Saturday 31 December 2016

Finding Dory (2016) - Movie Review
One of the brightest feathers in Pixar’s cap, 2003’s Finding Nemo is a film that I watched the hell out of as a kid. Hell, it was the first film where I actually took time out to watch the director’s commentary for, and this was all pre-Critic bear in mind. That said, looking back on it, I was rather perplexed at how much I adored this movie… until I watched it again recently for the first time in many years. Wow.

I seriously don’t recall the last time a film made me weep quite this much while watching it. A heart-warming story about family and the forces of nature, one without any real antagonist to it which is a serious rarity for family films, it holds up as one of Pixar’s genuine masterpieces. Naturally, with the studio in the process of making new instalments to some of their most popular works like Toy Story, The Incredibles and Cars (notice how I said “popular”, not “good” because of that last one), they also decided to make a follow-up to Finding Nemo. If this was any other studio but Pixar, I would question this decision; however, after seeing what utter perfection they could cook up for prolonged franchises like Toy Story 3, I have quite a bit of faith that this film could work out. Let’s dive right in and find out.

Moana (2016) - Movie Review
Before the House of Mouse brought Marvel and Star Wars into their collective fold, they had already proven their worth for rather shrewd business ideas with the Disney Princess canon. Taking what is essentially their most iconic characters and bringing them under a single banner has led to a lot of hot debating over the worth of both the label and the characters that fall within it. Now, this has resulted in more than a few feminist critiques over how these characters work as people to aspire to be, and there are certainly some problematic instances under that umbrella, but that’s not exactly my field of discussion. Besides, as a man, my opinion concerning who is an appropriate female role model would just end up being discarded before I even start talking.

I don’t claim to have sat through all of the films in the canon, but I’ve seen enough to know that there are some good (Mulan), bad (Snow White) and everything in between when it comes to assertion. So, with this latest inclusion within the canon (that I’m sure will debated until the end of days as to whether it even counts as part of the Princess Line), I’ll admit that I’m interested to see where this studio will go next.

Friday 30 December 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) - Movie Review
Jack Reacher, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the few recent action films that I would consider to be a genuine classic. A marked departure from the hyper-masculine and quite over-the-top action films that have become the norm of late, it made its mark with the titular rogue military genius as the main character, surrounded by good actors, better writing and a sense for action that is incredibly brutal and hard-hitting. Oh, and being the only good film Jai Courtney was attached to for many years afterwards probably helped. Well, after writer/director Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise went from that film to making the latest iteration in the Mission: Impossible franchise, director Edward Zwick has set up a sequel to the film that I hold in quite high regard. I know that I’ve made it a point of directly comparing sequels/continuations of older films to said older film… and this is going to be much the same, so get used to it.

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) - Movie Review
There are few filmmakers working today that I so thoroughly despise as much as Roland Emmerich. The jester pretending to be the king of the modern disaster film, his understanding of science and history is matched only by his ability behind the camera; i.e. he fails at all of them. Ever since the late 90’s, the man has maintained a steady reputation for absolute garbage, latching onto conspiracy theories (or, in the case of The Day After Tomorrow, what the popular consciousness has warped into a conspiracy theory despite the reality of things) to create stories about that honestly feel like an alien’s attempt to understand humanity, relating to the common man only through the broadest and laughable of stereotypes.

People give Michael Bay crap for making money out of dumbing down his own audience, but Emmerich is far guiltier of the same sins while not getting nearly as much widespread loathing. His 1996 work Independence Day, the first real taste the world got of how he thinks the world works, is held in relatively high regard but, quite frankly, I don’t see it. I’d say that I welcome the chance to proven wrong in thinking that this sequel is going to suck, but let’s be honest: There’s no chance of that happening.

Thursday 29 December 2016

Assassin's Creed (2016) - Movie Review
Against every semblance of better judgement that I possess, and an understanding of the low standards of the genre, this is easily the film that I was looking forward to the most all year. And no, that’s not just because I’m a fan of the video games; I’ve had my fun with the Assassin’s Creed series, and I actually have to give credit to AC 2 for giving me the pen name that I still use to this day, but that’s not why I’m seriously looking forward to this one.

Instead, it’s because this film is being directed by Aussie filmmaker Justin Kurzel, who showed some serious skill last year with his excellent adaptation of Macbeth. Add to that how lead actors Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are also returning as our leads here, and one of the most badass trailers we’ve gotten all year, and I am definitely anxious to check this one out… even though I am fully aware that it isn’t going to be a great work of art. That may seem at odds with my own personal hype but, as I dig into this thing, I’ll hopefully be able to clarify that.

