Tuesday, 19 November 2019

The Dirt (2019) - Movie Review

Even though he hasn’t directed a narrative film before this point (and no, the extended improv skit that is Bad Grandpa doesn’t count), Jeff Tremaine seems the ideal pick for a rock star biopic like this. At the forefront of one of MTV’s last truly iconic pillars with the Jackass franchise, the man knows his gratuitous excess, a phrase that fits the wildness of Mötley Crüe to a T. Especially considering how well the Jackass films did with marrying soundtrack and visuals, putting heavy rock guitars against each grand display of masochistic machismo. And while that certainly fits here to an extent, the growing pains of Tremaine working in this format show through a little too clearly.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Welcome To Marwen (2019) - Movie Review

This film was supposed to have gotten a theatrical release this year. I’ll be damned if I saw any evidence of that, though. We went from fairly frequent trailers for this to just… nothing. Until it popped up for home video release, this might as well have not even come out over here. While the current Hollywood structure is turning this scenario into what looks to be a regularity (what with Disney shelving so many of Fox’s releases after buying them out), this still doesn’t make sense.

This is Robert Zemeckis, one of the vanguards of American cinema and a filmmaker who has always been on the cutting edge of what film technology is capable of; how did his latest feature end up being left at the wayside? Well, while I’m certainly not going to make the argument that this film never should’ve have seen release, I will admit that I at least understand why this film would have been… deprioritised, as it were.

Friday, 15 November 2019

The Greasy Strangler (2016) - Movie Review (1000th Post Special)

Well, this is going to be a very special review. This marks my 1000th blog post, a number that has steadily built up over the past five years, encompassing movie reviews, lists, articles looking at my critical influences, and a few one-off experiments that didn’t really make it off the ground. What began with a spur-of-the-moment trip with friends to see a One Direction concert film has grown (or possibly mutated; the lab results are inconclusive as of yet) into not only an uneven-yet-prolific amount of writing material but also a chance to write for proper publications and even getting into doing podcasts. None of this would have been possible without my dear readers, every one of you who has ever taken the time to read what this uneducated dude has to say about the latest releases. I humbly thank all of you out there, and here’s to a thousand more.

Last Christmas (2019) - Movie Review

Seems like Paul Feig is sticking to his wannabe-European kick. After last year’s quite surprising tribute to French cinema with A Simple Favour, a pretty damn good effort all things considered, Feig’s latest appears to be his attempt at a British rom-com, akin to Love, Actually or Bridget Jones’s Diary. Snagging the co-writer of Bridget Jones’s Baby to both co-write and star in this film is probably part of that attempt, although it’s not as if people need much of an excuse to show off Emma Thompson still being enjoyable after all this time.

Between its Christmas setting, and its main gimmick involving the discography of George Michael (2019 has indeed been the year of the jukebox musical), I can’t say I was really expecting anything from it other than maybe some good laughs and a few feels. I certainly wasn’t expecting a big heap of coal to get dumped in my lap.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Doctor Sleep (2019) - Movie Review

Of all the movies to come out in 2019, including several I haven’t even gotten to yet, this is the one I was most looking forward to. Not because it’s the sequel to one of the most classic horror films of all time, although I am thankful that I rewatched it in preparation for this as I have a much better appreciation for it now than I did before. No, it’s because this is the latest feature from writer/director/editor Mike Flanagan, a filmmaker I have been shouting praise for for as long as this blog has existed.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Hail Satan? (2019) - Movie Review

In my time perusing social media and the many places where the unseen masses congregate to share their views, I have realised a fairly simple equation: The more that a person points the finger at someone for being a Satanist, the less they actually know about what Satanism actually is. Anyone in the mood for a good laugh (and still has the strength of will to use Twitter) should go and check the Church of Satan’s Twitter account, where there are daily iterations of people taking the time to lash out at the Church, while not using a fraction of that time to do some basic Q&A reading so that they know what they’re angry against.

It’s one of those aspects of the modern understanding of religion that always tickles me, and it’s what immediately drew me to checking this documentary out. A chronicle of the Satanic Temple, the more politically-minded side of Satanist doctrine that is more interested in activism than metaphysics, the depiction we are given is one that takes into account the common misconceptions about the movement and, with a devilishly cheeky grin, dispels a lot of the more frequent myths surrounding it.

