Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016) - Movie Review

When it comes to looking at any form of media, you’d have a hard time finding a more powerful and influential force than sheer nostalgia. And to help prove this theory, let’s look at the Harry Potter series, a film saga built entirely on nostalgia. Now, I’m not saying this as an immediate negative of the work itself but rather a side effect of the series as a whole. The film series started and concluded at precisely the right times to latch onto the global millennial mindset, creating that rare form of entertainment that people have grown up alongside with. Those who grew up on these films tend to reminisce on them with the same fidelity and clarity as their own real-life schooling experiences. In today’s era of YA films desperately trying to align themselves with teenaged kids, it’s surprising that this series managed to do everything that they have been aiming for without really trying for it. Naturally, with all this in mind, the announcement of a new film set in the same universe was met with the exploding of several animal heads from the shrill levels of squee that were uttered in response. But this is where the flip side of nostalgia kicks in; the thought that what is considered perfect through rose-tinted glasses cannot be improved upon, and any additions to the canon would only sully it. Well, time to put that to the test with today’s film.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Arrival (2016) - Movie Review

This might have the single weirdest initial expectation of any film I’ve covered on this blog so far, based purely on the people behind the scenes. On one hand, you got director Denis Villeneuve, one of the greatest filmmakers working today who specialises in digging deep into the murky guts of humanity to create genuine works of art. On the other, you have writer Eric Heisserer who, aside from penning the woefully unnecessary Nightmare On Elm Street remake, also wrote this year’s winner for “No, I’m still not over this piece of shit” Lights Out. Conflicting opinions is putting it mildly. Then again, the big failing with Lights Out wasn’t exactly the writing, but more the director’s unwillingness to accept the far darker aspects of the themes involved. Anyone who has sat through Villeneuve’s recent works like Prisoners and Sicario will know that he can do no such thing. To make matters even weirder, what really makes this film stand out ultimately has nothing to do with explorations of morality or even getting into properly dark territory. Why did I bring it up then? Because sometimes, even if we want to argue otherwise, expectations don’t mean a damn thing.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Nocturnal Animals (2016) - Movie Review

When it comes to the divide between mainstream blockbusters and arthouse features, the key difference I’ve found between them is how the audience... digests them, as it were. With mainstream films, they are designed to be enjoyed in the moment in a rather visceral fashion; this would explain why smaller release action films aren’t referred to as “arthouse” and instead as “straight-to-DVD”. Art films, like most other instances of Art with a capital A, largely exist for the sake of contemplation after the fact. The usually deeper subtexts and more intricate cinematic techniques stimulate further discussion after the fact, looking into the greater context of the work rather than instant gratification. Now, there is no singular ‘right’ way to make films and, when done right, both of these styles can lead to great works of cinema. However, of the two examples, I find myself being more hesitant when it comes to art films. After getting through today’s film, hopefully I’ll be able to explain why that is.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) - Movie Review

In no uncertain terms, I don’t have the will nor the intestinal fortitude to ever consider joining the military. I’m a proper soft lefty that sees all life as sacred and not worth ending over what are usually rather petty squabbles, and the very thought of killing another person for any reason makes me incredibly uneasy. However, that doesn’t mean that I hold any ill will towards those who fight in my place. I may have my issues with the higher-ups who send them out, usually for the reasons why certain governments see fit to get involved in war, but I have nothing but respect for those who do the fighting themselves. Not that cinema seems to share that respect, though, as more times than not, modern military cinema goes for the murky and moralistic approach that is meant to make us question just whose lives are being affected, be it through death or otherwise. So, with noted firebrand Mel Gibson returning to the director’s chair, how does today’s war film turn out?

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Doctor Strange (2016) - Movie Review

It’s Marvel time again and, while not quite as problematic as Civil War, we are once again dealing with a rather tricky bit of comic book adaptation history. We’re furthering our way into Phase 3 of the Cinematic Universe with an origin for yet another superhero who doesn’t exactly have the best on-screen history. Way back during the days of the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk TV show, Stan Lee and CBS attempted to kick-start a Doctor Strange series to run alongside Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man. Needless to say, it didn’t end well and the series wasn’t picked up for glaringly obvious reasons. However, unlike Spidey and the Hulk, this was the first and, up until now, only live-action appearance; there isn’t any form of reputable precedent for this one. Say what you will about Guardians Of The Galaxy, at least that film was able to completely blindside audiences thanks to a complete lack of mainstream recognition. Strange, on the other hand? Not so much. This may be one of the bigger tests of Marvel’s uncanny ability for consistent quality standards, even more so than the talking raccoon who is best friends with a talking tree.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Café Society (2016) - Movie Review

