Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Brightburn (2019) - Movie Review

After a fairly lengthy and social media drama fuelled fiasco, filmmaker James Gunn appears to be back in action and at full force. Not only is he returning to Marvel for the next Guardians Of The Galaxy entry as well as snagging the next Suicide Squad movie for DC, he has also given his blessing and a production credit to today’s film, a superpowered horror flick written by James’ brother and cousin that takes a look at a familiar superhero origin story and twists it on its head into something worthy of horror. I’ll admit that I was very hyped to check this one out, seeing it as the re-entry point for a creative mind who got into the alt-right’s line of fire, but as I’ll get into, the results are more muddled than they should be.

Monday, 27 May 2019

The Hustle (2019) - Movie Review

It’s distaff remake time again as we look at the latest attempt to give female actors a chance to shine by reviving an old favourite, in this case being the Frank Oz classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, itself a remake of the 60’s Marlon Brando vehicle Bedtime Story. Between how well previous distaff remakes have turned out, like the still-enjoyable Ocean’s 8, and last year’s major success at a legacy remake with A Star Is Born, there’s a certain chance that this film could turn out alright. However, while I hesitate to call this film outright bad, I also hesitate to call this film… well, worth existing.

Before getting too heavily into the negatives, let’s be fair and look at what is done right here. While utilizing the same script as both Scoundrels and Bedtime Story, we also have some punch-ups done by Captain Marvel co-writer Jac Schaeffer. To her credit, the new quips in this version land more times than not, and even when they don’t land, it rarely devolves into sheer pain like a lot of bad comedies tend to do. Add to that Anne Hathaway doing nicely as the upper-class swindler and Rebel Wilson and her frequent ad-libs as the small-time con artist, and you have a good foundation for some madcap antics. Bonus points for Wilson’s work IRL, using her legal education to keep this film from getting a rather bewildering R rating in the states.

But for as much as I could discuss the new elements here, not to mention director Chris Addison giving a solid first impression as a feature filmmaker, this is still wielding a script that has been around for over 50 years and the major points, namely the narrative, are pretty much beat-for-beat what they were at the start. As a result, any real props I can give to the new dialogue ends up overshadowed by how this is ultimately a matter of delivery: How does this film hold up to previous incarnations? And honestly, it’s all over the place.

Both Bedtime Story and Scoundrels treated the con game in much the same way that Ocean’s Eleven treated its own, presenting it as a battle of wits and charm where respect is paid to those who can do it well. That’s not what we get here. For every moment of grace and good sportsmanship that existed in either previous films, there’s a moment here that brings out hysterics in the patronising, ‘we used to use this as psychiatric gaslighting’ sense, always coming across like they’re entitled to not playing fair.

That on its own makes engaging with them at work a bit tricky, but then we get to the swindles themselves and… *sigh* While claiming to be European royalty probably doesn’t work as a grift anymore, the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ gambit here might be one of the dumbest cons I’ve ever seen on the big screen. I know that the script has its wacky moments, but it didn’t strain credibility this badly.

And then there’s the major sticking point: The ending, which is basically the exact same as Scoundrels. Now, if I had to guess, I wouldn’t be surprised if this remake’s entire existence was predicated on just that ending, considering it made for a deliciously subversive moment of the two professionals getting played at their own game. It even featured fake Australian accents, which sound a lot better coming out of Caine’s mouth than Afrikaans does out of Wilson’s.

But more than that, the fact that the ending is this xeroxed, but still keeping the gender-swap, robs it of any efficacy. It takes what was a pretty cool moment of showing the supposed victim becoming the victor into something that only serves to reinforce the film’s own preconceptions. Pretty weird when you’re trying to subvert what came before and end up missing the point of the whole affair.

All of this results in a film that is mildly funny, technically sound and even outdoes what it’s remaking (albeit in superficial areas, like the opening credits), but just doesn’t hold a candle to past material. Even Bedtime Story, as dated as it is, left a better impression than this does. What’s more, even though it sticks closely to the original script, it somehow manages to miss the very point that could have given this remake some agency and even a bit of subversion in its own right. It’s a remake that feels like it completely missed the point of why it’s even being remade, which considering the current remake-heavy climate, is thoroughly disappointing.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Poms (2019) - Movie Review

As someone who frequently watches and reviews all manner of films on this blog, the first question in response to most if not all of them is fairly straight-forward: Who was this made for? Whether it was made with my suburban early-20’s demographic in mind or otherwise, who is a given film meant to appeal to? More to the point, is it any good at doing the appealing? Today’s film is a relatively simple answer to that, the older demographic, but that question nonetheless persists because, frankly, I’m not even sure if the filmmakers themselves knew who they were aiming for.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019) - Movie Review

After a long line of films based on video games that have made both gamers and general audiences heave into their popcorn buckets, it seems like the levy has finally broken and we have a good one out in cinemas. We’ve been leading up to this for a while now, between the genuine attempts at artistry in Assassin’s Creed, the outright fun of Rampage, even the frenzied glee of video-game-inspired Hardcore Henry, and while not everyone is raving about this particular feature, this has caught fire in a way that video game adaptations really haven’t managed to in years past. The reason why, having watched it, seems fairly obvious: Both as a continuation of an adored IP and as a film in its own right, this production does justice to both.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019) - Movie Review