Friday, 8 November 2019

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2019) - Movie Review

For as rare as this kind of film ultimately is, where a production that languished in purgatory for decades finally sees completion, there is always the same feeling that follows it: The overwhelming weight of its own hype. This is especially true for those who have had the patience to follow the heavily tumultuous production here, captured in part by the classic documentary Lost In La Mancha, as the active want to will this almost-cursed film into existence runs the risk of setting one’s own expectations to such a high that it would take a literal miracle to match them. And while this may not completely live up to its legendary status as a non-film, it feels like a production where its own history adds to its merits.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) - Movie Review

One of the most common hypotheticals in the realm of time travel fiction is the Baby Hitler scenario: Travelling back in time to kill Hitler as an infant before he grows into one of history’s most notorious dictators. There are a lot of ethical dilemmas and potential consequences that spring out of this idea, but one of the lesser-discussed ones is the possibility that making the kill successfully wouldn’t solve everything. That while the very specific threat Hitler posed may be prevented, something just as bad, or worse, could take its place in human history. It is this idea that forms part of the core of today’s feature, and it makes for one of the most welcome surprises of the year.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

47 Metres Down: Uncaged (2019) - Movie Review

Well, after the success of the first 47 Metres Down movie, which was easily one of the most unnecessary features I reviewed in the entirety of 2017, it appears we already have a sequel. Knowing what other unneeded horror cinema have been getting follow-ups (a sequel to The Gallows came out this year; I mean, c’mon!) I should be more irritated at this film’s mere existence… but maybe this could be a good thing.

As I’ve been making a habit of saying around here, I love movies that redeem qualities of bad movies, and while I was largely unimpressed with the first film, it’s not as if it had literally nothing about it that could’ve worked with a different take. Hell, with how well Crawl turned out earlier this year, I’m willing to go into this with some level of optimism. Thankfully, this may not be all that good of a film, but it is markedly better than its predecessor.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Ready Or Not (2019) - Movie Review

A newlywed couple, on the night of their wedding, are brought to the groom’s lavish estate for a family tradition: A night of games. If the bride wins the game, she has earned her place among their ranks of the Le Domas’, an illustrious family that has made a tidy fortune in games of all sorts. But as the game begins, the bride realises that things are more sinister than they already appeared at the start: It’s less fun and games and more game hunting, with her as the prey.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Judy (2019) - Movie Review

Judy Garland. Hollywood royalty. Gay icon. Star of one of the greatest films ever made. Making a biopic about her could have easily rested on her Yellow Brick Road days and captured something resembling poignancy; knowing how much of modern cinema owes to that film, from the continuing evolution of movie musicals to the dream-logic narratives of David Lynch, it’d resonate on that alone. But instead, director Rupert Goold and writer Tom Edge have gone for a different take, looking at the final year of Judy’s life, when she was trying to scrape together enough money from performing in London’s Talk Of The Town to officially retire. And the vision they give is so utterly spellbinding, it’s difficult imagining this story looking or feeling any differently than this.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Cats (2019) [No, not that one] - Movie Review

Why do I keep doing this to myself? My habit for checking out every new film I can get to, intended audience be damned, frequently puts me in the position of acknowledging that, yes, I am actively putting money and time towards something that wasn’t made with someone like me in mind. But I happily go through with it, partly because being that open with new releases sometimes puts me in front of genuinely good films that I wouldn’t have even noticed otherwise, and partly because even if a given film is bad, it still gives me some much-needed venting and usually decent material to write about afterwards. Over the last few years, the sub-genre of animated family films about talking animals has served as one of the bigger examples of all of the worst-case scenarios listed above, and we have a particularly bad one today.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil (2019) - Movie Review

2019 will likely go down as the year where Disney stretched too far, and I’m not just talking about their ever-growing monopoly on modern Western entertainment. What started out as interesting experiments to redefine their stable of animated classics (or, more likely, extend their copyright holding for said stories) has truly devolved into a collection of repeated and bewildering mistakes. Of the three that made it to cinemas this year, only one of them left me with anything positive to say, and even then, it has paled considerably since I first reviewed it.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) - Movie Review

