Friday 30 September 2016

Blair Witch (2016) - Movie Review

The original Blair Witch Project is the godfather of the found footage horror film, the outsider that in recent years has become the cool kid in school. With its bare-bones production values and understanding of viral marketing that was far ahead of its time, it set the world by storm. It’s also one of those films that, with how much it’s been copied of late, can be difficult to watch and appreciate as one could back when it first came out; kind of like Citizen Kane, in that viewing it objectively is probably the best way to approach it. Me personally, while I don’t find it to be out-and-out the scariest movie I’ve seen, I can definitely see all the merit that went into it.

Then the sequel Book Of Shadows came out, which took the first film’s notions of unsavoury but still realistic characters questioning their reality and pushed it far beyond the point of being in any way watchable. It is utter garbage and probably one of the worser examples of the Hollywood system just plain not getting what made the original so good in the first place when making a sequel. Looks we’ve got another contender for Sequel Rule #6 with this one, this time with rising star director Adam Wingard at the helm. After his success with The Guest last year, I can only hope that he manages to deliver on this one and not just give us another cash-in to burn.

Sunday 25 September 2016

Don't Breathe (2016) - Movie Review

Plot twists are one of the darker horses in the cinematic storyteller’s tool box. In the right hands, it can not only create a phenomenal switch-up to the story but also add whole new dimensions to the events within. In the wrong hands, it can come across like someone trying to guess what number they’re thinking of and the answer turns out to be “elephant”; just because we didn’t see it coming doesn’t make it any less stupid. And even then, the danger with some of the more famous plot twists is that they end up becoming the main thing that the film is remembered for, pushing its other noteworthy elements to the side in the minds of most filmgoers.

I bring all this up because this film’s approach to marketing, at least around here, has put very heavy emphasis on the fact that this film has a major plot twist. I don’t know about any of you but I’ve always seen this as a pretty wrong-headed way to get people to see a particular feature. I always thought that twists were most effective when you had no idea that they were going to happen, so imagine how it feels sitting through an entire film knowing that a twist is going to occur. The irksome trailer strikes again, only this time it isn’t just my own paranoia that says it could negatively affect the overall product. So, is it damaged all that much in light of this? This is Don’t Breathe.

Saturday 24 September 2016

Bridget Jones's Baby (2016) - Movie Review

In 2001, Bridget Jones’s Diary (man, that apostrophe still irks me somewhat; I don’t care about grammatical accuracy, that just looks wrong) served as a major paradigm shift for how rom-coms were realized and set a standard for how they would look for the rest of the 2000’s and even today. With its firmly tongue-in-cheek sense of humour and old-school literary influences, it was the exception to the rule that itself became the rule, bringing a far more irresponsible and mutton-acting-as-lamb recklessness to the status quo. Then the sequel came along and, by sticking to auto-pilot on all counts, was thoroughly annoying and a major let-down. Now we have a long-awaited(?) follow-up to the story that may or may not retcon said sequel The Edge Of Reason out of existence, but as always the Sequel Rules still apply. Rule #6 goes that threequels made 10+ years after the fact have a high probability of being either the best or worst of their respective series (see: Toy Story 3, Terminator 3). So, with all that in mind, how does this go?

Friday 23 September 2016

Spin Out (2016) - Movie Review

Just to be clear, I don’t inherently hate Australian cinema. As much as my previous rantings concerning the film scene over here may argue, I don’t see a massive issue with our collective output. There’s not nearly enough of it, don’t get me wrong, but what we do come out with can and often is very good. We have a penchant for cultural self-examination and down-to-earth humour that filmmakers would sell their livers to get such a consistent hold of, and a pedigree of actors that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with anywhere else on Earth.

I’ve always maintained that, if anything, the issue starts when the critics and marketing departments get their noses into everything, combining cultural mandates with laughable tone-deafness to create a landscape more than capable of great content but also blind to what should be done with it. At least, that’s how it usually goes. Then come along films like this that throw the occasional rusty spanner into the works by actually getting all of us to agree on something. Namely, that said product is outright garbage.

Monday 19 September 2016

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (2016) - Movie Review

Is it even humanly possible to overstate the legacy of the Beatles? I mean, when it comes to famous musical groups, they are pretty much the golden standard by which virtually everything else is measured. Aside from setting the blueprint for every single boy band that would come after them, whether they qualified as an actual band or not, their live shows gave the world its first real taste of what Lisztomania can do to people, re: hospitalising many unfortunate teenage female fans. Outside of surface reactions, their song catalogue contains heavy volumes of songs that have permanently ingrained themselves in the public consciousness along with albums that are instantly pointed whenever the subject of "greatest albums ever" is brought up.

With a band this ubiquitous and a pedigree this immense, one would be likely to think that doing a documentary on these guys after all this time would be a tad redundant. However, considering new and interesting titbits are being uncovered as recently as 2011, when fan documentary Beatles Stories uncovered that John Lennon may not be as liberal as his demeanour and discography may have led people to believe, maybe there’s still some water left in the well. Since this particular feature was made by Ron Howard, who later on in the year will give another example of historical ignorance with the latest and hopefully last of the Dan Brown adaptations, this film has pretty much gathered all of the expectations, conflicting and all. So, how does it measure up?