For as much as I’ve argued otherwise, I do understand that separating the actions of the artist with the published art can be harder said than done. The amount of times I hear Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport around my house (long story involving younger siblings) on a daily basis is made even tougher knowing what and where Rolf Harris is writing nowadays. Yes, we’re talking about the king of all things neurotic and Jewish Woody Allen once again, and in an attempt to keep with my central doctrine concerning this, I have actually liked his recent output. From the outstanding character drama Blue Jasmine to the sharply written rom-com Magic In The Moonlight to the wonky but still commendable morality play Irrational Man, I don’t have much to argue with in terms of his artistic output. However, once it gets to the point where said artist essentially inserts himself into the art, that disconnect proves ever trickier.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Death Note: Light Up The New World (2016) - Movie Review

Death Note holds a very special place in my heart, given that it was the first manga series that I ever read and properly got stuck into. It ended up inflaming my love for intricate battles of wits and cat-and-mouse shenanigans, all mixed up with some of the most iconic characters in the medium. I’ll admit to not having read all of the series, but I’ve read more than enough of it to know that I adore this series and its writing sensibilities. Naturally, after discovering that the latest anime adaptation showing at my local is a continuation of the story I hold so dear, you better believe that I was going to check it out. But outside of my fanboy expectations, is it worth watching?

Monday, 21 November 2016

Hell Or High Water (2016) - Movie Review

Last year, one of the bigger critical successes was the harrowing war thriller Sicario. It also represented one of the few times when I met the critical consensus not just in opinion, but in the magnitude of that opinion. Sicario, structurally, was easily the best film of the year and all of its individual pieces were genius on their own and created sheer magic when brought together. Since almost everyone involved already laudable careers to fall back on, I sincerely hoped that writer Taylor Sheridan would also stick around. I mean, if that was his first attempt, I legitimately can’t wait to see what he’s cooked up for us this time.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Accountant (2016) - Movie Review

Some of my long(er)-time readers may have noticed that I am not one to shy away from certain aspects of mental disorders. Specifically, when it comes to how modern-day cinema portrays said disorders. As someone who freely admits to using movie-watching as a form of personal therapy (less risky to lash out at a piece of fiction than at an actual person), seeing films use mental conditions that I personally relate to can be a big part of that. Some films do an incredible job with them like Inside Out, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and X+Y, and some can make a complete dog’s breakfast out of it like Mommy, Love Is Now and the more recent headache of Vaxxed. Today, we have another addition to that canon, except this is something that I don’t think exists in that great a number out there in the larger cinematic world. And quite frankly, we need more films like this.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe (2016) - Movie Review

Despite every reason why I shouldn’t, I have been anxiously awaiting the day that I can finally discuss this film in my usual rambling fashion. Over the last several months, I’ve been looking at release dates and interest groups involving this film and anti-vaxxing in general, just waiting for when the film would be released here in Australia. I mean, if God’s Not Dead 2 not only get a cinematic release but a distressingly wide release at that, surely something like this warrants similar treatment. Alas, due to the phenomenally terrible press it’s gotten, it seems that there are some things that even we won’t screen… well, for an extended amount of time. After some digging, I found that the film has been screened all of once as part of the Castlemaine CLIFF film festival. Since I’ve reviewed films here before with only one local screening to their name, and any release no matter how small meets my ad-hoc requirements for a review, it has now fallen under my purview. This may be the only time that I seek out a film purely for discussion purposes, as the whole anti-vaxxer movement has become quite toxic of late, so hopefully this will clear the air a bit.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Keeping Up With The Joneses (2016) - Movie Review

Wow, I have not been looking forward to this one, more so than possibly any other film this year aside from God’s Not Dead 2. The reason why is down to two simple words: Isla Fisher. To the rest of the world, Isla is the woman married to Sacha Baron Cohen and one of the few Australian actresses that has all but completely assimilated into the Hollywood food chain. To us here in Australia, she’s the amazingly annoying redhead who flooded our screens with ads for ING. No joke, she had a “turn your phones off” bit that was a) irritating beyond all human reason and b) shown in front of about 90-95% of the films I saw last year. That’s close to 200 times that I had to hear her screech about how her phone ringing ruined her “perfect” take. Needless to say, I now have an irreparable hatred for Isla Fisher and, as a result, I am really not looking forward to seeing her on-screen again in any capacity.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Robinson Crusoe: The Wild Life (2016) - Movie Review

Robinson Crusoe, that classic story of a sailor stranded on a deserted island that, over many years of pop culture dissemination, has been regularly confused with similar stories like Gilligan’s Island. Or, at least, that’s how my generation has come to understand it. So, possibly as a means to better educate younger audiences on the matter, today’s film shows a cross between the literary classic and the animated family film tradition of talking animals. Yeah, this sounds like a film that needs to exist(!)