2009’s Zombieland was a pretty big turning point for both the people involved in its production and for its genre. As far as zombie cinema is concerned, its highly self-referential and tongue-in-cheek approach to the running dead makes for one of the bigger splashes the genre has seen this side of the new millennium. And for its production crew, it was the first big break that led to much bigger things: Jesse Eisenberg was on the cusp of his defining role in The Social Network, Emma Stone was on her way to becoming one of the best romantic leads of the modern era, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s first collaboration here would lead to great success with Life and the Deadpool movies, and director Ruben Fleischer… well, I won’t hold Venom against him, but he got a big boost from it too.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Hustlers (2019) - Movie Review

The more recent trend of female-dominated crime capers has brought some solid efforts (Ocean’s 8), some mild disappointments (Widows) and some woefully misjudged disasters (The Kitchen). While it’s certainly good to see some much-needed variety at the cinema, I wouldn’t say that there’s been a film yet in this subset that has outright demanded my attention. Maybe it’s because the crop so far has remained rather indebted to the ways of men in their narratives and even their production background, or maybe it’s just that I haven’t found one that aligns with my tastes just yet, but this is a sector of the market that’s been waiting for an outright stunner to make the point for the rest. Enter Hustlers, exactly what the doctor ordered.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Gemini Man (2019) - Movie Review

Will Smith plays a black-ops mercenary, one of the best shots in the history of his agency. However, when he tries to retire to a non-violent life, his old employers decide that he needs to be taken out of the picture. In the process of trying to circumvent any potential feelings of regret that could lead into a want for vengeance, their actions only end up reinforcing that notion, bringing Will back into the fold on a mission to clean up house.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Joker (2019) - Movie Review

Well… here we go. What is most likely to be the most contentious theatrical release of 2019. A film that has audiences and critics so divided that the range goes from “this film is great” to “this film will inspire mass murderers”. Not much wriggle room in there, no matter what my opinion on this is. And yeah, while I’m somewhat mandated to get into the controversy surrounding this production, that’s only half the story. The other half is the film itself, and quite frankly, this is one worth talking about one way or another because, holy shit, this is a genuinely great film.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019) - Movie Review

2012’s Iron Sky is a little miracle of a film. Born out of the European B-movie sci-fi petri dish from the same guys who broke out by parodying Star Trek with the Star Wreck series, it remains one of the weirdest and ballsiest theatrical releases of the decade. It is undeniably dated, right up to using a Sarah Palin analogue as the U.S. president, but as a satire of fascism and politics on a global scale, it is downright scary how prescient it is. I mean, it’s not much of a stretch to see how much fascist iconography has grown in prevalence in the last handful of years.

Making a sequel to something like this runs a serious risk of failing to meet the bonkers threshold set by space Nazis on the dark side of the moon who turn a black male model into a white crazed hobo, but thankfully, this film has crazy to spare and then some.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

UglyDolls (2019) - Movie Review

You know it’s a bad start when “This was originally going to be a Robert Rodriguez kids film” seems like a best-case scenario. The fabled one-man film crew may not have the best track record when it comes to family films, but when put next to director Kelly Asbury, whose work varies from ‘decent compared to what came before’ with Smurfs: The Lost Village, and outright atrocious with Gnomeo & Juliet, at least he had the first two Spy Kids films under his belt. But then again, I doubt that anyone would be able to salvage this thing, because the list of problems here is hefty.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019) - Movie Review

When it comes to genre films (AKA the stuff that the Oscars consistently overlooks), one of the most common retorts is to put down its status as fiction. Or, more accurately, its place as fiction that takes a further suspension of disbelief than others. It can be about ghosts, ghouls, robotic zombies, time travel, Danny Huston playing a character that you don’t want to punch in the face; some things are just too much for others to buy into.

And even as someone who leans in hard when it comes to speculative fiction, to an extent, I get that mentality. But what that tends to leave out is the notion that stories like that, even the most fantastical, are influenced by reality. Sometimes, fiction is the only way to externalise very real, very dark, very serious thoughts and feelings. And it is here where this film shines.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Ride Like A Girl (2019) - Movie Review

When I was in high school, there were two major events that were deemed so important that our class was halted just so we could crowd around the wheeled-in television to witness them. The first was then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s “Sorry” speech, apologising for the systemic racially-biased treatment of the Indigenous population of Australia. The other was the Melbourne Cup, with all of us taking lots to see if our arbitrarily-chosen horse won.