Ice Age: Collision Course (2016) - Movie Review
The Ice Age series is little more than a relic of early-2000’s animation. Made by Blue Sky Studios, who would go on to secure their place as easily the weakest animation studio working today, the only real notable aspect of these films is how they have managed to keep a consistent decline since they started out, and bear in mind that the first film isn’t even that good to begin with. Computer graphics that have aged about as well as a puke-stain on what used to be your favourite shirt, annoying as all hell voice acting and only a couple of admittedly nice moments to help salvage it, something that would become far less prevalent in the sequels. As much as I wish I had covered this earlier on in the year when it first came out, that prospect meant re-watching all the films in the franchise so forgive me for holding it off for as long as humanly possible. But these things must be done, and it’s not as if this is even likely to be the worst film I’ve looked at recently, so let’s just get this over with.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Why Him? (2016) - Movie Review
The glamourous life of a film critic and spending more time at the cinemas than I do awake in my own house means that I actually understand very little of regular human interaction. That said, knowing how awkward social situations can get to start with, I still understand why meeting the potential in-laws is as nerve-wracking as it is. In fact, again with my lack of experience in the matter in mind, it’s possibly the most awkward prospect of any courtship and the myriad of possibilities (or even just the fear of those possibilities) can lead to quite a bit of misery. As any good comedian knows, misery makes for good comedy, and sure enough that scenario has made for pretty decent rom-com material for many a decade now. Yeah, it may be old hat by now but it has given birth to some good chuckles in the past. Of course, I didn’t realise exactly how old hat it was until I sat down to watch this thing.

Marguerite (2016) - Movie Review
As I mentioned earlier this month, if an incredibly niche idea is worth making into a movie, might as well make it two. After sitting through Florence Foster Jenkins, and genuinely being quite impressed with the thing, discovering another film based on the same extraordinary person was rather intriguing. Rather than sticking to the real-life events of the tuneless songbird, this French outing instead touts to be inspired by those events and going in its own narrative direction. So, without automatically seeing fault in diverting from actual events (or it very well could be accurate and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference), how does this altered take on the idea turn out?

Tuesday 27 December 2016

The Girl King (2016) - Movie Review

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny (2016) - Movie Review
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon may not be a perfect film, but it is most certainly a great film. Officially putting Ang Lee on the map, and given his output we can debate the worth of that till kingdom come, its combination of breath-taking fight scenes and phenomenal writing, not to mention outright iconic music, resulted in what I would genuinely consider to be a work of art. But more so than its merits as a film in its own right, its place within film history is difficult to ignore as well. An international co-production, it has gone into legend for basically breaking the Hollywood system and what films should be expected to make an commercial impact, becoming an exception to the rule that would end up having new rules written around it. With all this in mind, and considering the unexpected quality control that can go into Netflix releases, the prospect of a sequel to a film like this is certainly interesting. But considering the Sequel Rules made around those that are made over a decade after the fact, and the low expectations for success, how did it turn out?

Monday 26 December 2016

The Conjuring 2 (2016) - Movie Review
While the original Saw gave James Wan his official debut and Insidious gave audiences a real taste of what Wan’s style of filmmaking was, it was The Conjuring that gave him the break he desperately needed. Aside from being a critical darling when it came out, and being a friggin’ awesome horror flick in its own right, it also proved that Wan wasn’t completely dependent on Leigh Whannell’s scripting to deliver a gripping story. With a nicely retro approach to scares and an insane level of dedication to adhering to the era in which the story was set, not to mention a great cast, it’s the kind of horror film that I can easily see being remembered several years from now.

Then came the spin-off film Annabelle, Wan teaming back up with Whannell for Insidious: Chapter 2, and then Wan being a creative consultant for Lights Out… wow, that’s a bad track record in terms of horror flicks. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the guy’s work but, in terms of confirming that this sequel to probably his most celebrated work will actually be a success, it is less than convincing, shall we say. Of course, because I will never get tired of saying it, I’m willing to be proven wrong on this one.

The Boy And The Beast (2016) - Movie Review

Sunday 25 December 2016

Aaaaaaaah! (2016) - Movie Review
Aside from being a very emotional year both on and off-screen, 2016 also seems to be the year of the crazy because there’s been a lot of weird shit to hit our screens. From the food comedy that made us lose our lunch Sausage Party to the poignant drama about the human condition using a literal bloated corpse with Swiss Army Man, even down to yesterday’s digital murder of sanity that is When Black Birds Fly, we’ve had no shortage of bonkers around here. So it’s really saying something when I have to admit that today’s film might be the weirdest of the lot. How so? Well, let’s grunt right in and I’ll hopefully explain why.