Monday, 14 November 2016

One Piece Film: Gold (2016) - Movie Review

One Piece is up there with the likes of Naruto, Bleach and more recently Toriko as one of the biggest titles in Japanese manga. Of course, ask your average Westerner about it and they will likely recount the horror stories of what 4Kids Entertainment did the series. Now, I don’t have nearly as much issue with that version of the show (I’d even say that the much-maligned theme song is pretty catchy in its own right) but then again I don’t have as much experience with the title as a whole. I’ve read a volume or two of the manga and I thought it was decent enough but it never really grabbed in the way that other series like Death Note and Toriko did. Oh trust me, the new Death Note movie review is coming up soon but, for right now, we’re dealing with the latest iteration of the One Piece anime… and going from this alone, I think it’d be worth it to go through those volumes again.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Cabin Fever (2016) - Movie Review

Aside from making me feel really bloody old knowing that the film is over a decade old by now, Eli Roth’s directorial debut Cabin Fever was the world’s first exposure to Roth’s… interesting approach to filmmaking. Namely, hateful lead characters with sprinklings of batshit insane in the script. It has a handful of scenes that have gone into memetic legend because of their strangeness, none more so than this little beauty and it set a trend for horror writing that has plagued us ever since. It’s another example of the exception of the rule that became the rule, only here that prospect turned out to be far more disastrous than anyone could have foreseen. And then some idiot by the professional name of Travis Z decided he wanted to remake this "classic". I’d call this pointless, except it isn’t even the worst offender in that regard this year alone, so I’m willing to give this film its day in court. This is Cabin Fever.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Ouija: Origin Of Evil (2016) - Movie Review

A couple years back, I looked at a fun little slice of psychological horror with Oculus. Since then, director/co-writer Mike Flanagan has been keeping himself busy. And by "busy", I mean "Good God, how does one person have that much motivation?!" because he has all of three films slated for this year alone. I’m exhausted just thinking about that amount of effort, so hats off to him. Then again, that kind of aptitude is usually reserved for people who make schlock, porn or both, so maybe this arrangement isn’t as ideal as it sounds. Then again again, having seen this film, I couldn’t be more excited to check out the other two because… wow, this is something else.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Pokémon The Movie: Volcanion And The Mechanical Marvel (2016) - Movie Review

Up to this point, the main reasoning behind the films I’ve watched has fallen under the usual semi-obligation to the art of cinema. This is hopefully going to be the only exception to that rule, as this time the only real reason I’m bothering to look at this is for popularity. At the time of writing this, my review for the last Pokémon movie is not only the only review of mine to reach over 1000 views, it’s also easily my most read review. Combine that with the current popularity of Pokémon Go (at least, I’m assuming that it’s still popular) and the fact that my readership averages out around 30 views per review, and you have the closest I’ll ever get to a clickbait article. While I cleanse my soul for the thought, let’s get into the film already.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Masterminds (2016) - Movie Review

Zach Galifianakis, for as varied and kind of inconsistent as his filmography is, might be the quintessential modern comedian. He embodies our still-growing fascination with random and rather annoying occurrences, working with some of the biggest suppliers of that style of humour like Funny Or Die and Tim & Eric, yet he has enough common sense to not let the actual humour of those occurrences just get washed away. Hell, his breakout role in The Hangover was a serious lightning-in-a-bottle scenario that even that film’s sequels weren’t able to replicate. Not only that, he’s managed to move into more down-to-earth fare with Birdman and did a damn good job keeping up with the already stellar cast. He has two theatrical films out in cinemas right now, and even though this film’s poster has been lingering and instilling a form of dread in me for many months now, this is the one that I’m looking forward to by comparison.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Inferno (2016) - Movie Review

Growing up as I did when the big debacle concerning The Da Vinci Code made headlines, I’ve probably got the same mental association with Dan Brown films as the rest of the world: Convoluted mystery stories justified by a business-casual approach to history. Of course, I’ve spent the years since first watching Da Vinci and Angels & Demons playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed, so fidelity to history and genuine science clearly isn’t an entertainment factor for me… most days, at least. As such, I don’t take as much issue with these films as the general consensus. Sure, they fall into some pretty illogical pitfalls with alarming regularity, and main character Robert Langdon can shift erratically from smartest man in the room to worst investigator ever, but as a couple of potboiler mystery thrillers, they serve their purpose. Yes, I realise how long I’ve spent lambasting Akiva Goldsman’s work, but the Dan Brown adaptations are easily some of his most tolerable contributions. Since Akiva has stepped away from the typewriter for this one, there’s nowhere to go but up for this series… maybe?