It’s a sporting event that stops the nation, one of the closest traditions we have to the NFL Superbowl, and it’s one that has continued to sour in my memory over my lifetime, considering how it plays into our cultural history. Today’s film, a biopic about Michelle Payne, the first-ever female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, is the first feature in a while that has outright forced me to consider the real-life side of the story being presented.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Nekrotronic (2019) - Movie Review

From the makers of Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead, which remains one of the most fun movies I’ve covered on this blog, Nekrotronic is another showing of genre pastiche, basically taking everything the Roache-Turner brothers watched and loved growing up and putting their own spin on it. I can’t exactly say what I was expecting out of this, since Wyrmwood is such a weirdly unique film in its vigour and delivery, but I’m happy to report that not only have they stuck to what they know best, they’ve built on their toolkit to bring the same level of fun at a slightly higher polish.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Rambo: Last Blood (2019) - Movie Review

Rambo is one of the most classic action franchises of all time. It is seriously weird thinking about just how influential the first two entries are, setting the tone for a lot of action cinema to come out of post-Vietnam America. The first remains one of the most brutal depictions of PTSD to make it to the big screen, and the second basically set the blueprint for every jungle-set military action-thriller to come after, up to and including the also-highly-influential Predator.

The third film… exists, and even as someone who takes pride in recollecting pop culture minutiae, I can barely remember anything about it. Then there was Rambo ’08, which boosted the gore standard in a way that, given what it was depicting, must’ve hit close to home considering it went on to inspire real-life Burmese freedom fighters. Following any of that up was gonna be a hard ask, and what we get here is… complicated.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile (2019) - Movie Review

In light of certain… takes that have cropped up in regards to Todd Phillip’s Joker, a film we’ll be getting to once it makes it to Aussie cinemas, I want to reiterate something: Films should be allowed to have lead characters that aren’t good people. Narratives about seedier characters, whether they’re born primarily from a writer’s imagination or varyingly based on real-life deplorables, can make for great works of art, let alone film.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Abominable (2019) - Movie Review

Seems like Yetis are making a comeback in the realm of family-friendly cinema. We had the surprisingly challenging Smallfoot last year, and then we had Laika’s latest effort Missing Link earlier this year, both highly effective pieces of animation and some of the better family flicks of late. And now, it looks like Dreamworks is throwing their hat into the ring with this co-production with Pearl Studio, a Chinese animation studio they first collaborated with on the muddled but still entertaining Kung Fu Panda 3. And what we get this time around is a new plateau for the heights that Dreamworks Animation can rise to.

Monday, 23 September 2019

The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019) - Movie Review

This is going to be a difficult film to write about. Not because it’s the latest cinematic addition to a franchise that really shouldn’t exist, given the highly disposable nature of its source video game series. Not because it’s a follow-up to a film that I gave a fair amount of slack to while everyone else was gawking at the utter memeage of its soundtrack (Limp Bizkit’s Behind Blue Eyes is one of those songs that shouldn’t be in any movie). Not even because of my recurring issue with family films about talking animals. Rather, it’s because this film defies any semblance of a ‘good or bad’ binary, as it sits snugly in both at the exact same time. Read on and I’ll try and explain.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Downton Abbey (2019) - Movie Review

In quite a few ways, I was not looking forward to this one. While part of that could be due to my inexperience with the series this film spawned from, it’s not as if that’s been an issue in the past. I haven’t seen any episodes of Dance Academy or Sword Art Online, and yet I left those films quite pleased with the results.

No, my apprehension here is more to do with the genre, as I have stated in previous reviews that costume dramas really aren’t my thing, and the writer and director bringing it together. Between Crooked House, which was less film as it was malformed audiobook, and The Chaperone, which as a possible road-test for Downton Abbey-style storytelling in a feature-length production ended up crashing into a ditch with all its wheels punctured, I wasn’t expecting much out of this. And yet, while still not entirely being on board with it, I walked away from this a lot more chipper than I would’ve guessed.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Dora And The Lost City Of Gold (2019) - Movie Review

While most of my cartoon diet as a kid was largely populated by the works of Cartoon Network, Dora The Explorer is something that kept popping up when my after-school hours were taken up largely by old-school Flash gaming. In-between side-scrollers about schoolkid secret agents and motion comics based on Lego properties, I played through a few games featuring one of Nickelodeon’s premium characters and caught a handful of moments from the TV show proper.

