including my own. I still remember a competition at my primary school where I won a stuffed kangaroo because I knew one of the character’s names off-by-heart. Of course, considering the aforementioned decline of the dressed bananas, is this character capable of surviving in today’s Cartoon Network-influenced market? Time to find out with this latest cinematic iteration of the series.

Monday, 5 October 2015

American Ultra (2015) - Movie Review

Of all the different films that have resulted from Hollywood today at its most adaptation-happy, one of the rarest seen nowadays is the spoof. There are probably two fairly big reasons for that: The proclivity of YouTube parodies have pretty much made the notion of paying to watch a spoof movie on the big screen unnecessary, and the simple fact that none of the filmmakers that could actually pull off doing spoof movies are around anymore. When the only champions for spoof films are the sanity-stripping duo of Friedberg and Seltzer, the guys behind Date Movie, Disaster Movie and Meet The Spartans, it’s enough to make anyone swear off snarking on films ever again. But, then again, maybe these parodies aren’t as dead as we think; they can also sneak up on people if you’re not careful. For example, we have today’s film: This is American Ultra… and points already for the most awesomely ludicrous name for a film this year.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

We Are Your Friends (2015) - Movie Review

Now for the third and final part of our look into the recent music-centric releases; oh, I do love obvious market trends. First, we had Straight Outta Compton, where I was well within my element given how often I seem to drop hip-hop titbits in these reviews anyway. Then, it was Ricki And The Flash, which had me well and truly out of that comfort zone into the realm of milquetoast drama involving oldie rock. Today, it’s a drop straight down the middle in terms of familiarity with the genre in question: Electronic dance music. I went through a period of swearing off most EDM out of pop elitism, especially dubstep back when Skrillex was first getting big media buzz, but have since grown a bit more accustomed thanks to artists like Parov Stelar and Pogo, along with rediscovering just how awesome the Jet Set Radio Future soundtrack was. That said, though, the whole EDM rave culture just feels… alien to me. So, with a certain affinity for the music but quite the distance from the lifestyle, how does this film weigh up?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Pixels (2015) - Movie Review

I may not be as frequent a gamer as I used to be, but these square eyes aren’t something that have faded since then; I may suck when going against other players, but I still have a large piece of heart dedicated to the bit-bound medium. However, this is another one of those ideas where people actively attempt to create a Reese’s-style combination: People love video games and people love movies. Now, over the last several years, games have become increasingly cinematic thanks to the works of Hideo Kojima and the staff at Naughty Dog, among others, and have yielded some truly amazing results. Transferring the other way, not so much, as I’ve discussed before in great detail. So, with the idea of a video game-centric movie not exactly having the best pedigree to support itself, how do you think it’ll work when backed by the likes of Happy Friggin’ Madison

Friday, 2 October 2015

Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) - Movie Review

One of the main reasons why I don’t even try to be objective in these reviews is that there are several conflicting ways that a film can be enjoyed. It can be from how legitimately good a film is or it can be from how unbelievably bad a film is, and any variation between the two. While it’s easy enough to get a grasp on what film is legitimately good, it’s a little harder to determine what makes an enjoyably bad film, since it falls under that generally ambiguous realm of subjectivity that is comedy. What’s more, people rarely if ever actively find a film that fits into that category on purpose; somehow, I doubt that the phenomenon that is The Room was actively sought out for in the beginning. It is with all this in mind that we venture into today’s subject.