Free State Of Jones (2016) - Movie Review
This is going to be a very, very short review. While I could just use the Christmas season as my excuse for not wanting to focus too much on such bleak notions as slavery, and admittedly the year has been depressing enough without needing to actively look for reasons to make it worse, it really just boils down to me not having as much to say about this film as I would have liked. My 12 Years A Slave review should show that I’m not the most articulate person when it comes to this subject, and what little reserves I have were spent writing about 13thearlier this month. As such, I’m just going to get right into this in a rather informal fashion.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Demolition (2016) - Movie Review

When Black Birds Fly (2016) - Movie Review
Well, after revisiting an underground filmmaker yesterday, I figure it’s only right to continue on this path for a little bit longer. As such, it’s time to look at another indie oddity that I have covered before: Jimmy ScreamerClauz. Last year, I ended up reviewing his work Where The Dead Go To Die, a film I still maintain is one of the most disturbing pieces of cinema I’ve ever sat through. It occupies that area of reception that most people reserve for films like Requiem For A Dream: I loved it, but I never want to watch it again. Well, having discarded any semblance of regard for my own mental health a long time ago, I have watched that film a couple times since and, honestly, it still holds up as easily one of my new favourite films. Naturally, with that opinion still intact, I was definitely curious to see what else Mr. ScreamerClauz could come up with. Time to dive into the madness once more, and may Caine forgive me for this.

Friday 23 December 2016

Dickshark (2016) - Movie Review

Yeah, I had a feeling that those words would come back to bite me in the arse before too long. We’re talking about Bill Zebub once again, the only director who seems to be trying to push the aestheticisation of rape as well as the king of cringingly slow and awkward sex scenes, and this looks to be something of a new landmark for the guy. I could point to Zebub’s own blurb for the film saying that it is “the most absurd movie that [he] has ever created”, but that’s not why I consider it as such. No, this one marks new levels for his filmography because the film I’m going to talk about today, the rather humourously titled Dickshark, is almost three hours long. The Uncut version available on Vimeo is not only the only copy of the film I could secure in time for a review but it’s also a version that is markedly longer than what will be found on the DVD/Blu-Ray copies of the film. Yeah, I can’t help but feel that this is karma for complaining about long run times in the past. Still, I made it a point of reviewing both of Zebub’s works last year so might as well keep going from here.

A United Kingdom (2016) - Movie Review
Even though humanity loves quoting “can’t judge a book by its cover”, we sure do that very thing quite a bit. Then again, we often present ourselves with opportunities to do so and none are more apparent in that intent than movie trailers. Now, over the course of this year, we’ve seen a wide spectrum of trailers from the good (10 Cloverfield Lane) to the bad (Trolls) to the outright annoying (The Angry Birds Movie), and some of them have even given a far weaker impression of the official product than is actually necessary. Today’s film, on the other hand? You can almost smell the cheese coming off of this thing, and considering this is meant to be a drama, that can’t be a good thing. Every time it got to the line “I love my people, I love this land… but I love my wife”, not matter how many times I’d heard it up to that point, I had to put a lot of effort into not just laughing my arse off in the cinema. It’s one of those “Nothing is more powerful than the human spirit” kind of lines that is near-impossible to take seriously. So, with that bit of unintentional comedy in mind, how is the film proper?

Thursday 22 December 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows (2016) - Movie Review
At the beginning of last year, I briefly talked about the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie… and how I honestly liked it while the rest of the world seemingly didn’t. And you know what, after watching it again fairly recent in preparation for this review, I stand by it. I don’t have the greatest personal connection with the franchise, only watching a couple episodes of the original cartoon and the Kevin Munroe TMNT film, but from what I understand of the series ethos, this seemed alright. It’s not great, don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of comedic dead spots, the CGI takes a bit of getting used to (although, again, I have no real issue with it) and there is a very definite feeling that the filmmakers weren’t sure of how seriously to take the idea of large humanoid turtles as the main characters. But, considering how badly Platinum Dunes had done up to that point with pre-existing material, it was a decent watch. Hell, I am probably one of the few people on Earth who honestly wanted this sequel to happen. All aboard the karma train.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) - Movie Review
As I explained around this same time last year, I’m not the biggest fan of Star Wars. I recognise its cinematic significance and I get a certain amount of enjoyment out of the films themselves (even the ones that the rest of the world seems to hate with a passion), but I never really bought into the hype that those films carry to this day. Incessantly pushing The Force Awakens in my face for pretty much all of last year definitely didn't help, even with how much I ended up liking that film.