Sunday 18 September 2016

Yoga Hosers (2016) - Movie Review

Kevin Smith is one of my all-time favourite filmmakers. His scripting ability when it comes to character and universe-building, especially with his earlier View Askew material, has made for some famous pop culture moments and his knack for using his own life and his own experiences as inspiration for his writing has resulted in some shockingly poignant films under his belt. From his examination into faith and theology with Dogma, to his treatise on sexual politics with Chasing Amy, right down to his iconic depiction of working class perspectives with Clerks, the man garners plenty of respect in these parts. I even got the chance to see him live during one of his infamous live Q&As here in Australia, which ranks up there as one of the more inspirational live shows I’ve gone to because of how much I look up to the guy. Hell, his last film Tusk was one of the first I ever reviewed on this blog and I still stand by every word that I wrote there, in spite of the film’s generally lukewarm reception. So, as a massive Smith fanboy, I was genuinely excited about today’s subject, again in spite of less-than-ideal reviews. I’ll try and keep my biases out of it as best I can, but I make no promises.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Nerve (2016) - Movie Review

Using game shows, and more recently augmented reality games, as a means of societal commentary is old hat by this point. Whether it’s the dark satire of Death Race 2000, the hyper-machismo of The Running Man or even the surreal tinge of comedy in Bad Wolf, an episode of Doctor Who, this isn’t anything new. Not that being tried-and-true is something to be instantly ashamed of; just that it means extra effort needs to be made in order for the work to stand out. Well, with the ever-increasing proclivity of the Internet and its many, many outlets, specifically social media, YouTube and even the fascination surrounding Pok√©mon Go!, maybe it’s time for such a commentary to be made anew. We can only hope that this film is capable of delivering on that. Spoiler alert: No, it isn’t; not by a long shot.

Thursday 15 September 2016

Blood Father (2016) - Movie Review

Mel Gibson.

I isolate that name because I am assuming that it is still the stand-alone joke that he has been for the last several years. I mean, after growing up amidst stories surrounding The Passion Of The Christ, Gibson’s anti-Semitism and… well, him just being pretty cuckoo in general, it’s difficult to view him as anything other than a source of jokes. Kind of like Michael Jackson, provided that you’re part of my generation that grew up with the scandals first and the art second. Anyway, it seems that he has a new film out, produced by French company Why Not Productions… okay, that has to be intentional, seeing as how that just about sums up the mindset of anyone who would hire Mel Gibson for their film nowadays. With The Expendables 3 still leaving a fairly disappointing recollection and Machete Kills being one of those films that all of two people actually liked (with me being one of them), I’m a tad worried about this one. As always, I welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

My Scientology Movie (2016) - Movie Review

It’s Scientology time again! You know, between the countless jokes that have been made about them over the last several years and last year’s Alex Gibney documentary, I would’ve thought that we had done all we can in terms of talking about the church sci-fi made possible (and no, even a year later, I’m still not talking about the Trekkies). But then in walks one of the most impartial documentarians working today in the form of Louis Theroux, who is almost superhuman in his patience with his subjects. This presents a certain instance that we haven’t really come across in any logical fashion: Sympathy. Sure, Going Clear presented a sympathetic view of people who got caught up in the cult of celebrity that the church has created, but what about the church itself? At this point, making this frankly ludicrous and insane theological practice look sane is a tough order, but if anyone can do it, it’s the guy who spent time with the Westboro Baptists and found reasons to sympathise and feel sorry for them for reasons beyond their pitiful hatred. This is My Scientology Movie.

Monday 12 September 2016

You're Not Thinking Straight (2016) - Movie Review

When you’re someone who obsesses over films as much as I do, finding films purely by accident just doesn’t happen to me anymore. I mean, I follow the release schedules of my local cinemas quite closely; lord knows I need to know just how long it will be before the next film comes out that actively makes me question my sanity. Today’s film is a bit different, even within its boundaries of Australian independent cinema which I have covered on this blog a few times before. Basically, the guy who wrote/directed this film is a friend of friends and the Facebook page for his film just cropped up on my timeline a few weeks ago out of the blue. Since I will always look forward to witnessing a new Lead Me Astray and seeing something produced locally that is worth championing beyond national pride, I went along to the screening. But how is the film itself?

Saturday 10 September 2016

One More Time With Feeling: Nick Cave (2016) - Movie Review

Nick Cave, in no uncertain terms, is one of the finest musicians that Australia has ever produced. With his pitch-black sense of humour combined with a taste for subject matter that almost begs for the word ‘morbid’ to be redefined as human dictionaries recognize it, he has produced some absolutely amazing works of musical art. I grew up with Murder Ballads as a regular in my mother’s car stereo, with tracks like Henry Lee and The Curse Of Millhaven creating an indelible impression on my brain. Probably goes to explain my own love for all things dark and weirdly funny. He also done great work beyond that, writing numerous books and film scripts that have gone on to become seminal classics. He was also the subject of what I consider to be the best film of 2014 with 20,000 Days On Earth, a film so good as to induce what I can only describe as a personal religious experience while watching it. Needless to say, this is another one of those occasions where I would probably be talking about this film even if I didn’t have this cinematic obligation hanging over my head. So, how does this latest documentary on one of the most fascinating creative minds in the world fare?

Friday 9 September 2016

Kubo And The Two Strings (2016) - Movie Review

I find it a tad strange that I would say the following as any kind of positive, but animation studio Laika is basically the hipster haven for animation junkies of late. I say this for two key reasons. The first one being rather obvious, in that their focus on stop-motion animation makes them a healthy alternative to the largely-CGI movie scene when it comes to family-friendly entertainment. The second one is that they stand out alongside industry titans Disney/Pixar and Dreamworks as somewhat of a lesser-known third-party alternative, giving film geeks such as myself an opportunity to introduce others to quality films that they might have otherwise missed.

Prior to this, Laika has released three feature films in their lifetime but they have managed to carry an astounding level of quality control between them. From the surreal horror film Coraline to the poignant love letter to all things considered beyond the norm with Paranorman to the screwball journey of personal belonging with The Boxtrolls, you’re almost guaranteed quality when it comes to this studio. With all that in mind, you better friggin’ believe that I was hyped for today’s film knowing who was behind it. But how does it actually hold up?

Tuesday 6 September 2016