John Wick may be the single most important non-superhero action franchise still active today. While Fast & Furious and Mission: Impossible may have the longevity and their respective fanbases, it’s hard to argue that John Wick didn’t still have the larger impact on the landscape. Whether it’s the fight scenes, the visual style, the kind of world-building that puts most comic books to shame, or even just the moment when people finally started to take Keanu Reeves seriously as an actor (even The Matrix, as popular as it remains, couldn’t manage that), it has captured the zeitgeist in a way that very few film franchises ever could, both past and present. And with how Chapter 2 concluded, stakes are very high for the latest in this series to measure up to the grandeur of what came before. To the surprise of likely very few, this film manages to do just that and with gusto.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Top End Wedding (2019) - Movie Review

I’ve ragged on romantic comedies a fair bit in past reviews. Part of that is simply the nature of the beast, since rom-coms tend to make for rather clichéd viewing even at the best of times, but I feel like I haven’t the sub-genre nearly enough credit. I mean, with both critics and general audiences, rom-coms tend to be the most accessible features to get into, and that accessibility can lead to some opportune moments for demographics to get screen time. I looked at this last year with Crazy Rich Asians, a film that was ostensibly just a standard narrative boosted tremendously by its cultural aesthetic. Today’s film very well could have the chance to do the same thing for Tiwi indigenous Australians, but… I can’t lie, I’m not nearly as hyped about this one.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Missing Link (2019) - Movie Review

I’m starting to get worried about Laika’s foreseeable future in mainstream cinema. Not out of a fear that their work is going to start taking a serious decline any time soon, but out of a worry that there might not be enough people willing to see it. This film came out roughly a month ago, but because of an embarrassingly sparse release schedule over here, I’ve only just now gotten around to it. I know that Kubo And The Two Strings didn’t exactly set the box office on fire, but the reputation the company has garnered as doing far better with critics than general audiences could mean trouble. At any rate, we’re here to look at their latest, and needless to say, it’s another fine entry into their healthy artistic canon.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Long Shot (2019) - Movie Review

One of the oldest tropes in romantic comedy is the idea of mismatching someone conventionally attractive with someone unconventionally attractive. If you’ve seen any movie or any sitcom in the last handful of decades, you’ve seen this in action. It usually takes the form of a schlubby guy who is either going out with or is married to a beautiful woman, with the internal joke being the audience questioning how he got her.

Today’s film, the latest from my favourite film studio working right now Point Grey Pictures, is another in this grand tradition, and after narrowly dodging a bullet with their last film, I was honestly worried that this was going to be the point where the bottom fell out of this studio’s fantastic track record. I should really stop underestimating these guys because, while this is indeed a rom-com, its real ambitions are bigger. A lot bigger. Like, this is the kind of shit we need in circulation right now.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

The Night Eats The World (2019) - Movie Review

I’ve gone on record a few times in previous reviews that I have a serious weakness for zombie movies. Far as I’m concerned, the weirder, the stupider, the more outright insane, the better. And yet, with how much I’ve delved into my love for this sub-genre, one question still seems to elude me: Why? Why is it this specific brand of genre cinema that sticks to my heart the easiest? I could just chalk it up to nostalgia for Planet Terror, the film that made me realise I loved film at large, let alone zombie films, but that still doesn’t seem to fit. I bring all this up because today’s entry in the genre makes for a distinct diversion from the norm… and honestly, it helped me finally pin down why I love this genre so damn much.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

The Chaperone (2019) - Movie Review

Time to delve into what is quickly becoming my critical kryptonite as we take a look at another costume drama. Not only that, it’s a costume drama from both the writer and director of Downton Abbey, the former of whom has already made it onto my watchlist for penning the incredibly misguided Crooked House. Knowing that a big screen adaptation of Downton Abbey is set for release later on this year, it seems I had better get used to this level of drabness. Honestly though, I’m just hoping we’ve hit the bottom of their respective barrels because I don’t think I can take something that turns out even blander than this did.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The Curse Of The Weeping Woman (2019) - Movie Review

While Marvel and DC continue to hash it out for the place of the kingpin of mainstream superhero cinema, horror has its own monarchy: The Conjuring Universe. Not since the days of Saw consistently blowing up the Halloween schedule has James Wan had this tight of a stranglehold on mainstream horror, having fingerprints on The Conjuring, Annabelle, last year’s The Nun, not to mention outliers like the Insidious series as well as the bane of my existence that is Lights Out. Today’s film technically doesn’t fall under the Conjuring canon, but through a brief inclusion of Annabelle herself, it still has a marked place within it. Think of it as the Redman to the larger universe’s Wu-Tang Clan, or (in more genre-appropriate terms) what The Marked Ones was for Paranormal Activity.