So, with all that in mind, even I am legitimately hyped for this film. The lack of obnoxious advertising could be a part of it, but there’s something else here that makes me anxious to check it out. Knowing how other cinematic continuities have been going of late, with even DC figuring out that some form of variety would be much appreciated, this film could present something different and help strengthen the series, considering this will be the first of the Star Wars cinematic Anthology with more already on the way. But even I couldn’t have expected this film to be this different.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

The Forest (2016) - Movie Review
Yep, there’s two films about Tokyo’s Suicide Forest that got a release this year. I know that the studio system tends to release similar films around the same time, but even still, this is an incredibly niche thing to make even a single film about, let alone two. That said, my reasoning for looking at both of those films today should be fairly obvious, considering how underwhelming Sea Of Trees turned out. Add to that how this is going to be a supernatural horror film, rather than the bland melodrama we got last time, and I’m willing to give this idea another go. So, is this going to make proper use of the concept or, by some anti-miracle, is this going to turn out even worse? Ugh. Let’s just get into this thing already before the lack of engagement makes me pass out.

The Sea Of Trees (2016) - Movie Review
Gus Van Sant is easily one of the most frustrating filmmakers in the history of the medium. Not necessarily because his work is out-and-out frustrating, although it sometimes is, but rather because of the wild inconsistency throughout his filmography. He has had some seriously incredible ideas behind his films and has even given us some great works, but good lord, has he also delivered some of the worst or otherwise weirdest films I’ve come across. I don’t think any director who can make something as soul-crushingly dull as Gerry can be trusted, and Even Cowgirls Get The Blues is strange beyond definable terms and another sign that, when not fishing for Oscars, the man is kind of insane. Yeah, needless to say, my scepticism is even greater than usual on this one, and considering this has been regarded as his worst film… this is not going to end well.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) - Movie Review
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe as ubiquitous as it is, it can be easy to forget just how important the X-Men films have been for the common conception of comic book movies. At the start of the millennium, the genre was in a pretty bad state: Vanguards of the art form Superman and Batman had both fallen on legendarily bad times, the kitschy ways of the 80’s were sticking around for god knows what reason like with Captain America and the unreleased Fantastic Four film, and to make matters worse, we weren’t even getting that many of them that were worth noting. Blade was pretty much the one and only comic book superhero film that was watchable. And then noted filmmaker Bryan Singer teamed up with Solid Snake (seriously, the OG voice actor for Solid Snake wrote it) and up-and-coming actor Hugh Jackman to make history for the format. Pushing the surface badassery of Blade into mainstream-recognised maturity, it changed the landscape from then on; it set the groundwork that the MCU went on to flesh out. No question, even in the wake of negative reviews, I was looking forward to the next instalment in this legendary series, especially given how amazingly well Days Of Future Past turned out. This is X-Men: Apocalypse.

Underworld: Blood Wars (2016) - Movie Review
Underworld, as a series, confuses me. For something so obviously derivative and soaked in now-anachronistic nu-metal tinting, it has kept on the fringe layer of the popular consciousness since it first came to theatres over a decade ago. And yet, while I don’t out-and-out love the franchise as it stands, I don’t have a whole lot of hate for it either. It takes itself way the hell too seriously and the acting can range from decent to hilariously hammy, but the way it actually tries to have a semblance of lore and mythos surrounding the story is oddly commendable, as cobbled together as it is. So, just getting it out there that I have a base-level appreciation for the series; keep that in mind as I get into this thing because… this is a special kind of film, and not in a good way.

Monday 19 December 2016

Red Dog: True Blue (2016) - Movie Review
In the lead-up to today’s film (which is technically still happening, since it’s officially released on Boxing Day and I managed to catch a preview screening), whenever the original Red Dog film got brought up in conversation, it always ended on the same note: Don’t talk about it, it’s too sad. Having now seen the original, I can kind of see why that is. An unexpectedly iconic piece of Australiana, the original Red Dog is honestly really damn good. A bit cheesy and occasionally unsure of who exactly it was meant to appeal to (the kids in the audience or the adults), but overall pretty good as a look into Australian culture and mannerisms. So, naturally, a follow-up look at our four-pawed folk hero was something I was looking forward to. However, for reasons I’ll get into, this film has plenty of reasons to be initially sceptical about, and for other reasons I’ll get into, it validates an awful lot of them.