Knowing how endlessly goofy the framing for the show is, adapting to the big screen was going to be a challenge for just about any filmmaker. Thankfully, this is an adaptation that manages to work as cinematic spectacle without losing touch of what made the series so long-lasting.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Shaft (2019) - Movie Review

John Shaft, the man who built the foundation on which the blaxploitation genre would be built, has had a weird after-life. From the two Richard Roundtree-starring sequels to the classic original, to the 2000 sequel/reboot with Samuel L. Jackson, to today’s film which serves as yet another sequel and another quasi-reboot. The original is a pretty solid effort with an all-time greatest soundtrack, and the 2000 reboot was a bit muddled but still quite entertaining, so maybe this one will turn out alright. Well, considering all three films have the exact same name, let it be known that the confusion with this mess only starts from there.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Amazing Grace (2019) - Movie Review

It’s not every day you go to church for a séance, but that’s what this film has set itself up to be. Released for audience consumption after the tragic death of its main subject, this documentary is the live recording of Aretha’s album of the same name, a work that remains the most commercially successful live gospel album of all time and a substantial part of the Aretha catalogue. Between its lightning-in-a-bottle framing, its backing by the likes of Spike Lee’s 40 Acres And A Mule Filmworks, and its direction by legendary filmmaker Sydney Pollack, this looks to be one hell of a concert flick. And that it is but, for reasons I’ll get to, I can’t shake the feeling that something is missing from all this.

Monday, 9 September 2019

It: Chapter Two (2019) - Movie Review

Following up It: Chapter One was always gonna be a tricky proposition. The most commercially-successful horror film of all time, a retelling that blew most if not all nostalgia for the 1990 mini-series out of the water, and just a brilliantly-constructed piece of cinema; how in the fuck is this meant to measure up to all that? Well, while I would argue that it doesn’t measure up in certain aspects, I would also argue that as a sequel, as a continuation and conclusion to what came before, this got most of the essential stuff damn near perfect.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Rim Of The World (2019) - Movie Review

The latest release from mediocre action director McG wouldn’t even cause a blip on my radar usually. After 2017’s The Babysitter, a surprisingly fun slice of splatstick horror, I’m willing to give the man another chance. I mean, that film had him venturing right out of his comfort zone and that seems to be a good fit for him, and his latest is a coming-of-age sci-fi adventure flick that looks like one big load of 80’s Spielberg worship. I’ll admit, I was genuinely looking forward to this one. It took less than ten minutes for me to realise that I had made a terrible mistake.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

High Flying Bird (2019) - Movie Review

One of the things I really appreciate the medium of cinema for is being able to take subjects and ideas that I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about on this side of the screen, and turn it into something worth being invested in. Subjects like professional sports, about as far from my hobbyist purview as a tea leaf is to the larger workings of the East India Trading Company, and something I’ve looked at in past reviews like Concussion. Not something I take much interest in personally, but with the right filmmaker, I’m willing to give it a second glance. Steven Soderbergh has managed to do just that.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

A Dog's Journey (2019) - Movie Review

Fiction is manipulative by design. It’s a story featuring events and people that, for the most part, don’t exist and yet, in spite of that, it’s meant to make you care about what is happening and who it is happening to. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the general idea: Manipulate a given audience to buy into something that didn’t happen. But even with that in mind, few things in recent memory have strained that necessary evil as much as A Dog’s Purpose, a film that still gets on my nerves a good four years after watching it for just how shameless it was. You can imagine that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to its sequel, even with the kinda-sorta pre-show we got earlier in the year with A Dog’s Way Home, but surprisingly, this film was a lot better than I was expecting.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Angel Has Fallen (2019) - Movie Review

Under normal circumstances, I would question this film’s very existence. The latest from modern B-movie kingpins Millennium Films, starring perennial B-movie favourite Gerard Butler, is the continuation and (hopeful) finale to a series that didn’t even need to be a series in the first place. Hell, after the utter bullshit that was the previous entry in London Has Fallen, I was outright dreading having to sit through more straight-faced jingoism.

But then again, as someone who does love a good redemptive sequel, maybe replacing the bulk of the writer’s room and the director’s chair for this follow-up means we can leave behind the alarmingly blatant racism of Gerard Vs. Fuckheadistan, and get back to the hard-hitting action thrills that made Olympus solid, if not entirely memorable. That’s the theory, at least.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Late Night (2019) - Movie Review

I’ve gotten into a fair few of my personal hobbies over the course of these reviews. Beyond the obvious, that is. Comic books, anime, music, hip-hop first and foremost, and just about anything I can pull from as a reference point over my 24 years of pop culture intake. But more than any of those, even the ones that I’ve dedicated a solid junk of my own life to immerse myself in, my first love will always be comedy.

