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.

Thursday 22 August 2019

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019) - Movie Review

The latest from neo-exploitation junkie Quentin Tarantino is quintessentially him. A period flick set during the golden age of Hollywood, everything from the visuals to the soundtrack to the tan lines scream the 60’s as loud as they can. It’s a flurry of contemporary footage, new footage seamlessly integrated into the contemporary footage (seriously, this has some of the best integration of newer footage over older footage I think I’ve ever seen; Forrest Gump, eat your heart out) and recreated locales and old-school staples that create the most vivid picture of what Tarantino has spent his entire career doing: Tipping his hat to the old guard of cinema that made him who he is as a filmmaker.

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Murder Mystery (2019) - Movie Review

Having covered all of the previous Happy Madison Netflix features, I freely admit that I didn’t go into this film expecting anything all that decent. And sure enough, in record time, that feeling of déjà vu kicks in with the usual hallmarks of an Adam Sandler production: Prominent in-your-face product placement with the Amazon gift card (wow, is this not a good time to be shilling out for them), Sandler’s wife being cast in a role meant to show off how hot she is (she’s literally billed as ‘Great Looking Flight Attendant’), and the story as a whole is a thinly-veiled excuse for a European vacation, just like the last time Sandler and Jennifer Aniston got together with Just Go With It.

Sunday 18 August 2019

I Am Mother (2019) - Movie Review

A woman is born in an underground bunker. It is the only life she’s ever known and her caretaker, a robot named Mother, is the only other being she’s ever encountered. Enter another woman from the outside world, one ravaged by an extinction-level event, who finds her way to the bunker. As the two humans interact, what is shared between them makes the first woman question what Mother has been telling her. In light of this dilemma, what does the first woman do?

Thursday 15 August 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) - Movie Review

Fast & Furious is a very silly film franchise. Sudden character death, sudden character resurrection/amnesia, overblown emotionality, pretences towards it all being families and sticking together; it’s basically soap opera for people who think the WWE doesn’t go far enough. It’s also a series that, as the years press on, I find myself gravitating closer and closer towards, appreciating them honestly as some of the best blockbuster action in cinemas these days and somewhat pretentiously for how it deals with the relationships between its many, many main characters.

Friday 9 August 2019

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) - Movie Review

After two very solid and quite grounded character pieces, the latest from writer/director Dan Gilroy is a beast of a different palette. Oh, it shows him still in his highly cynical wheelhouse, once again taking inspiration from the Los Angeles cultural landscape to show another story of people who are mainly in it for themselves, but his methodology this time around shows him in new territory.

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Mystify: Michael Hutchence (2019) - Movie Review

In terms of the archetypal rock star, the one that women want, men want to be, and everyone else starts learning their tastes quickly in response to, I can’t think of a better example of Australia’s own crop in that regard than one Michael Hutchence, AKA the lead singer of INXS. And in this tell-all documentary directed and co-edited by Richard Lowenstein, who put together the group’s best-remembered music videos, the narrative of Michael’s life is wrapped around that image.