Cracking jokes with friends, putting random shit out on Twitter to see if it gets a reaction, looking for any excuse to twist the topic of conversation into a punchline: I live for that shit. I’ve spent more time thinking about my own philosophy regarding comedy and what makes people laugh than any sane human being should, although you’d be forgiven for not picking up on that just from what I write on here, as rambling and didactic as it frequently turns out. My point is that the art of comedy is very important to me, and I take great pride in any laughter I get over the course of my day-to-day routine, and when films like this come out, I can’t help but jump out of my seat and basically yell at the screen “Thank you! Someone else out there gets it!”

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Palm Beach (2019) - Movie Review

With how often I’ve gotten into class divides and the frictions between the haves and have-nots in these reviews, I get the feeling I should have problems with this film right off the bat just on principle. Set in the titular Northern Beaches suburb, basically one of the poshest places in my section of the world, the story follows a group of relatively well-off older people and their struggles with growing old and the relationships they’ve made over their lifetimes. ‘Woes of the upper class’ is the kind of thing that should instantly set off my bullshit detectors, and yet, that wasn’t really a problem for me. If anything, I wish it was more egregious along those lines because that would mean actually getting a reaction out of me.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Doll It Up (2018) - Short Film Review

Whether it’s a side effect of the Uncanny Valley, or the way that certain taboos are processed in the mind, but films involving blow-up dolls always have a certain… effect to them. One where fits of nervous giggling aren’t out of the ordinary, because while the existence of these dolls and their use is just another colour on the modern relationship wheel, the public acceptance of such things remains murky at best. It’s just… weird when seen outside the context of a bedroom.

And with this short, primarily featuring Timothy J. Cox from Miss Freelance as a man living with a blow-up doll wife, the open displays (and arguments) of their relationship brings up similar facets to Miss Freelance in regards to examining relationships. It plays out like what prolonged relationships have become recognised for in regard to cinema: Complacency that gives way to the want to trade in for the newer model, here taken quite literally with Cox’s Gunther ordering a second doll to replace his current one.

But as other humans get more involved, like two moments with Devin Craig’s Delivery Guy as well as an altercation with a hobo played by Wayne DeBary, it highlights another aspect of cinematic romance that gives a rather depressing undercurrent to what we’re seeing: Women as possessive objects in relationships. The things that are meant to be won, to be acquired, to be the central point of arguments between men.

In the space of 6 minutes, it manages to turn quite a few rom-com tropes right on their heads, showing how the romantic norm for cinematic stories ends up invalidating the agency of the women involved. Yeah, this one involves blow-up dolls, but the attitudes and actions taken by the men who have them on-screen echo very real and, in the realms of cinema, very annoying trends between flesh-and-blood people.

Miss Freelance (2019) - Short Film Review

Miss Freelance, the latest short from budding filmmaker Matthew Kyle Levine, is a cold and hardened look at relationships. We follow Maddy Murphy’s Carly, an escort in New York City, as she bounces between johns, letting the buzzing rumble of the city ring through in the background. It takes a page out of works like Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience in how it creates a moody and unglamourised depiction of the work involved, one that ends up unearthing a lot of truths in regards to any kind of relationship, whether money changes hands or not.

Carly’s encounter with her partner Ben, played by Timothy J. Cox, is where the major truths come out in the open. While Ben feels neglected in their relationship, Carly feels that what they have together isn’t “real”. With her johns, they often save up money just to afford time with her, showing that they care about the time they spend together. It shows quite a bit about how validation plays into relationship dynamics, with happiness being the result of both parties giving as much as they take, and it’s something that Carly feels more strongly with her work than her off-hours time.

It packs in a lot of quiet contemplation in just under 20 minutes, letting Levine and Alex Scarlatos’ visuals and editing do most of the talking, and it makes for a pretty sombre viewing experience. It’s the kind of short that unravels in the mind after first viewing, as I admit that I find myself questioning the relationships in my own life in response to the tango of money and intimacy that is given here.
Miss Freelance from Matthew Kyle Levine on Vimeo.